Kamayani aka kractivist
So Modi Ji is now wooing Muslims. Hmm. Interesting!
1)…a slide where, during the riots, he said, “Hinduoon ko apni badaas
2)…a slide where he was in Police Control Room listening to everything and
doing nothing to stop the riots.
4)…a slide where he ridiculed young Muslim boys as being future ‘garage
5)…a slide where he called Muslims with the prefix “Mian” in contempt.
6)…a slide where no Muslim candidate was given ticket in the Assembly
7)…a slide where he refused to put on the Muslim cap, while he puts on
headgears of all other ethnicities and communities in his functions.
… a slide where tens of thousands of Muslims have still not been
rehabilitated even after 10 years of riots.
9)…a slide where ghettos where Muslim were forced to live after riots are
ignored by municipality.
10)…a slide where Modi fought a case in High Court against granting
scholorship to poor Muslim students.
11)…a slide where Maya Kodnani was promoted to Minister of State for Women
& Child Development AFTER she sucessfully conspired to kill 97 Muslims, MOST
of who were Women & Children
The SlideShow without these slides is simply incomplete in order to depict
the LOVE & RESPECT that Modi Ji has for Muslims.
June 29th, Doolnews
On Saturday, Kozhikode, Kerala witnessed a first of its kind protest with a group of Muslim women burning an effigy of Kanthapuram A. P. Aboobacker Musalyar, General Secretary of the All India Sunni Jam-Eyyathul Ulema for his recent comments which supported the reducing of legal marriage age for Muslim women. This is the first time that the women from the community are coming out in protest against their own community leaders and opposing their regressive opinions.
The women not owing allegiance to any party or organisation said that they were forced to protest after the many regressive comments from Muslim organisations and clerics supporting the recent circular to legalise marriage of Muslim girls who have completed 16.
Kanthapuram had on Friday said that girls should be married off by the time they are 16 to prevent them from going wayward. The Jamaat-e-islami said that it is not right to fix the age for marriage in a democratic country like India. K. Alikutti Musaliar, the General Secretary of the SYS EK group had said that girls who have reached physical maturity can be married off. The Siraj newspaper owing allegiance to the AP Sunni group had published all their comments on Saturday, which led to the protest.
The women raised slogans that went – ‘Girls are not pieces of meat. Religious leaders should apologise for their comments’. They said that this is just a symbolic protest and if the leaders make further comments questioning the individuality of women, wider protest programmes will be arranged.
“The stand taken by these clerics and leaders is not just against Muslim society but against the whole of humanity. They are trying to see women as pieces of flesh and not as independent citizens. Marriage at such an age will only curtail the mental growth of these girls. It is also an age when they should be gaining better education and widen their horizon. The religious clerics do not want the girls to see the outside world. They are making such comments because they fear that educated girls who will be aware of their rights will question their authority,” said V.P. Rajeena, one of the protesters.
They criticised the UDF Government for acting according to the diktats of the religious organisations and coming out with a circular which is against the laws of a country where child marriage is illegal.
Challenge drowning of 2 lakh population in the Narmada Valley
We are writing to you amidst a situation of extreme urgency. The two lakh population of adivasis, farmers, fish workers, potters etc. in the Narmada valley – in the three states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat in the 245 villages require your immediate support to save their lives and livelihoods.
Reportedly, the state governments have submitted reports of ‘complete rehabilitation’ to the R&R Sub Group of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA) and the NCA is to take a final decision on the 2nd of July at Indore, regarding permission to raise the height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam from the present 122 mts to final height of 138 mts.
Thousands are yet to get land, thousands more alternative livelihood, fishing rights, house plots at R&R sites and other amenities and entitlements. Corruption worth, 1,000 crores is under judicial investigation. Major environmental non-compliance has been exposed by MoEF’s expert committees’. In such a situation, drowning the 2 lakh population in the living village communities would be a human massacre, worse than the painful Uttarakhand disaster.
Please intervene to stop the political conspiracy to complete the dam by violating all laws and judicial dicta, when only 10% of its claimed benefits have been realized and the financial, social and environmental costs have increased ten-fold. Please find enclosed our press release, which describes the situation in detail.Please do immediately write to the PM, Water Resources and Social Justice Minister and others to act by law.
With sincere regards,
Medha Patkar (09423965153) Mukesh Bhagoria (09826811982)
Meera (09179148973) Kailash Awasya (09009147868)
|Shri Manmohan Singh,
Government of India
South Block, Raisina Hills,
New Delhi 110 101
Fax: 011-23019545, 23016857
Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,
Government of India
Shastri Bhawan, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Marg, New Delhi
Ministry of Water Resources,
Sharam Shakti Bhawan
Office: 11-23714200 , 11-23714663 and 11-23711780
Fax: 11-23710804 (O) and 11-23793184 ( R)
President, United Progressive Alliance
Fax: 011-23794616 / 23014481
Shri Afroz Ahmed
(Rehabilitation and Impact Assessment),
Narmada Control Authority,
Narmada Sadan, Vijay Nagar, Indore.
