#India — Human Rights Violations against a lesbian couple


Saranya went back to her parents on 30 July 2013, after undergoing a lot of stress and `emotional blackmail’

Press Release

Bangalore, 1 Aug 2013: After undergoing a lot of stress and `emotional blackmail’, one of the two women, Saranya, who came to Bangalore from Kerala, went back to her parents on 30 July 2013. However, Shruthi returned to Bangalore on her own choice and pledged to fight the conservative system and appealed to everyone not to discriminate them.

Saranya’s father Mr. Mohanan filed a Habeas Corpus petition in the Kerala High Court where Saranya was represented by well-know advocate Mr. BT Venkatesh and Advocate Asha on 30 July. However, the court has allowed the parents to talk to the girl alone for over two hours but we felt that she was not given a chance to talk on her own. She was asked by court whether she would like to go back to her parents and she replied `Yes’ in a mono syllable. She was under duress and “emotional stress”.

Adressing a Press Conference at Press Club today, Senior Advocate and Human Rights Activist Mr BT Venkatesh, said: “I feel that court ought to have handled the matter in a more sensitive manner. It was visible that the girl was under great stress and it was also necessary that the girl ought to have been enquired in a friendly atmosphere which was not the case. We have seen, there is a crying need to form a set of guidelines in the matters relating to Habeas Corpus petitions seeking custody of women or girl child in particular. Absence of such guidelines, we have seen, resulted in women being pushed to traumatic situations more particularly when the families are oppressive. The case of Saranya, unfortunately, stands in that league.”

“Saranya’s father has been harassing her for the last few days and he has also made false allegations against Sangama. After watching the whole issue unfold in the last few days, It is clear, Saranya’s decision came after she was subjected to emotional blackmail,” said Gurukiran Kamath, Director, Sangama.

Two lesbians from Kerala, who ran away from their homes, have requested the support of Sangama, a human rights organisation working for Sexual Minorities, for legal support.

Sangama is a human rights organisation promoting and defending the rights of sexual minorities, sex workers and other oppressed communities and has been working with many organisations in Kerala for the last 13 years and from 2010 it has been directly doing local work from many districts of Kerala with the community based organizations of sexual minorities. The organisation has supported many women in distress from Kerala in the last 13 years.

“Saranya has clearly told her father and other members that she has come out on her own. But the pressure from home was so much that she was forced to go back. I am sure Saranya is not happy there. I want to talk to her and want know how she is,” said Shruthi, who chose to return back to Bangalore.

“When we talk about freedom, where is the freedom for women? In a democratic country, if an adult is not having freedom then it is against the constitutional morality, ” said Elavarthi Manohar, Joint Secretary, Praja Rajakiya Vedike.

Shubha Chacko, a women’s rights activist and Director of Aneka said: “We will take this issue to women’s movement to have a larger dialogue. We strongly demand the protection of women’s rights.”

For details call Gurukiran 9972903460 or the helpline 9901682151

Dr Binayak Sen denied permission to UN Rapporteur’s seminar #WTFnews


Kractivism in Actionp- Free Binayak Sen Campaign

Kractivism in Actionp- Free Binayak Sen Campaign

Suvojit Bagchi, The Hindu

His visit will compromise the internal security of the state, says court

Rights activist Binayak Sen has been denied permission to participate in an international seminar on health care in Kathmandu by a Raipur court. Dr. Sen sought permission to visit Kathmandu after confirming his participation to the seminar organisers and hence “the application is not bona fide” the court order said.

The court has also considered a reply by Chhattisgarh police that said Dr. Sen’s visit to Nepal “will compromise internal security of the state.”

Dr. Sen was invited by the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health to speak in an international two-day seminar on providing health care in conflict areas. Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, told The Hindu that he is “surprised and shocked” by the court’s order. He said the report of the meeting would be presented to the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Hours before his departure on Friday, a court order restricted Dr. Sen from visiting Kathmandu. “It is evident from the application that the applicant has agreed to take part in the programme without the permission of this court. He sought permission on June 28 and accepted the proposal (to visit Kathmandu) on June 21,” Additional Sessions Court judge Alok Kumar Upadhyay said in his order.

“Dr. Sen agreed to attend the meeting (before June 21) before he sought a permission, so that the organisers could send him the accommodation and flight details and he could furnish those in turn (to court) with his application,” said Dr. Sen’s lawyer, S.K. Farhan. The details of accommodation and a copy of the air tickets to and from Kathmandu were attached with the application.

Earlier, the court sought a reply from the police about Dr. Sen’s application, to which Additional SP, Raipur, Lal Umed Singh replied that Dr. Sen’s visit is detrimental to the country’s security.

“Such foreign visits of Dr. Sen consolidate Naxal and Maoist networks. India’s internal security is also compromised,” Mr. Singh stated. “In view of increased Maoist violence, killing of security personnel and prominent political leaders, objection is raised against Dr. Sen’s foreign visit,” Mr. Singh told the court.

