Mumbai – Ruthless Demolition reveals the falsity of the Housing for All slogan of this Government.  Kiske Acche Din?


 

 

Press Note – Ruthless Demolition in Malvani, Malad reveals the falsity of the Housing for All slogan of this Government.  Kiske Acche Din?

6 June 2015

On 4 June 2015 a demolition of more than 350 households was carried out in Malad. This settlement known as ‘Katcha Rasta’ is adjacent to the New Collector’s Compound in Malvani. On 6 June (today) there was another spate of demolitions in the area. This demolition was carried out in-spite of assurances given by the Forest Dept, Police and local MLA that no further demolition would take place until the monsoon ends.

For the last two days families have been living in the open with no place to go, it even rained in Malvani last night worsening the situation. Mumbai is expecting monsoon in a weeks time which means that around 500 families will be on road in this monsoon. Tonight at-least 150 more families will be without shelter. Children and women have been the worst affected. Around 500 children will not be able to attend school which starts next week. This demolition violates their fundamental Right To Education (RTE).

A notice regarding proposed eviction had been sent to only 50 families on 17 May 2015. The notice stated that these homes had been constructed on mangrove land under the ownership of the Forest Department and hence would be evicted. However, nearly 450 homes not on mangroves, who had not received a notice of eviction were also demolished. This mass eviction of the poor from their homes is in absolute contravention of the Maharashtra Slum Areas Act (1971) as it is imperative that an advance notice of at least 24 hours is given  (Sec. 3(z)i-2) prior to eviction.

On the 4th June 2015, 5 women from the area who attempted to save their homes were arrested by the police, one of who had a three month old child and had to remain in custody overnight till bail application was processed. Today another three people were taken in police custody, two of who are activists (Architect Aravind Unni and Sachin Nachnekar) of Hamara Shehar Mumbai Campaign which has been advocating for affordable housing in the Development Plan of the city. They were detained merely for trying to negotiate with the police who had gone back on their assurances of not demolishing any homes till after the monsoons.

Hamara Shehar Mumbai condemns these evictions and the gross violation of human rights. Such events reinforce the need for affordable public housing to be reserved in the DP.

Attached are pictures from the demolition drive.

Noorjahaan Shiakh    Mahattam Mourya     Sitaram Shelar       Marina  Joseph

for Hamara Shehar, Mumbai

Ambedkar – Periyar Study Circle Ban in IIT Madras – The Real Story


We, Ambedkar – Periyar Study Circle (APSC), an independent student body of IIT Madras (IITM) has been derecognized by the Dean of Students (DoS), on 22-05-2015 stating that we have misused the privileges given by IITM. It was later informed that the move is based on a letter from MHRD undersigned by the Under Secretary to the government of India.

Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle

Ambedkar – Periyar Study Circle was created as an independent student body on 14th April 2014, by a group of students from IITM to promote Ambedkar – Periyar thoughts and to initiate debates on socio-economic-political and cultural impacts which affects common mass within academic fraternity. The student of IITM has a dictum of using APSC as a platform for the above mentioned issues. As IITM has a long history of being a platform for right wing groups alone to propagate their own ideology and train young minds for their intellectual wings through Vivekananda Study Circle, RSS Shakha, Hare Rama Hare Krishna, Vande matram, Dhurva etc…

With this motto, in the past one year, we organized Hall meets, Movie Screening and pamphlet distribution among students and ignited debates on issues like: Agriculture under threat – Coal bed Methane project, GM Crops – Impact on Agriculture, Factory disputes act 1947 (Amendment) and creating devastating effect on the labour conditions, Language Politics in India: past and present based on Sanskrit week celebrations, MHRD’s overt attempt to have separate vegetarian mess halls in IITs and IIMs and IITM administration’s move replacing the name board of faculties and laboratories with Sanskritized Hindi. We celebrated birthdays of Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar and organized talks on ‘Understanding Bhagat Singh’ and ‘Contemporary relevance of Dr. Ambedkar’. (For more information check our facebook page –Ambedkar periyar study circle IITmadras)

Though the platform created a space for the students of IITM to discuss and debate on issues directly affecting the peasants, labours and the common mass, APSC continuously faced threats from rightwing groups inside IITM. Even the administration tried to curtail the activities of APSC. In June 2014, the Dean of Students (DoS) Dr.M.S.Sivakumar directed us to change the name stating that the names ‘Ambedkar and Periyar’ are politically motivated and thus the study circle should be renamed with some apolitical titles without any personality’s name. APSC took a firm decision to stick with the same title. We also pointed out that activities of right wing groups under the banner of Vivekananda Study Circle. But the Dean of Students said that they have been using the name (Vivekananda) for many years and he refused to the change of name of “Vivekananda study circle”. For a second time in September 2014, he sent a mail for the same reason, through MITR (the general counseling unit for students run by IITM admin) rather than from Dean’s office stating that the name is polarising students. We clearly explained to the Dean, the motto of the study circle and relevance of Ambedkar and Periyar’s name.

Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle

In this scenario, APSC celebrated Ambedkar’s birth anniversary and its first anniversary in April 2015 by organizing a talk on “contemporary relevance of Dr. Ambedkar”. Pamphlets were issued, on the basis of how communalism and corporatism are being the two sides of a single coin which is tossed by the present government against the common masses. The pamphlet contents were referred from leading magazines, newspapers and writings of Ambedkar (the copy of posters and phamphlets are attached)

After this event, the above mentioned mail from Dean came on 22nd may 2015. (The copy of mail from dean is attached), it particularly states that “because of the misuse of the privileges” given to your study circle (Ambedkar-Periyar study circle) as an independent student body, your student body is de-recognized by the institute. However it does not contain any details regarding the privileges misused by the APSC.

