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Archives for : September2017

India, always risky for journalists, has suddenly turned more dangerous following a murder

India has hardly been a haven for journalists.

For years, reporters and editors have faced harassment, coercion, and threats from vested interests in the government as well as private ones. A number of them have even been killed for performing their duty or voicing an opinion. No wonder India is the third-most dangerous placeto be a journalist, behind war-torn Iraq and Syria.

But something seems to have changed this September.

Gauri Lankesh, a Bengaluru-based senior journalist and editor of the Gauri Lankesh Patrike, was gunned down outside her home on Sept. 05. What began as crass exultation over her killing among sections of social media users and even political opponents now seems to be degenerating into even more threats—some even brazenly promising copycat attacks on journalists. In fact, the jubilation was followed by a “hit list” of media people.

Here he is again : VikramAditya Rana on Facebook with a hit list. @DelhiPolice you need to check this

There wouldn’t have been reasons to take these seriously if not for even more murders since Lankesh’s death.

More killings

On Sept.20, Santanu Bhowmik, 28, a reporter with the Din Raat television channel, was killed in the northeastern state of Tripura. He was allegedly abducted by a local tribal outfit and stabbed to death. A probe is on.

Three days after Bhowmik’s death, another senior journalist, KJ Singh, along with his mother, were found killed at his residence in Mohali near Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab. Singh, who was in his late 60s, had been a former news editor with The Indian Express newspaper and also worked for The Times of India and The Tribune.

Meanwhile, four journalists based out of New Delhi and the Delhi National Capital Region have received death threats via text messages and calls. Reports say that others who have received such vile messages have not followed up. Those issuing the threats often use Lankesh’s death as a template to strike fear.

Source of threats

The probe into Lankesh’s murder hasn’t yielded any results yet. However, the police have found similarities between the incident and a few earlier gruesome ones from the last two years involving the killings of elderly rationalists, social activists, and intellectuals. The one thread connecting all these is that the victims were vehemently opposed to Hindu extremism and were vocal about it.

D N Jeevaraj, a local legislator, openly claimed that Lankesh would have been alive if she had not spoken up against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The RSS is a Hindu nationalist organisation and the ideological mothership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to which both Jeevaraj and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi belong.

Not surprisingly, a number of those who issue such threats and pass crass comments against journalists on social media describe themselves as Hindu nationalists and supporters of the BJP or RSS. In fact, many of them even claim to have the blessings of Modi himself. As if to validate their claim, the prime minister follows a number of their Twitter handles.

For instance, Ravish Kumar, a senior editor with the Hindi news channel NDTV India and its prime time anchor, received through a WhatsApp group a message expressing grief that he was still alive. Kumar said he was being repeatedly added to such groups that then go on to abuse him. When Alt News, a website that works at busting fake news and urban legends, tracked the numbers issuing abusive messages to Kumar, it zeroed in on one Niraj Dave.

Dave, like many others trolls, is followed by Modi.

Several appeals have been made to the prime minister to stop backing such anti-social elements. To drive home the point, a  #BlockNarendraModi campaign was set off following Lankesh’s murder.

However, all these have not just been ignored but even actively defended by the BJP’s spokespersons.

On Sept. 29, Kumar himself penned an open letter to the prime minister. He wrote:

Whatever he (Nikhil Dadhich, a troll who abused Lankesh on Twitter after her murder) said about Gauri Lankesh after her death, you may not like it and I am sure you do not sanction it, but the fact is that you still happen to follow him if my information is correct. Recently, Amit Malviya, chief of the BJP’s IT Cell, shared a distorted video of my speech designed for misrepresentation. Even after AltNews revealed the truth, Amit Malviya expressed no regret.

Abuse is normal

In the meantime, abusing journalists is almost a national pastime on social media. The tiniest of provocations unleashes the vilest of expletives.

One journalist with the Quint news website was subjected to online harassment and even rape and death threats that resulted in her story being pulled off the site. And all that her video story had done was call out the sexism and abuse in the lyrics of a song.

Dhanya Rajendran of TheNewsMinute website was subjected to offensive tweets following a casual comment of hers about a Tamil language movie. #PublicityBeepDhanya received over 30,000 tweets, mostly derogatory.

Recently, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) expressed its concern over attempts silence the freedom of press in India.

“The increasing number of attacks on journalists and media in India is a serious threat to independent journalism in the country. The IFJ urges the Indian authorities to act immediately to ensure safety of journalists and media; and speedy investigation and prosecution in crimes against journalists to ensure such incidents are not repeated,” stated a release from IFJ.

India, always risky for journalists, has suddenly turned more dangerous following a murder

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Mumbai Teacher Arrested For Allegedly Thrashing Student For Not Having #Aadhaar Card #WTFnews

The government is using all kinds of tactics like linking it with everything possible to make Aadhaar card mandatory, despite the court ruling against it. But what happens if people start getting physical punishment for nat having an Aadhaar?

Police in Mumbai have arrested a teacher, for thrashing a 16-year-old student for not having an Aadhaar identification card.

Teacher stick


The incident took place at the Oxford English High School located in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar. The teacher identified as Shyam Bahadur Vishwakarma had hit the student named Suhail Ansari on the head, where he had already had an injury. Due to this, presently, the student is admitted in the nearby Sion hospital.

Aadhaar Card


After listening to the entire incident, the victim’s parents reached the school, whereas the concerned teacher denied the reports of beating up the student.


However, the CCTV footage revealed the truth. In the video, the teacher is seen beating Suhail with a stick. On the basis of parents’ complaint, a case was filed at the Ghatkopar Police Station under sections 323, 324 and 375 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) against the teacher.

