Dear Mrs Ayesha Sultana,
Having read a recent article of yours, which you have signed as “Sharmila Tagore”, may we humbly ask you some questions? We hope we can address you by the name you assumed in adult life though that’s not the one you signed the article in question with. Your article is in Bengali and was uploaded on the eve of Durga Puja which is the greatest festival of Bengali Hindus. On such an auspicious occasion, how sensitive was it to name your article “This is Not a Very Happy Time”(E boro anonder somoy noy)? We are aware that your article is about “intolerance” just as you are aware that most readers of your chosen media, viz. Kolkata-based Anandabaazar Patrika, are Bengali Hindus. While trying to guilt-trip Bengali Hindus about “intolerance”, when they were about to start their annual festivities, didn’t you feel any sense of guilt yourself?
When you declare that “Dadri incident has crossed all limits” (Dadrir ghotona somosto seemarekha otikrom kore giyechhe), do you mean that it crossed all limits of media coverage or monetary compensation? If you mean any of these, we agree with you. After all, it was because of the relentless media coverage that the victim’s family has been given an unprecedented compensation of Rs 45 lakhs and promised four flats of two bedrooms each in the posh township of Noida. However, if you mean that the Dadri incident has crossed all limits of “intolerance”, may we ask if Kupgaon’s incident was somehow within those limits that you talk of? In Kupgaon, which happens to be in the same Uttar Pradesh as Dadri is, 15-year old Sanju Rathore was shot dead on the evening of July 29, 2015 by armed men belonging to a “minority community” who fired at a “religious site of the other community” just hours after a scuffle “between the members of the two communities” over one’s cattle grazing in another’s field. Two others, Jitendra Singh and Raju Singh, had “sustained severe injuries” in the scuffle – but not only them, even the family of the deceased has not been given any compensation in the three months since the incident.
About the Dadri case, you shudder that “this incident is totally bone-chilling.” (Ei ghotona ekbarei har him kora.) If so, was the Kupgaon case so mind-numbing that you have wiped it off your memory altogether? Or did you not know about the Kupgaon case at all because the media did not raise any hue and cry about the killing of the Hindu boy by Muslim men? Or the murder of Prashant Poojary, the man butchered because he opposed a slaughter house, and the suspicious death of Vaman Poojary, eyewitnesses concerned in the Prashant Poojary murder case? Of course, even when the victim of a gruesome crime was a Muslim, such a hue and cry was not raised by the media – when the perpetrators were not Hindus. Lynching of a prisoner in Dimapur hardly interested our secular media. Was it because the incident was not a cudgel to hammer the Hindus?
Stepping back in time, let us remind you of a documented case of ethnic cleansing on a mass scale not too far off from Dadri either, which could not persuade you to use your eloquent pen:
Srinagar, January 4, 1990. Aftab, a local Urdu newspaper, publishes a press release issued by Hizb-ul Mujahideen, set up by the Jamaat-e-Islami in 1989 to wage jihad for Jammu and Kashmir’s secession from India and accession to Pakistan, asking all Hindus to pack up and leave. Another local paper, Al Safa, repeats this expulsion order.
In the following days, there is near chaos in the Kashmir valley with chief minister Farooq Abdullah and his National Conference government abdicating all responsibilities of the state. Masked men run amok, waving Kalashnikovs, shooting to kill and shouting anti-India slogans.
Reports of killing of Hindus, invariably Kashmiri Pandits, begin to trickle in; there are explosions; inflammatory speeches are made from the pulpits of mosques, using public address systems meant for calling the faithful to prayers. A terrifying fear psychosis begins to take grip of Kashmiri Pandits.
Walls are plastered with posters and handbills, summarily ordering all Kashmiris to strictly follow the Islamic dress code, prohibiting the sale and consumption of alcoholic drinks and imposing a ban on video parlours and cinemas. The masked men with Kalashnikovs force people to re-set their watches and clocks to Pakistan Standard Time.
Shops, business establishments and homes of Kashmiri Pandits, the original inhabitants of the Kashmir valley with a recorded cultural and civilisational history dating back 5,000 years, are marked out. Notices are pasted on doors of Pandit houses, peremptorily asking the occupants to leave Kashmir within 24 hours or face death and worse. Some are more lucid: “Be one with us, run, or die!”
Srinagar, January 19, 1990. …. Curfew is imposed as a first measure to restore some semblance of law and order. But it fails to have a deterrent effect.
