Why doesn’t the AP police come clean about two missing tribal women? #Vaw #Disappearances


by  Jan 21, 2013, First Post

It is easy to know when you have crossed the Andhra Pradesh border to step into Chhattisgarh. An apology of a road that connects to Sukma town takes three hours to traverse a distance of 75 km. The southern part of the state, just like the border areas in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh, is forest area, where the police stations are heavily fortified posts, protecting themselves more than protecting the local population. Because more often than not, the cops look at anyone who is not in khaki, as an enemy, a Maoist. And if not a Maoist, most definitely a Maoist sympathiser.

And when the law looks at everyone else as an outlaw, they invariably cross the line. Like the policemen from Andhra Pradesh reportedly did on 12 January when they allegedly crossed the border to take away two tribal women – 21-year-old Madvi Parvathi and 15-year-old Kovasi Somidi – from Nimmalagudem village. Home to some 30 tribal families, the village is in Konta block of Sukma district, 3 km inside Chhattisgarh from the border. The tribals engage in farming for their livelihood, growing paddy, millet and chillies and migrating to areas in Andhra Pradesh during the summer to work as labour. The Human Rights Forum (HRF) team that visited the village four days later, was told by the villagers that an police party, around 100 persons strong, assaulted villagers, including children before taking away six of them into the forest. They were taken to a spot, about half a kilometre from the village, near a hillock where there were remnants of a camp set up by the Maoists a couple of days back. The security personnel accused the six villagers of providing food and help to the Maoists and allegedly beat them. Tribal residents are often caught in between the security forces and Maoists. AFP It was after repeated pleading that four of them were let off but Parvathi and Somidi were taken away. Parvathi who is three months pregnant, was also allegedly partially disrobed by the all-male contingent of cops. For days after the `official abduction’, the villagers kept combing the forest areas in search of the two women, or perhaps their bodies. Finally they walked nearly two hours by foot to Cherla, a mandal headquarters in Khammam district and narrated the events to local reporters. They also met the Bhadrachalam sub-collector Narayana Bharat Gupta to plead for help in locating the duo. He offered them hope but since yesterday, has been pleading that Nimmalagudem is not part of his jurisdiction. For the villagers, to be caught in the crossfire between the police and Maoists is nothing new. They say every time there is movement of Maoists in the area or any incident involving the Maoists, the Andhra Pradesh police targets and harasses them. VS Krishna of HRF recalls an incident in Nimmalagudem in 2008 when two men were picked up from the village allegedly by security personnel, taken to Cherla and shot dead. A petition was also filed in the State Human Rights Commission in the case. After messages sent by fax to the Chief Justices of the Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh High courts seeking their intervention did not yield any result, a habeas corpus petition has been filed in the Andhra Pradesh High court today, to get the police force to come clean on Parvathi and Somidi. Almost at the same time as the petition was filed in the High court, Gajarao Bhupal, ASP of Khammam police denied having picked up the women, claiming no police party visited Nimmalagudem on January 12. “There should have been at least a case of missing persons filed in Kishtaram police station under which Nimmalagudem falls but there is no case there. The Chhattisgarh police too has not enquired,” he said. In an ironical twist, the villagers plan to travel to Khammam district today to physically mount pressure on the administration came unstuck because the North Telangana unit of the Maoists has called a bandh in the area on some other issue. That human rights are violated both by security personnel and Maoists is not new. For years, villagers in Naxal-affected areas of north Telangana faced either police harassment or Naxal kangaroo courts, just because they did not have the courage to say no to a man with a weapon. But if India’s “greatest internal security threat” is to be fought by the state making several innocents in the geographical ‘Bharat’ pay the price, it would be a war that would only widen the divide that already exists between the two Indias. Meanwhile, the state needs to answer : Where are Parvathi and Somidi?

 

#India- Victory for freedom for freedom of expression #FOE #judgement


By T S Sekaran – CHENNAI

24th January 2013 0

In an important judgment having far-reaching consequences, the Madras High Court has declared unconstitutional certain provisions of the TN Dramatic Performances Act and Rules, which mandated censorship of drama scripts by the police/district administration.

Justice K Chandru declared sections 2(1), 3, 4, 6 and 7 of the Act and 4 of the Rules,  while allowing a writ petition from journalist, writer, stage actor and director NS Sankaran alias Gnani, on Wednesday.

The Act was originally introduced by the British regime way back in 1876 to gag the freedom fighters and patriots. After Independence, on coming to know that the pre-constitutional 1876 Act would not pass the constitutional test under Article 13 of the Constitution, many governments introduced their own version of censorship of plays. And the TN government introduced the TN Dramatic Performances Act in 1954.

As per the Act, two copies of the drama script should be submitted to the police/district administration three weeks in advance. Permission to enact the drama might be either denied or granted after removing certain dialogues. The Act also provided for imprisonment for three months or fine or both in some cases for any violation.

Gnani contended that the authorities concerned were neither artistes nor persons having aesthetic sense to judge whether a play contained objectionable scenes/dialogues and hence it was uncalled for. The decision was conveyed at the eleventh hour leaving no time to make alternative arrangements.