email@example.comShri Sudhir Bhargav,
Chairman, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Sub Group (SSP) and
Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
Government of India
Shastri Bhawan, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Marg,New Delhi
Ph: 011- 23389184 ; Fax:011-23385180
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ,
Chief Minister, Maharashtra
Dr. Patangrao Shripatrao Kadam
Minister for Forests, Rehabilitation and Relief Works, Earthquake Rehabilitation,
Office Ph: 91 22 22025398 and +91 22 22024751
Residence Ph: +91 22 23635688 and +91 22 23632748
Mantralaya, Mumbai.Shri Milind Mhaiskar, IAS
Secretary, Relief Commissioner,
Relief & Rehabilitation
National Alliance of People’s Movements
National Office : 6/6, Jangpura B, Mathura Road, New Delhi 110014
Phone : 011 26241167 / 24354737 Mobile : 09818905316
Web : www.napm-india.org
This mailing list is for dissemination of news and views on the communities struggles in India defending their land, water, air, rivers from hungry predatory corporations, policy formulations, announcements on struggles, action alerts and request for support.
Dharmarajan, in the affidavit, had also said that an old TV interview, in which he claimed Kurien’s involvement in the crime, was given under the influence of alcohol. A few days after his interview to a channel, Dharmarajan was arrested from Karnataka after absconding for several years by jumping bail.
Sessions Judge Abraham Mathew in his Saturday’s order held that the survivor’s plea for inclusion of Kurien in the sex scandal case was not maintainable. The girl, hailing from Suryanelli in Idukki district of Kerala, was abducted in January 1996 and was transported to various places in the state and sexually exploited by different persons.
The survivor had moved the court against Kurien based on the ‘revelation’ of the sole convict in the case Dharmarajan, who had claimed in an interview a few months back that he had taken Kurien in a car to a guest house at Kumily where the girl was lodged.
Dharmarajan had later retracted the claim in the court through an affidavit stating he had never met Kurien and he was in an inebriated state when he made the charge. The 1996 case came into focus recently after the Supreme Court invalidated the Kerala High Court‘s verdict acquitting 35 accused in the case.
(With Additional Inputs From agencies )
WITH the imposing Puthur hillock surrounded by lush green sugarcane fields offering a picturesque backdrop, Vadugapatti in Usilampatti block in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu gives the impression that all is well there. But the humiliation inflicted on a 11-year-old Dalit boy on June 3 and the abuses hurled subsequently at his widowed mother by a caste Hindu youth have unmasked the moral pretensions of the tiny village in the heartland of the Piramalai Kallars.
In a place where footwear is considered a status symbol rather than protective gear, a Piramalai Kallar youth, P. Nilamaalai, forced the Dalit boy, P. Suresh (name changed), to carry his sandals on his head as punishment. His crime: wearing footwear in the caste-Hindu area!
The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) tooksuo motu notice of the case and held an inquiry in the village on June 11. D. Venkatesan, Director of the NCSC (Tamil Nadu and Puducherry), who was accompanied by A. Iniyan, investigator, confirmed that the incident had taken place. Dubbing it a “heinous crime against a juvenile”, he said that persons guilty of the crime would have to face “serious legal consequences”.
Following a complaint lodged by the victim’s mother, P. Nagammal, a brick kiln worker, the Usilampatti Town police registered a first information report (FIR) on June 6 and arrested Nilamaalai, his brother P. Agni and their father, A. Pathivuraja. The police have registered cases against them under sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.Even 10 days after the incident, Suresh found it difficult to come to terms with the humiliation he had undergone. Narrating his ordeal, he said it occurred when he and two other boys were returning from the Government Kallar High School where he was studying in Standard VI.
All the three boys belonged to the Dalit colony and had gone to the school to find out about the rescheduled date of reopening after the summer vacation. Nilamaalai waylaid them near a tamarind tree. After allowing the other two Dalit boys, who were barefoot, to leave, he upbraided Suresh for violating the ban on Dalits walking on the streets in the upper-caste area with footwear on. Reprimanding him for his mother’s “failure” to teach him the “etiquette” he had to follow, Nilamaalai forced the boy to put his footwear on his head and paraded him up to a platform used to stage cultural events.
According to Nagammal, Suresh stomached the insult and did not say anything about it to her or to his other relatives. However, sensing her son’s abnormal behaviour, she coaxed him a couple of days later into revealing his agonising experience. She took up the issue with Nilamalai’s brother Agni on June 5. But Nilamaalai not only justified his abominable action but also hurled abuses at her and allegedly threatened to eliminate her if she dared to inform the police. Contrary to his belief that the Dalit woman would grin and bear the dishonour, she lodged a complaint with the police. Nagammal said the local police wanted to settle the issue through a “compromise” and she had to approach Dalit activists to ensure that justice was done in the case.
