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Mumbai – Harmony Rocks – GANDHI PEACE FESTIVAL 2015 #mustshare

Gandhi Peace Festival on 2nd October from 6.00 pm to 10. pm at Bandra Amphitheatre near Taj Landsend.
Please mobilize, volunteer and contribute financially.

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Concept: The yearning of Peace within our lives or at the borders is an eternal quest. This quest is characterized by obstacles at every juncture. As towering as those obstacles are, the surge of Peace, though slow, is steady and persistent, and eventually dissolves those obstacles on the way. And by that definition is also, its immeasurable strength. It moves to address all issues with objectivity and without favor.

Truth and Non-Violence as M K Gandhi described it is ‘as old as the hills’. And as an embodiment of the spirit, Gandhi showed the world immersed in a cauldron of warring sides, how to deal in a civil manner and find solutions keeping in mind the contention of both sides and arriving at a solution with win-win for both sides, without violence or destruction.

This unique way of arriving at solutions, was something the world sat up and took notice. And ever since the path of military solution (some might say, a contradiction in terms!) as was advocated by the sheer culture of violence that mankind has witnessed was referred to as the only choice, this new alternative form of REAL solution came to be.

The Peace constituency influenced by Gandhi’s teachings have emerged time and again as more resolute and a long lasting alternative solution, compared to the military solution (as history is our witness), only starts more conflicts instead of ending one. It is this ‘old as the hills’ spirit of peaceful negotiation of Gandhi, that reawakens in people from time to time in different parts of the world, as a way to find a solution to the problems of this troubled world.

It is in this context, we on his birthday present a tribute and a pledge to continuing this priceless legacy of Gandhi.

Event Details:This is a LIVE MUSIC event featuring artists from across the country. The central theme of the show will be Gandhi’s values, expressed by artists throughout the show. The artists performing have been chosen on the basis of their similarities with the values of Gandhi.. The show will start at 6 pm and end at 10 pm. It will be held at the Bandra Amphitheatre, next to the Taj Land’s End on Friday, 2nd Oct 2015. The audience will mainly consist of the youth. The genres of the artists, will be a mix of Folk, Pop, Rap and Rock.

Event: Gandhi Peace Festival 2015

Date: Friday 2nd Oct 2015 (Gandhi Jayanti)

Time: 6 pm to 10 pm

Place: Bandra Amphitheatre, Next to Taj Land’s End, Bandra

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Mumbra’s Muslim Girls Kick Out Stereotypes #Womenrights

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Kamayani Bali Mahabal 

 

They started off as a secret sports club. What brought them together was their shared love for football, a game they couldn’t dream of playing owing to their conservative family backgrounds. After all, how could young girls, who weren’t even allowed to step out of their homes without the ‘hijab’ (veil), run around kicking ball in an open field? But they showed exceptional courage when they defied parental dictate to pursue their passion for the sport.

Three years back, Sabah Khan, Salma Ansari, Sabah Parveen, Aquila, Saadia and 40 other girls got out of their homes in Mumbra, a small town 40 kilometres from Mumbai, Maharashtra, to play football. Today, this group that calls itself Parcham, inspired by Asrar ul Haq Majaz, an Urdu poet who saw women as crusaders with an inherent quality to revolt against exploitation and injustice, has truly lived up to its name. They have not only broken gender stereotypes by regularly playing football but have been responsible for bridging the gap between the Muslims and the Hindus in their communally volatile city.

Sabah Khan, the captain of this unique all–girls team, recalls how their journey of change began, “Around 2011, a bunch of us were approached by the NGO Magic Bus that uses sports as a means to help poor children lead a better life. They wanted to teach football to both girls and boys but we told them that in Mumbra Muslim girls cannot take up a sport let alone play alongside boys. That’s when they decided to exclusively train girls who were keen to try out something they had only dreamt of.”

The target was to put together a group of 40 girls but that was easier said than done. “Most of us hail from families that struggle to make ends meet. We can never really spare time for fun and games. We study, chip in at home or work. That’s why we were unable to personally go to motivate girls to join in.

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At the outset, the girls decided to call their team ‘Parcham’. Aquila, one of the founding members, narrates the story behind it, “We decided to call ourselves ‘Parcham’ as we are inspired by Asrar ul Haq Majaz, better known as Majaz Lakhnawi. Through his romantic, revolutionary verses, Majaz urged women to look at the hijab not as a barrier but as a flag or banner. He has written: ‘Tere maathe pe ye aanchal bauhat hi khoob hai, lekin tu is aanchal se ik parcham bana leti to achcha tha… (The veil covering your head and face is beautiful, but if you make a flag out of it, it would be better)’. We, too, have transformed something that many see as a sign of repression into a symbol of revolution.”

Through sports Parcham strives to build a just and equal society that is respectful of diversity and celebrates difference and interdependence. Their mission is to empower marginalised communities to access their fundamental rights, creating spaces for dialogue among diverse sections of society. “And our one great achievement has been getting official recognition for our struggle to get a playground for the girls,” says Aquila.

When they met with MLA Jeetendra Awhad he was amazed to see this strength of association. He told them that it was perhaps for the first time that 900 girls had got together to ask for a playground to be reserved for them. He also assured them of their very own space to play.

Saadia’s brothers still have no inkling. “After I won a trophy at a tournament I told them that it was a friend’s. There are many like me who cannot yet be completely honest with all their family members. We don’t want to make them unhappy nor do we want our freedom curtailed. This way we all get what we want,” she says.

Adds Salma Ansari, 22, who has supportive parents and is pursuing an MBA degree, “What we need is for the society to accept that girls have an equal right to public spaces; that they too deserve to experience the joy of being able to run free, kick a ball, hold a bat, sprint, jump or swim. Nowadays, we are trying to break gender stereotypes by training a group of 50 young boys and girls together.” The religious divide, too, has been overcome with the inclusion of girls from other faiths.

Simran, 15, the youngest member of the team, is a Sikh. “We have so many misconceptions about other religions. But perceptions and attitudes change when we meet and interact. Being in Parcham, I am learning about gender, equality, justice… Watch out, I am a feminist in the making!” she says emphatically.

What’s next on Parcham’s agenda? “We want to set up a resource centre for our girls, complete with books, newspapers, computers and a wi–fi network. Every Saturday, we plan to hold meetings where we can discuss the latest news and concepts like secularism and citizenship to enable everyone to think and form opinions on subjects they are passionate about. The centre will be a safe haven for Muslims and non–Muslims to build friendships,” says Sabah.

In the home town of Ishrat Jahan, the young woman who was tragically shot in an encounter in Ahmedabad in 2004, these girls are gearing up to drive out prejudice and hatred. (WFS)

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Mumbai SOS : Help Siddhant, with autism, find his way home ‎ #Search4Siddhant‬

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SOS – Help Siddhant find his way home!

