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Archives for : September2017

Hyderabad: Chappals thrown at Dalit writer Kancha Ilaiah #WTFnews

Kancha Ilaiah under fire from Vysya community for his book

The Vysya associations are livid with Dr Kancha Ilaiah for his book titled `Samajika smugglurlu komatollu’ (Vysyas are social smugglers). Vysya associations are complaining that the title and some contents of the book are derogatory and offensive to the community.

 Kancha Ilaiah, Kancha Ilaiah attacked, Kancha Ilaiah book, Chappals thrown at Kancha Ilaiah, Kancha Ilaiah Hyderbad, Vysya community, Samajika smugglurlu komatollu, india news, indian expressThe Vysya associations are livid with Dr Ilaiah for his book titled `Samajika smugglurlu komatollu’ (Vysyas are social smugglers).

Dalit writer Kancha Ilaiah alleges attack by four people

The alleged attack on Ilaiah sparked tension between members of Arya Vysya caste and Dalits who came face to face.

Prominent Dalit writer and intellectual Kancha Ilaiah on Saturday filed a police complaint stating that four persons attacked his vehicle in the town and tried to kill him.

The alleged attack on Ilaiah sparked tension between members of Arya Vysya caste and Dalits who came face to face. However, the police averted any escalation in tension by dispersing the groups.

A police official said around 200 members of Arya Vysya community held a demonstration at Ambedkar chowrasta (crossing) in the town after they spotted Ilaiah’s vehicle. The writer was headed towards Hyderabad after attending a function at Bhupalpally.

The community is angry at Ilaiah over his book “Samajika Smugglurlu Komatollu” (Vysyas are social smugglers), and were demanding apology from the writer, the official said.

He said sensing trouble Ilaiah’s driver diverted the car to Parkal Town police station.

In his complaint, Ilaiah stated that four persons attacked his vehicle and tried to kill him, the official said, adding that no FIR was registered in the matter.

The situation became tense after protesters followed Ilaiah to the police station and laid a siege.

Meanwhile, members of dalit communities came to know about the incident and rushed to the police station. “Members of both the communities raised slogans against each other,” the official said.

Circle Inspector John Narsimhulu and other police personnel pacified the two groups and asked them to leave the campus of the police station.

However, both the groups gathered at the crossing and again started raising slogans, following which police personnel rushed to the spot and dispersed them.

The official said Ilaiah proceeded to Warangal city with a police escort.

Arya Vysya associations had held protests in Hyderabad earlier this month alleging that the title of Ilaiah’s book and some of its contents were “derogatory and demeaning” to the community and sought withdrawal of the book.

Following the protests, Ilaiah had lodged a police complaint alleging threat to life over his book.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/dalit-writer-kancha-ilaiah-alleges-attack-by-four-people/story-6lezJes8qPt85E2wNUmKuI.html

 

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The Rohingya: Abandoned, Persecuted, Lost – A Documentary

A documentary on the plight of the Rohingyas

For them, dignity – safety – well-being are pious words. For them, it’s a constant struggle – of their bare existence or, survival. The Rohingya has been a victim of denial and deprivation for ages, over occasions. The world requires to step up, to come forward, be part of the global ethics. As part of our non-profit mission, this short documentary sheds light on the fast escalating Rohingya crisis in the Northern Rakhine State of Myanmar spilling over Bangladesh.

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Bharatiya Janata Party’s Achilles’ Heel

Image result for Bharatiya Janata Party’s Achilles’ Heel

The ruling party’s neglect of the “rural” is proving to be fiscally and politically expensive.

With farmers in Rajasthan successfully securing a farm loan waiver to the tune of ₹20,000 crore from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, the fourth state government in the past four months to do this, similar agitations threaten to flare up in other parts of India. Does this suggest the beginning of a reversal of the BJP’s big-ticket reforms as fiscal and political liabilities rise in these states?

Farmers in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, primarily the districts of Sikar, Jhunjhunu and Churu, congregated on 1 September 2017 in Sikar for an indefinite, sit-in strike. This came on the back of several failed attempts, beginning June 2017, to flag the issue of abysmally low procurement prices following demonetisation, among several other problems plaguing agriculture in the region. Characteristically, the district administrations and state government refused to engage with the agitating farmers, seeking instead to disrupt the protests and farmers’ unity. This move backfired as the agitation, under the leadership of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) of theCommunist Party of India (Marxist)—CPI(M)—grew from strength to strength. The support base and participation of the agitation extended to include common citizens, business persons and traders in the district towns, various local service providers’ unions and the overwhelming assertion of women in enforcing curfews and shutdown in towns and villages.Unlike previous farmers’ agitations witnessed this year, the protest in Rajasthan mobilised all sections of rural society. This is a significant departure in the chain of rural unrestunderway in the country.

In the reform agenda of the BJP, rural India has seldomfeatured prominently. The party’s political action has been concentrated in urban pockets, with its core cadre of Brahmins and Banias wielding influence in the many big and smallbazaar towns and cities across India. It has had limited success in reaching out to rural masses until 2014, when the ruralvote decisively sided with the BJP purportedly due to theNarendra Modi wave. However, this support base appears tobe slipping away. This is possibly because for the BJP, the“rural” has never been an integral factor in formulating ordirecting reforms.

Agriculture continues to be the mainstay of the rural economy even after 27 years of liberalisation. The structural transformation of the economy has not led to a transformation of the country’s labour force, 60% of which continues to be engaged in agriculture that contributes no more than 15% of the gross domestic product. Lack of employment generation in the non-farm sector, inadequate infrastructural development in rural areas and the shrinking cover of state social security keep vast swathes of the labour force arrested in agriculture and allied services. Thus, the neglect of agriculture is tantamount to the neglect of the entire rural economy.

Three of the BJP’s recent policies—the ban on cow slaughter, demonetisation and the goods and services tax (GST)—have hit farmers and the rural economy directly. Demonetisation wiped away the all-important liquidity base of agricultural markets and farmers. In a year of bountiful crops, this led to a steady drop in prices for farm produce, leaving farmers with a gaping income deficit and an inability to sow in the next crop cycle. This explains the demand for loan waivers across the country, although the waiver only enables farmers to take new loans for the upcoming season. Secondly, in times of distress, the sale of livestock helps farmers tide over the immediate short run. However, the ban on cow slaughter and sale of cow meat, and the free reign of cow vigilantes have resulted in the nearcollapse of this market. The cost of maintaining cows has increased the numbers of stray cattle that destroy crops—a complaint which features in the agitating farmers’ list of demands in Rajasthan. Thirdly, the GST, which has hit the prospects of small businesses and service providers and thereby expanded the support base for this agitation from non-farm sectors, has also raised the cost of farm inputs for peasants. While the BJP may appear to have won the majoritarian discourse on the above-mentioned reforms, the emerging material outcomes could reverse this rhetoric.

