PRESS RELEASE-IFJ Demands Justice for Journalist Dismissed after Filing Harassment Complaint #Vaw


Media Release: India                                                                                       

April 4, 2013         

 IFJ Demands Justice for Journalist Victimised after Filing Harassment Complaint

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins partners and affiliates in demanding justice and fair treatment for S. Akila, a journalist placed under suspension by the Sun TV news channel based in the southern Indian city of Chennai, after she filed sexual harassment complaints against two of her seniors in the organisation.

According to information provided by the Network of Women in Media, India, Akila joined Sun TV in its Chennai headquarters in December 2011 as a news anchor and producer and faced, from that moment on, extraordinary pressures on the job. Two of her immediate seniors were reportedly explicit in the demands she would be expected to fulfill.

Refusal to comply led to Akila’s probation being extended, her earned perks – such as the annual bonus – being denied, and finally, to her being threatened with “dire consequences” if she went public with the situation she faced. Despite a time-honoured convention that women would not be put on shifts at odd times of the 24×7 news cycle, she was soon assigned as anchor for the 6 a.m. news bulletin, requiring her to report at work an hour ahead.

After repeated protests failed to fetch any relief, Akila on 19 March, filed a complaint of sexual harassment with the nearest police station. Her two immediate seniors, both named in the complaint, were soon afterwards arrested and charged under the relevant law applicable in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Akila reportedly began receiving threatening telephone calls afterwards. A male colleague who had supported her struggle against harassment was soon afterwards placed under suspension. On 25 March, Akila reported for work at her appointed time but was not allowed to anchor the noon news bulletin she was assigned to. A day later, one of the men named in her complaint rejoined Sun TV after securing bail.

Akila was served an order of suspension the following day.

“We are shocked at this sequence of events in one of India’s largest and most diversified media conglomerates”, said the IFJ Asia-Pacific.

“The IFJ demands a quick and impartial inquiry into the entire range of circumstances leading to Akila’s dismissal from her job and prompt restitution for the mental trauma she has suffered.

“The news organisation that has permitted this manner of exploitative culture to flourish should without further delay, hold out reassurances to all its female employees and institute strict sanctions against any further recurrence of such behaviour”.

For further information contact IFJ Asia-Pacific on +612 9333 0950


The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 131 countries

Find the IFJ on Twitter@ifjasiapacific

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Bombay HC- Reimburse unaided schools for expense on SC/ST students #goodnews

Express news service : Mumbai, Thu Apr 04 2013,


Bombay High Court (HC) directed the state government Wednesday to reimburse unaided schools for expenses incurred on education of SC/ST students as per RTE Act.

The money — Rs 10, 463 per student per year till standard 7 or the actual amount spent, whichever less — is to be reimbursed irrespective of incomes of parents or guardians of the students from academic year 2010- 2011.

For higher secondary school students, the reimbursment is according to recommendations made by a state-appointed committee in 2010.

For schools in Mumbai, it is Rs 350; for those under other municipal corporations, it is Rs 250 and for the rest of the state, Rs 200.

Schools are also to be reimbursed for OBC, VJNT and SBC students the annual income of whose parents is less than Rs 1 lakh.

HC clarified while RTE Act could not be invoked against the wishes of minority unaided schools, institutions admitting students from disadvantaged sections could claim reimbursement.

A division bench of justices Mohit Shah and N M Jamdar said provisions of RTE Act should be read in the light of articles 21A (right to education) and 46 (promotion of educational and economic interests of weaker sections) of the Constitution.

HC noted though RTE Act applied to elementary education, the state had been giving the benefit of reimbursement to classes 9 and 10 as well.


Press Release- #India -1500 villagers on indefinite fast in Odisha against State sponsored private militia #Posco

Sandeep Kumar Pattnaik
On 3rd April 2013, around 1500 villagers, including women and children, joined the indefinite protest in the Gobindapur village where the armed police forces camping. They have decided that they will continue the protest day and night with the demand for unconditional withdrawal of the armed police camps from the village. Leaders from different political parties like All Indian National Congress, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India( Marxist), CPI-ML, CPI-ML( Liberation), CPI-ML ( ND), SUCI ( C), Forward Block, Samajvadi Party, Rastriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal ( U ) Aam Admi Party, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Samajvadi Jan Parishad, Odisha Jan Morcha, Republican Party of India along with a few progressive organizations and individuals of eminence addressed the meeting on Wednesday, held near the police camp at Gobindapur.
We are apprehending that the state government would resume forceful acquisition of our land after the state assembly session ends on April 6, 2013.

As you know, in march first week, three of our villagers Tarun mandal, Manas Jena, Narahari Sahoo were killed when bombs were hurled at them by the project supporters and earlier Tarun’s elder brother Tapan alias Dula Mandal was killed in 2008. The lives of the wives and children of the deceased have been shattered. They are living an life of fear and uncertainty as and they do not know what the future holds for them. Pravati Mandal (26), wife of late Tarun Mandal of Gobindapur is left alone to take care of their two-year-old daughter. Pravati is now relying on the food supplied by our villagers. Jharana Jena (28), wife of late Manas Jena, a betel vine farmer of Gobindapur, faces not only grave financial difficulties but also the challenge on how to save their betel vines and lands from being acquired for the steel mill.

The police instead of taking action against the killers of the three persons are trying to arrest our people and have clamped false cases against us.

We will hold a joint demonstration of all political parties in Bhubaneswar on 12th April to oppose POSCO; we call upon our friends and sympathizers .

