Land and the people: ‘Injustice still being perpetuated by govts’


Picea smithiana forest. Around Vashist, Himach...

Picea smithiana forest. Around Vashist, Himachal Pradesh, India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2012, 11:03 IST
By Subir Ghosh & Maitreyi Joshi | Place: Bangalore | Agency: DNA

State governments across the country have been both callous and tardy in implementing the Forest Rights Act. Claims are being rejected on flimsy grounds, with the rejection rate in as many as 11 states being over 50%. Karnataka stands fourth in the rejection rate with 95.66%, according to a compilation released on Monday by the Delhi-based Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network (AITPN).

As of January 31 this year, 31,68,478 claims have been received and 27,24,162 (85.98%) disposed of. In terms of rejection, Uttarakhand is on the top with 100% followed by Himachal Pradesh (99.62%), Bihar (98.12%), Karnataka (95.66%) and Uttar Pradesh (80.48%), The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is popularly referred to as the Forest Rights Act.

There are numerous reasons for this.
Paritosh Chakma, director of AITPN, explained, “Forest Rights Committees have not been constituted at the gram sabha level in several states while the forest officials have been obstructing the process of verification and decision making at various levels. The claimants are denied proper hearing of their cases and opportunity to file appeal against the rejections.”

The nodal ministry i.e. Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA)has washed its hands off by maintaining that its role is limited to “facilitating and monitoring the implementation”. On the other hand, the nodal departments at the state level do not understand the provisions of the FRA and have been reduced to performing a ‘post office’ job of collecting statistical information and forwarding it to the higher levels.

The reason for Karnataka being high on the list was explained by Srikanth, the state convener of the Tribal Joint Action. He said, “Officials in the state government have not had a proper orientation about FRA. They do not even understand what the law implies and they have just been rejecting all the applications, stating reasons like ‘they do not live in forests’ and ‘they are not doing agriculture on the land’. They have missed out on the what the Act exactly means. It is because of the lethargy and negligence of all these people in power – forest and revenue officers – that several people are suffering.”

The problem has been complicated by the fact that the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Rules, 2007 (better known as the Forest Rights Rules, 2007) notified on January 1, 2008 actually overrules the Forest Rights Act to deny rights to the beneficiaries.

VS Roy David, national convenor of the National Adivasi Alliance, said “The central government had allotted lots of funds to organise training programmes to create awareness about the Act among forest and district officials, but very few training programmes have been held (which were poorly attended). Most higher officials who are supposed to implement the law are not even clear about what the law means.”

The AITPN report ‘The State of the Forest Rights Act: Undoing of historical injustice withered’ categorically says that there has been little willingness to implement the FRA in letter and spirit. The MoTA especially had been shirking its responsibilities. In 2010, the MoTA had claimed that “Though the Act was passed by the central government, the primary responsibility of implementing this Act lies with the state governments” and that its role is limited to only “facilitating and monitoring the implementation” of the Forest Rights Act.

Roy David said, “There is no political will to implement the law. Forest officials look at forests as commercial sites from which they extract resources. If the law is implemented, the people in power worry that they will not be able to enjoy the same powers anymore. Moreover, there is a lot of political interference; many areas are being declared as ‘tiger sensitive’, ‘heritage sites’ and ‘elephant corridors’ even before the Forest Rights Act is implemented. This clearly is the violation of law.”

There are other issues too. Contended Chakma, “The community forest rights (CFRs) are not being recognised and in many states even the forms are not supplied. The claims under the FRA are not being recognised in the protected areas such as national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The ‘Other Traditional Forest Dwellers’ are being denied rights under the FRA.”

The president of the Karnataka Adivasi Forum, JP Raju, said, “The forest and district officials are supposed to conduct community surveys to understand the status of the forest dwellers, but they are not doing that. Most applications are being rejected stating that there are not enough evidence(s) and documents supporting the application.”

International Workers Day -May Day Rally – Mumbai, India


Trade Union Joint Action Committee (TUJAC) organised the May Day rally on 1st May. The Rally was attendedby banks employess union,teachers union, TradeUnions, Nurses Union and many mumbaikars at Dadar Station (E), Mumbai.More than 1000 people joined rally and passed resolution  for strengthening the public sector services in areas of education, health , labour and against the privatisation of the essentual services in India. The Meeting also dwelled into the draconian alws against the right to strike and protest

Dalit youth, victim of honour killing


He was invited by his girlfriend’s maternal uncle and done to death.

S.VIJAY KUMAR, The Hindu

In yet another case of suspected honour killing, the Tirunelveli district police on Friday arrested four persons on charges of murdering a Dalit youth who fell in love with a caste Hindu girl.

According to police sources, S. Elango (25) of Periyar Nagar in Erode was invited for a discussion by his girlfriend’s maternal uncle and his former employer Saravanan. When he went to see him in a village near Munnirpallam on August 5, 2011, Saravanan and his associates took Elango to an isolated place and murdered him. The body was thrown into a pond.