Siddhanth Sudhakar, a young adult with autism, is missing since 7 pm on 28 Oct ’14 from  Kandivali, Mumbai

He has passed his 12th but has poor social skills. He speaks and understands English, Tamil and a bit of Hindi but has communication difficulties due to his disability. Siddhant is 19 years, 5 feet 4 inches and dark complexioned.

In the attached photo, he is flanked by his parents. He was wearing the same Tshirt and another red one underneath, the sleeves of which peeped out from under, with black track pants, when he went missing.

A Missing complaint filed at Samata Nagar police stn no 177/14.

Please contact his mother Jaya <[email protected]>; 9022688310 or 28676724 or father Sudhakar 9819340656

For latest information / status go to www.bit.ly/Siddhant
Please print and circulate this widely.

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AND HAVE ALOOK WHAT AUTHORITIES ARE DOING ?

 

Ministry of Women & Child Development website National Tracking System for Missing and Vulnerable Children has STILL not put up info on missing Mumbai teen with autism – Siddhant Sudhakar. All details submitted more than 2 days back!

Meanwhile Mumbai Police’s Missing People section is frozen in time since 16-10-2014.

 

Mumbai Indians / mumbaikars – one of your own – a pioneer with autism is missing for 3 days now.

Help find him ASAP – get the word out on radio, Marathi & Hindi media, distribute flyers, contact NGO shelters – do what it takes for Siddhant’s sake!

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Shakti Mills Gang Rape – That Hashtag Was My Colleague #Vaw

Doubting doctors, corrupt cops, jeering lawyers and, of course, mercenary reporters. A middle class woman gang raped in the heart of Mumbai makes for a perfect storm of anxiety and righteousness. But what if the rape survivor is also a journalist? A year after the Shakti Mills gang rape, a colleague of the survivor writes of their reluctant ringside view of the circus of such cases, and the stark lesson that the system will not spare you even if you’re part of the system.

Are You Ready by Shazeen Samad via CC BY 2.0Are You Ready by Shazeen Samad via CC BY 2.0

That hashtag was my colleague.

As #MumbaiGangrape started trending on Twitter on the night of Thursday, August 22, 2013, we were living out a nightmare that we never thought would be ours.

Around 7.30pm, Sandhya*, an editor at the publication we work at, asks me to speak to our two photo interns, Deepak and Megha, who are shooting a photo-essay on the city’s abandoned spaces. They’ve already shot a vacant bungalow and deserted cars, and their next subject is the Shakti Mills compound by the Mahalaxmi Railway Station. The interns have just rung up Neha, their immediate senior. Sandhya doesn’t have any details, but can make out that one of them is hurt, because Neha is rushing with them to a hospital.

A little anxious, I try both their numbers but cannot get through. If she’s fractured a bone, it’s going to be so frustrating, I think. I ring Deepak the intern again. This time he answers, but before I can ask if everything is alright, he tells me he can’t speak and hands the phone to Abha, another colleague who ran into them on the way to the hospital. Abha cannot speak either, because she is sobbing.

My heart slows down. I just want to hear one of them saying Megha has broken a bone, but there’s only howling at the other end. I hear myself repeat, with a calm I’m not feeling: Stop crying and tell me what happened. We’ll deal with it. Is she ok?

No, she says eventually. Megha was raped.

* * *

Outside the railway station, the two young photojournalists are waiting at a signal. Why is she crying, a traffic policeman asks Deepak. She fell down while coming up the steps and hurt her knee, he answers.They take a taxi to Jaslok Hospital and pick up Neha on the way.Deepak sits in the front seat with his head in his hands. In the back, Megha is cowering in a corner, crying. On the way to the hospital, she narrates to Neha what will be forever etched in our memory.

They had wound up the assignment, and were leaving the mill compound. Near a busy exit that leads to Famous Studios, they were confronted by five men, two of whom had shown them the way in. They said they were railway officials and that the interns were trespassing on government property. They began to get aggressive, accusing Deepak of being the culprit in a recent murder at the mill, and told the two they’d have to meet their boss further inside the compound, who’d settle the matter.

Megha and Deepak protested their innocence, tried to reason with the men, and eventually, sensing that the situation was turning dangerous, offered them their expensive camera kits and phones to ransom their way out. One of the men pulled a broken beer bottle out of his pocket. They asked the interns to remove their belts, and used them to tie up Deepak. They forced him to the ground, and one of the men stood watch over him.

The other four pushed Megha further inside the mill, to a bare complex which looked in a state of either interrupted construction or partial dismantling: a wrecked ceiling and a rubble floor bridged by chipped pillars. Here, the five took turns to assault her.

Afterwards, they took photos of her with their phones, threatening to come after her if she told the police. They led her out to Deepak, untied him, and escorted them to the train, repeating their warnings. Then, they left in the opposite direction, towards Lower Parel station.

* * *

At work, after the conversation, I avoid eye contact with alarmed colleagues who’ve heard me on the phone. I say something vague about the interns being okay, that everyone should continue working and that I’ll be back in a couple of hours. No one believes me, but no one attempts to ask me any questions. Sandhya, the editor, and I are out of office within seconds. I can barely put one foot in front of the other, but she has the presence of mind to suggest that we draw some money before going to the hospital. Inside an ATM, I am shaking so much that I have trouble withdrawing my card. The taxi ride cannot have taken more than 20 minutes but it feels like the longest one of my life. My hair is standing on end. It’s August in Bombay but my teeth are chattering with cold.

In a vacant way, I wonder if Megha and Deepak will look like the assault victims from Law & Order, with broken bones, bloody faces, and black eyes. I don’t know then that this is a gang-rape but I know it is all going to blow up. I want to shriek, but I am unable to.

How are we ever going recover from something like this? You can cope, other things may occupy your brain, but can you ever go back to zero? I hear nothing except static in my head. Later, I realize that I have been mumbling over and over again: This changes everything.

Inside the casualty ward I look for our colleagues, and wonder why everyone looks so unperturbed. I push aside the bedside curtains of two other patients before I find Megha – looking more fragile than ever – lying on a bed, an intravenous drip threaded to her arm. Although she is quietly crying, I am relieved just to see her. I can’t find one useful thing to say to her, so I kneel beside the bed, grip her free hand, and pat her hair. The silence in our cubicle is filled up by a loud monologue from the next one: the patient’s wife is complaining about her husband’s prolonged hernia problem.

