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Archives for : October2017

India – Will Taj Mahal meet the fate of Mosque in Ayodhya ?

By- Shamsul Islam

One of the Greatest Wonders of the World, the only one being in India, Taj Mahal becomes the newest target of the Hindutva killer/demolition squad. It was ordered to be built by Mughal king Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram known as Shahjahan (1592-1666) in the memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. It is interesting to note that it was named as Taj Mahal (Crown of the Palace) despite being a mausoleum which took 20 years to be built. 

A Hindutva icon from western UP, Sangeet Som after inaugurating a statue of 8th century Hindu king Anangpal Singh Tomar at Sisauli village near Meerut (October 16, 2017) was once again on in top gear while denigrating Muslims and Islam. However, it was not from his earlier repository of hate like cow, love jihad, gharwapsi etc. etc. On this occasion he chose a new theme. It was Taj Mahal being denigrated as part of Hindutva polarizing agenda. 

According to a leading English daily in this speech Som told the gathering: “Many people were pained to see that the Taj Mahal had been removed from the list of historical places, what history, history of which place, which history. The person who made Taj Mahal [Shahjahan] imprisoned his father, he targeted the Hindus of Uttar Pradesh and India. If these people still find place in history, then it is very unfortunate and I guarantee that history will be changed.” 

Som continuing his sermon said “In the past few years, there have been attempts to distort history in India and Uttar Pradesh. Today, the governments of India and UP are working to bring that history on the correct path, from the history of Ram to Krishna, Maharana Pratap to Shivaji Rao, they are trying to incorporate them in the books. And the blots which are in our books be it of Akbar, Aurangzeb, Babur, the government is working to remove them from history.”i 

This sermon on history was hilarious so far as facts were concerned. One could see the clear imprint of RSS ‘boudhik’ (intellectual) training which produces such intellectuals. Shahjahan becomes Aurangzeb! Shah Jahan, who got Taj Mahal built in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal, was told to be the one who jailed his father. On the contrary it was Shahjahan who was imprisoned by his son Aurangzeb till former’s death. But so far as aim  of communal polarization was concerned there was no confusion and mistake. 

Som a beloved of RSS is a seasoned religious bigot. He was implicated for his provocative statements in the Muzaffanagar riots of 2013 that claimed at least 60 lives and displaced 50,000 people. The Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission report on Muzaffanagar riots named him among the people responsible for inciting the riots. In the last UP assembly elections he was also charged with instigating communal hatred after his supporters screened a documentary that allegedly polarized voters. This RSS/BJP leader was also accused of stoking communal tensions in Dadri’s Bisada village after the 2015 mob lynching of Mohammed Ikhlaq. 

For his such prominent services to the cause of Hindutva politics he was felicitated with awards like Hindu Hriday Samrat and Mahathakur Sangharsh Veer by ‘Hindu’ organizations. His prominence in the Hindutva hierarchy can be gauged by the fact that instead of being behind bars he has been provided Z-category security by the RSS/BJP government.ii 

Som in his speech was condemning those historians and activists who had criticized absence of iconic Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site from the list of historical monuments in the UP Government tourism booklet released a month ago. Taj Mahal was dropped from the list despite the fact that as per a reply of the then Union Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma in the Lok Sabha (July 19, 2016), it had earned a revenue of Rs 75 crores in three years of which only Rs 11 crores had been spent on its maintenance and other important environmental development of the Taj Mahal during the same period. 

It is true that a section of the BJP leaders did half-heartedly expressed difference with Som’s opinion taking care of the fact that their response did not hurt the perpetrator of hate. The UP tourism minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi made it clear that the Taj was part of our heritage. But when asked directly about Som’s denigration instead of condemning the hate campaign against the Taj Mahal she simply said, “Well, every individual is free to make an opinion but as far as the government is concerned Taj is very much on our priority list.” 

There is no doubt that Som’s diatribe was neither an exception nor an aberration. He was religiously expressing the RSS/BJP point of view on the 

monument. Last June chief minister Yogi Adityanath had no hesitation in declaring that He said that “the Ramayana and the Gita represent Indian culture and not the Taj Mahal.” He went on to emphasize that the ivory-white marble mausoleum didn’t represent “Indian culture”. 

