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#RIP – Noted historian Bipin Chandra passes away

Noted historian Bipan Chandra died today at his residence here after prolonged illness. He was 86.

“He had not been keeping well since last few months. He passed away at 6 a.m.,” his family said.

A Padma Bhushan awardee, Prof. Chandra had donned multiple roles including that of chairperson of the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Member of the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the Chairman of the National Book Trust (NBT).

Considered to be a specialist in economic and political history of India, Prof. Chandra had authored several books including ’The Rise and Growth of Economic Nationalism’, ‘In the Name of Democracy: The JP Movement and the Emergency’, ‘Nationalism and Colonialism in Modern India’ and ‘The Making of Modern India: From Marx to Gandhi’, among others.

The left leaning author had founded the journal ‘Enquiry’ and was a member of its editorial board for a long time.

Born in 1928 in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, Prof. Chandra studied at the Forman Christian College, Lahore, Stanford University, US and the University of Delhi.

He worked as the Reader at Hindu College of Delhi University and then became the professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Prof. Chandra’s text books on History have been taught in schools and colleges in the country for a long time.

Prof. Chandra served as sectional President and then the general president of the Indian History Congress in 1985, was also awarded ‘Itihas Ratna’ on his 86th birthday in December that year, by the Asiatic Society of Bihar.

A number of leaders and scholars expressed grief over the demise of the veteran historian.

“The cremation will take place at 3 p.m. at the Lodhi Road electric crematorium,” family said.

Lamenting his death, Congress leader Digvijay Singh tweeted, “My condolences to the Family of Historian Bipan Chandra. One of the most eminent Historian of India. May his soul rest in peace“.

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Nabam Tuki also wrote on Twitter, “Bipan Chandra an Indian historian passes away. May his soul Rest in Peace.”

“Sad to hear about the passing away of noted historian Prof Bipan Chandra. May his soul rest in peace,” said Congress leader Naveen Jindal, in his tweet.

Sad to hear about the passing away of noted historian Prof Bipan Chandra. May his soul rest in peace.

— Naveen Jindal (@MPNaveenJindal) August 30, 2014
Chiki Sarkar, publisher at Penguin Books also mourned his death and said his books have been read by generations of readers.

“Sad to hear of Bipan chandra’s death — he was one of @PenguinIndia most respected and successful authors whose books on Indian history have been read by generations of readers. We mourn his passing,”Ms. Sarkar tweeted.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on Saturday condoled the death of noted historian Bipan Chandra, hailing him an “erudite chronicler” of modern Indian history and the nation’s struggle for independence.

“Congress President Sonia Gandhi has expressed deep grief and sadness at the passing away of Professor Bipan Chandra.

Describing him as erudite chronicler of modern Indian history and the Nation’s struggle for independence, Ms. Gandhi said that his books left a lasting imprint on the minds of millions of students in their formative years,” the party said in a statement.

Extending her heart-felt condolences to the family members and friends of Prof. Chandra, Ms.Gandhi said that he had played a pioneering role as a teacher, scholar and researcher and mentored many a future historians and will be deeply missed.

In his condolence message, Rahul Gandhi said that he was saddened to hear of the passing away of Professor Bipan Chandra.

He said that the books of the eminent historian and scholar of modern India introduced many generations of students to the Indian national movement and the freedom struggle. “My prayers are with the family and loved ones,” he said in a message.

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Hostage of ISIS rebels- Kerala Nurses- from Death trap to Debt Trap #Vaw

Death Trap To Debt Trap

After being held hostage by ISIS rebels, the nurses from Kerala are staring at a bigger problem. Jeemon Jacob reports

2014-07-19 , Issue 29 Volume 11

Photo: Ajo Dhruva

Photo: Ajo Dhruva

There are more than a million Malayalee nurses tending to the sick all over the world. Since the 1940s, they have been supporting their families back home in Kerala with their hard-earned money. They changed the destiny of their families and opened the channels of migration for their kith and kin. But the state never honoured their contribution or recognised them as an asset to its ailing economy. The penny dropped only when civil war gripped Iraq and many nurses working there started sending SOS signals for immediate evacuation from the troubled areas.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy sensed trouble as the families of the nurses stranded in Tikrit started calling him in panic. Nine of the families hail from his home district, Kottayam. But Chandy felt helpless as he had limited clout with the new BJP-led NDA government. But External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj realised the gravity of the trouble in Iraq and alerted all the Indian diplomats in the region to work for an early solution.

As top officials met at the ministries of external affairs and home, they stumbled on one grey area — India had limited contacts with ISIS militants operating in Trikrit and Erbil.

The nightmare started on 12 June, when the Sunni militants took control of the Tikrit Teaching Hospital. Among the hostages were 46 nurses from India. The rebels took them away in a bus.

“We were not willing to leave the hospital as we were not sure where they were taking us,” recalls Vidya Vishwambaran, a nurse who hails from Theveri village in Pathanamthitta district. “But when a bomb exploded near our hospital, injuring four of the nurses, we had no option. We just rushed to board the bus.”

The rebels’ move to shift the nurses to Mosul came as a shocker to the Indian Embassy in Baghdad. Indian Ambassador A Ajay Kumar, who was in constant touch with the nurses since 12 June, became frantic as he knew that shifting them to Mosul would complicate the evacuation process. But he had no choice.

Meanwhile, Chandy networked with NRI businessmen who are known to be close to the Saudi Arabian government. Rumour has it that EMKE Group’s MA Yusuf Ali used his clout with Riyadh to open negotiations with the Sunni militants. Once he established contact, the chances for the release became brighter.

“I was tense for three days, fearing the worst after the nurses were shifted to Mosul,” says Chandy. “I was in constant touch with Union minister Sushma Swaraj, who used her office to save the nurses. I thank her for her great sensitivity and for playing a proactive role.”

On 4 July, the militants shifted the nurses to Erbil, from where they boarded the Air India flight back to their homeland.

Ironically, not everyone is happy to be back home. Most of the nurses have not been paid for months. “We were not thrilled to return to Kerala,” says Shalini, a nurse who hails from Churulikod in Pathanamthitta district. “We wanted to remain in Iraq and work there for some more time and get paid our dues.”

In Kerala, her mother struggles to make ends meet. On top of it, they have to repay a debt of Rs 2.5 lakh. “We left Iraq with a heavy heart,” says Shalini. “My friends and I were crying when we boarded the flight as our future offers no consolation.”

But Chandy believes that he can find a solution. “I have convened a meeting on 11 July to discuss the modalities to announce a package for them,” he says. “Many NRI businessmen have offered them jobs. It is good sign. We need to take collective steps to help the nurses who suffered in Iraq.”

But the nurses fear that the government’s priority will change when more and more people return from the war-torn country. According to Jasmin Shah, president of the United Nurses Association, around 1,000 nurses are holed up in Iraq.

“The government should ponder why so many nurses from Kerala are risking their lives and going to Iraq,” says Shah. “They are going because they are not getting even the statutory minimum wages in the five-star corporate hospitals run by the filthy rich. If the government had enforced minimum wages in the private hospitals here, these nurses would not have gone to a foreign country.”

For the nurses who hail from poor families, Iraq was an attractive option because of two reasons. “Recruitment agents demand huge money for openings in other Gulf countries,” says Jiji Raj, a nurse returned from Iraq. “For Iraq, they demand only 1.6 lakh, which I could afford. They offered a salary of $750 per month as well as free food and accommodation. For us it was a good sum. In our contract, it was mentioned that we would get our salary after completing three months’ service.”

Even after the ISIS militants invaded their hospital on 12 June, the nurses were under the impression that they would be shifted to other hospitals in Baghdad and their salaries would be paid.

In the hour of crisis, all have a kind word for Ambassador Ajay Kumar, who helped the nurses when they were in peril. “One of the nurses could not bear the tension and had become hysterical,” recalls Jiji. “She started showing signs of nervous breakdown. But Ajay sir told us to be calm and talked to us every now and then. He even recharged our phones. We can never forget him. For us, he was like god in our darkest hour.”

Even as the government scrambles to help the nurses, CPM leader VS Achuthanandan has demanded a package for all the workers who are stuck in the war-torn nation. “They had gone to Iraq risking their lives as a last resort,” he says. “The state government should announce a package to rehabilitate them. Both the state and Central governments are ignoring their plight. When 17 nurses and other workers arrived in Mumbai, there was nobody to help them. As Iraq is embroiled in a civil war, more workers will return. The government has nothing to offer them.”

In Kerala, gloomy days are here again as more than 5,000 workers are likely to return home soon from war-torn Iraq.

[email protected]

‘I went to Iraq to save my family… I returned with nothing’ 

Smithamol Surendran | 30 Mannackanad, Kottayam

Smithamol Surendran | 30 Mannackanad, Kottayam

When the Air India flight carrying 46 nurses from Erbil in Iraq landed at the Kochi International Airport on 5 July, Smithamol Surendran cried in silence. The grand welcome accorded to her did not relieve her tension. She knew that her mounting debt was going to haunt her forever. After working for five months at the Tikrit Teaching Hospital in Iraq, she did not have a single paisa.

“I thought I was the unluckiest girl in the world,” she says. “I went to Iraq to repay my education loan and save my family from peril. But I returned without getting my salary. I borrowed from my sister to pay Rs 1.6 lakh to the agent and spent another Rs 40,000 for my travel. The civil war has destroyed my life.”

Her father Surendran, who used to be a daily wage labourer, is suffering from urinary bladder cancer. Her stepmother Shanthamma has been an asthmatic for the past 15 years. “I need money to treat my father and stepmother,” says Smithamol. “They don’t take any medicine because they have no money. I have been working for the past seven years. But I could not earn enough to build even a proper toilet. I never told my friends that I’m from such a poor background. I lived with my problems.”

Smithamol lost her mother when she was just eight. Her dream was to become a teacher and she graduated in English literature from Mahatma Gandhi University with second class. But her sister, who is also a nurse, persuaded her to pursue nursing as it would offer her instant employment. “I studied nursing only because the banks offered loans for the course without any security or surety,” she says. “But that loan has trapped me.”

On her arrival from Iraq, her tears moved Kerala. The CPM’s Kottayam district committee gifted her a cheque of Rs 3 lakh for repaying the loan. Her neighbour Sunny Joseph Valiyamalil has offered five cents of land to construct a new house. The Marangattupilly panchayat has promised to raise money for the construction of the house. Nowadays, ministers are visiting her house and national television channels are waiting for her sound bites.

“Finally, things are falling into place,” she says. “I have realised that I’m not alone in this world. But I won’t go back to Iraq even if I starve. Enough is enough.”

