#India – Violence against the state is tragic but it contains the seeds of rejection


Repression is no solution

Gopal Subramanium

Violence against the state is tragic but it contains the seeds of rejection. Only an inclusive approach that respects human rights can eliminate extremism

Perhaps no other chain of events in the recent past has had a more direct and substantial impact on the life of human beings across the world than acts of terror. Terrorism has not only affected our lives directly, but has also allowed the state to intrude in our lives like never before.

 

Fundamental obligation

 

Since the security of the individual is a basic human right (and a fundamental condition of the social contract underpinning society), the protection of individuals is a fundamental obligation of the state. In recent years, however, the measures adopted by states to counter terrorism have themselves sometimes been found wanting in terms of compliance with human rights norms. The means and methods adopted by the state have posed serious challenges to human rights and the rule of law, and often this is on account of the zeal of the law-enforcement agencies to give a commensurate response to the terrorist.

 

The state cannot legitimately respond by resorting to mechanisms that overstep the limits of the law. Thus, a reason why it is important for the state to ensure that none of its measures transgresses the limits of the law is any transgression may have the effect of eroding both its legitimacy and the rule of law, thereby fomenting further unrest and erosion of faith in the Constitution.

 

In the name of combating extremism, repressive measures are also used to stifle the voice of human rights activists, advocates, minorities, indigenous groups, journalists and civil society. There is another dimension: by being able to build up a perception of threat, the state may be able to get away with channelling the funds normally allocated to social programmes towards strengthening the police force and the army. The talked-up threat perception of terrorism (and a few ‘encounters’) may well be used to justify the acquisition of more weapons. As Professor Simon Bronitt of Australian National University has summed up “…there is almost a new genus of law: post 9/11 law. Although 9/11 has become a significant force in justifying these laws, the truth is that there is an element of opportunism [by some law-enforcement and state agencies] behind these claims of necessity for new powers and offences.”

 

While militarisation and the strengthening of police forces are important in their own right, it is equally necessary to understand the genuineness of the ‘security reasons’ presented by the state as a ground for abridgment of human rights, many of which are fundamental. Frisking, for example, which used to be considered a grave intrusion upon one’s privacy at one point of time, is today normalised and we are all fine with being frisked everywhere.

 

Existential realities

 

Little or no attention is paid to the true causes of resort to violent methods. It is as if the deafening sound of explosions and landmines is used to attract the attention of the state to existential realities. There are grim realities of existence as tribals in this country, and the unfortunate aspect is that their unheard voices fail to make a din in the power corridors. From their perspective, extremism, violence and terrorism become a means to attract the attention of the state.

 

Governments have been non-responsive to peaceful protests and have, in fact, come down heavily on peaceful protesters as they did at India Gate when they relentlessly beat up women protesting in the aftermath of last December’s gang rape in Delhi. The state turns a blind eye to the violence committed by state actors, and private actors in connivance with state actors, which results in irreversible psychological damage.

 

It is evident that the state has misplaced priorities. Since there is little that the state seems to have done, one can safely say that it does not seem to be aware of the abysmal conditions in which the tribals of Chhattisgarh live.

 

The state does not seem to be aware that tribals in Madhya Pradesh eat the poisonous kesari dal which is reported to have a paralytic impact. The state also does not seem to be aware that tribal women and other villagers in Maharashtra have to walk miles before they can get drinking water. This feeling of being ‘parentless’ makes people vulnerable to anti-state ideologies. Having said this, I am not legitimising violence against innocents by invocation of oppression; I am only suggesting that oppression is one of the reasons of unrest which manifests in the resort to violence against the state and insignias of the state.

 

In the Mahanadi Coal Fields Case (2010), the Supreme Court took strong exception to the manner in which the Central government and the Mahanadi Coal Fields Limited had acquired the lands of tribals in the Sundargarh district of Odisha and not compensated them even 23 years later. In fact, 20 years after dispossessing them, the government noted that the land was actually not required!

 

The Supreme Court observed: “the whole issue of development appears to be so simple, logical and commonsensical. And yet, to millions of Indians, development is a dreadful and hateful word that is aimed at denying them even the source of their sustenance. It is cynically said that on the path of ‘maldevelopment’ almost every step that we take seems to give rise to insurgency and political extremism [which along with terrorism are supposed to be the three gravest threats to India's integrity and sovereignty] … The resistance with which the state’s well meaning efforts at development and economic growth are met makes one think about the reasons for such opposition to the state’s endeavours for development. Why is the state’s perception and vision of development at such great odds with the people it purports to develop? And why are their rights so dispensable?”

 

Listen to people

 

The Supreme Court’s identification of the issue is not off the mark, and I believe it is quite perceptive of the reality. Studies establish that absolute deprivation by the state has a psychological impact on its people. Therefore, any attempt to combat violence by the state must have within its fold the measures to eliminate the conditions conducive to the spread of extremism, which must include (a) strengthening the rule of law; (b) fostering respect for human rights and provision for reparation for violations; (c) reversing ethnic, national and religious discrimination, political exclusion, and socio-economic marginalisation; (d) listening to the people and (e) becoming more responsive to society.

 

The recent events of violence are tragic without a doubt but they contain the seeds of rejection of political structures. Political structures need to build confidence by dialogue, working on the ground for the uplift of the poor, and must work with an attitude of inclusiveness.

 

While mourning the loss of human life, we must devise innovative systems of engagement, based not on power or hierarchical administration but equality. One wishes ardently that new mechanisms of review — with deep and meaningful engagement with the local communities suggested in the Verma Committee on crimes against women — be quickly operationalised and deployed.

 

(The author is a senior advocate, a former Solicitor General of India, and a former Chairman, Bar Council of India)

 

Mumbai Police gets country’s first ‘Social Media Lab’ #monitoring #privacy


Mumbai Police

 

The Hindu, March 17

 

Bid to understand pulse of citizenry

The Mumbai police on Saturday inaugurated the country’s first ‘Social Media Lab’ to monitor the happenings on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

The police have termed this an important step which will help them keep an eye on issues being discussed among youth on the Internet and to bridge the gap between the expectations of the public and delivery of police services.

