Dhirendra K Jha spent a substantial part of 2015 and 2016 studying eight Hindu rightwing organisations across India for their connections with the BJP, and wrote about it in his new book Shadow Armies: Fringe Organisations and Foot Soldiers of Hindutva. This is his account of why and how he selected the organisations, what he learnt about them, and the surprising theme that repeated itself across the country.
Every time an obscure organisation leads a mob to ban a book, murder a dairy farmer or stop a movie from being made because they hurt Hindu sentiments, they are dismissed by the RSS and the BJP as fringe organisations. The crimes are usually not punished. Even if criminal charges are filed and cases reach the court, they are eventually thwarted. Although there is no equivalent of a paper trail linking the organizations, they all seemed to be on the same page: they believe and work towards a Hindu India.
It made me curious. Could these organisations be legitimately called the shadow armies of the RSS and the BJP? Even if a number of them were not direct offshoots of the RSS, were all of them motivated by a single strategy? How did they arise? What were their histories? I decided to select four that were not part of the Sangh family and four that were born of the Sangh and explore their stories.
The beginnings of this project lie in the Karnataka government’s announcement in July 2015 of the link that existed in the murders of the rationalists MM Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar. The country was in a ferment. Writers and artists were returning their state awards in droves, protesting the inaction of the government. Who had triggered this churning? Sanatan Sanstha, the organisation accused of having commissioned these killings, seemed the obvious first chapter in my journey.
Dhirendra K Jha spent a substantial part of 2015 and 2016 studying eight Hindu rightwing organizations across India for their connections with the BJP and the RSS, and wrote about it in his new book Shadow Armies: Fringe Organisations and Foot Soldiers of Hindutva
The repeated electoral success experienced by of the Mahant of the Goraknath Temple made his organisation, the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a body of interest. Right from its inception, the HYV ran toxic campaigns projecting Muslims as enemies of Hindus, creating fear by stressing on love jihad, beef-eating, the deliberate Muslim disrespect of Hindu rituals and nation symbols etc. The HYV was not founded or managed by the RSS, but it gave me a clear view of the kind of connections that organisations like the HYV had with the RSS and the BJP. Yogi Adityanath, the moving spirit behind the HYV, was a BJP MP multiple times and is now the chief minister of the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh. The highest members of these organisations tended to have a foot firmly planted in the RSS or the BJP.
While the Bajrang Dal had a clear line of descent from the RSS via the VHP and had been integral to the Ramjanmabhoomi campaign and the demolition of Babri Masjid, the Sri Ram Sene, a group that splintered from the Bajrang Dal, had a more chequered history. A group of mid-level activists of the Bajrang Dal split from it to form the Sri Ram Sene because they found that only Brahmins and Brahminical upper castes could hold top positions. The Sangh saw the backward castes merely as useful foot soldiers.
Given Kerala’s historically progressive politics and its left governments, I wanted to investigate the RSS’s attempt and strategies to get a foothold in the state through the Hindu Aikya Vedi. A similar interest led me to study the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat and Hindutva presence in Punjab. The exposure of a Hindu terror network by the Maharastra Anti-Terrorism and the involvement of Lt Col Shrikant Purohit brought to light the mysterious organisation revived by him, Abhinav Bharat, and the Bhonsala Military School that he was associated with.
Cover of Shadow Armies; (R) the author
I had expected these organisations to be recruiting and training centres for their fellow pan-Indian Hindutva organisations (such as the BJP) that officially practise politics. But when I travelled and talked to people I began to see that these were not only feeders for the RSS and the BJP and their larger agendas. These organisations were also shaped by the needs and anxieties of the people of their regions.
I met fascinating characters some of whom were intelligent, some dumb, and a few even criminals looking for political cover, but they were all full of vitality and vigour and quite aware of what they were doing. Take, for instance, Sharan Pampwell. The Bajrang Dal leader in Karnataka organised agitations against and issued threats to Muslim shopkeepers, businessmen and mall owners. He also ran a firm that provided security. If the minority shopkeepers and businessmen accepted his security guards — who were the agitators in the first place — they could buy peace. It was a business model. ‘We strictly follow the rules of business,’ he told me.
The one generalisation I feel confident to make, the one theme that repeats itself across organisations and regions is that the leaders and top functionaries of these bodies are Brahmins or upper castes while the foot soldiers are, as a rule, young men of lower castes. The lack of jobs and the prospect of a share in power and prosperity seduces them to abandon their own legacies of resistance and struggles against the Brahmanical Hinduism that had kept them oppressed for centuries.
The irony is that the young men from backward or lower castes who constitute a significant portion of the foot soldiers of these shadow armies are rarely able to recognise that Hindutva, to which they have dedicated their energies, is nothing but Brahminism. Blinded by their surging Hindu religiosity and hatred for the ‘other’, they simply cannot see how the Hindutva they are working for ultimately seeks to revive the historical domination of the Brahmins and other upper castes.
Occasionally, the truth becomes visible. For instance, when caste hierarchies affect the distribution of power even at the local level. Sometimes this leads to the revolt of backward caste leaders and cadres (as in the case of the Sri Ram Sene), but the rebels hardly ever look for an ideological alternative.
The triumph of Hindutva, following the BJP’s striking victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and in many of the state polls thereafter, has resulted in brahminism trying to recolonize the spaces it had been forced to vacate due to social reform movements and anti-brahminical struggles. My profiles of these organisations ended up illustrating how the shadow world of Hindutva, with its reliance on violence, hate speech and even terror, has contributed to these electoral triumphs as well as to the brahminical agenda underpinning the overall Hindu nationalist project.
Shadow Armies: Fringe Organizations and Foot Soldiers of Hindutva by Dhirendra K Jha is available in bookstores and on Juggernaut
We are living in a society that is increasingly becoming intolerant towards our food choices, our clothing, our lifestyles, our very raison d’etre of existence. If you are a minority, and especially a Muslim, then the fear is overwhelming. The choice is either between conformity or fear of bodily harm. This is a problem, and the first step towards solving any problem is the sincere need to acknowledge that there is a problem.
The intolerance is not just restricted to remote rural villages in the hinterland. The venom has crept right into my and your cozy urban bubbles, where we like to insulate ourselves. I am not even talking about the shameful attacks that took place in South Delhi, where three men were assaulted by the “so-called Gau-Rakshaks”.
I am talking about well educated, influential people providing rationalisation to vigilante attacks, which in any other civilised country would have been thoroughly condemned across all political spectrum.