‘I may return to Iraq if I don’t get a job elsewhere’


Sunita Gopi | 27 Thidanadu, Kottayam

Sunita Gopi is scared that a flash flood will wash away her small house on the banks of Meenachil river. Whenever the monsoon fury flooded the river, she used to spend the night at a friend’s place. Her dream was to build a house for her family far away from the river and she was willing to risk anything for that.

“The civil war never scared me,” she says. “Even when we were asked to vacate the hospital and board the bus with the militants, I was not worried about my life. I had just one regret — that I may have to leave Iraq without getting my salary for five months. For me, $3,750 is a lot of money. I have never seen such a big amount in my life. It was my lifeline as I have to repay my educational loan of Rs 3 lakh with interest to the Catholic Syrian Bank.”

After her return to Kerala, the bank sent her a recovery notice. “I don’t blame the bank as I could not repay my loan,” says Sunita. “When I first joined a hospital, I received a monthly salary of Rs 6,000. Then my father had a heart attack and needed a major cardiac surgery. I borrowed money and arranged for the operation. I decided to go to Iraq as the job there offered a decent salary. If I had worked there for two years, I could have repaid all my loans and also raised money for my marriage.”

But life took a tragic turn when ISIS militants invaded Tikrit.

“On 12 June, we went for the morning duty and found that the hospital was deserted,” she recalls. “All the doctors and management staff had left. After spending a few hours, we were told to return to our hostel. In the evening, three militants came to the hostel and told us that they had taken over the hospital and we should work for them. We told them that we haven’t received our salaries for the past four months. They told us that they would pay our salaries if we come and work for them.

“We were the worst-hit. A majority of the nurses were from poor families who had incurred huge debts to fund their education. We opted for Iraq as the last option to save our families from the debt trap. Why else would we have gone there?

“If the civil war had been delayed for a few days, we would have received our salaries for three months. But it was our destiny to return home to India without money and grace.

“If I don’t get a job soon, the only option left is to commit suicide. I have had enough of this miserable life. I have never committed a crime in my life and helped everyone who came my way. But look at my life… left in loneliness and worries.

“I may return to Iraq if I don’t get a job elsewhere. Not because I love Iraq, but because I want to repay my loan and build a house for my parents where they can sleep without fearing rains or floods. Then if I have any money left, I will spend it on my marriage.”

Sunita has confidence and an iron will to change her destiny.

“I studied nursing as it offered a ready job,” she says. “I started working when I was 20. But I could not save enough money to free me from the debt trap. So I don’t care where my life ends.”

‘We were at the mercy of militants for more than three weeks’ 


Even in the middle of chaos in Iraq, Angeleena Luke Thottunkal never lost hope. She knew that she had to return home dead or alive. Even when a bomb exploded near her, she was not scared.

“I boarded the bus with blood all over my dress,” she recalls. “A splinter had struck my forehead. I covered my injury with a cold water bottle and rested my head on a friend’s lap. I didn’t feel much as we had no idea where they were taking us. The only relief was that we were all together and ready to face death.”

After returning home, she is busy visiting churches one after another, offering prayers for helping her safely reach home.

“I have to repay a loan of Rs 4 lakh,” she says. “But I’m alive and will be able to repay it if I get a job. I’m grateful to god who protected me during this mess. We were at the mercy of militants for more than three weeks. We heard gunshots and explosions near our hospital. When a bomb exploded, we go together and prayed. Even Hindus joined our prayers. When you face death, you don’t remember which god you are praying to.”

Angeleena never informed her parents about the turmoil in Iraq.

But she relayed information to her twin sister, who is working at Baghdad Medicity Hospital. Both of them had gone together to Iraq.

“In December 2013, I got a job offer from the health ministry of Iraq,” she says. “I delayed my travel for my sister who was waiting for her offer letter. She was lucky to join a hospital in Baghdad; she gets her salary. But we never got ours. Now, I’m worried about her as the militants are moving towards Baghdad.”

Born in a poor family, nursing was her natural choice as two of her elder sisters were already in the profession and banks were willing to offer education loans. “I educated all my four daughters by availing bank loans,” says her father Luka. “Now I owe Rs 4 lakh. I thought my worries were over when two of my daughters got job offers from Iraq. It turned out to be a disaster.”

Despite being 70, Luka is plying an autorickshaw for the sake of his family. He has vowed not to rest until the loans are settled.

“I saw my father doing all kinds of jobs to feed us,” recalls Angeleena. “My mother used to rear cows to earn extra money. I wanted them to take rest in their old age, but the war ruined our lives. However, the turmoil in Iraq helped me to face challenges with a cool heart. Now I can face any challenge in my life.”

But Iraq is not on the list. “After living on the razor’s edge, who will dare go back?” she asks.

‘I need a job urgently… or else i will go mad’ 

PS Sabithamol | 29 Kollad, Kottayam

PS Sabithamol | 29 Kollad, Kottayam

Ever since she returned from Iraq, all that Sabithamol has done is cry. Her father Sasidharan and mother Valsamma take turns to console her. Her husband Krishnakumar, who is working as a nurse in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, could not come because he did not get any leave.

Sasidharan had taken a loan of Rs 3.5 lakh when his daughter joined the nursing course, hoping that the degree would help her get good employment opportunities abroad. Now, the loan amount plus interest has ballooned to Rs 6 lakh. And Krishnakumar had taken a Rs 2 lakh loan to send Sabithamol to Iraq.

“I had tried my luck with all recruitment agencies,” she says. “I was selected by the Saudi Arabian health ministry. But I could not go there as the agency demanded Rs 3 lakh as visa processing charges and commission. Iraq was my last chance.”

She was eager to go to Iraq as working in a foreign country is much better than her career prospects in India. “Had I been able to work in Iraq for two years, I could have repaid all my loans and saved some money. But we got caught in the civil war,” she says.

As Sabithamol fights her tears, all she can see is a bleak future.

“I need a job urgently,” she says. “Or else, I will go mad.”

‘We were ready to work in some other hospital in Iraq’


Litty Joy | 26 Manjoor, Kottayam

When the news broke that Litty Joy was among the nurses held captive by the ISIS militants in Iraq, her mother Aniyamma spent her days and nights in prayer. She prayed to all the saints to save her daughter from further danger. Her prayers were answered on 5 July, when her daughter arrived in Kochi.

But Litty was not so happy to return from Iraq. She left the war-torn country because she had no choice. She was loath to leave the hospital in Tikrit without getting her salary for five months.

“We were ready to work in some other hospital in Iraq,” says Litty. “Not because Iraq offered us great working conditions, but because we needed to send money back home to repay our loans. Senior nurses who had gone to Tikrit earlier had salary arrears of only two months. But our condition was the worst. That is why we pleaded with the militant leaders to settle our dues. But they could not because we were employed by the health ministry.”

According to Litty, the nurses working in the Tikrit hospital were aware about the militants gaining control of neighbouring areas. “Our Iraqi technician told us about the war going on outside Tikrit,” she says. “He also warned us that the militants could invade the hospital. But we had no choice.”

Litty was working at a private hospital in Kolkata before shifting to Iraq. “If you are working as a general nurse in India, you have no future,” she says. “Despite the fact that we have to put in 12-hour shifts or more, nurses are paid a pittance at private hospitals. So, when I got a job in Iraq, I dreamt of a good life. But the dream was short-lived. Everything ended in a tragedy. I shudder whenever I think about my last days in the country.”

Her father Joy and brother Lintu are working as drivers and her mother is a housewife. The poor family had taken a huge loan to cover the expenses of her nursing education and travel to Iraq.

“When Litty got a job offer from Iraq, I thought that our miseries were going to end. Now, I realise that it was only the beginning. I don’t know what to do. One way or the another, we have to move forward. I believe in god. He will show the way,” says Aniyamma as she kneels before the statue of Virgin Mary.

Once again, it is prayer time. When the sky is falling, what else can they do?

Read mor where–

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 11 Issue 29, Dated 19 July 2014)

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#India – Gangraped, forced to drink acid and strangled to death #Vaw #WTFnews

22-year-old gangraped and strangled to death in UP’s Bareilly district

Monday, 2 June 2014 – 1:25pm IST | Place: Bareilly | Agency: PTI
  • rapeImage for Representational Purpose only.

Right after the Badaun incident, Uttar Pradesh witnesses another crime against women. A 22-year-old girl was allegedly gang-raped, forced to drink acid and later strangulated to death in Baheri area of Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly district, police sources said on Monday. The victim’s body was recovered from a field in Aithpura village on Saturday with her face mutilated, they said, adding her postmortem report, which was received on Monday, found that she was gang-raped and later strangulated.

Police said that acid was detected from the stomach of the victim, which indicated that she was forced to drink it before being murdered. Her face was mutilated by pouring acid and petrol to conceal her identity, they added.

SSP J Ravindra Gaur said there was a possibility of the victim hailing from Uttrakhand, and therefore a team has been dispatched there for investigation. Deputy SP Baheri Kalu Singh said police was investigating on several aspects. It is being suspected that it could be a case of honour killing or could be related to flesh trade, he said.

This incident comes right after two cousins from Badaun district were raped and then hung from a tree. The crime caused a wide agitation among many political parties and activists questioningAkhilesh yadav’s method of govenance and the condition of law and order in the state


Read mor ehere —

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Maharashtra Police are underplaying the horrific lynching of a Dalit teenager #WTFnews

A protest rally on May 20, 2014 from Dadar East to Chaitya Bhoomi, Dadar West against brutal murder of Nitin Age (Kharda Village, Dist- Ahemadnagar).
The police attempted to cover up the casteist nature of the murder of a 17-year-old Dalit boy in Maharashtra last fortnight, says an independent fact-finding report.
On April 28, the body of a 17-year-old Dalit boy was found hanging from a tree, in Kharda village in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district. He had a broken spine and burn marks all over his body. The boy, Nitin Aage, had been allegedly killed by a group of Maratha men for daring to speak to an upper-caste girl.The police have arrested 13 suspects so far, but had it not been for the intervention of Dalit activists, Aage’s death may not even have been recognised as a murder. According to a fact-finding report drawn up by a group of activists this week, the police first intended to record the incident merely as an accidental death.The report, written by a team of seven activists from the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights and the Republican Panthers  Annihilation of Caste group, said that though the media emphasised the fact that Aage was a Dalit youth killed by upper caste men, the report claims that the police and other lobbies in Ahmednagar are attempting to label it as a case of honour killing unrelated to caste.