How the RSS/BJP intends to use the issue of Taj Mahal for its polarizing agenda can be known by the statement of a seasoned RSS/BJP leader, Vinay Katiyar, BJP Rajya Sabha MP which he made 2 days after Som’s venom spitting against Taj Mahal. According to him Taj Mahal was built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan after demolishing a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva called Tejomahal.iii 

It was no different with the BJP national spokesperson and a senior RSS cadre, G V L Rao who though expressed difference with Som but treating Taj Mahal as a heritage of the killer and barbaric Islamic rule as Som had done, had no hesitation in declaring that “As a party, we do not have a view on any individual monuments. But, broadly speaking, the period of Islamic rule—around 800 years — was a period of extreme exploitation, insane barbarism and unprecedented intolerance to the other faith. If anyone tries to gloss over these facts, it will be actually distorting history. It is well documented by historians of world stature that Muslim invasion and its rule represented the most oppressive and regressive world over”.iv 

Some of the political commentators are of the view that the issue of Taj Mahal’s ‘barbaric Islamic’ heritage is being hyped keeping in view the coming assembly elections, specially in Gujarat. The RSS/BJP feel that Hindus of Gujarat not solidly backing it there, this issue will help in consolidating Hindu vote-bank there. It may be partly true but the danger of Hindutva mischief with Taj Mahal cannot be underestimated. 

We should not forget that that before the murder of Father of the Nation, Gandhiji (January 30, 1948), a strident campaign of hatred was launched against him by the Hindutva gang. This hate propaganda resulted in his assassination was underscored by none other than Sardar Patel led home ministry which went on to record that “It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organize for their protection. As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji”.v 

It was no different when Babri mosque’s demolition was planned and executed during 1990-92. It is well-documented how all Muslims became haram-zade or Babar kee aulad (children of Babar) posing serious danger to Ram-zade (children of Ram). The hatred campaign against Muslims/Islam was carried on for almost 2 years and became the most pervasive sentiment among Hindus with a trail of bloodbath of Muslims in different parts of the country. Riding on it the Hindutva juggernaut led by RSS was able to demolish Ayodhya mosque on December 6, 1992, despite commitment to the Parliament, PM and Supreme Court that mosque would not be harmed. 

The RSS demolition squad must tell us that why despite “the period of Islamic rule — around 800 years — was a period of extreme exploitation, insane barbarism and unprecedented intolerance to the other faith”, the population of Muslims never exceeded 25% of the population and Hindu population never decreased below 75%. Savarkar says that after Humayun no Mughal king of India was from a Muslim mother. ‘800 years of Muslim rule’ kept Muslims pauperized whereas wealth, properties remained with the Hindus. Was it due to the fact that high Caste elite of Hindus joined hands with these ‘Muslim’ rulers? There could be no other reason for continuation of this insane barbaric, extreme exploitation and unprecedented intolerance Islamic rule for 800 years. 

There is real danger to the safety and existence of Taj Mahal. The rulers having allegiance to RSS cannot be trusted despite all kinds of assurances. India has not forgotten how Hindutva bandwagon specially RSS cheated and renegaded on the Babri mosque. There can be 3 kinds of immediate dangers to Taj Mahal. 

1. Mobs are allowed to damage/destroy Taj Mahal for being a symbol of Islamic repressive rule as was done on December 6, 1992 or in 2006-7 in Kandhmal against Churches and seminaries of ‘anti-national’ Christians. It may be noted that many ‘Hindu’ historians/intellectuals have been claiming that Taj Mahal was a temple. 

2. Taj Mahal is damaged/destroyed by forming a fake Islamist group or conspiring with some Islam-o-fascist group claiming that mausoleum like Taj Mahal is not allowed in Islam. It may be noted here that RSS relies on conspiracies for achieving its objects. Dr. Rajendra Prasad who rose to be the first President of the Indian Republic warned even first home minister of India, Sardar Patel on this. In a letter to Sardar Patel (March 14, 1948) he wrote: “I am told that RSS people have a plan of creating trouble. They have got a number of men dressed 




Cited in Justice on Trial, RSS, Bangalore, 1962, pp.26-28. 

as Muslims and looking like Muslims who are to create trouble with the Hindus by attacking them and thus inciting the Hindus. Similarly there will be some Hindus among them who will attack Muslims and thus incite Muslims. The result of this kind of trouble amongst the Hindus and Muslims will be to create a conflagration.”vi 

3. Even if Taj Mahal is not demolished its beauty and gorgeousness for which the Taj Mahal is known can be damaged permanently by the conspiratorial use of sub-standard and harmful chemicals for cleaning. This can be done through experts/consultants committed to cleansing of India of ‘Islamic’ heritage. 

