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Archives for : November2018

Facebook in the dock for coaxing teenage girls to befriend middle-aged men

Facebook file photo

Facebook is encouraging grooming by offering teenage girls middle-aged men as ‘friend suggestions’

Facebook is encouraging grooming by offering teenage girls middle-aged men as ‘friend suggestions’, the media reported.

Teenage girls, as young as 13-year-olds, who join the social network are given up to 300 suggestions for who they can add as friends, some of which include middle-aged men who are topless in their profile photos, The Telegraph reported late on Saturday, November 10.

Facebook has said that was not a typical experience for teenagers for signing up for the service and that it has safeguards built into its recommendation system.

Following the findings, UK-based charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has called for friend recommendations to be suspended for children on the social networking giant’s platform.

‘Groomers are seeking to infiltrate children’s friendship groups on social networks, often with the intention to move children to live streaming or encrypted sites where it is easier for them to commit sexual abuse,” Andy Burrows, NSPCC Associate Head of Child Safety Online, was quoted as saying.

“Social media algorithms risk making it easier for groomers to find and contact children and ‘friend of friend’ or ‘new follower’ recommendations can add legitimacy to their requests, which is why we are calling for these features to be blocked for children.

“For too long social networks have failed to make their platforms safe for children, and that is why the Home Secretary must commit to strong and effective regulation to finally ensure that children’s safety is non-negotiable,” she said.

In October, Facebook had removed 8.7 million user images of child nudity with the help of previously undisclosed machine learning software that automatically flagged such photos during the last quarter

According to Facebook, the company has safeguards to protect children. However, the campaigners warn that the networking giant must do more to stop groomers who use the site to become friendly with children.

“Grooming is incredibly serious, and we have teams specifically focused on keeping children safe, informed by extensive research and outside experts,” said a spokesman for Facebook, the Daily Mail reported on Saturday, November 10.

“We use artificial intelligence to proactively identify cases of inappropriate interactions with minors and we refer potential abuse to law enforcement.

“We limit how children can be found in search, we remind them to only accept friend requests from people they know and we caution them before making public posts.”

In October, Facebook had removed 8.7 million user images of child nudity with the help of previously undisclosed machine learning software that automatically flagged such photos during the last quarter.

The company has said that it is also considering rolling out systems for spotting child nudity and grooming to Instagram.

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‘I Tried Killing Myself Twice Due To My Abusive Husband. I Am Speaking Out So That No One Else Does

by –

Mumbai: For 33 years, Kalpana Mishra (name changed) asked herself what she had done wrong–why was it that her husband, whom she loved, beat her mercilessly? Why did he have multiple affairs, and why did none of his friends or family think it was wrong? How could a smart, bright, and educated woman like her suffer in silence?

Mishra tried astrology, past-life regressions and read books but found no answers. In 33 years of married life, she landed up in the hospital several times for injuries, and she even tried taking her life twice. The last time she tried, she fell into a coma for three days. It was then that something snapped in her, and she filed a case of domestic violence against her husband.

Across India, almost one in three (33.3%) married women, aged 15-49 years, experienced physical, emotional or sexual spousal violence according to National Family Health Survey (2015-16), IndiaSpend reported in October 2018.

Further, Indian women committed suicide at twice the global rate–the sixth highest rate of suicide in the world in 2016 (15 per 100,000). Domestic violence has a direct relation with the idea of suicide in women across the world, studies show. Arranged marriage, early marriage, young motherhood, low status, domestic violence and the lack of economic independence may be responsible for the high rate of suicide in women in India, IndiaSpend reported in October 2018.

Mishra wrote to IndiaSpend after reading that story and wanted to share her trauma, “I do not want anyone else to suffer as I did,” she said.

Today, Mishra is separated from her husband, and is a trained counsellor helping other women in similar situations. She has restarted her career after completing a diploma in development management and works for a non-profit.

Here are some excerpts from the telephonic interview:

How was your childhood?

I was born in a small town in Uttar Pradesh. We lived in a joint family. My father, who was an engineer, worked in a very well-known company, and took care of his whole family–seven brothers and two sisters. We were a well-respected but highly patriarchal family. All my life, I saw my mother working day and night and getting abused by his family. My father was good to everyone but was dominating and aggressive with my mother. Seeing her plight, I had decided that I would never get married.

I have three siblings–an older brother and sister, and a younger brother. My father was educated, but he still spoke only about making my brothers engineers. He never celebrated my accomplishments. I was good at studies and sports, and I was selected to play basketball and kabaddi at the national level when I was in school. I stood first in my district in the grade X exam, and got featured in the newspaper, but no one cared. I learnt to study and work hard without making a fuss.

My brother’s friend had got an extra application form in a reputed engineering college and I filled it. To my surprise I got selected. My father didn’t allow me to join for a month because he thought I will lose interest and forget about it. Finally he had to relent and I joined the course. I did well in my studies and was selected for the masters course. But I fell in love and decided to get married. Our marriage was sanctioned by our families.

How did your life change after your marriage?

After marriage, I moved to Delhi. Physical and mental abuse started soon after. I have never heard gaalis (abuses) in my maternal household but here I was verbally abused and beaten up regularly. Initially, he said that he loved me and had only hit me under the influence of alcohol.

I was 22 years old, my parents had died and my sister lived abroad so I had no one to speak to. I was stuck in a situation I didn’t know how I could get out of. I kept believing he would change.

My husband blamed everything on me–his failure at business, his losses. He played the victim, I played along. Soon his shame became my shame.

Three years after our marriage, I gave birth to our son. By then the girl in me who was confident, a natural public speaker, and a singer had gone quiet. My in-laws had asked me to quit my job: “Acche ghar ki bahuen kaam nahi karti” (Daughter-in-laws of good households don’t work). Still, I prepared for the civil services exam without telling anyone but I could not give the exam.

Meanwhile, I tried everything to understand why my marriage wasn’t working well. I sought answers everywhere–books, religion, philosophy. I asked, I was a good wife, daughter-in-law and a mother; then why was this happening to me? I never realised that it wasn’t my fault.

He was addicted to porn, and a womaniser. The domestic helps told me that he had tried to molest them, and I tried to intervene but my mother-in-law said that they were lying. I had no support while my husband kept up his beating and I sunk into depression.

The first time I tried to commit suicide, I drank pesticide because my husband had hit me badly the day before. My in-laws rushed me to the hospital, but later asked me to beg forgiveness from my husband.

The next time I was admitted to the hospital was because he kicked me when I was pregnant and I had a miscarriage.

Later, when we moved to Mumbai, my husband closed the door on my hand and I had a fracture. My husband then had an affair with a younger colleague in office. Slowly he started insisting on bringing her home. When I protested, he started tormenting me. He now wanted to kick me out of his house.

He called me names, showed me obscene videos and asked me to die. He even took me to a psychiatrist and said I was crazy. One day, I swallowed sleeping pills to end it all. I was rushed to the hospital and I was in coma for three days.  My son stood looking at me, wondering if I will live or die.

After I came back, I said enough is enough and filed a case of domestic violence against him.  He then filed for divorce.

Did you get divorced?

No, I didn’t want to give him a divorce because I did not want to let him off the hook after 33 years of a bad marriage. I have studied the law, spoken to lawyers, got fleeced by them and realised that the justice system is tilted towards men. A woman who is a homemaker, has no money, no financial backing and no security. Till date, I have not received a penny from him.

I have also filed a petition in support of a Supreme Court petition asking for restrictions on pornographic websites. Since the last five years, I have read and researched extensively on these issues and written letters to everyone from prominent personalities to ministers to the highest offices in India.

How did your children react to all of this?

Earlier, the violence was restricted to the bedroom and I tried to keep the children away from it. But later, they told me that they stood outside the door and cried.

My son has stopped talking to me since the court cases. My daughter meanwhile has been my support all these years. She was the one who told me that I had to do something. Her father has cut her off financially.

When and how did you move out and gain financial independence?

I did a post graduate diploma in development management from a Mumbai-based institute. After 30 years of staying at home, I had to adjust to a new age classroom where I was expected to submit assignments on emails and make powerpoint presentations. I had to learn fast, and despite being the oldest student in the classroom, I, at 56 years, stood second in the whole class. I felt validated and felt I can do something with my life.

Then I got a job in a non-profit working on maternal health and I am in-charge of coordinating with the central government to implement the programme in different states. Thanks to my efforts, the programme has been successfully initiated in many states.

Also, I trained as a counsellor, and support other women who come to me through word-of-mouth. I have realised three out of four women face abuse at home. Most never speak up because they have no support or backing.

Why are you telling your story?

