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On 30 July 2018 the Government of India published a draft register of citizens residing in the state of Assam. This draft register admittedly excluded more than four million people who submitted applications for inclusion of their names. These four million people are at the risk of being rendered stateless. Please sign the petition here […]

via Urgent appeal: Include the excluded people in the citizens’ register (NRC) for Assam, India — BARAK HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION COMMITTEE (BHRPC)

Urgent appeal: Include the excluded people in the citizens’ register (NRC) for Assam, India — BARAK HUMAN RIGHTS PROTECTION COMMITTEE (BHRPC)

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Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) strongly condemns the denial of a job by Air India to Shanavi Ponnusamy on account of her identifying herself as a transwoman. In a shameful but sadly commonplace instance of gender discrimination and transphobia, Shanavi was rejected multiple times by Air India for the cabin crew post […]

via JUSTICE FOR SHANAVI PONNUSAMY
CONDEMN GENDER DISCRIMINATION And TRANSPHOBIA – Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression — Karthik Navayan

JUSTICE FOR SHANAVI PONNUSAMY
CONDEMN GENDER DISCRIMINATION And TRANSPHOBIA – Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression — Karthik Navayan

Voices from Tamil Nadu Against State Oppression and Fascism

Tamil Nadu is witnessing a complete breakdown of its democratic structure with increased repression on people’s movements. State sponsored repression on communities whose livelihoods are dependent on the natural resources as well as on the activists protesting against various environmental violations. The state police are acting with absolute impunity, curbing the freedom of speech, expression and assembly, working hand in glove with corporates.
The plight of the activists and protestors is exacerbated by the state conniving openly with corporate to loot the natural resources with the intention to displace lakhs of people from their primary source of livelihood be it in the case of the coasts or that of the farmers and the landless.
It was decided that there needs to be an appraisal of the situation of the state within the larger civil society in the light of the incidents mentioned above. The activists and people’s movement representatives who have been falsely targeted by the state government and police to create an atmosphere of intimidation and threat decided to hold a Press Conference and Public Meeting in Delhi on 4th August 2018 from 2:00pm to 6:00pm at the Press Club, Delhi (1 Raisina Road, New Delhi)
The press conference will be addressed by:
Tamil Nadu: Velmurugan, Abdul Samad, K.M. Shariff, Kudanthai Arasan, Piyush Manush, Sundarrajan, Valarmathi, Krishnamurthy Kittu, Saravanan, Aruldas, Udayakumar
Delhi: Adv Prashant Bhushan, Soni Sori, Arundhati Roy,  Medha Patkar (TBC), Kavita Krishnan
We request you to kindly send a correspondent/photographer/television crew from your esteemed institution to cover the event.
Avinash Chanchal                                                                              Bhargavi
8882153664                                                                                      9582452343
Please contact the above for any information.

Bhumi Adhikar Andolan

Bullet Train Feasibility Report Omits Crucial Chapters, Shrouded in Secrecy
Political Parties Lend Support to Farmers Workers Protest Against Bullet Train Project
Scrap Bullet Train Project Now !
New Delhi, August 2 : Bullet train is pure megalomania of a despot and symbol of misplaced priorities of NDA government. India needs Mass Rapid Transport Systems which is affordable and efficient and truly green, not these white elephants which will push the country in further debt trap for a long time to come. This was conveyed at the public meeting organised by Bhumi Adhikar Andolan at Constitution Club, Delhi which saw participation of activists, researchers and parliamentarians.
Amid the ongoing protests against forcible land acquisition in Gujarat and Maharashtra for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s flagship bullet train project, the Feasibility Report of the Mumbai-Ahmadabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) prepared by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) came under sever criticism for omitting four crucial chapters.
A report released by National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) at the meeting found that Chapter 12 to 15 went missing in the feasibility report. These chapters deal with crucial details on project costs, implementation plan, financing options, and economic and financial analysis. The report named as Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (Bullet Train), A People’s Critique cited that the government’s report did not illuminate any sustainability model and did not mention the costs and its financial burden upon the citizens.
The bullet train project which the PM Modi mentioned as his dream has attracted criticism for not following the procedures stipulated in the Land Acquisition Act 2013. The report questions that if the government is using data collected in 2011 as the feasibility report was based on the data collected then. Apart from that the also report do not contain the detailed project report (DPR) for the bullet train project.
The report citing a Right to Information Act (RTI) mentions “the concerned authority simply cited ‘secrecy’ reason that might affect business completion” to justify the withholding the crucial information.
The bullet train project’s scheduled completion date fixed for August 15th, 2023 have been accused that the due process such as social an environmental assessment has not been carried out as mentioned in the Land Acquisition Act 2013. A number of projects including expressways, industrial corridors, dedicated flight corridors, existing expansion of the railway line and now the Bullet train is all coming within a short stretch, creating havoc in lives of the people. The protests till now have fallen on deaf ear and met with more propaganda. However, it has also forced stopping of survey and acquisition processes. The meeting vowed to continue and increase the resistance against this unnecessary and unrequited project.
According to government estimates the bullet train will have 40,000 passengers in a year in 2013, a claim which the people’s critique out-rightly debunked citing the present day passenger traffic data from the feasibility study. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad route sees a footfall of 4700 per day in the airports and to assert their point about over estimate figures of commuters Geeta Tiwari, a professor at the Delhi IIT said that 98 percent of travelers who use Airways choose bullet train which means that only those who have certain income they seem to opt for the high speed train.
Releasing the report, Gujarat based environmentalist and social activist Rohit Prajapati termed the consultation report on environment as mockery and said, “notification for the consultation were issued just 24 hours before which appears as a mere formality and it is not in compliance with the Land Acquisition Act.” It is astonishing to note that for consultations around environment and social impact, Ministry of Environment and Forest or any other department of the government of India is not being involved, it is being done primarily because the JICA funding guidelines require it. This is utter shame when our own laws are not applied and constantly violated.
The meeting was also addressed by Ulka Mahajan (Sarvhara Jan Andolan), Krishnakant (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti); Brian Lobo and Raghunat Sutar (Kashtakari Sangathana); Jayesh Patel (Khedut Samaj, Gujarat); Ashok Chowdhary (AIUFWP); Ashok Dhawale and Vijoo Krishnan (All India Kisan Sabha); Anil Chaudhary (INSAF); Ashok Shrimali (Setu – Mines Minerals and People); Madhuresh Kumar, Nishant and Rajendra Ravi (NAPM) and Sanjeev Kumar and Shweta Tripathi (Delhi Solidarity Group).
Quotes from speakers
Hannan Mollah, General secretary, All India kisan Sabha: Since Modi government came into power they have tried their best to amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, famously known as Land Acquisition Act 2013. They introduced an Ordinance to do away with the important clauses which provide crucial stake to the land owners , but as peoples’ coordinated protests pushed them to withhold the Ordinance. It might appear that the government shelved its regressive effort but in reality they asked state governments to implement the centre’s suggestions. And it is no wonder that the BJP ruled states were the first ones to follow. Thus to protect the rights of farmers, Adivasis various progressive organization formed Bhumi Adhikar Andolan and started their struggle against much hyped Bullet Train project.
Naseer Hussain, Congress: Modi does not care about the people, steep fall in industrial production, farmers’ suicide, students’ struggle but then he emphasizes bullet trains. He assured that the Congress party will take the farmers’ struggle against the bullet train project in the parliament.
Mohammad Saleem, Jitendra Chaudhary, CPM: The country needs mass, rapid transport system, not bullet trains. He assured that the CPM will take the issue in the parliament.
D P Tripathy, NCP: Our jawans on the border are facing scarcity of Bullets but the ruling government’s priority is bullet trains. 508 km distance through 1200 hectares, it will impact the farmers directly. When we are facing massive environmental problems, this project would deteriorate the situation as as many as 80 thousand trees will have to be cut.
Manoj Jha, RJD: Government says they do not have funds for scholarships for SCs,STs, and OBCs but they are willing to invest 1.1 lakh crore rupees for high speed train. This project is not this country’s priority and is not meant for the common man, even Modi himself would have not been able to afford it if he was not the PM.
D Raja, CPI: The CPI supports the movement against this disastrous project and assures that they will also take it up in the parliament. There is a need for us to come together and think of creative and comprehensive strategies then only we can defeat this. We are in the struggle and we have to fight this on many fronts.
Jai Karan and Ramesh Sharma (SUCI) : The Bullet Train project needs to be fought and its an assault on the farmers and workers of this country. We have to come together and expose these frauds in the name of the development.
Prem Singh (CPIML) : The challenge we posed together to the Land Ordinance we have to do the same to these mega projects including industrial corridors. These are unleashed on the people in the  name of development and have to be resisted. Our priorities are basic services and not these projects designed for rich.
For details contact : bhumiadhikarandolan@yahoo.com | 9818905316

‘I Have Learnt To Live With Death Threats’ – Vivek Premi, Gau Rakshak in Shamli UP (August 2016) — GarimaSpeaks

Reproduced here, with thanks to hindupost.in. Bajrang Dal District Convener of Shamli district in Uttar Pradesh, Vivek Premi, is known in his area for battling illegal cow trafficking, and was locked up for over 6 months with the stringent National Security Act (NSA) slapped on him by District Magistrate and approved by Governor, State & Central Home Ministries […]

via ‘I Have Learnt To Live With Death Threats’ – Vivek Premi, Gau Rakshak in Shamli UP (August 2016) — GarimaSpeaks

Clamour for death: On hanging rapists of minors

The anger is justified, but not the proposal to grant capital punishment for rape of minors

Each time a horrific sexual crime hits the headlines, there is a clamour for prescribing the death penalty for such offences. Given this, it is perhaps no surprise that the gang-rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu and Kashmir has evoked a similar response. Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi has said her ministry will seek an amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, to provide for death as the maximum punishment for the rape of those below 12. The anger is understandable but legislation ought to be a well-considered exercise and not a response based on a sense of outrage over particular incidents. The last time a ghastly crime led to legislative change was in 2013, following a national outcry over the gang rape and murder of a woman in Delhi in December 2012. That set of amendments to criminal law was a structured response, largely based on the recommendations of a committee of eminent jurists. In its January 2013 report, the committee, headed by former Chief Justice of India J.S. Verma, decided against recommending the death penalty for rape, despite demands. It rightly took into account the possibility of awarding life sentences without remission for aggravated sexual assault, as well as “the current thinking in favour of the abolition of the death penalty”. However, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, set the death penalty for rape in the event of it causing the victim’s death or a persistent vegetative state, and for repeat offenders.

