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Why do the mighty cry ‘defamation’ when accused of sexual harassment?

“It was important and necessary for women to speak up. Women are taught that silence is a virtue,” Priya Ramani told a Delhi court hearing MJ Akbar’s defamation allegations 

11 Sep 2020

priya Ramani

A much needed refresher course in law, ethics, journalism, and the importance of speaking out against injustice came to the fore again, as hearings resumed in the Priya Ramani Vs MJ Akbar case. Ironically this case is that of politician and journalist MJ Akbar, once a minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, alleging defamation of his ‘stellar reputation’. He is counter-suing, to use a non legal term, the eminent journalist Priya Ramani, who has accused him of sexually harassing her when she was a junior and he was her boss.

Ramani has stood by her allegations over the past years, and has in turn empowered other women journalists to come out with similar stories of being sexually harassed by Akbar over the years. The #MeToo movement in India, especially Indian journalism, cost Akbar his ministerial job, as his political patrons chose to distance themselves.

As expected, Ramani, a survivor of the sexual attack, was asked in court about the ‘delay’ in reporting the crime when it happens. There was a “vacuum in law 25 years ago,” was her brief and powerful reply. "When the incident took place in 1993 there was a gap in the law...whom could have I complained to? Legally I could not have evoked sexual harassment act because it was not in place," Ramani said. The powerful statement, put forth by Ramani’s lawyer Rebbecca John, one of the leading criminal law experts in the country, was reported by multiple media outlets. It is a testimony of resilience, and of the fact that it is never too late to seek justice, and the time is always right, so that no one else has to suffer scarring attacks like sexual harassment at the workplace by those in authority.  

Former Union minister M J Akbar’s case in the defamation suit against her was centred on his “stellar reputation”, but this was false and “I had every right to contest it,” journalist Priya Ramani told a Delhi court on Tuesday. The submissions were made by her lawyer Rebecca John, who made her final arguments before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja. However, the arguments could not be concluded, and the matter was deferred to September 14, stated a report in the Indian Express.

In 2018 as the #MeToo movement was picking up in India, Ramani had accused Akbar of sexual harassment, the incident took place around 25 years ago when she was a junior journalist, and he a powerful editor. After she had made the allegations, Akbar was eventually forced to resign as a Union minister in October 2018, and more women who had once worked as his juniors also came forth with similar allegations. He then slapped a defamation case on Ramani.

Once hearings resumed in that case, senior advocate Rebecca John told the courts that Ramani’s tweets were based on her own experience with Akbar. “Her experience is the fulcrum on which good faith rests. It is validated subsequently by the combined experience of multiple women making similar allegations,” John is reported to have said in Scroll, Indian Express and other media. John added that many spoke (on the issue) before her tweet while many spoke later. She said Ramani made the allegations in October 2018, since there was an “avalanche” taking place in India during the global #MeToo movement and that she felt “compelled to speak” after she saw several women, who had worked under Akbar between 1993-2011, speaking out against him.

It is reported that Ramani made the allegation in her “good faith” because “it was based on her own experience and that of multiple women who spoke publicly,” stated John, adding “Ramani said it was important for women to speak about sexual harassment at the workplace. She hoped that the disclosure would empower women and encourage them to speak up. Silence is not an option. Speaking out on sexual harassment at workplace is in public good.”

She added that “it was important and necessary for women to speak up. Women are taught that silence is a virtue. This case has come at a great personal cost. I have nothing to gain. By keeping silent. I could have avoided (a lot of trouble). But that would not have been right.”

John cited Ramani, saying that women fought a long battle. “The delay was on account of the fact that there was a vacuum in law and there was no platform either. Women at that time were told to keep silent. It was a different world in 1993. I cannot say with confidence that it was a fair world. It took us all a lot of time to fight and establish our battles,” John said. John said that seeing other women speak, “I (Ramani) felt compelled to speak.” Citing the allegations made by various women, Ramani’s counsel refuted Akbar’s claim that he had a stellar reputation which was lowered by her, John said “none of his claims in respect of his stellar reputation can be sustained.”

Akbar had even questioned why Ramani  deleted her Twitter account, she replied to the court that, “I (Ramani) need nobody’s permission to delete my Twitter account. It was not an evidence in the case. It is my democratic and constitutional right to do so. I was not ordered by court to not do so… moreover my Tweets the complainant is relying upon in the case have not been denied by me.” According to John the testimony made by Ramani’s friend Nilofer, whom she had reportedly stated about the alleged incident soon after it had taken place, “corroborates Ramani’s truth”. “Nilofer’s message to Ramani in October 2018, after she tweeted about alleged incident also corroborate the truth stated by the scribe,” the news reports quoted her, she added that Nilofer was “a witness of impeccable quality.” She further said that Ramani’s allegation was not politically motivated and her tweets were based on her own experience with Akbar.

Akbar had stated in court that Ramani had defamed him by calling him with adjectives such as ‘media’s biggest predator’ and thus harmed his reputation. He also denied all the allegations of sexual harassment against the women who came forward during #MeToo campaign against him.

He alleged defamation, telling the court that the allegations made by Ramani in an article in the ‘Vogue’ and the subsequent tweets were defamatory on the face of it. He stated that “the complainant had deposed them to be false and imaginary.” However, Ramani has maintained that her move would empower women to speak up and make them understand their rights at the workplace.

The Scroll quoted Ramani: “This issue touches a public question and public good. Next landmark in the sphere was in 2018 when #MeToo movement began in India...They say I made these allegations because he’s a member of a particular political party. The delay was on account of the fact that there was a vacuum in law and there was no platform either. A gap in the law was recognised by Supreme Court in 1997. My incident is of 1993. Whom could have I complained to?”

Priya Ramani had first made allegations about an incident of sexual harassment by an acclaimed newspaper editor, in an article in Vogue India in 2017. She identified Akbar as that editor in October 2018 during the #MeToo movement, in a series of tweets. Soon after this, around 20 more women accused Akbar of sexual misconduct over several years during his journalistic career before he became a politician, reported The Scroll.

An article in SabrangIndia from 2019 recalled how Ramani was “cheered on by family, friends, and colleagues”, while Akbar was alone and friendless. “This image of women standing with each other against a powerful predator who came to the courtroom that day, and also on the first day of the cross-examination earlier this month,  speak volumes about women solidarity in the media,” it stated.

This time too, John’s arguments were airtight and based on facts, a case in point: “Ramani’s stand is credible, reliable and she has not shaken on material facts,” John said. “They [complainant] shied away from the hotel incident. You can prove that he never stayed at the hotel. But they didn’t because Ramani is speaking the truth...Facts which, though not in issue, are so connected with a fact in issue as to form part of the same transaction, are relevant, whether they occurred at the same time and place or at different times and places.” 

Akbar had denied meeting Ramani in a hotel room where she alleged he had sexually harassed her. In February 2019, Ramani was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 10,000 in the case. Akbar has denied all the allegations against him. 

 

Related:

#MeToo: From Courtroom to Cinema

Why the ‘Me Too’ movement in India is succeeding at last

On Akbar and the #MeToo Movement

After #MeToo: Legal System Needs Change

AIDWA Demands Resignation of Minister of State for External Affairs, M J Akbar

Delhi HC sets aside stay in Mahua Moitra’s defamation case against Zee’s Head 

Siddaramaiah and Kumaraswamy booked for sedition and defamation

Scribe booked for alleged defamatory content against PM Modi and CM 

 

Why do the mighty cry ‘defamation’ when accused of sexual harassment?

“It was important and necessary for women to speak up. Women are taught that silence is a virtue,” Priya Ramani told a Delhi court hearing MJ Akbar’s defamation allegations 

priya Ramani

A much needed refresher course in law, ethics, journalism, and the importance of speaking out against injustice came to the fore again, as hearings resumed in the Priya Ramani Vs MJ Akbar case. Ironically this case is that of politician and journalist MJ Akbar, once a minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, alleging defamation of his ‘stellar reputation’. He is counter-suing, to use a non legal term, the eminent journalist Priya Ramani, who has accused him of sexually harassing her when she was a junior and he was her boss.

