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Archives for : Violence against Women

Gem from Sakshi Maharaj -Couples’ vulgar behaviour in cars, parks leads to rape #Vaw #WTFnews

Sakshi Maharaj, who had earlier tried to defend Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh after his conviction in a rape case, said once a rape happens, people demand action against the police. The right thing would be to take action against ‘such couples’


Suresh Foujdar
Hindustan Times, Bharatpur
During the controversy, Sakshi Maharaj had said one person had alleged rape against the Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, but crores of devotees believe he is God.
During the controversy, Sakshi Maharaj had said one person had alleged rape against the Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, but crores of devotees believe he is God. (PTI File Photo)

Controversial Bharatiya Janata Party MP Sakshi Maharaj has said girls and boys’ ‘vulgar’ behaviour at public places leads to rape and they should be put behind bars.

“When these couples ride a motorcycle, they hug each other as if the girl will eat the boy or the boy will eat the girl,” he said. “Similarly, couples can be seen behaving in a vulgar fashion in cars, parks and other places. Everyone ignores them, but once rape happens, people demand action against the police, so the right thing would be to take action and put such couples behind bars,” he said while talking to reporters on Wednesday.

Sakshi Maharaj, who had earlier tried to defend Dera chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh after his conviction in a rape case, has clarified that he had no ties with Ram Rahim. “Some political leaders seek the cooperation of fake godmen to get votes during the election. BJP government of Haryana sent Gurmeet Ram Rahim to jail while earlier governments had supported him,” he said.

During the controversy, Sakshi Maharaj had said one person had alleged rape against the Dera chief, but crores of devotees believe he is God.

Talking about Rohingya Muslim refugees, Sakshi Maharaj said they should be pushed out from the country and they have no right to stay for a minute.

He praised Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath for “stopping crimes and taking strict action against criminals in the state.

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Petiton to Kerala Women’s Commission to End the Virtual House-arrest of Dr Hadiya #Vaw

A Plea to the Kerala State Women’s Commission: End the Virtual House-arrest of Dr Hadiya
 Image result for End the Virtual House-arrest of Dr Hadiya
The Chairperson,
Kerala State Women’s Commission.
Sub: Concerns regarding the well-being and safety of Dr Hadiya at the residence of Sri Asokan.
Dear Madam
We, the undersigned, a group concerned about the protection of citizens’ rights in India, wish to bring to your notice what may be potentially a serious violation of such rights, in the case of Dr Hadiya, daughter of Sri Asokan and Smt Ponnamma,a twenty-four-year-old woman, who is presently staying at her father’s residence at TV Puram, Kottayam. The case has received much attention in both the local and national press, and so we will not recount the details. We however wish to express our anxiety at several reports that indicate quite convincingly that her rights as a woman and citizen are being grossly violated in Mr Asokan’s house, and police protection provided is working in effect as a system of incarceration. Visitors to the house who sought to meet Hadiya have been turned away roughly, cases of trespassing have been slapped on them, and Dr Hadiya herself is apparently prohibited from meeting and talking with anyone. In the few instances in which visitors, such as the TV personality Rahul Easwar, have managed to see/reach her, she has expressed extreme distress and agony.

Indeed, Dr Hadiya was virtually dragged out of her hostel and forcefully conveyed to her parents’ home by the police after the High Court annulled her marriage of her choice. This was broadcast on popular channels on 26 May 2017. When six women sought to visit her with onam gifts on August 30, 2017, he refused to allow them in, and Smt Ponnamma abused them verbally. These women have persistently claimed that they saw Dr Hadiya stand near the window and heard her call for help, and that she complained of being beaten. Though these visitors did not enter the premises and were on their way back, they were slapped with charges of unlawful assembly and criminal trespass at the behest of Sri Asokan.

On 27 August 2017, Dr Hadiya sent a message to her chosen partner Shafin entreating him to help her. The message was sent from her mother’s phone, and it appears that her access to it was temporary.

In the light of these incidents, especially the extreme responses of Mr Asokan to attempts by concerned members of the public to contact Dr Hadiya, we feel that the case calls for an inquiry by the State Women’s Commission to ascertain whether she is being held there against her will and in violation of her rights to free interaction and mobility. Police protection by itself does not require such violation of the protected person’s rights. The NIA’s inquiry too is no reason for forcible confinement and denial of the company of visitors and friends. There is ample reason to think that Hadiya’s stay at the TV Puram residence is in violation of her rights. From the accounts of those who tried to meet her and were dismissed roughly by local people who seem deeply influenced by Hindu radicalism, her family members, and the police, there is also effort to portray her as ‘mentally imbalanced’.