Based on the email, when we met Dean Students he gave a letter from MHRD with a subject matter ” Distribution of contorversial posters and phamplets in the campus and creating hatred atmosphere among the students by one of the student group namely Ambedkar Periyar” and forwarded a copy of the complaint sent by the RSS students in IIT. The anonymous complaint letter – as mentioned by the Under Secretary himself states that “APSC is trying to de-align the ST, SC students and trying to make them to protest against MHRD and Central government and trying to create hatred against honorable prime minister and Hindus”. Based on this complaint and MHRD letter, the Dean of students charge APSC that it misuses the privileges given by them and derecogonise APSC. (For the reference the MHRD letter and complaint letter are attached with the mail)

Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle

We resent the fact that the Dean has de-recognized our study circle unilaterally without giving us a fair hearing and an opportunity to represent ourselves. In our face to face interaction with the Dean of Students, we have been told that our study circle engages in “controversial activities” and violated the code of conduct of independent student bodies. We are clear that we have not misuse any privileges given by the institute. So far our activities are engaging healthy discussions on socio-economic issues on scientific basis to promote scientific temper among students which is allowed by the Indian constitution. We have not been given a satisfactory definition of what entails “controversial”. Further, we were asked to give assurances that we shall desist from such activities in the future before the Dean (Students) can allow us to restart our activities. We have also been asked to route all our activities through the Dean’s office rather than the usual practice of routing all our discussions, plan of activities and pamphlets through our faculty adviser. This excessive scrutiny is unprecedented and does not apply to any other students’ organization. Vis-à-vis this move of DoS clearly shows, only opinions put forth by the right wing group will get the consent to see the light of the day, while the voices and opinion of democratic students like us will be curtailed hereafter.

Our discussions, meetings and pamphlets are meant to kick start a discussion within the campus among the academic fraternity. The issues that we discuss are very important and define the way we live our lives. IITM is a public funded higher education institute, whose vision and mission should abide for the upliftment of the common masses, who are the taxpayers. Instead, the move from DoS, IITM says there is no space for such opinions and discussions.

We strongly believe that what we stated in our pamphlets and content of our discussion is correct as per the Constitution. Therefore, action against the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle by the DoS, IITM is undemocratic and unilateral against the interest of common masses for whom the Institute itself is indebted; hence we are not accepting this decision taken by the Institute.

Voltaire told “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” We need a democratic space in academic fraternity to debate on matters that affect the common masses which feed us

Mail which we sent to Dean and Director of IITM to explain our stand on recent issue

Sir,

We the students of Ambedkar-Periyar Study circle are writing you regarding our stand on the recent email that we received from the Dean of Students, de-recognized our students’ organization.

The mail from Dean of Students dated on 22/05/2015 says “because of the misuse of the privileges” given to your study circle (Ambedkar-Periyar study circle) as an independent student body, your student body is de-recognized by the institute. However it does not contain any details regarding the privileges misused by the APSC.

Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle

We resent the fact that the Dean has de-recognized our study circle unilaterally without giving us a fair hearing and an opportunity to represent ourselves. In our face to face interaction with the Dean of Students, we have been told that our study circle engages in “controversial activities” and violated the code of conduct of independent student bodies. We are clear on the stand that we have not misuse any privileges given by the institute. So far our activities are engaged with the healthy discussion on socio-economic issues on scientific basis to promote the scientific temper among the student which is allowed by the Indian constitution. We have not been given a satisfactory definition of what entails “controversial”. Further, we were asked to give assurances that we shall desist from such activities in the future before the Dean (Students) can allow us to restart our activities. We have also been asked to route all our activities through the Dean’s office rather than the usual practice of routing all our discussions, plan of activities and pamphlets through our faculty adviser. This excessive scrutiny is unprecedented and does not apply to any other students’ organization. Vis-à-vis this move of DoS clearly shows, only opinions put forth by the right wing group will get the consent to see the light of the day, while the voices and opinion of the democratic students like us will be curtailed hereafter. Since DoS chaired this position, two times he warned us to change the name “Ambedkar-Periyar” stating that it is polarizing the student. This shows the aversion of DoS towards the the name “Ambedkar-Periyar.”

The Dean’s office has provided us with a copy of a letter from the MHRD dated 21/05/2015with the ref no. F. No. 5-3/2014-TS-I. The letter stated that the MHRD has received serious complaints regarding the activities of our study circle through anonymous letter. A copy of one such letter was provided. We wish to respond to the allegations in the complainant’s letter.

Ambedkar - Periyar Study Circle

1. It has been alleged that we have spread hatred against the Modi government and a copy of our pamphlet on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti was enclosed. We do not see any merit in such a statement. We stand by our opinions. Yes, we were very critical of the government. However, we do not understand how dissent and criticism of the government’s policy is akin to “spreading hatred”. If any person professing an anti-establishment view is accused of engaging in “controversial” activities and all dissent is stifled, wouldn’t that be a violation of our constitutionally guaranteed rights to freely express ourselves? We feel that a vibrant and proactive civil society is an integral part of a healthy democracy. IITM itself have had many meetings that discussed the policies and legislation’s of the current and previous elected governments. Among them the reservation policy is the one which has not been still implemented in IITM campus. Here we want to raise a rational question on IITM’s stand on the reservation policy which is still an alive Government policy even in Modi Government since Independence. When OBC reservation was announced by then Govt., whether anti-reservation student group of IITM simply sat without commending because that its ‘government’s policy’ or it fought against it on the streets of Chennai with its tooth and nail to stop that move? What was the action taken by IITM towards those who fought on streets against the Govt. Policy on Reservation? Rather, the IITM took part in negotiating a raise of 24% to safeguard the vested interested of those anti-reservation body functioning in IITM?