Inputs From ANI

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India- People First Citizen app users run into #Aadhaar hurdle

Id verification failure resulting in service denial

The users of the People First Citizen (PFC) mobile application launched by Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu recently are apparently facing teething problems due to the ‘Aadhaar’ linkage. At a time when linking of the unique identification number has been made mandatory for services like banking and mobile services, the State government which integrated the citizen details with the Aadhaar data has made Aadhaar-based verification, eKYC, mandatory for the users of the PFC app.

“Ensure that your mobile number and email Id are updated in the Aadhaar portal for login. In case your details are not updated, please approach the nearest Aadhaar enrollment centre or Mee Seva centre to update the details. It is important for knowing any details of government (benefit) provided to you or know your service request status,” a note on the app tells its users.

Unlike other public grievance apps like PuraSeva, the PFC, through which grievances related to all the government departments could be reported, does verification through Aadhaar at the very beginning stage and bars those without a proper UID and a valid phone number from using all services, including registration of grievances. However, availability of complete user profile and access to all certificates is the greatest advantage for the users. Some of them feel that Aadhaar eKYC could be made optional while basic verification is done through mobile number and email.

“Aadhaar is mandatory here. It is good but so many Aadhaar numbers do not have mobile numbers. Instead of Aadhaar verification, user profile with email Id is better. Later on, we can verify Aadhaar (sic),” a user Adinarayana Kosuvaripalli wrote on Google Play store. Many other users have complained of ‘Aadhaar not surveyed’ error and having lost the phone numbers registered with the Aadhaar. Delay in receiving the OTP has also largely been reported by the users.

The app, however, garnered quick response since its launch on September 20. It has been downloaded by at least 5,000 users.

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India’s economists should listen to its activists

Two children eat at a temporary shelterImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionJean Dreze is known for his influential work on hunger and gender inequality

Economist Jean Dreze’s new book makes an increasingly necessary argument that creating a morally good, progressive society is as important as improving traditional development indexes, writes Nilanjana S Roy.

The jhola, a sturdy, often exuberantly decorated cloth sling bag, can be spotted all across India. Over time, this precursor to the backpack and the man bag became the accessory of choice for a varied set of Indians, from sadhus (holy men) to college students to clerks.

It has also become synonymous with social activists, field researchers, academics, artists and rural workers, collectively dubbed “jholawalas”.

The term, once mildly affectionate, is now often used derisively by the media and politicians as a denunciation of forms of liberal thought and activism branded as bleeding heart, communist or anti-corporate.

“Jholawala has become a term of abuse in India’s corporate-sponsored media… a disparaging reference to activists,” development economist Jean Dreze writes early in Sense and Solidarity: Jholawala Economics For Everyone, a welcome collection of his essays.

Mr Dreze reclaims and reinvents the term, though he’s quick to add that the “jholawala economist” is a mythical being.

His “jholawala economist” would be the “road scholar” researcher or progressive economist who believes that social development in countries like India must be accompanied by ethical development, and the spread of civic sense.

Creating a morally good, progressive society would be as important as improving traditional development indexes.

Mr Dreze, born in Belgium, is an Indian citizen who’s lived in, worked in and explored parts of India for almost 40 years.

He is one of the country’s best-regarded development economists, known for his influential work on hunger and gender inequality in particular.

John DrèzeImage copyrightANURADHA ROY
Image captionJohn Drèze is one of India’s best-regarded development economists

He lives in Ranchi, capital of the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, known for its coal mines.

It’s striking that he begins his introduction to the book with a brief meditation on privilege – the gap between the world of those who work at thankless, sometimes brutally demanding jobs (such as the koilawalas or coal workers whom he sees going by in the hundreds every day in Ranchi) and those who benefit from or seek to build a new India.

What separates the two? Chance, says Mr Dreze, nothing more than that. “In India, as elsewhere, the privileged tend to nurture the illusion that they ‘deserve’ what they have.”

This illusion evaporates rapidly, he explains. Rich people might work hard, but so do coal workers, construction workers and domestic help.

This is not a popular argument at a time when the powerful and those aspiring to power prefer to either ignore the poor and disenfranchised, blame them for their own plight, or angrily persecute activists for shining a light on their circumstances.

But it is an increasingly necessary argument.

The essays in Sense and Solidarity rest on research and field surveys done between 2000 and 2017, and bring to life changes in social policy in India.

They attest to the value of his firm plea for a public policy informed by the direct experiences and evidence of those on the ground, less theoretical, more an outcome of “democratic practice”.

Economists and jholawalas, Mr Dreze suggests, could both learn much from each other.

Cover of John Drèze's bookImage copyrightSOHAIL AKBAR
Image captionEconomists and “jholawalas”, Mr Dreze suggests, could learn much from each other

In the early 2000s, the country had vast food stocks, he writes, “if all the sacks of grain in the Food Corporation of India were lined up in a row, they would stretch for a million kilometres”.

But in 2002, Mr Dreze and his partner, Bela Bhatia, visited Kusumatand in Jharkhand thrice to investigate starvation deaths.

What they found shocked them – the entire hamlet lived in a state of semi-starvation. Children did not play – they stood by “listlessly, ill-clad and under-nourished”.

Travelling in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh to a village called Chharch in 2003 was “like descending deeper and deeper into a dark well of poverty and hunger”.

This India rarely makes it to television debates, and Mr Dreze urges solutions that go beyond quick-fix schemes and “yojanas” (the Hindi word for plan, commonly used in the names of government schemes).

