Press Release – Delhi protests against the arrests of peaceful protesters in Kolkata


Protest outside West Bengal govt’s bhawan, Rajiv Bhawan, New Delhi
Photo courtesy: Bijayalaxmi Nanda

June 14th

To,

The Resident Commissioner

West Bengal Bhavan

NEW DELHI

We, members of the Citizen’s Collective against Sexual Assault, women’s groups, progressive groups and concerned citizens from across the country are outraged at the unwarranted arrest of a peaceful gathering of feminist and human rights activists on June 13, 2013. We strongly condemn these arrests. We strongly uphold people’s democratic right to peaceful and non-violent dissent and protest.

The activists were trying to seek an appointment with the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, in order to hand over a letter of protest against the incidents of gang rape and murder of two young girls in Barasat and Nadia. The CM had earlier refused to meet civil society activists at Writers Buildings. Therefore, on June 13, 2013, members of MAITREE Network (a network of women rights groups in West Bengal) decided to gather outside her residence to seek an appointment. They were not even allowed to enter the street leading to the CM’s residence.

When they wanted to hand over a protest letter to the CM, they were told to hand over the letter to the police instead. They rejected this on the ground that it was the CM who was the elected representative and the head of the government. Without any prior warning to disperse, the totally peaceful gathering, modest in size, was suddenly dragged by the police and bundled into police vans. Thirteen activists were arrested and taken to the Lal Bazar Central lock-up. Surely, activists of women’s organisations are not perceived by the WB State Government as a security risk? Especially when they were there to express their concern about the gang rapes of women and girls in the state.Is that an act that threatens the CM or the Government of WB?

The attitude of the West Bengal government with respect to cases of sexual assault and sexual violence against women has, at best, been dismissive. This is evident in the Chief Minister’s response to the statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). It recorded 30,942 incidents of crime against women in West Bengal in 2012 as against 29,133 the year before. The government’s disclaimer was, “The situation in the state has improved and rape incidents have come down considerably”. Even as the state battles the shame of the Barasat and Nadia rape and murders, Bengal has again topped the country in crimes against women, accounting for 12.67% of such cases across India. Further, as the statistics reveal the state also recorded the third highest number of rapes (escaping the second slot by a whisker) while Kolkata registered the highest number of assaults on the ‘modesty’ of women among all the metro cities in the country.

We, the undersigned, condemn the increasing incidents of sexual assault and atrocities on women and girls in West Bengal. We deplore the rapidly deteriorating law and order situation in the state and how that is severely affecting the safety and mobility of women, especially high school and college-going girls in suburban and rural areas.

Some zones have become particularly unsafe, like the Barasat belt in North 24 Parganas where an undergraduate student–daughter of a day-labourer–was gangraped and killed on 7 June on her way back from college. Women are being regularly harassed, molested and raped in that area and several such incidents have been reported in the local media in the last two years. But the administration refuses to act. As the panchayat elections are drawing near, activists fear an escalation of violence against women in the state.

We also condemn the way in which women rights and human rights defenders have been treated by the Government, in complete opposition to the democratic principles of the country.

We demand:

  1. Immediate action initiated against the police personnel responsible for their arrests.
  2. That the West Bengal government accept the right of all, regardless of political leanings, to protest peacefully and democratically on important issues.
  3. That the Government, judiciary and law enforcing agencies initiate speedy action and arrest the culprits responsible for cases of atrocities against women, including the latest two cases of rape and murder against the young girls in Barasat and Nadia.
  4. That proper investigation and a fair and unbiased trial be fast tracked that would enable victims and their families to access justice and lead culprits towards due punishment.
  5. Further, steps should be taken to end instances of violence against women in the state, in consultation with the women rights’ and human rights’ groups.

——

Citizens’ Collective against Sexual Assault (CCSA), New Delhi, is a group of individuals and organisations that has come together to protest against the extreme culture of sexual violence against women and girls in Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon. We raise these issues with the public, as well as the administration and the police of Delhi-NCR and work in different ways to stop and prevent sexual harassment against vulnerable groups. CCSA can be contacted at ccsaindia@gmail.com and ccsaindia@ymail.com.