“In many cases of atrocities against Dalits, the caste angle is suppressed, even if the guilty are punished,” said Arun Ferreira, one of the seven members of the fact-finding team put together by the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights and  the Republican Panthers Annihilation of Caste campaign. They plan to submit their report to the police and local government officials by the end of the week.

The police frequently underplay the casteist nature of such crimes, Ferreira said, in order to create the impression that caste-based oppression is no longer a major problem in India. Despite this, the number of crimes reported against Dalits remains significantly high across the country. Here are the figures for Maharashtra alone, both in terms of general crimes as well as crimes registered under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district, where Nitin Aage was murdered, has seen at least 73 incidents of caste-based atrocities last year, according to the fact-finding report.
Aage was in class at the Rayat Shikshak Sansthan, a well-known school and junior college near Kharde village, when he was allegedly taken out by three Maratha men, beaten in the school premises, dragged across to the nearby highway road and eventually taken to an abandoned area where they smeared him with burning embers and hung him from a tree, to make it look like a suicide.

By this time, eye-witnesses had already informed Aage’s parents that their son had been beaten by Sachin Golekar, the brother of the upper-caste girl Aage had spoken to, and his friend Sheshrao Yeole. Later, Aage’s parents stated in their complaint that they had warned their son to stay away from the upper-caste girl to avoid any trouble.

Several witnesses in and around Aage’s school described to the fact-finding team how the beating had taken place. “But many of the young witnesses claim that the police has not recorded their statements,” said Shabana Khan, an advocate from Mumbai who was part of the  team.

Even though the police have booked Sachin Golekar, Sheshrao Yeole and other suspects for murder as well as under the Prevention of Atrocities Act, the report suggests that there have been deliberate lapses in the investigation.

“For one, the police claim they were unable to take the statement of the girl Nitin spoke to soon after the crime, because that would hurt her family’s sentiments,” said Khan. However, a few days later, news emerged that the girl had attempted suicide by setting herself on fire and is now battling for life in a Solapur hospital.

“We want investigating teams to recognise the girl is also a victim and that her statement would be important for the case,” said Ferreira.

While the fact-finding team believes that it is impossible that the school authorities were unaware of the fact that a student was being beaten up on campus, the police have not recorded the statement of the school principal. The deputy superintendent of police cited “the principal’s due retirement and his inability to take pressure” as the reasons for not recording his statement, says the report.

“That school is well-known in the area because its committee members include NCP [Nationalist Congress Party] leaders like Sharad Pawar, Ajit Pawar and Supriya Sule,” said Shyam Sonar, a member of the Republican Panthers organisation. “The Golekars themselves are part of the administration of the institute, so it is not surprising that they are being protected.”

The Golekar family, according to the report, is closely associated with the NCP and enjoys a lot of “economic and socio-political clout” in Kharda village. While Nitin Aage’s father is a landless labourer in a stone-crushing mill, the Golekars own more than 500 acres of land and a number of businesses.

The fact-finding team has recommended that the school management, principal and teachers should be made co-accused in the crime, that the safety of the Aage family and the girl from the Golekar family should be ensured and that the Ahmednagar district superintendent of police should be suspended. “A proper investigation should be done to bring out the casteist intent of the offence so as to ensure proper applicability of the charged provisions of the Prevention of Atrocities Act,” the report says.


Caste atrocities onDalits have always been a feature of our country. However the number of such incidents has been growing in recent times. This growing incidence, combined with the attempts by the dominant castes and the police and other state agencies to cover up the casteist nature of these atrocities, has made it all the more important for Civil liberty and Democratic rights organizations to rigorouslyinquire into the facts of such incidentsand bring out their true castenature. It is only by thus bringing out the facts that any attempts at suppression and cover-up can be exposed and that democratic consciousness among the broad masses against caste can be raised, thus making a contribution to the long-term goal of annihilation of caste.
As part of such an effort,a fact finding team was formedby the Dalit AtyacharVirodhiKrutiSamiti (Mumbai) on 4th May 2013 to inquire into the honour killing of one such dalit boy on 28th April in Kharda, Jamkhed tehsil, Ahmednagar district. The members of this team were: Subodh More (VidrohiSanskrutikChalwal), Jatin Desai (Journalist), Pratima Joshi (Journalist, Maharashtra Times), ShyamRanjankar (Independent Filmmaker), Shabana Khan (Advocate), Arun Ferreira (Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, CPDR) and Shyam Sonar (Republican Panthers JatiAntaachiChalwal).
The following terms of reference for inquiry were decided upon:
1. To understand the chain of events that led to the atrocity and the culpability of the people involved.
2. To expose any lapse on the part of the police machinery in investigating, arresting and properly charging the perpetrators of the atrocity.
3. To conduct a preliminary social inquiry into the cause of such an atrocity.
On the evening of 28th Aprilwhen the body of a 17 year old boy was brought in at the Government Hospital of Jamkhed for post mortem, a few Dalit activists happened to bepresent. The body was of Nitin Aage and it was immediately understood from his surname that he belonged to the Dalit community.On noticing burn marks on his body that had beenfound hanging from a tree, thedalit activists present immediately realized that this was another incident of caste atrocity. “We immediately demanded that the Police Officer register a case of murder” said ArunJadhav, Advocate and president of the LokAdhikarAndolan while speaking to the fact finding team. As the Police Inspector of Jamkhed was on leave, DheerajPatil, the DySP of Karjat-Jamkedh was the officer responsible. He initially intended to register it as a case of accidental death, awaiting the post mortem report. But the blatant burn marks on the body and pressure from the Dalit community, who had, by then, gathered in numbers, forced the DySP to register a murder case.ArunJadhav and Bapu Oval, another activist of LokAdhikarAndolanwhile speaking at length with the members of the fact finding team explained of how it was the pressure from the community, the video-recording the assault marks on the corpsethat they got done and their efforts in breaking the news out to the media that ultimately forced the administration to take cognizance of this offence as a murder and caste atrocity. Soon it became apparent that Nitin Aage was a victim of an honour killing. His alleged ‘crime’ was that he spoke to a girl of the dominant Maratha community.
The Incident:
Raju Aage, Nitin’s father,alongwith his wife-Rekha, two daughters and other members of the community,was sitting outside his tin hut when we met him. He spoke of how he was not an original resident of Kharda, but had settled here from Geetewadi, the adjoining village, almost 10 years ago. Having no land, he had to earn a living by crushing stones in a small electricity driven mill. Due to frequent load-shedding and electricity cuts he had to sometimes work till almost 2 am to earn a decent wage. He and his wife nevertheless managed to get all their children into school. Nitin was the eldest and he had just passed his 11 standard and was attending the extra classes held in the school and junior college run by the RayatShikshakSansthan.
The Aage’s tin dwelling (1 in Fig.) was the only one situated almost one and a half kilometer from the main settlement in Kharda. The Maharashtra State Highway No. 157, was infact the approach road for the Aage’s to the village and the RayatShikshan Mandal school (2 in Fig.) lay about a 500 meters to the right while on the way to the village.
On 28th April, Nitin had left for school for his extra classes. At around 11.45 am while Raju was crushing stones a villager informed him that his son was beaten up at the school. Raju arrived home by 12 noon and began inquires about Nitin’s whereabouts. A few villagers informed Raju and also his wife, who by then too was searching for Nitin, that their son was earlier beaten up by the Sachin Golekar and SheshraoYevle. Raju along with his brother searched in the shrubby area on the other side of the road opposite the school, assuming that Nitin would have wandered off in shame due to the beating and hence would need some persuasion to come back home. However it was only by 3.30- 4pm did Raju see the dead body of his son in the area of the Brick kiln (3 in Fig.) owned by the Golekars. Nitin’s body lay hung from a tree, with its torso and legs lyingslanting on their left sides along the ground. The noose by which he was strangulated was put together from rope and rags. The corpse was swollen from waist below, spine broken and at many places showed burn marks by embers from the kiln. Raju immediately got in touch with Sunil Salve, a local activist of the Republican Party of India who phoned the local police API by 4.45- 5pm.
By 1 am, on the 29thApril, after the body was examined in the Jamkedh Government Hospital, the DySP had registered the complaint as FIR no. I-71/2014 dated 29.04.2014 under sections 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence), 143,147, 148, 149 (charges relating to unlawful assembly and rioting) of the Indian Penal Code and under the Section 3(2)(5) of the Prevention of Atrocities Act and Section 7(1)(d) of the Protection of Civil Rights Act. In the FIR, the complainant, Raju Aage mentions how Nitin had told him two days earlier that a Golekar girl wanted to marry him, on which he told Nitin that he should no fall in these problems as they were poor. On inquires Rekha had come to know that the three Maratha boys, whose names are mentioned in the FIR, had mercilessly thrashed Nitin saying that he should not fall in love with a hindu girl. And after beating Nitin they had sent him to the KanohbaMandir. There after killing him they partly hung him from the branch of a lime tree, so as to hide the fact that he was murdered and make it out to be a suicide.
Immediately after the lodging of the complaint, the brother of the girl who Nitin is said to have spoken to, namely Sachin Golekar, (21) and his friend and relative SheshraoYeole (42),both Marathas were arrested and another minor Maratha boy had been detained.
Till the writing of this report, the police state that they have arrested a total of 13 youth,all relatives of the Golekarextended family. When the fact finding team members spoke to the local Dalit activists, they said that many of the accused persons have close associations with Rashtrawadi Congress Party ( NCP ).

