Wall of discrimination demolished


Special Correspondent

SALEM, July 23, 2012

Dalits and cadres of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) demolished a 60-foot-long brick wall under construction, alleging that it was intended to separate a Dalit colony from a caste Hindu area at Sanyasikundu here on Monday.

The Dalits claimed that the wall was being built to prevent them from using the pathway leading to their colony where 50 families were living for generations.

R.A. Murugan, a DYFI activist, told The Hindu that the Dalits had submitted a petition to the Salem Tahsildar asking him to stop the construction of the wall.

“But there has been no response.”

When the plot owner R. Ponnusamy started constructing the wall on Monday, obstructing the pathway, despite the Dalits’ protests, they sought the help of the DYFI.

Mr. Ponnusamy, however, claimed that the wall was being built on his land while the Dalits claimed it was ‘poramboke’ land.

Police and Revenue officials convened a meeting with the representatives of both groups to sort out the issue.

Immediate Release- Dalit Youth Tied to Railway Tracks, Legs Amputated in Dadri, UP


Revolutionary Youth Association

इंकलाबी नौजवान सभा

U-90 Shakarpur, Delhi – 110092                 Phone: 9990748079         Fax: 011-22442790

 

Punishment for Leading Struggle Against Land Grab:

Dalit Youth Tied to Railway Tracks, Legs Amputated in Dadri, UP

 

New Delhi, July 24, 2012

 

On July 15, Tika Ram was among the youths from Ramgarh village in Dadri who attended the Convention on Bathani Tola in Delhi, and spoke of their struggle against the grab of land allocated to dalits by the gram pradhan Kuldeep Bhati.

On July 20, Tika Ram was found on the railway tracks, his body mutilated and both legs severed. Doctors at the AIIMS Trauma Centre have had to further amputate his legs to save his life, which is still in danger. Meanwhile, four other youth leaders of the struggle against land grab have been jailed – on fabricated charges of shooting a girl.

The murderous assault on Tika Ram, and the arrest of his comrades, is the latest in a series of violent acts – all aimed at punishing those dalits who dared oppose the grab of land by the powerful gram pradhan who is of the dominant Gujjar community.

Way back when Mayawati was still in power, Brahm Jatav and some other dalit youths raised their voice against the move by Kuldeep Bhati, gram pradhan, to grab 4.75 bighas of panchayat land allocated to dalits as homestead land. Bhati and his supporters encircled the dalits’ land and homes with a 7-foot-high wall. On March 14, to punish Brahm Jatav and others for daring to protest, Bhati and his thugs attacked the dalit hamlet, seriously injuring around 30 people, mostly women.

In spite of repeated protests since then, Gautam Buddh Nagar district administration has not lifted a finger to end the illegal encirclement of dalit land, and the perpetrators of the March 14 attack were not arrested. Bhati and his supporters repeatedly warned that they would ‘teach a lesson’ to the dalit youths and ensure that they never dared to raise their voice again.

On the night of July 19, a dalit girl was injured by a bullet inside her own home. The same night, Tika Ram went missing from the front yard of his house, where he had been sleeping. In the early morning of July 20, police arrived and arrested Brahm Jatav, Veerpal, Roshan and Guddan from their homes, charging them with shooting the girl. They charged Tika Ram also with the shooting. It was then that Tika Ram’s family realized he was missing, and looked for him. They found him lying mutilated near the railway tracks. When Tika Ram regained consciousness, he told his family that four people – Nepal, Dayaram, Anil Bhati alias Kalu and Kuldeep Bhati, kidnapped him at gun-point from the front of his house.

Throughout the day of July 20, while Tika Ram battled for life, the police refused to arrest those whom he had named as his attackers. It was only after a gherao of the police station for several hours by dalit women and children, led by RYA leader Aslam Khan, that the police finally agreed to lodge an FIR in the night. Subsequently Dayaram and Kalu (Anil Bhati) have been arrested, but Nepal and Kuldeep Bhati continue to be at large. The main accused Kuldeep Bhati, in fact, is seen openly moving around the village with a police gunner – yet the police claim inability to arrest him. The dominant Gujjars have been audacious enough to protest against the arrest of Anil Bhati – and the Greater NOIDA police and administration are clearly under their thumb. They continue to terrorise the dalits daily, and there is every danger that more atrocities and acts of violence against dalits may occur at any time. The police has even withdrawn the security that it had initially provided for a short time.

Right from the beginning, a small section of dalits in the village have been acting as agents for Kuldeep Bhati and his supporters. With their help, Bhati has falsely implicated the main dalit youth leaders, in order to deflect from the land struggle. As a result, the land struggle has indeed been pushed back, with the main dalit leaders having to fight to prove their innocence against the cooked-up ‘attempt to murder’ charges. The sheer horror of Tika Ram’s mutilation too is aimed as a deterrent for the dalits to continue with their struggle to defend their land.

The RYA and CPI(ML) are demanding that since the Greater NOIDA administration’s bias is apparent, an impartial judicial enquiry be ordered to establish who in fact shot at the dalit girl, and who are responsible for the murderous attack and mutilation of Tika Ram. The four innocent youths who have nothing whatsoever to do with the shooting of the girl, that happened within the four walls of her own house, must be freed without delay, and the charges of attempted murder withdrawn. Round-the-clock police protection must be provided for all the dalit families in the village.

The Greater NOIDA administration must answer as to why the illegal 7-foot wall erected around common panchayat land is yet to be demolished. The wall must be demolished and the land allocated amongst dalits, and the latter must be given possession of the land. The UP Government and Greater NOIDA administration must also answer why Kuldeep Bhati, who himself is guilty of grabbing panchayat land and unleashing a spate of violent atrocities on dalits, is yet to be removed from his position as gram pradhan.

— Aslam Khan,

Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA), Delhi-NCR

Obituary- Captain Lakshmi Sahgal (1914 – 2012) – A life of struggle


The Hindu

“The fight will go on,” said Captain Lakshmi Sehgal one day in 2006, sitting in her crowded Kanpur clinic where, at 92, she still saw patients every morning. She was speaking on camera to Singeli Agnew, a young filmmaker from the Graduate School of Journalism, Berkeley, who was making a documentary on her life.

Each stage of the life of this extraordinary Indian represented a new stage of her political evolution – as a young medical student drawn to the freedom struggle; as the leader of the all-woman Rani of Jhansi regiment of the Indian National Army; as a doctor, immediately after Independence, who restarted her medical practice in Kanpur amongst refugees and the most marginalised sections of society; and finally, in post-Independence India, her life as a member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), years that saw her in campaigns for political, economic and social justice.