 

#India -13 Women activists from Maitree arrested for protesting in Kolkata #Vaw #WTFnews


Protests outside Mamata‘s house over report that claims Bengal is unsafest for women

Edited by Surabhi Malik (With Inputs from IANS) | Updated: June 13, 2013

Protests outside Mamata's house over report that claims Bengal is unsafest for women

KolkataWomen activists demonstrated outside Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee‘s residence in Kolkata this morning to protest against a spate of rape cases in the state. They wanted to meet Ms Banerjee and submit a memorandum of demands. But an hour into the protests, police dispersed the women activists and arrested 13 of them.

The protesters, led by Maitree which is an umbrella organisation of women activists, also wanted to meet Mamata to seek her response to a report released by the National Bureau of Crime Records which says West Bengal has the maximum number of crimes against women in the country.

Unable to meet Mamata, the activists left an “open letter” for her asking her why she had not spoken about the two recent and brutal rape and murder cases in the state.

The two incidents happened in quick succession and left Kolkata shocked. Last Friday, at Kamdoni village about 25 km from Kolkata, a 20-year-old college girl was brutally raped and murdered by six men. Three days later, a 13-year-old school student met the same fate at Gede in Nadia district.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) says Bengal recorded the highest number of crimes against women for the second year in a row in 2012. The state government however contested the data, claiming its disclaimers were not published.

According to NCRB, Bengal recorded 30,942 cases of crime against women in 2012 – of which 2,046 were rapes, 4,168 kidnapping, 593 dowry deaths and 19,865 cases of cruelty by husband or relatives.

But state Director General of Police Naparajit Mukherjee said rape cases had come down “considerably” in 2012. He attributed the hike in crimes against women to cases registered under Section 498 A of the Indian Penal Code, related to cruelty towards a woman by her husband or his relatives.

In 2012, West Bengal recorded 2,046 cases of rape – lower only than Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. In 2011, the state had recorded 29,133 cases of crime against women, 2,317 of these were rapes.

 

Jharkhand:Police officials accused of rape,murder of minor girls arrested #Vaw


 

Ushinor Majumdar,Tehelka

June 7, 2013

 

 

Amidst a clamour for police reforms while the nation focuses on rapes of minors in metro cities, two police officers have been accused of raping minors in two separate incidents in district of .

In one incident, which took place in Deoghar town on 25 May, two teenage daughters of a policeman were kidnapped, raped and murdered when they were on their way to a friend’s house. The bodies were found a day later. Police officer Sudhir Das, who was accused in the case, was arrested last week.

A police official told Tehelka that the post mortem report confirmed rape but the FIR did not contain a charge of rape but was later amended after public protests were held in Deoghar demanding a proper investigation while the victims’ father, also a policeman, said that the crime was committed by more than one person. Reportedly, he also fears the collusion of other policemen in destroying evidence. The FIR mentions destruction of evidence as a charge.

“The post mortem report revealed that the victim’s hymen was ruptured but did not confirm rape. Though no rape charge was made in the original chargesheet, we have now amended it adding rape under section 376 (b) of the Indian Penal Code after a direction from the inspector general of police,” Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Santhal Parganas, Dadanji Sharma told TEHELKA.

Sharma said that the public outrage and the resultant protests were understandable but the police were probing every conceivable angle. “The accused did not give up any information or tell us about any other persons he acted with or their whereabouts and we have arrested him on the basis of circumstantial evidence. We have started DNA profiling and are using other forensic tools in our investigations,” he added. The accused was remanded to police custody but after interrogation failed to adduce a statement or any fresh evidence, he has been remanded to judicial custody.

This incident has drawn the attention of political parties as well. CPM politburo member Brinda Karat protested along with Deogarh locals for several days. Former Jharkhand chief minister and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) chief Babulal Marandi has announced an indefinite fast from 9 June claiming police inaction.

In the other incident, which was reported a few days earlier, the victim knew the accused. Radhe Shyam Das, the Station House Officer (SHO) of Jarmundi police station in neighbouring Dumka district, surrendered after an FIR was lodged against him. In the FIR, he was accused of raping his minor domestic help.

A local said that the victim was about the age of four when she started working as a domestic help in the accused Das’ house. Das has allegedly been sexually abusing the minor victim since his wife passed away last year.

