#India – Operation Blue Star — the untold story


CHANDER SUTA DOGRA, The Hindu, Chandigrah, June 10, 2013 

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The HinduA fortification used in Operation Blue Star on the sides of the parikrama abutting the Dukh-Bhanjani Beri (tree) that covers the entrance to Shri Harmandir Sahib. File photo

New documentary carries testimony that executions of Sikh youth did take place and SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra refused to declare Khalistan

Almost three decades after Operation Blue Star — the army operation that cleared the Golden temple complex in Amritsar of Sikh militants in 1984 — a journalist has spoken to some of the surviving dramatis personae of the event to recreate almost hour by hour what happened during those fateful six days. The documentary Operation Blue Star — the untold story currently being aired by Chandigarh-based television station Day and Night News run by veteran Punjab journalist Kanwar Sandhu has uncovered startling new evidence about the operation and the conduct of the militants and the security agencies since then.

Perhaps the most significant disclosures are by Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, a former Union Minister for Social Welfare, then with the Shiromani Akali Dal, who was present in the Guru Ram Das Sarai along with then Akali Dal president Harchand Singh Longowal and SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

He relates how at around 6 p.m. on 5th June, Mr. Longowal and Mr. Tohra were coerced almost at gunpoint to declare the formation of Khalistan and how they wriggled out of it.

“Five Sikh youth with self-loading rifles (SLRs) and a metallic box that was possibly a transmitter came to us and placed their SLRs with their barrels pointing towards all of us. They told us that the ‘box’ is connected with Gen Zia-Ul-Haq in Pakistan. They told Jathedar Tohra and Sant Longowal to declare the formation of Khalistan, so that the Pakistani Army can launch an attack. Both Tohra and Longowal are not alive today, so I am saying this under a solemn oath of allegiance to the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, because I want to speak the truth. Sant Longowal kept completely quiet. Then Jathedar Tohra said, ‘Dekho naujawano, eh jedi jang hai eh Hind-Punjab di jang hai. This is a battle between Sant Bhinderanwale and Mrs. Indira Gandhi and that since the former is leading the battle, it will be fair to ask him to issue the statement about the creation of Khalistan.’ He did not say that he will make the announcement for Khalistan. I don’t know how history will judge the Akali leadership but this is the truth. The youth then left the place and never came back.”

‘OUTRAGE BY ARMY’

Mr. Ramoowalia also sheds light on an alleged execution of some 30 Sikh youth by the army — the certainty of which has always been speculated. Talking about events in the wee hours of 6th June, when the army was combing through the complex, the narrative states that a Major of the 9 Kumaon regiment lined up some 20 Sikh youth and mowed them down with a machine gun. Recalling the incident, Mr. Ramoowalia says, “The captured Sikhs appeared to be from Kashmir and didn’t look like Punjabi Sikhs. An officer waved a handkerchief and they were shot dead by the Army men with bullets which were sprayed on them from left to right and then right to left. I have never seen people being killed like that, with bullets. I have been a farmer and I have cut the crop and made its bundles. The crests of these Sikh youth collapsed similarly. No one moaned or uttered anything. I know my statement will be called into questioning, but 28 years after it happened, I am going on record on this.”

“The Army men were very angry, very abusive, mad with rage. Maybe they had lost their fellow Army men in the battle elsewhere in the Complex. This happened between 3 a.m. and 3.30 a.m., after the grenade blast nearby and after that it was my turn next as a part of the next group of Sikhs which was being queued up for killing. I was also told to sit down cross-legged and said my prayers. By chance, I remembered that I had in my pocket my identity card as an ex-Member of Parliament, of Lok Sabha. I flashed it and raised my hand and said, I am Ramoowalia, a former Member, Lok Sabha. I and all these persons, who are under your custody, belong to Sant Harchand Singh Longowal. We are non-violent people, [have] nothing to do with the armed struggle, we are here, just as a part of Akali Dal’s peaceful morcha.’ He asked me, ‘what is your name?’ I said, ‘my name is Ramoowalia.’ He asked me once again. I told him, ‘I am not misguiding. Not misleading. This is my identity card. Please check it up.’ God knows, the Army man was so angry, he could have just shot and killed me. But he said, ‘stop’. The other Army men lowered their guns. And two to three of them came up to me… and pushed me to a side. Then the officer again asked me, ‘Are you really Ramoowalia?’ I said, ‘I am really Ramoowalia.’ He said, ‘how are you here? You are not supposed to be here.’ I said, ‘why’? He said, ‘you are supposed to be with Sant Longowal.’ I said, ‘Sant Longowal is sitting in the adjoining room. I have come out’.”

Brigadier (retd.) Onkar Singh Goraya, who was then Col Admn in HQ 15 Corps corroborates the incident saying that Bhan Singh the then SGPC secretary also told him something similar. “He said the Army men in Darbar Sahib have done something awful. He said that some Sikh youth were lined up against a wall in the Golden Temple Complex and killed with a machine gun. He also showed me the wall in the Complex which had the bullet marks, when I went back for the second time in the afternoon,” he is quoted as saying in the documentary.

Mr. Sandhu has pieced together the account with the help of interviews with some 100 eyewitnesses and officials, records from army archives, interrogation reports of captured militants and also the actual Op Instructions issued by Maj Gen Brar on the eve of the operation. Says he, “This is an honest attempt to put the events in perspective and tell the story as it happened. If in the process it upsets any one, it cannot be helped.” Already the television station is getting hate mail from the Sikh diaspora in particular which is angry with its portrayal of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale as a militant who fortified the golden temple complex with arms and ammunition.

