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Maharashtra – Court extends activist’s relief from arrest

The police alleged that they had links with Maoists who had backed the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017.

Gautam Navlakha

 Gautam Navlakha

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Friday extended till January 10, the interim protection from arrest granted to activist Gautam Navlakha, an accused in the Elgar Parishad case.

A bench of Justices B.P. Dharmadhikari and Sarang Kotwal also restrained the police from arresting activist and co-accused Anand Teltumbde till December 17. The bench said it would hear in detail the arguments on Teltumbde’s petition seeking quashing of the FIR. The court, however, refused to grant any interim relief to activist Stan Swamy who too has been named in the FIR but is yet to be arrested.

The Pune police, whi-ch is probing the case, informed the court that Swamy was still being treated as a “suspect” and not an accused. The judges said in that case he could not be granted any protection. Navlakha, Teltumbde and Swamy have moved the high court seeking that the FIR against them be quashed. Navlakha was arrested in August this year along with Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, all left-wing activists.

The police alleged that they had links with Maoists who had backed the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune


On December 31, 2017. Inflammatory speeches at the conclave led to violence at the Bhima Koregaon war memorial in Pune district the next day, the police claimed.agencies

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Kaiga nuclear plant expansion: Expect body blow for Western Ghats biodiversity

Rich tropical forest, vibrant wildlife, water of Kali river will be in line of destruction

Nuclear Energy

The Satoddi waterfall in the Western Ghats, in Uttara Kannada district, where the Kaiga Nuclear Power Plant is also located. Credit: Getty Images  The Satoddi waterfall in the Western Ghats, in Uttara Kannada district, where the Kaiga Nuclear Power Plant is also located. Credit: Getty Images

The biodiversity of the Western Ghats, already under a lot of anthropogenic pressure, will suffer even more if the expansion of the Kaiga Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), which is to come up for public hearing on December 14, goes ahead. That this will be done for generating power through a technology that has several alternative and much benign options is even more ironical.

To understand this, an overview of the related issues is necessary.

In May 2017, the Union government decided to commission ten nuclear power reactors of the type Pressurised heavy-water reactor (PHWR) of 700 MW capacity each in different parts of the country. Two of the ten PHWR type reactors are proposed at the Kaiga NPP, in Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada district.

Let us first consider the terrain around Kaiga NPP. It is made of undulating hills covered with thick forests as an important part of the Western Ghats (WGs) on the west coast of India. According to a 2011 report by the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, the forests around Kaiga NPP, a World Heritage site, are considered to be some of the best tropical forests in the world with very high ecological value, rich tropical bio-diversity and many kinds of unique species. The hill ranges of the WGs, of which these forests are critical parts, are  considered as the backbone of the ecology and economy of South India, and are also very good carbon sequestration systems in addition to being the water fountains of Peninsular India.

In view of the fact that the existing transmission lines (4 lines of 400 kV rating) to evacuate power from Kaiga NPP will not be adequate for the new capacity of 1,400 MW, there will be a need for additional transmission lines to evacuate the additionally generated electricity. These new lines may require the clearance of a 75 metre-wide corridor for more than 100 km for the right of way. This means the destruction of many sq kms of thick tropical forest of very high ecological value not only for the WGs, the state of Karnataka, and the country, but to the global environment itself because of the good Carbon sequestration capability of the thick forests in the tropics. The total cost (both direct and indirect costs) of such a destruction of tropical forests will be incalculable from the ecological perspective to India, whereas the benefits of the additional electricity from the expanded project will be negligible from the country’s projected power sector capability by 2030 (year by which the two reactors may get commissioned).

The forest cover in the Uttara Kannada district, where Kaiga is located, has come down from a high of about 70 per cent of the land area in the 1950s to less than 25% now due to various ‘development projects’ including the Konkan Railway, Sea-Bird naval base, national highways, industries, many dam-based hydel projects, and the Kaiga NPP since 2000. As against the National Forest Policy (adopted in the 1980s) target of 33 per cent land cover by forests & trees, Karnataka’s forest & tree cover at present is less than 20 per cent for which the forests of Uttara Kannada district are major contributors. Any further loss of such rich forests in the WGs can spell doom not only to the drought-prone state of Karnataka, but to the whole of Peninsular India, for which the WGs are considered as water fountains.

As per the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) IV Assessment Report, “the emissions from deforestation are very significant—they are estimated to represent more than 18 per cent of global emissions”. It also says, “Curbing deforestation is a highly cost-effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

At a time when the mitigation aspects of climate change have occupied the minds of global leaders, it is a moot point to consider how rational it will be to loose many sq km of thick tropical forest around Kaiga NPP for the sake of a technology, for which there are many benign and much less costly alternatives. While the nationwide efforts to plant tree saplings are laudable, the same cannot replace the rich original tropical forests. It would be unacceptably destructive.

The increase in nuclear power capacity by 2.6 times at Kaiga NPP should also mean an additional fresh water demand on the Kali river, which is flowing adjacent to the project, by a similar magnitude. If this also leads to an increase in the temperature of the discharged water from the project back to the river, it should be a matter of concern from the perspective of the creatures dependent on that river.