Dr. Sen was invited to speak on healthcare delivery and accessibility to people in remote conflict areas, especially focussing Chhattisgarh. His topic was broadly described in the draft agenda as ‘availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of health facilities, goods and services — duties and responsibilities toward affected populations, obligations of non-discrimination and medical independence, Treatment of parties to the conflict cf. civilians.’ He was supposed to speak on the first day of the seminar alongside health care and human rights activists from Burma, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Jamshid Gaziyev, Special Procedures Branch, Katherine Footer of John Hopkins School of Public Health and International Committee of the Red Cross will be attending the seminar, according to the draft agenda.

In April 2011, a Chhattisgarh Court directed Dr. Sen to surrender his passport as a bail condition in line with the Supreme Court order. While it is not mandatory to have a passport to travel to Nepal, Dr. Sen needs permission from court for any overseas travel.

Earlier, he was allowed to travel abroad twice — to South Korea in 2011 and United Kingdom in 2012 — and on both occasions the Chhattisgarh court approved the travel.

 

#India – Threat of exclusion, and of surveillance #UID #Aadhaar


Uid- I am not a criminal

The aadhaar project has become the bane of average Indians, threatening their access to all manner of services. basic questions have sometimes been asked and almost never been answered, says
Usha Ramanathan, in the first of a multi-part series.

The Unique Identity (UID) project has been around for over four years. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) was set up by an executive notification dated 28 January 2009 and came into its own after Mr Nandan Nilekani was appointed as chairperson in July 2009. Now it has, as some observers say, become an experiment being conducted on the entire  country.
In its early stages, it was marketed, simply, as giving the poor and the undocumented an identity. It was to be voluntary, and an entitlement. But, it is evident even from the Strategy Overview document of the UIDAI that it was never intended to be an entitlement that people may choose to adopt or ignore. That document said that “enrolment will not be mandated”, but went on to add: “This will not, however, preclude governments or registrars from mandating enrolment”. So, the potential for compulsion was built into the architecture of the project. Starting in 2012, voluntariness began to be eroded, and threats of exclusion from services and entitlements began to be bandied about. By January 2013, a virtual panic was set off when it was announced that various services and entitlements would not be accessible to persons who did not have a UID number.
Mr Nilekani has said time and again that half the population is expected to be enrolled by the end of 2014; yet, there have been warnings that people without a UID number may find themselves unable to access benefits and subsidies if they did not have it, if a bank account had not been opened, and if the UID number were not embedded in the bank account. So, subsidy for cooking gas, kerosene, and scholarships, for instance, became dependent on having a bank account seeded with the UID, or aadhaar, number. In case anyone wonders what the UIDAI has to do with these decisions, it is the chairperson of the UIDAI, Mr Nilekani, who chaired the committees that recommended these changes. The reports are in the public domain.
From its inception, the UID project has been about creating the ‘database resident’. The website of the Department of Information Technology, which has been renamed as Department of Electronics and Information Technology, modestly carrying the acronym DeitY, has said all along that “Project UID, a Planning Commission initiative, proposes to create a central database of residents, initially of those above the age of 18 years”. Except, that the UIDAI got more ambitious and wanted everyone, from the newborn to the oldest resident, on its database. And it was always intended to converge various databases to construct a profile of the individual, and to this effect the website of DeitY says that “the project envisages provision of linking of existing databases, as well as providing for future additions, by the user agencies”. The MoUs between the UIDAI and various registrars that include the state governments, oil companies, banks and the Registrar-General of India, who is in charge of census and the National Population Register and socio-economic and caste census, not only provide for various additional fields of data being collected during enrolment, but also for having the UID number appended to each such database.
As for biometrics, documents reveal that when the decision was made to use fingerprints and iris for enrolment, there was no knowledge about whether these biometrics would work in India, given the demographic and environmental conditions. In fact, it has since been found that with age the fingerprint fades, that manual labour makes the fingerprint difficult to read, that malnourishment-induced cataract blights an estimated 8-10 million people, and so on. In fact, as recently as 23 April 2013, Mr Nilekani said in his speech at the Centre for Global Development in Washington: “We came to the conclusion that if we take sufficient data, biometric data of an individual, then that person’s biometric will be unique across a billion people. Now we have to find that out. We haven’t done it yet. So we’ll discover it as we go along.” First, the conclusion. Then they will wait to find out! That is why some observers of the project have been saying that it is an experiment being conducted on the entire population. The consequences of failure have not been discussed, although, in a talk at the World Bank in Washington on 24 April 2013, Mr Nilekani said in response to a question about what he thought was the greatest downside risk to the UID: “To answer the question about what is the biggest risk,” he said “in some sense, you run the risk of creating a single point of failure also.”
There is more to cause concern, and much to be answered about UID.
(The writer is an academic activist. She has researched the UID and its ramifications since 2009.)
LEGALITY
The UID project is proceeding without the cover of law. There is only the notification of January 2009 which says the UIDAI “owns” the database, but which says nothing about how it may be used, or what will happen if it fails or if there is identity fraud, or some outside agency gains access to the database. A Bill was introduced in Parliament in December 2010, after the project had been launched and data collection had begun. The Bill collapsed in December 2011 when the Parliamentary Standing Committee found it severely defective, and after it found that the Bill and the project needed to be sent back to the drawing board. There is no sign yet of a Bill, and any protection that the law may offer is non-existent. There is no law to protect privacy either.
Convergence and snooping
The UIDAI, and Mr Nilekani, have refused to address the probability of surveillance, convergence, tracking, profiling, tagging and intrusions into privacy that is likely to result from the creation of the database of residents and the intended convergence. The link between technology, databases, governmental power and corporate involvement in creating, maintaining, managing and using databases has produced various scenarios of surveillance that we ignore at our peril. PRISM is such a stark demonstration of the ambitions that can fuel a state that the UIDAI can no longer just say `no comment’ when asked about the surveillance potential being created.
In the same period, the state has already set up agencies such as the Natgrid, NCTC, NTRO, CCTNS, MAC which will use the potential for convergence of databases that the UID makes possible. In April 2011, the government made rules under the IT Act 2000, by which it would be able to access any data held by any “body corporate”. More recently, we have been hearing about the CMS, or the Central Monitoring System, speaking to a surveillance and control approach that will have the state snooping on us with no oversight, no prior permission, no answerability at any time to anyone.
The companies engaged by the UIDAI to manage the database include L1 Identity Solutions and Accenture. The UIDAI, in response to an RTI request, has claimed that they have no means of knowing that these are foreign companies, given the process of their selection! Yet, a search on the internet reveals the closeness between the L1 Identity Solutions and the CIA, and that after a recent transaction, it is part-owned by the French government; while Accenture is in a Smart Borders Project with the US Department of Homeland Security. Data security, personal security, national security and global surveillance are all drawn into a ring of concern, but remain unaddressed.

