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Archives for : April2017

People With Autism Have Right to Autonomy Too

Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Center at the University of Cambridge, gives the keynote address during a special event held to mark World Autism Awareness Day. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Center at the University of Cambridge, gives the keynote address during a special event held to mark World Autism Awareness Day. Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 2 2017 (IPS) – Guardianship laws meant to protect people with autism actually deprive them of their basic rights and autonomy, according to experts on a UN panel.

When people with autism turn 18, their parents or other caregivers are encouraged to legally become their guardians. However, as Zoe Gross an autism self-advocate says the practice deprives people with autism of the ability to influence their own lives.

Gross was one of several panelists at a special event held to ahead of World Autism Awareness Day on the theme ‘Toward Autonomy and Self-Determination” at UN headquarters in New York on Friday.

The laws affect all aspects of a persons life, says Gross:

“Where you live, where you work, who you spend time with, whether you want to get married or have children, even whether to have medical procedures.”

“Regardless of whether your guardian is acting in your best interests or not, if you are under guardianship you don’t have access to the same rights that most adults take for granted,” — Zoe Gross, Autism Self Advocate.

In some states, people under guardianship lose the right to vote while in extreme cases Gross says that people under guardianship have been forced to undergo involuntary sterilisation.

“Regardless of whether your guardian is acting in your best interests or not, if you are under guardianship you don’t have access to the same rights that most adults take for granted,” said Gross, who is Director of Operations at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

Theresia Degener, Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities spoke strongly against guardianship, also described as substituted decision making at the event.

“Substituted decision-making is a human rights violation,” said Degener. “It is called protection but it is oppression.”

“Guardianship laws are a harmful traditional legal practice coming from the north and it is now widespread all over the world and it must be repealed.”

Also speaking at the event, Simon Baron-Cohen, Director of the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge spoke about how people with autism have difficulties with social relationships and communication but also need need respect and acceptance for their differences.

Baron-Cohen described how people with autism report feeling that even those they are close to may take advantage of their social naivety or different communication skills.

Baron-Cohen also emphasised that autism is a reflection of “neurodiversity, that our brains are not all wired the same.”

He also emphasised the potential positive sides of autism.

“Autism Is not a disease in the classical sense because it invariably leads to disability it also often leads to talent for example in excellent attention to detail and excellent ability to spot patterns.”

Baron-Cohen said that it was impossible to separate a discussion about independence and autonomy for people with autism from a discussion of their human rights.

“All people with autism, like all people with a disability, have legal capacity even if they need support to make decisions and need safe-guarding,” said Baron-Cohen.

Legal capacity and equal recognition before the law are inherent rights that people with autism enjoy on an equal basis with other members of our societies,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterrres in a statement.

“Let us ensure that we make available the necessary accommodations and support persons with autism with access to the support they need and choose so they will be empowered to face the key milestones in every person’s life, such as deciding where and with whom to live, whether to get married and to establish a family, what type of work to pursue and how to manage their personal finances.”

“When they enjoy equal opportunity for self determination and autonomy, people with autism will be empowered to make an even stronger positive impact on our shared future.”

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El Salvador Passes Pathbreaking Law Banning Metal Mining

César Augusto Jaco, a member of an environmental community network, takes part in one of the demonstrations in support of the new law that bans metal mining in El Salvador, on March 29, in front of parliament. The measure, the first of its kind in the world, responds to a lengthy struggle by environmentalists and local communities. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

César Augusto Jaco, a member of an environmental community network, takes part in one of the demonstrations in support of the new law that bans metal mining in El Salvador, on March 29, in front of parliament. The measure, the first of its kind in the world, responds to a lengthy struggle by environmentalists and local communities. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

SAN SALVADOR, Apr 3 2017 (IPS) – El Salvador, Central America’s smallest country, has become the first country in the world to pass a law banning metal mining in all its forms, setting a precedent for other nations in the world to follow, according to activists and local residents.

“This is historic; we are sending a signal to the world that countries can take a different path and say ‘no’ to the mining industry,” Edgardo Mira, an environmental activist with the National Council Against Metal Mining, an umbrella group of local organisations, told IPS.

With 69 votes out of 84, the members of the single-chamber Legislative Assembly passed on March 29 the landmark law, whose 11 articles amount to a blanket ban on mining, whether underground or surface.

Dozens of jubilant activists gathered early that day outside parliament to demand the approval by the plenary session of the ban agreed the day before by the legislature’s Environment and Climate Change Committee.

““This is historic; we are sending a signal to the world that countries can take a different path and say ‘no’ to the mining industry.” — Edgardo Mira

“I have visited the old mines which were active last century, where you can clearly see the impacts, such as acid drainage in the rivers, which would happen in the rest of the country,” retiree César Augusto Jaco, from the populous neighborhood of Cuscatancingo in the capital, told IPS.

Holding a sign with a yellow background and an image of a skull in black, the 76-year-old member of the Network of Community Environmentalists of El Salvador, said outside parliament: “Mining is disastrous, there’s no way it’s not going to damage our water sources.”

The risk of damaging the country’s groundwater reserves has been one of the main reasons driving the struggle of activists against the extractive industry, which uses millions of litres of water to obtain gold.

El Salvador is one of the most environmentally vulnerable countries, according to international agencies.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Latin American Water Tribunal, the International Water Association and the Global Water Partnership (GWP) concur that the country is heading toward a situation of water stress, researcher, José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA) researcher Andrés McKinley told IPS.

The law also prohibits the use of cyanide, mercury and other elements used in mining But it offers a two-year grace period to small-scale miners, so they can find another source of income.

Mira, from the National Council, estimated the number of artisanal miners at about 300, mostly in the San Sebastián mine in Santa Rosa de Lima, in the eastern department of La Unión.

Because the law is retroactive, it blocks all pending exploration permits.

The 2015 report “The Threat of Metal Mining in a Thirsty World,” written by McKinley and published by the UCA, documents the cases of countries where the activity has been restricted, but not banned outright.

Costa Rica, the report notes, passed a law in 2012 that banned open pit metal mining, while still allowing underground mining.

