Category Archives: Statements

On India’s seventy third Independence Day, the people of Kashmir are under siege!

CONDEMN THE ABROGATION OF ARTICLES 370 & 35A OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION, THE DISMEMBERMENT OF J&K & THE BRUTAL SUPPRESSION OF THE VOICES OF THE PEOPLE OF KASHMIR!

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) unequivocally condemns the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A, the unilateral bifurcation and stripping of autonomy of the state of Jammu & Kashmir by the ruling NDA government on August 5th 2019, and the complete suppression of the right of the people to self-determination. By projecting the occupation as an “internal” matter, amidst a total and brutal gag on the voices of the people of J&K, the Indian state has assaulted their identity as a people, and ruptured the very foundation of their relationship with the Indian State.

The Presidential Order extending the Indian Constitution to the whole of J&K, the hurried passing of the J&K Reorganization Bill in Parliament without the consent of Kashmiri people, its elected representatives, or deliberations in the Parliament, is patently undemocratic. This was done by stealthily introducing the Bill to avoid wide public debate, and by clamping down J&K under a military siege. The move was orchestrated by spreading irresponsible rumours of cross-border terror attacks on Amarnath yatris, and false assurances by the Governor of the state who is currently administering President’s Rule under the control of the Central Government, all to serve a premeditated political purpose. Using the same Constitution that granted India freedom from colonial rule seventy three years ago, the Indian state today has completed its colonization of the people of J&K through a fraudulent usurpation of power, which is a betrayal of not just the people of J&K but the whole of India as well.

There is a muscular infusion of boots and steel on the ground, with an initial deployment of 35,000 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel on August 5th, and then another 8000 in the span of twenty four hours, disarming the state police, in one of the most militarised zones in the world takes the current count to about 7 lakh troops on the ground. Reports are emerging of political leaders, intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, grassroots activists, and young Kashmiri boys and youth, more than a thousand in number and counting, being secretly arrested, detained and/or transferred to prisons outside the state so that the government can project an image of “normalcy”. It is presently impossible to ascertain the whereabouts of many of these detenues, although it has recently emerged that several are being held at thanas, army camps, hotels (Centaur Hotel, Hari Niwas, among others), and even at their own homes. Kashmiri girls and women are being sexually assaulted in their homes as they continue to be raided indiscriminately by the forces. Streets remain deserted under conditions of an unending curfew, with constant patrolling by the army and paramilitary forces and vehicles, and checkpoints and barricades at small distances. It is remarkable that even on Eid, mosques and eidgahs were shut down to prevent assembly of people. A massive protest rally of over 10,000 people in Soura on August 9th against the abrogation of Article 370 was met with a military crackdown, pellet guns, tear gassing and indiscriminate arrests and detentions. It is by now clear that the BJP government’s claims of the move having been welcomed by the people, and under conditions of complete normalcy, are blatant lies.

The Kashmiri media is muzzled. With a complete shut down on all channels of communication, including landlines, mobile phones and internet, restrictions on movement, persistent harassment by the army, the attempt is to gag any information on the state of repression and anger in the Valley from reaching out. Despite now running out of newsprint, several local newspapers continue to struggle to bring out daily editions. In sharp contrast, when no such restrictions exist on large Indian media houses, they continue to peddle the official state narrative of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The Supreme Court of India again toed the line of the ruling government by refusing to act on four petitions for urgent hearing on August 13th. These separate petitions challenge: the unconstitutional abrogation of Article 370, the gag on Kashmiri media, and the curfew and clampdown on all forms of communication. The Supreme Court upheld the suspension of all democratic and fundamental rights of Kashmiris at least for a period of two weeks, based on the hypocritical stance of the government that the clampdown is necessary to restore “normalcy”.

