Bertolcht Brecht and Me – Share Birthdays :-)- 10th Feb


A Worker Reads History

   Who built the seven gates of Thebes?

The books are filled with names of kings.

Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?

And Babylon, so many times destroyed.

Who built the city up each time? In which of Lima‘s houses,

That city glittering with gold, lived those who built it?

In the evening when the Chinese wall was finished

Where did the masons go? Imperial Rome

Is full of arcs of triumph. Who reared them up? Over whom

Did the Caesars triumph? Byzantium lives in song.

Were all her dwellings palaces? And even in Atlantis of the legend

The night the seas rushed in,

The drowning men still bellowed for their slaves.

Young Alexander conquered India.

He alone?

Caesar beat the Gauls.

Was there not even a cook in his army?

Phillip of Spain wept as his fleet

was sunk and destroyed. Were there no other tears?

Frederick the Greek triumphed in the Seven Years War.

Who triumphed with him?

Each page a victory

At whose expense the victory ball?

Every ten years a great man,

Who paid the piper?

So many particulars.

So many questions.

Open Letter to Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch


Separate  Between Religion and State

Having experienced the ways in which religious fundamentalists have used both armed violence and state power to attack fundamental freedoms, we want to express our alarm at the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and other representatives of political Islam. We believe that secularism is a minimum precondition for the freedom and equality of all citizens. It is intrinsic to democracy and the full realisation of human rights.

Rather than becoming complicit with religious fundamentalists in power, we call on Human Rights Watch to report violations and threats against those targeted by fundamentalists and to support the call for secularism, and the continuing struggle for social justice.

Dear Kenneth Roth,

In your Introduction to Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2012, “Time to Abandon the Autocrats and Embrace Rights,” you urge support for the newly elected governments that have brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power in Tunisia and Egypt. In your desire to “constructively engage” with the new governments, you ask states to stop supporting autocrats. But you are not a state; you are the head of an international human rights organization whose role is to report on human rights violations, an honorable and necessary task which your essay largely neglects.

You say, “It is important to nurture the rights-respecting elements of political Islam while standing firm against repression in its name,” but you fail to call for the most basic guarantee of rights—the separation of religion from the state. Salafi mobs have caned women in Tunisian cafes and Egyptian shops; attacked churches in Egypt; taken over whole villages in Tunisia and shut down Manouba University for two months in an effort to exert social pressure on veiling. And while “moderate Islamist” leaders say they will protect the rights of women (if not gays), they have done very little to bring these mobs under control. You, however, are so unconcerned with the rights of women, gays, and religious minorities that you mention them only once, as follows: “Many Islamic parties have indeed embraced disturbing positions that would subjugate the rights of women and restrict religious, personal, and political freedoms. But so have many of the autocratic regimes that the West props up.” Are we really going to set the bar that low? This is the voice of an apologist, not a senior human rights advocate.

Nor do you point to the one of the clearest threats to rights—particularly to women and religious and sexual minorities—the threat to introduce so-called “shari’a law.” It is simply not good enough to say we do not know what kind of Islamic law, if any, will result, when it is already clear that freedom of expression and freedom of religion—not to mention the choice not to veil—are under threat. And while it is true that the Muslim Brotherhood has not been in power for very long, we can get some idea of what to expect by looking at their track record. In the UK, where they were in exile for decades, unfettered by political persecution, the exigencies of government, or the demands of popular pressure, the Muslim Brotherhood systematically promoted gender apartheid and parallel legal systems enshrining the most regressive version of “shari’a law”. Yusef al-Qaradawi, a leading scholar associated with them, publicly maintains that homosexuality should be punished by death. They supported deniers of the holocaust and the Bangladesh genocide of 1971, and shared platforms with salafi-jihadis, spreading their calls for militant jihad. But, rather than examine the record of Muslim fundamentalists in the West, you keep demanding that Western governments “engage.”

Western governments are engaged already; if support for autocrats was their Plan A, the Muslim Brotherhood has long been their Plan B. The CIA’s involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood goes back to the 1950s and was revived under the Bush administration, while support for both the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat e Islaami has been crucial to the “soft counter-terror” strategy of the British state. Have you heard the phrases “non-violent extremism” or “moderate Islamism?” This language is deployed to sanitize movements that may have substituted elections for bombs as a way of achieving power but still remain committed to systematic discrimination.