In 2002, the government of the province of Oriental Mindoro, in the Philippines, passed a 35-year moratorium on mining projects, and in 2011, the province of Zamboanga did the same with open-pit mining.

In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) vetoed the Pebble mine in the state of Alaska, to protect the largest habitat in the world of red or sockeye salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka).

Earlier, in 1989, the then president of Venezuela, Carlos Andrés Pérez, imposed a 50-year moratorium on all mining activity in the southern state of Amazonas. But that did not stop the expansion of illegal mining in that jungle region, while the current government reverted the measure de facto, allowing mining activity in the area.

“El Salvador is the first country in the world to evaluate the costs and benefits of the mining industry for the country and to exercise its right to say no,” McKinley told IPS.

The approval of the law was a product of many factors that combined to convince lawmakers to finally respond to the longstanding call from activists and local communities for a ban.

Among them, the pressure from environmentalist organisations that have struggled to that end for over a decade, and from the Catholic Church, which endorsed the popular demand.

On March 9, San Salvador’s archbishop, Luis Escobar Alas, led a march against metal mining to parliament, where they handed over a bill drawn up by the UCA, which formed the basis of the law that was finally adopted.

“The Catholic Church has enormous power in El Salvador, and its support for the struggle by local communities did not start this year, but in 2007, when it took a stance, at the Episcopal Conference, with its document Let’s Take Care of Everyone’s Home,” said McKinley.

The law is the culmination of years of struggle by environmental organisations and community leaders against, above all, the El Dorado mine in the central department of Cabañas, operated by the Pacific Rim company, now OceanaGold since it was acquired in 2013 by the Australian-Canadian corporation.

The company sued El Salvador for 250 million dollars in the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), after the rightwing Salvadoran government of the time cancelled its exploration permit in 2008.

The two successive governments of the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front have maintained this de facto moratorium since 2009.

In October 2016, ICSID ruled in favour of El Salvador, and ordered the company to pay eight million dollars in legal expenses, which it has failed to do.

And in a new setback, the body ruled on March 28 that the corporation must also pay interest on the debt, at a monthly rate between two and five per cent, on back payments dating to October.

These rulings also contributed to generating a climate conducive to approval of the ban.

“We are celebrating the triumph of our struggle, and our celebration continues out there in the communities where the people have been fighting,” Rina Navarrete, the coordinator of the Friends of San Isidro Cabañas Association, told IPS.i

She added that the accomplishment was a vindication of the work by “the fallen martyrs in this struggle against the mining corporation” – a reference to Ramiro Rivera, Marcelo Rivera (not related) and Dora Alicia Sorto, environmentalists killed by hitmen between June and December 2009, in the town of Cabañas.

Navarrete, a single mother of two who lives in the municipality of Llano de la Hacienda, in Cabañas, has taken up the work of the late Marcelo Rivera.

The activists were shot presumably because of their opposition to the activities of Pacific Rim in that area, although this has not been confirmed by the legal authorities.

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Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan

On the 6th & 7th of April 2017, the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyaan (DRRAA) will be holding a dharna outside the Delhi Secretariat from 10.30 am onwards to protest against the large scale violations in the implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in Delhi and to demand immediate action by the Delhi government.

A People’s Assessment of the Implementation of Transparency, Grievance Redress and Accountability Measures of the National Food Security Act in Delhi undertaken by DRRAA has found that ration shops are violating the NFSA with impunity. Despite the passage of more than 3 years since the implementation of the law, the Delhi government has not put in place the requisite grievance redress and accountability measures in place. Further, the Delhi government is proposing to make Aadhaar enabled delivery of ration mandatory through use of Point of Sale devices even though the pilot undertaken by the government shows huge exclusion and problems in use of these devices. The government has also not made public the report of its pilot on use of Aadhaar enabled POS devices. The restrictive eligibility conditions laid down by the Delhi government for people to apply for ration cards has led to the exclusion of the most vulnerable and marginalised sections of society from the Public Distribution System. Scores of homeless and transgender people who applied have been unable to secure ration cards. The attempts of the Delhi government to weed out ration cards as “bogus” or “ineligible” in a non-transparent manner and without revising the eligibility criteria, is regressive and goes against the promises made by AAP in their manifesto.


Please do join us on the 6th & 7th of April 2017 (Thursday & Friday) outside the Delhi Secretariat from 10.30 am onwards.


Anjali Bhardwaj, Amrita Johri, Koninika Ray, Dipa Sinha, Vimla, Shakeel, Rajender Kumar

(On behalf of the Dilli Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyaan)

Contact- 9810273984, 9958284900                       



दिल्ली रोज़ी रोटी अधिकार अभियान द्वारा दिल्ली सचिवालय पर धरना

                               6 और 7 अप्रैल, 2017, 10.30  बजे


6 और 7 अप्रैल, 2017 को, दिल्ली रोज़ी रोटी अधिकार अभियान (डीआरआरएए) द्वारा राष्ट्रीय खाद्य सुरक्षा अधिनियम (एनएफएसए) के कार्यान्वयन में बड़े पैमाने पर हो रहे उल्लंघन के विरोध में तथा सरकार द्वारा तत्काल कारर्वाई कि मांग करते हुए दिल्ली सचिवालय के बाहर दो दिवसीय धरना आयोजित करने जा रहा है।


