Monday, December 31, 2012

Notes from a Night Walk in Delhi University

- shuddhabrata Sengupta

[ Black & White pictures, courtesy Chandan Gomes. Colour pictures and cell phone video footage, courtesy, Bonojit Hussain, New Socialist Initiative ]

Dear young women and men of Delhi,

I am writing to you again because I have been listening to you. This is a strange time, when everybody is talking, and everybody is listening, and the unknown citizen, who could have been any one of you, has transformed us all.

I was with you last night, from five thirty in the evening to around nine at night, while we walked together from the Vishwavidyalaya (University) Metro Station to Vijay Nagar, Kamla Nagar and the North Campus of Delhi University. There were around twelve hundred of you. Several of you held candles. You made yourselves into a moving blur of light. As the shopkeepers of Vijay Nagar, as the rent collecting aunties of paying guest accommodations, as the men and boys and girls and women on the streets and in the verandahs looked at you in wonder, you looked back at them, many of you smiled and waved. I could see some people in the crowd lip-synch with your Hallabols.

[ video of the night march near Delhi University ]

Sunday, December 30, 2012

People's March for Freedom from Fear



Delhi University Metro Station, Sunday 30th December, 5 pm

We Demand:
  1. Massive Expansion of secure, regular and accountable public transport.
  2.  Take over of private buses by State corporations.
  3. Ensure speedy delivery of justice in more than 100,000 cases of violence against women.
  4. Enact provisions for formation of anti-sexual harassment committees at all work places, colleges, schools, and other institutions. Constitute a democratic, effective and accountable body to ensure justice in cases of sexual harassment cases in Delhi University. Bring out regular reports cases and actions taken.
  5. Institute an independent tribunal to enquire and punish police, paramilitary and armed forces personnel accused of sexual violence. Install CCTV cameras inside police stations. 
  6. Repeal archaic provisions of Article 66A of IT Act and Article 144 which snatches from us our right to protest and express our democratic dissent. sack Delhi Police Commissioner for violently suppressing protesters. Remove Delhi University Vice-Chancellor for muzzling our protest. 
Call for the Freedom March has been given by many students, teachers, other people's organizations including New Socialist Initiative (NSI)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Statement by Women’s and Progressive Groups and Individuals Condemning Sexual Violence and Opposing Death Penalty

DECEMBER 24, 2012

On 16 December, 2012, a 23-year old woman and her friend hailed a bus at a crossing in South Delhi. In the bus, they were both brutally attacked by a group of men who claimed to be out on a ‘joy-ride’. The woman was gang raped and the man beaten up; after several hours, they were both stripped and dumped on the road. While the young woman is still in hospital, bravely battling for her life, her friend has been discharged and is helping identify the men responsible for the heinous crime.

We, the undersigned, women’s, students’ and progressive groups and concerned citizens from around the country, are outraged at this incident and, in very strong terms, condemn her gang rape and the physical and sexual assault.

As our protests spill over to the streets all across the country, our demands for justice are strengthened by knowing that there are countless others who share this anger. We assert that rape and other forms of sexual violence are not just a women’s issue, but a political one that should concern every citizen. We strongly demand that justice is done in this and all other cases and the perpetrators are punished. 

This incident is not an isolated one; sexual assault occurs with frightening regularity in this country. Adivasi and dalit women and those working in the unorganised sector, women with disabilities, hijras, kothis, trans people and sex workers are especially targeted with impunity – it is well known that the complaints of sexual assault they file are simply disregarded. We urge that the wheels of justice turn not only to incidents such as the Delhi bus case, but to the epidemic of sexual violence that threatens all of us. We need to evolve punishments that act as true deterrents to the very large number of men who commit these crimes. Our stance is not anti-punishment but against the State executing the death penalty. The fact that cases of rape have a conviction rate of as low as 26% shows that perpetrators of sexual violence enjoy a high degree of impunity, including being freed of charges.

Silent witnesses to everyday forms of sexual assault such as leering, groping, passing comments, stalking and whistling are equally responsible for rape being embedded in our culture and hence being so prevalent today. We, therefore, also condemn the culture of silence and tolerance for sexual assault and the culture of valorising this kind of violence.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Response to "[Delhi gang rape] Lest we forget and move on, yet again"

A response to Prachee Sinha's piece "Lest we forget and move on, yet again" which was published on this blog yesterday.

Delhi Gang Rape: A Political Response

- Sumandro (Riju)

Sharing a few thoughts about your note. I believe you have keen observations — empirical and theoretical — to make about the relations between revolutionary politics and women’s liberation (especially about the failures of the former to seriously address the latter). and I share my thoughts expecting that they will be clarified from your responses.

# You never mention ‘capital’. Not that all pieces of writing always must have that word, but it seemed quite pertinent a category for the event you wrote about. While sexual assault in particular and violence against women in general is surely shaped by feudal-patriarchal social structures that you mention, the everyday economic exploitation also create the underlying context of such violences. You do mention the term ‘justice’. but the piece does not explain what you mean by ‘justice’, neither does it explain the nature of the ‘onus’ to ensure justice. As you do not mention ‘capital’, and neither ‘state’, it becomes rather difficult to begin to define such a justice — not because such a justice must be delivered by capital and state, but because the social-material context of delivering such a justice is shaped by capital and state. Especially in the context of the event concerned — what would count as justice to this girl and her friend? As we write, the students of JNU Students’ Union blocks the road in front of the Vasant Vihar police station, Home Minister promise swift justice (five fast track court and all), and politicians across parties express their shame and explain how capital punishment is the answer to women’s freedom. As you say that the onus to ensure that violence against women becomes an ‘intolerable’ and ‘inexcusable’ act is upon all of us, it worries me how easily your statement would suit the purpose of such reactionary political responses. To clarify, I use the term ‘reactionary’ not as an abuse but a technical term that describes an act that restrengthens the liberal-democratic order.

