Archive for February 24, 2014

Artists and activists protest moral policing by Kerala police

moral- policing- in -kerala

Volunteers of VIBGYOR international film festival arrested by Thrissur police and beaten up for the ‘crime’ of awaiting transport after attending a music concert while Hindutva activists who violently disrupted a screening of a film on Kashmir go scot-free

By Team FI
Several artists, civil rights activists and feminists in Kerala have come forward condemning the brutal police attack on five volunteers of the annual VIBGYOR International Film Festival, held in Thrissur last week.

The five VIBGYOR volunteers, one woman and four men were picked up by a police team headed by Sub Inspector Lal Kumar of the Thrissur East police station when they were waiting for auto rickshaws after attending a music concert. The volunteers were not only detained at the Thrissur East police station but also physically attacked. According to activists, the young woman, who is a cinematographer was attacked by the male police and subjected to sexual verbal abuse.

A woman lawyer, Asha, who went to the police station with her son and minor daughter after the young woman cinematographer sought legal help on phone, was also beaten up by the police. Asha, her daughter and the young woman has been hospitalized, according to sources

The four young men are still in police custody. Activists allege that Sub Inspector Lal Kumar, is in hands with the right wing political forces and did nothing when RSS activists tried to stop the screening of a film on Kashmir. In fact the RSS activists who tore the posters of the film and threatened the organisers of VIBGYOR were allowed to walk free whereas the volunteers were arrested for standing on the road while they waited for transport. The same police led by Lal Kumar had earlier tried to stop artists from performing the localised version of Eve Einsler’s Vagina Monologues, stating that its content was immoral.

There is an alarming increase in the number of incidents of moral policing by both police forces and right wing political parties in Kerala, a state that once known as the most progressive states in India.

Tejpal manipulating public opinion to sway judge

Tarun-Tejpal

By asking to make the CCTV footage public, Tejpal hopes to sow suspicion about the complainant’s motive and her character

By Kavita Krishnan
Tarun Tejpal’s demand to make the CCTV footage public is, in fact, a call to the general public to be voyeurs, examine the woman (complainant), place her smile, her demeanour and her gait on trial, ready to declare her guilty if her conduct does not conform to the 70s Hindi film stereotype of the ‘raped woman’.

Tejpal wants the public (through media) to try and declare him innocent. He wants to use the media, including social media, to sow suspicion about the complainant’s motive and her character. A step towards this has already been taken by his friends who have sent mails with her photos asking – “Check out her pose! Is she traumatised? No! Is she happy? Yes!”

We, in the women’s movement, can only hope that the courts will not behave like the ‘court of public opinion’.

For, if a woman is brutalised, her bloodied body/corpse available as incontestable proof of her victimhood — in conformity with those Hindi movie images we just talked about — then a court MIGHT hand out the death sentence based on ‘public opinion’. I use the word ‘MIGHT’ because here too, for a Bhotmange or a Manorama or a Soni Sori, the brutalised body is no guarantee of public opinion or courts perceiving the heinousness of the crime.

In cases where the victim doesn’t have a brutalised body to display to gratify voyeurs — the ‘peanut-crunching crowd’ — the courts are again all too likely to mirror public opinion and declare that the woman doesn’t really look or behave ‘raped’ enough.

Even when courts appear to be ‘sensitive’ to women, there’s a catch. There is one landmark verdict of the Supreme Court which holds that a conviction can take place even on the ‘sole testimony’ of the complainant. However, what the verdict actually said was: “It is conceivable in Western society that a female may level a false accusation as regards sexual molestation against a male”. However, “A girl or a woman in the tradition bound non-permissive society of India would be extremely reluctant even to admit that any incident which is likely to reflect on her chastity had ever occurred” and therefore isn’t likely to lie about rape! The detailed argument in this verdict has sickeningly sexist imaginings of why ‘Western’ women are likely to lie about rape

Not surprisingly, this notion of ‘chaste Indian woman’ versus ‘loose Westernised woman’ is what Tejpal’s defence is relying on. In his bail plea, lawyer quoted this verdict to argue that she could not be raped, the sex must be consensual because the complainant is “a liberated, emancipated modern woman”.

