Archive for February 25, 2016

March 8 statement: Nationalism enslaves women


Your borders and boundaries will not stop the international solidarity and collectivisation of women, our imaginations dance wild like stardust, like the magic spells of witches

By Pinjra Tod

An Adivasi school-teacher and human rights activist, Soni Sori was brutally attacked by a group of men last Sunday, her face blacked with grease. Soni now lies in a hospital in Delhi, her face mutilated and swollen, unable to open her eyes, but amazingly relentless and fearless about continuing her struggle against the atrocities perpetrated by the Indian state and mullti-national corporations against her people, the Adivasis of Bastar and Chattisgarh and their lands, rivers, forests and songs. In 2011, Soni had been arrested on charges of being a ‘Maoist’ by the Chattisgarh police and labelled an ‘anti-national’ under a host of fabricated cases.

While in custody, Soni was subjected to brutal torture and assault. In a powerful letter addressed to the nation from jail, she had enquired in anger and desperation, “…by giving me current, by stripping me naked, or by brutally assaulting me – inserting stones in my rectum – will the problem of Naxalism end? Why so many atrocities on women? I want to know from all countrymen” The officer who led the torture on her, Ankit Garg, was awarded the Police Medal for Gallantry 2012 for his ‘valour’, ‘courage’ and ‘self-sacrifice’ in service of the ‘nation’, in service of ‘Bharat mata’.

Soni Sori’s case is not an ‘exception’ or an ‘aberration’. Kawasi Hidme, an Adivasi from Bastar, once again charged as a ‘Naxal’, was repeatedly tortured and abused in custody, sent from one jail to another, after the policemen in a station had ‘satisfied’ themselves ‘enough’. This continued for seven years, as the ‘valiant’ actions of the protectors of the ‘nation’ led to Kawasi’s body ejecting her uterus one day. Bleeding profusely in unbearable pain, she pushed it back the first time and attempted to cut it off with a blade borrowed from another inmate the next time.

Kawasi’s story came to light when Soni met her during her own time in jail. Hundreds of Sonis and Hidmes languish in prisons across the country. The women of Konan Poshpora, who were raped with impunity by soldiers of the Fourth Raj Rifles, the most senior rifle regiment of the Indian Army, more than 25 years back still await justice from the courts of law. The powerful protest of the Manipuri women who stripped naked defying the indefinite curfew imposed in Imphal, screaming “Indian Army rape us, kill us, take our flesh” after the rape and heinous murder of Thangjam Manorama, continues to disrupt our national pride from the ‘margins’ of this nation. The thousands of women who were raped during Partition, scream from the past, about the violence on women’s bodies that constitutes the very moment of inception of India as an ‘independent’ nation. This violence has been enacted over and over again in numerous moments across the history of this post-colonial nation, be it Emergency, the 1984 riots, the Godhra killings, the Gujarat riots, Operation Green Hunt, Kandhamal and Muzzafarnagar riots.

In a context of frenzy where everyone, from the right to the left, joins a race to assert who is the ‘true nationalist’ of them all, Soni’s blackened face, Manorama’s bullet-ridden dead body, Kawasi’s ejected uterus, begs us to ask the question: can the nation, any nation really ever belong to women? What is this nation built and held together (intergated?) by the rape and torture of women? Does the control, surveillance and violence on women’s lives, bodies and desires underlie the very core of what comes to constitute nationalism and the nation? Are masculine and patriarchal notions inherent to the imagination and construction of the nation?

We have heard a lot about the contradiction that plays out when the sanghi brigade threaten ‘mothers’ and ‘sisters’ with sexual abuse alongside exhaltations to ‘Bharat Mata’

However, a more crucial question that we need ask is: Why is India a mother, why is Bharat a Mata, why? Why this engendering of the nation? Does the imagery of the nation entrap women into pinjras where we are reduced to biological reproducers of its members (‘sons’); limited to ‘mothers’/'wives’/'sisters’ in need of protection; contained into cultural signifiers who are the markers and reproducers of cultural boundaries/differences; idolised into figures whose bravery is realised through self-sacrifice/erasure? In this gendered construction of the nation, the lives and experiences of Dalit, Adivasi and working class women are invisibalised, frowned upon and even, criminalised. As we critique the nationalist project of Hindutva, we need to interrogate if there can really be a truly inclusive nationalism or if the nation functions on creating an excluded ‘other’ vs-a-vis whom difference is established?

