All posts by Lawrence Liang

Comrade Chintamani: Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar

This is a guest post from Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar (FMS), a monthly workers’ newspaper published from Majdoor Library

This appeared in Hindi in August 2015, New Series 326 and has been translated into English  by Pratik Ali and Sheena Jain.

In the early hours of 31st July, Comrade Chintamani passed away.

Saathi Chintamani was born in the village Mustafabad Saraiyya of Kadipur tehsil, Sultanpur district in eastern Uttar Pradesh. He studied till class 12th. Rejected tempting offers for converting to another religion, he joined as an impounding official in the Department of Agriculture, Uttar Pradesh government. While he was on duty once, realizing dues, he thrashed some people for insulting him over his caste. To avoid upper-caste backlash, he left his permanent job and moved to some relatives at Faridabad. After working for a month or two each at Bata, Goodyear, Dabur, Escorts, etc., he became a permanent worker in Gedore Tools. Together with the job, he was active in politics of caste of the Ambedkarite current. Long conversations with Com. Vijay Shankar of neighboring Babripur village strengthened his grip upon the new reality of having become, and of being, a wage-worker.

In 1977 wage-worker stirrings intensified greatly in Faridabad, and Saathi Chintamani was very active in them. He lent special support to the militant workers of Usha Spinning and Weaving Mill and the Bharatiya Electric Steel Factories. He was among those who left eighty unions to form Majdoor Sangharsh Samiti (Workers’ Struggle Committee). In 1979, many workers were killed in police firing in Faridabad. After internal emergency was lifted in 1977, Com. Vijay Shankar was dismissed from his job for his role in the Delhi Faridabad Textile (DFT) strikes. Wage-workers from Bata, Gedore, Poritts & Spencer, Electricity Board, Handa Steel, East India Cotton Mills, Orient Steel, Leatherite, etc. got together with Com. Vijay Shankar at Azad Nagar jhuggi (shanties) and Mujesar for collective study of Karl Marx’s book, ‘Capital’. Saathi Chintamani was among them.

Continue reading Comrade Chintamani: Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar

Statement from Gulflabor.org in solidarity with artists denied entry into UAE for involvement with labour rights

Solidarity Statement
This week, Mumbai-based artist Ashok Sukumaran was denied a UAE visa to travel as an invited speaker and moderator at the March Meeting, an annual gathering of artists in Sharjah. Sukumaran has a long history of artistic work and commitments in the region including at the Sharjah Biennials (2009, 2011, 2013) and at events including Art Dubai and several prior editions of the March Meetings. His visa application by the hosts of this year’s March Meeting, to be held mid-May, was denied three times.While the official reason was given only as “security”, we believe this denial of entry is due to his association with Gulf Labor, a group of artists who have been boycotting the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and asking for better conditions for the workers building museums on Saaidyat Island. Last month, another Gulf Labor associate NYU professor Andrew Ross was denied entry to the UAE for “security” reasons. We believe this is a negative and cynical trajectory in which artists and academics who have a stake in and long-standing concerns for the region, are being excluded from it.

Continue reading Statement from Gulflabor.org in solidarity with artists denied entry into UAE for involvement with labour rights

An Open Letter by the Protestors at National Law University, Delhi

An open letter from students at National Law University

Abish Mathew, comedian of the AIB Roast fame, performed at NLU Delhi on the 22nd of March for our annual fest, Kairos. Early in the show, Matthew cracked a joke on domestic violence, at which point, two women students who found the jokes to be extremely misogynistic, walked out, showing him the middle finger. The audience reacted with some tittering, and Abish Mathew fumbled momentarily, before resuming. The audience asked him to carry on and to ignore the protesters. In the mean time, a group of female students marched into the auditorium holding placards reading “Get Out, Sexist Pig”, and also used expletives such as ‘fuck off’.

The auditorium erupted in shouts of “fuck you guys” and the protesters were booed and heckled by the audience members who demanded that the protestors either leave or move to the side. They eventually did move to the side of the auditorium, where they continued to hold their placards up and attempted to interrupt him. Abish was greeted by a standing ovation when he stated that he was an artist and recognized the right of the protesters, and subsequently when he ended his show by stating he had overstayed his welcome.

