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Archives for : April2017

Eat, pray, love: the Hindutva template #BeefBan

Deepak Harichandan

There has to be a debate between the human development approach and the Hindutva model of development

Two kinds of law representing two kinds of decision-making have marked the initial days of the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh. These are not critical as progressive legislation but as case studies of the way of thinking of the new regime. The first of the decisions cuts across nature and culture and has to do with cow slaughter. The second deals with the imposition of ‘anti-Romeo’ squads and cuts across issues of gender and ethnicity. Both acts raise the question on whether law and governance are progressive movements towards justice or rhetorical acts which reveal deeper paranoid fears that we need to confront.

Our Romeo vs Shakespeare’s

First, a word about our Romeo. The Shakespearean Romeo evokes tragedy, misunderstanding, a poignancy, but the story rises to the heights of the tragedy. Our local Romeo is more a character out of Charles Lamb, a banalised nukkad rowdy. In fact, he is very reminiscent of the rowdy as created by law. The British, in fact, created two kinds of lawbreakers, at two ends of the spectrum. The first was the thug targeted by Lord William Bentinck.

The rowdy, a regular character in movies with bulging biceps, a handkerchief around his neck, was as much a victim, a local bully and gangster who lived on and off the streets. Mr. Adityanath’s Romeo is the rowdy of romance, the local eve-teaser. He has little to do with literature and less with romance. In fact, the anti-Romeo act reveals that this law is selective, and secondly, it reveals more about the fears of Mr. Adityanath rather than the fears of women in the city.

Second, the anti-rowdy project is a part of a wider programme. One has to see it as part of ‘ghar wapsi’ and Love Jihad. Anti-Romeo is part of the Yogi’s campaign. The anti-Muslim bias is obvious in the first two. In the third, a secular cover tells Hindus and Muslims not to mix too freely. They will now be seen as law or order issues. The local nuisance is raised to the height of villainy and disposed of. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is pretending to soothe local fears and settle political scores. In justifying it, local leaders have said that romance should be a drawing room affair and not a spectacle on the streets. Implicit in it are two assumptions. Romance should have parental approval, and it should be restricted to the same community.

There is a humourless quality to the whole affair. When Prashant Bhushan suggested that Krishna may not have been so lucky if Mr. Adityanath had lived in mythical times, the Bajrang Dal and other Hindutva groups immediately protested. It is clear that our gods have a sense of humour, of love, of fun and frolic that Mr. Adityanath and his ilk lack. One wonders why the threat of the Bajrang Dal is not seen as a threat to rights or to law and order. One senses Krishna might be having a chuckle at the antics of his so-called loyalists.

A creeping paranoia

What one witnesses here is a paranoia extending to daily life. It is almost as if the idea of security is one word which is extending from the frontiers of the nation state to the daily lives of the people, guarding boundaries at the national and ethnic level. In fact, security has become the new myth that the ideology of the BJP/RSS/Bajrang Dal/Shiv Sena is enforcing. It is based on hate, paranoia and suspicion and it allows for only one interpretation. Religious narratives such as the Ramayan allowed for hundreds of variants which the Adityanaths and Bajrang Dal would be the first to ban.

What one is witnessing is not an attempt to tackle the so-called lumpen elements of a city, seen by the middle class as perpetual threats to law and order. Instead of tackling the lumpen elements with a framework of rights, I am afraid what is happening is what I call the lumpenisation of the law. Earlier, relations between boy and girl, especially from different communities, would be tackled vigilante style. Now, vigilantism is being justified as an act of governance. In fact, even fundamentalism becomes an act of governance or law and order. The affability and plurality of Hinduism loses out to the puritanism of Hindutva. One is watching not the emergence of an anti-Romeo but anti-human rights group.

Every law must have a mirror-like double. The idea of the double brings out the parallelism between two phenomena where inversions bring out similarities. What the anti-Romeo did for gender, the cow slaughter ban does for the link between nature and culture. What Mr. Adityanath was threatening, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has already articulated in the Assembly, a vision of a shakahari state, where vegetarianism evokes truth and morality. The great dream is to demand closure of all meat shops.

In a sociological sense, fundamentalism about food can be as lethal as fundamentalism about sex. It is not only the question of morality. It is also a question of diversity, and diversity requires a variety of food habits where diversity of crops, food, myth and religion sustain a pluralism of culture. Within each group, food habits can be uniform, but diversity demands difference as the soul of culture, while Mr. Adityanath demands uniformity.

In the name of the cow

It is not as if the ban on cow slaughter is an ode to the cow. The cow in fact becomes a strangely ambivalent creature. In the BJP State, the cow is more a fact of culture than of nature. What we have is an urban society living off its agricultural nostalgia. In fact, violence to food is a deeper topic, of the aggressive use of hormones, cruelty to animals, the ethics of biotechnology, none of which is even addressed by Mr. Adityanath. What we are witnessing is a substitutability of violence to the Muslim and the Dalit in the name of the cow, as evident most recently from the attack in Alwar on Muslim men transporting cows.

Gujarat Home Minister Pradeepsinh Jadeja might say “A single drop of cow blood falling on earth pains Hindus”. Yet, Hindutva does not mind declaring a bloodbath to enforce its vegetarian dream.

