‘Gavahi’ – A WSS Book on Sexual Violence in South Chhattisgarh

 

This book is a comprehensive compilation of the incidents of sexual violence in South Chhattisgarh, drawing on independent investigations or joint fact findings by WSS.

Pre-order your copy by writing to booksbywss@gmail.com

Title – Gavahi
Language – Hindi
Cost – Rs100/- + Rs40/- postal charges if required.
Bulk orders accepted. Postal charges will be confirmed according to the quantity ordered.
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WSS Statement On The Assassination of Gauri Lankesh And Politically Motivated Killings

WSS condemns the cold-blooded assassination of Gauri Lankesh and politically motivated killings

WSS is shocked by the cold-blooded assassination of senior journalist and human rights activist Gauri Lankesh. Unidentified gunmen drew up outside her house in Bengaluru almost immediately after she arrived around 8 pm on 5th September, and shot multiple bullets at her at point blank range and fled on motorbikes. She died almost instantaneously. We condemn this political assassination in the strongest possible words.

Gauri Lankesh had fought tirelessly in support of the rights of people from all oppressed sections of society, especially to maintain communal harmony, speak against caste-based violence and unite together all progressive forces. She was a fearless independent woman who never hesitated to question atrocities of any kind, including the sinister and powerful forces backing the perpetrators of these atrocities. Her work as an anti-communal and anti-caste crusader was relentless. She was one of the primary leaders of the anti communal struggle. She was a founding member of the Karnataka Komu Sauharda Vedike (Karnataka Communal Harmony Forum) and was also a member of the All India Forum for Right to Education. She had been a vocal supporter of anti-caste, feminist and student struggles and in forging unity across ideologies to confront fascist forces. Continue reading

WSS Statement in Support of the Women Survivors in the Dera Sacha Sauda Case

WSS Statement in Support of the Women Survivors

in the Dera Sacha Sauda Case

We, the members of Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), salute the courage of the two women complainants who stood up to sexual oppression and relentlessly continued their struggle for fifteen long years. That they stood up against the might of someone with millions of followers, money and political clout, and in the face of innumerable threats over the years, is nothing short of heroic. We hail the brave journalist Ramchandra Chhatrapati, who paid with his life for first publishing the anonymous letter written by one of the woman in his newspaper “Poora Sach”. We also applaud the activists of Jan Sangharsh Manch, Haryana, for standing quietly and firmly with the women complainants for all these years, despite facing physical and mental violence.

We welcome the CBI court’s decision to sentence the accused to 20 years’ rigorous imprisonment (10 years for each count of rape) and a fine of Rs. 30 lakh. It has also ordered for Dera property to be sold, if necessary, to pay for the damages caused by the rioting by the followers of the accused, over a judgement they were opposed to.

Sequence of events

In 2002, a ‘sadhvi’ serving in Dera Sacha Sauda, Sirsa (Haryana), wrote a letter anonymously addressed to the then Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, detailing the incidents of sexual violence meted out on the women by ‘Maharaj’, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. These sadhvis who live like his bonded slaves owing to their families’ faith in him were, according to the letter, routinely sexually abused by him. Any voice raised against this abuse was met with coercion and threats of – or actual — violence on the women and their families.

In the given case, the girl was summoned, by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to his private chambers. He used several ploys to coerce her including threats of murder for refusing to have sex with him and of burial of her body with impunity (her family’s faith in him would go against her in every way). He also talked about his considerable influence with the government of Punjab and Haryana and Central Ministers. The Dera head then raped her. In the letter, she also detailed cases of other women who had been raped and, after having left the Dera, were pressured and threatened by his followers to not reveal their ‘internal’ matters to the outside world. Over the past 15 years, some of those helping the sadhvis were killed and the women were continuously harassed.

Taking suo motu cognisance of the letter, on September 24, 2002, the Punjab and Haryana High Court referred the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for an inquiry. In this connection, 18 sadhvis were questioned, one of whom told investigators that the Dera chief and his followers were “very dangerous people”. Two of the women accused the Dera chief of rape. One of them said she had been raped in order that she may be “purified”.

Justice and its aftermath

The CBI filed a chargesheet in July 2007. On August 25, 2017, the special CBI court in Panchkula convicted Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh under Sections 376 (rape) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The rape conviction led to widespread rioting and rampant and open destruction of public and private property in Punjab and Haryana and parts of Delhi and UP by his followers. Reports indicate at least 35 people were killed in the ensuing violence and more than 200 were injured. However, in the majority of cases, it is unclear what the cause of death was and who the perpetrators were. The DIG has clarified that until the post-mortem is conducted, such information will remain unknown.

