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PRELIMINARY FACT-FINDING REPORT OF WOMEN’S GROUPS INTO THE INCIDENT OF GANG RAPE OF 5 ADIVASI WOMEN IN KHUNTI

CONTINUING REPRESSION IN GHAGHRA AND NEIGHBOURING VILLAGES IN KHUNTI & ARAKI DISTRICTS OF JHARKHAND

Press Release

Date: 04 July 2018

Following up on media reports of the gang rape of 5 adivasi women in Kochang, Araki block, Khunti district while holding street plays on anti-trafficking, WSS constituted a fact-finding team comprising women’s groups from different states and local activists from Jharkhand to investigate into the incident. The fact-finding was held over 3 days, from 28 June to 30 June, in and around Khunti, Kochang, Ranchi and neighbouring areas, to gather further information on the incident and subsequent developments, as the only narrative available to the public was that of the administration, and the media did not carry information from independent and alternative sources. During the fact-finding, the team met with several persons and institutions related to the incident and with information on the case. The team also attempted to meet with the 5 survivors, currently under the custody of the Khunti police., but was not granted access.  Though we did seek appointments to meet with the district collector and S.P., they did not meet us.

Through the course of the fact-finding, several facts have emerged which throw into question the narrative of the police.

Facts emerging from the fact-finding

  1. The incident of gang rape against the 5 women performing street plays on anti-trafficking occurred on 19 June 2018 in Kochang village, Araki block. The street plays were a collaboration between , a home for rescued women, managed by the RC Mission in Jharkhand, and a troupe belonging to an NGO. Out of the 5 survivors (all adults) , two were those who had been under the care and protection of the organization affiliated with the mission, and 3 belonged to the troupe of the NGO. In the first FIR lodged by the head of the NGO, he alleges that the Sisters accompanying the troupe from the RC Mission pressured the troupe on holding the performance in Kochang. However, as per information gathered from several other sources, by 19 June, the troupe had already completed their planned 16 performances in the district, and it was on the persistence of the head of the NGO that the others reluctantly agreed to also hold another performance in Kochang, as he said he had already made announcements far and wide.
  2. The incident occurred on 19 June 2018, but two FIRs were filed on the incident, one at the Khunti PS and the other at the Khunti Mahila PS, only on 21 June 2018. As per our inquires, we believe that the police had already received information of the offence at least as early as 20 June. On 20 June itself, the police had called one of the two Sisters who were also a part of the troupe for questioning, and later in the night, had brought 2 of the 5 survivors (those who were in the NGO's troupe) for their preliminary medical examination, and on 21 June, a board was constituted as per law for the medico-legal examination of all 5 survivors. It is not known how, and from whom, the police first received information of the offence. As per our inquiries, the thana first received information of the offence directly from the SP office.
  3. The FIRs identify Father Alphonse and ‘other unidentified persons/ pathalgarhi supporters’ as the accused. However, there is videographic evidence of the incident. One week after the incident, the police released the photo of one of the accused from the same video, who is well known by the locals and journalists as Baji Samant, who is not a pathalgarhi supporter but a resident of a different village, Sarai-kela. all other sources we spoke to including those form near by villages said  that the 4 men who came on bikes (the suspects) were not from the area.
  4. While it is being projected in the media that Father Alphonse was arrested for not doing enough to prevent the incident, and for failing to report the case to the police, in the FIR he is accused of a range of very grave offences, most of which are non-bailable. Offences included in the FIR lodged at Mahila thana by one of the survivors on 21 June include: wrongful restraint, wrongful confinement, voluntarily causing hurt, disrobing, gang rape, kidnapping, kidnapping with intent to wrongfully confine and conspiracy. Offences in the other FIR lodged by the head of the NGO also on 21 June include: wrongful restraint, wrongful confinement, voluntarily causing hurt, causing hurt by means of poison, kidnapping, kidnapping with intent to wrongfully confine, criminal intimidation, hiding evidence and conspiracy.
  5. As per our inquiries, apart from Father Alphonse, two other persons have been arrested by the police. The police claim that these two accused have further identified 3 others as co-accused, who they claim are leaders of the Pathalgarhi movement. On asking whether the identity of all 5 identified accused and their claims have been verified by the 5 survivors, we were told that only the SP office will respond to all queries about the incident.
  6. On 26 June, the police claimed to have raided Ghaghra village in order to arrest these three other named suspects in the gang-rape who are also ‘leaders’ of the pathalgarhi movement. On this day, residents of Ghaghra and some from neighbouring villages were holding a Gram Sabha meeting on the issue of pathalgarhi, and we received no confirmation of the presence of any of these 3 named suspects at the meeting. The police force, initially comprising only adivasi personnel, but later also joined by more force, the DC , SP and others, attempted to stop the Gram Sabha meeting, after which there was an altercation between the people and the police. It was during this process that the women residents chased the police to the house of Karia Munda, and brought back three deployed guards with them.
  7. On 27 June, a 1000-member strong force of CRPF, RAF, JAF and personnel from other units raided Ghaghra (a village with a population of around 300) and neighbouring 7 villages. Out of these 7  villages, pathalgarhi had only been declared in 3 or 4 villages. Out of the 2 villages where pathalgarhi had been initiated, the security forces unleashed brutal violence in the form of beatings and atrocities on men, women and children, lathi-charge, tear-gassing and rubber pellet shootings, and also raided the homes of the residents. One person died in the lathi-charge, a minor girl suffered fracture, and between 150-300 persons, including women in substantial numbers, were arrested. After the raids, residents of all 8 villages have fled to the forest and nearby areas out of fear and terror. The security forces continue to camp outside the villages even after the so-called abducted guards returned safely on 29 June. The fact-finding team attempted to also enter Ghaghra village for inquiries, but were refused access by the heavy numbers of security personnel deployed outside the village, and the roads were blocked with armed vehicles.

