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Archives for : March2017

Manipur Elections – Muscle, money power openly used by parties, says Irom Sharmila

Believe it or not, iconic peace activist-turned-politician Irom Sharmila managed to get just 85 votes in the Manipur Assembly elections 2017.

What we really need to be is the power to bring the change and make the difference from dark to light. In case of my defeat, I want to try in 2019 election, said PRAJA chief Irom Sharmila.

ANI |
Irom Sharmila

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HIGHLIGHTS

  • 1
    According to CVoter, Inner Manipur has its votes divided as BJP-14 and Congress-15.
  • 2
    The EC has set up facilities for disseminating trends and results of elections of 5 assemblies.
  • 3
    The counting will start at 8 am and firstly, all the postal ballots will be counted.

‘Iron Lady’ of Manipur and PRAJA (Peoples’ Resurgence and Justice Alliance) chief, Irom Chanu Sharmila on Saturday said she is not much affected by the exit poll result, adding that in case of her defeat she will try again in the 2019 General Election.

“I do not feel much affected by the result. It depends upon the people’s mindset. I don’t feel much affected by it, because people can still change their minds and everybody knows muscle and money power is being openly used by parties,” she told ANI.

“What we really need to be is the power to bring the change and make the difference from dark to light. In case of my defeat, I want to try in 2019 election,” she added.

Results for Manipur assembly elections 2017 are due today. The elections for the state were held in two phases. The first phase was held on March 4 and the second phase was held on March 8. The elections were held for a total of 60 seats. Thirty eight constituencies went to polls in the first phase while the remaining 22 constituencies went to polls in the second phase of elections.

According to CVoter, Inner Manipur has its votes divided between BJP and Congress (BJP-14 and Congress-15), while the newly-created districts have voted for BJP and not the ruling Congress – BJP 8 seats and Congress 3 seats. Outer Manipur has also shown an inclination towards BJP with 6 seats while Congress is reduced to 2 seats.

Meanwhile, elaborate arrangements and heavy security are in place for today’s crucial counting of votes for Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur Assembly Elections.

The counting will start at 8 am and firstly, all the postal ballots will be counted.

The Election Commission (EC) has issued guidelines on security arrangements for counting of votes, and has also set up facilities for disseminating trends and results of elections of five assemblies.

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Was Saifullah’s Encounter in Lucknow Fake?:10 Questions the ATS Must Reply

The President of Rihai Manch and lawyers: Muhammad Shoaib, Zaid Ahmad Farooqi, Shabroz Mohammadi, Saiyed Mohammad Wasi and Sheeraj Baba who got 14 innocent muslims charged with false cases of terrorism acquitted have raised 10 pertinent questions after meeting the local people of Thakurganj:

1. The local people told that they talked to the ATS and offered that they can convince the boy to surrender but ATS dismissed their suggestion. Did the ATS not want to catch him alive?

2. Why has Qayyum who was the landlord and neighbor of the accused been removed from his home along with the family and kept in an unknown place? What information does he have that the police is afraid of?

3. ATS claims that Saifullah was hidden in the inner room of the house. In this scenario the question arises how and from where was he firing at the police? Or how and from where was the police firing at him? This is an important question as there are no bullet marks on the door and the walls of the house. Did the police fire in the air to create an environment of terror and make their story sound realistic? If this is not true why are there no bullet marks on the door and the walls.

4. Why are the media and other people not being allowed to go inside the house.

5. According to reports till around 2pm in neighbor Qayyum’s house after there was feud between the father and the son, the police interrogated the accused as well. He was present their even when the feud was being resolved. The question arises that if he was guilty (was a terrorist) and if his accomplices had bombed a train why would he be resolving an issue in front of the police? Wouldn’t he have stayed away from the police?

6. According to the police they got the information that Saifullah is a terrorist from the Madhya Pradesh police. But how did they get such accurate information about where he was staying just on the basis of name? Because according to the police and the neighbours, the police didn’t even look at anyone else nor did they interrogate anyone else. They reached that very house straightaway. This is unusual.

