Maharashtra to re-examine claims rejected under forest rights Act


Mumbai, May 10, 2013

Alok Deshpande, The Hindu 

Decision by Chavan comes after agitations by CPI(M), Kisan Sabha

Responding to the agitations by the CPI(M) and the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the Maharashtra government has agreed to re-examine around two-lakh rejected claims of land rights made under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

The re-evaluation will be first carried out in Thane and Nashik districts, which have the highest number of claims.

The decision was taken at a meeting held on April 17 in the office of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan.

According to government figures, till February 2013, 3,44,148 claims were received. Of these, 1,43,577 claims have been approved, while 1,97,600 requests have been rejected and 2,971 are still pending.

According to the minutes of the meeting available with The Hindu, Mr. Chavan has asked the organisations spearheading the agitation to prepare a list of applicants denied of land rights despite their having submitted two proofs mentioned under the Act.

“The list should be submitted to the District Collectors of Thane and Nashik, along with the copies of proofs. The Collectors should revaluate all these cases and take decision as per the rules,” directed Mr. Chavan. Which means, the government will now re-evaluate 1,97,600 rejected claims.

The Act grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest dwelling communities. Those who are cultivating the land prior to December 13, 2005 but do not have documents can claim the land. The upper limit of the claim has been set as four hectares.

Interestingly, of the total rejected claims, only 50,466 have been dismissed at the gram sabha level, while 1,76,456 have been rejected at the sub-divisional committee level.

“This is where the problem lies. The gram sabhas’ decision becomes meaningless when the Act has clearly given them the authority of receiving claims, consolidating and verifying them. The upper committees are clearly violating the gram sabhas’ rights,” said Ashok Dhawale, secretary, Maharashtra CPI(M) State Committee. Last month, the party launched an agitation in Thane and Nashik districts by blocking the highways, demanding re-evaluation.

Dr. Dhawale said: “The claims are getting rejected because the government officer, instead of going on a field survey, sits in the office and decides. The claims are being transferred to the Forest department for approval, which is not permitted as per the Act.”

Despite the Act clearly stating that there should be no direct involvement of the Forest department in granting or rejecting the claims, a letter from the Chief Forest Conservator, dated July 18, 2008, was used to supervise the entire procedure of claims. The letter now stands cancelled after the meeting at the CMO.

Taking a note of allegations, the government has made it clear that apart from the gram sabha, the sub-divisional committee and the district-level committee no other committee should interfere in the matter.

 

Demolition of illegal Mumbai flats: Why hit the innocent?


by  Apr 26, 2013, Firstpost

 

There is this often narrated anecdote, surely apocryphal, where a mischievous student’s parent tells the teacher that the boy is sensitive. If he errs it would do if the next student is slapped and his son would get the message. That was, of course, before corporal punishment was outlawed.

To expect such hints to be taken by people who occupy illegal structures in Mumbai or in any city is absurd. It applies well to the move of the Mumbai’s civic body to demolish 140 apartments on 35 floors across seven apartment buildings in Worli. It was not a spontaneous action from the civic body, it was ordained by the Supreme Court.

Building collapse in Mumbra. PTI

Building collapse in Mumbra. PTI

The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) has now made the headlines by the simple fact of speaking about how it has drawn a logistic and supervisory strategy to do so in three months, as The Times of India reported on Thursday. It mentioned, how, rightly, the residents were unnerved. One would be surprised if they were not.

The demolition plan is terrible news mostly since it is an entirely wrong way to go about the business of illegal constructions, which of course, are rife in the city. Simply because the Supreme Court ordered it for violations of civic laws also does not necessarily make it right. There are many more which have deviated from the rules.

The civic body, in the cloud of the dust raised by the collapse the Mumbra building which took 74 lives, has but to act on the apex court’s order which bars the residents from seeking regularisation of the illegalities. It naturally leaves them with no option but to take recourse to a review petition.

By making a virtue out of the order, talking about new techniques without disclosing the details as to how the flats would be brought down, and saying that about Rs 1.5 crore would be spent towards complying, MCGM simply cannot escape its responsibility in having allowed such nonchalant law-breaking.

What about the shamble in which the residents of other apartments would have to live in, during the demolition? It is assumed that they or the worth of their property does not matter at all. The collateral damage to them is hard to imagine.

Not bringing the unauthorised apartments down would be contempt of court, but allowing them to have come up in the first place itself requires a judicial enquiry which can and should hold the process and the participants in it guilty as well. We have hardly heard anything much about those who perpetrate such frauds, of being held accountable.

Had the Supreme Court only asked the MCGM to bring before it all the cases of violations and then their regularisation, say during the past one decade, it would have helped bare the unbelievable extent of the mischief played by the real estate interests and civic officials in cahoots. Those interests include politicians.

There are likely to be more illegal buildings or parts of buildings than there are those among them which should have attracted the demolition crews of the civic body. The very fact that they did not is itself a testimonial admission of the civic body’s culpability. Except, of course, we don’t know which are illegal and which not; even the buyers did not.

This does not at all mean that enforcement of law has to be only selective in the sense the builders who come up with the grand designs to cheat and then, with ever-eager willingness of the civic officials, often at the behest of politicians who urge everyone to wink at the deviations, can go scot free.

Mumbai’s civic body and its counterparts in other cities have avoided universally applying the building code—from floor space index to eligibility of a site to host the structure, including the structural quality, explaining the violations if—only if—exposed and act seemingly responsibly thereafter, up to a point before resuming their mischief. It is a lot cheaper to do a job honestly and efficiently than cope with consequences.

This common sense approach abundantly useful to ensure reliability of a civic body is missing in their administrative culture across cities. Because adhering to the proper ways would lead to huge losses by way of illegal incomes. It is as if the citizen is not at all a stakeholder. Those who stick to their statutory duties are often dismissed as cranks, as GR Khairnar was.

Had Khairnar only done his job without running at the mouth, and grabbing headlines, he perhaps would have been better off. But had he not, looking at the flip side, he would have been smothered by the corrupt in the system. The system that protects wrongdoing is much more competent than the other citizen-centric work as per law.

