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Archives for : Advocacy

India’s dilemma after election of Tedros as DG of WHO

By- Amitsengupta
The former Minister of health of Ethiopia, Tedros, was elected as the new DG of the WHO, defeating David Nabarro of the UK by a massive margin. While 133 countries voted for Tedros, only 50 supported David Nabarro. The third candidate, Sani Nishtar from Pakistan, was eliminated in the first round of voting – she received 38 votes. Tedros is the first African to be lected to the psot in the organisation 70 years history.
 
The elections this year was the first occasion when the entire Assembly voted through a secret ballot – earlier only the Executive Board would select the new DG. The massive margin for Tedros indicates that, in all probability, the entire South voted for him – a virtual tricontinental alliance. The massive margin had not been anticipated and possibly marks a silent vote against big power machinations in the WHO.
 
The WHO faces possibly its biggest crisis since it was set up in 1948. Its finances are in shambles and it faces a USD 500 million deficit this year – potentially meaning many work programs will not go forward and staff might be laid off. For years now the WHO has been dependant on donor funds (mainly from rich countries and Foundations like the BMGF) rather than through secured funding from countries. As a result, currently, 80% of WHO’s funding is tied to programs that donors cherry pick. Work programs that are vital to WHO’s mandate as a norm setting organisation remain under funded as they clash with the interests of big donors – especially rich countries of the North. Consequently WHO’s role as a leader in global health has been supplanted by other intergovernmental bodies such as the World Bank, and increasingly by big foundations like the BMGF. The organisations effectivity has come under question, especially after its lack lustre role in containing the Ebola epidemic of 2014 in West Africa.
 
These are the challenges that Tedros faces after his election. While it appears that the South has voted against the domination of big powers, often through back room manoeuvres, it is yet to be seen if this unity will be maintained when the WHO debates different issues where the North and the South are often arrayed against each other.
 
The election of Tedros is both an opportunity and a challenge for India. India is seen in the WHO as one of the natural leaders of the South and is usually heard with attention. India can possibly provide leadership to the South in pressing for decisions in the WHO that promote the interests of the South. Such interests range from promoting WHO’s role in medicines access by addressing trade and IP barriers, pressing for technology transfer and capacity building in areas where the South remains deficient, and measures that curb the interests of mainly Northern MNCs in the medicines, Food and Beverages, Alcohol and Tobacco industries.
 
However India’s voice has often been muted by its reluctance to be seen as squarely opposing the US and other Northern countries. Increasingly, Indian negotiators seem to have their hands tied by signals from Delhi not to push beyond a point in challenging the agenda of Northern countries.
 
The coming days will perhaps provide an indication if India would work to build the solidarity of the South or continue to play an ambiguous role.

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Mumbai- For people with disabilities, a social life

A life more ordinary

For people with disabilities, a social life — or just a simple evening of fun disabilities — is difficult to get, because of the logistics involved. A Mumbai trust is changing that.

Jasmina Khanna, 46, is a senior software testing engineer with a multinational company called Syntel. She lives with cerebral palsy and is wheelchair-bound, which often means that her opportunities to go out and enjoy herself are severely limited. “There are not many places that are accessible by wheelchair and so going out anywhere requires a lot of planning,” she says. “When there are meetups organised with other differently-abled people they are usually seminars or conferences.”

Ashok Gupta, 33, a call centre employee who is also wheelchair bound, reflects her views: “For differently-abled people, the chance to go out and just have some fun is virtually non-existent. Mostly, we have stay at home, confined within four walls, with just a TV remote in our hand for entertainment. Even if we have to go out anywhere it involves having to ask family members to come and help out and that can be difficult to coordinate.”

Last Sunday, though, Ms. Khanna and Mr. Gupta took part in a unique meet-up for people with and without disabilities at the St Paul’s Media Complex in Bandra, hosted by an organisation called Trinayani. The event was about dissolving barriers, having conversation and simply celebrating with food and music.

An evening of fun

For participants like Mr. Gupta, the event was the first time that he had been invited a to a meetup that just focused on entertainment and having fun. “I think that these kind of events should happen more often,” he says. “It was the first time that I had been to an event where there as so much care taken to ensure that people could come and go comfortably, and everybody, no matter whether they had disabilities or not, was interacting with me.”

That event was a three-hour concert and meet-up at the St. Paul’s auditorium in Bandra which featured performances by an inclusive band called Pehli Baarish — which has musicians with and without disabilities — and Mumbai Drum Circle. It was supported by a mobility partner to help attendees get there, EzyMov, a company that fits cabs with equipment like hydraulic lifts and wheelchair restraints in order to make them accessible.

Ritika Sahni founded Trinayani in June 2006, as an advocacy group working towards creating awareness and sensitisation around people with disabilities. It undertakes projects for companies and other organisations. For instance they have worked with the Bengaluru airport’s management on issues of access, and are collaborating with the Election Commission for the Panvel civic body polls to evolve a system that will help disabled people cast their votes. Four years ago, though, Ms Sahni shifted the focus to include self-empowerment and advocacy from people with disabilities, encouraging them to speak with her at events she was conducting.

For the weekend meet-up, Ms. Sahni confesses that when she put the word out she expected maybe 20 people to turn up, 50 if they got lucky. “But as the registrations started rolling in and various organisations got in touch, we realised that there were going to be well over a hundred people — the eventual turnout was 134 — and we had to shift the venue form a small classroom next to the auditorium to the auditorium itself.”

The meet-up wasn’t their first event. Earlier this year, it organised an inclusive treasure hunt, which saw transgender participants, visually and physically impaired people and the able-bodied come together, and a Valentine’s Day event.

Into the light

The idea is to just be seen. Ms. Sahni explains: “Despite the crores of persons with disability in India, many remain invisible to many of us for various reasons. Our initiative wants them to come forth, mingle together and return more aware.” She hopes to get people with disabilities out of their homes, breaking boundaries in terms of what they can do. “We want it to be possible for instance, for differently-abled people to go for a movie, or just go for a walk or a picnic.”

Although the approaching monsoons might dictate that the next few events will have to be indoors, she does hope to organise a day out in Sanjay Gandhi National Park soon. At any rate there will be many more such events from now on, every month.http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/a-life-more-ordinary/article18558185.ece

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CRPF IGP says fake encounter in Assam by Army, police, his force

Two suspected NDFB(S) men were killed in cold blood, weapons were planted, says CRPF IGP’s report

CRPF, Assam fake encounter, Assam newsAn Inspector General of Police, serving with the CRPF in the North East, has raised several questions regarding an encounter carried out in a joint operation by the Army, Assam Police, CRPF and the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) in Chirang district of Assam in the early hours of March 30 this year.