Like you, we support calls to dismantle the security state and to promote the rule of law. But we do not see that one set of autocratic structures should be replaced by another which claims divine sanction. And while the overthrow of repressive governments was a victory and free elections are, in principle, a step towards democracy, shouldn’t the leader of a prominent human rights organization be supporting popular calls to prevent backlash and safeguard fundamental rights? In other words, rather than advocating strategic support for parties who may use elections to halt the call for continuing change and attack basic rights, shouldn’t you support the voices for both liberty and equality that are arguing that the revolutions must continue?

Throughout your essay, you focus only on the traditional political aspects of the human rights agenda. You say, for instance, that “the Arab upheavals were inspired by a vision of freedom, a desire for a voice in one’s destiny, and a quest for governments that are accountable to the public rather than captured by a ruling elite.” While this is true as far as it goes, it completely leaves out the role that economic and social demands played in the uprisings. You seem able to hear only the voices of the right wing—the Islamist politicians— and not the voices of the people who initiated and sustained these revolutions: the unemployed and the poor of Tunisia, seeking ways to survive; the thousands of Egyptian women who mobilized against the security forces who tore off their clothes and subjected them to the sexual assaults known as “virginity tests.” These assaults are a form of state torture, usually a central issue to human rights organizations, yet you overlook them because they happen to women.

The way you ignore social and economic rights is of a piece with your neglect of women, sexual rights, and religious minorities. Your vision is still rooted in the period before the Vienna Conference and the great advances it made in holding non-state actors accountable and seeing women’s rights as human rights. Your essay makes it all too clear that while the researchers, campaigners, and country specialists who are the arms and legs and body of Human Rights Watch may defend the rights of women, minorities, and the poor, the head of their organization is mainly interested in relations between states.

Organizations:

Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW)

Centre for Secular Space (CSS), global

Marea, Italy

Nijera Kori, Bangladesh

One Law for All, UK

Organisation Against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, UK

Secularism Is a Women’s Issue (SIAWI), global

Southall Black Sisters, UK

Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights (WICUR), global

Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML), global

Individuals (organizations listed for identification purposes only)

Dorothy Aken’Ova, Exercutive Director, INCRESE, Nigeria

Codou Bop, Coordinator, Research Group on Women and the Law, Senegal

Ariane Brunet, Co-Founder, Urgent Action Fund, Canada

Lalia Ducos, WICUR-Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights

Laura Giudetti, Marea, Italy

Asma Guenifi, President, Ni Putes Ni Soumises, France

Lilian Halls-French, Co-President, Initiative Féministe Européenne pour Une Autre Europe (IFE-EFI)

Anissa Helie, Assistant Professor, John Jay College, US

Marieme Helie Lucas, Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Alia Hogben, Canadian Council of Muslim Women

Hameeda Hossain, Bangladesh

Khushi Kabir, Nijera Kori, Bangladesh

Sultana Kamal, Executive Director, Ain O Salish Kendra (ASK), Bangladesh

Frances Kissling, Visiting Scholar, University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics

Maryam Namazie, One Law for All and Equal Rights Now; Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, UK

Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters, UK

Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space, UK

Fatou Sow, Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML)

Meredith Tax, Centre for Secular Space, USA

Faizun Zackariya, Cofounder, Muslim Women’s Research and Action Front (MWRAF), Sri Lanka

Afiya Zia, Journalist, Pakistan

PL SIGN AN ONLIEN PETITION TO HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

SIGN AND SHARE THE PETITION 

Haryana to launch Urban Health Mission


Chandigarh, Fri Feb 10 2012,

Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda on Thursday announced that a State Urban Health Mission would be launched to provide comprehensive health services particularly targeting the slum areas.

The Chief Minister also announced that under the Indira Bal Swasthya Yojna (IBSY), free treatment would henceforth be provided to all children.

Earlier, free treatment was being provided to only children hailing from Below Poverty Line families, an official release said here.

Hooda announced these decisions while presiding over a meeting with senior officers of Health Department here.

The State Urban Health Mission will seek to set up Urban Health Centres over a population of one lakh which would provide curative, promotive and preventive health services.

