#India- Caste in Tamil Nadu


A History of Nadar Censorship

Vol – XLVIII No. 03, January 19, 2013 | M S S Pandian

Representations have been made by some of the political parties of Tamil Nadu to have a particular chapter in an NCERT Class IX textbook removed; the chapter is being attacked for discussing the past of the infl uential Nadars as “untouchables” and for highlighting the role played by 19th century Christian missionaries in the community’s subsequent upward mobility. The present clamour for a censored caste history has a right-wing Hindu character to it. If memories of degradation are an enabling resource in producing alliances against continuing forms of oppression, in this instance erasure of such memories is what is being sought by an upwardly mobile caste.

M S S Pandian (mathiaspandian57@gmail.com) is at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

I am grateful to Vincent Kumaradoss and Mani Manivannan for sharing with me sources of information which made this piece possible. I also thank Anandhi S and A Kalaiarasan for their comments on an earlier draft. This is the first of a two-part series on caste in Tamil Nadu today. The second part will be published next week.

Certain communities have denied social equality to the Nadar community. The Nadars have…from time to time asserted their claim to social status. But unfortunately they have attempted to maintain their claim for equality by seeking to prove that they were Kshatriyas… Such a method of establishing your status is very unfortunate. For, the moment you claim to be Kshatriyas, you recognise the validity of the caste system and reserve to yourself the right of treating certain other as being inferior to your own. I must…congratulate you on your spirit of tolerance which is evidenced by the amicable personal and social relationship which you have maintained with that portion of the community who have embraced Christianity. Keep up these social virtues at all costs.

– Shanmugham Chetty, Presidential Address, Nadar conference, 1927 (The Indian Social Reformer, 8 October 1927, pp 88-89).

This is a story of the Nadars, today an intermediate caste in Tamil Nadu, not heeding to the perspicuous advice given by Shanmugham Chetty in the 1920s. The present-day story may begin with the Tamil Nadu politicians’ enduring love for the school textbooks produced by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT).

In October 2012, S Ramadoss, the leader of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), a party of the intermediate caste Vanniyars, issued a public statement in Chennai. The statement objected to a chapter on clothing in the Class IX history textbook of the NCERT. The part of the text which offended the sensibilities of Ramadoss recounts briefly how the Shanars, who are known today as Nadars, struggled against the Travancore state during the first half of the 19th century and earned the right for the Shanar women to cover their breasts in public. The book also refers to the contribution of Christian missionaries in the struggle.

Ramadoss claimed that the Nadars are the sons of the soil of south Tamil Nadu and objected to them being referred to as Shanars. Of course, there is no need for him to know that it was only in 1921 that the ministry headed by the non-brahmin Justice Party in the Madras Presidency substituted the term “Nadar” for “Shanar”. “Shanar” was official till then. Discounting the contribution of the protestant missionaries in the breast cloth revolt, Ramadoss finds in Vaikunda Swamy, an important Hindu Shanar social reformer, the source of Shanar women’s liberation.

The fact, however, is, when the Travancore state issued the first order on the right of Christian Shanar women to cover their breasts in 1812, Vaikunda Swamy was just four years old. When the final order, which allowed both the Christian and Hindu Shanar women to cover their breasts, was issued in 1859, he was dead for no less than eight years. Death of history may be the beginning of politics. Ramadoss wanted the life of Vaikunda Swamy to be included in textbooks produced by the state as well as the centre.

Political Representations

Ramadoss was joined by the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader J Jayalalithaa and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief M Karuna­nidhi. Jayalalithaa, in a letter to the prime minister, characterised the Nadars as the lofty descendants of the Tamil royal dynasties of the Cheras, the Cholas and the Pandyas and sought the removal of the lesson from the NCERT textbook. While her letter was silent on the extensively-documented role played by Christian missionaries in the social and economic mobility of the Nadars, it made sure to invoke Vaikunda Swamy: “The said text has neglected the struggles of Aiyya Vaikundar in the ‘upper cloth revolt’ and also his social reform”. No surprise here: “anti-conversion” was one of the favoured themes of Jayalalithaa in the past. Karunanidhi, who is supposed to have familial compulsions to take up the issue, listed a number of Nadar greats such as K Kamaraj, W P A Soundra Pandian, and K T K Tangamani, and registered his protest against the NCERT text. Consumed by narcissism, he could not resist adding his own role in conferring a positive caste identity on the Nadars. If he was silent on Vaikunda Swamy, he was silent on the Christian missionaries as well.