Background of atrocities in AhmedNagar District
Much of Marathwada’s socio-political situation, especially regarding severe caste oppression has its influence over this region. Ahmednagar district is on the border of Marathwada. In this district many cases of atrocities against schedule caste and schedule tribes have taken place. In village LimpanGaon (DhangarWadi) TalukaSriGonda where 16 houses and 20-25 shanties of Schedule Castes, tribes and Nomadic tribes and members of religious minorities were burnt. In the same taluka in the village DhawalGaon, JanabaiBorge, a woman belonging to Matang community was burnt alive. One of the case happened around 2014 April end in ChibhaleGaon, in TalukaSrigonda where castiest community of the village banned and refuse to carry out cremation of one of the Dalit Woman of that village. This SrigondaTaluka was always happened to be a hometown of Mr. BabanRaoPachapute (Ex- Tribal Minister of Government of Maharashtra). In the same Ahemednagar district from Bhabhulgao, KarjatTaluka a Dalit youth called DipakKamble was severely beaten. Suman Kale a woman belonging to the Nomadic tribe was brutally sexually violated and killed. In ShegaonTaluka, village Paithan, Walekar a Dalit Youth was killed by cutting him into pieces. BabanMisal around 2008 a matang youth in JamkhedTaluka was killed by Castist.
A year back, on 1st January 2013three young men of Sonai village, TalukaNevasa, Ahmednagar, Sandip Raju Dhanwar, Sachin SomlalaDharu and Tilakaliase Rahul Raju Kandare, from the Mehtar community were drowned to death in a septic tank, by a mob of upper caste men. It too was an ‘honour’ killing. One of those killed was in love with the daughter of an upper caste farmer, who was among those accused. This matter was suppressed by the authorities for almost a month. This Sonai Village was well known by the name of Ex M.P. and senior leader YashawantraoGadakhPatil.
The leading Marathi daily, Sakal, in its Pune edition dated 12th December has pointed out that there have been 73 cases of atrocities have been registered in Ahmednagar District. District stands on3rdrank in the state in terms of atrocities against SC/STs.
Context of Kharda incident

Kharda lies in Ahmednagar District, near the district’s south-eastern border,neighboringOsmanabad and Beed. Due to scanty rainfall and poor irrigation this entire region faces severe drought conditions almost every year.Kharda is also the location of the historical fort where the Marathas under the Peshwa of Pune fought the Nizam of Hyderabad, in 1795. The Marathas won this final battle against the Nizam, chiefly due to the assistance of theRajput (khadarajputs) community. The fort (4 in Fig.) lies on the opposite side of the village as viewed from Nitin’s hut.
But what made theyouth of the extendedGolekar family of Khardaso confident that they could beat up a Dalit boy behind the RayatShikshanSansthan School, keep thrashing him in the school premises, keep thrashing him while crossing the village approach road i.e. the Maharashtra State Highway No. 157 (all done in broad daylight), take him to a brick kiln owned by the family, put embers in his lap and pants, killhim and then strangulate him so as to appear to be a case of suicide…?? Infact, from investigations and comments so far, it is not disputed by the Golekar family and many in the village that Nitin was beaten by them for talking with a Golekardaughter. The sister-in-law of the girl who Nitin spoke with and wife of Sachin Golekar, the first arrested accused, hadin an interview with a newsdaily blatantly stated,that her husband was only protecting his sister and questioned whether there was anything wrong in that? The answer to this seemingly indestructible confidence probably lies in the economic and socio-political clout the Golekar family holds. The extended Golekar family of Kharda owns more than 500 acres of land, 7-8 Grain shops, Cloth shops, a few brick kilns employing about 20-30 labourers each; Vijay Singh Golekar was the president of the Panchayat Samiti; another Golekaris part of the administration of the RayatShikshanSansthan School and Junior college. On the other hand, thedalitsofKhardaare mostly landless. Out of their total of around 80 to 100 households, only 10 such households own land,that too not more than 1 ½ acres each. Most men of these dalit households are engaged in manual labour like Raju Aage or perform in Band Parties i.e. mobile orchestra groups. Nevertheless, education among dalits was rising, surpassing many other communities and thus posing a real challenge to this socio-economic power structure.
Police Investigations
The biggest problem in most cases of caste atrocities is the administration’s refusal to recognize them as such. This outlook inevitably leads to a shoddy investigation into proving charges under the Prevention of Atrocities Act. Though the inclusion of a charge in the FIR or chargesheet can be ensured by pressure from the dalit community, the task of proving it before the court depends heavily on the investigation authorities. Here, the Investigation Officer, DySPDheerajPatil, himself disbelieves that the murder was a case of honour killing.
While speaking to the fact finding team,DySPDheerajPatil evaded giving information claiming that it will harm the investigations. When asked whether the police have recorded the statement of the Golekargirl who spoke to Nitin Aage, the DySP declined to reply. After stressing that the security of the girl should be safeguarded as she could be pressurized & threatened by the family, the DySP assured her safety, but declined to disclose details. All this was being said by DySPPatil, even while he very well knew that the girl had attempted to commit suicide and was taken by her Golekars to the rural hospital at Barshi in the Solapur district, where she is battling for her life .
The interesting thing in this matter is that Central Agriculture Minister and NCP leader Mr. SharadPawar is the Chairperson of this school Institution , RayatShikshanSanstha and another NCP leader and deputy Chief Minister, Mr. AjitPawar and NCP Rajya Sabha MP, Mrs. SupriyaSule,both are the committee members of this institute. Because of these high profile political forces involved with the school, Police authorities are under pressure and hesitated from registering complaint against the school management. Because of the Home Minister belonging to Rashtrawadi Party, the Police are even more under pressure from lodging the complaint. It is a shameful fact that all of these High profile ministers have deliberately chosen to stay silent on this issue. Neither have they even mentioned it anywhere, nor have they expressed their regret or condolences on the same. Even after such a brutal murder having been taken place in the school premises and this news widely circulated, still there has been no action against the school principal and teachers from the School Institution authorities. This shows school institution is indirectly supporting the culprits.
In the above context, when fact finding team member asked why had a statement of the President of the school not been recorded considering his responsibility given that the acts were done on school premises, the DySP spoke of the principal’s due retirement and inability to take the pressure. Apparently the principal had fainted when questioned by local dalit activists about why he gave a false interview to a TV channel claiming that Nitin Aage was not attending classes.
Raju Aage’s narration summarizes the now latent caste divide in the village well: “Although people from other communities have come to condole with me, none have come forward to give witness. There seems to be calm right now, but I fear I will be bumped off from behind and it will be made to look as an accident. I fear for myself and my two daughters.”
Three cabinet ministers of Ahmednagar district, BalasahebThorat, RadhakrisnaVikhePatil and Madhukar Rao Pichad did not give any immediate due attention to the issues. Apart from them, State leaders of Maharashtra NavnirmanSena( MNS ), ShiveSena, BJP, none of the leaders of opposition parties have not even visited immediately , nor did they protest such atrocity. And also, shamefully, well known social activist, Anna Hazare who himself belongs to Ahmednagar district also did not express his dissent or utter a single word about these atrocities. After pressure created by Media, very few of them visited the victim’s family so as to save their faces.
For political benefits and in view of approaching state assembly elections in October, this year hasseen leaders from the Nationalist Congress Party(NCP), that has a significant base among the Marathas trying to mollify the dalit community. Numerous leaders have visited the Aage family andState Tribal Affairs Minister MadhukarPichadof the NCP has even declared a compensation of Rs. 10 lakh, Rs. 5 lakh from the State government and Rs. 5 lakh from the party, as assistance for the Aage family. Another NCP leader and State Home Minister RR Patilhavealso promised to try the case in a fast track court.
After our considered investigation, we as members of the fact finding team demand the following:
1. A proper investigation should be done to bring outthe casteist intent of the offence so as to ensure proper applicability of the charged provisions of the Prevention of Atrocities Act.
2. School management, school principal and school teacher should be made the co-accusedunder Atrocity Act Provision in this case for trying to suppress the matter.
3. If there are manipulations with Post Mortem report, then the concerned Medical officers should be made co-accused under atrocity act.
4. In Kharda village, a special GramSabha under the Chairmanship of District’s Guardian Minister should be called. In this meeting complete security should be assured to the victim’s family and such a resolution should be passed for future. Further, in future if anything happens to the Aagefamily, who is the victim, then the persons associated to the culprit should be held responsible
5. The girl belonging to the Golekar family too is a victim of this honour killing and hence it is the state’s responsibility to ensure her safety.
6. On moral grounds, Nagar district’s SP should be immediately suspended for the increasing instances of atrocities during his tenure.
7. Special Fast Track court should take up this case outside Nagar district, possibly in Aurangabad or Nasik district.
8. Nagar district should be declared as the atrocity affected district.
9. The Nodal officer appointed under Atrocity act has failed to perform his duties; hence he should be immediately suspended from his post.
10. On moral grounds, Home Minster R. R. Patil should immediately resign for the increasing instances of atrocities during his tenure.

Fact Finding team members:
1. Subodh More ( 0932205263 ) [email protected]
2. Jatin Desai ( 09869077718 ) [email protected]
3. Pratima Joshi ( 9821263002 ) [email protected]
4. Arun Ferreira ( 9769287956 ) [email protected]
5. Advocate Shabana ( 9029409374 ) [email protected]
6. AritroBhattacharjee ( 9222178391) [email protected]
7. ShyamRanjankar ( 09869052318 ) [email protected]
8. Shyam Sonar (08080829499 )[email protected]

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The untold story of Dalit journalists in India #mustread