 

Malicious Reporting on Ishrat Jahan Case #HT


 

To,

The Editor,

Hindustan Times

 

On the day the CBI is set to file its chargesheet in the Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case,Hindustan Times has chosen to report about it in a manner that is malicious, prejudicial and intended to manipulate public opinion. The report, “ ‘Ishrat Jahan had links with Kashmir Separatists’: CBI” by Mahesh Langa and Abhishek Sharan in the Delhi/ Ahmedabad edition of the newspaper is nothing short of defamatory. The headline attributes this ‘information’ to the CBI whereas in the text of the report, it is said that two of those killed along with Ishrat “were associated with secessionist groups in Kahsmir”. Clearly, the CBI is not saying that Ishrat had any links with any group. This is a deliberate misrepresentation and a cheap trick to make connections where none exist in order to tarnish the reputation of a deceased girl who is no longer present to defend herself.

We are in possession of the original article written by HT Correspondent Mahesh Langa, which was also carried in the Ahmedabad edition of Hindustan Times as “Ishrat case: What the Chargesheet is Likely to reveal” which does not attempt to make any such a spurious connection.

 

From where then did this headline emerge in the Delhi edition? Why this attempt to taint her with the ‘terror’ tag through false and sensationalist headlines, especially on a day when the battle for justice enters a crucial phase with the CBI expected to file its chargesheet. It can hardly be seen as an innocent oversight given the fact that a concerted campaign to malign Ishrat’s reputation has been central to those trying to obstruct justice and the process of law.

 

The Hindustan Times needs to issue an unconditional apology to the family of Ishrat Jahan, printed in the same large and bold font as the headline of the report today. Such sensationalism violates all codes and ethics of reporting and journalism and is liable to invite action by Press Council and other statutory bodies as well as criminal liability

Vrinda Grover

Lawyer for Shamima Kauser

(Mother of deceased Ishrat Jehan)
Vrinda Grover
Advocate

N14A, Saket
New Delhi 110017
91 9810806181

 

#India -Tata Steel & the suicide of Charudatta Deshpande #CSR


2 July 2013, Sans Serif 

charu

The circumstances surrounding the alleged suicide of journalist-turned-corporate communications expert Charudatta Deshpande in Bombay last weekend, has exposed the dark underbelly of one of India’s biggest corporates, and the stress, pressure and threats that hacks face when silence is no longer a conscionable option.

Deshpande, 57, had resigned in April as chief of corporate affairs and communications at Tata Steel, having held that job for a little less than a year; he was due to join the PR firm Ad Factors on July 1. He had previously served as general manager, ICICI Bank, and prior to that as senior general manager of Mahindra & Mahindra.

As a journalist, Deshpande had worked at The Daily, The Indian Express, The Economic Times, Business India TV, and theBusiness and Political Observer.

***

A group of nine friends and colleagues of Charudatta Deshpande (including the president of the Press Club of Bombay) has written to Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry and his predecessor Ratan Tata, urging them to institute a proper inquiry into the death.

In their letter, written in their individual capacities, Charu’s friends claim:

# Charu was being bullied into signing some documents/ bonds on June 29, a day before he took his life.

# Charu was being blamed for “facilitating” a story (in picture, above) in Forbes India and was under enormous pressure to “admit” to his complicity in “leaking” confidential company documents to the media.