The second section in the book, “Poverty”, grapples with a key and lasting problem – the selection of eligible households for inclusion in social schemes, and the “bitter struggle” of those attempting to live on or below the poverty line.

The elderly, Mr Dreze discovered, were frequently the worst hit. They lived “quiet and unobtrusive lives”, rarely complaining in public, but their tales of sorrow were endless.

Time and again, he returns to the lives, and troubles, of humans to the landscape of statistics, schemes and policies.

Indian school girls eating lunchImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionIndia’s mid-day meal scheme challenges caste prejudices as children learn to eat together, writes Mr Dreze

The mid-day meal scheme, where schools provide a hopefully nutritious lunch to children, has had a positive impact on health – but also on challenging traditional caste prejudices, as children learn to eat together.

On caste, he writes about the subtle way in which discrimination works. In a survey conducted in the north Indian city of Allahabad, they found that 75% of those who occupied positions of power and influence across a variety of public institutions were upper-caste.

He visits a Dalit village in the central state of Madhya Pradesh’s Rewa district. It has no approach roads, and is hemmed in by the fields of upper-caste farmers.

“The hamlet had the feel of an island surrounded by hostile territory,” he writes.

On demonetisation, India’s currency ban, and on Aadhaar, the universal identification scheme, Mr Dreze is swift to point out that the “disruption” caused is paid in public hardship, deaths and vulnerability to extreme surveillance, rescuing the term from the business-jargon use of “disruption” as a positive effect.

Indians queue to withdraw money from an ATMImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionThe only “disruption” caused by India’s currency ban, Mr Dreze writes, is public hardship

Like a growing number of intellectuals and activists, Mr Dreze too has been attacked for his plainly stated views.

He was prevented from speaking at a recent function by a minister from India’s ruling BJP who shouted him down when he argued that communalism was at its most dangerous when the state created antagonism between communities.

But the model of development that he advocates has far more hope to offer India than big dams and bullet trains.

In his final essay, he suggests that it’s time to retire the belief, widespread in mainstream economic theory, that “rational self-interest” is the prime motivation of economic agents. This is only “a kind of superstition,” Mr Dreze writes.

People act out of love, kindness, compassion, public-spiritedness, solidarity and more.

The value Mr Dreze wants to nudge thinkers on development towards is public-spiritedness, so close to the fraternity that accompanies liberty and equality.

What would “development” in India look like if it was driven by public-spiritedness, or politics (and policies) if they were truly in the public interest?

It’s a big question. Anyone who answered it might actually have a chance of building a New India – so loudly promised, and so elusive.

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Maximum city, maximum accidents. Does Mumbai ever learn?

As the Elphinstone Road station accident today demonstrated, Mumbai still has miles to go before it resolves its infrastructure woes.

Maximum city, maximum accidents. Does Mumbai ever learn?
Shishir AsthanaMoneycontrol Research

Why is it that in India people have to die to wake up the government? Irrespective of governance claims, it has always been a serious fatal accident that has resulted in this government coming into action. The same could be said for every state government in the country.

Some do lip service till the next accident exposes them again. Others do a sloppy job of it and use the accident as another money-making opportunity. Like war, accidents, too, have become a business opportunity for some.

Unfortunately, Mumbai, the so-called financial capital of the country, has had more than its share of accidents. Every monsoon the state government and the city’s municipal corporation Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are at odds with each other over water-logging and the lunar surface which a Mumbaikar is told is a road. It’s an open joke among Mumbaikars that every year BMC, the richest municipal corporation in the country, issues tenders to maintain the potholes rather than the roads.

For Mumbai trains are supposed to be its lifeline but in reality they have taken more lives than any other form of accidents, natural catastrophe or terrorist attacks put together. Between January and August 2017 alone railways have seen over 2,000 deaths. This number tells us how heavily overburdened the Mumbai rail network is.

Over the past few years, as offices shifted from Churchgate, Nariman Point to Bandra Kurla Complex and Lower Parel–Elphinstone Road area so did the rail traffic. However, the Lower Parel and Elphinstone Road railway stations, which were rarely crowded earlier, became a nightmare as office complexes sprouted on old textile mill compounds.

Anyone who has ever travelled during the morning rush hour to Lower Parel and Elphinstone Road knows that it is an ordeal to exit the station. There are police constables at the exit to control the crowd but they are mere spectators.

Every person who has walked the foot over bridge (FOB) at these stations knew it was only a matter of time when a stampede can cause havoc. With barely enough breathing space between two people walking on the FOB a small panic was all that was needed to cause a major accident.

And one did happen today. Needless loss of over 22 lives plus more than 30 injuries brought the plight of commuters to the political masters. For politicians across party lines the tragedy was an occasion for one more photo-op.

For the general public, however, what was on display at Elphinstone Road was a complete lack of planning from everyone responsible in railways, BMC, state and central government.

It has been years since traffic started building up at Elphinstone Road and Lower Parel station, yet the railways did little to increase the number of entry or exit points, except post a policeman. Reports say that state Members of Parliament had apprised the former railway minister Suresh Prabhu of the need for a better bridge. Prabhu, however, cited lack of funds to attend to the request immediately — this was in February 2016.

But railways alone is not to be blamed. Civic authorities, while giving permission for high-rises did not bother to provide infrastructure facility. Apparently, it was the same area which was badly inundated during the August 30, 2017, rains.

The biggest burden of all the ills of the city has to fall on the central and state government. Maharashtra accounts for 40 percent of the country’s direct taxes; within it Mumbai accounts for the lion’s share. Yet the city has been ignored in every year.

