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Archives for : April2018

Aadhaar hearing: Petitioners question UIDAI on verification of residency requirement, de-duplication rejections and authentication failures

On Day 23 of the Aadhaar case, the questions posed by the petitioners on the PowerPoint presentation made by the UIDAI were answered. The questions posed included: number of authentication failures and de-duplication rejections, on whether a person’s identity was actually verified or only biometrics matched, whether the documents provided at the time of enrolment were verified and whether any actual verification was done to ensure that the persons enrolling were actually residents for 182 days.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

Thereafter, the Attorney General continued his arguments on the constitutionality of Aadhaar.

Questions to the UIDAI

First, the CEO of the UIDAI answered the questions raised by the petitioners.

The main responses provided by the UIDAI are as follows (The full list of the UIDAI’s answers to the petitioner’s questions are here):

1. Six percent authentication failure: On authentication failures, the UIDAI claimed that there were 9.2 lakh failed iris-based authentication transactions or 8.54 percent failure, and 3.6 crores failed fingerprint-based authentication transactions, or six percent failure. The UIDAI could only provide national figures since it did not collect location details (for state-specific details).

2. Biometric exceptions: When questioned on the issue of biometric exceptions, for people such as leprosy patients whose fingerprints failed, UIDAI said that they have the option of using iris-based authentication. A digitally signed QR code in e-Aadhaar has been implemented as an exception handling mechanism, which allows agencies to verify the Aadhaar card in an offline manner. The Section 5 of the Aadhaar Act and Regulation 6 of the Aadhaar (Enrolment and Update) Regulations were cited as the legal backing to biometric exceptions.

3. School as introducer: The school cannot act as an introducer for the enrolment of children aged 5-15 years. Parental consent is required.

4. No opt-out mechanism: There will be no opt-out mechanism under the Aadhaar Act, even once children reach 18 years. People only have the option to lock their biometric authentication.

5. 6.9 Crore de-duplication rejections: So far, there has been 6.9 crore de-duplication rejections by the UIDAI. The UIDAI sees the lack of complaints to the authority or the Courts for denial of Aadhaar numbers as evidence that those who were genuine enrollers have re-registered, and the rest were fraudulent applications.

6. Eighteen crore enrolment packets rejected: As of 2018, 18 crore enrolment packets have been rejected for various reasons including data quality-based rejections (such as incomplete address), head of family or introducer’s biometric validation failed, etc. Further, enrolment packets, even of rejected applications, are archived in the CIDR.

7. Responses to authentication query: It was clarified that Section 8(4) of the Aadhaar Act, which allows a response of ‘yes’, ‘no’, or ‘any other appropriate response’ to an authentication query, refers to either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response or to an e-KYC authentication.

8. Verification of enrolment documents: The documents provided for enrolment or updating are verified as genuine or false by the person appointed by the Registrar or Enrolment agency for this purpose.

9. Verifying person’s identity during authentication: The UIDAI was asked if it actually identifies the person, or simply matches biometric received at the time of authentication with its records. To this, the UIDAI simply confirmed that biometric matching is done with its records, and a ‘yes’ response indicates a positive identification of the Aadhaar number holder. The Aadhaar enrolment procedures and the standards of its matching systems were also cited. De-duplication to ensure uniqueness of identity was also cited.

10. Probabilistic matching of biometrics: The UIDAI stated that Aadhaar is based on 1:1 matching, and ‘in that sense’ is not probabilistic. Aadhaar Proof of Concept of Studies was cited which show that over 98 percent people authenticated successfully using Aadhaar.

11. Removal of 49,000 enrolment operators: When asked why 49,000 enrolment operators were removed (failure to verify documents, failure to maintain records of submitted documents, misuse of submitted information or aiding false enrolments), the UIDAI stated that the blacklisting maybe for one of these reasons: illegally charging a resident for Aadhaar enrolment, poor demographic data quality, invalid biometric exceptions, and other process malpractices.

12. Verification of residence of 182 days or illegal immigrants: When asked if any verification was done to ensure that the person enrolling was resident in India for 182 days, or was not an illegal immigrant, the UIDAI stated only the resident’s signed declaration that he had been a resident was required and that Aadhaar could be provided to a foreign national also.

13. Storage of information in biometric readers: Introduction of registered devices, according to the UIDAI, ensures the encapsulation of the biometric capture, signing, and encryption of biometrics all within it. This rules out the possibility of stored biometrics and replay.

A man goes through the process of eye scanning for the Unique Identification (UID) database system, Aadhaar, at a registration centre in New Delhi, India. Image: Reuters

A man goes through the process of eye scanning for the Unique Identification (UID) database system, Aadhaar, at a registration centre in New Delhi, India. Image: Reuters

14. Retention of data by Aadhaar entities: The UIDAI stated that no logs were required to be kept by entities in relation to IP address of the device, GPS coordinates of the device and purpose of authentication. The data logged by them includes Aadhaar number, parameters of submitted authentication request and response, and record of consent of the Aadhaar number holder for the authentication. When asked to confirm if such entities, AuAs, KuAs, authentication service agencies such as Airtel, etc., formed a part of the Aadhaar architecture, the UIDAI stated that such entities were appointed by it under the Aadhaar (Authentication) Regulations.

15. Traceability features: The UIDAI was asked if ‘traceability’ features allow the UIDAI to track the specific device and its location from where each authentication takes place. The UIDAI responded that it stores data on Authentication User Agency (AUA) code, Authentication Service Agency (ASA) code, unique device code, registered device code used for authentication, but not information on IP address and GPS location.

Aadhaar Act is a just, fair, and a reasonable law.

After completing the responses to the petitioner’s questions, the Attorney General resumed his arguments for the State. He argued that Aadhaar fulfilled the tests laid down in the Puttaswamy judgement for a reasonable restriction on the right to privacy. He argued that Aadhaar collected the least possible data required for the purpose. He also cited the Right to Information Act as an example of a reasonable restriction on privacy in the larger public interest.

The Aadhaar Act, he argued, is a just, fair, and a reasonable law. The motive of Aadhaar was in the larger public interest, to prevent dissipation of social welfare benefits, preventing black money, and money laundering. These, he argued, were legitimate state interests, and further, the Court could not second-guess the intent of the legislature. The Aadhaar Act, thus, meets the test of proportionality by showing a rational nexus between the means used and the goals to be achieved.

The hearings will continue on 4 April 2018.

Sources of arguments include live-tweeting of the case by SFLC.inGautam Bhatia and Prasanna S, and Responses of the UIDAI to the Petitioners questions, available here

The author is a lawyer and author specialising in technology laws. She is also a certified information privacy professional.

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Prof G N Saibaba’s, wife moves HC to be with him during medical treatment

Vaibhav Ganjapure| TNN 

NAGPUR: After Naxal leader and Delhi University professor G N Saibaba, his wife Vasantaalso moved the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Tuesday, praying for permission to be with her husband during his medical treatment.
A division bench of Justices Bhushan Gavai and Murlidhar Giratkar then directed special public prosecutor Prashant Sathianathan, appearing on behalf of Gadchiroli police, to submit reply on her demands within a week, before adjourning the hearing. The judges stated there was no law in existence to allow wife to be with convict husband during medical treatment.

The applicant had arrived in city on Monday to meet her husband, who has been lodged in Central Jail here. At that time, he had been taken to the Super-Specialty Hospital (SSH) for a medical check-up and treatment. When she went there to see him, she was allegedly refused entry and was even manhandled by the women police.

She then filed an application along with an affidavit for accompanying her husband in hospital. According to her, her husband was suffering from severe disability and he needed her support for survival.

The wheelchair-bound polio-afflicted professor had already sought fresh bail citing same grounds of ill-health. With 90% disability, he stated his conditions were deteriorating and he also suffered from many ailments. He said he regularly needed physiotherapy, occupational therapy and hydrotherapy.

On March 7 last year, the Gadchiroli sessions court convicted Saibaba and five others for aiding and abetting Naxal activities and waging war against the nation. He along with Mahesh Tirki, Prashant Rahi, Hem Mishra, and Pandu Narote were awarded lifer under Sections 13, 18, 20, 38 and 39 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) along with Section 120B of IPC for criminal conspiracy. Vijay Tirki was awarded

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Maharashtra – A Bitter Harvest

Multiple agitations show all’s not well with the ‘rich’ state of Maharashtra
A Bitter Harvest
PRECEDENT
The Maratha protest for reservation in Mumbai last year
PHOTOGRAPH BY PTI

Come August, and there’ll be one more—a massive, silent rally in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan, the 58th running under that banner. Through the second half of 2016 and spilling over, lakhs of young boys and girls have marched silently with placards in their hands, dressed in black, all over Maharashtra. The Maratha Kranti Morcha protests had three demands: justice in the barbaric Kopardi rape case (where, in an inversion of usual narratives, the guilty were Dalits and the victim was a minor Maratha girl); reservations for Marathas; and abolition of the SC/ST Atrocities Act. Today, all three are live, hot-button themes. But more than that, the whole phenomenon taps into something more: a raw, deep anger, a disquiet.

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Anyone would have noticed: it’s been an unusually rich harvest of agitations for Maharashtra of late. Anger seems to be growing in abundance in those parched fields. Frequent protests, of all shapes and sizes, have become the norm—alm­ost as if, together, they manifest some collective deficit in the lives of people. Count the numerous Maratha morchas, the sangharsha yatra of farmers, Dalit protests opposing violence at Bhima Koregaon, protests after the Elphinstone Road railway tragedy, protests by railway apprentice and MPSC aspirants, by ang­anwadi workers, by students at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), and now the latest, the Kisan Long March that caught the nation’s eyes. It’s striking how they sometimes overlap, sometimes compete, and always seem to straddle economics and politics—how unmet promises on the MSP, for instance, may fuel an assertion of caste identity.

The Kopardi guilty are now in jail, awaiting death—their fate will be matched against that of others. The call for quota will be heard again at Azad Maidan. Though it’s a distant dream, the clamour can be expected to not lessen in the 18-month run-up to the next assembly election. And there’s already a protest brewing over the dilution of the SC/ST Atrocities Act. It’s the way one protest segues into the next. Is it time for Maharashtra to introspect? It’s always been a vanguard state, far from the darkness of the northern Bimaru belt, even if a hundred miles outside Mumbai things could be as bad. But are economic indices suddenly so depressed as to cause multiple strains in society?

For example, the Maratha morchas signalled tremendous frustration among the rural youth because of the agrarian crisis and lack of employment. “Youth have realised livelihood chances are shrinking in agriculture and they have no access to higher education. If they sell their land, they are pushed further into poverty. We are seeing an increase in migration and in the duration of migration too,” says activist Ulka Mahajan. Though the state’s literacy rate is above the national average, rural access to higher education is half that of urban, leaving most of them dependent on agriculture. If that doesn’t work, they migrate to the nearest town.

The Maratha morchas signalled tremendous frustration among the rural youth because of the agrarian crisis and lack of employment.
“There’s a widening gap…the number of students versus affordable higher education,” says Prof Brinelle D’Souza, Centre for Health and Mental Health, TISS. “With privatisation of education, economically deprived students remain outside the ambit. That’s why protests by students and youth are on the rise.” Anil Shidore, leader of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, which focuses on youth, agrees: “It has been difficult to get data in the past three-four years, but I see the problem of underemployment, where a PhD scholar works at a mall, a gap bet­ween young people and required skill-sets, given how technology is taking over.”

It appears difficult to believe a state with a higher per capita income than the national average and heavy FDI in its industries is having problems—ranging from the highest-ever public debt to una­bated farmers’ suicides. But the urban-­rural gap, with India’s financial capital Mumbai at one end, explains that. The state’s Economic Survey 2016-17 used some stark numbers from 2012 to flesh out the gap. Maharashtra’s human development index (HDI) that year was 0.752. And 27 districts had HDIs lower than that, with Nandurbar the lowest at 0.604, while Mumbai sat pretty at 0.841.

In 2017-18, Maharashtra’s revenue deficit stood at Rs 4,500 crore and public debt at Rs 4 lakh crore. Analysts doubt how much money can be put into the social sector and agriculture this way. It’s also becoming clear several projects ann­ounced during Make in India and Magnetic Maharashtra will take years to attain fruition. The failure to retain Foxconn, touted to create 50,000 jobs with a $5 billion investment, is a big blow, though the state still ranks high on ease of doing business. To add to that, real est­ate in Mumbai dropped by 27 per cent, following demonetisation and MahaRera.

So the cream on top is thinning at the same time as the base. “Maharashtra has extreme intra-state regional inequality and disparity,” says economist Ajit Ranade. “It is 45 per cent urbanised. While agriculture contributes up to 11 per cent of the state’s GDP, it employs over 50 per cent of its working population. Of those, 50 per cent are said to be either landless or have small parcels, which means they have no access to bank credit or many government schemes.”

Low public spending in agriculture is bad news in a state with only 18 per cent irrigation cover (other prosperous states have up to 40 per cent).
Once an anomaly exists, it feeds on itself and grows. For Ranade, it’s absurd that a drought-prone state should rely so heavily on “water-guzzling sugarcane”—which, in fact, has shown a 43 per cent increase in crop area. “Not to mention, the state’s political economy is closely tied to sugarcane,” says Ranade. “Job creation is required, but it needs to be in labour-int­ensive industries such as agro-processing, textiles, construction and tourism. We should have end-to-end textile parks in Vidarbha or appr­opriate development of coastal tourism along Konkan.”

Agriculture is a mess. Drought was a running curse this decade. But last year, good rainfall and a bumper crop (22 per cent growth) came as a bane—with price crashes and procurement delays. This year, with rainfall only at 84 per cent of normal, the state registered a negative 8 per cent growth! That’s on the back of a near-double-digit reduction in the output of vegetables and various crops. Measure that against the other statistic: 2,414 suicides from January to October 2017, the Rs 34,000-crore loan waiver not safety net enough. How that loan waiver will be financed is another question.

“Peasants and workers have been the worst affected of neoliberal policies,” says Ashok Dhawle, president, All India Kisan Sabha, which organised the Long March. “It’s been accentuated in the past four years. Public investment in agriculture has dropped all around. In the past few years, allocation of res­ources has dec­reased in agriculture and other social sectors such as education and health.” The crisis is acute in non-­irrigated reg­ions of Vidarbha and Marathwada—low public spending is bad news for a state that has only 18 per cent irrigation cover (other prosperous states have up to 40 per cent). Worse than the vagaries of nat­ure are the ­vagaries of credit. Corporate or richer farmers corner the benefits of banking and poor farmers borrow at a soul-crushing 36-60 per cent.

All this is what gets articulated in a near-permanent atmosphere of restiveness. There’s a whole ecosystem of protests, which allowed even senior BJP dissident Yashwant Sinha to participate in an agitation, ostensibly to protest ­erratic electricity bills on farmers, while seeking to make a political point. Even the CPI(M) used the recent Long March likewise. Right now, over 2 lakh ang­anwadi works are striking to get a salary hike. The government’s attempt to slap MESMA on them has met with further protests. While their work is crucial to addressing malnutrition among rural children, they are paid not more than Rs 6,500 per month.

Political experts and activists are looking at an intensified period of civilians getting down on the roads and ­highways to be heard.
“The discontent is highest among workers, the blue-collared and the peasants. This is because manufacturing is down everywhere—be it on farms or factories. The white-collared middle class emp­loyed with the service industry or in government jobs are not complaining,” says senior journalist Kumar Ketkar.

“These agitations are also an indication of political negotiations,” says Dolphy D’Souza, member of Citizens for Justice and Peace. “We are going into election year and this is perhaps the only chance to be heard. The government has not del­ivered on its promises and the Opposition has not helped either. Moreover, there is a limit to how far civil society protests will go. I see that the protests will intensify, but the worry is increasing polarisation. It has already happened between Marathas and Dalits.”

It’s obvious that sundry political parties will mobilise some of these protests, but what may come of it is a matter of speculation. Since the parties are themselves in survival mode, with nervous leaders defecting every now and then, political experts and activists are looking at a bleak but intensified period of civilians getting down on the roads and highways to be heard. The next one is around the corner: an agitation to protest insufficient compensation in the crop insurance scheme, at Parbhani on April 9.


By Prachi Pinglay-Plumber in Mumbai

https://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/a-bitter-harvest/299969

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Death Of Judge Loya: Post-Mortem Examination Was Manipulated Under Directions Of Doctor Related To Maharashtra Cabinet Minister

Dr Makarand Vyawahare personally participated in and directed the judge BH Loya’s post-mortem examination. He successfully hid crucial details such as a wound on the back of Loya’s head.

A two-month investigation into the circumstances surrounding the post-mortem examination of the judge BH Loya at the department of forensic medicine at Nagpur’s Government Medical College has uncovered chilling new facts. The post-mortem examination was directed by a doctor who dictated what details were included in and excluded from Loya’s post-mortem report—and who was later investigated by the GMC over complaints of manipulating numerous post-mortems. The doctor has succeeded in keeping his name from appearing in any medical documents related to the post-mortem, or any court documents in the Loya case. He also managed to avoid any media coverage of his enormous role behind the scenes of the case—until now.

According to official records, Loya’s post-mortem was conducted by Dr NK Tumram, then a lecturer in the forensic-medicine department at the GMC. In fact, the post-mortem was led by Dr Makarand Vyawahare, then a professor in the department and now the head of the forensic department at a separate institution, the Indira Gandhi Government Medical College, also in Nagpur. Vyawahare is a member of the powerful Maharashtra Medical Council, the supervisory body for all medical practitioners in the state. He is known in his professional circles primarily for the power he wields as a result of his political connections—Vyawahare is the brother-in-law of Sudhir Mungantiwar, the finance minister of Maharashtra, who is practically the number two in the BJP-led state government under Devendra Fadnavis.

Vyawahare showed extraordinary interest in Loya’s corpse. According to those employees interviewed for the investigation who were present during the post-mortem, he personally participated in and directed the post-mortem examination—even shouting down a junior doctor who tried to question him during the examination of Loya’s head, the back of which had a wound. Vyawahare made certain that the report made no mention of this crucial and glaring fact. The document stated that Loya’s death was caused by a heart attack. It is evident from the investigation that there was a concerted effort to conceal any observations that could raise suspicions regarding the cause of Loya’s death, and that Vyawahare led the cover-up during the post-mortem examination.

These grievous charges gain additional credibility from the fact that various employees of the GMC told me they witnessed numerous instances in which Vyawahare manipulated post-mortem examinations and falsified reports. The GMC’s investigation of Vyawahare, in 2015, came after vocal protests against his practices by resident doctors and medical students at the institution.

The Caravan’s new investigation, which reveals the role of a hitherto unknown doctor who successfully hid crucial facts such as a wound on Loya’s head, calls into question the trustworthiness of the entire post-mortem examination, and so casts doubt on the whole of the official version of the cause of Loya’s death. Soon after The Caravan first reported the suspicions of Loya’s family, in November 2017, a chart purportedly from an ECG test conducted on the judge shortly before his death found its way to select media outlets, which published it as evidence that he died of a heart attack. Various discrepancies in the document were pointed out on social media. The state of Maharashtra, while arguing against the need for an independent inquiry into Loya’s death, chose not to produce the ECG chart before the Supreme Court. That left the post-mortem report prepared at the GMC as the most important medical document to support the state of Maharashtra’s argument that Loya died of natural causes. Now, the entire exercise of the post-mortem examination itself fails to stand up to scrutiny.

