PUCL condemns arrest of Jaya Vindhyalaya #Vaw #ITAct


PUCL CONDEMNS ARREST OF JAYA VINDHYALA, PUCL – AP STATE PRESIDENT:PUCL DEMANDS RELEASE AND DROPPING OF CHARGES


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The PUCL National Executive meeting in Delhi today strongly condemns the arrest by the AP police of Ms. Jaya Vindhyala, State President, PUCL AP at 7.30 am today (12th May, 2013) in Hyderabad. Ms. Jaya Vindhyala has been exposing the corruption of the Chirala MLA, and other senior officials of AP.

The PUCL strongly believes that the arrest of Ms. Jaya Vindhyala is a vindictive action of the state police meant only to silence the growing voice and demand for fair, independent investigation into the corrupt deals of the Chirala MLA as also other high dignitaries and officials.

The PUCL feels that the timing of the arrest on a Sunday is to ensure that no legal recourse like bail can be availed by Ms. Jaya. The PUCL questions the need for the state police to arrest Ms. Jaya Vindhyala especially in view of the Supreme Court directions in
the case of `Joginder Kumar vs State of UP’, (1989) that arrest of a person need not be effected if the person will appear before the police on summons and there is no danger of the person absconding, threatening witnesses or tampering with evidence. This is not the case in the case of Ms. Jaya Vindhyala who is a widely respected person, and is a senior and well known Advocate of the AP Bar and is a well known human rights defender.
It is revealing to note that the three FIRs registered by the Chirala police against Ms. Jaya, includes offences under section 307 (attempt to murder), 506 (threatening with intention to kill), 120-B (Conspiracy) IPC and Information Technology Act. These provisions are routinely abused and misused by the police to foist false cases and in the cases against Ms. Jaya, we learn, are all based on false allegations not making out any of these offences.

The PUCL has also learnt that 9 other members of PUCL – AP have also been named in the FIR and the police is hunting them down.

The PUCL demands the immediate release of Ms. Jaya Vindhyala and closure of all the cases against her, as also other PUCL members, in Prakasham district.

(V. Suresh)
National General Secretary, PUCL

 

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Chhattisgarh PUCL’s Memorandum to the NHRC


To

The Hon’ble Chairman,

National Human Rights Commission

Camp Raipur.

Sub:   Regarding the Human Rights situation in Chhattisgarh – a Note by the         Chhattisgarh PUCL

Sir,

First of all we welcome the fact that the National Human Rights Commission has, in its present sitting at Raipur, not only taken up several extremely serious cases of human rights violations to which the State Government had miserably failed to respond to so far, but has also invited various non-governmental organizations to share their experiences and suggestions.

On behalf of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, being the Chhattisgarh State Branch of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, we would like to place on record, along with a copy of “Chhattisgarh me Manav Adhikar ki Haqeekat” – a compilation of our Reports over the past two years (henceforth referred to as our Report), the following note delineating some of the serious aspects of the human rights situation in the state, which we believe require deserve the urgent attention of the National Human Rights Commission:-

Aspects of the Human Rights Situation in Chhattisgarh

1.       Widespread displacement of peasants and adivasis from livelihood resources:-

On account of a large number of MOUs (121 as on 30.03.2011 as per the Chhattisgarh government website) to set up power plants, steel plants and cement plants, as well as the grant of a large number of Prospecting and Mining Leases (already more than 2 lakh acres have been covered under 354 MLs as on 30.03.2011),  a large scale transfer of agricultural lands, commons and other livelihood resources – particularly forest lands and water (both surface and ground water) – is occurring from the peasants and adivasis (who enjoyed these earlier both privately and collectively) to private corporate entities. While this phenomenon is visible all across this mineral rich state, it is particularly acute in the districts of Raigarh, Sarguja, Janjgir-Champa and Korba. This is causing a crisis of livelihood among a vast rural population, intensifying earlier trends of migration to brick kilns, human trafficking and other forms of bondedness.

In carrying out acquisitions of land the State Government is misusing its powers of eminent domain in the name of “Public Purpose” whereas the reports of the CAG of the state clearly indicate that in granting such largesse corruption is occurring on a large scale, and private companies are gaining at considerable loss to the state exchequer. The case of allotment of coal blocks is an example in point where the spirit of the Directive Principles of State Policy is being violated.

The legal provisions designed to protect agriculturists and tribals are being systematically violated, bypassed or turned into an empty formality. This is particularly true of the provisions for mandatory consultation with the Gram Sabha under the “Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act” (PESA Act) in the Scheduled Areas. Similarly the provisions for making objections under Section 5A of the Land Acquisition Act are circumvented by misuse of the provisions for urgent acquisition under Section 17 of the Act.  Despite the law being clear that the consent of both owner and occupier are mandatory for entry into private land for mining by a company (other than a government company under the Coal Bearing Areas Acquisition Act), the State acts on behalf of the private company to present the farmers with a fait accompli of having to accept compensation as if in the case of acquisition.

Almost in all affected villages there have been protests, some sporadic and short lived, others more prolonged and determined, but almost all have faced state repression. The leaders of the protests and often large numbers of villagers have been victims of malicious prosecution by powerful corporates in which the local police and administration have been hand-in-glove. The Chhattisgarh PUCL has documented a few such cases of malicious prosecution of farmers’ leaders, trade unionists and environmental activists at Pages 60-65 of its Report. An extreme example of this is the case of the murderous attempt on the life of environmental activist Ramesh Agrawal at Raigarh by persons associated with the Jindal Steel and Power Limited.

2.       Increasing attacks on dalit communities:-

In the aforesaid scenario, as the pressure on land mounts, we find repeated instances of targeted and brutal eviction of dalit families. PUCL has documented at Page 58-60 of our Report one such stark representative case of 34 dalit families of Village Chichour Umariya, district Raigarh brutally evicted from generations-old occupation of forest land (for which forest rights applications were pending) by the dominant caste community. Even more serious in this case was the absolute failure of constitutional mechanisms to bring relief either through a Writ Petition in the High Court or by a complaint to the State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Private as well as state violence against dalits has been on the increase. PUCL and other human rights groups had also taken up the case of custodial torture of young dalit workers belonging to Village Lailunga, district Raigarh culminating in the death of one, which is reported at Pages 27-31 of our Report. Despite detailed statements by the victims and their families, neither the enquiry of the DSP under the SC-ST (Prevention of) Atrocities Act nor the Magisterial Enquiry has resulted in any action taken against the culprit private persons or policemen.

3.       Conditions of Industrial workers and Contract teachers (Shikshakarmis):-

Chhattisgarh accounts for the highest number of industrial accidents per lakh of workers in the entire country. In the large and ever increasing number of industrial establishments in the state, the labour laws are violated with impunity, 12 hour work day is the norm and even minimum wages – which are grossly inadequate – are not paid. Even permanent, perennial and core production activity is carried out by contract workers who are not even given statutory proof of employment. Precariousness of employment results in extremely poor unionization. Compliance with the ESI and Provident Fund Acts is poor. Recently in the Ambuja Cement Factory at Village Rawaan, district Baloda Bazar (now a unit of Swiss multinational Holcim), the collapse of fly ash hoppers due to gross negligence in design and maintenance of buildings resulted in the death of five workers literally buried in hot cement ash in a confined space. (A fact finding Report by the Building Wood Workers International, New Trade Union Initiative Federation and local unions is available.)

Nearly 2 lakh Shikshakarmis (contract teachers ostensibly employed by the Panchayati Raj institutions) were on strike recently for their legitimate demands of absorption as regular teachers in the Education Department as in fact mandated by the Right to Education Act and the principle of “equal pay for equal work”. 17 teachers and their family members committed suicide/ died unnatural deaths during the agitation in the course of which tens of thousands of teachers were suspended, dismissed, cane charged and arrested.

4.       Jail deaths:-

Chhattisgarh again tops the states in the proportion of overcrowding in its jails, which house prisoners to the extent of between two and three times their capacity.

The PUCL recently filed RTI applications with regard to deaths in jails and discovered shocking facts. At Page 78-81 of our Report, for instance are the details revealed by Central Jail Bilaspur. We see that:-

a)       All 11 deaths were of undertrials, and three of them were held in preventive detention (151 or 107/116 of the Criminal Procedure Code) when they died in jail.

b)       The caste composition of the 11 dead prisoners was – 7 SC, 1 ST, 2 OBC, 1 Muslim.

c)       6 of them died within a short time of being admitted into jail ( 5 days, 16 days, 3 days, 2           days, 2 days, 8 days) which is indicative of either being admitted with serious injuries or           having being subjected to ill treatment in jail.

d)       One died owing to the barrack roof having collapsed and he having sustained head injuries.

e)       In all cases the nature of illness/ cause of death as per the Medical Officer was “serious”.

The documents obtained from Central Jail Jagdalpur show that deaths due to severe anaemia (3.5 grams or 5.0 grams of Haemoglobin) was the commonest cause. Usually blood transfusion could not be arranged in a timely manner and there is nothing on record to show that any efforts were made to contact the family to find a blood donor.

5.       Violence against women:-

Trafficking of young women for work as domestic servants in the metropolises and also in prostitution has been widely reported from the districts of Jashpur and Sarguja and Advocate Sevati Panna, who is also an active member of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, has conducted meticulous research in exposing the so-called “placement agencies”.

The recent cases that came to light regarding sexual abuse of young adivasi girls in State run Ashrams/ hostels has now also been verified by the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights.

Violence against women takes on an even more serious dimension in conflict areas, where it has been observed internationally and also elsewhere in our country that sexual violence is used as a means to subjugate a population. Even today the affidavits of 99 women alleging rape by SPOs, Salwa Judumm and the security forces, which are filed before the Supreme Court in the Nandini Sundar and Kartam Joga cases (challenging the constitutionality of Salwa Judum) remain to be acted upon.