I do not want anyone else to suffer as I did. I also want to raise awareness about issues of homemakers who do not have the privileges of a working women–no measurement of or payment for work, no paid leave and no internal complaints committee for sexual harassment. After the breakdown of a marriage, it takes years to fight for maintenance which is why women don’t speak up.

Also, education alone can’t solve the problem. I was a district topper, an engineer and yet I suffered in silence for three decades because of the patriarchal values I was raised with.

I don’t condemn women for keeping quiet or bearing it. I see my story being repeated in the stories of those women. I want women to speak out about what is happening to them. I want to stir society into action.

I want to quote Maya Angelou here, “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women

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A better life outside India

In New India, unity hides in a cast-iron statue, its syncretic history compressed in a structure that’s only 183m tall

Priya Ramani

Seventeen million people opted out of India just last year. Photo: iStock

Seventeen million people opted out of India just last year. Photo: iStock

You’ve probably been part of a wishful drawing room conversation discussing how the time may have come to leave India and seek a better life elsewhere. Like me, you might even know someone who has left or is due to leave soon. Maybe you are one of those parents who urge their children graduating in international universities to stay put and not be in a hurry to rush back home.

There are enough reasons to leave if you have the resources or the opportunity. In New India, unity hides in a cast-iron statue, its syncretic history compressed in a structure that’s only 183m tall. From dystopian bovine-related lynchings and other targeted hate crimes to air pollution—that murderous equalizer that doesn’t care about your religion, caste, gender, economic background or political affiliation—there are an increasing number of threats your privilege can’t protect you from. Jobs are scarce, and the incidence of cancer is rising alarmingly.

It’s no wonder that 17 million people opted out of India just last year—and this during a time when the migration of our unskilled workers fell by 25%, according to the Asian Development Bank’s Asian Economic Integration Report 2018. We topped the list of people leaving their countries—China was a distant second at around 10 million.

In recent months, human rights activists have been jailed, elected representatives spew hate speech and any dissent is labelled anti-national. An anti-establishment Facebook post could always get you jail time in India, but now even forwarding a WhatsApp meme against the prime minister can result in an arrest. Once we reacted to such news with outrage, now we shrug.

It’s clear to everyone that politics will just get uglier before the 2019 general election. You are at an additional disadvantage if you are a religious minority, woman, Dalit or even the parent of a young child who has a one in two chance of encountering sexual abuse. It’s no wonder people are saying bye.

As we found out earlier this year, an Antiguan passport can be had for ₹1.3 crore and a handful of other Caribbean destinations are quite competitively priced. While the US, UK, Canada and Australia have been favourite migration options for Indians for as long as I can remember, countries such as Belgium, Sweden and Norway are making it to our list too, according to a report in The Times Of India that quotes ministry of external affairs statistics for 2017.

For young professionals, a better quality of life at these last three destinations is just an airplane ride away. In January, my neighbours Astrid and D, both 32, will leave for Gothenburg, Sweden, where D has found a job as a project manager. They’ve been thinking of moving for the last three-four years, largely because of health and safety reasons and because of an increasing awareness of their religious minority status.

“I’ve never had asthma but these past few years every couple of months I’ve had terrible attacks. The moment I leave Bangalore I’m fine,” says Astrid. Additionally, she says, tracking India’s rape culture has terrified her so much she has stopped her newspaper subscription. “I don’t feel safe here. I love wearing dresses and little shorts but I don’t feel comfortable wearing them here. I even carry a stole every time I wear anything sleeveless and the moment I feel someone staring, I cover up. I realize that I’m changing,” she says, adding that she’s linked her Ola and Uber apps to her husband’s so he knows every time she takes a cab. “We are Catholics and both of us feel like foreigners in our own country.”

When they tried out the Swedish experiment earlier this year, they found they missed nothing about Bengaluru except their families and a few close friends. “Many Indians tell us we will find it difficult to adjust but in our minds we are like, ‘no we fit in really, really well. It’s here that we find it difficult to adjust’,” says Astrid, who’s learning to cycle before she leaves. The couple also plans to learn Swedish so their new country of residence is an easier fit.

Which brings us to the question that’s hanging over many of our heads these days. Why do those of us who can leave, stay? Maybe we stay for those who can’t leave—our parents, our grandparents, or even friends who might need our help if things get worse. Maybe we want to fight for what we believe is our idea of India. Or maybe it’s more selfish. Maybe we stay because we know we won’t be able to exploit household staff in Europe, or because we know that there will be no one to fetch us a glass of water every time we holler. Maybe we stay because it’s easier to carry the burden of slurs such as urban Naxal and anti-national than racial slurs we are likely to face elsewhere. Maybe we are still here because the world is increasingly being ruled by quasi fascists. Here at least, we are boss of our own backyard.

Maybe we stay because we feel like there’s no place like India, even if what we call India is essentially the beautiful bubble we’ve created for ourselves. My bubble, for instance, has blue skies, great weather, wide pavements, amaltas and gulmohur. I work from home so my bubble is traffic free. We reside in a mixed neighbourhood and my bubble is largely harmonious; my daughter’s two best friends are Muslim and Christian.

Sure we shake with rage and despair every time we sneak a peek out of our bubble, but maybe that’s not enough to start from scratch someplace else. Maybe we stay because despite everything, this is home.

Priya Ramani shares what’s making her feel angsty/agreeable.–A-better-life-outside-India.html

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Mahul Residents form 3km long Human Chain #MumbaisToxicHell

After the massive gherao, Housing Minister fixed meeting with Mahul residents
      Mumbai:  Hundreds of residents of Mahul gathered today, on the 15th day of their protest to form a human chain and capture the attention of Maharashtra Govt towards the plight of over 30,000 citizens who had been rehabilitated in mahul last year. The human chain which spread over 3 Km had participation from over thousands of citizens. Many people from other slums in Mumbai also joined in solidarity. Many students from colleges like Mumbai University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, IIT Bombay, Nirmala Niketan, Democratic and progressive Organizations, NGOs and individuals also joined to extend their support.
The Human Chain was followed by a massive rally which culminated at the resident of state housing Minister, Shri. Prakash Mehta. After much of negotiation, the Minister called Ms. Medha Patkar who was present in the rally and promised to meet a delegation of Mahul residents in Mantralaya tomorrow afternoon.
       It has been 15 days since the Mahul residents started the protest but have not received anything other than irresponsible comments and false promises from the govt officials and ministers. The Minister for Housing Department, Prakash Mehta has refused to intervene in the matter or take responsibility. The Chief Minister of Maharashtra has refused to acknowledge the issue or pleas of Mahul residents. For Mahul residents, today’s human chain signified to show their unity and resolve to fight till all the demands are met.
      The citizens started their protest under the banner of ‘Jeevan Bachao Andolan’ on 28th October 2018, after the govt failed to act on the directions of Bombay High Court, given out in August 2018, asking the Govt to provide alternative rehabilitation to the people living in Mahul. Mahul, which is one of the most polluted region in Mumbai and rightly called ‘Mumbai’s Toxic Hell’ has been made into a rehabilitation space for thousands of citizens by the Slum rehabilitation Authority (SRA), even after the National green Tribunal (NGT) declaring it as ‘inhabitable’.  All families staying in Mahul have reported deaths and continued illnesses like TB, Cancer, tumors etc  among their family members since they started living there.  Over 100 people have already lost their life while living in Mahul. The people have termed this as a mass genocide by the govt.
       On 8th of August, 2018, the Bombay High Court has directed the Govt. of Maharashtra to either relocate the Mahul resident by giving them alternate accommodation or given them enough rent so that the people can go to a safer place of their choice. The Court had set a deadline of 1st October, 2018 for the Government to take a decision between the two opt.
      The Govt of Maharashtra submitted in the Court that it is not possible for the Govt. to provide any alternative accommodation nor it can give rent to the people. In other words Govt. shrug off its responsibility to save 30,000 lives. On the issue of providing alternative tenements, the Govt. said that they don’t have tenements to be given to Mahul residents. As far as giving rent is concerned the Govt simply said that it is impossible to give rent without giving any reason.
        GBGBA has a list of more 80,000 tenements which are meant for Project Affected Person and are located at different location within Mumbai. This is something which they are suggesting as a solution for relocation of Mahul residents on an urgent basis.
       The residents of Mahul left with no option but to literally come on street to save their lives when they found that the Govt. has taken off its hand from the matter. They got terrified with the increasing rate of deaths and people suffering from serious diseases. Hence, the Jeevan Bachao Andolan under the auspices of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan was launched on 28th October, 2018
       On the third day of the JBA, GBGBA’s proposal to provide alternative accommodation got partial approval when Shiv Sena, the coalition partner in the Maharashtra govt. decided to come in support of the movement. On insistence of party’s youth wing president, Mr. Aditya Thackrey, the MLA and newly appointed Chairman of MHADA offered all the 300 empty lying tenements available with MHADA.
     While the BJP having all the portfolios in the government to take final decision on the issues is being completely mum, the Shiv Sena is going out of the way to resolve the issue by coordinating with other housing agencies to find out more PAP tenements on the lines suggested by GBGBA.
      The Mahul residents have decided to not take back their movement which they have started to save their lives, until they get confirmation of safe housing to each family living in Mahul. 300 houses is like a cumin seed in camel’s mouth against the demand of around 5,500 houses

