#India- A warning to Prime Minister of India , think twice before jumping the gun


Mr PM, think twice before jumping the gun

Pushing in more troops to fight Maoists will only aid the onset of a full-scale insurgency
Prem Shankar Jha

15-06-2013, Issue 24 Volume 10

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Back to square one Demands for retribution after the Darbha hills massacre could prove to be counter-productive Back to square one Demands for retribution after the Darbha hills massacre could prove to be counter-productive

In September 2001, the US reacted to al Qaeda’s attack with an explosion of rage and declaration of a War on Terror that has so far cost more than a million lives and turned the CIA into what author and The New York Times columnist Mark Mazetti calls a “killing machine”. Has the US gained anything from this bloodletting? Has it destroyed al Qaeda? Has it made its allies in West Asia feel more secure? Has it won the hearts and minds of the people it set out to ‘liberate’? One has only to ask these questions to know the answers.

The Congress party has reacted to the  attack on 25 May that claimed the lives of its leaders in the Darbha hills of Bastar with a similar burst of rage and demands for retribution. The  government has promised to bring the culprits to justice and sent in 600 additional paramilitary personnel. Accusing the  of not being interested in talks or following the democratic process, MoS for Home Affairs RPN Singh has said there is an urgent need to review the policy on dealing with the . Echoing what former home minister P Chidambaram had said in 2009, he affirmed that there would be no talks with the  until they gave up violence.

The Centre has inducted the air force into the battle by making it agree to provide helicopters for search, rescue and surveillance missions against the Maoists. It has thus broken the cardinal rule of the armed forces — not to intervene in insurrectionary wars within the country.

All the signs are therefore pointing to another campaign against the Maoists. Will this meet with any more success than Operation Green Hunt, launched in 2009? Or will it leave behind a trail of bitterness that will further swell support for the Maoists in Chhattisgarh and elsewhere on the ‘Red Corridor’?

The answer, here too, is self-evident. In the past five years, the number of districts “seriously affected” by left-wing insurgency has increased to 56 and those seriously or moderately affected, to 83. These make up almost one-sixth of India. In the worst affected areas such as Dantewada and Bastar, as Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh conceded, the writ of the State has virtually ceased to run, and there has been no development for the past 20 years.

New Delhi and Raipur have placed the blame for the 25 May slaughter on a monumental intelligence failure and launched not one but two inquiries into this ‘lapse’. But this is no isolated incident. The failure was equally complete when the Maoists wiped out almost an entire company of CRPF personnel in Dantewada in 2009. It was highlighted, less tragically, a year later when the government discovered a road that the Maoists had built in the forest to spirit away hijacked trucks, entirely by accident.

Although it began decades earlier, the alienation of the  gathered momentum only after the pace of economic growth increased the hunger for land. When Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were carved out from Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh began to shower mining concessions on corporates like confetti. Neither he, nor anyone at the Centre, spared a thought for the , who would lose their traditional rights of usage in forest lands, their livelihood from selling forest produce and the herbal remedies on which they relied for their health.

What completed their alienation was the creation of the , an armed militia of tribal louts recruited mostly by Mahendra Karma in 2005, but quickly endorsed by the state government. Its main purpose was to drive the villagers off their land in the name of ‘development’. This was a rare example of Congress-BJP collaboration that somehow escaped Sonia Gandhi’s notice.

By 2011, the Salwa Judum had driven people out of at least 644 villages, killed almost a thousand tribals and displaced at least 1.5 lakh more. Of those it has killed, Maoist leaders in Chhattisgarh told Shubhranshu Choudhary, author of Let’s Call Him Vasu, no more than 200 were members of their Sangham. Human rights organisations brought 537 of these killings to the notice of the Chhattisgarh government, but so far the state has ordered only eight magisterial inquiries, of which only one has begun.

In 2011, when the Supreme Court banned the Salwa Judum in one of the harshest indictments of a state government on record, Raman Singh inducted 3,000 of its cadres into the police as Special Police Officers (SPOs) on a salary of Rs 1,500 a month. Since then these SPOs have been responsible for some of the worst massacres in the state. To the Adivasis, this is the democracy that the politicians are extolling. No wonder, they consider the Maoists their defenders and the State their oppressor.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh must prevent another mindless resort to violence, for it will only accelerate the onset of a full-scale insurgency. The war that will ensue will be unwinnable for, unlike the US, which has won battles but is losing the War on Terror, New Delhi has been losing both the battles and the war against the Maoists. Green Hunt was a failure because the Maoists emerged from it not only ideologically but also militarily stronger. In 2011 and ’12, the scales have tilted further in favour of the Maoists because, according to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, while the security forces have killed 80 Maoists, they have lost 126 of their own people.

As for the battle for the people’s minds, it is already, irretrievably, lost. According to ‘Vasu’, Choudhary’s eponymous contact in the Maoist leadership, “Though we called the movement People’s War, it was the Salwa Judum that made it a real people’s war. The Salwa Judum left no room for fence-sitters.”