Each year a Mumbaikar listens to the budget in the hope that the government will help improve his lifestyle by announcing more number of trains or a better infrastructure service. Every year he has been disappointed, but still gets up every morning for what is nothing less than an adventure trip to reach his office. This compulsion or restraint has been termed by many as the ‘spirit of Mumbai’.

Every restraint has a breaking point. Mumbai is fast reaching that point if one goes by the chatter on Twitter, which has erupted by calling politicians of all parties to be made answerable. Some have pointed out, and rightly so, that politicians and senior railway managers be made to travel in the local train to feel a common person’s ordeal. Others have used choicest of expletives which only highlights the pressure building up.

The city does not need words to placate the tempers. It needs to see development. There is only a small line that separates the spirit of Mumbai to change to animal spirit.

It once again raises the question why do these accidents happen in India on a regular basis and one does not hear about it in the developed world. No, the argument is not about population, it is about the value of life. As long as ministers know that they can get away by announcing a Rs 5 lakh ex-gratia payment such accidents will keep on happening. Unless the civil authorities, the bureaucrats are held responsible and made to pay till it hurts them such accidents will keep on happening.

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Rafto Prize for Human Rights for Parveena Ahangar and Parvez Imroz

The award, which honours human rights defenders, went to the two activists for their “decades of campaigning for human rights” in Jammu and Kashmir.

Parveena Ahangar and Parvez Imroz. Credit: Facebook/YouTube

New Delhi: Parveena Ahangar, who is popularly referred to as the Iron Lady of Kashmir for her struggle to find the youth and children who go missing in the state of Jammu and Kashmir every year, and human rights activist and lawyer Parvez Imroz have won the prestigious Norway Rafto Prize 2017 for Human Rights this year.

The award, which honours human rights defenders, went to the two activists for their “decades of campaigning for human rights” in the state. The committee which announced the award said, “Parveena Ahangar and Imroz have long been at the forefront of the struggle against arbitrary abuses of power in a region of India that has borne the brunt of escalating violence, militarisation and international tension.”

The committee further said that “their long campaign to expose human rights violations, promote dialogue and seek peaceful solutions to the intractable conflict in Kashmir has inspired new generations across communities.”

Ahangar won the honour for her “protests against enforced disappearances” and for challenging the perpetrators of violence.

Founder and leader of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) which arranges peaceful protests and offers practical assistance to victims, Ahangar won the admiration of a cross section of the society for her tireless work in making numerous families know what happened to their children who went missing.

Her work also inspired well known rapper Roushan Ilahi, who raps under the name of MC Kash, to make a song about the cause. The video, titled ‘Take It In Blood’, is about the first meeting of the rapper with the activist.

Parvez is the founder of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) which works for human rights and alternatives to violence and has been described by the award committee as a “lawyer and a leading intellectual who uses the law to ensure fundamental human rights and equality before the law in Kashmir”.

Parvez has fought many a legal battles in the state, including one for the JKCCS program coordinator and rights activist Khurram Parvez, who was not allowed by the Centre to attend a United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva and later detained and arrested from Srinagar last year.

The Rafto Prize Laureates said that the two recipients “complement one another in their work, creating opportunities for different communities to participate in the human rights movement via dialogue, peaceful strategies, and protest against human rights violations in the world’s largest democracy.”

The Prize, which was announced today at the Rafto Human Rights House in Bergen, Norway, is awarded annually in the memory of Professor Thorolf Rafto.

The selection process ensures that only those actively involved in rights struggles get the coveted prize. The criteria includes that a candidate should be active in the struggle for the ideals and principles underlying the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that the candidate’s struggle for human rights should represent a non-violent perspective.

In 2016, “defender of women’s rights in war-torn Iraq” Yanar Mohammed was the recipient of the award. Winners of the Prize with Indian links in the past have been the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) activists Vincent Manoharan, Dr. Vimal Thoral and Paul Divakar.

Burmese rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who is now being criticised for her handling of the Rohingya crisis as the elected leader of the country, was honoured with the Prize in 1990 for “leading the struggle for democracy in Burma”.

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If govt can’t protect (me), other intellectuals not safe in country: Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd

Threatened over translated writings, Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd discusses caste system and his work with Indian Express.

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, Kancha Ilaiah death threats, Kancha Ilaiah news, Arya Vysa, India news, indian expressKancha Ilaiah Shepherd has faced death threats, abuse and criticism from some members of the Arya Vysa communityAfter a publisher reprinted chapters of his book Post-Hindu India (2009) into booklets in Telugu, Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, 65, has faced death threats, abuse and criticism from some members of the Arya Vysa community. In this interview given on the phone, the Hyderabad-based academic explains what he means by “social smuggling” and why that offends the castes that dominate Indian capitalism. Excerpts:

Why are the Arya Vysas (Baniyas) of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh protesting against you?

I wrote this book in 2009 in the background of a debate over merit and the demand for reservation in the private sector. It includes several chapters on various castes — a chapter on barbers is called “social doctors”, one on dhobis is called “subaltern feminists”, and so on. The chapter on Baniyas was called “social smugglers” and the one on Brahmins was called “spiritual fascists”. This June, a small publisher printed each chapter as a separate booklet, with caste names on the cover page. This has led to protests and violent abuses by the Arya Vysa community. Two people have threatened to take my life on television. A TDP MP, P G Venkatesh, said in a press conference that I should be hanged and killed as is done in the Middle East. On September 23, I was returning from a meeting when my car was attacked. I was saved because my driver managed to take me out and reach the police station. I have filed cases at the Osmania University police station and requested for full police protection. The state has done nothing — at least as much as CM Siddaramaiah has done to protect intellectuals in Karnataka.