In order to check and counter any such attempt the highest court of justice in India, the Supreme Court, must take immediate charge of the World Heritage Site as governments both at the Central level as well as UP level are committed to what creatures like Som, GL Rao and Vinay Katiya have been propagating. The UNO, specially UNESCO must monitor the situation to save Taj Mahal. 

vi Dr. Rajendra Prasad to Sardar Patel (March 14, 1948) cited in Neerja Singh (ed.), Nehru-Patel: Agreement Within Difference—Select Documents & Correspondences 1933-1950, NBT, Delhi, p. 43.  

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How women in India are programmed to remain silent about sexual abuse

Most women are victims of child sexual abuse, they fear speaking up against men in positions of power even later in life.



The Harvey Weinstein case of serial sex abuse of the who’s who of Hollywood female actors including such A-listers as Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Cara Delevigne and Ashley Judd among others has brought in a storm in the US film industry but the fact remains that many of the victims choose to remain quiet for decades.

If this is the case in the US, where women are known to be more empowered, the situation in more conservative societies is bound to be worse. The problem worsens when someone who has been abused in their childhood is sexually assaulted.

A Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) survivor is especially unable to stand up against abuse and has big issues with setting boundaries particularly when the person making advances is in a position of power and authority such as a professor making advances to a college student.

Well-known Bangalore based psychiatrist Meenakshi Kirtane, also the founder of Maanas, a counselling and psychotherapy centre said, “We see several cases of young women who are unable to speak up against sexual assault and molestation by their professors or people in positions of authority like their bosses. Many of them are victims of CSA and therefore have boundary issues.”

The problem is compounded by the fact that in India over 47 per cent girls are victims of CSA, as per the study of Child Abuse: India 2007commissioned by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, government of India.

In conservative cultures, like in India, children are taught to respect elders and their authority. This culture prevents children from being able to speak up against abuse but this is also the reason why many women are unable to speak up against sexual assault and rape, especially if the man in question is powerful and well-respected. The more a molester or rapist is accomplished, the more difficult it becomes for someone to speak up against them.

Women fear that speaking up would invite criticism and many would not believe the victim, which we often see. With the increase in trolling on social media, the scale of the problem has increased manifold. For instance, when rape charges were levelled against senior journalist Tarun Tejpal, the first reaction from many was disbelief. Powerful men have kept women quiet for years in this way.

We have also seen the case of Dr Rajendra Pachauri. Due to his standing in the world, the allegations of sexual harassment by his female colleague were not taken seriously in the beginning. People even jump to defend a powerful person completely discrediting a woman who has mustered up all the courage she could to speak up. Delay in reporting also adds to people not taking a victim’s words seriously.

childrape690_102017021602.jpgWomen have internalised the myth that it is their responsibility to prevent rape, in case of sexual abuse the onus is on them.

Jamila Koshy, Chennai-based psychiatrist said, “This is the bind that women are in. Right from childhood, women are taught that the onus is on them to prevent rape, whether it is by covering up properly or by avoiding travelling alone in the night or various such precautions, they are told that it is their responsibility to protect themselves. This has been internalised by women. They often think that they need to prevent being sexually assaulted or raped. If they are raped or assaulted, they blame themselves. They think of ways in which they could have prevented the attack on them. Maybe they should have not gone out, maybe they should have done this or that. It is endless.”

She said that till women absolve themselves of this guilt they will not be able to speak up against sexual assault or rape. “You can only speak up boldly when you are sure you are not to blame for the sexual harassment or rape,” she said.

In a patriarchal society such as India, it gets very complicated. First you are taught to respect elders and people in authority. Then if the accused is a person who has also been involved in doing good works in society or has some other accomplishments, it becomes difficult for people to believe that he could be a sexual predator, like we have seen many, many cases both in India and abroad.