Now it was time for the caste leaders to join the chorus. Sharad Kumar, an actor who heads an inconsequential political party, Samathuva Makkal Katchi (SMK) and a Nadar himself, was hurt about, among other things, the text not talking about the sacrifices of Vaikunda Swamy. But he too was silent about the Christian missionaries. So was the case with the representation made by the Vaikunta Swamy Dharma Pracharana Sabha which claimed an exalted past for the Nadars.

To cut a long story short, there is more or less a consistent pattern in the representations against the NCERT text. First, there was a refusal or an unease to come to terms with the untouchable past of the Nadars who are today both econo­mically and professionally influential. Second, there is a reluctance to acknowledge the labour of Protestant Christian missionaries in the social mobility of the Shanars. Instead, it is Vaikunda Swamy who is being celebrated.

There are, of course, exceptions to this pattern. The representation made by the History Council of Kanyakumari ­District does recognise the contributions of ­Rev Charles Mead, Rev William Tobias Ringeltaube and other Christian missio­naries to the breast cloth revolt. ­D Peter, the chairman of the Kanyakumari Institute of Development Studies, is even more candid. He found nothing wrong with the NCERT text and added that if the text was deleted, “…it would become a great loss to the student community as well as an insult to the Protestant Christian Shanars of the South Travancore…”

Nadar Censorship: An Early Instance1

Before engaging with the current demand by the Nadars and their political backers to withdraw the NCERT text, it may be of some interest to take a look at the late 19th century when the Christian Nadars, as a consequence of their upward mobility, sought a history for themselves which would silence their degradation at the hands of the upper castes. The campaign led by a section of the Christian Nadars against Rev Robert Caldwell’s book The Tinnevelly Shanars (1849) is illustrative of such a trend.

Caldwell, a well-known scholar missionary and the author of A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian or South Indian Family of Languages, worked among the Shanars of Tirunelveli district for about half a century. While his missionary labour established in the region a large community of Protestant Christians drawn from among the Shanars, his ­educational efforts, which resulted in a network of schools and colleges, made the community economically prosperous and socially acceptable. His commitment to the region and its people made him, during his last visit to England in 1883, to declare, “For Tinnevelly, I have lived, and for Tinnevelly, I am prepared to die”. Caldwell’s mortal remains lay interred at the altar of the Holy Trinity Church at Idayangudi, the first Christian village that he established in the region.

The very upward mobility which the Christian Shanars experienced due to the exertions of Caldwell, turned the Shanars against him. In 1883, Samuel Sargunar, a sub-registrar in the Chinglepet district, published a pamphlet,Bishop Caldwell and the Tinnevelley Shanars. It not only contested Caldwell’s description of the lowly social status of the Shanars, but also claimed a kshatriya status for them. A spate of petitions were sent to the ­Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and the archbishop of Canterbury seeking Caldwell’s removal from the Tirunelveli mission. Some demanded Caldwell to write a new text affirming the Shanars as kshatriyas. Y Gnanamuthoo Nadar, who described himself as “Antiquarian and Representative of the Shanar Race”, sent a series of petitions appealing to “various representatives of the British Government and the missionary ecclesiastical structure demanding that the British censure Caldwell and remove his offending book from circulation”. Caldwell withdrew the publication from circulation.

The Turn of the Hindu Nadars

It is not that the Hindu Nadars did not seek a kshatriya status in the late 19th century. They did. Yet, their present clamour for a censored caste history with an anti-Christian tilt has a right-wing Hindu character. In 1980, it was P Thanulingam, a Hindu Nadar from Kanyakumari district and a former Congressman, who along with Ramagopalan, a brahmin, formed the Hindu Munnai. Under their vituperative provocations, Tamil Nadu witnessed the first large-scale communal riot between the Christian fishermen and the Hindus in the coastal village of Mandaikadu. The present Tamil Nadu state BJP President Pon ­Radhakrishnan is also a Hindu Nadar from the district. He was returned to the parliament from the Nagercoil Lok ­Sabha constituency, as a BJP candidate, in 1999.

