Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn #Vaw #drinking #smoking

by Sangeeta Das on Thursday, 17 January 2013 , Facebook

I was 18 when I first went to a party where there were many people of my age group smoking and drinking. Till then our parties were about food and music only. I was at the brink of being an adult and had rudimentary knowledge about sex and sexuality.

I was also not even aware about what exactly is sexual harassment, because there was practically no interaction with men. I was from a girl’s school, only went out with my girl friends, siblings or parents, had no boyfriend, most male friends were more like brothers, others were friend’s brothers; and being a gawky teenager hardly anybody noticed me on the streets. I was anonymous and invisible.

I started going to college at 18. That was the time I was exposed to the feelings of utter confusion of choosing between ‘what I want to do’ as opposed to ‘what I am supposed to do’ to be accepted as an adult among adults.

That was also the first time I started regularly travelling by bus. To me, the road side romeos were a different breed of people, who were nasty men, best avoided, glared at, or hit with the umbrella or water bottles. They were not civil and not at all found among the society of people where we lived.

At the party, the first question I faced was my about my age. Then I was asked, what will I drink. I had never had a drink till then. I refused and there were counter questions, why? A question for which I had proper answer. I was confused from then on.

I had some replies, “Because I don’t want to drink”… “Because I am here to enjoy”… But almost every answer I gave got me a volley of more questions…and it happened regularly.

If I said, ‘I don’t want’… I faced many remarks… “Do you think it is a bad thing to drink”… “How can you say you don’t like it, when you haven’t tasted it”… “You think we are bad people that we are drinking here”…”You don’t have to get drunk, you can just taste”… “Are you scared of your daddy”…

…followed by more jibes… sometimes deriding, sometimes angry… “Why don’t you get your father’s permission to drink”…”How can you enjoy a party, when you are not drunk”… “You have to experience everything in life”… “Its all part of growing up”… “How come, you are from LSR and you have such block headed ideas”.

Till date I never really could make this connection of my Alma Mater with the choices in my life. 😀


I was not very verbal or vocal and I felt I was being cornered so I never argued over the issue of drinking and smoking or its bad effects, versus, my choice in leading my life my way. I found it futile & juvenile.

I used to quietly refuse or smile and say no, or agree to take a little bit mixed with some soft drink.

Finally one day a guy said, “If you think we are all a bunch of drunakards then why are you here”, and I started declining the invitations.

I was sick and tired of being labeled — A behenji, a Low society girl, You know one of those govt. aided school girls, A prude, Mother-mary, homely girl and what not.

By the time I was 20 I knew for certain, how I wanted to enjoy being at a party; and getting drunk was not my kind of enjoyment. It happened at a New Year Party. We were all offered rum punch and I had picked up a whole bunch fruits floating in it and merrily chewed them. Before I knew what hit me I was sombre and sitting quietly in one corner on the floor with a girl-friend of mine. I felt like puking.

A guy almost 10 yrs elder to me, my friend’s elder brother’s friend, came and sat next to me and started asking me if I was ok or not. I nodded & said I am giddy. Soon a couple of his friends sat down next to us. This guy, suddenly laid down on the floor and put his head on my lap and said, “Hey you don’t mind na, I just want a head rest”… It took me a minute to realize what he was upto.

I shifted my legs so fast that his head hit the floor and I pretended to puke on him and he immediately moved and I got up. I told my girl-friend, about what happened and we left promptly.

After that my resolve to say ‘NO’ got even more stronger. I was prepared with my answers.”I do not have the stomach to hold alcohol. I don’t want to lose my alertness when drunk, cause I know anything can happen to me when I am drunk”… That shut people up to a large extent.

This was the first time I felt what is harassment and not from any loathesome road-romeo, but a civil, highly educated guy, rather man. My giddyness was his first indication, that I won’t protest.


After that I have been to hundreds of parties. I tasted almost every form of alcohol there was available, in large and in moderate proporitions…but I am always resolute about, how much I want to drink, what I want to drink, whether I want to drink at all or not, how I want it mixed, etc.

I did get drunk once at a New Year party at my home. I was so drunk that at 3 o clock in the morning, I threw out the gate crashers, screamed at someone for breaking one whole bottle of ‘Old Monk‘, made all my friends sit in a row on the floor, while I cleaned the entire house and then moved on to clean the kitchen. It has a become a joke among my friends, “If you want your house cleaned, get her drunk.”

Alcoholic substance has a different effect on my mind.

I have even got raving drunk on HOLI thrice after drinking Bhaang… I was stoned for 5 hours, talking nothing, just dreaming…and meditating.I was always particular to come back home before it hits me and never to drink among unknown people. Never giving in to undue pressure or judgment.


The same happened to me when I refused to take to smoking. I like the feeling of smoking. I do it occasionally if I have company.

I have smoked marijuana several times. But knew when to stop.The bottomline is even if I know and like smoking, I don’t smoke, by choice.

Every time I said ‘NO’ to a proffered cigarette, I got a raised eyebrow, “What??? I thought you were progressive”… Yes darling I am progressive, I just don’t want to kill you with passive smoking.

“What’s wrong in smoking, everybody smokes. Your health has more hazards from the food you eat.”Yes dear, I have more hazards from being around people like you.

Or I just turn around and fix my gaze and tell them, “Why is is so difficult for you to NO for an answer?”

As I developed Migraine and went through several medical tests, I recognised that my body is not too happy with alcohol or smoke. I reduced drinking and smoking all together.


When I got married the exact opposite started happening. None of my husband’s friends would even offer me a drink. If I asked for one, they would first look at my husband and then back at me sheepishly, “Oh sorry sorry, I didn’t know you drink”… as if to ask him for permission. Some times they even asked my husband what I would drink and he would come and ask me.

So my husband made it a point to always ask me aloud in front of his friends, “Shall I get something for you”, making it clear that I don’t need his permission, but he needs mine to make me a drink.

Yes often women rely on their husbands to make their drinks. I do it too, but not always. At the same time I have accumulated enough knowledge to know what I want. Once when I directed him, mix this, mix that, a dash of this and a dash of that, that raised eyebrows as well.

“OH! I didn’t know your wife is a mixologist”…

… “No actually I used to work as a bar tender before marriage”,…. I winked & smiled at them.


Even today often I meet people who don’t understand or accept my ‘NO’, as an answer. For them if I am saying ‘NO’, that means either I am being too coy, shy, regressive, prudish, behenji, snooty whatever.

Alternatively if I say ‘YES’ — I fall into the category of, fast, loose in morals, slut, not respectable enough, not responsible enough etc etc.

2 decades have passed and I have never tried to fit in any peer group of adults, which didn’t accept my choices as my own. I flit from one circle of friends to another. Whenever wherever I have felt or was reminded that there were some unsaid rules or norms to belong to the group, ideologically or morally… I stuck out like a square peg.

The judgements about me, my character, my behavior, my past have never stopped and never will in future as well.

In fact even now that half my life is over, people come up judging me with my past choices. They seem to be more worried than I am about my life. ha ha ha

But then what they don’t know is that I am very very adamant when it comes to making choices of my life. I am very clear about what I don’t want and nothing on this earth can make me do it. Just as I am very clear about what I want. I am also well equipped to shut them up with the right polite words.

I have many reasons for my choices. I either tell them, if I find the person receptive enough or I ignore them. I am an adult and I have a right to my choices. I am an adult and I don’t really need approval from everyone about the way I want to live my adult life.

I don’t feel angry, I don’t feel shocked. Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. I never did.


That is what I would tell my young friends who are on the brink of adulthood. If you feel you are being pressurized or pushed into doing or being something, or behaving in a manner, that you are not happy with, just to be called an ADULT, or to be accepted among adults, then its time you introspect, re-think your choices, assess the possible repurcussions and be prepared to be accountable for the same choices. But don’t give in because everybody is doing it or you would be judged if don’t do it.

