#RIP- Actor Jiah Khan found dead in Mumbai; police suspect suicide


PTI
Mumbai, June 04, 2013

Jiah Khan plays the second woman in Akshay’s life in the film.

25-year-old Bollywood actress Jiah Khan allegedly committed suicide on Monday night by hanging herself at her Juhu residence, police said. According to the police, her maid, watchman and neighbours are being interrogated to find out her last visitors.

Jiah’s mother and sister had gone out

and she was alone at the house when the incident happened, police said.

“Jiah’s mother and sister found her hanging when they returned at around 11 PM,” police said, adding that Jiah used her own dupatta to hang herself.

Police said postmortem of the body will be conducted today and they have registered a case of accidental death.

Police are yet to record the statement of the actress’ mother as she is in shock.

Jiah made her acting debut in Ram Gopal Varma‘s controversial movie, ‘Nishabd‘, where she acted opposite Amitabh Bachchan.

Upon its release in March 2007, the film received mixed reviews, but Jiah was noted for her confidence, attitude, and sex appeal.

She also got a Filmfare Best Debutant Nomination.

She then appeared alongside Aamir Khan in A R Murugadoss‘s ‘Ghajini’, the Hindi remake of the director’s own Tamil film of the same name.

Later she appeared as a supporting actress in Sajid Khan‘s multi starrer comedy film ‘Housefull’ (2010). This was her last film.

Jiah was brought up in England and had shifted to Mumbai recently to act in Hindi films.

Actor Dia Mirza reportedly broke the news of Jiah’s death on micro blogging site Twitter.

Police today questioned Suraj Pancholi, son of actor couple Aditya Pancholi and Zarina Wahab, to whom actress Jiah Khan had made her last phone call before ending her life.
25-year-old Jiah hanged herself at her Juhu residence between 11 PM and 11.30 PM yesterday, sending shock waves in Bollywood.

Jiah, according to police, last spoke to Suraj around 10:40 PM.

Suraj had gone to Juhu police station along with his actor parents and was being questioned, sources said.

According to Jiah’s mother Razia Khan, the actress, who made her dream debut opposite Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Nishabd’, was unhappy about her acting career. She had last appeared in a supporting role in Sajid Khan’s multi-starrer comedy ‘Housefull’ in 2010.

As per her mother, Jiah was exploring a career in interior designing besides acting in films.

Khan told the police that Jiah had gone to Hyderabad on June 2 for an audition which did not go well.

Her last rites have not yet been performed because the family is waiting for her friends and relatives to arrive from London, where she was born and brought up.

Police have also questioned her maid, watchman and neighbours to determine the cause of the alleged suicide.

The post-mortem examination at J J hospital suggested the death was caused due to hanging.

 

Coventry honour killing victim Surjit Athwal remembered #Vaw


Surjit Kaur Athwal

THE ‘honour killing‘ of a Coventry mum has been remembered at a memorial service at the House of Commons.

The 14th anniversary of the disappearance of Surjit Kaur Athwal was marked at the event hosted by MP Stephen Timms – which called for a public inquiry into the issue of so-called honour killings and ‘outsourced’ killings affecting British citizens.

Mum-of-two Surjit disappeared after going with her mother-in-law, Bachan Athwal, to a family wedding in India in December 1998.

Her body was never found, but her mother-in-law apparently boasted to relatives she had arranged for her to be strangled and dumped in a river – after Surjit had an affair with a colleague and said she wanted a divorce.

For years, Surjit’s death was concealed by her husband, Sukhdave Athwal, and her mother-in-law, but the pair were finally convicted of her murder at the Old Bailey in 2007 after a tireless campaign by Surjit’s Coventry family for justice.

It was a landmark case, the first in UK legal history, of an outsourced honour killing being criminally prosecuted in the UK against people who plot a murder, while the actual killing is carried out abroad.

The people who actually carried out the murder have never been caught.

Surjit’s brother, Jagdeesh Singh Dhillon, from Coventry, still campaigns for police and politicians to do more about honour killings in the Asian community.

At Wednesday’s event, he called for the British Government to press the Indian Government to bring Surjit’s outstanding murderers in Panjab to justice, and has requested a follow-up meeting with the Foreign Secretary.

He said: “Just as we have benefited from major public enquiries following Stephen Lawrence‘s racist murder, we need to have a comprehensive public enquiry which brings out the multiple and vital lessons thrown up by outsourced honour killing cases like Surjit’s and others.

“These are publicly important issues for government action, police action and community action. Victims continue to suffer because of a lack of coherence, communication and co-ordination on these devastating cases.

“In states like India and Pakistan, there is horrifying police collusion in these vicious acts of murder.

“For example, 100 females are murdered across the Indian state on a daily basis.”

The event was attended by more than 100 representatives from women’s campaign groups, the Metropolitan Police, Doreen Lawrence, the mother of Stephen Lawrence, and was organised by Surjit’s daughter Pavanpreet Ahmed.

Speakers included DCI Clive Driscoll who led the investigation on Surjit’s case

Read More http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/2012/12/07/coventry-honour-killing-victim-surjit-athwal-remembered-92746-32378155/#ixzz2ERMNrdnb

 

Muslim- Prejudice -‘Justice came to me only to make me realise that I was guilty until proven innocent’


 

Mohammad Aamir, Delhi
Age 32 | Years In Jail 14
Arrested February 1998 | Acquitted January 2012

Mohammad Aamir

Photo: Ishan Tankha

FOURTEEN YEARS is a long time. Wiping away the tears streaming down his cheeks, Mohammad Aamir recounts his experience of when he stepped out of the Rohtak Jail on 9 January 2012.

The world seemed different. The guards were gone. So was the feeling of iron always chaining his limbs. “That was real freedom. I tasted it. I wept and cried in happiness. After three hours of riding a bus, I was home hugging my mother,” he says. But the Delhi Aamir knew had changed. Mobile phones, the Metro rail, roads, flyovers, buildings and bazaars — everything was new. The only old thing was his crumbling house.

“After seeing my mother, I went to see my father’s grave. He died waiting for my release,” Aamir says.

