Archive for February 27, 2015

Women activists to boycott Times Now TV debates

Arnab-Goswami

In an open letter to Arnab Goswami, Times Now news anchor, women activists condemn the demonization of the activists on the News Hour debates by the deliberate actions and responses of the anchor and mark their protest by refusing to participate in future debates

By Team FI
An open letter written by prominent women activists was sent to Arnab Goswami, the anchor of the Times Now show News Hour. The letter signed by Vrinda Grover, Sudha Ramalingam, Pamela Philipose, Aruna Roy, Anjali Bharadwaj, Kavita Krishnan and Kavita Srivastava declared their intent to “stay away” from Times Now debates. The letter states that action taken by these eminent women is in protest “against the vilification of activists and dissenting opinions, and the violation of the basic norms of professionalism, neutrality, reasonableness and fairness.”

The incident that catalysed the letter was the News Hour show where activists were invited to discuss the case of Greenpeace representative Priya Pillai. The letter states that not only were the activists harassed, – “heckled and subjected to hate speech” but also that the anchor, Mr Goswami, encouraged and orchestrated the said responses. The letter also alleges that the activist’s mikes were muted at times.

The letter specifically took “serious exception, to the repeated branding of activists as ‘anti-national’ or ‘unpatriotic’ – words that are terms of abuse and hate-speech, and that can, when repeated ad nauseam in an influential media space, have serious repercussions. Rights activists, public figures and defendants in legal cases have been subjected to hate crimes, and even killed, in the country.”
Quoting the Code of Ethics as given by the National Broadcasting Authority (NBA), the activists expressed concern that these ethics were being “willfully and habitually violated.”

The letter opined that shows such as News Hour represented the views held by the government and the Intelligence Bureau and was used to vilify and demonize activists because of the unprofessional conduct of the news anchor Arnab Goswami. “Far from maintaining neutrality and professionalism, you as the anchor were blatantly and aggressively opinionated, and never once provided the space for guests, whose views differed with yours, to voice their own opinions without continuous interruption and heckling.”

Following is the full text of the letter:

OPEN LETTER TO ARNAB GOSWAMI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, TIMES NOW
24th February, 2015

Dear Mr. Arnab Goswami,

We, the undersigned, who have on many occasions participated in the 9:00 p.m. News Hour programme on Times Now, anchored by you , wish to raise concerns about the shrinking space in this programme for reasoned debate and the manner in which it has been used to demonize people’s movements and civil liberties activists.

On 17th and 18th February 2015, in the News Hour show , a section of activists were invited to contribute to the debate on the “offloading” of Greenpeace representative Priya Pillai. Right from the start, the activists were denied the right to articulate their views. Not only were their mikes at times muted, they were repeatedly heckled and subjected to hate speech, with you, as the anchor, encouraging, even orchestrating and amplifying these responses.

We would like to make it clear here that the point to note is not our personal hurt, humiliation or the lack of respect shown to us from the other panelists, the anchor, or the channel. We also recognize that combative questions could be put to us when we participate in such a programme and that people may express their disagreements in a heated manner.

But we do object, and take serious exception, to the repeated branding of activists as ‘anti-national’ or ‘unpatriotic’ – words that are terms of abuse and hate-speech, and that can, when repeated ad nauseam in an influential media space, have serious repercussions. Rights activists, public figures and defendants in legal cases have been subjected to hate crimes, and even killed, in the country.

The media, which has a duty to conduct itself responsibly, cannot be allowed to aggravate the vulnerability of human rights activists, who are already being targeted, vilified and demonized, by the state and other vested and dominant interests

We are aware that on earlier occasions, too, many other guests at the News Hour studios have also been subjected to similar treatment by anchors like you or your colleagues. In the process, debates and discussions on important subjects of national import have been reduced to a one-sided harangue, with differing and dissenting voices being deliberately stifled. Loose allegations have been made about them, aspersions cast on their motives, and insinuations made about their patriotism, with all obligations of the media to conduct themselves in a neutral, fair and accurate manner being flung to the winds.

Our objection is not restricted to the occasions when activists have been subjected to this treatment. We find it equally objectionable when guests with points of view opposed to our own, are at the receiving end. We seek media space for rational presentation of arguments – our own as well as those whom we may disagree with, not for endorsement of our points of view by the media.