K. Theivammal, coordinator of the Usilai Vattara Dalit Kootamaippu, an organisation working for the rights of the oppressed communities in Usilampatti block, said the police registered an FIR after much dilly-dallying. Though the police arrested Nilamaalai’s brother and father on June 7 on charges of protecting the accused, Nilamaalai was absconding until he was nabbed on June 9. Posters were put up throughout Usilampatti town and in several villages in the area demanding, among other things, the arrest of the main accused.
According to Superintendent of Police V. Balakrishnan, who visited the village close on the heels of reports on the incident, cases had been booked under Section 294(b) (singing, reciting or uttering any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place) and Section 506(1) (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 3(1)(x) and 3(1)(xiv) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Section 3(1)(x) of the Act deals with intentional insult or intimidation with intent to humiliate a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe in any place within public view and Section 3(1)(xiv) pertains to offences such as denying a member of an S.C. or an S.T. any customary right of passage to a place of public resort or obstructing such member so as to prevent the person from using or having access to a place of public resort which other members of the public or any section thereof have a right to use or have access to.
Caste Hindus, however, dismissed the incident as an “aberration” in the otherwise cordial relations between the two communities. Vadugapatti panchayat president M. Thavam said both Dalits and Piramalai Kallars lived in harmony in the village. Though the incident was deplorable, it should not be blown out of proportion as it would harm the peaceful coexistence of the two communities, besides bringing disrepute to the village, he said.
The headmistress of the local school was also in denial. Nothing should be done to precipitate the issue, she cautioned. Of the 166 pupils in the school, which was established in 1921, 90 were Dalits and no discrimination was shown to them, she claimed.
However, Nagammal, who has not yet fully recovered from the shock, feels that the government should intervene immediately to ensure protection to her and her son. She wants the authorities concerned to shift her son to another school so that he can continue his studies without fear. Though the school reopened on June 10, the boy did not attend classes fearing reprisals from some persons belonging to the dominant community. She has also urged the government to allot a housing plot in a safer location so that she can live peacefully. Her demands have the backing of Dalit organisations, including the Usilai Vattara Dalit Kootamaippu.
The NCSC has urged the district administration to help the victim to find admission in a government school and hostel in Madurai town. The boy needs counselling and relief, the commission said.
Dalit residents of the village say the June 3 incident has brought to the fore various problems faced by them. According to Theivammal, different discriminatory practices prevailed in all the six villages—Vadugapatti, Ramanathapuram, V. Kallipatti, Kongupatti, Puthur and Vilarpatti—that come under Vadugapatti panchayat. Dalits describe the peace meeting held in the village by the Deputy Superintendent of Police and investigating officer on June 9 as a knee-jerk reaction by the authorities.
M. Jayakumar, Suresh’s maternal uncle, said the practice of insulting members of the oppressed community for wearing footwear in front of caste Hindus occurred every now and then. Only recently was a girl student of the local government school, M. Malarvizhi (name changed), beaten with a broomstick for walking with footwear on a street in the caste-Hindu area, he said.
K. Mangayarkarasi (name changed), a brick kiln worker, said her son was taken to task by caste Hindus for wearing footwear while crossing a street last month. Dalits are not even allowed to ride two-wheelers in caste-Hindu areas. There is no proper pathway to the burial ground used by them. According to some residents, non-Dalits had warned them also against complaining to visiting government officials and activists of human rights organisations about the discriminatory practices.
Stressing that the Vadugapatti episode should not be taken as an isolated one, M. Thangaraj, organiser of the Madurai district unit of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF), listed the discriminatory practices: segregated dwelling units; separate burial grounds for Dalits; denial of access to places of worship, common meeting place, village squares or community halls; ban on the use of footwear in front of caste Hindus; and the two-tumbler system in tea shops. In many villages in Usilampatti block, B.R. Ambedkar’s picture was not to be found in government offices and schools, he added.
As in the case of several villages in the region, the Dalits of Vadugapatti are farmhands and have to depend on the dominant community for their livelihood. They have been working as manual labourers in brick kilns or as agricultural workers in land belonging to caste Hindus. In Vadugapatti village, there are around 220 Dalit families and 500-odd caste-Hindu families. With the monsoon playing truant in the past several years, Dalit youth have migrated to the northern States seeking jobs in snack-making or fast food units.
“As many as 120 brick kilns are located in Usilampatti and Chellampatti panchayat unions. They are owned by caste Hindus. Almost 90 per cent of the workers involved in brick-making are Dalits brought from the western and northern districts of Tamil Nadu. Most of them are treated as bonded labourers,” Thangaraj said.
The TNUEF is planning to launch an agitation shortly to ensure that Dalits in Vadugapatti walked on the thoroughfares in the village wearing footwear, he said. Thangaraj asked the authorities concerned to take stern action against those who practised untouchability in any form. Strong action from the government in one village would send a warning signal to the forces of oppression in the entire region, he opined.
Director of the NCSC Venkatesan said the villagers had been told that discriminatory practices against Dalits and various forms of untouchability not only were inhuman but were against the law of the land. Expressing concern at the escalating incidents of atrocities against Dalits, he said these would be taken up at the State-level review meeting of the NCSC slated for July.