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CDRO strongly condemns the killings in Tinsukia  

It’s the poor who die in the games of politics by the powerful:

The killing of five working class Bengali people in Dhola, Tinsukia, Assam on 1st November 2018 is a bone-chilling reminder of a gory past of spiralling death and violence in the state. Such violence in the wake of the heated public debates on identity and rights around the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016, risks a worsening of the climate, which the long-suffering common people of the state do not deserve. While the initial speculation about the involvement of ULFA (I) has cleared after the organisation denied any role, in the context of hateful comments in the recent past from both Bengali and Assamese leaders in the state, speculations and counter-speculations based on various facts have emerged. The civil society and various groups in Assam must show restraint at this hour and not in any way aggravate the already volatile situation. The Sarbananda Sonowal led BJP government in Assam must own up its failure to maintain peace and security in the state.

CDRO condemns this violence in strongest terms and demands that there should be an impartial judicial inquiry into the killings on a time-bound manner. In the meanwhile we appeal to all sections in Assam to maintain peace. The common people have been sufferers long enough in the games of politics by the powerful, and do not deserve any more.



On behalf of CDRO,

Asish Gupta,Coordinator.


Constituent Organisations: Association for Democratic Rights (AFDR, Punjab), Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR, West Bengal); Asansol Civil Rights Association, West Bengal; Bandi Mukti Committee (West Bengal); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Andhra Pradesh); Civil Liberties Committee (CLC, Telangana); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR, Maharashtra); Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR,Tamil Nadu); Coordination for Human Rights (COHR, Manipur); Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS, Assam); Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR); Peoples’ Committee for Human Rights (PCHR, Jammu and Kashmir); Peoples Democratic Forum (PDF, Karnataka); Jharkhand Council for Democratic Rights (JCDR, Jharkhand); Peoples Union For Democratic Rights (PUDR, Delhi); Peoples Union for Civil Rights (PUCR, Haryana), Campaign for Peace & Democracy in Manipur (CPDM), Delhi; Janhastakshep(Delhi).

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HarmanPreet Kaur- The girl who took women’s cricket to the next level #SundayReading

Harmanpreet Kaur points her bat

Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Few events in her sport have been as pivotal as her landmark 171 against Australia. There’s more to Harmanpreet Kaur’s story, though

Harmandar Singh Bhullar sports a heavy beard but his dimples peek out from under it every time he smiles. And that happens often, especially when he talks of the oversized boy’s shirt he bought for his daughter Harmanpreet Kaur the day she was born, March 8, 1989 – also International Women’s Day.”We had no clue that it was women’s day,” says Harmandar as his wife, Satwinder, brings the shirt out for me to see. “Soon after Harman’s birth, I bought the first pair of shorts and this shirt I saw at a shop near the hospital. The illustration [of a batsman driving the ball] and the words Good Batting caught my eye.”Tales about the shirt, Harmandar says, have been part of family lore ever since. But it wasn’t until Harmanpreet, now the India T20I captain and ODI vice-captain, smashed 171 not out against Australia in the 2017 World Cup semi-final that her story began to be told widely outside of the Bhullars’ house, in Punjab’s Moga district.

“Earlier, some of my father’s friends used to come to see me off at the airport [before overseas tours] and say, ‘Why do you need to attempt big hits when you know girls do not have power to clear the rope? Take only singles and doubles, na?'” Harmanpreet says with a laugh during the first of my three conversations with her. “I used to keep quiet. After watching last year’s World Cup, they started believing maybe my team-mates and I can clear the rope.”

Harmanpreet is a batting allrounder who modelled her aggressive style of play on that of her idol Virender Sehwag. But it was watching the India men’s Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane’s restraint at a nets session in 2016 that taught her the value of patience. And though her popularity in the cricketing landscape is nowhere close to Rahane’s, the fact that posters of both players (who are ambassadors for a leading sportswear brand) came up at the National Cricket Academy’s refurbished gym earlier this year is not bereft of symbolism. It represents the post-2017 World Cup era for women’s cricket in India, one with Harmanpreet at its centre.

“‘Cricketer’ – that’s what I used to say as a kid whenever someone would ask me what I wanted to become,” Harmanpreet says. “I had no clue how I could become a cricketer, which team to play for. All I knew was that I wanted to be a cricketer.”

Her younger brother, Gary (Gurjinder) Bhullar and his friends would make fun of her. “‘Humarein paas toh scope hain,’ he would say. ‘Tu kya Sehwag ke saath open karegi?'” [We have scope (because India has a men’s cricket team). What will you do – open with Sehwag?]


The poster of Harmanpreet at the NCA is quite different from a picture of her that takes pride of place in the room in her home in Punjab’s Moga district that houses her trophies. Part of a collage made by childhood friend Hartaj Singh Sodhi, it features 17-year-old Harmanpreet posing with the trophy from her first school nationals in 2006-07, with Parveen Khan, one of her best friends and later a Punjab team-mate, by her side.

“The branded sports shoes she’s showing off in the photo, those were mine,” says Yadwinder Singh Sodhi, Hartaj’s older brother and Harmanpreet’s first coach. “Harman didn’t know what brand it was. She was just happy to wear it.”

At the heart of Harmanpreet’s rise lay Yadwinder’s tutelage. “He used to make me practise with the most bekaar [worthless] bats,” she says. “Even the balls he would get used to be without seam.

“He would set me a target for my batting sessions: send at least half the total number of balls beyond a tree at the edge of the ground. Or hit 100 or 150 sixes by late evening.”

Yadwinder now works in Adelaide as a cricket coach, having moved to Australia in 2016 due to dwindling opportunities in Moga.

Until a Nestlé manufacturing facility came up in the district in 1961, the district was largely identifiable as the birthplace of freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai. About 30km south of Harmanpreet’s house in Dunneke is Rode, the ancestral village of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the controversial militant/martyr figure who was at the centre of the Sikh separatist movement in the 1980s. About as far to the north is Daulewala, the “drug capital of Punjab”, close to the border with Pakistan.

The first markers of urban habitation that meet the eye upon entry into “Moggya”, as the locals know it, are signboards atop roadside tea stalls. Diljeet Dosanjh, a Punjabi actor-singer, whose claim to national fame is starring in a Bollywood movie on Punjab’s drug problem, Udta Punjab, can be spotted chugging cola in most of them.

The streets and thoroughfares are dotted with billboards for visa agencies and for classes promising to help you ace the IELTS test for international study, work and migration.

“I had this friend whose only life goal as a teenager was to marry an NRI [Non-Resident Indian] and settle in Canada,” says Harmanpreet, whose younger sister, Hemjeet, is married to an NRI. Brother Gary, a former university-level cricketer, who is now among the more popular names on the local “Cosco cricket” circuit, doesn’t see himself spending his life in Moga.

Prophetic: the shirt Harmanpreet's father bought for her the day she was bornProphetic: the shirt Harmanpreet’s father bought for her the day she was bornAnnesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

“The Punjab education department has had a Sports Wings scheme in schools and colleges [since 1992],” says Yadwinder, “but cricket never featured in it.”

It was thanks to his father Kamaldheesh Sodhi’s love of cricket that a cricket academy came up in Gian Jyoti School, where Harmanpreet went on to study, in Moga’s Darapur village, in 2006. It is even now one of only two cricket-training centres for girls in Moga. If not for Kamaldheesh, Harmanpreet’s journey from playing step-out cricket shots with a hockey stick (“Papa used to teach me hockey but I only liked cricket”), to playing cricket with boys – her dupatta tied around her waist – might have ended at the Guru Nanak Dev College ground in the neighbourhood.

“Sodhi sir used to come to walk at the ground,” Harmanpreet says of the time, around 2006-07, when she first met the man she considers her godfather. “He asked me one day if I liked playing cricket or football. I told him I wanted to be a cricketer.” Kamaldheesh offered Harmanpreet free training and accommodation and convinced her father to let her join his academy.