“Freedom comes in three forms,” the diminutive doctor goes on to say on camera in her unadorned and direct manner. “The first is political emancipation from the conqueror, the second is economic [emancipation] and the third is social… India has only achieved the first.”

With Captain Lakshmi’s passing, India has lost an indefatigable fighter for the emancipations of which she spoke.

First rebellion

Lakshmi Sehgal was born Lakshmi Swaminadhan on October 24, 1914 in Madras to S. Swaminadhan, a talented lawyer, and A.V. Ammukutty, a social worker and freedom fighter (and who would later be a member of independent India’s Constituent Assembly).

Lakshmi would later recall her first rebellion as a child against the demeaning institution of caste in Kerala. From her grandmother’s house, she would often hear the calls and hollers from the surrounding jungles and hills, of the people who in her grandmother’s words were those “whose very shadows are polluting.” The young Lakshmi one day walked up to a young tribal girl, held her hand and led her to play. Lakshmi and her grandmother were furious with each other, but Lakshmi was the one triumphant.

After high school in Madras, she studied at the Madras Medical College, from where she took her MBBS in 1938. The intervening years saw Lakshmi and her family drawn into the ongoing freedom struggle. She saw the transformation of her mother from a Madras socialite to an ardent Congress supporter, who one day walked into her daughter’s room and took away all the child’s pretty dresses to burn in a bonfire of foreign goods. Looking back years later, Lakshmi would observe how in the South, the fight for political freedom was fought alongside the struggle for social reform. Campaigns for political independence were waged together with struggles for temple entry for Dalits and against child marriage and dowry. Her first introduction to communism was through Suhasini Nambiar, Sarojini Naidu’s sister, a radical who had spent many years in Germany. Another early influence was the first book on the communist movement she read, Edgar Snow’s Red Star over China.

Meeting Netaji

As a young doctor of 26, Lakshmi left for Singapore in 1940. Three years later she would meet Subhash Chandra Bose, a meeting that would change the course of her life. “In Singapore,” Lakshmi remembered, “there were a lot of nationalist Indians like K. P. Kesava Menon, S. C. Guha, N. Raghavan, and others, who formed a Council of Action. The Japanese, however, would not give any firm commitment to the Indian National Army, nor would they say how the movement was to be expanded, how they would go into Burma, or how the fighting would take place. People naturally got fed up.” Bose’s arrival broke this logjam.

Lakshmi, who had thus far been on the fringes of the INA, had heard that Bose was keen to draft women into the organisation. She requested a meeting with him when he arrived in Singapore, and emerged from a five-hour interview with a mandate to set up a women’s regiment, which was to be called the Rani of Jhansi regiment. There was a tremendous response from women to join the all-women brigade. Dr. Lakshmi Swaminadhan became Captain Lakshmi, a name and identity that would stay with her for life.

The march to Burma began in December 1944 and, by March 1945, the decision to retreat was taken by the INA leadership, just before the entry of their armies into Imphal. Captain Lakshmi was arrested by the British army in May 1945. She remained under house arrest in the jungles of Burma until March 1946, when she was sent to India – at a time when the INA trials in Delhi were intensifying the popular hatred of colonial rule.

Captain Lakshmi married Col. Prem Kumar Sehgal, a leading figure of the INA, in March 1947. The couple moved from Lahore to Kanpur, where she plunged into her medical practice, working among the flood of refugees who had come from Pakistan, and earning the trust and gratitude of both Hindus and Muslims.

CPI(M) activist

By the early 1970s, Lakshmi’s daughter Subhashini had joined the CPI(M). She brought to her mother’s attention an appeal from Jyoti Basu for doctors and medical supplies for Bangladeshi refugee camps. Captain Lakshmi left for Calcutta, carrying clothes and medicines, to work for the next five weeks in the border areas. After her return she applied for membership in the CPI(M). For the 57-year old doctor, joining the Communist Party was “like coming home.” “My way of thinking was already communist, and I never wanted to earn a lot of money, or acquire a lot of property or wealth,” she said.

Captain Lakshmi was one of the founding members of AIDWA, formed in 1981. She subsequently led many of its activities and campaigns. After the Bhopal gas tragedy in December 1984, she led a medical team to the city; years later she wrote a report on the long-term effects of the gas on pregnant women. During the anti-Sikh riots that followed Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, she was out on the streets in Kanpur, confronting anti-Sikh mobs and ensuring that no Sikh or Sikh establishment in the crowded area near her clinic was attacked. She was arrested for her participation in a campaign by AIDWA against the Miss World competition held in Bangalore in 1996.

Presidential candidate

Captain Lakshmi was the presidential candidate for the Left in 2002, an election that A. P. J. Abdul Kalam would win. She ran a whirlwind campaign across the country, addressing packed public meetings. While frankly admitting that she did not stand a chance of winning, she used her platform to publicly scrutinise a political system that allowed poverty and injustice to grow, and fed new irrational and divisive ideologies.

Captain Lakshmi had the quality of awakening a sense of joy and possibility in all who met her – her co-workers, activists of her organisation, her patients, family and friends. Her life was an inextricable part of 20th and early 21st century India — of the struggle against colonial rule, the attainment of freedom, and nation-building over 65 tumultuous years. In this great historical transition, Captain Lakshmi always positioned herself firmly on the side of the poor and unempowered. Freedom fighter, dedicated medical practitioner, and an outstanding leader of the women’s movement in India, Captain Lakshmi leaves the country and its people a fine and enduring legacy.

Lakshmi Sehgal is survived by her daughters Subhashini Ali and Anisa Puri; her grandchildren Shaad Ali, Neha and Nishant Puri; and by her sister Mrinalini Sarabhai.

AP govt finalises tenders for Polavaram project


 

English: The above is the photo of the Godavar...

English: The above is the photo of the Godavari River flowing through Bhadrachalam. The photo was taken in the evening when pilgrims bathe and visit the Rama temple or the Bhadrachalam Temple. Boating is also done in this area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

A. Srinivasa Rao   |   Mail Today  |   Hyderabad, July 23, 2012

 

Tags: Andhra Pradesh | Polavaram project in Andhra Pradesh

 

 

The Andhra Pradesh government has finalized the tenders for the construction of the controversial multipurpose Polavaram project, over River Godavari, even as the petitions filed by the Chattisgarh and Odisha governments opposing the project are still pending in the Supreme Court.

The Polavaram project, whose total capacity is 287.47 thousand million cubic ft (tmc ft), is aimed at providing irrigation to 4.36 lakh hectares in East Godavari, West Godavari, Visakhapatnam and Krishna districts, drinking water supply to towns and villages and generating hydel power with an installed capacity of 960 MW.

