Protests against Posco rage again, villagers form human chain


5
Kendrapara, Jan 14: Taking their protest against setting up of mega steel plant by South Korean major Posco and acquisition of their land by the district administration for the purpose, about 500 villagers including school-going children and women started a fresh agitation against the proposed project by forming a human chain at Balitikira in Jagatsingpur district Monday.
Apprehending that the district administration might use force to enter the proposed Posco site at Gobindapur to acquire 700 acre of land and provide cheques to 26 affected betel vine growers, the villagers once again shielded the Nuagaon-Gobindapur border to force the district administration to beat a retreat, said Abhaya Sahu, President of Posco Pratirodha Sangram Samiti (PPSS) who is spearheading the movement.

Around 250 school children of Gobindapur also participated in the human chain. The children, members of the Baji Rout Children’s Battalion, the children wing of PPSS, are in the front of human barricade, said Sahu. Villagers of Gobindapur, Patana and Dhinkia have asked their children to actively participate in the human chain formed to deter the police and district administration from acquiring land in their locality.
According to 12-year-old Ratikanta Sahu, “We, the members of Baji Rout Children’s Battalion, have taken a vow to squat on the road as long as we have not been able to completely prevent the entry of police and officials into our villages for acquiring land for the proposed Posco project.”

“We don’t want Posco to come up in our fertile land which is suitable to grow ‘dhaana’ (paddy), ‘paana’ (betel) and ‘mina’ (fish),” he added.

Sahu also alleged that Collector Satya Kumar Mallick had recently claimed that 80 per cent of people in Gobindapur village wanted Posco to come up in the proposed site. “If the Collector can prove that 80 per cent of people are in support of Posco, I will leave the protest. Else, he should resign from his post,” thundered Sahu.

Meanwhile, about nine platoons of security forces are camping at the Posco transit camp in Gadabagapur and Balitutha since Saturday, said sources.

As long as the district administration does not withdraw police force from Balitutha and also at the transit camp at Gadabagapur, the human chain will continue for indefinite period, Sahu warned.

“Let the police force come to the site and apply force with the children, women and the elderly to acquire land for Posco. The villagers are determined not to quit the ground and the human chain would continue round the clock at Balitikira,” he added.

“We have taken a vow to fight against the project till our last breath. If the Government uses force on innocent people, bloodshed would take place. Only the district administration and the State Government would be responsible for that as people here are ready to confront the forces till the last drop of blood,” said PPSS Secretary Sisir Mohapatra.

 

Egyptian Constitution Provides Little Protection to women #Vaw #sexualharassment


By Hajer Naili

WeNews correspondent

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A secular Egyptian woman outlines the disappointments written into the country’s new constitution, passed in late December. Women have had only one legal advance since the revolution: prosecuting sex harassment.

 

Demonstration in Cairo against the draft constitution, Dec. 4, 2012
Demonstration in Cairo against the draft constitution, Dec. 4, 2012

 

Credit: Moud Barthez on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

 

(WOMENSENEWS)–Egypt’s new constitution leaves Dooa Abdallah feeling left out.

“I don’t see myself as an Egyptian citizen in this constitution. I don’t see my future in this constitution,” she said.

Abdallah voted against the proposed constitution and now says it must not be left in its current version. It won’t be easy to change, she says, but she hopes to see the text challenged through “legal ways and on the streets.”

Abdallah is the Middle East and North Africa regional coordinator for the International Knowledge Network of Women in Politics (iKnow Politics) and a board member of an international solidarity network called Women Living Under Muslim Laws. She spoke with Women’s eNews in a recent Skype interview from Cairo, where she is based.

Like many Egyptian critics of the ruling Islamist party, she says the new constitution drafted by the Muslim Brotherhood was too rushed and resulted in a document that neither represents Egyptian society nor challenges the status quo that gripped the country for decades under former-President Hosni Mubarak.

“The text should be reflecting the notions of equality and freedom, but the constitution is now only reflecting the conservative philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood . . . If we keep the same economic system, if we keep the same political system, if we don’t give people their rights, why then was there a revolution and people lost their lives?” she asked.

The Egyptian constitution drafted by the Islamist party, the Muslim Brotherhood, was approved by a two-round referendum on Dec. 22 and signed into law by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi a few days later. The final text removed a clause that specifically guaranteed equality for women in the country and refers only to citizens, saying they are “equal before the law and equal in rights and obligations without discrimination.”

Confirmed to Family Sphere

The approved constitution states that honoring women is essential to a dignified nation. However, the text only refers to women as sisters and mothers, speaking of them purely within the framework of family and not offering room for women in the political and societal spheres.

Article 10, which states that family is the basis of society, and is founded on religion, ethics (morality) and patriotism, says the state will provide mother and child services for free and guarantees women access to health, social, economic care, inheritance rights and harmony between her family duties and public life.

Abdallah said that the Arabic version of the constitution is full of contradictions regarding the notion of equality and freedom, which are emphasized in the English version.

For example in the Arabic version, article 43 guarantees freedom of belief and article 45 guarantees freedom of thought and opinion, but article 44 prohibits insulting prophets. This blasphemy clause is inherently contradictory to the rights guaranteed by its adjacent articles, important to the secularists.

Article 44 has sparked concern as the number of trials for blasphemy has been on the rise in Egypt over the last few months.

Abdallah said the constitution is also dangerous because it maintains the right of military courts to judge civilians and the misuse of Islamic laws. When religion enters into the political sphere, she said, “you can easily manipulate people and that’s why it’s important to remove the religious dimension from the formula. That’s not the duty of the government to tell us how to worship God or how to pray.”

“I have seen in many places around the world where Islam and religion are being used to abuse women and minorities’ rights,” she added.

A Significant Gain

But while the constitution has spread widespread disappointment, women do have one significant legal gain to celebrate. Since the revolution, Egyptian women have begun daring to bring cases of sexual harassment to court.