6.       Large number of adivasi undertrials languishing in Bastar jails:-

There are a large number of poor adivasis languishing in the jails of the Bastar region. A recent estimate of the number of undertrials in three of these jails is as follows

Name of Jail Capacity No. of convicts No. of undertrials
Dantewada 250 4 577
Kanker 65 8 217
Jagdalpur 648 573 1120
Total 963 585 1914
963 Convicts + Undertrials  = 2,499

While we can understand and appreciate the complex conditions under which the courts and jails would be functioning in this region, we are concerned at repeated complaints that a large number of these adivasis are being implicated in serious cases without the concerned magistrate exercising his/her judicial discretion in an independent manner. This has resulted in thousands of ordinary villagers, routinely picked up in searching operations, being incarcerated under serious charges. Once, being implicated in a serious offence, and particularly a “Naxal Offence”, the undertrials are not produced in the courts for long periods of time, on account of there not being “sufficient police guard”. Owing to this the trial does not proceed for years together. Out of economic difficulty and for fear of harassment, family members of the undertrials are unable to visit them in jail. Particularly in situations of physical and mental ailments this makes the undertrials even more vulnerable.

Since “Naxal undertrials” are only kept in Central Jails, owing to overcrowding, many of them of them are transferred to Durg or Raipur Central Jails, where they are even more inaccessible, and too far away to be taken to court regularly. PUCL had been sent a list of 79 undertrials facing trials in Kondagaon who were sent to Durg Jail (more than 300 km away) and who had petitioned the Chief Justice of Chhattisgarh High Court in 2011 regarding their long incarceration without trial. One undertrial from amongst them Sukdas (32 years) died in jail on 1st February 2010.

Most of the adivasi undertrials are dependent on legal aid lawyers. However more often than not, the legal aid lawyers never go to meet the client or seek instructions regarding the case. Often they are careless in their conduct of cases and are amenable to pressures from the police or prosecution. The vast majority of adivasi undertrials speak only adivasi languages i.e. – Gondi, Halbi etc., however it is shocking that even now Courts in the Bastar region do not have official interpreters/ translators and the adivasis are unable to communicate with the Officers of the Court or otherwise effectively intervene in the judicial process.

On 12th January 2011, 379 adivasi undertrials in Dantewada Jail, alleged to be “Naxalites”, went on hunger strike saying that they had been held falsely, their trials were not being conducted and that they be released on bail.

It is unfortunate that the Nirmala Buch Committee, created in the wake of the abduction of Collector Alex Paul Menon, has neither been able to carry out a judicial review of adivasi cases nor conduct a fact finding mission to find out the actual circumstances of arrest of the large number of undertrials.

Another disturbing aspect of the functioning of the criminal justice system in Bastar is that political opponents or other “inconvenient” persons can easily be implicated in “Naxal offences” thus ensuring that they would be put away behind bars for several years. Page 77 of our Report has a list of all the activists of the Communist Party of India, a registered national political party contesting elections, incarcerated including Kartam Joga who was a Petitioner in the Petition filed in the Supreme Court challenging the modus operandi and the atrocities committed by the Salwa Judum, and was acquitted after being in jail for the past 3 years.

7.       Fake encounters and police excesses in the name of the anti- Naxal operations and failure of the constitutional response:-

Page 7-27 of our Report carries extracts of our Fact Finding Report titled “Just a Little Collateral Damage” which concerned four cases of alleged encounters in areas outside the Bastar region, namely Village Ledgidipa, district Mahasamund; Village Kade, district Rajnandgaon; Jamul, district Durg and Village Sawargaon in the bordering district of Maharashtra and which we found clearly to be cases of fake encounters. The Magisterial Enquiries announced in all the cases appear to have been routinely carried out only to support the police versions of events, and despite our finding that in all the cases local persons were vociferous in their allegations, their versions have never been recorded.

Page 31-36 contains the Fact finding Report of the Chhattigarh Bachao Andolan into the murder of a minor girl Meena Khalkho in Sarguja by the police and security forces in July 2011, again claiming her to be a Naxalite. The Judicial Enquiry announced has not even begun, though again, the family members have been brave enough to submit their affidavits. Similarly an investigation into an alleged encounter at Village Harri, district Jashpur, revealed that the police and security forces had manhandled and beaten ordinary villagers and had been rewarded for their “bravery in Naxal encounter”. The unaccounted funds allotted to Naxal affected police stations and to Naxal- affected districts seem to be an incentive to claim Naxal activity even where there is none.

Page 46-52 contains the Fact Finding Report of the Co-ordination of Democratic Rights Organisation into the fake encounter which occurred on 27-28 June 2012 in the clearing between Villages Sarkeguda, Rajpenta and Kottaguda in district Beejapur. The Magistrate conducting the Enquiry turned down the villagers who had come to depose before him. The Notification for Judicial Enquiry signed in November 2012 was notified in December 2012, and this Notification was not even communicated to the concerned villages. It was only when lawyers associated with PUCL contacted the villagers that they came to know of the Judicial Enquiry. The Terms of Reference made to the Judicial Enquiry Commission have, perhaps deliberately, mixed up this obvious case of fake encounter with two other cases of possibly actual encounters in Village Chimlipenta and Village Silger, both of district Sukma on the same day, to which the villagers have objected. Although the villagers have filed affidavits, the Enquiry does not appear to have started in earnest. In the meantime two villagers arrested from the spot of the encounter continue to languish in jail as “Naxals” and the victims of the encounter have had a string of cases put upon them showing them to also have antecedents of “Naxal cases”, and this includes the 12 year old bright student Kaka Rahul.

A case filed in the High Court in regard to the Singavaram fake encounter and demanding a CBI Enquiry remains pending even after about 6 years, while another filed in the Supreme Court in regard to the killings in Village Gompad also remains pending for the past 3 years. Thus, the people of Bastar have continuously been denied constitutional remedies, which has accentuated their alienation.

The PUCL received by post in the year 2011 a letter from a journalist in Bastar enclosing a list of 135 villagers alleged to be killed during Operation Green Hunt between January 2009 and April 2010. Many of the incidents narrated could be correlated with newspaper reports and some news of protests by villagers. However, we have not been able, through our own investigation, to verify these serious allegations, mainly because there has been a denial of physical access to the entire Bastar division to concerned citizens from other parts of Chhattisgarh or India over the past 3-4 years. This denial has been systematic – whether to an All India Women‘s Team who were trying to meet women who had filed complaints of rape against SPOs (November 2009); or to Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey and other members of the NAPM who were going to join activist Himanshu Kumar in a public hearing in Dantewada to which the Union Home Minister had been invited; or to a team of Gandhians who were on a Peace March (May 2010) including Shri Banwarilal Sharma and Swami Agnivesh who subsequently made efforts for talks with the Maoists. The modus operandi of such denial has been through the mobilization of SPOs and Salwa Judum camp inmates who have organized demonstrations and brickbatted the teams. Individual researchers, lawyers, film makers and journalists have been detained, intimidated or otherwise ―persuaded to leave Dantewada. Even the CBI has not been spared. The acts of burning of the huts of adivasis in Morpalli, Tadmetla and Timmapuram, in regard to which the Supreme Court had, in the course of the Salwa Judum case directed CBI Enquiry, could not be carried out by the CBI, as per their application in the Court, owing to an attack by Chhattisgarh Auxiliary Force (into which the SPOs have been absorbed)!

8.       The civil war in Bastar is creating a grave humanitarian crisis:-

The districts of the erstwhile Bastar division in Southern Chhattisgarh are now undisputedly the arena of a civil war and also the region where Operation Green Hunt, as it is still referred to by the police and security forces in Chhattisgarh despite denials by the Union Home Minster, is been carried out with the greatest ferocity. The already heavy deployment of security forces is being continuously reinforced, now the Army has a training camp here and even helicopters of the AIF are being pressed into service. Almost every day there are reports of ambushes and land mine blasts by Naxalites killing security forces; and reports of searching and area domination exercises by security forces with considerable number of Naxalites being killed in encounters and also a very large number of arrests. SPOs and police

informers who are being recruited in hundreds are being targeted by Naxalites.

What is of great concern are the repeated reports and complaints of thousands of adivasis fleeing these areas in several waves since 2005. Indeed at page 39-46 of our Report is a joint write-up of different human rights groups including PUCL into the serious conditions of internally displaced adivasis in Andhra Pradesh. The recommendation of the NHRC in the Enquiry conducted on the directions of the Supreme Court in the Salwa Judum Case, that the displaced villagers be rehabilitated back in their villages, has not been acted upon at all by the State. On the contrary, those NGOs which were trying to assist such resettlement were severely victimized. The  Ashram of Himanshu Kumar, who is also one of the Vice Presidents of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, was demolished and two activists associated with him – Koparam Kunjam and Sukhnath Oyami – active in rehabilitating the adivasis of 10-15, were arrested under the draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Safety Act. Sukhnath was finally acquitted after several years in jail and Kopa Kunjam had to obtain bail from the Supreme Court. The Sarkeguda village was also one such rehabilitated village. Indeed it appears that apart from the counter insurgency strategy of clearing the villages to bring the adivasis to roadside camps, there is a ground clearing motive, possibly connected with mining since 7443 hectares of land in Kanker,  Narayanpur and Dantewada alone have been given out in prospecting leases to various private companies as per the Government website.

Another issue of grave concern is that with the withdrawal of educational and health services of the State as well as ration shops from the so-called “Naxal” stronghold areas, into which a large proportion of the population has fled, a situation has arisen in which several lakh adivasis have been automatically “outlawed”. This population is being deprived of basic needs. Anti Naxal operations in this area could result in a virtual genocide and killings of unarmed civilians and non-combatants on a large scale. Additionally the State programme of bringing children to study in roadside hostels and ashrams and separating them from their families is repeating the “historical mistakes” committed by the Australian government on its indigenous peoples for which the Australian Prime Minister recently rendered a public apology.

The democratic voices in Chhattisgarh have been repeatedly demanding that the way to de-escalate violence in the Bastar region would be to rehabilitate people in their villages, restore the civil administration and whole heartedly comply with the Forest Rights Act and PESA Act to give the adivasis of the area substantial rights. Decisions to carry out large scale mining and set up industries in that area can only be effective if carried out with a genuine consultation with the people and by winning their confidence.

