Indian journalists fight to free jailed reporter who exposed attack on women


 

 

Roy Greenslade

Monday 14 January 2013

guardian.co.uk

 

It might be thought that a journalist responsible for exposing a vicious assault on women would be lionised. In fact, he has been in jail for more than two months.

In July last year, television reporter Naveen Soorinje revealed that a group of Hindu extremists were responsible for an attack on young women at a house party in Mangalore.

His report on Kasturi TV, which included film of the assaults as the women ran into the streets, led to the eventual arrest of 43 people. On 7 November, Soorinje became the 44th person to be detained, provoking outrage among the journalistic community.

Accused of abetting the crime, he faces a range of charges from “rioting with deadly weapons,” criminal conspiracy, unlawful assembly, and using criminal force on a woman with the intention of outraging her modesty.

Soorinje, who strenuously denies all charges, claimed his arrest was politically motivated because he had exposed the local administration’s failure to deal properly with cases of so-called “moral policing” and attacks on minority communities by right-wing Hindu groups.

The state of Karnataka is ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and there is a suspicion that there was tacit political support for police to detain the messenger for his unwanted message about extremist behaviour by Hindus.

“Police have no business to arrest him,” said M Saldhana, a retired high court judge and human rights activist in the state capital, Bangalore. “He was just discharging his professional duties. The arrest sends bad signals on how the local police are mixed up with right-wing organisations.”

Television footage – taken by Soorinje and a cameraman with Sahaya TV, Sharan, who was arrested late last week – showed men chasing girls and boys and beating them up. Some of the attackers were seen groping a traumatised girl.

The accused defended the attack by arguing that it was a rave party (and, by implication illegal). But police described it as a birthday party attended by students. No drugs were found.

Though some members of the Karnataka state government initially gave broad assurances that the charges against 28-year-old Soorinje would be dropped, his continued imprisonment led to a three-day hunger strike last weekend by fellow journalists.

Dozens of senior editors, reporters and photographers gathered at Freedom Park in the state capital, Bangalore, to show their support.

One of the demonstrators, HR Ranganath, editor of Public TVtold Coastal Digest: “Through this arrest, the state government is sending a message to the journalist fraternity that they will be punished for anti-establishment reportage.”

And Arvind Narrain, a member of a lawyers’ collective based in Karnataka, told the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists: “There is consensus across activists and journalists that Naveen is innocent. He’s one in a million for fearlessly exposing the Hindu right.”

But a Mangalore court denied Soorinje’s request in late November for bail. And a further request was denied on 26 December by the Karnataka high court.

Sources: CPJ/Tehelka.com/BBC/Coastal Digest/DNA India

 

#India- Urban poor to be identified on vulnerabilities


By , TNN | Jan 14, 2013, 04.36 AM IST

NEW DELHI: The urban poor will now be identified on the basis of social, economic and occupational vulnerabilities as the housing and poverty alleviation ministry has decided to junk the Planning Commission‘s income benchmark.

As of now, families earning below Rs 4,824 a month are put in the bracket of urban poor.

The move comes as the ministry is finding it difficult to identify beneficiaries in metropolises and other cities, where few families earn below the BPL cutoff while many of them live in vulnerable conditions.

It has also been noticed that income certificates are forged or are being procured after bribing officials.

As the socio-economic census is going on across the country, the ministry is working on a mechanism according to which urban poor will be defined according to people’s vulnerabilities. Under the mechanism, families will be divided into two groups — those automatically included the other automatically excluded — in the poverty bracket.

Those automatically included in the poverty bracket will be the homeless and jobless. Automatically excluded will be families with a pakka house, motor vehicle or electronic appliances such as air-conditioner or refrigerator.

Those included will be graded by the ministry on the basis of economic, social, occupational and housing vulnerabilities. Based on data from the caste census, families will be graded and assigned points according to their needs.

“The formula will help in identifying poor in terms of vulnerabilities and government schemes will target the vulnerable group. It will result in better targeting,” housing and urban poverty alleviation minister Ajay Makentold TOI, adding that the identification of urban poor will be based on the recommendations of the Hashim committee.

“Those living in slums will automatically be eligible for benefits under the slum-rehabilitation scheme,” the minister said.

The new mechanism is also aimed at ensuring distribution of benefits of government schemes to city-specific “vulnerable” basket as per the specific needs in a particular city.

If a family scores very high on the housing vulnerability index, it would be given priority under slum upgradation schemes and Rajiv Awas Yojana, an official said.

Once the census is complete, the city-specific urban poor basket will be ready. “We will take it up with other ministries also to adopt the new criteria,” Maken said.

 

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#India -Rape. And how men see it #Vaw #Justice #Womenrights


Dozens of conversations provide a fascinating window into the psyche of the Indian male. Some of it dark. Some of it hopeful.

January 10, 2013, Issue 3 Volume 10

Drenched in pain Angry women at Rajpath, Photo: AP

THIS IS A MOMENT THAT COULD GO EITHER WAY. It can deepen a crucial engagement or it can leave one with the chaotic debris of a fierce, but passing storm. As the intense outrage over the gangrape in New Delhi on 16 December begins to live out its heat, it’s imperative to question, which of these will we be left with?

Over the past few weeks, many angry questions have been hurled at the police, the judiciary and the political establishment. The failures of the State are staggering and one cannot be grateful enough for the initial rage and outpouring on the street. Without that, there would have been no conversation.

Click to Read More

But there is an urgent need now for calmer review, for genuine and calibrated suggestions that can lead to long- and short-term change. There is a need also to ask, are we framing this discourse wisely? Can its shrillness or the suggested remedies have adverse impacts one did not intend?

Before examining any of that though, there is a big missing piece that must find voice. The anger against the State — the demand for greater efficiencies and accountability — is hugely legitimate. But what about the giant shadow in the room? How endemic is the prejudice that stalks our society? What produces and perpetuates it? What creates the idea of women as ‘fair game’ for sexual violence? What, in effect, do Indian men think about women?

It would have been comforting if vile foolishness in India had been the domain of the few. But Asaram Bapu is not alone when he says one hand cannot clap by itself. Or that taking diksha, reciting a mantra and pleading with her rapists as brothers might have saved the young girl that fateful night.

The clergy of the Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind are not alone when they advocate co-educational institutes to be shut down, pre-marital sex to be outlawed and girls to dress in sober and dignified clothes as ways to prevent rape.

Mohan Bhagwat is not alone when he asserts more rapes happen in ‘India’ than ‘Bharat’ — the first a synecdoche for promiscuous modernity; the latter for a more pious and traditional order where women live within boundaries prescribed by men. Abhijit Mukherjee is not alone when he mocks women protesters as “dented, painted” girls. Nor are Abu Azmi, Kailash Vijayvargiya or the Chhattisgarh home minister who says minors in the state are being raped because their stars are not favourable.

If they had been alone — a marginal raft of clumsy old men — mere derision would have been enough. But the fear is, they are signposts of a much wider and deeper mindset. And if they are that, how is one to negotiate such a gaping cultural divide? How can a society articulate — and enforce — desired values for itself if there is such a foundational disagreement over what those values should be?

 

July 2004 Manipuri women protest against the army’s brutalities

Over the past few days, the national media has rebuffed these men with an acetylene rage. Apologise, they have shouted. Retract your thoughts. Or at least be shamed into withdrawing the impunity with which you say such things in public.

But this rage has triggered its own counter-currents. Madhu Kishwar, feminist and editor of Manushi, for instance, is scathing about the media’s tone. “What kind of imperialist vocabulary is this? If you treat everyone who does not agree with you as aliens and fools, if you refuse to accept them as your own people, what gives you the right to dictate to them? What makes you think they will even entertain your criticism?” she asks.