After the victim filed a complaint, Das went absconding and surrendered on 4 June after he was suspended from service and the Jharkhand Director General of Police (DGP) ordered swift action to apprehend him.
DIG Sharma said that in such cases the matters come to light only when the victim finds courage to complain since it happens in the confines of homes. “The accused police officer was suspended and he went absconding but later surrendered in court,” he added.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau report of 2011, 85 crimes against children were reported from Jharkhand. Of these, the rate of accused being chargesheeted was 97.3% in rape cases and 70.8% in cases of kidnapping. Of a total 784 rape cases reported from Jharkhand across all age groups, seven of the victims were in the age bracket of 10-14 years, same as that of the victims in these cases.

 

 

#India – Farmers’ suicide rates soar above the rest


MUMBAI, May 18, 2013

P. Sainath

 The Hindu

Suicide rates among Indian farmers were a chilling 47 per cent higher than they were for the rest of the population in 2011. In some of the States worst hit by the agrarian crisis, they were well over 100 per cent higher. The new Census 2011 data reveal a shrinking farmer population. And it is on this reduced base that the farm suicides now occur.

Apply the new Census totals to the suicide data of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) and the results are grim. Sample: A farmer in Andhra Pradesh is three times more likely to commit suicide than anyone else in the country, excluding farmers. And twice as likely to do so when compared to non-farmers in his own State. The odds are not much better in Maharashtra, which remained the worst State for such suicides across a decade.

“The picture remains dismal,” says Prof. K. Nagaraj, an economist at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai. Prof. Nagaraj’s 2008 study on farm suicides in India remains the most important one on the subject. “The intensity of farm suicides shows no real decline,” he says. “Nor do the numbers show a major fall. They remain concentrated in the farming heartlands of five key States. The crisis there continues. And the adjusted farmers’ suicide rate for 2011 is in fact slightly higher than it was in 2001.” And that’s after heavy data fudging at the State level.

Five States account for two-thirds of all farm suicides in the country, as NCRB data show. These are Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The share of these ‘Big 5’ in total farm suicides was higher in 2011 than it was in 2001. At the same time, the new Census data show that four of these States have far fewer farmers than they did a decade ago. Only Maharashtra reports an increase in their numbers.

Nationwide, the farmers’ suicide rate (FSR) was 16.3 per 100,000 farmers in 2011. That’s a lot higher than 11.1, which is the rate for the rest of the population. And slightly higher than the FSR of 15.8 in 2001.

In Maharashtra, for instance, the rate is 29.1 suicides per 100,000 farmers (‘Main cultivators’). Which is over 160 per cent higher than that for all Indians excluding farmers. Such gaps exist in other States, too. In as many as 16 of 22 major States, the farm suicide rate was higher than the rate among the rest of the population (RRP) in 2011.

The data for 2011 are badly skewed, with States like Chhattisgarh declaring ‘zero’ farm suicides that year. The same State reported an increase in total suicides that same year. But claimed that not one of these was a farmer. What happens if we take the average number of farm suicides reported by the State in three years before 2011? Then Chhattisgarh’s FSR is more than 350 per cent higher than the rate among the rest of the country’s population.

In 1995, the ‘Big 5’ accounted for over half of all farm suicides in India. In 2011, they logged over two-thirds of them. Given this concentration, even the dismal all-India figures tend to make things seem less terrible than they are.

Ten States show a higher farm suicide rate in 2011 than in 2001. That includes the major farming zones of Punjab and Haryana. The average farm suicide rate in the ‘Big 5’ is slightly up, despite a decline in Karnataka. And also a fall in Maharashtra. The latter has the worst record of any State. At least 53,818 farmers’ suicides since 1995. So how come it shows a lower FSR now?

Well, because Census 2011 tells us the State has added 1.2 million farmers (‘main cultivators’) since 2001. That’s against a nationwide decline of 7.7 million in the same years. So Maharashtra’s farm suicide rate shows a fall. Yet, its farm suicide numbers have not gone down by much. And a farmer in this State is two-and-a-half times more likely to kill himself than anyone else in the country, other than farmers.

Karnataka, in 2011, saw a lot less of farm suicides than it did a decade ago. And so, despite having fewer farmers than it did in 2001, the State shows a lower FSR. Yet, even the ‘lower’ farm suicide rates in both Maharashtra and Karnataka are way above the rate for the rest of the country.