We believe it is important to seek transparency and accountability from the media. We are concerned when journalistic ethics outlined by the National Broadcasting Authority (NBA) are willfully and habitually violated. We would like to cite here relevant portions of the Code of Ethics issued by the NBA.

“News shall not be selected or designed to promote any particular belief, opinion or desires of any interest group….

“Broadcasters shall ensure a full and fair presentation of news as the same is the fundamental responsibility of each news channel. Realizing the importance of presenting all points of view in a democracy, the broadcasters should, therefore, take responsibility in ensuring that controversial subjects are fairly presented, with time being allotted fairly to each point of view….

“TV News channels must provide for neutrality by offering equality for all affected parties, players and actors in any dispute or conflict to present their point of view. Though neutrality does not always come down to giving equal space to all sides (news channels shall strive to give main view points of the main parties) news channels must strive to ensure that allegations are not portrayed as fact and charges are not conveyed as an act of guilt.”

“… avoid… broadcasting content that is malicious, biased, regressive, knowingly inaccurate, hurtful, misleading….”

The television shows cited here were designed to canvas certain views held by the Government and the Intelligence Bureau and appeared as a platform for the public heckling and jeering of the activists involved, not just by other panelists but by the anchor himself. Far from maintaining neutrality and professionalism, you as the anchor were blatantly and aggressively opinionated, and never once provided the space for guests, whose views differed with yours, to voice their own opinions without continuous interruption and heckling. Apart from the fact that a fair allotment of time to them was never made, never once did you as the anchor consider the legitimate questions they raised as worthy of a response.

Not surprisingly then, an opportunity to question the accusations raised by the Government was not allowed. Instead, Government allegations were presented as self-evident facts by you as the anchor. You went on to claim that you had the ‘facts’ to prove the ‘anti-national’ character of one organization in particular and activists in general. While the responses of the activists on these panel were deliberately distorted, you as the anchor insinuated baselessly that the said activists were employing ‘hackers’, and that they had ‘deposed against India’.

We know that a similar scenario has been played out on many other occasions on the Newshour. The label ‘anti-national’ is attributed to invited guests without any basis in fact or law, as a term of abuse and hate-speech. Similar terms, used as forms of hate-speech, include, ‘Naxal’, ‘terrorist’, ‘terrorist sympathiser’.

It is inappropriate and irresponsible for channels to label anyone as ‘nationalist’ or ‘anti-national’ or ‘terrorist’ or the like. If panelists indulge in such terms, it is in fact the duty of the anchor to rein them in, and to ensure that such loaded and provocative words are not used to drown out the substantive points of the discussion or disagreement.
For moderators of the debate to allow such terms to be hurled at participants, and in fact to endorse and repeat such terms, is a gross abuse of the media’s immense power.

On one previous Newshour show on sexual violence in December 2013, intended ironically to mark the first anniversary of the ‘Nirbhaya’ rape, a prominent panelist on your programme repeatedly shouted that the two feminists on the panel were ‘Naxals who believed in free sex’. As such, the words ‘Naxalite’ and ‘free sex’ need not be pejorative. All sex should indeed be free. But in this case the terms were used as tools of abuse, equivalent to ‘terrorist’ and ‘slut’, in order to detract from reasoned argument.

Surely, even debates involving panelists’ views on, or association with, the Naxalite movement in India, have to be conducted fairly and reasonably, without allowing the term ‘Naxal’ to be used as a form of abuse or to heckle a participant. Surely, even if participants and guests support self-determination in Kashmir; or are representatives of another country; or hold an abolitionist view on the death penalty; a news channel inviting them to express their views has the obligation to allow them to do so without being branded as ‘terrorists’ or ‘anti-nationals.’ If the Government can have talks with organisations who hold these opinions, or with leaders of these countries, they are surely entitled to be heard on national television with a modicum of dignity?

In protest against the vilification of activists and dissenting opinions, and the violation of the basic norms of professionalism, neutrality, reasonableness and fairness, we have for the present decided to stay away from Times Now debates. The purpose of this gesture of protest is to demand accountability of the television media, including Times Now, to the norms outlined by the NBA’s Code of Ethics. We take this step as an effort to promote public debate and a responsible engagement with opposing ideas and stances in order to deepen democracy.