If one sets aside the loan waivers in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, which were delivered as part of poll promises in the respective assembly elections, the only opposition party to mobilise and represent this wave of rural–agrarian agitations has been the CPI(M). The AIKS has been at the forefront of the mass strikes, formulation of demands and farmers’ negotiations with the state governments in Maharashtra and Rajasthan, and isslated to initiate the next agitation in Haryana. In the age of unorganised, informal employment, the revival of traditional trade union mobilisation taking the state to task over labour demands is heartening. The challenge for the Indian left isto be able to transform this moment into political returns and reverse its dwindling electoral fortunes. The challenge for the BJP, on the other hand, is to incorporate the rural in itsvision of a “new India.”

http://www.epw.in/journal/2017/38/editorials/bharatiya-janata-partys-achilles’-heel.html

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India – Passing Women’s Reservation Bill after two decades of stonewalling is the need of the hour

One-third quota in Parliament is the least we can do to free Indian women from patriarchy’s worst stranglehold.

ANGSHUKANTA CHAKRABORTY

Consider the question of “marital rape” – I put it within quotation marks because the Indian government doesn’t think it’s a real term or an actual issue. Now imagine a government operating in Parliament with at least 33 per cent of women legislators, empathising, if not sharing the experience that’s common to millions of Indian married women. Imagine the heft and the weight behind finally passing a legislation to criminalise sexual violence within marriage if 181 Indian parliamentarians — and one-third of the state legislative assemblies too — were women.

This is only a hypothetical example of the progressive, feminist, principled and egalitarian legislations that could be brought about if there were more women making laws, driving policies, shaping the narrative. And even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi is big on forever communicating how he envisions “women-driven” development, without parliamentary participation and a fulsome stake in lawmaking, that vision wouldn’t quite be actualised.

women_mps_2014-pti-3_092217053223.jpgThe history of the Women’s Reservation Bill is practically the history of its stonewalling, except in a brief moment of hurrah when it was passed in the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010, during the UPA-2 regime. Photo: PTI

The 108th Constitution Amendment Bill, also known as the Women’s Reservation Bill is exactly that stepping stone that would help make our state legislatures and Parliament a bit more equal in terms of representing men and women. Yet, unlike Justin Trudeau‘s government in Canada, which has 50 per cent women in the Cabinet — why? “because it’s 2015” — India, at best, can hope for 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament.

The history of the Women’s Reservation Bill is practically the history of its stonewalling, except in a brief moment of hurrah when it was passed in the Rajya Sabha on March 9, 2010, during the UPA-2 regime. Since then, seven years have passed and a regime change has happened at the Centre. Fortunately, both the Modi-led BJP government and the biggest Opposition party in Lok Sabha — the Indian National Congress — support the Women’s Bill. Yet, all the support notwithstanding, the political will has been so far lacking to see this extremely significant piece of legislation get passed in the Lower House.

Principles and complexities of Women’s Bill

Surprisingly, the women on the board of the Constituent Assembly that birthed our Constitution and the foundational laws, principles, rights we are still guided by “opposed” reservation of seats for women at all levels. Sarojini Naidu, one of the most prominent figures in the freedom struggle, had emphatically declared in 1935, during her presidential address to the All India Women’s Conference:

“We are not weak, timid, meek women. We hold the courageous Savitri as our ideals, we know how Sita defied those who entertained suspicion of her ability to keep her chastity… I will, however, confess to you one thing. I will whisper it into this loud-speaker. I am not a feminist. To be a feminist is to acknowledge that one’s life has been repressed. The demand for granting preferential treatment to women is an admission on her part of her inferiority and there has been no need for such a thing in India as the women have always been by the side of men in council and in the fields of battle.”

sarojini-naidu-2_092217053743.jpg‘The demand for granting preferential treatment to women is an admission on her part of her inferiority.’ Photo: CulturalIndia

Of course, Naidu’s invocation of Sita and Savitri — Hindu ideals of heteronormative, chaste, self-sacrificing married women — itself was a dead giveaway of her inherent upper caste, Hindu, majoritarian, privileged inability to see and understand how repression is a daily lived reality for millions of women all across India. Naidu’s assertion that “women have always been by the side of men” essentially acknowledged but couldn’t still comprehend the rendering invisible of women’s labour and contribution in family and nation-building, by denying them public roles, public spaces, public claims. Naidu’s assumption that independent postcolonial India would be a heaven of gender equality (while invoking Sita and Savitri) was naïveté of the most disturbing kind.

Hence, when the first election to Lok Sabha took place in 1952, no reservation of seats for women was deemed essential. Two decades later, in the 1974 Committee on the Status of Women in India, the resultant inequalities were laid bare. Hence, the CSWI recommended 30 per cent reservation for women in village panchayats, naturally to increase women’s participation and stake-hold in making decisions at the rural, local level, but rejected quota for women in higher legislatures.

Political scientist and noted Indian feminist critic Nivedita Menon elaborates on precisely this dichotomy in the history of Women’s Bill and its evolution in her book Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics Beyond the Law. Menon argues that CSWI had arguments both in favour of the Women’s Bill and against it, and ultimately the ones against bringing in quota at higher levels of legislatures outweighed those in favour.

Menon says that the arguments in favour were the classic feminist ones: a) political parties because of their “gendered patriarchal nature” were unwilling to give tickets to women candidates, therefore reservation was necessary; b) reservation would create a “women’s lobby” and that would mean heft and weight behind crucial feminist, progressive women’s issues and stronger women’s voice within Parliament; c) more women MPs and MLAs would mean the public discourse, narrative itself would eventually become more progressive, egalitarian.

However, the arguments against the Women’s Bill were vociferous and happened to be: a) “against the principle of equality” guaranteed by the Constitution; b) women are not a homogenous suppressed group like a particular caste, or a minority religion; c) women’s interests cannot be separated from the particular social group or strata; and, d) giving quota to women would precipitate demands from various other interest groups, communities, hampering national integrity.

Caste versus women?

Given that even in 2017, four decades after the CSWI report was published, the argument has stayed more or less the same, Menon deconstructs the ambiguities and the complexities in the Women’s Bill as a perception battle between upper caste/class feminism and the OBC/backward caste/Dalit men (and sometimes even women) in politics. This turning the reservation debate into marginalised castes versus women is a classic patriarchal ploy that’s peculiar to India and its panoply of community/caste identities that inform every fibre of the legislative and representational politics. This is precisely the reason why parties such as Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, and even Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party have been so vocally opposed to the Women’s Bill.