7. According to the police, the accused was killed in cross-firing at night however, the local people claim that he was killed around 5 pm in the evening. Why do the local people disagree with the police’s claim?

8. According to the police they used the the Mirchi Bomb because they wanted to catch the accused alive. However, people living about 1 km away from the house said that even they were having difficulty in breathing because of the bomb. Why was Mirchi bomb used in such high quantity that it would make it impossible for a person living in a small room to stay alive. Did the ATS do this on purpose because they didn’t want to catch the accused alive?

9. According to ATS they have obtained the time table of the daily routine of the accused, which they consider their great achievement. This they have watsapped to various media groups and journalists as their achievement. However, this time table includes the timing of waking up, sleeping, eating, morning walk, reading namaz and discussing religious topics with friends. On what basis has the police considered as an evidence of terrorism?

10. The police is still unable to tell how is the accused connected to the train bombing in Jabri.

 

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HIV positive people reject the HIV/AIDS Bill in the current form

Hundreds of People Living with HIV from across the country today protested outside the residence of the Union Health Minister demanding for an amendment in the HIV/AIDS (Prevention and Control) Bill which is presently listed in Rajya Sabha for passing in the present budget session of Parliament. People Living with HIV have been demanding free and complete treatment as a right under this Bill. J.P. Nadda met the community representatives, who raised their concerns and discussed the possibilities.

In the present form, the Bill does not ensure free and complete treatment to HIV positive people. It only states that Central Government and State Government shall take measures to as far as possible provide treatment to HIV positive people.

Reacting to it, Loon Gangte from International Treatment Preparedness Coalition -South Asia and Hari Shankar Singh from the Delhi Network of Positive People said, “ Ever since the Bill was tabled in Rajya Sabha in February 2014, we have been demanding for the deletion of the term ‘as far as possible’ from the chapter of treatment. The present draft is totally non- acceptable to us. If government does not delete ‘as far as possible’ from the Bill, then we don’t want this Bill, as it will not do any good to People Living with HIV, if the Bill doesn’t ensure Treatment.”

The term ‘as far as possible’ in the chapter of treatment has a contentious issue in the Bill ever since it was tabled in Parliament. HIV positive people have time and again raised the issue. Hundreds of networks of People Living with HIV sent written submissions and some also made oral submissions in front of the Standing Committee on Health demanding the deletion of the term ‘as far as possible’ from the chapter of treatment but the committee didn’t accept their demand. Now the People Living with HIV feel that this Bill which does not ensure free treatment to us is of no use for them.

Speaking on the issue, Kaushalya from Positive Women’s Network said, “In the past few years, there have been regular stock outs of important HIV medicines and testing kits across the country putting the lives of HIV positive people at risk. Now Government’s constant refusal to delete the phrase ‘as far as possible’ from the chapter of treatment shows their lack of commitment towards the lives of HIV positive people. This Bill without free and complete treatment is merely a piece of paper for us and we completely reject it.”

The Bill is listed for passing in Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session of Parliament which resumes on 9th March 2017.

For details, please contact:
Paul Lhungdim (Delhi Network of Positive People)- 9810769267
Pradeep Dutta (NaiUmang Positive Welfare Society)- 8800664874

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Indira Jaising: ‘In India, you can’t even dream of equal justice. Not at all’

For half a century she has represented those with no voice. Now India’s first ever female senior advocate has a new battle on her hands

Indira Jaising at the Supreme court of India in New Delhi.
Indira Jaising at the supreme court of India in New Delhi. Photograph: Narendra Bisht

Monday to Thursday, she’s busy in court. On Saturday and Sunday, she’ll be in Chennai, delivering a seminar about women’s rights. There’s a small window on Friday morning, the 76-year-old Indira Jaising tells me. I snap it up.