Samira Ibrahim paved the way after soldiers detained her on March 2011 and subjected her and other female protesters to forced “virginity tests” for protesting in Cairo’s Tahrir Square against Mubarak’s regime. The 25-year-old marketing manager sued the military, and last year a civilian judge ruled the humiliating practice illegal. However, in March, a military tribunal acquitted the doctor who allegedly performed the “virginity tests.” Ibrahim has sworn to pursue the case using international law.

On Nov. 13, an Egyptian man was sentenced to two years in prison and fined a further 2,000 Egyptian pound ($328) for sexually assaulting a woman in Maadi, a suburb of Cairo, in July of last year. The verdict was seen as a small victory for women.

Harassment of women is legendary in Egypt, but silence has been the rule as women feared to bring “dishonor” and “shame” upon their families. With the revolution, the underreported phenomenon has come under the international spotlight as women, including many foreign female reporters, were sexually attacked in Tahrir Square.

The National Council of Women Chief Mervat Tallawy said recently that Egyptian women are harassed on average seven times every 200 meters (656 feet).

Hajer Naili is a New-York based reporter for Women’s eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa.

 

BREAKING NEWS-Soldier in Jammu invokes Human Rights Commission against Information Commissioner #RTI


 

VINITA DESHMUKH | 16/01/2013 0, Moneylife

Being denied of information and humiliated during the hearing of his case on 10th January at the State Information Commission office, Sanskrit scholar and RTI activist Dr Subedar Surinder Sharma turned to the State Human Rights Commission to get justice


Jammu-based soldier, Subedar Surinder Sharma was filled with grief when his sister, in her thirties, died under mysterious circumstances on 29 January 2011. Agitated over the fact that the police recorded the case as ‘suicide’ and not ‘murder’ despite alleged proof in the forensic laboratory’s autopsy report, Sharma invoked the RTI (Right to Information) Act. He asked for inspection of documents of all records pertaining to autopsy as well as “chain of custody” of autopsy samples from the Government Medical College and Hospital in Jammu.  He had also requested permission of assistance of his friend Deepak Sharma to be present during inspection as he is not well versed with English—this soldier though is a Sanskrit scholar having done his PhD in it.
The public information officer (PIO) declined information stating he does not have the copy of the autopsy report. Sharma then filed the first appeal but was informed by the First Appellate Authority that they indeed have the copy of the autopsy report but cannot allow inspection as records of other patients would also be revealed. Surinder Sharma, appealed to the FAA that he was only interested in his sister’s report but was denied information.
Hence, he appealed to the State Information Commissioner where his case was pending until he was asked to be present for hearing on 4 January 2013 at the Chief State Information Commission’s office where the case was to be heard.
His friend, Deepak Sharma also filed a separate RTI application on 29 April 2011 asking for the “crime scene observation report” of Surinder Sharma’s sister, from the PIO of the Office of Forensic Laboratory, Jammu. On 26 May 2011, he was denied information under the pretext of Section 8. He filed an appeal with the FAA on 12 July 2011 but was denied information. Deepak Sharma then filed a complaint with the State Information Commission but by a decision on 4 January 2012, the Information Commissioner dismissed the petition stating that the applicant has already received the information from the PIO. States Deepak Sharma, “the Information Commissioner without giving me a notice or hearing my side, gave such an order.” Aggrieved at this “lie, as I had never received the information”, he asked for a review application. Very strangely, the SIC sent back the application to the FAA who once again turned down his request. Finally, Surinder Sharma under media glare, wrote a RTI application with his own blood on 12 October 2012 and submitted it to the PIO. It was then that the SIC took it seriously and the PIO was compelled to give a copy of report.
However, Deepak Sharma’s hearing at the Chief State Information Commissioner’s office on 10 January last week turned ugly. Both the RTI applicants are crying foul over the humiliation meted to them by GR Sufi, Chief State Information Commissioner of Jammu and Kashmir.  States Surinder Sharma, “when we sat on the chairs, Mr Sufi asked us to vacate our chairs, saying it is not meant for people like us. He also humiliated us and threatened us that no appeal of ours would be entertained and that any case can be filed against us. He also took objection to my presence to assist Mr Surendra. He said that I am not an advocate. When I brought to his notice that the RTI Act allows assistance from any citizen, not necessarily a lawyer, he was very rude. Shocked at the arrogance we have made a petition to the State Human Rights Commission, to conduct a probe against Mr Sufi for his behavior.”
Chandigarh-based Surendera M. Bhanot, coordinator RTIFED who is campaigning against the arrogance of various information commissioners writes in Humjanenge blog, “Such behaviour of the Information Commissioners has brought the institution of Information Commissions to disrepute. This has opened a new front for the information seeker to approach the Central/State Human Right Commissions. Exactly so, one information seeker has really invoked this right.”
Lately, the information commissioners have come under ire for killing the RTI Act through their insipid orders. Now, it is a bit more serious as one of their fraternity members is alleged of misconduct towards RTI applicants.

Copy of the letter addressed to the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission
Surinder Sharma & Deepak Sharma, R/o Mandlik Bhawan, 412-C, Jeevan Nagar, Jammu (Complainants)
Vs
Sh. GR Sufi, State Chief Information Commissioner, Jammu and Kashmir State Information
Commission, Wazarat Road, Jammu (Respondent)

 

Sub: Complaint of human rights violation and serious breach of constitutional rightof the complainants by Sh. GR Sufi, State Chief Information Commissioner, Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission, Jammu.

