Archive for January 11, 2014

Ila Pathak, a feminist crusader (1933-2014)

Ilaben Pathak

Saluting the pioneering work of Ilaben Pathak in women and civil rights movements which was an inspiration not only to the people whose lives she touched and changed but also to her fellow travelers

By Vibhuti Patel and Sonal Shukla

Gujarat lost a dedicated social activist who stood by socially excluded sections of society, especially brutalized women when Prof. Ila Pathak passed away due to breast cancer on January 9, 2014 in Ahmedabad. She tirelessly supported women survivors of dowry harassment, rape, crimes of honour. She campaigned against sex selective abortions of female foetuses from way back in the 1980s.

Both of us have been aware of her work with Ahmedabad Women’s Action Group (AWAG) from 1981 when she attended the first national conference of women’s studies in Mumbai that resulted in the formation of the Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS). Ilaben brought her own energies and perspective to the women’s movement. She was a determined activist right from the beginning of the movement.

A master’s degree in law, a Ph.D. in English literature and a high post in NCC were indicative of her capacity to achieve the goals she had set for herself. Her devotion to working for women’s rights and development was reflected in her writings and action through AWAG and innumerable institutions she was associated with.

Feminist Activism of Ilaben Pathak:
Ilaben began her career as a university teacher of English language and literature at H. K. Arts College, Ahmedabad and as a free- lance journalist who wrote addressing women’s concerns. In the early seventies she started her crusade against misogyny in Gujarati plays rife with double entendre, full of crude and crass jokes/puns that degraded women and objectified women’s bodies.

In 1981, Ilaben with her young colleagues and students such as Dr. Ila Joshi, Aditi Desai (Theatre artiste), Sofia Khan (now a human rights lawyer) established AWAG (acronym means noise). AWAG energetically made noise against sexism in advertisements, media and textbooks. They blackened sexist advertisements at public places and staged dharna against a phallocentric play “Putra Kameshti Yagna” to be aired on All India Radio and got the broadcasting cancelled. Her tireless work resulted in Government of Gujarat appointing a committee under her leadership to examine the portrayal of gender stereotypes and subordinate status of women in school textbooks. She involved us in this effort. The government mandate for evaluation was decided within the framework of equality, development and peace.

In 1982, she spearheaded a participatory action research project of AWAG to highlight the precarious condition of homeless and miserable tribal migrant workers near railway tracks of Ahmedabad city who eked out their subsistence by collecting coal fallen on the railway tracks. She started income generation activities for them based on tribal art and beadwork. In 1982, when a tribal woman in Sagbara village of South Gujarat was gang raped, Ilaben took the case up to Amnesty International. As a result all the rapists were punished.

Ilaben took leadership for movement against Patan P T C College gang rape in which a 19-year-old Dalit student was repeatedly raped over a period of time by her male teachers. She also supported Manipur’s Irom Sharmila’s agitation against Armed Forces Special Powers’ Act (AFSPA).

Ilaben’s courageous and consistent work among victims of communal riots post demolition of Babri Musjid in 1993 and among Muslim refugees after Gujarat riots in 2002 symbolised her secular humanism

Ilaben’s command over language came handy to coin catchy and hard hitting slogans in Gujarati such as “Silence is not a virtue, Break the silence of oppression”, “Putting up with injustice is not a virtue, fight for justice”. She gave great emphasise to documentation, research and training and AWAG always provided information in local Gujarati language and resource persons for capacity building of community workers, elected representatives and youth. From 1986-1992, she regularly wrote for a feminist quarterly in Gujarati, Nari Mukti (Women’s Freedom) that was collectively brought out by feminists of Mumbai, Valsad, Surat, Vadodara and Ahmedabad.

We have fond memories of spending quality time with Ilaben at the IAWS Conferences, The Nairobi World Conference on Women, 1985, Gujarat Human Rights Conference, 1990, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 2011 and capacity building conferences of Gujarat University on sexual harassment at workplace. In order to bring women’s rights agenda in to the mainstream of politics, she also contested election for Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in 1990.

Ilaben and Social Movements
Her persuasive style of speaking was her success mantra. She could reach out to all- Gandhian, liberals, feminists, human rights activists, leftists. She could establish communication with the rich and powerful without getting cowed down by them. She reached out to weak and marginalized people with utmost humility. She made lifelong friends among women’s studies scholars and feminists whenever she attended national and international conferences on women. She used to attend these conferences with over a dozen women from her organization and she looked after them very well.

