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

International community, including UN, has begun to recognize: India is a dangerous place for journalists to work

By Nava Thakuria*

India continues to be a dangerous place for working journalists as the largest democracy in the globe has lost three journalists in mysterious accidents within the first three months of this year. Even UN secretary general Antonio Guterres came out with a strong condemnation against the journo-killings and let the world know about India’s degraded index on safety and security of professional scribes.
In fact, within few hours the central Indian provinces of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar had lost three scribes on March 25-26, 2018. Sandeep Sharma (35), a dedicated reporter of Bhind locality of MP, was mowed down by a truck in the morning hours, following which the television reporter of News World died in the hospital. Sandeep reported against the local sand mafia, even received threats, and though he informed the police about it, this did not help him survive.
On the previous night, two scribes, Navin Nischal and Vijay Singh, were hit by a luxury vehicle in Bhojpur locality of Bihar and died on their way to the hospital. Navin, who used to work for “Dainik Bhaskar”, and Vijay, who was associated with a Hindi magazine, were riding on a two-wheeler when the accident took place.
The bygone year witnessed the killing of 12 journalists. The tiny northeastern state of Tripura contributed two casualties. India thus emerged as one of the hazardous places for media persons following Mexico, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia etc. India’s troubled neighbour Pakistan lost seven professional journalists and a media student to assailants in the year.
On the other hand, its other neighbours namely Bangladesh, Myanmar and Maldives, witnessed the murder of one scribe each in the last year. However, there were no casualties in Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet, which is under Chinese occupation.
Last year, India witnessed the killings of Hari Prakash (January 2), Brajesh Kumar Singh (January 3), Shyam Sharma (May 15), Kamlesh Jain (May 31), Surender Singh Rana (July 29), Gauri Lankesh (September 5), Shantanu Bhowmik (September 20), KJ Singh (September 23), Rajesh Mishra (October 21), Sudip Datta Bhaumik (November 21), Naveen Gupta (November 30) and Rajesh Sheoran (December 21).
On an average India loses five to six journalists annually to assailants, where the perpetrators normally enjoy impunity as public outburst against ths murders remains lukewarm. However, the horrific murder of Kannada editor-journalist Gauri Lankesh at her Bangaluru residence sparked massive protests across the country. As the news of her murder by unidentified gunmen spread, it immediately caught the attention of various national and international media rights organizations.
Everyone condemned the incident and demanded actions against the culprits. Even the Communist leader and Tripura’s immediate past chief minister Manik Sarkar was influenced by the protest-demonstrations. He personally joined in a rally in Agartala demanding justice over Gauri’s brutal killing, but when he young television reporter (Shantanu) from his State fall prey to the mob violence, he preferred to remain silent.
Tripura-based journalists, while strongly condemning the murder of Shantanu, had to demand a response from Sarkar. Later one more journalist (Sudip Datta) was murdered by a trooper belonging to the state police force, which put Sarkar, who was also in charge of the state home portfolio, in an embarrassing position.
Otherwise popular for his simplicity, Sarkar also received brickbats for the murder of three media employees (Sujit Bhattacharya, Ranjit Chowdhury and Balaram Ghosh) together in 2013. Amazingly, within this period, no other northeastern states reported journo-killing.
As usual, central states like Jharkhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana etc. remained the killing field of journalists for many years and most of the journo-casualties in the country were reported from the zone. Shockingly, most of the cases were not resolved legally and the victims’ families continue crying for justice against their irreparable losses.
India was ranked 136th among 180 countries in World Press Freedom Index (2017) of Reporters Sans Frontiers and the country was just ahead of its neighbours Pakistan (139), Sri Lanka (141) and Bangladesh (146). Norway topped the list of media freedom index, whereas one party-ruled North Korea (180) was placed in the bottom. India’s other neighbours, Bhutan (84), Nepal (100), Maldives (117), Afghanistan (120) and Myanmar (131), ensured better press freedom.
Pakistan lost seven journalists namely Muhammad Jan, Taimoor Khan, Abdul Razzaque, Bakshish Ellahi, Haroon Khan, Samar Abbas and Utpal Das along with a novice scribe (Mashal Khan) to assailants last year. Bangladesh witnessed the murder of rural reporter Abdul Hakim Shimul and Maldives drew the attention of international media with the sensational killing of Yameen Rasheed, a journalist and human rights defender. Relatively peaceful Myanmar reported one journo-murder (Wai Yan Heinn) in 2017.
According various international agencies over 95 media persons spread in 28 countries were killed in connection with their professional works last year. This year already there are 10 casualties as of March-end. The statistics were dangerous in previous years (120 fatalities in 2016, 125 in 2015, 135 in 2014, 129 in 2013, 141 in 2012, 107 in 2011, 110 in 2010, 122 in 2009, and 91 in 2008 etc.).
The situation got deteriorated in Mexico (14 incidents of journo-killings), Syria (12), Iraq (9), Afghanistan (8), Yemen (8), the Philippines (6), Somalia (5), Honduras (4), Honduras (4), Nigeria (3), Russia (3), Turkey (3), Yemen (3), Guatemala (2), Peru (2), Dominican Republic (2), Colombia (2) etc. The year also witnessed 262 journalists sent to jails in different countries with slight improvement than in 2016 when 259 media persons got imprisoned worldwide.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey topped the list of detainees in 2017 with 73 scribes behind bars followed by China (41), Egypt (20), Eritrea (15), Vietnam (10), Azerbaijan (10), Uganda (8), Saudi Arabia (7), Bangladesh (4), Myanmar (3), Cambodia (2), Pakistan (2), and India (2).
In 2016, India witnessed targeted killing of six working journalists, which was preceded by five cases in 2015. In 2014 only two scribes were murdered, as against 11 in 2013, including three in the northeast.
The vulnerable media community of the one-billion nation has for long sought a national action plan to safeguard media persons on line of military, police and doctors on duty. Their arguments are loud and clear: If the nation wants journalists to do risky jobs for greater interests, their security along and justice must be ensured.