We, as concerned citizens, urge you to visit the house where she presently resides to meet her and clear the anxiety that we feel about her rights and personal well-being.
Thanking you in advance,
1. Anusha Paul ,Journalist, Documentary film maker
2. Shabna Sumayya, Artist
3. Bhoomi J N , Student , Kerala University
4. Sajna P , Exam Counsellor , Gateway Institutions, Calicut
5. Ammu Elizebath Thomas , Student , Bangalore University
6. Mridula Bhavani ,Reporter/Journalist –Narada News
7. Mangai, Theatre person, Tamilnadu
8. Janaki Nair, JNU
9. Amit Bhaduri, Professor Emeritus, JNU
10.Mini Krishnan, Senior Editor, OUP
11.Arunava Sinha, Literary translator
12.Nalini Rajan, Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.
13.J Devika, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram
14.Bindu KC, Ambedkar University
15.Meera Velayudhan, Independent Scholar
16.R Srivastan, Literary Translator
17.Samita Sen, Jadavpur University
18.V J Varghese, Hyderabad Central University
19.Ravi Sundaram, CSDS, New Delhi
20.Geeta Seshu, journalist, Mumbai
21.Oishik Sircar , Assistant Professor , Jindal Global Law School
22.Bindu Menon, Lady Sriram College, DU
23.Pradip Datta, Professor, DU
24.Sohail Hashmi, writer, film maker
25.Dr Kausar Wizarat , Assistant Professor, Higher Professional Education
26.Sania Hashmi documentary film maker
27.Moggallan Bharti, Lecturer
28.Sarah Hashmi, actor
29.T P Rajeevan, poet
30.M Parthasarthi, professor, EFL, Hyderabad University
31.Mrityunjoy Mohanty, Professor IIM ,Calcutta
32.Padmini Swaminathan, Visiting Professor, Council for Social Development
33.Anandhi S, Professor, MIDS, Chennai
34.Aditya Nigam, Professor, CSDS, Delhi
35.Rekha Raj, Amnesty International; dalit feminist
36.Anitha Thampi, poet
37.G Arunima, JNU
38.Veena Naregal, Professor, IEG, New Delhi
39.C.P.Geevan, Independent Researcher, Ahmedabad
40.R Nagaraj , Professor, Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR) Mumbai
41.Shibi Peter, Centre for Social Studies and Culture
42.Savithri Rajeevan, poet
43.Yasser Arafath, professor, DU
44.Farah Naqvi, Delhi
45.Ritu Dewan ,Director and Professor Department of Economics, University of Mumbai
46.Anil Tharayath, New Delhi
47.M Madhava Prasad, Professor, Department of Cultural Studies, EFL University
48.A Suneetha, Anveshi, Hyderabad
49.Sukumar Muralidharan, journalist, professor, Jindal University
50.Sunanda Sen, Professor Emerita, JNU
51.Bijoya Ray, Professor, CWDS, New Delhi
52.Dileep Raj, MGU
53.Akeel Bilgrami, Professor, Columbia University
54.E V Ramakrishnan, Professor, Central University of Gujarat
55.Anitha Sharma, Tree Walk, Thiruvananthapuram
56.M T Ansari,Professor, Hyderabad Central University
57.Prabhu Prasad Mahapatra, Professor, Dept of History, DU
58.Monobina Gupta, Journalist, New Delhi
59.Laxmi Murthy, Journalist, Bangalore
60.Ritty Lukose,Professor, New York University
61.Uma V Chandru, Bangalore
62.BRP Bhaskar, Journalist and Human Rights Activist
63.K R Meera, Literary author
64.Roby Rajan, Professor, University of Wisconsin
65.Sumit Sarkar, Historian, Professor Emeritus, DU
66.Tanika Sarkar, Historian, Professor, JNU
67.Jai Sen, CACIM.
68.Mary E John,feminist scholar and Professor, CWDS, N Delhi.
69.Tejaswini Niranjana, Independent researcher, Bangalore
70.Udayakumar, Professor, JNU
71.Anand Teltumbde, professor,journalist and activist
72.Uma Chakravarti, historian, civil rights activist, feminist
73.Rana Behal, Retd Professor, DU
74.Kavita Krishnan, Secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association
75.Rohit Azad, Associate Professor CESP, JNU
76.M Vijaya Baskar,Professor, MIDS
77.Ashish Nandy , Political Psychologist, Social Theorist and Critic. Honorary Fellow (CSDS)
78.Jasodhara, coordinator, SAHAYOG
79.Suchithra M, journalist, Kochi
80.Binitha V Thampi, Associate Professor, IIT Madras
81.Urvashi Butalia, publisher, Zubaan
82.Rita Kothari. Professor, Translation Studies, IIT, Gandhinagar
83.Rajni Palriwala, Professor, DU
84.Satish Deshpande, Professor, DU
85.Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay, Professor, feminist scholar, KITS, Amsterdam
86.Malavika Karlekar, Retd Professor, JNU
87.T K Anandi, Gender Advisor, Government of Kerala
88.Vidhu Vincent, journalist and film maker
89.Dr Rohini Hensman, writer and independent scholar, Bombay
90.Brinelle D’Souza, TISS, Mumbai
91.Astrid Lobo Gajiwala , Feminist Theologian
92.Meena T Pillai, Kerala University
93.Susie Tharu women’s activist. Professor, Department of Cultural Studies
94.Ashish Kothari, Pune, environmentalist, founder of Kalpavriksh
95.Vani Subramanian, Secretary, Saheli Women’s Resource Centre
96.Sangeetha Chatterjee, doctoral student, Rutgers University
97.Virginia Saldanha, Secretary, Indian Christian Women’s Movement
98.Radhika Singha, Professor, JNU
99.Nivedita Menon, feminist scholar and Professor, JNU
100. Ranjani Mazumdar, Professor, JNU
101. C Gouridasan Nair, journalist, Thiruvananthapuram
102. Rajashri Dasgupta, Journalist, Kolkata
103. Karen Coelho, Professor, MIDS, Chennai
104. C S Venkiteswaran, Thiruvananthapuram
105. Madhavi Menon, Professor of English, Ashoka University
106. Madhu Bhaduri, New Delhi
107. Svati Joshi, Retd professor, DU
108. Chayanika Shah, for LABIA, A queer feminist LBT collective
109. Janaki Abraham, Professor, DU
110. Uma Bhrugubanda, EFLU, Hyderabad
111. T T Sreekumar, EFLU, Hyderabad
112. Sajitha Gowri, artist
113. VihaanPeetambar, QUEERALA, TGI Justice Board, Ernakulam
114. Gita Chadha, University of Mumbai
115. Renny Thomas, DU
116. MT Joseph, Professor, Dept of Sociology, University of Mumbai.
117. D W Karuna, Researcher, Chennai
118. Mercy Alexander, Coordinator, SAKHI Women’s Resource Centre
119. Aleyamma Vijayan, SAKHI
120 Kamayani Bali Mahabal ,feminist , Mumbai
121. Varsha Basheer, Affiliated Faculty, University of California, Berkeley.

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तुम #भारतीय बनने पर अड़े रहना !

वो तुम्हे #गौमूत्र पर ले जाने की कोशिश करेगें, पर तुम #पेट्रोल पर अड़े रहना !!
वो तुम्हे #हिन्दू_मुस्लिम पर ले जाने की कोशिश करेगें, तुम #जॉब_गैस_राशन पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #मंदिर बनाने की बात करेगें, तुम #हॉस्पिटल पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #स्टैचू बनाने को सही साबित करेंगें, तुम #स्कूल बनवाने पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #दल की बात करेंगे, तुम #दाल के दाम पर अड़े रहना !!
वो कहेंगें #New_India बनायेंगे, तुम #अच्छे_दिन की डिलीवरी पर अड़े रहना !!
वो तुम्हें #जय_हिंद के नारों में उलझायेगें, तुम #हिन्द के वासियों के #वेलफ़ेयर पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #कश्मीर की बात करेंगे, तुम बढ़ती #कीमतों की बात पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #मदरसों की बात करेगें, तुम #किसानों की बात पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #मन_की_बात करेगें, तुम #काले_धन की बात पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #गौशाला खोलने की बात करेगें, तुम बच्चों के #पाठशाला पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #टैंक लगाने की बात करेगें, तुम अपने टैंक में #पानी की सप्लाई पर अड़े रहना !!
वो #हिंदू_मुस्लीम की बात करेगे मगर तुम #भारतीय बनने पर अड़े रहना !!
By -मिर्ज़ा

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Family kept mum, Dalit rape victim commits suicide in Haryana #Vaw

Gautam Dheer, Chandigarh,
The victim girl suffered the ordeal for nearly a month before she finally decided to commit suicide. Image for representationThe victim girl suffered the ordeal for nearly a month before she finally decided to commit suicide. Image for representation

A teenager Dalit girl who was stalked for days, then gang-raped, humiliated and later threatened with dreadful consequences died in a hospital in Haryana on Monday after she consumed poison.

Far away from the spotlight generated in the DJ Varnika stalking case, involving the son of Haryana BJP president, the incident in the hinterland is a shrill reminder of the rot that exits.Unlike in the Varnika case, where her bureaucrat father and family supported their daughter in her quest for justice against the powerful wrongdoers, the Dalit family, unfortunately, preferred to keep mum on the issue even after the teenager was raped.

The victim girl suffered the ordeal for nearly a month before she finally decided to commit suicide.

The family stays in village Palwan in Jind district of Haryana where the crime took place.

The three accused men of the village grouped her in the fields and raped her. The victim narrated the entire incident to her parents the same day. But the Dalit family decided against going to the police. Instead, they visited the family of the accused with a request that they should counsel their boys to stop harassing their daughter in future.

Nothing changed and the victim’s harassment continued, in fact escalated. The stalking prolonged and the victim would often be asked to “accompany” them. When she declined, the accused would paste sketchy information of the incident outside the victims house in an attempt to warn her of more public shame in case she planned to complain against them and refused to accompany them whenever they desired. The victim girl could not bear the shame anymore and committed suicide.