Throughout the day, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists use public address systems at mosques to exhort people to defy curfew and take to the streets. Masked men, firing from their Kalashnikovs, march up and down, terrorising cowering Pandits who, by then, have locked themselves in their homes.
As evening falls, the exhortations become louder and shriller. Three taped slogans are repeatedly played the whole night from mosques: “Kashmir mei agar rehna hai, Allah-O-Akbar kehna hai” (If you want to stay in Kashmir, you have to say Allah-O-Akbar); “Yahan kya chalega, Nizam-e-Mustafa” (What do we want here? Rule of Shariah); “Asi gachchi Pakistan, Batao roas te Batanev san” (We want Pakistan along with Hindu women but without their men).
In the preceding months, 300 Hindu men and women, nearly all of them Kashmiri Pandits, had been slaughtered ever since the brutal murder of Pandit Tika Lal Taploo, noted lawyer and BJP national executive member, by the JKLF in Srinagar on September 14, 1989. Soon after that, Justice N K Ganju of the Srinagar high court was shot dead. Pandit Sarwanand Premi, 80-year-old poet, and his son were kidnapped, tortured, their eyes gouged out, and hanged to death. A Kashmiri Pandit nurse working at the Soura Medical College Hospital in Srinagar was gang-raped and then beaten to death. Another woman was abducted, raped and sliced into bits and pieces at a sawmill.
In villages and towns across the Kashmir valley, terrorist hit lists have been floating about. All the names are of Kashmiri Pandits. With no government worth its name, the administration having collapsed and disappeared, the police nowhere to be seen, despondency sets in. As the night of January 19, 1990, wears itself out, despondency gives way to desperation.
And tens of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits across the valley take a painful decision: to flee their homeland to save their lives from rabid jihadis. Thus, takes place a 20th century exodus. … You remained silent then, when thousands of micro-minorities of a Muslim majority state had to flee to save their life and dignity. They remain as refugees in their own country till date. You remained silent all this while, but emerged to vociferously protest when one individual, Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face was smeared with black ink: “The same can be said about the incident of smearing ink on Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face.” (Sudheendra Kulkarnir mukhe kali lepe deoyar ghotonatir khetreo ei eki kotha bola chole.) If ink is what you have a particular aversion to, say much more than the rape and murder of thousands of Hindus, why have you ignored what happened to Baba Ramdev earlier? During the Baba’s press conference on black money in 2012 at New Delhi, his face was smeared with ink by one Kamran Siddiqui for ignoring the latter’s question on the Batla House encounter. Did Ramdev’s avoidance of the question, that too an irrelevant one, justify the smearing of his face with ink? Was his refusal to answer the question a more provocative act than Kulkarni’s launching of a book written by a former minister of a troublesome country which was created after partitioning ours and even now continues its policy of bleeding India through a thousand cuts? On the question of Pakistan, may we also know why you have never written against the forcible conversions of Hindu girls in that Islamic country? As someone with close connections with UK, you are probably familiar with the fact that similar protests are par for the course there. We share a video showing how leading UK politician Ed Milliband laughed off a protest where he was pelted with eggs during a public speech:
We wonder how a similar innocuous protest perturbs you to the extent you described.
You allege, “In the same planned manner, the voice of rationalist writers like Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare have been silenced.” (Eki bhabe chhok koshe kontho stobdho kore deoa hoyechhe Narendra Dabholkar, Gobind Pansarer moto juktibadi lekhokder.) Wouldn’t it be more accurate to describe Dabholkar and Pansare as anti-Hindu activists than as “rationalist writers” since almost all their work was specifically against Hindu beliefs and practices? However, if you insist that they were “rationalist” and not merely anti-Hindu, would you enlighten us about any substantial work of theirs against non-Hindu faiths like Christianity and Islam which are majority religions not only on the global scale but also in many Indian states and districts? Or do you believe that Christianity and Islam, both of which are financially much stronger than Hinduism, are so rational in themselves that “rationalist writers” do not need to criticise them at all? Are you sure that your listing of “rationalist writers” is rational in itself? Given your concern at the silencing of “rationalist writers”, how is it that you have been silent about the silencing of Taslima Nasreen in the Indian state with which you have familial links? Is she not a rationalist or is she not a writer or is she not in hiding? Why are you also mum about Sanal Edamaruku who had to exile himself not after he offended Hindus but after he offended Christians in 2012? As a convert, what would you say about Edamaruku’s Hindu mother who had to run away from her Christian in-laws in order to avoid being converted? Moreover, as not even a single person has been arrested till date for Dabholkar’s murder, how can you claim that the crime was a “planned” one or insinuate that he was killed for being a “rationalist”? Couldn’t personal enmity or even mistaken identity be possible reasons for that crime?