When I get to her office, she is poring over a draft report that her NGO, the Lawyers Collective, is about to publish about female genital mutilation. “Tell Masuma that in my opinion, there are no voices of women in that report, and she needs to bring them on board,” she tells one of her junior colleagues. From the very beginning of her 52-year career this is what Jaising has fought for – the victim’s voice.

Over half a century, Jaising has forced systemic changes in India’s slow, trundling legal system, and provided legal representation to the poorest in the country. She has been a powerful insider, becoming the country’s first female additional solicitor general in 2005, the third highest ranking government lawyer in the country, and regularly advising politicians. She drafted India’s first domestic violence act, allowing thousands of women to bring civil and criminal suits against attackers for the first time ever.

But more often, she is the outsider, hurling down embarrassing challenges to the government and the establishment, leading commissions in Punjab to investigate the extra judicial killings, police brutality and disappearances in northern India in the 1970s and 80s, or taking up the cause of the Muslim victims of the 2002 riots in Gujarat, a case that has grave implications for the current Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, who has been accused of bearing some responsibility for the violence that resulted in over a thousand deaths.

JAMAT PROTESTProtests in Gujarat in 2002 as a sudden rainstorm hits. Modi, minister of the state at the time, faced calls for his removal after over 1000 died in the violence.
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Protests in Gujarat in 2002 as a sudden rainstorm hits. Modi, minister of the state at the time, faced calls for his removal after over 1000 died in the violence. Photograph: Bikas Das/AP

She has fought some of the most high-profile legal cases of the last half century, such as the case for compensation for the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy, considered one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. And her NGO has provided advice and legal counsel for many of the poorest, most dispossessed people in India. On the wall behind her desk is a framed photograph of herself taken by Raghu Rai, a famous Indian photojournalist. “I don’t know how he got me to laugh in this picture,” she says, looking up at it and smiling. “I never laugh.”

Jaising was born six years before partition, a period of mass tragedy and bloodshed after the British finally withdrew and a border was created between India and Pakistan. Her own parents had already relocated to India, but much of her family were forced to migrate as refugees from Sindh in modern-day Pakistan, and scattered around India.

Born in Bombay, now Mumbai, Jaising always had a strained relationship with her mother. Looking back, she believes her mother was pressured to marry and have children. This created resentment between them, but also gave her a deep personal sense of what being trapped felt like. “I think [my sense of morality] comes from memories of being a woman and what it means in Indian society, seeing my mother going through the ignominy of being married without consent, and having to live in a joint family with no autonomy.”

In her 20s, her parents started groom hunting. But Jaising refused to hear about it. “I said ‘what are you talking about? I’m not interested in this alliance.’ I turned off. I thought, this is not my life, I don’t want it,” she says. She had already begun dreaming of a career in law while sitting on her uncle’s balcony, overlooking a law college. Her parents, unlike many Indian families, expressed their reservations but did not restrict her.

She turned out to have an exceptional natural talent for law. Despite poor attendance, she breezed through her examinations and got a prestigious job at a commercial firm called Mulla & Mulla in Mumbai. “I have always considered the fact that I didn’t have anyone in the legal profession a big advantage. I had no role models to emulate and I could fashion my own way.”

Breaking into the law, one of India’s most elite-driven and nepotistic industries, was no small feat. As a young woman in newly independent India, though highly educated, every freedom had to be fought for. When she announced that she would be going to London to do a year-long fellowship at the Institute of International Legal Studies, her parents were deeply unhappy. “In my community a girl only leaves home after marriage,” she explains. But despite their worries, her parents did not refuse.

And in 1970s London, surrounded by a society caught up in protests and strikes, Jaising caught a fever for activism that has stayed with her throughout her life. “We were on the streets all the time. It was a fun thing to do, you could abandon other commitments and be free. But the impact never left me.” For her generation in India, children of the freedom fighters and martyrs that had won India’s independence, living in a free country was never thought of as a luxury. “We were midnight’s children, and this was our inheritance,” she says.

London in the seventies: women at the head of the TUC march in November 1979.

