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The Asia Bibi Case In Pakistan Should Serve As A Warning For Us In India

 

– Brinda Karat  

Novenber 10, 2018

Recent developments in Pakistan on the Asia Bibi case should serve as a warning for us in India. Although in entirely different circumstances, the relevance for us in India of the Pakistani case is that it was triggered by blatant defiance and opposition to a landmark Supreme Court judgement by zealots operating in the guise of defending religion and religious sentiment.

The leader of the TLP (Tehreek -i-Labback), leading the violent protests, said: “They want our country to become secular.” For these extremist forces across the border, secularism is the worst that could happen to Pakistan.

Here in India, with a secular constitution, we should be conscious of the implications of hate speeches against the principle of secularism by powerful people.

We also see in India open defiance and threats by top leaders of the ruling party against the Supreme Court when judgements such as in the Sabarimala temple case are not to their liking.

 

In Pakistan, extremist fanatic forces protested against the Supreme Court judgement acquitting Asia Bibi of charges of blasphemy. They called for the killing of the judges, used hate speech and foul language, and organised violent protests throughout the country, paralyzing Pakistan for three whole days.

 Prime Minister Imran Khan’s address to the nation was welcomed by progressive citizens. He said “it is the duty of the central government to implement the top court’s order” and warned protesters of stern action if they tried to confront the state.

 

But far from any action, within three days of the protests, his government capitulated, surrendered before extremist forces and signed a questionable five-point agreement with the TLP.

 

The government assured that it would not challenge any review of the Supreme Court judgement and that it would start the legal process to put Asia Bibi on the “Exit Control List”, which would prevent her from leaving the country in spite of the court ruling.

 

Commentators have pointed out that earlier, as an opposition party, the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-insaaf) had supported many of the extremist positions and actions of the TLP and even now, many in the ruling party continue those links.

 But at least some protested – such as Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, who said “appeasement to avoid bloodshed sends a dangerous message to non-state players and undermines the very principle of democratic protest.”

 

Asia Bibi, an agricultural worker most probably of Dalit origin, a Christian and a 40-year-old mother of two girls, was accused of blasphemy under Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code in June 2009.

 

 This section reads ‘whoever… defiles the sacred name of the Holy prophet.. shall be punished with death or life imprisonment..” Critics of this law in Pakistan have pointed out the wording leaves it open to easy misuse – for example “defiles including by innuendo, imputation, insinuation”.

 Asia was charged before a sessions court and sentenced to death by a trial court a year later. The punishment was confirmed by the Lahore High Court in 2014. She appealed to the Supreme Court.

 

Her case invited nationwide attention with extremist religious organisations demanding that the death sentence be implemented.

The extent of hatred generated by their campaign was reflected in the brutal murder of then Punjab Governor Salman Taseer by his security guard in January 2011, because he had defended Asia and opposed the blasphemy law. Asia had been incarcerated for eight years, much of it on death row in solitary confinement.

 

It was in this charged background that the Supreme Court pronounced its judgement on October 31. It was given by a three-member bench of Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and his fellow judges Asif Sayed Khan Khosa and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.

 

The judgement, which is worth reading, extensively quotes from the Quran and also upholds the basic principal – presumed innocent until proven guilty “irrespective of caste, creed and colour.” The judges criticized a “mob” deciding whether a person is guilty or not.

 

 The judgement held that there is no credible evidence, the prosecution’s case against Asia is full of contradictions and the seven witnesses have made conflicting statements. The court basically upheld the statement of innocence made by Asia Bibi when she was first charged.

 

She had shared a most moving account of what had happened that day. She was working in a field along with 25 to 30 women. Two sisters who were her fellow workers wanted water.

 She offered to get them water when the two women insulted her. Asia said: “They refused saying I am Christian, they will not accept water from me. Over this the quarrel started and some (angry) words were exchanged between me and the two.”

 

She also argued: “My forefathers have lived in this village before the creation of Pakistan. There was never any complaint like this…I’m ignorant of any Islamic thought… how can I use such clumsy and derogatory words?”

 

The judges noted that none of the other women present during the fight, other than the two sisters, testified against her. While all three judges concurred on her acquittal, Justice Khosa made additional comments. “Insulting the appellants (Asia’s) religion by her Muslim co-workers was no less blasphemous.. she was more sinned against than sinning,” he said.

 

With the shameful stand taken by the government, Asia’s future is uncertain. Her lawyer has already had to leave the country because of threats and has been given asylum in the Netherlands. Asia has been released from a jail in Multan and has been taken to an undisclosed place in Islamabad.

 

 The government has announced she is “being given security.” Legally, even though she is at liberty to leave Pakistan if she so wishes, as is her family, the hurdles are obvious.

 

Democratic voices, women’s movements and citizens groups in Pakistan have strongly protested the government’s attitude, and continue to defend the Supreme Court judgement at great risk to their personal security.

We salute them. We too must raise our voices in solidarity with Asia Bibi to demand that the Pakistan government ensure her safety and security and if she so wants, ensure her safe exit from the country.

 

https://www.ndtv.com/opinion/the-asia-bibi-case-in-pakistan-should-serve-as-a-warning-for-us-in-india-1945150

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Will Women Decide India’s 2019 Elections?

Summary:  Seven decades after India gained independence, women are still woefully underrepresented as political candidates in state and national elections. Yet despite their gross underrepresentation as politicians in the upper echelons of India’s electoral system, women have made great strides as voters.

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When India and the United States held their inaugural 2+2 summit in September 2018, pictures from the press conference in New Delhi spoke a thousand words. The U.S. side was represented by two older white men—Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Meanwhile, two veteran female politicians sat on the dais representing India—External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Swaraj and Sitharaman preside over not just any two portfolios in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet but arguably two of the most consequential.

Powerful women are no strangers to Indian politics. Indira Gandhi, the daughter of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and a formidable politician in her own right, first became prime minister in 1966 and held the position for a total of fifteen (nonconsecutive) years. Today, several prominent women dot India’s state-level political landscape, including Mayawati, the leader of the Bahujan Samaj Party, and Mamata Banerjee, the incumbent chief minister of West Bengal. And until December 2017, the president of the Indian National Congress, the country’s principal opposition party, was none other than Sonia Gandhi (Indira’s daughter-in-law).

Despite these high-profile examples, the role of women in contemporary Indian politics is far more complex. Seven decades after India gained independence, women are still woefully underrepresented as political candidates in state and national elections. Although they comprise nearly half of the country’s population, women make up just over one-twelfth of parliamentary candidates and one-tenth of eventual winners. Yet despite their gross underrepresentation as politicians in the upper echelons of India’s electoral system, women have made great strides as voters. Even as female candidacy has grown anemically, female voter participation has surged. Today, in most states, female turnout is surpassing that of men—no small feat in a conservative, patriarchal society.1 This electoral awakening of women has important ramifications for how India’s 2019 general election battle will be waged and won.

Milan Vaishnav
Vaishnav’s primary research focus is the political economy of India, and he examines issues such as corruption and governance, state capacity, distributive politics, and electoral behavior.

INDIAN WOMEN AS CANDIDATES

Although women constituted a small fraction of all candidates in India’s most recent general election in 2014, it was actually a banner year for women in politics. Admittedly, just 8.1 percent of candidates for the Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament) were women (see figure 1), but this figure was the highest on record.2 Between 1962 (the first year for which gender-specific data is available) and 1996, women did not once account for more than 5 percent of the candidate pool. Following a sharp increase in 1998, women have enjoyed modest incremental growth as a share of total candidates seeking political office.

This gradual rise in female candidacy has been most pronounced in races designated for members of marginalized communities. Under the Indian Constitution, nearly one-quarter of state and national legislative seats are reserved for individuals hailing from one of two historically disadvantaged groups. First, there are Scheduled Castes (SC), also known as Dalits (and formerly called untouchables), who occupy the lowest rungs of the Hindu caste hierarchy. The second such group is Scheduled Tribes (ST), often referred to as Adivasis, who make up India’s native, indigenous population.

Given the historical discrimination these communities have experienced at the hands of Indian elites, both groups benefit from quotas that bolster their political representation. In recent years, women have been much more likely to run for parliamentary seats reserved for SC/ST candidates than in general races where there are no identity-based restrictions on the candidate pool (see figure 2). Between 1980 and 2014, 7 percent of parliamentary candidatesin these reserved constituencies were women. During the same period, women comprised only 4.8 percent of candidates seeking unreserved (or general) seats.

There could be multiple reasons why the growth in female candidacy has been concentrated in reserved constituencies. One possibility raised by political scientist Francesca Jensenius is that most parties tend to view male politicians in caste- and tribal-dedicated seats as more dispensable than other male officeholders. In a sense, parties often reproduce the hierarchical pathologies of the caste system within their own organizations. After facing heightened pressure in the 1990s to field more female candidates, many Indian political parties seem to have chosen the path of least resistance—improving women’s representation by replacing their least powerful men. After all, there were no significant differences in female candidacy rates between reserved and unreserved seats prior to the late 1980s. The gap emerged only when demands on parties to nominate more women intensified.

Another possibility is that women might lack access to resources that are necessary to finance electoral campaigns that have become increasingly expensive. An analysis of affidavits submitted by candidates contesting India’s 2004 and 2009 parliamentary elections indicates that the median wealth of male candidates is three times that of their female counterparts.3 If the costs of campaigning are lower in reserved areas, poorer candidates would stand a greater chance of winning.

Notably, the prevalence of female candidates varies in counterintuitive ways from state to state. Economists Mudit Kapoor and Shamika Ravi have found that, contrary to expectation, Indian women are much more likely to contest elections in places where the gender ratio of the electorate is less favorable toward women or, in other words, areas where there is a proportionally greater male population.4 One might expect that female candidates would spring from areas where there are relatively more women as a share of the population, but the opposite appears to be true. Women tend to contest elections in states with adverse sex ratios, such as Uttar Pradesh, in greater proportion than in states that boast a much more favorable sex ratio, such as Kerala.

What might account for this surprising finding? Kapoor and Ravi hypothesize that this counterintuitive result is a product of social stratification. They posit that in states where women enjoy greater equality, they may not feel compelled to throw their hats into the ring as candidates and assume the financial burdens of campaigning. Meanwhile, in states where women feel underrepresented, getting actively involved in politics may represent an important route for making their voices heard.

Jamie Hintson
Jamie Hintson is a James C. Gaither Junior Fellow in Carnegie’s South Asia Program.

In sum, there has been only incremental growth in female candidacy at the higher levels of Indian politics. Yet there are clear patterns driving where women contest elections. Women are more likely to run for office in states where they are systematically underrepresented in the general population. Political parties, for their part, have accommodated women by fielding them in areas reserved for historically disadvantaged groups.