Such brahmin-Hindu Nadar alliance has, of late, evolved into forms of “intellectual collaboration”. A case in point is the South Indian Social History Research Institute (SHRI), run by S Ramachandran, a brahmin who happens to be an epigraphist with an unenviable skill in selectively interpreting inscriptions to assign higher varna pedigrees to castes which are traditionally deemed to be shudras. In the specific context of the present controversy about the NCERT text, it is necessary to have a look at the widely circulating Tamil book Thool Cillaik Kalakam: Therintha Poikal, Theriyatha Unmaikal (“Upper Cloth Revolt: Known Falsehoods and Unknown Truths”) authored by Rama­chandran along with A Ganesan, a Hindu Nadar (who, according to Ramachandran, is the embodiment of Nadar “racial memory”). The book was published by the SHRI in 2010.

The book confers a kshatriya status on the Nadars and makes them “Sandror” (“people of noble qualities”) instead of “Shanar”. It targets the Christian missionaries, in particular Caldwell, and celebrates Vaikunda Swamy for, among other things, ensuring the Christian converts’ return to Hinduism. If Ramachandran’s is a barely veiled Hindutva project, its endorsement comes from those who openly espouse right-wing Hindu agenda. Aravindan Neelakandan, in a review of the book, claims it to be a model historical research and argues why figures like Vaikunda Swamy are important for the spiritual and social liberation of the Hindus.2 Neelakandan’s recent book, ­co-authored with Rajiv Malhotra of the Hindu fundamentalist Infinity Foundation located in the US, is Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines. If that does not tell it all, then one just needs to have a look at his Hindutva: A Simplified Introduction.

If memories of degradation are an enabling resource in producing alliances against continuing forms of oppression, erasure of such memories is what is ­being sought by the upwardly mobile castes. The Nadar case is no exception. Yet, not everything is lost. A section of the Christian Nadars, perhaps to the dismay of Samuel Sargunar and Gnanamuthoo Nadar, continues to acknowledge their untouchable past. For instance, Samuel Jayakumar, a theologian and a historian of Christianity in Tamil Nadu, in his book Dalit Consciousness and Christian Conversion: Historical Resources for a Contemporary Debate (ISPCK, Delhi, 1999) equates the Shanars along with the Parayars as dalits in the past – with no discomfort at all.

Notes

1 Most of the details in this section are drawn from Y Vincent Kumaradoss, Robert Caldwell: A Scholar-Missionary in Colonial South India, ­ISPCK, Delhi, 2007.

http://www.tamilhindu.com/2011/01/thol see lai-kalagam-book-review/

 

#India- Apex court puts a ‘God’ poser for Vedanta Group


Adivasi Women

 

 

 

R. BALAJI, Pioneer

New Delhi, Feb. 19: The Supreme Court today put some searching questions to the Vedanta group and the Odisha government, asking whether they could “banish God” and “destroy the faith of the tribals” who deem sacred a hill picked for bauxite mining.

The bench of Justices Aftab Alam, K.S. Radhakrishnan and Ranjan Gogoi asked whether “you can dig out the Nizamuddin Dargah or the dargah at Ajmer” when the Naveen Patnaik government insisted the Niyamgiri Hills was its property and contested the tribals’ belief that God existed there.

“Even if nothing is there, you can’t destroy the faith of those people. We are not talking about the entire hills but the highest point where the tribals believe their God exists. They believe he is on the hilltop. Can you tell them take away your God to another place? Are you banishing the God?” the bench asked.

The Union ministry of environment and forests had in 2010 cancelled the state’s permission for the mining on the ground that green norms and the tribals’ special rights to occupation and worship had been violated.

The judges today posed the queries after senior state counsel Aryaman Sundaram assailed the ministry’s decision and said there was no record or proof to show any temple or tangible idol that the tribals worshipped on the hilltop.

The court said it would be appropriate for the company and the state to seek the consent of the gram sabha for the mining activities as mandated under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

“Under the act, the gram sabha has to decide the issue. Its consent has to be obtained, why should we interfere? Why did you put the cart before the horse?” Justice Alam, heading the bench, asked.

Sundaram argued that while prior consent was essential, it was not “imperative”. “Consent is not imperative at all. I am the state government, it is mine. I can’t be prevented from taking up industrial activities.”

The judges then asked what would happen to the faith of the tribals for whom the hilltop was sacred. “For them it is faith. Can you dig out the Nizamuddin Dargah or the dargah at Ajmer?” the court asked.

Sundaram responded by saying the hilltop did not give tribals any right to worship and that “the hill is not sacrosanct”. The court retorted: “Yes, nothing is sacrosanct except bauxite mining!”

Solicitor-general Mohan Parasaran will tomorrow begin arguments putting forward the Centre’s position. But the ministry had earlier opposed the state’s claim that there is no habitat on the hills.

