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SACW | June 1-4, 2009 / Sri Lanka: After War / Pakistan: Job for Secularists / Kashmir AFSPA / Bangladesh, India: Gender / US: Christian Taliban

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | June 1-4, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2631 - Year 11 running From: www.sacw.net [ SACW Dispatches for 2009-2010 are dedicated to the memory
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3, 2009
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | June 1-4, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2631 - Year
      11 running
      From: www.sacw.net

      [ SACW Dispatches for 2009-2010 are dedicated to the memory of Dr.
      Sudarshan Punhani (1933-2009), husband of Professor Tamara Zakon and
      a comrade and friend of Daya Varma ]
      ____

      [1] Sri Lanka: Media again under threat (Editorial, Daily Mirror)
      - A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
      - SAFMA, SAMC condemn attack on SL journo
      - Sinhala Ultra-nationalists Threat Letter to Centre for Policy
      Alternatives (CPA)
      - Taking Forward the Struggle for Equality, Justice and Democracy
      in Sri Lanka (Rohini Hensman)
      - Letter from a Tamil in North-East Sri Lanka (in EPW)
      - Aid workers forced to leave Sri Lanka under strict new visa
      rules undefined (Jeremy Page)
      - The idealist I once knew became the Tamils' Pol Pot (N Ram)
      [2] Bangladesh: Questioning the assumptions that underpin our
      national conversation on gender (Naeem Mohaiemen)
      [3] Pakistan: Window of opportunity (Farhat Taj)
      [4] India: Outrage in Kashmir and Omar's about turn on AFSPA
      (Editorial, Kashmir Times)
      - India looking at dialogue option on Pakistan again (Siddharth
      Varadarajan)
      [5] India: Is Sikhism succumbing to fundamentalism? (Sathnam Sanghera)
      [6] India: India's missing women (Pamela Philipose)
      - Courting Anger (Editorial, The Telegraph)
      - No Woman, No Cry (Hemchhaya De)
      [7] Miscellanea:
      - USA: Violent Campaign of the Anti Abortionist Christian Taliban
      - A compilation of selected commentary & reports (siawi.org)
      - Clinics in the Cross Hairs (Editorial, Washington Post)
      - Lessons from Tiananmen (Ian Buruma)
      - Spanish Civil War volunteers are granted citizenship 70 years on
      (Deborah Haynes)
      [8] Announcements:
      (i) Public Discussion: Internationalising Caste - Everybody's Issue?
      Or Nobody's Issue? (New Delhi, 4 June 2008)
      (ii) Workshop: Religious Cultures in South Asia, c. 1500-1800
      (Oxford, 5-6 June 2009)
      (iii) Public Forum: Struggles for Land, Livelihood and Life in India
      (Vancouver, June 21, 2009)



      _____


      [1] Sri Lanka:


      Daily Mirror, 3 June 2009

      EDITORIAL : MEDIA AGAIN UNDER THREAT

      The dastardly attack on the General Secretary of Sri Lanka Working
      Journalists Association Poddala Jayantha, on Monday has again sent
      shock waves around the media circles. Abducted by an unknown group
      late afternoon on Monday as he was on his way home, he was later
      found beaten and left on the road side by some people. Admitted to
      the ICU, he was later declared out of danger.
      A known advocate of media freedom, Jayantha’s attackers did not only
      inhumanely beat up an unarmed journalist, but also poses a greater
      threat to free expression in the country.

      The manner in which half his beard was shaved off and then brutally
      beaten up, is a crude reminder of the punishments meted out by the
      insurgents in the 1989 era. Such attacks are neither welcome nor
      healthy for a country rising from the ashes of war. These attacks can
      only have a negative impact towards the normalization process that
      the country seemed poised for as the government announced the end of
      a three decade old war last month.

      It is still not clear if Monday’s attack is an isolated one or part
      of a line of attacks that the media has continued to experience over
      a period of time. The number of journalists killed, attacked or
      threatened out of the country during the last few years is
      significant. It is not a number a democratic society can be proud of.
      Only independent investigations in to all these cases can bring light
      to this growing trend and where the threat emanates from, and thereby
      eliminate those unfairly accused.

      The Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa yesterday assured that
      investigations in to this particular attack, has already begun, and
      that the government will bring the findings before the media as soon
      as possible. It would be to the government’s credit if this could be
      accomplished without delay and the fears growing within the media
      eliminated.

      Certainly, many hold their reservations about the manner in which
      certain media organizations have carried out their duties in a manner
      threatening the war effort of the government.

      It is also no secret that the government had aired its own
      reservations against such individuals and organizations. However the
      fact remains that if the security establishments have any evidence
      against any journalists or media organizations, then they must allow
      for justice to take its course.

      The longer these accusations are levelled without sufficient
      investigation, the more difficult it will be for them to gain any
      credibility. Mere accusations that remain unsubstantiated, would
      prove a serious hindrance to the process of democracy the government
      claim it remains committed to.

      The need for investigations in to these kinds of attacks and punitive
      measures against culprits becomes all the more important given the
      international pressures against the government at this juncture.
      Being at the receiving end of numerous counts of human rights
      violations, the government only loses the moral high ground it
      desperately needs to fight these claims, by allowing such attacks to
      go unchecked.

      The responsibility of the government to create an environment
      conducive for an independent media, is paramount if Sri Lanka is to
      gain the real benefits of peace.

      No society threatened against listening to constructive criticism,
      and learning to appreciate the voices of dissent, can hope to progress.

      Creating such a mature society would prove fruitful to the
      government, more so than ever; as it begins a discussion on allowing
      all communities equal rights.

      The wider the rights to free expression allowed, the more viable the
      outcome of a debate on a political solution enjoyed by all.

      The hopes resting on the Rajapaksa regime to create such a society
      are large, and the benefits to the country’s future growth immense.
      The faster the government is able to arrest this unhealthy trend, the
      greater its chances of maintaining the goodwill it had won over the
      largest percentage of the population ever in the history of this
      country.

      o o o

      http://www.ahrchk.net/statements/mainfile.php/2009statements/2059/
      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
      AHRC-STM-125-2009
      June 2, 2009

      A STATEMENT BY THE ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

      SRI LANKA: Journalist attacked – a civil society organisation
      threatened and a provocative campaign against freedom of expression
      continues

      Poddal Jayantha was abducted yesterday (June 1), and was later found
      with head and leg injuries. He is now undergoing treatment in a
      hospital.

      Mr. Jayantha is the General Secretary of the Working Journalists
      Association and there were earlier attempts to abduct him from his
      home which he narrowly escaped due to the intervention of family
      members and neighbours.

      This latest attack comes in the wake of a provocative campaign in
      which the army commander, as well as the Inspector General of Police,
      has made incendiary remarks which link the critics of the government
      to the LTTE. Both television and media publicity has been given over
      to allegations that some journalists have been in the pay of the
      LTTE. However, no names have been revealed and no cases filed. Such
      remarks have ignited some groups who, in a situation of euphoria
      created after the assassination of the LTTE leaders, are being
      permitted to engage in acts of violence against anyone that is
      identified as unpatriotic.