The investigations of the Fact-Finding team raise the following questions:

  1. How and when did the police first get information of the incident? Why was an FIR not filed immediately but only 2 days later?
  2. Why were two of the survivors taken for a surreptitious medical examination on the night of 20 June, followed by a full medical examination of all 5 survivors on 21 June?
  3. When there was video recording of the incident, why was the FIR filed against ‘unidentified’ persons? Why did the police not pursue the accused, Baji Samant, identified in the video, despite being aware of his name and address? While it storms into unconnected villages of the pathalgarhi movement under the pretext of arresting the rapists.
  4. Why did the police raid the Gram Sabha meeting in Ghaghra where the pathalgari event was ongoing on the pretext of arresting the accused, when they knew that the accused belonged to another area, Sarai-Kela?
  5. Why have the police not verified the identity of the 2 persons arrested thus far by the survivors? Also, why have the police not verified the identity of three suspects being pursued by the police by the survivors, but instead only by the two suspects who are already in the custody of the police? Also, if Yusuf Purti has not been named by any of the arrested accused or the survivors, then why is the police projecting him and other Pathalgarhi leaders/ supporters as the rape accused in their proceedings and the media?
  6. Why are the girls still under the custody of the police? Why are they not being allowed to meet or speak to anyone (except the NCW team)?
  7. Who is head of the NGO which was a part of the troupe and who has filed the first FIR? Where has he disappeared after filing the FIR on the incident with the police? Is he also under the custody of the police?