It cannot be anyone’s case that Mumbai or for that matter any city’s illegal structures, from lean-tos on sidewalks to slum colonies to elegant multi-storeyed apartments, should be allowed. Well-performing cities ought not to allow them to even emerge, leave alone mushroom. If they do, there are undermining their own stated purpose.

They are allowed to mushroom and then, amid outcries—often maybe because the right bribe was not paid—make the innocent buyer almost invariably the casualty. Even the slums that crop up hither and yon with near impunity from the civic demolition squads have been blessed by politicians and as the recent case of an entire corrupt police station lining up for bribes showed, everyone is on the make.

Then why leave the victim thrashing about after being targeted by the real estate industry which not only makes housing unaffordable but also runs a racket hand in glove with those who ought not to have allowed it in the first place. If this Worli pattern becomes the chosen way, large chunks of Mumbai residents would be on the streets sans a shelter even as the jails remain empty.

 

#Meghalaya Gangrape – A cry in the dark #Vaw


Esha Roy : Sun Apr 07 2013,  IE
The Sunday StoryThe victim’s closest friend Rabolin, who was with her when she was attacked
She was gangraped by 16 boys, nine of them juveniles. She was beaten, cut up and her genitals mutilated. She made it to hospital, but was sent home with first-aid. When she survived to fight, she ran into an indifferent administration and influential accused. Schools denied her admission, and others mocked and threatened her.Chances are you haven’t heard this 16-year-old’s story. Three days after the brutal attack on her, the Delhi bus gangrape would happen, and a grieving nation’s conscience would not find time or space for this distant town in remote Meghalaya.***

It was a dark, moonless night on December 13, 2012, in Williamnagar in East Garo Hills district. Most of the houses in the town were empty as people had gathered for the annual winter ‘Simsang’ festival. Like every year, the star attraction was a fashion show-cum-beauty pageant. That evening, among the jostling audience of youngsters were three teenage girls. They were excited, having convinced family members to let them go without male relatives.

Rabolin K Sangma, 16, says it was she who had convinced the other two, her closest friends, to come along. “We weren’t really interested in the festival. But I had to see the fashion show,” she says.

They left at 8.30 pm, before the show had ended. Fog had crept in by then and turned the trees on the isolated stretch they took past the Sacred Heart Church to soft shadows.

They had walked just a short while when they saw a group of boys coming towards them. “They were behaving strangely. I thought, this is not okay… but I didn’t say anything,” says Rabolin. Seconds later, the boys charged at them. “We started running and turned into a narrow lane. We cried for help,” Rabolin says.

One of her friends, also her cousin and neighbour, fell down and got left behind. “She got up but the boys had by then started pelting stones. One hit her and she fell down again. When they got her, they stopped chasing us. We hid inside a garage for hours. We heard her screaming but we were too scared to go back.”

***

Sixteen boys are believed to have proceeded to rape the victim, nine of whom were minors. The victim can’t say as she blacked out. The oldest of the rape accused is 19 years old, the youngest 12. Six are 18.

Defence counsel M L Thangal admits some of them participated directly in the assault, but adds others “just hung around to watch it”. “According to the FIR and the statement of the victim, the leader was 19-year-old Laston Marak, who told the others what to do. Laston was the victim’s brother’s friend but apparently did not recognise her. She was pinned to the ground, kicked and hit. They tore off her T-shirt and started knifing her through her jeans, only later taking it off. The victim remembers the first three boys who raped her, after which she lost consciousness,” says Thangal.

When she stopped responding, the boys stuck a knife into her vagina repeatedly to get her to react.

The victim regained consciousness at some point and realised she was lying naked. Laston allegedly started to rape her again, at which point she called out his name and asked him why he was doing it. “When she said his name, he asked, ‘Who are you?’. She told him and he realised he knew her brother. By then, there was just Laston and another boy there. They helped her put on her jeans and gave her a T-shirt and they dropped her back home,” says Thangal.

Meanwhile, as an eerie quiet fell again over the lane, the victim’s friends came out of hiding and stopped a biker for help. “He took us to the spot but by then she had disappeared and so had the boys. He then dropped us home,” says Rabolin.

***

All 16 accused have since been arrested and booked for rape, “common intention” and criminal conspiracy. On April 3, the trial commenced in a fast-track court with the examination of five witnesses. Interestingly, the police are not showing the FIR to anyone, including the victim’s family.

What has since emerged about the accused’s alleged behaviour has only added to the shock. According to the police, like the girls, the accused were present at Simsang. At the festival, they attacked a schoolteacher (no one knows why) and were carrying him to throw him into the nearby Simsang river when they spotted the victim and her friends. As they got distracted, the teacher fled. He was present at the hospital when the victim’s family brought her there later that night. He told the family about the attackers. The teacher has since disappeared.

The hospital medical report lists injuries on her neck, face and back as well as cigarette burns on her right hand. Her vagina had been mutilated. However, the attending doctor, says the family, just gave the victim an i-pill, eight stitches, some first-aid, a few painkillers, and sent her home.

The next day, a women’s rights activist, Jaynie N Sangma, took the victim back to the hospital. She would remain there for two weeks.

“She hadn’t been eating or drinking and couldn’t pass urine. I asked the doctor why she hadn’t been admitted and she said she had administered first aid. Initially, even the administration took the incident lightly and only after we held protests did they take up the case,” says Jaynie.

When the victim’s mother, who stays in Rongongre village, heard what had happened, she fainted. “I couldn’t recognise my own daughter. Her body was swollen. I asked what had happened to her. She started crying.”

“I expect to get 100 per cent conviction,” says public prosecutor P L Sebastian.

***

The victim has since moved out of Williamnagar. She had left her parents’ home in Rongongre, on the other side of the Simsang river, to attend school in the town, staying with her married older sister and her in-laws. A Class IX student, she had failed her final examinations and was looking to switch schools.

Rabolin prefers that her friend keep away. “One day in February, the two of us had gone to the market and the family of one of the accused started abusing her. Another day, the sister of another of the accused took her photo,” says Rabolin.

