New on my other blogs

KERALA LETTER
Solar scam reveals decadent polity and sociery
A Dalit poet writing in English, based in Kerala
Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen
Change of heart? Or stooping to conquer?

വായന

24 June, 2014

Pledge to protect democracy: Jantar Mantar Chalo on June 26


Civil Society groups of the Jana Awaaz platform have called for a Jantar Mantar Chalo programme on June 26, anniversary of the 1975 Emergency declaration.

They have suggested that those who cannot join the Delhi programme may organize similar programmes in their cities and towns.
The following is the text of a communication received in this connection:  

Dear Friends and Saathis,

Many groups and individuals came together in April 2014 to form Jan Awaaz, a platform to create space for voicing democratic concerns and build alternative politics in line with constitutional values.
This platform also hopes to give us space to articulate political opinion and protect free speech and expression.

On the 26th of June, 1975 our fundamental freedoms and democracy came under attack with the imposition of Emergency. In light of recent incidents where free speech and expression have come under assault, and to reaffirm our commitment to these constitutional values, Jan Awaaz is organizing a public event from 4-6 pm at Jantar Mantar on the 26th of June 2014 to pledge to protect constitutional democracy.

We plan to gather together to engage with democratic movements through discussions, art, theater and music and be aware of the dangers and threats to our democracy. The event will also showcase an exhibition of posters and photographs remembering various democratic struggles.

We are aware that there are multiple public meetings on the 26th of June. We would be very happy if you could make some time to be part of this celebration of our democratic values at Jantar Mantar. 

We would also request you to circulate this widely and pass this word around.

We will be strengthened by your presence, thoughts and your contributions in any way you feel appropriate.

Groups that are unable to join us at Jantar Mantar could organize similar public events to protect democratic spaces in their cities/towns.

In solidarity,
Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Kiran Shaheen and Siddhartha
9999353925

Encounter with diversity

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

The Bharatiya Janata Party claims that its Hindutva ideology is based on cultural nationalism and not connected with the Hindu religion. However, its concept of culture is closely related to Hindu values, more particularly values promoted by sections of the community that dominated the society for long.

Consequently, in the Hindutva discourse, religious minorities constitute the “other”. The BJP and other Hindutva entities have criticised measures by previous governments to safeguard their interests as appeasement.

However, religious pluralism is only one aspect of the wide variety in Indian society which has given rise to the concept of unity in diversity.

The Narendra Modi government, which was swept into office by a pro-Hindutva upsurge, encountered another aspect of India’s diversity when it instructed officials of the central government who have official social network accounts to post messages in the Hindi language.

According to the census report, Hindi, which belongs to the Indo-European group of languages, is the mother tongue of about 45 per cent of the people. The figure has been arrived at on the basis of information provided by householders to the enumerators.

Both the BJP and its predecessor, the Jana Sangh, are known to have campaigned among people speaking various allied dialects like Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Haryanvi, Magadhi and Maithili at census time to declare Hindi as their mother tongue to boost its claim for recognition as the national language.

According to the findings of a recent survey, Indians use more than 780 languages and 66 different scripts. During the freedom struggle the Congress party, under Gandhi’s leadership, sought to promote Hindi as the national language. However, when the Congress government in the Madras presidency, provided for study of Hindi in schools, the anti-Brahmin Justice Party’s protests forced it to drop the move.

Vigorous opposition by non-Hindi speaking people, especially the Tamil-speaking people, foiled the efforts of Hindi enthusiasts to get the Congress-dominated body which framed India’s Constitution to grant Hindi the status of national language. It, however, provided for replacement of English with Hindi as the official language of the central government by 1965.

Tamil belongs to the Dravidian group of languages spoken mainly in the south. Tamil speakers are intensely proud of their language and many of them are against exclusive use of Hindi by the Centre.

Protests broke out in Tamil Nadu in the early 1960s when the Centre announced certain steps to promote the use of Hindi on the basis of the recommendations of the Official Languages Commission. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru assured the protesters that Hindi would not be made the sole official language without the concurrence of the non-Hindi states.

In 1963, parliament enacted a law to give effect to Nehru’s assurance. It provided for continued use of English by the Central government, in addition to Hindi, after 1965.