दिल्ली रोज़ी रोटी अधिकार अभियान द्वारा दिल्ली में राष्ट्रीय खाद्य सुरक्षा कानून की पारदर्शिता,शिकायत निवारण और जवाबदेही के कार्यान्वयन के एक आकलन में पाया गया कि राशन की दुकानों में बिना किसी डर के साथ एनएफएसए का उल्लंघन हो रहा है। कानून के पारित होने के 3 से अधिक वर्षों के बावजूद भी दिल्ली सरकार ने आवश्यक शिकायत निवारण और जवाबदेही उपायों को लागू नहीं किया है । इसके अलावा, दिल्ली सरकार आधार के साथ पीओएस उपकरणों के उपयोग से राशन देने का प्रस्ताव दे रही है, हालांकि सरकार द्वारा किए गए पायलट में भारी मात्रा में बहिष्कार और इन उपकरणों के इस्तेमाल में काफी समस्याएं आ रही हैं। सरकार ने अभी तक आधार पीओएस उपकरणों के इस्तेमाल पर हुए पायलट की रिपोर्ट भी सार्वजनिक नहीं की है। राशन कार्ड के लिए दिल्ली सरकार द्वारा निर्धारित प्रतिबंधात्मक पात्रता शर्तों के कारण सार्वजनिक वितरण प्रणाली से समाज के सबसे कमज़ोर और वंचित वर्ग छूट रहे  हैं। जो बेघर और ट्रांसजेंडर हैं, उनमें से कितने ही अपने राशन कार्ड सुरक्षित नहीं कर पाए हैं। दिल्ली सरकार द्वारा गैर पारदर्शी तरीके से और पात्रता मानदंडों में संशोधन किए बिना राशन कार्ड को “फ़र्ज़ी ” या “अपात्र” के रूप में घोषित करने का जो प्रयास चल रहा है , वह आम आदमी पार्टी द्वारा अपने घोषणापत्र में किए गए वादे के भी खिलाफ है।

कृपया 6 और 7 अप्रैल 2017 (गुरुवार और शुक्रवार) को दिल्ली सचिवालय के बाहर धरने के लिए हमारे साथ जुड़ें।

अंजलि भारद्वाज, अमृता जोहरी, कोनीनिका रे, दीपा सिन्हा, विमला, शकील, राजेंद्र कुमार


दिल्ली रोज़ी रोटी अधिकार अभियान की ओर से संपर्क 9810273984, 9958284900

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Punjab cops fail to trace Rakhi Sawant in Valmiki case


Image result for rakhi sawant

  • Sawant had made some objectionable remark against Valmiki, who wrote Ramayana.
  • A Ludhiana court had issued a warrant against Sawant on March 9.
 LUDHIANA/MUMBAI: A Ludhiana police team, sent to Mumbai following a court order to arrest actor Rakhi Sawant for allegedly making derogatory statements against Maharishi Valmiki during a 2016 TV show, failed to locate her on Tuesday.

An assistant sub-inspector and a woman head constable from Ludhiana reached Mumbai on Monday and visited a few spots in Oshiwara where the actor owns a flat, but failed to locate her. The team left for Ludhiana on Tuesday.

We did not arrest Sawant,” Dharuman Nimbale, deputy commissioner of police (Ludhiana), told TOI on Tuesday. The police will submit a report before the court during the next hearing on April 10, he added.

Amandeep Singh Brar, assistant commissioner of police (Ludhiana central), said, “The property in Oshiwara, Mumbai, is owned by the actor. However, she does not live there. The police team has taken statements of the neighbours that will be submitted before the court during the next hearing. Further action would be taken as per court orders.”

A Ludhiana court had issued an arrest warrant against the actor on March 9 after she failed to appear before it following a petition filed by advocate Narinder Adiya in July 2016 over the alleged derogatory remarks.

atyanarayan Chaudhary, Mumbai deputy commissioner of police (Zone IX), said the actor no longer stays in his jurisdiction that falls between Bandra and Andheri in the western suburbs. “The actor has a flat in the Oshiwara locality of Andheri. However, the flat is rented out and she does not live in it. Also, we don’t know of any team that has sought help to track her down on Tuesday,” said an Oshiwara police officer.

The court had earlier summoned the actor, but she did not turn up. Later, it issued bailable warrants but she failed to appear before it. Following this, the court issued a non-bailable warrant against her. She was also booked in Jalandhar under Indian Penal Code Section 295A for hurting religious sentiments

According to reports, a local court in Ludhiana had issued the arrest warrant against Rakhi on 9 March on the basis of a complaint filed against the actor for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of the Valmiki community on video last year. Rakhi had later apologised for her comment via a video clip in which she stated that it was not her intention to hurt anybody.

It was also reported that Rakhi had failed to appear before the court despite the court issuing her repeated summons during the last hearing in March. The case against Rakhi Sawant is now scheduled for 10 April.

This is apparently the video clip in which Rakhi called Valmiki a “murderer”, which caused the outrage amongst the Valmiki community:


 Rakhi Sawant is best known for appearances in reality TV shows like Bigg Boss and Rakhi Ka Swayamwar. She has also acted in many Bollywood films but her outrageous comments have often drawn more attention.

In 2014, Rakhi Sawant tried her hand at politics and contested the general elections from the Mumbai North West constituency as an Independent candidate.

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Ishrat Jahan case -Gujarat Police Chief PP Pandey Forced To Step Down As SC Steps In

Gujarat Police Chief PP Pandey Forced To Step Down As Supreme Court Steps In

Top Gujarat cop PP Pandey resigned today after Supreme Court said it would remove him unless he quits

GANDHINAGAR Gujarat’s top cop Director General of Police PP Pandey has resigned, it was announced, after the Supreme Court said today that it would order his removal unless he has offered to quit. The Gujarat government told the court that Mr Pandey was ready to step down and would be relieved of his post immediately. Meetings have begun in state capital Gandhinagar to appoint a successor. PP Pandey has been charged with murder in the 2004 Ishrat Jehan encounter case and is out on bail; the Supreme Court was hearing a petition challenging his appointment last year as Gujarat’s police chief.

While appointing Mr Pandey to the top post last April, the state government had said he would only hold additional charge. But he was given an extension after his tenure ended this January and he was due to retire on April 30. The Gujarat government told the court today that it wanted to extend Mr Pandey’s tenure for six months, but the union Ministry of Home Affairs had allowed only a three-month extension.

Next in line to be Gujarat’s police chief is Geeta Johri, who was initially charged in the Sohrabbudin Shiekh encounter case, but the charges were later dropped. Also said to be in the race is senior police officer Pramod Kumar. Ms Johri retires at the end of the year and Mr Kumar in February next year and the state government is expected to factor in the police chief’s key role in the smooth conduct of assembly elections, due in Gujarat in November.

The petition against Mr Pandey was filed by a predecessor Julio Ribeiro, who has argued that the state’s police cannot be headed by a person accused of the murder of four people, especially when trial is yet to begin. Mr Pandey has been charged along with others with conspiracy, illegal confinement and murder in the Ishrat Jehan case by the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI.