In recent months, Madhya PradeshRajasthanHaryana and Arunachal Pradesh have sought to amend the law to prescribe the death penalty for the rape of a minor below the age of 12. There is a clear dichotomy of views on the desirability of prescribing a death penalty. Enlightened public opinion would not approve of a vengeful state response to individual brutality, even if outraged public opinion clamoured for it. Moreover, it should not be forgotten that the death penalty has never been a deterrent against any sort of crime. There is little empirical evidence to show that those about to commit a capital offence would stop themselves merely out of the fear of being hanged. Further, there is a legitimate concern that the country’s judicial system has not been consistent in awarding the death penalty. The Law Commission, while recommending abolition of the death penalty, except in terrorism-related cases, observed that it is difficult to operate the ‘rarest of rare cases’ principle without a hint of arbitrariness. It will be especially wrong to force judges to compare the relative ‘merits’ of rape victims based on their age and choose between death sentence and life. Lengthy prison sentences, constituting both well-deserved consequences for grave crimes and a life-long opportunity for penitence, will adequately meet the ends of justice.

Source : The Hindu

Angry about Kathua and Unnao? Here are 9 things you can do right away

This list will help us be much more mindful of what we’re saying and doing, and hold our personal politics accountable.

We’re seething, and with good reason. It’s been a week worth seething at, with the realisation of how truly rotten we have become as a society. Sexual violence has always existed, yes. We’ve always known about it, yes. However, a country where members of the ruling party defend rapists, where the official stance is that of whataboutery, and people are looking up rape porn in the wake of an eight-year-old child’s brutal rape and murder is one very, very hard to defend.

The week started off slow, but now I wake up and wonder: What can I do?

It would be foolish to say a single person can change the world, especially one that benefits those in power. But if you, like me, are trying to not feel as powerless and impotent, here is a short list of things we can do. Will this list have an immediate impact? Possibly not. But it will help you and me be much more mindful of what we’re saying and doing, and hold our personal politics accountable.

1. Donate. Prayers and thoughts are great, but tangible resources help secure medical aid for survivors, and help with legal aid and rehabilitation. If crowdfunding makes you uncomfortable, don’t donate to specific cases, but to organisations like Majlis and Kranti that work with women impacted by sexual violence in many ways.

2. Educate yourself. Sexual violence is not isolated from its social contexts. For everyone screaming about how the Unnao and Kathua cases have been ‘politicised’, it is incredibly important to remember that sexual violence is a tool for establishment of political power. Women and their bodies have been used for political dominance for years. Read up on the Kunan Poshpora mass rape. Memorise the name of Thangjam Manorama. Remember to make every rape political because unless we recognise the politics of it, we will never be able to combat it.

3. Talk out loud. It’s exhausting to do so. It’s exhausting to have to engage with sexual violence academically when our bodies have such a visceral reaction to it. It’s exhausting to have to call out fake news every time you see it. Every time we try to cut its head off, it comes back stronger, and more vicious. However, the intellectual and emotional labour you perform in doing so can have an impact far beyond just you. You’re the first line of defence against a deluge of misinformation. If you get through to just one person, your work is done.

4. Confront rape culture. We seem to forget that normalisation of sexual violence is the culmination of our tacit, quiet allowance, if not approval, of sexual violence as an extended metaphor of humour and anger. How many of us let that horribly sexist WhatsApp forward go without questioning it? How many of us pretend to laugh when our friends crack a rape joke even when it twists our guts? Call out your friends, call out your families. As Dumbledore once said, “It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.”

5. These cases, above everything else, are a stark reminder of how young women are only remembered when they’re killed and raped as warnings. Young women, especially from vulnerable minorities, are the most disenfranchised citizens. Help young girls around you. Push them up, amplify them, have their voices heard, help them assume the stakeholdership they’ve been denied. Offer your own platforms to them and shutting up as they speak.

6. Vote. This should be obvious, but the sense of powerlessness that permeates society with a “what’s the point of it, dude” is a powerful force of apathy. The middle class is particularly apathetic because we’re cushioned by our privilege. This won’t save us anymore, however. These are scary times, and we’d be doing ourselves a great disservice by allowing the ruling party to come back to power. Every vote matters, every political engagement matters. It’s time to register and read up on your constituency and candidates. It’s time to hold them accountable to their personal politics. Any party that puts our fellow citizens in line of mortal danger doesn’t deserve our votes.

7. Demand better media reportage. The fact that the Kathua victim’s name and face have been splashed around the media as clickbait, and the details of the heinous crime have been shared with such lack of empathy or decency, points to a media culture that won’t stop from stooping very, very low for clicks. Call these articles out.

8. Destigmatise sex. The fact that sexual interaction is such a taboo in this country means that people don’t know what is ‘good’ or otherwise. We must move past our personal discomforts and have frank, honest conversations with our kids, siblings, students, and each other. Teach them that it’s not enough for a ‘no’ to mean ‘no’. Teach them about enthusiastic consent, teach yourself about how to listen to your body and your gut instinct. Learn how to recognise signs of discomfort and fear. Little things like these can foster a healthy sense of ownership over one’s bodies — something we need now more than ever.

9. Try to create a sense of hope and comfort. Consciously try to be a safe space for people to come to if they feel scared or confused about the world.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz once said, “Bol ki lab āzād haiñ tere. Bol zabāñ ab tak terī hai. (Speak, for your lips are free. Speak, your tongue is still yours.)” If we don’t actively try to speak now, at this moment, it might just be too late.

Source : The Print

As Modi flies to Europe, 49 ex-officers hold his politics responsible for indifference towards Kathua, Unnao rapes

Even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew for an official visit to United Kingdom, Germany and Sweden, 49 retired civil servants belonging to administrative, foreign, forest and police services, in one of the strongest condemnations of the Modi government, have held him directly responsible for the “terrifying state of affairs” following the “unspeakable horror of the Kathua and the Unnao incidents.”
The officers who have signed the open letter include former topcop Julio Ribeiro, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, bureaucrat-turned-activists Harsh Mander and Aruna Roy, former Government of India economic affairs secretary EAS Sarma, former ambassadors to United Kingdom and Japan Nareshwar Dayal and Aftab Seth.


Asking him to reach out to the families of the Kathua and Unnao rape victims to “seek their forgiveness”, and brushing aside his condemnation of the two incidents before he flew to Europe, they say, Modi’s “belated remonstrations and promises to bring justice” the culprits have come after “the communal cauldron is forever kept boiling by forces nested within the Sangh parivar.”
The letter says, “Instead of owning up and making reparations, you had chosen to remain silent, breaking your silence only when public outrage both in India and internationally reached a point when you could no longer ignore it.”
“And even then, while you have condemned the act and expressed a sense of shame, you have not condemned the communal pathology behind the act nor shown the resolve to change the social, political and administrative conditions under which such communal hate is bred”, the letter tells him.
A senior Gujarat cadre IAS officer, who qualified it as “by far the strongest condemnation by retired civil servants so far . Fat lot any attention will be paid”, regretted to Counterview that none of those who signed the letter belongs to the state cadre. Notably, Gujarat officers have been direct fitness to Modi as chief minister during the 2002 communal riots and his role.
Recalling that they came together last year to express our concern at the decline in the secular, democratic, and liberal values enshrined in our constitution, the former officers say, “We had hoped that, as someone sworn to upholding the Constitution, the government that you head and the party to which you belong would wake up to this alarming decline, take the lead in stemming the rot.”

The Kathua rape victim

Pointing out that “this hope has been destroyed”, the ex-officers say, “Instead, the unspeakable horror of the Kathua and the Unnao incidents shows that the government has failed in performing the most basic of the responsibilities given to it by the people.”
“The bestiality and the barbarity involved in the rape and murder of an eight year old child shows the depths of depravity that we have sunk into”, the letter says, adding, “In post-independence India, this is our darkest hour and we find the response of our government, the leaders of our political parties inadequate and feeble.”
“Our sense of shame is all the more acute because our younger colleagues who are still in service, especially those working in the districts and are required by law to care for and protect the weak and the vulnerable, also seem to have failed in their duty”, the letter regrets.
Pointing out that their outrage is over “the agenda of division and hate” that his party and its “innumerable, often untraceable offshoots that spring up from time to time, have insidiously introduced into the grammar of our politics”, the letter tells Modi, “It is that which provides the social sanction and legitimacy for the incidents in Kathua and Unnao.”
The letter says, “In Kathua in Jammu, it is the culture of majoritarian belligerence and aggression promoted by the Sangh parivar which emboldened rabid communal elements to pursue their perverse agenda. They knew that their behaviour would be endorsed by the politically powerful and those who have made their careers by polarising Hindus and Muslims across a sectarian divide.”
“In Unnao in UP”, the ex-officers say, “It is the reliance on the worst kinds of patriarchal feudal mafia dons to capture votes and political power that gives such persons the freedom to rape and murder and extort as a way of asserting their own personal power.”
According to them, “Even more reprehensible than such abuse of power, it is the response of the state government in hounding the victim of rape and her family instead of the alleged perpetrator that shows how perverted governance practices have become. That the government of UP finally acted only when it was compelled to do so by the high court shows the hypocrisy and half-heartedness of its intent.”
It underlines, “In both cases, Prime Minister, it is your party which is in power. Given your supremacy within the party and the centralised control you and your party president exercise, you, more than anyone else, have to be held responsible for this terrifying state of affairs.”

Source : COUNTERVIEW

Proposed commercialization of forests is a major threat to forest dwelling, tribal communities

This written representation is in relation to the recently formulated Draft National Forest Policy 2018 . We would like to draw your attention to the plight of tribal communities and other marginalized communities who will be most impacted by commercialization of forest.

Ninety percent of the Scheduled Tribes predominantly live in forest areas and intractable terrains and 95% of them are below poverty line and totally depend on forest, agriculture or agriculture based activities. Most of them turnout as migrant construction labour due to their displacement for the so-called exploitation of minerals and other development projects.

With this background we would like to state some of our concerns on the Draft National Forest Policy, 2018.

