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An article by Shehzad Poonawala debunked several cover up propaganda myths spread by BJP about the 2002 Gujarat Riots and got taken down. Here is the article.

This article by Shehzad Poonawalla was originally published on DNA as "Mamata Banerjee calls Narendra Modi 'butcher of Gujarat'; here are 9 mythbusters on 2002 post-Godhra riots". It got taken down. Naturally, it finds a home here.

For those who have developed “selective and motivated” amnesia about the truths of 2002 riots in Gujarat and are suddenly buying into the myths being perpetrated by Narendra Modi's PR machinery, here are a few myth-busters to refresh your memory and perhaps your conscience

Narendra Modi surrounded by security and fans

Myth no 1: Post-Godhra violence was brought under control within 2-3 days by Narendra Modi’s government

Truth: “The violence in the state, which was initially claimed to have been brought under control in seventy two hours, persisted in varying degree for over two months, the toll in death and destruction rising with the passage of time.”

Source: Final Order of the National human Rights Commission chaired by the very respected Justice JS Verma, available here

Myth no 2: Gujarat Police acted fairly by taking action against rioters from every side

Truth: “We women thought of going to police and telling the police as in the presence of police, the houses of Muslims were burnt, but the police told us 'to go inside, it is doom's day for Muslims”

Source: PW219 testimony which was admitted as part of Naroda Patya judgment that led to conviction of Mayaben Kodnani, Narendra Modi’s cabinet minister who led murderous mobs during 2002 riots. It is available here.

Myth no 3: No conspiracy by the Gujarat government; post-Godhra violence was a spontaneous reaction

Truth: “A key state minister is reported to have taken over a police control room in Ahmedabad on the first day of the carnage, issuing directions not to rescue Muslims in danger of being killed.”

“Voter lists were also reportedly used to identify and target Muslim community members”

Source: Report of Human Rights Watch, April 2002, Vol. 14, No. 3(C). Available here

Myth no 4: Modi allowed a fair prosecution of those accused in rioting and hence even his cabinet colleague Mayaben Kodnani was convicted

Truth: “The modern day 'Neros' were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected.”

“Law and justice become flies in the hands of these “wanton boys”. When fences start to swallow the crops, no scope will be left for survival of law and order or truth and justice. Public order as well as public interest become martyrs and monuments.”

“From the facts stated above, it appears that accused wants to frustrate the prosecution by unjustified means and it appears that by one way or the other the Addl. Sessions Judge as well as the APP (Shri Raghuvir Pandya, the public prosecutor in this case at the time was a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and contested elections from Ward 20, Vadodara in the 1996 Corporation Elections on a BJP ticket!) have not taken any interest in discharge of their duties.”

Source: Supreme Court in Zahira Habibulla H Sheikh And Anr vs State Of Gujarat And Ors on 12 April, 2004 CASE NO.: Appeal (crl.) 446-449 of 2004. Available here

Myth no 5: Narendra Modi never justified post-Godhra killings

Truth: “Responding to queries regarding various statements attributed to him by the media, Mr Modi denied citing Newton’s law. Nor had he spoken of “action-reaction”; he had wanted neither the action (at Godhra) nor the subsequent reaction. When we cited footage in Zee to the contrary (Annexure 4A), there was no reaction from Mr Modi”

Source: Editors Guild Fact Finding Mission Report dated 2002. Available here

Myth no 6: Narendra Modi speaks only about development in his speeches. Even after 2002 riots, his speeches were never laced with communal poison

Truth: Narendra Modi’s reported speech: “For several months, the opposition has been after me to resign. When I did, they did not know what to do and started running to Delhi to seek Madam's help. They realised that James Michael Lyngdoh, the Election Commissioner of India, is their only saviour.Some journalists asked me recently, ''Has James Michael Lyngdoh come from Italy?'' I said I don't have his janam patri, I will have to ask Rajiv Gandhi. Then the journalists said, ''Do they meet in church?''. I replied, ''Maybe they do.'' James Michael Lyngdoh came and visited Ahmedabad and Vadodara. And then he used asabhya basha (indecent language) with the officials. Gujaratis can never use such language because our rich cultural heritage does not permit it. Then he gave a fatwa ordering that the elections can't be held. I want to ask him: he has come to this conclusion after meeting only members of the minority community. Are only minority community members citizens of India? Are majority community members not citizens of this country? Is the constitutional body meant only for the minority community? Did he ever bother to meet the relatives of those killed in the Godhra carnage? Why didn't he meet them? Why didn't he ask them whether the situation was conducive for polls? Why? James Michael Lyngdoh ( says it slowly with emphasis on Michael), the people of Gujarat are posing a question to you.”

