Thursday, March 31, 2016

Urvashi Sarkar interviews Activist Zakia Soman on the need to codify Muslim personal law


Even Parsis and Christians, whose family laws were already existing, amended their laws from time to time. The right to personal laws based on religion is a constitutional entitlement that all communities have. Muslims are the only community who have been denied their legal rights, thanks to the opposition of patriarchal forces who have stonewalled any change in the area of personal law, and the government’s informal alliance with them. The most affected have been Muslim women who have been discriminated against and denied justice.

Justice B. Kemal Pasha, a sitting judge of the Kerala high court, was recently in the spotlight for comments made at a seminar in Kozhikode organised by the Punarjani Charitable Trust, a women lawyers collective, and Nisa, a progressive Muslim women’s forum. He called for the reform of Muslim personal law, spoke against dowry and asked rhetorically why a Muslim woman could not have four husbands. The last remark in particular generated a controversy and was greeted with open hostility by a broad section of the Muslim clergy in Kerala.

To understand the uproar over his comments, The Wire spoke to Zakia Soman, co-founder of the Bharatiya Mahila Muslim Andolan (BMMA), a rights-based mass movement led by Muslim women. Soman places the judge’s remarks in context, explains why they can be deemed historic and exposes the patriarchal mindset of those attacking the judge. She also explains how the resistance to codification of Muslim personal law is a denial of the constitutional rights of Muslim women.

Justice Pasha’s comments, especially that a woman should be allowed to have four husbands, have come in for severe criticism. What is BMMA’s response?
The statement attributed to him – that a woman should have four husbands – has been converted into a headline by the media. But that’s not the point. He said a lot of substantive things. For example, he said that despite Quranic rights, Muslim women have not got justice as far as personal law is concerned. He spoke a major truth and we welcome it. He also called for a reform of Muslim personal law. When a sitting judge says this, that too male, it is important. In fact, it is historic. Every democratic person who believes in the constitution, and anyone who is a Muslim, and has read the Quran should support this. Islam considers men and women equal. The misinterpretations of the text, owing to patriarchal mindsets in the last 1400 years, have resulted in women being treated as second class human beings. Although there have been scholars who have written about  men and women being equal in the Quran, few people, especially men, have publicly spoken for gender justice in Islam.

What kind of organisations are attacking Justice Pasha? Some of his opponents have even claimed that his views on divorce and maintenance echo those of the RSS.
They go after anyone who speaks of reform. They resort to personal attacks as in our case too, and anyone who talks about reform is an RSS stooge – there must be a limit to conspiracy theory!

As far as I know, these organisations include Samastha Kerala Jamiyathul Ulama, a body of male clerics from Kerala holding extremely conservative and patriarchal worldviews, despite Quranic injunctions on gender justice. They have a limited perspective on these issues, which is solely their own, and does not draw legitimacy from the Quran.
What gives them the power and legitimacy to spread their ideology?
They are self-appointed male custodians of religion. The religion of Islam has no place for intermediaries, institutionalised clergy or leadership; the rapport between a Muslim and Allah is direct. They also draw their legitimacy from the overall patriarchy prevalent in all faith communities.

These self-appointed custodians claim the sole right to speak on behalf of all Muslims and insist that they are the only arbiters of Islam; no change can happen without their will. The misinformation spread by them has led to a sense that men are superior to women in the Muslim community. This is absolutely untrue. Again, the Quran has to be read in the context of the time we are living in. For example, what was permission for polygamy at a given time in history cannot be stretched as a licence in modern day. Permission under certain circumstances with strict conditions is certainly not encouragement. Nowhere does the Quran encourage polygamy.

The stranglehold of patriarchy is visible in all faiths. Take the Sabarimala temple, the Shani Shingnapur temple or any other temple. They are run by temple trusts, but the respective deity cannot belong only to the trust.  The god belongs to all devotees, who should have equal rights of access. But some people have appointed themselves trustees and administrators as in Sabarimala or the Haji Ali Shrine, and these orthodox men decide who will be included or barred, whether women and girls, those in the menstruating group, or Dalits.

Conservative Muslim clergy frequently make statements that infringe on and curb the rights of Muslim women, whether with regard to divorce, education, work or inheritance. How important is it to codify Muslim personal law?
The long term solution is the codification of Muslim personal law within the Quranic framework. This is in consonance with the Indian constitution, which upholds the right of religious freedom through Article 25, 28, 29 and others.  Different faiths, including religious minorities, have their respective family laws which are periodically amended. It is only Muslims whose family laws are from the British era, dating back to 1937 and 1939. They are highly incomplete and do not address questions on age of marriage, triple talaq, polygamy, inheritance, property rights and the custody of children.

If Muslim personal law is codified, would it prevent the likes of Samastha Kerala Jamiyathul Ulam, All India Muslim Personal Law Board and others from making anti-women statements publicly?
Yes, it will break the hegemony and stranglehold over the lives of ordinary women and men. Currently, Muslim personal law is open-ended and subjective since the British era legislation from which they stem is incomplete and silent on many issues. If a comprehensive law is written down and passed by parliament, their stranglehold will disappear. Muslim women will get justice since violators can be punished. Triple talaq and halalah, which are un-Islamic practices, would be banned. This is why orthodox forces are resisting the codification of Muslim personal law. In many Muslim countries where the personal law is codified, triple talaq is not a valid form of divorce.

The clergy claims that the source of personal law is Sharia, which is also stated by the 1937 Act. The meaning of Sharia is Islamic law. But where is it written down? Every maulvi or qazi has his own interpretation of Sharia, and all malpractices are passed off as Islamic. Qazis validate oral divorce, polygamy or halalah instead of pointing out their invalidity as per the Quran, since these are barbaric practices. It is high time the Muslim personal law is codified. BMMA has even prepared a draft law following consultations over five years.

Justice Pasha also said that it was unfair to oppose the Uniform Civil Code (UCC). BMMA has a different view on the UCC. Can you elaborate?
Jawaharlal Nehru and Ambedkar initially proposed the UCC as they were concerned about gender justice. They feared that the religious orthodoxy would not permit justice and equality for women despite the Constitution. The idea of the UCC was rejected as an attack on ancient Indian tradition and heritage largely by sadhus and sants of the day. The idea was dropped and the Hindu marriage and succession Acts were passed in the 1950s. Even Parsis and Christians, whose family laws were already existing, amended their laws from time to time. The right to personal laws based on religion is a constitutional entitlement that all communities have. Muslims are the only community who have been denied their legal rights, thanks to the opposition of patriarchal forces who have stonewalled any change in the area of personal law, and the government’s informal alliance with them. The most affected have been Muslim women who have been discriminated against and denied justice.

