Millions of Indians are unable to read printed material due to disabilities.
There are technologies available which can help them read print if the
material is converted into an alternate format such as large print, audio,
Braille or any electronic format. While the Indian constitution guarantees
the “right to read” as a fundamental right, the copyright regime does not
permit the conversion of books into accessible formats for the benefit of
persons with print impairment, as a result of which a “book famine” is
created. International conventions that India is a party to specifically
require India to amend its copyright laws for the benefit of persons with
disabilities and to make available information and material to persons with
disabilities on an equal basis as others. Publishers also do not make books
available in accessible formats as a result of which less than 0.5% of books
are available in accessible formats in India. As a result persons with print
impairments get excluded from the education system and it impacts their
career choices. In addition to this, there are no national Policies or
action plan to ensure that publications in accessible formats in all Indian
languages are available to persons with print disabilities all over the
Objectives of the Right to Read Campaign
· To accelerate change in copyright law
· To raise public awareness on the issue
· To gather Indian support for the Treaty for the Blind proposed by
the World Blind Union at the World Intellectual Property Organisation
This campaign is part of the global Right to Read Campaign of the World
As part of the campaign we are creating audio visual clips of eminent
persons, celebrities etc. supporting the Campaign. If you know any eminent
persons, celebrities etc. who are willing to support the campaign do mail me
(email@example.com) so that we can arrange for their
testimony to be recorded. Your support is vital for the success of this
campaign. More details will follow.
I cannot resist but recount this account of exemplary courage and commitment of a Magistrate working in the Metropolitan Courts of Ahmedabad. He is none other than Magistrate Tamang who has been in the news for the past few days.
Brief facts: We all know about the encounter of Ishrat Jehan and three others in the outskirts of the city of Ahmedabad which took place in June, 2004. Soon after the encounter there were enquiries by human rights groups which declared that it was a cold blooded killing and not an encounter. To counter the demands the Crime Branch ordered a Magistrate to enquire into the matter. It has been reported that no Magistrate was willing to stick his neck into this issue. Finally on 12 August, 2009 the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) ordered Magistrate Tamang to conduct the inquiry. The latter was supposed to conduct this inquiry under S 176 CrPC. This is the section of law in which a Magistrate is empowered to hold an inquiry into the cause of death whenever a person dies while in police custody or when it is a death in doubtful circumstances. Generally, under this section of law, Magistrates record dying declarations of women who are dying and lying in the hospitals.
The BJP would bounce back in the near future much on the lines of a Shav (dead body) metamorphosing into Lord Shiva. Mohan Bhagwat, RSS Supremo talking to media in Delhi
There are rare moments in the trajectory of a modern democracy where one is witness to the apparent implosion, albeit in a slow motion, of a political party. Today, the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the principal opposition party in India, which was yearning to reach the citadels of power just a few months back, presents such a spectacle. With two consecutive defeats, in the 2004 and 2009 parliamentary elections, followed by the factional bloodletting which is now reaching its pinnacle, the ‘Party With a Difference’, as it used to describe itself, presents a pale shadow of its earlier self. It is a sign of the tremendous crisis faced by the party that for the first time in its 29-year old history, the top leadership of its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), recently had to intervene to put the house in order. Apart from newly-appointed RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat, a number of other senior leaders literally landed in the capital to hold consultations with the top brass of the BJP to find a solution to its seemingly intractable problems. The latest news is that BJP President Rajnath Singh and leader of the opposition L K Advani have been ‘persuaded’ to relinquish their posts. A search is on for possible successors.