Crucial Contribution
Ilaben served on many apex bodies to further the cause of women. She was a member of the Women Development Cell of Gujarat University that had to perform twin tasks of prevention of sexual harassment and promotion of gender sensitization in the University and its affiliated colleges. Ilaben was also a governing board member of Centre for Social Studies, Surat. She played an important role in all women centred activities of Gujarat Vidyapeeth. Ilaben was president of the India Chapter of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She was an active member of the Movement for Secular Democracy. In 2012, Ilaben Pathak was honoured for her work among poor and oppressed women. Four books were published based on a compilation of her articles promoting women’s striving for dignity and their struggle for empowerment.

Her four-decades-long pioneering work will always give us strength and inspiration to keep the torch of women’s rights burning in today’s volatile circumstances. She has left a huge fan following among students and all those women whom she supported pro-actively, intellectually and emotionally. Ilaben will always remain with us in spirit. As fellow travelers in the women’s movement who shared common her-story and collective memory, we salute our sister, Ila Pathak.

Bangalore court rejects Pascal Mazurier’s plea in child abuse case

Pascal-Mazurier-child-abuse-case

By Team FI

Bangalore Sessions court today rejected Pascal Mazurier’s plea to cancel all charges against him. Judge Shubha Gowdar in her order stated that there is sufficient evidence for framing charges against the French national who has been accused of raping his then three-and-a-half-year-old daughter two years ago.

Pascal Mazurier works for the Ministry of External Affairs, France and is posted at their consulate in Bangalore. Mazurier’s Indian wife Suja Jones filed a police complaint against him after her daughter’s medical examination confirmed rape.

The court will frame charges against Mazurier by 24th January.

Related article: Pascal Mazurier child abuse case: Letter of a child yearning for justice

Muzaffarnagar riot victims still suffering inhuman living conditions

Muzaffarnagar-communal-violence

Uprooted by violent communal riots, thousands of families continue to live without basic human facilities in relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. Donations welcomed to make a difference

By Team FI

Three months ago the Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts had faced brutal acts of violence including killings and rape, in what was described as one of the worst communal riots in Uttar Pradesh in recent memory. Thousands of families were uprooted and nearly 20,000 people found temporary shelter in riot relief camps in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli respectively.

However, the families found themselves living in inhuman conditions unable to return home for fear of their safety. The winter months have wreaked havoc on the relief camps with deaths reported especially infants and children due to lack of basic facilities.

Despite a UP government committee report that stated at least 34 children below 12 years of age have died in the Muzaffarnagar and Shamli relief camps, the last week of the year saw 150 families forced to leave the Loi relief camp, over 500 km from state capital Lucknow. Local government officials were allegedly present when the people who had managed the camp dismantled the temporary shelters.

Reacting to criticism about the inhuman act, the UP government has currently shifted about 420 people with the remaining 63 victims being moved to vacant buildings to escape from the severe winter.

Several women and human rights group have been working in the area and have put forward appeals for donations to alleviate the living conditions of the riot relief camps. The following organisations are accepting donations.

Immediate Needs
A Joint Citizen Intiative team’s assessment of immediate needs

A. Tarpaulin Sheets:
Tarpaulin sheets/canvas sheets to cover the tents and prevent dew from seeping in. We are planning to distribute them in the 4 camps in Muzaffarnagar where JCI is working (approx 700 tents). We can purchase them on behalf of who ever wishes to donate and send them the receipt for the items.

For example, one tarpaulin sheet/canvas sheet @ INR 418, so for about 700 tents = INR 2,92,600.
So a donor can say they want to get Tarpaulin sheets for X number of tents.
For example, donation towards tarpaulin sheets for,
50 tents = INR 20,900 (twenty thousand approx)
100 tents = INR 41, 800
200 tents = INR 83,600
500 tents = INR 2,09,000 (two lakhs approx)
700 tents – INR 2, 92,600 (three lakhs approx)

B. Quilts:

In case you would rather contribute warm covering, blankets are now no longer sufficient. Over a month ago we had distributed blankets in some camps (but its now freezing at night). We now need thick razais (Quilts). And we are planning to get them immediately. 1 thick quilt is costing INR 600 locally. There are 1500 identified families we would like to give quilts to. (600 x 1500 = 9,00,000 INR)

So, donations can be made towards this also. If someone wants to donate, they can ask us to get quilts for X number of families, on their behalf .
For example, donation towards one quilt per family for,
100 families = INR 60,000
200 families = INR 1,20,000
500 families = INR 3,00,000
1000 families = INR 6,00, 000
1500 families = INR 9,00,000

