“It would have been better if you had given me DEATH PENALTY”- #SoniSori writes from Raipur Prison


 

Translation of Soni  Sori’s letter from Raipur Prison on July 28. 2012

Letter in name of Supreme Court, Judge  from Raipur Jail

Your Honour ,

Today I am alive , because of your verdict. You gave the order at the right time so that  I could be  medically treated again.  I was very happy during my treatment at AIIMS hospital in New Delhi, but  Your Honour ,  I have to pay for it now. I am being  harassed and tortured here, I request you to have mercy on me . Your Honor I am  suffering mentally .

1. I am made to sit on the Ground  “Naked”

2. I am suffering from Hunger

3. I am frisked in an uncomfortable manner, each part of my body is touched .

4. Labeling me traitor and naxalite they torture me

My clothes, soap, surf have been confiscated and   I have been accused for many things.

Your Honour  How long will Chhattisgarh government, police administration  keep on stripping me naked ? I am an Indian tribal woman!  I also feel shame , and I am unable to save my modesty  here .  The use abusive words and accuse me  regarding my modesty.  After all what crime I have committed that I am being mentally tortured like this ?

It would have been better if you  had given me DEATH PENALTY ,how long  should I bear this physical and mental torture . Jail authorities want that I should  not speak the truth and send you any information  about  atrocities committed on me and  that  I should die bearing their torture in the prsion itself , this is what within the law of  Chhattisgarh . My voice  seeking justice should remain limited to Chhattisgarh so that  the naxalite problem could further aggravate. Your Honour If I have raised my voice for my rights, what wrong have I done ? I am being mentally tortured in various manners today. Is   it a crime to fighting against the  torture being  inflicted on one self ? I don’t have right to live ? Don’t  I have a right to give love to the children I have given birth to ? Today  I am in a  very serious condition. This type of oppression becomes the source for the naxalite problem .

Your Honour, please have mercy on me , and solve my problems , this is my earnest request to you. Else the  officials of Raipur prison will definitely give me death. Earlier, I have been given a wrong medicine and my skin has burnt, and  I have been enduring that pain also.

Your Honour , Please Have mercy on me .

In end, my obeisance.

Applicant

Soni Sori

28/7/2012

 

India is under undeclared Emergency


 

IMMEDIATE RELREASE-June 26th- Emergency Day- hunger strike in all Prisons in INDIA !!


COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS

185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025

Statement in Solidarity with Proposed Day Long Hunger Strike on Emergency Day on 26 June 2012 in All Prisons

Against the Sentencing of Seema & Vishwa Vijay! Against the Denial of Our Fundamental Freedoms!

Let us Remember the Dreadful Anti-People Emergency to Continue our Fight Against the Undeclared Emergency on the Freedom Loving People of the Subcontinent!

All Political Prisoners are Targets of an Undeclared Emergency! We demand Their Unconditional Release!

All Draconian Laws Including the UAPA and AFSPA and the Anti-Sedition Laws are Clear Instruments Towards Declaring an Undeclared Emergency! We Demand that Such Anti-People Laws be Immediately Revoked!

As this is being written one cannot deny the possibility of a Muslim youth being picked up as suspected ‘terrorist’ out to destabilise the Indian state; or an Adivasi or a Dalit who is left with little option but to fight against the criminal denial of his/her life and livelihood being picked up as a ‘terrorist’, ‘extremist’ waging war against the state. Anyone who writes, speaks, mobilises people against such growing fascist, anti-people tendencies of the Indian state are also becoming targets of the same policy—the case of Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay and a cultural organisation like Kabir Kala Manch being the latest while there are others such as Sudhir Dhawale, Utpal and Jeetan Marandi being incarcerated for their undying love for the well being of the people especially the most oppressed, the Dalits and Adivasis. In Jammu & Kashmir while there are undeclared centres of torture and detention at every nook and cranny, the Kashmiri Muslim prisoners kept in jails in Jammu are meted the worst kind of treatment—in the form of torture, denial of facilities as per the jail manual etc. While the arrests under Public Safety Act are increasing day by day with thousands behind bars the state has also started enforcing UAPA along with the already imposed Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

Every state of India is teethed with separate preventive detention laws as well as other draconian instruments apart from the centralised UAPA. Prisoners are flooding the already crowded jails which has least turned out to be centres of reform but breeding grounds for criminalisation and communalisation. Instances of entire villages being put behind bars—for their alleged support to the Maoists—repeatedly even after they are acquitted by the court while custodial deaths/killings due to inhuman torture or connivance of the authorities with communal, criminal elements in the prison is strikingly emerging as a pattern. Needless to say there is an undeclared emergency in the Indian subcontinent.

The role of the media in managing, making perceptions about this undeclared emergency as a necessary evil is increasingly creating a sense of fatalism among the people. Increasingly it is being told to the people that any form of political dissent is against the interests of the state; of growth; of development. So anyone who protests against the anti-people policies of growth, development becomes a ‘terrorist’, ‘waging war’ against the state. The rest of the act of profiling these people as ‘criminals’, ‘anti-nationals’ is done by a large section of the jingoist media hand-in-glove with the state in its so-called ‘war against terror’ as well as the predatory policies of loot and plunder of the Indian state. Today what denote corporate/moribund capital interest have also become the interests of the big media houses. And there is a convergence of interests between moribund capital and a national security state that India is fast emerging. The need of an undeclared emergency is more than justified in such a scenario.

