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We failed as a society - not the first time

We are ashamed of ourselves - damn right, we should be

We will never forget - until the next time it happens again

And we fail, we feel ashamed and we forget

How about we try something different? How about we really show our elected govts how concerned we are and how desperate we are to address these concerns?

How about we stage a #NationalWalkout on April 23rd, Monday @ 10:00am?

What is a #NationalWalkout?

Simple answer is no matter where we are, who we are and what we are, we can just decide to walk as an individual or as a group, leaving aside whatever work we may be doing at that point in time

Walk to where?

If we are in the city, closer to the parliament or the state assembly hall, walk to that place

If we are not, we can walk to the nearest court or the nearest district headquarters or the nearest police station or nearest any office dealing with public welfare.

Why a NationalWalkout?

This is a problem concerning not just a village or a town or a city or a state or a child or an adult but a problem concerning an entire country and the entire humanity, because what we are witnessing is a rape of our consciousness.

Why April 23rd, Monday at 10:00am?

Its the following Monday giving us a weeks time to prepare and organize.10:00am because its the time when its not too early and not too late, but just about the right time to cause inconvenience to us and to send the message to our elected govts

What do we demand?

  1. No more victimization of the victims and the guilty should be punished
  2. Nirbhaya Law should be implemented in spirit

What after the Walkout?

We can chose to continue the fight and keep the pressure on the elected govt and may be even the rest of the political parties. Let this be the beginning of the end of our inaction and indifference.

What kind of preparation is required?

Prepare placards, banners, invite ministers, press, media, organize events around these themes and basically try and do everything to rally people and create pressure.

One week may be a bit aggressive for a #NationalWalkout, but may be it isn't after all - it may be a bit late.

Would it be worth it?

Remember the last time this happened, the result was the Nirbhaya act. Yes its another issue that the act itself is yet to be implemented, but without the public pressure, the law makers would not have done what they were forced to do. So yeah its totally worth trying, but one thing is for sure, if we don't do anything other trending on twitter or sharing on facebook, we are just fooling ourselves.

If this still doesn't convince you, I will let the data do the talking

520 kids all below 6 years of age were survivors of rape i.e. Five Hundred and Twenty. I repeat Five Hundred and Twenty. And if we include all the kids below 18 years, this number rises to 16863 i.e. Sixteen thousand eight hundred and sixty three.

  • 16863 children will carry these scars for the rest of their lives
  • 16863 children may never get justice and may never get a closure
  • 16863 children may never get a chance to heal their wounds
  • 16863 children and their loved one’s may forever try to move on, only to dragged into with every single incident that makes it to the news headline
  • 16863 children may never know what a normal childhood feels like, what growing up feels like
  • 16863 children may be living in constant fear for the rest of their lives

Girl-Child-Victims

22,205 women i.e. Twenty two thousand two hundred and five women. As these horrific numbers prove, rape crimes are beyond any age groups, beyond any cultural divides, beyond the norms of society – yes beyond the norms of society, since

Women-Rape-Victims

94.6% of the offenders are known to the rape survivors i.e. Ninety Four percent of the offenders are known to the rape survivors. Some of the offenders are family members who include grand fathers, fathers, brothers, sons, relatives and neighbors. Not implying everyone is an offender here, but what the data is proving, yet again, year after year, that the offenders are amongst us. They could be from our family, from our neighborhood, not some random person on the street and not some random person in a desolated place.

Offenders-Relation.PNG

So what is the police doing? Well, what can the police do? What can the police do when most of the cases don’t even get reported and even when they are reported, there are so many backlogs, the police can’t possibly afford to investigate the cases.

Police Cases

And what about the courts? Well, its no secret, the courts have been buried with cases pending from several years, in fact, several decades now.

Court Cases

Total-Rape-Victims

source: ncrb.gov.in

 

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In October 2017, the Jharkhand Government introduced a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) pilot for the Public Distribution System (PDS) in Nagri – a block on the outskirts of Ranchi. Instead of rice at Re 1 per kg at the ration shop, the PDS cardholders are to receive the subsidy (calculated at Rs 31.60 per kg) in their bank account, and they buy rice at the ration shop at Rs 32.60 per kg. If this pilot succeeds, the Jharkhand government plans to extend it across the state.