Source: Reported speech of Narendra Modi, September 30, 2002. Available here

Myth no 7: Narendra Modi never applied for a US Visa (when it came to light that he was denied one)

Truth: “The Chief Minister of Gujarat state, Mr. Narendra Modi, applied for a diplomatic visa to visit the United States. On March 18, 2005, the United States Department of State denied Mr. Modi this visa under section 214 (b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act because he was not coming for a purpose that qualified for a diplomatic visa. Modi's existing tourist/business visa was also revoked under section 212 (a) (2) (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 212 (a) (2) (g) makes any foreign government official who "was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom" ineligible for a visa to the United States. The Ministry of External Affairs requested that the Department of State review the decision to revoke his tourist/business visa. Upon review, the State Department re-affirmed the original decision.” This decision applies to Narendra Modi only. It is based on the fact that, as head of the State government in Gujarat between February 2002 and May 2002, he was responsible for the performance of state institutions at that time. The State Department's detailed views on this matter are included in its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Report. Both reports document the violence in Gujarat from February 2002 to May 2002 and cite the Indian National Human Rights Commission report, which states there was "a comprehensive failure on the part of the state government to control the persistent violation of rights of life, liberty, equality, and dignity of the people of the state."

Source: Statement by David C. Mulford, US Ambassador to India, March 21, 2005. Available here

Myth no 8: Vajpayee never asked Modi to observe “Rajdharma”, did not rap him for 2002 riots

Truth: “In comments which appeared to back criticism of the state authorities, Mr Vajpayee said he would speak to political leaders about allegations that they had failed to do their job. "Government officials, political leaders, need to respond to the task. The constitution guarantees equal rights for all," he said.The state government is controlled by the BJP, and the Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, has come in for particular attack over the way the authorities reacted to the violence. At the Shah Alam camp in Gujarat's commercial capital, Ahmedabad, Mr Vajpayee said that the Godhra attack was "condemnable" but what followed was "madness". "The answer to madness is not madness," he said in an emotional speech."The duty of our government is to protect the property, life and honour of everybody... there is no scope for discrimination," he said in an apparent reference to allegations that local officials had turned a blind eye to the killings.”

Source: Vajpayee says riots “shameful” – BBC News report April 4th 2002. Available here

Myth no 9: It's not sheer opportunism that well-known Modi-baiters like Smriti Irani, have today become his cheerleaders

Truth: "Smriti Irani who unsuccessfully contested from Delhi's Muslim-dominated Chandni Chowk constituency in the April-May parliamentary elections, blamed Modi for BJP's recent electoral reverses. "Whenever people mention Gujarat they only talk about the riots and try to corner the Gujaratis on the issue. So, in order to maintain the respect that I have for Atalji and the BJP, I won't hesitate to take this step( of going on a fast to seek Modi's removal) ," she said."

Source: Times of India report dated December 12, 2004. Available here

These myth-busters took me just one hour to compile. So it's quite surprising that none of the stalwarts who interviewed Modi, (some of whom saw the events of 2002 unfold in front of their very own eyes), never counter-questioned him further and exposed the glaring gaps in his "rebuffed" narrative. Much like Smriti Irani, I guess, each night they must be saying to themselves "Hey Ram"....

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What really gets my goat these days is the bull in china shop approach to women's rights, which has a male dominated state and society trying to fix everything (sexual assault) - for women. I am a woman and I agree that there is vast gender inequality in India. I believe that women need to be empowered. I don't see our methods as useful. I have started calling the gender ghetto.

There are two lobbies in conflict determining women's rights that result in actions somewhere in between - usually what is acceptable to both. The "feminist" lobby - which seeks to create sensitivity and ease of justice for women - particularly for rapes. The "patriarchy" which would prefer to control women. Most of the women of India fall into neither of these two influential groups.

The feminist lobby (as per my observation in INDIA) looks to show humanity the right path - regardless of whether change results or is immediately useful for women. In less polite words, it is an upper middle class hijack of the female gender that appreciates itself and interprets "victories" against patriarchy as empowerment of women (which isn't necessarily true).

Patriarchy is on more comfortable ground. They have control and it is about managing so that no women actually get into bastions of power. The best way is to create luxurious ghettos for women, sold to feminists as special attention to women's rights.

As a result, there is an abundance of measures taken specially for women that do very little to change the ground situation. There isn't a single place where women can claim to feel safer after all the agitation, in spite of a steady stream of laws, schemes, special facilities, forces... Unfortunately, this doesn't cause the women's rights activists to pause and wonder if more of the same would be useful either. On the other hand, the special provisions cannot be made for all women - too resource intensive. So you create nice ghettos of women's rights where the loudest voices are - and keep peddling the idea that "something is being done". Unfortunately, Indian feminists ARE gullible enough to fall for it as long as their egos are stroked well.