The last time I was in a hospital was to see a friend who had just delivered a baby. Now, I am trying to sift through the confusion and remember what we are supposed to do next. What if the hospital refuses to treat her? Do we have to inform the police or is that the hospital’s responsibility? Can we inform them without consulting her family? After what seems like hours, a woman doctor flicks aside the curtain and asks me who I am. (Weeks later, Megha will tell me that this doctor asked her whether she’d given the five men her consent, while also conducting a conversation on the phone.) A nurse comes in with a medico-legal case form, and gently begins asking us clueless questions and wants us to tell her what has happened. Megha asks her several times to be cleaned up; the nurse tells her to calm down but is stuttering with nervousness herself.

Megha’s terrified mother arrives, and I desperately compose and dispose of ways to tell her what’s happened. There’s no privacy inside the ward so I clutch her hand, and along with Faiza, another senior colleague, lead her out into the hospital compound. (Instinctively, I scan the area for cameras and busybodies: a nervous tic that will stand our team in good stead over the next few days.) Her mother only wants someone to say the words, and deny what she thinks she knows. I hold her arms to steady her – or to steady myself – and say, You need to be brave. Then I tell her.

* * *

 

Inside a doctor’s office, Deepak sits immobile on a cushioned bench, his eyes unfocused. Except for large red welts on his arms where the men had bound him, he looks unhurt physically. My colleagues Neha, Sandhya, and Abha surround him, showing their concern by asking if he’s hungry, if he needs water or coffee. The cops will be here soon and Manish, the head of the publication, asks Deepak to recount the sequence of events. It is not even 9pm, but he’s already been over this many, many times in the hospital.

Through the glass doors that will become our stakeout point for the next couple of hours, we watch a posse of policemen walk in. They’ve clearly been informed about the nature of the assault, but there isn’t a single woman officer in the team. Everyone is ordered out of the doctor’s office, and Deepak is soon spirited off to the scene of the crime to help the cops gather evidence.

Megha’s initial medical examination is completed, and I’m back inside the private ward, where our lives are getting rearranged. Her statement is being recorded and mercifully, a woman officer is now present, even if two male officers are the ones taking notes and asking questions in soft tones. Behind me and within earshot of everyone, another officer with a kind face engages in intermittent chatter with the nurses. Ye bahut bura hua par wahan jaane ki zarurat kya thi? Wo bhi akele? Ladkiyon ko lagta hai wo kahin bhi ja sakti hain? (What happened was awful, but why did they have to go there? And all alone? Do girls think they can go just about anywhere?)

I hold my breath for about half an hour, before I hiss at them to shut up.

Around this time, I begin to get calls and texts from identified and unidentified numbers. Friends who had heard about the rape want to ensure that I wasn’t the one hurt. Former colleagues offer help liaising with the police. Some journalists I’ve met in the field ask if I’ll speak to their channel/ publication’s crime reporters. That’s when we know that DNA’s website has an initial report of the incident, and even though they’ve left out the name of our publication, they’ve described it in such specific terms that it’s narrowed down the pool to one.

I receive a one-line SMS from a friend, advising me to delete Deepak and Megha’s pictures from their social media profiles. In the most absurd moment of that night, I have to interrupt Megha’s statement to get her Facebook and Twitter passwords. It annoys the officers, but I can already see tomorrow’s reports. A survivor of a sexual crime is protected under Section 228A of the Indian Penal Code, which makes any disclosure of her identity a criminal offence. But who knows what editor might decide to run her picture with a pixelated face or a black band over her eyes?

Megha’s statement has finally been written. It has been read back to her. Her clothes have been gathered and sealed as evidence. I walk out into the waiting area at midnight, where other colleagues are also deflecting calls, while keeping count of the VIPs who are beginning to visit Megha. Someone pats my head, and for the first time that night I truly unravel. Don’t cry here, says someone else, the cameras can see you through the glass doors. In the darkness, the flash of nearly three dozen video and still cameras twinkle like fairy lights.

It is 4am by the time I am back in my flat. I take everything I am wearing – clothes, flip-flops, jewellery – and throw it all into the dustbin. I take off clean utensils from the rack and wash them all over again. Then, afraid to sleep, I sit in a catatonic state on the floor until morning – when I can call my family, who live in another city, and confirm that it wasn’t me.

* * *

 

Around the same time, the police take Deepak from the crime scene, which is teeming with cameras, to the NM Joshi police station. It isn’t much better outside the station, but at least there’s an inside, and there’s an exit at the back that journalists haven’t discovered yet. Deepak is going through stacks of photo albums of history-sheeters from the Dhobi Talao, Lower Parel, and Mahalaxmi slum settlement areas.

Early morning on Friday August 23, Deepak is back at the crime scene with the officers, who now cordon off the area to keep journalists from trampling all over potential evidence. Around 9am, Deepak exits the mill with Akhil, our colleague from another department, to wait for the cops at the police van parked in the lane. This is the first time they’ve ever interacted. He asks Akhil for a cigarette and the two light up. Within moments, two men with raised cameras are loping in their direction, followed by a swarm of 30 others. There’s barely time to leap into the van before the photographers descend, stuffing their lenses through the vehicle’s window and door grills. Deepak, sitting on a raised bench, buries his head in his hands. Under different circumstances, he’d probably have been outside the van with his peers, who are now taking low-angle shots of him. Akhil is powerless to stop them. Finally, he puts a towel over Deepak’s head, as they do when accused criminals are led out of a courtroom. For the next 10 minutes, they can only hear the camera shutters going off. One photographer yells to a colleague, Woh dekh, cigarette le, cigarette le! (Look at that! Take a picture of the cigarette).

Meanwhile, the rest of us come in to work in a haze of incomprehension. On my desk, a cup of coffee from last evening sits next to an uncapped pen – as if I’d left to take a stroll around the office; as if the last 14 hours hadn’t happened. We gather around the TV, waiting for the press conference that the police commissioner is due to address. There are grave faces all around; occasionally, someone will break down. But those of us who were at the hospital are too exhausted to cry. We hear that an India TV reporter reached the security gates at the office, but was thrown out when our co-worker recognized him. Every few minutes, someone’s phone buzzes with a call, or a text message appended with a sheepish, “When is a good time to call?” Never, I say to myself. But we can’t afford to miss a call from the cops, so everyone installs the TrueCaller app on their phones.

Neha, the photographer, is fending off calls in her gentle but firm way from a senior editor at DNA, whom she knows from before. Now he calls her to say that he couldn’t sleep all night because he has a daughter the same age as our hurt colleagues. Then, he casually attempts to get some details about them. Two days from now, the pretence will drop: his probing will take on a slightly threatening edge when he hints at his proximity to a local right-wing MLA, insinuates that Neha was responsible for endangering the interns’ safety, and finally, ominously regrets over SMS that, “Sumtimes pals cause more damage unwittingly”. “Friends” and former colleagues in different news organizations will subject all of us to similar tactics.