The removal of Article 35A is the most visible proof of India’s colonial ambitions. The Article protects the rights of the residents of the state in matters pertaining to ownership and control of land. Its removal is intended to change the demographic composition of the land, and to open it up for corporate loot. Within a week of the abrogation, even as the gag on the people continues, Mukesh Ambani has enthusiastically responded to the call of the Prime Minister to flood the region with corporate investments, while a massive Investment Summit is planned for October 2019. Claims of the BJP government that this move paves the way for women to inherit land, without acknowledging that the military is already the largest landholder in J&K, is farcical at best. Kashmiri women themselves have assertively rejected this so-called “protection” by Indian men, whose chauvinistic rhetoric flooding social media targets the same women as instruments in this colonial project, to be acquired as ‘wives’ as a way to acquire land. This language of conquest is intended towards demographic changes in the region in a manner where the rights, identities and consent of Kashmiri women is entirely invisibilized.

This is not the first time that the bodies of Kashmiri women have been treated as sites of conquest, with a history of mass sexual violence perpetrated by the military and paramilitary forces with complete impunity. We have not forgotten the sexual violence perpetrated by the Indian Army in Kunan Poshpora and Shopian. We have not forgotten all the Kashmiris disappeared and buried in mass graves. We demand an end to this siege on the people of Jammu & Kashmir.

DEMANDS

1. Revoke the abrogation of Article 370 and scrapping of Article 35A and demand their immediate reinstatement. Repeal the J&K Reorganization Bill. Any change in this must happen only with the consent of the people of Kashmir.

2. Reinstate democratic processes to ensure that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are consulted on any action that concerns them, their lives and their community.

3. Stop further militarisation of Kashmir and withdraw all troops.

4. Stop immediately all repressive measures like restrictions on movement and communications black-out that have seriously impacted on the daily lives of women and people of Kashmir.

5. Release all political prisoners.

Ye kis ka lahu hai kaun maraa, Ham than chuke hain ab jii mein,
Har zaalim se takraaenge, Tum samjhaute ki aas rakho,
Ham aage badte jaaenge, Ham manzilae azaadi ki kasam,
Har manzil pe dohraenge, Ye kis ka lahu hai kaun maraa…
– Sahir Ludhianvi (1946)

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)
Convenors: Ajita, Nisha, Rinchin, Shalini
Contact: againstsexualviolence@gmail.com; Website: https://wssnet.org/

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WSS Statement On Arrest Warrants Issued By Jharkhand Government Against Activists And Writers

JHARKHAND GOVERNMENT ISSUES ARREST WARRANT AGAINST ACTIVISTS AND WRITERS UNDER LAW STRUCK DOWN BY THE SUPREME COURT

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) expresses shock and concern at the arrest warrant issued against Stan Swamy, Aloka Kujur, Rakesh Roshan, Vinod Kumar and Babita Kashyap on 17 June 2019, one year after the FIR was filed against 20 writers, intellectuals and activists in Jharkhand on 26 July 2018 based on Facebook posts. All five are vulnerable to imminent arrest as part of the Jharkhand government’s targeted campaign against those defending human rights of adivasis in the state. Continue reading

THE SUPREME COURT MUST UPHOLD THE RULE OF LAW TO PROTECT ITS INDEPENDENCE

WSS demands an independent inquiry as per law into sexual harassment complaint against CJI, not reprisals against the complainant and illegal detentions of protestors

On May 7, 2019 the “informal in-house committee”, comprising Justices Bobde, Indira Banerjee and Indu Malhotra, returned a finding that the sexual harassment complaint against the sitting CJI Ranjan Gogoi by his former employee carried “no substance”. The Committee has not made its report public or furnished a copy to the complainant. This not only violates due process, but thwarts the complainant’s right to appeal. The complainant was not afforded a reasonable opportunity of being heard, and upon her withdrawal, the proceedings were conducted ex-parte. The complainant withdrew from the proceedings on 01 May 2019 citing “fear, anxiety and trauma”.

The process adopted by the Supreme Court in addressing this complaint of sexual harassment has been illegal and unethical right from the beginning, reflecting a shocking abuse of power by the sitting Chief Justice and a grave subversion of the independent judicial process. The complainant’s “Me Too” disclosure against the CJI, furnished in a signed affidavit to twenty-two Judges of SC, providing extensive details of her experience of sexual harassment, intimidation and victimisation, against herself and her family, was met with an extraordinary hearing on the morning of 20 April 2019 regarding a matter of great public importance affecting the independence of the judiciary. The CJI sat as a judge in his own case (though his name did not appear in the order sheet of the proceedings), offered opening remarks on his honour and reputation, and passed disparaging comments against the complainant, in the presence of two other Supreme Court justices and the Solicitor General. The Supreme Court, it appears, finds the CJI above the very laws that it is constitutionally bound to uphold. The SC has turned inward to protect one of its own, which has come at the cost of the integrity of the highest judicial body of this country.