The three accused are on the run. The police said three persons, Rahul, Praveen and Kala, have booked under relevant IPC sections of rape, criminal intimidation, SC/ST act and abatement to suicide. “Teams have been constituted. The accused will be arrested soon,” superintendent of police Jind said.

Victim’s father regretted saying he kept quite after the incident out of the fear of social stigma that his daughter will face if the case is brought to the notice of the police.

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Rajasthan -Harassed and intimidated by men who raped her, Dalit woman kills herself #Vaw

The woman had approached the police twice asking for protection, but they failed to respond to her.

With the Rajasthan police unable to protect her from her alleged rapists, a Dalit woman took her own life on September 11 in Barmer district in Rajasthan.

The woman, a 30-year-old mother of two was allegedly gangraped on July 22 by two men, Tan Singh and Lakh Singh. The two men, identified as Rajputs, allegedly raped the woman in her house, which is in a secluded part of the fields of the accused.

After the woman filed a complaint on July 24, the two accused allegedly tried to threaten her with dire consequences and intimidate her into withdrawing the case. She contacted the police for security against the death threats on August 17 and 28. However, the police reportedly failed to provide her with the necessary protection.

Despite this, the woman recorded her statement before the magistrate on August 31. However, when the harassment from the accused did not stop, she committed suicide by jumping into a water tank next her house.

Her distraught family members found her in the evening and rushed her to the hospital, where she was declared brought dead. Carrying her dead body, her family protested before the Block Office in Chohatan from September 12 to 14.

Tarachand Sharma, an advocate with the Human Rights Law Network, told TOI that the woman and her family could have been safer had the police acted swiftly and put the accused behind bars. “Seeing that they could get away despite the crime, the men grew in impunity and threatened the woman’s family,” he said.

Following the woman’s death, Tan Singh was arrested on September 13 and Lakh Singh on the next day.

Cases have been registered under Sections 458 (trespass or house-breaking with preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 366 (kidnapping, abducting or inducing a woman to compel her to marriage), and 376 (rape) of the IPC, and under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. Seven others – Tejpal Singh, Chandan Singh, Leel Singh, Kesar Singh, Leel Singh, Ganga Singh and Khet Singh – have been charged with intimidating the woman and her family to withdraw the rape case.

On September 14, Barmer district SP also sent a letter to the DYSP directing an enquiry into why action had not been taken against the culprits earlier, and has ordered action against the negligent officers.

The case has been taken up by the All India Dalit Adhikaar Manch, which has demanded that:

  • The case should be tried and the accused must be convicted without any delays in a fast track court.
  • The proper implementation of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in all such cases of caste-based sexual violence.
  • Adequate compensation should be given to the family of the woman.
  • Disciplinary action should be taken against the police for not providing protection to the woman or arresting the accused speedily, despite repeated complaints.
  • The rest of the accused, who have been named for intimidating the woman and her family should be immediately arrested.

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India-Are Court directives enough to bring an end to the Sterilisation camp approach? #Vaw

Scenario of Sterilisation Camps in Madhya Pradesh


Even after a year of the landmark judgment by the Supreme Court, (Devika Biswas vs Union of India and Ors.) directing the state governments to put an end to the camp approach for sterilisation, operations still continue unabated in appalling conditions in these camps. Conducting sterilisations camps especially targeting women has been a common practice in the Family Planning Programme in India since decades. Even with standards for procedure of sterilization available since 1989, the focus has remained especially on female sterilisation and on fulfilling targets to control population.

The poor state of affairs in the female sterilisation camps has been time and again brought to fore by different Public Interest Litigations (PIL’s) filed by activists and civil society members, for example a petition by activist Ramakant Rai as part of Health Watch Forum UP Bihar was filed in the Supreme Court in 2003. The judgment for this PIL in 2005 directed all states to adhere to the guidelines of the ministry for such operations. Part of the order also directed to introduce a system of having an approved panel of doctors entitled to carry on sterilization procedures, set up Quality Assurance Committees, collect and publish reports of the number of persons sterilised as well as the number of deaths or complications arising out of the sterilisation and bring into effect an insurance policy to compensate for death of the patient sterilised, in case of post–operative complications.

Following this PIL, new guidelines were formulated and older ones revised[1], and on a positive note the Government also brought in the Family Planning Insurance Scheme in November 2005. The various guidelines provide detailed guide to ensuring standards of quality regarding the place and timings of where the camp must be conducted, number of operations allowed in a day by one surgeon, women’s eligibility criteria, pre-operative counselling and tests and post-operative check-ups and overall care, taking informed consent of the women etc.

Even with multitude guidelines in place, there is continued negligence on part of the states in implementing them in the camps. A glaring example of the utter neglect in camps came to light in Araria district of Bihar where 53 women were sterilised within 2 hours by a single surgeon in unhygienic and dire conditions. After witnessing the horrific negligence in this sterilisation camp, Devika Biswas a social activist filed a PIL on the gross violations in 2012. Even during the hearing of the case, news reports of violation came from the state of Chhattisgarh, where 13 women had died in Bilaspur after undergoing sterilisation operation in a camp, due to neglect in quality of the services provided by the health system. The historic judgment which came on the petition of Biswas in September 2016 was well received as it vociferously highlighted the end to the camp approach within three years and outlined to strictly adhere to guidelines for all procedures.

Conditions in Camps of Madhya Pradesh after the Biswas PIL Judgement

Following the judgment on the Biswas PIL, Maternal Health Rights Campaign (MHRC), a rights based network of more than 50 organisations based in the state of Madhya Pradesh (MP) took the responsibility to observe 35 camps across 11 districts to understand the compliance of guidelines in the camps. As part of this observation exercise, evidence was generated using an observation checklist, by capturing photographs of the ongoing activity and situation, and through conversations with beneficiaries about their experience with the services and facilities they received and behaviour of the healthcare providers. The observations were made during the winter months of December 2016 and January 2017, which fall under the peak season for sterilization. The observation and analysis has been done keeping in alignment with the prescribed standards in the guidelines issues by ministry of health and family welfare (MOHFW).

The observations and statistics from the exercise undertaken by MHRC reveal that even after the directives, the camp approach continues to violate the rights of the women and camps continue to be conducted in poor conditions.

Timing and Information Regarding the Procedures:

Women were brought in groups to the camps during morning hours, were made to wait for long hours before the arrival of the doctors. The arrival time of the doctors was unknown in many camps and reason quoted for the same was scarcity of human resource. Due to the late arrival of doctors and their determination to complete their workload of ‘reaching the target’, the operations took place outside of the prescribed hours which is from 9 am to 5pm as mentioned in the guidelines set by the MOHFW. In around 18 camps out of 35, the prescribed timing was not followed and some operations went on till as late as 11.30 in the night, indicating the importance given to

Number of Procedures

As per the guidelines, for maintaining quality services, each surgeon should restrict to conducting a maximum of 30 procedures a day spread across 8 hours (9am- 5pm) with the availability of 2 laproscopes. The findings however highlight contrary observations as only 9 camps followed this criteria. Even in these 9 camps, the number of procedures were conducted between 25 minutes to 2 hour 30 mins, which is otherwise recommended to be spread during the 8 hours allotted time, therefore raising questions on the quality maintained during the procedure. Doing excess procedures is strictly prohibited by the Supreme Court yet they were carried on, in some of the camps around 60-80 women underwent the procedure in a single day. It was also reported that in one of the camps, officials entered only enough names so as to not go beyond the cap, and other names were entered on other dates or not entered at all indicating a malpractice. This purposeful act can complicate the lives of the woman for future reference in case of complications or failure and also provides a false database.