These figures are obtained by applying the new farm population totals of Census 2011 to farm suicide numbers of the NCRB. The Census records cultivators. The police count suicides. In listing suicides, the State governments and police tend to count only those with a title to land as farmers.

“Large numbers of farm suicides still occur,” says Prof. Nagaraj. “Only that seems not to be recognised, officially and politically. Is the ‘conspiracy of silence’ back in action?” A disturbing trend has gained ground with Chhattisgarh’s declaration of ‘zero’ farm suicides. (That’s despite having had 4,700 in 36 months before the ‘zero’ declaration). Puducherry has followed suit. Others will doubtless do the same. Punjab and Haryana have in several years claimed ‘zero’ women farmers’ suicides. (Though media and study reports in the same years suggest otherwise). This trend must at some point fatally corrupt the data.

At least 270,940 Indian farmers have taken their lives since 1995, NCRB records show. This occurred at an annual average of 14,462 in six years, from 1995 to 2000. And at a yearly average of 16,743 in 11 years between 2001 and 2011. That is around 46 farmers’ suicides each day, on average. Or nearly one every half-hour since 2001.

 

Fixing accountability for unlawful killings in India #AFSPA


DIVYA TRIVEDI, The Hindu

Students demand withdrawal of the Act. Photo: S. Subramanium
The HinduStudents demand withdrawal of the Act. Photo: S. Subramanium

Hundred and nine civilian deaths occurred due to police firing in 2011, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Disproportionate use of force during demonstrations caused many deaths and at least 100 deaths were caused due to excessive use of force against demonstrators in Jammu and Kashmir in 2010. According to the NHRC, 2,560 deaths during encounters with police were reported between 1993 and 2008. Of this, 1,224 cases were regarded by the NHRC as “fake encounters”. The police, the central armed police forces and the armed forces have been accused of “fake encounters”. Complaints have been lodged, particularly against the Central Reserve Police Force, the Border Security Forces, and the armed forces acting under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).

In the face of such alarming statistics, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Christof Heyns, was invited to the country and he toured extensively between March 19 to 30 this year meeting several State and non-State actors. The main findings of his report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva in June 2013.

It recommends a series of legal reforms and policy measures aimed at fighting impunity and decreasing the level of unlawful killings in India.

While deaths resulting from excessive use of force by security officers, and legislation that is permissive of such use of force hampers accountability, impunity is a central problem and represents a major challenge, according to the report.

His report states that India should repeal, or at least radically amend, AFSPA and the Jammu and Kashmir AFSPA, with the aim of ensuring that the legislation regarding the use of force by the armed forces provides for the respect of the principles of proportionality and necessity in all instances, as stipulated under international human rights law. It should also remove all legal barriers for the criminal prosecution of members of the armed forces.

“While waiting for the necessary amendment or repeal of AFSPA, it should be ensured that the status of a “disturbed area” under AFSPA is subject to regular review – for example, every six months – and a justified decision is made on its further extension,” states the report.

The report also recommends the immediate ratification of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and its Optional Protocol and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

It recommends India to swiftly enact the Prevention of Torture Bill and ensure its compliance with CAT.

All vigilante groups and civilians recruited to perform military or law enforcement tasks, and who are not part of the regular security forces, should be dissolved and prohibited with immediate effect, states the report.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act should be reviewed with the aim of extending its scope to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians. The criminal legislation should be reviewed to ensure that all gender-based killings, as well as killings of any member of a tribe or lower caste receive high sentences, possibly under the form of life imprisonment. The Indian legislation regarding the imposition of the death penalty should be reviewed to provide that the death penalty may be imposed for the most serious crimes only, namely only for those crimes that involve intentional killing. India should consider placing a moratorium on the death penalty in accordance with General Assembly resolutions with a view to abolishing it, according to the report. A mechanism should be put in place to regularly review and monitor the status of implementation of the directives of the Supreme Court and the NHRC guidelines on arrest, encounter killings, and custodial violence and death.