Continue reading An Open Letter by the Protestors at National Law University, Delhi

The Death of 66A and The Dawn of a New Era of Free Speech Jurisprudence: Siddharth Narrain

Guest Post by  SIDDHARTH NARRAIN

It’s not often that India’s Supreme Court strikes down a law in its entirety as a violation of the free speech. But when it does, boy do you want to stand up and cheer. Before a packed courtroom, Justices Rohinton Nariman and G. Chelameswar, pronounced their judgment in Shreya Singhal & Ors. v. Union of India,, striking down, in its entirety, the controversial section 66A of the Information Technology Act in its entirety. The full text of the decision is not available yet. But Justice Nariman read out parts of the court decision, enough to give us a sense of what is to come.

Continue reading The Death of 66A and The Dawn of a New Era of Free Speech Jurisprudence: Siddharth Narrain

@NarendraModi, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the brand: Joyojeet Pal

Guest post by Joyojeet Pal

Political Social Media had a minor event this week. The world’s two most followed elected leaders on social media, shared the media centerstage. Barack Obama, with 45 million fans on Facebook and 54 million followers on Twitter, and his Indian counterpart Modi, with 27 million on Facebook and another 9.8 million on Twitter, together command the arguably most powerful political brands on social media. In a rare moment of realpolitik bromance, Narendra Modi sent Barack Obama a smiley for quoting Shah Rukh Khan in the Lok Sabha. A day later, Narendra Modi became the first Indian politician to use Twitter’s new video feature in a carefully cut 30-second monologue.

Modi campaign’s exceptional presence on social media is not news. He is India’s most “liked” person on Facebook. While he still trails actors Amitabh Bachchan the Khan troika and the Dalai Lama from among India’s resident Tweeters, his average of adding 20,000 followers daily for much of the last year should put him safely past his competition by the end of the year.

Continue reading @NarendraModi, or how I learned to stop worrying and love the brand: Joyojeet Pal

High Level Committee of Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change walks out of Public Consultation in Bangalore: Press Release

High Level Committee of Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change walks out of Public Consultation in Bangalore

The High Level Committee headed by Mr. T. S. R. Subramanian, former Union Cabinet Secretary, constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change to review environment, pollution control and forest conservation laws, invited the public at large for a consultation between 12 and 1.30 pm today (27th September) at Vikas Soudha, the high security office complex of the Government of Karnataka. Advertisements to this effect had been issued by the Karnataka Department of Forest, Ecology and Environment in various newspapers on 21st September 2014, followed up by various press releases inviting the public to interact with the Committee.

When various individuals and representatives of public interest environmental and social action groups turned up for the meeting, the police prevented their entry at the gates. It was only following a spot protest that the police consented to allow them to participate in the consultation. Despite this indignifying experience, all who gathered proceeded to the meeting hall with the intent of engaging with the High Level Committee.

Continue reading High Level Committee of Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change walks out of Public Consultation in Bangalore: Press Release

Striving for plurality in Media – The promises and shortcomings of TRAI’s recommendations on media ownership: Smarika Kumar

Guest post by SMARIKA KUMAR

TRAI published a set of recommendations on issues relating to media ownership on 12 August 2014. A summary of the key points of these recommendations may be found here. But what do these recommendations imply for the freedom of speech and expression in India? This post is an attempt to contextualise TRAI’s recommendations against this question.

From No Regulation on the Business of Speech to Some Regulation on the Business of Speech

In its introductory chapter, TRAI says that the objective of its recommendations is to achieve plurality of views and opinions in media. It states:

The objective of these recommendations is not, in any sense whatsoever, to curb the media or deprive it of its rights – that, in fact, would be a disservice to the Indian citizen – but to put in place suitable safeguards that would ensure citizens the right to obtain objective, unbiased and diverse views and opinions.” (para 1.5)

This is a remarkable move because the idea of media plurality has remained contested in the understanding of Article 19(1)(a) of our Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression to Indian citizens. The whole dance began in 1961 with the judgment of Sakal Newspapers v. Union of India, where the government sought to regulate the number of pages a newspaper could carry. Since such regulation would make newspaper prices of smaller newspapers comparable to big newspapers, the government argued that it would enable the smaller newspapers to secure larger circulation. One can clearly see how this was an attempt at enabling plurality in the newspaper business, so that the smaller voices are not stifled by the big voices.