Significantly, discrimination against certain communities insofar as wearing footwear has a long history in Tamil Nadu. The senior archaeologist C. Santhalingam said there was historical evidence to show that using footwear was treated as an exclusive right of certain groups in ancient Tamil land, though footwear might have been originally treated as something to protect the feet, particularly in tropical climatic conditions. A 12th-13th century A.D. stone inscription in the Kongu region speaks of a decision by the Kongu Chola administration to lift the ban on wearing footwear by Kammalars (artisans) and Idayars (cowherds), he said.
Here is a book that offers something new and stimulating, and it matters little if you are already acquainted with the scholarship around Babasaheb Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar or not. Sharmila Rege, well known for her collection of ‘testimonies’ by Dalit women and her writings on caste and gender, has gleaned from the huge corpus that now constitutes Ambedkar’s legacy a selection of his writings, which she has ably introduced and commented on.
While the figure of Ambedkar has burst forth in public life across the country in the last two decades, his writings have been rather slow in finding their place, whether in movements or academe. And as Sharmila Rege points out, his thinking on gender has been engaged with the least, which is what she has sought to rectify in this volume. She argues convincingly in the introduction that feminists must reclaim Ambedkar. He already enjoys a huge following in popular culture in Maharashtra, one in which posters, music and pamphlets bring out his life and work in ways that she finds both “confusing and diverse”. Some feminist scholars have rediscovered the centrality of caste for understanding gender discrimination since the 1990s, as in studies of the non-Brahmin movement, or in the historical emergence of “Brahminical patriarchy” in early India. Ambedkar himself was, as the writings included in this volume amply attest, deeply convinced that the subordination of women was an essential facet of the creation of a caste system, and it is a failing that current scholarship and anthologies on his work have not brought this out.
Ambedkar argued in an essay that Brahminical endogamy was imitated by others to become our caste system.
The volume is divided into three sections. The first one, entitled Caste as Endogamy, introduces two pieces by Ambedkar, the first written as early as 1916. Ambedkar intervenes in the anthropology of the time to show how “unnatural” and yet durable was the creation of a class (of Brahmins) that superimposed marriage within the group when exogamy (marrying out) was the norm hitherto and elsewhere. It is this endogamy that was, according to Ambedkar, subsequently imitated by other classes to become a caste system that has given India its cultural unity. The next essay written much later opposes the widespread view that it is the Buddha’s misogyny that led to the downfall of women after the Vedic period, and places the onus squarely on the Manusmriti. The second section, from which the book takes its title, shows us Ambedkar locking horns with several religious texts and figures. ‘Manu’s Madness’ can be found in his categorisations of various kinds of castes (especially so-called mixed castes), marriages and forms of kinship, where his obsession with hierarchy is mirrored by the “graded violence” (this is Rege’s apt term) that is meted out to a woman based on her caste location. Another short critical piece on Rama and Krishna included here, which was first published posthumously in 1987, triggered widespread protests, leading to its initial withdrawal, followed by counter-protests and its subsequent republication. The third section takes us to the eve of Indian independence, the Constituent Assembly and the first years of the new nation seen from the prism of the fate of the Hindu Code Bill. Ambedkar was India’s first Law Minister and it was he who took it upon himself to subject Hindu personal laws to a fundamental overhaul in the name of gender equality. Yet, as he put it in his presentation to the Constituent Assembly, there was nothing radical in the proposals, all that was being attempted, he said euphemistically, was “repairing those parts of the Hindu system which are almost become dilapidated”. This section has an excellent choice of pieces to convey the extent of what he attempted, the pain in seeing the Bill stalled, fragmented and diluted over a period of four long years, and the reasons he finally gave for resigning.
Instances of Manu’s madness can be found in the gradations of punitive measures invited by violations of strict social codes.
This book of under 250 pages manages to cover an enormous terrain along with commentary that delves into Ambedkar’s life and times, offering valuable and thought-provoking interpretations of his work. Questions are thrown up for this reader—about the method of seeking the meaning of caste through speculations about its origin in a distant time; about the very focus on the “rise and fall of Indian womanhood” and why this was such an obsession; on the explicit role that sexuality played in classical texts in suturing the links between caste and gender, and so on. But these kinds of questions demand that we engage more with Ambedkar, and read this excellent book from which there is much to learn.
(Mary E. John is senior fellow at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi. Her recent publication is Women’s Studies in India: A Reader)
By TCN News,
Bhopal: In an attempt to awake political parties from there stupor, today several hundred gas victims staged a rally from Ganesh Mandir, Chhola to Bhopal Bus Stand for their long standing demands of compensation, punishment of guilty individuals and corporations. In the upcoming elections of state and central government, Bhopal gas victims have resolved that they will only vote for those political parties who will ensure their compensation and end the continuing injustices against them. Residents from J.P. Nagar, Shakti Nagar, Kainchi Chhola, Risaldar Colony and Rajgarh participated in this rally and shouted slogans “No compensation to Gas Victims, then No Vote of Gas Victims”, “No Justice, No Vote”.
