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CAA discriminatory against Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka: DMK

The party, which is one of the 200 petitioners before the apex court challenging CAA, has now filed an additional affidavit

30 Nov 2022

CAA
Image: The News Minute

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has filed an additional affidavit before the Supreme Court stating that the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) is discriminatory against Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka. It further states that CAA is arbitrary as it relates to only three countries, that is Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and confined to solely only six religions i.e., Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian community and expressly excludes the Muslim religion. Even while considering religious minorities, it keeps such Tamils of Indian origin who are presently staying in India as refugees after fleeing from Sri Lanka due to persecution, DMK states, as reported by LiveLaw.

The Supreme Court will be hearing the batch of over 200 petitions challenging the CAA on December 6

Persecution of Tamils

Focusing on the history of persecution faced by Tamils In Sri Lanka, the affidavit [filed in Writ Petition (Civil) 1539/2019] states that There are two separate Tamil communities in Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils, though they both are of the same ethnic origin and speak the same language, the Indian Tamils were introduced to Ceylon from South India by a British as bonded labour. The Sinhalese population of Sri Lanka, which is a Buddhist majority has historically considered the Tamils as invaders infringing on Sinhalese territory.

"I humbly submit that the step motherly behaviour of respondent number one towards Tamil refugees has left them living in constant fear of deportation and an uncertain future,” states the affidavit. It further states that statelessness has rendered these refugees without employment in organized sectors, with no right to vote or hold property and hordes of other entitlements that are enjoyed by citizens of the country.

“Due to such an ambiguity, they are forced to stay in camps where they are often exploited, having no prospects of security in future. The lack of jobs, access to basic rights and amenities have left these refugees handicapped and destroyed,” the affidavit asserts. The DMK further submits that CAA ignores “the reality for several decades that Tamil refugees who have settled in Tamil Nadu are deprived of fundamental rights and other rights due to non-citizenship and due to non-naturalization and the impugned Act does not provide any reasons to exclude them."

For over four decades, nearly 30,000 Indian-origin Tamils have been classified as stateless persons, based on technicalities, reported The Hindu.

There are over 1 lakh Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India, who, in the eyes of the law are neither citizens nor refugees, thus rendering them stateless. This is a significant humanitarian crisis that they are facing.

According to a report of the Ministry of Home Affairs, more than 3 lakh refugees entered India in different phases between 1983 and 2012 due to the ethnic conflict in the island nation. While 99,469 were repatriated to Sri Lanka till 1995, some refugees left for other countries on their own. After 1995, there was no organised repatriation.

Court’s opinion

In October 2022, Justice G R Swaminathan of Madurai bench of Madras High Court made a comment that the Centre may consider including Hindu Tamils of Sri Lanka under the provisions of the CAA (2019). The court was hearing a petition of a 29-year-old woman, S Abirami, born to a Sri Lankan couple in Tamil Nadu’s Trichy and seeking Indian citizenship.

Resolution against CAA

In September 2021, the Tamil Nadu government under chief minister, Stalin passed a resolution against CAA 2019 saying that the law betrayed Sri Lankan refugees and usurped the rights of the refugees who wanted to settle down in India. In doing so, it was the 8th state to pass a resolution against CAA, 2019. “Refugees should be treated as only fellow human beings and there must be no discrimination on any grounds, be it religion, race or their country of origin and only this could be the “correct view,” Stalin had then said.

CAA 2019 challenged before SC

The Supreme Court bench consisting of then CJI UU Lalit, Justices Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi decided to treat the petition filed by the Indian Union Muslim League as the lead matter at the previous hearing of October 31.

"Having noted that there are various matters projecting multiple issues, in our view the resolution to instant controversy can be achieved if 2-3 matters are taken as lead matters and convenience compilations are prepared well in advance, such process will make the conduct of the proceedings easy. We have been apprised that the Writ Petition filed by Indian Union Muslim League has been complete. The petition has been filed by Advocate Pallavi Pratap. We therefore appoint her and Mr. Kanu Agarwal as nodal counsels," the bench said.

The Centre has defended CAA stating that it is a “narrowly tailored legislation” seeking to address the problem which awaited India’s attention for several decades. “The CAA does not seek to recognise or seek to provide answers to all or any kind of purported persecution that may be taking place across the world or that may have taken place previously anywhere in the world,” the Home Ministry reasoned.

Related:

Is CAA 2019 stealthily making its way into our lives?

Controversial CAA 2019 challenge in SC on December 6, Centre urges non-interference in its ‘legislative competence’

Is the GoI’s database linkage plan a precursor to NRC?

CAA discriminatory against Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka: DMK

The party, which is one of the 200 petitioners before the apex court challenging CAA, has now filed an additional affidavit

CAA
Image: The News Minute

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has filed an additional affidavit before the Supreme Court stating that the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) is discriminatory against Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka. It further states that CAA is arbitrary as it relates to only three countries, that is Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh and confined to solely only six religions i.e., Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian community and expressly excludes the Muslim religion. Even while considering religious minorities, it keeps such Tamils of Indian origin who are presently staying in India as refugees after fleeing from Sri Lanka due to persecution, DMK states, as reported by LiveLaw.

The Supreme Court will be hearing the batch of over 200 petitions challenging the CAA on December 6

Persecution of Tamils

Focusing on the history of persecution faced by Tamils In Sri Lanka, the affidavit [filed in Writ Petition (Civil) 1539/2019] states that There are two separate Tamil communities in Sri Lanka – Sri Lankan Tamils and Indian Tamils, though they both are of the same ethnic origin and speak the same language, the Indian Tamils were introduced to Ceylon from South India by a British as bonded labour. The Sinhalese population of Sri Lanka, which is a Buddhist majority has historically considered the Tamils as invaders infringing on Sinhalese territory.

"I humbly submit that the step motherly behaviour of respondent number one towards Tamil refugees has left them living in constant fear of deportation and an uncertain future,” states the affidavit. It further states that statelessness has rendered these refugees without employment in organized sectors, with no right to vote or hold property and hordes of other entitlements that are enjoyed by citizens of the country.

“Due to such an ambiguity, they are forced to stay in camps where they are often exploited, having no prospects of security in future. The lack of jobs, access to basic rights and amenities have left these refugees handicapped and destroyed,” the affidavit asserts. The DMK further submits that CAA ignores “the reality for several decades that Tamil refugees who have settled in Tamil Nadu are deprived of fundamental rights and other rights due to non-citizenship and due to non-naturalization and the impugned Act does not provide any reasons to exclude them."

For over four decades, nearly 30,000 Indian-origin Tamils have been classified as stateless persons, based on technicalities, reported The Hindu.

There are over 1 lakh Sri Lankan Tamil refugees in India, who, in the eyes of the law are neither citizens nor refugees, thus rendering them stateless. This is a significant humanitarian crisis that they are facing.

According to a report of the Ministry of Home Affairs, more than 3 lakh refugees entered India in different phases between 1983 and 2012 due to the ethnic conflict in the island nation. While 99,469 were repatriated to Sri Lanka till 1995, some refugees left for other countries on their own. After 1995, there was no organised repatriation.

Court’s opinion

In October 2022, Justice G R Swaminathan of Madurai bench of Madras High Court made a comment that the Centre may consider including Hindu Tamils of Sri Lanka under the provisions of the CAA (2019). The court was hearing a petition of a 29-year-old woman, S Abirami, born to a Sri Lankan couple in Tamil Nadu’s Trichy and seeking Indian citizenship.

Resolution against CAA

In September 2021, the Tamil Nadu government under chief minister, Stalin passed a resolution against CAA 2019 saying that the law betrayed Sri Lankan refugees and usurped the rights of the refugees who wanted to settle down in India. In doing so, it was the 8th state to pass a resolution against CAA, 2019. “Refugees should be treated as only fellow human beings and there must be no discrimination on any grounds, be it religion, race or their country of origin and only this could be the “correct view,” Stalin had then said.

CAA 2019 challenged before SC

The Supreme Court bench consisting of then CJI UU Lalit, Justices Ravindra Bhat and Bela M. Trivedi decided to treat the petition filed by the Indian Union Muslim League as the lead matter at the previous hearing of October 31.

"Having noted that there are various matters projecting multiple issues, in our view the resolution to instant controversy can be achieved if 2-3 matters are taken as lead matters and convenience compilations are prepared well in advance, such process will make the conduct of the proceedings easy. We have been apprised that the Writ Petition filed by Indian Union Muslim League has been complete. The petition has been filed by Advocate Pallavi Pratap. We therefore appoint her and Mr. Kanu Agarwal as nodal counsels," the bench said.

The Centre has defended CAA stating that it is a “narrowly tailored legislation” seeking to address the problem which awaited India’s attention for several decades. “The CAA does not seek to recognise or seek to provide answers to all or any kind of purported persecution that may be taking place across the world or that may have taken place previously anywhere in the world,” the Home Ministry reasoned.

Related:

Is CAA 2019 stealthily making its way into our lives?

Controversial CAA 2019 challenge in SC on December 6, Centre urges non-interference in its ‘legislative competence’

Is the GoI’s database linkage plan a precursor to NRC?

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When laws meant to be emancipatory become weapons of the regime: Teesta Setalvad

Full text of the Rabi Ray Memorial Lecture delivered by Teesta Setalvad in Bhubaneswar on November 26, 2022

30 Nov 2022

Teesta Setalvad

Towards a New Dawn May Our Country Awake

Rabi Ray Memorial Lecture 2022

Teesta Setalvad

November 26, 2022

A stalwart of socialism and parliamentary democracy, Rabi Ray contributed to the deepening of Indian democratic institutions at a gentler time where politics and values did have some intrinsic links and men (and women) empowered institutions to deliver. Under the mentorship of Ram Manohar Lohia, the Socialist Party and the All India Samajwadi Yuvak Sabha matured in practice and principle. His entire tenure as Parliamentarian in the 4th Lok Sabha when he was elected in 1967 from the Puri Constituency in Orissa and then later as MP and Speaker in the 9th and 10th Lok Sabhas were memorable. India was finding its feet as a functioning democracy, proud in its political international association as a flagbearer for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

Whether within Indian Parliament or with the People – through the Lok Shakti Abhiyan and even the Citizens Initiative for Peace, debate, dialogue, accountability in government and transparency were and are key to principled politics for Rabi Ray.

Wonder then what he would have to say in the India and World of 2022, with the stranglehold on Indian democracy we witness; where a Rule by Police Raids or Executive Fiat; where Terror and Fear of targeted reprisal by the executive, the Concentration of Brute Power, Political with the State, Economic Resources with Corporates combined with the steady decline of the Federal structure of our Constitution has not just led to an erasure or erosion of democratic values but where we, India  once a leader of the developing world, a proud democracy is today being dubbed “partly free” (Freedom House, 2021) and a “partially free electoral autocracy” (Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute, 2021.

In 2021 –and the situation a year later is worse not better –indices of freedom and democracy by three renowned global research institutions contained one common observation − that India’s democracy is backsliding, leading to a rapid and alarming deterioration of political and civil liberties.

[[The three institutions, which came to similar conclusions on India’s freedom and democracy record in 2020, are the Sweden-based Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute, the United States-based non-profit organisation Freedom House and the Intelligence Unit of The Economist magazine. Specifically categorising the Indian situation, the V-Dem Institute study said India had be- come an “electoral autocracy”, while Freedom House downgraded India from a “free democracy” to a “partially free democracy”. The Democracy Index published by The Economist Intelligence Unit termed India as a “flawed democracy”. ]]

All three studies emphasised the role of the present central government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in causing this backsliding of democracy. The studies have pointed out that this regime is characterised by widespread attacks on human rights groups, intimidation of journalists and activists, and rampant assaults on minority communities, especially Muslims.

A key strategy that has been central to the erosion of democratic space, has been the weaponizing of the criminal justice system by the State, to harass and punish those who dare to protest against the anti-people and anti-Constitutional policies and actions of the Government

Not that attempts on arresting democratic assertions had not happened earlier. The present speaker was between 15-16 years of age when autocratic tendencies grew in the 1970s, we saw the historic rail strike and then the clamping down on democratic freedoms that began with attempts –also near successful –when the appointment of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was interfered with and then Emergency declared, media houses attacked and mass arrests affected. The legendary Rabi Ray’s prominent presence in the democratic elected government that emerged when that Emergency was lifted and elections held is remembered.

The difference between then and now is the very premise and worldview on which this government at the centre rests and stands’ it’s open and unashamed allegiance to a ‘Hindu rashtra’, a theocratic state, its commitment to overthrow the Indian Constitution and its republican ideals –that of parity and non-discrimination; basically equally of citizenship. It’s there for all to see on the website of the RSS in the ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ of Golwalkar; it is only echoed in the inciteful pronouncements of those who hold power, having sworn an oath to the Indian Constitution. Not just in theory, India’s practical experience of living under a majoritarian regime over eight years has seen overt displays of discriminatory governance: typified in the widespread condonation of, and impunity towards hate crimes that have spiralled due to unprosecuted hate speech.

More simply put, we have in place a majority government in power, an overwhelming section of whose representatives, in government and in parliament –and in the state assemblies—have no use for the finer points of equality and non-discrimination, and the inherent rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Though fascism may not have completely gripped us, our institutions of democracy—and most critically—that pulse of democracy, the Indian people—are being tested and tested sorely to feel the extent of the resistance.  Though fascism may not have overthrown the Indian democratic state, fascists today hold powerful positions of power.

We have seen since 2014, seen a powerful government ‘elected’ with a clear majority, overriding roughshod parliamentary practice, debates, overstepping required checks and balances on institutions, passing laws or amending them without adequate deliberation, debate. Leading to the oft-used phrase, ‘undeclared Emergency.’ In place is a majoritarian government that has effected a unique Stranglehold on institutions established to ensure democratic governance. Specifically, Parliament, Election Commission, Media and the Judiciary.

Laws(s) has today become a persecutor for ‘chosen’ sections, those individuals and organisations marked as enemies of the Regime. Courts as independent adjudicators of fundamental freedoms and justice are not dependable guarantors.

 A country of over 1.25 billion people has a per capita spending of a mere Rs. 0.75 per annum on access to justice/legal aid (India Justice Report 2019). While this clampdown on democratic functioning is rampant –the manner in which dates to elections in states are or not declared by the ECI one small example – what has made Indian public discourse raw and tottering on the edge of violence and conflict is the spiral in hate speech by those women and men who occupy powerful positions ins society or state/government.

If we examine the past three years alone, that is the second term of this government since 2019 –and I will not go into the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and the manner Indian Parliament (and the Indian Constitution) was held to ransom by an elected regime --- these years have been marked by a particularly crude unconcern for the basics of democratic functioning which at its core must have space and recognition of powers vested in the elected opposition, numerically however large or small. Instead we see ill-concealed attempts to denigrate state governments and opposition parties in whatever manner and fashion possible. To ensure a fearful and pliant public space, aggressive and violent use of ‘police raj’ or state agencies against those in opposition has also been rampant.

TS

Even before that, the first term had seen India’s informal economy and small business decimated by a crazed firman of overnight demonetization (note-bandhi) that crippled India’s vast millions economically while propaganda that this was a move against ‘black/unaccounted’ money’ was belied by the RBI’s own figures that recorded over 90 % of currency coming back into state exchequers. Attacks on worker’s rights to negotiate a more egalitarian existence and Adivasis and small farmers to re-claim lands too had begun in the first term itself: when the Land Acquisition central law (amended after a century of people’s mobilization and protest) was sought to be made devoid of the social audit and people’s accountability principle (within months of May 2014) a strong Opposition protest arrested this move: over the next few years however BJP-ruled governments in at least six states had ensured that the anti-small land holder amendments become a reality, however.

Our students, their scholarships and our Universities were also targets of government repression, curtailment of scholarships and propaganda. Even as the first ever public lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh (UP) led to a national and international outrage. Lynchings did not stop however but voices of protests were tired out and numbed; Una 2016 in Gujarat and the public flogging of Muslims in Kheda nearing Ahmedabad in Gujarat in October 2022 – and the overall ‘national silence’ around this need some serious self-examination. Protests happened then and are happening now; with each protest, the repression takes newer and starker forms.

The rallying cry of the protests was ‘azaadi’. This word had already been turned into an assertive chant by the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University. No oppression was outside of its ambit:

 

Hum ladke lenge azaadi / We will fight for freedom

Nafrat-hinsa se azaadi / Freedom from hate and violence

Jatiwad se azaadi / Freedom from casteism

Manuvad se azaadi / Freedom from the Manusmriti

Poonjivad se azaadi / Freedom from capitalism

Modiraj se azaadi / Freedom from Modi’s rule

 

More brute assaults began post 2019, however.

The end of 2019 and the months before the ill-conceived and unilaterally imposed ‘lockdown’ by the central government saw widespread, vibrant democratic protests around the partisan amendments to the Citizenship Act of 1955. The streets of Delhi outside Jamia Milia witnessed defiant and creative graffiti and pprotestors sang the verses of Habib Jalib (Dastoor) and Faiz Ahmed Faiz (Hum Dekhenge) in Urdu, a language that combines, perhaps better than any other, irreverence and rebellion with mellifluousness. The Indian Constitution, dismantled bit by bit from within parliament, was reclaimed on the streets by the people, and particularly by those on the margins, the minorities.

