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Woman from Ulhasnagar beaten till unconscious to intimidate daughter into withdrawing sexual harassment complaint. Assaulter free, frames family instead.

What happens when you face sexual harassment and you go and register a case with the police as a conscientious citizen who believes that the country's law enforcing system will provide her relief? Here is what happens: your mother is severely beaten up, your brother is implicated in a false case and is arrested and you and your family are threatened with dire consequences if you do not withdraw your case. Crime rules in Ulhasnagar, not far from Mumbai, the financial capital of the country.

[name redacted to protect identity] lives in Ulhasnagar with her two brothers and her mother. When she could no more put up with the sexual harassment by a neighbour; she decided to act. She also decided to follow the law as a good citizen and went and registered a case. Little did she know of the ordeal awaiting her and her family.

No action was taken against the accused; but she started getting pestered to withdraw her case. The pressure mounted when she refused. On 26th April 2014, when she and her brothers were away, the Chairman of the Society where she lives, and his daughter along with four other men, beat her mother severely with bamboo sticks at 7 PM right in the premises of the Society, till she became unconscious. On gaining consciousness, she called her children and advised the son who was nearest, to seek help from police.

That's again being a responsible citizen, right? Unfortunately law operates differently for the likes of her, for the Aam Adami and for those with political clout: she received no help. So, she herself went to the police station to lodge a complaint. She found that the Chairman, Shri Anil Kumar Pandey was already there and she refused to give a statement under duress. Ultimately, [name redacted] and the other brother reached the police station and the formality of filing an FIR was completed by 10 in the night. To add insult to injury, she was to see a counter complaint filed against her and her family.

What happens next? The police detain the brother and implicating him under serious charges, arrest him! The family is threatened with dire consequences if the original complaint is not withdrawn. And those who are terrorizing the hapless family are of course moving about freely.

Is it because Shri Anil Kumar Pandey is a local neta of the NCP? Does the law operate differently when a neta of the party in the ruling alliance is involved? Is this not a loud and clear signal for the public, the Aam Adami, to beware of trying to oppose the high and mighty political masters?

But the girl has decided to fight it out. As a last resort, she has appealed to AAP to try and get her justice. AAP is leading a crusade against corruption at all levels. as a part of the crusade, it is our duty to highlight such incidents. We demand that a proper investigation be conducted in the entire matter and justice be delivered. And we also wish to make an appeal to the Home Minister Shri R R Patil to carry out his moral responsibility of providing a woman with security.

press release from Aam Aadmi Party Maharashtra media cell.

In a voice news report at CGNet Swara, social activist Bighnaraj Panda who tells Mahammad Ashlam from Kalahandi Odisha that he went to SP office on 13th December itself to inform him about the abduction of the laborers.He also gave numbers for abductors to the police. On 14th they also went to local police station in Jaipatna with families of abducted labors to file a FIR. No FIR was filed, no action was taken.

The labourers, originally paid an advance to work in Andhra Pradesh after their rice harvest were forcibly abducted and taken to Raipur work in brick kilns in Chattisgarh before the harvest. 10 out of the 12 labourers abducted escaped and returned to their village, while the contractor turned back with the remaining two to recover advances paid. On the way, after heavy drinking and demands that the two captured labourers repay the advances paid to all twelve, the contractor chopped off their hands saying that if they refused to work for him, they couldn't work for anyone. The incident of chopping hands took place at night of 15th December. This was two days after the abduction was brought to the attention of police.

It is possible that something as simple as police calling up the provided numbers to ask about the abudction could have made the labour contractors wary and prevented the severing of the hands of the two labourers.

At the last update, five men have been held and two detained for the crime. Bandhua, a campaign against bonded labour has demanded immediate action against the contractors along with compensation and rehabilitation for the now disabled labourers.

While The Indian Bonded Labour System Abolition Act of 1976 prohibits any service arising out of debt, including forced labour and bonded labour, bonded labour continues to remain common in India. However, with most of the people affected being from the very poor and marginalized castes who are also often migrants, there is little awareness or political will to tackle the issue, while contractors and employers continue to be powerful and politically connected local bigwigs. Thus the act remains mostly on paper. Mines, brick kilns and other labour intensive work with dismal working conditions often engages bonded labour who are often paid too little for the original loan to be recovered.

This story is compounded by a police force notoriously callous about abductions. In fact, a missing person report is rarely taken seriously, as was shockingly displayed in the cases in the immediate aftermath of the December 16 Gang Rape in Delhi, where a five year old gang raped had been reported missing and ignored by the police, while another young woman who later landed up dead was assumed by the police to have run away with someone and her mother was not taken seriously when she reported her daughter missing.