So, women can only HOPE — against hope — that courts will stand aloof from public opinion, and will deliver justice on merits of the case rather than on jaundiced notions about how raped Indian women are supposed to behave, as opposed to the loose, liberated, modern women…

Tejpal claims there’s no evidence against him, that the charges are flimsy. The charges are by no means flimsy as he suggests but rather, there’s an embarrassment of weighty facts — straight from Tejpal’s own words — enough to make this a very serious case.

Tejpal claimed in an email to his friends that the whole thing was “an incredibly fleeting, totally consensual encounter of less than a minute in a lift (of a two-storey building!)”. However, based on the CCTV footage, the charge sheet establishes that the lift took much longer than usual to make the two-storey climb, certainly much longer than the ‘less than a minute’ claimed by Tejpal.

This unwarranted time in the lift the first time and the footage of him taking her into the lift on a second occasion (a second encounter which Tejpal’s email to friends didn’t mention) is certainly grounds for invoking Sections 341 (wrongful restrain) and 342 (wrong confinement) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Moreover, his own ‘apology’ email established his admitting to invoking his status as her boss — though he claims to have retracted it. The very fact that he admits to invoking it to overcome what HE calls her ‘clear reluctance’, goes to show a strong basis for invoking 376(2) (f) (person in position of trust or authority over women commits rape on such women) and 376(2) (k) (rape of a woman by a person being in position of control or dominance over the woman) IPC.

And the testimony of several of the complainant’s colleagues that she told them immediately after the first episode that she was assaulted, and of course her own complaint that has remained stable and unchanged while Tejpal’s has mutated time and time again, are pretty strong grounds for invoking Sections 354 (assault or criminal force on woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 354-A (outrage modesty).

However, though these are undeniably strong grounds, the matter is sub-judice and it is for the court to pronounce him guilty or not.

Finally, Tejpal claims that his arrest is “an early sign of the inherent fascism of the right-wing that will target its detractors in the most sinister and underhand ways, using all the government machinery at its disposal. This is a warning shot across the bows of all liberals and opponents of communal politics. It’s a crying shame that a major party that is bidding to rule the great pluralism that is India is imbued with no tolerance for dissenters and critics, of whom I certainly am one.”

I know neither Mr. Tejpal nor the complainant personally. I know them both from their work as journalists and public intellectuals. And I can say: Mr Tejpal, you don’t have to be male and a senior editor to be a ‘dissenter and critic’ against communal politics. The complainant — a young journalist who has done courageous and forthright journalism — is no less a dissenter and a critic. And we, who stand up for her rights, are no less dissenters and critics.

Tejpal trivialises the anti-fascist struggle by trying to use it to demand impunity from accusations of rape. Being a dissenter and a critic doesn’t provide us with some kind of AFSPA-type shield to being prosecuted for rape.

Can we please keep the word ‘draconian’ confined to laws like AFSPA, MCOCA, sedition and so forth? The new rape law is NOT draconian

The new law very correctly expands the definition of rape and provides graded punishment for different types of sexual violence; and it very correctly states that consent cannot be presumed without a clear YES, ‘by word or gesture’ from the woman. These are not draconian provisions. Ten years, for the compound crimes Tejpal is accused of, is not necessarily excessive. It should jolt us that Tejpal’s friend can refer to what he is accused of as a ‘mere pass’. Even a ‘pass’ is now sexual harassment. And holding a woman against her will in a closed space, disrobing her and forcing your finger or tongue inside her private parts is not a ‘pass’ — and it’s downright scary that some can think of it as such.

The same pal of Tejpal’s said, chillingly, that if this is rape, 50% of editors and CEOs will be in jail for rape. Do editors and CEOs (Tejpal seems to think these are all male) really see it as their entitlement to do these things to their woman employees?! If so, it reminds me of the sense of entitlement that Bihar landlords used to expect, as their due, from Dalit woman workers in their fields in the 1980s. Those bosses who think women have to submit to such treatment must indeed be in jail.

I am willing to discuss, in a general context, the need to retain some discretion for the judge in sentencing, but I’ll do so in a context of concern for justice for women, so that courts should not be deterred from convictions and discretion should not move from the judges to the cops. And I’ll discuss these when we have some evidence that the new law is indeed acting against women’s interests in this regard. To use those concerns and debates of the women’s movement to paint Tejpal as a victim is abhorrent.

To those who accuse feminists of defending a draconian law to play ‘media darlings’, allow me to point out that the women’s movement has consistently — on the same media — articulated and defended the UNPOPULAR positions against draconian provisions of death penalty and lowering of the age of juvenility and raising the age of consent.