Before going further down the road to repression, the PM would do well to re-examine the assumptions upon which it has been based. The first is that the insurgency is being fed by acute poverty. The second is that this can only be alleviated by ‘development’ — roads, schools, hospitals and power supply. The third is that the tribals are the authors of their own misery because they are not interested in development. The fourth and most important is that the Maoists are against democracy and oppose development. Therefore, they have to be eliminated for good sense to prevail among the Adivasis once more.

Choudhary’s book, written after months of living with the Maoists and chronicling their lives, thoughts and aspirations, shows the superficiality and hollowness of these assumptions. Poverty does not feed the insurgency any more than it fed the French revolution. What feeds the insurgency is injustice. The government claims to have been elected by them, yet takes decisions that take away their rights, break the slender thread that binds them to nature and its bounty, and make their lives more precarious. Denied any voice in decision-making, when they protest, they have to face atrocities by the police or the Salwa Judum. Maoists spoke of these events as casually as townspeople talk about corruption. But the anger that burned in them accounted for the high proportion of women in the armed cadres. It also helps us understand why Karma was stabbed 78 times in addition to being shot.

It is true that the Adivasis are not interested in New Delhi’s concept of economic development, because this is the root cause of their misery. But it is most certainly not true that they do not want any development and wish to be left as noble savages. Choudhary describes the pains the Maoists take to procure medicines, attract doctors, create village schools, bring out ‘comrade’ teachers to teach in them, and enable the tribals to get better prices for their produce.

As for their goals and willingness to seek them peacefully, Rajanna, the Maoists’ chief armourer, has the following things to say: “The party has addressed, and to an extent alleviated, excessive poverty in Dandakaranya. People have access to the forest and the land now. A single Mahua tree yields an income of Rs 5,000 a year; people are not starving anymore. The fight should transform itself into a demand for tribal autonomy. We should demand that all Dandakaranya be able to decide its fate without interference from outsiders. Schedule Five of the Constitution gives these rights in theory, but we should work towards making them a reality.”

When people cite the Indian Constitution, it means that given the right circumstances, they are not averse to living within it. Rajanna is not a moderate or an aberration. So his reflections need to be treated seriously.

letters@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 24, Dated 15 June 2013)

 

#India – Grassroots Democracy Gasps as Guns do the Talking


Over 70 local government representatives have quit their posts in Malkangiri, a district long under the Maoist shadow. G Vishnu visits remote villages in Odisha to gauge the despair
G Vishnu

G Vishnu , Tehelka

15-06-2013, Issue 24 Volume 10

Anguished Debe Madhi resigned as the Kalimela block chairperson, protesting government apathyAnguished Debe Madhi resigned as the Kalimela block chairperson, protesting government apathy.
Photo: 

There are no roads here. There is no pond in the village. No wells. No drinking water. What does the government want us to do?” laments Era Madkamy, 37, a small-time farmer who grows paddy, groundnuts and vegetables for a living. His wife Mamata Kobasi, 25, has recently resigned from her post as an elected village head. Kobasi is not alone. In the past two months, frustration over the State’s apathy towards the tribal dominated region has made 72 local body representatives quit their posts in a remote corner of , one of the poorest of the 28 states in India. Though the district collector refused to accept the resignations, the despair runs so deep that no one is willing to relent.

 district, 600 km to the south-west of the state capital Bhubaneswar, has always been in the news for the wrong reasons. This is one of the 60 districts in central and eastern India that the government considers to be ‘most affected’ by the .

Malkangiri hit the headlines in February 2011 when the Maoists abducted the then district collector Vineel Krishna. One of the rebels’ demands was the construction of a canal that would ensure drinking water to people across a large part of the district. Nearly two-and-a-half years following the release of Krishna — who currently works in the Union Ministry of Rural Development — there is no sign of the canal yet.

While pressure from the Maoists may have left little choice for the local body representatives but to follow their diktat, many of them say they are so fed up with the State’s apathy towards the tribals that they decided to quit.

The resignation of local body members at all levels — from wards (a part of a village) to blocks (a bunch of villages) — means more than just stagnancy in the local administration. It almost suggests a rejection of everything that the government has to offer.

People in every village that TEHELKA visited in the district seemed to share this sense of alienation.

Among those who have resigned are the chairperson and 21 village heads of Kalimela block. In Koyimetla, one of the villages in this block, it is a hot Sunday morning and the village head Kobasi tends to her kids while her husband Madkamy has breakfast. With no irrigation facilities, it is a tough task for the household to sustain their crops. Even collecting drinking water is a big problem.

This village was once connected by the main road that passes through Kalimela block. It was a pucca road once, but that is difficult to believe by the look of what remains of it. In fact, pucca roads cannot be seen in most parts of the district.

“What’s the point of being a village head when there is little you can do to improve the lot of the villagers?” asks Madkamy. Village head Kobasi and the other villagers too share the same view. But lest you thought it is a village that has been influenced by Maoists, the villagers are quick to clarify that it is not. No one claimed to support the Maoists in any way.

Indeed, it is difficult to reduce the villagers’ views on the Maoists to a binary of ‘support’ and ‘opposition’. So, at the same time as they insist they have nothing to do with the Maoists, some of them say they agree with a few of the rebels’ demands.