Of course, this is a false dichotomy because one set of struggles does not obliterate or render invisible the other, commensurate struggles in the battle for political representation. That’s why in the 108th Constitutional Amendment Bill – the one that was last tabled in 2008 in Lok Sabha – and as it was passed in Rajya Sabha in 2010 – includes one-third quota for OBCs and SC/STs in the seats reserved for women in Parliament and state legislatures. This is to underline the absolutely important fact that caste struggles impact women more because they are doubly hindered by their caste and gender identity, which can be corrected only by affirmative action in the legislative bodies.

Madhu Kishwar and the shadows of Naidu

Menon also debunks the argument put forward by right-leaning commentator Madhu Kishwar, who rehashes the Sarojini Naidu brand of political naïveté to de-emphasise the need for positive discrimination for women in higher legislatures in order to rectify the historical wrong. Kishwar maintained that Indian society is historically worshipping of women and chastises anyone who speaks ill of them in public. Kishwar puts forward a “pro-woman” argument against Reservation Bill, saying women don’t need it as they are strong enough. Clearly, Kishwar and her ilk live under a rock where gender equality is achieved not just in theory but also in practice by simply wishing for it, and yet, actively derailing any attempts at seriously reforming and reconstituting the highly skewed gender representation in the country at all levels, but especially in Parliament.

A history of stonewalling

When noted civil rights activist and former member of the now disbanded National Advisory Council, Aruna Roy, in an opinion piecelast year, demanded that the Women’s Reservation Bill should be passed immediately, she said that a legislature that fails to represent the changing ground reality of women’s participation in society and the political economy faces a “crisis of credibility”.

Roy wrote: “Poor participation of women in Parliament has a direct impact on the priorities and assumptions of policies and legislations. There will be a qualitative change in governance with the inclusion of women in decision-making processes. Political parties will have to, or will soon be forced to, recognise that if Parliament does not reflect contemporary trends in women’s education and excellence in varied fields, they will face a crisis of credibility.”

modi_sonia_story_647_092217053832.jpgThis is a golden opportunity for everyone in Indian politics to seize the moment and make Indian Parliament and state legislatures gender-balanced if not gender-equal. Photo: PTI

As a vocal feminist, she was echoing what most progressive women (and men) in the public sphere — whether in active politics or not — have clearly desired for years now. In fact, after the 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Bills that were passed in 1993, when one-third quota for women in village panchayats was legislated, the demand to see the recommendations of the National Policy for the Empowerment of Women being actualised was growing.

Hence, when the Deve Gowda-led United Front government tabled the Women’s Reservation Bill in 1996, it was a momentous decision, which nevertheless crumbled under the political inadequacy of the minority government. It wax sent to a joint parliamentary committee instead. Similarly, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government tried tabling it in 1998 and 1999, but it lapsed on both occasions, once again because the male caste warriors of NDA’s coalition partners saw it as something that will pull the rug from under their feet.

However, the Women’s Bill acquired a mythic burden. To the extent that the two of the big national parties — Congress and the BJP — included its passing in their common minimum programme. In 2008, UPA government, under the direction and insistence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, tabled it in Lok Sabha. It lapsed. In 2010, Rajya Sabha passed it and a coalition of women MPs – from across political parties – made an impromptu demonstration of (partial) victory and solidarity, as it crossed a crucial hurdle. This became known as the “Women versus Yadavs” moment in the history of Women’s Bill.

Numbers don’t lie

India is woefully behind in the global indices of women’s participation in legislatures. The 15th Lok Sabha has only 11.4 per cent of women MPs, the highest ever, but terribly low when compared to Sweden (47 per cent), Bangladesh (19 per cent), Pakistan (20 per cent), United Kingdom (25 per cent), etc. Even our South Asian neighbours are ahead of us and by miles when it comes to gender equality in Parliament.

According to the Human Development Index 2015 on gender inequality, India is at a dismal 131 of 148 countries. That’s disgusting, given our perpetual boasts of being an Asian super power, a nuclear power and other such claims of hollow militaristic nationalism and conditional territoriality. Women still are rendered invisible routinely when it comes to credit-sharing, or claiming stake in law-making, holding the reins of the national destiny.

If PM Narendra Modi is even remotely serious about passing the Women’s Reservation Bill, he should do it soon, and perhaps in the Winter session of Parliament this year. As Sonia Gandhi’s letter to PM Modi highlights, the architects of this Bill have been very many people, but mainly they have been the tireless champions of women’s rights in India, the hardcore feminists, the legal challengers, the pioneers of gender-balanced worldview in India, which is increasingly falling prey to regressive and misogynist politics under the garb of Hindutva hypernationalism.

sonia_092217052429.jpgCongress president Sonia Gandhi’s letter to PM Narendra Modi. PC: Twitter

This is a golden opportunity for everyone in Indian politics to seize the moment and make Indian Parliament and state legislatures gender-balanced if not gender-equal. Pass the Women’s Reservation Bill, PM Modi. History might be slightly kinder to you for doing just that.

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/womens-reservation-bill-indian-women-marital-rape/story/1/19658.html

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Senior journalist KJ Singh, mother murdered in Mohali

Police said KJ Singh (right) was found with his throat slit, while his mother, Gurcharan Kaur, is believed to have been strangled.

PUNJAB Updated: Sep 23, 2017 18:14 IST

KJ Singh’s (right) murder came to light around 1pm when a visitor went inside the house after getting no response at the gate.
KJ Singh’s (right) murder came to light around 1pm when a visitor went inside the house after getting no response at the gate.(HT Photos)

MOHALI: One of Chandigarh’s senior journalists, K J Singh, 64, and his 92-year-old mother, Gurcharan Kaur , were found murdered in their home in Mohali on Saturday afternoon. Unidentified men are believed to have entered the house in Phase 3B2 late on Friday night and attacked the duo who lived by themselves in the house.

While Singh, who had wor ked with TOI between 2000 and 2005, was found lying on a bed on blood-soaked sheets, Kaur was strangulated. The attackers stabbed Singh five times in the stomach and also slit his throat. Valuables, including a car, wallets, a TV and Singh’s cellphone, were missing. During his long journalistic career, Singh had worked with top newspaper editions in Chandigarh, including TOI, The Indian Express and The Tribune. He had left the profession about eight years ago to look after his mother.

Mohali SSP Kuldeep Singh Chahal said, “The accused persons took away a Ford Ikon car and an LED TV from the house, besides some jewellery that Gurcharan Kaur wore daily”.

Singh’s wallet and cell phone are also missing.He was not in habit of keeping cash at home and mostly used debit and credit cards for payments, said family members.