Ramani has stood by her allegations over the past years, and has in turn empowered other women journalists to come out with similar stories of being sexually harassed by Akbar over the years. The #MeToo movement in India, especially Indian journalism, cost Akbar his ministerial job, as his political patrons chose to distance themselves.

As expected, Ramani, a survivor of the sexual attack, was asked in court about the ‘delay’ in reporting the crime when it happens. There was a “vacuum in law 25 years ago,” was her brief and powerful reply. "When the incident took place in 1993 there was a gap in the law...whom could have I complained to? Legally I could not have evoked sexual harassment act because it was not in place," Ramani said. The powerful statement, put forth by Ramani’s lawyer Rebbecca John, one of the leading criminal law experts in the country, was reported by multiple media outlets. It is a testimony of resilience, and of the fact that it is never too late to seek justice, and the time is always right, so that no one else has to suffer scarring attacks like sexual harassment at the workplace by those in authority.  

Former Union minister M J Akbar’s case in the defamation suit against her was centred on his “stellar reputation”, but this was false and “I had every right to contest it,” journalist Priya Ramani told a Delhi court on Tuesday. The submissions were made by her lawyer Rebecca John, who made her final arguments before Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Vishal Pahuja. However, the arguments could not be concluded, and the matter was deferred to September 14, stated a report in the Indian Express.

In 2018 as the #MeToo movement was picking up in India, Ramani had accused Akbar of sexual harassment, the incident took place around 25 years ago when she was a junior journalist, and he a powerful editor. After she had made the allegations, Akbar was eventually forced to resign as a Union minister in October 2018, and more women who had once worked as his juniors also came forth with similar allegations. He then slapped a defamation case on Ramani.

Once hearings resumed in that case, senior advocate Rebecca John told the courts that Ramani’s tweets were based on her own experience with Akbar. “Her experience is the fulcrum on which good faith rests. It is validated subsequently by the combined experience of multiple women making similar allegations,” John is reported to have said in Scroll, Indian Express and other media. John added that many spoke (on the issue) before her tweet while many spoke later. She said Ramani made the allegations in October 2018, since there was an “avalanche” taking place in India during the global #MeToo movement and that she felt “compelled to speak” after she saw several women, who had worked under Akbar between 1993-2011, speaking out against him.

It is reported that Ramani made the allegation in her “good faith” because “it was based on her own experience and that of multiple women who spoke publicly,” stated John, adding “Ramani said it was important for women to speak about sexual harassment at the workplace. She hoped that the disclosure would empower women and encourage them to speak up. Silence is not an option. Speaking out on sexual harassment at workplace is in public good.”

She added that “it was important and necessary for women to speak up. Women are taught that silence is a virtue. This case has come at a great personal cost. I have nothing to gain. By keeping silent. I could have avoided (a lot of trouble). But that would not have been right.”

John cited Ramani, saying that women fought a long battle. “The delay was on account of the fact that there was a vacuum in law and there was no platform either. Women at that time were told to keep silent. It was a different world in 1993. I cannot say with confidence that it was a fair world. It took us all a lot of time to fight and establish our battles,” John said. John said that seeing other women speak, “I (Ramani) felt compelled to speak.” Citing the allegations made by various women, Ramani’s counsel refuted Akbar’s claim that he had a stellar reputation which was lowered by her, John said “none of his claims in respect of his stellar reputation can be sustained.”

Akbar had even questioned why Ramani  deleted her Twitter account, she replied to the court that, “I (Ramani) need nobody’s permission to delete my Twitter account. It was not an evidence in the case. It is my democratic and constitutional right to do so. I was not ordered by court to not do so… moreover my Tweets the complainant is relying upon in the case have not been denied by me.” According to John the testimony made by Ramani’s friend Nilofer, whom she had reportedly stated about the alleged incident soon after it had taken place, “corroborates Ramani’s truth”. “Nilofer’s message to Ramani in October 2018, after she tweeted about alleged incident also corroborate the truth stated by the scribe,” the news reports quoted her, she added that Nilofer was “a witness of impeccable quality.” She further said that Ramani’s allegation was not politically motivated and her tweets were based on her own experience with Akbar.

Akbar had stated in court that Ramani had defamed him by calling him with adjectives such as ‘media’s biggest predator’ and thus harmed his reputation. He also denied all the allegations of sexual harassment against the women who came forward during #MeToo campaign against him.

He alleged defamation, telling the court that the allegations made by Ramani in an article in the ‘Vogue’ and the subsequent tweets were defamatory on the face of it. He stated that “the complainant had deposed them to be false and imaginary.” However, Ramani has maintained that her move would empower women to speak up and make them understand their rights at the workplace.

The Scroll quoted Ramani: “This issue touches a public question and public good. Next landmark in the sphere was in 2018 when #MeToo movement began in India...They say I made these allegations because he’s a member of a particular political party. The delay was on account of the fact that there was a vacuum in law and there was no platform either. A gap in the law was recognised by Supreme Court in 1997. My incident is of 1993. Whom could have I complained to?”

Priya Ramani had first made allegations about an incident of sexual harassment by an acclaimed newspaper editor, in an article in Vogue India in 2017. She identified Akbar as that editor in October 2018 during the #MeToo movement, in a series of tweets. Soon after this, around 20 more women accused Akbar of sexual misconduct over several years during his journalistic career before he became a politician, reported The Scroll.

An article in SabrangIndia from 2019 recalled how Ramani was “cheered on by family, friends, and colleagues”, while Akbar was alone and friendless. “This image of women standing with each other against a powerful predator who came to the courtroom that day, and also on the first day of the cross-examination earlier this month,  speak volumes about women solidarity in the media,” it stated.

This time too, John’s arguments were airtight and based on facts, a case in point: “Ramani’s stand is credible, reliable and she has not shaken on material facts,” John said. “They [complainant] shied away from the hotel incident. You can prove that he never stayed at the hotel. But they didn’t because Ramani is speaking the truth...Facts which, though not in issue, are so connected with a fact in issue as to form part of the same transaction, are relevant, whether they occurred at the same time and place or at different times and places.” 

Akbar had denied meeting Ramani in a hotel room where she alleged he had sexually harassed her. In February 2019, Ramani was granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 10,000 in the case. Akbar has denied all the allegations against him. 

 

Related:

#MeToo: From Courtroom to Cinema

Why the ‘Me Too’ movement in India is succeeding at last

On Akbar and the #MeToo Movement

After #MeToo: Legal System Needs Change

AIDWA Demands Resignation of Minister of State for External Affairs, M J Akbar

Delhi HC sets aside stay in Mahua Moitra’s defamation case against Zee’s Head 

Siddaramaiah and Kumaraswamy booked for sedition and defamation

Scribe booked for alleged defamatory content against PM Modi and CM 

 

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Alt-News co-founder granted protection from arrest in Tweet related case

A twitter user who has constantly posted abusive comments on Mohammed Zubair’s posts has accused Zubair of sexual harassment

09 Sep 2020

Image Courtesy:theleaflet.in

The Delhi High Court has passed an interim order granting protection from arrest to Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of Alt News, in a petition for quashing of the FIR against him. A single judge bench of Justice Yogesh Khanna has directed the Delhi government and the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Cyber Cell to file a status report on the investigation carried out in the case, within 8 weeks, as reported by LiveLaw.

Zubair had filed a petition for quashing of FIR lodged against him by a twitter user, Jagdish Singh. Zubair had posted a tweet with the profile picture of Singh standing with his minor grand-daughter, asking if it was appropriate for Singh to use derogatory language in replies even as his grand-daughter figures in his profile picture. Zubair had, however, blurred the face of Singh’s minor grand-daughter, while sharing the picture.

Singh had allegedly been posting comments on Zubair’s tweets, using abusive and derogatory language. In one such uninvited comments, Singh had written, “Once a jihadi always a jihadi” on a post of Zubair where he was wearing an Indian attire.