There’s a spot of comfort by noon – Deepak has identified the first suspect out of a line-up, and is looking a little chipper. But by late afternoon, the first of what we’ve been fearing hits us. Deepak’s uncle and aunt are calling him frantically. Lemon News has just flashed his face.

 * * *

 

Saturday, I wake up to an email from a friend and former colleague, who sends us love and strength. I write back: “When there are no more convicts to be rounded up, no more hospital formalities, the bruises go away, the papers begin talking about other things, and there’s nothing left to do with our hands, we’ll only have ourselves to be with. What will we do then?” I should have opened the papers before sending that email. When I eventually do, I know I won’t have to worry about having nothing to do for a long time.

I can barely believe what the Times of India has done. Their coverage of the incident includes medical details – the extent of injuries to Megha’s private parts – attributed to a “hospital source”. Their reporters have turned up at her building and asked questions of her unaware neighbors and the building’s guards. They’ve even quoted a religious leader from her community.

I go to work. At the office, one colleague is making pre-emptive calls to all news channels on his radar, requesting them to cover the incident with caution. Another is frantically trying to reach the editors ofAfternoon Despatch & Courier and Free Press Journal, tabloids that identified our publication in their reports. The latter even named our Editor. In print, the damage is done; the least that they can do is to remove the details from their website.

In the afternoon, we congregate at Faiza’s home, where we learn that MiD-Day’s 15-page coverage of the assault includes an easily recognizable, full-body picture of Deepak from the mill the day before. It accompanies a tacky article and a caption pointing out the irony of the “message of peace” on his T-shirt. It’s clear that MiD-Day’s Editor hasn’t paused to think that the pictures might endanger our colleague or reveal his identity. People on Twitter are pointing this out. The Editor’s defence: “We have blurred his face completely. The message on the tee is telling. Also, friends know, no? They were all there at Jaslok?” This wasn’t even true. His family and friends wouldn’t find out until much later. It takes several emails from journalists in other publications before the pictures are pulled off MiD-Day’s website.

At the hospital, the security staff is now alert, and there is a secret entry and three checks on the way to Megha’s room on the 16th floor. Despite that, the head nurse catches four people trying to go up. They tell the nurse that they are “PhD medical students”. Hospital security forces them to open their bags: all four are carrying cameras.

Soon afterward, a DNA reporter slips inside the hospital on the pretext of using the restroom. The ground-floor women’s restroom is next to the staircase: The elevators are all heavily guarded, but the staircase is unsupervised. The reporter climbs 16 flights and reaches the intern’s room. Eight policepersons are stationed at the door. She tells them she is Megha’s friend. When they probe further, she says, “I am her cousin and we are from the same field. I just want to know how she is doing.” The cops pass her on to hospital security. The CCTV cameras have recorded her and another journalist lurking around the hospital premises all day, talking to other patients. They had finally snuck in pretending to accompany another patient’s family.

Waiting for permission to meet Megha, Faiza and I take a walk down Marine Drive. She tells me aboutthe 2005 Marine Drive case, when a teenager was raped by a police constable. Faiza, who has lived all her life in Mumbai, speaks about the shock that everyone around her had then felt, treating it like an assault on the city, and not on the body and psyche of one person. Now, we both confront the reality that people around us are discussing our case with the same pity and horror.

As we are talking, an SMS from an editor at a national news magazine lands in Faiza’s phone: is Megha in a position to write a “first-person account” for her magazine? It’s only been 46 hours since the incident, and this is her second request. This time, Faiza asks her if she is serious. The editor launches into a simultaneously confused, berating and pious explanation about how her “organization’s resources would be rolled out” for our hurt colleague. We decide there’s no point reasoning with her, but it doesn’t take away the question – what do they want to know?

* * *

The cops are working non-stop. There’s too much media attention, and too much heat to nab the assaulters – not just because the assault was brutal, or because it took place in daylight in India’s most cosmopolitan city, but because the survivor was an upper-class young woman. By Sunday, August 25, four of the five accused have been arrested.

Mumbai Mirror has printed front-page pictures of the accused, dealing a blow to the case on two counts. First, it violates the first principle of criminal procedure, that a suspect is innocent until proven guilty, and interferes with due process of the law. Second, the Press Council of India’s Norms of Journalistic Conduct (2010) suggest that suspects’ “pictures should not be shown” to avoid a bias during identification parades, and thereby compromise the prosecution of the accused.

The same day, MiD-Day carries a report with pictures of the main accused and three of his family members. The accompanying report, ironically, blames the cops for callousness. The Press Council also advises against identifying the family members of convicts to “eschew suggestive guilt.” Mumbai Mirror and The Indian Express are the only newspapers that refrain from naming the juvenile accused in the case. Express goes a step further and withholds the name of his grandmother, who has been quoted and pictured everywhere else, sometimes with the address of the shanty in which she lives.

By Monday, August 26, all five of the accused are in custody. In the following days, the calls and text messages begin to abate. Newspapers that have already violated Megha’s privacy print an appeal from her family to respect her privacy. She leaves the hospital. Every evening after work, we alternate between visiting her and Deepak. We distract ourselves with a little bit of fake cheer, with talk of future assignments, with an occasional game of Taboo. Now that there is time to breathe, our grief slowly starts becoming real.

I am taking the train to work on Monday, September 2, when a colleague sends me Times of Indiacolumnist Bachi Karkaria’s defence of the paper’s“saturation coverage” of the assault. The editorial, headlined “Don’t make her lose her face”, says the survivor must reveal her identity “and help cast aside the veil of misplaced disgrace.” Karkaria concedes that TOI might have revealed her identity to “an inner circle” but says that, “The purdah of anonymity is the accessory of disgrace.” It’s also the law. I am less upset with Karkaria’s go-girl posturing than with the realization that she is only articulating the same brief that’s been given to TOI reporters, and those from other publications. In print and television newsrooms, journalists are required not just to report personal tragedies, but to hunt for exclusives, and look for “human angles” by hounding relatives and friends of those affected. Crossing the line is not only encouraged, it is mandatory.

* * *

On Thursday, September 3, Neha and I are called in to the police station for questioning. The officers – almost always deferential, but chatty – tell us that earlier in the day, a 19-year-old girl had approached them, claiming that she had been assaulted by the same men in the Shakti Mills compound, less than a month before Megha was assaulted. The details of both the cases are distressingly similar: the male companion of the young woman was tied and beaten up while the accused assaulted her. The young woman, who we are told worked as a telephone operator, now sits with a bowed head outside the questioning room, looking lost and even more vulnerable than our young colleagues, accompanied only by her mother and brother. There are no cameras surrounding her, no one is asking her to write first-person accounts. We do not know it then, but her destiny is closely linked with that of Megha.

