SACW | 23 Jul 2004
- South Asia Citizens Wire | 23 July, 2004
 Sri Lanka: July still black after twenty one years? (Eric Fernando)
+ some readings on the 1983 riots
 India: Kashmir should be at the top of the left's agenda (Ashok Mitra)
 India retries pivotal Hindu-Muslim hate crime (Scott Baldauf)
 India: How to desaffronise education (Kancha Ilaiah)
 India: 1984 riots and Gujarat: Sashikumar' film Kaya Taran
 Upcoming Seminar: Rebuilding Justice and
Hope in Gujarat (New Delhi, 29 July)
 India: Meeting to remodel 'Defeat BJP Forum' (New Delhi, 23 July)
 India: The Women's Movement and our Troubled
Relationship with Prostitution: A Dialogue
(New Delhi, August 7)
 India: Appeal To The President Re The Death Penalty On Dhananjoy
Daily News [ Sri Lanka]
23 July 2004
JULY STILL BLACK AFTER TWENTY ONE YEARS?
by Eric Fernando
Twenty one years down the road, memories of July
1983 still make Sri Lankans quiver. Most now
agree it was Sri Lanka's 'week of shame'; it
began on the 23rd of July and in fact has not yet
ended. State controlled media of the day
described the events as an ethnic disturbance.
But discerning citizens knew what they were
witnessing was nothing short of a holocaust Sri
The details of the horrors and mayhem after two
decades remain sketchy; they are not fully
chronicled for obvious reasons. They will however
remain etched in the minds of people both
Sinhalese and Tamils.
Most politicians to this day use 'Black July' in
their regular rhetoric but go no further; it is
clear now politicians of the day crafted this
program against the Tamil people.
It is heartening however the proposals of the
Presidential Truth Commission are being given
effect to today on the 21st anniversary of the
pogrom. The President herself is to handover
compensation to 30 randomly selected victims.
Mobs armed with iron poles, swords and gasoline
systematically went about the business of
killing, looting and burning Tamil establishments
and homes. A trail of destruction and human
misery was all that was left at the end, with
Tamil people being forced to seek refuge with
their Sinhala friends and even with strangers who
protected them for months on end, while
authorities looked the other way, making little
or not effort to stop the rampage.
The riots were triggered off by a landmine attack
in Jaffna, which killed 13 soldiers on July 23,
1983. No one at the time could have predicted the
sheer magnitude the riots would reach or that
this could change the course of history and cause
Sri Lanka to become what it is today.
The post Black July period saw a virtual exodus,
scores of disgruntled Tamils left for the West
and neighbouring India, others went to the North,
young men and women joined the militants.
Black July strengthened militancy and the Tamils'
resolve to do something about their grievances.
The Eelam demand began in earnest and a civil war
raged on for 18 years, over 60,000 lives were
lost on both sides of the divide. The Sri Lankan
dream if there was one, was shattered. The
economy came to a virtual standstill.
o o o
[SOME READINGS ON THE 1983 RIOTS IN SRI LANKA]
Dissanayaka, T D S A. The Agony of Sri Lanka: An
In-depth Account of the Racial Riots of July
1983, (Colombo, Swastika Pvt Ltd., 1983).
Amnesty International. Sri Lanka: Current Human
Rights Concerns & Evidence of Extrajudicial
Killings by the Security Forces, July 1983-April
1984 (NY, 1984).
Abeysekera, C. & Gunasinghe. N. (eds) - "Facets
of Ethnicity in Sri Lanka", Social Scientist
Association, (Colombo: Social Scientists
Association , 1987).
Tambiah, Stanley J. Sri Lanka. Ethnic Fratricide
& the Dismantling of Democracy (Chicago: U.
Sieghart, Paul. Sri Lanka: A Mounting Tragedy of
Errors (London: International Commission of
Dharmadasa, K.N.O. Language, Religion, & Ethnic
Assertiveness: The Growth of Sinhalese
Nationalism in Sri Lanka (Ann Arbor, 1992).