Recently, Ronan Farrow wrote about the scandal of his family when one of his siblings Dylan Farrow accused their father and acclaimed film-maker Woody Allen of sexually molesting her when she was seven. The female actors, who were asked why they continued to work with him, replied that these were only allegations which were not proven and that it was a family matter.

Just like in Weinstein’s case, Woody Allen’s public relations machinery went into an overdrive to discredit both Dylan and her mother Mia Farrow is what Ronan said in his articles. Similarly, in Pachauri’s case, the defence has been that his personal computer, mobiles and laptops were used by someone else and that he didn’t send the emails harassing his female colleague.

In the case of Mahmood Farooqui, accused of rape, the court observed that the complainant had not sufficiently communicated her unwillingness to Farooqui and so he was acquitted of rape. Again Farooqui’s movie Peepli Live was highly appreciated and his efforts to revive the art of Dastangoi has been much appreciated so he is also a person whose work has earned his much acclaim and bringing charged against him would require courage on the part of the complainant.

Another issue which has been observed in the Harvey Weinstein case is that though the female actors were sexually abused, many of them continued to maintain relationship with him for years and one even said she had an affair with him later. This continued friendship with a sexual predator also discredits the accusers in the eyes of the public, which doesn’t see that a powerful person has many ways to get his victims to comply with his wishes and also to make them believe that nothing actually happened. Some of them felt guilty but they also doubted themselves and most importantly kept quiet for years fearing that their careers would be ruined.

But the bottom line remains that no one can be seen to be above sexual aggression just because of his achievements and society has to get over such misogyny. We need to start teaching men that women’s bodies are not something that they can grab whenever the desire strikes them. Their willingness or otherwise has to be respected.

Parents and society have to start teaching boys and men that they need to start respecting women and their bodies. They need to stop being the predatory cavemen of a bygone era.

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Bihar – Barber Made to Spit, Lick Saliva Off Ground as Punishment by Panchayat #WTFnews

Mahesh Thakur was also beaten up with slippers by women in the village after he entered the the village headman’s house when no male members were present.

Alok Kumar |

Image result for barber lick bihar

Mahesh Thakur was made to spit and lick it off the ground. (Photo: ANI)


Patna: A 54-year-old man was allegedly made to spit on the floor and lick his own saliva off the ground in Bihar Sharif, Nalanda, after he entered the village headman’s house without knocking when no male members were present.

Mahesh Thakur, who is a barber, was also beaten up with slippers by women in the village.

Eight people, including the sarpanch, have been booked for delivering vigilante justice after the authorities took suo moto cognizance of the incident. No one, however, has been apprehended so far.

Nalanda’s district magistrate SM Thyiagrajan said Thakur had reportedly gone to the home of Surendra Yadav on Wednesday night for tobacco. He told the police that he was unaware that only female members were at home at the time.

Angered by the barber’s ‘audacity,’ the sarpanch decided to convene the panchayat to decide the punishment for this ‘digression’. It was at the panchayat session that the shameful punishment was reportedly decided.

The DM said that Bihar Sharif’s sub-divisional officer Sudhir Kumar has been asked to visit the spot and gather more details about the turn of events. An inquiry has been ordered and strict action will be taken, he said.

Nalanda District Magistrate Thiyagrajan S Mohan Ram told News18, “After the Panchayat’s decision, women slapped him with slippers and then he was forced to spit on the ground and lick it. Someone also recorded it and shared on WhatsApp.”

“Such incidents will not be tolerated. We will take strict action against the culprits,” said Bihar minister Nand Kishore Yadav, reacting to the incident.

Nalanda man allegedly made to lick spit for entering influential villager’s house, 8 booked

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Rajasthan: Half-buried farmers continue protest against land acquisition on Diwali #Hallofshame

The farmers of Nindar village, that is located on the outskirts of Jaipur, are protesting against the acquisition of over 1,300 bighas of land for a housing project claiming that the compensation offered was not enough.

 Rajasthan farmers, Jaipur farmers land acquisition, Jaipur Development Authority, Vasundhara Raje, Nindar village, Rajasthan farmers diwali, india news, indian expressJaipur: Farmers, who have been protesting by staying neck deep in pits against acquisition of lands, celebrated Diwali (Source: ANI)

About 650 women, who have buried themselves neck-deep in the ground to oppose the Jaipur Development Authority’s move to acquire land in their village, marked Diwali and performed puja at the demonstration site, continuing their protest against the Rajasthan government.