This case, at a bizarre intersection of the callousness of our system is a marker for where we are in terms of evolution as a country for all its citizens. The exploitation of debt to force labourers to work in undesirable conditions, the abduction, torture, the blind eye to complaints of abduction accompanied by identities of abductors and phone numbers, the lack of media attention and the ongoing lack of accuracy in reporting what is basically a non-interesting fringe story for media, the lack of any serious outrage.... all points to us being a country where two men tortured, their hands deliberately severed, in hospital with severe blood loss and fighting for life, their lives - if they recover -  forever blighted by further poverty from even more reduced capacity to earn.... are not important.

Some people are more equal than others. Others are far less equal than others, but of course, we are all equal. On paper. As long as the paper isn't newsprint.

Yep. Here we are. Long way to go before claiming to be civilized.

Tehelka stands on the wrong end of an outrage this time. Tarun Tejpal stands accused of sexual harassment of a young journalist during their iTHINK festival. While I don't downplay sexual harassment, it is a very common crime. With 90% of women stating that they have been sexually violated at some point, and most sexual harassment not even being recognized as sexual harassment, there really remains no identity that can claim a halo.

Workplace sexual harassment is often hidden and suppressed in the name of the well being of the larger organization. Sexual harassers cross the line of personal boundaries routinely and it is not legal. However it falls on the organization to deal with these instances, punish perpetrators and make their workplaces safe for all. This has been clearly outlined in the Vishakha guidelines which state:

It shall be the duty of the employer or other responsible persons in work places or other institutions to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts, of sexual harassment by taking all steps required.

When an action constitutes a crime as per Indian laws, the EMPLOYER is required to file a complaint. The employer is required to take disciplinary action against misconduct and provide proper mechanisms of redressal of complaints. The employer is required to constitute a complaints committee or counselling as appropriate.

[Tweet "What happens when the employer is the abuser?"]

As clearly seen in the shit storm after the incident became public, nothing much.

It is a fortnight since the said violation happened. No action. When the victim finally found her voice to make a louder noise, Tejpal wrote a letter of atonement offering to step aside for six months leaving tehelka to Shoma Chaudhary's "more than capable hands". How capable Shoma Chaudhary's hands are in leading an organization that endlessly works with human rights related issues is abundantly clear when she immediately forwards that mail as an update on the changes happening in the organization. Tathastu.

Like a Khap Panchayat offering to "clear up" a rape by marrying rapist to victim, Shoma Chaudhary "clears up" this mess by giving her former boss a six month leave.

Many have found Tarun Tejpal's stand "principled" in terms of punishing self for wrong he has done. I don't quite agree with this. If at some point in his harassment, he had realized that he had done a wrong and tried to apologize and atone for it, it would have been an atonement. Instead, a news report based on a letter leaked by the girl shows that there were two incidents of molestation with one possibly being rape. There were repeated refusals, avoidance, confrontation of Tejpal by his daughter whom the victim confided in. All through which, he kept normalizing the incident, describing it as something she participated in ("banter") and even blaming the victim for telling his daughter about it. This isn't all that different from rape victims being told to "tell no one".

What has the victim asked for? For proper process to be followed and for a written apology to her. The victim has not filed an FIR so far. She wants a sexual harassment committee to be formed and a proper public apology by Tarun Tejpal. I think she is right. It will be faster justice than over burdened courts (which undermines its power to deter). Though of course no one is stopping police from taking action anyway. Manohar Parrikar and National Commission for Women have indeed done so, as they should. Justice Katju should, as well, as Chairman, Press Council of India as this relates with a news publication being safe for women journalists.

[Tweet "Manohar Parrikar and National Commission for Women have taken notice. So should Justice Katju, Chairman of PCI"]

Action in a media organization against a sexual predator will go a longer way to detering sexual harassment at the workplace than a long drawn court case will. It will also be an important landmark in the much necessary and long overdue responsibility of people themselves in not tolerating sexual harassment instead of abandoning the victim to a delayed gamble at courts where they don't have to oppose exploitation of women themselves.

It is a matter where the organization should be held responsible rather than the individual alone, particularly considering the blatant attempts to deny a crime by euphemizing it as misjudgment and so on. It isn't just a matter of one person being tried in a court (which should be resorted to anyway, if Tehelka fails to act), but a matter of a work culture where sexual harassment at the workplace is not hidden but openly called to account and punished as appropriate including forcing an apology.

In essence, Tejpal is trying to avoid having to admit to sexual abuse by taking a six month vacation.

[Tweet "Tejpal is trying to avoid having to admit to sexual abuse by taking a six month vacation."]

Tejpal's letter is so inconsiderate of the significance of his actions, that his letter apologizes for harm to the values of the organization he built but not journalists for his treatment of one among them and for his appalling actions that will now shadow the fruit of *their* blood sweat and tears in exposing injustices by making them seem selective.

