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Archives for : Kractivism

Meet Niranjan Takle, the journalist who broke the Judge Loya story

Eight months after breaking one of the biggest stories of 2017, Takle remains unemployed.

In Class 4, Niranjan Takle, the journalist who broke the Judge Loya story, wanted to become a lawyer.

This was because in 1971, the state government had acquired 16 acres of his family’s agricultural land, for development of low-cost housing projects, without due compensation. As the family waited for their due, Niranjan’s dream of owning a bicycle was also put on hold.

Back then, a municipal school student in Nashik, Maharashtra, Takle would spend part of his morning delivering newspapers. Recalling those days, Takle says, “My father owned a small newspaper and magazine stall. While I did not understand the depth or the social and political implications, I was attached to newspapers and magazines. I would deliver newspapers to our subscribers, and in order to sell them, I would shout out the biggest news at the bus stand.”

At such a young age, Takle hadn’t thought he would be an investigative journalist. Let alone dream of breaking a story that would make him unemployed for months on end—or a “political hot potato”, as he puts it.

On November 20, 2017, 51-year-old Niranjan Takle authored: “A family breaks its silence: Shocking details emerge in death of judge presiding over Sohrabuddin trial” for The Caravan. The story was about the death of special Central Bureau of Investigation court judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya, who was hearing the 2005 fake encounter case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh. Takle’s story raised disturbing questions about inconsistencies in the reported account of Loya’s death. In the 2005 case, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national president Amit Shah was the prime accused.

The next day, Takle wrote a second piece for The Caravan, headlined: “Chief Justice Mohit Shah made an offer of Rs 100 crore to my brother for a favourable judgment in the Sohrabuddin case: Late Judge Loya’s Sister”. While the first story broke down the events that led up to Loya’s death, the second piece established in detail—through testimonies of family members—the pressure Loya was facing while hearing the Sohrabuddin case. It also highlighted how the Supreme Court’s 2012 order was violated, and underlined how the news cycle was seemingly coordinated with to keep the judgement—the acquittal of Shah in the 2005 case—out of the media limelight.

Going back to the start

In 1985, Takle had enrolled in Pune University to pursue engineering. “Those times were pretty different. Rajiv Gandhi was the prime minister, he was talking about science and technology. Sam Pitroda was heading Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) which was leading the telecom revolution. So everybody wanted to be an engineer. And even I got carried away. In the late 1980s, GDP was growing, it was above eight per cent, the highest ever. Still, the government lost due to Bofors.”

Takle and I are outside the Constitution Club, sweating in the Delhi heat. He was in Delhi to attend the Inclusive India Citizen’s Conclave, and also participate in a panel discussion on “Silencing The Media”, which was being chaired by The Caravan’s political editor Hartosh Singh Bal.

Finding no place to sit down, we head to the Club’s sprawling flight of stairs, only to be shooed away by security personnel. There are many people in that gathering of students, activists and journalists who want to speak to him, and he patiently engages with all of them. We finally sit down on the parapet outside the air-conditioned building to continue our conversation.

Takle describes the chronicle of events that brought him to journalism. “In big rallies, all these leaders used to say there is an account in Swiss bank, there will be an arrest in 15 days. An idea started creeping into my mind that this is all propaganda.” In 1994, Takle started his own company in Nashik. “It was a good experiment. The economy was growing very well.”

Despite this economic development, the government was defeated. “Because of Babri Masjid and the Harshad Mehta scam,” Takle says. “There was propaganda on news channels again. Propaganda was created to divide the society on religious lines. So I thought if it was all about propaganda and the media was going to lead it, why not be a part of it and do the right thing?”

From bureau chief to being unemployed

I started a local cable news channel Vedh in 2000,” says Takle. “In 2005, I joined CNN-IBN. I remember on my first day, one of my stories was a launching one. It was about smuggling of placenta chords from government hospitals.” Initially employed as a stringer for a few months, Takle was subsequently hired as a correspondent. In 2008, he became Network 18’s Maharashtra (north) bureau chief. “But the news from Nashik was only about grapes, onions, kumbh mela and farmers’ suicides,” Takle says, adding, “I started feeling restricted to those news stories only.”

So Takle moved to Bombay to work for The Week. “I was there for seven years (2011-2017), I could do a lot of stories there, from culture to agriculture.” However, there was one story that he says The Week refused to run. It was this story that would make Takle unemployed, for at least eight months now.

Speaking of his resignation from The Week, Takle says, “I left because they refused to publish the Loya story.” This story was later published by The Caravan. Takle says The Week didn’t give him a reason for this editorial call. This was despite him being in possession of all the documents required to support his story. “I had the post-mortem report, the forensic analysis, histopathology report, viscera analysis report, letter written by Anuj Loya, diary pages by Anuradha Biyani—all the documents that were published later,” Takle says.

“So until they refuse [the story], it is their intellectual property. But after they refused it,  it was no longer their intellectual property. It is mine now.” And so he resigned.

‘He doesn’t trust the media’

But that’s not all that kept Takle going. The reason behind his continuous search for a news organisation that would publish his story was a conversation he had with Anuj, Judge Loya’s son.

Takle knew the story he sought to make public was a very big matter. He understood the scale and gravity of what publishing the story would mean. He also knew that it was equally essential for someone from the Loya family to speak out.

In this effort, he went to meet Anuj Loya, who was living with his grandfather at that time in Pune.

“To start a conversation, I asked him, ‘what are you doing now?’ But his grandfather replied and said, ‘he is studying’. I asked again, ‘what are you studying?’ The grandfather replied again, ‘He is studying law’.” Takle sensed that something was going on.

Even to Takle’s subsequent question, the grandfather replied, instead of Anuj. “I asked him [grandfather], why isn’t he [Anuj] answering. I’ve been asking him so many questions. To which the grandfather said, ‘he doesn’t believe in any person, any institution in this world—not the judicial system, not the political system or the media’,” Takle says.

Then, Takle asked the grandfather the reason behind Anuj’s disbelief in the media. “After Brij’s death, he lost faith,” the grandfather said, and this disturbed Takle. “I was very shocked to hear this young man had lost all faith. I telephoned my daughter who is nearly the same age as Anuj. I asked her what I could do to restore his faith. And she told me that while I couldn’t do much about other aspects, I could restore his faith in the media.”

“And this has kept me going. Honestly, this is why I resigned after they refused my story,” Takle says.

But things were to become even more complicated after the story’s publication.

On November 27, 2017, a week after The Caravan published their first report on Judge Loya, The Indian Express published two reports: “CBI judge BH Loya’s death in 2014: Nothing suspicious, say two Bombay HC judges who were at hospital”, and “CBI judge Loya’s death in 2014: Can never get past grief, says family”. In these reports, The Indian Express disputed the Caravan story stating: “…crucial claims in the Caravan report … are not supported by evidence on the ground, including official records.”

The Caravan has stated that it stands by each of its stories. Following Supreme Court’s judgement on a batch of petitions seeking an independent probe into Judge Loya’s death, The Caravan Executive Editor Vinod Jose tweeted: “…Caravan magazine stands by each of its 22 stories.”  Bal on numerous occasions called out The India Express‘ “journalistic sins“. On January 26, 2018, the Caravan also published a report, raising questions on The Indian Express‘ report. In one of its November 27, 2017, report, The Indian Express had, among other things, disputed the Caravan‘s claim that the ECG machine was not working. The Indian Express report was accompanied by a copy of the ECG report, dated November 30.

The Caravan‘s January 26 report stated: “The Indian Express, in an attempt to discredit the family’s concerns, published the chart of an ECG test purportedly carried out on Loya at Dande Hospital. The time and date on the chart indicated that the ECG test had been carried out on the morning of 30 November 2014, even though Loya died on the night intervening 30 November and 1 December.”

The Indian Express later published an “update” justifying the date on the ECG as a technical glitch.

However, according to documents submitted before the Supreme Court the ECG machine at Dande Hospital was not working, The Caravan reported, raising more questions.

Speaking about the repercussions of doing such a story, Takle says, “I am a political hot potato. No one wants to touch me now.” After eight months of breaking one of the biggest stories in 2018, Takle remains unemployed. He says he approached multiple organisations for jobs, but to no avail.

Organisations have approached Takle to freelance for them, but he says he wants a regular full-time job.

Meanwhile, his friends told him to take the precaution of not sticking to a particular routine, just in case. Don’t leave home at the same time, don’t go to a particular restaurant every day. Takle has also been on the receiving end of abuse on Facebook. He hasn’t accused anyone of any crime in the story, but “as is the case of any Right-wing organisation, they were claiming the blame.”

Relationship with The Caravan

After the initial two stories by Takle, The Caravan would go on to publish nearly 20 other stories related to Loya’s death. While some were under The Caravan’s byline, others were authored by Atul Dev, Anosh Malekar and Nikita Saxena, among others.

Newslaundry spoke to Bal to understand why the magazine ran a story that several others chose not to run.

Bal says, “In our case, the question with a story never is who this hurts, who it favours. Those are irrelevant questions for us. We run any story that comes to us—we look at it in terms of does it make a good story, have we done the work necessary to be done—and if it’s fine, we run it.”