The farmers of Nindar village, that is located on the outskirts of Jaipur, are protesting against the acquisition of over 1,300 bighas of land for a housing project claiming that the compensation offered was not enough.

Their demonstration entered its 19th day on Friday as over 1,000 protesters celebrated Diwali and performed Govardhan puja at the protest site.

The protesting women performed Govardhan puja today at the protest site to show their solidarity against the government’s move to acquire farmers’ land against their will, Nagendra Singh Shekhawat, a leader of the Nindar Bachao Yuva Kisan Sangarsh Samiti, said.

Jaipur: Farmers, with bodies buried till neck in pits, stage ‘Satyagrah’ protest against forced acquisition of their land by Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) at Nindar Village in Jaipur on Sunday. (PTI Photo)He said that talks with the government have not been held in the last couple of days due to which more number of protesters have joined the movement and are on a fast.

The Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) has taken possession of 600 bighas of land so far and deposited Rs 60 crore in a local court as compensation for it after villagers refused to accept the amount, claiming it did not hold up to the prevailing market rates.

Around 10,000 houses will be built under the scheme announced in January 2011.

The opposition Congress had accused the government of failing to reach out to the farmers’ families protesting at the site for 19 days against the JDA’s decision to acquire their land.

State Congress Chief Sachin Pilot had said that at the time of festival season, men and women have buried themselves in pits as a mark of protest and the government was unable to resolve their problems. “The government should reach out to the protesters and amicably resolve their issues,” he had said.

Rajasthan: Half-buried farmers continue protest against land acquisition on Diwali

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‘Love-jihad’, ‘ghar-wapsi’: Don’t communalise inter-faith marriages, warns Kerala HC

Quoting American civil rights activist and poet Maya Angelou, the bench noted in its order: “Love recognises no barriers, it jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

love jihad, inter-religion marriage, Kerala high court, Kerala inter-religious marriage, inter-religious marriages, pinarayi vijayan, Kerala love jihad case, Kerala High Court on inter-religious marriages, kerala political killings, love jihadKerala High Court. (File)

A Division Bench of the Kerala High Court Thursday came down heavily on the campaign by various religious groups against what they describe as “Love Jihad” and said that “every case of inter-religious marriage shall not be portrayed on a religious canvas and create fissures in the communal harmony otherwise existing in God’s own country Kerala”.

The division bench of V Chitambaresh and Satish Ninan was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed by Anees Hameed, a 25-year-old from Kannur, who had moved the high court seeking the release of his wife Sruthi Meledath from her family’s custody. The court ruled that Sruthi be allowed to stay with Hameed, and dismissed the petitions of the woman’s parents and a helpline run by a Christian group that wanted to implead itself in the case.

“We are appalled to notice the recent trend in the state to sensationalise every case of inter-religious marriage as either love jihad or ghar wapsi. Disturbing news is coming from several parts of the country that young men and women who undergo inter-caste marriages are threatened with violence or violence is actually committed on them,’’ it said.

“In our opinion, such acts of violence or threats or harassment are wholly illegal and those who commit them must be severely punished. This is a free and democratic country and once a person becomes a major, he or she can marry whosoever he or she likes. If the parents of the boy or girl do not approve of such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage, the maximum they can do is that they can cut off social relations with the son or the daughter. But they cannot give threats or commit or instigate acts of violence, and cannot harass the person who undergoes such inter-caste or inter-religious marriage,’’ said the bench.

In its order dismissing the plea of the parents for custody of the woman, the court assured that it will “protect the individual liberty of even the lowest citizen of this country and unlock the doors of freedom if there is a faintest doubt that she is unlawfully confined or illegally detained”.

Quoting American civil rights activist and poet Maya Angelou, the bench noted in its order: “Love recognises no barriers, it jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”
Referring to Hameed’s wife, the court said, “We applaud the extraordinary courage shown by Sruthi to live up to her conviction and decry the attempt of her parents to deflect the course of justice by misleading litigations. Sruthi is ordered to be set at liberty and it is for the couple to decide their future course of action without interference from her parents.”