Jaising studied the British legal and social system closely, and was particularly inspired by the council-funded community law centres. There, she felt, “you could dream of equal justice. In India, you can’t even dream of equal justice. Not at all.” It was the final inspiration that would set her on her lifelong mission to provide at least some kind of justice for the poor in India.

By 1975, then aged 35, she had set up an NGO in India, then called the Workers Law Centre, and taken on the case of the railway union workers who were carrying out national anti-government strikes that had created panic and were being brutally crushed by the authorities. Thousands were sent to jail or fired from their jobs. The strike provoked prime minister Indira Gandhi to call a three-year emergency.

The world watched as India succumbed to what felt increasingly like a dictatorship. The suppression of dissent, and the flagrant human rights violations galvanised new anti-government activism, which was already familiar to Jaising. “I knew my contribution would come as a lawyer, to build a legal framework within which democracy could be defended,” she says. “Of course, the emergency was evil, it had to be fought, but we were in our space.” Jaising took on the railway workers’ case for free, which led to the NGO’s offices being raided. In 1984, as tumult began to engulf India, Gandhi was assassinated by her own Sikh guard. But Indians would continue to feel that democracy was failing as they watched Gandhi’s own son, Rajiv, take the role of prime minister.

The Bhopal disaster would become both a national issue and a personal challenge. In 1984 a toxic cloud of gas from a chemical plant, owned by American firm Union Carbide, spread across the city of Bhopal. No one knows exactly how many died, ut the Bhopal Memorial hospital and research centre estimates that more than 10,000 people lost their lives, and 500,000 suffered painful injuries.

Jaising got involved in the proceedings when she heard the government of India planned to take over responsibility of representing the victims. “I thought there’s something very wrong about this. I felt that you can’t disenfranchise the victims, where is their voice?” She felt the government would never get justice for the victims of the tragedy. “The government was complicit. They had a lot to answer, such as why did their regulatory mechanisms fail? What were they doing when laws were being violated all the time?” Jaising won the right for the victims to have their own representation.

But it was a tiny victory against the larger reality; Union Carbide paid a small amount of the requested damages (thousands of the victims say they have still never received a penny of that money) and were then sold on to Dow Chemical. Dow argues that they never owned or operated the plant. This bleak reality of inequality in the justice system, seeing poor, underprivileged people getting a lesser justice than wealthy individuals in the Indian legal system is the most disheartening thing about working as a lawyer, says Jaising. “It’s one of the things that makes me really sad. The one big thing that could make me drop out is this.”

1984: Firemen hose water over canvas screens at factory boundaries to prevent the spread of dangerous fumes at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India.
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1984: Firemen hose water over canvas screens at factory boundaries to prevent the spread of dangerous fumes at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India. Photograph: Peter Kemp/AP

In India’s sluggish judicial system, many of the battles Jaising has taken on have stretched for years, even decades. Her attempt to get justice for the two British Muslims who were killed in the 2002 Gujarat riots, is still held up in the courts. Her case for gay marriage won in Delhi’s high court but was overturned last year in the supreme court. Victims of Punjab’s extrajudicial killings are still fighting for justice in the courts.

And yet she retains a passionate love for the law. “The law is like plasticine in my hands and I can shape it and mould it the way I want to,” she says. “The whole aesthetic value of being able to create something out of the law is completely all-encompassing. The outcome of anything you take to court really depends on what you put into the argumentation, what you put into your understanding of law. Very often laws are written in a way that they allow you to interpret them in a very contemporary context. Law is creative, it is not set in stone.”

She has also wrestled, right from the beginning, with being a woman in a world dominated by men. In the early days, “of course, all the judges were men. They couldn’t quite figure [it] out, ‘what is this? Where is this woman coming from and why is she here in the first place and why in a field like labour law which is so all-male?’” But Jaising dismissed them with insouciant defiance. “I knew what I wanted to say. I would argue my cases in court with great abandon,” she says. “It didn’t occur to me that I was doing something that was not done.”