Sivanandan, Ambalavaner. When Memory Dies (London: Arcadia, 1997)
The Telegraph [India]
July 23, 2004
THE VALLEY IS STILL UNQUIET
- Kashmir should be at the top of the left's agenda
The excitement, always somewhat ersatz, over the
Union budget proposals is nearly abated. The
budget in any case is a bit of a hoax, an
exercise in public relations on the part of the
government. It draws attention to what the regime
considers it worthwhile to draw attention to. The
new government's supposed anxiety to derive
appropriate lessons from the poll outcome and
concentrate on fostering rural welfare was made
the keynote of this year's exercise. The media
have responded in the Pavlovian mode: they have
gone overboard to record the breathtaking rural
transformation which the budget is seemingly
determined to usher in.
In this raucous milieu, one runs the risk of
being considered a pariah by mentioning, with or
without temerity, such facts as that while the
allocation for the ministry of agriculture was Rs
3,170 crore according to the revised estimates
for 2003-04, the allocation suggested for 2004-05
is Rs 4,192 crore, an increase of merely around
Rs 1,000 crore; or that the position is much
worse with regard to the ministry of rural
development, in whose case the revised allocation
of Rs 19,200 crore in 2003-04 has actually been
slashed to Rs 1,600 crore in the current year's
budget. Equally revealing is the comparison
between the Central plan outlays in the two
years: these were Rs 12,238 crore and Rs 3,671
crore respectively for rural development and
agriculture in 2003-04; and are down to Rs 9,239
crore and Rs 2,643 crore respectively in 2004-05.
Given the surcharged atmosphere, ground reality
has to stand aside and offer homage to vacuous
hoopla. The media have little time to comment on
the nearly 30 per cent jump in the allocation for
the ministry of defence, from around Rs 60,000
crore last year to roughly Rs 77,000 crore this
year, and the defence minister has already hinted
at a further upward revision in the latter figure.
Unalterable India, unalterable the reign of the
establishment in New Delhi. The colour of the
government changes; the defence lobby though goes
on forever. And rest assured, in the
parliamentary debates, members of parliament will
make themselves hoarse praising or condemning
this or that teeny-weeny bit of allocation for
the rural sector and split hairs over the merit
or demerit of a couple of crore of rupees
marginally allocated for, say, mid-day meal
schemes. The defence budget, however, for all one
knows, will be guillotined and passed within a
space of ten seconds. Even if it is not
guillotined, an aura of hush-hush will descend on
Sansad Bhavan: the issue of defence is
sacrosanct, the very security of the nation is
involved, therefore tread softly, do not raise
your voice, and, please, do not stray into
posting patently unpatriotic questions about this
or that item of expenditure.
Any query which challenges, even remotely and
indirectly, a proposed outlay with a high-import
content will be dubbed a sensitive matter;
members will be privately advised to be demure.
They can only watch from the sidelines even as
actual allocations for the two ministries that
are crucially relevant for amelioration of rural
poverty, those of the ministry of agriculture and
the ministry of rural development, get reduced in
the net over the year, while the allocation for
the ministry of defence is raised heftily. The
allocation for defence is almost four times the
amount set aside for the two agriculture-related
The story does not quite end here. Budgetary
funds being placed with the ministry of home
affairs include large chunks of money for
purposes of security operations. This is really a
second front for defence outlay. There are a
number of other secret niches which conceal funds
allotted for purchase of weaponry and espionage
operations. On a conservative estimate, the total
funds currently doled out under several heads to
the military and security establishments will
easily amount to a neat Rs100,000, or even more,
It is in this context that one is impelled to
refer to the daunting, unfinished agenda of
Kashmir. The valley remains unquiet despite the
temporary détente worked out with Pakistan and
despite the fact, tacitly acknowledged by New
Delhi too, that across-the-border infiltration of
men and arms has declined considerably in recent
months. In fact, such infiltration can be said to
be almost a matter of the past, at least for the
present. That has not however led to any
cessation of violence in Jammu and Kashmir.