The following day, on Friday, September 4, both Megha and Deepak are called in for a Test Identification Parade (TIP), where they have to pick out the accused from a line-up of similar-looking men. They are both nervous, but putting on a brave face. The police make Megha wear a burqa to avoid the cameras outside, but inside the room where the suspects will be called in by turn, she is required to take it off. A tehsildar and two more personnel bear witness to the process.

Here is the routine of the identification parade that Megha is told to follow. There are separate line-ups of seven men, and the survivor has to pick the accused by touching him on the arm. She then has to go to a corner of the room, and announce loudly what the suspect did to her.

And this is what Megha does on September 4, in a room full of men that include her attackers, without any women officers present to aid her. She touches the men on the arm to identify them, and then says, Isne mera balatkaar kiya (He sexually assaulted me). She repeats this four times over.

In the following days, Neha, Deepak and I visit the police station several times over to testify, or help iron out small details. In the days prior, we’ve befriended a tiny cat that prefers to snooze in a nook on the tyre of a stationary police van, and a puppy that lives inside it. The officers tell us that the chargesheet will be filed soon; the trial will be in a fast-track court, just like the December 16 Delhi gang-rape. On Friday, September 13, as if on cue, the verdict for the Delhi case is the death penalty for the four surviving adult convicts. Six days after that, the 600-page chargesheet in our case is filed.

I learn about the chargesheet when Faiza calls: she has found out that the police is handing out the document to anyone from the media, without redacting Megha’s identity and personal details. Every neurotic precaution we have taken over the past weeks seems to turn to dust.

Still, there’s some relief. It’s only been a month since the incident, but Megha and Deepak are back at work, looking just like their cheery, bobblehead selves again. My struggles, and those of my colleagues, however, remain private. I cope with insomnia. When I do manage to get some sleep, I wake up every time with the feeling that someone is at my window. To counter the sleeplessness and to mute my thoughts, I try to tire myself out. I go for a run with my headphones plugged in, the way I have for a few months, but now I spend as much time looking over my shoulder as looking in front. I shut out all my friends. At work, my colleagues and I know that none of us will ever be whole again, but we pretend we are – for some part, we believe it too.

It is afternoon, three days later, when my phone lights up with a news alert. I am in the middle of an interview, so I am about to mute it but the hashtag catches my eye. It is a tweet by DNA, announcing that one of the accused, Siraj-ur-Rehman, has escaped from the Thane jail where he was in custody. Within seconds, NDTV sends out the same alert. Sitting in a coffee-shop several kilometers away from work, I blanch, apologise to the interviewee, and run out into the sun. I feel the terror of August 22 wash over me again. Frantic, I call colleagues to find out where Megha is, and beg them not to let her go home. Plans are made and unmade at work. Forty-five minutes later, we learn that there was a clerical error, and that the accused was in the jail the whole time. The media had not bothered to verify these details. My legs give way and I sit on the pavement and exhale.

* * *

The trial begins in the middle of October. I am at work when I receive court summons to appear on the morning of Tuesday the 15th, the same day as Megha’s mother and Neha. I am glad that things are moving, but I am on edge all of the previous day. The accused will be in the courtroom, and I have no idea how we will react. By the time I make my way up the creaky wooden steps of Esplanade Court, I have a terrible, sluggish sense of foreboding. The static in my brain has returned.

At the entrance to the courtroom, two officers in civvies try to temporarily board up a part of the door’s glass pane with an old file that will not hold. I have no idea what an in-camera trial looks like. Since the whole point is privacy I presume it will be inside the judge’s chamber with maybe four other people. I am shocked when I see the size of the room, the four defence lawyers, and the number of clerks and admin staff inside. A few reporters are lounging about too, trying to make eye contact and smiling our way until they’re asked to leave.

The accused are brought in: barefoot and cuffed, which prevents them from keeping their hands folded in supplication to the judge. All but one look petrified, and I try not to stare. I clutch the wooden bench I am sitting on and ask myself if I am feeling anger, pity, or frustration. But I can only make out a sense of bereavement. The shock of how this happened to us, or how it happened at all, refuses to wear off.

The intern’s mother will be questioned first and Neha and I will appear only after lunch. I spend the morning in the courtroom’s small covered balcony, squinting out at the cricket games going on in Azad Maidan through the tiny dust-lined windows.

When it is our turn, we go in aware that the defence lawyers will lob questions designed to embarrass and throw us, but we are not ready for the lies and mocking assertions: Your colleagues were having an affair and had gone to the mill for privacy. What sort of an editor allows a male and a female intern to go to an abandoned area? You only want to implicate innocent men for the loss of her honor. She was not assaulted.

We are not prepared for how little this life-altering event will mean to other people. The defence lawyers banter among themselves. One of the accused, now relaxed, yawns; the others look like it’s all happening to someone else. At one point, one of the lawyers badgers Neha about whether she noticed semen stains on Megha’s underclothes, hoping that because she is a woman, talk of semen will embarrass her. He stops when the judge objects, but he laughs with the other lawyers. Two of the accused also laugh.

* * *

Three days later, it is time for Megha’s deposition. We’re afraid she’ll not only have to face the accused again, she will be asked by the clerk to give out her personal details in their presence: her address, where she works, her phone number, her mother’s phone number, how she gets to work, what time she leaves from work.

The first defence lawyer stretches the questioning for well over two hours, pressing her for details about her assaulters’ eyes, ears, and nose. Another tries to insinuate that she’s signed a fake statement, because it was obvious that she doesn’t know Hindi or Marathi. There is a yelling contest between the defence and the prosecution. They ask her to identify a pornography clip that the accused had shown her during the assault, at which point, she begins to feel faint and has to be escorted to a hospital. While this is happening, a photographer takes a picture of her, but is detained before he can slip away.

The lawyers press her on more irrelevant details the following day. Do you know the difference between the colours grey and pink? Why didn’t you volunteer to give the court your appointment letter? Do you know how to use the Internet? When did you last have your period? For how long did each of the accused assault you? One lawyer wants to bring in a doctor to find out if it is possible for the assault to have lasted as long as she says it did. The intern screams into the mike to say that she wasn’t clocking the minutes. The defence guys laugh again.

Their closing statements are: We put it to you that you were not assaulted. The blood on your clothes is because you were menstruating. You’re doing all this to become a famous photojournalist.

* * *

Despite the nightmare in court, we’re all in a steadier place a few days later. Megha visits me on a Sunday evening, and over tea, we go over the aftermath of the attack.

I tell her that in the past, I have seen reporters at AIIMS, Delhi, confront sexual assault victims, women who were from impoverished backgrounds, women who didn’t know their rights, women who were so afraid that they caved in to the demands that they tell journalists their stories.