 

 

#India -Tribals oppose alternate mine to Vedanta #indigenous


       BS Reporter  |  Kolkata/ Bhubaneswar  February 19, 2013

Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti (NSS), an outfit of tribals agitating against the alumina refinery of Vedanta Aluminium (VAL) at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district, on Tuesday sought Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s intervention to overturn the Odisha government’s plan to allocate alternate sources of bauxite to the project, which is reeling under acute shortage of raw material following denial of permission to mine in Niyamgiri Hill by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest.

The Samiti aired its views through a 35 page memorandum addressed to Gandhi. A four member team of the tribals’ body later submitted the memorandum to Gandhi at Cuttack through their district congress president, Sadashiv Tripathy.

Raising slogans against VAL, Jairam Bariha, a Dongria Kondh of Ambaguda village in Kalahandi district said, “We oppose state government’s decision to allow mining in Niyamgiri or any other nearby hill as these hills are homes to scores of Dongria Kondh and Kutira Kondh tribes.

Bariha said, “We came to know that government is trying to arrange alternative sources of bauxite for Vedanta”.

He said, mining should not be allowed in the nearby Kandurumali, Sijumali, Sasubahumali, Karlapat reserves as these provide livelihood to the tribals inhabiting these hills.

“The effluent discharged by the company has led to deaths of our livestock and the government’s decision will destroy the numerous perennial streams. These reserves should not be given to any company including Vedanta”, said Bama Kadraka, another member of NSS. Gandhi had expressed his solidarity with the tribals, who were opposing Vedanta’s plan to extract bauxite from the Niyamgiri hill for use in its alumina refinery during his visit to Kalahandi district in 2010.

It may be noted VAL, which has shut down its one million tone alumina refinery in Lanjigarh since December 5 for want of bauxite, had entered into a pact with the state-owned Odisha Mining Corporation (OMC) for bauxite supply from Niyamgiri. However, this was red flagged by MoEF, which scrapped the stage-II forest clearance of the mining project on August 24, 2010.

Unable to find bauxite reserves VAL has urged the state government to expedite processing of OMC’s pending applications, especially for those bauxite leases that fall in non-forest areas.

 

#India- 60-year-old raped in Greater Noida #Vaw #WTFnews


rape

GREATER NOIDA: A 60-year-old woman was raped at gunpoint in Rabupura area in Greater Noida.

The incident took place on Friday, but cops lodged an FIR on Tuesday.

“We have not arrested anyone. The matter is being investigated,” said deputy SP Wasim Khan.

The accused allegedly held the victim at gunpoint while she was alone at home and threatened her with dire consequences.

The accused did not only rape the woman but also looted cash and jewellery.

The victim’s husband told cops at Rabupura police station about the incident after which she was sent for medical examination.
-TOI

Join People’s Watch Over Parliament Demanding Implementation of Verma Report @21Feb


1st Day of the Budget Session

 

21 February, Thursday, 12 Noon,

 

Jantar Mantar,

 

 Join PEOPLE’S WATCH OVER PARLIAMENT  

  • NO to Eyewash Ordinance !
  • For An Effective Law Against Sexual Violence Based on Justice Verma Recommendations !!
  • Budgetary Allocations for Rape Crisis Centres, Safe Houses for Women, More judges and courts, Forensic Examination facilities, compensations for survivors of rape and acid attacks, etc 
Speakers and Cultural Performances:
Shabana Azmi, Vrinda Grover, Madhu Mehra, Nilanjana Roy, Gautam Bhan, Rebecca John, Binalakshmi Nepram, Karuna Nundy, Kamal Chenoy, Maitreyee Pushpa, Anand Pradhan, Bimol Akoijam, and many other scholars, activists of the women’s and students’ movement and the JNUSU.
Street play called ‘Bekhauf Azaadi’ by Hirawal from Patna;
Performance by Maya Krishna Rao

Play by Asmita Theatre Group
Manzil Mystic Band
Mandala Circle (Lokesh Jain)
Artists Creative Theatre from Manipur
P
oster exhibitions on the theme of women’s and people’s freedom 
 

Freedom Without Fear- Bekhauf Azadi,

Campaign Against Sexual Violence and Gender Discrimination

Contact:  9560756628, 9868383692 ,  9868033425 ,  9213974505

 

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Missing Mystery of Majoni Das #AFSPA


 

