Sexuality and freedom of speech #censorship


M. Najibur Rohman, Semarang | Thu, 05/10/2012 , The Jakarta Post

The involuntary dissolution of Irshad Manji’s book launch in Salihara Cultural Center last week is representation of the tyranny of conservative groups that suppresses freedom of speech.

Indeed, as Muslim liberal activist Manji who wrote a book titled Allah, Liberty and Love, has been known as pro-contra a thinker as well as a lesbian. It seems Manji’s sexual identity was the primary motive for the protesters to deny her speech regardless of the essence of the discussion.

In this case, first of all, we have to make a difference between the private and public domain. Sexual orientation as well as faith or religion is a private domain. Everyone has this right and of course the state bears the responsibility for protection of the right.

Second, a discussion forum is an academic area that should remain free from “moral judgment”. Here, the most important thing is brains, not muscle.

The disparity between the notions deserves a wide space for anyone without considering sexual orientation. There is no reason for certain groups — including hard-line religious activists — to disperse or ban an academic forum by use of threat or derision.

The threat targeting Manji’s book discussion should prompt the state, in this case the National Police, to provide protection and security. It is clear that such discussion, characterized by academic and open-ended dialogue, is not intended to generate social anxiety.

Nevertheless, the police, citing the absence of permit and potential for disruption — based on the law — dispersed the discussion and therefore hurt freedom of speech.

Sexuality has long invited many thinkers and scholars to start discussions and debates. For certain members of the Indonesian public, especially those in the Muslim majority, homosexuality is seen as a violation of norms and rules of the religion.

The tale of Prophet Luth suggests homosexuality is a prohibited sexual orientation. But such conclusion, although in the mainstream, is just one of many exegesis of the Koran.

On the other hand, the discourse of sexuality actually is a part of social, political and ideological construction. Sex is related with history-knowledge-language and all of them are directed to body control.

Therefore, in a democracy like Indonesia there should be no discriminatory treatment for people based on their sexual orientation. Heterosexual and homosexual have the same position to exercise freedom of speech. Equality, a primary principle of the law, must be interpreted as the state’s way to protect human rights and guarantee their implementation.

In addition, violence is the chief nemesis of true democracy. It is time for the state to resist any kinds of acts that discredit the minorities and set up “religious oligarchy”. Here, dialogue is the best way to express an opinion. Disagreement is justified but must not be translated in the use of violence.

The writer teaches at Walisongo State Islamic Institute, Semarang.

Stop tampering with NCERT textbooks #censorship


PEOPLE’S UNION FOR CIVIL LIBERTIES

RAJASTHAN
Jaipur,
12th May, 2012
Statement by the PUCL, Rajasthan branch
On the controversy created by the Indian Parliamentarians on the BR Ambedkar-Nehru cartoon
in the NCERT text book of Standard XII
 
STOP TAMPERING WITH NCERT TEXT BOOKS
LET HUMOUR REMAIN IN INDIAN PUBLIC LIFE
 
The PUCL, Rajasthan branch and other intellectuals in the city are shocked at the unnecessary controversy created by a section of the Indian Parliamentarians with regard to  the cartoon of 1949 on Nehru and Ambedkar, on the pace of the making of the Indian Constitution, made by the eminent cartoonist Shankar Pillai and published in the Standard XI Political Science Text Book of the NCERT. What is extremely disturbing is the manner in which education minister Mr. Kapil Sibal apologised in Parliament and conceeded to the demands of these Parliamentarians by stating that he has directed the NCERT to remove the material and stop the distribution of books. Not stopping there, he also stated that he had taken action by setting up a committee to look at the entire gamut of cartoons in textbooks and their content to ensure material of this nature is taken out of textbooks, before the next session.
We are absolutely certain that there is nothing objectionable in the Nehru-Ambedkar cartoon by itself and the text presented with it if at all is extremely laudatory of the hard work and democratic process that the constituent assembly had adhered to under the leadership of Sh. BR Ambedkar. And the question asked of the students in the context of the cartoon actually is getting students to question Shankar’s presentation of the “snail’s pace” represented. We would like to ask whether parties have really read the text with the cartoon or is it merely criticising to appease the Dalit vote bank which they represent.
In the past also texts have been deleted and books have been tampered with, and people have had cases filed against them merely in the name of upsetting public opinion. It is important to know that the endeavour of education is not to indoctrinate the minds of the young or teach them any one ideology. According to us the primary objective of education is to create a quest for enquiry and learning to think. Providing diverse points of view becomes essential to the educational process.  Education essentially means having openness towards all points of views and also the young must know that there are many dimensions to any issue.
We all are well aware that both from the point of view of content and presentation the NCF 2005 and the books that were produced by the NCERT were a milestone in the history of education in India.  These books are also of high quality,  hardly seen before in our Government schools. These books create a questioning and critical mind in the children.  In terms of pedagogy these books are extremely innovative.
The PUCL strongly condemns the move of tampering with the content of these books and in particular the decision of removing the cartoons from the books, this needs to be opposed strongly. The PUCL is bringing together intellectuals, literary minds, art lovers and will initiate a dialogue on this issue with public and the media.
We are,
Prem Krishna Sharma,  M Hasan, Kavita Srivastava, Prakash Chaturvedi, Komal Srivastava, Radhakant Saxena, Vishwambhar, Govind Beniwal, Shiv Singh, Rajendra Saiwal and Rajeev Gupta
Address for Correspondence: 76, Shanti Niketan Colony, Kisan Marg, Jaipur -302015
Phone No: 0141/ 2594131, pucl.rajasthan@gmail.com