That evening we wonder why we expected the media to behave with propriety with us, to accord us the luxury of time and distance when they’ve proceeded heedlessly with so many others?

I also tell her that even though it wasn’t my body that withstood the assault, it’s taking me so long to shake off the instinct to cover myself up. Before she turns to leave, she shrugs and says, I am not going to change the way I dress, or the way I am. It isn’t much, and we both know that there will be no straight path away from what happened. We will go back and forth. We will circle around.

But for the first time in weeks, I smile.

*All names have been changed to protect privacy.

Editor’s Note: On April 4, 2014, three adult offenders found guilty in both the cases at Shakti Mills were sentenced to death under Section 376E of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, the first conviction of its kind since the amendment. This report was written and published with the permission of the survivor.

Source-  https://in.news.yahoo.com/that-hashtag-was-my-colleague-060844991.html

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Mumbai Model rape case: MSWC demands suspension of DIG Paraskar #Vaw

rapepublic1
Last Updated: Monday, August 04, 2014, 1

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: The Maharashtra State Women’s Commission (MSWC) chairman on Monday wrote to the Mumbai Police Commissioner demanding suspension of IPS officer Sunil Paraskar. The senior cop has been accused of rape by a Mumbai-based model.
The MSWC chairperson, Susieben Shah, in her letter wrote that the officer should be suspended pending the investigation of case against him.

“To ensure a free and fair investigation, either Mr Paraskar should step aside voluntarily while the investigation is ongoing; and if not, he should be suspended pending completion of the investigation,” the letter said.

The commission, in the letter, has also raised questions on Paraskar`s denial to undergo a lie detector test, as ordered by a Mumbai court recently. Susieben Shah, in her letter said that she has checked with a cardiologist in Mumbai and he was of the opinion that Paraskar does not face any health hazard for the test.

The IPS officer had told the court that he would not be able to take a lie-detector as he had recently undergone a bypass operation.

She has also demanded that the commission should be updated regularly on the status of the ongoing investigation.

Shah also said that the police should conduct a fair and appropriate investigation in the rape case.

The MSWC chairman also fails to understand the hesitation of the accused DIG Paraskar to go through a lie detection test when the model is ready to undergo the same test.

Read mir eher- http://zeenews.india.com/entertainment/and-more/model-rape-case-mswc-demands-suspension-of-dig-paraskar_159514.html

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Mumbai Girl sexually abused by father for two years catches him in sting op #Vaw

Girl abused by father for two years catches him in sting op
The mother believed her husband’s denials more than her daughter’s complaints. (Above) A grab from the tape

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A 15-year-old Kalyan girl had to resort to taping her step-father sexually abusing her in order to convince her mother and get the man arrested.

The abuse had been going on almost daily for close to two years, but the mother’s refusal to believe her forced the girl to finally put her camera phone in the room and tape her 58-yearold step-dad assaulting her.

The mother, who had once confronted the man but was satisfied with his denials, then approached the police and got the man arrested.

The Kolsewadi police on July 22 charged the man with aggravated sexual assault under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and arrested him.

The mother admitted to the police that she had ignored her daughter’s repeated complaints as she could not bring herself to believe that her husband of seven years could do such a thing. She said he has a daughter from a previous marriage who now lives in the United States. When she confronted him the first – and only – time he told her it was a figment of the girl’s imagination.

The mother said she did not believe her daughter even when she found a supposed suicide note detailing the abuse last year. The girl, who has just completed her SSC from a reputed school, said her step-dad, who runs a plastic manufacturing unit in Kalyan, would come home for lunch around the same time she returned from the school.

“For the last two years he had been abusing me when we were alone in the afternoons,” the girl told Mirror. “He would come home on the pretext of resting in the afternoon, turn on the TV and make me sit next to him on the sofa. He would then abuse me. Despite my repeated complaints to my mother, she would never believe me. That is when I decided to keep my cell phone with its camera on near the TV on the pretext of charging it and tape the act.”

She taped the abuse two days running and showed the decisive evidence to her mother, who immediately agreed to lodge a police complaint.

“Though we have been married for seven years, we have known each other for 14 years,” the mother, who works as a data entry operator in a small firm, told Mirror. “My daughter grew up in front of him. I never imagined he would harm my daughter.”

The shocked mother said she was now devastated for having never believed her daughter. “The first time my daughter mentioned the abuse, I confronted him,” she said. “He told me he treated my daughter like his own. He went to the extent of telling me that he was missing his daughter who was in the US.”

Somehow trusting him over his daughter, the mother kept ignoring further complaints. Sometime last year, the mother found a suicide note detailing the abuse again but stopped her daughter from doing anything. Even then, the mother dismissed it as the behaviour of an adolescent who did not like her step-father.

“He really took good care of us,” said the mother. “After my divorce from my first husband, I met this man and he was very kind to me. I never doubted him for a second especially after he swore on his own daughter and told me he loved my daughter as his own.”

Advocate RA Nair, who is representing the girl, said they will oppose bail for the man. “He has committed a heinous crime,” said Nair. “While the police will definitely oppose his bail, we want to be doubly sure he does not get out.” The local police, while confirming they will oppose bail for the man, lauded the girl for her courage. “She is a brave girl who decided to take matters in her own hands and used technology to her advantage,” said DCP Sanjay Jadhav.

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Press Release – Kandhamal girls rescued from Mumbai bondage

 