You insist, “If some cranks of a political party take the role of vanguard, it is inevitable that such things would happen.” (Kono rajnoitik doler utko kichhu byakti jodi vanguarder bhumika niye nay, tobe ja hoar tai ghotchhe.) How can you target any one party when the Dabholkar murder happened in an INC-governed state, the Pansare murder happened in a BJP-governed one and the Dadri murder happened in an SP-governed one? Aren’t murders a matter of public order and isn’t public order in the State List of the Constitution of India? Moreover, what makes you think that supporters of a political party cannot “take the role of vanguard”? Our country, being a democracy, doesn’t every democracy need political parties and don’t political parties need supporters? Isn’t it feudalistic to think lowly of political workers as if the supposedly apolitical lot are paragons of virtue? Isn’t it elitist to suggest that “the role of vanguard” be reserved for so-called apolitical people?
You claim, “It is sadder that leaders are not condemning these incidents but trying to hide them.” (Aaro dukhhojonok bishoy holo netara ghotonar ninda na kore borong take aral korar cheshta korchhen.) However, are you sure that “leaders are not condemning these incidents”? Didn’t the then CM of Maharashtra equate Dabholkar’s murder with Gandhi’s assassination? Hasn’t the present CM of Maharashtra ensured the arrest of a suspect in Pansare’s murder? Hasn’t the CM of Uttar Pradesh awarded the Dadri victim’s family a compensation of Rs 45 lakhs and promised four flats of two bedrooms each in upmarket Noida? More than any leader trying to hide these incidents, aren’t you the one who is hiding the incident of Kupgaon along with the silencing of Nasreen and Edamaruku?
When you claim that leaders “have become busy in giving reasons for these incidents. Sometimes it is being said that all these are accidents!” (Ei ghotonagulir karon dorshanor jonyo uthepore legechhen. Kokhono ei juktio deoa hochhe, e sob naki durghotona), we wonder why we did not hear you when gang rapes were shrugged off by multiple CMs of West Bengal – the state where your chosen media platform, AnandaBaazar Patrika is based. After all, Jyoti Basu had dismissed the gangrape of three women and lynching of two at Bantala on the evening of May 30, 1990 as an “unimportant” incident (Emon toh kotoi hoy). After college student Shipra Ghosh was raped and torn legs apart allegedly by one Rafiqul Islam and his gang on the afternoon of June 7, 2013, Mamata Banerjee ridiculed those who demanded action against the perpetrators as the proverbial “thief’s mom who shouts the loudest” (Chorer mayer boro gola).
About the Dadri lynching, you complain, “The victim of the crime is being put in the docks and the criminal is resting fine.” (Jini oporadher shikar, takei jeno kathgorai danr korano hochhe, aar oporadhi royechhe bohal tobiyote.) The truth, however, is that all the accused have been arrested, quite apart from the fact that the victim’s family has been given unrivalled compensation. Your statement appears therefore to be a classic instance of suppressio veri, suggestio falsi (first suppress the truth, then suggest the false).
You highlight, “Haryana’s chief minister has said, Muslims can stay in this country but they must not eat beef!” (Haryanar mukhyomontri bole bosechhen, Musalmanra deshe thakte chan thakun, kintu tnader gomangsho khaoa cholbe na!) Here, not only have you suppressed the apology which the CM tendered later on, you have also suppressed his original explanation for it. He had said, “They can be Muslim even after they stop eating beef, can’t they? It is written nowhere that Muslims have to eat beef, not is it written anywhere in Christianity that they have to eat beef.” What he was trying to explain is the fact that beef is not an essential part of any faith, though he later apologized for the entire statement. However, wasn’t the crux of his statement in consonance with the spirit of the Constitution, whose Directive Principles include “prohibiting the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle”? It appears that you have close connections with Indian National Congress (your late husband had contested Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket, Congress was apparently considering you for the same honour in 2014; you had also been appointed as the head of the censor board during the regime of UPA government (2004-2011).