Even so, the Centre took certain steps to promote the use of Hindi in 1965. Protests in Tamil Nadu, spearheaded by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, took a toll of more than 60 lives. The agitation subsided only after prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri went on air and declared that the government would honour Nehru’s pledge to retain English as alternative official language.

The anti-Hindi agitation played a big part in the DMK’s phenomenal growth and its replacement of the Congress as Tamil Nadu’s ruling party in 1967. Since then the state has been continuously under the rule of the DMK or its offshoot, the All India Anna DMK.

The intense feelings of Tamil speakers on the language issue stem from their pride in its antiquity. While Hindi is only five or six centuries old, Tamil boasts of a history of more than two millennia

The BJP-led government’s directive to officials to use Hindi in social networks was ill-timed and imprudent inasmuch as a campaign on these platforms, conducted primarily in English, had made a significant contribution to the party’s electoral triumph.

Both DMK supremo M Karunanidhi and AIADMK leader and Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa opposed the government’s action. So did the BJP’s allies in the state.

The BJP’s first prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, had addressed the UN General Assembly in Hindi. Media reports have indicated that Modi plans to talk to world leaders in Hindi, with the help of interpreters. Such steps can be justified in terms of patriotism.

Promotion of Hindi at home in a manner unacceptable to speakers of other languages cannot be viewed in the same light since it betrays unwillingness to respect India’s diversity.

Modi has not cared to speak on the language controversy. One hopes the lesson that the government has to be sensitive to the sentiments of all sections of the people has not been lost on him.-- Gulf Today, Sharjah, June 24, 2014.

19 June, 2014

Understanding the Rape Republic



Anjuman Ara Begum

Sexual violence continues in India unabated.

The December 2012 gang rape and subsequent death of a 23 year old woman led to a shift in discourse on sexual violence in India. For the first time, the blame shifted from victims to perpetrators, fostering changes in certain colonial era criminal laws.

However, the changes have failed to provide crucial protection and redress. Important recommendations, forwarded by the three-member committee following the incident, were ignored, and sexual crimes rage, as uncontrolled as before. News headlines depicting sexual violence have not changed since December 2012.
Gruesome abuse and killings of victims have shaken the human conscience but not the criminal justice system in a country, which continues to prove itself a 'systemic failure'- even after state promises of ensuring its effectiveness. Every 20 minutes, a rape is committed in India; but only 4 out of 10 incidents make it to the country's justice system. Such low reporting of sexual assault, due to legal complexities and ideas of ‘honour’ and ‘shame’, make the possibilities of justice remote, and create an insufficient deterrent in society.
Recent gory reports, such as the hanging of raped girls, the sexual assault of a female judge in her official residence, the pumping of bullets into the private parts of a woman after an assault, and the burning of a dead body following a gang rape, are sufficient evidence to conclude that the 'system' has systematically failed. An insensitive, poorly funded, inefficient, and unnecessarily hierarchic structure called the criminal justice system has proven nothing but a demon to women seeking justice.

Why does the state fail to curb sexual crimes?

Cultural aspects cannot be ignored. The substance of the law and its implementation, are two different aspects. The 2013 amendments of laws dealing with sexual assault improved the legal literature, making it more favourable to women, but not the culture of implementation. The redress system faced by a sexual assault victim has enormous challenges, ranging from legal to cultural. Filing a First Information Report (FIR), the first step in seeking justice, is hard in India. But, it is nothing less than a Herculean task when a woman complains of sexual assault. Due to the culture of enforcement of laws in the country, legal texts alone don’t determine her rights and entitlements. Negative stereotyping and attacking the self-esteem of the rape survivor is one of the prime reasons for not reporting the crime and accessing the criminal justice system. Moreover violence against women in India is an institutionalised phenomenon. Before noting the FIR, policemen often satisfy themselves with knowledge of whether the victim wore the 'right' clothing', ate the 'right' food, kept the 'right' male friends, or uses 'questionable' modern electronics like a mobile phone. The 2013 amendments, though they expand the definition of sexual assault and promise to be more sensitive to women, also carry forward negative elements. They retain discriminatory and stereotype concepts like 'insult' or 'outrages to women's modesty' in order to define a criminal act.

