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1,300 marginalised from over 11,000 students pass competitive exams

In the last four years, the Centre says that a little more than 1000 students have passed competitive examinations.

17 Sep 2020

marginalised from over 11,000 students pass competitive exams

Out of 11,742 SC and OBC students preparing for examinations in coaching institutions, only 1,300 students were selected, said the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on September 16.

Member of Parliament Partap Singh Bajwa questioned Minister of State (MoS) Rattan Lal Kataria about the number and performance of SC and OBC students who had enrolled in coaching institutions for different competitive exams. He also asked about the number of students who had enjoyed the Pre-Matric Scholarship (PMS) scheme since 2016. The PMS is a Centrally-sponsored scheme that supports SC parents and seeks to improve participation of their children studying in Classes 9 and 10 of the pre-matric stage.

Accordingly, MoS Kataria listed the total number of reserved slots in coaching institutions across India from 2016-17 to 2019-20. The presented data showed that Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of successful SC and OBC students at 214 out of 600 enrolled students. Delhi was second highest in this regard with 204 out of 2050 enrolled students passing exams. Delhi also had the highest number of enrolled participants.

Tripura recorded 300 enrolled students but reported that no student had passed the competitive exams. Similarly, while Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha reported 400 students, 1100 students and 292 students respectively, they failed to report how many students had successfully cleared examinations.

Haryana also showed poor performance with only five students recorded to have passed exams out of the 300 students enrolled in the last four years.

Regarding beneficiaries under the PMS scheme, the Ministry said that 28,09,542 students were provided this scholarship in 2019-20. In 2018-19, as many as 26,30,366 students benefited from this scheme. 2018-19 recorded 3,48,112 students more than 2017-18 figures that recorded 22,82,254 beneficiaries.


In 2018, SabrangIndia reported on the importance of pro-minority schemes like PMS and their decline in then Poll-Bound States.

 

Related:

EXCLUSIVE: Decline in Minority Scholarships in all Poll Bound States Except Telangana

PMS fund allocation yet to be received by some states

No Mid-day meals disbursed in Goa during lockdown: Education Ministry

PM Modi says the NEP hasn't raised concerns of any bias

 

1,300 marginalised from over 11,000 students pass competitive exams

In the last four years, the Centre says that a little more than 1000 students have passed competitive examinations.

marginalised from over 11,000 students pass competitive exams

Out of 11,742 SC and OBC students preparing for examinations in coaching institutions, only 1,300 students were selected, said the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on September 16.

Member of Parliament Partap Singh Bajwa questioned Minister of State (MoS) Rattan Lal Kataria about the number and performance of SC and OBC students who had enrolled in coaching institutions for different competitive exams. He also asked about the number of students who had enjoyed the Pre-Matric Scholarship (PMS) scheme since 2016. The PMS is a Centrally-sponsored scheme that supports SC parents and seeks to improve participation of their children studying in Classes 9 and 10 of the pre-matric stage.

Accordingly, MoS Kataria listed the total number of reserved slots in coaching institutions across India from 2016-17 to 2019-20. The presented data showed that Uttar Pradesh had the highest number of successful SC and OBC students at 214 out of 600 enrolled students. Delhi was second highest in this regard with 204 out of 2050 enrolled students passing exams. Delhi also had the highest number of enrolled participants.

Tripura recorded 300 enrolled students but reported that no student had passed the competitive exams. Similarly, while Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha reported 400 students, 1100 students and 292 students respectively, they failed to report how many students had successfully cleared examinations.

Haryana also showed poor performance with only five students recorded to have passed exams out of the 300 students enrolled in the last four years.

Regarding beneficiaries under the PMS scheme, the Ministry said that 28,09,542 students were provided this scholarship in 2019-20. In 2018-19, as many as 26,30,366 students benefited from this scheme. 2018-19 recorded 3,48,112 students more than 2017-18 figures that recorded 22,82,254 beneficiaries.


In 2018, SabrangIndia reported on the importance of pro-minority schemes like PMS and their decline in then Poll-Bound States.

 

Related:

EXCLUSIVE: Decline in Minority Scholarships in all Poll Bound States Except Telangana

PMS fund allocation yet to be received by some states

No Mid-day meals disbursed in Goa during lockdown: Education Ministry

PM Modi says the NEP hasn't raised concerns of any bias

 

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Bihar police shower bullets and lathis on Adivasis in Kaimur!

The Adivasis were staging a peaceful sit-in protest demanding rights over forest land and resources

15 Sep 2020

Adivasis

In a rather outrageous incident of highhandedness of authorities over the vulnerable tribal communities, Bihar police fired at a democratically organised protest sit-in in Adhaura block of Kaimur District. Activists of Kaimur Mukti Morcha had staged a sit-in demonstration on September 10 and 11, 2020, to demand legal rights over water, forest and land. But the police administration and forest department did not listen to their demands and the activists locked the gates and forest department in a symbolic manner, to make their voices heard. But instead of engaging in a dialogue with the peaceful protestors, the police opened fire and lathi-charged the protesters!

Three people from Sarai Nar, Barkatta and Chafna were injured in the incident, while more than half a dozen people of Kaimur Mukti Morcha were arrested.  The police also broke locks of Kaimur Mukti Morcha office and conducted raids there.

About the movement

This struggle has been going on for decades when the “Kaimur Mukti Morcha” (Translated as: “Kaimur Freedom Movement”) was launched with the help of Dr. Vinayan who was also the founder member of the All India Union of Forest Working People (formerly known as National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers). 

The contribution of the movement has been praiseworthy, and has been acknowledged by the state government as well in the past. Though the Kaimur area was notorious for its Maoist presence in the past, it became free of Maoists after the organisation of Kaimur Mukti Morcha by Dr. Vinayan who advocated strictly democratic means such as peaceful dialogue. 

On the day of the peaceful protest, the members of Kaimur Mukti Morcha were making the following demands:

- the administrative reorganisation of Kaimur Pahar

- declaring Kaimur as a Scheduled area as per the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution

- implementing the Chhota Nagpur Kashtkari Act

- abolishing the Kaimur Pahar Forest Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve

- Forest Rights Act 2006, along with Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 to be implemented effectively.

Precursor to the incident

In July as well, Kaimur Mukti Morcha had gathered around the office of the Block Development Officer to get their demands heard. This gathering saw thousands of villagers from various villages in Adhaura block expressing their anguish over the persistent nuisance caused by forest officials obstructing their daily lives and means of livelihood making life difficult for them during the lockdown.

Forest department’s atrocities

The forest department officials, since March, have been allegedly employing means like encroaching upon agricultural lands of these Adivasis with the intention of evicting them from villages of Adhaura block such as Gullu, Guiya, Dighar, Bahabar, Pipra, Sainagar, Sodha, Bahera, Dumrava, Sarainar. In Sarainar they allegedly destroyed all 50 houses of the villagers in a bid to evict them. In Gullu, the government officials including forest officials have been allegedly pressuring the villagers by digging pits on their farm lands under the grab of carrying out afforestation.

They have been citing afforestation as a reason to displace these forest dwelling Adivasis from these lands for several months. Kaimur Mukti Morcha is fighting against these unwarranted acts of the public officials that make earning a livelihood a struggle for these Adivasis. The authorities have also allegedly threatened members of Kaimur Mukti Morcha such as the Secretary Raja Lal Kharwar and Rajinder Oraon and few others, by issuing notices to them that they would be arrested by the CRPF. Some CRPF personnel even landed at a village meeting in Bahida village to allegedly create an atmosphere of terror in the villagers’ minds.

Civil society reacts

National Deputy General Secretary of All India Forest People's Workers' Union Roma strongly condemned the firing and said, "For more than 6 months, tribal societies have been raising their forest rights demands, but no one is ready to listen." She said that the Forest Rights Act, 2006 has been in existence for 14 years but in Bihar, but it has not been implemented on ground. “Instead of listening and solving the problems of the tribals, the police have responded with batons and firing. This shows its ruthless attitude towards the weaker sections,” said Roma.

The leading human rights organisation Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has also condemned the incident of firing. CJP Secretary Teesta Setalvad, "Firing on Dalits and Adivasis who were demanding their rights is a cruel act and is a violation of the Constitution." Others who raised their voice and condemned the incident include Bundelkhand Dalit Adivasi Adhikar Abhiyan; Sokalo Gond, President of Kaimur Mazdoor Kisan Mahila Sangarsh Samiti and Nivada Rana of Tharu Adivasi Mahila Kisan Mazdoor Manch.

 

The Press Release of AIUFWP may be read here.

 

Related:

AIUFWP writes to Collector against forest authorities in Bihar violating the Forest Rights Act

Bihar Adivasis revive the call for ‘Jal-Jungle -Zameen’

Bihar police shower bullets and lathis on Adivasis in Kaimur!

The Adivasis were staging a peaceful sit-in protest demanding rights over forest land and resources

Adivasis

In a rather outrageous incident of highhandedness of authorities over the vulnerable tribal communities, Bihar police fired at a democratically organised protest sit-in in Adhaura block of Kaimur District. Activists of Kaimur Mukti Morcha had staged a sit-in demonstration on September 10 and 11, 2020, to demand legal rights over water, forest and land. But the police administration and forest department did not listen to their demands and the activists locked the gates and forest department in a symbolic manner, to make their voices heard. But instead of engaging in a dialogue with the peaceful protestors, the police opened fire and lathi-charged the protesters!

Three people from Sarai Nar, Barkatta and Chafna were injured in the incident, while more than half a dozen people of Kaimur Mukti Morcha were arrested.  The police also broke locks of Kaimur Mukti Morcha office and conducted raids there.

About the movement

This struggle has been going on for decades when the “Kaimur Mukti Morcha” (Translated as: “Kaimur Freedom Movement”) was launched with the help of Dr. Vinayan who was also the founder member of the All India Union of Forest Working People (formerly known as National Forum of Forest People and Forest Workers). 

The contribution of the movement has been praiseworthy, and has been acknowledged by the state government as well in the past. Though the Kaimur area was notorious for its Maoist presence in the past, it became free of Maoists after the organisation of Kaimur Mukti Morcha by Dr. Vinayan who advocated strictly democratic means such as peaceful dialogue. 

On the day of the peaceful protest, the members of Kaimur Mukti Morcha were making the following demands:

- the administrative reorganisation of Kaimur Pahar

- declaring Kaimur as a Scheduled area as per the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution

- implementing the Chhota Nagpur Kashtkari Act

- abolishing the Kaimur Pahar Forest Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve

- Forest Rights Act 2006, along with Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 to be implemented effectively.

Precursor to the incident

In July as well, Kaimur Mukti Morcha had gathered around the office of the Block Development Officer to get their demands heard. This gathering saw thousands of villagers from various villages in Adhaura block expressing their anguish over the persistent nuisance caused by forest officials obstructing their daily lives and means of livelihood making life difficult for them during the lockdown.

Forest department’s atrocities

The forest department officials, since March, have been allegedly employing means like encroaching upon agricultural lands of these Adivasis with the intention of evicting them from villages of Adhaura block such as Gullu, Guiya, Dighar, Bahabar, Pipra, Sainagar, Sodha, Bahera, Dumrava, Sarainar. In Sarainar they allegedly destroyed all 50 houses of the villagers in a bid to evict them. In Gullu, the government officials including forest officials have been allegedly pressuring the villagers by digging pits on their farm lands under the grab of carrying out afforestation.