 

The anti CAA-NRC-NPR protests were vibrant and uplifting, secular in intrinsic character even as the leadership was proudly Indian and Muslim.

The issue agitating the Muslim community was—and still is— the existential threat posed by the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the proposed National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).36 Introduced on December 9, 2019, CAA-2019 with its unconstitutional amendments, was passed at midnight without due deliberation and debate. The government, however, was taken aback by the determined resistance it faced countrywide. Mumbai, which is normally slower to respond, saw a historic silent protest by over 30,000 people at the iconic August Kranti Maidan on December 19. Warned by the happenings around the enumeration of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, few bought the facile, inconsistent, and contradictory defence put up by the home minister and prime minister. CAA-NPR-NRC were seen as the trishul (trident) of this Right-wing regime.

Even before the tragedy of the lockdown for the 63 crore Indian migrant workers –and Orissa has hundreds of thousands of pravasi kamgars too—could shock and stun all Indians, the brute clampdown, in Delhi by the police answerable to the central government led to a potent and ever typical combination of governance applied and used by this dispensation: aggressive hate speeches in public by senior political functionaries; impunity and non-prosecution of this hate by police and agencies;  the relative silence of the political, elected opposition to this targeting and then the targeted incarceration of the leadership of movements! Even today as we speak, over a dozen of these political prisoners, and others in cases like the Bhima Koregaon case, remain behind bars. A permanently amended anti (counter) terrorism law (unlike TADA or POTA earlier that were laws were for specific and limited periods of time) –the UAPA Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act was first passed through in 2004 (!!) and thereafter amended in 2008 (when only the Communist Parties opposed amendments in Parliament) and again in 2019! Even without application of the dreaded UAPA, Police Raj is reality be it in the capital or states run by a majoritarian BJP and several others.

Marginalised from ‘mainstream’ ‘visible’ public and political discourse is the economic exclusion and denial of economic social and cultural rights of vast sections of Indians.

The Oxfam India Discrimination Report is a harsh story of extreme inequality told in numbers. In a nutshell, “ What is particularly worrying in India’s case is that economic inequality is being added to a society that is already fractured along the lines of caste, religion, region and gender. “ (Professor Himanshu, JNU)

While India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it is also one of the most unequal countries.

Inequality has been rising sharply for the last three decades. The richest have cornered a huge part of the wealth created through crony capitalism and inheritance.

They are getting richer at a much faster pace while the poor are still struggling to earn a minimum wage and access quality education and healthcare services, which continue to suffer from chronic under-investment.

These widening gaps and rising inequalities affect women and children the most.

Let's look at the numbers

1%

The top 10% of the Indian population holds 77% of the total national wealth. 73% of the wealth generated in 2017 went to the richest 1%, while *670 million Indians who comprise the poorest half of the population saw only a 1% increase in their wealth.

70

There are 119 billionaires in India. Their number has increased from only 9 in 2000 to 101 in 2017. Between 2018 and 2022, India is estimated to produce 70 new millionaires every day.

10x

Billionaires' fortunes increased by almost 10 times over a decade and their total wealth is higher than the entire Union budget of India for the fiscal year 2018-19, which was at INR 24422 billion.

63 M

Many ordinary Indians are not able to access the health care they need. 63 million of them are pushed into poverty because of healthcare costs every year - almost two people every second.

941 yrs

It would take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in rural India to earn what the top paid executive at a leading Indian garment company earns in a year.

(OXFAM Report)

It is these political social and economic conditions that have thrown the most significant challenge to us all, Indians. People’s movements, social and cultural activists. We cannot afford, at whatever level of civic action we are involved in to Mobilise against Hate and Targeted Violence. Let us not forget that the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022 began with the evil spread in the name of hate-letting and calls for a genocide (Dharm Sansads). Last year and the beginning of this one saw the degrading spectacle of articulate and representative Muslim women –their “auctions” on social media. While we develop an understanding and mobilise and organize in the new circumstances generated by an autocratic majoritarian state, let our mobilization never let us forget to be real Allies of the Most Marginalised and Targeted, India’s Minorities. It is in this courageous allyship that we will be able to re-build the structures sought to be dismembered and torn so bitterly and brutally. Now is the time to re-build and re-cement all our movements into a vibrant grassroots movement to defend the rights and freedoms of all Indians, and uphold the Constitution!

In our small and determined way this is what Citizens for Justice and Peace (cjp.org.in) has been doing, is doing despite being the targeted focus of concerted attack. Apart from the work related to the Survivors of 2002 in Gujarat, work that saw for the first time some elements of substantive justice being done with perpetrators being punished, our work before that was engaged with the discussion and disseminating of Constitutional values within the classroom: celebrating India’s diversity and ensuring that the classroom and school spaces looked at history, identity and dialogue as intrinsic to learning (https://cjp.org.in/khoj/). Now we are working with grass-root teams in Assam on the ticklish question of Citizenship, aiding through para legal work, counselling and legal interventions thousands of hapless Indians, arbitrarily told ‘they are not Indian.’ (https://cjp.org.in/assam/) In Purvanchal we work with youth, anganwadi workers and lawyers against hate and building an understanding of diversity and dialogue. In Mumbai we are trying to re-vitalise Mohalla committees and our vision is that we build teams of Peace Workers and Footsoldiers of the Constitution in districts and states all over India. In this collective endeavour, I urge that each one of you join.
Post colonial rule in India has been a contradictory reality. On the one hand there was the growth of Public Sector Units (PSUs) for economic and social development, investments and advancements in domains of science, technology and innovation, industry, arts and literature and communication, abolition of Zamindari Act, development options and forms of government etc. But on the other hand from the early years of nation building, the people of Damodar Valley (West Bengal-Jharkhand),   Hirakund (Odisha) and Bhakra Nangal (Punjab) and of many resources rich areas were asked to sacrifice the rights over livelihood and lands for “nation-building”. Economic theoreticians termed this as part of the collateral damage, for building a powerful country and a strong economy. Many other colonial laws like the forest laws and institutions like the forest department thrived and still exist today. The Indian Forest Act of 1927 was not repealed, the CRPC and IPC and Indian Police Act were not divested of their unbridled powers to arrest, use “permissible force” while detaining and arrest, use confessions and even torture.

This colonial legacy of capturing resources and creating an imbalance of power with the state and not the Indian people, continued in the resource rich states paying for the ‘development and nation building’. The result of this unequal mode of governance resulted in the internal displacement of millions of the Indian people from these states, who eventually became part of the informal labour force.  Before the nation state could completely shed its colonial yoke, it surrendered to a neo- liberal one in the 1990s.

 The privatisation regime that has become the order of the day has its roots in the LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation) era that started with the 1990s. The paradigm signaled a new phase of colonialism, neo-colonialism, led by the Bretton Wood institutions, powered by the GATT and WTO, made sure that weak Indian governments of the day were misled at the cost of immense previous efforts to ensure India was on the path towards a welfare state. It was people’s movements alone, forest workers and Adivasi movements, movements of the displaced, movements of agriculturists and struggles against the British Raj, patriarchy, feudalism, caste and class exploitation, hunger, land & forest alienation, that compelled the new political elite to adhere to an inclusive social contract over the first decades of Independence. But let us not forget that the Right to Information Act, the MNREGA law –guaranteeing in whatever flawed form, some social security for the rural labour force, the Forest Rights Act, 2006, the Land Acquisition amendments (LARR), the National Food Security Act only could come to be enacted in the decade of 2004-2014. Since then there has been a violent push back by the State Institutions themselves that earlier enacted them.

In the same year, 2019, in February an outrageous order of the Supreme Court allowing evictions of millions of Adivasis and forest dwellers was stayed by the same apex court within ten days when countrywide protests erupted. Efforts to cripple the ‘recognition of land and livelihood rights’ to India’s Adivasis and Forest Dwellers continue however through parallel laws enacted (like amendments made in 2015 and 2020 to the colonial, Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation Act), 1957, the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016, the National Waterways Act, 2016, the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, 2006 (EIA 2020) and now the Forest Conservation (Act) Rules of 2022. All these parallel and devious attempts by the State have

seriously thwarted attempts to re-claim lands and livelihood. The single impediment to implement the Scheduled Tribes & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (popularly known as FRA 2006) is the failure of Indian Parliament and States to repeal the Indian Forest Act of 1927 that has weaponized the Forest department.

In the name of ‘Reforms’ of the early 1990s, the progressive social contract ensured by socio- political movements across India were fast fast-eroding.  From the protection of agriculture, labour, environment, traditional livelihoods, to safeguarding of natural resources, the opening up of the economy to ‘reforms’, fatally compromised many of the principles embedded within the provisions the Indian constitution.

Today, the very communities who had to make those sacrifices for building a new India, are being brutally forced  to surrender everything they hold dear – for mining, dams, industrial corridors and projects, real estate, thermal power projects, nuclear projects, highways and road infrastructure, ports – all that which will apparently make India a ‘superpower’.

This un-accountable and unsustainable greed of one-sided ‘Development’ has also led to rising economic disparity, social unrest, unemployment and human suffering. Unlike the previous era, where the narrative was for ‘nation-building’ and ‘for the people’ today, the sacrifice is for the sake of private profit at the cost of the country and its people. It is a blatant surrender by the government to big corporations and crony capitalism that profiteers even during a pandemic.

 Three decades into the neo-liberal agenda, today what we see is a communal, authoritarian, Brahmanical and patriarchal state that has comfortably blended into the neo-liberal framework to decimate any pro people, democratic, progressive model of development.

Students, workers, civil liberty activists, social movements, have been under constant attack and arrests. Through silencing anyone who questions the government plans through to push through its expropriation based development agenda.

What we need today is to draw inspiration from the intrepid Farmers Movements and Protests that through their prolonged struggle from November (even June) –2020-December 2021—recognised or admitted to the inherent internal contradictions of the protest movement (small farmers, women farmers, Dalit agricultural labour, Adivasis as farmers) and sought to strengthen their concerted protests of the regime through this renewed understanding.

Today, therefore our struggle, needs to be a renewed anti-neo-colonial struggle that would not just be a struggle for protection of livelihood and ecology but a struggle for liberation against hate, injustice, targeted violence and prejudice. Hence the need for natural resources based communities to unitedly fight against the loot of ‘jal, jungle, zameen’ by asserting their inalienable traditional rights over resources. This combined initiative must also constructively push for an effective implementation of progressive legislations like the FRA 2006, the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, the Right to Information Act, 2005 and the Right to Fair Compensation & Transparency in Land Acquisition, rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 (LARR). This will provide a significant political base for diverse movements of natural resources-based working peoples. Such a movement will re-ignite Indians collectively towards a struggle for the implementation of the intrinsic values contained within the Indian Constitution, all embedded there because of the struggles of the masses of the Indian people.

Friends, for many of us the past few years have been hard and for some of us we have been special and vilified targets. I have found however deep and abiding friendships and allies in the months of ordeal and incarceration, where post cards and letters penned from every village and district of Bharat made me feel loved and remembered. These messages written by hand on postcards flew through the cages of the Sabarmati Mahila Jail and broke down my despair and loneliness into hope. Kasturba Gandhi too had been in the same jail and her soul comforted me.

These words from a friend that I received on a post card, I will share with you:

"Khoob khayal rakhna apna! Mayus bas pal bar hona, jyada nahin! Ayenge woh din jis din ke liye tum wahan ho.. Ham sab, saath-saath aur alag, 2 tumko yaad karte hai. Tum 'taakat' ho hamaree. Aasmaan, chidiya, mitti, phool aur Dhwayee..tumko pyaar de..." This and so many others not just brought tears to my eyes -- which was cleansing -- and sustained me...

Recently a friend and ally wrote an article on Neo Fascism world over wherein he quoted historian Lawrence Britt who had studied the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile) and found they had 14 elements in common. Britt had called for identifying characteristics of fascism[1] which are:

1.    Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
2.    Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights.
3.    Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
4.    Supremacy of the Military
5.    Rampant Sexism.
6.    Controlled Mass Media
7.    Obsession with National Security
8.    Religion and Government are Intertwined
9.    Protection of Corporate Power
10.    Suppression of Labour Power 
11.    Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
12.    Obsession with Crime and Punishment
13.    Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
14.    Fraudulent Elections

Our movements of civic action and mass mobilisation need to recognise these neo-fascist trends within India and world over and build allies across inter-sectionalities, movements for social economic political and land rights, to counter them.

Maybe then we will come up with a version of democracy that is de-centralised, where the local is not just global and national but the most valued and where people and their aspirations –with diversity of language, culture and religion—are central?

Towards that end, then we must doggedly head…

Teesta Setalvad

Secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace (cjp.org.in)

Footnote:

I thank the Rabi Ray Memorial Committee for inviting me and urge that we work together, towards this dream that comes with a heavy cost that we may all be required to pay.

 

[1]  ‘Free Inquiry’ Spring 2003, pg. 20 as ‘Fascism Anyone?’

When laws meant to be emancipatory become weapons of the regime: Teesta Setalvad

Full text of the Rabi Ray Memorial Lecture delivered by Teesta Setalvad in Bhubaneswar on November 26, 2022

Teesta Setalvad

Towards a New Dawn May Our Country Awake

Rabi Ray Memorial Lecture 2022

Teesta Setalvad

November 26, 2022

A stalwart of socialism and parliamentary democracy, Rabi Ray contributed to the deepening of Indian democratic institutions at a gentler time where politics and values did have some intrinsic links and men (and women) empowered institutions to deliver. Under the mentorship of Ram Manohar Lohia, the Socialist Party and the All India Samajwadi Yuvak Sabha matured in practice and principle. His entire tenure as Parliamentarian in the 4th Lok Sabha when he was elected in 1967 from the Puri Constituency in Orissa and then later as MP and Speaker in the 9th and 10th Lok Sabhas were memorable. India was finding its feet as a functioning democracy, proud in its political international association as a flagbearer for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

Whether within Indian Parliament or with the People – through the Lok Shakti Abhiyan and even the Citizens Initiative for Peace, debate, dialogue, accountability in government and transparency were and are key to principled politics for Rabi Ray.

Wonder then what he would have to say in the India and World of 2022, with the stranglehold on Indian democracy we witness; where a Rule by Police Raids or Executive Fiat; where Terror and Fear of targeted reprisal by the executive, the Concentration of Brute Power, Political with the State, Economic Resources with Corporates combined with the steady decline of the Federal structure of our Constitution has not just led to an erasure or erosion of democratic values but where we, India  once a leader of the developing world, a proud democracy is today being dubbed “partly free” (Freedom House, 2021) and a “partially free electoral autocracy” (Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute, 2021.

In 2021 –and the situation a year later is worse not better –indices of freedom and democracy by three renowned global research institutions contained one common observation − that India’s democracy is backsliding, leading to a rapid and alarming deterioration of political and civil liberties.

[[The three institutions, which came to similar conclusions on India’s freedom and democracy record in 2020, are the Sweden-based Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute, the United States-based non-profit organisation Freedom House and the Intelligence Unit of The Economist magazine. Specifically categorising the Indian situation, the V-Dem Institute study said India had be- come an “electoral autocracy”, while Freedom House downgraded India from a “free democracy” to a “partially free democracy”. The Democracy Index published by The Economist Intelligence Unit termed India as a “flawed democracy”. ]]

All three studies emphasised the role of the present central government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in causing this backsliding of democracy. The studies have pointed out that this regime is characterised by widespread attacks on human rights groups, intimidation of journalists and activists, and rampant assaults on minority communities, especially Muslims.

A key strategy that has been central to the erosion of democratic space, has been the weaponizing of the criminal justice system by the State, to harass and punish those who dare to protest against the anti-people and anti-Constitutional policies and actions of the Government

Not that attempts on arresting democratic assertions had not happened earlier. The present speaker was between 15-16 years of age when autocratic tendencies grew in the 1970s, we saw the historic rail strike and then the clamping down on democratic freedoms that began with attempts –also near successful –when the appointment of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) was interfered with and then Emergency declared, media houses attacked and mass arrests affected. The legendary Rabi Ray’s prominent presence in the democratic elected government that emerged when that Emergency was lifted and elections held is remembered.

The difference between then and now is the very premise and worldview on which this government at the centre rests and stands’ it’s open and unashamed allegiance to a ‘Hindu rashtra’, a theocratic state, its commitment to overthrow the Indian Constitution and its republican ideals –that of parity and non-discrimination; basically equally of citizenship. It’s there for all to see on the website of the RSS in the ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ of Golwalkar; it is only echoed in the inciteful pronouncements of those who hold power, having sworn an oath to the Indian Constitution. Not just in theory, India’s practical experience of living under a majoritarian regime over eight years has seen overt displays of discriminatory governance: typified in the widespread condonation of, and impunity towards hate crimes that have spiralled due to unprosecuted hate speech.