Since the victim could not be identified, police disposed of the body after preserving the skull. Elango’s family did not lodge a police complaint since they were under the impression that he had gone to seek his fortunes in the film industry, which was his long-cherished dream.

Deputy Inspector General of Police (Tirunelveli Range) V. Varadaraju said a special team formed to re-investigate the case followed specific clues and apprehended Saravanan and his associates Maharajan, Isakki Pandian and Kannan. The accused confessed to having murdered Elango.

“The body was identified by Elango’s brother last week. We will also go for DNA profiling for scientific confirmation. Though the youth was missing for about six months, his parents did not lodge a complaint with the police,” he said.

Giving details of the case, Mr. Varadaraju said Elango was employed in a grocery owned by Saravanan in Tirupur. When Saravanan’s niece P. Selvalakshmi (18) came to the shop on a few occasions, Elango befriended her and the two fell in love.

In a bid to end their relationship, Saravanan closed the shop and returned to his native village U. Pandiapuram in Tirunelveli district along with his family. However, Elango remained in constant touch with the girl. Enraged over this, Saravanan invited Elango to a place near Munnirpallam for talks and took the help of his relatives to murder him.

“Initially, it was a case of suspicious death. We have altered it to murder…the accused persons will also be booked under the provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989,” he said, adding that the four were produced in a local court and remanded in judicial custody.

A. Kathir, Executive Director of ‘Evidence,’ a human rights organisation, expressed concern over the increasing number of honour killings in Tamil Nadu. He sought suitable compensation to Elango’s family. Enquiry by a fact-finding team revealed that the murder was a clear case of honour killing, Mr. Kathir added.

Immediate Release–80 percent paraplegic Seema granted bail by Supreme Court


PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES

RAJASTHAN

 

N Delhi, 1st May, 2012

The Supreme Court today granted interim bail to Seema an 80 percent paraplegic, victim of custodial sexual torture, from Jaipur in Rajasthan. Seemahad been made an accused by the Jaipur Police (District East) in a counter case to hers against the police. Justice CS Thakur and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra who heard the matter in the Supreme Court said that Seema was a living corpse and she deserved dignity and not custody. quoting from the order the Judges said that

“Board   of Doctors constituted under the orders of the High Court, a copy whereof has been placed on record.  A perusal of the said report shows that the petitioner is a complete paraplegic. Her left leg has been        amputated above the knee. She has also lost voluntary control of bowel and bladder and is completely dependent for all her activities of daily living. She has permanent disability of more than 80%.         Mr.   Gonsalves   submits    that    keeping   in   view   the medical condition of the petitioner and the fact that she has been in custody for past 63 days, this court could consider granting interim bail to her.Dr. Singhvi, does not seriously oppose that prayer and submits that pending. Final disposal of the petition and filing of objections by the respondent, the court could grant interim bail to the petitioner.   In the circumstances, therefore, we direct that the petitioner shall be released from custody on her furnishing bail bonds in a sum of Rs. 10,000/- with one surety in the like amount to the satisfaction of the trial court This order is only an interim arrangement and shall remain subject to the final outcome of the SLP.  

Seema was represented by senior counsel Colin Gonsalves and the State of Rajasthan was represented by Additional Advocate General Manish Singhvi.

It may be recalled that Seema was sexually abused in police custody on the 23rd of January, 2011 when the police violating all procedures had got her to the police station, in the name of interrogation in a missing case of one of her friends, Hina. Completely shattered by the sexual abuse she threw herself in front of a train next morning on the 24th January,2011 and survived the suicide attempt becoming a paraplegic for life. Following the outrage that followed the policemen were arrested. When Hina, Seema’s friend returned on 4th May 2011, after having spent time in Jadonpur, Mathura and having worked in Agra as a marketing manager in a company, she became a tool in the hands of the police who got her to make statements againstSeema. Seema and her two witnesses of sexual torture were arrested in due course. Seema got arrested on the 29th of February, 2012.

Despite the law on bail which clearly gives powers to police and magesterial courts to grant bail u/s 437 (1) (2) to released on bail “if such person is under the age of sixteen years or is a woman or is sick or infirm: “ However, in the case of Seema neither did the Investigating officer of the case, who could have released her on bail, nor the magisterial court nor the District court granted her bail. Although she was a fit case of bail at all levels as she can neither escape, nor influence witnesses nor tamper evidence, which are the three dimensions that need to be examined when bail is granted.

Kavita Srivastava                                                          Prem Krishan Sharma

( General Secretary)                                                     ( President)

Address for Correspondence: 76, Shanti Niketan Colony, Kisan Marg, Jaipur -302015

Phone No: 0141/ 2594131, pucl.rajasthan@gmail.com

Landmark Case Indian Child Bride, has marriage annulled


Laxmi holds up her hard-won annulment. (AFP)At an age when most kids are learning to walk, Laxmi Sargara was already married. Her husband, Rakesh, was just three-years-old when family sealed the deal on their fate. She was one.
How a child bride finally made her escape

Now seventeen years later the couple have set a history-making precedent by having their marriage annulled. But the real hero of this story is Laxmi, now 18, who took remarkably brave steps to reverse the archaic tradition and opened the door for more child brides to follow.