Bal says, “People will not choose to run a story like this because they are afraid of the consequences in the context of who is in political power, who is not. In our case that is never a consideration.”

Bal mentions Niranjan’s characteristics that stood out to him over the course of their work together. He says, “You need a lot of courage to even attempt a story, when you don’t have an organisation backing you, as was the case with him for a period of time.” He says that courage is very rare in Indian journalists, adding, “To persist with it, when you have no outlet: that is even rarer.”

Bal praises Takle’s tenacity as an investigative journalist. “The very fact that he stayed with the story, going back to consistently follow up and in the aftermath, continued to cooperate as our young reporters—who have over three-four months put in an enormous amount of similar investigative, on-the-ground legwork—is a clear sign that somebody believes in what they’ve done.”

Despite this, Takle has no takers. “The very fact that he doesn’t have a job, that he is facing difficulties, is a perfect indication of why journalists don’t pursue such stories,” Bal says. “Everybody wants to admire such things from a distance, nobody actually wants to take the risks that go with such stories. It is not just the biggest story of the year, it is the biggest story of the Modi tenure.”

Would The Caravan hire Takle? “We would like [to hire] journalists of Niranjan’s seniority, not just Niranjan, but a host of journalists who cover a number of issues that we know need to be covered but we don’t have the resources.” He adds, “We would love it if people step in, if the public endorses this journalism. If the magazine has a greater circulation, that [hiring] would be one of the first things that we would do.”

While Takle has risked a lot to do justice to a story of such magnitude, in return, he has found little respite. Some of his journalist friends still do not talk to him. And unfortunately, there are no provisions for independent journalists provided under the Working Journalists Act.

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Who is a Maoist in India?

All through the UPA rule, any Adivasi leader who mobilised protests was termed a Maoist.  The NDA government is no different

Why do governments feel that Dalits and Adivasis, despite all the atrocities they face, will tolerate everything passively until prodded by Maoists?
The recent arrest of five activists in Maharashtra and one in Delhi, ostensibly in connection with the violence that broke out after the Bhima Koregaon Dalit rally in January, once again bears out this government attitude. All five have been charged with helping Maoists, who, say the police, were behind the rally.

Similar allegations were made after the killing of a Dalit family in Khairlanji led to protests in Maharashtra. The brutal killings which took place in full view of the village in broad daylight, didn’t trouble the state; the protests did.

In September 2006, Surekha Bhootmange and her daughter Priyanka were paraded naked before being sexually brutalised and killed by a ‘high’ caste mob. Two young sons of the family were also killed.
After failing to get the police to act for over two months, Dalit protests in Chandrapur turned violent. That’s when the Congress-NCP government led by the late Vilasrao Deshmukh woke up—to wonder whether there was a “Maoist hand” in the protests.

All through the UPA rule, any Adivasi leader who mobilised protests was termed a Maoist. The list includes singer Jiten Marandi, journalist Dayamani Barla from Jharkhand and school teacher Soni Sori from Chhattisgarh. The UPA seemed to regard Adivasis as a simple, contented lot—till the Maoists instigated them. From Chhattisgarh to Odisha, hundreds of protesting and even non-protesting tribals were arrested and branded Maoists.

The UPA chose to ignore the issues which agitated these Adivasis: mostly displacement from their forest homes by so-called “development”, in the form of mega projects. Accordingly, the Niyamgiri Hills inhabited by the Dongria Kondh tribe of Odisha, who were opposing the setting up of an aluminium refinery by the multinational corporation Vedanta, were described as Maoist zones and saw a heavy deployment of security forces.

Notwithstanding all its differences with the Congress, the NDA government is following the same strategy. While Adivasis continue to fill jails, the ruling party has a curious attitude towards Dalits. It badly wants to woo this section, but at the same time, seems blind to the daily humiliations being faced by Dalits across the country.

It’s not as if Dalits were being treated just fine when the UPA was in power—Khairlanji is enough proof to the contrary. But the NDA rule has seen a rise in open, blatant violence against Dalits.
The images of bare-backed Dalits being publicly flogged in Una remains a powerful memory. So does the ugly aftermath of Rohith Vemula’s suicide.

Instances of Dalit grooms being attacked for riding a horse seem to have increased. So common have videos of so-called upper castes assaulting Dalits become, that when one watches the latest such video: of a 13-year-old being thrashed by boys belonging to the “Darbar” caste in Gujarat—
one wonders if this isn’t some older video being circulated again.

Do politicians think that in this age when every act of violence is filmed and transmitted, often by the perpetrators themselves, Dalit youth will not erupt in anger at the impunity enjoyed by the assailants? This is not just an educated generation, but one conscious of its citizenship rights. The Constitution may be an abstraction for most youth, but not for Dalit youth, because the man they worship was
its architect.

The second objectionable angle to this entire business of blaming Maoists is the premise that belief in Maoism is a crime. The latest reason given by the Maharashtra police to ask for an extension of police remand of the five activists, is that the accused were allegedly involved in organising a lecture at JNU in memory of a slain Maoist. Incidentally, this memorial lecture is being held since 2012.

One wonders what crime this constitutes. Every year, the Anuradha Ghandy Memorial lecture is held in Mumbai in memory of the late Maoist who was born, educated and worked in Mumbai. The Mumbai Press Club, Mumbai University’s Convocation Hall, the Anjuman-I-Islam library, St Xavier’s College hall—these venues have seen full houses at these lectures.

The Supreme Court and various High Courts have held that merely being a Maoist sympathiser, possessing literature that propagates Maoism, even being a member of a banned organisation, could not be considered a crime. All that was seized from these activists was literature, and claim the police, a sum of `80,000 from one of them.

Yet, the judge extended the police remand for a week. Such is the power of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. It is presumed that if the state has used this draconian law, the accused must have been planning to indulge in “anti-national” activities. Few charged under UAPA are convicted, but the dread created by the potential crimes it invokes and its sweeping powers of detention make the use of the Act itself
a punishment.

The day her police remand was extended, Professor Shoma Sen, who was due to retire in August as head of the English Department, was suspended by Nagpur University. Contrast this with one fact: policemen, paid to uphold the law, who face charges of murdering innocents in the Mumbai  1992-93 riots, have spent not a moment in police custody.

Source- Indian Express

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Bhima Koregaon Violence – Arrest of Activists is Stifling Dissent #DefendDissent

A protest outside the Collector’s Office demanding the release of Sudhir Dhawale, a Dalit activist associated with the Elgaar Parishad who was arrested from his residence in Mumbai on June 6 in connection with the Bhima-Koregaon rally on January 1.

Five rights activists, four of them associated with the Elgaar Parishad held at Bhima-Koregaon on January 1, have been arrested for alleged links with naxalites.

IN a bizarre turn of events after the violence that broke out on January 1 during the 200th anniversary of the Bhima-Koregaon battle, five rights activists have been arrested for their alleged links with naxalites. According to the police, the “Elgaar Parishad” meeting that saw hundreds of Dalits congregate in Pune on December 31, 2017, was funded by naxalites. The five activists have been charged with conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The authorities believe the Elgaar Parishad (loosely translated as clarion call) instigated the violence on January 1 at the victory pillar, the monument that commemorates the battle near Ahmednagar. Surendra Gadling, a human rights lawyer from Nagpur; Sudhir Dhawale, Dalit rights leader and editor of Vidrohi; Rona Wilson, a New Delhi-based social activist; Shoma Sen, a professor of English in Nagpur University; and Mahesh Raut, a former recipient of the Prime Minister’s Rural Development Fellowship were arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, which gives no scope for anticipatory bail. They join the ranks of an increasing number of moderate activists and social workers arrested on false charges just because they believe in a cause and are becoming a thorn in the side of the government. But the police call them urban Maoists, that is, they take the Maoist ideology to urban areas.

A lawyer said (on the condition of anonymity given the current climate of harassment): “The battle for [their] release will be long and hard, as we have seen each time an activist or social worker is arrested. There is always an agenda behind the arrest; this case is no different.”

Dalits played a stellar role in a division of the British army which defeated the Peshwa rulers in the Third Anglo-Maratha War in 1818. For Dalits, the battle was not about joining forces with the British but a victory over their oppressors, the Brahmin Peshwas. Every year on January 1, thousands of Dalits make a pilgrimage to the monument, an innocuous obelisk with the names of Mahar soldiers inscribed on it. It is located between Pune and Ahmednagar near a village called Bhima-Koregaon along the Bhima river.

As 2018 marked the bicentennial of the battle, Dalit organisations had planned celebrations at the ground. On December 31, rights activists, some politicians, social workers, leaders of Dalit organisations and their supporters held the Elgaar Parishad rally at Shaniwarwada in Pune. Dhawale was instrumental in planning the rally. Jignesh Mevani, a member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, was among the key speakers at the rally. He, too, has been accused of having links with naxalites.

The main accusation is that other than Rona Wilson, all the other accused were present at the Elgaar Parishad and used their naxalite connections to fund the programme.

According to Jaideo Gaikwad, a member of the Maharashtra Legislative Council from Pune, the rally was peaceful and its leaders essentially spoke about the need to fight for Dalit rights and welfare. Videos uploaded on YouTube prove this.