The Draft NFP 2018 is self contradictory as on one hand it aims at using forest to mitigate climate change and on the other hand places more than required emphasis on the commercialization of forest  which is a major threat to climate change mitigation. Since the ratification of Paris Agreement, India has promised to create an additional carbon sink. For this India has to increase its forest cover from 24% to 33%. The Draft Policy mentions about the efforts to increase the forest cover. However the Draft does not make a difference between the forest cover and tree cover. What the draft believes to achieve through afforestation is increase in tree cover and not forest cover. By focusing on this the Draft Policy emphasizes on monoculture. This can lead to major disturbance in the local ecology. For instance- studies have shown that the plantation of eucalyptus in the name of afforestation has depleted groundwater in Arkavathi Basin, which led to fall in water supply in Bengaluru. Eucalyptus also has negative allelopathic properties- i.e. it does not encourage vegetative growth under its cover.

Section 3 and 4.1.1

The Draft focuses on the need to stimulate growth in the forest based industry sector and encourage forest corporations and industrial units. Commercialization of forest is a major threat to the forest dwelling communities and tribal communities. Most of the livelihood of these communities (350-400 million people) depend on NTFP’s. The Draft Policy focuses on increasing the timber species which will lead to reduction in the NTFP’s. It has to be remembered that forests are much more rewarding in terms of NTFP’s than timber produce.

912900721-forest_6

Economic use of timber as emphasized in the Draft can be very dangerous — as there is no specification of how government can monitor the exploitation of the forest by the corporates.

Section 2.8 and 4.1.1

There is a lot of emphasis on afforestation. The policy read with CAMPA provides both funds and physical space for afforestation. However pushing non-indigenous “commercially important” invasive timber species to meet afforestation targets will damage local ecology and groundwater recharge. A recent report of CAG has pointed out that 50%-60% compensatory afforestation has not taken place. This needs a strong monitoring system. However the Draft Policy has no mention of monitoring of this mishappening.

Section 4.11

The Draft Policy is not in line with FRA and PESA which are protective legislations for the indigenous communities. The NFP should be a synergy of FRA, PESA, Forest Protection Act and Wildlife Protection Act. The Draft Policy does not elaborate on engaging local people in forest management. “Participatory approach” is vaguely used and needs more clarity and elaboration.  Gram Sabhas should be made important decision makers in all matters concerning the forest and ecosystem.

Section 2.9

The policy states the extension of protected areas and corridors for maintaining the forest cover. However this proposal ignores the flaws in the exclusionary model of protected areas governance which has caused displacement of local population and dignity and rights violation.

Section 4.3

Strengthening wildlife conservation has been mentioned in the Draft Policy. In this it has to be a regulation on movement of private vehicles in protected areas and reduction of commercial resorts in the protected areas.

Section 4.1.1 (a)

The Draft Policy does not consider mining as a threat to forest conservation. More than 50% of mining happens in forest areas and hence mining should be seen as a threat to forest ecosystem and proper regulations and guidelines should be issued.

Section 4.1.2

Promotion of cultivation, harvesting, transportation and marketing of wood would be ensured “by relaxing the existing felling and transit regime in the country”. This provision in the Draft Policy will open window for illegal transportation of timber leading to high levels of corruption in the bureaucracy.

The Draft Policy is a shift from tribal to timber. The Draft Policy aims at creating new ‘zamindars’ and turn the tribals into slaves. The Draft Policy will dilute the access of tribal community to the forests and disturb the natural ecosystem affecting the life and livelihoods of millions of people. The indigenous community should be made part of the mission to mitigate the effects of climate change and not be excluded from the process. The Draft aims at excluding the forest community from sustainability planning.

With these few points we would request the Policy to consider broader participation of the stakeholders.

Source : COUNTERVIEW

Clashes over SC ruling on SC/ST Act: Much ado about nothing

It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”, – Blackstone’ s Principle

The Supreme Court of India in the matter of Dr Subash Kashinath Mahajan versus State of Maharashtra held inter-alia that “Thus, there is no dilution of any provision of the SC/ST Act relating to compensation, trial, punishment or otherwise. The order only safeguards abuse of power of arrest or of false implication of an innocent without in any manner affecting the rights of the members of the SC/ST, as rightly submitted by learned amicus.” This was in reply to the urgent review petition filed by the centre in the same matter. That the Centre filed the review on extraneous reasons is a theorem that is not too far fetched. This was quite evident in the course of proceedings in the matter.

“The judgment has mentioned a specific period of one week for the preliminary inquiry in respect of offences under the Atrocities Act. In other cases (cases under the IPC), it may even be 15 minutes or 1 hour,” the bench remarked. “We are not against any complainant or the Act (of 1989), the judgment only ensures that no one is deprived of their rights and that there is no terror for the innocent, under the Act of 1989, there is no forum or provision of any pre-arrest scrutiny, if there is an apprehension, there should be no difficulty in verifying before putting a person behind the bars.”

The Act of 1989 does not say that innocent persons may be implicated falsely, the judgment also does not say this, there is no conflict between the two, the fundamental right of an innocent individual cannot be taken away without reasonable proof and valid proceedings. Also the bench was prudent enough to clarify the government’s misplaced carping that “Some filter was needed, and when we said ‘abuse’, we did not mean abuse by the persons belonging to the SC/ST classes; we meant abuse by the police or some private individual for some vested interest”. Finally, the bench reiterated, “The string of directions issued in the impugned judgment would not adversely affect the payment of compensation under the existing statutory framework. Further, in case of offences under substantive laws other than the Act of 1989, such as murder, there may be no preliminary enquiry.”

Now why is it that subsequent to what can be termed as a prudent, constitutionally sound ‘Landmark judgement’ there were widespread riots which led to the death of many people across India? The blame can be largely attributed to the habitual offenders, the pack of people who still follow the time tested archaic colonial maxim of ‘Divide and Rule’.

This is evident going by some of the tweets of the political leaders of today. “To keep the Dalits at the lowest level of the Indian society is in the DNA of BJP/RSS. Whosoever tries to raise his voice is violently suppressed. Thousands of Dalit brothers and sisters have taken to the streets against the Modi government demanding the protection of their rights. We salute them,” the Congress party president tweeted in Hindi encouraging widespread riots while fallaciously asserting that the central government had some kind of say in a ruling of the courts of law. Another upcoming stalwart of the maxim mentioned above the AAP party president tweeted, “Under the situation resulting due to Supreme Court’s decision on SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, AAP is with the movement of SC/ST community. Central government should deploy top lawyers for the petition in the Supreme Court and the need and fundamental intent of the Act should be preserved,” making it clear that he had not read a single page of the impugned judgement before he decided to share his often apologetic illusions and it is all but obvious that the ruling party not to be left far behind in this simmering pot of ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ filed this misplaced review petition making it clear that the potential to get votes from a particular community was far more important to them than to protect a citizen’s constitutionally enshrined right of life and liberty.

That the hypocrisy and fear mongering of the government was prima facie evident in the submissions of the amicus curae Amarendra Sharan who said, “A review is to be allowed when there is a patent error apparent on the face of a judgment, it was the submission of the Union itself that there has been abuse of the power of arrest and that advisories had been issued in that regards. Hence, the expression ‘acknowledged abuse of law of arrest’ in the judgment. Now the government is itself challenging the directions.” A stinging consolidation of this fact was that two directive circulars were issued in May 2007 to the UP police to exercise caution and restraint in complaints pertaining to the SC/ST Act by the then newly elected government of a lady SC/ST Chief Minister who has habitually proclaimed herself as a messiah of sorts for these communities. Thus it was quite apparent that their Lordships in all their wisdom dictated a judgement that would consolidate societal realities and reaffirm the solemnity of the fundamental right of life and liberty of a citizen of India. It is worth a mention here that this was the same Bench that upheld a similar ratio in cases of 498a (matrimonial cruelty) to protect innocent husbands and their family members.

In wrapping up this article it is incumbent upon me that I reiterate the concept of Blackstones principle so that readers understand the solemnity of the maxim of averring on the side of caution so that an innocent man is not punished. To do so I fallback on the wise observations of the tome [Jami’] of at-Tirmidhi, quotes Prophet Muhammad as saying, “Avoid legal punishments as far as possible, and if there are any doubts in the case then use them, for it is better for a judge to err towards leniency than towards punishment” and the book of Genesis which observes “Abraham drew near, and said, ‘Will you consume the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous within the city? Will you consume and not spare the place for the fifty righteous who are in it? What if ten are found there?’ He [The Lord] said, “I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake”.

Source: Daijiworld

Indian journalists face a brutal equation: Fight together for press freedoms or perish

journalist protest

The media can disagree, fight and judge each other. But it can survive and thrive only by closing ranks when its first principles are under attack.

Over the past 50 years, India has seen three powerful full-term prime ministers with majorities. The first was Indira Gandhi after her March 1971 sweep. The second, Rajiv Gandhi in 1984. We have the third such, under Narendra Modi, about to step into its fifth year.

Think about the one thing you can find in common between these three governments.

Let me drop some “phone-a-friend” type hints. Think of what each of these tried in the last year of its term.

Still guessing? Here is a second hint. Think like a journalist.

Fact: Each of these targeted the media in its last year. Indira Gandhi brought the censorship exactly as her fifth year began (she later extended the term of that parliament by a year to gift herself a six-year term). Her argument was, the press was spreading negativity and cynicism, was controlled by vested interests and beholden to a “foreign hand” out to destabilise India.

Rajiv Gandhi brought in the so-called anti-defamation bill as he entered his last year. He was beleaguered with Bofors, Zail Singh’s challenge, V.P. Singh’s rebellion and more, and blamed the press. He failed too.

Now, the Modi government made a move on mainstream media on the pretext of fighting “fake news”. It was withdrawn as dramatically as it had been announced. The government isn’t done yet. The withdrawn press release was followed, as if on cue, by the constitution of a committee to frame governance norms for digital media. The argument being that both print and broadcast have their regulators (the Press Council of India and News Broadcasting Standards Authority, respectively) but the pesky new digital media has none. It cannot be allowed to function in an autonomous vacuum.

Among the oldest principles in journalism is the “three-example rule”. If you can find three facts making the same point, it completes a straight-line thread. We can, therefore, conclude that something happens to really powerful governments in the last year of their term that makes them want to shoot the messenger. Why, is a different debate altogether, for another day. Although, they possibly just can’t handle their rising insecurity about the next term they had taken for granted.

We know by the time 1975 began, Indira was on decline with 20 per cent-plus inflation and Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement. We will be delusional to believe that voters punished her for press censorship. If she hadn’t blundered into forced sterilisation, the “discipline” of the Emergency was quite popular. But, after her defeat and the rise of the rivals she had jailed, a social contract evolved whereby public opinion acknowledged the monstrosity of censorship and built a stake in press freedom. In a country with no specific laws guaranteeing press freedoms, this was a landmark shift. A Supreme Court, contrite over its complicity with the Emergency, also gave this social contract a judicial spine over the decades. Indira Gandhi’s big play to control the press, became counter-productive.