Many Dalits enter the media because they believe it can empower their community. But discrimination against them is rampant in the Hindi and other language media. It is less pronounced in the English media, finds AJAZ ASHRAF in an Independence anniversary feature.of the HOOT
A Hoot special report
Dalit participation in the media has been pathetically poor, despite reservation for them in media institutes. Why do they keep away from the media? Is it because they encounter discrimination, as they do in many other avenues? To study their negligible presence in the media, Ajaz Ashraf identified 21 Dalits who are or were journalists and spoke to them extensively about their childhood, their experiences in media institutes, and their disenchantment with journalism. In this first of the three-part series, they describe how their Dalit identity was formed and its link to their wish to enter the media world.
It is considered a miracle if you can prick the calloused conscience of journalists in Delhi and prompt them to introspect. Yet this is what journalist BN Uniyal achieved through a piece – In Search Of a Dalit Journalist – he wrote for The Pioneer on November 16, 1996. Uniyal’s was in fact a veritable odyssey that he embarked upon in response to a request from a Delhi-based foreign correspondent. Could he, asked the correspondent, recommend him a Dalit journalist to whom he could speak on the squabble between the media and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Kanshi Ram?
In that moment Uniyal realized that in all the 30 years he had worked as a journalist he had never met a fellow journalist who was a Dalit. “No, not one,” he wrote. He took the foreign correspondent’s request to friends, editors, and columnists. None knew of a Dalit journalist. Uniyal then leafed through the Press Information Bureau’s booklet listing the names of 686 accredited journalists. Of them, 454 had caste surnames, none of which suggested he or she was Dalit; he called at random 47 of the remaining 232, and still drew a blank. Distraught, he wondered, “What would journalism be like if there were as many journalists amidst us from among the Dalits as were among the Brahmins.”
Four months ago, I stood waiting to have my passbook updated at the Central Bank of India branch located on the verdant campus of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) in Delhi. As I wondered over the employment prospects of students whom mushrooming media institutes were turning out in numbers beyond the capacity of the slowing market to absorb, Uniyal’s piece unspooled out of memory. IIMC is a government institute, I thought, which must therefore have reserved seats for Dalits from its inception in 1965. Questions assailed me: Why couldn’t Uniyal identify a single Dalit journalist in 1996? Where do Dalit students disappear after securing post-graduate diploma in journalism from IIMC, arguably among the best media institutes in the country?
I requested the office of Sunit Tandon, Director-General, IIMC, to provide me a list of Dalit students who had been admitted in the reserved category over the past few years. (Dalit, or downtrodden, is a broad category but Dalit in this piece means Scheduled Caste and both terms have been used interchangeably). As I waited for the names to be collated, I trawled the internet to read articles on Dalit representation in the media. The picture these readings conveyed was dismal.
I met journalist Anil Chamadia, chairman, Media Studies Group (MSG), which along with political scientist Yogendra Yadav conducted in 2006 a survey of 37 media organisations boasting a national presence. Not a single Dalit held the top 10 positions in any of the organisations. The MSG also surveyed 116 IIMC-trained correspondents and found that, till June 2011, only six of them were Dalit.
Some of the anecdotal accounts I read portrayed a skewed perception among dominant social groups about the Dalits. For instance, Shivam Vij’s piece, Caste in the newsroom?, featured on The Hoot website in June 2004, opens with a question he asks Dilip Awasthi, a senior editor of Dainik Jagran: Why are there so few Scheduled Caste and Backward Caste journalists? Awasthi answers: “They don’t go to school.” The next question: has Awasthi ever met a single SC/OBC journalist worthy enough of a job? He replies, “Never. They can’t write a single sentence properly.” Perhaps the supercilious attitude of dominant social groups explains why, like Uniyal, academician Robin Jeffrey couldn’t meet a Dalit journalist in his study of Indian-language newspapers, a study spread over 10 years during which he visited “20 towns, visited dozens of newspapers and interviewed more than 250 people.”
I also realised that Uniyal’s piece, contrary to my belief, hadn’t prompted editors to introspect. To celebrate the dawn of the new millennium, The Pioneer invited Uniyal to write for its eight-page Dalit supplement. He asked them to run the piece he wrote in 1996 with the following lines: “The article…was totally ignored by our journalistic establishment… None felt aghast or alarmed at the situation described in the article…No one felt there was a need for making special efforts to draw qualified Dalits into the media.” These anecdotal accounts and Uniyal’s expression of dismay deepened for me the mystery of where Dalit students passing out from the IIMC wind up. Do they all choose not to enter the media? Where do they go, then?
In the third week of May, I was forwarded a list of over a hundred Scheduled Caste students who had passed out of IIMC over the last five years. I began calling them, randomly choosing phone numbers from the list. A substantial number were no longer in operation; a couple took my call but accused me of encroaching on their privacy, which I was and for which I apologised profusely; there were a few who promised to meet me, but subsequently refused to take the umpteen calls I made to them.
A good many, though, were willing to narrate their stories of what made them harbour dreams of working in the media and discuss their experiences in it. Yet, most of them said they could meet me only in the week following June 2, busy as they were preparing for a competitive examination. What they told me was news to me: on June 2, Prasar Bharati was conducting a written test for recruiting 1166 Programme Executives (PEX) and Transmission Executives (TEX), who constitute the backbone of AIR and Doordarshan stations around the country. I was a tad bewildered, having been weaned on the idea that real, free, untrammelled journalism, despite the erosion of these values over the years, is practiced in the non-government realm. This idea now stood challenged.
Over the weeks, I met those who had passed out from IIMC in the recent past, and they led me to their seniors as also to those who did not study at their alma mater but are journalists. Altogether I met or interacted over phone or email with 21 who were or are journalists, of whom one was an OBC, included here for a particular reason. Ten of them are in Hindi journalism, eight were or are in English, two in Telugu, and a clutch of them in Prasar Bharati, whom I am counting as one, for they preferred their problems to be articulated by the general secretary of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Union, fearing victimisation.
 Only two of the 21 wished to have their names changed.
Lengthy conversations with them broadly suggest the following:
— Many Dalits enter the media because they believe it can empower their community and help focus on issues hobbling them.
— Dalits have a greater presence in the Hindi or other Indian language media than in the English media.
— Discrimination against and antagonism to Dalits is rampant in the Hindi and other language media; it is less pronounced in the English media.
— Nonetheless, discrimination is a principal factor behind their decision to leave the private sector media and opt for government jobs.
— Apart from discrimination, they feel a career in the media is a risky proposition.
— Their weak economic base makes them fear job insecurity which is a defining characteristic of the private sector.
This bland list conceals tales both tragic and inspiring, of oppression and discrimination and humiliation deeply felt, including by those who are middle class, and their struggle to overcome impoverishment and social inequality. Through their experiences was constructed their Dalit identity and the manifold meanings it held out for them and others. Often, the process through which their identity was created spawned in them the desire to enter the media. Indeed, a study of the experience of Dalits in the media without linking it to their childhood or teenage years is an incomplete picture.
Identity in the crucible of conflict
Santosh Valmiki is a principal correspondent in the Lucknow bureau of Hindustan. (He also reads news on Lucknow Doordarshan) His designation will not tell you of the poverty he grew up in, and how it defined his identity. His father was a driver and alcoholic and mother a manual scavenger. From an early age, Santosh accompanied her as she went from house to house cleaning toilets. Keen to ensure an education for her son, she would set aside a portion of her earnings, pawn jewellery or incur debts to pay his school fees.

When Santosh entered Lucknow’s Christian College, expenses mounted overnight to outstrip her indefatigable spirit. Refusing to let penury cow him down, he began to sit on the pavement across Akashvani Bhawan, selling newspapers, as also reading them, and contributing to the children’s supplement of Swatantra Bharat. You could say journalism and his Dalit identity were knitted together seamlessly.

At the IIMC interview, for which he qualified after clearing a written test, he was asked how many newspapers he read daily. Nine, he said. Nine, exclaimed the interviewers, not aware of how newspapers sustained him economically and stimulated him intellectually. When he was to leave Lucknow for the nine-month course in post-graduate diploma in Hindi journalism, his mother handed him 90 notes of Rs 10 denomination, divided into three equal bundles. Son, she said, you are to spend a note daily. This amount was in addition to the Rs 15000 the family had raised for Santosh’s tuition fees.
Success’s steps are often small, taken one at a time. Santosh won a scholarship and consequently the Rs 15000 was returned to him. He went on to top IIMC, and the photograph of the convocation ceremony showing him receiving the award from then Union Minister KR Narayanan was published in a newspaper. He was the talking point of the Valmiki community: a son had risen from amidst them to even stir Delhi. You would think Santosh would be satisfied in having catapulted, Amitabh Bachchan style, from the pavement into the bureau of a major national daily. Judge him not from the obstacles he surmounted to achieve what he has, but against his own potential. Still a principal correspondent after having worked in the media for over two decades ago, he said, “Those junior to me in the profession have become editors.”
It is not just through poverty and supposedly polluting nature of their jobs Dalits begin to fathom who they are. Ask Ved Prakash, currently assistant producer in Total TV, who first learnt about his socially defined inferior status through the tone in which upper castes spoke to Dalit elders, and because, as a child, he’d be reprimanded for retaliating against upper caste children in fights they would trigger. There were also other realities fashioning his idea of self – for instance, his father, who was a clerk in Bihar’s revenue department, had brothers who climbed palm trees to bring down taadi (toddy) and his mother’s brother was a mason.
I met Ved at night, on the sprawling campus of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and sat on the floor of a building, under a fluorescent tube. Close to midnight, knots of students were still huddled around Ganga dhaba or seated on boulders dotting the open space across it. Their chatter drifted across to us in the sultry night, telling us they were planning their future. “I wanted to increase Dalit participation in the media, to use it to challenge the social structure,” Ved said.

This desire was born in Ved because he experienced the cutting edge of caste at the time he was appointed a teacher in the primary school of Kashichak block, Nawadah. During his tenure there he completed his M. Com and then enrolled for Masters in Mass Communication at the Nalanda Open University. A village should have feted a master so accomplished. It was in fact just the reverse – upper castes resented that their children had a Dalit teacher.

One day, Ved pointed to the errors in the notebook of a pupil who took tuition from an upper caste teacher of the same village. In Bihar’s matrix of caste, Ved was deemed to have crossed a red line. The upper caste teacher accosted him in the local market, rubbished his educational qualification, and began to push him around until others intervened. But the hurt upper caste pride demanded vengeance. Subsequently, an infamous upper caste bully accused Ved of spanking an ironsmith’s son, and publicly beat him up. Ved invoked the Scheduled Caste and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the assailant, and also decided to take the IIMC entrance examination, which he successfully cleared last year. He is now in Total TV, drawing a salary of Rs 8000, an amount he thought he could earn driving a three-wheeler, and on which he finds hard to live in Delhi.
To IIMC also came, years earlier, from Bihar’s district of Gopalganj, Ashok Das, who edits a little magazine, Dalit Dastak. His life, you could say, was lived simultaneously in two separate compartments – his friends in school and college were all upper caste, but in the Brahmin colony his family resided in, his father, a clerk, was served tea in a tumbler different from others. The prasad, or offerings, of the satsang his mother organised at home, and which Ashok would distribute in the colony, was invariably found in the litter bin.
“I joined the media because I realised early the power of pen,” he told me, as we sat in the Costa Coffee shop in Delhi’s Bengali Market, the aroma of coffee, the glass-paneled walls, and pastries and patties providing a contrasting backdrop to the reality of his youth. When in Class XII, perturbed at the floods ravaging Gopalganj district every year, he wrote to the director of a Delhi-based NGO, wondering what measures the people could take to alleviate their plight. Not only did the director reply, he even came down to Gopalganj and handed him at a public ceremony a cheque of Rs 15000. Hail the Power of Word, through which you can sway people whom you have never met or spoken to. It inspired Ashok to take the IIMC entrance examination after graduation.
When Ashok came to Delhi in 2005, his official documents gave his surname as Kumar. He was not Ashok Das then. Perhaps his father had registered the surname as Kumar in the hope of concealing his caste. In years to come, the ambiguous surname would elicit suspicious inquiries, as also invite discrimination in the media, goading him into rediscovering the activist lurking inside him.
On the map of India, from Delhi, push west to reach Mahwa tehsil,Dausa, Rajasthan, where Satyendra Murli, who passed out from IIMC this year and has been recently recruited by Hindustan, grew up. In his hometown’s bucolic surroundings he witnessed caste-related discrimination and oppression: his mother and sister were dragged by their hair out of the local temple; and those of dominant castes would call Dalits by their caste names in abusive ways. It was here he and his schoolmates drank water from the pot reserved for the headmaster, but it was only he who was singled out for punishment, which entailed him squatting on his haunches for 30 minutes, lace his arms between his thighs and calves, and hold his ears. He was, to use the colloquial term for it, made a murga.
It was because of these experiences he became inclined towards organisations engaged in the issues of human and civil rights. Exposure to them inspired him to enroll, after completing his graduation, for Masters at the Centre for Mass Communication, Jaipur. Simultaneously, Satyendra began to work for the media in Jaipur, and encountered in the newsroom the deadly virus of discrimination.
Skate down the map of India to meet Mallepalli Laxmaiah, who is a Telugu columnist of repute, worked for several media outlets, and established Dalit Study Centre. When Laxmaiah was two years old, the landlords of his village, Janagaon, in North Telengana, killed his uncle for insisting on the right of every villager to sit in a special enclosure, under the shade of a tree, which was exclusively reserved for them. His uncle acquired the status of a folk hero in the surrounding villages, for defying the landlords. This story inspired Laxmaiah to resist the oppression of his community and joined organisations adhering to Leftist ideology. In 1987, at the age of 26, he was picked up under the draconian TADA for being part of the CPI (ML). On his release a year later, he faced the dilemma of selecting a career that could provide him a livelihood without steering him away from activism. He chose journalism over pursuing the legal profession, as to become lawyer he’d have to study for a few years more.
Through his writings he exposed atrocities and the deplorable condition of the Dalit communities. Yet he also realised the pervasive presence of antagonism in the media against Dalits and issues pertaining to them, developing a theory of his own on why certain stories are played up and others ignored. “The media,” he said, “has five Cs governing it.” He listed these as Controversy, Crime, Cinema, Cricket, and Corporate. Only a story falling in one of these five categories is covered. He added sardonically, “Violence against Dalits comes under Crime and is consequently covered. All other aspects of their life don’t make for a story.”