“The Maoists were right when they demanded the canal during the Vineel Krishna kidnapping episode… The government does not seem to understand our appeals,” says a villager on the condition of anonymity. Many villages do not seem to have been particularly shaken by the killing of an SPO by the Maoists in a nearby village just a day earlier, or by the killing of Bhagwan Kirsani, the elected head of Kurmannur village, in the same area a month earlier. However, in hushed voices, many villagers admit that Maoist pressure has worked in several villages. But not theirs, they point out immediately.

In another remote village, Undrukonda, where there is absolutely no support for Maoists, the frustration reaches another decibel. Most residents are Koya tribals, and they suffer from the usual problems of lack of drinking water, electricity and roads, besides little access to education and healthcare.

“Every time we have a medical emergency, it takes nearly four-five hours for the ambulance to reach us. There have been a number of miscarriages because of this,” says 24-year-old Wagi Kartami, the elected village head, who has studied up to Class XII. “How can we develop this village? There is no Primary Health Centre here, no high school, and no roads too.”

Twenty-eight-year-old Debe Madhi, who resigned as head of Kalimela block and is a supporter of the Congress party, articulates the problems of the villagers more vividly. “The nearest hospital is more than 25-30 km away from my village, Murbanpally,” she says. “It’s worse for the people in villages like Manyamkonda, Chintalvada, Bejangiwada and Bodigetta, which are in the hills.”

Madhi also points out that social welfare schemes like the MGNREGS — an ambitious Central government scheme that guarantees 100 days of wage employment to every household in rural India — have not been implemented effectively in the entire region. “Unless the government expedites implementation of the welfare programmes that we have demanded, we will stay away from office,” she says. “Though our resignation has not been accepted, we will not relent.”

Ambivalence in the attitude towards the Maoists is a common feature in several villages that TEHELKA visited. Most residents also shared similar views on the failure of the political parties to deliver good governance.

Many villagers point out that the PDS system in Malkangiri has been of little use to the locals. “The Adivasis here do not consume the rice provided through the PDS as they prefer other locally grown cereals. Also, most of them don’t use sugar and use firewood instead of kerosene,” says a volunteer in one of the biggest NGOs operating in the district. “No political party is keen to pursue the issues that matter, as it is not in their interest.” Among such crucial issues, the volunteer adds, is the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) — a key legislation that recognises the Adivasis’ rights to forestland.

“Just two months ago, there was not even a status-quo report on the FRA. Now, perhaps with the 2014 Assembly polls in mind, the officials have suddenly woken up and are handing out pattas (land deeds) to Adivasis,” says an activist. “But there is no effort to recognise community claims over forestland, which would give Adivasi villages complete control over the nearby forests. Nobody wants that.”

This idea of community rights is fuelling the rebellion elsewhere in Malkangiri too. Nilapari village in Kudumulu Gumma block is inhabited by the Didai tribe (classified as a ‘Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group’). The elected head, Naka Mamudi, recently managed to stop the paramilitary Border Security Force (BSF) from setting up a camp in the village. He did this by citing the rules for tribal areas under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, which gives the village council the right to decide how community resources are to be used. He had learnt from the experience of villages like Chitapari-3 of the neighbouring Korukonda block, where the BSF has occupied the panchayat building.

While calls for further militarisation of Maoist-affected regions have become louder following the shocking Naxal attack on a Congress convoy in Chhattisgarh on 25 May, Malkangiri is a case study in why that alone may not end the problem. Unless it comes with a simultaneous campaign to strengthen institutions of local governance, so that local body representatives feel safe and are empowered to address the grievances of villagers.

Else we might end up with more Malkangiri-like situations. Already in neighbouring Koraput district, local body representatives in Narayanpatna block are readying to resign en masse to protest the arrest of over 500 innocent Adivasis.

vishnu@tehelka.com

 

Jharkhand:Police officials accused of rape,murder of minor girls arrested #Vaw


 

Ushinor Majumdar,Tehelka

June 7, 2013

 

 

Amidst a clamour for police reforms while the nation focuses on rapes of minors in metro cities, two police officers have been accused of raping minors in two separate incidents in district of .

In one incident, which took place in Deoghar town on 25 May, two teenage daughters of a policeman were kidnapped, raped and murdered when they were on their way to a friend’s house. The bodies were found a day later. Police officer Sudhir Das, who was accused in the case, was arrested last week.

A police official told Tehelka that the post mortem report confirmed rape but the FIR did not contain a charge of rape but was later amended after public protests were held in Deoghar demanding a proper investigation while the victims’ father, also a policeman, said that the crime was committed by more than one person. Reportedly, he also fears the collusion of other policemen in destroying evidence. The FIR mentions destruction of evidence as a charge.

“The post mortem report revealed that the victim’s hymen was ruptured but did not confirm rape. Though no rape charge was made in the original chargesheet, we have now amended it adding rape under section 376 (b) of the Indian Penal Code after a direction from the inspector general of police,” Deputy Inspector General (DIG), Santhal Parganas, Dadanji Sharma told TEHELKA.