‘The biggest reason for rapes is alcohol. Intoxication changes everyone. Gangrapes can only happen when the men are intoxicated’

VISHWANATH, 23
Fish Vendor, Malpe, Karnataka

‘When songs like Photo ko chipkale saiyan seene pe Fevicol se become a rage from nightclubs to marriage functions, it becomes a problem’

VISHWAS NAGPAL, 22
Post-graduate Student, Hisar, Haryana

Santosh Desai, media commentator and head of Future Brands, has perhaps an even more challenging concern. “Media in India is more loud than representative,” he says. “If the framing of this debate gets too vociferous and extreme, it can galvanise the opposition in disturbing ways. Our society has always had a way of evolving organically, using a combination of strategies to create space for new ideas. As long as that change is gradual, the anxiety it produces is also gradual. If one gets too absolutist, the whole thing can boomerang.”

Yet, can change ever be catalysed without someone adamantly staking out new boundaries? Can society be jolted — or even nudged and cajoled — into new positions without bold outriders stridently rejecting the old? What is the most effective approach? Confrontation or stealth? Scorn or the patient building of bridges?

How can a society articulate — and enforce — desired values for itself if there is a foundational disagreement over what those values should be?

In this week’s cover — apart from evaluating some of the remedies for police and judiciary that have emerged over the past few weeks — TEHELKA set itself to get a sense of that ephemeral phenomenon: a mindset. Its reporters spoke to dozens of men across strata and age and region and class, asking them how comfortable they felt with ideas of freedom for women, whether they held women and modernity responsible for rape and other forms of sexual crime; whether they believed rape was more prevalent in cities than villages; and how far they felt popular culture was responsible for a perceived sense of moral decline in society.

In India — continental as it is in size and plurality — even the most extensive sociological survey can, at best, be only an anecdotal one. This, by every yardstick, is extremely anecdotal and extremely miniscule. But as a dipstick — as an intuition — of what this vast country thinks, it throws up fascinating findings. We expected darkness; we found it. But, gratefully, we also found the unexpected.

FIRST, A window into the darkness. A few days ago, the virulent Raj Thackeray asserted that migrants were responsible for a huge percentage of rapes in India’s metros. If you heard Raju, 45, a migrant auto driver in Delhi, speak, you might believe Thackeray was justified.

How can a society articulate — and enforce — desired values for itself if there is a foundational disagreement over what those values should be?

“The root problem for all these crimes is women themselves,” Raju told TEHELKA. “The mirror in my auto tells me everything, what young boys and girls are doing behind me. They are willing to pay extra because they want to make love. In my village in UP, my wife keeps her ghungat even in front of my mother. Now imagine if a person from such a strict society comes to Delhi where women flaunt their bodies and provoke men with their dresses, what will he do? You may want to close your eyes at first, but if someone offers you fruit on a plate, will you deny the invitation?

Delhi girls are like mangoes. What do you do with the fruit? You eat it, suck it, and throw it away. These women are being used and overused. Sometimes, they have 10 boyfriends. In such a situation, how can you stop rapes? The current discourse is being created by elites and it ends there. You have all these rich people talking on TV, but if the rich want to have fun, they can afford to hire women and go to a hotel. Where will a poor man go?”

Unfortunately, in keeping with the stereotype in different ways, this view — this crude bewilderment laced with latent aggression against women — repeats itself across the cow belt. Ram Kishen, 53, a farmer from Bhiwani, told TEHELKA, “Of course, girls are solely responsible for the rapes that happen. We must marry them off when they are 15. Why should a girl remain unmarried even in her late 20s? Girls in big cities are given too much freedom. They are allowed to go out with men at night and roam about. What else do you expect in such a situation?”

 

Sept 2006 Dalits were paraded naked, raped and killed in Khairlanji

Kishen could be a twin for Narendra Rana, 33, a farmer from Rajasthan. “Most of the time it’s the girls who invite such problems. Look at the Delhi case. Why was the girl out at that time of night? I heard when she got onto the bus with the man, they started kissing. So it’s not the fault of the men who raped her. Why would she want to do such a thing in a public space?” he asked. “Girls are being given all the freedom in this world, which they are misusing. If you want to curb these incidents, just take away this freedom.”

‘The government’s raising the legal age for marriage has created a lot of frustration among the boys’

ALAUDDIN ANSARI, 50
Tailor, Kumhau village, Bihar

‘It’s unfortunate that for some women, education and money means showing off their body. As a result, the entire womankind is being shamed’

KRISHAN KUMAR, 40
Shopowner, Bhiwani, Haryana

These men find endless echoes. Moolchand, a 42-year-old sarpanch in Manesar. Sham Lal, 36, a labour contractor from Bhiwani. Satbir Singh, a businessman from Jind. Prashant Singh, 28, a serviceman from the Haryana Electricity Board in Faridabad. Every one of them blamed women for the breakdown in society; not one held men responsible for their own actions.

Only one thing seemed to bind the men TEHELKA spoke to: they had no concept of male accountability; no concept of the hijab of eye and action

Spiral this outwards to rates of female foeticide, dowry deaths, marital violence, early marriages, the percentage of working women and the number of honour killings and every fear about the Hindi heartland would seem to stand true.

But Raj Thackeray is wrong. The stereotype is not exclusive to the heartland. Since the debate around rape exploded into public consciousness over the past few weeks, there has been a temptation to frame the discourse through every kind of stereotype: a gender war; a class war; a religious war; a culture war; a regional war; a war between modernity and tradition, between city and village.

The hard truth is, there are enough dark voices to justify each of them. If you listen to men across India, you would know enough of them want to keep women in a box or thrust them back if they have escaped. This impulse expresses itself in a myriad ways: as brute misogyny or stifling protectionism. But running common through it all is a fear and abhorrence of women who display autonomy over their own bodies and sexuality. Women’s clothes, you would imagine, are the ‘greatest internal security threat in this country’.

No culture, profession or age group — no level of education or exposure — seems to make men immune to this. Here’s what Basheer Tawheedi, a 40-year-old lecturer in Kashmir, lists as reasons for rape: modern culture, girls wearing “inviting dresses”, less parental supervision, a decline in religious pieties, and a free mingling of the two sexes. “Of course, women’s freedom is responsible for the rise in sexual crimes,” he told TEHELKA. “How can we expect that dry grass with petrol near it under scorching heat won’t catch fire?”

Listen to Tabish Darzi, 26, a banker in Srinagar, and you get the same atavism, different metaphor. “To me, a woman is a pearl that is safe inside a shell,” he said. “Keep it open and everyone will try to snatch it.” The lofty idea of men as benign protectors flowed uncritically throughout his conversation; the narrowest interpretations of Islam formed his bedrock.

‘Dressing skimpily is like showing a red rag to a bull. You can’t complain what happens to you thereafter’

RAMEEZ SUDEN, 30
School Teacher, Uri, J&K

‘Usually, the rapes are just consensual sex where the girl later changes her mind either for money or something else’

MOOLCHAND, 42
Sarpanch, Dhana village, Haryana

“Yes, women are somewhat responsible for the crimes against them, but ultimately it is actually the responsibility of their guardians, parents and husband. We know women are easily fooled and lack reason (sic),” he said. “Men must act as protectors of women because Allah has made one to excel over the other. There can be no equality between the sexes. In Saudi Arabia, there are no rapes because women dress well and don’t mingle freely with men.”

Like the men in the Hindi heartland, Tabish and Baseer are facsimiles. You could replace them with Muhammad Rafiq, 28, a teacher in Kashmir, or Mudassir Kakroo, 32, a civil engineer, or Ahsaas Lone, a marine biology scientist, or Muhammad Afzal Wani, 30, another banker, and their thoughts would just duplicate each other in different shades.