Rajiv too tried shifting the blame on the media for his decline and like his mother’s, his move boomeranged too. Top Indian editors and even owners forgot their rivalries and turned out with placards in a protest on Rajpath, displaying a solidarity missing during the Emergency. Rajiv retreated, but in the process, India had seen—and come to admire—the media’s new solidarity, and commitment to its freedoms.

Each of these big attempts by powerful, full-majority governments to strangle the media actually ended up strengthening its freedoms instead. Will this happen again this time? Will a new three-example rule come into play, proving that an angry government will always fail to throttle the media?

The BJP government has several challenges as it enters its last year. But it is nothing yet compared to the existential threats the earlier two were facing. Indian media is enormously bigger, more powerful, popular, richer and diverse now. But there are a couple of strong negatives today. One, that the social contract we talked about is fraying, something I have fretted about in the past. The second that the media is now more divided. It always had divisions of ideologies and views—as it must in a decent democracy. Today, it is also divided on the basis of platforms. That provides the cracks in which a determined establishment can bury the hatchet. These are the cracks the government is probing by running a fine knife over them. The big blow will inevitably come, once they widen.

Read between the lines when the government says print and broadcast have their governance systems, but digital doesn’t. The idea is to salami-slice the media community. How this will work, or perhaps won’t, is worth debating. First, the legacy media houses, including the many that operate on all three platforms: print, broadcast and digital, might think it doesn’t bother them as they are fenced in by their own respective “systems”. So let the digital upstarts get their comeuppance. It will be tempting, as many in the powerful legacy media are seething at what they (somewhat with justification) see as an effort by the new digital players to lampoon them as trivial, corrupt, incompetent and compromised.

Conversely, many new-digital players believe the internet is impossible to regulate, so just tell the government where to get off. It doesn’t work like that in the real world. A government can simply issue a notification and bring in some equivalent of licensing and worse. The internet is not a sovereign republic and the global mood today, especially in the deeply liberal community, is to regulate it. When that happens, remember, you won’t be able to fight it alone. You will need the same legacy media that some so detest and undermine. And the vice versa is true as well, the entrenched institutions’ contempt for these “arrogant pretenders with no revenue models” will be self-defeating too.

This was a week dominated by terrible tales of injustice, as far apart as Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir and Unnao in the heart of Uttar Pradesh. The arrogance of the political establishment in both places was blocking justice. It is mainly because of the stellar work done by the media, on all platforms, that turned the tide. When the chips are down, you need them all. There is no mainstream, downstream, slipstream distinction—or apartheid.

We will disagree, fight and often judge each other. We journalists are like that only (sorry, Deve Gowda, for stealing your metaphor). When press freedoms are under assault isn’t one of those occasions. The equation is brutal. You either fight together, to protect the freedoms of all, or be salami-sliced and perish. So don’t judge the other now, however much you may detest their journalism. You can only preserve your freedoms if you fight even for those of your rivals or ideological antagonists.

I speak as one who was a journalism student during the Emergency, have been-there-done-that in the widest sense of the term, and now work simultaneously in all three dimensions. This column also appears on the morning the Editors Guild of India has its Annual General Meeting (AGM). I’ve been among the many guilty of committing inadequate time to the Guild, seeing it as a waste. I was arrogantly dismissive and wrong. We journalists need to strengthen all our institutions, the old and the new. This is a time for mutual respect amongst all of us, and solidarity to defend our first principles, irrespective of how and where we tell our story and what our drift. Because, remember, freedoms can’t be salami-sliced.

Source : The Print

Group of IITians to float political party to uplift SCs, STs, OBCs and women

Bahujan Azad Party

Calling themselves Bahujan Azad Party, the IITians are planning to contest their first elections in Bihar in 2020. Analysts and activists welcome the move.

New Delhi: Move aside Arvind Kejriwal and AAP, a fresh group of IITians is preparing to launch itself into national politics.

A group of 50 alumni from the Delhi and Kharagpur IITs are set to launch a party to do what they say the Congress, the BJP and everyone else didn’t – “uplift the marginalised”.

They plan to call it the Bahujan Azad Party (BAP), and say it will be dedicated to fighting for the rights of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes and women, who haven’t received their due in terms of education or employment.

Who’s leading them?

Naveen Kumar, the president-in-waiting of the party, graduated from IIT Delhi in 2015 in textile technology. Most of the members, he says, come from the SC, ST and OBC communities.

“A number of us IITians are working actively for the formation of this party. We have applied to get it registered with the Election Commission, and we are expecting a response in the next 15 days. There are some 50 people who have left their jobs, and are working full time for the party. There are some others with us, some civil service officers supporting us from the outside, working like a think tank for us,” Kumar said.

“Since most of us come from SC, ST or OBC sections of society, we have an idea about the kind of situations these people have to face in various sectors, including jobs and education. The representation of OBCs is very bad in academia and the judiciary. We want to work towards bringing them at par with the general category.”

The plan ahead

Venturing into mainstream politics, BAP plans to start its electoral journey with the assembly elections in Bihar in 2020, and then aim for the next general elections.

Kumar said they will not pit themselves as a particular party’s ‘rival’, as they only want to work for the upliftment of the marginalised, making education their main focus.

At present, Kumar said, they do not have any political backing, but some prominent community groups are supporting them.

“We have backing from some groups that work for the backward castes, but we cannot reveal their names yet, it’s too early for that,” he said.

‘A welcome step’

Political analysts and Dalit rights activists welcomed the initiative, but also cautioned these young leaders to remember that their main objective is not to face giants like theCongress and the BJP, but to build confidence in their own bahujan samaj.

Analyst-activist-politician Yogendra Yadav said: “It is a highly appreciable step if a group of IITians want to join the mainstream politics and fight for the rights of Dalits. But they should remember why they are getting into politics – to fight for their own bahujan samaj and not with giants like the BJP and the Congress. If they are able to develop a relationship with their own community, it’s a great step.

“The fight always begins from the top. Kanshi Ram was also able to fight for the bahujan samaj because he was empowered. Empowerment is what the Dalit community needs right now.”

N. Paul Divakar, president of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, also welcomed the IITians’ initiative.

“People are not ready to discuss basic human rights in this country without getting irrationally political. If this group of IITians have the capacity to do that, it is fantastic,” Divakar said.

“However, we should not fall flat for them just because they are IITians. If they are able to work hand-in-hand with human rights groups, it is the best kind of effort, and like a breath of fresh air that Indian politics needs. I will do all I can to support them.”

Source : The Print

8 Magical Health Benefits Of Turmeric/Haldi

8 Magical Health Benefits Of Turmeric/Haldi

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Turmeric has a truckloads of health benefits.
  2. Curcumin as a bioactive agent, targets the inflammatory pathways.
  3. It is an anti-ageing supplement and a drug to boost longevity.

There’s a reason better than the bright yellow color to use turmeric in your food everyday. It’s great for your health! Vastly used in the Indian, Persian and Thai cuisine in making your food both sweet and savoury, turmeric or haldi is also recommended for medical use and by ayurveda. This spice contains a chemical called curcumin that has a truckload of health benefits, particularly anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative. It is important though to include black pepper also in your diet, since curcumin is not very easily absorbed in the blood stream without it.

Here are 8 health benefits of this golden spice that will make you add it to your diet today:

1. Fights inflammation

Inflammation is a natural and essential function of our body to prevent pathogens from taking over control of our body. But chronic inflammation can be dangerous for our body’s tissues. Curcumin, as a bioactive agent, targets the inflammatory pathways by blocking the NF-kB molecule, that is majorly responsible for degenerative and heart diseases.

2. Prevents cancer

Numerous studies show turmeric to be effective in fighting cancer. It can prevent breast cancer from spreading to the lungs, limit growth of skin and prostate cancer and even reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. Curcumin is beneficial in reducing the growth of new blood vessels in tumors and causing cancerous cells to commit suicide. In one particular study of 44 men with lesions in the colon that could turn cancerous, 4 grams of curcumin per day for 30 days reduced the number of lesions by 40%.
3. Detoxifies liver

According to research at the Medical University Graz in Austria, curcumin can delay liver damage and promote antioxidant development that is helpful in detoxifying liver.

4. Reduce pain

As a natural painkiller, turmeric can heal pain caused by sprains, burns and bruises. This is because curcumin reduces the level of pain producing enzymes in the body. It naturally activates the opioid system in the body, which is a pain relieving response.

5. Treats arthritis

An inflammation of joints, arthritis can be relieved by anti-inflammatory compounds present in turmeric. A study published in the Phytotherapy Research shows the effect of curcumin versus arthritis drugs on 45 rheumatoid arthritis patients. The highest improvement is seen in the group taking turmeric, and that too without any harmful side-effects.
6. Delays age related diseases

As an anti-ageing supplement and a drug to boost longevity, turmeric can slow down and even prevent Alzheimer’s disease. This happens because curciumin reduces the build up of protein tangles or plaque in the brain.

7. Alleviates depression

Multiple studies, some of Chinese origin, show curcumin as an effective antidepressant. One particular study where researchers studied a group of 60 patients for the effect of prozac, curcumin and both found turmeric to show results equal to that of prozac. Additionally, circumin has been found to boost dopamine and serotonin production along with reversing the shrinking of hippocampus, which is important for memory and learning due to depression.

8. Lowers heart disease risk

Another of curcumin’s benefit is improving the function of the endothelium, which is the lining of the blood vessels. Dysfunctioning in the endothelium can drive major heart problems, blood clotting and imbalance in blood pressure. A study of 121 patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery showed that the group who was given curcumin showed a 65% lesser chance of heart attack.

Source : Doctor NDTV

Unnao survivor tells her story: After raping, he wiped my tears & said he’d get me a job

As the investigation gets underway, the teen said her father’s death had robbed her of hope, while police questioned ‘inconsistencies’ in her account.

Unnao: She says she knew the touch was not innocent when it first happened, at age 11. However, according to the Unnao teenager who has accused Uttar Pradesh BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar of rape, it took her a lot of time to wade through the confusion and fear, and speak up.

She did not know who to complain to and what to say, as the person who made her uncomfortable was someone with immense clout in their village, Maakhi, Kuldeep Singh Sengar. The man she referred to as ‘daddu’, the man her father worked for, the man who has been an MLA for over 15 years, and the one treated as the ‘almighty’.