In this context the memories of 26th of June 1976 remain a dreadful day for the freedom loving people of the Indian subcontinent as it happens to be the day of proclamation of the notorious Emergency by the then Indira Gandhi autocratic regime. On this dark day of 1976, the democracy – loving people in their hundreds were arbitrarily jailed and virtually an awful war was declared on the voice of decent and the voice of the voiceless. And today the memory of 26th of June and the lived reality for vast sections of the masses of the people remains the same. But it should be recalled that ultimately, the mighty voice of freedom – loving people prevailed as they fought back.

In solidarity with the call given by the political prisoners we at the CRPP is proposing to observe this day, i.e., 26th June, as the day of raising voice in defense of the rights and freedom of prisoners in general and those of Political prisoners in particular. We stand in solidarity with the call for observing day long hunger strike given by all the political prisoners and other prisoners throughout the Indian subcontinent, for the realization of the following demands.

IMMEDIATE DEMANDS

1. Stop the fascist policy of slapping false cases at the jail gate itself on any Political Prisoner, who has been released through due legal process after prolonged imprisonment.

2. If one is imprisoned in one are more cases, he/she should be kept informed about the rest of the cases if any pending against him or her and all cases should be duly processed and completed within reasonable time period as per the right of Speedy trial.

3. Hygienic food and water supply to the prisoner should be guaranteed.

4. Regular Interviews for the prisoners with their kith and kins and well wishers should be guaranteed.

5. Books, Magazines and political literature should be supplied to the prisoners who are in need of them.

6. Prisoners should duly be produced before the respective courts.

7. Any prisoner who completes 10 years of imprisonment (7 years actual sentence + three years remission) should forthwith be released irrespective of the sections stipulated in the case.

8. Lifers in the Hyderabad Central such as PBV Ganesh and Abdul Qadheer should immediately be released from their prolonged imprisonment of more than 20 years.

OTHER DEMANDS

Release All Political Prisoners Unconditionally!

Repeal All Draconian Laws Including UAPA and AFSPA!

Remove All forces from the Adivasi areas in Chattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Jangal Mahal under the name Operation Green Hunt, Operation Hukka, Operation Vijay!

Remove Armed Forces from Kashmir and North-East!

In Solidarity,

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SAR Geelani                       Amit Bhattacharyya                          Rona Wilson

Working President              Secretary General                               Secretary, Public Relations

Victim of custodial sexual violence – attempts immolation


PTI-  June 16,2012

 

Sitamarhi: A Maoist woman prisoner on Saturday suffered minor burns after attempting a self-immolation in prison alleging that her modesty was outraged by a jail official in Bihar‘s Sitamarhi district, police sources said.

Shivani poured kerosene oil on herself before setting herself alight but was saved by jail guards who immediately covered her with a blanket, the sources said.

She accused the jail superintendent of outraging her modesty, a charge that was denied by the official, they said.

She was treated at the jail hospital for minor burns on her hands, they said. An investigation was also being made into her allegation, they said.

False Charges and Brutality in Prison: Mohd Amir Khan


June 15, 2012

Guest post by MOHD. AMIR KHAN at Kafila

[ Mohd. Aamir Khan has spent 14 years in prison and was acquitted earlier this year]

I am in deep pain today. As though terrible, terrible memories, locked away in the deep recesses of my mind have been pried open. Heard on news that an accused in terror case was killed in judicial custody in Yerwada jail. That too in his high security cell.

I had read that the British rulers unleashed physical and mental torture on prisoners in colonial jails, but have never heard that they carried out killings of hapless convicts or undertrials in their custody. The naked truth of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo has been brought before the world. But who will illumine the dark secrets of the netherworld of our prisons? Brutalisation and torture are routine in our jails.

I speak from experience, having lived for fourteen long and seemingly unending years in prisons in three states. There was a near fatal attack on me twelve years ago while I was lodged in the model prison of India, Tihar Jail. But when I survived the attack, a case was slapped on me. While I was thankfully acquitted in the case, not one of those who attacked me was charged until my father – who was still alive then—appealed to the court to intervene. Mercifully, the Court accepted his complaint and registered a case, which still goes on in Tees Hazari court.My co-accused, Mohd. Shakeel, died an unnatural death in Dasna jail in 2010. The jail superintendent and other officials are facing a trial in Ghaziabad. I have been witness to many such incidents of attack on accused, especially Muslims accused of terrorism. Have you ever heard of an attack on Lt. Col. Purohit, Swami Assemanand, Sadhvi Pragya etc? I pray for the safety and well being of all but why this difference? When news broke of Sadhvi Pragya’s torture in custody, the senior most leader of the second largest party rushed to the Prime Minister. But why are we abandoned? When there is but one national flag, one national anthem and one Constitution, why are people treated differently? Will the senior leader feel any need to raise the custodial murder of Qateel with the PM?

Whilst I was in Rohtak Jail in Haryana, a prisoner, who had recently been transferred from Ambala Central Jail, told me that prime accused in the Samjhuata Express blast received VIP facilities. I was surprised. I also heard that Pragya Thakur was sent for treatment to a hospital outside the jail, whereas most of us are not given proper treatment even in the jail dispensary.

Let it be that some undertrials receive VIP treatment and some deprived of it. At least treat us like human beings. Is it too much to ask for security against physical attacks. Is it too much to ask to live with dignity inside Indian prisons?

You might think that I am reacting unnecessarily. But I have lived the claustrophobic, life sapping existence of a prisoner. I know first hand the frustration and helplessness that comes with it. I can feel the pain of Qateel’s family. I wonder now whether his family will ever find justice. I wonder whether anything can recompense for his loss? I wonder whether this open mockery of our constitutional guarantees will continue unabated?

My only purpose in writing this is to appeal to all humane, secular people of this country to consider this matter of life, security and dignity of prisoners urgently.