They have been citing afforestation as a reason to displace these forest dwelling Adivasis from these lands for several months. Kaimur Mukti Morcha is fighting against these unwarranted acts of the public officials that make earning a livelihood a struggle for these Adivasis. The authorities have also allegedly threatened members of Kaimur Mukti Morcha such as the Secretary Raja Lal Kharwar and Rajinder Oraon and few others, by issuing notices to them that they would be arrested by the CRPF. Some CRPF personnel even landed at a village meeting in Bahida village to allegedly create an atmosphere of terror in the villagers’ minds.

Civil society reacts

National Deputy General Secretary of All India Forest People's Workers' Union Roma strongly condemned the firing and said, "For more than 6 months, tribal societies have been raising their forest rights demands, but no one is ready to listen." She said that the Forest Rights Act, 2006 has been in existence for 14 years but in Bihar, but it has not been implemented on ground. “Instead of listening and solving the problems of the tribals, the police have responded with batons and firing. This shows its ruthless attitude towards the weaker sections,” said Roma.

The leading human rights organisation Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) has also condemned the incident of firing. CJP Secretary Teesta Setalvad, "Firing on Dalits and Adivasis who were demanding their rights is a cruel act and is a violation of the Constitution." Others who raised their voice and condemned the incident include Bundelkhand Dalit Adivasi Adhikar Abhiyan; Sokalo Gond, President of Kaimur Mazdoor Kisan Mahila Sangarsh Samiti and Nivada Rana of Tharu Adivasi Mahila Kisan Mazdoor Manch.

 

The Press Release of AIUFWP may be read here.

 

Related:

AIUFWP writes to Collector against forest authorities in Bihar violating the Forest Rights Act

Bihar Adivasis revive the call for ‘Jal-Jungle -Zameen’

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Adivasis protest Deocha-Pachami coal mining project

Eager not to be removed from homeland, nearly a thousand Adivasis came together at Mohammad Bazar on Wednesday

11 Sep 2020

Image Courtesy:telegraphindia.com

In a bid to save their homeland, around 1,000 Adivasis held a protest against the Deocha-Pachami coal mining project that could result in the destruction of tribal settlements. The protest was held in front of Mohammad Bazar police station for nearly three hours on September 9, 2020, Telegraph India on Thursday.

The protest was led by Birbhum Adivasi Gaonta, a platform of tribal people opposing the proposed coal mine. 40 other areas across India have been proposed for coal mining and have met similar opposition from locals who fear loss of livelihood and land. However, both the Central government and the West Bengal government are keen on starting mining by early next year.

One of the protestors present on Wednesday said that his people do not wish to be evicted from their land at any cost. He said Adivasis don’t want a coal mine in the area as their livelihood is already facing a crisis because of pre-existing stone mines and crushers.

District officials assure that affected families will receive appropriate compensations but fail to gain the trust of tribal folk.

On July 9 2020, government officials including Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha had held a meeting with stakeholders and landowners expressing the government’s desire to start mining soon. The meeting also claimed to address the concerns of locals. There, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said “all queries by relevant stakeholders have been addressed” and that the State government intends to create a “model for India” by effectively executing the Deocha-Pachima coal mine project.

 

 

However, according to Convener of the Birbhum Adivasi Gaonta, Sunil Soren, the original stakeholders were not allowed to take part in the July 9 meeting. He said local Trinamool Congress leaders produced some people to discuss the issue of rehabilitation. Soren emphasised that the locals don’t support setting up of the coal mine at any cost.

The group had submitted a deputation to the police that detailed their demands including an end to police atrocities and the illegal stone crushers and mines.

Meanwhile, the government is deeply invested in the Deocha-Pachami coal block in Birbhum’s Mohammedbazar. The coal block is spread over 11,222 acres with an estimated coal reserve of around 2.2 billion tonnes. Government figures claim that the project can generate jobs for at least 1.5 lakh people and has the potential to boost economic growth for the entire area of south Bengal.

District officials, however, said the government was planning to start the work of the coal mine from around 40 acres of land vested with it.

Related:

Unmindful mining will bring permanent pandemic
NAPM demands that Centre immediately revoke the commercial auction of 41 coal blocks
Commercial Mining, not a boon but a curse: Jharkhand & Central India

Adivasis protest Deocha-Pachami coal mining project

Eager not to be removed from homeland, nearly a thousand Adivasis came together at Mohammad Bazar on Wednesday

Image Courtesy:telegraphindia.com

In a bid to save their homeland, around 1,000 Adivasis held a protest against the Deocha-Pachami coal mining project that could result in the destruction of tribal settlements. The protest was held in front of Mohammad Bazar police station for nearly three hours on September 9, 2020, Telegraph India on Thursday.

The protest was led by Birbhum Adivasi Gaonta, a platform of tribal people opposing the proposed coal mine. 40 other areas across India have been proposed for coal mining and have met similar opposition from locals who fear loss of livelihood and land. However, both the Central government and the West Bengal government are keen on starting mining by early next year.

One of the protestors present on Wednesday said that his people do not wish to be evicted from their land at any cost. He said Adivasis don’t want a coal mine in the area as their livelihood is already facing a crisis because of pre-existing stone mines and crushers.

District officials assure that affected families will receive appropriate compensations but fail to gain the trust of tribal folk.

On July 9 2020, government officials including Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha had held a meeting with stakeholders and landowners expressing the government’s desire to start mining soon. The meeting also claimed to address the concerns of locals. There, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said “all queries by relevant stakeholders have been addressed” and that the State government intends to create a “model for India” by effectively executing the Deocha-Pachima coal mine project.

 

 

However, according to Convener of the Birbhum Adivasi Gaonta, Sunil Soren, the original stakeholders were not allowed to take part in the July 9 meeting. He said local Trinamool Congress leaders produced some people to discuss the issue of rehabilitation. Soren emphasised that the locals don’t support setting up of the coal mine at any cost.

The group had submitted a deputation to the police that detailed their demands including an end to police atrocities and the illegal stone crushers and mines.

Meanwhile, the government is deeply invested in the Deocha-Pachami coal block in Birbhum’s Mohammedbazar. The coal block is spread over 11,222 acres with an estimated coal reserve of around 2.2 billion tonnes. Government figures claim that the project can generate jobs for at least 1.5 lakh people and has the potential to boost economic growth for the entire area of south Bengal.

District officials, however, said the government was planning to start the work of the coal mine from around 40 acres of land vested with it.

Related:

Unmindful mining will bring permanent pandemic
NAPM demands that Centre immediately revoke the commercial auction of 41 coal blocks
Commercial Mining, not a boon but a curse: Jharkhand & Central India

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20,000 and counting; cancelled FRA claims re-examined and approved in MP

The state government, with the help of a software, began the process of re-examining forest rights claims

10 Sep 2020

Image Courtesy:mpinfo.org

What can be called a moment of cheer for Adivasis in Madhya Pradesh, the government is in an active process of re-examining cancelled forest land claims.

The Madhya Pradesh government has put to use a software called the MP Vanmitra Software which is currently re-examining claims under the Forest Rights Act that were initially cancelled. So far, 20,517 claims have been accepted after re-examination.

The Gram Forest Rights Committees are re-examining about 2.6 lakh claims cancelled earlier. After examining the claims, the subdivision level committees have redressed 82,663 claims and sent them to district level committees with recommendation. District level committees have resolved 28,710 claims and 20,517 claims have been accepted, as reported by The Pioneer.

In the state, after the implementation of Forest rights Act, 2006, about 2.2 lakh individual forest rights and about 27 thousand community rights have been bestowed upon tribal individuals and communities through documents called Van Adhikar Patras.

The communities and individuals are also further entitled to benefits of government schemes and accordingly, as many as 54,965 Kapildhara wells, 57,721 land restoration cases, 24,366 diesel-electric irrigation pumps and about 61,000 houses have been sanctioned to forest dwellers who have been granted the Adhikar Patras.

Related:

MP: Adivasi activists illegally detained and tortured by forest officials
Adivasi academic and activist targeted for stand on exams during Covid-19
\
Molestation charges against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director

20,000 and counting; cancelled FRA claims re-examined and approved in MP

The state government, with the help of a software, began the process of re-examining forest rights claims

Image Courtesy:mpinfo.org

What can be called a moment of cheer for Adivasis in Madhya Pradesh, the government is in an active process of re-examining cancelled forest land claims.

The Madhya Pradesh government has put to use a software called the MP Vanmitra Software which is currently re-examining claims under the Forest Rights Act that were initially cancelled. So far, 20,517 claims have been accepted after re-examination.

The Gram Forest Rights Committees are re-examining about 2.6 lakh claims cancelled earlier. After examining the claims, the subdivision level committees have redressed 82,663 claims and sent them to district level committees with recommendation. District level committees have resolved 28,710 claims and 20,517 claims have been accepted, as reported by The Pioneer.

In the state, after the implementation of Forest rights Act, 2006, about 2.2 lakh individual forest rights and about 27 thousand community rights have been bestowed upon tribal individuals and communities through documents called Van Adhikar Patras.

The communities and individuals are also further entitled to benefits of government schemes and accordingly, as many as 54,965 Kapildhara wells, 57,721 land restoration cases, 24,366 diesel-electric irrigation pumps and about 61,000 houses have been sanctioned to forest dwellers who have been granted the Adhikar Patras.

Related:

MP: Adivasi activists illegally detained and tortured by forest officials
Adivasi academic and activist targeted for stand on exams during Covid-19
\
Molestation charges against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director

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MP: Adivasi activists illegally detained and tortured by forest officials

“You speak too much about the law, now let’s see how strong your Sangathan is”, the forest officials said as they brutally assaulted the two activists, after allegedly kidnapping them from court premises

09 Sep 2020

Adivasi
Representation Image
 

The malicious attacks on Adivasis are on the rise even as illegal felling of trees and other intimidation tactics by the forest department continue in isolated incidents across the country. The latest incident took place in Madhya Pradsh where some forest officials illegally detained, assaulted and tortured two activists: Kailash Jamre and Pyarsingh Waskale working for Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan in Burhanpur district Madhya Pradesh.

On August 29, two Adivasis- Jabarsing Keriya and Somla Chamarsingh were picked up while going back to their village after buying groceries. No information was provided to villagers until late that night. The next morning, the forest staff called Kailash Jamre and asked some of them to come to court to apply for bail for the two tribals. Pyarsingh Waskale accompanied Kailash as they attended the hearing of Jabarsingh and Somla. The forest department offered no evidence, nor did they present a chargesheet of the crimes committed by the two, however their bail application was rejected. As Kailash and Pyarsingh were exiting the court, on August 30, they were forcibly picked up by Khaknar Range Officer Abhay Singh Tomar and a few others.

Kailash and Pyarsingh were then taken to Khaknar Range office, where they were illegally locked up all night, and were allegedly brutally beaten up by around 20-25 staff and officers. According to Kailash, 2 or 3 people would hold their limbs while the others beat them with lathis. Most were drunk, and kept abusing them for ‘talking too much about the law and being the leaders of the sangathan’.