Sharma said that the public outrage and the resultant protests were understandable but the police were probing every conceivable angle. “The accused did not give up any information or tell us about any other persons he acted with or their whereabouts and we have arrested him on the basis of circumstantial evidence. We have started DNA profiling and are using other forensic tools in our investigations,” he added. The accused was remanded to police custody but after interrogation failed to adduce a statement or any fresh evidence, he has been remanded to judicial custody.

This incident has drawn the attention of political parties as well. CPM politburo member Brinda Karat protested along with Deogarh locals for several days. Former Jharkhand chief minister and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) chief Babulal Marandi has announced an indefinite fast from 9 June claiming police inaction.

In the other incident, which was reported a few days earlier, the victim knew the accused. Radhe Shyam Das, the Station House Officer (SHO) of Jarmundi police station in neighbouring Dumka district, surrendered after an FIR was lodged against him. In the FIR, he was accused of raping his minor domestic help.

A local said that the victim was about the age of four when she started working as a domestic help in the accused Das’ house. Das has allegedly been sexually abusing the minor victim since his wife passed away last year.

After the victim filed a complaint, Das went absconding and surrendered on 4 June after he was suspended from service and the Jharkhand Director General of Police (DGP) ordered swift action to apprehend him.
DIG Sharma said that in such cases the matters come to light only when the victim finds courage to complain since it happens in the confines of homes. “The accused police officer was suspended and he went absconding but later surrendered in court,” he added.

As per the National Crime Records Bureau report of 2011, 85 crimes against children were reported from Jharkhand. Of these, the rate of accused being chargesheeted was 97.3% in rape cases and 70.8% in cases of kidnapping. Of a total 784 rape cases reported from Jharkhand across all age groups, seven of the victims were in the age bracket of 10-14 years, same as that of the victims in these cases.

 

 

Memorandum to Chief Justice of Bombay High Court – Complaint of rape against Dr Rustom Soonawalla #Rape #Vaw


6th June 2013

To

The Chief Justice,

High Court,

Bombay

Reference: Concerns of women’s groups regarding the manner in which the complaint against Dr. Rustom Sonawala is dealt with. (Anticipatory Bail Application No. 578 of 2013)

Sir,

We, the members of women’s groups, organisations and individuals are concerned about developments in the complaint of rape filed against Dr. Rustom Sonawala at Khar Police Station on 17.05.2013.

We have been fighting for the rights of victims in cases of sexual assault in Mumbai and various parts of the country for many decades. In view of the increasing number of cases of sexual assault and brutal rapes, laws regarding rape and sexual assault have been recently amended to bring in stringent punishments. After the Justice Verma Committee report and the recent happenings in the country, we felt that the Courts too were taking the issue of violence against women more seriously and sensitively.

 

Background: A 26 year old woman, who was taking treatment from Dr. Rustom Sonawala since August 2012, filed a complaint of rape against him on the evening of 17th May, 2013. The filing of the first information report as well as the medical examination of the complainant was concluded by 7 am of the 18th of May.

After the complainant and her husband returned home on the same day, 18th May, the police called them to Dadar to identify the doctor, as they had located his whereabouts in Parsi colony.  On locating and identifying the accused doctor, the two police personnel accompanied him in his car, asking the complainant to take a taxi. While the complainant as well as the police personnel reached the Khar police station, the accused Doctor managed to abscond while he was being accompanied by the police.

During protests that were being held against the doctor opposite his clinic, one of the neighbours informed some of the protestors, that the same doctor had also molested their daughter in the past.

This has raises several questions:

1.       Why did the police go to arrest the doctor in a taxi for which the complainant was made to pay and not in a police van?

2.       Why has no action been taken against the concerned police personnel and why have they not been suspended?

3.       Given the complicity of the entire machinery with the accused, how do we ensure a fair trial?

4.       How do we ensure that even the forensic and medical reports are not tampered with?

Further, the accused who had not been arrested and was absconding even after 10 days of the crime, on 29th May, 2013, moved the High Court seeking anticipatory bail, even as his application for anticipatory bail was pending before the Sessions Court at Greater Bombay, Mumbai. In the anticipatory bail application, the accused said through his lawyer that his blood and semen sample may be collected and he be given protection from arrest till the anticipatory bail application is finally decided in the Sessions Court. The victim’s advocate argued that the accused was absconding and in his absence no reliefs should be granted to him.
On 29th May, 2013 the Hon’ble Court passed an order directing the accused to deposit his passport and appear before the Khar Police Station. The Assistant Public Prosecutor was asked whether the court should pass an order of not arresting the accused or she would give an undertaking. The Assistant Public Prosecutor said that she would give an undertaking of not arresting the accused till his anticipatory bail was decided by the Hon’ble Sessions Court. The court asked by when they would do the medical examination and the Assistant Public Prosecutor said that there is no provision in law by which this medical examination can be done prior to arrest.  After her refusal to agree to do the medical test the court said it will hear the matter after vacation, that is, on 11th June, 2013 and till then the accused is protected, as the Assistant Public Prosecutor has given an undertaking regarding the same.