INDIAN WOMEN AS REPRESENTATIVES

Once Indian women enter the electoral fray, they tend to perform fairly well. This was true in every general election held between 1962 and 2014. Other things being equal, one would expect that the percentage of female parliamentarians would closely mirror the percentage of total candidates who happen to be women. In fact, female candidates have consistently outperformed this baseline. Women occupy a higher percentage of seats in the Lok Sabha than what one would predict based solely on their share of candidates (see figure 3).5Nevertheless, female representation in the Lok Sabha is meager and only surpassed 10 percent for the first time in 2009. Today, women make up a paltry 11.6 percent of directly elected members of parliament.

Given the aforementioned empirical evidence that women are more likely to run for office in SC/ST constituencies, it is worth asking whether female candidates are also more likely to win in these reserved constituencies than they are to win general seats. The data from national elections suggest they are. Since 1980, 16.2 percent of female candidates in reserved seats have emerged victorious, while only 11.5 percent of women running for unreserved or general seats have won.

Figure 4 offers a single snapshot of this gap for the 2014 general election. That year, women were both more likely to contest and more likely to win races in reserved constituencies than in open constituencies. While 7.6 percent of candidates in unreserved races were female, women constituted 10 percent and 11.7 percent of candidates for caste- and tribal-designated consistencies, respectively. This gender gap persisted among the victors. Only 10.9 percent of elected parliamentarians in unreserved constituencies were women, while female politicians held 14.3 percent and 12.8 percent of seats reserved for SC and ST candidates, respectively.

Interestingly, Kapoor and Ravi’s finding that women are more likely to contest elections in areas with adverse gender ratios does not extend to winning elections. Although female candidates are more prevalent in constituencies where there are more male than female constituents, they are less likely to actually win in these areas. This suggests that while a male-dominant electorate might spur women to contest elections, this same factor may work against them on election day.

INDIAN WOMEN AS VOTERS

While women are still contesting and winning elections at low rates, ordinary female voters are playing an increasingly outsize role in India’s democracy. In 2014, overall voter turnouthit a record high: 66.4 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the elections that brought Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power. This was a significant jump from the participation levels seen in the 2004 and 2009 polls, when turnout stagnated around 58 percent.

Amid the country’s widespread voter mobilization, fewer observers noticed the historic narrowing of the gender gap in turnout (see figure 5). In 1967, female turnout lagged behind male turnout by 11.3 percentage points. With the exception of 1984 (an anomalous election that followed Indira Gandhi’s assassination), the male-female turnout gap remained stubbornly in place through the 2004 elections. Yet between 2004 and 2009, an 8.4 percentage-point gap between male and female turnout fell by nearly half to 4.4 percentage points, although overall turnout hardly changed.

In the subsequent 2014 election, Indian men’s voter turnout advantage stood at its narrowest margin on record—just 1.8 percentage points. In fact, in half of all states and union territories, female turnout actually surpassed male turnout. This convergence is not merely a product of national elections. For twenty-three of India’s thirty states, female turnout exceeded male turnout in the most recent state assembly elections (held between 2012 and 2018) for which there is gender-specific data. This does not mean that more women vote than men numerically, as Rithika Kumar points out: men still outnumber women on voter registration rolls and in the general population. However, the increase in female voter participation is not driven by increases in female voter registration; on the contrary, the shift is a result of greater female turnout among those already registered to vote (see figure 6).

Across the country, the female turnout advantage (among registered voters) tends to be larger in state than in national elections (see figures 7a and 7b). For both types of polls, however, the same group of states enjoys the greatest edge in female turnout. At first glance, it is not clear what sets these states apart. For instance, some of India’s poorest states, like Bihar and Odisha, exhibit a clear female advantage, while men in the more prosperous states of Gujarat, Karnataka, and Maharashtra tend to cast their ballots with greater frequency than women. General election data from 2014 reveal no clear relationship between the prevalence of female candidates and female turnout. There is a modest, positive relationship between the sex ratio and turnout, insofar as areas with populations that exhibit greater gender equity see higher turnout, but this is true for the turnout rates of male and female voters.

Irrespective of the precise factors that are behind the increase in women’s polling percentage, rising female participation at the ballot box represents a remarkable trend in India’s domestic politics. By 2019, it is plausible that female turnout will meet—or even exceed—that of men.

IMPLICATIONS FOR 2019

These findings have profound implications for women’s changing role in Indian politics ahead of the country’s 2019 general election. For starters, the rising voter turnout and growing political assertiveness of Indian women is making their voices and policy preferences increasingly noteworthy on the country’s political stage.

For example, shortly after his reelection in 2015, the chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, fulfilled a campaign promise to ban alcohol in the state. According to media reports by the New York Times and other outlets, many observers perceived that Kumar enacted the ban under pressure from women’s groups to curb alcohol consumption, which they associated with social ills such as gender-based violence and poverty. Other states, such as Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, have jumped on the bandwagon; shortly after Kumar’s move, both states announced their own plans to implement a phased prohibition of alcohol.

Admittedly, not all analysts are convinced that prohibition actually addresses the most pressing concerns facing women in India, but a ban on alcohol does have the virtue of being both highly visible and administratively easier than tackling deep-seated issues such as sexual violence or police reform. Still, the recent explosion of the  #MeToo movement in India has the potential—if public pressure is sustained—to advance issues regarding the endemic harassment of women (in and out of the workplace) onto the front burner of political discourse in the run-up to next year’s general election.

In addition, women have become a focal point of the BJP’s 2019 reelection campaign. In the previous 2014 election, Modi positioned himself as a CEO-like prime minister—pledging to create millions of jobs, lure foreign investors to India, and renew the country’s moribund investment cycle. Four years later, the BJP government has struggled to live up to sky-high economic expectations.

Whether to parry criticism that his government is too business-friendly or to otherwise shift the country’s political narrative, Modi’s 2019 pitch is centered on issues of welfare and social insurance. Since coming to power, the prime minister has invested a great deal of financial and political capital in building what the BJP hopes are the modern foundations of the Indian welfare state. The party believes that this social welfare–oriented platform will endear it to India’s voting masses, especially women. This platform has included campaigns to improve sanitation (Swachh Bharat), provide universal healthcare (Ayushman Bharat), and furnish cooking gas cylinders for millions of poor households across the country (Ujjwala). In the past, the BJP has trailed the Indian National Congress in terms of winning women’s votes; party leaders believe the government’s development schemes can help reverse this historical disadvantage.

Modi’s rallies have reflected this shift in focus. On the campaign trail in Karnataka earlier in 2018, he declared: “For us, whether it is the organisation or the government, or framing of programmes, it is women first.” It is no coincidence that Modi himself often harps on the gender dimensions of his government’s social policies when he is selling their finer points to Indian citizens. In a February 2018 appearance in Tamil Nadu, Modi explained his women-first focus, saying:

“When we empower the women in a family, we empower the entire house-hold. When we help with a woman’s education, we ensure that the entire family is educated. When we facilitate her good health, we help keep the entire family healthy. When we secure her future, we secure the future of the entire home. We are working in this direction.”

Notably, the BJP’s outreach to women is not restricted to welfare schemes. Modi has also bet on legal changes that he believes will win over female voters—such as introducing an executive ordinance in September 2018 that bans the practice of triple talaq (or instant divorce) in India’s Islamic community.6 This practice allows Muslim men to legally divorce their wives by merely stating the word talaq (the Arabic word for divorce) three times. The prime minister has pitched this move as an effort to protect the constitutional rights of Muslim women across India, who require permission either from their husbands or a religious authority to seek a divorce.

This electoral focus on women is not restricted to the BJP, however. Congress Party President Rahul Gandhi also has been highlighting the demands of women as he campaigns for upcoming state assembly elections slated for November and December 2018. Gandhi has criticized Modi for promising to improve women’s safety while pursuing a majoritarian agenda that incites violence, saying: “Women today in India are scared to come out. They do not know what will happen to them . . . Today, the Prime Minister is trying to divide the country by spreading hatred.” Gandhi has even gone so far as to pledge that his party will ensure that women will be chosen as chief ministers in at least half of Congress-ruled states by 2024—a push that he says will begin by increasing women’s representation at lower levels of political office.7

A second implication of changing gender dynamics in Indian politics is the clear gap that has opened between women’s participation as voters and their underrepresentation in the political class. Under the Seventy-Third Amendment to the Indian Constitution, passed in 1993, at least one-third of local village council president positions must be reserved for women. But such quotas are not operative at either the state or national levels.

Or at least not yet. The representational gap experienced by Indian women may compel parties to finally pass a Women’s Reservation Bill, a legislative act that would reserve 33 percent of all seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies for women (see figure 8). The bill, first introduced in 1996, was passed in the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of parliament) but has remained stalled in the lower house. Rahul Gandhi has urged Modi to revive the bill, assuring full Congress support. This is a significant development because the BJP previously blamed Congress for dragging its feet on the bill while the latter was in power between 2004 and 2014. While some insiders speculate that Modi plans to revive the reservation bill as a pre-election concession to women, the two major parties have so far done little except blame each other for delaying the bill’s passage. While most politicians support the bill in principle, they are deeply divided as to whether there should be caste sub-quotas built into the quotas for women.

Even if the bill does not pass, there is some cause for optimism about the growing prevalence of female political candidacy in India. Reserved seats for women in local politics create a pipeline effect: women in reserved local positions can eventually use their political experience to launch state or national campaigns. Recent research by Stephen D. O’Connell finds that the introduction of quotas for women at lower levels of government accounts for approximately half of the increase in female candidates in Indian assembly and parliamentary races between 1993 (when the quotas began) and 2007. Another study authored by O’Connell and other colleagues finds that, when women win state assembly elections, more female candidates are motivated to run in the next parliamentary election. This study finds that each additional female state legislator increases the number of female parliamentary candidates in the next election by over 30 percent—a sizable bump.

If this positive pipeline effect continues to boost the supply of female candidates in Indian elections, one should expect to see a continuation of or even an increase in the rate of women getting elected to state and national office. But gender parity—under even the most optimistic of scenarios—remains a long way off. In the meantime, more encouraging is the unprecedented mobilization of female voters in India, a trend that is shaping how parties campaign and—increasingly—govern.

This article is part of the “India Elects 2019” series, a collaboration between Carnegie and theHindustan Times. The authors would like to thank Ryan DeVries for excellent edits on previous versions of this piece.

NOTES

1 Although female voter turnout regularly outpaces male turnout in most Indian states, women are still underrepresented on voter rolls. This means, in practice, that the absolute number of male voters is often larger than that of female voters despite the latter’s turnout advantage.