MILITANTS STOCKPILED WEAPONS

In 2010 the BBC had done a one-hour documentary “1984- A Sikh story”, which was never shown in India. Speaking to The Hindu, Mandeep Bajwa a consultant for the BBC documentary said, “This is the most authentic and credible account yet and I can see that the passage of time has emboldened many eyewitnesses to speak the truth. It exposes many fallacies like the one about arms and ammunition being planted in the temple complex by the Army. Mr. Sandhu has not only provided a rough inventory of the military hardware stockpiled inside but also detailed some instances of how they were smuggled in.”

Another revelation is that Maj Gen Shahbeg Singh (retd.), the disgraced army man who joined Bhindranwale’s group and organized the defences died on the evening of 5th June, before the actual battle began. He was killed by a sniper’s bullet and quoting Balwinder Singh Khojkipur a close associate of Bhindranwale who survived the operation, the documentary states that he was taken to the basement of Akal Takht where he died with his head on Bhindranwale’s lap. His covered body lay in a room there for a whole day until the armymen entered and cleared it the next day.

As for Bhindranwale himself —the Sikh seminary Damdami Taksal that he headed refused to accept his death for many years — he died at 8.45 am on 6th June after being shot at from an armoured vehicle as he was moving towards the ‘Darshni Deodi’ to offer his prayers to Guru Ram Das. His body, contrary to reports of that time, was not identified by his brother Harcharan Singh Rode then serving as the subedar major in 61 Engineers Regiment in Jalandhar, but by the police and army doctors. Says Rode, “This is totally wrong. I did not issue any contradiction because I had got to see him and paid my last respects.”

Much has been written and said about the pilgrims trapped inside the complex many of who died in the crossfire. This series documents that they were actually discouraged from responding to the announcements being made by the district administration outside asking the pilgrims to come out. Apparently when five or six of them tried to come out with their hands in the air, they were shot down by militants from inside the temple complex. Their bodies lay near the ghanta ghar —where pilgrims wash their feet — on the morning of 5th June.

 

Maoists in the jungle, Bhagat Singh in the fields—welcome to India Burning


Spotlight | Sting operation

 via ‘Red Ant Dream’
Nandini Ramnath, Live mint 

A still from ‘Red Ant Dream’
A few days after a Maoist attack on a Congress party convoy killed at least 27 people, including the founder of the erstwhile militia Salwa Judum, a poll on the website of the television channel CNN-IBN asked: “Bloodbath in Chhattisgarh: Have human rights groups failed to strongly condemn Naxal violence?”
The options were yes or no, the assumption being that civil liberty activists are more worried about armed insurgents than civilians. That assumption is a familiar one for film-maker Sanjay Kak, whose documentaries Words on Water, on the struggle against the Narmada dam, and Jashn-e-Azadi, on the Kashmiri pro-independence movement, dispense with objectivity and take an explicit and vocal stand against the Indian state.
He has encountered his fair share of dissenters to his brand of dissent, but he sees the debate deepening over such prickly issues as the Maoist insurgency, with which he deals in his new documentary Red Ant Dream. “I don’t get asked any more if I am a Naxalite,” he says in a phone interview from Delhi, where he lives and works. “We have gotten past that one.”
Sanjay Kak at his Delhi residence. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

After screenings in Delhi and Punjab, the film will travel to Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad in the coming weeks.

