Page 1

HUMANE A SPECIAL EDITION

COVER STORY

The Broken Crib Perspectives on Child Rights Violation An ode to the tiny tots DALIT RIGHTS

Uthapuram: Tamil Nadu’s Wall of Shame TRANSGENDER RIGHTS

Gender of the Mind Let them be! Narrow Minds and Gender Rights INTERVIEW

Kalki Subramaniam


Roar for Animal Rights

Animal

There is an in Every Man,

Human

and a in Every Animal


CONTENTS

HUMANE A SPECIAL EDITION

WOMEN RIGHTS

Domestic Violence: An Underground Reality

Pritha Mukherjee

COVER STORY 6

ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS Relationship Status: Judiciary Committed to environment 8 Yeshwant Naik

»» Page

DALIT RIGHTS Uthapuram: Tamil Nadu’s Wall of Shame A. Muthukrishnan

30

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS

Gender of the Mind P.B. Sankar Narayan

10

CHILD RIGHTS

Betrothed before Bloom Innocence Injured Reclaiming Rights: CWC Diaries Tampered are their lives. Broken are their hearts. An ode to the little angels forced into hell.

»» Page 20-29

A woman breaks out of the myths. Shatters all conventional notions and builds a world of her own.

MEDIA SCOOP TIMES OF INDIA Journalist, Arun Janardhanan’s take on human rights (Articles reproduced from Times Of India website) »» Page 33

UPFRONT

With Kalki Subramaniam »» Page 13

Editor: Ananya Bardhan Sub-Editor: Renza Iqbal Photographer: Sunish P. Surendran Design & Layout: Fasal Gibran Cover Photo: Sunish P. Surendran Cover Model: Baby Shourini Adhya

Contributors: Mr. A. Muthukrishnan Mr. Arun Janardhanan Mr. Yeshwant Naik Mr. P. B. Sankar Narayan Mr. Siva Mathiyazhagan Ms. Prita Mukherjee


4

FOREWORD Dear Readers, I am pleased to say that you have just embarked on a very thrilling journey of reading Humane. Humane is flush with ‘human rights’ and it is all about us. For one, it is a sincere attempt by Ananya Bardhan who has worked day and night to bring to the fore issues that we tend to wink at. I do remember asking our students to speak about any human rights issue for two to three minutes and I was greeted with silence. I mistook the naïve silence for mourning and thought that students were dumbstruck over a gale of inhuman acts that have besieged the world and society. Today, I am delighted that one of our students, Ananya got her act together to bring out this magazine. She was bubbling with the zing from the word go. She interacted with journalists, activists, legal experts and academicians to get informed ideas on various issues she has dealt with in Humane. I do have my own share of contribution to this magazine. I had to goad Ananya whenever she turned grumpy and started creaking out that I had landed her in a spot. I have to remind her that ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained’. She has left many ‘YOU are responsible for this burden I am going through’ at my door. But, I never thought I was motivating her. She had set her standards high as an editor, writer and design editor even before the project was born. When it started unfolding, I realized that her grumpiness was merely a ruse to grab my eyeballs to demonstrate the progress she was making. Humane, in this special issue, touches a raw nerve of human rights violations. In much the same vein, it educates what the rights of the human beings are in general, and transgender and children specifically. On our home turf, we have different human rights issues to tackle. Dalits and tribals need to be brought out of their cubbyholes that the Indian caste society has religiously built for them. Likewise, the clamour of transgender for an equal place in society to sit with us in the same league goes unheard though the Supreme Court has included them as the third gender recently. We made a hue and cry when Norway government taught Indians a lesson on child rights. The list goes on end. Humane, brought out as part of media specialization project, is only a one-off project and it has strove its best to include contemporary issues. I wish that Humane is bred as a lifetime project in the Department of Electronic Media and Mass Communication, Pondicherry University, focusing on human rights issues. I ruefully believe that a shift in perspective happens and that media students get more besotted with issues of the marginalized apart from rendering perfunctory PR reporting. That is when a writer becomes a political subject. That said, I wish this young and on-the-go perfectionist Ananya a very bright future as a writer and a great human being.

M Shuaib Mohamed Haneef, PhD Assistant Professor/ Supervisor Department of Electronic Media and Mass Communication Pondicherry University


Editorial

5

Hi All, As you know in today’s world of modernity and globalization, everything, from economy to technology, education to lifestyle has undergone a whirlwind change. Probably change is the only constant thing that has time and again proved to be in favour of the society at large. And in this context, the condition of the humankind is a debatable one. The question of the hour is, “Who constitute this society?” The society which is not considerate towards its own citizens; society where the poor become poorer, and those belonging to the marginalized and disadvantaged group are pushed more to the periphery of oblivion. India as a nation state is no exception to this. With her pseudo- democratic structure and laws that hang loose, India fails to adhere to the norms of an inclusive society. Shrouded by her diversified population, there are voices that struggle to find a vent. This is where Humane takes initiative in bringing forth stories of the unheard, pulling tales from fringes to the forefront. We present to you a microscopic view of the social reality. It’s a special edition upholding various patterns of human rights at stake. Inaugurating the edition is Pritha’s perspective on domestic violence. Women have been subjects of suppression behind closed doors for ages now. Even when much hue and cry is being made about women empowerment and equality, the scenario remains grave. Seconding Nelson Mandela who calls the “children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society” –it is truly a shame that they too are not spared from a life of violence and fear. Their carefree childhood is often interspersed with abuse, torment and torture, leaving behind a scar that lasts forever. The cover story takes a deep look into this nuance. Society has always hinged upon the battle of sexes. Concepts of naturality and unnaturality have always been a matter of dispute. From mythology to the postmodern world, transgenders have existed over generations. Yet, their rights have been refuted by the superstitious perceptions of the orthodox sect. Kalki Subramaniam, is a popular transgender activist who has managed to break the shackles of a conventional transgender. In an upfront conversation she narrates her experiences claiming herself to be the light and hope of the transgender people who face the wrath of the society. The recent appreciable verdict of the Supreme Court called for a joyous celebration across the transgender community. By officially acknowledging the ‘third gender’ and giving them equal opportunity in all walks of life it is expected to bring about a significant change in the contemporary social space they have so long been denied of. Hope the read will be a thought provoking experience and can alter many of your preconceived misconceptions. May your contemplative thoughts pave way to effective actions that can mould the way society perceives issues and people at large. Regards,


46

WOMEN RIGHTS

Domestic Violence:

An Underground Reality T Pritha Mukherjee Student Department of Mass Communication Pondicherry University

Apart from the common forms of gender-based violence such as physical, emotional and economic, unequal resource distribution and unequal decision making powers, the neo-economic policies in the country are also stereotyping women to specific kinds of jobs

he National Crime Records Bureau shows in their statistical record that a crime is committed against a woman every three minutes, a woman is raped in every 29 minutes, a dowry death occurs every 77 minutes, and a case of cruelty against a woman either by the husband or relatives every nine minutes. Domestic violence is an endemic in India in its own right. We have statistical records of so many crimes being committed against women, but most of them are not even recorded. The gap between the findings of National Family Health Survey and the NCRB indicates the gross miscalculations. All this is happening despite women in India being shielded under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. Recently a G20 survey has ranked India as the worst place to be born as a woman. Domestic violence, however, is a problem spread around the world. The United Nations defines violence against women as “Any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary

deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.” On March 8, 2008, Ban Ki-Moon, the UN General Secretary, said, “Violence against women and girls continues unabated in every continent, country and culture. It takes a devastating toll on women’s lives, on their families, and on society as a whole. Most societies prohibit such violence — yet the reality is that, too often it is covered up or tacitly condoned”. The situation in India is a varied one with diverse problems existing for women and different forms of violence being committed against them. Apart from the common forms of gender-based violence such as physical, emotional and economic, unequal resource distribution and unequal decision making powers, the neo-economic policies in the country are also stereotyping women to specific kinds of jobs and the men resulting in increasing violence on women. Under the Indian Penal Code, we have different laws protecting the women of the country such as Dowry Prohibition Act, Section 304B, Section 498A, Section 276, Section 294, and Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code. However, the first law in India to define Domestic Violence appropriately