Due to the increased volume of the used-water discharge from the project, the pollution level of the river water downstream of the project is likely to go up, despite the claims of project authorities on water purification processes to be deployed. It is a moot point as to what impact will this distorted quality of river will have on the concerned stakeholders. It is impossible to imagine that it will be beneficial from any perspective.

The impact of the vastly increased radiation density (because of the 2.6 times increase in nuclear reactor activity?) on the bio-diversity and the people working and living in the project area cannot be anything but negative. Additionally, the risk of any unfortunate nuclear accident can only multiply because of the need to store on site the vastly additional quantity of highly radioactive spent fuel for hundreds of years (India has no policy as yet to store the spent nuclear fuel and other associated wastes away from the nuclear reactor site).

In summary, the expansion of Kaiga will be catastrophic for the biodiversity of the area, which in turn will have effects on Karnataka, India and even the world. It will be a travesty of social and environmental justice, and the violation of the provision of the country’s Constitution to allow the diversion of more than 54 hectares of dense forest land of very high ecological value, and 6,346 cubic metre per hour of fresh water which can meet the daily needs of more than a million people to this enormously risky project.

Clearly, Karnataka and India can do without so much destruction. The costs of the expansion of Kaiga are unacceptable and just not worth it. The government should give serious thought before taking any further decisions on the project.

Shankar Sharma is a power policy analyst and professional electrical engineer with over 38 years of experience in India, Australia and New Zealand

ciurtesy- down to earth

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Writing A Book On The Gujarat Riots Taught Me Hate Can Be Rejected, Says Revati Laul

‘The Anatomy of Hate’ attempts to get into the minds of the perpetrators of the 2002 violence, and the ones who celebrated as human beings lay dying around them.

This famous photo from 2002 shows a Bajrang Dal activist who, years later, called the Gujarat riots a "mistake" and apologised for his role in them.

This famous photo from 2002 shows a Bajrang Dal activist who, years later, called the Gujarat riots a “mistake” and apologised for his role in them.

Many books have been written about the Gujarat riots of 2002 in the years since then—these include hard-hitting investigations that exposed holes in the official version of events and poignant narratives that examined living in the aftermath of violence. Now, a new book by journalist and filmmaker Revati Laul attempts to get into the minds of the perpetrators of the violence, and the ones who celebrated as human beings lay dying around them.

The Anatomy of Hate, published by Context/Westland, has three protagonists—a man who rejected the hatred he grew up with when he began working with Muslims, one who was part of some of the most heinous crimes committed by the mob, and another who burnt down houses belonging to Muslims in 2002 and later rebuilt them.

“We all live in the company of stories that validate us. But there are no stories that describe the guilt and fear of having been part of a crime,” said Laul, who is based in New Delhi.

In an email interview with HuffPost India, Laul spoke about why she wanted to understand hate and how she realised that “extreme prejudice” could be unlearned.

Edited excerpts:

It’s been 16 years since the Gujarat riots. What drew you back to write about them?

I think the violence of 2002 formed the base, the new saffron roots for our current politics. And while we’ve talked endlessly about the rise of the right, the lynch mobs and the politics of hate, we don’t really know much about the people who made up those mobs. We know the effect of the hate crimes, we know the politics and surround sound of it because now we are all living with it. But we don’t know what makes a mind turn,the emotional Richter scale of someone growing up in the 1980s and 1990s who is drawn to the Sangh. We don’t know what makes that person take part in the massacres of 2002. And we also don’t know what happens to this individual after. And until we can step into those shoes or try and look closer, we don’t really understand hate. So how can we expect to change it?

But this is gyan that came to me in the course of my research and reading on the subject. The reason I am writing this started out as a story that fell into my lap by sheer coincidence, 15 years ago. I was NDTV’s Gujarat correspondent in the year 2003, one year after the riots. And everywhere I went, everyone amongst the Hindu middle class would say to me over and over – “Behn, aapko samajh me nahi aayega ki humney bawaal ka support kyun kiya (You will never understand why we supported the mob violence)” That made me stop in my tracks and ask myself this: ‘What is the point of all the work I do as a journalist if I am always preaching to the converted?’ But on the other hand, how do I reach out to the other side—to people who don’t think like me, without preaching from a pulpit, without talking down to them or being patronising?

The answer fell into my lap a year later, when I met a man who made me change almost everything I knew about mass violence. He was finishing a master’s in social science when the riots happened. And he went around town as Gujarat burned with his friends voyeuristically, to watch the action. He said to me, “All of Gujarat was cut into two halves during the riots—those who were being cut and killed and those who were out celebrating. I was on the side of those who were celebrating.” Once the violence abated, this man had finished his degree and started to look for a job. With a social science background, the obvious choice was to look in NGOs since this was a sector that was just opening up—international NGOs and the possibility of a decent salary. So after cheering on the destruction of Muslims, this man got a job in an NGO that was rehabilitating them. And that’s when his whole world came apart. He started to see how the diet of hate he had been brought up on was built on entirely false pretexts. He was confronted every day with Muslims that did not fit the description he had carried around with him—the Satanic people who did everything upside down. And this confrontation with reality was terrifying. When I met him, he was undergoing a metamorphosis. And this meant he had to tell himself that everything he was brought up with was a lie. Rejecting that was almost impossible. It meant cancelling out everyone from his life. When I heard his story I was transfixed. Why had I never imagined that hate and extreme prejudice was not fixed? That it could change. And in describing it as fixed, was I guilty of fixing it?