Although Kak makes the case that tribal resistance goes back several decades, and that governments in states like Chhattisgarh are only new manifestations of systemic oppression, the recent killings makeRed Ant Dream a red-hot documentary. The film maps three troubled zones—apart from the Maoists in Bastar in Chhattisgarh, there are tribals battling industrialists in Niyamgiri in Orissa, and a culture of protest built around the memory of Leftist revolutionary Bhagat Singh in Punjab. Seen together with Words on Water (2002) and Jashn-e-Azadi (2007), Red Ant Dream is about India Burning, as it were. The three films are about “the idea of resistance”, Kak says, but he traces this resistance through its foot soldiers rather than its generals and ideologues.
“I am not interested in fundamental questions of power relationships,” Kak says. “The film does not try to be a Naxalism 101, just likeJashn-e-Azadi was not trying to be a Kashmir 101.” His films are about ideology, he says, but “not terribly concerned with party formations” or a “party line”. Words on Water inaugurated his attempt to move beyond being a visual stenographer of movements. “Words on Waterbegan as a campaign film and I tried to make it something else, but it eventually is neither,” Kak says. “In the Kashmir film, I was not particularly interested in what X or Y or Z was saying but in evoking another kind of space.”
Red Ant Dream is three films rolled into one. It is in the mould of documentaries like Amar Kanwar’s A Night of Prophecy (2002), which examines protest music, theatre and literature across India, and Anand Patwardhan’s Jai Bhim Comrade (2011), whose examination of caste taps a rich vein of Dalit protest music. The Punjab segment in Red Ant Dream, which follows groups inspired by Bhagat Singh’s pre-independence Marxist critique of colonialism and inequality, intermingles with on-ground footage of rallies against mining in Niyamgiri and a clandestine encounter with Maoist groups in Bastar.
Kak could have focused on the Maoists, but he chose not to. “The core material came from Bastar, but that’s not the film I wanted to make,” he says. “The most urgent thing was to say something that would start a conversation about the idea of revolution. There has been an effacement, an invisibilization of radical politics. But I don’t have an abstract nostalgia—there are real engagements and these are about real things.”
The Punjab chapter too could have been its own film. Kak first went there trailing the revolutionary poet Avtar Singh Sandhu, who wrote under the pseudonym Pash. “I asked a professor what remains of Naxalism in Punjab today, and he said culture and poetry. Of course, the connection between Pash and Bhagat Singh emerged, and I could see the mobilization around this constellation.” Some viewers have embraced the seeming digressions into Punjab, while others have been “baffled and annoyed” by it, Kak says.
The most talked about section, at least for the moment, is likely to be the one that gives the documentary its name. Kak travelled to Bastar with writer and activist Arundhati Roy for two weeks in February 2010. He shot Maoists speaking about their motivation to engage the government in battle and sharing a dietary secret—a paste of the eggs of red ants.
Although Kak spent a little over six weeks in Bastar, Orissa and Punjab, it took two years to sculpt a 120-minute film out of the footage. The documentary is packed with crisp, terse images of dissent that aim to provoke thought rather than emotion. “What you don’t want to show is long, vérité sequences of affect and consequence,” Kak says about editor Tarun Bhartiya’s approach. “You don’t want people to say, I loved that girl in the forest. But you do want people to see somebody for 20 seconds and never forget them. It’s a rhetorical or didactic assemblage of images—the idea is to engage people on a continuous basis. You are never trying to seduce them into a state of relaxation.”
The approach to editing pretty much sums up Kak’s larger perspective on the role of the documentary. He belongs to the strain of independent documentary film-making that developed in the 1970s in stark opposition to the broadly propagandist Films Division vision of an India on the up. The country spotlighted by these film-makers is an unequal and unjust place in which tribals are being kicked off their land, women abused by population control policies and slum-dwellers ignored by urban policies. The documentaries are diverse in style and ideology, but they are bound together by disagreement with the way things were.
Kak’s own practice has crystallized in recent years into tracking down ordinary practitioners of radical ideas. He didn’t formally study film-making, but learnt on the job while assisting on documentaries and on Pradip Krishen’s feature Massey Sahib. “It’s about footage and how you view footage—it’s why I am never interested in following a set of characters, or one family or one squad,” he says. “The examination of what is going on is an endless process. These three films are an exposition of a certain idea, formally too. One has tried to fashion for oneself, in the way the three films are edited, a language that is appropriate for one’s politics.”
However, even radical film-makers must make “pitches” at fund-raising conferences and festival marketplaces these days to get their films off the ground. Red Ant Dream was financed by funds given by an IDFA Fund grant and a prize from the Busan International Film Festival, South Korea. “I didn’t pitch for the film, we raised the money based on a trailer,” says Kak, who has strong views on the pitching process. “We are in the process of recouping not inconsequential sums of money from DVD sales—there is solid potential there.”
Part of the thrill, and stress, of making political-minded documentaries comes from raising money, ensuring distribution (usually free screenings at friendly venues) and the odd festival exposure. “You compensate for the fact that you don’t have a budget by doing everything yourself,” Kak observes. “Everything is done with people’s pyaar-mohabbat (love and affection). The economics are always exhausting, but this too shall pass.”
Red Ant Dream will be screened in Mumbai at the Alliance Française on 14 June, 7pm, and at the Films Division auditorium on 15 June, 4pm. Click here for details about screenings in other cities.

‘Main Hoon Balatkari’ song puts Yo Yo Honey Singh in deep trouble


With the Punjab and Haryana High Court coming down heavily on the lewd lyrics of songs sung by singer-rapperHoney Singh, the Punjab Police Friday booked him for singing vulgar songs in public.HONEY-SINGH

case was registered against the singer under provisions of Section 294 (singing, reciting or uttering any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place) of the Indian Penal Code in Punjab’s Nawanshahr town, some 80 km from here, a police official said.

“We have registered a case against singer Honey Singhfor his vulgar songs following the high court directions,” Superintendent of Police S.S. Bhangoo told over phone from Nawanshahr.

The police officer was, however, evasive when asked as to why a case was not registered against the singerwhen a complaint against him was filed by an NGO earlier this year.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had Tuesday directed the Punjab Police to book Honey Singh for singing songs based on sexual themes and innuendoes.

A division bench of the high court said that Honey Singh‘s “songs make us hang our heads in shame”. The bench said that singers like him should be boycotted as his songs were disrespectful to women.

Honey Singh had courted controversy over the lyrics of his song “main hoon balatkari” (I am a rapist). However, he claimed that he had only sung the song but had not written the lyrics.

A voluntary organisation called HELP (Human Empowerment League Punjab) had filed a police complaint againstHoney Singh and some other singers in January this year. However, no action was taken against them. It is only after the high court‘s intervention that Honey Singh has been booked by the police.

The NGO in its complaint had claimed that the songs of these singers projected women in poor light, promoted violence against women and even encouraged rape.

“We welcome the directions of the high court and the case registered against Honey Singh. This should have happened much earlier. We will take up the matter of vulgar songs by other singers as well,” HELP’s general secretary Parvinder Singh Kitna said.

By , canindia 

Vulgar Song Case: FIR Filed Against Punjabi Rapper Honey Singh


 

 IBTimes Staff Reporter | May 17, 2013 =

Just days after High Court questioned the inaction by Punjab police against Honey Singh, a First Investigation Report (FIR) has been booked against the pop singer on Friday.

A case has been filed with the Nawanshahr police against Honey Singh, accusing him of singing vulgar songs laden with sexual violent content directed at women.

The singer was booked under Section 294 (singing obscene songs at public place to the annoyance of others) of Indian Penal Code and the song “Main Hoon Balatkari” (I Am rapist) with its lyrics has been included in the complaint.

Based on the section of crime, a person can be put behind bars for three months maximum, fined or be subjected to both.

Confirming the case, Nawanshahr senior superintendent of police (SSP) Dhanpreet Kaur told Hindustan Times, “We have registered a case against Honey Singh and started further investigations.”