Unhappy incidents continue. Fiercely committed
militants, whom many across the globe will regard
as devout local patriots, persist with their
activities; several amongst them embracing what,
whether we like it or not, most Kashmiris hail as
a martyr's death.
The recent Lok Sabha polls have been a sobre
eye-opener. A change in the complexion of the
government at the state level 18 months ago has
not restored the faith of a majority of Kashmiris
in the Indian polity; votes cast in the
parliamentary elections this year have been
barely 35 per cent of the total electorate as
against 43 per cent in the last assembly
election. In constituencies such as Srinagar and
Anantnag, the proportion of votes polled has
actually been as low as 20 per cent or less.
Clearly, whatever the nature of reverie indulged
in in New Delhi, the problem of Kashmir will not
go away. Should an honourable peace in the valley
be the key objective, army occupation,
indefinitely extended, will be of no avail;
additional appropriations for augmenting defence
and security measures are also unlikely to strike
any extra terror in the hearts of the insurgents.
To ruminate over how the great divide has come
about is neither here nor there. A meaningful
first step for bringing peace to the valley is
recognition, with some humility, of the reality
of Kashmir being an alienated persona. The need,
no question, is to start on a clean slate. The
United Progressive Alliance government, the prime
minister has gone on record, will be open to
having free-ranging discussions with Pakistan on
all issues, including Kashmir. Is there then any
need, within the domestic contour, to stand on
ceremony and keep postponing direct parleys with
the so-called extremists in the Hurriyat
The Centre can here easily take a leaf from out
of the Andhra Pradesh government's gesture
towards the People's War: pre-conditions have
been shed on either side, accompanied by the
declaration of a ceasefire. Kashmir is of as much
grave import to New Delhi as the Naxalite
rebellion is to Hyderabad. And if Hyderabad can
afford to take certain risks, why cannot New
Delhi? If emotions are past, and inhibitions a
roadblock, they deserve to be at least suspended
for the present.
True, there is a further problem beyond
run-of-the-mill sentiments and prejudices. The
jacked-up budgetary allocation for purposes of
defence and security packs into itself a grisly
datum. Some determined groups are around who
would like to log on to Kashmir for eternity; the
persistence of the imbroglio in the valley
amounts to prolonging the discord with Pakistan
and thereby encouraging rising defence
expenditure. Foreign merchants and their local
agents will not willingly give up Kashmir, one of
their major lifelines over the past five decades.
It is not for nothing that scandals such as those
of Bofors and coffins keep recurring.
May not an appeal be made, and with some ardour,
to the country's left? Kashmir is an issue which
should occupy the top of their agenda. Between
the end of World War II and the Gorbachev-Yeltsin
joint act of skulduggery that drew the curtains
on the Soviet system, the left was in the
forefront of the battle for global peace. Kashmir
provides them an opportunity to re-explore the
source of the idealism. To speak up on behalf of
the valley and its people is no betrayal of
patriotism either: a lowering of defence spending
and the transfer of resources thus saved to
worthwhile directions such as health, education
and rural development could be a significant blow
for accelerated economic development cherished by
every patriotic Indian.
The Christian Science Monitor
July 23, 2004
INDIA RETRIES PIVOTAL HINDU-MUSLIM HATE CRIME
On Monday, the notorious Best Bakery case nudged closer to a trial date.
By Scott Baldauf | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
MUMBAI, INDIA - When a Hindu mob stormed a bakery
and killed 14, including two Muslims burnt alive
in ovens, the gruesome crime became the symbol of
religious violence that gripped India two years
ago and left nearly 1,000 dead.
Now, in what appears to be a second chance for
justice, the Best Bakery case moved this week one
step toward retrial.