      At the same time of the attack on Mr. Jayantha, a group of journalist
      was talking to the president of Sri Lanka complaining about the
      attacks on the media. The President was then informed of the attack
      on Mr. Jayantha and his response to the news was to call upon the
      Inspector General of Police and request investigations. This is a
      typical response of the president after any attack on journalists.
      While he makes a public relations gesture of disassociating himself
      with the attacks and calling for investigations he has failed, so
      far, to send a strong message as the head of the state to the armed
      forces and the police to stop the campaign against journalists. The
      result is that his public statement condemning the attacks is not
      taken seriously by the law enforcement agencies or by the public.
      Tacit encouragement for provocative campaigns and attacks on the
      media and all others who freely express their views continue unabated.

      There is a permissive atmosphere to engage in acts of violence. The
      jubilation over the assassination of the LTTE leaders is now being
      manipulated to silence all dissent, particularly that in the south.
      Provocative posters against the leader of the opposition asking him
      to leave the country are being exhibited in Colombo and given wide
      publicity by the state media. The posters read, ‘Back Biter get out!’
      and are accompanied by the opposition leader’s photographs. The
      accusation aims to attribute the source of the criticism made by the
      United Nations and other countries about alleged human rights abuses
      in Sri Lanka to the opposition leader. All criticism against human
      rights abuses in Sri Lanka is being portrayed as unpatriotic actions
      deserving serious punishment which implies attacks similar to that
      suffered by Mr. Jayantha.

      Meanwhile, the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), a well known
      civil society organisation based in Colombo, received a warning
      letter from a group calling itself Sri Lankans Affectionate towards
      the Motherland, referring to the CPA and other organisations as
      conspirators who will be watched. The organisation was asked to close
      their office throughout the entire week parallel to the dates of
      honouring the warriors. The organisation was also asked to display a
      banner bestowing ‘your honour’ to the warriors; it was asked to
      donate Rs. 1,000,000/= to honour the warriors. Furthermore, the
      letter stated, "You should certainly stop all the programmes
      conducted by your institute which are detrimental to the sovereignty,
      unitary nature and dignity of this country". The letter ends with the
      following note: "Let us destroy conspirators. Let us march forward
      fearlessly. Let us protect Mother Lanka."

      Previously letters were sent by an organisation calling itself the
      Mahason Balakaya, the Battalion of the Ghosts of Death, making
      similar threats to human rights organisations and lawyers.

      All these activities are being done with the full knowledge of the
      government. As mentioned above, high ranking state officers and
      leaders of the forces, including the police, are among those who are
      taking an active part in these campaigns. Under these circumstances
      many groups such as covert police units, military cells or criminals
      can attack whoever they chose to.

      In the recent times no similar incidents have lead to any serious
      investigations or prosecutions because the investigating capacity of
      the police has been paralysed by political interference. The lack of
      investigations is used as an excuse; it is said that the lack of
      evidence is the reason for not prosecuting cases. At the Human Rights
      Council, Sri Lanka claimed that it has a functioning system of the
      administration of justice. This, however, is far from the truth. The
      system is entirely dysfunctional because of political interference.
      What is prevailing in the country today is the situation where every
      type of lawlessness is possible.

      The Sri Lankan government lacks the capacity to investigate due to
      politicisation and lacks the political will to enforce rule of law.

      Under these circumstances the citizens have no way to protect
      themselves. The groups that face the greatest danger naturally under
      these circumstances are those who express their views. Thus, the
      media and every other form of opposition are under enormous threat.

      An extraordinary situation of violence is likely to develop,
      particularly in the south mobilised directly or indirectly by the
      ruling party itself with the support of some leaders of the armed
      forces and the police.

      The citizens and the international community need to alert themselves
      to the dangerous situation that is developing and take whatever steps
      that are needed to avert this danger.

      o o o

      SOUTH ASIAN MEDIA NET

      SAFMA, SAMC condemn attack on SL journo
      Wednesday, June 03,2009

      LAHORE: The South Asia Media Commission (SAMC) and the South Asian
      Free Media Association (SAFMA) on Tuesday strongly criticised an
      assault on a prominent Sri Lankan journalist, Poddala Jayantha.

      Poddala, the general secretary of the Sri Lanka Working Journalists'
      Association and a member of the Free Media Movement (FMM), received
      injuries to his head, chest and legs when six assailants ambushed him
      on his way home.

      The unidentified attackers dragged Poddala into their car and
      abandoned him near a hospital after beating him up. They also cut his
      beard and hair.

      SAFMA Secretary General Imtiaz Alam and SAMC Secretary General Najam
      Sethi condemned the incident and called it a blatant violation of
      freedom of expression and independence of the media.

      After the official end of hostilities between the Tamil Tigers and
      the government, the focus must now be on solving the long-standing
      issue of media freedom, Alam and Sethi said in a joint statement.

      The incident is the second major attack on journalists following the
      killing of Lasantha Wickrematunga, a leading Sri Lankan journalist,
      on January 8.

      Both Alam and Sethi said the situation for journalists in Sri Lanka
      had worsened following the end of the almost 30-year-long civil war
      and was threatening independent journalists like Poddala and
      institutions like the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA).

      Media organisations called upon Colombo to make an impartial inquiry
      into the matter and end the culture of impunity. They also appealed
      to the Sri Lankan government to make war zones accessible to the
      media for impartial reporting.

      o o o

      Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)

      CPA received this letter on 1st June 2009 via the post. The scanned
      Sinhala original is available as a PDF to download, along with the
      English translation.

      ###

      NOTICE TO THE TRAITORS (DESHADROHIS)

      The wretched war that lasted throughout 30 years has now come to an
      end. Blood thirsty wicked terrorists were finished from this country.
      That happened in such a way that even their carcass didn’t mix with
      the Sri Lankan ( Lak Polawa ) soil. That is through the dedication of
      the present government, fearless military commanders and heroic
      warriors born in our motherland. And also, through the sacrifice of
      their bones, flesh and streams of blood. Furthermore, this was
      achieved by defeating the activities of the wretched traitors like
      you who commit evil things against “Mother Lanka”.

      Even though the terrorism is now over we have been observing the
      behaviour of people like you who were dependent on them, and who
      appeared for them. We know that you have got furious of this
      marvelous victory of our motherland. And also we know about the
      conspiracies you engage in, even at the moment, in alliance with the
      International. When the entire country was enjoying the bliss of
      liberating the motherland you did not even hoist the National flag.

      Now you (Thopa) also must get together for bestowing the honor for
      the warriors.

      Parallel to “Ranaviru Upahara” (Honoring the Warriors) celebration
      you must,

      * Throughout that week you should close down all the places of your
      institute, which has become a bane to the entire country, and should
      display the National flag and also display a banner bestowing your
      honor to the warriors (Ranaviru).

      * You should donate One Million rupees to the “Api Venuven Api”
      account as an honor to those Warriors who were lost to the motherland
      and who got disabled due to your traitorous course of action.

      * Furthermore, you should certainly stop all the programmes conducted
      by your institute which are detrimental to the Sovereignty, Unitary
      nature, and Dignity of this country.