2. We have been accused of spreading hatred between SC-ST and the Hindus and vitiating the atmosphere of the institute. We are surprised and slightly amused. Are SC, ST not part of the so called ‘Hindus’? How MHRD and IITM is perceiving such a venomous anonymous mail with full of hatred towards the SC, ST and Ambedkar? Are we the one who polarise the students or they are the one who think IITM is their own base to propagate against the interest of SC, ST, OBC who are the majority in our Society? Rather our organization is engaged in propagating Ambedkar and Periyar thoughts, in helping depressed castes and the caste Hindus to realize the evilness of caste based discrimination taking place in modern India and expose the ideology functioning behind such discrimination. When we talk about the hierarchical caste structure existing in Indian Society, inevitably we end up in talking about the present pathetic condition of peasants and labours. There are a number of sociological studies that will bear us out when we say that caste based discrimination is still very strong in our society, that caste based associations can leave some with privileges that add up throughout their lives while those that are excluded face powerful social barriers to their attempts to improve their social and economic status. We have only been discussing these issues with an aim to make a common platform for all students inspite of their caste and creed so as to dismantle the evilness of caste barriers. However, even in 2015, our activities are seen to be too radical by the religious right. If the religious right has the right to be offended, then don’t the oppressed Dalits and Bahujans who still face powerful prejudices have a right to be offended with the state of affairs? Our pamphlets do not have any material that would surprise a sociological or political scientist. Yet, the institute has taken these complaints seriously and has chosen to derecognise our organisation. Any higher education institute should be a platform where critical thinking and dissent ought to be encouraged. Where brave new thoughts are nurtured. However, the “dangerous” ideas that we have been accused of spreading are at least a few decades old, if not a few centuries.

3. The complainant has taken exception to one of our meetings which dealt with an MHRD circular regarding vegetarian and non-vegetarian mess halls. We do not understand how anybody’s sentiments could have been hurt when the entire discussion was about the right of every individual to decide what they can eat. This meeting could be seen as trivial when compared to the meetings on much larger issues. However, the complaint against this meeting indicates how unsparing the dominant establishment has become when it comes to stifling dissent. If such a trivial freedom such as being able to eat meat in the mess halls is seen as dangerous, then the continued existence of our study group becomes all the more important.

4. Another issue that the complainant has taken exception to is a meeting that discussed language politics and the primacy given to Sanskrit and Hindi in the disbursement of central funds. We had a Linguist from HSS, IITM and a linguistic scholar from Pondicherry University who led the discussion. As rationalists, we feel that though Sanskrit has a valued place as part of culture and history of certain sections of our society, it is also an instrument of spreading a Brahminical, dominant narrative. Imposition of Sanskrit in school has less to do with teaching a language and more to do with the ideology behind teaching the language. We stand by our opinions and wish to assert our rights to profess our opinions freely.

5. Finally, we have been accused of getting funds from the outside organization. This allegation is completely baseless and absurd. So far for all the programs the financial support had been taken from the study circle members’ own pockets and collected in paisas from IITM students at their doorsteps which was witnessed even by those who wrote the above said ‘anonymous pettition’. Why we had to collect in paisas from the students to conduct our events through a platform like APSC is because IITM rejected many of our moves to bring personalities like Prof. Chaman Lal through EML. Since its birth, EML is been the monopoly of religious right wing to propagate their metaphysical idealist ideology and is a platform for corporate think tanks in the scientific and academic fraternity. When the taxpayers money is been spend for propogating anti-people, anti-rational agenda, pro –people, rational groups like APSC have to collect money from the students to conduct its events. We are maintaining proper account for all our expenditures.

Our discussions, meetings and pamphlets are meant to kick start a discussion within the campus among the academic fraternity. The issues that we discuss are very important and define the way we live our lives. IITM is a public funded higher education institute, whose vision and mission should abide for the upliftment of the common mass, who are the taxpayers. Rather, the move from DoS, IITM says there is no space for such opinions and discussions. We would also like to know what exactly constitutes the “misuse of privileges” and how the specific issues raised in the complainant’s letter could be deemed controversial? The right of function of any independent student body is not the ‘privilege’ given by the authority, rather it’s the democratic right of student themselves.

We strongly believe that what we stated in our pamphlets and content of our discussion is correct and as per the Constitution. Therefore, action against the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle by the DoS, IITM is undemocratic and unilateral against the interest of common mass for whom the Institute itself is indebted; hence we are not accepting this decision taken by the Institute.

Dean of students mail to us

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: “Dean Students” <dost@iitm.ac.in>
Date: 22 May 2015 16:07
Subject: Your study circle is now de-recognized because of violation of code of conduct

This is to inform you that because of the misuse of the privileges given to your study circle (Ambedkar-Periyar study circle) as an independent student body, your student body is de-recognized by the institute.
You are welcome to come and explain your stand and actions.