Advocate General A Navaneethakrishnan submitted that the government was agreeable to provide a provision in the Act and the Rules making it mandatory for forwarding the script to the TN Iyal Isai Nataka Mandram for better appreciation of artistic nuances. There was also a provision in the Act to appeal before the HC, he added.

Justice Chandru observed that a defective order could not be cured in an appeal. When the play was sought to be enacted in a public place, time was the essential factor. But, the Act did not specify any time limit for approval. AG’s submission that the script could be referred to the Nataka Mandram did not merit any legal acceptance as the act did not contemplate any such requirement from an outside agency for opinion.

The opinion would not be binding on the authority and it would only remain as an advisory. By making an amendment to the Rule, the defect could not be cured. Once it was found that the provisions of the Act were arbitrary and excessive power had been given to the delegates, certainly it had to be held that it was unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14 and 19 of the Constitution. In the absence of statutory backing, no such mechanism could be introduced by the State, the judge said and declared the sections as ultra vires of the Constitution.

 

Is this journalist behind bars because he spoke too often, too loud against communal forces?


Soorinje’s story has been playing out below the radar of national attention

January 24, 2013, Issue 5 Volume 10

IN A week when two national parties have found new helmsmen, a former CM has been convicted to 10 years in jail, another CM has been rapped by his own father for misgovernance, a state government is on the verge of collapse, and a major report on rape laws has been submitted to the home ministry, it might seem a bit odd to devote this column to something else altogether.

But over the past two and a half months, an important story has been playing out below the radar of national attention. It pleads a greater hearing. On 7 November 2012, Naveen Soorinje, a 28-year old reporter working with the Kasturi News 24 channel in Karnataka, was arrested on daunting charges: conspiracy; unlawful assembly; rioting with deadly weapons; criminal trespass; causing grievous hurt; and assault on a woman with intent to outrage her modesty.

Ironically, three months earlier, it was Soorinje’s story that had helped the police book 43 goons from the right-wing Hindu Jagaran Vedike for breaking into a private birthday party in Mangalore and molesting and beating the girls there. Now, in a cruel twist, the police had booked him as the 44th assaulter. In the last week of December, crushingly for Soorinje, the Karnataka High Court struck down some of the charges but still denied him bail. It held him guilty of colluding with the assaulters because he did not inform the police and because, according to the judge’s ruling, he had “encouraged the happening of the incident and assisted in videography of the event, and thereafter facilitated its telecast in television channels, which has caused greater damage to the dignity and reputation of the victims”. Soorinje’s argument that he was outnumbered by the goons and all he could do was record the crime as a journalist has been ignored. He is now waiting to appeal for bail in the Supreme Court.

Soorinje’s story has many disturbing implications for democracy and media freedom. This ruling sets a very dangerous precedent. There have undoubtedly been several cases in the recent past when the media has crossed a grey line and become, in some sense, not a chronicler of events but an uncomfortable magnification. The lumpen moral police, in particular, love the idea of spectacle: they often invite television crews before going on their brute rampage. Should the media report these incidents or should they cut off the vandals’ life breath by refusing to shoot? Should they tip off the police immediately? This must — and should — be subject to an urgent debate. But unless a journalist or media house is accused of actively exacerbating the crime — as in the Guwahati molestation case when the reporter’s role came into serious question — it is outrageous to arrest a journalist on these grounds.

Journalists are sometimes privy to secret information that can make for an exclusive story. It is understandable to expect them to report information of a bomb or a murder plot, a vandal attack or even a potential poaching incident to the police. But if this is stretched further, in the future, can they be arrested for meeting and getting an exclusive interview with a Maoist, insurgent, terrorist or underworld don because they did not tip off the police? Clearly, that would be a frightening absurdity.

In Soorinje’s case, the arguments against him already seem to have seriously skidded off the rails. According to him, he was not tipped off by the goons but by a frightened local he does not want to expose. His call records corroborate that he did not get any call from the goons. He also claims that he did try to call the police — both the Mangalore Police Commissioner (who, it turns out, was out of town) and a local inspector, Ravish Nayak. Neither picked his call or called back. Unfortunately for him, Soorinje’s calls to them, therefore, have not registered in his call records either.

The story gets more darkly ironic because Soorinje, who grew up in an agricultural family, has a track record of exposing the communal forces in Karnataka. According to his peers in the media, it is unthinkable — insupportable — that he would ever be party to such an attack. Many, in fact, suspect his arrest is driven by political vendetta: he was speaking up too often and too loud.

Last week, a small group of journalists went on a hunger strike to protest his arrest. The state home minister promised to intervene. Nothing has happened. The fact that the national media has failed to take up this story of a hinterland peer under assault is only serving to perpetuate the inaction.