Former Delhi HC CJ , A.P Shah to highlight Kudankulam issue at NHRC


 

Published: Monday, May 14, 2012, 23:44 IST
Place: Chennai | Agency: PTI

 

Former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court Ajit Prakash Shah today said he would take steps to take the “Kudankulam protestors’ issue” to the National Human Rights Commission.

“I would take steps to take the Kudankulam protestors issue to the National Human Rights Commission.. You (state government) cannot file sedition charges against people for protesting against nuclear energy,” Shah told reporters here.

“I am surprised that the State Human Rights Commission (in Tamil Nadu) has not taken it up,” he said.

He was presiding over a public hearing on the controversial Kudankulam nuclear plant issue, in which over 70,000 anti-nuclear protesters are agitating against the Indo-Russian nuclear collaboration in Tirunelveli district.

“It is high time that the state government and the protestors change their positions and sit for a dialogue.”

Criticising a top intelligence official for allegedly warning a university in Tirunelveli against conducting a debate on the issue, he said, “When the country is celebrating 60 years of Parliament, intelligence agencies are interfering in academics and tell them what all they should discuss.”

Asked which party should make the first move, he said, “If there is willingness among the NGOs, then the (state) government should have a word with them.”

Brushing aside scientists’ contention that the nuclear plant in Kudankulam has zero per cent chance of meeting with an accident, he said, it was “too tall a claim.”

The public hearing was organised by Chennai Solidarity Group for Kudankulam Struggle.

 

Vedanta loses British safety awards after Indian fatality #Vownews #Faking Happiness


The suspension of the awards was sparked by a letter from campaigners linked to the London Mining Network

A worker leaves the Vedanta company's Lanjigarh alumina refinery

A worker leaving Vedanta’s Lanjigarh alumina refinery in Orissa state, India. Photograph Gethin Chamberlain

 

Multinational mining group Vedanta Resources has had two British safety awards – including one endorsed by the UK’s Health and Safety Executive – suspended after campaigners drew attention to controversies including a fatality at the group’s operations in Orissa, India.

The British Safety Council had been due to present representatives from a subsidiary, Vedanta Aluminium, with a “distinction” award for its Lanjigarh refinery at a black-tie gala dinner at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair on Friday night. An invitation to the event, described by organisers as “the Oscars of health and safety”, has now been withdrawn.

In a statement, BSC said: “Information has been brought to [our] attention concerning a fatality at the site in April and in connection with earlier occurrences … The BSC has today notified the company of its decision and sought full particulars of the circumstances surrounding the fatal accident and dangerous occurrences.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has also suspended a “silver award” that was due to be presented to Mukesh Kumar, president of Vedanta Aluminium, at a ceremony in Birmingham.

The suspension of the awards was sparked by a letter from campaigners linked to the London Mining Network. It comes two years after the BSCstripped another Vedanta subsidiary of a safety award after the Observer drew its attention to the firm’s involvement in one of the worst industrial tragedies in India’s recent history. At least 40 workers were said to have been killed by the collapse of a 240-metre, part-built chimney in Korba, in the state of Chhattisgarh.

On both occasions, information passed to the BSC was widely available on the internet.

Last month, a project manager at a Vedanta contractor firm reportedly burned to death and four others received minor injuriesin a fire while staying on a Vedanta campus site in Lanjigarh. Kumar told local media: “The project manager of our red mud refining agency died during the fire accident. I cannot call it lapse in the security measures as I believe the rains and possibly a loose electric wire caused the accident.”

Vedanta reported two fatalities among its employees and 24 contractor deaths across its businesses and projects for the year to 31 March. “Learnings have now been shared across the group and preventative action taken,” it said in its annual report.