In his report sent to CRPF headquarters in Delhi, Gujarat cadre IPS officer Rajnish Rai, currently posted in Shillong with CRPF as IG, North East Sector, has alleged that the encounter — neat Simlaguri village under Amguri police station — that led to the death of two suspected members of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland (Songbijit), or NDFB(S) faction, was staged. And that the two men were picked up from a house in D-Kalling village and killed in cold blood in Simlaguri.

Calling for a full-fledged investigation, Rai has alleged that weapons were planted on their bodies.

The two killed were identified as Lucas Narzary alias N Langfa and David Islary alias Dayud.

He says he has witnesses who have identified the bodies as those of the two men who were picked up and that these witnesses are in his safe custody.

Rai’s report, dated April 17, 2017, is marked to Assam Chief Secretary V K Pipersenia; the then acting CRPF DG Sudeep Lakhtakia; Lt Gen A S Bedi, GOC, 4 Corps & Chairperson, Operational Group, Unified Command; Assam DG Mukesh Sahay; SSB DG Archana Ramasundaram and CRPF ADG (NE Zone) Mohd Javed Akhtar.

Also Read | ‘False account of planned murder, shown as brave act’

The salient points made in the Rai’s report:

* GPS records show how a CRPF unit of the CoBRA visited the encounter spot in Simlaguri a few hours before the encounter. “It leads to the suspicion that the CoBRA (CCCC) team was trying to identify a suitable location where the alleged encounter with the NDFB(S) cadres could be stage managed,” Rai’s report says.

It refers to “discreet” enquiries by senior officers who contradict the official version of the events.

* It cites statements of witnesses who have identified the photograph of the two slain cadres as the men picked up from D-Kalling village on the night of the encounter. Rai has not attached their statements to protect the identity of the witnesses but claims they would be presented to an independent investigation team.

* An 11-year-old boy was present in the house from where the suspected NDFB(S) men were picked up. This boy, says the report, was taken away by a woman who lived in the adjacent house even as the operation was on.

* As per the Special Situation Report prepared by those involved in the operation, Team No. 15 of 210 CoBRA was involved in the operation. However, when the enquiry officer asked some of the men from the team, they flatly refused being part of it. The report says this shows there was something amiss as the same men were earlier taking credit for the operation.

* The report suggests that a team (of Assam police and Army) picked up the NDFB(S) cadres from D-Kalling village and then met another team at Ouguri. It was then that the decision to kill the duo was taken.

In his report, Rai has observed, “Had this unlawful act been committed by a group of a few deviant officers, I would not have been so concerned. However, since multiple security agencies were involved in this incident, it indicates a deeper institutional malady in the functioning of the country’s most prestigious security forces. It represents a dangerous deterioration and degradation of institutional processes.”

Calling custodial killings “worse than insurgency/militancy” because they have the authority of the state behind them, Rai says in the report: “Security forces do not have the right to kill them (dastardliest of criminals/militants) in cold blood under the cloak of larger societal good. Therefore, it is crucial to strike a balance between individual human rights and societal interests while combating insurgency. Failure to do so is a cure worse than the disease.”

On May 22, The Indian Express sent an email to the spokespersons of both the Army and the SSB for their comments on Rai’s report. Neither responded. Assam Chief Secretary did not respond to repeated calls and text messages over two days.

When asked about Rai’s report, Assam DG Mukesh Sahay said: “Whenever there is an encounter, there are laid down guidelines. All those guidelines are being strictly followed. An inspector general of police and a magistrate are enquiring into the matter. As far as this (Rai’s) report is concerned, we will think about taking cognisance of it after the magisterial enquiry is over.”

CRPF DG RR Bhatnagar said he would wait for Assam Police to complete its probe. “The report has already been sent to Assam police. It is their prerogative to investigate the matter. If their investigation finds anything wrong with the encounter, appropriate action will be taken,” he said.

Security personnel claimed to have recovered one 5.56 mm INSAS rifle along with magazine and twon live rounds 5.56 ammunition, nine empty cases of 5.56 ammunition, one 7.65 mm revolver along with three rounds of 7.65 ammunition, three empty cases of 7.65 ammunition and one Chinese hand grenade from their bodies.http://indianexpress.com/article/india/crpf-igp-says-fake-encounter-in-assam-by-army-police-his-force-4670809/

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India – Female Genital Mutilation: Recognize, Act Against and Stop the Heinous Practice

  • FGM is practiced in the Dawoodi Bohra community, it is also practiced by all Bohra sects including Sulemani and Alvi Bohras.
  • While existing laws like the Indian Penal Code and the POCSO can deal with FGM, there would be need for amendments and definition of FGM would have to be included. Also other provisions for relief, rehabilitation and protection are needed, hence a separate law to curb this act would be best under the circumstances.
  • The parent, who is performing the act, the cutters and propagators (Amils) should be penalized, in this order
  • Victims should not only be compensated but also be rehabilitated, cases should be reported to a government and accredited NGO
  • Doctors, teachers, social workers and Amils should be at the fore in reporting cases of FGM to the police
  • FGM cannot be justified as a ‘religious practice’
  • A designated person should be able to obtain a restraining order in case of proposed FGM
  • Syedna should be called upon to pass Jamaat resolutions all over the country decrying the practice of FGM and Amils should conduct awareness drives
  • Specific amendments may be made in the Indian Medical Council so that FGM is categorized as a form of professional misconduct.
  • Speak Out on FGM and Lawyers Collective will also intervene in the PIL in the Supreme Court of India on FGM

 

 

 

We welcome the recent statement by Maneka Gandhi, Minister Women and Child Development ,“the custom of female genital mutilation (FGM), practised by the Dawoodi Bohra community, is a criminal offence and if the community does not stop it voluntarily, the government will bring in a law to ban the practice.”

 

In this context Speak Out On FGM, a group of FGM survivors, and Lawyers Collective, a human rights NGO, have together published a legal report titled Female Genital Mutilation – A Guide to Eliminating the Practice of FGM in India.

Explaining about the Report, Masooma Ranalvi, Convener Speak out on FGM, stated that:    “The recent case in the USA against three Bohras for performing FGM on multiple girls has hit home the point that FGM is secretly and silently being perpetuated. A law against the practice of FGM will serve as a strong deterrent in the otherwise law abiding bohra community. Through this report we present a road map of what exactly are the steps we can take to effectively curb and eliminate FGM in India. A law along with administrative measures of promoting awareness, sensitizing the community on the subject and grass roots campaigning for social reform will help us eventually root out the practice of FGM.”