Dalit village in U.P. plans conversion after ‘police atrocities’

Villagers of Shobapur allege false cases by police after Bharat Bandh protests

Dalits living in Shobhapur village of Meerut protested against “police atrocities”, alleging that the local police had filed false cases under serious charges of the IPC after their protests on Bharat bandh on April 2. The villagers on Monday threatened to convert to Islam on Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14 if the “police atrocities” continue.

Many of them have been booked on charges of attacking and torching a police post and attempt to murder of a policeman during the violence which ensued that day.

An atmosphere of fear pervaded the village after a Dalit leader Gopi Pariya was identified and gunned down by members of the Gujjar community on April 3. While the local police denied an exodus of Dalits, members of the community said many had left Shobhapur and were scared of returning in the wake of the police action.

‘Being framed’

At a meeting on Monday, Dalits from Shobhapur held declared they were “being illegally framed and harassed by the police for raising their voice against injustice”.

“No one from the administration is listening to us and our problems. False cases have been slapped against our youths who are scared of returning the village. It seems that we no longer are Hindus or even citizens with equal rights. We are being treated as outcasts so what is the point of being a Hindu any more,” said a villager, at the meeting, requesting anonymity as he feared police action.

“Over four dozen Dalits attended the meeting. We have decided that we will renounce Hinduism on the birth anniversary of Baba sahab Ambedkar, April 14. Many more Dalits will join us in coming days,” he added.

Village abandoned

“Most houses are locked. The lanes remain abandoned. The market in the Dalit area of the village remains shut and so are schools. People have left the village because they are scared and silent because they fear police action,” he claimed.

However, Superintendent of Police Man Singh Chauhan told The Hindu the police was not aware of such plans for mass conversion . He rejected the allegations of police “atrocities” and said there was no discrimination in the functioning of the SIT, constituted to probe the violence during the Bharat bandh. Two people were killed, many others injured and several public properties were torched in the violence which occurred during the Bharat bandh on April 2.

Source: The Hindu

Transgenders to be recognised as independent gender category in PAN form

CBDT issued a notification on Monday that provides a new tick box for the transgenders to apply for the PAN.

The government has amended Income Tax rules that will now allow transgenders to be recognised as an independent category of applicants for obtaining a Permanent Account Number (PAN) for their tax-related transactions.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), which frames policy for the department, issued a notification on Monday that provides a new tick box for the transgenders to apply for the PAN.

The notification, issued under sections 139A and 295 of the Income Tax Act, specifies the new application process for obtaining a PAN number by an individual.

So far only male and female gender categories were available to be chosen on the PAN application form.

A senior official said the notification amending the tax rules was brought out in view of some representations received.

“Individuals from the transgender community were facing hassles in obtaining a PAN card and this problem was further magnified as Aadhaar had the third gender category but not PAN. “Hence, they were notable to link their PAN with their Aadhaar due to this anomaly,” the official said.

The amendment will now be reflected in Form 49A (PAN application form for Indian citizens) and 49AA (PAN application form for individuals not a citizen of India), the official added.

PAN is a 10-digit unique alphanumeric number alloted by the I-T department to individuals and entities.

The government has now made quoting of Aadhaar mandatory for filing income tax returns (ITRs) as well as obtaining a new PAN.

Section 139 AA (2) of the Income Tax Act says that every person having PAN as on July 1, 2017, and eligible to obtain Aadhaar, must intimate his Aadhaar number to the tax authorities.

As per updated data till March 5, over 16.65 crore PANs, out of the total about 33 crore, have been linked with Aadhaar. The deadline to link these two has been extended recently till June 30 by the CBDT.

Source: The Hindu