Inaugurating the 24X7 lab, Commissioner of Police Satyapal Singh said its purpose was not to invoke censorship on discussions of various subjects, but only to analyse them.

“The youth protest at India Gate after the [December 2012] gang rape in Delhi was mainly fuelled by discussions on social networking sites. Taking a clue from that, we thought that the traditional sources of information do not sometimes give the correct picture of societal needs and misgivings and hence we decided to set up the country’s first social media lab.”

Dr. Singh said the lab’s primary work would be to understand the pulse of the citizenry and to prepare “ourselves for it.” “Till now, we haven’t ever tried to understand what is happening on the Internet, but now is the time to change that.” The lab would assimilate relevant information from all open sources in the public domain and 20 specially trained officers would work in shifts.

The project is supported by the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) and is funded by Reliance Foundation. Actor Abhishek Bachchan, who was present, called the formation of the lab a proactive step from the police.

 

 

 

Shahbag: Story of two hangings; differences in their dynamics #deathpenalty


 

The name Shahbag will not evoke much recognition from the Indian pretenders to ‘global citizenship’. Dhaka is the city many Indians believe that ‘they’ liberated in 1971. Shahbag is one of the main street intersections of Dhaka where the events taking place as I write may have historic consequences. If you walk from the Science Lab intersection in Dhaka and hear passionate slogans from the young and old shaking the ground beneath your feet, you are at Shahbag.

After the 1971 Liberation war of Bangladesh, the governments of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh reached a tripartite agreement. One of the despicable results of this was the granting of clemency to some of the worst perpetrators of crimes against humanity in the last millennium. Some Bengali collaborators of the Pakistan forces indulged in mass-murders and rapes that have few parallels in recent memory. They have never faced the judicial process, until now.

The International War Crimes tribunal in Bangladesh has been pursuing some of the biggest leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami, Razakar, Al-Shams and Al-Badr militia — a process that has stupendous public support. One of the most hated of these characters, Kader Mollah, has been handed a life sentence and not a death sentence. This resulted in a protest assembly started by a bloggers and online activist network that was quickly joined by progressive and left-wing student organisations.

The result has been an unprecedented mass assembly that has been going on almost continuously since February 5 with people from all walks of life joining in. If the Anna protests in Delhi were a stove-flame, Shahbag is a veritable volcano. It was briefly called off after February 21 only to start again a day later.

As I stand in Shahbag, soaking in this immense human energy, I cannot help compare this to another such urban assembly I was recently witness to, where too, calls for hanging (something I am personallyopposed to, under any circumstance) were the primary chant. These were the India Gate protests after the Delhi rape and murder case. At India Gate, Kavita Krishnan and others tried their best to inject sanity into the folks demands for death and castration. There the political was trying to reason with the expressly ‘apolitical’. Here in Shahbag, from the very outset, it was very political. However, it was not partisan. The difference showed. In Shahbag, the politicised students and youth mood that bordered on uber-nationalism was blood-lust was interrogated, at the square itself, by mass chants, that challenged simplistic understandings of nation, nationalism and revenge.

The slogan Tumi ke, ami ke, Bangali, Bangali (Who are you, who am I? Bengali, Bengali) was often changed to Chakma, Marma, Bangali to include other ethnicities in the state of Bangladesh. The former two ethnic groups were involved in a long-armed insurrection with the government. This is not easy, especially in a nation-state formed primarily on the basis of an exclusivist ethno-linguistic nationalism.

Imagine saying the K-word or the N-word as different from ‘Indian’ in the Delhi chants. But Dhaka could, and they could precisely because Shahbag is political. The media covers Shahbag, it does not dictate it. It does not repeat the word ‘apolitical’ like a ghost-busting mantra as those in Delhi studios did as soon as the ‘Damini’ protests started. In Shahbag, it was demanded that whole organisations that were involved in rapes and murders be banned. In the Indian Union, can we even dare to name the organisations and agencies to which the highest numbers of alleged rapists are affiliated?

The amateur flash-in-the-pan nature of Delhi protests showed when it was all but broken but a Lathi-charge. The brutal murder of one of the organisers of the Shahbag protests, blogger Rajeeb Haidar, only strengthened the resolve of the square. In Shahbag, the government is trying hard to appropriate the movement for justice.

At the India Gate, the Delhi Police meted out instant justice of another kind. Shahbag is also a call for a different political direction — the youth wanting to resolve issues that happened before their birth. This bursts the myth that today’s young only react when things affect them directly. The hip metro youth of India, are still sadly, in a state of political infancy in this regard.

I stood mesmerised by the slogan-chanting figure of Bangladesh Chhatro Union’s Lucky Akhtar, who has now been nicknamed ‘slogankanya’ by Shahbag itself. Lucky has been hospitalised multiple times, once after being pushed by ruling party operatives keen to capture the stage.

Whenever Lucky led the sloganeering, it was hard to separate the aesthetic from the political. And why should one? In this assembly for justice against crimes that also includes innumerable rapes, there were thousands who were there not as somebody’s mother, daughter or sister, but as politically inspired women. And it matters. And that showed.

 

 

#India- No Shortcuts on #Rape – Make the Legal System Work #Vaw #Justice


 #India- Chastity, Virginity, Marriageability, and Rape Sentencing #Vaw  #Justice #mustread

EPW Vol – XLVIII No. 02, January 12, 2013

The vigorous public discourse following the recent brutal gang rape and
mutilation of the 23-year-old in Delhi is a positive sign but hopefully the
demand for quick solutions will not ignore the complexities involved in
dealing with all forms of violence against women. There are also other
connected issues that require urgent attention including the description of
a rape as a “state worse than death”, making out certain acts of violence
to be rare aberrations when they are depressingly routine, ignoring the
sexual violence within families and the need to make the legal system
accountable to the female citizenry.

Now that the gang rape victim christened as “Nirbhaya”, “Braveheart”,
“India’s Daughter”, etc, by the media, has finally been laid to rest,
despite the Delhi administration’s best efforts to prolong her ordeal until
the protestors at India Gate were worn out, perhaps it is time to address
deeper concerns that surround the issue of rape in public discourse.