Take for instance, Harbir Singh. A first look at his Facebook profile, and you would see someone, who has had the best of upbringing, the best of education, a promising career. He happens to be a social media influencer, writes occasional columns for Times of India and his spouse is a Senior Assistant Editor with the same newspaper.
But Dwell deeper into his thinking, and you would come to terms with a very different uncomfortable reality of his thoughts. Here is a Facebook post (which has now been deleted), that he made in the light of the recent increased cow-vigilantism. This post had close to 200 likes and was shared by around 50 people, including the well known public figure Tarek Fateh.
Let us take a short walk through Harbir’s mind. He ends his first paragraph with a rationalisation of the increasing violence in the name of cows, and calls it inevitable, which he also claims has ‘broad public approval’.
The next paragraph is filled with arguments which are simply not grounded in reality. A simple look at the judicial exonerations of people like Swami Aseemanand, judicial proceedings of convicted mass murderers like Maya Kodnani (who has been out on bail since 2014) and what increasingly looks like from the way the judiciary has taken this case, she is going to have her convictions overturned.
There are numerous such cases, where terrorists are being protected by the state, due to their affiliations with organisations perceived close to the government in power. When was the last time you heard Islamists being treated with such kid gloves ? The state comes down heavily on Islamist terrorists, and very rightly so.
But anyway, let us move on to his third and fourth paragraphs. This is where the problem is, which so many of us have taken deep objection to. He begins with another assumption that our state is weak, and is unable to provide justice to victims.
What he ends with, is an all out call for mob violence against the “flock of Islamist Maulanas”. In his world, the syncretic India that provides space to different religious and political philosophies, simply does not exist.
So, if there are people in our society (whom he perceives as Islamists), he thinks the natural consequence should be an all out mob violence against every single Muslim living in India. He calls it an inevitable outcome, and asks us to conform to his wisdom, but we will not ! We will challenge it, at each and every step !
I started a campaign trying to take down his hateful message ! A Muslim friend of mine did the same as well. The next thing we know, Harbir Singh got outright abusive with my friend. He posted the following on his Facebook page. These posts have also been taken down (presumably by him)
What worries me, is not just the actions of a sole individual but the increasing tendency to provide intellectual justifications for crimes which should be condemned outright. Period ! If we don’t all get together to spread the message of love and unity, then we won’t be able to fight the fascism that has crept slowly into our society. Remember, fascism, when it arrives at our doorsteps, won’t come dressed in a Hitler’s SS brown shirt, but rather dressed in smart ties and suits of well educated English speaking men !
For the advancement of right-wing forces in Bengal, there’s been a continuous and deliberate attempt to spread fake images/videos to project that Bengal is being taken over by Muslims. Recently, we wrote about how the killing of one Abu Syed in Bangladesh was portrayed as a Hindu man being killed by Muslims in Bengal. The aggressive Hindutva posturing during this year’s Ram Navmi celebrations in Bengal with sword waving, slogans and overall provocative behaviour was also a strategy to further the polarisation of voters. There are increasing instances of small-scale communal disturbances in Bengal. The target seems to be 2019 elections and the preparations have begun well in advance.
As part of the preparations, now there’s a new video which has gone viral on social media which claims that a Hindu man was beaten up on Hanuman Jayanti (April 11th, 2017) by 2 Muslim IPS officers. We first noticed this video on the right-wing website PostCard.news. They posted an article with the title, “Watch!! Is Birbhum a part of Pakistan or Bangladesh?” in which they claim that a Hindu man was beaten up by two Muslim IPS officers on Hanuman Jayanti. The first two paras in the article narrate their version of the story and are quoted below.
Jihadi Didi’s West Bengal is a safe haven for all Islamic Fanatics. Momota first tried to halt Ram Navami celebrations. Even after the High court stayed the Ram Navami celebrations, Momota had evil plans for Hanuman Jayanti. The devotees of Birbhum district were seen getting trashed by WB police on the instructions of Jihadi Didi. Their only mistake was that they decided to undertake a peaceful procession during the festival of Hanuman Jayanti.
The police officers had been instructed to trash the ‘Kafirs.’ This happened in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. For once, you may think that this is Pakistan or Bangladesh. But, no this is India’s very own Jihad land. The 2 IPS Muslim officers did not think twice before mercilessly bashing the Hanuman devotees. The Devotee can be heard saying “Jai Bajrangbali” even after being lati-charged by the police.
At the bottom of PostCard article is a video clip which shows a man being thrashed by a police personnel while several constables watch. We captured the article on their website and the video in the following YouTube video.
We tracked down this particular video to check its authenticity. As it turns out, the video is neither of Hanuman Jayanti which was celebrated on April 11, 2017 nor was the incident of police brutality from Bengal. This video has been available on Youtube for close to 3 years now and has been uploaded multiple times using various titles. The first instance that we could find was uploaded on September 30, 2014.
Following are the few instances of this video available on Youtube. The latest in the series claims that his incident happened in Uttar Pradesh. Clearly, the same video is being re-circulated with misleading titles and the origin of the video is unknown.
This video is currently viral on Facebook/WhatsApp and has been shared by multiple pages/individual profiles. Here is a non-exhaustive list of pages/profiles which have shared it with the misleading story of a Hindu man being beaten up by Muslim IPS officers and has been watched by lakhs of people on different mediums.
But who came up with this fake story originally? It turns out that it was Asansol District’s BJP IT Cell in-charge Tarun Sengupta who originally posted this on his Facebook timeline at 8:47 pm on April 17th. We also captured Mr Tarun Gupta’s little mischief on a video just in case if he suddenly develops amnesia.
According to Tarun Sengupta’s Twitter profile, he is the BJP Asansol District IT Incharge.
The same profile picture that is used on the Twitter profile is also available on Tarun Sengupta’s Facebook profile from which the fake video was posted thus proving that the Facebook profile and Twitter profile belong to the same person.
In fact, Tarun Sengupta seems quite close to BJP top brass in Bengal including BJP MP Babul Supriyo. According to pictures on Tarun Sengupta’s profile, his family had attended the celebrations of BJP MP Babul Supriyo’s swearing in. A picture of Tarun Sengupta’s son can be seen with BJP State Executive Member from Bengal, Nirmal Karmakar (circled).
We at Alt News believe that these fake videos which do the rounds on social media and WhatsApp are being created in an organised and pre-planned manner. This is yet another proof that people officially in BJP are also a part of this dangerous propaganda of injecting communal poison in the society. Will BJP now disown Tarun Sengupta just the way they disowned the alleged ISI agents from BJP’s IT cell in Bhopal?