We all live in the company of stories that validate us. But there are no stories that describe the guilt and fear of having been part of a crime. So where does the middle class that isn’t proud of what they’ve done go? To the politics that says it’s okay to forget, it’s okay to pretend everything is fine. And we aren’t allowing for any other conversations either. Most of all, this man answered the question I had asked myself. How do you reach out to the other side? By telling them their own stories, with all the attendant guilt and fear and uncertainty. Certainty is a fascist space. It is absolute, it leaves no room for openness, for conversation.

When I heard his story I was transfixed. Why had I never imagined that hate and extreme prejudice was not fixed? That it could change. And in describing it as fixed, was I guilty of fixing it?

But it took me ten years to convince this man to let me tell his story. Because it means stoking the pain, opening up the wounds that had healed. Finally, he let me in to that world and I knew this was it.

Your book focuses on the lives of three perpetrators of the riot. What did their stories reveal to you?

So having stumbled onto the light end of the spectrum that made up the mob, and got the first of three protagonists to agree to let me tell his story, I moved to Gujarat in 2015 to find other stories. I had to see what the other end of the spectrum looked like. Which led me to the story of Suresh. His story attracted me for two reasons. He committed some of the most heinous crimes from 2002. He raped women and children and was part of the mob that pulled out the foetus from a pregnant woman. But for me, what was key in Suresh’s story was to look past the hideousness of his crimes to what lay underneath. He bragged about his crimes to an investigative journalist. The bragging was my clue to the real story. Suresh wasn’t just a singular entity. He represented the collective fantasies of a large group of people who wanted him to do what he did. His bragging gave him popular support. It fulfilled the group’s fantasies. So what was that group that supported Suresh? And why? And there was another equally bewildering reason to write about Suresh. He committed these crimes against Muslims while being married to a Muslim woman. By the time I finished researching Suresh’s story, what I found was this. It disturbed me not because I didn’t understand where he came from, but because I did.

How do you reach out to the other side? By telling them their own stories, with all the attendant guilt and fear and uncertainty

In between the man who underwent a metamorphosis and Suresh, is the story of a third person. He came from an extremely underdeveloped part of Gujarat and is from the Bhil tribe. He burned down houses of Muslims in 2002. And later rebuilt them. Through him, I ask the question—if the only way for this man to move out of extreme poverty and the drudgery of farming in a time of diminishing returns was to associate with the Sangh, with the umbrella of Hindu right wing groups, what was he supposed to do? If we want people to act differently, are we creating alternatives for them to support themselves? And most of all, what gave him his sense of self?

By the time I finished researching Suresh’s story, what I found was this. It disturbed me not because I didn’t understand where he came from, but because I did.

Tell us a little about the reporting and writing process that went into the making of your book.

Much like my protagonists, I did all my research and writing from a place of great fear. I didn’t think I could get this done. I didn’t have the resources to stay in Gujarat for three years, I didn’t think I had the nuance or the writing skills. I had to battle my way through each of these and it was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. It was the biggest emotional churn I have ever put myself through. Let me illustrate this with one example. I realized towards the end of my writing that I was writing about violence because it is also the pivot around which my own life revolves—professionally and personally. I have lived in fear of my father growing up, he was a scary man to be around. Wonderful and intimidating with an underlying anger and latent violence that was always present. In asking my protagonists to empty themselves out, I had to empty myself out. I had to turn the gaze on myself in order to let go of my fears one by one, draft by draft, until, I think, the eighth and final one that is now the book. Serious food binges, outbursts with friends, lovers and family, meltdowns were all in the mix and if I knew that this is what I had signed up for, I may never have done this. On the other hand, I am a masochist.

The Gujarat riots are, thus far, one of the last widespread acts of mass violence spanning many cities in the state. Since then, the model seems to have changed to smaller, more localised conflicts that still seem to have similar social, political, and economic effects—the sole exception being a lower immediate death toll.

The Gujarat riots changed the course of our political history. It brought the politics of hate from the fringe to centrestage. Having achieved that, it was perhaps only possible for this model to sustain itself as a national model in a mutated form. But this suggests that the entire political trajectory was planned or that the Sangh is a singular, cohesive unit, which it’s not. It tries to be but nothing in this country can ever be a singular conversation, not even this. So the way I see it is this: the Sangh is both hyper-planned and very arbitrary. They have probably become much more cautious about supporting or enabling mobs where there is the possibility of legal tangles and court cases slapped on them. We seem to have moved into a similar space as Pakistan was under Benazir Bhutto. Where she came in on the strength and support of various non-state actors and warlords and had to give into their arbitrariness ever after.

But I also look at this another way. The writing of this book has made me acutely aware of the fact that we are a non-normative society. We don’t do anything by the book. Therefore power also lies outside officially mandated spaces. So it would be a mistake to look only at what the Sangh says and not at how people often use them selectively and disregard some of what they sign up for and pay obeisance to what they must. Therefore, the large factory of hate, having been built in 2002, does not need to replicate itself whole. But enable start-ups and franchises and also overlook the misdemeanours of rogue elements that are also their supporters.