Singh then filed two FIRs accusing Zubair of cyber sexual harassment of his minor grand-daughter were lodged at Delhi and at Chhattisgarh, under section 509B [Sexual harassment by electronic modes] of the IPC and section 67 [Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form] and 67A [Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act in electronic form] of the Information Technology Act.

Additionally, in cognizance of this frivolous complaint, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) summoned Twitter India in order to take action against Zubair for posting the tweet.

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves appeared for Zubair and submitted that he was not even provided with the copies of the FIRs. He further submitted that Zubair, through Alt-news, debunks misinformation that is circulated on social media, without any bias and owing to the nature of his work, he usually faces abuse and threats from blind supporters.

Gonsalves further alleged that the complainant, Singh, is in fact a ‘serious harasser’ who attacks people with liberal and progressive views. He also denied even a remotest possibility that Zubair’s tweet could qualify as sexual harassment of a minor.

The court also directed NCPCR to file a reply on the averments made in Zubair’s petition while also directing Twitter India to supply the Cyber Cell with the information they have sought on a third person who has made objectionable comments on Singh and his grand-daughter to check if there is any connection with Zubair.

The case will be next heard on December 8, and until then Zubair is protected from any coercive action.

The complete order may be read here.

Related:

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Alt-News co-founder granted protection from arrest in Tweet related case

A twitter user who has constantly posted abusive comments on Mohammed Zubair’s posts has accused Zubair of sexual harassment

Image Courtesy:theleaflet.in

The Delhi High Court has passed an interim order granting protection from arrest to Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of Alt News, in a petition for quashing of the FIR against him. A single judge bench of Justice Yogesh Khanna has directed the Delhi government and the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Cyber Cell to file a status report on the investigation carried out in the case, within 8 weeks, as reported by LiveLaw.

Zubair had filed a petition for quashing of FIR lodged against him by a twitter user, Jagdish Singh. Zubair had posted a tweet with the profile picture of Singh standing with his minor grand-daughter, asking if it was appropriate for Singh to use derogatory language in replies even as his grand-daughter figures in his profile picture. Zubair had, however, blurred the face of Singh’s minor grand-daughter, while sharing the picture.

Singh had allegedly been posting comments on Zubair’s tweets, using abusive and derogatory language. In one such uninvited comments, Singh had written, “Once a jihadi always a jihadi” on a post of Zubair where he was wearing an Indian attire.

Singh then filed two FIRs accusing Zubair of cyber sexual harassment of his minor grand-daughter were lodged at Delhi and at Chhattisgarh, under section 509B [Sexual harassment by electronic modes] of the IPC and section 67 [Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form] and 67A [Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act in electronic form] of the Information Technology Act.

Additionally, in cognizance of this frivolous complaint, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) summoned Twitter India in order to take action against Zubair for posting the tweet.

Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves appeared for Zubair and submitted that he was not even provided with the copies of the FIRs. He further submitted that Zubair, through Alt-news, debunks misinformation that is circulated on social media, without any bias and owing to the nature of his work, he usually faces abuse and threats from blind supporters.

Gonsalves further alleged that the complainant, Singh, is in fact a ‘serious harasser’ who attacks people with liberal and progressive views. He also denied even a remotest possibility that Zubair’s tweet could qualify as sexual harassment of a minor.

The court also directed NCPCR to file a reply on the averments made in Zubair’s petition while also directing Twitter India to supply the Cyber Cell with the information they have sought on a third person who has made objectionable comments on Singh and his grand-daughter to check if there is any connection with Zubair.

The case will be next heard on December 8, and until then Zubair is protected from any coercive action.

The complete order may be read here.

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'Delhi Police Has No Evidence So It's Resorting to Fabricated Statements': Umar Khalid
A closer look at Guj court order on Modi in Pranjit civil suit
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How many rapes and murders will it take before the UP govt takes action?

The third case of rape and murder in just three weeks, reported from the Lakhimpur Kheri district, the victim was 3 years old

04 Sep 2020

rape AFPImage: AFP
 

Uttar Pradesh is now regularly in the news as the state’s children, especially those from economically weaker families are falling victims to rapists and murders. The third case, in just three weeks, has been reported from Mathiya village in Singahi block of Lakhimpur Kheri district. The brutalised body of a toddler was found in sugarcane fields on Thursday.

The 3-year-old was raped and murdered, and her body found a day after she had been reported missing. The truly indicting aspect of this is that this was the third such incident reported from this district in UP. She isthe latest, and the youngest victim.

In any other state, and during any other time, child rights workers, civil society activists, and perhaps even the Minister for women and child development,  would have pushed oliticians across parties and  taken to the streets demanding justice. They would have named the victims ‘UP’s Nirbhaya’ or some such protest title and would have even asked whether the ‘Beti Bachao’ slogans of the Union Government meant anything outside of being a propaganda tool.

However, these are not normal times, and most politicians and activists are citing Covid-19 protocols as reasons for not protesting. Off the record, some have even admitted to the sense of fear amongst activists, who are increasingly being targeted if they dare to question, or speak against the government or the police.

Criminals are however not scared of the government, however, and this brutal rape and murder of a child, a toddler will unfortunatley not be the last, neither in the state where the government had claimed to come down hard on criminals, nor in the country for that matter. The UP government has received much acclaim from the centre as the state with the ‘best chief minister in Adityanath!

It may be recalled that in the same district of Lakhimpur Kheri, a 13-yr-old girl was raped, murdered on August 14, a 17-yr-old girl raped, murdered on August 26. Now a  3-yr-old girl’s rape and murder has been reported on September 3. Disturbing visuals of the child’s body lying in the middle of a field thick and lush with tall sugarcane crop, like that of a broken little bird, were shared on social media.

We shall not do that here, but it is important to repeat that the crime rate in Uttar Pradesh is on the rise. These are the reported cases of sexual assault, mostly because the victims have been murdered, and bodies found. There may still be scores of cases of sexual abuse, especially of minors across gender, which are going unreported.

Politician and activist Subhashini Ali pointed out how despite all this Adityanath was still being hailed as the ‘Best Chief Minister’.

 

 

The local police had initially suspected this to be a case of murder, however, a panel of three doctors conducted an autopsy and confirmed rape, reported News18. It added that autopsy report of the child has confirmed rape. Senior police officials inspected the crime spot and later confirmed that the three-year-old girl found dead in a sugarcane field in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri on Thursday was raped and strangled to death, police said on Friday. The girl had gone missing on Wednesday and her dead body was found with injury marks on Thursday. The Police, however, were quick to add that the victim’s family had alleged that the child was killed as a result of ‘personal vendetta’. The investigations are still underway.

 

 

This is the third incident of rape and murder in Lakhimpur Kheri district in the last 20 days, and the media including News18 reported that the family has alleged that their daughter was kidnapped and murdered due to an old enmity. The girl’s father, in his complaint, has named one Lekharam, from the same village, was what the police said according to the news report. A panel of three doctors conducted an autopsy on Thursday and confirmed strangulation and rape. "The postmortem report has confirmed rape. I am with family members right now. Seven of our teams are working on the case. I am myself going for combing in sugarcane fields and strict action will be taken against the accused," Superintendent of Police, Satyendra Kumar Singh, had said.

In the murder and rape of the 13-year-old reported on August 14 from the Isanagar police station area, police say they arrested two men and had said that strict action will be taken against the accused under the National Security Act (NSA).

Recently, as the rise in crimes, including rapes and murders, were reported from Uttar Pradesh, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, who is in charge of parts of Uttar Pradesh for her party, had expressed concern over the situation. She shared a graphic in which she called a ‘crime metre’ to illustrate the massive number of crimes reported in the state over just two days. She listed crimes reported on Sunday, August 23, and Monday, August 24 in a tweet early on August 25. Most crimes listed were heinous, including murder, rape, kidnapping etc. The tweet went viral, and scores of police stations rushed to give their case updates.

Priyanka Gandhi had also written to Uttar Pradesh governor Anandibehn Patel expressing concern over the law and order situation, highlighting the lack of safety for women  in the state. Priyanka Gandhi wrote: "Your Excellency the Governor, Uttar Pradesh. The situation of women safety in UP has become very bad. A girl from Lakhimpur was going to fill the online form. She was raped and brutally murdered. This is happening daily in UP now.  Hope you understand its seriousness and take it into consideration.”