When the news of the illegal detention reached the village, many Adivasis gathered at Khaknar police station late at night and demanded registration of FIR against the forest officials. But, like in so many other cases of recent times, the police refused to file FIR and instead threatened the Adivasis with arrest. They were also allegedly misled by the police that Kailash and Pyaarsing had been taken to Burhanpur and that they had not been mistreated and would be produced in Court the next day.

They were brought to the District Court, Burhanpur, the next day and as Kailash and Pyarsingh were so brutally beaten up in custody, Kailash could barely stand and collapsed in court, whereafter he was hospitalised for 6 days and he is still unable to walk.

Both Kailash Jamre and Pyarsing Vaskale, of Rehmanpur village in Khaknar block are active members of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan and constantly educate Adivasis about the provisions of the Forest Rights Act and their other legal rights. They have also, along with others, been active in opposing illegal clearing of forests which is happening with the active connivance of forest officials. They were mercilessly beaten up by forest department officials who said, “Tum hi jyaada kanoon karte ho.. dekhte hai teri sangathan kitni mazboot hai” (You are the ones who talk too much about the law.. now let’s see how strong your organisation is).

The region has a history of violence against Barela and Bhilala Adivasis who are claimants under the FRA. The forest staff, for decades has been demanding money from Adivasis for sowing, harvesting along with threats of false charges and cases slapped on them. Kailash and Pyarsingh are activists who for the past two years have been generating awareness about the Forest Rights and other legal rights and entitlements for Adivasis – putting an end to the decades of extortion by forest staff and officials from Adivasis for simply growing food.

Kailash himself and Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, as an organization have written to the District Collector and Superintendent of police giving a detailed account of the incident and demanding action. They have demanded that strict action be taken against the forest officials and they be booked under sections of the IPC as well as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as also the false cases against the adivasis and the activists be withdrawn.

Organisations that work at grassroots level to awaken and strengthen tribal communities seems to have become the new target of forest officials possibly because these activists always come to the rescue and raise their voice along with fellow adivasis whenever any injustice is meted out by forest officials.

The letter may be read here.


Related:

Adivasi academic and activist targeted for stand on exams during Covid-19

Molestation charges against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director

Jharkhand Adivasis brutally beaten up by CRPF men: Fact Finding Report

 

MP: Adivasi activists illegally detained and tortured by forest officials

“You speak too much about the law, now let’s see how strong your Sangathan is”, the forest officials said as they brutally assaulted the two activists, after allegedly kidnapping them from court premises

Adivasi
Representation Image
 

The malicious attacks on Adivasis are on the rise even as illegal felling of trees and other intimidation tactics by the forest department continue in isolated incidents across the country. The latest incident took place in Madhya Pradsh where some forest officials illegally detained, assaulted and tortured two activists: Kailash Jamre and Pyarsingh Waskale working for Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan in Burhanpur district Madhya Pradesh.

On August 29, two Adivasis- Jabarsing Keriya and Somla Chamarsingh were picked up while going back to their village after buying groceries. No information was provided to villagers until late that night. The next morning, the forest staff called Kailash Jamre and asked some of them to come to court to apply for bail for the two tribals. Pyarsingh Waskale accompanied Kailash as they attended the hearing of Jabarsingh and Somla. The forest department offered no evidence, nor did they present a chargesheet of the crimes committed by the two, however their bail application was rejected. As Kailash and Pyarsingh were exiting the court, on August 30, they were forcibly picked up by Khaknar Range Officer Abhay Singh Tomar and a few others.

Kailash and Pyarsingh were then taken to Khaknar Range office, where they were illegally locked up all night, and were allegedly brutally beaten up by around 20-25 staff and officers. According to Kailash, 2 or 3 people would hold their limbs while the others beat them with lathis. Most were drunk, and kept abusing them for ‘talking too much about the law and being the leaders of the sangathan’.

When the news of the illegal detention reached the village, many Adivasis gathered at Khaknar police station late at night and demanded registration of FIR against the forest officials. But, like in so many other cases of recent times, the police refused to file FIR and instead threatened the Adivasis with arrest. They were also allegedly misled by the police that Kailash and Pyaarsing had been taken to Burhanpur and that they had not been mistreated and would be produced in Court the next day.

They were brought to the District Court, Burhanpur, the next day and as Kailash and Pyarsingh were so brutally beaten up in custody, Kailash could barely stand and collapsed in court, whereafter he was hospitalised for 6 days and he is still unable to walk.

Both Kailash Jamre and Pyarsing Vaskale, of Rehmanpur village in Khaknar block are active members of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan and constantly educate Adivasis about the provisions of the Forest Rights Act and their other legal rights. They have also, along with others, been active in opposing illegal clearing of forests which is happening with the active connivance of forest officials. They were mercilessly beaten up by forest department officials who said, “Tum hi jyaada kanoon karte ho.. dekhte hai teri sangathan kitni mazboot hai” (You are the ones who talk too much about the law.. now let’s see how strong your organisation is).

The region has a history of violence against Barela and Bhilala Adivasis who are claimants under the FRA. The forest staff, for decades has been demanding money from Adivasis for sowing, harvesting along with threats of false charges and cases slapped on them. Kailash and Pyarsingh are activists who for the past two years have been generating awareness about the Forest Rights and other legal rights and entitlements for Adivasis – putting an end to the decades of extortion by forest staff and officials from Adivasis for simply growing food.

Kailash himself and Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, as an organization have written to the District Collector and Superintendent of police giving a detailed account of the incident and demanding action. They have demanded that strict action be taken against the forest officials and they be booked under sections of the IPC as well as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act as also the false cases against the adivasis and the activists be withdrawn.

Organisations that work at grassroots level to awaken and strengthen tribal communities seems to have become the new target of forest officials possibly because these activists always come to the rescue and raise their voice along with fellow adivasis whenever any injustice is meted out by forest officials.

The letter may be read here.


Related:

Adivasi academic and activist targeted for stand on exams during Covid-19

Molestation charges against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director

Jharkhand Adivasis brutally beaten up by CRPF men: Fact Finding Report

 

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Adivasi academic and activist targeted for stand on exams during Covid-19

Dr. M Mumru was reminded of her Adivasi lineage and accused of benefiting from 'quota'. Now CHS alumni write an open letter of support for Mumru and her stellar activism.

09 Sep 2020

Image Courtesy:maktoobmedia.com

Alumni of Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) Centre for Historical Studies (CHS) and several concerned citizens wrote an open letter in support of Jadavpur University’s Associate Professor of History Dr. Maroona Murmu and her fight against casteist oppression. Professor Murmu was mercilessly harassed for her comment on social media platform Facebook about the ongoing issue of holding examinations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Dalit and Adivasi activist was subjected to vicious and hateful social media campaign. The alumni called this attack on Dr. Murmu, one of the most powerful voices of Dalit and Adivasi empowerment in contemporary India, utterly deplorable. They demanded strict action against the perpetrators of such violence that silenced the marginalized voices, denigrated the contributions of a leading Adivasi scholar-activist, and maintained established forms of Brahmanical hierarchy.

“It is a matter of great consternation for us that our casteist society does not sensitise its young members to the long history of violence against Adivasis, Dalits, and Bahujans and to the need for affirmative action for the purpose of representation and empowerment, which have been previously stolen from them,” said the letter.

The incessant trolls, hate messages and casteist comments were directed towards Murmu following a series of comments on one of her friend’s posts on September 2 2020, that addressed the aforementioned issue.

Murmu commented that students’ lives were being put at risk by the government’s decision to hold examinations during the pandemic. Shortly after, a woman replied to her comment, “Maroona Murmu, what surprised me was the fact that Jadavpur University has professors with such mentality. I am astonished. Let me brief you a bit on the difference between ‘quota’ and ‘unquota’ (non-quota). To know that life is more important than an academic year, one doesn’t require to be a professor [sic]. It’s not about lagging one year but about how some unqualified and incompetent people take undue advantage of the reservation system and their caste is now helping them be successful, while the deserving lag behind for ever. Our parents are stepping out, taking a risk every day to get us food, while some are sitting at home and getting paid for doing nothing.”

The woman then went on to post on her profile, “Today morning, just reminded one ‘Murmu’ a Santhal about her Adivasi lineage. That too in a polite manner. But some people like her, just made me realise that so-called professors are getting fat simply drawing paychecks.”

As the alumni letter detailed, Dr. Murmu is an accomplished and highly respected historian and educator, who has published widely on women’s history and literary production in Bengal. In addition to her many scholarly contributions, she is also an important and active voice against discrimination based on caste and Adivasi identities in the realm of education in West Bengal and across India. 

She is a tireless advocate of increased representation of Dalit-Bahujan-Adivasi voices in education and in public life, and has written extensively on systematic and structural discrimination in post-independence India.

The letter reminds that her writings and activism played a significant role in bringing the ‘caste question’ to the forefront in West Bengal, in a manner that has been transformative and path-breaking.

“The love and respect that she receives from her colleagues and students is evidence of the important role she plays within the university community -- as a teacher and a mentor as well as a highly-regarded scholar,” said the letter.

The letter added that the vicious attacks on Dr. Murmu throw light on structural inequalities in the academe, despite the usual legal and institutional safeguards.

 

Related:

Molestation FIR against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director cancelled!
Kidnapping, rape, torture, murder; just another long weekend in Uttar Pradesh
Dalit boy allegedly thrashed, forced to eat excreta by upper caste Hindu man
Dalit woman, son assaulted for refusing to pick up cow carcass in Gujarat
Do Dalit lives matter in India?: Reflecting on condition of Dalits and apathy

Adivasi academic and activist targeted for stand on exams during Covid-19

Dr. M Mumru was reminded of her Adivasi lineage and accused of benefiting from 'quota'. Now CHS alumni write an open letter of support for Mumru and her stellar activism.

Image Courtesy:maktoobmedia.com

Alumni of Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) Centre for Historical Studies (CHS) and several concerned citizens wrote an open letter in support of Jadavpur University’s Associate Professor of History Dr. Maroona Murmu and her fight against casteist oppression. Professor Murmu was mercilessly harassed for her comment on social media platform Facebook about the ongoing issue of holding examinations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Dalit and Adivasi activist was subjected to vicious and hateful social media campaign. The alumni called this attack on Dr. Murmu, one of the most powerful voices of Dalit and Adivasi empowerment in contemporary India, utterly deplorable. They demanded strict action against the perpetrators of such violence that silenced the marginalized voices, denigrated the contributions of a leading Adivasi scholar-activist, and maintained established forms of Brahmanical hierarchy.

“It is a matter of great consternation for us that our casteist society does not sensitise its young members to the long history of violence against Adivasis, Dalits, and Bahujans and to the need for affirmative action for the purpose of representation and empowerment, which have been previously stolen from them,” said the letter.

The incessant trolls, hate messages and casteist comments were directed towards Murmu following a series of comments on one of her friend’s posts on September 2 2020, that addressed the aforementioned issue.

Murmu commented that students’ lives were being put at risk by the government’s decision to hold examinations during the pandemic. Shortly after, a woman replied to her comment, “Maroona Murmu, what surprised me was the fact that Jadavpur University has professors with such mentality. I am astonished. Let me brief you a bit on the difference between ‘quota’ and ‘unquota’ (non-quota). To know that life is more important than an academic year, one doesn’t require to be a professor [sic]. It’s not about lagging one year but about how some unqualified and incompetent people take undue advantage of the reservation system and their caste is now helping them be successful, while the deserving lag behind for ever. Our parents are stepping out, taking a risk every day to get us food, while some are sitting at home and getting paid for doing nothing.”