Pre-Operative Procedures

Counselling, voluntary consent and undergoing tests before the procedure are a pre -requisite as per the guidelines. Every woman has a right to receiving all the required information about the procedure and also about the consequences in order to make an informed decision. The observations from the camps highlight that there were no rooms for counselling ensuring confidentiality as only in 11camps out of 35, women were given information on other contraceptive methods, only in 9 women were explained about the ill effects and complications post sterilization and in 8 camps were told about management and compensation in case of complication, failure or death. In regard to taking informed consent, in 25 camps, no woman were read to or explained about the content of the consent forms, and women were made to sign them without them knowing what was written on in. Similarly, a set of mandatory tests like blood, urine, blood pressure, weight and abdomen check-up are to be done before the surgery which will ensure the eligibility for the procedure. Considering the status of anaemia among women in MP, not conducting a blood test and also a pregnancy test before the procedure puts the woman at great risk often leading to complications and sometimes even death.

Makeshift OTs

The guidelines state no sterilisation procedure can be conducted in a non-functional OT, but this mandate was overlooked and 5 out of 35 camps had makeshift OTs in the hall of the hospitals. Also the rooms had no privacy, it was flooded with the women being operated on, women waiting for their turn along with relative and doctors. Another practice observed was the use of cycle pumps in 11 camps to inflate the abdomen, which is a gross violation of the standards of care which have previously been reiterated in court judgments.

 Post-Operative Procedure

The sterilisation procedure ends with ensuring that women are not going through complications, immediately after the procedure and months after it. While long term follow up was not part of this exercise, the immediate care and follow up by the nurses and doctors was not be seen in the camps. On the contrary, due to inadequate beds, women had to sleep on the floor, only 4 camps provided mattress and a blanket, considering that it was winter months, no effort was made to feel women feel warm and comfortable. Even at the time of discharge when adequate information needs to be given about care and follow up, it was observed that in around 20 camps women were not checked for recovery and stability by the doctor or a nurse until 4 hours nor were they given information on follow up and care before discharge.


The overall scenario of the camps through observations made by MHRC, suggests a dismal picture. Not even a single camp qualified following the standards and procedures. These are just 35 camps which have shown the gruesome reality, however the findings from these observations are enough to understand the commitment of the state to improve women’s reproductive health. As the judgement completes one year, the Government still does not have a plan to end the current approach. Though the government has introduced the Mission Parivar Vikas to ensure that services reach out to every couple, quality of care in each of the services remain a matter of concern. It is thus important to discuss the pathways of the current programme and a commitment from the state to learn from the past experiences and come up with strategies which will ensure informed decision making by women, remove social barriers to bring men to the forefront to take equal or even greater responsibility in using contraception, focus on the highest attainable quality of care in delivering all contraceptive method with special attention to spacing methods, steadfast action to bring an end to all camps and most importantly on this run ensuring women’s empowerment to decide for their own reproductive health, care and fertility. Without such deliberation and an increasing demand to limit fertility, women’s health and life will continue to be at risk.

[1] All family planning related guidelines can be found on ministry’s website –

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AIPWA Condemns Dissolution of Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) in JNU

Image result for jnu

AIPWA condemns the decision taken by today’s JNU Executive Meeting to dissolve the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) and replace it with an ‘Internal Complaints Committee’ that does not meet the standards of autonomy and gender sensitivity required by the Vishakha Guidelines or the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

Through a decision taken in today’s JNU Executive Council meeting, the GSCASH has been summarily dissolved and replaced with an Internal Complaints Committee headed by the Chief Proctor. As a result, the institutional mechanism for dealing with sexual harassment complaints in JNU has been integrated with the command structure of the University Administration and is no longer autonomous and free from Administrative pressure.
Even more shockingly, the Administration has rushed to try and seal the GSCASH office and take control of its files – which have sensitive and confidential material relating to ongoing enquiries as well as past enquiries. The AIPWA demands that the handover of files take place only in keeping with legal opinion to ensure that confidentiality will be preserved and material in the files will not be misused.

This dissolution of the GSCASH is the latest blow by the JNU Administration on gender justice in JNU – already before this, deprivation points in JNU admissions including gender deprivation points have been wiped out along with slashing in seats and the resulting erosion of reservation for students from oppressed and deprived backgrounds.

The manner in which this dissolution was achieved is noteworthy. The pretext is a 2015 UGC Notification stating that existing GSCASH bodies constituted in keeping with the 1997 Vishakha Guidelines must be “reconstituted as ICCs” in line with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (SHW 2013). But in fact the JNU Executive Council on October 6, 2015 had already ratified that JNU’s GSCASH Rules And Procedures were compliant with this requirement. (see document attached)

In August 2017 the JNU Administration, ignoring the earlier ratification, set up the Garkoti Committee to look into the compliance of GSCASH with the UGC Notification and SHW 2013. The nine-member Garkoti Committee had only three women. Only one of its members – former GSCASH Chairperson Dr. K.B. Usha – was experienced in the field of gender. According to Dr KB Usha one member of the Committee even said he had never heard of the word or concept of ‘patriarchy’. Not only that – while the Aug 2017 Notification appointing the Garkoti Committee (attached) clearly has Dr KB Usha’s name as a member, the final minutes of the Garkoti Committee (attached) simply omits to include any mention of the fact that Dr KB Usha had been a member, had dissented with the majority opinion and had resigned!

The example of the Garkoti Committee is a curtain raiser for the fate of the Internal Complaints Committee that has replaced the GSCASH: members will have no experience of working in the field of gender or against sexual harassment; any opinion that differs from those of the VC’s handpicked members will be ignored or erased from records; and as a result the enquiries will be effectively controlled by the Administration.

AIPWA has witnessed the fate of Administration-controlled Internal Complaints Committees in many institutions, including several government and private workplaces as well as colleges and Universities. JNU’s GSCASH was among the rare model institutions where the institution was actually autonomous and free to carry out tasks of gender sensitization and enquiries into complaints free from any pressure, regardless of whether the accused was a student, a faculty member, a staff member or employee, or someone in the Administrative hierarchy. The Rules and Procedures of the GSCASH are among the best practices in the whole country, carefully designed to protect confidentiality, ensure in-built safeguards against bias in every enquiry; and ensure justice. In fact, the ICC model cited in the UGC Notification only sets a minimum standard – the JNU GSCASH not only meets but far exceeds and improves on that standard. This is recognized by the UGC’s SAKSHAM Report
( – the basis of the UGC 2015 Notification – which therefore cited the JNU GSCASH Rules and Procedures as a model which it encouraged other institutions to emulate by including it in full in the Appendix. Today, the JNU Administration has arbitrarily dissolved that evolved model – in the process jeopardizing the safety of sexual harassment complainants in the University.
The AIPWA stands by the JNU community in its struggle to restore the GSCASH to JNU

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Police officials’ apathy left Barmer woman vulnerable #Vaw

Rosamma Thomas| TNN | Sep 18, 2017, 08:57 IST

JAIPUR: Representatives of the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) joined members of Dalit rights groups to undertake a visit to Booth Rathoran in ChohtanBarmer district, where a 30-year-old woman of Meghwal caste, a Dalit group, had committed suicide on September 12 after taking a complaint to police about gang-rape by two men on July 22.