“The media,” Mallepalli Laxmaiah said, “has five Cs governing it.” Controversy, Crime, Cinema, Cricket, and Corporate. “Violence against Dalits comes under Crime and is consequently covered. All other aspects of their life don’t make for a story.”


In Hyderabad also lives Chanti Kranti Kiran, who is the Input Editor of V6 News, a TV channel that Dalit Congress MP G Vivek owns. Its world is the inverse of media outlets you find generally. For instance, you can count in V6 News Brahmins and Kamma employees on your fingers and perhaps still not reach the number 10. But Kiran’s wasn’t a smooth, straight journey to V6 and, as is true for so many other Dalits, he too encountered speed-breakers and precipitous turns.
Imparting lessons in courage to Kiran was his father, a schoolteacher and social activist who worked with SR Shankaran, the legendary IAS officer. Among the tasks entrusted to Papa Kiran was to click photographs for documenting evidence against public places practicing untouchability. On these field trips Kranti Kiran went for the first time when in Class XI, learning that segregated social arrangements were neither legal nor humane. Considering his background, it seemed natural for him to participate in movements for Dalit and civil rights, and then to enter the media, which lull the conscionable into believing that their efforts are a blow, however light, for social justice. Till then, Kiran had fought for the dignity of others; in the media he was to fight for his own.
These six men of different ages, growing up in different decades, residing in different regions of the country, were led through their interface with the society to accord infinitely greater salience to one of the many identities they, as all of us, have. That was their Dalit identity, and the consciousness it engendered propelled them inexorably towards the media.
But ask the question: would these men have had a different sense of their selves had their fathers been clerks or officers in a metropolis? Would the city-life have facilitated their escape from the web of caste with their wings fluttering? Would they have still joined the media? And for what: money, glamour, the need to have a livelihood and career? I pondered over these questions and then tried to locate journalists whose background was predominantly urban and middle class. The first such person I encountered was one whose perceptions were different from those who I had met.
Do class, urban anonymity provide protection?
Dalit identity and discrimination are perhaps mere footnotes in the life story of Sanghpriya Gautam, whose sartorial elegance, etiquette, and style of conversation could have you slot him with the swish crowd of urban Delhi. Son of a government official based in Delhi, he knew life for his family wasn’t always comfortable – his grandfather, after all, had retired as clerk from the Combined Defence Services canteen. No doubt, he had heard stories about the family’s hard days in the past. But then, as they say, seeing is believing, and what he didn’t experience he couldn’t consider it as his lot. Sanghpriya didn’t encounter caste biases in the Kendriya Vidyalaya he studied, and definitely not in Jawaharlal Nehru University from where he graduated in Russian.
Yes, he was interested in social issues, but the primary motivation for him to take the IIMC entrance examination was to remain, as he said, close to JNU, which abuts the media institute. Don’t get him wrong, he wasn’t dreaming of a Communist revolution and waging war on Capitalism; he was besotted with JNU for its bewitchingly liberating ambience. Over the phone I had told him about Uniyal’s piece and he had googled it to read it, eager to critique it as soon as we sat in at Café Coffee Day on Tolstoy Marg. “Uniyal’s piece is outdated. Journalism is a passion-driven profession. Our motivations are now different. Economic liberalisation offers us new opportunities.” Sanghpriya lasted all of ten days in a premier national TV network, his spirit dampened by their definition of news, and has no regret for opting for another career as journalism wasn’t an obsession with him.
The bustling city of Delhi may have embraced Sanghpriya with the warmth of egalitarianism, but it did not his batchmate, Naveen Kumar, who walks with a bounce, and has a touch of insouciance about him. His father is an engineer and Class I officer in Delhi, but because he was the first in the family to leapfrog into the middle class, he had to shoulder a disproportionate share of familial obligations – there was, for instance, family debts to be repaid. “It takes two-three generations for a family to become financially secure,” Naveen said to me as we sat sipping tea in a corner of Delhi’s Press Club.
Perhaps the need to save every paisa, or because of the sense of entitlement, Naveen availed of the facility Kendriya Vidyalas extended to Dalits – they paid a monthly fee of Rs 25, against the Rs 200 others did. It caused much heartburn among students, who would ask loud and clear: why do they pay only Rs 25? Invariably, someone would snigger and answer: “They are Chura-Chamar and even Naveen is an SC”, singling him out because he dressed well. Deeply hurt, he complained to his father about the taunt he was constantly subjected to. Ignore them, his father said.
Years later, while studying in an evening college affiliated to Delhi University, Naveen momentarily flattened the rigid social hierarchy through a relationship with an upper caste girl, who, horror upon horror, had earlier turned down the overtures of a boy from her community. The incensed Jat Sikh students picked a fight with Naveen, and issued a fatwa barring him from entering the college. He didn’t turn to his father for help. Instead, he complained to Delhi University’s Ambedkar Students Organisation (ASO), which threatened to invoke the Scheduled Caste and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the guilty students. The ban was promptly rescinded. A fiery ASO activist was born.
From stage to stage he hopped delivering passionate speeches, and also harboured the wish to undertake a comparative study of Ambedkar and Gandhi. He cleared the Delhi University entrance examination for MA in philosophy, but found the classes conducted in English difficult to comprehend. He took the suggestion of a friend: “Take the IIMC examination,” the friend said, “you can continue your activism through journalism.” In 2007, Naveen entered IIMC. Caste sneaked in with him there as well.
I turned to journalists from cities not counted among the five metros. Vipashana Kamble, today, works in Mumbai as a senior copy editor on the city desk of The Times of India, but much of her early life entailed skipping from Akola to Aurangabad to Kolhapur, where her father, a lawyer from Latur, was selected as a member (judge) of the industrial court. His selection changed her class, but not her caste identity, of which she and her brother were already aware of before they joined their father in Mumbai.
This awareness was partly because of the stories their parents narrated about their own childhood. Invariably, at least in her father’s account, there were details of distressing experiences he had encountered, emanating from who he was: a Dalit. Her Dalit identity was reinforced because the neighbours in those three towns never forgot to remind her mother about her caste. Her mother resented the surname of Kamble which was substituted for her earlier, more ambiguous family name of Jagatkar on her marriage. So when Vipashana was asked for the first time in school about her caste, she said, “I don’t know.”

You’d think cities in the Hindi heartland would bear severely on their Dalit residents. But then, providence provides protection againstdiscrimination through inconceivable ways. Animesh Biswas belongs to Bengal’s Namashudra community, but he grew up in Kanpur, to where Indian Railways posted his father 20 years ago. In the perpetually simmering caste cauldron of Uttar Pradesh, Animesh was identified as a Bengali. He was not deemed to have a caste. Munching on a plate of crisp honey potato in a Chinese restaurant at Connaught Place, Animesh said he didn’t encounter discrimination in school, in Delhi’s Hans Raj College or IIMC.

He spoke of his Scheduled Caste background at a decibel audible to others at adjoining tables, in contrast to some who chose to converse in a low voice at public places. Not one instance of discrimination, I asked to jog his memory. He laughed and said, “Only now. When I respond to ads under the category of Caste No Bar on and tell them about my Namashudra background, communication ceases at once.” He said he took the IIMC examination because he thought his BA degree in history would be a useful resource for media studies. A few years later, though, Animesh was to veer away on a course different from journalism.

The ten stories you have read so far can’t be extrapolated to build a theory. Nevertheless, Dalits who experienced caste-based discrimination and oppression in its more severe forms were inclined to view the media as a tool of resistance or reform, as against those whose Dalit identity was built predominantly upon the narratives of elders. The latter tended to view the media as the site for building a professional career.

Stumbling upon identity

The vital role parents play in how a person constructs his or her idea of self inspires some Dalits living in a metropolis to emphasise on the class rather than the caste identity. Yet, such attempts unravel as caste pops out inadvertently. Take Divya (name changed), whose father, a Junior Warrant Officer in the Indian Air Force, decided to settle his family in Ghaziabad, into which the city of Delhi has now merged seamlessly. (Divya uses a surname but it has been deliberately held back to ensure her identity isn’t revealed accidentally)


The vital role parents play in how a person constructs his or her idea of self inspires some Dalits livingin a metropolis to emphasise on the class rather than the caste identity..

Divya lives in a typical middle class colony. Typically too, neighbours bicker and engage in arguments there. When Divya was in Class X, her mother and their neighbour had an argument, and as neither relented, it turned into a nasty quarrel. Upset, Divya’s mother remarked aloud, “They only have to find an excuse to trouble us.” It seemed an irrational statement to Divya, who ticked off her Mom: why would you say that? Perhaps discerning the tone of disapproval in her daughter’s voice, she spilled out the truth, upset and angry as she was. “Because we are Scheduled Caste,” said the mother.