(Sudha Bharadwaj)

General Secretary,

Chhattisgarh PUCL.

 

ATTN DELHI- Release of Fact Finding Report on the Bomb Blast in Dhinkia Panchayat


Release of Fact Finding Report on the Bomb Blast in Dhinkia Panchayat

On the 9th of March 2013, a 12 member team consisting of human rights activists, journalists, academicians, democratic right and civil liberty activists, conducted a fact finding visit to Dhinkia and Govindpur villages in Jagatsinghpur District of Orissa. On the 2nd of March 2013, a bomb blast took place in the Govindpur village and three people were killed on the spot. One seriously injured person also succumbed to the injuries in hospital. The police only arrived after 15 hours to Govindpur and took the first assessment of the incident. However, the district administration within a couple of hours of the blast issued the statement that the deceased were involved in the illegal act of bomb making. The villagers and families of the deceased are claiming that the administration want to fasten the process of land grab in favour of POSCO (Pohang Steel Company of Korea) and fear for their lives for opposing the project.

The fact finding team comprised of Mr. Meher Engineer (Former Director, Bose Institute, Kolkata), Mr.  Sumit Chakravartty (Editor, Mainstream Weekly, Delhi), Dr Manoranjan Mohanty (Retd Professor, Delhi University), Mr.  Pramodini Pradhan (PUCL Odisha), Mr. Saroj Mohanty (PUCL, Odisha), Ms Ranjana Padhi (PUDR, Delhi), Dr Kamal Chaubey (PUDR, Delhi(, Mr. Sanjeev Kumar (Delhi Forum, Delhi), Mr. Mathew Jacob (HRLN, Delhi), Ms Samantha (Sanhati), Mr. Partho Roy (Sanhati) and Mr. Gyan Ranjan Swain (Ravenshaw University)

 

The objective of the visit was to assess the situation in the wake of escalated violence caused by the land acquisition process which again resumed in the area on the 4th of February 2013. During the visit, the team had a detailed discussion with all the concerned stake holders.

The report will be released by Justice (Retd.) Rajinder Sachar on the 16th of April, 2013 at Press Club of India at 3 PM. Looking forward for your participation.

 

Date – 16th April, 2013

Time – 3 PM Onwards

Venue – Press Club of India

 

For information and clarifications please contact Sanjeev Kumar (9958797409, sanjeev@delhiforum.net) or Mathew (08860110520, mathew.tiss@gmail.com)

 

ATTN Bangalore- Public discussion- Needle of Suspicion – Targetting Muslims in Terror Cases


NEEDLE OF SUSPICION: TARGETING MUSLIMS IN TERROR CASES, A PUBLIC DISCUSSION
Public · By Praja Rajakiya Vedike Bangalore

 

Saturday, 6 April 2013

15:00 until 19:00
Institute of Agricultural Technologists (IAT), Queens Road, Bangalore
The arrest of 11 Muslim youth in Karnataka on 29th August 2012 for allegedly being involved in a conspiracy to assassinate prominent politicians and two journalists from Bangalore created a big stir in Karnataka. Three of the Bangalore accused, journalist Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui, Mohammed Yusuf Nalbandh and junior scientist Aejaz Ahmed Mirza, were released six months after their arrest. While the charge sheets of the first two could not be filed for lack of evidence, the latter was released on bail as per the orders of the special NIA court.

In Karnataka, around 43 Muslims have been accused and detained in various jails across the country under charges of being part of a terrorist group; many of them have been acquitted for want of evidence. What happens to these ‘terror accused’ after their release? How does society, particularly members of their own community, view them? What about the loss – financial and otherwise – they would have undergone during their long period of incarceration in jails? What about their right to live with dignity? Why has the media coverage of this issue been inadequate? These are some of the questions this discussion will address.

Schedule of Programme:
Release of Report: “Burden of Proof: Targeting Muslim Youth in Terror Cases in Karnataka” by People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Karnataka, People’s Democratic Forum (PDF) and Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR). The report is based on testimonies of Muslim youth in Hubli and Belgaum.

Speakers:
Manisha Sethi Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association (JTSA)
Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddique, journalist, Aejaz Ahmed Mirza, junior scientist and Yusuf Nalbandh
S.A.H. Razvi, advocate, Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR)

Organisers: People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL),Karnataka, People’s Democratic Forum (PDF), Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), National Confederation of Human Rights Organisations (NCHRO), Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike (KKSV), Alternative Law Forum (ALF), South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM), Praja Rajakiya Vedike (PRV), Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI), Maraa, Pedestrian Pictures, Aneka, Sangama, Vimochana, Concern (IISc), Indian Social Institute and Lesbit

 

#India – Crimes of exclusion in the new Law #LGBT


Siddharth Narrain : Fri Mar 29 2013, IE

It is anger on the streets that brought the neglected issue of sexual violence back to the forefront, energised a government-appointed committee to put together clear and well reasoned recommendations on law reform and forced the government to table the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013. It is public pressure and years of struggle by the women’s movement that is reflected in the more progressive parts of the bill, passed recently by both Houses of Parliament. Unfortunately, despite unanimity across large sections of society that the definition of rape cannot be restricted to an outdated understanding of rape as perpetrated by men on women, the version of the criminal law bill that was finally passed by Parliament retains this language. In this form, the law is a betrayal of the rights of millions of transgender persons, intersex persons and sexual minorities not born as women.

The current bill is contrary to the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee report, the most comprehensive document on rape law reform in recent times. The Justice Verma Committee had heard a number of women’s rights and LGBT rights activists before framing their nuanced recommendation that the law on sexual assault and rape be gender inclusive as far as the victim/survivor is concerned and gender specific as far as the perpetrator is concerned, except for specific offences like custodial rape, where traditional gendered power dynamics could be overturned. Based on this understanding, the committee suggested that the term “person” be used for the victim/survivor of rape and sexual assault, replacing the term “woman”, and the term “man” be retained for the perpetrator of sexual assault except in a few specified offences.

This simple change in language would have brought under the purview of the law the numerous cases of transgender persons and men who are raped and sexually assaulted by men. This move would have recognised decades of struggle by the transgender community in documenting these abuses, including the pioneering 2003 report of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Karnataka, on human rights violations against the transgender community. The report documented horrific and widespread instances of sexual violence against the transgender community in Bangalore. It observed that the brutal stories of abuse and sexual violence documented in it were really narratives of cruelty, causing trauma to the entire community and negating the constitutional claim of equal citizenship and protection for all.

It is the claim to equality that the Justice Verma Committee relied on when it stated that all sexual identities, including transgender communities, are entitled to be totally protected. The committee observed that the Constitution enables the change of beliefs and greater understanding, and is an instrument to secure the rights of sexually despised minorities. This followed from the committee’s understanding that the problem of sexual violence is not just one of penology, but is related to the constitutional guarantee of the right to equality. It is this same claim of equality that the Delhi High Court recognised in 2009 when it decriminalised homosexuality. Keeping in mind the violence faced by LGBT persons by both the police and non-state actors, the court read the right to non-discrimination in Article 15 of the Constitution widely, holding that the purpose underlying the fundamental right against sex discrimination is to prevent behaviour that treats people differently for not being in conformity with the generalisations concerning “normal” and “natural” gender roles.

It is deeply disturbing, then, that the government, ignoring the Justice Verma Committee recommendations on this point, has deemed it fit to retain the gender specificity of the victim/survivor, thus excluding the lived experience of violence of all those who are not born women. The pioneering feminist Susan Brownmiller, in her groundbreaking work on sexual violence, Against Our Will, written in the early 1980s recognised that sexual assault could hardly be restricted to forced genital copulation, nor was it an exclusively male-on-female offence. More than 30 years later, we must ask this question of our lawmakers and those reluctant to equate the sexual violence experienced by women with that experienced by transgender persons, men and sexual minorities not born women: Who is to say that the sexual humiliation suffered by transgender persons and men, and by those intersex persons and sexual minorities not born women, is a lesser violation of the personal, inner space, a lesser injury to mind, spirit and sense of self?

 

The writer is a lawyer with the Alternative Law Forum, Bangalore

PUCL- JP Memorial Lecture – New Social Movements, New Perspectives


New Social Movements, New Perspectives

Nivedita Menon

Her side of the storyNivedita MenonPhoto: SAMPATH KUMAR G.P.

photo courtesy- : SAMPATH KUMAR G.P.

JP Memorial Lecture March 23, 2013

 

We stand at an electrifying and exciting moment of history, when new forces are coming into view through a range of movements, shaking the foundations of political power. They do not seek to ‘capture’ political power but rather, to make it accountable and answerable to ‘the people’. The massive upsurges against corruption and against the Delhi gang-rape, whose reverberations were heard in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Nepal, tie up with a global moment which has been marked by similar unrest in different parts of the world – the Arab Spring, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the youth movement in Bangladesh against the Islamic right-wing and for a return to the secular ideals of the 1971 liberation struggle.

But there are dots that connect these current rounds of movements to a longer history of non-party activism in India, which I want to trace in my presentation, before returning to the present and the difficult questions we face about democracy today.

In the long history of people’s movements in India, we have seen them take different forms. I’m referring of course, to non-party movements, among the first of which is the JP movement itself, whose ultimate demise, as is widely accepted now, can be traced to its takeover by political parties.

Today I will try to map the forms that people’s movements have taken since the 1980s, and it should be clear that the focus will be on what we perceive as ‘new’ movements. Thus, I will not refer to the long struggles against the Indian state in Kashmir and the North East because a discussion of those requires another lecture altogether that will question the very legitimacy of the claim of India to be a Nation.

A new kind of social and political action emerged in the 1980s, that we might call citizens’ initiatives. These non-funded and non-party forums came into being out of a sense of the inefficacy of mainstream political parties and their lack of concern regarding vital issues of democracy, freedom and civil rights. ‘Citizens’ initiatives’ have been more involved in a watchdog kind of activity and are not generally characterized by mass support. While some are small, self-sufficient groups of long standing, others are broad coalitions formed around specific issues, that bring together parties and trade unions of the far left, Gandhian, Dalit and feminist groups, some of which may be funded NGOs, as well as non-affiliated individuals. The distinguishing feature of such coalitions is that all the constituents are subject to the ‘common minimum programme’ set collectively by the forum, and separate party/organizational agenda are not meant to influence the activity of the forum. The tension that this sets up between differing imperatives is usually also the reason for the short-lived nature of such forums, which tend to dissipate after a period of intense and often very effective interventions.