2 According to figures compiled by political scientist Francesca Jensenius, as of 2014, women account for a nearly identical share of the candidate pool for state legislative positions (known, in Indian parlance, as members of the legislative assembly): 7.3 percent. While the growth in women’s share of state-level positions has been more linear, that increase has been quite modest too.

3 Authors’ calculations using data compiled in a previously published book. See Milan Vaishnav, When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017).

4 An examination of data from the 2014 parliamentary elections does not show any clear relationship between reserved constituencies and the sex ratio, which would connect the two arguments. The sex ratios of SC-reserved and general seats are roughly similar, while the sex ratio of ST-reserved seats is much less skewed toward men. In other words, there is no evidence that the sex ratio is worse in reserved constituencies.

5 The fact that the share of female parliamentarians is greater than the share of female candidates does not necessarily mean that voters prefer female politicians to their male counterparts. For instance, it is possible that women are given party tickets to contest elections in “safer” seats or where there is a greater likelihood that they might win for other contextual reasons.

6 The ordinance needs to be passed by both houses of parliament if it is to become law. Some legal commentators believe the bill is superfluous because the Indian Supreme Court already ruled in August 2017 that the practice of triple talaq is unconstitutional.

7 Gandhi’s promise is less impressive than it sounds when one considers that the Indian National Congress only directly rules three states in India today (Mizoram, Puducherry, and Punjab).

https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/11/12/will-women-decide-india-s-2019-elections-pub-77689

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Facebook in the dock for coaxing teenage girls to befriend middle-aged men

Facebook file photo

Facebook is encouraging grooming by offering teenage girls middle-aged men as ‘friend suggestions’

Facebook is encouraging grooming by offering teenage girls middle-aged men as ‘friend suggestions’, the media reported.

Teenage girls, as young as 13-year-olds, who join the social network are given up to 300 suggestions for who they can add as friends, some of which include middle-aged men who are topless in their profile photos, The Telegraph reported late on Saturday, November 10.

Facebook has said that was not a typical experience for teenagers for signing up for the service and that it has safeguards built into its recommendation system.

Following the findings, UK-based charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has called for friend recommendations to be suspended for children on the social networking giant’s platform.

‘Groomers are seeking to infiltrate children’s friendship groups on social networks, often with the intention to move children to live streaming or encrypted sites where it is easier for them to commit sexual abuse,” Andy Burrows, NSPCC Associate Head of Child Safety Online, was quoted as saying.

“Social media algorithms risk making it easier for groomers to find and contact children and ‘friend of friend’ or ‘new follower’ recommendations can add legitimacy to their requests, which is why we are calling for these features to be blocked for children.

“For too long social networks have failed to make their platforms safe for children, and that is why the Home Secretary must commit to strong and effective regulation to finally ensure that children’s safety is non-negotiable,” she said.

In October, Facebook had removed 8.7 million user images of child nudity with the help of previously undisclosed machine learning software that automatically flagged such photos during the last quarter

According to Facebook, the company has safeguards to protect children. However, the campaigners warn that the networking giant must do more to stop groomers who use the site to become friendly with children.

“Grooming is incredibly serious, and we have teams specifically focused on keeping children safe, informed by extensive research and outside experts,” said a spokesman for Facebook, the Daily Mail reported on Saturday, November 10.

“We use artificial intelligence to proactively identify cases of inappropriate interactions with minors and we refer potential abuse to law enforcement.

“We limit how children can be found in search, we remind them to only accept friend requests from people they know and we caution them before making public posts.”

In October, Facebook had removed 8.7 million user images of child nudity with the help of previously undisclosed machine learning software that automatically flagged such photos during the last quarter.

The company has said that it is also considering rolling out systems for spotting child nudity and grooming to Instagram.

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‘I Tried Killing Myself Twice Due To My Abusive Husband. I Am Speaking Out So That No One Else Does

by –

Mumbai: For 33 years, Kalpana Mishra (name changed) asked herself what she had done wrong–why was it that her husband, whom she loved, beat her mercilessly? Why did he have multiple affairs, and why did none of his friends or family think it was wrong? How could a smart, bright, and educated woman like her suffer in silence?

Mishra tried astrology, past-life regressions and read books but found no answers. In 33 years of married life, she landed up in the hospital several times for injuries, and she even tried taking her life twice. The last time she tried, she fell into a coma for three days. It was then that something snapped in her, and she filed a case of domestic violence against her husband.

Across India, almost one in three (33.3%) married women, aged 15-49 years, experienced physical, emotional or sexual spousal violence according to National Family Health Survey (2015-16), IndiaSpend reported in October 2018.

Further, Indian women committed suicide at twice the global rate–the sixth highest rate of suicide in the world in 2016 (15 per 100,000). Domestic violence has a direct relation with the idea of suicide in women across the world, studies show. Arranged marriage, early marriage, young motherhood, low status, domestic violence and the lack of economic independence may be responsible for the high rate of suicide in women in India, IndiaSpend reported in October 2018.

Mishra wrote to IndiaSpend after reading that story and wanted to share her trauma, “I do not want anyone else to suffer as I did,” she said.

Today, Mishra is separated from her husband, and is a trained counsellor helping other women in similar situations. She has restarted her career after completing a diploma in development management and works for a non-profit.

Here are some excerpts from the telephonic interview:

How was your childhood?

I was born in a small town in Uttar Pradesh. We lived in a joint family. My father, who was an engineer, worked in a very well-known company, and took care of his whole family–seven brothers and two sisters. We were a well-respected but highly patriarchal family. All my life, I saw my mother working day and night and getting abused by his family. My father was good to everyone but was dominating and aggressive with my mother. Seeing her plight, I had decided that I would never get married.

I have three siblings–an older brother and sister, and a younger brother. My father was educated, but he still spoke only about making my brothers engineers. He never celebrated my accomplishments. I was good at studies and sports, and I was selected to play basketball and kabaddi at the national level when I was in school. I stood first in my district in the grade X exam, and got featured in the newspaper, but no one cared. I learnt to study and work hard without making a fuss.

My brother’s friend had got an extra application form in a reputed engineering college and I filled it. To my surprise I got selected. My father didn’t allow me to join for a month because he thought I will lose interest and forget about it. Finally he had to relent and I joined the course. I did well in my studies and was selected for the masters course. But I fell in love and decided to get married. Our marriage was sanctioned by our families.

How did your life change after your marriage?

After marriage, I moved to Delhi. Physical and mental abuse started soon after. I have never heard gaalis (abuses) in my maternal household but here I was verbally abused and beaten up regularly. Initially, he said that he loved me and had only hit me under the influence of alcohol.

I was 22 years old, my parents had died and my sister lived abroad so I had no one to speak to. I was stuck in a situation I didn’t know how I could get out of. I kept believing he would change.

My husband blamed everything on me–his failure at business, his losses. He played the victim, I played along. Soon his shame became my shame.

Three years after our marriage, I gave birth to our son. By then the girl in me who was confident, a natural public speaker, and a singer had gone quiet. My in-laws had asked me to quit my job: “Acche ghar ki bahuen kaam nahi karti” (Daughter-in-laws of good households don’t work). Still, I prepared for the civil services exam without telling anyone but I could not give the exam.

Meanwhile, I tried everything to understand why my marriage wasn’t working well. I sought answers everywhere–books, religion, philosophy. I asked, I was a good wife, daughter-in-law and a mother; then why was this happening to me? I never realised that it wasn’t my fault.

He was addicted to porn, and a womaniser. The domestic helps told me that he had tried to molest them, and I tried to intervene but my mother-in-law said that they were lying. I had no support while my husband kept up his beating and I sunk into depression.

The first time I tried to commit suicide, I drank pesticide because my husband had hit me badly the day before. My in-laws rushed me to the hospital, but later asked me to beg forgiveness from my husband.

The next time I was admitted to the hospital was because he kicked me when I was pregnant and I had a miscarriage.

Later, when we moved to Mumbai, my husband closed the door on my hand and I had a fracture. My husband then had an affair with a younger colleague in office. Slowly he started insisting on bringing her home. When I protested, he started tormenting me. He now wanted to kick me out of his house.

He called me names, showed me obscene videos and asked me to die. He even took me to a psychiatrist and said I was crazy. One day, I swallowed sleeping pills to end it all. I was rushed to the hospital and I was in coma for three days.  My son stood looking at me, wondering if I will live or die.

After I came back, I said enough is enough and filed a case of domestic violence against him.  He then filed for divorce.

Did you get divorced?

No, I didn’t want to give him a divorce because I did not want to let him off the hook after 33 years of a bad marriage. I have studied the law, spoken to lawyers, got fleeced by them and realised that the justice system is tilted towards men. A woman who is a homemaker, has no money, no financial backing and no security. Till date, I have not received a penny from him.

I have also filed a petition in support of a Supreme Court petition asking for restrictions on pornographic websites. Since the last five years, I have read and researched extensively on these issues and written letters to everyone from prominent personalities to ministers to the highest offices in India.

How did your children react to all of this?

Earlier, the violence was restricted to the bedroom and I tried to keep the children away from it. But later, they told me that they stood outside the door and cried.

My son has stopped talking to me since the court cases. My daughter meanwhile has been my support all these years. She was the one who told me that I had to do something. Her father has cut her off financially.

When and how did you move out and gain financial independence?

I did a post graduate diploma in development management from a Mumbai-based institute. After 30 years of staying at home, I had to adjust to a new age classroom where I was expected to submit assignments on emails and make powerpoint presentations. I had to learn fast, and despite being the oldest student in the classroom, I, at 56 years, stood second in the whole class. I felt validated and felt I can do something with my life.

Then I got a job in a non-profit working on maternal health and I am in-charge of coordinating with the central government to implement the programme in different states. Thanks to my efforts, the programme has been successfully initiated in many states.

Also, I trained as a counsellor, and support other women who come to me through word-of-mouth. I have realised three out of four women face abuse at home. Most never speak up because they have no support or backing.

Why are you telling your story?

I do not want anyone else to suffer as I did. I also want to raise awareness about issues of homemakers who do not have the privileges of a working women–no measurement of or payment for work, no paid leave and no internal complaints committee for sexual harassment. After the breakdown of a marriage, it takes years to fight for maintenance which is why women don’t speak up.

Also, education alone can’t solve the problem. I was a district topper, an engineer and yet I suffered in silence for three decades because of the patriarchal values I was raised with.

I don’t condemn women for keeping quiet or bearing it. I see my story being repeated in the stories of those women. I want women to speak out about what is happening to them. I want to stir society into action.