Besides, poly-clinics and dispensaries will be operationalized in many cities.

Outreach services will be provided through health officials and community health motivators. This mission will be implemented in a phased manner initially focusing on urban areas with large slum population.

Hooda said that so far the Rural Health Mission launched by the central government had largely catered to the need of rural population but in view of rapid urbanisation in Haryana, there was an urgent need to address the health needs of a large section of the population residing in urban slums who were vulnerable to higher disease burden and were likely to have poor health indicators.

Under the Urban Health Mission, government would also upgrade its district hospitals located in major towns and provide additional hospitals in cities having more than five lakh population.

The objective of the programme is to provide affordable and accessible basic healthcare facilities near the place of residence for the poor who are otherwise forced to spend a large part of their income on health care.

Under IBSY, free treatment would include surgical intervention, implants, aids and medicines in government institutions at the district as well as the tertiary level institutions like PGIMER and AIIMS.


With Audio of soni sori’s letter o to the Nation on cgnet swara

kracktivist

 03/02/2012-Soni Sori’s letter from Prison, she  asks questions to all the citizens of  India, Please answer her

This if for all social workers intellectuals, NGOs, human rights organisations, women’s commission and citizens of India, an abused and helpless tribal woman, is asking you to answer her  why she is being brutally tortured  and she wants to know–

  1.  That by giving me current, by stripping me naked, or by  brutally  assaulting me  inserting stones in my rectum- will the problem of Naxalism end ? Why so many atrocities on women? I want to know from all countrymen
  2.  When I was being stripped, that time I felt someone should come and save me and it did not happen. In Mahabharata , Draupadi’s  honour was  saved  when she called upon  Krishna  Whom should I have called , I was given to them ( police )  by the court  …

View original post 1,691 more words

Don’t Let Your Governments Trade Away Our Lives


In an open letter to the citizens of Europe, the Chairperson of South Africa’s world famous Treatment Action Campaign appeals for collective action to stop European leaders pursuing harmful intellectual property provisions in the EU-India free trade agreement. India supplies 80% of the HIV medicines used in developing countries – the free trade agreement threatens this live saving supply.

An Open Letter to the Citizens of Europe

from Nonkosi Khumalo, Chairperson, Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa

Dear Citizens of Europe:

We are writing to you as people living with HIV/AIDS, who rely on access to affordable medicines to stay alive. We are writing to you because your governments are pushing to limit our access to medicines through a Free Trade Agreement the EU is negotiating with India, which is the world’s largest producer of affordable generic medicines. This week, as the EU and India meet for a summit in Delhi, our lives hang in the balance as the two sides make trade-offs to come to an agreement. Don’t let your governments trade away our lives.

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) was launched in South Africa in 1998 at a time when people across Africa were dying from AIDS because they couldn’t afford the high price of life-saving antiretroviral medicines. Over the past decade, TAC has campaigned with our international partners for affordable access to these medicines – seeing a nearly 99% drop in the price of a standard triple drug combination, from roughly 9,000 EUR per patient per year in 2000 to below 115 EUR per patient per year today. These prices came down primarily because of market competition among generic drug producers in India. Yet the battle for medicines access is not over, and many medicines, including cancer drugs and newer HIV medicines that people need after time, remain inaccessible to people in the developing world because of their high price.

We implore you, as citizens of the European Union, to stand with us against policies that are being pursued by your governments through the EU-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that will block our access to affordable medicines – putting our health and lives at risk. The agreement is being negotiated in secret, without opportunity for input by the citizens of EU member states and India. The EU has threatened to back out of the negotiations if the FTA is not signed by February – an attempt to force India to accept many of the harmful provisions the EU demands.

Ensuring that access to HIV medicines is protected is crucial to save lives and also reduce transmission of the virus. Last year, a landmark clinical trial showed that HIV treatment reduces by 96% the risk that the virus will be passed on. It is imperative that medicines remain available and affordable so that we can begin to turn the epidemic around.

India is often called the ‘pharmacy of the developing world.’ A study found that between 2003 and 2008, India supplied more than 80% of the HIV medicines used for the treatment of people living with HIV in developing countries. Beyond HIV, India is a vital supplier of affordable generic medicines to treat many other diseases.