Thanks,

anbudan,
Siva

SIVAKUMAR M. SRINIVASAN

“on a mission to nurture the students of today to be change leaders of tomorrow”

PROFESSOR             |   DEAN (STUDENTS)  |  Coordinator
Dept. of App. Mech.   |   044 2257 8050            |  Structures Panel, AR&DB
(91) 044 2257 4061   |   9444008050                |   9445284085
mssiva@iitm.ac.in      |   dost@iitm.ac.in

http://www.vinavu.com/2015/05/30/comprehensive-report-from-apsc-iit-madras/

Press Release- Movement for Land Rights rejects anti farmer land ordinance


 

PRESS RELEASE

 

Bhumi Adhikar Andolan (Movement for Land Rights) rejects anti-farmer Land Ordinance

WHY IS GOVERNMENT IN A HURRY?

5 June 2015, New Delhi : A  joint statement released by various groups fighting for equitable land rights in the country under the banner of Bhumi Adhikar Andolan, has summarily rejected the questionable amendments that have been introduced to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement 2013 (Second Amendment Bill, 2015) by extra-constitutional means.

In a Press Conference called by the movement, representatives of farmers, forest workers and civil rights organisations raised the issue of ‘hurry’ with which the NDA government is trying to amend a very hard-earned law of the country. The same attitude of the government can be seen in the time it has given to the Joint Parliamentary Committee for taking in suggestions from the people. Bhumi Adhikar Andolan had asked the JPC to increase the deadline for receiving submissions which is 8 June 2015 but JPC has rejected the demand. The JPC doesn’t even have enough time to hold wider public consultations and hearings to receive real inputs from people of the country. A law that took 66 years after independence to come out of its colonial framework is today going back to its exploitative form in just months. In another undemocratic move, the NDA cabinet again recommended the Land Amendment Bill to the Parliament without even waiting for the inputs of the JPC.

NAPM, as a part of Bhumi Adhikar Andolan strongly condemns this deplorable attitude of the government with which it is dealing with such an important act and is threatening the livelihood of a majority of Indian citizens. Today, economists and media are harping on the fact that share of agriculture in GDP is very low. But how can that be possible when 60% of India’s labour is occupied in agriculture and when each and every industry is dependent on agriculture as its source of raw material? Such false notions must be countered by a comprehensive research on the status of agriculture in India and cannot be used just as an excuse to take away land from small and marginal farmers for the benefit of real estate lobby and industrialists.

The Press Conference was addressed by Bhupinder Singh Rawat (NAPM), Hannan Mollah (All India Kisan Sabha, Canning Lane), Roma (All India Union of Forest Working People), Jarjum Ete (All India Union of Forest Working People) and Satyavan (All India Krishak Khet Mazdoor Sangathan).

 

Bhupinder Singh Rawat | Shabnam Shaikh | Rishit Neogi | Madhuresh | Rajendra Ravi | Kanika | for NAPM.

 

9643349452 | 9560986354

Shabnam | Rishit

 

Meet the Indian women hunted as witches #Vaw


In remote parts of India, women branded witches are still being abused, tortured and murdered.

Baba Tamim | 05 Jun 2015 09:36 GMT | Human RightsAsiaIndia

Bahura Bai says: “I keep praying and asking my goddess ‘what is my crime?'” [Baba Tamim]

For 40-year-old Bahura Bai it began as these things often do in the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh. First, a village girl she had affectionately caressed in the marketplace fell sick. Then, a year later, her brother-in-law developed an ailment.

That was all it took for some local shamans and village leaders to brand Bai a witch. The threats and abuse from her family and community began instantly.

“It got worse in November last year, when my brother-in-law and other relatives attempted to choke me,” she explains from inside her mud and brick home. “They want to kill me. They believe I’m a sorcerer. In prayers, I ask my goddess every morning, ‘am I really?”’

“If my sister-in-law had her way she would love to burn me alive. My nephew wants to cut me into small pieces. Only my husband supports me,” she continues, before urging me to leave in case my presence angers the villagers and inspires reprisals.

“The village heads don’t want the police or media meddling. They say it’s an internal affair of the village,” she explains.

Drooping branches and bags of rice 

Recently, family members of a 55-year-old woman beat her to death in the Bemetara district of Chhattisgarh for practicing ‘black magic’. Activists say she was pulled by her hair, dragged naked through the streets and had chili powder sprinkled onto her face and genitals until she died.

Thousands of women across India have been abused, tortured and even executed after being accused of being a witch. But Chhattisgarh – where a decades-old conflict between Maoist rebels and the state has uprooted tribal societies riddled with misogynistic violence and superstition – is particularly deadly.

If my sister-in-law had her way she would love to burn me alive. My nephew wants to cut me into small pieces. Only my husband supports me

Bahura Bai

Between 2001 and 2013, there were 1,500 witch trials here and 210 associated murders.

But this is a crime that extends beyond this troubled place.

The Indian government’s latest figures suggest that, between 2000 and 2012, some 2,100 people, mostly women, were killed across the country after being accused of practicing witchcraft. But rights groups suggest the number could be higher as many of the victims’ families refuse to lodge an official complaint and some deaths simply go unreported.

Those cases often get addressed at village level, within illegal village courts that refuse to involve the police because doing so might undermine their authority.

In remote parts of the country, these courts and village heads are often left alone to ignore the state’s Witchcraft Atrocities (Prevention) Act 2005, which criminalises the persecution of women over allegations of witchcraft.

In Chhattisgarh’s neighbouring state, Jharkhand, officials say at least 414 people were murdered between 2001 and 2013 after being accused of being witches or sorcerers. Other India states have reported similar cases.

A family member’s illness, crop failure or a dry well are all common reasons for accusing a woman of witchcraft. These allegations might be made by relatives, neigbours, village leaders or local shamans, and childless, unmarried or widowed women are particularly vulnerable to them.