Among the first citizens’ initiatives that came into existence were around civil liberties and democratic rights. Acquiring particular salience in the immediate aftermath of the Emergency, a number of such organizations came into being throughout the country. For instance, the Peoples’ Union for Civil Liberties and Democratic Rights (PUCLDR) set up during the Emergency later split into the People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), with a more leftist perspective on ‘rights’ including economic rights, while the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) decided to focus on ‘civil liberties’ more narrowly. There was a string of such formations in the country. In many states like Andhra Pradesh (the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee – APCLC) and West Bengal (Association for the Protection of Democratic Right – APDR), the main initiative for the formation of such civil liberties and democratic rights organizations came from activists linked to the far Left groups. We distinguish such forums from what are called ‘human rights organizations’, many of which are funded organizations that work in tandem with internationally evolving agendas. The latter we would place under the rubric of  ‘NGOs’.

Such groups have continued to play an active role in the years since, painstakingly documenting and exposing cases of civil liberties and democratic rights violations. In recent years they have also been actively campaigning against capital punishment. While the initial impulse for their formation was the violation by the state of citizens’ rights to freedom of expression, they have over the last two and a half decades expanded their activities to address violations of freedoms by non-state actors in the context of caste, gender and sectarian/ communal violence. Some of them have also taken up questions of the worst cases of exploitation of labour, which effectively nullify rights and liberties sanctioned by the Constitution to all citizens.

A recent significant battle fought by one such citizens’ group – Committee for Fair Trial for SAR Geelani – demonstrates how effective such interventions can be. Syed Abdul Rehman Geelani, a lecturer of Arabic in a Delhi college, was one of the ‘prime accused’ in the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001. Following as it did on ‘9/11’, the incident got inserted into the stridently nationalist discourse that drew nourishment from both the Hindu-right dominated NDA government and the rhetoric of George Bush’s ‘war on terrorism’. A group of teachers and students of Delhi University kept up a consistent struggle to ensure a fair trial for SAR Geelani in the bleak days of 2002, when one of the worst state-sponsored carnages of post-Independence Indian history was in progress in Gujarat, and Geelani was not only sentenced to death by a POTA (Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act) court but also subjected to a blatant media trial pronouncing him guilty even before the court verdict. Eventually a national level Committee was formed, drawing in respected academics like Rajni Kothari and writer Arundhati Roy, while lawyers like Nandita Haksar and others undertook to fight the case on Geelani’s behalf. Their patient and unrelenting work was successful in exposing what turned out to be a blatant frame-up. Geelani was acquitted and released. The Geelani case revealed the extent to which democracy can be subverted by the discourse on ‘national security’. However, it also demonstrated that spaces for democratic intervention are not entirely closed off.

Of course, this was only a partial victory and the December 13th attack on parliament has a darker story behind it which we cannot go into now, the latest episode of which was the unjust execution of Afzal Guru for a crime the Supreme Court conceded he did not commit.

Another set of citizens’ initiatives that came since 1984 and the massacre of Sikhs were several anti-communal groups in different parts of the country. One of the earliest of these was a forum called the Nagarik Ekta Manch, formed in 1984 itself. This was an initiative where people from different backgrounds and vocations came together to work in the relief camps – collecting and distributing relief materials, helping people file claims and so on. At about the same time, another group, the Sampradayikta Virodhi Andolan (SVA) was formed in Delhi, focusing primarily on public campaigns, attempting simultaneously to find a different language in which to conduct such campaigns. A wide debate was sparked in secular circles by one of the slogans evolved by the SVA to counter the Hindu right-wing campaign on Ramjanmabhoomi, discussed in Chapter 2. This slogan, in a radical departure from secular strategy, appealed to the religious Hindu – kan-kan mein vyaape hain Ram/Mat bhadkao danga leke unka naam (Ram is in every atom/let not His name be used to incite violence).

These could be said to have been precursors to a series of new initiatives in different towns and cities of India that came into being in the 1990s, especially in the wake of the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the communal violence that followed. Perhaps the most significant part of the citizens’ actions of the 1990s was that they took up the struggle that was all but abandoned by political parties – whether ruling or opposition, Right or Left. Through this period groups have worked throughout India, engaging in a range of activities – street demonstrations and sit-ins to engage the public in debate and discussion, designing and implementing educational programmes, monitoring the media, pursuing cases in court, providing legal and other assistance to the victims of communal violence and making every effort to see that the guilty officials and political leaders would not escape punishment. Again, in the aftermath of the Gujarat carnage of 2002, during the long months of continued violence, innumerable individuals and newly formed groups from all over India went to Gujarat, helping in running relief camps, coordinating collections and distribution of relief materials, running schools for children of the victims – and of course, providing the legal support to fight the cases. These efforts might well comprise one of the most glorious chapters of citizens’ interventions in post-independence India.

Urbanism could be said to be one of the fledgling movements in contemporary India. Prior to the 1990s issues of the urban poor, (pavement dwellers, hawkers and vendors, rickshaw pullers) were raised by Left political parties, individuals and groups in Mumbai and Kolkata, largely as questions of poverty and the ‘state’s responsibility’ to the poor. The old Nehruvian state was also much more responsive to this call of responsibility. It was in the 1990s, with India’s rapid global integration, that urban space really began to emerge as an arena of struggle. Alongside the contests over space arose newer concerns regarding urban congestion, pollution and consequent concerns about health. The state’s response – prodded by a section of environmentalists and the judiciary – was to revive the old modernist fantasy of the ordered and zoned city. It was around these issues that struggles started seriously erupting in the late 1990s.

In Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore, citizens’ initiatives brought together questions of environment and workers’ rights and linked them up with the larger question of urban planning. Some groups conducted mass campaigns through their constituent political groupings, but the most significant impact they had was in making urban planning a matter of public debate, drawing architects and planners with alternative visions into the debate. The question of a public transport system, road planning and such other questions came into the ambit of the debate for the first time. In some cities alternative data was generated on the availability and consumption of water, electricity and other amenities in settlements of the labouring poor as well as the affluent.

Today as Arvind Kejriwal begins his civil disobedience campaign on the inflated costs of water and electricity, we can see the historical links to earlier forms of activism.

Since the late 1980s, non-party movements and citizens’ initiatives have grown and functioned in a complicated relationship with NGOs. The apprehension of being driven by funder agendas, becoming depoliticized and being co-opted by funding has kept most movements and citizens’ initiatives consciously ‘non-funded’. At the same time many NGOs often provide movements with vital support in terms of infrastructure, campaigns and educational materials. Thus, while the peoples’ movements fight their battles in faraway rural or forest areas, with little access to the media, it is these NGOs that set up and house the various metropolitan ‘support groups’ whose task it is to approach friendly and influential people in the media, bureaucracy and academia to advocate the cause of the movement concerned. Such NGOs have often also provided critical research inputs on technical details, environmental impact and other information required to conduct a credible campaign. A striking example of such a symbiosis is the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

These citizens’ initiatives were rarely mass movements, but in the first decades on the 21st century we have begun to see mass movements of this new, coalitional kind, arising around the issue of land acquisition. Such movements have brought into crisis the hitherto unquestioned assumption that industrialization and economic development of a particular kind are natural stages in human history. This assumption is shared across the political spectrum from Right to Left and so these movements come into sharp contradiction with an Old Left framework that has still not understood the deep ecological crisis our planet  faces and the need to rethink entirely the idea of endless growth which is in fact impossible.

Increasingly, movements against land acquisition are coming together with the movement against nuclear energy, from Jaitapur to Kudankulam. In these mass movements we see the new form of coming together of political energies. That is, around a single issue, a range of forces come together, from religious forces like the Jamat in Singur and Nandigram and the Church in Kudankulam, to the familiar spectrum of individuals and groups – Gandhians, Dalit groups, NGOs, left groups and sometimes left parties and so on. The anti-nuclear energy movements of course, go back to the era of citizens’ initiatives when groups like Anumukti, Network to Oust Nuclear Energy (NONE) and Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (COSNUP) were set up. Such citizens’ initiatives were undertaken to highlight issues such as the dangers of radiation to communities located in uranium mining sites, the undemocratic and opaque nature of functioning of India’s nuclear establishment, and as always, the injustice of displacing populations from their homes and occupations in order to set up nuclear energy plants. More importantly, these groups developed a critique of nuclear energy as such, asserting, along with a growing chorus of voices globally, that it was ‘neither clean nor safe nor cheap.’ While this work did not have a mass movement dimension until now, we see the coming together of these older initiatives with the mass movements in Kudankulam and Jaitapur.

Again, the Old Left is completely out of tune with these new developments, as in its imaginative horizon, nuclear energy is central to a strong nation state. For example, the proposal to build a giant nuclear power station in Haripur in West Bengal is a central government project, but is fully supported by the Left Front. The ecological and social consequences of building a nuclear plant in the densely populated Gangetic delta region are fearsome to contemplate, and the CPI (M)’s enthusiastic support for it is deeply troubling.

Coming now to the women’s movement, it has functioned more or less in the form of citizens’ initiatives of the kind I have described, with occasional mass mobilization by political parties. In the 1980s, the “autonomous women’s movement” emerged from the patriarchy and control of left-wing political parties. The first national-level autonomous women’s conferences were thus attended by non-funded, non-party, self-defined feminist groups. Over the 1990s, very few of these survived as non-funded organizations, and the seventh conference in 2006, held in Kolkata, referred to above, was almost entirely attended by funded NGOs. It is also important to note that many “non” governmental organizations receive funding from the government for specific projects. Thus, the only groups that were finally excluded were non-funded left wing and radical women’s organizations, which seemed to many feminists to be a strange paradox. Increasingly however, in the last few years, coalitions around issues such as sexual violence and the rights of LGBT people, include political parties of the Left. Feminists also perceive the close link between movements around livelihood and ecological sustainability, and the women’s movement – Nalini Nayak, who works with fisher- people’s movements on these issues, terms ecological movements the “resource base of our feminism”.

