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Archives for : Violence against Women

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

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




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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Twitter Suspends Singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya’s Account After Offensive Tweets

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

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

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

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

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

Shehla Rashid ✔ @Shehla_Rashid
Sincere thanks to everyone for the support. Abhijit had to delete his tweet.
His Twitter account has also been suspended. 🙂
7:45 PM – 23 May 2017
1,152 1,152 Retweets 2,695 2,695 likes
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Abhijeet Bhattacharya told PTI that author Arundhati Roy and people supporting JNU were behind the suspension of his account. “”Yes, I just saw it. They are trying to block Paresh Rawal also. All Arundhati and JNU group behind this after Paresh Rawal and I tweeted against Arundhati for her anti-India stand,” he said.

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

MANISH KAPADIYA @manishkapadiya
#IStandWithAbhijeet He is True Indian..I proud of him…
10:51 PM – 23 May 2017 · Gandhinagar, India
1 1 Retweet 3 3 likes
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Chinmay Kulkarni @kulks123
#IStandWithAbhijeet…twitter india chief is biased…he should be sacked…he is anti india
10:50 PM – 23 May 2017
2 2 Retweets 1 1 like
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Abhijeet Bhattacharya began his Bollywood career in 1990 with the film Baaghi. He has voiced songs in over 18 languages including Bengali, Odia, Bhojpuri, Marathi and Gujarati. He has been the voice of actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Saif Ali Khan and Akshay Kumar in the nineties. Abhijeet Bhattacharya has voiced songs for films like Om Shanti Om, Gangster and Dhoom.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

-No one is willing to listen to us babu.

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

-No one. We have no leader.

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

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Naxalbari helped poor peasants and farm labourers to the forefront of the nation’s imagination

Naxalbari at 50

Busts of “revolutionary leaders” line up a track leading to a school in Naxalbari’s Bengaijyot hamlet.   | Photo Credit: Suvojit Bagchi

The movement lost steam very soon after it began, but it helped bring poor peasants and farm labourers to the forefront of the nation’s imagination

It’s a ramshackle bus, lit inside by a naked bulb hanging from the roof. It leaves Warangal’s Ghanpur station market, where a series of shops sell fat chickens. It then takes a right turn and heads east to cross the Godavari River, and keeps going till it enters Chhattisgarh near Bhadrachalam.

Inside, about a dozen boys—in their late teens and early 20s—doze peacefully on each other’s shoulders. It’s the early 1990s and one of the boys is Shambala Ravinder.

“I used to put up People’s War (PW) posters on walls, run errands for senior leaders,” Ravinder tells me. Soon, he ran into cops and was “beaten to a pulp”. Afraid of dying and also tired of the systematic “exploitation” by landlords, he boarded the bus that night and headed to Chhattisgarh to join the CPI-ML-PW or Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist People’s War or People’s War as it’s commonly called.

The decade of the 80s had been worse. “It was like a wave,” he recalls, “one or more members of nearly every family joined People’s War.” Ravinder belonged to a lower-middle class family from the Mudrasi community, engaged in fishing and farming in Warangal.

I first met Ravinder in 2010, in the hills of Abujhmarh in Bastar’s forests. It was the peak of monsoon. From a distance, Ravinder looked like a young Clive Lloyd. By then, the various Naxalite groupings across Bihar, Telangana and Chhattisgarh had merged to become the subsequently outlawed CPI-Maoist. This was their base in south Chhattisgarh, with two regional commands—south and north. Ravinder was head of Northern Command.

Inspired by a name

Ravinder had told me then that his inspiration for revolt had sprung from a political movement that began in 1967 in a sleepy town of north Bengal nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. The movement and the place was Naxalbari.

“When I boarded the bus that night, I knew nothing about Naxalbari. But in Bastar, the party routinely referred to the peasants’ uprising of 1967.” Whenever the Maoists entered a new village, one of the first things they discussed was the Naxalbari uprising, he said. “I often wanted to understand the magic of Naxalbari.”