Several residents of J.P. Nagar, Kainchi Chhola and Rajgarh have painted slogans “Compensation First, Second Vote” on their houses. “This time we will tell representatives of political parties visiting our communities that first secure our compensation and then ask for vote”, says Anees Qureshi from J.P. Nagar who lives right across from the Union Carbide factory.
Several gas victims believe that this is the right time to get answers from political parties towards resolving the lingering issues of compensation, punishment of guilty, medical and social rehabilitation. “This time we will only vote for that political party which ensures compensation and justice for Bhopal gas victims and we want to see result before the elections not after,” says Premlata Chowdhary of Kainchi Chhola,
In March 2013, five organization working among the survivors of the December 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster had written a letter to dozen political parties seeking their response and support to their 8 demands on additional compensation for the gas disaster, correction of figures of injury and death caused by the disaster, cleanup of contaminated soil and ground water, compensation for injuries and birth defects caused by toxic contamination, setting up empowered commission for rehabilitation and stopping Dow Chemical from doing business in India till it presents Union Carbide in the ongoing criminal case on the disaster. Except Aam Aadmi party, none of the parties have bothered to respond to the demands of gas victims.
Gas victims participating in this rally appealed to gas victims living in 36 wards to make judicious and strategic use of their power to elect candidates so that that the lingering issues of the disaster are resolved in their favor. They also said that similar rallies should be taken out by all gas victims in their own communities, Paint slogans on houses and shops, and question all the political representatives that come in their community on what steps they have taken in ensuring there compensation from the state and central governments.
Photo Credit: Sanjay ‘KunKun’ Verma
There’s something rotten in the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. And it seems the Kannada and Telugu news channels have identified the problem — girls gone wild, fuelled by alcohol. On 14 May, Karnataka’s leading regional news channel, TV9 Kannada, ran a programme, Olage Serideru Gundu (literally, ‘once alcohol is inside’), a fine assortment of video nasties from across the country, showing the great evils of girls drinking — the ruckus on the street, clothes askew, clashes with cops.
For some years now, the disapproving cultural policing of a class of girls — ones who can afford to go out to drink — has become a staple on regional news in both states. There is massive viewership, particularly of sleazy ‘true crime’ reports, and so editors and programming heads encourage reporters to follow women and young couples, to stake out pubs, nightclubs and make-out spots. A cursory search on YouTube reveals the many news reports with such eye-catching titles as ‘Drunk women causing hulchul’, ‘Drunk women causing hungama’, or ‘How to ban rave parties to save the youth’.
“We show boys too, but a girl being daring on screen instantly catches the viewers’ attention,” says Shreeti Chakraborty, senior producer with a leading Kannada channel. One clip was of an altercation between four female students of NALSAR University of Law and reporters from the Telugu news channel ABN Andhra Jyothy, outside Rain pub in Hyderabad’s Banjara Hills on the night of 11 April. Shruthi, Megha, Prachi and Adwitiya angrily confronted a drunk man filming them on his phone. The confrontation attracted a mob and reporters from ABN. Apparently, the drunk man was a reporter who had telephoned his colleagues. The footage was picked up by other news channels. Several of them branded the girls immoral, drunk and half-naked and even questioned the pub’s licence.
Watching the ABN footage is instructive. The camera pans up and down the women’s bodies. It is exploitative; consent is not an option, probably not even worth a thought. The viewer is implicated by the camera’s roving eye, a fellow voyeur leering at barefoot girls in short dresses. The cameraman follows the girls to their taxi, thrusting his camera through the door, his taunts provoking the girls to shout insults. Their expressions of fury at being cornered were circulated on primetime news as the faces of unacceptable modernity, of aggressive young women out at night, women who must be checked.
One irate senior journalist with a leading Telugu news channel described the girls as “public nuisance”, and launched into a tirade about “minors” getting drunk, abusing reporters and partying late into the night. He blames this “anti-social behaviour” on both NALSAR and the students themselves: “They even shot a promotional video for the ‘daaru party’ on campus. Look at the things they say in that.”
Confronted by this (self ) righteous indignation, the students launched an online campaign on change.org to prove that they had been harassed by the media. They compiled evidence to show that they were neither minors, nor drinking after legal hours (11 pm), and the leaked video that the news channels broadcast was not a promo for the party. Raj Singh, the owner of Rain, has stated that the ages of everyone at the party were checked and the girls left around 11 pm, not past midnight as the reporters alleged.
“The police raided us at 11.45 pm after the incident was over,” says Singh. “At 12.45 am the reporters barged into my club, beat up my security guard and placed bottles on the bars to suggest that the pub was still open.” His decision to stand up for the girls has meant that his pub “has been raided almost nightly by every department imaginable looking for some illegal activity”.
In response, Andhra Pradesh’s Electronic Media Association of Journalists put up a counter petition on change.org, asking for the girls who “assaulted reporters” to be condemned. It garnered over 5,000 signatures. But during routine checks, change.orgtraced the bulk of these signatures to one IP address, proving that most were fake. After they removed those signatures, only 132 were left.