Thus, since Congress swears by the sayings of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, it would be pertinent to quote him from his autobiography here: “But it would be another matter and quite graceful, and reflect great credit on them, if the Musalmans of their own free will stopped cow slaughter out of regard for the religious sentiments of the Hindus, and from a sense of duty towards them as neighbours and children of the same soil. To take up such an independent attitude was, I contended, their duty, and would enhance the dignity of their conduct.” (Chapter 160, The Khilafat Against The Cow-Protection, My Experiments with Truth). Mohandas Gandhi had also quoted Maulana Abdul Bari as follows: “As a Maulvi, I say that, in refraining from cow-slaughter of our own free will, we in no way go against our faith.” Punjab Letter, [Around December 1, 1919], Maulana Abdul Bari, Navajivan, 7-12-1919. Mohandas Gandhi had also written in his autobiography: “But in spite of my warning Maulana Abdul Bari Saheb said: ‘No matter whether the Hindus help us or not, the Musalmans ought, as the countrymen of the Hindus, out of regard for the latter’s susceptibilities, to give up cow slaughter.’ And at one time it almost looked as if they would really put an end to it.” (The Khilafat Against The Cow-Protection, My Experiments with Truth). Do you think the Haryana CM differed in essence from the icon, whom the Congress party swears by or the Maulavi he quoted?
You argue, “There are a thousand important issues in the country like poverty, unemployment, development – nobody is saying anything about them.” (Deshe daridro, bekiritwo, unnoyoner moto hajaro gurutwopurno bishoy royechhe, ta niye keu ra karchhen na.) While you appear to be very concerned about “poverty”, will you tell us who is responsible for keeping that scourge alive even 68 years after India’s independence? When you claim that “nobody is saying anything” about issues of unemployment and development, are you sure that you have heard even a single speech of the prime minister? If you have never heard of his schemes like Jan Dhan, Make in India, Digital India, Swachh Bharat, Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao, etc, aren’t you making your ignorance very obvious?
You cry, “NGOs, educational institutions are coming under attack one after another.” (Eker por ek NGO, shikshakendro, protishthaner upor aghat aschhe.) Do you mean that NGOs should be above the law of the land, that too after 90 per cent of them not even submitting their financial details to the government? And, if some educational institutions are “coming under attack”, are you sure that they are not in West Bengal? Just one of the innumerable examples of such attacks in this state was the killing of unarmed policeman Tapas Choudhury at Harimohan Ghose College in Kolkata on February 12, 2013 allegedly by a gang comprising Mokhtar, Mohammad Subhaan, Mohammad Iqbal, Mohammad Aslam, Mohammad Mustafa, Abdul Rukman and others.
You go on to say, “Sudhakar Sharma, accused of financial and administrative irregularities and misappropriation, has been reinstated as Secretary in Lalit Kala Akademi.” (Ei to Lalit Kala Akademi-te arthik ebong proshashonik oniyom ebong tochhruper daye obhijukto Sudhakar Sharmake pher sochiber pode ene bosiye deoa holo.) Isn’t it interesting that you are so worried about the reinstatement of a mere Secretary in Lalit Kala Akademi while you were never worried about the appointment of the last chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) who had taken over from you in 2011? Why did you not write against Leela Samson who was facing allegations of financial and administrative irregularities while being appointed to the post of CBFC Chairperson on April 1, 2011?
You complain, “Those who want to think freely have to restrict themselves.” (Jara muktomone chinta korte chan tara gutiye jachchen.) On the contrary, we are glad to note quite the reverse in contemporary India: writers and artists are voicing their dissent in press and television all the time without any visible repercussion. As a Muslim and one with close links to the Congress party, the principal political opponent of the current ruling dispensation, the section of our populace whose opinion you insinuate is being stifled, isn’t the publication of your critical article an evidence that the reality is quite to the contrary?
You also claim, “Everywhere a kind of uncertainty and fear is being built up. As if all the time someone is keeping a constant eye over you, over your movements, over your thought.” (Sorbotro toiri hochhe ek dhoroner onischoyota ebong bhoy. Sob somoyei jeno pichhon theke keu kora nojordari rakhchhe apnar upor, apnar gotibidhir upor, apnar chintar upor.) As it seems that you are scare-mongering about a possible return of the Emergency, why is it that you did not object to your late husband becoming an election candidate of the party which did actually impose the only real Emergency that our country has ever suffered?