This statement had Divya reeling under shock. Her initial response was: why didn’t you tell me earlier? Later, Divya began to join what she called “the dots in my life.”  There were children of her age in the colony who had been averse to befriending her. To her mother, Divya said, “All my life I thought there was something wrong with me. But now I know it was all because of my caste.” Subsequently, Divya’s father lectured her on the grating intricacies of the caste system, the status of Dalits, and the philosophy of reservation.

She grasped the crash course on caste, but she also took a decision – she would reveal her caste to only those whom she considered her true friends. “Why should I tell them who I am and have them judge me from the stereotype they have inherited from their parents,” she told me in the Barista coffee shop in Defence Colony. She stuck to this decision in a prestigious Delhi college, from where she graduated in journalism, which she had opted for at the suggestion of her father. Ironically, during her stint in the English media, which dons the garb of liberalism and modernity with elan, her boss became obsessed about identifying her social coordinates through questions she found distressing.

Belated discovery of her Dalit identity was also the case with Ankita Kumar, who did her diploma from IIMC in English in 2011 and now handles the social media account of an insurance company. Both her parents are Air India executives. Perhaps they did not want caste to wriggle into their middle class existence, or perhaps they were waiting to tell Ankita the truth at the time it was absolutely necessary – for instance, before she was to seek college admission that requires those applying for seats in the reserved category to submit caste certificates.

It was Ankita’s cousin who told her who she was. It numbed her with fright. Discussions on caste would freeze her into silence, as these invariably reminded her about the identity she had kept secret from others. When questioned by her friends about her caste, Ankita would stonewall them, “The only thing I know is that I am from Uttar Pradesh.” Ankita didn’t want to own up to her identity because she was apprehensive of losing her friends, believing they wouldn’t want to associate with Dalits.

So then, why did she agree to interact with me? She said her worldview had changed. “I am dating a Pandit, a ‘high caste’ boy according to society,” she wrote to me, choosing to interact over the email as she said she would feel uncomfortable answering my questions in a face-to-face meeting. “He loves me deeply. My caste doesn’t matter to him. I guess this explains my confidence,” Ankita explained. For a person who hadn’t glimpsed the menacing visage of caste, other than the anxiety her cousin induced in her through his revelation, it wasn’t surprising she chose to join IIMC because it was what others around her too were doing.

It is also paradoxical that affirmative measures for Dalits can shatter the comfortable anonymity city-life offers them, and lead to their stigmatisation. Earlier, as we have seen, Naveen Kumar’s first brush with caste prejudices was because of the concessional school fees he paid. In some ways, it was the also the experience of D Karthikeyan, The Hindu’s principal correspondent in Madurai.

Born in a remote village of Kanyakumari district, he shifted to Coimbatore, where he went to a government-aided Christian school. He knew he was Dalit, but not what it symbolised to others. This knowledge seeped into him every time the office clerk called out the “names under the SC list” for collecting scholarships. This differential treatment, meted out insensitively, made him feel “bad”, as it did other Dalit students.


Affirmative measures for Dalits can shatter the comfortable anonymity city-life offers them, and lead to their stigmatisation.


Over the years, Karthikeyan read Periyar and Ambedkar and organised students to fight for their rights on caste basis. He subsequently went to the Centre for the Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta, to pursue his M.Phil, where to him was underscored the importance of participating in the intellectual sphere. Unable to secure a fellowship for PhD in the London School of Economics, he entered journalism, going on to hunt stories pertaining to the Dalit issue for his newspaper.

Ultimately, as the example of Karthikeyan demonstrates, what you make of what happens to you – ranging from the unbearable to the terrible to the insignificant – also depends, perhaps crucially, on the sensibilities of the individual, whether he or she struggles for their rights or merges into the quiescent mass.

Remember some of these people mentioned here. They are going to pop in and out in subsequent sections.



Cast of Characters

1)  Santosh Valmiki

Mother was a manual scavenger; he sold newspapers for a living. He’s now a principal correspondent, Hindustan, Lucknow

2) Ved Prakash

As schoolteacher, he was beaten up by upper castes. He works as assistant producer, Total TV.

3) Ashok Das

Clerk’s son, upper caste colleagues didn’t want to live with him. He publishes and editsDalit Dastak, a monthly.

4) Satyendra Murli

Mother, sister evicted from temple, experienced caste biases in the media. Now withHindustan.

5) Mallepalli Laxmaiah

His uncle was killed, and he was picked up under TADA. Columnist with Telugu newspapers, founded Dalit Study Centre.

6) Chanti Kranti Kiran

Helped father collect evidence against untouchability, he is now Input editor, V6 News, Hyderabad.

7) Sanghpriya Gautam (English)

A JNU student; never faced discrimination. He left a premier TV channel to join PR.

8) Naveen Kumar

Barred from a Delhi college on account of caste, in media taunted for his caste, he is now in a Hindi daily.

9) Vipashana Kamble

Daughter of an industrial court judge, she is now a senior copy editor, The Times of India, Mumbai.

10) Animesh Biswas

Grew up in Uttar Pradesh, he never faced discrimination. Left journalism for PR.

11) Divya

Discovered she was Dalit late in life, she worked in a Delhi newspaper for two years Wants to go for higher studies.

12) Ankita Kumar

Discovered her caste late, she hid her identity from friends. She currently handles a social media account of an insurance firm.

13) D Karthikeyan

Felt bad when his name would be announced for SC scholarship in school. He’s now the principal correspondent, The Hindu, Madurai.

(The author, a Delhi-based journalist, thanks Sunit Tandon and Anil Chamadia for their invaluable assistance and guidance in this project. He can be reached at[email protected])


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#India – Death of liberty in Chhattisgarh – Soni Sori #Vaw

By Shalini Singh
Story Dated: Monday, March 10, 2014 15:47 hrs IST
Soni Sori wants to live, but, she feels that the government wants to kill her
in pursuit of justice: Sori says she may enter politics to give voice to others like her. Photo by Aayush Goel

in pursuit of justice: Sori says she may enter politics to give voice to others like her. Photo by Aayush Goel

It is a winter afternoon in Delhi’s Jangpura area. Sitting in her lawyer’s office, Soni Sori, who has recently been granted bail by the Supreme Court, looks relieved. This 38-year-old tribal schoolteacher from Chhattisgarh, who was accused of helping Maoists, says she suffered torture and sexual harassment in jail. She is thinking seriously about joining politics.

“I am an educated Adivasi woman. I have to give voice to others like me in my village even if it means entering politics at some point,” she says. She may also write about her life in jail. “Every day I spent in a jail has a different story of brutality, enough to write a book.”

Daughter of a former Congress leader from Bade Bedma village in Dantewada, Sori was leading a normal life in the neighbouring Jabeli village, with her husband and three children. She became a teacher in 2002. “Teaching kids in my village made all of us happy. It was considered a feat for an Adivasi woman to become a teacher and the kids took to me. In 2006, I was asked to take up the principal’s responsibilities and our three-room school expanded,” she says.

It was a time when Naxalite activities were on the rise, and Salwa Judum, the government-backed people’s movement against the Maoists, too, started operating in the state. “The CRPF troubled women going into the jungles to collect wood…. Women were raped. Once, three boys were killed in front of me in 15 minutes and two of them were buried in one hole,” says Sori. She rallied together a group of villagers and protested at the local police station. “We were accused of netagiri,” she says. “But our point was that they should capture the Naxalites, which was their job, and not trouble the Adivasis. We did not want Salwa Judum to come to our village.”

Things turned worse for Sori in 2009 after the police arrested her nephew, Lingaram Kodapi, for alleged Maoist links. He was kept locked in a toilet for over a month and the police kept denying that he was in their custody. Soon, there were rumours that Lingaram would become a Salwa Judum chief. “We faced trouble from both sides, the police and the Naxals. On the advice of my husband [Anil Futane], I went to meet my teacher [activist Himanshu Kumar], who said we should appeal in the High Court. The court ordered his release, but the police continued to hound us. I suspect they wanted to kill Lingaram in an encounter and put the blame on us,” says Sori. “Lingaram wanted to commit suicide. Our lives were stuck between the Naxals, whose ways we did not agree with, and the police, who kept harassing us.” It was a period of emotional trauma for the family.

A word of caution from her teacher saw Sori fleeing to Delhi in 2010. Sori, Futane and Lingaram were accused of planning and executing an attack on the house of Congress leader Avdesh Gautam. Lingaram, too, had gone to Delhi and had completed a course in journalism. After he and Sori posted a video of police atrocities on the internet, the police branded her a Naxal informer and picked her up for questioning. “They would put pressure on me to tell them what the Naxals were doing and where they were meeting,” says Sori. “When I said I did not know anything, they got angry and started abusing Linga, Swami Agnivesh and Arundhati Roy, saying they were all part of a Naxal network in the city.”

Lingaram was arrested in September 2011 in the controversial Essar pay-off case. The Chhattisgarh Police alleged that Essar was paying money to the Maoists for “protection”. The police said Lingaram was a Maoist conduit, and was extorting money from Essar. “They tried to arrest me, too, but I refused to go with them,” says Sori. “I did not even know if those people were police officers, Naxalites or Linga’s personal enemies.” Terrified, Sori returned to her village.

By this time, she and her family were in the Maoists’ hitlist and her father was shot in the leg. “The Naxals wanted me to appear before the jan adalat, alleging I was taking money in their name. Either the police or the Naxals would have killed me,” says Sori. So, she returned to Delhi, but was arrested and produced in a court in Saket. Although she asked the judge to send her to Tihar Jail, as she felt she would not be safe in Chhattisgarh, the judge reassured her and sent her to a jail in Raipur.

“I was not given any food or water. Ankit Garg [the Dantewada superintendent of police] said I had troubled the police, running from one spot to another. ‘Why did you go to Delhi? Are you not supporting the Naxals? Everything happens from this table. The government, courts, all run from here. We got you back ultimately,’ he said. He asked about Arundhati Roy, Nandini Sundar, Colin Gonsalves, Medha Patkar, Himanshu Kumar, Prashant Bhushan, Kavita Srivastava and said they were all part of the Naxal network. He wrote it all in a letter and asked me to sign it and promised to let me go if I became a government witness,” says Sori.

She refused. “I was then given electric shocks. My clothes were ripped apart and stones were pushed inside my private parts. They said I was a prostitute for the Naxals and others who supported me in Delhi. ‘You should die of shame,’ they said. Their target was Lingaram and they wanted me to testify against him,” recollects Sori.