A recent survey in Nagri, however, found that that 97 per cent of the sample households opposed the DBT pilot. Their unhappiness – indeed anger – with the DBT system is not hard to understand. In January 2018, about 25 per cent of cardholders did not receive the cash. Even those who get money face many hurdles. Many households do not know which of their bank accounts is being credited with DBT money (the sample households had 3.5 bank accounts on average). They are often constrained to make multiple trips to the bank to find out if the money has come, as most of them do not receive SMS alerts. Some banks even disallow cardholders from withdrawing money (claiming that the amounts are too small), forcing them to make further trips to the local Pragya Kendra or banking correspondents, where they often have to pay bribes. The entire process leads to a huge waste of time and money for the cardholders. It is especially cumbersome for the elderly, the disabled, and those who find it difficult to take time off work.

All this is in addition to the hassles of Aadhaar-based biometric authentication (ABBA), rampant across Jharkhand. ABBA applies at the Pragya Kendra and ration shop. It is far from clear what purpose DBT serves when ABBA is in place at the ration shop.

PDS dealers, too, are inconvenienced by the DBT system as they now have to spend much more time to distribute grain and have to handle about Rs 4-5 lakhs worth of cash every month.

Nagri is the latest in a series of unsuccessful DBT pilots. As per NITI Ayog’s surveys of DBT pilots in Chandigarh, Puducherry and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, this system is more expensive to access PDS entitlements. These surveys also found that over time a small proportion of cardholders stopped receiving the cash subsidy. While these pilots allowed cardholders to buy food items from the market, in Nagri people are restricted to purchase grain from the PDS shop. A DBT pilot also failed in Kasba block of Purnia district (Bihar), though further details of this experiment are not available.

Jharkhand has amongst the highest levels of hunger and undernutrition in the country and the PDS there is a lifeline for many rural households. It may be recalled that lakhs of ration cards not linked with Aadhaar were deleted in Jharkhand last year. In the last five months, seven starvation deaths were reported in Jharkhand. Five of them were due to the mandatory integration of PDS with Aadhaar.

A padyatra will be taking place from Nagri to Ranchi on 26 February, to demand the discontinuation of the DBT pilot. This protest is jointly organized by five opposition parties (Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (ML), Indian National Congress, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha) and several social movements and networks (Right to Food Campaign Jharkhand, Adivasi Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch, All India People’s Forum Jharkhand, United Mili Forum, All India Kisan Sabha, Jharkhand Jan Sanskriti Manch, Ekta Parishad, Bagaicha, Jharkhand Nagrik Prayas and others).

For further information please contact Akash Ranjan (9931014008) or Ankita Aggarwal (9504091005) or write at rtfcindia@gmail.com. Follow on Twitter: #RationBachao.

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Nationwide protests

The killing of Gauri Lankesh brought about a wave of anger around the country as journalists and other citizens alike spontaneously declared protests and condelences events in over 75 locations in the country



Dozens of organizations, political parties and citizen groups have condemned the killing

Protest at Press Club, Delhi

Journalists protest at the Press Club, New Delhi. One person holds up a sign that says "Ideas are bulletproof". Many such protests have happened nationwide.

pfi-mangalore-gauri-lankesh
DYFI protest at Vashi
DYFI protest at Powai against the murder of Gauri Lankesh

DYFI protested in several locations

The Democratic Youth Federation of India, who have already been protesting 4 years of lack of justice for the murder of Narendra Dabholkar took to the streets in several locations in Mumbai and Maharashtra as a whole.

Ravish Kumar at Press Club

Ravish Kumar spoke powerfully about the role of supporters of the government in justifying the murder of Gauri Lankesh and vile tweets by those followed by the Prime Minister.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tMi3F2Vj0M

Where to from here?

This is a question that must remain in our minds. Can we afford to protest a few days and be complacent? Is this not what murderers count on?

gauri-lankesh-rationalist
gauri-lankesh-senior-journalist
gauri-lankesh-relatives-mourn
dabholkar-pansare-kalburgi-lankesh
gauri-lankesh-funeral


Can we afford this?