Prepared over six months, the 57-page report explores not only the physical and psychological trauma on the girl child due to FGM , but also how opposing the practice affects members of the community — for instance, many fear being ostracized — while proposing that the only way to ensure complete elimination is a separate law.

While sections of the IPC and POCSO Act can be used to penalize FGM, there is no specific mention of FGM in these laws and the practice largely goes unnoticed since it is shrouded in secrecy and the community prefers to remain silent on the subject.

Elucidating this, Ms. Indira Jaising, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India, stated that, “every act or practice must stand the scrutiny of the Constitution of India and we demonstrate it to be non-discriminatory. FGM is not only illegal as this report demonstrates but is also unconstitutional as it disproportionally impacts the girl child. It is also prohibited by International conventions which India has signed.”

It in this context, this report studies in detail the implications of the practice on young girls and women of the community, the reasons and justifications for the practice, the nature of the procedure, the people who conduct it, and the ways in which the practice is propagated and glorified. It is adequately established by International bodies like World Health Organisation that FGM causes physical, psychological and sexual trauma to the girl child.

The report goes on to talk about international and national laws with respect to the violation of the fundamental rights of children and women, and recommends effective interventions which the Indian state can incorporate. As of today over 200 million women are affected by FGM which is prevalent in 30 countries across the world.

The report recommends that the definition of FGM, as provided in the joint statement by WHO/UNFPA/UNICEF, which is comprehensives and covers all the types of FGM practiced by different communities across the world, be adopted: “All procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.”

It recommends a time period of three years within which one can report an incident of FGM, and that it should be the duty of frontline professionals such as teachers, social workers and medical practitioners, including community leaders, to report such incidents to the police.

Since it is primarily the parents within the Bohra community who take their daughters to ‘cutters’, they should be the first category of perpetrators who may be held accountable and penalized, followed by ‘traditional cutters’ or, in some cases, ‘medical professionals’. Furthermore, the role of religious/community leaders in propagation of the practice should not be negated.

However, the most important thing that the report recommends is measures to prevent the practice. These include providing a helpline and conducting awareness programmes in schools. “Ward committees, panchayats and civil society groups should coordinate with each other effectively to sensitize the Bohra community and conduct safety audits. Further, specific duty may be cast on the religious/community leaders to carry out such awareness generation programmes,” the report reads.

The report analyses various gender-based legislations, and highlights the need for a separate and specific law to deal with FGM in India. According to the report, issues of prevention, education, rehabilitation and awareness building are essential for a socio- legal change, since social reforms based on awareness and education are as critical as legal interventions. The report provides clear directions about how awareness around the issue may be heightened and the victims rehabilitated.

 

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गाय के लिए एम्बुलेंस के दौर में क़रीब 3,700 बच्चे रोज़ डायरिया और कुपोषण से मरते हैं

वर्तमान सरकार गाय को लेकर आवश्यकता से ज़्यादा चिंतित होने का दिखावा कर रही है, लेकिन वहीं हर साल डायरिया-कुपोषण से मरने वाले लाखों बच्चों को लेकर सरकार आपराधिक रूप से निष्क्रिय है.

Malnutrition Reuters

प्रतीकात्मक फोटो (रॉयटर्स)

क्या आप भी गाय बचाओ अभियान में शामिल हैं? गाय बचाना बुरा नहीं है. गाय भारतीयों की पुरातन साथी है लेकिन मैं जानना चाहता हूं कि क्या आपकी दिलचस्पी इंसानों में भी है? क्या गोरक्षा, गोशाला और गाय के लिए एम्बुलेंस सेवा के साथ साथ हर दिन मरने वाले तकरीबन 3,700 बच्चों को भी बचाने में भी आपकी दिलचस्पी है? कोई योगी, कोई साधु संत, कोई नेता, कोई जनता इस पर हल्ला दंगा करता हमें तो नहीं दिखा. आपको दिखा हो तो उसे सामने लाइए. कोई तो इस देश को संबोधित करे कि हमारे देश में क़रीब 3,700 बच्चे रोज़ कुपोषण और हैजा, डायरिया जैसी बीमारियों से मर जाते हैं.

आप सोच रहे हैं कि हमने बच्चों के बारे में अपनी बात गाय से क्यों शुरू की? गाय के बिना भी तो इंसानों की बात की जा सकती है, लेकिन जब गाय के नाम पर इंसानों की ज़िंदगी का फ़ैसला हो रहा हो, जब गाय खाने, लाने, ले जाने आदि की आशंका मात्र से भीड़ इंसानों की जान ले रही हो, तब यह विचार करना ज़रूरी है कि दरअसल पाप क्या है? कौन-सा बड़ा पाप है? जिन सरकारों के रहते गाय को लेकर दंगे आयोजित हो रहे हैं, जिन सरकारों ने गाय पर ख़ूब कड़ा क़ानून बनाया है, उन्हीं सरकारों ने रोज़ाना लगभग 3,700 बच्चों की मौत को लेकर क्या योजना बनाई है?

बच्चों के लिए काम करने वाले एनजीओ सेव द चिल्ड्रन का कहना है कि भारत में पांच साल से नीचे की उम्र वाले 3,671 बच्चों की प्रतिदिन मौत हो जाती है. यह दुनिया भर में बच्चों के लिए काम करने वाला एनजीओ है. एनजीओ के आंकड़े कहते हैं कि 56 प्रतिशत मौतें जन्म के 28 दिन के भीतर हो जाती हैं. इनमें से 50 प्रतिशत की मौत कुपोषण के कारण होती है. दुनिया भर में जितने नवजात बच्चों की मौतें होती हैं, उनमें से 21 प्रतिशत अकेले भारत हैं.

एनजीओ का कहना है कि भारत में हर साल पांच साल से कम उम्र वाले 1.25 मिलियन यानी 12.5 लाख बच्चे ऐसी वजहों से मर जाते हैं जिनका इलाज संभव है. हर साल 5.7 लाख बच्चे जन्म से सात दिन के भीतर मर जाते हैं. 10.5 लाख बच्चे एक साल पूरा करने से पहले मर जाते हैं. यह आंकड़े इंटरनेट पर मौजूद हैं. फिर मैं इन्हें क्यों दे रहा हूं? मैं सिर्फ़ ये जानना चाहता हूं कि रोज़ मरने वाले इन बच्चों में किसकी दिलचस्पी है? क्या इन मौतों से किसी को कष्ट नहीं होता?