And so we arrive at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, a decade in which we see two kinds of new political action. One – unprecedented urban mass movements in the city of Delhi and in other cities and towns, around two issues – corruption and sexual violence.

Two – social media driven mobilizations by young upper class women around the issue of women’s rights to public space.

Both these kinds of mobilizations, quite opposite in character to each other, have proved difficult for older Left and women’s movement perspectives to come to terms with, for they follow none of the older patterns of mobilizing, there is no comprehensive programme of action, only one narrow slogan, and the mass character necessarily means there can be no broader agreement around large political issues.

Let me start with the second phenomenon I mentioned.

Two campaigns have caught media attention. One, the Pink Chaddi campaign. In 2009, men of a hitherto little known Hindu right-wing organization called Sri Ram Sene, physically attacked young women in pubs in the city of Mangalore. These attacks, supposedly an attempt to protect Indian culture from defilement by western values, were met with protests and solidarity campaigns all over the country, but the most imaginative one came to be called the Pink Chaddi campaign. A cheeky Facebook group was launched by Delhi journalist Nisha Susan, with the name of ‘Consortium of Pubgoing, Loose and Forward Women’, which called upon women to send pink chaddis (underwear) to the leader of the Ram Sene, Pramod Muthalik, as a gift on Valentine’s Day, in a non-violent gesture of ridicule and protest.  Over 2000 chaddis were in fact delivered to the Ram Sene office, and the organization was a butt of ridicule all over the world. It is striking that the campaign used the word ‘chaddi’ rather than ‘panty’, simultaneously desexualizing the piece of clothing, ungendering it (chaddi refers to underwear in general, not just to women’s panties), and playing on the pejorative slang for Hindu right-wingers, after the uniform of their parent organization, the RSS, whose members wear khaki shorts. At one level an undoubtedly successful campaign, it faced criticism from conservative opinion for obvious reasons, and also from the left of the political spectrum.

The latter chastised the campaign for elitism (‘after all, only westernized women in cities go to pubs’) and for diverting attention to such a trivial issue when for most women in India, their very survival is at stake. Is going to pubs what feminism is about, was the question such critics raised. Of course not. And nor did the ‘Consortium’ claim it was anything as large as ‘feminism’ itself. It was a specific campaign in response to a specific attack, and as Nisha Susan put it, ‘for many of those who signed up, neither Valentine’s Day nor pub-going meant anything. What we agreed on is the need to end violence in the name of somebody’s idea of Indian culture’ (2009). The campaign brazenly owned up to the identities the Hindu right-wing attributed to women in pubs – ‘loose and forward’ – and made them badges of pride. And it clearly touched a chord across the country, for most people understood it as defiance towards the Hindu right’s moral policing in general, not merely about women’s right to drink in pubs.

The other instance was the organizing of Slut Walks in Delhi and Bhopal. Slut Walks, both in European and American cities as well as in some Indian ones, must be understood as a critique of the victim blaming culture that surrounds rape. The original Slut Walk was a reaction to a Canadian police officer’s remark that if women dress ‘like sluts’, they must expect to be raped. However, the overwhelmingly positive responses world-wide to Slut Walks, reveal that blaming the victim is not an attitude restricted to the West.

In India, within the feminist camp, there were misgivings expressed that the English word ‘slut’ has no resonance at all here. In response, the organizers of the march added a Hindi phrase explaining the name, so that it became Slut Walk arthaat Besharmi Morcha, drawing on the Hindi word besharam meaning ‘without shame’ or shameless, often used for women who refuse to live by patriarchal rules. What was interesting about Slut Walks in India (held in Bhopal and Delhi in July 2011), was that they were not organized by the established women’s movement organizations and well-known feminist faces, but by much younger women new to political organizing, who were expressing, however, an old and powerful feminist demand – the right to safety in public spaces.

If this was elite mobilization, what is the problem for the Left with mass mobilizations? It appears that the non-party Left has a deep rooted fear of the masses, which it can only see as communal and casteist, and politically regressive. Throughout the Anna Hazare phase of the India Against Corruption movement, we saw from this section, which forms our community, strident demands for absolute  purity of the radical position (for example, what do these people have to say about Kashmir?). We saw a sort of aggressive self-marginalization and self-exile to a high ground where all credentials were closely scrutinized, and we saw the absolute incomprehension of and contempt of people who are our friends, for  ’the people’ when actually confronted by them.

Interestingly, political parties of the Left, especially CP(ML), were supportive of the movement and active in various ways, this sharp criticism came from individuals of the non-Party left.

What I saw was a carnivalesque celebration of the pure ideals of democracy – of the idea that ‘we the people’ are sovereign, that politicians are the servants of the people, that laws must originate in the needs and demands of the people.

What my community saw though, was a mindless mob of communal and casteist – and even “fascist” middle classes.

For twelve days, a city in which protest had been consigned to a museumized space, Jantar Mantar, was reclaimed for protest by a crashing tide of humanity so huge, so peaceful and non-violent, that it simply took back the city. No violence. No untoward incidents and no hysteria (except on television channels). How is this fascism? Are all large gatherings of the masses fascist?

Since many of the critics swear by some form of ‘Marxism-Leninism’, let me quote from Lenin who said in 1916 of the 1905 revolution:

“Whoever expects a ‘pure’ social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is…The Russian Revolution of 1905 was a bourgeois-democratic revolution. It consisted of a series of battles in which all the discontented classes, groups and elements of the population participated. Among these there were masses imbued with the crudest prejudices…; there were small groups which accepted Japanese money, there were speculators and adventurers, etc. But objectively, the mass movement was breaking the [back] of tsarism and paving the way for democracy.”

Another kind of critic speaks not in the name of revolution, but of democracy; a democracy disciplined through representative institutions with The People entering the stage every five years. The People are a continuous source of anxiety, casteist and communal as all of them are. Little wonder then that this set of Leftist and Left-liberals remained silent when the government denied permission for the protest and arrested Hazare on August 16; some even denying that there had been a violation of civil liberties.

Law-making needs to be demystified – “it’s a very complex process”, the experts on TV kept saying. But what the movement did was it made it legitimate to say that we have a right to the information that will enable us to arrive at a conclusion. I heard a young law student stumblingly explain before a TV camera in English, which was clearly not his first language: ”They say the Parliament is sovereign. No. They should read the Constitution. The people are sovereign.”

And I loved the way people said to the camera – Main Kapil Sibal se kehna chahta hoon, main Manmohanji ko batana chahti hoon – directly, they addressed the “leaders”, the politicians, as if they have a right to. This is neither anti political nor anti political classes – it is the exact opposite. It is the insistence precisely that “we the people” are political, we demand accountability from those whom we send to Parliament.

It is by now established that there was substantial Muslim and Dalit participation despite their leaders’ disapproval. The other misrepresentation being continually purveyed is that the supporters of this movement are the middle classes. If the lakhs of people who participated in the protests over twelve days in Delhi alone, are all ‘middle class’, then India must be Shining after all! Anybody who moved around where protests were happening could have seen that the large majority of participants were lower middle class to working class people. In Delhi local protests happened everywhere, far away from TV cameras – in middle class housing societies, working class ‘unauthorized’ colonies, around local mosques in poor localities, small temples.

We also know from newspaper reports that there was growing participation of workers throughout – railway workers affiliated to AITUC; 1800 temporary-for-years Delhi Transport Corporation workers who were sacked for going to Ramlila Maidan; dabbawalas in Mumbai who have not struck work for 140 years;   sections of auto drivers; Maruti workers from Manesar in Haryana.

The other argument against an anti-corruption law is that ‘corruption provides a little shade to the poor’.  As a skeptics about the law and the state, I have often written about the freedoms made possible by going under the radar of the state. But how to understand the poor and working class who throng the movement?  Perhaps ‘corruption’ is precisely not to be in the shade, to be forced into engaging with the force of Law, but outside the protection of the law. Perhaps the ‘corrupt’ people protesting corruption would like to live a life in which they wouldn’t have to be corrupt just to survive every day? We need to recognize that the term ‘corruption’ as it plays out in the movement, condenses within it a range of discontents – an accumulating anger over repeated betrayals of democratic expectations over years, but especially over the last decade. The immediate trigger of the movement was the series of instances of looting of the public exchequer that came to light recently – the Commonwealth Games, the 2G Spectrum scam, the Niira Radia tapes that exposed how ministers were being fixed to benefit particular business houses, and so on. But corruption is also an everyday matter for the poor – the thelawala paying hafta to the beat constable;  the labourer whose muster rolls are faked, the agricultural worker whose NREGA payment is swallowed up; every poor undertrial in jail on trumped up charges (was it surprising then, that the undertrials in Tihar fasted in solidarity with Anna?); the farmer whose land is seized to be passed on to corporates, an issue mentioned by Anna Hazare in his speech at Ramlila Maidan (kisanon ki zameen zabardasti chheeni ja rahi hai); the aspirant to own an auto rickshaw costing 1 lakh, who ends up paying more than a car costs, and drowns in debt.

A young working class boy we know, falsely implicated in a theft case by the police for over four years, rang up at the height of the agitation to tell us jubilantly that the beat constable had told him that the cases were being closed – “Anna hazare ke chakkar mein pulis saare case khatam kar rahi hai” (All this Anna Hazare stuff is going on, so the police are closing all the cases.) We don’t know what made him think this had anything to do with Anna Hazare. But this is the Anna moment. This is what the Subaltern Studies historians drew our attention to, the multiple meanings Gandhi had for different sections of people, the ‘rumours of Gandhi’ that galvanized a variety of protests that directly addressed local issues.

But also, maybe the police were scared for an instant?