      * Stop abetting Terrorism and Separatism.

      We are carefully watching your course of action in the future as well.

      Let us destroy the conspirators. Let us march forward fearlessly. Let
      us protect Mother Lanka.

      Sri Lankans affectionate towards the Motherland

      o o o

      TAKING FORWARD THE STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY, JUSTICE AND DEMOCRACY IN
      SRI LANKA
      by Rohini Hensman (sacw.net, June 3, 2009)
      http://www.sacw.net/article942.html

      LETTER FROM A TAMIL IN NORTH-EAST SRI LANKA
      by a Correspondent (The Economic and Political Weekly, May 30 - June
      05, 2009)
      http://www.epw.in/epw/uploads/articles/13561.pdf

      AID WORKERS FORCED TO LEAVE SRI LANKA UNDER STRICT NEW VISA RULES
      UNDEFINED
      Jeremy Page, South Asia Correspondent (The Times, June 3, 2009)
      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6418015.ece

      THE IDEALIST I ONCE KNEW BECAME THE TAMILS' POL POT
      by N Ram (The Guardian, 1 June 2009)
      http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jun/01/sri-lanka-
      prabhakaran-tamil-tigers


      ______


      [2] Bangladesh:

      Forum, May, 2009

      WHY SHOULD I BE 'MODEST'?

      Naeem Mohaiemen questions the assumptions that underpin our national
      conversation on gender

      Event, record, reaction, and then, meta-discussion. On the surface,
      Ey Poth Amadero is a standard-issue feminist event. Organised by
      Drishtipat, modeled after Take Back the Night, a rally for safe space
      for women on the street. With a police permit, a meeting spot,
      printed banners, designated march route. A polite event, no
      provocation, nothing out of control. Not Run Lola Run, more a gentle
      walk.

      At the post-march concert, musician Anusheh diverted from this
      script. Onstage she said into the mike: "If men keep pinching us,
      women may start pinching back." This fragment of the speech was
      captured on ZI's mobile phone camera and posted on Facebook --
      generating a forum discussion on Anusheh's "eye for an eye.”

      SH writes: "If some dog bites someone, you don't advise them to bite
      back. Those who do eve teasing are mentally sick, they need to be
      sent to a correction facility."

      Then AK adds: "[Anusheh], when you are on a stage and delivering
      something other than a baby, you should be more careful for your
      words ..."

      NK, the first female voice on this forum, disagrees: "Label 'mentally
      sick' in itself gives men a way out: that it is an illness and so
      beyond their control."

      SH responds: "Not only woman, any decent person may feel shy to
      protest, considering that the protest may create an odd scene."

      Now NK loses her temper: "Where is this man SH from? Does he live in
      Bangladesh? Why on earth should anyone 'feel shy because it will
      create an odd scene'?"

      Things are getting personal, and perhaps NK is blending male voices
      on the forum with street abusers. These men posting here are
      sympathetic, feminists. Perhaps just a question of language?

      But AK also loses his cool in response: "Where is this woman NK from?
      Amsterdam? Tell her that no one is begging for her patience."

      Later he realises the problematic parts of his outburst. The comment
      reappears with 'Amsterdam' deleted, but 'this woman' is still there.

      Forum discussions aside, you never faced Diane DiMassa's comic book
      character Hothead Paisan. Out to smash patriarchy with hammer and
      scissors. Yelling at the street thug: "Consider yourself stopped!" --
      and then proceeding to make it happen. That, you would have found
      "unreasonable."

      More power to the unreasonable.

      More men arrive. HK writes: "Women must be brave enough to reject
      socially acceptable notions of propriety and shame and mount acts of
      resistance that will force men and the society at large to recognise
      them as beings who are owners of their own bodies, who will not
      accept being violated."

      Well articulated. I step in and point to AK's phrasing of "delivering
      a baby" as sexist language, ironically on an anti-sexism forum. But
      I'm nit-picking. Do we have to be that careful among allies and
      fellow travelers? Well, Facebook is an open forum. So we don't always
      know where people stand. Not every "friend" is a close friend,
      sometimes they are a politeness "accept." Accidentally sexist
      language is still worth debating.

      ACK talks about confronting a harasser and being scolded: "[The
      harasser] was thotomoto. I noticed a half-grin on my mother's face,
      even though later on she semi-scolded me, saying it's inappropriate
      for women to make such a scene in public. Come on it's the 21st
      century -- is the woman's role *still* to be unseen and unheard, and
      to take crap from hormone-charged men?"

      Susan Faludi said in 1992: "Whenever women protest their treatment
      it's either written off as hysteria or it's, 'Oh, stop complaining.
      Stop being a nag. Stop whining. Stop sulking.'"

      But I had to take time out from this facebook debate to consider
      Anusheh's statement. Well, no, perhaps "pinch back" was not the
      wisest advice. But isn't it interesting to note how much energy is
      burnt discussing that one careless phrasing, rather than the issue at
      hand. Most cases of sexual harassment in Bangladesh are man-on-woman,
      but why so much enthusiasm for condemning Anusheh's comment, which
      refers to a social phenomenon that is rare (woman-on-man violence)?
      The vast majority of violent attacks are on women by their domestic
      partners, the majority of groping and speech assaults are by men on
      the street.

      So why are we still talking about Anusheh?

      For Ey Poth, a series of op-eds were also published. Shabnam Nadiya's
      personal, angry, narrative inspired an old gentleman to write in. He
      had always wanted to take his grand-daughter to physical defense
      classes, and now he wanted to fund a karate school for girls. I
      smiled. He was not advocating the reverse chimti, but rather, girls
      get tough, fight back against the predator. Self-defense.

      The language of support often comes with a "but." Yes, we support
      your right to walk freely on streets, but you "must" be modest in
      clothing as well. Otherwise you are "provoking it." The oldest form
      of blaming the victim. On Uttorshuri blog, a very strong defense of
      women's rights still included this instruction: "Women need to be
      able to operate in this society openly without fear, harassment and
      intimidation. But at the same time -- there needs to be a reciprocity
      of respecting the societal norms."

      What societal norms? The author explained further: "You cannot expect
      to walk the streets of Dhaka in mini-skirt." But wait, what an absurd
      strawman argument: who is walking in mini-skirts? Anyway, we can't
      allow this to get flattened into that hoary debate on "modest"
      clothing. Which always ends in one destination: the woman's fault.
      Sermons that talk about women as "temptation," and underneath a
      fantasy about women as objects for conquest or protection (from who?
      you? themselves?).

      Shilo Shiv Suleiman

      It's never about what a woman wears. Whatever I wear is my business
      -- nothing I wear gives you the right to touch me in any fashion.
      When we look at sexual harassment, sexual assault, rape, wife
      beating, and a host of other man-on-woman violences, the issue is
      male power and aggression, coupled with the male gaze. Susan Kappeler
      said: "The root problem of men's relations with women, is the way men
      see women, is seeing."1

      During the 2000 New Year celebrations, a woman was semi-stripped on
      the Dhaka University campus. Along with the chorus of cries against
      the "louts" ("lower class," never in our family, of course), there
      were aggressive judgments against the victim. Why was she on campus,
      even accompanied by friends, at midnight? Doesn't she know our
      society? In the end, it was her fault, for not staying indoors, for
      not being more invisible.