*

The investigation uncovered testimony from 14 current and former employees of the GMC, including individuals with direct knowledge of Loya’s post-mortem. To protect the employees, The Caravan has chosen to identify them by their places in the order in which the first meetings with them took place. Many of these employees were interviewed multiple times. All the employees who spoke during the investigation, including senior professors, clearly feared retribution for speaking up—from Vyawahare, and from the administration, police and intelligence machinery of the state of Maharashtra, all of which have maintained that Loya died a natural death.

Based on these accounts, I was able to reconstruct the chain of events at the GMC beginning at 7 am on 1 December 2014, when the forensic-medicine department opened for the day. The employees I convinced to open up about their accounts did not have any knowledge of events regarding Loya’s death before this time.

(Anand for The Caravan)

According to the fifth employee I met, who was present in the department that day, Loya’s corpse had already been delivered to the department by that time. Shortly after the department opened, Vyawahare called to enquire about the schedule of post-mortems for the day. He arrived at close to 10 am—unusually early for him, as at the time he rarely made an appearance at the department before noon.

The ninth employee I met said that Vyawahare was also sometimes late for lectures he was to deliver—and that Dr PG Dixit, the head of the department in 2014 and so officially Vyawahare’s superior, substituted for him in a few such instances. The eighth employee I spoke to said, “Things like timing … they are the subjects of the land, not for the king.”

Vyawahare was on edge when he arrived. “Uss din unka andaaz hi alag tha” (That day, his demeanor was completely different), the fifth employee told me. “He was very irritable.” Vyawahare immediately went to the department’s post-mortem room and asked whether the police had prepared the papers for Loya’s body. They had not.

Vyawahare grew more tense over the next hour. He usually took a cigarette break, in a designated smoking area near the post-mortem room, once every 45 minutes or so. That day, the fifth employee said, Vyawahare smoked a cigarette every 15 minutes. He would visit the post-mortem room, “ask [about the papers], he would go out and then he would smoke a cigarette … By the time the papers had come, he must have visited the [post-mortem] room at least thrice.”

The doctors on duty to carry out post-mortems that day were Tumram and Amit Thamke, then a post-graduate student. When the post-mortem on Loya’s body began—at 10.55 am, as per the report—Vyawahare joined them.

Mortuary attendants positioned Loya’s body on the examination table and prepared it for the post-mortem. Vyawahare donned surgical gloves for the examination—this was unusual for him too. “Vyawahare is a person who never wears the gloves … which is why this is a unique thing,” the first employee I spoke to said. In most of the instances when he had witnessed Vyawahare in the post-mortem room, the employee said, Vyawahare did not perform autopsies himself, and never put on gloves.

During Loya’s autopsy, the rolled-up sleeves of Vyawahare’s shirt unravelled and fell over his forearms. He told one of the two other doctors in the room to push them back. “Khud nahi kiya” (He did not do it himself), the fifth employee said. “Every small thing he was getting irritated by, with that body.”

The department of forensic medicine at the Government Medical College in Nagpur, where Loya’s post-mortem was conducted.
The department of forensic medicine at the Government Medical College in Nagpur, where Loya’s post-mortem was conducted. (Anand for The Caravan)

In two different interviews, conducted over a month apart, the fifth employee told me there was an injury on Loya’s head, “on the back, towards the right side.” The injury was of “the kind that is there when a stone hits and the skin tears,” he said, and was not particularly large. He added that the wound was deep enough for blood to have gushed out of it, so much so that the “cloth that was covering him [Loya] was soaked with blood towards the head … it was completely red.” The hair around that portion of Loya’s head “was also matted.”

During the inspection of Loya’s head, Vyawahare reprimanded Tumram. The fifth employee said that Tumram attempted to point something out to Vyawahare, to which the senior doctor responded sharply, in Marathi, “Write only as much as I am telling you.” Towards the end of the examination, the employee recalled, Vyawhare said, “Write the findings of the post-mortem report in front of me.”

The report omits the injury to the head and states that the probable cause of Loya’s death was “coronary artery insufficiency.” Under the subheading “External Examination,” the observation under point 14—“Condition of skin—Marks of blood etc”—states “Dry and pale.” Under point 17—“Surface wounds and injuries”—also under the same subheading, the report notes, “No evidence of any bodily injuries.” Under point 18, “Other injuries discovered by external examination or palpation as fractures etc,” it says “none.” Under point 19, labelled “Head,” the entry for the first sub-point, “Injuries under the scalp, their nature,” the report notes, “No injuries.” The testimony from inside the forensic department calls into question the veracity of each of these entries.

The testimony of an injury to Loya’s head is consistent with an analysis of the post-mortem report by Dr RK Sharma—the former head of the department of forensic medicine and toxicology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi. As Sharma pointed out to The Caravan, the report states that Loya’s dura was congested. He explained, “Dura mater is the outermost layer that surrounds our brain. It is damaged in cases of trauma, which indicates some kind of an assault on the brain. A physical assault.”

It was Loya’s family members who first said there was an injury on his head, and also blood on his body and shirt. These details were part of The Caravan’s first report on Loya’s death. Loya’s sister, Dr Anuradha Biyani, a medical doctor in government service, said that when she saw her brother’s body for the first time after it was delivered to his family, “there were bloodstains on the neck at the back of the shirt.” In a diary entry made in 2014, shortly after Loya’s death, she had written that there was “blood on his collar.” Loya’s second sister, Sarita Mandhane, told The Caravan that she saw “blood on the neck,” that “there was blood and an injury on his head … on the back side,” and that “his shirt had blood spots.” Loya’s father, Harkishan, said, “His shirt had blood on it from his left shoulder to his waist.”

After studying the medical documents prepared after Loya’s death, which I shared with him, the ninth employee told me, “This is very strange.” The standard practice while conducting a post-mortem is to collect tissue samples from the body of the deceased, which are then sent for laboratory testing along with a viscera form. This form is supposed to be filled out immediately after the post-mortem, using the exact information in the post-mortem report. Yet, the employee noted, “in the post-mortem report, he [the doctor] has written extensively about the heart,” but these details are not reflected elsewhere. “They must have manipulated the post-mortem report later,” he said.

A story published by The Caravan in December 2017 pointed out that a crucial date in the post-mortem report had been overwritten. The report also contains an additional entry made ten days after it was first prepared. Interestingly, the first page of the post-mortem report, which contains the overwritten date and additional entry, was missing from the documents submitted in the Supreme Court by the state of Maharashtra in response to petitioners arguing in favour of an independent inquiry. When this was pointed out by the counsel for one of the petitioners, one of the counsels for the state of Maharashtra told the court, on 22 January 2018, that it would be provided by the end of the day. Four days later, The Caravan pointed out that this had not been done yet. As of 2 April—over two months after the issue of the missing page was first raised in court—the state of Maharashtra had shared the page with the petitioner Tehseen Poonawalla, whose credentials and stance on the case has already raised questions. The page had still not been shared with the Bombay Lawyer’s Association, also a petitioner in the case, or the retired admiral Laxminarayan Ramdas, an intervening party in the matter. The counsels for the Bombay Lawyer’s Association and Ramdas have made the bulk of the arguments to the court in favour of an inquiry.

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Ten of the 14 employees I spoke to said they were sure that Vyawahare was capable of interfering in the preparation of a post-mortem report and altering its contents. “If this name is involved, then it’s absolutely possible that there is manipulation in the post-mortem,” the ninth employee I met, a peer of Vyawahare’s, said.

Kar sakte hai—He can do it, I would not say he can’t. He is a man who is capable of anything,” the eighth employee I met, a colleague of Vyawahare’s, told me.

“If there is political pressure, then he could manipulate the findings,” the third employee I met, who was previously the head of a department at the GMC, said.

“For some people, a post-mortem is almost a business that is like that—for making even a little change, you can get a lot of benefits,” the seventh employee I met, a senior doctor at the GMC, said. “Because it can change an entire investigation. … He [Vyawahare] is also politically connected, so people like that tend to do this sort of thing a little more.”

Sudhir Mungantiwar, Maharashtra’s current finance minister, is Vyawahare’s bhauji—his sister’s husband. Mungantiwar was formerly the state president of the Bharatiya Janata Party. In 1995, when the BJP came to power in Maharashtra for the first time, in alliance with the Shiv Sena, Mungantiwar was made a minister in the state. He hails from Chandrapur district, in the Vidarbha region of eastern Maharashtra—also the home district of Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. In 2014, when the BJP returned to power in the state, Mungantiwar was considered for the post of chief minister. After the job went to Devendra Fadnavis, Mungantiwar was installed as the number two in the government, with three portfolios: finance, planning and forests. He is also the guardian minister of Chandrapur and Wardha districts.

Vyawahare’s colleagues repeatedly mentioned that he had leveraged his relationship to Mungantiwar throughout his career. “Even when Mungantiwar was just an opposition MLA, Vyawahare would throw his weight around. Now he is in power, so you can imagine,” the third employee I spoke to, who knew Vyawahare as a post-graduate student in the late 1990s, said.

“You know how Dhritarashtra was there for Duryodhana, blind to all his crimes, because he didn’t know only what havoc Duryodhana was wreaking?” the ninth employee said, referring to the Mahabharata“That’s what this pair is like as well.”

*

Around a month after Loya’s post-mortem, in January 2015, Vyawahare became the head of the forensic department at the GMC. A few months after that, Vyawahare was appointed the vice-dean of the college. By the end of that year his dramatic rise hit trouble, as hundreds of medical students and resident doctors came out in protest against him, and brought the GMC to a standstill. The dean of the GMC ordered investigations into charges raised against him, and Vyawahare was subsequently transferred out of the medical college. “Paani sar ke upar chala gaya tha” (Matters had gotten out of hand), the third employee said.

On 17 November 2015, Dr Nitin Sharnagat, then a 28-year-old post-graduate student, attempted suicide by locking himself in his hostel room and taking an overdose of medication. Sharnagat’s fellow students broke into his room and found him foaming at the mouth. They rushed him to the hospital just in time to be saved. In a suicide note, Sharnagat wrote that he had been driven to this step by Vyawahare’s unrelenting harassment.

In an interview to the Times of India at the time, Sharnagat said, “Dr Vyawahare would often flaunt his kin’s name who is a minister in the state cabinet and threaten me. He would often harass me by not giving signatures to the post-mortems done by me. I would be often made to sit for a whole day to get any work done from him.”

During this time, a woman student also filed a sexual-harassment complaint against Vyawahare. A teacher at the GMC told the news website Nagpur Today that, according to the complainant, Vyawahare “would often touch her inappropriately, make indecent comments about her appearance and often asked her to accompany him to parties.” Four of the employees I spoke to were aware of an incident when Vyawahare had asked the complainant, in front of other students, to point out on her own leg the locations of injuries on the thigh of a corpse she was examining. According to the ninth employee, Vyawahare had faced similar allegations in 2007, when women medical interns complained about his attempts to convince them to untie the aprons they wore as part of their uniform. No action appeared to have been taken against Vyawahare at the time. For several years after the incident, the employee said, women students were not permitted to pursue internships in the forensic-medicine department.

The news of Sharnagat’s suicide attempt spread rapidly across the state. The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors and the Student’s Council of Medical College launched a strike to demand Vyawahare’s removal, bringing the medical college hospital to a halt.

On 19 November 2015, a report in Nagpur Today revealed new details of enormous importance. Besides charges of harassing students, the report said, “There also about 17 serious allegations against [Vyawahare] in terms of changing the post-mortem reports. It is such a serious issue that the functional integrity of GMCH has come under threat.”

Dr Abhimanyu Niswade, then the dean of the GMC, constituted two inquiry committees—one to investigate the allegations of professional malpractice, including Vyawahare tampering with post-mortem reports, and another to look into the woman student’s complaint of sexual harassment.

The first employee said that, because of Vyawahare’s political connections, many of the professors in the forensic-medicine department were forced to “become yes-men.” The fear of him was strongest “among the teachers, because the teachers are permanent employees. Their promotion might be stopped, they may get transferred, their increment might be stopped—all these things might be possible.”

Four of the employees recalled that, in the late 1990s, when Vyawahare was pursuing his post-graduate degree, he had a disagreement with a professor advising him on his thesis. “It was a big fight, then he [Vyawahare] complained, he brought in pressure,” the third employee said. Soon after that, the professor was transferred to Yavatmal.

The eighth employee told me that, through Mungantiwar, Vyawahare could, “if he really wants, dictate who is transferred where and when at any GMC … that is the kind of power this man wields.”

“If he is talking to someone in the post-mortem room, he would say, ‘Tum mera kuch nahi bigaad sakte’”you cannot do anything to me—the fifth employee said. “It could be policemen or doctors, it didn’t matter. His bhauji’s name would come up.” The ninth employee told me he had heard that “if there would be some political connection, some VIPs … for example, someone has died from an electric shock, then he [Vyawahare] would say, ‘Don’t include it in the opinion.’” The fourteenth employee I spoke to, one of the senior-most faculty members at the GMC, told me, “In the post-mortem, I think, if it was very important VIPs or if there was some commitment through a different pressure, then he would do [changes to the post-mortem].”

“If there was a body from Chandrapur”—Mungantiwar’s district—“then 101 percent he would be there,” the first employee said. “With bodies from Chandrapur, the entire department would be shaken,” the fifth employee told me. In one case involving a corpse from Chandrapur, the employee recalled, some staff members were made to rush to the department after midnight for a post-mortem.

The fifth employee said, “In those bodies, you don’t look for any fractures—you just work quickly, with speed.” Although a post-mortem usually took about an hour to complete, in the case of bodies from Chandrapur, “it is done within 20-30 minutes.” In one such case, the employee recalled, a visible fracture in the ribs of a body was never noted in the post-mortem report.

The eighth employee said, “He will say that what you have written is wrong, so these changes should take place. Sometimes these changes, they may be”—the employee took a long pause—“okay. But sometimes what happens is that … an opinion denied is justice denied.”

Often, the changes that Vyawahare demanded could impact the deduction of the cause of death. “Say an injury has occurred at a certain spot, it is still occurring at that spot [after Vyawahare has made his changes to the report], but instead of red colour, it is blue colour,” the first employee said. “The time of the death changes with that. The timing change in injuries could actually lead to serious consequences, it could be that the accused is able to get away and the victim does not get justice.” He continued, “Or if there is a case in which myocardial infarction is the cause of death, the person’s coronaries were actually not found to be that blocked, even then you will increase the block—that is, you have found 60 percent, but you will make it 90 percent and then write ‘coronary heart disease.’”

The first employee recalled the post-mortem of the body of a person who was suspected to have been murdered. Vyawahare forced the doctor who was leading the autopsy to make “a lot of changes in the injuries in particular. … After the changes were made—basically the injuries were not like that, as they were given.” The doctor was then forced to give the police an opinion that supported the information in the post-mortem report he had signed, and so was inconclusive about the cause of death. “The police kept asking him whether it was an accident or a murder, and he said that it was ‘maybe possible’ in both conditions,” the first employee said. “But when that body was there, I had seen that body … so because of this ‘maybe possible’ word, a murder might have become an accident.”

In another instance, when the first employee was working on a report that pertained to deaths by poisoning, Vyawahare interfered to change its findings. The employee had opened and examined the stomachs of the corpses. In one case, he found the smell of the contents to be “aromatic.” In two others, he found it was “insecticidal”—indicating the presence of insecticide. Vyawahare insisted that the employee change the description of the smell in the latter two cases to “aromatic” as well. When the employee protested, Vyawahare said, “I told you, write ‘aromatic,’” before tearing the report up and throwing it in the face of the employee. The employee told me that the presence of insecticide could indicate that the deceased was a farmer. Denying the smell, and thereby ruling out the possibility of a suicide, could “reduce the number of farmer suicides … and there is a political background to that.”

Numerous employees told me that Vyawahare could easily alter the contents of post-mortem reports particularly when those performing the examinations were post-graduate students or junior doctors. The fourteenth employee, one of the senior-most faculty members at the college, told me that Vyawahare claimed he asked students to make changes to post-mortem reports because they often got details wrong, and he “wanted to build good discipline in the department.” Though this is “what he would claim, there is no honesty to that,” the employee added.

The fourteenth employee, echoing what numerous other employees also told me, said that Vyawahare’s practices were well known within the GMC. When I inquired why there had been no institutional action against Vyawahare before the protests in November 2015, he said, “Kaun legaKaun haath jalayega?” (Who will do it? Who will burn their hands?)

According to the tenth employee I spoke to, during the strike against Vyawahare Mungantiwar contacted Niswade, the dean. “There were a lot of phone calls—there were no letters, nothing on paper at all—but he [Mungantiwar] kept saying, ‘This should not be happening, whatever needs to be solved, you do it at the institutive level, bas.’” The employee said Niswade was intent on forming the inquiry committees autonomously, even though “there was pressure from higher-ups that ‘we will keep the committee according to our wishes.’” The fourteenth employee told me that another powerful minister in the state cabinet also called Niswade to tell him, “Dekh lenge tereko” (We will take care of you).

Towards the end of November, with the protestors refusing to back down, the state finally stepped in. Vyawahare was transferred from GMC Nagpur—but so were Niswade and Sameer Golawar, the secretary of Maharashtra State Medical Teachers Association. The government also met other demands of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors, including maternity leave for resident doctors and increased stipends, and the organisation called off its strike. The inquiry committee Niswade constituted to look into the allegations of sexual harassment against Vyawahare was abruptly dissolvedafter the government announced that it would set up a committee of its own.

The committee Niswade constituted to look into Vyawahare’s alleged professional transgressions concluded an inquiry and submitted a report, a copy of which is with The Caravan. The fifth complaint listed in the document reads, “Department Head Dr. M. S. Vyawahare, though he is not present in person during the post-mortem, compels [one] to forcibly make changes in PM report, and if this is not done, hurls verbal abuses in front of everybody.” The committee’s finding in this matter reads, “This is true, all students have mentioned in their submission. The professors in the department have accepted that this is true and have mentioned that Dr. Vyawahare asks them to write [the reports] his way. That’s why this [complaint] has happened.”

A local-news bulletin from November 2015 (left), when hundreds of students protested against Vyawahare, accusing him of, among other things, falsifying post-mortem reports. A committee constituted by the GMC to look into these charges later wrote in its report (right) that it found the students' complaint regarding the manipulation of post-mortems to be “true.”
A local-news bulletin from November 2015 (left), when hundreds of students protested against Vyawahare, accusing him of, among other things, falsifying post-mortem reports. A committee constituted by the GMC to look into these charges later wrote in its report (right) that it found the students’ complaint regarding the manipulation of post-mortems to be “true.”

By mid 2017, the government-instituted committee to look into the sexual-harassment allegations against Vyawahare had reportedly concluded its investigation. A senior government official told The Hindu that the committee had absolved Vyawahare of any wrongdoing.