In the hope for a more just future.

SP Ankit Garg , Do you have the Balls ? #SoniSori #Rape #Prison


 

I Dare you

 S.P .Ankit Garg,

Rape Me

Do you have the Balls ?

 

Stripping   Soni  Sori in  Prison.

Inserting stones in her vagina and rectum

Showing off your  Manhood in a  Prison

You called her  a  whore, a bitch,

Torturing her with electric currents

In your Torture Haven,

 

I Dare you ,

S.P .Ankit Garg

Rape Me,

Do you have the Balls ?

 

You told  Soni Sori

You are administration, authority and  the Government. 

You  run the government from the  Prison

 

You told  Soni Sori

You  have the magic wand for all operations

 Slap false  cases,  and  arrest adivasis in the name of  ‘  Maoism

You told Soni Sori

Who will believe an adivasi teacher as against an IPS officer  ?

You told Soni Sori

To sign on a blank paper and name human rights activists as  Maoists

You told Soni Sori

 If she did not listen to you,

she would die beating her head against the prison  walls  with  shame

 

 

I Dare you ,

 S.P. Ankit Garg

Rape Me,

Do you have the Balls ?

 

You are a  Sadistic Bastard

You made  Soni Sori stand naked in front of  you

 You are a  Sadistic Bastard

 You verbally abused  her and tortured  her  psychologically.

You are   a Sadistic Bastard

You made three men insert stones in her vagina and rectum

You are a Sadistic Bastard

You have risen to the  Ranks so fast on the blood and bones of tribals

 

 

I Dare you ,

 S.P .Ankit Garg

Rape Me,

Do you have the Balls ?

 

On the 63rd Republic Day on 26th Jan 2012 ,

 You were conferred with President’s Police Medal for Gallantry 

A Gallantry award for Sexual Violence ?

The Darkest day for the  Indian Democracy

I will not rest till the medal is recalled

I will not rest till you are behind bars

I will not rest till  women scream in pain from  prisons  

I will  only  rest when   there is an end to custodial  torture and sexual violence 

 

 

I Dare you ,

 S.P .Ankit Garg

Rape Me,

Do you have the Balls ?

By- Kamayani Bali Mahabal- for Justice for Soni Sori Campaign

 

( 1000 th  post on my blog for Soni Sori and many other Women Prisoners behind bars facing sexual violence )

 

WSS Statement- condemning assault on women undertrials in Mumbai


Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), condemns the assault on three women under-trials, Angela Sontakey, 42, Sushma Ramteke, 22, and Jyoti Chorghe,19, in the Mumbai District Women’s Prison in Byculla.

On March 31 they witnessed an assault upon some other inmates by the prison staff. When they tried to intervene, they too were attacked by the staff. The jail authorities responded to their subsequent demand for an apology by sending them into solitary confinement, without any medical assistance before or after the confinement.

In addition to the assault, the women have complained that there have been attempts to block their access to books, and to classes held in the prison by non-government groups. Their books that included Mahatma Gandhi‘s biography and a pamphlet on prison rights have been confiscated, in complete violation of their basic rights as under-trials. They claim that they are being targeted as they have consistently raised their voice against practices of corruption rampant in the jail, and on various problems faced by the prisoners including access to nutritional food. They have also referred to an atmosphere of fear and terror of jail authorities among the prisoners. A complaint has been filed by their lawyers demanding action against the staff responsible for the assault, and to look into their demand for wholesome food for all prisoners. 

 

We at WSS believe that issues of custodial treatment are of the utmost importance and that prison authorities must not abuse the power they have over prisoners.

 

Angela Sontakey, Sushma Ramteke, and Jyoti Chorghe completed one year in jail on May 16th. In response to their consistent agitation for the rights of the inmates of the Women’s Prison we at WSS demand

 

  • ·        A thorough investigation, and suitable punishment of those found guilty, in the incidents of assault upon all the women prisoners, including  Angela Sontakey, Sushma Ramteke, and Jyoti Chorghe, housed in the Mumbai District  Women’s Prison in Byculla.

 

  • ·        An investigation of the issues raised by these women such as the routine corruption in prison administration as well as the demands of bribes for access to resources and medical treatment.

 

  • ·        Provision of healthy, hygienic and nutritious food, apart from other basic amenities, to all women prisoners, as stipulated by law.

 

  • ·        Immediate halt to the use of ‘Solitary confinement’ – a provision in the jail manual meant to be used to punish or control errant prisoners – as a method of punishing under-trials or prisoners demanding their basic and legitimate rights.


Contact email id: againstsexualviolence@gmail.com 


_________________________________________________________________


Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is a non-funded effort started in November 2009, to put an end to the violence perpetrated upon our bodies and societies. We are a nationwide network of women from diverse political and social movements comprising of women’s organizations, mass organizations, civil liberty organizations, student and youth organizations, mass movements and individuals. We unequivocally condemn state repression and sexual violence on women by any perpetrator (s).

Palestinian hunger strikes: Media missing in action


Is the mass Palestinian prisoner hunger strike the beginning of the Palestinian Spring?

Richard Falk,United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. 
Last Modified: 07 May 2012 0

‘The official Israeli response to Palestinian moves toward political restraint and away from violence [has been to increase] settlement expansion, extensive targeted killing… and a 50 per cent increase in [arrests]’ [GALLO/GETTY]

Santa Barbara, CA Can anyone doubt that if there were more than 1,500 prisoners engaged in a hunger strike in any country in the world other than Palestine, the media in the West would be obsessed with the story? Such an obsession would, of course, be greatest if such a phenomenon were to occur in an adversary state such as Iran or China, but almost anywhere it would be featured news, that is, anywhere but Palestine. It would be highlighted day after day, and reported on from all angles, including the severe medical risks associated with such a lengthy refusal to take food, with respected doctors and human rights experts sharing their opinions.