# Charu was was under “house arrest” in Jamshedpur and that his cell phones were being tapped.

# Charu was being called and threatened by an unnamed mafia.

***

In his individual capacity, ICICI executive director Ram Kumar,a well known figure in HR circles, has also written to the Tatas on the “disgraceful” manner in which Deshpande’s services had been terminated, and the “untold pressure and threat at Jamshedpur” in the weeks preceding his death.

The Economic Times reports:

“Ramkumar’s letter, referring to the claims of the people who met Deshpande in the four weeks preceding his death, alleges that he was “confined” for over two weeks at Jamshedpur.”

Amazingly, or perhaps not, nobody from the House of Tatas, who routinely clamber on to the high moral horse, called on Deshpande’s family for three days after the alleged suicide and Ramkumar has alleged in his letter that a PR firm tried to “sully” Deshpande’s name after the death.

On the other hand, ICICI Bank, where Deshpande had worked earlier, has facilitated a job for his son Gaurav, who graduates in two week’s time.

***

Below is the full text of the letter sent by nine friends of Charudatta Deshpande to Tata Sons chairman emeritus Ratan Tata and Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry, on 30 June 2013:

Dear Mr Tata and Mr Mistry,

We write to you as the collective conscience of a group of friends and former colleagues of Charudatta Deshpande, a former Tata Steel employee, who committed suicide on Friday, June 28, 2013.

From whatever evidence we have gathered until now on the back of conversations with Charudatta in the weeks leading to his demise, and with those who knew him closely, Charu was placed under enormous stress and subjected to harassment by officials at Tata Steel.

Our understanding is it was this harassment that prompted him to commit suicide. This letter is an attempt to bring this episode to your attention and seek your intervention into instituting an urgent and independent inquiry into the matter.

Charu was head of corporate communications at Tata Steel. About a month ago, he resigned from the company. The events leading to his exit are relevant and we would like to place them before you for your consideration.

In April, a few months into his new assignment, Forbes India magazine ran a cover story“Remoulding Tata Steel”. The story is online here onhttp://forbesindia.com/article/boardroom/putting-the-shine-back-into-tata-steel/35049/0.

It attempted to chronicle the challenges facing Tata Steel at a time when a crucial CEO succession drama was unfolding.

The story was based on extensive and independent reporting that lasted more than five months. Soon after it appeared in print though, a distraught Charu got in touch with those of us at Forbes India and alleged officials at Tata Steel were placing the blame on him for “facilitating” a story they thought inimical to their interests.

He added he was subsequently grounded for more than two weeks; that for all practical purposes was “under house arrest” in Jamshedpur; that his phones were being tapped; and that he was being subjected to enormous pressure to “admit” to his complicity in “leaking” confidential company documents to the media.

Many of us have worked in the past at various newsrooms including at the Economic Times where he was a senior editor. We have also known him professionally in his stints as head of corporate communications at organisations such as ICICI Bank, Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Steel.

We remember him as a thorough professional who placed a premium on the interests of the organizations he worked for. Each one of us can personally vouch that in his interactions with us, he has never behaved irresponsibly or tried to damage the reputation of the firms he represented.

Those of us who were at Forbes India when the story on Tata Steel was being researched are willing to testify on any forum that matters he conducted himself with integrity and responsibility.

What we also know of the events that preceded his death are outlined below.

1. He was in discussions with officials at Adfactors PR, with whom he was negotiating employment prospects. He told them he was being called and threatened repeatedly by a ‘mafia’ – a term he used constantly; and that his cell phone was being tapped.

2. He had informed a friend that he was being bullied into signing some documents/bonds on June 29, a day before he took his life.

3. Immediately after the story appeared, he was in constant touch over the phone with Indrajit Gupta, the founding editor of Forbes India. He confided in Indrajit Gupta and spoke of being confined for over two weeks at Jamshedpur, being harassed after the story appeared in the magazine, was not allowed to travel without permission, and articulated his concerns about his cell phone being tapped. Despite being advised to escalate the matter to higher authorities, including the Tata Headquarters at Bombay House, Charu insisted it would be futile and make things worse for him.

Whatever be the circumstances behind his exit, most of us assumed he would put the setback behind him and move on. However, he alleged the threatening phone calls he got even after exiting he company was causing him a lot of stress.

What transpired after Charu passed away was even more despicable. Even as the news of his demise trickled in on Friday evening, there were concerted attempts made by Tata Steel officials and the PR agency to pass off his death as a heart attack, and not a suicide.

A senior PR official even insisted that he had visited Charu’s residence and confirmed the news of the heart attack, which turned out to be untrue. Some regional papers even hinted he had embezzled funds.

We believe this is an attempt to tarnish the reputation of a senior professional and take the focus away from the root cause behind his untimely death.