The BSC allows firms applying for its international safety awards to assess themselves. They are barred from receiving an award if there is a fatality at the site in question. In the case of Vedanta’s Lanjigarh aluminium refinery, the fatality occurred after the application had been processed, but the BSC had not been informed. Critics of Vedanta’s practices at Lanjigarh also point to allegations of two caustic residue spills – accusations the BSC is taking seriously.

A spokesman for Vedanta said officials in India could not be reached for comment.

Roger Moody, of the London Mining Network, said: “The process of self-assessment should not be allowed for these awards. Gong-giving is quite an art in India and Vedanta are past masters at trading off these kinds of awards. The fact that they are endorsed by the official British regulator is seen as very, very significant.”

A spokesman for the HSE confirmed that the BSC awards did carry a general endorsement, but added: “We are not involved in the detail of the selection process, or judging the winners.”

How to reduce HIV in Zimbabwe, make women uglier #WTFnews


  May 14, 3:22 pm

London, May 14 (ANI): A Zimbabwean politician has asserted that women should be compelled to bathe less and shave off their hair to make them less attractive, which would help curb the spread of HIV.

Senator Morgan Femai told a conference that he believed the killer disease had spread as men found it difficult to resist attractive and well-dressed women according to a report on the New Zimbabwe website.

The politician reportedly insisted that new laws should be drawn up forcing women to make themselves less attractive to save men from themselves.

Addressing a parliamentary workshop on HIV awareness, Senator Femai compared his plan to some Christian sects whose women he said also sometimes had clean-shaven heads.

“What I propose is that the government should come up with a law that compels women to have their heads clean-shaven like what the Apostolic sects do,” he said

“They should also not bath because that is what has caused all these problems.”

The politician compounded his comments by explaining his belief that moisture inside women’s bodies made them more vulnerable to the HIV virus.

“Women have got more moisture in their organs as compared to men, so there is need to research how to deal with that moisture because it is conducive for bacteria breeding,” he said.

“There should be a way to suck out that moisture.”

The senator’s scientifically unproven remarks have sparked outrage and disbelief in Zimbabwe.

Hundreds of concerned readers posted comments on local media websites in which they criticised his comments. (ANI)

Cultural Activist Utpal Baski arrested and produced before the court


, TNN | May 15, 2012,

RANCHI: Cultural activist and executive member of the Revolutionary Democratic Front (RDF) Uttpal Baski was produced before the chief judicial magistrate Giridih on Sunday following pressure mounting from the outfit and other human right activists.

Denying allegations of unlawful detention, Giridih additional superintendent of police (ASP) Sanjay Kumar said Baski was arrested on Sunday morning and produced before the judge the same evening.

Asked about charges under which Uttpal was booked, Kumar said he was a member of Jharkhand Aven, a banned outfit, and was involved in the propaganda work of Nari Mukti Sangh, another banned outfit of the CPI (Maoists). “He admits being the member of the bannedJharkhand Aven and that is sufficient for his arrest under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA),” he said. The ASP, however, unable to cite the exact charges under which Baski was booked.

RDF national president and known Maoist ideologue Varavara Rao intervened in the matter and demanded unconditional release of Baski.

Issuing an appeal to democratic organizations and individuals to raise their voices against the alleged illegal act of the police, Rao said Baski was a singer and a composer. “He is a tribal cultural activist who was elected to the all India executive committee in the first conference of the RDF held on April 22-23 in Hyderabad,” the letter reads.

Rao’s letter mentions that Baski was arrested by Giridih police near Dumri More on May 7 when he was returning from Ranchi after appearing in a court case. “Cultural activists of Jharkhand Aven were waiting for him in a village when he was detained by Dumri police around 3pm on May 7 from a public bus in which he was travelling,” Rao said.

Local human right activist Damodar Turi said one of his associates and co-passengers on the bus informed members of Jharkhand Aven that Baski was forced to get off the bus and taken into custody.

Jharkhand Aven is a revolutionary cultural organization whose general secretary Jeetan Marandi was sentenced to capital punishment by a court in connection with Chilkhari attack in which former chief minister Babulal Marandi‘s son Anup Marandi was killed.

The judgment was later reversed by the high court and Marandi was acquitted of all charges related to Chilkhari case.

Earlier, soon after the arrest of Jeetan Marandi, police arrested Baski under UAPA. He was in jail for almost a year and recently came out of prison on bail. He played an active role in campaigns taken up by Jeetan Rihai Manch (Release Jeetan Front) for his acquittal.