But there is cold comfort for those who would revel in the stereotype of the regressive, patriarchal Muslim man, because here’s what Vijay Prasad Shetty, 57, president of the Udupi Bar Association, told TEHELKA: “The clothes today’s girls wear provoke even the most upright men. Women have become too wayward. They have moved away from Hindu culture. Girls wear 3/4th pants and figure-hugging clothes that leave little to the imagination. Obviously, this turns men on. Boys will never approach a girl if they don’t get the right vibes from her. They always know when they see a girl who is ready to sleep around. Why can’t women wear churidars instead of skirts? If women roam around wearing revealing tops, obviously men get the idea that she’s available and loose. The best of men can fall for that. In the olden days, our elders had a rule. A grown-up daughter would not be allowed to be in the same room as her father or her brother. We have drifted away from there. That’s why these things are happening.”

 

Jan 2009 Goons of the Sri Ram Sene manhandle pubgoers in Mangalore

At one level, how can one hear such assertions with anything except outraged rejection? The efficacy of that rejection can be evaluated later; surely one must first record the rejection?

Hindu, Muslim, or Christian. Farmer, labourer, auto driver, scientist, lawyer or teacher. Educated or illiterate. Old or young. Haryanvi, UP-wallah, or Southie. Only one thing seemed to bind the men TEHELKA spoke to: they had no concept of male accountability; no concept of the hijab of eye and action. The burden of social order lay only with the woman.

The conversations had other disturbing yields. Apart from the expected distrust of popular culture and western lifestyles, the binary of a wonderful Indian “tradition” wherein no violence ever happens versus a disruptive “modernity” that had unleashed beasts and snakes, TEHELKA’s dipstick into the Indian male psyche brought home one particularly difficult truth: for a vast majority of men, rape does not even register as a violent or heinous crime. For many, even the Delhi gangrape case was deemed worthy of condemnation only because of the brutality of the iron rod and the ripped intestines. The rape itself was too commonplace to grieve about. “Rape hua, theek hai,” many said, “par iss tarah seh marna nahi chahiye tha.” (If they raped her, that’s okay. They shouldn’t have killed her in such a brutal manner.)

Gratefully, however, the story of India can never be told through one window.

OVER THE past four weeks, there have been many outraged demands. Pressured by the outrage, the Chief Justice of India has announced fast-track courts, the Central government has set up a committee for recommendations on how to combat rape, universities have ordered sensitisation courses, and there is talk of capital punishment, castration, tougher laws and more women in the police force.

Much of this threatens to be no more than the debris of a storm. Many thoughtful citizens are trying to put in cautionary notes. Supreme Court lawyer Colin Gonsalves, for instance, laughs at the illusion of the fast-track court. “There aren’t enough judges, what’s the point of setting up new courts?” he asks. “For every fasttrack court that is set up, another one somewhere must be put on hold or dismantled. There are only 12 judges per million people in India; the average elsewhere is 80. Yet, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh says he does not have enough funds to pay for more judges.”

For every regressive, reductive conversation, there were other men — across religion, culture, profession, class — who defied the stereotype

Madhu Kishwar too warns against many of the over-zealous changes that have been demanded: denying the right of appeal to a higher court in the case of a rape conviction; shifting the burden of proof to the accused; instant FIRs; and selective fasttrack courts. “The demand for special courts for rape comes from an unrealistic faith in ‘special measures’. When it is manned by the same personnel and procedures, how can it work like a magic wand? Ask the Bhopal gas tragedy victims how they fared with their special courts! Besides, rape victims are not the only aggrieved group in our society. Demands for special courts have come from many other disadvantaged groups — environmentalists, anti-corruption crusaders, and those displaced by arbitrary land acquisition laws. The list will keep growing if the entire judicial system is not reworked thoroughly. The same holds true for sensitising the police force. It’s true our colonial-minded police are very gender insensitive, but it’s not as if they treat men any better. Women are no doubt more vulnerable, but only if they are not well-connected. Ask the slumdwellers and street vendors who survive at the mercy of the police and see if they fare any better. You cannot make the police ‘gender sensitive’ unless you make them ‘citizen sensitive’,” she says. “In short, the situation calls for far-reaching police and judicial reforms, not knee-jerk tokenisms.”

 

Nov 2011 Arrested for being a Naxal sympathiser, Soni Sori was given shocks and stones were inserted into her vagina

Others are raising different flags. Activist Aruna Roy talks about the self-defeating futility of castration and capital punishment. “Even after the Bhanwari Devi rape case, there was a lot of talk of castration, but through all our discussions on ground, as women we arrived at the position that we did not want to be party to the same idea of revengeful physical violence. What we need is more governance, more rule of law and more comprehensive redressal mechanisms. It sounds boring, but that’s where the answers lie.”

In this issue of TEHELKA, activist Flavia Agnes has detailed how the police interface with rape survivors can be made more accountable, irrespective of their personal prejudice or views. Over the next few weeks, TEHELKA is committed to engaging more with such sober assessments of where the answers lie. But, for the moment, even if one were to assume one had all the answers, how could any of them yield positive outcomes unless we at least agree as a society on the nature of the crime and what causes it?

To speak of collective outrage is to assume a shared value system. Clearly, we don’t have that. As lakhs of Indians listening to Mohan Bhagwat, the Jamaat leaders and Asaram Bapu would have wondered what the media fuss was about, it’s possible many Indians will read the excerpts of conversations with Indian men listed in this story and wonder why we are calling it a window into darkness.

‘I hold women squarely responsible for the rapes. The prime reason is revealing dresses, and that hijab is now extinct from urban areas’

MAULANA UBAIDUR RAHMAN, 36
Imam of Jama Masjid, Faizabad, UP

 

‘The clothes today’s girls wear provoke even the most upright men. They have moved away from Hindu culture’ 

VIJAY PRASAD SHETTY, 57
President, Udupi Bar Association, Karnataka

It’s crucial, therefore, to outline unequivocally what the fuss is about. As a modern democracy, the right of the individual — irrespective of religion, caste, class or gender — is enshrined in our Constitution. For a woman, this ought to mean a complete autonomy over her body, her choices, her movement and her right to work. These choices may be curtailed on the ground by the cultural or personal context she inhabits, or where she herself wants to stand on the ladder of emancipation. But, in essence, there should be no curtailments.

The fuss is, many sections of Indian society don’t see this as a desired value. Where the State and its institutions are concerned, confronting this should be a fairly easy and precipitate process. If you hold any public office — as a minister, a judge, a policeman, a bureaucrat or any government functionary — voicing or acting on any misogynistic impulse should automatically invite censure or removal. This does not happen, but it is time it should. Nothing would send out a clearer message to society than a Constitutional principle made visible.

The greater muddle is in society’s own responses. India, proverbially, contains multitudes. Inevitably, there is a face-off between those who wish to live by this ideal and those who want to thwart it. How should one, as Santosh Desai puts it, keep society moving towards a positive destination without solidifying the resistance?

‘Porn is a Rs 45,000 cr empire. Kids are heavily into this; it teaches them to look at women in a certain light’

MZ KHAN, 52 
Urdu Novelist, Ranchi

 

‘I knew a guy who had a small penis, and his wife told me — he would overcompensate by assaulting her’

MUSHTAQ SHEIKH, 30
Screenplay Writer, Mumbai

One of the temptations of the past four weeks has been to frame the debate on rape and women’s rights as a war between men and women. Obviously, there is no merit in that argument. Women can be as oppressive — if not more — than men. But the exhilarating find in TEHELKA’s conversations with Indian men is that the picture is more sunlit than one had imagined.

Speaking at a discussion last week about the media’s reporting on the Delhi rape, social scientist Nivedita Menon said, one of the most gratifying aspects of watching young girls and boys protest the rape was to see that the idea of feminism and equal rights had percolated through every layer of society onto the street. The slogans and placards spoke of an emancipated consciousness that was in the skin, beyond any studied political positions or self-conscious feminism.