The culture of impunity for sexual violence is widespread and has contributed much to propagate the crime. Both de-jure and de-facto culture of impunity for crimes, including sexual crimes, is one of the prime contributory factors for such crimes. In India, de-jure impunity is propagated through several legal instruments that validate immunity for state actors. A provision called 'prior sanction' was incorporated in several security legislations for this purpose. Section 45, 132, 197 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, section 125 and 126 of the Army Act, 1950, section 45 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, and section 6 of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958, state that no court shall take cognizance of any offence committed by certain state actors unless prior sanction is granted by the appropriate government authority. It has been observed that the 'sanction' for prosecution is granted only in the rarest of rare cases; invariably, authorities, at their discretion, reject an application for ‘prior sanction’. This is one of the reasons for the perpetrators of Manorama's rape and murder is yet to be brought to justice. Manorama was found dead within hours of her detention by armed forces in Manipur in 2004 leading a massive public outrage.

De-facto impunity is equally prevalent in the criminal justice system and its enforcement institutions. Police authorities often deny or block access to justice, by refusing the registration of allegations. The process of investigation and trial remains extremely slow and unscientific. Routine practices of torture by security enforcement agencies create a fear psychosis. It discourages formal complaint, propagating a culture of impunity at all levels of the administration of justice. Such a culture is tolerated under different laws and practices with state 'acquiescence'. The principle of due diligence is too narrowly adopted in the legal system to hold private actors accountable for violence against women.

Sociologically speaking, a society based on a patriarchal structure, prescribes male dominance and promotes authoritarian personalities. Law enforcement agencies are based on masculine ideologies. Institutions like the police and the military provide space for such personalities. They foster the tendency to impose power and control over women and their autonomy. This is why police often refuse to register cases of sexual assault, and even if they register them, there is little to no guarantee of justice. Additionally, males disproportionately dominate the police and the armed forces, whereas women comprise little more that 6% of such forces.

The judicial system cannot be spared either. It, too, inherits perceived dominating ideologies over women's bodily autonomy, and administers the law accordingly, encouraging impunity for sexual violence. The country's judicial system, hailed, as one of the most powerful institutions for protection and promotion of human rights, is still not congenial to female victims of sexual assault. An inadequate number of judges, prolonged periods of litigation, manipulation of medical reports, intimidation of victims, and non-protection of witnesses are barriers to justice in all types of violations. Cases of sexual assault are not immune to this trend. Corruption and political influence are two blameworthy factors.

India’s judiciary has adopted and exhibited prejudiced attitudes against women from time to time and justified impunity for sexual assault. In October 2013, a Delhi High Court judge was found sermonizing in an order when he prescribed 'girls are morally and socially bound not to indulge in sexual intercourse before a proper marriage, and if they do so, it would be to their peril and they cannot be heard to cry later on that it was rape.' The judge ignored the law of the country to uphold things in which he had been trained, and undermined the principle of the rule of law.
It is unforgivable that, Bhawri Devi – who was gang raped in 1992 by five men when she was working in a field – had to listen to a judgement three years later delivered by a District and Session court judge, that dominant caste men would not rape a women belonging to an oppressed caste. Examples of such misguided judicial pronouncements abound in India, from 'Mathura to Manorama' and beyond.
The country's political leaders, who have immense influence over ordinary citizens, do not lag behind in pronouncing and promoting misogynistic ideologies regarding sexual assault, reinforcing impunity. The media also reflects their perceptions.

Politician Babulal Gaur, Home Minister in Madhya Pradesh, has justified rape, saying 'Rape is sometimes right'. According to Ramsevak Paikara, Home Minister of Chhattisgarh, 'No one commits rape intentionally, it happens by mistake'. And, then there is Mulayam Singh Yadav, a prominent senior politician who has said, 'Boys make mistakes, why hang them?' And, then there is Abu Azmi, a senior politician, who supported Yadav by stating that 'women who were raped should also be hanged'.

These statements and perceptions expose the tip of the iceberg; and can help one understand how India’s institutions, and the individuals representing the institutions, are certainly not free from authoritarian and misogynistic ideas that further propagate the repression of victims of sexual assault.