WSS does not believe that the state should deploy bullets to quell mass mobilisation (this also goes against international human rights Conventions) or file cases under the antiquated colonial sedition law. In this case, there were several measures the state could have taken leading up to the verdict that could have been more effective and ethical. The inability of the state and central government to control the building numbers of about one lakh followers of the Dera in public parks in Panchkula in the week prior to the verdict is reflective of the nexus of the “godman” and his henchmen with the state machinery. This, despite the police and the administration having been intimated at least one week in advance of the hearing, about the pile-up of petrol, diesel and assorted weapons by the Dera followers, and the impending violence that could be unleashed in case of a hearing that they would consider “unfavourable”. Why was no effective preventive action taken by the state government? Why did at least three Haryana ministers collectively donate Rs. 1.12 crore from their discretionary funds to the Dera chief since August 2016? What measures are going to be taken against those who actively encouraged the impunity of the sexual exploitation that went on within the Dera?

We stand with the women survivors who put the court process in motion and applaud their courage in face of violence and intimidation. We recognise faith-based collectives centred around a person considered ‘divine’ as spaces of control, coercion and violence on women’s bodies. The case also brings to the fore the absence of autonomy and voices that many of these women — despite being educated — lack in their natal and matrimonial homes, where the family will sometimes abet sexual violence. We also recognise that faith-based collectives provide a system of impunity that sexual and financial predators such as Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh take advantage of, by feeding off the oppression of a largely dalit bahujan following. We condemn the way such predators hollow out the rhetoric of an anti-caste collective mobilisation and deploy their followers towards a goal of impunity. We denounce the fact that, through their open support of the Dera chief, elected state representatives of several political parties have furthered the twisted links between caste, religion, patriarchy and the state, and have turned a blind eye to the violence and sexual exploitation that went on within its walls. We understand this exploitation may not be happening only at the Dera Sacha Sauda, but may be more widespread than has been acknowledged. The rape conviction of Asaram (again set in motion by a young victim in her teens) is yet another a case in point.

In the face of this political chicanery, it is encouraging to see that the courts have condemned the non-action of the governments in Punjab and Haryana and the centre and that the sentencing of Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh to 10 years for each rape case and monetary compensation for each of the women survivors proceeded as per law without further violence.

We demand:

  • That the Dera Sacha Sauda be shut down and all the people — especially women and children — still staying inside, be evacuated as soon as possible and be amply compensated.

  • An independent investigation to probe allegations of sexual assault on other women residents of the Dera.

  • Speedy closure and justice to the complainants who registered other cases against the Dera chief, including murder and forced castration of male followers.

  • An inquiry into the role of the state and central ministers who openly showed their support to the Dera chief accused of rape, among other crimes.

WSS Statement on the Assault on Adivasi Schoolgirls By CRPF Cadre During Imposed Raksha Bandhan Function

ASSAULT ON ADIVASI SCHOOLGIRLS BY CRPF AT IMPOSED RAKSHA BANDHAN FUNCTION

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression strongly condemns the molestation of school girls in the name of “Raksha Bandhan” by CRPF men and the deplorable act of the Collector and Superintendent in trying to suppress the matter.

On Monday, 31 July 2017, many officers and about 100 CRPF men went to a girlsschool in Palnar in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh to observe the festival of Rakhi by getting the girls to tie rakhis to the male members of the CRPF armed forces. It was clearly a PR exercise to show the CRPF men as the protectorsof the tribal girls studying in the school. Once there, 5 to 6 CRPF men used the opportunity to follow 3 young school girls while they were in line to use the bathroom. Three of these men entered the toilet when a girl ws already inside and stayed there for about 15 minutes. All this while, the men who were outside sexually assaulted the girls who were just outside the bathroom, squeezing their breasts and threatening them.

In the evening, the girls complained to the warden, Draupadi Sinha, who took the matter to the district Collector and the Superintendent of Police. However, instead of taking cognizance of the matter, both of them threatened the girls and tried to silence them. Later the warden and a police woman stood guard outside the school gates and stopped any Human Rights activist from entering the school to talk to the girls. It is only when the girls came back home from the hostel during break that Soni Sori, human rights activist, was able to meet the girls and talk to them. When Soni Sori went to the school to investigate the incident which has been further brought to light by the social activist, Himanshu Kumar in a facebook post, she was threatened and told to turn back.