I see your face on every newspaper and TV channel, and I must admit that the bald and beautiful look suits you, just as much as your gorgeous locks did.
I also admire the fact that you stood by your words and rightfully demanded the Rs 10 lakhs promised you by some troll maulvi, who suddenly emerged from oblivion for his brief moment in the limelight, thanks to you.
But what is the uproar all about? Let us go back to your tweets, that have sent birds of all feathers aflutter — from religious fanatics to champions of ‘the right to freedom of expression’ — and unleashing a new national debate in the process.
You start by tweeting: ‘God bless everyone.’ So far so good. God knows we are all in need of a blessing, now more than ever.
‘I‘m not a Muslim and I have to be woken up by the Azaan in the morning. When will this forced religiousness end in India,’ you ask.
It is a valid question and your reasoning is ‘sound’. An Indian is subject to noise pollution almost every moment of his life — be it the honking of cars, the bursting of crackers or, horror of horrors, the loudspeaker at every imaginable occasion! Any sane citizen ought to be in complete agreement with you.
After all, not disturbing another’s peace with our own religiosity is plain good sense. But, is it also in good spirit to raise this question during a time when divisive forces are screaming louder than ever?
It reeks of privilege and insensitivity — somewhat like complaining of the weather, a first world problem, when children are starving in Africa.
It must be most annoying to have to wake up to the sound of azaan. But it must be equally annoying to have your food choices dictated to you? Is that not forced religiousness, to quote your own words?
And it must be more than annoying to have one’s life or that of a loved one’s, suddenly snatched away by a bunch of gau rakshaks?
How did you sleep through the cries of a Mohammad Akhlaq, or a Pehlu Khan being beaten to death? Did you then tweet, ‘Goondagardi hai, bas’?
You next say: ‘And by the way Mohammed did not have electricity when he made Islam.. Why do I have to have this cacophony after Edison? I don’t believe in any temple or gurudwara using electricity to wake up people who don’t follow the religion . Why then..? Honest? True?’
Flawless logic again. Except that ‘cacophony’ is subjective. What is ‘music’ to one may be ‘noise’ to another and vice versa. Just the way your tweet may seem very meaningful to one and unnecessary din to another.
Also, is forced religiousness the only source of noise pollution in our country? What about forced nationalism? If there is no need to be loud in our religious displays there shouldn’t be a necessity for loud displays of patriotism either. Honest? True? Hope you will soon tweet about this nuisance too.
I am not a Muslim, you say, and that you are a secular, liberal human being. According to you, this category of people is a minority in our country, and that is truer than you imagine. Liberals today are the fringe elements, and gau rakshaks, mainstream. But a charge often laid against liberals is that of selective outrage. Hope you are not going to be guilty of the same.
It is high time we wake up to all instances of forced religiousness and goondagardi, not ‘some’. We cannot cry racism abroad unless we do the same when Africans and North Easterners are assaulted closer home.
Fanaticism, too, can lurk in the recesses of our own hearts, not just in the easily identifiable garb of a ridiculous maulvi announcing a fatwa. (I do hope that man is forced to pay up!)
I would like to believe that the true spirit of our country is embodied in Pooja Bhattji’s tweet (which I came across in connection with yours): ‘I wake each morning to the sound of church bells & the azaan in a quiet bylane of Bandra. I light an agarbatti & salute the spirit of India.’
This spirit lies dormant somewhere, suppressed by the loud voices of disharmony and discord. It is this quiet spirit that must awaken now, so that we can truthfully sing with you,
Jagi dhadkan nayi
Jaana zinda hoon main toh abhi
Perhaps it is a good thing that you’ve been forced to wake up, Sonuji. For much more is at stake, than just your sleep.
In yet another crime committed against a woman the blame is shifted on to the woman. A 29-year-old Bengaluru woman was hacked to death in broad daylight right outside her house in Deepanjali Nagar on April 11 and media reports went on to suggest that she was responsible for her own death.
It was around 11.30 am, when 50-year-old Girish attacked Shobha outside her home while she was washing clothes. When a neighbour, Vijayamma, tried to stop him, she too was grievously hurt.
Shobha bled to death before help could arrive, while, Vijayamma is currently recovering at the Victoria Hospital.
Girish, according to Shobha’s family, had been stalking her for the past four months.
Just a couple of hours after the incident occurred, Deputy Commissioner of Police (West), M N Anuchet reportedly spoke to crime reporters, stating that Shobha and Girish were having an “illicit affair”. The damaging statement reportedly made by the police led regional news channels, including Suvarna News and Praja TV, to run special programs highlighting the crime while reporting it inaccurately.
Cartoon by Sylvia Karpagam, Justice for Shobha Facebook page
For instance, one of the channels airing a show on the murder referred to the deceased girl as a “temptress” who lured her attacker with her wiles and abandoned him later. A channel went as far as to suggest that it was because of her that the murderer’s family lost their sole breadwinner.
According to Vinay Sreenivasa from the Alternative Law Forum (ALF), Girish had been stalking Shobha for four months and in this period, she had changed her mobile number thrice because of the harassment.
“Shobha refused his advances and when Girish found out that she was going to get married, he killed her because she said no to him. Girish is married and has two children,” Vinay said.
The channels ran stories based on DCP Anuchet’s statement and claimed that Shobha was the one who had initiated the relationship with Girish. The slandering did not stop there says ALF. Some of the reports said that when she dumped him and decided to get married to another man, Girish killed her in a fit of rage.
Cartoon by Sylvia Karpagam, Justice for Shobha Facebook page
“Why does it matter if a person was or was not in a relationship or affair? A woman was brutally murdered, is that not enough to outrage the media? Why did they blame the victim? The police took four days to nab Girish. Why did the media nor the police blame him? Why did they not point out that he did not understand the word no and still stalked her? We demand accountability,” Vinay said.
The campaigners are demanding a speedy investigation in the case and also public apologies to Shobha’s family members from Suvarna News, Praja TV, Samaya News, Public TV and other channels that aired similar shows.
The family is also demanding a public apology from the DCP and a statement from Chief Minister Siddaramaiah.
“We want media channels to abide by the Code of Conduct of the National Broadcasting Association. Men need to be held accountable and responsible for their actions and for violence against women and the media must not justify their actions and neither should the police,” Lekha Adavi from ALF said.http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/bengaluru-woman-hacked-death-police-and-media-dub-her-temptress-who-deserved-it-60726
MUMBAI: Who owns the popular phrase “Nation Wants to Know” used by Arnab Goswami in the prime time show ‘Newshour’ telecast on Times Now? Arnab, who served as Times Now editor-in-chief, has received a legal notice from The Times Group over the use of the phrase even as he is getting ready to launch English news channel Republic TV.