यह आंकड़ा भारत सरकार के आंकड़े से ज़्यादा अलग नहीं है. पिछले साल अप्रैल में स्वास्थ्य मंत्री जेपी नड्डा ने संसद में बताया था कि भारत में हर साल पांच साल की उम्र पूरी करने से पहले 1.26 मिलियन यानी 12.6 लाख बच्चों की मौत हो जाती है. चौंकाने वाला एक आंकड़ा यह है कि इनमें से 57 प्रतिशत 28 दिन की उम्र भी नहीं पूरी कर पाते. भारत सरकार भी इन मौतों के पीछे उन्हीं कारणों को स्वीकार करती है.

हाल ही में आए आंकड़ों के मुताबिक, भाजपा शासित मध्य प्रदेश में हर दिन 64 बच्चों की मौत हो जाती है और इस मामले में मध्य प्रदेश की हालत अफ्रीकी देशों से बदतर है. मध्य प्रदेश सरकार में मंत्री अर्चना चिटनीस ने विधानसभा में बताया कि राज्य में पिछले एक साल में पांच साल की उम्र से कम आयु वाले 25,440 बच्चों की मौत डायरिया और हैजा जैसी बीमारियों से हुई.

पूरे देश में गोरक्षा के ज़ोरशोर से चल रहे अभियान के बीच इंसानी दुर्दशा की अनदेखी हैरान करने वाली है. जिस देश में लाखों बच्चे हर साल खाए बिना मर जाते हों, उस देश में सरकारों का इस पर कोई अभियान न चलाकर पहले गाय के लिए एम्बुलेंस चलाना बहुत भयावह है. उस पर भी गोरक्षा अभियान में लगे गुंडों द्वारा पीट-पीटकर निर्दोष लोगों की हत्या जैसे कृत्य आम हो रहे हैं.

संयुक्त राष्ट्र का आकलन है कि भारत में प्रतिवर्ष कुपोषण के कारण मरने वाले पांच साल से कम उम्र के बच्चों की संख्या दस लाख से भी ज़्यादा है. पूरे दक्षिण एशिया में कुपोषण के मामले में सबसे ख़राब हालत भारत में है.

malnuitrition reuters

कुपोषण का एक प्रकार उम्र के हिसाब से वजन न बढ़ना है, भारत में अभी 35.7 प्रतिशत बच्चे कम वजन के हैं. (प्रतीकात्मक फोटो: रॉयटर्स)

भारत में विश्व की 17.3 प्रतिशत आबादी रहती है, जबकि विश्व की कुल कुपोषित आबादी का 24.5 प्रतिशत भारत में है. 118 देशों के ग्लोबल हंगर इंडेक्स में भारत का स्थान 97वां हैं.

बच्चों के लिए काम करने वाली संस्था क्राई के मुताबिक, 2011 की जनगणना के मुताबिक देश में 18 साल की उम्र के बच्चों की संख्या करीब 45 करोड़ है. स्कूल जाने की उम्र वाला हर चार में से एक बच्चा स्कूल से बाहर है. क़रीब 10 करोड़ बच्चे स्कूल से बाहर हैं, जिन्हें स्कूलों में होना चाहिए. 100 में से सिर्फ़ 32 बच्चे अपनी स्कूली शिक्षा पूरी कर पाते हैं. केवल दो प्रतिशत स्कूल ऐसे हैं जो क्लास एक से 12 तक की पूरी शिक्षा दे पाने की स्थिति में हैं.

जनगणना 2011 के आंकड़ों के मुताबिक, देश में 5 से 14 साल की उम्र के एक करोड़ से ज़्यादा बच्चे बाल मजदूरी और शोषण का शिकार हैं. 5 से 18 साल की उम्र वाले करीब साढ़े तीन करोड़ बच्चे ऐसे हैं जो बाल मजदूरी में लगे हैं. देश के विभिन्न इलाकों में लगभग आधे बच्चे श्रम में लगे हैं.

 

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Twitter Suspends Singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya’s Account After Offensive Tweets

Twitter Suspends Singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya's Account After Offensive Tweets
On Tuesday, micro-blogging site Twitter suspended Abhijeet Bhattacharya’s account after he posted a series of ‘offensive tweets’, especially against women

Twitter Suspends Singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya’s Account After Offensive Tweets
Abhijeet Bhattacharya photographed in Mumbai

On May 22, Abhijeet reportedly abused some women Twitter users
Abhijeet blamed author Arundhati Roy for suspension of his account
Several Twitter users extended their support for Abhijeet Bhattacharya
Bollywood’s renowned singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya is known for his controversial tweets. On Tuesday, micro-blogging site Twitter suspended his account after he posted a series of ‘offensive tweets’, especially against women, reports news agency PTI.

On May 22, Abhijeet Bhattacharya reportedly abused some women Twitter users, including JNU student activist Shehla Rashid, after which a complaint was filed. “There is rumour she took money for two hours and didn’t satisfy the client… Big racket,” he tweeted about the JNU student.

After the singer’s account was suspended by Twitter, Shehla Rashid thanked everyone for their support. She wrote: “Sincere thanks to everyone for the support. Abhijeet had to delete his tweet. His Twitter account has also been suspended.”

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Shehla Rashid ✔ @Shehla_Rashid
Sincere thanks to everyone for the support. Abhijit had to delete his tweet.
His Twitter account has also been suspended. 🙂
7:45 PM – 23 May 2017
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Abhijeet Bhattacharya told PTI that author Arundhati Roy and people supporting JNU were behind the suspension of his account. “”Yes, I just saw it. They are trying to block Paresh Rawal also. All Arundhati and JNU group behind this after Paresh Rawal and I tweeted against Arundhati for her anti-India stand,” he said.

On being questioned on whether if he would try to reinstate his Twitter account, Abhijeet told PTI, “I (don’t) care a damn… entire nation is with me.”
However, several Twitter users have extended their support for Abhijeet Bhattacharya and questioned the micro-blogging site for its biased behavior.#IStandWithAbhijeet is trending on Twitter.

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MANISH KAPADIYA @manishkapadiya
#IStandWithAbhijeet He is True Indian..I proud of him…
10:51 PM – 23 May 2017 · Gandhinagar, India
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Chinmay Kulkarni @kulks123
#IStandWithAbhijeet…twitter india chief is biased…he should be sacked…he is anti india
10:50 PM – 23 May 2017
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Abhijeet Bhattacharya began his Bollywood career in 1990 with the film Baaghi. He has voiced songs in over 18 languages including Bengali, Odia, Bhojpuri, Marathi and Gujarati. He has been the voice of actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshay Kumar in the nineties. Abhijeet Bhattacharya has voiced songs for films like Om Shanti Om, Gangster and Dhoom.http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/twitter-suspends-singer-abhijeet-bhattacharyas-account-after-offensive-tweets-1697421?browserpush=true

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Getting Julian Assange: The Untold Story

assange

Julian Assange has been vindicated because the Swedish case against him was corrupt. The prosecutor, Marianne Ny, obstructed justice and should be prosecuted. Her obsession with Assange not only embarrassed her colleagues and the judiciary but exposed the Swedish state’s collusion with the United States in its crimes of war and “rendition”.