Once a rumour has spread, local men armed with sticks and axes will often hunt down the woman and lynch her.

It has even been known for people to employ a shaman to identify a witch responsible for the deaths of their cattle. The shaman, who supposedly uses white magic, will carve the names of local women of a certain age onto the branches of a Sal tree. The branch that droops is believed to bear the name of the witch.

Another method sees a shaman wrap up grains of rice in small bags, each with the name of a different woman written on it. The bags are then placed in a nest of white ants. The bag from which most rice is eaten is declared to be the one identifying the witch.

The death business

“Interestingly, only women are blamed for witchery,” says Sita Devi, who heads a small coalition of women who have been accused of witchcraft in Mandir Hasaud.

“This discrimination starts at birth. For example, when a baby boy is born the villagers celebrate by bursting three crackers. And when a girl is born only two crackers are fired,” she explains.

“There is a lot of caste consciousness and illiteracy in these villages and an ojha [a witch doctor or shaman] takes benefit of it by targeting these underprivileged women. Getting a woman killed has become a business for the fake god men and witch doctors.”

Male villagers are reluctant to talk to outsiders about it, but one tells me: “Women can turn into witches to avenge someone who has done them bad in the past.”

“I have seen a woman turning to a witch and flying faster than a car. Even a powerful man will shiver before such an ugly woman. The ojhas are our last resort as the educated people don’t listen to us.”

“They [the witches] eat human flesh and drink human blood. That’s what our elders have seen,” he explains.

In 1995, when ophthalmologist Dr Dinesh Mishra saw a woman beaten to death and her body dragged through the streets by an angry mob, he decided to fight this oppression.

The social activist explains: “Local belief … is that a woman can curse someone by making them sick or making them lose financially by destroying their crops. They are even held responsible for a natural calamity. This thinking creates hatred against the women and hence this crime.”

He believes that a lack of medical knowledge leads people to place their trust in the self-styled shamans who trick them in order to make money.

“The problem is widespread all over Chhattisgarh,” he says. “I am aware of more than 1,200 cases of witch hunting and I believe the numbers are just 10 percent [of the real total] as most of … the women are afraid to launch reports or complaints or they are sure that their voices will never be heard.”

“I also show magic tricks, which the witch doctors use to get the attention of the gullible villagers. I do all this to raise awareness and to tell villagers that witch doctors are tricking you. But their ancestral belief is so strong and any change in attitude will take time to happen.”

Here some women branded as witches share their stories:

_____________________________________________________________________________________
Teerath Sahu – ‘The truth inside me keeps me alive. But I shiver whenever I see those men roaming the village’

Lachkera village, Chhattisgarh

Teerath Sahu was paraded naked through her village and beaten until she fainted after a witch doctor accused her and two other women of being witches [Baba Tamim]

Fifty-eight-year-old Teerath Sahu remembers clearly what happened to her and two other women from her village 14 years ago. She speaks timidly about it at first, but soon begins to open up.

“That day someone knocked on my door. When I came out to see what was happening, my world changed completely.”

She starts to cry as she recounts what happened next.

Teerath was asked to attend a gathering of villagers. Unbeknown to her, the villagers were consulting a witch doctor, who had identified her and two other women, Bisahin Bai and Shyama Bai, as witches.

“He had been drinking and smoking weed all along and the villagers believed his argument over our sobs and pleads,” she says. “Before we could understand what was going on or plead our cases, the villagers pounced on us.”

The three were beaten with bamboo sticks and iron rods, paraded naked around the village, tonsured and forced to drink urine. All of their jewellery was taken from them.

They were even forced to hold an electrical cable so that the villages could, they said, see “witches defying an electrical current and not getting electrocuted”.

The other women of the village were ordered to remain inside their homes while all of this took place.

The beatings continued until all three women fainted.

“In the evening, they finally left us to die outside a Goddess Durga temple,” Teerath remembers. “Our families mustered courage and brought us back to our homes. But, by then, we had lost everything, especially our honour.”

Their story became headline news and a case was lodged against 20 of those involved. But two have since died and others are out on bail.

“We still shiver when we see those men roaming the village,” she says.

Teerath says she and the other two victims never got justice, but their story did force the state to adopt an act banning witch hunts.

“The truth inside me is what keeps me living. And if the government and the world know the truth, why have the culprits been roaming free for the last 10 years or so?”
______________________________________________________________________________________

Bahura Bai – ‘I feel untouchable in my own family’

Sivani village, Chhattisgarh

Bahura Bai says he sister-in-law threatens to burn her alive, but the head of her village says it is a matter that must be resolved without outside interference [Baba Tamim]

It was August 2013, when 40-year-old Bahura Bai gently touched the head of a young girl in a local market.

“I never knew she would faint upon reaching home and that her family would blame me for casting dark spirits on the child,” she says.

The girl’s mother declared Bahura a witch.

“Whenever I took a bath in a village pond I felt dejected. All the women would leave the pond upon seeing me.”

But Bahura’s plight worsened when her brother-in-law fell sick. Family members blamed her, and she was attacked and choked.

“I feel untouchable in my own family and unworthy of living this outcaste life,” she explains. “No one eats anything from my hand. My sister-in-law always threatens to burn me alive. My nephew says he will cut me into pieces. I keep praying and asking my goddess ‘what is my crime?'”

Bahura says she never tried to lodge a formal complaint.

“I wanted to,” she says. “But the village head suggested that it’s a family and a village matter and should be resolved within the village.”

