Can an elected Panchayat deprive a section of its own people belonging to a minority community its constitutionally granted right to practise its religion – e.g. organise prayers or engage in religious propaganda and have sermons?
Or can it ever deprive them of their mandatory quota of grain under PDS (public distribution system) which is focused more on persons living below poverty line?
Anyone conversant with rudimentary understanding of law would reply in the negative. It appears that in Chattisgarh they do it differently. In fact, Sirisguda, Kunguda and many other villages in Jagdalpur and adjoining areas in the state are in the news for similar reasons. Continue reading Rip Van Winkle and Raman Singh Government
[We are publishing below the full text of the statement issued by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, on the Tehelka case, which raises some important issues that have not received public attention yet.]
Press Statement on the Tehelka Sexual Assault Case
Dated: 2 December 2013
- Expresses Solidarity with the struggle of the Tehelka Journalist who raised her voice against Rape and Intimidation by the Ex-Editor Tarun Tejpal.
- Demands fair investigation and early charge sheet into the matter, from the Goa Police.
- Considers Six Day of Custodial interrogation of Tarun Tejpal granted by the Goa Judicial Magistrate Court unnecessary and invidious.
- Appeals that police custody and the case not become a tool in the hands of BJP administered Goa police to settle scores with Tejpal.
The People’s Union for Civil Liberties from the very beginning has supported the complaint of the woman journalist of Tehelka magazine who accused the editor of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal, of rape and sexual assault. PUCL salutes her courage for breaking the silence on rape and sexual intimidation carried out by her senior colleague and editor. We have also admired the consistent and principled manner in which the young girl stated her case, initially via internal emails within Tehelka, and later on to the media, neither allowing vituperation or anger at the blatant violation of her body to sensationalise her case or to prevaricate about the fact of the offence having been committed. Through her dignified stand she stands as a model to all women who suffer similar sexual violence, that the dignity of a woman’s body cannot be a plaything for anybody howsoever influential and powerful they be. By the same token, we also denounce the vilification campaign carried out by Tarun Tejpal and his lawyers against the complainant by seeking to impute that the entire crime was actually a `consensual’ act or at trying to trivialise the crime by calling it “light hearted banter”.
Continue reading PUCL Statement on Tehelka Sexual Assault Case
This intervew with SUDHA BHARADWAJ of Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha was conducted by JUSTIN PODUR in Raipur on 5 March 2013
JP: As a lawyer and an activist, how do you see the relationship between legal work and activism?
SB: I see myself primarily as a trade unionist. I joined the union movement over twenty years ago, and it was the union that made me a lawyer. They felt that workers needed a good lawyer in their fight with the corporations. Our union is one of contract workers and has been striving to overcome divisions in the working class. Here, workers have a close connection with the peasants. So, we believe that working with the peasants is part of unionism.
When I got to the High Court, I found that all the people’s organizations were in a similar situation. The laws that give you rights are poorly implemented. When you fight, the status quo has many legal weapons, launches malicious litigation, etc. So we have a group of lawyers now (Janhit), and we work on group legal aid, not individual legal aid. The idea is that if you help a group, that can bring about some kind of change, create some space. I’ve also gotten involved with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), for which I am the General Secretary in Chhattisgarh. Continue reading The Bastar Land Grab: An Interview with Sudha Bharadwaj
The police might have registered a case against Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia for his provocative speech in Bhokar town on January 22 but it’s nowhere close to arresting him. Mail Today had reported on Thursday that while the police had filed an FIR against Togadia for his speech, they will not arrest him until the state government gives a go ahead.