Though many of us would like to change the terminology from “rape victim”
to “rape survivor”, unfortunately that cannot be done in her case since she
did not “survive”. The brutal injuries inflicted on her body during the
gang rape took her life. One is therefore constrained to label her a
“victim” despite her heroic struggle.

Had she survived (as many of us wished she had) she could have been the
mascot for the movement against violence perpetrated on women. She might
have come out in the open in the wake of the massive support she received
across the nation, and by this very act made a strong statement to the
world at large that a rape victim does not have to survive like a *zinda
laash* (a living corpse), a title awarded to rape survivors by our
parliamentarians. Her fight for justice would have become a beacon of hope
for many others. Her struggle for justice may even have helped to lessen
the stigma attached to the term “rape” itself in public discourse and her
struggle might have inspired many youngsters to come out and report
incidents of sexual assault. But that was not to be. This mantle has now
fallen upon the protestors and the political leaders who collectively mourn
her death.

*Not a ‘Living Corpse’*

Rather sadly, the wishes of those demanding the death penalty to avenge her
rape seem to have been fulfilled, without any major changes taking place in
the rape law, since it has become a case of “rape and murder” and the
“rarest of rare” maxim can be applied to it. But if the death penalty is
all that we are seeking, then her heroic struggle would be in vain. Her
death is not something to be proud of, because death is not what she wished
for. In the few moments in which she could express her wishes after the
traumatic incident, she had clearly indicated that she wanted to live. Live
life fully, not as a mere shadow of her earlier self, like a “living
corpse” – complete her training, earn and support her family. I hope after
this, all of us will refrain from referring to a survivor as zinda laash* *or
describe rape as a “state worse than death”. With death one reaches the
point of no return, but as long as there is life, there is hope. An
incident of rape, not even a brutal gang rape, ought not to have snuffed
out the hope of a 23-year-old, eager to scale new heights. One can only
hope that this is one lesson the nation has learnt through this episode.

The nationwide protest which this incident helped to ignite and the clarion
call for reforms in the rape law are positive signs. But for the sake of
easy and quick solutions, hopefully the discourse will not flatten out the
complexities involved in issues concerning violence against women and will
help us to seek answers to complex questions which do not get resolved
through retributive justice measures such as the death penalty, public
hanging, castration or instant “justice”. We need to keep reminding
ourselves that the girl died due to the brutal attack on her with iron rods
which damaged her intestines and led to the poisoning of all her vital
organs. Nothing can be more brutal than this. When we describe rape as
“worse than death”, we need to remind ourselves that insertion of objects
such as wooden splinters, iron rods, glass bottles, knives and swords into
the vagina causes far more serious damage to the female anatomy, but
unfortunately it does not warrant the same kind of punishment as rape since
it is not perceived as a “state worse than death”. In cases of brutal
sexual assault on children one can observe this type of violence. One can
also notice this kind of mutilation of the female body during caste and
communal violence such as that during Partition, the Gujarat carnage and
atrocities on dalits (like the Khairlanji rape and murders in Maharashtra).
Therefore, we need to move away from the patriarchal premise of vaginal
purity while we are addressing issues of sexual assaults and stop awarding
a special status for peno-vaginal penetration as compared to other types of
violations.

Vaginal penetration is only one of the many ways in which women are
chastised and humiliated. Acid attacks, slashing of the face, stripping and
parading, dragging women to the ground and kicking them on their abdomen,
etc, are some of the other violent ways in which women are shown their
place in public. Even while the protests were going on in most of the major
cities, a young student in a local college in Mumbai stabbed his ex-girl
friend several times and then stabbed himself. While the boy died
instantly, the girl succumbed to her injuries after a few days. This
violence is no less gruesome than an incident of gang rape.

*Routineness of Violence*

If women’s lives are endangered in so many different ways, then castration
of the rapists cannot give us the answers that we are seeking as it
reinforces the same old value system that continues to view rape as a state
“worse than death”. It is too short-sighted and serves only to lay the
emphasis back on the patriarchal premise of the sanctimony attached to
vaginal purity and does not help us to move forward. We would then be
forced to move on to other barbaric and medieval forms of retributive
justice like cutting off the hands of all those who indulge in heinous acts
of violence against women. This demand obscures the routineness of the
violence that takes place in our society, in our homes, in our private
spaces and makes it seem like a rare aberration.

One wonders whether the protests would have been on this scale if they had
not raped her but only assaulted her and her male companion with iron rods.
Is it the titillating aspects attached to a gruesome gang rape that arouses
feelings of grief and vengeance? The brutal manner in which the girl was
attacked is indicative of a deep-rooted hatred towards women, particularly
towards those women who dare to cross the boundaries. They are seen as
“free for all” or rather, everyone thinks that they are the custodians of
women’s morality and that they have a right to “teach them a lesson”.

In some recent cases of gang rape the girl was out with a male companion.
Is the outrage against her an indication of the societal desire to curb any
expression of sexual freedom among young, unmarried girls? Recently, in
Bengaluru, a law student of the prestigious National Law University was
gang raped when she was in a lonely spot with a male companion. The doctors
who examined her were more concerned about the elasticity of her vagina
than finding forensic evidence of the gruesome crime. In 2010, a young
16-year-old Hindu girl travelling in a bus with her Muslim friend on the
outskirts of Mangalore was dragged out of the bus by members of an
extremist Hindu fundamentalist outfit and taken to a police station. A case
of rape was foisted against her friend. Her father was called to the police
station and was humiliated. That night the girl committed suicide.