Early this month, I found the answer in Buraganj village in Naxalbari, and it came from another erstwhile leader. Khudan Mullick is 76, and was once a second-rung, gun-toting leader of the Naxalbari uprising. Ethnically Rajbonsghi, and politically, a communist, Mullick was one of the leaders who travelled in 1967 to Peking, now Beijing, to meet Mao Tse-tung. “That was the magic,” Mullick laughs, “when a poor peasant like me, fighting landlords with bows and arrows, crosses borders to meet Mao.” He and three comrades were given basic arms training in China.

The Naxalbari uprising produced many such moments for peasants from the day it was launched 50 years ago on May 25, when police opened fire in a tiny hamlet of the block, killing nine women and two children.

The first few battles

The incident and the uprising that followed, however, were not isolated but the product of a series of small and big peasants’ movements that had simmered since Independence.

In late 2016, I was in Warangal, in Kadavendi village. A short queue had gathered in front of a ‘belt shop’. This is nothing but a deep freezer under an asbestos awning abutting a single-storied, two-room house, that sells cheap whisky and ultra-strong beer. There are about two dozen belt shops in Kadavendi that supply the daily dose of excitement, but the real excitement of the village goes back in history.

It was in Kadavendi that farmer Doddi Komaraiah was killed on July 4, 1946, after being “hit in the stomach by a bullet” fired from the house of one Deshmukh, writes P. Sundarayya, founding member of CPI-Marxist. Komaraiah’s death, and eventually of many others, triggered the Telengana Armed Struggle of 1946, which in turn inspired the Naxalbari movement 20 years later.

“It inspired us, but in Bengal, the idea of pushing landowners to share their crop equitably really came from the Tebhaga Movement of the 40s,” Mullick tells me. This movement, where the landowners’ share of produce was reduced from half to one-third, was what “seriously influenced” Naxalbari.

Nearly six feet tall, without an ounce of extra fat, Mullick is still a card-carrying Naxalite, but of a lesser-known, overground faction of the CPI-ML. He cycles to town every day to attend meetings. Handing over a cup of milky, sweet tea and a party leaflet, Mullick explains why a peasants’ uprising was inevitable in Naxalbari.


“In the early 60s, if a farmer took a loan of one mon (40 kg) of paddy, he had to return three mon. We (peasants) said, we won’t pay more than 10 kg as interest on one mon,” says Mullick. In the ensuing mass upsurge, peasants approached the Jotedars and told them to hand over their harvest, retaining the family’s share. Land was taken over by sticking in red flags printed with the hammer and sickle.

“It was electric, magical,” says Leela Singh. She is a former Naxalite commander and belonged to one of five squads in Kharibari block bordering Nepal. “We had about 11 single-shot rifles, which we had taken from the Jotedars.”

A short story

The magic didn’t last long. For a movement that has sent out such wide ripples, Naxalbari was surprisingly short-lived. In July 1967, the Communist Party of China published an editorial congratulating the uprising and virtually defining the road to revolution in India. “The Indian revolution must take the road of relying on peasants, establishing base areas in the countryside, persisting in protracted armed struggle and using the countryside to encircle and finally capture the cities. This is Mao Tse-tung’s road…” it said.

But by winter of that year, hundreds of peasants and leaders had been arrested and the movement had started to decline. The government mounted “a massive quelling operation (Operation Crossbow) and the area was dotted with police camps,” writes Khokon Majumdar, a key leader of the movement, in his memoirs.

The uprising had been confined to the Naxalbari area. So, in 1969, Charu Majumdar, chief ideologue and co-founder of the Naxalite movement, decided to not only broad-base the struggle but also formalise it into a political party. Thus was born the CPI-ML with Majumdar at its helm to pursue the “democratic revolution” and call for an armed insurrection to “seize state power”. But in three years, Majumdar died in custody. With that, the Naxalite movement came formally to an end.