You say, “Uprooting the Constitution, projecting violence as democracy, changing the meaning of peace – such incidents cannot continue for a long time.” (Songbidhanke upre phele deoa, hingsake gonotontro bole chalano, shantir orthotakei bodle deoar moto ghotona deergho din cholte pare na.) If you are so concerned about something called “uprooting the Constitution”, may we once again ask why you were not concerned about your husband’s candidature of that party which has amended the Constitution the most number of times? As you appear to be so concerned about the Constitution, should you not support a nation-wide beef ban which would be in keeping with Article 48 of the same Constitution? May we remind you that the only party that even changed the preamble of the Constitution after locking up all opposition in prison was your late husband’s party?
You end with “All people should get united to demand the trial and punishment of Pansare, Kalburgi, Dabholkar.” (Pansare, Kalburgi, Dabholkarer hotyakarider bichar o shastir dabite oikyobodhho hon sob manush.) We join you in your demand and note with some relief that the BJP-governed state of Maharashtra has already made one arrest for Pansare’s murder. We remain concerned that the INC-led governments failed to make even a single arrest in the case of Kalburgi and Dabholkar till date.
At the end of it, technicalities aside, it becomes abundantly clear that your stated grounds do not pass the test of basic consistency. It is perhaps the case that your reservations are rooted elsewhere. It is a fact that you have rejected Hinduism, the religion you were born into, to embrace Islam. This does not alter your locus as a citizen in the secular, liberal society that Hindu-majority India is. And, penalty for apostasy -indeed, there is no apostasy per se in Hinduism – is an alien concept in Hinduism unlike that in Islam, the religion you have chosen as an adult. But when you write on Hindu-Muslim issues, it is essential that you reveal your conscious, well-deliberated religious choice as an adult. Your readers do deserve to know that you write as a Muslim, not as a Hindu despite your usage of the pre-conversion Hindu name, especially when you criticise Hindus, or a section thereof, of intolerance. It is also pertinent that your rejection of Hinduism was not merely nominal, but influenced critical decisions you undertook, which were devoid of respect for the diversity inherent to Indian culture that you so proudly proclaim: “Indian culture has been traditionally diverse. A nursery of all religions, complexions and communities.” (Bharotiyo sonskriti oitijhhogoto bhabe chirokali boichitromoy. Sorbodhormo, borno o somprodayer manusher anturghor.)
For, if you had ever practiced the diversity which you are preaching now, you would have told your mother-in-law at the time of your marriage in 1969 that you would retain your parental religion instead of converting to hers and would marry under the Special Marriage Act of 1954 which was already in force for fifteen years then. Was it not an adherence to the religion you adopted that you chose Arabic names for all your children, also in keeping with the traditions of your husband’s feudal family, and not Indic ones though you come from India’s best-known cultural family? Is it a proof of diversity that all your children know Urdu, their father’s mother tongue, but none of them know Bengali which is your mother tongue? If you truly adhered to the tolerance and diversity you espouse, shouldn’t you have ensured that your children were exposed equally to the teachings of the birth-religion of both their parents and they would be encouraged to make an informed choice between the two once they reach majority? Instead, we observe that your son proclaims that his paternal grandmother was “the centre for all our religious education” and “With my maternal grandparents I never discussed religion”. He does not mention receiving religious education from anyone familiar with Hinduism (including yourself).
Is this perhaps indicative of your rejection of the religion you were born into? What diversity is revealed in your household by your son’s statement that “the servants were all devout Muslims”? What tolerance did you show for the customs of the religion you rejected when you did not interfere with your “devout Muslim” servants frightening your children against Holi by saying that the kids would later be “flayed in hell with cat-o-nine-tails” for celebrating such Hindu festivals? Was it again diversity or indoctrination into intolerance against your original faith that your son got his first wife converted to Islam and gave Abrahamic names to both their kids? Your son is hardly an exception in your family in that your elder daughter reflects similar sentiments when she says, “I follow Islam” without the slightest hint of your Hindu ancestry? Your rejection of Hinduism does not alter you: how you raise your children is entirely your concern, but concealing your religious bias and indoctrination into intolerance while you assume public positions isn’t. If only you revealed the same while you wrote the above piece, your readers could have had a more honest conversation as to why you remained largely indifferent while an entire Hindu ethnicity was being cleansed off their ancestral homeland yet you were shaken to the core when one Muslim was murdered at Dadri.
Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh and Dikgaj.
#Writers Protest, #Dadri Murder, #Sharmila Tagore
All About The Bhainsa Riots
Communal riots broke out in the town of Bhainsa in Telangana after altercations between Hindu and Muslim youth-led to stone pelting on March 7, 2021. Thirty-eight people have been arrested in connection with these riots, the majority being members of the right-wing nationalist organization Hindu Vahini. The police are on the lookout for 70 more people whose parts in the riots have been established.
What Happened In Bhainsa
Two, two-wheeler bourne youths named Thoth Mahesh and Dattu Patel attacked a Rizwan in Zulfiqar Gali. Rizwan and his friends went looking for the two attackers in Batli Gali. There they were beaten up by Mahesh and Dattu and their friends. Stone pelting followed between people of the two communities after one of the friends of Mahesh and Dattu again went to Zulfiqar Gali to buy alcohol and picked up a fight with members of the other community. A constable who tried to intervene and stop the fight sustained head injuries. Section 144 was imposed in the riot-affected areas.
Y. Nagi Reddy, the inspector general of the north zone, has said that 26 cases have been registered about the violence. The 38 people that have been arrested also include four minors. Twelve people, three of which were police officers, were injured in the stone-pelting. Four houses, thirteen shops, four rickshaws, six cars, and five two-wheelers were set on fire riots.
IGP Reddy said, “People belonging to one group were informed, gathered, and were sent to places under the guidance of Abdul Khabeer alias Baba, AIMIM party’s Counsellor from 15th ward.” He added, “The second group was led by Thota Vijay, Counsellor from 8th Ward and ex-president of Hindu Vahini. Some of the arsons committed on the second and the third day and night…..were led by Santhosh, who is the district president of Hindu Vahini.” He also clarified that the investigation was being conducted in an unbiased manner and that the instigators were identified using CCTV footage and Nenusaitham initiative geotagged cameras.
The Other Side Of The Story
Bandi Sanjay Kumar, the state BJP chief, alleged that the police were torturing Hindu Vahini members. He said that the party would complain to the central government against the state police’s third-degree interrogation methods. He also wrote to Telangana’s governor accusing Muslim “infiltrators” from Maharashtra of causing communal tensions in Bhainsa.
“AIMIM leader Mohammad Jabir Ahmed is the cause for communal violence in Bhainsa. They have been involved in land grabbing for a time now and when the local Hindus…… have been spreading the news via social media, communal violence has begun,” BJP MP Dharmapuri Arvind told news agency Asian News International.
The official spokesperson of the ruling TRS Krishank pushed back criticism of the State Government by saying, “Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao has always been very serious against the communal violence in the state.” He assured action against the riot perpetrators and said, “Strict action will be taken against the people resorting to communal violence in the state and also those who are spreading rumours across social media and are creating disturbances in the society.”
Why is Nodeep Kaur Making Headlines?
Nodeep Kaur is a 23-year-old Dalit Labour Rights Activist from Punjab. She is a member of the Mazdoor Adhikar Sanghatan, an organization based in the Kundli Industrial Area of Haryana which works for workers’ rights. She was involved in a protest with labourers at Kundli, on the border of Haryana and Delhi. The protest was about demanding higher wages for workers. It was also in solidarity with the ongoing farmers’ protests against the new farm laws. She was arrested on January 12. A string of charges was made against her following her arrest, including Section 307 (Attempted Murder). Her sister Rajveer Kaur alleged that the police have tortured and sexually abused Nodeep.
Nodeep Kaur comes from a Dalit family from Gandera Village in the Sri Muktsar Sahib district of Punjab. Her family is one of the activists, her parents are associated with a farmer’s union, and her sister is a member of the Bhagat Singh Chhatra Ekta Manch. After the lockdown restrictions eased, she started working at a factory in Sonipat, Haryana. She also joined the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan around this time.
In a video shared by Canadian Poet Rupi Kaur, Nodeep Kaur can talk about Farmer-Labourer Unity. She speaks in support of the farmers’ protests and says that it is not a sole cause, and everyone needs to come out in support of the farmers.
on january 12—haryana police abducted nodeep kaur from her tent at singhu protest. since then she has been beaten & sexually assaulted while under police custody.
nodeep is 23 yold punjabi dalit woman & trade union activist who has been bravely speaking up about the protests. pic.twitter.com/XvN6TJwKj8
— rupi kaur (@rupikaur_) January 31, 2021
Why Was She Arrested?