Involvement of right-wing groups

Gaikwad believes that the Pune rally and the extensive preparations that took place at the Bhima-Koregaon monument began to rile troublemakers among Marathas and Brahmins such as Milind Ekbote of the Samasta Hindu Aghadi and Shambhaji Bhide, who leads the Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan in the Sangli-Kolhapur-Satara belt. “I was at the site and we spoke to many people who said Ekbote had been in the area and young Maratha boys had begun to assemble around the village. The air was certainly restive on December 31, 2017,” he said.

Eyewitness accounts say that as pilgrims started arriving, people began throwing stones at vehicles, ransacking shops and in some areas openly clashing with Dalits who were on their way to Bhima-Koregaon. The situation took an ugly and tragic turn when one man lost his life in the violence, Gaikwad said.

Milind Ekbote, Samastha Hindu Aghadi leader. He is one of the accused in the Bhima-Koregaon violence case.   –  by special arrangement

In spite of ample evidence, including credible eyewitness accounts, proving the involvement of right-wing and Maratha fringe groups in the Bhima-Koregaon violence, only Ekbote, a self-proclaimed champion of the Maratha community and Hindu supremacy, has been arrested. Ekbote was arrested in March following severe pressure from Dalit groups. The octogenarian Bhide has been given a clean chit by the police and the Devendra Fadnavis government in Maharashtra.

Ravindra Kadam, Joint Commissioner of Police, Pune, told mediapersons that a specific letter found during a raid conducted on April 17 revealed “an assassination plot” on the lines of the one conducted aginst former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, to kill Modi. This accusation has shaken the rights activists, who say it is far from the truth.

Many activists Frontline spoke to said that none of the five arrested activists had the capability to carry out a terror operation. An activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the BJP government was targeting human rights activists it was not comfortable with. “Any dissent is considered anti-national; whistle-blowers are killed and whoever stands up to them gets strapped to their radar, which is dangerous as they can be targeted at any time.”

The lawyer, writer and former social worker Arun Ferriera was a political prisoner for six years on similar charges. He said: “Sadly, it has become a political case, and under the Unlawful (Activities) Prevention Act it will be a tough legal battle.” Ferriera, who is closely monitoring the recent case, said the arrests were made following a first information report filed on January 1 against Mevani and the student activist Umar Khalid and another filed on January 8 against Dhawale, the Kabir Kala Manch, and the Republican Panthers for allegedly inciting communal violence through hate speeches at the Elgaar Parishad rally. They were charged with Section 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

In March, the police added 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC to the charges. This would make their case even more difficult, Ferriera said. Apparently, using a statement given by the Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba, who was arrested in 2013 for his connection with a banned Maoist organisation, the police brought Surendra Gadling and Rona Wilson into this case. Ferriera questioned the legality of this action.

Subodh More, a Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader in Pune, said: “The police have made such an effort to arrest five people. What happened to the FIRs filed by those affected by the clashes at Bhima-Koregaon, people whose property was burnt by vandals or were injured severely?” He said: “If that letter [seized by the police] was so serious, why did they wait for six weeks to arrest the accused?” Moreover, “how is it that a BJP leader, Sambit Patra, was waving the letter on television channels? How did a politician have access to such a sensitive letter? How can one letter contain so much information? An assassination attempt, names of activists, funds for the Elgaar, names of organisations? It seems absurd,” he said. He added that recently Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad supporters took out a procession in Kolhapur wielding swords and guns but no action was taken. The police just stood watching. “They denied us permission to hold the Elgaar. How is it that a group that brandishes weapons is given permission to hold a public rally?” he asked.

The activists

The five accused were arrested from their homes in a joint operation in Nagpur, Delhi and Mumbai on June 6. They are being held in judicial custody in Pune. A look at their profiles establishes the reason why the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is perceived to be going after them.

Sudhir Dhawale is a well-known Dalit rights activist and editor of Vidrohia fortnightly magazine. The magazine has grown in size and strength and is an effective voice of Dalits and other marginalised communities. A staunch Ambedkarite, Dhawale founded the Republican Panther Jaliantachi Chalwal (Movement for Annihilation of Caste).

Dhawale has been on the establishment’s radar for a while. He was arrested in 2011 for alleged links with naxalites. He was released from the Gondia prison in 2014, but he continued his work for the community. It was at his house, which the police raided on April 17, that the incriminating “assassination letter” was found. Subodh More said Dhawale conceived and planned the Elgaar Parishad around the Bhima-Koregaon bicentenary celebrations. He wanted it to be a platform for Dalit leaders and organisations to speak publicly, discuss and unite on issues facing the community.

Surendra Gadling is a senior labour and human rights lawyer based in Nagpur. He is sympathetic to Dalit and Adivasi issues and is known to fight cases pertaining to illegal killings, atrocities and police excesses, and of youngsters accused of naxalite links. At present, he is representing Saibaba. Gadling is an active member of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights.

Incidentally, Ravindra Kadam, who is leading the investigation, was the Director General of Police in the naxalite region a few years ago. He was reportedly instrumental in the arrest of Saibaba and Dhawale (in 2011). A source in Nagpur said Kadam had been trying to bring Gadling to book for years.

Mahesh Raut, 30, a graduate of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, is the youngest among the arrested. He has done extensive work in the Adivasi belt of Vidarbha region. Raut is known for mobilising communities to fight for land and against local mining projects.

Shoma Sen is professor and head of the English department in Nagpur University. “It is not clear why they picked her,” said Subodh More. Shoma Sen attended the Elgaar Parishad and is associated with women’s rights programmes. Her husband was once in the underground Left movement and that is perhaps the reason why the couple’s names figure in police records.

Rona Wilson’s arrest is a curious case. A graduate from Jawaharlal Nehru University, he works with the Committee for Release of Prisoners. He has actively campaigned against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He is not associated with the Elgaar Parishad. The police apparently found documents suggesting that he was part of the assassination conspiracy and thus established a link with the other accused. Wilson was also involved in the Saibaba case. According to a Left source, Wilson is a committed social worker and it is unlikely that he is involved with extremists.

Of the two chief culprits in the Bhima-Koregaon violence, Ekbote, 60, was probably the easier fish to catch. “Mainly because he lacks the political clout that Bhide wields,” says a police source. After failing as a politician and with no support from right-wing parties, Ekbote has been mobilising Maratha and Brahmin youths against minorities and marginalised communities, who according to him are getting better opportunities and surging ahead on the back of reservation in education and jobs.

Although cases were filed against him and there was substantial evidence, including video recordings of his hate speeches and instigation of violence at Bhima-Koregaon, Ekbote managed to evade arrest. He was arrested after the Supreme Court, on March 14, cancelled his interim bail. Massive Dalit rallies had been held across Maharashtra demanding his arrest.

Meanwhile, undeterred by calls for his arrest, Bhide continues to ride his bicycle across Sangli district and make inflammatory speeches about minorities and Dalits. Bhide’s formidable followers include Modi and Fadnavis. “We will continue our agitation until they take action against him,” Prakash Ambedkar, leader of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh, said.

Bhide is a self-proclaimed protector of Chhatrapati Shivaji’s legacy. Unfortunately, he twists history and spreads all kinds of propaganda in the villages around Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur, says Zain Sheikh, a local social worker. He says Bhide holds two major events every year, which are attended by thousands of local people. One is the Durgamata Doard, during Navaratri, when his followers draw rangoli and decorate the front of homes with flowers. They leave out Mulsim and Dalit homes.

Bhide is said to have claimed that “if you kill one Muslim or Dalit, you will be reborn 100 times as a Hindu”.

Source- FrontLine

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Here’s why experts are skeptical of the ‘gaming disorder’ diagnosis

We need better data

The World Health Organization has added “gaming disorder” to its diagnostic handbook, but experts argue that we still don’t know to claim that gaming disorder exists. The evidence is inconsistent, they say, and the criteria are too broad.

According to the WHO, the following criteria indicate gaming disorder: gaming is strongly preferred over other activities, the patient does not stop even when there are negative consequences like doing badly at work, compulsive gaming strains the patient’s life or relationships, and all this has been happening for at least a year.

Here’s how ICD-11 defines gaming disorder:

Gaming disorder is characterized by a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior (‘digital gaming’ or ‘video-gaming’), which may be online (i.e., over the internet) or offline, manifested by: 1) impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context); 2) increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities; and 3) continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences. The behavior pattern is of sufficient severity to result in significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational or other important areas of functioning. The pattern of gaming behavior may be continuous or episodic and recurrent. The gaming behavior and other features are normally evident over a period of at least 12 months in order for a diagnosis to be assigned, although the required duration may be shortened if all diagnostic requirements are met and symptoms are severe.

The addition of gaming disorder to the ICD had been in the proposal stage for months, and the WHO already seemed to be moving in this direction. That’s despite the concerns expressed by some mental health professionals, who fear that the likely downsides of codifying gaming addiction in this way would far outweigh any potential benefits.

“It’s really a junk diagnosis,” said Christopher J. Ferguson, Ph.D., in a phone interview with Polygon on Monday. He added that “by and large,” existing research “does not support the existence of gaming disorder.”