The establishment and effective functioning of the independent Police Complaints Authorities should be made a priority in all states. It should be ensured that FIR registration is prompt and made mandatory in all cases of unlawful killings and death threats. The authorities should put in place an independent mechanism to monitor FIR registration following any request to do so, as well as of punishment of those law enforcement officials who refuse to register a FIR.

To a large extent, the required structures to decrease extrajudicial executions are already in place but a concerted and systematic effort is required by the State, civil society and others to eradicate unlawful killings, states the report.

 

 

#India – No country for kids” 336% hike in child rapes in 10 years #Vaw #WTFnews


336% spurt in child rape cases between 2001 and 2011

, TNN | Apr 21, 2013,

CHILDRAPE

 the heinous nature of the five-year-old child’s rape, an independent report, based on National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) figures, shows that India is no country for children. The report says a total of 48,338 child rape cases was recorded between 2001 and 2011, and the nation saw an increase of 336% of such cases from 2001 (2,113) to 2011 (7,112).
The report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), however, warns that this is only the “tip of the iceberg” as the large majority of child rape cases are not reported to police while children regularly become victims of other forms of sexual assault too.Madhya Pradesh recorded the highest number of child rape cases with 9,465 cases between 2001 and 2011, followed by Maharashtra (6,868), Uttar Pradesh (5,949) and Andhra Pradesh (3,977). Delhi, which reported 2,909 cases, ranked sixth on the list.

The report, “India’s Hell Holes: Child Sexual Assault in Juvenile Justice Homes”, which has been submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, says that many of the cases take place in juvenile homes.

“It will not be an understatement to state that juvenile justice homes, established to provide care and protection as well as reintegration, rehabilitation and restoration of the juveniles in conflict with law and children in need of care and protection, have become India’s hell holes where inmates are subjected to sexual assault and exploitation, torture and ill-treatment apart from being forced to live in inhuman conditions. The girls remain the most vulnerable. It matters little whether the juvenile justice homes are situated in Delhi or in mofussil towns,” said Suhas Chakma, director, ACHR.

The 56-page report also highlights 39 cases of systematic and often repeated sexual assault on children in juvenile justice homes. Out of the 39 cases, 11 were reported from government-run juvenile justice homes, while in one case a CWC member was accused of sexual harassment during counselling sessions. The remaining 27 cases were reported from private or NGO-run juvenile justice homes.

 

#Maharashtra Undertrials get #RTI Relief #goodnews #prisonerights


political-prisoner

Maharashtra CIC asks authorities to publish info of under trials who completed 50% of their maximum prison term

Thousands of under trials, who have completed 50% of their maximum prison term, would get a major relief thanks to the activism of Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner

In a significant order, the Maharashtra state chief information commission (SCIC) has directed prison authorities to display details of under trials who have completed over 50% of the maximum prison term they are liable for. Shailesh Gandhi, former central information commissioner (CIC) had filed the appeal before the SCIC under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

 

“This will facilitate the prisoners and other activists to get release of such under trials and should go a long way in giving relief to people who were denied their freedom illegally. This order will be applicable in Maharashtra and I hope RTI activists will get such orders issued in all the states,” said Mr Gandhi.

 

The SCIC passed the order in fulfilment of the Prison department’s obligation under Section 4 (1) (b) of the RTI Act. The Commissioner used his powers under Section 19 (8) of the RTI Act and has ordered that this information will have to be displayed on thewebsite and on the notice boards of the prisons before 12 May 2013.

 

Following refusal by the Public Information Officer (PIO) and First Appellate Authority (FAA) to provide information about under trials in prisons in Maharashtra without any valid reasons, Mr Gandhi had filed his second appeal before the State Chief Information Commissioner.

 

In his second appeal, Mr Gandhi had also requested the State CIC, to direct the PIO to provide the information, penalise the PIO as per provisions of the RTI Act and reprimand the FAA for a casual approach in rejecting a citizen’s fundamental right.

 

A similar query by Mr Gandhi, around six years ago had led to the release of release of some under trials by the Bombay High Court. In his additional plea before the SCIC, Mr Gandhi said, “Whereas six years back the prison authorities had provided the information without any excuses, the PIO this time directed me to approach 43 different prisons. The First Appellate Authority did a faux pas by claiming exemptions under Section 8 (1) (b), (g) (h) and (j) without even attempting to justify how these would apply. I am sorry, but it appears that in the prison department in Maharashtra there is an unfortunate carelessness and regression in adherence and respect for RTI.”