The woman then went on to post on her profile, “Today morning, just reminded one ‘Murmu’ a Santhal about her Adivasi lineage. That too in a polite manner. But some people like her, just made me realise that so-called professors are getting fat simply drawing paychecks.”

As the alumni letter detailed, Dr. Murmu is an accomplished and highly respected historian and educator, who has published widely on women’s history and literary production in Bengal. In addition to her many scholarly contributions, she is also an important and active voice against discrimination based on caste and Adivasi identities in the realm of education in West Bengal and across India. 

She is a tireless advocate of increased representation of Dalit-Bahujan-Adivasi voices in education and in public life, and has written extensively on systematic and structural discrimination in post-independence India.

The letter reminds that her writings and activism played a significant role in bringing the ‘caste question’ to the forefront in West Bengal, in a manner that has been transformative and path-breaking.

“The love and respect that she receives from her colleagues and students is evidence of the important role she plays within the university community -- as a teacher and a mentor as well as a highly-regarded scholar,” said the letter.

The letter added that the vicious attacks on Dr. Murmu throw light on structural inequalities in the academe, despite the usual legal and institutional safeguards.

 

Related:

Molestation FIR against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director cancelled!
Kidnapping, rape, torture, murder; just another long weekend in Uttar Pradesh
Dalit boy allegedly thrashed, forced to eat excreta by upper caste Hindu man
Dalit woman, son assaulted for refusing to pick up cow carcass in Gujarat
Do Dalit lives matter in India?: Reflecting on condition of Dalits and apathy

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Elgaar Parishad case: NIA arrests two Pune-based Kabir Kala Manch artists

Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor accused of having ‘Maoist’ links, 14 people have been arrested in the case so far

08 Sep 2020

NIA
Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Bhima Koregaon SDPA


With the arrest of artists Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has taken the total number of arrests in the Elgaar Parishad case to 14. Many more have been called for questioning by the NIA, most of them are academicians, lawyers, and civil rights activists.

According to news reports, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor, are artists of the Pune-based cultural group, Kabir Kala Manch (KKM). According to a report in the Indian Express, they were also members of the 'Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyaan', which  had organised the Elgaar Parishad, at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017. The conclave had been organised, ahead of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.

With their arrest, the tally of those behind bars is now 14. In July, the NIA had arrested Delhi University Professor Hany Babu Musaliyarveettil Tharayil in the same case. According to the IE news report, the NIA had also summoned several others, including Gorkhe and Gaichor, for questioning around that time.

Advocate Mihir Desai, one of the defence lawyers in this case, told IE that Gorkhe and Gaichor were called by the NIA to Mumbai for questioning over the last few days, and were arrested on Monday. The report adds that Gorkhe and Gaichor were among the 23 people booked in the Elgaar Parishad case by the Pune City Police for their alleged links with banned CPI-Maoist. They have been booked under sections of the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). 

While the NIA took over the probe in the case earlier this year, the Pune City Police, in its chargesheet filed in 2019,  had claimed that as per the “objectives decided in the Eastern Regional Bureau meeting of the CPI-Maoist, the accused had allegedly organised Elgaar Parishad to mobilise various Dalits and other organisations against the government through alleged Maoist front organisation KKM” states the IE.

The news report quotes a Kabir Kal Manch artist, who wished to remain anonymous as saying that “This (Elgaar Parishad) case is completely false. The real culprits behind Koregaon Bhima violence are Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, who are not being investigated. The agencies are targeting groups working for progressive causes.” These two are Hindutva leaders, and were named in connection with the Koregaon Bhima violence case. While Bhide was never arrested due to “lack of evidence”, Ekbote was arrested but released on bail after a few months, recalled the IE report. 

It added that Gorkhe and Gaichor were among KKM artistes booked by the Thane unit of state Anti-Terrorism Squad in 2011, after the arrest of “senior Maoist leader” Anjela Sontakke, for allegedly spreading Maoist ideology of armed struggle against the government. The ATS had also alleged that Gorkhe, Gaichor and a few more KKM artists had undergone arms training with Maoist cadres in the jungles of Gadchiroli. Gorkhe and Gairchor had gone into hiding for a few months, and were finally arrested by the ATS in 2013, soon after they surrendered by staging a ‘satyagraha’ in Mumbai. They were released in January 2017 after being granted bail by the Supreme Court.

The Bhima Koregaon Shauryadin Prerna Abhiyan issued a statement condemning the arrests of Shahir Sagar Gorkhe and Shahir Ramesh Gaychor. They stated that “under the guise of questioning,” the two artists were “repeatedly threatened” with arrest, unless they turned witness for the state. According to the Abhiyan’s statement, the two “were threatened” with statements like “you have to become witness for the state under CRPC clause 164 and admit (falsely) that you went to the jungle in Gadchiroli and met Naxals there and that you have connections to Naxalites. unless you agree to this we will arrest you." 

The Abhiyan alleges that the state is now “targeting Ambedkarite activists who have fought against the brahmanical regime through constitutional means. These activists have been one with the people understanding their sorrow, pain, and struggle. It is clear that neither Pune Police nor NIA have any proof to justify these arrests. The arrests are being used to stifle the voices of social activists.” They have urged rights activists to “join hands to call for the release of all activists arrested under false pretense”.

Meanwhile, K. Satyanarayan, a professor of Cultural Studies at English and Foreign Language University and son-in-law of the jailed poet Varavara Rao, has been called for questioning by the NIA. According to N Venugopal Rao, Varavara Rao’s nephew, this is another form of “constant harassment” of the family. He posted his reaction on social media and stated, “now it seems the state wants to add some more distress to the family. VV's sons-in-law are now called by the NIA for questioning. You might be aware that their houses were raided on August 28, 2018, with a pretext of VV might be there at his daughters' houses. However, Pune police reached VV's house on that day before 7 and found him at his house only and there was no need to search his daughters' places for him.” 

Prof K. Satyanarayana has also made public an update he wrote to inform his friends after he got the NIA summons:

“Dear friends, I wish to share the distressing news that NIA, Mumbai  summoned me to appear before it as a witness under section 160 Cr.PC and also u/s 91 of Cr. PC on 09.09.2020. My co-brother K.V. Kurmanath, a senior journalist, was also summoned to appear at the same time and date. As you know, my flat was raided by Pune police in August 2018 under the pretext of collecting evidence against my father in law and revolutionary poet Varavara Rao. I stated then that I was in no way connected to  the Bhima Koregaon case. The fact of Varavara Rao being my father in law was used to raid my house and cause mental agony.

I remember how all of you had strongly condemned the raid on my flat and extended support. I thought it was all over. I am related to Varavara Rao but I have no connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. NIA notice adds to our family distress at a time when Varavara Rao's health condition is not very good and the pandemic is fast spreading in Mumbai. I am travelling to Mumbai in these terrible times. I need your support and best wishes.

Thank you.

K. Satyanarayana

Professor,

Department of Cultural Studies,

The English and Foreign Languages University,

Hyderabad.”

 

Related: 

NIA raids Prof Hany Babu’s house; DUTA asks govt to stop witch-hunt

Civil Society members request Maha CM to shift Bhima Koregaon activists out of jail

Green Nobel winner Prafulla Samantara protests against ‘undeclared emergency’ of Union government

SC stays Gautam Navlakha’s bail proceedings at Delhi HC; NIA says HC acted without jurisdiction

Bhima Koregaon case: SC rejects ABA of Anand Teltumbde, Gautam NavlakhaRona Wilson worked for release of political prisoners, now a prisoner himself

Officers investigating Bhima Koregaon, NE Delhi riots get Home Minister’s Medal for 

Only political vendetta can explain Varavara Rao's incarceration

 

Elgaar Parishad case: NIA arrests two Pune-based Kabir Kala Manch artists

Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor accused of having ‘Maoist’ links, 14 people have been arrested in the case so far

NIA
Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Bhima Koregaon SDPA


With the arrest of artists Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has taken the total number of arrests in the Elgaar Parishad case to 14. Many more have been called for questioning by the NIA, most of them are academicians, lawyers, and civil rights activists.

According to news reports, Sagar Gorkhe and Ramesh Gaichor, are artists of the Pune-based cultural group, Kabir Kala Manch (KKM). According to a report in the Indian Express, they were also members of the 'Bhima Koregaon Shaurya Din Prerna Abhiyaan', which  had organised the Elgaar Parishad, at Shaniwar Wada in Pune on December 31, 2017. The conclave had been organised, ahead of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon.

With their arrest, the tally of those behind bars is now 14. In July, the NIA had arrested Delhi University Professor Hany Babu Musaliyarveettil Tharayil in the same case. According to the IE news report, the NIA had also summoned several others, including Gorkhe and Gaichor, for questioning around that time.

Advocate Mihir Desai, one of the defence lawyers in this case, told IE that Gorkhe and Gaichor were called by the NIA to Mumbai for questioning over the last few days, and were arrested on Monday. The report adds that Gorkhe and Gaichor were among the 23 people booked in the Elgaar Parishad case by the Pune City Police for their alleged links with banned CPI-Maoist. They have been booked under sections of the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). 

While the NIA took over the probe in the case earlier this year, the Pune City Police, in its chargesheet filed in 2019,  had claimed that as per the “objectives decided in the Eastern Regional Bureau meeting of the CPI-Maoist, the accused had allegedly organised Elgaar Parishad to mobilise various Dalits and other organisations against the government through alleged Maoist front organisation KKM” states the IE.

The news report quotes a Kabir Kal Manch artist, who wished to remain anonymous as saying that “This (Elgaar Parishad) case is completely false. The real culprits behind Koregaon Bhima violence are Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote, who are not being investigated. The agencies are targeting groups working for progressive causes.” These two are Hindutva leaders, and were named in connection with the Koregaon Bhima violence case. While Bhide was never arrested due to “lack of evidence”, Ekbote was arrested but released on bail after a few months, recalled the IE report. 

It added that Gorkhe and Gaichor were among KKM artistes booked by the Thane unit of state Anti-Terrorism Squad in 2011, after the arrest of “senior Maoist leader” Anjela Sontakke, for allegedly spreading Maoist ideology of armed struggle against the government. The ATS had also alleged that Gorkhe, Gaichor and a few more KKM artists had undergone arms training with Maoist cadres in the jungles of Gadchiroli. Gorkhe and Gairchor had gone into hiding for a few months, and were finally arrested by the ATS in 2013, soon after they surrendered by staging a ‘satyagraha’ in Mumbai. They were released in January 2017 after being granted bail by the Supreme Court.

The Bhima Koregaon Shauryadin Prerna Abhiyan issued a statement condemning the arrests of Shahir Sagar Gorkhe and Shahir Ramesh Gaychor. They stated that “under the guise of questioning,” the two artists were “repeatedly threatened” with arrest, unless they turned witness for the state. According to the Abhiyan’s statement, the two “were threatened” with statements like “you have to become witness for the state under CRPC clause 164 and admit (falsely) that you went to the jungle in Gadchiroli and met Naxals there and that you have connections to Naxalites. unless you agree to this we will arrest you." 