Harmandar, 55, says he could have never been able to afford to give his daughter the platform the Sodhis gave her. The Bhullars used to raise livestock, selling milk from their four buffaloes for income to supplement Harmandar’s salary as a clerk in the Moga district court. Having two siblings meant Harmanpreet often had to make do with the cheapest bat available, or be denied gear altogether.

A former state-level basketball and handball player, and club cricketer, Harmandar raised Harmanpreet “like a son”, because “I wanted her to be the athlete I couldn’t be,” he says, a year on from the 2017 World Cup final. “When Harman used to come with me to the evening cricket matches, many from the neighbourhood said, ‘Ladki ko khilaake kya karoge?’ [What will you get by making a girl play cricket?] But I never cared about what others had to say.”

Harmandar says Harmanpreet, the oldest child in the family, was always responsible. When he wanted to take a loan to buy a new house, she persuaded him against it. “We used to live in a small house, and he felt that as an India cricketer I deserved better,” she says. “I didn’t want him to bear that enormous financial burden. We bought this house only when I was in a position to.”

That was about three years ago. By the time the Bhullars moved into their new house, Harmanpreet had moved from Moga to Mumbai. Diana Edulji, the former India captain, currently a member of the Committee of Administrators of the BCCI, was at the time sports officer at Western Railways. She had followed Harmanpreet’s all-round talent with interest since the latter’s days in junior cricket. Edulji requested Sachin Tendulkar to write a letter to the Railway ministry, getting Harmanpreet a job as a chief office superintendent in Mumbai with Western Railways in 2014.

Ishita Mazumder / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

The Indian Railways have been the largest – and currently sole – employers of women cricketers since the inception of institutional cricket in the country. Employment opportunities in public-sector organisations are more or less non-existent for Indian female cricketers, unlike for their male counterparts, or even female athletes from some other sports. Support from the likes of Air India has, over time, also shrunk.

Harmanpreet approached Punjab Police for a job in 2012, when she was more than two years into her international career, only to be turned down. The BCCI was still three years away from introducing central contracts for women players, so the decision to move cities brought benefits. It didn’t do her game a lot of good at the start, though.

“There was barely any time for quality practice in Mumbai,” Harmanpreet says. She would wake at 5:30am, go for a morning practice session, come back to Bandra, where she shared a room at the Western Railways quarters with Kavita Patil, another Railways employee and currently a Maharashtra and India A fast bowler, and then get on a train to Mumbai Central, where the office was. She would often eat lunch in the train. At about 1pm, she would leave the office, having completed the mandatory half-day’s work, and head to another practice session.

“Even at the grounds where we would practise, there were specific slots for women’s cricketers for, say, only about two hours,” she remembers. “Most of the time we would end up practising in the indoor facility at the Bandra-Kurla Complex, using a bowling machine. Even with the medium-pacers around, how much can you improve as a batsman if balls are lobbed at you with a short run-up?”

Homesickness hit her soon. The Mumbai heat, and other demands of life in the city, wore her down.

“My cricket went downhill during those first 18-20 months in Mumbai,” she says. “The cricketer I could be simply on talent or basic skills, I had become that by 2015-16. I needed guidance to make the step up to the next level.”

She considered quitting her day job (“I realised cricket was a lot dearer to me than the money”) but was pulled back from the brink by a scheme the Railways Sports Promotion Board introduced in 2016-17. Starting that season, all Railways employees who finished as winners or on the runners-up team in the BCCI’s senior women’s inter-state one-day and T20 tournaments, could take 330 days’ leave in a year to work on their game.

Railways emerged champions in both competitions that season, which meant Harmanpreet had a new lease of life, cricket-wise. Towards the end of 2015, Patil introduced her to Harshal Pathak, a BCCI Level B coach and a former assistant coach of the Maharashtra Ranji team. A week-long session with him helped iron out tactical errors ahead of the tour of Australia in January 2016.

Harmanpreet lines up to send one into orbit during her 171 not outHarmanpreet lines up to send one into orbit during her 171 not out © Getty Images

“If ten people say ten different things about me,” says Harmanpreet, “my mind gets distracted easily. Harry sir realised that early. With his help and yoga, I was able to deal with my thoughts during batting.”

When I met Pathak in Pune this year, he demonstrated, with the help of his wife Shweta, herself a cricketer, how Harmanpreet’s “exaggerated” trigger movements with her feet, and multiple backswings, had been undermining her intent. “The speed range for a female pacer is around 90-125kph, so that huge initial movement was a waste,” Pathak says. “It took some convincing, but I simplified those into one backlift, so she had more time to perceive the ball.”

A change in how she took guard (more towards the off stump), extensive open-wicket sessions, and an emphasis on along-the-ground hitting in the arc between mid-on and midwicket were among the key focus areas during the two and a half months Harmanpreet spent in Pune after the 2016 World T20. And she trained under Pathak till the 2017 World Cup. The association, she says, marked a transition in her career, and so did the company of Patil.

“I started focusing on fitness because of her. Earlier I used to think the running and sprinting I do during batting is enough. Kavi is immensely fitness-conscious, so that discipline rubbed off on me.”

In the first two yo-yo tests conducted after the 2017 World Cup, Harmanpreet scored the highest among her India team-mates. She bettered her 17.2 in November last year with 18.5 this April. During the first of the tests, two high-profile men’s cricketers were watching her sprint at the NCA. One was Yuvraj Singh.

“He had come there for fitness [work]. He saw me running and casually asked what my score was. When I told him, he was like, ‘Tune 17.2 maara hain? Woh bhi indoor mein? Tu theek toh hain?‘ [You have done 17.2? Indoors? Are you okay?]

“Rahul [Dravid] sir is a little shy. He only said, ‘Good job’, but Yuvi bhaiya gave me a few tips on playing the front-foot pull. He said my hand-eye coordination is like Sehwag.”

“No, no, papa se panga lene ka iraada nahi tha,” [I didn’t mean to mess with my dad] Harmanpreet says, talking about the choice of her first India shirt number. “Initially he wanted me to choose 5 or 86, his favourite numbers. But later he said, ‘Look, take any number but 84.'”

Harry's people: from left, brother Gary, mother Satwinder and father HarmandarHarry’s people: from left, brother Gary, mother Satwinder and father Harmandar Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Harmanpreet puts her eventual choice of 84 down to her Punjabi roots. Vernacular literature on Bhagat Singh, one of the leading freedom fighters in the Indian independence movement in the 1920s, left as lasting an impression on her in her formative years as did the tenets of Sikh philosophy – such as Chaurasi lakh joon upai, or the concept of the transmigration of the soul over 8.4 million lifetimes or possible lifeforms. More impactful still were the tales of the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Punjab, following the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for her ordering a military operation earlier that year to purge the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar of Sikh separatist militants under Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale – who was killed in the strike.

“As a kid, I always wondered how I could make this birth count,” Harmanpreet says. “You know, the way Chaurasi lakh explains.

“But I have vivid memories of dadi [grandmother] talking about how she feared letting papa travel to other cities [in Punjab, to play for more established teams] when he was young because of what happened after the riots.”

Around the time of Harmanpreet’s international debut, Harmandar had misgivings about the number. “Papa felt either I’ll perform poorly or something bad will happen when the team score reaches 84,” she says. I remind her of her maiden international half-century. “Yeah, that got stuck on 84, didn’t it?” she says.

That did not put her off clinging onto a number she had a fixation on – until the home series against West Indies in 2016. “I wanted people to focus only on my cricket, and the misreporting and the political references around 84 didn’t help. So I changed it to 17 – my lucky number.” Her first enrolment at a cricket academy and her India call-up came on the 17th – the latter when, ten days after the squad for the 2009 World Cup had been named, a chance phone call to Rajeshwari Goyal, the former India allrounder, late one night, brought Harmanpreet the news that she had been picked.

Anju Jain, the former India captain and the chairperson of the India women’s national selection committee at the time, remembers when she first saw Harmanpreet play, in the Inter-Zone Under-19 One-Day Competition of 2007-08, the first since the BCCI took over the women’s game.

“We were looking for youngsters who could hit a boundary at will,” Jain says. “Harman came across as someone not afraid of losing her wicket, not happy with just rotating the strike.” While Harmanpreet averaged only 37 in four innings at a strike rate of 59.2, her uninhibited approach got attention.

On the eve of her 20th birthday, Harmanpreet impressed with 4-0-10-0 on debut, in the World Cup, against Pakistan in Bowral. She also took a catch and made a run-out. A more forthright statement of intent came three games later.