Though technically illegal in India, poor families living in rural areas often rely on these types of partnerships, using kids as pawns in order to provide more financial stability to those who can’t afford to feed their children long-term. The fall-out is hardest felt for child brides, plucked from their parents’ homes in their teens and forced to live with the husband they wed as a toddler and his family. The girls are expected to play the role of obedient wife and daughter-in-law, and in some instances, are beaten into submission by members of their new family.

Just days ago, Laxmi’s was informed of her own marriage obligations, promised almost two decades before by her Rajasthani elders, and given a move-in deadline of April 24 from her in-laws.

“I was unhappy about the marriage. I told my parents who did not agree with me, then I sought help,” Sargara told AFP.

She reached to a social worker in Jodhpur who advocates for children’s rights through an organization called the Sarathi Trust. The social worker contacted the groom, who was prepared to go through with family arrangement. After some persuading, he finally changed his mind and agreed to an annulment, influenced by the fact that he’d be marrying a woman risking everything to live without him.

“It is the first example we know of a couple wed in childhood wanting the marriage to be annulled, and we hope that others take inspiration from it,” Kriti Bharti, the social worker who orchestrated the annulment, told AFP.

A joint legal document signed by both Rakesh and Laxmi made it official and provided a road map for other young brides to do the same.

“Now I am mentally relaxed and my family members are also with me,” said Laxmi, who beamed as she held up the document for photographers. She plans to continue her education in hopes of landing a job so she can maintain her independence. But Laxmi’s newfound freedom comes with risk.

In India, where an estimated 50 percent of girls are married before they’re 18, opponents of arranged child marriages can face serious threats, including gang rape, beatings and maiming. On the same day as Laxmi’s annulment became official, protesters trying to stop a mass child wedding in Rajasthan were attacked and injured by villagers. When a 13-year-old refused to wed her arranged husband in 2009, her parents withheld her food for two weeks. Amazingly, the young girl prevailed and gained international attention and support for her stance. This week Laxmi moved the needle even further; hers is the first legally-binding child marriage annulment in India’s history.

Child marriages are a worldwide phenomenon, particularly in rural areas with high poverty rates and closely-guarded ancient traditions. In parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, The Middle East and even the U.S. underage children are forced into marriages at the behest of their families. In recent years, American officials have cracked down on fundamentalist polygamist sects in Utah and Texasknown to pair adult grooms with child brides. Other countries provide less legal clout needed to protect young girls. In Yemen where, there is no punishment for families who marry off an underage daughter, about half the country’s brides are under 15. In Saudi Arabia, there is no minimum age for marriage at all. An 8-year old girl found this out in 2009, when the Saudi courts denied her annulment request. At the time, her husband was 58.

Activists like Aruna Roy, Jean Dreze write to PM demanding medical attention for Soni Sori



30 APR, 2012, 12.14PM IST, M RAJSHEKHAR,ET BUREAU

NEW DELHI: Over 250 activists, academics, intellectuals and democratic institutions have written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh demanding that medical attention be immediately provided to Adivasi school teacher, Soni Sori, who is currently in custody in RaipurCentral Jail.

NAC members Aruna Roy, Jean Dreze and Harsh Mander, poet Meena Kandaswamy and film-maker Anand Patwardhan are amongst the signatories to the letter. The text of the open letter is appended below:
To,
Shri Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
Shri Raman Singh, Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh
We, the undersigned, are deeply concerned by the rapidly worsening health of Soni Sori in Raipur Central Jail. She has been passing blood with her urine, is having difficulty to sit or get up, and has lost considerable weight.

Despite doctors from NRS Medical Hospital having confirmed that stones had been inserted into her vagina and rectum, Soni Sori has received no proper medical attention.We fear for Soni’s life and are outraged and ashamed at this inhuman treatment of a woman in India.
Soni Sori, 35, is an adivasi school teacher from Dantewada who was arrested in New Delhi on Oct 4 2011. Six months have passed since Soni was tortured physically and sexually but neither the state nor the central government has investigated the abuse.

Her case has been repeatedly listed up in the Supreme Court but has been postponed every time. Throughout the duration of Soni Sori’s imprisonment, the state has also tried to stifle her communications with the civil society. In January this year, a team from various women’s groups across the country went to Raipur Jail to meet Soni, but they were prevented from doing so by the administration.

The brutal treatment meted out to Soni Sori, and the prevailing situation of conflict and repression in Chhattisgarh, cause us grave concern about Soni in particular, and the situation of women prisoners, in general.

We demand immediate access for fact-finding groups to meet with Soni Sori and others to assess their condition in jail, particularly their medical situation. We fear that Soni Sori’s condition is rapidly deteriorating, and demand that she receive immediate medical attention.

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