It is these incidents that make us wonder whether the gang rape in Delhi is
meant to be a message to all youngsters not just to not venture out in the
dark but to not venture out with male companions. It is the same message
that the parents and the community give their daughters. It is the same
message that the moral brigade has been communicating through the raids on
young couples in Mumbai under the direction of Maharashtra’s Home Minister
R R Patil, who has now recommended the death penalty in rape cases. Perhaps
he and most protesters out on the streets in India today are unaware that
around one-third of all rape cases are filed by parents against the boy
concerned when their daughter exercises her sexual choice and elopes. Such
cases will only increase in the years to come as the recent enactment of
the Protection of Children from Sexual Abuse Act has raised the statutory
age for consent to sexual intercourse from 16 to 18 years and all
youngsters who are sexually active are prone to harassment through
collusion of the family and the state. These types of cases have led to the
use of phrases like “genuine cases” and “false cases” among the police,
prosecutors and judges. The recent Act has also shifted the burden of proof
to the accused which is an extremely dangerous proposition in the context
of human rights and rights of the accused within the criminal justice
system.

*Male Role Models*

There is another question which is worrisome. Is it possible to examine
this issue only within the framework of men versus women or, more
particularly, middle-class women versus lower-class men? The girl was not
alone, she was travelling with a male companion. He, too, was beaten and
thrown out. If he had lost his intestines in the scuffle that followed,
what would the public response be? What about the death of a young
19-year-old boy of Mumbai who lost his life while protesting the lewd
comments being passed against a girl from his housing society? Should not
his murder be avenged by awarding the death penalty to the accused? In
another well-publicised incident that took place about a year ago in
Mumbai, two young men, Keanan and Reuben, were brutally and fatally
attacked when they protested against the sexual harassment of some girls in
their group. Why is the loss of their lives less gruesome a crime? These
men were also role models to be emulated by the youth of today. We
desperately need such bravehearts who will stand up for women’s dignity in
public places because in most cases the public just looks on while the girl
is molested, stripped, raped and dragged naked in full public view. So it
is not just women, but also men who defend women, who are subjected to
brutal attacks.

*Wrong Popular Perceptions*

Despite all the positive impact of the campaign revolving it, the Delhi
gang rape incident does not foreground the different types of violations
that take place in our society. Rather, it reinforces the popular
perception that rape takes place in lonely places, late at night, by
strangers and that rapists are brutes or psychopaths who deserve to be
hanged. But most rapes take place in the privacy of our homes, in our
schools. Rapes by family members are seldom reported. They come to light
only when the girl is found to be pregnant and by then it is far too late
to have an abortion. The girl is then sent to a government run shelter home
where she languishes while her child is put up for adoption. The risk of
sexual abuse is even greater in these homes as some recent incidents that
have been reported in the media indicate.

In a case decided by the sessions court in Mumbai last month, the father
had been raping his daughter for two years. When the child confided in her
mother and the mother confronted her husband, she was silenced by threats
of desertion. It was only when the maternal uncle was alerted that the
complaint was registered. The case resulted in conviction only because the
uncle testified, but the mother refused to come to court and depose. In yet
another case of a father raping his daughter, the mother attempted to
register a case thrice and each time was sent back as the police refused to
record her statement. Finally, the case could be registered only after the
intervention of a local social worker. What should be the punishment for
fathers who violate the most sacrosanct fiduciary relationship of trust and
sexually violate their helpless daughters? And what should be the
punishment for those who through their silence or negligence abet the crime?

The infamous ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) in the Mathura rape case in
the late 1970s became the catalyst for a nationwide anti-rape movement. The
SC had acquitted two policemen who had raped a 16-year-old illiterate
tribal girl inside the police station while on duty on the ground that
since there were no injuries on her body she might have consented to the
sex. Further, the Court contended, since the girl had eloped with her
boyfriend and was not a virgin, she could not have been raped. The campaign
that followed resulted in bringing some changes in the archaic laws; the
most significant being the mandatory minimum punishment of seven years
which could extend to life imprisonment. It was perceived that it would
have a deterrent value. But when we examine the graph of reported cases
since 1983 (when the amendment was introduced) there is a steady increase
in reported cases. It is obvious that the amendment has failed to act as a
deterrent. Worse still, conviction rates are so low as to be negligible.
Even in these cases, the trial courts seldom award the statutory seven
years and give as low as three years or at times, just six months. Even
these result in acquittals at the appeal stage.

The conviction in the well-publicised Shiny Ahuja rape case in Mumbai is
not the norm, but an exception. In this case despite the complainant’s
retraction, the trial court convicted the accused based on forensic
evidence. There was a contradiction. While the actor denied that there was
ever any sexual intercourse between him and his domestic help, his defence
in court was that it was consensual. The judgment was condemned by Mumbai’s
socialites. A systematic media campaign was launched to clean up the
actor’s public image. And it is highly plausible that the conviction will
be set aside in the appeal which is pending before the high court. Three
other high profile rape cases in Mumbai – one involving the son of an
industrialist who was charged with raping a 52-year-old divorcee in his car
in his factory compound in the early hours of the morning and in which the
victim suffered a fracture of her wrist while resisting, the gang rape of a
student of a prestigious social work college in Mumbai and the rape of a
12-year-old ragpicker by a policeman – all resulted in acquittals, either
in the trial courts or in the appeal courts.

The retraction in the Shiny Ahuja case brings to the fore the important
issue of witness protection and compensation for the victim. Cases are
“settled” before the victim can depose, by the relatives at times with
active intervention of the police, sometimes even with the knowledge of the
court. We do not have any mechanism to protect a poor victim and other
witnesses against the onslaught of a powerful rapist from the time the
complaint is filed till the time of deposition in a trial court which may
take about a year or two at best. There are many constraints that work
against a girl from deposing in the court which calls for a strong witness
protection programme in order to ensure convictions.

*Fear of ‘False Cases’*

The trauma of rape and the stigma caused by it usually forces poor families
who file complaints of rape to change residences to protect their wards
from the stigma of rape. In most cases, the abuse is detected only when
these young girls in their early teens are taken to the hospital to
investigate delayed periods. The families are so poor that they cannot
provide even the basic care to their child. They need financial aid and
state support to overcome the trauma, the stigma and the adverse
consequences of rape. But each time the issue of compensation is raised,
the bogey of “false cases” is foregrounded to throttle the demand.