In a three-minute audio clip posted on YouTube, Arnab has said that he has been threatened with imprisonment by a media group if he were to use that phrase on TV. He did not name the media group. “I’ve just received another legal threat. This time I’m sharing it with you.
A media group has sent me a six-page letter threatening me with imprisonment if I ever use the phrase ‘nation wants to know’. They say they own the phrase,” Arnab said. “ARG Outliers had filed for trademark for these and similar phrases which were already filed for and extensively used for years by Times Now.
We have responded with a standard caution notice. He (Arnab) is just trying to gain soundbytes from it,”
Mint quoted a Times Network spokesperson as saying. As reported by TelevisionPost.com earlier, Arnab has teamed up with Rajya Sabha MP and NDA vice-chairman Rajeev Chandrasekhar for his TV and digital news venture. The two, along with Goswami’s wife Samyabrata Ray Goswami, have floated two companies named ARG Outlier Media and SARG Media Holding for the venture.
In the audio clip, Arnab further stated: “I have watched the nervous antics of this media group with amusement and horror for the last few months. Today I am replying to them. In public. To them, I say: The threat of imprisonment will not deter me. Bring your moneybags and your lawyers, file the criminal case against me for using the phrase “Nation Wants to Know”.
Do everything you can, spend all the money you have and arrest me. I am waiting right now in my studio floor. Come, enforce your threat. Viewers, the phrase “Nation Wants to Know” belongs to you, to me, and to all of us, every citizen of this country.” Arnab said that he had used the phrase with pride for the last 20 years, in his reporting and on debates. “Every Indian has a right to use that phrase. And this phrase comes from the heart.”
Arnab asked the public if he should stop using the phrase. Also Read:
“Pahila mala chambharin bolvayche, ata maanane taai bolavtat
(First they used to call me chambharin, now they call me taai)”
A young Dalit widow with two children, Asha Kamble was harassed by a Vanjari man when she refused his advances. Now in her mid-thirties, Asha
established herself as a tailor after her husband’s death 10 years ago. She went to the police four times to complain; every time, she was turned away. Once the man had, in a drunken state, knocked on her door at midnight and tried to force his way in. Asha didn’t let him in. She tied his hands to the door knob instead.
In March 2013, Asha was summoned by a 10-member village committee (the Vanjari man was present as well) which accused her 13-year-old daughter, Saloni, of theft and demanded that she either pay Rs. 20,000 or leave the village. Asha knew her daughter admitted to the crime under pressure, so she offered only Rs. 1,000 as penalty. Khadaki is dominated by Vanjaris and Marathas. Only a handful of houses belong to Buddhist-Dalits and Maangs.
“I told them that I couldn’t afford to pay, nor could I afford to leave the village. The next day they went to the cops to register a complaint against my daughter. The cops told me as she was a minor they wouldn’t register it,” says Asha.
Angered by police inaction, the wife of Bansi Chole (one of the accused) asked Asha’s landlord to evict her. She asked for 15 days to wrap up her business, but they demanded that she leave within two. When she refused, they got a few villagers to throw her belongings out of the house, she said.
“As they were doing this, I took my kids and went to the police station. Initially the cops didn’t entertain me. Later they noted the complaint but didn’t give me the receipt,” says Asha.
“After seven days, when police visited the village for the panchnama, I told them some of my belongings were missing. But they didn’t bother to note that,” says Asha.
Later police and relatives of the accused requested Asha to withdraw the case. One even offered to return her belongings and give her money. She says even the local MLA met her in this connection.
“They offered me Rs. 5 lakh and even said the house I stayed in would be transferred to my name free of cost. But I didn’t budge,” says Asha.
The police, Asha claims, fabricated statements from witnesses in a way that suggested that the case should be closed. Although they registered the case under the Prevention of Atrocities Act, a court dismissed the case. She has challenged the order.
THE KHURSANE BROTHERS
“Tyana raag alay ani ghabarayla jhalay amchi chalwal baghun” (They are angry and are threatened by our growing activism)
“Dalit aspirations are a breach of peace,” B.R. Ambedkar said in his 1936 speech “Annihilation of Caste”. On December 7, 2016, around 7.30 p.m., 22-year-old Ajay Khurasane was beaten up by a group of upper caste people in the village square of Pohegaon in Ahmednagar district. When Ajay’s 20-year-old brother Ashok confronted them, they assaulted both with weapons, causing severe injuries. A long vertical scar marks the left side of Ajay’s face.
Although the Khurasane brothers are farm labourers, they were part of a tribal organisation working for the community, in a village dominated by Marathas, followed by Joshis, Maangs, Dhangars and Gondhalis. The upper caste communities in Pohegaon, which has 500-600 families, feel threatened by the tribals fighting for their rights.
Dalit activist Kiran Thakarey explains: “When we founded the organisation, the gram panchayat didn’t give us permission. We went to the police station and then we got permission. Founding it has boosted the confidence of women and the elderly, who have wanted it for the past 10 years but were scared of the bullying.”
As Ajay narrates the incident sitting in front of his house, Ashok, their mother Chandrakala and other villagers gather around. “I went to the village square from the market. My friend and I were chatting when one of the accused passed us. He thought we were talking about him. He got angry and gathered 20-odd people and thrashed me and threatened to burn my house down,” Ajay said.
Ashok came to the spot in an effort to make peace. “When we went to the accused’s place, instead of a dialogue, he and a few others started hitting us with a gupti (dagger),” said Ajay.
The brothers went to Shirdi police station. “We reached at 10 p.m. but our complaint was lodged only at 3 a.m. They deliberately delayed the process. The police told us that the situation could be blown out of proportion, so we should withdraw the case.”
The accused were arrested but released the following day. A day after that, they told the brothers, “The police cannot harm us. We have done the internal setting.” They are now out on bail. More than 15 people assaulted them, but the FIR named only six. “So far, police haven’t applied the Atrocities Act. We are waiting,” says Kiran. This was the first time someone had spoken up aginst the dominant family of the village.
“Maharana lai maaj aalay. Dakhavto tumhala tumchi aukaat, asa amhala mhanale”
[These Mahars are trying to be over smart, we will show you your place—this is what they told us]
The Udage family in Pune’s Chikali area has been living under threat and 24-hour police protection ever since Manik, the 25-year-old sole breadwinner, was hacked to death for celebrating Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on April 14, 2014.