Had Assange not sought refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy in London, he would have been on his way to the kind of American torture pit Chelsea Manning had to endure.

This prospect was obscured by the grim farce played out in Sweden. “It’s a laughing stock,” said James Catlin, one of Assange’s Australian lawyers. “It is as if they make it up as they go along”.

It may have seemed that way, but there was always serious purpose. In 2008, a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch” foretold a detailed plan to discredit WikiLeaks and smear Assange personally.

The “mission” was to destroy the “trust” that was WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such an unpredictable source of truth-telling was the aim.

Perhaps this was understandable. WikiLeaks has exposed the way America dominates much of human affairs, including its epic crimes, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale, often homicidal killing of civilians and the contempt for sovereignty and international law.

These disclosures are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistle blowers as “part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal”.

In 2012, the Obama campaign boasted on its website that Obama had prosecuted more whistleblowers in his first term than all other US presidents combined. Before Chelsea Manning had even received a trial, Obama had publicly pronounced her guilty.

Few serious observers doubt that should the US get their hands on Assange, a similar fate awaits him. According to documents released by Edward Snowden, he is on a “Manhunt target list”. Threats of his kidnapping and assassination became almost political and media currency in the US following then Vice-President Joe Biden’s preposterous slur that the WikiLeaks founder was a “cyber-terrorist”.

Hillary Clinton, the destroyer of Libya and, as WikiLeaks revealed last year, the secret supporter and personal beneficiary of forces underwriting ISIS, proposed her own expedient solution: “Can’t we just drone this guy.”

According to Australian diplomatic cables, Washington’s bid to get Assange is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. In Alexandria, Virginia, a secret grand jury has sought for almost seven years to contrive a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted. This is not easy.

The First Amendment protects publishers, journalists and whistleblowers, whether it is the editor of the New York Times or the editor of WikiLeaks. The very notion of free speech is described as America’s ” founding virtue” or, as Thomas Jefferson called it, “our currency”.

Faced with this hurdle, the US Justice Department has contrived charges of “espionage”, “conspiracy to commit espionage”, “conversion” (theft of government property), “computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy”. The favoured Espionage Act, which was meant to deter pacifists and conscientious objectors during World War One, has provisions for life imprisonment and the death penalty.

Assange’s ability to defend himself in such a Kafkaesque world has been severely limited by the US declaring his case a state secret. In 2015, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rothstein, said it was necessary to show “appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security”. This is a kangaroo court.

For Assange, his trial has been trial by media. On August 20, 2010, when the Swedish police opened a “rape investigation”, they coordinated it, unlawfully, with the Stockholm tabloids. The front pages said Assange had been accused of the “rape of two women”. The word “rape” can have a very different legal meaning in Sweden than in Britain; a pernicious false reality became the news that went round the world.

Less than 24 hours later, the Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, took over the investigation. She wasted no time in cancelling the arrest warrant, saying, “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” Four days later, she dismissed the rape investigation altogether, saying, “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.”

Enter Claes Borgstrom, a highly contentious figure in the Social Democratic Party then standing as a candidate in Sweden’s imminent general election. Within days of the chief prosecutor’s dismissal of the case, Borgstrom, a lawyer, announced to the media that he was representing the two women and had sought a different prosecutor in Gothenberg. This was Marianne Ny, whom Borgstrom knew well, personally and politically.

On 30 August, Assange attended a police station in Stockholm voluntarily and answered the questions put to him. He understood that was the end of the matter. Two days later, Ny announced she was re-opening the case.

At a press conference, Borgstrom was asked by a Swedish reporter why the case was proceeding when it had already been dismissed. The reporter cited one of the women as saying she had not been raped. He replied, “Ah, but she is not a lawyer.”

On the day that Marianne Ny reactivated the case, the head of Sweden’s military intelligence service – which has the acronym MUST – publicly denounced WikiLeaks in an article entitled “WikiLeaks [is] a threat to our soldiers [under US command in Afghanistan]”.

Both the Swedish prime minister and foreign minister attacked Assange, who had been charged with no crime. Assange was warned that the Swedish intelligence service, SAPO, had been told by its US counterparts that US-Sweden intelligence-sharing arrangements would be “cut off” if Sweden sheltered him.

For five weeks, Assange waited in Sweden for the renewed “rape investigation” to take its course. The Guardian was then on the brink of publishing the Iraq “War Logs”, based on WikiLeaks’ disclosures, which Assange was to oversee in London.

Finally, he was allowed him to leave. As soon as he had left, Marianne Ny issued a European Arrest Warrant and an Interpol “red alert” normally used for terrorists and dangerous criminals.

Assange attended a police station in London, was duly arrested and spent ten days in Wandsworth Prison, in solitary confinement. Released on £340,000 bail, he was electronically tagged, required to report to police daily and placed under virtual house arrest while his case began its long journey to the Supreme Court.

He still had not been charged with any offence. His lawyers repeated his offer to be questioned in London, by video or personally, pointing out that Marianne Ny had given him permission to leave Sweden. They suggested a special facility at Scotland Yard commonly used by the Swedish and other European authorities for that purpose. She refused.

For almost seven years, while Sweden has questioned forty-four people in the UK in connection with police investigations, Ny refused to question Assange and so advance her case.

Writing in the Swedish press, a former Swedish prosecutor, Rolf Hillegren, accused Ny of losing all impartiality. He described her personal investment in the case as “abnormal” and demanded she be replaced.

Assange asked the Swedish authorities for a guarantee that he would not be “rendered” to the US if he was extradited to Sweden. This was refused. In December 2010, The Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his onward extradition to the US.

Contrary to its reputation as a bastion of liberal enlightenment, Sweden has drawn so close to Washington that it has allowed secret CIA “renditions” – including the illegal deportation of refugees. The rendition and subsequent torture of two Egyptian political refugees in 2001 was condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the complicity and duplicity of the Swedish state are documented in successful civil litigation and in WikiLeaks cables.

“Documents released by WikiLeaks since Assange moved to England,” wrote Al Burke, editor of the online Nordic News Network, an authority on the multiple twists and dangers that faced Assange, “clearly indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters relating to civil rights. There is every reason for concern that if Assange were to be taken into custody by Swedish authorities, he could be turned over to the United States without due consideration of his legal rights.”