Nodeep is a dedicated Labour rights activist. She was involved in a protest, and her associates at the Kundli border demanding higher wages for workers. The protest coincided with the ongoing farmers’ protests and was in solidarity with them. On January 12, a team of Sonipat Police went to the Kundli Industrial Area (KIA), acting on the information of alleged manhandling of management and the staff of a unit and extorting money from them. The police said Kaur and her associates attacked police with sticks and injured seven personnel. Her associates managed to flee, but she got arrested following the incident. She was produced before the court and sent to jail the same day.
The police say they did not seek remand. Sonipat Superintendent of Police said there were prior complaints of extortion against Nodeep Kaur, and a case was registered on December 28 2020. A slew of charges was pressed against her, including Murder, Extortion, Theft, Rioting, Unlawful Assembly, Extortion and Criminal Intimidation and other offences under Sections 148, 149, 332, 353, 186, 384, 379-b, 307. She was sent to the Karnal Jail in Haryana following her arrest.
Allegations Of Sexual Abuse And Torture In Custody
Rajveer, Nodeep’s older sister, visited her in Karnal Jail after her arrest. There, Nodeep told her of the alleged assault by police in Custody. She has alleged that there were no women police officers, and she was taken aside by male cops and beaten black and blue. Rajveer said that she was beaten publicly by male officers, dragged by her hair to the police van. She also said that Nodeep was beaten with sticks and shoes, including her private parts, which caused heavy bleeding. There are also allegations of sexual abuse by male police personnel.
The police vehemently deny these allegations and said that she was kept in the ladies’ waiting room and was accompanied by two female police officers for the entire duration of her stay.
Nodeep claims no medical examination was conducted following her arrest, violating Section 54 of the Criminal Procedure Code. She also claimed that she was made to sign blank papers in Custody. On the contrary, police say that she was taken to the civil hospital to undergo a general medical examination and special medical examination for sexual assault by a lady doctor. But Nodeep did not undergo a medical examination, and she gave a written statement to the doctor stating that she did not want to be examined since she wasn’t assaulted. Denying these allegations, the police said that Kaur did not speak about any assault in front of the magistrate. They called these allegations “an afterthought”.
Her advocate Arshdeep Singh Cheema questioned the statement and asked why the police made two separate requests for medical examinations in the first place.
On January 15, she applied for a medical examination before the magistrate. The magistrate ordered the examination had to be done on January 18. However, her medical examination happened only on January 25, 13 days after her arrest. Cheema claimed that this delay was done to allow her injuries to heal. The medical report later produced before the court pointed out that she did have purplish bruises on her body caused by blunt objects or weapons. Cheema said that these were indicative of the torture she was subjected to by the police.
International Attention For The Case
This case received very little attention before February 6. It was brought to the spotlight by Meena Harris, niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris.
Weird to see a photo of yourself burned by an extremist mob but imagine what they would do if we lived in India. I'll tell you—23 yo labor rights activist Nodeep Kaur was arrested, tortured & sexually assaulted in police custody. She's been detained without bail for over 20 days. pic.twitter.com/Ypt2h1hWJz
— Meena Harris (@meena) February 5, 2021
Her tweet came in response to the hate she received from Right Wing Hindutva elements alongside American and Canadian celebrities like Rihanna, Mia Khalifa and Rupi Kaur for speaking in support of the farmer’s protests.
Rajveer expressed her disappointment in the media about the little coverage it got before Harris’s tweet. Following sustained international recognition, many people domestically started speaking actively about the case and demanding Nodeep Kaur and other jailed activists’ release.
Progression Of Court Proceedings
Three First Information Reports (FIRs) were filed against Kaur, FIR numbers 26, 649 and 25. On February 2, a local court denied her bail application. However, the Government authorities were quick to act after international and domestic furore about her arrest picked up post-February 6. On February 8, the Punjab State Commission for Scheduled Castes asked the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) to provide relief.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court took suo motu cognizance of Kaur’s illegal confinement and alleged police torture on February 12 after receiving complaints of the same via email on 6th and 8th February. The court posted this matter to be heard on February 24 (also the initial date of Kaur’s third bail plea hearing).