In 2014, Manik, a local contractor and founder of Samvidhan Pratistha—an organisation established to promote Dalit cultural events—was beaten with a steel rod and stoned to death by four men from upper caste families. The provocation was his decision to organise an event in Morya vasti where the upper caste communities are dominant.
Besides, the four men who killed him, were local contractors threatened by Manik’s growing popularity. They used to ridicule Manik by saying that he should “remember that he is a Mahar”. But Manik was defiant.
One night the four men came to his hut dragged him out in his sleep, and took him away. “After two days of frantic searching we found Manik’s mutilated body,” says Shravan (in picture), Manik’s 22-year-old brother, who is fighting the case.
The Udage family’s struggles continue. Even though the accused are in jail, Shravan says trhey felt they were always being watched. Whenever Shravan passes Morya vasti, he is subjected to cold stares from the relatives of the accused who has been denied bail several times.
It was not easy for the family to get 24-hour police protection.
“Majha tondavar thukla ani tyacha gharchyansamor majha blouse fadla”
(He spat on my face and tore my blouse in front of his family)
From death over a land dispute to charges of murder, the Hathagle family of Anandwadi village in Beed district has seen it all in the past couple of years. Anandwadi is a small village with a Maratha majority. There are only 30-35 Maang houses. Manisha Khupse, a member of a Maang family which is not getting money due under the state’s Gharkul Yojana, confronted the upper caste political leader on the matter. The reply was a volley of abuse, she says.
The Hathagle family’s problems began when they got embroiled in a land dispute. The land, says Manisha—who goes by her married name—was bought by her father and uncle in 1983. Theirs was the first family from the lower castes to own a flour mill in an upper caste dominated village. The counter claim is that they encroached on the land. The dispute claimed her uncle’s life in 2013. One person was booked for murder. The environment in the village is tense.
Manisha, a 29-year-old widow with two children, has been fighting the cases since the dispute began. Things have started heading south for the Hathagle family ever since. The other party in the land dispute is Mirabai Baburao Chavan. “She has not only targeted our house, but lodged a complaint against 13 people stating that we encroached on village land, whereas everyone legally bought it and built pukka houses under Gharkul Yojana,” says Manisha. Mirabai’s son is the accused.
The verdict went in their favour and the accused was released after one year. Manisha claims Mirabai hired goons to harass the community. A few months after her uncle was killed, Manisha and nine family members were booked under Section 307 (attempt to murder) in a case she claims is false. “We were falsely booked on charges of attempting to murder Mirabai’s husband.” The family had to stay out of the village till the situation calmed down. The investigation, however, turned out to be a relief as the witnesses spoke in their favour.
Manohar Chalak, 40, and his family insist Manisha and her family don’t belong to the village and the land is not owned by them. Besides, Chalak claims Manisha got her caste certificate by filing fake documents. This claim has deterred police from lodging a case under the Atrocities Act.
Manisha says that when she confronted Chalak about the harassment he “abused me, spat on my face, tore my blouse in full view of the Georai court. He also said that I (a woman from the Maang community) should be raped in public, only then I will understand their power.”
“Majha mulicha jiv shulak karanamule gela”
(My daughter died for no reason)
Ten-year-old Rajashree would have been alive today if the Dalit basti of Bagh Pimpalgaon village in Beed district had got enough water last year, says her father Namdev Kamble.
Namdev holds the sarpanch and gram sevak responsible for his daughter’s death, as they did not release water to the basti for 10-15 days at a stretch. In February 2016, says Namdev, if there had been water in the house, Rajashree wouldn’t have gone to the well where she tripped and injured her head severely. She succumbed to the injury because Namdev, a farm labourer, could not afford the cost of treatment.
“We had to change three hospitals before Ghati government hospital in Aurangabad admitted her as we couldn’t afford the expense,” Namdev says.
Discrimination on the grounds of caste is commonplace in Bagh Pimpalgaon. The incident occurred when the drought in Marathwada had affected water supply. But the sarpanch, claims Namdev, would release water to the village twice a day, with the exception of the Dalit basti, which got it only once in 10-15 days. Despite his repeated requests, the basti was deprived of water.
Although police took note of Namdev’s complaint, no FIR has been filed and no action taken. “We didn’t receive any compensation from the government. I even visited Mantralaya in Mumbai, they said they would look into it. It’s been four months, but nothing has happened.”
Highlighting the lack of drinking water in zilla parishad schools, Dalit activist Kadudas Kambale says, “The schools should have adequate water for the children. After all, they provide them with mid-day meals, so they should obviously look at providing water.”
Rajashree, a fourth grader in the school, was a bright student and active in cultural events. She had eaten her mid-day meal in the school on the day of the incident but was thirsty. Reaching home, she found no water in the house and went to the well.
“This incident could have been avoided if we had got enough water for storage. This is not just a case of death by accident, but also a case of atrocity as the basti was denied water,” adds Kadudas.
Namdev and Kamble tried several times to file a formal FIR against the sarpanch and gram sevak. But “strong political backing” has shielded them.
“Porga kay sairat navta”
(Our son was not of loose character or in love)
The day before his 19th birthday, Rohan Kakade, a Mahar boy from Satara, was murdered by five Maratha men. One of them believed his sister was having an affair with Rohan. They beheaded Rohan, burnt his body and dumped it near Jadhavvadi waterfall.
Rohan’s father Satyavan and the young woman’s father Sunil were good friends. On April 30, 2009, Rohan didn’t return home after dropping his sister off at a medical store. The parents started a search when his phone was not reachable. It was late evening when they finally located Ashok, one of the accused, who said Rohan was last seen with Swapnil (main accused) and his friends headed for a swim.
The parents knew Rohan couldn’t swim so they took Ashok and went to the police station. Upon his confession, they found Rohan’s body. His mother Chandrabhaga stayed at the police station the whole night while his father returned with the body the following day.
Rohan was good at studies and the young woman, a family friend, would call him for help with school work. Rohan’s mother once saw a call from the young woman on Rohan’s phone after 1 a.m. Rohan told his parents that Sunil’s daughter called him occasionally.
But the young woman’s family said Rohan talked to her so they suspected an affair was brewing.
“We even showed them the telecom company’s records. This was our evidence that she was the one who called Rohan after 1 a.m. I told them if they thought my son is committing a crime, they could have gone to the police. Why did they kill him? She is Maratha and he is Mahar, this is the reason they killed him,” Rohan’s mother said.
In court proceedings, the defence lawyer argued that Rohan’s father worked as a bonded labourer in the house of the accused and that they were not friends.
“We made a lot of noise against this injustice but I don’t see any results,” says Chandrabhaga. “We even got media attention, but what’s the use when there’s no outcome?”