Forgotten by the press during his 14-year incarceration in jails across three states, Mohammad Aamir of old Delhi became their favourite after being acquitted in 18 of 20 cases of terrorism (appeals made in two other cases are pending).

Now, as he sits quietly before a computer in the office of ANHAD, an NGO in central Delhi, Aamir, 32, is penning a memoir of his passage from incarceration to redemption. Fourteen years behind bars have cost him much more than his youth. Not only did he lose his father, his mother was also paralysed in the interim.

In 1996-97, a couple of low intensity blasts had hit the national capital region (NCR), leaving the police in a tizzy. This was the time when the Khalistan movement in Punjab was fading and the Kashmir insurgency was at its pinnacle. The homegrown Indian Mujahideen (IM) was, however, nowhere in the arena. The police had no strong lead to follow. Then, in what looks like a meticulous plan to frame a young boy, the police claimed to have busted a terror module in February 1998.

Aamir was seized when he was returning home after saying Isha prayers. Bundled into a jeep, he was blindfolded before being dumped in an unidentified place for seven days, where he was tortured and made to sign on blank papers.

On 28 February, he was produced in the Tis Hazari court, charged with 17 cases in Delhi, including murder, sedition and waging war against the Indian State. Among the charges were two blasts in Haryana and one in 1996, on the Frontier Mail (train) in Ghaziabad.

“Getting me justice wasn’t easy for my father,” says Aamir. “Lawyers who would agree to fight cases charged a lot of money. Some quit midway after a local paper dubbed me a Pakistani national.

One by one, the prosecution evidence was disproved in the courts. But it was too late,” he rues. “My father died in 2001. The way justice was done only made me realise that I was guilty until proven innocent,” Aamir adds mockingly.

Now, at ANHAD’s office, Aamir hopes to finish his memoir and heads a forum for demanding the rehabilitation of falsely implicated youth.

Explains activist Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD: “Writing a memoir is a healing process for Aamir. He is finishing his BA from IGNOU and aims to study law to help people like him.”

Aamir’s efforts have already started paying off. This is evident from the recently prepared list of 33 young men that now lies with the president.

The CPM demanded compensation for these men, special courts to settle such cases within a year and action against policemen found fabricating evidences.

Baba Umar is a Senior Correspondent with Tehelka.
babaumar@tehelka.com

 

Of Aadhaar/UID , cash transfers and red tape


 

For a system geared to control and command, cash transfers pose an implementation challenge

 

Sandipan Deb , livemint.com

200 px

200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

    

First Published: Thu, Nov 29 2012. 02 19 PM IST

 

Respected prime minister ji, I am manager of bank in V___ (name censored under official secrecy, sedition, information technology and 11 other Acts; six loiterers outside bank branch given breathalyzer tests, two security guards at bank suspended for “poking” each other on Facebook), class VI town in Uttar Pradesh and I am hearing about this direct cash transfer business for few years now. I am also attended two-day training programme for bank officers on this in December 2011 at L___ (censored under ibid, nota bene, etc.,). Now I am hearing this is happening, and in my district. Sir, I am feeling very confused.

 

Then my one more neighbour is coming. He is saying, Arre, murkh, you look at the 29 schemes that will start on 1 January. They are all cash schemes anyway: scholarships and pensions. So how is anything changing? People will only now come to your bank with Aadhaar cards. And if they don’t have Aadhaar cards, you don’t pay.
I am reading in the papers and also watching on TV that this is a “game changer” and I am having to convince my foolish neighbour that cash transfer changing game has nothing to do with cricket match-fixing (He is very angry about defeat to British team in Mumbai). It has to do with election, but he is saying all same. I am telling him that now I will have to open hundreds of new savings accounts, and I am having only three clerks and Mrs Singh, who is sister-in-law of MLA and only comes to bank twice a day to light agarbatti in front of poster of Mr Aamir Khan she has put up. My security guards have been suspended by competent authority under Public Decency Act. How I will serve so many customers?
But the money for pensions and scholarships are not coming to my bank in time, I am saying. They are months late sometimes. In a few cases, they are two years late. How will having Aadhaar change that? Also, how will Aadhaar know who is poor and who is not poor? Poor and rich, I am thinking, don’t have different fingerprints. Not to worry, my neighbour is telling me. Aadhaar will know everything about you, where you go, what you buy, all your hanky-panky. Mrs Singh will put all in computer. She can have screensaver of Mr Aamir Khan also. Her computer will be linked to many other computers and no hanky-panky will be allowed. More than 21 crore people are having Aadhaar and they will come and take cash. What do you care if they are poor or not? They have Aadhaar.
What about people who are not having Aadhaar? I am asking. Then they will bring enrolment forms for Aadhaar, my neighbour is saying. If they don’t have that also, they will bring sarpanch and hold dharnas outside your bank, that is all. Anyway, the roads are so bad, they will take two days to reach your bank, Aadhaar or no Aadhaar. During monsoon, three months, no one will come.
But I am knowing so many people who have Aadhaar cards but who are not those people at all, I am saying. So my neighbour is asking me if I have targets. Yes, I tell him, and I am meeting disbursal targets every year by giving money to MLA and his cousins. Aadhaar people also have targets, my neighbour is saying. They have to give so many cards every month. So some fictitious fellows and non-Indians may have come in. But you do not worry. You open account. And they will withdraw money from ATM.
ATM? What ATM? I am saying. There will be many ATMs, my neighbour is explaining, that will go in cars from village to village and people will take out cash from them. But where will cash in the ATMs come from? I am asking. What do you care? He is telling me. Private sector is there. Will that be real cash? I am asking. Mostly, he is saying. You are not hearing of white-label ATMs? Now you don’t have to be bank to set up ATM.
Also panchayats and cooperative societies will be giving the cash, so you need not worry about only three clerks and no security guard. You will only be sending report on computer. But all panchayats and cooperative societies are run by my MLA and his cousins, I am telling, so there will be hanky-panky! But my neighbour is saying, no. No hanky-panky possible when technology is there. People can want to be badmaash, but telephone and computer will not allow. Only big people will be able to continue to do badmaashi now. You are kis khet ki mooli?
All this time, my friend who is guide for poverty tourism is listening and downloading ring tunes. He is now saying, but cash transfer is already happening in many states. With own eyes I saw. In Bihar and Orissa, they are giving money for cycles and school uniforms. In other states also. Lots of bearded firangs in SUVs are coming and taking video. So what is new?
No game change, my foolish neighbour is then saying. The British will win in Kolkata also.
So, sir, I am scratching my head only about this. Also, sir, can I meet my disbursal targets if MLA and cousins don’t have Aadhaar cards? I am not wanting any untoward incidents, sir. I am small man.