Museum of movements

Late last year, I visited Siliguri, north Bengal’s most populous city. A bungalow with a tin roof sits on the arterial Hill Cart Road. It had a sprawling room filled with memorabilia of off-mainstream political movements of Bengal. Majumdar lived and worked in this room before he went underground. The walls have sketches of a docile-looking Stalin lighting a pipe, a smiling Mao delivering a speech, a serious Lenin, and a Karl Marx. Below Stalin is a wooden easy chair with a wide arm rest, and a photograph of Majumdar is placed in it. Opposite is a black bust of the leader.

“It’s made of fibreglass,” said Anita Majumdar, his eldest daughter and a doctor. In the summer of 1972, when Majumdar died in police custody, she was studying in Kolkata. She is reluctant to talk about her father but she wrote a seven-page chapter in a monograph on him where she speaks of seeing his body in a Kolkata hospital and how she “somehow didn’t feel like crying”. “A sense of pride filled my heart; at long last my father too had laid down his life at the altar of revolution,” she writes.

But in those three brief years, the movement had spread across Bengal, reaching semi-urban and urban areas and rocking Calcutta in the early 70s. Thousands of women and men, mostly in their 20s, were killed in ruthless police crackdowns. Then, it all folded up.

The second phase

The road that connects Kolkata’s south to its far south is among the city’s busiest streets. It has two residential areas—Jadavpur and Santoshpur—where many Naxalite members used to live or hide. Two former leaders live here now, Santosh Rana and Tilak Dasgupta.

I visit them and in separate interviews, both agree that it was Naxalbari that inspired the Naxalite uprisings of the 1980s and ’90s in Bihar and Telengana.

After the collapse of Naxalbari, Rana lost interest in bullets and chose the ballot to defeat a big landowner in the 1977 Assembly election. Dasgupta worked as a journalist but remained an activist and joined the subsequently banned CPI-ML-Party Unity in Bihar. He later started his own Naxalite faction. Rana says the main mistake of the Indian lot was to try to implement the China model. “The condition in Mao’s China was different, there were sharp divisions and infighting among the landowning classes, the war lords, and no parliamentary democracy. In India, the land-owning classes were fairly unified and it is a parliamentary democracy.”

Instead, the biggest success of the Naxalbari movement might be located in that it brought agricultural labourers and peasants to the forefront of the nation’s imagination. The movement may not have achieved what it intended—a democratic revolution—but “a democratisation of society” was initiated, as Dasgupta says, and “some reforms from the state flowed in.”

Adds Rana, “The movement substantially reduced the strength of the upper castes in Bihar and Telengana, which is a key success.”

Now, middle-class worries

At the Warangal chicken market, from where the Bastar-bound bus turns right, another turn leads to Thambalapally-Ippaguda village.

Once there, I turn into the iron gate of a newly constructed house. Ravinder appears in the doorway. In 2010, he had hosted me inside Bastar forest, where hundreds of Maoist guerrillas awaited his orders. In 2014, he had surrendered arms and taken up cotton farming. And now, he is here.

His wife is Vetti Adme or Devi, also an armed guerrilla in her earlier avatar. The couple got a settlement package as part of Telengana government’s surrender policy and settled down in Thambalapally. They now have a child named Rakshita.

“She is our only hope, our saviour, Rakshita… although I am not sure she will look after us when we grow old,” laughs Ravinder, as we sit talking in the veranda.

From a Maoist in a Chhattisgarh forest to a caring husband and doting father, Ravinder has come a long way. His laying down of arms is just one indication that the movement, often described as the third phase of the Naxalbari-inspired insurrection movements, is slowing down in Bastar. At any rate, it is evident that Adme and Ravinder have lost interest.

“I am more concerned with admitting Rakshita in an English medium school,” the father says, as he gives his 13-month-old infant an oil massage. As I leave, he hugs me and asks me to write about him so that he may get a job as a private security guard. “I have training, I will do well,” he says.