Shoma Chaudhury is Managing Editor, Tehelka.
shoma@tehelka.com

 

#India -The Verma Commission and Women’s Status #Vaw #AFSPA


\Seven Sisters’ Post, January 25, 2013

Walter Fernandes

At a time when are losing faith in the judiciary, the Verma Commission has done its bit to restore their credibility. The Commission has kept its promise of getting the report ready fast and got a more than 600 page report ready in 29 days. In so doing it has respected public opinion and has gone through the 80,000 representations made to it but it has not gone overboard by making populist recommendations or giving a politically correct report as many Commissions have done in the past. It has recommended strong action but has resisted pressure on death penalty for rape or lowering the age of juveniles. But it has not hesitated to make politically unpopular recommendations such as a review of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which shields many security persons who commit this heinous crime and enjoy impunity. It has also challenged the political establishment by asking parties to look inwards and deal with rapists who get elected to the legislature.

 

One may not agree with all that the Commission says but one appreciates many of its positive points such as taking the definition of sexual abuse beyond rape to actions such as abuse through the social network tools that were not considered criminal or were not known when the law was enacted.  It suggests that what is called “outraging the modesty of a woman” should be included in the broader and stricter definition. That suggestion is important because in many cases of abuse, the defence tries to show that it was not a physical assault so it is not serious. Also acid attacks were not known and the Commission suggests a new Act on it. It suggests inclusion of stalking as a serious offence and that human trafficking should be taken seriously especially when police personnel are involved in it.

 

Equally important is the suggestion that action should be taken against police personnel who do not register a complaint of rape or assault and the call for police reforms. No action can be taken if the police personnel remain insensitive to such crimes. Also the suggestion that the mode of appointing the Director General of Police should be reviewed is reasonable. One is aware of at least two former DGPs being convicted of rape or molestation much after their retirement and given only nominal punishment. Such persons should never have reached the top because if the top watchmen are corrupt who is to keep watch on them? In that light the suggestion about police reforms is meaningful.

 

The Commission faces squarely the issue of many persons being exempted from prosecution either by the law or by the culprits themselves. For example, the legislators do not seem to be accountable to the public whom they represent. Both the Congress and BJP persons on the panel said on NDTV on 23rd January that the Commission had made general statements about many rapists being elected. The Counsel of the Commission had to tell them that the Association for Democratic Reforms that keeps track of the elections has a list of 320 legislators who are accused or convicted of rape. In that light what the party representatives said looked irresponsible. Also the suggestion of the Commission that legislators who are accused of rape should resign or should not contest elections looks extremely weak. Will the political decision-makers take this suggestion seriously particularly if it becomes a prestige issue? For example, politicians in West Bengal and elsewhere brush aside accusations of rape as propaganda by the opposition. One is of the view that the recommendation that the Representation of People Act makes sense. But the Commission should have gone beyond pleading with such politicians to resign and made more concrete suggestions.

 

The same holds good for AFSPA. The Commission has gone beyond a plea to state that the security persons who are accused of rape should be judged under the same law that applies to civilians and that there should be special commissioner to deal with cases of sexual abuse in the conflict areas. They are reasonable suggestions but after realising that the AFSPA is at the root of many abuses the Commission only asks for a review of the Act without making concrete suggestions. That looks too weak given the number of cases of rapes in the conflict areas and the manner in which the culprits find shelter in this Act. The Reddy Commission had made concrete suggestions after the Manorama Devi case in Manipur but the Government is yet to act on it. One is told that a retired senior army official who joined the demonstrators in Delhi and many other defence officers opposed even the dilution of AFSPA though the Home Ministry wanted to reform it. So the plea for reform it looks too weak. There should have been more concrete suggestions for changing or repealing AFSPA.

 

One can find many more positive and negative points. The Commission has probably stuck to its mandate of suggesting legal reforms. In that sense it seems to have done justice to what it was asked to do and in a very short time. Thus what it has done is commendable. At this stage one should ask about the next step and that is a challenge of our society. A Commission of this type was required even before the atrocious crime that resulted in the uproar in Delhi. But the mandate of the Commission seems to be based on the assumption that legal action alone is adequate. For example, one agrees with the Commission that the khap panchayats are illegal. But they cannot be changed without public opinion against the system that supports them. Serious efforts at serious social reforms are required particularly when religious and political leaders tell the people that rapes and other abuses happen only in “westernised India” and not in rural Bharat.

 

A law alone cannot change society as one can see from the extremely low sex ratio among children below 10, obviously because of sex specific abortions or what is called piously “induced foetus miscarriage”. The 2001 census showed that sex determination tests and such abortions were happening in prosperous district despite a law against them. The 2011 census shows that the evil has spread to other areas. The value system of our society that considers the woman a burden is to blame for it. In that context the suggestion that all marriages should be registered and that the registrar should ensure that no dowry is involved in the marriage is reasonable. But who is to bell the cat? These laws will be implemented only if there is public pressure from our society. Now is the time for social reformers and thinkers to join hands and challenge our caste, class and gender values that lead to these evils. The Verma Commission Report can be their starting point.

 

#India- global ‘feminist tsunami’ is here #1billionrising #Vaw #reasontorise


Does Our Sassiness Upset You?