Over the years, Jaising has noticed the small courtesies offered by men to other men: the chance to have their cases heard first, the relaxed, friendly body language of male judges when speaking to male lawyers, the sporting laughter at their irritating jokes. “It gets to be depressing not to have a community to bond with. [Women] are increasing now, but they’re also not very bonded, they are isolated.”

As a result, she explains, women’s power within the legal system is restricted. She has spoken out about facing sexual harassment in the corridors of the supreme court herself, the unwelcome touch of a colleague, disguised as innocent brush of the hand. Though she immediately confronted the man about it, her seniority and his insolence were shocking. This sort of thing is a widespread problem in India’s courts, one that keeps many women away. “Women don’t have the ability to lobby for themselves the same way, they’re not part of an old boy network,” she says.

And now she is fighting Modi’s government. Last year the government cancelled the foreign funding licence for her NGO, which has cut it off from important funding sources, such as grants that supported her human rights work. Jaising believes the government’s actions were a deliberate attempt to squash dissent. “Maybe like the rest of the world, India is also going through a terrible crisis at this time,” she says.

Under Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP government, there is a palpable rise of sectarianism and anti-leftist vitriol. Jaising has frequently been a target. But she is just not the type to back down from a fight. “Today you’re in a situation where your right to free speech is being challenged, your right to association is being challenged. The core of your being is being challenged. You’re being told whether you’re a patriot or not a patriot, which I will never allow anyone to tell me. Your lifetime of work is being questioned and this is something I think is evil. And you suddenly find yourself in a space where you realise ‘My god, this fight is going to go on’.”

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2017/mar/09/indira-jaising-india-is-in-crisis-this-fight-is-going-to-go-on/

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Bombay HC – Compensation scheme for rape and acid attack victims inhuman and insulting #Vaw

Compensation given to sexual assault, acid attack victims is insulting, says HC

 

Mumbai: The compensation given to the victims of sexual assault and acid attack is insulting and shameful, observed the Bombay High Court on Wednesday. The court said at least from Wednesday, which is International Women’s Day, the Maharashtra government must do something constructive for the victims.

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice G.S. Kulkarni was hearing the plea of a 14-year-old girl, which was filed through her mother. The minor was raped in 2015 and awarded a compensation of ₹2 lakh under the Manodhariya scheme. They moved court seeking enhancement in the compensation amount.

Advocate Dnyanada Mahajan, appearing for the petitioner, informed the court that while the State offers ₹3 lakh as compensation, Goa offers ₹10 lakh. She said the parents of the girl are poor. The court asked the State to look into revising the amount to ₹10 lakh.

The court said there is no application of mind in deciding the scheme. The amount is insulting and inhuman and comes across to be a mere formality. The court asked whether ₹2 lakh given to a victim — that too in a city like Bombay — is enough. The court went on to say the child will not even get proper education; the amount is shameful and needs to be re-looked.

In the previous hearing, the court had said Manodhairya means self-confidence and the government should be boosting the victims’ confidence; instead it is doing the opposite. The Bench had directed the Mumbai Suburban Collector to be present in court with details of the Manodhairya scheme that gives compensation to rape and acid attack victims.

In Maharashtra, the scheme was launched on October 2, 2013, which envisages not only compensation but also rehabilitation of rape survivors and acid attack victims. In an affidavit submitted at the HC, the State has said till February 2015, there have been eight cases of acid attack, and the scheme has provided legal assistance and ₹3 lakh to the victims, apart from free consultations with government-appointed psychiatrists

Apart from the monetary compensation, the government also provides counselling to the victim and vocational or educational training if required.

During the hearing, the bench was informed by the state government that the scheme has two categories — the first for rape and sexual assault victims and the second for acid attack victims. Rs two lakh is given to victims of the first category and Rs three lakh for the second category.

The court said the clauses have been framed with no application of mind and these lack empathy towards the victims.

“What about child victims? Is Rs two lakh enough for them? In a place like Bombay what will a child do with Rs two lakh. They will not even get proper education,” it said.

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