More simply put, we have in place a majority government in power, an overwhelming section of whose representatives, in government and in parliament –and in the state assemblies—have no use for the finer points of equality and non-discrimination, and the inherent rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Though fascism may not have completely gripped us, our institutions of democracy—and most critically—that pulse of democracy, the Indian people—are being tested and tested sorely to feel the extent of the resistance.  Though fascism may not have overthrown the Indian democratic state, fascists today hold powerful positions of power.

We have seen since 2014, seen a powerful government ‘elected’ with a clear majority, overriding roughshod parliamentary practice, debates, overstepping required checks and balances on institutions, passing laws or amending them without adequate deliberation, debate. Leading to the oft-used phrase, ‘undeclared Emergency.’ In place is a majoritarian government that has effected a unique Stranglehold on institutions established to ensure democratic governance. Specifically, Parliament, Election Commission, Media and the Judiciary.

Laws(s) has today become a persecutor for ‘chosen’ sections, those individuals and organisations marked as enemies of the Regime. Courts as independent adjudicators of fundamental freedoms and justice are not dependable guarantors.

 A country of over 1.25 billion people has a per capita spending of a mere Rs. 0.75 per annum on access to justice/legal aid (India Justice Report 2019). While this clampdown on democratic functioning is rampant –the manner in which dates to elections in states are or not declared by the ECI one small example – what has made Indian public discourse raw and tottering on the edge of violence and conflict is the spiral in hate speech by those women and men who occupy powerful positions ins society or state/government.

If we examine the past three years alone, that is the second term of this government since 2019 –and I will not go into the abrogation of Article 370 in Kashmir and the manner Indian Parliament (and the Indian Constitution) was held to ransom by an elected regime --- these years have been marked by a particularly crude unconcern for the basics of democratic functioning which at its core must have space and recognition of powers vested in the elected opposition, numerically however large or small. Instead we see ill-concealed attempts to denigrate state governments and opposition parties in whatever manner and fashion possible. To ensure a fearful and pliant public space, aggressive and violent use of ‘police raj’ or state agencies against those in opposition has also been rampant.

TS

Even before that, the first term had seen India’s informal economy and small business decimated by a crazed firman of overnight demonetization (note-bandhi) that crippled India’s vast millions economically while propaganda that this was a move against ‘black/unaccounted’ money’ was belied by the RBI’s own figures that recorded over 90 % of currency coming back into state exchequers. Attacks on worker’s rights to negotiate a more egalitarian existence and Adivasis and small farmers to re-claim lands too had begun in the first term itself: when the Land Acquisition central law (amended after a century of people’s mobilization and protest) was sought to be made devoid of the social audit and people’s accountability principle (within months of May 2014) a strong Opposition protest arrested this move: over the next few years however BJP-ruled governments in at least six states had ensured that the anti-small land holder amendments become a reality, however.

Our students, their scholarships and our Universities were also targets of government repression, curtailment of scholarships and propaganda. Even as the first ever public lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, Uttar Pradesh (UP) led to a national and international outrage. Lynchings did not stop however but voices of protests were tired out and numbed; Una 2016 in Gujarat and the public flogging of Muslims in Kheda nearing Ahmedabad in Gujarat in October 2022 – and the overall ‘national silence’ around this need some serious self-examination. Protests happened then and are happening now; with each protest, the repression takes newer and starker forms.

The rallying cry of the protests was ‘azaadi’. This word had already been turned into an assertive chant by the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University. No oppression was outside of its ambit:

 

Hum ladke lenge azaadi / We will fight for freedom

Nafrat-hinsa se azaadi / Freedom from hate and violence

Jatiwad se azaadi / Freedom from casteism

Manuvad se azaadi / Freedom from the Manusmriti

Poonjivad se azaadi / Freedom from capitalism

Modiraj se azaadi / Freedom from Modi’s rule

 

More brute assaults began post 2019, however.

The end of 2019 and the months before the ill-conceived and unilaterally imposed ‘lockdown’ by the central government saw widespread, vibrant democratic protests around the partisan amendments to the Citizenship Act of 1955. The streets of Delhi outside Jamia Milia witnessed defiant and creative graffiti and pprotestors sang the verses of Habib Jalib (Dastoor) and Faiz Ahmed Faiz (Hum Dekhenge) in Urdu, a language that combines, perhaps better than any other, irreverence and rebellion with mellifluousness. The Indian Constitution, dismantled bit by bit from within parliament, was reclaimed on the streets by the people, and particularly by those on the margins, the minorities.

 

The anti CAA-NRC-NPR protests were vibrant and uplifting, secular in intrinsic character even as the leadership was proudly Indian and Muslim.

The issue agitating the Muslim community was—and still is— the existential threat posed by the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the proposed National Population Register (NPR) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).36 Introduced on December 9, 2019, CAA-2019 with its unconstitutional amendments, was passed at midnight without due deliberation and debate. The government, however, was taken aback by the determined resistance it faced countrywide. Mumbai, which is normally slower to respond, saw a historic silent protest by over 30,000 people at the iconic August Kranti Maidan on December 19. Warned by the happenings around the enumeration of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, few bought the facile, inconsistent, and contradictory defence put up by the home minister and prime minister. CAA-NPR-NRC were seen as the trishul (trident) of this Right-wing regime.

Even before the tragedy of the lockdown for the 63 crore Indian migrant workers –and Orissa has hundreds of thousands of pravasi kamgars too—could shock and stun all Indians, the brute clampdown, in Delhi by the police answerable to the central government led to a potent and ever typical combination of governance applied and used by this dispensation: aggressive hate speeches in public by senior political functionaries; impunity and non-prosecution of this hate by police and agencies;  the relative silence of the political, elected opposition to this targeting and then the targeted incarceration of the leadership of movements! Even today as we speak, over a dozen of these political prisoners, and others in cases like the Bhima Koregaon case, remain behind bars. A permanently amended anti (counter) terrorism law (unlike TADA or POTA earlier that were laws were for specific and limited periods of time) –the UAPA Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act was first passed through in 2004 (!!) and thereafter amended in 2008 (when only the Communist Parties opposed amendments in Parliament) and again in 2019! Even without application of the dreaded UAPA, Police Raj is reality be it in the capital or states run by a majoritarian BJP and several others.

Marginalised from ‘mainstream’ ‘visible’ public and political discourse is the economic exclusion and denial of economic social and cultural rights of vast sections of Indians.

The Oxfam India Discrimination Report is a harsh story of extreme inequality told in numbers. In a nutshell, “ What is particularly worrying in India’s case is that economic inequality is being added to a society that is already fractured along the lines of caste, religion, region and gender. “ (Professor Himanshu, JNU)

While India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it is also one of the most unequal countries.

Inequality has been rising sharply for the last three decades. The richest have cornered a huge part of the wealth created through crony capitalism and inheritance.

They are getting richer at a much faster pace while the poor are still struggling to earn a minimum wage and access quality education and healthcare services, which continue to suffer from chronic under-investment.

These widening gaps and rising inequalities affect women and children the most.

Let's look at the numbers

1%

The top 10% of the Indian population holds 77% of the total national wealth. 73% of the wealth generated in 2017 went to the richest 1%, while *670 million Indians who comprise the poorest half of the population saw only a 1% increase in their wealth.

70

There are 119 billionaires in India. Their number has increased from only 9 in 2000 to 101 in 2017. Between 2018 and 2022, India is estimated to produce 70 new millionaires every day.

10x

Billionaires' fortunes increased by almost 10 times over a decade and their total wealth is higher than the entire Union budget of India for the fiscal year 2018-19, which was at INR 24422 billion.

63 M

Many ordinary Indians are not able to access the health care they need. 63 million of them are pushed into poverty because of healthcare costs every year - almost two people every second.

941 yrs

It would take 941 years for a minimum wage worker in rural India to earn what the top paid executive at a leading Indian garment company earns in a year.

(OXFAM Report)

It is these political social and economic conditions that have thrown the most significant challenge to us all, Indians. People’s movements, social and cultural activists. We cannot afford, at whatever level of civic action we are involved in to Mobilise against Hate and Targeted Violence. Let us not forget that the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022 began with the evil spread in the name of hate-letting and calls for a genocide (Dharm Sansads). Last year and the beginning of this one saw the degrading spectacle of articulate and representative Muslim women –their “auctions” on social media. While we develop an understanding and mobilise and organize in the new circumstances generated by an autocratic majoritarian state, let our mobilization never let us forget to be real Allies of the Most Marginalised and Targeted, India’s Minorities. It is in this courageous allyship that we will be able to re-build the structures sought to be dismembered and torn so bitterly and brutally. Now is the time to re-build and re-cement all our movements into a vibrant grassroots movement to defend the rights and freedoms of all Indians, and uphold the Constitution!

In our small and determined way this is what Citizens for Justice and Peace (cjp.org.in) has been doing, is doing despite being the targeted focus of concerted attack. Apart from the work related to the Survivors of 2002 in Gujarat, work that saw for the first time some elements of substantive justice being done with perpetrators being punished, our work before that was engaged with the discussion and disseminating of Constitutional values within the classroom: celebrating India’s diversity and ensuring that the classroom and school spaces looked at history, identity and dialogue as intrinsic to learning (https://cjp.org.in/khoj/). Now we are working with grass-root teams in Assam on the ticklish question of Citizenship, aiding through para legal work, counselling and legal interventions thousands of hapless Indians, arbitrarily told ‘they are not Indian.’ (https://cjp.org.in/assam/) In Purvanchal we work with youth, anganwadi workers and lawyers against hate and building an understanding of diversity and dialogue. In Mumbai we are trying to re-vitalise Mohalla committees and our vision is that we build teams of Peace Workers and Footsoldiers of the Constitution in districts and states all over India. In this collective endeavour, I urge that each one of you join.
Post colonial rule in India has been a contradictory reality. On the one hand there was the growth of Public Sector Units (PSUs) for economic and social development, investments and advancements in domains of science, technology and innovation, industry, arts and literature and communication, abolition of Zamindari Act, development options and forms of government etc. But on the other hand from the early years of nation building, the people of Damodar Valley (West Bengal-Jharkhand),   Hirakund (Odisha) and Bhakra Nangal (Punjab) and of many resources rich areas were asked to sacrifice the rights over livelihood and lands for “nation-building”. Economic theoreticians termed this as part of the collateral damage, for building a powerful country and a strong economy. Many other colonial laws like the forest laws and institutions like the forest department thrived and still exist today. The Indian Forest Act of 1927 was not repealed, the CRPC and IPC and Indian Police Act were not divested of their unbridled powers to arrest, use “permissible force” while detaining and arrest, use confessions and even torture.

This colonial legacy of capturing resources and creating an imbalance of power with the state and not the Indian people, continued in the resource rich states paying for the ‘development and nation building’. The result of this unequal mode of governance resulted in the internal displacement of millions of the Indian people from these states, who eventually became part of the informal labour force.  Before the nation state could completely shed its colonial yoke, it surrendered to a neo- liberal one in the 1990s.

 The privatisation regime that has become the order of the day has its roots in the LPG (Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation) era that started with the 1990s. The paradigm signaled a new phase of colonialism, neo-colonialism, led by the Bretton Wood institutions, powered by the GATT and WTO, made sure that weak Indian governments of the day were misled at the cost of immense previous efforts to ensure India was on the path towards a welfare state. It was people’s movements alone, forest workers and Adivasi movements, movements of the displaced, movements of agriculturists and struggles against the British Raj, patriarchy, feudalism, caste and class exploitation, hunger, land & forest alienation, that compelled the new political elite to adhere to an inclusive social contract over the first decades of Independence. But let us not forget that the Right to Information Act, the MNREGA law –guaranteeing in whatever flawed form, some social security for the rural labour force, the Forest Rights Act, 2006, the Land Acquisition amendments (LARR), the National Food Security Act only could come to be enacted in the decade of 2004-2014. Since then there has been a violent push back by the State Institutions themselves that earlier enacted them.

In the same year, 2019, in February an outrageous order of the Supreme Court allowing evictions of millions of Adivasis and forest dwellers was stayed by the same apex court within ten days when countrywide protests erupted. Efforts to cripple the ‘recognition of land and livelihood rights’ to India’s Adivasis and Forest Dwellers continue however through parallel laws enacted (like amendments made in 2015 and 2020 to the colonial, Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation Act), 1957, the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act, 2016, the National Waterways Act, 2016, the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, 2006 (EIA 2020) and now the Forest Conservation (Act) Rules of 2022. All these parallel and devious attempts by the State have

seriously thwarted attempts to re-claim lands and livelihood. The single impediment to implement the Scheduled Tribes & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (popularly known as FRA 2006) is the failure of Indian Parliament and States to repeal the Indian Forest Act of 1927 that has weaponized the Forest department.

In the name of ‘Reforms’ of the early 1990s, the progressive social contract ensured by socio- political movements across India were fast fast-eroding.  From the protection of agriculture, labour, environment, traditional livelihoods, to safeguarding of natural resources, the opening up of the economy to ‘reforms’, fatally compromised many of the principles embedded within the provisions the Indian constitution.

Today, the very communities who had to make those sacrifices for building a new India, are being brutally forced  to surrender everything they hold dear – for mining, dams, industrial corridors and projects, real estate, thermal power projects, nuclear projects, highways and road infrastructure, ports – all that which will apparently make India a ‘superpower’.

This un-accountable and unsustainable greed of one-sided ‘Development’ has also led to rising economic disparity, social unrest, unemployment and human suffering. Unlike the previous era, where the narrative was for ‘nation-building’ and ‘for the people’ today, the sacrifice is for the sake of private profit at the cost of the country and its people. It is a blatant surrender by the government to big corporations and crony capitalism that profiteers even during a pandemic.

 Three decades into the neo-liberal agenda, today what we see is a communal, authoritarian, Brahmanical and patriarchal state that has comfortably blended into the neo-liberal framework to decimate any pro people, democratic, progressive model of development.

Students, workers, civil liberty activists, social movements, have been under constant attack and arrests. Through silencing anyone who questions the government plans through to push through its expropriation based development agenda.

What we need today is to draw inspiration from the intrepid Farmers Movements and Protests that through their prolonged struggle from November (even June) –2020-December 2021—recognised or admitted to the inherent internal contradictions of the protest movement (small farmers, women farmers, Dalit agricultural labour, Adivasis as farmers) and sought to strengthen their concerted protests of the regime through this renewed understanding.

Today, therefore our struggle, needs to be a renewed anti-neo-colonial struggle that would not just be a struggle for protection of livelihood and ecology but a struggle for liberation against hate, injustice, targeted violence and prejudice. Hence the need for natural resources based communities to unitedly fight against the loot of ‘jal, jungle, zameen’ by asserting their inalienable traditional rights over resources. This combined initiative must also constructively push for an effective implementation of progressive legislations like the FRA 2006, the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, the Right to Information Act, 2005 and the Right to Fair Compensation & Transparency in Land Acquisition, rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Bill, 2015 (LARR). This will provide a significant political base for diverse movements of natural resources-based working peoples. Such a movement will re-ignite Indians collectively towards a struggle for the implementation of the intrinsic values contained within the Indian Constitution, all embedded there because of the struggles of the masses of the Indian people.

Friends, for many of us the past few years have been hard and for some of us we have been special and vilified targets. I have found however deep and abiding friendships and allies in the months of ordeal and incarceration, where post cards and letters penned from every village and district of Bharat made me feel loved and remembered. These messages written by hand on postcards flew through the cages of the Sabarmati Mahila Jail and broke down my despair and loneliness into hope. Kasturba Gandhi too had been in the same jail and her soul comforted me.

These words from a friend that I received on a post card, I will share with you:

"Khoob khayal rakhna apna! Mayus bas pal bar hona, jyada nahin! Ayenge woh din jis din ke liye tum wahan ho.. Ham sab, saath-saath aur alag, 2 tumko yaad karte hai. Tum 'taakat' ho hamaree. Aasmaan, chidiya, mitti, phool aur Dhwayee..tumko pyaar de..." This and so many others not just brought tears to my eyes -- which was cleansing -- and sustained me...

Recently a friend and ally wrote an article on Neo Fascism world over wherein he quoted historian Lawrence Britt who had studied the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile) and found they had 14 elements in common. Britt had called for identifying characteristics of fascism[1] which are:

1.    Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
2.    Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights.
3.    Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
4.    Supremacy of the Military
5.    Rampant Sexism.
6.    Controlled Mass Media
7.    Obsession with National Security
8.    Religion and Government are Intertwined
9.    Protection of Corporate Power
10.    Suppression of Labour Power 
11.    Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
12.    Obsession with Crime and Punishment
13.    Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
14.    Fraudulent Elections

Our movements of civic action and mass mobilisation need to recognise these neo-fascist trends within India and world over and build allies across inter-sectionalities, movements for social economic political and land rights, to counter them.

Maybe then we will come up with a version of democracy that is de-centralised, where the local is not just global and national but the most valued and where people and their aspirations –with diversity of language, culture and religion—are central?