On March 26, in a major development, likeminded political forces cutting across party line came together and organized a massive demonstration program in the capital city of Bhubaneswar demanding full stop to ongoing police repression and violence in proposed project areas of POSCO Company in Dhinkia GP of Jagasingpur district. They also demanded full stop to forcible land acquisition and withdrawal of the project from the area. They met the new Odisha Governor Sri Senayangba Chubatoshi Jamir at Raj Bhawan with a list of demands. Attaching below the memorandum to Governor of Odisha for your information. ( Annex -1)

Recently, two human rights defenders as a part of Advocacy mission team visited to South Korea. Please find below the press release for your information ( Annex- 2).

Please find herewith a video statement of Debendra , one of the PPSS activist on the recent human rights violation by the State government. We are expressing our gratitude to the Video Voulnteer for preparing this video. This is the link of the video

Kindly forward this mail widely.

Hoping for Solidarity.

Prashant Paikaray

Spokesperson, POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti.

Mobile no – 09437571547

E- mail-

Annex -1
His Excellency Senayangba Chubatoshi Jamir
Hon’ble Governer of Odisha,
Raj Bhawan, Bhubaneswar March 26, 2013

Sub: Memorandum submitted by POSCO Pratirodha Solidarity Samiti

Respected Rajyapalji,
We the representatives of Indian National Congress, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India( Marxist), CPI-ML, CPI-ML( Liberation), CPI-ML ( ND), SUCI ( C), Forward Block, Samajvadi Party, Rastriya Janata Dal, Janata Dal ( U ) Aam Admi Party, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Samajvadi Jan Parishad,Odisha Jan Morcha, Republican Party of India along with the undersigned organizations and individuals crave your kind indulgence on the continued police atrocities and prolonged repression on the villagers in the Dhinkia and Baligotha of Jagatsinghpur District by the State Government machinery and private militia to protect the interest of POSCO India Private Ltd., an Indian subsidiary of Korean conglomerate POSCO. The constitution of India is facing the worst of its crisis in this region as the elected government of the state is subverting democracy and rights guaranteed by the constitution of India just to sub serve the interests of a private multinational company who has come here just for maximizing its profit. Ignoring established laws and procedures and with total disregards to the facts that the company’s environmental clearance has been stayed by National Green Tribunal, Mining case is still pending in the Apex Court and water availability along with port clearance are yet to be decided, the state government is using all its means to forcibly acquire the rich and fertile agricultural land despite strong resistance by the locals who have so far lost four lives.
Though the ways, means and methods of industrialization in the state has remained an issue of contention and contestations which we don’t want right now to apprise you with but we feel that there is no justification for setting up Steel Plant in the fertile agricultural land where rural economy has prospered with multi crop farming and other economic activities like fisheries and betel leaf plantation. The State Administration has not been able to implement the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 for the villagers who are living in those areas for ages, and despite having documentary evidence in favour of existence of tribal’s and other traditional Forest Dwellers. The official Gram Sabha of Dhinkia in the presence of government officials has voted against transfer of forest land for the company on October 18, 2012 and prior to that twice.
But such a democratic move was not respected and rather was responded to with increased violence in partnership with private militia. And as a result of this violence and deaths happening since February 3, 2013 which reached a culmination point on March 2, 2013 when 3 people got killed in a bomb explosion. The armed police have made life miserable for the common villagers and lots of false cases have been files against people forcing them not to move out. The threat of State and company sponsored violence looms large over hundreds of farmer who are protecting their life and livelihood in the midst of hundreds of policemen. We seek your urgent benign intervention. In the light of the aforesaid facts and circumstances we demand the followings before you to instruct the state Government.
Our Appeal:
1. Please ask the state government to stop forcible land acquisition for POSCO project in the Govindapur area of Jagatsinghpur district.
2. Please ask for withdrawal of armed police deployed in Dhinkia Gram Panchayat area and to take positive and proactive measures to ensure peace and normalcy in that village and not to take the pretext of using police to defend the POSCO ‘supporters’ who are being nurtured by the company.
3. All rights violations must stop and your good office may order impartial investigation of all violations done so far which will enlighten you about the magnitude of the problem.
4. Land Pattas should be issued in favor of the people those who have been possessed the government land since generation’s which they are entitled to at least under FRA 2006 by recognizing Rights of the Forest Dwellers and Tribals as per the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
5. If the government can’t honor, at least it should not dishonor and do things to harm a democratic peaceful resistance against displacing from life and livelihood resources.

With deep democratic regards


Press Release:

POSCO Undermines Indian Democracy, Democratic Dissent, Rights of Citizens and Justice- All that Guaranteed by Indian Constitution & International Laws

‘Anywhere in the world if democracy exists, they must prevent POSCO-like corporation from going ahead with its assault on the democratic values, principles, laws and rights of another sovereign country even if the host country’s political, bureaucratic and media is seen to be patronizing the company and facilitating its entry in one or the other pretext.’(A senior Journalist in Odisha)

Despite the fact that Indian citizens of the state of Odisha in the lowest unit of their democracy-the Gram Sabha rejecting the proposal of POSCO to establish a steel plant at the cost of their prime agricultural land, rich betel vines and fishery resources which they did thrice by taking majority resolutions in a body sanctioned and respected by Indian Constitution, the company has shown only its ‘determination’ to go ahead with the project at a huge cost to the rights of Indian citizens and by causing untold miseries for the democratic protesters. The Gram Sabhas (a constitutionally recognized body of all citizens relating to the villages belonging to a Panchayat – Local Self-Governing Unit) have rejected three times (March, 2008; February, 2010 & October, 2012) the POSCO project in their villages. For the last seven years they have been peacefully resisting POSCO, in-spite of all kinds of intimidations and harassments by the Indian government and POSCO followers.