Human rights as a special grant for women

Safety is a fundamental right. It isn't something that is a favor granted to women. Women only banks, women's credit cards, women police forces (more on that later)... You create a new breed of men who "know how to treat women". You have morally upright people criticizing social media abuse of women "Is this how you speak with women?", as though abusing men is fine... in the ghetto. I'd call it bubble, except it is really a psychological ghetto. Not merely isolation, but marginalization peddled as women's rights, confining women to "safe" spaces with "better" rights that "appreciate" them.

So, your pub going woman getting molested is an outrage, because that space is supposed to be safe for women - indeed, less "inhibited" women are part of the appeal - besides, don't the passes say "couples entry"? On the other hand, the woman getting molested in a seedy country liquor bar should have known better than to be there. Because, the pub is an official gender ghetto. Women are supposed to be in that space. On the other hand, the seedy bar is the "real world", where no concessions will be made to women, and they must know "men will be men" while walking in.

Put your hand on your heart and tell me this is not so. That this is not how your perception works too, even though you'd like to respect "all" women?

The problem is the same. Drunk louts harassing women or worse.

Any woman who has asked a husband, male partner or male friend to escort her to a dance bar (if you're around Mumbai) or red light area will attest to reason for refusal - or at least serious caution - being "it isn't safe for women". In spite of the dancers and prostitutes being girls themselves. Think about why one kind of woman wouldn't be safe in a place where women are the star attraction otherwise.

In essence, this is a class phenomenon, mostly limited to the upper middle class. Very rich people can do what they like to women and get away with it through money power or connections. Lower middle classes hover on fringes, knowing that this protection is very unreliable if the perpetrator is from an upper class. Lower classes get routinely harmed and no one gives a damn beyond stray newspaper reports or the occasional case that has enough TRP value to elevate the victim to a more deserving category of human.

The ghetto can also be layered and existing in the same place as the "real world". In other words, your pub goer getting raped will be news. A pub employee getting raped may be news depending on job (no sweepers, please), but if the woman security guard in the mall the pub is in gets raped by patrons of the pub? Forget it. Brief mention somewhere if at all. News item, not women's rights issue. You don't want unnecessary restrictions on the patrons of the pub over a nobody. It is the same reason that in spite of alcohol being a factor in many crimes and routinely in rapes, you will never find the elites bringing this up. You do not want to create an aura of shame around alcohol if you drink yourself - as a vast majority of public figures do.

Identifying a risk factor in rape is not as important as retaining elite freedoms. Not even as a minor caution point like - "Avoid being alone with one or more men you can smell alcohol on, as alcohol is known to reduce inhibitions. Particularly if there has been the slightest unwelcome flirting or sexually crude behavior or short temper." This gender ghetto is selective about risks it protects from. Only some are to be prevented. Others can be condemned in hindsight, as preventing will be inconvenient.

It is also an age phenomenon, where this insistence on safety is largely relevant to young women, but kids get harmed routinely with little protest, as do older women. So it is basically a phenomenon of nationwide statistics of enormous inequality against women used to give select women a carte blanche - which is also an illusion. It is given only as long as it doesn't inconvenience any of those with power. Rape convictions are overwhelmingly more from lower classes. No one has a problem with the nameless louts being taken out of the equation.

Feminism in India is not into hard wars. It prefers moral elegance and the high road. Patriarchy is not going to give up controlling women and treating them as primarily existing to serve the male will. Their interests do not converge on issues like domestic violence and marital rape. So we have some talk about it, but no serious challenge. The gender ghetto is that golden area where feminism and patriarchy agree and create a special safe zone where those who belong can expect safety to be their right.

Patriarchy prefers handouts to sharing power.

Patriarchy sees power as a male domain. It may be allowed to others - within limits. Misogyny actively seeks to exclude women from power. For the misogynist mind, it is better to give women a gilded harem than let them sit among the men as equals. Creating these gender ghettos works very well for them. Political parties having women wings with duties to support but very little control on party policies. Women only banks - even if they are not economically viable. Women's credit cards - why give them male ones when we can tailor features and cashbacks to define their identity with shopping, groceries and so on?

And of course, women to provide security for women, women only police stations... pitting women police against men who are highly likely to be threats to women, rather than create an overall gender sensitive police force. Risks to women were never the problem. The problem was complaints about it. This looks like a grand gesture. See! We gave women power to bring men to justice! Now vote for us please. Yet, do women only forces find it easier to deal with criminals? Why would bringing criminals to book be a gender issue? What are male cops supposed to do if they get a complaint of crimes against women? The same thing as the women cops. Yet, rather than increase the representation of women among the police force at large, it is more misogyny compatible to give them their corner to occupy.

Laws that "protect" women.