However, it is not yet known if any action has been taken on those complaints, or if the Adityanath government has reached out to the people with any assurances on the deteriorating issue of law and safety in the state.

 

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How many rapes and murders will it take before the UP govt takes action?

The third case of rape and murder in just three weeks, reported from the Lakhimpur Kheri district, the victim was 3 years old

rape AFPImage: AFP
 

Uttar Pradesh is now regularly in the news as the state’s children, especially those from economically weaker families are falling victims to rapists and murders. The third case, in just three weeks, has been reported from Mathiya village in Singahi block of Lakhimpur Kheri district. The brutalised body of a toddler was found in sugarcane fields on Thursday.

The 3-year-old was raped and murdered, and her body found a day after she had been reported missing. The truly indicting aspect of this is that this was the third such incident reported from this district in UP. She isthe latest, and the youngest victim.

In any other state, and during any other time, child rights workers, civil society activists, and perhaps even the Minister for women and child development,  would have pushed oliticians across parties and  taken to the streets demanding justice. They would have named the victims ‘UP’s Nirbhaya’ or some such protest title and would have even asked whether the ‘Beti Bachao’ slogans of the Union Government meant anything outside of being a propaganda tool.

However, these are not normal times, and most politicians and activists are citing Covid-19 protocols as reasons for not protesting. Off the record, some have even admitted to the sense of fear amongst activists, who are increasingly being targeted if they dare to question, or speak against the government or the police.

Criminals are however not scared of the government, however, and this brutal rape and murder of a child, a toddler will unfortunatley not be the last, neither in the state where the government had claimed to come down hard on criminals, nor in the country for that matter. The UP government has received much acclaim from the centre as the state with the ‘best chief minister in Adityanath!

It may be recalled that in the same district of Lakhimpur Kheri, a 13-yr-old girl was raped, murdered on August 14, a 17-yr-old girl raped, murdered on August 26. Now a  3-yr-old girl’s rape and murder has been reported on September 3. Disturbing visuals of the child’s body lying in the middle of a field thick and lush with tall sugarcane crop, like that of a broken little bird, were shared on social media.

We shall not do that here, but it is important to repeat that the crime rate in Uttar Pradesh is on the rise. These are the reported cases of sexual assault, mostly because the victims have been murdered, and bodies found. There may still be scores of cases of sexual abuse, especially of minors across gender, which are going unreported.

Politician and activist Subhashini Ali pointed out how despite all this Adityanath was still being hailed as the ‘Best Chief Minister’.

 

 

The local police had initially suspected this to be a case of murder, however, a panel of three doctors conducted an autopsy and confirmed rape, reported News18. It added that autopsy report of the child has confirmed rape. Senior police officials inspected the crime spot and later confirmed that the three-year-old girl found dead in a sugarcane field in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri on Thursday was raped and strangled to death, police said on Friday. The girl had gone missing on Wednesday and her dead body was found with injury marks on Thursday. The Police, however, were quick to add that the victim’s family had alleged that the child was killed as a result of ‘personal vendetta’. The investigations are still underway.

 

 

This is the third incident of rape and murder in Lakhimpur Kheri district in the last 20 days, and the media including News18 reported that the family has alleged that their daughter was kidnapped and murdered due to an old enmity. The girl’s father, in his complaint, has named one Lekharam, from the same village, was what the police said according to the news report. A panel of three doctors conducted an autopsy on Thursday and confirmed strangulation and rape. "The postmortem report has confirmed rape. I am with family members right now. Seven of our teams are working on the case. I am myself going for combing in sugarcane fields and strict action will be taken against the accused," Superintendent of Police, Satyendra Kumar Singh, had said.

In the murder and rape of the 13-year-old reported on August 14 from the Isanagar police station area, police say they arrested two men and had said that strict action will be taken against the accused under the National Security Act (NSA).

Recently, as the rise in crimes, including rapes and murders, were reported from Uttar Pradesh, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, who is in charge of parts of Uttar Pradesh for her party, had expressed concern over the situation. She shared a graphic in which she called a ‘crime metre’ to illustrate the massive number of crimes reported in the state over just two days. She listed crimes reported on Sunday, August 23, and Monday, August 24 in a tweet early on August 25. Most crimes listed were heinous, including murder, rape, kidnapping etc. The tweet went viral, and scores of police stations rushed to give their case updates.

Priyanka Gandhi had also written to Uttar Pradesh governor Anandibehn Patel expressing concern over the law and order situation, highlighting the lack of safety for women  in the state. Priyanka Gandhi wrote: "Your Excellency the Governor, Uttar Pradesh. The situation of women safety in UP has become very bad. A girl from Lakhimpur was going to fill the online form. She was raped and brutally murdered. This is happening daily in UP now.  Hope you understand its seriousness and take it into consideration.”

However, it is not yet known if any action has been taken on those complaints, or if the Adityanath government has reached out to the people with any assurances on the deteriorating issue of law and safety in the state.

 

Related

Why did Priyanka Gandhi’s comment on crime in UP get so many official responses?

Kidnapping, rape, torture, murder; just another long weekend in Uttar Pradesh

UP’s crime graph rises further, BJP politician Sanjay Khokhar shot dead

Is this the "Ram Rajya" promised by the BJP: Congress attacks UP govt

 

 

 

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Molestation FIR against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director cancelled!

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

28 Aug 2020

Dudhwa national park

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

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

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

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

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

Related:

Molestation charges against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director

Tharu Adivasis emerge resilient, return to farmlands

Forest officials allegedly harass, intimidate Adivasis in Chitrakoot 

Molestation FIR against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director cancelled!

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

Dudhwa national park

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

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

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

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

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

Related:

Molestation charges against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director

Tharu Adivasis emerge resilient, return to farmlands

Forest officials allegedly harass, intimidate Adivasis in Chitrakoot 

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Molestation charges against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director

The Deputy Director allegedly molested a woman belonging to Tharu tribe while she was rearing goats in the forest

27 Aug 2020

Dudhwa national park

As per a complaint filed by a Tharu woman, an FIR has been lodged against the Deputy Director of Dudhwa National Park, Manoj Kumar Sonkar, on charges of molestation as well as under provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The FIR has been lodged by Gauriphanta police station in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh.

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

The police reached on the spot and only after the forest officials let go the two goats and the villager, did the villagers regain composure. Thereafter the FIR was lodged against Sonkar.

This is not the first time that the forest department has gotten itself into trouble by harassing the forest dwelling tribes-persons. In an incident on July 1, forest officials clashed with Tharu tribe living in Kajaria village in Lakhimpur Kheri district whereby some armed forest officials came to the village and allegedly fired some shots in the air, molested a few women (tore their clothes as well), and beat up some youngsters. An FIR was also lodged then against a few forest officials at Gauriphanta police station. In this incident, Citizens for Justice and Peace along with All India Union of Forest Working People have filed a petition with the National Human Rights Commission, of which the commission has taken cognisance.

In 2012, thousands of women had tried to enter the forest with their bullock carts in a demonstration of the rights given to them by the FRA 2006. They were brutally attacked by the forest officials and policemen. Nivada Rana, a Tharu woman leader of Kajaria village was seriously injured. In 2019, Nivada Rana was one of the three women who, alongwith CJP and AIUFWP, filed an intervention in the Supreme Court to defend the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006. 

While the people of these villages have lived here for centuries, official records indicate evidence on paper dating back to at least 200 years. In 1978 when Dudhwa Reserve Forest was carved out of this area, the Tharu people found themselves facing eviction. A long and bruising legal battle followed that only came to an end when the historic FRA was passed in 2006. Ever since the FRA 2006, in recognition of historical injustices meted out to forest dwelling communities granted them community right over their land, their run-ins with the forest department have intensified. And because the FRA 2006 gives unprecedented power to forest working women, it is not surprising that they find themselves at the receiving end of brutal attacks. 