The violence of the nation on women does not lie only in so-called ‘exceptional’ incidents, it is enacted in the ‘everyday’, in the ‘mundane’, most often in our most initimate spaces and relations, in very insidious ways, beginning from our families and continuing to universities, workplaces and the society. The burden of the nation is a daily reality for every woman, manifesting in diverse forms in the numerous regulations and restrictions that bind and cage her, in the policing of her autonomy and freedom that she has to negotiate and resist, and even internalise, everyday.

How many times have our families told us that we have been corrupted by ‘Western’ ideals when we have argued with them for our most basic rights, be it the right to venture out at night or the right to study/work as a woman or the right to love the one we desire (the list is endless)? When the Justice Verma Committee set up after the Jyoti Singh rape case had recommended criminalising marital rape, a parliamentary standing committee, headed by Venkaiah Naidu, dismissed the recommendation, claiming that if marital rape is brought under law, the very edifice of the great Indian family system will come crumbling down. Basically what this asserts is that marital rape is a necessity for the ‘Indian’ family and the institution of marriage to survive. We have all heard of the horror tales of shaming and humiliation from women who have approached the courts seeking justice against sexual violence, as they were tried and interrogated for not adhering to the ideal of what marks the ‘good’ Indian woman.

Haryana CM’s ex-OSD, Jwahar Yadav statement, “For the girls who are protesting in JNU, I only have one thing to say that prostitutes who sell their body are better than them because they atleast don’t sell their country”, leads us directly into the patriarchy and brahminism that lie at the very heart of nationalism, trapping us into binaries of the ‘good’ vs the ‘bad’ woman, of the ‘anti-national/Maoist’ vs nationalist woman, the respectable woman vs the women on the streets, the good student vs the ‘ungrateful daughter’. A woman who is a sex-worker whose labour disrupts the premises of Brahminical morality and family ‘values’, is to be shamed.

An autonomous woman who thinks, who questions, who resists, who fights is a grave ‘national threat’ to this nation, especially so if you are an Adivasi or a Dalit or a Muslim or a working class woman who is speaking aloud. Such women defy the masculine and patriarchal script of nationalism produced by upper-caste men (dating back to the early nineteenth century!), that has been premised on silencing of women’s voices and experiences and entraping them in a swirl of pinjras of domesticity and alienation.

Pinjra Tod is an autonomous collective effort to ensure secure, affordable and not gender-discriminatory accommodation for women students across Delhi

Sisters, why should the Hindu right get to speak in our names?


Don’t let the Hindu right speak in our names! Calling all Matas, Mummas, Mummys, Nanis, Dadis, Buas, Maasis, Mausis, Behenas, Khalas, Phuppis et all

By Aarti Sethi

Main Bharat Ki Behena
Ab Sun le Mera Kehna
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Behena
“Suraksha” Main Nahin Rehena
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Mata
Samajh Nahin Aata?
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Mata
Tu Mujhe Kya Sikhata?
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nari
Kehti Hun Bari Bari
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nari
Khud Leti Zimmedari
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nari
Kisi Aur Ki Kar Tarafdari
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nani
I’m talking to you Smriti Irani
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Nani
Irani Tu Badi Pareshani
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Mummy
Smriti Don’t Get Chummy
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Khala
Rajnath Tu Ganda Nala
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Chachi
Irani tu Gand Machati
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Mausi
Irani Don’t Get Saucy
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Bua
Desh se Mat Khel Jua
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Dadi
Band Karo Ye Barbadi!
I Stand With JNU

Main Bharat Ki Bijli
Beta Kya Hai Teri Khujli?
I Stand With JNU

Human rights defenders under attack in Chhattisgarh



Soni Sori, local adivasi leader and the Aam Aadmi Party coordinator for Bastar Division, was attacked by three goons on her way home on the 20th of February in Geedam, Chattisgarh.