He would reportedly stop her from going to school, claiming to protect her from “bad influences” and often locked her inside his room for hours. As she stepped out of his house, his men stalked her. Sick of the harassment, she finally dropped out in class 8. When she tried to confide in her mother, her complaints were dismissed. She was asked to keep quiet and bear with it.

On 4 June 2017, Sanger allegedly called her home, took her to his room and raped her, while an accomplice sat outside. She was 16. Although Sanger has dismissed the allegations as “baseless and a conspiracy to tarnish his image”, the teenager said it took a lot of courage for her to speak out against a man with such a strong political backing.

But now she wishes she hadn’t.

Death in custody

Her case made national headlines last weekend, when, alleging police inaction, she threatened to set herself on fire outside Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence.

Earlier in the month, her father was allegedly attacked by the MLA’s brother Atul and their associates to force the family to withdraw their complaint. The ensuing brawl spawned two police complaints, one by the teen’s family and the second by the alleged assaulters. However, while the father was arrested, the brother was reportedly not even booked.

A lot has happened since: The four-term MLA has claimed innocence; the Unnao teen’s father has died, allegedly of injuries sustained in the attack; the national spotlight on the case has led to Atul’s arrest for the alleged assault; and inquiries by a UP police special investigation team as well as a magistrate have been ordered in the matter.

However, as the investigation gets underway, the teen said her father’s death had robbed her of hope. “Police arrested my father instead of taking him to hospital, and he died in custody. I consider myself the loser in this battle,” she added. “I accept my defeat. I feel I should not have raised my voice against this man. At least my father would have been alive today.”

The man

Sengar, whose ancestral house in Maakhi is a palatial bungalow, has been an MLA for 16 years, his current term as the BJP representative for Bangarmau being his fourth. He has switched between three parties since 2002, when he was elected the MLA for Nau Sadar on a BSP ticket. In 2007 and 2012, he was elected from Bangarmau and Bhagwantnagar, respectively, on an SP ticket.

Politics is virtually a family profession for the Sengars: The MLA’s mother Chinni Devi headed the gram panchayat for over 50 years; his wife Sangeeta is the Unnao zila adhyaksh; and his sister-in-law, Atul’s wife, the pradhan for Maakhi.

“He is very influential. He has held power through generations and no one questions him here,” said a local.

“He also runs a sand mining business and owns two ghats. However, he is re-elected each time because he listens to people’s demands and works for them,” the local added.

His brothers, however, are notorious troublemakers, especially for the alleged sexual harassment of local women, and face several criminal cases.

The ‘rape’

On 4 June, 2017, the teen said, Sengar invited her home with the promise of a job. When she arrived, she added, he took her to his room and raped her while an accomplice kept vigil outside.

“I screamed. I knew people were sitting outside in the corridor, but no one came to help me. After raping me, he asked me to leave and straightaway return home,” she said.

“I was crying. He wiped my tears and told me that he would get me a good job. When I told him I would file a complaint, he threatened to kill my father and four-year-old brother.

“I went back home and kept quiet,” she said, “I was in pain. My mother kept asking me if I was fine. My sisters asked me why I was not smiling, but I kept quiet.”

‘Abducted, sedated, gang-raped’

Seven days after the episode, she said, when she stepped out of her house to call a plumber, she was “abducted” by three men in an SUV. For the next nine days, she was allegedly kept intoxicated and gang-raped, and repeatedly moved to different locations.

“The men kept me on sedatives… Once I even tried to flee, but I was caught and sedated again. The men then took turns to rape me,” she said. “I recognised two of them as Sengar’s men as I had seen them around his house.”

She added that the trio had also tried to “sell her off”. “One of the men had struck a deal with a man to sell me off for Rs 60,000. However, they could not as police had started looking for them,” she added.

After her mother reported her missing, police launched a search for her. When the abductors came to know police were on their trail, they dropped her back. A case was subsequently filed on 20 June and the three suspected assailants — Shubham Singh, Brijesh Yadav and Awadh Narayan — were arrested.

The teenager’s mother said she had, from the beginning, alleged abduction, but police didn’t register a case, treating it as a missing person’s complaint. “They said she must have eloped with someone and asked me to return home. For nine days I kept going back to the police station but they did not register a case,” she said.

Police, however, deny the allegation. “We did not receive any complaint (of abduction) before. The day the complaint was filed, 20 June, a case was registered at the Maakhi police station under sections 363 (kidnapping) and 366 (kidnapping a woman to compel her for marriage) of the Indian Penal Code,” Unnao superintendent of police Pushpanjali Devi said.

“After an investigation, we also added Section 376D (gang rape) of the IPC and sections 3 & 4 of the POCSO Act. The chargesheet has also been submitted in court,” she added.

Surprisingly, the teenager’s medical examination was conducted five days after her rescue. While police said the victim was not ready for one immediately after her ordeal, she claimed she was never asked to get it done.

Once back home, she left Unnao for Delhi to stay with her uncle and aunt.

Threats to withdraw case

In Delhi, she told her aunt about the rape. When she shared it with her husband, he got furious and immediately called up his brother, the teen’s father.

“Papa got very angry. At first, he could not believe that Sengar… could do such a thing. He went straight to his house but could not find him there,” the teenager’s sister said.

“He asked my sister to return to Unnao and file a complaint with police. After that day, he stopped going to Sengar’s house,” she added.

The teenager returned to Unnao in August, but when she went to file a complaint, police allegedly didn’t accept her complaint. She then moved court, seeking a direction to police to file a case of rape against Sengar. Eight months since, a case is yet to be registered.

“We have been receiving threats to withdraw the application,” said the teen. “I got so harrowed that I tried to set myself afire. On 6 April, my father was mercilessly thrashed by Sengar’s brother Atul Singh and his men after he refused to take the complaint back, but no one from the administration seems to care,” she added.

There are discrepancies in the accounts about the date of the assault: While police claim it happened on 3 April, the family’s accounts alternate between 3 and 6 April, a fact that has stoked doubts among police.

Sengar allegedly also approached her uncle, who shared with ThePrint the purported recording of a call from the MLA. On the tape, a man the uncle claims is the MLA is heard saying, “Stop your people, who are moving these applications against me. Are you not my brother? You have worked for me for so long, how could you do this? Make the girl understand that I will get her married. Get the girl’s mother to my house, I will serve her tea. Let’s end this cordially.”

Why no case against MLA yet

Announcing that an SIT would look into “all aspects of the matter”, Uttar Pradesh additional director general of police (law and order) Anand Kumar added, “The law says that if there is a gap of three months between a complaint of rape and the incident itself, an inquiry should be conducted before a case is filed, which is why an SIT has been formed.”

“The SIT is assessing the allegations with an unbiased view. When it discovered that local police had not registered a case against Sengar’s brother (for the assault) with a mala fide intention, it immediately ordered the suspension of errant officials,” he added.

He said there were several inconsistencies in the teen’s statement. “There are too many complaints, versions, and dates that have been mentioned. In fact, there are two different dates of the same incident mentioned in a complaint. All this needs to be looked into as these are serious allegations,” Kumar said

The teenager, however, said the case needed to be handed over to the CBI. She said, “It took a lot of courage and cost me my father’s life to speak against a person this strong. My family is destroyed, but he is still roaming free… Just because he is well connected and has money while we are poor? Can I really expect justice from this administration?”

Source: The Print

Puttur: Moral policing – Bajrang Dal leader arrested for disrupting student’s birthday party

Puttur, Apr 13: In yet another incident of moral policing, a Bajrang Dal leader tried to disrupt a birthday party at a restaurant here.  

The leader Sridhar Tenkila was arrested by the Puttur police on Tuesday April 10.

Some students from Vivekananda College were celebrating a birthday party at a restaurant on Tuesday afternoon.  The right wing leader Sridhar Tenkila along with 10 others barged into the restaurant and created ruckus alleging that one of the students belonged to a minority community. They also phoned the nearest police station and warned of untoward incident if they did not stop the party.

Immediately police rushed to the restaurant for the investigation. The police sent the students to the college as they found nothing wrong at the party.

Police said that Tenkila has been booked under IPC section 107 for creating ruckus and attempting to disrupt the party.

Tenkila and two others were taken into custody, while two others are on the run.

Puttur Town police have taken up the case and the investigation is underway.

Source: Daijiworld

Stop making new laws for children’s safety. Instead implement what we have first

Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi is advocating for setting up a national children’s tribunal, on the lines of the National Green Tribunal.

In a latest, our very own Nobel Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi, is advocating the setting up a national children’s tribunal, on the lines of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), to deal with crimes against children in a time-bound and expeditious manner. In the past, Satyarthi has also been part of the advocacy for a “sex offender’s registry” in order to track child abusers and traffickers, which, incidentally, may soon see the light of day.

Most child-related laws today have a system for time-bound inquiry and trial built into the law. Should Satyarthi not demand better implementation, rather than yet another mechanism?

Is the answer to non-implementation of existing laws more laws? Is the answer to the tardy implementation of systems the creation of more systems and institutions?

Satyarthi is not the only one. In the last few months, a slew of states have moved to pass laws awarding the death penalty to those convicted of raping minors – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Arunachal Pradesh and even Delhi.

The recently introduced ‘Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill, 2018’ is yet another legislation being added to the already fragmented landscape of laws on human trafficking. It has brought with it more complicated systems and institutions for redressal.

We know children want the abuse to stop. But, will death penalty for an abuser act as deterrent for disclosure by child victims, rather than deterrent for abusers? A recent study by our group ‘HAQ: Centre for Child Rights’, based on the cases we handle, shows that over 80 per cent of the accused are persons that the child knew, and therefore trusted. About 52 per cent of cases of incest are committed by the victims’ fathers. The others are brothers, uncles, and other ‘loved ones’.

The life of an abused child does not operate in black and white. Children hate the abuse, but continue to love the abuser because of the biological relationship. Knowing that the disclosure may lead to death – including in many cases of their own father – will children still speak up and report them?

Any judge will tell us that the more stringent and penal the provision for punishment, the more hesitant they are to pronounce it. The answer is better prosecution, and certainty of conviction, instead of more stringent punishments.

Children of convicts face stigma, as do the victims themselves. Will having the names of fathers and other family members on the Sex Offenders Registry be bringing greater justice to children? Or will it add to their stigmatisation and ostracisation?

Let us look at what has happened in the recent past.

Despite so many people recommending the contrary, the government went ahead with the provisions for mandatory reporting, and the raising of age of consent to 18 years in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012. This was their way of telling the nation that it was taking measures to protect children, and that everyone better shut up. So, we all did.