In the last decade, the UCC has been mired in so much politics. The Hindu right has revived the demand for a UCC, but have never brought a draft before the public. They are throwing it like a gauntlet. Do they mean to say that post-UCC, a Hindu marriage will take place without saptapadi, saat phera or kanyadan?

The UCC debate concerns all communities and not just Muslims. Our concern is legal justice and equality for Muslim women as guaranteed by both the Quran and the constitution.




Rochelle Pinto - Catholics should shrug off Hrithik Roshan's Pope joke and stop participating in the politics of hurt

the Catholic community in particular could refresh public culture with a display of its sturdy sense of humour by wishing Roshan better luck with his love life and moving on.

Abraham Mathai, the president of an organisation called the Indian Christian Voice, has asked for an apology from Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan for allegedly hurting “the religious feelings and sentiments” of Christians. Earlier this week, Mathai’s lawyer sent the actor under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, after Roshan tweeted this message to emphasize his degrees of separation from the various women with whom he has been associated in the media.

One could probably find more Pope jokes shared among Catholics in India than Roshan could ever think of. But if some in the community are greeting his remarks with indignation, it is because claiming equal opportunity hurt has become a way to establish political rights at a time when hyperbolic violent speech has changed the terms of public debate.

More significantly, in the current context of political representation in India, public insult and sexual threats are seen to substantively diminish the political status of the recipient. Perhaps the Catholic community should seize the opportunity to refuse this position, given that Roshan’s throwaway tweet is something that would not receive more than a passing glance at another moment.

Section 295A, put in place prior to Independence to guard against denigration of religion, has been used to contest dissenting views by believers as well as offensive representations of religions. Semitic religions have a long history of negotiating what is permissible (or not) in images and words. The interaction with practices in India, where political rituals and gestures endow and divest people of power and status, makes the question of representation and hurt more layered than the words suggest.

Thus jokes about Christ or the Pope are less likely to elicit action in countries where religion has ceased to be defining, though it may continue to offend. Sexuality and caste are also volatile symbols of political identity, and for as long as dignity in India is stripped through gesture and word, any easy equalisation of all representation into a freedom of speech category obscures these issues. Protective legislation is still necessary in spheres other than the religious.

This has, however, provided a large canvas for the manipulation of community sentiment and for unethical uses of laws that were intended to protect the rights of religious groups. Post Independence, the politics of religious hurt has been used to mold political behavior providing political parties with a handy model for instigating acts of desecration and sparking violence.

Masculinity and religious sentiment
Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code has, as a creative development on the uses of the law, spawned the politics of comparative hurt. If a community does not respond to defilement of images or jokes, members feel they have been disallowed a share in the politics of hurt; leading to the idea that public shaming has occurred.

Under different political regimes, community formation has also been effectively gendered so that not responding to real or perceived threats is seen as a sign of weakness and emasculation. This has helped the culture of authoritarianism immensely, as it uses the political connotations that this provision has acquired to draw all communities, especially minorities, into accepting the offer of equal opportunity fundamentalism or control.

As authoritarianism as a political culture has expanded, it is evident that sharing in its politics has neither helped disadvantaged minorities, nor has it protected them from assault. It has instead, worked well as an alibi for strengthening authoritarian rule. It has also complicated the position of dissenters within minority groups, who have to assert distinct identities against majoritarian ones while distancing themselves from aspects of minority politics that they disagree with.

Rather than being held hostage to these tensions, perhaps minority groups could refuse the offer of equal opportunity hurt through which they are deflected from securing political rights or building an alternate political culture. At the same time, it is worth clarifying that the term “minority appeasement” merely signifies a majoritarian perspective and participates in the ideology of Hindutva as it casts all minority issues in the category of unjustified demands on the state.

An opening for minority politics
While acts of intended defilement or insult have an intimidating effect in polarised and marginal community neighbourhoods or at the time of elections, a detached view should be taken of utterances by film stars or movies and books that are not direct attacks.

Further, there is a vast difference between expressing difference, and taking legal action. Not demanding an apology would diminish the effect of the tweet especially as the swirl of media attention is likely to shift to something equally irrelevant in the next few days. Besides, the community scarcely needs to define itself in relation to a soap-operatic public spat.

In previous instances, Abraham Mathai’s responses have been to more substantive issues such as asserting the right of Dalit Christians toreservation, and protesting attacks on tribal communities. Significantly, in 2012, he opposed PA Sangma’s exoneration of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh for responsibility in the Godhra riots of 2002 and the attacks in Orissa on Christians in 2008, when the Christian politician sought Modi’s support for his candidature as President.

In his critique of Sangma, Mathai has shown the way to rejecting the duplicitous offer of political tokenism in exchange for a democratic space for minorities. If this is extended to avoiding the use of Section 295A especially at this moment when it is most associated with intimidation of free speech, it would restrict the use of the law to cases of vulnerability and violation of democratic rights and expand the sphere in which public persuasion and critique is still possible.

More promisingly, it would distance minority political practice from the culture of prohibition and bans through which the current government and fundamentalist groups intimidate civil society into silence. It may be recalled that an impetus for the ongoing student agitation was the attack against the screening of the film on the Muzaffarnagar riots by Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula and his peers in Hyderabad Central University. The attack on both, the potential solidarity expressed between Dalits and Muslims, and the assertion of free speech, is a political opportunity for minorities to build wide solidarities based on mutual rights rather than a reactive politics.

For minorities in India, there is much to be gained by isolating fundamentalist forces in their use of bans, book burning and unethical use of the law. As someone who represents no other Christian, I might add that the Catholic community in particular could refresh public culture with a display of its sturdy sense of humour by wishing Roshan better luck with his love life and moving on.


Blake Smith - Cradle of democracy: When Pondicherry fought for the right to vote in 1789

As Pondicherry prepares for legislative assembly elections this spring, it brings to mind a neglected anniversary: over 225 years have passed since residents of this former French colony first sought the right to vote. Pondicherry is full of signs of France’s colonial presence, which lasted from 1674 to 1954. Streets named after French officials, monuments to Indians who fought for France in the First World War, and the accents of French tourists who lounge in cafés all show that the heritage lives on.

But no monument acknowledges that Pondicherry was a cradle of Indian democracy, where Indians, facing off against an openly racist empire, first tried to participate in elections.

In the summer of 1789, the power of the French king collapsed and democratically-elected local governments sprouted across the French empire, including in Pondicherry. The white inhabitants of the colony, numbering only a few hundred (less than 2% of its total population), elected their own town government and excluded Indians from the elections. They claimed that the right to vote would be wasted on Indians, whom they described as too obsessed with caste prejudice to understand democracy. The French meant to have democracy all to themselves, while continuing to impose colonial rule on their Indian subjects.