 

Earlier in February, the union home ministry told states and Union Territories that under Section 436A of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), an under trial prisoner completing half of the maximum period of imprisonment should be released by the court on his personal bond with or without sureties, with the exception of those involved in heinous crimes.

 

According to statistics provided by National Crime Records Bureau, as of December 2011, there were 2.41 lakh or 64.7% under trial prisoners out of total 3.32 lakh jail inmates across India. The occupancy rate across all prisons in the country was 112.1% or 3.72 lakh inmates against a capacity of 3.32 jail inmates, the data said.

 

Two views of the crowd in Chhattisgarh’s jails


Ashutosh Bhardwaj : Jagdalpur, Mon Apr 08 2013, Tehelka
FPTribals of a Bastar village in a rally for prisoners’ rights.

Chhattisgarh‘s jails remain among the country’s most crowded, a finding that comes amid allegations from Maoists and activists that the government is unnecessarily keeping Bastar tribals prisoner after having promised to release them. The government, for its part, has denied it ever made such a promise, and stressed any decision on release is the prerogative of courts.For every 100 prisoners it has the capacity to accommodate, Chhattisgarh actually has 256, according to the latest National Crime Records Bureau figures (till 2011). This is called occupancy rate. Chhattisgarh’s rate has gone up from 237 in 2010, then the highest for the country. Its 256 for 2011 puts it behind only Andaman & Nicobar Islands (500) and Lakshadweep (362), both of which have few prisons.

Maoists last week organised a “prisoners’ rights week” by tribals in interior villages of Bastar, accusing the government of going back on an agreement to expedite the release of their comrades and innocent villagers in exchange for Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon’s freedom nearly a year ago.

The government set up a “high-powered committee to review all cases” in which investigation and prosecution was pending. In the year since, the only release has been of Raipur-based Raja Dhruva, 22, on May 9, 2012. He was accused of violating the Excise Act.

“We never promised to release anyone. The agreement was to review pending cases,” says government spokesperson N Baijendra Kumar. “The committee has met many times, made many recommendations. These are in courts; they have to decide.”

DGP Ramniwas dismissed the Maoist allegations as propaganda and said the committee has recommended the release of over 60 undertrials and “it is for the courts to decide”. The government did refrain from opposing the bail of some top Maoist leaders whose release had been demanded. The bail pleas were, however, rejected in court.

In a state that topped Maoist-related violence in the last decade, and one with a large tribal population, most inmates lodged in Bastar jails under Maoist cases are indeed tribals.

In Jagdalpur Central Jail, of 546 prisoners accused of being Maoists or Maoist supporters, 512 are tribals, 53 of them women. This is according to the response to an RTI application by activist Swami Agnivesh. In Dantewada jail, the response said, 372 tribals are among 377 prisoners being held under such cases. In Kanker jail, tribals account for 134 out of 144.

Many such cases end in acquittal for lack of evidence. All 10 tribals accused in the Tadmetla incident, in which 76 cops had been killed in 2010, were acquitted recently. Soni Sori, accused of being a Maoist supporter, was acquitted in four of seven cases.

Activist Himanshu Kumar alleges “a systematic elimination of tribals” by booking them under false charges. Prison officials say the high tribal count is natural. “Maoists recruit their lower level members, Dalam and Sangham, from locals, mostly tribals. It’s the top Maoist leaders who are exploiting innocent tribals,” DG (Jail) Giridhari Nayak says.

The highest number of undertrials booked on Maoist-related charges are in Jagdalpur jail. How its 581 convicts (total inmates 1,638; capacity 629) are treated is the subject of another debate. The department terms it the “industrial jail” for the goods it produces; Maoists claim tribal convicts are forced to “work like cattle”.

The jail promotes weaving, carpentry, and metal and woodwork, the daily wages being Rs 15 for skilled labour and Rs 12 for unskilled. In 2011, its products were worth Rs 87 lakh. “Tihar jail with 5,000 convicts registered production of Rs 4 crore. If you consider production per convict, my jail will rank among the best in the country,” says superintendent Rajendra Gaikwad.