Now we hear cries of ‘misuse of law’ as young people get arrested for underage consensual activity. As if that is not enough, a Supreme Court order has now made underage sexual activity even in marriage an offence – even as the child marriage continues to be legal and voidable.

Doctors and even other service providers are refusing to provide basic services to children for fear of penal action for non-reporting, and children who are pregnant have to go to illegal underground abortion clinics, putting their lives in danger.

In the last three years, we have seen the amendment and enactment of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015, which ‘responded to public sentiment’ and introduced the waiver of child offenders into the adult system.

This, despite two Supreme Court judgements and many other voices suggesting the change in law should be preceded by proper implementation of the existing law in philosophy and spirit. Those baying for the blood of the ‘juvenile’ in Jyoti Singh’s case (Nirbhaya) were largely from the middle class, which had a very ‘specific image of the dangerous juvenile who walks scot-free because of the law’.

With the recent incidents, such as that of the suspected child offender in the Ryan School murder case, the middle class is running for cover. Suddenly, it could be their own child, who may need the ‘protection’ of a juvenile justice system. Of course, now it’s too late. The law is enacted and being implemented.

The law on child labour was amended and enacted – again in a rush, despite many experts and activists saying that the gaps in it will only allow for continuation for child labour. But again, there was rush to the finish, so no one was listening.

In the name of concern for children, we are witnessing shrill demands and knee-jerk reactions and action. If the action is short-sighted and flawed, the children will have to bear the consequences long after the momentary public interest is satisfied.

Unfortunately, when a Nobel Laureate asks for something, there’s more chances he gets the state moving. Only one can wish he will stop asking for more laws or bodies, and ask for political will and better implementation.

Source: The Print

Who is communalising the horrific rape and murder of Asifa in Kathua?

Politicians, lawyers and fringe groups have come together to fan communal hatred in Kathua after the gruesome crime.

New Delhi: The brutal gang rape and murder of eight-year-old Asifa, allegedly by a group of Hindu men in Kathua’s Rasana village, has exposed the communal faultlines in the Kathua and Jammu regions of Jammu & Kashmir.

A new radical Hindu group called Hindu Ekta Manch, backed by BJP ministers in the Mehbooba Mufti government, Right-wing fringe elements, lawyers and bar associations have come together to communalise and politicise the crime. The police investigation, they allege, is “unfair and biased” and an attack on Hindus.

The Jammu & Kashmir Police crime branch Monday filed its chargesheet in the case against eight arrested accused, including a juvenile.

Here’s a who’s who of those at the forefront of the protests against the investigation.

Hindu Ekta Manch

The Hindu Ekta Manch was launched with three people at its helm, in reaction to a massive agitation and highway blockade by the Bakerwal community that Asifa belonged to, a day after her mutilated body was found on 17 January.

It is suspected that local Congress leader Kant Kumar, a former sarpanch of Kootah village, along with Bhagmal Khajuria and Sudesh Kumar Sharma – alleged aides of state forest minister and BJP leader Chaudhary Lal Singh — started the group with politics on their mind. They wanted to mobilise local Hindus, mainly Khajuria Brahmins and Rajputs, to counter protests launched by the Bakerwals.

Soon after, advocate Vijay Sharma – a practising lawyer and BJP state secretary – was appointed president of the manch.

It is learnt that the group was initially supportive of the crime branch probing the case, while Asifa’s parents had called for the probe to be high-court monitored.

However, once the crime branch arrested the prime accused, a 28-year-old special police officer named Deepak Khajuria, and then others, all of whom turned out to be Hindus, the manch changed course, calling the probe “biased”, and demanding a CBI investigation into the case.

The manch took out several protest marches, including a ‘peace rally’ with the Tricolour in February, and another bike rally early last month.

While it is suspected that lower-rung politicians from across parties are supportive of the manch, fingers have been pointed at the BJP – even though it has officially distanced itself from the group – after BJP state cabinet ministers Chaudhary Lal Singh and Chander Parkash Ganga attended rallies organised by the manch and pledged their support to the demand for a CBI investigation.

They also called for an end to “wrongful” arrests of the accused, showing a lack of support for the state police and causing embarrassment to chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.

Speaking to ThePrint, Kant Kumar said it is obvious that the crime branch is acting on an “agenda” at the behest of CM Mufti.

“We have to decide the next course of action, but in all likelihood, we will file a PIL in the high court on the unfair investigations launched by the crime branch,” Kumar said.

The manch had launched a massive protest in the villages of Kathua and Samba Wednesday, in addition to a Jammu shutdown called by the Jammu & Kashmir High Court Bar Association (Jammu). “We had kept the highway blocked for six hours,” said Kumar, adding that the manch has massive support from all villages of the region.

While bike rallies are considered an expensive affair, Kumar denied the manch had received any external funding. “We organised the rally on our own. People volunteered to come out with their bikes,” he said.

Jammu bar association

The Hindu Ekta Manch derives support from the Jammu & Kashmir High Court Bar Association of Jammu, which has supported its demand for a CBI probe into the case.

The bar has been protesting in support of this demand since 4 April, and had called Wednesday’s Jammu bandh.

In a statement, the bar association put forth other demands too, including the “deportation of illegally settled immigrants in and around Jammu”.

The association has in the past alleged that the PDP-BJP coalition government had “deliberately created a hostile situation in an attempt to…disturb the harmonious atmosphere and character of Jammu region”, adding that its demands are in the interest of the safety, security and peaceful survival of the “nationalist people of Jammu region”.

The support was evident with the Kathua Bar lawyers creating a ruckus Monday, chanting ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and ‘Crime branch go back’ at the court premises to stop the police from filing its chargesheet.

Other groups

In the ground report from Kathua, ThePrint had reported that other fringe groups were trying to disturb the communal peace a month after Asifa’s rape and murder.

Controversial journalist Suresh Chavhanke of Sudarshan TV channel, who heads a fringe group called Rashtra Nirman Sangathan, had delivered a communally charged speech against Muslims in Jammu’s Ved Mandir.

The Hurriyat Conference had also released a statement earlier, stating that Jammu’s Muslim community was being subjected “to severe harassment”. It also demanded stringent action against those involved in the heinous crime.

Source: The print

Crime in Kathua

Attempts to undermine the investigation into a little girl’s rape and murder must be resisted

The 15-page chargesheet filed by the Jammu and Kashmir Police’s Crime Branch on the abduction, rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua district is chilling. An unspeakably horrific crime has been overlain with an ugly form of communal politics, which has heightened the feeling of vulnerability among the Bakherwal nomadic community. Asifa Bano had been missing in Rasana village since January 10. On January 17, her mutilated body was found, bearing the marks of gang rape. This week, local lawyers tried to prevent the police from filing the chargesheet, and the Jammu High Court Bar Association called for a bandh on Wednesday demanding that the investigation be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation. By all accounts, the demand owes less to any faith in CBI impartiality, and more to the ongoing attempt to influence the police’s investigation that has led to the arrest of eight men, including some policemen charged with destroying evidence. The chargesheet lists as the main conspirator the caretaker of the temple in Rasana where Asifa was allegedly held, and threads together the sequence of events. The insinuation that a local police force that reflects the multi-religious composition of the State cannot be entrusted with a case in which the victim is a Muslim and the alleged accused are Hindus must be strongly resisted.

It is a shame that the State government, a coalition of the J&K Peoples Democratic Party and the BJP, has been so feeble in criticising the sectarian undercurrents. Protests in Kathua have been going on for months, amidst allegations that innocent people are being framed and demands that one of the arrested police officers be released. An organisation called the Hindu Ekta Manch too populated the protests and two BJP ministers from the State government were present at a rally in support of the accused. The Gujjar-Bakherwal community’s sense of isolation, as the dead eight-year-old is sought to be defined by her ethnic and religious identity, is especially heightened given the backdrop of drives to evict them from what they say are their traditional camping sites in forests. One line of inquiry is that the motive for her abduction and assault was to instil fear among the nomads in pressing for their rights to the forests and commons. But while it is understandable that the nomads are feeling the brunt of the intimidation and it is vital to address their larger anxieties, to superimpose the crime on the tussle over forest rights would be to diminish the brutality brought upon the little girl. The investigation must be pursued for the hate crime it is. It does not just tie in with her community’s rights — along with the Unnao rape case in U.P., in which the victim’s father died in police custody this week, it shows how loaded the system is against those seeking justice.

Source: The Hindu

Manmohan Singh returns to his university, worries about Indians choosing authoritarianism

In a lecture at his alma mater Panjab University, former PM warns that Indians’ love for authoritarian alternatives will end up destroying the country and all the achievements of the last 70 years.

Chandigarh: Fifty-three years after he left the department of economics at Panjab University, Manmohan Singh returned to deliver a lecture in the memory of his teacher Prof. S.B. Rangnekar Wednesday.

And while he did reminisce on the “happiest days” of his life studying and teaching at the university, the key point of Singh’s lecture was what he called the rise of authoritarian tendencies in the Indian public’s voting preference.

In his lecture, read out before a packed audience consisting largely of university students in the law auditorium, the former prime minister spoke about ‘70 Years of Independence: Strengthening Roots of Democracy’, and warned about the rise of an authoritarian regime.

“Dr Ambedkar once worried that the day may come when people may prefer government for the people to government by and of the people. He saw that as a great danger. On this 70th anniversary, we must ensure that we do not fall into the trap of choosing a government for the people over government by and of the people,” Singh said.

“We need to ask ourselves whether we are losing patience with democracy and turning to more authoritarian alternatives that may well yield superior short-term results, but in the long term, will end up destroying our country and all the achievements of the last seventy years.”

Here are the other important points from his lecture:

On equality

While economic growth remains a high priority for the country, there is a growing concern that the concomitant commitment to ensuring that disparities and inequality do not grow is weakening. This can be a serious potential threat to our democracy. Economists and development experts worldwide including in India are today emphasising the grave danger to sustained growth from growing inequality.

On freedom

Freedom is the freedom to question, the freedom to express one’s views, howsoever troubling they might be for others. The only constant to freedom must be the freedom of others. A dangerous and false binary is now surfacing in Indian political discourse which must be firmly rejected. It is that we have to choose between freedom and development.

On fraternity

I need not dwell long on the current deep concern that attempts are being made to divide the Indian peoples on the basis of religion and caste, language and culture. Atrocities against minorities and Dalits are increasing. If unchecked, these tendencies can only harm our democracy. As a people we must strongly reject divisive policies and politics.