Towards that end, then we must doggedly head…

Teesta Setalvad

Secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace (cjp.org.in)

Footnote:

I thank the Rabi Ray Memorial Committee for inviting me and urge that we work together, towards this dream that comes with a heavy cost that we may all be required to pay.

 

[1]  ‘Free Inquiry’ Spring 2003, pg. 20 as ‘Fascism Anyone?’

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Sabrang

How Independent is India’s Election Commission?

A five member Constitution Bench reserved its judgement in the petitions that have sought a non-arbitrary and transparent process for appointing members of the Election Commission, to safeguard its independence

29 Nov 2022

Election Commission
Image: https://bit.ly/3iuqlT1

The election commission and the recently appointed Election Commissioner Arun Goel have been in the news due to the hearings before a five judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court. The apex court is hearing the petitions seeking established, transparent procedure for appointing members to the ECI. In the course of deliberations, with the Centre arguing that there “was no trigger point” warranting such judicial scrutiny, the Court questioned the undue haste in the appointment of Arun Goel as the Election Commissioner [EC] while the matter was being adjudicated. The post had been lying vacant since May 2022.

The matter had been referred to the Constitutional Bench after a Division Bench of the Apex Court had held that 'a close look and interpretation of the provisions of Article 324 of the Constitution of India', which states superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in the Election Commission, may be required, reported LiveLaw.

Given these developments, it is important to understand the significance of the Election Commission, and its independent role in the conduct of free and fair elections.

The process of appointment of Election Commissioner(s) post-Independence, has its own tale to tell. The election commission had always been a one member body until 1989. In 1989, the Rajiv Gandhi government appointed election commissioners, as provided in Article 324(1). This was again changed and the EC was made a body with just the CEC by the VP Singh government. However, the PV Narasimha Rao government brought in an ordinance establishing the multi member nature of the commission, which was later converted into an act. A case too was filed in the Supreme Court over these developments.

In this article, the first part deals with the functions and powers of the Election Commission which have been enumerated within the Constitution and other statutes. The second part deals with different cases (jurisprudence) that hold importance in the context of the role and constitution of Election Commission. The third part examines the level and extent of independence the election commission has. To put things in perspective, the appointment of members of ECI is governed by the Constitution (amendment as mentioned above, in 1991). The Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners And Transaction of Business) Act, 1991 prescribes the salary, term and pension matters. A plain reading of Article 324 makes it clear that the process of appointment of the EC members has been left to the law to be made by the Parliament; a lacuna that still persists in the absence of such a law. Even the present constitutional bench pointed out that it’s been 72 years and no law has been put in place.

Election Commission in the Indian Constitution

Articles 324 to 329 of the Constitution deal with the Elections. While Article 324 deals with the commission, its functions and its powers, Article 329 bars the interference of courts in election matters except when brought to them in the form of election petitions.

Article 324 (1) - Establishes the authority of the Election Commission over superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls, and the conduct of all elections to parliament and the state legislatures, and to the posts of the President and Vice-President.

Article 324 (2) - States that there shall be a Chief Election Commissioner, appointed by the president subject to the law made by the Parliament. It also includes the provision for appointment of Election Commissioners, if the president deems fit, subject to the law made by the parliament.

Article 324 (3) - In case of appointment of Election Commissioner, states that the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as chairman of the commission.

Article 324 (4) - Empowers the president to appoint regional election commissioners.

Article 324 (5) - Subject to the laws of the parliament, the president may make rules for service and tenure of the regional election commissioners and Election Commissioners. For the Chief Election Commissioner, however, the process of removal is the same as the process of impeachment of the judge. The process to impeach a judge starts with either 100 Lok Sabha or 50 Rajya Sabha members giving a notice of motion to the speaker and if the speaker accepts such motion, an inquiry committee has to be constituted with a Supreme Court Judge, a Chief Justice of a High Court and a distinguished jurist who will frame charges and investigate. The report is presented to Parliament and only if each house passes the motion to impeach the judge with majority and 2/3rd of the majority of the members present and voting, the motion will be passed. After both the houses pass such motions, the president will have to pass an order removing the judge. Apart from this special status to the Chief Election Commissioner, Article 324 (5) also states that the Election commissioners and the Regional Election Commissioners, shall not be removed without the recommendations of the Chief Election Commissioners.

Article 324 (6) - states that the president or the governor of a state, shall provide the election commission with necessary staff, when requested, to discharge the functions as enshrined in Article 324 (1).

Statutes

The Chief Election Commissioner And Other Election Commissioners (Conditions Of Service) Act, 1991
Section 4 of the Act states that the tenure of the Chief Election Commissioner or the election commissioner is 6 years or until he reaches the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.

The Process

In the recent hearings over the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner, the Attorney General submitted to the Supreme Court that the CEC is appointed from the lists of ECs on the basis of seniority. A name is picked by the Prime Minister and it is sent to the President along with a note of recommendation, he submitted to the court.

Judicial Pronouncements on the EC

1. SS Dhannoa vs. Union of India.

The Rajiv Gandhi government, via a notification, fixed the number of election commissioners 2, in the year 1989. By another notification, SS Dhannoa and another person were appointed as Election Commissioners. However, the V.P. Singh government issued notifications rescinding the earlier two notifications by the Rajiv Gandhi government. Consequently, the two posts of  Election Commissioners were abolished and the appointment of  SS Dhannoa and the other Election Commissioner came  to  an end.

SS Dhannoa challenged the notifications by the VP Singh government on the grounds that the Election  Commission being  an  independent body, the abolition of the  posts  of Election Commissioners and their consequent removal tampered with the independence of the Election Commission directly or indirectly; in view of the service rules made  by the President  the Election Commissioners were entitled to continue in office for full tenure of five years or until they attained the age of 65 years whichever was earlier; the notification  abolishing  the  two posts  and  removing the petitioner  and the other Election Commissioner were issued mala fide under the advice of the Chief Election Commissioner; his removal affected him  materially.

The court however stated that the post of election commissioner can be created and abolished as the president may deem fit. The court noted the difference in treatment of both the Election Commissioner on the one side and the Chief Election Commissioner on the other side, as provided in the constitution. The court stated that while the conditions of service and tenure of office of all are to be such as the President may, by rule determine, a protection is given to the Chief Election Commissioner in that his conditions of  service shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment, and he  shall  not be removed from his office  except  in like manner and  on the like grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court. These protections are not available either to the Election Commissioners or to the Regional Commissioners. The court stated that  the conditions of Election Commissioner and the Regional Conditions can be varied to their disadvantage.

2. T.N.Seshan vs. Union of India

A five-judge constitution bench in this case, heard the petitions challenging the validity of the The Chief Election Commissioner And Other Election Commissioners (Conditions Of Service) Act, 1991 on the grounds that it equates the status of CEC and EC by introducing the concept in which whenever a conflict arises as to a decision, the majority will prevail rather than CEC’s decision. The judgement stated that just because the CEC’s conditions of service are different from that of Election Commissioners, it cannot be concluded that CEC is of a higher status than the other Election Commissioners.

The TN Seshan case, therefore confirmed the basics of the power structures with the Election Commission

Independence of the Election Commission

Before the issue of independence itself is examined, it is important to understand and affirm the need for an independent election commission. This does not need complex and layered explanations. Elections are one of the many strong pillars on which democracies stand. If there is any discrepancy in the conduct or result of the elections, there will be cracks in a democracy which will hamper rule of law and public order. This means, the conduct of elections shall be free and fair and for that, the institution which conducts the elections should be free from any influence from the political parties.

Now, how can an institution be truly independent? There are different facets to an institution. Financial, Administrative and others. As far as money is concerned, the Union budget provides for the money required to run the Election commission i.e. EVMs, salaries for the staff, allowances etc. Since the union budget is presented in the parliament, it can be understood that no interference of the executive is present there.

Now, to the facet of administration. The powers of the Election Commission are written in the constitution but the Constitution does not detail out the process in which the persons’ appointment to the posts of CEC or EC. Therefore, the government follows the process of seniority + appointments. That is the Centre will appoint Election Commissioners and the senior most of them usually becomes the Chief Election Commissioner. The Centre, here, means the President on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

Even prima facie, this process has tenets of executive influence in the appointment of the Election Commissioner and the Chief Election Commissioner. Effectively, if the executive wanted, it can control the Election Commission by placing ‘yes’ men in the commission who will dance to its tunes. The process of appointments to the EC and CEC of the commission is where the independence of the Election Commission falls flat.

What are the other ways in which an Election Commissioner can be appointed?

The issue with the current system is the control of the executive and the lack of concurrence or consultation with other political parties. The current petition in the Supreme Court prayed for a collegium-like system that can appoint the Election Commissioner. This could be a way. Or, say  like in Australia, some jurisdictions necessitate consultation with other political parties before appointing an electoral officer, and in some jurisdictions, a consultation with a parliamentary committee is necessary.

In South Korea, after election discrepancies in 1960, a National Election Commission was constituted in which the members were to be appointed by the National Assembly, the President and the Judiciary and the chairman of the commission was to be elected from such members.

Any of these ways or a new ways in which there is ample independence to the appointment may or should be adopted in India.

Conclusion

The idea of independence is not a straight arrow. Independence manifests itself in various forms-behavioural and structural. However, to have the starting step of appointments influenced by the executive brings down the independence of the Election Commission to the ground. It remains to be seen if the Supreme Court will pass any guidelines or recommendations as such for appointments to the Election Commission.

(The author is a legal researcher currently giving his post graduate examinations)


Related:

Appointment of Election Commissioner under SC scrutiny: The story so far

How Independent is India’s Election Commission?

A five member Constitution Bench reserved its judgement in the petitions that have sought a non-arbitrary and transparent process for appointing members of the Election Commission, to safeguard its independence

Election Commission
Image: https://bit.ly/3iuqlT1

The election commission and the recently appointed Election Commissioner Arun Goel have been in the news due to the hearings before a five judge constitution bench of the Supreme Court. The apex court is hearing the petitions seeking established, transparent procedure for appointing members to the ECI. In the course of deliberations, with the Centre arguing that there “was no trigger point” warranting such judicial scrutiny, the Court questioned the undue haste in the appointment of Arun Goel as the Election Commissioner [EC] while the matter was being adjudicated. The post had been lying vacant since May 2022.

The matter had been referred to the Constitutional Bench after a Division Bench of the Apex Court had held that 'a close look and interpretation of the provisions of Article 324 of the Constitution of India', which states superintendence, direction and control of elections to be vested in the Election Commission, may be required, reported LiveLaw.

Given these developments, it is important to understand the significance of the Election Commission, and its independent role in the conduct of free and fair elections.

The process of appointment of Election Commissioner(s) post-Independence, has its own tale to tell. The election commission had always been a one member body until 1989. In 1989, the Rajiv Gandhi government appointed election commissioners, as provided in Article 324(1). This was again changed and the EC was made a body with just the CEC by the VP Singh government. However, the PV Narasimha Rao government brought in an ordinance establishing the multi member nature of the commission, which was later converted into an act. A case too was filed in the Supreme Court over these developments.

In this article, the first part deals with the functions and powers of the Election Commission which have been enumerated within the Constitution and other statutes. The second part deals with different cases (jurisprudence) that hold importance in the context of the role and constitution of Election Commission. The third part examines the level and extent of independence the election commission has. To put things in perspective, the appointment of members of ECI is governed by the Constitution (amendment as mentioned above, in 1991). The Election Commission (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners And Transaction of Business) Act, 1991 prescribes the salary, term and pension matters. A plain reading of Article 324 makes it clear that the process of appointment of the EC members has been left to the law to be made by the Parliament; a lacuna that still persists in the absence of such a law. Even the present constitutional bench pointed out that it’s been 72 years and no law has been put in place.

Election Commission in the Indian Constitution

Articles 324 to 329 of the Constitution deal with the Elections. While Article 324 deals with the commission, its functions and its powers, Article 329 bars the interference of courts in election matters except when brought to them in the form of election petitions.

Article 324 (1) - Establishes the authority of the Election Commission over superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls, and the conduct of all elections to parliament and the state legislatures, and to the posts of the President and Vice-President.

Article 324 (2) - States that there shall be a Chief Election Commissioner, appointed by the president subject to the law made by the Parliament. It also includes the provision for appointment of Election Commissioners, if the president deems fit, subject to the law made by the parliament.

Article 324 (3) - In case of appointment of Election Commissioner, states that the Chief Election Commissioner shall act as chairman of the commission.

Article 324 (4) - Empowers the president to appoint regional election commissioners.

Article 324 (5) - Subject to the laws of the parliament, the president may make rules for service and tenure of the regional election commissioners and Election Commissioners. For the Chief Election Commissioner, however, the process of removal is the same as the process of impeachment of the judge. The process to impeach a judge starts with either 100 Lok Sabha or 50 Rajya Sabha members giving a notice of motion to the speaker and if the speaker accepts such motion, an inquiry committee has to be constituted with a Supreme Court Judge, a Chief Justice of a High Court and a distinguished jurist who will frame charges and investigate. The report is presented to Parliament and only if each house passes the motion to impeach the judge with majority and 2/3rd of the majority of the members present and voting, the motion will be passed. After both the houses pass such motions, the president will have to pass an order removing the judge. Apart from this special status to the Chief Election Commissioner, Article 324 (5) also states that the Election commissioners and the Regional Election Commissioners, shall not be removed without the recommendations of the Chief Election Commissioners.

Article 324 (6) - states that the president or the governor of a state, shall provide the election commission with necessary staff, when requested, to discharge the functions as enshrined in Article 324 (1).

Statutes

The Chief Election Commissioner And Other Election Commissioners (Conditions Of Service) Act, 1991
Section 4 of the Act states that the tenure of the Chief Election Commissioner or the election commissioner is 6 years or until he reaches the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.

The Process

In the recent hearings over the appointment of the Chief Election Commissioner, the Attorney General submitted to the Supreme Court that the CEC is appointed from the lists of ECs on the basis of seniority. A name is picked by the Prime Minister and it is sent to the President along with a note of recommendation, he submitted to the court.

Judicial Pronouncements on the EC

1. SS Dhannoa vs. Union of India.

The Rajiv Gandhi government, via a notification, fixed the number of election commissioners 2, in the year 1989. By another notification, SS Dhannoa and another person were appointed as Election Commissioners. However, the V.P. Singh government issued notifications rescinding the earlier two notifications by the Rajiv Gandhi government. Consequently, the two posts of  Election Commissioners were abolished and the appointment of  SS Dhannoa and the other Election Commissioner came  to  an end.

SS Dhannoa challenged the notifications by the VP Singh government on the grounds that the Election  Commission being  an  independent body, the abolition of the  posts  of Election Commissioners and their consequent removal tampered with the independence of the Election Commission directly or indirectly; in view of the service rules made  by the President  the Election Commissioners were entitled to continue in office for full tenure of five years or until they attained the age of 65 years whichever was earlier; the notification  abolishing  the  two posts  and  removing the petitioner  and the other Election Commissioner were issued mala fide under the advice of the Chief Election Commissioner; his removal affected him  materially.

The court however stated that the post of election commissioner can be created and abolished as the president may deem fit. The court noted the difference in treatment of both the Election Commissioner on the one side and the Chief Election Commissioner on the other side, as provided in the constitution. The court stated that while the conditions of service and tenure of office of all are to be such as the President may, by rule determine, a protection is given to the Chief Election Commissioner in that his conditions of  service shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment, and he  shall  not be removed from his office  except  in like manner and  on the like grounds as a judge of the Supreme Court. These protections are not available either to the Election Commissioners or to the Regional Commissioners. The court stated that  the conditions of Election Commissioner and the Regional Conditions can be varied to their disadvantage.

2. T.N.Seshan vs. Union of India

A five-judge constitution bench in this case, heard the petitions challenging the validity of the The Chief Election Commissioner And Other Election Commissioners (Conditions Of Service) Act, 1991 on the grounds that it equates the status of CEC and EC by introducing the concept in which whenever a conflict arises as to a decision, the majority will prevail rather than CEC’s decision. The judgement stated that just because the CEC’s conditions of service are different from that of Election Commissioners, it cannot be concluded that CEC is of a higher status than the other Election Commissioners.

The TN Seshan case, therefore confirmed the basics of the power structures with the Election Commission

Independence of the Election Commission

Before the issue of independence itself is examined, it is important to understand and affirm the need for an independent election commission. This does not need complex and layered explanations. Elections are one of the many strong pillars on which democracies stand. If there is any discrepancy in the conduct or result of the elections, there will be cracks in a democracy which will hamper rule of law and public order. This means, the conduct of elections shall be free and fair and for that, the institution which conducts the elections should be free from any influence from the political parties.

Now, how can an institution be truly independent? There are different facets to an institution. Financial, Administrative and others. As far as money is concerned, the Union budget provides for the money required to run the Election commission i.e. EVMs, salaries for the staff, allowances etc. Since the union budget is presented in the parliament, it can be understood that no interference of the executive is present there.