“When I realised the danger to her and us, I asked Jaynie to take her to Tura. One of the accused’s father is a surrendered militant and had threatened to take up arms again,” says the victim’s mother.

Jaynie took the girl to her home in Tura. “After several weeks, child protection officers came and took her away,” she says.

***

On March 25, the State Women’s Commission took up the case and took the girl into “protective custody”. Member Gamchi Tamre insists the commission acted for “the girl’s own protection” and to ensure her identity wasn’t exposed. “I couldn’t go the day of the incident, but I went as soon as possible,” Tamre says.

However, even the victim’s mother found it difficult to meet her in the commission’s custody. “I went to the shelter but after I had waited four hours, they told me I couldn’t meet her… I was never allowed to meet her alone,” she says.

The mother also claims that Tamre warned her that should she take the girl out of their custody, the government would not support the family. “I am a vegetable vendor and my husband doesn’t work. What option did we have?” she says.

Women’s groups say the reason for the commission’s actions was that one of the accused—a juvenile—is the nephew of Williamnagar MLA and Cabinet Minister for Social Welfare and Justice in the Meghalaya government Deborah Marak.

Asked who the Women’s Commission reports to, Tamre says, “We are a branch of the National Commission for Women… but we report to the social welfare department.”

***

On March 28, after much pressure, the victim was brought to Tura and allowed a five-minute interaction with a woman activist from Shillong, Agnes Kharsiing, and this journalist. “You can see she’s doing fine,” Women’s Commission member Angela Ingty said, ruling out any questions for the victim. “What is the need for talking?”

The victim was accompanied by three women protection officers. Her head covered with a dupatta, she sat huddled in a chair in a guesthouse in Tura, eyes downcast.

Looking small and frail, she said she was okay. “I like going to school. My favourite subject used to be science and I wanted to grow up to be a doctor,” she added nervously. She only looked up once and broke into a smile when she was told that Kharsiing had come from Shillong to meet her.

However, at least three schools in Tura refused to take her. “The headmaster of the Garo Union School said since she was an undertrial, they could not accept her. How can she be an undertrial when she is the victim?” says Jaynie. The headmaster, Stanley Momen, told The Sunday Express admissions in the school had finished by the time they were approached. “Why is everyone targeting me?” he said. “We are a semi-government school. There are government schools which these people should approach—this is a government matter. There is no question of admission in my school.”

***

After a PIL was filed alleging sloppy handling of the case, the girl was taken out of the protection of the Women’s Commission and handed over to the care of East Garo Hills District Commissioner V K Mantri on March 31. Mantri organised for the victim to attend school in Williamnagar.

The victim’s parents, however, felt she wouldn’t be safe in the town. They handed her over to a women’s group. On April 5, the girl finally got school admission with the help of the Garo Students’ Union. For her safety, it is not being revealed where.

***

At Williamnagar, the lane where the rape occurred remains isolated. Moss-covered walls block it from view of both the huts on the left and the government colony on the right.

At her sister’s home, the mother remembers the things her 16-year-old liked. “She is a good girl. She loved cooking, especially dried fish. In the evenings, she would watch Hindi serials on television. She wouldn’t understand the language but she loved them. She also liked dressing up and would save up to buy new clothes.”

Now, she adds, “I want her to study hard, get a job, become independent. There is no other future for her.”

She demands that the culprits be jailed for life and that Laston be hanged. “I have watched him and another accused grow up. They were my younger son’s friends. My eldest son warned me about them. They were the town goondas… I can’t believe that this is the guy who used to accompany my son on his fishing trips.”

Life has changed for Rabolin too. “I have gone out only a couple of times (since the incident), but I never leave home after sundown,” she says.

Talking about her friend, Rabolin says: “She never talked about it… withdrew into herself. Only once she told me, ‘I should have died on that very spot. I should have died right then and there’.”

At her sister’s home, one part of the victim’s past has already been erased. The bedroom that she used has been converted into a kitchen. Two tables with gleaming steel pitchers and a stove stand where her bed once was.

THE ACCUSED

* The oldest, 19-year-old Laston Marak, is alleged to have been the ringleader, instigating the boys to commit the crime.

* He and co-accused Patrick Sangma, 18, were her brother’s friends.

* Five other accused are 18, including Platon Marak, Chengchow Sangma, Rikrak Sangma, Kisen Marak and Chingkam Marak.

* Of the nine juvenile accused, the youngest is 12.

* The gang was known to get into streetfights and rob truck drivers and shopkeepers.

In 2012,

Meghalaya saw 158 rapes

6 were gangrapes

 

#India – If you are a tribal woman in Shahpur…, near Mumbai #Vaw


 

SHAHPUR, THANE, MARCH 29, 2013, Meena MENON, THE hINDU

File photo shows women attending a public hearing under the National Rural Health Mission (NHRM) in Sayvan village in Thane district.

Special Arrangement File photo shows women attending a public hearing under the National Rural Health Mission (NHRM) in Sayvan village in Thane district.

While Mumbai has an obscene array of five star health care, neighbouring Thane district is a picture of neglect

If you are a tribal woman in Shahpur, and pregnant at that, the chances of getting a sonography done are only on the third Wednesday of every month at the sub-district hospital. There is no radiologist here. In the whole of Thane district (with 15 talukas) there are only two government radiologists who work almost 24 hours to cover all hospitals in turn. Most tribal women shell out Rs. 700 to 800, money they can ill afford, to pay private practitioners rather than wait for weeks.

Since four or five months, the government has not distributed folic acid tablets and essential drugs are always in short supply in this tribal dominated taluka of Thane district, which is barely 100 km from Mumbai.

If a tribal woman manages to reach her full term of pregnancy and goes to the same sub-district hospital for delivery, it can be a great misfortune if she has to use the toilet as Savita Mukne from Vashind discovered last month.

Ms. Mukne escorted by Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) Anju Dongre went outside the labour room to find the two toilets shut and used as storerooms. Ms. Dongre recalls, “It was on February 25, I took Savita out of the labour room to find the nearest toilet which was a little further down and to my horror the baby’s head popped out. I was in a dilemma and had to keep holding the head while a vehicle was procured to get Savita back into the labour room. ” The child suffocated in the meantime and Ms. Mukne in a critical condition, had to be rushed to Thane civil hospital that night, a good three-and-a-half hour drive. It took her six days to recover. “See what problems this lack of toilet has caused,” Ms. Dongre said.