Conclusions of the investigations into the incident by the fact-finding team:

  1. The Jharkhand police and administration are maintaining utmost secrecy in the actions and proceedings subsequent to the incident. As of now all information about the incident, the statement of the survivors and the witnesses is coming form only one source – The SP office. On the pretext of keeping the 5 survivors in the protective custody of the police, they have not been allowed to meet or speak with anyone, including their families and other care-givers, except the NCW team. The organizations to which they belong have also been not allowed to speak with press or any one else. The staff of that organization has also been ordered to stay within the organization premises and are not allowed to admit visitors or speak to anyone.  We also found out that the families of these women have not been informed by the police about the incident. In the whole incident, their voice (who are all adults, some of who are married and have children) is completely missing. There has been no statement from them, their families or friends. At the same time, the quick escalation of police action in the days after the incident has focused entirely on a campaign to tarnish pathalgarhi movements and leaders, with the result that investigations into the gang-rape and safety of the survivors have assumed secondary importance.
  2. The legal proceedings subsequent to the incident are shrouded in doubt, as these are based entirely on the questionable narrative proposed by the police and Jharkhand administration, without any avenues for independent verification and corroboration. This, combined with the subsequent repression by security forces has created a reign of terror for the residents of Khunti and neighbouring areas, further undermining chances of independent verification.
  3. In the name of pursuing unidentified suspects, the police has artificially linked those associated with the pathalgarhi movement with the gang rape, and has unleashed targeted persecution, harassment and arrests on them. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the 4 bikers who committed the crime were not localites. One of those from the video has been identified as Baji Samant, resident of neighbouring Sarai-Kela. Yet, instead of pursuing these identifiable accused, the police, with the support of security personnel, is targeting pathalgarhi leaders as the prime suspects in the case.
  4. The targeting of the mission and mission run organization- It has been projected that the Father of the mission in Kochang has been arrested for not doing enough to stop the incident, or for failing to report when he had knowledge of the incident. The NCW is now projecting the whole incident as being pre-planed. The charges against Father Alphonse in the FIR are of a much more serious degree, carrying offences of gang-rape, wrongful restraint, conspiracy, among a range of others.
  5. The role of the media in the entire process has also been suspicious, with local and national newspapers and media channels widely misreporting on the incident, based on false and distorted facts. The media has concertedly cast adivasis, pathalgarhi supporters and the Church/ Mission organisations in a negative light in the absence of verifiable information. The press was also present in large numbers in the security camp prior to and during the raids on 27 June in Ghaghra, and was relaying the police version directly from the frontlines.

For these reasons, the fact-finding team demands:

The institution of an independent inquiry into the incident, through a high-level committee, comprising retired Judges, lawyers and women’s rights activists.

The police Investigation of this incident should not be conducted under the influence of the Khunti administration or police , it should be carried out by an independent agency.

An inquiry should be carried out not only of the incident of the alleged gang rape , but also of the aftermath , in which the police crackdown that caused the death of one person and many sustained grave injuries. We also demand the withdrawl of all security personnel currently camped outside Ghaghra and neighbouring villages.

All the safety of the women survivors is very important, their own agency too has to be kept in mind. It is not clear whether they have asked for protective custody or was it a decision taken  by the police?. To a large extent it seems like the latter. Keeping them cloistered and under the complete control of Khunti police can not allow for a fair inquiry.

The team also demands that the state government ensure the immediate removal of the 5 survivors  from the control of the Khunti police and some alternative safe arrangement be made for them, taking into consideration their own choice. In the present situation it is evident that they have not been given that choice and have been forced into this protective custody by the police. Some of the women have children and it is very possible that they may want to return to their families or the organization that they were living in.

- Rinchin, Radhika and Puja,

from Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression and Sexual Repression (WSS)

Women against sexual violence and state repression is a non funded national initiative to challenge and put an end to the violence being perpetrated upon womens bodies. We are a nation wide network of women activist, lawyers, writers and women connected  womens groups ,mass organizations and civil liberty groups. We unequivocally condemn sexual violence on women and girls by any perpetrators.

www.wssnet.org

Contact: againstsexualviolence@gmail.com

Automated surveillance technology using drones to spot problematic human behavior in crowds is going to be tested at Technozion and Spring Spree festivals at NIT Warangal, reports the Verge. Lead researcher Amarjot Singh of the University of Cambridge claimed that their system has 94% accuracy at identifying violent poses. However, this accuracy drops with more people in the frame (like there would be at a festival), for example, to 79% with 10 people in the frame.