In India, social space to be a sexual being is virtually non-existent. Repression rules mainstream society. Talking about sex or sexuality is taboo; it is unwelcome in the public domain. An inclusive culture for sharing space is discouraged especially when it comes to space where opposite sexes can meet. Young children grow up in a gender-segregated environment; the urge to play or mingle with the opposite sex is suppressed simply due to the pain of parental or social disapproval. In Indian society, repressed sexuality is often quoted, for instance by authors like Sudhir Kakar, as a reason for sexual and gender-based violence. Society prescribes that women be pure, chaste, and celibate before 'marriage', suffocating her sensuality and sexuality. Men are free from control in expressing their sexuality; their attacks are tolerated with an explanation of a double standard, that 'boys will be boys'. Women are advised to have some sort of self-protection as a defence mechanism against getting raped. Prevalence of such a culture prohibits women from reporting crimes that are sexual in nature.

In addition, society has its own calculated notion of sexual behaviour. For example, section 377 of the Indian Penal Code enters into the private space of citizens and criminalizes consensual same sex, tagging it 'unnatural sex'. It is still a valid law despite widespread public opinion calling for its repeal. Legal institutions upholding such measures disallow freedom of citizens over their bodily autonomy and their choice of life.

Violence against women in India continues and will continue, due to a pervasive prevalence of discrimination based on gender, which starts at birth and continues until death. Laws, if enforced properly, are undoubtedly instruments to control and modify human behaviour. Change will be accomplished when the state takes certain appropriate legal and non-legal measures. Measures to modify and improve the social and cultural patterns of conduct of both men and women in order to achieve equality and to negate the culture of impunity. Such an environment, if achieved, will impact the country's criminal justice and law enforcement mechanisms profoundly. Sexual and gender based violence will be minimized but not eliminated.

It is important that law enforcement begin with legal education in the law. Citizens should believe in and respect the law. The ordinary person has no idea what the law prescribes. They hardly care, as the criminal justice mechanism is a failed system in India and they are aware of the possibility of immunity from this system. It is only when men and women from all walks of life subscribe to the principles of the rule of law and non-discrimination and believe in the equality and dignity of each individual that law enforcement can begin to do its job effectively.

This article was distributed by Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

About the author: Anjuman Ara Begum is Program Officer - India Desk at Asian Human Rights Commission and can be contacted at e-mail india@ahrc.asia



18 June, 2014

PUCL seeks end to persecution of human rights defenders

PUCL seeks an independent review and intervention by NHRC in order to stop the continuing persecution and prosecution of human rights defenders, Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand of Citizens for Peace and Justice and others.

People's Union for Civil Liberties today filed a petition with the National Human Rights Commission seekingan independent review and intervention in respect of continuing persecution and prosecution of human rights defenders, Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand of Citizens for Peace and Justice and others

The petition stressed that CJP and its office bearers Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and their team are human rights defenders. They have, despite threats of grave risk to their personal safety, ensured that the rule of law prevailed in the state of Gujarat at a time when the entire state machinery was subverted and all public officials either abdicated their constitutional and statutory functions or worse connived / actively participated with the perpetrators of terror and violence. PUCL believes that the repeated complaints that are being filed against these human rights defenders are only a consequence of their success in upholding the rule of law in Gujarat and ensuring multiple convictions, including that of Minister Maya Kodnani .

National and International Human Rights Obligations Towards Human Rights Defenders

PUCL in its petition pointed out that under international human rights principles there is a duty cast upon every State to accord adequate protection to human rights defenders. The United Nations “Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” (March, 1999) acknowledges that human rights defenders play a very important role in the promotion and protection of human rights and it is the duty of every State and its administrators to avoid criminalisation, stigmatisation, impediments, obstructions or restrictions on the work of human rights defenders. 

Art. 18 of this Declaration stresses that “individuals, groups, institutions and non-governmental organisations have an important role to play and a responsibility in safeguarding democracy, promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms and contributing to the promotion and advancement of democratic societies, institutions and processes”.

Further, in October 2009 the Hon’ble NHRC, recommended that it is the obligation of the State to protect human rights of all. Individuals, groups or associations who work for promotion and protection of human rights, commonly referred to as Human Rights Defenders, should also be provided protection by the State against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure or any arbitrary action as a consequence of their activities for promotion & protection of human rights & fundamental freedom.  NHRC and SHRCs can also play an important role in this regard. The  Commission had also recommended that there is a need to set up a Focal Point for human rights defenders, preferably at NHRC, so that human rights defenders can reach out to it for support. 