The girls’ determination to stand up for themselves sets them apart in a state where reporters looking to manufacture lurid stories appear to operate without any kind of sanction. “We had to fight back,” says Shruthi Chandrasekaran, one of the girls involved in that now infamous April incident. “What’s happening is just wrong and too many people seem resigned to it. We don’t even know what motivates the media’s malice towards us.”
Andhra Pradesh has some 16 regional news channels. Sevanti Ninan, editor of The Hoot, an online media watchdog, has written about how corporate ownership sets the terms and how the need to be profitable means a redrawing of the lines between public and private. In a market exploding with money and fierce competition, no channel can afford for viewers to switch off. Thus, there’s little distinction between what channels define as eyeball-grabbing reportage and salacious entertainment. News seems to essentially mean reality TV served with an indigestible side dish of hypocritical, moralistic commentary.
GS Rammohan, associate editor with ABN Andhra Jyothy, accepts that TV news has gone insane, driven by ratings and profit. According to the TRPs, what sells is sex and crime. “People enjoy watching other people’s private lives on TV,” he says. As long, apparently, as the “other people” are comely young women. The same senior journalist who denounced the NALSAR students stated matter-of-factly that channels look to show beautiful women onscreen as de facto policy. Local media in Hyderabad and Bengaluru, Rammohan says, are similar in this regard. Though Karnataka has six regional news channels as opposed to 16, its crime news coverage is famous for stings, both successful and attempted, on bars in Bengaluru, Mangalore and Manipal. Many of these stings are the work of reporters employed by Suvarna News 24×7 and TV9 Kannada, the two most popular regional news channels in Karnataka. Both blame the other for lowering the tone of the public conversation with leering, tabloid journalism.
Raoof Kadavanad, a crime reporter with a leading English daily in Hyderabad, watches the tactics of TV reporters with some bemusement. He describes how crime reporters seek out couples in public spaces and film them with hidden cameras. The footage is then screened to bolster the argument that the behaviour of young women in the city is deplorable. After the NALSAR incident, TV5 aired a segment about Hyderabad’s nightlife that deplored what was “happening to our sisters and daughters”
In July 2012, Tonic, another pub in Banjara Hills, was raided for having a party long after legal hours. The media filmed the raid, focussing largely on the women in that familiar, creepy style. Depressingly, this behaviour is typical. In January 2012, Suvarna broadcast a ‘sting’ on illegal bars in Bengaluru. The ‘illegality’ of said establishments was, of course, of less concern than filming the girls on their cameras. In 2011, a medical student was photographed at a party in Le Rock Cafe in Bengaluru. Her picture was published in a Kannada newspaper belonging to the Telugu channel Sakshi TV as an example of the malign influence of western culture on the present generation.
The combination of sanctimoniousness and aggression is visible. Girls are hunched over, hiding their faces, surrounded by baying men. The footage is edited insidiously, with strategic blurring implying nudity when a girl is wearing a dress deemed insufficiently modest. Shame is thrust on the girls. “It was terrifying,” remembers Shruthi, “to be chased by this man with a camera, who won’t even let you shut the car door.” Her fear has been felt before by innumerable women running away from cameras, desperately covering their faces with dupattas, scarves or their own hands.
Another popular tactic used by reporters is to wait around with traffic police conducting its weekly drunk-driving tests at various checkpoints around Hyderabad. Every Friday and Saturday night, a small group of reporters armed with lights and cameras film these checks, waiting for women who might be stopped. “Channels use that footage in different packages to say different things for months. People enjoy it,” says ABN Andhra Jyothy’s Rammohan.
In Bengaluru, Ajit Hanamakkanavar, the Crime Bureau Chief of Suvarna, acknowledges that “news has crossed over the line to moral policing and reality TV”. “In the TV business, the remote control is your biggest enemy. No one watches serious, investigative stories,” he adds. The channel has a “legal team at the ready” to deal with accusations of slander and defamation. The reporters are often tipped off about the bar raids by the police. “A commissioner will not be my source,” says Hanamakkanavar, “but a constable will be.” A senior police officer confirmed that the constabulary and reporters often share information.
Both Rammohan and Hanamakkanavar put the blame squarely on upper management. The top brass have cynically turned moral policing into a lucrative business. Many of the reporters, who often come with their own cultural baggage, actually believe they are making a valuable difference, providing a much-needed check to out-of-control youth. It is not enough for them to observe society; they feel the need to become enforcers of a particular, usually imaginary, cultural code. Sampath Kumar, a crime reporter for ABN, earnestly tries to explain how “these people” can be kept in check “through fear of the media and by being made to understand that their behaviour is wrong”. He claims the reporters have the public on their side and that tip-offs come just as often from their audience as from the police.