The complaint was filed on behalf of Nawanshahr based NGO, Human Empowerment League of Punjab (HELP), by its general secretary Parvinder Singh Kittna for prohibiting songs laden with lewd contents. Honey Singh’s name was mentioned among others in the petition.

The Punjab and Harayana High Court had rapped the Punjab police for not taking steps against the rapper on 15 May asking, “Why the Punjab government has not taken cognizance of “Main hoon Balatkari” song sung by Honey Singh, even though it attracts the provisions of Section 294 IPC, which is a cognizable offence?”

The rapper was in a fix just when the Nirbhaya gang rape protests rocked the nation. Honey Singh was condemned for his songs which carried derogatory content.

The High Court also questioned as to why the song was still available to the public via YouTube when a song of such stature should have been banned at the earliest.

The court has fixed the next hearing for the case on 4 July.

To contact the editor, e-mail: editor@ibtimes.com

 

Barapind sues central govt, Punjab for $ 10m in US court


Anju Agnihotri Chaba : Jalandhar, Sun May 12 2013,

Former militant and Akali Dal Panch Pardhani (ADPP) chief Kulvir Singh Barapind, who was extradited from the United States, has moved a court in that country alleging that he is being tortured by the police officials in Punjab, despite the Indian government‘s assurance to the contrary. Barapind has sued the Republic of India, the state government of Punjab, and several others, under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and demanded $10 million in damages for “suffering torture in the custody of Punjab Police“.

Among others, he has also sued President Pranab Mukharjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister, Home Minister, National Security Advisor, Director of National Investigative Agency and Punjab Police chief.

In the complaint moved before the court Barapind through his attorney Kamardeep Singh Athwal has submitted that he was surrendered to Indian authorities on the condition that he would not suffer “torture” in India, but he was arrested on September 19, 2012 by the Nawanshehr Police for alleged “preventive measures” in wake of a Bharat Bandh call by NDA.

He has submitted that he was confined in Ludhiana Jail and was charged under “Unlawful Activities Prevention Act” by Phillaur police. After securing his police remand the police allegedly subjected to torture in custody as “electric shocks” were given to him, which is in violation of extardition treaty.

He has also maintained that despite an Indian court order directing Barapind’s medical examination to determine if he was tortured was never conducted.

- See more at: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/barapind-sues-central-govt-punjab-for-10m-in-us-court/1114674/#sthash.rZjkwHYq.dpuf

 

Punjab – Minor Dalit girl raped by two brothers in Punjab #Vaw #WTFIndia


Last Updated: Sunday, May 12, 2013,
Moga: A 17-year-old Dalit girl was allegedly raped by two brothers, also related to the victim, police said on Sunday.

Joginder Singh and Swaran Singh, both residents of Rauwal village, allegedly raped the girl on the evening of May 10 when she was alone in her house, they said.

The duo escaped after the victim’s mother arrived in the house and caught them in the act, police said, adding that the accused were relatives of the girl.

A case has been registered and a special investigation team has been constituted to probe the case in which no arrests have been made so far.

PTI

 

Spies of Punjab, ‘shown steps of gold’


CHANDER SUTA DOGRA, The HinduFor one Sarabjit Singh, whose death brought politicians to his funeral and financial assistance for his family, the Punjab countryside is dotted with scores of men knocking on the doors of courts seeking compensation for the years many of them spent in Pakistani jails, and recognition of their services as spies for India.

Neither the government nor his family has ever acknowledged that Sarabjit — who died this week after being attacked by fellow prisoners in a Lahore jail — was a spy. Indeed, in the years before the campaign for commutation of the death sentence he received in 1991 gained momentum, none of the men who now say they were spies dared to approach the courts. Most melted back into the poverty-stricken lives they left before joining the dangerous world of espionage whose golden rule — if you are caught you are on your own — was, they claim, never disclosed to them. But Sarabjit’s saga slowly emboldened many former spies in Punjab and Jammu to file petitions, none of which have been viewed positively by the courts so far.

According to Ranjan Lakhanpal, a Chandigarh-based lawyer who has singlehandedly filed some 40 petitions of former spies in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, “The maximum relief that we have managed to get so far is a vague direction to the government to look into the matter. It has never resulted in any concrete benefit for the petitioners, most of who are penniless after spending years in Pakistani prisons. Whenever their cases are taken up in the courts, the government just refuses to acknowledge them,” he says. But they keep coming to Mr. Lakhanpal, who has in recent years become a beacon of sorts for former spies. Sooner or later, they land up at his office because he takes up their cases free of charge.

Poor families, from the border belt of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Ferozepur in particular, are the recruiting grounds for intelligence agencies like the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), military intelligence (MI) and BSF Intelligence. And Dhariwal, Daduwan, Khaira Kalan and Kang, among others, can almost be called spy villages for the number of men that are recruited from here.

Some are even recruited from across the border, as the curious case of Karamat Rahi illustrates. Originally a Pakistani national, his story is illustrative of the murky work of espionage in which penury and desperation are attractive attributes in potential recruits and borders mere lines on the ground. Karamat’s father was a Mazhabi Sikh trader in Sheikhupura who converted to Christianity after Partition. After his death, Karamat came to India in 1980 on a Pakistani passport because, as he toldThe Hindu, he “like other Christians there, was being forced to convert to Islam.”

“Once in India, I was contacted by RAW and began running covert operations and helped recruit other agents for them.” His home base in Pakistan was invaluable for the agency, till he was arrested from Lahore in 1988 and sentenced to 14 years for spying. His salary at that time was Rs.1,500 a month, and he had been assisted to settle in Gurdaspur as an Indian national. “For a year after my arrest the government paid Rs. 300 a month to my family as pension, but stopped, presuming I had died when they got no other news of me.”