TEHELKA’s findings echo that. For every regressive, reductive conversation, there were others, particularly young men — across religion, culture, class and profession — who defied the stereotype. Men who expressed a profound commitment to the idea of equality and women’s rights over their own bodies, ambitions and sexuality.

 

July 2012 A TV crew egged on a mob to molest a girl for TRPs in Guwahati

There was Tejas Jain, 23, an IT engineer and music student from Indore, who told TEHELKA that his concept of a successful, modern Indian woman was “someone who can stand up for herself in all walks of life and is neither scared nor controlled by men such as her father, brother or husband”. His concept of an ideal man was equally enlightened: “Someone who not only respects women, but all of life — be it human, animal or plant.”

Like many other young students TEHELKA spoke to, Tejas poured scorn on the idea of women as objects for sex, violence or household chores. “Our rigid and orthodox societal mindset has to go. Media, cinema and TV have to own up to the responsibility of how they project women. Turn on the TV and you will see women decked in saris, sitting at home, plotting and fighting all day. We need to fight these stereotypes.”

Like Tejas again, Sukalyan Roy, 27, a marketing executive in Delhi, spoke with self-confidence. A successful woman for him was someone who is truly independent, who can live with her family or on her own, take her own decisions, dress as she wants, go where she wants and have as many sexual partners as she chooses. “I think women in many ways are the stronger sex,” he told TEHELKA. “They have a deeper strength than men are capable of. It is men who have to steadily change.”

Similar assertions rang like positive chimes through dozens of other conversations. Abhishek Verma, 25, an MCA student in Ambedkar University, Lucknow, for instance, said, “The emancipation of women is in the larger interest of society. They need more freedom, not less.”

Like these students, Pramod Kumar, a professor of history at Lucknow University, took on the easy and reductive revilement of ‘modern’ and ‘western’ culture. “It’s not modern culture but a medieval mindset that is to be blamed for rape,” he said. “The protest against rape by common people in Delhi and other places was, in fact, a product of modern culture. Earlier, we hardly ever protested. Western culture is not just about wearing jeans and short skirts. It’s about liberal values, equality, liberty, fraternity, service to mankind and the Greek values of Humanism.”

Hearteningly, these enlightened positions did not only emanate from colleges and universities. Vipul Patel, 28, an electrical goods shop owner in Udupi — a perfect foil to the chauvinistic lawyer quoted earlier from the same town — said, “As far as clothes are concerned, if women cannot tell me what to wear, how can I dictate terms to them? In Manipal, we have girls from all over roaming about in short skirts late at night. That doesn’t mean you go around harassing them sexually. I saw a placard in a newspaper that read: ‘Ask your son not to rape, instead of telling me how to dress.’ I think that’s a fair comment.”

Wonderfully, Patel’s views found a mirror in Prakash, 35, a daily wager and coconut plucker from the same town. “How can anyone hold women responsible for crimes against them? If anyone is responsible, it is the men. What women do with their lives is none of my business. I have no say in my sister’s life — she should be allowed to do what she wants with it.”

These conversations run like a redemptive stream across the country. Men and boys who spoke up to take nuanced positions, critiquing themselves, women, their upbringing and the plurality of India that enables many worlds to both collide and co-exist. Not all of them were positioned at the extreme end of total freedom for either themselves or women. Instead, they spoke rationally of freedom with responsibilities, of cultural constraints and the pragmatics of safety. What distinguished them, though, was that even their intermediary positions were thoughtful and self-critical.

As Rak Kumar Singh, a documentary filmmaker from Manipur, said, “I hold women equally responsible as men for the segregated outlook of our society that views them as a solitary object for childbearing and sexual gratification. Unless women stand up and fight for their rights, this mindset will always prevail. Giving freedom to our women would mean providing peace and brighter opportunities for our society. But even our government — both in the state and Centre — are maleoriented bodies where women have the least right of decision making.”

Many spoke of witnessing violence in their own homes and of their resolve not to subscribe anymore to the triad idea of shame, silence and honour.

Dark as India’s societal attitudes might sometimes feel, these men are testimony to the fact that the ground has been shifting radically and imperceptibly. Santosh Desai, who with a team of 25 others have visited more than 73 towns in the past two years to conduct similar, casual dipstick conversations, says he has felt a definite new assertiveness, confidence and ambition among the young girls and women he has met on these trips. Combine that with the voices of these young men and one could begin to believe that despite every misstep— despite the lack of contemporary social reformers or enlightened government or moderate platforms for real dialogue — India is embarked on a fascinating and organic journey.

The beauty is, as Nivedita Menon says, that none of this new assertion necessarily means a complete break with the past. Rather, it is evidence that social transformations in India over the past decades have seeped to the ground level. Most of these young men and women would, in fact, be spending their salaries on looking after parents and younger siblings, and taking their responsibilities seriously, in very “Indian” ways.

OFTEN, RAPE is used as a weapon to maintain status quo, a tool for feudal, upper-caste or State oppression as the rapes in Gujarat or by the army and paramilitary jawans in Kashmir, the Northeast and Chhattisgarh. The brutal Delhi gangrape — a more plainly maniacal and criminal act — had none of those complex underpinnings of power and politics. Perhaps, as writer Arundhati Roy says, this made it easier for people to respond with horror and outrage to it, while other rapes are met with greater silence.

Even then, undeniably, it has prised open — at great and horrific cost — a crucial new space for discussion. As the white heat of its horror recedes, the only real honour we can accord the woman who died is to keep the discussion meaningfully alive.

As Aruna Roy says, the deepest feminist position one can have is a commitment to participatory dialogue. The ideas that will emerge from that lengthy process will always have greater validity and acceptance by plural cross-sections of society. The idea of equality may be non-negotiable, but the paths to it are many. If we stay committed to that process, even after the clumsy water cannons are gone and the anguished candles have died, we might still have one billion rising.

shoma@tehelka.com

With inputs from Brijesh Pandey, Baba Umar, Aradhna Wal, Jeemon Jacob, Riyaz Wani, Soumik Mukherjee, Ratnadip Choudhury, Virendra Nath Bhatt, G Vishnu, Imran Khan, Nishita Jha and Sai Manish

 

ANGUISH of A MOTHER about the insensitivity of POLICE, MEDIA and society in getting justice to her daughter, a survivor of CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE


CHILDRAPE

Suja Jones Mazurier:

“I cannot bear this anymore. He is getting support everywhere and I am faced with suspicion or isolation from everyone: Police, close friends, NGOs, public, media and most importantly even my own lawyers and activists.

He is making derogatory statements without a sense of guilt of the crime that he has committed on my daughter for such a long period. Himself, his mother and father are speaking against me and portraying him as an angel. Media that states they have to get his version whenever they contact me, fails to enquire me on the statements that are being made by him against me and others. Nobody wants to speak out for me. Why? I am unable to find answers.

I am amazed to see that the same media that is shouting hoarse on atrocities being committed on women, fails to even hear me when I shout that my child, a very young daughter was continuously raped and sodomised by my husband. Whatever happens in the court, his version is promptly reported, without even bothering to ask me my version. In all the rape cases that we are getting reports in the media, no version of the accused is presented. They are screened, I ask this question to media. If getting the version of the other side is essential, why don’t all of you go talk to Nirbhaya’s rapists? Why? Is it because they are not white, European, charming, handsome good speakers? Or is it because she is dead her death speaks the truth automatically? Is death the only way to prove one is right? What is the use of the evidence then? Just burn it all and sentence Suja to death. That is better.