Newspapers had earlier reported that although the woman had named the two accused -Tansingh and Lakhsingh in the FIR registered in July at the Booth Rathoran police station, no action was taken against the men. With rising impunity , the two men allegedly began to threaten the family of the rape survivor, a mother of two. Udha Ram, a local activist, told TOI that the police failed to act in time and left the poor Dalit family vulnerable to mental torture. “The woman was alone at home when the two men, whom she recognized, took turns to force themselves on her. She took a comp laint to police and named the two men (belonging to a dominant caste), but the cops were lax in following up the case.”

Unable to bear the constant threats and fearing for the safety of her family , the woman jumped into a water tank and drowned on September 12.

Advocate Tarachand Verma of HRLN said, “There is no question that the woman and her family would have been safer if the men who abused her were put behind bars. Seeing that they could get away despite the crime, the men grew in impunity and threatened the woman’s family .”

Suman Devathiya of the All India Dalit Rights Forum said, “The woman had twice approached the district superintendent of police to apprise him of the threats and seek security . Priyanka Meghwal, zila pramukh, had also approached the SP seeking protection for the family , which lives in the fields that they work on.Under the law, a Dalit rape survivor and her kin are entitled to compensation, which the family had not received. There are several such cases of Dalit and women atrocity reported from Barmer where investigation is delayed and culprits walk free. Stern action should be taken against negligent police officials. What are they paid for? Even in the case of the six-year-old raped in the school recently , police are attempting to portray it as a case of abuse by members of the family . The girl herself has reported that school cleaners assaulted her.”

Zila pramukh Priyanka Meghwal said, “I too tried to get the police to act in the matter. I accompanied her to meet senior police officers, but we were unable to bring them to arrest the accused.”

Barmer SP Gangadeep Singhla said, “The arrest order for the two men accused by the rape survivor had been issued, but the men were missing. It’s true that there are reports that the men were out and threatening the woman and her family .

An inquiry has been ordered in this matter. As for the case of the alleged rape of the six-year-old, that was not a rape case, in reality .”

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The story of Ismat and other Rohingya widows

Rohingya women in Delhi have a very different existence from their male counterparts Neha Dixit

In a brief impulsive moment, Ismat hurried Yusuf to the rusted red hand pump next to the open drain bordering the fields. Then within seconds, there was a moment of epiphany. They rushed back to the shanty. Unlike Maungdaw in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, Delhi winters are extreme.

The Rohingya Muslims are “the Worlds’ Most Persecuted Minority,” according to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. This stateless Muslim people may constitute up to seven percent of the total Burmese population of nearly 60 million. The Myanmar government continues to deny the Rohingya any legal status or rights, insisting that they are “Bengalis” illegally in the country. Bangladesh, however, does not claim them.

In the last four years, in an effort to “purify” the nation, the Buddhist supremacists in Myanmar have been committing rape, arson, murder and land confiscation on a massive scale. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas struggle to survive in “concentration camps.” They are denied freedom of movement, marriage, jobs and schooling.  At least an equal number of refugees have fled to an unknown fate. Unknown numbers of people have drowned or been captured by traffickers to toil as slaves. Some found second-class residency in Malaysia, Thailand Bangladesh, India living at a risk of another expulsion. Till date an estimated 140,000 Rohingyas have been displaced from Myanmar.  

Different socio economic factors that have brought close to 36,000 Rohingyas Muslims to India. Ismat is one of them. As she poured the hot water in a recycled paint bucket on the indoor mud stove, Amina  yelled from the shanty next door, “ Why are you lighting fire third time in the day? I am choking.”

The Rohingya ghetto, just opposite a Hindu crematorium, borders Jamia Nagar. It was set up three years ago on a 185 Square meter patch of land owned by the Zakat Foundation, a Muslim Charity organisation, when the Rohingya were fleeing from Myanmar to different South Asian countries. All 46 shanties, on this small plot, in next to each other had makeshift walls of bamboo, scrap wood and metal sheets. A double layer of tarpaulin and woolen blankets made for the roof.

Since their arrival, Rohingya men have transitioned from being farmers and boatmen to auto rickshaw drivers, construction workers, daily wagers in Delhi. They have learnt the local lingo, developed a taste for bread and kebabs instead of craving for rice and fish every day. They leave home early and come back late. In the last three years, the married women have stepped out of the ghetto is when UNHCR organized a trip for the women to see the Red Fort in Delhi. It is the women who have built these shanties, Burmese style, with high triangle roofs, adding series of steps in between for storage or to sleep when the water for the nearby drain swells up in the ghetto. Last monsoons, two children, three months and five months old, died due to snake bite. They have made their kitchen inside the shanty because an outdoor kitchen would mean cooking in a burqa. Divided into four narrow rows, smoke from any shanty makes sure to traverse through the entire row to weave them seamlessly in their incessant misery.   

Jamia Nagar is one of the largest Muslim ghettos in India’s national capital Delhi. Located in Okhla, a suburban colony in South Delhi distict, it borders Noida, an industrial city in the state of Uttar Pradesh.  ‘Jamia’, an Urdu word can be loosely translated as ‘University’.  In October 1920, when India was still under British rule, several teachers of the Aligarh Muslim University, an ancient minority university, responded to the veteran freedom fighter, Mahatma Gandhi’s call to boycott pro colonial educational institutes and set up the Jamia Milia Islamia University. It initially operated out of Aligarh and then from Karol Bagh, a residential cum commercial centre in Central Delhi , before it’s foundation stone was finally laid here in Okhla village in 1935.  Slowly settlement grew around the University. Okhla, then a non descript village, bordering the Yamuna river, became a hub of students and teachers. Soon after Indian Independence from the British colonial rule, in 1952, the government established 12 estates across the country to encourage small scale industries. Okhla Industrial Estate was one of them and now a major production and trade centre in the capital. Over the years, the population in the area has grown because of its closeness to both the industrial estate and the University.  In the last two decades, since Hindu right wing nationalist forces brought down an ancient mosque in the Ayodhya, a town in the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, the Muslim ghettos across India have become denser and bigger. It is in this area, in September 2008, two young Muslim boys, allegedly with links to terror outfit, Indian Mujahideen, were killed in an encounter. The event shook the country raising outrage from various Human Rights organizations questioning the veracity of the encounter. Since then, even here, the Muslims from within India do not enjoy an unprejudiced existence.  

Ismat did not respond to Amina and quietly returned to the hand pump with a naked Yusuf. The pump is shared between the Rohingya settlement and the Muzaffarnagar settlement across the road. In 2013, a spate of communal violence in the North Indian districts of Muzaffarnagar and Shamli left over 60 people dead and over a 1,00,000 people displaced, most of them Muslims. Situated just two and a hours from Delhi, a number of families fled here. Out of those, twenty families have settled across the road here in Jamia Nagar. As Shabnam, pumped water in three plastic containers, her young seven year old daughter, Humaira, picked the refilled ones to carry them to her shanty. She tumbled as she picked the second one. Ismat rushed to pick her up as she started crying. She told her in Rohingya, her native language, “Dont cry. It is fine. Go and change clothes.” Humaira couldn’t understand a word.