The war on Assange now intensified. Marianne Ny refused to allow his Swedish lawyers, and the Swedish courts, access to hundreds of SMS messages that the police had extracted from the phone of one of the two women involved in the “rape” allegations.

Ny said she was not legally required to reveal this critical evidence until a formal charge was laid and she had questioned him. Then, why wouldn’t she question him? Catch-22.

When she announced last week that she was dropping the Assange case, she made no mention of the evidence that would  destroy it. One of the SMS messages makes clear that one of the women did not want any charges brought against Assange, “but the police were keen on getting a hold on him”. She was “shocked” when they arrested him because she only “wanted him to take [an HIV] test”. She “did not want to accuse JA of anything” and “it was the police who made up the charges”. In a witness statement, she is quoted as saying that she had been “railroaded by police and others around her”.

Neither woman claimed she had been raped. Indeed, both denied they were raped and one of them has since tweeted, “I have not been raped.” The women were manipulated by police – whatever their lawyers might say now. Certainly, they, too, are the victims of this sinister saga.

Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape wrote: “The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will. [Assange] has made it clear he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step in their investigation? What are they afraid of?”

Assange’s choice was stark: extradition to a country that had refused to say whether or not it would send him on to the US, or to seek what seemed his last opportunity for refuge and safety.

Supported by most of Latin America, the government of tiny Ecuador granted him refugee status on the basis of documented evidence that he faced the prospect of cruel and unusual punishment in the US; that this threat violated his basic human rights; and that his own government in Australia had abandoned him and colluded with Washington.

The Labor government of the then prime minister, Julia Gillard, had even threatened to take away his Australian passport – until it was pointed out to her that this would be unlawful.

The renowned human rights lawyer, Gareth Peirce, who represents Assange in London, wrote to the then Australian foreign minister, Kevin Rudd: “Given the extent of the public discussion, frequently on the basis of entirely false assumptions… it is very hard to attempt to preserve for him any presumption of innocence. Mr. Assange has now hanging over him not one but two Damocles swords, of potential extradition to two different jurisdictions in turn for two different alleged crimes, neither of which are crimes in his own country, and that his personal safety has become at risk in circumstances that are highly politically charged.”

It was not until she contacted the Australian High Commission in London that Peirce received a response, which answered none of the pressing points she raised. In a meeting I attended with her, the Australian Consul-General, Ken Pascoe, made the astonishing claim that he knew “only what I read in the newspapers” about the details of the case.

In 2011, in Sydney, I spent several hours with a conservative Member of Australia’s Federal Parliament, Malcolm Turnbull. We discussed the threats to Assange and their wider implications for freedom of speech and justice, and why Australia was obliged to stand by him. Turnbull then had a reputation as a free speech advocate. He is now the Prime Minister of Australia.

I gave him Gareth Peirce’s letter about the threat to Assange’s rights and life. He said the situation was clearly appalling and promised to take it up with the Gillard government. Only his silence followed.

For almost seven years, this epic miscarriage of justice has been drowned in a vituperative campaign against the WikiLeaks founder. There are few precedents. Deeply personal, petty, vicious and inhuman attacks have been aimed at a man not charged with any crime yet subjected to treatment not even meted out to a defendant facing extradition on a charge of murdering his wife. That the US threat to Assange was a threat to all journalists, and to the principle of free speech, was lost in the sordid and the ambitious. I would call it anti-journalism.

Books were published, movie deals struck and media careers launched or kick-started on the back of WikiLeaks and an assumption that attacking Assange was fair game and he was too poor to sue. People have made money, often big money, while WikiLeaks has struggled to survive.

The previous editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, called the WikiLeaks disclosures, which his newspaper published, “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years”. Yet no attempt was made to protect the Guardian’s provider and source. Instead, the “scoop” became part of a marketing plan to raise the newspaper’s cover price.

With not a penny going to Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”. They also revealed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables. With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”.

Journalism students might well study this period to understand that the most ubiquitous source of “fake news” is from within a media self-ordained with a false respectability and an extension of the authority and power it claims to challenge but courts and protects.

The presumption of innocence was not a consideration in Kirsty Wark’s memorable BBC live-on-air interrogation in 2010. “Why don’t you just apologise to the women?” she demanded of Assange, followed by: “Do we have your word of honour that you won’t abscond?”

On the BBC’s Today programme, John Humphrys bellowed: “Are you a sexual predator?” Assange replied that the suggestion was ridiculous, to which Humphrys demanded to know how many women he had slept with.

“Would even Fox News have descended to that level?” wondered the American historian William Blum. “I wish Assange had been raised in the streets of Brooklyn, as I was. He then would have known precisely how to reply to such a question: ‘You mean including your mother?’”

Last week, on BBC World News, on the day Sweden announced it was dropping the case, I was interviewed by Geeta Guru-Murthy, who seemed to have little knowledge of the Assange case. She persisted in referring to the “charges” against him. She accused him of putting Trump in the White House; and she drew my attention to the “fact” that “leaders around the world” had condemned him. Among these “leaders” she included Trump’s CIA director. I asked her, “Are you a journalist?”.

The injustice meted out to Assange is one of the reasons Parliament reformed the Extradition Act in 2014. “His case has been won lock, stock and barrel,” Gareth Peirce told me, “these changes in the law mean that the UK now recognises as correct everything that was argued in his case. Yet he does not benefit.” In other words, he would have won his case in the British courts and would not have been forced to take refuge.

Ecuador’s decision to protect Assange in 2012 was immensely brave. Even though the granting of asylum is a humanitarian act, and the power to do so is enjoyed by all states under international law, both Sweden and the United Kingdom refused to recognise the legitimacy of Ecuador’s decision.

Ecuador’s embassy in London was placed under police siege and its government abused. When William Hague’s Foreign Office threatened to violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, warning that it would remove the diplomatic inviolability of the embassy and send the police in to get Assange, outrage across the world forced the government to back down.

During one night, police appeared at the windows of the embassy in an obvious attempt to intimidate Assange and his protectors.

Since then, Assange has been confined to a small room without sunlight. He has been ill from time to time and refused safe passage to the diagnostic facilities of hospital. Yet, his resilience and dark humour remain quite remarkable in the circumstances. When asked how he put up with the confinement, he replied, “Sure beats a supermax.”

It is not over, but it is unravelling. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention – the tribunal that adjudicates and decides whether governments comply with their human rights obligations – last year ruled that Assange had been detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden. This is international law at its apex.

Both Britain and Sweden participated in the 16-month long UN investigation and submitted evidence and defended their position before the tribunal. In previous cases ruled upon by the Working Group – Aung Sang Suu Kyi in Burma, imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia, detained Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian in Iran – both Britain and Sweden gave full support to the tribunal. The difference now is that Assange’s persecution endures in the heart of London.