This was followed by the constitution of the Justice Bobde Committee as an informal in-house panel, ad hoc in nature, in complete violation of the Vishaka Guidelines laid down by the same Supreme Court in 1997, and encoded in the POSH Act 2013. The law requires the presence of external members on the committee to ensure independence and impartiality of the process, particularly since the complaint was against the senior-most Judge in the country. We condemn the manner in which this ad-hoc committee conducted its enquiry into the charges of the former employee of the SC. This committee not only refused to let the complainant bring her advocate/support person to the hearing, but also adopted procedures that deny the complainant the right to fair redressal. The refusal to provide the complainant a copy of her own statements, and proceed with the enquiry ex-parte even when the complainant gave her reasons in writing for withdrawing, is evidence of the ways in which the rule of law were bent to suit the “distinguished” perpetrator. Further, the Supreme Court’s denial to provide a copy of the final report wherein this committee has given a clean-chit to the CJI renders the complainant unable to ascertain on what grounds her complaint was dismissed, the ability to appeal any such decision. Additionally, the conduct of those in power, particularly the Bar Council of India and other state Bar Associations, against one complainant actively discourages complainants from accessing the legal redressal and works to silence those who dare to speak up.

Each of these are due process guarantees that have been won on the backs of arduous struggles by women’s movements to legislate against sexual violence and challenge the patriarchies of law and legal processes. This includes the struggles since the cases of Mathura and Bhanwari Devi, which led to the formation of Vishakha Guidelines, and the widespread civil society protests post December 2012, culminating in the Justice Verma Committee Report, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, and the Sexual Harassment Act, 2013. There were repeated calls by lawyers, women’s and other progressive groups for the Supreme Court, as well as a sitting judge, to abide by the rule of law, more so when its own independence and reputation is at stake.

It bears mentioning that the Supreme Court’s treatment of sexual harassment allegations against their own “brother” judges in the past has also not inspired faith. Complaints against former Justice Ashok Ganguly in 2013, and against Justice Swatanter Kumar in 2014, were also met with ad hoc in-house proceedings, gag orders and defamation suits. Repeatedly, the Supreme Court is failing to hold their own to the highest morals deserving of their office.

Furthermore, efforts have been made to conflate the personal integrity of the CJI with the independence and honour of the Supreme Court. We believe that any individual irrespective of the office they hold, cannot be above the law when charged which sexual harassment, a cognisable offence. This was in fact an opportunity for the Supreme Court to show that the institution can constitute a free and fair inquiry against the highest judicial officer of the country. An inquiry which would have followed the rule of law set up and upheld in the past by the SC would have reposed faith in the public of this country.

Exceptionally, in the present case, the CJI is enjoying further protection of the central government, whose complicity in the matter should raise alarms for all those concerned about the independence of the judiciary. Not only was the extraordinary hearing on 20 April 2019 called on a mentioning by the Solicitor General, but Arun Jaitley, sitting Rajya Sabha MP and Finance Minister, wrote an extensive blog post on April 20, 2019, shielding the CJI and trying to co-opt the sexual harassment complaint into its propaganda of “conspiracies” by human rights activists and movements. It is the same propaganda that has now invited judicial proceedings against leading human rights lawyers and activists supporting the complainant and demanding accountability, namely, Indira Jaising, Anand Grover, Kamini Jaiswal, Prashant Bhushan, Vrinda Grover, Shanti Bhushan, Neena Gupta Bhasin and Dushyant Dave. It is important to note that the CJI, as the master of the roster, continues to exercise authority over all such retributive cases through his power to assign cases. Combined with his presence on the bench on the 20 May extraordinary hearing, it is evident that in order to ensure a completely free and impartial redress to this complaint, it is imperative that CJI Ranjan Gogoi step down from juridical and administrative work, pending a fair process.