Donations:
Sadhbhavana Trust
1. CHEQUES (Indian or Foreign) in the name of Sadbhavana Trustmailed to:
MadhaviKuckreja (Ph. 9415104361, 9984616000), PuneetGoyal (8737095053, 9415410805)HameedaKhatoon(ph 9473789465) c/o Sadbhavana Trust 130, Jagdish Chandra Bose Road, QaiserBagh, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh,
India, 226 001.
Landline. +91 522 407 7698. Email :sadbhavana.lucknow@gmail.com

2. BANK TRANSFERS:
Indian donations to be transferred to this Bank Account
Account name :SADBHAVANA TRUST
Bank Account No. 586502010000564
Name of Bank :UNION BANK OF INDIA
Branch Name :U.P.AGRO EXTENTION
MICR &IFSC :UBIN0558656
City of Bank : LUCKNOW
Name of Trust : SADBHAVANA Trust
Address : 130, Jagdish Chandra Bose Road, QaiserBagh, Lucknow 226 001
PAN No of Trust : AAATS2631R

Foreign donations to be transferred to this Bank Account
Account Name: Sadbhavana Trust
Account No. 602210100004883
Name of Bank: Bank of India
Address of Bank: 7, Panchsheel Shopping Centre, New Delhi-110016
IFSC Code: BKID0006022
SWIFT CODE: BKIDINBBNPL
Branch Code: 6022
FCRA Registration No. 231650698

Saheli

Cheques need to be made in the name of ‘Saheli Women’s Resource Centre’ and sent with a covering letter stating they are meant for “Muzaffarnagar” along with your name, address and phone number/email contact. You may also write “Muzaffarnagar” at the back of the cheque. Cash donations, you can give to any Saheli you know or meet. Cheques may be sent to the following address:

Saheli Women’s Resource Centre
Above Unit 105-108
Defence Colony Flyover Market
New Delhi 100 024
Email:
Phones: Sadhna: 9899797963, or Vani: 9891128911

ASTITVA SAMAJIK SANSTHAN

APPEAL FOR DONATION AND SUPPORT
In August-September 2013 large scale communal clashes took place that changed the lives of people living in Muzaffarnagar district, Western Uttar Pradesh, where people once lived in communal harmony. This led to burning of homes, mob brawls, rapes, killings, murders and other mass violence. This has made thousands of people homeless and for the past three months they have been living in Relief Camps in various villages in Shamli, Muzaffarnagar etc.

Since elections are around the corner, the government and politicians want to show that everything has settled down and are claiming that there are no relief camps. This also means that they have stopped providing aid to these relief camps. The survivors in the camps have pleaded the government to continue to maintain the rehabilitation camp as they are not ready to go back. They are afraid for their security in their own villages, as they have experienced the baseness of people and the state during the riots. Some more incidents of violence have also been reported in the area since September. There is a real need to continue to run these relief camps.

People living in the riot relief camps are suffering tremendously in the harsh winter weather. Many have fallen prey to the cold as a large number of very vulnerable sections of the community, including more than 280 children, 71 pregnant women and the old, live in the camp. The survivors living in the relief camps at Loi village are facing a lot of difficulties as water has entered the camp tents.

These camps need financial support to be able to assist those survivors of violence who need to continue living in the camps and rehabilitate them when they are able to go back to their respective villages.

On the 21st of December, Rehana and Nirmala from Astitva Samajik Sanstha based in Saharanpur and who have been working with Muzaffarnagar riot-affected people since the time violence began there came to Mumbai and met with various organisations. They gave the activists and concerned people an update of the situation in Muzaffarnagar and adjoining areas.

Some of the immediate needs they expressed are as follows:
1. Amenities to protect them from the harsh weather conditions like adequate healthy food, clean drinking water which will cost Rs 1500/- per week for each family.
2. They also need coal to keep them warm that costs Rs 700/- per week per family.
3. Over 500 women in the camps are skilled in making handicrafts so they want to start small enterprises in order to become self reliant.
4. Many people living in the relief camps have lost most of their important documents to prove their identity, educational qualification etc. To help them regain their normal lives a lot of expenditure will have to be made.
5. Over a thousand girls have had to discontinue their education. It is necessary to make special efforts to get the girls back into schools.

For these purposes we require help from you in terms of donation. It is our genuine request to you to please help us in any way possible.

Address
City/village: Sulatanpur, Chilkana
Moh-Kanjimal,Sultanpur, Po-chilkana, Distt-Saharanpur
Uttar Pradesh
F.C.R.A. Number : 136690066
Contact person: Rehana Adib
Phone: 09456293246
E-mail: astitwaup@gmail.com

Featured photo courtesy: indiaresists.com