In this, Shoma Chaudhary and Tarun Tejpal have also wronged their staff by making their professional credibility subject to allegations of selective interest in human rights when it suits them. This, to any person interested in human rights is an insult that is hard to bear and an organization has no right to impose this on its employees. Revati Laul has quit Tehelka over this. The letters have been leaked within minutes of being sent. This clearly shows the unease among at least a few journalists with how this is going down.

[Tweet "Shoma Chaudhary and Tarun Tejpal have made Tehelka journalists vulnerable to allegations of selective conscience"]

I don't see that Tehelka has any alternative but to institute the sexual harassment committee and hold Tarun Tejpal to account along with setting a punishment that isn't just his chosen method of escaping the shame of his own actions, but something that is appropriate to the wrong he has committed in the eyes of people evaluating the situation.

Additionally, Shoma Chaudhary must step down from her newly inherited position for covering up sexual harassment in the workplace as well as refusing to constitute a committee as requested by the victim by terming it an internal matter.  Tarun Tejpal's actions against another woman cannot be an internal matter between him and Shoma Chaudhary with the letter of explanation excluding the nature of the actions, refusal to constitute a committee to transparently investigate them, AND ignoring the wishes of the victim.

[Tweet "Shoma Chaudhary must step down as well for covering up sexual harassment and refusing SH committee"]

Does this mean that Tarun Tejpal can never be falsely accused? No. But it isn't for Shoma and Tarun to call it an internal matter and refuse any oversight. Neutral investigation is important to find the truth and take appropriate action. If Tejpal is innocent (and it is looking highly unlikely at this point), then there will be evidence that the victim's claims are fabricated, specially since the accusations involve actions like messages or misconduct in areas covered by CCTV.

Journalists at Tehelka who believe in the work the magazine does must put their foot down and insist on procedure being followed for the sake of the credibility of the organization as well as themselves.

18

This story is about a few months old. Sat in my drafts, so some references may not be current.

I had met a few friends recently. I spoke briefly about sexual harassment and its prevalence and attitudes toward it as telling them what I am up to. Described Violence Against Women Awareness Month and my support for it.

The day after the gathering, the husband of one of the friends called me up and said he felt compelled to speak with me on the subject of "eve teasing". He agreed with me that eve teasing was sexual harassment and that it is a big evil in society (his words).

Then he proceeded to share with me his own story.

When he hit college, he often bunked classes to fool around with friends, watching films, smoking on the street, passing comments at girls. He didn't really intend it as an insult or aggression. In his eyes, it was playfulness. Friendliness even, though with a complete stranger. Slowly, he started getting more creative with it. He often brushed against women when he was walking or mingling. He even brushed against his cousin's bride during their wedding.

Not because he found them attractive or even because he wanted to feel a woman's body, but simply to see them jump in surprise/shock and react. He found their "Over Reaction" bizarre, and thought that such hyperactive women deserved to learn to get used to not making such big deals. It became such a habit, that he often brushed against women without even doing it on purpose - reflexively.

He insists that there was hardly anything sexual about it for him beyond the gender of his victim. It was more a game of skill. Of a teasing that they couldn't prevent. He knew it was wrong, but it didn't "feel" wrong. It felt as innocently mischievous as going "boo" and surprising someone.

A few things happened to change it.

Once, on the street, a girl was sharp enough and made a scene. It was embarrassing and he blustered his way through it, insisting that she had misunderstood and that she was over reacting to an innocent touch. But the incident got him wary.

Then, a girl once hit him when he touched her. It was fast and fleeting like his own touch. There was no scene made, but he caught the anger in her expression and the hate in the way she hit him. It was the first time he probably seriously considered that maybe, just maybe it REALLY wasn't funny for the girls and that it probably made them feel bad.

But he didn't see what he did as wrong. He blames part of this on the normal social upbringing, where growing up, a girl is told to be careful, but no one bothers to tell a guy to keep his distance and be respectful. He knew what he did was wrong, but he felt it as a thing of young blood, hormones and maybe just a little bit bad, like his room being a mess.

Later, he met a girl he liked (my friend) and they were to meet near a cafe where he usually was after she finished college. By some quirk of luck, she arrived when he wasn't there, and got teased by his own friends, though both didn't know that. Upset, she left, but later spoke with him while apologizing for standing him up. She told him about what happened and that she felt too upset and unsafe to wait while he wasn't there and that she was sorry if he waited for her, etc. (the guy is now 45 - this wasn't the era of mobile phones)

Reeling in shock, he realized that it was very likely that it was his own friends who had "teased" her. He didn't really know what to do. He wanted to say that they didn't mean any harm, but found that he didn't have the guts to let her know that they were his friends. He avoided going to that place with her. He felt ashamed to confront his friends, because that was what he himself did too. He felt ashamed to tell the girl because he really liked her, and didn't want to lose her. So he avoided the place. She, with the earlier experience was happy to avoid too.