Sincerely,

Vrinda Grover – Lawyer, Supreme Court of India

Sudha Ramalingam, Lawyer Madras High Court and Civil liberties Activist

Pamela Philipose, Feminist and Senior Journalist

Aruna Roy, Right to Information, NREGA and Democratic Rights Activist

Anjali Bharadwaj, Right to Information Activist

Kavita Krishnan, Women’s movement and Left Activist

Kavita Srivastava, Women’s movement and Civil Liberties Activist

Emailed to Arnab Goswami at 8.09 am on 26th February, 2015

Nationwide support for Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand

Teesta-Setalvad

Statement by People’s Union for Civil Liberties(PUCL)

The PUCL welcomes the Supreme Court granting an immediate stay on the Gujarat High Court order permitting the custodial interrogation of journalists and Human Rights Defenders, Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, while refusing to grant them anticipatory bail.

The Gujarat High Court passed its order on the 12th of February in the FIR of alleged misappropriation of funds collected for building a memorial for the 2002 and other riot victims of the Gulbarg Society in Ahmadabad. In the same matter it also granted bail to three other accused of the same charge.

This is not the first time that Teesta Setalvad is being targeted through false FIRs. Earlier too in the Best Bakery case of Vadodara and the Exhumation case of Panchmahals, there were efforts to malign the name and credibility of journalists Teesta and Javed Anand; however, both were stayed by the Supreme Court.

It also cannot be ignored that it was through the efforts of Teesta, Javed and other activists of Gujarat and outside, that 117 people have been given life imprisonment for perpetrating the 2002 Gujarat mass killings, including Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani. Incidentally Gujarat state is the only one where so many victims of communal violence have got justice, thanks to the untiring efforts of human rights defenders like Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand, CJP and others.

PUCL had brought to the attention of the NHRC the type of persecution and prosecution by Gujarat police of Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand and the CJP for persistently seeking justice for the victims of the communal holocaust in Gujarat in 2002 following the Godhra incidents. We had pointed out that the, “allegations of financial impropriety are easy to make; but the damage such allegations cause to individual reputation and self respect is irreparable. Very often though nothing much comes out of such allegations finally, the allegations would well have achieved their purpose of putting the individuals and organisations concerned on the defensive and force them to necessarily participate in an endless spiral of litigation trying to prove their innocence.

Apart from diverting defenders from the main task of protecting, promoting and preserving human rights work, immense amounts of time, physical and emotional energy, and finances are lost in fighting malicious prosecutions and litigations”.

it was through the efforts of Teesta, Javed and other activists of Gujarat and outside, that 117 people have been given life imprisonment for perpetrating the 2002 Gujarat mass killings

Seen in this backdrop the dogged and repeated demand of the Gujarat police seeking the arrest and “custodial interrogation” of Teesta and Javed is a matter of grave concern.

Firstly, we would like to highlight that legally the direction of the Gujarat High Court seeking custodial interrogation is in violation of the fundamental right under Art. 20(3) of the Constitution that “No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself”.

Secondly, we would like to point out that factually during the pendency of the anticipatory bail before the Gujarat High Court, Teesta and Javed in obedience to the directions of the court had presented themselves regularly before the investigation officers. They were subjected to hours of questioning each time during which they fully cooperated.

Reportedly all documents including audited accounts, bank statements of the individuals and the Trust, resolutions of trustees and so on were submitted. Voluminous documents were filed before the Gujarat High Court as well. Hence the insistence of the Gujarat police for `custodial interrogation’ appears to be more a veiled threat of third degree methods and torture than any genuine necessity for investigation.

PUCL would like to point out that the SC has clearly spelt out the law relating to arrest and custodial interrogation in the landmark case of `Joginder Kumar vs State of UP’ (1994). The SC has pointed out that arrest and detention in police lock-up of a person can cause incalculable harm to the reputation and self-esteem of a person and therefore no arrest can be made in a routine manner on a mere allegation of commission of an offence made against a person.

Pointing out that it would be “prudent for a police officer in the interest of protection of the constitutional rights of a citizen and perhaps in his own interest that no arrest should be made without a reasonable satisfaction reached after some investigation as to the genuineness and bona fides of a complaint and a reasonable belief both as to the person’s complicity and even so as to the need to effect arrest”. Stressing that denying a person of her / his liberty is a serious matter the SC said, “A person is not liable to arrest merely on the suspicion of complicity in an offence.