Sec. 54  of the Code of Criminal Procedure allows medical examination of the accused at the instance of the accused, if the examination of his body will afford evidence which will disprove commission by him of any offence or which will establish the commission by any other person of any offence against his body.

But the section is very clear that it is after arrest and that the accused will have to make an application to the Magistrate.

We fear that the Order of the Hon’ble High Court sets a wrong and dangerous precedent in terms of rape matters for many reasons.

The Accused was not present before the court and yet he was granted relief, which is never done, especially in rape matters. The medical evidence of semen, blood, injuries cannot be the sole basis of deciding whether rape was committed.  At present the law defines rape by penetration, [that is, penetration is enough to prove rape,]; nowhere does it say that it has to be coupled with the presence of DNA.

The FIR states that there was penetration; the presence of DNA and other factors is corroborative evidence.

If this order becomes final it not only  means that the rape accused can approach the courts to seek this kind of protection, but it will also mean that cases will be closed on the basis of DNA reports. And given the circumstances related above, one cannot be sure that these reports cannot not doctored or tampered with. DNA test can be evaluated during trial.

This also takes us to the conclusion that if traces of semen are not found, there is no rape. This goes counter to the recent Criminal Amendment Act, 2013.

The current situation also gives the accused the freedom to tamper with the evidence and witnesses considering the fact he was able to connive with police and abscond right in their presence.

The Hon’ble Court before giving relief to the Doctor ought to have considered the fact that the Doctor is a fugitive from Justice.

In fact he has obstructed the legal system by conniving with police personnel. It is obvious that in some way he was able to exercise undue influence on the police and thereby he could go absconding right in presence of the policemen.

The Hon’ble Court instead of granting him relief should have instructed him to first submit himself before the investigating team and also should have directed that a complaint be registered against the Doctor as well as the police for subverting the process by using undue influence.

It is indeed a question before all us citizens and women specifically, whether Justice is the prerogative of rich people only.

It is a worrying thought that this sort of judgment will act as a precedent in future cases. This goes counter to the present ethos after the 16th December 2012 rape case and its aftermath.
We hope you will relook at the judgment and do the needful.

Yours sincerely

Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai

Aawaaz-E-Niswan

Akshara

SAKHYA (women’s guidance cell)

Women Research and Action Group (WRAG)

SNEHA

VACHA

CORO (for literacy)

YUVA

Samajwadi Mahila Sabha

Stree Mukti Sanghatana

Anagha Sarpotdar

Kamayani Bali Mahabal

Address: 29, Bhatia Bhuvan, Babrekar Marg, Off Gokhale Road, Dadar (West), Bombay – 400 028

Email: faowindia@yahoo.co.in

cc- Home Minister R R Patil

 

Press Release- Women groups demand apology from Advocate General West Bengal #Sexist


PRESS RELEASE FROM MAITREE

Date: 07th June 2013, Kolkata

We are writing to you on behalf of Maitree, a women’s rights network of 60 organisations and individual activists based in West Bengal. We strongly condemn the comments made by the Advocate General of West Bengal on 4th June 2013 at the Calcutta High Court regarding the State Election Commission.

The Advocate General’s comment: “The State Election Commission is behaving like a beautiful lady asking for this and that. It is making arbitrary and whimsical desires. Some unreasonable” is sexist and stereotypes women. Instead of legal arguments, the Advocate General distracts from the important political issues and tries to diminish the concerns raised by the Election Commission by resorting to trivial and unparliamentary language to attack his opponent. By doing so, the Advocate General joins a long list of public figures in the country who have made denigrating comments about women which go against the grains of equality and justice.

The comment should be examined within the larger context of increasing violation of women’s rights in recent times. If the AG of a state can make such a denigrating comment about women, it sends a wrong signal to the public at large threatening the very safety and security of women. This is most unfortunate since one looks to the higher judiciary to uphold values stated in the Constitution.  Thus his comment is far from being humorous as claimed by him and reinforces deep-seated gender bias. We condemn this as an affront to the dignity of a woman.

We demand public apology from him immediately.

Karnataka: 63 percent prisoners in state are under-trials


By Newzfirst Bureau 6/5/13

 Delhi/Bangalore – More than 60 percent of the prisoners in various jails across Karnataka state are under-trials. This information was Wednesday given by the State’s chief minister Siddaramaiah in the Chief Ministers’ Conference regarding Internal Security held at New Delhi.

Out of 13,572 prisoners in the State, 4 % are women prisoners, about less than half of them being women convicts and the rest are under-trials. About 63 % of the prison population constitutes under-trials and 34 % are convicts, Siddaramaiah said in his speech.

Mentioning that prisons are integral part of the Criminal Justice System and function as custodians of prisoners he said that his Government is making all efforts to treat the prisoners in a humane manner and towards the reformation, correction and rehabilitation of prisoners.

Saying that Karnataka Government has recognized the importance of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC), he stressed that some safeguards are necessary before setting up NCTC so that they are not given unbridled powers to encroach upon the States’ domain.