They got more interested in each other and had a three year affair after which they married. He had started avoiding those friends completely and they too did not suspect anything thinking that his falling in love was the reason he had no time for them.

In the meanwhile, spending time with the girl, he was on the other side of the game. Escorting her, he saw how she was alert to people harassing her. Knowing the "kinds of things" men can do, and think, etc... he started pro actively watching out for her. He noticed other women have the same defensive attitudes too, and they no longer seemed funny when they startled helplessly at being harassed.

Their relationship got into trouble because of his over protectiveness. Knowing how men think, and knowing how it hurt her, he wanted to protect her, but ended up suffocating her with rules about everything. On the verge of a break off, they attended counselling, during which he told his wife about that incident. He was astonished that she barely remembered it. And why would she remember - it was just another day of tangling with creeps. He also told his friends, who were aghast.

For the first time since that day, he invited them home and let them meet her. He got acidity from how tense he was about that meeting. Two of them recognized her, but most didn't, but his story, and his insights, and his guilt and the impact on his marriage left a mark on them too, and they started being more sensitive. Most of them became vocal against sexual harassment, which was an embarrassing transition for the neighborhood bad boys.

They moved abroad, but he says men are the same everywhere.

After his daughter was born, was the time when he really knew fear because people like him were in the world. That day, in the hospital, he vowed that if he could speak with a man harassing a woman on the street, he would spend time and speak with them, in the hope that like his friends, they too would see in him someone who had lived their life and seen another side of it.

~*~*~*~*~*

Two days after the date of this draft, Keenan Santos was stabbed in Amboli.

I was going to write up this draft better because it is still quite abrupt, but too much time has passed, and chose to publish it as it is rather than change details I didn't remember clearly anymore.

I think this is one story that many more men should read.

10

This article is second in a part of a three article series on Eve Teasing by Fazal Ahmad. The first part outlined the description and impact of eve teasing.

This civil wrong is other than a mere breach of contract or breach of trust. This wrong is redressible by an action for unliquidated damages.

Eve teasing is a civil wrong. The eve teaser causes injury to the plaintiff which in turn affects her both physically and mentally. It is an unlawful infringement on the victim's privacy and person. She is tortured in the process. It also hampers her peace and happiness. It, in other words, curtails her right to enjoy her life and be happy.Eve teasing is neither a breach of contract nor a breach of trust. It is an encroachment on a woman's right and her dignity.

Eve teasing is an unexpected incident. There is no question of a contract in it. Thus, its remedy is unliquidated damages which are to be decided by the courts according to the gravity of the injury caused. The courts can also provide a remedy in the form of injunction and detention also. This would force the eve teasers to at least think thrice before they indulge in such Torts and its basic guiding principle of ibi Jus Ubi Remedia i.e. where there is a violation of a legal right, there has to be some relief, compensation and remedy for the victim.

This part is very important for many reasons.

Firstly, it gives relief to the victim as she can recover the loss caused to her.

Secondly, it gives the victim immense satisfaction to see the eve teaser punished and admonished. She develops a sense of satisfaction, happiness and regains her confidence and self esteem.

Thirdly, it gives a strict warning to the eve teasers so that they do not indulge in this heinous practice. It, thus , strongly condemns the practice of eve teasing.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court In Vishakha V. State Of Rajasthan AIR 1997 SC 3011 has set out the guideline for the Woman working at the work places.

This case saw the formulation of the sexual harassment of women at workplace (prevention) bill drafted by the National Commission for Women. It provides for some stern measures to curb the menace of sexual harassment of women at work place.

The bill which defines sexual harassment which includes any act of verbal or gestural sexual advances , sexually explicit or derogatory remarks or statements, unwelcome sexually determined behaviour such as avoidable physical contact and advances, touching, patting, whistling, pinching, whistling, staring, sexually slanting and obscene jokes, suggestive remarks, compromising invitation, use of pornographic material, demand for sexual favours, threats, innuendoes, physical assault and molestation.

Staring and simple comments on the physical appearance of your female colleagues can land you behind bars for as many as five years and with a fine of Rs.20 000.

With the enactment of this act , there has been certainly a decrease in the number of sexual harassment. This act has proved itself to be a strong weapon in the hands of women to prevent sexual harassment and combat it.

In my opinion this case law helped a lot to the woman who was sexually assaulted or eve teased in offices and other places.

To find out about Eve Teasing under Criminal Law in India, read on...

~ Fazal Ahmad

Follow him on Twitter @fzlsammy