      By 2009, many more women are out at night, by necessity of work, or
      because public spaces have become more open. But if something happens
      again today, the same line will come out. What was she doing out at
      night? Why was she there? Why was she dressed like that? Why this,
      why that?

      When confronted, eve-teasers often say: "She was asking for it."
      Blank Noise Project is one among many groups formed in India to fight
      back against eve-teasing, which has become an epidemic in Indian
      cities where women are joining the workforce. Among their many public
      art projects, the simplest and most effective one is the t-shirt that
      states: "I Never Ask For It."

      Fatima Mernissi, analysing modernising Moroccan society, highlights
      new economic frictions that aggravate male-aggression tendencies.
      Women are in public space in unprecedented numbers because they are
      working, a transition that is not always welcomed by men.

      "Women's increasing encroachment into traditionally male spaces
      greatly intensifies the sexual aspect of any encounter between men
      and women, especially in the urban centres ...When women go to work
      they are not only trespassing in the universe of the umma but are
      also competing with their former masters, men, for the scarce
      available jobs."2

      Let us circle back to the blogger who called teasers "dogs" and
      "mentally sick." This distancing device let's all other men of the
      hook. So it's not us after all, just a few bad men, right? Social
      pressure, sexist work environments, compliant state, the patriarchy
      framework, none of it is to blame? Nothing to fix on the systemic
      level, no laws or legislation needed? Just lock up a few bad seeds.
      And the bad ones are always, we are told, "lower class," "chotolok,"
      "basti type."

      Neat, convenient, and untrue. In 1998, India was rocked by the Rupan
      Bajaj vs K.P.S. Gill case. Gill was director general of Punjab
      Police, and a national hero for his role in anti-terrorism cases such
      as Operation Black Thunder. But a fearless Bajaj family took him to
      the highest court, over drunken sexual groping of Mrs. Bajaj at a
      posh party. According to reports, this was a long-standing habit of
      Gill, but no one had dared cross the powerful official. The Supreme
      Court ruling of three months rigorous imprisonment stunned civil
      society. Because Gill was a hero, "one of us."

      As Kalpana and Vasanth Kannabiran pointed out: "The concern was that
      of the middle and/or upper-class man who identified himself, in his
      vulnerability and temptation, totally with Gill, even while setting
      himself apart from the 'pathological bottom pinchers in public
      buses', the 'riff raff,' the nameless faceless man on the street.
      This identification and this opposition essentially had to do with
      class."3

      The faceless man comes into focus through cases like this, and the
      net gets uncomfortably wider. It can and has been many of us. And it
      isn't just about street groping. It's in offices, factories, venues,
      and most insidiously, homes. So many people hear of a case of wife
      beating, hostile factory floor, office sexual innuendo, invasive
      photography, phone stalking, and then casually make excuses. O to
      sherokom chelei na. Bhodro ghor theke. It can't be true. She must
      have done something first. Or she's being hysterical.

      Or maybe she was being unreasonable. Fed up and fighting back.

      1. The Pornography of Representation, Cambridge, 1986.
      2. The Meaning of Spatial Boundaries, Beyond The Veil, Al Saqi Books,
      1987.
      3. De-Eroticizing Assault: Essays on Modesty, Honour & Power, Street
      Press, 2002.

      Naeem Mohaiemen works on art and technology projects.

      ______


      [3] Pakistan:

      The News
      June 4, 2009

      WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY

      by Farhat Taj

      About 2.7 million people have been internally displaced from Malakand
      Division due to the ongoing operation against the Taliban terrorists.
      According to the estimate of AIRRA about 80 percent of the IDP's have
      been accommodated by relatives, friends and complete strangers in
      Swabi, Mardan, Nowshehra, Charsada and Peshawar, in their houses and
      hujras (guest houses) according to the Pakhtoon tradition of
      hospitality. Some have gone to relatives and friends in other parts
      of Pakistan. Only about 20 percent of the IDPs are in the camps made
      by the government. This is a humanitarian crisis of biblical scale,
      but it contains an opportunity for moderate and secularism-oriented
      political parties, like the PPP and the ANP, to establish and
      strengthen their bonds with people. They can certainly avail this
      opportunity if they reach out to them with their full district
      organisational strength and with the spirit to snatch the political
      space occupied by the pro-Taliban terrorists religious groups through
      humanitarian work.

      The performance of both the PPP and ANP as political parties in terms
      of extending a helping hand to the IDPs is not up to the mark up
      until now. The information secretary of the PPP even issued an
      extremely irresponsible statement in this context. She said: ''We do
      not want the IDPs to spread all over the country as we are still
      facing trouble caused by the permission given to Afghan refugees of
      yesteryears to stay anywhere. Can we afford to repeat the same
      experience?" How could she equate the Afghan refugee with the IDP's
      who are citizens of Pakistan! Fauzia Wahab must know that Pakhtoon
      workers of the PPP have scarified lives in the party's struggle for
      democracy. The PPP is rooted among the Pakhtoons and the party has
      committed workers among them, and there are jiyalas among the IDPs as
      well. Similarly, the ANP tainted its secular credentials by imposing
      the so called Nizam-e-Adal Regulation on the people of Malakand.

      On the other hand, religious groups, including the banned ones, are
      much more active in helping the IDPs than the PPP and ANP. The
      workers of the religious groups give a food pack and also a lecture
      on how 'the brutal army and the PPP government have rendered the
      people homeless to please the US. The banners of the religious groups
      in the camps openly ask for the operation to be stopped. The PPP and
      ANP must immediately reach out to the IDPs to out manoeuvre the pro-
      Taliban religious groups and parties. The pro-violent jihad right
      wingers have mobilised their entire machinery to convert at least
      some among the devastated IDPs into suicide bombers. Both the PPP and
      ANP have the potential to foil the design of the religious groups.

      The PPP and ANP must immediately mobilise their district-level party
      organisations in Mardan, Swabi, Peshaswar, Nowshera and all other
      districts where the IDPs have come. Both parties have thousands of
      committed workers in those districts. They all must be mobilised to
      reach out to the IDPs in camps as well as those staying in schools,
      and with people in hujras and homes with appropriate help and
      support. This is something that the two parties have not been able to
      do up until now.

      The two parties must immediately mobilise their overseas branches to
      collect donations to finance the work of the district-level
      organisations of the parties. There is an active PPP branch in
      Norway. I have talked to them. They told me they would be ready to
      collect the donations to facilitate the relief work of PPP districts
      organisations in Pakistan, if they are directed by the PPP
      authorities in Pakistan. I understand most overseas branches of the
      PPP and ANP would be ready for the task, if directed by the parties'
      authorities in Pakistan.