 

Hon’ble Sir,

 

It is submitted with deep grief and pain that the complainants were humiliated, harassed, threatened to be implicated in false cases and the fundamental rights of Right to Equality before law, Right to Information, Right to a fair and transparent trial in the court of law, Right to life and liberty, Right to live with human dignity, Right to freedom of speech and expression and Right to enter in any public office were violated by Sh. GR Sufi, State Chief Information Commissioner, Jammu and Kashmir State Information Commission, Jammu.
The complainants would also like to bring in to the kind notice of Hon’ble Chief Minister Sahib that the complainant no. 2 had already submitted a written request to the J&K State Information Commission, dated 30 March 2012, receipt no. 2912, requesting for the videography of his cases pending for trial at J&K State Information Commission, for a fair and transparent trial. But unfortunately, for the reasons best known to the State Information Commission, the Commission remained insensitive and even did not bother to reply the complainant of his request.
The complainants would also like to bring this in to the kind notice of the Hon’ble State Human Rights Commission that the respondent had even himself violated the provisions of the state RTI Act and put the life of the appellants/information seekers on risk. The section 6(2) of the state RTI Act prohibits any personal question, motive and the purpose and use for seeking information, but the respondent had in utter violation of this provision of the Act in his decision no. 45 of SIC/J/Comp., dated 31/10/2011directed the information seeker to apprise him of the purpose of seeking and use of sought information.
The details of the present complaint case and circumstances are as follows:
That a case titled “Surinder Sharma Vs GMC” was listed for hearing in the open courtof Hon’ble Chief State Information Commissioner, Sh. GRSufi on 10/01/2013 at 11am. The applicant along with his duly authorized representative, Sh. Deepak Sharma (Complainant no. 2) approached to the State Information commission office on 10/01/13 at 10.45am.
That both the complainants after showing their presence to the private secretary of the State Chief Information Commissioner , entered in to the open court of State Chief Information Commissioner , Sh. GR Sufi , where the case was listed for hearing.
That both the complainants humbly wished the Hon’ble State Chief Information Commissioner and took their seats. The officials from the GMC, Jammu were already seating on the chairs.
That the State Chief Information Commissioner , Sh.GR Sufi suddenly in a very rude manner ordered the complainants to vacate the chairs immediately , stating the reasons that the complainants have no right and capacity to sit on chairs before him . He also remarked that the complainants and some others like the people of Jammu region do not deserve to sit on chairs before him and only senior officials/ bureaucrats like the officials from GMC, deserve to sit on the chairs before him.
That both the complainants as ordered by the State Chief Information Commissioner immediately vacated their chairs and in standing position requested to start the trial. The complainant no. 1 (Sh. Surinder Sharma ) requested to the Hon’ble State Chief Information Commissioner , that the complainant no. 2 ( Sh. Deepak Sharma) would present the case on his behalf. (This request of the complainant No. 1 was under the provisions laid down in the J&K RTI Act, 2009).
That the State Chief Information Commissioner, while violating the provisions laid down in the J&K RTI Act, 2009, rejected the request of the complainant no. 1 to present complainant no. 2 as his representative, citing the reasons that only an advocate with valid licence can only represent an applicant in the open courts of the Information Commission and since the complainant no. 2 (Sh.Deepak Sharma) is not an advocate , hence the complainant no. 2 could not be allowed to represent the case of complainant no. 1( Sh. Surinder Sharma).
That the complainant no. 2 (Sh.Deepak Sharma) humbly requested to the State Chief Information Commissioner  that the J&K RTI Act, 2009 , permits even a non-advocate to represent an applicant and no where in the Act it is mentioned that a non-advocate cannot represent an applicant in the case.
That the State Chief Information Commissioner in a fit of anger ordered the complainants not to speak in front of him, ordered to get out of his court immediately and also warned the complainants not to file any appeal/complaint in the J&K State Information Commission in future . The Hon’ble State Chief Information Commissioner even threatened to implicate the complainants in to false cases and also threatened to teach them a suitable lesson if the complainants approach to any forum against this conduct of the State Chief Information Commissioner and also ordered the complainants not to enter in to the premises of open courts of the Commission and even in the office of J&K state Information Commission.
That the complainants were even not allowed to mark their attendance on the attendance register. That the State Chief Information Commissioner also stated that in future the complainants/appeal under the J&K RTI Act, 2009, from the complainants would not be accepted/entertained by the State Chief Information Commissioner.
Prayer: Through this prayer, the complainants most humbly request to the Hon’ble State Human Rights Commission to conduct an independent probe in this matter, direct the State Chief Information Commissioner to honor the fundamental rights of the complainants ,direct the State Chief Information Commissioner to restrain from filling any false case against the complainants, direct the State Chief Information Commissioner to acknowledge and accept the appeals/complaints filed by the complainants under the provisions of the J&K RTI Act, 2009, direct the J&K State Information Commission to conduct the videography of all the cases of the complainants for a fair and transparent trail, direct State Chief Information Commissioner, Sh.GR Sufi not to restrict the entry of the complainants in open courts of the commission, not to restrain the entry of the complainants in the premises of J&K State Information Commission both in Jammu and Srinagar office, the State Chief Information Commissioner may also be directed not to infringe the rights of the complaints to seek information under J&K RTI Act from state public authorities, the State Chief Information Commissioner may also be directed not to violate Section 6(2) of the state RTI Act and not to put the lives of innocent information seekers on the radar of the corrupt elements by asking about the use of sought information, or to award any other suitable relief to the complainants as this commission may deemed appropriate.