But all this could change if the EU continues to pressure India to agree to more stringent intellectual property protection than that required by international trade rules. The United Nations, the World Health Organisation, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and UNITAID have all warned against the adoption of these stringent measures that exceed India’s obligations. The adverse impact these excessive intellectual property provisions have on access to medicines is well documented.

The harmful measures pushed by the EU include: so-called ‘data exclusivity’ that will delay the registration of generic medicines; investment rules that will allow multinational companies to sue the Indian government for implementing pro-health policies, and intellectual property enforcement measures that will, for example, block legitimate medicines from leaving India on their way to patients in other developing countries. The EU’s own experiment in increasing the enforcement of intellectual property has already had harmful consequences on access to medicines, with generic HIV medicines made in India being detained by European Customs officials on their way to Africa on allegations of intellectual property violation. The very real consequence of these seizures is stock-outs of medicines in clinics in poor countries and the interruption of life-saving treatment. The EU is now trying to legitimize these measures through trade agreements.

The European Parliament itself has recognised the role of India in supplying medicines to the developing world and understands the policies the European Commission (EC) is pushing through the FTA will have “a detrimental impact … on the availability of generic medicines.” Since the FTA negotiations started in 2007, health and public interest groups have repeatedly written to the European Commission asking them to remove these harmful demands. Across Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe, people living with HIV have taken to the streets demanding that the EC withdraw its demands. Yet the EC persists.

As people living in developing countries, we are deeply dismayed that EU governments are pushing policies that prioritize profits of the already extremely profitable pharmaceutical industry at the expense of our lives.

For the first time in the history of the epidemic, we can now talk about reversing HIV/AIDS. We now know that HIV treatment itself—which TAC and countless other groups across the developing world have fought for over the past decade—holds the key to stopping infections. As citizens of the EU, we ask you to stand with us in solidarity by calling on your leaders not to pursue harmful intellectual property provisions in the FTA that will take this treatment out of our hands.

We ask you to stand up for our lives.

Nonkosi Khumalo, Chairperson, Treatment Action Campaign, South Africa

Face of Salwa Judum killed in Maoist ambush in Chhattisgarh


NEW DELHI, February 10, 2012

AMAN SETHI, The Hindu

Kartam Surya was one of three informal SPO commanders to emerge in the aftermath of the Salwa Judum.

On Thursday evening, cadres of the outlawed Communist Party of India (Maoist) opened fire on a Mahindra Scorpio vehicle in Chhattisgarh’s troubled Sukma district and killed Kartam Surya, a 29-year-old police constable, absconder from the law and alleged rapist, who had come to symbolise the excesses of the State’s counter-insurgency campaign.

Described as the “Scourge of the Maoists” by obituaries in local newspapers, Mr. Surya began his career in law enforcement as Special Police Officer [SPO] during the Salwa Judum and rapidly grew to head the “Surya Group”: a band of approximately 100 SPOs who were dubbed ‘Koya Commandos’ and operated under dubious legal cover as the vanguard of the State police’s counter-insurgency effort.

Mr. Surya was one of three informal SPO commanders to emerge in the aftermath of the Judum. In January last year, Ismail Khan, head of the Ismail group, was fatally shot at point blank range by a Maoist guerilla as he watched a rooster fight in Sukma town, while Kicche Nanda, of the Nanda group, was injured in the Thursday ambush that claimed Mr. Surya. CRPF officers and policemen who operated alongside the three men described them as brave and committed soldiers.

Since its inception in 2005, the controversial Salwa Judum has been described as either a spontaneous peaceful tribal upsurge against the Maoists, or a violent government backed vigilante force. Thousands of young men were designated SPOs under provisions of the Chhattisgarh Police Act and pushed into anti-Maoist operations. Petitions filed in the Supreme Court accuse Judum members and SPOs of over 500 murders, 99 rapes and 103 acts of arson.

Villagers and local journalists in Sukma said that Mr. Surya was intimately involved in the Salva Judum and could have been responsible for at least some of the incidents listed in the petitions, but was never held accountable as he wielded tremendous influence amongst the SPOs and was an accomplished trooper. An article in the Indian Express for instance, described Mr. Surya as the ‘mentor and first leader of SPOs’.