Karamat stayed in prison for 18 years. It was only in March 2005, when the former Punjab Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, went to Pakistan on a goodwill visit, that he, along with some other prisoners, were freed and sent home with the delegation.

Karamat moved the High Court seeking pension and a job for his son, but got a rude shock when instead of relief, the court fined him for wasting its time. He appealed to the Supreme Court, which asked him to provide proof that he was engaged in covert activities in Pakistan. “When the agencies recruit us, we are shown steps of gold. They promise us money and security for our families, all of which are forgotten when we are arrested,” he says. Karamat’s former employers offered him a small compensation amount of Rs. 2 lakhs to keep quiet, but he is bitter and refused. “I have spent the best years of my life in jail or working for this country. Now they shun me!”

There are many others. Kashmir Singh was working for MI when he was sentenced to death by a Pakistani court for spying in 1976. His sentence was stayed, but he remained in jail. In 2007, Pakistan human rights activist Ansar Burney discovered him in a Lahore prison and used his good offices to secure a presidential pardon for the Indian spy. When Kashmir Singh returned home after 34 years in 2008, he had converted to Islam and called himself Mohammed Ibrahim. Though the Punjab government gave him a plot of land and some money, his deepest hurt is over the abandonment by his former employer.

The petition of Balbir Singh of Amritsar in the High Court states that he worked for RAW between 1971 and 1974 and, after serving a lengthy sentence in Pakistan, he was freed in 1986. All that he wanted was that the period spent in jail should be treated as duty and he or his son be absorbed into service. Just before he died last year, he received a reply to an RTI application that he had moved, asking the government about the service benefits due to him. He was informed that since he was employed by RAW, his application has been moved to the cabinet secretariat for necessary action. His son is following the case in the court now.

Following Sarabjit’s death, former spies from Punjab and Jammu are now joining hands to renew their struggle for recognition and dues. “It is unfortunate how the government uses poor, gullible men like us, who are made to believe that we are actually serving the nation. As you can see, it is an illusion that gets shattered as soon as we are apprehended”, says Karamat. He admits though, that this has not deterred many more from joining the ranks that he has left.

#India – Woman brutally assaulted with iron rods in Ludhiana as people look on #Vaw #WTFnews


IANS | Apr 17, 2013, 04.00 PM IST

Ludhiana: Four men beat up woman in public

Ludhiana: Four men beat up woman in public
LUDHIANA: A woman was brutally assaulted with iron rods and sticks by a group of men in Punjab’s Ludhiana district – people watched as she cried for help but little help was forthcoming.The incident, which once again demonstrates societal indifference, took place on April 3 and was captured on camera. It comes close on the heels of last month’s incident of Punjab police officers brutally thrashing a young woman in Tarn Taran district.

The victim filed a complaint, leading police in Ludhiana to register a case and launch a hunt to arrest the accused.

Police officials said the woman had gone to meet the accused and demanded that they return the Rs 20,000 that they owed her. She insisted that her money be refunded. At this, the men assaulted her with iron rods and sticks.

Though there were other people present on the spot, none came to the rescue of the helpless woman.

An elderly man and another woman seen in the video trying to stop the men were also attacked and shooed away.

The victim was not only beaten but pushed to the ground and thrashed even as she cried for help.

“We have identified the men involved in this crime. We will arrest them soon,” a police officer said.

 

#India – The Gender Terrorists #Vaw


Vol – XLVIII No. 13, March 30, 2013 | Vasundhara Sirnate

  • “Just being a woman is an act of courage”, said the tagline to the 1979 film adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. One can modify that somewhat to suit the Indian situation – just being born a woman in India is an act of courage.

Vasundhara Sirnate (vsirnate@berkeley.edu) is a doctoral candidate at the Travers Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley.

In 2010 a fellow researcher from Stanford University and I compiled a dataset from the Asian Recorder on insurgent attacks in India which occurred between the years 1955 and 2008. The Reed-Sirnate dataset recorded a total of 10,013 people killed over this period in insurgent attacks1. We also recognised that this was not the complete picture and that we could, with ease, probably double this statistic. This number included security forces, civilians (men, women and children) and insurgents killed in terror attacks across the country where the aggressors were insurgent groups.

Academics from across the world have spent much time compiling statistics recording the number of people killed in caste and communal violence in India. For instance, the Varshney-Wilkinson dataset on post-Partition communal violence reports 7,173 deaths in all riots that took place between 1950 and 1995 (Varshney 2001). Similarly, the number of people killed in caste violence in 2011 was 673 and the number of dalit women raped was 1,557. Since 2006, 3,840 scheduled caste people have been killed in caste violence2.

Now let us look at another set of figures. In 2011 alone, the number of women and girls killed in dowry related cases was 8,618. This number almost rivals the number we got from our insurgency dataset spanning 53 years and beats the number presented in the dataset on communal violence. Further, the number of dowry deaths in 2011 were far more than the total number of people killed in caste violence since 2006. Finally, the number of women (47,022) who died in 2011alone outstripped the combined statistics of all kinds of violent deaths occurring in that year due to insurgency, caste and religious violence.

We are then left with a shocking finding: routine Indian male violence against women resulting in female deaths exceeds those that are caused by other kinds of community-based violence, including caste, communal and insurgent violence.

Now these female deaths in 2011 were not accidental ones. The accidental deaths are recorded in a completely separate section in the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) publications. Combining the figures for dowry deaths in 2010 (8,391) and 2011 (8,618) reveals that crimes reported under this section of the Indian Penal Code alone far exceeds the the number of other violent crimes in society. We are looking at 17,009 women killed in two years for not providing a sufficient dowry in spite of several laws that legislate precisely against this practice.