WOMEN RIGHTS

7

India’s ‘Abused Goddesses’ Campaign against Domestic Violence

Source: Internet

is the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. The goal of the 2008-2012 Millennium Development Goals Country Programmes was to advance fulfilling the right of all women and children in the country to survive, thrive, develop, participate and be protected by reducing social inequalities based on gender, caste, ethnicity or region. The country is also witnessing a growth in the number of autonomous women’s organizations with objectives to increase the awareness of women’s rights and a change in the status of women. Jagori is one such organization with its vision being ‘bringing feminist consciousness to a wider audience using creative media’. The role of men in stopping gender biases have seen a positive trend with increased involvement of men in parenting

and increased number of men’s organizations protesting against violence. A lot of challenges are faced by these progressive organizations. Such as cultural mindset of women, the “superiority” of men as opposed to the “inferiority” of women etc. It is a myth that with modernization women are becoming more intolerant and demanding and that domestic violence against women is on a decline. Because the facts show otherwise and the existence of different kinds of violence against women show that this intolerance is irrelevant. The really relevant need presently is a social transformation with a change in both individual mindsets as well as the administrative, economic and educational policies in the country.

‘AbusedGoddesses’ is the award winning campaign against domestic violence by Mumbai based ad-film agency Taproot India. The ad conveyed a strong message that read, “Pray that we never see this day. Today more than 68 percent of women in India are victims of domestic violence. Tomorrow it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray too.”


ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS

Source: Internet

8

Relationship Status: Judiciary Committed to Environment securing the sheer savoring of human rights. Health and safety of citizens is considered as a top priority concern, uring the past few decades, which certainly cannot be enjoyed in conditions pertaining to envi- a deteriorated environment. Human ronment have failed to improve on rights treaties have been drafted and account of varied factors. Unclean adopted for addressing issues related water and air pollution kills over mil- to pollution free environment. lions of people each year. It is estimated that by 2025 world population Most of the World Constitutions will face severe water shortage. Heavy including India guarantee a right to chemicals and other metals are also a pollution free environment to its citcause to these widespread problems. izens thereby imposing an obligation Human activities are pushing thou- on the State to protect environment sands of plant and animal species into and its natural resources. The State extinction. Half of the world’s orig- judiciary has effectively enforced inal forest cover is already lost on these constitutional environmental account of deforestation. The urban rights. Globally, the powers of judidevelopment projects have adversely ciary in protecting the human rights affected air, water, noise, ecology and of individuals have proved to be of the resources which are in turn deeply widest amplitude. The Courts have connected to animal, plant and acted promptly and issued State direchuman life. Environmental impact tions, which indeed have helped take assessment is a new concept emerg- a positive action for securing enforceing as a consequence of environ- ment of human rights. The protecmental concern. In addition, Judicial tion and promotion of right to polActivism in the field of human rights lution free environment would have and environment has expanded inter- been impossible without States being nationally. Legislators in several coun- made accountable for their individtries have drafted legal and constitu- ual actions. Global judicial activism tional provisions for protection of has already set the goal in motion environment. It specially focuses on by rectifying a number of wrongs

Environmental Concern

D Yeshwant Naik Lawyer Research Scholar Institute of Ethnology Munster University Germany

The Court has held that pollution free environment is a part and parcel of citizen’s home and private life. Deprivation of such a right would mean violation of human right.


ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS committed by the States and other entities. States are now accountable to evolve a fair and balanced approach in order to avoid conflicts between right to environment and individual human rights.

individual right, enabling citizens to file an individual petition before the national courts. Hence, with respect to sustainable development, the state has a duty to strike a fair balance between the interests of the community and the citizen’s enjoyment of Judicial Activism and the Indian right to pollution free environment.

Constitutional Provisions

The right to pollution free environment is deemed to be a subjective right entitling any person to initiate an action for environmental damage. The Indian Supreme Court has delivered several judgments as a response to the petitions filed by M.C. Mehta for different issues pertaining to environment pollution on the principle that health is of primary significance. The Court has held that pollution free environment is a part and parcel of citizen’s home and private life. Deprivation of such a right would mean violation of human right. The Human Rights Commissions has observed that severe environmental pollution may affect individual’s well-being and prevent them from enjoying their private and family life. Most European countries treat environmental pollution as a violation of Source: Internet

9

to Article 32 of the Constitution for enforcement of this human right.

The recent trend of Supreme Court has given new interpretations to the laws pertaining to environment which are changing and expanding from time to time. Such interpretations cover several other human Under the Indian Constitution, rights viz., right to life, health, medArticle 48A to the Directive icine, livelihood, food, shelter and Principles mandates the state to strive development. All these aforesaid to protect and improve the environ- human rights are indeed a part and ment and to safeguard the forests parcel of right to pollution free enviand wildlife. In a new chapter enti- ronment. Violation of these rights tled, “Fundamental Duties”, Article leads to liability and prosecution. 51A (g) imposes a similar responsibility on every citizen “to protect Law by itself cannot bring any and improve the natural environ- change. It requires public support ment including forest, lakes, rivers and co-operation. From a humanistic and wildlife, and to have compassion dimension, in order to attain sustainfor living creatures”. The language ability, we need to use energy more used in these two articles is differ- efficiently. Proper waste manageent. However, the differences appear ment strategies need to be chalked to relate more to the form rather than out. In addition, managing water to the content. The Supreme Court resources and coastal zone reguhas recognized the right to clean and lations; harvesting forest products hygienic environment as one of the rather than destroying forests; profundamental rights, as part of the tecting freshwater sources and bioright to life itself. It also includes the diversity hotspots would certainly right of enjoyment, of pollution free provide hopes for a livable future. water and air and for full enjoyment of life. A citizen can seek recourse


10

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS

Gender of the mind

P.B. Sankar Narayan Assistant Professor Department of Social Work Pondicherry University

Source: Internet

T

ransgender communities existed over history in almost all countries under different cultural contexts. They are known as hijra, aravani, kothis, jogappas, jogtas, thirunangai or shiv-shaktis in South Asian languages. The hijra, also called ‘third gender’ or eunuch-transvestites, has existed for centuries in the Indian sub-continent. Kama Sutra provides vivid description of sexual life of people with ‘third nature’ which is referred to as ‘Tritiya Prakriti’. The term “transgender” is used to describe people whose gender identity does not correspond to their birth-assigned sex and/or the stereotypes associated with that sex. A male-to -female transgender individual is a transgender woman and a female-tomale transgender individual is a transgender man. The word transgender refers to a wide range of individuals including drag queens, transvestites, transqueers, cross-dressers, transsex-