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Chhattisgarh: Turned away by hospital, woman forced to deliver baby under tree

The district administration subsequently suspended a nurse,
Representational image (Photo: File)

 Representational image (Photo: File)

Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh): In a shocking incident, a pregnant woman was forced to deliver a baby under a tree in Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh after she was allegedly turned away by the district hospital.

The incident, which occurred on Wednesday, caused an outrage and the district administration subsequently suspended a nurse, Seema Singh, and shunted out the head of the gynaecology department, Dr Rama Ghosh, of the Bilaspur district hospital.

Officials said the woman, Muskan Khan, a widow and a resident of Sirigitti in Bilaspur city, first went to a primary health centre, accompanied by her neighbours.

From the health centre, she was sent to the district hospital as she did not have a sonography report.

However, the hospital allegedly turned her away on the ground that there was no vacant bed.

While returning, she went into labour and delivered the baby under a tree, officials said.

The woman and the baby spent the entire night under the tree, they added.

Civil surgeon SS Vajpayee said the woman and the baby were brought to the district hospital in an ambulance the next day, adding that the condition of both was stable now.

Officials said the woman’s husband, Shahid Mohammed, passed away two months ago.

Bilaspur Divisional Commissioner Niharika Barik took a serious view of the incident and formed a committee headed by the additional collector to probe the matter, they added.

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Learning From Ambedkar

His struggle to reform Hindu society has lessons for the triple talaq debate

Written by Arnav Das Sharma |

B.R. Ambedkar, Uniform Civil Code, Anti-Hindu Code Bill Committee, triple talaq, Supreme Court, Supreme Court on Triple Talaq, indian express column 


As the nation gears up for the landmark SC judgment, Ambedkar’s unwavering commitment to the principles of liberalism is a lesson well worth remembering.When the Supreme Court delivers its verdict on the contentious triple talaq issue, it would be, perhaps, one of the landmark promulgations in independent India’s judicial history. If the SC were to declare triple talaq unconstitutional, it could well open up the path for the institution of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) — an ideal that has been an important demand of the BJP for a long time.

But as the arguments and counter-arguments are meted out in court, it is worth looking back on the years that led to the formulation of the landmark Hindu Code bills. It is pertinent to invoke this incident for two reasons: One, much of our present debate on the UCC and the triple talaq controversy is still under the shadow of that landmark event.

Second, the pioneering role that B.R. Ambedkar played in bringing those bills to fruition. It is important to remember the degree of opposition that the bills garnered during that time. For instance, in March 1949, the Anti-Hindu Code Bill Committee was formed, which enjoyed vast support from clerics and other conservative lawyers. As Ramachandra Guha chronicles in India After Gandhi, the committee would campaign against the reform bills from place to place.

In these meetings, its primary participants, which included several members of the RSS, characterised themselves as “religious warriors” who were fighting a religious battle. On December 11, 1949, the RSS held a massive rally in the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi where its members denounced the bills in the strongest possible terms. The next day, a march was organised to the Constituent Assembly where effigies of Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah were burnt.

The version of the bill that Ambedkar wanted was never to be had. With the first general election imminent, and fearing a massive Hindu backlash, Nehru had to compromise. Besides, in the Constituent Assembly, many amendments to the original bill were demanded; it took more than a year to get even four clauses passed. Eventually, the bill lapsed. This caused Ambedkar to resign as law minister.

At one point in his resignation letter, Ambedkar, expressing his shock, writes: “The Cabinet unanimously decided that it [the Bill] should be put through in this Parliament… As the discussion was going on, the Prime Minister put forth a new proposal, namely, that the Bill as a whole may not be got through within the time. The Prime Minister suggested that we should select the Marriage and Divorce part.