In Maharashtra, district boards were set up two years ago under the
district collector with high level officials of the home, health, law and
judiciary and women and child welfare departments’ along with
non-governmental organisation (NGO) representatives to scrutinise
applications for compensation, and the police were mandated to send in
copies of the FIR along with medical reports. An amount of Rs 2 lakh was
stipulated out of which Rs 20,000 is to be disbursed initially and the
balance after the girl deposes in court and an amount set aside for medical
aid, trauma counselling or skill training. But despite the grand “centrally
sponsored scheme”, the central funds have not reached the state government
and the victims wait in vain. This amounts to taking the most gullible and
most victimised for a ride. No one wants to act because of the all
pervasive fear of “false complaints”. One shudders to think how the family
of the Delhi gang rape victim would have dealt with the medical bills if
the case did not turn out to be a high profile one and the state
administration had not been forced to step in as a face-saving measure. But
then, is it wrong to expect this kind of state support to all survivors of
sexual abuse?

The fear of “false complaints” is all pervasive within our legal system
right from the time a victim tries to register the complaint to the time of
the trial. All stakeholders: the police, the medical officers who examine
the victim, the public prosecutors who are meant to defend her, the defence
lawyers who are out to tarnish her reputation and the presiding judge who
is supposed to be the neutral arbiter are plagued with this and constantly
look for evidence of falsity on the part of the victim. If this is the
present reality, one can just imagine what will happen if the punishment is
raised to a minimum of life imprisonment and maximum of death penalty. Then
even the few convictions which the judges award today will not take place,
and every accused will be given the “benefit of doubt”.

*Accountable to Women*

Instead, what we need is a criminal justice system that works with
responsibility, protocols for all stakeholders which are binding and most
important, a periodic audit that ensure that the protocols are followed.
This tedious process cannot be replaced by sensational measures such as
death penalty and castration which may momentarily satiate the public
thirst for blood, but will fail to have any deterrent impact at the ground
level. What we need most of all is a clarion call to make our legal system
accountable to the female citizenry in small but meaningful ways.

By-
Flavia Agnes (flaviaagnes@gmail.com) is a women’s rights lawyer and
director of Majlis which also runs a rape victim support programme in
Mumbai.

 

Wanted: A new feminist movement in India #Vaw


Source : SIFY
Last Updated: Mon, Dec 31, 2012 11:48 hrs
Delhi Rape Protests
If there is one thing that is clear from the recent and continuing protests that have been unfolding in the city over the gruesome rape in the capital, it is the painful absence of any independent and progressive women’s movement in the country.
The autonomous women’s movement that existed in the 1970s and 1980s which took up several campaigns from the rape of a tribal woman in a police station to dowry to sati and domestic violence was vitiated and almost completely destroyed from the 1990s onward with the rise of the NGO-isation and the specific categorization of ‘civil society’ organizations in India, gendered or otherwise. However flawed and limited it was, it was a crucial force in the task of social transformation.
This is why there was no feminist leadership and consolidation of the protests at India Gate that chilled some of us even more than the actual gruesome rape did. The thugs who took to stone-throwing and random violence on vehicles and Republic day poles were not as worrisome (that sort of behaviour is expected from political party goons) as the so-called angry “common citizen” simply venting ire that we were asked to cherish and uphold.
It is interesting how the populist celebrators of this “common citizen” protest claim it both as spontaneous and non-affiliated and at the same time progressive and organised. The fact of the matter is that if one studies all the signs and posters, the gestures and the language, the ‘demands’ and the outrage what becomes clear is how ill-informed and violent and how sexist and deeply patriarchal most of it was.
From calls for death penalty to castration, from mindless calls for revenge and counter-violence (the endless proliferation of calls for kangaroo court and mob justice – the rape of the victims, the public lynching, sodomising, hanging of them) to middle-class feminism-informed calls (for more access to public space, to wear what one wants to wear, come out at whatever time one wants to), the failure of several decades of feminism in this country became obvious.
Feminists have painstakingly fought (and continue to fight) for legal and democratic changes in the realities of women’s lives but it seems to have touched no one from the state to the ‘common citizen.’
Politicians predictably repeated the sexist pieties of sarkari appropriations of feminism which really are frightfully obvious anti-feminisms.
Government posters on sexual violence asking men to be ‘real men’ and Sushma Swaraj talking of raped women as live corpses are to be expected.
But young women calling for castrations and counter-rapes and murder and young men throwing bangles at the state shows how little feminism has circulated in our culture.
What the protests showed was that it was not just the ‘Other’ (the lower caste, lower class, the migrant labourer) male who needs schooling in feminism but men and women across classes and castes in the capital, many of whom claim to be gender-sensitive if not feminist, who need it.
What it showed was that highly progressive and Leftist organizations also believe in death penalty for rapists.
What it showed that there was no thinking and reflection on the specific need for a gendered education and transformation of the spaces and people that constitute Delhi.
What it showed, most disturbingly, was the culpability of these very ‘common citizens’ in the violence against women and sexual minorities in the capital and the complete absence of feminism from their lives.
Let alone finding in them a recognition of their complicity with the violence against Dalit and adivasi women and Kashmiri and Northeastern women sexually violated across the country (which many pious responses asked for), one cannot find in them even a recognition of how their calls for instant justice echo terrifyingly the very calls that propelled the rapists in offering their version of instant retributive justice to the girl for daring to be out late.
The references to bangles, the calls for counter-rape and violence, for torture and genital mutilation and death, the calls for mothers to educate their daughters (and sons) also partake of this. It is as if feminism never happened at all. It is as if all the campaigns that feminists led since the 1970s have disappeared, all their insights evaporated.
The worst injury (apart from the steady stream of more and more absurd statements from every possible ‘common citizen’ in Delhi afflicted with the common Indian disease of an opinion and the itch to voice it, the latest being a woman scientist who said the girl should have submitted to the rape) is news of more and more rapes and sexual assaults on women every day in Delhi since the great protest that rocked Raisina Hill!.
What we need is to rebuild the women’s movement piece by piece. This is not done by demands for instant justice or expressions of instant outrage. It requires the hard work of working with ‘common citizens’ across the city in every nook and corner of Delhi to change their attitudes, to inform them of the law and push for legal education and implementation, to work with sensitization campaigns with the police, in colleges, in schools to make of them citizens aware of feminism’s insights and advancements over several painful decades of legal failure and achievement. It is not just about calling for an adhering to due process but actually ensuring that due process happens.
Most importantly, all of this has to be informed by a feminist perspective This perspective is not something achieved but always in process, that we have to hone constantly in ourselves as much as others. For it is only when we are aware of how much we partake of patriarchy in all its class, caste and gendered forms that we can hope to generate change in our political, social and legal vocabularies.
This is the long haul. And the battle has just begun.