There must be some reasonable justification in the opinion of the officer effecting the arrest that such arrest is necessary and justified. Except in heinous offences, an arrest must be avoided if a police officer issues notice to person to attend the Station House and not to leave the Station without permission would do.” ((1994) 4 SCC 260 at page 267, emphasis ours)

Very importantly, the apex court also pointed out that “No arrest can be made because it is lawful for the police officer to do so. The existence of the power to arrest is one thing. The justification for the exercise of it is quite another. The police officer must be able to justify the arrest apart from his power to do so”. The court thereafter pointed out that arrest and custodial interrogation that follows should be only in the following circumstances: (i) if the accused persons will flee justice or (ii) tamper with evidence or (iii) intimidate witnesses. The ruling of the Supreme Court is now a statutory safeguard incorporated in section 41 of the Criminal Procedure Code as amended in 2010.

None of these three situations exists in the case of Teesta and Javed, who have been regularly appearing before the authorities. They have always produced required documents even when it was clear that the police were on a fishing expedition desperately trying to find some evidence to pin against them. It is necessary also to point out that the accusation against Teesta and Javed are not of having committed heinous offences but financial ones, all of which can be established or disproved mainly on documentary evidences.

PUCL is disturbed by the other sweeping and unwarranted comments made by the Gujarat High Court about the role of individuals and NGOs. We are however confident that the Hon’ble Supreme Court will ensure that justice is eventually done as the judiciary is the only bulwark against abuse of power by the executive against human rights defenders.

We also hope that the SC will consider ordering an impartial enquiry into the matter by an independent agency under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court as was ordered in other cases related to Gujarat communal violence. This will help establish the truth.

Sd/ -
Dr. V. Suresh, General Secretary, PUCL & Prof. Prabhakar Sinha, President, PUCL

Activists question Gujarat Govt motives in Setalvad case

Teesta- Setalvad

Civil society and political activists raise voices in support of social activists Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand who are facing arrest by the Gujarat police

By Team FI
Following the Gujarat High Court’s rejection of the anticipatory bail plea of Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand and Gujarat police’s immediate arrival in Mumbai to arrest Setalvad in the embezzlement case of the Gulbarg society, activists, eminent citizens, journalists and legal experts have condemned the actions of the Gujarat government.

At a function organised at the Press Club of India on 16 February, in New Delhi, former Additional Solicitor General of India Indira Jaisingh, veteran journalist and activist Dr. John Dayal and the editor of Jan Satta Hindi daily Om Thanvi spoke against the machinations of the Gujarat government and questioned the veracity of its claims against Setalvad and Anand.

On 15th February, a demonstration of solidarity with Setalvad and Anand was organised by the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) Maharashtra committee. A large number of activists and eminent citizens gathered outside local railway station at Dadar to condemn the Gujarat police of hounding the social activists with false cases.

The gathering was attended by film maker Anand Patwardhan, renowned writer-activist Dr. Ram Puniyani, AIDWA Maharashtra Secretary Sonya Gill, CITU leader Dr.Vivek Monteiro, Dolphy D’souza, Subodh More, Vandana Shah, Sumedh Jadhav and several other eminent citizens of Mumbai. DYFI state president conducted Adv.Bhagavan Bhagwan Bhojne, Secretary Preethy Sekhar and State committee member Moin Ansar also spoke.

As per the press release issued by DYFI, Anand Patwardhan spoke about the long standing criminal record of Gujarat Police, alleging that they have become a tool in the hands of Sangh Parivar. Cruel encounter killings, diabolic attempts to destroy evidence and frame innocents – these are the credentials of Gujarat Police, stated Patwardhan in his speech.

Gujarat Police is targeting Teesta because she had shown many BJP leaders their way to Jail

Dr. Ram Puniyani stated that Gujarat Police is targeting Teesta because she had shown many BJP leaders their way to Jail. “What is now taking place is part of the efforts to insulate the perpetrators of 2002 massacres from the process of law. Fascist forces occupying state power are not going to stop at this. They will try to hunt down everyone who will stand up for justice. All citizens who wants secularism and democracy to prevail must fearlessly resist SanghParivar machinations,” said Dr.Puniyani.