In Karnataka, there is also a penchant for blaming the outsider, or the ‘foreign hand’ — students and professionals, who flock to cities from other states and countries, and bring money, decadence and loose morals. The pressure to make the money to lead extravagant lifestyles also results in crime, say reporters. Rajesh Rao, the Mangalore crime reporter for TV9 Kannada, says that he’s “seen what goes on in these pubs, what drugs are exchanged. These petticoat parties where girls wear short clothes”. Suresh Kumar Shetty, the Mangalore crime reporter for Suvarna, worries about the effects the “lavish lifestyle” of rich students from outside the state have on locals.
Like Rao, Shetty admits that his channel has attempted to smuggle cameras into popular bars. He once asked two friends of his, who were not reporters, to enter a bar as a couple and film the goings-on. To validate the rightness of the cause, he refers to the tragic suicide of Sneha, an 18-year-old Mangalore girl, in February this year. A drug addict, she reportedly killed herself because she couldn’t afford the next fix. Her parents spoke about a girl who used to top her class at school until she started going to parties in hotels and pubs and was introduced to drugs.
This story fits conveniently into Rao and Shetty’s argument that local youths are tempted into vices they cannot afford and that the media must protect them. Naveen Soorinje, the Mangalore reporter for Kasthuri TV, disagrees. With vehemence. He made national headlines last year after the 23 July 2012 homestay incident in which activists from the Hindu Jagarana Vedike attacked boys and girls at a birthday party. Soorinje’s coverage shed light on what had happened, yet he was named as an accused in the case by the police. Released on bail in March this year, all charges against Soorinje were dropped by the Karnataka government on 14 June. Having consistently reported on cultural policing, he points out when right wing groups such as the Sri Ram Sene go on one of their periodic moral policing jaunts in Mangalore, the media, tipped off by these groups, is close behind. It’s a cosy relationship. The media gets political backing for its own occasional hand-waving about decadent modern culture and the right wing groups get the soapbox and spotlight they so desire. “When the right wing groups are not around,” says Soorinje, “TV channels film young people in pubs and ask ‘what is the Hindu sangathan doing now?’ When TV9 does something, Suvarna tries to catch up by doing something more sensational.”
This role of social responsibility is championed by TV9 Telugu’s executive editor Dinesh Akkula and Input Editor Arvind Yadav. According to them, the story of Telugu media is one of transformation — from a cutthroat business to responsible journalism that is the hallmark of the likes of TV9. “Maturity is coming in slowly,” says Akkula, “we stick to the guidelines recommended by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA). We don’t target specific people or groups, but we show what’s in the public interest.”
In TV9 Telugu’s infamous Planet Romeo sting (February 2011), a reporter posed as a gay man on the site Planet Romeo and befriended other members, eliciting intimate details while recording his conversations. The ‘report’ was broadcast with lots of hand-wringing about how Hyderabad was falling prey to the fashionable gay culture. The conversations were played on TV, revealing identities, personal sexual preferences and histories. Prominent gay rights lawyer Aditya Bandopadhyay filed a complaint and the NBA fined the channel 1 lakh, a piffling sum for a network of TV9’s size.
That appalling piece of reporting shows that it’s not just middle and upper-middle class girls in the firing line, but all manner of easy targets. The Telugu news channel NTV 24×7 once filmed transgenders at an LGBT awareness event held by the NGO Suraksha and then aired that footage in a completely different context, when a man was murdered at a popular cruising spot. TV9 Kannada did a major expose in 2009 on the “Devdasi tradition” among sex workers of Kudligi in Bellary district. The story’s fallout, as documented in a fact-finding report by Vimochana, a women’s organisation, and Nava Jeevana Mahila Okkuta, a Dalit Women’s Collective, was that these sex workers, previously accepted by a wider community, were now ostracised. They had lost their only source of livelihood, couldn’t send their children to school and were shunned by the neighbours. The TV9 journalist, Prakash Noolvi, went on to win the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Award in January 2012. “The reporter didn’t hide the faces of these women,” says Akkai Padmashali, the media coordinator of Sangama, an LGBT organisation. “They cheated these women by posing as clients. One had even been visiting them for sex.” She angrily recounts the many times reporters secretly film sex workers to extort money from them.
Activists and intellectuals point to how a large section of society gives legitimacy to the media and other self-appointed moral police. People will be outraged by a girl being beaten up, but will also say that she should not have been out drinking in the first place. Conservatives who might be of completely different backgrounds find common ground when setting limits on women’s behaviour. Shaming is a cultural reality. Madhavi Lata, a scriptwriter and former reporter for NTV, is honest about the fact that truth is often warped to fit viewers’ preconceptions. But even she asks why “these girls give people the chance to say something about them. They could go out for a drink in more decent clothes”.
Hyderabad-based activist Tejaswini Madabhushi recalls media reaction to the 5 January ‘Midnight March’ in the city, an attempt to take back the night from sexual predators and the moral police. “Vernacular news reporters,” says Madabhushi, “kept asking us why we wanted to go out in the night and provoke men like them.”