We have interrupted the media’s self-congratulatory narratives on Tejpal or Asaram to remind them of their own double standards on Manorama, Kunan Poshpora, Soni Sori, countless Bastar rapes, rape of Dalit women in Haryana and so on. The same activists who make use of a few minutes in the media to counter the insidious campaign of vilification that Tejpal and his pals are carrying out against the complainant, have also spoken — again in the face of abuse and hate speeches — against the hanging of Afzal Guru and the conviction of Shehzad in the Batla House case. We have made the women’s movement’s dissent and outrage heard against the custodial killing of the December 16 rape accused Ram Singh inside Tihar jail.

I am one of the handful of people who have, after carefully examining available evidence, rather than the feverish imaginings of a sexist media campaign, questioned the obnoxious, appalling Aarushi verdict, which was a ‘media trial’ if ever there was one. A secular friend, who today accuses me of participating in media trials of ‘secular’ men accused of rape, was only too happy to repeat the prejudiced misinformation peddled by the media in the Aarushi case, warning me to stick with public opinion rather than my own assessment and conscience in that case!

I have also spoken AGAINST ‘potency tests’ for Asaram and Tejpal. I hold potency tests to be just as demeaning, unscientific and humiliating as a two-finger test for rape survivors.

What about bail for Tejpal? I believe bail is a right that all undertrials are entitled to. I, along with many others, have thanklessly struggled for bail for NOIDA workers, Maruti workers, held on far flimsier grounds. Soni Sori got bail after years of incarceration. Many of my own comrades languish in jail without bail on cooked-up charges relating to mass movements led by them.

In the case of those accused of heinous crimes, courts tend to deny bail irrespective of how flimsy the charges are. And this has nothing to do with the new rape law. It has been the case long before last year. Tejpal, therefore, cannot claim he’s being denied bail because of political vendetta or a ‘draconian’ law. Rather, if at all he gets bail, it will be because he has a posse of lawyers and he is viewed as ‘respectable’ and ‘respected’, unlike your average worker or slum-dweller or common man/woman accused. And if he gets bail, I would not oppose it.

The very phrases ‘media darlings’, ‘BBM-ing feminists’ and so on are redolent of rank sexism. We do the cause of democracy and secularism a grave injustice by resorting to this manner of campaign. Tejpal is entitled to a defence, surely. But we cannot allow the complainant to be subjected to a moralistic, voyeuristic pillory on the pretext of his defence. She is being put through hell, has had her mindspace and professional world turn from a zone of comfort and achievement into an ugly space of abuse and jeers, not because of her own actions but because she made the hard decision to complain about rape by her boss. This is the tough, painful world of rape survivors.

For those of us who ask why we activists cannot remain ‘neutral’, survivors and complainants get through this hell by relying on the support of the women’s movement. So, yes, we are not going to stop supporting rape complainants because the accused happens, on occasion, to be part of the secular or democratic camp. That’s because democracy includes women’s rights.

Tarun Tejpal’s Press Statement 18.2.2014:

“If conclusive proof was needed of the political vendetta that has been
unleashed against me, under the guise of a sexual molestation
investigation, it has been emphatically provided today. In a blatant
attempt at twisting and concealing the facts, the Goa police while
filing a 3000 page highly spurious charge sheet, has not presented or
handed over the most crucial piece of evidence in this case, the CCTV
footage of the incident

In my first and only press note of November 22nd 2013 I had urged,
“the police to obtain, examine and release the CCTV footage so that
the accurate version of events stands clearly revealed”. I said this
at a time, from Delhi, when I had neither accessed nor seen the
footage. But since I was the man on the spot I knew the truth of what
had happened.

It is violative of due process, to not make all collected evidence
available to the accused at the time of filing the charge sheet. In
fact, receipt of the footage is what we have been impatiently waiting
for since the last three months. This duplicity is in keeping with the
sinister and motivated political vendetta that is being pursued.

I have been in jail since November 30th simply because the goa police,
clearly acting under the orders of their political bosses, have
refused to release this crucial footage of the relevant days, 7th and
8th November. This entire case hinges on the 130 and 45 seconds (as
per the charge sheet) of contested time which can be brought to light
via the CCTV footage. The goa police know their fabricated case will
collapse the moment the footage is revealed and compared with the
‘testimony’ of the alleged victim, on the basis of which the Goa
police filed it’s FIR under draconian provisions.