At this time there are two Palestinians who were the first to start this current wave of resistance to the practice of administrative detention, Thaer Halalheh and Bilal Diab, enduring their 70th day without food. Both men are reported by respected prisoner protection association, Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, to be in critical condition with their lives hanging in the balance. Examining doctors indicated recently that both detainees were reported to “suffer from acute muscle weakness in their limbs that prevents them from standing” and are under the “dual threat” of “muscle atrophy and Thromohophilia, which can lead to a fatal blood clot”.

Despite this dramatic state of affairs until today there has been scant notice taken by Western governments, media and even the United Nations of the life threatening circumstances confronting Halalheh or Diab, let alone the massive solidarity strike that is of shorter duration, but still notable as a powerful expression of nonviolent defiance.

In contrast, consider the attention that the Western media has been devoting in recent days to a lone blind Chinese human rights lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who managed to escape from house arrest in Beijing, find a safe haven at the US Embassy, arrange a release and then seek an exit from China. This is an important and disturbing international incident, to be sure, but is it truly so much more significant than the Palestinian story as to explain the total neglect of the extraordinary exploits of thousands of Palestinians who are sacrificing their bodies, quite possibly their lives, to nonviolently protest severe mistreatment in the Israeli prison system, and by extension, the oppressiveness of an occupation that has gone on for 45 years?

Hana Shalabi was among those released in the prisoner exchange, but then barely recovering from her prior detention period, was rearrested in a night arrest raid, once again confined by an administrative detention decree for a further four months in Israeli jail.

Except among their countrymen, and to some extent the region, these many thousand Palestinian prisoners have been languishing within an opaque black box for over four decades, are denied international protection, exist without rights of their own, and cope as best they can without even a proper acknowledgement of their plight. There is another comparison that comes to mind. Recall the outpouring of concern, grief and sympathy throughout the West for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was captured on the Gaza border and held captive by Palestinians for five years. A powerful global campaign for his release on humanitarian grounds was organised, and received constant reinforcement in the media.

World leaders pleaded for his release, the UN Secretary General exhibited concern and Israeli commanding officers even told IDF fighting forces during the massive attacks on Gaza at the end of 2008 that killed more than 1,450 Palestinians that the real mission of the Operation Cast Lead campaign was to free Shalit or at least inflict pain on the entire civilian population of Gaza for his capture, a grotesque instance of unlawful collective punishment.

When Shalit was finally released in a prisoner exchange a few months ago there was a joyful homecoming celebration in Israel that abruptly ended when, much to the disappointment of the Israeli establishment, Shalit reported good treatment during captivity. Shalit’s father went further, saying if he was a Palestinian he would have tried to capture Israeli soldiers.

Hunger strikes, administrative detention and Palestinian witness

This current wave of hunger strikes started on April 17, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, and was directly inspired by the earlier recently completed long and heroic hunger strikes of Khader Adnan (66 days) and Hana Shalabi (43 days) both of whom protested against the combination of administrative detention and abusive arrest and interrogation procedures. It should be understood that administrative detention depends on accusations contained in secret evidence not disclosed to the detainee or defense lawyers and allows Israel to imprison Palestinians for six months at a time without bringing any criminal charges, with terms renewable as they expire.

Hana Shalabi was among those released in the prisoner exchange, but then barely recovering from her prior detention period, was rearrested in a night arrest raid, once again confined by an administrative detention decree for a further four months in an Israeli jail. Or consider the experience of Thaer Halahla, although only 33 years of age has been eight times placed in administrative detention for a total of six and a half years, despite the absence of any signs that he was involved in any violent activity.

Israeli prison guards and authorities are doing their best to intensify the torments of hunger… the strikers are being subjected to belittling harassment and a variety of punishments... “

Both Mr Adnan and Ms Shalabi were released through last minute deals negotiated at a time when their physical survival seemed in doubt, making death seem imminent. Israel apparently did not then want to risk a agitating Palestinians by such martyrdom. At the same time Israel, as usual, did not want to seem to be retreating under pressure, or draw into question its reliance on administrative detention and imprisonment. Israel has refused, until the present, to examine the grievances that gave rise to these hunger strikes.

In Hana Shalabi’s case her release was coupled with a punitive deportation order, which cruelly confines her to Gaza for the next three years, away from her family and the familiar surroundings of her home village of Burqin near Jenin in the West Bank. There are some indications that Ms Shalabi was not fully informed about the deportation feature of her release, and was manipulated by prison authorities and the lawyer representing her interests. It may now be with the continuation of the hunger strikes, and their rapid expansion to a majority of those imprisoned, and even to Palestinian civil society, that Israel has altered its calculations, thinking that deaths among such fear into the Palestinians as to lead those still alive to abandon their hunger strike. It is difficult to assess the direction of the Israeli response at this stage.

There are reports that some of the current hunger strikers have been offered similar conditional releases, but have so far steadfastly refused to resume eating if it means deportation or exile. A fierce struggle of wills between the strikers and the prison authorities is underway, between those with the advantages of hard power domination and those relying on the soft power resources of moral and spiritual courage, and societal solidarity. As the strikers repeated affirm, their acts are not meant for their own release alone, but on behalf of all prisoners, and beyond even this, in support of the wider Palestinian struggle for dignity, self-determination and freedom from oppression.