PRESS RELEASE

MISSING MYSTERY OF MAJONI DAS

Organized by Women in Governance (WinG)-India, Women Alliance on Violence Against Women and Family members of Majoni Das

20th February 2013 at Gauri Sadan, Guwahati

We will not allow Majoni to be the next in the list of   those disappeared from custody mysteriously in this region. The family members have the right to know the whereabouts  and safety of their daughter. The Police should provide the information.  – Bondita Acharya , WinG-India

Guwahati Feb. 20, 2013 Enforced disappearances have been a very severe and a common human rights issue especially in North East India. The special powers entrusted upon the armed police and Police administration either by AFSPA or other draconian laws like UAPA has led to severe violation of human rights  of common people resulting into disappearances, extrajudicial killings, mental harassment, rape as well as sexual assault.

Majoni Das, a woman activist, teacher, writer from Sibsagar has been a victim of enforced disappearance in suspicion of having links with insurgent groups. Majoni Das, D/O Mr. Dimbeswar Das aged 30 was an active member women movement Nari Adhikar Suraksha Samiti (NASS) and also involved with fortnightly news paper namely AMI. Due to the poor financial condition of the family she was working with Purva Bharati Educational Trust, Jorhat for last 13 months as a warden of the hostel run by Purva Bharati Educational Trust, Jorhat Assam. On 6th February 2013 she went to her parent’s home at Demow, Sibsagar district, Assam to attend some family function. When she reached home local police sent messages to her several times to come over to Sibsagar SP office. She informed her colleagues about the calls and sounded very worried and tensed. On 8th February Pritam Das police officer of Nitai Pukhuri outpost along with a lady police officer came to their house to detain her. At that time she was not at home and then they left a message for her to come over to SP office in Sibsagar. On 9pm at that night she informed two of her neighbors that she would visit the SP office the next day. On 10th February morning around 9 am she left home to meet SP of Sibsagar district and since then she is missing.

 

Later FIR was filed in Jorhat PS by the Purva Bharati Educational Trust and in Demow PS by family members. Meanwhile the family and hostel authority made several visits to the SP office in Sivsagar requesting police to trace Majoni. SP informed that Majoni has joined the underground armed group United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and left for Nagaland. Police also instructed the father of Majoni to visit Nagaland and trace her.

 

Police is not revealing any information about her; the reason why police wanted her to report to the SP office is not clear and they are giving different sorts of answers which is making the case complex. Meanwhile in an attempt to gain public support, police reported the case to media branding the she has joined ULFA and left home on her way to Myanmar via Nagaland. Family is worried about her whereabouts as in several such missing cases earlier the missing person was found dead or involuntary disappeared.

 

The question arises whether Police administration is responsible for the sudden disappearance of Majoni Das or was it her choice? The answer is still a mystery. But whatever be the answer it should be backed by certain evidences which needs to be transparent to the family members.

 

We urge the following demands :

 

1.      Police should immediately disclose information on whereabouts of Majoni Das and         present her to the family members.

2.      Police should step up the investigation and provide updated information about the process of investigation.

3.      Put an immediate end to the continuous harassment of the family members by the police officials.

4.      Effective protection to the members of the family of Majoni Das.

5.      Immediate action against the senior police officials of the Sibsagar district for their negligence of duty to disclose the whereabouts of Majoni Das.

6.      Immediate action against the senior police officials of the Sibsagar district who pressurised the family members to talk to members of Underground Group and also to go to Mon district of Nagaland to trace Majoni Das.

7.      Ensure legal support to the family members for the case.

8.      Ensure the safety of all colleagues and associates of Majoni Das during the  follow up.

9.      Police (Superintendent of Police of Sibsagar District) should provide explanation for calling Majoni Das repeatedly to his office without proper notice.

10.  As Majoni Das belongs to SC community, the FIR should be changed under the provision of SC/ST PoA Act.

 

Bondita Acharya  and Anjuman Ara Begum ,  WinG-India Phone: 98643233379954082155

Bharati Hazarika , sister of  of Majoni Das-7896065140


 

 

 

Anjuman Ara Begum

Guwahati, Assam, India

Phone: +91-9954082155 (M)
Skype: anjumanarabegum

 

 

Hanging In India: Letter To A Prison Doctor #deathpenalty


By N. Jayaram

 

19 February, 2013
Countercurrents.org

Dr Vasant Yamakanmaradi, medical officer of the Central Prison, Hindalga (Belgaum), said the four convicts are both mentally and physically healthy. “We have been regularly conducting their health check-up to ensure they are fit to be executed,” he said. “All convicts have been informed about their execution.” (1)

The jail authorities began preparations for the executions after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected the mercy petitions of Veerappan’s brother Jnanaprakash, Bilavendra, Simon and Meesekar Madaiah last week.