The writing of this book has made me acutely aware of the fact that we are a non-normative society. We don’t do anything by the book. Therefore power also lies outside officially mandated spaces.

It would, therefore, be instructive to look at the mutating forms of hate in terms of what they do to disrupt their original model. Does the splitting away of Pravin Togadia from the VHP mean anything? Are there various political rivals working at cross-purposes in the BJP? And what does the average person do after voting for the BJP in an election? Does the MLA in a Gujarat state assembly have the same real power today as she did in 2002? Or has the political perception shifted to a much more centrist space where state assemblies may see themselves as beholden to the centre more now than two decades ago? If this is even partly true, then why do we often write about these elections as if it’s the same kind of power game when the power centres may have shifted?

What are your thoughts on this present moment we are living through—where then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi is now Prime Minister, and a Bajrang Dal leader is the prime accused in the killing of a cop?

I think this is a time for all of us in the middle class—you who reads this piece, me who is speaking to you, to look closely at the everyday that makes up the anatomy of hate. If we choose not to talk to people like ourselves, are we condemning ourselves to shrinking the liberal space? Are we perpetuating what we don’t want despite ourselves? What sort of conversations do we need to have that are different if we want a different politics? And that must start by looking past Modi at what he is standing on. At the politics we have willed ourselves into. And the various disaggregated and shaky parts of the edifice this establishment stands on.

What’s one other book—related or unrelated—that you would urge our readers to pick up?

Please do read Mahmood Mamdani’s When Victims Become Killers—Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda, published by Princeton University Press in 2001. He bends all previous writing on genocides and mass violence and explains how the ordering of people into categories of ‘us’ and ‘them’—original inhabitants and settlers—is a colonial phenomenon. Colonisers could only see people as outsiders and insiders because they were outsiders. So they used this gaze to create and re-order people they conquered further into categories of us and them. And it has led to the kind of post-colonial polarization, mass violence and re-ordering of histories from the Hutus and Tutsis of Rwanda to the Hindus and Muslims in India. He also gave me the talisman I used as the reference point for my writing. It appears right at the start of the book, on page 8, in fact. And it is this. “We may agree that genocidal violence cannot be understood as rational; yet, we need to understand it as thinkable. Rather than run away from it, we need to realise that it is the “popularity” of the genocide that is its uniquely troubling aspect.” It isn’t the individual crimes in 2002 or in the singular act of a tiny mob in Bulandshahr this week that needs explaining as much as the group aspect of it.

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India – Artist Subodh Gupta a serial sexual harasser: Co-worker #MeToo

Leading contemporary artist Subodh Gupta has been accused of repeated sexual misconduct by a former co-worker and other women in an anonymous online post.

Describing Gupta as a “serial sexual harasser”, the author of the post alleged “multiple inappropriate advances and unwanted touching… even after clearly saying no”. The accusation was posted on the Instagram account, Scene and Herd, which has been exposing sexual misconduct in the Indian art world. Known best for massive installations made with everyday objects, Delhi-based Gupta has shown and sold his work across the world.

The post recounted multiple instances of sexual misconduct with young women “who had worked with or for him”, including repeatedly asking an assistant to pose nude “even after clearly being refused every time” and offering massages to women working with him. The post said he “grabbed the hand, touched the stomach, breasts, shoulders, pulled at bra straps, rubbed the thighs, even after the woman pulled away”.

“On a different occasion, when confronted by an assistant who witnessed his behaviour, he responded, ‘she just looked so sexy. Ok, maybe, write one email saying sorry, I got too drunk, will that make it ok? I’m the artist, and she just works as an assistant, it should be ok no? What do you think?” the post read.

Attempts to reach Gupta, who will make his debut as a curator at the forthcoming Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa, were unsuccessful. Festival organisers said they had not issued a statement. Earlier, allegations of sexual misconduct were made on the same handle against Kochi-Muziris Biennale co-founders Jatin Das and Riyas Komu and Sotheby’s India MD Gaurav Bhatia. Komu and Bhatia stepped down from their positions, pending inquiry.

Subodh Gupta denies sexual harassment allegations, steps down as Goa fest curator

Responding to the allegations, Serendipity Arts Festival also issued a statement, informing that the artist will not be present at the December 15-22 event and had stepped down from position of a curator.

A day after allegations of repeated sexual misconduct surfaced against Subodh Gupta, the high profile contemporary artist stepped down as co-curator of the Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa on Friday and denied that he had indulged in any inappropriate behaviour.

The claims of sexual harassment are “entirely false and fabricated”, Gupta told PTI in a statement after a former co-worker recounted the alleged experiences of several women on social media and an art writer came forward to corroborate their stories “as a witness”.