I want to quote Maya Angelou here, “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women

https://www.indiaspend.com/i-tried-killing-myself-twice-due-to-my-abusive-husband-i-am-speaking-out-so-that-no-one-else-does/

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HarmanPreet Kaur- The girl who took women’s cricket to the next level #SundayReading

Harmanpreet Kaur points her bat

Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Few events in her sport have been as pivotal as her landmark 171 against Australia. There’s more to Harmanpreet Kaur’s story, though

ANNESHA GHOSH | 
Harmandar Singh Bhullar sports a heavy beard but his dimples peek out from under it every time he smiles. And that happens often, especially when he talks of the oversized boy’s shirt he bought for his daughter Harmanpreet Kaur the day she was born, March 8, 1989 – also International Women’s Day.”We had no clue that it was women’s day,” says Harmandar as his wife, Satwinder, brings the shirt out for me to see. “Soon after Harman’s birth, I bought the first pair of shorts and this shirt I saw at a shop near the hospital. The illustration [of a batsman driving the ball] and the words Good Batting caught my eye.”Tales about the shirt, Harmandar says, have been part of family lore ever since. But it wasn’t until Harmanpreet, now the India T20I captain and ODI vice-captain, smashed 171 not out against Australia in the 2017 World Cup semi-final that her story began to be told widely outside of the Bhullars’ house, in Punjab’s Moga district.

“Earlier, some of my father’s friends used to come to see me off at the airport [before overseas tours] and say, ‘Why do you need to attempt big hits when you know girls do not have power to clear the rope? Take only singles and doubles, na?'” Harmanpreet says with a laugh during the first of my three conversations with her. “I used to keep quiet. After watching last year’s World Cup, they started believing maybe my team-mates and I can clear the rope.”

Harmanpreet is a batting allrounder who modelled her aggressive style of play on that of her idol Virender Sehwag. But it was watching the India men’s Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane’s restraint at a nets session in 2016 that taught her the value of patience. And though her popularity in the cricketing landscape is nowhere close to Rahane’s, the fact that posters of both players (who are ambassadors for a leading sportswear brand) came up at the National Cricket Academy’s refurbished gym earlier this year is not bereft of symbolism. It represents the post-2017 World Cup era for women’s cricket in India, one with Harmanpreet at its centre.

“‘Cricketer’ – that’s what I used to say as a kid whenever someone would ask me what I wanted to become,” Harmanpreet says. “I had no clue how I could become a cricketer, which team to play for. All I knew was that I wanted to be a cricketer.”

Her younger brother, Gary (Gurjinder) Bhullar and his friends would make fun of her. “‘Humarein paas toh scope hain,’ he would say. ‘Tu kya Sehwag ke saath open karegi?'” [We have scope (because India has a men’s cricket team). What will you do – open with Sehwag?]

Play

The poster of Harmanpreet at the NCA is quite different from a picture of her that takes pride of place in the room in her home in Punjab’s Moga district that houses her trophies. Part of a collage made by childhood friend Hartaj Singh Sodhi, it features 17-year-old Harmanpreet posing with the trophy from her first school nationals in 2006-07, with Parveen Khan, one of her best friends and later a Punjab team-mate, by her side.

“The branded sports shoes she’s showing off in the photo, those were mine,” says Yadwinder Singh Sodhi, Hartaj’s older brother and Harmanpreet’s first coach. “Harman didn’t know what brand it was. She was just happy to wear it.”

At the heart of Harmanpreet’s rise lay Yadwinder’s tutelage. “He used to make me practise with the most bekaar [worthless] bats,” she says. “Even the balls he would get used to be without seam.

“He would set me a target for my batting sessions: send at least half the total number of balls beyond a tree at the edge of the ground. Or hit 100 or 150 sixes by late evening.”

Yadwinder now works in Adelaide as a cricket coach, having moved to Australia in 2016 due to dwindling opportunities in Moga.

Until a Nestlé manufacturing facility came up in the district in 1961, the district was largely identifiable as the birthplace of freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai. About 30km south of Harmanpreet’s house in Dunneke is Rode, the ancestral village of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the controversial militant/martyr figure who was at the centre of the Sikh separatist movement in the 1980s. About as far to the north is Daulewala, the “drug capital of Punjab”, close to the border with Pakistan.

The first markers of urban habitation that meet the eye upon entry into “Moggya”, as the locals know it, are signboards atop roadside tea stalls. Diljeet Dosanjh, a Punjabi actor-singer, whose claim to national fame is starring in a Bollywood movie on Punjab’s drug problem, Udta Punjab, can be spotted chugging cola in most of them.

The streets and thoroughfares are dotted with billboards for visa agencies and for classes promising to help you ace the IELTS test for international study, work and migration.

“I had this friend whose only life goal as a teenager was to marry an NRI [Non-Resident Indian] and settle in Canada,” says Harmanpreet, whose younger sister, Hemjeet, is married to an NRI. Brother Gary, a former university-level cricketer, who is now among the more popular names on the local “Cosco cricket” circuit, doesn’t see himself spending his life in Moga.

Prophetic: the shirt Harmanpreet's father bought for her the day she was bornProphetic: the shirt Harmanpreet’s father bought for her the day she was bornAnnesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

“The Punjab education department has had a Sports Wings scheme in schools and colleges [since 1992],” says Yadwinder, “but cricket never featured in it.”

It was thanks to his father Kamaldheesh Sodhi’s love of cricket that a cricket academy came up in Gian Jyoti School, where Harmanpreet went on to study, in Moga’s Darapur village, in 2006. It is even now one of only two cricket-training centres for girls in Moga. If not for Kamaldheesh, Harmanpreet’s journey from playing step-out cricket shots with a hockey stick (“Papa used to teach me hockey but I only liked cricket”), to playing cricket with boys – her dupatta tied around her waist – might have ended at the Guru Nanak Dev College ground in the neighbourhood.

“Sodhi sir used to come to walk at the ground,” Harmanpreet says of the time, around 2006-07, when she first met the man she considers her godfather. “He asked me one day if I liked playing cricket or football. I told him I wanted to be a cricketer.” Kamaldheesh offered Harmanpreet free training and accommodation and convinced her father to let her join his academy.

Harmandar, 55, says he could have never been able to afford to give his daughter the platform the Sodhis gave her. The Bhullars used to raise livestock, selling milk from their four buffaloes for income to supplement Harmandar’s salary as a clerk in the Moga district court. Having two siblings meant Harmanpreet often had to make do with the cheapest bat available, or be denied gear altogether.

A former state-level basketball and handball player, and club cricketer, Harmandar raised Harmanpreet “like a son”, because “I wanted her to be the athlete I couldn’t be,” he says, a year on from the 2017 World Cup final. “When Harman used to come with me to the evening cricket matches, many from the neighbourhood said, ‘Ladki ko khilaake kya karoge?’ [What will you get by making a girl play cricket?] But I never cared about what others had to say.”

Harmandar says Harmanpreet, the oldest child in the family, was always responsible. When he wanted to take a loan to buy a new house, she persuaded him against it. “We used to live in a small house, and he felt that as an India cricketer I deserved better,” she says. “I didn’t want him to bear that enormous financial burden. We bought this house only when I was in a position to.”

That was about three years ago. By the time the Bhullars moved into their new house, Harmanpreet had moved from Moga to Mumbai. Diana Edulji, the former India captain, currently a member of the Committee of Administrators of the BCCI, was at the time sports officer at Western Railways. She had followed Harmanpreet’s all-round talent with interest since the latter’s days in junior cricket. Edulji requested Sachin Tendulkar to write a letter to the Railway ministry, getting Harmanpreet a job as a chief office superintendent in Mumbai with Western Railways in 2014.

Ishita Mazumder / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

The Indian Railways have been the largest – and currently sole – employers of women cricketers since the inception of institutional cricket in the country. Employment opportunities in public-sector organisations are more or less non-existent for Indian female cricketers, unlike for their male counterparts, or even female athletes from some other sports. Support from the likes of Air India has, over time, also shrunk.

Harmanpreet approached Punjab Police for a job in 2012, when she was more than two years into her international career, only to be turned down. The BCCI was still three years away from introducing central contracts for women players, so the decision to move cities brought benefits. It didn’t do her game a lot of good at the start, though.

“There was barely any time for quality practice in Mumbai,” Harmanpreet says. She would wake at 5:30am, go for a morning practice session, come back to Bandra, where she shared a room at the Western Railways quarters with Kavita Patil, another Railways employee and currently a Maharashtra and India A fast bowler, and then get on a train to Mumbai Central, where the office was. She would often eat lunch in the train. At about 1pm, she would leave the office, having completed the mandatory half-day’s work, and head to another practice session.

“Even at the grounds where we would practise, there were specific slots for women’s cricketers for, say, only about two hours,” she remembers. “Most of the time we would end up practising in the indoor facility at the Bandra-Kurla Complex, using a bowling machine. Even with the medium-pacers around, how much can you improve as a batsman if balls are lobbed at you with a short run-up?”

Homesickness hit her soon. The Mumbai heat, and other demands of life in the city, wore her down.

“My cricket went downhill during those first 18-20 months in Mumbai,” she says. “The cricketer I could be simply on talent or basic skills, I had become that by 2015-16. I needed guidance to make the step up to the next level.”

She considered quitting her day job (“I realised cricket was a lot dearer to me than the money”) but was pulled back from the brink by a scheme the Railways Sports Promotion Board introduced in 2016-17. Starting that season, all Railways employees who finished as winners or on the runners-up team in the BCCI’s senior women’s inter-state one-day and T20 tournaments, could take 330 days’ leave in a year to work on their game.

Railways emerged champions in both competitions that season, which meant Harmanpreet had a new lease of life, cricket-wise. Towards the end of 2015, Patil introduced her to Harshal Pathak, a BCCI Level B coach and a former assistant coach of the Maharashtra Ranji team. A week-long session with him helped iron out tactical errors ahead of the tour of Australia in January 2016.

Harmanpreet lines up to send one into orbit during her 171 not outHarmanpreet lines up to send one into orbit during her 171 not out © Getty Images

“If ten people say ten different things about me,” says Harmanpreet, “my mind gets distracted easily. Harry sir realised that early. With his help and yoga, I was able to deal with my thoughts during batting.”

When I met Pathak in Pune this year, he demonstrated, with the help of his wife Shweta, herself a cricketer, how Harmanpreet’s “exaggerated” trigger movements with her feet, and multiple backswings, had been undermining her intent. “The speed range for a female pacer is around 90-125kph, so that huge initial movement was a waste,” Pathak says. “It took some convincing, but I simplified those into one backlift, so she had more time to perceive the ball.”

A change in how she took guard (more towards the off stump), extensive open-wicket sessions, and an emphasis on along-the-ground hitting in the arc between mid-on and midwicket were among the key focus areas during the two and a half months Harmanpreet spent in Pune after the 2016 World T20. And she trained under Pathak till the 2017 World Cup. The association, she says, marked a transition in her career, and so did the company of Patil.