On Friday, Home Minister R. R. Patil said “It is the prerogative of the concerned investigation officer whether to arrest him or not. As government we don’t interfere in such matters.” Police officials from Nanded said they would be able to arrest Togadia only after the state allows it as it was a “political decision”
(Police can’t arrest Togadia, Mail Today, 9 th Feb 2013)
Mr Praveen Togadia, the international secretary general of VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) is sitting pretty. It has been more than a week that a FIR has been filed against him for his alleged hatespeech in Bhokar town but since then there has been no progress. Continue reading ‘Police Can’t Arrest Togadia’
Guest post by JINEE LOKANEETA
Watching Advocate alongside Democracy Dialogues: a Tribute to Balagopal, both by Deepa Dhanraj, made for a powerful experience for its remarkable documentation of human rights movements in Andhra through the lives of these two human rights defenders and the collectives that they were a part of whether it was Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, Human Rights Forum or People’s Union for Civil Liberties. There is of course a sharp sense of loss, since in the last few years we have lost both these incredible people but one was grateful for this effort to record and document their inspirational lives in such a beautiful manner. It also points to a further need for us to understand the connections of human rights groups to law, the relationship of human rights defenders to the courts, and their role in pushing for the realization of some of substantive aspects of the Indian Constitution in the process. Continue reading Understanding Indian human rights movements through the lives of two human rights defenders: Jinee Lokaneeta
This statement come from the RIGHT TO FOOD CAMPAIGN
October 3rd, 2011
Arbitrary Raid on Kavita Srivastava’s house: Latest act of harassment of human rights workers
We condemn in the strongest possible terms the arbitrary raid this morning (3 October), in Jaipur, on the house of Kavita Srivastava, General Secretary of PUCL and convenor of the Right to Food Campaign’s steering group. This is yet another instance of harassment of human rights workers under the cover of fighting Naxalism. Kavita Srivastava is the convenor of the Steering Committee of the Right to Food Campaign and PUCL is the petitioner in the Supreme Court case on the Right to Food which has recently challenged the Government on the issue of the poverty line. Continue reading Statement condemning raid on Kavita Srivastava’s house: Right to Food Campaign
Guest post by ANANT MARINGANTI
I was on my way to the Basheerbagh Press Club at 5.45 pm Thursday, December 30 when my mobile rang.
“Have you heard the news ?” I knew what that ominous question meant. But who was it?
The friend who called was one of the listed speakers at the Free Binayak Sen meeting at the Press Club where I was going. It had to be someone both of us knew intimately. “Kannabiran. I am on my way. I can pick you up,” he said quickly. Continue reading KG Kannabiran (1929-2010)
Schools are meant for play and studies where kids slowly blossom into adolescents. Schools are meant for books, laboratories and other cultural activities which cater to the all round development of its students. Schools are meant for opening up of minds, inculcating inquisitiveness and curiosity, explain the wonder that is the world and lead the students towards further enquiries and promoting inclusiveness cutting across different ascriptive categories with which all of us are born with.
Of course, in emergency situations, schools even metamorphose into shelter homes for the victims of a natural calamity or a social catastrophe.
But certainly, no sane person can imagine that school premises can ever be used for worshipping deadly weapons – loaded pistols and illegal rifles. But it appears that on this count RSS – the all hindu male organisation – thinks differently. It is not for nothing that schools which run under the aegis of its affiliated organisation are freely handed over for such programmes under the specious reason that it is a religious programme. Any close watcher of the ground level situation can vouch that worshipping of weapons on Dusshera has nothing to with religion rather it is part of social tradition. Despite this reality organising of ‘shastra pujas’ has of late become a national phenomenon and hindutva organisations are known to play an important role in it. It serves a double purpose for them : consolidate their constituency by using religion as the legitimising force, terrorising the ‘others’ simply by taking out ‘religious processions’ brandishing weapons.
Continue reading ‘Shastra Pujas’ – What’s Religious About Worshipping Weapons ?
Date: 22nd March 2010
“Is it a crime to work in a democratic and peaceful way for the empowerment and development of Adivasis”?
– Adivasi Mahasabha Gujarat & People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Gujarat.
Mr. Avinash Kulkarni and Mr. Bharat Pawar, activists of long-standing repute, have been working relentlessly for the rights of the Adivasis of Gujarat, over the past 15 years. Based in Ahwa, Avinash and Bharat have been actively involved on issues pertaining to the empowerment and development of Adivasis, through the Dangi Lok Adhikar Samiti and the Dangi Mazdoor Union, in Dang district. Avinash and Bharat have played a significant role in the struggle for the Forest Rights Act and for people’s rights to use, manage and control forests and forest resources as part of the leadership of Adivasi Mahasabha Gujarat, both in the advocacy and struggle that brought about the Forests Rights Act and the monitoring of its implementation across the Adivasi areas of Gujarat. It is a well known fact that they have always worked for democratic and peaceful means of securing the rights and entitlements of the Adivasis and have stood by non-violent means of working for social change.
In the afternoon of 21st March, 2010, about 2 P.M Avinash was picked up by Dy. S. P. Shri Patil under the pretext of questioning and took him to an undisclosed location, without giving any information to his family members or colleagues as to where they were taking him or giving him the right of contacting his advocate. Bharat Pawar also was detained the same evening in a similar fashion by policemen from the DSP office of Ahwa, Dangs. This is a clear violation of Justice D. K. Basu Guideline of Supreme Court.
Continue reading Arrests of Activists in Gujarat
A sense of irony is the only way for me to describe how I felt when I heard about Balagopal’s death. Ordinary people leading ordinary lives die of heart attacks. And despite the simplicity with which he led his life and interacted with people, every time one met Balagopal or heard him you always knew you were in the presence of someone extraordinary. Whenever he left after any meeting, Balagopal left you a little scared about whether you would ever see him again. As a result of the position that he took- against the violence of the state as well as the violence of the Maoists, you were always left with the lurching fear that any point of time, you would be given the news that Balagopal had been killed in an encounter.