 

Related:

Assault on Tharu women prompts FIR but forest officials flex muscles in UP

Adivasi women attacked in UP, CJP-AIUFWP move NHRC

Tharu Adivasis emerge resilient, return to farmlands

 

 

Molestation charges against Dudhwa National Park Deputy Director

The Deputy Director allegedly molested a woman belonging to Tharu tribe while she was rearing goats in the forest

Dudhwa national park

As per a complaint filed by a Tharu woman, an FIR has been lodged against the Deputy Director of Dudhwa National Park, Manoj Kumar Sonkar, on charges of molestation as well as under provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. The FIR has been lodged by Gauriphanta police station in Lakhimpur Kheri district of Uttar Pradesh.

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

The police reached on the spot and only after the forest officials let go the two goats and the villager, did the villagers regain composure. Thereafter the FIR was lodged against Sonkar.

This is not the first time that the forest department has gotten itself into trouble by harassing the forest dwelling tribes-persons. In an incident on July 1, forest officials clashed with Tharu tribe living in Kajaria village in Lakhimpur Kheri district whereby some armed forest officials came to the village and allegedly fired some shots in the air, molested a few women (tore their clothes as well), and beat up some youngsters. An FIR was also lodged then against a few forest officials at Gauriphanta police station. In this incident, Citizens for Justice and Peace along with All India Union of Forest Working People have filed a petition with the National Human Rights Commission, of which the commission has taken cognisance.

In 2012, thousands of women had tried to enter the forest with their bullock carts in a demonstration of the rights given to them by the FRA 2006. They were brutally attacked by the forest officials and policemen. Nivada Rana, a Tharu woman leader of Kajaria village was seriously injured. In 2019, Nivada Rana was one of the three women who, alongwith CJP and AIUFWP, filed an intervention in the Supreme Court to defend the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006. 

While the people of these villages have lived here for centuries, official records indicate evidence on paper dating back to at least 200 years. In 1978 when Dudhwa Reserve Forest was carved out of this area, the Tharu people found themselves facing eviction. A long and bruising legal battle followed that only came to an end when the historic FRA was passed in 2006. Ever since the FRA 2006, in recognition of historical injustices meted out to forest dwelling communities granted them community right over their land, their run-ins with the forest department have intensified. And because the FRA 2006 gives unprecedented power to forest working women, it is not surprising that they find themselves at the receiving end of brutal attacks. 

 

Related:

Assault on Tharu women prompts FIR but forest officials flex muscles in UP

Adivasi women attacked in UP, CJP-AIUFWP move NHRC

Tharu Adivasis emerge resilient, return to farmlands

 

 

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Women auto-rickshaw drivers struggle to make ends meet during post-lockdown period

Auto-drivers hailed as warriors during the lockdown period continue to suffer from a dearth of adequate wages, lack of family support

21 Aug 2020

Women auto-rickshaw drivers
Representation Image


The past few months have been peppered with news articles regarding the public transport sector’s help in providing emergency rides during the lockdown period. Auto drivers, especially women drivers in metropolitan cities like Thane and Chennai, have been hailed for offering transport service to essential-service-workers and for medical emergencies while dealing with their own financial and social problems.

Women auto rickshaw drivers such as Raji and Parameswary from Chennai have been celebrated in newspapers like The Hindu for their social services.

However, while conversing with SabrangIndia, the two drivers said that their financial burden had started to weigh down on them following the end of the supposed lockdown period. Both the women have failed to pay their house-rent for the last five months.

Prior to the lockdown, Raji earned a monthly salary of Rs. 20,000 – 25,000, driving regular customers in the city. Similarly, Parameswary who worked at the CMBT bus stand earned Rs. 30,000 each month. However, since the beginning of the lockdown period, both have been hard-pressed to earn a daily wage of Rs. 200-300.

The situation is particularly bad for Parameswary who has no regular customers because most of her customers are foreigners who come from Mumbai, Dubai. Singapore and Canada. Once the government shut down the inter-state transport services, her earnings were reduced to zero. Even her ‘ladies special’ services from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. near the same bus stand offer no profits. The two drivers have nowhere to express their grievances as there is no separate women’s union in Chennai.

Even so, they receive help and ration from their family members and receive Rs. 5,000 every month from the government after much request.

“My family members who work in shops offer help from time to time so for now I am okay,” said Parameswary. Grateful for the help they receive, the two women help out with emergency services like transporting food and other necessities to the elderly in the city or similar work.

For her and Raji, the problems centre around their wages. However, other women have to deal with family pressure as well.

Unlike the two women in Chennai, Rekha Ghadge, an auto-rickshaw driver in Thane, did not receive her family’s support when she participated in a ‘rickshaw-on-demand’ service started by the City’s Regional Transport Office. Rekha spent a good part of April, May and June transporting pregnant ladies to hospitals. Her family worried that she would have to work in close contact with infected people but she continued with the emergency rides nonetheless.

“At the end of the day, we have to help each other out in times of trouble so I just continue with the work regardless of my family’s warnings,” Rekha told SabrangIndia.

As with all the drivers, Rekha’s daily wages plummeted after the Covid-19 lockdown. At the same time, she received a growing number of calls from her bank for the monthly payment of her autorickshaw.

“I have to pay around Rs. 5,000 per month to the bank. But nowadays I am hardly able to earn a daily wage of Rs. 200. The problem is that once I drop someone at say Ghodbunder, I do not get a passenger while coming back,” said Rekha.

She suspected that the main source of this problem was the lack of railway transport. Currently, railway facilities are unavailable in containment areas like Thane except for essential service workers.

When asked about the condition of women drivers, Rekha said the juggle between professional work and domestic work had become taxing in the last few months.

“I start my work at 10 AM and then return home after 5 PM to start with my house work. We receive rations from NGOs but the government hasn’t offered any help as of yet. We haven’t received the government subsidies either,” she said wishing that share-auto rickshaws would be allowed again.

For now, Rekha shares her earnings with a small group of fellow women drivers.

Meanwhile, the gender discrimination is much more severe in other areas of the city like Kapurbawadi.

Kalpana Reddy told SabrangIndia that she is among the four women drivers working at the Kapurbawadi auto-stand. Everyday her work begins from 8 AM and so do her struggles as she fights for a place to park her vehicle in the auto-rickshaw line.

“The people here argue that drivers who live in Kapurbawadi should be the first in line. As a result, we women who live in other areas have to stand somewhere far behind in the line,” she said.

Prior to coronavirus, Kalpana was not worried about her place in the line. However, such arguments became heated after the lockdown period.

Last week, Kalpana had to call the police after the other drivers allegedly punctured her vehicle. The officials warned the drivers but this seemed to agitate them further.

“I was threatened of physical assault after that incident. The police and RTO officers are very supportive of us women drivers, even the passengers. However, when you receive such abuse in your workplace, who will want to work,” she asked.

Kalpana soon fell sick after the incident so she had to rest a few days. Her husband who is also a rickshaw driver supports her work and had encouraged her to approach the police after the puncturing incident.

However, other family workers have asked Kalpana to quit her job after the recent threats. Her sister and her daughters fear for her life.

“I like driving. I even helped out with the medical emergency rides but working under the current condition is horrible for me,” she said.

 

Related:

Lockdown through the gender lens

 

Women auto-rickshaw drivers struggle to make ends meet during post-lockdown period

Auto-drivers hailed as warriors during the lockdown period continue to suffer from a dearth of adequate wages, lack of family support

Women auto-rickshaw drivers
Representation Image


The past few months have been peppered with news articles regarding the public transport sector’s help in providing emergency rides during the lockdown period. Auto drivers, especially women drivers in metropolitan cities like Thane and Chennai, have been hailed for offering transport service to essential-service-workers and for medical emergencies while dealing with their own financial and social problems.

Women auto rickshaw drivers such as Raji and Parameswary from Chennai have been celebrated in newspapers like The Hindu for their social services.

However, while conversing with SabrangIndia, the two drivers said that their financial burden had started to weigh down on them following the end of the supposed lockdown period. Both the women have failed to pay their house-rent for the last five months.