 

Dated:

Surinder Sharma (complainant no. 1)

Deepak Sharma (Complainant no. 2)

R/o Mandlik Bhawan, 412-C,

Jeevan Nagar, Jammu – 180010

Mob. +919419110579

Breach of Human Rights

RTI activist moves SHRC against CIC Sufi

 

Jammu 14January 2013: A complaint has been filed in the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission against GR Sufi, the State Chief Information Commissioner on the allegations that he has humiliated , harassed and violated human right of the complainant.
A complaint dated 14 January 2013 has been filed with the SHRC through its secretary by one Sh Deepak Sharma of Jammu. In the complaint, the complainant has alleged that GR Sufi not only violated the fundamental rights of the complainant, but he has also threatened the victim to implicate him in a false case. It is also submitted in the prayer that CIC has restricted the entry of the complainant in the State Information Commission and had also verbally directed the victim not to file any RTI application with any Public Authority in future.
The three- page complaint further alleged that respondent GR Sufi, State Chief Information Commissioner, did not allow the complainant to remain present in the open court of the Commission during its proceeding on 10 January 2013, in a case titled “Surinder Sharma Vs Govt.Medical College, Jammu”. The complaint further states that the respondent not only asked the complainant to get out of the open court (RTI Commission Court) but also in a very rude manner ordered him to vacate the chair where he was sitting stating that the complainant as an ordinary citizen had no right to sit on chair and only senior officials/bureaucrats deserve to sit on chairs.
The respondent had also asked the victim not to approach the RTI Commission with any complaint/appeal under the RTI Act, as the Commission would not accept/entertain the same.
Prior to this appeal to the State Human Rights Commision , Deepak Sharma had already made a request dated 30 March 2012, with the State Information Commission for videography of all his cases for a fair and transparent proceedings in the commission but till date the Commission has not taken any decision on his letter for videography.
In his prayer, the complainant Deepak Sharma has urged the State Human Rights Commission to conduct an independent probe in this matter and direct the respondent,GR Sufi to honour the fundamental rights of the complainant and also to restrain him from filling any false case against the complainant and also to accept and entertain the appeals under RTI Act and not to restrict the entry of the complainant in the open court of the commission and the office complex of the commission as the complainant as a citizen has fundamental right of right to entry in any public office.
Another RTI activist had also filed an RTI application with the State Information Commission on 10 January 2013, where he has asked the Information Commission for providing the names and designations of the persons who are entitled to sit on chairs installed in the open court of CIC, GR Sufi. He has also asked the total amount spent by Sh. GR Sufi from his own pocket for the purchase of any furniture in the open court.”

 

Karnataka woman sold for Rs 1 lakh, raped in New Delhi #Vaw #WTFnews


New Delhi, Jan 14, 2013, DHNS:

 

A 20-year-old woman from Karnataka was allegedly sold to a man for Rs one lakh, who raped her several times at a house in capital’s Ghazipur area, police said on Monday.

The victim, however, managed to escape and approached the Delhi police. Three persons, including two women, have been arrested after a case was registered with Ghazipur police station in East district.

According to police, the victim is married and used to stay in Bangalore with her husband. She came in contact with a human trafficking gang after leaving her home following a minor altercation with her husband on January 1. The gang members allegedly lured her on the pretext of providing a job in Delhi and sold her to a man named Zakir for Rs one lakh.

After the deal was fixed, a female member of the gang brought the victim to Delhi. “They had taken a train from Bangalore and arrived at Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station on January 6. Zakir, along with his accomplice, identified as Geeta, was already present to receive her,” a police official said.

It is alleged that after the victim was handed over to Zakir and Geeta, the female gang member returned to Bangalore. The duo then took her to a house in Mulla Colony at Ghazipur, where she was held captive.

The police official said that Zakir allegedly drugged the woman — while she was in his custody — and raped her several times. When she tried to resist, he told her that he had bought her for Rs one lakh and hence, she had to obey his orders. Geeta used to keep a watch on the woman in the house.

Soon after this, Zakir and Geeta contacted clients in Mumbai and Pune to sell off the woman, but she managed to flee on January 9. The duo was arrested after police probe on January 11.

On sustained interrogation, Zakir told police that he was part of a human trafficking gang and on previous occasion, even sold a woman at a brothel at central Delhi’s GB Road.
The brothel owner, a woman named Mumtaz, was arrested on January 12. “Probe is on to unearth the entire gang,” the official said.

 

#Delhigangrape Month after : Jantar Mantar is a beacon of hope for justice seekers #Vaw #Justice


Published: Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013,
Place: New Delhi | Agency: IANS
Protestors protest against the Delhi gang-rape
Reuters

Jagjeet Kaur, a 30-year-old rape victim from Punjab, was frustrated after running from pillar to post for two years seeking justice. Finally, she landed in Delhi, beginning her hunger strike at Jantar Mantar, the tourist landmark in the centre of Delhi that has been the month-long epicenter of the protests against the Delhi gang-rape that she says inspired her to fight on.

“I saw on TV how hundreds of people were gathering here demanding justice for the rape victim. Some of them were on hunger strike too. The determination of the protesters inspired me to come here,” Jagjeet Kaur, who began her hunger strike Monday, told IANS.

“This is the appropriate place for me to raise my voice against rape,” added Jagjeet Kaur who sat on a mattress covered in blankets in the middle of the road next to a makeshift memorial consisting of flowers, candles and placards erected for the 23-year-old woman who was brutally raped by six males on a moving bus on December 16.

According to Jagjeet Kaur, who works for an NGO in Ludhiana, she was raped by a senior police officer in 2010.

Like her, there were many victims as well as their relatives who came from far and wide to seek justice and they all thronged to Jantar Mantar, an 18th century observatory that abuts Connaught Place, the business and shopping hub of New Delhi.

Since the December 16 incident, hundreds and, on occasions, thousands of people, young and old, came to Jantar Mantar.

All of them are united in their fight to get justice for women. Most of them want death for the six males who raped and then threw the paramedical trainee out of a moving bus on a cold December night along with her friend, bleeding and without clothes. The woman died of her injuries 18 days later in a Singapore hospital.

A month after the incident that shook the collective conscience of a nation, the protest site continues to see gatherings of people who have come together with their demand for safety of women. Surprisingly, it is for the first time that an agitation without any leadership has sustained itself for so long at the venue – or, for that matter, at any venue in the country.

Prior to this, activist Anna Hazare‘s anti-corruption agitation had managed to attract crowds for several days.

“No political party has paid us to come here; neither are we here because a civil activist made an emotional appeal. It is our anger and frustration with the system and the hope to see a safer tomorrow for our sisters and daughters that we are here,” Saleem Parvez, 55, who has often been coming to Jantar Mantar, told IANS.