In fact, there is a schizophrenic spilt between nature and culture. Nature is confirmed as nature only if it is Hinduised. A cow is sacred, the Ganges is sacred but there is little effort to see how the religious sources of sacred can create ecological sustainability or non-violence. There is no will to extend the non-violence of the cow to wider categories of nature. Rather, a parochial idea of the sacred seeks to create other forms of violence. Worse, there is a split, where the Muslim is portrayed as a butcher in these Hindutva dreams, while the cow as animal acquires a humanity. With this inversion, the cow becomes a person while the Muslim becomes a non-person, losing his rights as a citizen. Such a militant Hindutva has little sense of Hinduism or the Constitution.

Oddly, the drive to such exclusive vegetarianism seems to rest uneasily with a promise of development which claims to be for all. In fact, if the Adityanath model is threatening to generalise a Hindutva model of development, then that idea needs to be debated and challenged. It cannot be imposed on other ethnic groups. One faces the irony that the violence done on behalf of the cow and the woman in the name of non-violence creates a sense of injustice which we do not have the courage to confront. There has to be a debate between the human development approach and the Hindutva model of development. The more troubling question is whether such a debate will be allowed to proceed in an open-ended academic way or whether it gets dismissed, BJP-style, as another sort of sedition. The number of unpatriotic Indians is multiplying everyday.


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New RTI Draft Rules an Invitation to Murder of Activists?

Another Right to Information (RTI) activist was brutally murdered on Sunday, making it the 16th such murder in Maharashtra and 65th in the country since 2010, besides assaults on nearly 400 activists.
In the latest fatal assault, Pune-based Suhas Haldankar, who exposed irregularities in civic works and inefficiencies of corporators in Pimpri Chinchwad, was savagely attacked with cement blocks by 11 men, including a former corporator from the Congress party. The attack took place when Haldankar was returning home late Sunday night on his bike. He was stopped on the way and bludgeoned to death. Eleven persons were nabbed by the police in connection with the murder.
The new RTI Draft Rule 12, issued by the DOPT, is in complete contravention of the 2011 recommendation of the Central Information Commission (CIC). The Draft Rule permits the CIC to allow appeals to terminate on the death of an appellant. The DoPT has sought suggestions and objections on the entire Draft Rules. What is worrisome is that Rule 12, which pertains to the RTI application in case of the applicant’s death, is not what the CIC recommended, which is that the information sought by late applicant must be immediately put on the public domain.
As per Rule 12 in the New Draft Rules of RTI issued by the DoPT, which is now in the public domain for suggestions and objections from the public, “Withdrawal/Abatement of Appeal :-. (2) The proceedings pending before the Commission shall abate on the death of the appellant”
In stark contrast, the CIC, in a full court meeting held on 13 September 2011, had passed the following Resolution:
1. The Central Information Commission expresses regret and takes note of the reported killings of and assault on RTI users across the country. The Commission underlines the need to take urgent steps by the respective Governments for the safety and protection of the RTI users. The Commission strongly believes that it is the duty and responsibility of the respective Governments to safeguard the life and liberty of the RTI users, for which purpose they should invoke the relevant penal provisions for the prevention and detection of such heinous crimes.
2. This Commission, therefore, resolves that if it receives a complaint regarding assault or murder of an information seeker, it will examine the pending RTI applications of the victim and order the concerned Department(s) to publish the requested information suo motu on their website as per the provisions of law.
3. This Commission also resolves that it will take proactive steps in ascertaining the status of investigations/prosecutions of the cases involving information seekers and endeavor to have these processes expedited.”
Condemning the murder of Haldankar, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has demanded that the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) monitor the ongoing police investigation. It has also sent a requisition to the Maharashtra State Chief Information Commissioner to call for all pending RTI applications filed by Haldankar before public authorities in Pimpri Chinchwad and direct them to proactively disclose all information in accordance with the RTI Act. CHRI has documented these attacks on a Google Map. Readers may visit the Hall of Shame.
Several activist and legal experts have asked for modification of Rule 12. RK Jain, President, Excise and Customs Bar Association, writes, “…the proposed Rule 12(2) thus needs to be suitably modified to provide that in the case of death of information seeker, who has sought information in larger public interest or against the corrupt practices, such information may be directed to be placed on the website of the concerned Department despite the death of the appellant, so that the purpose of silencing the information seeker is defeated.”
Writing in Swarajya, another legal expert, Madhumita D. Mitra, says, “For a government aiming to root out corruption, it should be obvious that allowing withdrawal/abatement will only strengthen the might of this venal public-private nexus. Every RTI application points to a lapse in governance, either by omission or commission, which subsists even after the death of an applicant. The final outcome of an information request instigates a service delivery or course correction, whether it is an individual’s personal grievance or a case of corruption and maladministration. Closing pending appeals/complaints in this manner not only undermines the purpose of the RTI application, but does disservice to the applicant’s family and to the benefit that may have accrued to public interest at large by the disclosure.
“Legally too, the proposed Rule 12 will not stand scrutiny. The Supreme Court has made clear in a 2013 judgment (Union of India vs. Namit Sharma) that IC proceedings under the RTI Act are purely administrative in nature, requiring a simple determination whether the requested information should be disclosed or not. It is not a civil or a criminal matter. Even under civil law, abatement of proceedings on death of a party is not absolute and heirs and legal representatives retain their right to sue. In criminal cases, the death of a complainant does not terminate the criminal proceeding and the magistrate can exercise his powers to decide whether the complaint should be dismissed or the accused acquitted or discharged.”
RTI activist Vijay Kumbhar says, “…the same rule existed in the 2012 Rules, which are set for amendment now and at that time too activists had vociferously registered their objections. Despite that, they have included the Rule 12 in the Draft Rules 2017. This is indeed treacherous of the government and a way of encouraging murder of RTI activists.”
Pondering on the grievous implications if Rule 12 of the Draft RTI Rules 2017 comes into force, Venkatesh Nayak, research scholar and programme coordinator of CHRI, says, “If the Central Government has its way, all RTI applications and appeals that Suhas Haldankar may have filed with public authorities would abate automatically on his death. The accused who battered him to death with cement blocks would attain a victory … Civil society actors have been demanding that the RTI Rules do not allow for the closure of appeals on the appellant’s death.”
RTI activist Lokesh Batra considers Rule 12 as “dangerous for appellants.”
The way out is to again file as many objections as we can.