Stirred by Eve Ensler, women across India, many defying the men who would confine them, are part of a global ‘feminist tsunami’, writes Revati Laul
Revati Laul

January 17, 2013, Issue 4 Volume 10

Rediscovering freedom Students protest against the Delhi gangrape

Rediscovering freedom Students protest against the Delhi gangrape Photo: Dijeshwar Singh

AT A PACKED auditorium in New Delhi last week, Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues got onto the stage. “I’m tired of data porn.” It was time to move conversations about women out of the space of victimhood and into the space of celebration. “I am an emotional creature,” she said, reading from another of her plays. “Don’t tell me not to cry. / To calm it down / Not to be so extreme / To be reasonable. / I am an emotional creature. / It’s how the Earth got made. / How the wind continues to pollinate. / You don’t tell the Atlantic Ocean to behave.”

The call to celebrate being a woman has, since July last year, become an international movement called One Billion Rising. One in every three women in the world is raped or beaten each year, which adds up to a billion. Ensler reasoned, if women across the world rise as a collective, patriarchy can, and will, be smashed. Women and quite a few men across the world have been paying attention and 182 countries have signed up. From the Philippines to Cancun, Congo and the Caribbean. Jane Fonda to Robert Redford, Alice Walker and the Dalai Lama. To celebrate womanhood, vaginahood as potent, sexy and cerebral and the source of all creation. Of pleasure. And orgasms.

Now, with the spontaneous rising in India following the Delhi gangrape, India has become the movement’s main fulcrum. The call is to strike, dance, rise and reclaim Valentine’s Day as Vagina-Day or Victory-Day to combat violence against women.

In India, and indeed across all of South Asia, the One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign is being spearheaded by the feisty feminist Kamla Bhasin, who says it will be the unleashing of a feminist tsunami. She described the event with characteristic wit and candour as she sat with one leg set rigidly in a cast from a recent accident in Kabul. “This cast nearly reaches my vagina and is having its own dialogue with it,” she remarked, knowing full well how that would go down. “As someone in the last century said, you can’t be dead serious all the time. You have to lighten up and have a good laugh.” Which is why, apart from her books on Exploring Masculinity and several on gender education, she’s written songs that are now being used by groups across the country to dance as they prepare for V-Day. One song — a rewrite of a feudal folk song from Punjab — sends a terse message to all those who think of women as the second sex: “The weaker sex that we women are, can’t take no heavy housework too far; not alone can households run, being weaker, meeker second rung.” (Balley balley bhai aurat toh kamzor cheez hai, ghar ke bojh voh sahegi na akele, aurat toh kamzor cheez hai). A campaign placard on the One Billion Rising website sums up the movement poignantly — ‘Hard Times Require Furious Dancing.’

Women across the subcontinent are now using V-Day as an opportunity to rachet up already existing campaigns for real change — on the law and on governance. And social change from the inside out. Rukmini Panda, of the National Alliance of Women in Odisha, proudly declared that “this is a war.” It’s made students in Hyderabad make their own One Billion Rising video that opens with a man. And a young man from Delhi University say — “Let’s stop men from venturing out after dark. That will keep all genders safe.” It’s made the womens’ group Ekta, in Tamil Nadu, conduct a safety audit for the city of Madurai to map what is unsafe for women so that it can be changed. It’s made the Young Womens’ Christian Association, or the YWCA, in Mizoram’s capital Aizawl plan a walk with sex workers, where all women dress like sex workers in solidarity. In Delhi, the YWCA is working towards an allnight concert of, by and for women in Delhi on V-Day. And in Madhya Pradesh, the movement has made thousands of women and men turn out for a ‘one million hands’ solidarity meeting in Bhopal, where Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was forced to accept two demands. That the dysfunctional helpline, 1081, would be resuscitated; and a special womens’ cell would be set up to do a budgetary analysis of what proportion of the state’s finances are being spent on the upliftment of women.

On V-Day, people from grassroots movements have planned special panchayats across all districts of Madhya Pradesh on the issue of violence against women, where a resolution will be passed. And 10,000 people will block the road set aside for VIPs in Bhopal where women will speak of violence committed against them. Far bolder, however, are the strident steps 50,000 women from Bundelkhand in Madhya Pradesh have pledged to take on that day. A pledge to step out of their homes and talk of rape. These are women from villages where patriarchal men have forbidden them from even mentioning the R word. In this setting, where upper caste women have been raped repeatedly, there is now a rising from the Dalit women.