Crowds consisting mainly of students and social workers usually gather at the site every morning with placards and banners and sit till dusk, braving the winter chill. The numbers swell on weekends.

Vowing to “fight till the end,” many protesters claimed that they would agitate at the site till their demands are met.

“I won’t lie, the crowds are thinning every week but we are still determined and the time till even one of us is protesting here, the movement will be alive,” said Abhishek Singh, 24, who claimed that he had been coming to Jantar Mantar daily since Dec 18, 2012.

“We will not let her death be in vain. We hope we will see changes in the laws that will make the country a better place for our daughters to live,” said Kishan Datt, 70, a retired government official, who has been regularly coming to the venue for some time now.

 

Mothers Are Taking Leadership on Gun Control


By Allison Stevens

WeNews correspondent

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The day still haunts me–from 25 years ago–when my junior high school went into lockdown after a mass shooting at the nearby grade school. Now, after Newtown, women with children are taking responsibility for getting something done.

Stand Up Washington, a march and rally in Seattle to ban assault weapons and call for gun control laws.
Stand Up Washington, a march and rally in Seattle to ban assault weapons and call for gun control laws.

Credit: sea turtle on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

 

(WOMENSENEWS)–In the hours after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.,Shannon Watts, a mother of five, founded One Million Moms for Gun Control in Indianapolis.

The group is holding demonstrations in New York City on Jan. 21 and co-sponsoring a march on Washington on Jan. 26 to build momentum for legislation to restrict access to guns.

MomsRising, a national grassroots advocacy based in Seattle, is urging its members to petition Congress and the National Rifle Association to stop blocking common sense gun regulations. The group is also calling on Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., and the largest gun dealer in the country, to stop selling assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Yesterday its members rallied at the Wal-Mart in Danbury, Conn.–minutes from Sandy Hook Elementary School–to ask the retailer to stop selling such weapons.

Veronique Pozner, a mother of one of Sandy Hook’s slain first-graders, has said she wants to play a part in the discussion about the federal response to the rampage.

Moms, in other words, are speaking out as President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden try to build consensus for a controversial gun-control package that could include a push for background checks for all gun buyers and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Obama is also reportedly considering using the power of his executive office to restrict access to guns.

When mothers speak about slain children, they awaken the primordial parent in all of us, and we are collectively driven to protect our young–at all costs and against all odds.

Compounded Fear

I’m a mother now, and for me the fear is compounded. I don’t want my own children to go through the kind of mass-shooting ordeal that I did.

Twenty-five years ago in my hometown of Winnetka, Ill., a deranged babysitter opened fire at our local elementary school and shot six first graders, killing one, a little boy named Nicholas Corwin. That day is scorched in my memory. I was in junior high school, and my school was in lockdown until we were told that it was safe to emerge because the murderer–Laurie Dann–had shot herself. (Yes, ours was one of the rare mass shootings by a female, the one that must always be cited as the exception to discussions of how young men, with untreated mental illnesses, are the usual perpetrators of these horrific crimes.)

Obama is calling on us, as a society, to come together to make all our children safer.

“We bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children,” Obama said in a memorial service after the Newtown shooting, wiping away tears throughout the speech. “This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.”

If history is any guide, mothers’ powerful advocacy role may turn out to be crucial to our national response to Newtown.

Historical Responses

Back in 1903, Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, a prominent labor activist, launched the fight for child labor laws with a famous march of “mill children” to the Long Island home of President Teddy Roosevelt.

In the 1980s, Candace Lightner founded Mothers Against Drunk Driving and sparked a national movement that has lowered drunk-driving related fatalities by more than 40 percent, according to the Department of Transportation.

Dennis and Judi Shepard started an organization to combat hate crimes after their son Mathew was beaten and left to die because he was gay.

Jeanne Manford founded Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAGG) after her openly gay son was beaten and hospitalized; and Cindy Sheehan led the anti-war movement in the last decade after her son was killed in the war in Iraq.

The list goes on.

Mothers, of course, have been pushing for gun control for years.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, a Democrat from New York whose husband was killed and whose son was severely injured during a shooting on a Long Island commuter train in 1993, won a seat in Congress on the issue and ever since has been the leading voice for gun control in the U.S. Congress.

In 2000, hundreds of thousands of mothers descended on Washington, D.C., to participate in the Million Mom March, which took place about a year after the tragic school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Now, the bereaved mother Pozner could emerge as a key leader in what happens next.

“As the mother of a 6-year-old victim of a cold-blooded massacre of school children, I am puzzled and disappointed by the fact that I have had no information or opportunity to be heard regarding the upcoming legislative proposal in Washington,” she said in a recent statement.

I have a hunch that if we give moms like Pozner the space to tell their painful stories, people will listen, and act, to prevent more gun violence. I know I will.

Allison Stevens is a writer in Washington, D.C. She works for a public relations firm whose clients include MomsRising.org. These opinions are her own.

#Delhigangrape-It’s Not about Patriarchy #Vaw


Linking it to the Delhi gangrape is an exercise in self-delusion
BY Omar Ahmad , Open Magazine, Jan 19,2013
MISHIT

And yet almost all men in India are products of a patriarchal culture. That doesn’t automatically make them sexual predators, rapists or murderers. I am from Uttar Pradesh, and from a culture that is so patriarchal that it is almost a caricature. When my circumcision took place as a child, my grandfather and his brother stood on either side of the cot with unsheathed swords. After the chop-chop was done, I’m told there was blood and I cried a little. My paternal grandfather, overcome, asked me if there was something I wanted. I requested his double barrelled shotgun, and hugging it, went to sleep. It would be hard to outdo such rituals of patriarchy, merging masculinity with sexuality and violence. Freud, eat your heart out.

