All posts by Nivedita Menon

The Saderla story – courage in the face of violent prejudice: Manindra Agrawal

This is a guest post by MANINDRA AGRAWAL

This is the story of a young man who made it to the premier institution of IIT Kanpur against heavy odds, but was then let down by the system and people at the institute. Yet, he showed exemplary courage and stood up for his rights firmly but gently. The story also highlights the frailties of human nature and the vindictiveness that can mar human actions. It is a story that needs to be told.

Prologue

IIT Kanpur, like all other IITs, has very few faculty from reserved categories.​ ​An initiative was taken in August 2017 with an exclusive advertisement for faculty under various reserved categories. The applications received were sent to the respective departments for evaluation, and the shortlisted candidates were called for seminars. The protagonist of this story, Dr SS (I am using initials for the key players for convenience, all names are in the public domain), who is from a scheduled caste of Andhra Pradesh, was shortlisted in the Aerospace Engineering department. He did both his M.Tech and Ph.D from IIT Kanpur under Professor AKG, who happened to be the head of the department at the time. Continue reading The Saderla story – courage in the face of violent prejudice: Manindra Agrawal

Law versus faith, female activists versus male devotees and other strange creatures at Sabarimala

Images of resistance

The three images below teach us how society is transformed – by the courage and determination of the oppressed and marginalized; by tears of rage, and by stony cold resistance in the face of violent retaliation by entrenched power.  It is not that these pioneers were fearless, but that they acted despite their fear.

The first shows Kairali TV camera-person Shajila Ali Fathima, tears running down her face as she continues filming the vandalism of Hindu right-wing mobs over the Sabarimala issue, despite being threatened and physically attacked (her neck was hurt, and she has since been advised a cervical collar and rest).

The second shows fifteen year old Elizabeth Eckford walking steadfastly past the hostile screams and stares of white segregationists on her first day of school in 1957, after the US Supreme Court outlawed racial segregation in schools.

And the third shows the Kalaram Temple satygraha, led by BR Ambedkar and BK Gaikwad in 1930, to fight for the right of Dalits to enter the temple.  Almost nine decades later, Dalits still face immense hostility and violence towards their right to worship and participate in temple festivals.

Women are activists, men are devotees

Continue reading Law versus faith, female activists versus male devotees and other strange creatures at Sabarimala

Gareebon ko adrenalin rush nahin aati; unko aati hai majboori – the trapped miners of Meghalaya: Abhineet Mishra

Fifteen people have been trapped in an illegal rat-hole mine in East Jaintia Hills in Meghalaya since December 13, 2018.

Three helmets are all that have been found so far. Authorities were callous enough to presume the miners dead on the very day of the accident.  The district administration wrote to the National Disaster Response Force on December 13 asking for help in recovering the “dead bodies”.

But as citizens, we are all equally responsible for a pervasive national culture of violence, exploitation and abuse of power. Abhineet Mishra delivers the shock to our conscience that is long overdue.

Stop The Criminalisation of Triple Talaq: Women’s rights activists

We, the undersigned individuals, women’s rights activists and allies of the women’s movements, are opposed to the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018 in its present form. We appeal to the Members of Rajya Sabha to completely withdraw the Bill and significantly re-draft it in the interest of Muslim women.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 28, 2017 and is pending before the Rajya Sabha. This Bill was not referred to a Select Committee as urged by the members of Rajya Sabha, but the Union Cabinet incorporated three amendments based on the issues raised by the Opposition. It included the provision of bail when the wife appears before the Magistrate, allowing only the aggrieved woman and her relatives (by blood or marriage) to file a complaint, and making the offence compoundable. Owing to severe opposition to this Bill in the Rajya Sabha, the Union Cabinet issued the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Ordinance on September 19, 2018, which criminalised the pronouncement of triple talaq (or talaq-e-bidat) with punishment of up to 3 years of imprisonment and with fine.
We are writing on behalf of Muslim women from across the country and women’s groups to oppose this Bill, which is arbitrary, excessive, and violative of fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Overall, if this Bill is passed it would make Muslim women more vulnerable to violence, as well as harm their economic, household and social security.

Continue reading Stop The Criminalisation of Triple Talaq: Women’s rights activists

JNU GSCASH statement on ICC punishments for complainant

We, the undersigned faculty and student members of Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) who have been elected by the faculty and students of JNU to ensure gender justice in the university (2017), are shocked by the news report on the recommendations of the Internal Complaints Committee’s (ICC) for a specific case. The report published in Indian Express (13.12.2018) states that the ICC found the complaint a frivolous one after inquiry and consequently has recommended that the complainant be completely debarred from entering JNU Campus, her degree should be withdrawn, and that she should never be allowed to take up any course or employment in JNU.

As per the ICC Rules and Procedure, Rule No. 11 states the “Action against frivolous complaint” in order “to ensure that the provisions for the protection of employees and students from sexual harassment do not get misused”. It further states “If the ICC concludes that the allegations made were false, malicious or the complaint was made knowing it to be untrue, or forged or misleading information has been provided during the inquiry, the complainant shall be liable to be punished as per the provisions of sub- regulations (1) of regulations 10, if the complainant happens to be an employee and as per sub-regulation (2) of that regulation, if the complainant happens to be a student. However, the mere inability to substantiate a complaint or provide adequate proof will not attract attention against the complainant. Malicious intent on the part of the complainant shall not be established without an inquiry, in accordance with the procedure prescribed, conducted before any action is recommended”. Continue reading JNU GSCASH statement on ICC punishments for complainant

Statement by JNU faculty against targeting of complainants of sexual harassment by ICC

We, the undersigned faculty at the Jawaharlal Nehru University express our shock and outrage at the extreme penalties recommended against a doctoral student for bringing a sexual harassment complaint against her teacher.

According to a report in the Indian Express (dated 13 December 2018),  JNU’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) has decided to punish a student for allegedly filing a ‘false’ sexual harassment complaint against a teacher in what it has deemed to be a ‘frivolous’ complaint. While we are not privy to either the details of the complaint or the justification the ICC has for arriving at this conclusion — rather than simply noting the failure to substantiate a complaint— we find the severity of the penalties imposed extremely troubling.

Continue reading Statement by JNU faculty against targeting of complainants of sexual harassment by ICC

Justice denied – the Dharmapuri rape: Ila Ananya

Guest Post by ILA ANANYA

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On the night of November 12th 2018, more than fifty people from Sittilingi, a village in Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu, made their way back home from Dharmapuri Government Medical College Hospital with the body of a 16-year-old Adivasi (Malaivasi) girl. The girl had been raped on November 5th by two drunk men, and had died in the hospital five days later – a death that her family have described as linked to blatant police negligence, beginning with their refusal to file an FIR, and involving the questionable role of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) in Dharmapuri. Manjunathan*, a resident of Sittilingi, says that on November 12th, around ten police vehicles and 100 policemen had followed the girl’s funeral procession through the village, all the way to the graveyard. “Till now we have never seen the police,” Manjunathan attests, “now suddenly, since the day of the protest, they have remained in the village, especially at the junction, harassing people.”

This large and unusual police presence in Sittilingi began on November 10th, after around 2000 people gathered on the main road of the village, frequented by buses connecting Salem and Thiruvannamalai, to protest against the rape and death of the girl. Continue reading Justice denied – the Dharmapuri rape: Ila Ananya