As it were, I viewed the relevant footage of both days whilst being
‘held’ in police custody and the footage clearly validates me. The
fact is most of the officers in the crime branch know there is no
case, and have said as much to me. Even so the IO has been pursuing an
agenda spelt out for her by her political masters, totally violating
the principle of police neutrality.

I’m afraid what we are witnessing here is an early sign of the
inherent fascism of the right wing that will target its detractors in
the most sinister and underhand ways, using all the government
machinery at its disposal. This is a warning shot across the bows of
all liberals and opponents of communal politics. It’s a crying shame
that a major party that is bidding to rule the great pluralism that is
India is imbued with no tolerance of dissenters and critics, of whom I
certainly am one.”

Women’s groups demand Congress sack MLA Shabir Khan

Shabir_khan

Women and civil rights groups support ‘Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day’ to be observed on 23 February and condemn Congress party’s leniency towards MLA Shabir Khan who has been brought up on charges of sexual harassment

By Team FI
Women’s and civil rights groups have condemned the Jammu & Kashmir government and the State Congress leadership on its “lenient attitude” towards the charges of sexual harassment made against the former health minister and Congress MLA, Shabir Khan.

Shabir Khan was accused of molesting a female doctor and was booked under Sections 354 and 509 of the Ranbir Penal Code. Though forced to resign on February 7, 2014, the fact remains that he is out on bail and since he is still an MLA, continues to attend assembly sessions. A press statement issued by the groups allege that this has jeopardised the investigation citing as an example the recent transfer of the SHO in charge of the investigating the case.

As per the charges in the case, the complainant was repeatedly asked to meet the Minister in his office so as to discuss the funding for health centre where she works. Her refusal to do so resulted in her being asked to report to him. She was made to sit in a small cabin where instead of funding, the Minister allegedly offered favours “including a plum posting on the condition that she should “serve Kehwa to him in the circuit house”- a statement clearly loaded with suggestive phrases. When she tried to leave the room, “the minister made physical advances amounting to molestation”,” informed the letter.

The letter called for the immediate expulsion of Shabir Khan from the Congress Party and called upon Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to ensure a fair trial.

The petitioners also lent their support to the Kashmiri Women’s Resistance Day, which will be observed by the civil rights groups in Jammu & Kashmir in remembrance of the alleged Kunan Poshpora mass rape by the Army personnel on 23rd Feb, 1991 for which not a single army man has yet been punished.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi…?

narendra-modi- campaign

Vadodara based activists Trupti Shah and Rohit Prajapati’s poem If we are to believe Mr. Modi questions the controversial Hindu right wing leader and prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi’s ‘development’ model in Gujarat

By Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much so that it would do if Gujarat’s development goes dieting for months together.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much that Gujaratis can do without Food Security Act.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much that Gujaratis can do without government hospital, medicines and doctors.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much that Gujaratis don’t mind closure of government schools and colleges.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much that Gujaratis don’t mind exorbitant fees of private schools and colleges.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much that it is ok if only tuition classes teach instead schools and colleges.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much that it is ok to appoint only ‘sahayak’ (assistant) on all key government permanent posts.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, in Gujarat it is ok for industries to go for wage cuts as wages in state are very high.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, wages are so high that it does not matter if inflation does not decrease.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, employment rate is so high in Gujarat, it is ok to have VRS i.e. compulsory retire those in mid forties.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much that Gujarati girls prefer dieting to eating nutritiously.
If we are to believe Mr. Modi, women in Gujarat are so secure that it is ok not to worry about skewed sex ratio.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, tribals have “developed” so much that is it ok not to implement Forest Rights Act, 2006.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much that it is ok not to talk about law and order, justice or 2002 carnage.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much, it is ok not to have an ombudsman (Lokayukta) in the state.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much, that it is ok for Dalits to give up their rights.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, there are so many shopping malls now in Gujarat, that is ok to finish-to do away with the street vendors, pushcarts and handcarts.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, there are so many houses in Gujarat, that it is ok if all slums are demolished.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has so smooth roads that it is ok if one goes all boneless.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much, it is ok to turn rivers into canals.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much, it is ok to dump poisonous industrial waste in her rivers.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much, it is ok to have ground water contamination.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much, it is ok for her fisher people to starve as polluted river and seawaters abound.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much, it is ok to consider pollution irrelevant for development’s sake.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much, it is ok to sell off farmland cheaply to the industries.