Senior journalist and rationalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead at home today. Her killers knocked on her door and when she opened it, they gunned her down. Yet another vocal critic of fundamentalist Hindutva is shot down by masked gunmen as they go about their routine. Yet another season of shock, protest and promises of an investigation, as practiced trolls smoothly swing into action to "manage" yet another atrocity.

Many fear that this may also be yet another round of leg dragging investigations. Another round of the state looking in your face as dissent is slaughtered. Fear of one thing cannot go on for long.

A threat is always made from a position of weakness. A threat is a desperate gamble to intimidate. A voice silenced in cowardly anonymity is a confession of there being no honorable answers to the questions they raise. It is a confession that there is no one who is willing to be the face of the action, because not even in their eyes is the action justifiable to those they are scamming into blindly believing in them.

I have faced fear many times in my life. I have seen others face fear. And if there is one thing I have seen for sure, it is that a confrontation with fear cannot be sustained. It resolves into cowering inaction or a reckless head on challenge. And sometimes it coalesces into sustained action to defeat the cause of the fear. Today, the voices of dissent fear that their country is in the hands of those who would prefer them dead. Which is how fascists succeed and get away with their murderous ways. Over the last few years, I have seen many voices "play it safe" every dissenting entity with a licence and funds to investigate is looking over its shoulder and hoping to not get the attention of a government they have no faith will play fair.

I have seen journalists who spoke without fear learn to measure their words and "balance" them with something that would please the government, like an offering to vengeful gods. Ones who never feared to lash out at whichever government was in power areasking themselves whether they can afford to play David to a Goliath who can stalk every aspect of their existence. There are those that lash out at the opposition for failing to do an undefinable "something" - anything, I suppose that would let them be true to themselves without fear.

No one can live on the edge of tension forever. One way or the other, it resolves. And the less space remains to cower safely, the more people come out fighting. Those having excessive faith in their impunity should think about this. They cannot kill everyone who calls them unacceptable for what they do to the citizens of the country and the whole. They cannot expect the guarantors of their impunity to attack the jobs of every person who refuses to toe lines and not stand discredited. They cannot investigate every organization that decides to no longer toe subtly conveyed lines.

A tyrant who cracks a whip once inspires fear. A tyrant serial chasing those thumbing their nose at it is a cartoon character. Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and now Lankesh. Fear gets old. Fury gets old. What is left is a determination. How many are they going to chase after with guns?

Beware, fascists, a reign of fear is only as good as the first confrontation with it. You are forcing more and more citizens to face off with it. One who looks into fear and acts anyway, ceases to be controlled by it.

Today, there are more and more people being reckless about what fate would befall them for speaking truth to power.  The usually careful journalists who abdicate their voice and do barely reported protest marches are using their pens against you and making furious statements that will reach across their spheres of influence. You have killed one of them. They could be next. Do you think they can be brought back to obedience? All of them? Do you have the capacity to keep the country running if enough people decided that your protectors did not deserve to run it? Do you have anywhere to hide when they are forced to give you up to survive? Wield your fear wisely, lest you force too many to fury and any government that shelters you be forced to give you up or fall itself.

There is only so much terrorism can force people to swallow words. If we must die one way or the other, we might as well die once, instead of daily.

In a rather bewildering tweet today, Madhu Kishwar asked, "Do champions of #RightToPrivacy realise that if 2 women hadn't complained, #babaRamRahim doings in his "Gufa"covered under right to privacy?" The tweet was so absurd that she was met with a barrage of retorts and taunts by people she was taunting.

I guess if we are a country just growing into our rights, there will be a lot of debates of this sort needed, where clear talking will help more than sarcasm at someone's ignorance. It also isn't an alien concept. We have a right to privacy already. Whether it was stated or not, we had protection against someone violating our space. That is how stalking or spy cams or leaking passwords and such is already illegal, even though the right itself was explicitly stated just recently. The world has not changed all that much in terms of what is "right" and "wrong". Privacy cannot make criminal things legit all of a sudden. That was just propaganda to influence the case into denying our right. Even the government now agrees we have a right to privacy. What has changed is for those whose privacy gets invaded by powerful players like big companies or the government (this judgment emerged directly from a constitutional challenge to Aadhaar on the grounds of privacy), who have the power to fudge an unstated right and interpret it to convenience. Now that it is explicit, they will no longer be able to fudge easily.