According to the NCRB, a total of 24,596 housewives committed suicide by various means in 2011. This partial figure (some data is missing from the NCRB) shows that the majority of female suicide cases were women/housewives aged 15 to 29 years. The fact that younger housewives are more likely to kill themselves makes perfect sense given the harassment and bullying they face in their marital homes.

Table 1: How women and girls died in India in 2011

Dowry Deaths 8618
Murder/homicide : Ages 0-10 362
Murder/homicide: Ages 10-15 128
Murder/homicide : Ages 15-18 228
Suicide: Ages 0-14 1461
Suicide: Ages 15-29 21410
Suicide: Ages 30-44 14815
Suicide: Ages 44- and above 0 data missing
All India Total 47022

Source: Crime in India, 2011, National Crime Records Bureau.

Table 2: How Indian women were routinely terrorised in 2011

Rape 24206
Kidnapping and abduction 35565
Molestation 42968
Sexual Harassment 8570
Cruelty by husbands and relatives 99135
Importation of girls 80
All India Total 210524

Source: Crime in India, 2011, National Crime Records Bureau.

Random homicidal killing of women is not that common. What we see is the targeted killing of women and abetment to suicide through harassment within the confines of the family structure. Again, this is only a fraction of the actual number of crimes against women since most cases of sexual violence, partner violence, domestic abuse and harassment go largely unreported because women are scared or ashamed, or both, to report them. Indian women know that they are fighting a losing battle since going to the state for redressal of grievances seldom results in actual justice for them.

A few years ago the NCRB reported that there had been a 700 per cent increase in cases of everyday rape since 1971. In the NCRB’s 2011 report 24,206 cases of rape in India were reported. Out of these 93.8 per cent resulted in a chargesheet with a pathetic conviction rate of 26.4 per cent. There were 42,968 cases of reported molestation (27 per cent conviction rate), 99,136 cases of cruelty by husbands and relatives (20.2 per cent conviction rate) and 35,565 cases of kidnapping and abduction of women and girls.

Our child sex-ratio stands at 914 girls per 1000 men, with the ratio in the states of Punjab and Haryana being the worst. An estimated 20 million females are missing in India since 1950 because of practices that include abortion, or killing a girl at birth.

What is Gender Terrorism?

The largest chunk of people in India permanently living in a ‘state of exception’ are not always persecuted minority groups living in communally tense areas or people in insurgency affected areas. The people living under a constant regime of terror are the 58,64,69,174 Indian women (more than the total population of the United States). And there is a clear group of aggressors in this equation – Indian males and the women who aid and abet them. I call these individuals gender terrorists. By using the vocabulary of terrorism, I hope to draw attention to these patterns of violence against women as an internal security problem.

Indian women live in a continuous, terrorised ‘state of exception’ each and every day, where their legal rights, equality and human rights are suspended as a matter of course. Laws, codes and norms that are imposed on women by long-standing traditions have no relevance to life in the contemporary world, yet they endure because they are designed to keep them in check. Judgments on rape have used the problematic phrase of a victim being “habituated to sex”3, which means that women who have had sexual intercourse before cannot be raped. The perverted morality of our sociological conditioning preaches that ‘good’ girls do not get attacked, raped or harassed. And if our religious leaders are to be believed, some ethereal deity if prayed to can stop a woman from being gang-raped. All violence happens to ‘loose girls’ and many, including some women, believe that they either put themselves at risk knowingly, or they ‘had it coming’.

There is a tendency to treat gender violence as a law and order problem, and as incidents that occur at random. In fact, statistics clearly point to patterns of violence, and clearly identify the likelihood of who can be a perpetrator. Treating incidents of gender terrorism as random acts of crazy or disturbed individuals is misguided because it misses the crucial point that gender terrorism is organised, structured and systematic. That it is backed by the state when it chooses not to act on behalf of women, by extra-legal organisations like the khap panchayats, by patriarchal families, by school systems and by individual men and sadly, also many women.

That Indian women are the terrorised gender is well known. However, if there is a terrorised group, it stands to reason that someone must be terrorising them. We can clearly say that many Indian men terrorise Indian women in some form or the other.

Terrorism in the security studies literature refers specifically to some kind of violent action taken by an armed group that has a perceived grievance against the structures of power that exist. It deals with ideologically motivated killing of innocent people. Terrorism implies organised, or even a collection of individual acts directed against one community, territory or a group of people. It implies an ideology and a manifesto, and justifies why violence should be used.

Traditional definitions of terrorism cannot be fully applied to the concept of gender terrorism. Hence, I make a distinction between a political terrorist and a social terrorist. Political terrorism incorporates and encourages gender terrorism. A political terrorist typically attacks institutions of power as he has a bone to pick with those power structures. However, part of being a terrorist is to gain legitimacy through forced compliance. This a terrorist does bybeing a social terrorist as well. Think about the Taliban imposing moral and dress codes on society, and Punjabi and Kashmiri extremists imposing dress codes on women. Interestingly, political terrorists often start their local campaigns by policing what women can and cannot do and how they can and cannot dress. The reason why Taliban style political terrorism works is because the followed ideology is not just political, it also encourages a private individual’s capacity to use violence against a woman he knows or sees.

The manner in which gender terrorism as social terrorism routinely operates is not very different from political terrorism. The only thing absent is grievance against a power structure. If anything, gender terrorism is more like terrorism by the mighty and their handmaidens.

Gender terrorists are men (and women) who routinely enforce norms of behavior for women and girls that are meant to curtail their freedom, choice, rights, and impede the exercise of their capabilities. These social terrorists also work to restrict women’s access to political and legal institutions, nutrition, education, property, and economic opportunities. They use violence as a matter of course to enforce their agenda. In keeping with the accepted characteristics of terrorism, gender terrorists also create widespread psychological trauma for the targeted group (women), which endures over time and is handed down from one generation to the other.