If we are to believe Mr. Modi, Gujarat has “developed” so much, it is ok not to give any subsidies or welfare schemes to the ordinary people.

16 February 2014 – Translated from Gujarati

Obituary: Vasudha Dhagamwar (1940 -2014)

vasudha_dhagamwar

Remembering the achievements and legacy of Vasudha Dhagamwar who influenced two generations of feminists and activists

By Aruna Burte

Vasudha Dhagamwar, legal activist and academician, passed away on February 10, in Pune of multiple organ failure. She was 74.

In 2005, Vasudha retired, after two decades of working at the Multiple Action Research Group (MARG), Delhi. She had set up MARG in 1985 to aid peoples’ rights through legal advocacy. In 2007 she shifted base from Delhi to Pune. As a law teacher Vasudha was both activist and academician with passion.

Dr.Dhagamwar was one of the signatories, along with three other renowned law teachers, to the famous open letter written to the Supreme Court of India in the year 1979, which had questioned the acquittal of the rapists in the Mathura rape case. This open letter influenced debates and anchored all the arguments that feminists made on the issue of rape in the 1980s. It became the rallying point of a sustained campaign on the issue of gender-based violence.

She was born to renowned parents – her mother, Geeta Sane, was a writer and feminist. Her father, Narasimha Dhagamwar, was a lawyer and active in the Indian freedom movement. When asked why Vasudha wrote her name as Vasudha Vasanti Dhagamwar, her close friend Jaya Sagade said, ‘she had two names and signed VVD.’

Vasudha’s close friend and colleague at MARG Aruna Mhaskar said, ‘Vasudha had a large friend circle. She always meant what she said. She was very forthright and transparent. She remained unmarried by choice. Vasudha worked on her mother’s biography till the end. Some of the work is still incomplete. Mostly Granthali is to publish it in the next month.’ While Aruna recounted, her voice was choking with the memory of her dear friend Vasudha, ‘Renuka took care of Vasudha since 2000 till end. Renuka’s young daughter Sumedha was like granddaughter to Vasudha. It was not a legal adoption though.’

Vasudha became an Ashoka fellow in 1982 for her sustained work for the rights of displaced people. In 1985, she set up the MARG Delhi, which looked at the issues of land acquisition and displacement arising out of the Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat. Among other things, she has been a member of the legal experts committee of the National Commission of Women, which drafted various bills relevant to women. She was also a member of the Executive Body of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative. She has many publications to her name.

The MARG Legal Literacy Programme grew out of its work on the issue of displacement and rehabilitation: a manual titled Land Acquisition Act and You was the outcome. Since then the legal literacy programme has been engaged in the task of spreading information on various laws with a focus on women. Our Laws/Hamare Kanoon is a set of 10 manuals, which deal with 23 laws that particularly affect women. She demystified the legal field by working both in teaching and in grass-roots legal aid and public interest work, thus benefitting activists and ordinary citizens.

Through her activist use of the law, she influenced almost two generations of feminists and activists in other fields. However, even a person of such scholarship was not able to resist the process of communalisation of perceptions, which began distinctly after the fallout of the Shah Bano case. Many in the progressive movement would subscribe to the process of demonising the Muslim community, branding it as ‘backward’, and especially asking why women in the community did not organise to reform their backward personal laws.

Vasudha accompanied the National Commission of Women fact-finding team after the 2002 post-Godhra Gujarat genocide. Regarding the fact-finding team, she wrote in The Hindu dated 22.5.2002, ‘We had also decided that the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, was not our direct concern.’ The report failed to record or recognise the pain, anguish, loss, injustice, death, rape and more suffered by Muslims – women, girls, children and men – in Gujarat, and state complicity in it. Saheli, Delhi, raised this point by issuing a statement. Moreover, the NCW spoke of getting women to do some economic activity in the camps to distract their minds by way of a healing touch. Vasudha went to the extent of asking an activist ‘why Muslim women did not get together to reform the Muslim Personal Laws like Christian Women did?’ when the team visited a relief camp, even a person with such great legal scholarship could be blinded by the majoritarian worldview!

While remembering her lifelong contribution, we also have to remind ourselves that such pitfalls do exist. Not to fall prey to a majoritarian worldview by being on constant vigil would be one way of offering our salute to Dr. Vasudha Dhagamwar and her contribution.