While Mumbai has an obscene array of five star care, neighbouring Thane district is a picture of neglect. At the Jansunwai or public hearing in Shahpur on Thursday under the community based monitoring programme of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), government doctors and officials tried to save face while a litany of complaints was read out against corruption, the condition of PHCs and lack of anganwadis (in 25 villages), the improper supply of medicines including folic acid tablets for months and non availability of rations for mid-day meal schemes.

Dr. Bharat Masal, medical superintendent, Shahpur sub-district hospital, said that every month only 30 to 35 cases were taken up for sonography since the radiologist who comes from Thane could only work between 9 am to 1 pm. Due to rampant misuse of sonography for pre-natal sex determination, the law was strict about uploading information on each case on the internet on the same day, said Dr. Mahesh Renge, resident medical doctor of the Thane civil hospital. The government offers a radiologist a salary of Rs. 50,000 a month at the Shahpur hospital but there are no takers. Of the 95 total sanctioned posts at the hospital, 18 are vacant. There are 2000 women in the high-risk category registered with the hospital who are given preference for sonography, said Dr. Masal.

One other issue was the non-supply of food grains last year from June to September to women running self help groups (SHGs) who cook mid-day meals. The public distribution system (PDS) centres refuse to stock the grains since it is not profitable, said an official. The SHGs had to put in their own money to buy grains or get it from the PDS shops they ran. A grave issue was the lack of supply of folic acid tablets, crucial during pregnancy since most of the tribal women suffered from anemia. Ms Indavi Tulpule of the Shramik Mukti Sanghatana said that for four months there was no supply of folic acid tablets. Dr. Pooja Singh, additional district health officer, admitted there was a shortage but she said the government had launched a new Weekly Iron Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) scheme under which four lakh tablets were given to Shahpur taluka alone on January 28. However, these tablets were sent for testing last December and the report had not come. While Dr. Singh said the tablets were released, the taluka medical officer said these tablets were not available.

Lack of supply of medicines at the nine PHCs and 60 sub-centres in Shahpur came in for much criticism. At Vashind PHC the medical officer Dr. Vinay Devlalkar almost got beaten up because he could not provide the drugs required and he rarely gets what he indents for. He had to buy extra medicines to fulfil demands. The State rarely gives what the PHCs require and even Dr. M S Dhere from Dolkhamb PHC admitted to being low on essential medicines.

At the PHC at Tanki Pathar, the contractor vanished without fitting a water tank. Now bullock carts ferry water to the PHC. The two doctors and staff cannot live there. The condition of other PHCs too is pathetic with leakages during monsoon and poor construction. Access is also an issue for many people. There is one PHC located near a poultry farm and people want it to be relocated due to the high risk of infection.

Dr Nitin Jadhav, state coordinator of the NGO SAATHI for community based monitoring, said that these issues were raised at other public hearings in the area but they have not been resolved. “There has to be a process to resolve them at local levels,” he said.

 

#India – Police says’ stay indoors to avoid sexual harassment on streets” #WTFnews #morapolicing #Vaw


Dreaded Bombay Police Act strikes again

Stay indoors to avoid ched-chad

Overzealous Thane cops fine unmarried couples and single women found on the streets after sunset as part of their drive to protect ladies

Arita Sarkar, Mumbai Mirror

Posted On Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at 04:37:34 AM

Inspector Vasant Dhoble, all set to be transferred to Thane, will soon find himself in good company: Thane police has launched a special anti-harassment squad, Ched-chad Virodhi Pathak that books young, unmarried couples out on the streets after dark under section 110 of the Bombay Police Act for “causing public nuisance.”

Young couple are fined Rs 1200 and given a humiliating lecture on morality before they are let go. If they don’t have the money, their parents are summoned and asked to pay up.

Since the drive was started on December 16, 64 people have been booked under the section 110 of the Bombay Police Act and fined. Anamika Sengupta, head of recruitment at an IT company, who was stopped by the police when she was out for a walk with a male companion at 8 pm, said she was told to “stay indoors.”

Anamika has since complained about the patrolling squad’s behaviour to the senior inspector of Manpada police station Ramakant Mahire. The drive was launched following the December 3 murder of Santosh Vichivora, 19, at Dombivili, who had intervened when five teenagers made lewd remarks aimed at his neighbour who was returning home from work. The way the police see it had Santosh and his lady friend not been walking together in public, the incident would not have happened.

The 15-member plainclothes squad now roams the streets of Thane looking out for unmarried couples and single women in ‘isolated spots.’ The ‘suspicious elements’ are given an earful, often asked to go home, and fined. The police have also roped in authorities from the four colleges and eight high schools in their jurisdiction.

Principals of these co-education institutions have been told to instruct their students to wear their identity cards at all times. The police said even students who are alone without their IDs are taken to the station and fined.

“Nobody should sit in corners and isolated places unnecessarily even in day time,” said Manpada senior inspector Mahire. “Ever since we started this drive, we have ensured that nobody is out on the streets after 10 pm and this has brought down crime.” He is convinced that the drive has helped curb crime against women.

According to him, Vichivora’s murder was not a result of sexual harassment. He said had the girl and boy not been walking together so late in the night (the incident happened around 10 pm) the incident would not have happened. Thane police commissioner KP Raghuvanshi who has not accounted for the overzealousness of his cops on the ground said that the intent behind the drive was not to harass young couples or single women.

“It is meant to target road Romeos and molesters. Our plainclothes squad is supposed to identify and book them.” In fact, the Thane police have also issued a well-intentioned and useful pamphlet with helpline numbers.

 

 

#Mumbai-Women cops were molested, admits R R Patil #Vaw


By , TNN | Dec 12, 2012, 02.22 AM IST

NAGPUR: Maharashtra home minister RR Patil has for the first time admitted that womenconstables were molested during the violence that broke out at Azad Maidan on August 11.