[That the BJP expelled Jaswant Singh for writing a book on Jinnah is hardly surprising, even if it represents really the most rotten part of contemporary India’s political culture from the Right to the Left: intolerance of intellectual differences. What is intriguing is that Jaswant Singh wrote the bookknowing well that this would be the end of his political career; even LK Advani could not survive his praise of Jinnah and even though he came back, he remains a pale shadow of his former self. So Jaswant never really had a chance. I have not yet read the book but have tried to follow those who have. While a more detailed analysis will have to wait, I am posting a piece I had written sometime ago as part of a larger academic paper which deals with Advani’s Jinnah episode and the seductions of secularism. – AN ]
Advani Meets the Ghost of Jinnah
On 5 June 2005, Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Deputy Prime Minister, Lal Krishna Advani unleashed a storm within his party and its allied organizations of the Hindu Right. On that day, speaking at a function organized by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations, Economic Affairs and Law (KCFREAL), Advani referred to Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s speech in the Pakistan Constituent Assembly on 11 August 1947 and described it as ‘a classic exposition of a Secular State’ and Jinnah as a genuine secularist (Advani 2005). In this speech, sections of which Advani read out at length, Jinnah, the founder of the ‘Islamic state of Pakistan’ had said: ‘You are free, you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed; that has nothing to do with the business of the State…You will find that in the course of time Hindus will cease to be Hindus and Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense, because that is the personal faith of each individual, but in the political sense as citizens of the State’ (Jinnah 2005).
On the previous day, Advani had already fired his first salvo. He had visited the Qaid-e-Azam mausoleum where he made the following entry in the visitor’s book: ‘There are many people who leave an inerasable stamp on history. There are very few who actually create history. Qaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah was one such rare individual.’ And further, recalling Sarojini Naidu, underlined: ‘Sarojini Naidu, a leading luminary of India’s freedom struggle, described him as an ambassador of Hindu Muslim unity. His address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, is really a classic, a forceful espousal of a secular state…’ (Sarwar 2005, Kapoor 2005). If there was any doubt in anybody’s mind that this was not just a polite entry in a visitor’s book, made in a formalistic way, Advani hastened to clear it in the speech that followed the next day. Continue reading The Ghost of Jinnah, Advani and Jaswant Singh→
(Politics is a game of the impossible. The Sangh Parivar, which never enjoyed a smooth relationship with Vinayak Damodar Savarkar when alive, now wants us to believe that it is the true and the only heir to his legacy. It is a different matter that even Savarkar’s diehard followers do not seem amused with all their rope-tricks. The manner in which RSS-BJP handled the issue of memorial for Savarkar in faraway France indicates once again the floundering of their strategy.)
Gopinath Munde, senior leader of BJP, was in for a great shock the other day when he realised that his move to corner the ruling dispensation at the centre on the issue of Savarkar memorial had boomranged on himself and the party as well. In fact he had discussed the issue with his close associates and had informed senior leaders of the party about his plans. He had expected that by raising an emotive issue around ‘Swatantryaveer’ Savarkar on the eve of elections to the Maharashtra assembly, he would be able to score a point vis-a-vis the Cong-NCP coalition. Continue reading Savarkar’s Phoney Followers→
Bharatendu Prakash Singhal, 78, is a Hindutva ideologue, a retired IPS officer and a former BJP Rajya Sabha MP. On a Sunday afternoon I visited him to discuss his opposition to the decriminalization of gay sex by the Delhi High Court. He is preparing to appeal against it in the Supreme Court. Singhal explained that he wasn’t opposed to private consensual sex between same-sex adults, he didn’t want such adults prosecuted or persecuted, but he merely wanted the law to remain on paper as a deterrent. This is the transcript of a recorded interview; a much shorter, edited version has appeared in Open.Continue reading BP Singhal: “I don’t have any problem with homosexuals. Do you?”→
There are surprisingly few constitutional cases in India which have had the same symbolic power that cases like Roe v. Wade (affirming the right of abortion) or Brown v. Board of Education (dissolving racial segregation in schools) have had in the political history of the United States. For sure, there are a number of important constitutional cases which have contributed significantly to the democratic history of India. Kesavananda Bharati’s espousal of the basic structure doctrine, Maneka Gandhi’s introduction of due process in Art.21, but these cases seem to have an appeal largely within the legal fraternity. They are also cases where the relief sought by the petitioners have had little to do with the final outcome of the case, and it is highly doubtful whether his Holiness Kesavananda Bharati had any investment in the long term impact of the basic structure doctrine (not to mention that Kesavananda Bharati just doesn’t roll of the tongue as easily- in terms of recall value). Is it possible then that Naz Foundation v. Government of Delhi is the first equivalent of a case whose name conjures up the history of particular struggle, celebrates the victory of a particular moment and inaugurates new hopes for the future.