These are some of the books she authored:
1. Industrial Development and Displacement – The People of Korba
2. Role and Image of Law in India – The Tribal Experience
3. The Law of Resettlement of Project Displaced Persons in Madhya Pradesh
4. Women and Divorce
5. Reading on Uniform Civil Code and Gender and Child Just Laws
6. Criminal Justice or Chaos?

Penguin India to recall book on Hinduism, author Wendy Doniger issues statement

The -Hindus- Wendy -Doniger

Author Wendy Doniger reacts to Penguin India’s decision to withdraw and destroy the remaining copies of her book, The Hindus: An Alternative History in compliance with an out-of-court settlement with a Hindu right wing group

By Team FI
Author Wendy Doniger, in her statement, defended the publisher and stated that Penguin India had agreed to bring out the book despite its controversial subject and fought the case for four years. Doniger said that it was the law of the country that caused the trouble since the law has made publishing a book that offends Hindus a criminal offence. She also expressed her anguish at how this affects free speech in the country.

Shiksha Bachao Andolan, allegedly a Hindu right wing group, had filed a criminal suit in 2011 seeking a ban on the book – The Hindus: An Alternative History by arguing that the book was insulting to Hindus. One of the offending sentences in the book, according to Shiksha Bachao Andolan is the statement that Ramayana is a work of fiction.

An out-of-court settlement was reached between the group and the publisher on February 4, the terms of which was leaked to the media. As per the settlement, Penguin India has six months to recall and pulp the remaining copies of the book and stop its further publishing.

Here is the full text of the statement issued by Wendy Doniger:

Dear friends,
I have had literally hundreds of requests for interviews, in various
media, and I can’t do them all. So here is a statement that you may use. I hope
it’s enough; it’s the best I can do right now. I intend to write a longer article for
publication in a couple of weeks.

I was thrilled and moved by the great number of messages of support that I
received, not merely from friends and colleagues but from people in India that I
have never met, who had read and loved The Hindus, and by news and media
people, all of whom expressed their outrage and sadness and their wish to help
me in any way they could. I was, of course, angry and disappointed to see this
happen, and I am deeply troubled by what it foretells for free speech in India in
the present, and steadily worsening, political climate. And as a publisher’s
daughter, I particularly wince at the knowledge that the existing books (unless
they are bought out quickly by people intrigued by all the brouhaha) will be
pulped. But I do not blame Penguin Books, India. Other publishers have just
quietly withdrawn other books without making the effort that Penguin made to
save this book. Penguin, India, took this book on knowing that it would stir
anger in the Hindutva ranks, and they defended it in the courts for four years,
both as a civil and as a criminal suit.

They were finally defeated by the true villain of this piece—the Indian law
that makes it a criminal rather than civil offense to publish a book that offends
any Hindu, a law that jeopardizes the physical safety of any publisher, no matter
how ludicrous the accusation brought against a book. An example at random,
from the lawsuit in question:

‘That YOU NOTICEE has hurt the religious feelings of millions of Hindus by
declaring that Ramayana is a fiction. “Placing the Ramayan in its historical
contexts demonstrates that it is a work of fiction, created by human authors, who
lived at various times……….” (P.662) This breaches section 295A of the Indian
Penal Code (IPC). ‘

Finally, I am glad that, in the age of the Internet, it is no longer possible to
suppress a book. The Hindus is available on Kindle; and if legal means of
publication fail, the Internet has other ways of keeping books in circulation.
People in India will always be able to read books of all sorts, including some that
may offend some Hindus.

Yours with gratitude for your courage and compassion,
wendy

Bangalore court frames charges of rape against French consular official, Pascal Mazurier

Pascal -Mazurier

By Team FI

The Bangalore sessions court on Monday framed charges against Pascal Mazurier, a French consulate employee, for allegedly raping his three-and-a-half year old daughter.

Sessions Court judge Shubha Gowdar who is also the special judge for child rights, formally framed the charges against Pascal Mazurier for offenses punishable under Indian Penal Code Section 376 (punishment for rape). The judge adjourned the case until February 15 when she will fix a date for the trial.

Pascal Mazurier, who is employed at the Bangalore French Consulate, pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of raping his daughter.