Just give my children to him and his parents who are supporting him so closely when I have no one NONE with me. If you have doubts about my case please don’t pretend to support me. Just back off or go add to Pascal’s ever growing line of supporters. I cannot bear one more look of suspicion, one more question “But why did you…? Why did you not…?” I did what I had to. I took my child to the doctors. They gave their reports, several doctors from several institutions with several reports. If these don’t count then what is the use of fighting?

The French Consulate supports him, receiving from him secret correspondence that maligns me while at the same time refusing to listen to what I have to say pretending to be ‘neutral’. They take into account Pascal’s ‘confidential letter’ and refuse to return my children’s passports to me that they took away under the pretext of ‘getting their VISAs renewed’ (They promised to return them to me once this was done). The French Consul admitted to calling the Commissioner of Police, Bangalore requesting him not to arrest Pascal in the early stages. Then he tells me, “The Indian Police should not have listened to me since this was an unofficial request.’

I visited the office of the Investigation officer along with my advocate on two occasions to get the second DNA report from the Investigative Officer. The first time he asked us to change our application letter stating that it ought to have been addressed to Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP), I change the address it to DCP, on receiving the same, he said it ought to have been addressed to Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP). I change the address again and present it to him. He says that my request cannot be considered. Being the complainant I requested him to at least allow me to see the report. I was refused. He said that I should come through the proper channel!!!!!!! Why? Now I understand why…The report shows that the swabs tested were not my daughter’s. (Pascal said that in his interview to Headlines Today)

They have made known the contents of that report to the accused and he has used it to his benefit on National television claiming that the swabs did not belong to either him or that of my daughter.

So actually in India, everything works to the advantage of the accused, no matter what the nature of his crime or his nationality – 1) He got the swabs of my daughter switched with the help of the police so that his sperm would not be found

2) He shouts that he is innocent based on the first DNA report that shows some other man’s sperm, claiming that it ‘exonerates him’.

3) When the second DNA report is revealed to him by the police , he realizes that the truth of the swabs being switched will get revealed. So he shouts that the Baptist Hospital doctors gave someone else’s swabs to the police.

4) He threatens certain sections of the media (both Indian and French) that have been reporting the story objectively so far into silence.

5) On national television he gives veiled threats to me and all ‘organizations supporting me’. He repeatedly defends the police and says that they are ‘not being allowed to do their job properly’( because I speak out and make written complaints each time they harass me and even my daughter).

And what are the police, the institutions doing for the victim? ‘It is sub-judice we cannot …’or ‘We are invegtigating into it.’ Or the press that says ‘We cannot report your case since there is nothing new, it is not a big enough story’ etc. In this melee everyone seems to have forgotten the suffering that my daughter has undergone at the hands of my husband. When all the doctors’ reports speak volumes. He is able to claim ‘innocence’. When the police refuse to produce the evidence against him that is available, when they fail to conduct the investigation the way it ought to have been, when the police are all claiming him to be not necessarily guilty and when they throw aspersions against me, put words into my statement and the statements of the witnesses that help him, he has every reason to be very happy with the investigation, he has great respect for the police and the system for very good reasons.

I am exhausted. When the time comes I will be forced to give up my children to the ‘nice white man who has his good white parents and the French Consulate and the Indian police and more to support him. After all it is true that I am alone. I have no one. It is more difficult for me to bring up my three children alone than for him Even at any time if he is convicted the whole society …’societies’ – French and Indian will only look at him and his parents with sympathy and me with contempt.

I should never have been born. I should never have gotten married or had children. I should have been killed at birth. This level of suspicion and isolation on someone who is trying to find justice for her daughter who was raped and sodomized by her own manipulative, cunning, handsome, charming, intelligent father is not just unfair, it is criminal. And why? Because the GREAT ONE opens his mouth. When HE opens his mouth all the evidence against him is automatically eliminated.It is easy for me now to see how and why women do not come out when such things happen in their homes. It is easy for me to see why women are driven to take their lives.

The criminal is not just Pascal. It is the whole society and the institutions who gather behind him or decide to ‘be neutral’ and not take sides or pretend to support me but are actually very skeptic in spite of the evidence against him.

Suja Jones Mazurier”

http://www.facebook.com/suja.jonesmazurier

 

Will the Govt. imprison Pravin Togadia? #hatespeech


 

Petition filed against Togadia, Owaisi,Others – Hate Speeches

Written by Agencies | January 10, 2013 |

Hyderabad : President of Deccan Wakf properties Protection Society, Osman Bin Mohammed Al-Hajri, has failed a complaint against Praveen Togadia, International General Secretary of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Akberuddin Owaisi, MLA of Chadrayangutta, Muneeruddin Muqtar, Convenor, Muttaheda Majlis-e-Amal and others, in the court of Sixth Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate here, on January 7, stating that they were indulging in hate speeches, and hence action should be taken against them.

Togadia, Akberuddin Owaisi
Al-Hajri filed the petition through his Advocates Syed Kareemuddin Shakeel and Mohammed Khan. The petitioner and the Advocate Kareemuddin shakeel, informed the media here today, that the Sixth chief additional Metropolitan Magistrate, after hearing the arguments, referred the said complaint to the Police Station, Tappachabutra in the city and directed the police to register the case against the above mentioned accused persons and take appropriate legal action against them.
In the complaint, the petitioner alleged that Praveen Togadia had visited Hyderabad in December last, openly threatened the Muslims of bloodshed. By making serious and highly objectionable remarks against the Muslim community, he Infused tension in both the communities, which can cause hate feelings in both the communities which is hazardous to the peace and tranquility of Hyderabad and the State.
The alleged that Muneeruddin Muqtar had conducted series of public meetings in the districts of the State, in which Akbaruddin Owaisi had made inflammatory and provocative speeches and made some derogatory and insulting remarks against the Hindu community, and insulted their religious faith and their gods. The derogatory remarks made by Owaisi are totally against the Islamic teachings. Any Muslim who has faith in Quran will not make any such derogatory remarks against the other religious faith and hurt their sentiments of other religious group. Quran says “Don’t insult other religion’s Gods and faith”, he added.

 

Are information commissioners killing the RTI Act?


 

VINITA DESHMUKH | 09/01/2013 Moneylife 

Information commissions are increasingly being lenient in penalising Public Information Officers (PIOs) for not providing information that they should, or being absent at hearings at the information commission. If so, are the information commissioners making PIOs and Appellate Authorities unaccountable?

Pune-based RTI (Right to Information) activist Vijay Kumbhar has triggered off a controversy through his column in the Marathi daily Pudhari that despite information commissioners being empowered to penalise Public Information Officers (PIOs), they do not do so even if they do not provide information to the applicant or remain absent for hearing at the information commission. Kumbhar states, “information commissioners are responsible for the worrying trend of government employees not being serious about the RTI anymore as they are often not held accountable.”

 

He cites two recent decisions of State Information Commissioners in Maharashtra on New Year’s Day, as examples. In the first decision, the applicant who had filed a RTI in July 2011 did not get the required reply and the First Appellate Authority (FAA) did not bother to conduct any hearing. This compelled the applicant to file second appeal with the information commission.

 

However, when the matter was heard at the state information commission, the commissioner merely ordered that information be given within a specific period by the PIO but he did not levy any penalty on the PIO or question the absence of both the PIO and FAA. Says Kumbhar, “in this case, the PIO or FAA did not bother about the RTIapplication or appeal filed before them. They even did not have the courtesy to attend the hearing of an appeal before the information commission. But the Commission in its order has not dealt with some basic questions like, what was the information the applicant had sought for? What were the reasons behind not furnishing the information by the PIO? Why didn’t the appellate authority conduct hearing on the first appeal? Why was the PIO and the appellate authority not present for the hearing before the information commission?” The least the information commissioner could have done, says Kumbhar is to issue a show-cause notice as to why they remained absent.