The state irrigation department on Friday evening opened the financial bids for the construction of earth dam and spillway works worth Rs.4,717 crore. While the joint venture of Soma Constructions and China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) emerged as the lowest bidder (L-1) by quoting Rs.4,599 crore for the project works, another consortium of Southern Engineeing Works (SEW) and Patel Constructions was the second lowest bidder (L-2) by quoting Rs.4,655 crore. Going by the bids, the project works are most likely to be entrusted to the Soma-CGGC joint venture.

The entire tendering process kicked up a big controversy, as the irrigation department short-listed only these two consortia, while disqualifying four other contenders – Madhucon Constructions, IVRCL, Gammon India and Transtroy, which are also reputed construction companies with vast experience in irrigation projects.

The department rejected the applications of these companies on the pretext that their foreign collaborators did not register their companies in the state. This condition has been imposed only to benefit the remaining two companies – Soma and SEW, sources in the department said.

What is more interesting in the whole process is that the same two consortia were the lowest bidders in the Polavaram project tenders which were called in November last. Ironically, it was SEW-Patel consortium which was the L-1 in the previous bids, while Soma-CGGC was the L-2. The tenders were cancelled subsequently following a political controversy. One of the partners in SEW Constructions C Lakshmi Rajam was a business partner of Telangana Rashtra Samithi president K Chandrasekhara Rao in launching a Telugu daily “Namasthe Telangana.”

There were allegations that the Congress government had awarded the contract to Rajam only to dilute the Telangana statehood movement. Moreover, the SEW’s joint venture partner Patel Engineering turned out to be a blacklisted company in other states.

The government called for fresh tenders in April this year and the financial bids were opened on Friday. This time, Soma-CGGC consortium came in the first place, while SEW-Patel consortium was second. “The revised tenders will cause a loss of about Rs.477 crore to the government as the both the firms quoted higher rate this time than what they had done in November last.

While the SEW-Patel consortium, which was L-1 in November tenders, had quoted Rs.4,122 crore, the Soma-CGGC consortium, which is L-1 in the latest tenders, has quoted Rs.4,599 crore. This is despite the fact that the actual price of Rs.4,717 crore fixed by the irrigation department remains unchanged,” sources said.

The disqualified companies have raised a hue and cry over the tendering process and the selection of only two bidders for such a huge project. Some of them also raised doubts over the credentials of the Chinese partner of Soma Constructions. “There are cases against the CGGC in some countries like Nigeria, Nepal and Sudan, where it executed infrastructure projects. It is also executing a hydro-electric project in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is very sensitive in terms of India’s security concerns. We brought this to the notice of the state government, but our complaints were ignored,” an official of the Gammon India told Mail Today.

Interestingly, the Polavaram project is yet to get the final environment clearance by the Union environment ministry, though it got the clearance from the Planning Commission. In March this year, minister for environment and forests Jayanti Natarajan told the Lok Sabha that the Centre had directed the Andhra Pradesh government not to proceed with the construction work of the Polavaram project till environmental matters were decided upon.

The Chattisgarh and Odisha governments have been opposing the Polavaram project on the ground that it would submerge vast extent of forest land in their respective states. While Chattisgarh has contended that around 2015.52 hectares of land falling in south Bastar, Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, would be submerged by the dam, Odisha is arguing that as many as 13 settlements in eight revenue villages and five hamlets in Podia block of Malkangiri district covering 2,120 hectares of land would be submerged in the backwaters of the Polavaram project, which was redesigned for holding probable maximum flood (PMF) of 50 lakh cusecs, as against the original design for 35 lakh PMF.

Both the governments had filed the petitions in the Supreme Court. A special forest bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and C K Prasad is hearing the petitions.

 

 

Foil Vedanta & The Carnival of Dirt #Mustread


Jul 02, 2012, Global Resistance

The names of the people on the placards are unknown in The City of the London. The office workers who peer out of their high rise buildings at us, walking in the streets in a funeral procession, do not know our names or the names of friends and fellow community workers and activists who have lost their lives in their quest to protect their land from destruction hidden behind a mask called development, and in struggles against the corporate greed that funds these offices, that funds the wealth of governments and corporations in the West.

Foil Vedanta Banner (photograph: RJ)

On June 15, activists from Foil Vedanta joined the Carnival of Dirt to protest against Vedanta, a UK based mining corporation with fingers in other pies: oil drilling in the Sri Lankan sea, privatization of health care in India, operations in Africa.

Vedanta, so ironically named, has throughout its history attracted bad karma to itself.

On 16 December 2000, local police opened fire on protestors in Maikanch, murdering three and injuring others. The Maikanch Three became a symbol for the struggle against mining in Odisha, India, and the use of state violence in the service of mining companies, to repress popular resentment to projects that ‐ under slogans of development ‐ destroy local communities, while profiteering corporations. [1*]

Their names were called at the Carnival of Dirt and we carried their portraits with us along with the portraits of activists of other countries who have lost their lives in struggles against mining corporations.

Demodar Jhodia portrait, one of the Maikanch Three, in front of the London Metal Exchange, June 15, 2012 – Carnival of Dirt

 

We remembered 52 workers who were working at the top of 253 meters chimney and about 180 persons who were at the base of the chimney, killed and buried when it collapsed, in a new smelter in Chhattisgarh, 23rd Sept 2009. Their families hastily dispersed away from the area and the union of workers replaced by a new one. Was it done to prevent a proper investigation into the health and safety procedures and compensation to families? [2*]

We walked through the City, stopping at the Bank of England, the London Stock Exchange and the London Metal Exchange, carried their portraits and a big orange banner saying: “Vedanta plc stop the killing, stop the destruction”.

At lunch, our speakers sang to a sympathetic audience two Kond songs of the movement in Odisha, talked about our campaign and invited people to the 28 August protest for Vedanta’s AGM.

We got excellent response from everyone, seemed that even the police were interested in those matters… which is not surprising; Indian Interior Minister read Out of this Earth, a book the shed light on the story of aluminium production and bauxite mining industry.

Anil Agarwal will not have to wait another lifetime to reap the just rewards of his continued sins against the Dhongria Konds of Odisha. Or indeed any of his many workers who continue to lose their lives in horrendous accidents, the latest of which took place on June 18 in the Rajsamand district of Rajasthan where two workers were burnt to death and 13 others injured when 400 degree mud exploded from a boiler. [3*]

Some of us, and others, holding a company share, will ask the CEO Anil Agarwal difficult questions during the August AGM.

Major British investors, such as the Church of England have withdrawn and sold their shares. Vedanta’s shares dropped from £21 to £9 in anticipation of the possible prohibition on them mining the Niyamgiri hills.

But Foil Vedanta’s sights are not solely trained on the mounting crimes against humanity perpetrated by Anil Agarwal. We are concerned that London continues to be the central point of a network of multi‐national corporations operating and being promoted by regional governments  on the axis of India and the UK. We are also looking into links between law firms in the UK, corporate clients and NGO’s.