19-year-old Ishrat Jahan and three others were killed in an alleged fake encounter in Gujarat in June 2004. The Gujarat Police said they were Lashkar terrorists and were in Gujarat to assassinate the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

A CBI court is hearing the Ishrat Jehan case. The CBI has filed two charge-sheets, the first of which accuses Mr Pandey and others of staging a fake encounter to kill the four people. The second charge-sheet is against four people, including officers of the Centre’s Intelligence Bureau, but that is still be taken on record by the court.

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How India’s Disabled Are Finally Breaking Barriers & Entering the Country’s Politics

India’s disabled are woefully under-represented in many fields, with politics seeing some of the worst numbers. However, an increasing number of disabled people are joining local politics, including large numbers of women from many rural parts of India. Shampa Sengupta explores further.

Towards the end of February of 2017, there was news that a 24-year-old woman of Bajapur village under Kantabania Gram Panchayat (GP) became the first wheelchair-user female candidate to win any election in Odisha. Minati Barik, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, had contested in the three-tier panchayat polls for the Ward Member’s post from Bajapur village, as per newspaper reports.

The news brought cheer to the disabled community at large, but did not get the media coverage it deserved. Elections happening in other states around the same time, and an icon like Irom Sharmila losing her electoral fight, became the commonly discussed issue. This news item did not even find a prominent place on social media. Yet it is an important milestone, both from the disability movement’s perspective, as well as for women’s movements.

As we all know, the Women’s Reservation Bill faced several roadblocks, and its journey itself showed various facades of patriarchal society. We may here also recall that some activists thought inclusion of reservations in electoral seats for persons with Disabilities is crucial. However, not all activists favoured the same, and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill was passed in 2016 without any such clause. Nevertheless, political participation of persons with disabilities is definitely increasing in India.

Many members of the National Platform for Rights of Disabled (NPRD) are actively involved in politics at their local level.

Women attending the special Gram Sabha. Panchayat Kankradara, District Dungarpur, Rajasthan. (Source: Flickr)

Meena Kumari of Jharkhand is one such woman. She was born with orthopaedic impairments in a village in the Sahibganj district. Her family was not very supportive. Even though she is unable to physically stand up, she “stood” as an election candidate during Gram Panchayat elections in 2015. Even though she won “only 250” votes, one cannot undermine her achievements.

Besides serving as a Joint Secretary to NPRD, Meena remains active in her village to bring justice to disabled people. She says it was her own brother who went against her, and asked the villagers not to vote for her. It was difficult for “him” to digest that his sister, whose mobility is impaired, is taking part in active politics. He would have preferred she remain docile and dependent. However, her fighting spirit could not be kept under wraps.

Meena now lives with her mother, who has a mental illness, in a room which she built in her name with money from the Indira Awaas Yojana. When asked why she chose her particular political party to represent, without hesitation, she said, “Because I think it is only this party that works for betterment of the disabled”. Though she did not win the elections, her battle for bringing together disabled people and making them independent goes on.

“Fighting elections or winning is not the only way to get involved in political activities,” asserts Anirban Mukherjee, who is also an Executive Body member of NPRD. He was born with 100 % visual impairment, and hails from a smaller town of West Bengal. Teaching in a Government school these days, he can recall that as a student, he was very active in his students’ union.

He never felt his “impairment” could stop his political activities.

Sansad Bhavan, the centre of political power in India. (Source: By David Castor (user:dcastor) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Anirban takes part in election campaigns regularly, and his party uses his oratory skills during elections. According to Mukherjee, if a person is keen enough, and shows acumen towards politics, any political party would show interest in him, despite “impairments”.In India, of course, we have several examples of how, without any reservations, disabled people have excelled in political careers. Sadhan Gupta, who lost his vision as an infant, is a shining example. Excerpts from the Facebook Page “Remembering Sadhan Gupta & Manjari Gupta” say the following:

Sadhan Gupta debated excellently even in college, and won medals in inter-university debates. He was in high demand as a debater even later in life, and his debating skills stood him in good stead, both as a lawyer and as a parliamentarian.

Sadhan Gupta made a name for himself in his profession when he argued the case of Emperor vs Shibnath Banerjee. Mahatma Gandhi mentioned the case in his greetings to J C Gupta on his son’s marriage, “When I saw in the papers months ago a reference to a blind lawyer brilliantly arguing his case before the Federal Court, I never knew that you had the honour to own that lawyer as your son. May his marriage be a blessing to him and his future wife. I congratulate her on her choice.”

While in college, Sadhan Gupta joined the leftist students’ movement, and went on to become the President of the Bengal Provincial Students’ Federation.

He became a member of the Communist Party of India in 1939.

Sadhan Gupta (Source: Ganashakti)

When India became a Republic, the Communist Party of India nominated Sadhan Gupta to contest the country’s first General Elections as a candidate against Shyamaprasad Mookerjee from the Kolkata Southeast Constituency. Though he could not defeat Mookerjee, he returned against Radha Binode Pal, an internationally known jurist who was the Congress candidate. Sadhan Gupta defeated Pal to be the first Member of Parliament with vision impairment.

He returned in 1957, this time from the Calcutta East constituency, and remained a member of the Lok Sabha till 1962. In 1967, the CPI(M) nominated him from the Chowringhee Assembly Constituency, but he was unsuccessful. However, in 1969, he won from Kalighat Assembly Constituency, and remained a member of the West Bengal Assembly till its dissolution 13 months later. He was also a trade unionist, and was president of different unions in Insurance and other sectors, including ITC.

Sadhan Gupta’s exemplary political career inspired a large number of disabled people. The other blind person to make it to the Lok Sabha was Yamuna Prasad Shastri. He joined from Rewa in Madhya Pradesh, first on a ticket of the erstwhile Janata Party in 1977. The second time, he won on a Janata Dal ticket in 1989.

Earlier, he got a term in the Madhya Pradesh Assembly on a ticket from the Praja Socialist Party. Shastri later on joined the CPI(M).