The Bill in its truncated form went on. After two or three days… the Prime Minister came up with another proposal. This time his proposal was to drop the whole Bill, even the Marriage and Divorce portion. This came to me as a great shock.” The reason for Ambedkar’s shock is two-fold. First, arising from the failure to get the bill passed in its entirety, and second, and more importantly, seeing the core element of the bill — which was about marriage and divorce — rejected as well.

Throughout his life, apart from fighting caste oppression, if there was one cause Ambedkar espoused, it was that of gender emancipation. As his writings testify, Ambedkar very clearly saw the way caste endeared itself to masculinity in order to perpetuate itself. He realised that the primary way to break caste oppression was to make way for marriage reforms. This endeavour was tied to Ambedkar’s larger radical role in taking the Hindu texts to task, by opening them up for reinterpretation, a method by which Brahminical control over these texts was removed. We see this very clearly in his formulation of the Hindu Code Bill, where Ambedkar went back to the texts to reinforce his arguments.

As the nation gears up for the landmark SC judgment, Ambedkar’s pioneering role in trying to modernise Hindu society, and more than anything else, his unwavering commitment to the principles of liberalism is a lesson well worth remembering.

Learning From Ambedkar

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These fast & furious Haryana girls made a govt buckle

A bunch of schoolgirls borrowed a page from the Mahatma’s book and fasted their way to a school upgrade. Sunday Times visits Rewari to find out how they won over irate parents and woke up an apathetic administration
A It’s just 120km from the razzle dazzle of Delhi, but life for the girls of Gothra Tappa Dahina village in Haryana continues to be dictated by izzat (honour). With be dictated by izzat (honour). With no plus-two section in the government school in the village, they had to trek 3km to the neighbouring village of Kawali that had a senior secondary school.“Everyday somebody would be teased or molested by the boys of the neighbouring village on the way to school. They would sing songs, pull our dupattas, or rev up their bikes to provoke us,“ says Class 10 student Nikita Chauhan.

When Nikita and her friends complained to their mothers about the harassment, they were told to pipe down. “Har roz izzat uchlegee (You will be dishonoured every day). It is better to stop school and stay home than face disrespect,“ Sunita, the mother of one of the girls, advised.

But Nikita and 86 other teen agers living in the heart of patriarchal Haryana decided that silence wasn’t an option. The Class 9 and 10 students sat on a dharna to demand that their school be upgraded to Class 12 so that they wouldn’t have to travel. About 13 of them held an indefinite hunger strike that lasted eight days (and nights), bringing their parents, the village sarpanch, and even the state government to their knees. In fact, they’ve even inspired copycat protests in villages of Palwal and Gurugram.

Haryana is among the states with the lowest child sex ratios in the country, prompting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to launch the `Beti bachao, beti padhao’ programme from neighbouring Panipat. In Kawali, the walls have phone numbers under girls’ names and college boys lounge around on motorcycles with a practised air of cool. A liquor vend down the road is also a hangout for troublemakers. A Kawali boy was murdered after he misbehaved with a Gothra girl some years ago. But local police deny any complaints of molestation from Gothra village.

Dropping out of school never crossed the girls’ minds. And despite the peeling paint, broken wooden benches, dusty classrooms and lack of teachers (8 instead of 21), they held on to their fragile dreams. For one, it was becoming a doctor, a teacher for another, while for others it was a way out of poverty .

“No one listened to our demand. We asked our parents, spoke to the principal and the sarpanch but they didn’t bother,“ says Nikita. The girls then met at school and decided that some of them would sit on a hunger strike starting May 10, while others would support them.

Parents were quick to voice their disapproval. “My father-inlaw said, `It is foolish. Your daughter will die and nothing will come of it’,“ says Sapna, whose daughter Chahat fainted twice.

When Chahat refused to come home at night, Sapna decided to join her. “I never got a chance to study because my parents could not afford it. But I want Chahat to have every opportunity. I thought if I didn’t raise my voice, how would my children have a better life?“ she says from behind her ghoonghat.