“It has become a sort of industrial jail. They can be absorbed in the society after their release,” says DG Nayak.

In a March 23 statement, Maoist leader Ganesh Uike said, “Jail officers make prisoners work as bonded labourers… several do not work, but their accounts get credited and the money goes to officers.” The department says Rs 75 lakh was given in 2011, half of which went to the families of their victims.

Arun Sarkar, 44, convicted of murdering his wife, is the jail accountant. “I learnt typing and computers here,” he says. Lingaram Kodapi, an accused in Essar-Maoist payoff case, too is lodged here. In letters he has written from jail, and which have surfaced, he has alleged torture by jail officials.

 

#DelhigangRape – Death reveals dark side of Indian detentions


 
Alleged prison suicide of key accused in gang-rape case reignites debate on the alarming number of deaths in custody.
 Last Modified: 13 Mar 2013 08:45, aljazeera
 

Indian police stand guard at one of the gates of the Tihar Jail in New Delhi on Monday after Ram Singh‘s death [Reuters]
New Delhi, India - The death of the prime suspect in the Delhi-gang rape case in his jail cell has turned the spotlight on a disturbingly high number of deaths in Indian prisons.

Officials at the high-security Tihar Jail say Ram Singh, 33, committed suicide early on Monday while four other inmates in his cell slept. Singh allegedly used a blanket hanging from a metal rod on the ceiling 2.5 metres high to hang himself, officials say.

Singh was one of six people on trial for the shocking gang-rape on a moving bus of a 23-year-old female student last December in New Delhi. The woman later succumbed to her injuries after she was thrown from the vehicle after her two-hour ordeal.

The case stunned the nation, drawing mass protests against violence against women and calls for new laws to curb such abuses.

“It is an appalling lapse on the part of the prison authorities that a prisoner on the watch list, with other inmates in his cell, hung himself to death and the guards too did not notice anything.

- Suhas Chakma, Asian Centre for Human Rights

 

After reports of Singh’s death flooded out, questions were soon raised about how the bus driver could have committed suicide in a room full of inmates in a maximum security facility with a guard on duty.

Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde admitted a “major lapse in security” over the incident, adding an inquiry would be established to investigate.

Defence lawyer VK Anand alleged Singh was killed. “I suspect foul play in my client’s death, and I do not think he could commit suicide. There were no such circumstances that could force him to commit suicide.”

Singh’s parents also said their son would not have taken his life and demanded a judicial probe. His mother, Kalyani Devi, said her son was repentant and ready to face justice.

“He confessed about his mistake, then why would he commit suicide? He was prepared for any punishment the government would have given him,” said Devi.

Though a subsequent autopsy points to Ram Singh’s death by hanging, speculation about the exact causes behind his death has not subsided.

“It is an appalling lapse on the part of the prison authorities that a prisoner on the watch list, with other inmates in his cell, hung himself to death and the guards, too, did not notice anything,” Suhas Chakma, director of the Asian Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera.

Four custodial deaths a day

Singh’s death has highlighted the large number of inmates who die in India’s justice system.

Statistics from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) show from 2001 to 2010, 14,231 died in police and prison custody in India – about four deaths per day.

According to the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau, 1,332 prisoners died in India’s jails in 2011 – 93.4 percent of which were “natural deaths”. Sixty-eight inmates committed suicide and eight were killed by other prisoners. “Deaths due to firing”, “Assault by outside elements”, and “others” accounted for the 12 other “unnatural deaths”.

But the Asian Centre for Human Rights said in a 2011 report that “a large majority” of custodial deaths “are a direct consequence of torture in custody”.

Police take the gang-rape accused to court in January [AFP]

The actual number of prison deaths is likely far underreported, the group said.

“These deaths reflect only a fraction of the problem with torture and custodial deaths in India, as not all the cases of deaths in police and prison custody are reported to the NHRC,” the group said in report titled “Torture in India 2011″.

A Ministry of Home Affairs official declined to comment on this story.

Akhilesh Kumar, National Crime Records Bureau chief statistical officer, said, “Our main duty is to compile the numbers and we have no comment over causes … and what they reflect.”

Praful Bidwai, a New Delhi-based human right activist, told Al Jazeera that the impunity of police and prison officials when it comes to violence against inmates must be challenged.