Chahal, however, refused to attribute the murders to robbery as a number of valuables, including cameras and laptops, were left untouched by the killers. Senior police officials told TOI that they were not discounting the possibility of there being some other motive behind the gruesome killings and would be able to give more details only after further investigation into the matter.

The double murder came to light at around 12.30pm on Saturday when Singh’s nephew, Ajay Pal Singh, and Singh’s sister, reached the house to deliver lunch. When no one answered the doorbell, they entered the house by re leasing the latch of the metal door. They found blood on the floor and tried calling on Singh’s phone which was switched off.They then called the cops.

Police officers believe that Singh was stabbed in the stomach multiple times as soon as he opened the door to the intruders on Friday night.

Forensic experts told TOI that from the blood stains and signs of struggle, it seemed as if the intruders left Singh on floor assuming he is dead and then attacked his mother. The investigators believe that Singh got up after he was stabbed and walked to his room with blood still coming out of his stomach. The intruders may have followed him there and slit his throat.

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SIT formed

On directive from Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, police set up a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the double murder.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/punjab/senior-journalist-kj-singh-mother-murdered-in-mohali/story-lljShIjYJVWCbvgqs6XL1K.html

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#GORKHALAND DEMAND: Three GJM Leaders Arrested From Gurugram

from facabook

In a most undemocratic manner a team of CID officers from West Bengal have arrested three senior Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) leaders from Gurgaon; Haryana on 22ndSeptember 2017 in connection with Bhanu Bhavan (Darjeeling) violence case. Mr. Dhan Kumar Pradhan, Mr. Tilak Chandra Roka and Mr. PT Ola have been arrested by the CID. All those who have been arrested had met Home Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh in Delhi on 20th September 2017. They have been arrested from sector 56 of Gurgaon in Haryana. As reported that they brought to Kolkata on transit remand.

 

Mr. Chandra Roka is the Chief Advisor of planters Associations, while Mr. DK Pradhan is the newly elected Municipal Chairman of Darjeeling Municipality. Mr. Ola is the former Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Sabhasad from Ghoom-Jorebunglow.

 

A five member delegation of GJM as well as Mr. SS Ahluwalia, MP Darjeeling, had met Mr. Rajnath Singh recently. Along with Mr. Roshan Giri and Mr. Swaraj Thapa, these three leaders too were a part of the team. During the meeting, the GJM delegation had raised the issue of Gorkhaland and the need for a tripartite dialogue to resolve the long pending demands of the Gorkhaland. The members had also sought immediate central intervention to end the indefinite strike.

 

However, as per CID sources, they had procured an arrest warrant against them. A warrant was issued against GJM chief Mr. Bimal Gurung, his wife Ms. Asha Gurung and six other party leaders including these three senior leaders in connection with the Bhanu Bhawan case, which was registered at Sadar police station of Darjeeling after GJM supporters clashed with police outside the government office on 9th June 2017.

 

Reports says that the GJM leaders have been arrested under sections 147-149 (rioting with arms and unlawful assembly), 153-153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 323-326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt), 332-353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant), 436 (mischief by fire and explosive substance), 506 (criminal intimidation), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and a few other sections of the Indian Penal Code. Sections of the West Bengal Maintenance of Public Order Act (WBMPO) and Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act (PDPP) were also imposed.

 

The GJM recently saw a breach in its ranks after Mr. Binay Tamang, the party’s then chief coordinator participated in talks with Chief ministerMamata Banerjee. He was subsequently expelled by Mr. Bimal Gurung.

 

MASUM issuing this statement to express its serious concern regarding the continuity of onslaughts on the protests by the agitating Gorkhaland separate state supporters with heavy hands of West Bengal Government’s machinery denouncing the democratic and human rights doctrine. The gruesome killings at Darjeeling hills by the men in uniform from different hues and infringement of Constitutional rights of the populace is another major concern of MASUM.  The hill of Darjeeling is under seize of Central Forces as well as the West Bengal provincial police for more than three months. On the other hand the government blocked internet services on 17th June 2017 and ban continues till date; which is clear violation of Article 19 of Indian Constitution.

Demand for Gorkhaland separate state is a political demand and having sanctity within the international conventions like Article 1 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights as well as our domestic constitutionality under Article 3 of Indian Constitution; thus the impasse should be solved through dialogue. The country experienced several agitations for separate statehood from its independence to till date and in almost all such instances the then provincial governments and union government tried to curb those movements by brute force but later gave in before the popular demand and new provinces have been demarcated within democratic set up.

 

MASUM wishes that sobriety will prevail over the West Bengal government and they will initiate a dialogue with the agitating faction of Gorkhaland movement without imposing any conditions and settle the issue under democratic and constitutional ambit of the country.

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What Ravana, Duryodhana can teach India’s leaders

What drove Ravana, a good king, and Duryodhana, who could match Bhima on strength and valour to ruin?
Arrogance, points out Arundhuti Dasgupta.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

 

Speaking truth to power has always been perilous.

Never more so now than before it would seem, given the death of a journalist who took political leaders to task, the ordeal of two women to put a rapist spiritual leader behind bars and the daily ignominies being heaped upon people who dare to choose a narrative that deviates from those who wield power.

That power breeds arrogance is a universal given.

Ravana, a good king and a devout Shiva bhakt, was undone by his arrogance.

As was Duryodhana who could match his cousin Bhima on strength and valour and almost every other human trait.

But arrogance got the better of him, driving him to ruin.

Power also breeds intolerance; it fosters disdain for all who have an opposing view or interfere with the ways of the powerful.

Numerous examples are found in ancient texts about angry sages and wilful gods who burnt rivals to cinders for minor transgressions.

But as is the case with all such narratives, the stories convey the point of view of one set of narrators.

However, folk traditions in all ancient cultures offered an alternative telling of the stories where the good deeds of Ravana or the compassion of Duryodhana were often subjects of admiration.

This was an indicator of the popularity of the stories and the characters; and the resilience of the prevalent cultural framework that did not fear the other side enough to stamp out all dissenting voices.

Storytellers, writers and poets have taken great liberties with the popular narratives of the epics in the past.

While Ram the hero turns into an avatar of Vishnu and a god in the larger national narrative; there are plenty of stories and songs (usually sung by women) about Ram as a cruel husband, a boastful king and an uncaring brother.

The existence of many versions or tellings of these stories served as useful counter-points to more popular narration of events and they also managed to create a way of life that was comfortable with diverse opinions.

The coexistence may not always have been harmonious, but it was not a case of ‘My way or the guillotine’.

Interestingly, even the mainstream narratives were not blind to the inherent flaws in powerful heroic characters.

Some narratives gave heroes a back story and thereby justified their actions while others served up their life stories as warnings to future heroes.