      In this context too the two parties must move to challenge the
      monopoly of the Pakistani religious groups and parties on the
      donations of the expat Pakistanis. The religious parties have close
      contacts with Pakistani mosques abroad. There is an institutional
      structure in place through which the mosques collect donations from
      Pakistanis abroad and send to the parties in Pakistan to finance
      their work. The Jamaat-e-Islami is linked with Islamic cultural
      centres all over the world and Minhajul Quran has its Idara-e-
      Minhajul Quran around the globe. As far as I understand, most of the
      expat Pakistani never know where the money donated by them to the two
      mosques is used. Both Idara-e-Minhajul Quran and Islamic Cultural
      Centres claim that the donations are used to facilitate the
      humanitarian work of the parties in Pakistan. But this is certainly
      not so simple. The Jamaat's tenuous but live links with Al Qaeda and
      other jihadi groups are well-documented and it is in that context
      where the misuse of the money sent by the overseas Pakistanis lies.

      This is the space that both the PPP and ANP must retake from the
      religious parties. The two must fully involve their district-level
      organisation, in collaboration with the parties overseas branches, in
      bringing some normalcy in the lives of the IDPs. This will strengthen
      the ties of the parties with the people and reduce the influence of
      the religious groups through humanitarian work. This may be important
      for making Pakistan peaceful, democratic and free of religious
      extremism.

      The people of Pakistan have two enemies--the Taliban and
      Talibanisation. To deal with the former is the job of our soldiers
      and policemen and to control the latter is the duty of the political
      parties, like the PPP, the ANP and even the PML-N. The soldiers and
      policemen are magnificently performing their job. They are giving up
      their lives every day to eliminate the Taliban evil. If the political
      parties did not perform their job, in the near future we will have
      the Taliban eliminated by our brave security forces, but the
      Talibanization will loom large. I would request the leaderships of
      the PPP, ANP and PML-N to mobilise their grassroots-level workers to
      help the IDPs and do not leave the field open to the pro-Taliban
      religious parties and groups, who have by now mastered the "art" of
      exploiting human sufferings for the realisation of their militant
      version of Islam.


      ______


      [4] India:


      Kashmir Times
      June 2, 2009

      Editorial

      OMAR'S ABOUT TURN ON AFSPA
      Shopian outrage once again reveals rulers' insensitivity towards
      human life

      The outrage in Shopian provides an eerie backdrop to chief minister,
      Omar Abdullah's backtracking on his commitment to ensure revocation
      of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) 'after the
      elections.' Going by the official version of his statement in this
      regard, on Sunday, he has virtually washed his hands off the demand,
      after meeting the Prime Minister and the union home minister in
      Delhi. Tragic irony is that while Omar was allowing himself to be
      persuaded to step back from his demand in Delhi's corridors of power
      people in his own state were mourning and protesting against yet
      another outrageous consequence of prolonging the AFSPA. Two young
      women in Shopian were allegedly raped and murdered, sending shock
      waves across length and breadth of Kashmir Valley. Protestors in
      Shopian and adjoining areas have alleged that the two women who had
      gone to visit their orchard had been waylaid, molested and killed by
      security forces personnel deployed along the route taken by the two
      victims. In a situation like this, as has also been the case in one
      or the other area of Kashmir, it is the perception that matters and
      influences the course of events on the ground. It is not that the
      Shopian incident is a rare occurrence or that the apprehensions being
      expressed by the relatives of the two victims as well as by the
      protestors sympathising with them are being voiced for the first time.
      A string of quite recent incidents, resulting in killing of innocent
      persons allegedly by security forces personnel, like that in
      Baramulla, Pulwama and Srinagar districts in the past few weeks,
      leads directly to the inevitable conclusion that disproportionately
      excessive deployment coupled with licence-to-kill is bound to result
      in grave human rights abuses. It clearly proves the point that all
      this talk about sanctity of human life and human rights is utter
      nonsense. One had expected a youngman of Omar Abdullah's frame of
      mind to realise its bloody implications and try to seek a remedy.
      During the recent Lok Sabha polls, union home minister P Chidambaram
      visited Kashmir and soon after the chief minister reiterated his
      assurance that the AFSPA would be lifted after the polls. And here he
      is taking a U-turn and coming forth with the sham suggestion that the
      AFSPA should be 'amended'. It needs no great intelligence to decipher
      what it all adds up to. The chief minister's about turn clearly
      suggests continuation of the draconian measure with or without some
      window dressing. Omar should muster moral courage to admit that he,
      like his predecessors, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed,
      cannot imperil his throne by persisting with his demand for
      abrogation of the AFSPA in Kashmir. There is no big deal in what he
      is now trying to tell us that the act should be amended. This demand
      has been there for many years and the people in Manipur have
      sacrificed a lot to support it from time to time.
      The question is that in Kashmir there is a situation in which the
      continuation of the AFSPA along with disproportionately excessive
      deployment of forces is taking a heavy toll of human lives. How do
      the chief minister and his myopic masters there in Delhi expect the
      ground situation to normalise in Kashmir? People acted in good faith
      by participating in two rounds of recent elections with the hope that
      their miseries would get mitigated.
      The latest incident, in Shopian, underlines the need for immediate
      appropriate response to the goodwill invested by the people via the
      elections. Omar may be younger than his predecessors but he is
      turning out to be no different from any of them when it comes to
      providing a humane dispensation and showing greater sensitivity
      towards those who had reposed trust in his leadership. This state of
      affairs is perhaps what fits Ghulam Nabi Azad's favourite expression
      that 'for too long the people of Kashmir have been duped by hollow
      slogans and false promises'. History has gifted a chance to Omar to
      prove that he was different. But his statement on Sunday belies this
      expectation as much as it provides a frightening backdrop to the
      bloody drama in Shopian.


      o o o


      The Hindu, 4 June 2009

      INDIA LOOKING AT DIALOGUE OPTION ON PAKISTAN AGAIN

      by Siddharth Varadarajan

      One big concern for Indian policymakers is the U.S. attitude

      New Delhi: Notwithstanding the Lahore High Court decision to release
      Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed from house arrest this
      week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister
      S.M. Krishna have begun the process of reviewing India’s diplomatic
      options vis-À-vis Pakistan.

      In particular, the big question being examined is how viable and
      desirable the strategy of suspending dialogue with Pakistan still is
      in the face of the increasingly fragmented nature of political
      authority in that country and the mounting perception worldwide that
      India needs to engage with its neighbour. “We should not negotiate
      out of fear but we should not fear negotiations either,” a well-
      placed source told The Hindu on Wednesday morning while providing a
      foretaste of the different options now under consideration at the
      highest levels of the government
      [. . .]
      http://www.hindu.com/2009/06/04/stories/2009060452971000.htm


      _____


      [5] India & Diaspora:

      From The Times
      June 2, 2009

      IS SIKHISM SUCCUMBING TO FUNDAMENTALISM?

      The fatal shooting at a Sikh temple in Austria shows up an ugly
      schism in a religion built on monotheism and equality

      by Sathnam Sanghera

      There were riots across northern India last week after a shooting at
      a Sikh temple in Austria resulted in the death of a sect leader and,
      given that Punjabi culture is something I bang on about on occasion,
      it wasn’t surprising, I suppose, that a couple of news producers
      rang, asking me to put the disturbances into context.