Continue reading Striving for plurality in Media – The promises and shortcomings of TRAI’s recommendations on media ownership: Smarika Kumar

The Chunduru Caste Atrocity – Discussing a Retrograde Judgment: Anonymous

Guest post by An Anonymous Advocate from the AP High Court 

On 22nd April, 2014, two Judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court held that there was no evidence in the Chunduru atrocity case. The court acquitted all the accused. Not just that. They blamed the Dalits for not being responsible enough in alerting the police immediately, and obliquely cast a doubt on their integrity.

The Chunduru atrocity has gained national importance as much for the atrocity itself as for its place in the Dalit movement. On 6th August 1991, eight dalits were hacked to death by the upper caste men of Chunduru village, located in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh. The political mobilization that was generated around this atrocity became the corner stone for the Dalit movement in Andhra Pradesh, and an inspiration for Dalit movements elsewhere in the country. On the legal side, it has been one of those long-drawn trials, resiliently overcoming one hurdle after another, be it the controversy around who the victims are (Dalits or Christians), or regarding the choice of the Special Public Prosecutor for the trial, or the venue of the trial. The case went back and forth between the High Court and the trial court, having been contested viciously by the Reddy accused, their lawyers and their ideologues.

Continue reading The Chunduru Caste Atrocity – Discussing a Retrograde Judgment: Anonymous

Big media has become bigger – Media Diversity and Reliance’s takeover of Network 18: Smarika Kumar

Guest Post by Smarika Kumar

Big media has become bigger. The takeover of Network 18 by Reliance has consolidated news media in the country like nothing before. The Reliance-Network18 combination is, in fact, not exactly new. It was actually executed a couple of years ago in a very telling, roundabout fashion when Reliance lent money to Network18 through a trust called IMT, among other things, to buy all of its media properties. As a result of Network18’s debt, Reliance could then dictate to it the terms of repayment, which were agreed between the two entities in the form of debentures convertible to shares.

The resulting combination brings TV channels like CNBC-TV18, CNBC Awaaz, CNN-IBN, IBN7, IBN-Lokmat, ETV-Rajasthan, ETV-Bihar, ETV-Uttar Pradesh, ETV-Urdu, ETV-Marathi, ETV-Bangla, ETV-Gujarati, ETV-Kannada, ETV-Oriya, ETV-Telegu, ETV-2, Colors, MTV, VH1 and Nick; web content properties such as moneycontrol.com, ibnlive.com, and firstpost.com; as well as magazines like Forbes India under a single umbrella of ownership and control. (For a complete list of media properties held by Reliance currently, scroll to the end of this article.)

  Continue reading Big media has become bigger – Media Diversity and Reliance’s takeover of Network 18: Smarika Kumar

Remembering Naz: Danish Sheikh

Guest Post by DANISH SHEIKH

“We declare that Section 377 IPC, insofar it criminalises consensual sexual acts of adults in private, is violative of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution.” Today marks 5 years of the Delhi High Court’s Naz Foundation v. Union of India judgment. Every year since the judgment came out, this has been a day marked by celebration. I remember this day in 2009 when the sheer novelty of the “decriminalized” tag reverberated through us in euphoric waves; the time in 2011 when we stood with flamboyant helium balloons in Bangalore’s Cubbon park, struggling with an untimely Bangalore drizzle; and then in 2013 in the same park, where the rain gave way to a too bright sun and lingering uncertainty about the fate of the judgment. It is now 2014 and we know its immediate fate. It has hit a bit of a, shall we say, roadbump.