Discussions with Charu’s family have revealed he had no personal problems or disputes there. His brother-in-law Mahesh said Charu was extremely disturbed and depressed in the month before he finally quit Tata Steel. Mahesh also spoke of Charu confiding in the family he made a serious mistake in joining Tata Steel.

These apart, he also spoke of having been let down by the company on various counts and not being provided manpower and resources he was promised when he joined.

The Tata group has nurtured a long tradition of practising and upholding the highest standards of ethics and probity in public life. Nothing that we now do can redeem what has happened. But for the sake of justice, we would urge you to institute an inquiry into this matter.

If nothing, it will help bring closure to a traumatic episode for Charu’s family and his circle of friends. Equally importantly, an inquiry of this kind will go a long way to ensure episodes of this kind don’t occur again.

The all of us who have signed on this note would be willing to aid any inquiry process you choose to institute by providing evidence and witnesses with whom Charu had spoken to before his demise.

We trust the both of you will do what is right.

In anticipation,

On behalf of

Indrajit Gupta, Gurbir Singh, Charles Assisi, Prince Mathews Thomas, Dinesh KrishnanCuckoo Paul,T. SurendarDebojyoti ChatterjeeDinesh Narayanan

 

 

Next Chief Justice of India favours reservation in higher judiciary


 

R. BALAJI
New Delhi, July 1: Chief Justice of India-designate Justice P. Sathasivam has favoured reservation for members of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes in the higher judiciary, such as Supreme Court and high court judges’ posts.

Justice Sathasivam, who will take over as the country’s Chief Justice on July 19 from the incumbent, Justice Altamas Kabir, felt that members of the SCs, STs and OBCs could be elevated to the higher judiciary by giving them certain concessions in the appointment process, provided they fulfilled minimum requirements.

In an interview with The Telegraph here today at his residence, Justice Sathasivam said that such an arrangement would go a long way in assuring all sections of the society that their well-being was taken care by the country, irrespective of their social moorings.

“Yes, you are correct. We need to have some sort of reservation and representations for SCs, STs and OBCs. But at the same time we cannot ignore the minimum standards which are already in vogue for appointment. It does not mean we have to select a person far junior or who lacks merit. But we have to give them some concession,” the judge said.

“But they must satisfy the minimum requirements. It is in our (judges) mind. You can also say it is in my mind. I am anxious that persons from SC, ST and OBCs are appointed. Of course, there are members of the OBCs who are already in the higher judiciary,” Justice Sathasivam said in response to a query.

Although not specifically related to the ongoing tussle between the Bengal government and the state election commission on the former’s plea to re-schedule the panchayat polls in view of the Ramazan month, the Chief Justice-designate said courts and the election commission have to take note of public sentiments.

Refraining from directly commenting on the Bengal situation, Justice Sathasivam said: “Normally, the courts and the election commission have to take note of the sentiments of the people if the majority of the people feel inconvenienced. For example, during the Ramazan month, many employees leave their offices early. Even judges leave the courts early… that is because a devout Muslim is not allowed even to swallow his saliva. So we can’t have rigid rules or any straitjacket formula for such an issue. It all depends on the facts of each case.”

He rejected the government’s bid to bring in a judicial appointments commission to replace the present collegium system. Justice Sathasivam said the government could not claim that it would have its own representatives in the judiciary.

“The government cannot include their names as, by and large, the high court and the Supreme Court collegiums keep everything in mind while giving representations to all sections. Law officers like advocates-general, additional advocates-general, central government law officers, government pleaders are provided representation in the appointments,” he said.

The Chief Justice-designate agreed with a suggestion that judges of the Supreme Court should have a cooling period before accepting post-retirement jobs in tribunals like TDSAT (the Telecom Disputes Settlement Authority Tribunal), CAT (the Central Administrative Tribunal), NCDRC (the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission) to insulate the judiciary from allurement from political executives.

Conceding that the judiciary was not 100 per cent free of corruption, Justice Sathasivam said that the institution was still transparent unlike other wings like the legislature and the executive.

He pointed out that if a presiding judge in a subordinate court passed an order on the basis of some extraneous considerations, it was liable to be set aside by the higher judiciary — a remedy not available to the citizens before the other wings of the government.

 

 

 

Why Chetan Bhagat shouldn’t speak for Indian Muslims


Though written in the voice of an Indian Muslim, the author’s take is in fact the standard response of the textbook majoritarian