TRANSGENDER RIGHTS uals, and any others who cross the gender binary. Transgender people have their own social-cultural environment that exists outside the mainstream of society and it is our inability to accept the differences that lead us to atrocities and violence against them. They are misunderstood, hated, and even persecuted all across the modern world. Transgenders are often refused even the basic rights to food, clothing, shelter, education and health, making them a marginalized community. The lack of support from family, neighbours and friends is also one of the main reasons for their social exclusion. Transgenders face socio-economic, cultural, psychological and physical problems. Usually such people are not accepted by their parents or by their society. The lack of recognition and acknowledgement as being human also affects their identity formation and self concept. This forces them to adopt a different way of life. Instead of denial, they should be provided with equal opportunities for education and other comforts of life. It would be ideal if the transgender would first be accepted in their family. A positive attitude would save them from experiences of depression, which they regularly experience. For centuries they have been deprived of their right to live peacefully as normal human beings and have always been frowned upon. They live a life of seclusion, marginalized from the mainstream society. The identity of transgenders is significantly questioned upon in a conservative state such as India which is shackled with customs and traditions. Most of the transgender

people live away from their family in poor settlement areas along with similar kind of people. It is very recently that transgenders started getting identified as a separate community in the society. Community based organizations working for transgenders have played a key role in raising their social status and self esteem. The participation in social networks, community programmes and social contacts are expected to affect the productivity of individuals and groups. The stigma that transgenders face significantly influences procurement and retention of a job. It is out of the lack of understanding and knowledge about transgenders compounded by a stark absence of sensitivity that leaves them in the lurch for these two important developmental tasks of early adulthood. The Hindu religion, in its mythology and in its cultural tradition has earmarked a place for transgenders and recognizes its presence, even though in a discourteous manner. It is interesting to note that most of the transgenders belong to the Hindu religion and they even celebrate the much acclaimed Koovagam festival in their village. The marginalization of transgenders is extended to their caste as most of them belong to the Scheduled Caste and other backward castes. In spite of being sidelined within their family, most of them live with their biological family, despite having stakes in the transgender community. The duration of stay and association with the transgender community has facilitated familiarity for easy access and exit as and when required; they temporarily leave the community in search of livelihood to other distant

11

places. Most transgenders leave home at an early age of 15, they do not have opportunities to complete their education. This limits their capabilities and the capacity to earn a living through education. This forces them to engage in seeking alms and sex work. Thus, they earn little and even that is spent on their sex re-as-

The term “transgender� is used to describe people whose gender identity does not correspond to their birthassigned sex and/or the stereotypes associated with that sex. A male-to-female transgender individual is a transgender woman and a female-to-male transgender individual is a transgender man.

signment surgery or repaying loans for the surgery. Hence, they have very little savings and often depend on the transgender community for care and support. Most of the times they approach money lenders who loan them money at high rates of interest as they do not have access to bank loans due to absence of a proof of identity for availing loans.


12

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS

This discrimination and exclusion accounts for their economic impoverishment. Transgenders do not have any support from their biological families and hence, they run away from their home and are unwilling to disclose their whereabouts to their family members for the fear of being discriminated by them because of their gender status. They eventually become homeless and live in isolated areas or the outskirts or in the slums, where they pay lesser house rent and share the house with other transgenders. Thus, they develop good bonding and relationships with others of their community. The transgenders feel that they are left out of society because of their condemned gender status. They do not have access to leisures such as watching movies in the cinema halls or going to the park, as they are ostracized by the members of the civil society. They are bullied and teased in public places and thus, denied the opportunity to mingle with other citizens. It limits their social support and forces them to live in one geographical location with their own community, thus, influencing their domicile. This reinforces the practice of ‘othering’ of minority groups by the dominant groups and it furthers excludes them, giving them an identity of their own, which is contestable. This leads to a form of identity crisis, where they are not allowed to claim and have an identity of their own, nor are they included in dominant identities. The mainstream society reinforces this ‘othering’ in every aspect of their lives. The lack of social participation affects their mental health. Any in-

dividual member of a society who is excluded and discriminated will have a poor quality of life. This is only further emphasized in the case of transgenders. They are not only deprived of basic rights, but also denied access to any such amenities or services. As in the case of any human being, a sense of remorse is experienced by them as they feel deprived

of that which others have access to. This relegates them further to the margins and even the possibility of establishing interpersonal contact as a routine with other members of the society is not encouraged. Thus, the restriction or lack of social participation influences their social acceptance and reinforces the stigma they experience.

Source: Internet


UPFRONT

Troubleshooting in a

Sexist

World

I am the light and hope to many who are in trouble with their gender identity

Kalki Subramaniam

13


14

UPFRONT

K

alki

Subramaniam

is a transgender rights activist, actor and a transsexual herself. She holds Masters Degree in Journalism & Mass Communication and International Relations. She is the founder of Sahodari Foundation, an organisation that works for social, economical and political upliftment of transgenders in India. In a heart to heart exchange with Ananya

Bardhan.

What were the challenges you had to face in life as you grew up? Is it still going on? Every transgender person goes through a lot of violence, abuse and discrimination while growing up. In school there was a lot of verbal abuse even by the teachers. In college there could even be sexual harassments. Even friends might turn to be your enemy at any time. You’re different is what makes you vulnerable to them. I knew I was right and that they were wrong, and that single truth helped me travel this far. In the IT and media companies I have worked with, I’ve had very good friends and bad ones. If you learn how to face those people, then you learn how to survive throughout your life. The male dominated society likes to keep women and trans-women on a lower level. And if you are transiting from a man to a woman, it is considered degrading, shocking and shameful. What are the changes you’ve witnessed in people’s perception of the

transgender community in places to be done. ‘Thirunangai’ is a community magyou’ve been to? azine for the trans-genders. It is for It differs according to people and the public to read as well. situations. In Tamil Nadu, the transgenders are accepted and respected. What is the social space given to But in Kerala, trans-people flee the transgender? What are the stereotypstate because of too much discrim- ical characteristics they are usually ination, abuse and lack of space. labelled with? In Maharashtra and Karnataka, it is not that difficult for a trans-per- People say trans-genders create son. It differs from state to state. nuances in public and are indeBut in countries like Thailand, USA cent. There is an allegation that and other Asian countries where trans-gender people harass others I’ve visited, I think it is easier for and loot money. I agree, but then trans-people to lead a free life and they must find the reasons behind just be themselves. India is chang- this behaviour. When you are haing and cultivating good space for rassed right from your childhood by everybody including your family, trans-people. how could you expect that person Your fight has indeed borne fruit- to respect the society back? Society ful results, you have been award- should start accepting trans-people ed with the lifetime achievement and give respect to them like any award by Lioness Club of Chennai other person. in 2009, you have been the first trans-sexual foreign national to be What is your perspective on the reinvited by the USA government in cent re-criminalisation of the Sec2010, the first trans-gender to act tion 377? in a feature film, how do you feel about each of these activities? Can The re-criminalisation of the Secyou please share with us your vari- tion 377 which criminalises homoous other achievements? sexuality and the consequent verdict by the Supreme Court is very unforThe love of my community! I’m the tunate. It’s against human rights, it’s light and hope to many who are in against a person’s right to express, trouble with their gender identity. right to love and to be loved. They think, “Oh! I want to be like Kalki. If she is doing it, I can do it Recently the third gender has been too.” Giving someone hope in life officially recognised in Australia, that everything is possible is in itself do you expect similar steps to be a great achievement. My film ‘Nar- taken by the Indian government? thaki’ in which I did the lead role is an important film in the Tamil Yes I think so. I think our governfilm industry. It was the first film to ment and legal system will definitely talk about a trans-gender child’s life legalize our gender identity because history. My community journalism we have been lobbying with the polworkshop with trans-people is an- icy makers, advocating with the Suother, but there are still lots of things preme Court, High Court and the


UPFRONT

Kalki Subramaniam District Court judges for years now. For four to five years we have been sensitizing the judges. There is also a social public litigation filed in the Supreme Court for recognition of our gender identity. The Election Commission has already included third gender. So, are we moving forward? The act of announcing and coming up with the column called ‘Others’, is a welcome step though it is very late. But I shall be happy only when I can freely participate in elections and be in the political office; when I am elected as the representative of the people, not only of trans-genders but of the whole mass. That is real empowerment.