Pondicherrians, however, not only understood the idea of equality, but were eager to put it into practice. Several communities pursued different kinds of political action to pressure the French government to recognise that Indians deserved the rights of citizenship.

Some of the most vocal protests came from mixed-race people. Before the French Revolution, they had widely been considered to be white, but now they found themselves denied the status of French citizens by a government increasingly concerned about skin colour. The town council voted that civil rights would be extended only to those children of French men and Indian women “who do not bear too visibly the marks of mixed blood”. French fathers refused to accept their darker-skinned children as fellow citizens.

Similarly affected were the Topas, a mixed-race community descended from marriages between Portuguese traders and Indian women. When they were denied the right to vote, they not only protested to the colonial government, but also sent a petition to the National Assembly in Paris, insisting that “the colour of the Topas must not exclude them” from citizenship. Unanswered and lost in the archives, their petition was only recently discovered by historian Adrian Carton.

Still more radical were the actions of the city’s Tamil population, which constituted the majority. At times members of the community took direct action against the colonial government. For instance, when the police tried to seize the goods of a bankrupt merchant who had been ruined by the government’s refusal to repay debts that it owed him, the Tamil community took to the streets to protect his property.

Tamil elites also used softer approaches, writing their own petition to the National Assembly. They claimed that they had “French hearts” and “honored themselves with the title of French citizens”, subtly drawing attention to the fact that they were not, in fact, treated as citizens. This petition, like that of the Topas, was ignored by the French government, and has long been ignored by historians.

In 1793, Pondicherry was invaded by the British, who brought the French Revolution in India to a sudden end. But even if the revolution was brief, it nevertheless provided an historic opportunity for Pondicherrians to show that they desired equality. In spite of French prejudices, they insisted that the rights of citizenship included all of Pondicherry’s inhabitants, regardless of colour. Their inspiring struggle for democracy deserves to be remembered.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Mrinal Pande - What the lives of the five virgins of the Ramayan and Mahabharat can teach us

Early every morning, millions of Indians may remember hearing family elders chanting the names of the panch kanyas or five virgins – Ahilya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara and Mandodari – from the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. Hindus believe that uttering the names of these five women every day can destroy the greatest of sins.

I always wondered why some obvious names like Sita and Savitri and Arundhati were missing in this list of pure women? Also, how could married women be called kanyas or virgins? Finally, weren’t all of these women traumatised by unsolicited sexual abuse, or stigmatised by being wives of serial abusers of other women? Is there an unseen clue hidden behind invoking their names each morning? What are the stories the names carry with them?

It was the great Sanskrit scholar Vishwanath Kashinath Rajwade’s brilliant unfinished treatise on marriage in ancient India, based on the Mahabharata, which gave me some answers. Today, in common parlance, the word kanya means a young virgin. But in the Mahabharata, as the sun god visiting young princess Kunti explains to her, the root of the word kanya is kam or to desire.

Thus a kanya is a young woman who has the right to claim whosoever is the subject of her desire. Our panch kanyas, therefore, are five extraordinarily honest, spunky women, who stood up for their right to justify their desires. When the need arose, these women meted out the harshest punishments to predatory men – who used wile or claims of familiarity to sexually abuse women and then expected them to stay silent and disappear.

Two poets Valmiki and Ved Vyas introduce us to this extraordinary band of women by recording their remarkable stories. Both the poets exonerated the women of the charges made against them by their divine and/or regal male abusers. Poets alone have the gaze that can plumb the depths of history and introduce the world to the inconsolable hearts of birds and humans. Valmiki and Ved Vyas knew what it was to be reviled for being illegitimate. They were poets living on the edge of society who were honest record-keepers of human history and wars. Valmiki, the writer of the Ramayana, was a dacoit-turned-saint who gave shelter to a pregnant Sita exiled by her maryada purushottam (ideal man) husband, Ram, after tongues began wagging in Ayodhya about Sita’s chastity following her rescue from the clutches of Ravana. Ved Vyas was the ugly illegitimate son of queen Satyavati (the great-grandmother of the Pandavas and Kauravas), who chose to live in exile upon a tiny island, while a fratricidal war between deemed legitimate brothers decimated a whole age as narrated in the Mahabharata.

Ahilya
She appears in the Ramayana as the plain-looking pious wife to the sage Gautama. The trickster god Indra, impersonated Gautama and abused her sexually while her husband was out for his morning ablutions. When the sage returned and saw them together, he cursed both Indra and Ahilya, who turned into a stone. Much later, when Rama was travelling through the forest, he stubbed his toe on the large boulder that was Ahilya and his touch broke the spell. As Ahilya stood before him, moved by her obvious grace and purity, Rama touched her feet and asked his brother to do likewise. “Such grace must be revered and bowed to”, he said.

Draupadi

She was born out of the fire of revenge that consumed her father Drupad. Her hand was won by Arjuna in a Swayamvara through a tightly contested competition of archery. But after an absent-minded mother-in-law asked the brothers to share Arjuna’s prize, she was forced to be wife to all five Pandava brothers. Then the oldest brother, Yudhisthir, lost her (and everything else) in a game of dice and the winners, his cousins the Kauravas, dragged her by the hair calling her a whore who slept with multiple partners. Draupadi then vowed gory revenge on her tormentors. “O Krishna,” she told her dearest friend and confidant, “these men are now nothing to me!”

“You lost our riches as a lazy cowherd loses his cows in a jungle,” she screamed to her husbands. “Fie upon such cowardice disguised as principle.”

According to Villiputthur Alavar’s Tamil version of the Mahabharata, several centuries later, this fiery woman, as Draupadi Amman, became a goddess of revenge all over north Arkot in Tamil Nadu. She also gained two local guardians – Pottu Raja and Muttal Ravuttan – one a Hindu, another a Muslim. Pottu Raja was minister to the king of Koshambi and managed to save his lord’s kingdom only with Draupadi Amman’s help while the king was away on a pilgrimage. Statues of Pottu Raja holding an enemy’s head dripping blood still guard gates to all Draupadi Amman’s temples, reminding visitors of how she did not tie her hair until she had washed it with the blood of those who had tormented her. Here, Draupadi is female memory pitted against the abusive authority of the male state and a weak jurisprudence.