First Published: Mon, Jul 01 2013.T
http://www.livemint.com/rf/Image-621×414/LiveMint/Period1/2013/07/02/Photos/muslims1%5B1%5D–621×414.jpg” />
Jama Masjid during Ramzaan. Chetan Bhagat postitions himself as a young Indian Muslim angry at his exclusion from the mainstream capitalist, neoliberal project. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
Updated: Mon, Jul 01 2013. 04 28 PM IST
Chetan Bhagat, ever the well-meaning bull in a china shop, wrote this weekend about the Indian Muslim. In his regular Times of Indiacolumn (in a piece headlined “Letter from an Indian Muslim Youth”), Bhagat appropriates the voice of—he doesn’t specify this, but it is easily surmised from the tone and content of the letter—a young Indian Muslim angry at his exclusion from the mainstream capitalist, neoliberal project. The piece is predictably disappointing in its understanding of the Muslim experience in India, but let us put that aside for the moment and discuss first this assumption of voice.
In India, we are perhaps overly protective of identity groupings. If a debate arises over the actions of a religious or caste group, or over the legacy of a historical figure, fear of giving offence sometimes leads to submission to loud voices instead of the safeguarding of freedom of information and thought. It is precisely this kind of criticism that Bhagat seeks to preempt when he writes, with splendid crudity, “I don’t have a name like Ahmed or Saeed or Mirza, anything that will clearly establish me as a Muslim.” Bhagat is saying, I am not a Muslim, so what? But what he is doing is actually pretty sneaky: His disclaimer is in fact a way of positioning himself, to the great majority of his audience, as someone qualified to write on this subject. The understanding he hopes to transmit to his reader through his mea culpa is that he should still be allowed to speak for the entirety of the Muslim population in India.
There are two problems with this. First, while anyone should be encouraged to produce scholarship and analysis about communities or historical figures, Bhagat’s casual ownership of the voice of 150 million people is patently not that. Second: It is precisely because I am an Indian and a Muslim that I would never dare to speak for all of us. I see the great variance in outlook, experience and especially opportunity that exists even within my own family. I compare my own privilege with the rest of Muslim India. I can understand why my views on the publication of The Satanic Verses might differ from a man or woman with a greater love for religious scripture. I cannot claim to speak for the lot of us.
Bhagat does not suffer such inadequacies. He drops, somewhat confusingly, the Indian Muslim voice for a moment to explain that he is an author of fiction, which means he might well be making fabrications—he leaves that to you, dear reader, to decide. This is another artless pretence, as if fiction writers are regularly permitted to write abject nonsense in op-eds—they are not, and certainly should not be allowed to in the future, millions of adoring readers or not.
Bhagat has a canny perceptiveness that sometimes serves him well. He has identified a major problem with the political experience of Indian Muslims, which is the capture of a great deal of the community’s vote by political parties who play the “secular card” without offering much else, especially quantifiable economic and political benefit.
This is a point that has been made numerous times. Where most differ is in the solution to this problem. Bhagat’s solution, though written in the voice of an Indian Muslim, is in fact the standard response of the textbook majoritarian, steeped in its favourite imagery (maulvis make an appearance in the first paragraph, skullcaps in the fourth) and couched in its favoured paternalist idiom.
What Bhagat is doing here is talking not as the Indian Muslim but to the Indian Muslim. His argument is basically a well-tuned representation of the argument Hindu nationalism has with Indian Muslims. As he points out first: “There is no shortage of Muslim achievers. There are Muslim stars in almost every field.” I imagine he means Shah Rukh Khan and Zaheer Khan and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and others like them. The implication here is that the success of some from the community is indication that any Muslim “with a modern outlook and a desire to come up [sic] in life” should be able to achieve identical success. What seems like a neurotic celebration of Muslim achievement is in fact a stick that is used to beat the rest of the community with: Look what those people have managed to do in India. Why can’t you do the same? Bhagat fails to see, or perhaps understand, the forms religious discrimination can take; there is scant acknowledgment that it even exists in India.
His cloying condescension is hard to take: “We don’t need it as a handout. We are willing to work hard for it.” Again, his implication adheres to that hoary Hindutva chestnut: that the experience of Muslims in India has been of the “secular” state apportioning handouts and freebies that the community has unthinkingly grasped at. Someone should perhaps explain to Bhagat that Muslims have worked as hard as any other community before and since independence; that, as the Sachar Committee Report showed, it is the state that has, in fact, failed to provide service and opportunity for such a substantial number of its people.
What Bhagat will not admit is that this piece is the latest in his sporadic series in support of Gujarat’s chief minister Narendra Modi and the bring-BJP-to-power-2014 effort. His argument is with the “secular” parties, the Congress and regional parties that garner Muslim votes, like the Samajwadi Party or Trinamool Congress. There is merit in this argument, as these parties’ abysmal record with Muslim communities, and their pandering to the most regressive elements within these communities, has proved. But—and this is only my suspicion—I wonder if his desire is the uplift of the long-marginalized Muslim community, or if this piece is a roundabout expression of his vexation with a religious group that he believes might well keep his favoured party and candidate out.
Years ago, I went to Madhya Pradesh to report on the last assembly elections there, a battle between the Congress and the incumbent BJP. I was fresh out of college and very indignant about the nature of minority politics in India. I was sitting, on one of my first days there, in a Muslim neighbourhood in Bhopal, talking to a group of young men. I asked them what the BJP had done for them.
“Nothing.”
I asked what the Congress had done for them.
“Nothing.”
I became excited. “Don’t you see,” I said, “why there is no difference between them? Neither of them do anything for you. Why should you think one is better than the other?”
One of the men, a taxi driver, said there was a difference. “It’s a personal thing. You know when the BJP is in power, these gangs, they can come to our mohalla, they can start a fight, break or burn something. We can’t respond. We go to the police, they won’t file a case. I suppose it’s a question of safety.”
I hadn’t used that exchange in my journalism until I wrote this response today. It was this man’s belief, and visceral as it was, it was unfair to the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, which had a good record in these matters. But that man opened my eyes about two things. That I, from the elite, had a substantively different experience of my country than any disprivileged Indian, Hindu or Muslim. And that I should never presume to lecture people about the political choices they make. For the poor especially, the vote is their one connection with their political environment, with the factors and decisions that will shape their lives. They do not make that choice without thought.
Prayaag Akbar is the associate editor, The Sunday Guardian.