Contribution of  Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and CJP

The petition referred to the consistent efforts of Teesta Setalvad and the CJP team which has secured more than 110 convictions so far with many other trials nearing completion.

It states that amongst the numerous cases pursued by Teesta Setalvad and the CJP, one of the most noteworthy cases is the Best Bakery case which initially ended in a total acquittal of all the accused, but got a fresh lease of life when an important eye witness to the incident Ms. Zahira Sheikh approached Teesta Setalvad and the CJP saying she had been coerced to resile on her eye witness testimony. It is the intervention of CJP as well as the NHRC which resulted in the supreme court directing a  fresh trial. During the retrial the CJP also obtained orders  for witness protection and appointment of special public prosecutors and eventually the trial court went on to convict 9 of the accused persons.

It is pertinent to point out that even as CJP and team strived to establish the rule of law and ensured that perpetrators were punished, a slew of complaints and FIRs were foisted against them. Many complaints were later found to be unfounded upon inquiry by the Registrar General of the supreme court and by the various trial courts. . But more cases are being filed and the CJP and team are being hindered in their human rights work and unnecessarily harassed.

In the light of the background and context in which the cases / complaints have been filed against Citizens for Justice and Peace and its Trustees Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand, PUCL requested the NHRC to conduct an independent inquiry and review all the cases filed. It also urged the NHRC to recommend to the State of Gujarat that pending such review the Government of Gujarat should refrain from initiating any coercive action such as arrest, freezing of accounts etc or in any manner hindering the work of these human rights defenders.

The PUCL also requested the NHRC to recommend the initiation of criminal and disciplinary action against all policemen, prosecutors and government officials, and individuals against whom there is prima facie evidence of mala fide actions against human rights defenders like Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and others and to intervene in the matters/cases referred above, going on against human rights defenders Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand so as to protect their rights as human rights defenders.


Prof. Prabhakar Sinha  National President, PUCL              
Dr. V. Suresh, National General Secretary, PUCL 

Cops train guns on NGOs

BRP Bhaskar
 
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi maintains his statesmanlike posture the Intelligence Bureau has queered the pitch by leaking a secret report alleging that several non-government organisations are trying to scuttle India’s development at the behest of foreign donors.

It was at the instance of the Manmohan Singh government that the IB began scrutiny of foreign funds’ flow to NGOs. The report which has surfaced, however, is one prepared with Modi in mind.

It includes passages lifted from a speech he had delivered in 2006 while releasing a book on NGOs published by Vigil Public Forum, Chennai, a pro-Sangh Parivar outfit. It looks like a ruse to force the pre-poll Modi to stand up.

Offshoot of a unit set up in England by the colonial regime in 1887, since Independence the IB has performed to the satisfaction of its new masters, earning rewards for its directors in the form of gubernatorial assignments.

There is no executive order or parliamentary enactment which defines the IB’s functions. A public interest litigation questioning its legal authority, filed two years ago, is pending before the Supreme Court.

Unlike the Central Bureau of Investigation and the state police agencies, which are required to produce evidence which will satisfy a court of law, as an intelligence outfit the IB does not have to substantiate its charges. Consequently, its men can tell their political masters what they like to hear.

IB documents are not usually declassified but some of its activities have come to light through autobiographical writings of its former chiefs or through criminal investigations.

For instance, BN Malik, who headed it for 14 years has, in his book My Days with Nehru, provided information on its work in the context of the conflicts with Pakistan and China.

The CBI, which is investigating two fake encounter cases of Gujarat, recently sought the Home Ministry’s permission to prosecute four IB officers. The ministry asked it to produce the case diaries. It refused as courts do not approve of its sharing such documents with others.

One of the first appointments Modi made as prime minister was that of Ajit Kumar Doval, who was IB’s operational chief for a decade and retired as its director in 2005, as the National Security Adviser.

Doval, who thinks lack of a “serious desire to act” is one of the weaknesses of the anti-terror activity, said in a 2008 interview: “We have to get from the defensive mode to the offensive mode. Every hour new ideas need to be generated. It is essentially a game of outsmarting and outwitting. Whoever can think faster and do the unexpected will win the game.”