Why do Affected People reject POSCO?

Displacements: 4004 acres of land earmarked for the POSCO’s plant project is going to evict an estimated 22,000 people and indirectly disrupt the livelihoods of another 30,000 people, just in Jagatsingphur District. People will lose their houses, homestead and agricultural lands, common property resources and all sustainable sources of livelihoods.

Loss of Sustainable Livelihoods Systems – Degradation of the Standard of Living for Local People: 22,000 people depending on agriculture, fishing, and forestry since generations will directly loss their traditional and sustainable sources of livelihoods and jobs. Small-holding betel vine cultivation provides a steady, sustainable income for people living in the affected area, amounting in some cases to over three times the average Indian income while cultivating land plots less than a tenth the size of an acre.

An additional 30,000 small scale fisherman also stand to lose their source of livelihood. It is this way of life that people resisting the project are defending and they assert that POSCO-India can never adequately compensate them for it. There is little possibility the purported job creation will benefit the local residents, as they do not have the skills needed to work for a steel plant and offspring industries that is supposed to be created. They might be forced to take low paid, insecure and easily replaceable jobs such as cleaning, manual luggage carriers and the like.

Villagers are anticipating that POSCO’s project will destroy a peaceful and sustainable way of life that has been passed down from generation to generation, thereby threatening the livelihoods of local residents and the future of their children. While the project would destroy whole communities and local economies, should this forced eviction proceed it will amount to grave violations of several fundamental human rights, including those related to housing, food, water, health and work. Here it does not include twenty thousand indigenous people who will lose livelihoods due to the proposed mining project in Sundhargarh district ( approx 300 km away from proposed steel plant area at Jagatsinghpur)..

Noteworthy to mention that 42 families who have already moved to POSCO-India’s transit camp demonstrate how the evicted people are leading a wretched life over there without any work, poor housings, moving from economic prosperity into poverty, removal from their arable land has cut them off from their previous means of economic independence, leaving them dependent on a dole-like cash payment of 20 rupees (405 South Korean Won) per day.

Environmental Impacts: The project is going to have negative impacts on the environment and local biodiversity. Construction of the port is predicted to destroy the breeding ground of the endangered Olive Ridley turtle, and remove sand dunes that are a natural barrier against regular cyclones – like the one in 1999 that caused the death of 15,000 people. Local people protected by this natural barrier were spared the worst of the category 5 storm that destroyed other communities. POSCO-India plans to remove these dunes to build their port.

Disastrous Impact on Water sources: The POSCO plant will extract huge quantity of water from a rain-fed river already falling short from meeting the domestic and agricultural needs of local people and will affect 30000 farmers in the district. The disposal of waste waters from the plant will destroy the natural water outlets, canals, sea and affect fishermen and farmers.

Crackdown on people resisting forcible eviction: For the past seven years, POSCO has been morally complicit in state-sanctioned attacks and acts of repression by the Government of Odisha to suppress peaceful demonstrations and opposition against the company’s proposed project. Till now it has claimed five lives as a result of POSCO operations and POSCO was never found condemning any of such gruesome incidents. Rather, it shows collaborations of POSCO with the acts of government and private musclemen to terrorise people.

On March 2nd, 2013, at 6.30pm, a bomb killed 3 local community members, Manas Jena, Nabanu Mandal and Narahari Sahoo, and seriously wounded another, Laxman Paramanik. This is part of a long-running pattern of violence used to threaten and harm local people. For example, in 2008 Dula Mandal, another local person resisting the project was also killed. In 2010 police opened fire on locals resisting the project, causing a widespread public outcry. These people have been violently targeted because they are part of the community of local people resisting the progress of the POSCO-India project in defense of their livelihoods, and access to land and natural resources.

The South Korea’s Ambassador Kim Joong Keun visited Odisha on 6th march 2013. When people in the proposed POSCO project site are mourning the killing of 3 activists of the movement who were killed ina bomb attack on March 2, the Ambassador did not say anything to express his grief. He was obsessed with the progress of POSCO project.

From February 2013 onwards there is continuous deployment of five platoons of police at Govindpur village which has made villagers life miserable. The presence of police is only encouraging the criminal elements to unleash a region of terror in the proposed POSCO area. The villagers are in a constant fear that at any point of time the armed police forces resume the operation and take away their land.

Police Cases against Resisting Villagers – Deliberate Harassment of Local People: To date, the Odisha State Government has registered more than 230 criminal cases against the villagers and issued 1,500 warrants, 340 of which are women. Two individuals, who are under trial prisoners, remain incarcerated. Mostly the complainants are government officials, POSCO staffs and followers. The community leaders have been repeatedly jailed as a result of defending their human rights.