Harmanpreet and Amita Sharma (right) walk off the ground after sealing the 2009 World Cup game against AustraliaHarmanpreet and Amita Sharma (right) walk off the ground after sealing the 2009 World Cup game against Australia © Getty Images

Australia had never lost to India in a World Cup match earlier. When she fronted up against a bowling allrounder who had 27 international matches behind her, Harmanpreet had faced no more than 18 balls in India colours. Taking strike at No. 7, in the 48th over she smashed Ellyse Perry for 10 off the first two balls.

“The six crashed into the roof of the ground,” says Amita Sharma, the former India vice-captain, who led Harmanpreet in India B’s title-winning campaign in the 2008 Challenger Trophy. “When she came in to bat, I told her, ‘Look, Harry, I’ve got my eye in, let me get back to strike.’ She innocently said, ‘Okay, didi. I’ll look for a single.’ And then the first two balls she faces, she goes dhoom, dhaam! I told her, ‘If this is how you take singles, I’d rather stay put at the non-striker’s end.'”

The unbeaten, eight-ball 19 would be the first episode in a long affair between Harmanpreet and Australia.

Three years later, when India hosted them for eight limited-overs matches, the home side lost every match save the last. In a series Jhulan Goswami described as a nightmare, Harmanpreet finished as India’s leading run scorer across formats, with three fifties – the most by a batsman on either side.

Fast forward to Australia Day in 2016, where in the T20I series opener, in Adelaide, Harmanpreet shepherded the lower order with a match-winning 31-ball 46, setting up India’s first bilateral series victory over Australia in any format.

Two months on, a standout tally of 89 runs and seven wickets in four games in India’s lacklustre World T20 campaign at home opened doors abroad for her.

In the inaugural edition of the WBBL, Mithali Raj and Goswami were not permitted by the Indian board to play for Adelaide Strikers, but in June 2016, the BCCI cleared all Indian women cricketers to compete in overseas leagues. When offers from the two Sydney WBBL franchises landed, Harmanpreet inked a deal with Thunder, becoming the first Indian cricketer – male or female – to sign an overseas-league contract.

The cradle: Gian Jyoti school in Darapur, where Harmanpreet studiedThe cradle: Gian Jyoti school in Darapur, where Harmanpreet studied Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Her season down under began with a sizzling 28-ball 47. She finished with an average of 59.6 – the highest by a batsman across WBBL seasons with 12 innings or more – and claimed Thunder’s Player-of-the-Tournament title.

Harmanpreet’s 171 not out in the World Cup semi-final propelled her, and the Indian women’s team, into the average cricket-watcher’s consciousness. In a show of ferocity unmatched – before or since – by an Indian woman cricketer, her 115-ball innings punched Australia, the undisputed masters of power-hitting in the women’s game, in the gut.

“She just raised the bar high enough to see what’s possible,” says former Australia vice-captain Alex Blackwell, who captains Harmanpreet at Sydney Thunder and coaches her at Lancashire Thunder in the Kia Super League. “In a pressure situation, taking her team to the World Cup final almost single-handedly… it’s the best knock I’ve ever seen. For a person with that tiny a frame, I was in awe of what Harmanpreet achieved.” Blackwell handed Harmanpreet her playing shirt as an acknowledgement of the effort.

Making the highest individual score in a women’s World Cup knockout has been the highest point in Harmanpreet’s career. But a more satisfying memory for her is the innings that came just before it.

“Whatever I did in the semi-final was because of the confidence from the New Zealand game,” she says. It was her first fifty in 17 innings, and her most substantial knock since a run-a-ball unbeaten 41 in the World Cup Qualifier final in February 2017.

An injury to the left ring finger, sustained during India’s second match in the World Cup, had cast a shadow on her future in the tournament. “At the time, she was also struggling with a back injury,” says Tracy Fernandes, the team’s physio. “As we made our way out of the field [after the second game], I remember her saying, with teary eyes, ‘My World Cup is over.'”

“When the team was winning, I was able to keep the frustration at bay,” Harmanpreet says, “But after a point, it started getting to me. Before the New Zealand game [a must-win for India], my dad told me over the phone, ‘Don’t give up just yet.'”

Tushar Arothe, the India head coach at the time, says Harmanpreet’s lean batting spell in the early stages of the tournament wasn’t as much a concern as was the likely psychological impact of the dislocated finger. “But full credit to Tracy for giving me confidence and backing Harman. Had it been any other physio, Harman could have been on the next flight to India.”

The innings against New Zealand, in which she went from 28 off 54 balls to 60 off 90 and anchored a 132-run third-wicket stand with Raj, set the template for what was to follow. Against Australia, her acceleration was more astounding.

“I was on 30-something, I think, after 50 balls [37 off 54]. In the 24-25th over, I looked at the scoreboard and felt 200-250 is not going to cut it against the Aussie girls. At that point, I told Mithali di, “I’m going to start.” [laughs] She said, ‘Okay, if you want to hit, go ahead.'”

The pressure was released with the free hit that legspinner Kristen Beams offered in the 27th over. “After that, I started targeting specific areas for offspinners, left-arm spinners, because there wasn’t much turn on the wicket,” Harmanpreet says.

She whacked a six and a four off Beams’ next three balls to bring up her fifty off 64 deliveries. She ended up taking 110 off 72 deliveries from Australia’s spin trio, including 45 off just 20 balls from left-armer Jess Jonassen.

It was her 137-run stand, at over ten runs an over, with 19-year-old Deepti Sharma that produced the most remarkable scenes of the blockbuster innings.

Someday that'll be us: cricketers Avneet Kaur and Ramanpreet Kaur look at a framed jersey of Harmanpreet's in the office of Kamaldheesh Sodhi, the founder of Gian Jyoti SchoolSomeday that’ll be us: cricketers Avneet Kaur and Ramanpreet Kaur look at a framed jersey of Harmanpreet’s in the office of Kamaldheesh Sodhi, the founder of Gian Jyoti School Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

On 98, Harmanpreet called for two, only for Sharma to turn the second down – before scurrying to complete it perilously. The mix-up angered Harmanpreet. At the hundred, off went the bandana, the helmet came hurtling down, and the non-striker copped an almighty verbal volley.

To team-mate Smriti Mandhana, one aspect of the scene struck a chord. “It was one of the strangest things I’ve seen,” says Mandhana of the first time she saw Harmanpreet celebrate a hundred, her first in international cricket, against England in the 2013 World Cup. “Earlier in the match, she celebrated a run-out [she had effected] like someone celebrates a century, in that aggressive Harman style. But when she got the hundred, she just took her cap off. To me, it felt like something only a team player would do. You know, not celebrate a personal milestone…”

Harmanpreet did not take the field during Australia’s chase, for her job was done. In any case, Fernandes says, she was practically not in a condition to even walk. The physio and Trupti Bhattacharya, the team manager, had to revitalize, and then bridle, Harmanpreet. “She had lost a lot of fluids and was sliding into hypothermia,” Fernandes says. “We wrapped her up in blankets, gave her bottles of electrolyte – she had to use a straw.

“She batted on an almost empty stomach because we hadn’t had a proper breakfast before the match. But when she started feeling a little better and saw Blackwell knock off the runs on the [dressing-room] TV, she said, ‘No, you don’t understand. They’re taking this away. I have to go. I may have to bowl.’ The doctor had to step in and tell her that if she went, she could collapse.”

In the seven months before the match, Harmanpreet had had a number of health concerns. Intersection syndrome, a condition in the right wrist, that began with an injury sustained during her first WBBL, affected her through the qualifier in February. A nagging rotator cuff (shoulder) strain picked up in 2013-14 also flared up, restricting her throwing abilities.

During the World Cup, a hamstring pull she suffered while bowling against South Africa led to another niggle a day before the semi-final. “My skin is immensely sensitive,” says Harmanpreet. “I had been icing my left thigh to ease the hamstring. But in the middle of the night, I woke up and saw the inner-side skin had stuck to my shorts.” She was unsure if she would be able to wear a thigh guard in the semi-final.

In 2014, a spinal disc problem that surfaced during her maiden camp with Railways had led to a stiff back. Five days after she had been advised against bowling, to avoid subjecting her back to rotational movements, Harmanpreet sent down 41.2 overs of part-time offspin in the one-off Test against South Africa and hobbled into the record books with figures of 9 for 85, the second-best Test figures by an Indian woman.

“She had worked out specific cues for some deliveries,” says Sushma Verma, the wicketkeeper in that match. “All I needed to do was pick those. ‘Here comes the wrong’un… and bowled! Now the quicker one… plumb!’ It was comical how she kept getting them right one after the other.”