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Honouring Mukul Sinha: The Struggle of Memory Against Forgetting: Saumya Uma and Arvind Narrain

This is a guest post by Saumya Uma and Arvind Narrain

Among the miniscule tribe of human rights lawyers, even one loss is irreplaceable. We felt that way when we lost K. Balagopal in 2009, K.G. Kannabiran in 2010 and most recently when, Mukul Sinha passed away on 12 May 2013. Each of these figures were giants in the world of human rights activism who struggled for an idea of India which all too often remained an ideal and a vision, sometimes far from reality. Regardless of how distant the vision of a real and functioning democracy, founded on the ideals of social and economic justice was, these three figures never lost heart, always communicating a spirit of hope about the future based on concrete and grounded work in the present. Continue reading Honouring Mukul Sinha: The Struggle of Memory Against Forgetting: Saumya Uma and Arvind Narrain

A Matter of Honour ? A Response to B. G Verghese’s views on the Kunan Poshpora Mass Rape: Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh

Guest post by Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh

 I have thought hard about why I want to write this piece at all, since so many others before me, have made robust critiques of Mr B.G Verghese’s well-known views on the Kunan Poshpora mass rape. Past criticism has focussed on questions of his obvious biases– both personal and professional, his misogyny and profound lack of empathy for the victims, his blinding nationalism, the tenor and language of his reportage. Most however accept his version of the facts, given his (often self proclaimed) claims to veracity bolstered by official hospitality, access to documents, and his reputation as an eminent journalist. ‘There was a delay in making an official complaint’ ‘medical evidence shows that the mass rapes did not take place’, ‘villager’s and early official accounts of that night are full of gaps and contradictions’, these have become the pervasive truths about the events of February 23-24, 1991, to the point where his decriers can often only counter him by explaining away the inconvenient and the inexplicable, within the narrative and factual scaffolding that he provides. Mr Verghese points to this when he writes, ‘Sadly, it [the Press Council of India Report] was and is widely criticised to this day, without critics having read it or controverted its substantive findings’. Mr Verghese fails to disclose that until recently no one has had access to the ‘substantive’ material that could allow such a critique, because the state had never disclosed that any other investigative material existed simply replying to RTIs seeking information on the status of the case, with the inscrutable ‘closed as untraced’. The unwieldy length of this piece (8000 words) will, I hope, serve to finally pursuade him that not only is his work read, it is read in painstaking detail.

Continue reading A Matter of Honour ? A Response to B. G Verghese’s views on the Kunan Poshpora Mass Rape: Shrimoyee Nandini Ghosh

(En) Gendering a Rights Revolution: Siddharth Narrain

Guest Post by SIDDHARTH NARRAIN

The Supreme Court, in the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) judgment delivered today has recognized the legal and constitutional rights of transgender persons, including the rights of the hijra community as a ‘third gender’. In judgment of immense breadth and vision, Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and A.K. Sikri have brought hope and a promise of citizenship to a community that has largely been outside the legal framework.

NALSA filed this petition in 2012. In 2013, this matter was tagged together with a petition filed in the Supreme Court by the Poojaya Mata Nasib Kaur Ji Women’s Welfare Society, an organization working for kinnars, a transgender community. Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, a well-known transgender rights activist from Mumbai also intervened in this case.

In this piece, I will point to the highlights of this judgment and why it will go down in history as one of the most rights enhancing decisions in the Court’s history. I cannot but remark on the irony of this judgment being delivered just a few months after Koushal, in which the Supreme Court recriminalized LGBT persons and upheld the constitutionality of section 377 of the IPC. The Court acknowledges this, but makes it clear that while it recognizes that section 377 is used to harass and discriminate against transgender persons, this judgment leaves Koushal undisturbed, and instead focuses specifically on the legal recognition of the transgender community.

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Supreme Court recognizes transgender people as third gender

A two judge bench (Radhakrishnan and Sikri, JJ) of the the Supreme Court has delivered a judgment in  National Legal Services Authority versus Union of India which  recognizes transgendered people as a third gender. We will follow this post with a more detailed analysis of the judgment, but for now the operative part of the ruling

129. We, therefore, declare:

(1) Hijras, Eunuchs, apart from binary gender, be treated as “third gender” for the purpose of safeguarding their rights under Part III of our Constitution and the laws made by the Parliament and the State Legislature.

(2) Transgender persons’ right to decide their self-identified gender is also upheld and the Centre and State Governments are directed to grant legal recognition of their gender identity such as male, female or as third gender.