Unfortunately, neither has knowing the past, nor having lived with many versions of the past, worked as an antidote against future tyrants. Especially powerful males, be they kings, priests or leaders in any field.

For example, there is a part historical, part mythical narrative popular in parts of Bengal about an astrologer of some renown called Varahamihira. He was regarded as the final word on astrological predictions and counted many kings from many distant regions among his patrons.

As he grew powerful, he grew arrogant and intolerant, but it so happened that he met his comeuppance in his daughter-in-law.

Her name was Khana and she turned out to be an even greater astrologer than him and soon people began seeking her out, instead of him.

Unable to bear this, he went up to his son and asked him to rein in his wife.

The punishment to be meted out for her arrogance at assuming a greater role than her father-in-law was that her tongue be cut.

And so Khana spent her life with a half stutter that was understood only by her husband. He went on to propagate her teachings that are popular among people in the region even today as Khanar vachan.

In ancient Greece, the poet Sappho was known for her erotic poetry. She wrote odes to many pagan goddesses, but the Church saw this as homo eroticism and burned her books many years after her death.

Sappho is perhaps one of the early victims of religious hegemony.

 

 

Power or the version that we live with today seems to hate dissent.

The powerful see any questioning or their authority as a sign of revolt.

Irony is that those in positions of power who unfailingly invoke the country’s great past on every occasion tend to ignore the other great traditions of the region.

To quote the prime minister who recently held forth on the Indian tradition of samvad: ‘Dialogue is the only way to cut through deep rooted religious stereotypes and prejudices,’ he said in a video message in August 2017.

Unfortunately, the truth lies in the practice, not the preaching.

http://www.rediff.com/news/column/what-ravana-duryodhana-can-teach-indias-leaders/20170923.htm

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Maharashtra hasn’t overcome its primordial and divisive caste proclivities

Maratha Kranti Morchas

In the shadow of caste

Hailed as the cradle of the Indian renaissance, Maharashtra hasn’t overcome its primordial and divisive caste proclivities

This country is broken into a thousand pieces,

its cities, its religion, its castes.

Its people, and even the minds of the people

— all are broken, fragmented.

—Bapurao Jagtap

(This Country is Broken, translated by Vilas Sarang)

  • Medha Khole, a senior scientist at the India Meteorological Department (IMD), lodged a police complaint accusing her cook Nirmala Yadav of concealing her caste and posing as a Brahmin woman for a job. Khole said she required a married cook from the Brahmin community to prepare food on special occasions like the Ganesh festival and during the puja in memory of her deceased parents.
  • Bhalchandra (Bhau) Kadam, a popular Marathi theatre and film actor, was at the receiving end of his Buddhist-Dalit community when Kadam installed an eco-friendly tree Ganesha idol, which some Ambedkarites claimed went against the 22 vows prescribed by Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar for his followers while renouncing Hinduism and adopting Buddhism. One of these includes not worshipping Hindu Gods like Ganpati.
  • Since last year, Maharashtra’s caste cauldron has been on the boil after members of the dominant Maratha community organised a series of silent Maratha Kranti Morchas. Demands included quotas and preventing the misuse of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Non-Marathas, including Dalits, retaliated with similar Bahujan Kranti Morchas.

The darkness, as the cliché goes, lurks at the bottom of the lamp. Maharashtra, hailed as the cradle of the Indian renaissance, having produced social reformers like Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Ambedkar, Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj and Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, has not been able to overcome its primordial and divisive caste proclivities.

Despite the march towards a globalised economy, where old barriers are breaking down and new reference points are being created, the inhuman and unnatural system of caste may be a bit like the law of thermodynamics — something that cannot be destroyed but that which changes form.

(Left) Medha Khole; (Right) Bhalchandra (Bhau) Kadam

(Left) Medha Khole; (Right) Bhalchandra (Bhau) Kadam

Superior by default

“We need to question the notion that caste has been rooted out from the educated sections. These people take recourse to many substantive ways to reinforce the caste system,” noted Deepak Pawar, assistant professor, department of civics and politics, University of Mumbai. Though inter-caste and inter-religious marriages take place, such couples are in a minority, he adds. Such matches are also difficult in a rural milieu.

“There is a section of Brahmins that has become more vocal after the BJP came to power… as the organisations providing ideological support to it are seen as those of Brahmins or pro-Brahmin. Conservative Brahmins who were in hibernation have secured a new lease of life. They feel Brahmins are superior by default,” said Pawar.

Hari Narke, professor and head of the Mahatma Phule chair at the Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), noted that while Khole had the right to observe sovale (purity rituals) in the confines of her home, she could not discriminate on grounds of caste or gender.

“Bhau Kadam has accepted his mistake. He has his personal freedom but it was morally wrong to install a Ganesh idol while being a follower of Babasaheb,” said senior Dalit activist and litterateur Arjun Dangle, while adding that any threats to him, including those for expulsion from the community, were wrong.

“Since Buddhism is part of an Indic tradition, some Hindu customs remain part of it. The growing hardline sentiment among Buddhist Dalits is harmful. They are within their rights to protest against Bhau Kadam, but the aggressive manner in which his apology was forced is wrong. The decline of the Ambedkarite movement and politics has left the youth with little constructive to do, which leads them to this path,” noted an Ambedkarite intellectual.

He pointed out how the Dalit-Ambedkarite movement, which was once a potent social, intellectual and political force and birthed an avant-garde genre of literature, had been weakened. The Dalit middle class largely remains passive about socio-political movements, is more interested in religious and cultural affairs and seeks upward socio-economic mobility instead of providing intellectual leadership to the movement.

However, there are some who disagree. “The Constitution grants freedom to practice one’s religion but not for deviousness. Bhau claims to be a Buddhist and also tries to pass off as a Hindu,” said Ambedkarite blogger MD Ramteke.

He explained that the first qualification of an Ambedkarite was rejecting the (Hindu) gods and religion which forced them to suffer for ages. “Bhau Kadam’s case is that of double standards. In case of devious behaviour, some backlash from the society is but logical,” said Ramteke.

“The Khole episode shows how Hindus are divided… However, many Brahmins came out against Khole’s behaviour,” said Republican Party of India (RPI) leader Avinash Mahatekar.

Reasons for resurgence

Pawar noted that social media served as a medium of casteist expression and for buttressing existing notions. “On one hand, we see inter-caste and inter-religious marriages while on the other hand, social attitudes are becoming more rigid,” he said.

Pawar explained that despite the universalisation of education, the decline of liberal arts and social sciences had contributed to the present state of affairs. “Hence, Ambedkar’s followers talk about him without reading his works while educated Hindus working in the IT sector still cling on to superstitions,” he said.