15

Photo: Sunish P. Surendran

There is no database on transgenders. What efforts have you taken to keep track of the socio-economic conditions of transgender?

What changes do you think educational institutions need to craft so as to produce positive discourses about them?

We don’t have a proper statistics to count how many trans-people are there in the state. In a census held in Tamil Nadu in 2008-2009 only 30,000 were identified as trans-people and given ID cards. But there could be more than one and a half lakh in this state alone and in the country it could be over half a million. Many of the trans-people will not come out to openly identify themselves as transgenders and enrol in the census. The policy makers should initiate welfare measures and schemes that benefit trans-gender people.

Discrimination that prevailed in schools and the lack of understanding among students and teachers forced the drop outs of transgenders which amount to about 95%. Thus, forcing them to engage in begging and sex work. Unfortunately, our education system is lacking in compassion and humanity. It must be included to help them understand different genders. In the coming generations more transgenders must be able to pursue and complete their education and go for better jobs than begging. continued to page 18


16

TRANSGENDER RIGHTS

A Potpourri

Opinions have been stamped down over years. There are voices that deserve a s been debated over and over again. Giving space to the unheard opinions and th on one platform. Perspectives were seeked on Section 377 and Social stigma at compiled by Ananya Bardhan. The society looks at us as beggars and sex-workers. They suppress our rights. Being mocked and embarrassed in the public is an every day experience for people like us. I think if the Article 377 is in favour of us it will be very helpful.

Tulshana Pharmacy In-charge Mahatma Gandhi Medical College

I can never agree with this Section 377. I am educated and can work somewhere and live my life. But, there are so many transgenders who depend on sex work for livelihood. Apart from that, we also yearn for love from other people. Punishing us for that is unacceptable. Rasika

After I completed my 9th standard my family came to know about my feminine nature. They advised me to stop behaving like a girl. My mother was worried about what the society would talk rather than cosidering my freedom and what I felt.

Bhavani

The problem of getting a job for us is that we can work only with a particular community. Others treat us in a very bad manner. People should stop looking at us differently. It has been four years since I started working on the streets, saying proudly that I am a transgender. I have come across many shopkeepers who use degrading words just to make us go away. The most common question posed to us is- “ Why can’t you people work and earn your money?”

Sheetal President

Sahodaran Community Pondicherry

India is a democratic country, so we should also get all the rights. What is natural and what is unnatural? I don’t find any difference. We, transgenders are able to get only 20 percent social acceptance in India.

Rajalakshmi


TRANSGENDER RIGHTS

17

of Viewpoints

pace. Transgenders are people too. ‘Natural’ is but only a concept. One that has e voices of the third gender. A whip-round of ideas from multiple perspectives tached to transgenders. A collection of outlooks of students and transgenders Section 377 is an outrage to human dignity. It deliberately pushes individuals to the margins of the society. Transgenders deserve all the rights that you and I enjoy. Laws that penalize their existence questions our humanity. Elizabeth R. George Department of English Pondicherry University

Ishac Sahib Department of Sociology Pondicherry University

Sayanty Chatterjee Department of English University of Delhi

Article 377 is built upon age old concepts and it truly doesn’t apply to today’s society. It is a fact that transgenders belong to the marginalized class and that they are mistreated. The problem lies in people’s ideology, cultural norms and values. If we believe that we are equal, shout for equality; then we ought to give a chance to everyone to be treated with the same dignity. Male and female are biologically different but they share equal status in society. Similarly, transgenders are also biologically a blend of two sexes, then why should they be denied a life of respect? I would say it was a ridiculous decision to recriminalize the Section 377 in India. Gender should not be a parameter to define life. It is completely subjective and revolves around one’s comfort zone. Please don’t question a person’s right to live as per his or her choice. Article 377 was an act initiated by the British Colonial regime. Laws are meant to be changed and amended according to the societal structure and contemporary needs. Homosexuality and third gender had always been a part of our culture. It is not something imported from outside. They have as much right in Indian law and constitution as we, the “so-called normal” persons have. Whatever we say transgenders are still treated badly. But I feel that some take it to their advantage. Especially in trains and public transports they often force you for money. I have experienced ridiculous behaviour from them when I refused to give money.

Nisar Adivasi Research Scholar Department of Anthropology Pondicherry University

Sruthi Rajan Department of Mass Communication Pondicherry University

Jithin Nambiar L.V. Prasad Film Institute Chennai


18

UPFRONT

continued from page 15

The Foundation works for the soWould you like to write a book that cial, political and economic rights you wish to be included in the sylla- of the trans people. I wanted to bus of schools and colleges? make a change for betterment of transgenders as I had gone through I am already in the process of writ- much suffering and discrimination ing a book which is kind of a guide as a child in school, college and in for teachers to deal with, to handle public. Being an educated person I and to support gender confused couldn’t tolerate it, but an uneducatchildren. I want to distribute this ed, poor trans-gender person suffers book in schools and colleges so that even more. I wanted to change that, they can help gender confused chil- give them a better life. Sahodari is a dren and counsel them. very small initiative from me. But as How do you think media can play a role in bringing about a positive change in the society? It has a major role in sensitising people on many issues including gender identities. Media is our only source to make people understand about us and fight for equality and justice. It can make a change in people’s mindsets instantly by bringing out stories and truth about our community. Being a media specialist, I would like to organise media workshops inviting journalists, correspondents and sensitising them on trans issues. I would like to start my own media as well. Instead of depending on other people, we should have our own platform where I can speak in my own voice and not in other people’s voices. A magazine from the trans community, a television channel, a FM radio, all that should happen soon. Right now the only possibility is the internet where we can have our own blogs, Facebook pages and YouTube channel. How did you conceptualise Sahodari Foundation and The Centre for Third Gender?

When you are harassed right from your childhood by everybody including your family, how could you expect that person to respect the society back?

an individual, I wanted to contribute for the betterment of people like me. Through Sahodari we have not only sensitized thousands of students but also the judiciary, the police, the medical fraternity, the lawyers and the public at large and we continue to do that. We are insisting that the trans-genders be given dignified employment opportunities. The Centre for Third Gender was initiated on 5th January, 2014. Though it is called the Centre for Third Gender, it is a place for everyone. It is situated in Kottakarai village, inside Auroville. Which are the current projects you are working on? I am starting one project with the village youth and women. I want to train them in community media journalism. I am going to give each woman and young person, a camera for a day to capture their life, their opinions and thoughts; to help them understand what is important to them, the issues that are bothering them or making them happy from their perspective. What are your future plans? I see myself working in government, holding a position where I can make a huge change. I want to enter into politics, and I see myself as a good politician. I want to start an educational institution exclusively for trans-gender people. I also wish to create a big media house where I will be producing multiple media projects for the trans-community and the larger public.