In January this year, the session’s court had rejected Pascal Mazurier’s plea to cancel all charges against him. The court had observed that there was sufficient evidence for framing charges against the French national.

Mazurier’s Indian wife Suja Jones filed a police complaint against him after her daughter’s medical examination confirmed rape. According to child rights and women’s rights activists in Bangalore, Jones has been facing systematic character assassination by her husband, his powerful friends and men’s rights activists in India for seeking justice for her girl child.

New Afghan criminal procedure code may cause rise in domestic violence against women

Afghan-women-rights

With up to 87.2 percent of women having experienced some form of violence, women’s rights group asks President Hamid Karzai to withdraw his support to the law

By Team FI
In January this year, the Afghan Parliament passed a Revised Criminal Procedure Code that prohibits relatives of the victim/accused from testifying as witness during criminal investigations.

Jalal Foundation, a women’s rights group, fears that this will encourage family members to commit domestic violence with absolute impunity since women, girls and children can no longer be protected by relatives as they will not be able to testify against any accused family members. The Code awaits the signature of the President to complete the process of its enactment and Jalal Foundation and the many organizations of women and human rights are asking President Hamid Karzai not to do so.

Violence against Afghan women and girls is almost at a pandemic level, with up to 87.2 percent of women having experienced some form of violence To make the matter worse, offenders have either been at large or have received light punishment from the justice system, allege Jalal Foundtation activists.

Despite public indignation against it, weak leadership and political commitment remain a major stumbling block to the solution of the problem.

According to activists, offenders are emboldened by the inability of authorities to enforce the law and by the notion that the Taliban – the forebears of atrocities against women – are back in the mainstream of Afghan life.

The recent report of the UN High Commission for Human Rights reveals a 28 percent increase in violence against women in 2013. The recent case of Sitara demonstrates the risks that Afghan women face from the very people who are supposed to be their protectors. Sitara was beaten till nearly unconscious, arms and hands broken, stabbed in the head, and nose and ears sliced off, she barely survived the attacks of her husband right in front of their children. Other cases include the rape of Chaman Gul by a gang of police, hanging of two women in Logar, murder of two women by their sons in Faryab, murder of a daughter-in-law and two grandsons by their grandfather in Ghazni ;murder of Shakila in Bamianl, beheading of Mah Gul in Herat by her mother in law and cousin for refusing to prostitute herself and many more.

Jalal Foundation listed 75 survivors from various provinces of the country whose cases are not included in the official counts. According to the Foundation, this is only one indication that there could be so many more women survivors of domestic violence missing in official statistics whose welfare and legal needs are not being properly addressed.

According to Jalal Foundation, the steps that can be taken to improve the situation include:
Male members of the family should stand up against violence against women and Afghans should redeem families – from being institutions of women’s abuse and murder into one that fosters care, compassion, and protection for its members.

Violence against women should be placed within the ambit of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission.

The international community should withhold at least 30 percent of their aid to Afghanistan and use it as leverage to ensure that the government adopts effective measures to prevent violence against women and raise the percentage of offenders being prosecuted.

Afghan government should increase the number of women’s shelters and their budgets.

The legislative, judiciary and executive branches of government should find a permanent solution to the illegal operation of informal courts and should be declared illegal.

Religious institutions should desist from promoting ideologies that are inimical to the well-being of women, especially those that foster gender based oppression and violence against women.

Featured photo courtesy: Jalal Foundation

Kerala Police aid family to imprison adult daughter at home

moral-policing-kerala

Kerala, considered to be one of the most progressive states in India, saw its own version of a Khap panchayat – the rural police – who objected to the love affair of two consenting adults

Team FI

On 4th February, 2014, Aparna, a 24 year old Malayalee nurse, was threatened by the Kerala police at the Perumbavur (an hour away from Ernakulam) police station that she would be arrested for immoral acts. The threat was made when she appealed to them for protection from her family because she had been locked and beaten up for wanting to marry the man she chose.

Despite her screams for help, Aparna was dragged from the police station by her uncle, businessman Ranjan T, and her mother with the help of the police and shut up again in her house. For a week before that she had been kept prisoner at another uncle’s – Vasanta Kumar house in Malappuram district.

The trouble started when Aparna introduced Samar to her family. Aparna and Samar were not intending on marriage right away. They were merely introducing each other to their respective families. The objection to Samar was that he is only half a Malayalee Nair – what Aparna’s ‘uncle’ Vasanth Kumar (who claims to be a BJP leader) termed as a Mixed Hindu. Besides this, the accusation was that he is a divorcee, that he is 11 years older and that the astrological charts do not match.