Kunti
Kunti’s story turns the male-created myths about legitimacy and heirs upon itself. As the five Pandavas – Yudhisthir, Bhima, Arjuna, Nakul and Sahdeva – sired by various gods claimed the throne of Hastinapur as theirs by the law of the land and killed and maimed the sons of a blind king who, being physically disabled, was deemed unfit to be king, the idea of a fratricidal Mahabharata war begins to look like a sick joke. As a young girl, Kunti was granted the powers to summon whoever she wished as her companion. She summoned the Sun God and became his bride for the night. She conceived but was forced to abandon her firstborn, as she was an unwed mother. Ironically, after her marriage to Pandu, her ailing and impotent husband, he begged her to use her boon discreetly to impregnate herself and her co-wife Madri, in order to provide the kingdom with heirs. Thus the five Pandavas were born. Misfortune thereafter followed Kunti like a shadow. She wandered incognito with her exiled sons, unable to publicly acknowledge the great archer Karna as hers. She tried to get even with the system in the only way open to widows like her – by upholding the myth of patriarchy and instilling in her sons the claim that they alone had the legitimate right to the throne of Hastinapur. The rest, as they say, is history.

Mandodari
The beautiful wife of King Ravana of Lanka, Mandodari, whose name literally means “she of the slender waist”, was the daughter of the great architect Maya, the Asura. She was given in marriage to Ravana while she was still very young. Maya, like many fathers of girls, had wailed that being father to a nubile daughter was a burden on any honourable man. Like all girls forced to grow up fast, Mandodari was a quick learner. She was both sharp and forthright in asking her errant husband to send the abducted Sita back immediately. “Sita seet nisa sum (Sita is here to haunt us like a long dark winter night),” she said. When she saw that her husband was unmoved, she prophesied that his abduction and degradation of another man’s wife with lustful intentions would end in his death. She told her husband that tears of good women did not fall to be absorbed and forgotten, they always brought nasty results... Read more:
http://scroll.in/article/805344/what-the-lives-of-the-five-virgins-of-the-ramayan-and-mahabharat-can-teach-us


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

'Who was Bharat? Why are we calling him mata?' Watch this man ask a question that no one else is

Bharat and mata? Here's a pertinent question raised in the video above.

“If Bharat is a man, why are you calling him mata?” asks the man as he drives a car. The unidentified man cites the story of Shakuntala and King Dushyant, whose son was named Bharat. In this story Bharat became a great king, and the country was named after him.

“According to this story, Bharat was named Bharat after Dushyant and Shakuntala's son, which means that Bharat is a male name... How can you say Bharat mata ki jai, if Bharat is a man?” The questioner is relentless.

“And if you try to prove a man to be a woman, then it won't remain either.” 

The solution? “Let's not raise this issue. Let's not get into the gender identity of our nation. Everyone loves their nation and they want what's good for it.”

See video
http://video.scroll.in/805845/who-was-bharat-why-are-we-calling-him-mata-watch-this-man-ask-a-question-that-no-one-else-is

TAREK FATAH - Lahore slaughter born of virulent racism

Add Lahore as the latest entry to the list of cities to fall victim to jihadi terrorism. But there is an angle to this horrible act of carnage most have missed. My earliest memories of life in Lahore, the capital of Pakistan’s Punjab province, are of playing marbles with a boy my own age, before being yanked away from him. My aunts warned me never, ever to associate with that boy. When I asked why, they said: “Don’t you know he is a ‘choora’?”  (This refers to Punjabi Christians who removed human waste from the roof top toilets in the centuries-old buildings inside the old walled city of Lahore).

Which brings us to the media reporting of the Lahore terrorist attack that would be incomplete without mention of the horrific racism and discrimination Punjabi Christians face at the hands of many within Pakistan’s Muslim communities — from secular liberal to orthodox, ultra-conservatives. Despite the fact the Punjabi Christian community is highly literate, dedicated to education and hard work, even those who have served and fought as senior officers in their country’s military cannot escape the slurs often uttered behind their backs.

Christians account for only 2% of the almost 180 million population of Pakistan, but their representation in the occupation of janitorial services is over 80%. Few are willing to clean up their own mess if they can get a Christian to do it for them. In Lahore alone, according to the Lahore Waste Management Company, there are 7,894 city-employed janitors and most are Christian.

Thus the slaughter of Punjabi Christians by the Islamist terrorists is not merely the result of an inter-religious feud. It is an illustration of unchecked racism and official contempt for darker-skinned Christians, who have suffered untold miseries at the hands of many within the country’s Muslim majority. A testament to this apartheid-type regimen is the fate of Asia Bibi, a Christian, held inside a Pakistani prison on trumped up allegations she blasphemed against Islam.

Salamat Akhtar, a former professor of history in Pakistan, says the government, “deliberately pursued a policy to keep Christians in this occupation [janitors].” In 1980, Akhtar was President of the All Pakistan College Teachers’ Association. Here’s how he has described a meeting he once had with the country’s top education official: “Not knowing I was a Christian, the Education Secretary said the government was worried that a large number of Christians were obtaining education. … If all the Christians would be educated, then no one would be left to sweep our roads and pick up garbage. The Secretary said the government was following a policy that only half of the Christians could become educated, while the rest of them remain in this occupation.”

Not even the Pope mentioned the bigotry of some of Pakistan’s most liberal Muslims against their Christian fellow citizens. In a message after the Easter slaughter, the pontiff said: “I repeat, once again, that violence and murderous hatred only lead to pain and destruction. Respect and fraternity are the only way to achieve peace. …. Let us pray for those who died in this attack and their families and for the Christian and ethnic minorities in that region.”

Pope Francis made no specific mention of the Islamist nature of the terrorist attack, or of the racist bigotry Pakistan’s Christians face at the hands of many Muslims. Was it political correctness? Something else? Let history be the judge.



China saw a dramatic increase in wage arrears protests in run up to New Year // China on strike

The extent of China’s chronic wage arrears problem became clear in the run up to the Lunar New Year as workers all over the country staged protests in a bid to get paid before the 8 February holiday. Between 1 December and 8 February, CLB’s Strike Map recorded 1,050 strikes and collective protests by workers, about 90 percent of which were related to the non-payment of wages.

The highest concentration of unrest was in Guangdong, Henan, Shandong and Hebei, with multiple protests by construction workers occurring in several major cities such as Zhengzhou (23 incidents) and Chengdu (21 incidents). Beijing, Guangzhou and Chongqing all had 14 construction worker protests in this period.

The construction industry, in which the non-payment of wages is an endemic and systematic problem, accounted for about 55 percent of all protests between 1 December and 8 February. Manufacturing accounted for 23 percent of the strikes and protests in the pre-New Year period and mining 5.6 percent, up from 4.0 percent during 2015 as a whole.