The next day, she could not use the bathroom and fell inside it. It became an excuse for the police to not take her to the court. Although she was taken briefly to a hospital in Raipur, the police soon yanked off the glucose drip and brought her back to the jail.

Sori went on a hunger strike and was shifted to a Jagdalpur jail where she met several Adivasi girls, who were under detention. “These girls were tortured, sticks were inserted into their private parts and were raped inside the jail. It had become the norm,” says Sori. She says she was most inspired by a young Adivasi girl. “Her nipples had been cut off most brutally. She was uneducated, yet wanted to live and fight. Her plight changed my mind and I said I wanted to fight.”

Sori was later taken to a hospital in Kolkata where the stones were removed. “My labour pain while giving birth to my three children was not as bad as when those stones were taken out,” she says. Her mother, unable to withstand the shock of seeing Sori in jail, died in 2012.

Sori’s travails did not end there. Back in a jail in Raipur, she was again a victim of police brutality. “They stripped me on several occasions. Not just the men, but women guards, too, would do it, telling me to sit with my legs spread apart. I was not given the right medicines. Doctors were called to prove that I was mentally unstable, but they said I was only traumatised and angry.”

Lawyer and Aam Aadmi Party leader Prashant Bhushan says grave human rights violation has happened in the cases of Sori and Lingaram. “If a person is victimised and you raise your voice, you are faced with torture and false cases. No action is taken against those police officers. Land is being taken away from people and given to big corporations. Villages are being burnt down. The accountability of the police has to be fixed, and not just in Chhattisgarh,” he says.

Writer and political activist Arundhati Roy says Sori’s fault is that she is an Adivasi and a teacher. “Linga is an Adivasi and a journalist. We have seen a lot of protests last year. After the Nirbhaya case in December 2012, we have seen fast-track courts coming up. But, for Sori, we had a special slow-track court. Adivasis have no speech, forget free speech,” says Roy. “The police push stones in her [Sori’s] private parts and get gallantry awards…. There are people in jail against whom a war is being waged. Soni and Linga are examples of a nation at war. The bail granted to Sori offers Adivasi women some hope.”

Sure enough, Sori wants to return to her school and her advice is that no woman should break after going through anything. “Don’t lose hope, keep moving forward. Garg said I should die of shame after what was done to me. Why should I be ashamed? I have not done anything wrong. He should be ashamed of the atrocities inflicted on people like me. I will bring everything out in the open. My struggles have not lessened. Now, I will fight for others,” she says.

But, the fear of death continues to haunt Sori. Futane, who was acquitted of all charges in the Gautam attack case, died last August, allegedly because of the torture he suffered in custody. “I want to live,” says Sori. “But, it seems the government wants to kill me.”

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Deaths double inside Tihar Prison, poor healthcare to blame?


Dubious distinction:35 prisoners died inside Tihar in 2013.- Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Dubious distinction:35 prisoners died inside Tihar in 2013.- Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

The number of deaths inside Tihar Central Jail here doubled last year compared to 2012.

Thirty-five people died in judicial custody in 2013 compared to 18 in 2012 and jail insiders attribute it primarily to lack of medical facilities and improper surveillance inside.

Of the 35 inmates who died in 2013, two committed suicide — including Ram Singh, an accused in the December 16 gang-rape — and two were murdered. The remaining 31 died of different medical conditions.

The authorities claim that most deaths inside the prisons were natural and medical evacuations are prompt.

“There is a 150-bed hospital in central jail no. 3 and dispensaries attached to other jails,” said a jail official.

Medical facilities inside the jail were revamped in 1996 after Justice Leila Seth reviewed the facilities in the wake of the controversial death of Kerala-based business tycoon and biscuit king Rajan Pillai inside Tihar.

Justice Seth had suggested the need for a thorough overhauling of arrangements in prisons to provide medical care and facilities. She found that most prisons were not equipped with an effective communication system for informing the authorities concerned in case of a medical emergency.

Besides establishing such a system, inmates must be thoroughly briefed about how to seek medical aid in case of emergency, she had suggested.

Insiders, however, say that despite implementing all the required systems, it still takes 45 minutes to an hour to provide care to patients in case of an emergency, especially during night hours.

Last year, two murders were reported inside the jail. In one incident, an inmate named Mohammad Javed was brutally murdered during roll call. A resident of Seelampur, he is lodged in jail in connection with a murder case.

The jail authorities were tight-lipped over the matter and said the magisterial inquiry is still pending.

In 2012, 16 inmates died inside the jail due to undisclosed reasons and two prisoners committed suicide.

Magisterial inquiries were conducted into every death, but the reports in the suicide and murders cases are yet to come.

As many as 14,000 prisoners are lodged in the nine jails of Tihar, of whom 600 are women.

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Delhi – Woman stabbed to death by stalker in Karol Bagh #Vaw

PTI | Feb 15, 2014, 05.58 PM IST

NEW DELHI: A 26-year-old woman was stabbed to death in central Delhi‘s Karol Bagh by a stalker on Friday evening, police said on Saturday.

The victim has been identified as Simran, an executive working in an MNC in Noida. She got married two years back.

Last evening, around 6.15pm, Simran boarded a metro from Noida to visit her aunt’s place. Simran’s cousin had given birth to a baby and he had told her aunt about her coming to give a surprise.

At 7.30pm, she de-boarded at Karol Bagh metro station. When she was near her aunt’s house, the suspect who was following her, accosted her. He stabbed her once in the arm and then in the chest, said police.

A CCTV installed in the street shows a scooter first coming into the frame and then taking a u turn. Then Simran passing and a suspect following her. The actual stalking takes place out of the camera’s frame but people running to save her after she is stabbed is recorded in the CCTV.

Police have launched a manhunt to nab the accused. However, no breakthrough has been achieved in the case.

“It is an unfortunate incident. We have registered a case and taken up investigation. We are sure of working out the case soon,” said Delhi police commissioner BS Bassi.

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Sunanda Pushkar: ‘unnatural, sudden death’, AIIMS doctors say

Sunanda Tharoor takes on Narendra Modi, also defends PDA with Shashi Tharoor

TNN | Jan 18, 2014, 02.59 PM IST

NEW DELHI: Sunanda Pushkar, who died on Friday night, had “injury marks” on her body and it is a “case of unnatural, sudden death”, one of the doctors who conducted the autopsy said.

“On postmortem examination we can say that it is a case of unnatural sudden death. There were certain injury marks on the body but we can’t divulge details at this point,” said Sudhir Kumar Gupta, head of forensic sciences department at AIIMS.

“We will conclude our report and opinion in a couple of days,” Gupta added.

A three-member team of senior doctors at AIIMS conducted postmortem on the body of Sunanda Pushkar even as police continued to probe various angles including suicide in the case.

Sudhir Gupta had informed earlier that the postmortem was videographed to ensure transparency in the procedure.
Sunanda’s cremation to take place this evening

The last rites of Sunanda Pushkar, wife of Union minister Shashi Tharoor, are to be conducted at the Lodhi Road crematorium on Saturday evening.

Sources said some of Pushkar‘s family members, including her brother and son Shiv Menon, visited AIIMS where postmortem on her body is being conducted by a three-member panel of senior doctors.

Besides police investigation, an inquiry by a sub divisional magistrate has been initiated into Pushkar’s death. Any death within seven years of marriage is legally required to be investigated by the sub-divisional magistrate.

Pushkar and Tharoor were at the centre of a raging controversy earlier this week when reports emerged that she was upset over text and tweet messages exchanged between her husband and Mehr Tarar, a Pakistani journalist. Sunanda Pushkar was found dead in her suite at the Leela Palace hotel on


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#India – Women groups Salute fighting spirit of Itishree Pradhan, Odisha Teacher in pursuit of Justice #Vaw

Odisha: Rayagada lady teacher dies in hospital, CM announces Rs 10 lakh compensation
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) deeply mourns the tragic death of Itishree Pradhan aged 27 who was a Sikhyak Sahayak at the Tikiri Upper Primary School of Kashipur Block in Raygada district of Odisha.
Her succumbing to 90% burn injuries and ultimate death is direct outcome of her taking up the offence of sexual harassment at the hands of Netrananda Dandasena, the School Inspector (SI).
WSS offers its deepest condolence to her family, friends and colleagues.
WSS salutes Itishree Pradhan for her courage and persistence to bring to book the sexual harassment of the SI. Her courage is most inspiring even as she lost her life fighting against this grave injustice of sexual harassment at the workplace that women from all walks of life struggle in this patriarchal society.
Let us have a look at the facts. Itishree Pradhan had registered a police complaint on July 18.
The district administration had conducted an enquiry that had held the SI guilty of his crime. After that, the SI absconded.  The complainant had  met the District Collector, the State Women’s Commission  and the Director General of Police (DGP) in her pursuit of justice against the School Inspector.
 On October 27, a person entered her hostel premises and asked her to withdraw the complaint. When she refused, he doused her with kerosene and set her on fire. As her condition became critical in the district hospital, the administration sent her to Visakhapatnam.
In the event of her death, the Chief Minister announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs 10 lakhs, a Crime Branch probe into the incident and the accused was arrested too.  Alas, this is neither a real compensation for her life nor the means to cleanse the burden of guilt the Chief Minister, district administration, police and State Women’s Commission can get away with.
It is our view that had action been taken promptly as per the law, this young and courageous teacher would have not have had to lose her life. Instead of fulfilling his role and responsibility as a School Inspector, men like him abuse their power by wreaking violence in their official capacity and then allowed to remain unpunished.  The vulnerability of the complainant had increased while the accusedI had been roaming scot free despite the police and the administration at every level from district to State had been approached for support. It is indeed a rare act of courage the persistent manner in which Itishree Pradhan has pursued her case.
However, by remaining silent and inactive after he went absconding, the local and state authorities allowed the offender to burn the complainant to death. De facto thus, they become accomplices in the crime.  A vigilant state acting in the interest of women and ensuring their protection is a reality that is denied to working women across the country. The all pervasiveness of patriarchal violence calls upon every individual and collective effort, from the government to unions and   professional associations, to act promptly in the event of a complaint made in the workplace, especially when the accused is a senior person and in a relatively more powerful position.
·         We believe that it is upon us women to be organized in our struggle against violence so that no woman has to fight a lone battle.
·         We call upon all teachers and working women to organize more systematically to offer support to each other knowing the patriarchal biases and slowness with which the elected representatives, the government and its institutions respond to this growing menace, if at all.
·         We cherish the fighting spirit of Itishree Pradhan and countless women like her in the pursuit of justice.
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression
November 2, 2013


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