The first trial, held in May 2003 in the state of
Gujarat, where the massacre took place, ended in
the acquittal of all 21 of the accused rioters
after the victims changed their testimony. The
Indian Supreme Court last April ordered a retrial
out of state, calling state officials "modern-day
Neros" for ignoring the complaints of witnesses
that they had been politically harassed and
pressured to change their testimony by police and
The opportunity for another trial in this
cornerstone case is seen here as an important
chance to resolve a major irritant in Hindu-
Muslim relations and a chance to chip away at the
pervasive problem of witness tampering in the
Indian justice system.
"This case has been a kind of systematic failure
of the Indian legal system," says Teesta
Setalwad, a human rights activist who led the
effort to get the case a second hearing. "This
has been a symbol, hopefully, to revive the
criminal justice system in India."
In a country where prosecutors win violent
criminal cases only 4 percent of the time, some
dramatic reforms are required, Ms. Setalwad says.
"In India, we have failed (in providing justice.)
Trials take 10 years to finish. Witnesses turn
hostile and change their testimony. The whole
system needs to change."
The trouble in Gujarat began at a train station
in Godhra on Feb. 27, 2002, when a train car full
of Hindu activists was torched, killing 68
passengers. For more than two months, Hindu
rioters took their revenge on Muslim neighbors,
killing nearly 1,000 citizens. Police claimed
they were unable to contain the rioters, but
later, senior officials admitted to human rights
activists that they had been directed by Gujarat
Chief Minister Narendra Modi to allow the
"anticipated Hindu reaction" to run its course.
Mr. Modi, a member of the Hindu-nationalist
Bharatiya Janata Party, has claimed that his
state apparatus had done everything it could to
keep the peace, but has also called the riots a
"natural reaction" to the Godhra attack.
The Best Bakery case was once seen as the best
chance to bring the rioters to justice, some of
whom included police officials and activists of
the BJP and other Hindu nationalist groups. The
star witness, Zahira Shaikh, named 21 of the
rioters directly involved in the murders of 11
members of her Muslim family as well as their 3
Hindu employees. But on May 17, 2003, she changed
her testimony. Later, Ms. Shaikh told reporters
that she had been threatened by a BJP state
legislator, Madhu Srivastava, who had escorted
her to the courthouse.
"He told me, 'Think about what you have to do. If
you don't, you will suffer,'" Ms. Shaikh later
told India Today magazine. "I knew I had two
options: to get justice for dead family members,
or save those who were living."
Mr. Srivastava denies having threatened Shaikh,
but admits that he did escort Shaikh to court to
protect her from the crowd. "She was receiving
threats," he told reporters at the time.
On Monday, a judge in Mumbai gave the case one
more nudge toward a trial date, ordering Gujarat
to issue warrants against 10 of the 21 accused
rioters who had not been apprehended.
Even with a second chance to give testimony, free
of coercion, the Best Bakery case will not be an
easy conviction. The Shaikh family has given two
versions of the story and estranged members of
the family tell an entirely different story.
Yet whatever the outcome of the Best Bakery case,
the very fact that it got a retrial at all - and
that, out of Gujarat - may have reverberations.
On Aug. 3, the Indian Supreme Court is scheduled
to hear arguments from six other heinous cases
similar to Best Bakery, which are also pushing to
be tried outside Gujarat.
The largest of these, the massacre of 89 Muslims
in the district of Naroda-Patiya, occurred the
day after the Godhra tragedy. Police waited
nearly a year to investigate this case or to
While some activists say Best Bakery will bring
legal reforms that will guarantee more
professionalism and less political interference
in future cases, others like Mr. Jethmalani says
a deeper reform within human character is needed.
"Either out of communal motives [of promoting
hatred toward the Muslim community] or out of
some political motives by the state leaders, the
investigation was totally unequal to their task,"
says Mr. Jethmalani. Yet the problems seen in the
case go far beyond Gujarat.