Dear Dr Yamakanmaradi,

Assuming that you’re accurately quoted – and it is mostly likely you have been as another newspaper has also done so while spelling your name differently, it is good to know that you have been checking the health of the four convicts regularly. (2)

I wonder whether you have also been talking to the convicts doctor. Do you talk to them as just living beings that need to be kept alive until the Indian state can snuff out their lives?

Or do you see them as human beings – sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, friends, colleagues, carers of cows and dogs also perhaps? In other words as people – strange thought this – such as you and I? People who – if the criminal justice system got it right – were associated with a notorious gangster, who were caught, convicted, sentenced to death and spent more than eight years in prison, perhaps coming around to believing that their lives will be spared? In many of the shrinking number of countries that retain the death penalty, an eight-year wait would have led to commutation.

The four condemned in your prison claim to be innocent – and the best criminal justice systems in the world, including those in Europe and North America have thrown up numerous cases of miscarriages of justice.

Does it bother you that you might be helping in preparing to hang people who might well be telling the truth when they claim to be innocent? Or are do you believe Indian policemen and security forces always catch the right people and scrupulously adhere to the letter of the law? Surely you know of rampant encounter killings? If not, I invite you to read the reports of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Human Rights Law Network, the Asian Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and a host of other NGOs.

Have you read the famous essay, “A Hanging” by George Orwell, doctor? (3) It is not only one of the best essays in the English language, the subject of classroom study around the world. It is also a powerful record by a fine mind watching the process of a hanging under British colonialism. Here’s an excerpt, but I recommend reading the full version:

It was about forty yards to the gallows… At each step his muscles slid neatly into place, the lock of hair on his scalp danced up and down, his feet printed themselves on the wet gravel. And once, in spite of the men who gripped him by each shoulder, he stepped slightly aside to avoid a puddle on the path.

It is curious, but till that moment I had never realized what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man. When I saw the prisoner step aside to avoid the puddle, I saw the mystery, the unspeakable wrongness, of cutting a life short when it is in full tide. This man was not dying, he was alive just as we were alive. All the organs of his body were working — bowels digesting food, skin renewing itself, nails growing, tissues forming–all toiling away in solemn foolery. His nails would still be growing when he stood on the drop, when he was falling through the air with a tenth of a second to live. His eyes saw the yellow gravel and the grey walls, and his brain still remembered, foresaw, reasoned – reasoned even about puddles. He and we were a party of men walking together, seeing, hearing, feeling, understanding the same world; and in two minutes, with a sudden snap, one of us would be gone–one mind less, one world less.

Have you taken the Hippocratic oath or a version thereof, doctor? (4) Perhaps you have a copy with you? Here is a reminder of three lines in the oath:

• Even under threat, I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of Humanity.

• I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient.

• The health of my patient will be my first consideration.

NB: “…religion, nationality, party politics or social standing”. The Indian state has in recent months executed a Pakistani Muslim convicted of the 2008 Bombay attacks and a Kashmiri Muslim recently for his alleged role – never conclusively proven – in the 2001 Parliament attacks in New Delhi. The Supreme Court thought the death penalty for Afzal Guru was needed to satisfy the “collective conscience of the society”. The lives of Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi and several others convicted of their role in the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 were – rightly in the opinion of those opposed to the death penalty – spared by the good judge Jyotsna Yagnik. Do you, doctor, ask yourself why it is that the indigent, the minorities, the Dalits and the lower castes pack death row?

Do you think preparing prisoners, checking on their health, taking their pulse with the purpose of overseeing their death is in consonance with the oath you took when you entered the profession, doctor?

Perhaps you do believe in the rightness of the death penalty in some cases. But do you seriously think each of the hundreds now on death row in India deserves to die? Do go through an exceedingly well thought out essay by a leading surgeon and writer in the United States, who is of Indian origin, who does believe in the death penalty in certain cases. Dr Atul Gawande is the award-winning author of books such as Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science (2002), Better: A Surgeon’s Notes on Performance (2007) and The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right (2009).