 

OBR founder Eve Ensler

OBR founder Eve Ensler Photo: Ankit Agrawal

IN GUJARAT, Indian classical dancer and staunch activist Mallika Sarabhai has fused One Billion Rising with a feminism that is her own. A travelling performance called Women With Broken Wingsthat is a collaboration with Swiss pianist Elizabeth Sombart. The performance takes you through 12 stages of womanhood, from birth to the discovery of the body, its violation, death and the hope for a resurrection. At a conversation on violence against women at Delhi University’s Miranda House, she shook her captive student audience out of their comfort zone by showing them the patriarchy in their midst. A beautiful woman was in a meditative trance in the forest, and a one-eyed monkey was watching as he did some yoga of his own. Lord Indra descended from sky and was struck by her beauty. She was oblivious of him, occupied as she was with her pranayam. An incensed Indra raped her. The monkey was shocked. And the woman’s husband was outraged because his honour as an upper caste man had been sullied. He asked Vishnu to make Indra pay. Indra was summoned and made to perform an animal sacrifice as penance for which a horse was killed. He was thereby absolved of his sin. As was the Brahmin man. The woman wasn’t worthy of consideration. The performance ended with Sarabhai turning to her audience with the last thoughts of the one-eyed monkey — “Humans have a very strange system of justice.”

For many women and men who have now pledged to participate in One Billion Rising, celebrating sexuality is a secondary goal. For them, V-Day is the victory over silence and an opportunity to convert outrage into concrete action. In this pledge alone, women across the country have caused the ground beneath our feet as a nation, to shift. Wherever things go from here, they will, most likely, not be as they were before. The gates are now being pried open. The gatekeepers forced to leave.

“…to speak of them out loud, to speak of their hunger and pain and loneliness and humour, to make them visible so they cannot be ravaged in the dark without great consequence.”

―Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues

Revati Laul is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.
revati@tehelka.com

 

#India- don’t focus too much on individuals in the battle against sexual violence, #Censorship #Vaw


PRERNA BAKSHI, The Hindu  #India-Towards a Decisive Victory in the Historic Battle for Women’s Rights

Against the recent backdrop of the gang rape incident in Delhi, rapper Honey Singh found himself surrounded by a number of protesting activists and NGOs. Some of his songs have come under the scanner and have been termed by these activists as offensive towards women.

However, the rapper himself has denied being associated with one such song which has in particular grabbed attention for demeaning women. The song has been doing the rounds on internet for quite some time even though neither the management nor the singer has claimed responsibility towards the ownership of the song.

While the trueownership of this song could be debatable, the question that needs to be asked is should this matter be given the amount of attention it has and more specifically, are songs such as those made by Honey Singh responsible for the growing rape and sexual violence towards women.

While it would be true to say that many of the contemporary songs do objectify women (of which Bollywood has a lot to answer for) which further affects the position of women in society, it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture while making such claims.

On New Year’s Eve, Honey Singh was forced to withdraw from the show at Bristol Hotel where he was scheduled to perform. Many people on social media celebrated the occasion by terming it the ‘first battle won’ on the first day of the New Year. It is here where the masses, activists and progressives need to take a step back and reassess their goals and strategies in a manner which does not over generalize and trivialize the issue at stake.

While there is not enough space in this article to look deeply at these issues, I have highlighted them in order to contribute to the debate about both the causes of gender violence, and the debate about what can and should be done about it.

A few points must be taken into account. Firstly, by focusing primarily on a single agenda and on a single individual, notwithstanding how achievable or worthwhile it is, we lose sight of more significant issues, thereby weakening the argument and the cause itself. By no means should any form of derogatory remarks towards women be tolerated in songs or public speeches but it should be recognized that removing sexism in songs and speeches, though helpful, cannot in itself fix the problem.

Secondly, by focusing on silencing the sexist elements within one’s speech without taking into account the existing power structures prevalent within the society, any efforts made in this direction would prove to be futile in the long run. It is for this reason the ultimate goal should be to alter the existing gender power differentials by aiming for a radical social transformation in order to truly achieve its ultimate aim of women emancipation. This cannot take place without altering the very power structures that have given rise to the ideology that gets manifested in speech towards women. Thirdly, devoting too much time and resources in shutting down the activities of people like Honey Singh would unnecessarily shift the focus of the debate from the praxis of gender relations to a debate about freedom of speech and would end up dividing public opinion and complicating matters further.

This is not a suggestion that time and effort should not be spent in protesting against such people but rather that it is imperative to address and correct their sexist and misogynistic attitudes. It is also not suggested that people should have the right to free speech no matter how violent and discriminating it may be towards women but that it has to be met with responsibility and accountability. The only necessary point is to refrain from over generalizing the effects of certain songs on the whole praxis of gender relations and not to attribute certain songs wholly as the cause of sexual violence and rape crises prevalent in the society.

Fourthly, caution is to be exercised whilst advocating for a ban or censorship of certain songs as doing this could further provide an impetus to the reactionary conservative forces that could later use this move to further their own agenda of maintaining the status quo and perpetuating existing power structures and thus consequently could prove to be detrimental to a revolutionary change in the society.

Censorship may sound appealing when the censors are targeting people we dislike, but for anyone interested in social transformation, censorship is negative in the long run.It is for these reasons that attitudinal and discourse level changes cannot be brought about independently and remain strongly influenced by the material and structural conditions. Without a change on the structural level, any meaningful change would seem unattainable.