"I must compliment the people of India for
setting their face against such fundamentalism,
when they voted against the BJP in the last
elections," he says. But the decline in human
character and the rise of fundamentalism "is
getting worse," he adds, and not "just in India
but in the West as well."
July 23, 2004
Caste and religion
How to desaffronise education
India suffers from both religious and caste
communalism. So education should decasteise
society as a whole
By Kancha Ilaiah
Ever since Arjun Singh took over as Minister for
Human Resources Development, he started a process
of desaffronising education. The process of
saffronisation was deep as Murli Manohar Joshi
had pushed the Hindutva ideology to all levels of
the education system. This does not mean that
during the phase of secularisation of education,
the education system was made pro- productive
masses. What the secular educationists did was
that they tried to mediate between Hindu and
Muslim historical systems.
But, however, they too did not realise and work
out a historiography of the productive mass based
on multi-culturalism. For nationalist historians
the national ethos was based on Vedism. For
Marxist historians it was of class without any
face of Indianness, which in essence was caste.
For subaltern historians the nation was of
peasant or farmer, again unidentifiable in terms
of the real identity of the productive masses -
the tanner, the shoe maker, the potter, the
shepherd, the tiller and so on, who struggle with
the nature to produce food and other goods and
commodities for human survival and each one of
such social group is known by its caste name.
So desaffronisation of education does not mean
deleting some sentences and paras from history
books or deleting sections that deal with
astrology from the books prepared by the Hindutva
historians. Indian history does not become
representative history only if the so called
Vedic mathematics, Vedic science etc are either
removed or nuanced with the language of a secular
historian. The difference between caste
communalism and secularism has been very thin.
India does not suffer from only religious
communalism. It suffers from caste communalism as
well. Hence education should decasteise society
as a whole.
The school textbooks brought out by the NCERT
during the BJP regime really destroyed the social
foundation of Indian society. The Vedic
Brahmanism was not only made central to future
life but it was made binding for people who live
in future too. The history of Muslim rulers was
shown as a period of devilishness. There was no
scientific analysis in any particular form or
there was no serious examination of the history
and social sciences. The form and content of the
books that were brought out under Rajput
leadership need to be scrapped. The question,
however, is that what do we replace it with? What
kind of history are we going to hand down to the
millions of children? Is it enough to have a
syllabus that teaches that Hindus, Muslims,
Christians, Sikhs, Bouddhas and Jains should live
side by side without involving themselves in
social conflicts? But it does not resolve the
historical mindsets, stereotypes and caste
biases. The whole question of teaching history
and social sciences does not mean teaching about
religious institutions alone. History and social
sciences have to deal with, castes, cultures,
different modes of customs, conventions and the
institutional structures that emerged based on
all these factors. In a caste society like India
purely class-based analysis does allow the
student to understand the multi- cultural
structures India. The future citizens of India
should know the positive and negative history of
India. They should know what should be practised
what should not be practised. They should know
what is a vehicle to reach the goal of equality
and what is hindrance for equality. More
significantly they should know that the caste
system destroyed dignity of labour.
Why should dignity of labour be central to our
school education? The school education all these
years has remained very vague. The sociological
explanation, the cultural history, the political
history, so far, have not treated the caste as a
negative system. It is amazing that no historian
has discussed jobs like shoe making, pot making ,
shepherding and even tilling the land. If the new
education policy being framed by the Arjun Singh
ministry does not grapple with castes and the
kind of indignity of labour that it created once
again we are in for a system which perpetuates
caste inequalities, thereby other inequalities as
No doubt Arjun Singh himself is very sensitive to
the question of communalism. And the committee
that he is going to constitute might have people
who are very sensitive to the communal mode of
history written by earlier communal authors. But
there is a general feeling among most historians
that a discourse on caste is undesirable. But
such an attitude towards history will show a
hidden respect for superstition among many of our
otherwise progressive historians.
There are some social scientists who believe that
if we discuss caste it will spread more and more.