In a March 2006 essay in the New England Journal of Medicine entitled “When Law and Ethics Collide – Why Physicians Participate in Executions”, he has noted that the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) and other professional bodies are opposed to doctors taking part in putting convicts to death. The ASA president is quoted as saying, “Physicians are healers, not executioners”. (5)

Again, an excerpt to whet your appetite:

In 1980 … the AMA passed a resolution against physician participation as a violation of core medical ethics. It affirmed that ban in detail in its 1992 Code of Medical Ethics. Article 2.06 states, “A physician, as a member of a profession dedicated to preserving life when there is hope of doing so, should not be a participant in a legally authorized execution,” although an individual physician’s opinion about capital punishment remains “the personal moral decision of the individual.” It states that unacceptable participation includes prescribing or administering medications as part of the execution procedure, monitoring vital signs, rendering technical advice, selecting injection sites, starting or supervising placement of intravenous lines, or simply being present as a physician. Pronouncing death is also considered unacceptable, because the physician is not permitted to revive the prisoner if he or she is found to be alive. Only two actions were acceptable: provision at the prisoner’s request of a sedative to calm anxiety beforehand and certification of death after another person had pronounced it.

The code of ethics of the Society of Correctional Physicians establishes an even stricter ban: “The correctional health professional shall… not be involved in any aspect of execution of the death penalty.” The American Nurses Association (ANA) has adopted a similar prohibition. Only the national pharmacists’ society, the American Pharmaceutical Association, permits involvement…

Perhaps you would say, “what can I do, orders are orders”? Harsh Mander, a former officer of the Indian Administrative Service who eventually went back to the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy in Mussoorie which trains civil servants, has written extensively about the right and duty of officials to dissent in the face of injustice. Have you read his columns in The Hindu and other newspapers, doctor? Just google them. Most instructive.

The Supreme Court has given a stay of execution until Wednesday and it is to be hoped the constitutionality of the practice will be considered afresh. You can then get back to the health of the four with a view to doing what your oath enjoined you to do – preserving them in good health, not participating in their death.

N. Jayaram is a journalist now based in Bangalore after more than 23 years in East Asia (mainly Hong Kong and Beijing) and 11 years in New Delhi. He was with the Press Trust of India news agency for 15 years and Agence France-Presse for 11 years and is currently engaged in editing and translating for NGOs and academic institutions. He writes a blog: http://walkerjay.wordpress.com/ 

Notes

1. “ Belgaum jail awaits hanging orders for Veerappan aides” http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Belgaum-jail-awaits-hanging-orders-for-Veerappan-aides/articleshow/18550276.cms

2. “Veerappan aides’ fate still hanging” http://www.deccanchronicle.com/130218/news-current-affairs/article/veerappan-aides-fate-still-hanging

3. “A Hanging” by George Orwell, http://www.george-orwell.org/A_Hanging/0.html . There is also an audio version http://thelongestchapter.com/tag/a-hanging/

4. Indian Medical Association: Medical Oath http://www.ima-india.org/IMA_medical_oath.html

5. “ When Law and Ethics Collide — Why Physicians Participate in Executions ” http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp068042

Dear Sisters (and brothers ?) at Harvard #mustread #Vaw #justiceverma


FEBRUARY 20, 2013

Letter from some Indian feminists to their siblings at Harvard

We’re a group of Indian feminists and we are delighted to learn that the Harvard community – without doubt one of the most learned in the world – has seen fit to set up a Policy Task Force entitled ‘Beyond Gender Equality’ and that you are preparing to offer recommendations to India (and other South Asian countries) in the wake of the New Delhi gang rape and murder. Not since the days of Katherine Mayo have American women – and American feminists – felt such a concern for their less privileged Third World sisters. Mayo’s concern, at that time, was to ensure that the Indian State (then the colonial State) did not leave Indian women in the lurch, at the mercy of their men, and that it retained power and the rule of the just. Yours, we see, is to work towards ensuring that steps are put in place that can help the Indian State in its implementation of the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee, a responsibility the Indian State must take up. This is clearly something that we, Indian feminists and activists who have been involved in the women’s movement here for several decades, are incapable of doing, and it was with a sense of overwhelming relief that we read of your intention to step into this breach.

You might be pleased to know that one of us, a lawyer who led the initiative to put pressure on the Justice Verma Committee to have a public hearing with women’s groups, even said in relief, when she heard of your plans, that she would now go on holiday and take a plane ride to see the Everest. Indeed, we are all relieved, for now we know that our efforts will not have been in vain: the oral evidence provided by 82 activists and organizations to the Justice Verma Committee – and which we believe substantially contributed to the framing of their report – will now be in safe American hands!