While women are overwhelmingly more harmed by men than vice versa, creating laws that institutionalize a bias against men does not help anyone. It is the legal ghetto. That sanctuary for women where they only have to name the justice they need. Of course, there is the "real world" where cops refuse to file cases - or worse to make them go away rather than exercise their rights. This successfully fudges the idea of justice for women, turning it into something that is specially granted for them in a very dramatic and unreserved manner, whereas the reality is different. Nor is creating a special issue out of the right of women to seek justice as generous as it sounds. It is the fundamental right of anyone harmed by another to seek justice.

In our grandstanding that wants to make sure we leave no space for any crime against women to slip through (regardless of applicability in real world), we make laws so unreal, that it is easy to show how a man accused of rape cannot be innocent short of an act of God - effectively turning a rape accusation into something women do that men have no defense against - when it is not true.

Consider a woman filing a complaint that she was raped a week ago by someone when they were alone in the office. Give me any possible way the man could prove his innocence short of proving he wasn't in the place at all. The man is presumed guilty - unless he can prove his innocence - yet, how does one prove an absence? It is a logical fallacy we have enshrined through reckless law making that only aims to deal out grand punishments without a view on the larger picture.

There is a strong motive to do this. To enshrine dramatic punishments as an exhibition of "doing something" to "fight rape". What is essentially a social problem - the inability of men to court women or take no for an answer - gets dumped on the legal system where it can reside happily, out of sight of a misogynist society, which is not required to face how it treats women. Naturally, for this, the law has to sound like it really knows what it is doing. Even if what it is doing is creating the provision to amputate a decade out of a man's life and reputation on the basis of an accusation he has no real way to disprove. A provision - which like India's thousand grey areas will usually be ignored and conviction rates will remain low at the discretion of judges - who must face their varying levels of conscience on sentencing a man for ten years on the basis of the crime described. Some misogynists will let all kinds of rapists go, others will let only a select few go, but the law if implemented to the letter will let no one go unless there is evidence of innocence. This is the legal system basically reduced to the level of a service for women to do anyone in. Non gender ghetto women won't be able to pull it off, because cops will simply laugh them out of the police station.

But surely it helps women? Even if it is an unfair service that caters to a few women, at least those women get empowered, right?

In my view, it doesn't. Judges who are often notoriously misogynistic will protect rapists for "small mistakes" when 10 year sentences seem to be disproportionate for an act that leaves no trace. Number of rapes on record will go high, but conviction rates will drop so dramatically that filing an FIR for rape will be rendered a joke. This will additionally provide fodder for misogynists to trivialize the act of filing a rape complaint itself, and it will be very difficult to debunk, because they will use the impossibility of proving innocence as their argument, even though lack of convictions will prove that "impossibility" false in practical application. All in all, a whole avalanche of controversial rapes will crop up, giving great boost to the feminist industry, but will lead to increased perceptions of danger limiting women, as well as increasing hostility from men once they start looking at cases. It will do a grave wrong to women whose PROVABLE rapes will now be further competing with scarce legal resources for justice.

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It seems we identify an ideal that should be, and start acting like it is fact and simply ignore what doesn't fit. We want uncompromising punishments and we also want every single wrong to be punished and we would rather a few innocents get punished than a few victims fail to nail their abusers.

Yet, is all this hand holding resulting in more assured women? More confident, more safe, more purposeful? Or merely more reckless? What is it that we are achieving, and how long is this supposed to continue and at whose cost? Why is it that we are choosing a hyperbole laden decision making process rather than something more scientific, measured and balanced?

Who will it hurt if women stop getting special favors and instead get their rights?

 

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Attacks on Chinkies in Delhi are the tip of the iceberg. The prejudice is deep rooted and widespread and the answer isn't to call them something else, but to respect them.
Nido Tania
Nido Tania

Call them chapti naak waale or Chinkies, they are Indian. On paper. And they'd better have their papers on them.

Two years ago, when the Chinese premier visited India for the BRICS summit, Tibetans were put under house arrest to prevent protest. Yep. In this day and age, the country that is home to the Tibetan government in exile blithely put every single Tibetan under house arrest to ... prevent inconvenience. Few bothered to make a noise over this wholesale termination of free speech, which includes the right to protest. After all, they were chinkies.

Knowing our people well, I had predicted at that time, that Tibetans being under house arrest probably meant people from the North East were under house arrest too along with the Nepalis and probably any Chinese tourists too. I do a lot of these behavioral predictions, and they usually come true, because I'm simply describing patterns already followed. This one came true too. The police prevented the free movement of people from the North East as well. All chinkies look the same, yes? Small eyes, flat nose....

And of course, a self-immolation was a pretty good photo opportunity. I mean, good reason for house arrest.