The torment of these striking prisoners is not only a consequence of their refusal to accept food until certain conditions are met. Israeli prison guards and authorities are doing their best to intensify the torments of hunger. There are numerous reports that the strikers are being subjected to belittling harassment and a variety of punishments, including constant taunting, solitary confinement, confiscation of personal belongings, denial of family visits, disallowance of examination by humanitarian NGOs and hardhearted refusals to transfer to medically threatened strikers to civilian hospitals where they could receive the kinds of medical treatment their critical conditions urgently require.

‘When Palestinians resort to nonviolent forms of resistance, whether hunger strikes or BDS or an intifada, their actions fall mainly on deaf ears and wooden eyes’ author argues [GALLO/GETTY]

There are also broader issues at stake. When in the past Palestinians resorted to violent forms of resistance they were branded by the West as terrorists, their deeds were widely covered by dwelling upon their sensationalist aspects, but when Palestinians resort to nonviolent forms of resistance, whether hunger strikes or BDS or an intifada, their actions fall mainly on deaf ears and wooden eyes. Worse, there is a concerted propaganda spin to depict a particular tactic of nonviolent resistance as somehow illegitimate, either as a cheap trick to gain sympathy or as a dirty trick to subvert the state of Israel by drawing its legitimacy into question.

All the while, Israel’s annexationist plans move ahead, with settlements expanding, and now recently, with more than 100 settler outposts, formerly illegal even under Israeli law, in the process of being retroactively legalised. Such moves signal once and for all that the Netanyahu leadership exhibits not one iota of good faith when it continues to claim that it seeks to negotiate a conflict ending peace treaty with the Palestinians. It is a pity that the Palestinian Authority has not yet had the diplomatic composure to call it quits when it comes to heeding the hollow calls of the Quartet to resume direct talks with Israel. It is long past time to crumble this long bridge to nowhere.

Liberal hypocrisies

That rock star of liberal pontificators, Thomas Friedman, has for years been preaching nonviolence to the Palestinians, implying that Israel as a democratic country with a strong moral sensitivity would surely yield in the face of such a principled challenge. Yet when something as remarkable as this massive expression of a Palestinian commitment to nonviolent resistance in the form of this open-ended hunger strike, dubbed ‘the war of empty stomachs’, takes place, Friedman along with his liberal brothers is stony silent, and the news sections of the newspaper of the New York Times were unable to find even an inch of space to report on these dramatic protests against Israel’s use of administrative detention and abusive treatment during arrest, interrogation and imprisonment weeks after the seminal events associated with Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi had ended their hunger strikes. Not until the 65th day of the strikes of the continuing strikes of Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, along with the 1,500 or so Palestinian prisoners who commenced their refusal of food on April 17 or later, did the Times report on the strikes.

“[A hunger strike] is both scary and physically taxing even for a day or so, and to maintain the discipline and strength of will to carry on such a strike for weeks at a time requires a rare combination of courage and resolve.

Robert Malley, another influential liberal voice who had been a Middle East advisor to Bill Clinton when he was president, while more constrained in offering Palestinians advice than Friedman, suggests that any sustained display of Palestinian nonviolence if met with Israeli violence would be an embarrassment for Washington. Malley insists that if the Palestinians were to take to the streets in the spirit of Tahrir Square, and Israelis responded violently, as the Netanyahu government could be expected to do, it “would put the United States in an… acute dilemma about how to react to Israel’s reaction.”

The dilemma depicted by Malley derives from Obama encouragement of the democratic aspirations of a people who he has repeatedly said deserve their own state on the one side and the unconditional alignment with Israel on the other. Only a confirmed liberal would call this a genuine dilemma, as any informed and objective observer would know, that the US Government would readily accept, as it has repeatedly done in the past, an Israeli claim that force was needed to maintain public order, and even more assuredly during a heated presidential campaign. In this manner, Palestinian nonviolence would be once more disregarded, and the super-alliance of these two partners in crime once more reaffirmed.

Self-sacrifice and the Palestinian search for peace

Let there be no mistake about the moral and spiritual background of the challenge being mounted by these Palestinians. Undertaking an open ended hunger strike is an inherently brave act that is fraught with risks and uncertainties, and is only undertaken in situations of extreme frustration or severe abuse. Of course, others have engaged in hunger strikes in the past to protest prison abuse, including the 2011 strikes in California prisons that lead to the death of Christian Alexander Chavez, a 27-year-old prisoner serving a life sentence for a murder he may never have committed. A prison hunger strike is never an act undertaken lightly or as a stunt.

For anyone who has attempted to express protest in this manner, and I have for short periods as a free citizen during my decade of opposition to the Vietnam War, it is both scary and physically taxing even for a day or so, and to maintain the discipline and strength of will to carry on such a strike for weeks at a time requires a rare combination of courage and resolve. Very few individuals have the psychological makeup needed to adopt such an extreme tactic of self-sacrifice and witness, especially when the ordeal is aggravated by punishments and tauntings by prison officials.

For a hunger strike to be done on this current scale of collective action underscores the horrible ordeal of the Palestinians that has been all but erased from the political consciousness of the West in the hot aftermath of the Arab Spring. It also suggests that a new Palestinian uprising may be in the offing, which would present Washington with the dilemma Malley worries about. The world has long refused to take notice of Palestinian one-sided efforts over the years to reach a peaceful outcome of their conflict with Israel.

It is helpful to keep reminding ourselves that in 1988 the PLO officially accepted Israel within its 1967 borders, a huge territorial concession, leaving the Palestinians with only 22 per cent of historical Palestine on which to establish an independent and sovereign state. In recent years, the main tactics of Palestinian opposition to the occupation, including on the part of Hamas, has been largely to turn away from violence, adhering to a diplomacy and practice that looked toward long-term peaceful coexistence between two peoples. Israel has refused to take note of either development, and has instead continuously thrown sand in Palestinian eyes.