Soni Sori has communicated that the attackers threw a chemical substance on her face and threatened her saying “stop complaining against the IG, stop raising the issue of Mardum. If you don’t behave yourself, we will do this to your daughter as well.” She was also warned against attempting to file an FIR against the IG of police again.

The attack on Soni Sori is part of a larger campaign of State violence in Bastar; Under the guise of anti-Naxal operations, the security forces are indulging in rape and plunder. Teams of women activists have documented three cases of mass sexual violence in the past three months, where security forces have entered villages in Sukma ad Bijapur- stripping women, indulging in gangrape, looting their food supplies, and destroying their homes and granaries. The number of “encounters” is increasing, people are “disappearing” from villages, only to show up in the list of “surrendered” or “arrested” Naxalites several days later as press clippings and testimonies recount. The local police and administration are talking in one voice of “clearing” the area within one year.

Most recently, Soni attempted to file an FIR against the IG (Bastar) SRP Kalluri for instigating people to boycott and physically harm her. She had also raised the incident of the fake encounter of Hidme in the Mardum thana in Bastar District. Soni had organised a press conference in Raipur with the villagers and was trying to file a FIR regarding the case. While the police claim that Hidma was a high-ranking Naxalite (“1 lakh ka inami naxali”) killed after a fierce encounter in the jungles, the villagers claim that Hidma was an ordinary villager, picked up by the police at night from his house. His wife and elder daughter are eyewitnesses and the wife recalls the name of the police officer who had come to the house.

Soni has been working with fellow adivasis in responding to human rights violations by state athourities in the form of random arrests and unlawful detention, fake encounters, assaults on women etc. But people’s rallies and meetings have been stopped, villagers have not been allowed to register complaints and regular threats have been made against Soni Sori. In a recent incident, the Nagar Panchayat of Geedam reached Soni’s house and questioned her with regard to the title of her house and indirectly threatened to break it down as an encroachment. About ten days earlier, parchas were thrown into her house calling her a randi and a Maoist. She has been warned against entering Bijapur, where a spate of sexual violence by security forces has taken place.

The attack and threats on Soni have taken place along with the hounding of other women journalists, lawyers and human rights defenders in Chhattisgarh. These inlude,

Malini Subramanium, an independent journalist, reporting on issues in Chhattisgarh including the closing down of schools, women and children, brutal violence by security forces against the adivasis, fake encounters and surrenders in the Bastar. The domestic worker in Malini’s house was called and kept in the police station till late at night to terrorize her into implicating the journalist of being Naxalite. Her landlord was similarly threatened by the police into asking her to vacate the house. Malini, fearing for the safety of those who have always stood by her, left Jagdalpur on 19th February.

The Jagdalpur Legal Aid group (Jaglag), currently consisting of lawyers Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal were also hounded out of Jagdalpur on the 20th night, an hour before Soni Sori was attacked. Their landlord was picked up and detained in the police station and under threat asked them to vacate their house and office. Jaglag has been providing legal aid to adivasi prisoners under trial in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh since 2013. For the past year and a half, both lawyers were being hounded by the local police. They have been faced with thinly veiled threats at press conferences insinuating that the police are closely monitoring NGOs providing “legal aid to Naxalites”. Their clients have been informed that the police are about to arrest them for Naxalite activities. Visiting journalists and researchers have been told that they are a “Naxalite front. The local Bar Association, clearly prompted by the police, took out a resolution on October 3rd 2015 prohibiting them from practicing in the local courts. On their complaint, the State Bar Council of Chhattisgarh passed an interim order allowing them to practice again.

Bela Bhatia, an independent researcher, living in Bastar has similarly been working with Soni Sori and Jaglag on documenting and filing cases of human rights violations and people’s livelihoods. She has also been collecting information on the systematic use of violence by armed personnel and security forces. Bela Bhatia has also been threatened and her landlord is being found for questioning. Ex-Salwa Judum members, under the banner of Naxal Peedit Sangharsh Samiti and more recently the Samajik Ekta Manch have threatened her along with Jaglag and Soni Sori.

The series of events are clearly manipulated by the IG (Bastar) SRP Kalluri, who in 2006, as the Sarguja SP, was accused of raping a tribal woman and ordering his juniors to continue doing so for ten days. Kalluri was posted out of Bastar after 300 homes in Tadmetla and neighbouring villagers were burnt, people killed, and women raped by security forces in 2011.

