WSS condemns the Sexual Assault of Four Dalit Girls from Village Bhagana, District Hisar, Haryana

New Delhi, APRIL 24, 2014

In the continuing backlash against Dalit assertion, four young girls of Dalit families (two of whom are minor) from Bhagana village (Hisar district, Haryana) were abducted on 23rd March 2014 and gangraped by 5 Jat boys (3 from Bhagana and 2 from outside of whom one was from Bhiwani). All four girls were then abandoned in the Bhatinda railway station on 23rd March itself. The sarpanch along with the girls’ fathers and brothers reached Bhatinda to bring them back. They were threatened by the head of the village sarpanch who is also the cousin of one of the accused to remain quiet, otherwise they along with their families would suffer dire consequences, even murder.

The context is as follows: In May 2012, 70 Dalit families from Bhagana Village moved with their families, belongings and cattle to the Secretariat, District Magistrate’s office in Hisar to protest against the forceful and unfair land appropriation of their common lands (Shamilat land) by the Jats of the village.

In response to their protests, these Dalits suffered widespread social ostracism and boycotts, including denial of access to water sources by destroying public taps, denial of entry to common land whether for the burial of dead animals, or for children to play games like football etc. Dalits were unable to move around freely or even go out for urination or defecation. Even access to doctors was denied as doctors were from the Jat community, who either refused to treat Dalits or charged higher fees. The sale of products has been refused and they have also been prevented from using public transport.

Despite several complaints to the village panchayat, police officials, the administration paid no heed and allowed such incidents and treatment to escalate. Instead of filing FIRs, the police arrested 45 dalit protestors and charged 6 with sedition charges though these were later dropped. While some families continued their protests at the secretariat, a few families decided to stay back whether out of fear or due to economic necessity. It is girls from these families who were then abducted and sexually assaulted on 23rd March 2014.

In spite of threats from the Jat community not to take up this case, FIRs were filed on March 25 and the girls underwent medical examination. Cases have been booked under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 (POCSO), Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 and Sections 363/366/366A/376/120B/328 of the IPC. Copies of these are with the families who have come to Delhi to demand justice and are now at Jantar Mantar. While five of the accused have been arrested, the demand to arrest another seven people remains. In conversation with members of WSS who visited the families at Jantar Mantar, these details were courageously and openly shared. The girls are sitting in protest too, the youngest being 13 and the eldest 18 years. They were going to school (classes 7 to 10) but have dropped out now. Their fathers work as agricultural labourers or engaged in other daily wage work. Other women present said that such sexual violence perpetrated on Dalits by Jats is by no means new but what is new is the reasons why they attacked them in this way. ‘We have no wealth’, one of the women said, ‘so they plunder the little that we have, namely our izzat.’ ‘But we are here in this city to get justice.’

WSS stands in solidarity with their struggle and their courageous battle for justice and dignity.

We demand that:

1.All land be restored to dalits that is due to them. This includes allotments under the Mahatma Gandhi Vikas Yojana and also the shamilat land rights.

2. Safe passage and return to the village for dalits must be provided to ensure that they can live in security and dignity.

3. Survivors of sexual assault must be given the full compensation according to Government of Haryana provisions. Their education which has had to be discontinued must be provided. All threats to them and their families must cease.

4.All false cases lodged in 2012 against dalit men and women be withdrawn immediately.

5. All the accused Jats including the sarpanch, who have been intimidating and threatening them be arrested and cases taken forwarded.

Ajitha Rao, Anuradha Banerjee,Mary John, Rajni Tilak, Ranjana Padhi
for New Delhi-WSS

WSS condemns attack on Dalit Woman Auto Driver

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) condemns the attacks upon chithralekha, a dalit woman auto driver from Payannu, Kerala. WSS urges the local administration, in particular the collector, to take immediate action for justice for chithralekha. chithralekha has been repeatedly attacked by CITU/DYFI autodrivers since 2005. This group of Savarna and obc men have tried to run her over with an auto in 2005 and burnt her auto later in the year; attacked her husband with a knife in 2006; and beaten her as well as her husband, daughter and brother-in-law in three separate attacks in 2010. In 2013 her husband was almost run over by a bus; later in the year a group of 30 men attacked her and her family at home; and in another attack in 2013 her husband was beaten and implicated in a legal case.

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On the Suicide of Dr Khurshid Anwar, Director ISD

“To the living we owe respect, but to the dead we owe only the truth.”

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) would like to place on record its views on the recent suicide of Dr. Khurshid Anwar, Director Institute for Social Democracy, a Delhi-based NGO. Dr Anwar had been accused of rape by a 25-year old woman in September 2013. He committed suicide on 18 December 2013, following a campaign against him on social media and TV channels and the lodging of an FIR just a day before his death.

We are dismayed and deeply concerned at the content and tone of the discussions on Dr Anwar’s death in social media and in various public forums, where aspersions have been cast on the complainant. Questions have also been raised about the role of feminists who have stood by the complainant and upheld the feminist principles evolved in the course of the long and ongoing struggle against sexual violence in our patriarchal and misogynistic society.

Being part of the same struggle, we in WSS:

• Extend our support and solidarity to the complainant. We are keen to stand by the complainant in this crucial period.

• Know that sexual harassment of employees at the workplace and in social spaces by those at the top level of institutions is an ongoing phenomenon. It is a very difficult step for a woman to bring up charges of sexual assault against those who occupy a senior position in the organization.

• Recognize that the suicide is a human tragedy that has shocked and affected all of us. However, we strongly condemn the manner in which this tragedy is being exploited by those who claim to be fighting for justice on his side.