Yamuna Prasad Shastri

Interestingly, Shastri was not born blind. He lost vision in his right eye while participating in the struggle to liberate Goa from Portuguese occupation in 1955. He lost vision in his second eye while participating in a people’s struggle in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh in 1975.

There are several persons with disability who also made it to important positions on their own due to their work, influence, etc. Jaipal Reddy went on to become a Union Cabinet Minister, while Om Prakash Chautala became the Chief Minister of Haryana.

Despite there being cases where people could not contest elections because of their disability, in all the above cases, disability was not an impediment for political participation. Also, none of these political representatives came through any quota.

A recent change has been women with disabilities becoming active in political life. When we see disabled women from rural areas claiming political space, we need to cheer them up, as they are fighting several layers of discrimination to claim this space.

Help NPRD India fight for advocacy, policy intervention, and disabled rights by getting in touch on Facebook.

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Ace Hindustani classical vocalist Kishori Amonkar passes away #RIP

MUMBAI: Renowned Hindustani classical vocalist Kishori Amonkar passed away here today after a brief illness. She was 84.

She passed away at her home in central Mumbai tonight, family sources said.

Born on April 10, 1932 here, Amonkar was recognised as one of the foremost singers in the Hindustani tradition and as an innovative exponent of the Jaipur gharana. A gharana is a community of musicians sharing a distinctive musical style.

Amonkar’s mother was the well-known vocalist Mogubai Kurdikar, who trained under Alladiya Khan Saheb, the doyen of the Jaipur gharana.

While learning the finer points and techniques of the Jaipur gharana from her mother, Amonkar also developed her own personal style, which reflects the influence of other gharanas and was generally regarded as an individual variant of the Jaipur tradition.

Amonkar cultivated a deep understanding of her art, largely through extensive study of the ancient texts on music, and her repertoire was grand in its sweep.

She was known primarily for her skillful singing of classical khayal songs set in the traditional ragas of Hindustani music, but also performed the lighter classical thumri repertoire, bhajan, devotional songs and film music. Regardless of musical genre, her performances were marked by vitality and grace.

Throughout her career, however, Amonkar was both criticised and praised for her bending of the Jaipur tradition.

As she prioritised the expression of emotion in her music, she frequently departed from the gharana’s conventions of rhythm, ornamentation, and broader musical structure in order to intensify the impact of the music.

Besides being a renowned musician, Amonkar was a popular speaker and traveled throughout India giving lectures, most notably on the theory of rasa (feelings, emotions) in music

The loneliness of Kishori Amonkar

In a rare interview, classical musician Kishori Amonkar speaks about learning from her mother, the difference between a guru and a teacher, and why she has no need for the Bharat Ratna.

As she learnt from her mother and other gurus, Kishori Amonkar began to look for her own style, where she put emotion first. (Source: Express archive)

As she learnt from her mother and other gurus, Kishori Amonkar began to look for her own style, where she put emotion first. (Source: Express archive)Kishori Amonkar doesn’t like interviews. Apart from considering them a waste of time “because they take away important minutes from her daily riyaz and teaching”, she doesn’t like to talk about her music with strangers. So, when one of the greatest classical vocalists of our times left us stranded outside her hotel suite in Delhi almost two months ago, refusing an interview that was already fixed, it wasn’t a surprise. “I am tired now. Tell her to come home if she wants to talk,” she said from behind the door, as her student Nandini Bedekar looked at us apologetically.

Home for Amonkar is a small apartment in Mumbai’s Prabhadevi. To her surprise, we are at her door a few months later. She wasn’t expecting us to make the journey. “I appreciate that you are here. But I need to know how much you know about music before I answer your questions,” says Amonkar. She sits on an intricately carved wooden swing. She sways in rhythm, slowly. The only overpowering image in the living room is hers. A black-and-white photograph from almost a decade ago, it covers an entire wall. It is an image of her bent over her swarmandal and in a trance; the lines on her forehead prominent as she concentrates on her notes. Now at the age of 84, there is a filigree of lines around her eyes and some on the face, marks of age and wisdom.

Many leading classical artistes might count live performances as their biggest source of fame, but Amonkar doesn’t seem to care for them. She performs the way she wants to and when she wants to. She refuses most performances abroad because she is “uncomfortable in that environment”. The number of concerts she does in a year are few and far between. When she does sing, like at a recent concert in Delhi’s Nehru Park, organised by Spicmacay, it took her some time to find her bearings in the raga. Many thought that it’s because of age that the raga eluded her; there are cracks in her voice and coughs that interrupt her. But the truth is that it’s always taken Amonkar some time to get to her raga. At every concert, when Amonkar begins to sing, she falters. She courts failure as she tries various directions in an effort to find the right one. And then, just like that, she leaves the effort behind and reaches the raga’s most sublime note.

In Delhi, this October, it was Bageshri, one of her favourite ragas. She delivered her sapat taans with lightning speed, something Bedekar, her senior student, and Tejashree Amonkar, her disciple and granddaughter, couldn’t match. “How she reaches the notes is as important as the notes themselves, which is why she goes into a trance and takes us along. Her music blends emotion and technique beautifully,” says thumri exponent Girija Devi.

Amonkar represents the gold standard of musical genius in the country. In Amol Palekar and Sandhya Gokhale’s documentary, Bhinna Shadja, on Amonkar, tabla maestro Zakir Hussain says, “She has sung ragas that are the most immortal renderings of those ragas. Ever. When you talk of Ustad Amir Khan’s Marwa, in the same breath you talk of Kishoritai’s Bhoop. There are these landmark performances that take place over hundreds of years and you will talk about them for the rest of your life and rest of the many centuries to come. Her music is like a painting that embodies every detail of someone’s life. There is great happiness, great sadness, great anger, frustration, the desperation. It all comes concentrated in a little piece.”

Amonkar learnt music from her mother, the legendary vocalist, Mogubai Kurdikar, of Ustad Alladiya Khan’s Jaipur Atrauli gharana. Her musical training included honing a voice that travelled three octaves with much flourish, as well as the capability to discover and deliver micro-notes (shrutis) in the tradition of the gharana.