The efforts were successful and Jeetan was acquitted by the high court.

Immediate Release: Women’s Delegation meets President Pratibha Patil # Sonisori


President of India

President of India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A delegation of women comprising of, Beinda Karat (M.P.), Annie Raja (NFIW), Uma Chakravarty, Vrinda Grover and Indira C, met with President Pratibha Patil today (14th  May), and handed over a memorandum, detailing the gross violation of the human rights of tribal teacher, Soni Sori. The memorandum was also signed by Aruna Roy (MKSS),Kavita Srivastava (PUCL) and Vani S.on behalf of Saheli.

The delegation drew the attention of the President to the brutal custodial sexual torture inflicted on Soni Sori by the Chhattisgarh police and the medical report of Kolkata Hospital which had confirmed the same. The President expressed surprise when she heard that S.P. Ankit Garg, under whose direction the custodial sexual violence was alleged to have been inflicted, had received the President’s Gallantry award. The delegation suggested that an independent enquiry be initiated into the gallantry award given to S.P. Ankit Garg. The delegation also expressed apprehension that many other tribal women prisoners in Chhattisgarh jails had suffered similar violations.

The President heard the delegation attentively and assured them that she would write to the concerned governments and authorities.

 The Memorandum submitted by the delegation

To

The Honourable President of India

Ms. Pratibha DeviSingh Patil

14.05.12

Subject: Violation of rights of tribal woman Soni Sori; conferment of President’s Gallantry Award on S.P. Ankit Garg facing allegations of custodial sexual torture

Honourable President,

We thank you for giving us an audience to personally convey to you our concerns, regarding the sexual torture, persecution and violation of the rights of Ms Soni Sori, on behalf of many individuals, women’s groups and other democratic organisations.

Ms. Soni Sori has been working as an adivasi teacher at the government-run Jabeli ashram school, in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh.  Ms. Sori was subjected to brutal custodial torture, including sexual violence, by several policemen inside the Dantewada Police Station in October 2011.  The facts regarding her persecution by the local police for more than a year preceding her arrest, the charges filed against her, the heinousness of her torture, and the subsequent events are all appended, for your kind consideration, in the form of a FACT SHEET (Annexure I).  Ms. Sori has filed a petition before the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution of India seeking a direction for the setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) of police officers from outside the state of Chhattisgarh, to investigate the criminal prosecutions against her, as well as her allegation regarding the attempt by the Chhattisgarh police to murder her on 11th September 2011 (WRIT PETITION (CRL) NO. 206 OF 2011).

Briefly stated the facts are as follows. Ms Sori was arrested in Delhi on October 4th 2011 and remanded to the custody of Chhattisgarh Police by the Delhi High Court on October 7th.   Taking cognizance of the grave apprehension and well-grounded fears expressed by Ms Sori, about her safety in hands of the Chhattisgarh police, the Delhi High Court issued directions to the Chhattisgarh police to ensure her safety while in their custody and had specifically ordered the Commissioner of Police in Chhattisgarh to file an affidavit in the Delhi High Court outlining steps taken to keep Ms Sori safe.

But, in what can only be termed to be an act of flagrant contempt of court and of all constitutional safeguards, the Chhattisgarh police brutally tortured her on the night of October 8th / 9th, when she was in their custody.  Ms. Sori has written to the Supreme Court that while she was in police custody, she was stripped before the Superintendent of Police, Ankit Garg, and given electric shocks under his directions.  Furthermore, not only did he use abusive language against her, he ordered three police personnel to “punish her” by sexually torturing her for disobeying his command to name well-known social activists, such as Swami Agnivesh and Medha Patkar, as Naxal supporters (Copy of Ms Soni’s letter enclosed asAnnexure II).  The brutal torture went to the extent of inserting stones and batons into her private parts. An independent medical examination carried out by the NRS government hospital in Kolkata, under the direction of the Supreme  Court, has confirmed her sexual torture by recovering stones embedded in her vagina and rectum. (Medical Report of NRS Hospital Kolkata enclosed as Annexure III).

Ms Sori was fearful of torture by the Chhattisgarh police, as she was being severely harassed by them since mid-2010, to reveal the whereabouts of her nephew Mr Lingaram Kodopi, who in turn was also being framed by the Chhattisgarh Police after he refused to comply with their directive to enrol as a Special Police Officer (SPO).  Ms Sori too had resisted pressure from the Chhattisgarh police to give false evidence implicating her fellow villagers as Maoists.  In order to compel and coerce Ms Soni, the local police implicated her in several false criminal cases of naxalite violence, and even arrested her husband in one such fabricated case.  In December 2010 the Chhattisgarh police declared Ms Sori an “absconder”, even though throughout this time the police continued to meet her frequently to know the whereabouts of Mr Lingaram.  Further, official records show that Ms Sori was present in her school regularly and attending to all her duties, during the same period.  Ironically while the police were harassing and intimidating her on the trumped up charge ofsupporting Naxalites, Naxalites attacked her father and uncle’s houses, looted them, and grievously wounded her father in the attack.