The official Israeli response to Palestinian moves toward political restraint and away from violence have been to embark upon a program of feverish settlement expansion, extensive targeted killing, reliance on excessive retaliatory violence as well as an various forms of intensifying oppressiveness that gave rise to these hunger strikes. One expression of this oppressiveness is the 50 per cent increase in the number of Palestinians held under administrative detention during of the last year, along with an officially mandated worsening of conditions throughout its prison system.

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).

He is currently serving his third year of a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. 

Follow him on Twitter: @rfalk13

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Unique identity crisis- #UID #Aaadhaar #Nandan Nilekani


Author(s): Latha JishnuJyotika Sood, Down to Earth
Issue: May 15, 2012

Biometric-based unique identity or Aadhaar is leading to huge problems for people working for the rural employment guarantee scheme and for others receiving welfare benefits. Not only have enrolments been done shoddily but the experience of the pilot projects shows that it is almost impossible to authenticate the work-hardened fingerprints of the poor, findLatha Jishnu and Jyotika Sood. Besides, there is the overwhelming issue of deficient online connectivity. As a result, some ministries are increasingly opting for smart cards which they say are more reliable and secure

mano devi
Mano Devi’s hands are calloused. The micro-ATM does not recognise her unique identity

Mano Devi is distraught. A woman in her late 30s, who is dependent on the manual work given by the government to keep her going, Mano Devi of Bunkheta village in Jharkhand’s Ramgarh district has missed work allotted under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) for the fourth day in three weeks.

That’s because she has had to come to the Pragya Kendra or Common Service Centre panchayat headquarters at Dohakatu village every day hoping to get her back wages through the machine.

The machine, as she calls it, is the hand-held device/micro-ATM that scans her fingerprints to authenticate her unique identity or the 12-digit Aadhaar number for bank transactions.

For four days now, the micro-ATM has refused to recognise her unique identity, making it impossible for her to collect her wages of the past three weeks. That is a total of 12 days’ wages at the rate of Rs 120 per day.

uniqueid

“They have tried every finger and thumb, but I don’t know why that machine does not accept any of them. I have done everything that the officers and the machine babu have told me to: scrubbed my hands with soap and water, even applied mustard oil,” says a tearful Mano Devi. The machine babu is the banking correspondent (BC), Rajesh Kumar, appointed by the Bank of India. So every day she has returned empty handed to her home about two km away, let down by the sophisticated technology that was supposed to relieve her of the tedium of going to the nearest branch bank to collect her wages, and losing a working day in the process. The problem for Mano Devi is her fingerprints. Her hands are calloused. Touch her fingers and you can feel the cuts, the hardened skin which is the result of the tough work she is engaged in: breaking stones, picking up heavy material, ploughing and, of course, working in the kitchen.

She asks the BC if she can go back to the old system where she was paid through the post office, but the BC tells that since she is a part of the pilot of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), it is not possible for her to withdraw her wages through any other route. “When they took our fingerprints some months ago and gave us a card with a number we were told that we would not have to go to the bank or post office for our wages. The wages would come to us. Now I am not getting my money.”

The way this works, or does not as in many a case, is the information from the micro-ATM is first routed to the bank branch server and on to the National Payment Corporation of India server from where the Aadhaar is sent to the UIDAI’s central database, Central ID Repository, for authentication. It then comes all the way back to the micro-ATM device which is connected to the GPRS network through the sim card of a local service provider.

The three banks that have joined the pilot are ICICI Bank, which is using the services of Fino, a business and banking technology company that specialises in services delivery; Bank of India that has outsourced it to United Telecoms Limited (UTL) and Union Bank. Interestingly, MGNREGA payments are already being routed through banks and post offices following a policy decision in 2008. In addition, old age pensions and school stipends are also part of the pilot (see ‘Clueless on banking’).

Across the three districts of Jharkhand—Ranchi, Hazaribagh and Ramgarh—where the pilots are being conducted to test the ease and efficacy of the UID platform for disbursing wages and other welfare payments directly to the beneficiaries, the story repeats itself with minor variations. The attempt by UIDAI, headed by software entrepreneur Nandan Nilekani, is to prove the practical application of its project which has run into criticism on account of its huge costs (estimated at Rs 9,000 crore for collecting the biometrics of 600 million residents) and questions about its utility.

But in the well-appointed offices of UIDAI in Delhi’s Connaught Place where the modalities of the pilots were worked out, deputy director general Ashok Pal Singh is reassuring: “In any new process it is quite possible the system is not working. It happened with banks when they went in for online transactions.”

His contention is that there is no denial of service since people like Mano Devi can go back to the bank for the wages. “They are no worse off than before.”

That does not seem to be the case in Dohakatu and elsewhere where large numbers of old age pensioners and wage workers have not been authenticated. There is a big problem out here: the UIDAI guidelines say nothing about re-enrolments. Officials, too, are not sure how those who have been issued Aadhaar numbers can be re- enrolled.

For Roopna Rao, Champoo Devi, Laxman Rao, Atbor Oraon and Jhingiya Oraon, whose biometrics have been rejected permanently, the outlook is bleak.

Ratu Block officials say that there had been major problems in reading fingerprints when UID enrolments were made in 2010.

It appears that the enrolment agencies just clicked a photograph and did not ensure that the fingerprints were scanned. A local UID official confirms this.

“Enrolment agencies had given targets to the operators and were putting pressure on them. What must have happened is that they showed some people as not having fingers and recorded them as exceptional cases.”