The WHO isn’t the only respected health body that has been trying to come up with language to describe video game addiction in a medical diagnosis. The American Psychiatric Association publishes the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The organization released the latest DSM update, the fifth edition, in 2013. “Internet gaming disorder” is listed in DSM-5, but only as a “condition for further study” — not a clinical diagnosis.

Last year, Ferguson co-authored a journal article arguing against both the WHO’s and APA’s proposals to define video game addiction as its own disorder. The authors of the article, which was published in the journal Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, said that “little clarity has been achieved regarding diagnostic criteria and appropriate symptoms” for video game addiction, and that the proposals were thus “premature.”

“It really feels like the WHO rushed this, and maybe didn’t put in the effort to listen to a wider array of researchers and scholars,” Ferguson told Polygon.

The WHO disputes this. The organization made the decision to add gaming disorder to ICD-11 “based on a full review of global evidence, as well as consultation with experts from all regions of the world,” said Dr. Shekhar Saxena, director of the WHO’s Department for Mental Health and Substance Use, during a press conference Monday.

But Ferguson feels that the WHO undertook this effort “pretty non-transparently,” and “made no effort to engage with scholars who were more skeptical” of the gaming disorder concept. And there may have been nonscientific factors at play as well.

Anthony M. Bean, Ph.D., is a Fort Worth, Texas-based clinical psychologist who co-authored the journal article with Ferguson. Bean pointed out that there is evidence that the WHO was influenced by pressure from Asian member states in deciding to add gaming disorder to ICD-11. Countries such as China and South Korea have considered gaming addiction a scourge for years, and have worked to address the issue through laws and other means. The WHO refuted the allegations of political pressure last year, telling Polygon that the decision to define gaming disorder in ICD-11 was “based entirely on technical considerations and not political ones.”

Either way, Bean told Polygon in a phone interview on Monday, the considerations are based on what is at best a correlation, not a causation.

“I don’t think that we have enough research to single it out in this capacity,” Bean said of gaming disorder. He clarified that he’s open to the possibility, saying that any decent scientist should always consider new evidence, but said that it would take a lot more study to confirm that gaming disorder should be a distinct clinical diagnosis.

Since the WHO’s classification explicitly says it’s possible to become addicted to video games in the same way one can develop a gambling problem, it’s no surprise that the game industry sides with the people calling for a wait-and-see approach. The Entertainment Software Association, the trade body representing the U.S. gaming industry, issued a news release earlier this year highlighting a paper published by 36 mental health experts and academics — including Bean and Ferguson — that opposed the WHO’s proposal.

World Health Organization classification of gaming disorder
Artwork from the WHO about the addition of a gaming disorder classification to the ICD.
World Health Organization

The ESA referenced those concerns in a statement to Polygon on Monday, saying, “With the significant opposition from the medical and scientific community, the WHO should consider the mounting evidence put before them before making a decision on the inclusion of a ‘gaming disorder’ in the final version of ICD-11 next year.”

Even the WHO acknowledges that further study is needed, and intends for the classification of gaming disorder to spur additional research. In other words, there seems to be a difficult chicken-and-egg problem here: There isn’t enough research on gaming disorder to define it as a diagnosis, but without health bodies defining it as a diagnosis, it may be less likely for researchers to study the phenomenon in the first place.

“The information and evidence in this area is still incomplete, simply because this was not recognized as a disorder,” said the WHO’s Dr. Saxena, describing the gaming disorder classification in ICD-11 as “a very good first step.” He added, “This disorder being identified using common descriptions will really facilitate research in this area.”

In addition to generating research, the WHO hopes that ICD-11’s gaming disorder definition will give mental health professionals the support they need to describe the issue to patients and devise treatments. Think of a psychologist seeing patients who exhibit symptoms that could fit with gaming disorder, but lacking a firm basis to diagnose it. With ICD-11, that doctor would be able to describe the disorder, relying on a medical standard that bears the imprimatur of the WHO.

At the same time, codifying gaming disorder in the ICD carries risks. Dr. Saxena acknowledged the possibility that this classification could further stigmatize video game addiction, but said the only way to treat people who need help is to be able to identify a disorder. “It’s a condition which needs to be identified, and which can be treated by suitable interventions,” said Dr. Saxena. “And we will make our best attempts to decrease that [stigma] and stop that from acting as a barrier for care.”

Ferguson and Bean said they worry that ICD-11’s definition of gaming disorder is too vague to be useful. Bean noted that it doesn’t distinguish between mild, moderate or severe cases, which leaves it up to clinicians — many of whom don’t have experience with video game addiction and “don’t understand gaming culture to the degree that they can work with gamers” — to decide for themselves.

In addition, both psychologists told Polygon that they generally find gaming addiction to be a symptom of a different underlying mental condition, such as depression or anxiety, rather than a unique disorder itself. They said that a potential danger of separating out gaming disorder is that addressing it could leave those deeper, more serious conditions untreated.

“Nothing good is going to come of this,” said Ferguson of the WHO’s classification. He told Polygon that he would prefer that clinical study of gaming addiction examine “specific mechanisms in some games that may be problematic,” such as loot boxes. Government bodies in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlandshave already ruled that loot crates in certain games qualify as illegal gambling, and Dutch officials are pushing for new legislation to tackle the issue throughout the European Union. Even in the case of regulating loot boxes, though, Ferguson said he would like people to wait until there’s more concrete data on the subject before making public policy decisions.

Bean was less pessimistic, characterizing the WHO’s hope — that adding gaming disorder to the ICD will greatly increase the amount of research being done in the field — as the best possible outcome. But as a psychologist who often deals with parents convinced that their kids are addicted to video games, he fears that the WHO’s decision could have negative consequences. For instance, Bean said he worries that it will encourage treatments that don’t address the real mental conditions at issue, such as the so-called summer camps whose administrators promise they can cure game-addicted teens by taking them off the grid and to the wilderness for a while.

“We need much better data than we have now,” said Ferguson. “There are more risks in warning people prematurely about stuff.

But nothing in this criteria has anything to do with gaming specifically, says Andrew Przybylski, a psychologist at the Oxford Internet Institute who has extensively studied video games and mental health. “You could easily take out the word ‘gaming’ and put in ‘sex’ or ‘food’ or ‘watching the World Cup,’” he says. We know how opiates and nicotine work and what makes themaddictive, but we don’t know the same for games. The gaming disorder definition says nothing about what kinds of games or what features of games might be addicting, and so it’s too broad to be helpful. It’s just stating that sometimes people who play games play them too much. This could be true about any activity and such an attitude, Przybylski says, “could lead to a kind of pathologization of every aspect of life.”

It’s undeniable that there are people who suffer because they play too many video games, says Michelle Colder Carras, a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins University focused on the problematic use of technology. But she argues that these people usually can get psychiatric treatment under a more general diagnosis like depression or anxiety. Both Carras and Przybylski were part of a group of researchers who wrote a letter to the WHO in 2016 recommending against adding “gaming disorder” to the diagnostic handbook because there’s no consensus and most studies in the area are low-quality.

So what’s wrong with the studies? First, we don’t even know how many people might have gaming disorder. Most papers collect data from self-help or gaming forums where people post about being addicted to gaming. “It’s like asking, ‘what is the prevalence of heroin?’ and then going to a clean needle exchange and running your survey there,” Przybylski says. As a result, some numbers say that gaming disorder afflicts less than 1 percent of gamers, but other studies suggest rates up to 100 times higher.

Some people studying gaming disorder will ask people about “internet addiction” or “computer addiction,” according to Carras, but it’s not the same thing. And there are more general problems, too: Often, scientists don’t share their data and don’t say what they were testing before they gathered it, which makes it easier for scientists to look at the data and report findings they already expected.

This broad, fuzzy diagnosis could stigmatize gamers and lead to more misconceptions. Carras points to a recent Observer article that suggested that the diagnosis could help prevent school shootings, insinuating that video games cause mass violence. “There’s a danger of a moral panic with people who don’t understand video games making these statements and causing family conflict, and kids being brought to treatment who don’t need to be there,” she says. And it can lead to more of the unfounded fear that screen time is “digital heroin.”

Still, there could be potential upsides to the diagnosis being added. Because the stakes are higher, it might push researchers to do more open and more rigorous science, says Przybylski. Plus, it might encourage gaming companies to be proactive and share their data. “I’m genuinely worried about the mechanics of games taking advantage of vulnerable people,” he says, “but there’s a fundamental asymmetry between the kinds of data I can collect and the data that video game companies — like the ones that create Fortnite or League of Legends — collect every day.”

Finally, it’s worth noting that although plenty of headlines claim that the WHO has decided “gaming addiction” is real, the agency has been careful not to cry “addiction.” Instead, the classification is labeled under “disorders due to addictive behavior.” “If they were going to say ‘addiction,’ it would really require much higher evidence that doesn’t exist yet,” says Przybylski. “I think it’s very intentional that they’ve avoided the term addiction and used an ambiguous term like ‘disorder.’”