The Metropolitan Police say they still intend to arrest Assange for bail infringement should he leave the embassy. What then? A few months in prison while the US delivers its extradition request to the British courts?

If the British Government allows this to happen it will, in the eyes of the world, be shamed comprehensively and historically as an accessory to the crime of a war waged by rampant power against justice and freedom, and all of us.

John Pilger is an internationally renowned investigative journalist and documentary filmmaker. His latest film is The War on Democracy. His most recent book is Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire (2006).

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Manchester blast: This is how Sikhs are helping the injured after the terror attack

After the terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena, Sikhs prove that humanity is still alive as they help the needy with whatever they have.

IndiaToday.in  by: Neha Vashishth
Photo: Twitter/@ElaineWITVPhoto: [email protected]

Manchester on Tuesday witnessed one of the worst attacks that ever occurred in the past few years in England.

The attack is likely to be the most terrifying attack since the 2005 London bombing which killed over 50 people. The attack was carried out towards the end of American pop-singer Ariana Grande’s concert which was held at the Manchester Arena.

The attack was termed as a ‘terrorist attack’ and was carried out by a suicide bomber who detonated the bomb at the end of the concert. The body of the suicide bomber was also found from the venue.

Also read: Manchester blast: Worst terror attack in Britain since 2005 London bombings

But, amid all the chaos, there are people who are trying to help the stranded after the attack.

Taxi drivers of Indian-origin living in Manchester are providing free taxi services for the injured and the visitors to get them to the safe places after the attack.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

The acts of humanity. Taxi drivers taking the injured to hospital & visitors to safety in the city after terrorist attack

Not only this, Gurudwaras (Sikh temples) in Manchester are offering food and accommodation for all to help the stranded.

Also read: UK: At least 19 killed in bomb blast at Ariana Grande concert in ManchesterLocals are also helping the distressed by providing them rides and shelter in this hour of need.

Holiday Inn Manchester is taking in children without parents. Try giving them a ring 0161 836 9600

I live in Bolton can get to Manchester in about 20 minutes if anybody is struggling to get home DM me

If you’re stranded in Manchester and need a place to crash I have two sofas. Don’t be scared to ask.

. If anyone stuck in manchester and needs a bed or cup of tea. DM me, we can find a space.

Here’s a look back at the terrifying moment when the bomb was detonated:

Countless pictures have been surfacing the internet from the friends and relatives of the children who are still missing on the social media website.

While all the world leaders condemned the terrorist act, the ISIS supporters celebrated the attack and described the attack as an act of revenge in response to air strikes in Iraq and Syria. Although, no official responsibility for the attack has been taken by any of the extremist groups yet.

 http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/manchester-attack-sikh-gurudwara-helping-taxi-uk/1/960751.html

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Statement condemning the derogatory comments of Chalapathi Rao, Telugu actor, against women at a public film event in Hyderabad

Image result for Chalapathi Rao, Telugu actor

 

At the audio release function of a Telugu film (which shall remain unnamed as we do not want to provide free publicity to the film through this controversy), an anchor asked several celebrities in the audience if “women were harmful (haanikaarak)”. When she asked the question to Chalapathi Rao, he said, “No, they are useful in bed”. The woman anchor was taken aback but the male anchor on stage, Ravi, said appreciatively, “What a super answer!”

However, the anchor Ravi is now claiming that the audio in the auditorium was poor and he could not clearly hear what was said but routinely said “Super answer”.

Chalapathi Rao is a repeat offender in this kind of sexist behaviour. In an earlier television interview with Radhakrishna on ABN-Andhra Jyothi channel, he vulgarly claimed that he raped many women. At that time too, when he was cornered, he wiggled out of it by saying that he was referring to rapes in films.

Women activists have registered a police complaint against Chalapathi Rao. They have also demanded an apology from him. In his appearances on Telugu television channels to apologise, Chalapati Rao has attempted to counter-attack those who are protesting and also tried to preach to them that their minds read only double meaning and innuendo and he has said nothing wrong. While defending himself, Chalapati Rao claimed that those who are attacking him are fed on double-meaning Telugu reality shows on TV and that is the reason for their misinterpretation of his statement.

The Telugu entertainment industry, TV and films, is stagnating and in its putrefying imagination has been peddling obscenity, vulgarity and misogyny as entertainment. Reality shows like Jabardast, Bathuku Jatka Bandi, Ali Talkies, and some other reality shows have been routinely attracting criticism and opprobrium from the public for peddling derogatory content that reflects poorly on women. The daily exposure to such programming prepares the ground for violence against women and normalizes it.

In an earlier audio release function, actor Balakrishna claimed that his fans would not accept him unless he kisses and gets his heroines pregnant. He said this in the presence of the heroine of his film on stage. At that time too an attempt was made to file a police complaint whose fate remains unknown.

The popular figures of the Telugu entertainment industry speak about women in language that is steeped in rape culture and the blatant manner in which they do this is alarming. In a country where brutal rapes are occurring every day with very little accountability despite the laws, the entertainment industry is leading a multi-pronged attack on the safety of women, first through the content of their films and television programmes, and secondly through the so-called promotional events which are live, unrestrained, and garner ratings for the channels.

The Network for Women in Media India (NWMI) strongly condemns this blatant rape culture in the entertainment industry. We demand that strict action be taken against those indulging in verbal normalization of/abetment to rape in the name of entertainment. The police administration must firstly allow complaints to be booked; secondly, appropriate legal process facilitated. We request that the right-minded people of the industry educate their colleagues about the difference in rape culture and entertainment.

Without both the legal remedies and strong community pressure, it is difficult to drive sense into people who are repeat offenders, especially when they think it is profitable.

NWMI Hyderabad Chapter                  

The Network for Women in Media India (NWMI) strongly condemns the blatant rape culture in the entertainment industry, as evident in a recent film function and demands that strict action be taken against those indulging in verbal normalisation of / abetment to rape in the name of entertainment

http://www.nwmindia.org/

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[email protected]: Maoist uprising was sparked by this tribal woman leader

The Naxal movement started 50 years ago to fight for farmers in northern West Bengal. A tribal woman, Shanti Munda, was part of the first uprising. Today, when a BJP push and Amit Shah’s visit has grabbed headlines, an HT series kicks off with focus on its women leaders.