The spatial integration across classes and communities in shared living spaces like chawls and lower and middle-class housing are being replaced by gated communities where people belong to just one class. “People are unable to think outside the rigid confines of their caste,” he rued, adding that niche Dalit newspapers often targeted those like Kadam who celebrated Hindu festivals.

Activists admit that like the protagonist in Baburao Bagul’s famous short story Jenvha Mee Jaat Chorli Hoti (When I was forced to conceal my caste), cooks and domestic help are often forced to lie about their caste or religion to get employment.

Writer-activist Sanjay Sonwani said the new moral order and popular media post-liberalisation had chosen to project only middle and upper-middle class culture while rejecting the plight of the poor and working classes. “This combined with consumerism has created an economic, cultural and social gap which feeds such feelings,” he explained.

Warning signs?

Stating that such incidents were warning signs for Indian society, which is progressing towards becoming a nation than just being a geographical entity called a country, Yuvak Kranti Dal founder Dr Kumar Saptarshi said this indicated that caste, which was unique to Indian society, was re-surfacing.

Saptarshi said that the “Khole incident has proved that impact of Manusmruti and the ego of upper castes still prevails while the Kadam incident has shown that followers of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar are not influenced by him in the real sense.”

Mahatma Gandhi had successfully argued that India was one nation and the basis for this argument was the rich, old culture it possessed. After attaining Independence, the process of doing away with erstwhile princely states and reducing the gap between different castes and communities to evolve as a society is going on.

Saptarshi, however, noted that such stray incidents were to be welcomed since they “ring a caution bell to remind all of us to march on the journey of nation-building which would result in creating a modern nation.”

Saptarshi said that it was interesting to note that Maratha organisations were condemning Khole and organising protests since the victim was a Maratha. But in Bhau Kadam’s case, Saptarshi said, “these organisations are not coming forward so strongly to condemn the boycott on Kadam because he is not a Maratha. Obviously, this is bringing to the fore the strong clutch of caste on our society.”

Brahmin bashing?

Terming the entire episode as uncalled for, Moreshwar Ghaisas, the in-charge of Ghaisas Guruji Ved-Paathshala in Pune said Hinduism or religion per se did not define any rituals for sovale or purity.

Ghaisas said Khole had provided yet another opportunity for Brahmin bashing. “Those accusing Khole of being casteist are silent on the Bhau Kadam episode,” said Ghaisas, adding this was because Brahmins did not have a nuisance value and would not retaliate violently. This led to them being subject to attacks after stray examples like that of Khole.

Ghaisas said bringing religion into the public domain leads to such tensions and boosts caste-related egos. He said true religion does not provide any scope for such tensions on the basis of caste.

Social dumbing down

“Peoples’ understanding of caste and religion is shallow which prompts such behaviour. Khole’s choices came from her outdated religious values, which overtook the scientist in her… the reactions in the Bhau Kadam case reveal a hardline neo-religiosity too,” said Sonwani.

He added that while Ambedkar, an organic intellectual, had stressed on the spirit of inquiry, some of his followers were becoming rigid and hide-bound. “There is a rise in intellectual shallowness and education is not working as an antidote,” he lamented.

INDIAN RENAISSANCE

  • Maharashtra has a rich tradition of social reform and has produced icons like the warkari saints, Mahatma Jyotiba Phule, Savitribai Phule, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Rajarshi Shahu Maharaj, Tarabai Shinde, Justice MG Ranade, Maharshi Vitthal Ramji Shinde, Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, Raghunath Dhondo Karve.
  • Much before the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci propounded his theory of cultural hegemony, Mahatma Phule tried to break with the culture and iconography of the upper castes and create an alternate value system for Bahujans (a conglomeration of non-Brahmins) through his Satyashodhak Samaj
  • http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-in-the-shadow-of-caste-2547684

Related posts

India – Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace: Reflections on the Private Sector  #Vaw

By-Anagha Sarpotdar

This article is focused on implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 in the private sector. It is a sequel to an EPW article published in 2013 which put forth that compliance by the private sector organisations to the Supreme Court Vishakha guidelines (1997) was poor and absence of legislation worked to the advantage of employers. Three years since enforcement of the 2013 Act sexual harassment of women persists and continues to be one of the critical issues faced by the private sector (Krasta, 2017; Jha 2017; TNN, 2017; Voices of Women, 2017). These published complaints demonstrate minimum attention by employers for prevention and resolution of sexual harassment which has led the complainants approach social media or law enforcement agencies such as police for help (Mishra, 2017; Financial Express, 2017; Hakim 2017). I argue that this situation has arisen primarily due to certain practices within the private sector with reference to implementation of the 2013 Act. Present article will be highlighting such fundamentally flawed practices which will in turn reveal callous mindset of the employers. These practices not only violate spirit of the 2013 Act but demonstrate hollow commitment by the private sector to deal with the issue.

  • Awareness Generation and Capacity Building – Sexual harassment at workplace emerging from gender discriminatory attitudes is a complex interplay of gender, power and sexuality (Pillai and Goswami, 2016; Thomas, 2016; Roper, 2017; Elting, 2017). Vibrant discussions on these aspectsought to be a starting point for a prevention initiative with employees. However compelling large number of employees to go through mundane online content is a dangerous trend. Though usage and popularity of online modules is justified basis their low cost and accessibility for organisations that have geographical spread, negative effects of online training were confirmed by a team of US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which discovered that training done over the last 30 years did not yield expected results. It failed to act as a prevention tool because it was symbolic compliance to law more focused on warding away legal liability rather than putting end to sexual harassment. There was little effort to actually reduce discrimination or harassment towards women (Levin, 2016; Feldblum and Lipnic, 2016). Researches done in the US cited similar negative and harmful effects of online modules consisting of cartoons and unreal examples. Such trainings made men less capable of perceiving inappropriate behavior. They were more likely to blame victims (Cueto, 2016) as they were not able to relate to the cartoonish examples thereby leading to lack of self reflection (Reid, 2016). Section 19 of the 2013 Act mandates that workshops or awareness programmes for employees to be organised by employer. In March 2017 the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) of Government of India (GOI) published a training module on its website making it obvious that the awareness generation is to be done through classroom sessions. Contradictory to this method many employers in India are choosing to use online training modules to generate awareness (Phadnis and John, 2014; Singh, 2014). Propaganda for usage of online training can be understood from the EY (2015) survey which revealed that out of total surveyed companies 46% of companies did not have online modules for training new employees. From this it can be derived that remaining 54% of surveyed companies were carrying out awareness programs in some manner and probably using online modules for creating awareness. On one hand while there is dismal performance on part of employers to create awareness amongst employees (Bhattacharya, 2015; Vyas, 2017; INBA, 2017) any effort to create awareness should be counted. But most online awareness content available in India is simplistic and generalised due to absence of nuanced understanding on the issue. It leaves out grey areas related to the issue and law thus has potential of doing negative messaging due to absence of in person facilitation (Joy, 2015). It is important that Indian employers learn lessons from the US. Need of the day is that the government monitors contents and mode of awareness sessions happening in private sector to ensure that employers are investing resources in live facilitators who use real life examples, discuss nuances and address complex issues related to gender relations at workplace.