It is like believing that if we discuss cancer it
would spread in the body and if we remain silent
about it, it would automatically disappear. There
is also a school of writers who believe that if
our children are taught about sex education that
will lead to spreading of AIDS among them.
Similarly some social scientists think that if
school children study about caste they would
become casteist. This is a superstitious belief.
Cancer can be removed only by operation and AIDS
can be abolished only by scientific sex education
among our child population. Similarly caste can
be abolished only by making our child population
respect all forms of labour in everyday life.
They must also discuss the negative influences of
caste on the social system.
25 July 2004
SASHIKUMAR DEALS WITH THE DILEMMA OF NURTURING ONE'S IDENTITY
By V.R. Devika
When your ethnic identity could be a death
warrant, would you still preserve it? Director
Sashikumar (left) tackles this question in Kaya
Taran (Chrysalis), his debut Hindi film. Taking
off from the 1984 anti-Sikh riots (after the
assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi),
it echoes fear. "Thousands cut their hair to
survive," says Sashikumar, who is also the
producer and scriptwriter of the film. "The
question of retaining one's identity as a [member
of the] minority population is on even in
progressive societies where standardisation of
dress code is thought to be the solution to
multi-ethnic problems. I don't know if they have
understood the deeper undercurrent of the
problem. I decided to look at this in the film."
Based on a Malayalam short story by IAS officer
N.S. Madhavan, the film is set in a nunnery in
Meerut. Despite their isolation, the aged nuns
have to deal with the assassination and
subsequent riots when they give refuge to a young
Sikh mother and her seven-year-old son.
"When I read the story I wanted to make a movie
on it, but didn't know how," says Sashikumar.
"Then the post-Godhra riots made me think about
contemporising the story. I am not interested in
the violence, but with the dilemma of nurturing
The Minority report: The film does not look back
in anger, but searches for answers
The film is crisp with subtle humour. It does not
use a linear narrative form. "It is not so much
about storytelling as about the connections that
lend new meaning to our lives," says Sashikumar.
The cast includes Seema Biswas and Angad Bedi,
son of former Indian spinner Bishen Singh Bedi.
"I knew I had my protagonist the minute he walked
in to meet me at the India International Centre
in New Delhi," he says. Angad plays his role as a
journalist with aplomb. But one of the most
brilliant performances was given by N.
Bhattacharya, communist leader E.M.S.
Namboodiripad's great-grandchild, who plays the
little boy. "A student of mine suggested him and
even I was wonderstruck at his natural acting
talent and total professionalism," says
Journalists Rahul Bedi, Joseph Malliakken and
Alok Thomar play themselves in the film. "Rahul
broke the story of the Trilokpuri carnage. He
gives real accounts of the inhuman, unthinking
massacres that took place against Sikhs," he says.
"The film is not looking back in anger, but
searching for answers. It seeks to conceptualise
the violence of 1984 with that in Gujarat in 2002
and to show them as symptomatic of a deeper and
more insidious challenge from within to our
multi-cultureness." Ram Rehman, the spokesperson
for Sahmat, a Delhi-based anti-communalism group,
also plays himself.
A man of varied talents, Sashikumar has what it
takes to create a seamless film. He has been a
print and television journalist and started
India's first regional language television
channel, Asianet. He also set up the Asian
College of Journalism in Chennai.
The film, however, is yet to find a distributor.