Police surveillance is growing without much scrutiny in recent years. The laws governing such surveillance have grey areas in which a lot of video surveillance technology currently operates. Reported applications include face recognition technology, behavior recognition, as in the case of the surveillance drones reported in The Verge, facial recognition and linking with police records, including tagging personal information with Aadhaar and sharing it across states.

An increasing number of cities have police using various kinds of surveillance databases to get better information on suspects and potential criminals in the city. These databases, where individual policemen can add the information of people to have some disturbing implications. There are several cities using Facial Recognition Softwares to assist policemen keep track of criminals.

Surveillance of everyone, not just criminals or suspects

There are several cities where CCTV camera networks scan everyone on the street and match their faces against a database of suspects and criminals. Here is a partial list:

  • In 2015, Surat became the first city in India to deploy real time surveillance through facial recognition systems when they implemented NEC India's FaceWatch in collaboration with Innovative Telecom & Softwares. The system uses live feeds from a growing network of CCTV cameras and can be used to monitor for crime in real time. It is capable of facial recognition as well as Automatic number plate recognition. Also, "It automatically matches faces against a database of 30,000 criminal mugshots and can alert the police immediately of anyone on a watchlist."By August, Surat had 604 cameras in 114 locations, covering 10% of the city with plans to add another 900 cameras in a year and bring the total to 2,500 in two years.
  • In 2015, Hyderabad police launched vehicle mounted CCTV cameras with a 360 degree view and ability to store footage for 15 days.
  • In 2016, Mumbai got 4,617 CCTV cameras hooked to the RTO control room and backed by 1000 vehicles fitted with GPS in order to coordinate with the control room were made operational with the objective of tackling law and order, fighting and preventing crime, regulating traffic and detecting traffic-related offences. These cameras are also capable of Automatic Number Plate Recognition as well as Facial Recognition. Additional Chief Secretary (Home) K P Bakshi told the Indian Express, "We can search for an individual all over the city. The cameras will identify the face of a wanted criminal. The camera will also pick out faces of persons roaming around continuously in one place. The nearest police van will then be alerted about the person’s location."
  • In 2016, 160 CCTV cameras were installed in Visakhapatanam as a part of a hi-tech surveillance network.
  • In 2016, in Vijaywada in Andhra Pradesh, NEC's Facial Recognition System was used to identify suspects and criminals at the Krishna Pushkaram religious event which sees around 50 million pilgrims attending to take a holy bath in the Krishna river.
  • In 2017, Jaipur police trialed a facial recognition system with cameras installed outside the Ganesh temple at Modi Doongri and controlled from the command and control centre called "Abhay". The FRS would scan the people before it and match them against a database of serial offenders and suspects.
  • In 2018, Cameras with Facial Recognition Technology are expected to be in use in local trains on the Central line in Mumbai, by the end of the year 2018, at a total cost of 276 crore. The cameras "will store facial details of commuters (for 10 days). The cameras with facial recognition software would help trace past movements of any offender on a local train and arrest the person when he travels next." A total of 11,160 cameras will be procured - 76 cameras for each rake, with at least 6 cameras in each coach of the rake.
  • In 2018, Hyderabad city police are matching the faces of everyone on the city's streets against a database of one lakh criminas, from the control room at the Facial Recognition Analytics unit at the Commissioner’s office at Basheerbagh. IT Cell incharge, K. Sreenath Reddy said that the local police are alerted only when the resemblance is more than 70 per cent.
  • Thiruvananthapuram police are using 233 cameras in their surveillance network of the city.
  • Paradip in Odisha is to get a CCTV surveillance camera network within a month.
  • Retired ACP Dhoble (of the hockey stick wielding moral police fame) is now in the process of getting a facial recognition software for the city and believes it needs to be created with the "help" of his son Kshitij, who specialized in Artificial Intelligence at Aukland University. An effort that initially began with a goal of tracing missing people has expanded its objective to "tracking criminals" as well. "Meanwhile, they began compiling the information of all 15,847 police stations in India and uploaded it on the site. One aspect of the site is uploading the information of these police and stations. The other is to spot child beggars, labourers and send it to the site."