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Central Government Ensnares Itself In Northeast and Kashmir

First the Bhartiya Janata Party led government in Delhi was very enthusiastic about conducting the National Register of Citizens exercise in Assam on the premise that this process will identify all the illegal migrants from Bangladesh who entered Assam after 24 March, 1971, the date of creation on Bangladesh, who could then be sent back to Bangladesh. The assumption was that most of these illegal immigrants would be Muslims. However, the government developed cold feet after it realised that among the 40.07 lakhs people who have been left out of NRC the majority are not Muslims but Hindus. Now it is trying to push the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill which will allow non-Muslim citizens from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014 to acquire Indian citizenship easily. This Bill is facing stiff opposition from the Assamese society. Akhil Gogoi, leader of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, along with 70 other organisations has launched a frontal attack on the government. What the BJP central leadership doesn’t realise is that Assamese society is not divided on communal lines like in Gujarat, Maharashtra or portion of the Hindi speaking heartland. For Assamese people bigger fear is linguistic and cultural domination by Bengalis. Assamese society itself is a product of assimilation of locals with outsiders from diverse backgrounds. It is not just being born into some homogenous community. But they clearly make a distinction between people who came before 1971 and those who came afterwards. Assamese nationality is as assertive as the Tamil or Bangali nationality with a distinct identity.

Meanwhile, in Assam itself All Bodo Students’ Association under the leadership of Pramod Boro is demanding a separate statehood for Bodoland. After a long struggle Bodoland Territorial Council was created in 2003 comprising four districts of Chirang, Buxa, Kokrajhar and Udlagiri. Out of 40 government departments all except Home and Finance were transferred to BTC by the Assam government. However, Assam government continues to maintain its stranglehold on BTC as all resolutions passed by BTC are subject to final approval of the Assam assembly, which is against the spirit of Schedule VI of Constitution as part of which BTC was created. So far except for one out of 28, all Bills passed by BTC have been stuck at the Assam assembly level. Even though the population living in abovementioned four districts is 12% of Assam population only 2% of the state budget is allocated to BTC. Schools are being starved of teachers and textbooks in Bodo language. Same is the situation with other departments. Rampant corruption prevents whatever little benefits can reach people. Hence Bodo people are now disillusioned and feel only as a separate state they can prosper. In recent talks with Home minister it is believed that Indian government has offered a Union Territory status to Bodoland but that is not acceptable to the Bodos.

In the neighbouring Nagaland the popular demand is for autonomy. Peace talks have been going on with the Government of India of various Naga groups for the last 21 years without any resolution. The latest rounds of talks with the Modi government seem to have reached some conclusion. But Naga people are very clear that they want a separate Constitution and a separate flag. They see themselves living not under the Indian Constitution but in a peaceful coexistence with India. The Nagas have never considered themselves to be part of India. They feel they were first divided into two countries – India and Myanmar – by the British and then by India into different states like Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Assam and Mizoram. They aspire for a separate sovereign identity.

However, the experience of Kashmiris with a separate Constitution has not been very good. All the promises made by the Government of India at the time of signing of Instrument of Accession by the Maharaja Hari Singh have been violated. The separate flag is still there but it doesn’t have the sanctity the flag of a sovereign state should have. It is difficult to even obtain a copy of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution now. Articles 370 and 35A of Indian Constitution which grant a special status to J&K are there only for namesake. Famous literature personality Zareef Ahmad Zareef described it as a lock on a door to a room which doesn’t have anything inside. People of Kashmir feel cheated by the GoI. According to initial agreement except for Defence, Communications and Foreign Affairs in the matter of other subjects sovereignty was supposed to rest with J&K Government. The will of the people of J&K which was to determine its future has been given a short shrift. The use of pellet guns on people of Kashmir was the ultimate inhuman treatment meted out to them. It is unthinkable that GoI could have used these pellet guns on any unruly crowd anywhere else in the country. It is an example of the step-motherly treatment towards people of J&K. People pelting stones at security forces were accused by GoI of having accepted money from Pakistan. There can be nothing more ridiculous than this. This is admitting the fact that Pakistan is able to control each and every individual in Kashmir. Question arises what were the security forces and intelligence agencies doing? And if religion is the basis on which Pakistan has been able to steer people towards its side why isn’t India able to convince people of Nepal of its point of view. It is an open fact that Nepalese people harbour an anti-India feeling, especially after India blockaded supplies to Nepal when Nepal refused to budge to the Indian wish of making amendments in their new Constitution to favour the pro-India Madhesi people. During the Modi regime situation has worsened in J&K. Even people who had moved closer to integration with India position from a position of autonomy are now finding it difficult to accept the Indian hegemony. The GoI has hurt the sentiments of people of Kashmir beyond repair.

(Note: This article has been written after the visit of ‘Protect and Honour Constitution’ yatra of National Alliance of People’s Movements to Assam, Nagaland and Jammu & Kashmir)

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NWMI Statement – “Desist from harassing journalists in Tamil Nadu”

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) strongly condemns the efforts of the Tamil Nadu police and the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP to harass and intimidate journalists Sandhya Ravishankar, D Anandhakumar and M Sriram from Chennai by falsely accusing them of “espionage” and “anti-national activities” in Kanyakumari.

Sandhya Ravishankar, a veteran journalist and member of the NWMI, is being falsely accused by the BJP’s state unit of being “a criminal mastermind” while Anandhakumar and Sriram are being accused of “aiding and abetting French spies”, a ridiculous and untenable charge thrust on journalists who were merely doing their job.