"I have to find someone who believes in the film
and its relevance," says Sashikumar. With
disharmony mounting, relevance should not be a
REBUILDING JUSTICE AND HOPE IN GUJARAT
THE AGENDA AHEAD
IIC, Janandolan, Citizen Initiative & Anhad
Cordially invite you to a seminar
Rebuilding Justice and Hope in Gujarat: The Agenda Ahead
Venue :Main Auditorium, India International
Centre, Max Muller Marg, New Delhi-110003
Time : 9.30 am to 1.30 pm
Date: Thursday July 29, 2004
9.30 - 9.45 am
Audio - Visual on Gujarat
9.45 - 10.15 am
Subversion of Legal Justice
Indira Jaisingh, Farha Naqvi
10.15 - 10.45
Compensation and Rehabilitation
Gagan Sethi, Prof Ansari
10.45 - 11.15
POTA As An Instrument Of State Terror
Colin Gonsalves, Nitya Ramakrishnan
11.15 - 11.30
11.30 - 12.00
The Truth About Godhra
Mukul Sinha, Zafar Saifullah
12.00 - 12.30
Zakia, Cedric Prakash
12.30 - 1.30
The Unfinished Agenda
Harsh Mander, Amrish Patel,Chaman Lal, PC Sen
IIC, Janandolan, Citizen Initiative & Anhad
4, Windsor Place, New Delhi-110001
Ph. : 23327367/ 66 E-mail: anhadinfo@...
Date: Thu, 22 Jul 2004 09:21:11 +0530
Activists who took part in the activities of the
DEFEAT BJP FORUM during March-May this year have
now resolved to use the experience gathered in
that campaign to widen the scope for the struggle
for democratic space. Tentatively, the new forum
will have the following features:
1. Name: People's Struggle for Democracy. This
will be an umbrella forum for sharing experience,
preparing documents, initiating and coordinating
campaign activities etc. The participants are
expected to belong to a variety of democratic
organizations. Hence, the structure of the forum
will be completely open-ended.
2. Agenda: (a) To continue the struggle against
communal-fascist forces at the grass-roots level,
(b) to oppose the continuing neo-liberal economic
policies of the state that largely led to the
rise of the communal-fascist forces in the first
3. Method: Direct work among the masses in small
groups in and around Delhi to enable the masses
to recognize and act on their own on the issues
listed above. In this, we will use and expand on
the contacts, resources and experience already
gathered in the earlier campaign. There will be
less emphasis on seminars, conventions,
campaiging in the media etc.
We will have a meeting on 23 July, Friday, 5.00
PM at 8, VP House to finalize on the above items
and to chart some definite course of activities.
Please attend this meeting so that we have as wide a consensus as possible.
Nirmalangshu, Madhu, Thomas, Jadav, Nandita, and others.
The Women's Movement and Our Troubled Relationship
with Prostitution: A Dialogue
On 9th August, Saheli will complete twenty-three years of existence. And we
hope not only to exist for a long time to come, but to meet head-on the
challenges of understanding and struggling against patriarchy in its myriad
forms. As always, we look forward to spending this day with our friends and
supporters trying to consolidate our work and alliances, and also explore
complex new terrains together.
We would like to invite you to a dialogue on the rights of women in
prostitution. Most of the groups working on the issue agree that
decriminalizing laws around prostitution is a critical step that is urgently
needed to enable women in prostitution to access their rights and to end
police violations. Yet we all know that the wide range of experiences that
women in prostitution encounter has demonstrated the complexity of the
issue, taking the debate beyond the binaries of legalization/abolition,
good/bad, moral/immoral, etc. A grey zone exists between these extremes - a
zone of differences and discomfort, conflict and concern.
A dialogue encompassing these and other related issues is essential, and
should be as open as possible. Your presence and participation at this
meeting will help in exploring together the crucial linkages of issues for a
deeper understanding. While there may be no direct 'outcomes' from this
dialogue other than a frank exchange of opinions, we believe that it is part
of a longer process of engagement by women's groups on this issue.
Meena Seshu from Sangram, and Shabana from Veshya Anyay Muqabla Parishad
(VAMP) Sangli, Maharasthra, will be present to share their experiences.