 

#INDIA- Disturbing rise in male intolerance to empowerment of women #delhigangrape #vaw


 

PUCL press statement on Delhi gang rape, 24th December, 2012
PUCL strongly condemns the brutal, bestial and savage sexual assault of a 23 year old girl in a moving Delhi bus on 16th December leaving her battling for life. We also condemn the unprovoked, unacceptable, unlawful and brutal attack launched by the Delhi police on 23rd December, on thousands of citizens, protesting against state inaction in the rape incident in and near India Gate and the continuing attempts by state police to crush the growing agitation by young people.
The response of the Union Home Minister, Chief Minister of Delhi and the Prime Minister, has been both belated as also insensitive, mechanical and sometimes even farcical as when the Union Home Minister used the Maoists as an alibi for not meeting and addressing the agitators. The political executive has failed to understand that the agitation is not in respect of this one incident alone. The agitation is symbolic of the loss of trust and confidence of people of this country in the criminal justice institutions and the people managing them. For decades now, every single institution without exception has been manipulated and subverted with impunity and citizens are no longer willing to trust persons in power – whether ministers, bureaucrats or police officials.
The agitation has also to be seen in the context of increasing incidents of aggravated sexual assaults on young girls, some as young as 5-8 years old across the country. The situation of rape and sexual violence is particularly severe in rural areas where on a daily basis, there are reports of women from Dalit, minority and economically vulnerable sections suffering violence and sexual assault at the hands of men, on the streets, in work places and other social spaces. This apart, the sexual violence on sexual minorities, transvestites and others is also very worrisome. Most such cases never make it to national media and do not become subject of mass action in urban cities. While we welcome the mass outpouring of support to the Delhi sexual assault survivor we also urge concerned citizens nationwide to become continuously engaged with the larger issue of violence against women in each state, city and locality.
However the issue of sexual assault and violence against women cannot be addressed merely by better policing and more security for women. Very often it is the police and the security guards who become threats to women’s safety considering the current experience of sexual assaults on women and men within police stations and by armed forces. The issue is symptomatic of a much larger, complex social phenomenon. Rapes and sexual violence will have to be seen in the backdrop of rising male intolerance to assertion of independence, self reliance and empowerment of women, in the work arena, professional and social spheres. Questioning of patriarchal values of male superiority, domination and gender discriminative practices are amongst many other social and economic factors responsible for increasing sexual assaults.
PUCL strongly opposes the demand to introduce death sentence as a penalty for rape. Demanding death sentence for rapists is not going to solve the problem of increasingly brutal and bestial sexual violence. Worldwide, as also in India itself, there is no scientific evidence that death penalty acts as a deterrent. By the same token, neither are other measures such as castration of rapists useful or relevant as punishment, as put forward by a number of groups.
It is also pertinent here to point out that punishment is only the last link in the criminal justice system. Conviction and sentencing is dependent on the strength of the prosecution which is in turn dependent on proper investigation. So amending law to have harsher punishment is a non- starter when a large percentage of cases end in acquittal when investigation and prosecution are often compromised deliberately.
The subversion of law begins from the stage of registration of FIR, medical examination of survivors of sexual assault as also the perpetrators, forensic science reports, witness statements, identification of accused through `identification parades’, letting in evidence in court, threat and buying up of witnesses and trial proceedings. We should also not forget the collusion, indifference and inefficiency of `Public Prosecutors’ in the conduct of trials. This subversion is apart from inherent patriarchal attitudes and prejudices of investigators, prosecutors and judges alike. It is only cases which surmount these hurdles which results in conviction and punishment. Thus without addressing these systemic issues, merely demanding new, more stringent laws and harsher punishment is a simplistic approach and no solution.
PUCL firmly believes that apart from punishing perpetrators and providing support to the survivors there is a need for a national level debate on the issue of violence against women across a whole range of issues – starting from language and discourse and spanning social, economic, cultural and psychological factors resulting in the commission of crimes against women. There is an urgent need for men and women from all sections including scheduled castes, religious and sexual minorities to understand, analyse and find solutions to the issue of sexual violence on women. In the end, the ultimate aim should be prevention of crime against women and not just punishment.
Prof. Prabhakar Sinha, National President
Dr. V. Suresh National Gen. Secretary

Dear Abhijit babu: The Society of Painted and Dented Ladies responds


by  Dec 27, 2012, First Post
Dear Shri Abhijit Mukherjee,

I am writing to you in my capacity of  General Secretary of the Society of Painted and Dented Ladies of India. First of all, I would like to state that I was most touched that you have noticed our presence in your midst. For long, we the Painted and Dented Ladies have suffered on the fringes of society, waiting to be recognised – especially by the likes of political luminaries such as you. This honour from a sitting MP, has given me inestimable joy. Not to forget that you are our venerable president, Pranab Mukherjee’s very own son. I stand up in respect, sir.

Abhijit Mukherjee with his wife. PTI.

It takes a keen eye and an even keener mind to look beyond the rape of a young girl and the government and police inaction following it and spot the “shundoris” (beauties for the Bengali-challenged) in the crowd, protesting this inaction. Maybe it is because you are abhadralok and a shining example of the emancipated and perceptive Bengali man – and an obvious lover of beauty – that you were not blinded by the protests. Nay, your eyes looked through the crowds and the water cannons pelting us women and noticed that we were “highly dented and painted” women. We at the Society of Painted and Dented Ladies of India are touched – and I do use the word judiciously – that you realise that we were indeed dented by the force of the water cannons and the wallop of the policelathis. Your comment is not sexist as all the commentators on television are saying. No no. Your comment is actually an objective statement on the state of the women at the protests. We understand that you feel our paint.