Now, to the facet of administration. The powers of the Election Commission are written in the constitution but the Constitution does not detail out the process in which the persons’ appointment to the posts of CEC or EC. Therefore, the government follows the process of seniority + appointments. That is the Centre will appoint Election Commissioners and the senior most of them usually becomes the Chief Election Commissioner. The Centre, here, means the President on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.

Even prima facie, this process has tenets of executive influence in the appointment of the Election Commissioner and the Chief Election Commissioner. Effectively, if the executive wanted, it can control the Election Commission by placing ‘yes’ men in the commission who will dance to its tunes. The process of appointments to the EC and CEC of the commission is where the independence of the Election Commission falls flat.

What are the other ways in which an Election Commissioner can be appointed?

The issue with the current system is the control of the executive and the lack of concurrence or consultation with other political parties. The current petition in the Supreme Court prayed for a collegium-like system that can appoint the Election Commissioner. This could be a way. Or, say  like in Australia, some jurisdictions necessitate consultation with other political parties before appointing an electoral officer, and in some jurisdictions, a consultation with a parliamentary committee is necessary.

In South Korea, after election discrepancies in 1960, a National Election Commission was constituted in which the members were to be appointed by the National Assembly, the President and the Judiciary and the chairman of the commission was to be elected from such members.

Any of these ways or a new ways in which there is ample independence to the appointment may or should be adopted in India.

Conclusion

The idea of independence is not a straight arrow. Independence manifests itself in various forms-behavioural and structural. However, to have the starting step of appointments influenced by the executive brings down the independence of the Election Commission to the ground. It remains to be seen if the Supreme Court will pass any guidelines or recommendations as such for appointments to the Election Commission.

(The author is a legal researcher currently giving his post graduate examinations)


Related:

Appointment of Election Commissioner under SC scrutiny: The story so far

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Anti-Adani Kerala sea port protest: 3,000 booked over alleged police station attack at Vizhinjam, all-party meeting today

While the police has stated that the protesters had provoked the violence, the representative of the protesters’ has stated that the “violence was scripted by the ruling party with help of the BJP”

28 Nov 2022

fisherman
Fishermen belonging to the Thiruvananthapuram Latin Archdiocese burn their boats during a protest against the Vizhinjam port project, at Mulloor, Thiruvananthapuram, October 27, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo 

A large crowd of agitators is reported to have “attacked” the Vizhinjam police station in Thiruvananthapuram in protest against the construction of Adani port, allegedly injuring at least 29 policemen and damaging police vehicles reported PTI. Some unconfirmed media reports suggest that some priests of the Catholic church are supporting the protesters.

While more details are not yet known, PTI has stated that “the mob targeted the police station using sticks and bricks, and attacked police officers after a person was arrested and a few others were taken into custody in connection with the protests on November 26.” On Constitution Day, November 26, fisherfolk belonging to the minority community protested the loss of livelihood that would follow the construction of this project, something that has been opposed given that Trivandum already has a successful and viable sea port already." At least 29 policemen have been injured and admitted to various hospitals," a special branch police official told PTI. Another media report states that “as many as 36 policemen and around 20 agitators were injured in the violence, which rocked the Vizhinjam region on Sunday night.”

fisherman
Archbishop among 15 priests booked for Adani port stir

Considering the sensitive situation prevailing in the area, the Kerala government has deployed more police officials from other districts. The agitators also reportedly attacked media-persons who were present at the site. ACV local channel camera-person Sherif M John was attacked by the protesters, who damaged his camera and snatched his cellphone. John has been shifted to Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital.Meanwhile, the district administration has initiated peace talks with the church authorities and its representative, Fr Eugene Perera, said the church wants to maintain peace. "We will speak to the protesters. I came here to resolve the matter in a peaceful manner," he told the media.

Senior officials, including the district collector, city police commissioner and sub-collector, have called a reconciliatory meeting with the protesters at Kovalam animation centre. The church authorities and government officials are expected to talk to the media after the meeting. The police have also arranged tight security in the Vizhinjam region.

Meanwhile, the Kerala Police on Monday. November 28,  registered two separate FIRs, In the second, a case against 3,000 persons in connection with the fishermen’s attack Sunday night on a police station at Vizhinjam, where they have been protesting against Adani Group’s Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited. The FIR said the protesters wanted the police to release five men who were taken into custody over Saturday's violence and threatened to torch the policemen alive if they were not released. The police department incurred a loss of Rs 85 lakh, it said.

This FIR states that 3,000 people laid siege to the police station, held the officials hostage for several hours, vandalised the furniture and damaged several vehicles parked on the premises of the station. It said the protesters wanted to release five men who were taken into custody over Saturday’s violence and threatened to torch the policemen alive if they were not released. The police department incurred a loss of Rs 85 lakh from the attack, the FIR said.

The first FIR for Saturday’s “violence” filed by the police booked Thiruvananthapuram Archbishop Thomas Netto, auxiliary bishop R Kristudas and several priests of the archdiocese. The complaint states that the violence took place during the fishermen’s protest against Adani’s bid to resume work. Among those named in the FIR, names include at least 15 Catholic priests, including metropolitan archbishop Thomas J Netto and Perera, over the violence at Vizhinjam on Saturday. The archbishop was made the first accused in the FIR. However, in the second FIR, the police did not name anyone in the FIR registered in connection with Sunday’s attack on the police station.

Interestingly, the Vizhinjam Action Council Convener Fr Eugene Pereira alleged the violence was scripted by the ruling CPI(M) with the backing of external elements, including the BJP. “We are challenging the government to order a judicial probe into the incidents in the last two days. Police had provoked the fishermen. On Sunday, the police took into custody person who was not involved in Saturday’s attack. Later, when four others went to the station to enquire about the custody of a fisherman, they were also detained at the station, leading to the tension,’’ he said.

Kerala State Port Development Minister Ahamed Devarkovil said an all-party meeting would be held on Monday. “The district collector was asked to convene an all-party meeting to ensure peace in the region. He would also hold discussions with the agitators. The issue is coming up before the high court on Monday. The government would also consider the outcome from the high court before deciding further action. The agitators had given an assurance at the high court that they would not obstruct the construction. Now, that assurance to the court has been breached,’’ he said.

The ADGP M R Ajit Kumar told the Indian Express that the situation was under control and no untoward incident was reported on Monday. Of the five fishermen taken into custody, four of them were released on bail from the station, while another person was remanded in judicial custody, he said.

It may be recalled, that fishermen who have a successful livelihood that is being directly threatened, have been protesting against the Rs 7,500-crore project for more than the last four months, alleging that its construction caused massive sea erosion, leading to loss of livelihood and dwellings. The state government has recently formed an expert committee, but the fishermen’s demand for including their representative in the panel was rejected. They wanted the construction to be suspended until the study report, a demand rejected by the Government.

The agitation turned violent on Saturday after Adani Group, which wanted to resume the construction which had been stopped for the last three months. It resumed the construction Saturday in the wake of a high court order, which had prevented the agitators from obstructing the work and asked the state government to provide police protection. Over two dozen trucks which came with boulders for the construction of the breakwater had to be taken back from the project site due to the stiff resistance from the fishermen. A local people’s committee in favour of the project, under the aegis of Hindu organisations, has also joined the issue, against the agitating fishermen. Both sides had clashed on Saturday.
 

Related:

Opposition to the Vizhinjam Port Project must be seen in the wider context of protecting coastal ecology and communities

Kerala fisherfolk’s persistent battle against the seaport development project

Kerala against Adani takeover of Trivandrum International Airport

Indian Fishworkers protest at 23 ports and harbours against proposed shipping corridor

Why We Must Say No to Vizhinjam Project

Anti-Adani Kerala sea port protest: 3,000 booked over alleged police station attack at Vizhinjam, all-party meeting today

While the police has stated that the protesters had provoked the violence, the representative of the protesters’ has stated that the “violence was scripted by the ruling party with help of the BJP”

fisherman
Fishermen belonging to the Thiruvananthapuram Latin Archdiocese burn their boats during a protest against the Vizhinjam port project, at Mulloor, Thiruvananthapuram, October 27, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo 

A large crowd of agitators is reported to have “attacked” the Vizhinjam police station in Thiruvananthapuram in protest against the construction of Adani port, allegedly injuring at least 29 policemen and damaging police vehicles reported PTI. Some unconfirmed media reports suggest that some priests of the Catholic church are supporting the protesters.

While more details are not yet known, PTI has stated that “the mob targeted the police station using sticks and bricks, and attacked police officers after a person was arrested and a few others were taken into custody in connection with the protests on November 26.” On Constitution Day, November 26, fisherfolk belonging to the minority community protested the loss of livelihood that would follow the construction of this project, something that has been opposed given that Trivandum already has a successful and viable sea port already." At least 29 policemen have been injured and admitted to various hospitals," a special branch police official told PTI. Another media report states that “as many as 36 policemen and around 20 agitators were injured in the violence, which rocked the Vizhinjam region on Sunday night.”

fisherman
Archbishop among 15 priests booked for Adani port stir

Considering the sensitive situation prevailing in the area, the Kerala government has deployed more police officials from other districts. The agitators also reportedly attacked media-persons who were present at the site. ACV local channel camera-person Sherif M John was attacked by the protesters, who damaged his camera and snatched his cellphone. John has been shifted to Thiruvananthapuram Medical College Hospital.Meanwhile, the district administration has initiated peace talks with the church authorities and its representative, Fr Eugene Perera, said the church wants to maintain peace. "We will speak to the protesters. I came here to resolve the matter in a peaceful manner," he told the media.

Senior officials, including the district collector, city police commissioner and sub-collector, have called a reconciliatory meeting with the protesters at Kovalam animation centre. The church authorities and government officials are expected to talk to the media after the meeting. The police have also arranged tight security in the Vizhinjam region.

Meanwhile, the Kerala Police on Monday. November 28,  registered two separate FIRs, In the second, a case against 3,000 persons in connection with the fishermen’s attack Sunday night on a police station at Vizhinjam, where they have been protesting against Adani Group’s Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited. The FIR said the protesters wanted the police to release five men who were taken into custody over Saturday's violence and threatened to torch the policemen alive if they were not released. The police department incurred a loss of Rs 85 lakh, it said.

This FIR states that 3,000 people laid siege to the police station, held the officials hostage for several hours, vandalised the furniture and damaged several vehicles parked on the premises of the station. It said the protesters wanted to release five men who were taken into custody over Saturday’s violence and threatened to torch the policemen alive if they were not released. The police department incurred a loss of Rs 85 lakh from the attack, the FIR said.

The first FIR for Saturday’s “violence” filed by the police booked Thiruvananthapuram Archbishop Thomas Netto, auxiliary bishop R Kristudas and several priests of the archdiocese. The complaint states that the violence took place during the fishermen’s protest against Adani’s bid to resume work. Among those named in the FIR, names include at least 15 Catholic priests, including metropolitan archbishop Thomas J Netto and Perera, over the violence at Vizhinjam on Saturday. The archbishop was made the first accused in the FIR. However, in the second FIR, the police did not name anyone in the FIR registered in connection with Sunday’s attack on the police station.

Interestingly, the Vizhinjam Action Council Convener Fr Eugene Pereira alleged the violence was scripted by the ruling CPI(M) with the backing of external elements, including the BJP. “We are challenging the government to order a judicial probe into the incidents in the last two days. Police had provoked the fishermen. On Sunday, the police took into custody person who was not involved in Saturday’s attack. Later, when four others went to the station to enquire about the custody of a fisherman, they were also detained at the station, leading to the tension,’’ he said.

Kerala State Port Development Minister Ahamed Devarkovil said an all-party meeting would be held on Monday. “The district collector was asked to convene an all-party meeting to ensure peace in the region. He would also hold discussions with the agitators. The issue is coming up before the high court on Monday. The government would also consider the outcome from the high court before deciding further action. The agitators had given an assurance at the high court that they would not obstruct the construction. Now, that assurance to the court has been breached,’’ he said.

The ADGP M R Ajit Kumar told the Indian Express that the situation was under control and no untoward incident was reported on Monday. Of the five fishermen taken into custody, four of them were released on bail from the station, while another person was remanded in judicial custody, he said.

It may be recalled, that fishermen who have a successful livelihood that is being directly threatened, have been protesting against the Rs 7,500-crore project for more than the last four months, alleging that its construction caused massive sea erosion, leading to loss of livelihood and dwellings. The state government has recently formed an expert committee, but the fishermen’s demand for including their representative in the panel was rejected. They wanted the construction to be suspended until the study report, a demand rejected by the Government.

The agitation turned violent on Saturday after Adani Group, which wanted to resume the construction which had been stopped for the last three months. It resumed the construction Saturday in the wake of a high court order, which had prevented the agitators from obstructing the work and asked the state government to provide police protection. Over two dozen trucks which came with boulders for the construction of the breakwater had to be taken back from the project site due to the stiff resistance from the fishermen. A local people’s committee in favour of the project, under the aegis of Hindu organisations, has also joined the issue, against the agitating fishermen. Both sides had clashed on Saturday.
 

Related:

Opposition to the Vizhinjam Port Project must be seen in the wider context of protecting coastal ecology and communities

Kerala fisherfolk’s persistent battle against the seaport development project

Kerala against Adani takeover of Trivandrum International Airport

Indian Fishworkers protest at 23 ports and harbours against proposed shipping corridor

Why We Must Say No to Vizhinjam Project

Related Articles


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'Ensure your name is on voters’ list or you’ll be sent to NRC Detention Camps,' Mamata warns people

The chief minister's attack on the ruling BJP at the centre came at a state government programme to distribute land 'pattas' (documents) to marginalised families across West Bengal

24 Nov 2022

Mamata Banerjee

New Delhi: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has warned people of the state to ensure that their names are on the electoral roll to avoid getting sent to detention camps under the garb of enforcing the National Register of Citizens (NRC). She was speaking on Wednesday, November 23.

 Her remarks were made while addressing a programme organised by the state government to distribute land ‘pattas’ (documents) to marginalised families from all districts.

“Ensure your name is there on the voter list or else you will be sent to detention camps in the name of NRC. It’s a shame, shame and shame,” news agency PTI quoted Banerjee as saying.

The NRC, coupled with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, has long since been a point of serious controversy between the Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in Bengal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government. Now, with panchayat elections looming in the state, the issue assumes new importance.

According to some media reports, the TMC is set to face a tough challenge, particularly in the state’s rural areas, due to allegations of widespread corruption and a lack of employment opportunities. These  polls have, in recent years, also been seen as a sign of things to come vis-a-vis politics in the state as a whole.

Therefore, Banerjee’s remarks on the NRC are noteworthy as they reiterate her long-standing opposition to the BJP’s efforts to implement it in conjunction with the CAA.

Notably, the BJP has gradually softened its stance on NRC implementation in Bengal. While assembly elections were going on in the state last year, Kailash Vijayvargiya, national general secretary of the BJP said that if the party came to power in the state, it would not implement the NRC and that the ruling TMC was wrong to accuse the saffron party of taking away the rights of the people.

Vijayvargiya did, however, say that the CAA would be implemented, but the Union government is yet to notify the rules for the legislation. Investigations by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) however reveal that in several states special window clearances for specifically named minorities from neighbouring countries have already been opened thtough MHA’s executive diktat without Rules for the 2019 amendment being passed.

“So many people came here from Bangladesh after losing everything. Those who came here before March 1971 are considered citizens of this country. But sometimes people are fooled. They are branded as not citizens of this country,” the media quoted Banerjee as saying on Wednesday.

“If the refugees are not citizens then how come their votes were counted as valid? One cannot call them not citizens of this country after being elected to the government with the help of their votes. This is just a way to disrespect them,” the chief minister continued.

Mamata also told the voters gathered that letters were being sent to the prime minister every day “to stop funds for welfare projects… From 100 days’ work to other schemes,” – an ostensible reference to the leader of the opposition in West Bengal, the BJP’s Suvendhu Adhikari, who reportedly wrote to Prime Minister Modi in August and alleged that the TMC government was diverting Union government funds meant for welfare schemes.

“Those who are doing this are trying to stop the economic growth of the state. We were also in the opposition once but never tried to stop the development of the state,” Banerjee continued, according to the Express, adding that the Union government is “running on the party’s instruction” without specifically mentioning the BJP. 

Banerjee at the programme handed over 4,701 land pattas. She also referred to incidents of “forcible takeover of land by the railway and airport authorities”, 

“No eviction will be allowed in Bengal without proper compensation and rehabilitation,” she said. “[Start] protests if your land is forcibly taken and the state will be with you”.

(With PTI inputs)


Related:

Is the GoI’s database linkage plan a precursor to NRC?