#NOMOre_2014" data-image-description="<header> <h1><a href="http://www.kractivist.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/1611991.jpg"><img class="aligncenter size-medium wp-image-20363" alt="Modi chalisa" src="http://www.kractivist.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/1611991-241x300.jpg" width="241" height="300" /></a></h1> </header> <div> <p align="right">11, 2014</p> <p align="justify">The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) strongly condemns the views expressed by Shri <a class="zem_slink" title="Narendra Modi" href="http://www.narendramodi.in/" target="_blank" rel="homepage">Narendra Modi</a> at <a class="zem_slink" title="Jamshedpur" href="http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=22.8,86.1833333333&amp;spn=0.1,0.1&amp;q=22.8,86.1833333333 (Jamshedpur)&amp;t=h" target="_blank" rel="geolocation">Jamshedpur</a> yesterday while campaigning for the <a class="zem_slink" title="Bharatiya Janata Party" href="http://www.bjp.org/" target="_blank" rel="homepage">BJP</a> there.</p> <p align="justify">It has been reported that the BJP’s Prime Ministerial aspirant, speaking at an election rally said that “the country does not want a deaf and dumb, handicapped government”. The observations by Mr. Modi reflect a hackneyed mindset that is biased against persons with disabilities. Implicit in Modi’s statement is that persons with disabilities are “handicapped” and unable to discharge any responsibility let alone hold public office.</p> <p align="justify">It has now become a habit for Modi to make such remarks. On an earlier occasion, he had called the former <a class="zem_slink" title="Chhattisgarh" href="http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=21.27,81.6&amp;spn=1.0,1.0&amp;q=21.27,81.6 (Chhattisgarh)&amp;t=h" target="_blank" rel="geolocation">Chhattisgarh</a> CM, Shri <a class="zem_slink" title="Ajit Jogi" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajit_Jogi" target="_blank" rel="wikipedia">Ajit Jogi</a>, a wheelchair user, a “cripple”.</p> <p align="justify">Patronising terms like “specially-abled”, contained in the BJP’s manifesto, cannot hide the parochial mindset of the BJP, which promotes a model of development that works to the disadvantage of the marginalised.</p> <p align="justify">It may be recalled that two years ago the BJP-backed candidate for the President’s office, Shri P.A. Sangma also expressed such insensitivity by stating that “<a class="zem_slink" title="India" href="http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=28.6133333333,77.2083333333&amp;spn=10.0,10.0&amp;q=28.6133333333,77.2083333333 (India)&amp;t=h" target="_blank" rel="geolocation">India</a> should have a President, who is not blind, dumb and deaf. India should have a thinking and a functional President.”</p> <p align="justify">We would like to remind the BJP leadership that there are any number of persons with disabilities, the blind and the deaf included, who have made sterling contributions in public life.</p> <p align="justify">Whatever the provocation, even at the height of a bitter <a class="zem_slink" title="Political campaign" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_campaign" target="_blank" rel="wikipedia">political campaign</a>, usage of such terms to deride political opponents is unpardonable. Such insensitivity and callous remarks made with the intent of deriding your opponents cannot be condoned and go unchallenged.</p> <p align="justify">The NPRD lodges its unequivocal protest against these insensitive remarks made by the BJP leader and calls for an unqualified apology from him. It urges upon the <a class="zem_slink" title="Election Commission of India" href="http://eci.nic.in" target="_blank" rel="homepage">Election Commission of India</a> to take suitable action against him for these uncalled for remarks, which are not just an insult but question the intelligence and capabilities of persons with disabilities.</p> <p><b>(Muralidharan)<br /> </b><b>Secretar<br /> </b>National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled<br /> 4, <a class="zem_slink" title="Ashoka" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashoka" target="_blank" rel="wikipedia">Ashoka</a> Road, <a class="zem_slink" title="New Delhi" href="http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=28.6138888889,77.2088888889&amp;spn=0.1,0.1&amp;q=28.6138888889,77.2088888889 (New%20Delhi)&amp;t=h" target="_blank" rel="geolocation">New Delhi</a> 110 001,<br /> Email: <a href="mailto:[email protected]" target="_blank">[email protected]</a>; Tel. 9868768543</p> </div> <div class="zemanta-pixie" style="margin-top: 10px; height: 15px;"><a class="zemanta-pixie-a" title="Enhanced by Zemanta" href="http://www.zemanta.com/?px"><img class="zemanta-pixie-img" style="border: none; float: right;" alt="Enhanced by Zemanta" src="http://img.zemanta.com/zemified_h.png?x-id=7c89f0a6-e891-4748-9d00-39f878b18fae" /></a></div> " data-medium-file="" data-large-file="" class="alignleft size-full wp-image-36100" title="Kandhamal girls" src="http://persecutedchurch.info/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/20140729_kandhamal_girls.jpg" alt="Kandhamal girls" width="226" height="170" />Mumbai, July 29, 2014: Nine girls from Odihsa’s riot-hit Khandamal district, who were forced into bounded labor in a Mumbai fish processing firm, were rescued with the help of Catholic nuns and voluntary agencies.

The attempts started July 14 when Holy Spirit Sister Julie of Streevani in Pune called up Bethany Sister Violet in Panvel, Mumbai, and said that some girls who are trafficked from Kandhamal are working in a fishing company at Taloja, Panvel.

The nuns learnt that these girls were not allowed to come out of the company and their agent has taken their salary and escaped.

Sister Violet and a MSFS priest at Taloja visited the factory in person without revealing our identity but the tight security at the gate did not allow them inside.

The nuns said they did not want to inform the police fearing that local police may help the factory owners move the girls to other places over night since trafficking is a big racket in Mumbai city.

They also contacted child helpline but were not satisfied with their directions, Sister Violet said in a note circulated to press. On July 16 they contacted a voluntary organization called Indian Rescue Mission.

The mission team worked out the strategy to raid the factory. On Friday with the help of Panvel Police commissioner and Labor commissioner, the organization members raided the place and found out that there are above 200 girls working and among them 97 are minors.

The four managers are arrested and in Jail and they are in search of the agents who brought these minors to work. The FIR under child labor has been filed against the Managers. The minors are shifted to remand home at Mumbai for further investigation and care of the children.

The 9 girls from Kandhamal received their three months salary that they were deprived of and have been sent back home with two social workers from Kandhamal.

The minors are from Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

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#IndiawithGaza – Mumbai IIT Students march in solidarity with Gaza & Palestine #FreeGaza

 

The following is an Opinion Editorial written by Rahul Maganti, a fourth year student of the Department of Metallurgical Engineering & Material Sciences about the recently organized anti-war rally against War and Genocides in the IIT Bombay campus. Rahul also goes on to talk about the current state of Student Activism on Campus and gives his views on why it should improve.

The content on this website is strictly the property of Insight and the Students’ Gymkhana IIT Bombay. If you wish to reproduce any content herein, please contact us:
Chief Editors: Anshul AvasthiChirag Chadha
Mailto: [email protected]

march1

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality. – Desmond Tutu

This quote, which I first read back when I was a child, has since remained close to my heart. Being “neutral” is as good as being silent. When people consciously don’t talk about the injustice out there in the world only because the buck hasn’t come to them yet, they are only being complacent and giving an excuse, not a reason. Many people would rather talk about the injustice of one kind, while deliberately ignoring another simply because it is far from home. When I was inviting people to this march, a lot of them asked me difficult questions. “What do you intend to achieve with these kind of marches and protests? Will you be able to stop the genocide in Palestine by Israel?” asked a friend who apparently aims to serve the country in the capacity of a Civil Servant some day. I deal with his question in the later part of the article by discussing how such protests/marches actually create an impact.

Many people would rather talk about the injustice of one kind, while deliberately ignoring another simply because it is far from home.