In Haryana, eleven cases of rape, reported over 30 days, were followed with some of the most idiotic rationalisations by the illegal, unconstitutional, informal and self-styled law-making tribunals called khap panchayats. Several explanations were offered by men in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh for beating up their wives, or raping women. They said, men get jealous if their wives talk on the phone. The phones were blamed for women eloping with other men. Therefore, a khap decreed that women should not use cell phones. Men cannot help being lascivious and violent if women wear tight ‘western’ clothing. So, women should be fully covered in clothes that do not reveal their form or body type. Since men do not have access to sex in their youth they find themselves raping women. Therefore, the marriageable age of women should be reduced to sixteen so that more girls can be sexually available to men legally, and this can- according to khaps- reduce rape. Marrying outside the gotra and/or caste, and marrying by choice is an assault on the dignity and honor of the family, the head of which is a man. Consequently, to restore and reconstitute this honour a woman must be brutally murdered, or in some cases publically punished and humiliated along with her chosen partner.

These pronouncements are classic acts of gender terrorism. This is not law-making; this is rule by diktat. Organisations like khaps enable and actively encourage acts of terrorism against women and the men who support these women. The judgments of these extra-legal bodies are not unlike the pronouncements of insurgent groups like the Tehrik-e-Taliban of Pakistan.

In political terrorism there is a deep-seated ideology (religious or political) that provides motivation for acts of terror. Call it patriarchy or misogyny, gender terrorists are bound by a code, and a majority of men agree on the rules of that code. This code shapes the gender terrorist to see women in a particular way- as a body to be possessed on the slightest of pretexts, which could be a short dress or a revealing blouse. There is no respect for a woman. She is treated like an animal, and is sometimes less beloved than a cow. She can be bought, sold, traded, collectively used for sex, pinched, prodded, branded, defiled, mutilated, experimented with, burnt, bullied, financially coerced, insulted, verbally abused, underfed, economically exploited and emotionally abused.

Gender terrorism can be found in legislations like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which allows for armed state actors to get away without any public accountability and scrutiny for their policing actions in conflict zones. These actions have often included rape of women in northeast India and Kashmir. These offences have remained largely uninvestigated because of the shroud of secrecy that surrounds the actions of state actors.

Gender terrorism relies on the willingness of the terrorised to view abuse as normal, to be shamed by it and not report it. It uses an increased threat of terror in case a victim reports initial acts of terrorism. There are consequences to being a tattletale, and she is made well aware of what will happen to her or her family if she resists. It is also unpredictable. Any woman, at any time of day, wearing any kind of clothing, in any public or private space, is likely to be a victim of gender terrorism. In this manner, the gender terrorists are able to coerce a woman or a girl into complying with their agenda.

Ripples of Vengeance

On the heels of the Delhi gang-rape incident, a 19 year old dancer was gang-raped in Orissa, a three year old was raped at a day care center and an actress in Manipur (who bravely refused to hide her identity) was dragged off the stage to be raped by a militant. All these incidents happened within 72 hours of the Delhi incident. Many other incidents also happened in 2012. A minor girl was publicly lynched while coming out of a club in Guwahati and this was filmed and broadcast across the nation in absolute violation of media ethics. A girl in south India was molested and thrown off a moving train for refusing the advances of a group of men, and a 16 year old was raped in Silchar by her local guardian.

The anti-rape protests in New Delhi in December 2012 called for revenge in the form of castration and the death penalty for rapists in the glaring absence of justice for crimes against women. Now judicial inquiry commissions are advocating that women be allowed to kill rapists in self-defense, and right-wing organisations like the Shiv Sena are distributing knives to women for self-defense. In 2004, fourteen women in Nagpur stabbed a known rapist, Appu Yadav, to death in a courtroom. In the last decade in at least two instances, women in Bihar and UP have beheaded their rapists. When the 2012 anti-rape protests occurred in New Delhi, the Indian government instead of backing the supporters on an issue where there cannot, ethically speaking, be two sides, famously fumbled as it water cannoned and tear-gassed thousands of well-heeled protestors and tried to stop them from reaching protest points by shutting down key subway stations.

In the absence of justice, Indian women are indicating that they will settle for revenge. These women who are ‘recovering subversion’, as Nivedita Menon once articulated, often take the law into their own hands. The Gulabi Gang bullies its way into police thanas and offices of bureaucrats for better treatment of women, and bashes up husbands known to be wife-beaters. And let us not forget the increasing number of tribal women that join the Maoists every year to flee persecution and abuse by the state and its commercial handmaidens.

This is not an endorsement of the vengeance harboured by women. This is instead a recognition of a systemic problem in the capacity and willingness of the state to react and respond to gender terrorism. It indicates the failure of the political process to secure rights for half the citizens of the country. Women are forced into being radicals to secure their personal safety because they are painfully aware that no one else will secure it for them.

Bharat Versus India – A False Dichotomy

In India, state actors mirror the anti-woman ideas that govern social behavior. Our police and paramilitary personnel are drawn from households that have seen violence within the family. Our constabulary comes from semi-urban and/or rural areas where their mothers waited on them hand and foot, and now their wives and daughters wait on them. For our police, who are supposed to be the first responders in a case of gender terrorism, a beaten up housewife is something familiar. They have seen their mothers get beaten up at home. A girl with her boyfriend who got raped is also familiar. They probably agree that women with boyfriends are “habituated to sex” and so their rape is not a big deal.