On February 12, she got bail on one of the cases, FIR no. 649, which dealt with rioting and other charges. On February 15, she got bail on the second case, FIR no. 26, which dealt with extortion. Her third and final bail application for the case registered under FIR no. 25, which dealt with murder and other charges, was filed on February 15. It was supposed to be heard on February 24, but the court adjourned the case after finding that the state’s medical records were not put on record. The matter was heard finally on Friday, February 26, where she finally got bail.
Justice Avneesh Jhingan also heard the suo motu matter along with the bail plea. This matter will now be discussed in April. Now that Kaur has received bail in all three cases, she got released from jail.
Julian Assange’s Extradition Rejected by UK Court
On January 4, the UK Court ruled that the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be extradited to the United States of America to face criminal charges including breaking a spy law, as his present mental health complications suggest the risk of suicide attempt.
However, USA has stated that it would pursue the extradition and US prosecutors are ready to appeal the decision to London’s High Court.
Who is Julian Assange?
The 49-year-old Australian-born Assange has been accused of 18 offences regarding the release by WikiLeaks of a wide range of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables that may endanger the safety of lives. Assange, who spent a significant part of the last decade either in prison or self-imposed confinement, has been denied bail and remains in jail.
The US Justice Department claims that it has won on all the legal points, including political motivation and freedom of speech-related arguments, and thus, it would continue to seek Assange’s extradition.
USA’s government take:
The Obama administration did not prosecute Assange due to concerns about the precedent the case could set in free speech and journalism. Assange’s legal team has held the outgoing US President Donald Trump responsible for pressuring the concerning launch of the US effort for extradition, which could cause a grave threat to press freedom.
However, the White House has not issued any immediate comment on the ruling and Trump administration has given mixed messages. In contrast, the President-elect Joe Biden’s side has refrained from commenting.
Trump had shown his approval to WikiLeaks shortly before the 2016 presidential election for releasing hacked emails which landed his opponent Hillary Clinton in an embarrassing position. However, after Trump took office, his first CIA director Mike Pompeo stated that WikiLeaks was “a non-state hostile intelligence service”.
Ruling of UK Judge and further deteriorating condition of Julian:
Judge Vanessa Baraitser said that her judgment was based only on the possibility of Assange attempting suicide if kept in a US maximum security jail as he suffered from severe depression at intervals and had been diagnosed with autism.
In May 2019, half a razor blade had been discovered in his London jail cell. Assange also told the medical staff that he was having suicidal thoughts and making plans for the same. Baraitser also said that Assange made regular calls to the Samaritans suicide-prevention charity from prison.
According to Baraitser, “I find that Mr Assange’s risk of committing suicide, if an extradition order were to be made, to be substantial. The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man, who is genuinely fearful about his future.”
For Assange’s supporters, the ruling was a victory, but the threat of extradition still looms large over his head. His partner Stella Moris said, “I call on the President of the United States to end this now: Mr President, tear down these prison walls, let our little boys have their father. Free Julian, free the press, free us all.”
People in support considers Julian as “Hero”:
Assange supporters consider him to be an anti-establishment hero, a victim for exposing US wrongdoings in Afghanistan and Iraq. Supporters claim his prosecution is to be a politically motivated assault on the press and freedom of speech.
However, the US prosecutors and Western security officials regard him to be a dangerous enemy of the state whose reckless actions in leaking classified information, has imperilled the lives of the agents, named in the material.
On the other hand, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that his country would extend political asylum to Assange and he is in favour of pardoning him.
History of Legal trails with different governments:
Assange’s legal battles began when Sweden sought his extradition from Britain over alleged sex crimes. He lost the case in 2012 and fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London and stayed there for seven years. In April 2019, Assange was finally dragged out from there and imprisoned for breaching British bail conditions. The Swedish case has been dropped till that time. The US Justice Department formally asked Britain last June to extradite him.
However, Baraitser has rejected Trump’s team’s claims for pressuring the US prosecutors due to lack of evidence of hostility on Trump’s part and shunned the claims of the case being political and threatening freedom of speech.
She also said that Assange’s chances of getting a fair trial in the USA were adequate though she believes that Assange had breached investigative journalism boundaries. But she also feels that if Assange is found guilty, he would be sent to ADX Florence maximum security prison (SAM) in almost complete isolation where he could devise a plan of committing suicide, despite their preventive measures.
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