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Video of Republic Day protest against Gallantry awards in San Francisco

Concerned citizens and friends of India organized a peaceful protest in San Francisco outside the venue of the official Republic Day function hosted by the Indian Consulate which was expected to be attended by around 400 invitees – the movers and shakers of the Indian community as well as local politicians. Much to our satisfaction, we were able to engage in one-on-one conversations with many of the attendees outside the venue and distribute flyers. Many of them signed our petition and many more were sympathetic.

The petition is as follows

Every year on the 26th of January, we celebrate the Constitution of India [1]. Every 30th of January, we remember the martyrdom of Mahatma Gandhi, who led India to freedom. However, for the vast majority of the people of India, even the most basic of the rights guaranteed by the Constitution – the right to life and personal liberty and due legal process if these rights are to be abridged – remain unrealized promises. And the ideals of the independence struggle, as articulated by Gandhi, stand indelibly tarnished.

One of the most shocking recent instances of this trampling upon the Indian constitution is the torture and sexual abuse of prisoner Soni Sori [2,3]. An adivasi school teacher from the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, Sori had exposed evidence of police misconduct in the framing of several cases against her [4]. Police intimidation forced her to flee, and she reached Delhi seeking legal assistance, but was arrested before she could file a petition in the Supreme Court. Fearing for her life in Chhattisgarh, she asked to be held in custody in Delhi, despite which she was handed over to the Chhattisgarh police [5]. In custody, Soni Sori was brutally tortured by the Chhattisgarh police, because of her refusal to corroborate their false statements. A subsequent independent medical examination found sizable stones lodged in her vagina and her rectum and severe damage to her spinal cord [6].

Another instance is the case of Lingaram Kodopi. In 2009, Kodopi was locked up by the police in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh for 40 days, tortured and pressured to join a vigilante force [7]. After the High Court ordered his release, Lingaram went on to complete a course in journalism, and later documented villagers’ accounts of arson, murder and rape during a three-day police operation in March 2011. In September 2011, Lingaram was arrested on charges of collecting ‘protection’ money for the Maoists from Essar, a large business conglomerate. Sori, his aunt, came under pressure from the police to persuade Lingaram to accept the charges. She refused, saying the charges were false and ended up being an accused herself. Amnesty International has pronounced both Sori and Kodopi, Prisoners of Conscience [8].

Sori’s and Kodopi’s are not isolated cases. Authorities in various parts of India have a record of imprisoning innocent people, including human rights workers, on false charges, the most notable case being that of Dr. Binayak Sen. Dr. Sen was convicted of ‘sedition’, and sentenced to life imprisonment, but released by the Supreme Court on bail, pending appeal [9]. Many other innocent people, mostly from marginalized sections of the society, continue to languish in India’s jails; Adivasi activist Kartam Joga [10] and labor leaders, Bhagwati Sahu [11] and Abhay Sahoo [12], are just some of them. Others like Kopa Kunjam [13] and documentarian Ajay TG [14] were released on bail and are awaiting trial. Arun Ferreira, a social and human rights activist, was acquitted in 11 different cases for lack of evidence, but re-arrested each time on a fresh set of charges, until he was finally released on bail on the 4th January [15].

In custody, Soni Sori was pressured by the police to implicate many prominent human rights activists as Maoists [16]. Though Sori resisted the pressure, other news reports indicate a concerted attempt on the part of the state to stigmatize human rights defenders [17]. This was a serious concern placed on record by Margaret Sekaggya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, after the completion of a mission to India a year ago [18].

The gross misconduct of the police is enabled by several draconian laws of questionable Constitutional validity, such as the law against sedition in the Indian Penal Code [19], the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act [20], the Armed Forces Special Powers Act [21] and state-specific laws such as the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) [22]. These laws are intended to help the police to bring charges against anyone on no or the flimsiest of evidence or to arrest and detain people for extended periods without charges or evidence. This process of filing false charges and detention based on them, is being used as a punitive tool in itself.

Where there are credible reports of torture or of other grave misconduct by the police, rarely have the police authorities been investigated, or the democratically elected representatives sanctioning systemic abuses held accountable [23].

Therefore, we demand that:

Torture and other prisoner abuses must stop

Intimidation of Human Rights Defenders must end

The practice of filing false charges, extended detentions without trial, and “arrest, detention and trial” as punishment must end

The law against sedition (Section 124A of Indian Penal Code) be abolished

Laws which give unconditional and unchecked power to the authorities, such as UAPA, AFSPA and CSPSA, be abolished

Soni Sori and Lingaram Kodopi be released immediately and unconditionally

Police and higher level government officials responsible for torturing and pressuring Soni Sori be prosecuted

Pl sign petition here

Below is a short  video (3 min) of the  Republic Day protest against Gallantry awards in San Francisco

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Gallantry Award for Sexual Torture on Republic Day in India

IPS OFFCIER CHHATTISGARH ANKIT GARG

The Victim of Sexual Torture

Soni Sori, an adivasi school teacher and warden from Chhattisgarh, is currently facing trial in Chhattisgarh. Accused as a
Maoist supporter, despite evidence of her having being framed as one in several cases, she has been in custody in Chhattisgarh for about three and a half months.