That is the whole point of being an adult. Not always conforming or being a part of what the rest of the adult world thinks or gathering more and more adults in your way of thought or behavior; but knowing and respecting your mind, body, heart and soul, their signals, your instincts, and your experiences, that

“My mind is mature enough, to understand what my choices are in life. I am the sole person making them and taking the responsibility of those choices. Nobody makes my choices and nobody takes the responsibility if the choice goes wrong. I am an adult and I can think for myself.”

In the end you are, what you choose to be. So choose wisely and be accountable for it.


Framed and acquitted: My tryst with late Umarji

By Abu Zafar1/17/13


“Jail se aane ke baad mere ghar ke samne bahot se patrkaar the, magar maine unhe baat karne se mana kardia. Gujarat mein Sach baat kadvi lagti hai (There were several media persons present outside my house after I was released from jail, but I chose not to interact with them. Truth sounds bitter in Gujarat),” said Maulana Hussain Ibrahim Umarji when I first met him about two weeks after his acquittal.

(A memoir into the life of Moulana Umarji who spent eight years in jail in connection with the Godhra train burning incident and was later acquitted of all charges)

I remember that Umarji was not ready to talk to any media person after his release. He had spent more than 8 years of his life in jail for no offence of his.

Gujarat Police had termed him as a ‘key conspirator’, while the media preferred ‘mastermind’, of the Godhra train burning incident which led to the death of 58 Karsevaks (workers affiliated to right-wing groups) travelling in the Sabarmati Express on 28 February 2002.

Though Umarji passed away last Sunday, his tryst with destiny has raised several questions which continue to haunt a secular and democratic state like India.

After trying hard for two weeks, Umarji had finally agreed to talk to me. In an exclusive interview in March 2011, he told me that he had never seen the Sabarmati Express as it passes Godhra only at night.

He even justified his reluctance of talking with media-persons by saying that he did not see any benefit in it. He said that there were chances of him being harassed by the state machinery again.

As he continued talking, he went on uncovering how Police fabricated cases against innocents and recorded confessional statements after meting out mental and physical torture.

“Is system ko badlo warna police har jagah dastakhat lekar kahani ghad le gi (Change this system, otherwise the police will take signatures everywhere and start fabricating stories),” he said.

According to Umarji, his only crime which attracted the wrath of the state machinery was that he submitted a memorandum to the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpaee, who had visited Godhra during the riots in 2002.

In the memorandum, Umarji had pointed out the sort of preparations done by the rioters before the Godhra riots itself. According to him, post-Godhra incidents were not riots but ‘mass murder’.

He had also shared his and other victims’ difficulties with Vajpaee and human rights organizations.

“They wished that none should complain against their cruelty and should tolerate whatever is being done. Our action offended them,” Umarji said in a bitter tone.

Discussing the riots, he recalled that Godhra was a target of communal forces since a long time. On 23 March 1948, Godhra was set on fire and even during Advani’s Rath Yatra 26 Muslims were killed.

In the post-Godhra riots, 258 Muslims were killed only in Panchmahal district and their bodies were not even given to us, he had said.

Umarji, who had graduated from the well-known Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband in 1967, headed relief work during and after the Gujarat riots. He also managed a relief camp which housed about 3500 refugees of the Gujarat carnage.

He had very close relations with the former Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind chief Maulana Asad Madani and had met former Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi, P V Narasimha Rao and H. D. Deve Gowda during his days of social work.


#Indonesia Supreme court judge says Women enjoy being raped #WTFnews #Vaw

Thursday 17 Jan 2013 8:53 am World,
Muhammad Daming Sunusi (
Muhammad Daming Sunusi (Picture: YouTube)
Jakarta, Jan 17,2013

A budding supreme court judge has ignited public outrage by saying women enjoy being raped.

Muhammad Daming Sunusi made the quip during a vetting session for Indonesia’s highest court.

When asked his views on the death penalty for rapists, he replied: ‘The rapist and the victim of rape both enjoy it, so we must think carefully before imposing the death penalty.’

According to reports the parliamentary selection panel laughed at his comments, but drew immediate criticism on social media and from rights groups.

Mr Daming later apologised for the remark, which he said was ‘intended to break the ice’.

Speaking at a press conference he declared: ‘I apologise to the Indonesian public from the bottom of my heart. I realise those words shouldn’t have come out from anyone, let alone a justice hopeful.’

Despite the apology two political parties have already said they would vote against Mr Daming being elected as one of 23 judges at the court in Jakarta.

Women’s rights groups have also suggested the chief judge of Palembang high court be censured.


IMMEDIATE RELEASE- SC Issues Notice to Gujarat Government (Zakia Jafri v/s Narendra Modi)


January 17, 2013





The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Gujarat government and stayed Magistrate Ganatra’s order dated 27.11.2013 closing Zakia Jafri’s right to file a Protest Petition. Smt Zakia Jafri had, on 8.6.2006 filed a complaint alleging a sinister and wide level conspiracy to allow violence, deliberately subvert the strict directions to maintain order that led to the loss of over 2,500 minority lives. Chief Minister Narendra Modi, cabinet colleagues, senior IPS and IAS officers are among the 61 accused in this complaint. The Supreme Court had ordered investigation into the allegations on 27.4.2009 in the special leave petition filed by Smt Jafri and the Citizens for Justice and Peace. (SLP 1088/2008) Finally on 12.9.2011 the Supreme Court had directed that the matter be placed for consideration before a Magistrate under Section 173(2) and all documents related to the investigation be provided to the complainant.


We are praying for the right to get access to all investigations reports under Section 173(8) of the CRPC. Ever since the matter came up before the Magistrate in Ahmedabad, the SIT has been resisting making any documents available. An earlier Magistrate Bhatt (later transferred) granted Smt Jafri documents by an order dated 10.4.2012. Even after that, the SIT has been doggedly trying to conceal those further investigation reports that were submitted before the Supreme Court by Shri Malhotra and Shri Raghavan between May 2010 and July 2011 as they take a very different view from the Final Closure Report submitted by Himanshu Shukla on 8.2.2012. In his two reports to the Supreme Court, Amicus Curiae Shri Raju Ramachandran had come to the conclusion that there was sufficient material to prosecute chief minister Narendra Modi and at least two senior policemen.

The next date for Zakia Jafri’s special leave petition is 7th February 2013. The CJP is assisting her legally in the case. This Special Leave Petition filed by Smt Jafri assisted by Citizens for Justice and Peace was specifically filed to get clarity on the Order of the Supreme Court that the SIT came misinterpreting before the Magistrate (SLP 8989/2012). This first came up for hearing on December 3, 2012. On December 10 last year the SC had asked Chairman SIT RK Raghavan to answer how previous statements of accused collected during investigation had not been made available to the complainant. Thereafter on December 15, 2012 about 1500 pages of documents were made available.

Now the pending issue in the matter remains the further investigation reports filed by SIT. The Supreme Court has also asked Amicus Curiae Shri Raju Ramachandran to assist the court in the matter.

Senior advocates Kamini Jaiswal and Sanjay Parikh appeared for Smt Jafri and CJP assisted by Ms. Aparna Bhat and Mr. Ramesh Pukhrambam. Advocate Mihir Desai has also been appearing in this matter.

Teesta Setalvad
Secretary and Trustee


IMMEDIATE RELEASE-SC directs compulsory registration of FIRs in all missing children cases

Press Release


17 Jan., 2013, New Delhi:  In a major breakthrough, the Supreme Court of India has passed landmark directions for registration of First Information Reports (FIRs) in every complaint of missing children in the country.