# A key question that the event (of the girl being gang raped in the bus and his friend is beaten up, and both then thrown off the bus) raises is that of the political response. All responses I have heard of till now are reactionary, as they point out the failures of the capitalist state. the differences lie in how they define justice (capital punishment or not) and appropriate police intervention (CCTV and civilian-supported patrolling). Interestingly there is a convergent appeal to both the ‘sovereign’ (punish the unruly) and ‘pastoral’ (discipline and securitise the public spaces) modes of statecraft (ref: Michel Foucault).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

[Delhi Gang rape] Lest we forget and move on, yet again

- Prachee Sinha

A 23 year old young woman battles for her life in a hospital in Delhi. She was raped by a group of men, brutalized, beaten mercilessly and thrown out of a moving bus on Sunday night. Her fault: she was a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time; she dared to be in a public space at night; and she was with a young man with whom she had just finished watching a movie. According to some media reports, she was in fact taunted by the rapists about being out with a male friend late at night. This young woman is fighting to stay alive as we speak, and she may not make it, but if she does and decides to fight for justice, there will be an entire society, an entire system standing against her, blaming her for what happened to her, scrutinizing and judging her entire life, her choices, and her very existence.

This crime is particularly brutal, with horrific details emerging about what this woman has endured and the damage her body has suffered. I for one have no complain about the talk and interest that this case is generating. Even though I do think that putting the CCTV footage of the rape in the public domain is frankly disrespectful and offensive. It should be used as evidence in court and not as fodder for public consumption. Anyhow, media is making the case a headline, the police and government are acting fast under pressure of the public opinion, and everybody who is anybody is decrying it as a heinous crime, which it indeed is. And now the political parties have also jumped in with the BJP starting to make demands, the Aam Aadmi party starting to make comments. There is uproar in the parliament. The politicking and slugfest has just commenced. The girl is still critical and the police are still investigating and all the criminals are still not in jail.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Ashes of Dharampuri

- Subhash Gatade

Rajamma, a resident of Natham, looks at her burnt house with vacant eyes. The more she looks at it, the harder the tears fall. Every part of her house — each brick painstakingly collected — is a small fountain of memories for her, reminding her of the backbreaking work done by her late husband at the local landlord’s house.

Now, all that is in the past.

Three weeks ago hordes of dominant caste people armed to the teeth launched a pre-meditated attack on their colony, supposedly to avenge the ‘humiliation’ caused by the marriage of one of their girls to a boy from her community.

Like many others in the colony, Rajamma is a dalit. The perpetrators belonged to the powerful Vanniar caste. She knows that she was saved only because a youth from the colony alerted them about the attack allowing some people to rush into the nearby fields.

Burned houses, smashed household items, bicycles, motorbikes, television sets. Torn schoolbooks, records, certificates and ration cards. This was the scene immediately after the attack on the three dalit colonies of Natham, Kondampatti and Annanagar in Naikkankottai, Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu. Of the 500 houses in the three colonies, over 268 were damaged/burnt.

The attack was brought on by the suicide of a caste Hindu over the elopement of his daughter. The mob, armed with deadly weapons and petrol bombs, indulged in a four-hour-long rampage. They broke cupboards, stole gold jewellery and cash before setting the houses on fire.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Bodoland (Assam) Violence and the Politics of Explanation

Bonojit Hussain

[Note: This is an expanded version of an article published in SEMINAR Magazine Vol. No-640, December, 2012. This version was first posted on]

EVEN though tensions were apparently simmering for many months prior to the outbreak of the violence in the month of July 2012 in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) area, but the immediate trigger was the killing of two Muslim youths, who were shot dead by unidentified gunmen on 6 July. The needle of suspicion pointed to the former cadres of the disbanded Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT). In retaliation, four former cadres of Bodo Liberation Tigers were hacked to death by a mob in the Muslim dominated village of Joypur near Kokrajhar town. What unfolded after that was the worst humanitarian crisis to have hit Assam in decades. 

During the crisis that unfolded in Kokrajhar and Chirang districts of the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) and the adjoining Dhubri and Bongaigaon districts, Assam witnessed the tragedy of nearly 500,000 people belonging to the Bodo and Muslim communities being forced to take shelter in 273 temporary refugee camps. These people will stand internally displaced, scarred and traumatized for months to come, if not years. An estimated 97 people have lost their lives and around 500 villages were burnt down. The magnitude of this human tragedy is overwhelming considering the short span of one month in which it occurred. 

There was an immediate need for a united humanitarian call to stop the killings and the violence on the part of community leaders and the administration, but the failure to do so created an atmosphere of extreme polarization, with leaders of both the Bodo and the Muslim communities hurling allegations and counter-allegations at each other. To make matters worse, leaders of the Bodo community, large sections of mainstream Assamese society, and a section of the media and the political class took it upon themselves to allege and prove that the responsibility for this human tragedy lies squarely on ‘illegal Bangladeshi migrants’ (often used as a shorthand for Muslims of Bengali origin in Assam) and that the undifferentiated Muslim masses inhabiting western Assam are ‘Bangladeshis’.