The Perpetrator of Sexual Torture

S P Ankit Garg,   who holds degree in ( ME Env Bot)  B.E.D,  is  2004 batch   IPS officer who  has been secretary of Chhattisgarh State Human Rights Commission though he has been involved in Ponjer massacre in which six tribal who were collecting Mahua were killed by axe, he saw a CRPF jawan who killed a  two-year- old child and a lady in Cherpaal Salwa Judum  camp, He also tried to save Matwada accused police officers and SPOs.  He was the investigating officer in Dantewada in 2007,  was promoted to the Rank of Superintendent of Police in 2008, as Bijapur S.P and he was S P intelligence Dantewada in 201oand took over as S.P Dantewada on 30th March 2011, in his tenurehe had initaited many anti naxal operations . On Dec 28 , 2011 a day after cadres of the CPI-Maoist blasted Geedam Police Station in Dantewada District, SP of the District, Ankit Garg, has been removed and attached with the PHQ.

GALLANTARY AWARD FOR THE PERPETRATOR OF SEXUAL TORTURE

What has been terribly shocking and perturbing is the fact that while in custody she has been subjected to gross sexual torture, by S. P Ankit garg evidence of which has come to light following a Supreme Court directive for medical examination in a government hospital in Kolkata. Compounding her crisis is the fact that despite this damning evidence, Soni Sori has remained in the custody of the Chhattisgarh police for all this while.

It is shocking to note that in spite of wide publicity and protests over SP Ankit Garg’s inhuman conduct by a large number of women’s and civil liberties groups, nationally and internationally, the government has deemed it fit to confer him with a gallantry award. It is even more baffling to note that this has occurred at a time when the Honourable Supreme Court itself has expressed anguish at the happenings and is still looking into these violations. Compounding the very serious charges of a heinous crime of sexual violence against Ms. Soni Sori that SP Ankit Garg faces, is that fact that this crime happened when she had been entrusted into his custody as a senior police officer. After the report from the Kolkata NRS Medical College and Hospital, this is no longer a case of mere allegations against the police, but there is also solid evidence by a government medical team to support her charges. However, none of this appears to have placed even a shadow of doubt on the gallantry of this Officer as far as the government is concerned. By giving an award in the face of these complaints which have not even received a cursory investigation, both the Central and State governments are condoning this sexual violence which is being perpetrated in the name of anti-Naxal operations.

26th Januray, 63rd independence day is the darkest day of the Indian democracy . While Ms. Soni Sori, the victim of this heinous torture languishes in the Raipur Central Jail, with a deteriorating health condition, and waits for her case to be listed in the Supreme Court, women’s teams who have been taking up the case of her torture have been refused permission to meet her. She is still under the custody of the same state police has that inflicted this torture on her.

Soni Sori wrote a letter from the Raipur Central Jail to her Lawyer Colin Gonsalves fighting her case. I read that letter for you, in Hindi and English, listen here

Soni Sori letter from Prison- Hindi

Soni Sori letter from Prison- English Translation

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Lo fir basant aaya-Happy Basant Panchami

A short documentary film about Basant, the spring festival of the Sufis in north India. The video covers a day in the life of qawwals and Sufis at the shrine of Nizamuddin Aulia in New Delhi, India. The Sufi festival of Basant is related to a legend of Amir Khusrau and Nizamuddin Aulia, is celebrated each year on the eve of Basant Panchami.

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Feminist Kolaveri on Declining Sex Ratio

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जैसे मेरे पास भी एक योनि है…सोनी सोरी

Listen to the poem on Soni Sori here
जज साहब,
मेरे साल तेंतीस होने को आये लेकिन,
मैंने कभी कारतूस नहीं देखी है !
सिर्फ बचपन में फोड़े दीपावली के पटाखों की कसम,
आज तक कभी छुआ भी नहीं है बन्दुक को !
हा, घर में मटन-चिकन काटने इस्तेमाल होता,
थोडा सा बड़ा चाकू चलाने का महावरा है मुझे !
लेकिन मैंने कभी तलवार नहीं उठाई है हाथ में !
में तो कब्बडी भी मुश्किल से खेल पानेवाला बंदा हूँ,
मल्ल युद्द्द या फिर कलैरीपट्टू की तो बात कहा ?
प्राचीन या आधुनिक कोई मार्शल आर्ट नहीं आती है मुझे !
में तो शष्त्र और शाष्त्र दोनों के ज्ञान से विमुख हूं !
यह तक की लकड़ी काटने की कुल्हाड़ी भी पड़ोसी से मांगता हूँ !