 

#India- Alchemizing anger to hope #justiceverma #delhigangrape #Vaw #justice #Law #AFSPA


JANUARY 25, 2013
by , Kafila.org

Arvind Narrain has an op ed in today’s Hindu about the Justice Verma Committee. This is a longer version of the article

 

The public discourse post the brutal rape of Nirbhaya has witnessed a persistent degrading of the public discourse.  Having been subjected to crudely offensive remarks by members of the political establishment, right from belittling a serious movement for equality as led by  ‘painted and dented ladies’ to ostensibly sympathetic responses which belittle women who have suffered a serious violation of their bodily integrity as nothing  more than ‘zinda laash’, we finally have a document authored by a Committee set up by the state which honours Nirbhaya.

The Verma Committee Report most fundamentally alters the public discourse on crimes against women by placing these crimes within the framework of the Indian Constitution and treating these offences as nothing less than an egregious violation of the right to live with dignity of all women. What is particularly moving and inspiring about the Report is that it does so by placing the autonomy and indeed the sexual autonomy of women at the very centre of its discourse.

 

It also offers us a rethinking of what is meant by the offence of rape. In the Committee’s thinking rape is a form of sexual assault like any other crime against the human body in the IPC. According to the Committee it is  ‘the duty of the state as well as civil society to deconstruct the paradigm of shame-honour in connection with a rape victim.’

 

According to the Committee, it is very important that Indian society and the state move away from thinking of rape as a crime against honour and instead look at it as a serious violation of bodily integrity. In language which is seen perhaps for the first time in an official report, the Committee quotes a rape survivor. ‘Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women………I reject the notion that my virtue is located in my vagina, just as I reject the notion that men’s  brains are in their genitals’.

 

The discussion on rape is located in an understanding of women as full and equal citizens  and it is intrinsic to the argument of the Report that it is only by guaranteeing women full and equal rights that sexual violence can even be tackled. It is in this context that the  Committee discusses the phenomenon of honour killing and concludes that it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that ‘choices made by men and women in respect of marriage’ will not be interfered with by institutions such as khap panchayats.

 

Where the uncompromising respect for autonomy and personhood is perhaps best exemplified is in the Committee’s discussion on marital rape. Breaching the sacred inner precinct of patriarchy which is the marital relationship, the Committee for the first time in the history of Indian law, recognizes that the married woman is an autonomous individual with full power to refuse sexual intercourse with her ‘lawfully wedded husband’. There is nothing in the nature of the relationship, which entitles the husband to sexual access to his wife at his whim and fancy. The Committee, based on an understanding of equality in the Indian Constitution comprehensively rebuts  Sir Matthew Hale’s outdated  declaration in 1736 that the ‘husband cannot be guilty of rape committed by himself upon his lawful wife’.

 

While the Committee breaches the inner wall of patriarchy, it is also  equally successful in breaching the public patriarchy of the state as a raping machine. For far too long, the Indian Armed Forces have enjoyed complete impunity for crimes of sexual violence committed against women in situations of armed conflict. The women in Chattisgarh, Kashmir as well as the North East have borne mute witness with their bodies to unspeakable acts of sexual violence. For the first time in history, the Committee has recognized that sexual violence against women committed by members of the armed forces must come within the purview of ordinary criminal law. It recommends a ‘review of AFSPA and AFSPA like legal protocols as soon as possible’.  The requirement of sanction for prosecuting these offences committed by uniformed personal has been done away with.

 

The Committee also introduces the notion of ‘command responsibility’ whereby a public servant in command, control  or supervision of the armed forces or police would be held responsible for failure to exercise control over the actions of his subordinates resulting in rape or sexual assault. Here again the Committee breaches the code of impunity of the Indian state for sexual offences committed by its personnel.

 

The Committee has shown a sense of occasion by  recognizing  that a historic  moment such as this must be transformative for all. As such, it expressly suggests that the definition of those who could be affected by sexual assault should include both men as well as homosexual and transgender persons. It thus recommends that the law expressly protect  all  persons from  rape and sexual assault.

 

The jet of anger which emerged through the brutal rape of Nirbhaya has through the work of the Committee been transmuted into an ever widening circle of empathy which includes children in juvenile facilities, trafficked women and children,  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender persons, domestic workers, women in situations of armed conflict as well as women in violent marital relationships. The Committee through making recommendations for all these vulnerable groups has seized the moment and articulated the patriarchal  ills of the  Indian state and society.

 

The fact that the Report is based upon a historic articulation of hurt and harm suffered by Indian women emerges most poignantly through the articulation of the offence of rape which results in a persistent vegetative state for which the punishment is rigorous imprisonment of a minimum of twenty years going up to life. This recognition of an aggravated form of sexual assault is a tribute to Aruna Shanbaug who was brutally raped and choked with a dog chain and is living since the  last thirty six years in a persistent vegetative state.

 

The Committee has performed a fine balancing act of  being sensitive to public opinion without allowing mere public sentiment to emerge as  the arbiter of policy and law. In doing so, it resists the tendency of basing its recommendations on shifting notions of right and wrong and instead derives its recommendations from constitutional values.