Two and half years after the murder, Rohan’s father died. His mother continues to fight the case.
“Fakta Babasahebanchi ringtone thevli mhanun maarla majha porala” (Because my son had a ringtone praising Babasaheb, they killed him.)”
Sagar Shejwal, a 24-year-old nursing student, was killed in May 2015 near Shirdi by a group of nine intoxicated Maratha men because they objected to the phone ringtone. The ringtone had a song in praise of Ambedkar. Shejwal was a Mahar-Buddhist.
In May 2015, Sagar had gone to Shirdi to attend a friend’s wedding. During the celebrations, he and two of his cousins visited a local beer shop where his phone rang a few times. Nine heavily-inebriated men were sitting outside. They confronted Sagar about his ringtone: “Tumhi karaare kitihi halla, lai mazbut Bhimacha quilla (You can shout as much as you want but Bhim’s fortress always stays strong)”. They demanded that he change the ringtone. Sagar refused. A verbal spat snowballed into a fight. Sagar and his cousins were thrashed. Although the cousins managed to run away, the nine men took Sagar to a forest near the Manmad highway. His naked mutilated body was found here.
Ashwini, Sagar’s older sister, said: “We all thought he had gone to the wedding, but we had no clue where he was at that moment as his phone was not reachable. We were looking for him everywhere. When our relatives went o the police station, the cops said they would not head out in the heat. They needed an air-conditioned car. So the relatives arranged for an air-conditioned car. However, they (police) were still not able to locate Sagar.”
The body was finally found when one of Sagar’s friends was able to identify one of the accused. When interrogated, the man gave away the location.
All the nine accused have admitted to their crime and are behind bars. The social welfare department compensated the family with Rs. 1,75,000.
A huge portrait of Sagar hangs on the wall along with that of Ambedkar and other smaller pictures from the family album in the hall of their one-room kitchen house at Rahata Phata colony. Anita Shejwal, Sagar’s mother, said: “The main accused was from Maratha community. Why do they have so much anger against us?”
“Doctorani janavarala lavtaat tase taake lavle tyana”
(Doctors treated him worse than an animal while stitching his wounds)
Sadashiv Salave (better known as Salave Guruji), a 69-year-old retired primary school teacher, and his son and nephew were beaten up by upper caste mob with sticks, swords and iron rods when Guruji intervened in a dispute between the two castes in Bagh Pimpalgaon, Beed district in 2009. Digambar Salave, Guruji’s other son who now looks after their farm, sat on a sofa recalling the incident.
It started with a small fight on June 24, 2009, says Digambar. “My nephew Ravichandra Salave had gone to deliver the afternoon tiffin to my father who was working in the field. It was there the perpetrator, belonging to Dhangar caste, started abusing Ravi and threw stones at him,” Digambar says. An injured Ravi then went to hospital to get himself treated. The police, claims Digambar, didn’t take any action against the accused when a complaint was lodged.
The following day (25th June 2009), Ravi’s father, Bhikachand, went to the man’s house to confront him for beating his son. The man and the main accused, Gangaram Vazir, called his men—belonging to Maratha, Dhangar, and other upper caste communities in the village—and started beating Bhikachand using sticks, weapons and swords. They followed him home and started abusing the Salave family. Hearing the commotion, Guruji came out of the house to resolve the conflict. The mob then dragged him and assaulted him with swords and iron rods.
“The mob was very violent. No one was ready to listen. Even Pravin, who went to help Guruji, was injured severely. Nobody reached out to help when they started thrashing us,” says Guruji’s wife, Satvasheela. The police stopped the Salave family from going to the hospital and insisted on recording the statements first. Later when they were taken to a government hospital, the injured were not treated properly, claims Guruji’s wife. “Then we moved Guruji to another hospital in Beed. Even there we were denied proper treatment. The doctors didn’t pay attention while stitching the wounds and treated him worse than an animal.”
Guruji died of suffocation. Of the 18 accused, nine were sentenced to 7 years of imprisonment, the rest were acquitted. They have now appealed against the acquittal of some of the accused.
“Ti matimanda ahe mhanun tila sodla nahi tar marun takla asta”
(She was ‘spared’ because of her handicap else they would have killed her.)
“The 18-year-old deaf and dumb, mentally-challenged girl was not murdered only because her handicap would not allow her to talk about how she was gang-raped or beaten” This is how Dalit activist and National Dalit Movement for Justice (NDMJ) president Harish Kakade described what happened to a girl from Phaltan block of Satara district in March 2015, when she went missing. Her parents were at work and her sisters in school. Only her younger brother and grandmother were at home. She had stepped out during the day, but had not returned by late evening. After a fruitless search, the family went to the police station. They were asked to wait for 24 hours as they suspected the girl had run away. They didn’t take the fact of her mental illness seriously.
In desperation, the family shared her photo and details on WhatsApp and social media. The next day, someone from the Wadgaon police station called to say a girl in a bad state had been brought there. When their nephew Ganesh brought her back, she told her mother using sign language what had happened.
Two men from the Kunchikorave (nomadic) community had taken her on their bike to a field a few kilometres from her home. There they raped her and took her to another nearby field to confuse her so that she would not be able to identify the location. They were thrashing her when a labourer there spotted them. The men had fled. The man called nearby villagers in an effort to identify the girl. Unable to understand what she was saying, they took her to Wadgaon police station. Eventually, they traced her with WhatsApp.
Her mother said doctors at the government hospital initially thought the blood was from her period, but finally intervened to ensure the cops lodged the complaint. The victim identified the accused in the identification parade.
The Kunchikorave community is influential in the village, Kakade says. One of the accused got a life term, but the other was acquitted. The girl’s family says the police didn’t show her the second accused during the identification parade.
“Savarna lokanchyaach baajune jasta karun nyaay dila jaata”
(The discretionary power of the judiciary normally works in
favour of the privileged caste)
“On April 26, 2007, Madhukar Ghadage, a 48-year-old Dalit-Buddhist farmer of Kulakajai village in Satara district, was digging a well near a percolation tank. The land near the tank—which he had bought—is prized for its high water table. It is shared with four upper caste families who have their own wells here.
“We bought the land under Jawahar Vihir (well) Yojana and even obtained a no-objection certificate from the gram sabha,” says Tushar Ghadage, Madhukar’s son. “They [upper caste families] were not happy, but we were determined to dig it because we were doing nothing illegal.