लेकिन मेरे पास दो हाथ है जज साहब,
महनत से खुरदुरे बने ये दोनों हाथ मेरे अपने है !
पता नहीं क्यों लेकिन जब से मैंने यह सुना है,
मेरे दोनों हाथो में आ रही है बहुत खुजली !
खुजला खुजला के लाल कर दिए है मेने हाथ अपने !

और मेरे पास दो पैर है जज साहब !
बिना चप्पल के काँटों पे चल जाये और आंच भी न आये
एसे ये दोनों पैर, मेरे अपने है जज साहब !
और जब से मेंने सुना है
की दंतेवाडा कि आदिवासी शिक्षक सोनी सोरी की योनि में
पुलिसियों ने पत्थर भरे थे,
पता नहीं क्यों में बार बार उछाल रहा हु अपने पैर हवा में !
और खींच रहा हूं सर के बाल अपने !
जैसे मेरे पास भी एक योनि है और कुछ पैदा ही रहा हो उस से !

हा, मेरा एक सर भी है जज साहब,
हर १५ अगस्त और २६ जनवरी के दिन,
बड़े गर्व और प्यार दुलार से तिरंगे को झुकनेवाला
यह सर मेरा अपना है जज साहब !
गाँधी के गुजरात से हूं इसलिए
बचपन से ही शांति प्रिय सर है मेरा !
और सच कहू तो में चाहता भी हूं कि वो शांति प्रिय रहे !
लेकिन सिर्फ चाहने से क्या होता है ?

क्या छत्तीसगढ़ का हर आदिवासी,
पैदा होते हर बच्चे को नक्सली बनाना चाहता है ?
नहीं ना ? पर उसके चाहने से क्या होता है ?
में तो यह कहता हु की उसके ना चाहने से भी क्या होता है ?
जैसे की आज में नहीं चाहता हु फिर भी …
मेरा सर पृथ्वी की गति से भी ज्यादा जोर से घूम रहा है !
सर हो रहा है सरफिरा जज साहब,
इससे पहले की सर मेरा फट जाये बारूद बनकर,
इससे पहले की मेरा खुद का सर निगल ले हाथ पैर मेरे ,
इससे पहले की सोनी की योनि से निकले पत्थर लोहा बन जाए,
और ठोक दे लोकतंत्र के पिछवाड़े में कोई ओर कील बड़ी,
आप इस चक्रव्यूह को तोड़ दो जज साहब !
रोक लो आप इसे !
इस बिखरते आदिवासी मोती को पिरो लो अपनी सभ्यता के धागे में !
वेसे मेरे साल तेंतीस होने को आये लेकिन,
मैंने कभी कारतूस नहीं देखी !
कभी नहीं छुआ है बन्दुक को ,
नहीं चलाई है तलवार कभी !
और ना ही खुद में पाया है
कोई जुनून सरफरोशी का कभी !
– मेहुल मकवाना, अहमदाबाद, गुजरात
94276 32132 and 84012 93496

 

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Music and Mental Health

Music has the power to influence people’s emotions; it can make them happy,sad, or angry. Music can also aid in the recovery of mental illnesses.

The Geriatric Mental Health Department of the Chhatarati Shahuju Maharaj Medical University in India is starting a music therapy clinic to treat elderly patients with mental disorders (like dementia). Nearly 5% of elderly people older than 60 suffer from dementia.

S.C. Tiwari, the head of the Geriatric Mental Health Department, said that music is found to have a positive impact on patients suffering from mental tension. Slow and melodious music soothes tension; rock, pop, and fast music should be avoided because of the negative emotions it can draw out, and it also raises blood pressure. So, soft, melodious, and soothing music is the way to go if you want to relieve your mental tension.

Not only can music therapy help people with mental illnesses, but playing an instrument and being a part of an ensemble can help, too.

Tunefoolery Concert Ensembles is a group of 50 musicians from Cambridge,Massachusetts, who are all living with a mental illness. The group helps musicians move away from the mental patient role into a new identity as a professional musician and performer.

“Tunefoolery is a great example of how non-traditional mental health treatment truly can change people’s lives,” said one of the band members.“Music is powerful medicine! I have a tremendous feeling of belonging with Tunefoolery. I have found great friends here. It’s a job and a creative outlet at the same time.

The members perform as solo acts or small ensembles; they play 75 to 90 gigs every year at mental health treatment programs, hospitals, nursing homes, and other locations. You can visit their website at www.tunefoolery.org.