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Mental Healthcare Bill 2013: The Politics of Silence that Eclipses Public Health Vision

Image Courtesy: Campus Diaries

Public health law advocates legislation as a key policy measure for realizing the equitable distribution of health as a public good. The Mental Healthcare Bill 2013 (MHB) was passed by the Rajya Sabha with 134 amendments on August 8, 2016. Subsequently, it is also passed by the Lok Sabha in the budget session of 2017. This is hailed as a promising new deal in mental health in India. While replacing the Mental Health Act 1987 and decriminalising attempt to suicide, it provides for the ‘protection of the mentally ill person’ and for realizing ‘the right to affordable and accessible mental healthcare without discrimination’ (at the public health care institutions). The feasibility of achieving such a goal in the current political orientation to public health in India needs critical consideration.

The ‘eloquent’ silence: The MHB is silent on the most critical factors necessary for achieving these objectives which includes financing mechanism, primary healthcare (PHC) level arrangements and the provision of legal- remedial measures for the violations of rights of persons with mental illness (PMI). The socio-political contexts and the political orientation provide a better perspective to decipher the criticality of this silence.

Much before the euphoria of MHB peters out; there is a compelling need to put the act together for a comprehensive vision. The fragmented civil society lobbying for piecemeal legislations needs to realise that more laws will not accrue more rights and that only a well-functioning comprehensive PHC system can effectively address special healthcare needs including needs of PMIs.

India’s public expenditure currently is a dismal 1.2 percent of GDP, among the lowest in the world. The High Level Expert Group (HLEG) report commissioned by the erstwhile Planning Commission of India in 2011 diagnosed this factor as the root cause of the malaise resulting in further impoverishment of the populations. National Health Accounts (2013-14) have described the root of the malaise in the resource allocation terms. In common parlance the per capita expenditure on health care is Rs.3638 of which about, 72% (i.e. Rs.2596) is out of pocket expenditure (spent by patients) and only 28 (Rs.1,042) percent is the expenditure by the government. This is by far one of the lowest public spending on health care as even governments in Kenya, Zambia, Kyrgistan and Sri Lanka spend comparatively more than this. The Lancet (May 2016) has drawn attention to the abysmal state of health care system including mental health care infrastructure. The Parliamentary Standing Committee Report makes the central government responsible for the allocation of funds and casts an obligation on IRDA for making insurance accessible for PMIs. The MHB is totally silent on both these counts! Where is the money going to come from if the total allocation is not increased? Now that the GST Bill is passed, will the Centre pass the buck to the states as was done in the original draft?

The MHB glosses over the socio-psychological dimensions of mental health and only deals with it as a medical problem needing institutionalization. A range of psycho-social arrangements need to be put in place at the PHC level as therapeutic measures such as skilled as well as barefoot counselors, sensitized and trained PHC level health care providers, before the intervention of a psychiatrist is deemed necessary. TheLancet (December 2015) had indicated ‘an integrated national health-care system built around a strong public primary healthcare (PHC) system’ supported by the private and indigenous sectors’ as the architectural change that was required. A third feature that MHB is totally silent on is the remedies for the violations of the rights of PMI, and access to care without discrimination in the private healthcare sector.

Need: a comprehensive – integrated vision: The federal polity has resulted in virtually ‘passing the buck’ making public health the biggest casualty. To make both the centre and states accountable, a suitable constitutional amendment to make health care a concurrent subject might be necessary. Health being a state subject, there are over a thousand legislations relating to health care in various states of India. Instead India needs a comprehensive law to monitor the public health care, regulate the private care and to ensure patients’ rights. Political will both to raise the healthcare budget to 3.5% of the GDP to be able to deliver as well as to transform and re-orient medical education to make available quality human resource for the public health care sector is a sine qua non even for meeting the mental health care needs.

