Nearly four years after the brutal murder of Meena Khalkho in Sarguja district of Chhattisgarh, an inquiry commission has confirmed that Meena was in fact killed by a police bullet. The Anita Jha judicial inquiry commission, set up in July 2012, over a year after the alleged “encounter”, has only just placed its report before the State Cabinet. The report makes no definite comment on the fact that Meena was not a naxalite, and was killed in a fake encounter, despite the emphatic testimonies of her family and people from the village.
Chhattisgarh Panchayat and Rural Development Minister Ajay Chandrakar said, “The commission has concluded that Meena Khalkho died of a bullet fired from a police weapon.” The government will now ask the State Crime Investigation Department to investigate the case further.
In 2013, WSS conducted a fact finding to look into the case. Below is a video documenting the evidence and testimonies that were collected.
A team of WSS, WB comprising Anuradha Talwar, Nisha Biswas, Rama Debnath, Rangta Munshi, Saswati Ghosh, Sharmistha Choudhury and Swapna Banerjee visited Nandigram on March 10, 2015 to study the condition of the women of Nandigram who had been at the forefront of the heroic struggle against land acquisition back in 2007-2009.
What we saw saddened and disturbed us for a number of reasons, the foremost being the fact that these women, who had once been powerful leaders of a historic mass movement, are today not only distressed but disempowered as well. We tried to assess the present condition of the women of Nandigram and here is what we learned:
WSS notes with concern that the entire public debate arising out of the recent Delhi gang rape incident has centered round the issues of “enacting a strong law” and “prescribing harsher sentence.” It has failed to recognize more basic issues – the enormous social obstacles encountered in registering complaints, in the conduct of thorough investigation, in the protection of witnesses, in fast and efficacious prosecution and in unbiased adjudication – in other words, the issues of implementation of the law, and the functioning of the police and judicial machinery – which necessarily precede sentencing. The debate has also largely failed to take into account the deeply patriarchal character of our social institutions, and law enforcement machinery which render women vulnerable to violence in the family, in the larger community, in their work places and public places.
In particular, in this representation, WSS would like to focus on the even more serious situation that arises when patriarchal attitudes are reinforced by caste, communal and class inequalities or perpetrated by the state, that is, when sexual violence is inflicted as a part of an assault by a dominant community as in a caste attack or communal riot; or when sexual violence is inflicted on women in custody in a police lock-up or jail or state institution; and when sexual violence is perpetrated by the police, security forces or army. Rapes occur daily in this country and adivasi, dalit, working class women, women with disability, hijras, kothis and sex workers are especially targeted based on the knowledge that the system will not support them when they file complaints of rape. In this regard we have prepared a set of recommendations that you can read here
Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is deeply anguished by the incident of sexual harassment of a Gwalior additional district judge by a judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court which came to light on 4th August 2014 and is outraged by the fact that the complainant has had to resign from her job in the face of continuous persecution by the High Court judge in question (who was the administrative judge of her district) and the conspiracy of silence of his brother judges, including the Chief Justice of Madhya Pradesh High Court.
The fact that the complainant heads the District Vishakha Committee against sexual harassment is an indicator of the alarming gaps in the way the Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place Act, 2013 is being implemented in the country in general, and the judiciary in particular.
On March 25, 2014, 31 women from a nondescript remote village in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh were arrested for protesting against the starting of the work of the 180MW Bajoli Holi Power Project. The opposition to the GMR project is almost 2 years old, but in recent past the situation in the area has become sensitive as Police-on-demand have been stationed to assist the company in carrying out their construction activities by addressing any ‘law and order’ situation. While the women were released on bail the next day, a series of cases were filed against them including promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony, voluntarily causing hurt to deter a public servant from his duty, rioting, unlawful assembly, wrongful restraint, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace, criminal intimidation and using criminal force to commit theft. Despite this, the women continued their 24 hour agitation at the project site. Since then, several incidents of threat and intimidation have occurred, with the local contractors, politicians as well as the District Administration exercising pressure for the women to call off their protest.
In this situation, in April 2014, as groups concerned for the issues being raised by the women and in support of their democratic rights, an independent all women’s fact finding team visited the area and interacted with the local women and men. This document attempts to trace the history and background of the agitation and examine the demands being raised by the communities living in the affected villages. The fact-finding team also shares its observations of the situation on the ground.
“Speak! The Truth Is Still Alive” is an effort to expose and analyse the continuing onslaught of sexual violence against the Dalit girls and women in the state of Haryana in North India. This report i s based on a series of visits by WSS members to villages in the districts of Rohtak, Hisar, Jind, Karnal and Kurukshetra, and interviews with some survivors and their families. WSS holds that it is incumbent on feminists, women’s movements and democratic rights movements to join Dalit movements and Dalit feminists in confronting and questioning the apathy and silence that shrouds the issue of sexual violence against Dalit women in Haryana. This report seeks to bring some of the most recent of these violations under scrutiny, to expose the institutional mechanisms that provide immunity and impunity to perpetrators, and collude with them to attack and intimidate those who are struggling for justice. Click here to read the report.
On this day, 10 years after her brutal murder, let us remember Manorama who was raped and killed by the Indian Army. As people of a country that claims to be free, let us resolve to unite across all states and demand:
• Action in pending cases of sexual violence perpetrated by state forces in the Northeast, Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and other situations of conflict.
• Withdrawal of armed forces from civilian areas.
• Repeal of AFSPA and other laws that provide impunity to armed forces.
• Justice for women as citizens of this country and not as subjects under martial law.
• Implementation of the Verma Commission guidelines relating to sexual offences in conflict areas.
Join the campaign to repeal AFSPA. Distribute this pamphlet freely.