In a writ petition filed by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), a Supreme Court bench headed by a Chief Justice of India, Justice Altamas Kabir, and of Justice Vikramjit Sen and Justice Jasti Chelameswar, has expressed serious dissatisfaction over the lukewarm response from all state governments from across the country on the issue of missing children. The Court has summoned the Chief Secretaries of Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Himachal Pradesh, Goa and Arunachal Pradesh, to appear in person on 5th Feb. 2013, as these states have even failed to appear before the court and had not filed any status reports.

Accepting the arguments of Mr. H.S. Phoolka (Senior Adv.) and Mr. Jagjit Chhabra (Advocate on Record) appearing for the petitioner that every day hundreds of children are going missing without a trace and law enforcement agencies are not serious in their efforts to stop this crime and immediate steps for the recovery of these children must be taken, the Court directed immediate registration of FIRs. The Court has also accepted recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission to set up Special Juvenile Police Units at every police station across the country with a dedicated Child Welfare Officer/Special Juvenile Police Officer, to swiftly act in cases of all children in need of care and protection as well as in conflict with law.

According to BBA, almost 100,000 children go missing, with over 30,000 remaining untraced each year in the country (as per National Crime Records Bureau data). However, less than 10,000 cases are ever registered. Mr. R. S. Chaurasia, Chairperson BBA said, “Govt. Accepts that 7 children go missing every hour. In the absence of a clear definition of ‘missing child’ coupled up with apathy, lackadaisical approach and no respect for children especially those belonging to the poorer sections of society, these directions of the Supreme Court will be a shot in the arm for our efforts against organised crime of trafficking involving these missing children.

“Many times the complaints from parents, especially those of adolescent girls, result in insensitive and lewd remarks from the police that the girl may have eloped with her lover, leaving the parents in lurch for tracing their children all by themselves”, he added.


Warm Regards


Shri. R.S Chaurasia


Bachpan Bachao Andolan



Sex on false promise of marriage is rape- Delhi HC #goodnews #womenrights #justice #mustshare

If a man has consensual sex with a woman after promising to marry her but later retracts, it amounts to rape, the Delhi High Court has said.

Dismissing the anticipatory bail application of one Firoz Ahmed, who had sexual relations with a widow, Justice Kailash Gambhir held that retracting from a promise of marriage after consensual sex would tantamount to rape. Ahmed was booked under IPC sections 376 (rape) and 506 (criminal intimidation) following a complaint lodged by the woman.

The judge agreed with the view of the trial judge, who had dismissed Ahmed’s bail application, saying that the woman’s consent was obtained under the pretext of marriage and that the intention of the accused from the beginning was not to marry her.

Justice Gambhir upheld prosecution’s argument that Ahmed did not deserve bail as the offence fell under IPC section 375(4), which states that consent for sex obtained under a false pretext also amounts to rape.


#India-The police are outdoing the Taliban #Vaw #moralpolicing

TNN | Jan 16, 2013,

MUMBAI: The Bombay Police Act (BPA) of 1951, with its outdated provisions still intact, is now also being used outside the city to rein in citizens in a manner that tramples upon personal liberty and fundamental rights. Legal experts expressed shock that police in Thane district were using Section 110 of the BPA — which prohibits “indecent, riotous or disorderly behaviour in public” — against couples and individuals found in public places after sunset or in “isolated spots” or lonely stretches. The intention is to fight sexual harassment and make the streets safer for women, but experts said the cops are only targeting innocent people and not the criminals.

Police in the Kalyan-Dombivli area recently began stopping couples and lecturing them about the benefits of staying indoors at night, one of which apparently is that they wouldn’t be fined Rs 1,200 under the BPA. Over 90 people have been fined. Criminal law counsel Shrikant Bhat said that under the law the police have no power to even impose such a fine. They are only authorized to investigate.

“The policemen are acting like tyrants. Instead of doing their duty to protect people and women, they seem to have lost all sense of policing,” said Colin Gonsalves, a civil rights lawyer who has moved to Delhi from Mumbai and now practises in the Supreme Court. “My advice to the womenis to identify these police officers who prevent them from being out and then move the police chief or Bombay high court to have such officers removed from service,” he said.

Senior counsel and criminal law expert from Mumbai, Shirish Gupte, added, “The police have absolutely no power to stop anyone from being outside unless the person is soliciting a customer. The police are overreaching the law.” The police also have no power to ask college principals to ensure that students display their college identity cards at all times, even outside college premises.

Apparently, the police move came after a circular was sent to the force in Thane asking it to act against sexual harassment. “The police move, an outcome of a well-intentioned circular to form squads across police stations to tackle sexual harassment, is being misdirected and enforced by overzealous cops without application of mind,” said one lawyer.

“I think the problem is not with the law. The police are targeting law-abiding citizens by grossly misunderstanding the provisions of the law,” said former chief information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi. “Instead of providing security to citizens, they are harassing them to cover their own failure. The police must stop this immediately and apologize to the innocent citizens.”

“A couple or a single girl, irrespective of the time of day, is not exposing her person in an indecent manner by merely walking on the road or sitting in a corner. The police have absolutely no justification to fine young couples Rs 1,200 and lecture them on morality,” said Bhat. He added, “The police also can’t ask a couple or single girl to stay indoors after 8pm or 10pm. By doing this, they are outdoing the Taliban. Article 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India enshrine personal liberty and freedom of movement. Undoubtedly, neither freedom nor personal liberty is unconditional or absolute. However, a couple moving at night is not indulging in indecent behavior. There is nothing to show that the women who have been attacked by rapists and goons were indulging in indecent behavior or ‘exposing’ themselves.” Only the charge of indecent, riotous or disorderly behavior would justify police intervention, says the law.

Bhat added, “The police must be taught a lesson by being taken to court and fined, which should be recovered from their salaries and not taxpayer money. Departmental action should also be taken against them.”

The policemen are acting like tyrants. Instead of doing their duty to protect people and women, they seem to have lost all sense of policing

— Colin Gonsalves, civil rights lawyer practicing in the Supreme Court

The police also can’t ask a couple or single girl to stay indoors after 8pm or 10pm. By doing this, they are outdoing the Taliban

— Shrikant Bhat, criminal law counsel

Fighting back

The police are only authorized to investigate. They have no legal right to punish a citizen. The fines collected by the Thane police are subject to the approval of a magistrate. The fined individuals can visit the magistrate’s court the next day, engage a lawyer, plead not guilty and fight a case. Their lawyer would have the right to cross-examine the police. The magistrate can then give a judgment. Alternatively, and depending on the case, the aggrieved party can file a writ petition in the high court for quashing proceedings and return of fine, said advocate Shrikant Bhat.


The Forgotten Communal Riots of Bhagalpur- 1989 #Justice


pic courtsey-
Vol – XLVIII No. 03, January 19, 2013 | Warisha Farasat , EPW

Twenty three years ago Bhagalpur district witnessed one of the worst communal riots in post-independent India. The victims – mainly Muslims – are still struggling, socially and financially. This essay lays out the main findings of the official commissions of inquiry set up to investigate the carnage and interweaves the context of a research study by the Centre for Equity Studies documenting the experiences of victims/survivors in Bhagalpur on justice and reparations, and makes policy recommendations on the framework for reparations for the victims.

Warisha Farasat ( is with the Centre for Equity Studies, New Delhi.

Two months before the riots, between 12 and 22 August 1989 on the occasion of Muharram and Bisheri Puja, communal passions were already running high in Bhagalpur, which had a history of communal clashes. However, the immediate trigger of the Bhagalpur riots was the five-day Ramshila programme of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). As part of a wider nation-wide Ram Janmabhoomi campaign, Ramshila – bricks for the proposed grand Ram Mandir (temple) in Ayodhya – were to be carried in five processions through the rural areas of Bhagalpur and converge on the 24th in the town. The growing influence of the right-wing forces to polarise society on communal lines had already vitiated the atmosphere and provocative actions during the processions made matters worse.