Given the Chinese government’s stated plans to lay off 1.8 million workers in the coal and steel industries alone over the next few years, there is a danger that the number of worker protests in these industries will only increase. The well-documented problems of China’s shrinking manufacturing sector were reflected in the number of worker protests related to factory closures. The garment and shoe industries have been particularly badly affected and accounted for 40 percent of all factory closure and relocation disputes in the run up to the New Year holiday.

Even before the New Year surge in wage arrears protests, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security admitted there was huge wage arrears problem in China and that it was only getting worse. The Ministry reported in November last year that there had been 11,007 “incidents of migrant worker wage arrears” (发生涉及拖欠农民工工资问题的突发事件) in the first three quarters of 2015, an increase of 34 percent over the same period in 2014.

The Ministry also noted that wage arrears were no longer confined to the construction industry but had spread to manufacturing and the extractive industries as well. Although not explicitly stated, it seems that the “incidents” referred to by the Ministry are collective protests, which would indicate that CLB’s Strike Map records around 12 percent of all worker protests in China. The Strike Map, which relies primarily on data from social media in China, recorded 1,350 wage arrears protests in the first three quarters of 2015.

From 2011 to 2013, China Labor Bulletin (CLB), a Hong Kong-based workers' rights group, recorded around 1,200 strikes and protests across the country. In 2014 alone, there were more than 1,300 incidents. The following year, that number rose to over 2,700 — more than one a day in Guangdong province — a pattern that has continued into 2016.

A glance at the map of incidents shows no province of China unaffected by strikes or worker protests, a far sight from the image of technocratic control and permanent growth that the ruling Communist Party likes to present to the world. "The fundamental cause has been the systematic failure of employers to respect the basic rights of employees, such as being paid on time and receiving their legally mandated benefits, and the failure of local government officials to enforce labor law," according to CLB.






Bill Weir - Is marriage outdated in Iceland?

"What would a society look like without marriage?" The question popped into my brain after I stumbled across a list of countries with the most unwed mothers. With 40% of its babies born out of wedlock, America sits near the middle of the global pack in this category. Conservative Turkey brings up the rear with a scant 3%.

And the nation at the top of the list? The world leader in single moms? Iceland. More than two-thirds of Icelandic babies -- 67% -- are born to parents who are not married. This might be a shameful distinction in many spots around the world. In the land of the Vikings, it is a point of pride.

The island may have been settled by marauding brutes, but it is now the most feminist society on the planet, and with that one tantalizing fact, Sunday's episode of "The Wonder List" was born. With about 320,000 citizens, Iceland has fewer people than Tulsa, Oklahoma, and more glaciers, geysers and clean, fresh water than countries 10 times its size.

The Viking sagas and otherworldly landscapes have inspired movies and shows like "Lord of the Rings" and "Game of Thrones," and after generations of impoverished isolation, Iceland is experiencing a tourist boom unlike anything the country has ever seen.

But few American visitors would suspect that these handsome people with their tongue-twisting language have blown up everything they know about love and marriage. "You have this horrible term in English, 'broken families,' " Bryndis Asmundottir says over coffee. "Which basically means just if you get divorced, then something's broken. But that's not the way it is in Iceland at all. We live in such a small and secure environment, and the women have so much freedom. So you can just, you can choose your life."

Bryndis has three kids with two partners and not a drop of shame or regret. She explains that since few Icelanders are religious, there is no moral stigma attached to unwed pregnancy. And her country guarantees some of the most generous parental leave in the world: nine months at 80% pay (three months for mom, three for dad and another three to be divvied up). As a result, women are emboldened to start families whether or not their men took Beyoncé's advice to "put a ring on it."

"We think diamonds are evil," Bryndis says with a laugh, explaining that it is the norm for a couple to spend years together as parents before even considering marriage.


But American culture has a huge influence in Iceland, so the concept of bridal showers and engagement rings becomes a little less bizarre with every rom-com they enjoy on Netflix. And after the 2008 banking crisis nearly sank the Icelandic economy, many are still deeply in debt, and the temptation to scale back the mom-friendly welfare state is stronger than ever.

With melting glaciers and crowding tourists, this volcanic land seems on the brink of seismic change. But when it comes to swapping marriage vows and licenses, as far as Icelanders are concerned, love really is all you need.



Report of Fact Finding Team of Editors Guild of India on attacks on media in Bastar (Chhattisgarh)

Challenges to Journalism in Bastar
A report by the Fact Finding Team of the Editors Guild of India

The Team:
  1. Prakash Dubey, General Secretary
  2. Seema Chishti, Executive Committee member
  3. Vinod Verma,Executive Committee member
Places of Travel:
Jagdalpur, Bastar and Raipur

Dates of Travel:
March 13 to 15, 2016

Terms of reference:
To verify and assess:
Recent reports of the arrests of journalists in Chhattisgarh
The threats and challenges  faced by journalists in the state
The challenges to the profession of journalism

Summary

Bastar division of  Chhattisgarh state is fast becoming a conflict zone. There is a constant battle on between the security forces and the Maoists. Journalists, caught in the middle, are under attack by both the state and non-state actors. Several incidents have been reported over the past few months of attacks on journalists. At least two, according to the reports, were arrested and imprisoned and others threatened and intimidated to a point where they had to leave Bastar for fear of their lives. The residence of at least one journalist, according to the information, was also attacked.

The Editors Guild of India constituted a three member Fact Finding Team to look into these reported incidents. Since Seema Chishti was unable to travel, Prakash Dubey and Vinod Verma travelled to Raipur/Jagdalpur on 13th, 14th and 15th of March, 2016.

The fact finding committee members met a number of journalists and government officials in Jagdalpur. In Raipur the team met Chief Minister Dr. Raman Singh and all top officials of the state, several Editors and some senior journalists.

The team recorded the statements of journalists Malini Subramaniam and Alok Putul. It also visited the central jail to meet journalist Santosh Yadav.

The fact finding team came to the conclusion that the media reports of threats to journalists are true. The media in Chhattisgarh is working under tremendous pressure. In Jagdalpur and  the remote tribal areas  the  journalists find it even more difficult to gather and disseminate news. There is pressure from the state administration, especially the police, on journalists to write what they want or not to publish reports that the administration sees as hostile. There is pressure from Maoists as well on the journalists working in the area. 

There is a general perception that every single journalist is under the government scanner and all their activities are under surveillance. They hesitate to discuss anything over the phone because, as they say, “the police is listening to every word we speak.” Several senior journalists confirmed that a controversial citizen group Samajik Ekta Manch’ is funded and run by the police headquarters in Bastar. According to them it is a reincarnation of Salwa Judum.