Much before the euphoria of MHB peters out; there is a compelling need to put the act together for a comprehensive vision. The fragmented civil society lobbying for piecemeal legislations needs to realise that more laws will not accrue more rights and that only a well-functioning comprehensive PHC system can effectively address special healthcare needs including needs of PMIs. Even as the private drugs and medical lobby is just waiting to make mental illness a new business with an already assured market of 70 million people, the citizens need to be well guarded against a myth that drugs and psychiatrists alone will usher in mental health in the country! A PHC vision based integrated psycho-social and community mental health approach supplemented by a well-equipped mental healthcare institutions at the district and state levels will go a long way in ensuring ‘the right to affordable and accessible mental healthcare without discrimination’.

The article first appeared in

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Triple talaq: Woman sits on dharna outside husband’s house in Aligarh


In yet another shocking case of triple talaq, a Muslim woman sat on a dharna outside her husband’s house in Hamdard Nagar in Jamalpur area of Aligarh after she was divorced (through triple talaq) by her husband without even informing her.

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The woman who was identified as Rehana has called the talaq system as unjustified. (PTI)

In yet another shocking case of triple talaq, a Muslim woman sat on a dharna outside her husband’s house in Hamdard Nagar in Jamalpur area of Aligarh after she was divorced (through triple talaq) by her husband without even informing her. The woman who was identified as Rehana has called the talaq system as unjustified. She said that she will not accept the decision announced by her husband to whom she has been married for five years. She further added that she will fight for herself and for her four-year-old child’s rights in court.

According to the reports by NewsX, 27-year-old Rehana had a fight with her husband after which she went to her mother’s home in Bulandshahr and when she returned, she was shocked to hear from her neighbours that she has been divorced by her husband. She alleged that her husband beat her and threw her out of the house and even asked her to get an amount of Rs 1 lakh from her parents. Though now when she had returned, she said that she won’t leave the premises until she is allowed to enter. A case has been registered in this regard and police are investigating the matter.

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Meanwhile, incidents related to victims of triple talaq have been making headlines for quite some time. And since the formation of new government in Uttar Pradesh, scores of Muslim women and their representative organisations have urged CM Yogi Adityanath to frame a policy against the practice of triple talaq, which allows a Muslim man to divorce his wife just by saying ‘talaq’ thrice. Several reports have recently shown that many Muslim men even resort to innovative ways like WhatsApp, letter, ads in newspapers and voice call to divorce their wives.

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Abhay Deol calls out Bollywood on fairness cream ads, mocks Shah Rukh, Vidya, Deepika and Sonam

From SRK to Sonam, Shahid to Deepika, Abhay Deol destroys B-Town stars who act in racist fairness cream ads

Abhay Deol took to Facebook and called out actors who star in racist fairness cream ads. From Shah Rukh Khan to Deepika Padukone, Vidya Balan to Shahid Kapoor, Sidharth Malhotra to John Abraham, Abhay spared no one.

Abhay Deol (L), a fairness cream ad featuring Shah Rukh Khan (R)

Abhay Deol is mad as hell and he won’t take it anymore!

A month ago, ‘Nepotism’ had become the buzzword in Bollywood when Kangana Ranaut opened the debate by calling Karan Johar the ‘flag-bearer of nepotism’ in Bollywood on the show Koffee With Karan.

Now, Abhay Deol with his recent Facebook posts has successfully made ‘racism’ the buzzword.

A few weeks ago, a mob ganged upon young Nigerian men in a Greater Noida mall and physically assaulted them as the perpetrators believed the Nigerians to have a played a role in the death of a local. Soon enough, individual accounts of racism faced by Africans in India began to gain traction all across social media. A question was raised: Are Indians racist?

As the debate went on, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Tarun Vijay was caught with a foot in his mouth when he said, “If we were racist, why would we have all the entire south…Tamil, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra…why do we live with them? We have black people around us” in a televised video.

Abhay Deol today took to Facebook to highlight how fairness cream ads perpetuate and encourage racism and disdain for dark skin. What was notable was that these ads featured prominent Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Sidharth Malhotra, Deepika Padukone and Shahid Kapoor. Abhay did not mince words and called these actors out as well.

Here goes… Abhay Deol’s taandav on Facebook. Shah Rukh Khan and his mardo waali fairness cream wasn’t spared too.

Finally, Abhay Deol put out a statement on Facebook:

There’s a lot more of these campaigns that are blatantly, and sometimes subtly, selling you the idea that whiter skin is better than darker skin. No one at the top of their game in any field is going to tell you that it is demeaning, false, and racist.

You have to see that for yourself. You have to stop buying into the idea that a particular shade is better than others. Unfortunately if you look at matrimonial ads you will see how entrenched in our psyche this belief is. We even use the word ‘dusk’ to describe the colour of someones skin!While an individual may not be able to change this attitude in his/her community, he/she can at least start with the family.

At the same time, the actor also highlighted how celebrities like Nandita Das, Ranbir Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut and Randeep Hooda refused money that was offered to them to star in fairness cream ads.

Quite clearly, Abhay Deol has began a very important dialogue. What remains to be seen is how these actors respond.