After his transfer, Vyawahare worked outside Nagpur for a little over a year. In June 2017, he was appointed the head of the forensic department at the Indira Gandhi Government Medical College. Two months later, in August 2017, Devendra Fadnavis nominated him, alongside four others, to the Maharashtra Medical Council—whose quasi-judicial functions include prescribing an ethical code for over 80,000 doctors across the state. Vyawahare was reportedly the only doctor from government service among the five people included by Fadnavis in this round of nominations.

“He [Vyawahare] is running the system, so in that system other people have to find ways to survive,” the eighth employee said. “You can move mountains, you can say what you want … but the end result is zero. Kehte hai har kisi ke paap ka ghada kabhi na kabhi toh bhar jaata hai, lekin inke ghade mein to shayad neeche gaddha bana hua hai” (They say that everyone’s vessel of sin overflows someday, but it looks like there is a hole in the bottom of his vessel).

*

NK Tumram is currently an associate professor in the forensic department at the Indira Gandhi Government Medical College, under Vyawahare. On 28 March, I confronted both of them in their offices with the troubling details I had discovered about Loya’s post-mortem examination.

I asked Tumram why his signature was on the post-mortem report when Vyawahare had directed the examination. He said, “I don’t know anything, dekho aap baat hi kuch mat karo iss baare mein” (See, let’s not talk about this matter at all). I asked him why he had ignored the blood and the wound on Loya’s head. He said, “Sab de diya hai already” (Everything has been submitted already). When I pressed him on why he had ignored the injury on Loya’s head, Tumram said, “Kuch bhi nahi pata mereko” (I don’t know anything). He responded to all subsequent questions by saying either that he had already submitted everything or that he had no comment.

I asked Vyawahare why Tumram had signed the post-mortem report even though he was the one who directed it. “I didn’t do the post-mortem only,” he said. I said the assertion was not that he had conducted the post-mortem, but that he had directed it. “I did not even direct it,” he replied. I asked why he told Tumram to omit any mention of the blood on Loya’s head. “I did not stop him from doing anything,” Vyawahare said. “I don’t have any role only … I didn’t even go into that case.”

Death of Judge Loya: Post-mortem Examination Was Manipulated Under Directions of Doctor Related to Maharashtra Cabinet Minister

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It is Now Official, BJP Ruled States Outdo Others in Crime against Dalits

Number of crimes against Dalits have gone up substantially


 It has again come up prominently in the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) “Crime in India-2016” Report that BJP ruled States outdo other states in atrocities against Dalits (Scheduled Castes). As in 2015.

At present the BJP rules Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Goa and Jharkhand where Dalit atrocities cases are more than the non-BJP ruled states. In other states ruled by regional parties and the BJP— Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar—the atrocities against Dalits are higher than the National Rate (Crime per one lac population).

Total Crime against Dalits during 2016

During this period the total number of crimes was 40,801 which exceeds the figure of 38,670 (during 2015) by 2,131. As such there has been an increase of 5.5% over the last year’s figure. During 2016 the National Average i.e. crime against one lac Dalit population was 20.3. Among these figures the number of cases relating to outraging modesty was 3,172 which was 7.7% of total crime against Dalit women. Similarly the total number of Rape cases was 2,541 which is 6.2% of total crime against Dalit women.

Similarly during 2016 the total of crime against Scheduled Tribes (Tribals) was 6,568 which was 4.7% more than the crime figures of 2015. There were 974 Rape cases on Tribal women which is 14.8% of total crime committed against Tribal women. The cases relating to outraging the modesty of Tribal women were 835 which was 12.7% of total crime. Thus it becomes clear that Dalit/Tribal women are not safe under BJP rule.

If we look at the number and rate of incidence of crime against Dalits in BJP ruled states it transpires that Madhya Pradesh stands first where the number of crimes was 5,134 and the crime rate was 42.0 which is just double of National Rate of 20.3. Similarly Rajasthan with total crime figure of 5,134 and crime rate of 42.0% which is again double of National crime rate stands second. After it Goa stands third with the crime rate of 36.7. Gujrat stands 5th with the crime rate of 32.3 which is just 1-1/2 times of National Crime Rate. From it, it becomes clear that in most of the states ruled by BJP the rate of incidence of crime against Dalits and Tribals is much higher than the National Crime Rate.

Crime wise State position is as follows:-

1. Murder: During the above period the crime figure of murder of Dalits was 786 and the rate per 1 lac population was 0.4%. Gujrat where 35 Dalits were murdered in 32 cases with 0.8 crime rate stood first in whole of the country. After this Madhya Pradesh with 81, Haryana with 34 and Uttar Pradesh with 274 murders in 271 cases with crime rate of 0.7 stood second. Rajasthan with 67 murders in 66 cases with crime rate of 0.5 occupied 5th position. From it, it transpires that the incidence of the crime of murder against Dalits in BJP states is higher than national rate.

2. Attempt to Murder: During the above period the total incidence of this crime in the whole country was 732 and the rate per lac was 0.4. In this crime Rajasthan with 106 and Gujarat with 35 cases with crime rate of 0.9 which is just double of National rate stood first. Maharashtra with crime figure of 60 which affected 71 persons and crime rate of 0.5 is higher than the national rate. It makes it very clear that Dalits are not safe in BJP ruled states.

3. Grievous Hurt: During 2016 there were 1,070 cases in the whole country in which 1,148 Dalits were grievously hurt and the national rate was 0.5. This rate in Gujarat was 1;6, 1.5 in Bihar, 1.3 in Orissa, 1.0 in Kerala and 0.8 in Madhya Pradesh which is much higher than the national rate.

4. Crime of Attempt to Outrage the modesty of Dalit Women: During this period the total number of cases under this category was 3,172 and the national rate was 1.6. Under this head the rate of incidence of crime in Madhya Pradesh was 6.0, 3.6 in Andhra Pradesh, 2.7 in Maharashtra, 2.0 in Haryana and 0.6 in Gujrat showing that this rate is higher than the national rate.

5. Crime of outraging the modesty of Dalit women: Under this head the total incidence of crime in the country was 1,268 and the national average was 0.6. The rate of this crime in Madhya Pradesh was 3.6, 1.1 in Chhattisgarh, and 1.3 in Maharashtra, 0.8 in Rajasthan, 0.7 Haryana and 0.6 in Gujrat which is higher than the national average.

6. Rape: Under this head total number of cases of Rape of Dalit women was 2,536 in which 2,540 Dalit women were victims and the national average was 1.3. The rate of incidence of this crime was 4.7 in Kerala, 3.9 in Madhya Pradesh, 2.9 in Chhattisgarh, 2.7 in Rajasthan, 1.9 in Haryana and 1.7 in Maharashtra which is much higher than the national rate. In fact rape is used as a weapon to demoralise the Dalits.

7. Crime under SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act: The total incidence of crime under this head was 35,676 in which 36,855 persons were affected and the national rate was 18.0 per 1 lac population. The rate of this crime was 43.4 in Madhya Pradesh, 41.1 in Rajasthan, 32.9 in Bihar, 28.4 in Gujarat, 25.0 in Orissa, 23.7 in Kerala, 22.6 in Uttar Pradesh which is much higher than national rate of 18.0.

From the above analysis it is clear that most of the BJP ruled states are ahead of non-BJP ruled states in crime against Dalits and Tribals. These statistics show that Modi’s slogan “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas” stands exposed. The recent incident of attack on Dalits in Koregaon also exposes the hypocrisy of BJP.

(S.R.Darapuri is retired from the Indian Police Service)

http://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/2/13425/It-is-Now-Official-BJP-Ruled-States-Outdo-Others-in-Crime-against-Dalits

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April 1968: The Black Rebellion That Shook America And The World

Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was cut down by an assassin in Memphis, Tennessee. King was 39 years old and the foremost leader of the civil rights movement.

King preached and fought for change, especially against the poverty and discrimination pressing down on Black people, within the framework of this existing system. Before he was killed, he had been increasingly speaking out against the U.S. escalation of the war in Vietnam. And, as would come out later, the FBI was carrying out an insidious campaign against him, not only spying on him but trying to discredit him by spreading malicious rumors and even sending him an “anonymous” letter threatening to reveal details about his private life and suggesting that he commit suicide in order to avoid a scandal. While many people looked up to King, there were others, like the emerging Black Panther Party, who were seeking out and advocating more radical, revolutionary solutions. These forces had broken with King’s road of working within the system and were going directly up against it.

But everyone was profoundly affected by the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., and came face-to-face with deep questions. As Nina Simone sang—three days after the assassination—in “Why? (The King of Love Is Dead)”: “He was not a violent man. / Bigotry had sealed his fate. / Folks you’d better stop and think / everyone knows we’re on the brink. / What will happen, now that the King is dead?” Then, in a searing improvised passage, she sang:

What’s gonna happen now, in all of our cities?
My people are rising…
If you have to die, it’s all right
’Cause you know what life is.
You know what freedom is for one moment in your life.

Violent repression, degrading racism, life-robbing poverty… this was what millions of Black people had faced for so long and continued to face daily. And then to see Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated—this was just too much.

Rising Up in City After City

The word spread like wildfire—“They killed Dr. King!”—from person to person, neighborhood to neighborhood. A reporter who was with U.S. troops, including Black GIs, at a Marine base in Vietnam, recalled later, “The death of Martin Luther King intruded on the war in a way that no other outside event had ever done.”

There were tears… and there was tremendous outrage. Just hours after King’s assassination, by that Thursday evening, the beginning flames of rebellion flared up in larger cities like Washington, DC, Chicago, and Baltimore, as well as smaller cities like Flint, Michigan; Hartford, Connecticut; Jackson, Mississippi; and many others. Over the next days and nights and into the following week, Black people rose up in an unprecedented nationwide rebellion that spread to more than 120 cities in 28 states.

As people rose up, the powers that be lost control of large sections of inner-city Black neighborhoods. The hated pigs were driven off by stone-throwing youths and by people using rifles from rooftops in self-defense against the shoot-any-Black-person-on-sight cops. In Baltimore, two days after the King assassination, crowds of 1,000 or more men and women moved through the streets. Businesses hated for ripping off the poor in the ghettos were burned down, and people took goods that had been denied them. Over 1,000 fires were reported just in DC—the president and other officials in the White House could see smoke rising over the city out of their windows, and troops with machine guns guarded the Capitol building. The opening of the Major League Baseball season had to be postponed in several cities.

Students at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and other African-American campuses joined in the uprising. In Kansas City, Missouri, things had been quiet until the day of King’s funeral on the Tuesday after the assassination, when a police tear gas attack on several hundred students marching to demand that the city close schools touched off a two-day uprising.

There was debate, wrangling, and defiance among broad numbers of people. Carl Dix, of the Revolutionary Communist Party, recalls how he “got the first draft notice in April 1968, a couple of days after Martin Luther King was killed and the rebellion swept the cities. I was in no mood to show up at the Army. I sent them a notice back and said I’m too busy right now.” Dix ended up being drafted but refused to be deployed to Vietnam and was imprisoned for his resistance.

A Black journalist in Chicago described a scene in a Black neighborhood in the city: “63rd Street on Palm Sunday was an ominous canyon, crowded with people, stirred by anger, swept by wind, littered with glass and refuse. As men from the 46th Infantry’s 4th Battalion stood before shuttered stores in the East 100 block, 50 teenagers marched by the soldiers shouting mock orders and words of abuse. The soldiers’ heads rotated from east to west, warily watching the ragged adolescent army pass in review.”

Reverberations Across the Globe

The news and images from the April 1968 rebellion electrified people around the world. Suddenly, it became clear for all to see that there were deep divides and sharp conflicts right inside the belly of the hated imperialist beast.

Mao Zedong, the leader of China, then a revolutionary socialist country, issued a statement on April 16, in which he pointed out that Martin Luther King was “an exponent of nonviolence” but that “the U.S. imperialists did not on that account show any tolerance toward him, but used counter-revolutionary violence and killed him in cold blood.” And he said, “The Afro-American struggle is not only a struggle waged by the exploited and oppressed Black people for freedom and emancipation, it is also a new clarion call to all the exploited and oppressed people of the United States to fight against the barbarous rule of the monopoly capitalist class. It is a tremendous aid and inspiration to the struggle of the people throughout the world against U.S. imperialism and to the struggle of the Vietnamese people against U.S. imperialism. On behalf of the Chinese people, I hereby express resolute support for the just struggle of the Black people in the United States.”

The April 1968 rebellions—and the great upsurge of the 1960s to early 1970s, which drew in very broad sections of U.S. society beyond the Black ghettos—did not lead to a revolution that actually defeated the rulers and their system. But there were important lessons to be learned. As vicious and powerful as they are, the U.S. imperialists are not all-powerful—even on their own “home turf.” And there is a section of people in this country who are a potentially powerful revolutionary force—who have nothing to lose under this system and who, when conditions are ripe, would be willing to put everything on the line to go all out for revolution.

As Bob Avakian would powerfully insist some years later:

There will never be a revolutionary movement in this country that doesn’t fully unleash and give expression to the sometimes openly expressed, sometimes expressed in partial ways, sometimes expressed in wrong ways, but deeply, deeply felt desire to be rid of these long centuries of oppression [of Black people]. There’s never gonna be a revolution in this country, and there never should be, that doesn’t make that one key foundation of what it’s all about. (BAsics 3:19)

Full-Scale Violent Repression

When it quickly became clear that the local police forces were not able to quash the uprisings, National Guard forces were mobilized in many cities. And when even those combined forces looked incapable of containing the rebellions in key cities, President Lyndon Johnson ordered the deployment of Army troops in Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Chicago. All told, over 50,000 Army and National Guard troops were deployed in dozens of cities.

A “riot control” headquarters led by a general was set up in the Pentagon, as well as a special high-level team in the White House. This was the first time since the Civil War that troops had been deployed to guard the national seats of power.

There were reports of debates among Black soldiers at the Fort Meade base in Maryland as orders came in to the 6th Calvary Regiment to occupy Washington, DC. Officers received orders to be on alert for “conspiracies” among Black troops, including among the U.S. forces in Vietnam.

In Chicago, occupied by 11,000 federal troops, a number of Black men were shot and killed—probably by police, though no pig was ever even identified as a killer, let alone charged. Shortly after the authorities restored “order” in the city, Mayor Richard Daley made clear how the pigs had been given a license to murder: he commanded the police chief to order his cops to “shoot to kill” anyone suspected of arson. Later media reports claimed that 46 people died nationally in the April 1968 rebellions, 41 of them Black, 14 teenagers. But no one really knows how many were actually killed by the police and troops. More than 20,000 people were arrested.

This was a naked display of the institutions and organs of violent repression wielded by the rulers of this capitalist-imperialist system, who prey upon the masses of people here and around the world. The rulers were able to re-impose their “order” after days of rebellion. But people broadly saw the real nature of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in this country, even if they did not have a full scientific understanding of this. Instead of being intimidated, many people were further enraged by this and compelled into opposition and struggle against the system, among Black people and also more broadly.

As the rulers came down violently on the uprisings, the U.S. Congress rushed to pass a new Civil Rights Act on April 10 that officially banned discrimination in housing. They hoped that people would believe the system was open to reform. But the law also contained new repressive measures—like making it a felony to cross state lines to “incite a riot,” which was used against Black revolutionaries and others.

Turning Point

April 1968 marked a turning point in the struggle in the U.S. Many, many more people had to face up to the fact that they faced a vicious enemy that was ruthless—even against those who resisted peacefully. More people started considering radical and revolutionary ideas and strategies. They wanted to struggle—and win—against the rulers and their system.

People were increasingly seeing the limits of the civil rights movement that began in the early ’60s, and the Black Liberation Movement was rising explosively. In the period following the rebellions, organizations like the Black Panthers and the Revolutionary Union, forerunner of the Revolutionary Communist Party, led by Bob Avakian, attracted new fighters. There was a widespread sense that big, fundamental changes were needed; and many from different sections of the people raised, confronted, and debated big, consequential questions: What were the actual changes that were needed in society and in the world? How were those changes going to be made? What kind of ideology and what kind of leadership did you need? How should the masses of people be mobilized and organized? What would it take to actually defeat the enemy?

This oppressive monster, the system of U.S. capitalism-imperialism, still rules today—and now in an even more grotesque, dangerous way in the form of the fascist Trump/Pence regime. More than ever, there is a crying, urgent need for an actual revolution that can bring an end to this system and open the door to a radically new, liberating system aiming toward the emancipation of humanity. The struggle of Black people to be free of their oppression is a key part of this revolution. And a significant section of Black people can come to recognize the great social need to step up to help give leadership to that revolution. As Bob Avakian points out:

There is the potential for something of unprecedented beauty to arise out of unspeakable ugliness: Black people playing a crucial role in putting an end, at long last, to this system which has, for so long, not just exploited but dehumanized, terrorized and tormented them in a thousand ways—putting an end to this in the only way it can be done—by fighting to emancipate humanity, to put an end to the long night in which human society has been divided into masters and slaves, and the masses of humanity have been lashed, beaten, raped, slaughtered, shackled and shrouded in ignorance and misery.


Revolution newspaper/revcom.us, the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, provides the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for the whole process of carrying out our strategy for revolution. Through publishing works of Bob Avakian, and through many different articles, interviews, letters, graphics, and other features, Revolution enables people to really understand, and act to radically change, the world.

 

Originally published at revcom.us

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Kerala Professor – ‘Wearing jeans leads to birth of trans kids’ #WTFnews

: Kerala prof slammed for offensive remark

Calling out his sexist and derogatory comments, the Kerala government said it is considering taking legal action against Rajith Kumar.

“…a woman who dresses up like a man. What will be the character of the child this woman gives birth to? The name of these children is ‘transgender’ or ‘napumsakam’.” This was the comment made by an ‘educated man’ – a professor no less – who has been holding ‘health awareness’ classes in Kerala for several years now. The Kerala government has come down heavily on a teacher from a college in Kalady Dr Rajith Kumar, for making derogatory and offensive remarks about transgender people and children with disabilities.

In a counselling session held in Kasargod, Rajith claimed to have a “scientific explanation for why transgender and autistic children are born.” According to his sexist, transphobic, unscientific and bizarre reasoning, women who wear jeans and “degrade their womanhood in the process”, give birth to transgender kids.

“…a woman who dresses up like a man. What will be the character of the child this woman gives birth to? The name of these children is ‘transgender’ or ‘napumsakam’. Hijra. Already, more than 6 lakh transgender people have been born in Kerala,” the teacher said, exposing his complete lack of understanding.

Transgender persons are those who do not identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. For instance, a person who is assigned ‘male’ at birth by doctors, but grows up to identify as a girl/woman, is a transgender woman, or a trans woman. A person who is assigned ‘female’ at birth, but grows up to identify as a boy/man is a transgender man, or a trans man.

Several people tend to confuse between the terms ‘intersex’ and ‘transgender’. ‘Intersex’ is an umbrella term used in a variety of cases, where a person’s reproductive or sexual anatomy does not match the typical definition of ‘male’ or ‘female’.

Rajith, however, did not bother to do any research before spewing transphobic comments.