My mother’s side were no laggards in teaching me the tools of violence. My uncle gifted me my first air rifle at the age of three. I was too young to lift it, so for most of my life my sister was a better shot. For all I know, she still is; I haven’t been on a shooting range with her for years. When I was twelve, my maternal grandfather tasked my training to someone we knew, and I learnt how to use muzzle loaders, shotguns and my grandfather’s rifles. The piece de resistance was obviously his Holland & Holland .500 Express that he had picked up to shoot crocs in the river near one of our properties. It was also the rifle which was, no doubt, responsible for the tiger skin in the drawing room where he played cards with his friends in the evening.

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In 2000, I was returning from Banda, my maternal home and a bastion of patriarchy, to Jawaharlal Nehru University where I was (not really) pursuing an MPhil degree. It was noon when the train reached Delhi, and since I didn’t have much luggage, I took a bus to the campus. It was too crowded to find a seat, so I stood leaning against the guard rail behind the driver and in front of the bus conductor.

As the bus passed Bhikaji Cama Place, one of South Delhi’s busiest areas, I heard some commotion. A woman was arguing heatedly with an older man. She might have been in her early thirties, and he looked about ten years older than her. I could just about make out that she was accusing him of groping her while they were standing. It was very loud, and getting louder, but nobody intervened. The man yelled out an insult, and the woman slapped him. After that, he hit her so hard that she was knocked into the laps of those sitting in the row parallel to her.

No one did anything, so I dropped my bag and pushed my way past the other passengers to stand between the man and the woman, lying prone behind me. As I did this, one of the men, presumably with the older man, slipped a large foldable knife half out of his pocket, showing me discreetly that there was a cost to confrontation. I figured that nobody would use a knife in a crowded bus; anyway, I was just trying to calm things down, my hands up.

Unfortunately, the older man was too wound up to be talked out of his fury. He asked me if I was trying to be a hero, and then, frustrated that he couldn’t reach the woman, grabbed me by the throat. I punched him, and he fell. He had two companions, both of whom were willing to use their knives in a crowded bus at a little past noon in one of the busiest parts of India’s capital.

I lost some skin and flesh off the back of my right hand, and another knife bounced off a silver cigarette case I had in my pocket—a gift from a patriarchal great-uncle.

Then the three of them waved their knives, forced the bus to stop, and ran away. I got off at the next stop, although I could have taken the bus all the way to the university. I was a bit shaken, and bleeding, and would have to miss my German Foreign Policy class—in which I was one of two students, with the other usually not turning up—if I was going to get stitched up. I thought I’d take an autorickshaw so I could at least inform my professor.

The woman got down as well, offering to help me, get me to a clinic. I wish now that I had at least asked her name. From the snap memory I have of her, I can only guess that she worked at an office, but not at a highly paid job, one that would force her to travel again and again on buses where her safety was in jeopardy, and nobody would say anything. To this day, I remain in awe of her courage, and the courage of others like her who continue to drive this country forward while it dismisses their needs, safety and concerns.

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From my female friends who have studied and travelled in Delhi, I know that such cases are common. In the recent gangrape case, we have an extreme example. This cannot continue. We need a safer city, investment in safer public infrastructure, a police force that is accessible and capable of dealing with such issues. We need a political climate that protects the rights of its citizens, and not merely the privileges of its quasi-imperial rulers. We don’t need the crocodile tears of Jaya Bachchan whose political party fielded the highest number of criminals in proportion to any other, we don’t need the inanities of Sushma Swaraj whose political party saw the murder of pregnant women in Gujarat as a successful experiment in its Laboratory of the Hindu Rashtra, we don’t need the fumblings and mumblings of the Congress which continues to have those involved in the 1984 Delhi riots in high office.

We need a replacement for the Police Act we currently have, which was framed by the British in 1861 to keep Indians in check after the 1857 Uprising. We need a judiciary that recruits enough staff to try cases in time, instead of facilitating corruption by endless delays. We need a country where criminals are caught and crimes punished. These are political changes. Instead, we have the nattering of a civil society that prides itself on being ‘apolitical’ and whose major achievement so far is the cancellation of a concert by Yo Yo Honey Singh.

The call to ‘End Patriarchy’ is a call to grumble about the ills of the world and feel satisfied with grumbling alone. The difference between that man on the bus and me so many years ago did not lie in our patriarchal upbringing. It lay in his criminality, in the passivity of his audience, in the lack of policing, and in the impunity that criminals enjoy. The rapists who killed the girl recently chose to do what they did. They made that horrible choice. They were not mere products of their culture. Nor do I think they were humming the latest sexist song as they did what they did. There is such a thing as individual responsibility. And governmental responsibility. There exists social responsibility as well, but if we focus only on the last, we will neglect the justice that is necessary and the reforms that have been delayed far too long.

#India- Sainath plans online ‘People’s archive of rural India’


January 14, 2013 01:20 IST | The Hindu

B. S. Satish Kumar

P Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor, The Hindu, at an interaction in Bangalore on Sunday. Photo: G.P. Sampath Kumar

P Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor, The Hindu, at an interaction in Bangalore on Sunday. Photo: G.P. Sampath Kumar

This online platform will have audio, video, print and still photos on rural life and issues

Did you know that there is a community called Khalasi in Kerala, which has specialised in hydraulics for millenniums? This community has traditionally helped in moving newly-constructed ships from the dry docks to the sea without damaging the vessel’s base. Then there is a little known tribe in Assam known as Apathenis, whose members plough the land with their feet as they believe that it is a crime to use implements against Mother Earth. These are just a couple of facts on the diversity and complexity of life in rural India that are set to find a place in the “People’s archive of rural India,”– an online platform being launched by noted development journalist and The HinduRural Affairs Editor P. Sainath. The platform, which is expected to commence operations on an experimental basis from June, is an effort by the Magsaysay award-winning journalist who has reported from the length and breadth of rural India to document for posterity the myriad forms of labour and production in rural India.