To help a child in trouble

DIAL 1098

Childline is a 24 hour, national, toll-free, emergency outreach service for children in distress For info visit: www.childlineindia.org.in


20

COVER STORY

The Broken The innocent are being crushed into pieces. Their lives are being torn away. Its time to put the pieces back together. If a few words can work miracles, let this pave the way for it. An ode to the tiny tots.


CHILD RIGHTS

Crib

Photo: Sunish P. Surendran

21


22

COVER STORY

Betrothed before Bloom Ananya Bardhan Editor, Humane / Student Department of Mass Communication Pondicherry Universiity

“When I asked for love, not knowing what else to ask For, he drew a youth of sixteen into the Bedroom and closed the door, He did not beat me But my sad woman-body felt so beaten. The weight of my breasts and womb crushed me. I shrank Pitifully.” – ‘An Introduction’ by Kamala Das

C

hild Marriage has been a social malady since the early era, especially in India. It is defined as a formal marriage or informal union entered into by an individual before reaching the age of 18. An overwhelming majority of those affected by the practice are girls mostly belonging to poor socio-economic strata. Child marriages are primarily driven by poverty, cultural traditions, religious and social pressures, regional customs, fear of remaining unmarried, illiteracy, and perceived inability of women to earn money. Today, child marriages are still fairly widespread in some developing areas of the world, such as parts of Africa, South Asia, Southeast and East Asia, West Asia, Latin America, and Oceania. The incidence rates of child marriage have been falling in most parts of the world but shockingly, India still falls prey to this malpractice. A recent survey conducted by UNICEF revealed that, 43 percent of women aged between 20-24 years are married before the age of 18. When the political landscape is uproaring in favour of women’s rights, girl child education and women


CHILD RIGHTS

empowerment, we, as responsible citizens seldom spare a moment to contemplate why child marriage is still rampant in India. Child marriage does not constitute a single rights violation - rather, every instance of child marriage triggers a continuum of violations that continues throughout a girl’s life. There are many factors which

23

in collective and individual attitudes and beliefs which are still widespread in our country. Young girls are more likely to experience domestic violence in their marriages as opposed to older women. Girls married before 18 years of age are twice as likely to be beaten, slapped, or threatened by their husbands and three times more likely to experience sexual violence. Young brides often show symptoms of sexual abuse and posttraumatic stress. The reasons for child marriages could be associated with two basic reasons. The first being values and beliefs and the second, being the financial burden associated with raising a daughter. Even after the rise of the number of cities, the rural, narrow beliefs still stay alive in people’s hearts and minds and they reflect in their actions. Unmarried girls are considered a liability to family honour. Therefore, they resort to child marriage as a way of ensuring chastity and virginity of the bride and in the process securing the ‘honor’ of the family. The common notion is that there is no point educating girls as they will step out of their maternal home and that they cannot reap the benefits of her education anyway. Thus, they are married off early to save the investment in their education. Impunity, weak law enforcement Photo: Sunish P. Surendran and limited knowledge of the law by sustain the continuation of the society perpetuate child marriage. practice of child marriage in India. Skewed sex ratio in some states has Poverty and social norms intended also led to trafficking of girls in the to ensure family honour and protect name of marriage. girls are among the significant Dowry encourages parents to factors that increase the risks for a marry off their girls early to avoid girl to be married while still a child. an increase in the dowry amount. These factors manifest themselves The amount to be given as dowry


24

COVER STORY

increase as with the education of the girl. Even as Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 exists it is still a common practice. Girls are considered an economic burden for their family of origin and as a property that belongs to the marital family. To reduce the costs of wedding ceremonies parents often marry off their children early at collective or community marriage ceremonies, marrying off all the daughters in one ceremony when there are multiple girls in a family, and coupling a wedding with other celebrations – such as funerals - held in the community. Even as this situation persists, India surprised the world by refusing to sign the first-ever global resolution on early and forced marriage of children led by the UN. The resolution was supported by 107 countries including the likes of Ethiopia, South Sudan, Sierra Leone and Yemen, which are countries with high rates of child marriage cases. India does have its share of contributions towards protecting young women. ‘Apni Beti, Apna Dhan’ (ABAD), which translates to “Our Daughter, Our Wealth,” is one of India’s first conditional cash transfer programmes dedicated to delaying child marriages across the nation. In 1994, the Indian government implemented this programme in the state of Haryana. On the birth of a mother’s first,

second, or third child, they are said to receive Rs. 500 within the first 15 days to cover their postdelivery needs. Along with this, the government gives Rs. 2,500 to invest in a long-term savings bond in the daughter’s name, which can be later cashed for 25,000 after her 18 birthday. She can only receive the money if she is not married. Anju Malhotra, an expert on child

Research on Women was to evaluate ‘Apni Beti, Apna Dhan’ over the course of the year 2012, when the programme’s initial participants turn 18, to see if the programme, particularly the cash incentive, had motivated parents to delay their daughters’ marriages. The motive behind was to assess whether the approach proved valuable in the state of Harayana for then it could potentially be scaled up to make a significant difference in many more girls’ lives across the nation and beyond. But the sad reality is that these programmes do not reach as far as it should. The issue is large and needs to be sorted out through effective planning and actions. In 2013, five cases of child marriage were reported in Pondicherry as data given by Childline and Child Welfare Committee.

The young ones deserve a better life. They have the right to education, freedom and empowerment. Reality has to be altered and promises has to be kept. If only the law can improvise or convert itself to act at the right marriage and adolescent girls had time and take necessary steps will commented, “No other conditional there be a change. Lets hope for cash transfer has this focus of a better tomorrow. A childhood delaying marriage... It’s an incentive guaranteed with what they deserve. to encourage parents to value their daughters.” Photo Source: Internet The International Centre for


CHILD RIGHTS

25

Child Rights Violation Cases registered during 2013-2014 in Pondicherry

Number of Cases

Statistics of child rights violation cases with respect to age group

5 to 8 Years 9 to 12 Years 13 to 17 Years Type of Child Rights Violation

Percentage of child rights violation among age groups

5 to 8 Years 9 to 12 Years 13 to 17 Years

Graph depicting types of child rights violation

24% Sexual Abuse Sexual Assault

43%

9.5%

Sexual Harrasment Physical Abuse Child Marriage

19% 4.5% Data Courtesy: Childline, Pondicherry


26

COVER STORY

Innocence Injured

Siva Mathiyazhagan Research Scholar Department of Social Work Pondicherry Universiity

“I go out only with foreign tourists, since I get good money from them. They also give me food, clothes and sometimes gifts,” he said. “Tourists are very good – for one night they pay me Rs. 500. Sometimes they take me with them to other states as well. It is a good opportunity to learn English and to visit other places free of cost,” said by a 14 year-old boy from Thipraipet Slum, Puducherry.

which transformed the urban and rural environments. “States Parties shall protect the children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuses,” according to UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989 and Article 19. The Constitution of India and various legislations vest in their priority to children’s needs and to the protection of children from all forms of abuses and violences.