High notes: Kishori Amonkar forbids any lights on her face during the concert. “One cannot go into a trance then”. (Express photo by Hemant Chawla)High notes: Kishori Amonkar forbids any lights on her face during the concert. “One cannot go into a trance then”. (Express photo by Hemant Chawla)Conversing with Amonkar about her music is similar to the process of listening to her music. She weaves her stories with the fancy of a khayal singer and takes you in many unexpected directions. As prepared as we are, with some knowledge of classical music and a set of questions, she turns the tables. She becomes the interviewer. “Tell me what you know about music,” she asks. After grilling us for 30 minutes, she appears to be relatively satisfied. She begins to talk about the secrets of the swaras.

One has to understand that my music starts from a note and not from a raga. It is the medium through which I express myself,” says Amonkar. “My question to the guard of my building isn’t if he knows a particular raga. It is whether he liked my music. For this, I have to know everything about the medium. How do these notes move? It’s only when you understand the medium that you can surpass it. For that, you go to the beginning of the musical expression,” says Amonkar.

Kurdikar was a gifted musician, an exacting guru and a doting mother, who lost her husband when Amonkar was only six. She was left with three children to look after, no money and a vast musical knowledge. “My mother wouldn’t talk about music. She would sing and I would repeat. I would copy her without asking her anything. Aai was so strict that she would sing the sthayi and antara only twice and not a third time. I had to get every contour of the piece in those two instances. That taught me concentration. The guru needs to be this good. You cannot have a guru who constantly wonders, ‘When will my student sit on the stage and do a programme? Will she go abroad?’ That person can be a teacher, not a guru,” says Amonkar.

She goes on to explain the difference further with the analogy of practice and sadhana. The former is about mugging things up. “Sadhana makes you see one step ahead and move further. You have to walk and run on your own. The guru gives you strength to be able to do that. If you don’t, then you remain ordinary. My mother made sure I wasn’t ordinary,” says Amonkar. Apart from training under her mother, Amonkar learnt music from Anwar Hussain Khan of Agra gharana, Anjanibai Malpekar of Bhendi Bazar gharana, Sharadchandra Arolkar of Gwalior gharana and Goa’s stalwart Balkrishnabuwa Parwatkar. Soon, young Kishori’s reputation as a stage performer grew.

Kurdikar performed at a time when women singers weren’t respected much. Amonkar remembers travelling overnight in third-class train compartments and falling asleep with her head on her mother’s shoulder. She would accompany Kurdikar on the tanpura in the concerts. She wells up as she recalls the way organisers would treat her mother, speaking down to her, paying her little, and making her stay in someone’s home and not at a proper guesthouse. She was denied the respect a classical musician desires and deserves. “I saw this shoddy treatment of a legend like her. It hurt me deeply. But my mother had three children to bring up, so she continued. I decided that when I become a musician, I would never allow any of this. And I don’t. I always stay in a proper hotel suite, I make sure that I am provided with a car, which is available at all times, and that all the payments are made properly,” she says.

As she learnt from her mother and other gurus, Amonkar also began to look for her own style, where she put emotion first. She was trying to expand the gharana’s protocol of rhythm, adornments and structure to include elements of other gharanas. “There is nothing called a gharana. There is only music. It has been bound in these gharanas and that is like dividing music into specific castes. One should not teach the students the limits of this art. There are none. But one has to understand the grammar. Which is why, one is taught the alankaar, the ragas,” says Amonkar.

In the 1960s and 1970s, she began singing to larger audiences. Her performances made their way into private music collections through cassettes and records. But at the age of 25, Amonkar fell silent. She lost her voice. It was inexplicable. Modern medicine or exercises, nothing could treat her. That was until she met a “saint” from Pune, Sardeshmukh Maharaj, who promised to give her back her voice through Ayurveda. It took two years for her to regain her voice.

The solitude this hiatus offered allowed her to contemplate her music in great depth. When she began to sing again, Amonkar found it easier to break the rules and shape a style of her own. This was unheard of in the musical circles. “Right from the beginning, I felt very lonely. First, because I had not known what my mother was teaching me. Through that constant singing and learning, I got a little glimpse into what’s known as a note. From a note, I could get a glimpse into the variation of those notes. My mother would ask me about the difference between the ‘re’ (rishabh) of raga Shuddh Kalyan and the ‘re’ of raga Bhoop. The note’s the same but the way it’s hit in both these ragas is slightly different. So I had to look very deep within to find the answers,” she says.

Indian classical singer Kishori Amonkar being felicitated at 'Gaansaraswati Mahotsav' at Ganesh Kala Krida Manch. (Source: Express photo by Shivakumar Swamy)Indian classical singer Kishori Amonkar being felicitated at ‘Gaansaraswati Mahotsav’ at Ganesh Kala Krida Manch. (Source: Express photo by Shivakumar Swamy)Amonkar discovered that in between the major notes lie the shruti, which could evoke a gamut of emotions. This is when ragas became living entities for her. “When one reaches the raga’s most sublime note, after delineating it with much love, the raga should stand in front of you like a person. It should be sung in a way that I see this person and you as an audience see it too. I am a human being but I can experience the abstract through my music. And that’s why you still listen to me,” she says. Her Meera and Kabir bhajans and the famous Sahela re — a bandish in raga Bhopali — have been known to offer such transcendent experiences.

But in the classical tradition, losing the connection with one’s gharana to include other embellishments was blasphemy. “People called me a rebel. I don’t think I am one. I am a vehement person and I speak the truth. When you’ve experienced the sublime, the abstract begins to acquire a form. Then what the critics said did not matter. It still does not matter,” says Amonkar. She emphasises that she is her biggest critic. Tapes of her live performances play all the time in her house so that she can find faults and correct them.

Every Kishori Amonkar story is also about her impatience with the audience, her legendary temper. She has often been compared with her mother’s contemporary, the iconic Kesarbai Kerkar, an outspoken musician, who was sometimes extremely rude to her audience.