 

It is keeping in mind constitutional morality,  that the Committee has refused to yield to the public clamor for the death penalty for those accused of the brutal rape. It has also firmly reiterated that both chemical and surgical castration are ‘cruel and unusual’ punishments which are not in conformity with the Indian Constitution and hence to be rejected.  The growing clamour for the lowering of the age of the juvenile from eighteen to sixteen has also been rejected by the Committee citing the fact that as far as the juvenile is concerned, it is the responsibility of the state to invest in processes which can aid the reformation of the juvenile.

 

The Committee has done an incredible job of transmuting pain and anger into an inspirational roadmap for the future. It is now up to civil society to ensure that the radical recommendations of the Committee are converted into  reality.

 

 

Right to dream should be fundamental right: Mahasweta Devi #JLF


Published: Friday, Jan 25, 2013, 9:00 IST
By DNA Correspondent | Place: Jaipur | Agency: DNA

“ ‘O to Live Again!’ – at my age, this desire is almost a mischievous one; look at all the damage I’ve done being around longer than I should have!” These opening words of author and social activist Mahasweta Devi, in her keynote address, at the Jaipur Literature Festival had the audience completely charmed throughout her speech.

Taking up the cause of Naxalites, Mahasweta Devi said: “All my life I have seen small people with small dreams. It looked like they wanted to put them all in a box and keep them locked up…but somewhere, some of them escaped, as if there has been a jailbreak of dreams. Like the Naxalites. Their crime is they dared to dream. And why shouldn’t they?”Addressing the gathering during the inaugural session of the Jaipur Literature Festival, she said: “The right to dream should be the first fundamental right of people.”Mahasweta Devi scorned at “the middle class morality where everything is suppressed”.

Going around the circle of life, of youth, of motherhood, and as a writer, she said “sometimes, I feel like an old house privy to simultaneous conversations of its inhabitants,” as she spoke of all the characters she had met and written about coming alive and haunting her.Giving the audience glimpses of what she hopes to write next, she shared her ‘recipe’ to stop gobalisation. “Just a small plot of land, covered with grass. Grow a single tree on it, let your child’s bicycle rest on it, let some poor kid play there, let a bird sit on it. Small dreams….after all, you save your small dreams, don’t you?” she paused, leaving the rapturous audience with this moving thought.

Later in the day, Tibetan Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, addressing a jam-packed session, invoked the age-old catch phrase ‘Hindi-Chini bhai bhai’.When questioned about the tension between India and China with regard to Tibet, he said that good relations between the two nations are essential. “The saying — ‘Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai, is unfortunately not implemented,” he rued and said that he strongly advocates democracy.
“We must not be taken for granted,” the Dalai Lama said and added, “The 21st century should be the century of dialogue. This is the only way forward.”A fulfilling romance at JLF
Jaipur: “Write in the language that comes most naturally to you…write in the language in which you dream.” That’s the advice Mahasweta Devi – arguably, one of the most iconic writer-activists of our times – had to give to a young school-girl who wanted to know which language she should choose to begin her literary career with.A little while later, Fahmida Riaz — celebrated Pakistani writer-poet and feminist — informed the Bengali writer (to her surprise) that her books had been translated into Urdu and were

Mahasweta Devi —Joshy Joseph

 

#delhigangrape Repeated- After Nirbhaya, this time it is Roshni. Reporting from Ground Zero #Vaw #WTFNEWS


Press Release

Exactly a month after the Nirbhaya rape case, another rape has taken
place, that too in broad day-light, barely a few kilometres from where
Nirbhaya was found in a seriously injured condition. Clearly, Nirbhaya
has been forgotten and it is business as usual, at least as far as the
Delhi Police is concerned, probably as this case is not being
considered to be ‘high-profile’ enough for them to take proper action.

This time it is Roshni (name changed), an 8 year old daughter of
migrant industrial workers who were raped by a yet to be identified
person on the afternoon of the 17th January 2013 at her residence in
Kapashera, South West Delhi. She was taken to the Safdarjung Hospital
by her parents during the evening on the same day.

Even after a week of the crime, the police appear to be doing a
whitewash of the crime at best, as no results of their ‘efforts’ are
evident. There was an attempt to change the nature of the crime in the
FIR that was lodged, which was foiled by a well-wisher of the girl’s
family, who pressurised the Police to note the actual crime in the
FIR.

However, the Police have not been doing the investigations in a
professional manner. According to a media report, the police have said
that the girl was unable to describe the rapists. This is not true.
Though the girl was injured, she has been able to describe the rapist.
While many innocent workers and others from the community are being
rounded up and being subjected to questioning, a simple task like
creating a sketch of the rapist, based on the description provided by
the girl has not been done. The police have been harassing innocent
people in the name of investigations, as is the norm in such cases.

The victim’s family is being pressurized by their landlord to leave
the place, leading to evident doubts, about his complicity in the
crime. However, this fact has also been ignored by the investigators.