Talking about the Left Wing Extremism he said that the State has witnessed Naxal activities in the four western districts  of Chickmagalur, Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, and Kodagu .

He also said that a total of 30 naxalities have been listed and named and a search is being organised to trace them.

The Anti-Naxal Force has been in hot pursuit and has been successful in busting several Naxal camps. It has successfully carried out encounters against prominent Naxals and destroyed several Naxal Camps, he said.

The State Government have been very pro-active in increasing developmental activities and by harnessing the youths in these areas to divert them away from Left wing extremism’s ideology and activities, he said.

 

#India – Crucial lessons from decades of campaigns by women’s groups on Rape Law #Vaw #Sexualharassment


From Mathura to Bhanwari

RAPE

EPW- Vol – XLVIII No. 23, June 08, 2013 | Laxmi Murthy

The recent law on sexual harassment at the workplace rides on the back of decades of campaigns by women’s groups, starting with the rape law in the famous “Mathura case” to the guidelines on sexual harassment arising from the fight by Bhanwari Devi to punish the men who gangraped her for opposing child marriage. Unfortunately, lawmakers have failed to heed some of the crucial lessons that can be drawn from these struggles.

Laxmi Murthy (laxmim@himalmag.com) is consulting editor, Himal Southasian, Kathmandu, and director, Hri Institute for Southasian Research and Exchange.

Mathura, the 16-year-old adivasi girl whose gang-rape in police custody in Chandrapur, Maharashtra, triggered a nation-wide campaign against rape and demands for reform in criminal law, would be 56 years old this year. Bhanwari Devi, whose gang-rape by upper-caste men in Bhateri village of Rajasthan caused immense outrage and provided the impetus for a significant ruling against sexual harassment at the workplace, is also 56 years old.

Both these icons of the women’s movement might not have benefited directly from the campaigns to reform the law dealing with rape. Mathura had faded into obscurity, having got married and was getting on with her life, completely unaware that one of the pillars of Indian democracy – the Supreme Court of India – was being challenged on her behalf. In 1980, she was in her 20s when journalists from the national media descended on her village to interview the young woman whose case had been the driving force behind changes in the rape law. Not much was heard about her after that.

Yet, the “Mathura case”1 has gone down in the annals of feminist history as a watershed in challenging patriarchal notions of the judiciary. Though she had been raped in 1972, the case came into the public domain in 1979 when, for the first time ever, there was a questioning of the judgment of the apex court which overturned the Bombay High Court conviction of the policemen, on grounds that the complainant was “habituated to sex”. Moreover, the acquittal took into consideration the fact that Mathura had not “raised any alarm for help” and the “absence of any injuries or signs of struggle” on her body. Thus began a significant debate about “consent” and “submission”, and the notion that while consent involves submission, the converse is not necessarily true.

Pointing out inadequacies not only in the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, but in the judicial proceedings, four professors of law condemned the attitude of the judges in the Mathura case and questioned the “extraordinary decision sacrificing human rights in the Indian law and the Constitution”. The letter emphasised the social context, “the young victim’s low socio-economic status, lack of knowledge of legal rights and lack of access to legal services, and the fear complex which haunts the poor and the exploited in Indian police stations”. The letter raised fundamental questions: “Must illiterate, labouring, politically mute Mathuras of India be condemned to their pre-constitutional Indian fate?…Nothing short of protection of human rights and constitutionalism is at stake”.2

Placing the crime of rape firmly in the context of power relationships and gender inequality led to major reform in the law relating to rape in 1983, when the concept of “custodial” rape was introduced and the “burden of proof” in these cases was shifted on to the accused, provision for in camera trials was introduced and the law prohibited the disclosure of the identity of the victim, and punishments were made more stringent.

No Real Change

Yet, about 10 years after these amendments, the situation had not changed significantly. In 1992, Bhanwari Devi, asathin (village level worker) in the Women’s Development Programme in Rajasthan, was gang-raped by five upper-caste men for having the temerity to stop them from conducting child marriages. As a women’s rights activist, Bhanwari was aware of the procedural requirements to report a rape, and battled indifferent medical personnel in Jaipur, 55 km away, and biased policemen at every step. It was only 52 hours after the rape that the mandatory medical examination was conducted. The law took its own sluggish course. A charge sheet was filed a year later, and in 1995, a sessions court acquitted the men on the ground that “upper-caste men could not have raped a dalit woman”. The judiciary also could not believe that an uncle and nephew could rape the same woman. The impunity of the family and caste system remained intact.

By 2007, two of the accused had died while the appeal languished in the high court. Like Mathura, Bhanwari’s life goes on. However, she has been transformed into an icon for struggling women all over the country, receiving accolades and recognition as a symbol of resistance. While the rape case has not been won, Bhanwari’s spirit of resistance is a winner through all the tribulations of dealing with the gargantuan legal machinery that has come to represent that elusive concept called “justice”. At public meetings earlier this year in Mangalore and Bangalore to mark International Women’s Day, Bhanwari’s dynamism mesmerised the audience, igniting hope that women need not be victims alone. “Only justice can fill my belly, not awards,” she declared, forefronting what for the women’s movement has been one of the most difficult struggles – to reconcile societal notions of justice and reparation with individual trauma.