Seven Years’ Encirclement of Resisting Villagers – Unable to access medical services and children’s Education: Threats, arrests, tortures, harassment by police and POSCO followers, deployment of huge security forces, open challenges by mercenaries have forced the villagers not to cross their village boundary and kept aloof from the rest of the world as if in an open prison. People trying to come outside their village boundary for medical treatment, marketing or for any other urgent purposes are being abused or arrested on their way. Any complaint of victims of abuse or arbitrary arrest is not entertained in local police station. Sick women, children and others are not able to access medical treatment since years together. Children are not able to attend educational institutions outside their villages. At least 14 women are suffering for years with severe gynecological disorders that need surgery. In January this year eighteen police platoons surrounded the area where communities are resisting the project and threatened to forcible enter the village and evict them. On this occasion the authorities did force themselves into the village and destroyed the local people’s primary means of livelihood, their betel vines that they rely on for the bulk of their income. Furthermore, the intimidation methods extend also to legal persecution.

Issues of Violation of Indian Laws with the POSCO-India project: According to the Forest Rights Act (2006) the consent of local people – as expressed during official community gatherings, known as a Gram Sabha – is required for this project to proceed. In this case local communities have officially voiced their rejection of the project in three legally binding community resolutions.

The original 2005 MoU for the project has expired, and on March 30, 2012, India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered a review of the 2011 final environmental clearance for the project, following which the Ministry of Environment and Forests has withdrawn this approval. Furthermore, the captive port construction as planned would violate Indian coastal development regulations.

Many of these violations and irregularities were pointed out in the Majority Committee Report, of a review committee that was set up by the Ministry of Environment and Forests , Government of India in 2010. There have been deficiencies in the manner in which the forest diversion for the project was approved. For instance, the decision was based solely on aerial inspection and telephonic verification. The first set of environment clearances granted in 2007 have also expired in May and July 2012. Despite all this, POSCO-India continues to initiate entry into the project area and carry out felling of trees as part of continuing the project construction in the absence of requisite legal approvals, which are mandatory prior to initiating any construction works.

Corrupting and Weakening Democratic Institutions and Functions in India: POSCO – India works an active collaborator with the forces that engaged in corruption, bribery within the administration and weakening democracy. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has unearthed a land scam in Odisha, where the state government acquired land for industrial houses like POSCO by reportedly misusing existing provisions of the Land Acquisition Act. Media people are lured not to write any stories against POSCO.

Corporate Responsibility to Respect Human Rights:

UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (the ‘Guiding Principels’), requires that all business enterprises respect human rights. Specifically, this means that businesses are required to ‘avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved’. The responsibility of business enterprises to ‘respect human rights applies to all enterprises regardless of their size, sector, operational context, ownership and structure’.

The Guiding Principles require that all businesses ‘identify and assess any actual or potential adverse human rights impacts with which they may be involved either through their own activities or as a result of their business relationships’. In order to execute this duty, the investor relationship that your company has with the POSCO Corporation requires that you apply whatever leverage you have to ensure POSCO management respects the human rights of the people affected by their project in Odisha.

OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises: All companies based in states that are members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), are obliged to uphold the ‘Guidelines for Multi-National Enterprises’ (the ‘OECD Guidelines’). Chapter IV of the OECD Guidelines requires companies to “respect human rights, which means they should avoid infringing on the human rights of others and should address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved”. The Guidelines are applicable to financial institutions and to investors, including minority shareholders.

Another provision of the OECD Guidelines requires that companies engage with relevant stakeholders in order to provide meaningful opportunities for their views to be taken into account in relation to planning and decision making for projects, or other activities that may significantly impact local communities. In this case, the POSCO Corporation should heed the voice of local communities as expressed in accordance with the Forest Rights Act during Gram Sabhas, which have three times (March, 2008; February, 2010 & October 2012) reiterated the local communities’ demand that the project not proceed.

UN Global Compact
The United Nations Global Compact also calls on companies to respect international human rights standards and avoid complicity in human rights abuses. In May 2012, POSCO CEO, Mr. Joon-Yang Chung, wrote a letter to UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon. He stated that ‘POSCO supports the ten principles of the Global Compact with respect to human rights’ and ‘with this communication, we express our intent to advance those principles within our sphere of influence’. Evidence from the area impacted by POSCO’s project in Odisha makes a mockery of this promise.

POSCO should honor this commitment to United Nations Guidelines and uphold human rights in general and withdraw its Odisha project in particular as it undermines human rights of local people, the right to democratic dissent and their natural rights to pursue livelihood options of their choice. No project should be imposed on an unwilling population by conniving with coercive state machinery.

Chandranath Dani, Human Rights Advocate


SC tells Centre to limit use of red beacons on VIP vehicles

TAGS: Supreme Court | Red Lights | Beacon lights | VIP sirens
The Supreme Court on Wednesday observed that the government should consider limiting the use of beacon lights and sirens only on vehicles of constitutional functionaries, police, army, fire service vehicles and ambulances.

A bench said withdrawing red lights from the vehicles of ‘so called’ VIPs will instill confidence among people. Stressing that beacon lights should not be allowed to be flaunted as a status symbol, it said there was no hindrance in withdrawing the privilege straight away and giving a sign that everybody is equal.

While hearing a special leave petition ( SLP) questioning continuation of Z- category security to an MLA from Uttar Pradesh without review of threat perception, the SC had earlier decided to enlarge the scope of the matter in public interest and put under its scanner the criteria for permitting beacon lights.

The court had directed all states to file affidavits giving details on the proportion of policemen involved in providing security to VIPs, the criteria for providing security and the amount of money spent on providing security to VIPs, among others.

Read more at:


Press Release – PESA and bauxite mining in Andhra Pradesh- HRF

April 4, 2013

The Human Rights Forum (HRF) takes strong objection to the reported view of the AP Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC) that it does not have to hold gram sabhas in the area where it is leasing in land for bauxite mining because the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas Act) 1996 (PESA) is not applicable to major minerals.