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‘Unending story’ of struggle for respect

Stills from the movie, through which filmmaker Somnath hopes to tell a positive history of Dalits

BENGALURU: The battle of Bhima Koregaon in Maharashtra where the British defeated the Peshwas in 1818 holds a special place in the hearts and minds of the Mahars of that state.
According to history books, a Maratha force of 25,000 soldiers was defeated by a British offense that comprised of only 500 Mahar soldiers from the then Mahar regiment.

The battle is therefore not just representative of a physical defeat of the Marathas but a victory over upper caste tyranny and oppression. “Years on lakhs of people congregate at Bhima Koregaon to celebrate this victory every New Year,” says Somnath Waghamare, a filmmaker from Maharashtra who has just made a documentary on the significance of this battle. ‘The Battle of Bhima Koregaon: An Unending Journey’ is set to be released and screened on April 14 in the city at the Alternative Law Forum.

Positive History
Somnath says that his main aim is to tell this “positive history” of the Dalits to the whole world especially since people, in general, know so little about this particular event.”It is a great source of inspiration to the entire Indian Dalit movement,” says this sociology and media studies graduate from Sangli.
He says that he does not care about his own recognition or even making money out of the film. The aim is to put this piece of history out there for the people to understand its significance. “I am not making this film for any film festivals or to make money. I will be happy to screen the movie wherever I go and for whoever requests such as universities, colleges, societies, and NGOs or any place where the people can arrange for its screening,” he says.

A number of academic institutions such as the Jawaharlal Nehru University, Hyderabad Central University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences and a few IIT students have already got in touch with Somnath for the film’s screening. “It is mostly the Ambedkarite students and groups of these institutes who have called me,” he says.

Shooting for the film took place for six months in Pune, Kolhapur, Mumbai and of course Koregoan. Most of the movie’s post production was done in Bengaluru. The film also features interviews with Dalit personalities such as historian Prof Sachin Garud, journalist Mridula Chair, students and former veterans of the Mahar regiment.
This is Somnath’s second movie. He made a documentary on the phenomenon of witch hunting called ‘I Am Not A witch” chronicling the story of a tribal woman from Nandurbar, Maharashtra, who was charged with being a witch.

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Odisha – The path home remains closed for Ganjam’s Dalits

Fear rules:Jambu Naik (extreme left) at Mamudiha village with her family members.Special Arrangement

A generation after caste atrocities shook Balichhai village in Odisha, dozens of uprooted families are unable to return

Balichhai, a small village beside NH 59 in Aska block of Odisha’s Ganjam district, is just half a kilometre from Mamudiha, where Jambu Naik’s family lives in a rented house. Although they live away from it, for Ms. Jambu’s family, Balichhai is the ancestral home. Yet, neither she nor anyone else in her family has dared to visit it for 17 years now. Not even briefly.

During the year that the new millennium was born, Balichhai was in the grip of caste violence. In 2000, several Dalit families, including that of Ms. Jambu’s, had to flee the village to escape the wrath of upper castes.

Their homes were torched or smashed to rubble. They have not made bold to return for rehabilitation or to reclaim possession of their farm lands. The woman says blandly, “After losing almost everything, we had to spend our hard-earned income to get justice. But it looks like we have to accept that the battle is lost.”

Government records say 25 Dalit families deserted the village, but the unofficial count is double that.

These families are now scattered all over Ganjam district, in Balipadar, Kendupadar, Mamudiha, Jhagadei, Bhanjanagar, Jahada, Betarsing, Aska, Kodala and Rajapur.

Desolate hamlets

Some of them have also settled in Rourkela in Sundargarh district. Till 2012, these victims fought for their rights through demonstrations and appeals.

Yet, nothing much happened, diminishing their zeal, said Bhala Chandra Sadangi, adviser to Ganjam Zilla Dalit Samanwaya Samity, an organisation fighting for the rights of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes.

A visit to Balichhai shows lingering 17-year-old wounds. The place where houses of Dalit families existed has no signs of habitation except for a lone tubewell. Date palms have grown where SC families once lived. Agricultural land owned by Dalit families remains unused. But no one, including the elderly, is ready to speak about the violent caste animosity and its repercussions in 2000. Either they say they know nothing about it or that it is not something to be discussed with outsiders.

It all started with a quarrel at a village shop at Balichhai on February 20, 2000, said Ganapati Naik, a victim, who now lives at Balipadar with his family.

A Dalit youth, allegedly in an inebriated state, got into an argument with the upper caste shopkeeper, which subsequently turned violent. Animosity between the two sides aggravated, snowballing into violent clashes involving others. The house of a Dalit family was ransacked on April 4 that year. On August 12, another violent clash occurred, in which two Dalit youths were killed and five injured.

Homes ‘razed’

After this, the Dalits did not feel safe, and fled. It is alleged that the homes they left behind were razed by the upper castes. “At that time, our only thought was to save our lives, so we escaped, leaving behind all our belongings. Most of us did not even get time to pick up our clothes,” said Mr. Ganapati.

These homeless families were sheltered by friends and relatives elsewhere. Despite their being in dire straits, they collected funds to fight for their rights and rehabilitation. They approached the Odisha High Court, demanding legal action. In October 2003, the court directed the Ganjam Superintendent of Police to consider deployment of police to protect the families, their legal counsel, Sankar Prasad Pani said.