While the rape case drags on, Bhanwari’s experience provided the impetus for a radical change in jurisprudence in the law on sexual harassment. This new approach which firmly embedded the concept of sexual harassment in the framework of constitutional guarantees of rights rather than notions of propriety, modesty or honour, emerged from the judicial recognition of the precarious position of women workers, especially those in rural settings. In response to a writ petition filed by women’s groups, the highest court in the land issued the Vishaka Guidelines on Sexual Harassment at the Workplace in 1997. The Supreme Court held,

sexual harassment at the workplace is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution which guarantees the Right to Equality as well as Article 19 which guarantees the Right to Practise any Profession, trade or business. Since the right to work depends on the availability of a safe working environment, and the Right to Life (Article 21) means a life with dignity, the hazards posed by sexual harassment need to be removed for these rights to have any meaning.

Indeed, it is ironic that one of the most radical conceptions of ensuring the right of women workers to a safe working environment emerged out of the experience of a worker in the insecure work arrangement within the Women’s Development Programme of Rajasthan – one that the government has categorically denied is employment at all. This is particularly paradoxical, given that this programme was an outcome of the mobilisation of the late 1970s following the publication in 1975 of “Towards Equality, Report of the Committee on the Status of Women in India (CSWI)”3authored by stalwarts in women’s studies like Phulrenu Guha, Lotika Sarkar and Vina Majumdar. Following on from this realisation, the Sixth Five-Year Plan (1980-85),4 which for the first time included a chapter on Women and Development stated,

A low rate of literacy and low economic status stress the need for greater attention to the economic advancement of women. Improvement in the socio-economic status of women would depend on a large extent on the social change in the value system, attitudes and social structure prevailing in the country.

It was to redress the situation that benefits of development in post-Independence India had not reached the vast majority of women in rural areas that the Mahila Vikas Abhikaran, or the Women’s Development Project (WDP) of Rajasthan was set up in 1984. According to the Policy Document of the Project,5

Most government schemes in which the involvement of the family in the process of development is essential, have grievously suffered due to women’s isolation. This is true not only of programmes of child welfare – in which women’s involvement is well-accepted – but also those of dairy development, social forestry, IRDP, agricultural production, etc. Indeed women’s development is one of the most critical challenges for Rajasthan.

Catalyst for Change

The WDP undoubtedly acted as a catalyst for change in rural Rajasthan, and its close association with the women’s movement in the early days contributed to a radical understanding of women’s empowerment, an understanding that began to have a life of its own. The village women’s meetings (jajams) evolved as unique forums to raise women’s issues, and women began breaking out of the shackles of traditional bondage and raised hitherto taboo subjects. They began to take part in the jati (caste) panchayat, protested against domestic and other forms of violence, demanded property and other rights, etc. The information that was shared about government schemes related to health, education, public distribution, wages and measurements in famine works, minimum wages, land records, property and other legal rights became a tool to challenge social and gender inequities. Women began to be aware of their rights and soon began to spot prevalent corrupt practices and together with the Sathins raised their voices against exploitation.

Initially they had the support of WDP, but with time, women’s power that had been unleashed at the grass roots began to upset prevailing hierarchies. This then led the state to start exercising its authority and control women’s assertions. There was growing discontent and the contradictions that were built into the programme from the very beginning began to effect cleavages that had no internal remedy. As the sathin became increasingly aware of the exploitative nature of her employment and the blatant inequalities in the salary structure within the hierarchy of WDP, the ironies of the situation surfaced.6

With the stated aim of empowering rural women through “communication of information, education and training and to enable them to recognise and improve their social and economic status”, the sathins’ job was to act as a bridge between the government and the masses, essentially, implementing and making any number of government schemes palatable. They worked, and continue to work, in precarious conditions, for a monthly pittance of Rs 1,600, which was raised from Rs 200 in the 1990s, after dogged campaigning by the Mahila Vikas Abhikaran Sathin Karamchari Sangh (the WDP Sathin Union). The poor wages and job insecurity were compounded by the challenges of the work itself.

The task of “consciousness raising” or preventing “social evils” like dowry, sex selection and child marriage can be extremely hazardous, especially at the village level with deeply entrenched feudal, caste and patriarchal structures. Bhanwari was raped while attempting to overturn exactly these sorts of practices, in her own community. It takes immense courage to enter the homes of neighbours, relatives and friends, and demand that they go against prevailing customs and stop child marriage or refuse to take dowry. Needless to say, there is no job security, no benefits, no welfare measures or even basic infrastructure like transport, and no support at all from their employers – the government – while doing this risky work. The unsafe working conditions of the majority of women workers in the unorganised sector is a larger and more complex question, but the legislation that emerged from Bhanwari Devi’s struggle for a safe working environment is one step towards ensuring the rights of women workers.