If the APMDC thinks it is being very clever, we invite its officers to read PESA once again. Section 4 (k) and 4 (l) which refer to prior recommendation of the gram sabha or the panchayats for grant of prospecting or mining lease is confined to minor minerals, but those are not the only provisions of PESA. Under Section 4 (d), the power to safeguard and preserve the community resources, which is another name for common property resources, should be with the gram sabha.

Though the land being leased to APMDC for mining bauxite in the Visakhapatnam agency is forest land, undertaking mining in that land will affect the water resources of the neighbouring hamlets since the water retained in the bauxite hills is the source of the rivulets and subsoil water that the people depend upon. It is a well-established fact that the hills containing bauxite deposits have a good capacity for retention of water, which will be lost for ever if the hills are opened up for mining.

The land proposed to be mined is also a source of minor forest produce such as thatching and dry twigs. It is a source of grazing for animals. The ownership of such minor forest produce is conferred on the gram sabha by Section 4 (m) (ii) of PESA and tat right cannot be unilaterally taken away.

We demand that the APMDC stop acting over-intelligent and follows scrupulously the provisions of Section 4 (d), 4 (m) (ii) and the general principle in section 4 (m) that the gram panchayat in the Scheduled Areas is endowed with the power of self-government. PESA is a progressive legislation that protects the adivasi communities’ rights to land and resources in tribal areas. These rights simply cannot be overridden unlawfully.

VS Krishna
(HRF State general secretary)


Islamic Extremists Alarm Secular Women in Tunisia #Vaw #Womenrights

By Hajer Naili

WeNews correspondent

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tensions are rising between secular Tunisian women and political Islam. “There is no room for the opposition and women to participate in building the country we want,” says one critic.

Woman at a protest in Tunis, Tunisia.
Woman at a protest in Tunis, Tunisia.


Credit: Amine Ghrabi on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC 2.0).

(WOMENSENEWS)–“My body is mine, not somebody’s honor.”

Nineteen-year-old Tunisian feminist Amina Tyler wrote these words in Arabic across her breasts and stomach to defy growing Islamism in her country, and then posted topless pictures of herself on the Facebook page of the organization Femen Tunisia.

The images went viral on March 8, International Women’s Day, and unleashed a month of online debate and some calls by Islamic extremists for her to be stoned to death. Tyler went into retreat but last week broke her silence in an interview with the French magazine Marianne.

“My family accepts me, but not my action,” she is quoted as saying in the magazine. “I am tired, I am being given anti-depressants . . . I want to go back to school, I don’t feel free. I want to be free to call my friends again, to go on the Internet.”

Femen and other feminists called for April 4 to be “International Topless Jihad Day,” as it coincides with Tyler’s birthday, the French newspaper Liberation reported.

Tyler is an extreme example, but tensions between secular women and political Islam are growing inTunisia, the birthplace of the Arab uprisings.

On Feb. 6, the high-profile secular Tunisian politician Chokri Belaid was killed in what authorities said was an assassination by Salafi Islamist militants. The slaying collapsed the government of Hamadi Jebali, of the ruling moderate Islamist party Ennahda.

The new government, also led by Ennahda, expresses no outright intention to rule the country according to Sharia, or religious law. But its ability or willingness to control a minority of Salafists who want to impose Sharia and create an Islamic state by violent means if necessary is in doubt.

“There is a pressing problem of insecurity in Tunisia with the birth of militia and armed Salafists who attack people without hearing any reaction from the government,” said Saida Rached, secretary general of theTunisian Association of Democratic Women, a group that was banned under the ousted regime of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. “Tunisians are starting to suspect the current regime and especially the Ministry of Interior of complicity.”

Increased Fear

Because of the insecurity “women are afraid to go out,” Rached added, recalling a few incidents in which violent Salafists attacked people, including women, who disagreed with their ideas. Rached spoke withWomen’s eNews in March, on the sidelines of the U.N. annual meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women.

The attacks have given Salafists a violent reputation, but the majority of adherents seek to establish an Islamic state through legal means. One apolitical faction takes no interest in the modern state and devotes itself to living as much as possible as the prophet Muhammad and his followers did in the 7th century.

Although women have not lost any legal ground, Rached said they are suffering a “social regression” that began with the start of the global economic crisis in 2008 and worsened after the ousting of Ben Ali.

Islam was the religion of the state under the previous constitution adopted in 1959 and the draft version of the new constitution, now being written, reasserts that. Secularists now wonder whether the official religion will overtake state functions and international treaties that sometimes oppose the cultural norms of conservative Islam.

Last year, an article in a draft version of the constitution expressing the “complementarity” between men and women brought protesters into the streets. The word was eventually dropped and replaced by “equality.” In the latest draft of the constitution, wording about equality between the sexes appears in the preamble, Article 5, Article 7 and Article 37.

Rached draws little comfort from such concessions. “It is still the Islamist party that is in power and decides who should be ministers and how the country should be ruled,” she said “There is no room for the opposition and women to participate in building the country we want.”

On March 29 dozens of angry people in Tunis brandished shoes and demanded the resignation of Sihem Badi,the minister of women’s affairs, for her slack response to the rape of a 3-year-old girl at a nursery in a Tunis suburb. Badi said a member of the girl’s family was to blame and that no measures against the nursery were needed.

Yesterday, a no-confidence motion against Badi was submitted to the Tunisian Parliament. Seventy-eight lawmakers signed the document, exceeding the 73 signatures required for a motion to be discussed. The signatories are demanding the dismissal of Badi from the government.