This is another reminder of the horrific ordeals that the tribal women and girls are subjected to at the hands of the CRPF, para-military and the police in Chhattisgarh at the behest of the State. WSS in the past two years has, through various fact finding reports from the ground, highlighted cases of the mass rapes and sexual assault s of women under the pretext of fighting Maoist insurgents. The ex-IG of Bastar, Mr SRP Kalluri, oversaw indescribable acts against the tribal villagers as has been amply documented and reported by WSS. Mr Kalluri has refused to appear before the National Human Rights Commission despite a summons being issued. He had been invited instead to hoist a flag in Jawaharlal Nehru University on the occasion of the Indian Independence Day on August 15, and only political pressure on his repeatedly gracing education institutions instead of fulfilling his obligation to attend the NHRC summons seems to have led to a cancellation of the event.

Patriarchal customs like Raksha Bandhan evoke men as protectors of women while ignoring the patriarchal roots of violence against women. Despite the attempts to legitimize it by calling it a “celebration” of sibling bond, this only serves the interest of a patriarchal state in proscribing womens freedom and their legitimate demand for equal rights. In this case, the fake exercise of making the tribal girls tie rakhi to CRPF men to project them as the protector of their virtueand broadcasting it through state-controlled media served only as an opportunity for the repetition of the historic pattern of army men sexually assaulting adivasi women. These empty gestures are masterminded by the state to improve the image of CRPF and para-military in the region who are under severe criticism for their human rights violations and especially sexual violence in Chhattisgarh.

While it is a larger feminist struggle to fight against patriarchal customs like Raksha Bandhan which sees women as weak and designates brothers/men as their protector, the use of such regressive customs as a public relations opportunity by the state to justify the brutality wrought by CRPF, para-military, and the police on the tribal women reminds us once again of the depravity of the state that would stoop to such unimaginable levels.

WSS is glad that a case has been booked under Section 354 IPC and POCSO Act cand hope that after a speedy investigation the culprits will be appropriately punished as per criminal law. We repeat that criminal punishment for cases of sexual violence by the armed forces can not be substituted by internal army investigation and punishment.

WSS Statement on the violence of Domestic Worker and State Repression on workers.

WSS Statement on the violence of Domestic Worker and State Repression on workers.

We condemn the forceful confinement and brutal abuse of Domestic worker Zohra Bibi at Mahagun Modern Society, Sector 78, NOIDA and the subsequent repression by the police and Central Culture Minister of other workers.

On 11th July 2017, Zohra Bibi, aged 27, a domestic worker, native of village Maidan, Dinhate, Cooch Behar AR West Bengal 736134, went missing according to her family members. Zohra worked as a domestic worker in 7 residences of Mahagun Modern Society, Sector 78 Noida and usually returned to her family of husband and four children residing in Sector 78 Noida, between 6:30 and 7:00 pm daily. As Zohra did not return home, Abdul Satter, her husband, went to the society at around 8.00 pm and enquired with the guards, who claimed she had eloped with a man, although the register of visitors clearly showed that while her entry was marked, no exit was recorded. He then went to the alleged accused employers residence Harshul Sethi R/O 012, who told Abdul that Zohra is accused of the theft of Rs 17000, and claimed to know nothing of her whereabouts. Abdul immediately dialed 100 and the police spoke to the Sethis and reiterated the possibility that his wife had eloped with another man and that he should come to the police station to file a missing complaint. Abdul was handed a blank sheet of paper when he reached the police station and told to return the next morning. On the contrary, on the 11th of July Zohra had gone to Sethis’ house to ask for her salary that had not been paid for two months. When she insisted she be paid, she was accused of theft by the Sethis and then she was brutally beaten by Harshul Sethi. Her phone was also confiscated by the family.

On 12th morning, Abdul, some relatives and neighbours around 30 to 40 from the neighbouring slums, reached the gates of the society to enquire about Zohras whereabouts again. The beat constable stationed in front of the society, as well as the guards of the society fired three rounds in air, which further agitated the crowd of people and then, they tried to barge in through the gates. Roughly 40 police and guards clashed with the domestic workers. During the melee one guard came out and said that Zohra was found and soon, Zohra was seen dragged by two guards. Her clothes were torn, she was semi conscious and Abdul was asked to take her home. Abdul refused to take Zohra home in the state she was in. The police intervened and took her to Ambedkar Government Hospital where an MLC was done. The police claimed in front of the media that she did not suffer any injuries.