Source: Internet

C

hildren are precious not only to their parents but to the entire community. They are the hope of future and leaders of tomorrow, their rights need to be protected. They have to be cared and nurtured to develop their potentials. Children’s rights are intended to help children survive, develop, stay safe and participate in the society. Nevertheless, over the centuries, these rights have been violated over and over again. The city of Pondicherry has undergone rapid changes in tourism development


CHILD RIGHTS A tourist who is passing through or visiting a country often engages in sexual relations with children. One to one interaction with leaders of non-government organizations reveals that, in Pondicherry there is no tracking system or count about missing and migrated children. Accessible and affordable tourism has increased ‘sex tourism,’ which more often than always involves the victimization of children. International tourists exploit urban and semi-urban poor families and use their children for sexual benefits. Due to tremendous improvements in Pondicherry tourism and hotel industries, the number of ‘sex tourism’ brokers is increasing and victimization of children is inconspicuously on the rise. The children who are victims of sex tourism belong to either broken families or are orphans under foster care of a relative. They are from the lower middle class and poor sections of the society. A common feature among these families is their heavy debt bondage, constant domestic violence and lack of facilities like education, health etc. Poverty is the key instrument to exploit the children and elevate the vulnerability of their situation. Children attending formal schools in slums along the coastal belt of Pondicherry revealed that there were children among them who spent long periods of time with foreign nationals. These children are generally absent from the school during tourist season, as they are enticed by foreigners to spend the day with them on return of some material benefits. A teacher from local school reported that absenteeism was a common feature in schools during tourist season. Evidence of girls being engaged in

prostitution is abundant. Boys have been particularly exploited in terms of paedophilia. But there are no evidences of boys being exploited in sex tourism. There are different types of exploiters, mostly they are foreign nationals which includes Long-term Residential Child Sex Exploiters who are settled in Pondicherry. They visit their country of origin

only for the purpose of getting their visa formalities processed. They may be involved in occupations like running a restaurant or a travel agency. Regular Visitors are those who come for a few months every year, usually in the months corresponding with winter in their country of residence. They call children to their room during the day. In some cases, a child lives with the paedophile in his room, with the knowledge of the proprietor of the hotel or guesthouse. Casual

27

Visitors includes those who visit Pondicherry knowing that children are easily available. This includes travellers visiting India on a one to two week package tour or others who travel on their own and stay for a longer duration. Traditional Sex Exploiters includes local men, migrant workers and seamen who represent an established group of sex exploiters. Male Homosexual Sex Tourists are those who have no specific or focused sexual interest in children but may become ‘situational’ child abusers due to anonymity that tourism brings to the traveller. The existing mechanisms’ to protect children from abuse and crime is not sufficient. The child protection models are not ensuring the children and their legally responsible guardians’ sufficient participation. Monitoring of the well being of children is inefficient. It fails to ensure a child friendly environment in places like school, home, community or workplace. Although, we have Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act 2012, it fails to address the issue of child sex tourism in India, especially in Pondicherry. In order to prevent child sex tourism, there is a need to develop monitoring mechanisms in partnership with local selfgovernment and local NGOs to enforce code of conduct for all the tourists and to put pressure on tourism industry to adopt resolutions passed in International Forums Against Child Sex Tourism (CST) which will lead to take collective and collaborative action towards safe guarding children from sexual exploitations and ensuring a secure environment to all children. Photo Source: Internet


28

COVER STORY

Reclaiming Rights: CWC Diaries V

idhya Ramkumar is the Chairperson of Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Pondicherry. She has been leading an army to fight the cruelty against children. They engage in activities starting from saving children to finding them a way to make a living. The team is now a nightmare to any who intend to engage in any injustice against children. Her motto is to eradicate all inhumane activities against children. This woman is a warrior when it comes to saving lives of Juveniles. Ananya Bardhan listens as Vidhya Ramkumar shares her views on the many issues of children in Pondicherry.

What is the role of CWC in do was to separate the girl from her providing care and protection to bridegroom. And we also get cases of teachers abusing the children at children? school. Child Welfare Committee (CWC) is a statutory body consisting of a What are the major issues that chair person and four members, of challenge the safety of children in which one should be a female. This Pondicherry? is constituted solely for the care and protection of children under Incidents of sexual abuse, rape, child marriages, pornography and street Juvenile Justice Act, 2000. CWC act as the bench of children are reported more. We have magistrates and have the powers of parents who come and hand over a metropolitan magistrate. We see to their children to various homes, not it that besides counseling, children for adoption, but unable to take care are given proper shelter and given of their children due to poverty or clearance for adoption when the because the husband has left her, or she is widowed for various other need arises. CWC meet up every Monday at the reasons. We also have a lot of cases observation home, which is a shelter with respect to rape and teenage home run by the government, pregnancy in Pondicherry. to visit all the cases that are put forward to us. We have been What are the policies implemented receiving many child marriage cases by the Government to protect child’s of late. In some cases, we have been rights? successful in stopping the marriage, while there was this one case where We have the right to free and the child had already got married compulsory education which is and the only thing which we could between 6 and 14 years of age,

right to health policy, nutrition policy, protection for Child Rights Commission and Child Welfare Committee. What is the role played by the local NGOs in handling such issues? In Pondicherry we have 41 NGOs which are licensed under Social Welfare Department. But there are various unlicensed NGOs which work for children and women. The NGOs normally nurture and counsel the children who are with them and whom CWC transfers. They also keep a watch especially with respect to street children; they get calls from government or police department when they find children in the streets, or begging. Childline 1098 works exclusively in Puducherry and we are very fortunate to have one such helpline here because it is doing very good service to the children of Puducherry. Do the NGOs work in collaboration with the Government?

We have parents who come and hand over their children to various homes, not for adoption, but unable to take care of their children due to poverty or because the husband has left her, or she is widowed for various other reasons.


29

Photo: Sunish P. Surendran

Vidhya Ramkumar

We have two certified adoption centres, one is run by the Cluny sisters and the other one is ‘Joy home’, run by the Immaculate sisters. The kind of collaboration that the government and the NGOs have with each other is that the government helps with the funding for the children who are in the adoption centres. The money which is received from the government is used for the education of the children and their day-to-day activities.

and the information is passed on to the next member of the chain, normally who is the transporter and then that child is been sold out to the third party. Finally she ends up in a brothel, where she is sold for Rs. 30000 to Rs. 4 lakhs, depending on how she looks and performs. They are used for prostitution till the age of 35. We find that every year there are more than fifty-two thousand girl children who are trafficked for the sake of prostitution.

Which section of the society is most affected?

How much sensitized are the public, the parents and the children in particular regarding these issues?

Most of our cases are reported from the lower middle class families and the target group is between 6 to 18 years of age. The boys are used for child labor, child begging and later on they are pushed to prostitution, at times organ trafficking also happen. Girls are usually trafficked and they are used by men who foster the belief that if they engage in sexual act with this particular age group they can avoid sexually transmitted diseases. A member of family spots the child

Regarding the rights and policies of children the parents has to be sensitized. With an increase in sexual abuse and teenage pregnancy, sex education should be made compulsory in all the schools. Parents should teach their children the difference between good touch and bad touch. They should also understand what the secrets the children are hiding from them are. In the sense, bad secrets are very disturbing, the child responds to it

in a very awkward manner; he or she gets scared about the secret that he or she holds because it might be a secret about an abuser, he would have abused the child and would have warned the child that he or she should not be telling it outside. So that creates a lot of impact on the child and it shows on the education. This may develop a sort of fear in the child. When such situation arises, the parents, especially the mother should talk to the child in a gentle manner to know what is happening in the child’s life. The parents should also advice the child that he or she should not allow anybody else to hug or kiss her or look into her private parts, take any video or photograph. And once all these awareness is created in children, the children become aware and would be able to protect themselves in the future. In case of grave incidents, the case should be brought to the notice of the Child Welfare Committee members or the Probationary Officer of the district so that we can intervene and help the child and give necessary punishment to the abuser.