So yeah, all the hot Chinkie girls with their loose morals had to stay home, and the Nepali boys. I mean North East. All same, yaar.... if he works in dhaba, Nepali. If call center North East. If selling trinkets, Tibetan. Oh wait. That's too much information. What difference does it make?

We simply don't care. A Manipuri is an Arunachali is a Nepali is Tibetan.... whatever. Chinkies. Few Indians know what states are in the North East.

Nido's mother asked emotionally, as she spoke about racial discrimination if they should go to China, even if they are Indian. Frankly, to most Indians, it  won't matter. They already look Chinese, and our knowledge of geography is such that a few years ago, a trip to Arunachal had been advertized as a foreign tour, to much embarrassment of the travel agent - not because he didn't know Arunachal was in India, but because he was wrongly selling an Indian tour as a foreign tour. Get it?

When I lived in the mountains, my adopted family were Khampa nomads. chinkies. The youngest, Bhimsen used to dream of going to Bombay and working in movies. He used to say he'd do roles like Bruce Lee or as a Nepali. "For the film people, it is all the same." He thought it was a big joke, as we sat at home and chatted, I don't know if it remained as funny when he actually went to the city. I used to hate this talk. To me, he was precious. The idea that he has to be someone else to get a job in films seemed jarring. I never said anything. Actually, I didn't know much about racial discrimination back then. Now that I look back, almost everyone at some point or the other had referred to their features. It was me who didn't get the significance of them mentioning their features as a factor in something.

I remembered Bhimsen because Nido reminds me of how he looked. The youthfulness, not the features. And the hair, though Bhimsen never had it like this that I remember, but he was always experimenting with his looks. Of course, the Khampas are somewhat larger boned, so Bhimsen looked like this in his mid-teens, which was his age from this memory. Nido is older, with a more slender physique. Similar. Yet different. Individuals.

This hurts me. Some of the people I lived with and loved as family were Chinkies, though they were in Himachal, more similar to the Ladakhis than the North East or Tibetans and yes, they don't at all look the same, if you see them as people. I don't have words to explain how their faces are different, but I'm more likely to recognize the difference between two "Chinkies" and remember them individually, than the frankly baffling several actresses I have seen who are all slim, sultry, wheatish skin, same length straight hair and similar accents. Combine the similarities with the variations each has in film roles, No way I can tell them apart without seriously learning differences. But they are maybe 4-5 people consciously following similar dress, styles and so on (whatever look is "in"). This is so not true with entire regions full of people as one same kind because different from us.

And yet, we are seeing racist attacks. It isn't just about differences, it is about defeating the different. What is this hate?

I don't have the words to explain the differences I see, just as I don't have the words to explain the differences in "non-Chinkies" and it saddens me that I cannot explain it what I see. Some part of me feels angry. How can people I cared about be treated so interchangeably and with so little regard to them as people?

I wish a "Chinkie" had made a video like this, because even as we are lazily protesting that "all" North East people are under attack, other than Nido (Arunachali), the remaining - the 14 year old girl who was stabbed, the two men beaten up, and the one man stabbed.... ARE ALL MANIPURI. It is NOT all the same. It is like 4 Gujjus and 5 Maharashtrians in a traffic accident called "9 people from the west". Identity. They are people.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvB7v99-3jI

Reporter confuses Samuel Jackon with Lawrence Fishburne, and you gotta hear this. He SHREDS him. "I'm Not Laurence Fishburne, YOU MORON!!!" because blacks go through this a lot too. "All blacks same." No matter how different.

I hope a "Chinkie" gives it back like this one day.

And I hope Delhi police also protect the Nepalis and Tibetans, because we are fucking stupid people.

Note: The use of the word "Chinkie" is not an accident. It is an accurate reference of our stereotyping that is the root of this whole situation. It is ugly because we are ugly when we use it.

How can officials exploit rag picker children to pick dead bodies from railway tracks? When I first read the news of a 12 year old rag picker boy forced to pick up a severed limb of a dead body on the railway tracks at Indore, I thought the newspaper had reprinted an old story of abuse. Near identical stories. But the devil is in the detail, this one is a repeat incident. Which makes me wonder if Indore Railway station has made a habit out of exploiting street kids for dirty work that the bloated government employees don't like. Like picking dead bodies.

Reproducing both stories here. You tell me, should Indore station be investigated for child torture?

This is the news in NDTV from today:

Indore: 12-year-old boy forced to pick up mutilated body from railway track

Indore:  A-12-year old boy was allegedly made to pick up a mutilated body part of a suicide victim from the railway track in Indore by the railway police officials.  A top level police investigation has been ordered into the case.

The men in uniform reached the tracks a little later after a labourer named Dhanraj reportedly threw himself in front of the train and committed suicide. One of the railway police officials reached the spot and waited for other team members. The  body lay on the track while other trains continued to pass over it.

