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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.com
Two teenaged adivasi girls from Bastar take on the state in their fight against extra-judicial killings. A Public Interest Litigation challenging the spate of encounters in Bijapur was filed last year before the Chhattisgarh High Court in Bilaspur by two young women from Korcholi with extra-ordinary grit and determination –Suneeta Pottam (19 years old).and Munni Pottam (18 years old). A national women’s organization, the WSS (wssnet.org) is the third petitioner in this case. Faced with a dozen affidavits of the villagers whose family members were killed, the High Court of Bilaspur held that the questions of extra judicial executions and government policies which are responsible for these are similar in spirit to the issues raised by the Salwa Judum petition (Nandini Sundar and Ors vs. State of Chhattisgarh), currently being heard by the Supreme Court. Following which, the young Petitioners filed a Transfer Petition in the Supreme Court last year seeking the transfer of their PIL to the Supreme Court. Suneeta and Munni Pottam are in Delhi to attend the hearing of their transfer petition on Wednesday, 10 January 2018.
At the press conference these young women spoke about these cases of encounters along with the details of the very recent physical and sexual assault of the the women of the villages where Suneeta and Munni live. They also spoke about the harrassment and threats that they have been receiving by the Bastar police (as recent as few weeks back) as result of filing this petition, who have threatened them that if they keep raising these issues which show the police in a bad light, they would be arrested for Naxalite offences and thrown into jail. Shaken but not defeated, these young women have come to Delhi to put their continuous harassment on record before the apex court at the coming hearing. Continue reading
The Chief Minister,
Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), a nationwide network of women who oppose and resist state repression and sexual violence against women and girls, strongly condemns your government’s anti-people, anti-democratic actions in unleashing state terror against the struggling people of Bhangor.
Madam, your misuse of state power to crush a people’s movement is even more ironic, given that you came into power on the promise of a pro-people, democratic government. Instead, in the eight years of your rule, your government has grown ever more autocratic and anti-people. Continue reading
FIGHT AGAINST SYSTEMIC, STRUCTURAL SEXUAL HARASSMENT AND GENDERED VIOLENCE!
Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) stands firmly with the survivors who have faced sexual harassment at the hands of the perpetrators on and off the list and, most importantly, extends solidarity in this moment of unravelling narratives, disjointed arguments and personal struggles of individuals voicing their experiences. The last few weeks have seen lists of sexual harassers in academia and civil society published and circulated on social media, statements issued by groups of persons and individuals reflecting on the lists, and questions raised on the ways of dealing with such lists, perpetrators of harassment, and the mechanisms in place to address it. Alongside the lists and statements, there has been a marked silence from some of the avenues that normally engage with sexual violence and harassment, both within and outside academia. While social media was abuzz with discussions and debates, now, once again, there is silence. As a collective standing against sexual violence and state repression, we recognise that institutional spaces can be fraught with sexual violence of varying kinds and, sometimes, despite systems and processes in place, the journey of seeking justice for each individual can be a long and lonely one.
As a collective standing against sexual violence and state repression, whose members have taken a variety of positions on this issue so far, we felt the need to reflect on our positions and come together to forge a collective common understanding. We have been doing that internally through a series of meetings for a year now focusing particularly on sexual harassment in groups and circles considered politically progressive. In the last few weeks there have been further discussions in the wake of the lists, and different responses to the list, including by WSS members themselves. Thus, despite the inordinate delay in issuing this statement, it is a product of an ongoing conversation amongst ourselves, a conversation we wish to broaden and take forward and this statement has been collectively produced in that spirit of feminist solidarity at a time when these revelations are slowly unfolding.
It is important to acknowledge the institutionalised nature of sexual violence and harassment that women have experienced in academic spaces among others. Sexism and blatant misogyny is visible not merely in academic arenas but also in activist circles, amongst writers, artists, journalists, lawyers, and several other professions. The more narratives we hear the more familiar it sounds and today we hear voices from marginalised castes and sexualities adding to the whispered narratives of harassment. This makes it essential to for us to build trust and unity among those marginalised by such violence. It is up to us, those facing various kinds of oppression, across caste, class, gender, religion, community, disability and sexuality to come together against all forms of oppression and exploitation. Our complicity by silence will only add to the impunity such perpetrators enjoy. This silence has been both passive, in the sense of remaining out of the debate as well as active wherein certain people wishing to speak out are being deliberately silenced. How far these silences are determined by the social, economic, political and cultural position is a matter that should concern all of us.