Patil rubbished claims that some of the women constables committed suicide while some others left service. He told the legislative council that no action would be initiated against senior officers who had allegedly tried to hush up the matter.

“There arises no question of their (women constables) morale being affected as a result of the actions of their seniors because no such thing (hushing up of the matter) ever happened. Even though molestation did take place, nobody has committed suicide or left the service as a result of the incident,” he said in a written reply to the legislative council during the Question Hour on Tuesday.

Patil’s statement is significant as no senior government authority had at the time presented a clear picture of what actually transpired during the rioting in which two persons died and 63 people were injured. Even though the molestation incident was officially denied at the onset, the incident did eventually find a mention in the charge sheet.

The police found it difficult to convince the traumatized victims to come forward, register complaints and identify the accused. The nine women constables had also identified four accused during an identification parade at Taloja jail in Thane. Taking note of the incident, the women’s commission, too, had conducted an inquiry and submitted its report to the government. So far, the report has not being made public by the home department.

Patil was replying to a question posed by Shiv Sena‘s Neelam Gorhe and Vinayak Raut, among several other members of the council. When was Patil asked what steps the government took to ensure proper care for the constables, he merely said that their senior staff had provided them counselling.

 

Bal Thackeray– A Politics of Violence


Vol – XLVII No. 47-48, December 01, 2012 | Jyoti Punwani: EPW

Bal Thackeray, the son of an anti-caste reformist, came from a background rich in learning and culture. Yet, he chose to use his learning and wit to destroy rather than create. Under his direction, the Sena resorted to intimidation and terror, first against south Indians, then communists and Muslims.

Jyoti Punwani (jyoti.punwani@gmail.com) is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist and human rights activist.

It was an ordinary Saturday afternoon on a sleepy road with people, desultorily going about their routine. Suddenly, the scene changed. Women pleaded with vegetable vendors who were hurriedly shutting shop; people ran after buses, autorickshaws fled. It reminded you of scenes shown in Hitler movies, of Jews out on a peaceful street when they suddenly hear the sound of a Nazi patrol approaching. It was as if a malevolent spirit had descended like an ominous cloud.

Bal Thackeray’s death had just been reported in his city.

Thackeray would have been proud that in death, as in life, he generated fear among ordinary citizens going about their normal lives. He would have praised his “boys” for vandalising a hospital because the owner’s niece commented on Facebook that the city need not have shut down for his funeral. As the girl in question realised, there was nothing anyone could do when faced with the wrath of a Shiv Sainik mob. For the leader of the Shiv Sena was also the “Saheb” of those paid to protect you from Sena bullies. So it was but natural for the police to haul her to the police station. The Mumbai police’s advice to citizens not to step out on the day of Thackeray’s funeral was not surprising. It was not their job to ensure that the city went about its work as normal. It was their job to facilitate the Sena supremo’s grand funeral.

This advice from the Mumbai police was in line with the advice some of them gave to Muslims during the post-Babri Masjid demolition riots of December 1992 – January 1993. “We made sure they left the area safely”, many of them proudly told the B N Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry into the riots. They did not think it their duty to protect Muslims from Shiv Sainiks. They just wanted them out of harm’s way so that they could sit back as Sainiks looted and burnt the Muslims’ homes at will. That was a deed to be proud of, indeed, considering the number of policemen found by the Commission to have actively encouraged the Shiv Sainiks to riot, or to have looked the other way as they killed defenceless Muslims.

1984 Riots Pave the Way

Early on, in 1984, just before Mumbai saw its first major post-Independence Hindu-Muslim riot, Bal Thackeray had told the city’s police force to take a leaf out of their Punjab counterparts. The latter, he had said in a speech at Chowpatty that acted as the trigger for the riots, supported “anti-national Khalistanis”. He went on to say, “Here you should at least not arrest your own people when they are fighting traitors”. In the fortnight of violence that engulfed the city and its outskirts soon after the speech, the police followed his advice. 1984 was when Mumbai’s Muslims, appealing to the police for help from Shiv Sainiks, heard for the first time, the phrase that would define the police’s relationship with Bal Thackeray: “We are Shiv Sainiks under our uniforms.” Official confirmation of this relationship came in the form of a circular issued by the city’s tough police commissioner, Julio Rebeiro, wherein he asked: “I want to know who is ruling this city – the administration or the Shiv Sena? When orders were given clearly to use force and beat the Shiv Sainiks who are going around ordering shops to close, the local police failed to do so’’ (Indian Express, 30 June 1984).

The 1984 riots were not one-sided. Apart from two Urdu newspapers which inflamed passions by deliberately mis­reporting Thackeray’s speech, there was the Congress-I Muslim MLA who garlanded Thackeray’s bust with slippers in Parbhani. On the ground too, Muslims in Bhiwandi and Govandi, to name just two areas, were the aggressors, and in areas such as Nagpada and Dongri, they did retaliate.

But the case of Thane during the 1984 riots was revealing of the way the Shiv Sena operates when it is in control. A local Bharatiya Janata Party leader told this reporter after the riots that of the 57 persons killed in Thane, 55 had been Muslims, and two others had been killed for sheltering Muslims. There was no retaliation by Muslims in Thane. As the former Sena mayor and later Member of Parliament put it: Thokaichey hotey, thokle (we decided to hammer them and we did). Even Muslim Shiv Sainiks, as well as those old-timers who were so integrated with their Marathi-speaking neighbours that you could not tell them apart, were not spared.

Thane had been the Sena’s early triumph – it emerged as the single largest party in the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) in 1967 itself, a year after the party was launched, and controlled the TMC from 1974 to 1981. The 1984 riots paved the way for the Sena’s triumphant entry into Mumbai’s Municipal Corporation the next year. In this it was helped generously by the then Congress chief minister (CM) Vasantdada Patil’s mischievous announcement that the centre (ruled by his own party) was planning to separate Mumbai from Maharashtra, a possibility he knew did not exist. After the 1984 riots that claimed 258 lives, Patil refused to prosecute Thackeray for his Chowpatty speech, saying that Thackeray had denied making any derogatory remarks against prophet Mohammed. He also rejected the demand for a judicial inquiry into the riots. He did, however, arrest shakha pramukh Madhukar Sarpotdar under the National Security Act, as well as underworld leaders Haji Mastan and Karim Lala. All three were freed after the Sena helped the Congress elect its nominee as the speaker of the Maharashtra Legislative Council a few days after the riots.