Praful Bidwai, well-known activist-journalist, wrote that he had discovered during a television debate that Doval belongs to a school of policing that believes that the only way to deal with terrorists, real or imaginary, is to shoot first and ask questions later.

Some insiders appear to have been keen to ensure wide publicity for the report damning NGOs. After its contents leaked to the press, the entire report, complete with the name of the author, SA Rizvi, appeared on the web.

The report alleges that Greenpeace and some US bodies have formed a coal network to take down 455 proposed power stations. It accuses anti-nuclear activist SP Udayakumar of using funds provided by a US university and maps supplied by a German to take down the nuclear programme. It also talks of NGOs’ future plans to take down Gujarat-model economic development projects.

The IB seeks to discredit the protests of the affected people and even the interventions of the Legislature and the Judiciary in project-related matters. It blames foreign funded activism for the protests that stalled the mega industrial projects of the Vedanta group and South Korea’s POSCO and for the restrictions on genetically modified crops recommended by a parliamentary committee and a Supreme Court-appointed expert committee.

Apart from Greenpeace, other reputed organisations like Amnesty International, ActionAid and the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and highly regarded individuals like Vandana Shiva, Suman Sahai and Prashant Bhushan are named in the report.

Civil society groups rejected the allegations as a figment of the IB’s imagination. Udayakumar said he was considering legal action as he and his family had felt threatened after the report was leaked.

Swami Agnivesh, a well-known activist, demanded that Modi ask the IB to substantiate its charges and take action against the persons concerned if they are not able to do so.

The IB’s silence on the foreign funds that Sangh Parivar-promoted NGOs receive and the motives of its donors betrays its political partisanship.--Gulf Today, Sharjah, June 18, 2014.

10 June, 2014

Coping with rape crisis

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

The shame of rape is weighing India down again. Barely 18 months after the gangrape and murder of a young woman in New Delhi provoked street protests and made headlines the world over, the country is coping with the fallout of another case involving sexual assault and killing of two teenaged girls in an Uttar Pradesh village. 

Pictures of bodies of the girls hanging from a tree sent shock waves across the globe. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon expressed horror over the incident. So did a US State Department spokesperson.

The US had no reason to be horrified. According to a UN report published last year, that country has an annual rape rate of 28.6 per 100,000 people. The Indian rape rate is 4.3. Even after allowing for varying rates of under-reporting in the two countries, the situation in India does not appear to call for a response of that kind from the US administration.

However, India has cause for concern. The rash of rape cases being reported daily points to a critical situation. Clearly the vociferous protests of 2012 and the subsequent toughening of the law to the extent providing for the death penalty have not made any appreciable difference to the situation.

Uttar Pradesh, where the recent incident occurred, is India’s largest state. If it were an independent country it would be the world’s fifth most populous, after China, residuary India, the US and Indonesia. In 2012, the last year for which official data are available, close to 24,000 cases of crimes against women were registered in the state. This was about 10 per cent of all such cases registered countrywide.

Until 2012 UP was ruled by the Bahujan Samaj Party and its leader, Mayawati, a Dalit woman, was the chief minister. In that year’s election the Samajwadi Party, whose support base consists primarily of the backward Yadav caste, came to power and its supremo, Mulayam Singh, installed his son, Akhilesh Yadav, as the chief minister. In this year’s parliamentary election, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party and its ally, Apna Dal, bagged 73 of the state’s 80 Lok Sabha seats, stunning both the BSP and the SP.

The rape incident inevitably got entangled in political warfare. Mayawati said the law and order machinery had broken down and asked the Centre to dismiss the Yadav government. Uma Bharati, a member of Modi’s cabinet, indicated readiness to consider the suggestion but Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh only said steps would be taken to improve the situation in the state.

Both Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh Yadav accused the media of targeting the state, overlooking the fact that rape was more common in some other states. The neighbouring BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh was mentioned in this connection but there were fewer than 17,000 cases in that state in 2012. The state that topped in crimes against women that year was West Bengal, with more than 30,000 cases.

Since the states vary in population, comparison of absolute numbers can give a distorted picture. Ironically, when the population figures are factored in, backward states like UP and MP appear to be safer for women than supposedly progressive states like West Bengal and Kerala.