Talk like you bat: Harmanpreet has earned a reputation for taking no prisoners when she speaksTalk like you bat: Harmanpreet has earned a reputation for taking no prisoners when she speaks Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Among her closest friends on the circuit, Verma is known to play multiple roles in relation to Harmanpreet: rolling her arm over during the latter’s range-hitting sessions, taking selfies for her to post on social media before the World Cup, and being a confidant in times of distress.

“The morning after we lost the World Cup final, I just couldn’t just drag myself out of my room,” Harmanpreet says. “I had wept through the night and Sush tried to console me. She said, ‘Look, [PV] Sindhu [the Indian badminton player] got a silver [at Rio in 2016], so we haven’t done bad either.'”

Harmanpreet hasn’t ever watched the highlights of the final. “What’s there to watch?” she asks, almost as if revolted. “It was heartbreaking. Everything ended even before we could realise.”

Chasing 229 – and their maiden world title – India cruised and then hobbled to 200, 51 of which Harmanpreet made. But with India needing 91 off 100, she swept straight into the hands of deep square leg. A lower-order collapse soon after saw India lose their next seven wickets for 28 runs, and with them, the World Cup.

Despite the second-place finish, India’s breakout campaign brought much needed visibility to the team, and to the women’s game at large. The tournament’s 180 million reach, according to the ICC, included a 500% increase in viewing hours in India since 2013. The overall viewership for the final touched a record high of 126 million in India – as many people as watched the 2017 IPL final. On the web, #WWC17Final was the most tweeted hashtag for a women’s sport final.

There was a windfall of cash rewards for the team. The BCCI awarded Rs 50 lakh (approximately US$67,500) to each member of the side for qualifiying for the final. And it culminated in the board updating the women’s pay scale for the first time since November 2015 (when central contracts were introduced for Indian women cricketers). The top-tier central contract retainers went up by over 200%, and domestic cricketers, usually neglected, received pay increases too.

“I have heard of the struggles of Mithali di and Jhulu di and so many other female cricketers before them – how they had to pay out of their own pockets [to play for the country],” Harmanpreet says. “I would often ask Jhulu di, ‘Paaji, when are we going to get the same love and acceptance as the men’s team?’

With fielding coach Biju George in Mumbai last monthWith fielding coach Biju George in Mumbai last month Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

“I think 80-85% of that has been achieved because of the World Cup. The 15% that’s left… if we had got those ten runs, it might have brought us closer to being on an equal footing with the men.”

Apart from the direct cash rewards, the World Cup turned the Indian women’s team into a brand and pushed some of the players into the reckoning when it came to endorsements. Raj and Harmanpreet were among Yahoo India’s “Top Ten Most Searched Sportspeople” in 2017, and Mandhana has received endorsement offers aplenty. “Whatever [financial benefits] we are getting today may not have happened without Harry’s 171,” says Ekta Bisht, the India left-arm spinner.

Harmanpreet became the first Indian female cricketer to be signed by CEAT, the tyre brand. She made it into Forbes India’s “30 under 30” list; gained an out-of-turn promotion as Officer on Special Duty from the Railway ministry; received an Arjuna Award for 2017; and was appointed a deputy superintendent of police by the Punjab government.

It wasn’t the first time India had played a World Cup final; they had done so in 2005 too – in strikingly different circumstances.

The five-star Royal Garden Hotel in London, which hosted the Indian team ahead of the 2017 final, was several steps up from the university dormitories (most of them lacking air-conditioning) they had occupied in South Africa 12 years before. The BCCI took over administration of women’s cricket in India from the Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI) in November 2006, so cash rewards from the WCAI for making the 2005 final were out of the question. The attendance at SuperSport Park, where Australia defeated India, was only a fraction of the full house at Lord’s. And in contrast to the multimedia broadcast of the 2017 final, the 2005 edition didn’t even make it onto television in India.

Harmanpreet’s own memories of that 2005 World Cup campaign are second-hand recollections, most of them passed down by Raj and Goswami, who were part of both finals.

“There was no social media back then. It was difficult for such news to reach in Moga [in 2005]. Until my late teens, I had no idea if India had a women’s team, let alone [knowing about] Jhulu di and Mithali di playing the World Cup.

“After we beat England [in the second match of the 2017 World Cup], so many cricketers, politicians, film stars started wishing, following us on Twitter,” says Harmanpreet. “All of a sudden, we became known faces.”

RP Singh, the Punjab women’s team coach since 2011-12, says that the 171 has led to greater interest in cricket among girls across Punjab, but adds that “only better infrastructure such as a residential academy for girls, like they have in Andhra Pradesh and Himachal, will encourage girls from the villages to take up cricket”.

The Harman effect: girls train at Moga's Guru Nanak Dev College Ground, where a teenage Harmanpreet first played cricket with boysThe Harman effect: girls train at Moga’s Guru Nanak Dev College Ground, where a teenage Harmanpreet first played cricket with boys Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Since Harmanpreet’s debut only two female cricketers from the state – bowling allrounder Sneh Rana and wicketkeeper-batsman Taniya Bhatia – have played for India. Much of it, says Singh, is down to the domestic structure.

Of the 22 districts in Punjab, a (district) team can play a maximum of only three games a year – and that is if they make the final. “What will these girls learn in three games?” Singh asks. “Harman’s journey is proof what talent from small towns and villages can do. All they need is proper support.”

Before her 171 not out, a solitary photograph of Harmanpreet, from the 2009 World Cup, could be found at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA), on one of the walls of the boardroom, next to pictures of Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, and other male cricketers from the state who debuted for India this century. Following that innings, she figures in the PCA’s hall of fame, alongside Mohinder Amarnath, Bishan Bedi, and other “Shaan-e-Punjab”.

There is a certain quicksilver energy about Harmanpreet’s personality. Every so often I think she’s going to stop the interview and take flight, but that doesn’t happen. She’s affable, self-assured, and makes the occasional self-deprecating joke: “I think my mood swings could be because of my Punjabi genes.”

“I only have two personalities,” she says “I’m a shy person off the field. If I’m not enjoying something, nobody can force me to do it. On the field I am very aggressive – you know, ‘Yeh toh tod-phodh kar dalegi‘ type. I’m too involved every time I take the field. That’s because there’s only one thing I’ve done all my life: play cricket. But I never allow myself to get worked up during batting. It’s a peaceful space. I’m focused on the ball and the bowler’s arm. I don’t how that happens, but that’s how it is.”

The paradoxes that escape her understanding define the player and the person she is. The co-existence of method and madness is what makes Harmanpreet.

“I don’t like to hold things back,” she says. “I am a simple and transparent person, and I say it as I see it. If I don’t like something, I keep quiet, but it shows in my body language.

“That also reflects in the way I play sport. I am very competitive even when I play football. At times, my friends and team-mates say, “Arre, take it easy, it’s just a warm-up game.’ I tell them, ‘For you it’s just a warm-up game, for me it’s a game, and I just cannot lose.'”

With predecessor Raj. 'Until my late teens, I had no idea if India had a women's team, let alone [knowing about] Jhulu <i>di</i> and Mithali <i>di</i> playing the World Cup'With predecessor Raj. ‘Until my late teens, I had no idea if India had a women’s team, let alone [knowing about] Jhulu di and Mithali di playing the World Cup’ © Hindustan Times/Getty Images

She admits her competitiveness is hardwired in combativeness. It is vaguely similar to that of Goswami, the captain she made her debut under in limited-overs cricket, and wholly unlike that of Raj, who has captained her most. Mandhana, who is next in line to take over the reins of captaincy, admits there’s aggression in her batting too. “But it’s very different to Harry di‘s”.

Harmanpreet’s occasional lack of restraint has sometimes got her in trouble. In 2016, a disgruntled flinging of the bat upon dismissal in a WBBL game against Hobart Hurricanes brought her a penalty. Earlier this year, a comment made at the post-match presentation after India lost their third match in a row in the T20I tri-series didn’t go down very well with some of her team-mates. “We need fit players in the team… who can run all across the ground,” Harmanpreet said. “As a captain, it is very difficult for me to run all around and then set the field.”

Without that freewheeling nature, though, there can be no Harmanpreet. Her forthrightness shines in the dressing room, among three generations of India’s female cricketers. “Whatever conversations I’ve had with Harry di, she has mostly asked me to play my natural game,” says Mandhana, who is among the six players in ODIs, and 15 in T20Is, who have debuted under Harmanpreet, more than half of whom are current India regulars. “And now when I see her around a Jemi [Jemimah Rodrigues], Pooja [Vastrakar] and Taniya, it’s not that she speaks to them for hours, but the little things she does, you know, cracking jokes, dancing with them on the eve of the match – all that makes a youngster really comfortable.”