At least 200 such cases have come to light in Jharkhand where an agency had provided only the iris details to generate Aadhaar numbers by misusing a provision in the UID guidelines that says one biometric detail, either fingerprints or iris, is allowed if one is of poor quality or not available. It is called forced capturing.

Singh, who is in charge of financial inclusion and strategic planning in UIDAI, says: “Give us that much credit. We have a system in place.

It is in the early stages and we are making continuous improvements.” Singh, who says he has been “involved with technology all my life” and was earlier in charge of networking the country’s 150,000 post offices, declares that “there is no system that works 100 per cent.” And in a project of this size, the largest in the world, there would always be some glitches.

imageUIDAI director general R S Sharma explains the process of UID enrolmentThis is a recurring theme with UIDAI. In an interview given earlier to Down To Earth, Ram Sevak Sharma, director general of UIDAI, said that nowhere in the world was there such a large database of biometrics and as such it was “not proven technology at this scale”.

Besides, “nothing is 100 per cent accurate; it is simply not possible.” All the same, Sharma had admitted then that “fingerprint quality had not been studied in the Indian context”. But since then UIDAI has released a study on proof of concept on authentications—and its findings are far from reassuring.

In its Authentication Accuracy Report released in March this year, the authority claimed that proof of concept conducted in a rural setting “representing typical demography of the population” establishes the following:

imageUsing the best finger single-attempt gives an accuracy of 93.5 per cent;

imageUsing multiple (up to three) attempts of the same best finger improves the accuracy to 96.5 per cent.

It did not say how many of the 50,000 people used in the study were from rural areas since a large part of the exercise was undertaken in Delhi. The study also notes differences in performance of different sensor-extractor combinations and “enabled identification of device specifications and certification procedure necessary for high authentication accuracy under Indian conditions”.

In the field though, the experience is not as good as the report claims. In Tigara, just 45 km from Ranchi, Mahmud Alam, the BC employed by UTL, discloses that since the pilots started on December 23, 2011, just 20 people with Aadhaar have been mapped for MGNREGA payments although Ratu Block has about 800 MGNREGA card holders. Of the 20 mapped, five have been debarred since their biometrics could not be authenticated by his device despite repeated attempts. In addition, 60 to 80 people have been drawing pension. According to Jharkhand officials, the state has around four million MGNREGA cardholders. The scaling up could reveal much larger authentication errors.

Watching Alam on a hot March afternoon is a lesson in how the UID platform is fraught with uncertainties and shortcomings. The biggest problem is connectivity. There are two towers directly across the road from the Pragya Kendra in Tigara panchayat and a third is being erected in the vicinity. Yet, Alam is forced to make a round of the Kendra and finally move out towards the anganwadi before he is able to make contact with his bank server. “Connectivity is at the heart of this system. If the GPRS link works everything goes well; otherwise this micro-ATM is as good as dead.”

Followed patiently by the MGNREGA workers who trail him from point to point as he tries for connectivity, Alam is aware of the growing anxiety of his flock. One of them finally proves lucky. Arjun Goap, an 18-year-old farm lad who has done some land levelling work in Barsai Tola (hamlet), some 4 km away, is finally through on the fourth try and after a wait of an hour. But, sometimes, if connectivity is good a transaction can be completed in 20 seconds, explains Alam.

imageArjun Goap gets his fingerprint scanned to withdraw his MGNREGA wages at Tigara panchayat in Ranchi (Photos: Jyotika Sood)Interestingly, the Pragya Kendras where the payments are made were set up in 2009 by then principal secretary of the Department of Information and Technology, Jharkhand, and now the director general of UIDAI and its top honcho after chairman Nilekani. In fact, most of the panchayat offices where the BCs disburse payments boast a mobile phone tower or two. Connectivity away from the panchayat centres of course is nil.

It is believed that Jharkhand was chosen for the pilots because of Sharma’s influence in his home state although the official version is that Chief Minister Arjun Munda is “greatly interested in technology” and opted for UID to cut down subsidy leaks. But UIDAI officials admit that they have approached several state governments to push for projects. In Alwar, Rajasthan has decided to link subsidised kerosene supplies to Aadhaar and is reported to have weeded out a number of ghost cards. But it is a small experiment where just a 100 people have been mapped.

In Mysore, the Indian Oil Corporation has decided to use the UID platform to weed out those who are ineligible for subsidised cooking gas cylinders but so far the pilot has made only limited headway. The plan was to have such pilots in Pune and Hyderabad, too, but this appears to have been put on hold.

Dhaneswar RajakMicro-ATM does not accept the fingerprints of Dhaneswar Rajak of Chutiyaro village in Hazaribagh for the second dayAs more instances come to light of slipshod enrolment through indiscriminate outsourcing to agencies, ministries are becoming wary of using the UID platform for direct transfer of welfare benefits to the beneficiaries. One, most tellingly, is said to be the Union Ministry of Rural Development whose boss Jairam Ramesh was witness to a 30-minute delay in getting connectivity during the launch of the pilot in Jharkhand.

Another is theUnion Ministry of Labour & Employment which is riding high on the success of its smart card used in the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY), the health insurance scheme for those on the BPL list. In the four years since the scheme was launched by Sudha Pillai, the then secretary of the ministry, against much opposition, RSBY cards have now reached 29 million beneficiaries and proved to be a secure way of disbursing cash-free hospital care for beneficiaries.

The finance ministry allocated Rs 1,758 crore to UIDAI this year against Rs 1,200 crore in 2011-12

Curiously, the finance ministry which allocated a generous Rs 1,758 crore to UIDAI in the current budget against Rs 1,200 crore for 2011-12 appears to be plumping for the smart card for various welfare benefits instead of using the Aadhaar platform.