If there really are people who suffer, why not just call it an addiction? “I think that dilutes the term ‘addiction,’” says Przybylski. In theory, he adds, “if you had an infinite number of therapists and an infinite number of dollars and medications, it’s fine to medicalize everything because then you can therapy and drug your way out of the problem.” But we don’t live in a world like that and so triage is necessary: “If we start creating all of these ‘addictions’ that are mostly normal behaviors, it may distract resources away from those that we know cause human suffering.”

We have asked the WHO for comment and will update if the agency responds.

Sources- The verge and Polygon

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Bihar- RTI activist who unearthed various scams shot dead #WTFnews

The activist had requested senior police officers to provide security citing threat to his life but his petition remained under procss

Patna/Bettiah: A right to information (RTI) activist who had exposed corruption in several government departments was gunned down by unidentified armed criminals in East Champaran on Tuesday.

Rajendra Prasad Singh, 63, had earned the wrath of many government officials for unearthing various scams and irregularities, including in police recruitment, PDS shops, toilet building scheme, health and education.

On April 4, Vaishali RTI activist Jayant Kumar was shot dead near Goroul, the finger of suspicion pointing to an influential liquor mafia.

East Champaran police said two assailants riding a motorcycle intercepted Rajendra, who was also on a two-wheeler, near Madhbanbari Chowk and pumped three bullets when he was returning to his village Manglapur from Motihari court around 12 noon.

Rajendra was rushed to the Motihari sadar hospital where he was declared brought dead.

Piprakothi police station house officer Abhishek Ranjan said two cellphones were seized from the spot.

“Raids are underway to nab the assailants,” the SHO told The Telegraph over phone.

Sources said Rajendra’s pursuit for the truth had led to many FIRs being lodged in the local court, with some cases now in the trial stage.

Sources said an FIR was lodged against then block education officer Parmanand Kumar for allegedly committing irregularities in the appointment of teachers in government schools. The block education officer was later arrested and sent to jail after the intervention of Patna High Court in November 2017.

The slain RTI activist’s son-in-law, R.K. Singh, who reached Motihari from Gopalganj, said Rajendra had sought police protection after three successive murderous attacks on him since 2012. However, he alleged, local police officials turned a deaf ear to his repeated requests.

Acting superintendent of police Kshatranil Singh sought to give a different spin to the murder. “Apart from being an RTI activist, Rajendra had running property-related disputes,” said Singh.

Following his personal investigations in many such scams, several FIRs had been registered with the interference of local courts and some cases even being put on trial recently, it was reported.

Meanwhile, the main Opposition party in Bihar, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) of Lalu Prasad Yadav, has blamed Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of not been able to maintain law and order situation in the state and has sought a high level inquiry into the killing of the RTI activist, the report said.

A senior RJD leader Alok Mehta reportedly told the media persons in Patna that anyone standing up against corruption and wrongdoing was being targeted in the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government, said the report.


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The Pre-decided Maruti Suzuki Case

Gautam Navlakha

The Peoples Union for Democratic Rights report on the Maruti Suzuki case judgment says that it is illustrative of the anti-worker bias entrenched in the law and order machinery. The prosecution’s brief in the case involving the violence at the Manesar plant in July 2012 was riddled with discrepancies, but 31 workers were convicted—13 of them sentenced to life imprisonment—based on the testimonies of the management personnel, says the report.

On 10 March 2017, the Additional Sessions Judge Rajinder Pal Goyal at the Gurugram Sessions Court pronounced the judgment in the Maruti Suzuki case convicting 31 workers (13 with life imprisonment), while acquitting 117 others. This case was related to an incident of violence and arson that occurred on 18 July 2012 at Maruti Suzuki’s Manesar plant in which one of the human resource managers unfortunately lost his life. Barring one, all the acquitted workers had spent two to four years in jail, before being released on bail. The 13 workers who were given life imprisonment sentences included all the 12 office-bearers of the erstwhile union and one worker. The workers had managed to get their union, the Maruti Suzuki Workers Union (MSWU), registered in March 2012 after a prolonged struggle just three and a half months prior to the incident.1 Appeals by the workers against conviction and by the state for increasing the punishment to death penalty are pending in the high court.

This conviction has grave implications not just for the Maruti Suzuki workers or for those in the automobile industry alone, but for the rights of workers across the country struggling to form unions in order to collectively fight the autocratic hold of corporate managements. It is a boost for not just Maruti Suzuki, but for capitalists at large. Maruti Suzuki is the largest automobile manufacturer in India with more than 50% market share in this sector. The automobile industry together with the automobile ancillary industry makes up 22% of India’s manufacturing industry. Having been closely associated with the Maruti workers’ struggle since 2000, the Peoples Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) decided to examine this process and the judgment of the trial court.2 What follows is a summary of its report, “A Pre-decided Case: A Critique of the Maruti Judgment of 2017.”

A close reading of the judgment brings out that, at the very outset, the police investigation followed a single line of inquiry which tallied with the management’s version of the incident. It is important to contextualise the judgment within the history of the Maruti Suzuki workers’ struggle to get the unions of their choice at the Gurugram and Manesar plants, and the battles that were fought and won by them. This history reveals how as management control was incrementally transferred to the Japanese-owned Suzuki Company in the course of the 1990s till the early 2000s, the then recognised and representative trade union came under assault and was derecognised. This period, especially from around 2000 onwards, saw the company resorting to many anti-worker policies and practices, including reducing the regular workforce and opting for a larger percentage of contract labour, intensification of work, deterioration in working conditions, forced voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), arbitrary transfers, suspensions, dismissal of active and vocal union members at both the plants, and preventing the union from being formed (at Manesar plant) or not letting them function.

On the other hand, the history of the company is also marked by the exemplary unrelenting struggle of the workers for a representative union, fair wages, reduction in work pressure, protesting the unfair labour practices, braving the attacks of the company to thwart the same, and criminalising them with the connivance of the labour department and the police. Seven months before the incident of 18 July 2012, that is, on 30 January 2012, after nearly two years of battering by the management and a bitter struggle by the workers, the MSWU was registered at the Manesar plant. It had 95 coordinators, one or two coordinator(s) for each shop floor, to facilitate communication between workers and the union leaders. On 18 April 2012, it had submitted its charter of demand, and the negotiations with the management on these remained inconclusive.

The last round of talks prior to the “incident” was on 14 July, where the management had declared that the company would not concede any of the demands of the workers. On 16 July, the union communicated the management’s decision to the workers and its leadership resigned. It is this background of bitter conflict between the management and the workers, which the police investigation deemed as the basis of the workers’ culpability. In other words, the investigation was tainted by the police’s pro-management bias. So much so that, although workers too suffered injuries in the incident of 18 July, they were neither taken for a medical examination nor were any of them or any other workers present at the site made witnesses or their testimonies recorded. This lacuna in investigation was sought to be explained by the specious argument that the workers could have been influenced by the union and their account would be biased. It is an illogical argument as the management enjoyed much greater clout than the union and the workers had more to lose in siding with the union than with the management. The possibility that the management witnesses themselves could have been biased against the workers was not considered, let alone entertained as a possibility.

Bias, Prejudice, Contradictions

The prosecution’s narrative of the events disregarded anything that workers had to say, and became the bedrock of its charge sheet. In other words, all that the crime branch did was to proceed on the assumption that workers were guilty even before completing the investigation, and went about collecting evidence to back this theory.

Significantly, inconsistencies and contradictions in the prosecution’s version, starting from the recorded first information report (FIR) to the trial, were glossed over, including the fact that the station house officer (SHO) of Manesar police station reached the plant between 2 pm and 2.30 pm on 18 July though the incident occurred after 7 pm. The prosecution’s version was that on 18 July 2012, at around 8.30 am, a worker, Jiya Lal, slapped a supervisor, Sangram Kishore Majhi. The company management suspended Jiya Lal for indiscipline. Jiya Lal instigated the union that he had been wrongly suspended and thereafter the union instructed the morning shift workers not to leave the premises, after their shift got over at 3 pm. At around 7 pm, between 500 and 600 workers picked up hundreds of shockers and beams from the weld shop and assembly shop and forcibly entered the office, beat up the management staff with the intention to kill, set the office and company complex on fire, and vandalised the property. A number of persons were trapped inside the office due to the fire and were escorted out by the police. As the fire was brought under control, a charred unrecognisable body was found inside. It was that of the human resources general manager, Awanish Dev. He was allegedly badly beaten by the workers and could not escape, and died due to asphyxiation.

A close look at the case papers and the judgment however shows that this neat, narration has not really been corroborated by the investigation and trial. Let us see how. The FIR was filed on the basis of a complaint made by Deepak Anand, General Manager Vigilance, who named 55 workers along with other details. Actually, Anand could not have seen the workers as he was on the ground floor and the incident occurred on the first floor. The argument that he saw the incident through the CCTV cameras also could not be substantiated as the cameras, it was claimed, were burnt, though again no proof of their getting burnt was ever produced during the trial. This prosecution witness failed to identify the workers he named, barring Jiya Lal.