Sarpanch Suresh Chauhan was a reluctant supporter, joining the girls on the third day . By the third day, a shamiana to shade the girls from the unrelenting sun and a carpet had appeared as did support from more parents. As press reports trickled in about the indefinite strike, the administration dusted off old files (the petition for the school upgrade is 17 years old) and pointed out that there had to be a minimum of 150 students for the school to be upgraded.

But as girl after girl fainted, an ambulance had to be stationed to take them to the Dahina health centre for glucose and injections.Despite the administration bearing down, the girls did not back down. “I was under a lot of pressure but the girls did not listen to me,“ Suresh says.

The girls’ tenacity and the media attention made it impossible for the government to ignore them. On the seventh day, Haryana education minister Ram Bilas Sharma announced the upgrade. The savvy girls responded by locking the school doors and demanding a written assurance. “Don’t promise, show us the notification“ was the refrain.On May 17, the district collector drove to the village to personally hand over the notification. It was only then that tetrapaks of juice and glasses of water were passed around and sunken eyes lit up. The notification states that a principal has been appointed, and admissions for Classes 11 and 12 can begin immediately .

Ekta Sharma, a Class 10 student, has not stopped giggling. “I am so happy,“ she says. Has the victory sunk in yet? The question is drowned by a roar of victory from her friends who pull her in for another photograph. Their future may hold different things in store but on that hot May afternoon, they were all winners.

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Triple Talaq- The fight for what is right #Vaw

The Supreme Court is soon going to announce its verdict on the constitutional validity of triple talaq
Yesterday, the Supreme Court of India finished hearing arguments in a case challenging the constitu tionality of the practice of `instant triple talaqtalaq-ibidat’, Nikah Halala and polygamy. The issue needs an intersectional analysis. It cannot and should not be seen from the sole perspective, either of law, gender, politics or religion. It is also critical to evaluate the role and quality of discourse.First, I say this with great respect that in refusing to evaluate the constitutionality of Nikah Halala (Loosely described as a religious requirement that a divorced woman first marry and sleep with another man before returning to her husband) and polygamy and restricting itself only to triple talaq, the Apex Court has abdicated its duty.Despite being urged to do so by the government as well as the All India Personal Law Muslim Board (AIPLMB), the court has also refused to rule on whether all personal laws should come within the ambit of the Constitution of India. Instead, it chooses to continue with analysing whether a practice is essentialfundamental to the religion.The court is not a panchayat, and it is not a priest. This is most disheartening. I am guessing that the reasons behind this are (i) the court not wanting to open floodgates of litigation and causing `chaos’ in society and, ii) the belief that such changes must happen incrementally. The chaos reason makes no sense especially since the government itself is willing to take the responsibility of maintaining `order’. It is rather cruel that women must once again bear the burden of `preserving order’ because the court refuses to uphold their rights which are otherwise guaranteed in the constitution.

Secondly, the reasons that are being put forward against abolishing triple talaq. The AIPLMB shamelessly said that the court’s interference might revive a `dying practice’. This is tantamount to saying that don’t impose reform or we will wreck even more cruelty on our own brethren. Shame.Some argue that in such situations reform must come `from within’. There is (and reasonably so) a certain amount of anxiety being felt by a part of the Muslim community because of the timing of these developments. Is a majoritarian government on a rampage? What if this attempt at `liberating Muslim women’ is just a charade to fool people into believing that it is indeed secular and liberal? Flavia Agnes points out in her book Family Laws and Constitutional Claims that in such times religion becomes an even more important marker of identity. She argues that the intended reforms are rendered ineffective because such imposition pits women against their community.

The obvious question is, why didn’t these regressive practices get abolished when other governments were in power. If the intentions of the BJP are indeed mendacious, who is to be blamed for letting things coming to such a pass?
The formula of incrementalism has only led to more chaos. It has only led to all political parties pandering to the regressive clergy of all religions.