Sandipan Deb is a senior journalist and editor who is interested in puzzles of all forms.

 

 

Honour killings: Law panel says no to death penalty #Vaw


Nov 27, 2012

  

New Delhi: Against the backdrop of the latest case of alleged honour killing, the Law Commission has recommended making it a non-bailable offence but disagreed with Supreme Court’s suggestion that death sentence be applied to all such cases.

The Commission had also asked the government to explore the possibility of a new law to prohibit unlawful caste assemblies (like Khaps) which take decisions to condemn marriages not prohibited by law.

The Centre today said it was seriously considering a Constitution amendment to deal with honour killings, as it sought a report from the UP government on the murder of a man featured in Aamir Khan’s show on the problem.

The Centre, which had constituted a Group of Ministers on honour crimes, had earlier proposed making honour killings a separate offence under the IPC to bring clarity to law enforcement agencies.

“No person or any group shall assemble to condemn any marriage not prohibited by law, on the basis that it dishonoured the caste or community,” the report stated.

Representational Image. Reuters

“These offending acts which imperil the liberty of young persons marrying or intending to marry according to their wishes are being perpetrated in certain parts of the country and need to be effectively checked,” Commission chief Justice P V Reddi wrote to the Law Ministry before he demitted office recently.

The Cabinet has recently approved the setting up of a new Law Commission for a three-year period but its chairman and members have not yet been appointed.

Sources in the Law Ministry said, the August, 2012 report has been forwarded to the Home Ministry for further action.

The wife of 29-year-old Abdul Hakim, who was shot dead on Thursday last, yesterday alleged that her family members were behind the death of her husband.

According to the Hakim’s wife Mahvish, the victim was shot dead by her family members on November 22 after he had just entered a Bulandshahr village in Uttar Pradesh along with her and their two-year-old daughter.

Another proposal was to amend the Indian Evidence Act to put the burden of proof on the accused, which means khap panchayats and family members who perpetrated killings would have to prove their innocence.

The Commission, however, has rejected the government’s suggestion of defining honour killing as a specific offence in the Indian Penal Code (Section 300), stating that the existing provisions were sufficient.

It has also turned down the government’s view that onus of proving innocence in honour killings cases must be shifted on the accused.

The new law proposed by the Commission has defined three separate offences, with a maximum jail term of seven years for those found guilty of criminally intimidating married couples.

It has disagreed with the Supreme Court’s suggestion that death sentence be applied to all honour killing cases. “With great respect, we are constrained to say that such a blanket direction given by the Supreme Court making death sentence a rule in ‘honour killings’ cases, makes a departure from the principles firmly entrenched in our criminal jurisprudence by virtue of a series of decisions rendered by larger Benches of Supreme Court,” the Commission said.

It said that it is settled law that aggravating and mitigating circumstances should be weighed and it is only in very exceptional and rare cases, death sentence should be imposed.

Death sentence, in other words, is a last resort. Further, where there is more than one accused, the degree of participation and culpability may vary,” it added.

PTI

 

Man killed after exposing khaps on TV, wife fears she will be killed #SatyamevJayate #AamirKhan #Honorkilling


S Raju, Hindustan Times and Dainik Bhaskar, CNNIBN
Meerut, November 26, 2012

Casual labourer Abdul Hakim, 29, who exposed the ugly face of khap panchayats against lovers in Aamir Khan’s TV show Satyamev Jayate earlier this year was eliminated in full public glare in his remote native village Adoli in western UP’s Bulandshahar districton Thursday. HT learnt on  Sunday that five armed men shot Hakim dead in full public view when he was on his way to the village doctor’s clinic to get medicines for his pregnant wife, Mehawish, 25.

 Speaking to CNN-IBN, she also said that she feared for her life. “They have killed my husband, they will kill me now. I am 9 months pregnant. My husband would have been alive if police protection was provided,” the woman, Mehwish, said.

Aamir Khan, the host of popular television series Satyamev Jayate that was aired every Sunday at 11am on Star Plus, was shocked to hear the news about the killing of Abdul Hakim, a participant in the talk show.

On June 3, 2012 Aamir tried to question the means of the Khap panchayat and the ways in which they try to discourage love marriages in the same gotra. Honour killing was one of the salient features of this discussion. And it was the example of Abdul Hakim and his wife Mehawish who had eloped from Merut to get married in November 2010 that was brought forward.

On November 22, almost five months after that episode was aired, the 28-year-old Hakim was shot dead in Bulandshahr. On hearing this, Aamir said, “Will speak to the government authorities in UP (Uttar Pradesh) to help and ensure the family is safe. The culprits must be brought to the book. The case is registered on the basis of right facts.”

Abdul’s wife said, “They have killed my husband, they will kill me now. I am nine months pregnant. My husband would have been alive if police protection was provided.”

According to Abdul’s brother, the assailants shot Hakim in full view of the public. But the police officials are of the opinion that he was killed as a result of some personal feud.

We hope the family gets speedy justice.

“They ambushed him outside the clinic and pumped several bullets into him,” said the victim’s elder brother Yusuf Hakim.

Abdul and Mehawish eloped in November 2010 and got married in Meerut before moving to Delhi. A panchayat decreed death for the couple and terrorised Abdul’s family as a result of which young family members left the village, sources said.

Actor Aamir Khan expressed grief over the killing of Abdul Hakim, the casual labourer who exposed the Khap panchayat on the TV show ‘Satyamev Jayate’.
On June 3, 2012 Aamir tried to question the means of the Khap panchayat and the ways in which they try to discourage love marriages in the same gotra. Honour killing was one of the salient features of this discussion. And it was the example of Abdul Hakim and his wife Mehawish who had eloped from Meerut to get married in November 2010 that was brought forward.