“Good children are born to those men and women who live their lives as men and women. But, when a woman degrades her womanhood and a man degrades his manhood, the girl child born to the couple will have the character of a man. The child that she eventually gives birth to, will be born transgender,” Rajith can be seen preaching to a gathering.

He did not stop at that. Rajith also peddled harmful rhetoric about disabled children.

“The children born to rebel men and women have this new disease called autism,” Rajith said, proceeding to show a video clip of a foreign family, where both the children are autistic.

“Do you see that? The mother is wearing jeans and both her children suffer from autism,” Rajith exclaimed.

Government mulls legal action

With several people calling out his offensive and ill-informed remark that he tried to pass off as scientific information, the state government has come down heavily on Rajith. On Sunday, Health Minister KK Shailaja released a press note barring Rajith’s participation in government programmes. Over the years, Rajith has reportedly been holding “awareness sessions” in several schools, colleges and government offices.

“Rajith Kumar has been consistently propagating superstitious and sexist ideas… After having made a comment that transgender people are born to women who wear jeans, he reiterated the statement in a television show. We are mulling legal action against him for making such derogatory comments,” the minister said.

Rajith goes on the defensive

Even as people have been calling out his misogyny and unscientific remarks, Rajith vehemently defended himself and his claims. Taking part in Njangalkkum Parayanund, a chat show on Mathrubhumi News Channel last week, Rajith argued that his remarks were based on years of academic experience and were backed by science.

However, the panelists who took part in the chat show, including a psychiatrist at Government Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram, criticised Rajith for propagating false claims. Transgender activists who took part in the show, including Transgender Welfare Board members Sheethal Shyam and Sreemayi, hit out at him for making derogatory statements against the community.

Despite people demanding that Rajith apologise for his remark, he stood by his statements.

He went on to justify his remarks through a Facebook video published late on Monday.

In the 7 minutes video, Rajith said that he had been sincerely working towards ensuring that the young generation are not waylaid and that they give birth to healthy children.

“Since the past few days, there has been efforts to put me down and show me in bad light. When I was called to attend a television show, they edited out the portions where I backed my statements with scientific proof. I just want to save children from leading life in wrong ways. Only a certain statement from my 4-hour long speech was taken and is now being used to create misunderstanding among people,” Rajith claimed.https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/wearing-jeans-leads-birth-trans-kids-kerala-prof-slammed-offensive-remark-78960

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India – Invisible Victims of Sexual Violence Access to Justice for Women and Girls with Disabilities

 

When she was 13, Razia (not her real name), who has an intellectual disability and difficulties in speaking, was raped by her brother’s tutor in 2014. Razia is still awaiting compensation she was awarded by the district legal services authority in January 2016. (Uttarakhand).

Abhishek Kumar Mehan for Human Rights Watch

Summary

Reforms on Sexual Violence Not Implemented for ‘Invisible Victims’

The police asked me very nasty things like how it felt for me. I told them I was totally unconscious, so how would I know? The police said things like, ‘She’s mental, why should I pay attention to her?’
—Susmita, 26, a woman with a psychosocial disability from Kolkata, West Bengal, whom four male neighbors sedated and gang-raped in February 2014[The police] should be sensitized to the emotional and the psychological needs of the victim and how to work with women and girls with disabilities. It is important to sensitize every officer—from top to bottom.
—Sanjay Gunjyal, inspector general of police from Uttarakhand

In June 2013, Chandra, a 12-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, was kidnapped, raped and left bleeding in a field near her home in West Bengal state, India. Chandra was unable to speak, sit, stand, or walk independently, so she could not call for help or go home. After several hours, some villagers found Chandra in the field. She died a few months later due to health complications.

Women and girls with different disabilities face high risk of sexual violence in India. Those with physical disabilities may find it more difficult to escape from violent situations due to limited mobility. Those who are deaf or hard of hearing may not be able to call for help or easily communicate abuse, or may be more vulnerable to attacks simply due to the lack of ability to hear their surroundings. Women and girls with disabilities, particularly intellectual or psychosocial disabilities, may not know that nonconsensual sexual acts are a crime and should be reported because of the lack of accessible information.

Access to justice is particularly difficult for women and girls with disabilities largely due to the stigma associated with their sexuality and disability. As a result, they often do not get the support they need at every stage of the justice process: reporting the abuse to police, getting appropriate medical care, and navigating the court system. As former chairwoman of the National Commission for Women, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, said in December 2015: “One of the biggest challenges for women [with disabilities] is access [to services], not just physical but access across the board.”

After the fatal gang rape of a young woman in Delhi in December 2012, sexual violence against women in India came under a global spotlight. The government responded to the public outrage and civil society protests by strengthening laws—known as The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (the 2013 amendments)—against sexual violence, which it declared its intent to enforce.

The amendments include several provisions to safeguard the rights of women and girls, including those with disabilities, and facilitate their participation in the investigative and judicial processes. For example, women and girls with disabilities have the right to record their statement with police in their home or a place of their choice, and the right to assistance by an interpreter or support person when the complaint is recorded and during trial. The protections also apply to women who are seriously physically hurt or who have a temporary disability.

This report, based on 17 cases of sexual violence against women and girls with disabilities, comes five years since these amendments were adopted, and follows Human Rights Watch’s November 2017 report “Everyone Blames Me”: Barriers to Justice and Support Services for Sexual Assault Survivors in India, which found that rape survivors still face significant barriers obtaining justice and critical support services because legal and other reforms have not been fully realized.

This report finds that while the 2013 amendments have made significant progress in responding to the widespread challenges that victims of sexual violence endure, they have yet to properly develop and implement support for survivors with disabilities in the form of trainings and reforms throughout the criminal justice system. It highlights gaps in enforcement and calls for concrete measures to address the needs of women and girls with disabilities seeking justice for abuse.

These women should no longer remain the invisible victims of sexual violence.

Reporting Sexual Violence

In 2013, Kanchana, a 19-year-old woman with an intellectual disability from a village in Hooghly district in West Bengal, was raped on multiple occasions by a man from her neighborhood. Kanchana was unaware that she should report that she was raped, which was only discovered when she was discovered to be five-months pregnant. Even then, it was difficult for her to explain what had happened.

This is not unusual. Globally, women and girls with disabilities face unique barriers to reporting that hinder their access to redress. Indian authorities acknowledge this problem. According to the 2014 Guidelines and Protocols for Medico-Legal Care for Victims/Survivors of Sexual Violence issued by India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, women and girls with disabilities face particular barriers to reporting sexual abuse:

…[be]cause of the obvious barriers to communication, as well as their dependency on caretakers who may also be abusers. When they do report, their complaints are not taken seriously and the challenges they face in expressing themselves in a system that does not create an enabling environment to allow for such expression, complicates matters further.

Yet, the government has no system to even register attacks against women and girls with disabilities, let alone formulate strategies and mechanisms to respond to their particular needs. A 2014 report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, following her visit to India, said a consistent lack of disaggregated data collection “renders the violence committed against women with disabilities invisible.”

Interacting with Police

Women and girls with disabilities may require accommodations—distinct types of support depending on their disabilities—that are procedural and age-appropriate. This may include access to sign-language interpretation, the presence of someone to facilitate communication (“special educator”), the use of simple language, and the option to file reports in braille.

However, this support is often not available in India, even though the 2013 amendments and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, (POCSO) mandate these provisions. Most police do not have the training or expert support to handle such cases.

In Delhi, Pooja, an 11-year-old girl with an intellectual disability, was taken to the police station in August 2013 by her father after she was allegedly raped by a neighbor. The police brought in a sign language interpreter to assist the interviewee, but Pooja cannot speak due to a neurological condition; she is not deaf and has no knowledge of sign language. Though the investigating police officer tried to do the right thing by calling a support person, lacking access to proper guidance from a special educator, he misinterpreted Pooja’s intellectual disability.

In some cases, Human Rights Watch found that women and girls were excluded from accommodations on the basis of their inability to certify a disability. Even in cases where women and girls had visible physical disabilities or identified their disabilities, police failed to include specific details in the First Information Report (FIR), the document that sets the criminal justice process in motion. Lack of documentation in police reports precludes women and girls with disabilities from receiving specific need-based support from the police and judiciary.

Maneka, a 15-year-old girl from Delhi with both an intellectual and physical disability, reported being raped by two men from her neighborhood in October 2015. Although Maneka’s family conveyed her age and disabilities to the police, the FIR noted her age as over 18 and did not include her disability. As a result, she did not receive protections under POCSO or the 2013 amendments. The police’s failure to document Maneka’s intellectual and physical disabilities also undermined the process of evidence collection.

Maneka’s lawyer said that when she gave her statement to police, the investigating officer did not provide her with accommodations as required by law, such as support from a special educator. Maneka’s lawyer also said that the police failure to video Maneka’s statement—an accommodation to reduce trauma from repeated testimony— has added to the challenges in litigating her case.

Debashree Sabuj, deputy police commissioner for women in West Bengal, attributed many of these shortcomings to lack of training and information among police officers:

We have had no training. When we meet a disabled woman, we may not know how to speak to her properly. The police are not cruel. In most cases the police are simply ignorant. It is not that we don’t want to believe them, but we also worry that if we make a mistake, the wrong person will be punished. The police need education and we need to be sensitized on how to handle these cases.

Problems Accessing Medical Care

In cases of sexual violence, immediate medical attention and examination can both identify urgent medical needs and facilitate timely evidence collection. In 2014, India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued Guidelines and Protocols for Medico-Legal Care for Victims/Survivors of Sexual Violence, which include requirements for the medical examination of women and girls with disabilities such as providing accommodations like a special educator to take consent and medical histories.

The failure of many medical professionals to adequately explain medical tests and procedures and ensure that women and girls with disabilities are comfortable with the process may add to the trauma of sexual violence. For instance, Soumya said that her daughter Maneka, whose case is discussed above, was isolated from her family in the hospital and subjected to tests she did not understand.

They took Maneka in for the examination all alone—she was scared. No one explained to her or to me what tests they were doing. They gave her medicine but I don’t know what medicine it was. I helped Maneka to tie her pajamas [pants] afterward. I asked her about the tests, but she could not tell me. I am not literate so I could not read the papers.

Navigating the Judicial Process

The judicial process in India is slow and traumatic for many victims of crimes. However, unfamiliar and stressful court environments present a heightened challenge for women and girls with disabilities, especially during protracted legal cases. Lack of information among women and girls with disabilities and their families about their legal rights, including the right to legal representation, prevents many from advocating for their needs.

Lokapriya Kanungo, the National Advocacy Coordinator at Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Centre, described the case of Karuna, a woman with low vision from Bhubaneshwar, Odisha, who reported being raped in June 2013:

The police did not help Karuna get legal aid. The staff of the [residential shelter home] helped her to find a lawyer, but the lawyer they found was not free of cost. It has been tough for her to continue with the lawyer. This has affected the progress of the case.

Since August 2013, Kanchana, who has an intellectual disability, and her mother Diya, have been to court five times. The court proceedings were not adequately explained to Kanchana. Diya recounted a simple misunderstanding when Kanchana was asked to wait in the plaintiff’s witness box in the courtroom, which proved deeply traumatic for her.

When they led Kanchana away from me, she cried and screamed. The police explained to me that she would be able to see me and that they would bring her straight back to my lap. She couldn’t understand. She was terrified and believed she was being taken to a lock-up.

Difficulties Obtaining Compensation

Indian law and policies require that all state governments facilitate compensation, including interim relief in cases where no trial takes place because the offender cannot be traced or identified.

However, Human Rights Watch found that even in cases of extreme violence, trauma and economic hardship resulting from childbirth, women and girls with disabilities had difficulties in securing compensation from the court or the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Local activists said that there is no set standard, and amounts are often determined arbitrarily, vary between states, and can be driven by media publicity.

In 2014, in a remote village in Hooghly district, West Bengal, Noori, a 23-year-old Muslim woman with cerebral palsy and other disabilities—including the inability to speak or walk without a stick—was gang raped by three neighbors until she lost consciousness. Noori applied for compensation to cover her medical expenses, but more than three years later had yet to be awarded compensation.

Even when compensation has been awarded, the money may not reach the person in need. In August 2014, in a village in Herbertpur, Uttarakhand, Razia, a 13-year old girl with an intellectual disability and difficulties speaking, was raped by her younger brother’s 17-year-old tutor. With the support of the Latika Roy Foundation, an organization working with children and adults with developmental and other disabilities, Razia and her family pursued justice via the courts—and won. Razia was granted compensation of two lakh rupees (US $3,100).  However, at the time of writing, the family had yet to receive the money.

In 2013, the central government established the Nirbhaya Fund for schemes aimed at “prevention, protection and rehabilitation” of survivors of sexual violence. No specific fund for persons with disabilities exists in India and women with disabilities are not explicitly mentioned in the Nirbhaya Fund. Meenakshi Balasubramanium, from Equals—Centre for Promotion of Social Justice, said:

In the Nirbhaya Fund they should have put some amount aside for women with disabilities because accessibility and reasonable accommodation involves costs, but these aspects of access to justice for women and girls with disabilities have not been taken into consideration.

Compensation is particularly important for women and girls with disabilities and their families, especially those who live in rural areas or are from marginalized communities. In 2014, Diya and Kanchana applied for compensation under a West Bengal scheme. After Kanchana decided to carry her son to term, Diya had no choice but to leave her work. Now, as the primary caregiver for her daughter and grandson, she cannot leave home. Four years later, the case has been closed and their application for compensation is still pending.


India’s political and administrative leadership has repeatedly expressed concern over sexual violence and has said it is committed to reforms. The government has also taken pride in its efforts to protect the rights of persons with disabilities.

In 2007, India ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Under the treaty, states are obligated to “ensure effective access to justice for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others, including through the provision of procedural and age-appropriate accommodations, in order to facilitate their effective role as direct and indirect participants, including as witnesses, in all legal proceedings, including at investigative and other preliminary stages.”

In December 2016, India’s parliament adopted the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, which protects all persons with disabilities from abuse, violence and exploitation, and articulates specific measures to be taken by appropriate government officials, executive magistrates and the police.

While these are important steps, much more remains to be done to reform the criminal justice system and ensure equal access to justice, including through accommodations, for women and girls with disabilities who are survivors of sexual violence. These cases should no longer remain in the shadows.

 

Key Recommendations

The key recommendations below focus on the unique needs of women and girls with disabilities who experience sexual violence. They should be implemented alongside those in Human Rights Watch’s report “Everyone Blames Me”: Barriers to Justice and Support Services for Sexual Assault Survivors in India.

India’s Central and State Governments should:

  • Properly implement laws and policies to protect rights in cases of sexual violence against women and girls with disabilities.
  • Ensure that police, judicial officers, medical officers and judges receive adequate training in the rights of survivors of sexual violence, including women and girls with disabilities. Police and the courts should have access to “special educators,” who can identify disability accurately and provide support or other accommodations.
  • Adopt and implement the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Guidelines and Protocols for Medico-Legal Care for Survivors/Victims of Sexual Violence across all states and jurisdictions. Ensure that all medical professionals are trained in accordance with these guidelines.
  • Collect and disaggregate data on sexual and gender-based violence on the basis of gender, disability and age to ensure adequate services and inform government policies and programs to better address the needs of women and girls with disabilities.
  • Formulate a uniform scheme across all Indian states to provide compensation to victims of sexual violence, including women and girls with disabilities. Compensation awarded should consider the additional costs incurred and urgent needs of victims with disabilities.

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Methodology

Between January 2016 and December 2017, Human Rights Watch investigated the implementation of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012, in cases of rape and gang rape perpetrated against women and girls with disabilities. Our general assessment on the implementation of the 2013 amendments is featured in the November 2017 report “Everyone Blames Me”: Barriers to Justice and Support Services for Sexual Assault Survivors in India.[10]

For this report, we investigated 17 rape and gang-rape cases from eight states in India, including Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal. Locations were chosen based on the presence of strong local partners and access to information about these cases. While the scale and geographic scope of this research are not comprehensive, the cases demonstrate a range of challenges faced by women and girls with disabilities that we have reason to believe are indicative of challenges faced by women and girls with disabilities based upon extensive interviews with disability rights activists and a media survey of cases in English-language newspapers in India, conducted between January 2016 and August 2017.

The cases, which included eight girls and nine women, live with a spectrum of disabilities, including psychosocial disability; physical disability; blindness or low vision; hearing and speech disabilities; cerebral palsy, leading to multiple disabilities (cognitive and locomotor); intellectual disability; epilepsy, and in one case, a girl with a severe neurological condition leading to multiple disabilities (cognitive and speech disabilities).

All cases documented for this report took place after the passage of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 (2013 amendments), but before the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. Accordingly, in the cases covered in this report women and girls with disabilities were entitled to protection under both POCSO and the 2013 amendments. They were not, however, entitled to protection under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

In order to avoid traumatizing sexual violence survivors, Human Rights Watch investigated cases by first seeking information from social workers, lawyers, advocates and government stakeholders before engaging survivors and their families. We conducted interviews with 111 people including sexual violence survivors, family members, and lawyers, including a public prosecutor. We also met officials from mental health institutions and shelter facilities, police, government officials, special educators and disability rights activists.[11]

In five cases, we conducted direct interviews with women survivors of rape. These interviews were only conducted in instances when women wished to tell their stories. We did not conduct interviews directly with any children who were raped.

Interviews were conducted in English, Hindi, Bengali, Odiya, Tamil, and Kannada. Interviews for this report were conducted in person, by phone and email, with the medium of each interview given in citations. All interviews with women with disabilities who had been raped were conducted by women researchers and interpreters. Support persons, including social workers, were present as appropriate.

All interviewees participated voluntarily and without compensation. In order to protect the privacy of all women and girls whose experiences are described in this report, we have taken measures to exclude all names and identifying information. In some cases, we did not use the real name of the lawyers to protect client confidentiality.

Where possible, we also collected government documents, medical records, correspondence between survivors (and their family members) and government institutions and final judgments. We were able to collect supporting documents for eight cases. These materials were collected with permission from the survivors and are on file with Human Rights Watch.

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Background and Legal Framework

Persons with Disabilities in India

Estimates of the size of the population with disabilities in India differ greatly. India’s Census 2011 reports that 2.21 percent of India’s population—or 26.8 million people live with disabilities.[12] The World Health Organization and World Bank report that 15 percent of the global population lives with some form of disability; 12 percent of males and 19 percent of females.[13] This discrepancy between Indian and international estimates can be attributed to discordant definitions of disability, lack of awareness and stigma—especially for women and girls—which results in under-reporting.[14]

Under-representation in Indian census data contributes to exclusion from other government data sources.[15] The National Family Health Survey and the National Crime Records Bureau do not include disaggregated data for persons with disabilities.

In 2014, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, recommended disaggregated data collection not only on disability, but also sex, age, caste, religion, language and other relevant criteria.[16] The lacuna in counting persons with disabilities presents a significant hurdle to providing adequate services and a lack of attention to their needs in government policies and programs—including those aimed at supporting access to justice in cases of sexual violence.