"Claims Look Legitimate", AG to Supreme Court on plea seeking Aadhaar Cards for those included in the NRC list

Yet another NRC reverification plea moved before SC

Reviving the NRC brawl

'Ensure your name is on voters’ list or you’ll be sent to NRC Detention Camps,' Mamata warns people

The chief minister's attack on the ruling BJP at the centre came at a state government programme to distribute land 'pattas' (documents) to marginalised families across West Bengal

Mamata Banerjee

New Delhi: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has warned people of the state to ensure that their names are on the electoral roll to avoid getting sent to detention camps under the garb of enforcing the National Register of Citizens (NRC). She was speaking on Wednesday, November 23.

 Her remarks were made while addressing a programme organised by the state government to distribute land ‘pattas’ (documents) to marginalised families from all districts.

“Ensure your name is there on the voter list or else you will be sent to detention camps in the name of NRC. It’s a shame, shame and shame,” news agency PTI quoted Banerjee as saying.

The NRC, coupled with the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019, has long since been a point of serious controversy between the Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) government in Bengal and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Union government. Now, with panchayat elections looming in the state, the issue assumes new importance.

According to some media reports, the TMC is set to face a tough challenge, particularly in the state’s rural areas, due to allegations of widespread corruption and a lack of employment opportunities. These  polls have, in recent years, also been seen as a sign of things to come vis-a-vis politics in the state as a whole.

Therefore, Banerjee’s remarks on the NRC are noteworthy as they reiterate her long-standing opposition to the BJP’s efforts to implement it in conjunction with the CAA.

Notably, the BJP has gradually softened its stance on NRC implementation in Bengal. While assembly elections were going on in the state last year, Kailash Vijayvargiya, national general secretary of the BJP said that if the party came to power in the state, it would not implement the NRC and that the ruling TMC was wrong to accuse the saffron party of taking away the rights of the people.

Vijayvargiya did, however, say that the CAA would be implemented, but the Union government is yet to notify the rules for the legislation. Investigations by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) however reveal that in several states special window clearances for specifically named minorities from neighbouring countries have already been opened thtough MHA’s executive diktat without Rules for the 2019 amendment being passed.

“So many people came here from Bangladesh after losing everything. Those who came here before March 1971 are considered citizens of this country. But sometimes people are fooled. They are branded as not citizens of this country,” the media quoted Banerjee as saying on Wednesday.

“If the refugees are not citizens then how come their votes were counted as valid? One cannot call them not citizens of this country after being elected to the government with the help of their votes. This is just a way to disrespect them,” the chief minister continued.

Mamata also told the voters gathered that letters were being sent to the prime minister every day “to stop funds for welfare projects… From 100 days’ work to other schemes,” – an ostensible reference to the leader of the opposition in West Bengal, the BJP’s Suvendhu Adhikari, who reportedly wrote to Prime Minister Modi in August and alleged that the TMC government was diverting Union government funds meant for welfare schemes.

“Those who are doing this are trying to stop the economic growth of the state. We were also in the opposition once but never tried to stop the development of the state,” Banerjee continued, according to the Express, adding that the Union government is “running on the party’s instruction” without specifically mentioning the BJP. 

Banerjee at the programme handed over 4,701 land pattas. She also referred to incidents of “forcible takeover of land by the railway and airport authorities”, 

“No eviction will be allowed in Bengal without proper compensation and rehabilitation,” she said. “[Start] protests if your land is forcibly taken and the state will be with you”.

(With PTI inputs)


Related:

Is the GoI’s database linkage plan a precursor to NRC?

"Claims Look Legitimate", AG to Supreme Court on plea seeking Aadhaar Cards for those included in the NRC list

Yet another NRC reverification plea moved before SC

Reviving the NRC brawl

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Hatebuster! Aaftab Poonawalla- Shraddha murder case had nothing to do with religion!

According to a social media video, 80% of Hindu women who marry Muslim men are later raped or killed

19 Nov 2022

Hate Buster

Claim: The speaker in the video, Gautam Khattar, claims that 99.9% of the Muslim men have been involved in wooing innocent Hindu women and getting them to fall in love with them. The speaker then says that out of all these women, 80% of them have been murdered or raped, and the remaining are living in hell.

Busted! There are no such official statistics that are released by any authority or body or even any organization to support the baseless claims being made by Khattar. The National Crime Records Bureau, every year, releases a Crimes in India report that documents crimes committed against women, but they are not classified on communal basis.

These number have just been stated to push the communal agenda, instill fear in the minds of the public and create disharmony in our country.

The case referred to here by the speaker is a gruesome case of murder which has been given a communal color by the hindutva groups. From a case of violence and murder of a woman, this has now been presented as a lesson for all those Hindu women who choose to cross the societal bars of segregating people based on their castes, beliefs and faiths.

The video

In the video, the speaker, Gautam Khattar, is seen referring to recent case of murder of Shraddha Walkar by her boyfriend, Aaftab Poonawala. In this particular case, the boyfriend and girlfriend were living together as a couple, and got into a fight. As a result of it, the boyfriend strangled the girl and later chopped up her body into 35 pieces. Since the couple belonged to different faiths, the speaker in the video can be heard comparing this aforementioned case to a case of love jihad. To make his case, he quotes certain percentages. As stated by him, 99.9% of the Muslim men have been involved in wooing innocent Hindu women and getting them to fall in love with them. He goes on to say that such Hindu women are suffering today, and are victims. The speaker then says that out of all these women, 80% of them have been murdered or raped, and the remaining are living in hell. In furtherance to this, he says that for all this, neither the Muslim man nor the Hindu girl’s parents are to be blamed, as they try to stop her. But, as the girl believes in her advanced thinking, she breaks her relation with her own family and goes on to enter into a live-in relationship with the Muslim man. Connecting again with the case, the speaker says that the girl then goes to Delhi, earn and eat on their own and indulge in the drama of love. After a few days, the same girl is then stuffed in the fridge after getting murdered.

The video can be viewed here: (20) Dr. Prachi Sadhvi on Twitter: "ध्यान से सुनना https://t.co/yPlkLp3lPU" / Twitter

While it can be deduced from the facts of this cases that this is just a case of crime committed against women, a communal color is being given to the same.

India sees multiple cases of crimes against women on a daily basis. From molestation and abuse to rape, domestic violence, and dowry death, crimes against women have been on the rise. While some of these cases are covered by mainstream India, based on the caste, creed and religion of the woman, the case of Aaftab Poonawalla and Shraddha has been dissected by the media to propagate Muslims under the bad light.

To bust this myth that only Muslim men indulge in killing a woman in such a horrifying manner, we have made a list of crimes committed against women in the recent past, wherein the perpetrator was not a Muslim man.

  • Just a few days post the aforementioned murder case,  Abhijit Patidar, alleged to have killed Shilpa Jharia by slitting her throat, shot a video with the victim's body and posted it on social media. In the shocking video he posted on social media, Abhijit says, "Bewafai Nahi Karne Ka" (do not be unfaithful). He then lifts a blanket to reveal a woman lying in bed, with her throat slit.

  • In the same week as the Aaftab case, Priyangi Singh was admitted to a hospital in Mumbai after having suffered multiple fractures to her spine, a head injury and paralysis below the waist in the assault by her boyfriend, 25-year-old Amey Darekar, on the 13th-floor terrace water tank of a common friend's building in Dahisar.

  • In September 2022, Nineteen-year-old Ankita Bhandari, a receptionist at Vanantara resort owned by now-expelled BJP leader Vinod Arya's son Pulkit Arya, was found dead in a lake. She was murdered for having refused to succumb to pressure by the accused for indulging in prostitution.

  • In September 2020, a 19-year-old Dalit woman was gang-raped in Hathras district, Uttar Pradesh, by four upper caste Hindu men. She died two weeks later in a Delhi hospital. Initially, it was reported that one accused had tried to kill her, though later in her statement to the magistrate, the victim named four accused as having raped her. The victim's brother claimed that no arrests were made in the first 10 days after the incident took place. After her death, the victim was forcibly cremated by the police without the consent of her family, a claim denied by the police.

  • In January 2018, an 8-year-old Muslim girl, Asifa Bano was abducted, gang raped, and murdered by six men and a juvenile, in the Rasana village near Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, India. Known as the Kathua rape case, all the perpetrators were Hindu and the victim had been targeted because of her religion.

  • In 2017, Rajesh Gulati was found guilty of murder and causing disappearance of evidence by the Dehradun court. He had murdered his wife and chopped her body into 70 pieces.

To bring forth the prevalence of domestic violence in India, here are some eye-opening statistics on the same. The fifth NFHS round (2019-21) shows that 31.5% of Indian women in the 18-49 age group have experienced physical and sexual violence at least once.[1] The NFHS data further shows that multiple factors affect the likelihood of such violence against women- such as age, education, income, etc. While 18.3% of women aged between 18 and 19 have suffered sexual or physical violence either in the last year or in their lifetime, this number increases with the age of the women (to 35.3%) till the 30-39 year age group. It does come down slightly in the 40-49 age group (35.2%). Compared to urban women, rural women are much more likely to have experienced physical or sexual abuse. Higher levels of education and income do contribute to a reduction in the likelihood of physical violence against women, but they do not completely eradicate it, as the Shraddha case demonstrates.[2]

The World Health Organisation’s Global Database on the Prevalence of Violence Against Women provides a consolidated global database on the prevalence of intimate partner violence in 158 countries of the world.[3] These numbers are based on the latest national level surveys conducted during the period 2000 to 2018. WHO data shows that 18% of Indian women aged between the ages of 15 to 49 suffered at least one form of intimate partner violence in the preceding 12 months. This figure puts India in the 33rd highest spot within 156 countries for which a comparable estimate was available.

To put things in perspective, Indian women are less susceptible to intimate partner violence than women in Bangladesh (23%) and Afghanistan (35%), but more susceptible than Pakistan (16%), Nepal (11%) and Sri Lanka (4%), and major industrialised nations in the world. If one looks at the percentage of women who have suffered intimate partner violence in their entire lifetime, these numbers are higher. About 35% of Indian women aged between 15 and 49 have experienced at least one form of intimate partner violence in their entire lifetime, placing India in the 33rd position among 151 countries (for which a comparable estimate was available).

 


Hatebuster! Aaftab Poonawalla- Shraddha murder case had nothing to do with religion!

According to a social media video, 80% of Hindu women who marry Muslim men are later raped or killed

Hate Buster

Claim: The speaker in the video, Gautam Khattar, claims that 99.9% of the Muslim men have been involved in wooing innocent Hindu women and getting them to fall in love with them. The speaker then says that out of all these women, 80% of them have been murdered or raped, and the remaining are living in hell.

Busted! There are no such official statistics that are released by any authority or body or even any organization to support the baseless claims being made by Khattar. The National Crime Records Bureau, every year, releases a Crimes in India report that documents crimes committed against women, but they are not classified on communal basis.

These number have just been stated to push the communal agenda, instill fear in the minds of the public and create disharmony in our country.

The case referred to here by the speaker is a gruesome case of murder which has been given a communal color by the hindutva groups. From a case of violence and murder of a woman, this has now been presented as a lesson for all those Hindu women who choose to cross the societal bars of segregating people based on their castes, beliefs and faiths.

The video

In the video, the speaker, Gautam Khattar, is seen referring to recent case of murder of Shraddha Walkar by her boyfriend, Aaftab Poonawala. In this particular case, the boyfriend and girlfriend were living together as a couple, and got into a fight. As a result of it, the boyfriend strangled the girl and later chopped up her body into 35 pieces. Since the couple belonged to different faiths, the speaker in the video can be heard comparing this aforementioned case to a case of love jihad. To make his case, he quotes certain percentages. As stated by him, 99.9% of the Muslim men have been involved in wooing innocent Hindu women and getting them to fall in love with them. He goes on to say that such Hindu women are suffering today, and are victims. The speaker then says that out of all these women, 80% of them have been murdered or raped, and the remaining are living in hell. In furtherance to this, he says that for all this, neither the Muslim man nor the Hindu girl’s parents are to be blamed, as they try to stop her. But, as the girl believes in her advanced thinking, she breaks her relation with her own family and goes on to enter into a live-in relationship with the Muslim man. Connecting again with the case, the speaker says that the girl then goes to Delhi, earn and eat on their own and indulge in the drama of love. After a few days, the same girl is then stuffed in the fridge after getting murdered.

The video can be viewed here: (20) Dr. Prachi Sadhvi on Twitter: "ध्यान से सुनना https://t.co/yPlkLp3lPU" / Twitter

While it can be deduced from the facts of this cases that this is just a case of crime committed against women, a communal color is being given to the same.

India sees multiple cases of crimes against women on a daily basis. From molestation and abuse to rape, domestic violence, and dowry death, crimes against women have been on the rise. While some of these cases are covered by mainstream India, based on the caste, creed and religion of the woman, the case of Aaftab Poonawalla and Shraddha has been dissected by the media to propagate Muslims under the bad light.

To bust this myth that only Muslim men indulge in killing a woman in such a horrifying manner, we have made a list of crimes committed against women in the recent past, wherein the perpetrator was not a Muslim man.

  • Just a few days post the aforementioned murder case,  Abhijit Patidar, alleged to have killed Shilpa Jharia by slitting her throat, shot a video with the victim's body and posted it on social media. In the shocking video he posted on social media, Abhijit says, "Bewafai Nahi Karne Ka" (do not be unfaithful). He then lifts a blanket to reveal a woman lying in bed, with her throat slit.

  • In the same week as the Aaftab case, Priyangi Singh was admitted to a hospital in Mumbai after having suffered multiple fractures to her spine, a head injury and paralysis below the waist in the assault by her boyfriend, 25-year-old Amey Darekar, on the 13th-floor terrace water tank of a common friend's building in Dahisar.

  • In September 2022, Nineteen-year-old Ankita Bhandari, a receptionist at Vanantara resort owned by now-expelled BJP leader Vinod Arya's son Pulkit Arya, was found dead in a lake. She was murdered for having refused to succumb to pressure by the accused for indulging in prostitution.

  • In September 2020, a 19-year-old Dalit woman was gang-raped in Hathras district, Uttar Pradesh, by four upper caste Hindu men. She died two weeks later in a Delhi hospital. Initially, it was reported that one accused had tried to kill her, though later in her statement to the magistrate, the victim named four accused as having raped her. The victim's brother claimed that no arrests were made in the first 10 days after the incident took place. After her death, the victim was forcibly cremated by the police without the consent of her family, a claim denied by the police.

  • In January 2018, an 8-year-old Muslim girl, Asifa Bano was abducted, gang raped, and murdered by six men and a juvenile, in the Rasana village near Kathua in Jammu and Kashmir, India. Known as the Kathua rape case, all the perpetrators were Hindu and the victim had been targeted because of her religion.

  • In 2017, Rajesh Gulati was found guilty of murder and causing disappearance of evidence by the Dehradun court. He had murdered his wife and chopped her body into 70 pieces.

To bring forth the prevalence of domestic violence in India, here are some eye-opening statistics on the same. The fifth NFHS round (2019-21) shows that 31.5% of Indian women in the 18-49 age group have experienced physical and sexual violence at least once.[1] The NFHS data further shows that multiple factors affect the likelihood of such violence against women- such as age, education, income, etc. While 18.3% of women aged between 18 and 19 have suffered sexual or physical violence either in the last year or in their lifetime, this number increases with the age of the women (to 35.3%) till the 30-39 year age group. It does come down slightly in the 40-49 age group (35.2%). Compared to urban women, rural women are much more likely to have experienced physical or sexual abuse. Higher levels of education and income do contribute to a reduction in the likelihood of physical violence against women, but they do not completely eradicate it, as the Shraddha case demonstrates.[2]

The World Health Organisation’s Global Database on the Prevalence of Violence Against Women provides a consolidated global database on the prevalence of intimate partner violence in 158 countries of the world.[3] These numbers are based on the latest national level surveys conducted during the period 2000 to 2018. WHO data shows that 18% of Indian women aged between the ages of 15 to 49 suffered at least one form of intimate partner violence in the preceding 12 months. This figure puts India in the 33rd highest spot within 156 countries for which a comparable estimate was available.

To put things in perspective, Indian women are less susceptible to intimate partner violence than women in Bangladesh (23%) and Afghanistan (35%), but more susceptible than Pakistan (16%), Nepal (11%) and Sri Lanka (4%), and major industrialised nations in the world. If one looks at the percentage of women who have suffered intimate partner violence in their entire lifetime, these numbers are higher. About 35% of Indian women aged between 15 and 49 have experienced at least one form of intimate partner violence in their entire lifetime, placing India in the 33rd position among 151 countries (for which a comparable estimate was available).

 


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TMC invites comedian Vir Das to Kolkata after Bengaluru show cancelled

Das' monologue "I come from two Indias" had stirred a row a year ago when he was criticised for allegedly defaming the country.

11 Nov 2022

Vir das

New Delhi: TMC MP Derek O’Brien has invited stand-up comedian Vir Das to Kolkata, a day after his show in Bengaluru was cancelled at the last minute following protests by Hindu right-wing groups.

The protesting groups alleged that the show, scheduled to be held on Thursday, would hurt Hindu religious sentiments.

“Hello @thevirdas Come to #Kolkata. We would love to have you here this winter. DM me please. Let’s get this going,” the TMC’s leader of the House in Rajya Sabha said in a tweet.
 