Activism can actually change the policy decisions of the country. Many important struggles and movements in India and across the world have been spearheaded by students, and have effectively made an impact on the social, cultural, economic and political conditions. The Student Movement in London against the steep increase in fee and the Occupy Wall Street Movement in the US are among those that have impacted the society. The 1975 anti-Emergency movement was given a particular direction by the students from Universities like JNU and DU. Very recently, the 2012 Delhi protests against rape and violence against women were again led by students. As for the political angle, you can take a cue from the students of Osmania and Kakatiya Universities successfully fighting for a separate statehood of Telangana. The Govt. of India, which didn’t allow discussion on Gaza in the parliament, voted for Palestine in the UN only because of the pressure exerted on it through the protests in various parts of the country.

 

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Mumbai Hotels , protesting Israel bombings- Jaljeera, mocktails replace colas – #GazaUnderAttack

 Hoteliers protest Israeli bombings in Gaza

Jaljeera, mocktails replace colas as hoteliers protest Israeli bombings in Gaza
Top: The refrigerator in a hotel showing stock of Jaljeera and water (above) Shalimar Hotel, where the meeting took place
Over a hundred hoteliers across the city are boycotting American soft drinks as ‘United States is supporting Israelis in the conflict’.

Extending their support to the Palestinians, over 270 of whom have been killed in the ongoing Israeli bombing attacks in Gaza, more than a hundred hoteliers in various parts of the city are boycotting cola drinks, including Pepsi and Coca Cola.

The hoteliers have taken the step against the American products, because “America is supporting the Israelis in the conflict”, they said.

While several prominent hotels including Shalimar, Baghdadi and Noor Mohammadi Hotel at Bhendi Bazaar, and Persian Durbar at Byculla, stopped selling cola drinks four to five days ago, other smaller hotels have stopped purchasing fresh stock. The move is backed by hoteliers from Colaba to Behram Baug in Jogeshwari, and Bhendi Bazar to Kurla, Mumbra and other areas.

With Ramzan in progress, people in the Muslim-dominated areas are resorting to mocktails, juices and jaljeera as alternatives.

On July 16, more than a hundred members of the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association met at Shalimar Hotel to discuss the issue. “We have taken a collective decision to boycott these products as a silent protest to the bombings that are killing so many innocent people, including children. We will continue this protest until the bombings are stopped,” said Omaer Sheikh, managing director of Shalimar.

Terming it as ‘a peaceful protest’, the hoteliers said the purpose is to convey their disapproval of the indiscriminate bombings of hospitals, mosques and villages in Gaza to the Israeli government.

“United States is supporting the Israelis, so in protest we decided to stop selling American cola drinks five days ago. It is horrible to see the way the Israelis are bombing innocent civilians. We cannot do too much, but this is our way of protesting,” said Rashid Hakim, owner of Noor Mohammadi restaurant.

Some small restaurants have stopped replenishing supplies. “We completely stopped purchasing new stock three days ago. Though we don’t know much about the issue, we are protesting against the violence by the Israelis,” said Mushtaq Motiwala, owner of Ali Bhai Seekhwala, arestaurant in Pydhonie.

In 2001, a similar two-month protest against the killing of innocents by US bombings in Afghanistan had been undertaken by hundreds of Muslim and non-Muslim hoteliers in the city. Identifying Coca Cola and Pepsi as symbols of American consumerism, the boycott had alarmed cola companies at that time.

Read mor where- http://www.mumbaimirror.com/mumbai/others/Jaljeera-mocktails-replace-colas-as-hoteliers-protest-Israeli-bombings-in-Gaza/articleshow/38633624.cms

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Press release – Mumbai Fishermen return bribe of Rs. 6 crores by Essel World.

 

 

Fishermen of Mumbai return ‘bribe’

 

Fishermen of Mumbai have returned bribe of Rs. 6 crores given to them by Essel World.

 

The Gorai Machhimar Sahakari Sanstha is an Association of fishermen from Village Gorai, Borivali, Mumbai. Assisted by National Alliance of Peoples’ Movement they have been waging struggles with every wrongdoing. Dependent solely on sea for their survival members of the Association are completely different from their counterparts in other co-operative movements in urban Mumbai.  Dressed in local attire ostensibly they appear dissimilar than their fellow countrymen. But their recent action catapults them ahead of most us.  For last 16 years they are fighting for a government land admeasuring 750 acres not for themselves but for their beloved Government of Maharashtra. The Government of Maharashtra on the other hand is not only indifferent to their struggle but has joined hands with the land grabber’s for the ‘money power’ they wield.

 

It all started in 1998 when the 750 acres allegedly ‘private land’ was purchased by The Essel Infrastructures in a public auction for Rs. 25 lakhs i.e. 8 paise per sft. When Essel went for changing the land records in their name the revenue authority realized that it is a govt. land and the change in name cannot be done. Essel raised a dispute which reached Commissioner, Kokan Division, who too held that it is a govt. land and Essel cannot hold it. However, Shri Narayan Rane, the then Revenue Minister in an appeal before him granted the land to Essel, this time of course free of cost.

 

When fishermen of Gorai came to know about this, they raised a dispute before High Court in public interest litigation. Their contention was that the land in question is full of mangroves, a breeding ground for fish, environmentally precious and must be left in it’s virgin form under environmental considerations. The High Court held the contentions of fishermen as correct and reverted the land back to Govt. of Maharashtra. Essel, (assisted by Govt.) went to Supreme Court. Fishermen, who had never seen Delhi, too went there to cross swords with the mighty Essel. The matter dragged on till 2013.

 

Here came a twist in the story. Essel approached Gorai Machhimar’s erstwhile Chairman one Shri Noel Kini who was removed from the post of Chairman 6 months back with an offer to make a settlement. Shri Kini was lured into signing Consent Terms with Essel for payment of Rs. 2 crores to Machhimar Sanstha, Rs. 2 crores to Holy Maggy Church which is recorded in the Consent Terms. What is not recorded in the Consent Terms is another Rs. 2 crores in cash, which also is paid to Machhimar  Sanstha.

 

The honest fisherfolks of Gorai are now back in Delhi before Supreme Court with a plea to Court to accept this Rs. 6 crores bounty, which includes Rs. 2 crores in cash and allow their original prayer amounting to ‘Land be given back to Govt.’

 

‘We don’t want this money as it will be a sin to accept it’ says Shri Alex Aitolya, the present Chairman of Machhimar Sanstha.

 

‘Neither Essel nor anybody can bribe us’ says Shri Joseph Colasco, a board member of Machhimar Sanstha.

 

‘The 750 acres land is valuable for environment and we shall not let it go’ says Shri Neville D’Souza, an Activist of Machhimar Sanstha.

In the mean time Essel is busy cutting mangroves, have already cleared a 15 acre stretch from the land. A FIR is already filed against Essel by Environment Ministry.

 

The struggle goes on.

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