The only Hindi phrase that the Rohingya women in the ghetto have learnt is “Thoda-thoda”, little-little. On the contrary, the men, almost all have learnt functional Hindustani, a mix of Hindi and Urdu and a bit of English. “They go out to work so they need to. We don’t,” says Ismat.   

Shabnam picked up Humaira, the water containers and left. After pumping in some cold water into the bucket to make it the right temperature to bathe Yusuf, she pulled his little body, lower than the hand pump, towards herself. As the cold breeze blew into his face and the mugs of water poured on his body, he shriveled down like a wet puppy. His shivers gave a symphonic rhythm to his yelps. To calm him down, Ismat took out an old loofah that she had found in the discards of a scrap shop close by. Yusuf would break into giggle each time it touched his body. Ismat liked using it because it would cause less pain to his half swollen face and his boil peppered body.

All young children had boils in the ghetto. The doctor from Zakat Foundation of India said the boils were because of the contaminated water from the pump which was pumping the sewer water from the ground. All hand pumps painted in read in colour have been deemed unfit by the government for use. “This is why the bucket turns yellow in just four days,” Ismat points out.
Jamia Nagar, came up virtually on the Yamuna riverbed. In the last three decades, since the rise of communal politics in India, a growing insecurity has led to a surge of Muslim settlements in the area. Neighbourhoods catering different class backgrounds have come up. Apartments for middle class families, intellectuals, employees of the university are sought after. There are studio apartments and two room sets for students whose rent depends on the width of the narrow alleys of Jamia Nagar. And then, there are low income group housing, unregularised colonies, slums. Growing population has led to a thriving business centres. A number of hole in the wall eating joints have emerged due to paucity of space and yet locals throng here for the delectable kebabs, fried chicken and Mughlai food. Inspite of this, there has hardly been an attempt to create an infrastructure. There is a perennial shortage of water and electricity. Since the water supply from the government-run Delhi Jal Board is abysmal, people are forced to extract water from the river through a bore-well. A lack of proper drainage system  leads to the mixing of the sewer and ground water. As a result, the ground water that Shabnam and Ismat pump from the hand pump has an unpalatable yellow hue and highly turbid.

The doctor had also diagnosed that Yusuf has brain tumour which needs to be operated. But she will not go ahead with it. She knew that the swelling was because of ‘bad sightings’ on Yusuf, ‘the prettiest of all children’.

Water, what could she say about it?

In 2008, she was 16 when she moved from her village Khanda Para to Bohmu Para in Maungdaw in Myanmar. The Burmese government took an entire year to allow her marriage with her second cousin Mohd Ayub, like they do for all Rohingyas. Her father and her uncle, pooled in money to pay a huge additional marriage tax for her community. She does not remember the amount. The only two things that excited her were a brand new mango colour Thami that she was given to wear for her wedding day and the chance to see the hundred year old railway tunnel that connects the Maungdaw town to Buthidaung district amidst the May Yu Mountains.

“Do you know what a Thami is?” she asks. An old woman, seemingly in her fifties, matted silver hair and teeth stained crimson with betel nut,  sunning a few metres from the pump turned around to tell me, “Thami is a like a skirt. Easy to lift and urinate anywhere. Not like this one-tying and untying the drawstring all the time,” she said pointing to the salwar, a loose pair of pants worn by a number of South Asian women.

They all break into laughter.

Ayub was a skilled boatman. The incessant storms in the Bay of Bengal could never stop him from fishing or ferrying people in the sea or the Kaladan river, the fifth largest river in the world to remain unfragmented by dams in its catchment. He was five years elder to her and as a child, she had always heard of him as someone who would not play and stay engrossed in books. She couldn’t complete school because the Burmese government wouldn’t let Rohingya children get higher education in schools in Rakhine.

For a 21 year old, he had silver hair in lots, a long crooked nose, small eyes-all on a big muscular body, acquired by years of rowing boat on the sea. “He said that he was most happy that I didn’t look like a Kalar,” the fair skinned Ismat told me. ‘Kalar’ is a hate speech term used for Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar referring to their dark skin. The red rashes on Ayub’s legs made an zig zag pattern against his dark brown skin. The water was getting more polluted with India and Myanmar trying to connect seaports of both the countries through the Kaladan Multi Nodal Transit Transport System.  On her wedding night Ayub asked her the relevance of water in their lives. Ismat reminisced with a smile, “I was a child then. I said, ‘What?’ You are a fisherman and your father, a farmer. How will you earn if there is no water?”

Ayub then told her that according to Quran, ‘the Almighty made from water every living thing’ but at the same time, it is Him who gives sweet water to the people, and that He can just as easily withhold it.’

“Yamuna in Delhi and Kaladan in Maungdaw are the same now. Toxic, polluted killers. Kaladan marked Ayub and Yamuna has marked Yusuf,” she says pointing to the river bank on the other side of the main road whose stench is a perennial reality in Jamia Nagar, Shaheen Bagh and the neighbouring areas.  Yamuna, the river that provides 70 percent of the city’s water is now amongst the most polluted rivers in the world. Close to 850 gallons of industrial waste and sewage in dumped in it every day and only half of it gets treated through sewage treatment plants.

The same year as Ismat got married, an Indian oil company Essar started exploring natural gas option in Sittwe and Maungdaw area in the state. The area falls under what is called L Block, an oil exploration circle. As part of an agreement signed in 2005, Essar along with state run Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise was to do drilling test wells in the area. In the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, Essar has been accused by the local tribal population for several years for mining their natural resources, land grabbing and displacing them. Over 2 million acres have been seized from minorities in Burma for such projects by India and China. Ayub’s small patch of land was also taken away and they were relocated to a camp.

In the next four years, due to Essar’s explorations for oil in the Maungdaw area, more and more exclusive zones were created that denied access to local fishermen like Ayub without providing an alternative or compensation.

Amina was also her neighbor back in her village. In 2012, Amina’s husband, Khalid was picked up by the military one day to work as a porter and carry their ammunition and other belongings to the hills to fight ‘arsu’ terrorists. Amina was a few months pregnant then. Forced labour by the military in Myanmar is a common practice. In 2005, the International Labour Organisation governing body stated that “…no adequate moves have been taken by the Burmese Military Regime (the ‘Government’ of Myanmar) to reduce forced labour in Burma/Myanmar.”

For the next four months, Amina couldn’t trace Khalid. It is around then on May 28, 2012, news spread that three Rohingya Muslim men had raped a Buddhist woman in Rakhine state. There was major backlash against the Rohingyas.

The riots first broke out in Ismat’s village, Bohmu. Houses in 14 villages were burnt down that night. The violence continued for a few months which finally led to the destruction of close to 2,500 houses and displacement of over 30,000 people who initially stayed in 37 camps across the Rakhine state.