There was a gap of four to five hours in the recording of the FIR and its reaching the office of the Metropolitan Magistrate. It is on record that the Assistant Manager of the human resources department, Nitin Saraswat, prepared two lists of workers (by retrieving the names from the Gurugram office) during the intervening period, one containing 55 names, and another 89 names. So it is very likely that the 55 workers named in the FIR were from the list provided by the management.

The narratives of the police about how the arrests were made are unbelievable and strikingly similar. Prosecution witnesses 60, 61, 62, 48 and 58 (all police personnel) arrested large groups of workers without any problem and seized the “weapons of offence.” Thus, each policeman would have arrested 12 to 16 accused workers, who were supposedly found loitering in public places, including at the gate of the Maruti plant, carrying with them the “weapons of offence.” The question, that would a person, after perpetrating a crime, continue to remain in a public place visibly carrying “weapons of offence” and would not run away or resist arrest, was not accounted for in the prosecution’s narrative. The police’s story of arrests was marred by the fact that there were no independent witnesses to the arrests. Also, most policemen failed to identify the workers who they claimed to have arrested.

By about noon on 19 July 2012, four labour contractors named the 89 accused in alphabetical order. It is beyond imagination that they noticed the workers involved in violence in alphabetical order. Yet, after such precise naming of workers in their submission before the investigators, the labour contractor “witnesses” failed to identify any of the workers. Moreover, these workers were arrested by the police on the morning of 19 July before they had been “named” by the labour contractors.

Upon being shown this inconsistency by the defence lawyers, the judge was compelled to agree that the arrest of the 89 workers before being named was illegal. They were finally acquitted after spending two to four years in prison. While acquitting them, the judge commented, “Who will compensate the lost years?,” but offered no recompense. However, the argument of the defence, that the arrest of 89 people without being named suggests that the investigation was tainted and biased, was rejected by the judge, who termed this as a matter of negligence and not a deliberate act on the part of the police to target specific workers.

The complainant had stated in the FIR that the workers were armed with lathi, belcha, lohe ke saria, but later changed these to spare parts of the automobiles, that is, shockers and door beams. This was probably done because procurement of the former inside the company premises would have been difficult to explain, given the fact that the workers are thoroughly checked before entering the plant. It is worth remembering that, in a criminal case, the weapon of offence is important evidence and a change in named weapons is suspect because the case itself, so to say, gets changed. However, the judge covered it up by saying that the complainant in his complaint had used the word “etc,” meaning the later set of weapons could be part of this “etc.”

After the incident, 546 permanent workers and around 2,000 contract workers and apprentices were dismissed from service without even holding an inquiry. Arrests of the workers began, as mentioned, from the morning of 19 July. Accused workers were forced to sign on blank papers in custody and the union office-bearers were severely tortured. Prosecution witness 45, Deepak Mathur, a doctor who examined them almost a month after the arrest, confirmed before the court that the workers were still in pain due to injuries suffered by them during interrogation. The allegations of custodial torture and the medical evidence were ignored, despite the fact that this had a bearing upon the investigation and indicated the bias of the police.

The management personnel in their testimony named workers who, according to them, either instigated others to set the premises on fire or lighted the fire. However, of the nearly 40 prosecution witnesses, all of whom were in the factory at the time of the fire, not a single one could correctly name or identify any accused worker, who they claimed had been seen lighting the fire. No inflammable material was discovered at the site. Also, none of the managers, policemen or the workers sustained any burn injuries, indicating that the fire could have occurred after everyone left the site. On this, the judge opined that it is for the accused to explain with what material they set the room on fire. This makes the Maruti incident a unique criminal case where the accused were asked to explain how they committed the crime for which they had pleaded not guilty, when the investigation and prosecution stories had gaping holes in it.

The death of Awanish Dev is similarly unexplained. The prosecution witnesses have named different workers as being responsible for the assault and different numbers of assailants. They have moreover not been able to identify them accurately. While it is true that Dev was incapacitated and assaulted, it is not clear who was responsible. He finally died of asphyxia because of the fire, but the cause of the fire and who was responsible for it is also not proved. There is, thus, no proof that links the accused workers to the murderous assault and death of Dev, and the fire.

The prosecution story is that, after the violence and arson on 18 July, many accused workers carried the “weapons” out of the factory. Some of them carried these to their respective homes, located as far as 200 km away in Gurugram, Kishangarh, or Kurukshetra districts, among others. Many kept the weapons at home only to be recovered by the police six or seven days after the incident. In the first place, no witnesses could be produced to show that the workers carried the weapons from the stores to the site of the incident. Second, there was no one who saw them carry these “weapons” out of the factory after the incident. Why these workers who were allegedly bent on causing harm to the Maruti management would keep the “weapons of offence” in their respective places remains unexplained. The police’s story of recoveries is unbelievable also because there is no independent witness to any of the recoveries.

Most policemen who allegedly “recovered” material evidence from the residences of the accused workers claimed that they carried cloth in their bags while going to make recoveries. After having recovered the weapons they conveniently found tailors wandering nearby to stitch bags for the recovered weapons, paid the tailors out of their own pockets, did not seek reimbursements from their department, and of course could not state the names or contact numbers of the tailors. Besides, there were no independent witnesses to vouch for any part of this claim. No fingerprints were collected from these “recovered weapons.” No attempts were made to prove in court that these weapons actually belonged to the Maruti factory. Apart from the weapons, the bloodstained uniforms and identity cards of the workers were also said to have been “recovered.” However, none of these were sent for any forensic examination to serve as corroborative evidence. While acquitting the 117 workers, the judge observed that the recoveries that were not corroborated by other evidence are of no value and could even have been planted. Yet identical incongruities did not worry the judge while convicting the 31 workers.

The prosecution’s story hinged on the murderous assault allegedly carried out with door beams and shockers on the management staff intending to kill them. If shockers had been used, they would have caused puncture wounds because of their sharp edges. None of the injuries sustained by the management personnel revealed such wounds, and doctors who examined them were not shown the weapons, or asked if these weapons could caused such injuries. It is clear from the medico legal certificates (MLCs) that the injuries suffered by the management personnel, the key prosecution witnesses, were on non-vital parts of their bodies. This is substantiated by the statements of several doctors and also X-ray reports. Five doctors stated that such injuries could even be caused by a fall on a hard or uneven surface.

The testimonies of the injured prosecution witnesses are also suspiciously similar in language and content. They alleged that several accused assaulted each one of them with door beams and shockers, with the intention to cause injuries to the head. But, all of them identically warded off the attack using their left hands and miraculously managed to prevent injuries to their heads or other vital parts. Actually, as the statements were recorded several days after the incident, it cannot be ruled out that these “warding off” statements were a later addition presumably to cover up the fact that there were no injuries to vital organs.

The judge accepted that the MLCs of the police officials about the injuries are bogus, but at the same time commented, “Merely because their MLCs are bogus that does not mean that the injuries of all PWs (eyewitnesses) are bogus.” That bogus MLCs and wrong claims of injuries by policemen are signs of a compromised investigation and could be part of a design to frame the workers, was ignored.

In a criminal trial, when the witnesses name some accused, they are required to identify them in court. In this case, a large number of main eyewitnesses, that is, the managerial staff, the labour contractors and the policemen who named the accused and whose accounts became the basis of conviction unsubstantiated by any other evidence, failed to identify or wrongly identified them. This raises serious suspicions about the naming of the accused workers by these prosecution witnesses.

Finally, it is also important to look at the allegations against the 13 workers facing life imprisonment. Sandeep Dhillon and Dhanraj are accused of exhortation, Suresh and Pawan of extortion and attack on other management persons, Jiya Lal and Sohan Kumar of lighting the fire, and Ram Mehar, Sarbjeet, Ajmer, Ram Bilas, Pradeep, Yogesh and Amarjeet of beating Awanish Dev. It is noteworthy that all these allegations are based on verbal and often contradictory accounts. But, in the end all 13 are said to be responsible for everything from beating Awanish Dev, to setting fire to the first floor rooms and also the CCTV room and the server.


Even though 31 workers have been convicted, 13 of them with life imprisonment sentences, for the 18 July 2012 incident at Maruti’s Manesar plant, the case papers and the judgment demonstrate that it has not been proved through the investigation and trial that any workers, or in particular, these 31 workers, were responsible for the violence or the fire. The conviction has solely been made on the basis of the verbal testimonies of the management personnel.

Right from the beginning, the efforts of the police were to pin the blame on specific workers they were targeting and they went about trying to prove the management’s version of the incident. During the trial, the inexplicable delays in the recording of statements, non-identification of the accused by witnesses, bogus MLCs of the witnesses, not connecting weapons to the accused or to injuries, non-availability of any supporting evidence like fingerprints, and unbelievable statements of the witnesses were all condoned.

The bias against the workers was apparent from the fact that not a single worker was made a witness by the prosecution, though hundreds of them were present at the time of the incident. Not making the workers witnesses amounts to a kind of presumption of guilt. The judge’s comment that the “quality” of witnesses mattered rather than the “quantity” points to the predisposition to regard the management’s version as superior and workers’ version as suspect, making the class bias evident.