Charged with rape

In 2009, Mr. Surya and ‘SPO Commander’ Kicche Nanda, were accused of raping three tribal women, aged between 19 and 23, in Sam Setti village in the summer of 2006 and charged with rape, criminal intimidation and wrongful confinement.

On November 17 2009, a sessions court issued warrants against Mr. Surya and his cohorts, but the counsel for the State said the police were unable to track down the accused, even as both men continued to participate in police raids and search operations. The following day, on November 18 2009, Mr. Surya and Mr. Nanda were declared absconders.

In April 2011, villagers from the villages of Tarmetla, Timapuram and Morepalli accused the Koya Commandos of raping three women, killing three men and burning close to 300 homes and granaries in the course of a five day operation. It is unclear if Mr. Surya participated in the operation, but policemen and local journalists have confirmed that he was present when a mob of former and serving SPOs attacked a convoy carrying emergency rations to the affected villages.

In July 2011, the Supreme Court took cognizance of the multiple accounts of rape, murder, and arson levelled against Chhattisgarh’s SPOs and ruled that the use of SPOs like Mr. Surya in anti-Maoist operations was unconstitutional. The Chhattisgarh government responded by inducting Mr. Surya as a constable in the State police force and incorporating his men into a newly created Chhattisgarh Auxiliary Armed Police Force. The men continued to report to Mr. Surya, making him one of the few police constables in the country to command a company-sized force of armed men.

The Chhattisgarh police deny the formal existence of a “Surya group” and maintain that SPOs do not head operations and work under the supervision of senior policemen. Senior officers have maintained that any such ‘groups’ could be a remnant from the days of the Judum when SPOs organised themselves on the basis of village affiliations.

At the time of press, the Chhattisgarh police was unable to offer any information on the 2009 warrant pending against Mr. Surya, despite this correspondent mailing them copies of the court order. A police spokesperson was unable to state if Mr. Surya had in fact appeared before court and received bail, or if he had continued to participate in police operations two years after being declared an “absconder” in a court of law.

Complaint to SHRC, Tamil Nadu regarding the brutal attack on women


Women against  Sexual Violence & State Repression
againstsexualviolence@gmail.com

08.02.2012
To
The State Human Rights Commission
Thiruvarangam
143, P.S. Kumarasamy Raja Salai
(Greenways Road)
Chennai – 600 028
Tamil Nadu

Subject: Requesting an enquiry by SHRC, Tamil Nadu with a judicial probe into the brutal attack on women and PMANE representatives in the Tirunelveli DC’s compound in Tamil Nadu.

We bring to you notice the brutal attack in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu on the January 31, 2012 on two representatives of PMANE (People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy) accompanied by twenty women who have been peacefully opposing the Koodankulam Nuclear Power plant (KNPP). This attack by Hindu Munnani goons who were accompanied by local Congress leaders occurred when the PMANE team was on its way to the fourth meeting with members of the Central Government Expert Panel on the KNPP at the office of the District Collector who is Chief Executive of the District Administration.

Eyewitness reports point out that four of the brave women who were badly injured – Sahaya Inita (40yrs), Milred (40 yrs), Reetha (55 yrs) and Leela (62 yrs), were from the fishing community, which has been active in the non-violent campaign to stop the KNPP. During the attack, the women formed a human shield around the two male representatives of PMANE. All four women were kicked on the stomach and hit with helmets by the goons. Their hair was pulled and blouses torn. They were later treated at Radhapuran hospital and all four were complaining of severe pain all over their bodies. Inita’s right arm muscle was twisted and she sustained a bone fracture in the same arm. Mildred’s left arm tissue was ripped by fingernails of the goons. Another woman’s neck disc was dislocated.

Such violent attacks on women and other activists involved in democratic and peaceful mass movements by state and corporate sponsored goons, often in collusion with other political parties, police and security forces are on the rise in India. We have also seen this recently in Orissa and other states. What is horrifying, but not surprising in this case is that this brutal attack took place when they were inside the compound of the Tirunelveli Collectorate, while the police on duty merely watched instead of stopping the attackers. Prior to the attack, the police ignored the complaints of the PMANE team about the presence of goons in the compound. Observers also noted that when Hindu Munnani fundamentalists arrived with the Congress leaders ten minutes prior to the arrival of the PMANE team, they were allowed to go in and meet with the press. Others were however, stopped by the police and told the collector was busy. The DC who remained in his office during the attack appears to be culpable in this case.