Blatant Abuse of Muslims

The 1984 riots displayed all the characteristics that came to be associated with Bal Thackeray and his party – Muslim baiting, violence against Muslims, the Mumbai police’s Sena bias, and the Congress-Sena nexus. All this was seen on a much larger scale in the 1992-93 riots, for the January phase of which the Justice B N Srikrishna Commission indicted Thackeray with the words, “like a veteran general, (he) commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims”. These attacks were not just the conventional looting and burning of property or stabbing to death. In January 1993, Shiv Sainiks were charged with stripping, burning and mutilating Muslim women, stoning unarmed Muslim men to death, and then burning their bodies to chants of “Jai Sri Ram”. Eyewitnesses told the Srikrishna Commission that they did not spare even handicapped boys. After all this, they got the best Sena lawyers to defend them.

There was one more difference between 1984 and 1992 – Thackeray’s abuse against Muslims no longer needed confirmation or denial by him. It was all there in his newspaper Saamna, which he had launched in 1989. Editorial after editorial in Saamna castigated Muslims as fanatic traitors, residing in “mohallas in which flowed streams of treason and poison”. The community constituted one of Pakistan’s “seven atom bombs placed in Hindustan”. One editorial asked the corpses of Hindus to come alive to “tell us, from which mosque was a bomb thrown at you? Which fanatic traitor aimed his stengun at you?” The news pages of Saamna celebrated the burning of mosques by “patriotic youth in this dharmyuddh, mosques which have become store houses of unauthorised arms”. Saamna, Thackeray said later, provided the “spark that lit the fire of patriotism which kept the country, god and religion alive”.

Yet, the Congress government took no action except to send the editorials to the Press Council, a toothless body! On a petition filed by two citizens, two judges of the Bombay High Court ruled these editorials to be unobjectionable, since they criticised only anti-national Muslims, not the entire community. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal against this judgment without going into its merits.

To be fair, the judiciary was not always kind to Bal Thackeray. In 1997, he, then the remote control of the Sena-BJP ruling alliance in Maharashtra, was forced to appear in person before a magistrate and apply for bail as prime accused for instigating Shiv Sainiks to attack reporters in 1991. In 1999, he was barred from voting or standing for election by the Supreme Court, which upheld a Bombay High Court order finding him guilty of having canvassed for his candidate on the basis of religion in the 1987 assembly elections. It made little difference to him – he had never wanted to stand for election anyway, preferring to be the “remote control” of the party rather than be accountable by holding a public office.

Contempt for the Law

Thackeray’s attitude towards the judiciary was consistent with his attitude towards the law, democracy, and the Constitution – an attitude of open contempt. It is hardly surprising that most of his corporators and Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) had criminal cases registered against them, involving charges not just of rioting and assaulting public servants, but also of extortion, kidnapping, and murder. A tape recording of the 1988 Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) mayor, Diwakar Raote, had him expressing displeasure at the meagre amount of Rs 5,000 each offered to him by Gujarati traders, and boasting that to save their lives, “I have slaughtered Muslims taking the sword in my hand… In one riot, we have slaughtered 300-350 Muslims”. No action was taken against Raote by the then CM Sharad Pawar, and Raote is now a Sena Member of the Legislative Council (MLC). The man he appointed as CM, Narayan Rane, according to police claims, started off life as a part of the “Narya-Varya’’ gang in Chembur, and had a murder case against him when he became CM. Rane is now the Congress’ industries minister in Maharashtra.

Thackeray’s contempt for the law and democracy has not arisen from any long and bitter fight through constitutional means against an unjust system. He had no patience with legal means from the word go. That was the reason for his instant popularity with the Marathi-speaking restless youth who found themselves on the sidelines of the wealth that was being generated in Mumbai in the 1960s. The new capital of the new state of Maharashtra was then the most industrialised city in India, attracting the most investment from around the country. But those who controlled it were mostly non-Marathi-speaking people, belonging to communities that had always been a part of the city. Thackeray directed the aspirations of Marathi-speaking youth against these other communities. He became their godfather, in every sense of the term. His fiery speeches and writings in his weekly Marmik drew them like a magnet to his ideology: hatred against others who have deprived you of what is yours, and snatching it from them by any means. At the same time as they put this into practice, the Shiv Sainiks through their shakhas across the city also solved problems such as water supply, and raided shops of hoarders when prices of foodgrains skyrocketed.

Terror Tactics

The Sena’s first rally was in 1966 in Shivaji Park. On their way out, the rallyists attacked an Udipi restaurant, marking the start of the Sena’s terror tactics. In 1967, alongside south Indians, communists became a target. Shiv Sainiks attacked the Communist Party of India’s (CPI) office in the working class area of Parel, and violently engineered splits in CPI unions. In 1970, they killed the CPI’s sitting MLA from Parel, Krishna Desai.

For Thackeray, leftists were anti-national. Four months later, backed by the Jan Sangh, the Swatantra Party, the Congress (O) and the Hindu Mahasabha, the Sena’s Wamanrao Mahadik won the by-election to become the party’s first MLA. Addressing the party’s victory rally, Thackeray said: “This is our dharmyudh. It is the Shiv Sena’s aim to destroy all those who are not loyal to the nation…Our victory is the victory of Hindutva’’ (Vaibhav Purandare, The Sena Story, Mumbai, 1999). Twenty-two years later, Thackeray exhorted Saamna readers with the same phrases during the Ayodhya campaign and the riots that followed the Babri Masjid demolition. This time, the dharmyudh was against a different set of anti-nationals.