      I declined because: (a) as a community we are only just learning to
      talk about ourselves, and too often any kind of commentary is taken
      as criticism; (b) commenting about religion is a dangerous business
      when people are being killed and one has absolutely no theological
      authority; (c) I feel about broadcasting the way many feel about
      general anaesthetic (you should do it only when you absolutely need
      to); but mainly because (d) it’s quite hard to explain what Sikhism
      actually stands for.

      You see, one of the founding principles of the monotheistic religion,
      established in the late 15th century by Guru Nanak, was opposition to
      Hinduism’s oppressive caste system. Yet the world’s fifth largest
      organised religion has a caste system of its own, with differences
      between Jat Sikhs (a group that I belong to and which makes up about
      two thirds of Sikh society) and non-Jat castes, such as the
      Ramgarhias, remaining a source of political, social and religious
      tension.

      Even in Britain you’ll find different Sikh temples belonging to
      different groups on the same road, and — according to some media
      reports last week, many of them disputed by the groups involved — the
      violence in Austria was sparked after orthodox Sikhs from one caste
      objected to preachers from another caste being disrespectful towards
      the Sikh Holy Book.
      Related Links

      * Riots after Sikh guru shot dead in Vienna

      * From Punjab to Putney: the rise of British Sikhism

      Also, officially, Sikhs don’t worship human beings, since Guru Gobind
      Singh, the tenth Sikh guru, named Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy Book,
      as his successor. But certain Sikh sects do believe in living human
      gurus, some mainstream Sikh families revere spiritual figures and
      ancestors, and — according to some media reports, again disputed by
      the groups involved — the violence in Austria was sparked when
      members of a certain sect gave the Guru Granth Sahib pride of place
      next to photographs and idols of their own human “gurus”.

      Then there’s the issue of booze. Officially, Sikhs don’t drink, and
      some families don’t even allow alcohol to be kept in their houses.

      But as the academics Gurharpal Singh and Darshan Singh Tatla point
      out in Sikhs in Britain: The Making of a Community: “Consumption of
      alcohol has always been high among Sikhs, with the per capita rate
      among Sikhs of Punjab among the highest in the world” and “a
      particularly distinctive feature of British Sikh society today” being
      “the high rate of alcoholism among males . . . Consumption rates are
      higher than in any other ethnic minority and in the white community.”

      There are other contradictions. Sikhs are meant to adopt the name
      “Singh”, meaning “lion”, as a way of encouraging equality (one’s
      caste can often be identified by a surname), but many of us use it
      only as a middle name. The Gurus declared men and women to be equal,
      but Punjabi culture is highly patriarchal. Sikhism is the only major
      world religion that acknowledges that other religions are a valid way
      of reaching God, but some believers risk being disowned for marrying
      outside of their religion.

      Also, Sikhs, partly as a result of having no clergy (the idea is that
      everyone can be directly in touch with God without priests) and
      partly as a result of factionalism, have never been very good at
      building institutions to represent them, and yet have had great
      success campaigning on issues such as the right to wear the turban,
      so much so that Sikhs can legally ride a motorbike with a turban
      instead of a helmet. When, the other week, the police announced that
      they were developing a bulletproof turban, apart from a few tiresome
      jokes about the “turbanator”, there were almost no objections from
      any quarters. Imagine the fuss there would have been if the religious
      headwear in question had been a burka.

      And if there is anything that epitomises the fluidity of Sikhism, it
      is the turban. Long hair, beards and colourful headwear are
      synonymous with the religion — I kept my own hair unshorn until the
      age of 14 — but if you ask any Sikh why they keep their hair uncut,
      they will give you a different answer.

      Some say that it’s a way of showing respect for the God-given form;
      some that it is a way of expressing love for God (like a married
      person would wear a wedding ring); some link it to intelligence,
      health and spirituality; some say that Guru Gobind Singh made the
      keeping of unshorn hair mandatory to give Sikhs a binding identity.
      There are others who will argue that long hair isn’t actually
      necessary to be a Sikh.

      In fact, a great many Sikhs, if not the majority, don’t have long
      hair and don’t sport turbans. And those with turbans are not
      necessarily hugely religious: I know one turbaned man who runs that
      most un-Sikh of things, an English pub; another who started wearing a
      turban simply because he had developed a bald patch; another who is
      actually an atheist.

      As it happens, I don’t think that these ambiguities are necessarily a
      problem. Such issues crop up with all organised religions, and for
      me, and I am a believer, the massive variation in observance is
      appealing, as you’re basically left to define your own religiosity.
      Not least, it’s an expression of another of Sikhism’s fundamental
      teachings, that empty ritual is meaningless, and it ensures that
      believers concentrate on the things that really matter, namely “Nam
      simran” (meditation on and awareness of God) and “Sewa” (community
      service).

      But the concerning thing about last week’s events is that we seem to
      have another contradiction developing. This most modern and liberal
      of world religions, which allows its believers to develop their own
      relationship with God, is developing a fundamentalist streak, with
      certain people determined to tell others what to believe and how to
      believe it, under pain of death if necessary.

      _____


      [6] India:


      The New Nation
      June 4, 2009

      INDIA'S MISSING WOMEN

      by Pamela Philipose

      Indian elections have always thrown up its share of curiosities. Take
      one that emerged in the searing summer of 1991, as the country
      prepared to face a general election. A certain Suman Lata constituted
      the Akhil Bharatiya Mahila Dal and promoted it as India's "first and
      only women's party". She, rather courageously, expressed her
      intention to field 400 candidates. History was not been kind to Suman
      Lata's party. It sank without a trace.

      Quixotic though this move may seem the unhappy fate of Suman Lata's
      party does point to a serious flaw in the world's largest democracy:
      Roughly half its population - 48.26 per cent of Indians to be precise
      - still remains poorly represented in mainstream politics.

      It is 57 years since post-independent India had its first tryst with
      a general election. Today, as the country heads for its 15th Lok
      Sabha election, several of its most important political parties are
      either headed by women or have vocal women leaders, yet women have
      never constituted more than 10 per cent of the Lower House of
      Parliament.

      In 2004, when the last general election took place, 44 women became
      parliamentarians. This is the exact same number that was returned 20
      years earlier in the 1984 election! If we are to go further back in
      time, this figure appears even more insignificant. In the 1937
      elections held under the Government of India Act, which had
      reservations for women, 80 women were elected to power.

      The bald truth is that in post-Independent India, women have never
      been able to breach the 10 per cent mark in terms of parliamentary
      representation. It should, therefore, surprise nobody that
      'democratic' India - with a rank of 105 out of 135 countries - fares
      far worse than its neighbours, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan in
      terms of parliamentary representation for women, according to 2009
      figures compiled by the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

      What accounts for the paradox of having so many women leading parties
      but few actually representing parties in Parliament? According to
      Sanjay Kumar, psephologist and fellow at the Centre for the Study of
      Developing Societies, New Delhi, "The plain truth is that political
      parties in the country have always chosen to privilege male political
      aspirants over female ones. Not enough tickets are given to women."