 

Das later uploaded a video on Twitter to deter any assumptions made on his content.

“I made this video after one of my shows, Just in Case. I have no interest in media spectacles or being used for headlines. I’m an artist. I shouldn’t be on the news. Many assumptions are made about my content. I trust my art and my audience to speak for me. #TrustTheAudience,” Das tweeted.

Das’ monologue “I come from two Indias” had stirred a row a year ago when he was criticised for allegedly defaming the country.

Courtesy: The Daily Siasat

TMC invites comedian Vir Das to Kolkata after Bengaluru show cancelled

Das' monologue "I come from two Indias" had stirred a row a year ago when he was criticised for allegedly defaming the country.

Vir das

New Delhi: TMC MP Derek O’Brien has invited stand-up comedian Vir Das to Kolkata, a day after his show in Bengaluru was cancelled at the last minute following protests by Hindu right-wing groups.

The protesting groups alleged that the show, scheduled to be held on Thursday, would hurt Hindu religious sentiments.

“Hello @thevirdas Come to #Kolkata. We would love to have you here this winter. DM me please. Let’s get this going,” the TMC’s leader of the House in Rajya Sabha said in a tweet.
 

 

Das later uploaded a video on Twitter to deter any assumptions made on his content.

“I made this video after one of my shows, Just in Case. I have no interest in media spectacles or being used for headlines. I’m an artist. I shouldn’t be on the news. Many assumptions are made about my content. I trust my art and my audience to speak for me. #TrustTheAudience,” Das tweeted.

Das’ monologue “I come from two Indias” had stirred a row a year ago when he was criticised for allegedly defaming the country.

Courtesy: The Daily Siasat

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Over 80% Pellet Victims in Kashmir Have Lost Vision: Study

The study has strongly advised against the use of pellet guns on civilians to avoid ophthalmic trauma.

11 Nov 2022

jk
File Photo.


Srinagar: Most of the victims of pellet-gun injuries have lost vision in either one or both the eyes despite treatment, a recent study has found, with the vision amongst them limited to only counting fingers.

The study, published by the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, to “examine the incidence, clinical findings and management of pellet gun–related ocular injuries” during this time has found that the final “best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) after treatment was counting fingers or worse in 82.4% of the eyes.

The authors of the report, the main one being Dr S Natarajan, a prominent retina surgeon from Mumbai, have strongly advised against the use of pellet guns against civilians to avoid ophthalmic trauma.

“The poor visual outcomes, high costs of medical care, and long-term visual rehabilitation process in these young working-age patient impose a significant physical, emotional, and socio-economic burden to both individuals and the society,” it concluded.

The victims in the recent study were mostly young males with bilateral eye injuries. The study mentioned that a surgical intervention was often necessary and despite the expeditious treatment, “visual outcomes remained poor.”

The report, which was approved by Srinagar’s Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital’s Institutional Review Board was carried out in accordance with the tenets of the Declaration of Helsinki, a set of ethical principles published by the World Medical Association to guide the protection of human participants in medical research.

This study is based on records from 777 victims who were diagnosed with pellet gun–related ocular injuries between July and November 2016, a time when Kashmir witnessed a massive surge in violence in the aftermath of killing of militant commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016.

“In terms of laterality, 94.3% and 5.7% of the patients sustained monocular and binocular injuries, respectively. In terms of the nature of injury, 76.3% of the eyes had open globe injury while 23.7% of the eyes had closed eye injury,” the study said.

The study further said that the emergency surgical exploration was performed in 67.7% of closed globe injuries while emergency primary repair was done in 91.1% of open globe injuries.

“The vast majority of patients (98.7%) who required surgery underwent surgical intervention on the day of admission or the next day,” it mentioned.

Pellet guns were introduced around 2010 as non-lethal means to quell protests in Kashmir against traditional ballistic-based weapons. Since then, thousands of mostly youth have been shot by the pellet guns and many have died, reportedly, after being shot from close range. The authorities in Jammu and Kashmir have come under serious criticism, especially from international rights bodies for using pellets after hundreds lost their eyesight in at least one or both eyes. The victims included children as young as 18-months-old.

A pellet victim from South Kashmir, who has completely lost vision in one of the eyes, told NewsClick that the problems for victims like him have compounded since. There is compassion in the beginning but later the victims not only lose vision but their family, friends and relatives, too.

“Then there is harassment from the authorities which never ends despite being a victim of their violence – it is perpetuated relentlessly. Even if that stops, it would be a relief,” the victim said, wishing anonymity due to fear of reprisal from authorities.

Courtesy: Newsclick

Over 80% Pellet Victims in Kashmir Have Lost Vision: Study

The study has strongly advised against the use of pellet guns on civilians to avoid ophthalmic trauma.

jk
File Photo.


Srinagar: Most of the victims of pellet-gun injuries have lost vision in either one or both the eyes despite treatment, a recent study has found, with the vision amongst them limited to only counting fingers.

The study, published by the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, to “examine the incidence, clinical findings and management of pellet gun–related ocular injuries” during this time has found that the final “best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA) after treatment was counting fingers or worse in 82.4% of the eyes.

The authors of the report, the main one being Dr S Natarajan, a prominent retina surgeon from Mumbai, have strongly advised against the use of pellet guns against civilians to avoid ophthalmic trauma.

“The poor visual outcomes, high costs of medical care, and long-term visual rehabilitation process in these young working-age patient impose a significant physical, emotional, and socio-economic burden to both individuals and the society,” it concluded.

The victims in the recent study were mostly young males with bilateral eye injuries. The study mentioned that a surgical intervention was often necessary and despite the expeditious treatment, “visual outcomes remained poor.”

The report, which was approved by Srinagar’s Sri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital’s Institutional Review Board was carried out in accordance with the tenets of the Declaration of Helsinki, a set of ethical principles published by the World Medical Association to guide the protection of human participants in medical research.

This study is based on records from 777 victims who were diagnosed with pellet gun–related ocular injuries between July and November 2016, a time when Kashmir witnessed a massive surge in violence in the aftermath of killing of militant commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016.

“In terms of laterality, 94.3% and 5.7% of the patients sustained monocular and binocular injuries, respectively. In terms of the nature of injury, 76.3% of the eyes had open globe injury while 23.7% of the eyes had closed eye injury,” the study said.

The study further said that the emergency surgical exploration was performed in 67.7% of closed globe injuries while emergency primary repair was done in 91.1% of open globe injuries.

“The vast majority of patients (98.7%) who required surgery underwent surgical intervention on the day of admission or the next day,” it mentioned.

Pellet guns were introduced around 2010 as non-lethal means to quell protests in Kashmir against traditional ballistic-based weapons. Since then, thousands of mostly youth have been shot by the pellet guns and many have died, reportedly, after being shot from close range. The authorities in Jammu and Kashmir have come under serious criticism, especially from international rights bodies for using pellets after hundreds lost their eyesight in at least one or both eyes. The victims included children as young as 18-months-old.

A pellet victim from South Kashmir, who has completely lost vision in one of the eyes, told NewsClick that the problems for victims like him have compounded since. There is compassion in the beginning but later the victims not only lose vision but their family, friends and relatives, too.

“Then there is harassment from the authorities which never ends despite being a victim of their violence – it is perpetuated relentlessly. Even if that stops, it would be a relief,” the victim said, wishing anonymity due to fear of reprisal from authorities.

Courtesy: Newsclick

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WB: Tea Workers Struggling as Crony Capitalists Take Over Tea Gardens

Workers are being denied minimum wages, PF, bonuses, etc. As a result, many are migrating to other states.

05 Nov 2022

tea workers

Tea workers in Bengal are fighting a losing battle against hunger as, one after another, Tea gardens are being overtaken by crony capitalists and microfinance institutions raking the moolah from Kolkata; these new managements often falter in paying the minimum wages to the tea workers of the Dooars region.

At present, such management has taken charge of 22 tea gardens, informed Ziaul Alam, convenor of the Joint Action Forum of Tea Workers.

Tea plantations in the region are spread over 97,280 hectares (240,400 acres). The region produces 226 million kg of tea, accounting for about a quarter of India's total tea crop. There are 154 gardens in the Dooars out of 283 tea gardens in north Bengal that employ 3.5 lakh workers.

Cultivation of tea in the Dooars was primarily pioneered and promoted by the British, but there was a significant contribution of Indian entrepreneurs. While Goodricke owns and operates 12 tea gardens in Dooars, Duncan company operates about tea gardens.

Prafulla Lakra, from the Jalpaiguri Sadar Tea Workers Union, is also the regional secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Speaking to NewsClick, Lakra said that the region's tea workers are being exploited.

"The tea industry is suffering from absenteeism. In the Darjeeling district, where there is scope for 11 million kg of tea production, there is now production of 6.5 million kg of tea because most male workers have gone out of the state to work as migrant workers in other states. Women now comprise over 80% of the tea workers."

Lakra works as a voucher worker and a night guard in the Denguajhar tea estate. His wife, Silvasa Lakra, works full-time in the same tea estate. He highlighted that the tea garden management gives difficult tasks to the workers during the plucking season, adding that penalties are applied if workers miss the task.

"There are two types of leaves- Fut Patti (seasoned leaves) and Jangli Patti (unseasoned leaves). For Fut Patti, a worker needs to pluck about 26 kg; for Jangli Patti, one needs to pluck around 24 kg to complete the task. About 30% of the leaf pluckers miss the tasks, and a penalty in the form of a wage cut is thrust on them. Everywhere the new generation of tea workers is now disinterested in the profession and are now moving to other states to work as migrant labourers. However, the estate laws state that only those who work in the tea garden can stay in the tea garden area, but seldom are any family ousted from the tea garden area for not working in the tea gardens. Earlier, tea unions used to stand beside the tea workers in case of quarrels with the tea garden management, but in the last 11 years, things have changed with the weakening of tea unions. The ruling party's tea union colludes with the tea garden owners and does not support the tea garden employees in times of their need."

Lakra also alleged that the ownership change of tea gardens is happening in Kolkata, leaving the tea garden employees out of the process. Their dues are overlooked when new management takes charge of the tea gardens. When the Left Front government was in power, tea garden workers were consulted before any ownership change.

Alam said the region faced its worst crisis when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the country's prime minister.

"About 135 tea gardens were closed at that time due to lack of international demand for tea and dumping of Kenyan and East African tea in the country. It was during the time of the 1st UPA government that the tea industry policy was last formulated. In these last 18 years, not one core sector has received its deserving attention from the Central government."

He also alleged that 22 gardens where shady ownership patterns are being observed are enthused by the present Trinamool government. The tea garden workers are in constant uncertainty over the continuance of the tea gardens. Crony capital and the latest state government notification of allowing 15% of garden land for non-agricultural use is enthusing the shady property dealers to come and invest in the real estate of the garden, Alam said.

"According to the Tea Act 1953, a tea garden must remain open for the public interest, and a tea garden's closure is not allowed. But bypassing this clause, about five tea gardens in the Darjeeling terai and Dooars regions are now closed, including Roypur of Jalpaiguri, Panighata of Darjeeling district, Goalguch of north Dinajpur district and Dheklapara of Alipurduar district. In the last five months, workers have thwarted the attempt to grab the tea estate's land by crony capitals in various places of Darjeeling and Dooars. Tea society is in a very vulnerable position."

Alam pointed out that more than 225 bottle leaf factories have come up in the Doaars region, which source tea from the tea gardens and process tea fit for human consumption but now are suffering due to a lack of demand in the tea market.

NewsClick spoke with Jayram Toppo, a member of the ruling party's tea union in the Hunterwala tea garden, about 10 kilometres from Madarihaat town, who complained that the tea garden remained closed for years, and upon its opening last year, no dues of the workers have been paid by the tea garden management.

"The management had done a three-year agreement but is defaulting on it; it is not providing the employees with firewood, medical facilities, drinking water facilities or ration components apart from what is obtained under the National Food Security programme. No new labour intake has been made in place of retirees."

He complained that his union leaders are also keeping stoic silence on these demands of the tea workers. The tea garden has two trade unions- one is associated with Trinamool Congress (TMC), and the other is with Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). Still, no one is looking after average tea workers.

Another problem in the garden is that there are no individual electric meters. As a result, even using one electric bulb, one has to pay Rs 300. Though the woman of the area receives the monthly money allotted to women under the Laxmi Bhunder scheme, the rate of workers' wage at Rs 232/day is too low for the tea workers community in the state.

"There are about 1800 permanent workers in the Hunterwala tea estate; 70-80 voucher workers are there as contractual workers. About 150 to 200 workers have already retired from their jobs, but the practice of replacement workers known as Badli (replacement) is not being followed," Toppo said.

CITU leader Pawan Pradhan of Mal area Tea Workers Union alleged that the tea workers movement is facing government and police wrath. There have been cases of arrest when CITU had forged a movement regarding the demand of getting land patta for the tea workers of the region.

"We have been residing here for ages on the tea estate lands, but we still do not have land pattas. The way the chief minister intervened amidst a fruitful wage bargaining process and forced the workers to accept a 15% interim wage increment is also unconstitutional. While Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu get upwardly of Rs 400/day, why are the tea workers paid at the rate of Rs 232/day in West Bengal? With that, they have to maintain their household daily, which is very difficult. The argument that increasing the wage makes the gardens unviable does not hold as gardens in Kerala, Tamilnadu, and Karnataka have shown."

He also alleged that tea garden owners of several tea gardens had not paid the PF dues to the PF commissioner.

Raja Dutta, Area secretary of the Malbazaar area committee of CPI(M), said that before 2011 during the time of the Durga puja and Diwali, there were regular bonuses to tea garden workers. The business houses of these land ports bore a festive look as there was a large-scale sale of items from these land ports. But now, this festivity is absent, and there is a minimum bonus. As a result, the scope of work in these land ports is also decreasing, and trade and commerce from these areas are shifting their base.

Courtesy: Newsclick

WB: Tea Workers Struggling as Crony Capitalists Take Over Tea Gardens

Workers are being denied minimum wages, PF, bonuses, etc. As a result, many are migrating to other states.

tea workers

Tea workers in Bengal are fighting a losing battle against hunger as, one after another, Tea gardens are being overtaken by crony capitalists and microfinance institutions raking the moolah from Kolkata; these new managements often falter in paying the minimum wages to the tea workers of the Dooars region.

At present, such management has taken charge of 22 tea gardens, informed Ziaul Alam, convenor of the Joint Action Forum of Tea Workers.

Tea plantations in the region are spread over 97,280 hectares (240,400 acres). The region produces 226 million kg of tea, accounting for about a quarter of India's total tea crop. There are 154 gardens in the Dooars out of 283 tea gardens in north Bengal that employ 3.5 lakh workers.

Cultivation of tea in the Dooars was primarily pioneered and promoted by the British, but there was a significant contribution of Indian entrepreneurs. While Goodricke owns and operates 12 tea gardens in Dooars, Duncan company operates about tea gardens.

Prafulla Lakra, from the Jalpaiguri Sadar Tea Workers Union, is also the regional secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). Speaking to NewsClick, Lakra said that the region's tea workers are being exploited.

"The tea industry is suffering from absenteeism. In the Darjeeling district, where there is scope for 11 million kg of tea production, there is now production of 6.5 million kg of tea because most male workers have gone out of the state to work as migrant workers in other states. Women now comprise over 80% of the tea workers."

Lakra works as a voucher worker and a night guard in the Denguajhar tea estate. His wife, Silvasa Lakra, works full-time in the same tea estate. He highlighted that the tea garden management gives difficult tasks to the workers during the plucking season, adding that penalties are applied if workers miss the task.

"There are two types of leaves- Fut Patti (seasoned leaves) and Jangli Patti (unseasoned leaves). For Fut Patti, a worker needs to pluck about 26 kg; for Jangli Patti, one needs to pluck around 24 kg to complete the task. About 30% of the leaf pluckers miss the tasks, and a penalty in the form of a wage cut is thrust on them. Everywhere the new generation of tea workers is now disinterested in the profession and are now moving to other states to work as migrant labourers. However, the estate laws state that only those who work in the tea garden can stay in the tea garden area, but seldom are any family ousted from the tea garden area for not working in the tea gardens. Earlier, tea unions used to stand beside the tea workers in case of quarrels with the tea garden management, but in the last 11 years, things have changed with the weakening of tea unions. The ruling party's tea union colludes with the tea garden owners and does not support the tea garden employees in times of their need."

Lakra also alleged that the ownership change of tea gardens is happening in Kolkata, leaving the tea garden employees out of the process. Their dues are overlooked when new management takes charge of the tea gardens. When the Left Front government was in power, tea garden workers were consulted before any ownership change.

Alam said the region faced its worst crisis when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the country's prime minister.

"About 135 tea gardens were closed at that time due to lack of international demand for tea and dumping of Kenyan and East African tea in the country. It was during the time of the 1st UPA government that the tea industry policy was last formulated. In these last 18 years, not one core sector has received its deserving attention from the Central government."