______________________________________________________________________________________
Gajra Bai – ‘I was mentally tortured and my image was tarnished’

Acholi Urla village, Chhattisgarh

Gajra Bai sought police help when her neighbours accused her of practicing witchcraft [Baba Tamim]

Forty-seven-year-old Gajra Bai remembers the night she was woken by cries from a neighbour’s home. She went to see what was happening.

“I went to Virsa Bai’s home to find her daughter lying on a bed,” she recalls. “She had fallen sick and the medical help wasn’t available.”

The next day, villagers came to Gajra’s house and accused her of witchcraft.

“They abused me in front of neighbours and called me a witch and blamed me for performing witchcraft on the girl. I kept pleading my innocence but it fell on deaf ears; they were not ready to listen.”

Fortunately for Gajra, her family supported her. She decided to seek help from the police.

“I was mentally tortured and my image was getting tarnished so I had to take action,” she says. “Thank God my family was supportive.”

“In July 2010, police detained several villagers and charged them under the Witchcraft Prevention Act.”

But, as in so many of these cases, they were later released on bail.

Jaam Bai – ‘Here a woman has only to listen and not to act’

Sivani village, Chhattisgarh

Jaam Bai was beaten and threatened by villagers after a neighbour’s son died [Baba Tamim]

Jaam Bai’s ordeal began 10 years ago, when the son of a neighbour fell sick.

“The five-year-old boy was introduced to an ojha [witch doctor] who suggested that a woman in the neighbourhood had cast evil magic on him,” she explains.

“Since I live next door, the family blamed me.”

The witch doctor couldn’t cure the boy so he was taken to a doctor, where it was established that he was in the last stages of jaundice. He died before his family could take him to the nearest city for treatment.

The news of his death spread through the village and Jaam went to offer her condolences to his family. But, she says, they “hurled abuse at me and branded me a witch who needed to be eliminated from the village”.

Sensing danger, she left her neighbour’s home.

When other villagers again assembled at the deceased boy’s home, Jaam believed it was an opportunity to try to repair relations. She went again to pay her respects.

“But the moment I stepped inside their house, they locked the door and started beating me up,” she says.

“They kept calling me a witch. They tore my clothes until my husband came and saved me.”

Afraid that they would kill her, Jaam wanted to seek police help. But her husband refused to let her, saying that it would “bring more shame to the family”.

So the threats and intimidation continued.

Then some rights activists working in the region heard her story and sought government action on Jaam’s behalf. The police detained the men who had beaten and threatened her.

“It was thanks to my friends,” she says. “It wouldn’t have been possible without them considering the conservative village I come from. Here a woman has only to listen and not to act on her own.”

______________________________________________________________________________________
Kuwariya Bai – ‘How can I forget what they did to me?’

Chota Bhavani Nagar, Chhattisgarh

Kuwariya Bai was branded a witch after neighbours heard her swearing about her son [Baba Tamim]

Thirty-nine-year-old Kuwariya Bai’s nightmare began three years ago, when her neighbours heard her swearing about her son over a family matter.

“That was enough for them to label me a witch,” she says, stammering over the words.

“I knew what would happen if the word spread in my locality. So I kept quiet and didn’t let it affect me. But it kept haunting me,” she remembers.

Kuwariya’s fears came to fruition in April 2014, when she heard her neighbour hammering a nail into the wall between their two houses.

“They hammered the wall so hard that all the dishes in the kitchen fell down,” she says.

When Kuwariya objected, she says: “They [the men from the neighbouring house] suddenly came out with sticks and started beating me mercilessly.”

The marks from the beating still scar her face.

She says the villagers called her a witch and said “we will see who will save you today”.

The beating was so violent that she fainted and remained unconscious for hours.

Her husband filed a police complaint and all of those who attacked her were arrested.

“Some of them were released soon, but one among them is still behind bars,” she says, then adds: “How can I forget what they did to me and how they humiliated me by calling me a witch? But I have a big heart and I feel like forgiving them given the main culprit has died.”

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2015/06/magazine-meet-indian-women-hunted-witches-150603092941061.html

Man loses job for sporting a beard, termed as a ‘terrorist’ #WTFnews


Thursday, 4 June 2015 –  Place: Kolkata | Agency: dna webdesk
Left MLAs in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly demanded action against Officer-in-Charge of the Ballygunge Police for not taking any action against the company and the authorities.

Days after Mumbai-based MBA graduate Zeshan Ali Khan was allegedly denied a job for being Muslim, Kolkata –based man has lost his job for allegedly sporting a beard.

Md. Ali Ismail, a resident of Picnic Garden had been working with Adhunik Group of Industries for the past six years. Ismail, working in the capacity of General Manager – Mines, with the group had gone for Haj in May, 2014 and returned sporting a beard.

Since then, his salary was slashed to half and was paid the other half in kind. The stand-off between Ismail and the company continued till March, until he sought an appointment with the Managing Director of the Company Manoj Agarwal.

During this meeting, Ismail allegedly demanded his pending dues but was thrown out by security guards and was termed as a ‘terrorist’ by Agarwal for sporting a beard.

“As soon as I returned from my Haj pilgrimage, I had been sporting a beard. The MD of the company said that I was trying to threaten him and termed me a ‘terrorist’. It was extremely saddening to hear that I was termed as a ‘terrorist’ on my own soil,” claimed Ismail.

Later, Ismail approached the Minority Commission, Human Rights Commission and the Chief Minister’s office, but to no avail. He had filed an FIR against the MD of the company with the Ballygunge police station, but Ismail alleged that no action was taken against them. Ismail is likely to move Calcutta High Court demanding justice and a public apology for hurting his religious sentiments.