Disclosing this at an interaction programme jointly organised in Bangalore on Sunday by Avadhimag.com, Abhinava and Karnataka Gandhi Smaraka Nidhi, Mr. Sainath said the documentation in the proposed archive would be in four different mediums — audio, video, print and still photos, of which his own extensive collection will form an important part.

Pointing out that rural India has both great beauty and extreme ugliness, he said both faces would be presented in the proposed archive. He showed excerpts from documentaries on a potter in Bengal, three different schools of Kalaripayattu from Kerala, a dance form from Kumaon, and the lives of Kutchi potters from Gujarat who have made Dharavi in Mumbai their home. “This is not just documentary, but documentary journalism,” he said. The focus in the documentaries would be on the forms of labour rather than the actual artistic product, and moreover, the artist/artisan/rural producer would speak directly to the video camera. He said 15 small cameras had been given to “video volunteers” to capture whatever they think was interesting. He also announced that any person who had an idea or a subject that suited the proposed archive could contribute by filming/recording it.

“You can shoot even with your cell phones or still cameras that have video option. Only thing is that you have to get in touch with us to know our guidelines. If you do not want to take up filming or writing, you can even share the idea with us and we will do the rest,” he said. Explaining why he zeroed in on the idea of launching such an archive, especially for rural India, he said: “Rural India is the most complex part of the planet as it has 833 million people, 400 living languages besides innumerable number of dialects and occupations.”

Mr. Sainath said he chose the online platform mode instead of a physical archive as the latter was a costly option. The archive will not accept any direct funding by the government or corporate houses.

 

 

National Convention on democratic control over Natural Resources


PRESS STATEMENT

 

Groups from Across Country Attend, Joined by Political Leaders and Social Movements, to Demand an End to Resource Grabbing

More than 400 adivasis and forest dwellers gathered from across the country today at a National Convention on Democratic Control Over Natural Resources that was held at Delhi on Jan 13th 2013 . The meeting put forward a demand that planning, use and takeover of forests and land should be under the control of those dependent on these lands for their livelihood and survival. All laws and state action – whether in implementing the FRA, framing the new Land Acquisition Bill or amending the Mines Act – should comply with this basic principle. The main demands that were finalised at the Convention, after amendments suggested by various organisations and speakers, are annexed below.

Organisations from Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal attended along with sympathisers and representatives from other organisations. The meeting was addressed by Minister for Tribal Affairs Shri Kishore Chandra Deo, who also took questions from the gathering, as well as by political leaders from the CPI, the CPI(M), the Congress, the All India Forward Bloc and the CPI(ML) Liberation and by movement leaders from the All India Forum of Forest Movements, the National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers, the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch and the Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights.

Representatives from each State organisation addressed the meeting and put forward their experiences and perspectives. The meeting was inaugurated by Dr. B.D. Sharma, who outlined the illegal manner in which resources are being grabbed by the state and argued that people’s ownership over their lands and resources should ber respected in all projects. The Minister for Tribal Affairs and Panchayati Raj, Shri Kishore Chandra Deo addressed the gathering and said that his Ministry is in full support of many of the issues raised in the demands and the process for acting on them has already begun. He stated that the Ministry has issued guidelines and amended the Rules under the Forest Rights Act to strengthen recognition of community rights, end insistence on illegal evidence, and to ensure that the Act’s process is implemented correctly. He said that he has just written to the Environment Minister to reiterate that the gram sabha’s consent must be taken prior to diversion of forest land. The Ministry of Panchayati Raj has recently issued directions to State governments to ensure that gram sabha meetings are held at the level of actual villages and not those of panchayats. He requested that those gathered here should help ensure that people are aware of their rights. He also stated that the Ministry had taken steps to ensure provision of a minimum support price for minor forest produce. In response to questions from those gathered, he reiterated that oral evidence is admissible as proof of claims by non-ST claimants and that he is taking steps to ensure implementation of the Act in municipal areas. Finally, in response to the many incidents of illegality, violations and atrocities that were raised by those present, he requested them to submit written complaints so that action can be taken.

Shri Bhakta Charan Das (Congress), Member of Parliament from Kalahandi, Odisha, addressed the gathering and expressed his strong support for the people’s struggle for rights over natural resources and against illegal takevoer. Shri SP Tiwari, All India Forward Bloc, stated that Netaji did not fight for freedom in order to have a state machinery that expropriates adivasis and forest dwellers for private capital; he called for a united struggle to change this system. Com. D. Raja(CPI) stated his party is in full solidarity with this struggle and with the demands of the Convention. He committed that his party would raise these issues inside and outside Parliament. Com. Pulin Baske (CPI(M), and Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch) stated that the government is not concerned with the problems of forest dwellers and tribals and will not provide people with rights; rights must be fought for and won. Hence the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch has planned actions to demand rights and to halt the handover of natural resources for the benefit of private capitalists. Com. Kavita Krishnan (CPI(ML) Liberation) welcomed the convention and its proposed demands, as the real issue is not one law or the other, but the fact that a democratic system of resource control should be in place. It is not people who need a land acquisition law; it is the state and the capitalists; people need systems of planning and resource use that are under their control. For this it is necessary to fight the exploiters at every level and fight for systemic change.

Among movement leaders, Com. Smita Gupta (Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch) noted that the Manch agrees with most of the demands of the Convention and that it is a united struggle that will produce a way forward for democratic control over resources. She raised the additional issues of people’s right to food and for obtaining a minimum support price for minor forest produce. Roma (National Forum of Forest Peoples and Forest Workers) narrated the manner in which the Forest Rights Act has been subverted in Uttar Pradesh and the fact that everyone is attempting to undermine, bypass or ignore the gram sabha. She called for a united struggle to strengthen the gram sabha. Ningreichon (Naga Peoples’ Movement for Human Rights) expressed her solidarity with those who had gathered and pointed out that similar issues are arising in the Naga areas. Lal Singh(All India Forum of Forest Movements) called for a united struggle on these matters across the country. Com. Reddy from the Trade Union Coordination Committee welcomed the gathering and narrated similar experiences that his comrades had had in struggling against illegal tiger reserves and evictions in Andhra Pradesh.