Sexual Violence against Women and Girls with Disabilities

While there is no national disaggregated data on violence against women and girls with disabilities, senior government officials recognize this population faces heightened risk of violence, including sexual violence.[17] In December 2015, based on her consultations with disability advocates and experts, then-chairwoman of the National Commission for Women, Lalitha Kumaramangalam, said: “Regardless of the type of disability, incidents of rape with disabled women are much higher than with other women.”[18]   

India has a dearth of population-based prevalence studies on sexual violence, especially those focused on women and girls with disabilities. However, studies by academic and nongovernmental organizations provide some insight. For example, a 2004 survey across 12 districts and 729 respondents in Odisha state found that nearly all of the women and girls with disabilities surveyed were beaten at home, and 25 percent of women with intellectual disabilities had been raped.[19] A 2011 study found that 21 percent of the 314 women with disabilities surveyed experienced emotional, physical or sexual violence from someone other than their intimate partner.[20]

Rights of Women and Girls with Disabilities in India

Indian and international law protect the rights of women and girls with disabilities in cases of sexual violence.

National Laws

Since 2012, India’s legal framework for addressing sexual violence evolved rapidly and significantly. These changes have included the 2013 amendments to India’s penal code, the substantive criminal law governing offenses, and the passage of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO), India’s first law that focuses exclusively on sexual offenses against those below age 18.[21]

In December 2016, India enacted the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016,[22] which marks a significant shift from India’s Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. The 2016 act redefines disabilities under Indian law to more closely align with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which India ratified in 2007.[23]

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act provides measures to protect all persons with disabilities from all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation, and articulates specific measures for appropriate governments, executive magistrates, and the police to take. Together, these laws introduced important new protections for women and girls with disabilities to aid their access to justice, especially in cases of sexual violence.

Accommodations under the Criminal Law Amendments, 2013

India’s 2013 criminal law amendments provide accommodations to support women with disabilities to access the criminal justice system.[24] These include:

  • The right to record their statement with police in the safety of their home or a place of their choice;[25]
  • The right to have their statements to police and examinations videotaped;[26]
  • The right to assistance by a “special educator” or interpreter when the complaint is recorded and during trial;[27]
  • Exemption from the need to repeat their statement during trial, subject to cross-examination.[28]

The 2013 amendments also seek to support women with disabilities in identifying arrested suspects during the “test identification parade,” a process previously based on visual identification alone. If the witness is a person with a disability, a judicial magistrate will oversee the procedure to ensure the witness is supported in identifying the accused with a means they find comfortable, by the sound of their voice or touch, for example.[29] The law also provides that this procedure should be videotaped for evidence purposes.[30]

While these legal provisions are major steps, gaps in the protection of women with disabilities remain. The 2013 Amendments do not incorporate adequate provisions for counseling facilities and rehabilitation for women with disabilities; training of law enforcement officials and judges to address the particular needs of women and girls with disabilities; and disaggregated data collection by both disability and gender.[31]

Accommodations under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012

The POCSO introduced a range of child-friendly procedures and Special Courts to try child sexual abuse,[32]  accommodations for all children on the basis of their age, and specific accommodations for children with disabilities. All children are entitled to give their statement in the presence of an interpreter or translator.[33]

If a child has a disability, the Special Court may have the assistance of a special educator, any person familiar with the manner of communication of the child, or an expert in that field, to record the statement and evidence of the child.[34]  Finally, for all children, including children with disabilities, POCSO requires police officers to get statements recorded by a Judicial Magistrate under Criminal Procedure Code section 154(c).[35]

Protections under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016

The 2016 Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act marks a significant shift from the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. More closely in line with the CRPD, the legislation defines persons with disabilities to include 21 “impairments,” known as “scheduled disabilities,” that are certifiable and eligible for various entitlements under the law. This is a significant increase from the seven “impairments” listed under the 1995 legislation.[36]

Addressing sexual violence against women and girls with disabilities, the 2016 law prescribes imprisonment and fines for anyone who would “outrage the modesty of a woman with a disability.” It also protects all persons with disabilities from all forms of abuse, violence and exploitation, with specific measures to be taken by appropriate governments, executive magistrates and the police.

These measures include establishing procedures for reporting violence against persons with disabilities, creating public awareness, and ensuring that persons with disabilities have the protection, free legal aid, and connections with disabled persons organizations that they need to seek relief.[37]

Section 7 of the 2016 act expressly authorizes the executive magistrate with jurisdiction to receive complaints of abuse, violence, or exploitation perpetrated against persons with disabilities. Upon receiving such information, the executive magistrate is required to take immediate steps to stop or prevent the abuse, including passing protection orders, authorizing police or a local disabled persons organization to provide for safe custody or rehabilitation; providing maintenance; and facilitating protective custody if the person whose safety is at risk wants it.

India’s Obligations under International Law

India is party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), among others.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The CRPD contains provisions related to equal access to justice, freedom from torture and other ill-treatment, and freedom from exploitation, violence or abuse.[38] Article 13 calls upon states to ensure effective access to justice for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others, including through the:

…provision of procedural and age-appropriate accommodations, in order to facilitate their effective role as direct and indirect participants, including as witnesses, in all legal proceedings, including at investigative and other preliminary stages.[39]

Article 15 obligates states to “take all effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, from being subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”[40] Article 16 requires states to take all appropriate measures to protect persons with disabilities from all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse, including by providing information on how to avoid, recognize and report instances of exploitation, violence and abuse.[41]

The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in its August 2016 General Comment on women with disabilities, addressed the challenges in accessing justice:

Women with disabilities face barriers to accessing justice, including with regard to exploitation, violence and abuse, owing to harmful stereotypes, discrimination and lack of procedural and reasonable accommodations, which can lead to their credibility being doubted and their accusations being dismissed. Negative attitudes in the implementation of procedures may intimidate victims or discourage them from pursuing justice. Complicated or degrading reporting procedures, the referral of victims to social services rather than the provision of legal remedies, dismissive attitudes by the police or other law enforcement agencies are examples of such attitudes. This could lead to impunity and to the invisibility of the issue, which in turn could result in violence lasting for extended periods of time. Women with disabilities may also fear reporting violence, exploitation or abuse because they are concerned that they may lose the support required from caregivers.[42]

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women

The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993 to address violence against women, provides in article 4(c) that states should pursue by all appropriate means and without delay, a policy of eliminating violence against women and, to this end, should exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the state or by private persons.[43]

While not specific to violence against women and girls with disabilities, the CEDAW Committee’s Recommendation No. 18 calls upon states to provide detailed information on the status of women with disabilities in their periodic reports, as well as special measures to ensure that they can participate in all areas of social and cultural life.

Recommendation No. 19, which is also not specific to women and girls with disabilities, calls for states to take appropriate and effective measures to overcome all forms of gender-based violence, including gender-sensitivity training for judicial and law enforcement officers; effective complaints procedures and remedies, including compensation; and reporting on legal, preventive and protective steps taken to fight violence against women.[44]

In 2014, the CEDAW Committee, in its concluding observations on India’s fourth and fifth periodic reports, recommended that the government strengthen police capacity to protect women and girls against violence and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable. The committee also recommended the government adopt standard procedures for the police in each state on gender-sensitive investigations and treatment of victims and of witnesses, and to ensure that First Information Reports (FIR) are duly filed.[45]

Convention on the Rights of the Child

Under the CRC, states should prohibit discrimination on the grounds of disability, should undertake to protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse,[46] and to take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of any child who has been abused (article 39).[47]

In 2014, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, in its concluding observations on the consolidated third and fourth periodic reports of India, recommended that the government ensure that children with disabilities have access to basic services and enjoy their rights under the CRC. To this end, the committee recommended that India develop a national plan of action for children with disabilities that integrates all provisions of the convention, as well as indicators to measure outcomes and ensure effective coordination among relevant ministries for its implementation.[48]

International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights

Article 12 of the ICESCR guarantees the right to the highest attainable standard of physical health, including sexual and reproductive health, and mental health. In its authoritative interpretation of article 12, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which monitors state adherence to the treaty, said a state’s obligation to protect women’s rights includes health in the context of gender-based violence.[49] Health services—preventive, curative, and rehabilitative—should be physically and economically accessible.[50]

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Article 7 of the ICCPR—in line with article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights— states that no person can be subjected to “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”[51] The UN Human Rights Committee, the ICCPR’s monitoring body, in its authoritative commentary on article 7, noted the “aim of the provisions of article 7 … is to protect both the dignity and the physical and mental integrity of the individual,” including in medical institutions.[52]

 

Barriers in the Criminal Justice System

Women and girls with disabilities, like others who experience sexual violence in India, face numerous barriers to accessing justice. These include stigma and victim-blaming, challenges in reporting, and poor access to support services, including timely medical treatment, counseling, and legal aid.[53]

Human Rights Watch found that these barriers are often exacerbated for women and girls with disabilities due to a lack of accommodations, and failure to account for disabilities by police, medical and court professionals, even when families, their lawyers, and engaged organizations identify disabilities and corresponding needs.

For some women and girls with disabilities, reasonable accommodations—changes in ordinary procedures or practices to meet the needs of a particular person—are key in reporting sexual violence. In 15 out of 17 cases that Human Rights Watch documented, provisions requiring police officers and court officials to provide accommodations were simply not followed, even in cases in which women and girls had severe and visible disabilities and injuries that they reported to the police from the start.

Challenges Reporting Sexual Violence

Reporting sexual violence and seeking justice is not an easy decision for women and girls and their families. These challenges are exacerbated for women and girls with disabilities who experience unique stigmatization related to their disability, which can lead to social isolation and lack of access to information on legal rights and protections.

Stigma and Victim-Blaming

Stigma and victim-blaming against women and girls with disabilities may manifest in damaging stereotypes of hyper-sexuality or asexuality that have implications for their ability to access justice in cases of sexual violence.

For example, women with disabilities are often considered asexual, devoid of sexual desires, and unlikely to be considered sexually attractive.[54] They are often referred to as children, even as adults and despite having gone through puberty. Alternately, women with disabilities may be thought to be hypersexual and eager to engage in sexual activity.

These misconceptions about the sexuality of women with disabilities, coupled with the stigma related to having a disability, make it especially hard for women and girls with disabilities to get family and community support for justice.

Shreya Rani Dei, a field worker with Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Centre (SMRC), an NGO working on disability rights in Odisha, described a recent case where a girl with intellectual disability was raped and “it was enough for the perpetrator to say he was sorry. The villagers took no further action since she is intellectually disabled and is therefore considered to have less worth than other women.”[55]

In 2014, in a remote village in Hooghly District, West Bengal, Noori, a 23-year-old Muslim woman with cerebral palsy and multiple disabilities—including the inability to speak or walk without a stick— reported that three neighbors raped her until she lost consciousness. Shampa Sengupta, director of the Sruti Disability Rights Centre, said that the community response to the crime reflected the stigma associated with disability:

The villagers took sides. They felt that ‘productive’ men in their prime were jailed due to an ‘unproductive’ woman who cannot even walk or talk properly.[56]

Stigma may lead families to conceal sexual violence. In August 2014, in a village in Herbertpur, Uttarakhand, Razia, a 13-year-old girl with an intellectual disability and difficulties speaking, was raped by her brother’s tutor. Shabana, Razia’s mother, supported her daughter to fight for justice and the family ultimately won the court case. Shabana explained her initial decision to conceal her daughter’s name:

When Razia was dropped home from her grandmother’s house by the tutor, she was bleeding heavily. We rushed her to the local hospital and they said that she had been hurt very badly. We were sent to Dehradun to the big government hospital. We were scared and worried. At the hospital, we gave a false name for our daughter and even for my husband. We were scared that if her name was given, and people knew she had [been raped], it would lead to our name going bad in the community. We didn’t know that such a thing could hamper the case going forward. We worked with a lawyer to clear this up when our case came to court.[57]

Though sexual violence is not unique to women and girls with disabilities, they may be more vulnerable to abuse[58] and have increased difficulty leaving abusive situations since they are more reliant on families and caregivers.[59]

In Delhi,[60] Odisha,[61] Tamil Nadu[62] and West Bengal,[63] social workers reported that sexual violence against women and girls with disabilities within families is prevalent but legal action is rare.[64] C. Murukesan, district leader of Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of all Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC), illustrated this point with a 2015 case of Preeti, a 15-year-old girl with an intellectual disability and cerebral palsy:

[Preeti] was sexually abused by her brother-in-law. She conceived and gave birth to a child. The parents were not interested in filing an FIR because they did not want to embarrass the son-in-law.[65]

  1. Vincent Sundaraj, chair of the Child Welfare Committee in Krishnagiri District, Tamil Nadu, said that stigma relating to physical and mental disabilities restricts people from approaching police in sexual violence cases:

Instead, cases come to us from hospitals when girls come in for medical care. Social workers, journalists and child welfare committees are more often the ones to take cases to the police.[66]

Lack of Access to Information

People throughout India are often not aware of their rights. But even in areas where civil society and government initiatives seek to educate women and girls about their legal rights, this information may not reach those with disabilities due to the lack of information on laws and processes in accessible formats.[67]

In 16 of the 17 cases documented by Human Rights Watch, women and girls with disabilities and their families were not familiar with disability-specific protections under the 2013 amendments or the POCSO Act, 2012. For instance, Nafisa, a woman from Odisha with difficulties hearing and speaking, was 19 when she was raped while attending a tailoring class. She said that at the time of the incident, she did not go to the police because she did not know that sexual violence was a criminal offense:

One day, my teacher was finishing some work on the sewing machine in the veranda and asked me to wait inside the house. I was alone inside and that was when her brother forced himself on me. I did not know that if someone raped me, I could go to the police.[68]

Mansoor Ali, director of the Graham Bell Centre for the Deaf in Hooghly District, West Bengal, explained the importance of providing support to ensure sexual violence is reported:

In rural places where [disabled persons] organizations like ours are not active, families do not go to the police and report when a child has been raped. If they do not know the law and cannot read and write, they do not have the courage to go forward. In these cases, we support women and girls with disabilities to get relief.[69]

Lack of Accommodations

Women and girls with disabilities may experience barriers communicating about sexual violence. India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare stated that, “they face [challenges] in expressing themselves in a system that does not create an enabling environment to allow for such expression.”[70]

In order to address the barriers faced by people with disabilities, national legislation in countries including India has incorporated the concept of “accommodation”—a change in ordinary procedures or practices to meet the needs of a particular person.[71] The UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs has stated that this approach recognizes that “discrimination can arise from a failure to take positive steps to ensure that disadvantaged groups benefit equally from services offered to the general public.”[72] Widely accepted in the human rights field, reasonable accommodation stands at the core of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.[73]

For women and girls with disabilities, the accommodations under India’s 2013 criminal law amendments and POCSO may be integral to accessing justice. Mamta Govil, a social worker at the Latika Roy Foundation in Dehradun, said that the organization worked with Razia, the 13-year old girl with an intellectual disability and difficulties speaking, to recount her rape by her brother’s 17-year-old tutor:

Generally, in cases like Razia’s where the child has an intellectual disability and unclear speech, people assume that she will not be able to narrate what happened to her. That is just not true. With Razia, the challenge was even greater given what she had been through—she was in a lot of pain and had just had 24 stitches in her vagina. She was traumatized.  But, as we saw with Razia, you need time and you need patience, but it is possible. Our counselor took a number of sessions with Razia. She used creative techniques, like using a doll. Razia was clear and consistent in her account of the horror she faced.[74]

Special educators and interpreters may need to employ different, creative strategies in order to facilitate accounts of sexual violence by women and girls with diverse disabilities. For example, Mehtab Zia Shaikh, vice principal of the Bombay Institute for Deaf and Mute, told Human Rights Watch that she worked with Rekha, a 24-year old deaf woman, who could not read, write or speak sign language. They developed a trust and channel of communication through gestures and repetition, which allowed Rekha to communicate her sexual abuse in detail during her trial in 2014.[75] On February 6, 2018, Rekha received a judgment in her favor. The accused was convicted of wrongfully confining and raping Rekha, He was sentenced to life imprisonment.[76]

The staff at Anjali Mental Health Rights Organization in Kolkata, West Bengal, an organization that works closely with women and girls with psychosocial disabilities, described the importance of accommodations in supporting women and girls with psychosocial disabilities to communicate effectively. Sudeshna Basu, Deputy Director, said:

When we work with women and girls with psychosocial disabilities, there is a process that can help them to communicate. A person whom she knows and trusts can ask questions in a way that she can understand. A stranger who has never met her before may not be able to understand what she is trying to say.[77]

Accommodations may be integral to facilitating access to justice for women and girls with disabilities.  However, in 15 of 17 cases that Human Rights Watch documented, provisions requiring police officers and court officials to provide accommodations were simply not followed, even in cases when women and girls had severe and visible disabilities and injuries that they reported to police when cases were first reported.

While POCSO and the 2013 amendments call for police and judicial authorities to employ special educators, the human resources required to implement the law remain lacking. Poonam Natarajan, former chairperson of the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities for India’s Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, said:

The issue is that there are no lists of special educators or support personnel on hand with the police or the courts. When I was heading the National Trust, I was trying to work towards getting special educators empaneled, but the government was not responsive. You cannot just use a special educator, they need to be trained to work with people across disabilities. If she is a special educator for the blind, then how will she know how to support someone with cerebral palsy? The government should create lists of special educators and the Rehabilitation Council of India should draw up a training curriculum for special educators.[78]

Meenakshi Balasubramanium, from Equals—Centre for Promotion of Social Justice, a Chennai-based organization that works for the rights of people with disabilities, said that the lack of accommodation may serve as a deterrent or delay efforts to seek justice:

In most cases families don’t go directly to the police to report cases of abuse of women with disabilities because they are not sure what kind of support they will get, whether the police will have a sign language interpreter, or a special educator. Instead, they contact a DPO [disabled persons organization] and go only through them because families know that if they require any accommodation, the DPOs will immediately provide them the support that they need.[79]

Difficulties Engaging with Police

All police stations are required to have women police officers available around-the-clock to record complaints.[80] For women and girls with disabilities, who confront additional stigma and are often discredited or infantilized, it is particularly important to have a positive interaction with police to build faith in the criminal justice system.

Human Rights Watch found that in 16 out of the 17 cases examined for this report, women and girls with disabilities, their families and advocates, faced challenges at multiple stages of engaging with the police, including registering accurate complaints and ensuring competent investigations.