      The number of women given tickets across political parties has
      actually declined from 247 in the 13th General Elections to 177 in
      the 14th General Elections. Important parties such as the Congress
      and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which have always claimed that they
      are committed to women's empowerment, have invariably let women down
      when it came to handing them tickets. Take the Congress's record in
      the polls to the six state assemblies late last year: In Delhi, eight
      out of 70 candidates; in Chhattisgarh, 10 out of 90; in Madhya
      Pradesh 29 out of 230. The coming General Elections are not going to
      witness any radical changes in this pattern, going by all available
      evidence.

      Political parties cite "winnability" as their argument for why women
      don't get tickets. But counters political scientist Zoya Hasan, the
      author of the recent 'Politics of Inclusion: Castes, Minorities and
      Affirmative Action', "The winnability factor is more a presumption
      than anything else. Going by whatever analyses that have been done,
      it is simply not true that women fare worse than men in Indian
      elections do. In fact, in India, where most people vote for parties
      rather than individuals, it follows that if successful parties field
      women they would win."

      She points to the poor record of the CPI (M) on this score despite
      having an articulate Brinda Karat vociferously pushing for better
      political representation for women. "In the 2004 elections, it was
      clear that the party would do well. So what prevented it from
      distributing tickets to women?" asks Dr Hasan. The real issue, she
      states, is that women lack networks and financial muscle. At a time
      when standing for a Lok Sabha election would entail amounts that are
      anything over Rs 100 million (US$1=Rs 51.2), women may find it more
      difficult to raise funds of this magnitude. The other factor that Dr
      Hasan underlines is the lack of public visibility. "You just don't
      have enough women in organisational positions within parties and even
      women leaders themselves don't promote women," she says.

      According to Surat-based political analyst, Dr Ghanshyam Shah, a
      retired professor of the Social Sciences, this is because political
      parties don't consider women's empowerment a priority issue. He says,
      "There is only rhetoric about it and little intent. Nothing
      exemplifies this better than the treatment accorded to the Women's
      Bill."

      The Women's Bill - reserving 33 per cent of seats in the Parliament
      and state assemblies for women - has been hanging fire since 1997
      thanks to the dogged opposition mounted by male MPs from a few
      regional parties. They argued that it would only empower elite women
      at the cost of men representing Other Backward Classes (OBCs). In
      2008, the Bill was introduced in the Upper House of Parliament (Rajya
      Sabha) after women Members of Parliament (MPs) formed a human chain
      around the law minister to enable him to do this. But the big
      question is whether it will get passed in the Lower House and become
      the law of the land.

      Dr Shah dismisses the argument that the Bill will only see power
      being transferred to elite women, as mere hypocrisy. "There is
      provision within the Bill to reserve seats for SCs/STs. In any case,
      what is stopping political parties from giving tickets to lower caste
      women and those from OBCs?" he asks.

      In 1993, India enacted the 93rd and 94th Constitutional Amendments,
      reserving 33 per cent of seats in local bodies for women.

      Today, the symbolic and actual value of having more than a million
      women preside over Panchayati Raj institutions is the best argument
      for why reservations for women is the only way to address the poor
      representation of women in the Parliament and state assemblies. There
      are innumerable examples of the transformative character of having
      more women as lawmakers. The case of Rwanda, where women legislators
      ensured the passing of a law protecting victims of sexual abuse, an
      issue their male counterparts may have considered a waste of time, is
      cited.

      Meanwhile, in India, voices demanding the Women's Bill are getting
      louder. In the Women's Charter, which was part of the All India
      People's Manifesto initiative promoted by the 'Wada Na Todo Abhiyan'
      after consultations with more than 230,000 people in 100
      parliamentary constituencies, the enactment of the Women's Bill
      emerged as a key demand. Several women's groups have also made the
      same demand in a Women's Charter that was released recently in New
      Delhi.

      As Delhi-based political scientist Neera Chandoke has argued in
      'Challenges to Democracy In India', "Democracy is much more than a
      system whereby citizens elect and dismiss their representatives.
      Democracy is about assuring freedom and equality to all citizens in
      their everyday life, so that they can develop their capacities."

      Indian democracy continues to be diminished by the fact that women's
      political empowerment in the country remains an unfinished agenda.

      o o o

      The Telegraph
      June 4, 2009

      Editorial

      COURTING ANGER

      The Indian practice of killing wives or daughters-in-law or driving
      them to suicide is flourishing. The count is going up, not down: from
      2005 to 2007, deaths for dowry have gone up from over 6,000 to over
      8,000. Every right-thinking citizen would be horrified by not just
      the statistics but by the increase in violence as well, and wonder
      how this rising tide of domestic murder can be stemmed. Exactly this
      horror and concern seems to lie behind the remarks emanating from the
      Supreme Court bench that refused the bail plea of an accused in a
      bride-burning case. The judges made clear that pouring kerosene over
      a woman to burn her is a “barbaric” act, unfit for civilized people.
      The court’s sharp remarks implied that it was death, not a life
      sentence, that such offenders deserved. Given the increase in the
      crime, the remarks seem to suggest, capital punishment alone would be
      a possible deterrent.

      Without questioning for a moment the rightness of sentiment behind
      the court’s remarks, it is possible to feel deeply uncomfortable
      about them. A court’s pronouncement represents the balance imaged in
      the concept of justice; it cannot afford to be touched by anger. In
      times such as the present, when most institutions are blamed for acts
      of excess or impropriety, the court is especially important as a
      symbol of balance. The legal process, which culminates, ideally, in a
      punishment befitting the crime, is a fundamental requirement of
      civilized life. Since everyone has a right to be legally tried, it is
      the only bulwark against a violent ethos of public revenge and
      oppression. The court represents society’s agreements about the
      punishments regarding each category of crime. It is an impersonal
      institution that channels society’s constructive sentiments into law
      and procedure. Even its rhetoric is impersonal, neutral, it cannot
      afford to seem intemperate. Even a touch of personal ire in a
      judicial pronouncement can cause alarm, for the balance between
      sentiment and legality is strenuously achieved. While India does have
      capital punishment, it is used with great restraint. To mention it
      with reference to an offender already sentenced to life imprisonment
      in order to emphasize the brutal nature of his crime seems
      unnecessary. The man is already paying for his crime according to the
      law. The denial of bail should be enough to drive home the gravity of
      his deed.


      o o o

      The Telegraph
      June 3, 2009

      NO WOMAN, NO CRY
      More and more women are turning to the Domestic Violence Act, even
      though it continues to be hamstrung by a lack of adequate resources.
      Hemchhaya De reports

      Saira, 25, saw her dreams coming true when she moved to Mumbai from
      Calcutta after her marriage. But after a few months, trouble started
      brewing in her marital life. When she became pregnant, her husband
      asked her to abort the foetus. Or else, he said, he would divorce
      her. Saira obliged.