Among the 14 captains who have led in 25 T20Is or more, Harmanpreet, the youngest Indian woman to captain in the format, has the third-best win percentage. In the last 11 months, India won both their T20I bilateral series – against South Africa and Sri Lanka, both away from home – under Harmanpreet but lost both their multi-team T20I events: the T20I tri-series and the Asia Cup (where she herself regained form with a Player-of-the-Tournament performance).

The shock loss of the title in that last tournament triggered a falling-out between Arothe and some of the senior players. Following his resignation, Arothe singled out Harmanpreet for what he believed was her unwillingness to come out of her comfort zone.

“Tushar sir has always supported me – even when he was our fielding coach [2009-11]. But hamari soch kabhi kabhi nahi milti thi [We had differences of opinion]. As a group – and it wasn’t only me – we felt we needed to step up. You can’t expect players to improve on their own. We needed a more up-to-date perspective, so a coach with international experience, who could help us strategise better, even when the conditions are not in our favour, was the need of the hour. Our spin attack needed this particularly.”

The past year alone has been a rollercoaster ride for Harmanpreet. Allegations that her graduation degree was fake emerged soon after the Asia Cup loss, to stand alongside professional highs such as the two-year extension to her WBBL contract, captaining the IPL Supernovas to victory in the first ever Women’s T20 Challenge game, between two all-star sides featuring the best players from across the world, becoming the maiden recipient of the award for the BCCI’s Best International Cricketer (women) for the 2016-17 season, and debuting in the KSL after missing out due to injury in the last season.

“The only thing I’ve always wanted is the winning shot to come off my bat” © IDI/Getty Images

The journey, especially since becoming the full-time T20I captain in 2016, says Harmanpreet, has been “a big learning curve”.

“Just the realisation that I’m in a position now where I need to be more considerate towards people around me,” she says. “It’s about trying to make sure I don’t hurt others. I think I’ve become somewhat more willing to accept and work on my mistakes. It’s not easy making small adjustments to your nature overnight. But it’s good to be learning.”

The Indian dressing room is in transition. A team that toiled away in obscurity for generations has now achieved a status somewhat approximating celebrity. Amid these changing dynamics, a moment of reckoning awaits Harmanpreet as she eyes greater batting consistency and looks to evolve from captain to leader and role model.

“Cricket ke ilaawa mujhe kuch aata nahi [I don’t know anything other than cricket]. But when I’m done with cricket, I would want to do what I can in my limited capacity to make sure girls playing sport in India, their journey becomes easier.”

It’s hard to imagine Harmanpreet, now 29, will go on to become the kind of statistical behemoth some of her colleagues already are, or pile up as many records as some of her younger team-mates promise to do. But she will likely leave behind a legacy that will transcend traditional metrics.

“People will perhaps remember me for 171, for scores bigger and smaller. Innings from the past or the future. The only thing I’ve always wanted is the winning shot to come off my bat. Whether it’s a single or a six, it doesn’t matter to me – my dream is to be the one who hits the winning runs for my team.”

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Noura Hussein is appealing for her freedom in Sudan #JusticeForNoura

Six months later, still no #JusticeForNoura

It has now been six months to the day since Noura Hussein was sentenced to death in an Sudanese Court for defending herself against rape. While the initial sentence was quashed thanks to an appeal, which reduced her sentence to five years in prison and a restitution payment of 337,000 Sudanese pounds (US $18,700), we remain concerned by her ongoing imprisonment.

We continue to believe that Noura is not a criminal, she is a victim – and should be treated as such. In other countries, victims of rape and domestic violence like Noura would be provided services to ensure that they overcome the trauma of their experiences.

A second appeal for her unconditional freedom was filed in July, but on Thursday the 2nd August, her appeal was withdrawn under suspicious circumstances.

Since then Noura’s case has not progressed nor the circumstances of the withdrawal addressed. The lack of clarity on how to proceed is a clear abuse of Noura’s right to access justice.

We need your help to tell the Sudanese authorities that Noura deserves basic access to justice. Join us in our call on the Sudanese Minister for Justice and the Attorney General to ensure Noura’s case is treated fairly.

In addition to taking action yourself, you can help by spreading the word on social media.

Public attention may have turned away from Noura’s case, but we will not!


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Condemning the Continuing Violence by CPI (Maoist) in the Name of Election Boycott



People’s Union for Democratic Rights condemns series of incidents triggered by members of CPI(Maoist) in Bastar Sambhag (region) of Chhattisgarh in just over a fortnight.

·         November 8: Four civilians and one CISF Head constable were killed when an IED (improvised explosive device) exploded in a bus hired by CISF for their use during the election, near Bacheli in Dantewada. Two other CISF personnel were grievously injured.  

·         November 7: A former Sarpanch and a local member of CPI Dhurva Kalmu, out on election campaign, was killed in Bodko village under PS Phoolanbagdi, Dantewada.

·         November 6: A bus carrying passengers on its way between Jagdalpur and Usoor was intercepted. The 35 passengers were asked to get off and the bus was set on fire.

·         November 4: Two persons, Aaytu Hemla and Sonu Penam were abducted near Baddepara village, under P.S. Gangaloor. Aaytu Hemla was beaten to death while Sonu Penam was released. 

·         October 30: Doordarshan camera person Achyutnanda Sahu and Sub Inspector Rudra Pratap, Constable Manglu and Assistant Constable Rakesh Gautam died in an ambush in Aranpur sector of Dantewada district in Chhattisgarh.

Although the Maoists have apologized for the killing of Doordarshan cameraman, they have defended the ambush, the IED explosion as well as the killings of Aaytu Hemla and Dhruva Kalmu. While it is not possible to ascertain the degree of association of these events with the upcoming Assembly elections and the Maoist opposition to the same, these events have occurred in the immediate run up to these elections.

PUDR finds the Maoist defense specious and unacceptable. PUDR holds that contesting, campaigning, voting and boycotting are perfectly legitimate political activities and the use of force and violence in any of these is condemnable. For the Maoists who insist that they are waging a People’s War, these violent acts water down their claim.

For long years the Adivasis of Bastar have been fighting the state over issues of forest land acquisition for mining, systematic dilution of constitutional and legal protection provided to Adivasis, filing of false cases and their prolonged incarceration in jails. The democratic space to raise these issues has already been heavily criminalized by the state. In this context, the wanton acts of the CPI (Maoist) give impetus to the state to further inflict harm through criminal and military means.

The war being waged in Bastar by the Central and state governments against the CPI Maoist is now in its 14th year. According to a recent news report, “the CRPF has deployed close to a lakh armed personnel and a heavy assortment of weapons and gadgets” in a bid to end Maoism in the country.” (PTI, September 2, 2018).This scale of militarisation is not conducive for the maintenance of people’s constitutional rights, including the right to free and fair elections.

PUDR hopes that saner counsel will prevail, and that at the very minimum both sides will abide by norms of International Humanitarian Law extended via common article 3 of the Geneva Convention read with Protocol II to ensure that civilians/noncombatants are not put to harm by any of their activities.


Shahana Bhattacharjee and Sharmila Purkayastha

Secretaries PUDR

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US’ youngest Congresswoman-elect can’t afford rent

Millennial congresswoman ‘can’t afford rent’

Alexandria Ocasio-CortezImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The youngest woman ever elected to Congress has a problem – she can’t afford her rent. That is until she starts her new job in January.

After telling the New York Times she’s waiting for her first pay cheque before renting an apartment in Washington DC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is again being called the “millennial Congresswoman”.

On Friday Fox News presenter Ed Henry suggested the 29-year-old wasn’t telling the full truth because she wore “multi-thousand dollar outfits” in a magazine.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter, pointing out the clothes were lent to her for the photo shoot.

Her comments – “I’ve really been just kind of squirreling away and then hoping that gets me to January” – got many on Twitter empathising with her.

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez not being able to afford DC rent is the most millennial thing ever and I honestly vibe with it,” tweeted one user.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez joins Republican Elise Stefanik, 34, and newly-elected Democrat Ilhan Omar, 36, among others, in the “millennial caucus” in Congress.

She was elected to New York’s 14th congressional district, after running a progressive campaign that focused on issues including poverty, wealth inequality and immigration.

Born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents, she describes herself as working-class and she worked in restaurants until early 2018 to supplement her salary as a community activist.

“For 80% of this campaign, I operated out of a paper grocery bag hidden behind that bar,” she told Bon Appetit magazine.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s financial disclosure shows that she earned about $26,500 (£20,000) last year.

On Thursday she tweeted that her accommodation dilemma also demonstrates how the American electoral system “isn’t designed for working-class people to lead”.