On the electoral system

There is today widespread concern that our electoral system is being undermined by money and muscle power. The faith of the people in democratic elections as the best system to select a government that would govern in the common interest is today being eroded—as much by a sustained campaign to attack democratic institutions and elected representatives as by the increasing political corruption and the capture of political parties and elected office by vested interests.

Personal reminiscences

The former prime minister, who is chair professor of the Jawahar Lal Nehru Chair at the university, taught at the university between 1957 and 1965, leaving to become an internationally-renowned economist.

“Dr Rangnekar and Dr K.K. Dewett founded the department of economics of the Panjab University after partition. The department of economics in those days was located at Hoshiarpur, along with other departments of the university. I joined the department as an M.A. student in 1952. This was the first year of adoption of the new M.A. syllabus,” he said.

“Dr Rangnekar was a great teacher who inspired me to go to Cambridge after my M.A. On return, I joined the department of economics as a senior lecturer. He and his wife treated me and my wife as their family.”

After the lecture, Singh also visited the Guru Teg Bahadur Bhawan, where over 3,500 books donated by him would be made available to students.

Source: The Print

10 Ambedkar quotes that show why the BJP can’t co-opt him

Bowing before a statue is not enough to erase Ambedkar’s ideas, deep-rooted as they are amongst Dalits across India.

The BJP thinks it can resolve its rupture with the Dalit community by bowing before Ambedkar.

The symbolism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi giving respect to Ambedkar, saying that Ambedkar is one of the guiding forces for him and his party, is no doubt powerful. But the Ambedkarite movement is not just about Ambedkar’s statue. Like Hindutva, Ambedkarism is an ideology. Through the Dalit movement, this ideology has deep roots.

The centrepiece of the Dalit movement has been the spread of Ambedkar’s ideas through leaflets, booklets, NGOs, political parties, caste associations, and organisations of Dalits working in the public sector and the government.

Hindutva ideologues often use Ambedkar’s critique of Islam to appropriate him. Yet that is of little use to Dalits who see Ambedkar in his totality as the leader who showed them the way out of caste oppression with the slogan, “Educate, Agitate, Organise” against caste.

Here are ten quotes from Ambedkar’s writings that give a glimpse of why the BJP can’t appropriate Ambedkar with hollow symbolism:

1) “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. It is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.”

2) “Hindu society as such does not exist. It is only a collection of castes. Each caste is conscious of its existence. Its survival is the be-all and end-all of its existence. Castes do not even form a federation. A caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes, except when there is a Hindu-Muslim riot. On all other occasions, each caste endeavours to segregate itself and to distinguish itself from other castes.”

3) “In India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.”

4) “People are not wrong in observing Caste. In my view, what is wrong is their religion, which has inculcated this notion of Caste. If this is correct, then obviously the enemy, you must grapple with is not the people who observe Caste, but the Shastras which teach them this religion of Caste.”

5) “The Hindus criticise the Mohammedans for having spread their religion by the use of the sword. They also ridicule Christianity on the score of the Inquisition. But really speaking, who is better and more worthy of our respect–the Mohammedans and Christians who attempted to thrust down the throats of unwilling persons what they regarded as necessary for their salvation, or the Hindu who would not spread the light, who would endeavour to keep others in darkness, who would not consent to share his intellectual and social inheritance with those who are ready and willing to make it a part of their own make-up? I have no hesitation in saying that if the Mohammedan has been cruel, the Hindu has been mean; and meanness is worse than cruelty.”

6) “Hinduism is the greatest obstacle to Hindu unity. Hinduism cannot create that longing to belong which is the basis of all social unity. On the contrary Hinduism creates an eagerness to separate.”

7) “Strange as it may appear, Mr Savarkar and Mr Jinnah instead of being opposed to each other on the one nation versus two nations issue are in complete agreement about it. Both agree, not only agree but insist that there are two nations in India—one the Muslim nation and the other Hindu nation.”

8) “The Touchables, whether they are vegetarians or flesh-eaters, are united in their objection to eat cow’s flesh. As against them stand the Untouchables, who eat cow’s flesh without compunction and as a matter of course and habit.”

9) “This attitude of keeping education, wealth and power as a close preserve for themselves and refusing to share it, which the high caste Hindus have developed in their relation with the lower classes of Hindus, is sought to be extended by them to the Muslims. They want to exclude the Muslims from place and power, as they have done to the lower class Hindus. This trait of the high caste Hindus is the key to the understanding of their politics.”

10) “Though I was born a Hindu, I solemnly assure you that I will not die as a Hindu.”

Source :The Print

Unnao rape case: BJP MLA booked for minor’s rape, probe handed over to CBI

The UP home secretary said the state police would continue the probe until the CBI took up the case, adding that the investigation agency would take a call on Sengar’s arrest.

New Delhi: BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar, accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh, was booked Thursday for rape, with police also invoking the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act in the FIR.

The case will now be handed over to the CBI.

Uttar Pradesh home secretary Arvind Kumar confirmed the FIR at a press conference with director general of police O.P. Singh. “We…are handing over the probe to the CBI for further action. The reference to CBI will be sent today,” Singh said.

However, Kumar clarified that the state police would continue the investigation until the CBI took up the case. He added that the CBI would take a decision on whether to arrest Sengar. “We are not defending anyone. Since the case will now be given to the CBI, they will decide on the arrest,” he said.

Police have recorded the statements of both the MLA as well as the victim. “The rape survivor said she did not name the MLA earlier because she was scared,” Kumar said.

The victim’s family will now be given a security cover.

Family expects quick arrests

The FIR has been registered on a complaint filed by the teenager’s mother, and names as accused Sengar and Shashi Singh, a girl identified as an acquaintance of the victim who allegedly took her to the MLA’s house on the day of the alleged rape.

“It was on the night of 4 June 2017 that one Shashi Singh took the daughter of the complainant to the house of MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar,” states the FIR.

“Sengar… took her to a room and raped her. When the girl resisted, he threatened to eliminate her entire family and dump their bodies,” it adds.

According to the FIR, Shashi was present outside the room, in the verandah, while the teenager was being raped.

“Following the incident, the victim and her family gave several complaints in this regard but a case was not registered,” it says.

The teen’s uncle said they were happy the government was “finally taking action in the case”. “We now expect quick arrests and a fair probe in the matter. Had the authorities taken action earlier, my brother would have been alive,” he said.

His brother, the alleged victim’s father, died this week, succumbing to injuries allegedly sustained in an assault by the MLA’s brother Atul and their associates on 3 April. The attack was reportedly a bid to scare the family to withdraw the complaint.

Two complaints were filed in the aftermath, one against the teenager’s family and the other against the suspected assailants. However, while the father was booked and arrested, Atul wasn’t.

Doctors suspended

Questions have been raised about the subsequent conduct of the staff at the Unnao district hospital, where the father was taken for treatment after the alleged assault. As ThePrint reported earlier this week, despite several visible injuries, the doctors there administered simple first aid and ruled the father fit for custody.

As a result, two doctors — chief medical officer and chief medical superintendent D.K. Dwivedi and emergency medical officer (EMO) Dr Prashant Upadhyay — have been suspended for laxity in giving proper medical care and treatment to the father, both before he was sent in judicial custody and later, when brought to the hospital on the jail’s referral. Disciplinary proceedings have also been initiated against three others, orthopaedic surgeon Manoj Kumar, surgeon G P Sachan, and EMO Gaurav Agrawal.

Meanwhile, a separate inquiry report has been submitted by deputy inspector general (prisons) Love Kumar on the role of the Unnao jail administration while the teen’s father was in custody.

Source : The Print

Uranium mining: Andhra activists denied permission, detained for protesting against rising pollution levels

In what is being described as violation of their democratic rights, activists of two well-known advocacy groups, the Human Rights Forum and the National Alliance of People’s Movements (HRF-NAPM), were denied access to the venue of a public meet in Kadapa district of Andhra Pradesh and detained when they tried to protest against pollution caused by “excessive mining” of uranium from the Tummalapalle mine.
Estimated to hold one of the largest reserves of uranium in the world, and catering to fuel requirements of nuclear power plants, according to HRF-NAPM, the mining has adversely affected the villagers of Mabbuchintilapalli, KK Kotala, Bhumayagaripalli and Kanumalavaripalem, residing barely 6 kms away from the mine and processing plant at Tummalapalle.
The protest was organized against the backdrop of local people of the area pleading about high pollution levels to the Government of India-owned Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), which operates under the Department of Atomic Energy, headed by the Prime Minister, complaining of plummeting underground water levels due to relentless pumping and drastic increase in sodium and uranium, leading to air, soil, ground and surface water contamination.
Reportedly, this pollution has been happening due to poor lining for the tailing pond, causing seepage. The cumulative impacts of the plant operations in the form of damage to agriculture and standing crop, water, health of local population (skin allergies, ulcers and kidney problems) and livestock (illnesses ad pre-mature deaths).
Quite a few villagers have had to ‘vacate’ their houses, due to these impacts. There is also the widespread fear in the region of the long-terms implications of radiation.
In an email alert, HRF-NAPM says, it has “learnt that water samples collected by local farmers from their tube wells and tested at the labs of Centre for Materials for Electronics Technology (C-MET), an autonomous scientific body under the Government of India, produced results indicating significant increase in uranium and sodium levels, much higher than the permissible and standard level.”
“Besides”, says the top advocacy groups, “In December 2016, researchers from Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), Anantapur, analysed samples of water and soil and noted increased levels of barium, arsenic, cobalt, chromium, copper, molybdenum, lead, vanadium and yttrium, which could impact crop productivity and local environment.”
Pointing out that this study has been published in the “International Journal of Advanced Research”, HRF-NAPM says, “It is now well-established that heavy metals, if consumed in large quantities, may lead to severe health issues, including cancers, respiratory and kidney complications.”
HRF-NAPM says, “Instead of addressing all these concerns, the UCIL recently issued an advertisement in newspapers claiming that a ‘few individuals and NGOs are spreading wrong information against the organization’, in a way indicating that all is not well with its operations.”
Pointing out that despite all this the activists were denied permission and detained for hours when they tried to protest, HRF-NAPM underlines, “Clearly, such a public announcement, detention and denial of access to civil society activists, is more a measure to discredit and muzzle voices that are raising uncomfortable and important questions, in public interest.”
The team that was detained on their way to the UCIL (where the meeting was called) was taken to Vemula police station included septuagenarian Dr Babu Rao, eminent scientist and environmentalist (HRF-NAPM), Adv Jayasree Kakumani of Human Rights Forum and Rajesh Serupally, NAPM.
Following intense protest by the activists and villagers and an immediate letter by EAS Sarma, former secretary, Government of India to the district collector, Kadapa, and Nripendra Misra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, that Dr Babu Rao was allowed to participate in meeting with nuclear scientists and officials from UCIL and BARC.
However, other activists were kept in detention and released only late into the night at around 9 pm. All of them were made to sign papers stating that they would not indulge in such ‘anti-social activities that disturb peace’, which they did, under protest signatures. Media entry to the meeting site was also restricted.
While UCIL obtained clearance from the Centre for uranium mining in 2006, mine operations began around 2012. Locals allege, land acquisition for the plant was done in a coercive manner and public hearings before the environmental clearance witnessed protests and police action against villagers.
HRF-NAPM says, UCIL’s operations in Kadapa, is yet another classic case of weak post-clearance monitoring by the authorities, especially the Pollution Control Board (PCB) and the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC).
The advocacy groups have demanded that UCIL must ensure full disclosure of all necessary information in the public domain and in a manner discernable to the local population. It must immediately comply with all conditions stipulated at the time of project clearance including payment of full and fair compensation for all forms of losses and impacts incurred by the local population due to UCIL operations.
It adds, PCB and MoEF must undertake an immediate visit, comprehensive assessment and rigorous monitoring of the present status of environmental compliance (or lack of it) and conduct a post-clearance public audit and hearing. These monitoring authorities should also be ready to issue and impose orders of cessation of operations, if violations are found.