To all those who woke up to the India Against Corruption movement in April 2011 – a gentle reminder that this is the crystallization of a long process that began in the villages, initiated by the campaign around the Right to Information. The RTI Act (2005), instrumental in exposing corruption in a range of spaces from NREGA to municipal schools, was the culmination of one phase of the movement; the establishment of an Ombudsman or Lokpal was always planned as the next stage. Corruption is tied fundamentally to the RTI Act that exposes it, so effectively that several RTI activists have been murdered.

Now of course, Arvind Kejriwal has decided to go the way of a political party, but what we see of the AAP so far, it is clearly not a conventional party with a top-down leadership, and it appears to be genuinely seeking a new way of being a party, with actual mass participation in decision making, which might change the ground rules for all parties.

The experience of the mobilizations around IAC were behind the massive protests around the Delhi gang-rape. This time, the voices of critique were muted, although a prominent critic was Arundhati Roy, who immediately termed the protests upper class. But again, this was not the case. The protests were sparked off by the rape of a girl on a bus at 9.30 at night. She could have been anybody – she was not in a car, or even an auto. Nobody knew her caste – later it turned out she is from a very poor family and from the Kurmi caste, which is by no means an upper caste – but the point is nobody actually knew who she was – she was Everywoman.

And again, exactly like the IAC movement, there were right-wing voices as well as left-wing and feminist voices against sexual violence. These feminist thoughts were being articulated by not only people calling themselves feminists but ordinary middle class people who may not consider themselves to be very political at all. There were thousands of submissions to the Justice Verma committee and many of these have been made by ordinary people, resident’s Welfare Associations and so on, asking for changes in the broader patriarchal context of society – things like women’s safety and police sensitivity.

There has been a ground level shift among people reflecting decades of feminist intervention at different levels, but there is a real disconnect between the people and politicians. Feminist understandings have caught on in the ordinary public but this is not matched by the understanding of state agencies. Not only was a feminist position NOT articulated by anyone in a position of power or any political organization in a consistent way, most politicians from Left to Right came out with the most misogynist and regressive statements about women and about sexual violence.

And again, people did not have to be mobilized by any organized left wing, right wing or feminist groups. The transformation that has taken place in the last 4-5 years is that people feel like they own the city and can come out in protest on the streets – and I think this can be tracked back to India Against Corruption.

Any mass movement brings together disparate and sometimes  starkly contradictory tendencies.  Don’t we know that from the Indian struggle for independence? Was the Indian bourgeoisie absent from it? Or the religious right of all sorts? Or casteist and Brahminical forces? If absolute purity and a point-to-point matching of our full political agenda is required for us to support a movement, then feminists would be permanently stuck restively in the waiting room of history, for I can assure you that every mass demonstration you see anywhere ever, is packed with patriarchal men and patriarchalized women! Nor does any movement except the women’s movement ever raise patriarchy as an issue. But what is it that we take into account when we do support a movement? One – does the movement express a goal or demand that we support? Two – Does the movement as such explicitly take positions that are anti-women or anti-anything-we-stand-for? (The answers of course, should be yes and no respectively).

The  huge movement in Goa that succeeded in scrapping the SEZ Bill was composed of precisely such a broad formation – from the Church to the Hindu Right, to all of the others  of my community as described above. They came together, they went their separate ways once their campaign succeeded. Nandigram saw a similar formation. Many non-party non-funded citizens’ forums have too. The Narmada Bachao Andolan is another broad alliance coalescing on a single issue. For that matter, at Tahrir Square there were Islamists (Muslim Brotherhood), and people and groups who stand for full-scale capitalism apart from secularists and feminists and workers and trade unions. Now it’s a struggle of secularists against the Muslim right-wing in Egypt, but that is a historically contingent, not necessary or inevitable development.

It is the logic of the development of a mass movement in all its messiness that we should seek to understand, rather than look for that pure, 22-carat revolution where everything will proceed according to the programme laid down by the Left elite. From this perspective, nothing less than our maximum agenda is acceptable – from SEZs to farmers’ suicides, from AFSPA in the Northeast to the murder of democracy in Kashmir. If you will not accept even one of these points, you’re out – we will have nothing to do with you. It is not “they” who say ‘if you are not with us you are against us’, this arrogant divisive slogan has always been ours, on the Left.

Those issues listed above are our issues too, but what if a mass movement does not raise them? What if it articulates itself around a more generalized and widespread concern? Any student of mass movements anywhere in the world knows that mass movements of this scale only arise around issues where the largest sections of the people feel affected by it. They can never arise around sectional issues – however big the sections concerned may be. And the question really is of the potentiality of the movement rather than what it is, at any given point.  It will only be inclusive to the extent that it is able to draw in the largest number.

We will of course have to part ways at some point to fight our separate battles, but we can come together for a specific limited goal.

We stand at the beginning of a new kind of politics that has all kinds of forces within it, but one of these is certainly the potential to radically transform and rejuvenate democracy. We should be prepared to ride that potential, not undermine it.

 

This lecture is based on material from my earlier published work, some of it singly authored, some jointly written with Aditya Nigam, in continuing conversation with whom these ideas have developed.

 

PRESS RELEASE- Mr Naveen Patnaik apologize to the Women of Govindpur, Patana and Dhinkia #Posco #Vaw


Mr. Naveen Patnaik we are surprised that you are not ashamed even after women’s day.

Dear Mr. Naveen Patnaik,

We are deeply anguished and disturbed by the recent turn of frightening and ugly incidents perpetrated by the Odisha government, POSCO management and their hired lumpen criminal elements on the POSCO payroll. They have unleashed extremely barbaric white terror in the anti-POSCO struggling villages of Jaghat Singh Pur, Odisha. On the eve of the women’s day we learnt that the women gave the most desperate threat to the district administration as a last ditch effort. “If the police forces are not withdrawn they will protest naked in front of the police”. This news sent a chill down our spines as this was a confirmation of your wanton behaviour in the area and continuing attempts at escalating completely unjustified violence against agitators.

You have proved that you are the biggest enemy of the women of Odisha. Instead of removing the police you charged women with indecent exposure and arrested them.

That shows the apocalyptic vision that women are the most worthless beings, have absolutely no hope in a state governed by you. And remember, all this was happening when your minions of women and child development department and the public relations department were flooding the newspapers and television with your great achievements on the gender front. Whereas in reality you have inflicted on the suffering women of Odisha extreme repression by security forces who rape them in custody, brutally repress them, forcibly evict them from land, habitat, livelihood, culture and undermine their dignity. The combing operations by your police and paramilitary forces have inflicted most bestial violence that has crossed all the limits of barbarism.

Last time one had seen such a protest taking place was in Manipur in July 2004. The situation, however, was a little different in that case. Assam Rifles had raped and murdered Manorama. Elderly women of Manipur aghast at that had decided for going that protest in sheer desperation. They were a people who had completely lost their faith in the nation that claimed to be their own but acted as an occupying force. Its security forces assaulted the men and raped the women at will and the state legitimised such dreadful practices by allowing the Assam Rifles deployed in Manipur to provide condoms as an integral part of the travel kit,to be used while on patrol duty. Having had enough of this, Manipuri women went to the headquarters of the Assam Rifles, disrobed and flung a banner reading “INDIAN ARMY RAPE US”.

Odisha is thousands of kilometers away from Manipur. The POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) simply announced “Left with no other option, women from the village have decided to get naked before the Policemen tomorrow”. The pain and agony it would take to first decide for holding such a protest and then announcing it to the public was totally lost on you.

The women reached this decision because you as the Chief Minister have abandoned them for POSCO, the multinational company and as its lackey have been violating all rights of the residents with impunity. Anti-POSCO people have reached the decision after getting many of their near and dear ones killed by the hired goons of the company. They have reached the decision for the state government repeatedly sending in an armed-to-teeth police force for cracking down on the peaceful protesters and forcibly acquiring the lands even when the environmental clearance that is mandatory for such projects stand cancelled by the statutory authorities and the MoU with POSCO is defunct. You have destroyed their betel leave vines. You threaten to arrest them if they step out of the village and for years they have lived without even the minimal health services.

Mr. Patnaik,  your slavery and loyalty to the national and international corporations has made you so de-humanized and de-sensitized that you are busy serving their interest and are apathetic to the very people who have brought you into this office.

Your administration lies through its teeth and accuses anti-POSCO struggle of making bombs. Your police tries to run over their leader. Such is the rottenness of your rule that even fact finding teams are hounded by company goons who are getting more confident as they are literally getting away with murder.

Finally, if you have any shame left, Mr. Patnaik, resign and apologise to the women of Dhinkia, Govindpur and Patana.

We speak on behalf of several women’s groups and well known activists who endorse our view. The complete list is attached to this letter.