Has anyone in the government reached out to you?

Ministers in my Telangana state, including the home minister, joined the Arya Vysas in condemning me. The CM is silent. The Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister has been sending out feelers that he will ban the book. Look at the climate in which I am fighting this battle — the murders of Gauri Lankesh and M M Kalburgi in my neighbouring state. This is the fear I have. Therefore, I placed myself under house arrest. I am telling the world that if the Indian government cannot protect an intellectual who is known in the country and world, then other intellectuals have no safety in this country.

What do you mean by calling Baniyas social smugglers?

Social smuggling is a concept I coined to capture caste-based economic exploitation, from the village upwards to the monopoly Baniya capital, which involves the Ambanis, Adanis, the Laxmi Mittals, and so on. Social smuggling is a method of deceptive business, which accumulates wealth in the Baniya economy itself, and does not let it go back to the producers, who are the source of the wealth. Historically, because of the nexus between the Baniya and the Brahmin priestly community, the wealth was also transferred into temples. This led to non-development of mercantile capital in the medieval and late medieval age, and later indigenous capital.

This encirclement of business is done through the spiritual dictum of Manu, Kautilya and Vedic texts. Unlike in the West, only one caste was allowed to do business in India. Smuggling means taking away wealth out of the borders of the nation illegally, but “social smuggling” means taking away the produce of all castes into the vaults of one caste — the Baniya, without any access to others. Wealth remains within the nation but in the control of one caste. It does not go back into the agricultural economy or the philanthropic economy or the education economy. This happened historically and is now happening even in the modern, privatised economy. That is the reason why 46% of the corporate directors in India are Baniyas, whereas their population is 1.9%. Brahmins come second, with 44.6% of corporate directors from their caste.

So, you are saying that in this form of capitalism, caste cannot be challenged.

It is this caste-controlled, socially smuggled capital which does not want to give preferential treatment or reservation in the private sector. They have been talking about our meritlessness. But we have proved our merit in producing the wealth, in the agrarian economy. Why are they not sharing this wealth with 90 per cent of the other castes, including Jats, Patels, etc, by giving them space in the private sector?

Is it true that you have set terms for withdrawing the book?

These are the conditions I have set (to the Baniya community to disprove that they are social smugglers). Look at our soldiers on the border. When the nationalism debate is taking place, Amit Shah and (PM) Modi are holding up the soldiers as an example. But, among these foot soldiers, there are no Baniyas or Brahmins. I am asking for one job for the family of each soldier serving on the border in the private sector. Look at the number of constables fighting in Naxalite regions or in Kashmir. Their family members should be given jobs in the private sector. Farmer suicides is one of the biggest issues in the country today. I am asking for a farmer protection fund from the entire industrial capital — at least 1% of their annual profit, around Rs 30,000 crore. Corporate social responsibility doesn’t fight the caste system, or help the tribal or Dalit issue. It should be a social responsibility.

What is the social consequence of this “socially smuggled capital”?

When Adam Smith wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments, he said that without moral sentiment, a transparent capitalism cannot survive. The buyer and seller will have to be honest and treat each other with respect. In this Baniya-Brahmin capitalism, that empathy, that goodwill towards the poorest of the poor is missing. To the point of ignoring the death of the farmers, who is the source of wealth. Industries must prove their nationalism like the soldiers are proving their nationalism on the border.

Why do you think writers are facing such anger today?

Earlier, we have had writing which has become controversial when gods or prophets are involved, or women are involved. But this is an academic concept and as a research scholar I have full rights to formulate it. This is not an issue that can be settled on the streets. Tragically, and to my surprise, the Indian intellectuals or economists have not responded to this debate. In this environment of cow vigilantism, killings of intellectuals, if communists and liberals are silent, if the English media is not reporting this, it is very frightening. That scares me more. Why are our progressive intellectuals silent? Because I am a lower-caste intellectual?

If govt can’t protect (me), other intellectuals not safe in country: Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd

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NWMI condemns death threats to Meyammai, Vidyashree of The Covai Post

Image result for Meyammai, Vidyashree

The Network of Women in Media in India (NWMI) stands in solidarity with the editors of Coimbatore-based website, The Covai Post, who have been receiving death threats for a story on their website and condemns the harassment of Vidyashree Dharmaraj and AR Meyammai.

Over the past week, the editors of The Covai Post, Vidyashree Dharmaraj and AR Meyammai, have been at the receiving end of death threats and harassment for a story on their website, titled Girls in puberty stage paraded half-naked, offered to deity for a fortnight, published on September 24, 2017.

The story exposed a ritual where young, bare-chested girls were paraded in Vellalur village in Madurai for a ritual and left in the care of a temple priest. The story led to the Collector of the district ordering a probe by the social welfare department, requesting the parents of the girls to cover them with a shawl, and stationing a police officer in the village for the duration of the festival.

Following the publication of this story, both the writer of the story AR Meyyammai and the editor of The Covai Post, Vidyashree Dharmaraj, have been receiving death threats over Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and VoIP calls.

In what is becoming a distressingly routine affair, journalists in India are being targeted with abuse, derogatory comments and even death threats, every time their stories rock the proverbial boat. The widespread targeting of women, both online and offline, and the customary nature of the abuse directed at them, reveals a special kind of hostility towards women, especially independent-minded women.