Others on Twitter agreed: “Goes to show how divorced the system and most elected officials are from normal people that a normal person can’t readily begin to serve without starting out wealthy,” wrote one.

“That’s reality for a lot of people. Will be nice to have someone in Congress that literally understands the struggle,” commented @Lauralouisiana.


But Ms Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the first lawmaker coming to Congress to make waves about the high rent in the city.

Washington DC regularly features in the list of top 10 most expensive cities to rent. A one-bedroom apartment costs about $2,160 (£1,660) per month, according to Business Insider.

One in five children in the district live in a household that is extremely low-income and lacks an affordable home.

Housing affordability is an issue nationwide. More than 38 million households struggle to afford their housing, one Harvard report found.

Image captionA well-located, one-bedroom apartment in the capital can cost $2,160 per month

Members of Congress are paid $174,000 (£134,000), but many cite the need to maintain a home in their congressional district in addition to Washington as a reason for their financial hardship.

In 2015 Representative Kristi Noem told NPR that she sleeps on a pullout bed in her Capitol Hill office when Congress is in session.

The ‘couch caucus’ has made headlines over the years in its criticisms of the unaffordability of Washington, including outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan, who says he slept in his office for years.

Estimates have put the number of politicians snoozing where they work at between 40 and 50.

In May legislation banning the practice was proposed in the House of Representatives, and suggested that lawmakers should receive tax deductions for their living expenses while in Washington.

Some get around the problem by finding housemates.

One famous house-share saw numerous Democrats coming and going over the years, including senators Richard Durbin and Charles Schumer, and became the topic of the 2013 TV series Alpha House about four fictional Republican politicians.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez has allayed her followers’ worries, tweeting “don’t worry btw – we’re working it out”.

House-sharing into her thirties would certainly make the politician the bona fide millennial.

By Georgina Rannard, UGC & Social news

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India – Virat Kohli’s peremptory demand for patriotism

Virat Kohli’s willingness to police the patriotic credentials of the cricketing public is part of a larger culture of thin-skinned entitlement

By Mukul Kesavan
Virat Kohli at a practice session at Eden Gardens, CalcuttaThe Telegraph file picture

Virat Kohli is old enough to know better. He is thirty years old, a modern great, one of the richest sportsmen in the world and the captain of the Indian cricket team. And yet, a few days ago, he chose to release a video for his online app where he picked on a desi fan who was sceptical of the quality of Indian batsmen, Kohli included, and declared that he preferred batsmen from other Test-playing countries. Kohli’s response was to say, on camera, that he was okay with the fan’s preferences but if that’s how he felt, he didn’t understand why he lived in India; he ought to live elsewhere, presumably in the country to which his batting heroes belonged.

This didn’t go down well. Instead of hosannas of praise for this piece of casual rabble-rousing, fans and commentators pushed back. Aakash Chopra predicted that Kohli wouldn’t be proud of his choice of words in retrospect and Harsha Bhogle saw the tone-deaf comment as a symptom of the self-affirming bubble in which celebrities live, which insulated them from the diversity of the real world. This is why, Bhogle suggested, “… contrary opinions are frowned upon. Power and fame tend to attract those people who agree with you and reinforce your opinion because they benefit from proximity to fame and power.”

Bhogle spoke from experience. Two years ago, he was abruptly shut out of commentary contracts. During the World T20 tournament in 2016, that noted cricket analyst, Amitabh Bachchan, deplored the lack of patriotism amongst Indian commentators. Bachchan came to this conclusion because he felt they spent too much time praising foreign players: “fed up ho gaye yaar” he tweeted, in his best blokeish manner, “jab dekho unki tareef karte rehte hain”. When, Kohli’s predecessor, M.S. Dhoni, retweeted Bachchan’s complaint and glossed it with “Nothing to add”, it became obvious that he shared Bachchan’s grouse. Kohli’s willingness to police the patriotic credentials of India’s cricketing public is part, then, of a larger culture of thin-skinned entitlement.

Part of the reason for this recent recourse to ready-mix chauvinism is that it is a force-multiplier in the online world. There was a time when the thoughts of India’s cricketers on the game and the world weren’t so available because in the pre-digital world, active sportsmen didn’t, as a rule, editorialise. But in the digital world, a celebrity’s social media presence is crucial to his visibility, his influence, his endorsements, his revenues and his connection to his public. Kohli’s tweets, his videos and his app nurture his persona; they are, if you like, his version of the prime minister’s Mann ki Baat.

We have seen other cricketers like Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir build their online constituencies on a reputation for reliably calling out ‘anti-national’ eruptions in the world around them. Their Twitter followers number in the millions; not only can these numbers be monetised (into advertising revenues), they are also useful groundwork for possible careers in public life. In a way that Donald Trump has made familiar, social media accounts and digital apps are ways of driving traffic and capturing a news cycle: every unfiltered, provocative, drum-beating intervention helps its author trend, makes him, for that moment, a master of the interwebs. You would have thought that Dhoni, Kohli, Sehwag and Co. would be surfeited by celebrity, but Modi and Trump have taught us that visibility is everything: ‘I trend, therefore I am’.

Kohli’s bid to challenge the patriotism of his critics, Dhoni’s willingness to reduce cricket commentary to mindless pandering, is wrong-headed for any number of reasons. It is, to start with, stupidly narcissistic. Kohli said what he did because he is a great batsman. Had he picked on a desi fan who said that he preferred Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander to Indian seamers, his response would have been self-evidently daft. Take spin bowling. I, and every other Indian cricket fan with half a brain, knew that Muttiah Muralitharan was twice the bowler that Harbhajan Singh was and no one suggested we were unpatriotic for thinking that. Kohli isn’t making a general point; he’s making a pointedly personal one. Worship me, he’s saying, because I’m arguably the best batsman in the world and if you can’t do that much, you’re a self-hating desi who doesn’t deserve to live in India.

The other problem with this peremptory demand for patriotism is that it is one thing to unconditionally support a cricket team when it’s an underdog, as India used to be in the Sixties and Seventies, up against better organised, better funded, more gifted teams, and quite another to demand unthinking loyalty when India is the 800 lb gorilla of world cricket, led by an all-powerful board and represented by the best-paid cricketers in the world. Bishan Bedi tells of a Test against New Zealand which his team won in four days; they were rewarded by being docked the 250 rupees they would have been paid as daily allowance for the fifth day because the Test didn’t go the distance. With great power comes great responsibility and it’s reasonable for an Indian spectator to rate A.B. de Villiers the better player because, other things being equal, he prefers his on-field demeanour to Kohli’s effing and blinding. Come to think of it, Kohli could render great patriotic service to his female compatriots if, the next time he vented, he forbore from machoing and panchoing in deference to the Indian mothers and sisters who make up half of India’s cricketing public.

Many of the responses to Kohli’s video made the point that it was absurd for a man who endorses foreign cars, prefers Italian locations for his wedding and more generally lives the life of the roving cosmopolitan to hector others for their sporting preferences. If Kohli prefers German carmakers and Italian hoteliers, why shouldn’t Indian cricket fans prefer Australian batsmen? It’s a clever comeback but it isn’t a good argument. People recognise that cars and hotels are things, not national symbols. They can be, of course, which is why the US president rides an American-brand car, but for the most part in a market society, they are seen as commodities that can be neutrally consumed.

Kohli is guilty of excessive pride, not hypocrisy. He has confused being the captain of the Indian cricket team with being Captain India. He believes that unconditional admiration for him is a necessary condition for being a patriotic Indian. The truth is that the very notion of an ‘Indian’ cricket team is possible only because Indians over a century and a half ago fought to imagine themselves into a united nation. It wasn’t given to us; generations of Indians dreamt it into being. In that sense, the profile of the Indian cricket team and the stature of its captain are figments of the Indian public’s collective imagination. It’s not for Kohli to demand its allegiance or certify its patriotism; it is this cricketing public’s prerogative to extend or withhold its support. It can choose, should it find cause, to stop believing in Kohli and his team, in the way that the Australian public chose to withdraw its faith in and support for Steven Smith and his cheating men.

Smith’s fate is (or ought to be) a cautionary tale. When a cricketer becomes a law unto himself, as Kohli has, with a tame board and a pliant manager, he tends to mistake his social media echo-chamber for the world. The ancients had a word for this: hubris. Luckily, Kohli seems to have been shocked into self-awareness by the pushback so nemesis might yet be forestalled. He backed away with a disarming tweet: “I guess trolling isn’t for me guys, I’ll stick to getting trolled!” The next step would be to get off his hillock of self-esteem, back on to level ground: those twenty-two yards of turf that are the firm foundation of his fame.

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