Third, some people have also expressed pain at the discourse painting Muslims as this regressive, primitive community which abandons women at the drop of a hat. They ask, are there no inhumane practices in other religions?
Why aren’t they being dealt with first together? In her book, Agnes reminds us of the long, painful and continuing journey that is the reform of Hindu Personal Law. Sardar Patel, Rajendra Prasad, and the RSS opposed the right of women to divorce, the abolishing of coparcenary and inheritance to daughters amongst Hindus. Until 1955, polygamy was permitted amongst Hindus.Until 2005, daughters had limited rights in the ancestral property. Marital rape and child marriages are still pervasive across religions. These are, however, arguments in favor of abolishing all regressive laws and practices.

Fourth, the sensationalist approach of the media. The media would have everyone believe that an average Muslim man is a regressive adulterer at best and a terrorist at worst. Tragically, an average non-Muslim rarely interacts with Muslims. Again, all communities, the government, and the courts share blame for this. For instance, there is zero movement on housing discrimination being outlawed. Everyone loves their ghettos. An average non-Muslim learns about Muslims through the media which paints an astonishingly ridiculous picture. The media has failed to educate people about the reform of the personal law in every religion. It has failed to point out that instant triple talaq is not the only way (and by some accounts not even the prevalent) mechanism of divorce. It has failed to inform people that Islam and Muslims are not monoliths. It was duty bound to do so. It must reflect on the damage this failure is resulting in before it is too late.

Finally, instant triple talaq must be abolished pronto. Obviously, these are not the ideal set of circumstances in which this should have happened. But they will have to do. The society, courts and the government already compel women to bear too many cruel burdens.No more.

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Gujarat Police – United in service, divided by gender

Women cops made to sit separate
Female police personnel made to sit in a separate row at function even as CM talks of gender equity and women empowerment
The city hosted, what the government de scribed, as a “historical“ event as over 18,217 police personnel were inducted at a special pro gramme held at the Riverfront. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who presided over the the func tion, emphasised that Gujarat was a State that believed in women empowerment. He also emphasised that the State had 33 per cent reservation for women in its police force.Women are an integral part of the force, ministers after ministers have stressed in Gujarat. However what was striking was the fact that women police personnel were asked to sit separately at the function. When the event was being planned, this was Riverfront which highlighted the seating arrangements was albeit done in a scientific manner where police personnel were asked to sit according to their districts and regions.

However, when women personnel reached the venue to attend the `historic“ induction ceremony, there were in for a surprise. And it was not a pleasant surprise. Several women were shocked because they were asked to sit separately in a group. For example, women cops inducted in Surat or Ahmedabad could not sit with their male counterparts from Surat or Ahmedabad. All women had to sit together.

`Segregation is sexist’



`Segregation is sexist’

Ironically, this induction ceremony was being held under the leadership of the first-ever incharge woman police chief of Gujarat. Geetha Johri, Gujarat’s first woman IPS officer, is right now the in-charge Director General of Police (DGP) of Gujarat.She heads around 70,000 police personnel in the State. Policewomen, who looked visibly happy to be part of the force, were unhappy at this deliberate segregation at the venue. “I applied and got chosen to be an equal. Not to be treated as a woman,“ said one.

Another policewoman told Mirror, “This is sexist. Whatever the motive maybe, this seating arrangement does not align with the concept of equality and empowerment that the Chief Minister was talking about just now.“

Where’s equality?

There were over 4,000 policewomen inducted into Gujarat police on Thursday. Of the total recruits inducted, the number of women accounts for 22.22%.

The Gujarat government has pledged to have 33 per cent women in its force and many lauded 22.32% as a very healthy beginning.