Police database for use with mobile app -FaceTagr

This is a database of criminal records that can be used with a Facial Recognition Software (FaceTagr) installed on Android mobile phones of beat policemen and inspectors working in the field. When a policeman scans a suspect's face, the mobile app returns data of police cases filed and police station limits for the criminal the face matches with. Databases being expandable, the database has the potential to store the records of criminals across the country.

The application that was originally built by Vijay Gnanadesikan, CEO of Haliscape Business Solutions, to help rescue children by matching records of missing and found children, was first trialled for police use in Chennal

  • In 2017, FACETAGR was adopted by T Nagar police station of Chennai, beginning with a database of 12,000 criminals. An additional 40,000 suspects were added to the app to improve the chances of police identifying faces. The app used by policemen to "scan" suspects. Once a suspect is scanned, the app returns information about them.
  • In 2018, Chennai police will expand the use of FACETAGR to include interstate criminals as well by expanding the data used by the application to other Southern states. Currently the database has information on 67,000 criminals, including information sent by the Pudducherry Crime Records Bureau. It is awaiting data from Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Kerala and Karnataka. The application is in use in 10 out of 12 police districts and is installed on the phones of beat constables. 18 inspectors, subinspecotrs and 150 beat police of Washermanpet were the latest to get the app, with "700 criminals in A, A plus, B and C categories".
  • Chittoor adopted the app in December 2017 with data of 10,000 sandalwood smugglers and 3,000 suspected criminals.
  • Pudducherry has also adopted the use of FACETAGR in March 2018

e-Petty

The e-Petty app is being used across Telangana state to book cases in minor crimes under Sections pertaining to IPC, City Police Act, Gaming Act/ COTPA Act 2003, Motor Vehicle Act and Town Nuisance Act. The app can record photographic and video evidence from the crime scene, photographs of suspects and generate an automatic chargesheet based on evidence. The app tracks previous cases of individuals as well and identify repeat violators because the app links profiles online with Aadhaar card numbers.

Hyderabad

Hyderabad is probably the most surveilled city in the country. The Integrated People Information Hub pulls data from dozens of sources to create profiles of individuals that include not just their own comprehensive information, but that of parents as well. It is a data hoarding machine gone rogue, where there appears to be no reason or reasonable suspicion required to put citizens under surveillance. The surveillance includes call records, social media, relatives and friends, utilities and more.

Questions raised

The use of aggregated databases and Artificial Intelligence  in large scale applications is new in India and the laws don't yet have necessary support as well as restrictions on implementation. There is no doubt that information is power and information on suspects and criminals empowers police to do their jobs better. The lack of development of proper laws, policies, protocols and facilities for the police to record and access information in a secure manner has led to the adoption of various technologies in an ad hoc manner with little overisght.

However, largescale use of such applications raise several and serious questions:

