This guest post is an investigative report by MAYA JOHN, SUNITA TOPPO and MANJU MOCHHARY, who are associated with Gharelu Kamgar Union and actively involved in organizing domestic workers.
Recently, the otherwise docile workforce of domestic workers – most of whom are migrant labourers from the poorest states in the country – showed remarkable collective zeal against their wealthy employers in Noida (Uttar Pradesh). On the morning of 12th July 2017, a confrontation broke out between wealthy residents in a posh housing society, Mahagun Moderne in Noida Sector 78, and a gathering of agitated domestic workers and their families. The rampant exploitation of domestic workers, and the huge antagonism between their interests and those of their employers was directly exposed with the outbreak of this agitation.
The 12th July incident and subsequent developments have also revealed the sickening nexus between the police, employers, and right-wing politicians who have extended support to the wealthy residents. Within hours, an obvious labour issue, and the struggle of workers against the alleged illegal confinement of a female domestic worker was projected as a communal confrontation. With the accused employers and their sympathizers identifying the protesting workers and the missing domestic worker as ‘Bangladeshis’, the social media exploded with communal diatribe and messages of hate. Conditions for communal discord were consciously sown by Mahagun residents, putting at risk the lives of hundreds of workers living in neighbouring slums.
From the night of July 11 when Zohra Bibi did not return home to the evening of July 16 when union minister Mahesh Sharma, member of parliament for Gautam Budh Nagar, UP met with residents of Mahagun Moderne, much has transpired. Promptly after the minister’s assurances of ‘justice’ and even retribution to the flat-owners, the settlement of tin walled shacks in which Zohra Bibi and other workers like her lived with their families was demolished the next day. Many of the ‘facts’ of the matter remain disputed – while Zohra Bibi maintains that she neither admitted to the theft of cash nor hid in the basement of the building, the allegation that her employers Harshu and Mitul Sethi harassed and detained her, confiscating her mobile phone is denied by them. Meanwhile, thirteen men, a majority of them Bengali Muslims from West Bengal, arrested from the workers’ settlement are denied bail on the charge of attempted murder on the might of three FIRs filed by residents of Mahagun Moderne and languish in judicial custody. The Noida police are yet to commence any investigation of the Sethis as required by the FIR filed by Zohra Bibi and her husband Abdul Sattar. What does this language of the riot, of murderous mobs with which residents of the swanky apartment complex took to social media with #MaldainNoida accomplish? As security cards, required by domestic and other workers to enter the gated community, were revoked for 80-odd workers under the cry of ‘ban the Bangladeshi maid’, the bogey of the illegal Bangladeshi immigrant reared its ugly head. Continue reading “Under the sign of security – Why the bogey of ‘the illegal Bangladeshi immigrant’ is so powerful across urban Indian homes: Sahana Ghosh & Rimple Mehta”→
[ A month ago from yesterday, a teenager called Junaid was lynched and murdered on a train in Haryana. Sabiha Farhat writes in the wake of visiting his house and meeting his family. The news cycles may have moved on to other stories, but we need to keep remembering Junaid, and why he was killed. – Kafila]
Once upon a time there was a 15 year old boy called Hamid, who went shopping on the day of Eid with his Eidi . A few days ago there was Junaid who went shopping on the eve of Eid. Premchand’s Hamid was an orphan and lived with his grandmother in extreme poverty. Junaid lived surrounded with love of his brothers, a sister, a doting mother, father and friends. Instead of the old, decrepit house of Hamid, Junaid’s house has two rooms, it is not falling apart but it’s size and unplastered walls, do speak about the economic condition of his family.
As we approached Khandawli, Junaid’s village in Ballabhgarh a fear gripped me. I did not have the courage to walk upto the house. Junaid was brutally murdered on 22nd and here I was on 25th. It was too soon, my mind said. I should have let Eid pass. But how could I have prepared Sewai in my house when a mother like myself had lost a young, healthy, happy child to hindutva fanatics? I am a mother, I was angry and ashamed at home. And here, standing outside Junaid’s door, I was weak and helpless. Useless too.
Guest Post by Madhura Balasubramaniam and Padmapriya Govindarajan
On July 1, 2017 a gathering of citizens congregated at the Valluvar Kottam monument in Chennai, India, in solidarity with the spate of demonstrations across the nation condemning the rise in instances of mob lynching and violence that disproportionately targeted Dalit and Muslim citizens for beef consumption. The protests were triggered by the murder of 16 year old Junaid Khan by a train mob. Since July 28, peaceful citizen gatherings have joined a wave that attempts to call out government silence, and thereby perceived tacit complicity, regarding the actions ofGau Rakshaks and other vigilante mobs that engage in lynching with a strongly communal or casteist skew. They have been collectively termed as #NotInMyName protests, alluding to the argument that these murders occurred in the name of the cow and in the name of Hinduism. Continue reading “#BreakTheSilence – Chennai against mob lynching: Madhura Balasubramaniam and Padmapriya Govindarajan”→
The recent incident of violence that led to the death of a police officer, DSP Ayub Pandith, was condemned by all kinds of people in Kashmir, as well as elsewhere. It prompted introspection, sadness and regret – like any tragedy of this nature should.