Finally, the officials shifted the body from the track. However, a mutilated limb was left behind on the track. The officials then allegedly made a minor rag-picker do the job.

"The police asked me to pick up the mutilated body part. I refused but they pressured me," the boy said.

After this shocking incident was raised by the media, senior railway police officials sprung into action and a DSP level probe was ordered in the case.

Deputy Superintendent of Police GRP Mankamna Prasad told NDTV,"We have recorded statement of our officials but we are not able to trace the boy. Our team is looking for him. As soon as we record his statement I will submit the investigation report. If  officials are guilty we will make sure they face departmental exchange."

The State Commission for Protection of Child rights is closely monitoring the developments in this case, and will be seeking a report from the railway police on the issue and also the action they propose to take. The commission is worried about the minor who they fear may be psychologically affected by the incident.

Chairman of State Commission for Protection of Child rights told, NDTV,"This incident may instil a sense of fear in the mind of the boy which can affect him life long. So the child will need counselling. We will also order the SP to trace that boy and do the needful for him."

This is not the first time that such incident has been reported in Indore. Two years ago, a minor was asked to pick up body parts from the track. In that case, railways police officials were found guilty and also had to face punishment.

And this is the human rights abuse report from 2011:

Police force a child to gather severed human parts in Indore

ragpicker child forced to pick up dead body parts
A ragpicker child forced to pick up parts of dead body from the track at Indore railway station

Despicable it might be, yet it is a relatively irrelevant incident in India. The latest is the case of Firoz, a 12-year-old boy who is now reportedly suffering from serious psychological trauma after being forced by a Head Constable of the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to gather the severed remains of a human body run over by a train in Indore, Madhya Pradesh state. The incident happened on 26 September 2011 in full public view. According to the psychiatrist, Dr Ramghulam Razdan, Head of Department, Department of Psychiatry, at the MGM Medical College, who examined Firoz, the boy could be suffering from a "permanent phobic reaction" or that he has developed a "psychotic behaviour" as the direct result of his horrific experience. Firoz is reported to be a rag-picker boy, living in Indore, who initially refused to do the illegal job, but was forced to by the police constable, who also paid him Rs 100. DNA, an independent media group reported the incident on 1 October 2011.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is aware that this is not an isolated incident or an exception in any form in India, Madhya Pradesh in particular. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, Madhya Pradesh is on top in the list of states concerning crimes committed against children in the country.

The AHRC is also aware that the RPF and the state police regularly resort to similar illegal methods when they have to deal with dead bodies of persons run over by a train or in cases where the state police have to deal with persons found dead in unnatural circumstances. For instance, the state police in Tamilnadu often pay Rs 100 and offer a bottle of illegal liquor to children who are ordered to 'pack-up' unidentified and unclaimed dead bodies, often found in different stages of putrefaction.

Mr Louise, living in Pavitram village of Thiruvannamali district, who is now aged 20 years used to do this 'job' for the RPF. Louise was first forced to do the 'job' when he was 12-years-old. He continues to do so and today he is the person 'who handles the dead' in the village and has now made it his profession. The AHRC and its partner organisation in West Bengal state, MASUM have been reporting about how inhumanly dead bodies are handled in state-run mortuaries in that state. MASUM has documented dozens of cases in West Bengal, where it is a Dom - name of a particular Dalit community in India, who undertakes the 'autopsy examination' using crude tools, whereas the medical doctor would observe it from a distance. MASUM and the AHRC has also reported cases of dead bodies left unattended, putrefied and body parts eaten away by dogs and rats in government morgues in West Bengal. Despite the reportage, the state government has done nothing so far to improve the situation. Illegal it might be for the authorities to engage a boy or a private person to deal with a dead body in what is in essence a crime scene or a scientific examination. But in India, this is how things are.

Lack of discipline and dereliction to duty that is often condoned by the superiors in the law enforcement agencies; relative absence of accountability; lack of skills and equipments; and the overall belief of impurity associated with dealing with dead bodies often based on caste beliefs along with the practical convenience for the police of having not to physically deal with the dead are the reasons why such practices exist in India today. In essence, Firoz is one more victim of the systemic culture of neglect, lack of accountability and the resultant culture of impunity omnipresent within the law enforcement agencies in the country. In that the Head Constable who forced Firoz to do this despicable job and paid him for it had been acting quite naturally and normally as far as India is concerned.

Shocking the incident might be, yet it must not be a surprise to anyone in India. Take for instance the Indian Railway itself. Despite the country having developed nuclear weapons and scheduled to declare itself as 'developed' by 2020, the Indian Railways is the single largest network of open toilet on wheels in the world.