DALIT RIGHTS

Source: Internet

30

The police brigade on the way to make peace

Uthapuram: Tamil Nadu’s Wall of Shame A. Muthukrishnan Writer and Social Activist

U

thapuram is a small village situated near the foot hills of the Western Ghats. It is placed in Peraiyur taluk of Madurai district in Tamil Nadu. This village gained prominence in the headlines of the Indian media by mid-April, 2008. This is a story of a society which is undergoing caste oppression for the last millenniums. In the caste violence’s of 1989 four residents of Uthapuram village lost their lives. Of the four, two were from the dominant Pillaimars and two from the Pallars (Dalit). The police who were called in to make

Dalit community have been living in this village for the last 19 years, co-existing with this 350 meter wall of shame peace, shot two bullets at Pallars. On grounds of maintaining peace there were precautionary arrests of 131 Dalits. Same time five Dalits of Uthapuram were lifted from the village and the ‘grand agreement’ was signed. It was signed in the premises of Arunachalam theatre in Elumlai. The agreement was signed in the presence of Legislative member Athiyaman, Thavamani thevar, Kattalai Selvam and the village heads of the 18 villages which are around Uthapuram. This agreement was signed by 23 people who include the five Dalits who signed fearing their lives. The

document was then handed over to police custody. Of the five Dalits, three died and only two remain as witnesses. Raman is above 80 and is bed ridden. Ponnaiyaa (65) is the village head and the guiding force of the village. He has served the Indian Army as a Signaling Department technician and is now doing service to his native village. Uthapuram is a Village Panchayat. This village has been garnered of caste violences in three waves of 1948, 1965 and 1989 respectively. After the ‘grand agreement’ came into existence in 1989 a very big


DALIT RIGHTS wall was erected in Uthapuram which divided the settlements of the Pillaimars and Pallars. The wall stands across many streets of the hamlet; its purpose was preventing the Dalits from entering the places where other Hindus lived. But people of the Dalit community have been living in this village for the last 19 years, co-existing with this 350 meter wall of shame. The Dalits had to take a circuitous route to reach the bus stop all these years. In the last 19 years there were many small clashes between the two communities but they yielded no results. They had to live with the accumulated insult swollen in the heart. Even after a Dalit had been elected the Panchayat chief in the local body elections they could not even build lids for the drain or erect a bus shed. When the annual village fest took place they could not tie color flags which marked the ongoing festive mood. The government too accepted the agreement of the caste Hindus and made it de facto by implementing some new initiatives. Government now runs two schools, two fair price shops and has two separate water tanks for Hindus and Dalits. The boys of the Dalit community were beaten up by caste Hindu students when they happened to call their elder school mate as ‘brother’. “You may now call me a brother then you will try to have social ties,” he was told. Even the teachers of the village school would use small stones or mud pellets to throw at a Dalit students. Dalit girls had to face many hardships and these petty clashes and eve teasing were settled by the village court. Many a times the Hindus have remitted huge sums as fines to avoid a police complaint.

Vice versa the Dalit youths were also fined. On 9th February, 2008 the Tamilnadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) of the CPIM conducted a study at 47 centres in Madurai district to identify and enlist the types of caste oppressions still prevalent in these villages. On 22nd of February, 2008 they held a press conference in Madurai and made their report public. Based on this report the Frontline magazine published an article ‘Unlimited Untochability’ written by S. Vishawanathan. Following these events there was a protest staged in Peraiyur and meetings were held with the Madurai district Collector, but unfortunately these repercussions yielded no results.

31

CPIM met the district Collector to highlight this issue. In a couple of days the CPIM gave a press release which announced the visit of their general secretary Prakash Karat to Uthapuram on May 7th. The visit was under a caption ‘Break or We Will’. The Uthapuram pillaimar community gathered and traveled to Madurai Collectorate and threw 302 ration cards into the premises as a mark of their resentment.

On 6th of May the district Collector traveled with a police force of 1600 to Uthapuram. It also comprised of the Swift Action Force and Riot control vehicles. Media people swarmed in large numbers. The village was informed on the previous day and the pillaimar families fled away to the bushy foothills 5km away from The nation was shaken with the Uthapuram called Thalayuthu. publication of a photograph by The Hindu on 17th April, 2008. The District Collector walked The photo portrayed an image in around the wall for a while and which the Wall of Shame had a live had discussions, and then ordered electrified fence erected over it. In to knock down 4 meters of the 350 the month of February, 2008 when meter wall and joined the streets the Dalits celebrated their yearly after 19 years. The media broke fest a quarrel arose between the jubilant headlines portraying the duos. There was a procession which abolition of caste in Tamil Nadu. came from the nearby Ammapatti None in the media had the courage village bringing the goat meant for to speak about the 346 meter still sacrifice to the village deity. Hindus existing wall which laughed at who could not bear with the Dalits this super power. The Tamilnadu festival came across the procession Chief Minister, Karunanidhi and objected the use of drums. rechristened the name of the village from Uthapuram to Uthamapuram The next morning when the (Uthama means truthful). Tamilnadu Assembly gathered for its proceedings the MLA from There were cine sets ready depicting CPIM Mr. Nanmaran raised a scenes of drought. People fleeing question with The Hindu newspaper for a bowl of porridge were scenes report in hand. Minister Durai enacted in the sets. The mainstream Murugan intervened and promised media had a great responsibility, to end this electric fence issue in they had to photograph these no time. On April 19th, the district choreographed poses in their


32

DALIT RIGHTS

newspapers and magazines. In turn they received a cover of thousand rupees and foreign liquor of their choice. The Hindus from the surrounding villages and their relatives poured in large numbers. The 18 village heads gathered and started the plotting strategies. Help and relief started flowing from the villages to the foot hills.

communities. And that this wall was fully erected on private land. The government has no rights to demolish it. It’s a protection wall and this problem which has arisen is due to outsiders. These outsiders have stepped into the village to destabilize the peace prevalent here. The Dalits of these villages don’t have the rights to open a shop for their own perusal. This is The Hindus and political outfits the existing truth but this doesn’t who gathered at the foothills could mean that the Dalits drinking tea cook great tasty feasts but couldn’t in a different vessel accept these cook demands of their choice. They made some very meaningless demands like demanding register of the village temple land to the pillaimar community. The Hindus were very stubborn in not giving the ritual or worshiping rights of the Muthalaman temple to the Dalits. The Chief Minister spoke on this issue in the assembly which showed that he was keen in targeting the votes of both discriminatory procedures. We have the communities. He said that he to abolish these foolish procedures had received demands from both which are practiced in the name of sides, one needed pathway, the other religion and tradition. needed protection. In 1950, the Constitution of India But as you roam around Madurai outlawed untouchability. Birthor any part of Tamil Nadu you can based discrimination remains the encounter a peculiar mindset among order of the day for Dalits. An people. Many say that this wall was individual can adopt a religion of a protection wall and it was wrongly his choice with constitutional rights, spotted as a wall of untouchability. but does the constitution give him This wall was erected only after a the rights to change his caste? People consensus arrived between the two who live in cities are very generous

at a glimpse, but when they step into their villages it’s upside down. They shed off their masks and fly in true colors; they take the role of caste heroes. Even after long reformists agenda’s in Tamil Nadu, the lives of the Dalits in Uthapuram remains unchanged. The population of Dalits residing in Uthapuram is 2100. Their social share is as follows: Teachers - 5, Mill workers – 6, Constables – 2, Electricity Board Wiremen – 2, Primary school cooks – 2, TASMAC (Govt. liquor shops) – 6 and Construction laborers – 150. Even with such a pitiable social background they fight against this discrimination with valor. This valor is embodied in them as they are land holders. On May 18th and June 9th, 2008 the village witnessed a sense of tension. The Hindus still do not allow people to walk through the path created by demolishing the wall. They have blocked the pathway with huge boulders. Police force has been put up in large numbers there, but has been trimming its presence day by day. The 346 meter ‘wall of shame’ remains a symbol of caste oppression and discrimination. The atmosphere of hatred and disbelief has not really changed on the ground and hearts. Photo Source: Internet