 

In the second case, says Kumbhar, the applicant did not receive the information that he had asked for from the PIO but the FAA dismissed his appeal by stating that the required information was provided to him by the PIO and that too,10 months after the applicant had filed his first appeal. During the second appeal hearing, the information commissioner did not go into details as to what information was asked for by the applicant? In such a case, the information commissioner has the power to impose fine on the PIO and reprimand the FAA for conducting the hearing after 10 long months but they were not pulled up. If the information commissioners are so lenient, then why should PIOs bother about applications they receive under RTI?

 

So, are information commissioners advertently or inadvertently killing the power of the RTI Act? Moneylife asked a cross-section of RTI activists:

 

RTI activist Maj Gen SCN Jatar (retd)

Information Commissioners cannot afford to be lax:  Kumbhar’s observations set out in reality how RTI commissioners are set to kill RTI. They do not realise that such decisions are taken as examples of superficiality and laxity in penalising errant PIOs. PIOs are apt to then follow the same methods again and again. The basic criteria that should govern good judgments are a) They should be well-reasoned so that these can be cited in future judgments and ii) they should give a clear message to the errant PIOs that avoiding or evading giving information, which should be in public domain, will not be tolerated. The two cases quoted by Kumbhar do not meet both the above criteria.

 

Former Central Information Commissioner and RTI activist Shailesh Gandhi

Faster disposal of cases and reasonable threat of penalty required:  Most Information Commissioners use the penalty provision as if it was a death penalty to be imposed in the rarest of cases. I do not see any problem with who attends the hearing. The Commissioners should give orders for information irrespective of whether the PIO attends or not. The hearing is an opportunity to present one’s views or argue on required matters. If the appellant or PIO does not attend, they may not want the opportunity of hearing. To believe that when either side is not present, a Commissioner must rule in favour of one who is present does not appear correct or desirable.

 

I had levied 521 penalties totalling Rs.92 lakh in the 20,400 cases which I decided in three years and nine months.  The rest of the Central Information Commissioners collectively imposed penalties in about 330 cases in the Commission and had decided about 80,000 cases. There is no doubt that there is a link of penalty imposition with compliance of the law. If cases are decided fast, and there is a fear of penalties, the PIOs and First appellate authorities become more alert and try to meet the requirements of the law. The total cases received by the Central Commission rose by about 50% in a two year period from 2009 to 2011. The cases for Municipal Corporation of Delhi—which I handled throughout my tenure rose by only 15%. This indicates that faster disposal and a reasonable threat of penalties would get better compliance of the law.

 

RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal

Each order of Information commission should be comprehensive: It is usually observed that generally penalties are not imposed by Information Commissioners thereby making Public Information Officers (PIOs) lethargic towards complying with provisions of the RTI Act. There should be a practice whereby each order of Information Commissions may carry all the relevant dates like filing a RTI petition, reply of PIO, filing first appeal and of appeal-order. There should be auto-calculation of penalty in each verdict of Information Commissions making penal-provisions under Section 20 of the RTI Act mandatory rather than discretionary as at present. Reasons for waiving or reducing applicable penalty should be specifically mentioned in verdicts of Information Commissions. Information Commissions should maintain record of penalties imposed. Non-payment of penalties in specified time should be reported once in a month to Cabinet Secretary/Chief Secretary who should be duty-bound to initiate disciplinary action against defaulting officers apart from taking steps to recover penalty-amounts from salary/pension payable.

 

RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd)

Applicants should be innovative, interactive with PIOs:  Every applicant must realise that it is only after the RTI Act that citizens have become participative in governance. RTI has given us a chance to be an integral part of public accountability so we should not take an adverse stance against PIOs as far as possible. Every RTI applicant should make untiring efforts not to take the case up to the Information commission level as he or she would face inordinate delays, even up to two years. I use innovative methods to interact with the PIOs to extract information in case they hesitate to provide it. Today, I have developed good relations with many public authorities and they sometimes call me for suggestions or advice. Also, after the 2G scam it has been observed that every single reply under RTI at least in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) goes to the top bureaucrat so what is the use of blaming or penalising PIOs who are at the mercy of their bosses? Also, in the information commissions, it is the bureaucrats who create more hurdles than the information commissioners themselves.

 

Researcher and RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak

Public Authorities should take implementation of RTI Act seriously: I agree that to make government employees take RTI seriously PIOs should be penalised but that is just one of the solutions. Penalty cannot be the only deterrent as much as vigilance by higher authorities can be. It is the responsibility of public authorities to clearly push for policy of transparency and that should be visible in action and not by merely issuing paper orders. Serious implementation of RTI cannot be only a PIO’s headache. The top brass of every public authority should regularly monitor and be vigilant about transparency. Mechanisms to check it should work efficiently and should be given top priority. Targets should be set for accountability. Every office has a Monthly Monitoring Report (MMR). It is also called the Monthly Progressive Implementation Calendar in Karnataka. It requires reporting physical and financial progress to superiors who in turn give guidance on the basis of the report. There should also be scrutiny at the highest level, which is legislature. Such professional monitoring has not been seen for RTI. It is only when the government employees know that someone is seriously watching over them, that everyone down the line will take RTI seriously. Perhaps some incentives like increased funding or an award to the Public Authority which implements RTI diligently could help.

 

Now that Owaisi is in jail, how about Praveen Togadia? #hatespeech


JANUARY 9, 2013

Guest post by MAHTAB ALAM, kafila.org

Akbaruddin Owaisi, an MLA of Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly, who belongs to a Hyderabad-based political party All India Majlis-e-Ittihad al-Muslimin, better known as MIM, and its floor leader in the Assembly made an inflammatory speech against Hindus on 24 December 2012 at a public meeting in Adilabad District. The speech attracted widespread condemnation by Muslim activists, rightly so, apart from left, liberal individuals and organizations. Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan, President, All India Muslim Majlis e Mushawarat (AIMMM), an umbrella body of prominent Indian Muslim organizations termed it ‘a hate and rash speech’ arguing, ‘words that should never have been uttered by a responsible person, let alone a political leader, were used’.

Shabnam Hashmi, a prominent social activist and who has been relentlessly working on the issue of minority rights registered an FIR in Delhi against Owaisi stating, ‘the whole speech is highly objectionable, inflammatory and against the values of our constitution, democracy and secular values’. Similarly, FIRs were also registered in the State invoking section 295 A (for deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings) and 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups) of Indian Penal Code (IPC). Owaisi was arrested finally arrested on Tuesday (8th January) and sent to 14-day judicial custody.

However, there was a small section of Muslims, mostly individuals, who held this as an illustration of the ‘double standards of civil society and state machinery’. The crux of their argument was, that while governments take speedy actions and act in a haste in the cases where Muslims are involved even in petty crimes, criminals belonging to the majority community roam free despite being involved in all sorts of serious crimes such as communal carnage, mass murders, looting and rapes, let alone the cases of hate speech. While on the surface, these allegations might appear as a desperate attempt to defend communalists belonging to the Muslim community – and indeed some of them may be—the fact is that these claims are not that far removed from reality.

Sample this. Praveen Togadia, Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) international working President, during his recent visit to Hyderabad in December last year, made an equally inflammatory and communal speech while addressing a press conference in the city. The VHP president at the press conference on the issue of controversial Bhagya Lakshmi Mandir- Charminar threatened Muslims by saying that ‘VHP will convert Hyderabad into Ayodhya if Hindus are not allowed to perform Puja’. The simple fact is that Hindus have never been stopped from performing Puja. He further thundered the VHP would teach Muslims of Hyderabad a lesson that they would never forget. Following this, a few cases have been registered against him but the government is yet to act. It is well known of course that this is not the first time when he has made such a speech. In fact, several such cases are pending against Togadia, not only in Hyderabad but in different parts of the country; and the police and the governments have never acted against him.