“Custodial maltreatment, torture or killing cannot be curbed unless the deeply criminalised police and law enforcement authorities are made accountable,” Bidwai said.

Policing law enforcers

Tihar Jail where Singh died is the largest prison in South Asia – and severely overpopulated. Tihar houses some 12,000 inmates, overshooting its capacity by about 6,000 prisoners. In 2012 Tihar recorded 18 inmate deaths, two of those said to be suicides.

Another problem with India’s justice system is the astonishing lack of urgency when it comes to due process. Once ensnared in India’s court system, the wait for justice can be an arduous one.

A backload of more than 20 million cases is now before the country’s courts. Bail is often refused for serious offences, and there are no mechanisms to compensate the wrongly accused who spent years jail awaiting trial.

Worse still, everyone agrees that conditions inside the jails border on the horrific. Ram Singh’s father, for one, has alleged that his son was sodomised by other inmates. Others, including a Delhi professor who spent months in Tihar as a suspect for alleged links to a deadly attack on the Indian parliament in 2001, have narrated their nightmarish experiences.

Since acquitted, Iftikhar Geelani still carries the scars of his hellish incarceration, during which he says he was routinely abused and forced to wear an excreta-splattered shirt with which he was ordered to mop a filty toilet.

Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director for New York-based Human Rights Watch, told Al Jazeera local human rights workers have repeatedly expressed concern about torture and custodial killings. She said most incidents occur in police custody, rather than in prison facilities.

“In jails, we have heard more about ill treatment by fellow inmates or guards, particularly against terror or rape suspects,” Ganguly said.

Tackling the criminality of police and prison authorities is one way to curb custodial torture and death in India’s justice system, activists say.

Bidwai said other than meting out stiff punishment for law enforcement officers who abuse prisoners, other methods need to be employed such as sensitivity training towards inmates.

“Custodial maltreatment, torture or killing cannot be curbed unless the deeply criminalised police and law enforcement authorities are made accountable.

- Praful Bidwai, human rights activist

 

Having neutral observers during interrogations, and disallowing confessions to the police as evidence would also weed out “rogue elements among police and prison authorities”, said Bidwai.

“Such steps will send the right message down the line,” he added.

However, with much of the public unsympathetic to the plight of those jailed, it will be hard to convince politicians to enact the necessary legislative changes, Chakma of the Asian Centre for Human Rights said.

“The lack of political will to stamp out custodial torture runs across all political parties,” said Chakma.

 

Tamil Nadu to regulate sale of acid to curb attacks on women #Vaw #Womensday #goodnews


 

Reported by Sam Daniel, Edited by Sabyasachi Dasgupta | Updated: March 08, 2013 , NDTV

 Tamil Nadu to regulate sale of acid to curb attacks on women
ChennaiTamil Nadu would soon be the first state to regulate sale of acid across the counter in an effort to stop acid attacks against women. Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has announced that the state would pass an ordinance to regulate sale of acid.The move comes after the death of two women who were targets of acid attack which once again triggered calls for checking easy availability of acid.

21-year-old Vidya was targeted after she refused to elope with the man her family had agreed to give her hand to. The man threw acid on her while she was alone at her workplace in Chennai. Another young woman, Vinothini – an IT professional from Puducherry, also died recently after the man she refused to marry threw acid on her.

Despite the move by the state govt, the families of these victims also want punishment against the attackers. Vidya’s mother J Saraswathi told NDTV, “Whatever crime they commit, they should suffer the same, only then they would realise the mistake.”

Ms P D’Souza, a govt official, welcomes the move. She told NDTV, “I think sale of acid should be regulated. The purpose of purchase should be checked. The moment they think of buying acid they should remember what would be the aftermath.”

Centre’s National Crime Records Bureau has no statistics on acid victims. Some estimates suggest there could be at least 100 acid attacks on women every year. Experts say the government should also strive for a change in mindset towards women.

R Geetha, an advisor to Women’s Rights Movement, told NDTV, “Today women are looked upon as sex objects. They’ve to be looked at as individuals.”

Ms D’Souza said, “It should start right at our homes; if parents stop discriminating boys and girls and demonstrate respect for women, the mindset of boys would change.”