 

#RIP – Tribute to Hassam , Friend and Human Rights Activist from Pakistan


aisha

Life partner of my first friend  from  Pakistan is no more

As I opened the Facebook page of Aisha  Gazdar to share

Neela  Bhagwat’ s  classical rendition of Faiz poem, “Bol”

As her page slowly opened, I wondered why

She had  removed her Profile Pic

and then

I felt a bolt from blue , I was numb, with a blank stare

The news stared at me

Rights activist Hassam Qadir no more amongst us, He was just 44

My Eyes closed, fervently wishing  this to be a bad dream.

 

I went to a Flashback

My friendship with  Pakistan began with  Aisha in 2000

My  Myths about  Pakistan started crumbling ,

thanks to our friendship ,

which happened as we met at a neutral ground in London

We both were Chevening  Scholars studying Human Rights

 

Our friendship beyond borders ripened

She came to India to make a film on women rights and CEDAW

I was her coordinator in India   and loved every bit of it

Hassam  also came with her in 2005,

My first reaction was WOW

This is a Marc Zuber look- alike from Pakistan

Kumbh ke bichade bhai ke samaan

 

His first morning in Mumbai,

This is what we see

He is standing in the Kitchen making his own Tea

Broad shoulders and  a broader smile

Behind the Robust Masculine exterior

Lay a  Gender Sensitive Man,within

 

A human rights activist and Lawyer

Hassam

was a Passionate Fighter

 Aisha , the most soft spoken person I have evermet

is a carnation of ‘  Tameez and Tehzeeb.”

Hassam  was a  True Punjabi from Lahore   in every sense of word

His jokes and crackling laughter, still echoes

He  forgot his Black Sandals

Every time I talked with  Aisha and him

We laughed and said

‘Tuhade chittar taan aithe hi reg gaye, ki kariye “

( Your sandals are still here, what to do ? )

He once jokingly said- Sambhal ke rakhna  Amitabh Bachchan na lae jaye !!

( Please take care Amitabh Bachchan does not take them !!)

 

 Left behind Memories , Jokes,  Vaccum

and yes

A pair of large sandals

sitting in a drawer

with hopeless anticipation ……

A pair of large sandals

befitting a  towering personality

Remains…………………………………………………………waiting forever

2013-07-01 21.58.53

 

URGENT: A Letter from Indian Muslim Youth to #ChetanBhagat


JULY 1, 2013

If you agree with the following Text and wish to be one of the signatories of this letter, please send your signature (Name, Profession , City/State) at activist.journalist@gmail.com by 12 PM tomorrow (2nd July 13).

Dear Mr. Bhagat,

At the very outset, let us make it clear that we are not fans of your regressive fiction. Therefore, we write to you not as crazy fans but as Indian Muslim youth, who felt utterly patronized, insulted and hurt after reading your article, ‘Letter from an Indian Muslim Youth’ . You might have not realized this, but in pretending to render “a strong modern Indian Muslim voice’’ to the youth and the Muslim community at large, you have ripped them of their agency. You have reaffirmed stereotypes that many in the community have been fighting against. Heard of the Muslim god and his flock?

Sir, one does not need a name like Ahmed or Saeed or Mirza, or even be a Muslim to show one’s genuine concern for the community. One just needs to see beyond one’s own prejudice and biases. Believe us, this disgusting piece of your writing made us more nauseous than any of your (or Madhu Kishwar’s) love-verses to Modi. Your article is nothing but an extension of the thought process that anything Muslim is backward and regressive. Since you have assigned to yourself the task of bearing the moral burden of the community, would you care to explain what a ‘Muslim cap’ is?

We agree with you when you say political leaders make promises that go empty post elections. And that there are Muslims who have achieved much without any ‘’cap-wearing politician’’ helping them. But who is this leader that you are suggesting; one who would understand ‘’the desire’’ of the Muslim youth ‘’to come up in life’’ and ‘’inspire us to do better’’? Is it by any chance the mass murderer, Narendra Modi?

You know what hurts? That people pretend to care for you when they don’t. When in fact they use you to grind their own axe. How cleverly you turn everything that the Muslim youth face today – “being frisked with greater attentiveness, denied renting an apartment” – into a product of the community’s inherent backwardness, as if it bears no relation to the increasing communalization of our polity and society.