Last month Foil Vedanta delegates picketed at the High Commission of India in London against the construction of a nuclear power plant in Koodankulam, Tamil Nadu in South India. [4*] The Indian government, in collaboration with Russian company Atomsroyexport, has been constructing a large‐scale nuclear power plant there.

The community, has been loud in its objections: to date there are more than 300 people on hunger strike; State authorities intimidated, harassed, imprisoned, and falsely charged non‐violent protesters. From one police station alone, charges have been brought against more than 55,000 people including 6,500 for sedition and ‘war against the state’ in the last eight months.

The government deployed thousands of police and paramilitary forces in order to commission the reactor in a military style operation. The villages around the plant are placed under a prohibitory order under Section 144 which means that they cannot even peacefully assemble.

Terrifying facts are that Koodankulam is in a tsunami and earthquake prone region, which has also experienced small volcanic eruptions and is affected by water shortages. Therefore, the construction violates the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safety Guidelines. Reports on the safety of the construction are being withheld from the public and the media.

 

The India experiences of Vedanta were echoed in the experience of other activists from around the world who are confronting other corporate giants like Rio Tinto, Glencore, Xstrata and others who are all publicly traded companies in the UK and who daily benefit from their special brand of corporate terrorism in parts of the world that do not receive the attention  of media companies looking for stories to tell.

It was good to be part of the event and learn more about parallel struggles. The more we know about each other and the more we know about the anti‐community strategies of corporations and our governments who aid and abet their actions is the stronger we are for the continued fight to dismantle these dangerous and destructive power structures.

For more information go to:

1*] http://www.pucl.org/reports/Orissa/2001/maikanch‐report.htm

2*] http://in.reuters.com/article/2009/09/25/idINIndia‐42702020090925 and also: http://jharkhand.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/vedanta’s‐killer‐chimney‐at‐korba‐chhattisgarh/

3*] http://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/vedanta‐zinc‐plant‐blast‐udaipur‐16514.html

4*] http://www.dianuke.org/safety‐of‐nuclear‐power‐plant‐at‐koodankulam‐a‐dangerous‐illusion/

http://www.idakedagroup.com

http://tillahwillah.wordpress.com

http://www.foilvedanta.org

How Will India’s Censor Board Censor A-Rated Trailers Online?


By on Jul 23rd, 2012  |

A trend we had pointed towards in January this year: More and more film producers in India are releasing uncensored, rather, A-Rated trailers online, and the country’s censor board appears to have taken note. While the movies themselves have an A-rating, there are instances when the trailers are not given the go-ahead for promotion on television, or changes are requested by the censor board.

The Hindustan Times reports that at least three films – Jism 2, Heroine, and Kya Super Cool Hain Hum, have released slightly more risque trailers online. The report, which has details of the cuts being made, quotes Censor Board chief Leela Samson as saying that “There is only a marginal change (in the number of ‘A’ certificates being handed out to promos). The board is deliberating on the issue of internet censorship”.

We’d asked then:

Why Not More? This does beg the question – given that there is such a massive gap between levels of censorship of traditional media (significant) and the Internet (none), why don’t content creators treat them differently? Why isn’t there a different online, uncensored version for films, music videos and trailers? Perhaps they don’t want to tempt censorship.”

Looks like both are being implemented.

How Will India’s Censor Board Censor A-Rated Trailers Online?

For the producers, it’s a no-brainer for more risque trailers to be released, whether online or on television. Most of the films collections are reported in the first week, and there is tremendous pressure on them to push for promotion. The Censor Board is in a tricky situation here – they cannot be seen as doing nothing about adult trailers online. It has two options:

– Either tell producers that they can’t release trailers online without approval, and apply the same standards to the Internet, that they apply to television.
– Haul up producers in case risque trailers are released/reported to them online.

What should they do? In our opinion, do nothing: websites like YouTube and Dailymotion have their own mechanisms by which they ask users to certify that they are above the age of 18, and while it is unlikely that an underage individual will choose not to watch the video, there’s already an ocean of adult content online that India’s censor board has no control over. They can’t censor everything.

Also, what will the censor board do if an uncensored video is “leaked” online to an Indian TMZ-like website? There’s no proof that it came from the producer. What if certain adult scenes from the film are leaked online, and these aren’t really trailers? The producers of the film can’t be hauled up for that. The Internet isn’t TV, there are work-arounds, and it’s time India’s regulators realized that.

 

oriniginal post at- http://www.medianama.com/

It will be difficult to reverse Cairn-Vedanta deal: SC


 

The Supreme Court today said it will be difficult to reverse the USD 8.5 billion Cairn-Vedanta deal but would examine the allegation that it contravened an agreement that while selling its shares Cairn India would offer them first to state-owned PSU ONGC.

Source: PTI
It will be difficult to reverse Cairn-Vedanta deal: SC

The Supreme Court today said it will be difficult to reverse the USD 8.5 billion Cairn-Vedanta deal but would examine the allegation that it contravened an agreement that while selling its shares Cairn India  would offer them first to state-owned PSU ONGC  .

A bench of justices D K Jain and Madan B Lokur asked the Centre, Cairn India Ltd and other parties to file their couter affidavits within four weeks.

The court had issued a notice to Centre and the companies on April 27 but they failed to file their responses on a PIL seeking a CBI probe into the reasons for ONGC and government in “not asserting” their legal rights on the issue.

 

The bench said it would be difficut to reverse the deal but it would look into the allegation after a response is filed in the case.

 

“We will take note of what has happened,” the bench said. The bench was hearing a PIL filed by a Bangalore resident Arun Kumar Agarwal who alleged there was a clause in an agreement between Cairn group and ONGC that in case Cairn Group wanted to sell its shares in Cairn India, it would first offer the same to ONGC.

 

As per the clause, Cairn could sell its shares to other parties only after ONGC refused to buy the stake and ONGC, thus, had the right of first refusal (ROFR), he said. The petition alleged the decision on the deal had been made on “extraneous considerations” and without taking into account the relevant aspects.

 

The petition said had ONGC, which was Cairn India’s joint venture partner, been offered its ROFR for Cairn India’s shares and had it exercised its right, the exchequer would have benefitted by over Rs 1 lakh crore.

Tribal villagers to observe statewide bandh against land acquisition


By Sayed Isthiyakh 7/23/12, Newzfirst

 

RANCHI – The tribal villagers in Jharkhand Sunday decided to observe statewide bandh against the ongoing forceful land acquisition by the state government to build the Indian Institute of Management and National University for Study and Research in Law (NUSRL) campuses.