 

Dhrubo Jyoti and Pramod Giri
Hindustan Times, Naxalbari (West Bengal)
Naxal

Fifty years ago on May 24, Shanti Munda, then in her twenties, led an uprising for a poor sharecropper who asked for a larger share of the produce.(Samir Jana/HT PHOTO)

Her frail frame hides her fiery past.At 74, Shanti Munda walks with a hunch and her coarse cotton saree clashes violently with the trendy jeans and buzz cuts of her grandsons. But they hold their grandmother in awe.Fifty years ago on May 24, Munda, then in her twenties, led an uprising for a poor sharecropper who asked for a larger share of the produce. She says couldn’t keep still after watching policeman Sonam Wangdi attack a woman.

With a 15-month-old baby strapped to her back, she fired the first of a shower of arrows that killed Wangdi. The next day, the forces retaliated, killing 11 peasants and tribals – triggering a violent revolution that shaped a generation’s consciousness. The uprising swept large parts of the country and those who took up arms came to called Naxalites, after the north Bengal village of Naxalbari that lit the first spark.

Mention the attempted revolution and the effect is electric. “Where were the men? They were all in jail. We women patrolled the village, undertook missions. We would often gherao the police and not let them enter homes, snatch their rifles.”

Munda joined her husband and others as a dare against her family that wouldn’t let women go to school, much less march against the state. “But I was a rebel, and would often walk 15 kilometres to Siliguri for meetings.”

She still lives in her ancestral village of Hatigisha, around 10 kilometres away from Naxalbari, a pristine region of rolling greens and tea gardens cradled by the Himalayas – in another world, this could be paradise. Till 2010, she shared a wall with one of the tallest ideologues of the movement, Kanu Sanyal, who hanged himself.

She has few possessions but has held on to a small photo of Charu Majumdar, the son of a wealthy landlord around whom the movement coalesced. Her friend and mentor, Jangal Santhal, is long dead, survived only by his penury-struck third wife who lives 10 minutes away.

Her mud-and-asbestos hutment has little furniture save for plastic chairs and beds, and stands as a testament to sluggish progress in the ground zero of India’s left revolution. “The exploitation over land still persists. The government has replaced the landlords.”

The freshly laid tar road in front of her house suddenly crumbles into a dirt track where a brood of chickens block the path of the rare car that passes. The region is still desperately poor as land holdings increasingly fragment and battles a crippling shortage of drinking water. So was it all in vain?

“We made a mistake in boycotting elections. We didn’t understand that the people would never boycott polls.” She fought assembly elections in 1982 and 1987. But it was too late. “China got its revolution but here, poor people cannot live anymore. Sometimes I feel I could die tomorrow.”

Majumdar Charu’s wife ,  who lievd an hour’s drive away  in townof siliguri , a hardscrabble town on the foothills of Darjeeling.

But for their son Abhijit, Lila wasn’t just Charu Majumdar’s wife, she was a freedom fighter in her own right. “My mother’s life was very difficult. Despite the hurdles, she never once blamed my father or the movement,” he says, sitting in their ancestral house. A big tree in one corner of a well-groomed garden is the last remnant of the feudal family that Charu was born in, and denunciated. On the far side is a wooden cottage where the family lived and where Charu wrote his famous eight documents that went on to become the ideological bedrock of the struggle.

Lila joined politics during the Bengal famine of 1943 went to jail five years later as hundreds of farmers were thrown in jail following the Tebhaga movement where peasants demanded that the share of the landlord be slashed from half to a third. When she came out, she plunged headlong into left politics but gave it up to earn for her family. She became an insurance agent, a job she held till she was 68.


The police would often come home, and even they respected mother. She would calmly search them, count the bullets, and ask them to wait outside before informing Charu. ‘Where is Lila-di’ was a common call by party members,” Abhijit says. “She was like a mother eagle, she never let us feel the hardships, funded our education and protected us. We had some scarcities but our head was held high.”

Charu went underground in 1969. Abhijit remembers how her mother would slip out of office and undertake a labourious and furtive journey to see him, often changing several houses, vehicles and trains to fox the police trail. As bodies of policemen and civilians piled up in faraway Kolkata and the countryside, criticism of her husband’s “annihilation line” mounted. The first time she broke down, he says, is when news trickled in of his arrest in July, 1972. “Our neighbours pooled in money for a flight. It was our first time. I remember the jaundiced light in (Calcutta police headquarters) Lalbazar. Dad has shrunk. I noticed there was no oxygen cylinder despite his heart condition and angina.”

Twelve days later, he was dead of a massive heart attack. The funeral was shrouded in secrecy, no outsiders were allowed and paramilitary forces ringed the funeral pyre. “They didn’t let my mother take the body to Siliguri and forced Hindu rituals on us. My sister was temporarily paralysed for three months and had to learn how to walk again.” No one would let the family spent the night in Kolkata – the owner of a dingy hotel in cramped Sealdah took pity and let them stay. He was arrested the next day.

At the same time, Suniti Karmakar was working in the trenches of north Bengal on women and youth groups to keep together a fast-collapsing movement. But for her, the fight for women far preceded the Naxalbari movement. “We were already organising on questions of torture or molestation, and often walked miles through sludge to meet comrades. We would keep vigil during the day as the men slept. We saved many lives.”

Karmakar is now in her seventies and divides time between Delhi and Naxalbari, where she takes care of the octogenarian Khokhon Majumdar, who accompanied Charu and others to China to see Mao Tse Tung. The promised help from China never came.

Naxalbari is cradled by the Himalayas and still battles poverty. (Samir Jana/HT PHOTO

 

Decades later, post-mortem is still on over why the revolution failed.

The question of gender and women is a vexed one for naxals and the movement battled charges of molestation in its last days. “My party had never considered seriously, far less taken any stand whatsoever, on women’s liberation,” former Naxal Krishna Bandyopadhyay lamented in 2001, blaming the focus on “short-term gains”. Others have blamed Charu’s aggressive line for the disintegration of the movement, or said the role of tribals and women was erased.

But despite that, for Munda, the gains haven’t faded away. “Had it not been for Naxals, the landlords would have still been here.”

Fifty years later, Naxalbari is getting restive again. A local youth was allegedly picked up last week by border security guards on what villagers suspect are trumped-up charges of drug-dealing. The villagers are in foment — the next time a border security person enters the village, they vow to tie him up and thrash them. But they appear unsure and a mention of the scary consequences is enough to expose their desperation.

-No one is willing to listen to us babu.

– What about the local leaders? The Panchayat? The police?

-No one. We have no leader.

The Naxalbari uprising is history. Charu, Kanu and Jangal are all dead.And a new revolution is nowhere in sight.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/naxalbari-50-meet-the-woman-who-lit-the-first-fire-of-uprising/story-5ey8bOCHpquwFT33vo9H5I.html

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