But Muslims had always been anathema for Thackeray. As far back as 1970, the Sena was indicted by the Justice D P Madon Commission of Inquiry for its role in the Bhiwandi riots. It is just that unlike south Indians, Muslims remained his target till the very end. In 1972, Thackeray set up his Sthaniya Lok AdhikaSamitis (local people’s rights committees) in banks and government offices, and began ensuring jobs for Marathi-speaking youth. His formidable clout forced the Congress government to issue a directive to all employers in 1973 that 60% of managerial jobs and 90% of other lower category jobs in Mumbai be given to those domiciled in Maharashtra for 15 years. There was no need after that to target the yundugundus, as he described south Indians.

Anti-Muslim rhetoric – he called Muslims landyas and “green serpents” – and violence were intrinsic to the growth of the Sena. If the 1984 riots helped Thackeray capture the BMC, similar riots helped the party capture parts of Maharashtra through the latter half of the 1980s. Vaibhav Purandare’s The Sena Story details how every new city that was captured saw riots taking place: Nashik, Amravati, Nanded, Aurangabad (renamed Sambhaji Nagar when the Sena came to power in 1995). Finally, the 1992-93 riots helped the Sena capture the state in 1995.

But Thackeray’s hatred for Muslims as pro-Pakistani traitors did not come in the way of him embracing the party that still retained the name Muslim League. After the Bhiwandi riots in 1970, the Sena negotiated the presidentship of the Bhiwandi municipality with the township’s Muslim League. Both Sudhir Joshi and Manohar Joshi became mayors in the BMC with Muslim League help, the first immediately after Sena-League riots had claimed five lives in 1973. Sudhir Joshi’s victory procession was led by Thackeray and League president G M Banatwala. After the Sena took over the BMC in 1985, the Muslim League came to the Sena’s rescue whenever voting on crucial issues took place, in return for posts in important committees.

Thakri Bhasha

Alongside Muslims, Ambedkarite dalits, who rejected Hinduism and were only too conscious of their rights, made Thackeray see red. When the Dalit Panthers were formed in 1972, their first clashes were with Shiv Sainiks in Worli’s BDD chawls. In 1987, the Sena campaigned against the inclusion of the chapter “Riddles in Hinduism” in the state government’s compilation of Ambedkar’s writings and speeches. Sena leader Chhagan Bhujbal even bathed the Flora Fountain monument with gangajal after a huge dalit rally was held there on the issue.

Thackeray was the only one to openly oppose the renaming of Marathwada University as Ambedkar University, and throughout the long namantar agitation, Shiv Sainiks attacked dalits in Marath­wada, burning their homes, desecrating Buddhist temples and Ambedkar statues. Many of the “minor” cases registered against them under the Prevention of Atrocities Act were withdrawn by Sharad Pawar after the university was renamed in January 1994. The next year, when the Sena came to power, CM Manohar Joshi withdrew more such cases.

It is this licence given by successive governments in Maharashtra that encouraged the “Tiger” to roar and maul as he pleased. In 1988, he called a press conference at which Sikh leaders of Mumbai were summoned and threatened with an economic boycott if they did not get their religious leaders in Punjab to issue a directive against Khalistanis. His “roars” have been delivered in what his admirers describe as Thakri bhasha. The most creative use of this bhasha has been against women. Veteran socialist Mrinal Gore, who refused to enter into an alliance with him till the bitter end of her political career was described as “Goregaon’s buffalo”, and Janata Dal president V P Singh’s paayachidasi (meaning slave/mistress). Professor Pushpa Bhave was called a “stale nankathai” and referred to as bhavini (devdasi or prostitute) when she exhorted the terrified residents of Vasai to stand up to the “two faces of fascism – (Bhai) Thakur [a well-known don] and Thackeray”. Writing about CPI(Marxist) leader Ahilya Rangnekar and trade unionist Pushpa Mehta, Thackeray wondered how they were so active despite their “menstrual rags having long dried up”. Feminist writer Vidya Bal was described as the “hijra” of the women’s liberation movement.

Such was the man now being described as having ruled over the hearts of three generations of Shiv Sainiks for 46 years. That is untrue. Like any party, the Shiv Sena had its highs and lows. After a spectacular start in 1966, with the city burning for four days after he was arrested in 1969 (over the border row with Karnataka), the decade 1974-84 saw a low, as Thackeray disillusioned his followers by supporting Indira Gandhi’s Emergency. His workers supported Datta Samant despite their supremo’s opposition to the textile strike led by Samant. The 1984 riots helped him bounce back, but he lost control over the BMC in 1992, only to return with the 1992-93 riots.

The next stage of disillusionment came ironically, when he was in charge of the state. When the BJP-Sena wrested power from Sharad Pawar’s Congress in early 1995, the reaction among most Marathi-speaking people, cutting across classes and castes, was “our people are in power now”. By the end of their rule in 1999, voters had realised that Shiv Shahi was no different from Congress rule. Since then, the Sena has been kept out, thanks to his nephew Raj Thackeray forming his own party.

Five-Year Rule

However, his five-year rule deserves attention. Coming as it did two years after the 1992-93 riots where he played a leading role, the Sena-BJP rule started off as hell for Muslims. His government scrapped the state minorities’ commission and the Urdu academy. After Saamna received a call threatening to kill Thackeray from someone claiming to be a Bangladeshi, the Sena chief threatened that the entire Muslim community would be wiped out. The Sena-BJP government passed an anti-bigamy bill and also a bill prohibiting the slaughter of cow progeny.

But Thackeray’s government also fulfilled many long-standing demands of Muslims which the Congress had never cared to, including increasing the floor space index (FSI) for mosques. The community found Sena MLAs, even those who had been in the forefront of the riots, more approachable than Congress MLAs had ever been. Also, the five-year reign of the Sena-BJP saw just one minor riot which was controlled within 48 hours. Today, a similar situation exists as did in 1995. Muslims are fed up with the Congress, especially because of the continuous targeting of its youth on terror charges. A section of them want to teach the Congress a lesson and give the Sena another chance.

However, the Sena-BJP regime established Thackeray as the ultimate censor. Even after he lost power, nervous directors would show him their films if they felt anything in their content could annoy him. Only those with a hotline to the centre could dare to have their films run despite his disapproval, as Shah Rukh Khan did with his My Name Is Khan in 2010.