In a meeting held by the villagers of about 35 villages surrounding Nagri village, where government is forcefully acquiring 227 acres of farmland that belongs to poor tribals, unanimously decided to observe one day ‘Jharkhand Bandh’ on 25 July.

“The distressed tribals and social movements, who have been protesting against government’s bid to grab their home and agricultural land will now observe statewide bandh on 25 July against the gross injustice.” Dayamani Barla, tribal leader and social activist told Newzfirst.

“We appeal and will seek support from all other likeminded people and organizations including political parties.”  she said.

After Ranchi High Court’s refusal to stop the land acquisition at the Nagri village, the villagers had even approached Supreme Court, which did not even admit the plea.

On asking will this move not amounts to contempt of court, “The chief justice of high court is the head of the University for which land is being acquired. Government is hell-bent to acquire the land. What option do the tribals have?” asks Barla.

She also accused Government of violating constitutional rights of the tribal villagers by not holding Gram Sabha (Public Hearing) and by not seeking the consent from the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC), which is mandatory for the land acquisition.

Timeline of censorship #mustread


 

 

Poster by Sanjay Sipahimalani

Timeline of book bans/ challenges and censorship in the arts in India
An indicative list of key bans and challenges in India since Independence, with an emphasis on writers and literature. This timeline will be updated as information becomes available, and is a work-in-progress.

1930s | 1940s | 1950s | 1960s | 1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000-2010 | 2010- |

2010-present:
January 2012: Threats of violence by a handful of protestors prevent Salman Rushdie from coming to or addressing writers and readers at the annual Jaipur Literature Festival.
Four writers, Amitava Kumar, Hari Kunzru, Ruchir Joshi and Jeet Thayil, read extracts from Rushdie’s Satanic Verses in a gesture of solidarity and protest at the festival, sparking controversy.
Read more: http://www.tehelka.com/story_main51.asp?filename=hub110212Notes.asp

January 2012: Symbiosis University in Pune cancels a screening of Sanjay Kak’s Jashn-e-Azadi, a film on Kashmir, after members of the right-wing ABVP protest, saying that the film is anti-national and offends their sentiments.

http://www.firstpost.com/india/censorship-at-symbiosis-see-no-kashmir-hear-no-kashmir-speak-no-kashmir-199780.html

January 2012: The Uttar Pradesh government bans performances of a play called ‘My Sandal’, for violating the election code of conduct. The play is widely assumed to satirise the corruption and expensive tastes of UP chief minister Mayawati.

November 2011: An exhibition of Korans in Delhi is shut down after All-India Muslim Personal Law Board member Kamaal Farooqui and Syed Yahya Bukhari, brother of the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, along with their supporters denounced the event for “wrongly interpreting the tenets of Islam and the holy Quran”.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/article2481853.ece

October 2011: Delhi University’s Academic Council drops A.K. Ramanujan’s essay 300 Ramayanas from the Delhi University B.A. syllabus, largely due to pressure from right-wing organizations.

http://www.sunday-guardian.com/artbeat/ramanujan-a-the-ramayana

http://www.sacw.net/article2344.html

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1111027/jsp/opinion/story_14672561.jsp

July 2011: Screenings of Nina Paley’s Sita Sings The Blues cancelled in New York after protests from the Forum for Hindu Awakening.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/07/24/sita-sings-the-blues-hindu-film-causes-a-stir-in-queens.html

March 2011: The state of Gujarat bans Joseph Lelyveld’s biography of Gandhi, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/01/books/gandhi-biography-by-joseph-lelyveld-roils-india.html?_r=1

2000-2010:

October 2010: Copies of Rohinton Mistry’s novel Such A Long Journey are burnt and a 24-hour notice was given to vice chancellor Dr Rajan Welukar to drop the novel from the second year syllabus of Mumbai University. Bal Thackeray’s grandson, Aditya Thackeray, leads the protest, complaining that the book contains “anti-Shiv Sena” passages. The complaint later shifts to the charge that Such A Long Journey offends the sensibilities of Maharashtrians. Mumbai University issues notices to all colleges dropping the novel from the syllabus.

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?267551

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article838537.ece

October 2010: Writer Arundhati Roy faces sedition charges after speaking on Kashmir at a symposium. A month later, in November, a mob of BJP Mahila Morcha activists attacks her house.

http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/sedition-or-free-speech-arundhati-roy-reacts-62566

http://www.hindu.com/2010/11/01/stories/2010110157351800.htm

August 20, 2009: The Narendra Modi government in Gujarat bans Jaswant Singh’s Jinnah-India, Partition, Independence, on the grounds that it tarnishes the image of Sardar Patel. In September, the Gujarat High Court overturns the ban, saying that the State needs to have more respect for the fundamental rights of citizens.

July 8, 2009: The Chattisgarh state government bans the late Habib Tanvir’s play, Charandas Chor, written in Chattisgarhi with a 20-year record of performances in the state, on the grounds that it shows the followers of the Satnami Panth community in a bad light.

http://www.altlawforum.org/news/chattisgarh-government-bans-charandas-chor

February 2008: The UP government bans Jaishree Misra’s Rani, a work of historical fiction, on the grounds that it contains “highly objectionable” material about Rani Lakshmibai’s personal life–ie, a reference to a (fictionalised) chaste romance between Lakshmibai and a British officer.

July 2006: Members of the Bangladeshi community in London march in protest against Monica Ali’s “misrepresentation” of Sylheti life in her novel, Brick Lane. The protests fizzle out, and the film version of Brick Lane is released in 2007.
January 2006: The Maharashtra government had banned the sale and circulation of yet another James Laine book, The Epic of Shivaji, for derogatory observations on the Maratha warrior king. The book is a translation of a 300-year-old Sanskrit epic, Shivbharat, commissioned by Shivaji himself to celebrate his life.
On the James Laine controversy:

http://www.complete-review.com/quarterly/vol5/issue1/laine0.htm

Film: 2006, seven states (Nagaland, Punjab, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh) ban the release and exhibition of The Da Vinci Code. Many of the state high courts have since overturned the ban.

September 2005: West Bengal High Court overturns the 2003 ban against Taslima Nasrin’s Dwaikhandito.
Over the next few years, Taslima, exiled from Bangladesh, faces protests and threats in India. Shunted from one place to another, surrounded by security and with the state unwiling to guarantee her safety, the author finally gives up on her hopes of settling in Bengal.

March 2004: Politician Gopinath Munde says that he was wrong to have asked for a ban on Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India, on the grounds that it contained passages derogatory to Shivaji.
In 2004, Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” was banned in Chennai. The play however, has played successfully in many, many other parts of the country since 2003. A Hindi version of the play has been performing since 2007.

January, 2004: Over 150 activists from the Sambhaji Brigade attacked BORI, ransacking the building, defacing books and artworks, and destroying property.