 

  • Selection of External Member for Internal Committee and Recognising Their Role – Vishakha judgment (1997) came into existence due to exceptional efforts of the women’s rights organisations and lawyers. They drew from the life example of Bhanwari Devi, a village level volunteer employed with the Rajasthan state government programme and extended the argument regarding protection of women from sexual harassment to all working women in India (Sood, 2006). This intervention by the activists was duly recognised by the Supreme Court of India in the Vishakha guidelines (1997) by mandating presence of an NGO member with then Complaints Committee. This unique provision has been retained in the 2013 Act which helps understand that appointment of an outside member is important to Committee functioning. The 2013 Act mandates that the external member should be either from an NGO or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment. Contrary to these parameters mandated by the Act and above mentioned expectations elucidated by the Court, certain moves are being done to nullify the provision by inviting graduates of any discipline to be trained as external members with an assurance that a ready list of names would be shared with employers for choosing external members (B.PAC and ComplyKaro, 2017). Role to be played by the external member was elaborated by a 2014 judgment by the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court which specified that the external member is independent and impartial person who will command respect and compliance to the law from influential management. Kapur (2013) stated that the external member brings in knowledge, skill and capacity to ensure that the processes are done in a professional and unbiased manner. Presence of a novice or a person not having relevant field experience could lead to lack of just and fair Committee proceedings. This can prove to be injurious to the interest of the complainant and affect trustworthiness of the IC. Therefore it is needed that the 2013 Act is amended to include criteria for appointment of a credible and experienced external member plus their responsibilities.

 

  • Zero Reporting of Sexual Harassment and IC Functioning –  Large scale surveys done across India done by Saheli (1998), SARDI (1999), Sanhita (2000), Sakshi (2001), Lawyers Collective-ILO (2002), Yugantar (2003), CFTI (2010), OXFAM (2012), Sharma (2014), INBA (2016) and media reporting till date i.e. Alavi (2017), Gole (2017) confirms thatthat majority of women employees do not report sexual harassment prominent reasons being lack of confidence in the organisation including redress mechanism, low awareness about law and procedures, threat of professional victimisation apart from fear of ridicule, stigma, embarrassment. This highlights inadequate efforts by the employers and ICs to create assurance in women employees which could be counted as the foremost reason for low or no reporting of sexual harassment. Conversely low or zero reporting is used to justify the passive approach taken by the IC’s. Such convenient but damaging positions taken by the ICs keeps the vicious cycle of low or zero reporting going. It is important to note that in May 2016 there was an amendment to the 2013 Act wherein nomenclature was changed from Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to Internal Committee (IC). This amendment entails that the IC is longer only a complaint resolving mechanism but should work as per key objective of the 2013 Act i.e. prevention of sexual harassment. Expansion in the role of the IC demands broadening its scope from being idle body waiting to receive complaints to proactively undertaking prevention initiatives which will generate awareness about rights of women employees guaranteed by law and raising their confidence to report incidents of sexual harassment. This will help break silence around the issue and enhance reporting of sexual harassment. Therefore the format of the Annual Report as laid down by Rules of the 2013 Act should include number of IC meetings held periodically to discuss prevention strategy.

 

  • Role and Responsibilities of Employers

 

Rape and murder of a woman employee In December 2005 by driver of taxi provided by employer (Raghu, 2005) and another one in 2017 for having resisted advances from a security guard placed on company premises (Hindustan Times, 2017) are two glaring examples of underlying problems created due to careless approach by employers especially in the context of contractual services. Each of the above mentioned instances of sexual harassment and assault generate nationwide vigorous discussion on safety of working women where in the focus is invariably on tough security measures, round the clock surveillance and joint functioning of police and contractual security (Joshi, 2017; Mukherjee, 2017). However the core issue regarding lack of safety audits by companies functioning as contractors / vendors and principle employers availing their services finds no place in the discourse. The discussion regarding responsibility of creating awareness on sexual harassment among contractual employees which rests solely on the principle employer is absent. None of the agencies including contractors and principle employers are seen investing resources for prevention of sexual harassment while women employees are endangered in the face of sexual assault and life threatening situations. Neglect of duties by the principle employer amounts to not complying with the 2013 Act wherein as per Section 2 (g) (iii) the principle employer fulfilling obligations laid down by the Act is bound to performing duties of employer mandated by Section 19 while as per Section 2 (f) a person employed at the workplace through a contractor with or without the knowledge of the principle employer will be counted upon as an employee i.e. his behaviour and her safety is responsibility of the principle employer. Therefore it of utmost importance that necessarily a clause in the service agreement should be included by the principle employers whereby the contractors will be responsible to follow provisions of the 2013 Act and will work in collaboration with the principle employer for prevention and redress of sexual harassment complaints.

 

 

  • Inaction against Men at the top and Role of Local Committee – Definitions of sexual harassment given by (MacKinnon, 1979; Aggarwal, 1992; Stanko, 1988) analyse sexual harassment from the gender relations perspective highlight that sexual harassment at workplace is an unwanted sexually oriented behaviour resulting out of unequal power relations at workplace and it has serious consequences on the employment of women. Recentcases reported from a web production house (TNN, 2017), internet media company (Scroll, 2017), financial services company (Vyas and Babar 2015) and a Delhi based publishing house (Mantri, 2016) reveal that whenever the complaint is against a man at a senior position invariably there is failure to protect career interest of the complainant leading to her termination or resignation from service (Hindustan Times, 2015;  Sen, 2015; Ganz, 2015; Shukla, 2015; Dutt, 2016; Joseph, 2016; Calamur, 2017; Crasta, 2017). Inaction on part of the organisations to act promptly against the person at important position in the hierarchy and disregard of such cases by the government pushes complainants to approach external agencies such as media, police and court for redress of their complaints (Kidiyoor, 2014; Jha, 2017; Voices of Women, 2017; Rai, 2017;  Indian Express, 2017) Experiences of the past reveal that in all complaints reported against men falling in the category of employers, Committees were either nonexistent (Business Standard, 2013), ineffective (Barua, 2015) or gave clean chit to the man (Vijayraghavan and Philip, 2017). In such circumstances it is important that the inquiry is conducted by an outside body which is not reporting to the person wherein chances of the Committee members getting pressurised are less. Section 6 of the 2013 Act provides that inquiry is to be conducted by the Local Committee when the complaint is against the employer. However in none of the cases reported against persons falling in the category of employer Section 6 was invoked and activated. Inquiries were or are being conducted by Internal Committees comprising of employees who directly or indirectly report to the respondent (DNA, 2017; Scroll, 2017).  It is important that there is a mechanism created by the government that whenever a complaint is reported against the employer it should be dealt by the Local Committee of the District and not by the IC which comprises of members reporting to the respondent or in subordinate position.