Polygamy Rumors

Rumors of legalized polygamy recently spread online to the point where a lawmaker named Karima Souid felt compelled to reassure followers on her Facebook page that no such bill had been submitted to the assembly.

Public discussion of female genital mutilation is also on the rise. A few weeks ago, Habib Ellouze, an Ennahda member, sparked outrage after he stated in a newspaper interview that female genital mutilation is “an aesthetic surgery.” The president of the Islamist party Ennahda, Rached Ghannouchi, expressed his disapproval for such a practice and was quoted in press accounts as saying that it “goes against Islam and that doesn’t belong to the Tunisian culture.”

There is no legal ban on female genital mutilation in Tunisia and the practice is uncommon. Article 17 in the draft of the constitution says “the state shall guarantee the physical and moral sanctity of the human self and shall prevent all forms of physical and/or moral torture.”

“Ellouze’s remarks on the excision are disgusting,” said Sophie Bessis, a research fellow at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in Paris, in an email interview. “FGM has never really existed in North Africa. Ellouze wants to import a barbaric practice.”

Bessis, author of the 2007 book “Arabs, Women and Freedom,” added that “Tunisia has today a government dominated by conservatives and women are paying the price of it.”

She criticized the current draft of the constitution for continuing to affirm Islam as the official religion. “This might lead to abuses and in particular depending on the interpretation of Sharia,” Bessis said.

In January, Eric Goldstein, deputy director of Human Rights Watch in the Middle East and North Africa, sent a letter to assembly members saying the latest version of the constitution “is more respectful of the freedom of expression and women’s rights than the first draft.” However, he expressed concern about provisions such as judicial immunity for the head of state, lack of sufficient guarantees for the independence of the judiciary and ambiguous formulations that could threaten rights and freedoms.

Bessis said the current draft “is not good neither for women or democracy.”

Hajer Naili is a New York-based reporter for Women’s eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa.


Delhi HC issues notice to Prasar Bharati CEO on AIR #sexualharassment case #Vaw

RnM Team    03 Apr 13

MUMBAI: As the alleged sexual harassment case of women employees at All India Radio (AIR) reaches new heights, the Delhi High Court has issued a notice to the centre and Prasar Bharati CEO on a PIL seeking steps to ‘stop the sexual harassment and exploitation’ of female radio presenters at the FM Gold channel of AIR.

Issuing notices to Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and CEO of Prasar Bharti, a division bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice V K Jain sought response from them on the issue by 15 May.

The PIL filed by social worker Meera Mishra stated that she came to know of the sexual harassment of employees of the FM channel through media reports. The PIL mentions this complaint, adding that the AIRBPA plans to file a similar complaint with the National Commission for Women (NCW).

The plea was filed by advocate Sugriv Dubey who said that though these employees have been working with the channel for more than 15 years, they are sexually harassed and their services sometimes terminated without assigning any reason.

The PIL mentioned, “Female workers working under the control of respondents (I&B Ministry, Prasar Bharti) are being regularly either harassed or terminated from employment and those workers do not have the capacity to approach the court. Their right is being evaded and no one is there to stop the sexual harassment of these employees.”

The petition demanded that ‘strong measures’ should be taken by the central government and Prasar Bharti to stop the sexual discrimination, exploitation and harassment taking place in the offices of AIR throughout the country.

It said ‘adequate measures’ to ensure the safety of the women employees on night shifts were not being taken by the department.

The PIL prayed the court to direct the centre and Prasar Bharti to formulate concrete policies and guidelines in respect of the service conditions and other protections as required to female workers by the department.

It also asked that Prasar Bharti should implement the Vishakha Guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court pertaining to sexual harassment at the workplace, and sought that the ministry set up a committee to investigate all allegations of sexual misconduct.

As reported by earlier, the All India Radio Broadcasting Professionals Association (AIRBPA) had filed a complaint with the Delhi Commission for Women stating that they were facing sexual harassment at AIR’s FM Gold. The complaint alleged unprofessional behaviour by the programme executives at the radio station, and specifically named FM Gold director general Leeladhar Mandloi for ‘attacking the self respect’ of the women presenters.

The AIRBPA has also stated that the staff on duty was sometimes intoxicated and misbehaved with the women employees, ‘but officials of AIR are not bothered about it’.

Inspite of repeated attempts, AIR officials remained unavailable for comment at the time of filling the report.


Narendra Modi, the man and the message

April 4, 2013, The Hindu


Democratic voices have so far allowed the Gujarat Chief Minister to get away with the invocation of his “development” mantra. India needs to know more about him

During a recent three-week stay in the United States, I was often asked to explain the Indian media’s current obsession with Narendra Modi. The only reasonably cogent answer to give was the convergence between the corporate ownership of the electronic media and Mr. Modi’s corporate bank-rollers. The Gujarat Chief Minister’s induction in the Bharatiya Janata Party central set-up has been celebrated as if he has already been invited by the Rashtrapati to form the next government at the Centre.

Like most Indian political leaders, Mr. Modi is a non-biodegradable entity. He will not disappear. Machinations by the BJP central leadership may delay his storming the party headquarters, but he is not going to be talked out of his national ambitions. It is only the voters who can knock the stuffing out of him and his outsized pretensions.