Prior to this attack, Hindu Munnani fundamentalists have been attempting to create a rift between the mostly catholic fisherwomen and the non-Christian communities involved in the anti-nuclear energy movement in this district. After the attack, the media as well as the authorities, who also benefit from creating a rift in the non violent anti-nuclear plant movement, have portrayed the attack on the PMANE activists as a communal conflict. However, this is completely false. We believe that this attack on movement leaders and women protesters is a strategy of trying to create tensions, to divide the people on religious lines and turn the movement violent. It is therefore, heartening to hear that the community remains strongly united and that this terrible incident has actually helped strengthen the peoples’ antinuclear energy movement.

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) joins these injured women and other PMANE representatives in demanding:
1) Arrest all the attackers as well as Congress members and leaders who accompanied the Hindu Munnani goons and are responsible for direct violence and for sponsoring and/or supporting the violence. Register criminal cases against all of them.
2) Remove the District Collector from his post during the probe so that it can be conducted fairly; the District Collector as the Chief executive of the District Administration must take responsibility for the violence that occurred within his premises and under his jurisdiction.
3) Order a judicial probe on all authorities that were directly or indirectly responsible for or tacitly supporting the attack including the police officers who were mute spectators of this brutal attack; Suspend all police officers present for dereliction of their duty, specifically for not protecting the PMANE members during the attack.
4) Initiate appropriate action against the other authorities of the Koodankulam atomic power project or state found responsible for authorizing or otherwise supporting this brutal attack.
5) Stop and Scrap the Koodankulam atomic power project. Protect the environs, peoples’ right to health and life as well as their livelihoods.

Whether it is in Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Jharkhand, etc., we are deeply concerned about the growth in state and other vested interests sponsored violence on the people, which has undermined the democratic processes and institutions of our country. We therefore, appeal to the National and Tamil Nadu State Human Rights Commissions to join the people of Tirunelveli and other Southern Districts of Tamil Nadu and our national campaign in condemning this heinous attack on the women and other activists in the Tirunelveli Collectorates’ office. We request you to immediately launch an investigation into the attack, probing the complicity of the police, DC and other members of the administration and help ensure that justice is served.

Sincerely,
Kalpana Mehta, (kalpanaindu@hotmail.com)
Geeta Charusivam, (geetacsivam@gmail.com)
Uma Chandru (umavchandru@gmail.com)
For Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)

Letters to God, letters to Supreme (Court) Judges


By – Umang Kumar

It will be fair to assume that we all remember writing – or thinking of writing – a letter to God at some point in our lives, typically when quite young. Those were letters of various kinds but more often than not they encapsulated our acute feelings whose redress we had not been able to obtain from other sources. They were often in the nature of requests or registered some feeling of grave injustice for which we were convinced that we had to make a personal appeal to the highest arbiter or wish-granter. We often had profound unanswered questions, questions that we had turned over in our own heads endlessly but found no earthly answers to give us any comfort. We were totally at a loss and did not know what else to do or who else to turn to. So we finally decided to write to the Supreme Being, the One who was supposed to know all reasons for things that went terribly wrong and have all the answers.

Soni Sori’s letters from her incarceration, most recently to Supreme Court judges, seem to be in similar vein: pained, stupefied missives seeking some answers to what she has been through, to seek even the most basic explanation possible. There are times when the entirety of one’s life experience is not enough to provide one with any insight into what one is overtaken by. Then all one can do is issue a plea for help soliciting some answers. The stupefaction is complete.

Such is the state that Soni displays: a complete incomprehension of why she finds herself in the current situation, among the people who previously tormented her. So much so that she asks the judge, “Why did you give me a new lease of life then? You should have left me to die,” referring to the fact that she was provided life-giving medical attention in Kolkata upon the court’s order but then handed back to the very people among whom she had been tortured. She prefers death to the continued threat her life has been in. That should tell us something about the trauma she has been subjected to already.