Prior to the lockdown, Raji earned a monthly salary of Rs. 20,000 – 25,000, driving regular customers in the city. Similarly, Parameswary who worked at the CMBT bus stand earned Rs. 30,000 each month. However, since the beginning of the lockdown period, both have been hard-pressed to earn a daily wage of Rs. 200-300.

The situation is particularly bad for Parameswary who has no regular customers because most of her customers are foreigners who come from Mumbai, Dubai. Singapore and Canada. Once the government shut down the inter-state transport services, her earnings were reduced to zero. Even her ‘ladies special’ services from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. near the same bus stand offer no profits. The two drivers have nowhere to express their grievances as there is no separate women’s union in Chennai.

Even so, they receive help and ration from their family members and receive Rs. 5,000 every month from the government after much request.

“My family members who work in shops offer help from time to time so for now I am okay,” said Parameswary. Grateful for the help they receive, the two women help out with emergency services like transporting food and other necessities to the elderly in the city or similar work.

For her and Raji, the problems centre around their wages. However, other women have to deal with family pressure as well.

Unlike the two women in Chennai, Rekha Ghadge, an auto-rickshaw driver in Thane, did not receive her family’s support when she participated in a ‘rickshaw-on-demand’ service started by the City’s Regional Transport Office. Rekha spent a good part of April, May and June transporting pregnant ladies to hospitals. Her family worried that she would have to work in close contact with infected people but she continued with the emergency rides nonetheless.

“At the end of the day, we have to help each other out in times of trouble so I just continue with the work regardless of my family’s warnings,” Rekha told SabrangIndia.

As with all the drivers, Rekha’s daily wages plummeted after the Covid-19 lockdown. At the same time, she received a growing number of calls from her bank for the monthly payment of her autorickshaw.

“I have to pay around Rs. 5,000 per month to the bank. But nowadays I am hardly able to earn a daily wage of Rs. 200. The problem is that once I drop someone at say Ghodbunder, I do not get a passenger while coming back,” said Rekha.

She suspected that the main source of this problem was the lack of railway transport. Currently, railway facilities are unavailable in containment areas like Thane except for essential service workers.

When asked about the condition of women drivers, Rekha said the juggle between professional work and domestic work had become taxing in the last few months.

“I start my work at 10 AM and then return home after 5 PM to start with my house work. We receive rations from NGOs but the government hasn’t offered any help as of yet. We haven’t received the government subsidies either,” she said wishing that share-auto rickshaws would be allowed again.

For now, Rekha shares her earnings with a small group of fellow women drivers.

Meanwhile, the gender discrimination is much more severe in other areas of the city like Kapurbawadi.

Kalpana Reddy told SabrangIndia that she is among the four women drivers working at the Kapurbawadi auto-stand. Everyday her work begins from 8 AM and so do her struggles as she fights for a place to park her vehicle in the auto-rickshaw line.

“The people here argue that drivers who live in Kapurbawadi should be the first in line. As a result, we women who live in other areas have to stand somewhere far behind in the line,” she said.

Prior to coronavirus, Kalpana was not worried about her place in the line. However, such arguments became heated after the lockdown period.

Last week, Kalpana had to call the police after the other drivers allegedly punctured her vehicle. The officials warned the drivers but this seemed to agitate them further.

“I was threatened of physical assault after that incident. The police and RTO officers are very supportive of us women drivers, even the passengers. However, when you receive such abuse in your workplace, who will want to work,” she asked.

Kalpana soon fell sick after the incident so she had to rest a few days. Her husband who is also a rickshaw driver supports her work and had encouraged her to approach the police after the puncturing incident.

However, other family workers have asked Kalpana to quit her job after the recent threats. Her sister and her daughters fear for her life.

“I like driving. I even helped out with the medical emergency rides but working under the current condition is horrible for me,” she said.

 

Related:

Lockdown through the gender lens

 

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How Begum Rokeya dared women to dream

Sabrangindia 30 Jul 2020

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, considered to be India's first Bengali Muslim Feminist, challenged the social status quo of her time and ridiculed outmoded gender practices while preaching the relevance of equality, women’s education and freedom. Her feminist utopian story 'Sultana's Dream' attempted to make role reversals showing men as the inferior sex and questioned the violence and discrimination perpetuated through the category of gender, providing a critique of patriarchy and the affect of it on women’s lives. Watch this SabrangIndia exclusive video to get a glimpse of Begum Rokeya's legacy and listen to what her admirers have to say about her.

How Begum Rokeya dared women to dream

Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, considered to be India's first Bengali Muslim Feminist, challenged the social status quo of her time and ridiculed outmoded gender practices while preaching the relevance of equality, women’s education and freedom. Her feminist utopian story 'Sultana's Dream' attempted to make role reversals showing men as the inferior sex and questioned the violence and discrimination perpetuated through the category of gender, providing a critique of patriarchy and the affect of it on women’s lives. Watch this SabrangIndia exclusive video to get a glimpse of Begum Rokeya's legacy and listen to what her admirers have to say about her.

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Kerala rapist demands parole to marry survivor; ploy to escape justice?

The former priest had been convicted of raping a minor girl and had allegedly pressured the family to take the case back

29 Jul 2020

ROBIN

In a shocking case of impunity, a former Catholic priest from Kerala has moved court asking for a two-month parole to marry the woman he was convicted of raping. At the time of the abuse, the survivor was 16-years-old and a student of 11th standard. The crime took place in May 2016.

The accused in the case, Robin Vadakkumchery, who was at that time a vicar of the local church at Kottiyur and therefore exercised immense influence in the region. He was arrested in 2018 as he tried to flee to Canada. He was convicted by a Thalaserry POCSO court and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and also fined Rs 2 lakh.

But there was more to the case than sexual exploitation of a minor girl. The survivor delivered a baby in February 2017, who was sent to an orphanage and six people allegedly assisted Vadakkumchery in the case; Thangamma Nelliyani, Wayanad Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Chairman Fr Thomas Joseph Therakam, CWC committee member Sister Betty Jose and Superintendent of an orphanage in Wayanad Sister Ophelia, along with Sister Liss Mariya and Sister Anita. However, the court acquitted them all.

Vadakkumchery was defrocked by the Pope in March 2020, something that any other clergyman would have viewed as a humiliating punishment. But not Vadakkumcherry who instead used this as a means to further his get-out-of-jail agenda. On July 15 this year he filed an application counter-signed by the survivor’s parents saying that now that he is no longer a priest, he is not bound by the vow of celibacy. He further said that he ‘was in love’ with the survivor who is now 20 years old. He said he wants parole to marry the survivor and take care of their child who is at present still growing up in institutional care. However, grounds for parole are stringent and limited to death of a close family member and sickness.  

There are two key disturbing elements to this latest development; firstly it is difficult to tell if the survivor has been coerced or pressured into agreeing to marrying her rapist, and secondly, if the rapist is using this opportunity to marry the survivor just to weaken the rape case against him, thus attempting to escape his sentence. This ploy to marry the survivor is not new and the high premium society places on marriage is often used as a means to commit further injustice.

However, in the matter of State of Madhya Pradesh vs Madan Lal (2015), the Supreme Court had observed, “No compromise is legally permissible in a rape case. Such attitude reflects lack of sensibility towards the dignity of women.”

It is noteworthy that in the past the survivor’s father had been pressured to accept false allegations of raping his daughter. The family had also allegedly been offered Rs 10 lakhs.

But now, in a letter to leaders of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, a group of catholic women including eminent lawyers, social activists, academicians and theologicians, under the umbrella of Sisters in Solidarity have said, “We are afraid that the girl and her family coming from a very vulnerable background and from a low economic status will be lured by the economic offers made by the culprit or for the privileged position he held in their life as a priest earlier, and so they may give in to his proposal for marriage. We find this extremely atrocious and read this as an attempt on his part to escape punishment.”