Mr. Modi promises to do things differently and better than what is being done in New Delhi or even in the other BJP ruled States. Not only is he contemptuous of the Manmohan Singh style of consensus approach to resolving contentious issues, he is also derisive of his own party and its leadership. He believes the BJP has become too flabby as an organisation and that most of its impresarios are compromised and tired.

That is between him and the BJP. It is another year before the country goes to the national polls, and 12 months is a long enough a time to smoke Mr. Modi out of the comfort zone of the so-called Gujarat model. Democratic India is now obliged to look beyond and beneath the veneer of the Gujarat model.

Leaders like Nitish Kumar may or may not be able to reconcile to the Narenda Modi-Amit Shah approach to the fundamental secular nature of our constitutional and political design. The vast majority of the decent majority will find it difficult to put aside the Gujarat Chief Minister’s unreconstructed stance to what happened to the minorities under his watch in 2002. What is more, Mr. Modi remains unapologetic and unrepentant, even as a gaggle of public relations experts has been deployed to put a gloss over the massacre and its narrative of cultivated intolerance. Just as Mr. Modi remains unbent, Decent India will remain unimpressed and unconvinced.

But the 2002 violence is only a small part of the Modi offer. Apart from a tough, designedly anti-Muslim line, the country would want to know what he stands for. So far the Gujarat Chief Minister has trafficked in the “development” slogan. He has half-heartedly sought to revive Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s shout of “Indian century”.

Heady proposition

The bottom line is that Mr. Modi is supposed to be endowed with such outstanding leadership qualities that he would transform India in the same decisive manner as Gujarat presumably stands transformed. A heady proposition, especially for the upper middle class consumers of the “national” media discourse.

Two key ingredients in this Gujarat leadership business need to be underlined. First, the Chief Minister has enthralled the Gujarat voters as the mascot of “Gujarati asmita.” In other words, a gentle stoking of Gujarati sub-nationalism. This foray into parochialism is a perfect fit for a parochial leader. But the rest of India is not entirely without its pride; and, it remains to be seen whether the Modi project has the capacity to plough the asmita message in the vastness of a plural and diverse India. It is a minor detail but a significant one: for all his alleged charismatic gifts, outside of Gujarat Mr. Modi has not been able to make any difference to the BJP’s electoral fortunes.

So far Mr. Modi has marketed himself as the uncompromising custodian of an uncompromising Gujarati pride, but now he is being advised to reposition himself as an “India First” salesman. Perhaps his media consultants mistakenly believe that the India of 2013 suffers from some kind of national identity crisis and that slogan would help position Mr. Modi as the new national shaman. Unless the country finds itself in a catastrophic situation before the next general election, it is difficult to appreciate what vulnerabilities and fears Mr. Modi can be made to be seen as addressing. No doubt, there is anger and anxiety which manifest spectacularly from time to time but India is also strangely at peace with itself; there is no sense of national fragility, no sense of national ignominy whereas the rest of our neighbourhood continues to flirt with anarchy and instability.

Personality cult

The second element of the Modi leadership is the unmistaken personality cult. Admittedly, all Chief Ministers get to dominate their State governments. Strong personalities like Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu, Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, Navin Patnaik in Orissa or, earlier, Ms Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh define the tone and tenor of the State government and its working habits and practices.

Authoritarianism in different shades and colours can be felt in all State capitals. But Mr. Modi is the first Chief Minister to make a virtue out of it. Now that Mr. Modi and his cheer-leaders have decided to field him in the national arena, questions would need to be asked about his commitment to democratic values. The Chief Minister has given sufficient indications that his model of leadership means absence of institutional restraints and accountability. The new edition of the Lok Ayukta passed in Gujarat is only a curtain-raiser. A “strong” leader will not countenance any checks on his powers.

Politically, he has already made his friends and rivals irrelevant in Gujarat. What is amusing is that the BJP’s assorted spokespersons, who otherwise very articulately and passionately demand accountability, transparency and answers from all and sundry, find themselves having to rationalise the Gujarat Chief Minister’s authoritarian proclivities and record. The other day, Uma Bharti, the newly anointed general-secretary in the BJP, allowed herself to recall on a Hindi television channel that even Subhash Chandra Bose had said that after Independence India could do with a spot of dictatorship. These are early days but the Modi group-think is already performing its tricks.

Self-styled autocrat

A party that has for the last three decades — from the time of the Emergency in 1975 — taken pride in its opposition to anti-democratic manifestations and claims is now saddled with a self-styled petty autocrat. Mr. Modi has cultivated for himself an image of a leader who does not believe in routine civilities. Nor is he averse to taking offence or giving offence. Very much like Nana Patekar, the comic criminal in the movie, Welcome, telling a frightened Anil Kapoor that his men could “shed blood, as well as spill blood.”

And, lastly, Mr. Modi’s leadership model simply means an unalloyed corporate raj. The “economic miracle” that Mr. Modi has performed in Gujarat is predicated on the working assumption that it is the primary duty of the administration to make it possible for the corporate houses to make profit, whatever the social dislocation or cost. And much to the delight of all his corporate admirers, he has done an admirable job of silencing all dissent.

The message is clear: he will encounter no trade unionism, no adivasis’ protest, no civil society voice. The vast majority of the Indian electorate will want to know which elements of the social welfare architecture, put in place by the UPA regime, he would dismantle.

Let us make no mistake. The much-touted Modi leadership is a maximalist proposition, uncompromising in the pursuit of what he believes is to be done in order to achieve India’s destiny. The middle classes, which have suffered because of the recent economic down-turn, are prepared to lend a particularly attentive ear to this meretricious blunt straight-forwardness. It is the task of democratic, progressive, liberal and secular voices across the political spectrum to make Mr. Modi spell out the essentials of his leadership offer in all its un-pretty details.