On November 22, almost five months after that episode was aired, the 28-year-old Hakim was shot dead in Bulandshahr. On hearing this, Aamir said, “Will speak to the government authorities in UP (Uttar Pradesh) to help and ensure the family is safe. The culprits must be brought to the book. The case is registered on the basis of right facts.”

Abdul’s wife said, “They have killed my husband, they will kill me now. I am nine months pregnant. My husband would have been alive if police protection was provided.”

According to Abdul’s brother, the assailants shot Hakim in full view of the public. But the police officials are of the opinion that he was killed as a result of some personal feud.

We hope the family gets speedy justice.

Terming the incident as unfortunate, Aamir Khan said, “Will speak to the government authorities in UP to help and ensure the family is safe. The culprits must be brought to the book. The case is registered on the basis of right facts.”
Hakim was killed in cold blood in full public view on Thursday.
According to media reports, five armed men shot Hakim when he was going to the village doctor’s clinic to get medicines for his pregnant wife, Mehawish.
Talking to the media, Hakim’s brother said the assailants pumped several bullets into him.
However, the police claimed that it was not a case of honour killing as none of the accused named in the FIR by the deceased’s brother was from Mahvish side.
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#India #Bollywood –Creatively challenged #sundayreading


Anvar Alikhan | October , 2012, Times Crest Edition

Frankly, I blame Sanjay Leela Bhansali. He’s the one who started it all, with his Black and its themes of sensory disability and Alzheimer’s. Then came Aamir Khan with his Taare Zameen Par and dyslexia. And thanks to its success, the ‘disability’ genre seems to have become a bandwagon that everybody in Bollywood who’s anybody must climb upon briefly, to prove their talent and sensitivity, before they can move on to other things. Amitabh gave us progeria in Paa;Shahrukh gave us Asperger’s Syndrome in My Name is Khan;Hrithik had, of course, already paid his dues with arrested development in Koi Mil Gaya. Even Shahid Kapoor felt he had to do speech impediments in Kaminey. And now we have Ranbir doing mutism in Barfi. The question now is, oh God, what next?

What distressing condition is Saif Ali Khan thinking up for his next film, for example? Parkinson’s disease? Muscular dystrophy? Prostate problems, perhaps? And then there’s the female of the species. After Rani Mukherji’s sensory disability and Priyanka Chopra’s autism, who’s next? Kareena, with her famous size zero, could probably give anorexia a shot. Preity Zinta, meanwhile, might want to try bulimia.

But let’s get serious. The thing is, Barfi, for all its hype and slick marketing, is a tiresome film, with a phony ‘smile-with-a-lump-in-your-throat ‘ quality about it (at least in the first half, which I saw before walking out). The larger point, however, is that I believe – at the risk of being called politically incorrect – that this whole new genre of disability films that Bollywood has been churning out is in bad taste. It’s exploitative, self-serving and cynical. For one thing it becomes a great vehicle for the star to show off how far he can stretch his talent in mimicking the affliction in question (something like advertising agencies cynically doing public-service ads because they’re an easy way to win awards for creativity). But, that apart, these films are often one part emotional manipulation;one part an insidious attempt to make us feel guilty for our own wellbeing;and one part an opportunity to affect an air of sanctimoniousness for supposedly “supporting the cause”. Just compare today’s new genre of sacharine-y disability films with the simple, shining honesty of Sai Paranjpe‘s classic Sparsh, or even Gulzar’s Koshish, and you’ll know what I mean.

The formula, nevertheless, is a powerful one. In fact, it’s a formula that Hollywood has long exploited, in its own way, beginning perhaps with Ronald Reagan’s transcendentally awful King’s Row, where he plays the wealthy young man who comes out of anaesthesia after an operation, looks down and asks, “Hey, doc, wh-wh-where’s the rest of me?” Hollywood has gone on to inflict various disability movies on us over the years, very effectively and profitably. In the 1980s alone we had three major productions: Elephant Man (John Hurt and gross deformity), Rain Man (Dustin Hoffman and autism) and My Left Foot (Daniel Day Lewis and cerebral palsy) – which managed to reap various Oscars between them, including two for Best Actor and one for Best Picture.

The high point (or low point) of Hollywood’s disability trip, however, was in 1969, when there was actually a neck-and-neck race for the Best Actor award between two disability roles: Alan Arkin in The Heart is a Lonely Hunter and Cliff Robertson in Charly. Arkin played the role of a mute, but despite his masterly performance, he was beaten by Robertson, playing the intellectually challenged Charlie, who undergoes experimental brain surgery to cure his problem – a procedure that goes tragically wrong.

If audiences are emotionally vulnerable to disability movies, juries are probably even more so, because of the moral halo these films sport. And when juries tip in favour of a rival offering, controversies are often not far behind – as when, in 2002, Russell Crowe’s clunky performance as a schizophrenic mathematician in A Beautiful Mind, lost outto Denzel Washington’s bad cop in Training Day. Maybe this is the reason why Barfi won out over the savagely brilliant Gangs of Wasseypur as India’s official entry to the Oscars;I really can’t think of any other conceivable reason.

Some disability groups have begun to see through the phoniness of this genre of cinema. They ask, for example, why we must have abled actors to play disabled roles, and present the analogy of black roles in the movies. Like Othello, for example, where the most recent remake had an actual black actor, Laurence Fishburne, playing the role, instead of merely Laurence Olivier, wearing blackface, as in one famous earlier version. And before we offer any excuses, let’s not forget the hearing-impaired Marlee Maitlin’s Oscar award-winning performance in Children of a Lesser God, and the double amputee, Harold Russell’s Best Supporting Actor award-winning performance in The Best Years of Our Lives.

The question is how much longer will Bollywood’s phony new disability trip continue? And how many more awful afflictions will we be subjected to, which will manipulate our emotions and our sense of guilt, in equal measure? Be aware: even as you read this, Salman Khan might be at work, practicing on some rare and disturbing syndrome – physical, mental or emotional – for our supposed moral improvement.

The author is a Hyderabad-based advertising professional and columnist.