These are the facts of the matter: Sandhya Ravishankar, a journalist who has filed several investigative reports into illegal beach sand mining in Tamil Nadu, was contacted by the accredited French journalists Jules Giraudat and Arthur Bouvart, who were looking to follow up her reports for ‘Forbidden Stories’, non-profit project founded by Freedom Voices Network which focusses on investigative stories. Since it was too dangerous for Ravishankar to travel to the region in the light of the continuous harassment she has faced from sand miners, she put them in touch with Anandhakumar, who met them with Sriram, to act as translators.

While in Kanyakumari, the two French journalists, accompanied by a local priest who had invited them, went to visit Indian Rare Earths Limited to meet the priest’s acquaintance working there. None of the Indian journalists accompanied them. On being asked to leave since they did not have the requisite permissions, the French journalists did so immediately. There was no filming on the premises at any point.

While the French journalists left the country soon after, their Indian colleagues have been victims of a barrage of false charges and accusations, both from the police and the BJP. Anandhakumar and Sriram were illegally detained by the Kanyakumari police for two days and labelled as “anti-nationals”, a term loosely used these days to intimidate and threaten people. Ravishankar believes she is being targeted because of the extensive investigative work she has undertaken to expose the illegal beach sand mining in the region. It is condemnable that the state, instead of protecting a journalist who has revealed rampant corruption and losses to the government, is instead harassing her. Two of the journalists have had to secure anticipatory bail to protect themselves against harassment by the police.

Even more shocking is that a Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping and Shipping, Pon Radhakrishnan, is propagating the fake news that they had “arrived by sea to spy on the Kanyakumari port” and were “traitors” to the country and had “stolen national secrets”. See video here.

The NWMI calls upon:

·         The Tamil Nadu police to desist from harassing journalists and stop the witch-hunt to which they are being subjected.

·         The BJP to ask its members to cease false propaganda and innuendo against journalists who were doing their job.

Journalists need the freedom to investigate and report on stories of public interest –whether illegal sand mining or corrpuption– and hold those in power accountable – a free press, is after all, one of the cornerstones of a democracy, without which it would be reduced to a farce.

We stand with the journalists in their fight for the truth.


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Mumbai – 1,362 Mahul residents livid after names go missing in voters’ list #WTFnews

Locals fear that about 30,000 project-affected persons could lose their voting rights for lack of official documents; activists claim they are being victimised

Mahul residents have been in the news for their battle against air and water pollution. But they now have another fight up their sleeve, as the names of 1,362 citizens from the area have been excluded from the voters’ list.

A few Mahul residents received notices on Wednesday that their names had been excluded, making them ineligible to vote. Many of them moved to the area after being relocated from slums in Mumbai, and said they their new documents were yet to be drawn up. The residents feared that if their exclusion from the voters’ list continued, then about 30,000 project-affected persons shifted to Mahul could lose their voting rights.

The residents had received a letter under RTI, which was written by the local office of the Election Commission to the BMC in March 2018. It said the EC was in the process of excluding the names of 1,362 from the voting list.

Anita Dhole was a resident of Ghatkopar, and her house was demolished in the Tansa pipeline project. She was asked to go to Mahul, but refused. On Wednesday, she received a letter from the election officer of Ghatkopar informing her that her name had been excluded from the list. “This office [Election Commission] has started a process of excluding the names of slum-dwellers who are rehabilitated to Mahul. The ordinary residence Bhimanagar is shut and hence the name cannot be kept in the voters’ list,” the letter said.

“This is injustice. We are fighting against the Mahul accommodations as the conditions are bad. The Election Commission could have retained our name in the old list. Many of us do not have sufficient documents to include our names in the new voters’ list. You cannot take away our voting rights like this,” Anita said.

Ashok Maskar, who used to stay near SNDT College, Ghatkopar, said over 1,065 names had been removed from the old list. “I am staying on rent after I refused to accept the Mahul room. My name, too, was excluded from the list. We already have issues related to the poor conditions at Mahul, and now this new problem has cropped up,” Maskar, who works for a private company, said.

Social activist Medha Patkar is set to lead a protest march to Azad Maidan on December 15, to highlight the various issues Mahul residents face.

Bilal Khan of the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, who has been helping the residents, said, “The government has just excluded the names of all the dissenters from the voting list. In this way, 30,000 project affected will lose their voting rights. Is this a punishment for protesting against human rights abuse and being dumped in Mumbai’s toxic hell, which is what Mahul is?”

Tejas Samel, deputy district collector for the area, said, “As per guidelines from the Election Commission of India, no voters should remain in the list who are shifted from their permanent residences. Their slums were demolished a year ago, and hence their names were excluded. They were asked to give proof of residence if they were staying there on rent. They can even submit the rent agreement to get their names added to the list. At present, my office is in the process of issuing letters to the Electoral Registration Officer of Mahul to add their names in the Mahul list.”

Mahul resident Anita Dhole is among voters whose names are missing

IIT Bombay report cites ‘low liveability’ of Mahul Village

An interim report by IIT Bombay, released on Wednesday, highlights the low liveability of Mahul Village, where several project-affected persons (PAP) have been shifted over the last. The report says the water in drinking tanks in the area was found to be contaminated, “possibly due to pollution”. It also cites extreme air pollutant concentration levels, blaming them on the area being close to a petroleum refinery and industrial units.

The report said the SRA buildings in Mahul were characterised by their closeness to the BPCL refinery, inaccessibility from the nearest railway stations, and poor neighbourhood planning.