(Harish Khare is a senior journalist, a former media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and currently a Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow)


4 April 2013: International Day to Defend Amina; she represents us #Vaw #Womenrights

by Maryam Namazie


Today is our day to defend our Amina. The 19 year old Tunisian FEMEN activist whose only “crime” was to post a topless photo of herself saying: “my body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honour” and “fuck your morals”.

Whilst she has done nothing wrong, she has been effectively detained incommunicado by her family with the help of the police, and the latest reports say she has been drugged and beaten.

Amina says though that she has no regrets.

Our beloved Amina, this is for you…

Actions taken and statements made today in support of Amina will be posted here on a regular basis. You can also post any acts in the comments section below or on FEMEN’s Facebook page.

  • There are actions today in Berlin, Bonn, Bremen, Brussels, Frankfurt, Gothenburg, Kiev, London, Malmo, Milan, Montreal, Paris, Rio De Janeiro, San Francisco, Stockholm, Vancouver, Warsaw and more to mark 4 April, the International Day to Defend Amina. (See time and place here.) Many actions have already taken place in the run-up to this day. You can see some of them here or here.
  • 107,000 people have signed the petition in support of Amina; let’s make it 150,000 today!
  • Jaya Gopal, International Coordinator, wrote the “International Committee to Protect Freethinkers stands in support of the Tunisian Amina for her courage and act of protest against the oppressive misogynistic ethos and archaic laws across the globe. We condemn the Islamic cleric Adel Almi for his Fatwa calling for flogging and stoning Amina to death. The cleric deserves immediate prosecution.”
    • Elisabeth van der Steenhoven, Director of WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform (the largest network in Netherlands on women’rights internationally) sent  a message saying they support Amina.
    • Algerian sociologist Merieme Helie Lucas is at a conference in New Delhi today speaking on women using nudity against the Muslim Right as a new form of resistance by women and youth. She will stress the need for solidarity with Amina.
    • Swapna, Convener, writes “Let the world understand that Woman is a Human who has her own body and mind and that she should be respected and loved. The Tunisian Amina is right in posting a topless photo of herself bearing the slogan: ” MY BODY BELONGS TO ME AND IS NOT THE SOURCE OF ANYONE’S HONOR”. Her message is a human protest against a misogynistic inhuman social system. The Islamist cleric Adel Almi’s call for flogging and stoning Amina to death reflects such a system and ethos. Our Scientific Students Federation (SSF) unequivocally stands in defense of Amina.
    • Ligue du Droit International des Femmes, Association créée par Simone de Beauvoir, Regards de Femmes and Femmes Solidaires, Maison des Ensembles submitted this protestCOMMUNIQUE to the Tunisian embassy today in support of Amina; Anne Marie Lizin, honorary president of Belgian senate submitted the same letter to the Tunisian embassy in Belgium.
    • Zari Asli and Lily M prepared this postcard for distribution at rallies and future events.POstcard_FRONT  POstcard_back_other_places.
    • Yesterday, Tunisian Merieme and FEMEN burnt an Islamic flag in front of a mosque in Paris to symbolise women’s fight against Islamism:



Six encounter cases in Manipur not genuine: Panel to SC

New Delhi, April 4, 2013, Agencies


A Supreme Court-appointed committee probing six cases of alleged extra-judicial killings in Manipur informed the court on Thursday that these were not genuine encounters and the victims, including a 12-year-old boy, did not have any criminal records.

A bench comprising Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai perused the committee’s report which said none of the six cases qualify as encounters and they are fake.

The committee, comprising of former Supreme Court judge Santosh Hegde, ex-CEC J.M. Lyngdoh and a senior police officer, has said in its report that the probe showed that none of the victims had any criminal records.

The bench said the report makes it clear that the guidelines on encounters laid down by the apex court in the Naga People’s Movement case was not followed.

Appropriate directions will be passed on the basis of the panel’s report on April 9, it said.

The Supreme Court on January 4, had decided to appoint the committee to hold an inquiry into the alleged fake encounter killings in Manipur.

The panel was set up to probe six cases of alleged extra- judicial killings in the Northeast State where a magisterial inquiry had raised questions on genuineness of the encounters.

The apex court had appointed the panel on a PIL filed by an association of the families of the alleged victims, seeking setting up of a special investigation team and direct inquiry into around 1,528 such cases.

The association had alleged in its plea that over 2,000 odd extra-judicial killings have taken place in the State, but no one has been held guilty till date.

It had alleged that innocent people with no criminal records have been killed by security forces and no proper investigation has been done in such cases.

The apex court while deciding to form the panel had said, “Magisterial inquiry does not inspire confidence as it is not satisfactory and none, including the Army personnel, appeared before it.”

It had, however, turned down the plea for SIT probe and also refused to go into the legality of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act which grants special powers to the security personnel in disturbed areas.

On July 4, 2012, the apex court had agreed to hear a similar plea for probe into alleged extra-judicial killings by BSF in the border area of West Bengal.

In that case, petitioner Bangla Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha, a Kolkata-based NGO, had alleged that there are more than 200 cases where BSF personnel indulged in extra-judicial killings and torture in the border area and those cases were never probed by the state police.

The NGO had alleged that instead of registering FIRs against the BSF personnel, these were registered against the deceased and the cases were closed on that basis.

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