Manual scavenging is a result of India’s caste divide


 

Manual scavenging is a result of India‘s caste divide
Sagarika Ghose: The story of Prabhu and Guru Dhodiya and the terrible plight of manual scavengers. They do their job standing all day in human waste, standing in the unbearable extreme stench of night soil; they often have to stay dead drunk to do this job. They are sometimes unable to eat because of the human waste they are surrounded by. Many of them get asthma and the life expectancy is 30 years for many in their community. Our sister channel IBN Lokmat reported on manual scavengers in Pandharpur, Maharashtra leading the Maharashtra government to reinforce a ban. Actor Aamir Khan has also taken up the issue with the PM and on his show Satyamev Jayate. But despite the law, despite the ban, why is manual scavenging continuing.
Day after day working in the unbearable conditions and stench of human waste. Why should human beings, citizens of democratic India have to do this? Why is it that manual scavenging is increasing in India in spite of a 1993 law banning the practice?
Joining us Asim Sarode, he is a lawyer of High Court and Human Rights activist, Pradip More, convenor of the campaign against Manual Scavenging in Maharashtra, from Pune we have S Anand, Publisher of Navayana. And Paul Divakar, General Secretary of National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR). Thank you very much for joining us.
We will also get you the views of Mukul Wasnik, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, to whom I spoke to earlier. When I spoke to Mukul Wasnik, I asked him why in spite of the law, in spite of the government efforts – why is manual scavenging still continuing, in fact increasing? Did it require an Aamir Khan to wake up the government on the issue of manual scavenging?
Mukul Wasnik: It didn’t require anybody to tell the government as to what needs to be done. Basically the government has been attending to this as a national priority recently after the data of census 2011 became available where it was pointed out that all most about 26 lakh insanity latrines exist. We thought it would be better for us to call collectors from various districts where the incidences are on the higher side. Similarly our present approach will be compared to what we did in 1993, when the law was enacted basically keeping the sanitation in mind. This time we are preparing a draft, rather a draft is already under circulation for inter-ministerial consultation, which will be base on human dignity. This we are attending to as a national priority. And by national priority, I mean, we take such issues on war footing. And when I say we take up these issues on war footing means that other things can wait but this cannot. People who would like to join in this campaign are most welcome and I am happy that Aamir Khan had taken up this in one of his programmes. But he was also telling me in one of the conversations that in his 47 years, 46 were such where he was totally not aware about this issue existing. But let many more people join this.
Sagarika Ghose: You are speaking about a new law on this but there is already a 1993 law banning the practice of manual scavenging and there has been no punishment. No one has been convicted for practicing manual scavenging. Will this new law be implemented and effective?
Mukul Wasnik: It will provide survey of manual scavengers, it will provide their rehabilitation and it will provide cognisable offences, non-bailable offences, with penalties which will be appropriate for a crime like this.
Sagarika Ghose: What about political will, activist say that there is no political will to act against manual scavenging?
Mukul Wasnik: See, Sagarika, I have just mentioned to you and I will again repeat that it is not about political will. We are addressing this issue with total seriousness. But I will just mention to you that these are the people who are living on the margins of society. They may be on the remotes corner of the village or in a remotes corner of an urban pocket; we have to reach out to them, not only the government but the society. As a nation we have to reach out to them. And with concerned efforts with all the concerned people, I think, the day will come sooner than later.
Sagarika Ghose: But the explain to me, why is it so difficult to eradicate this practice? Why is the government up against so many odds? Why is it so difficult to tackle it head on?
Mukul Wasnik: This is a very deep rooted, this is in the remotes corners of villages, and in the urban pockets. This is going on for generations, ages have witness this kind of thing and therefore to come out of this we will have to provide proper training to the manual scavengers. We will have to provide them with sufficient resources to come up with alternative self employment measures so that once they are out of this they can live their life with dignity. And that is the way we are trying to address this thing.
Sagarika Ghose: The minister there, Mukul Wasnik talking about what the government plans to do to eradicate manual scavenging. He was talking to me a little earlier. Let’s now turn it over to our panel. Asim Sarode, you are lawyer of the High Court, you are a human rights activist, do you find minister’s (Mukul Wasnik) comments convincing? Do you feel that the government will act, can act, can the law be implemented?
Asim Sarode: Sagarika, I beg to differ from the minister because actually what he is saying is very misleading. The act is prevailing since 1993, the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. But ask the minister to show one punishment which happened using this law. This law is already cognisable, then why are they making a new law? What is the need of the new law? I am sensing suspicion on the presentation of the new law on this issue. Because they are trying to make hazardous manual cleaning of safety tanks and latrines. So why are they adding this hazardous thing in the definition, because they want to escape from the responsibility that this is not hazardous and this is hazardous. See manual scavenging is itself hazardous. It is degrading, it is inhuman and it is anti-human, so they should completely ban rather then creating spaces to escape from the responsibilities. He have filed a case in December 2011, and three hearings took place in High Court but no government official was present. This is there sense of responsibility.
Sagarika Ghose: They have completely insensitive approach. Let me get in Mr Pradip More as well, Pradip More do you agree with those comments that are being made. That in fact government is not serious, there has not been a single conviction for anyone who is employing manual scavenger.
Pradip More: Yes, we need to see all these facts that in spite of this act and also before this act came he had various committees, and commissions were appointed to see this inhuman practice in India. Like Barkway Commission, we have Lord Committee, we had Malkana Committee. Many committees had given so many recommendations to the government but government was insensitive to see all this. And of course there are many charges that the workers are doing all this. The authorities are saying them to do this but they are doing this. All these practises are with the sense of untouchability…
Sagarika Ghose: It is because of untouchability because of social discrimination. Let me put to Paul Divakar, you know, the shocking illustration that we have shown that you have to stay drunk to do that all day. Day after day you are standing neck deep in human waste, the most degrading practice. Now is cast prejudice the reason why there is so much apathy?