Sruthi had stated in court that after the inter-faith marriage, her family had forcibly kept her at the Siva Sakthi Yoga Vidya Kendram near Kochi, which helps “reconvert” Hindu women who have embraced other religions. Deposing in court two weeks ago, Sruthi alleged that she was tortured by counsellors and yoga trainers at the centre when she refused to leave Hameed.

Sruthi and Hameed were students of a college in Kannur before they decided to get married. However, after their marriage, Sruthi’s parents moved a habeas corpus petition in the high court in May. She was produced in court and allowed to stay with Hameed. Later, her parents reportedly took her to the yoga centre and kept her there for nearly two months.

Last week, the Kerala government had told the Supreme Court that a police investigation into the marriage of a Muslim man to a Hindu woman who had embraced Islam had not found anything that would warrant a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The government’s statement was in relation to the marriage of Shafin Jahan with Akhila alias Hadiya, which was set aside in May by the Kerala High Court, which entrusted the woman’s custody to her parents. Jahan had sought a recall of an earlier order by the Supreme Court directing the NIA to probe whether there was a wider pattern of alleged “love jihad” in the case.

‘Love-jihad’, ‘ghar-wapsi’: Don’t communalise inter-faith marriages, warns Kerala HC

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SC judgment on sex with minor wife should not be interpreted as a tool for parents and community leaders to “tame” rebellious daughters

A woman's hand with bangles
A newly married woman | Source: Jasleen Kaur/ Flickr


In a widely-praised judgment last week, the Supreme Court declared that sexual intercourse with a minor wife will be deemed rape under the law. In its immediate aftermath, the judgment led to calls for the nullification of all child marriages, which in my view, is a top-down approach with serious consequences, and removed from the social realities of the country.

To begin with, the judgment in a public interest litigation filed by Independent Thought, lends itself to two interpretations.

The first, a formalistic interpretation, which deems all sexual intercourse with a girl under 18 years of age as statutory rape, including with an underage wife. In the context of a large number of underage marriages, comprising both forced as well as self-arranged or choice marriages by the girls, a nuanced response is necessary. Such a response will safeguard the rights of young persons, rather than enhance their vulnerability and voicelessness, especially of adolescents. What we do not need is a flattened, de-contextualised response.

A harmonious interpretation is also possible, involving a reading of all concerned laws. Such an interpretation would read the judgment as correcting an anomaly within the law, which de-criminalised non-consensual sex with wife of 15 to 18 years on the one hand, while declaring all sexual intercourse, including with a consenting older adolescent till 18 years, as rape (called statutory rape). This judgment allows non-consensual sex with a wife under 18 years to be prosecuted as rape, thus aligning the provisions on statutory rape with marital rape.

However, the judgment steers clear of interfering with the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006, under which all under-age marriages remain legal. These may be declared void, but only at the initiative of the spouse who was a minor at the time of the marriage, by exercising this option within two years of attaining majority.

The judgment, if interpreted in light of the child marriage law, would only strike at non-consensual sex with an underage wife as rape. This interpretation best lends itself to advancing social justice goals within socio-economic realities that compel early marriage, which was further complicated in 2012 with the problematic increase in age of sexual consent from 16 years to 18 years.

All discussions on the law relating to statutory rape – including of an under-age wife – must take into account key socio-economic realities within which the law operates. These include several aspects, of which four are important for the purpose of understanding early marriage.

First, there is evidence of increasing numbers of early marriages that involve older adolescents. In fact, the trend suggests a shift away from ‘child marriage’ to what is called, ‘early marriage’.

Second, there is a rise in self-arranged marriages by young people, which are not forced. While this is not the predominant pattern, it does disrupt the popular imagination of forced marriages of children.

The third aspect pertains to socio-cultural reality that makes marriage a safer option for young people who choose to be together, to escape the stigma of pre-marital sex – especially when such intimacies transgress social divisions of caste and religion, and run the very real risk of ‘honour’ related backlash.

The fourth aspect is that, with women’s participation in the paid workforce in India being amongst the lowest globally, marriage (early or in adulthood) remains the primary means of social and economic security for women. In other words, marriage in India is almost compulsory for a girl/woman’s social and economic stability. These conditions must be recognised as shaping the ‘choices’ of all marriages, arranged by the family or the self.