The Abhiyan alleges that the state is now “targeting Ambedkarite activists who have fought against the brahmanical regime through constitutional means. These activists have been one with the people understanding their sorrow, pain, and struggle. It is clear that neither Pune Police nor NIA have any proof to justify these arrests. The arrests are being used to stifle the voices of social activists.” They have urged rights activists to “join hands to call for the release of all activists arrested under false pretense”.

Meanwhile, K. Satyanarayan, a professor of Cultural Studies at English and Foreign Language University and son-in-law of the jailed poet Varavara Rao, has been called for questioning by the NIA. According to N Venugopal Rao, Varavara Rao’s nephew, this is another form of “constant harassment” of the family. He posted his reaction on social media and stated, “now it seems the state wants to add some more distress to the family. VV's sons-in-law are now called by the NIA for questioning. You might be aware that their houses were raided on August 28, 2018, with a pretext of VV might be there at his daughters' houses. However, Pune police reached VV's house on that day before 7 and found him at his house only and there was no need to search his daughters' places for him.” 

Prof K. Satyanarayana has also made public an update he wrote to inform his friends after he got the NIA summons:

“Dear friends, I wish to share the distressing news that NIA, Mumbai  summoned me to appear before it as a witness under section 160 Cr.PC and also u/s 91 of Cr. PC on 09.09.2020. My co-brother K.V. Kurmanath, a senior journalist, was also summoned to appear at the same time and date. As you know, my flat was raided by Pune police in August 2018 under the pretext of collecting evidence against my father in law and revolutionary poet Varavara Rao. I stated then that I was in no way connected to  the Bhima Koregaon case. The fact of Varavara Rao being my father in law was used to raid my house and cause mental agony.

I remember how all of you had strongly condemned the raid on my flat and extended support. I thought it was all over. I am related to Varavara Rao but I have no connection with the Bhima Koregaon case. NIA notice adds to our family distress at a time when Varavara Rao's health condition is not very good and the pandemic is fast spreading in Mumbai. I am travelling to Mumbai in these terrible times. I need your support and best wishes.

Thank you.

K. Satyanarayana

Professor,

Department of Cultural Studies,

The English and Foreign Languages University,

Hyderabad.”

 

Related: 

NIA raids Prof Hany Babu’s house; DUTA asks govt to stop witch-hunt

Civil Society members request Maha CM to shift Bhima Koregaon activists out of jail

Green Nobel winner Prafulla Samantara protests against ‘undeclared emergency’ of Union government

SC stays Gautam Navlakha’s bail proceedings at Delhi HC; NIA says HC acted without jurisdiction

Bhima Koregaon case: SC rejects ABA of Anand Teltumbde, Gautam NavlakhaRona Wilson worked for release of political prisoners, now a prisoner himself

Officers investigating Bhima Koregaon, NE Delhi riots get Home Minister’s Medal for 

Only political vendetta can explain Varavara Rao's incarceration

 

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Communal and Targeted Violence Bill: Why it must be codified into law

Re-plug: Originally published in November 2011, we are revisiting this piece as we remember the Kandhamal carnage and other acts of targeted violence against minorities

31 Aug 2020

In 1998, five years after we launched Communalism Combat, we had pointed out, in possibly one of the first researched com-pilations on judicial pronouncements on communal violence, that from the first ever bout of communal violence in free India (Jabalpur, 1961) to the full-blown pogroms that followed some decades later, two characteristics typified the violent frenzies that frequently cost us lives and property (‘Who is to blame?’, Communalism Combat, March 1998).

Both characteristics hold good today.

One is the silent yet strident mobilisation by right-wing supremacist groups through hate speech and hate writing against religious and other minorities for months beforehand. Though these have always amounted to violations of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), they have gone unchecked and unpunished, creating a climate that is fertile ground for the actual outbreak of violence. The other major cause of such violence has been found, by several members of the Indian judiciary, to be the failure of large sections of the administration and the police force to enforce the rule of law, resulting in a complete breakdown indicating deliberate inaction and complicity.

Both these features combined each time – whether in Jabalpur (1961), Ranchi (1967, Justice Raghubir Dayal Commission of Inquiry), Ahmedabad (1969, Justice Jagmohan Reddy Commission of Inquiry), Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad (1970, Justice DP Madon Commission of Inquiry), Tellicherry (1971, Justice Joseph Vithayathil Commission of Inquiry), Hashimpura (1987) or Bhagalpur (1989) – to ensure that minorities were not just brutally targeted but also denied free access to justice and reparation.

The organised violence in Delhi in 1984, Bombay in 1992-1993 and Gujarat in 2002 took the levels of impunity for state and non-state actors to hitherto unknown heights. A historiography of communal violence since Indian independence thus reveals a poor report card on justice delivery and reparation. Today unfortunately, we have extant examples of victim survivors, Muslim, Sikh and Christian, still waiting at the threshold for the first stages of investigation and trial to begin decades after the crimes have taken place.

The newly drafted Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill 2011 (commonly referred to as the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill), which awaits a nod from the cabinet before it is tabled in Parliament, is an attempt to address the imbalance and the despair caused by over six decades of discriminatory justice delivery. Far from being discriminatory against the majority, it entitles any victim – whether from the majority or a minority – to a robust scheme for compensation and reparation.

The bill is legislative acceptance of the discriminations in justice delivery faced by sections of our population that have long been subject to communal and targeted violence. When citizens who are numerically weak and socially disadvantaged are attacked on account of their identity, institutions of governance – law enforcement and protection and justice delivery – most frequently act in ways that discriminate against them.

The Communal and Targeted Violence Bill seeks to protect religious and linguistic minorities in any state in India, as well as the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, from targeted violence, including organised and communal violence. Apart from including the offences listed under the penal code, the proposed law modernises the definition of sexual assault to cover all sexist crimes that heap indignity on the victims (including stripping in public, etc), not just rape, and broadens the definition of hate speech and writing already penalised under Section 153A of the IPC.

Most significantly, it deepens the definition of dereliction of duty – which is already a crime under the IPC – and for the first time in India includes offences by public servants and/or other superiors for breach of command responsibility. “Where it is shown that continuing unlawful activity of a widespread or systematic nature has occurred,” the draft bill says, “it may be presumed that the public servant charged with the duty to prevent communal and targeted violence has failed… to exercise control over persons under his or her command, control or supervision and… shall be guilty of the offence of breach of command responsibility.” With the minimum punishment for this offence being 10 years’ imprisonment, superiors will hopefully be deterred from allowing a Delhi 1984 or Bombay 1992-1993 or Gujarat 2002 to recur. The proposed law will also act as a deterrent to acts of complicity by public servants during smaller bouts of violence and awards fair compensation and reparation to victims when they do occur.

Positive and reasonable legislative steps to correct either the discriminatory exercise of state power or the discriminatory delivery of justice draw strength from a clear constitutional mandate. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution states that: “The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”. Article 21 clearly places the responsibility on the state to ensure equal protection of life and liberty (and, by implication, property) and Article 15(1) provides that “the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”. This is recognition that vulnerable groups may require protection from the state.

Every democracy is premised on the assumption that while the majority can take care of itself, minorities need special protection. Consider for a moment India’s experience in tackling communal violence (or its failure thereof) alongside our history of recurring bouts of targeted violence, when numerically weaker and socially disadvantaged groups –linguistic or religious minorities or Dalits or tribals – are attacked because of their identity. Throw into this analysis the review of the application (or non-application) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. And the reasoning behind the need for this law, applicable to minorities defined not just by faith but also by other criteria, becomes immediately evident.

“Minority” is not, or should not be, a rigidly frozen concept based on religion alone. The reality is otherwise, as our sordid experience of the attacks on Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley or the violence unleashed on North Indians/Biharis in Mumbai and Maharashtra or Tamils in Karnataka has shown. With the migration of populations and altering demographies, democracies need to develop sound measures for the protection of all the people. Jurisprudence through justice delivery and reparation through compensation packages must reflect this ever changing reality.

There is a simple way in which to make the proposed law applicable to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir assembly must first pass a simple resolution addressed to the president of India asking that the law be made applicable in the state. Thereafter, it would require a reference made to Parliament by the president of India for amendment of the Jammu and Kashmir (Extension of Laws Act) 1956 so as to extend the new law to Jammu and Kashmir.

A law to protect the minorities draws its source from already existing powers granted to the centre, implicit in Article 355 of the Indian Constitution regarding the “Duty of the union to protect states against external aggression and internal disturbance” which provides that: “It shall be the duty of the union to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”. This has generated considerable debate and will also be deliberated upon when the bill is put before the parliamentary Standing Committee. Detractors who speak only of India’s federalism baulk at admitting the ground realities during prolonged bouts of violence; such selective public amnesia negates years of bitter experience in dealing with outbreaks of majoritarian mob frenzy.

Over the decades the collective experience of civil libertarians and jurists at such times has been to ask for law and order enforcement to be temporarily handed over to the army. Assimilating this experience without impinging on the responsibilities of state governments to protect lives and property, the proposed law, under Chapter IV, envisages the creation of a National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation. The authority’s role will be to serve as a catalyst for implementation of the new law. Its functions will include receiving and investigating complaints of violence and dereliction of duty and monitoring the build-up of an atmosphere likely to lead to violence.

The National Authority cannot compel a state government to take action – in deference to the federal nature of law enforcement – but it can approach the courts for appropriate directions. There will also be state-level authorities, staffed, like the National Authority, by a process that the ruling party of the day cannot unduly influence. The monitoring of relief and rehabilitation of victims will be a major part of their responsibilities.

The creation of this new entity was incorporated in the draft bill after much deliberation with practitioners, including former judges who felt that without a body to supervise, monitor and properly intervene when smaller but recurring bouts of communal and targeted violence take place, state governments would continue to be lax, as we have seen even recently in Bihar (Forbesganj, June) Rajasthan (Bharatpur, September) and Uttarakhand (Rudrapur, October 2011).

The powers of this authority are recommendatory and in no way violate federal principles. Similarly, the state-level authorities have also been created in order to facilitate district-level inputs towards the prevention of violence and its containment as well as justice delivery. Moreover, the National Authority has no power to issue binding orders against any state government except for the purposes of providing information. The National Authority is only empowered to issue advisories and recommendations with which the concerned state government/public servants may disagree, the only condition being that the reasons for such disagreement must be recorded.

Since mid-2011 when the National Advisory Council (NAC) invited comments on the draft bill, many voices have been raised expressing concerns about some basic precepts of the proposed law. These concern, in the main, the definition of the victim group – religious and linguistic minorities and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes – and the creation of a National Authority to monitor the build-up and occurrence of targeted and communal violence, issue advisories, extract replies from the state governments and intervene in courts hearing the cases. The provisions on witness protection, the rights of victims during trials and the thorough scheme of compensation and reparation have been largely welcomed.

There are two questions of concern expressed among those, across the ideological spectrum, who have objected to the draft bill’s definition of the victim group. One of these voices disquiet about a law which, if it comes into existence, will divide people on the basis of minority and majority. The second objection is sharper; it asks whether a law premised on the assumption that a minority has never committed or will never commit acts of violence can be just or fair. It comes as no surprise that the second criticism was first made through an article by Arun Jaitley, the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha who is also a senior lawyer. Others who have vociferously echoed Jaitley’s criticism – with the sole exception of Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa who is also dead against the law – belong to India’s main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or are among its votaries. Lending voice to this criticism is the ideological fountainhead of the BJP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and its affiliates, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal.