We would also like to extend a sincere apology that we had not been informed that there was an age cut-off for the protests and that we had to be students to participate. It is most unfair of the ruling government and the police to have not announced this age limit and educational cutoff beforehand. If we had known, we would have only sent members of our sister NGO, The Society of  Slightly Painted and Mostly Undented Girls of India to the protest.

We are also very impressed at your display of psychological behaviour and personality-mapping, as we were not aware that you have these latent skills alongside your alleged misogynist ones and your narrow electoral victory. You became so much more personable when you said that even you have been a student and you know what a student’s character is like and that you have also frequented discotheques. As I heard this, I could imagine you wearing a fur cap and muffler standing in the Pink Elephant, looking at the young painted  girls shaking a leg. Even then, you must have had a discerning eye.

What saddened me though, is your sister Sharmishtha’s promptness in denouncing your perception and wisdom and stating that “Honestly speaking, I am really shocked…Whether these were students or not students doesn’t matter. My apologies on behalf of my brother. My father understands the anger people have against ill-treatment of women, their anger is justified”. E ta tho ekdom nonsense statement holo.

If siblings don’t stand together, who will? This is obviously what happens when Spring Revolutions take place. Age-old family ties are torn at the roots. Dear dada, this is something the Painted and Dented Ladies of India abhor. We uphold traditional Indian values. There is no dent a little paint cannot fix. If  next Raksha bandhan or bhai phonta you would like any new sisters I am sure many of our members would be willing to be of service.

As a card-holding member of the Painted and Dented tribe of ladies, I beseech you not to be cowed down by the naysayers. Do not apologise for your words. You must realise that you are strewing pearls before swine. Like Galileo, you will also be appreciated in another age.

Thanks to you, not just us, but even the emancipated, intellectual cult of the Bangalibhadralok has been brought into the spotlight. And we are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder, monkey cap-to-monkey cap, face paint-to-face paint with you.

You Mr. Mukherjee are our answer to Freud, Jung and Bernard Henri-Lévy. Please let us know if you can address our next annual general meeting so we can also present a small token of our appreciation to you.

I must apologise that I have to bring this letter of appreciation to an end, but it is time for me to light the candles, touch up my face paint, finish some denting repair work and step out to India Gate. I will try and dodge the rapists and water cannons along the way. After all, one doesn’t want one dent too many.

Sincerely yours,

Shundori Secretary

P.S.: I’ve heard it’s very cold in Kolkata. Maybe it’s time to put on your monkey cap. Thaanda lege jaabe na hole. Take care. See you on TV.

 

The Anthem Of The Helpless #poetry


 
There’s a girl fighting for her life
In a hospital room.
While in the street the constables scratch their balls.
And some policemen chase bribes
And others try to do their jobs and usually fail.
Everybody’s on the take and everyone steals from the public.
“What’s wrong with me doing it, everyone does it?”
Leaders see nothing wrong with leading this farce.
And still claiming to be leaders.
If men chase a woman on the street,
taunting her, it’s her problem,
or the problem of anyone brave or
stupid enough to get involved.
Because we live under the rule of a state that won’t protect us
and won’t get out of the way.
So anyone who stands up to this state
No matter why and no matter how
They stand up for that girl
Because we have suffered, she has suffered, and more will die
as long as we live like this
without self-respect
under this half-rule of half-competent and full-corrupt.
Sweep them all away – all – get rid of those grand Raj buildings.
Storm not just Vijay Chowk and India Gate.
Storm the half-acre plots of Lutyens Delhi with crowbars
Take down the windows, smash the bricks.
Lay this vicious, callous, senseless raj in ruins.
Let’s not rest until the police are in flight
The government buildings are smoking ruins
And there is a new deal for the people of India
A new deal 
A new police force
A new government
New rules
New staff
New salaries
New regulations
New zero-tolerance laws against anti-social behaviour
New laws against corrupt policemen and officials.
Nothing of the old world that allowed this to happen.
No peace until then.
No peace until we and our children and our mothers and our sisters are safe.
No peace until Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi and Shinde and Manmohan Singh
And Sushma Swaraj and Mamata Bannerjee and Narendra Modi
And every other dung beetle that profited from this shit heap called
The Government of India
Has been crushed up into manure 
And forgotten.
Forever.
No peace until then.

…By Morpoant Tambe

 

‘ I witness” account of India Gate on dec 23 #Vaw #Protest #delhigangrape


DECEMBER 26, 2012

Guest post by SANGEETA DAS

[The Delhi Police has begun systematically lying about what has been happening in the past few days. We have seen spin doctoring around the unfortunate death of Constable Subhash Tomar. There has been efforts to plant generalized and unsubstantiated rumours about the presence of 'terrorists' amongst the crowds at India Gate. We have even seen the Chief Minister of Delhi, Shiela Dikshit and a sub divisional magistrate complain about the Delhi Police trying to interfere and influence that process of the recording of testimonies. Here is an important account by an eyewitness, Sangeeta Das, about the way the police behaved on the evening of the 23rd of December. Please note the kind of language that she says policemen were using. Can we trust the city to be safe in their hands.]

I am appalled at the lop-sided relay of events and incomplete images being telecast by some of the NEWS channels on TV, regarding the incident that happened at India Gate yesterday (this is an account of what happened on 23rd of December) at around 5:30 PM.

I was there. We were all on the other side of India Gate towards the Dhyan Chand Stadium.

I think I need to paint the correct picture for the nation. Except for CNN IBN and NEWS X, most other channels are not showing the peaceful gathering. Thus it gives out the wrong message to the nation, to the politicians, to other women that there was violence.Please pass on this note to as many people as you can and post it at as many places.

THERE WAS NO VIOLENCE NO PROVOCATION…THE POLICE ATTACKED WITHOUT ANY WARNING. I have been through section 144 earlier. At least there should have been one warning issued to us to get up and leave, peacefully, before they started hitting us.