In this case, people who believe their religious practices should not be questioned have launched a targeted attack at journalists, simply for raising questions about the safety and bodily integrity of minors.

The NWMI unequivocally denounces online hate campaigns and intimidation of women journalists, and urges for a greater tolerance for divergent views on social media. Especially after the recent murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru, it is imperative that neither the law enforcement officials nor the media community ignore such threats to journalists’ lives.

NWMI demands that:

–       The Cyber Cell of the Tamil Nadu police take swift action on the complaint by The Covai Post editors, and track down those who have been threatening them for doing their jobs as journalists.

–       Facebook and Twitter be more sensitive to online abuse, specifically of women and institute more robust mechanisms to combat online abuse in regional languages.

–       The Editors’ Guild of India and Press Council of India must take suo moto notice of such online harassment of women journalists and editors and come out strongly in their support.

The Network of Women in Media, India

September 29, 2017

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Mumbai – 27 Dead, Many Injured In Stampede between Parel and Elphinstone Station


The incident took place around 10.30 am during rush hour near a ticket window between the Lower Parel and Elphinstone stations.

22 Dead, Many Injured In Stampede Near Mumbai's Elphinstone Station

Elphinstone Station Stampede: Passengers and local people were seen carrying the injured down the bridge.



  1. 27 dead in stampede near Parel suburban station
  2. The incident took place around 10.30 am during rush hour
  3. Passengers were seen carrying the injured down the bridge
Mumbai stampede: 27 dead, over 30 injured at Elphinstone railway station

Mumbai: At least twenty seven people have been killed in a stampede at Elphinstone railway station’s foot-over bridge in Mumbai that took place on Friday morning. Over 30 people have been injured in the incident. Medical teams have reached the spot. Those injured have been rushed to KEM hospital.

Commuters claim that the foot-over bridge at Elphinstone was narrow and is always crowded during the peak hours. In videos emerging from the incident, people can be seen trying to climb over the railings of the stairway to escape the stampede.


The stampede broke out around 10.30 am near a ticket window on the bridge between the busy Parel and Elphinstone Road stations. According to witnesses, four trains came at the same time and due to the rain, a few commuters slipped, which led to chaos in the surging crowd. There were more than the usual people on the bridge at the time, waiting for the rain to end.

elphinstone station mumbai stampede

Elphinstone Station Stampede: All the injured were rushed to the nearest hospitals

“Many were waiting in the rain. There were too many people in a cramped space. When people were trying to rush to their trains, the stampede happened,” said railway spokesperson Anil Saxena.

Visuals showed people on the ground, many not moving at all, and attempts to revive them with water and first aid. Passengers and local people were seen carrying bodies down the bridge. Footwear was seen scattered next to the bridge and rescuers were seen clearing out more from the stairs. The police were trying to control the crowd of commuters.

elphinstone station mumbai stampede

A pile of footwear was lying next to the bridge.

The police are investigating reports that a short-circuit with a loud sound near the bridge led to panic and people started running.

Praveen Bangar, a senior medical officer at the KEM hospital near the accident site, said 15 people were brought dead.

The two stations are used by much of Mumbai’s local train commuters as there are a large number of offices in the area.

elphinstone station mumbai stampede

Elphinstone Station Stampede: There were more than the usual people on the bridge at the time.

Angry commuters and residents said the bridge is too old and narrow and not strong enough to take the busy sector. “It was a disaster waiting to happen,” remarked a local resident, saying that the station has been overcrowded and there have been multiple demands for more such bridges.

“I have been travelling for five-six years. It has always been like this. We have no choice but to use this bridge…where else can we go? No one listens to us,” said a woman commuter.

Local trains are the lifeline for the 20 million people of Mumbai and accidents are common on the busy network.

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India – Right to Privacy and the Bhagavad Gita #Aadhaar


The verdict in the Right to Privacy case establishes dharma, righteousness, and destroys adharma, the evil acting on behalf of the universal principal ‘I’ mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, says Gopal Krishna.

IMAGE: Women wait in line to get their Aadhaar card done. Photograph: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters

Having read the orders of Justices Rohinton F Nariman and Dr D Y Chandrachud on the right to privacy case, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul authored a separate but a concurring 47-page order as part of the nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court.

He underlines, ‘This reference has arisen from the challenge to what is called the ‘Aadhaar card scheme’, referring to the biometric profiling based scheme of Central Identities Data Repository of Aadhaar numbers.’

Significantly, Justice Kaul raises the question of dharma (justice) and adharma (injustice) in his order.

He writes: ‘It is wrong to consider that the concept of the supervening spirit of justice manifesting in different forms to cure the evils of a new age is unknown to Indian history.’

He recalled the Sanskrit verse of Chapter 4 of the Bhagavad Gita to underline that ‘the meaning of this profound statement, when viewed after a thousand generations is thisThat each age and each generation brings with it the challenges and tribulations of the times.’

‘But that supreme spirit of justice manifests itself in different eras, in different continents and in different social situations, as different values to ensure that there always exists the protection and preservation of certain eternally cherished rights and ideals.’

‘It is a reflection of this divine ‘brooding spirit of the law’, ‘the collective conscience’, ‘the intelligence of a future day’ that has found mention in the ideals enshrined in inter alia, Article 14 and 21, which together serve as the heart stones of the Constitution.’

The significance of the Bhagavad Gita verse which Justice Kaul cited in his order becomes more evident if it is read with its preceding, very famous, verse: ‘Yada Yada hi dharmasya, glanirbhavati bharata; abhyutthanam adharmasya, tadaatmanam srujamyaham.’