However, the company has taken dismissed such allegations, saying that he is a fraud. “Whatever Ismail has said is a lie. He had threatened us that he would ransack and vandalise our office. He is a fraud,” said Mahesh Agarwal, brother of MD, Manoj Agarwal.

As soon as the news broke, Ismail received an SMS from the company, offering him to settle his dues. But, Ismail has made it clear that he does not want the dues to be returned to him, but justice must be served to him.

Meanwhile, the Left MLAs in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly demanded action against Officer-in-Charge of the Ballygunge Police for not taking any action against the company and the authorities.

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-man-loses-job-for-sporting-a-beard-termed-as-a-terrorist-2092259

Dalai Lama Urges Aung San Suu Kyi to Help Myanmar’s Rohingya


Photo

Rohingya migrants cooked at a shelter in Indonesia on Thursday. The Tibetan Buddhist leader told a newspaper that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi should be helping the Rohingya people. CreditSergey Ponomarev for The New York Times 

But the country’s harsh treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority, setting off an exodus of people by boat across Southeast Asia, has unleashed a barrage of criticism in recent days aimed not only at the country’s former generals but also at the leader of Myanmar’s democracy movement, the Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader and a fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner, was quoted on Thursday in an Australian newspaper as saying that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi should be helping to address the plight of the Rohingya, who number more than a million but are not recognized as citizens of Myanmar, are restricted in their travels and suffer persecution and deprivation.

About 25,000 migrants left Myanmar and Bangladesh on rickety smugglers’ boats in the first three months of 2015, according to a United Nations estimate.

 OPEN GRAPHIC 

“But in spite of that I feel she can do something,” he added.

The Rohingya are widely reviled in Myanmar, which is overwhelmingly Buddhist and has an influential radical Buddhist political movement. Speaking out for the Rohingya is seen as a form of political kryptonite for any Buddhist politician like Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi has offered various explanations in recent years for her reluctance to speak out for the Rohingya, saying at one point that a public airing of her views could further stoke the fires of radical Buddhists, who have ransacked Rohingya villages, displacing more than 100,000 Rohingya.

Jonah Fisher, a BBC correspondent in Yangon, said in a Twitter post on Thursday that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s latest statement on the Rohingya was that it was the government’s duty to solve the issue.

Her critics have said that someone of her enormous moral authority in Myanmar should take a stronger stance.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, another winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, said in a recorded message aired this week that aid donors, including the European Union, should make their funding for the impoverished country “conditional on the restoration of citizenship, nationality and basic human rights to the Rohingya.”

“A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country,” Archbishop Tutu said in remarks that were broadcast at a conference on the Rohingya in Oslo this week.

He said he agreed with those who say a “slow genocide” was being committed against the Rohingya.

How Myanmar and Its Neighbors Are Responding to the Rohingya Crisis

Myanmar and its neighbors see the people of the Rohingya ethnic group and the seaborne trafficking of migrants in the region very differently, complicating the refugees’ plight.

At the same conference, George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who for more than two decades has been active in promoting democracy, sent a videotaped speech in which he said he was “growing discouraged” by developments in Myanmar.

Mr. Soros said he visited a Rohingya settlement in January and saw parallels to his youth as a Jew in Nazi-occupied Europe.

“You see, in 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I too was a Rohingya,” he said.

The Rohingya settlement was a ghetto, he said, an “involuntary home to thousands of families who once had access to health care, education and employment.”

“Now, they are forced to remain segregated in a state of abject deprivation. The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming.”

Myanmar officials are scheduled to meet with their counterparts from other Asian countries in Bangkok on Friday for a meeting to address migrants, chief among them the Rohingya, who have been fleeing Myanmar by the thousands.

Myanmar, which changed its name from Burma during the previous military dictatorship and lashes out at governments that continue to refer to the country as Burma, refuses to recognize the term Rohingya and calls the people Bengali instead, suggesting that they come from neighboring Bangladesh.

Officials in Myanmar said they would not attend the government meeting in Thailand if the term Rohingya were used.

Thailand, which has been reluctant to anger its neighbor, agreed to Myanmar’s demands and titled the conference Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/29/world/asia/dalai-lama-urges-aung-san-suu-kyi-to-help-myanmars-rohingya.html?_r=0

#India – 60 year old Tribal man ‘sacrificed’ in Jharkhand for rain #WTFnews


Tribal 'sacrificed' in Jharkhand for rain
Kharia’s family suspects the man was killed by Orkas, a group of oculists in the district, who sacrifice humans and bury their heads in fields before sowing season “to please the rain God”.
RANCHI/GUMLA: A 60-year-old tribal man, who went missing on May 28, was allegedly sacrificed in Jharkhand’s Gumla district for better rainfall and harvest.

Police found Thepa Kharia’s headless body from his house at Kharvadih in the district’s Palkot block, 130km from Ranchi, on Sunday afternoon.

They could not find the severed head, which villagers believe has been buried. Police ruled out role of Maoists or criminals in the murder after preliminary investigation.

Kharia’s family suspects the man was killed by Orkas, a group of oculists in the district, who sacrifice humans and bury their heads in fields before sowing season “to please the rain God”.

But FIR lodged by Jatru Kharia, nephew of Kharia, against unknown killers does not have any mention of Orkas, said police.

“The villagers believe that Orkas have killed him. It is mysterious because Kharia did not have enemies and did not work for the police or Maoists. He was a landless farmer and chances of murder for property is also little,” said Palkot police station in-charge Ajay Kumar Thakur.