Paul Divakar: It is definitely trans based discrimination, it is just the panicle at the end. The worst form of discrimination is forcing people who are meant… as you know cast is meant for pollution and think to do with death, anything to do with unclean, these are the things which are thrust upon untouchables. And one think, we need to pull up the government is leave the society alone for a while. What is the government doing specially with the Railways? Today you have the entire track, I think, lakh of kilometres, and Railways has not done a single think today to have a sensible system of sanitation. And you have all the tracks right along (*) shit all along the way. So make that first the national priority and say from 2012-2013 you are going to fix the system. Every Railways in the world, Railways has managed this. Why is it that Indian government which is so developed is not able to have a system. So some where it is not just the society. There is a will that needs to be harnessed and government can’t tolerate this kind of cast based discrimination.
Sagarika Ghose: It’s cast based discrimination which is leading to the apathy. You were telling me about the sewer workers who are also a part of sub-cast scavengers. And you were saying that they are forced to do it. It is assumed that there cast is as such that they have to go down the sewer.
S Anand: Sagarika the larger thing is, whether we raise it on this panel or Aamir Khan talks about it, the crux of the issue is that it is a part of a larger ideological apparatus, which sustains the entire cast system. It is about the cast occupation nexus in society. So it is no surprise that due to urbanisation you have these sewer lines in Delhi, let’s talk abut Delhi. 5300 kilometres of sewer line, 9 inch diameter pipes that go down you bathroom. You put a cleaning acid, what every you are putting. People flush down sanitary pads, to condoms and even construction rubble goes to these sewer lines. Why do we do that, because these people we die… there is an estimate, which I arrived when I was doing a story for Tehelka about four years again, and it was a conservative estimate arrived with Lela Vesaria, person who is a demography expert, and she and I arrived at this figure of 22,327 deaths per year all over India. In Bombay alone according to an RTI 3,495 deaths in just 24 wards in just once city. Now if you compare it with Army people who died in Kashmir from 1990 to 2007, 5,100.
So there are sacrificing their life but they are not wearing the flag so nobody bothers. Media gets very exited when a young boy goes down the little pipe, I mean, he has to be rescued. The Army is called, you have shows. But these are workers we don’t see them. When Aarushi murder case happened, they sent two workers down the sewer to find the murder weapon. Nobody discussed that in the media. What is the middle class which is watching Aamir Khan’s show doing?
Sagarika Ghose: These are invisible people. Asim Sarode, they are invisible workers, they are invisible to us. We don’t know that they are going down the sewer everyday. They are standing neck deep in night soil everyday. They are inhaling this terrible stench everyday. And yet they don’t have rights because the society believes that is their job, they are by birth cleaners of night soil.
Asim Sarode: They are also invisible in urban areas. In rural areas they are there, in urban areas they are they; they are there on the railway tracks. So political will is absent to see them and to recognise their existence. It is not the issue of manual scavenging; it is the issue of cast based violation. It is the issue of health rights of the people who are working in unorganised sector. It is also issue of how and why they are not getting medical aid, they are not getting shelter. So what is think is if Mr Mukul Wasnik is coming up with a new bill, then the people should demand and they (Government) should also consider…there should be no legislation with out people’s consideration. People should be consulted, their opinion should be gathered and only then new bill should be presented in Parliament. Otherwise, as I pointed previously, if they insert these words like hazardous and create space to escape from responsibility that should not be done.
Sagarika Ghose: You heard Mukul Wasnik there, telling us about his solutions, that he wants to provide proper condition, provide alternative livelihood, do a survey, so do you think these solution will work or do you think much more drastic punishment is the answer?
Paul Divakar: First I feel what we can, what the government can in its own hand, they must begin to implement. There is money that is being allocated, that money is not being spent. Now the question is why the money that has been allocated from the relief and rehabilitation, elimination of the manual scavenging for the last five years, why has it not been spent ferociously in a way that you can eliminate it. Then there are wider issues where you have education, you have special component plan, which is suppose to allocated certain proportion of money… today you don’t have a legislation to implement it. Now why is it… at least, Sagarika, there are 37510 crore that are allocated every year for the development of schedule cast and schedule tribes, including some of the people we have seen on the TV. If this money would have gone for their relief, rehabilitation, education, civic amenity today we would have not these scenes.
Sagarika Ghose: But as Guru (manual scavenger) was saying he has no other option. He said this is the option he had from last four generations and his family has been doing this therefore this is what I’m going to be doing.
Paul Divakar: That is because there is a force on the people and they are forced to some of these jobs. If they refuse there is violence, they are not given job anywhere else. So on one hand there is a mind set which forces them to do this job and on the other hand the wider community says that you are not fit for any other employment. There are lawyers, advocates who do this job in the evening because they are not able to sustain themselves.
Sagarika Ghose: Forced to do the job because born into a particular community. The reform measure of Mukul Wasnik didn’t convenience you.
S Anand: Not at all because reform is an agenda which has a huge Gandhian kind of aura around it. Ambedkar was for annihilation of cast.
Sagarika Ghose: So the reality is that no Brahman will go down the sewer.
S Anand: No Brahman will ever go down the sewer. Whatever you do, even you pay them Rs 1 lakh a month as a salary. You are not going to see reform. Reform is the problematic language which the state has been speaking. Especially because of this triangle hold which I call Gandhian piety. Here is a man whose photo still adorns National Commission for Safai Karamcharis’s office and he says this, you know, you have to really see this… because that is the ideology that inflects the policy on manual scavenging.
Sagarika Ghose: It is a kind of middle class… Gandhian ideology…
S Anand: Ideology which says an ideal banghi should be able to examine night soil and tell you what is the quality of your urine and tell whether it has go germs in it. And this was at a time when Ambedkar was talking about annihilation of cast. So unless you delink occupation and case…
Sagarika Ghose: You have to delink occupation and cast. As Anand is saying that no Brahman will ever go down a sewer and stand neck deep in night soil. That is a very shocking indictment of the democratic rights of manual scavengers. No person should be a manual scavengers, we must have awareness and must pressurise government to have strict punishment for those employ manual scavenging. Thank you very much indeed, Asim Sarode, Paul Divakar, S Anand. This is because of caste discrimination that manual scavenging is continuing.