On June 25, 2007, MLA Laxman Munda’s question came up in the Odisha Assembly on the condition of 50 Dalit families who had become victims of caste violence at Balichhai. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who also held the Home portfolio and represents Ganjam district, said the State government had decided to provide Rs. 10,000 as compensation towards rehabilitation of each family. Six families had received the compensation, and others would be paid after identification.

The Chief Minister said some displaced families were staying in Rourkela, outside the district, and the Ganjam SP had been directed to provide security to families who wanted to go back to Balichhai.

The Bhanjanagar Sub-Collector, the Block Development Officer (BDO) and the Tahsildar of Aska were entrusted with the task of bringing peace and harmony to the village. In due course, a police outpost was opened. It still exists, but the victims have not yet returned.

Mr. Ganapati and seven others approached the Odisha Human Rights Commission (OHRC). Based on a news report, a lawyer, Radhakant Satpathy also filed a petition before the National Human Rights Commission, and the case was transferred to the OHRC. In its order on August 14, 2012, the OHRC cited different findings of authorities related to the Balichhai incident and action taken for rehabilitation.

The OHRC mentioned that the Ganjam SP, in a letter in 2009, had accepted that an intense tussle existed between upper and lower castes at Balichhai and that 25 lower caste families were driven out. With around 300 families, the village had an upper caste majority. Several peace committee meetings were held in the presence of the Collector, the SP, the Sub-Collector, the Tahsildar and the BDO. But no settlement was reached.

The SP indicated that the situation was not conducive for construction of houses for rehabilitation. The Ganjam district administration, however, sanctioned that 25 pucca houses be built on patta land of the Dalit victims under the ‘Mo Kudia’ or ‘Indira Awas Yojana’.

Meeting collapses

On May 5, 2012, at a meeting held on the premises of the Aska BDO to discuss rehabilitation, representatives of both communities were present. But the Balichhai residents demanded that the meeting must be held at their village in the presence of the Collector and the SP. The impasse continues. According to Mr. Ganapati, no major rehabilitative steps have since been taken.

The OHRC pointed out that residents could not dictate to the district administration on the venue of the meeting. The Commission closed the case, hoping that the displaced families could be rehabilitated.

Aska BDO Gayatridutta Nayak said he had taken charge about seven months ago and would look into the matter. But not much progress had been made, he acknowledged. Inspector in charge of Aska police station Baleswar Gidhi claimed that peace prevailed at Balichhai, while confirming that the displaced Dalits had not yet returned.

Civil suit

According to Mr. Pani, the displaced families of Balichhai could file a civil suit to claim their land property. “They can also be provided compensation under provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as well as special compensation on humanitarian grounds, which has not been done,” he added. He said it was the duty of the government to allay the fears among displaced Dalits, so that they could return.

According to Mr. Ganapati, most of those displaced earned their living from agriculture, which was lost when they left their ancestral land.

These families possessed around 50 acres in 43 plots, he said. Detached from their agrarian roots, these families had become labourers. Ms. Jambu’s husband, Panchu Naik, serves at village restaurants and she makes brooms for sale. Tuna Naik, who now resides at Mamudiha, became a migrant labourer, working in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. These families still hope that their land at Balichhai will be restored to them.

Mr. Ganapati and Ms. Jambu say several elders, who left Balichhai along with them, are dead and the victims, who were children in 2000, have now become youths looking forward to their future. These youths grew up detached from the village and have less interest in the property. But hopes of getting back what they lost in 2000 still remain fresh among the parents.

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Odisha: Bhadrak communal violence has taken many by surprise

There are uncanny similarities between the 1991 and 2017 violence, both happened during Ramnavami festival. Biju Patnaik was the chief minister during the 1991 riots while his son Naveen Patnaik happens to be CM during the 2017 riots.

Written by Debabrata Mohanty |

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Bhadrak: A scene after a communal tension broke out in Bhadrak, Odisha. PTI PhotoThe communal violence that erupted in Bhadrak town last Friday reportedly over a derogatory comment by a Muslim youth on Facebook may have taken a lot of people by surprise. However, the town with a sizeable Muslim population (about 40 per cent of its 1.21 lakh population) is a tinderbox for communal problems despite the apparent peace.

Unlike 1991, when a riot on Ramnavami claimed 17 lives, last weekend’s riot did not lead to the loss of life. But the impact has been as devastating with the violence effectively tearing apart the fabric of peace that existed in the town. There are uncanny similarities between  the 1991 and 2017 violence though. Both happened during Ramnavami festival. Biju Patnaik was the chief minister during the 1991 riots while his son Naveen Patnaik happens to be CM during the 2017 riots.

The riot was triggered after Muslim youths on April 5 allegedly posted vulgar remarks on Ramnavami. The following day, Hindus led by Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad gheraoed the town police station demanding the arrest of the persons forcing the administration to impose section 144 of CrPC. The next day a peace committee meeting between the two communities in the presence of local BJD MLA was called, but it ended in failure.