“I started focusing on fitness because of her. Earlier I used to think the running and sprinting I do during batting is enough. Kavi is immensely fitness-conscious, so that discipline rubbed off on me.”

In the first two yo-yo tests conducted after the 2017 World Cup, Harmanpreet scored the highest among her India team-mates. She bettered her 17.2 in November last year with 18.5 this April. During the first of the tests, two high-profile men’s cricketers were watching her sprint at the NCA. One was Yuvraj Singh.

“He had come there for fitness [work]. He saw me running and casually asked what my score was. When I told him, he was like, ‘Tune 17.2 maara hain? Woh bhi indoor mein? Tu theek toh hain?‘ [You have done 17.2? Indoors? Are you okay?]

“Rahul [Dravid] sir is a little shy. He only said, ‘Good job’, but Yuvi bhaiya gave me a few tips on playing the front-foot pull. He said my hand-eye coordination is like Sehwag.”

“No, no, papa se panga lene ka iraada nahi tha,” [I didn’t mean to mess with my dad] Harmanpreet says, talking about the choice of her first India shirt number. “Initially he wanted me to choose 5 or 86, his favourite numbers. But later he said, ‘Look, take any number but 84.'”

Harry's people: from left, brother Gary, mother Satwinder and father HarmandarHarry’s people: from left, brother Gary, mother Satwinder and father Harmandar Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Harmanpreet puts her eventual choice of 84 down to her Punjabi roots. Vernacular literature on Bhagat Singh, one of the leading freedom fighters in the Indian independence movement in the 1920s, left as lasting an impression on her in her formative years as did the tenets of Sikh philosophy – such as Chaurasi lakh joon upai, or the concept of the transmigration of the soul over 8.4 million lifetimes or possible lifeforms. More impactful still were the tales of the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Punjab, following the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for her ordering a military operation earlier that year to purge the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar of Sikh separatist militants under Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale – who was killed in the strike.

“As a kid, I always wondered how I could make this birth count,” Harmanpreet says. “You know, the way Chaurasi lakh explains.

“But I have vivid memories of dadi [grandmother] talking about how she feared letting papa travel to other cities [in Punjab, to play for more established teams] when he was young because of what happened after the riots.”

Around the time of Harmanpreet’s international debut, Harmandar had misgivings about the number. “Papa felt either I’ll perform poorly or something bad will happen when the team score reaches 84,” she says. I remind her of her maiden international half-century. “Yeah, that got stuck on 84, didn’t it?” she says.

That did not put her off clinging onto a number she had a fixation on – until the home series against West Indies in 2016. “I wanted people to focus only on my cricket, and the misreporting and the political references around 84 didn’t help. So I changed it to 17 – my lucky number.” Her first enrolment at a cricket academy and her India call-up came on the 17th – the latter when, ten days after the squad for the 2009 World Cup had been named, a chance phone call to Rajeshwari Goyal, the former India allrounder, late one night, brought Harmanpreet the news that she had been picked.

Anju Jain, the former India captain and the chairperson of the India women’s national selection committee at the time, remembers when she first saw Harmanpreet play, in the Inter-Zone Under-19 One-Day Competition of 2007-08, the first since the BCCI took over the women’s game.

“We were looking for youngsters who could hit a boundary at will,” Jain says. “Harman came across as someone not afraid of losing her wicket, not happy with just rotating the strike.” While Harmanpreet averaged only 37 in four innings at a strike rate of 59.2, her uninhibited approach got attention.

On the eve of her 20th birthday, Harmanpreet impressed with 4-0-10-0 on debut, in the World Cup, against Pakistan in Bowral. She also took a catch and made a run-out. A more forthright statement of intent came three games later.

Harmanpreet and Amita Sharma (right) walk off the ground after sealing the 2009 World Cup game against AustraliaHarmanpreet and Amita Sharma (right) walk off the ground after sealing the 2009 World Cup game against Australia © Getty Images

Australia had never lost to India in a World Cup match earlier. When she fronted up against a bowling allrounder who had 27 international matches behind her, Harmanpreet had faced no more than 18 balls in India colours. Taking strike at No. 7, in the 48th over she smashed Ellyse Perry for 10 off the first two balls.

“The six crashed into the roof of the ground,” says Amita Sharma, the former India vice-captain, who led Harmanpreet in India B’s title-winning campaign in the 2008 Challenger Trophy. “When she came in to bat, I told her, ‘Look, Harry, I’ve got my eye in, let me get back to strike.’ She innocently said, ‘Okay, didi. I’ll look for a single.’ And then the first two balls she faces, she goes dhoom, dhaam! I told her, ‘If this is how you take singles, I’d rather stay put at the non-striker’s end.'”

The unbeaten, eight-ball 19 would be the first episode in a long affair between Harmanpreet and Australia.

Three years later, when India hosted them for eight limited-overs matches, the home side lost every match save the last. In a series Jhulan Goswami described as a nightmare, Harmanpreet finished as India’s leading run scorer across formats, with three fifties – the most by a batsman on either side.

Fast forward to Australia Day in 2016, where in the T20I series opener, in Adelaide, Harmanpreet shepherded the lower order with a match-winning 31-ball 46, setting up India’s first bilateral series victory over Australia in any format.

Two months on, a standout tally of 89 runs and seven wickets in four games in India’s lacklustre World T20 campaign at home opened doors abroad for her.

In the inaugural edition of the WBBL, Mithali Raj and Goswami were not permitted by the Indian board to play for Adelaide Strikers, but in June 2016, the BCCI cleared all Indian women cricketers to compete in overseas leagues. When offers from the two Sydney WBBL franchises landed, Harmanpreet inked a deal with Thunder, becoming the first Indian cricketer – male or female – to sign an overseas-league contract.

The cradle: Gian Jyoti school in Darapur, where Harmanpreet studiedThe cradle: Gian Jyoti school in Darapur, where Harmanpreet studied Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Her season down under began with a sizzling 28-ball 47. She finished with an average of 59.6 – the highest by a batsman across WBBL seasons with 12 innings or more – and claimed Thunder’s Player-of-the-Tournament title.

Harmanpreet’s 171 not out in the World Cup semi-final propelled her, and the Indian women’s team, into the average cricket-watcher’s consciousness. In a show of ferocity unmatched – before or since – by an Indian woman cricketer, her 115-ball innings punched Australia, the undisputed masters of power-hitting in the women’s game, in the gut.

“She just raised the bar high enough to see what’s possible,” says former Australia vice-captain Alex Blackwell, who captains Harmanpreet at Sydney Thunder and coaches her at Lancashire Thunder in the Kia Super League. “In a pressure situation, taking her team to the World Cup final almost single-handedly… it’s the best knock I’ve ever seen. For a person with that tiny a frame, I was in awe of what Harmanpreet achieved.” Blackwell handed Harmanpreet her playing shirt as an acknowledgement of the effort.

Making the highest individual score in a women’s World Cup knockout has been the highest point in Harmanpreet’s career. But a more satisfying memory for her is the innings that came just before it.

“Whatever I did in the semi-final was because of the confidence from the New Zealand game,” she says. It was her first fifty in 17 innings, and her most substantial knock since a run-a-ball unbeaten 41 in the World Cup Qualifier final in February 2017.

An injury to the left ring finger, sustained during India’s second match in the World Cup, had cast a shadow on her future in the tournament. “At the time, she was also struggling with a back injury,” says Tracy Fernandes, the team’s physio. “As we made our way out of the field [after the second game], I remember her saying, with teary eyes, ‘My World Cup is over.'”

“When the team was winning, I was able to keep the frustration at bay,” Harmanpreet says, “But after a point, it started getting to me. Before the New Zealand game [a must-win for India], my dad told me over the phone, ‘Don’t give up just yet.'”

Tushar Arothe, the India head coach at the time, says Harmanpreet’s lean batting spell in the early stages of the tournament wasn’t as much a concern as was the likely psychological impact of the dislocated finger. “But full credit to Tracy for giving me confidence and backing Harman. Had it been any other physio, Harman could have been on the next flight to India.”

The innings against New Zealand, in which she went from 28 off 54 balls to 60 off 90 and anchored a 132-run third-wicket stand with Raj, set the template for what was to follow. Against Australia, her acceleration was more astounding.

“I was on 30-something, I think, after 50 balls [37 off 54]. In the 24-25th over, I looked at the scoreboard and felt 200-250 is not going to cut it against the Aussie girls. At that point, I told Mithali di, “I’m going to start.” [laughs] She said, ‘Okay, if you want to hit, go ahead.'”

The pressure was released with the free hit that legspinner Kristen Beams offered in the 27th over. “After that, I started targeting specific areas for offspinners, left-arm spinners, because there wasn’t much turn on the wicket,” Harmanpreet says.

She whacked a six and a four off Beams’ next three balls to bring up her fifty off 64 deliveries. She ended up taking 110 off 72 deliveries from Australia’s spin trio, including 45 off just 20 balls from left-armer Jess Jonassen.

It was her 137-run stand, at over ten runs an over, with 19-year-old Deepti Sharma that produced the most remarkable scenes of the blockbuster innings.

Someday that'll be us: cricketers Avneet Kaur and Ramanpreet Kaur look at a framed jersey of Harmanpreet's in the office of Kamaldheesh Sodhi, the founder of Gian Jyoti SchoolSomeday that’ll be us: cricketers Avneet Kaur and Ramanpreet Kaur look at a framed jersey of Harmanpreet’s in the office of Kamaldheesh Sodhi, the founder of Gian Jyoti School Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

On 98, Harmanpreet called for two, only for Sharma to turn the second down – before scurrying to complete it perilously. The mix-up angered Harmanpreet. At the hundred, off went the bandana, the helmet came hurtling down, and the non-striker copped an almighty verbal volley.

To team-mate Smriti Mandhana, one aspect of the scene struck a chord. “It was one of the strangest things I’ve seen,” says Mandhana of the first time she saw Harmanpreet celebrate a hundred, her first in international cricket, against England in the 2013 World Cup. “Earlier in the match, she celebrated a run-out [she had effected] like someone celebrates a century, in that aggressive Harman style. But when she got the hundred, she just took her cap off. To me, it felt like something only a team player would do. You know, not celebrate a personal milestone…”

Harmanpreet did not take the field during Australia’s chase, for her job was done. In any case, Fernandes says, she was practically not in a condition to even walk. The physio and Trupti Bhattacharya, the team manager, had to revitalize, and then bridle, Harmanpreet. “She had lost a lot of fluids and was sliding into hypothermia,” Fernandes says. “We wrapped her up in blankets, gave her bottles of electrolyte – she had to use a straw.