After sticking around in the rescue camps set up by the Burmese government which completely restricted their movement ,Ismat, Ayub and many from their village decided to flee. Amina joined them, hopeless that she will find her husband again. Many  ]women travelling without men have formed their own support networks and stuck to them. They first fled to Teknaf, a border town of Bangladesh opposite Maungdaw, 8 km away and then on overcrowded boats to Malaysia or further south, despite the dangers posed by rough seas. After spending two days in the boat, the boat was hot by cyclone and it capsized. “Ayub dissolved in what the Quran said he was made of,” Ismat says with a staright face. He and 12 others could never be found again. Ismat and Amina returned to Teknaf only to take the route of the land along with other villagers to enter India through West Bengal.  

The bath is over and Yusuf is smiling now. Ismat is applying mustard oil to his body to moisturize her skin. As she tells these details, Amina joins in along with her three year old malnourished daughter, Noor Shahida, who looks like a one year old. “There is some milk in my shanty. Feed her that,” Ismat tells Amina.

Shabnam comes to the pump again, this time with a pile of clothes to wash. “Muslims in their village were also attacked, no. Else why would they come here in a city where neither there is clean water or air!” she asked. “We were so far away yet such similar stories!”

The site where the pump is situated is the only part which receives any sunlight. “Thank God that is at the backside, else women would have not even deserved that,” says Amina.  

When Shabnam hears the translation she says, “When we lived in a relief camp in Shamli after the riots, the clergy there too told us that the Muslims were affected in the violence because the women did not cover their faces properly. Allah got upset and punished us.” Another woman, Seema, from Shabnam’s camp joins in, “That’s true. They said that we did not offer namaz five times a day and watched television, that’s why our women were raped. At least no one tells us that in this city.”  

Ismat and Amina exchange glances as Rukhsat, a teenaged Rohingya girl who has picked up the local Hindustani language, repeats what Seema says in Rohingya. In the last four years of battling poverty, displacement and trauma, the women are still not allowed to go out to work. “We don’t practice the custom of working women in our community,” says Saleem, Ismat’s neighbour. They had not heard that in Rakhine. The women have found safety in this new country but lost their freedom to radicalized faith.  Confined to the ghetto and the most vulnerable of the lot, they have no means to secure square meals for themselves and their children except depending on the benevolence of the same community that restricts her from earning a living by working outside.
Widows like them with no male earning member in the family are completely dependent on the neighbourhood community to provide them meals and things of necessity. People from the neighbouring areas donate money as charity on Eid and during Ramzan. “We save it for the rest of the year. I want to work. May be start selling banboo chicken soup, a Rakhine speciality here. But our Islamic donors say women are keepers of tradition wherever we go. If I defy them, who knows, they will not let us stay here,” Amina says. She gives free hair cut to all children and does odd jobs within the ghetto for daily meals. As Ismat says, “When Aung Saan Suu Kyi was put under house arrest, she could hope that one days she will be out. Women like us have none.”  

With the growing religious polarisation in South Asia, a rising militant Buddhism in Myanmar and the rabid, fundamentalist Hindutva nationalism in India, a biding sense of insecurity has gained a foothold in Islam. The most direct repercussion of it is a tightened noose on women’s sexuality and autonomy.  “But no matter what said and done at least Afsa can go to school here. Rohingyas were just not allowed to do that in Rakhine,” Manera says.
Jamia Nagar has several primary schools, a number of them privately run. Rukhsat, Afsa and many young girls have started attending school. “We have to start from the scratch because whatever little we learnt back home was in our local language. I want to learn everything in English now. What if we have to move from India to some other country,” says Rukhsat in her teenage. She wants to be a teacher but her marriage has already been arranged within the ghetto. “Our community is under so much threat. Girls are allowed only to marry within the community. Though the men can marry outside,” says Haroon.

Another  young girl, Tasmeeda, 16, fled Myanmar with her family when she was six. After a few years in Bangladesh, the family became one of the first Rohingya settlers in Delhi eight years back. While Rohingya children are not given admission in Indian school, papers were fudged and she managed to learn Hindi and the complexities of the local Indian customs in her surroundings.
“In our village, back home, the houses are constructed like this only,” she tells.
“How do you know? You were very young when you left” I ask.  
“I have heard from people.”
Tasmeeda is one of the most outspoken girls in the ghetto. Each time a journalist, an activist, a team from a human rights agency visits she is sought to represent the women’s side or to translate what they are saying.  She reads and informs that the Indian government is providing stipend to refugees from Somalia, Afghanistan and Iran but not them.  Crisis has emboldened her to keep a tab on not just her own refugee status but also the political developments in Myanmar. She is the window for women like Ismat and Amina to the outside world. “But if India does not provide her people a citizenship, we will have to flee again,” she says in a matter of fact tone.

Zohra Khatoon, in her late 60s, walks up to the pump nods as Tasmeeda says this. She worked as a farm labourer all her life in Rakhine. Her husband passed away when her daughter was one. All the years of raising her up were tough. When she finally married off her daughter, she thought she could now take it easy.  That’s when the violence started in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and neighbouring districts in Rakhine in Myanmar. She fled with her daughter, her two granddaughters and the son in law. There are many old women like her, confined to the ghettos, ill equipped to work, unfamiliar to the new land and the language and too fatigued by age to renegotiate living conditions in their surroundings. The new country and place of habitation does not provide the comfort of familiarity or the power of financial and social independence. “I am praying for my death,” she says.  But Tasmeeda recently told her that the local Muslim graveyard still does not allow burial of Rohingya bodies.

In the alien city landscapes, the red pump has become a cushion, a community of women who have been uprooted from their rural landscapes due to communal politics. It is located at the edge of Jamia nagar and a forested area. With a number of slums around, no sewer line and no toilets, the area is used for a large number of people to relieve themselves. Local eateries and meat shops also dump the leftover food, animal carcass here. This draws a large number of stray dogs, pigs, mosquitoes and germs.

“Why doesn’t the government clean it?” Zohra asks.
Tasmeeda replies, “What were you thinking? India is heaven. They come to Muslim areas only in elections.”

The rise of the Hindu nationalism in India, has led to a sectarian divide amongst the Hindu majority of roughly 84 percent and the Muslim minority of 13 percent. According to studies, Muslims in India are most socio economic backward community in India. With the rise of conservative politics, there have been institutionalised policies that ignore their development and progress. The Muslim ghettos are often at the receiving end of this exclusion.

Manera Begum, a woman in her mid thirties, escorted by her six year old daughter Afsa, walks up. Over the years, Manera has completely lost her sight. She also grew up in the Buthidaung district of Rakhine state in Myanmar. Her father, Zafar Ahmed owned a shop in a village and volunteered for Aung San Sui Kyi’s National League of Democracy. When the party was elected to power in the 1990 General elections which the Army nullified and refused to hand over the power, Aung San Sui Kyi was put on house arrest for the next several years. It is then the military started a witch hunt of several such supporters of NLD.  On one such night, Zaheer and his elder son, Haroon were tipped off that the military is on their way to arrest them. The two fled, unaware that the family members will not be spared. That night, the militia killed Zaheer’s uncle, raped his cousin Ashiya, burnt her alive and wounded Manera and her younger brother Taufeeq so brutally that their eyesight faded away in the next few years. Zaroon and Zaheer had to stay in Bangladesh for five years before they could finally come back to rescue their family. After 12 years in Bangladesh, Zaheer decided to get all his family to India. “We were not allowed to go outside the refugee camp there.”