Kaveri,  Kamayani, Kalpana

For Women against sexual violence and state repression

More than 100 people signed the letter sent to the CM endorsements Below

1
Asit Das-  Posco pratirodh solidarity Delhi
Kalpana Mehta, Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, Indore
Kaveri Indira, Scientist, Bangalore
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Human Rights Activist , Mumbai
Mamata Dash ,Posco pratirodh solidarity Delhi
Chittraranjan singh National Secretary PUCL
Ashok choudhury NFFPFW
Dr.Sunilam Kissan Sangharsh Samiti
10  Kiran Shaheen Women against sexual violence and state expression(WSS)
11  Anand swarup verma Editor samkaleen tisri duniya
12  Prashant Pairikay, Posco pratirodh sangharsh samiti
13  K.K. Niyogi All India platform for labour rights
14  Manj mohan Hind mazdoor sabha
15  Roma NFFPFW
16  Anil chaudhury INSAF
17  Insha malik Research sholar JNU
18  Bhupen singh Research sholar JNU
19  Vijay pratap Socialist front
20  Madhuresh NAPM
21  Rajendra Ravi NAPM
22  Anna khandre Samajwadi party
23  Putul Yuva bharat
24  P.K. sundaram IndiaResists.com
25  Prakash kumar ray Editorbargad.org
26  Nayanjyoti Krantikari naujawan sabha
27  Vinod singh Samajwadi jan parishad
28  Rakhi Saiigal Labour activist
29  Gopal Krishna Toxic Watch
30  Shankar Gopalakrishnan
31  Saheli, Delhi
32  Devika Biswas, State convenor
33  Healthwatch Forum , Bihar, C/O BVHA PATNA BIHAR
34  Ruchi Shroff , Mumbai
35  Madhumita Dutta
36  ‘Suresh Bhat B, Concerned Citizen, Mangalore
37  Sudha Bharadwaj, Chhattisgarh PUCL.
38  Rakmakant Banjare, Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee)
39  Nisha Biswas , Kolkata
40  Swatija, Mumbai
41  ‘Prabhakar Pandit from Mumbai Mobile Creches_
42  Rahul Yogi Deveshwar
43  Independent Voice , Shanti se Kranti
44  Nirja Bhatnagar, Mumbai
45  Himadri Sekhar Mistri, Research Scholar, Delhi School of Economics
46  Women’s Research and Action Group
47  Tanushree Gangopadhyay, Ahmedabad
48  Anjali sinha  Madhubala from Stree mukti sangathan
49  Madhubala, from Stree mukti sangathan
50  Sankara Narayanan_
51  Sharanya Humane, Koraput
52  Rakesh Narayana, PUCL – Bangalore
53  Kaushiki Rao, Bangalore
54  K. Sajaya, Hyderabad
55  Uma V Chandru, WSS Activist, Bangalore
56  Aruna Chandrasekhar, Research and journalist
57  Shraddha Chickerur
58  Vivek Sundara, Socila Activist, Mumbai
59  Pushpa (Member, WSS-Karnataka)
60  Abha Bhaiya
61  Anuradha Pati
62  Kannamma Raman, University of Mumbai
63  Jeevika Shiv, Centre for Equity Studies, Delhi
64  Kabi S., Bombay
65  Devaki Jain
66  Rina Mukherji
67  Soma KP
68  Aanchal Kapur
69  Trupti Shah, Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan)
70  K. Sajaya, Hyderabad
71  Iqbal Baig
72  Sudha.S. Bangalore
73  Sadhna, Delhi
74  Ratna, Law Student, Bangalore
75  Evangeline Anderson-Rajkumar, Bangalore
76  M. R. Prabhakar, Bangalore
77  Nisha Biswas, Kolkata
78  Gowru Chinnapa, Bangalore
79  Ayush Ranka, Bangalore
80  Rakesh Narayana, PUCL – Bangalore
81  Sharanya, Humane, Koraput
82  Shakun.M, Bangalore
83  Soundarya Iyer, Research Scholar, NIAS, Bangalore
84  Sudha Bharadwaj, Chhattisgarh PUCL.
85  Rakmakant Banjare, Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee)
86  Vasanth Kannabiran
87  Shyama K Narang
88  Anupriya, Delhi
89  Chhaya Datar
90  K. Lalita
91  Neha Dhingra
92  Rina, Kolkata
93  Sutapa Majumdar
94  Lalita Ramdas, Bhaimala, Alibag
95  Admiral L. Ramdas, Bhaimala, Alibag
96  Vinay Bhat, Management Consultant, Santa Clara, CA
97  Gopika Solanki
98  Uma Chakravarti
99  Mary E John
100  Suneeta Dhar
101  Arundhati Dhuru
102  Dr Veena R Poonacha, Director, Research Center for Women’s Studies & Project Director, Dr. Avabai Wadia Archives, SNDT Women’s University
103  Sharmila Rege
104  Veena Shatrugna
105  Gabriele Dietrich
106  Devangana Kalita
107  Tungshang Ningreichon, Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights
108  Meera, Narmada Valley
109  Prem Verma, Jharkhand Alternative Development Forum, Ranchi, Jharkhand
110  Lakshmi Premkumar, Programme for Social Action (PSA), New Delhi
111  Priyanka Borpujari, independent journalist
112  Koyel Lahiri, MPhil student, CSSSC
113  K Babu Rao, NAPM, Hyderabad
114  Lokesh, Stree Mukti Sangathan
115  Gee Ameena Suleiman
116  Maitreyi, ALF, Bangalore
117  Prafulla Samantara, Convenor, NAPM
118  Kunal Rawat, New Delhi
119  Prasad Chacko, Social activist, Ahmedabad
120  Alaka Basu
121  Anita Ghai, Feminist and Disblity rights activist, Delhi
122  Parth J Dave, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai
123  Pradeep Esteves, Context India, Bangalore
124  Nitesh Mohanty, The Root Mumbai
125 Jayati Lal, Visiting fellow, CSSS, JNU

 

Open Letter to the Chief minister of Odisha #Vaw #Womensday


March 12, 2013

Mr. Naveen Pattnaik we are surprised that you are not ashamed even after women’s day.

Dear Mr. Naveen Pattnaik,

We are deeply anguished and disturbed by the recent turn of frightening and ugly incidents perpetrated by the Odisha government, POSCO management and their hired lumpen criminal elements on the POSCO payroll. They have unleashed extremely barbaric white terror in the anti-POSCO struggling villages of Jaghat Singh Pur, Odisha. On the eve of the women’s day we learnt that the women gave the most desperate threat to the district administration as a last ditch effort. “If the police forces are not withdrawn they will protest naked in front of the police”. This news sent a chill down our spines as this was a confirmation of your wanton behaviour in the area and continuing attemts at escalating violence against agitators that is completely unjustified.

You have proved that you are the biggest enemy of the women of Odisha. Instead of removing the police you charged women with indecent exposure and arrested them.

That shows the apocalyptic vision that women are the most worthless beings, have absolutely no hope in a state governed by you. And remember, all this was happening when your minions of women and child development department and the public relations department were flooding the newspapers and television with your great achievements on the gender front. Whereas in reality you have inflicted on the suffering women of Odisha extreme repression by security forces who rape them in custody, brutally repress them forcibly evict them from land, habitat, livelihood, culture and dignity. The combing operations by your police and paramilitary forces have inflicted most bestial violence that has crossed all the limits of barbarism.

Last time one had seen such a protest taking place was in Manipur in July 2004. The situation, however, was a little different in that case. Assam Rifles had raped and murdered Manorama. Elderly women of Manipur aghast at that had decided for going that protest in sheer desperation. They were a people who had completely lost their faith in the nation that claimed to be their own but acted as an occupying force. Its security forces assaulted the men and raped the women at will and the state legitimised such dreadful practices by allowing the Assam Rifles deployed in Manipur to provide condoms as an integral part of the travel kit,to be used while on patrol duty. Having had enough of this, Manipuri women went to the headquarters of the Assam Rifles, disrobed and flung a banner reading “INDIAN ARMY RAPE US”.

Odisha is thousands of kilometers away from Manipur. The POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) simply announced “Left with no other option, women from the village have decided to get naked before the Policemen tomorrow”. The pain and agony it would take to first decide for holding such a protest and then announcing it to the public was totally lost on you.

The women reached this decision because you as the Chief Minister have abandoned them for POSCO, the multinational company and as its lackey have been violating all rights of the residents with impunity. Anti-POSCO people have reached the decision after getting many of their near and dear ones killed by the hired goons of the company. They have reached the decision for the state government repeatedly sending in an armed-to-teeth police force for cracking down on the peaceful protesters and forcibly acquiring the lands even when the environmental clearance that is mandatory for such projects stand cancelled by the statutory authorities and the MoU with POSCO is defunct. You have destroyed their betel leave vines. You threaten to arrest them if they step out of the village and for years they have lived without even the minimal health services.

Mr. Patnaik, with your slavery and loyalty to the national and international corporations has made you so de-humanized and de-sensitized that you are busy serving their interest and are apathetic to the very people who have brought you into this office.

Your administration lies through its teeth and declares anti-POSCO struggle of making bombs. Your police tries to run over their leader. Such is the rottenness of your rule that even fact finding teams are hounded by company goons who are getting more confident as they are literally getting away with murder.

 Finally, if you have any shame left, Mr. Pattnaik, resign and apologies to the women of Dhinkia, govindpur and Patana.

Endorsed by

Asit Das-  Posco pratirodh solidarity Delhi
Kalpana Mehta, Madhya Pradesh Mahila Manch, Indore
Kaveri Indira, Scientist, Bangalore
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Human Rights Activist , Mumbai
Mamata Dash ,Posco pratirodh solidarity Delhi
Chittraranjan singh National Secretary PUCL
Ashok choudhury NFFPFW
Dr.Sunilam Kissan Sangharsh Samiti
Kiran Shaheen Women against sexual violence and state expression(WSS)
Anand swarup verma Editor samkaleen tisri duniya
Prashant Pairikay, Posco pratirodh sangharsh samiti
K.K. Niyogi All India platform for labour rights
Manj mohan Hind mazdoor sabha
Roma NFFPFW
Anil chaudhury INSAF
Insha malik Research sholar JNU
Bhupen singh Research sholar JNU
Vijay pratap Socialist front
Madhuresh NAPM
Rajendra Ravi NAPM
Anna khandre Samajwadi party
Putul Yuva bharat
P.K. sundaram IndiaResists.com
Prakash kumar ray Editor bargad.org
Nayanjyoti Krantikari naujawan sabha
Vinod singh Samajwadi jan parishad
Rakhi Saiigal Labour activist
Gopal Krishna Toxic Watch
Shankar Gopalakrishnan
Saheli, Delhi
Devika Biswas, State convenor

Healthwatch Forum , Bihar

C/O BVHA PATNA BIHAR

Ruchi Shroff , Mumbai
Madhumita Dutta
Suresh Bhat B, Concerned Citizen, Mangalore
Sudha Bharadwaj, Chhattisgarh PUCL.
Rakmakant Banjare, Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee)
Nisha Biswas , Kolkata
Swatija, Mumbai
‘Prabhakar Pandit from Mumbai Mobile Creches_
Rahul Yogi Deveshwar

Independent Voice , Shanti se Kranti

Nirja Bhatnagar, Mumbai
Himadri Sekhar Mistri, Research Scholar, Delhi School of Economics
Women’s Research and Action Group
Tanushree Gangopadhyay, Ahmedabad
Anjali sinha  Madhubala from Stree mukti sangathan
Madhubala, from Stree mukti sangathan
Sankara Narayanan_
Sharanya Humane, Koraput
Rakesh Narayana, PUCL – Bangalore
Kaushiki Rao, Bangalore
K. Sajaya, Hyderabad
Uma V Chandru, WSS Activist, Bangalore

Aruna Chandrasekhar, Research and journalist

Shraddha Chickerur

Uma V Chandru, WSS Activist, Bangalore

Pushpa (Member, WSS-Karnataka)

Abha Bhaiya

Anuradha Pati

Kannamma Raman, University of Mumbai

Jeevika Shiv, Centre for Equity Studies, Delhi

Kabi S., Bombay

Devaki Jain

Rina Mukherji

Soma KP

Aanchal Kapur

Trupti Shah, Sahiyar (Stree Sangathan)

K. Sajaya, Hyderabad

Kaushiki Rao, Bangalore

Sudha.S. Bangalore

Sadhna, Delhi

Ratna, Law Student, Bangalore

Evangeline Anderson-Rajkumar, Bangalore

M. R. Prabhakar, Bangalore

Nisha Biswas, Kolkata

Gowru Chinnapa, Bangalore

Ayush Ranka, Bangalore

Rakesh Narayana, PUCL – Bangalore

Sharanya, Humane, Koraput

Shakun.M, Bangalore

Soundarya Iyer, Research Scholar, NIAS, Bangalore

Sudha Bharadwaj, Chhattisgarh PUCL.