Ms. Naina Kapur, of VISHAKHA GUIDELINES fame, was there with me. Ms.Smita Bharti of SAAKSHI, an NGO working on SEXUAL HARASSMENT on women, was there. Ms.Nafisa Ali was standing behind us, Mr.Arvind Kejriwal was sitting just two rows in front of me, Mr.Arvind Gaur of ASMITA THEATER GROUP was there asking all the people to sit down and listen to the talks.

There were about 200-250 girls and equal or more number of men of all ages. There were young girls, some children, families and some elderly people along with hoards of photographers, journalists and reporters.

WE WERE ALL SITTING ON THE ROAD PEACEFULLY and listening to the painful account, of the mother of ‘KIRAN NEGI’, a 3 yr old who has been brutally raped and disfigured and killed, by her attackers. Even the sloganeering had stopped.

Many young and old men of Delhi were standing around us in a 3-4 layer human chain to protect us from any hooligans or nasty elements. It was like a CHAKRAVYUH.

Members of the ASMITA THEATER GROUP, including Mr.Gaur, were constantly walking around the circle. Young boys and girls of his team were repeatedly requesting and talking to people to not resort to violence, not to panic or run or throw stones, not to damage public property, AND not to hurt or abuse the female protestors.

There were many volunteers distributing biscuits and water to every protestor.

We were talking to the ‘AAM JANATA’ of Delhi on how to tackle the violence on women and children starting from ourselves, our homes and communities.

WE WERE SIMPLY TALKING.

I had just finished my packet of biscuit when the police, hundreds of them from DELHI POLICE and RAF, charged at us from behind, WITHOUT ANY WARNING.

They first attacked the men from behind, breaking their CHAKRAVYUH. I stood up to see what the commotion was about, and immediately fell as most girls didn’t get enough time to stand up. I hugged Smitaji as we fell on each other and there was a stampede over us.

Some of the men from the circle ran for their lives, but most of them ran towards us and hugged us and fell on us and took the initial blows of the LATHI CHARGE.

I couldn’t see anything; I just heard the two cracks of a SPLIT BAMBOO STICK on my back, butt and thighs. Then I heard the police screaming, HARAMZADIYON, RANDIYON, and then I saw a boot kicking my knees and shin.

They hit Smitaji on her lower-back and spine. The boys of ASMITA, and some more men pulled us all up and all of them formed protection girdles around the girls to push us out of the range of the water cannons and charging men in KHAKI AND BLUE.

Visibility was poor due to fog and tear gas; many girls were hit; even when we were running away and saying, “Ham jaa rahen hain, hame mat mariye”,…. they were hitting the boys rampantly, constantly spitting abuses on the girls. Many women reporters were also hit and chased, their vans attacked, equipments broken. Some girls still managed to pull a few lathis and gave it back to the men. I don’t know what happened to the children in the group and how the aunties in saris managed to run. I just hope they are all well.

There was not a single ambulance in sight; the entire C- Hexagon of India Gate was empty, barring the police. We walked for almost 45 min, as there was no way out from the outer circle. Finally we managed to duck behind press vans and escaped via Shahjahan Road.

Do I look like a hooligan? Was I armed? Was I provoking the police or creating a nuisance? Was I resorting to violence, by sitting there and listening to, or sharing our personal grievances of Sexual harassment and assault? You judge for yourself.

Agreed, that in such gatherings, some nasty elements do infiltrate and create a raucous, but the police didn’t seem to have the basic sensibility to differentiate between hooligans and some young girls, children, and elderly people.

If the Delhi Police and RAF lack the basic cognizance to recognize the good from bad, what protection can we expect from them? Instead I thank the men of Delhi, the boys of Delhi, who helped all the girls to escape from the wrath of THE POLICE. 

I request the people who were present there, to paint the correct picture, so that Mr.Manmohan Singh, Mr.Shinde and others would get the correct picture of what happened on the ground.

I request the PM and the Home Minister to believe that “I, the woman of India,” am not violent or the ‘Shame of the nation’… that we have to be ashamed that the world is watching. I was not offensive. But I will definitely stand up again to defend myself, my mother, my daughter and my kind. Let the world watch.

Government issues gag order to TV news channels #Censorship


By Express News Service – NEW DELHI

26th December 2012 09:05 AM

Stung by the massive anti-government protests triggered by the gruesome Delhi gang-rape, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has issued a gag order to TV channels.

The ministry’s advisory released late Sunday evening said “inappropriate” media reportage was likely to “vitiate the law and order situation”.

The strongly-worded advisory, which reads much like the media gag orders of the Emergency days, is aimed at forcing TV channels to tone down their coverage.

Terming the coverage by some channels as lacking in maturity, the ministry advised them to report the protests in a “responsible manner”.

This comes at a time when the government only shut down nine Metro stations and blocked access to India Gate to prevent people from gathering there to protest. While Sunday’s protests turned violent, policemen lathicharged even mediapersons covering the protests. Most of the roads leading to high-powered addresses in the capital have been blocked to traffic for an indefinite period.

“It has been observed that some private satellite news TV channels have not been showing due responsibility and maturity in telecasting the events relating to the said demonstration and such a telecast is likely to cause deterioration in the law and order, hindering the efforts of the law enforcing authorities,” the advisory said.

It advised all channels that they should scrupulously following the programme code to telecast the matter “in a responsible manner with due care, maturity and restraint.”

The order pointed out that the programme code stands against any “programme which is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national attitude. Signed by joint secretary of the I&B Ministry Supriya Sahu, it ends with a warning that “any violation would invite action under the cable rules.”

Sources said Information and Broadcasting Ministry officials also called up TV news channels asking them against using inflammatory headlines.

The News Broadcasters Association also issued a statement Monday after the attack on mediapersons by the police. It said that all member channels had reported the protests over the last few days with great maturity, sensitivity and restraint. “It would be a sad day for the country, and democracy if any attempt is made to muzzle the media.”

In another development, the Broadcast Complaints Council (BCC) of India, the body covering all entertainment channels, has asked its member channels to refrain from showing any vulgar content. In its advisory, in the wake of the gang-rape in Delhi, BCC told channels to refrain from featuring children below the age of 12 years in any situation that has sexual or adult overtones.