Other protests against the bill have come from the leaders of some regional parties, such as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress who appears to be more concerned with the role of the centre/National Authority under the proposed law and how this may impinge on the rights of state governments.

Let us first address the concern relating to the definition of the victim group.

Democracies, based as they are on electoral and representative politics, reflect the voice of different sections but do also privilege the majority. This majority is not always religious; it could be from a certain social stratum or caste or committed to a certain ideology. At their best, democracies maintain the balance of power while always giving space and protection to the minority voice, the single voice. Short of this delicate balance, democracy can tip over into the rule of the mob, a mobocracy. Values of constitutional governance, equality for all, especially equality before the law, are principles that could fall by the wayside when mob rule takes over. Can we in India – looking back with candour – accept that we have collectively succumbed to the rule of the mob?

While we rightly celebrate elections as a fundamental reaffirmation of the vibrant, live democracy that India is, the power of every individual’s right to vote can and has been subverted by the manifestation and legitimisation of brute majority power through the same electoral process that we celebrate.

Sober reflection reminds us that even while we cringe at categories like majority and minority, the anomalies of the very electoral victories we celebrate must force us to reconsider our views. Mass crimes have sat comfortably with electoral politics in India. And electoral discourse seems reluctant to propagate the principles of justice for all and discrimination against none.

Let us recall a moment in our history. In November 1984, within a short and bloody spell lasting about 72 hours, more than 3,000 Sikh residents of Delhi were massacred in cold blood. When Parliament convened in January the following year, no official condolence motion was moved to mark the massacre. And what is worse, among those who sat in the wells of the lower house, having ridden to victory in elections held just a month earlier, were Congress leaders HKL Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler and Lalit Maken, men who, along with Sajjan Kumar, had been named as guilty of inciting mobs by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and People’s Union for Democratic Rights in their 1984 report ‘Who are the Guilty?’. (This was later corroborated by the testimonies and affidavits of victim survivors.)

Twenty-seven years have passed since then.

The four politicians identified as perpetrators of the 1984 Sikh massacres have never been punished. Instead, three of them were elected to Parliament within a month of the violence, from the city where they were accused of leading mobs, signalling democratic sanction for the brutal massacres. They had not only been given tickets by the ruling Congress party but Hindu voters, expressing brute majority support for their actions, had voted them in.

Should this brute democratic sanction of mob violence by the majority have gone legislatively unchecked?

Should Indian democracy not rise above political and partisan interests and enact a law that ensures protection of its minorities?

Following a similar pattern, those named as perpetrators of the violence against innocent Muslims in Bombay in 1992-1993 by Justice BN Srikrishna in his report on the post-Babri Masjid demolition violence in Bombay – Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and its leaders – rode to power in the state of Maharashtra in 1995. Shiv Sena leader Madhukar Sarpotdar was elected member of Parliament from the Mumbai North-west constituency in 1996 and again in 1998. The man elected had been named in the Srikrishna Commission report as leading mobs, as was Gajanan Kirtikar, the Sena leader from Goregaon. The judge’s report also indicted 31 policemen who, instead of being prosecuted and punished, were elevated by a cynical Congress-Nationalist Congress Party regime that has ruled the state since 1999.

The genocide in Gujarat in 2002 and the near decade since has taken the “democratic” sanction for mob violence to new heights. The Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat 2002 in its findings held chief minister Narendra Modi to be “the chief author and architect” of the state-sponsored genocide. Modi not only rode to power in December 2002 and again in 2007 but he and the party that he represents have also shamelessly used these electoral victories to erase his guilt in the massacres. As chief minister and home minister, he is responsible for the subversion of justice in many pending cases and faces the possibility of being charge-sheeted as the main accused in a criminal complaint. The offences are as serious as destruction of official records and the appointment of public prosecutors with an ideological affiliation to the very groups that perpetrated the violence.

Here constitutional governance has been held to ransom by the very aspects of democracy, the electoral politics that we celebrate. Unchecked with each bout of violence, the subversion of the justice process has reached an all-time high. When majoritarianism creeps into systems of governance, legislative checks like those contained in the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill become vital.

It is therefore evident that one of the greatest challenges of our time – though by no means the only one – is how we in India equally protect all citizens. Can we safely say that there is no bias in the delivery of justice? Can we deny that during periodic bouts of targeted and communal violence over the years it is the minorities who have suffered the greatest loss of lives and property and who have also been denied justice? And that the perpetrators of such targeted crimes have got away unpunished?

Nowhere does the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill make the assumption that targeted violence can never be perpetrated by a minority group. There is no denying that in, say, Marad (Kerala), Malegaon (Maharashtra) or Bhiwandi (Maharashtra), Muslims were rioters. The bill simply reflects a legislative acknowledgement that when such incidents do occur, the police and the administration will behave in accordance with existing laws and will not fail to record accurate first information reports (FIRs), carry out thorough investigations and prosecute the guilty – which has been the sorry record of communal and targeted violence in India to date. If the criminal justice system is tardy and floundering for all Indians, when it comes to those in the minority, it is that much worse.

Hence the bill through its definition provisions provides that apart from the sections relating to remedy and reparation, all aspects that involve higher performance from the policeman and administrator are made applicable only if the victim is a member of the defined group. To ensure fair and non-discriminatory governance, the protected group comprises the religious and linguistic minorities and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

In 2009 about 50 Dalit organisations had collectively reviewed the functioning of the 20-year-old Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. In the course of this review, it was identified that among the many factors responsible for the failure in the act’s implementation was the absence of any provisions for pinning down the accountability of public servants. This coupled with the fact that in the caste hierarchy, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes represent the most deprived minority was the rationale for their inclusion in the protected group in the proposed law.

Apart from the Atrocities Act, we have in place the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 which was also a special legislative response to social reality and experience. Until this law was enacted, the amended Section 498A of the IPC was the section of criminal law invoked when domestic violence against women occurred. Many of those who had opposed the empowerment of women through this amendment had long argued for the repeal of Section 498A on the grounds that it had in a few cases been abused. Fortunately, the facts on the ground carried the day.

The BJP through Jaitley has also sought to project communal violence as a mere “law and order” problem even as it conveniently disregards the crucial element that allows communal violence to occur in the first instance, intensify in the second and fail to deliver justice in the third. They are equally outraged that the proposed law recommends that four of the seven members of the National Authority should, in the interests of representative governance, belong to minority communities.

The crucial component mentioned above – administrative and police bias – is blithely overlooked in Jaitley’s outraged arguments. This should come as no surprise, since his party rose to power on a wave of majoritarian mob frenzy and the crimes committed by BJP leaders (including a former deputy prime minister) in Faizabad-Ayodhya in 1992 and Gujarat in 2002 – to give only two examples – reflected the impunity of men secure in the knowledge that institutional tardiness and majoritarian bias would assist them in escaping prosecution. And punishment.

At a more intellectual level, the arguments proffered by sociopolitical commentator Ashutosh Varshney also appear to be mired in a frozen reality, three decades old. Unlike in the 1960s and 1970s when communal violence generally occurred in communally sensitive cities like Bhiwandi, Ahmedabad, Aligarh, etc – a hypothesis that Varshney uses – communal violence and serious eruptions of mob frenzy are today spreading to rural India and to towns and cities hitherto free from this malaise. A major reason for this is the widespread currency of majoritarian communalism which accompanied the BJP’s rise to power together with the moral failure of the “secular” Congress or the left to tackle the ideological onslaught. This encroachment by the majority, brutish and arrogant, has crept into our systems of governance, the administration and the police. While the proposed Communal and Targeted Violence Bill in no way pretends or purports to tackle the scourge of irrationality and prejudice, it certainly aims to hold to account those public servants who fail to abide by Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution, to protect the lives and liberties of innocent victims who are targeted simply because they belong to a minority group.

It is imperative that those concerned with justice and reparation join the campaign for the restoration of fair debate. Currently the proposed law has become the victim of hysterical propaganda – led, unsurprisingly, by players whose political trajectory gained momentum by legitimising irrational prejudice and even hatred, who rose to power on the wings of communal mob frenzy.

To enable a reasoned rational discourse on a long overdue law, the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill must be tabled in Parliament and be put before a Standing Committee forthwith. Any anomalies within it can be ironed out at that stage. We must not allow this process to be derailed by the same cynical political players who have gained political brownie points and mileage through the spread of hatred and the generation of mob frenzy.

 

Communal and Targeted Violence Bill: Why it must be codified into law

Re-plug: Originally published in November 2011, we are revisiting this piece as we remember the Kandhamal carnage and other acts of targeted violence against minorities

In 1998, five years after we launched Communalism Combat, we had pointed out, in possibly one of the first researched com-pilations on judicial pronouncements on communal violence, that from the first ever bout of communal violence in free India (Jabalpur, 1961) to the full-blown pogroms that followed some decades later, two characteristics typified the violent frenzies that frequently cost us lives and property (‘Who is to blame?’, Communalism Combat, March 1998).

Both characteristics hold good today.

One is the silent yet strident mobilisation by right-wing supremacist groups through hate speech and hate writing against religious and other minorities for months beforehand. Though these have always amounted to violations of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), they have gone unchecked and unpunished, creating a climate that is fertile ground for the actual outbreak of violence. The other major cause of such violence has been found, by several members of the Indian judiciary, to be the failure of large sections of the administration and the police force to enforce the rule of law, resulting in a complete breakdown indicating deliberate inaction and complicity.

Both these features combined each time – whether in Jabalpur (1961), Ranchi (1967, Justice Raghubir Dayal Commission of Inquiry), Ahmedabad (1969, Justice Jagmohan Reddy Commission of Inquiry), Bhiwandi, Jalgaon and Mahad (1970, Justice DP Madon Commission of Inquiry), Tellicherry (1971, Justice Joseph Vithayathil Commission of Inquiry), Hashimpura (1987) or Bhagalpur (1989) – to ensure that minorities were not just brutally targeted but also denied free access to justice and reparation.

The organised violence in Delhi in 1984, Bombay in 1992-1993 and Gujarat in 2002 took the levels of impunity for state and non-state actors to hitherto unknown heights. A historiography of communal violence since Indian independence thus reveals a poor report card on justice delivery and reparation. Today unfortunately, we have extant examples of victim survivors, Muslim, Sikh and Christian, still waiting at the threshold for the first stages of investigation and trial to begin decades after the crimes have taken place.

The newly drafted Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill 2011 (commonly referred to as the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill), which awaits a nod from the cabinet before it is tabled in Parliament, is an attempt to address the imbalance and the despair caused by over six decades of discriminatory justice delivery. Far from being discriminatory against the majority, it entitles any victim – whether from the majority or a minority – to a robust scheme for compensation and reparation.

The bill is legislative acceptance of the discriminations in justice delivery faced by sections of our population that have long been subject to communal and targeted violence. When citizens who are numerically weak and socially disadvantaged are attacked on account of their identity, institutions of governance – law enforcement and protection and justice delivery – most frequently act in ways that discriminate against them.