“We decided to speed up the digging using machines. Around 7 p.m., my cousin Vaibhav and I returned home to get food and water for the rest.” Returning to the site Tushar saw some men throwing stones at the diggers. The workers abandoned Madhukar and fled. Tushar and Vaibhav ran to the rescue, but they too were assaulted. By the time they got him out, Madhukar was unconscious from loss of blood.
“We had to carry my father on a bike for almost 21 km because we didn’t get any assistance from the villagers,” said Tushar. When they reached hospital, Madhukar was declared brought dead.
In 2010, a sessions court acquitted all 12 accused, citing lack of evidence. Tushar challenged the judgment in the Bombay High Court in August 2010. “When the bench saw this case, they were shocked at the judgment,” he said. The case is now pending at the high court.
The Ghadage family is a pioneer of the Dalit Buddhist movement of 1956. Madhukar’s grandfather Abaji was the first Dalit in the village to get a job in the Railways. The family is relatively affluent and progressive, with many members working in government.
“One of my brothers completed a Masters in Social Work from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS),” says Tushar, who has an M.A. from the same institution. “One cousin is a civil engineer, another has an M.Sc. in microbiology and another an M. Sc. in Zoology. None of the upper caste families can match the Ghadages. This is a reason of contention and jealousy.”
Tushar says the well-digging only triggered a deep-seated grudge. “If we submit, they win,” Tushar says.
“Majha porala vedya kutrayala jasa martaat tasa marla”
(My son was killed like one would kill a mad dog on the loose)
He was 17 when he died, hanged from a tree in Kharda village near Ahmednagar district’s Jamkhed town for talking to a girl from an upper caste community. Three men, including the girl’s brother, suspected the Mahar boy of having an affair and constantly harassed him in school.
Nitin was a Class XI student who worked part-time in a motorcycle garage. He was good at studies. On April 28, 2014, the day of his death, he had appeared for the Std XII preparatory exam from Government English Medium school in Kharda village.
According to his father Raju Aage, Nitin was beaten up in school. Neither the teachers nor the principal intervened. Instead they were told to take it outside. “They paraded him naked in front of the village, but no one stopped the atrocity. Most of the onlookers were Marathas. My son was killed like one would kill a mad dog,” says Raju.
Narrating eyewitness accounts, Raju said the three men broke Nitin’s arms, legs and threw him on the floor. Then they ran a motorcycle over his unconscious body several times. They dragged him to a brick kiln and inserted hot iron rods into his private parts. Later they hanged him from a small lime tree to make it look like suicide.
Nitin’s parents searched frantically for several hours before they found him hanging from the tree. “We took him to Jamkhed Hospital where his post mortem was done,” Raju said.
The family of the girl in question said Nitin was only beaten and not murdered. A relative was quoted in The Hindu as saying Nitin was harassing the girl, and was thrashed when her brother found out. “It was meant to be a warning. Nitin must have felt insulted and committed suicide.”
“The teachers are to be blamed. They are Marathas. Why didn’t they stop them? If they had intervened, my son wouldn’t have died,” says Raju Aage.
Although more than 10 people were involved in Nitin’s murder, police registered complaints only against three, including the girl’s brother. Later the others were arrested too. Of 13 accused, three juveniles were released, and three granted bail.
Three years later, the case is still going on. Sudharak Olwe has been a Mumbai-based photojournalist since 1988. He has worked as a press photographer with some of the leading newspapers in India. In 2016, Sudharak was conferred the Padma Shri.
Helena Schätzle is an award-winning photographer who works as an independent photojournalist with the German media.
On November 7th, 2015, a march was taken out to the Rashtrapati Bhavan to counter the protests by writers and artists who had returned their awards to the Government as a protest against the rising intolerance in the country. This Award-Wapsi by writers and artists was triggered by the brutal mob-lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri on September 28th, 2015. Anupam Kher led what was called a ‘March for India’ to the Rashtrapati Bhavan and he suggested that those who returned their awards had vested interests and that there’s no intolerance in India. Anupam Kher’s comrades in this march were people like Ashoke Pandit who is a member of the Film Certification Board, singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya, filmmaker Madhukar Bhandarkar and more. After the march, a troupe of people who participated in the march met Prime Minister Modi in the PMO.
Fast forward to 2017, a video went viral on social media in which a Kashmiri man, who had come to cast his vote, was tied to the front of the jeep and paraded through several villages by the Indian army. By the time, Farooq Ahmad Dar got back home in the evening, he had a broken arm and was completely traumatised. Criticising this incident, retired Lieutenant General Harcharanjit Singh Panag posted a tweet on his Twitter timeline (@rwac48). Lt General Panag is the former Commanding officer of the Northen Command and Central Command of the Indian Army, is the only three-star General from the Mechanised Infantry and has won multiple awards.
Many people responded to this tweet, some with a lot of appreciation, and others expressing disagreement. However, the debate was not always civilised and the very gang who took out the ‘March For India’ to the Prime Minister’s office hurled the most shameful abuses at Lt General Panag. Leading the gang was Ashoke Pandit who has been appointed as a member of the Central Board for Film Certification by Modi Govt.
Singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya, who was also an important member of the March For India, was the other celebrity who wanted Lt General HS Panag to be kicked, beaten-up and humiliated.
Besides the not very tolerant ‘March For India’ gang, as always, there were people whom Mr Modi personally follows on Twitter who spewed venom against Lt General HS Panag. Here are a few of them.
And then there were other not so prominent social media warriors with allegiance to BJP.
The General did not hold back his punches and did not hesitate to give a piece of his mind to those who were trolling him.
If you like our stories, do follow Alt News on Facebook.
What this episode proves yet again is that the right-wing’s love for the army is only until the point they don’t speak out. Every time, anybody in the army has spoken out, they have been given all sorts of labels. This happened with the army men who were not happy with the Government’s OROP offering and is now happening with one of the most respected Generals.whttps://www.altnews.in/retired-lieutenant-general-hs-panag-abused-modi-supporters-ant-kicked-beaten-humiliated/
For some of you, I’ve become a meme. For many of you, I’m a little piece you think you can play with. You bully me, you try and intimidate me. You’ve put up fake videos and morphed my pictures. In one photograph, you put vermilion on my forehead and used it to talk about the Ram Mandir. You are the ones with a million agendas.You unleashed your fury with unforgiving zeal, with vicious propaganda. You did not spare a moment — not even one thought — in your attempts to troll me. You don’t even know who I am or what I’ve been through. All you know is how to have fun at somebody else’s expense, even if that’s an ordinary, college-going student. You want me raped. You want me dead. You think I deserve to be humiliated like the Delhi braveheart who was raped and killed after an iron rod was shoved up her private parts. Do you even think before you post 140 characters on Twitter or malign me on Facebook?You think I am anti-national because I bat for peace with Pakistan. You label me because I’m clear that I’m not afraid of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and you try and pigeon-hole me because I will continue to believe that the student’s organisation has no right to get violent with us. You even accuse me of using my father’s sacrifice for self-gain. You think my mind is being ‘polluted’.