MEDIA SCOOP

33

Humane records its thanks to journalist Arun Janardhanan for sharing his articles, already published in Times of India website, and permitting us to reproduce them in this edition. These are articles on contemporary human rights issues.

Arun Janrdhanan Journalist Times of India

‘One day I may wake up to be told of my hanging’ Arun Janardhanan,TNN | Feb 22, 2013 | CHENNAICH ‘other world,’ “I would buy a piece of land at the foothills of a mountain where I would plant 100 flowering plants and medicinal herbs.” The Vellore Central Jail was witness to some poignant moments on Thursday when TOI visited the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts. After Afzal Guru’s hanging and “I am Perarivalan,” says the smiling the recent rejection of Veerappan 41-year-old man in a white shirt, aides’ mercy petition, the convicts his hair neatly combed back. “There have been eagerly waiting for the are several men like me in prisons Supreme Court’s decision on their across the world,” he says, holding appeal. your hand while talking about his 22-year incarceration. “We “I know that one day I may wake up are victims of a system that hands to be told about my hanging,” says out disproportionate punishment Murugan, the MCA graduate who because we are linked to high-profile does the daily puja at an Amman temple in the prison. cases.” Perarivalan, a follower of Periyar, A couple of yards away, Murugan, says he keeps himself busy reading, 43, reaches across the big table to writing and coordinating operations ruffle his mother’s hair. The old of a jail school. woman weeps profusely, without making a whimper. “If I escape Shanthan, the other convict in the the noose,” says Murugan, who case is associated with the Sai Baba has grown a beard and speaks of temple on the premises. “The jail repentance and comeuppance in the has space for all gods. Here, unlike In the dim-lit visitors’ room of Vellore Central Prison are seated two men sentenced to death — one an atheist, the other a spiritual seeker; one fearless and confident of getting reprieve, the other longing to see his daughter and live with his wife.

outside, there is no discrimination on religious or financial grounds,” says Perarivalan. He advocates amendments to the Prison Act, 1894 to make jails a place to transform the inmates. Also an MCA graduate, he prepares for an MPhil in computer networking. Perarivalan, who is charged for his role in procuring materials for the explosive device and visiting Sri Lanka during the conspiracy, was 20 years old when the assassination happened. “As a teenager I had a lot of friends. My dream was to play the Ilayaraja hit ‘Ilaya nil’ on the guitar,” he says. “But I never had the courage to tell a girl that I liked her.” Maintaining he is innocent, he adds, “When my sister was studying in a polytechnic in Vellore, I used to pass by this prison. Never did I think one day I would be inside here.” He misses homemade ‘chukka roti’ and ‘sambar’ made by his mother Arputhambal, who is now a campaigner against death penalty.


34

MEDIA SCOOP

Murugan is worried about his wife Nalini’s health. Her death sentence has been commuted to life imprisonment. “We meet for 30 minutes, once a fortnight. She suffers from serious digestion problems and is likely to undergo a surgery. She cries a lot,” says Murugan, who

is charged with conspiracy. Staring death in the face for more than two decades appears to have brought on them a sense of balance between reconciliation and hope. “After death we all go into a subtle universe where we can wash off the last drop of sin,” says Murugan. The

atheist Perarivalan is more poetic about the end when he quotes from Thirukkural: “Urangvathu polum saakkadu, urangi vizhipathu polum pirappu (Death is but a sleep, and birth an awakening.) http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/ One-day-I-may-wake-up-to-be-told-of-myhanging

Constitutionally incorrect to hang the three, says judge who confirmed death for Rajiv killers Arun Janardhanan,TNN | Feb 24, 2013 | CHENNAIC CHENNAI: It would be ‘constitutionally incorrect’ now to hang the three people sentenced to death in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case, said Justice K T Thomas, who headed the Supreme Court bench that confirmed the death sentences. “It was my misfortune to have presided over that bench,” he told TOI. More than 13 years ago, it was a three-judge bench headed by Justice Thomas that confirmed death sentence for Nalini Sriharan, Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. Nalini’s death penalty was commuted to imprisonment for life by Tamil Nadu governor in April 2000 on the basis of a recommendation of the state cabinet and a public appeal by Sonia Gandhi. The TADA had originally awarded death sentence to all the 26 accused persons. When the matter reached the Supreme Court, which was the only appellate forum under theRajiv Gan as a referred trial, capital punishment was confirmed only for four. In an interview, Justice Thomas said the judgment itself had ‘errors’ as the death sentences had not considered the antecedents, nature

and character of the accused. Hence any decision to hang the three could now be termed as ‘constitutionally incorrect’ and a violation of Article 21 of the Constitution, he told TOI. Going a step further, the judge said case deserved a review, considering the antecedents and character of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan.

accused in Rajiv Gandhi case were death convicts, they underwent a long period of imprisonment without even having the benefit of life imprisonment,” he said. “This appears to be a third type of sentence, something which is unheard and constitutionally incorrect. If they are hanged today or tomorrow, they will be subjected to two penalties for “At a time when the Supreme Court one offense.” bench headed by me pronounced judgments in Rajiv Gandhi In 1999, Justice Thomas had agreed assassination case, apparently, we with two others on the bench in did not consider the nature and respect of death penalty for only character of the accused who were Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan. sentenced to death penalty by us. As for Murugan’s wife Nalini, he It was only many years thereafter a gave a dissenting, but minority, bench headed by Justice S B Sinha verdict preferring imprisonment for pointed out that without considering life. the nature and character of accused, a death sentence should never be When TOI contacted Justice V awarded. His judgments mentioned R Krishna Iyer, former judge of errors in previous SC judgments the Supreme Court, he said death and that applies to Rajiv Gandhi penalty could not be considered as assassination case,” he said. a punishment. “It is just another act of murder, a judicial murder, by Also, he pointed out the three have the state. It is high time for India been in prison for 22 years. “For any to abolish death penalty and India life imprisonment, every prisoner has not gained anything from death is entitled to have a right to get his penalties in the past,” he said. case reviewed by the jail authorities http : / / t i m e s of i n d i a . i n d i at i m e s . c om / i n d i a / (to determine) whether remission Constitutionally-incorrect-to-hang-the-three-saysjudge-who-confirmed-death-for-Rajiv-killers/ can be announced or not. Since the


KEEP CALM AND

SAVE NATURE


Champs are born of women

So, Educate your girl child first.

HUMANE- A Special Edition  

HUMANE is a magazine dedicated solely to human rights issues. Produced as part of academic coursework of the Department of Electronic Media...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you