In fact, the RSBY card which has been upgraded from 32 kilobyte to 64 kb, is envisaged to serve as a multi-purpose card providing different social security benefits. In fact, the UIDAI appears to have split the bureaucrats into two camps: those who view the project as “grossly wasteful expenditure and duplication” and others who believe it might yet work if the enrolments are streamlined and connectivity is not a stumbling block.

As a senior government official explains: “The budgetary allocation and the compromise reached in January are face-saving measures. Since the prime minister had made UIDAI his pet project the government had to give in.” The bureaucrat is referring to the decision by the government to allow UIDAI to collect the biometrics of another 400 million residents—it was earlier allotted 200 million—after a public standoff between Nilekani, who enjoys Cabinet rank, and Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram on the biometric collection issue.

Five of the 20 people mapped in Tigara could not be authenticated as their biometrics did not match

While the UIDAI’s primary mandate was to provide Aadhaar numbers to the entire population, it had sought to corner a larger share of the biometric collection pie. The Home Ministry which wanted it done by the more thorough methods adopted by the Registrar General of India, who had been authorised to prepare a National Population Register (NPR), had to settle for an equal share of 600 million residents. NPR is expected to cost another Rs 6,634 crore but excludes the cost of a smart card that is to be issued to every resident of India with an Aadhaar number.

P ChidambaramUnion Home Minister P Chidambaram launches Resident Identity Cards at Pattipulam village in Tamil NaduIncreasingly, the smart card is being viewed as a better alternative to the UID platform primarily because it does not require real time connectivity and has inbuilt security features that are less vulnerable to being tampered with. Officials of the National Informatics Centre (NIC) point out that the smart cards being developed by it for different government schemes, such as RSBY, the public distribution system and for NPR are more secure because there is complete control over the technology and over the standards. It is, in fact, a multi-factor authentic system that avoids the security worries in UID (see ‘Competing security claims’).

The biggest push comes from the Union Food and Civil Supplies Ministry which is expected to earmark Rs 4,000 crore to assist states in digitising ration cards to help eliminate fake cards and check diversion of grain. Arunachal Pradesh, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Odisha and Puducherry are among the states that have opted for smart card designed by NIC.

Other boost is for the RSBY. Anil Swarup, director general, labour welfare, in the Labour Ministry, says discussions are under way to see if RSBY cards—close to 29 million have been issued so far and the number is expected to double in another three years—can also be used as job cards for MGNREGA since it is the same population group that will be availing itself of the benefits. For one, there is strict identification of beneficiaries and for another, cards are carefully vetted and personally handed over by a government official. Already, the finance ministry has set up several working groups to figure out how to transfer more financial inclusion schemes to the RSBY card.

RSBY scores over the UID model because its smart card can function as effectively offline. Swarup, who has publicly debated with Nilekani on this issue at several forums, points out that developing countries like India need an offline system to be fully functional since real time connectivity is a long way off.

Even a developed country like Germany is banking on the RSBY model to reach welfare benefits to a part of its population, he says (see‘Germany opts for the smart card’). The problem for UIDAI, according to some analysts, appears to be waning interest in enrolling for its Aadhaar since it is not mandatory as yet. Therefore, it needs to demonstrate that the 12-digit unique identity has some value. But this is proving a challenge for the authority. While the first UID number holders in Maharashtra are still trying to figure how it will help them get their PDS supplies, others in Jharkhand are already ruing its entry.

Three Women Prisoners assaulted in Mumbai Jail for raising issues


‘Published: Monday, Apr 23, 2012, 8:30 IST

By Dilnaz Boga | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Three suspected women Maoists sympathisers lodged in Mumbai District Women’s Prison in Byculla have alleged that the jail authorities had assaulted them for highlighting the prison’s problems. They have filed a complaint in the sessions court at Sewri.

Angela Sontakey, 42, Sushma Ramteke, 22, and Jyoti Chorghe, 19, were arrested by the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) in April last year under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.

The three have pleaded for a thorough investigation into the assault incident of April 2. They want their statement to be recorded and the police register an FIR.

They have alleged that in a bid to alienate them the jail authorities directed the volunteers of the NGOs not to talk to them and they were denied admission to computer classes run by an NGO. The trio alleged that the authorities even confiscated Mahatma

Gandhi’s biography and a jail manual they had brought with them to share with other prisoners about prison rights.

On March 31, the trio saw some inmates being beaten by the authorities. When they tried to intervene, they were attacked by the jail employees, the complaint stated. The three were accused of instigating inmates. The inmates protested by refusing food and demanded an apology from the administration.

Two days later, Sontakey, Ramteke and Chorghe were sent to solitary confinement. “No complaint was registered before punishing us. No doctor came. No medical tests were done before the confinement and after,” the application said.

The trio then went on a hunger strike for six days. The complainants claim that they had been targeted by the authorities. “We had always raised our voice against the corrupt practices of the jail. Bribe is taken for giving requisition for your guards, for getting things, to go to JJ Hospital and for making false medical record.”

The three complained that the jail inmates are so “terrorised” by the jail’s Reform and Rehabilitation Centre that they fear to seek help. The other inmates approach them for writing applications and counselling. “This has alarmed the authorities as they feel that their importance is diminishing,” says the complaint.

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should be not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones,” the complaint quotes from South African leader Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

IG Prisons Surender Kumar said, “There are three or four people from that group who have been creating trouble in the jail by demanding different things. We had complained about them to the judge. I’m not aware about the assault incident but I don’t think our officers would have resorted to such tactics.”

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