Perhaps you are aware that the Indian State has put in place an Ordinance on Sexual Assault that ignores many recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee? If not, we would be pleased to furnish you a copy of the Ordinance, as well as a chart prepared by us, which details which recommendations have been accepted and which not. This may be useful in your efforts to advise our government. One of the greatest things about sisterhood is that it is so global, feminism has built such strong international connections – such that whenever our first world sisters see that we are incapable of dealing with problems in our countries, they immediately step in to help us out and provide us with much needed guidance and support. We are truly grateful for this.

Perhaps you will allow us to repay the favour, and next time President Obama wants to put in place legislation to do with abortion, or the Equal Rights Amendment, we can step in and help and, from our small bit of experience in these fields, recommend what the United States can do.

Vrinda Grover (mere lawyer)

Mary E. John, Senior Fellow, Centre for Women’s Development Studies, New Delhi

Kavita Panjabi, Professor of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, Kolkata

Shilpa Phadke, Assistant Professor, School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mubmai

Shweta Vachani, Senior Editor, Zubaan

Urvashi Butalia, Director, Zubaan

And many others.

Eight wards shame Mumbai with skewed sex ratio at birth


By | Feb 20, 2013, 06.57 AM IST

MUMBAI: While the civic administration’s statistics show that the sex ratio at birth for Mumbai has improved slightly in the last one year, experts are not too impressed. They say that the administration has to sustain such results over a decade before there is any significant change in the city’s or even India‘s skewed sex ratio.

A senior civic official, however, insisted that any increase, however small, is a step in the right direction.

Both Maharashtra and Mumbai, in particular, have shown an anti-girl bias in the last two census.

Civic figures show that the sex ratio at birth – the number of girls born per 1,000 boys – for 2012 was 922:1,000, up from 917 in 2011. But a closer look at the ward-wise break-up shows that eight wards have registered a dip in sex ratio at birth.

In south Mumbai’s Pydhonie area, for instance, only 860 girls were born for every 1,000 boys last year.

In 2011, the locality was placed better at 981 girls per 1,000 boys. In fact, the Pydhonie-Byculla-Parel belt of the island city, the prosperous Goregaon-Malad-Kandivli belt of the western suburbs and the populous belt from Bhandup to Ghatkopar in the eastern suburbs have all shown a dip in sex ratio at birth.

A L Sharada from the NGO, Population First, said it would be premature to think that such marginal increase is of any significance. She added that easy access to medical tools such as ultrasound machines, which can illegally be used to find the sex of the unborn child, was responsible for the skewed sex ratio.

“The cost of living in Mumbai is high. People want small families and still have a great desire for a male child. This is true in both the slums as well as non-slum pockets of the city,” she said.

Sharada added that the BMC should now study why certain areas, such as Parel in south central Mumbai, have consistently registered a lower-than-city-average sex ratio.

Her NGO had earlier conducted a survey to underline poor adherence among ultrasound clinics of the rules laid down under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act.

“Until there is stringent conviction for offenders and better gender sensitivity among the population, the problem of skewed sex ratio at birth cannot be solved,” said Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Forum Against Sex Selection.

 

Kerala girl who thrashed men for verbal abuse faces court case #1billionrising #Vaw #WTFnews


PTI | Feb 19, 2013, 10.32 PM IST

 
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A college girl who hit the headlines by kicking and punching those who harassed her at an eatery recently has landed in trouble with the city police registering a case against her based on a local court order.

The courage shown by Amrita, a final year degree student of a city college, has been widely applauded for the way she “handled” her tormentors at a wayside eatery on her way home after participating in “One Billion Rising” programme at Shanghumugham beach on February 14.


After her bold act appeared in the media, she has been showered with phone calls and letters praising the manner in which she handled the situation and a state minister even visited her home to pat the courageous girl.

Following the incident, police registered a case against the two men.


One of the accused, however, filed a private complaint in a local court alleging he had been beaten up by the girl who also blocked his car.

Admitting the complaint, the court on Monday directed the city police to register a case and investigate the incident.

Meanwhile, state women’s commission chairperson KC Rosakutty and leaders of various women outfits criticised the action against Amrita, who is widely seen as a symbol of courage.

 

A black belt in Karate, Amrita said she would legally fight the case against her.

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