Let me tell you a little about myself. I don’t owe you any explanation nor do I have to explain myself. If I choose to, it is only in the hope that it will sensitise you on how you can hurt complete strangers who may not be as strong as me. You tried to use me – a young adult – to pursue your agendas. You ganged up on me but you could not cow me down; you did not make me run scared.
You have actually opened the windows of my mind. I was a happy student, content with my 30 followers on Twitter, till you thought I was easy game. I did not know you, Kiren Rijiju, till I Googled you and was surprised to find a minister trying to bully me. You have an amazing number of followers. You even got actor Randeep Hooda — sigh, like most young girls, I too had a crush on him — to go on an emoji overdrive. Why? Because I said, Pakistan didn’t kill my father, war did
For Rijiju, Hooda and the army of anonymous trolls who don’t dare reveal their identities, I’d say it again: I want peace with Pakistan. I don’t want more children to be orphaned. I know what death means. I had to learn to live with it early, too early.
I was only two years old. I have a searing memory of my father lying in a coffin with a bandage on his chest. I asked my mother why dad was sleeping. Is it a dream, I asked? She nodded in an effort to save me from pain. How does a mother even explain the meaning of death to a two-year-old? For years, I thought a coffin was a dream. No, I’m not seeking sympathy.
I battled my demons with my mother’s help. She put me in a tennis academy and at age 13, I was a part of the Punjab state team. I wanted to represent the country. There was honour attached to it. It also helped me in my identity as my father’s daughter.
Losing my father – a proud army officer — was a deeply personal tragedy. You don’t know what I went through. I grew up with pain. It has become fashionable to use the word ‘martyr.’ So many of you say, “Ask a family who has lost a soldier if they really want peace with Pakistan.’’ It has become a common refrain now because it helps the ‘nationalistic’ narrative. Ask me and I’ll say emphatically: I’ve lived through the pain. I don’t want soldiers martyred so that you can prove your nationalism. Don’t use their dead bodies to propagate your faux-nationalism. It is easy to tweet about nationalism and anti-nationalism.
A report on cyber bullying released in November 2016 found online threats to be a serious issue in the country. The report, based on a survey of 500 social media users, is authored by Japleen Pasricha, Founder, Feminism In India. Some key findings:
of respondents who had experienced harassment online took no action at all
said they had intentionally reduced their online presence after sufferning harassment
of those who had experienced online abuse found it extremely upsetting
reported that it led to mental health issues such as depression, stress and insomnia
said they were not aware of laws to protect them from online harassment
of those who reported the matter to police termed the response as ‘not at all helpful’
When so many of you roped in my father to spread your hatred, it bothered me; it disturbed me. The abuse brought everything back to me in a flash but then I composed myself. I’m smart. I’m cocky. I’m surrounded by women (my mother and sister, Bani, who was three months old when dad died) who take pride in having an opinion. I’ve only lived with women. Feminism wasn’t just an idea — it was there in everyday life. Equality isn’t just a notion, we practise it. I know the difference between freedom of expression and bullying.
Real bullets killed my father. Your hate bullets are deepening my resolve. Your idea of nationalism is bogus. My India-Pakistan peace video came out a year ago and though the video got noticed, nobody called me an anti-national then. Am I anti-national now because I questioned your student’s body?
Being an athlete, I’ve built stamina and control over my emotions. I have blocked the hate in my head. I will speak up when my fellow-students return to college with lathi marks on their arms and legs. I will speak up each time I feel strongly on an issue.
Personalities like cricketer Virender Sehwag and Hooda should remember that no one deserves to go through what I did. I don’t need them — or anyone else — to tell me how my father would be thinking of me. I don’t even agree with what Jawaharlal Nehru University student Umar Khalid said about the hanging of Parliament convict Afzal Guru, so don’t even try and define me.
I am now an anti-troll soldier and I’ll keep fighting. I know right from wrong.
And, yes, I’m making a list of people and websites that hurled abuse at me and am exploring my legal options. In the end, thank you for helping me add followers. From 30, they’ve shot up to over 55,000.
I’ll make sure I speak my mind.
Gurmehar is a Delhi University student who was threatened with rape and death after she took a stand against students’ body, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. This is part of HT’s new campaign, Let’s Talk About Trolls, which focuses sharp attention on online abuse and bullying.
There are now stories doing rounds among journalistic fraternity as to how the PCH shunted 29 women journalists including two other senior women journalists – Udayalakshmi and Rajeshwari – from regular memberships despite having decades of professional experience in the field.
In fact, the two senior women journalists said to have a collective experience of 50 years in the profession.
“Not just these two, but the other 27 women journalists were not even informed that their regular memberships (RMs) are being downgraded to associate memberships (ASMs) ie into temporary ones. How can such a decision be taken outrightly taken without even issuing them a prior notice,” asked said C Vanaja, member of Network of Women in Media.
What’s more ironic was that the two journalists — Udayalakshmi and Rajeshwari — were feted by PCH on Women’s Day on March 8, 2017 for their long-standing stint in the profession but the new office bearers thought otherwise while downgrading their regular membership.
Sources told Socialpost.news that as on May-2016, there were 50 women journalists holding regular membership but in the name of so called review by the new PCH body, membership of 29 women journalists were converted into ASMs ie temporary ones.
Gender bias is total
For decades, the gender discrimination prevailing against women journalists in PCH can be gauged by the fact that as against 421 male journalists admitted in 2016 with regular membership, only 21 women journalists (4.98%) could enter into this male dominated club.
This despite the fact that 150 women journalists did apply for regular memberships that year but the PCH allowed 21 of them to be in the final list, said sources.
Worse, the new PCH body that took over recently, did not even spare women journalists with even five years experience before cancelling their regular memberships.
“This is totally unjust as several male non-journalists with 2-3 years of experience are availing regular PCH membership but the same is denied to women journalists with up to five years experience,” rued a member.
Fight for justice
Meanwhile, at a meeting of PCH women journalists on Thursday, it was unanimously decided that they must fight out the issue to ensure that justice is seen to be done.
“We will exhaust all options including legal to fight this gender discrimination in PCH,” said C Vanaja, without revealing their plan of action.