-14 January: Despite the fact that OUP had already withdrawn Laine’s book from the Indian market two months earlier, the Maharashtra government moved — eventually successfully — to have Laine’s book banned, again citing Sections 153 and 153A of the Indian Penal Code.

-16 January: Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee speaks out against the book-ban on Shivaji.

April 2004: The Kerala High Court upholds a 1991 ban on the staging of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. The original 1991 order says that the musical “is both sacrilegious and blasphemous, which would outrage the religious feeling of Christians.”

2004: the film Final Solution, which looks at religious riots and the Hindu-Muslim riots is banned by the Indian Censor Board, which calls it “highly provocative”. The ban is eventually lifted.

November, 2003: James Laine’s Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India published in India by Oxford University Press India in June, is withdrawn from the Indian market by the Press after protests from Hindu rightwing parties to the effect that Laine insulted Shivaji.

November 2003: The West Bengal government bans Taslima Nasrin’s Dwaikhandito on the grounds that its contents could inflame religious passions—“for the sake of maintenance of democracy” in Bengal. (In 2009, the Calcutta High Court overturns the ban.)

2003: the Indian Censor Board bans the film ‘Gulabi Aaina (The Pink Mirror)’, a film on Indian transsexuals produced and directed by Sridhar Rangayan. The censor board cited that the film was ‘vulgar and offensive’.

2002: Anand Patwardhan War and Peace, on nuclear testing, is asked to make 21 cuts before the film can be screened. Patwardhan objects, saying “If these cuts do make it, it will be the end of freedom of expression in the Indian media.” The courts declare the cuts unconstitutional.

2001: The BJP and the VHP urge their members to burn copies of historian D N Jha’s The Myth of the Holy Cow, just before the publication of the book. It is banned by the Hyderabad court on the grounds that “it might hurt religious sentiments”.

February 2000: The UP government orders filming on Water to cease, saying that it has “provoked civil disorder”.
February 14, 2000: Ayatollah Hassan Saneii, the head of the 15th of Khordad Foundation, reiterates that the death sentence remains valid and the foundation’s $2.6 million reward will be paid with interest to Rushdie’s assassins.
January 2000: A 2,000-strong mob burns down the set in Varanasi where Deepa Mehta’s Water is being filmed; it touches on the lives of widows in Varanasi. The Hindutva parties feel that it “shows Hindu culture in a bad light” to depict widows in the manner that Mehta has.

The 1990s:
Film and art were more often challenged in the 1990s than books or plays. (Additional material to come.)

1999: Maharashtra government banned the Marathi play ‘Me Nathuram Godse Boltoy” or ‘I am Nathuram Godse Speaking

1998: Hamish McDonald’s Polyester Prince, a life of Dhirubhai Ambani, banned.
September 1995: The customs sends a directive to Rupa & Co, asking it to stop distributing Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh because “the question of permissibility or otherwise of marketing the book was under the consideration of the Government of India”. Though there is no official ban, the book is not available in Maharashtra and elsewhere for many months.

Film: Mira Nair’s Kamasutra and Madhuri Dixit’s appearance in Khalnayak raise questions of obscenity and vulgarity; Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen is challenged by the film censor board for its violence and the debate it fuels on caste; Mani Ratnam’s film, Bombay, on Hindu-Muslim riots, draws controversy.

1998: screenings of Deepa Mehta’s Fire are disrupted, the film-maker threatened and cinema halls attacked by protestors. The Shiv Sena led most of these protests. In 2000, Mehta and her crew are prevented from filming ‘Water’, on the grounds that her portrayal of child brides is offensive to Hindu sentiments.

http://www.indexoncensorship.org/2011/06/mf-husain-farewell-to-a-nations-chronicler/

Art: 1996: Paintings made by MF Husain in the 1970s and 1980s of Saraswati, Bharat Mata and other Indian deities come under attack after Hindu nationalist groups target the artist. In 1998, Husain’s house is attacked by Bajrang Dal activists. By 2006, the artist goes into exile, after exhibitions of his paintings have faced repeated attacks and after multiple cases have been filed against him in courts across the land by Hindu rightwing groups.

http://www.sawnet.org/news/fire.html

The 1980s:
Any book that misrepresented India’s borders was confiscated by Customs and released only after the offending frontiers had been manually “corrected”.

April 1989: Hindu militants threatened to kill M.M. Kalburgi, an Indian historian, for writing a Kannada-language book they claim blasphemes a 12th century saint. Kalburgi was given 24-hour protection by police in Dharwar in the southern state of Karnataka. A group of 43 Kannada writers and academics formed a committee in support of the book.

April 1989: customs authorities black out passages critical of Indira Gandhi’s regime in 500 imported copies of the Oxford Illustrated Encyclopaedia: World History from 1800 to the Present Day.

1988: On October 5 1988, the Indian Finance Ministry announced the banning of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses under Section 11 of the Indian Customs Act, adding that the ban “did not detract from the literary and artistic merit of Rushdie’s work”. As with Stanley Wolpert’s Nine Hours to Ramayana and Aubrey Menen’s Ramayana Retold, this ban set a precedent, legal and cultural, for taking offended sentiments into consideration as a justification for banning a book.

October 1987: Maharashtra High Court bans Dr BR Ambedkar’s Riddles in Hinduism, an examination and questioning of some aspects of the faith, after some Hindu groups protest. In 1998, Dalit groups take out a Bheem March in Bombay, protesting the failure of the courts to lift the ban.

1986: PM Antony’s controversial play, The Sixth Holy Wound of Christ, is banned in Kerala after months of protests and debate. The play is based on Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ.

1983: Morarji Desai obtained a temporary ban on Seymour Hersh’s The Price of Power: Kissinger and Nixon in the White House, which described Desai as a “star performer” for the CIA. The ban was eventually lifted, but by that time public interest in the book was on the wane. And Morarji Desai—who was then 93—gained much sympathy when Kissinger stepped up to testify on his behalf, stating unequivocally that Desai was no CIA spy.

1980: Writer Mridula Garg was arrested on charges of obscenity for a passage in her Hindi novel, Chitta Cobra. After two years in court, the charges were dropped.

http://www.hindu.com/lr/2010/11/07/stories/2010110750230600.htm

The 1970s:

Politics, and what the state often saw as the misrepresentation of either India’s policies or its leaders, triggered most book bans in this decade. Former MI5 operative Greville Wynne upset MI5 and the Indian government when he published his memoirs, The Man From Moscow.

It was increasingly books that “misrepresented” India that were targeted. Desmond Steward’s Early Islam and Michael Edwards Nehru: A Political Biography were both banned in 1975 for what the government considered grievous factual errors, as were Charles Bettelheim’s India Independent and Alan Lawrence’s China’s Foreign Relations Since 1949.