The Communal and Targeted Violence Bill seeks to protect religious and linguistic minorities in any state in India, as well as the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, from targeted violence, including organised and communal violence. Apart from including the offences listed under the penal code, the proposed law modernises the definition of sexual assault to cover all sexist crimes that heap indignity on the victims (including stripping in public, etc), not just rape, and broadens the definition of hate speech and writing already penalised under Section 153A of the IPC.

Most significantly, it deepens the definition of dereliction of duty – which is already a crime under the IPC – and for the first time in India includes offences by public servants and/or other superiors for breach of command responsibility. “Where it is shown that continuing unlawful activity of a widespread or systematic nature has occurred,” the draft bill says, “it may be presumed that the public servant charged with the duty to prevent communal and targeted violence has failed… to exercise control over persons under his or her command, control or supervision and… shall be guilty of the offence of breach of command responsibility.” With the minimum punishment for this offence being 10 years’ imprisonment, superiors will hopefully be deterred from allowing a Delhi 1984 or Bombay 1992-1993 or Gujarat 2002 to recur. The proposed law will also act as a deterrent to acts of complicity by public servants during smaller bouts of violence and awards fair compensation and reparation to victims when they do occur.

Positive and reasonable legislative steps to correct either the discriminatory exercise of state power or the discriminatory delivery of justice draw strength from a clear constitutional mandate. Article 14 of the Indian Constitution states that: “The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”. Article 21 clearly places the responsibility on the state to ensure equal protection of life and liberty (and, by implication, property) and Article 15(1) provides that “the state shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them”. This is recognition that vulnerable groups may require protection from the state.

Every democracy is premised on the assumption that while the majority can take care of itself, minorities need special protection. Consider for a moment India’s experience in tackling communal violence (or its failure thereof) alongside our history of recurring bouts of targeted violence, when numerically weaker and socially disadvantaged groups –linguistic or religious minorities or Dalits or tribals – are attacked because of their identity. Throw into this analysis the review of the application (or non-application) of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. And the reasoning behind the need for this law, applicable to minorities defined not just by faith but also by other criteria, becomes immediately evident.

“Minority” is not, or should not be, a rigidly frozen concept based on religion alone. The reality is otherwise, as our sordid experience of the attacks on Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir valley or the violence unleashed on North Indians/Biharis in Mumbai and Maharashtra or Tamils in Karnataka has shown. With the migration of populations and altering demographies, democracies need to develop sound measures for the protection of all the people. Jurisprudence through justice delivery and reparation through compensation packages must reflect this ever changing reality.

There is a simple way in which to make the proposed law applicable to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir assembly must first pass a simple resolution addressed to the president of India asking that the law be made applicable in the state. Thereafter, it would require a reference made to Parliament by the president of India for amendment of the Jammu and Kashmir (Extension of Laws Act) 1956 so as to extend the new law to Jammu and Kashmir.

A law to protect the minorities draws its source from already existing powers granted to the centre, implicit in Article 355 of the Indian Constitution regarding the “Duty of the union to protect states against external aggression and internal disturbance” which provides that: “It shall be the duty of the union to protect every state against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every state is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”. This has generated considerable debate and will also be deliberated upon when the bill is put before the parliamentary Standing Committee. Detractors who speak only of India’s federalism baulk at admitting the ground realities during prolonged bouts of violence; such selective public amnesia negates years of bitter experience in dealing with outbreaks of majoritarian mob frenzy.

Over the decades the collective experience of civil libertarians and jurists at such times has been to ask for law and order enforcement to be temporarily handed over to the army. Assimilating this experience without impinging on the responsibilities of state governments to protect lives and property, the proposed law, under Chapter IV, envisages the creation of a National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation. The authority’s role will be to serve as a catalyst for implementation of the new law. Its functions will include receiving and investigating complaints of violence and dereliction of duty and monitoring the build-up of an atmosphere likely to lead to violence.

The National Authority cannot compel a state government to take action – in deference to the federal nature of law enforcement – but it can approach the courts for appropriate directions. There will also be state-level authorities, staffed, like the National Authority, by a process that the ruling party of the day cannot unduly influence. The monitoring of relief and rehabilitation of victims will be a major part of their responsibilities.

The creation of this new entity was incorporated in the draft bill after much deliberation with practitioners, including former judges who felt that without a body to supervise, monitor and properly intervene when smaller but recurring bouts of communal and targeted violence take place, state governments would continue to be lax, as we have seen even recently in Bihar (Forbesganj, June) Rajasthan (Bharatpur, September) and Uttarakhand (Rudrapur, October 2011).

The powers of this authority are recommendatory and in no way violate federal principles. Similarly, the state-level authorities have also been created in order to facilitate district-level inputs towards the prevention of violence and its containment as well as justice delivery. Moreover, the National Authority has no power to issue binding orders against any state government except for the purposes of providing information. The National Authority is only empowered to issue advisories and recommendations with which the concerned state government/public servants may disagree, the only condition being that the reasons for such disagreement must be recorded.

Since mid-2011 when the National Advisory Council (NAC) invited comments on the draft bill, many voices have been raised expressing concerns about some basic precepts of the proposed law. These concern, in the main, the definition of the victim group – religious and linguistic minorities and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes – and the creation of a National Authority to monitor the build-up and occurrence of targeted and communal violence, issue advisories, extract replies from the state governments and intervene in courts hearing the cases. The provisions on witness protection, the rights of victims during trials and the thorough scheme of compensation and reparation have been largely welcomed.

There are two questions of concern expressed among those, across the ideological spectrum, who have objected to the draft bill’s definition of the victim group. One of these voices disquiet about a law which, if it comes into existence, will divide people on the basis of minority and majority. The second objection is sharper; it asks whether a law premised on the assumption that a minority has never committed or will never commit acts of violence can be just or fair. It comes as no surprise that the second criticism was first made through an article by Arun Jaitley, the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha who is also a senior lawyer. Others who have vociferously echoed Jaitley’s criticism – with the sole exception of Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa who is also dead against the law – belong to India’s main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), or are among its votaries. Lending voice to this criticism is the ideological fountainhead of the BJP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and its affiliates, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal.

Other protests against the bill have come from the leaders of some regional parties, such as West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress who appears to be more concerned with the role of the centre/National Authority under the proposed law and how this may impinge on the rights of state governments.

Let us first address the concern relating to the definition of the victim group.

Democracies, based as they are on electoral and representative politics, reflect the voice of different sections but do also privilege the majority. This majority is not always religious; it could be from a certain social stratum or caste or committed to a certain ideology. At their best, democracies maintain the balance of power while always giving space and protection to the minority voice, the single voice. Short of this delicate balance, democracy can tip over into the rule of the mob, a mobocracy. Values of constitutional governance, equality for all, especially equality before the law, are principles that could fall by the wayside when mob rule takes over. Can we in India – looking back with candour – accept that we have collectively succumbed to the rule of the mob?

While we rightly celebrate elections as a fundamental reaffirmation of the vibrant, live democracy that India is, the power of every individual’s right to vote can and has been subverted by the manifestation and legitimisation of brute majority power through the same electoral process that we celebrate.

Sober reflection reminds us that even while we cringe at categories like majority and minority, the anomalies of the very electoral victories we celebrate must force us to reconsider our views. Mass crimes have sat comfortably with electoral politics in India. And electoral discourse seems reluctant to propagate the principles of justice for all and discrimination against none.

Let us recall a moment in our history. In November 1984, within a short and bloody spell lasting about 72 hours, more than 3,000 Sikh residents of Delhi were massacred in cold blood. When Parliament convened in January the following year, no official condolence motion was moved to mark the massacre. And what is worse, among those who sat in the wells of the lower house, having ridden to victory in elections held just a month earlier, were Congress leaders HKL Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler and Lalit Maken, men who, along with Sajjan Kumar, had been named as guilty of inciting mobs by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and People’s Union for Democratic Rights in their 1984 report ‘Who are the Guilty?’. (This was later corroborated by the testimonies and affidavits of victim survivors.)

Twenty-seven years have passed since then.

The four politicians identified as perpetrators of the 1984 Sikh massacres have never been punished. Instead, three of them were elected to Parliament within a month of the violence, from the city where they were accused of leading mobs, signalling democratic sanction for the brutal massacres. They had not only been given tickets by the ruling Congress party but Hindu voters, expressing brute majority support for their actions, had voted them in.

Should this brute democratic sanction of mob violence by the majority have gone legislatively unchecked?

Should Indian democracy not rise above political and partisan interests and enact a law that ensures protection of its minorities?

Following a similar pattern, those named as perpetrators of the violence against innocent Muslims in Bombay in 1992-1993 by Justice BN Srikrishna in his report on the post-Babri Masjid demolition violence in Bombay – Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena and its leaders – rode to power in the state of Maharashtra in 1995. Shiv Sena leader Madhukar Sarpotdar was elected member of Parliament from the Mumbai North-west constituency in 1996 and again in 1998. The man elected had been named in the Srikrishna Commission report as leading mobs, as was Gajanan Kirtikar, the Sena leader from Goregaon. The judge’s report also indicted 31 policemen who, instead of being prosecuted and punished, were elevated by a cynical Congress-Nationalist Congress Party regime that has ruled the state since 1999.

The genocide in Gujarat in 2002 and the near decade since has taken the “democratic” sanction for mob violence to new heights. The Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat 2002 in its findings held chief minister Narendra Modi to be “the chief author and architect” of the state-sponsored genocide. Modi not only rode to power in December 2002 and again in 2007 but he and the party that he represents have also shamelessly used these electoral victories to erase his guilt in the massacres. As chief minister and home minister, he is responsible for the subversion of justice in many pending cases and faces the possibility of being charge-sheeted as the main accused in a criminal complaint. The offences are as serious as destruction of official records and the appointment of public prosecutors with an ideological affiliation to the very groups that perpetrated the violence.

Here constitutional governance has been held to ransom by the very aspects of democracy, the electoral politics that we celebrate. Unchecked with each bout of violence, the subversion of the justice process has reached an all-time high. When majoritarianism creeps into systems of governance, legislative checks like those contained in the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill become vital.

It is therefore evident that one of the greatest challenges of our time – though by no means the only one – is how we in India equally protect all citizens. Can we safely say that there is no bias in the delivery of justice? Can we deny that during periodic bouts of targeted and communal violence over the years it is the minorities who have suffered the greatest loss of lives and property and who have also been denied justice? And that the perpetrators of such targeted crimes have got away unpunished?

Nowhere does the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill make the assumption that targeted violence can never be perpetrated by a minority group. There is no denying that in, say, Marad (Kerala), Malegaon (Maharashtra) or Bhiwandi (Maharashtra), Muslims were rioters. The bill simply reflects a legislative acknowledgement that when such incidents do occur, the police and the administration will behave in accordance with existing laws and will not fail to record accurate first information reports (FIRs), carry out thorough investigations and prosecute the guilty – which has been the sorry record of communal and targeted violence in India to date. If the criminal justice system is tardy and floundering for all Indians, when it comes to those in the minority, it is that much worse.

Hence the bill through its definition provisions provides that apart from the sections relating to remedy and reparation, all aspects that involve higher performance from the policeman and administrator are made applicable only if the victim is a member of the defined group. To ensure fair and non-discriminatory governance, the protected group comprises the religious and linguistic minorities and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.