When: Saturday 7th August, 1-5 pm
Where: Indian Social Institute, Lodi Road
Please do come. We look forward to seeing you,
All of us in Saheli
Saheli Women's Resource Centre
Above Shop Nos. 105-108
Under Defence Colony Flyover Market (South Side)
New Delhi 110 024
Phone: +91 (011) 2461 6485
22 Jul 2004 19:12:07 +0500
APPEAL TO THE PRESIDENT RE THE DEATH PENALTY ON DHANANJOY
As you know, Dhananjoy Chatterjee has been sentenced to death for the rape
and murder of a school girl in Calcutta. His appeal for clemency has been
rejected by the Home Ministry and the President is consulting legal opinion
regarding death penalty in this case. As an urgent, last minute appeal, PUDR
is urging as many groups, organizations and individuals as possible to
appeal to the President to commute his sentence. Heinous as Dhananjoy's
crime is, this appeal is part of our principled opposition to death penalty.
We have drafted a copy of a letter to the President. It is given below. We
would urge you to send similar letters to the President as soon as possible
since a final decision in this case is imminent.
His address is in the letter and his email is: presidentofindia@...
People's Union for Democratic Rights
Re: Mercy Petition of Dhananjoy Chatterjee
This is a public plea to you to exercise the power of compassion and mercy
reposed in you as Head of State, to commute the death sentence of Dhananjoy
Chatterjee. We do believe that his crime is reprehensible. However, awarding
him the death sentence is not the answer.
Dhananjoy was sentenced to death in August 1991 for the rape and murder of a
16 year old in her apartment in Calcutta on 5 March 1990. After unsuccessful
appeals to the High Court and the Supreme Court, he was due to be hanged in
February 1994 after which the date was twice postponed to March 1994, but
did not take place. Hence, he has already been in jail for over ten years
under the constant shadow of death penalty, a harsh and torturous
punishment, and itself a reason for you to exercise compassion.
Heinous as the crime is, we believe that death penalty is not the answer to
the crime of rape and murder. For one, capital punishment for rape deflects
attention from the conditions in society which allow rapes to occur, and
focuses exclusively instead on the individual. Nor does it deal with other
issues such as the extremely low conviction rates in rape cases, or the
delay in filing FIRs and in awarding punishment. These would be far more
effective deterrents against rape, not meting out death sentence. Extreme
violence on women has deeper, structural, patriarchal roots that cannot be
dealt with by even more violence by the State.
The application of death penalty is extremely subjective as it depends on
the predilections of the judges. Whether you live or die cannot depend on
who is in the chair.
Also, studies globally have shown that it is more likely to be imposed when
the accused - as in Dhananjoy's case - is from a poor background. This lack
of resources hampered access to competent legal assistance in the early
stages of the case, which contributed to his ultimately being sentenced to
He has had no previous history of crime. His death will not serve any wider
social purpose. Nor is death penalty in any way a deterrent to crime in
society as numerous studies in India and abroad have conclusively proved.
Those who are arguing for his death are simply demanding an eye for an eye.
Death penalty fulfills a desire for revenge, but this cannot be the
principle that guides an enlightened jurisprudence or a modern Head of
We believe that death penalty has no place in a modern democracy such as
India's. We would draw your attention to the fact that there has been a
general shift worldwide towards total abolition, or towards the non-use of
death penalty. The International Criminal Court, constituted in 1998 by 160
countries and of which India is a signatory, does not allow itself to hand
down the death sentence even though it oversees large-scale heinous crimes
including rape, crimes against humanity and genocide. As many as 79
countries have abolished it completely, 15 have abolished for all but
exceptional crimes such as wartime crimes, and 23 have it in law but not in
practice for the last ten years. That makes a total of 117 countries that
have abolished it in law or in practice. Since 1990, over 35 countries or
territories have abolished the death penalty entirely, for all crimes. We
would urge India to take this enlightened path and commuting Dhananjoy's
sentence is a step in that direction..
In light of the above, we beseech you as the highest constitutional
functionary to be generous in the exercise of gentle compassion and commute
the sentence of death imposed on Dhananjoy Chatterjee.
(NAME OF THE ORGANIZATION/ INDIVIDUAL)
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