Meanwhile, some have raised the alarm bell of ‘fascism’ as a challenge more urgent and immediate than such ‘witch-hunting’ and ‘hit-lists’. It is true this is a moment of increasing repression. But that should not divert us from the internal critique and introspection required when asking why sexual harassment exists, persists and invisibilised in educational centres that some believe to be crucial for critical thinking and engagement. There has been a long history of struggle that has paved the way for some structures that exist today. The women’s movement, the queer movement, the movement for the annihilation of caste, for land rights, right to livelihood and several such struggles have taught us ways of resisting, raising our voice, and registering our dissent. It is important to note the contributions of all these movements in giving us a language of resistance. But, it is also important to note that while these struggles have helped build structures, both legal and community based, due process and existing institutional mechanisms have worked for some while they have failed many. In some cases, these legal or voluntary bodies have worked against the complainants themselves. The very fact that we have lists being circulated on social media points towards the frustrated efforts of thousands to speak out against those in positions of power who found every other door closed to them. This also shows our collective failure to build spaces of support and conversation. This, more than anything else, makes it amply clear that we need new ways of recognising harassment, new ways of fighting it, and new ways of healing.
The Saksham taskforce appointed in 2013 by the UGC to look into matters of gender sensitisation in higher education recommended in no uncertain terms that employers could not nominate appointees to ICCs. The report stated that that “ICCs… must not be directly nominated by the employer; rather, transparency and a principled basis for membership on the ICC should be arrived at after involving all sections of the HEI (Higher Education Institution) community.” Meanwhile, other central and state universities simply do not have any body that addresses such concerns. The data made available for 6 years 2011-16 through the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) under the aegis of the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) is indicative of the skewed distribution of male-female ratio in the different fields of education. On the one hand, the gender gap in enrolment in higher education is decreasing with 40% women in 2000 to 46.2% in 2015-16. At another end, at the graduate levels, male enrolment remains higher. At the diploma level, this enrolment jumps from a marginal difference to 70%+ male enrolment. Meanwhile, certain courses like nursing see predominantly female students. In teacher training courses, 63% enrolled are women. A brief look at the ratio varying across different degrees reveals certain professional choices that are gendered. For instance, in B. Ed courses, 65.8% of those enrolled are women, 60% women are enrolled in MA/MSc, and 53% of women are enrolled in BA courses, while only 21.1% of women are enrolled in B. Tech with similar statistics for courses in law and management. Meanwhile, 41% of all PhD students enrolled are women.
While there are 78% colleges running in private sector, they cater to only 67% of the total enrolment. Overall, women constitute 46% of all enrolments in higher education. But a closer look at the social backgrounds reveals a skewed picture. Scheduled Castes are 13.9%, Scheduled Tribes are 4%, Other Backward Castes are 33.7% and, finally, the greatest disparity in terms of population percentage and enrolment is visible among Muslim women who are 4.6% of total enrolled. These percentages are all below the national average. There is no doubt that besides gendered discrimination, the caste and community backgrounds of women add to the burden of discrimination that women carry when they enter the university.
In sheer numbers, the non-teaching staff appears to be 2/3rds male and in some states, the women in non-teaching staff are 1/5th of the total employed. This disparity is visible even in the post-wise number of women employed as teachers, especially when compared with men, despite gradually increasing enrolment of women in higher education in the last five years. Women constitute 33% of the teachers and professors at the college and university level. The social background of those employed as teachers does not match the existing composition of social groups in society. This is clear as 65% of those employed are upper caste, 25.4% are Other Backward Castes, 7.5% are Scheduled Castes, 2.1% are Scheduled Tribes, and, finally, 3.3% are Muslims. This disparity visibly appears to grow with more men being offered promotions to the position of Professor, Reader and Associate Professors while women remain Lecturers, Assistant Professors or Tutors. This disparity across public and private institutions only appears to increase when taking caste and religion into account and cuts across science, management, engineering and humanities programmes. Thus, discrimination cuts across students, non-teaching staff and faculty. This government appraisal of the situation of higher education in the country based on quantified data reveals the power equations that function in a patriarchal society. These numbers speak of an institutional crisis where merit may be the basis revealed to us on paper but the numbers speak of discrimination on the basis of gender, caste, religion and even region.