The group went on to say, “Rape of a minor is a very serious crime. Even more serious when committed by a priest who is bound by the vow of celibacy, due to which people trust him unquestioningly. Such atrocious moves on the part of rapists become a violation of the very dignity of women.” The letter also warns, “With increasing number of child sexual abuse cases coming to light within the Catholic Church, it is even more important to declare that the Church does not support child rape as a basis for legitimising a Christian marriage. Silence in this case will be seen as the Church being party to crime.”

The group has made the following proposals to safeguard the survivor and bring about much-needed reforms in the Church:

·That the survivor should be kept under the guidance of a counsellor to prevent her from making decisions that may mar her future.

·That the KCBC/CBCI takes steps to ensure that priests trained in seminaries should be able to handle their sexuality and their celibacy with responsibility, and treat girls, women and nuns with dignity and respect.

·That priests are trained in the laws covering sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults and that their formation ensures that they understand they are not above any law.

·That the various associations in the Catholic Church at the national/regional/ diocesan/parish level take up programmes that will facilitate a change in attitudes of men towards women, as well as women towards themselves.

·That the CBCI Gender Policy be enforced with determination. A frame work for implementation should be put in place with structures, funds, and other resources where proven women leaders are given responsibility for executing the same. There should also be periodic evaluation mechanisms to take stock of progress.

·That awareness of the nation’s POCSO and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act 2013 are implemented in Church institutions and parishes.

·That Church and State authorities take cognizance of the increasing revelations of abuse by people in power and authority in religious institutions and set up monitoring mechanisms that will stringently apply the country’s laws as deterrent to future abuse.

·That the CBCI takes urgent measures to ensure that the integrity of the Church is not jeopardized by the increasing instances of clergy sexual abuse in India.

 

Related:

How the Church needs to change the way it addresses Sexual and Gender-based abuse

Cultures of Death: Pope Francis, Apology and Child Abuse

Kerala nun rape case: Court dismisses Bishop Mulakkal’s discharge plea

Kerala rapist demands parole to marry survivor; ploy to escape justice?

The former priest had been convicted of raping a minor girl and had allegedly pressured the family to take the case back

ROBIN

In a shocking case of impunity, a former Catholic priest from Kerala has moved court asking for a two-month parole to marry the woman he was convicted of raping. At the time of the abuse, the survivor was 16-years-old and a student of 11th standard. The crime took place in May 2016.

The accused in the case, Robin Vadakkumchery, who was at that time a vicar of the local church at Kottiyur and therefore exercised immense influence in the region. He was arrested in 2018 as he tried to flee to Canada. He was convicted by a Thalaserry POCSO court and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment and also fined Rs 2 lakh.

But there was more to the case than sexual exploitation of a minor girl. The survivor delivered a baby in February 2017, who was sent to an orphanage and six people allegedly assisted Vadakkumchery in the case; Thangamma Nelliyani, Wayanad Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Chairman Fr Thomas Joseph Therakam, CWC committee member Sister Betty Jose and Superintendent of an orphanage in Wayanad Sister Ophelia, along with Sister Liss Mariya and Sister Anita. However, the court acquitted them all.

Vadakkumchery was defrocked by the Pope in March 2020, something that any other clergyman would have viewed as a humiliating punishment. But not Vadakkumcherry who instead used this as a means to further his get-out-of-jail agenda. On July 15 this year he filed an application counter-signed by the survivor’s parents saying that now that he is no longer a priest, he is not bound by the vow of celibacy. He further said that he ‘was in love’ with the survivor who is now 20 years old. He said he wants parole to marry the survivor and take care of their child who is at present still growing up in institutional care. However, grounds for parole are stringent and limited to death of a close family member and sickness.  

There are two key disturbing elements to this latest development; firstly it is difficult to tell if the survivor has been coerced or pressured into agreeing to marrying her rapist, and secondly, if the rapist is using this opportunity to marry the survivor just to weaken the rape case against him, thus attempting to escape his sentence. This ploy to marry the survivor is not new and the high premium society places on marriage is often used as a means to commit further injustice.

However, in the matter of State of Madhya Pradesh vs Madan Lal (2015), the Supreme Court had observed, “No compromise is legally permissible in a rape case. Such attitude reflects lack of sensibility towards the dignity of women.”

It is noteworthy that in the past the survivor’s father had been pressured to accept false allegations of raping his daughter. The family had also allegedly been offered Rs 10 lakhs.

But now, in a letter to leaders of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council, a group of catholic women including eminent lawyers, social activists, academicians and theologicians, under the umbrella of Sisters in Solidarity have said, “We are afraid that the girl and her family coming from a very vulnerable background and from a low economic status will be lured by the economic offers made by the culprit or for the privileged position he held in their life as a priest earlier, and so they may give in to his proposal for marriage. We find this extremely atrocious and read this as an attempt on his part to escape punishment.”

The group went on to say, “Rape of a minor is a very serious crime. Even more serious when committed by a priest who is bound by the vow of celibacy, due to which people trust him unquestioningly. Such atrocious moves on the part of rapists become a violation of the very dignity of women.” The letter also warns, “With increasing number of child sexual abuse cases coming to light within the Catholic Church, it is even more important to declare that the Church does not support child rape as a basis for legitimising a Christian marriage. Silence in this case will be seen as the Church being party to crime.”

The group has made the following proposals to safeguard the survivor and bring about much-needed reforms in the Church:

·That the survivor should be kept under the guidance of a counsellor to prevent her from making decisions that may mar her future.

·That the KCBC/CBCI takes steps to ensure that priests trained in seminaries should be able to handle their sexuality and their celibacy with responsibility, and treat girls, women and nuns with dignity and respect.

·That priests are trained in the laws covering sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults and that their formation ensures that they understand they are not above any law.

·That the various associations in the Catholic Church at the national/regional/ diocesan/parish level take up programmes that will facilitate a change in attitudes of men towards women, as well as women towards themselves.

·That the CBCI Gender Policy be enforced with determination. A frame work for implementation should be put in place with structures, funds, and other resources where proven women leaders are given responsibility for executing the same. There should also be periodic evaluation mechanisms to take stock of progress.

·That awareness of the nation’s POCSO and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act 2013 are implemented in Church institutions and parishes.

·That Church and State authorities take cognizance of the increasing revelations of abuse by people in power and authority in religious institutions and set up monitoring mechanisms that will stringently apply the country’s laws as deterrent to future abuse.

·That the CBCI takes urgent measures to ensure that the integrity of the Church is not jeopardized by the increasing instances of clergy sexual abuse in India.

 

Related:

How the Church needs to change the way it addresses Sexual and Gender-based abuse

Cultures of Death: Pope Francis, Apology and Child Abuse

Kerala nun rape case: Court dismisses Bishop Mulakkal’s discharge plea

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Punjab and Haryana HC comes to the rescue of lesbian couple

The girls had been living together and facing threats from their families

23 Jul 2020

Punjab and Haryana HC comes to the rescue of lesbian couple

A young lesbian couple was provided relief by the Punjab and Haryana High Court when the court directed the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Mohali to assess the threat to the couple and provide security if required.

The girls had been living together for six months and were facing threats from their families. They had moved court seeking protection. While same sex relationships were decriminalised by a landmark Supreme Court judgment in 2018, same sex marriages are yet to be brought under the purview of the law. However, the court observed that the legitimacy of their relationship is of no consequence when it comes to their life and liberty and ordered the SSP Mohali to look into the threat to their lives.

The order by Justice Monga, as reported by the Indian Express said, “Social ethos, outlook and the philosophy appears to be evolving amongst gay couples so as to gather courage and openly come out of their closets, even though gay marriage is not yet legitimate as per the applicable marriage laws in the country, And, therefore, the live in relationships.”

The order went on to say, “Be that as it may, the petitioners are entitled to protection of their lives and liberty as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, regardless of the nature of relationship between them. Assuming, they were living simply as friends together, even then they are constitutionally entitled to live in peace. Legitimacy of their relationship with each other, therefore, is of no consequence viz-a-viz their right to life and liberty.”