“The buildings have been designed on the principle of occupancy maximisation, ignoring liveability parameters like good air quality,” the report said.

The Bombay High Court had tasked the institute with preparing the report, and the urban development department of the government of Maharashtra. Based on surveys of the Mahul project-affected persons’ township near Trombay, the interim report, focussed on public health, hygiene, impact of human habitation on mangroves, disaster preparedness and structural and architectural issues.

The inception report of the institute on the subject was released in October and focussed on environmental hazards. The final report is expected to be out by the end of the month.

Talking about drinking water, the report said, “The drinking water storage tanks revealed a thin oily film on the water, as well as brownish colour, indicating contamination.”

About the BPCL refinery, the report observes that the pollutants emitted from the combustion process in the refinery may contaminate the site. Observing that the area severely lacked hygiene, the report said this made residents prone to contagious and epidemic diseases.

The report said the drainage system was found broken and leaking in various places, leading to fecal matter lying on the streets.

Bilal Khan, of the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, which has taken the matter to the High Court said, “This report only reiterates what the residents have been telling the government for a year now. This should be enough for them to relocate the residents and provide them with better housing.”

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TISS student commits suicide, blames #MeToo tainted Prof for making him depressed 

 TISS students Make demand after professor named in management student’s suicide note

A day after a 24-year-old management student from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) took his life at his Powai residence, the students’ union at the institute has demanded the suspension of professor P. Vijay Kumar, who was named in the deceased’s suicide note.

A similar demand was made after the professor was accused of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement in October.

Sanket Tambe (24), a student of TISS’s Organization, Development, Change and Leadership course, ended his life on Monday at the 14-storeyed Powai Cosmopolitan building in Rambaug. The incident took place at 3 a.m. and a security guard found the body of Tambe, the Powai police said.

“After the accusations surfaced in October, we had demanded that the professor be suspended immediately. However, the response by the authorities was not formally communicated to us. We now learn that he went on indefinite leave. We will exert the demand for his suspension on Friday and submit the same in writing,” Jit Hazarika, students’ union leader, TISS, said. A candle-light march and vigil is also being planned, he said.

Meanwhile, the Powai police said on Thursday that they will soon call the professor for interrogation. “Tambe had studied Engineering and Law before this course. Our inquiry indicates that he was frustrated and depressed. He mentioned he was ‘suffering’ and ‘going through hell’ in his suicide note and that the professor had called him a ‘jobless graduate in the market’. We have booked him for abetment to suicide under the Indian Penal Code,” senior police inspector Anil Pophale, Powai Police Station, said.

One of Tambe’s long-time friends from his locality said that he had been depressed for months. “He had told me several times how he was fed up of a particular professor. He never mentioned his name earlier, but when the #MeToo incident was reported, he was told me that it was the same person. I tried to cheer him up by saying that the man would learn his lesson. Around September, Tambe told me that the professor would threaten to not let him appear for exams and refuse to take his viva,” the friend said.

“[Tambe] met me three to four days back and he looked much better than before and then I could not meet him because of work,” he said.

A senior official at TISS said, “The deceased had taken temporary withdrawal after the first semester. We will extend full cooperation to the investigating authorities.”

The Hindu reported in October how an alumnus had lodged a formal complaint with the institution about harassment by Mr. Kumar.

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Maharashtra – State allows prosecution of 5 activists for sedition #WTFnews

The state government this week granted sanction to prosecute activists S arrested in the Elgar Parishad case on charges of sedition and waging war against India among other charges under Indian Penal Code.

Assistant commissioner of police (Swargate division) on Thursday filed the sanction order issued by deputy secretary (governor’s office) Vijay Patil on December 10 before special court judge, K D Vadane, through public prosecutor Ujjwala Pawar.

Pawar told TOI, “At the time of filing the chargesheet against the five activists and five others on the run, we had mentioned before the court that the investigation officer had submitted a report seeking government permission to prosecute the activists for committing offences under Section 153 (A) of IPC, among other charges. We had also mentioned that the sanction order would be filed later.”

She said, “The competent authority, after studying the report, accorded sanction under Section 196 (1) of Criminal Procedure Code. After receiving the sanction order, we filed it before court. We had earlier obtained government sanction for prosecuting the activists under sections of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,” she added.

Dhawale, Wilson, Gadling, Sen and Raut were arrested on June 6 for alleged links with banned CPI (Maoist) during simultaneous raids by Pune police. Five other activists were arrested for the same reason in August. On November 15, Pune police had filed a chargesheet against Gadling and the four other activists arrested on June 6 and five “underground Maoist operatives”, including three top Maoist leaders, for “plot to kill the Prime Minister of India, conspiracy to create unrest, overthrow the government and wage a war against the country”.

The court on Thursday deferred hearing on the bail plea of Gadling as he, Dhawale, Wilson and Raut were not produced before court as no escort was available for seeking their custody from Yerawada central jail. The court will continue hearing arguments of Gadling and others on December 17.