However, segregation at the spot did not go well with women in the city. Jan Sangharsh Manch activist Nirjhari Sinha said, “The force is considered one. Men and women have to work together to keep the city safe.When both genders have to work shoulder-to-shoulder, and even the CM is talking about gender equality in the force, this division should not exist. It is one uniform and all should have been seated together in this spirit.“

Reshma Patel of PAAS said, “On one hand, the government talks of gender equality, and on the other, they segregate female personnel. Are they saying women are not capable enough? If this is how they treat future police personnel, there’s no hope for commoners.“

Such incidents are a sad reminder of how women are still denied their rightful place, said Congress MLA Tejashree Patel, adding, “Women are still not allowed to work beside men in many fields, including the police department.“

Lawyer and women’s rights activist Meena Jagtap said, “Gender bias is too ingrained in our society and how much ever we talk of gender equality, it is tough to implement it. What has happened today is not justified.“

Minister for Health Shankar Chaudhary, who was present at the programme, refused to comment on the m a t t e r. M o S f o r H o m e Pradeepsinh Jadeja said, “We had divided the men and women according to a distribution plan which made it easy to hand out the appointment orders.“ Top cop A K Singh said, “The women were sitting according to their units, but in one row. They seemed more in number because we clubbed units.“

No discrimination involved: Incharge DGP

Geetha Johri, has several firsts to her name. She is the first woman IPS officer from Gujarat, and she is also the first woman to become the Gujarat police chief. She stepped into what was traditionally seen as a man’s job and shook quite a few prejudices and perceptions when she became an officer in 1982. She carried out night raids with her men and led the lathicharge when dealing with rioters. In her career spanning almost 35 years, Johri shot into limelight for arresting Latif aide Sharif Khan. She also filed the first investigation report in SC on fake encounter of SohrabuddinSheikh. So, female recruits being segregated under her watch raised eyebrows.

Incharge Director General of Police Geetha Johri also confirmed that female recruits were made to sit separately to “showcase the sheer number of women inducted into the force“. The DGP said, “There is 33 per cent reservation in the police department. We made the women sit separately to set them up as an example.There was no discrimination involved.

-Hiren Upadhyay

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Right to talaq: AIMPLB shot down female member’s bid to empower women in ’05

A female member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has claimed that two decades ago she had suggested a provision in the nikahnama (marriage contract) giving women a right to pronounce talaq, but the proposal was shot down by her co-panelists.Mumbai-based Uzma Naheed, an AIMPLB member for years, has revealed the Board’s past stonewalling of a crucial reform, days after it submitted to the Supreme Court that it was ready to include such a clause in the nikahnama for a talaq-e-tafweez or `delegated divorce’ to give women the right to pronounce talaq in all forms.

Naheed, granddaughter of AIMPLB’s founding president Maulana Qari Tayyeb, said the Board snubbed her in 2005 when the proposal came up for a discussion. Now faced with legal scrutiny of its position, the AIMPLB appears to be reversing its position. In its submissions to the SC this week, the Board said: “Women can also negotiate in the nikahnama and include provisions therein consistent with Islamic law to contractually stipulate that her husband does not resort to triple talaq, she has the right to pronounce triple talaq in all forms, and ask for a ve ry high meher (alimony) in case of talaq and impose such other conditions as are available to her to protect her dignity.“

Naheed said she had said “almost the same thing“ in the nikahnama draft that she presented to the Board in 1994 along with other provisions, but these did not find place in the model nikahnama the Board eventually released in 2005.Director of the Mumbai-based Iqra Education Foundation, Naheed’s great, great grandfather Maulana Qasim Nanautvi was among the founders of the famous seminary Darul Uloom Deoband.

She said it was after months She said it was after months of research and consultations with scholars that she prepared a draft, which included progressive provisions like giving women the right to pronounce talaq and the Quranic method of talaq, which invalidates triple talaq or instant divorce.While the Board accepted many other provisions from the nikahnama Naheed presented, it did not include the three crucial reform measures on talaq.

Interestingly , the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, an umbrella body of 14 Muslim organisations, too rapped the Board in its October 4, 2016 letter to the Board chief for failing to include “delegated divorce“ in its nikahnama, though it was mentioned in its affidavit submitted to SC in September 2016.

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