Related:

I never felt anything about my daughter was ‘different’: Chitra Palekar

Sweekar – Accepting LGBT children

 

Punjab and Haryana HC comes to the rescue of lesbian couple

The girls had been living together and facing threats from their families

Punjab and Haryana HC comes to the rescue of lesbian couple

A young lesbian couple was provided relief by the Punjab and Haryana High Court when the court directed the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Mohali to assess the threat to the couple and provide security if required.

The girls had been living together for six months and were facing threats from their families. They had moved court seeking protection. While same sex relationships were decriminalised by a landmark Supreme Court judgment in 2018, same sex marriages are yet to be brought under the purview of the law. However, the court observed that the legitimacy of their relationship is of no consequence when it comes to their life and liberty and ordered the SSP Mohali to look into the threat to their lives.

The order by Justice Monga, as reported by the Indian Express said, “Social ethos, outlook and the philosophy appears to be evolving amongst gay couples so as to gather courage and openly come out of their closets, even though gay marriage is not yet legitimate as per the applicable marriage laws in the country, And, therefore, the live in relationships.”

The order went on to say, “Be that as it may, the petitioners are entitled to protection of their lives and liberty as envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, regardless of the nature of relationship between them. Assuming, they were living simply as friends together, even then they are constitutionally entitled to live in peace. Legitimacy of their relationship with each other, therefore, is of no consequence viz-a-viz their right to life and liberty.”

Related:

I never felt anything about my daughter was ‘different’: Chitra Palekar

Sweekar – Accepting LGBT children

 

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Uttarakhand to confer ownership right to women working in husband’s fields

Until now ownership right to land was conferred by birth only to the sons, the amendment seeks to include daughters as well for inheriting father’s property

22 Jul 2020

women

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat while speaking at a public event on July 20, expressed his intention of giving land ownership rights to women along with their husbands. The state government is planning to amend the Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, to give effect to the same.

“Traditionally in the hilly areas, men and their wives are involved in the farming on their land. However, men are largely involved in just heavy labour intensive work like ploughing of the field and remaining about 90% farming related works are done by their wives only. Despite that they don’t have any ownership of that piece of land but their husbands,” Rawat told Hindustan Times.

He further said that since ownership does not lie with women, they are unable to take any loan for any farming related work, if they need to. He said that the status quo is unfair since women do maximum work on fields and yet, are deprived of ownership rights on those lands. This amendment will give them ownership rights on land they work while making them self-dependent and will contribute towards women empowerment.

As per Housing and Land Rights Network, In India around 87.3% of women are dependent on agriculture, and yet not more than 10.34 per cent own land, which is the most important household asset. According to the Agricultural Census 2010-11, of the total operational holdings in India, about 12.78 per cent were operated by women.

As per a research paper of Department of Policy Studies TERI School of Advanced Studies by Prakriti Sharma, titled ‘Evolving Role Of Women In The Context Of Male Out-Migration: A Study In A Hill District Of Uttarakhand’ the asset ownership status of women in Uttarakhand is dismal. The paper states that with agriculture as the primary activity of most households in the state, 60.25% households owned about 17,000 sq.ft. of land or less. 89% women did not have property rights over that land which restricted their control and ownership over land.

The details of the amendment are still not divulged hence, it is unclear as to what kind of ownership rights the state will confer upon a wife, related to spousal property but in any case, it is a move towards gender equality, and holds immense significance in women’s rights jurisprudence and legislation in the long run.

Women’s right to ownership of land in India

Property rights have predominantly been in favour of men leaving much less space for women to acquire or inherit property. Amendments to succession law and property law have created space for women to own land and inherit land, albeit in a limited sense. The Hindu Succession Act was the first law to provide a comprehensive and uniform system of inheritance among Hindus and to address gender inequalities in the area of inheritance. It gave women absolute right of ownership over land. It still lacks in not giving daughters the right to be coparcener or in simple terms having the right to a property by virtue of birth.

States like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka already have amendments in place for inclusion of daughter as a coparcener by birth in her own right and enables the daughter to have equal share in such coparcenary property. In these states daughters also have the right to dispose of property thus inherited by them.

Women farmers in India

In 2011, the Women Farmers’ Entitlements Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha, which is now lapsed. It sought to give certified women farmers “equal ownership and inheritance rights over her husband's self acquired agricultural land, or his share of family property, or his share of land transferred by the Government under land reform or resettlement scheme”. Such ownership did not need to be proved by way of document but a woman would be deemed to have ownership in scuh land and the fact that she is the wife of a particular person is the conclusive proof to claim ownership.

This piece of legislation would have given considerable impetus to women empowerment and attainment of gender equality had it been passed by the Parliament.

Related:

Van Gujjars assaulted by police and forest officials, CJP moves NHRC demanding justice

UP Adivasis oppose land grab attempt, get death threats

AIUFWP seeks place in committee investigating attack on Van Gujjars  

 

Uttarakhand to confer ownership right to women working in husband’s fields

Until now ownership right to land was conferred by birth only to the sons, the amendment seeks to include daughters as well for inheriting father’s property

women

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Trivendra Singh Rawat while speaking at a public event on July 20, expressed his intention of giving land ownership rights to women along with their husbands. The state government is planning to amend the Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, to give effect to the same.

“Traditionally in the hilly areas, men and their wives are involved in the farming on their land. However, men are largely involved in just heavy labour intensive work like ploughing of the field and remaining about 90% farming related works are done by their wives only. Despite that they don’t have any ownership of that piece of land but their husbands,” Rawat told Hindustan Times.

He further said that since ownership does not lie with women, they are unable to take any loan for any farming related work, if they need to. He said that the status quo is unfair since women do maximum work on fields and yet, are deprived of ownership rights on those lands. This amendment will give them ownership rights on land they work while making them self-dependent and will contribute towards women empowerment.

As per Housing and Land Rights Network, In India around 87.3% of women are dependent on agriculture, and yet not more than 10.34 per cent own land, which is the most important household asset. According to the Agricultural Census 2010-11, of the total operational holdings in India, about 12.78 per cent were operated by women.

As per a research paper of Department of Policy Studies TERI School of Advanced Studies by Prakriti Sharma, titled ‘Evolving Role Of Women In The Context Of Male Out-Migration: A Study In A Hill District Of Uttarakhand’ the asset ownership status of women in Uttarakhand is dismal. The paper states that with agriculture as the primary activity of most households in the state, 60.25% households owned about 17,000 sq.ft. of land or less. 89% women did not have property rights over that land which restricted their control and ownership over land.

The details of the amendment are still not divulged hence, it is unclear as to what kind of ownership rights the state will confer upon a wife, related to spousal property but in any case, it is a move towards gender equality, and holds immense significance in women’s rights jurisprudence and legislation in the long run.

Women’s right to ownership of land in India

Property rights have predominantly been in favour of men leaving much less space for women to acquire or inherit property. Amendments to succession law and property law have created space for women to own land and inherit land, albeit in a limited sense. The Hindu Succession Act was the first law to provide a comprehensive and uniform system of inheritance among Hindus and to address gender inequalities in the area of inheritance. It gave women absolute right of ownership over land. It still lacks in not giving daughters the right to be coparcener or in simple terms having the right to a property by virtue of birth.

States like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka already have amendments in place for inclusion of daughter as a coparcener by birth in her own right and enables the daughter to have equal share in such coparcenary property. In these states daughters also have the right to dispose of property thus inherited by them.

Women farmers in India

In 2011, the Women Farmers’ Entitlements Bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha, which is now lapsed. It sought to give certified women farmers “equal ownership and inheritance rights over her husband's self acquired agricultural land, or his share of family property, or his share of land transferred by the Government under land reform or resettlement scheme”. Such ownership did not need to be proved by way of document but a woman would be deemed to have ownership in scuh land and the fact that she is the wife of a particular person is the conclusive proof to claim ownership.

This piece of legislation would have given considerable impetus to women empowerment and attainment of gender equality had it been passed by the Parliament.

Related:

Van Gujjars assaulted by police and forest officials, CJP moves NHRC demanding justice

UP Adivasis oppose land grab attempt, get death threats

AIUFWP seeks place in committee investigating attack on Van Gujjars  

 

Related Articles


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