What makes you think that the ‘cap’ wallahs exercise a great deal of influence within the community? Interestingly, one particular party has been lately seeking a lot of photo-ops with precisely these kinds of community leaders. Make no mistake Mr. Writer. They don’t.

“Because of you”, you write castigating an imagined Muslim leadership, “people feel we vote in a herd.” Now, isn’t that really clever, Mr. Bhagat. People feel we vote in a herd because certain parties never tire of screaming hoarse about ‘minority appeasement’ and ‘vote banks’, even though, any psephologist or political scientist, or even an ordinary Muslim youth at Chai dukaan will tell you that Muslims vote just like any other community does: according to a mix of factors: local, national but above all, keeping in mind who will preserve their interests best. And their interests do tend to include the safety of life and livelihood.

We are sorry, Mr. Bhagat, but the ‘’democratic republic’’ you talk of is not so democratic. If it were so, Afzal Guru wouldn’t have been executed to ‘’satisfy the collective conscience of the nation’’. Muslim youth would not have fallen prey to minority witch-hunting, and their killers not decorated with gallantry awards. Adivasis in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Orissa would not have been ripped of their fundamental rights to live with dignity. Dalit poets would not have been falsely charged under sedition laws.
Loving one’s nation is well and good, but being blinded by patriotism is not. Why do Indian Muslims always have to prove their allegiance to India? Why can’t they also be critical of their country?

The party whose path you are treading has had Indian Muslims pass through too many Sita-like ordeals of fire, Agni Pariksha. You may have the privilege to turn a blind eye to the post-Babri Masjid Demolition violence, the Gujarat pogrom, but many others don’t. How then do you think a leader who doesn’t even have the integrity to apologize for his complicity in the Gujarat pogrom represent Muslim youth’s aspirations for ‘’scientific way of thinking, entrepreneurship, empowerment, progress’’ and above all, ‘’personal freedoms’’? And just by the way, have you heard of the word, ‘Justice’?

Sd/-
Name Profession City (State)
1. Rafiul Alom Rahman, Student, Delhi University, Delhi
2. Mahtab Alam, Civil Rights Activist and Journalist, Delhi
3. Javid Parsa, Student, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad
4. Zulaikha Jabeen, Researcher and Activist, Raipur, Chhattisgarh
5. Shahnawaz Malik, Journalist, Delhi
6. Abdullah A Rahman, Student, TISS Tuljapur
7. Abu Zafar, Journalist, Delhi
8. Mahtab Azad, Development Consultant, Araria (Bihar)
9. Ali Amir, Student, TISS Mumbai
10. Gauhar Iqbal, Eauntropneur, Delhi

#India – Muslim women question community leaders with a public protest #Vaw


June 29th, Doolnews

Muslim women question community leaders with a public protest

On Saturday, Kozhikode, Kerala witnessed a first of its kind protest with a group of Muslim women burning an effigy of Kanthapuram A. P. Aboobacker Musalyar, General Secretary of the All India Sunni Jam-Eyyathul Ulema for his recent comments which supported the reducing of legal marriage age for Muslim women. This is the first time that the women from the community are coming out in protest against their own community leaders and opposing their regressive opinions.

The women not owing allegiance to any party or organisation said that they were forced to protest after the many regressive comments from Muslim organisations and clerics supporting the recent circular to legalise marriage of Muslim girls who have completed 16.

Kanthapuram had on Friday said that girls should be married off by the time they are 16 to prevent them from going wayward. The Jamaat-e-islami said that it is not right to fix the age for marriage in a democratic country like India. K. Alikutti Musaliar, the General Secretary of the SYS EK group had said that girls who have reached physical maturity can be married off. The Siraj newspaper owing allegiance to the AP Sunni group had published all their comments on Saturday, which led to the protest.

The women raised slogans that went – ‘Girls are not pieces of meat. Religious leaders should apologise for their comments’. They said that this is just a symbolic protest and if the leaders make further comments questioning the individuality of women, wider protest programmes will be arranged.

“The stand taken by these clerics and leaders is not just against Muslim society but against the whole of humanity. They are trying to see women as pieces of flesh and not as independent citizens. Marriage at such an age will only curtail the mental growth of these girls. It is also an age when they should be gaining better education and widen their horizon. The religious clerics do not want the girls to see the outside world. They are making such comments because they fear that educated girls who will be aware of their rights will question their authority,” said V.P. Rajeena, one of the protesters.

They criticised the UDF Government for acting according to the diktats of the religious organisations and coming out with a circular which is against the laws of a country where child marriage is illegal.

“The circular was issued keeping in mind the interests of a few people in the community. They are citing the recent moves by the Central Government to reduce the minimum age of consensual sex to 16. That is just a ploy to save some political leaders who are entangled in cases of raping minors. This is nothing less than child marriage and will only tarnish the image of the community as a whole. There should be strong opposition to such trends which will only help in taking Muslim Society many centuries backward. This community leaders should withdraw their comments and apologise to the people of Kerala,” said A. Seenath, another of the protesters.