We call attention to the fact that the hounding of the women human rights defenders is related to their work and the questions they have been raising in regards to state repression and violence against the tribal people in Chhattisgarh uner the guise of “LWE effected areas”. This is an attempt to ensure that the state of affairs in Chhattisgarh remain hidden from the public. It is clear that the Government wants to continue to use its tools of repression in a war against the adivasis; closing all channels of protest, dissent and justice.

(WSS) Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression emerged in November 2009 and has been active in addressing issues of sexual violence against women by state actors, police and military in the country

Lawyers’ union writes to Delhi Chief Justice demanding action against lawyers who assaulted JNU students and journos


All India Lawyers Union (AILU) has written to the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court demanding action against those who attacked students and journalists in the Patiala House Court premises on Monday. A group of lawyers, alleged to be pro-BJP, assaulted JNU students and journalists just before JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar, arrested for sedition last week, was to be produced in court.

Full text of the letter:

Hon’ble Ms. G. Rohini
Chief Justice of Delhi High Court
New Delhi

Sub: Representation on the incident of 15.02.2016 at Patiala House Court complex and request for appropriate action

Patiala House Court Complex incident dated 15.02.2016 calls for action to ensure administration of Justice and rule of law. Detail narrative is not required as the same is already in public domain. Suffice is to say that the lawyers affiliated to a particular ideology through social media invited their followers with inflammatory message.

About one hundred advocates gathered in front of the Court of the learned MM where JNU student leader Mr. Kanhaiya Kumar was scheduled to appear. This mob thrashed JNU faculty members and students who had come to attend the proceedings in the court. The mob did not spare even the advocates who had entered the court room to argue for the bail of the arrested person. The mob was so hysterical that they did not even spare journalists and the court staff. Advocates present in the court room were also assaulted.

The above incident at Patiala House Court has been shown on the electronic media and the reports which have appeared are sufficient to indicate the dereliction of duty on the part of the police. The police stood as a silent spectator. Not only this, the police personnel present there abetted the attackers. As a result of the above incident the remand proceedings of Mr. Kanhaiya Kumar could not be taken up in the open court at Patiala House.

That the mob was comprising of Lawyers identifiable in video footage and some outsiders. One MLA of Bhartiya Janta Party namely Sh. Om Parkash Sharma was caught on camera thrashing the members of public. The above acts tantamount to obstruction in administration of Justice and violation of rule of law which are corner stone of our Constitution.

All India Lawyers Union is approaching your good self with hope and trust that you as a head of Judiciary of Delhi shall protect the rule of law which is under threat. The persons who are identifiable as members of the mob and those who resorted to violence and obstruction to administration of justice have committed contempt of court and are required to be appropriately dealt with. For their brazen acts suomoto action by the High Court is called for. The police by their acts and omissions are guilty of dereliction of their duties. The Commissioner of Delhi Police is required to directed to discipline the police force under him and take appropriate action against the erring police officials.

Kindly take appropriate action in this matter.

With regards

Som Dutta Sharma
General Secretary, AILU

Featured Photo courtesy: Sonu Mehta-HT

What exactly did the JNU students leader Kanhaiya Kumar say?


By Team FI
Last week, Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union President Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested on charges of sedition by Delhi Police triggering large-scale protests from JNU students. JNU, known as a bastion of progressive students and teachers, is one of the most reputed Universities in Asia and its student union is headed by Communist Party of India affiliated All India Students Federation (AISF). Kumar’s arrest was based on a complaint by the ABVP, the student’s body BJP. However, a large number of students and teachers have come in support of Kumar accusing the ruling BJP of playing divisive politics in the campus.

Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech is available on YouTube and these are the main points of his speech;

1. These (RSS/ABVP are the chelas of those who had apologised to the British.

2. Their government in Haryana changed the name of the airport from Bhagat Singh to that of a Sanghi (RSS):

3. We do not want a certificate of patriotism from the RSS;

4. For us nationalism is to fight for the rights of the 80 per cent poor of India;

5. We have full faith in this country’s Constitution, if anyone raises a finger against India’s Constitution, be it of the Sanghis or anyone else, we will not tolerate that finger;

6. But the constitution that is being taught at Jhandewala or Nagpur, we have no faith in that constitution;

7. We have no faith in caste discrimination;

8. We want to uphold the rights we have been given under the Constitution of India;

9. The ABVP claims of standing for the students will be exposed if there is a debate on the basic issues of constitutional rights;

10. (Subramanian) Swamy says jihadis live in JNU, they believe in violence; we challenge the RSS and its supporters to come and debate on this.

11. They have problems when the poor ask for their rights, when the minorities, the women ask for empowerment;

12. They have difficulty in accepting when people talk of democracy and right, when along with Lal Salaam we add the Neela Salaam, when with Marx we take the name of Ambedkar;

13. Check my phone friends, my mother and sister are being abused. They talk of bharat maata but if my mother is not included in their concept I do not accept it. If the poor mazdoor woman, who works to get the Rs 3000 a month that finances my family, is being abused by them how can I or anyone accept this;

14. if you have the courage say inquilab Zindabad, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Ashfaqullah Khan, Ambedkar zindabad;

15. We stand with India, with the dream that Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar wrote; we stand for the dream that all get their rights to live, to food, to expression; Rohith sacrificed his life for this dream;

16. We challenge the Central government, we will not allow you to do what you did to Rohith to JNU;

17. We have to ensure justice for all , and that will come from Parliament, from the Constitution, from democracy;

18. JNUSU is against violence, against terrorism, against anti -national activity, the unidentified persons who have shouted Pakistan zindabad slogans, we condemn this completely,

19. Look at the slogans that the ABVP raises: communist kutte, afzal guru ke pillai, jihad ke bache. if the Constitution has given me the right to live, then can you call my father a dog, is that not against our rights;

20. Don’t hate these people, recognise their reality, i feel sorry for them, they raise slogans as they think that this will get them jobs. Their desh bhakti stops at a Pakistan cricket match.

JNU students protest: Rise in defence of democracy!

JNU-protest- meeting

The All India People’s Forum condemns the police crackdown on Jawaharlal Nehru University students and the arrest of the students union leader Kanhaiya Kumar

Full text of the statement:
The All India people’s forum (AIPF) condemns in the strongest possible words the trampling of all democratic norms and rights in the JNU campus. This is a targeted attack on one of the bastions of open, left , liberal spaces of hope, of dissent, of democracy.

JNU has been converted in to a war zone with police encirclement and raids inside. Students are being targeted and the president of the JNUSU has been arrested and sent to three day judicial remand. The AIPF condemns this encirclement and brutalization of the right to democratic dissent.

While the giving up of life by Rohit Vemulla brought out the deep rooted societal, institutional bias and had put the BJP on the political backfoot, it has seized this “opportunity” to hit back with its pet project of defining who is pro- national by defining and targeting the ant-national.

The latent but simmering contest between two ideas of a nation , of a country, have been brought out into the open. This is the challenge which all left, liberal and democratic forces have to respond to.

The AIPF, while calling for the immediate release of the arrested student leader, immediate, unconditional withdrawal of police forces from the JNU campus, demands unconditional apology from the Home Ministry for sending police forces to carry out the project of the RSS-BJP-Hindutva.

The Government of India is not constitutionally mandated to carry out such ideological onslaughts using government machinery.

On behalf of the Campaign Committee of the AIPF,

Swapan Mukherjee, N.D. Pancholi, , Gautam Mody, Kavita Krishnan, John Dayal, , Ambarish Rai, Kiran Shaheen, Vidya Bhushan Rawat,Avijit, Prem Singh Gehlawat,Rafiq Mulla

Protest against Muslim women Qazis unconstitutional, civil rights groups


Civil rights and women’s groups in Rajasthan issue statement condemning the verbal attack and opposition meted out to the two women Qazis by Muslim organisations such as All India Muslim Personal law Board and the Jamaat-e- Islami Hind. Meanwhile. Darul-Uloom Deoband, the leading Islamic seminary, has defended the two Muslim women