“She batted on an almost empty stomach because we hadn’t had a proper breakfast before the match. But when she started feeling a little better and saw Blackwell knock off the runs on the [dressing-room] TV, she said, ‘No, you don’t understand. They’re taking this away. I have to go. I may have to bowl.’ The doctor had to step in and tell her that if she went, she could collapse.”

In the seven months before the match, Harmanpreet had had a number of health concerns. Intersection syndrome, a condition in the right wrist, that began with an injury sustained during her first WBBL, affected her through the qualifier in February. A nagging rotator cuff (shoulder) strain picked up in 2013-14 also flared up, restricting her throwing abilities.

During the World Cup, a hamstring pull she suffered while bowling against South Africa led to another niggle a day before the semi-final. “My skin is immensely sensitive,” says Harmanpreet. “I had been icing my left thigh to ease the hamstring. But in the middle of the night, I woke up and saw the inner-side skin had stuck to my shorts.” She was unsure if she would be able to wear a thigh guard in the semi-final.

In 2014, a spinal disc problem that surfaced during her maiden camp with Railways had led to a stiff back. Five days after she had been advised against bowling, to avoid subjecting her back to rotational movements, Harmanpreet sent down 41.2 overs of part-time offspin in the one-off Test against South Africa and hobbled into the record books with figures of 9 for 85, the second-best Test figures by an Indian woman.

“She had worked out specific cues for some deliveries,” says Sushma Verma, the wicketkeeper in that match. “All I needed to do was pick those. ‘Here comes the wrong’un… and bowled! Now the quicker one… plumb!’ It was comical how she kept getting them right one after the other.”

Talk like you bat: Harmanpreet has earned a reputation for taking no prisoners when she speaksTalk like you bat: Harmanpreet has earned a reputation for taking no prisoners when she speaks Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Among her closest friends on the circuit, Verma is known to play multiple roles in relation to Harmanpreet: rolling her arm over during the latter’s range-hitting sessions, taking selfies for her to post on social media before the World Cup, and being a confidant in times of distress.

“The morning after we lost the World Cup final, I just couldn’t just drag myself out of my room,” Harmanpreet says. “I had wept through the night and Sush tried to console me. She said, ‘Look, [PV] Sindhu [the Indian badminton player] got a silver [at Rio in 2016], so we haven’t done bad either.'”

Harmanpreet hasn’t ever watched the highlights of the final. “What’s there to watch?” she asks, almost as if revolted. “It was heartbreaking. Everything ended even before we could realise.”

Chasing 229 – and their maiden world title – India cruised and then hobbled to 200, 51 of which Harmanpreet made. But with India needing 91 off 100, she swept straight into the hands of deep square leg. A lower-order collapse soon after saw India lose their next seven wickets for 28 runs, and with them, the World Cup.

Despite the second-place finish, India’s breakout campaign brought much needed visibility to the team, and to the women’s game at large. The tournament’s 180 million reach, according to the ICC, included a 500% increase in viewing hours in India since 2013. The overall viewership for the final touched a record high of 126 million in India – as many people as watched the 2017 IPL final. On the web, #WWC17Final was the most tweeted hashtag for a women’s sport final.

There was a windfall of cash rewards for the team. The BCCI awarded Rs 50 lakh (approximately US$67,500) to each member of the side for qualifiying for the final. And it culminated in the board updating the women’s pay scale for the first time since November 2015 (when central contracts were introduced for Indian women cricketers). The top-tier central contract retainers went up by over 200%, and domestic cricketers, usually neglected, received pay increases too.

“I have heard of the struggles of Mithali di and Jhulu di and so many other female cricketers before them – how they had to pay out of their own pockets [to play for the country],” Harmanpreet says. “I would often ask Jhulu di, ‘Paaji, when are we going to get the same love and acceptance as the men’s team?’

With fielding coach Biju George in Mumbai last monthWith fielding coach Biju George in Mumbai last month Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

“I think 80-85% of that has been achieved because of the World Cup. The 15% that’s left… if we had got those ten runs, it might have brought us closer to being on an equal footing with the men.”

Apart from the direct cash rewards, the World Cup turned the Indian women’s team into a brand and pushed some of the players into the reckoning when it came to endorsements. Raj and Harmanpreet were among Yahoo India’s “Top Ten Most Searched Sportspeople” in 2017, and Mandhana has received endorsement offers aplenty. “Whatever [financial benefits] we are getting today may not have happened without Harry’s 171,” says Ekta Bisht, the India left-arm spinner.

Harmanpreet became the first Indian female cricketer to be signed by CEAT, the tyre brand. She made it into Forbes India’s “30 under 30” list; gained an out-of-turn promotion as Officer on Special Duty from the Railway ministry; received an Arjuna Award for 2017; and was appointed a deputy superintendent of police by the Punjab government.

It wasn’t the first time India had played a World Cup final; they had done so in 2005 too – in strikingly different circumstances.

The five-star Royal Garden Hotel in London, which hosted the Indian team ahead of the 2017 final, was several steps up from the university dormitories (most of them lacking air-conditioning) they had occupied in South Africa 12 years before. The BCCI took over administration of women’s cricket in India from the Women’s Cricket Association of India (WCAI) in November 2006, so cash rewards from the WCAI for making the 2005 final were out of the question. The attendance at SuperSport Park, where Australia defeated India, was only a fraction of the full house at Lord’s. And in contrast to the multimedia broadcast of the 2017 final, the 2005 edition didn’t even make it onto television in India.

Harmanpreet’s own memories of that 2005 World Cup campaign are second-hand recollections, most of them passed down by Raj and Goswami, who were part of both finals.

“There was no social media back then. It was difficult for such news to reach in Moga [in 2005]. Until my late teens, I had no idea if India had a women’s team, let alone [knowing about] Jhulu di and Mithali di playing the World Cup.

“After we beat England [in the second match of the 2017 World Cup], so many cricketers, politicians, film stars started wishing, following us on Twitter,” says Harmanpreet. “All of a sudden, we became known faces.”

RP Singh, the Punjab women’s team coach since 2011-12, says that the 171 has led to greater interest in cricket among girls across Punjab, but adds that “only better infrastructure such as a residential academy for girls, like they have in Andhra Pradesh and Himachal, will encourage girls from the villages to take up cricket”.

The Harman effect: girls train at Moga's Guru Nanak Dev College Ground, where a teenage Harmanpreet first played cricket with boysThe Harman effect: girls train at Moga’s Guru Nanak Dev College Ground, where a teenage Harmanpreet first played cricket with boys Annesha Ghosh / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Since Harmanpreet’s debut only two female cricketers from the state – bowling allrounder Sneh Rana and wicketkeeper-batsman Taniya Bhatia – have played for India. Much of it, says Singh, is down to the domestic structure.

Of the 22 districts in Punjab, a (district) team can play a maximum of only three games a year – and that is if they make the final. “What will these girls learn in three games?” Singh asks. “Harman’s journey is proof what talent from small towns and villages can do. All they need is proper support.”

Before her 171 not out, a solitary photograph of Harmanpreet, from the 2009 World Cup, could be found at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA), on one of the walls of the boardroom, next to pictures of Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh, and other male cricketers from the state who debuted for India this century. Following that innings, she figures in the PCA’s hall of fame, alongside Mohinder Amarnath, Bishan Bedi, and other “Shaan-e-Punjab”.

There is a certain quicksilver energy about Harmanpreet’s personality. Every so often I think she’s going to stop the interview and take flight, but that doesn’t happen. She’s affable, self-assured, and makes the occasional self-deprecating joke: “I think my mood swings could be because of my Punjabi genes.”

“I only have two personalities,” she says “I’m a shy person off the field. If I’m not enjoying something, nobody can force me to do it. On the field I am very aggressive – you know, ‘Yeh toh tod-phodh kar dalegi‘ type. I’m too involved every time I take the field. That’s because there’s only one thing I’ve done all my life: play cricket. But I never allow myself to get worked up during batting. It’s a peaceful space. I’m focused on the ball and the bowler’s arm. I don’t how that happens, but that’s how it is.”

The paradoxes that escape her understanding define the player and the person she is. The co-existence of method and madness is what makes Harmanpreet.

“I don’t like to hold things back,” she says. “I am a simple and transparent person, and I say it as I see it. If I don’t like something, I keep quiet, but it shows in my body language.

“That also reflects in the way I play sport. I am very competitive even when I play football. At times, my friends and team-mates say, “Arre, take it easy, it’s just a warm-up game.’ I tell them, ‘For you it’s just a warm-up game, for me it’s a game, and I just cannot lose.'”

With predecessor Raj. 'Until my late teens, I had no idea if India had a women's team, let alone [knowing about] Jhulu <i>di</i> and Mithali <i>di</i> playing the World Cup'With predecessor Raj. ‘Until my late teens, I had no idea if India had a women’s team, let alone [knowing about] Jhulu di and Mithali di playing the World Cup’ © Hindustan Times/Getty Images

She admits her competitiveness is hardwired in combativeness. It is vaguely similar to that of Goswami, the captain she made her debut under in limited-overs cricket, and wholly unlike that of Raj, who has captained her most. Mandhana, who is next in line to take over the reins of captaincy, admits there’s aggression in her batting too. “But it’s very different to Harry di‘s”.

Harmanpreet’s occasional lack of restraint has sometimes got her in trouble. In 2016, a disgruntled flinging of the bat upon dismissal in a WBBL game against Hobart Hurricanes brought her a penalty. Earlier this year, a comment made at the post-match presentation after India lost their third match in a row in the T20I tri-series didn’t go down very well with some of her team-mates. “We need fit players in the team… who can run all across the ground,” Harmanpreet said. “As a captain, it is very difficult for me to run all around and then set the field.”

Without that freewheeling nature, though, there can be no Harmanpreet. Her forthrightness shines in the dressing room, among three generations of India’s female cricketers. “Whatever conversations I’ve had with Harry di, she has mostly asked me to play my natural game,” says Mandhana, who is among the six players in ODIs, and 15 in T20Is, who have debuted under Harmanpreet, more than half of whom are current India regulars. “And now when I see her around a Jemi [Jemimah Rodrigues], Pooja [Vastrakar] and Taniya, it’s not that she speaks to them for hours, but the little things she does, you know, cracking jokes, dancing with them on the eve of the match – all that makes a youngster really comfortable.”

Among the 14 captains who have led in 25 T20Is or more, Harmanpreet, the youngest Indian woman to captain in the format, has the third-best win percentage. In the last 11 months, India won both their T20I bilateral series – against South Africa and Sri Lanka, both away from home – under Harmanpreet but lost both their multi-team T20I events: the T20I tri-series and the Asia Cup (where she herself regained form with a Player-of-the-Tournament performance).

