Monday, April 16, 2018

From Kathua and Unnao to Chintagufa

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently provided the media with another photo-op by helping an Adivasi woman in Bijapur wear her new slippers. But like much else in his government, the gesture is tokenistic – only one person per family of tendu leaf collectors gets the grand gift of slippers. In the meantime, not one person has been compensated for their houses and all their belongings – including slippers –  being burnt during the time of the Salwa Judum.
Saying ‘Jai Bhim’ in Chhattisgarh counts for little if one cannot implement Babasaheb’s vision in practice. Would Ambedkar have been happy to see the constitution subverted by a government that cannot protect its young daughters, a party whose MLAs are accused of rape and whose ministers support rapists? The day the adivasis of Bastar who have been gangraped, whose relatives have been killed and whose houses have been burnt get justice is the day the government’s demand that the Maoists lay down arms will have some chance of being heard.

This is a story from exactly a year ago, April 2017, when security forces in Chintagufa village of Sukma district allegedly raped a minor girl. On April 2, at around 4 am, the girl and her mother were sleeping in the courtyard of their house when CRPF personnel came looking for her elder brother, who was supposedly a sangham member, or a village-level Maoist sympathiser. Her brother wasn’t there. Three men dragged her to a distance, and two of them took turns raping her, she said later. The other police/CRPF personnel stayed back, beat her mother and pushed her younger sisters inside the house and locked it. The victim was injured on the neck during the rape as photos taken at the time reveal. Due to the darkness, she could not identify the men who raped her.
The matter was first reported by a villager on April 3 last year and published in Nai Duniya on April 4 morning. That same article quoted the DIG, P. Sunder Raj, saying the allegations were false, mala fide and intended by ‘white-collar Naxals’ to tarnish the image of the police. All this before any police investigation, even though at first reporting, the reported rape clearly came under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offcences (POCSO) Act.. Instead, the journalist who reported the matter was questioned.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Constitution as a Living Document

The Republic has never felt more endangered than it does at 69. When Union Minister Hegde let slip the public secret that the BJP/RSS government is here to change the Constitution, the problem is not that the Constitution cannot and should not be changed, but what direction that change will take, and whether it will destroy the very basis of the Republic or strengthen it.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Why I will not be celebrating Diwali this year

As a child, the two most important events in my calendar were my birthday and Diwali.

Weeks before Diwali my mother would go to the Blind School fair and buy candles. My sister and I would both get new clothes for each of our birthdays and for Diwali. I recall how we hovered over our mother as she mapped out the cloth on a newspaper, cut and stitched it on her Singer machine.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Burning Forest and DU's Academic Council my first meeting of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Delhi University, some colleagues objected to a heading in our Sociology of India introductory course, ‘India as an object of study’. “India cannot be an object”, they said, “she is our motherland”. Subsequent meetings of the Academic Council only confirmed my belief that there is something deeply wrong with this procedure especially the higher up the academic food chain it goes– at best it offers an opportunity for non-social-scientists to show off, for how could any one from sociology dare to comment on a mathematics course and be taken seriously? At worst, in an illiberal regime it acts as a form of censorship.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Quint interview with Indira Basu

Monday, May 22, 2017

Why Podiyam Panda needs another hearing in court


22nd May 2017

The Podiyam Panda ‘surrender’ is the first one being challenged before a court. The entire experience shows the questionable legality of the surrender process in Chhatisgarh.

In the habeas case filed by his wife, Muiye Panda, Podiyam Panda came and went before the High Court under police guard. What value does such a production have? The Supreme Court has held in several judgments that a statement made before a magistrate by someone who is in police custody and thinks they will go back to police custody cannot be relied upon. This applies to the Panda case too.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

How the Chhattisgarh Police Turned a Well-Regarded Sarpanch Into a Fugitive, and Now Captive

Since the April 24 Maoist attack in Bastar which 25 CRPF personnel were killed, experts have talked of how the road from Dornapal to Jagargunda has been under construction for some five years, and lamented the fact that so many jawans have lost their lives trying to provide protection for road building.
But there was a time before 2006-7 and before Salwa Judum destroyed this area, when this was a thriving road by Bastar standards, with at least three important weekly markets located on it – Chintagufa, Chintalnar and Jagargunda. Even now, despite the devastation in the villages around, there is a weekly market at Chintagufa, a school, a fair price shop (PDS) and a health centre (however erratically it functions) – and the credit for this must go entirely to its former sarpanch, Podiyam Panda.