Pop culture too reflects this attitude. Audiences cheer when Telugu heroes verbally and physically abuse heroines. It’s part of a nationwide acceptance of misogyny. Sandhya, a leading gender rights activist in Hyderabad, says people “want to see women as sex objects. Studios call us for panel discussions and pit us against someone from the right wing. We tell them to leave the girls alone and start telling the boys how to behave.” R Akhileshwari, a senior print journalist, points out that it’s “always the woman’s body” that is the locus of censure or dispute. “Why do these channels not look at the liquor shops on the road, where men buy drinks, enjoying a session right there by the roadside?”
Perhaps legal challenges will force TV channels to modify their intrusive behaviour. “It is a violation of privacy,” says Bengaluru-based lawyer Akmal Rizvi. “It can be interpreted as stalking, which comes under Section 354D of the IPC.” One of Hyderabad’s eminent lawyers says, on the condition of anonymity, that some reporters “blackmail people for money by threatening to show their faces on TV”. The NALSAR students cited the reporters’ violations of the NBA’s regulations concerning stings and media ethics. The reporters argue that roads are public areas.
“Moral policing on TV goes back to the ’90s when crime shows started,” says Deepu, a Bengaluru- based documentary filmmaker with Pedestrian Pictures. He reiterates the point that journalists are part of the social fabric that consumes these shows. But the very morality these channels pretend to is hypocritical. “Why would you want to see that picture of the skimpily dressed girl if you are so moral?” asks Nisha Susan, freelance journalist and writer, who began the ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign in 2009 in response to Sri Ram Sene goons beating up women in a Mangalore pub. Thousands of people around the country responded to her call to send the thugs the aforementioned items of women’s underwear. She adds that each generation must push the boundaries for acceptable female behaviour and be prepared for the inevitable friction.
As of now, vernacular media is working hard to play to its audience’s prejudices. An audience that tunes in repeatedly to be scandalised. Perhaps one day, these channels will be overtaken by their viewers as they’re forced to adapt to changing times. One day, the audience will note the rage on a young girl’s face as she is backed into a corner by a reporter wielding a camera. And then they’ll no longer listen to the reporter’s claims that it is the young girl whose behaviour is immoral.
(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 27, Dated 6 July 2013)
It’s a loose comparison, but sometimes I think that people who get executed these days are like those killed right at the end of a war. Another day, another month … and they might survived.
I say this because when you look at the figures for capital punishment around the world, you can see there’s a strong trend toward abolition. It’s happening year by year. Fifty years ago only nine countries in the world had abolished the death penalty; by 1977 it was 16; now 140 countries have abolished judicial killing in law or stopped it in practice.
Even in “pro-death penalty” countries, the number of sentences and executions is generally falling or the scope for imposing executions being reduced. For example, in China the number of crimes which might lead to a lethal injection or death by firing squad has beenreduced from a reported 68 to 55 (still a staggeringly high number). Meanwhile, in the USA – another major user of capital punishment – individual states are peeling away from the majority on the issue, with six states scrapping the death penalty in the past six years – New Jersey and New York state (2007), New Mexico (2009), Illinois (2010), Connecticut (2012) and Maryland just last month.
Anyway, though in the last year or so there have been what Amnesty says is an “alarming” spike in executions in Iraq and a resumptions after considerable gaps in the use of the death penalty in Japan, Gambia, Pakistan and India, the underlying global trend is still clear and apparently fixed: state-sanctioned judicial killing is slowly dying out.
So to me there’s a particular tragedy to the late nature of executions in this context. Last night’s execution of Kimberly McCarthy in Texas was regrettable for many reasons (especially the apparent role of racial prejudice in her trial), but in five – ten, 20? – years’ time there’s a distinct possibility that we won’t have people in Texas being strapped down to a lethal injection gurney and killed by technicians in a disgraceful pseudo-medical “procedure”.
I know of course that of all US states Texas is a “hard case”, one that may not go the way of national and international abolition in the immediate future. It’s just reached the miserable milestone of 500 executions in 31 years, nearly five times higher than any other US state. The Lone Star State indeed. See Amnesty USA’s Brian Evans on Texas’ fatal addiction to the death penalty. However, with support for capital punishment in the USA falling, and controversy over lethal injection drugs and unfair trials growing, I think abolition even in Texas will come ….
But still, the machinery of death clanks on. Just this week, in addition to McCarthy’s execution we’ve had four men hanged in Nigeria (and another facing death by firing squad imminently) and alarming reports that 117 people in Vietnam may face execution soon because of a recent law change (we’re talking – in some cases – about death by lethal injection, using specially-produced drugs to execute prisoners for non-violent drugs offences). There’s an urgent text campaign on Vietnam being run by Amnesty – see here.
So no, if you take an abolitionist view on the death penalty, there’s no cause for complacency. According to Wikipedia, the last person to die (from the British Empire side at least) during World War One was a 25-year-old Canadian man called George Lawrence Price. He was shot by a German sniper in the Belgian town of Ville-sur-Haine at 10.58 on the morning of 11 November 1918. The Armistice came into force at 11am. A needless death then, just like everyone killed by the state in the cold-blooded and thoroughly repugnant business of administering capital punishment.