The shock loss of the title in that last tournament triggered a falling-out between Arothe and some of the senior players. Following his resignation, Arothe singled out Harmanpreet for what he believed was her unwillingness to come out of her comfort zone.

“Tushar sir has always supported me – even when he was our fielding coach [2009-11]. But hamari soch kabhi kabhi nahi milti thi [We had differences of opinion]. As a group – and it wasn’t only me – we felt we needed to step up. You can’t expect players to improve on their own. We needed a more up-to-date perspective, so a coach with international experience, who could help us strategise better, even when the conditions are not in our favour, was the need of the hour. Our spin attack needed this particularly.”

The past year alone has been a rollercoaster ride for Harmanpreet. Allegations that her graduation degree was fake emerged soon after the Asia Cup loss, to stand alongside professional highs such as the two-year extension to her WBBL contract, captaining the IPL Supernovas to victory in the first ever Women’s T20 Challenge game, between two all-star sides featuring the best players from across the world, becoming the maiden recipient of the award for the BCCI’s Best International Cricketer (women) for the 2016-17 season, and debuting in the KSL after missing out due to injury in the last season.

“The only thing I’ve always wanted is the winning shot to come off my bat” © IDI/Getty Images

The journey, especially since becoming the full-time T20I captain in 2016, says Harmanpreet, has been “a big learning curve”.

“Just the realisation that I’m in a position now where I need to be more considerate towards people around me,” she says. “It’s about trying to make sure I don’t hurt others. I think I’ve become somewhat more willing to accept and work on my mistakes. It’s not easy making small adjustments to your nature overnight. But it’s good to be learning.”

The Indian dressing room is in transition. A team that toiled away in obscurity for generations has now achieved a status somewhat approximating celebrity. Amid these changing dynamics, a moment of reckoning awaits Harmanpreet as she eyes greater batting consistency and looks to evolve from captain to leader and role model.

“Cricket ke ilaawa mujhe kuch aata nahi [I don’t know anything other than cricket]. But when I’m done with cricket, I would want to do what I can in my limited capacity to make sure girls playing sport in India, their journey becomes easier.”

It’s hard to imagine Harmanpreet, now 29, will go on to become the kind of statistical behemoth some of her colleagues already are, or pile up as many records as some of her younger team-mates promise to do. But she will likely leave behind a legacy that will transcend traditional metrics.

“People will perhaps remember me for 171, for scores bigger and smaller. Innings from the past or the future. The only thing I’ve always wanted is the winning shot to come off my bat. Whether it’s a single or a six, it doesn’t matter to me – my dream is to be the one who hits the winning runs for my team.”

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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US’ youngest Congresswoman-elect can’t afford rent

Millennial congresswoman ‘can’t afford rent’

Alexandria Ocasio-CortezImage copyrightREUTERS
Image captionAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez

The youngest woman ever elected to Congress has a problem – she can’t afford her rent. That is until she starts her new job in January.

After telling the New York Times she’s waiting for her first pay cheque before renting an apartment in Washington DC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is again being called the “millennial Congresswoman”.

On Friday Fox News presenter Ed Henry suggested the 29-year-old wasn’t telling the full truth because she wore “multi-thousand dollar outfits” in a magazine.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter, pointing out the clothes were lent to her for the photo shoot.

Her comments – “I’ve really been just kind of squirreling away and then hoping that gets me to January” – got many on Twitter empathising with her.

“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez not being able to afford DC rent is the most millennial thing ever and I honestly vibe with it,” tweeted one user.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez joins Republican Elise Stefanik, 34, and newly-elected Democrat Ilhan Omar, 36, among others, in the “millennial caucus” in Congress.

She was elected to New York’s 14th congressional district, after running a progressive campaign that focused on issues including poverty, wealth inequality and immigration.

Born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents, she describes herself as working-class and she worked in restaurants until early 2018 to supplement her salary as a community activist.

“For 80% of this campaign, I operated out of a paper grocery bag hidden behind that bar,” she told Bon Appetit magazine.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s financial disclosure shows that she earned about $26,500 (£20,000) last year.

On Thursday she tweeted that her accommodation dilemma also demonstrates how the American electoral system “isn’t designed for working-class people to lead”.

Others on Twitter agreed: “Goes to show how divorced the system and most elected officials are from normal people that a normal person can’t readily begin to serve without starting out wealthy,” wrote one.

“That’s reality for a lot of people. Will be nice to have someone in Congress that literally understands the struggle,” commented @Lauralouisiana.


 


But Ms Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the first lawmaker coming to Congress to make waves about the high rent in the city.

Washington DC regularly features in the list of top 10 most expensive cities to rent. A one-bedroom apartment costs about $2,160 (£1,660) per month, according to Business Insider.

One in five children in the district live in a household that is extremely low-income and lacks an affordable home.

Housing affordability is an issue nationwide. More than 38 million households struggle to afford their housing, one Harvard report found.

Image captionA well-located, one-bedroom apartment in the capital can cost $2,160 per month

Members of Congress are paid $174,000 (£134,000), but many cite the need to maintain a home in their congressional district in addition to Washington as a reason for their financial hardship.

In 2015 Representative Kristi Noem told NPR that she sleeps on a pullout bed in her Capitol Hill office when Congress is in session.

The ‘couch caucus’ has made headlines over the years in its criticisms of the unaffordability of Washington, including outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan, who says he slept in his office for years.

Estimates have put the number of politicians snoozing where they work at between 40 and 50.

In May legislation banning the practice was proposed in the House of Representatives, and suggested that lawmakers should receive tax deductions for their living expenses while in Washington.

Some get around the problem by finding housemates.

One famous house-share saw numerous Democrats coming and going over the years, including senators Richard Durbin and Charles Schumer, and became the topic of the 2013 TV series Alpha House about four fictional Republican politicians.

Ms Ocasio-Cortez has allayed her followers’ worries, tweeting “don’t worry btw – we’re working it out”.

House-sharing into her thirties would certainly make the politician the bona fide millennial.

By Georgina Rannard, UGC & Social news

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U.P -Woman Killed For Objecting To Co-Passenger Smoking In Train #WTFnews

On Friday night, Chinat Devi, was travelling with her family in the general bogey of Punjab-Bihar Jallianwala Express when she objected to a co-passenger, identified as Sonu Yadav, smoking.

Pregnant Woman Killed For Objecting To Co-Passenger Smoking In Train

The accused was arrested and the body was sent for post-mortem. (Representational)

SHAHJAHANPUR, UTTAR PRADESH: 

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. After an argument, the co-passenger attacked and strangled the women
  2. The woman and her family were on their way to Bihar
  3. The train was stopped at UP and the woman was rushed to a hospital

25-Yr-Old Abused & Kicked Her Several Times, Arrested

Shahjahanpur:

A 45-yearold woman was allegedly beaten to death by an inebriated man inside the general coach of Jallianwala Bagh Express on Saturday after she objected to his smoking. The woman, Chinta Devi, was allegedly kicked several times and pushed by 25-yearold Sonu Yadav, who also hurled abuses at her, even as scores of passengers looked on. She died of internal injuries following which the accused was booked under IPC’s section 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) and sent to jail.

Government Railway Police SHO Piyush Dikshit told TOI, “The accused, a resident of Rajapatti village in Azamgarh district of UP, has been arrested and sent to jail.”

The woman was travelling from Punjab to Bihar to celebrate Chhath festival when she got into an argument with Yadav somewhere between Bareilly and Shahjahanpur junctions. She was accompanied by two of her sons, both in their twenties, who tried to rush to their mother’s aid during the scuffle but were unable to navigate their way to her as the coach was packed.

The victim, a resident of Rohtas district in Bihar, worked in a private factory in Jalandhar. On Friday evening, she boarded the train with her sons Rahul, Ranjeet and daughter-in-law Babita. While the two men occupied some space near the door of the crowded compartment, Chinta Devi and Babita were seated inside. Yadav, their copassenger, lit several cigarettes during the night despite objections from passengers. In the early hours of Saturday, when he tried to smoke another cigarette, Chinta Devi asked him to stop smoking.

Angered at this, Yadav allegedly pushed her and then kicked her several times, making her lose consciousness. Some passengers then caught hold of Yadav and thrashed him. One of the sons pulled the chain and informed a guard about the incident.

The train was stopped at Shahjahanpur where the accused was taken into custody and the victim was taken to hospital where doctors declared her dead.

Doctors said that the woman had broken rib, bones and ruptured heart.

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Jharkhand – Woman Gang-Raped By Ex-Husband, Friends Stick Inserted In Private Parts #Vaw

 

According to police, the woman had gone to watch a play at a theatre on Kali puja on Wednesday night. Her former husband and two of his associates forcibly took her to a field in the village under Narayanpur police station area

A woman died after she was allegedly raped by three men, including her former husband, and a stick was inserted in her private parts in Jamtara district of Jharkhand, police said Thursday.

Sub-Divisional Police Officer B N Singh said the woman’s ex-husband has been arrested a search is on to arrest the two others. According to police, the woman had gone to watch a play at a theatre on Kali puja on Wednesday night. Her former husband and two of his associates forcibly took her to a field in the village under Narayanpur police station area.

 

After raping her, they inserted a stick in her private parts, police said. On hearing the woman’s cries for help the next morning, villagers took her to a hospital in Narayanpur town from where she was referred to Jamtara Sadar Hospital, where doctors declared her brought dead. Locals told police that she had accused her former husband and the other two men of raping her when they had found her in the field.

https://www.mid-day.com/articles/woman-gang-raped-by-ex-husband-friends-stick-inserted-in-private-parts-in-jharkhand/

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PUCL statement in solidarity with #MeToo

As national conscience acknowledges the long-standing problem of hostile workspaces for women, it is time to closely examine the legislative framework in place to protect a women’s fundamental right to work with dignity. It has been over a decade since the Supreme Court guidelines in the landmark judgment Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan and others, established the responsibility of employers and persons of authority to delineate a complaints and redressal mechanism to ensure accurate and timely reporting of incidents of sexual harassment at the workplace. After 16 years, Parliament passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 “the Act”. While the Act has to some extent clarified the definition and broadened the ambit of what a workplace constitutes, we must address the systemic failure of legal remedies and social support systems in addressing complex issues that arise from incidents of sexual misconduct and harassment of women, and the gross non-implementation of the provisions of the Act by the state. In January 2018, Supreme Court in a Public Interest Litigation filed before it, was constrained to call on multiple State Governments to implement the provisions of the Act, including the setting up of a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) in each district.