The press release stated that Sonya Gill drew attention to the irony of police officers accused of infamous encounter killings are walking free even as Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand are sought to be put behind bars. “Tireless and courageous work by Teesta and Javed have been instrumental in bringing high-placed criminals to justice. Now the state machinery is trying to frame them in the hope that their work could be obstructed. It is a matter of much pride that Teesta and Javed are undeterred by all the machinations of Gujarat Police,” said Gill as per the press statement.

Dr. Vivek Monteiro explained how BJP has been using the police machinery in Gujarat and elsewhere to frame innocents. It is a pity that judiciary is not able to prevent the bias in our police system against minorities and those who stand up for the rights of the marginalized sections.

“Slogans like “Teesta tum sangharsh karo, hum tumhare saath hai”, “BJP sarkkar ki dadagiri nahi chalegi” electrified the evening at Dadar; it was a show of determination and unity of secular forces in Mumbai. DYFI leaders declared that, in the days to come, the organization will galvanise the secular collective of Maharashtra and meet the challenges posed by Hindutwa forces in the state,” declared the press release. According to the press release the demonstration was attempted to be disrupted by the Mumbai police who were present in large numbers at the protest site.

Kamala Maushi: Salute to a proud Devadasi

Kamala-Maushi

In memory of a proud Devadasi, a relentless activist who fought for sex workers rights, a natural leader and a compassionate comrade – Kamala Maushi (11-2-1950 to 11-2-2015)

By Meena Seshu

“Unlike gharguti [household] women I am married to a Goddess! In my culture, I have become a man. I am a Kaka (paternal uncle) to my nieces and nephews! All property in the house will be distributed equally among my brothers and me. Upper caste people in the village have to treat me with respect,” said Kamalabai Pani, explaining the Devadasi custom.

I met Kamalabai in April 2000 when she came to the office of Sampada Grameen Mahila Sanstha (SANGRAM) office in Sangli with Bhimawa Gollar. They were best friends: both ‘big’ Gharwalis (Brothel owners) in Sangli. They came because Sidharam a local thug had targeted Kamalabai, pulled her out of a running auto rickshaw and physically assaulted her. They approached us to intervene because the police refused to file a case against Sidharam. We went and filed the case together and from then on all our lives changed.

Kamala Maushi was proud to be a Devadasi. She always believed that she was in a much better position compared to married women, because she felt more in ‘control’ of her life. She loved her jewellery and wore it for almost any occasion. “I am not a poor woman,” she often said.

Her understanding about the Devadasi system defied argument. She was perplexed by the opposition to the Devadasi system. Her argument was that she was superior because she was married to a goddess and thus would never be a widow; she was considered a ‘male’ in the family; she was the head of her household; she had control over her earnings and her property; her children were her own and did not belong to the man who fathered them; she was allowed to have multiple sexual partners among other freedoms.

She disagreed with the analysis that the Devdasi system was established in order to ensure that upper caste and upper class men always had access to women from the Dalit castes with societal sanction. She argued that in her own personal life she had ‘kept’ and had access to many men from all castes and classes of society. She paid to keep them and left them when she wanted to do so. Her present malak (live in lover) was an upper caste landed farmer who she ‘maintained’ till her death.

Kamalabai was a natural leader who had the respect of various levels of people she interacted with, District Magistrate, Police, Dean of the Civil hospital, Municipal Councillors, MLAs, lawyers, NGO leaders, Trade Union leaders, community leaders, feminist leaders both national and international. When the Collector of Sangli had a meeting on income generation projects for sex workers she told him, “Sir, the government should have income generation for persons who are unable to earn on their own. Sex Workers already have an income.” The DM immediately instructed his officers to stop the compulsory rehabilitation of sex workers, in Sangli.

Her arguments with police officers and health officials in Sangli were legendary: “Are we not human?” is a question she asked every official who violated the rights of sex workers

Her understanding of the right to be treated as a human being irrespective of the legality of her work (brothel keeping is illegal) never failed to impress me. She argued that criminalisation of her work did not give law enforcement the right to violate her dignity.

At the community level she coined the term “Anyay sehan karnar nahi”. Will not tolerate injustice! She mobilised to root out money lenders who charged exorbitant interest, in Gokulnagar first and then on the idea spread to all the areas in which the Veshya Anyay Mukti Parishad (VAMP), the sex workers’ collective, was active. A staunch supporter of collectivisation, as an effective method in the struggle for rights, she nurtured many a young leader in VAMP. She talked about rights of young women in sex work to both brothel owners and third parties involved in the management of sex work.