The same government’s repressive tactics were in action again on 7 May and 8 May, when the police summarily detained and physically abused more than 70 peaceful protestors on two consecutive days of protests, majority women, who were protesting the grave violation of due process in the Bobde Committee’s proceedings. The complicity of the present government in shielding the CJI, and distorting the narrative of the complainant as a “conspiracy” against the Supreme Court, needs to be addressed frontally by all democratic-minded citizens, as this is a government, which has systematically undermined constitutional institutions of the country through excessive interference, including in the Supreme Court.

The independence of the judiciary is not secured by subverting fundamental due process guarantees, vitiating the environment through baseless allegations of “conspiracy”, questioning the character of the complainant, and taking retributive action against her and those standing in solidarity with her. It is served by abiding by the rule of law, ensuring impartiality in judicial proceedings, and delivering accountability for all those abusing their constitutional powers.

WSS demands that:
• The Supreme Court hold an independent and impartial inquiry into sexual harassment complaint against the CJI as per the Vishaka Guidelines and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013;
• The Supreme Court ensure that the complainant gets adequate legal support, witness protection, and is shielded from intimidation and reprisals during and beyond the proceedings;
• The Bobde Committee release a copy of the Report to the complainant;
• CJI should step down from active juridical and administrative work until the inquiry is under way;
• Accountability for illegal detentions and manhandling of protestors on 7 and 8 May 2019.

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)
Conveners: Ajita, Nisha, Rinchin and Shalini;
Contact: againstsexualviolence@gmail.com

Statement On The Supreme Court Order On Eviction Of Forest-Dwellers

WSS condems Supreme Court Order on eviction of forest-dwellers

A death sentence for millions of Adivasis and traditional forest communities

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is dismayed and outraged at the Supreme Court order of 13th February 2019, directing state governments to evict Adivasis and other forest dwellers whose claims under the Forest Rights Act have been ‘rejected’.

There can be no greater irony than this – that these communities are being dispossessed in the name of the Forest Rights Act, the law that claims to correct “historical injustices” and restore the traditional rights of Adivasis and other traditional forest-dwellers and forest-dependent communities. Continue reading

WSS Statement On The #MeToo Violence In Bihar – Hindi

Please access the statement at following link:

Hindi WSS Statement #MeTooViolence in Bihar

 

WSS Statement Condemning Barbaric Sexual Assault and Murder of Dalit and Adivasi Minor Girls In Tamil Nadu

WSS Statement Condemning Barbaric Sexual Assault and Murder of Dalit and Adivasi Minor Girls In Tamil Nadu

15th November 2018

WSS strongly condemns the barbaric assault and murder of a minor dalit girl in the outskirts of Salem district in Tamil Nadu on October 22nd 2018 by her upper caste neighbor and the brutal murder of an adivasi girl in Dharmapuri on November 10th 2018.

In Salem, a man from the dominant Mudaliar caste had made sexual advances towards the victim, Rajalakshmi, which she had refused, and later reported to her mother. A student of class 8, Rajalakshmi was the daughter of a graveyard worker, native of village Thalavaipatti Theruku Kaadu near Attur, Salem district. Since she was 9 years old, she had been facing sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances and abuse at the hands of her upper caste Mudaliar neighbor who is now 26. Everyone in the village was aware of the sexual abuse she had been facing, yet no one dared to confront the perpetrator. Continue reading

WSS Statement On The Majority Judgement Of The Supreme Court Regarding The Arrests Of Sudha Bhardwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha And Varavara Rao

WSS condemns the majority judgment of the Supreme Court regarding the arrests of Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Arun Ferreira, Gautam Navlakha and Varavara Rao

WSS deeply condemns the majority judgement of the Supreme Court which has dismissed the PIL filed by Romila Thapar, Devaki Jain, Satish Deshpande, Prabhat Patnaik and Maja Daruwalla and has in effect granted the notorious Pune Police impunity to carry on with its fabricated and malafide investigation in the Bhima Koregaon (FIR No. 4/2018) case. The Court in its vague majority judgement has failed to do its duty as a Constitutional Arbitrator and as the vanguard of the fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India to protect the liberty of the dissenting activists – who have been arrested by the Pune police which unabashedly flouted due process.   Continue reading