This sounds very much like an argument that pitches rural India (Bharat) versus cosmopolitan India where women are supposedly treated better. But this is not the case. If anything, Bharat and India agree on how women are perceived and how they should behave. Bharat and India agree on dowry practices. Bharat and India agree on the impossible attractions of short skirts that ‘allow’ men to rape women. Bharat and India both believe rape can be conducted with impunity. Bharat and India both have women that are victims of domestic violence and spousal abuse.

The arguments that construe metropolitan India as a socially evolved space are quite misleading and dangerous because they lull us into thinking that rape culture and gender terrorism are products of economic and societal backwardness. If this were the case we would not see gender terrorism in countries like the USA or a host of European nations. That we still see incidents of rape in developed countries, is an indicator of the global scale of gender terrorism.

The Bromance of the State

The people who staff the state shape state apathy towards gender terrorism. We have elected representatives who openly dislike women, openly buy women for sex and make them disappear when things get uncomfortable. Our representatives have repeatedly scuttled the tabling of the Women’s Reservation Bill since the late 1990’s. Many representatives have chargesheets pending against them on various counts of sexual violence, including rape. These charges have not impeded their rise in politics and have not stopped them from representing us.

Our military and paramilitary personnel have been accused of rape in conflict zones. A few years ago an army soldier was filmed sexually harassing a young girl in Assam in full view of other soldiers. No one stopped the soldier, and no one helped the girl. She retaliated by pelting him with stones. The rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama by soldiers of the Assam Rifles in Manipur gave rise to forms of protest that included a mob of naked Manipuri women marching to the Assam Rifles headquarters demanding justice with signs that said “Indian Army Rape Us”.

During my fieldwork on counter-insurgency in India, I was told a story about a counterinsurgency operation in a northeastern state. In this operation army men- recruited from central India- who were part of a regiment stationed in Assam and the state police of an adjoining state conducted a combined operation against a newly discovered camp of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). The raid was successful. However, they found three female ULFA members in the camp. Tense bargaining took place that night between the northeastern cops, who were operating out of their jurisdiction in an adjoining state, and the Indian army soldiers who wanted the women released to them. The northeastern cops resisted releasing the women to the army. They saw the women as fellow northeasterners.

The cop I interviewed said, “you can guess what would have happened to them”. After half an hour or so of bargaining, one of the cops from the northeast picked up his rifle and shot the three women dead. It was to send a signal to the army men. The cops and soldiers went their separate ways, and no one was ever the wiser publically about what had transpired that night, how many rules of engagement had been broken, and how many men got away with multiple murders.

Such incidents are clear violations of all laws that globally govern our existence. However, these are men and state actors drawn from a society where women are ‘taught lessons’ through sexual assault and are beaten up and insulted for the slightest of transgressions. The standards of male behavior and the attitude towards women that exist in Indian society find their way into the actions of our military, paramilitary and police personnel. The institutions of the state don’t break down gender terrorism; they reinforce it.

It is hard to spell out the consequences for perpetrators of gender terrorism when state actors themselves are deeply misogynistic. The laws protecting women in the Indian legal system are far ahead of their times in many cases. However, they are sporadically and clumsily implemented. We as a polity need to define consequences for gender terrorists. Impunity exists in the absence of consequences.

“Just being a woman is an act of courage”, said the tagline to the 1979 film adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. I modify that somewhat to suit the Indian situation – just being born a woman in India is an act of courage.

References

Varshney, A (2001), Ethnic conflict and civil society. World Politics, 53, 362-398.

1 Source: Reed-Sirnate dataset

2 Source :Crime in India’ National Crime Records Bureau publication, under Chapter 7, “Crime Against Persons Belonging to SCs/STs, 2010

3 The term ‘habituated to sex’ became controversial when it was used in 1974 in the judgment of the Mathura Rape Case. In this case a sixteen year old tribal girl was raped in Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district inside a police thana. The judgment ruled that rape could not be proved; only intercourse could be proved because the victim was determined to have been ‘habituated to sex’.

 

Punjab & Haryana High Court- Don’t stress on age to define juveniles


, TNN | Mar 30, 2013, 

Don’t stress on age to define juveniles: HC
 CHANDIGARH: Against the backdrop of a raging debate on the age of juvenile offenders following the Nirbhaya rape, the Punjab and Haryana high court has held that benefits and privileges of juveniles should not be accorded to minors involved in monstrous crimes merely because of their biological age. Instead, it should be premised on the ability of offenders to understand the consequences of their actions.
“It is the advancement of the mental faculty of juvenile accused, which would suggest whether he is an adult or a juvenile,” the HC held while recommending a specialized examination of minors by experts who can evaluate their ability to segregate good and bad to show his/her maturity or immaturity to answer for the deeds.Justice Mahesh Grover of the Punjab and Haryana high court passed this judgment while dismissing the bail petition of a minor, a class VII student, who had allegedly raped two girls of class IX and X of his own school. The verdict came last week and a copy of the judgment was made available on Friday.

The judge was of the view that it is the factors related to growth and maturity psychologically and socially, but not entirely biologically, which would give an insight as to whether a person is a child or an adult.

“The courts ought not automatically assume that the statutory definition would confer the halo of a juvenile and give him an undeserving protection and benefits,” the court observed.

“In a country like ours the age given in the school certificate or the records of the school would only speak of an age imaginatively conjured by the parents at the time of admission. Even though it may form a persuasive piece of material, but certainly no credence and outright acceptability should be afforded to it.”

In this case, the juvenile from Chuchakwas village in Jhajjar district in Haryana had kidnapped the two girls in October last year. Both the victims and accused remained untraced for 10 days, during which the accused had allegedly raped both the girls at different places. While dismissing the bail plea of the accused, HC has asked the Juvenile Justice Board to consider the case in view of the observations.