She played a huge part in stopping minor girls from entering the business. Talking to brothel owners, explaining issues of consent, deception, debt bondage and economic exploitation within the trade she convinced her opponents that trafficking was an injustice against the community and fought to oust dalals (agents) and money lenders.

The most endearing trait of this indomitable woman was her ability to forgive her enemies. She repeatedly told us all to control our anger. “Anger kills the collective spirit,” she always said. VAMP and SANGRAM will miss her wisdom, kindness and warmth. We only hope we have the strength to continue this struggle that means so much to all of us.

Kamala Maushi, Zindabad!

Charlie Hebdo cartoon: Mumbai editor granted interim relief, case hearing adjourned till Feb 17

Shirin-dalvi-case

Hounded Avadhnama editor Shirin Dalvi gets some reprieve as Bombay High Court grants protection from arrest till case hearing

By Team FI
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday granted interim relief to Shirin Dalvi, editor of Urdu daily Avadhnama, when the public prosecutor failed to appear. The divisional bench adjourned the hearing to February 17 and granted protection against any coercive action against her till then.

Five FIRs have been registered against her in police stations in Mumbai, Thane and Malegaon. The Wednesday hearing was to hear Dalvi’s plea to club these FIRs together and quash them. The court was also informed about several death threats received by Dalvi.

Dalvi’s troubles began on January 17 when the Urdu daily reprinted the image of Charlie Hebdo’s ‘Je Suis Charlie’ cover of the week after the terror attack in Paris. Following complaints by readers and organisations, Dalvi offered an unconditional apology in the newspaper the very next day but it was not acknowledged by the Urdu Patrakar Sangh who went on to file the FIR that resulted in her arrest. The newspaper closed down on January 19.

The Mumbra police, under the Thane district jurisdiction, had arrested Dalvi on January 28 on charges of “hurting religious sentiments” by reprinting the image of Charlie Hebdo’s ‘Je Suis Charlie’ cover the week after the terror attack in Paris, in the pages of the Urdu daily Avadhnama. She was charged with violation of Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code (outraging religious feelings by insulting a religion with malicious intent) on a complaint filed by Zubair Azmi, the Director, Urdu Markaz, and Ahmed Ejahar, the president of the Urdu Patrakar Sangh. She was granted bail immediately.

Dalvi, along with the newspaper’s Publisher Yunus Siddiqui, Lucknow-based proprietor Taquadees Fatema, and Managing Director Deepak Mhatre, have obtained anticipatory bail in another case filed against them on the same charge by the same complainants in N M Joshi Marg police station. The bail was extended till February 4.

Many civil rights organizations and journalist bodies including The People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) and Network of Women in Media, India have expressed support for Dalvi and voiced their protest against the treatment accorded to her by the complainants, the police and the state authorities.

Statement issued by Network of Women in Media, India:
The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) expresses its support to Shirin Dalvi, editor of the Mumbai edition of the Urdu daily Awadhnama. Shirin Dalvi faces a number of cases in different police stations in Mumbai, Thane and Malegaon on charges of violating Sec 295 A of the Indian Penal Code (“deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli¬gious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or reli¬gious beliefs”), for having published a cover of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had a cartoon of Prophet Mohammed, along with a news report, on January 17. She has already apologised in print for this on January 18.

Dalvi was forced to go underground after sections of the Urdu Press gave exaggerated reports about possible law and order problems due to her act. There have been demonstrations and hunger strikes in her hometown Mumbra and dire pronouncements on social media and Whatsapp that her “crime”’ cannot be forgiven and deserved the harshest punishment of death.

Shirin Dalvi began writing on social and political issues and contributing to Urdu newspapers from her teens and rose to become the first woman editor of an Urdu daily newspaper. Yet, there have been derogatory references about her dress-style and “irreligiosity”; questions raised about her journalistic skills and the reasons for her swift rise to the top position in her profession. These comments and propaganda betray a misogynist mindset and contribute to an alarming and dangerous campaign in the present context of the charges against her.

The NWMI appeals to the government to provide security to Dalvi so that she can return home and live safely, and also asks it to act against those pronouncing the death sentence on her on Facebook and Whatsapp. We also urge the government to ensure that Dalvi and her staff are compensated for the sudden closure of the paper.