And Togadia is not a solitary soldier: there is a veritable contingent of Togadias whose prime work is hate mongering and inciting violence, especially in situations where there are higher chances of communal disturbance and violence. It has become almost a routine for these forces to fuel violence in name of protecting their religion, religious tenets and identity or interests of their fellow religionists and people. Ashok Singhal, Adityanath Yogi, Uma Bharti, Sadhvi Ritambhara and Raj/Udhav Thackeray to name a few. What is strange, though often understood, that they draw their supports from political parties of all hues. While certified communal political parties like BJP and Shiv Sena lent them open support, self- appointed secular parties like Congress and Samajwadi Party would never bother to book them according to the law of the land despite ample evidence being available. Hence, these cases of selective action only prove that our governments utilize double standards for crimes of similar nature, for criminals belonging to minority and majority communities. Varun Gandhi is the sole exception, and there are indications already that the UP government may go slow on him, after he submitted an application for quashing of the case against him.

It was interesting also to see how the Owaisi saga played out in the electronic media. Watching these programmes, one would think that Owaisi was the originator of hate speech in India, and not simply one among the many who blight public discourse through their venom. TV anchors after anchor summoned ‘Muslim’ politicians from a range of political parties daring them to condemn Owaisi. Would the Congress Party spokesperson be ever asked to condemn Togadia – or Rithambara or Uma –as a Hindu or as someone opposed to their politics or ideology?  Why then this rush to seek declarations from Muslim politicians as Muslims? Coming just months after all TV channels were paying obeisance to Bal Thackeray, whose political career was built on hate and its articulation, the self righteousness of the various channel heads is only amusing.

So now that Owaisi is thankfully arrested, the larger question is: what about Singhals, Yogis, Bhartis and Thackerays? Will they ever be arrested and sent to jail like Owaisi for their umpteen numbers of crimes? This must be answered; at least to show that we as a constitutionally declared secular country – considered to be the world’s largest democracy – do not practice two different sets of rules for majority and minority. Remember, mere lip service like in the past would not work this time as it would only further the argument of the State practicing double standards.

Is anyone listening?

(Mahtab Alam is a Delhi based civil rights activist and freelance journalist. Email: activist dotjournalist at gmail dot com.)

J&K hockey coach arrested for allegedly molesting Punjab players #Vaw


JAMMU AND KASHMIR, Updated Jan 14, 2013 at 02:36pm IST

Hyderabad: The coach of Jammu and Kashmir Under-20 women’s hockey team Angad Singh has been arrested for alleged molestation attempt. The Cyberabad police have arrested coach Angad Singh on a complaint filed by Punjab players.

Members of the Punjab team complained that the coach tried to molest them on a train to Hyderabad where they are participating in the ongoing Women’s U-20 nationals.

A case has been registered against the coach under Section 354 and 506.

 

Strong evidence to link RF radiations to various health disorders: Bioinitiative Report


Author(s):
Avimuktesh Bhardwaj, downtoearth
Issue Date:
2013-1-9

Earlier report of 2007 had dwelt mainly on carcinogenicity of such radiations

http://www.downtoearth.org.in/dte/userfiles/images/mobile-tower.jpg” width=”457″ height=”253″ border=”0″ />Radiation level norms for cell phone towers in most countries, including India, are way above the safe limits and have adverse impacts on human health (photo by Meeta Ahlawat)

A new report that examines the effect of electromagnetic fields (EMF) and radiofrequency (RF) on human health has raised some serious public health concerns. The report—Bioinitiative Report 2012—says that there is enough evidence to link EMF and RF radiations with not just cancer but other health problems as well, including slow DNA damage. It also says that radiofrequency norms worldwide are too lax to protect public health. EMF and RF radiations are associated with wireless technologies like cellular phones and mobile phone towers, Wi-Fi and power lines.

Earlier, in 2011 the World Health Organisation had declared these radiations to be possible carcinogens [1]. The Bioinitiative Report, however, explores all possible health hazards, including impacts on male fertility, effects on vulnerable groups like children and pregnant women, neurological disorders, headache and Alzheimer’s disease apart from cancer-causing effects.

What is the safe limit?

  • According to the new regulations in India, a maximum power density of 0.9 mw/m2 can be allowed for a 1,800 MHz GSM operators
  • Bioinitiative Report 2012 has found health hazards to be reported much below in the range of 0.0005 w/m2 which is about 2,000 times lower that what is still being prescribed.
  • The report points out that the prescribed limits all across the world are 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the lowest levels at which effects have been found

The report, made public on January 7, is the second in the series of bioinitiative reports. It has been authored by a group of 29 experts from 10 different countries who reviewed about 1,800 research outcomes in the past five years. The first report which was released in 2007 had also raised concerns which led to widespread discussions across the globe. Exponential growth in use of cellular technology in the past few years and growing scare among people has made the issue of vital concern. According to the data given by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the number of cellular phone subscribers in India has increased more than 300 per cent between 2007-08 and 2012-13.

No time to lose

The main difference between the bioinitiative reports of 2007 and 2012 are the nature of health hazards and evidences for them. Earlier, there were discussions about the carcinogenicity of RF radiations. “Now, there is evidence to link RF radiations with various health hazards other than cancer. It is important for us to know that these radiations are also associated with our day to day problems like headache and anxiety apart from being cancer-causing in the longer run,” says Girish Kumar, professor of electrical engineering at IIT-Bombay.

As the number of people using cell phones and Wi Fi grew manifold between 2007 and 2012, the evidence for their health hazards have also become clearer. “There is now much more evidence of risks to health, affecting billions of people world-wide. The status quo is not acceptable in light of the evidence for harm,” says David O Carpenter, co-editor of the report, in a media release.

Speaking on how these radiations affect us, experts say that RF radiations may interact with the biosystems, making irreversible changes. “The radiations may cause slow DNA damage which might become irreversible, causing hazards,” says A K Anand, chief of radiation oncology at Max Healthcare in Delhi.

Radiation norms too lax

The report puts a big question mark on the recommended RF radiation limits worldwide. The recommendations of International Commission of Non-ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), the international panel of independent scientific experts, have remained the same since they were first proposed in 1998.

“Epidemiological evidence shows that radiofrequency should be classified as a human carcinogen. The existing FCC/IEE (recommending bodies in the US) and ICNIRP public safety limits and reference levels are not adequate to protect public health,” says Lennart Hardell of Orebro University in Sweden and one of the contributors to the report. Many countries in the world, including Russia, China, Hungary and Switzerland have already discarded the guidelines and set their own norms.

India adopted new norms in September 2012 which reduced the allowable public exposure to one tenth of the earlier limits, which were based on ICNIRP guidelines. According to the new regulations, a maximum power density of 0.9 mw/m2 can be allowed for operators of 1,800 MHz frequency range. Power density is the density of power radiated by cell towers at a specific distance from them and is used to regulate and monitor RF radiations.

The report, however, has found health hazards to be reported much below in the range of 0.0005 w/m2 which is about 2,000 times lower that what is still being prescribed. The report points out that the prescribed limits all across the world are 1,000 to 10,000 times higher than the lowest levels at which effects have been found.

What needs to be done to address the problem? The report reiterates the need for precautionary action. “The standard for taking action should be precautionary; action should not be deferred while waiting for final proof or causal evidence to be established that EMF is harmful to health and well-being,” it reads. Experts believe that it is time for action. “We have provided the scientific basis.

Now it is up to the regulators to take action accordingly,” says Paulraj Rajamani, assistant professor of environmental sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University and one of the two contributors to the report from India. Kumar puts it succinctly. “If action is not taken today, the impacts will be more visible in five to 10 years down the line,” he says. The regulators seem unmoved. A senior official in Department of Telecommunication said he was not aware about any such report when contacted.