We acknowledge that the Law as of today does not provide adequate safeguards to protect a survivor of sexual harassment against the social and professional sanctions imposed on her once she decides to report an incident of sexual harassment. The Law further fails in its objective to ensure that a survivor of sexual harassment is protected against intimidation in the form of defamation cases that are strategically used to disempower and deter a survivor who takes the step to report a case of sexual harassment. While the Vishaka Judgement did not contemplate a limitation period within which a complaint ought to have been filed, the Act reflects the patriarchal notions of justice in mandating that a complaint ought to be filed within 3 months of the incident or at the latest within 6 months of the incident, if the aggrieved women can justify the delay in the filing of the complaint. This restriction does not cater to the interests of the women as Parliament has failed to acknowledge the lasting psychological impact that a traumatic incident of sexual harassment can have on a survivor of sexual harassment. This is more so important in the light of the number of cases that go unreported and the number of offenders who face no consequences for their misconduct. It is our responsibility as members of a healthy society to strive to create an equal, gender empowering society and community, which harbours a safe environment for all members to live a life of dignity and to work with dignity.

It is in this interest that we urge all organisations with more than 10 members to constitute an Internal Complaints (IC) Committee and urge organisations with lesser than 10 members to inform their employees of the Local Complaint Committee constituted / to be constituted in each District.

The recent social-media movement or the ‘#Metoo campaign’ in an Indian context effectively began in the year 2017 and has since opened up issues of sexual harassment to the public gaze. This movement has made it accessible for women to speak publicly about incidents of sexual harassment. The first phase called out numerous academicians and professors for having abused their positions of power for many years. The current phase of the movement has led to several media personalities, journalists and persons in the NGO and development sector being investigated for misconduct and sexual harassment.

We acknowledge that this is a significant movement as social media has facilitated and empowered women to speak openly  (even anonymously) on social platforms. The movement is significant for it urges us as a society to take stock of how effective the law and intended ‘due process’ is in addressing issues of women’s safety and health at the workplace. It is clear that many women have chosen to exercise their freedom of expression to inform society, peers, and colleagues of the prevalent culture of sexual misconduct and abuse of power by persons in a position of authority or otherwise. These women have chosen to speak despite the social and professional consequences faced by them and their families.

PUCL extends its support to all persons who have taken the step to come out with their personal and truthful accounts of sexual harassment. We acknowledge that to speak out and share these experiences is hard and that the backlash faced by these persons sometimes leads to further harassment.

We are committed to protecting the civil rights and liberties of all individuals and have zero tolerance towards sexual misconduct of any kind. We are also committed to finding solutions to social problems faced by the community.

We extend our support and would like to intimate any persons who are keen on pursuing any remedies that PUCL if approached, would guide and support to our best ability.

Mihir Desai,

Convenor, Ad-Hoc Committee,

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Maharashtra

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10 years- #MeToo Journey of a Journalist for Justice and cost of ‘ due process’

Rina Mukherji to win her case of illegal termination arising out of a complaint of sexual harassment at The Statesman.

 

As women growing up in India, nearly all of us are familiar with street sexual harassment. Catcalls, lewd comments, shoving, groping and pushing are the norm as one grows up into adolescence, teen and adult. However, moving into the workplace was a special thrill, since it meant that the world viewed you with a special respect. Whether you worked for a news agency, magazine, or newspaper, people looked on you as an opinion-maker.

In spite of the comparatively slim pay-packet that the job ensured (at least in the mid-to-late 1980s), when I entered the profession as a post-graduate following journalism school, this was what appealed. The exhilaration continued even after I moved from Mumbai to Kolkata after my marriage. Journalism was what I loved and hence I continued being a journalist even after having completed a doctorate on a UGC fellowship. However, the arrival of my daughter and the need to be with her put the brakes on my career for a while.

When I returned to work after a few years, it meant taking up whatever came my way. Through some people in the profession, I learnt that The Statesman was looking out for senior reporters. So, one fine morning, I left my application at the reception of Statesman House and left the rest to chance. I was told it would take a month for the newspaper to take a decision. It was a Thursday.

On Saturday, I received a call. They wanted me to come over for an interview. My resume had impressed them and I was given the job. It did mean losing my seniority in the profession and putting up with a far lower salary than I deserved. Yet, I did not mind. I needed to get back to work and get back into mainstream journalism.

I joined The Statesman in June 2002. I was to report to the chief reporter and, through him, to the news coordinator—and my eventual harasser—Ishan Joshi. The first few weeks were fine, with everyone being welcoming and friendly. The news coordinator was, in fact, even more so. My ideas and stories were highly appreciated. I was also given the environment and public health beat to cover, which made me happier.

About a month into my job, I noticed that Ishan Joshi would dash into me in the corridors and whenever he did so, feel me up. Initially, I took it to be accidental. But then I realised the huge corridors of the British-style edifice of the Kolkata office of The Statesman did not call for it. The corridors were just too wide. I started keeping a distance but the behaviour persisted. It was in the newsroom, the editorial meetings, everywhere. It was common for him to stalk me in the office premises and otherwise find ways to touch me, often inappropriately.

As the months progressed, the harassment got worse. It was sometime during the height of the Kolkata monsoon that Joshi decided to invite the news bureau to his home for a party. That was when, taking advantage of a moment when I was alone, he forcibly molested me. The incident so shocked me that I was left speechless and numb. From then on, I started to avoid him.

But this only made the harassment worse. My best stories started getting killed. Everything was spiked at the news coordinator’s level, with nothing reaching the desk.

When I complained to the managing editor Ravindra Kumar, he suggested that I “compromise”. Irked by my complaint, Joshi now called on me to resign, on grounds of “not fitting the bill”. By then, I had decided to fight it out, and so I refused to resign. On Dussehra day, October 2002, I was terminated by The Statesman; this was a little before my probation was scheduled to get over.

Although happy to escape the daily harassment, the entire ordeal began revisiting me in the weeks that followed, leaving me an emotional wreck. This was when I learnt of Sanhita, a non-governmental organisation that worked on cases of sexual harassment at the workplace. After dilly-dallying for over a month, Sanhita excused itself from the case, citing constraints involved when dealing with “a big media house”.

However, Sanhita helped me get in touch with Ananya Chatterjee and Rajashri Dasgupta of the newly-formed Network of Women in Media in India (NWMI) who took up my case withThe Statesman which, in spite of being one of the oldest media houses in India, had not complied with the Vishaka Guidelines of the Supreme Court that had been passed as far back as 1997. Although The Statesman and its managing editor refused to recognise their authority to speak on my behalf to demand an investigation into my complaint, the pressure that the publicity fallout generated did succeed in having The Statesman set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in early 2003.

Meanwhile, I had approached the West Bengal Commission for Women, with the help of fellow-journalist and friend Partha Pratim Nag. The chairperson, Professor Jasodhara Bagchi, and her colleagues tried their utmost to have The Statesman investigate into my complaint but to no avail. By then, convinced that my issue had no chance of being solved internally, I proceeded to lodge a police complaint, as advised by the Women’s Commission. I also went on to lodge a complaint of illegal termination with the Chief Labour Commissioner.

The Statesman refused to cooperate with both arms of the state. Thus, my case landed up with the Industrial Tribunal.

By then, nearly every person in Kolkata civil society knew about my fight against sexual harassment. I had become an icon for many and ended up addressing the Maitreyee network of women’s organisations, besides some national-level organisations too.  Unfortunately, although there were many who initially pledged support for my cause, few cared to stand by me when the police investigation was underway. In fact, some actively tried to work against me. It was also tough to convince many seasoned lawyers to take up my case since sexual harassment at the workplace was a very new issue. Thankfully,  a social activist from Maitreyee put me through to the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), and Sutapa Chakravarty.

Ms Chakravarty and her lawyers—Shamit Sengupta initially, followed by Debashis Banerjee and Ambalika Roy—helped me through the Industrial Tribunal, the Calcutta High Court and the Patiala House Courts, standing by me all through.

Mine is a classic case of a media house—a part of the fourth estate of the world’s largest democracy—refusing to respect or follow the Supreme Court’s guidelines, even as it wags an accusing finger at a complainant demanding justice against sexual harassment. Until this day, my complaint has not been investigated, and neither has my harasser Ishan Joshi been punished. Instead, even as I battled it out in courts in Kolkata and Delhi, he got promoted to deputy editor at The Statesman, from where he proceeded to adorn the position of editor-in-chief at The Herald in Goa.

As for me, it has been a long wait for justice, wherein I had to keep alive my professional career, trying hard to stay afloat through freelancing for a variety of print and online publications, while balancing my obligations as a homemaker and mother. Attending regular court hearings in Kolkata was tough. Attending court in Delhi to contest criminal defamation meant spending my hard-earned money travelling and staying in another city. My daughter was four years old when I worked at The Statesman. As she grew up, I had to forego my presence by her side during tests and exams, although I have always helped her with nearly all subjects in school. It meant keeping in touch with her on the phone, advising her on how to tackle a tricky math problem, or giving her ideas for her Hindi or English essays.

A decade and a half in courts taught me how to persevere in the face of frustrating delays at every level. The Industrial Tribunal saw me deal with vacant courts for periods ranging from six months to 1.5 years, and the coming and going of four different judges. At Patiala House, the 15 years I spent fighting for justice saw five different judges and four different courts handle my matter, although there were no vacant courts to deal with in Delhi. In both Kolkata and Delhi, the opposing party easily delayed matters on grounds of their lawyer/s being busy, not being ready with the argument, and not feeling well on numerous occasions.

I realised India has the best laws in the world, but tardy implementation prevents justice from coming our way. The Vishaka Guidelines were put in place in 1997.  But The Statesmandid not have an Internal Complaints Committee( ICC) to deal with my case in 2002. Even when it was set up, my complaint was not investigated. Even after the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act came into force in 2013, very few organisations bothered to set up ICCs with trained members in place. Until today, complainants continue to be victimised and thrown out of their jobs, the way I was. Interim relief, if resorted to, can further delay proceedings.

After a decade, the Tribunal ruled in my favour. The verdict was upheld in the Calcutta High Court, albeit with a much-reduced compensation. The Statesman referred it to a division bench, where the case awaits closure. The Patiala House courts in Delhi have acquitted me in my criminal defamation case, but I am yet to return to a full-time job in mainstream media. Winning has vindicated my stand but it all seems so hollow when there is no full-time job or savings to fall back on.

 

Recently, an amendment was introduced to penalise organisations that do not have ICCs in place. One hopes the government will also set up a mechanism for compliance of the SHW Act, and ensure speedy justice through fast-track courts. It will prevent many other careers from getting derailed, the way mine was!

https://www.newslaundry.com/2018/11/03/metoo-my-journey-for-justice-and-the-cost-of-due-process

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