Difficulties Registering the FIR

People throughout India face police inaction and outright refusals to register crime complaints.[81] Women and girls with disabilities who seek to register complaints of sexual violence are often at heightened risk of refusal due to the unique stigma associated with their sexuality and disability. According to Niranjan Behera, president of Odisha Viklang Manch, the state organization of persons with disabilities, “Police are generally insensitive towards women. When it comes to their behavior towards women with disabilities, it is even more so.”[82]

Susmita, a then 26-year-old woman with a psychosocial disability, from Kolkata, West Bengal, told Human Rights Watch she was sedated and gang raped by four men who lived in the building next door in February 2014. However, according to her, the police refused to believe her or register her case on account of her disability. Susmita said:

I approached the police. The police asked me very nasty things like how it felt for me. I mean—I told them I was totally unconscious, so how would I know? The police said things like: “She’s mental, why should I pay attention to her?” “She’s a gone case, why should I listen?”[83]

According to Susmita, the police only responded when she took her case to the media. After her case was covered in the news, Susmita said that she was interviewed by a woman police officer and that the perpetrators were arrested.[84]

In December 2014, in Krishnagiri District, Tamil Nadu, Lakshmi, a 16-year-old girl with difficulties hearing and speaking was reportedly gang raped by four men from her village. Namburajan, an activist with the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) in Tamil Nadu, described Lakshmi and her family’s experience as they tried to register an FIR:

Lakshmi’s father carried her for 14 kilometers [8.5 miles] on his shoulders to the nearest bus station to bring her to the government hospital. The police were called to the hospital but refused to file the complaint. Though the incident took place on December 25, 2014 and the father went to the police that very day, the police refused to lodge an FIR until January 2, 2015. They filed the FIR only when the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently Abled and Caregivers (TARATDAC) held a protest demonstration. Even then, the FIR did not mention that Lakshmi had been gang raped. It only mentioned that she was raped.[85]

Anjali, a medical doctor, said that she felt well-supported when she approached police in Dehradun to report the case of her daughter, Meera, a 38-year-old woman with cerebral palsy and severe developmental delays:

The [station house officer] was very sensitive. He immediately had the room emptied after he spoke to me. He got me a lady IO [investigating officer] who was superb and he told her: ‘Get things done as quickly as possible. She is very keen to return home.’ They met with us alone in a room so that Meera could be on one side and I on the other—that way she could see me but she could not hear me. I was whispering very softly so Meera didn’t hear me recount the story. They finished the report in one hour.[86]The station house officer (SHO) at the Dehradun Kotwali police station explained his response: “In these cases, it is not only about procedures but also about humanity. I think of my role as a police officer, but also think as a husband and a father.”[87]

In rape cases, all women and girls, including those with disabilities, have the right to file a complaint outside the police station, at a location of their choice.[88] POCSO sets forth obligations for police when engaging with victims, including ensuring that no child is detained at a station overnight.[89] Most women and girls with disabilities interviewed for this report spent extended hours at the police station. Some were held overnight.

In Hooghly District, West Bengal, Chandra, a 12-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was allegedly kidnapped, raped, and found bleeding in a nearby field in June 2013. Despite her obvious disabilities and the visible injuries she had sustained, Chandra and her family had to wait overnight at the police station. Her father, Ashim, recounted:

The police saw bite marks and scratch marks all over her body. They questioned me about what happened and wrote it down. We reached the police station at 9 p.m. They told us to leave Chandra and go. We did not leave. How could we leave her alone? We stayed. They took us from the police station to the court at 9:00 the next morning. We stayed all night with Chandra in the station.[90]

The treatment Chandra and her family received—a violation of Indian law—is not an isolated incident. In 2015, Noori, a 23-year-old woman with cerebral palsy was reportedly gang-raped and thrown from a rooftop. According to Shampa Sengupta from Sruti Disability Rights Centre: “The police detained her and her mother the whole night. The family was very nervous and abided by what the police officer said.”[91] Later, when local advocates followed up with police, they were told that Noori was held in order to protect her—on the grounds that she may have been killed if she was sent to the village that night. Activists said that police never offered this explanation to Noori or her mother.[92]

Failure to Record a Disability

Some women and girls with disabilities and their families said they were excluded from any accommodations due to inability to substantiate a disability.[93] Absent government certification of disability, when these families went to the police to report the crime and file a complaint, police did not include critical information on the woman’s disability in their reports, even when a family member reported the disability or when the disability was apparent. As a result, they did not receive the accommodations provided by the law.

In October 2015, two men reportedly raped Maneka, a 15-year-old girl with an intellectual and physical disability from Delhi. Her family did not receive a copy of the FIR or the medical record on the day it filed charges and Maneka was medically examined. Once Maneka’s lawyer was able to obtain the charge sheet, she noticed significant errors: although Maneka was 15 on the day she was raped, her age was misreported as over 18; and, since the family did not have a disability certificate, the police refused to report her intellectual disability and visible physical disability, despite being informed by the family.[94]Maneka’s sister, Kanika, said:

We told the police she has a mental disability and she is physically handicapped—one of her hands does not work and one of her legs is also dysfunctional. You can see her disability but it was still not recorded in the FIR.[95]

Such errors have had a profound impact on Maneka’s case. Not only did the errors in recording her age exclude Maneka from protections under POCSO, exclusion of her intellectual and physical disabilities also undermined evidence collection. Although required under both POCSO and the 2013 amendments, Maneka did not receive support from a special educator in giving her statement and her testimony was not videoed. As a result, she has faced significant challenges in litigating her case. Priya, her lawyer, said:

Maneka has an intellectual disability. She has had problems remembering things later. Maneka’s sister is a school teacher and supported Maneka to give her statement, but she did not know the procedures so did not ask for a special educator or video recording. After that first day, Maneka does not talk about the case at all.[96]

Maneka’s family said that she is traumatized by repeated visits to the court.[97] Her intellectual disability makes explanations particularly challenging. The video recording accommodation for women and girls with disabilities was introduced precisely for cases like Maneka’s in order to relieve the strain of repeat testifying.

In order to ensure accurate registration and investigation of crime complaints, as law requires, the victim, family or other informant should receive a copy of the information recorded with police, free of cost.[98] This requirement ensures that victims and their advocates have a safeguard against inaccurate registration of crime complaints or subsequent revision of the FIR due to pressure from the accused. In Maneka’s case, her lawyer received the FIR only months later.

Despite the errors in Maneka’s case and the trauma experienced by Maneka and her family, with the support of a strong advocate, by March 2018 Maneka received a verdict in her favor. Each of the perpetrators of the gang rape received a prison sentence of 21 years and a monetary penalty of 50,000 Rupees (USD 772).

Lack of Police Training

Even when attempts to provide accommodations are made with good intentions, they may be inappropriate due to lack of police training and access to experts, such as special educators.

For instance, in Delhi, Pooja, an 11-year-old girl with an intellectual disability was taken to the police station in August 2013 by her father after they reported that a neighbor had raped her. The police brought in a sign language interpreter to assist in the interview, but this support proved futile. Pooja cannot speak due to a neurological condition, but she is not deaf and has no knowledge of sign language. Muralidharan, secretary of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, said:

The lady officer brought in a sign language expert to try and communicate with the girl.… The police could have simply asked the family about her disability. But there is a very common misconception that a person who cannot speak is also deaf, so the exercise of bringing in a sign language interpreter to assist was futile. A special educator could have helped.[99]

A memo submitted by the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, Sruti Disability Rights Center, and CREA to the National Commission for Women reflected upon the shortcomings in Pooja’s case: “The intent here is not to find fault with the IO [investigation officer] but to point out the general lack of awareness among the police about these new provisions.”[100]

Debashree Sabuj, deputy police commissioner for women in Kolkata, attributed many of these shortcomings to a lack of training and information among police officers:

We have had no training. When we meet a disabled woman, we may not know how to speak to her properly. The police are not cruel. In most cases the police are simply ignorant. It is not that we don’t want to believe them, but we also worry that if we make a mistake, the wrong person will be punished. The police need education and we need to be sensitized on how to handle these cases.[101]

While training modules at some police academies incorporate gender sensitive material, there are hardly any regular courses or follow up to ensure police have updated information on laws and policies to effectively support cases of people with disabilities, particularly women or girls, who have faced abuse and violence. Sanjay Gunjyal, inspector general of police from Uttarakhand, said training is the first step, but it is not enough:

Whenever there are new amendments or changes in the law, it is very important that all the investigating officers or police officers are aware. They should be properly trained and that training should not be limited to the law. They should also be sensitized to the emotional and the psychological needs of the victim and how to work with women and girls with disabilities. It is important to sensitize every officer—from top to bottom.[102]

Gunjayal intervened in the case of Razia, a 13-year-old girl with an intellectual disability and difficulty speaking, who was raped in 2014. Violating POCSO, police had asked Razia to sit next to the perpetrator during the DNA testing, which was extremely traumatic for her. Rizwan Ali, the lawyer from the Latika Roy Foundation, an organization supporting the case, immediately asked the police to separate them.  He said:

We knew that such an error could happen in other cases too. So we approached the then deputy inspector general, Sanjay Gunjyal, and he issued a curricular to all police stations in his range to ensure that such a problem in investigation would not occur.[103]

Lack of Legal and Support Service Referrals

The Supreme Court of India has ruled that police are required to ensure that women and girls who suffer sexual violence have access to legal representation.[104] This includes maintaining a list of advocates willing to act in these cases and making this resource available for victims who do not have a lawyer. To ensure that victims are questioned without delay, in cases of sexual violence, the Supreme Court has authorized advocates to act at the police station before leave from the court is sought or obtained.[105]

In cases of child sexual abuse, POCSO rules require police to inform the child and their parent or guardian of the right to representation and to support services, including counseling. Police should help families who want to pursue such services contact service providers.[106] Human Rights Watch found police do not always carry out these duties.

In the cases of sexual violence covered in this report, most women and girls with disabilities and their families reported difficulties in securing legal representation.

Shampa Sengupta, director of the Sruti Disability Rights Center in West Bengal, described reaching out to Noori, a 23-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, who was gang-raped in Hooghly District: “We contacted the father and he was a fighter—he was very interested in engaging with us. The police had not told them that they are entitled to legal assistance.”[107]

Poonam Natarajan, former chairperson of the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities, said:

The problem here is two-fold: first, people with disabilities don’t know that they have free legal aid; and second, the legal service authorities are not trained to handle disability cases. We need to activate legal services authorities.[108]

Barriers to Adequate Medical Treatment, Forensic Examination

Healthcare providers play a dual role in the response to sexual violence: they provide therapeutic care and assist in criminal investigations.[109] Under Indian law, all hospitals, whether public or private, must provide first aid or medical treatment to survivors of sexual violence, and prompt medical examination and reporting, consistent with established legal standards, free of cost.[110]Failure to uphold these responsibilities is punishable with a fine, imprisonment, or both.[111]

Consistent with legal requirements,[112] police took Maneka, a 15-year-old girl with intellectual and physical disabilities, to the hospital. However, once there, neither Maneka nor her mother, Soumya, received information on the examinations that took place. Soumya said: “They took Maneka in for the examination all alone—she was scared. No one explained to me what tests they were doing.”[113]

POCSO requires that medical examinations take place in the presence of the parent of the child, or another person the child trusts. Failure to follow these provisions may exacerbate the trauma of sexual violence faced by girls like Maneka.[114]

In 2014, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued guidelines for medico-legal care for survivors of sexual violence to health care professionals.[115] These include specific requirements for medical treatment of women and girls with disabilities. They require medical professionals to attend to the kind, nature, and extent of disability; provide necessary accommodations, including making arrangements for interpreters or special educators; ensure that they take consent and medical histories directly from survivors; provide information on medical procedures in a manner the survivors can understand; and prohibit the use of the “two-finger test.”[116]

However, according to health rights groups, only nine states have so far adopted the guidelines, which Human Rights Watch found medical professionals often flout.[117]

For instance, the guidelines eliminate what is commonly known as the “two-finger test,” a practice where the examining doctor notes the presence or absence of the hymen and the size and so-called laxity of the vagina of the rape survivor, to assess whether girls and women are “virgins” or “habituated to sexual intercourse.” This evidence has been used during trials to assert that the rape survivor had “loose” or “lax” morals.[118] The new guidelines limit internal vaginal examinations to those “medically indicated,” such as when it is done to diagnose infection, injury, or presence of a foreign body. However, Human Rights Watch has found that doctors continue to conduct the invasive, humiliating, and unscientific finger test to make degrading characterizations such as “habituated to sex.”[119]

Challenges in the Courts

Assistance During Trial

Attending court can be extremely traumatic for survivors of sexual violence. The language used in courtrooms by lawyers and judges in cases of rape and assault can be derogatory toward survivors. Courts themselves can be intimidating and confusing for survivors, and cross-examination may be particularly stressful.

This trauma may be heightened for women and girls with disabilities because of challenges navigating spaces that are often inaccessible, and if legal processes are not explained by lawyers and judicial officers in a manner that is accessible to them.

EXPAND

Shampa Sengupta, a disability rights activist, greets Kanchana, a 19-year-old woman with an intellectual disability, her mother, and Kanchana’s young son. Kanchana was raped on multiple occasions by a man from her village. Four years later, the case has been closed and their application for compensation is pending (West Bengal).

 © 2016 Shantha Rau Barriga/Human Rights Watch

For instance, Diya, the mother of Kanchana, a 21-year-old woman with an intellectual disability, recounted a simple misunderstanding when the police asked Kanchana to wait in the plaintiff’s witness box in the courtroom, which proved deeply traumatic:

When they led Kanchana away from me, she cried and screamed. The police explained that she would be able to see me and that they would bring her straight back to my lap. She couldn’t understand. She was terrified and thought she was being taken to a lock up.[120]

Women and girls with disabilities may also face the added trauma of their accounts being discredited on the basis of their disability.[121]An examination of judgments from India’s appellate courts by legal researcher Saptarshi Mandal illustrates a systematic disregard for and devaluation of the testimonies of women with disabilities. Mandal concluded that this devaluation is embedded in evidentiary standards that define competency to testify and govern testimony of witnesses who are unable to speak.[122]

Meera, a 38-year-old woman with cerebral palsy leading to developmental delays, regressed from a communication level of an 11 to a three-year old after she was raped. Meera testified in court, with the assistance of a special educator. The magistrate, however, refused to accept her testimony on the grounds that she did not use adult language. Her mother, Anjali, described the day that Meera testified:

Meera has given her statement in court and the psychologist interpreted it. The psychologist asked her, ‘What did the bad man do?’ And she said, sobbing, with tears running down her face, ‘The bad man put his sussu’ [child term for penis]—and she pointed down. She couldn’t stop crying and the judge said—‘I will not accept that word.’ My daughter has barely managed to recover the communication of a 3-year-old. Even earlier she would not have known the anatomy of a man. The interpreter, a psychologist who knows Meera well, explained that it is a perfectly acceptable childlike word.[123]

The judge called for Meera to return to court and testify in adult language, but her mother has refused. Anjali said:

She gave her testimony and that is the best she can do. I cannot put her through the trauma again. That day I could not get her into the car. She was letting her hands fly all over, she nearly broke the window of the car. I almost could not hold her. She loathes going to the court—she is terrified. There is no need for this.[124]

Need for Witness and Victim Protection

Women and girls with disabilities—like other women and girls—may face pressure from perpetrators, communities, and even their own families to not seek legal redress. Karuna, a woman with low vision, did not tell her family after she was raped by a blind man. She explained, “He threatened me not to tell anyone. I was scared so I didn’t tell anyone what had happened.”[125]

In cases where the perpetrator of sexual violence is a family member, Human Rights Watch found that women and girls with disabilities have had to flee their homes in order to protect themselves from ongoing violence and retaliation. Santoshi Kansari, a social worker who has been working to promote the rights of women and girls with disabilities in Chhattisgarh for the past five years, described the plight of two sisters, both of whom have physical disabilities from polio. These women were forced to go into hiding in order to escape pressure and threats from their family and community:

The brother was raping both of his sisters. One is 39 and the other is 25 years old. They lived with their widowed mother and, before dying, the father left bigger pieces of farmland for his daughters. They were disabled so he wanted to create some security for them. In retaliation, the brother beat them and sexually abused them. I tried to intervene but the villagers and the panchayat [village head] aligned with the brother. The girls were afraid they would be killed if they tried to report. Two years ago, I brought them out of there, and the sisters are hiding in another village. They are afraid to speak up.[126]

Since India has no national victim and witness protection program, retaliation for reporting instances of violence can have a particularly devastating impact on women and girls with disabilities who are ostracized by their families and communities on whom they rely for everyday support. Even in cases where women and girls with disabilities had support from their families, family members described facing pressure not to report cases of sexual violence. Women, girls and their families are particularly at risk of pressure, threats and retaliation when the perpetrator is considered to have higher social standing.

Ashim, the father of Chandra, the 12-year-old girl with cerebral palsy and high support needs, was advised not to pursue legal action by the pradhan [village headman] and other local leaders when his daughter was kidnapped, raped and left profusely bleeding in a nearby field by a politically well-connected man from the village. “They tried to force me not to press charges,” he said. “I refused to give in.”[127]

Delays in Compensation

India’s Code of Criminal Procedure requires all state governments, in consultation with the central government, to prepare a scheme for victim compensation. Based on court recommendations, district or state legal service authorities are tasked with deciding the amount of compensation.

The Code of Criminal Procedure also provides compensation in cases where no trial takes place because the offender cannot be traced or identified.[128] In cases of sexual violence perpetrated against a child, a special court may pass an order for interim compensation at any stage after the FIR is registered or final compensation when the case ends. State governments must pay compensation within 30 days of a special court order.[129]

In 2013, the central government established the Nirbhaya Fund for schemes aimed at the prevention, protection, and rehabilitation of women. They allocated 3,000 crore rupees (US$454 million) from 2013 to 2017,[130] most of which remains unutilized. No specific fund for persons with disabilities exists in India and women with disabilities are not explicitly mentioned in the Nirbhaya Fund. Meenakshi Balasubramanium, from Equals—Centre for Promotion of Social Justice, said:

In the Nirbhaya Fund they should have put some amount aside for women with disabilities because accessibility and reasonable accommodation involves costs, but these aspects of access to justice for women and girls with disabilities have not been taken into consideration.[131]

Human Rights Watch found that even in the cases of sexual violence resulting in extreme injury, trauma, and economic hardship as a result of childbirth, women and girls with disabilities, compensation was awarded in only 5 of the 17 cases covered.

Noori, a 23-year-old woman with cerebral palsy and multiple disabilities, applied in 2014 for compensation to cover her medical expenses after she was reportedly gang-raped by three neighbors. At time of writing, she had not received any assistance from the state.

Obtaining compensation can be integral to the survivors’ recovery and rehabilitation.

Anjali, mother of Meera, a 38-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, recounted the devastating impact of her rape on Meera’s developmental profile as the primary reason why she continued to seek compensation for her daughter:

After she was raped, Meera is in so much pain that she has shut out the world. Her weight has dropped by 15 kilos (33 pounds). She has terrible tantrums. She does not leave the house. Her communication level has dropped. She will need extensive therapy to regain her potential. She can do it. That is why I am fighting for compensation for my daughter. I am fighting for her ability to live again. She grew, she reached her potential and we want that back—we can get it back, but we need help.[132]

Given the strong links between gender, poverty and disability,[133] compensation is particularly important for women and girls with disabilities and their families, especially those who live in rural areas. In 2014, Diya and Kanchana applied for compensation under a West Bengal scheme. After Kanchana was reportedly raped and decided to carry her son to term, Diya had no choice but to leave her work. Now, as the primary caregiver for her daughter and grandson, she is unable to leave the home. The case was closed in 2016 and their application for compensation remained pending at time of writing.