The outbreak of communal violence on 24 October 1989 in Bhagalpur was preceded by a series of rumours spread by criminal elements that around 200 Hindu students living in lodges near the university area had been killed by Muslims. This was followed by another rumour that 31 Hindu boys had been murdered and their bodies dumped in a well at the Sanskrit College. As it turned out, both rumours were baseless, but they fanned the communal violence (Minorities Commission 1990: 242).

A three-member Commission of Inquiry, which was established by the Bihar state government to investigate the Bhagalpur pogrom, concluded that the riots were triggered by the Ramshila procession (Sinha and Hasan 1995: 14). It also named several police officials, including the then superintendent of police, K S Dwivedi for failing to stop the violence and recommended further investigation into the role of the official machinery during the riots.

The Political Players

The Bhagalpur riots took place when the Congress was in power in Bihar and Jagannath Mishra was the chief minister. Rajiv Gandhi, then prime minister, during his visit to the riot-affected areas ordered that Dwivedi be immediately transferred because of his controversial role in the riots and anti-Muslim bias. However, the transfer orders triggered protests from the VHP and other Hindu right-wing forces, forcing Gandhi to rescind his orders (Chopra and Jha 2012). Even today, survivors note that had Dwivedi’s transfer order not been revoked at the time, many lives would have been saved since many of the worst atrocities took place after this. Indeed, the subsequent Commission of Inquiry constituted to probe the riots indicted Dwivedi and noted in its report:

We would hold Dwivedi, the then superintendent of police, Bhagalpur, wholly responsible for whatever happened before 24 October 1989, on 24th itself and [after the] 24th. His communal bias was fully demonstrated not only by his manner of arresting the Muslims and by not extending them adequate help to protect them (Sinha and Hasan 1995: 114).

The Congress government at the time did little to either stop the riots or provide relief and rehabilitation to the victims and their families. Even Lalu Prasad Yadav, who won the 1990 elections on a secular platform in Bihar, did not make enough effort to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Bhagalpur riots. Indeed, many among the survivors believe that Yadav avoided any action because many of the rioters who led the mobs against the Muslims belonged to his caste.

Similarly, even the efforts of the current incumbent, Nitish Kumar, who heads a coalition of Janata Dal (United) (JD(U)) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the state, have been piecemeal, and the major issues of justice, accountability of police officers, and reparations remain unresolved. The wounds of the mass violence were kept open and festering; even now victims recount the brutality of the massacre and the lack of justice thereafter in great detail.

Awaiting Justice

Though 23 years have passed, the victims of the communal carnage are still struggling, socially and financially. In only a handful of cases, such as the Chanderi and Logain massacres, have the guilty been punished. In Chanderi village, 65 Muslims were hacked with machetes and their bodies thrown into a pond. Mallika Begum – the sole surviving witness – courageously withstood all threats and enticements offered by the accused to secure the conviction of 16 persons who were involved in the massacre. In Logain village, 118 persons were slaughtered. To hide the truth, the perpetrators buried the bodies in the fields and subsequently planted cauliflower over this mass grave.

Even in the handful of cases where the rioters were convicted, such as Kameshwar Yadav in the infamous Parbatti case, the witnesses live under fear of reprisal. While Kameshwar Yadav was involved in many killings and incidents of leading the mob during the riots, he was finally convicted in 2007 for the murder of Mohammad Munna, son of Bibi Waleema, who was a resident of Parbatti area in Bhagalpur town (Yadav 2007). No protection or support was provided to these witnesses who testified against the rioters. A relative of Bibi Waleema, who is a street vendor, told us that he has stopped selling goods in his locality and now plies his trade far away as he fears for his life.1

The most heartbreaking challenge for the victims of the Bhagalpur riots is their struggle against forgetfulness. The brutality of the mass violence committed against the Muslims has faded out of public memory even as the victims await justice and rehabilitation. The stories of the murder of around 1,000 Muslims – men, women and children hacked with machetes, entire families killed and dumped in ponds, or people locked inside their homes and burnt alive – are now remembered only by the survivors or the immediate families of the victims who have been fighting a lonely battle.

The People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), Delhi was perhaps one of the few civil society groups that documented the riots in detail, particularly the role and complicity of the police in the rioting (People’s Union for Democratic Rights 1996). Apart from PUDR’s effort, there have been intermittent visits from individual activists to meet with the survivors and the victims’ families. Overall, there has been very little documentation or support extended by human rights groups to the survivors of the carnage.

The official records of the Bhagalpur riots, alongside other major instances of communal violence, have been comparatively examined and analysed extensively in an earlier report by the Centre for Equity Studies (CES) titledAccountability for Mass Violence: Examining the State’s Record (Chopra and Jha 2012). This report provides a fresh insight into the mechanics of communal violence at the four sites – Bhagalpur (Bihar), Gujarat, Nelli (Assam) and Delhi (the anti-Sikh riots of 1984) – and concludes that the state has failed to punish the perpetrators or provide adequate compensation to the victims and their families.

A Fractured Town

This lack of redress has meant that even in 2012, Bhagalpur remains a deeply divided town. Today, the BJP’s national Muslim face, Shahnawaz Hussain, represents Bhagalpur in Parliament. His two consecutive victories in the Lok Sabha elections on a BJP ticket are being projected as a new harmony. However, the truth on the ground is contradictory. With little movement towards justice, rehabilitation or reparations, the political dispensation has always been keen to avoid confronting the ghosts of the 1989 riots. The threat of communal violence returning may seem to have diminished, but in various ways the occurrences of 1989 loom large. The communal divide run across all societal and business transactions. It has been widely reported that Hindus buy provisions from Hindu shopkeepers while Muslims patronise Muslim businesses and shops.

In fact, an anecdote from a recent experience of the CES research team reaffirmed this communal divide. The CES local team comprises researchers and activists from different religious communities. Last year, when we were in the process of setting up an office in Bhagalpur, we identified an apartment. An agreement was reached between CES and the landlord, and one month’s rent was paid in advance. However, after barely a couple of days, the landlord, who was also living in one of the apartments of the building, created a huge ruckus over a small issue and asked us to vacate the premises within two weeks. After we had found another office space to rent and were finally moving our furniture from the apartment, we confronted and asked her why she had asked us to vacate the apartment so suddenly and without any reason. Her response was:

Hum Musalman aur scheduled caste ko ghar nahi dete hain; agar mujhe pehle pata hota ki is team mein Musalman bhi hain, main kabhi ghar nahi deti(We do not let our houses to Muslims and scheduled castes and if I had known earlier that this team had individuals from the Muslim community also, I would have not agreed to rent my apartment in the first place).

While her response disturbed us, it also laid bare the social realities of modern India: though secularism was enshrined in the Constitution a long time ago, in practice it is present only at the fringes. Indeed, communal and religious polarisation pervades our societal interactions.

Social scientist Ashutosh Varshney has argued that state and police bias have little to do with communal rioting; fractured civic relations and engagement between communities are mostly responsible for communal rioting (Varshney 2002). In the context of Bhagalpur, though, it appears that the communal violence in fact led to fractured civic relations. As far as the rioting was concerned, the police and other state authorities failed to protect Muslims. The complicity of the Bihar police in the riots was spelt out in the Commission of Inquiry Report, which indicted the local police at various levels. Not only did the local police fail to control the communal violence, in several instances they participated in targeting Muslims.

The State of Bihar

The lack of justice and compensation for the victim/survivors is further exacerbated by the dismal and impoverished state of affairs in Bihar. To understand how little has changed in the state you need to travel through rural Bihar in the peak of summer. The summer months are marked by oppressive heat and acute power outages, with several districts receiving electricity only once in two days. In the Human Development Index Report 2011, Bihar ranked the lowest in the distribution of households with electricity for domestic use in 2008-09, at a mere 30.5% (Institute of Applied Manpower Research 2011: 390).