“In case of human sacrifice, the body is offered to a deity and rituals are followed. Orkas, however, function differently. They sever the head and bury it in fields,” he added.

Kharia lived alone as his son works in Goa. “He was last seen on Thursday evening. When villagers did not see him for two days, they went to his house and found his headless body,” Mayawati Devi, the mukhiya of Bilingbira panchyat, where the “human sacrifice” took place, said.

“People in Gumla are very superstitious. The villagers are saying the Okras have killed him. He was an innocent man and no criminal or Maoist will kill him,” she added.

Jharkhand has been reeling under extreme heat for the past two weeks with some parts of the state recording temperature as high as 47°C.

Though weather predictions show sign of early monsoon, farmers in the state are sceptical after drought-like conditions in many districts, including Gumla, over the past two years.

Terming human sacrifice as a “heinous crime”, former Gumla MLA Bairagi Oraon said the practice is age-old in the district. “Such incidents happened earlier too. It is believed that human sacrifice to rain God brings good rain and better harvest. It is done before the farmers start sowing paddy. But the tradition has almost vanished now.”

Gumla SP Bheemsen Tuti said unless strong evidence was found to show involvement of Orkas, he would not comment. “The case is under investigation and so far no strong evidence has been found in connection with the murder,” Tuti said.

Human sacrifice is common especially in backward districts like Khunti, Gumla and Lohardaga. In March 2012, a man was arrested in Lohardaga for “sacrificing” his wife.

 

IIT Bombay forms Ambedkar-Periyar-Phule Study Circle


AMBEDPERI

Protests against the decision of IIT Madras administration to ban the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle (APSC) spread to Mumbai on Monday with over a hundred students from different institutions staging a rally at the Dadar station here.

“We see nothing wrong with what APSC has done. It is not a new group. We condemn the decision to ban it. Even if you think they did something wrong, they should have been given a fair hearing. This is just one visible instance of the administration’s autocratic behaviour. This issue is not limited to IIT Madras alone. Across IITs, there are various problems, such as poor implementation of the reservation systems, absence of Dalit faculty and so on. What does it mean when they say IITs are not political? Everything is political. To be political is my right,” Kranthi Kumar, a Ph.D. scholar from IIT Bombay told The Hindu.

In response to the ban, students from IIT Bombay have formed an Ambedkar-Periyar-Phule Study Circle, which staged its first protest on campus on Sunday.

“Even though we stood silently with posters, the IIT security personnel, administration and the police threatened us with adverse action. We were told to remove the mention of the HRD Ministry from our posters. So the message is ‘don’t say anything against the government’. It is very important for students across campuses to come together,” Paanki Agrawal from IIT Bombay said.

Protesters chanted the slogans such as, ‘when will achche din come?’, ‘long live Ambedkar and Periyar’, ‘down with casteism’ and demanded a revocation of the ban.

“We express our solidarity with the study circle and with the aim of annihilation of the caste system. Silencing of voices is a dangerous step,” said Bodhayan Roy from the Marxist study circle at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

“Such bans,” pointed out Sunija M.V. from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), “will obstruct the support system of marginalised students on campuses. As a result you will see more student suicides.”

Students also questioned the irony of demonising the ideas of Dr. Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution.

“Are we living in dualism?” asked Jackson Khumukcham from TISS. “It is time to think about the kind of education we want to impart. ” he said.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/iitm-ban-protests-spread-to-mumbai/article7272310.ece

Jaitapur nuclear power project: Fishermen stage ‘sea rally’


More than 200 boats staged a ‘sea rally’ against the JNPP project on Friday. Photo: Special Arrangement
The Hindu

More than 200 boats staged a ‘sea rally’ against the JNPP project on Friday. Photo: Special Arrangement

‘The project will destroy our livelihood and business of fishing’

In a unique protest, hundreds of fishermen from the vicinity of the proposed Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project (JNPP) sailed in the sea around the project site in their boats and staged the first-ever ‘sea rally’ against the project on Friday.

More than 200 boats with banners opposing JNPP and nuclear power were mobilised for the protest. Slogans such as ‘No More Fukushima’ and ‘No more Hiroshima’ rent the air.

“This project will destroy our livelihood and our business of fishing. While the farmers are battling on land, we have decided to register our protest in the sea. We want to tell the government that we too are going to suffer because of JNPP and we do not want this project here,” said Mansoor Solkar, one of the organisers of the protest.

Protesters from Sakhari Natye, Natye, Tulsunde and Sagve villages launched their boats from the opposite side of the project site, three km away, and encircled the site.

“This is our answer to the government which is hell-bent on bringing the project and claiming that there is no opposition,” said Satyajit Chavan of Jan Hakka Samiti, which is spearheading the protest against the project.

Though this is the first ‘sea protest’ by fishermen against JNPP, a similar agitation was carried out in 2012 by fishermen against the commissioning of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant.

Earlier last week, gram sabhas of Madban and Mithgavhane had passed a resolution against project. The resolutions said that the villagers have accepted compensation packages from the government since they were left with no other option.

“Accepting compensation package from the government does not mean we have agreed to the nuclear power project in our backyard,” said the resolutions.

The strong reactions from the villagers are the result of recent statements by various leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who said that the JNPP will be commissioned at any cost.

BJP’s ally and partner in both State and at the Centre, Shiv Sena, has made it clear that it will continue its opposition to the project until the people are against it.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/jaitapur-nuclear-power-project-fishermen-stage-sea-rally/article7261408.ece

2013 in review


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