Even in cases where compensation has been awarded, it may not reach the person in need. After Razia, then a 13-year-old girl with an intellectual disability and difficulties speaking, was raped in August 2014, the family pursued justice through the courts—and won. Razia was granted compensation of two lakh rupees (US $3,100). However, despite this favorable order, the money has yet to reach the family. Rizwan Ali Fahim, the lawyer from Latika Roy Foundation, who assisted in Razia’s case, said:

On January 3, 2016, the district legal services authority issued the order that [Razia] should get two lakh rupees as compensation. It has been more than [two years] and the money has not been received. The accused was jailed, the case was closed in [Razia’s] favor—but justice is incomplete.[134]

The One-Stop Crisis Center

A major program under the Nirbhaya Fund, established in 2013, is the One-Stop Crisis Center Scheme, which calls for places across the country where integrated services—police assistance, legal aid, medical and counseling services—are available to victims of violence.

Governed by standard treatment and examination protocols, these can play a key role in ensuring care and collection of forensic evidence for survivors of sexual violence.[135]

In September 2015, in rural Karnataka, Latha, then a 16-year-old Dalit girl with epilepsy, was reportedly raped by a neighbor. Her relatives brought her to the hospital, and medical authorities helped the family contact the local one-stop crisis center. Rekha, the protection officer responsible for overseeing the one-stop crisis center, described the coordination between the center and police: she was not only able to persuade the family to lodge a formal complaint, but she assisted police in interviewing Latha.

The father was not ready to file the FIR but when Latha’s case came to my attention, I immediately called the police and registered the case. We are mandated to report such a case. I went with the police to the hospital to visit Latha. At that time, she was not able to name the perpetrator. The police initially made out the FIR with ‘perpetrator unknown.’ In order to get more information, they visited her village. Then, they returned to the hospital again and tried to take a statement. They did not have a lady police officer so I worked with them. They video recorded this process. Finally, Latha named the perpetrator and burst into tears.[136]More needs to be done to ensure that women and girls with disabilities and their families are aware of the services available in one-stop crisis centers, and that staff are trained to support the rights and needs of women and girls with disabilities.

The document issued in 2015 by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to guide implementation of the One-Stop Center Scheme lacks provisions for accessible infrastructure, communication assistance, or any other reasonable accommodations. The budget guidelines provided in Annexure II of the document, moreover, do not make provisions for audio-visual recording of statements and other accommodations for women and girls with disabilities mandated under the 2013 amendments and POCSO.[137]

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A sign of a government-run one-stop crisis center in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. The one-stop crisis centers are places where integrated services—police assistance, legal aid, medical and counseling services—are available to victims of violence. These centers can play a key role in ensuring care and justice.

© 2016 Shantha Rau Barriga/Human Rights Watch

 

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Full Recommendations

Promising policy initiatives in India often falter due to poor implementation. Legal provisions designed to support access to justice for women and girls with disabilities in cases of sexual violence are no exception.

India’s government should take urgent action—in collaboration with state governments, police, medical treatment and forensic facilities, justice system officials, child welfare committees, national and state commissions for women, legal aid services, and disabled people’s organizations and other relevant civil society organizations to ensure access to justice for women and girls with disabilities.

To the Central Government and State Governments

Reporting Sexual Violence

  • Enforce the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, and policies announced to facilitate access to justice for survivors of sexual violence by:
    • Implementing the 181-national helpline and ensuring 24-hour access to support for women and girls across disabilities seeking relief in cases of sexual violence, including through activation of text-based services.
    • Designing a certification course to equip support people (“special educators”) to work with persons with different disabilities. Require that special educators appointed by police, judiciary and Child Welfare Committees are trained and certified.
  • As called for under section 7 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, conduct a public information campaign to create awareness, including among women and girls with disabilities and their families, about their rights and the procedures for accessing justice in cases of sexual abuse.
    • Ensure that information is made available in accessible formats, including braille, audio, sign language, video and easy-to-understand formats.
    • Issue a directive to all gram panchayats (village councils) requiring them to disseminate accessible information on rights and procedures for accessing justice to all households.
  • Ensure that Child Welfare Committees are equipped to meet the needs of girls with disabilities who are victims of sexual violence, by:
    • Ensuring that personnel are sensitized to the needs of girls with disabilities.
    • Appointing special educators and interpreters to support Child Welfare Committees in assessing and meeting the rights and needs of girls with disabilities.

Medical Treatment and Examination

  • Adopt and implement the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Guidelines and Protocols for Medico-Legal Care for Survivors/Victims of Sexual Violence.
    • Ensure that medical professionals are trained to provide adequate accommodations to women and girls with disabilities.
    • Appoint special educators and sign language interpreters to ensure that hospitals and medical centers can provide accessible services.
    • Hold periodic trainings for doctors, paramedics, nurses and other health professionals on these guidelines.
    • Ensure that medical forms and consent forms are available in local languages, easy-to-read and other accessible formats.
  • Ensure that government and private hospitals that receive government subsidies are accessible to women and girls with disabilities, in line with universal design as defined by article 2 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.[138]
  • Enforce 2014 Health Ministry Guidelines on the use of the “two-finger test” and its variants from all forensic examinations of female survivors, as it is an unscientific, inhuman and degrading practice.
  • Call for the Indian Medical Association, Indian Council of Medical Research, and Medical Council of India to include the particular needs of women and girls with disabilities in all existing and forthcoming training modules and medical standards for training medical students on treating and examining victims of sexual violence.

Compensation and Rehabilitation

  • Ensure all states adopt the minimum amount mandated by the central government for compensation for victims of rape.
  • Direct district and state legal service authorities to grant compensation that accounts for the particular needs of women and girls with disabilities.
  • Ensure that shelter homes and short stay homes for women survivors and women in distress are accessible for girls and women with disabilities.
    • Train personnel responsible for running shelter homes and short stay homes on the rights and particular needs of women and girls with disabilities.
    • Make shelter homes and short stay homes physically accessible to women and girls across disabilities.
    • Ensure that the duration of stays in shelter homes and short stay homes are determined with the consent of the woman and girl seeking relief.

Nirbhaya Fund

  • Allocate specific funds within the Nirbhaya Fund to support accessibility and reasonable accommodation for women and girls with disabilities.
  • Create transparent mechanisms for disbursement of the Nirbhaya Fund.
  • Ensure that one-stop crisis centers are properly equipped and accessible to women and girls with disabilities, including via training for staff and medical professionals.

Systematic Data Collection

  • Within the National Crime Records Bureau, disaggregate data on the basis of gender, disability and age to be able to facilitate analysis of crimes of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities, and to inform government policies, programs and services to better address their needs.

 

To the Judiciary

  • Ensure that Fast Track Courts and Family Courts are accessible in terms of physical access, communication and procedural aspects.
  • In consultation with national and state judicial academies, expand training for trial and appellate court judges and public prosecutors on the rights of survivors with disabilities in cases of sexual violence to include:
    • Training on provisions pertaining to women and girls with disabilities under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
    • Sensitization on supporting persons with disabilities to provide accurate testimony in cases of sexual violence in a manner least traumatic for the survivor and upholds the fair trial rights of the defendant.
  • Ensure magistrates have specific training on accommodations for people with disabilities.
    • Appoint trained special educators and interpreters to ensure that accommodations are available to women and girls with disabilities in all judicial proceedings.
    • Expedite interim compensation for women and girls with disabilities who are victims of sexual violence to meet immediate needs.

 

To the Union and State Home Ministries, and Police Services

  • Provide accessible information to women and girls with disabilities about their rights in cases of sexual violence.
    • Appoint special educators and interpreters to ensure that accommodations are available and provided.
  • Issue clear, consistent and unambiguous directives to division and district supervising officers to ensure that an FIR be registered in every case in which police receive information that on its face suggests the commission of sexual violence, including sexual violence against women and girls with disabilities.
    • Ensure that information concerning the disability of the woman or girl is recorded in the FIR, whether or not they can produce a disability certificate.
  • Strictly enforce the requirement that a completed FIR be read to the complainant and that they receive a free copy. Ensure the information in the FIR is communicated in an accessible manner for women with disabilities or parents of children with disabilities.
  • Increase the number of women police officers, their promotion opportunities, and the number of women’s police stations. Ensure that women police officers are sensitized to the rights and particular needs of women and girls with disabilities, including how to support victims of sexual violence, record their claims, and interview them for the purpose of crime investigation.
  • Instruct police stations to create a database of special educators and legal aid providers to support women and girls with disabilities who seek relief in cases of sexual violence and other crimes.
  • Organize special programs for police related to prosecuting cases of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls with disabilities. Training content should include:
    • Training on provisions pertaining to women and girls with disabilities under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
    • Sensitization on supporting persons with disabilities to register complaints, access appropriate and effective accommodations, receive immediate medical attention and access to legal counsel and other support services.
    • Mandatory training for investigating officers regarding sexual violence. Training should include investigative methods applicable to sexual violence cases, including accommodations for persons with disabilities, working with traumatized victims, protecting victims from harassment, gathering forensic evidence, and collecting and preserving evidence.

To the Indian Parliament

  • Enact a victim and witness protection program that includes protection for women and girls, including women and girls with disabilities, who face retaliation for reporting sexual violence. The law should direct the central and state governments to adequately fund witness protection programs.

To the National Legal Services Authority

  • Expand the National Legal Services Authority (Legal Services to the Mentally Ill Persons and Persons with Mental Disabilities) Scheme, 2010, to include all women and girls with disabilities. Revise the language of the scheme so that it is consistent with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • Raise awareness among women and girls with disabilities and organizations of people with disabilities about access to free legal services in cases of sexual violence.
  • Train state and district legal services authorities on the rights and particular needs of women and girls with disabilities.

To National and State Commissions for Women

  • Ensure that women’s and children’s helplines are available across the country, 24 hours a day and trained to support women and girls with disabilities.
    • Consult people with diverse disabilities and their representative organizations and disability rights experts to ensure that helplines are accessible for persons with different disabilities. For instance, phone helplines should be text-enabled for women who are deaf or hard of hearing.
  • Coordinate action pertaining to access to justice for women and girls with disabilities between the Office of the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities and the National and State Commissions for Women.

To the Australia, Canada, European Union, United Kingdom, United States, Other Concerned Governments, Foreign Donors, and Aid Agencies

  • Encourage the Indian government to respect its international obligations under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, with a particular emphasis on access to justice:
    • Consistent with article 13, call for effective access to justice for persons with disabilities on an equal basis with others, including through the “provision of procedural and age-appropriate accommodations, in order to facilitate their effective role as direct and indirect participants, including as witnesses, in all legal proceedings, including at investigative and other preliminary stages.”
    • As prescribed by article 16, call for all appropriate measures to protect persons with disabilities from all forms of exploitation, violence and abuse, including by providing information on how to avoid, recognize and report instances of exploitation, violence and abuse.
  • Provide increased support for disabled persons organizations in India to engage in activities to facilitate access to justice for people with disabilities in cases of sexual violence.

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Terminology

Consistent with the language of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), this report refers to “women and girls with disabilities” rather than “disabled women and girls.”[1] The CRPD acknowledges that disability is “an evolving concept,” but also stresses that “disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.”[2] As explained by the World Health Organization (WHO), “defining disability as an interaction means that ‘disability’ is not an attribute of the person.”[3]Progress on improving social participation can be made by addressing the barriers that hinder persons with disabilities in their day-to-day lives.

The terms below acknowledge the complex interactions between a person and social norms that comprise the experience of disability. Common language references to disabilities also appear in direct quotes when this language has been used by interviewees.

Cerebral palsy: Cerebral palsy is a neurological condition that affects body movement, muscle control, muscle coordination, muscle tone, reflex posture and balance. It can also impact fine motor skills. Every case of cerebral palsy is unique to the individual. Other complications such as cognitive delay, seizures and vision or hearing impairment also commonly accompany cerebral palsy.[4]

Child: As per the Convention on the Rights of the Child, any person under age 18.[5]

Discrimination: Under India’s Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, “discrimination” in relation to disability means “any distinction, exclusion, restriction on the basis of disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise on an equal basis with others of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field and includes all forms of discrimination and denial of reasonable accommodation.”[6]

First Information Report (FIR):  A document with information about the commission of a cognizable offense given to a police officer, which sets the process of criminal justice in motion. It is only after the FIR is registered with the police that they take up investigation of the case.

Gram Panchayat/Panchayat: Village-level administration, usually elected officials, responsible for preparing and executing plans for economic and social development.

Intellectual disability: A condition characterized by significant limitations both in intellectual functioning (reasoning, learning, problem solving) and in adaptive behavior, which covers a range of everyday social and practical skills. Intellectual disability forms a subset within the larger universe of developmental disability, but the boundaries are often blurred as many individuals fall into both categories to differing degrees and for different reasons. Examples of intellectual disability include Down Syndrome and some forms of cerebral palsy.

Multiple disabilities: Refers to having more than one disability.

Person with disability: Under India’s Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, a “person with disability” means “a person with long term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairment which, in interaction with barriers, hinders his full and effective participation in society equally with others.”[7] The new legislation contains a schedule identifying 21 “impairments” for the purpose of certification.[8]

Psychosocial disability: The preferred term to described persons with mental health conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and catatonia. This term expresses an interaction between psychological differences and social or cultural limits for behavior, as well as social stigma directed at persons with mental health conditions.[9]

Sexual violence: As used in this report, “sexual violence” includes both penetrative and non-penetrative sexual acts using violence.

Special educator: As used in this report, “special educator” refers to someone who facilitates communication with a person with a disability and provides support to them in the criminal justice process. The preferred term in the international disability community is “support person” so we have used both terms interchangeably in this report.

Download the easy-to-read version of the report in English

Download the easy-to-read version of the report in Hindi

https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/04/03/invisible-victims-sexual-violence/access-justice-women-and-girls-disabilities

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चन्द्र प्रकाश झा

 

कर्नाटक विधानसभा चुनाव कार्यक्रम की घोषणा से ही मीडिया और राजनितिक हल्कों में विवाद छिड़ गया। संभव है कि विवाद की लपटें चुनाव प्रचार ही नहीं सभी  224 विधानसभा सीटों पर एक ही चरण में 12 मई को होने वाले मतदान, 15 मई को निर्धारित मतगणना और उसके बाद राज्य में नई सरकार के गठन तक उठती रहें। क्योंकि , इस चुनावी प्रक्रिया में शामिल लगभग सभी दलों और मीडिया की कथित मुख्यधारा में भी अधैर्य है। उनके बीच  किसी से भी पहले ” ब्रेकिंग न्यूज ”  देने की अघोषित अलोकतांत्रिक, बाज़ारू प्रतिस्पर्धा है। वरना कोई कारण नहीं था कि चुनाव कार्यक्रम की घोषणा करने के लिए सांविधिक रूप से अधिकृत एकमेव संस्था , निर्वाचन आयोग के अधिकार क्षेत्र का दिनदहाड़े अतिक्रमण होने के बावजूद विधायिका, कार्यपालिका, न्यायपालिका, सबके सब तमाशबीन बने रह जाएँ।

संसद के चालू बजट सत्र के बीच निर्वाचन आयोग द्वारा  27 मार्च को पूर्वाह्न बुलाई गई प्रेस कॉन्फ्रेंस से पहले ही लगभग एक ही वक़्त  केंद्र में सत्तारूढ़ मोर्चा का नेतृत्व कर रही भारतीय जनता पार्टी ही नहीं कर्नाटक में पिछले पांच बरस से अपनी सरकार चला रही कांग्रेस के भी महिमामंडित ‘आईटी’ सेल के कर्ता -धर्ता, मतदान और मतगणना की तारीख ट्वीट कर गए और उनके समर्थक इस तमाशा पर बस थिरकते रहे। भाजपा के आईटी सेल ने ट्वीट की वैधानिकता और  नैतिकता को लेकर नागरिक समाज द्वारा उठाये सवाल पर जिस तरह से सारा दोष ‘टाइम्स नाउ’ और कुछेक क्षेत्रीय खबरिया टेलीविजन चैनलों के मत्थे जड़ अपना पाप धो लेने की कोशिश की वह और भी संगीन कृत्य है। भारत में पहली बार निर्वाचन आयोग द्वारा तैयार चुनाव कार्यक्रम ‘लीक’ हुआ और संसद , सरकार, न्यायपालिका ने चूं  नहीं बोला।  निर्वाचन आयोग ने भाजपा आईटी सेल के प्रमुख, अमित मालवीय और कर्नाटक कांग्रेस के सोशल मीडिया प्रभारी द्वारा चुनाव कार्यक्रम की तारीख अवैध रूप से ट्वीट करने की जांच करने की घोषणा की औपचारिकता ही निभाई।

उसने भाजपा खेमा की सफाई से संतुष्ट होकर उसे जांच शुरू होने से पहले ही बख़्श  दिया। विवाद छिड़ने पर मालवीय जी ने बस अपना ट्वीट डिलीट करके औपचारिक शिष्टाचार का स्वांग रचा।  उन्होंने निर्वाचन आयोग को पत्र भेज कर जो सफाई दी उसके जायज-नाजायज होने का निर्णय  नागरिकों को वाया मीडिया हज़म  करा दिया गया। भाजपा की और से सफाई देने के लिए बिन बुलाये ही केंद्रीय मंत्री मुख्तार अब्बास नक़वी को भी आयोग के समक्ष भेज मामला ठंढा कर दिया गया। निर्वाचन आयोग की जांच के तय सन्दर्भों में जवाबदेही, कांग्रेस की कर्नाटक इकाई के मीडिया प्रभारी पर डाल दी गई ।

अमित मालवीय  ने अपने ट्वीट में मतदान की तारीख तो सही, 12 मई ही बताई। लेकिन उन्होंने मतगणना की तारीख, जान-बूझ कर या फिर गलती से 18 मई बताई। बहरहाल , इस विवाद से निर्वाचन आयोग की साख को निश्चय ही बट्टा लगा है। यह भी स्पष्ट हो गया कि ट्वीट के पीछे भाजपा और उसकी सरकार के नेतृत्व की मंशा यही थी कि लोग मानें लें कि लोकतांत्रिक चुनाव के मामले में भी वे जो भी चाहते हैं वही होगा , सब उनकी मुट्ठी में हैं। मालवीय ने बड़ी मासूमियत से दावा किया कि उन्हें तो चुनाव कार्यक्रम की जानकारी, ‘टाइम्स नाऊ’ जैसे चैनेल से मिली। मोदी सरकार समर्थक माने जाने वाले टाइम्स नाउ ने टीआरपी जिंदाबाद के स्वर में प्रेस की स्वतंत्रता का राग द्रुत ताल में अलाप कर कह दिया कि उसे लोगों को जानकारी देने का पूरा अधिकार है और उसे इस जानकारी का स्रोत बताने के लिए कानूनन बाध्य नहीं किया जा सकता। अहमदाबाद के सोशल मीडिया एक्टिविस्ट, प्रतीक सिन्हा द्वारा संचालित ‘ऑल्ट न्यूज’ की त्वरित जांच-परख में उक्त खबरिया चैनलों की खबर के प्रसारण के समय के साथ -साथ भाजपा और कांग्रेस के ट्वीट और उनके फॉलोअर (समर्थकों ) के री -ट्वीट के प्रामाणिक स्क्रीन शॉट से निष्कर्ष निकला कि मालवीय जी ने ट्वीट बीती रात ही कर दिया था।  फिर उसे छुपा दिया। और फिर उन्होंने अगले दिन टाइम्स नाउ जैसे  चैनलों की खबर के प्रसारण की आड़ लेकर पलक झफकते  ही और निश्चित रूप से चुनाव कार्यक्रम की अधिकृत घोषणा के पहले ही फिर से उजागर कर दिया। निर्वाचन आयोग की अपनी जांच में प्रगति , उसके निष्कर्ष और उस निष्कर्ष के आधार पर किसी तरह की कोई कार्रवाई की अधिकृत खबर अभी तक नहीं आई है।  ट्वीट के हमाम में सब नंगे नज़र आये।

इस बीच, चुनाव की घोषणा के बाद से कर्नाटक के विभिन्न स्थानों पर चुनावी प्रयोजन के लिए भेजी नगदी, सोना, शराब, रेशमी साड़ियां की बरामदगी
-जब्ती की खबरें लगातार मिल रही हैं। इन ख़बरों का एकमुश्त संकलन फिलहाल संभव नहीं लगता है। पुलिस ने बगलकोट में एक कार से 14 लाख रुपए नगदी की जब्ती की खबर तो तपाक से दे दी।  लेकिन यह नगदी किसने , किसको भेजी थी इसका पुलिस ने खुलासा तत्काल नहीं किया।

कर्नाटक के मुख्य निर्वाचन अधिकारी संजीव कुमार के अनुसार निर्वाचन आयोग के उड़नदस्ते ने भी 9.9 लाख रुपये नकदी, 18.9 लीटर शराब , 2.4 किलोग्राम सोना, आठ महँगी रेशमी साड़ियां जब्त की हैं। कुल 1,156 उड़नदस्ते और 1,255 निगरानी दल, चुनाव कार्यक्रम की घोषणा के तुरंत बाद लागू आदर्श आचार संहिता के कार्यान्वयन के लिए तैनात हैं।आबकारी विभाग ने अलग से 1,217 लीटर अवैध शराब बरामद कर 148 मामले दर्ज किए हैं। चुनाव प्रचार में सरकारी वाहनों का दुरुपयोग करने, लाउडस्पीकर का रात 10 बजे से सुबह छह बजे तक प्रयोग नहीं करने के नियम का उल्लंघन करने , मतदाताओं को धन आदि का लोभ देने के अनेक मामलों में प्राथमिकी दर्ज करने और 8,633 लाइसेंसी हथियारों की  जमाबंदी की भी पुष्ट खबरें हैं.