The subsequent verse reads: ‘Paritranaaya sadunaam, vinashayacha dushkritaam; dharmasansthaapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge.’

Together they mean: ‘Whenever righteousness declines and unrighteousness is rampant, I manifest myself. I manifest myself from age to age to defend the pious, destroy the wicked and strengthen righteousness.’

Notably, Justice Kaul traces the origin of Article 14 (right to equality before law) and 21 (right to protection of life and liberty) of the Indian Constitution in the Bhagavad Gita.


It is evident that his order refers to government’s position on the right to privacy in the scheme of CIDR of Aadhaar numbers as adharma, or evil.

He factors in the contemporary and historical context of human identification and profiling.

The verdict in this case is historic and of global significance because it establishes dharma, righteousness, and destroys adharma, the evil acting on behalf of the universal principal ‘I’ mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita.

He observes, ‘It cannot be said that a person should be profiled to the nth extent for all and sundry to know’, something which is being done under the Aadhaar scheme.

He cites the European Union Regulation, 2016, on data privacy that deals with the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.

The Regulation defines ‘profiling’ as any form of automated processing of personal data, consisting of the use of personal data to evaluate certain personal aspects relating to a natural person, in particular to analyse or predict aspects concerning that natural person’s performance at work, economic situation, health, personal preferences, interests, reliability, behaviour, location or movements.

‘Such profiling can result in discrimination based on religion, ethnicity and caste,’ it says.

This is what the predecessors of Adolf Hitler did in Germany.

Prior to the arrival of the Third Reich, the German government had hired the services of IBM, a United States-based company which was in the ‘census’ business, including racial census that entailed not only counting the Jews but also identifying them.

As a result, when Hitler came to power, he had the lists of Jewish names based on profiling during the census. The Nazis inherited these lists from the previous government.

At the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, there is an exhibit of an IBM Hollerith D-11 card sorting machine that was responsible for organising the census of 1933 that first identified the Jews.

IBM has not disputed its involvement in the exercise. It merely said that its subsidiary in Germany was beyond its control, a fact which has been highlighted in the book IBM And The Holocaust.

If this is not adharma, what else is?

Dwelling on the subject of ‘the right to be’ or right to privacy before recollecting the words of the Bhagavad Gita, Justice Kaul cited the words of Lord Acton contained in The History Of Freedom And Other Essays published in 1907 wherein he said, ‘The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among old parchments of musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of divinity itself, and can never be obscured by mortal power’.

Drawing on such eminent resources Justice Kaul observes, ‘Privacy is an inherent right. It is thus not given, but already exists’ and adds that privacy ‘is nothing but a form of dignity, which itself is a subset of liberty’.

He further observes, ‘Privacy is also the key to freedom of thought. A person has a right to think.’

Notably, the mind is the name given to the sequence of thoughts and in fact it is the human mind which takes birth, grows and governs human life.

Taking note of the concerns expressed regarding Aadhaar scheme ‘infringing the right to privacy’, he has suggested tests ‘for limiting the discretion of the State’.

These tests include ascertaining whether the proposed action is ‘necessary in a democratic society for a legitimate aim’, the ‘extent of such interference’ is ‘proportionate to the need for such interference’, whether there are ‘procedural guarantees against abuse of such interference’ and whether actions such as seeding of UID/Aadhaar number with citizens’ social entitlements and existing databases is ‘sanctioned by law’.

There is sufficient evidence to establish that this scheme fails in all the four tests because the aim itself is unnecessary and illegitimate, entails disproportionate and unlimited interference and the ‘procedural guarantees’ do not meet the test of natural justice because of provisions like deactivation of UID numbers which results in ‘civil death’.

Against such a backdrop, disclosures made in 2010 in a release by the Centre (external link) bearing the subject ‘approach paper for a legislation on privacy, assumes great relevance.

It seemed to underline the virtues of databases which are in disconnected silos — which ensure privacy — and information is made available on a need-to-know basis.

Convergence of databases as envisaged in the scheme of CIDR of UID/Aadhaar numbers through seeding, which was inherited and adopted by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government  from the previous United Progressive Alliance government, results in death of privacy.

It has been admitted officially that ‘data privacy and the need to protect personal information is almost never a concern when data is stored in a decentralised manner. Data that is maintained in silos is largely useless outside that silo and consequently has a low likelihood of causing any damage.

‘However, all this is likely to change with the implementation of the UID project. One of the inevitable consequences of the UID project will be that the UID number will unify multiple databases.

‘As more and more agencies of the government sign on to the UID Project, the UID Number will become the common thread that links all those databases together. Over time, private enterprise could also adopt the UID number as an identifier for the purposes of the delivery of their services or even for enrollment as a customer.

‘Once this happens, the separation of data that currently exists between multiple databases will vanish.’

The document reveals that ‘private detective agencies, if allowed to operate without regulation, could potentially wreak considerable havoc on the personal information of a citizen’.

The information obtained under Right to Information reveals that private foreign agencies involved in CIDR of UID/Aadhaar have been operating as part of their ‘business of private surveillance’ without regulation for quite a long time.

They are helping in the creation of ‘an identifiable profile of everyone on that public database’ which includes personal sensitive information like racial or ethnic origin, political affiliations or opinions, religious affiliations and beliefs or other beliefs of a similar nature, membership of a trade union, physical or mental health or condition, sexual life and criminal record.