Lourenco de Sadvandor’s incendiary, and sadly ill-researched, Who Killed Gandhi was banned in 1979, while the ban on Arthur Koestler’s scathing (but hardly well-informed) view of Eastern religion, The Lotus and the Robot, was carried over from the late ‘60s.

1974: Vijay Tendulkar’s Sakharam Binder banned two years after it pulls in full houses across Bombay. The Bombay High Court order overturning the ban is considered a landmark free speech judgement. Tendulkar’s Ghashiram Kotwal was also often challenged and banned in the 1970s.

Key bans:
Nehru, A Political Biography by Michael Edwards. Banned: Dec 13, 1975
India Independent by Charles Bettelheim. Banned: May 15, 1976
Who Killed Gandhi by Lourenco De Sadvandor. Banned: Dec 29,
1979

The 1960s:

The most important ban of this decade, in retrospect, was the ban on Stanley Wolpert’s Nine Hours to Rama.

Wolpert’s analysis of Gandhi’s assassination had nothing to do with the Ramayana — it was his research into the gaps in the security arrangements surrounding the Mahatma, and the suggestion of conspiracy theories, that attracted the state’s censorship. This set a second, and equally dangerous, precedent, allowing the state to consider banning books that might deliver inconvenient insinuations about any ruling government.

Key book bans: Nine Hours to Rama by Stanley Wolpert. Banned: Sept 1, 1962
The Jewel in the Lotus (A Historical Survey of the Sexual Culture of the East). Banned: July 20, 1968
The Evolution of the British Empire and Commonwealth from the American Revolution by Alfred Le Ray Burt. Banned: Aug 9, 1969
A Struggle between Two Lines over the Question of How to Deal with US Imperialism by Fan Asid-Chu, Foreign Languages Press, Peking, 1965. Banned: Dec 6, 1969

The 1950s:

In the aftermath of Partition, the first bans on specific books from across the border came into force—Agha Babar’s play Cease-Fire, and a treatise on Somnath called Marka-e-Somnath, the newspaper Hamara Kashmir were typical of the Urdu writings from Pakistan that were put on the banned list. One of the oddities of this period was a book about a Saurashtrian freedom fighter, written by Kaluwank Ravatwank and published from Karachi—Bhupat Singh crops up with alarming regularity on the banned list. The ban on Robert W Taylor’s trashy and semi-pornographic Dark Urge went almost unnoticed.

1958: In a rare case, the Supreme Court banned DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover on the grounds of obscenity. In the absence of a process of review, the ban may still be in force.

1956: Now almost forgotten, Aubrey Menen was at one time something of a standard-bearer for his generation, known for the elegance of his mind and his somewhat baroque work. Ramayana Retold was a deconstruction of the Ramayana, told with Menen’s trademark refusal to respect pedestals and the icons that stood on them. In the 1950s, this became one of the first books to be banned by the Indian government on the grounds that it might offend religious sensibilities — opening the door to future displays of competitive intolerance.

March 1953: You Made Me A Communist, a popular Malayalam play, is banned by the government alleging that the play propagated “subversive ideas” and encouraged the people to “rebel against the government”. The ban is overturned in two months.

American Military Aid to Pakistan (its full implications) by Salahuddin Ahmad. Banned: July 31, 1954
What Has Religion Done for Mankind, Watch-tower Bible and Tract Society, New York. Banned: Feb 26, 1955
Dark Urge by Robert W. Taylor. Banned: Dec 29, 1955
The Ramayana by Aubrey Menen. Banned: Sept 29,

1956
Captive Kashmir by Aziz Beg. Banned: April 19, 1958
The Heart of India by Alexander Campbell. Banned: March 11, 1959

The 1940s: British India/ Independent India

Moki Singh’s Mysterious India and Bernard Stern’s Scented Garden are fairly representative. Scented Garden was considered too sexually explicit (versions can still be found at pavement bookstalls, providing competition to the Kama Sutra). Mysterious India offered the usual stereotypes, some of them at least moderately offensive. The 1940s also saw early bannings of pamphlets containing material that was considered inflammatory to one or the other religion and politically seditious literature. In 1946, for example, the Customs notifications prohibited any reproduction of an issue of the journal Britannia and Eve, containing an article entitled Codijah the First and Devoted Wife of Mahomet, on the grounds that this might be offensive to the followers of Islam. Pamphlets offering a “neutral opinion” of Kashmir were also banned, on the grounds that these opinions were not as neutral as they seemed.

The status of these books in India remains uncertain. Some are still banned; in other cases, the bans have been overturned, but information on these is not freely available. In many cases, the book in question has dated and become irrelevant with the passage of time; in a few cases, the book remains relevant and what was once incendiary has now become innocuous.

Scented Garden (Anthropology of sex life in the Levant) by Bernhard Stern; translated by David Berger. Banned: August 18, 1945
Behind the Iron Curtain in Kashmir: Neutral Opinion (author not mentioned). Banned: Aug 27, 1949

The 1930s: Banned Books Under the Raj
Almost exactly 70 years since Katherine Mayo’s Mother India was placed on the list of banned books, the import of this “drain-inspector’s report” is still prohibited. More typical of books that incurred the disapproval of the State in pre-Independence India was Arthur Miles’ Land of the Lingam, a salacious “history” of sexuality in Eastern lands. Max Wylie’s Hindu Heaven was an intemperate expose of mission conditions in India, and was banned in 1934. Perhaps the most puzzling ban was the one placed on Frank Richards’ Old Soldier Sahib, an account of this veteran soldier’s pre-war army service in India. Richards was a friend of Robert Graves; his memoir of the Great War was never banned in India, and indeed, did extremely well. Old Soldier Sahib appears to have ruffled military feathers for its candid portrayal of life in the ranks.

Hindu Heaven by Max Wylie. Banned: April 28, 1934
The Face of Mother India by Katherine Mayo. Banned: January 18, 1936
Old Soldier Sahib by Private Frank Richards Banned: Aug 22, 1936
The Land of the Lingam by Arthur Miles. Banned: Oct 2, 1937

original postat-http://nilanjanaroy.com/2012/07/08/timeline-of-censorship/

Immediate Release- Petition for a comprehensive response to sexual violence submitted to Sonia Gandhi


Ms.Gandhi was receptive to the need for consultations with women’s groups prior to any finalisation. On the NCW front, she was mindful of and acknowledged its shortcomings; this may require further intervention from women’s rights groups.