Challenges to Journalists: Some Cases
Challenges of writing for the newspapers are not new in Bastar division of Chhattisgarh. A journalist Premraj, who was representing the Deshbandhu newspaper in Kanker, was booked under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activity (Prevention) Act (TADA) in the year 1991-92 when the undivided Madhya Pradesh state was ruled by the BJP. He was charged with being close to the Maoists. He was later acquitted by the courts for want of evidence.

In December, 2013 a rural journalist Sai Reddy was killed by the rebels in a village near Bijapur.  According to the police, a group of Maoists attacked him with sharp edged weapons near the market and fled from the spot.

Bastar Journalist Association President S. Karimuddin told the fact finding team that in the year 2008, Sai Reddy was arrested by the police and kept in jail under the controversial Chhattisgarh Special Security Act, accusing him of having links with the Maoists. On the other hand, the Maoists suspected him to be loyal to the security forces and set his house ablaze and killed him later.
In February, 2013 one more rural journalist Nemi Chand Jain was also killed by the rebels in Sukma. Rebels were under the impression that he was passing messages to the security forces. 45 days after his murder, the Maoists apologized for his killing.

Last year, in 2015, police arrested two news persons under the same controversial law for allegedly having connections with the Maoists. One of them, Santosh Yadav was arrested in September. He was a stringer for at least two Raipur based newspapers Nav Bharat and Dainik Chhattisgarh. The editors of both the news papers have owned the journalist. The fact finding team met Santosh Yadav in the Jagdalpur Central Jail, where he said that he is also suspected by both the sides of being close to the other side.

A second journalist, Somaru Nag was arrested in July, 2015. He was also a stringer and news agent for a Raipur based newspaper, but that newspaper never came forward to own him as their employee.
Charge sheets in both the cases have been filed and the matter is pending in the courts.

On February 8, 2016, the residence of Malini Subramaniam was attacked by some unidentified people. She is a contributor for Scroll.in and former head of International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC). As Malini told the fact finding team, her house was attacked in the early hours of the morning.  Malini found stones scattered around her Jagdalpur residence and the window of her car shattered. According to her around 20 men gathered around her house a few hours before the attack, shouting slogans like "Naxali Samarthak Bastar Chhoro", "Malini Subramaniam Murdabad". She suspected that the same people must have been involved in the attack. According to the local administration, “her writing is one sided and she always sympathizes with the Maoists.” 

The same allegation was made by the Samajik Ekta Manch. According to the local administration the Manch is  being run by citizens opposed to the Maoists. However, the journalists in Jagdalpur and Raipur said that it was supported and financed by the police. A few of them said that the Inspector General of Police Mr. SRP Kalluri is directly involved in this.

The latest case was reported by BBC Hindi journalist, Alok Putul who was forced to leave Bastar after he received threats. According to his statement, recorded by the FFT (fact finding team), before these threats Alok received messages from the IG and SP who refused to meet him maintaining that they preferred to deal with “nationalist and patriotic journalists.”

Fear Factors
FFT could not find a single journalist who could claim with confidence that he/she was working without fear or pressure. The journalists posted in Bastar and the journalists working in Raipur, all of them spoke of pressure from both sides. They said that the journalists have to work between the security forces and the Maoists, and both sides do not trust journalists at all.

All of them complained about their phone calls being tapped by the administration, and being kept under undeclared surveillance. The government officials categorically denied these charges. Principal Secretary (Home) BVK Sumbramiam said, “I have to sanction every single request for surveillance and I can say this with authority that no govt. department has been authorized to tap phone calls of any of the journalists.”

The journalists posted in Bastar said that they cannot dare to travel to the conflict zone to report because they cannot report the facts on the ground. Although collector Jagdalpur, Amit Kataria told the fact finding team that the whole of Bastar is now open for everyone, including journalists.

The President of Divisional Journalists Association of Bastar, S. Karimuddin said, “I have not visited any place outside Jagdalpur for the last six years, simply because I am not supposed to write the truth and if one cannot write what one sees then there is no point going out to gather information.” He represents UNI in Bastar for more than three decades.

A similar claim was made by the Editor of a local newspaper Dilshad Niyazi who said that he had not visited the neighboring district Bijapur for the last eight years out of fear. Another senior local journalist, Hemant Kashyap, well travelled in the area said he knew Bastar like the back of his hand but that now journalists had stopped travelling. “All the journalists have now stopped going inside the forests because of the fear of police as well as Maoists,” he said. “Now we ask Maoist organizations to send photographs and press releases. We publish them as we receive them because we don’t want to explain every single line we are writing to them. Similarly the police expect us to publish its version so most of the journalists print their press releases as well without asking any questions,” Kashyap said.

Malini Subramaniam told  FFT that even if someone dares to go out to gather information, one is not supposed to talk to the people. She said, “Police officials expect journalists to believe and publish whatever they claim. They don’t like it if someone wants to walk an extra mile for finding the facts. In one case of surrender, when I tried talking to a couple of people, they asked me to identify the persons I wished to talk and then they briefed them before I could reach them.”

The fact finding team found that this fear is not confined to the tribal areas only, but is there in the capital city Raipur too, 280 kilometers away from Jagdalpur. All the reporters working in Raipur also said that their telephones were tapped. Some of them shared incidents that confirmed this. A very senior journalist, who is considered to have a cordial relationship with the Raman Singh govt. said, “No one is spared, not even me. They have been tapping my phone calls too.” Government officials denied this charge as reported earlier and claimed that not a single journalist is under surveillance. They said that there was a perception gap and they would try to change this.

Chief Editor of an old and reputed newspaper Lalit Surjan said that it had become extremely difficult for a journalist to do his/her job. During his meeting with the FFT he said, “If you want to analyze anything independently, you cannot do it because they can question your intentions and can ask bluntly, ‘Are you  with the government for with the Maoists?” He admitted that this problem was not only with the government, but also with the Maoists. He said, “Both sides feel that what you are writing is wrong.”

Surjan said that it  was becoming increasingly difficult to work in areas like Bastar as the journalists cannot avoid meeting Maoists, and the government is not prepared to give them even the benefit of the doubt.  “The government should respect democratic rights and should give benefit of doubt to the journalists,” he said.  He questioned the arrest of the two journalists Santosh Yadav and Somaru Nag and remembers Sai Reddy, who was killed by the Naxals, as a fine reporter.

Challenges faced by JournalismA journalist working in Bastar expects to be asked “Which side of journalism?” This question appears a bit odd but in Bastar it comes naturally. As the local journalists put it, there are three categories of journalists in Bastar. 1. Pro-government, 2. Not so pro government and 3.Pro Maoists or Maoist sympathizers.