Guest Post by Sanjay Kak, for #Notinmyname / Statement from Not In My Name, Delhi
Last evening’s (June 28th) spirited protest at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, under the banner of Not In My Name, was an autonomous citizens protest against the recent spate of targeted lynchings of Muslims in India – the most recent of 16 year old Junaid, stabbed to death on 23 June 2017 in Delhi (NCR).
For an audience that was estimated to be 3500 strong, the torrential downpour at a little past 8 pm may have rained out a part of the programme. But something remarkable had already been achieved: the evening had washed away, even if temporarily, an almost overwhelming sense of despondency, of hopelessness, and of fear.
Since the Not In My Name protest had announced that the platform was not meant for political parties, and their banners and slogans, the stage saw the marked absence of the speeches (and faces) of routine protest meetings at Jantar Mantar. Rhetoric was displaced by feeling, and it was left to the poets and musicians to carry the sharp political messages of the day. On an evening that was often very emotional, the most difficult moments came when a group of young men from Junaid and Pehlu Khan’s extended families (and residents from their respective villages) came on stage and spoke to the audience.
When the call for a protest meeting went out last Sunday we were hoping that a few hundred people would gather to express their outrage at what is happening around us. For the attacks on Muslims are part of a pattern of incidents that targets Dalits, Adivasis, and other disadvantaged and minority groups across the country. In almost all these incidents the possibilities of justice seem remote, as the families of the victims are dragged into procedures they are ill-equipped to handle. Through all these heinous crimes the Government has maintained a silence, a gesture that is being read as the acquiescence of all Indians.
Not In My Name aimed to break that silence. But the scale and spirit of the protest meeting at Jantar Mantar became amplified many times over, as similar gatherings were spontaneously announced all over the country. As word spread through social media, groups in 19 other locations announced Not In My Name protests, and this phenomenal synergy inevitably drew media attention to all the events, and gave the protest a solidarity and scale that was truly unprecedented – there were at least 4 protests in cities abroad too. (And more protests have been announced for later this week…) The protest meeting ran on the shoulders of a group of volunteers who managed to put together everything in less than four days. No funds were received (or solicited) for the expenses from any political party, NGO, or institution. Instead volunteers worked the crowd and our donation boxes received everything – from Rs 10 coins to currency notes of Rs 2000, and everything in between.
The impact of the Not In My Name protest at Jantar Mantar yesterday only points to the importance of a focused politics to deal with the crisis this country seems to be enveloped by. Less than a day after the protests Prime Minister Modi broke his silence on the matter of lynchings. It could not have been a coincidence: speaking in Ahmedabad he said killing in the name of gau bhakti is unacceptable. But to protect the life of a 16 year old being brutalised in a train needs more than a tweet, and we all wait and watch.
This fight has just begun. In the days to come the exceptional solidarity attracted by the protest in New Delhi will have to become less exceptional, and more everyday.
Sanjay Kak is a filmmaker and writer based in Delhi.
The #NotinMyName protests, which began in a response to a Facebook post uploaded by Delhi filmmaker Saba Dewan, have since taken place in more than twelve cities in India, and also in the UK, USA and Pakistan. More protests, under the #NotinMyName tag, as well as independently of it are being planned by citizens groups, organizations and individuals in many places.
Tomorrow, July 2nd, 2017 will see a sit in at Jantar Mantar from 11 in the morning, at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi called by families, individuals and panchayats from Nuh, Ballabhgarh and Faridabad, they will be joined by students, activists and other individuals.
At some point during the Khalistan movement, I came across a brief news item about a constable of the Punjab Police killed by Delhi Police personnel. The two teams had completed their interrogation of a suspected militant. Whose job was it to clean up the blood? Disagreement, a scuffle, a killing.
Legitimized brutality; the stench of blood inflaming the senses; the knowledge of absolute power and absolute impunity.
All of India is that interrogation room now.
Hindu Rashtra is here.
Has there not been violence earlier in this land? Yes of course there has been. A full seven decades of an independent state’s violence against the people of the land declared to be India – against dispossessed peasants and tribal people, against industrial workers, against the people of Kashmir, and of the states of the North East; centuries of violence by savarna Hindu society against the Dalit-bahujan; misogynist, sexist violence against women, up to and including female foetuses in the womb; decades of coldly planned and executed communal violence by institutionalized systems of riot production coordinated by the organizations of the RSS – against Muslims, against Christians, and as a secondary force, against Sikhs in 1984.