Following is the press statement by The People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS)
People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) joins all freedom loving people in denouncing the attempts to harass Ms. Shirin Dalvi, the reputed editor of the Urdu daily, Avadhanama, Mumbai in the name of hurting religious sentiments of Muslims. She had published a news story on the Charlie Hebdo massacre and republished a cover of the French magazine. Though she has apologized and stated that she did not have any intention to hurt religious sentiments of anybody she, however, has been charged with several different cases offences and even arrested. The newspaper she works for has had to close down and all its employees have been deprived of their jobs. All this is happening in the name of someone’s sentiments.

Ms Dalvi has received threatening phone-calls and messages. In brief, she is being subjected to physical intimidation and has had to take refuge in hiding. She is frightened for the sake of her children. She is being mentally tortured because the BJP government in Maharashtra is deliberately siding with hooligans claiming to represent the Muslim community.

PADS expresses its indignation at the treatment being meted out to Ms Dalvi and her family by the complainants in these cases, as well as the Maharashtra police and state authorities who are expected to defend citizens, not collaborate with their tormentors. Their sentiments may be hurt – but they have no right to intimidate and terrorise people. Our sentiments are even more hurt by the brazen threats issued to vulnerable people by these self-appointed warriors of religion.

At a time when India’s political atmosphere is already stinking of foul communal odours, the Maharashtra government’s complicity with Muslim fundamentalists is clearly meant to provide a free hand to other varieties of communalism in future. It wants to appear to be evenhanded in the discharge of its constitutional duty. But its duty was to protect Ms Dalvi and firmly oppose the communalists. Instead it has shown its contempt for the constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression; and failed to respect and defend the security and personal freedoms of the citizen.

PADS is relieved to learn that the body of the Mumbai journalists and other organizations have expressed their solidarity with the harassed editor. PADS demands that the state government withdraw all cases launched against Ms Shirin Dalvi and provide full protection to her and her family.

Rohtak rape and murder: Protest meeting for disabled rights in Delhi

Rohtak-rape-murder

By Team FI

The Delhi Viklang Adhikar Manch, an affiliate of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) has called for a protest meeting condemning the rape and murder of a young Nepalese disabled woman and the rising number of cases against disabled women in the country.

The protest is to be held in front of the Haryana Bhawan, New Delhi on February 13 at 10.00 a.m. The organisation appealed to the disabled community in Delhi “to join this protest and send out a clear warning that such incidents will not be tolerated.”

According to the information gathered by a six member team from the NPRD who visited the family of the young Nepalese woman, the victim had come to Rohtak to visit her sister. Though the family registered a missing persons report a few hours after she went missing, the local police did not investigate the matter, instead they asked the family to search for her on their own. The body of the young woman was found three days later.

“The nature of the injuries and violence inflicted on the woman reveals the perverted and dastardly mentality of the perpetrators,” reported the press statement put out by the NPRD. The statement also accused that “Had the police acted swiftly in trying to trace the missing lady immediately after the family lodged a missing person’s complaint, it was likely that this tragic incident could have been avoided.”

Protests were organised at Rohtak, Jind and Kaithal by the NRPD and its affiliates in Haryana. The Haryana police have arrested eight persons who have reportedly confessed to the crime.


Press statement from NPRD:

The Executive Committee of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) condemns the brutal rape and murder of a woman with a mental disability in Rohtak district of Haryana. The badly mutilated body of the woman who went missing on February 1 was found two days back. Had the police acted swiftly in trying to trace the missing lady immediately after the family lodged a missing person’s complaint, it was likely that this tragic incident could have been avoided.

Apart from the heinous crime of rape, what is even more shocking is the nature of the injuries and violence inflicted on the woman, revealing the perverted and dastardly mentality of the perpetrators. Even while a crime of this nature on any woman is unpardonable, the fact that the woman had a mental disability made her more vulnerable, a condition that was taken advantage of by the criminals.

Volunteers of the Haryana affiliate of the NPRD, Haryana Viklang Adhikar Manch, joined the protests yesterday at Rohtak along with other organisations. They also independently held protests at Jind and Kaithal. A NPRD delegation will be meeting the victim’s family tomorrow to express solidarity in its fight for justice