In fact, in rural Bihar only 24.5% of the households have electricity for domestic use, with rural Uttar Pradesh (UP) a close second at 37.6% rural households receiving electricity (ibid). This past summer, even urban townships in Bihar reeled under massive power cuts. Even the wealthy were left in the dark, as there was no electricity to charge the power backups. Only 3% of the government schools in Bihar have electricity and only 8.8% of children under age six have received any service from an anganwadi centre in the past year (ibid: 194). A social worker in Bhagalpur complained: “Nitish has given more power to Patna so that everyone thinks that Bihar has changed. But Bihar lives in its villages. Nothing has changed there.”

Since Bihar is one of the most densely populated states in the country, much of the village life spills over on to the highways. Little children scurrying about, men and women carrying stacks of dry paddy on their heads, mud houses lined with cowdung cakes, and farmers ploughing their fields make for an idyllic imagery of village life. But life is not easy. A local shopkeeper tells us that kerosene lamps still remain the most reliable method of lighting their houses in the evenings.

With Bihar remaining one of the most impoverished states in India, the question of just reparations and accountability for communal violence is even more important since many of the victims/survivors affected by the Bhagalpur riots belong to desperately poor backgrounds. In the following sections this essay lays out the main findings of the official commissions set up to investigate the carnage. It then interweaves the context of the CES research study documenting the experiences of victims/survivors in Bhagalpur on justice and reparations. Given the failure of state institutions to respond to victims/survivors’ demand for legal justice and reparations, where do the victims/survivors stand? What about crucial questions of accountability and reparations for instances of mass violence such as Bhagalpur? In this regard, the essay will outline a few interim findings of the research and make policy recommendations on the framework for reparations-compensation for Bhagalpur survivors.

Commissions of Inquiry

In 1990, the Government of Bihar constituted a Commission of Inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act (1952) to examine the communal disturbances. The inquiry sought to provide an explanation for the occurrence of the communal violence, examine individuals and institutions responsible, and recommend measures for preventing the reoccurrence of such disturbances. A total of 126 witnesses were examined. According to the report, the riots spread to 250 villages in which approximately 900 people were killed and about 50,000 people were affected (Sinha and Hasan 1995: 10).

Ultimately, two separate commission reports were compiled – one by the chairperson, justice Ram Nandan Prasad, the other being collectively released by the two other members of the commission, justice Ram Chandra Prasad Sinha and justice S Shamsul Hasan. Justice Prasad chose to submit his report independently due to a disagreement with the findings of the other members on the Commission.

In addition to the three-member Commission of Inquiry, the then chairman, S M H Burney, and members of the Minorities Commission of India also visited Patna and Bhagalpur on 22-24 January 1990 and prepared a report. In its own words, the Minorities Commission explained that its mandate was to examine the measures being taken for the rehabilitation of those affected by the riots rather than inquire into the causes of the riots, which had been entrusted to a Commission of Inquiry. The findings and recommendations of both commissions have been drawn upon and interwoven wherever appropriate in this essay.

During his election campaign in 2004, Nitish Kumar promised that if elected he would ensure that justice and compensation were provided to the victims of the Bhagalpur riots. When he assumed office as chief minister after winning the elections, he made some efforts to revisit the Bhagalpur riots. While this endeavour was a good first step, it failed to go beyond tokenism and many victims are still waiting for justice and reparations.

As part of its election pledge, the Nitish Kumar government first pushed for the formation of another commission of inquiry to reconsider the issues of justice, compensation and rehabilitation for the riot victims/survivors. Consequently, under Section 3(1) of the Commission of Inquiry Act (Act XL, 1952), the governor of Bihar in February 2006 constituted another single member commission of inquiry headed by justice N N Singh since it was felt that the earlier three-member Commission of Inquiry did not deliberate on issues regarding fixing individual responsibility, and that adequate and sufficient rehabilitation had not been provided to the victims and their families.

Moreover, a large number of cases arising out of the Bhagalpur riots had also ended in submission of final reports or acquittal of the accused. The N N Singh Commission of Inquiry was mandated to inquire into the conduct and performance of the investigating and prosecuting agencies of cases arising out of the Bhagalpur riots, which ended in the submission of a final report and acceptance thereof by the court in the absence of concerted, coordinated and proper steps by the prosecuting agencies. Moreover, it was asked to analyse the circumstances under which investigating officers submitted final reports, and lapses on their part that may have led to closure of court cases. This commission was also asked to examine the issue of relief and rehabilitation for the riot victims, including the issue of distress sales. Finally, it was asked to suggest remedial measures to prevent the recurrence of communal riots.

It was also laid down that the deputy inspector general of police, northern region, Bhagalpur would supervise the team, which would report its progress to him every fortnight and he would, in turn, report to the commission about the progress made in the investigation every month. However, the fate of the N N Singh Commission of Inquiry has been no different than what plagued the commissions set up previously. This commission has received several extensions and even after six years of its formation, a final report has not been submitted to the government or made public. Recently, the tenure of the N N Singh Commission was extended, yet again, until 28 February 2013 (The Telegraph,2012).

A second initiative of the Nitish Kumar JD(U) government was to mandate the deputy inspector general of police (criminal investigation department) Girija Nandan Sharma to scrutinise the records in the Bhagalpur riot-related cases and examine whether some of these cases could be revived. After visiting the courts, examining the records, and studying the cases that were closed, Sharma recommended the reinvestigation of 29 cases, which included seven cases in Banka district and the rest in Bhagalpur district. Subsequent to the riots, as part of administrative realignment, a separate Banka district was carved out from the former Bhagalpur district. Sharma recommended that the cases that were closed was because of lack of evidence or the failure of the police to produce witnesses before the court be reopened. Amongst these were several cases of murder, arson, rioting, and destruction of property.

The CES Research Study

The official figure of the number of persons that were killed in the Bhagalpur riots was 1,000, but the unofficial count exceeds 2,000, double the official figure. Though the extent of the bloodshed and destruction during the riots was massive, it has completely faded out of the public memory. In fact, the strategy of the consecutive governments in Patna seemed to continuously defer any action, and with the passage of time turned the riots into a forgotten carnage. In fact, a survivor once remarked during a trip there: “Agar yahan pe airport hota to shayad zyada NGOs aur log hame bhi dekhne aate” (If there was an airport in Bhagalpur, then perhaps more NGOs and individuals would have come to see us/our condition also). Ironically, the anatomy of the Bhagalpur riots is quite similar to that of the 2002 Gujarat pogrom – both were large-scale rural riots. We believe that if there was speedy and comprehensive legal justice for the Bhagalpur communal violence, it would perhaps have been harder to carry out the Gujarat pogrom.

Given that very little has been written about the condition of the victims of the Bhagalpur communal violence, CES launched a detailed research study with the victims/survivors to document their experiences of justice, rehabilitation and reparations for the communal riots. The research study is qualitative and primarily hinges on the narratives and experiences of the victims’ families. Within traditional research methodologies, there is a clear distinction between “research subjects” and researchers, wherein the former are supposed to provide the information that the researcher is supposed to record and analyse. The research methodology for the CES study breaks away from this traditional paradigm, with the research being conducted alongside victims/survivors and members of the local community. By using this methodology, there is no doubt that a nuanced learning on issues of communalism, reparations and justice would emerge.