Human faeces, sprayed on rails and rail sleepers (cross-tie), is a common sight in every railway station and on every inch of the rail network in the country, which is the largest in the world. In that, the Indian Railway still is to realise that there is something called a 'closed closet' technology invented and used widely in the world today, that toilets inside transport vehicles do not cause a hygiene hazard to the public. The concern for the Indian Railways for the ordinary people including its own employees is most visible once again at railway stations where manual scavengers, clean with a broom, human faeces from the rails. In that, the Indian Railway is the single largest employer of manual scavengers in the world - often recruited from the Dalit community and railway stations are the largest open toilets in the country. One of worst predicaments of the Dalits in India is indeed the practice of manual scavenging, repeatedly documented by rights groups, but equally denied by the Government of India.

It is reported that when several people who witnessed the brutal and inhuman predicament of Firoz, complained about it to the RPF, the RPF suspend the Head Constable from service pending inquiry and transferred five other officers. From experience, about the manner in which dereliction of duty is dealt within the law enforcement agencies in India, it has to be assumed that the only reaction by the authorities concerning this incident would be just this transfer and the temporary suspension of the Head Constable.

The reaction by Firoz when he learned that complaints have been made regarding the incident is to flee from home. Understandably this is the best a poor person in India could do, if the person becomes the cause for 'trouble' to a police officer - run, as far as possible, beyond the reach of the officer! It is reported that Firoz fled to a place called Omkareshwar, about 85 kilometres away from Indore fearing that the Head Constable would come for his blood.

Given the manner in which complaints are dealt with in India, it is possible that the Head Constable produces - and if there is an inquiry, it concludes - that Firoz did the job, on his own volition. The RPF might also produce Firoz's signed statement in support for such a defence and statements of similar rag-picker boys, or probably of a shopkeeper and a few other 'chance witnesses'.

Madhya Pradesh state has a Child Welfare Committee. It needs to be seen whether the Committee would take any sensible action upon this case. At the very least, will the Child Welfare Officer, having jurisdiction upon the police station where the incident happened, would take any action on this case?

There would not be an inquiry how and why the Head Constable picked a rag-picker boy to do his job. None would bother to ask how a rag-picker boy becomes so vulnerable to brute exploitation by the very same officer who is also paid to prevent it. It will be nobody's worry why there are so many children in Indore and other cities in India, who make a living picking rags and climbing over piles of trash when they should be at school? None would try to contact the Madhya Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights having its office in Bhopal and dare speak to its Chairperson and former Judge of Madhya Pradesh High Court, about what could the Commission do in the present case, and further for the poor and destitute children of the state.

While this statement is being read, there would be several other ill-fated children like Firoz, who are either forced to do similar jobs for a living or for fear of torture; or trafficked along the length and breadth of the country or trying to curl down with empty stomachs since their parents are unable to find them a meal at least once a week. Yet, India repeatedly hear the hollow rhetoric that the country's children are its asset and the country's investment for the future.

The question is, would children like Firoz count in that account?

***
Those who wish to react to this statement kindly contact:

1. Director General of Police, Madhya Pradesh
Telephone: + 91 755 2443500
Fax + 91 755 2443501
Email: dgp@mppolice.gov.in

2. District Collector, Indore
Telephone + 91 755 2449111
Fax + 91 755 2449114
Email: dmindore@nic.in

3. District Superintendent of Police, Indore
Telephone + 91 755 2525600 / 2711000

3. Chairperson
Madhya Pradesh State Human Rights Commission
Telephone + 91 755 2571935 / 2424311
Fax: 91 755 2551429

4. Chairperson
Madhya Pradesh State commission for the Protection of Child Rights
Telephone + 91 755 2559903
Fax: 0755-2559900
Email: mpcpcr@gmail.com

# # #

About Vikas Samvad: Vikas Samvad is a human rights/media group and AHRC's partner working in Madhya Pradesh. The office of Vikas Samvad is at Bhopal and their work could be accessed at www.mediaforrights.org

Picture courtesy: Daily News and Analysis www.dnaindia.com

Document Type :
Statement
Document ID :
AHRC-STM-135-2011
Countries :

A lunacy drives India's development. Vast untouched treasures of nature are discarded with scant thought on the altar of a mythical development. Lakhs of development hit Indians are reduced to lives of despair.

A tiny hamlet in the state's Raygada district consisting of merely 48 Dongaria Kondh tribals, empowered by Supreme Court's landmark decision of April this year, was the first in a series of twelve village sabhas which will be held across the areas that will be affected by Vedanta's bauxite mining at Niy bbb camgiri. In a dramatic meeting that lasted over four hours and was attended by District Judge Sarat Chandra Mishra serving as observer, tribals emphatically refused consent to the project that various publicity departments were desperately trying to project as their salvation.

But much water has flowed under this bridge, and more will flow. The combined forces of greed and impunity from consequences are a formidable enemy and the state has a record of wearing down any demand for human rights by simply reverting to a stand that has been rejected by those who dissent. Over and over, in varied ways.