Even as prohibitory orders were in force, over 200 bike-borne Muslim youths allegedly went on a rampage, targeting shops owned by Marwari and Hindu traders which lined the arterial roads. Retaliation followed with the burning down of shops owned by Muslim traders. By Friday night, many shops in the main market area including vegetable shops, furniture shops, cloth shops, restaurants and roadside slaughter houses were burning. With the situation deteriorating, the state government imposed curfew in the town and rushed the home secretary, the director general of police and senior officials to the spot to control the situation. It even sent a new collector to take charge as the previous one had retired a week earlier. Four companies of central paramilitary force apart from 35 platoons of the state police spread through the town, keeping an eye on troublemakers.

Five days later, with over 100 arrests and 8 cases, the police are back in control of the situation. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today visited Bhadrak to review the situation and meet the riot-affected people. The police have arrested a Muslim youth, son of a small-time  BJD leader, over his inflammatory Facebook comment.

Bhadrak town had more Muslims than Hindus before 1990, but the influx of Marwari businessmen after 1965 changed the demographics and made it a Hindu-majority town. The Marwaris soon took over most business establishments and by 1991, when the first-eve riot happened, they monopolised the trading scene. In March 1991, when riots took place in the lead-up to the Ramjanmabhoomi movement, the shops, godowns and houses of Marwari businessmen were attacked along the main roads. The riots soon spread to Soro, another small town located nearby, where 16 persons died.

Since then, regular peacemaking efforts between the two committees had restored communal harmony to a large extent. However, over last few years the peace committee has been rendered defunct with the administration and local political leadership making little effort to rein in the hotheads in both communities. While Bhadrak did not see any communal tension last year, the sudden rise in Ramnavami processions from 47 in last year to 65 this year certainly played a role in raising the temperature. In September last year, in neighbouring town of Soro police had to impose curfew for three days due to pelting of stones on a procession for the immersion of Ganesh idols. The same month, Pattamundai town in Kendrapara district too continued to simmer as members of minority community opposed the use of loudspeakers and beating of drums in front of a mosque during an immersion procession of Ma Khudurukuni, a local deity. In the steel city of Rourkela, section 144 of CrPC was imposed after some miscreants hurled bricks at an idol of Lord Ganesha when the immersion  procession reached minority-dominated Nala Road.

The lack of a full time collector during the Ramnavami festival was also a reason cited for the current violence. The previous one was on leave for a week before he retired at the end March, thus making the district effectively headless for over a fortnight. On April 9, the government finally curbed the use of social media in the town and its environs. A team of cyber crime sleuths from the CID have now identified over 150 people who either forwarded messages or posted inflammatory photos and comments through social media that fanned the fires during the riot. Five of the 150 identified are now being interrogated by the cybercrime cell over their role in fanning emotions.

Last week’s riot was not as deadly as the 1991 one or the 2008 riots of Kandhamal, but had the rioters got more time and used social media a little more cleverly, there could have been casualties. In July last year, Rourkela saw similar tensions during Lord Jagannath’s Rath yatra when a boy posted an objectionable comment about the minority community in a WhatsApp group. Timely action of the local police and effective coordination between elders of both communities saved the city.

The 2017 riot of Bhadrak is a reminder of the challenges that administrations face in times of social media.

Odisha: Bhadrak communal violence has taken many by surprise

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Meerut: ​Hindu Yuva Vahini thrashes Muslim boy for `romancing` with Hindu girl #WTFnews

New Delhi: In yet another brazen act of moral policing, a young couple in Meerut was assaulted by Hindu Yuva Vahini workers on suspicion of ‘love jihad’. 

Hindu Yuva Vahini activists on Wednesday assaulted a couple on suspicion of love jihad. (Photo: ANI/Twitter)

 Hindu Yuva Vahini activists on Wednesday assaulted a couple on suspicion of love jihad. (Photo: ANI/Twitter)


Activists of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s saffron outfit Hindu Yuva Vahini barged into a house in the city on suspicion of religious conversion being carried out of a girl by the youth.

Justifying the action, a member of the outfit said, “We were brought to notice that such incidents are taking place in houses in this locality. People who do not belong from here have bought or rented out LIG flats here to carry out such activities. The boy caught has confessed that he visited the house to convert the woman’s religion from Hinduism and has been bringing her here in the past as well.”

It is still not clear whether there’s a police action over the entire incident.

Tomar told news agency ANI, “I have asked the police to take strict action as the Muslim boy was romancing with a Hindu girl in the house. He wanted to convert her religion. I also insist on taking strict action against the landlords, who give rooms on rent without proper verification.”

Earlier on Friday, the members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini forced the police to halt prayer at a church in Uttar Pradesh`s Maharajganj, alleging forced conversion.

Notably, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had last month assured that the anti-Romeo squads will not trouble couples who move around together with consent.

“I have received many complaints from the mothers, daughters, and sisters in the state of harassment towards them. We have assured them that we were are committed to their safety and security,” Yogi Adityanath had said.

Yogi Adityanath founded the Hindu Yuva Vahini in April 2002, on the day of Ram Navmi.

Last week, Police broke up a prayer at a church near Gorakhpur after a vigilante group founded by chief minister Yogi Adityanath complained that Hindus were being converted there.