Sexual Harassment Law

The Sexual Harassment at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, which was signed into law on 22 April, is a significant civil remedy that recognises women’s right to a safe work environment free of sexual harassment. The onus is on the employer, who is responsible for ensuring such an environment and is to be held liable in case of any violations. While the public sector and private sector are covered, the law also includes other work places, including the sphere of paid domestic work. Additionally, the broad definition of “employee” encompasses a range of work situations including the informal/unorganised sector:

employee means a person employed at a workplace for any work on regular, temporary, ad hoc or daily wage basis either directly or through an agent, including a contractor, with, or without the knowledge of the principal employer, whether for remuneration or not, or working on a voluntary basis or otherwise, whether the terms of employment are express or implied and includes a co-worker, a contract worker, probationer, trainee, apprentice or called by any other such name.

The challenge, of course, is in the implementation. Quite apart from the debatable legality of conferring powers of a civil court on “Internal Complaints Committees”, the proper functioning of these bodies in the organised sector and “Local Complaints Committees” depends largely on their composition. The requirement of women members as well as members “familiar with issues related to sexual harassment” is crucial for a sensitive handling of cases, since sexual harassment at the workplace must be viewed within the framework of unequal power relations within the workplace, where women at lower rungs are more vulnerable.

Indeed, the major flaw of the new law is the provision to penalise women for making “false and malicious complaints”. It is this provision, Section 14, which succeeds in pulling the rug from under the feet of any woman who plucks up the courage to complain about sexual harassment. The Indian Penal Code (Section 211) already contains a provision to protect citizens from false complaints. Therefore, the inclusion of a specific clause such as this in a law primarily meant to ensure women’s rights must be viewed with disquiet. Despite years of complaints and submissions by women’s groups demanding that this provision be dropped, the new law includes it and thereby undercuts itself.

As the Report of the Justice Verma Committee7 observes,

We think that such a provision is a completely abusive provision and is intended to nullify the objective of the law. We think that these ‘red-rag’ provisions ought not to be permitted to be introduced and they show very little thought.

Despite such a strong recommendation, the Act contains this misogynist provision which can only serve to further victimise women. Over-compensating for “misuse”, even before the law can be used, is merely writing the script for its own nemesis.

Notes

Tuka Ram and Anr vs State of Maharashtra on 15 September 1978: 1979 AIR 185, 1979 SCR (1) 810.

2 Baxi U, Lotika Sarkar, Raghunath Kelkar and Vasudha Dhagamwar, “An Open Letter to the Chief Justice of India”, SCC Journal, Vol 4, p 17, 1979.

3 Ministry of Education and Social Welfare, 1975.

4 Planning Commission, Government of India 1981.

5 Policy Document, Women’s Development Project, Rajasthan, Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Government of Rajasthan, May 1984.

6 A Sawhny and Kiran Dubey, “Justice, the State and Sathins’ Struggle”, EPW, 36(16), 21 April 2001.

7 Report of the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law, chaired by Justice J S Verma, with Justice Leila Seth and Gopal Subramaniam as members. The report was submitted on 23 January 2013.

 

 

Uphold #FOE, Condemn Fabricated cases against Film and Media persons in Kerala


ViBGYOR Film Collective condemns the fabricated charges leveled against five reputed Cultural, film and media persons of Kerala. Kerala police has charged cases against K.P Sasi, the renowned Film maker and activist, I Shanmukhadas, a well known Film Critic, Prasannakumar T N, a film activist, Shafeek, a young Journalist and Deepak, a Filmmaker and Film Society activist for ‘rioting’, ‘unlawful assembly’ and ‘public obstruction’ (IPC Sections 143, 147, 149 and 283 ) for participating in a peaceful protest which occurred on February 11, 2013 at Thrissur, Kerala. These citizens along with a few dozens of writers, Film makers and activists were protesting against the very concept of capital punishment and the surreptitious manner in which Afzal Guru was accorded Death Penalty.

Inline image 1The Crimes that the Kerala police are ascribing to these distinguished personalities of kerala are totally false and trumped-up.

The entire protest had happened during ViBGYOR Film Festival, 2013.  The peaceful protest with speeches and recitals of renowned cultural personalities is organized near the entrance gate of the festival venue and lasted not more than an hour. It did in no way amounted to an unlawful assembly, public obstruction or did cause a communal riot that day or later. ViBGYOR Film collective shares the firm opinion that death penalty is a fundamental violation of the right to life as recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. We assert the right of citizens to dissent and express their opposition towards capital punishment in a peaceful manner.

ViBGYOR Film Collective and ViBGYOR Film Festival, during its eight years of existence and functioning, have always stood for the Rights that are enshrined in the Constitution of India, and have always come out openly to defend it. We, as the citizens of this democratic nation, believe that such attempt to silence democratic protests and stifle freedom of expression in any manner is a violation of our basic rights enshrined in our constitution and we demand that the false charges against these five Cultural film and media personalities of contemporary Kerala should be withdrawn immediately.

We also urge our friends and democratic forums and organizations to voice their protest in unequivocal terms against such undemocratic ways of fabricating false cases against the citizens who have all rights to exercise lawful means of protests in public space.

In solidarity,

ViBGYOR Film Collective

http://vibgyorfilm.org

 

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