• Realize that with the suicide, the alleged crime cannot be investigated and will not be able to reach its logical conclusion. At this point, it is important to ensure that the complainant is not maligned in light of grief on the death of the accused.

• Believe that all our lives and acts – public and private – can and should be open to scrutiny when the rights and space of another person is impinged upon. Being open in this way enables us all to continue to be part of a more egalitarian society that we are striving for.

• Condemn the hostile social media campaign being directed at the complainant, as much as we condemn the social media campaign that was conducted against the accused. We would like to underline the need for restraint and a sense of responsibility while commenting on such issues, especially when our comments can have grave impacts on others. Certain processes should be demanded rather than mud-slinging on individuals.

• Are concerned that some progressive intellectuals have chosen to brand the complainant as a conspirator and vilify women’s rights activists for participating in the ‘media trial’ of the accused. While the coverage of the case by the India TV was undoubtedly sensationalized and irresponsible, the complainant cannot be faulted for accepting whatever avenues were available to her in the media. It has been a long and tough struggle to have voices of women complainants find any space in the media. It needs to be understood that the complainant sought help and was guided by people.

• Find attempts to pillory and silence such voices both disturbing and avoidable. We should all instead create an atmosphere where the pursuit for justice in the interest of the complainant is not deflected.

• Acknowledge that an attempt to carry out a process of free and fair enquiry was made by the Board of Trustees of ISD in vain. We believe that members of NGO governing boards should actively uphold the values they believe in and make sure they are not compromised at any stage. We call on all trustees and members of governing bodies to play a proactive role in such matters. Senior management needs to create a safe space for women to report sexual violations and be assured of justice.

• Share our anger on violations happening within the ‘progressive’ circles, by individuals who are otherwise respected for their work. We have seen this as it has happened in our lives and lives of others who have come to us for support and continue to do so, that perpetrators of sexual assault can be people working with us, known to us.

• Reiterate that the progressive and secular credentials of any offender cannot be advanced as proof that they cannot indulge in violative and unwelcome sexual behaviour. As activists, we should not dither from taking a principled stand, regardless of the nature of our relationship with the accused. Sexual violence needs to be seen for what it is, and the crime cannot be diluted or tempered based on other aspects of the alleged perpetrator’s life.

• Are concerned that the persecution of the complainant in this case, unless actively resisted by the activist community, will dissuade women in such situations from registering their complaints.

• Encourage women to open up and speak more. Appeal to women at large to file complaints without any hesitation or fear of the consequences.

• Resolve to deal with such consequences as and when they come up as we perceive it to be part of the same large and tough struggle to bring offenders to book. In this case too, the complainant should be supported and provided opportunities to be able to move forward in life.

On behalf of Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression
- Kalpana Mehta, Shivani Taneja, Uma Chakravarti, Ranjana Padhi

WSS condemns the Violence & Vigilantism by AAP against Ugandan Women

Addressing the Chief Minister of Delhi, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), strongly condemned the racial profiling, sexual violence and vigilantism by AAP against the Ugandan women and have demanded Somnath Bharti’s resignation; judicial probe to identify the perpetrators of the violence & punitive, lawful action against them; and compensation for the Ugandian women among other demands.

Shri Arvind Kejriwal
Chief Minister, Govt. of Delhi

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression strongly condemns the illegal raid conducted by the AAP cabinet law minister, Somnath Bharti and his mob of supporters, on the premises of the Ugandan women on 17th January 2014 residing in Khidki village, New Delhi.
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Bhopal Against 377

Condemning the Supreme Court Judgement upholding IPC Section 377, Bhopal Groups demand a just society irrespective of caste, class, gender and sexual orientation.

On 15th December, 2013 a protest was organised by groups in Bhopal and a statement against the SC ruling was released and read out by various people participating in the protest.

We are outraged by the regressive decision of the Supreme Court to uphold IPC Section 377. Section 377 criminalizes same-sex relations between consenting adults and is in violation of Articles 21, 14 and 15 of the Constitution and an assault on the democratic rights of all citizens of India. Section 377 falls under the category of other draconian laws that take away the constitutional rights of citizens like ASFPA, UAPA, POTA etc.
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Statement Condemning the Sexual Assault of Woman Journalist from Tehelka

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is in complete solidarity and supports the woman journalist who has made a serious complaint of repeated aggravated sexual assault against Tarun Tejpal – her powerful and influential director/ employer in Tehelka and Thinkworks – despite her personal distress, and the manifold pressures she has been subjected to.

A First Information Report has been lodged, and there is now no question that anything short of resolute action, under the law against accused Tarun Tejpal, could be acceptable. Fake regrets, deliberate falsification and manipulation of facts, character assassination of the complainant and even the claim that the complaint is politically motivated by the Right wing forces cannot be used to deflect the focus from the crime or trivialize its exigency.
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Women’s bodies are not political battlefields!

The explosion of communal violence in Muzaffarnagar, Shamli and adjoining districts of Uttar Pradesh is the latest in a long series. The collusion between patriarchy and communalism has been starkly exposed in Muzaffar Nagar case too. Patriarchal control of women’s sexuality and opposition to the idea of women’s freedom of choices in relationships has been given new dimensions by the gatekeepers of caste and community, who have created the fiction of ‘love jihad’ to camouflage the reality of sexual violence.

As the virus of communal politics gathers force once again in the countdown to the 2014 elections, sexual violence is once again being deployed as a tool to secure electoral gains. We fear that Muzaffar Nagar is only the beginning – there will be more such attempts to turn women’s bodies into battlefields where contending parties vie for votes.

These sentiments were echoed in a meeting organized by Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression a network of women’s rights, dalit rights, human rights and civil liberties organizations and individuals across India, in Delhi on 30th November, Saturday.

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