Detailed narratives of victims/survivors from the riot-affected areas in and around Bhagalpur are being collected by a team of local researchers. In these accounts, their experiences about the three main aspects of justice, compensation and rehabilitation are being documented. As we have started a preliminary analysis of the victims’ interviews, and juxtaposed it with the official policies, the challenges in government policy and its implementation regarding the riot victims become evident. While a clearer and a more detailed set of findings will be outlined in the final report, the present essay identifies and lays down some of the preliminary and interim findings of the research. A caveat is that some of these findings may be clarified further or modified subsequently based on a final analysis of the interviews, since data collection is still underway. However, these interim findings are being put in the public domain with a view to start a discussion on the almost forgotten Bhagalpur riots, alongside the larger issue of reparations and accountability for communal riots in general.

The following sections explore the two urgent issues of compensation and justice in the context of some of the interim findings of the research documenting the experiences of the victims/survivors.

Issue of Compensation

Working closely with the victims and their families in Bhagalpur over the last year, we have been confronted with challenges that have beset the government compensation policy for the victims of the Bhagalpur riots. Even after 22 years, many victim families have not received any compensation. The state government had announced an ex gratia payment of Rs 1 lakh for persons whose family members were killed. Later, in 2006, the compensation amount was enhanced to an additional Rs 3.5 lakh for the family members of those killed. However, there have been several discrepancies both in the compensation policy as well as the implementation of the policy whereby many families have been left out. In several cases, CES has facilitated the process of the survivors preparing their compensation applications to the district authorities responsible for disbursing the compensation.

(A) Need for a Holistic Concept of Reparations: With the development of a rights-based approach, the term compensation is beginning to be replaced by reparations, which symbolises a more holistic, dignified and just way to address the harm suffered as a result of human rights violations. Financial or monetary compensations are just one of the components of a comprehensive reparations policy. Reparations initiatives can be designed in many ways. They may include a range of measures such as financial compensation, social services such as healthcare or education, and symbolic measures such as formal apologies or public commemorations. Within this scheme, reparations are viewed more as a matter of right for the victims rather than charity on the part of government. The United Nations Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Remedy and Reparations provides for compensation, restitution, rehabilitation, and guarantees of non-repetition. Under these principles, effective remedy includes: (a) equal and effective access to justice; (b) adequate, effective and prompt reparation for harm suffered; and (c) access to relevant information concerning violations and reparation mechanisms.2

In India, the law on compensation has evolved through cases of custodial killings, torture, and communal violence. With the decisions in D K Basu vsState of West Bengal (AIR 1997 SC 610) and Nilabati Behera vs State of Orissa(1993 Crl LJ 2899), the right to receive compensation for violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution or the right to life has been crystallised. In cases of communal violence, the government has been ordered by the Supreme Court to pay compensation.

(B) Interim Policy Recommendations on Compensation: We have placed the information received by the victim families within this legal and policy framework and tried to identify the challenges in the current compensation policy to make policy-based recommendations. The following insights are therefore informed both by best practices and applications received from the riot victims.

Foremost, for the Bhagalpur riots, there is no provision of any compensation for property other than the loss of a house. Therefore, a more holistic compensation package should be developed to provide at least some monetary compensation to the victims whose shops were looted and burnt, cattle was destroyed or looted, and household items were destroyed or looted, as well as those persons who lost their fertile agricultural land and were forced to flee their villages.3

The loss of property was not properly assessed or quantified, government policy for the repair of destroyed houses was grossly inadequate, and the amounts that were paid to the victims’ families were meagre. The amounts that have been paid for the loss of a house should be enhanced at least 10 times of what the victims originally received, or an actual market value estimate of the houses should be made for persons who have already received some compensation. At the same time, it should be determined whether some families have been left outside the ambit of compensation for loss of property and their names should be included in the fresh list.

Since no steps were taken to resettle or rehabilitate persons who were forced to flee their villages and homes due to the communal violence, a clear policy needs to be developed to assist families who have not returned to their villages but may still want to go back to their native place, which they left behind during the riots.

The current compensation policy also restricts the incidents of rioting for compensation for death to a time frame that is unfair and unrealistic. The time frame for compensation has been fixed for incidents of rioting or violence that occurred between 24 October 1989 and 30 November 1989, and 20-21 March 1990.4 It is well known that the pronounced communal atmosphere continued until much later and there were smaller incidents for almost the entire year during which many persons went missing (and were presumably killed) or were found dead. Therefore, the policy should be revised to include cases of killings or missing persons within a full year of the riots. Missing persons, in particular those who went missing on the dates other than those prescribed by the government notification, remain a major issue for compensation and a clear policy needs to be outlined to include their families. More specifically, the timeline should be extended to include incidents that took place between 24 October 1989 and 31 October 1990.

There are many cases of death in which no First Information Report (FIR) has been registered by the police and since government authorities have refused to accept anything except for a FIR as proof of death, many victims have been unfairly left out of the ambit of compensation. It is therefore recommended that the government direct its officers to include other documents as proof of death, including a letter from the mukhiya (village headman) stating that the person was killed during the riots, a letter from any other local government authority stating that the person was killed during the riots, a birth certificate or other documents that prove that the person was living in the local area and has been missing since the riots, or any other document or testimony that points to the fact that the person was killed during the riots.

Although there is provision for compensation for injured persons, only 23 persons have been paid under this scheme. Even those who have been paid have received a meagre Rs 1,000-Rs 10,000. The revised policy on injured persons itself states that an amount of up to Rs 1,25,000 can be paid to injured persons. It is recommended that as there are many cases where family members suffered serious injuries, they should also receive compensation that is due to persons who were injured.

There is no clarity on the issue of lineage or descent, which has resulted in many applications being rejected, or close family members of persons who were killed not receiving compensation in the end. These discrepancies need to be clarified at the earliest and in a manner that there is no scope for confusion, and without any loopholes, so that family members can receive the compensation money.

Finally, in some cases, government authorities have refused to pay compensation claiming no funds were available. Several families of victims were recently informed that they could not be given the enhanced amount of Rs 3.5 lakh for the death of their kin as sufficient funds are not available with the local authorities.5 It must be noted here that it has been almost 23 years since the Bhagalpur riots, and several of the victims who are eligible by government standards have also not been fully compensated. This money should be released immediately.

Issue of Justice

The larger study will examine legal justice and the experience of victims/survivors in great detail. Nonetheless, a few urgent observations are underlined here. As mentioned earlier, 29 cases were reinvestigated based on the recommendations made by the report submitted by DIG Girija Nandan Sharma. It was encouraging that several of the serious cases of rioting from Bhagalpur were reopened based on Sharma’s reports. Nevertheless, today we see that these cases are not being tried in a speedy and rigorous manner. The Office of the Special Public Prosecutor, which was mandated to pursue these cases in the courts, has been working without any government oversight or supervision. Obviously, government is not supposed to interfere in the legal process, but it should at least require the Special Public Prosecutor to submit progress reports from time to time on these cases, and ensure that these cases are prosecuted diligently. Otherwise, merely reopening of cases would not mean much.

Often, the victims themselves are not in a position to understand or access the legal justice system to ascertain that their cases are meticulously prosecuted. In other states, including Gujarat, the reopened cases have been diligently prosecuted not because of the efforts of the government but because civil society organisations and public spirited individuals, along with victims/survivors, have kept a close watch and intervened in cases whenever required. However, while efforts in Gujarat are extremely human and financial resource-intensive, very few resources are available to pursue legal justice or reparations in Bhagalpur.

Furthermore, in his report Sharma concluded that many of the investigating officers were deliberately negligent in investigating the cases that were assigned to them after the riots and did everything to delay and hinder proper investigation. In fact, the Sharma named individual investigating officers and police officers in his report who were directly responsible in stymieing investigations after the riots. Similarly, the three-member Commission of Inquiry had also named several police officials in their report but no action has been taken against these police officers until now.