  • Is it constitutional to treat every person as a potential criminal? When all the people entering the range of a Facial Recognition enabled camera are scanned and matched against databases of criminals, it amounts to intrusive surveillance. India lacks a data protection law or a law defining the contours of privacy, however the recent robust arguments against surveillance and observations by judges in the Constitutional Challenge to Aadhaar are very clear that Indians do have a right to privacy and surveillance violates this right.
  • Data ownership: FaceTagr is owned by Haliscape Business Solutiosn Pvt Ltd of Chennai. NEC is a global organization. It is unclear who owns or protects the data on these databases and what restrictions exist against its misuse.
  • Data access: Cortica, a foreign AI company has formed a partnership with the Best Group to analyze CCTV footage from public cameras to predict crime. While technologically it may be a challenging goal, a foreign company with considerable ties to foreign intelligence has capabilities and access to individuals on Indian streets. The software is capable of using data from not just video cameras but satellite and drone footage as well and is capable of analyzing human behavior, including differentiating between nature of crowds - routine market corwd or a protest, etc.In the case of Mumbai, a company run by a software professional and a retired police official appears to have  access to information from all police stations in India and are proceeding to build a database! It is unclear how and why a software under development by private individuals has access to nationwide sensitive data.
  • A market of the gullible: The lack of proper evaluation or policies requiring specific standards has left the police of India a ripe target for companies selling surveillance products who may exploit the real need for collecting information or corrupt insiders to gain contracts. Many of the technologies described here have not been subjected to robust testing and have no published research about their quality. Some of the stories describe extensive installations that become defunct or are not of adequate quality to begin with, as in the case of Visakhapatanam, left with 3 working cameras out of 160 within 2 years of installation at massive public expense. Others describe extremely efficient systems, but ones that violate the rights of the citizens they are supposed to serve.This risks spending public funds for purposes and methods that may not be in public interest. There is an urgent need to consult with independent experts and digital rights law researchers and other professionals without conflict of interest to put together guidelines for data collection for surveillance, data destruction when its purpose is served, securing of that data to prevent misuse and policies on who should have access and a transparent process for granting such access.
  • Who is a criminal or suspect: It doesn't take a lot for police to consider someone a suspect and there is little oversight. There is no warrant or independent authority required to initiate surveillance against anyone. Such a database has the capacity to take the local prejudices of police across state lines and cause considerable harassment to individuals in all areas covered by such databases.
  • Utility: While there is obviously a need for police to monitor suspects in order to gather evidence, the legality and utility of randomly spotting them on the street is debatable. What is the utility of someone say.... suspected of having conducted a robbery... being spotted in another state - if it even is the same person?
  • Technological limitations: Such "identification" is inherently probabilistic and can be wrong. A good example would be the Welsh police wrongly identifying over two thousand people as potential criminals when they used Facial Recognition at the 2017 Champions League final in Cardiff in a crowd of 170,000 spectators. This has the potential to create a lot of harassment as well as waste police resources when applied to the far bigger numbers of people on the street in Indian cities.
  • Bypassing consent: A person suspected by the police and asked to come for questioning has rights. They can agree or refuse and the police cannot actually force them to say.... stand in a line up to be identified without any due process. Or they may wish to have a lawyer present when interacting with a policeman as a suspect. However, use of software such as this allows a beat constable to completely arbitrarily scan people who may not even realize that they are actually in a situation with the law where they may need to exert choices to protect their interests.
  • Human rights: As often happens when the state adopts technology, the advantages of the technology have been understood and promoted, but there appears to have been little consideration given to human rights implications of falsely accused individuals, potential for corruption through entering or removing entries on the database for bribes or blackmail, consequences of false positives to innocents and other potential fallout. There needs to be better consultation by the state when adopting such technologies with professionals (other than those providing the technology as a solution) to assess the wider impact beyond the immediate problem the technology aims to solve and mitigate the potential for harm.
  • Ability to maintain technology: Out of 160 cameras installed in Visakhapatanam 2016, 3 cameras were working in 2018. One of them being pointed to the ground, was useless.
  • Aggregated or discrete databases? It is not known whether the databases used to identify criminals through CCTV or the FaceTagr app or e-Petty are linked where they coexist. Aggregation of data across these databases has even more potential for the violation of rights of citizens.
  • Magnifying social prejudices: A simple statistical reality is that positives - whether real or false - will be higher among those who get scanned more. In a country where there is considerable documented evidence of prejudice against religious minorities or underprivileged castes, classes and communities, the use of such a software has the potential to magnify and endorse prejudices that cause their targeting. Take for example, reported cases of slums being raided and all the men in them being asked to identify themselves. The chances of these men being identified - correctly or falsely - will always be higher than say a person living in a gated society, where such raids are unheard of, simply because such faces will get scanned more often than those whose circumstances don't lend easily to such situations.
  • Use of Aadhaar for profiling: the e-Petty app used in Telangana is a clear use of Aadhaar for profiling - something the government has consistently denied in the Supreme Court.
  • Lack of appropriate digital security: Apart from the data being shared across state borders, or being hosted on private servers or foreign companies being given access to it - which are issues of policy to determine what is appropriate and what is not, there are outright failures of digital security, which result in unintended and unauthorized access to the very sensitive data being collected. Researcher Kodali, for example, had pointed out that the Hyderabad police were using a third party portal to record and geotag crime. The portal having very poor security for the purpose it was being used for, had allowed the indexing of crime reports by search engines for years, including the names of rape victims - which is not legal in India.
  • Lack of independent audit or testing: The systems used for both largescale CCTV surveillance as well as scanning individuals using a mobile app do not have information available on their accuracy. The lesser the accuracy, the more such systems will end up wasting police resources on chasing dead ends and causing harassing citizens.
  • A need for legislation: It is undeniable that the police need effective ways to access databases to find information on suspects and criminals on the fly. It is also inevitable that this will involve a certain degree of invasion of privacy in the interests of conducting investigations. However, this cannot simply be left to whatever software developers believe can be done or police wish to adopt. There needs to be a regulatory framework that will identify situations when such use is legitimate and protect citizens from arbitrarily being entered into databases as suspects. There should also be regulation of what information should remain local and what should be disseminated - a local suspected of robbery does not need to be found acorss state borders, but an absconding criminal found in the footage of a murder should be. There is also a need for legislation to remove names from the databases when the people are no longer suspects - for example cases people were suspected in get closed with others charged.