 

Sunday Reading -Satyamev Jayate- Aamir Khan silent on Ambedkar and Reservation !



Silence Eva Jayate
Aamir Khan not only deviously censored any discussion of Ambedkar and Reservation, but seemed content to use the 1920s language of high-caste reformers
S. Anand

This Sunday morning I received a call from a friend who alerted me to the tenth episode of Aamir Khan-anchored Satyamev Jayate since the focus was on caste and untouchability. I mumbled something about his spoiling my Sunday, but tuned in nevertheless. It began with Kaushal Panwar narrating her harrowing tale for about twenty minutes: from her childhood where she was forced to join her mother in cleaning shit to her pursuit of a PhD in Sanskrit. I was glad that the audience heard her say that the discrimination she had experienced in her school in a Haryana village was no different from what she faced in the enlightened campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi—where she continues to be denied a rightful job.

Following Kaushal, we were allowed a glimpse into the life of Balwant Singh, author of the tract An Untouchable in the IAS. I noticed a shot of him looking up to a larger-than-life portrait of Dr B.R. Ambedkar in his Saharanhpur house, and realized that so far—30 minutes into the show—there had been no verbal mention of Ambedkar. Balwant Singh, among the first dalits to enter a career in civil service in post-independence India, had said in his interview that he was perhaps the first and only IAS officer ever to be demoted to the rank of tehsildar. That had been edited out. I intuitively felt the show was going to scrupulously avoid any mention of two key ideas—Reservation and Ambedkar. I was hoping to be proved wrong. I wasn’t.

How did Kaushal Panwar do her BA, MA and PhD and land a job with Delhi University? What is it that facilitates access to hitherto-excluded spaces for dalits? What is the one policy that enables dalits to stop cleaning shit and reclaim their humanity? The one weapon that helps them get an education? Get a job? Reservation. And who made this policy possible? Ambedkar. But Aamir Khan wouldn’t mention the R and A words even once for fear of alienating his middle class audience, which as a friend perceptively said, is fed “bourgeois moralism of the most pathological sort,” on a programme where “the only solution turns out to be nothing more than emotional catharsis”.

Not surprisingly, Khan would also not mention the fact that an atrocity is committed on a dalit every 18 minutes according to the National Crime Records Bureau. The penchant Khan and his research team showed for various laws and statistics in the first two episodes of SJ that I had seen—on prenatal sex determination and domestic violence—was nowhere on display here. Hence no mention of the Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989 and its dismal failure to curb violence against dalits. No discussion of a case like Khairlanji, where, in 2006, the mother and daughter, Surekha Bhotmange and Priyanka Bhotmange, had not just been raped repeatedly but tortured in ghastly ways (stripped, paraded naked, with fact-finding reports saying bullock cart pokers were thrust into their vaginas, and that Priyanka was raped even after her death). An interview with Bhaiyalal Bhotmange, the sole survivor of the Khairlanji carnage, may have not fit into the preordained script.

Then the show featured documentary filmmaker Stalin K. Padma and several clips from his three-hour film India Untouched. Again, the cherry-picked excerpts skirted any reference to A and R. In a cringe-worthy moment, Stalin even fawned on Khan and congratulated him for taking up the issue of untouchability on television 65 years after independence.

This was followed by homilies from His Holiness, Justice (retired) C.S. Dharmadhikari, who in his self-introduction, pretending to denounce labels, paraded every label of privilege that adorned his CV—including the ‘blessings’ allegedly bestowed by Adi Sankara on his ancestors. This man could equally pompously announce his Deshastha Brahmanness as his apparent rejection of it. I would have given up right then but for the fact that I had spotted Bezwada Wilson in the audience, and I was waiting to see if this leader of the Safai Karamchari Andolan—a man who had pioneered the demolition of dry latrines across India—would salvage the morning. He too was asked to narrate his early life, and he too shed tears. As did Khan with practised ease.

The next day I called Wilson and told him I was annoyed that even he did not bother to mention Ambedkar and Reservation. Wilson clarified that he indeed had. It had been edited out, as was his rant against the Supreme Court and Parliament—since both institutions had been dragging their feet on the issue of manual scavenging. Then he revealed something that shocked me. He said he had not been in the audience when Kaushal Panwar was being interviewed by Khan. I countered saying I had seen him ‘reacting’ to what Kaushal said on stage. “Even I saw myself in the audience and hence was shocked,” said Wilson. He said Kaushal had been interviewed in total isolation, in an empty studio. And yet on Sunday we saw, every once in a while, close-ups of fretful, anxious, pained and agonised faces of members of the studio audience as Kaushal was narrating her story. They even clapped on cue, like when Khan asked Kaushal her heroic father’s name. Clearly, all this had been manipulated and faked—with clever editing and splicing of shots.

I checked with Kaushal if this was true. It was. I further found that Khan and his team had shot interviews with two members of the Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry—its chairman Milind Kamble and key advisor Ashok Khade. They were informed just a week ahead of the 8 July telecast that their interviews wouldn’t be aired since they “did not fit in with the story”. In fact, when Chandra Bhan Prasad, mentor to DICCI and an exponent of ‘dalit capitalism’, watched the show with Kamble in Pune, they could not believe their eyes. Kamble’s interview with Khan had been shot with Dharmadhikari and Kamble seated next to each other on the studio couch; but Kamble had been weeded out. Prasad wondered if some ‘dirty trick editing’ made this possible. More likely, Dharmadhikari took a leaf out of Khan’s book and did not mind giving a ‘fresh take’ minus the unsuitable presence of Kamble. I also discovered that every participant on the show is forced to sign a ‘confidentiality agreement’ saying they will not speak about their participation—recorded many months ahead—in any social media.

In his weekly column in The Hindu, Khan began his discourse with “Gandhiji’s struggle” for “those ostracized as untouchables”. Perhaps Khan and his ghostwriters did not ever hear about what young Bhimrao had to face right in Satara at age 10. After a few paragraphs extolling Gandhi, Khan mentions “Babasaheb Ambedkar” in passing, as someone who led the drafting of the Constitution. Since the bulk of SJ’s episode chose to focus on manual scavenging, and since Dharmadhikari and Khan chose to highlight Gandhi’s imagined role in the fight against this practice—an issue largely and sadly neglected even within the dalit movement—let us turn briefly to what Gandhi said about “the most honourable occupation”.