Following the arrest of her nephew Mr Lingaram on September 9 2011, Ms Sori came to Delhi to seek legal help, and fearing for her life, particularly because the Chhattisgarh police had tried to eliminate her on 11th September 2011. Mr. Lingaram is now accused of being a conduit for bribe allegedly being paid by the company Essar to the Maoists. The police claim that Ms Sori is also involved in this case, and have also framed her in other false cases.  But Ms Sori has evidence to expose that false cases have been registered against her and Mr. Lingaram.

Her case is of national importance and urgency for several reasons.  Firstly, such unlawful and barbaric conduct by Chhattisgarh police had been foreseen and feared by Ms. Sori before she was handed over to their custody, and had been explicitly stated before the Sessions Court and High Court in Delhi. By itself such custodial sexual torture is a matter ofgreat concern – the fact that it can happen despite judicial scrutiny and monitoring is deeply disturbing and worrisome. This raises serious concerns about the condition of other women prisoners in police or judicial custody whose cases have not received attention, a matter highlighted by Ms Sori in one of her letters (Annexure IV).

Secondly, there is incontrovertible evidence of inhuman custodial torture and sexual violence by the police, in the form of the independent medical report of the NRS MedicalCollege and Hospital, Kolkata (Annexure III). Such intimidation of ordinary citizens who are only exercising their guaranteed rights, and such custodial violence and brazen disregard of the constitutional safeguards is of grave concern, especially when meted out by the protectors of the law. If ignored and left unpunished, it sets dangerous precedents for thesubversion of rule of law and human rights of disadvantaged and marginalized citizens.  In a civilized, constitutional democracy there is no place and there can be no excuse,whatsoever, for torture including sexual violence under any circumstances.  It raises serious concerns about the security and dignity of women.

We are approaching you with deep dismay at Ms Soni Sori’s continued vulnerability despite her repeated pleas for protection from various courts, and the grave violation of her rights as an under-trial.  Despite repeated petitioning, other statutory national human rights institutions for protection of citizens’ rights have been indifferent towards these violations and the contempt for court orders by the police (Letters to NHRC, NCW, CM, and SC in Annexures V, VI, VII). This raises grave concerns regarding impunity and lack of accountabilityof police and other public servants.

Not only has no action or inquiry been initiated against the S.P. Ankit Garg, who has been named by Ms Sori as as being responsible for the torture, it is deeply shocking that on this 26th January 2012 he has been conferred with the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry. It is disturbing to note that in spite of a large number of citizens’ groups, nationally and internationally, protesting against SP Ankit Garg’s unlawful and criminal conduct, the government has deemed it fit to confer him with a gallantry award, especially while the Honourable Supreme Court is still examining her complaints. Conferring an award in the face of these complaints, which have not even received a cursory investigation, amounts to condoning the sexual torture inflicted on Ms Sori and the violence which is being perpetrated on tribal population of this country, in the name of anti-Naxal operations.

As the constitutional head of this country, we approach you with deep regard and faith that you shall ensure that the rights and dignity of the most vulnerable and marginalized will be upheld and the fundamental guarantees promised by the Indian Constitution, of justice, equality and right to life enforced.

We seek your urgent intervention to:-

i)                             Initiate a credible inquiry into the custodial violence suffered by Soni Sori

ii)                           Promptly recall the President’s Gallantry award bestowed on S.P. Ankit Garg, facing serious allegations of custodial torture and sexual violence

iii)                        Constitute a comprehensive and credible inquiry to ensure protection of rights and dignity of the large number of tribal women, like Ms Sori, languishing in jails in Chhattisgarh

iv)                         Ensure an immediate halt and initiate exemplary punitive action against police and other security forces indulging in widespread and systematic violationof rights of tribal women, in the name of anti Maoist operations.

Yours,

Annie Raja, National Federation of Indian Women

Brinda Karat, ex-MP, Rajya Sabha and All India Democratic Women’s Association

Uma Chakravarti, Retired Professor, Delhi University

Aruna Roy, Member National Advisory Council and member MKSS

Advocate Vrinda Grover

Kavita Srivastava, General Secretary, PUCL

Vani Subramanian SAHELI, Delhi

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