(3) We direct the Centre and the State Governments to take steps to treat them as socially and educationallybackward classes of citizens and extend all kinds of reservation in cases of admission in educational institutions and for public appointments.

(4) Centre and State Governments are directed to operate separate HIV Sero-survellance Centres since Hijras/ Transgenders face several sexual health issues.

(5)Centre and State Governments should seriously address the problems being faced by Hijras/Transgenders such as fear, shame, gender dysphoria, social pressure, depression, suicidal tendencies, social stigma, etc. and any insistence for SRS for declaring one’s gender is immoral and illegal.

(6) Centre and State Governments should take proper measures to provide medical care to TGs in the hospitals and also provide them separate public toilets and other facilities.

(7) Centre and State Governments should also take steps for framing various social welfare schemes for their betterment.

(8) Centre and State Governments should take steps to create public awareness so that TGs will feel that they are also part and parcel of the social life and be not treated as untouchables.

(9)Centre and the State Governments should also take measures to regain their respect and place in the society which once they enjoyed in our cultural and social life.

 

 

Bourgeois Imagination and Freedom from Gender Crimes – Limits of a Social Category: Sanjay Kumar

This is a guest post by SANJAY KUMAR

(This is an expanded version of the article that has appeared in Stree Mukti, January, 2014)

There is a reason crime fiction is one of the most popular genres in bourgeois societies. Nowhere else, except in the equally fictitious assumptions of the Neo-Classical economic theory, is a human being  made to appear an isolated individual in her motives and abilities, as completely as in crime fiction. Borrowing from a famous Ibsen play, in crime fiction, ‘a criminal stands most alone at the moment of crime’. Only her/his motives and acts determine the crime. Bourgeois law also assumes the same about criminal guilt, though punishment is often given under the light of ‘mitigating circumstances’, which mostly is a back door for all kinds of class and social prejudices. Among the ideologies that inhabit a society’s discursive world there often is a dominant ideology which mainly reflects imperatives of the prevailing economic and political order. The feudal ideological world is dominated by notions of  loyalty, honour, and community, all of which are the essential ideological glue, as well the felt reality of the hierarchical web of a feudal society. Bourgeois society is founded upon private property. Even though their consciousness is socially formed, its members see themselves as formed and ready prior to their social engagements. Their attributes appear to them as their own, inherent qualities. This gives a moral boost to the enjoyment of fruits of private property; that is the charm of bourgeois consciousness. In crime fiction, criminals as sole proprietors of their motives and abilities thrust themselves against social prohibitions in diabolically creative ways. That is its (hidden) charm.

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No Country for Cricket: Umang Kumar

Guest post by UMANG KUMAR
I have to confess that there are many times that I too have wanted to stop supporting the Indian cricket team and root for some other team. And this is not just with the current lineup and their losses in South Africa and New Zealand. Why, even when Gundappa Viswanath failed in inning after inning, when, in the pre-Kapil days, Indian pacers (“fast medium”) like Karsan Ghavri and Mohinder Amarnath huffed and puffed, there were times I just wanted to say good riddance. Thank you India, I think I’ll switch allegiance – I’ll go support Clive Lloyds’ West Indies or Asif Iqbal’s Pakistan. Much better teams, so much more exciting to watch!

The Indian cricketers could neither bowl well nor defend modest totals with the bat. And they were lackluster on the field save that one saving grace, Eknath Solkar.
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The Double Cruelty of the Rights of Persons With Disabilities bill: Rijul Kochhar

Guest Post by Rijul Kochhar

In the lives of the disabled, the disability certificate is a commanding entity. It is the artefact of government and the state that interprets the myriad experiences of persons dealing with disabilities, translating and transforming those experiences into a public fact. Thus, the disability certificate offers a particular form and definition of disability, with its attendant mathematical percentage, supplanting the shards of experience with bureaucratic rationality and certitude. This transformation of messy lived experience into mathematical and medical certainty, at once, also affects that larger lived experience of lives lived with a disability[1].