Ugly and Impoverished

Bal Thackeray, like many other Marathi-speaking politicians, came from a background rich in learning and culture. In addition to being exposed to literature, music and drama, he had the advantage of being the son of an anti-caste reformist. Yet, he chose to use his learning and wit to destroy rather than create. He debased the Marathi language when he could have enriched it. As a sophisticated Marathi-speaking orator, he could have used his power over his followers to turn Mumbai, already a flourishing cosmopolitan city, into one of the world’s great metropolises. He chose to render it ugly and impoverished.

Mumbai film producer arrested for allegedly attacking friend with chemical #VAW #Justice


Edited by Surabhi Malik |, NDTV  Updated: November 10, 2012 14:40 IST

 Mumbai film producer arrested for allegedly attacking ex-lover with chemical

MumbaiA film producer accused of attacking his former lover with a chemical substance was arrested in Mumbai today. Jerrit John was nabbed by the Thane Police from a hotel in Mira Road on the outskirts of Mumbai. He will be handed over to the Mumbai Policenow.The 45-year-old is married and reportedly had an extra marital affairwith the victim, who is a 26-six-year old physiotherapist and international cyclist. She was admitted to a hospital on Wednesday after John allegedly threw an unknown chemical on her face. He had since been on the run.The victim was discharged from the hospital on Thursday.

Ray of hope for tribal infants, moms


 

English: National Rural Health Mission of India

English: National Rural Health Mission of India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Saturday, Aug 4, 2012, 8:49 IST
By Dilnaz Boga | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

 

Despite the slim chances, Mayur Bhagat survived.

 

In Waghwadi’s Shahapur block in Thane, two-month-old was breathless and suffering from acute nasal and chest congestion when he was rushed to Dhakne’s sub-centre. But no doctor was present there. He was treated by a doctor on a field visit.

 

Bhagat received treatment through Community Health Initiative (CHI), an initiative of Impact India Foundation (IIF). Two million tribals in Thane are reaping its benefits.

 

CHI is a part of the National Rural Health Mission and is being implemented in the Parali primary health centre of Wada block in Thane. “Since May 2012, it has been working to reduce malnutrition, infant and maternal mortality,” said IIF’s general manager (special projects) Neelam Kshirsagar. The Wada block is home to approximately 60,000 tribals

 

Read more here

 

Man marries thrice to deal with drought in Maharashtra, India #WTFnews


MARRYING FOR WATER: A 65-year-old Thane villager holds up a photograph of him with his three wives. He says he was forced to marry a third time to keep his family of 13 going through the drought. His first wife, he claimed, was ill and his second too weak to walk one-and-a-half to three km every day to fetch water. That duty’s fallen on Wife No. 3

Hit by drought, rural folks pour into Mumbai, Pune

Madhavi Rajadhyaksha TNN

Sangli/Satara: Open trailers packed with families and cattle have become a common sight along the state’s highways. They are a telling sign of the distress that the drought in 15 districts of the state has brought with it. Truckloads of villagers are migrating from the hinterland to cities like Mumbai, Pune and Kolhapur in desperate search for livelihood.
While many officials deny the drought-driven migration, the absence of male heads in rural homes in water-starved parts of the state reveals another reality. A senior official from Satara admits that the district has witnessed 10% more migration this year. Local officials say the low minimum wages of the Centre’s flagship employment guarantee scheme (NREGA) have failed to stem the outflow of potential job-seekers.
In Khatav taluka, Satara, fragmented families are a sorry reality in one home after another. Landowner Adhik Wagh (32) has taken a break from his driver’s job and is on a brief visit to his native village in Katgoon. “We used to have ksheti (fields) of our own and cattle too. With not a drop of rain this year, there is no ksheti or water to give the cattle. I work in Kolhapur as a driver and earn enough to educate my two children,” said Wagh who recently sold his buffalo.
Worse off are farm labourers like Mugathrao Wagh (65), whose work has dried up with the wasting away of successive crops. “My wife, daughter-in-law and I were all farm hands and would earn enough to feed ourselves. We are all sitting at home now, while my son does hamali (labour) in cities and brings home some money,” said Wagh. Sangli collector says many are choosing city over NREGA 
Sangli/Satara: Satara collector N Ramaswami maintained that migration is tough to estimate, admitting that it is “slightly higher than last year” in the light of a dry spell in the district. District-level surveys had shown that 2,000-3,000 more workers had left the district.
The desperation for jobs is no different in neighbouring Sangli. Dhanashree Gaikwad of Pangri village has been playing mother and father to her two toddlers ever since her husband left for the ‘city’ in search of work. “It is tough living apart, but we have no choice,” she says.
Sangli collector Shyam Wardhane said there was enough work for those who were willing, but admitted that villagers often did not opt for employment under NREGA as they thought minimum wages were too low. Ahmednagar collector Sanjeev Kumar also denied droughtdriven migration in his district, though locals stated otherwise.

, TNN | May 16, 2012,

THANE: A man has been forced to marry thrice to deal with the drought in villages here.

Sixty-five-year-old Ramchandra (name changed to protect identity), a resident of Dengalmal village, on a hilltop in Shahapur taluka, said his first wife was ill and cannot go far away to fetch water for the family of 13, while his second wife was weak.

Ramchandra’s family includes three sons, their wives and three grandsons; his three daughters have got married and now live with their husbands.

He said he first married when he was 20 and has six children from her. He married again as his first wife fell sick, hoping that she would take care of the household work. But as she was too weak and could not handle the workload, he went in for the third marriage 10 years back.

He justified his marriages, claiming that in a year, they faced a problem of water scarcity for six months in their village. They have to often traverse one and a half kilometres to a well in a nearby village, and sometime to the Bhatsa river three km away.

Villagers initially opposed his marriages as they suspected that he was doing it for sexual pleasure.

Hussain Shaikh, a villager, said, “Earlier, we opposed his move for a third marriage, but later we realized that whatever he has done was right, as his third wife now takes care of the family’s water arrangements.”

Sakri Shende, a 70-year-old woman from the village who spends nearly five hours in transporting water with her son’s wife, said, “We normally find Ramchandra’s third wife carrying water. Only when she falls sick, other family members come to the well for water.