The sectarian divide throughout South Asian communities has had the biggest impact by dividing  the poor to compete against each other for survival.
In the last two years, since the Rohingya settlement and Muzaffarnagar settlement have existed next to each other, there has been an incessant aid contest between the two. When the UNHCR or other international charity organizations help the Rohingyas, the others resent. And when the local politicians appear once in a while and provide the Muzaffarnagar refugees some goodies, it is vice versa.  

Amina says, “That’s because they have votes.”  Manera quietly listening to the conversations says, “Our Party has now come to power in Myanmar. Do you know Aung San Sui Kyi? She has come to power but she has to be in power for four five years. May be then she will change the law and accept Rohingyas as citizens of Myanmar. We will wait till then.”

Ismat makes a clucking sound. She says, “It is nothing. Like Ayub said, Allah has withheld that sweet water from the Rohingya women.”

Published by Cityscapes magazine in July, 2017

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Rage Against the Dying of the Light #GauriLankesh

Poetry flowed like blood and tears -and “a waterfall of love” -on social media and at a rally in Bengaluru earlier this week to protest the murder of Gauri Lankesh

I start, with a parched nib, What do martyrs think of in those final moments when fascists push them into well-planned caskets?This is how Write a Poem by Abul Kalam Azad begins. Azad -named after the freedom fighter Maulana -calls himself “a poet of Indian origin living in Japan“. He has never met the slain journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh. But Gauri had contacted him after he wrote a poem about the deaths of children in Gorakhpur and told him that she would trans late it into Kannada and publish it in her tabloid.

“Tonight, my poem lost one of its tongues. And so did this world. This night is ours to fight now. To grieve and to resist,“ he wrote in a Facebook post at 10.55 pm on September 5, three hours after Gauri was shot dead out side her residence in Bengaluru. It took him six more days and several torn sheets, real and metaphoric, to write Write a Poem, which is about Gauri looking over his shoulder, urging him to put pen to paper. “Language knocks in vain at the doors of the departed one… I run, far from alphabets… I weep, with clasped teeth, into her stretched palms She whispers again before walk ing afar `Write a poem.’“ Amid abuse and the usual whataboutery that follows a crisis these days, social media -Facebook, Twitter, You Tube -has been awash with poetry of all kinds to mark the murder of Gauri: from micropoetry to performance poetry. Writers range from Gauri’s friends to people who did not know her personally at all.

“It is the spontaneous overflow of emotions,“ says Kannada playwright and thinker Chandrashekar Patil, better known as Champa. He read out in Kannada, Eng lish and Hindi one of his poems Question-Answer in hon our of Gauri at the protest rally. “It was a crime against humanity, so naturally everyone felt the need to express it. Whether they knew Gauri or not, everyone felt pain at such a ghastly killing. Only poetry can express it,“ he told ET Magazine.

The poetry for Gauri has come from all sections of soci ety, from the empowered as well as the disenfranchised.

“Her death is being seen as an onslaught on the freedom of expression. So protesters are finding a new form of ex pression, which is poetry,“ says poet-playwright KY Narayanaswamy, who wrote the theme song for the rally.

“Protest poetry has a long history. Time has now come for it in India. We will see a flood of such poetry every time something happens to shake this nation.“

His poem, translated from Kannada, goes: “Gauri is the song of our heart can you kill it? It is a waterfall of love Can you stop it? Can you win people’s support with hate? Can you build a nation by hunting lives?“ This thought has found echo in all parts of the country.

“Some deaths are like rituals No one even remembers the dates Some deaths are remembered forever To haunt you even in your sleep… We all know the bullets have got our names under this regime Isn’t it time we sang our kind of anarchy?“ asks Akhu Chingangbam, al ternative folk-band artist and songwriter from Imphal.

Bullet Who?

Poet Mamta Sagar, Gauri’s childhood friend and neighbour till the end, had gone to Chennai for a human rights conference on the night of September 5. She was still reeling from the news when Vasu Dixit of folk-fusion band Swarathma called her and asked: “Can you give us a poem to sing as a tribute to Gauri?“ Says Sagar: “I was in no shape to write anything. I couldn’t eat or sleep the whole night. The next morning I went to get breakfast and my friend there said, you must write. I normally take months to write a poem. That day, I pushed my breakfast aside, sat down, wrote a poem and sent it off. I still don’t know how I wrote it.“

The poem, sung by Bindumalini Narayanaswamy, has gone viral. “Like the seven swaras the bullets have sliced the heart they have become a song for this moment… Still, carrying this pain in our hearts come, bring love.“

Says Sagar: “At the protest rally, I was talking to some youngsters. One of them, a boy, who didn’t know me, said, `What poetry are you talking about? If you write, you should write like that poem tribute to Gauri that has gone viral. That is real poetry.’ It shocked me. That poem is no longer mine, it has become theirs. I just went back quietly to my seat.“

“In the end, as they pierced through her heart the bullets never knew That they were culling the voice of freedom; And once again, humanity was the loser,“ says Ajith S Pillai’s poem. And this theme runs across poems, most of which directly addresses Gauri as though she is a friend known to all of them.

“Has it rained enough for all of her blood to be washed away? Have the clouds beaten their chests enough with thunder, lightning and the floodgate of tears… Has enough wind blown to put out the candles on street corners, the rage burning within our hearts?“ asks Daniel Sukumar’s poem that has been shared across WhatsApp groups, with no one knowing who the poet is.

Sukumar told ET Magazine: “This poem was more like an outburst. I felt as though a powerful voice against atrocities was snatched away from us. To me, as a poet, that was both a warning and an invitation. Maybe I’ll get a bullet too. But if I don’t do this, I might not have any purpose as a poet.“

Writer and dancer Poorna Swami has used “Knock, knock“ jokes to chilling effect. “Knock, knock… Who’s there? Bullet Bullet who? Bullet and three more inside you.“ At another point, in a reference to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, she says: “A moving forest once felled a tyrant Knock, knock on the tyrant’s door Knock, knock the forest is coming It’s coming, it’s coming Like your news always came In unwavering blows.“

“Gauri’s murder specifically revealed something to me -more than ever before, people from different class, religions, castes and regions are making themselves heard. The poem is also for something beyond Gauri for the questions she would have asked of our various governments after a death like hers,“ says Swami.

Many poets made the point that a defenceless woman was killed without her being given a chance to say anything at all.“What an act of bravery To shoot a woman alone at home! What an act of utter foolishness To mute a firebrand woman,“ writes poet Meenakshi M Singh on Women’s Web, predicting the rise of women power.

Attack on freedom is another running theme in the Gauri poems, like this one by theatreperson Poile Sengupta: “They hated sharing my sky To read my dictionary of beliefs They murdered my thoughts My words, They exterminated me. Somewhere they must be laughing now At their victory Toasting my death… Do they think they have silenced forever All who like me believe In the gentle rationale of rain?“ Two micropoems, one in English by Jins Thomas and another in Kannada by Chand Pasha, better known as Kavichandra, capture the spirit several people have expressed on social media. Says Thomas: “Mourn for her no more She was never afraid to die! Mourn for her no more Grow a Gauri in you! Grow a Gauri in your children!“ Kavichandra says: “The ones who killed her didn’t know this won’t be a single column news when an inchlong bullet hit the heart of the wind the blood that flowed out didn’t know a new chapter of history would begin.“

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