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‘Criminal Justice- in the Shadow of Caste’ on  Discrimination against Dalit and Adivasis Prisoners and Victims of Police excesses

The data under SC/ST (PoA) 1989 (conviction percentage under the SCs and ST s (PoA) Act in conjunction with IPC remained at 25.7% for SCs and 20.8% for STs and the acquittal percentage 74.2% for SCs and 79.2% for STs, NCRB 2017
) in
 cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis is clear evidence poor implementation of the Atrocity Act and the presence of caste hierarchies in the mechanisms of justice delivery to the affected Dalits and Adivasis communities.

In this context National Dalit Movement for Justice-NCDHR in collaboration with American Bar Association (ABA) organised a three days training programme from 14th -16th December 2018 in Viswa Yuva Kendra for the Dalits and Adivasis Special Public Prosecutors  to provide an opportunity to the Special Public Prosecutors appointed/ to be appointed, as per Rule 4(5) of PoA Act, to enhance prosecution knowledge and skill to render Justice to the Dalit and Adivasi communities affected by atrocities.

Keeping in mind the poor statistics ,National Dalit Movement for Justice has taken the initiative to engage with committed lawyers in order to capacitate and encourage them to be  appointed as Special Public Prosecutors (SPPs) for prosecuting cases of atrocity against Dalit and Adivasi communities under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocity) Act, 1989.NDMJ-NCDHR is engaging with committed lawyers to  develop their perspectives and capacities  to pursue the cases of atrocities  by intervening in the special court with utmost legal efficiency. The communities can access justice only when there are committed and efficient lawyers who understand the challenges present in the judicial system.

Section 15 of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989 and Rule 4(5) of Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Rules, 1995 empowers Dalits and Adivasis victims to file petitions for appointment of Special Public Prosecutors of own choice. NDMJ – NCDHR has given considerable importance to   the above mentioned section. This provision becomes very crucial to enter courts that have been the domain of politically appointed lawyers with biased mind-sets, it can be extremely helpful as a tool for Special court intervention for the victims for accessing justice

On the occasion, A study report on  Discrimination Against Dalit And Adivasis Prisoners and Victims of Police Excesses was also released. The study exclusively focuses on the Dalits and Adivasis accussed of crimes as , till date no in-depth study has been made on the prejudices against Dalit and Adivasi prisoners in Indian Prison System. This study is an astounding one of its kind, which aims to explore the pains and agony of victims of police excesses and those incarcerated. The study interestingly brings out the instances of discrimination based on caste at every layer of the criminal justice administration system

Main Findings:     

The findings detailed in this report show the gravity of caste discrimination against Dalits and Adivasis by police institutions. Deeply entrenched prejudices against Dalit’sand Adivasis play an important role in their harassment and incarceration. There are allegations that police officers have their own caste and gender biases and often behave towards Dalit’s and adivasis in a discriminatory way. Usually the victims of police torture are mainly Dalit’s and adivasis. They are often picked up and jailed onconcocted charges. The case studies and findings revels the treatment of people belonging to Dalits and Adivasi by the police and their discriminatory behaviors. They are subjected to illegal arrests and detention and physical torture, by the police in the name of nabbing the “habitual offenders”. The members of the community, including men, women and children, are subjected to systematic, continuing, ruthless treatment in the hands of the police. It reveals that it is handy for the police to catch hold of the Dalits and Adivasi communities and foist false cases on them for crimes, which they had not committed. Dalits and other indigent people too poor to seek legal counsel obviously spend too long a time behind bars, unable to seek justice even when they might be innocent.

The findings detailed in this report also show prison systems do not function at the level of the United Nations’ Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment ofPrisoners. The relevant international obligations and standards are deliberately disregarded. The deliberate physical, psychological, mistreatment of inmates by prison officials is a persistent and pervasive issue of concern.Dalits and Adivasis are particularly vulnerable to deliberate mistreatment.

The research shows how caste based prejudice lead to high number of vulnerable communities inside the prisons and how often the prisoners are denied the minimum legal protections and legal process guarantees during their arrest , detention or imprisonment. Findings reveals how barriers are imposed on incarcerated Dalit’s inside the jails, the infringements of their legitimate rights being Dalits in terms

of their right to food, wage, employment, accommodation, medical, bail, parole and similar other important right to trial and appeals. All these together impede the future success of both families and of communities at large.

Key Recommendations       

  1. States must ensure that torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishments are not employed before, during or after any interrogation inside or outside the Police Custody by police officials
  2.  Ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,  Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
  3.  Ensure that government take measures to protect certain section of the SC, ST and DNT from being targeted on the pretext of habitual offenders and caste bias by the police
  4. The State Police Departments in conjunction with the State Legal Services Authority (SLSA ),should conduct training and sensitization programmeson discrimination free atmosphere in Jails and police stations, rights of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, and their duties and responsibilities
  5. Providing medical assistance, accommodation and beddings, adequate wages and employment, to inmates in prisons needs no reaffirmation and discrimination to basic minimum facilities based on caste is a violation of human rights. All State Governments should concentrate on making dis crimination free atmosphere a reality, including prisoners.
  6. Legal Aid System needs an urgent overhaul. Such useful state instrument which can prove vital for thousands of illiterate and poor undertrials needs the strong endorsement of the Union Government and states. In this regard, the Law Commission’s proposal for new lawyers to do a two-year compulsory stint with the legal aid system is still hanging in fire and needs to be enforced immediately.

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