Besides these, it also includes genetic information about an individual that is not otherwise health information, information or an opinion about an individual, financial or proprietary confidential corporate data, data on a person’s personality, private family relations, biometric data, social welfare needs of a person or the benefits, support or other social welfare assistance received by the person; and data collected on a person during the process of taxation.

Justice Kaul has agreed with the concerns of the petitioners against UID technology that ‘the technology has made it possible to enter a citizen’s house without knocking at his/her door and this is equally possible both by the State and non-State actors’.

He underlines that if the individual permits someone to enter the house it does not mean that others can enter the house. The only check and balance is that it should not harm the other individual or affect his or her rights’, reacting to the argument that if citizens have shared data with some digital companies, they should not be reluctant to share for biometric profiling by Unique Identification Authority of India.

He concurred with other judges who held that that the right of privacy cannot be denied, even if there is a minuscule fraction of the population which is affected. The majoritarian concept does not apply to Constitutional rights.

Drawing on Daniel Solove‘s 10 Reasons Why Privacy Matters (external link), Justice Kaul observes, ‘An individual has a right to protect his reputation from being unfairly harmed and such protection of reputation needs to exist not only against falsehood but also certain truths.

‘It cannot be said that a more accurate judgment about people can be facilitated by knowing. private details about their lives — people judge us badly, they judge us in haste, they judge out of context, they judge without hearing the whole story and they judge with hypocrisy.

‘Privacy lets people protect themselves from these troublesome judgments.’

He cites the poetic words of Felicia Lamport in his order. It is titled Deprivacy and reads as:

Although we feel unknown, ignored,
As unrecorded blanks,
Take heart! Our vital selves are stored
In giant data banks,
Our childhoods and maturities,
Efficiently compiled,
Our Stocks and insecurities,
All permanently filed,
Our tastes and our proclivities,
In gross and in particular,
Our incomes, our activities,
Both extra-and curricular.
And such will be our happy state,
Until the day we die,
When we’ll be snatched up by the great,
Computer in the sky.

This poem was published by The University of Michigan Press in The Assault on Privacy by Arthur R Miller.

Justice Kaul observes, ‘The impact of the digital age results in information on the internet being permanent. Humans forget, but the internet does not forget and does not let humans forget. Any endeavour to remove information from the internet does not result in its absolute obliteration. The footprints remain.

‘It is thus said that in the digital world preservation is the norm and forgetting a struggle’.

He refers to the European Union Regulation of 2016 that has recognised ‘the right to be forgotten’, which means that an individual who is no longer desirous of his personal data to be processed or stored, should be able to remove it from the system where the personal data/ information is no longer necessary, relevant, or is incorrect and serves no legitimate interest.

He has recommended that ‘privacy of children will require special protection not just in the context of the virtual world, but also the real world’.

Drawing on European Union Regulation of 2016 on the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data, in concurrence with Justice Chandrachud, he has directed ‘the State must ensure that information is not used without the consent of users and that it is used for the purpose and to the extent it was disclosed’.

Drawing on the findings of the government’s Group of Experts on privacy under the chairmanship of Justice A P Shah, he observed, ‘The concerns about privacy have been left unattended for quite some time and thus an infringement of the right of privacy cannot be left to be formulated by the legislature’.

It is noteworthy that he concurred with the view that the majority judgment in the case of ADM Jabalpur vs Shivkant Shukla ‘was an aberration in the constitutional jurisprudence of our country and the desirability of burying the majority opinion ten fathom deep, with no chance of resurrection’.

Having taken this position, this otherwise good order seems to display its imperfection from the philosophical point of view when Justice Kaul deviates to say, ‘However, no right is unbridled and so is it with privacy.’

He goes on to say that while ‘the right of an individual to exercise control over his personal data and to be able to control his/her own life would also encompass his right to control his existence on the internet’, but adds ‘needless to say that this would not be an absolute right’.

He reiterates, ‘The right to privacy as already observed is not absolute’ by referring to ‘national security’ and ‘public interest’.

While these words have the meaning which the State gives to them, in exceptional circumstances, reasonable restrictions have compelling logic but such restrictions cannot be made applicable indiscriminately.

Exceptional circumstances cannot make an absolute natural right less absolute for ‘we, the people’.

In ADM Jabalpur case, a majority of four judges of the court (with Justice H R Khanna dissenting) held that: ‘Liberty is confined and controlled by law, whether common law or statute. It is in the words of Burke a regulated freedom. It is not an abstract or absolute freedom’, incorrectly assuming that the Constitution was the sole repository of the right to life and liberty.

Given the fact this verdict has been overruled and needs to be ‘ten fathom deep, with no chance of resurrection’, how can it be inferred that right to privacy as part of right to life and personal liberty is not an absolute right?

Human life is a gift of privacy of our ancestors, our mother and father. Will human beings dare say to their parents that they do not have an absolute right of privacy?

Will Mother India tell her children that they must be exposed to public at large like animals? Who will have the heart to their children and grandchildren that they do not have this right?

The Centre — through the then attorney general, several state governments like Haryana, Maharashtra and Rajasthan, the UIDAI, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy — showed the audacity to do so. But have been roundly repulsed by the Supreme Court for their questionable stance.

But now that the Constitution Bench has unequivocally held that ‘the judgments rendered by all the four judges constituting the majority in ADM Jabalpur are seriously flawed. Life and personal liberty are inalienable to human existence’, it follows that right to privacy being an intrinsic part of it is an absolute right, subject to deviation only in rare and exceptional circumstances.

There is a compelling logical compulsion to recognise it to be so in the era of ‘de-privacy’ to prevent permanent destruction of the quietude and serenity of the human mind.


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