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Of Khap and AAP: Eight Myths about Culture and Caste : N. Balmurli

Guest Post by N. Balmurli

Delhi chief minister Mr. Kejriwal’s claim that “khaps serve a cultural purpose” reproduces some popular myths about culture and caste. These myths predate AAP and have been put into place over the last few years by official and expert statements in public discourse such that they are now part of a “commonsense” of worldviews about caste and culture.

Consider two other statements made by political figures whose parties are at pains to show how retrograde AAP’s statements are.

Continue reading Of Khap and AAP: Eight Myths about Culture and Caste : N. Balmurli

Racism and the NE – Exclusion and prejudice: Arjun Rajkhowa

Guest Post by Arjun Rajkhowa

I read with interest Lawrence Liang and Golan Nauluk’s piece in The Hindu (4 February 2014, ‘Cultural ignorance and prejudice’). They rightly point out the various gaps and fissures in our understanding of racism and its impact on those whose identities are often placed outside the “rubric of Indian nationhood”. They also suggest, insightfully, that the “complicated history of the northeast with its various self-determination movements and armed struggles requires a slightly different imagination of multicultural citizenship”.

Using this as a point of departure, I’d like to discuss another dimension of the “cultural difference” they foreground in their piece – the manner in which Indian nationhood is constructed in the northeast. Manifold exclusionary tendencies manifest themselves in northeastern politics and, for someone who is from the region, it is impossible to disentangle these from current discussions on racism. While it is important to interrogate the existence of prejudicial attitudes towards northeasterners in a city like Delhi, such questioning cannot be extricated from the larger context of the conceptualization of nationhood and identity within the northeast, for the two are closely imbricated issues.

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Will the new Bill benefit the freshly included disabilities? : Amita Dhanda

Guest Post by AMITA DHANDA

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2014 has got caught in the crossfire of different disability groups. Whilst one body of opinion holds that the Bill is regressive, incoherent and needs to be heavily reworked before it can be enacted; the other perspective is that the Bill may not be perfect but at least it provides something to those who are not included in the 1995 Act.  People propounding the something is better than nothing logic, also pertinently point out, that while persons with disabilities who are included in the 1995 Act can afford to wait, that luxury is not available to them.

Thus, the strongest case for passing a less than perfect legislation comes from persons with impairments which are not covered by the 1995 Act.   Significantly, the Bill of 2014 has changed the definition but other provisions, which need to be incorporated in theBill, to ensure that the freshly inducted persons with disabilities obtain all the entitlements (including job reservations) have not been included.  It is submitted that without those provisions being included the expanded definition is going to be of little benefit to the freshly included disabilities. Continue reading Will the new Bill benefit the freshly included disabilities? : Amita Dhanda

A Critique of The Draft Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014: Amba Salelkar

Guest post by  Amba Salelkar, Inclusive Planet Centre for Disability Law and Policy 

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill was meant to be an enactment to codify India’s obligations under the UNCRPD, which it ratified without reservations. There was a Committee set up in 2009 by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, headed by Smt. Sudha Kaul, to draft a Bill to this effect. Like the UNCRPD says, the Committee included different people with disabilities – across disabilities – to draft this Bill. The Draft Bill of 2011 was submitted to the Ministry, and in response to that or otherwise, the Ministry released a Draft Bill in 2012, which are both on the Ministry’s website.

The Draft Bill of 2012 is not as comprehensive and inclusive as the 2011 one, and there were certain serious issues raised before the Ministry on the notification of the 2012 Draft. Thereafter the Draft, apparently still in its 2012 format, went to the various Cabinet Minstries, and then circulated among States. Some version of this Bill was cleared by Cabinet in December 2013. Thereafter, organizations of persons with disabilities, confident that the 2012 Draft was intact, began protests for the speedy introduction and passage of the Bill. I do not know why they did not believe that there had been changes made, but I assume it was in good faith. These protests were largely led by groups in Delhi who had better access to information. Some pockets of regional groups were demanding for information on the contents of the Bill. They remained unanswered. Meenakshi B of the Disability Rights Alliance, Tamil Nadu, followed up with the Ministries and the general passage of the Bill, and she was told that the Bill was ‘top secret’. Vaishnavi J, one of the founders of The Banyan, also received similar cryptic feedback.

Continue reading A Critique of The Draft Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014: Amba Salelkar