Amonkar has famously refused to sing because she thought the audience was badly behaved. She was once about to perform at the Gulmarg Golf Club in Kashmir, where the audience included then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah. Someone began passing a platter of pears around. Amonkar refused to sing further. When an industrialist’s wife once ordered a paan during her performance, Amonkar screamed, “Am I a kothewali to you?” From editors and politicians to industrialists and famous artistes, many have faced Amonkar’s wrath during concerts.

At the Nehru Park concert, the audience sat in a timid silence, not moving in the aisles. The soundcheck wasn’t going well. Amonkar wasn’t happy with the microphones, the sound, the monitors, the lights. “This is a complete waste of my time,” she shrieked. Finally, Rashmi Malik, Chairperson of the Spicmacay Foundation, had to step in.

“People say that I am arrogant and temperamental. I just don’t understand why. Have you ever seen me laugh at a concert, talk to my audience? I want to get involved and focus on the abstract. I have to forget my body then. For that I need my audience’s help, not their interruptions. People have to understand that music isn’t entertainment. It is not to be sung to attract the audience. Which is why I never play to the gallery. The audience cannot disturb the loneliness of an artiste,” says Amonkar, who almost always sings in the dark and doesn’t allow bright lights on her face. “One can’t go into a trance with those lights on your face,” she says. She also doesn’t allow anyone in the green room before the concert and refuses to recognise or acknowledge senior musicians and critics after it. “I do not allow anyone in the green room because that’s where I am matching my raga with my tanpura. I am not confident of the performance until that happens. After the concert, I am in a different zone. I do not have the strength left to be with anyone,” says Amonkar.

At the Nehru Park concert, when she finally began, she delivered a series of astonishingly complicated taans. In her 80s, she sings with more effort, coughs a lot, drinks more warm water, gets irritated. “What you get from my music now is what you didn’t get ages ago. There is so much more thehraav (stillness). I know my track and I know my destination. Whether I will reach there or not, I don’t know, but I will do this till I am alive,” says Amonkar.

She has been awarded the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan for an exemplary career. She says she does not need the Bharat Ratna. “It’s been given to Sachin Tendulkar. If that’s the decision the government has taken, it’s better that they do not include me in the same category,” says Amonkar.

Humility is considered one of the most important virtues in Indian classical music and to its musicians. For Kishori Amonkar, that deference is due to her music only. She does not owe it to her audience, nor to those who host her, and not those who accompany her on stage. The perfection of her khayal is how she transmits her heart’s stories. Her sublime Meera and Kabir bhajans are capable of moving one to tenderness. When someone like Amonkar sings and takes us closer to the abstract, she should be allowed that loneliness she craves, even a little arrogance.

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Karnataka – 2 Women Officers attacked during Raid at Illegal Sand Mining Sites



Recent attack on senior officials in Udupi highlights the brazenness of illegal sand miners in the state

Looks like attacks on government servants, which were so far restricted to states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, has now become a part of Karnataka’s culture.
Bengaluru and other tier-two cities in the state have witnessed an exponential infrastructure development and this has triggered a demand for sand, and abuse of river beds across the state.

The fact that the state government is failing to control the sand mafia in the state can be gauged from a shocking report from Udupi wherein deputy commissioner Priyanka Mary Francis and Kundapur assistant commissioner Shilpa Nag were allegedly attacked by the sand mafia.

Udupi SP KT Balakrishna said a case has been registered, alleging assault on the DC and AC by 40-50 people when they raided some illegal sand mining activity in Kandlur village on Sunday night. A case of arson and attempt to murder has been registered, based on which six people have been arrested and one is being treated at a hospital.

On a tip-off, a team of six, including the DC, AC, two drivers, a gunman, village accountant and the AC’s husband, in two jeeps conducted a surprise check on mining activity in Kandlur of Kundapur taluk on Sunday night.

The Udupi DC, who is also the chief executive officer of the zilla panchayat, along with others first visited Halnad.

Sources informed that as the team reached the spot, they were followed by men in a few bikes. A few lorry drivers fled the scene, and the team seized a few keys; about six people were picked up here and handed over to the police.

The team then moved to Kandlur. Sources said that on the way, they were followed by at least 20 people on bikes. At the mining site, a few labourers from North India had pitched their tents; they tried to flee from the scene. They were given a chase by the gunman and the drivers who were assaulted by them.

Speaking to Bangalore Mirror, DC Priyanka said, “The gun man, AC’s driver and her husband were man-handled by the goons. They were about to manhandle me and the ACP, but a local resident intervened. They pushed us into a car and shielded us from the mob as we made our escape. There were about 6-8 tents pitched and the labourers were mostly from north India and were employed by local residents.”

Meanwhile, it was learnt that the deputy commissioner had not informed the police of the raid fearing that the information would reach those involved in illegal mining.

Why illegal mining?

There are only a few state-approved areas where licensed contractors can mine sand after receiving the required environmental clearances.

For example, in Dakshina Kannada district there are about 250-300 licensed sand miners, who get environment clearance for a year. It is suspected that an additional 10-15 per cent could be illegal sand miners.

In about 8 districts, including Bengaluru and Tumakuru, there is no sand mining activity but the demand is high. The best quality sand comes from the coastal districts, Harihara and Bhadra, but by the time it reaches places like Bengaluru the price gets astronomical.

Explaining how illegal mining takes place, a traditional sand miner said, “Illegal activities take place at the sites of mining and during transportation. The last decade has seen a sudden rise for the demand of sand. The traditional sand miners do not use machine and try their best not to damage the environment. In one boat, they get up to three loads of sand approximately. A license holder may thus get a maximum of 5-8 loads per day. However, the illegal sand mafia uses dredging machines, thus causing immense harm to the environment. The traditional and those involved in illegal sand mining are not the same,” he clarified.

During transportation, trucks are overloaded. While permit for transportation is for six-wheel vehicles, it usually takes place on 10 or 12 wheel vehicles. While, there have been instances of people selling adulterated sand, numerous illegal sand mines, guarded by dangerous cartels, have cropped up in almost every district where sand mining takes place.

Sand expensive in Bengaluru

The Dakshina Kannada district administration has fixed the price of sand at Rs 4,500 per one load. However, by the time it reaches places like Bengaluru the cost has escalated by almost eight times.

Those in the business claim that transportation charges are high.