At the same time it is perhaps not surprising that despite living a life which was scripted towards a violent death, it was only appropriate that his death transcended any partisan act of violence. Film maker Deepa Dhanraj captures the essence of Balagopal when she describes him as a ‘moral force’ whose authority emerged from the integrity with which he led his life and the courage with which he stood by his belief. If Balagopal was a regular anti violent activist or a pacifist, then there would have been nothing surprising about his stance on violence, and to argue for the importance of non violence would hardly be an act of courage. But for someone who had spent a better part of his life in struggles, and in battles against the impunity of the state, the commitment to an ethical position on violence becomes a deeply ethical choice of bravery.
Continue reading The Passing Away of a Hero – Goodbye Balagopal
[This summary comes to us from ARVIND NARRAIN (ALF) of a report brought out by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Karnataka (PUCL-K) in the wake of the attacks on women in Mangalore by cadres of the Hindu right-wing Sri Ram Sene.]
It was only after the continuous telecast of the images of the women who were subjected to an horrific assault by cadres of the Sri Ram Sene in a pub in Mangalore on January 24, 2009, that public attention gravitated towards what was happening in Mangalore. Self styled vigilante groups in Dakshina Kannada have begun to police social interactions between members of different religious communities such as boys and girls drinking juice together or sitting together on a bus merely because they come from different religious communities. Cultural policing also targets women in particular and lays down norms with respect to public spaces they can occupy and the clothes which they can wear. Cultural policing has as its primary target, young people. From Shefantunde (16) who was attacked for talking to a Hindu girl to a college student Shruti and Shabeeb for talking on a bus to Anishwita (23), Akeel Mohammmad (24) and Pramilla(22) for drinking a juice together, its the young which has come under vicious attack. Perhaps we also need to think of the young not just as victims but indeed as agents of social transformation who through their everyday acts of fraternal living are fulfilling the promise of the Indian Constitution and thereby imperiling the ideological agenda of those who see India differently. Cultural policing aims to punish all those who try to live out the meaning of the Preamble’s promise of ‘fraternity’ and is a fundamental attack on the very Constitutional order. The promise of fraternity held out in the Preamble is what is contested at its very roots by cultural policing. What cultural policing wants to produce are monolithic self-enclosed communities with no form of social interaction between them. It is antithetical to the idea of ‘We, the people of India’ and insists that India is no more one nation, but rather a collection of separate peoples. This Report documents how sixty years after independence, the vision of the framers of the Constitution is sought to be so completely repudiated by organizations which are bent on ripping out the heart of Indian Constitutionalism.
The full report is available on the Alternative Law Forum website and can be accessed here.
The right to a fair trial is a cornerstone of democratic societies. How a person is treated, when accused of a crime, provides a concrete demonstration of how far a State respects human rights. Detention is ‘arbitrary’, where there are often grave violations of the right to a fair trial. Detention and imprisonment, which may be lawful under national standards, are considered ‘unlawful’ under international standards. A fair trial is indispensable for the protection of other rights, such as the right to freedom from torture, the right to life, and the right to freedom of expression. This right should never be compromised. However, throughout the country, people are being detained and imprisoned without a fair trial. In these circumstances, many face torture and other forms of ill-treatment. The continued detention of Dr. Binayak Sen, Vice-President of India’s leading human rights organization, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), should trigger a debate, not only in Chhattisgarh, but also around the country, about whether and to what extent the right to a fair trial may be compromised in the name of security.
Continue reading Binayak Sen and the Right to a Fair Trial
[This detailed report was prepared by Kavita Srivastava, the Jaipur-based general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties. Posting this here to make it publicly available as it is not on the PUCL website. Please note that this was a rough draft. ]
State Violence and Caste Confrontation in Rajasthan
I. Outline of the week long movement for ST Reservation by the Gurjars
Soon after independence the Bhil Meenas got reservations in the Districts of Dungarpur, Banswara, Chittorgarh and Udaipur. At the time of 1931 census the Bhil Meenas were over 20, 000, however today they have reduced to half they are only 10,000 in number.
This was an issue of contention for the Meenas as they felt that they also deserved to be STs so they decided to raise their voice against this injustice as they called it. Under the leadership of Lakshmi Narayan Jhirwal they organized themselves.
11th June 1952: Meenas organized a sammelan near Dudu (Jaipur) district for the inclusion of the Meena community in the Schedule list for reservation. The Gurjars supported this wholly. Continue reading Kavita Srivastava’s report on last year’s Gujjar confrontation in Rajasthan