An analysis of district court judgments from Delhi from 2012-16 conducted by Partners for Law in Development shows that most of the cases filed against consensual sexual relations by girls under 18 years is by the parents of the girls. Through these cases, the parents seek to prosecute the husband of their daughter, and declare the marriage void under Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006. Typically, the legal action is initiated by the parents to regain control over their daughter and punish the man their daughter has chosen.

In a highly gendered society, where stigma and shame are inevitable outcomes of sexual expression by girls, the increase in the age of statutory rape to 18 years, blurs the distinction between abuse and positive sexuality. This only adds fear of law to the existing social stigma, making it difficult for girls to seek help or avail health services in crisis. Such consequences make it important to interpret the Supreme Court verdict as criminalising only non-consensual sex with an underage wife. In fact, this is a compelling justification for restoring the statutory age of consent to 16 years, to ensure that the law is able to redress violations and not punish positive expressions of adolescent sexuality.

Any other interpretation of the judgment would amount to sanctioning the use of law as a tool of retribution in the hands of opposing parents and community leaders, to “tame” rebellious daughters, and legally punish their partners.

For the law to be aligned to fundamental rights and freedoms, it must not intentionally or unintentionally serve the interests of moral policing, honour-caste-communal retribution.

Madhu Mehra is a feminist lawyer, and founding member and Executive Director of Partners for Law in Development.

Don’t misread SC judgment, not all early-age marriages are forced

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Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) makes #Aadhaar compuslory #WTFnews

PMPML’s Aadhaar compulsion
Transport authority makes it mandatory to provide the unique identification number to issue passes
Even though the Supreme Court’s privacy verdict in August ruled out the possi bility of Aadhaar being made mandatory, the authorities at the Pune Mahanagar Parivahan Mahamandal Limited (PMPML) seem to think otherwise. PMPML has made it compulsory for commuters to submit their Aadhaar number in order to register for online services and also buy the monthly pass.The registration process does not complete if one does not provide the number, making it difficult for people to use the services. While the commuters have raised an objection to it, a few people are also being asked to submit a hard copy of their Aadhaar card when they visit the pass centres at bus stops.Since it was becoming difficult to physically visit the pass centers to take the monthly pass, commuter Sanjay Shitole logged onto the PMPML website, so that he could get it done online.But, when he tried to register himself on the portal, he was asked to submit his Aadhaar number. Thinking that it is not mandatory, he tried clicking on the register button, only to get a message that entering the Aadhaar number is mandatory.

“When I heard about the online registration option, I was more than happy, thinking that I will no longer have to spend time in the queue. But here, they asked me to submit the Aadhaar number. What if I don’t have one? Will I not be eligible to get the pass then?“ he questioned. He has even filed a complaint on the online portal of PMPML. But the only reply he has received till date is, “Sir, thanks for your suggestion. But the relevant documents are determined as a policy for the application for pass by PMPML.“

While he was asked to submit his Aadhaar number on online portal, people visiting the pass centres had to face similar woes. Another commuter said, “I was not carrying my Aadhaar card as no one had asked me to submit it earlier. But, the person distributing the passes at the centre asked me to submit a copy. As I failed to do so, he refused to give me the pass.“ Added Shitole, “They have never specified anywhere that the Aadhaar number is mandatory. But the staff has randomly started demanding it. Even they do not have clarity on whether it is mandatory or not.“

PMPML director Siddharth Shirole confirmed that the transport body has decided to make it mandatory for commuters to submit their Aadhaar numbers, saying, “We found that the passes were being misused, and there was duplication too. So, we decided to ask people to submit their Aadhaar numbers. That is the only identification on which the address is verified and there are no chances of duplication. We can help them get their Aadhaar cards done. But, if they do not have a card, then they will not get the pass.“

Objecting to the decision, Anupam Saraph, an international governance expert, said, “The Supreme Court has already clarified that the Aadhaar number can be demanded only in five categories that are specified. That too, it is voluntary. This is contempt of court and a violation of the rule of law.No one can make it compulsory. It is bad governance to require a number to make any service available. It should be provided irrespective of anyone’s identity. This is an indicator of dehumanising the government.“

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