Further reading:

  • Research published by the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law, "The Perpetual Line-Up" on the unregulated use of public surveillance by law enforcement and the risks.
  • Technological bias: While MediaNama was not able to find any research about FaceTagr specifically, "Face Recognition Performance: Role of Demographic Information" by the FBI about accuracy of Facial Recognition in various population demographics is an interesting read on the biases caused by how the system is "trained" to recognize faces.
  • Policy Paper on Surveillance in India by the Centre for Internet & Society

Anjali Damania reported that she got a threatening call from a number in Pakistan, Karachi asking her to drop all cases against Eknath Khadse.

Transcript of the threatening call to Anjali Damania:

Caller: Anjali bol rahi hai?

Anjali: Haan...

Caller: Anjali, tune jo case kiya na khadse pe

Anjali: haan...

Caller: woh waapas le

Anjali: kaun bol raha hai?

Caller: Main koi bhi bol raha hun, tune jo case kiya hai na khadse pe woh waapis le saare case. nahi to tera main jeena haram kar dunga.

Anjali: bol kaun raha hai ya..?

Caller: [inaudible] tu family waali hai na?

Anjali: are par ye kaun, bol kaun raha hai?

Caller: Main koi bhi bol raha hun. woh jaanna tere liye jaroori nahi hai. theek hai? tune bahut jeena haram kar diya hai sabka

 

True caller shows the number to be from Pakistan.

This is the same number AAP had earlier alleged that Eknath Khadse received calls from Pakistan from. Hacker Manish Bhangale had claimed in a press conference that he had hacked the website of Pakistan Telecommunications to acquire that information. At that time, Eknath Khadse had claimed that his number was inactive and that someone may have cloned his SIM or that the hacker may have planted his number as well. That doesn't explain a call from the number now threatening Anjali Damania to withdraw the case against him.

The number shown in the service request appears to belong to Eknath Khadse.

a

Anjali Damania has lodged an FIR and informed the Chief Minister and Jt CP Crime is investigating the matter.