Even K S Dwivedi, who was indicted by the Bhagalpur Commission of Inquiry, was never punished, and the current state government promoted him as an additional director general rank officer (Bihar Times 2011). Most recently, he was made additional director general (wireless and technical services) by the state government. Instead of facing investigation and prosecution, several officers named in the Bhagalpur Commission of Inquiry or Sharma’s report, have been promoted. Even more reprehensible and condemnable is that Dwivedi has been awarded the president’s medal on the eve of Independence Day this year for distinguished services despite having been held directly responsible for the Bhagalpur riots by the Commission of Inquiry (The Times of India 2012).


As our research reveals, successive governments of different political parties have failed to comprehensively address the issues of justice accountability, reparations and rehabilitation of victims of the 1989 communal violence in Bihar. Similarly, the compensation policy has also failed to provide the much-needed acknowledgement and support to the victims/survivors. CES has tried to engage the Bihar state government, and has submitted policy-based recommendations, which we hope will also help the government in redesigning the compensation policy for the riot victims. Even if the Bhagalpur riots have faded from public memory, the horrors are still alive amongst the survivors in Bhagalpur who are still awaiting meaningful justice and reparations. But, perhaps, the most important learning is that communalism pervades our societal fabric, and there needs to be a collective response to ensure that it does not result in violence and discrimination based on religious affiliations.


[This report is part of a larger study led by Harsh Mander on various communal carnages by the Centre for Equity Studies. Foremost, thanks to Harsh Mander for his insightful comments on this draft version. I would also like to thank Pritarani Jha for her rigorous commitment and engagement with the research study. I am very grateful to Mallika Begum, Pravir, Mohammad Mahmud, Sunita Prasad, and Mohammad Tarique who are the mainstay of our engagement in Bhagalpur; to Amin Reza Khan for providing tireless research support and advice; to Navsharan Singh for her constant intellectual and substantive inputs and advice on the research study; the International Development Research Centre for supporting the research study; and mostly to the survivors of the 1989 communal violence in Bhagalpur who have courageously struggled for truth and accountability and agreed to share their stories with us.]

1 Interview, Bhagalpur, 5 April 2011.

2 Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (“Reparations Principles”), adopted 16 December 2005, GA res 60/147, UN Doc A/RES/60/147 (2005), Principle VII.

See also Updated Set of Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity (“Impunity Principles”), UN Doc E/CN 4/2005/102/Add 1, 8 February 2005, adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights in Resolution E/CN 4/2005/81, 15 April 2005, principle I; and Reparations Principles, principle 11.

3 By Letter No 29189-293, Relief and Rehabilitation Department, Government of Bihar, dated: 29 December 1989.

4 By Letter No-88 (Administration), DM’s Office, Bhagalpur, Dated: 30 July 1996.

5 By Letter No – C/C I Com – 4201/08, Home (Special) Department, Government of Bihar, Dated: 14 August 2009. In case of dead/missing persons, their dependents were allotted Rs 3.5 lakh. This amount was in addition to the ex gratia amount of Rs 1 lakh earlier disbursed by the state government.


Bihar Times (2011): “Dwivedi, Two Others to Become ADG”, 2 September, viewed on 25 October 2012,

Chopra, Surabhi and Pritarani Jha, ed. (2012): Accountability for Mass Violence: Examining the State’s Record, May (forthcoming as a book by Three Essays Collective), viewed on 22 October,

Institute of Applied Manpower Research (2011): India Human Development Report 2011 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), viewed on 20 October 2012,

Minorities Commission (1990): Twelfth Annual Report of the Minorities Commission from 1 April 1989 to 31 March 1990 (New Delhi: National Commission for Minorities).

PUDR (1996): Recalling Bhagalpur: A Report on the Aftermath of the 1989 Riots (New Delhi: Peoples Union for Democratic Rights), viewed on 20 October 2012,

Sinha, Ram Chandra Prasad and Shamsul Hasan (1995): Report of the Bhagalpur Riot Inquiry Commission (Patna: Bhagalpur Riot Commission of Inquiry).

The Telegraph (2012): “More Time for Bhagalpur Panel”, 29 August.

The Times of India (2012): “Two IPS Officers Get President’s Police Medal”, 15 August, viewed on 26 October,…

Varshney, Ashutosh (2002): Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India (New Haven: Yale University Press).

Yadav, J P (2007): “Hindu Activist Found Guilty in Bhagalpur Riots Case”, The Indian Express, 24 November, viewed on 22 October 2012,…


New Centralized Nuclear Plants: Still an Investment Worth Making?


(Image credit: Getty Images Europe via @daylife)

Just a few years ago, the US nuclear renaissance seemed at hand.  It probably shouldn’t have been.  Cost overruns from Finland to France to the US were already becoming manifest, government guarantees were in doubt, and shale gas drillers were beginning to punch holes into the ground with abandon.

Then came Fukushima.  The latter proved a somewhat astonishing reminder of forgotten lessons about nuclear power risks, unique to that technology:  A failure of one power plant in an isolated location can create a contagion in countries far away, and even where somewhat different variants of that technology are in use. Just as Three Mile Island put the kaibosh on nuclear power in the US for decades, Fukushima appears to have done the same for Japan and Germany, at a minimum.  It certainly did not help public opinion, and at a minimum, the effect of Fukushima will likely be to increase permitting and associated regulatory costs.

By contrast, when a gas-fired plant in Connecticut exploded during construction a few years ago, it didn’t affect the public perception of other gas plants.  But Fukushima and nuclear power is another story.  The stakes are so much bigge

Even without Fukushima, the verdict on large centralized US nukes is probably in, for the following reasons:

1)     They take too long: In the ten years it can take to build a nuclear plant, the world can change considerably (look at what has happened with natural gas prices and the costs of solar since some of these investments were first proposed).  The energy world is changing very quickly, which poses a significant risk for thirty to forty year investments.

2)     They are among the most expensive and capital-intensive investments in the world; they cost many billions of dollars, and they are too frequently prone to crippling multi-billion dollar cost overruns and delays.  In May 2008, the US Congressional Budget Office found that the actual cost of building 75 of America’s earlier nuclear plants involved an average 207% overrun, soaring from $938 to $2,959 per kilowatt.

3)     And once the investments commence, they are all-or-nothing.  You can’t pull out without losing your entire investment.  For those with longer memories, WPPS and Shoreham represent  $2.25 bn (1983)  and $6 bn (1989) wasted investments in which nothing was gained and ratepayers and bondholders lost a good deal.

Some recent investments in centralized nuclear plants in other countries highlight and echo these lessons.

Electricite de France’s Flamanville plant has seen its budget explode from 3.3 to 6 bn (July 2011) to 8 bn Euros ($10.5 bn) as of last December, with a delay of four years over original targets.  EDF in part blames stricter post-Fukushima regulations for part of the overrun).  To the north, Finland’s Olkiluoto – being constructed by Areva – has seen delays of nearly five years, and enormous cost overruns.  The original turnkey cost of 3.0 bn Euros has skyrocketed beyond all fears, increasing at least 250%.  Just last month, Areva’s CEO conceded “We estimate that the costs of Olkiluoto are near those of Flamanville.”

In the US, recent experience doesn’t look much better:  Progress Energy (now Duke) first announced the 2,200 MW Levy nuclear project in 2006, with an estimated price tag of $4 to $6 bn and an online date of 2016.  The cost estimated increased to $17 bn in 2008.  This year, Progress announced the project would cost $24 billion and come online in 2024.  The Levy plant currently has a debt in excess of $1.1 bn for which customers had already paid $545 million through 2011.  As of now, the utility plans to proceed, with the Executive VP for Power Generation stating ”We’ve made a decision to build Levy…I’m confident in the schedule and numbers.”