Rakmakant Banjare, Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee)

Vasanth Kannabiran

Shyama K Narang

Anupriya, Delhi

Chhaya Datar

K. Lalita

Neha Dhingra

Rina, Kolkata

Sutapa Majumdar

Lalita Ramdas, Bhaimala, Alibag

Admiral L. Ramdas, Bhaimala, Alibag

Vinay Bhat, Management Consultant, Santa Clara, CA

Gopika Solanki

Uma Chakravarti

Mary E John

Suneeta Dhar

Arundhati Dhuru

Dr Veena R Poonacha, Director, Research Center for Women’s Studies & Project Director, Dr. Avabai Wadia Archives, SNDT Women’s University

Sharmila Rege

Veena Shatrugna

Gabriele Dietrich

Devangana Kalita

Tungshang Ningreichon, Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights

Meera, Narmada Valley

Prem Verma, Jharkhand Alternative Development Forum, Ranchi, Jharkhand

Lakshmi Premkumar, Programme for Social Action (PSA), New Delhi

Priyanka Borpujari, independent journalist

Koyel Lahiri, MPhil student, CSSSC

K Babu Rao, NAPM, Hyderabad

Lokesh, Stree Mukti Sangathan

Gee Ameena Suleiman

Maitreyi, ALF, Bangalore

 Prafulla Samantara, Convenor, NAPM
Kunal Rawat, New Delhi

Alaka Basu

Anita Ghai, Feminist and Disblity rights activist, Delhi

Parth J Dave, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai

S ENDORSE THIS LETTER , PL ADD YOUR NAME, ORGANISATION, CITY IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW 

 

PUCL Statement on Hyderabad Bombings


People’s Union for Civil Liberties

National Office Delhi
 
 
For Favour of Press Coverage
Delhi / 23rd  February, 2013
To
The Chief Reporter / Editor
PUCL strongly condemns the serial  blasts in Hyderabad on 21.02.2013 which has resulted in loss of life and grievous injuries to many. PUCL extends its sympathies to the families of all those who lost relatives and hopes that the injured recover speedily.
PUCL  re-iterates its stand that all organizations – whether State or non- state players – functioning for the people and in the public arena are accountable and answerable for their acts. PUCL appeals to all organizations to refrain from acts of mindless violence, especially when they endanger innocent persons.  Violence can never offer a solution to any issue however genuine it may be.
In the past such blasts have invariably been followed by motivated targeting and illegal detention by the police of scores of educated and young members of the minority community, physical and mental torture, prosecution under as many draconian sections and laws as possible and repeated implication of the same persons in multiple cases thereby stigmatising a section of the population of the minority community who live for years with the shame of being a “terrorist”. The stigma is never erased even when prolonged trials end in acquittal the acquitted persons and their families forever live devastated lives, ostracized and feared by their own community. Such unlawful motivated police action has ended up in immense alienation and disaffection of an already traumatized community.
PUCL reiterates that the State and Central police and various intelligence agencies inquiring into the incidents should uphold the principles of fair, independent and unbiased investigation. This will strengthen rule of law and ensure investigations and interrogations in a civilized manner. Only such conduct of investigating agencies will reinforce established and accepted norms of fair and lawful investigation. We caution the police not to indulge in baselessly targeting of persons belonging to any particular community, especially those from the minority communities.
PUCL is apprehensive that the current events provide fodder for partisan politics and use of the tragedy to score political points. It is crucial that political parties respond with sensitivity and work to create a sense of confidence and amity amongst different social sections.
PUCL is concerned over some sections of the media indulging in speculative reporting and alluding to the alleged involvement of some groups, even when investigation is still underway. Such competitive posturing and motivated reporting fans communal hatred, creates mass paranoia and vitiates communal harmony.
In this time of tragedy and disturbance PUCL appeals to citizens, be they in media, political parties or state agencies, not to fall prey to rumours inciting reprisal by fanning enmity between communities.
Those guilty of this ghastly incident should be expeditiously brought to book. The situation demands that we, as a nation, should remain calm, restrained and peaceful.
(Dr. V. Suresh)
National General Secretary, PUCL

Contact No.: V. Suresh,  +91-9444231497

 

Press Release- Is India on the Path to become a Land of Serial Executions?


                                                                                            Chennai/ 14.2.2013
FOR FAVOUR OF PRESS COVERAGE
The PUCL strongly condemns the rejection by the President of India of the commutation petitions of Simon, Meesakara Mathayan, Bilavendran and Gnanaprakasam. Equally condemnable is the action of the Prison Authorities of Belgaum Central Prison, Karnataka who in the morning of 13.2.2013 merely intimated orally to the convicts of the rejection of their mercy petitions without giving them the written orders of rejection. In sharp contrast, signed acknowledgements of receipt have been obtained from all 4 convicts!
PUCL is extremely concerned at the repeat pattern of the deliberate and  surreptitious manner in which rejection of commutation petitions has been communicated in all the 4 cases which the present President has rejected  – viz., Kasab, Afzal Guru, Saibanna and the current 4 convicts. In Afzal Guru’s case the Union Home Minister is on record to state that they did not intimate immediately to the wife of Afzal so as to prevent them from approaching the High or Supreme Court. Even in Saibanna’s case the rejection was only orally intimated but acknowledgement obtained from the prisoner. It is very clear that the Union Government and the State Governments all seem to be acting in a manner totally against the spirit of the Indian Constitution and rule of law by consciously and deliberately sabotaging and subverting established procedures and has to be strongly condemned as unbecoming of constitutional authorities.
The rejection by the President of India of the commutation petitions in the case of these 4 convicts seems to be based on a wholly unacceptable, erroneous and unwarranted appreciation of the powers of commutation provided by Article 72 of the Indian Constitution.  The commutation or `pardoning’ power of President of India, is better described as `unfettered power’ not subject to any constitutional or judicial restraints.
The power of the President under Art. 72 in the nature of a `constitutional and executive’ power as contrasted to the Courts Statutory and judicial powers, and is actually in the nature of `Residual Sovereign Power’ untrammeled by the decision of the courts, including the Supreme Court; the President is thus empowered to go beyond the evidence on record and come to a different conclusion than that recorded by the Court.
 It is most unfortunate that the President, advised by the cabinet, seem to be under the false impression that what the Supreme Court has said is the final word beyond which the executive cannot go. There is no other way to understand the string of Presidential rejections of commutation petitions coming in rapid fashion.
At the current rate of rejections India can look forward to a continuous string of serial hangings in this year itself.
The rejection by the President of the commutation petitions of these 4 convicts is wholly unconstitutional, unfair and arbitrary. The President, advised by the Council of Ministers, seem to have missed the point that the Designated TADA Court did not feel compelled to impose death penalty because “it is not the case of the prosecution that the accused had started their careers as criminals and attained notoriety”. They were inhabitants of the local area who were compelled to fall in line. In other words while they were gang members of Veerappan’s gang, they were not the main leaders. The trial court therefore convicted them but imposed only life sentence.
The Supreme Court which enhanced the punishment to death sentence seemed to have given greater importance to the issue of violence in the area as a result of the clash between Veerappan’s gang and the STF and police forces. The SC opined that that theirs was an onerous duty of “self preservation” which impelled the SC to impose death penalty.
Whatever the rationale of the SC’s ruling, the power of the Council of Ministers of the Central Government is much wider and in exercising their pardoning powers the Government is duty bound to look at the conduct of the prisoners post-conviction, as also other personal factors. It is also relevant to point out Veerappan himself was eliminated in an encounter by the Tamil Nadu Police in 2004 and his entire gang liquidated.
All the 4 convicts are senior citizens aged above 60 years, which Meesakara Mathayan aged nearly 72 years, Beelavendan and Gnanaprakash aged about 65 – 67 years and Simon being over 60 years. They have all been in jail for the last 18 years.
None of them have any other criminal cases against them. In fact the same SC bench has acquitted them in other TADA cases which were part of the same set of cases in which they got death sentence.
The conduct of the convicts has been exemplary and they have not got involved in any prison offences in the last 18 years.
The basis of criminal jurisprudence system in India is the possibility of reform of prisoners; not retributive justice.
Is the Government of India so scared of 60 and 70 year old men? Do the\y constitute after 18 years in prison, such a major threat to society that the only solution is by hanging them?
It is indeed a sad day for democracy that the UPA Government in Delhi seems bent on laying the record for serial hangings, in a manner never before witnessed in Independent India. Political brownie points cannot be scored by the union government over the lives of death row convicts; it is the worst form of democratic degeneration of any country.
 (Dr. V. Suresh)

 

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