      But this was not the end of her plight. When she became pregnant
      again, she was made to undergo an abortion one more time. Then, after
      she became pregnant for the third time, her husband asked her to move
      to her parents’ home in Calcutta and get an abortion done once again.
      Her parents’ pleas to their son-in-law to let Saira return to her
      marital home fell on deaf ears.

      Saira has decided to file a case against her husband under the
      Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. Despite the trauma
      she has been subjected to, the 25-year-old doesn’t want her marriage
      to break up and wants to move back to her Mumbai home.

      Rita, 26, doesn’t want a divorce either. She just wants her husband
      and in-laws to recognise her right to stay in her marital home. Both
      she and her husband are doctors. She has to live through mental
      torture from her in-laws who never fail to point out that it’s their
      home and she has to either abide by their rules or move out. Yet her
      husband doesn’t want to live away from his parents. Rita has sought
      legal counselling and filed a case under the Domestic Violence Act.

      Seema, who’s in her late 50s, is also planning to file a case under
      the Act against her husband who has just retired from work. Her
      husband bought a flat after retirement, but he locked it up and told
      his wife that they didn’t need such a big flat. He rented a room in a
      building and asked her to shift there. Seema has been staying there
      on her own. Her husband never visits her; nor does he allow her
      access to the new flat, which she co-owns.

      Saira, Rita and Seema are potential beneficiaries of a landmark
      section of the Domestic Violence Act, which came into effect in 2006.
      Section 17 (1) of the Act says, “Notwithstanding anything contained
      in any other law for the time being in force, every woman in a
      domestic relationship shall have the right to reside in the shared
      household, whether or not she has any right, title or beneficial
      interest in the same.”

      Thanks to efforts made by non governmental organisations, women
      activists and lawyers, awareness of the Act is spreading slowly but
      steadily across some parts of the country.

      “The Domestic Violence Act is a path-breaking law in many respects.
      It recognises several forms of domestic violence — physical torture,
      mental torture and, more importantly, economic violence,” says
      Manabendra Mandal, executive director, Socio-legal Aid Research and
      Training Centre (SLARTC), Calcutta, one of the 11 ‘service providers’
      in the state. Under the law, service providers are tasked with
      helping victims of domestic violence with legal aid, temporary
      shelter and medical and financial assistance.

      Mandal reveals that over the past few months they have been
      increasingly receiving cases filed under the Act, either from
      protection officers or from district magistrates.

      The law stipulates that a state government is to appoint a required
      number of protection officers for each district in the state. They
      can be either government employees or members of NGOs with a minimum
      experience of three years in the social sector. For instance, there
      are two protection officers for Calcutta while there is one officer
      for each of the other districts. Among other things, protection
      officers are required to help the magistrate in discharging his
      duties as specified under the Act, receive complaints of domestic
      violence, take preventive or emergency action and facilitate the
      aggrieved person’s access to legal processes and other services. A
      woman can approach a protection officer in her district directly with
      her complaint.

      Though activists argue that the law is still hamstrung by the lack of
      an adequate number of protection officers and service providers,
      others say that even then there has been a marked increase in the
      number of cases registered under the Act. Says Moushumi Kundu,
      protection officer, Hooghly district, “There is definitely a lot more
      awareness now about the law even in the rural pockets of my district,
      thanks mainly to awareness campaigns carried out by some NGOs.” Kundu
      reveals that about six months ago, there was only one registered case
      in the Serampore subdivision of Hooghly. But now the number is 20.
      “On an average, we have around 250 registered cases under this Act in
      Hooghly alone. The number can vary from one district to another. But
      in most places the number is more or less the same.”

      Data collected through various sources show that there are now 15,320
      cases registered under the Domestic Violence Act in India. That
      figure may look encouraging, showing as it does that more and more
      women are coming forward to avail of this law. But activists feel
      that this does not really amount to progress. “This is nothing if we
      consider that women account for as much as 50 per cent of the our
      billion-strong population,” says Ranjana Kumari, director, Centre for
      Social Research (CSR), New Delhi. She adds that the funds allocated
      for implementing the Act are still very meagre in many states. “In
      states like Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, it’s as little as Rs 3-4 lakh
      per annum. Andhra Pradesh has the highest allocation — Rs 10 crore,”
      she says.

      “In an interesting development, while the number of cases registered
      under the Domestic Violence Act is on the rise, there may be a
      decline in the number of cases being registered under Section 498A of
      the IPC in some states. (Section 498A is a criminal law to punish
      dowry offenders.) Of course, this can also imply that the police are
      not discharging their duties properly in 498A cases,” says Soumya
      Bhaumick, consultant, CSR.

      But though the Domestic Violence Act seems to be helping women, some
      point out that it is early days yet. Flavia Agnes, lawyer and women’s
      activist associated with a Mumbai-based women’s organisation called
      Majlis, cautions against media hype over the Act. “It’s true that
      many NGOs are raising awareness among victims. But this awareness is
      not really getting translated into more judicial orders,” she says.
      The appointment of protection officers is also erratic, she says. “In
      states like Maharashtra, the appointment of protection officers is
      quite irregular.”

      Majlis activists will organise a workshop for women lawyers and
      service providers in Mumbai this week to do a reality check on the
      implementation of the Domestic Violence Act. The Centre for Social
      Research will also take part in a training programme for service
      providers in Calcutta.

      Clearly, this is one law that needs to be constantly monitored at the
      implementation level to make sure that women can root out violence
      from their homes.


      _____



      [7] MISCELLANEA:

      Why they assassinated the Kansas Doctor George Tiller?
      USA: VIOLENT CAMPAIGN OF THE ANTI ABORTIONIST CHRISTIAN TALIBAN: A
      compilation of selected commentary & reports
      http://www.siawi.org/article773.html

      o o o

      Washington Post
      June 3, 2009

      Editorial

      CLINICS IN THE CROSS HAIRS
      After an abortion provider's killing, a need for greater security

      GEORGE TILLER knew the danger of providing late-term abortions. His
      home was picketed, his office was blown up and in 1993 he was shot in
      both arms by an anti-abortion zealot. He never considered stopping
      his work, because he knew there were women who needed his help. His
      murder is a tragedy for his family, his patients and his profession.
      It should serve as a wake-up call that more must be done to ensure
      that women have access to this legal procedure.

      Mr. Tiller was shot to death Sunday as he handed out bulletins in his
      Kansas church and as his wife sang in the choir. Yesterday,
      authorities charged Scott Roeder with first-degree murder, and they
      are investigating what have been described as his virulent anti-
      abortion views. Mr. Tiller is the fourth abortion provider to be
      killed since 1993; the attacks he and his Wichita clinic endured are
      not isolated events. The National Abortion Federation has catalogued
      6,143 such incidents of violence in the United States and Canada
      between 1977 and 2009, including arson, bombings and butyric acid
      attacks.

      It is unclear how this violence has affected decisions by health-care
      providers. What is known is that the number of places where women can
      go for abortions has been declining since 1982. About one-third of
      women live in a county with no abortion providers, reports the
      Guttmacher Institute, and as a result a growing number of women have
      difficulty receiving the services in a timely manner.

      The vast majority of abortions are performed in free-standing clinics

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