On the 29th January, Aparna was told that her mother was near death, weeping and saying all she wanted was for her daughter to come and see her once, and she could go back. When she reached Perumbavur, from Bangalore where she worked at a clinic, she was immediately locked up in the house with the doors and windows shut so that no one could hear her scream.

The next morning she was taken to Manjeri, Malapuram, to her uncle Vasanta Kumar’s house. Threats against Samar were made, that if he comes to Kerala Vasanta Kumar would make sure the Ezhava community was goaded on caste lines to attack the young man. He also claimed he had the support of the BJP. Aparna managed to send a desperate text message to Samar to save her, and to get legal help.

Accordingly, Samar filed a habeas corpus writ in the Kerala High Court, and the court directed the police in Manjeri and Perumbavur to record the girl’s statement, independently, in private. Samar went to the Manjeri police station with his father, since he was told by his advocate Kaleeshwaram Raj, that if the girl wanted to walk out with him, she could, as an adult and no one could stop her. However, the law was not upheld.

In Manjeri, the SHO Nazar C K, at first denied any knowledge of Aparna’s uncle; he would have to consult the cyber cell. When Gouri, a local activist called the local BJP office, she found out immediately who he was. Samar then approached the Circle Inspector (CI) Krishnadas, who promised to record Aparna’s statement. Anweshi’s K Ajitha also spoke with the CI. When Krishnadas asked SHO Nazar to contact Aparna, he reported that the house was locked and the family had for Ooty. The CI called a family friend Yusuf, and said they would have to produce the girl. They agreed to bring her to the police station the next afternoon.

Aparna, whose phone had been confiscated, and the sim card removed (this was, she was informed by her family, so that the cyber cell could safely not be able to find her), was given back the phone. She was told they would agree to let her marry if she agreed to stay at home for 6 months and not testify against her family. Aparna and Samar suspected the idea was to break her spirit, and either get her married, or and whisk her away to Qatar where Yusuf claimed to have a job lined up for her. She was also told that the police had been adequately persuaded to support the family and that if she did not cooperate, false cases would be filed against Samar, and he would also be seriously injured.

The family wanted Aparna to file a rape case against Samar so that the police could arrest him which Aparna promptly refused. When Aparna was produced at the Manjeri police station, the SHO Nazar told her that if she said she was being held against her will, they would have to arrest her family – did she want to do that? Be careful what you say, he said, be a good daughter – go with your family. They then took her to a local magistrate who ‘handed over custody’ of the 24-year-old -woman to her mother on the basis that she might run away before they could present her in court. When Samar – who was not allowed by the police to speak with Aparna – tried to point out that she could leave with him if she wanted and that CI Krishnadas had agreed with it too, the SHO threatened and shouted at him to get out of there or else.

Two days later, the scene was to be repeated in Perumbavur. Except that this time Aparna rebelled. Meanwhile her phone mysteriously blocked all numbers except Samar’s. Everything they spoke was somehow known to her family. Samar’s smartphone suddenly lost all recordings of conversations that he had with Aparna and her family, including testimonies he had recorded. Samar’s family started getting missed calls from blank numbers. Yusuf and the family crowed that the Kerala police cyber cell was on their side.

In Perumbavur, Aparna told the local SHO K P Sreedharan to record that she was being kept prisoner, that she wanted police protection; that she did not want to go back. Sreedharan refused. He watched as her uncle Ranjan T, physically threatened her and dragged the screaming woman back home. When she said she would speak out before the judge on the 6th of February in the High Court, the SHO also told her she need not be produced, that she would not get the chance. Aparna hired a lawyer, Anila George, on the phone to represent her, from her illegal prison at home. Her family informed her that since it was now war, they were mobilising local people and that Samar would lose his life after the court date is over. They indicated that the judgment was already in their favour.

On 6th February, the case was called in the court but the family did not produce Aparna. The local police supported the woman’s family and disposed to the court that Samar is a divorcee and hence cannot be trusted. Therefore the family wishes to protect their daughter. However the judge ordered that Aparna must be produced at the court and the next hearing was scheduled for 13th February.

Experts from the letter sent by Samar’s mother to FeministsIndia e-group