The FFT found that there are nearly 125 journalists working in Jagdalpur alone. They can be divided in four categories:

Journalist by profession: There are only a few in this category. They are generally representatives of the Newspapers published from Raipur. Some newspapers have editions in Bastar, so heads of those editions can also be counted in this category. Journalists of this category are on the pay roll of the newspaper or news agency.

Part time journalists: Dozens of journalists belong to this category in Jagdalpur (or in other cities of tribal division of Bastar.) Journalism is not their main occupation. They have to take govt. contracts, work as builders or property dealers, traders, hoteliers or directors of NGOs etc. Apart from their business interests they have become printers and publishers of a newspaper or a periodical magazine, work as correspondent of some unknown or little known publication. Journalism is not their principal vocation. So called journalists of this category did not seem to be at all concerned about the salary they received  from the publication they were working for, they don’t bother about circulation of the publication they own and least bothered about the reputation of the same. Their money comes from somewhere else. The fact finding team was told that many of them use journalistic influence for getting business, govt. contract, advertisements and some time extortion money from government officials and businessmen. Most of the time they are pro government for obvious reasons and senior journalists sitting in Raipur introduce/identify them as journalists on the ‘government pay roll’. Since corruption is rampant in Bastar, they are earning more money for not publishing a news item, than for publishing it. In a conflict zone like Bastar, they are the favorites of the local police and other officials.

Stringers and News agents: They are the backbone of journalism in Bastar. Posted in remote areas of the conflict zone known as stringers, newsagents or even hawkers. They collect news and send it to Jagdalpur bureau of to the head office directly. They don’t have any formal appointment with the newspaper nor do they get remuneration for their work. They get a letter from the newspapers or news agencies they represent, that authorises them to collect news and advertisements. Some might have been issued a press card, that the organisation rarely bothers to renew after it has expired. To the surprise of the FFT many of the stringers in the remote areas are carrying a press card issued by some national television channels too. Their money either comes from advertisement commission or from some other business they are involved in. In case of television sometimes they get paid if the video footage is used, but it happens very rarely and the payment is very low.

Visiting Journalists: They are the journalists representing national or international media. They come from either Raipur, where they are generally posted or from the head offices like Delhi and Mumbai. Police and local administration dislike them the most because they ask many questions, insist on getting the facts and try to visit the affected areas. They are generally seen as Maoist sympathizers or pro-Maoists. 

As one senior editor in Raipur puts it, “their reports seems pro Maoist because they go inside and talk to the people and anything coming from the people usually contradicts the government’s version and hence it is labeled as  pro Maoists or anti government. ” The problem with this lot is, they cannot stay for a long time in Bastar so their reportage is not sustained. Secondly they came with an assignment and they end up looking for a particular story. Third, they cannot access most of Bastar because they are not allowed to visit many parts of the tribal areas, on the grounds that it is not ‘safe’. Four, they don’t understand the local language/dialact and hence are dependent  on what the interpreter is telling them. It could be a local journalist from the above described category no. 2. There are some exceptions like Scroll contributor Malini Subramanian who was staying in Jagdalpur and visiting remote places for gathering news, but she could not stay there for a long time for obvious reasons.

Language and Class:
There are only a few journalists who can understand the language/dialect tribal people speak, whether it is Gondi or Halbi or some other dialect. There is not a single full time journalist who comes from one the tribes. Most of the journalists belong to a different class and speak some other language. Their mother tongue could be Chhattisgarhi, Marwari, Hindi, Telugu, Bangla or Hindi but not the one in which local villagers speak. Language constraints are a problem.

Difficult Terrain:
Major part of the conflict zone is in Abujhmarh, which means ‘unknown hills’. It is hilly forest area which is home for many tribes. The population in this area is very thin. According to the 2011 census India’s average population density is 382 persons per square kilometers but in this part of the country the population density is 10 persons only. Then it is one of those areas of the country where Malaria is common.  Because it is also the so called liberated zone of the  Maoists, it is very difficult to go inside the jungle to gather reports.

Government’s response 
The FFT met Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh Dr. Raman Singh at his residence. All top bureaucrats of the state were also present in the meeting. Editors Guild’s executive committee member Ruchir Garg and editor of a local daily Sunil Kumar were also present in the meeting.

The Chief Minister said that he is aware of most of the incidents and he is concerned about it. He said that his government is in favor of free and fair media. He informed the fact finding team that after the controversy over the arrest of journalist Santosh Yadav he had called a meeting of top officials and some editors and formed a monitoring committee which will be consulted for any cases related to the media and journalists.

About the phone tapping and surveillance allegations, the principal secretary (home) assured the team that he is the authority for sanctioning surveillance and he could say that not a single journalist is under surveillance. The principal secretary to the CM admitted that there is a perception gap and said it was the government’s responsibility to change this perception.

The attitude of Bastar IG Mr. SRP Kalluri towards the press also came up in the meeting. The CM instructed the officials that the behavior of one officer should not take away all the credits of the good job the government is doing in Maoist area. Some senior police official with credibility should be authorized to talk to the press, he said. Principal Secretary (Home) should visit Jagdalpur and interact with the media, the Chief Minister instructed.

CM Dr Singh assured the FFT that his government has no prejudice against any one and he will personally take all necessary steps required to make media free of any kind of fear.

Samajik Ekta Manch
This is an informal but controversial organization in Jagdalpur. The administration calls it a citizen’s forum and claims that people from all walks of life are members of this organization. The collector of Jagdalpur, Amit Kataria said that many religious organizations are also part of it and they are against the  Maoists. But many journalists call it the urban version of Salwa Judum. They, however, did not want to oppose it openly. They said off the record, that the Manch is sponsored by the police and it takes its orders from the police headquarters.

The FFT met one of the coordinators of this organization Subba Rao to understand the working of the Samajik Ekta Manch. He introduced himself as editor of two dailies, one morning and the other published in the evening. When asked, whether his main occupation is journalism, Subba Rao was candid enough to explain that he is basically a civil contractor and he is working on some government contracts. The FFT met more than a dozen journalists in Jagdalpur, but he was the only (so called)  journalist who claimed that he had never experienced any pressure from the administration.

His statements about the arrested journalists were the same as the administrations. He termed Santosh Yadav and Somaru Nag as informer for the Maoists. He said that what Malini Subramaniam was reporting was very biased. “Malini was glorifying Maoists and painting a picture of police like exploiter”, he said. He denied that Samajik Ekta Manch was behind the attack at Malini’s residence.