The history of the Maruti Suzuki workers’ struggle against the management establishes that preventing the formation of the union, working to derecognise and not letting them function are the tools that the management employed to throttle them. The Maruti case judgment shows that the judiciary ignored biased investigation and dubious evidence, and went out of its way to assist the management. From the registration of the FIR, investigation of the incident, filing of the charge sheet, to the actual trial, the way in which the prosecution and the judiciary dealt with the case shows how anti-worker or anti-union attitudes are embedded in the enforcement and implementation of the law.

The denial of bail to most workers for over two years, and the judiciary’s upholding of the prosecution’s version despite its almost farcical nature at times, show the seamlessness of the company’s control over the entire state machinery, and over the wider judiciary as well as the executive. The farce becomes a tragedy when, violating basic principles of jurisprudence—of the need for evidence to link the crime to the criminal—the judgment, following a script of vengeance by capital, convicts the active and vocal workers at the behest of the company.

The danger of a pre-decided judgment such as this is that it sends out a strong message to workers throughout the country to accept the commands of capital, and gives impunity to it to violate even the legally enshrined rights of workers.


1 Maruti Suzuki India was established as Maruti Udyog in Gurgaon, Haryana in 1981 and its first car, “Maruti 800” rolled out in 1983. In 2006, another manufacturing unit of the company was started in the Industrial Model Township in Manesar spread over 600 acres of land. According to the company’s Annual Report 2016–17, it produced 15,80,000 cars in that year. There is, thus, an enormous increase in the production capacity, compared to the modest figure of 1,00,000 cars per annum produced in 1989. What started as a public sector enterprise with Suzuki Motor Corporation of Japan having only 10% of the shares, was completely privatised by 2007, and the name formally changed to include Suzuki. Today, it occupies 50.4% of the passenger car market in India, significantly ahead of its nearest competitor.

2 For more information, see the PUDR’s three previous reports: “Hard Drive” (2001), “Freewheelin’ Capital” (2007) and “Driving Force” (2013) which recorded three previous moments of the labour struggle at Maruti. While the first report documented how the gains made by workers of the then union started coming under attack, the second one highlighted the changing composition of the workforce. Both the reports have clearly established the acts of omission and commission of the state institutions in favouring the Maruti management. The third report dealt with what led up to the incident of 18 July 2012 in which a manager lost his life.

([email protected]) is a member of the Peoples Union for Democratic Rights, Delhi.

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Ashok Dhawale: The Good Doctor #mustread

By: Ramu Ramanathan

When farmers gathered at CBS Chowk in Nashik on March 6, no one knew what to expect. During the following week, 50,000 farmers marched to Mumbai. It culminated in a promise by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his council of ministers to look into the farmers’ demands. In this day and age of political cynicism, the Kisan Long March has been acknowledged for its brilliant use of tactics. Mumbaikars speak with awe about the weary farmers’ midnight walk of 10-15 km to Azad Maidan in Mumbai, in darkness and pain. It placed the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) — a people’s organisation — and the agrarian crisis, on the political map of India.

So, what next, I ask the national president of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and Central Committee member of the CPI(M), Dr Ashok Dhawale? He replies, “On September 5, the Kisan Sabha, along with other organisations of workers and agricultural labourers, will lead a gigantic march on Delhi, and have the farmers speak to the Indian nation from there.” He adds, “Plus, we are insisting on a 20-day special session of Parliament to discuss nothing but the agrarian crisis.”

This is not tattle and talk. Since March 12, Dhawale has been busy. The AIKS has held sabhas and protests in over 70 tehsil offices across Maharashtra. The struggle is on. For four issues: land rights, loan waiver, remunerative prices and increased pensions. Dhawale says, “The AIKS plans to collect 10 crore signatures from farmers, workers, students, and the middle class. And court arrest in each and every district of the country on August 9, in the 76th year of the Quit India movement.”

Dr Dhawale, who was born in 1952, practised medicine as a general practitioner in Mumbai from 1976 to 1983. In 1983, which was Karl Marx’s death Centenary year, he became a full-time activist of the CPI(M). He cherishes the memories. He recalls his meeting with Comrade Pandurang Bhaskar Rangnekar. Dhawale says, “It was PBR whom I first met before joining the party, 40 years ago in 1978. I remember the apprehension with which I climbed the two tall staircases of his house to meet him and tell him that I wanted to join the CPI(M)! I had then completed my MBBS and was in medical practice, but was also doing my MA (Political Science) from Bombay University. That is why the party asked me to work on the student front. For the next 17 years, I was one of the activists working first in the SFI, and then in the DYFI.

PBR was in charge of both these fronts and thus was also my in-charge. We came closer when I gave up my medical practice and became a party whole-timer in 1983.”

Ashok Dhawale: The Good Doctor

Dhawale speaks about his “hero”, Godavari Parulekar, who along with her husband Shamrao Parulekar, were a revolutionary team. They led the Warli Adivasi Revolt, which swept Thane district during 1945-47. Dhawale says, “It is an extraordinary life. Godavari Gokhale was born on August 14, 1907, in a well-to-do family in Pune. Her father was the renowned lawyer Laxmanrao Gokhale, who was a cousin of Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Godavari graduated in economics and politics from Fergusson College, Pune, and among her contemporaries were SM Joshi, NG Goray and Achyutrao Patwardhan, all of whom would become leaders of the freedom struggle and of the Socialist Party. She studied law, gaining the distinction of becoming the first woman law graduate in Maharashtra. Her father wanted her to join his law practice, but it was not to be. She went on to become a legendary national leader of the Kisan Sabha and the Communist Party.”

He remembers the contribution of Krishna Khopkar. “For 10 years, from 1995 to 2005, Krishna Khopkar, LB Dhangar, Narendra Malusare and I, along with other AIKS state office bearers, toured the state several times for AIKS struggles, conventions, conferences, study camps and meetings. These tours and the struggles on manifold peasant issues that the AIKS organisation supported reached 25 districts of Maharashtra and a united team of hundreds of dedicated cadres was formed. On the basis of this collective effort, the 31st national conference of the AIKS was held at Nashik in January 2006 with a one-lakhstrong rally. AIKS membership in Maharashtra crossed the two-lakh mark for the first time.

Today the AIKS has leaders like JP Gavit, Kisan Gujar and Dr Ajit Nawale, among others.” I ask him the question that was posed to EMS Namboodiripad, that if the Communists in India are working so hard, why is there such little electoral success? During the recent Palghar Lok Sabha bypoll, it became a show of strength between BJP’s Rajendra Gavit, Shiv Sena’s Shriniwas Wanaga and the Bahujan Vikas Party. Dr Dhawale replies, “Three reasons, really. Religion and caste, as EMS had then replied, and money-power. We need to fully understand the impact of caste atrocity and caste exclusion. At the same time, we have to be aware of economic exploitation and focus on class. We also need to have radical electoral reforms.”

Is he hopeful? Yes, he says. “The recent Kisan Long March was a coming together of the first two issues.” How so? He explains, “The biggest and most spontaneous reception to the Long March was in the Dalit locality of Mata Ramabai Ambedkar Nagar at Ghatkopar in Mumbai, the very place that had seen the shooting down of 11 Dalits in police firing under the BJP-Shiv Sena regime 20 years ago.

The Dabbawalas of Mumbai also contributed their might to the cause. In the most touching move, farmers from Raigad district, under the leadership of the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) brought 1.5 lakh rice bhakris and dry fish for the marchers on the last day at Azad Maidan.”

In this day and age of rabble rousing, Dhawale’s conversational style is measured, and the cadence is gentle. Our morning chitchat stretches into the noon, and you realise that his words are tentative but self-assured.

Chai arrives from the local tapri. Dhawale signs a receipt book. I look around at the walls of the Janashakti office. The lofty Left leaders who adorn the Janashakti walls have passed away. Dhawale is the only one who has survived from the generation of greats.

He has matched their cadre-building and polemical clout, with a quiet modesty of his own. But he is aware of the gravity of the situation even as he shoulders the legacy of the Left movement in the most troubled city in the country.

Short takes

What is the best place in Mumbai:
The Janashakti oice in Worli, which is the party headquarters. For the past 50 years, it has been the centre of activity for the Left movement in Maharashtra — be it meetings, planning for rallies or publication of the party’s state weekly, Jeewan Marg, and other magazines and pamphlets.

A day in Mumbai which you shall never forget: It’s January 19, 1982, when the great textile workers strike was declared in Mumbai. Mill owners stopped paying wages. More than 2.5 lakh mill workers in the city did not receive salaries, beneits and bonuses and were arbitrarily suspended. Day One of the strike was an example of great class solidarity.

One event in Mumbai which cast an everlasting impression on you? The defeat of the Emergency on March 21, 1977. The day before the votes were being counted for the general elections. By evening, the results started coming in. The Janata Front won all the seats in Bombay. Stalwarts like Ahilya Rangnekar and Mrinal Gore were elected to the Lok Sabha.