Eleven male and female foreigners, including six Americans, and 150-odd local villagers were attending mass at the Mission Church in Dadhauli, Maharajganj district, at the time, the police said. Officers asked the foreigners to leave the village immediately.

Maharajganj superintendent of police Pramod Kumar said that members of the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a 15-year-old organisation accused in many cases of communal violence, had complained to the police about “dubious activities” at the church.

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ScoopWhoop co-founder Suparn Pandey accused of sexual assault by ex-employee #Vaw


Update: ScoopWhoop co-founder Suparn Pandey filed for anticipatory bail today, but was denied the same. The court, however, has told Delhi police that they will have to provide Pandey with 5 days notice before arresting him. When contacted for a comment, ScoopWhoop co-founder Sattvik Mishra said that the organisation would release a statement in the next few hours.

Since its inception, the viral sensation that is ScoopWhoop has made a consistent attempt to portray itself as a forward-thinking site for modern young Indians. In keeping with this image, the site is filled with progressive content, a lot of it geared towards women empowerment. In fact, ScoopWhoop went a step further with this by starting a feminist webzine, Vagabomb.




Today though, this women-friendly image is hanging by a thread. Catch has gained exclusive access to an FIR in which ScoopWhoop co-founder Suparn Pandey has been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault across a span of almost two years. The complainant, a former senior executive of ScoopWhoop Media Pvt. Ltd., has also accused other co-founders of ScoopWhoopSattvik Mishra and Sriparna Tikekar, of abetting the harassment, and even attempting to sweep it under the carpet.

ScoopWhoop co-founder Suparn Pandey has been accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

The FIR (No. 0117), filed at the Vasant Kunj (South) Police Station, Delhi, invokes section 354 A (sexual harassment), section 509 (insulting the modesty of a woman), and section 506 (criminal intimidation).

Instead of the light, fun, and progressive space that ScoopWhoop claims to be, the FIR paints a damning picture of an organisation that is anything but. In it, ScoopWhoop is shown to be an organisation with no clear systems of redressal for sexual harassment; one where co-founders condone each other’s transgressions, while conspiring to cover up their misdeeds. All of this, at the cost of employees.


In the FIR, the complainant, who worked at ScoopWhoop between 2015 and 2017, claims that her ordeal lasted for almost the entirety of her tenure at the company. She alleges that it began with verbal harassment from Pandey, who targeted her with “inappropriate comments and lewd remarks”. At one point, the FIR recounts, Pandey even went as far as to comment on the complainant’s sexuality.


“Mr. Suparn Pandey in public commented on my sexuality and this comment included calling me a names (sic.) which reflected on my sexual orientation and my sexual preferenes (sic.) as well as characterized me in a certain way”, states the FIR.

Pandey called me names which reflected on my sexual preferences and characterized me in a certain way

While in a lot of cases, such incidents go unreported, usually due to intimidation, in this case the complainant claims to have raised the matter initially with ScoopWhoop co-founder Sriparna Tikekar. While Tikekar allegedly assured her that such behaviour wouldn’t be repeated, she did not take any action against Pandey.


While the complainant tried to salvage the situation, steering well clear of Pandey, the FIR alleges that the company’s earlier inaction only emboldened Pandey. Under various pretexts, Pandey repeatedly got uncomfortably close, often trying to play with her hair. Pandey was even brazen enough to allegedly send her a lewd video on the company’s official Gmail chat.


‘Mr. Pandey got so bold as to send me a lewd video over the official Gmail chat, in which the words were “aapnu jeans dheeli karo”’, reads the FIR.



The complainant states in the FIR that, despite the inaction, she never stopped taking up the issue with the company’s founders. However, as she soon found out, while her complaints led to no repercussions for Pandey, she wasn’t nearly as lucky. According to the complaint filed, Mishra and Tikekar, turned on the complainant, publicly humiliating her and driving home the message that she “had no authority in this situation”.

From L-R: Suparn Pandey, Sriparna Tikekar, Sattvik Mishra

According to the complainant, Mishra and Tikekar even allowed for Pandey to show up to work drunk, a state in which he would repeatedly attempt to touch her. However, she knew she had to quit once Pandey’s sexual overtures reached a new, more distasteful low.


‘Mr. Pandey approached me after the meeting, between 8-9:30PM, when I was alone at my work desk and asked me to be less “aggressive” in my dealings with other people and learn to “pour some sugar on it.” That after that, he then got up, kissed my forehead and walked away,’ the complainant recounts in the FIR. Feeling “disgusted” and “physically violated”, she continued to reach out to Mishra and Pandey.
Despite this, she claims she was allegedly put in multiple situations where she was forced to work in close quarters with Pandey, and was “reprimanded and humiliated” when she refused. When she attempted to lodge a formal complaint, she alleges that she was dissuaded from doing so. She claims that she was eventually intimidated by the co-founders of the company, who threatened to hurt her career and defame her publicly. Following these events, she eventually resigned.


Catch reached out to the various people named in the complaint – Pandey, Tikekar, and Mishra – for their response to these allegations. While Mishra refused to comment immediately, Tikekar simply shut us out, with both calls and messages going unanswered. Pandey, the prime accused in the case, refused to comment, claiming he wanted “no visibility right now”.

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