What the right to privacy will actually entail and exclude as per law will soon be determined, but the general meaning of the term endorses the right of a person to withhold or reveal information about themselves. There is also an implicit requirement that information revealed in confidence must not be shared beyond the purpose it was explicitly authorized for. This is the rock Aadhaar will flounder on - a mandatory and unaccountable database of private information on citizens cannot coexist with even the most shoddily defined privacy. And this 9 judge bench has given a most excellent verdict. But I digress.

Publicly available information is not covered by the right to privacy. For example, board results (because there seem to be a lot of jokes about keeping marksheets private from parents). You may refuse to reveal, but if the information is public, they will have access to it anyway. Certifications (no, the Prime Minister and Smriti Irani's degrees don't get covered by privacy either - they have stated the information themselves, what they are refusing to do is provide proofs for officially filed documents). This also goes for information submitted as proofs, etc. For example, if you have to provide proof of address to start a bank account, your right to privacy does not include starting a bank account without proof of residence. But yes, it definitely includes an obligation on the bank to not share it with third parties or use it for purposes other than verifying your address (for example, sending credit card spam).

As a fundamental right, Ram Rahim still has the right to privacy. Just because he is a convicted rapist does not mean you can make personal and confidential information about him public without his consent (public functions are public). The access to personal information can also be mandated for various reasons - This is where the grey areas lie. You have a right to withhold your bank balance and what you spend your money on from me, but do you have the right to withhold it from the income tax department? The standard understanding is no, because tax is your duty as a citizen. Others, more extreme argue that we voluntarily provide our information to the tax authorities and others don't and choose to be raided instead. The government will, no doubt soon be launching some form of propaganda to create a way to impose Aadhaar in spite of the recent clobbering in court through such grey areas. But it won't be easy, because there really is no way to prove that the information is necessary in the manner knowing income would be directly necessary to assess income tax. It is still not arbitrary or unlimited. you need warrants, to enter and search premises, for example. You can't randomly check whoever you suspect.You have to prove the need for it and get a warrant.

Similarly, your right to privacy is about you having the right to reveal at your discretion what personal information you choose to share. To apply that to sex and rape, it would protect homosexuals, for example. That is why they got all excited about the clarity of the wording. Or at least those who are not engaging in "unnatural sex" in a situation that could be called "public", unless one of them revealed their "crime". Short of homosexuality explicitly being legal, this is considerably better than their previous precarious position of not knowing what boundaries and personal rights they could count on. However, it doesn't protect Ram Rahim from his two victims who complained, because as their personal experience, the victims were perfectly entitled to reveal it to anyone they wished - even if it were consensual. And it wasn't, which makes it a flat out crime. Crimes are mostly private. But if there is enough evidence of it or a complaint, an investigation will attempt to access all relevant information. The most robustly defined right to privacy in the world cannot protect a rapist from conviction if his crime is proved and it cannot prevent an investigation against an accused either. It is a thin edge of what is a legit investigation or ethical whistleblowing and what is a breach of privacy - which is why exposes are so often accompanied by defamation suits.

Right to privacy is a right of persons, not organizations. If it were not the victims and a third party who came to know about the rapes and complained, the action being illegal would make it count as whistleblowing.

Organizations too can have requirements of confidentiality, but they don't have a right to information about them requiring consent to be shared - because they aren't people. Confidentiality requirements of organizations are usually explicit. There are things you can talk about (work timings, coffee maker sucks) and things you can't (trade secrets, business strategies). If the organization was willing to own the rapes as official business of the organization and not a crime that could not be revealed without breaching confidentiality agreements, they are free to sue the whistleblower or the complainants, but a crime that gets exposed remains a crime. An organization that claims it to be its official business would be a criminal organization.

This is also why you have (and need better) whistleblower protection laws - so that confidentiality cannot be used as an excuse to cover up crimes and persecute whistleblowers.

Hope all is clear now.