Full text of the statement;
Women and Social organisations of Rajasthan are outraged at the manner in which various individuals and organisations have come out against Qazi Afroza Begum and Qazi Jahanara, who have trained themselves for two years in Mumbai’s Darul Uloom -I- Niswan, and have begun working as Qazis in the city. We would like to condemn this opposition and attack, which is being led by the All India Muslim Personal law Board, Jamiatul-Ulame-Hind, the Jamait Islami Hind, the chairperson of the Rajasthan Madarsa Board, Anjum Educational Welfare Society, Taiba Social Welfare Society, Chief Qazi of Rajasthan, Jaipur Mufti and others, who have not even spared Nishat Hussien of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Aandolan, who facilitated the training of these women.

The opposition and attack of the two Qazis by the self professed Muslim religious establishment and the various agencies is not acceptable, as women in India of all religions are equal to men under Article 14 and under Article 19 have the right to undertake any religious studies

But it is their right under Article 25 where they are equally entitled to freely practice, profess and propagate their religion, this subsumes their right to choose to become Qazis. How can their right to propagate and practice Islam by becoming Qazis be denied. We would also like to highlight that the religion of Islam encourages diverse interpretation and therefore they too have the right to be Qazis.

We request the above organisations and individuals to stop this opposition and let the two Qazis do their job as it adheres to the fundamental right of equality, freedom of speech and expression and the right to equally practice, profess and propagate religion.

We would also like the media to hold restraint during their broadcast of the viewpoints which are denying this right to the women, as the discussion in some channels went to the point of humiliating the women Qazis as well as the organisation they belong.

We are

Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shanker Singh, MKSS Rajasthan
Kavita Srivastava and Anant Bhatnagar, PUCL Rajasthan
Renuka Pamecha Women’s Rehabilitation Group
Mamta Jaitly, Vividha : Women’s Documentatio and Resource Centre
Dr. Pawan Surana & Lad Kumari Jain (both former chairperson State women’s commission), Rajasthan University Women’s Association
Nisha Sidhu, Dr. Malti Gupta and Raj Kumari Dogra National Federation of Indian Women
Komal Srivastava, Bharat Gyan vigyan Samiti, Rajasthan
Sumitra Chopra and Kusum Saiwal, AIDWA
Indira Pancholi, Bhanwari Bai, Karuna Mahila Jan Adhikar Samiti, Ajmer
Tara Ahluwalia Mahila evam Bal Chetna Samiti, Bhilwara
Mewa Bharti,Domestic Workers Union
Rakhi, CFAR, RAjasthan
Dr. Meeta Singh, Vijay Lakshmi Joshi and Kapil Sankhla PUCL, Jaipur District
Suman Devathia All India Dalit Mahila Manch, Rajasthan
Asha Kalra, Children and woman welfare society
Bharat, Vishakha: women’s documentation and resouce centre
Anita Mathur and Apurwa Azad Foundation, Jaipur
Shabnam Aziz and Virendra Shrimali,The Hunger Project
Narendra, Action Aid Collective
Kanchan Mathur and Shobhita Rajagopal, IDS, Jaipur
Chhaya Pachauli and Narendra Gupta, Prayas, Chittorgarh
Pragnya Joshi, PUCL, Dungarpur
Sister Geeta, PUCL, Ajmer

Women journalists condemn attack on Malini Subramaniam


Malini Subramaniam, a journalist associated with the news website scroll.In was threatened by a gang of 20 men at her residence in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh on February 7. Here is the full text of the statement issued by the Network of Women in Media, India condemning the attack on Subramaniam