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Press Release-Maitreyi Chatterjee (26 January 1940—17 January 2012)

Eminent writer, feminist activist, and art, drama and music critic, Maitreyi Chatterjee passed away peacefully on 17 January, 2012.
She was the Founder Member and Convenor of Nari Nirjantan Pratirodh Mancha (Forum against the Oppression of Women), one of the first rights-based women’s groups in Kolkata in 1983, that continues to play a significant role in the women’s rights movement in West Bengal. A room in her flat continues to be the meeting place for the group.
She was active in advocating for the release of non criminal women prisoners in 1985. She also deposed before the Bantala Commission after conducting an independent enquiry in the case, and campaigned tirelessly for justice for Archana Guha and for the punishment for Runu Guhu Neogi.
She wrote extensively in the newspapers and magazines including Desh, Sabala, Pratikhan, Kalantar, Chalar Pathey, Protibidhan, Manabi, Anik, Joutha Mahila Udyog, Shethu etc. on women’s issues with a feminist perspective. Her books dealing with women’s rights, communalism, healthcare, education, literature and a variety of other issues are widely acclaimed. She co-edited a book on the attack of women in Gujarat and her work also includes a book on women artists and creators and a special Puja literary issue dedicated to women.
Her passing leaves a void in the women’s movement and her voice against State Oppression will be sorely missed.
On behalf of Nari Nirjatan Pratirodh Mancha
Mira Roy – 98301 93003
Saswati Ghosh – 98302 46265

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I feel so sad…….

I feel so sad, seeing the beggars

as I walk into the temple,

with my diamond earrings.

I feel so sad, seeing young men,

hang out of buses ,

as I overtake them,

in my air-conditioned car.

I feel so sad, seeing the child

sweep the floor,

as I talk to my son,

studying in Cambridge.

I feel so sad, seeing the dirty slums

as I stand by my balcony.

Sorry, I shall be late for cocktails

O can’t miss the meeting of

the Committee for Social Justice,

Our American donors are coming.

You can chose to die in malutrition, hunger

or toxic waste….

AND A ‘ HUMAN RIGHT‘ TO MAKE A

‘DEMOCRATIC CHOICE’

– K.Ashok Rao, a working class leader

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A concern– India Shining Campaign

The country is shining, people’s health is declining

Tell me, what is draining my people’s health?

Is it so much poverty despite so much wealth?

They smile and inform us that our country is shining.

But everywhere I look, I see public health declining.

From ordinary ailments, so many infants dying.

To save them, are our rulers really, really, trying?

Losing their own lives, while bringing to life another

Why is it still a hazard, to become a mother?

Ranging from womb to tomb, women facing threats to life.

But for a sterilisation, they always take the wife!

Old diseases spreading, and now infections new,

Outbreaks off and on, maybe an epidemic too.

Malnutrition growing, even deaths by starvation,

Export the grain for pigs abroad, aren’t we a shining nation?

Pepsi and Coke aplenty, bottled water some can buy

But most still lack a safe well, or see their tap run dry.

In the public hospitals, no medicines or supplies.

Ask officials what’s going on, all you get is lies.

Pay at every window, stand in every line,

Quietly buy all your drugs; don’t you think that’s fine?

And if you go to the villages, things may be even worse.

No doctor in the health centre, in the subcentre no nurse.

So you suggest I go to, the private clinic next door?

Pay a hefty doctor’s fee, for tests and drugs some more?

And god forbid, if they admit me, after consultation,

Hospital bills, referrals and scans may cause my ruination.

You ask about our taxes, how public funds are spent?

Not for health, but tanks and bombs, is where our money went.

The time has come to ask, some questions loud and clear.

Why life here is so cheap, why health care is so dear.

Why rulers shrug off their duty, for citizens’ health care

Despite the highest growth rate, why state coffers look bare.

Doesn’t every Indian, rich or poor, have a right to live?

Then as a basic service, health care the state must give.

Bring the ‘public’ into public health, this is the need today.

Make the system answerable; and heed what people say.

We know this country can ensure, basic health care for all,

If rulers cannot meet basic needs, then such rulers must fall.

For now the tide is rising, people beginning to assert

Right to resources, right to food, the basic right to work.

Let’s form a broad alliance, all those facing oppression

The toiling and the marginalised, the great mass of our nation.

Let’s join ranks in our millions, and fight for a better life

To end deprivation, exploitation, and communal strife.

As one step in this struggle, now let’s begin the fight

To ensure health, and make health care a fundamental right!

by  Abhay  sukla

P.S.- Did you know ? Prathap Suthan, national creative director with Grey Worldwide (India) advertising agency. came up with the slogan in December  2003 as part of a Rs 65 crore (Rs 650 million), government-funded campaign to promote India. internationally .’India Shining‘ was originally the theme for a 60-second video made by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government to highlight the steps it says it took to boost economic growth, slash interest rates, stabilise prices, expand road and telecom and health networks, and offer free basic education.

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On Death — Kahlil Gibran

You would know the secret of death.

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;

And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.

Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?

Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

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