UP, with 16.5 per cent of the country’s population, accounts for only 9.65 per cent of the crimes against women and MP, with 9.3 per cent of the population, for 6.89 per cent. West Bengal, with 7.5 per cent of the population, recorded 12.7 per cent of the crimes against women and Kerala, with 2.8 per cent of the population, accounted for 4.47 per cent of the crimes.

Rape has long been a caste war tool, and dominant castes have used it to assert their social authority. First reports had identified the attackers as Yadavs and the victims as Dalits. Official sources later said the girls belonged to the backward Maurya Shakya caste. Almost all the police personnel of the area were said to be Yadavs.

Mulayam Singh belongs to a breed of politicians who have been seeking to reinforce patriarchy. He had once talked about rape as a mistake for which a boy cannot be hanged. Along with Lalu Prasad, Yadav leader of Bihar, he played a major role in scuttling the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government’s attempts to introduce reservation for women in Parliament and the state legislatures.

Since the political leadership remains insensitive to gender issues, the fight against rape is bound to be a long drawn one.--Gulf Today, Sharjah, June 10, 2014.

08 June, 2014

Women safer in UP and MP than in West Bengal and Kerala, safest in TN, Punjab

Going by official statistics, women appear to be far safer in the "backward" states of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh than in the "progressive" states of Kerala and West Bengal. Tamil Nadu and Punjab are the safest places.

In 2012, the last year for which crime statistics are available, 24,270 cases of crimes against women were registered in India.

West Bengal topped the list with 30,942 cases. (The state came under Trinamool Congress government the previous year after 34 years of Left rule).  Andhra Pradesh registered 28,171 cases. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh reported 23,569 and 16,832 cases respectively..

Kerala was still behind with only 10,930 sex crime cases. However, when the population figures are factored in, Kerala moves up in the crime table. It is among the states whose share of crimes against women outstrips their population share.

The following nine-state table has been compiled by drawing figures from the 2011 Census and the National Crime Bureau report 2012. (States whose share of Crimes against Women is higher than the population share are marked with bold types.)


State                           Population share (%)*      Crime against Women share (%)**

UP
16.49

9.65



MP 
9.28

6.89



Maharashtra 9.28

6.69



West Bengal 7.54

12.67



Andhra Pradesh 6.99

11.53



Tamil Nadu  5.96

2.94



Gujarat
5.00

3.91



Kerala  
2.76

4.47



Punjab 
2.29

1.33












**Crime against Women statistics at http://ncrb.nic.in/CD-CII2012/Statistics2012.pdf
















































































04 June, 2014

Police action against displaced Haryana Dalit protesters in Delhi

Kiran Shaheen writes:

It was a day when the 16th LOK SABHA  started its session with a condolence meeting to adjourn the house in the memory of  one of it's members and  minister. On the other side, 
incidents of atrocities on homeless Dalit families from Bhagana and other protesters marked the day with eviction, batons and insulting women at the Parliament street in NEW DELHI.