 

Statement by Aam Aadmi Party on threat to Anjali Damania

Khadse Dawood Nexus Exposed Once Again

AAP Condemns threat to Activist Anjali Damania

Press Note 23rd September 2017

In the wee hours of today morning activist Anjali Damania got a call from a Pakistan based number +92 21 35871719. The caller threatened her to withdraw all cases against BJPs Ex Revenue Minisiter Eknath Khadse. Anjali has shared the recorded call in which she and her family have been threatened. Subsequently she informed Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and he has asked Joint Commissioner Crime to investigate the matter.

The Aam Aadmi Party says that this kind of investigation is completely inadequate and the investigation must be handed over specialised agencies like, RAW or IB as this number is said to belong to Dawood Ibrahim.

Ethical hacker Maneesh Bhangale had said this number belongs to Mehjabeen Shaikh, wife of the Dawood Ibrahim and was registered in Karachi. Given below is an attachment that he had shared of a communication between Pakistan Telecom with Mehjabeen Shaikh regarding that same number. Maneesh had said that Eknath Khadse's mobile number was frequently called from this very number - +92 21 35871719. Further, media sources had shown that this number is noted as belonging to Dawood Ibrahim's residence in the files of Indian Intelligence agencies too.

When the AAP demanded that Maneesh Bhangale's claims be investigated the Joint Commissioner Crime had given Ekanth Khadse the fastest in the world - in just 4 hours. How can we expect the same department to do a thorough investigation to the threat to Anjali?! The Joint CP at that time, Atulchandra Kulkarni then moved to ATS where once again he failed to investigate the matter. Instead, on a flimsy complaint by Eknath Khadse's associate Ravi Bhangale, the Cyber Police arrested and is harassing Maneesh Bhangale till date.

This call to Anjali is on Ekanth Khadse's behalf, from Dawood's residence. What more proof is required that Ekanth Khadse and Dawood Ibrahim work together? What is more important is that the state has totally failed to provide safety to Activists and Journalists and we fear for the safety of Anjali Damania and her family. We demand that this investigation be handed over to a national agency which cannot be influenced by Eknath Khadse the way the state Crime Department was influenced in the past. Anjali Damania should be provided police security immediately. The whole state stands with Anjali in her crusade against corruption.

 

Sincerely

Preeti Sharma Menon

National Executive Member & National Spokesperson

Aam Aadmi Party

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.

Mr. Gauhar Raza, an eminent scientist and poet, was maligned, defamed and hate engineered against him by the malicious, concocted and motivated news telecast carried by Zee News in March, 2016. Mr. Raza was branded as a part of an “Afzal Premi Gang” for reciting his poems in the ‘Shankar - Shaad Mushaira’.

A complaint was then filed by Mr. Raza with the News Broadcasting Standards Authority against Zee News along with another joint complaint filed by eminent artists like Mr. Ashok Vajpeyi, Ms. Shubha Mudgal, Ms. Sharmila Tagore and Dr. Syeda Hameed. Advocate Vrinda Grover arguedf on behalf of Gauhar Raza and other complainants.

The NBSA, vide its order, has upheld the constitutional right of Mr. Raza to freedom of speech as well as his right to dissent, and held that media house Zee News cannot use their might to intimidate citizens and prevent them from exercising their constitutional right to dissent and freedom of expression.
Upholding the rights of Mr. Gauhar Raza, ZEE news channel has been held liable for their false, malicious and distorted coverage. NBSA has directed that

  • to publish an Apology on 08.09.2017 at 09:00 pm on their channel, in Hindi text, in large font size, on full screen, and a clearly audible vioce over in slow speed
  • Fine of Rs. 1 lakh to be paid in 7 days.
    The NBSA has awarded the highest punishment in its jurisdiction, reaffirming that big media houses cannot trample over the rights of citizens to freedom of speech and expression, which includes the right to dissent

A pdf of the order will be uploaded here when it becomes available. In the meanwhile, copies of individual pages may be found here.