राज्य में 1985 के बाद से किसी भी दल को सत्ता बरकरार रखने का मौक़ा नहीं मिला है। वर्ष 2013 के विधानसभा चुनाव में जीती कांग्रेस को इस बार के चुनाव के पहले तुरुप के पत्ते की मानिंद निकाले अपने  ‘लिंगायत कार्ड’ से  पूरा आत्मविश्वास है कि वह फिर सत्ता में लौट आएगी। मुख्यमंत्री  सिद्धारमैया की सरकार ने चुनाव की घोषणा के ऐन पहले लिंगायत समुदाय को हिन्दू से अलग धर्म की मान्यता और इस हिन्दू-बहुल  राज्य में अल्पसंख्यक का दर्जा दिए जाने के लिए केंद्र सरकार से मांग कर अपनी पार्टी को नया राजनीतिक पिटारा दे दिया। इस चुनावी पैंतरे की गेंद अब केंद्र में राष्ट्रीय जनतांत्रिक गठबंधन की साझा सरकार का नेतृत्व कर रही भाजपा के पाले में है। भाजपा को  यह पैंतरा न उगलते बनता है, न निगलते बनता है। लिंगायतों का छोटा, वीरशैव समूह सिद्दारमैय़ा सरकार के इस कदम के विरोध में है लेकिन अधिसंख्य लिंगायत समुदाय कुल मिलाकर हिन्दुओं में प्रचलित जाति व्यवस्था के खिलाफ रहा है।

सिद्धरमैया ने दावा किया है कि राज्य में जितने भी मठ हैं उन सब का समर्थन कांग्रेस को है। सिद्धारमैया स्वयं  कुरबा समुदाय के हैं। वही अगली सरकार के मुख्यमंत्री पद के लिए कांग्रेस के घोषित दावेदार हैं। राज्य में कुरबा समुदाय के करीब 80 मठ हैं। इनमें  मुख्य, दावणगेरे में
श्रीगैरे मठ है। राज्य की आबादी में कुरबा समुदाय के मतदाता  करीब आठ प्रतिशत माने जाते हैं। कांग्रेस प्रत्याशियों की सूची पार्टी अध्यक्ष राहुल गांधी की बेंगलुरु में 8 अप्रैल को घोषित रैली के बाद जारी किये जाने की संभावना है।  मुख्यमंत्री सिद्धारमैया ने खुद चामुंडेश्वरी सीट से चुनाव लड़ने की घोषणा कर कहा है कि यह उनका अंतिम चुनाव होगा।  वह जनता दल (सेक्युलर) का गढ़ माने जाने वाले इसी सीट से पांच बार, विभिन्न दलों के प्रत्याशी के रूप में जीते  हैं और दो बार हारे भी हैं। सिद्दारमैया सरकार पर भाजपा ने भ्रष्टाचार के अनेक आरोप लगाये हैं पर किसी भी मामले में मुख्यमंत्री की संलिप्तता साबित नहीं हुई।

वैसे , भाजपा ने पूर्व मुख्यमंत्री एवं लिंगायत समुदाय के ही नेता 75-वर्षीय बी एस येद्दयुरप्पा को अगली सरकार के मुख्यमंत्री पद के लिए अपना दावेदार घोषित कर कांग्रेस के लिंगायत कार्ड की तोड़ पेश कर दी है। येदियुरप्पा को राज्य में वर्ष 2009 के चुनाव में पहली बार जीती भाजपा की सरकार के मुख्यमंत्री पद से भ्रष्टाचार के गंभीर आरोपों के कारण हटना पड़ा था। उन्होंने मुख्यमंत्री पद से अपदस्थ होने के बाद अपनी नई पार्टी भी बना ली थी। लेकिन बाद में उनकी भाजपा के केंद्रीय नेतृत्व से सुलह हो गई।  उनकी नई  पार्टी का भाजपा में विलय कर दिया गया। भाजपा ने कांग्रेस के लिंगायत कार्ड की  तोड़ के रूप में येद्दयुरप्पा को आगे करने के लिए अपने उस घोषित राजनितिक ‘ सिद्धांत’ की तिलांजलि दे दी जिसके तहत उसके 75 साल से अधिक आयु के नेता, सरकार और संगठन में किसी पद पर नहीं रह सकते।

भाजपा को चुनाव में भ्रष्टाचार को मुद्दा बनाने में भी  परेशानी हो रही है क्योंकि येद्दयुरप्पा को इन आरोपों  के कारण  न सिर्फ ही मुख्यमंत्री  पद से हटना पड़ा था बल्कि अरबों रूपये के भूमि-घोटाले में जेल भी जाना पड़ा था. यह दीगर बात है कि उन्हें बाद में अदालत से  राहत मिल गई, वह जेल से बाहर आ गए  और उनका वानप्रस्थ अवस्था में भी भाजपा में ही सहजता से राजनीतिक पुनर्वास भी हो गया।  वह अभी भाजपा के प्रदेश अध्यक्ष हैं।  भाजपा के 140 प्रत्याशियों की पहली सूची 10 अप्रैल तक जारी किये जाने की संभावना है।

पूर्व प्रधानमन्त्री एच डी देवेगौड़ा द्वारा गठित जनता दल (सेक्युलर), कर्नाटक में तीसरी बड़ी राजनितिक ताकत है। उनके पुत्र एवं पूर्व मुख्यमंत्री  एच.डी कुमारस्वामी को इस दल की ओर से अगली सरकार के मुख्यमंत्री  पद का दावेदार घोषित किया गया हैं।  जनता दल(एस)  ने उत्तर प्रदेश की पूर्व मुख्यमंत्री मायावती की बहुजन समाज पार्टी और कुछ अन्य छोटे दलों के साथ चुनावी  गठबंधन करने की घोषणा की है जो जमीन पर ज्यादा उतरता नज़र नहीं आता है।  देवेगौड़ा स्वयं वोकालिगा समुदाय के हैं। उनकी पार्टी का चुनचुनगिरी मठ पर काफी प्रभाव माना जाता है. जनता दल (सेक्युलर) ने अपने 126 प्रत्याशियों की प्रथम सूची जारी की है जिनमें एच.डी कुमारस्वामी और उनके बड़े भाई एच डी रेवन्ना शामिल हैं। गौरतलब है कि यह सूची चुनाव कार्यक्रम की घोषणा के पहले ही जारी की गई।  चर्चा है कि एच.डी कुमारस्वामी की पत्नी भी चुनाव लड़ेंगी।  जनता दल (सेक्युलर) ने बसपा को 20 सीटें आवंटित की हैं जो सब आरक्षित हैं।  जनता दल (सेक्युलर ) के गठबंधन में पूर्व रक्षा मंत्री शरद पवार की राष्ट्रवादी कांग्रेस पार्टी भी शामिल है जिसको सीट आवंटन शेष है ,

एक गौरतलब बात यह है कि कर्नाटक ही नहीं किसी भी राज्य के चुनाव में यह सम्भवतः पहला मौक़ा है जब तीनों प्रमुख दलों ने मुख्यमंत्री पद के लिए
अपने दावेदार चुनाव के पहले ही घोषित कर दिए है,  दिल्ली के मुख्यमंत्री अरविन्द केजरीवाल  के नेतृत्व वाली आम आदमी पार्टी भी कर्नाटक चुनावों
में उतरने की तैयारी में है। कम्यूनिस्ट पार्टियां भी कुछेक सीट पर चुनाव लड़ रही हैं।  मार्क्सवादी कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी की केंद्रीय कमेटी ने मार्च
माह के उत्तरार्ध में नई दिल्ली में हुई बैठक में कर्नाटक में चुनाव -पूर्व किसी गठबंधन का हिस्सा नहीं बनने का निर्णय  कर अपने 26
प्रत्याशियों की सूची जारी कर दी जो पिछले 15 बरस में सर्वाधिक है। उसने  1994 और 2004 में बागेपल्ली की एक सीट जीती थी. उसे  मतदाताऒं का औसतन एक प्रतिशत समर्थन हासिल रहा है।  उसने प्रारम्भ में जद  ( सेकूलर ) के साथ गठबंधन में शामिल होने के संकेत दिए थे।  चुनावी  रूप से बेहद कमजोर, भारतीय कम्युनिस्ट पार्टी ने  कांग्रेस से तालमेल कर चार सीटों पर प्रत्याशी खड़े करने के संकेत दिए हैं।

राज्य की कुल आबादी में से करीब 20 प्रतिशत हिस्सा लिंगायत समुदाय का है।  इस समुदाय का अनुमानित 100 सीटों पर प्रभाव माना जाता है। मुख्यमंत्री सिद्धारमैया ने खुद दो अप्रैल को मैसूर में कुछ मठों में जाकर आशीर्वाद लेने  के बाद चुनाव प्रचार शुरू किया। कांग्रेस अध्यक्ष राहुल गांधी भी मठों की चुनावी परिक्रमा  कर रहे हैं।  भाजपा के राष्‍ट्रीय अध्‍यक्ष अमित शाह भी मठों के चक्कर लगा रहे हैं।  राज्य के 30 जिलों में 600 से अधिक मठ हैं।  उन सबका सामाजिक , आर्थिक , सांस्कृतिक और राजनीतिक प्रभाव भी है. लिंगायत समुदाय के करीब 400 , वोकालिगा समुदाय के  करीब 150 और कुरबा समुदाय के लगभग 80  मठ हैं। ये मठ शिक्षा , स्वास्थ्य आदि के क्षेत्र में भी सेवारत हैं। इस कारण भी उन्हें समाज में श्रद्धा प्राप्त है।

भाजपा इस बार वोकालिगा समुदाय में पैठ के लिए  प्रयासरत है. उसकी तरफ से अमित शाह , केंद्रीय मंत्री अनंत कुमार और सदानंद गौड़ा  चुनचुनगिरी मठ का दौरा कर चुके हैं ।  राज्य की आबादी में 12 प्रतिशत वोकालिगा समुदाय की है।  वोकालिगा समुदाय के 150 मठ हैं. इनमें अधिकतर दक्षिण कर्नाटक में हैं। भाजपा  ने राज्य में ‘नाथ सम्प्रदाय’  का समर्थन हासिल करने के लिए उत्तर प्रदेश के मुख्यमंत्री एवं गोरख पीठ के मुख्य महंत  योगी आदित्यनाथ को भी चुनाव प्रचार में उतारा है। अमित शाह ने चित्रदुर्ग में प्रभावशाली दलित मठ , शरना मधरा गुरु पीठ के महंत मधरा चेन्नैया स्‍वामीजी से भी मुलाकात की। वैसे चुनाव प्रचार में भाजपा अध्यक्ष अमित शाह की जबान लगातार फिसलने से उनकी जबरदस्त किरकिरी  हुई है । उन्होंने एक चुनाव रैली में  कहा कि ‘सबसे बड़ी भ्रष्ट सरकार  येदुरप्पा की है।’ येदुरप्पा  उस रैली में मंच पर विराजमान थे।  यह दीगर बात है कि भाजपा अध्यक्ष ने तुरंत अपनी भयानक भूल समझ  कह दिया कि वह दरअसल सिद्दारमैया सरकार के बारे में कहना चाहते थे।

अनुसूचित जाति-जनजाति अधिनियम में सुप्रीम कोर्ट की  ‘छेड़छाड़’ से आक्रोशित दलितों -आदिवासियों की आबादी राज्य में बहुत ज्यादा नहीं है पर
उनके वोट कांग्रेस और भाजपा के बीच  बराबर की टक्कर होने की संभावना में निर्णयकारी हो सकते हैं। दलित समुदाय के बीच, भारत के संविधान और दलितों के खिलाफ  बयान देने वाले केन्द्रीय मंत्री अंनत कुमार हेगड़े और उनके कारण भाजपा का  भी जबरदस्त विरोध हो रहा  है। इसकी बानगी अभिनेता प्रकाश राज की प्रतिरोधक प्रतिक्रया  और फिर मैसूर के राजेंद्र कलामंदिरमें अमित शाह की सभा में दिखी। सुरक्षाकर्मियों को वहाँ से भाजपा अध्यक्ष को वापस ले जाना पड़ा।  गौरतलब है कि गत दिसंबर में केंद्रीय कौशल विकासएवं उद्यमिता मंत्री हेगड़े ने कर्नाटक में एक सभा में कहा था  कि मौजूदा संविधान  बदलना पड़ेगा।

कन्नड़ के मशहूर बुद्धिजीवी प्रो. कलबुर्गी और विख्यात पत्रकार गौरी लंकेश के ह्त्या  में  शक की सुई   हिन्दुत्ववादी  संगठनों पर होने से भी भाजपा के खिलाफ  पढ़े-लिखे, बौद्धिक लोगों और  लिंगायत समुदाय के संजीदा लोगों में भी नाराजगी  है। उधर , अरब सागर तटवर्ती मंगलुरू नगर और उसके पास के उडुपी  में बरसों से श्रीराम सेने , हिंदू युवा सेने , हिंदू जागरण वेदिके , बजरंग दल , विश्व हिन्दू परिषद जैसे संगठनों द्वारा उत्पन्न सांप्रदायिक हिंसा और उन्माद के दौर चलते रहे हैं।

मंगलुरु में मुसलमानों की ही नहीं कैथोलिक ईसाइयों की  भी खासी आबादी है। विभिन्न समुदायों के सम्पदा संपन्न धर्मस्थलों पर प्रभुत्व की प्रतिस्पर्धा आम हो चुकी है। बीबीसी की एक खबर के अनुसार पत्रकार गौरी लंकेश की हत्या के बाद से वहाँ माहौल और भी खराब है। मंगलुरु के एक पब में हुई हिंसा के मामले में गिरफ़्तार अभियुक्त, श्रीराम सेने के प्रमुख प्रमोद मुथालिक को रिहा किया जा चुका है। दक्षिण कन्नड़ के कासरगोडा में  खाड़ी देशों में काम
करने वाले मुस्लिम समुदाय के लोगों के भेजे  पैसे से इस्लामिक संगठन भी चलते हैं। सोशल डेमोक्रेटिक पार्टी ऑफ़ इंडिया के महासचिव मोहम्मद इलियास थुम्बे ने दावा किया कि  “लव जिहाद’, ‘लैंड जिहाद’, ‘बीफ़ जिहाद’ की आड़ में आरएसएस के संगठन  युवाओं को भड़का कर तनाव का माहौल पैदा करते हैं, मगर समाज का बड़ा तबका मिल-जुल कर रहना चाहता है.

मौजूदा विधानसभा में कांग्रेस को अपने विधायकों और अन्य को मिलाकर कुल 122 सदस्यों का बहुमत समर्थन हैं। भाजपा के 43 और जद (सेकूलर ) के 30 सदस्य हैं. किसी भी पक्ष को नई सरकार बनाने के लिए आवश्यक साधारण बहुमत के वास्ते 113 सीटें जीतने की दरकार है। बाज़ार -प्रायोजित पोल्स्टरों के चुनावी सर्वेक्षण हमेशा की तरह भ्रमित ही कर रहे हैं। इनमें से किसी के अनुसार इस बार किसी को स्पष्ट बहुमत नहीं मिलेगा और जनादेश विखंडित निकलेगा। किसी और पोल्स्टर के अनुसार भाजपा की जीत की अच्छी संभावना है। पोल्स्टर फर्म सी -फोर ने तो चुनाव कार्यक्रम की घोषणा के पहले ही भविष्यवाणी कर चुका है कि कांग्रेस को पिछली बार से अधिक सीटें मिल सकती हैं और भाजपा की भी सीटें बढ़ेंगी लेकिन जद  (सेकूलर )  को नुकसान  होगा। आरएसएस के मुखपत्र , ऑर्गेनाइज़र के पूर्व सम्पादक शेषाद्रि चारी ने ‘प्रिंट’  डिजिटल समाचार माध्यम में प्रमुखता से प्रसारित अपने आलेख में दावा किया कि कांग्रेस के लिंगायत कार्ड खेलने के बावजूद भाजपा ही जीतेगी। देखना है कि शेषाद्रि चारी की आशा ईवीएम  के जरिये कराये जाने वाले चुनाव में कितना कमल खिलाती है।

 

(चंद्र प्रकाश झा  वरिष्ठ पत्रकार हैं, जिन्हें मीडिया हल्कों में सिर्फ ‘सी.पी’ कहते हैं। सीपी को 12 राज्यों से चुनावी खबरें, रिपोर्ट, विश्लेषण, फोटो आदि देने का 40 बरस का लम्बा अनुभव है।)

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