In Georgia, Vogtle Units 3 and 4 (owned jointly by a number of utilities, including Georgia Power) appear in somewhat better shape, but issues have cropped up there as well.  Customers currently pay $10 per month in advance to cover financing associated with the two 1,117 MW units.  Georgia Power is allowed by legislation to recover $1.7 bn in financing costs of its estimated $6.1 bn portion of the $14 bn plant during the construction period.  However, there have already been some cost problems, and Georgia Power is disputing its responsibility to pay $425 million of overruns resulting from delays in licensing approvals.  Total cost excesses to all partners total $875 mn.  The two units were expected to come online in 2016 and 2017, but in a Georgia PSC meeting in December, an independent monitor noted that expected delays of fifteen months are largely as a result of poor paperwork related to stringent design rules and quality assurance.  Those delays will likely continue to cost more money.

Unfortunately, these experiences are not outliers.  From 2007 to 2010, the NRC received 18 nuclear applications ( of which only twelve are still active).  Of these, the consulting outfit Analysis Group reported that for eight plants where they were able to obtain two or more comparable cost estimate, 7 are over budget (including Levy and Vogtle), with updated numbers “often double or triple initial estimates.”  This is consistent with an MIT study estimating ‘overnight’ costs nearly doubling from 2002 to 2007.   As utilities management consultant Stephen Maloney was quoted in the Analysis Group study “No one has ever built a contemporary reactor to contemporary standards, so no one has the experience to state with confidence what it will cost.  We see cost escalations as companies coming up the learning curve.”

Last August, Exelon abandoned plans to construct two facilities in Texas, blaming low natural gas prices.  Two months later, Dominion Resources announced that it would shut down its existing Kewaunee station in Wisconsin as a consequence of low gas prices and a lack of buyers.  The latter move was particularly eye-opening: building a nuclear plant is supposed to be the expensive part, while operation is expected to be relatively cheap.

So it appears that the nuclear renaissance may be largely over before it started.  And yet, many projects have not yet been canceled, with utilities and ratepayers accepting ever more risk in order to rescue sunk costs. In many cases, these costs have soared or will soar into the billions. As risk management expert Russell Walker of the Kellogg School of Management is quoted as saying in the  Tampa Bay Times “When the stakes get higher, it gets harder for organizations to walk away…this happens a lot.  It’s the same problem a gambler has: If I play a little longer, it’ll come around.

With low natural gas prices, efficient combined cycled turbines, more efficient renewables and a host of more efficient end-use technologies, that’s a bet fewer and fewer seem wiling to take.   Unfortunately for ratepayers at some utilities, they are at the table whether they like it or not…


#India- Koodankulam: A Nuclear Plant in My Backyard #mustshare

 Amirtharaj Stephen

January 16, 2013 · ,

I come from a village called Kavalkinaru in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, not very far from Kanniyakumari. My father was employed at a Heavy Water Plant in Tuticorin and I spent the first 24 years of my life in the Atomic Energy Township there. I was always told by the people in my township that nuclear energy was safe and that it was the future. I believed them.

In 2001, construction of the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) had begun at a distance of about 18km from my village. In 2009, I was living in Bangalore and working as a magazine photographer, when I heard about a leakage at the Kaiga nuclear plant that exposed 50 workers to radiation. Later when I went to Cambodia for a photography workshop, I found my fellow participants discussing the issues of nuclear safety and weighing the pros and cons of nuclear energy.

Many in the region did not care much about the power plant or the effect it would have them until 2011. The tsunami that shook Japan in March that year and the subsequent Fukushima disaster however caused panic in the region. The villagers, already severely affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, began raising a lot of questions on the safety of nuclear power.  KNPP was nearing its completion just about that time and the people living in the vicinity of the plant started fearing a similar catastrophe in their region.

The Indian government, on its part, did little to allay the fears of the villagers regarding safety of the plant and preparedness in the event of a natural disaster. The response has always been ambiguous and completely lacked transparency on plant safety measures.

Since then the villagers have been involved in a non-violent protest against the nuclear power plant. Idindhakarai, a village located very close to the plant, has been the epicenter of the protest. The villagers, mostly fishermen and farmers, have been protesting against the plant for more than 500 days at Idindhakarai. They are also worried about the ecological impact the plant would have on the region. The Gulf of Mannar, after all, is an ecologically fragile region.

The Tamil Nadu state government, which took sides with the villagers initially, did a U-turn and tried to crush the agitation by using all means available at its disposal. Police force was deployed against the protestors to suppress and dissolve the protest completely. All villages within a radius of seven kilometers from plant have been under curfew since March 2012. Cases were filed against members of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), the anti-nuclear protest group, and any villager found taking active part in the agitation. Many of them were charged with sedition and waging a war against the nation.

This is the story of the brave fight being put up by the villagers.

Idinthakarai village with the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) seen in the background. May 21, 2012.

Kids belonging to fishermen families play on the beach in Koothankuli village. July 02, 2012.

A fisherman brings his boat to the fish auctioning center to sell the day’s catch. Every Wednesday, villagers collect 10% of their earnings as their contribution towards running the protest. The Indian government, which has accused that the protests are being funded by the Scandinavian NGOs to run the protest, could not produce any proof. The villagers maintain accounts of all funds collected and spent by them. October 18, 2012.

Villagers from the Koothankuli, prevented from going to Idinthakarai by the imposition of a curfew, gather in front of the church and shout anti-government slogans. May 10, 2012.

Police forces assemble  in front of the KNPP before going on rounds in Koodankulam village after the imposition of a curfew. May 10, 2012.

Villagers take a holy procession around the Koothankuli village while praying that the nuclear power plant be closed down. Most people from the region are devout Roman Catholics. May 14, 2012.


Villagers observe a candle light vigil to pay homage to Hiroshima victims.  August 06, 2012.

Children from Idinthakarai with the post cards they have written to the Russian Ambassador requesting Russia to stop providing technical support to the project. August 06, 2012.

Women on their way to laying siege on seashore near KNPP. September 09, 2012.

Thousands of villagers protesting against the commissioning of the plant sleep on the seashore with their kids near KNPP.  September 09, 2012.

Men warm themselves by a bonfire while on an overnight protest against the commissioning of the plant. September 09, 2012.

Villagers cry and pray during a cleansing ceremony which was performed after police forces broke the idols of the Mother Mary and urinated in the church. September 15, 2012.


Fishermen lay siege to Tuticorin Port and block passage of ships to protest the attack on villagers in Koodankulam  by police forces. September 22, 2012.

A woman prays to Mother Mary at the church after the police attacked villagers during the siege. September 11, 2012.

Thangamma, a 70- year-old woman was on hunger strike for over 7 days along with 260 other women demanding that the nuclear power plant be shut down. May 05, 2012.

Women plead with Dr. S.P. Udayakumar, leader of Peoples Movement Against Nuclear Energy(PMANE) to reconsider his decision to surrender to the police. Within few minutes he was lifted from the dias by a group of youngsters and carried in a boat to a safe hideout. September 11, 2012.

A coast guard aeroplane flies low over protesting villagers who ventured into the sea. September 13, 2012.


Napolean, a resident of Idinthakarai, runs after being attacked by the police. September 10, 2012.

Xavieramma, a resident of Idinthakarai, cries out for help after being chased into the sea with no place to run. She was later helped out by the security forces. September 10, 2012.

Children of Sahayam cry during his funeral mass. He fell off a boulder he was standing on inside the waters due to fear when the coast guard aeroplane flew very low and was killed by the impact. September 17, 2012.


Amirtharaj Stephen is a documentary photographer based in Bangalore. He is currently documenting the anti-nuclear protests around his native village in Tamil Nadu. He had been a participant in  the Angkor Photo Workshops and a mentee under Lucie Foundation’s E-pprentice program. He is also a foodie who loves to explore the rural cuisines.

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