Damaging the eco-system

Unscientific mining for construction material has had an adverse impact on major rivers and their surrounding ecology in the state. Unchecked mining in rivers such as Cauvery, Kapila and Suvarnavathi has reduced groundwater availability. Even areas that come under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) have not been spared. Last Year, National Environment Care Federation (NECF) convener Shashidhar Shetty released documents stating illegal sand mining in coastal Karnataka was a multi-crore scam of more than Rs 850 crore per annum. The outfit also released a 300-page document with a sting video on illegal mining taking place in undivided Dakshina Kannada.

During his year-long operation, Shetty found that machines like earthmovers, dredgers or mechanised boats were being used during sand mining. Although mining is not allowed within 500 metres of bridges, they noticed workers extracting sand from river beds near bridges on national highways at Nethravati, Basrur, Malavoor and other places.

However, the government is sitting on the submitted report.

He received no response even after submitting a DVD containing documents and videos of illegal sand mining to public officials, including the Prime Minister, Union ministers, NGT, police department heads and National Human Rights Commission.

He said, “Illegal sand mining has destroyed even mangrove islands at several spots in undivided Dakshina Kannada district. Though sand mining ban should be in place for four months from June 1 to facilitate the breeding of micro-organisms, the ban period has been reduced to two months unscientifically. We have seen how the rivers of Kolar and Chikkaballapur have been destroyed completely. Sand plays a major role in controlling the ground water table. In case this is not controlled, the salt water will mix with the river water and when there is no water for drinking no mafia will come to the rescue of the people. It is sad that nobody understands the gravity of the situation. While we condemn the attack on the Udupi DC, spare a thought to the environmentalists too. Think of the kind of threat we are facing for taking on them.”

Ravi Krishna Reddy, president Lancha Mukta Karnataka Nirman Vedike, said the sand mafia was prevalent across Karnataka and politicians, district administration, revenue department and police department are benefiting from the scam.

Recently, the Andhra government launched a rational sand policy. In Karnataka something like that has not happened.

Administration on the run

Deputy commissioner has narrow escape in Kalaburagi

Recently, Kalaburagi deputy commissioner Ujjwal Kumar Ghosh had a narrow escape when a lorry carrying illegally mined sand almost collided with his car at Dandoti village in Chittapur taluk. It was reported that the officer had received a tip-off on illegal mining on the banks of Kagina River near Dandoti village. He went there at about 2 am along with Sedam assistant commissioner Bhimashankar and his gunmen. They saw that sand was being extracted from Kagina river with excavators and being loaded on to tippers. The sand mafia, which noticed the officers vehicles wanted to flee from the scene. The gunmen shouted at the drivers to stop the vehicles but they drove their vehicles rashly and a vehicle was about to hit the DC’s car but he was lucky that his driver immediately took the car to the side and avoided being hit. Ghosh clarified that it was an incident of rash driving. He has sought for a report on the sand mining in the region.

Police station vandalised in Gadag

Tension prevailed in Lakshmeshwara in Gadag district after a group of people vandaliaed a police station and set ablaze police vehicles including a jeep and three bikes, following the alleged custodial death of a person in Feburary this year. Several records in the police station were also damaged. It is learnt that a lorry driver, Shivappa who was arrested on the charges of his involvement in the illegal sand mining, died, following which the family and the villagers held the PSI responsible for the death.

ASP chased an accused for six kilometres in Bagalkot

Bagalkot subdivision assistant superintendent of police (ASP) Laskhmi Prasad chased an accused involved in illegal sand transportation for nearly six kilometres in January this year. Prasad after receiving a tip-off illegal sand transportation was taking place at Ganjihala in Hunagunda Taluk of Bagalkot district had rushed to the spot and seized two tractors used for illegal sand transportation. There were three accused at the scene. On seeing the police they started running. The ASP did not give up. He chased one of the accused for nearly six kilometres and caught him.

Fearing arrest, labourer involved in mining runs into river, drowns

A labourer, identified as Sharief (26), drowned after he ran into river Phalguni fearing that he would be arrested for sand mining last year. Based on a tip off from the public that sand mining was taking place in a block that has not been identified by the district administration in Mularapatna in Bantwal, Dakshina Kannada district, a raid was conducted. Unfortunately on seeing the police, the victim started running which resulted in his drowning.

Six wagons of sand seized

Officials from the department of Mines and Geology in Dakshina Kannada seized six wagons containing sand that was to be transported illegally from Bantwal railway station last year. It was suspected that the sand was to be transported to Sakleshpur.

Tahsildar attacked in Ramnagar

On the intervening night of February 27-28, Kanakapura taluk’s tahsildar Yoganand visited an illegal sand filter mafia near Mahadeshwara Temple near Thattekere village of Maralavadi Hobli of Kanakapura taluk.
Yoganand was shocked when the JCB operator rammed it against the tahsildar’s car. However, the tehsildar managed to escape. The shocking fact about the incident was that the land on which illegal mining activity was taking place belonged to a Congress leader. Soon after the issue was reported, the tahsildar almost went missing for a brief while and was not was unreachable on his mobile phone. It is learnt that he was under pressure by political parties backing the mafia. Interestingly, although the police had detained the JCB operator who tried to hit the tehsildar’s car, he did not file complaint immediately. Later, the tahshildar who went missing for more than 12 hours, went up to the police station and filed case against the JCB driver and others for preventing him from performing his duties. He did not mention about the attempt to attack him. The villagers alleged that the authorities failed to act. Sand mafia was operating just a few hundred metres away from the police
station. Villagers claim that the illegal activities can be seen from the terrace of the station. The mafia operates on the banks of Arkavathi river.

Attack on woman assistant superintendent of police Nanjangud

In an incident reported from Nanjangud in 2016, the sand mafia had attempted an attack a female assistant superintendent of police Divya Thara Thomas during her visit to an illegal sand mining spot near the banks of Kapila river.

The incident took place when the ASP visited the spot while the tractor was coming towards her carrying sand. When Divya questioned the actvity, the tractor diver attempted to move the tractor over Divya, she managed to escape. A complaint was filed, which was again restricted to preventing her from performing her duties.

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