 

Sexual harassment continues to plague workplaces in India. The INBA survey (2016) done across private sector organisations reveals that work place was the most sexually aggressive place in their lives of women. It further highlights that of most employers turned blind eye to sexual harassment complaints and lack of awareness amongst women employees about complaint mechanism within the organisation. Additionally it brought forward that employers did not follow complaint resolution process mandated by the statute. Recently it was reported that only around one fourth companies across Gurgaon submitted Annual Report mandated to be submitted by the employer to the government as per 2013 Act and a majority of them either submitted incomplete information or incorrect (Choudhry, 2017). Thus it can be concluded that though the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 provides penalty to employers for non compliance, they did not fulfill obligations mandated by the Act.  This can be further inferred from the instances of penalty being imposed by State Labour Commissioners on employers for having not dealt with the reported complaints of sexual harassment in accordance with the law (Kidiyoor, 2014; Business Insider, 2017) and police action against the employer for not having fulfilled obligations under 2013 Act (Nagpur Today, 2017). Criminal cases registered in Mumbai during the year 2016 reveal that 54% of complainants of sexual harassment sought police intervention to deal with sexual harassment from colleagues and seniors (Navalkar, 2017). These scenarios reflect severe shortcomings on part of employers to deal with sexual harassment in a efficient manner. While the Government of India has been taking active steps to monitor implementation of the 2013 Act in government offices (DNA, 2017) there is there is absence of mechanism to check execution in the private sector. The damage that is happening due to state apathy is unpardonable and irreparable.

Author has a PhD in Social Sciences and is working on socio legal aspects of sexual harassment at workplace since 2005.

 

References:

 

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HRhelpdesk (2017): Voices of Women 2017 – A Survey on Women at Workplace

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From Raia to Rohingya: The Politics of Intolerance

Image result for intolerant india

Vivek Menezes| TNN | Sep 23, 2017, 03:41 IST

Goa‘s social harmony suffered a severe blow this week after an aggressive minority of local residents positioned themselves as adamant opponents of a proposed Muslim graveyard (kabrastan) on the Sonsoddo hillside. There are certainly some legitimate grounds for this conflagration of ire: the designated site is a last verdant patch surrounded by development, and was acquired with obviously inadequate compensation to the original tenant.

But, completely unacceptable is the overtly anti-Muslim tone and tenor of some of the loudest complainants, who voiced vile arguments of the kind that citizens of India‘s smallest state have never tolerated. There is no excuse for this nonsense to start up now, and it is imperative that the state regime act decisively to end it immediately.

All Goans are legitimately proud of their homeland, have remained conspicuously tolerant and liberal in its social and cultural make-up, even as much of the rest of the subcontinent lurched back and forth into communal tension and violence throughout the 20th century. That outstanding record remains largely intact even in a 21st century India that Pew Research Centre ranks a disgraceful fourth-worst in the world for religious intolerance, in its Social Hostilities Index, which factors in “hate crimes, mob violence, communal violence, religion-related terror, use of force to prevent religious practice, the harassment of women for not conforming to religious dress codes, and violence over conversion or proselytizing”. It is particularly shameful to note the only countries rated lower — Syria, Iraq and Nigeria — are suffering armed sectarian insurgencies.

But now the poison is seeping into Goa. Earlier this year, the cherubic Sadhvi Saraswati told the All India Hindu Convention in Ponda that “Jo vyakti apne ma (gau mata) ka maas khaane ko apna status symbol maanta hai, aisi vyaktiyon ko Bharat sarkar se nivedan karti hoon, phaansi pe latkana chahiye. Beech chaurahey pe latkana chahiye”, openly calling for killing consumers of beef. These threats caused considerable concern amongst the Catholics of Goa, who justifiably felt targeted. Such a backdrop makes it doubly unconscionable that a few Catholics are amongst the spewers of Islamophobic rhetoric against the Sonsoddo kabrasthan. These “useful idiots” (as Lenin referred to manipulated propagandists) surely fail to realize they’re just unwitting pawns, giving fuel to pernicious majoritarian prejudices that will turn around to consume them next.

It is true India’s contemporary politics of intolerance targets Hindus almost as much as Muslims, but the victims are Dalits. According to the National Crime Record Bureau, there is a hate crime against a Dalit every fifteen minutes. The total has sky rocketed 66% over the past decade. So-called “retributive” rapes of Dalit women doubled in the same time frame. This systemic curse has always bedevilled India, but there is no doubt the current national political landscape has made things much worse. Paul Divakar of the National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights notes “most atrocities … are by upper castes having some political protection. The data clearly shows the rise of violence against Dalits has a direct connection with the rise of BJP in power”.

Target Dalits at home, and Muslims everywhere. That bottom line of India’s current policies was brought home again this week by the Union home ministry’s extraordinary affidavit to the Supreme Court alleging “serious national security threat/concern” that justifies mass deportation of 40,000 (majority Muslim) Rohingya back to Myanmar, where the community faces a sustained military campaign the United Nations calls “ethnic cleansing”. The opposing lawyer Prashant Bhushan says the government is trying to distract from its real intentions, because “this is clearly a case of religious discrimination and an attempt to arouse an anti-Muslim feeling”.

India’s hospitality to communities fleeing intolerance is perhaps its greatest civilizational attribute. Countless refugees can attest to this munificence, from Parsis who sought safety over 1,500 years ago, to the Dalai Lama who took refuge in 1959. Regimes come and go, but the defining ethos of a people is precious and deserves protection above all. In a few days, the Supreme Court will rebuff the government in its inhuman and immoral campaign to expulse the Rohingya seeking sanctuary in India. That is exactly as it should be. Similarly, the rampant anti-Muslim prejudices being voiced by Sonsoddo kabrasthan opponents must come to an end without delay, with zero tolerance offered by either state or society. There is much more at stake than just a cemetery on a patch of green hillside opposite an overflowing garbage dump.http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/from-raia-to-rohingya-the-politics-of-intolerance/articleshow/60800719.cms

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