Category Archives: Government

‘A hunger strike for the YouTube generation’

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This is a hunger-strike for the YouTube generation. The two men – Dawa Lepcha and Tenzing Gvasto Lepcha – whose protest has been posted on the popular online video site, have not eaten for 39 days. Doctors at the hospital where they lie in the remote Indian state of Sikkim say they are getting weaker each day. There are serious concerns about the functioning of the men’s kidneys.

The cause that has led these two men to take this drastic action and for their friends to post this powerful video on the internet is the very land on which they and their families live. A massive hydro-electric power scheme backed by the state government, consisting of more than 20 individual projects, threatens to drive the men and their neighbours from the land close to the Teesta river in the Dzongu region of the state. Campaigners say the project is illegal and claim the authorities have failed to obtain the necessary assessment of the impact the schemes will have. [Link]

The YouTube video is here. More at Weeping Sikkim.

Does the ‘girl-child’ exist?

Does the ‘girl-child’ exist? What is it other than empty officialese, a smoke-screen that obscures, almost erases, little girls and the dismal little lives most of them lead? The ‘skewed sex-ratio’ has become a fetishized object for policymakers and governments in India, and improving those numbers a goal in itself. In the pursuit of good-looking sex-ratios, the minister for women and child development has come up with one alarming scheme after the other.

Earlier this year, Renuka Chowdhury announced a government scheme to open centres where people can abandon unwanted daughters rather than aborting them. Can you imagine the girl-children growing up in these doomed institutions? What fates can they expect, unwanted by their parents and kept on by the State only to boost sex-ratios? Chowdhury said at the time that the government was treating the drop in sex-ratio as an issue of national emergency. She also said that through this scheme, the government would “at least ensure that the gene pool is maintained”! In effect, these institutions would be collections of little girls unwanted by all but the census-takers, dropping by periodically to correct the skewed sex-ratio with a quick look at the office records.

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Take a moment to help STOP TORTURE in India

Dear friends,
Amnesty International expresses its support for victims of torture and ill-treatment, past and present and condemns its practice in India. As of June 26, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, Amnesty International India is intensifying its work against torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by launching a campaign against torture and ill-treatment in the ‘war on terror’.
The victims of torture in India span far and wide, be it disadvantaged social, political or ethnic groups like the dalits, women and adivasis or be it in Jammu and Kashmir, the North East, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and other areas affected by the acts of state and non-state actors.
India has signed, but not ratified the Convention against Torture. It is one of only 8 countries that have not done so. Amnesty International India has on several occasions expressed grave concerns over the fact that torture and ill-treatment continue to be endemic throughout India and continue to deny human dignity to thousands of individuals.

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Bangladesh: Faces of Emergency and Human Rights Issues

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Cholesh Richil had no charges of corruption or criminal activity in Bangladesh, which is ruled under emergency and a civilian caretaker government, backed by the army. An outspoken leader of the Garo indigenous community, who live in the Modhupur area north of Dhaka, Cholesh had been campaigning against the construction of a so-called ‘eco (ecology) park’ on their ancestral land, on the grounds that it would deprive them of their land and means of livelihood. He was arrested by the Joint Forces (army and police) personnel on 18 March 2007 and taken to Modhupur Kakraidh temporary army camp. Tortured for several hours before being taken to Madhupur Thane Health Complex, he was declared dead the same evening.

After Choesh Richil’s body was handed over to the Garo community church on 19 March, his family observed multiple bruises, nails missing from his fingers and toes, and cuts and scratches consistent with blade wounds. His testicles had been removed. Local government officials have stated that an ‘administrative inquiry’ into the case has been initiated, but none are aware of the terms of reference or the progress of the inquiry.

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The Impossibility of Satire

The first impulse that one has after coming out of a court hearing is to create a satire that accurately captures the slightly bizarre and terrifying vision of judges that one has had a chance to experience. But can caricature really live up to its responsibility of laughing truth to power? John Beger has said that “Graphic caricature is dead because life has outstripped it. Or more accurately, because satire is only possible when a moral reserve still exists, and those reserves have been used up. We are too used to being appalled by ourselves to be able to react to the idea of caricature”. So instead of imposing an impossible goal for satire, let us allow the court speak for themselves. Continue reading The Impossibility of Satire

Gujarat Fake Encounters: The Spin Doctoring has Begun

The Gujarat Fake Encounter Story is rapidly being scripted along the familiar lines of the ‘Corrupt Policeman-Corrupt Politician-Underworld Links’ nexus. While this may be true, (and I do not doubt that Narendra Modi, who holds the ‘Home’ portfolio in Gujarat, must not be entirely un-involved in this matter) it would be unfortunate if the Gujarat ‘fake encounter killings’ , like ‘fake encounter’ stories in Kashmir, Delhi or elsewhere are now spun into ‘systemic aberrations’. Rather, they should be seen as evidence of how the system actually works, and how efficient it is.

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From Informal to Illegal

The fight for city space, today, has gone far beyond the Master Plan. On the traffic signals of South Delhi, the Master Plan 2021 now rivals Paulo Coehlo in sales. Planning and the fight for urban space has, it seems, becomes everyone’s debate. On the surface, this is a fight about planning and order, about drawing the lines between formal/informal, legal/illegal, and public/private to prevent the “anarchy” that may result without planning.

Yet how do we understand “informality” and “illegality” in a city like Delhi? According to the Tejender Khanna Committee, appointed by the government and led by Delhi’s ex- Lt Governor, nearly 70% of the city lives in a state of semi-legality, mostly due to the DDA’s consistent failure to meet its own land acquisition and housing development targets over the last twenty years. Sainik Farms and the slums of Yamuna Pushta are, therefore, just as “informal” as each other, albeit in different ways. Yet the consequences of their informality are vastly different. Within the courts, the Master Plans and in public opinion, it is only the slum dwellers and the urban poor that have become “encroachers,” and the homes that they have lived in for decades “temporary” and “illegal.” In the context of poverty, it seems, informality very easily slides into illegality. Continue reading From Informal to Illegal