He also alleged that 22 gardens where shady ownership patterns are being observed are enthused by the present Trinamool government. The tea garden workers are in constant uncertainty over the continuance of the tea gardens. Crony capital and the latest state government notification of allowing 15% of garden land for non-agricultural use is enthusing the shady property dealers to come and invest in the real estate of the garden, Alam said.

"According to the Tea Act 1953, a tea garden must remain open for the public interest, and a tea garden's closure is not allowed. But bypassing this clause, about five tea gardens in the Darjeeling terai and Dooars regions are now closed, including Roypur of Jalpaiguri, Panighata of Darjeeling district, Goalguch of north Dinajpur district and Dheklapara of Alipurduar district. In the last five months, workers have thwarted the attempt to grab the tea estate's land by crony capitals in various places of Darjeeling and Dooars. Tea society is in a very vulnerable position."

Alam pointed out that more than 225 bottle leaf factories have come up in the Doaars region, which source tea from the tea gardens and process tea fit for human consumption but now are suffering due to a lack of demand in the tea market.

NewsClick spoke with Jayram Toppo, a member of the ruling party's tea union in the Hunterwala tea garden, about 10 kilometres from Madarihaat town, who complained that the tea garden remained closed for years, and upon its opening last year, no dues of the workers have been paid by the tea garden management.

"The management had done a three-year agreement but is defaulting on it; it is not providing the employees with firewood, medical facilities, drinking water facilities or ration components apart from what is obtained under the National Food Security programme. No new labour intake has been made in place of retirees."

He complained that his union leaders are also keeping stoic silence on these demands of the tea workers. The tea garden has two trade unions- one is associated with Trinamool Congress (TMC), and the other is with Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP). Still, no one is looking after average tea workers.

Another problem in the garden is that there are no individual electric meters. As a result, even using one electric bulb, one has to pay Rs 300. Though the woman of the area receives the monthly money allotted to women under the Laxmi Bhunder scheme, the rate of workers' wage at Rs 232/day is too low for the tea workers community in the state.

"There are about 1800 permanent workers in the Hunterwala tea estate; 70-80 voucher workers are there as contractual workers. About 150 to 200 workers have already retired from their jobs, but the practice of replacement workers known as Badli (replacement) is not being followed," Toppo said.

CITU leader Pawan Pradhan of Mal area Tea Workers Union alleged that the tea workers movement is facing government and police wrath. There have been cases of arrest when CITU had forged a movement regarding the demand of getting land patta for the tea workers of the region.

"We have been residing here for ages on the tea estate lands, but we still do not have land pattas. The way the chief minister intervened amidst a fruitful wage bargaining process and forced the workers to accept a 15% interim wage increment is also unconstitutional. While Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu get upwardly of Rs 400/day, why are the tea workers paid at the rate of Rs 232/day in West Bengal? With that, they have to maintain their household daily, which is very difficult. The argument that increasing the wage makes the gardens unviable does not hold as gardens in Kerala, Tamilnadu, and Karnataka have shown."

He also alleged that tea garden owners of several tea gardens had not paid the PF dues to the PF commissioner.

Raja Dutta, Area secretary of the Malbazaar area committee of CPI(M), said that before 2011 during the time of the Durga puja and Diwali, there were regular bonuses to tea garden workers. The business houses of these land ports bore a festive look as there was a large-scale sale of items from these land ports. But now, this festivity is absent, and there is a minimum bonus. As a result, the scope of work in these land ports is also decreasing, and trade and commerce from these areas are shifting their base.

Courtesy: Newsclick

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Is MeiTY looking to censor social media completely?

Through the latest amendment to the disputed IT Rules, the Ministry has taken upon itself the onus to deal with complaints related to any content posted on social media platforms

04 Nov 2022

Rajeev chandrashekhar
Image courtesy: The Economic Times


The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) issued a notification on October 28 amending the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 seeking to introduce a Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC) to protect the “rights of Digital Nagriks”.

Minister of State Rajeev Chandrasekhar stated that this move came in the backdrop of complaints regarding the action/inaction on the part of the intermediaries on user grievances regarding objectionable content or suspension of their accounts. He further said  that the intermediaries now will be expected to ensure that there is no uploading of content that intentionally communicates any misinformation or information that is patently false or untrue hence entrusting an important responsibility on intermediaries. This amendment raises concerns over increased scrutiny of the intermediaries and over-regulation by the government in their functioning thus becoming a tool for social media censorship.

This amendment means that users who are not satisfied with the response of the intermediaries can reach out to the said Committee in appeal. The amendment makes it the prerogative of the intermediaries to resolve the complaints received from users within 15 days and if the complaint is regarding any content being obscene or threatening the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, then the same needs to be redressed within 72 hours of the complaint. If the response is not received within this time or if a satisfactory response is not received, the user can approach the Committee in appeal.

While the intermediaries will not face any punitive action for non-compliance, Chandrasekhar said, "We are not getting to the business of punity, but there is an opinion that there should be punitive penalties for those platforms not following rules.. it is an area we have steered clear of but that is not to say it is not on our mind”.

The Amendment

The changes effectively brought about by the amendment are as follows:

(a) Currently, intermediaries are only required to inform users about not uploading certain categories of harmful/unlawful content. These amendments impose a legal obligation on intermediaries to take reasonable efforts to prevent users from uploading such content. The new provision will ensure that the intermediarys obligation is not a mere formality.

(b) For effective communication of the rules and regulations of the intermediary, it is important that the communication is done in regional Indian languages as well.

(c) The grounds in rule 3(1)(b)(ii) have been rationalized by removing the words defamatory’ and libellous. Whether any content is defamatory or libellous will be determined through judicial review.

(d) Some of the content categories in rule 3(1)(b) have been rephrased to deal particularly with misinformation, and content that could incite violence between different religious/caste groups.

(e) The amendment requires intermediaries to respect the rights guaranteed to users under the Constitution, including a reasonable expectation of due diligence, privacy and transparency.

(f) Grievance Appellate Committee(s) will be established to allow users to appeal against the inaction of, or decisions taken by intermediaries on user complaints. However, users will always have the right to approach courts for any remedy.

Censorship concerns

The Internet Freedom Foundation issued a statement in response to this amendment saying, “Given that the GAC would hear appeals against the decisions of social media platforms to remove content or not, it will incentivize platforms to remove/suppress/label any speech unpalatable to the government, or those exerting political pressure. In fact, since the GAC is empowered to hear appeals from users whose content has been taken down by a social media intermediary for violation of its community guidelines or terms of use, the government will also be in a position to force social media platforms to display content that the platforms have found to violate their norms.”

It further stated, “Opaque and arbitrary methods of choosing appeals for their review, the lack of trust in an all Executive body, the ability of the government to influence content moderation decisions in a non-transparent manner are just some of the concerns arising from the IT Amendment Rules, 2022.”

Freedom of speech

Going in appeal directly to  the central government against a private body that facilitates freedom of speech and expression is  a direct impingement of freedom of speech and allows direct executive control over a space that is meant to be a free space for expression. Certainly, social media gives a platform to  people  to express themselves  and anti-social elements tend to misuse the  space to spread hatred and propagate their agenda as well but regulation by a central body means censorship and shunting of voices that go against the government or anything that displeases the government will not find any space on these platforms.

Speaking to Scroll, Nikhil Pahwa, founder of MediaNama said, “This amendment has given the government god-mode status when it comes to content on social media a year-and-a-half away from the Lok Sabha elections.”

Internet Freedom Foundation policy director Prateek Waghre pointed out while speaking to Scroll,, “The aggregation of individual decisions won’t be able to address underlying problems since they are neither repeatable nor broadly applicable, given the complexities involved.”

Finality of GAC

The decision of the GAC is to be final since it is mandatory for the intermediary to comply with the orders passed by the Committee. The qualifications of the members of these committees is also amiss in this clause and the manner of functioning has also not been specified thus giving a free hand to these committees to deal with the appeals.

By compelling the intermediaries to act on complaints in an expedited manner, the government is encouraging blind censorship as the platforms will take down content complained against by just any user that find a content offensive or unpalatable to his interests, fearing government action and short stipulated time period provided for responding to these complaints.

In July, Twitter filed a plea before the Karnataka High Court challenging the legality of takedown orders issued by the Centre in January. Twitter has argued that the orders are procedurally and substantially deficient of the Section 69A requirements and that they demonstrate excessive use of powers and are disproportionate.

In January 2021, the government asked social media companies to remove access to content regarding the farmers agitation that carried a controversial hashtag regarding the prime minister, saying it was a threat to public order. As per reports, the accounts and tweets that were ordered to be blocked have been submitted to the court by Twitter in a sealed envelope, since Section 69 (A) orders are supposed to be kept confidential. In September, the Central Government filed its statement of objections stating that Twitter being an intermediary platform did not have the authority to define free speech and to decide what content would pose a threat to national security or public order issues.

IT Rules matter subjudice

In May 2022, the Supreme Court stayed proceedings before various high courts on the batch of petitions challenging the IT Rules. Digital new media portals including The Wire, Quint and LivelLaw had approached different high courts on the ground that the IT rules impinge upon right to freedom of speech. No significant developments have taken place in this case yet.

Is social media regulation required?

Protection of freedom of speech and expression on social media platforms is a double edged sword since regulation of content by government exclusively could lead to censorship and leaving the matter to self—regulation gives a free hand to these companies who have not been able to curb misinformation and hate speech yet. The ideal  situation would be a balanced approach towards regulation where both parties are involved in ensuring that hate speech and misinformation does not spread on these platforms and also to develop better technology and for companies to invest in more resources to regulate their content. The government should have an oversight mechanism over the functioning of such reviews that the companies ought to undertake at specific intervals for reviewing the complaints received by them and the content that goes up on their platforms.

Handling individual complaints as stipulated under the new amendment, by centrally formed committees is an arduous mechanism which will not be able to reform social media platforms into safe spaces for users. While regulation is required, absolute regulation by the government will only stand to impinge freedom of speech.

The amendment to IT Rules may be read here:

 

Related:

Facebook’s plans to curb online hate during Indian elections: Too little too late?

Victory! Youtube acts on CJP's complaint, blocks hateful videos

Most troubling abuse of YouTube in India involves targeting of Muslims by backers of the BJP: NYU Stern Report

Is MeiTY looking to censor social media completely?

Through the latest amendment to the disputed IT Rules, the Ministry has taken upon itself the onus to deal with complaints related to any content posted on social media platforms

Rajeev chandrashekhar
Image courtesy: The Economic Times


The Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITy) issued a notification on October 28 amending the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 seeking to introduce a Grievance Appellate Committee (GAC) to protect the “rights of Digital Nagriks”.

Minister of State Rajeev Chandrasekhar stated that this move came in the backdrop of complaints regarding the action/inaction on the part of the intermediaries on user grievances regarding objectionable content or suspension of their accounts. He further said  that the intermediaries now will be expected to ensure that there is no uploading of content that intentionally communicates any misinformation or information that is patently false or untrue hence entrusting an important responsibility on intermediaries. This amendment raises concerns over increased scrutiny of the intermediaries and over-regulation by the government in their functioning thus becoming a tool for social media censorship.

This amendment means that users who are not satisfied with the response of the intermediaries can reach out to the said Committee in appeal. The amendment makes it the prerogative of the intermediaries to resolve the complaints received from users within 15 days and if the complaint is regarding any content being obscene or threatening the unity, integrity, defence, security or sovereignty of India, then the same needs to be redressed within 72 hours of the complaint. If the response is not received within this time or if a satisfactory response is not received, the user can approach the Committee in appeal.

While the intermediaries will not face any punitive action for non-compliance, Chandrasekhar said, "We are not getting to the business of punity, but there is an opinion that there should be punitive penalties for those platforms not following rules.. it is an area we have steered clear of but that is not to say it is not on our mind”.

The Amendment

The changes effectively brought about by the amendment are as follows:

(a) Currently, intermediaries are only required to inform users about not uploading certain categories of harmful/unlawful content. These amendments impose a legal obligation on intermediaries to take reasonable efforts to prevent users from uploading such content. The new provision will ensure that the intermediarys obligation is not a mere formality.

(b) For effective communication of the rules and regulations of the intermediary, it is important that the communication is done in regional Indian languages as well.

(c) The grounds in rule 3(1)(b)(ii) have been rationalized by removing the words defamatory’ and libellous. Whether any content is defamatory or libellous will be determined through judicial review.

(d) Some of the content categories in rule 3(1)(b) have been rephrased to deal particularly with misinformation, and content that could incite violence between different religious/caste groups.

(e) The amendment requires intermediaries to respect the rights guaranteed to users under the Constitution, including a reasonable expectation of due diligence, privacy and transparency.

(f) Grievance Appellate Committee(s) will be established to allow users to appeal against the inaction of, or decisions taken by intermediaries on user complaints. However, users will always have the right to approach courts for any remedy.

Censorship concerns

The Internet Freedom Foundation issued a statement in response to this amendment saying, “Given that the GAC would hear appeals against the decisions of social media platforms to remove content or not, it will incentivize platforms to remove/suppress/label any speech unpalatable to the government, or those exerting political pressure. In fact, since the GAC is empowered to hear appeals from users whose content has been taken down by a social media intermediary for violation of its community guidelines or terms of use, the government will also be in a position to force social media platforms to display content that the platforms have found to violate their norms.”

It further stated, “Opaque and arbitrary methods of choosing appeals for their review, the lack of trust in an all Executive body, the ability of the government to influence content moderation decisions in a non-transparent manner are just some of the concerns arising from the IT Amendment Rules, 2022.”

Freedom of speech

Going in appeal directly to  the central government against a private body that facilitates freedom of speech and expression is  a direct impingement of freedom of speech and allows direct executive control over a space that is meant to be a free space for expression. Certainly, social media gives a platform to  people  to express themselves  and anti-social elements tend to misuse the  space to spread hatred and propagate their agenda as well but regulation by a central body means censorship and shunting of voices that go against the government or anything that displeases the government will not find any space on these platforms.

Speaking to Scroll, Nikhil Pahwa, founder of MediaNama said, “This amendment has given the government god-mode status when it comes to content on social media a year-and-a-half away from the Lok Sabha elections.”

Internet Freedom Foundation policy director Prateek Waghre pointed out while speaking to Scroll,, “The aggregation of individual decisions won’t be able to address underlying problems since they are neither repeatable nor broadly applicable, given the complexities involved.”

Finality of GAC

The decision of the GAC is to be final since it is mandatory for the intermediary to comply with the orders passed by the Committee. The qualifications of the members of these committees is also amiss in this clause and the manner of functioning has also not been specified thus giving a free hand to these committees to deal with the appeals.

By compelling the intermediaries to act on complaints in an expedited manner, the government is encouraging blind censorship as the platforms will take down content complained against by just any user that find a content offensive or unpalatable to his interests, fearing government action and short stipulated time period provided for responding to these complaints.

In July, Twitter filed a plea before the Karnataka High Court challenging the legality of takedown orders issued by the Centre in January. Twitter has argued that the orders are procedurally and substantially deficient of the Section 69A requirements and that they demonstrate excessive use of powers and are disproportionate.

In January 2021, the government asked social media companies to remove access to content regarding the farmers agitation that carried a controversial hashtag regarding the prime minister, saying it was a threat to public order. As per reports, the accounts and tweets that were ordered to be blocked have been submitted to the court by Twitter in a sealed envelope, since Section 69 (A) orders are supposed to be kept confidential. In September, the Central Government filed its statement of objections stating that Twitter being an intermediary platform did not have the authority to define free speech and to decide what content would pose a threat to national security or public order issues.

IT Rules matter subjudice

In May 2022, the Supreme Court stayed proceedings before various high courts on the batch of petitions challenging the IT Rules. Digital new media portals including The Wire, Quint and LivelLaw had approached different high courts on the ground that the IT rules impinge upon right to freedom of speech. No significant developments have taken place in this case yet.

Is social media regulation required?

Protection of freedom of speech and expression on social media platforms is a double edged sword since regulation of content by government exclusively could lead to censorship and leaving the matter to self—regulation gives a free hand to these companies who have not been able to curb misinformation and hate speech yet. The ideal  situation would be a balanced approach towards regulation where both parties are involved in ensuring that hate speech and misinformation does not spread on these platforms and also to develop better technology and for companies to invest in more resources to regulate their content. The government should have an oversight mechanism over the functioning of such reviews that the companies ought to undertake at specific intervals for reviewing the complaints received by them and the content that goes up on their platforms.

Handling individual complaints as stipulated under the new amendment, by centrally formed committees is an arduous mechanism which will not be able to reform social media platforms into safe spaces for users. While regulation is required, absolute regulation by the government will only stand to impinge freedom of speech.

The amendment to IT Rules may be read here:

 

Related:

Facebook’s plans to curb online hate during Indian elections: Too little too late?

Victory! Youtube acts on CJP's complaint, blocks hateful videos

Most troubling abuse of YouTube in India involves targeting of Muslims by backers of the BJP: NYU Stern Report

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