It was only 6 am when a thousand police men barged into the tents of the Jantar Mantar, a permanent protest site for years since the protesters and whistle blowers were banned to gather at Parliament street. The huge barricading forces people to put their sit in protest or hold the rally at the Jantar Mantar, a  site, officially granted by the Delhi police and administration. The police men came, they dismantled the tents, picked the belongings of the protesters including the Bhagana rape survivors and their families and warned them to vacate the whole area by noon. Almost more than 600 protesters, rallying for their demands since long time, were put on the roadside without anything at hand. No water, not even a mat to sit or shed to face the scorching sun. 
By 8.30 am, another news came from Hisar where 200 Bhagana families were living ourside Hisar's mini secretariat since last 2 years, have been evicted in the same manner by the local police, their belongings were taken by the police, they were thrown on the street with no shelter and yet the state government has to take steps to send them back to their village and grant their entitlement of the common land and other constitutional rights. 
By 11 am people in solidarity started gathering at the Jantar Mantar in Delhi. The protesters were in great distress. It was decided to hold a demonstration in front of Parliament Street police station at 2 pm. A memorandum was sent to the home minister and a momorandum is being sent to the police Commissioner of Delhi requesting them not to vacate Jantar Mantar as this is the only physical space  to raise voice against atrocity and repression in the capital.
At 2 pm, hundreds of men, women and children gathered at Parliament Street to protest the eviction drive. And how the protesters  at the police station faced the wrath of the police force? 
Find below a few posting of our friends in arms who were there and faced the police's brutality themselves with other Bhagana women. 
I spoke to various political parties people about this eviction and by now only AAPA has issued a statement in Delhi and Haryana both. (See below).
At the end , read an excellent piece on Bhagana rape case written by a journalist friend Neha Dixit who went to Bhagana and reported from the ground. You will feel horrible and angry at the ground realities of our rural India. 
The questions arise :
On what ground the Delhi Police evicted the Jantar Mantar when legally they have to issue a notice well in advance and that too in an extraordinary circumstances. The police in the morning came without notice and broke all the rules. In the rally they molested women demonstrators and most of them were not even wearing their badges. 
Statement by Aam Admi Party:
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) strongly condemns the forcible eviction of four rape victims and their families by the Delhi Police from the Jantar Mantar on Wednesday (June 4) morning.
The young Dalit rape victims aged between 13-18 years from Bhagana village in Hisar district of Haryana, were on protest along with their family members and relatives at the Jantar Mantar from April 6, since they have been denied justice and their lives are in danger in their village.
It is extremely shocking that instead of taking concrete steps to provide justice to these poor and helpless people, the Delhi administration and the city Police behaved in such an inhuman manner, which defies logic and puts the national capital to shame.
The AAP demands that the Lieutenant Governor and the union home ministry should take immediate steps to ensure the safety of these four girls and their families. Priority should be given to the rehabilitation of these families.
The Delhi Police commissioner, Lieutenant Governor and the union home minister should immediately apologise to the rape victims and their families for the unjustified humiliation they had to suffer.
Delhi Police and the city administration need to be reminded that the Delhi High Court has time and again made it clear that prohibitory orders against any protest at Jantar Mantar (imposition of section 144 of the Code for Criminal Procedure commonly called the CrPC) can only be imposed in emergency situations and not always.
The BJP-led NDA’s new central government, whose home ministry directly controls the Delhi Police, needs to urgently tell it that the Delhi High Court had made it clear after the December 16 Nirbhaya case that  Section 144 CrPC cannot be imposed by the Police at will.
The High Court had on January 3, 2013, observed :“There are rights to movement and speech and expression, it (Section 144 of the CrPC) cannot be used just like that...otherwise it would lead to loss of the sanctity,” the bench headed by the then Chief Justice D Murugesan had stated.     
The AAP demands that the home ministry should make it clear to the Delhi Police that section 144 cannot be imposed except in emergency situations to maintain law and order.
The AAP is of the clear view that right to protest is a fundamental right and it cannot be banned. At the most, there can be some reasonable restrictions on holding protests. New Delhi, being the centre of power, is the most appropriate place to hold protests and the government cannot put a blanket ban on it.
Statement by Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union: 
Today at around 5:30 AM the Delhi Police the people of Bhagana who have been protesting at Jantar Mantar demanding justice for the four Dalit girls and arresting of the those who have been guilty in the crime. The police removed the tent of the protestors and gave them an ultimatum to evacuate Jantar Mantar by 12 Noon. The Bhagana Rape survivors have been been displaced from their village and are protesting at Jantar Mantar.

In protest of this forceful eviction from the protest site at Jantar Mantar the JNUSU called for a Protest March from the protest site at Jantar Mantar to Parliament Street Police Station. The protest March was joined by other organization and individuals as well as the people of Bhagana, who have been protesting there. The police initially didn’t let the protestors leave the protest site, however the students pushed their way through the police barricade and marched till the Parliament Street Police Station where the Police detained the protestors.

Speaking inside the Protest Meeting held inside the Police Station JNUSU President Akbar said, ‘ It is not a coincidence that on the first day of the first Parliament session of the new Govt. all the protestors from Jantar Mantar have been evicted, we condemn this in the strongest possible terms. The people of Bhagan have been demanding justice by protesting at Jantat Mantar, instead of addressing their concerns the Govt. is evicting them from Jantar Protest. The removal of protestors from Jantar Mantar is also ominous as it signals a clamping down of spaces of dissent.