In 2009 about 50 Dalit organisations had collectively reviewed the functioning of the 20-year-old Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. In the course of this review, it was identified that among the many factors responsible for the failure in the act’s implementation was the absence of any provisions for pinning down the accountability of public servants. This coupled with the fact that in the caste hierarchy, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes represent the most deprived minority was the rationale for their inclusion in the protected group in the proposed law.

Apart from the Atrocities Act, we have in place the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005 which was also a special legislative response to social reality and experience. Until this law was enacted, the amended Section 498A of the IPC was the section of criminal law invoked when domestic violence against women occurred. Many of those who had opposed the empowerment of women through this amendment had long argued for the repeal of Section 498A on the grounds that it had in a few cases been abused. Fortunately, the facts on the ground carried the day.

The BJP through Jaitley has also sought to project communal violence as a mere “law and order” problem even as it conveniently disregards the crucial element that allows communal violence to occur in the first instance, intensify in the second and fail to deliver justice in the third. They are equally outraged that the proposed law recommends that four of the seven members of the National Authority should, in the interests of representative governance, belong to minority communities.

The crucial component mentioned above – administrative and police bias – is blithely overlooked in Jaitley’s outraged arguments. This should come as no surprise, since his party rose to power on a wave of majoritarian mob frenzy and the crimes committed by BJP leaders (including a former deputy prime minister) in Faizabad-Ayodhya in 1992 and Gujarat in 2002 – to give only two examples – reflected the impunity of men secure in the knowledge that institutional tardiness and majoritarian bias would assist them in escaping prosecution. And punishment.

At a more intellectual level, the arguments proffered by sociopolitical commentator Ashutosh Varshney also appear to be mired in a frozen reality, three decades old. Unlike in the 1960s and 1970s when communal violence generally occurred in communally sensitive cities like Bhiwandi, Ahmedabad, Aligarh, etc – a hypothesis that Varshney uses – communal violence and serious eruptions of mob frenzy are today spreading to rural India and to towns and cities hitherto free from this malaise. A major reason for this is the widespread currency of majoritarian communalism which accompanied the BJP’s rise to power together with the moral failure of the “secular” Congress or the left to tackle the ideological onslaught. This encroachment by the majority, brutish and arrogant, has crept into our systems of governance, the administration and the police. While the proposed Communal and Targeted Violence Bill in no way pretends or purports to tackle the scourge of irrationality and prejudice, it certainly aims to hold to account those public servants who fail to abide by Articles 14 and 21 of the Indian Constitution, to protect the lives and liberties of innocent victims who are targeted simply because they belong to a minority group.

It is imperative that those concerned with justice and reparation join the campaign for the restoration of fair debate. Currently the proposed law has become the victim of hysterical propaganda – led, unsurprisingly, by players whose political trajectory gained momentum by legitimising irrational prejudice and even hatred, who rose to power on the wings of communal mob frenzy.

To enable a reasoned rational discourse on a long overdue law, the Communal and Targeted Violence Bill must be tabled in Parliament and be put before a Standing Committee forthwith. Any anomalies within it can be ironed out at that stage. We must not allow this process to be derailed by the same cynical political players who have gained political brownie points and mileage through the spread of hatred and the generation of mob frenzy.

 

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Is Adani enterprises illegally acquiring land for coal mining in Chhattisgarh?

Sarguja district collector deployed a team which reported that Adani Enterprises acquired land allotted to farmers under the Forest Rights Act

28 Aug 2020

Adani
 

Sarguja district administration, Chhattisgarh has reportedly revealed that Adani Enterprises has illegally acquired land that belonged to 32 farmers under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The company has acquired land in Udaipur tehsil, Ghatbarra village and the Collector is probing the matter. This village is one of the villages around Parsa East Kete Basan coal block. 

Two of these coal mines are associated with Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd of which Adani Enterprises is the Mine Developer and Operator (MDO). The first coal mine has been operational since 2013 and mining has begun there. The other coal mine is supposed to begin in the year 2028 and for this purpose itself, Adani Enterprises seems to be illegally acquiring lands around Ghatbara and Paras villages from farmers by making them sign affidavits and handing out cheques to them in an unlawful manner of land acquisition, in complete disregard and contravention of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

The matter was first reported on August 25 in Patrika, a regional newspaper in Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan and Chhattisgarh Van Adhikar Manch wrote complaints to the Chief Minister about this matter. The Chief Ministers Secretariat then informed Sarguja Collector Sanjeev Kumar Jha who deployed a team to look into the matter. A team was constituted comprising Assistant Commissioner of Tribal Welfare, JR Nagvanshi, Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) Revenue, Pradeep Sahu and SDO Forests SN Mishra. In the report submitted by the team, it is allegedly mentioned that the farmers have been allocated land in Ghabara under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. 

Even if the land is to be acquired, it can only be lawfully done after the farmers are given appropriate compensation for it and rehabilitated and resettled as per the law. But the due process of law has not been followed here. As per the news report in Patrika, around 15 farmers were made to sign on an affidavit and were handed over a cheque for the land. Until now 32 such instances have come forth.

That is not all, it has been reported by Hindustan Times in February 2019, that the forest land which has been granted preliminary forest clearance by The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union environment ministry for the Parsa coal mine, was declared in 2009 as a “no-go” area because of its rich forest cover.

In March 2020, a notice was issued to NCL a joint venture company between government-owned National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) and Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation (CMDC) for not commencing work in an iron ore mine in Dakshin Bastar, Dantewada. Adani Enterprises is the MDO of this mine. What is pertinent to note here is that the forest clearance given for the mine is also being reconsidered by the forest department of the state after the government inquiry which found the gram sabha consent null and void, reported The Wire.


Related:

Unmindful mining will bring permanent pandemic

Kerala against Adani takeover of Trivandrum International Airport

Raging inferno Jharia treads on hot coals as Centre opens up mining for private sector

Chhattisgarh lawyer allegedly assaulted by cops, WCD officials

 

Is Adani enterprises illegally acquiring land for coal mining in Chhattisgarh?

Sarguja district collector deployed a team which reported that Adani Enterprises acquired land allotted to farmers under the Forest Rights Act

Adani
 

Sarguja district administration, Chhattisgarh has reportedly revealed that Adani Enterprises has illegally acquired land that belonged to 32 farmers under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. The company has acquired land in Udaipur tehsil, Ghatbarra village and the Collector is probing the matter. This village is one of the villages around Parsa East Kete Basan coal block. 

Two of these coal mines are associated with Rajasthan Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd of which Adani Enterprises is the Mine Developer and Operator (MDO). The first coal mine has been operational since 2013 and mining has begun there. The other coal mine is supposed to begin in the year 2028 and for this purpose itself, Adani Enterprises seems to be illegally acquiring lands around Ghatbara and Paras villages from farmers by making them sign affidavits and handing out cheques to them in an unlawful manner of land acquisition, in complete disregard and contravention of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

The matter was first reported on August 25 in Patrika, a regional newspaper in Chhattisgarh. Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan and Chhattisgarh Van Adhikar Manch wrote complaints to the Chief Minister about this matter. The Chief Ministers Secretariat then informed Sarguja Collector Sanjeev Kumar Jha who deployed a team to look into the matter. A team was constituted comprising Assistant Commissioner of Tribal Welfare, JR Nagvanshi, Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) Revenue, Pradeep Sahu and SDO Forests SN Mishra. In the report submitted by the team, it is allegedly mentioned that the farmers have been allocated land in Ghabara under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. 

Even if the land is to be acquired, it can only be lawfully done after the farmers are given appropriate compensation for it and rehabilitated and resettled as per the law. But the due process of law has not been followed here. As per the news report in Patrika, around 15 farmers were made to sign on an affidavit and were handed over a cheque for the land. Until now 32 such instances have come forth.

That is not all, it has been reported by Hindustan Times in February 2019, that the forest land which has been granted preliminary forest clearance by The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union environment ministry for the Parsa coal mine, was declared in 2009 as a “no-go” area because of its rich forest cover.

In March 2020, a notice was issued to NCL a joint venture company between government-owned National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) and Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation (CMDC) for not commencing work in an iron ore mine in Dakshin Bastar, Dantewada. Adani Enterprises is the MDO of this mine. What is pertinent to note here is that the forest clearance given for the mine is also being reconsidered by the forest department of the state after the government inquiry which found the gram sabha consent null and void, reported The Wire.


Related:

Unmindful mining will bring permanent pandemic

Kerala against Adani takeover of Trivandrum International Airport

Raging inferno Jharia treads on hot coals as Centre opens up mining for private sector

Chhattisgarh lawyer allegedly assaulted by cops, WCD officials

 

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Molestation FIR against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director cancelled!

The police stated that they found the allegations of molestation to be false and the villagers are extremely agitated by this development 

28 Aug 2020

Dudhwa national park

The FIR that was filed at the instance of Tharu woman who was allegedly molested by the Deputy Director of Dudhwa National Park has been cancelled. The Circle officer, Kuldeep Kukreti said that the charges invoked in the FIR for molestation and assault were found to be false and hence the FIR has been cancelled.

The incident took place on August 1 but the villagers had managed to get the FIR filed 20 days later at Gauriphanta police station in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh.

On August 1, a Tharu woman was rearing some goats in the forest when Sonkar arrived with his patrolling team and questioned her on why she was rearing goats there. She replied saying that she was doing this on her own farm. Hearing this Sonkar got infuriated and allegedly hurled abuses and casteist slurs at her while also gripping her arm and pulling her close forcefully, while she resisted. When other women started gathering there, Sonkar, with his patrolling party, left while taking away two goats and one villager. This drew the villagers’ ire and they blocked the road.

The police reached on the spot and only after the forest officials let go the two goats and the villager, did the villagers regain composure. 

However, now that the FIR has been cancelled, the villagers, who previously expected that an investigation will follow and the Deputy Director will be taken to court, are now agitated. 

Related:

Molestation charges against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director

Tharu Adivasis emerge resilient, return to farmlands

Forest officials allegedly harass, intimidate Adivasis in Chitrakoot 

Molestation FIR against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director cancelled!

The police stated that they found the allegations of molestation to be false and the villagers are extremely agitated by this development 

Dudhwa national park

The FIR that was filed at the instance of Tharu woman who was allegedly molested by the Deputy Director of Dudhwa National Park has been cancelled. The Circle officer, Kuldeep Kukreti said that the charges invoked in the FIR for molestation and assault were found to be false and hence the FIR has been cancelled.

The incident took place on August 1 but the villagers had managed to get the FIR filed 20 days later at Gauriphanta police station in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh.

On August 1, a Tharu woman was rearing some goats in the forest when Sonkar arrived with his patrolling team and questioned her on why she was rearing goats there. She replied saying that she was doing this on her own farm. Hearing this Sonkar got infuriated and allegedly hurled abuses and casteist slurs at her while also gripping her arm and pulling her close forcefully, while she resisted. When other women started gathering there, Sonkar, with his patrolling party, left while taking away two goats and one villager. This drew the villagers’ ire and they blocked the road.

The police reached on the spot and only after the forest officials let go the two goats and the villager, did the villagers regain composure. 

However, now that the FIR has been cancelled, the villagers, who previously expected that an investigation will follow and the Deputy Director will be taken to court, are now agitated. 

Related:

Molestation charges against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director

Tharu Adivasis emerge resilient, return to farmlands

Forest officials allegedly harass, intimidate Adivasis in Chitrakoot 

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