After the MLC, Zohra and Abdul went to the police station in sector 49 NOIDA to file an FIR against the Sethi family on 12 th July 2017 at 8:30 am. The FIR registered merely mentions that she was forcefully detained by the Sethis beyond normal working hours. Some 3 hours after this, three more FIRs were filed in the same police station, first by the Sethis charging them with theft, second by members of the Society and third by the Mahagun Society builders. On the basis of the FIR filed by the Sethis, the police raided the slum colonies (bastis) where the domestic workers live and detained 58 men, including Zohras 15 year old son and kept them in the police station till late at night. 13 men were arrested and sent to judicial remand to Dasna Jail under section 307 and the rest were sent back home after a prolonged detention.

Mahagun Society members have been making claims that the majority of domestic workers are Bangladeshi immigrants, primarily Muslim, and who are illegally working in India. RWA of the Mahagun society have begun creating a blacklist of domestic workers (147 persons) and scheming for ways to reduce the wages of the workers. We need to recognise the conditions of labour these domestic workers have endured, the attitude of the residents, the political provocation by Mahesh Sharma MP of NOIDA who is also the Minister of State for Tourism and Culture, GOI, who has dismissed the complaints against the Sethis, the corruption and complicity of the police force and the power of prominent builders like Amit Jain in scuttling such issues through the use of brute force and threats. Also lack of legal mechanisms has led to severe exploitation of women and children which include depriving domestic workers of their entire salary for months, work hours more then 16-18 hours per day, absence of proper food and living/sleeping condition, forced and total cut off from their family members, bonded labour, sexual exploitation by placement agents during transit, at the office of the agency and at the work place in houses of employers. In the data released by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in February 2014, there were 3,564 cases of alleged violence against domestic workers reported in 2012, up from 3,517 in 2011 and 3,422 in 2010. While several legislations such as the Unorganized Workers Social Security Act, 2008, Sexual Harassment against Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act, 2013 and Minimum Wages Schedules notified in various states refer to domestic workers, there remains an absence of comprehensive, uniformly applicable, national legislation that guarantees fair terms of employment and decent working conditions. Meanwhile only a unionised, united domestic workers force can face the crude brutality they face at the hands of the residents.

We condemn unequivocally this unravelling communal, anti-worker, anti-woman, anti-Muslim politically vitiated climate.

We Demand

  1. Action against the Sethis for illegally detaining, brutally assaulting and falsely accusing an employee while failing to pay her wages.

  2. Charges against 13 detained people as well as against Zohra and Abdul be dropped immediately and to release them unconditionally.

  3. Action against the police for its refusal to act on the FIR filed by Zohra and Abdul, their abuse of power in detaining 58 persons including minors, and complicity with the builders and the political establishment in communalising the case.

  4. Action against the Mahagun builders Amit Jain for their complicity in covering up this clear case of violence against a woman belonging to the minority community.

  5. Action against Minister of State for Tourism and Culture, GOI & NOIDA MP Mahesh Sharma for further vitiating the environment by making provocative and inflammatory speeches in the society meetings.

  6. Workers in the Mahagun Society complex be paid their due wages, withdraw the list of blacklisted workers, and ensure the safety and security of the workers in the residential complexes and also in their residences.

Bittu, Nisha, Ranjana, Rinchin & Kalyani

WSS Coordinators

July 26, 2017

Contact Fact Finding team: Ajita

WSS and THITS Statement On The Attack On A Transgender Woman By Army Jawans in Hyderabad

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) and Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti (THITS)

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WSS and THITS condemn the barbaric attack on a transgender woman by army jawans in Hyderabad, demands immediate and stringent action for justice

10th July, 2017, Hyderabad: WSS and THITS express outrage at the brutal physical and sexual assault of a 34 year old transgender woman by a group of army personnel. WSS demands stringent penal action against all the accused, a speedy investigation and trial, as well as complete medical treatment, compensation and legal support to the survivor (name concealed to respect identity).  Continue reading

Towering Resistance: A Report on the Bhangar Movement Against the Power Grid

A 12 member team of WSS visited Bhangar in early March, 2017, and met with affected villagers and concerned officials, in order to understand the origins and impetus behind the massive resistance movement against the power grid project being undertaken by Power Grid Corporation of India (PGCIL). This report is based on our visit to the area, public documents and media reports from the area.

You can access the full report at the following link : TOWERING RESISTANCE