After inclusion of points suggested by the speakers and a discussion, the demands were agreed upon at the Convention and approved by those gathered.

Campaign for Survival and Dignity

9873657844, forestcampaign@gmail.comwww.forestrightsact.com

DEMANDS

Across India today there are struggles for forest rights, against land acquisition and against mining projects. These struggles are united by their resistance to the use of state power to expropriate natural resources in the interests of the ruling class.

In this context we believe the crucial struggle is to bring natural resources under democratic, collective control. We therefore hold that the following basic principles should be part of all laws relating to forests, land and minerals:

  • All community and individual rights under the Forest Rights Act must be recognised and respected. Rejected claims should be reopened and all deadlines on filing of claims should be lifted. Officials who reject claims on illegal grounds should be prosecuted. Gram sabhas should be called at the level of actual villages, not as per arbitrary panchayat or other boundaries. Non-ST forest dwellers’ rights should be recognised, all forest dwellers should receive community rights without discrimination, and oral evidence should be accepted as evidence of eligibility. Titles that are much smaller than people’s actual occupation should be corrected. Cases against forest dwellers for exercising forest rights should be withdrawn.
  • Procedures similar to those under the Forest Rights Act should be put in place to recognise individual and community rights over revenue lands. State governments like Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh and others that have framed Rules contrary to PESA should withdraw them and ensure that the gram sabha’s powers over natural resources are respected. All tribal areas should be brought under the Fifth or Sixth Schedules. The Sixth Schedule pattern should be followed in all Fifth Schedule areas as mandated by PESA. All Ministries and all levels of the government should be mandated to comply with and respect people’s rights.
  • The powers of the gram sabha under PESA and the FRA to manage and protect forests and community resources, and to use all forest resources including timber, should be respected. All forest diversion in violation of the Forest Rights Act and done without the consent of gram sabhas should be stopped. Joint Forest Management should be withdrawn.
  • After recording of rights, a land use plan should be prepared for each district starting from the village upwards. No projects or other economic activities that do not fit this plan should be permitted. No takeover of lands assigned to weaker sections, such as Dalits and adivasis, for homestead or cultivation should be permitted.
  • In rural areas, no project involving expropriation of these natural resources should be permitted without the consent of the concerned gram sabhas of the affected villages. In urban areas, the concerned basti sabha can serve the same purpose.
  • Every change of land use above a certain limit – in the case of rural areas, the agricultural land ceiling – should be treated as an acquisition and subject to requirements for consent of the community and provision of rehabilitation.
  • State subsidies and projects should be directed towards cooperative projects where those in the area itself cooperatively utilise their natural resources. Harvesting of minor forest produce; small hydropower projects owned and operated by the community and feeding regional electricity grids; etc. are such possibilities. Subsidies and tax incentives for corporate expropriation of resources should be halted. Instead of acquisition and diversion of forest land, land and resources should be leased from communities.
  • Where large projects are accepted by communities, ownership of share equity in the project should be provided to the community as per the Bhuria committee recommendations of 1996; there should also be provision of complete rehabilitation in tribal areas with land for land and land to landless people. Further, a white paper should be brought out by the government about the total displacement, rehabilitation and resource expropriation that has taken place since independence. Further expropriation for large projects should be halted until this is completed.
  • The state machinery should provide support to people’s livelihoods through a universal PDS, provision of minimum support price for minor forest produce, etc. rather than supporting the corporate sector with subsidies.

 

IFJ Deeply Concerned over Criminal Charges against Indian Investigative Reporter


Media Release: India

January 15, 2013

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) is extremely concerned to learn of the criminal charges filed against investigative reporter K.K. Shahina by police in the southern Indian state of Karnataka.

Shahina, who currently works with the weekly magazine Open, faces charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, including criminal conspiracy and intimidation of witnesses with intent to commit a crime. The chargesheet filed in the sessions court in the district of Kodagu in Karnataka state, also indicts her under sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which is most commonly invoked to deal with terrorist offences.

These charges stem from a story published under Shahina’s byline in the weekly magazine Tehelka in December 2010, which appeared to cast doubt on the prosecution of a prominent Islamic cleric and political figure on terrorism charges.

Shahina who then worked as correspondent for Tehelka in the state of Kerala, based her story on interviews with key witnesses in the case against Abdul Nasar Mahdani, an Islamic cleric who heads the Peoples’ Democratic Party, active mainly in the state of Kerala. Mahdani has since been arrested and charged by Karnataka police for conspiracy to detonate a series of low-intensity bomb blasts in the state capital city of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) in July 2008.

Shahina’s story cited several of the witnesses named by the Karnataka police as saying that their testimony has been misinterpreted or distorted in making out the charges against Mahdani.

In March 2011, Shahina was honoured with the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding woman media person. The awards citation mentioned her investigative work in defence of civil liberties, among other contributions.

Facing the possibility of arrest since January 2011, Shahina approached the district court in Kodagu for anticipatory bail, but was turned down. It was only in July 2011 that the Karnataka High Court granted her provisional immunity from arrest. With charges now formally registered in the sessions court, she will be required to appeal for renewal of her bail and also travel from her base of Kochi city in Kerala, to Madikeri in Kodagu district for every hearing.

The IFJ calls on the authorities in Karnataka state to reconsider their intent to prosecute Shahina, whose work has been an example of investigative journalism in the cause of civil liberties.

“We see this prosecution as an instance of seeking to silence fair and independent reporting through legal injunction. We fear that the process of the law, with the demands it makes on the time and energy of the defendant, is often punishment in itself and will severely impair this journalist’s professional effectiveness.”

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950

The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter: @ifjasiapacific

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