Institutional spaces like universities are built hierarchies of power in the name of age, experience, professional standing, and, most visibly, social capital. Persons in such positions of power have abused their positions to harass not just their colleagues, students and researchers, but also non-teaching staff, and persons outside of such institutional frameworks. The language utilised is often couched in polite requests, gentle nudges, explicit demands, and defended with the language of sexual freedom. Anyone who objects is often described as conservative and shamed for not being open and accepting. We see this most clearly as a consequence of the publication of the lists. ‘Naming and shaming’, ‘witch-hunting’ or targeting the perpetrators has only found them support from amongst their kith and kin. None of those named or found guilty have faced the consequences of their actions. The shield that protects them remains intact while questions about the veracity of claims, the complainant’s intentions, and the backgrounds of those who have published lists have been scrutinised vigorously.
When we talk about sexual harassment, it is important to recognise that it stems from the space permitted to it by a deeply casteist, classist, communal, regressive, hetero-normative patriarchal society. It can appear in the form of gendered discrimination that is subtle and extend to blatant violence. The wide range of gendered harassment that the lists show tells us that there are forms of oppression as varied as the background of the oppressors. But this complexity should not stop us from exploring these intersections, exposing their internal power dynamics and find ways to transform spaces – personal and professional in our fight against patriarchy. We need to look at central and state universities, schools and organisations as well as private universities, schools and organisations. Careful attention also needs to be paid to different forms of sexual harassment in fields of education and research ranging from management, to science, and medicine as well, besides other professions, institutions and organisations.
The systemic nature of sexual harassment has deep-rooted effects on the life of those harassed. Meanwhile, it builds a sense of impunity for the perpetrators. We cannot allow these forms of oppression to be normalised as part of everyday sexism. Our complicity by silence will only add to the impunity such perpetrators enjoy. Sexual predation is a means of asserting power that is visible and palpable. We need to call it out for what it is in a society that repeatedly tries to invisibilise it. Women alone cannot be held responsible for their safety. In a society such as ours, women and marginalised communities find their access to even available due process inhibited by social scrutiny and prejudice. We will not stand by while women are accused of overreacting while the mental conditions of the perpetrators, named and unnamed, are being avidly discussed. Those who have suffered sexual harassment or violence need much more than mere acknowledgment. Though, this may just be a start, mental, legal care along with building safe spaces are crucial steps that require long-term engagement and commitment towards community care. This, if done with the spirit of camaraderie, can be the basis for further strength for women to fight violence. We need new ways of talking about sexual harassment, new ways of defining it, calling it out, exposing it, bringing the perpetrators to book and new ways of recovering from the violence it entails.
Today, let us recognise these fractures and needs of the time. Let us move towards a collective conversation instead of expressing our rage individually in personal spaces. Let us open up those personal spaces into spaces of safety, solidarity, unity and struggle. Let this moment not go without consequences in our larger struggle for gender justice. And let those consequences pave the way for building structures, networks, systems that bear in mind the pain and humiliation as well as the resilience of those fighting back by speaking out.
WSS reiterates its commitment to stand strongly by those who have dared to speak out and find ways of addressing these questions in the long run with the care and consideration it deserves. In the coming months, we hope to initiate and invite conversations across university and other spaces, understand forms of violence that have not yet come out in the open, and, finally, work towards a policy on how to deal with sexual harassment that incorporates structures of care that each of us need today.
Let us break the silence!
Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)
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
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.
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.
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 girls’ school 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 “protectors” of 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 women’s 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 “virtue” and 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.
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 employer’s 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 Zohra’s 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 Sethi’s beyond normal working hours. Some 3 hours after this, three more FIRs were filed in the same police station, first by the Sethi’s 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 Sethi’s, the police raided the slum colonies (bastis) where the domestic workers live and detained 58 men, including Zohra’s 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.
Action against the Sethis for illegally detaining, brutally assaulting and falsely accusing an employee while failing to pay her wages.
Charges against 13 detained people as well as against Zohra and Abdul be dropped immediately and to release them unconditionally.
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.
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.
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.
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
July 26, 2017
Contact Fact Finding team: Ajita