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India – Collapse of PDP-BJP alliance: The break-up is nothing but a staged drama

*Statement on collapse of PDP-BJP alliance: The break-up is nothing but a staged drama by the alliance partners to rid themselves of any accountability. They are fleeing, in order to erase their sins and escape questions from the public.*
By- Shehla Rashid Shora
For the last three years, PDP and BJP – two reactionary, populist parties – have been fooling people in the name of “agenda of alliance” and “people’s mandate”, etc., shamelessly holding on to power despite the failures on political, social and economic fronts. After having failed on every single front, now a drama is being staged in order to preempt any questions and to foreclose the possibility of having any mechanism of fixing accountability. If “failure of govt” is the reason for BJP to have broken the alliance, then they should do so at the Centre govt level too, because the Modi govt is a total failure on all counts.
The BJP and PDP are now engaging in blame game and accusing one another of being responsible for the failure of the alliance. However, the alliance itself was a massive failure that has polarised the state on religious lines.
Beginning with the political failures, the nature of the alliance itself betrayed the mandate of the people. The state has been pushed to a political crisis comparable to that during the 90s. Militant ranks have swollen and popular support for armed insurgency has increased. Countless civilians have been killed in the name of sham operations such as “Operation All Out”. We have seen an unfortunate politicization and communalisation of the Army. When civilians were being killed and blinded with pellets, PDP let the people down by holding on to this unholy alliance, silencing human rights activists and berating critics who asked questions. The ratification of GST by the State Assembly has not only undermined Article 370 and pushed the state toward lesser autonomy; it has also destroyed businesses in the entire state. While Modi govt’s disastrous policies such as demonetization and GST were being criticized throughout India, the PDP-BJP govt in the state unnecessarily extended GST to J&K. Human rights violations have peaked under the present regime. The govt has completely failed to reach out to civilians and establish peace and order. It is shameful that Ms. Mehbooba Mufti now talks about humane policy as opposed to muscular policy. It was under her watch that Farooq Dar, an innocent civilian, was tied to a jeep and paraded. She failed to stand up for her people then. Now, she has no right to talk about humane policy. The government has even failed to nab the murderers of veteran journalist Shujaat Bukhari.
On the economic front, the state govt has borrowed huge sums of money from the centre in order to be able to fund its development budget. The fund allocation to various schemes has been completely haphazard, and money was constantly diverted from one scheme to another in an unconstitutional manner. As a result, various govt employees who were recruited under various policies, such as SRO 202 and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan are suffering without pay! This is criminal. Now, the question arises as to what will happen to all the schemes that were dependent on the survival of the alliance. Neither has flood compensation reached the victims properly, nor are salaries being disbursed. The alliance partners are now trying to flee after having pushed the state into a political and economic crisis.
On the social front, the state govt has failed to stand up for victims and survivors of sexual violence. The Kathua rape case and the Kulgam sex trafficking scandal involved the government’s own Ministers and MLAs respectively. But no proactive measures against them were taken by the CM who herself is a woman. PDP should have broken the alliance over human rights violations or over the Kathua case. Now, they are only fleeing to escape public accountability.
Corruption and nepotism has peaked under this government and that is responsible for pushing the youth further away from the mainstream. With what authority can a govt ask young people to come to mainstream.With what authority can a govt ask young people to come to mainstream when the mainstream is filled with family members and caste brethren? It’s a shame that the South Kashmir Parliamentary seat does not have an elected representative, because the government wanted someone from the first family to rule the constituency. The break up of the alliance is a means for PDP and BJP to wash their hands off all these sins.

Going by the BJP’s statements, it is clear that they intend to rule the state through the Governor. This is unhealthy for democracy and it will become a means to unleash atrocities on the people, as under Jagmohan’s rule who could not even ensure safety of Kashmiri Pandits in their own state. Elections to the State Assembly must be held at the earliest, and people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh should hold PDP and BJP accountable during the electoral process.

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On Gauri Lankesh and religion: It is ridiculous to brand her anti-Hindu as her killers are trying to do

The last few days have been strangely painful and numbing. Men, some of them young, have been justifying a cold blooded murder. Reading the headlines quoting the killers (of my sister), “Gauri was killed for her anti-Hindu ideology,” i have been very disturbed. If media cannot differentiate between Hinduism and Hindutva, how will the common man?

Many people across the country were devastated by Gauri Lankesh’s murder. Many openly gloated at her brutal killing. Others, faceless and anonymous on social media, even celebrated her death. All in the name of ‘Hinduism’. A woman member of BJP Yuva Morcha even posted that a Parashuram, the (name of the) alleged killer of Gauri, should be born in every Indian house. The Sri Ram Sene, which is today claiming that it has nothing to do with the alleged killer, has reportedly sought funds to help his family.

If this article can in any small way change perceptions and garner support for the values that my sister Gauri stood for, i would be satisfied and the memory of Gauri, redeemed. Let me make one thing absolutely clear. Gauri never opposed the religious beliefs of the people. As a family, we celebrated the Ganesha festival as we did Bakr Eid and Christmas, with great joy and fervour.

What Gauri did oppose was the manipulation of people’s faith by vested interests. She was also against fundamentalism in all religions. In that sense she followed Ambedkar who said his respect is reserved for such religion which upholds equality and fraternity. As a corollary she opposed the casteism and patriarchy that is the basis of Hindutva. I recollect reading a dozen of Gauri’s articles condemning patriarchal and fundamental dictums and practices within Islam and Christianity too.

Gauri always believed that people’s faith in God and religion is completely different from organised politics based on manipulating people’s religious sentiments. Then the question arises, was Gauri not religious? Yes and no. If religion is defined as looking for God in every human being, she was religious. If being empathetic about the toiling and oppressed is spiritual, she was most spiritual.

If harming human sensibilities and killing in the name of God is religious, no she was not religious. At a philosophical level she did not dwell deep into the questions of existence of God or any supernatural power. There she followed Buddha. She never considered mediation of God or religion necessary to consider fellow humans as brothers and sisters.

For example, in an article written a few months before her murder, she had made it amply clear that she supports the Lingayat religion as perceived by the working class sharanas of 12th century who propounded an egalitarian social order, against the Vedic Brahminical Hindu social order based on caste and gender discrimination. It is ridiculous, therefore, to describe Gauri as anti-Hindu. It is as ridiculous as belittling Buddha, Basavanna, Narayana guru and Ambedkar on the same charges. Gauri also strongly believed that RSS does not represent the true spirit of Indian civilisation or our religious traditions.

I should also take this opportunity to mention that i am most satisfied with the investigation into Gauri’s murder and the team which led it. Any successful investigation in such ideologically motivated and organised assassinations needs three important components. One, political non-interference and operational freedom. This was ensured by the previous Karnataka government from day one.

Second, most important is an unbiased and ideologically neutral investigative team. Given the growing bias in the state machinery everywhere, the SIT constituted for this case has shown utmost neutrality and made us proud. The last but utmost important aspect is professionalism. The SIT has proved its professionalism in completely cracking the case. It has also reportedly gathered vital leads about the other ideological assassinations of Kalburgi, Dabholkar and Pansare. Hence the team deserves top accolades.

Gauri did not have a child of her own, but she was a mother to many, including my own daughter Esha, who called her Avva (mother), and many others like Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid. Isn’t it thus a cruel irony that the operation to kill Gauri was named “Amma” even by her killers? How does one contemplate an ideology, or set of beliefs, which demonise human sensibilities, and set in force a chain of events, a plan, to kill one’s amma?

The writer is a filmmaker

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UN experts urge Iran to halt “unlawful execution” of young offender #deathpenalty


GENEVA (19 June 2018) – UN human rights experts* are making an urgent appeal to the authorities in Iran to halt the execution of Mohammad Kalhori, a young man who was sentenced to death at 15 years old for killing his teacher.

Reports received by the experts suggest that Kalhori will be executed shortly after the end of Ramadan, even though international standards unequivocally forbid the imposition of the death sentence on anyone under 18 years old at the time of the offence.

“The Iranian authorities must halt the execution of this juvenile offender and annul the death sentence against him in compliance with their international obligations,” the experts said in a joint statement.

“Iran has committed itself to prohibiting the use of the death penalty for all those under 18 by its ratification of both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. As such, this execution is unlawful and arbitrary,” they concluded.

The experts stress that in 2013, Iran amended its Islamic Penal Code to allow judges to pronounce alternative sentences for juvenile offenders if there is any uncertainty about their “mental development” at the time of the crime, or if they had not realised the nature of the crime committed.

Assurances were given in 2016 by Iran to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child that the amendment (Article 91) would apply systematically for all juveniles on death row.

Based on a report by the State forensic institution which said Kalhori was not mentally mature at the time of the crime, the Criminal Court sentenced him to imprisonment and ordered him to pay a fine. However, following an appeal and apparent letters sent by a Government official and a Member of Parliament, the verdict was overturned by the Supreme Court and Kalhori was sentenced to death during a retrial.

“Notwithstanding the clear prohibition of the application of the death penalty for those under the age of 18, this case demonstrates flagrant disregard for the amendment to the Penal Code itself and raises concerns about possible interference in the independence of the judiciary,” the experts said.


(*)The experts: Ms Agnes CallamardSpecial Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and Ms Renate Winter, Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child is the body of 18 independent experts that monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its State parties. It also monitors the Optional Protocols to the Convention, on involvement of children in armed conflict and on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; as well as a third Optional Protocol which will allow individual children to submit complaints regarding specific violations of their rights.


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