Gandhi wrote in Harijan in 1934: “I call scavenging as one of the most honourable occupations to which mankind is called. I don’t consider it an unclean occupation by any means. That you have to handle dirt is true. But that every mother is doing and has to do. But nobody says a mother’s occupation is unclean.” In another essay entitled ‘The Ideal Bhangi’ in 1936 he wrote, “My ideal Bhangi would know the quality of night-soil and urine. He would keep a close watch on these and give a timely warning to the individual concerned. Thus he will give a timely notice of the results of his examination of the excreta. That presupposes a scientific knowledge of the requirements of his profession.” It is this stranglehold of Gandhism that has kept manual scavenging alive.

Ambedkar held a view that was the exact opposite: “Under Hinduism scavenging was not a matter of choice, it was a matter of force. What does Gandhism do? It seeks to perpetuate this system by praising scavenging as the noblest service to society! What is the use of telling the scavenger that even a Brahmin is prepared to do scavenging when it is clear that according to Hindu Shastras and Hindu notions even if a Brahmin did scavenging he would never be subject to the disabilities of one who is a born scavenger?” Ambedkar argued that in India a man is not a scavenger because of his work, but because of his birth irrespective of whether he does scavenging or not.

Khan and his team not only deviously censored any discussion of Ambedkar and Reservation, they seemed content to use the 1920s language of high-caste reformers. A friend chided me saying I shouldn’t expect Khan to be an activist. But surely my friend did not know how Khan manipulates and fools his audience—in the studio and outside—to nod and cry at moments he chooses. Wilson said, “In fact, during the shoot it was not I who actually began crying. Aamir Khan started to cry, so I was forced to cry along.” Khan obviously thinks we can flush away middle class shit with tears.

S. Anand is publisher, Navayana. A shorter, edited version of this appears in print. OUTLOOK

Sympathy not the solution #disability


June 21, 2012, The Hindu
RAHUL CHERIAN
AMBA SALELKAR
ABOUT EQUALITY : Mere non-discrimination will not bring the disabled into the mainstream as they require further affirmative action in almost every sphere of life
 
The Constitution must be amended to prohibit discrimination against the disabled and to bring them into the mainstream
 
In his column in The Hindu on June 11, 2012 titled “One Simple Step to Increase our GDP,” Aamir Khan makes an important observation — how we behave with the disabled among us tells us what kind of a people we are. And by that standard, India is not the kid you would want to be best friends with in school. Mr. Khan argues that the lack of education of the disabled is the problem and that education is the solution to the problem, which will also possibly lead to an increase in the GDP of the nation. We however believe that the problem is much more fundamental than that, and that the main barrier to a progressive and inclusive approach to persons with disabilities is the current framework of the Constitution itself.
Rights and Acts
The rights of persons with disabilities are sketchily enshrined in various Acts of Parliament — the Mental Health Act, 1987 (to regulate mental health services), the National Trust Act, 1999 (for creation and monitoring of a trust for the welfare of persons with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities), the Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992 (to regulate rehabilitation services), and the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 (for everything else). All of these Acts do, in fact, achieve the objective of treating the disabled as a different class altogether — which is the premise of the law on disability in India.
India is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which specifically states that persons with disabilities are to be treated as equals to persons without disabilities. In his column, Mr. Khan cites instances where persons with disabilities have been looked upon as those unloved by god — and we would venture to state that this is eerily reminiscent of the treatment meted out for centuries against those classified as “untouchables.” It took years of campaigning and awareness to eradicate, to some extent, such approaches, but what is undeniable is that Article 17 of the Constitution, which prohibits the practice of untouchability, has helped eradicate it to a great extent. The historic experience of untouchability in India meant that the Constitution was designed to respond to such discrimination.
In a sense, having a disability forces the person to be excluded from all aspects of society, including with respect to education, workplace, transportation, access to public places and everywhere else for that matter. It is not far from the truth to say that the denial of access makes persons with disabilities outcastes. And the fault begins with the Constitution. Disabled people will be able to articulate their moral and political citizenship only when they move away from a benign charity model to a constitutional framework of equal rights. The Constitution in Articles 15 (1) and (2) — which are in Chapter III relating to Fundamental Rights — has an extremely robust provision relating to prohibition of discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. This provision prohibits discrimination not only by the State but also by citizens with respect to access to shops, hotels, public restaurants and places of public entertainment, among others. Moreover, the Constitution also permits the State to make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.
Amendment of Articles
However, persons with disabilities have no similar protection from discrimination under the Constitution. Nor does the Constitution prescribe that special provisions can be taken to ensure that persons with disabilities are included in society. Given this Constitutional framework, all downstream law-making relating to persons with disabilities is based on sympathy and the mood of the law makers at the given time and not based on the recognition of the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities. No wonder then that the 100 million people with disabilities remain outside the ambit of what is considered “society.”
Makes political sense
Thus we come to the Holy Grail for the disability movement in India — the amendment of Articles 15 (1) and (2) to include the word “disability” as one of the grounds on which discrimination shall be prohibited. But adding this word may not be enough and we must go further. Unlike other classes of citizens, mere non-discrimination will not bring the disabled population into the mainstream since persons with disabilities require further affirmative action in terms of removal of barriers, customisation of products and services and accommodation in almost every sphere of life. Therefore, coupled with the amendments mentioned above, a new Article 15 (6) should be added to the effect that nothing in the Constitution shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of persons with disabilities including to ensure that the State and citizens remove barriers and provide accommodation to persons with disabilities.
These amendments to the Constitution will ensure that each and every law can then be viewed through the lens of the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities, whether it is the laws relating to banking, to insurance, to food security or any other. And if the law is found wanting, then it can be struck down as unconstitutional. Canada, South Africa and Sri Lanka have explicitly recognised the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities. Now is the time for India to do the same. It even makes sense politically, since persons with disabilities constitute a significant vote bank.
Is this an ambitious dream? Yes. Much like the legalities relating to the Right to Education and the ensuing controversy, this will place a burden on establishments, both public and private, to make themselves accessible. Is this an impossible task? Not really. With political will backed by innovative funding methods and judicious public spending it is possible for India to be completely inclusive by 2022. This will be the perfect way to celebrate India’s 75th Independence Day. After all, equality is the Holy Grail to becoming truly independent.
(Rahul Cherian and Amba Salelkar are lawyers with Inclusive Planet Centre for Disability Law and Policy.)