Source : COUNTERVIEW

Toxic pesticide “killed” 50 in Vidarbha in 2017: Maharashtra govt report blames it on farmers, fails to ban it

A Maharashtra government-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) report has shockingly blamed farmers and farm labourers for a massive outbreak of contact poisoning by inhaling a toxic chemical cocktail during the intensified spraying of pesticides on cotton plants in order to fight the increasing menace of pests in the Vadarbha region.

While the SIT, in its report made public recently, also recommends a complete ban on monocrotophos, an organophosphate that deploys systemic and contact action on crops, which is banned in many countries due to its toxic effects on humans and birds, the Maharashtra government only complied with a limited-period ban.
Effected in November, prohibiting its sale and marketing for 60 days, the state government ban, says an investigation by the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI), set up by well-known rural journalist P Sainath, was “not enforced”.
Pointing out that “the central government has the power to ban monocrotophos in the country under the Insecticides Act”, the investigation by Jaideep Hardikar, a PARI member, says that “states too can suspend the licenses of pesticide manufacturers and sellers, or stop issuing new licenses or renewing them.”
Thus, Punjab has done this – at the end of January 2018 it decided to not issue fresh licences for 20 pesticides, including monocrotophos, which the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation classifies as “acutely hazardous.” Kerala banned monocrotophos a while ago. And Sikkim, a fully organic state, “does not allow the use of any chemical pesticide.”
SIT was set up to probe into pesticide-related deaths and illnesses in Yavatmal and other parts of Vidarbha. Constituted on October 10, 2017, and headed by Piyush Singh, the Amravati divisional commissioner, other SIT members included Dr. Vijay Waghmare, in-charge director of the Central Institute of Cotton Research, Nagpur, and Kiran Deshkar from the Directorate of Plant Protection, Faridabad.
The SIT report, in Marathi, submitted in December 2017, was made public only after the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court asked the state government to do so in January 2018, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by social activist and former Communist Party of India (Marxist) worker, Jammu Anand.
PARI investigation regrets, the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India, has sought to underplay the tragedy caused by the pesticide, saying Maharashtra “saw 272 deaths due to pesticide poisoning in the last four years – implying that the 2017 phenomenon was not unusual”.
However, it adds, government hospital data had a different story to tell. “Going by Vasantrao Naik Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) data and the accounts of the doctors who attended to the patients during the 2017 spraying period, Yavatmal had never seen accidental pesticide poisoning of that magnitude”, a PARI article says.

It adds, last year farmers into hospitals “complaining of vision loss, nausea, dizziness, nervousness, partial paralysis, panic and other symptoms”, with “at least 50 died, over 1,000 became sick, some for months.”
Giving the example of Bandu Sonule, a farm labourer, aged 40, who collapsed on his employer’s cotton field in Amdi village on September 19, 2017, after he sprayed he sprayed pesticides on cotton plants in scorching heat, PARI says, he was first admitted in a local hospital, but was later shifted to GMCH in Yavatmal in an ambulance, died on September 23.
Pointing out that most of the pesticide poisoning patients come to GMCH in Yavatmal for treatment, PARI says, those who come early and on whom the crucial cholinesterase test to detect organophosphate compounds in the blood is performed, are saved.
Things are different for others, who become sick during the July-November 2017 spraying period, and remain without test and antidote to this poisoning. For several weeks, says the report, doctors continue to treat farmers and labourers “symptomatically”, but the “crucial blood tests” are “not done at all.”
Source: COUNTERVIEW

Kathua and Unnao: Handling of these two rapes makes a mockery of Nirbhaya protests

The past few years have been a barrage of incident after incident, defeat over defeat.

December 2012 was a pivotal month for a lot of Indians of my age. The violent rape of Jyoti Singh Pandey commonly referred to as the ‘Nirbhaya’ rape case, caused the country to boil over. The protests weren’t just for show. The anger, the hurt, the anguish of people translated itself to the Justice Verma committee that took public suggestions into account, sifted through over 80,000 inputs, and eventually lead to the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013.

Did the amendment work? Not demonstrably, no. The Justice Verma committee report, filled with fantastic ideas on how to make cohesive policy changes to help improve the terrible condition of women’s safety in India was never implemented in its whole spirit.

I wonder where that spirit died down the line.

The date 8 April 2018 seems like a rather innocuous date, but we’re going to look back at it and realise that it was the day when whatever remained of India’s ability to be human died an undignified, sordid death. Two incidents, one in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir, and the other in Unnao, Uttar Pradesh struck at the core of all that India supposedly stands for.

The bar association of Kathua tried to obstruct the police from filing the chargesheet in the horrific rape and murder case of an 8-year-old child from the nomadic Muslim tribe of Bakherwal. The investigation of this crime was already marred by political interference, with BJP ministers and MLAs, Chowdhary Lal Singh, Chander Prakash Ganga, Rajeev Jasrotia and Kuldip Raj attending a rally in support of the accused. The lawyers stalled the chargesheet filing for 6 hours, making a mockery of the judiciary, due process, and the idea of justice itself.

Just a few states south of Jammu & Kashmir, Unnao saw another Shakespearean tragedy unfold. A Dalit woman and her family who had accused BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar and his accomplice of raping her tried attempting suicide outside Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s residence. As the police prevented them from doing so, they took her father into custody. He’s dead now. Justice, with the S.K. Mahajan judgment, might be a dim dream for this family. In the middle of the furor this death caused, a smiling Sengar on his way to meet the CM said, ‘Arrey wo nimn star ke log hain, apradhiyon ki saazish hai.‘ – ‘These are people of a lower standing, and this is a conspiracy against me.’

Both these incidents should have upended the country. India has always had a shameful history of waging its ideological wars on the bodies of women, but these cases were especially rankling. A child from a vulnerable minority and a young Dalit woman were both let down by the system designed to protect them. If only the mainstream media paused its breathless coverage of the Indian National Congress members eating chhole bhature before their ‘symbolic fast’ against the atrocities faced by Sikh minorities in 1984. The ruling party’s representatives found time to lambast the opposition for ‘lack of sensitivity’, while somehow managing to keep completely mum on these rape cases.

As this mockery of what India promised its minorities unfolded, I wondered if this is apathy or simple exhaustion. The past few years have been a barrage of incident after incident, defeat over defeat. As the powerful have consolidated their positions, the vulnerable populations of India have never been as disenfranchised as they are now. Public discourse has mutated into one that distorts facts, realities, and harsh truths, rendering them ineffectual against a wave of toxic jingoism and hatred. I wonder if people are simply tired of the kind of anger and helplessness they feel and are now choosing the easier way of lulling themselves into complacency with the promises they know deep down are never going to be fulfilled.

This is a failure of not just the media and the state machineries because those have been on their juggernaut towards failure for years now. This is the diminishing of the ‘indomitable’ spirit of empathy and humankind that we simply assumed would continue to flourish, irrespective of us feeding it or not. Turns out, hope dies too, and it does so quietly. The people who once took to the streets to take back agency over their basic rights have been reduced to sceptics with very little faith left in them.

Poet Dylan Thomas once wrote, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night/ Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ The night we’re entering is not a good night. It’s a dark, dreary place of abuse and suffering. Sadly, we’ve become passive travellers on this journey, and I don’t know if we’re capable of turning back.

Source: The Print

 

CJI will decide allocation of cases, constitution of benches: Supreme Court rejects PIL

A week earlier, senior advocate and former law minister Shanti Bhushan had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court for clarification on the administrative authority of the chief justice of India (CJI) as the ‘master of roster’.

Dismissing a PIL seeking framing of guidelines for allocation of cases and constitution of benches, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said the Chief Justice of India is “first among equals” and has the constitutional authority to decide the same.  A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud dismissed a PIL seeking framing of guidelines for rational and transparent allocation of cases and constitution of benches to hear them.

Referring to constitutional schemes, Justice Chandrachud said, “the Chief Justice of India is first among equals and has the authority to decide allocation of cases and setting up of benches”.

A week earlier, senior advocate and former law minister Shanti Bhushan had filed the PIL in the Supreme Court for clarification on the administrative authority of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) as the ‘master of roster’ and seeking laying down of principles and procedures to be followed in preparing the roster for allocation of cases to benches.

He filed the PIL through his advocate and son Prashant Bhushan, who also wrote a letter to the apex court’s secretary general stating that the matter should not be listed before a bench that includes CJI Dipak Misra.

The PIL said the CJI’s authority as the master of roster is “not an absolute, arbitrary, singular power that is vested in CJI alone and which may be exercised with his sole discretion” and such an authority should be exercised by him in consultation with senior judges.

This petition assumes significance as on January 12 four senior-most judges – J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph – of the Supreme Court had called an unprecedented press conference and had said that the situation in the top court was “not in order” and many “less than desirable” things had taken place.

They had also raised the issue of allocation of important and sensitive PILs before “junior judges” of the apex court.

Source by: Indian Express