Another important issue raised in the report is the lack of public awareness and unwillingness of the authorities to tackle it. It points out that people are unaware and there is inadequate warning or notice in public. “There is no informed consent,” it reads.


 

The rapist in the mirror #delhigangrape #Vaw #gender


PRAVEEN SWAMI, The Hindu

If we are to combat sexual violence in our cities, it is time to begin discussing the dysfunctions of young urban men

“I remember seeing a documentary about some animal being eaten from behind while its face seemed to register disbelief, fear, and self-hate at its own impotence,” recalls Roy Strang, the rapist at the centre of Irvine Welsh’s supremely disturbing Marabou Stork Nightmares, of one of his victims. “That was what she reminded me of,” says Strang, watching his victim’s eyes, “frozen,” “dead,” through the mirror he forced her to hold up to her face as he raped her.

Last month’s gang rape in New Delhi has focussed nationwide attention on the epidemic proportions of sexual violence against women in India. Long overdue debates on criminal justice and gender have begun — along, predictably, with bizarre calls for schoolgirls’ bodies to be concealed under overcoats and curfews. Yet, there have been only the awkward beginnings of a discussion on the problem itself — men.

It is time, though, to start looking at the rapist in the mirror.

RITUALS OF MASCULINITY

To anyone familiar with young men in India’s cities and towns, Strang’s world is far from alien. For many youth worldwide, violence against women — a spectrum that runs from gang rape to domestic violence and street sexual harassment — is part of the system of masculinity-making rituals, along with sport, drinking and brawling. 58 per cent of men arrested for rape in India in 2010 were aged 18-30; in the United States, 55 per cent are below the age of 30. 53.92 per cent of men held that year for molestation or sexual harassment were also from the same age group.

This is not to suggest that a dysfunctional masculinity is the root of rape; few human behaviours have a single cause. Yet, from the testimonies of women, we know that this cohort of young men have made homes and streets the site of a pervasive gender terrorism.

Rape, though, is something rapists do, not who they are. Precisely why particular individuals find pleasure in inflicting violence on women is a question everyone from evolutionary biologists to cultural theorists have weighed in on; there is no consensus, and may never be. Yet, as Welsh noted, strange behaviour “always has a context.” Five such contexts suggest themselves as possible keys to the production of India’s urban-male dysfunction. Together, these contexts ensure young men are rarely fully weaned; able to lead an adult life characterised by agency and individual choice. The consequence is a deep rage that manifests itself in nihilist behaviours.

India’s transforming urban economy has, firstly, produced a mass of young, prospectless men. The parents of these children, many first-generation migrants to cities, worked on the land or were artisans. Though this generation’s position in the economy may have been inequitable, its agency as workers was not. The young, though, find themselves fighting for space in an economy that offers mainly casual work. This casualisation has come about even as hard-pressed parents are spending ever more on education. Even the pressures on middle-class and lower middle-class men are enormous. Frequently coddled in son-worshipping parents, young men are only rarely able to realise the investment and hopes vested in them.

For a second context to hyper-violent masculinity, we must look at culture. Increasingly, cities have no recreational spaces for young men. Films, long one of the few cultural activities that a working-class audience could participate in, now target élites; movie theatre prices exclude large parts of the youth population. There is diminishing access to theatre, art, music and sport. In its place, the street becomes the stage for acting out adulthood, through substance abuse and violence.

Thirdly, a number of young men, particularly in new urban slums, are being brought up by no-parent families — families that fathers have abandoned or are largely absent from, and where mothers work long hours. Elsewhere in the world, too, this social crisis has been linked to sexual violence. South African researcher Amelia Kleijn, in a 2010 study of child rapists, found most had deprived childhoods marked by “physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect.”

Fourth, there is a crisis of sexuality. Few men, working class or rich, have access to a sexual culture which allows them sexual freedoms or choices. The crisis is exacerbated by the fact that sections of urban élites participate in a sexual culture which is relatively liberal — a culture that young men can watch on television and in public spaces, but never hope to participate in. For some, the sexually independent woman is thus enemy to be annihilated. In his hit song C**t, the rape-valorising rap star Honey Singh voices his yearning to kick a woman after raping her, to drive out the bhoot of ego from her head. Similarly, Strang sees on the streets a wash of “blonde and auburn wigs, lipstick smeared on those deadly pincer-like insect jaws.”

COMMODITIES

Young men of all classes, finally, see women as status-enhancing commodities — emulating the long-standing gender privileges tradition has vested in élite men.

None of these five contexts is new. Particular stresses linked to the reordering of India’s social fabric, though, are giving new lethality to gender inequity. In a 2008 paper, Jon Wolseth showed how neoliberalism created the conditions for a murderous surge of youth gang violence in the Honduras during the 1980s. Economic policies, he argued, had not just impoverished the poor; they also tore apart community networks, diminished public spaces and closed the door to political participation. Evangelical Christianity and the assault rifle-armed gang emerged as mode of liberation. Elsewhere in Latin America, scholars have observed much the same.

In India, women’s bodies appear to have become the principal terrain on which male rage is venting itself. It isn’t that young Indian men are inherently violent than they were in the past. In 2011, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, 29,937 men between 18 and 30 were arrested for murder. Twenty years earlier, it was 38,961. In 1991, 270,602 men of this age group were arrested for rioting; in 2011, the figure was 72,867. Sexual violence data, though, trends the other way. 8,864 18-30 men were arrested for rape in 1991; 16,528 in 2011. Molestation and sexual harassment arrests from this cohort have also almost doubled, from 23,075 in 1992, the first year for which data is available, to 32,581 in 2011.

Lacking agency isn’t, obviously, the cause of sexual violence: women aren’t responding to their disenfranchisement by attacking men; men with power can, and do, rape. The point here is, rather, that the large-scale disempowerment of urban men is lending intensity to a pre-existing culture of sexual violence.

ILLUSION OF EMPOWERMENT

For many men, then, violence against women works much as drugs do for addicts: it offers at least the illusion of empowerment where none exists, fixing feelings of rage and impotence. This, in turn, points to a wider malaise. Marxist scholar Antonio Gramsci noted that Fascism arose in a society “where mothers educate their infant children by hitting them on the head with clogs.” How men behave — on the streets with women, with other men, with animals — is taught. In our society, violence is not an aberration; it is the tie that binds us.

In 2007, the Ministry of Women and Child Development surveyed 12,477 children to learn of their experience of abuse. 68.99 per cent of children, over half of them boys, reported suffering physical violence. One in 12 children, again a majority boys, reported suffering sexual violence. It is a staggering fact: half of all Indians have encountered abuse before they became adults.

For the overwhelming majority of Indian children, the education in violence begins in the family. The survey found 59 per cent of the 2,245 children who did not go to school located home as a source of violence. In institutions like orphanages, the survey recorded levels of violence very similar to homes. More than 65 per cent of the 3,163 school children surveyed said they received beatings along with classes in maths, science and languages. Employers of child labourers, interestingly, were significantly less cruel than teachers; 58.7 per cent of working children said they experienced beatings at home, at work, or both. In each of these categories, boys were overrepresented.

Maulana Azad Medical College researcher Deepti Pagare discovered, during a survey of boys at New Delhi’s Child Observation Home, that 76.7 per cent reported physical abuse. Half of them actually bore clinical evidence of violence — the perpetrators, in more than half of all cases, their own fathers.

Elsewhere in the world, figures like these would almost certainly have provoked a national scandal — followed by demands of criminal prosecutions. Look through Delhi’s crime statistics, though, and you will find not one father prosecuted for everyday crimes against his son.

India needs a masculinity that does not involve violence. Moral sermons, though, won’t cut it: respect for women can emerge only from a culture that genuinely values rights for all.