But despite undergoing reprehensible treatment at the hand of the state, notice her simple-minded and sincere gratitude towards the judicial system: “I live, thanks to your order, which I’ll never forget,” she tells the judge she addresses the letter to. She feels a certain welling gratitude towards a part of the very state that is also after her limb and life. It is possible her adivasi values inform her to give thanks where she can, to not see an all-pervasive evil in the systems around her. However that same life-giver, that Supreme mai-baap, also causes her utter befuddlement: how could the very institution that ordered her treatment that saved her life suddenly forget how her life was endangered and feign complete ignorance of circumstances by entrusting her back to the people who caused her pain? She expresses herself plaintively thus: “But the esteemed Court had more faith in the police than in their daughter and because of that, I have lost everything today. The Court still doesn’t understand…”

Daughter! She refers to herself as “their daughter,” trying, in her naivete and idealism, to claim some sort of socio-cultural role under which women are accorded respect as being either daughters or sisters. “This is a plea from a helpless daughter,” she repeats in the next paragraph. The reader wonders why she is doing this, why is she debasing herself by trying to invoke familial relationships with an institution and a state that has no interest in her, for whom she is party to the “gravest internal threat to the country,” for whom, she, an adivasi and a woman, of limited means and influence at that, has no claim to any close relationships; she is probably no more than a case number in a court-system to be dealt with “in accordance with law.” Her tormentors, the other upholders of law and order in the state have already told her as much and much worse:“[Y]ou are a whore, a bitch…What’s your status anyways, you think the big stalwarts will support such an ordinary woman like you[?]”. Soni’s spirit does not seem to be crushed so easily by the vulgarity and depravity she has been subject to. She still feels she can make appeals to an impersonal, insensitive, uncaring system as a daughter to a father figure…

But her questions rack her like the pain that is also constantly with her: “Why this injustice to me? Giving electric shocks, stripping me naked, shoving stones inside me – is this going to solve the Naxal problem?” “Sir Judge, my body is in great pain,” the proud adivasi teacher from the “Gandhian school Rukmani Kanya Ashram, Dimripa” is forced to admit to the “Sir Judge,” the “Judge Sahab.” But no amount of Gandhian virtues and principles of non-violence can mitigate her pain. There is no great ideal of satyagraha that she can invoke. All she can do is send out these cries of help. As if to God, her last hope. But as she too realizes, even Krishna did not come to her aid, as he did for Draupadi.

Small Towns, Big Hearts- Love in Khapland


From social boycotts to betrayals, love can conquer all in the hinterland. TOI-Crest brings you some endearing and enduring tales.

LOVE IN KHAP-LAND
SUKHBIR SIWACH, TNN

It was on the campus of Janta College in Charki Dadri, Bhiwani that Anita Juthera and Shribhagwan Legha met and fell in love. After two years of courtship, Legha was keen to tie the knot. “I love you, marry me, ” he pleaded with her.

Anita, more clued into the complications of gotra taboos among Jats, was hesitant. Both belonged to the Phogat gotra. She came from Makdani and he, Samaspur and they were tied by the rules of gotra fraternity which rules out marriage between Jats of the two villages.

“It’s not possible. The khap will oppose our marriage, ” she told him. But Shribhagwan’s persistence wore her down. “Times have changed. These things don’t matter in a modern society, ” the Jat boy had argued naively.

But Anita’s worst fears came true when the couple declared their love. Legha’s family was harassed by furious villagers egged on by a diktat issued by the Samaspur khap. Their crops were destroyed, their tubewell was damaged, and their home was pelted with stones. The police remained deployed around the Legha home for 10 months to ensure that Shribhagwan’s parents were not harmed.

In the meanwhile, Shribhagwan was recruited as a constable in the Rajasthan Police and Anita got admission to a management course in a Jaipur college. Six years after they befriended each other, the couple got married in Jaipur without telling their families. But word spread and all hell broke lose again.

Shribhagwan ducked calls from his father, Randhir Singh. And Anita was on the run from her panchayat. The couple managed to stay safe but their families bore the brunt of khap rage.

“I was told to get the marriage annulled or leave the village and abandon 40 bighas of our land for the panchayat to dispose of as it pleased, ” says Singh, 62. The Phogat khap announced a social boycott. And so vicious was the khap that Singh’s nephew Raj was fined Rs 5, 200 for daring to talk to his uncle.