We, members of the Network of Women in Media, India, strongly condemn the shocking attack on the residence of Malini Subramaniam, a journalist based in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh and correspondent for the news site Scroll.In. The continuous attempts to intimidate and threaten her into silence must immediately stop and those responsible must be brought to book.
According to reports in the news site, Scroll.In,  a group of around 20 persons had come to her residence at about 6p.m. on February 7,  and shouted slogans attacking her, including ‘Naxali Samarthak Bastar Chodo. Malini Subramaniam Murdabad’ (Naxal supporter, leave Bastar. Death to Malini Subramaniam). The mob apparently tried to instigate neighbours to attack her and alleged that she was a Naxal supporter. Early on February 8, morning, at around 2.30a.m., a motorcycle slowed down outside and stones were thrown at her residence, damaging her car.
Ms Subramaniam has identified two of the men in the mob – Manish Parakh and Sampat Jha. Both of these men who accosted her at her residence on January 10 were members of the Samajik Ekta Manch, a Jagdalpur-based forum formed to counter Naxalism in Bastar and support the work of the police in the area. Parakh is the secretary of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Yuva Morcha and Sampat Jha is a member of the Congress in Jagdalpur.
The online news site, Scroll.In, has documented the level of intimidation faced by Ms Subramaniam and has pointed out that, over the last year, she has been writing consistently on issues of adivasis and displacement, mass sexual violence as well as other human rights violations. It is these reports that the Manch appears to have targeted as being ‘pro-Naxal’ and anti-police. Subsequent to the Jan 10 ‘visit’ by members of this Manch, Ms Subramaniam also received late night enquiries from the local police and had to face a number of questions and submit documents giving proof of her identity. The news site had tried to take up the instances of intimidation with Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh but received no response.

It is clear that the local police, which is tasked with protecting its citizens, has chosen to look the other way while the mob demonstrated outside her residence. At the time of this writing, the police had not filed a First Information Report (FIR), nor initiated any investigation into the incident, much less ensured the safety and protection of Ms Subramaniam and her daughter

Already, journalists across the country have lodged strong protests over the arrest and continued incarceration of two journalists from Chhattisgarh, Santosh Yadav and Somaru Nag. Now, in this incident, the indifference of the police and the state administration as well as the Chief Minister is a dangerous portent for freedom of expression and for the safety and security of media persons in particular and citizens in general.
We demand that an FIR is immediately filed; Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh immediately announce a full and thorough investigation into the incident and take steps to ensure the safety of Ms Subramaniam. His failure to do so can only be taken as an indication of his tacit support for such heinous and coercive tactics. 
Network of Women in Media, India

Women’s groups appalled by Maneka Gandhi’s proposal to record sex of the foetus and monitor pregnancies

Maneka Gandhi

The undersigned women’s organizations and right to health groups across India express their deep dismay at the recent statement made by the Hon. Minister for Women and Child, Mrs Maneka Gandhi proposing that sex determination tests be conducted on pregnant women, each pregnancy put on record and then pregnancies monitored to ensure that the foetus was not aborted in case it was a female.
It is extremely distressing that a senior government official such as the Hon. Minister should make a statement in contravention of the PC-PNDT Act (1994, rev 2003) where the disclosure of the sex of the foetus is itself the prime offence. Moreover where the Act talks of strict penalties against the diagnostic facilities and practitioners who do not comply with the legal requirements, the Hon. Minister expresses reluctance to ‘keep arresting’ ultrasound owners and involved medical personnel who make profits from sex determination tests.

Civil society groups also express astonishment at such a proposal emerging from the Ministry for Women and Child which will severely curtail women’s rights to bodily autonomy and ability to access essential maternal healthcare, such as safe and legal abortion services or post-abortion care in case of miscarriages

It is possible that many women who need an ultrasound or a safe abortion for many other reasons apart from sex selection, would find themselves being denied these services.  The Hon. Minister must be aware that unsafe abortions significantly contribute to the very high maternal deaths in India, and such rules will contribute to further maternal deaths. We need to move towards greater empowerment and autonomy for all our citizens and a fulfilment of their human rights, and not move back into an era where vigilante behaviour was encouraged and our bodies and lives were not in our control.
The groups recommend that we look deeper for reasons that compel families to opt for only male children, and consider daughters a burden. Towards addressing deep gender discrimination in our society we must have in place a rights-based approach to address the issue of gender-biased sex selection that respects women’s rights as an individual, fulfils her rights to health and protects her decision-making about her body.

Jashodhara Dasgupta.​ Convenor, National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights
​/ ​Healthwatch Forum UP

Anubha Rastogi, ​National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights

​Dr. Vandana Prasad, ​National Convenor, Public Health Resource Network

​Renu Khanna, SAHAJ /JSA/  CommonHealth

Rupsa Mallik & Surabh Srivastava, CREA New Delhi