The rape has happened in the same area as Nirbhaya. Even the hospital
where the victim has been admitted is the same. So even at ground
zero, nothing is different at all. The various ‘machineries’
supposedly created as a result of the national and international
pressure of the Nirbhaya case have already failed their test, within a
few days after creation. We would like to let you know that it is
business as usual, and girls and women are as unsafe like ever before
in Delhi.

About us:- Nari Shakti Manch is a women’s organization working for the
rights of migrant women and children in Kapashera and Gurgaon. We run
a learning centre for the children in the area, besides empowerment
groups for women. This case was brought to our notice by one of the
participants in our programme, as it happened in the area where we
work. We have been in touch with the family of the victim and are
providing them with necessary support in this time of crisis.

In case you need any further details, you may contact us as per
details given below:-

Retu Singh : +919716187771

Twinkle Dahiya : +919818130721

 

#India- Its All Quid, neither pro nor quo #Aadhaar #UID #privacy #Law


It is odd that an initiative like UIDAI, with its vast implications, should be uncontrolled by any legislation

 

Gautam Patel, Mumbai mirror

Posted On Friday, January 25, 2013

Important message for Savings Account holders having Aadhaar / UID number issued by UIDAI” says the message on my bank’s online banking page. I follow the link. “You can now link your Aadhaar / UID Number to your Savings Account to avail the benefits of Government subsidies/payments directly into your bank account,” I am told. How nice. Problem is I don’t “avail of Government subsidies/payments”.

So why would I need an Aadhaar card? And what are the chances that someone who is entitled to a government subsidy would be able to get online to see this message in the first place? The Unique Identification Authority of India is not a corporation, not a government body. It is just a scheme of the Planning Commission. And it has, with quite unusual zest and zeal, set about the gargantuan task of “mapping” everybody in India, providing every single person with a unique identification number. But, as we all know, this is much more than a casual mapping. It is a full-fledged biometric database with fingerprints, photographs, addresses and more.

In some State-level variants, you can link your bank accounts to this database. The general idea, a brainchild of Mr Nandan Nilekani, is to cut through India‘s Byzantine bureaucracy and deliver government subsidies and grants to those intended, side-stepping all the money-grubbing talons en route. That sounds sensible and fair and, and perhaps in an ideal world, one in which we might be able to trust each other and those we put in power, transformative. Mr Nilekani’s vision is utopian; reality? Not so much. That an initiative so vast in its implications, its spending and its ambition should be uncontrolled by any legislation is more than a little odd.

There is no statute to control how this information can be used or by whom and under what conditions. There is no legislation, and there is also no parliamentary or judicial supervision. What is the remedy to a citizen who finds his information has been misused? Who is to be held responsible, and how, and under what law? How is it even possible to start the implementation of something along these lines without some formal structure? The UID enrolment scheme, though said to be ‘voluntary’, is aimed squarely at becoming non-optional. When banks and financial institutions start insisting on Aadhaar cards, we will be left with no choice.

This is one material distinction between, say, a passport or a driving license and an Aadhaar card. You can swan through life without a passport or a driving license. Proponents of the UID/Aadhaar scheme tell us that there is no cause for worry; passport-issuing authorities and transport officials collect pretty much the same information. Indeed they do, and passports even have a unique file number from which every bit of information can be retrieved.

The difference lies in points of access; who can access this information. The stuff that’s in government files isn’t open to banks and isn’t accessible except under regulated conditions. This is why so much information needs to be replicated. Once all this information is made available in a centralized database to a whole slew of agencies and, worse, private operators (not just banks; there’s no reason your path lab or favourite fast joint shouldn’t have it too – it is, after all, “only an id”) then we’re in the world of Eye-See-You.

An even simpler question. We give the UIDAI all this information. In return for what? What is the quid pro quo? This scheme only makes sense if you’re eligible for subsidies, grain, anywhere in a public distribution system. What if you’re not? And I already have sufficient ‘identification’.

Do I need one more card? And where does it say that this one card will replace them all? The one thing that the scheme greatly enables is the government snooping on citizens. When researchers and scholars like Usha Ramanathan point to these – and a myriad other – problems with the scheme, they are not being merely alarmist or obtuse. They are raising very fundamental issues of the meaning of liberty in the context of our polity.

Whether or not this spying is actually happening is not the point; the UID system facilitates it, and in the hands of an errant government is capable of the most egregious abuse. On the rare occasions we are moved to speak of liberty, we only do so by calling it a right. It is much more. Like the air we breathe, it is essential to survival, an undefinable hard won, easily lost, and under constant threat.

The deadliest assaults are the ones that come up in stealth, disguised as progress and achievement and the pledge of universal prosperity. The brightness of these promises blinds us to what lurks darkly beneath: that dreadful gaping, fanged maw of the state, a creature with an insatiable appetite for control and dominion. Nobody doubts Mr Nilekani’s intentions, ideals or integrity; all are beyond reproach. But as Cervantes tells us, idealists are not the wisest of men. For all their inefficiency and replication and nuisance, those free-standing silos of information we now have do not demand of us the much too heavy price of such idealism.

 

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