The situation took a violent turn on March 4, 2010, the “deadline” for the family to leave the village. Their home was stoned and Randhir Singh and his wife Prem Devi had to lock themselves up in their rooms to escape the mobs. The police team assigned to their protection had to ask for additional forces to tackle the situation.

Three days later, the khap had reasons to rejoice – former Haryana chief minister, Hukum Singh, not only presided over its meeting but also expressed solidarity with the Phogat khap’s efforts to implement its diktat against the couple. The panchayat, attended by 1, 000 villagers, demanded that the girl and the boy be “restored” to their families within a week and divorce proceedings initiated.

Randhir Singh as well as Anita’s father, Azad Singh, a retired army captain, pleaded that they could not carry out the diktat because the couple would not listen to them. A few days later, Hukum Singh distanced himself from the panchayat and the khap relented on its stand that Shribhagwan’s family had to leave the village.

“Many villagers still don’t talk to me, ” says Randhir Singh. The village ex-sarpanch, Surender Singh Phogat, claims that no one is prevented from speaking to the family but “formally, we have not lifted the social boycott as yet”.

Anita, 24, and Shribhagwan, 25, have been married for two years now. But they are still in hiding and their families have no address for them. “Our parents have suffered a lot because of us. We will return to the village but only after we secure good jobs that will prove that our love marriage has been a success, ” says Shribhagwan. The two have cleared the written and physical exams for the recruitment of subinspectors in Rajasthan Police and are busy readying for the interview round.

Crusading Spanish judge is suspended for career-ending 11 years


10TH FEB, 2012  MADRID — Spain‘s most famous judge, heralded abroad for seeking to put dictators behind bars, has been found guilty of overstepping his authority in a corruption probe here.

Baltasar Garzón won global fame for indicting former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998. He’s been dubbed a “dictator-hunter” abroad for championing the principle of “universal jurisdiction,” the idea that some crimes are so heinous that they deserve to be investigated, no matter where or when.

But his crusade hit a snag Thursday in Spain. The country’s Supreme Court convicted Garzón of misusing his authority while investigating alleged corruption involving figures in Spain’s now-ruling conservative party.

The high court barred Garzón, 56, from the bench for 11 years, a decision that cannot be appealed and that effectively ends his career in Spain because he will be past retirement age when the suspension ends.

But it’s unclear what effect, if any, Thursday’s ruling will have on Garzón’s international work. He has served as an advisor to the International Criminal Court in The Hague and has investigated political crimes and genocide in Argentina, Peru, Guatemala, Rwanda and Tibet. Garzón even tried to investigate former U.S. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales for allegedly authorizing torture of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That case was dropped amid fierce American diplomatic pressure.
“Judge Garzón is still a heroic figure in many parts of the world, and he’s not going to have difficulty finding people who want to use his investigative skills,” said Reed Brody, a Brussels-based lawyer with Human Rights Watch who knows the judge personally and traveled to Madrid to watch his trial.

Garzón’s conviction came in one of three trials against him. He is awaiting a verdict in a case that wrapped up Wednesday, involving his probe into more than 100,000 deaths and disappearances that date back to the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War. Garzón is accused of violating a 1977 amnesty law that prohibits investigations into political crimes from the war and nearly 40-year military dictatorship that followed.

A third case, involving alleged payments from a Spanish bank, has yet to begin. It is the only case that carries the possibility of jail time if Garzón is convicted.

Garzón’s job as an investigative judge at Spain’s National Court was like that of a U.S. district attorney. For years, he helped put drug barons, Basque terrorists and corrupt politicians behind bars. In 2009, Garzón ordered wiretaps of jailhouse conversations between inmates and their lawyers, as part of a larger corruption probe involving the conservative Popular Party.

Garzón’s hunch was right, and one of the lawyers was indicted. But the seven-member Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that those wiretaps were illegal.

Brody said some of Garzón’s colleagues backed his decision to order the wiretaps.

“There are many judges who agreed that it was proper for Judge Garzón to do what he did,” Brody said. “Yet he’s the one who is being prosecuted for it.

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