Proceedings got tense when on completion of the representation by the tribals, it was declared that their religious and community rights were confined to their villages and did not extend to the entire Niyamgiri hills range. Lingaraj Azad, organizer of the Niyamgiri Suraksha Samiti said, "This amounts to cheating. We are traditional followers of our deity who not only resides in the Hundaljali but also elsewhere and this mining project will ruin their abode and also threaten our existence." Hectic parleys and heated exchange of words between members of the village and other tribal leaders and the district judge ensured that in the end, the resolution passed mentioned that the rights of the natives extended across the entire hill range.

Of course, the villages allowed to have a say are already selected from among those where the Vedanta view has the greatest chance of being echoed. Reminds me of how Maharashtra government had conspired to prevent the realities of farmers in Vidarbha from being observed by the All Party Parliamentary Committee that was to study impact of genetically modified organisms.

People living at the grassroots have existential struggles to prevent the rich and famous from appropriating their very lives.

All over the country are echoes of these same issues. In Gujarat, you have farmers resisting land acquisition for the special economic zone. In Uttarakhand, there were people whose homes were acquired for hydro electric projects that became their destruction. There are people opposing their land being acquired for nuclear plants. Dams dislocate people by the millions. We, who were aghast at peaceful protesters being lathicharged by the police when it came to middle class protests in Delhi, are barely aware that lathi charges are so routine for people the state intends to evict, that newspapers see no news in it. It is, after all everything going as per plan in a boring routine. Thrash the squatters (on their own land) till they get fed up and leave.

Even as vast tracts of forests go to companies for "progress", tribals who have traditionally lived off the land are losing access to it. Suddenly their home is National property and they must move out of the forests. They who nurtured forests, protected trees have lost their rights because those who can afford bulldozers can "process" them for paper (or something else) more efficiently.

And the propaganda is fantastic. I remember someone being angry with me for not knowing "ground realities" - that tribals were propped up by activists to keep demanding money and place hurdles in the way of projects. And why would activists want to place hurdles? It is a western agenda. Seriously? And here I was thinking that it was the "West" profiting from these projects. The World Bank has money stuck in some, multi national corporations are going to profit from others. How is it that the tribal is so stupid that they cannot recognize prosperity and can be "brainwashed" to remain in poverty and be thrashed by the humanitarian developers? Tell me, what incentive would be a good one to get you to deprive yourself and your family and keep protesting? Would you give up your home in return for inadequate money that cannot buy you comparable land and home? Why should you?

In a country that mints money from exporting minerals, the mines themselves are surrounded by crippling poverty. Economic policies are driving people away from traditional livelihoods. We are losing 2000 farmers a day. Every single day. for a decade at least. Do the math. We are losing 135 hectares of forest cover per day. Remember what they taught you in school about trees preventing soil erosion and retaining water in soil? The water table is in peril in large swathes of India, but the government hardly seems to see this in a crisis in a country of our population. Water bodies have been privatized - sold or on lease. Now we have metered drinking water. Soon, you will find water allocations and then when water is not enough, the whole thing will be turned over to private gigs waiting to own your needs in return for guaranteed money every month. What happens to those who will not afford to pay the bills? Who knows? a fifth of our population still lives below a completely absurd poverty line of Rs. 32. Many of them have water bodies at walking distance that cater to factories, while their fields have no water except rain.

All in the name of progress. The great God of GDP showers its blessings on the almighty decision makers. The textbook defense of progress uses words of law. Everyone will be rehabilitated. They will get a truckload of money - amounts they couldn't even dream of. Locals are greedy. Activists have anti-national agendas... the list is endless. Few of these noble defenders will admit, that the World Bank, famous for extending money to third world countries like us for an agenda, was forced to admit that most people displaced by projects they funded were not rehabilitated. This will not be something you will find the Prime Minister announcing when he announces a new project bringing pride to India in a canned speech delivered from paper to camera without going through a human in between. Imagine:

"It is with great pride that I announce a new dam to be build on river XYZ, which will cost [insert-amount]. Around 2 million people will have to leave their homes and we will make sure they do it. We have clobbered the protesters yet again and we will continue to do so till they give up. We will also give a couple of thousand of them homes so that we can show the world we are kind and you can enjoy your electricity without guilt. Jai Hind"

Why would they? After all, they care about you. Why bother your conscience with the cost of development?

The answer to "Whose land/water/country is this anyway?" invariably seems to be "The guy with the pile of bank notes sitting in another place".

And now the second gram sabha on Niyamgiri too has voted solidly against Vedanta's bauxite mining on their land. Expect more underhand nastiness from our beloved government. Too much money at stake to not squash these brave people like bugs.