We thank Farah Naqvi for the appoinment with the UPA Chair and Aruna Roy for writing to Mrs Gandhi in advance of our meeting, to emphasise the value of our petitions, and extending her support to the cause

 

Press Release
Demand by women’s groups and concerned individuals for urgent reform of law relating to sexual assault, and seeking accountability of the NCW.
Petition signed by 92 organizations and 546 individuals.
Dated: July 23, 2012
 
A delegation of women representing women’s groups and individuals from across the country met this morning with Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Chairperson of the UPA and presented her with two memorandums concerning the issue of violence against women in the country.
 
The first memorandum was directed at the Criminal Law Amendment Bill which proposes amendments to the existing provisions on rape and sexual assault.  The women’s groups demanded that the proposed amendment define rape as a gender specific crime in recognition of the fact that rape is primarily a crime perpetrated by men against women, and is accompanied by specific consequences for women. In light of this, they opposed transforming rape into a gender neutral offence. The need for introducing a gradation in sexual assault offences was also highlighted as necessary, to enable law to respond appropriately to aggravated assault such as public stripping and parading to less severe forms of molestation. The delegation emphasised that the age of statutory consent be 16 years and not 18 years as was being proposed, so as to penalise only non-consensual sex between young persons. The delegation emphasised that any amendment at this stage must aim to introduce holistic reform for victims of sexual assault, including that related to victim and witness protection as well as provision of criminal injuries compensation for victims. Partial reforms at this stage would not just be belated, but also tokenistic if they failed to take into account the holistic duty the state bears to provide redress to victims of sexual assault. They demanded that the government must consult with women’s groups in order to address all the shortcomings of the law, so as to integrate all the concerns prior to presenting the Bill to the Parliament.
The delegation also pressed for institutional reforms of   the National Commission for Women, pointing out its consistent failures in upholding women’s rights and responding to widespread and gross violations of women, as highlighted recently by the NCW’s response to the Guwahati case. They stressed the urgency of putting in place a transparent, democratic and non partisan selection process for members and the Chairperson of the Commission. Further they also demanded a comprehensive review of the performance of the Commission. And finally in light of recent events, they demanded that the current Chairperson be replaced immediately.
Smt. Gandhi keenly heard all the issues and acknowledged the concerns. She assured the delegation that she would look into the matter and ensure that women’s groups were consulted by the nodal Ministry to give their critical inputs into the Bill before it is finalised.
For further information, contact
Madhu Mehra 9810737686

Vrinda Grover   9810806181

 

To: Srimati Sonia Gandhi

Chairperson, UPA

10 Janpath

New Delhi

 

Subject: Seeking Institutional Reform of the National Commission for

   Women, and replacement of the current Chairperson

 

Date: July 23, 2012

 

Dear Madam Chairperson:

 

At the outset, women’s rights groups from across the country wish to express our dismay at the manner in which the National Commission for Women (NCW) has recently handled the issue of a young girl being molested by a mob in public in Guwahati:

  • Constituting a fact-finding team with little expertise or background in women’s issues
  • Holding a press conference before the fact-finding report was finalized
  • Revealing the victim’s name
  • And, Chairperson Mamta Sharma’s subsequent comments to a leading newspaper, saying “Be comfortable, but at the same time, be careful about how you dress… Aping the west blindly is eroding our culture and causing such crimes to happen.”

 

However, these are not single failures of individual members of the Commission. They exemplify the failure of the NCW as an institution, which we urge you to address on an urgent basis if India is to hold its head high in the global family of democratic nations that place value on women’s rights.

 

Violations of women’s rights take place by both State and non-State actors. It must fall to a nodal human rights body like the NCW to steadfastly and impartially hold both sets of actors accountable in order to protect, above all else, the rights of India’s women. The NCW has repeatedly failed in this sworn duty – to protect those in whose name it was created. Just a few examples of its lapses over the years:

 

  • Despite overwhelming evidence of mass sexual violence against minority women in Gujarat in 2002, the NCW’s fact finding found that no particular community was targeted, in complete contrast to the reports of the National Human Rights Commission and subsequent observations by the Supreme Court. Even as the NHRC moved the courts to seek justice, the NCW failed to pursue a single case of sexual violence to bring justice to a single woman whose life was destroyed by this carnage.
  • On January 24, 2009, when about 40 men belonging to Sri Ram Sena attacked a group of young women in a pub in Mangalore, Nirmala Venkatesh, a Commission member who carried out a fact finding, noted that the women’s clothes were a major provocation for the attack. She did not even meet with the victims during the course of the fact finding. She was subsequently removed for making the findings public to the media. Upon her removal from the NCW, she claimed that she had been pressurized to give an “anti-Karnataka government” report.
  • NCW has frequently denied reports of sexual violence by security forces in several parts of the country, instead of seeking to investigate and end impunity for such crimes.
  • In the recent Guwahati incident of July 10, 2012 the NCW has failed to foreground the most critical issue – that the crime committed on a young girl publically mauled by a mob of men is not even considered sexual assault under the current laws of our land. Current law considers this merely the ‘outraging of a woman’s modesty’ carrying a maximum sentence of only 2 years and a minimum of only a fine, rather than a heinous and traumatizing sexual crime.
  • Over the last several years it has fallen to women’s rights groups to repeatedly push for law reform, to prepare and submit draft amendments to the law, to address these grave lacunae, rather than this being a priority of the NCW.

 

This conduct of the Commission over successive years has obscured systemic injustices to women, trivialized their violations, reduced the dignity of the institution and revealed an institutional collapse of this nodal body.

 

We urge you to take the lead in ensuring that the government, in consultation with women’s rights groups, undertakes a comprehensive review of the NCW to achieve the following objectives:

 

  1. Safeguard the political autonomy of this nodal women’s rights institution by replacing the current nomination system with a transparent, democratic and non-partisan selection process for members and Chairperson of the Commission. The current nomination process is entirely contrary to international standards, which clearly state that the State Executive should not solely determine the composition of human rights bodies, such as the NCW. Only a transparent selection process, determined by GOI in consultation with women’s rights groups, can ensure that the NCW’s members and Chairperson are women with both the necessary expertise and sensitivity to uphold women’s rights.
  2. Undertake a comprehensive review of the performance of the Commission in terms of – its role in addressing systemic gender-related social, economic and legal issues (including law reform and police reform); its ability to pin accountability for violations of women’s rights; its ability to further the cause of justice for women – with a view to proposing institutional reform of this nodal body.
  3. Finally, while such a review process is instituted, we urge you to replace with immediate effect the current Chairperson of the NCW, whose words and actions, have betrayed our faith, damaged the credibility of one of India’s nodal human rights institutions, and undermined Indian women’s fight for equality.

 

Sincerely yours,

 

Madhu Mehra

Sadhna Arya

Suneeta Dhar

Farah Naqvi

(on behalf of women’s rights groups from across India)

 

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