Cases and the findings

Santosh Yadav/ Somaru Nag
Santosh was arrested by the police on September 29, 2015. Police charged him for working as a courier for the Maoists and taking money from them. Government officials claim that Santosh Yadav is not a journalist and they don’t know which newspaper he was working for. The FFT met Santosh Yadav in the Central Jail in Jagdalpur and discussed the case with him. He claimed that he had been working for at least two newspapers Navbharat and Chhattisgarh. (Editors of both the newspapers confirmed that Santosh Yadav was working for them and they own him as a journalist working for their newspapers).

Santosh Yadav admitted that he had been attending calls from the Maoist leaders because of the nature of his job but he had never passed any information to them. He also admitted that he had been occasionally dropping packets between Darbha and Jagdalpur. Sometimes it was bundle of newspapers or magazines and sometimes some other papers he did not know anything about. He said that anyone who lives in remote area of conflict zone cannot risk his life by refusing the Maoists to carry a bundle of papers from one place to another.

The Chief Editor of the newspaper group the Deshbandhu, Mr. Lalit Surjan said during his discussion with the fact finding team, “Santosh Yadav and many other journalists working in remote area of Bastar should be given the benefit of doubt because they have been talking to Maoists as part of their job. They don’t have any choice.” He said that journalists of those remote areas are also talking to the police as part of their jobs and become victims of Maoist anger.

Santosh Yadav told the FFT that he had been given money by a senior police officer and he was expected to pass information about the Maoists movements around the area, but did not do so. He claimed that after some news items published in the newspapers, he was called by the local police station and was tortured for three days. Somaru Nag was also arrested last year.  He was basically a newspaper agent for a newspaper and also gathering news for the same. But the newspaper doesn’t own him now. Charges are same for him too.

Malini Subramaniam
Malini is a contributor for the website the Scroll.in. She was living in Jagdalpur and collecting news for the website. She was working for the Scroll for nearly one year. Before that she was head of International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC). She was first threatened by a group of people then her house was attacked in the wee hours of February 8, 2016. Then she was compelled to vacate her rented accommodation in Jagdalpur.

When the team was in Jagdalpur she was in Hyderabad. The FFT discussed the case with her over the phone. The local authorities claim that they were not aware that someone is contributing for the Scroll from Jagdalpur. As the collector of Jagdalpur put it, “which is not even mainstream media”

Local journalists say that even they were not aware that Malini Subramaniam was writing for Scroll before the whole controversy came up. Malini admitted that she never bothered to enroll herself as a journalist with the local govt. public relations department, as she was not covering day to day events.

The govt. officials admit that they are not happy with Malini’s writing because ‘it is always one sided and sympathises with the Maoists.’  The Collector of Jagdalpur, Amit Kataria told the FFT- “Even her questions in the press conferences used to be pro Maoist.” Malini in her testimony to the FFT, denied this and said, “Despite my limitations, I have been travelling to remote areas, meeting local people and writing about them. That is something the police don’t want any journalist to do. They want journalists to write what they say of what their press release say.”( Malini told the team that when she was trying to meet some tribal people, the  police objected to it and they picked up a couple of tribal people briefed them first then only did the police allow her to interact with them.)

Malini said that objection on her writings came from a newly formed organisation ‘Samajik Ekta Manch’. Her impression is that this organization is supported by the local police and they take orders from the police only. She told the team that during the day a few dozen people gathered in front of her house and shouting slogan against her and then after mid night her house was attacked.

The fact finding team asked many government officials if they have issued any denial for contradiction notice against the Scroll report, the answer was negative. Malini said that the local police is becoming intolerant and doesn’t want any voice of dissent to be present in Bastar.

Alok PutulHe is a contributor for BBC Hindi from Chhattisgarh. He was in Bastar for gathering news and was trying to meet the Bastar IG Mr. SRP Kalluri and SP Mr. Narayan Das. After many attempts he received this reply from the IG,  “Your reporting is highly prejudiced and biased. There is no point in wasting my time in journalists like you. I have a nationalist and patriotic section of media with and press which staunchly supports me. I would rather spend time with them. Thanks.”

The SP sent a similar message, “Hi, Alok, I have lot of things to do for the cause of nation. I have no time for journalist like you who report in biased way. Do not wait for me.” In his testimony before the team Alok Putul explained that this message was unexpected from the police officers from whom he was trying to take their quotes on the Naxal surrender and law and order situation story he was trying to do.

As Alok explains, “This message was the beginning. After these messages, one local person, known to me, came and advised me to leave the area as some people were looking for me. Initially I was taking it lightly and travelled to another area, there one more person came to me to give me same information. Then I had no other choice but to leave the area immediately.”

Alok told the FTT, “First thing I did was to inform the BBC office in Delhi and some journalist friends in Raipur and then I came back to Raipur.” The Jagdalpur collector, Amit Kataria when asked about this by the team, laughed  and then said, “There was some communication gap between Alok Putul and IG, nothing else.” After several messages and phone calls, the team could not get a chance to meet IG SRP Kalluri. When the team left Delhi, he had assured that he would give an appointment, but stopped responding when the FTT reached there.

Conclusions
  1. Santosh Yadav is a journalist and he has been writing for at least two news papers of Raipur. Both the newspapers have owned him. So the government’s claim that he is not a journalist is baseless.
  2. Authorities claim that they have enough evidence about Yadav’s links with the Maoists. It is now for the court of law to decide where these evidences will be produced. But senior journalists in Raipur feel that he has been a victim of circumstances and he should be given benefit of doubt.
  3. It is clear from the on record statements made by the authorities that the administration was not comfortable with the reports Malini Subramaniam was sending to Scroll.in. And instead of putting their side of the story, the so called citizen’s forum ‘Samajik Ekta Munch’ was incited to attack Malini’s house and compelled her to leave the city and even the state.
  4. Alok Putul was in Bastar to gather some news about the law and order situation for the BBC. Instead of meeting him or talking to him, the two top officials of Bastar sent him messages questioning his nationalism and patriotism. Later he came to know that a few people were looking for him, so he had to leave the place to save himself. Police officials were not available to meet the FFT. The DM dismissed the threats to the journalist as a “communication gap.”
  5. There is a sense of fear in Bastar. Every journalist who is working in Bastar feels that he/she is not safe. On one hand they have to deal with Maoists who are becoming more and more sensitive about the reports appearing in the media and on the other hand, the police wants the media to report as and what they want.
  6. As one Senior Editor Mr. Lalit Surjan puts it, “If you wish to analyze anything independently then you can be judged whether you are with the government or with the Maoists. The democratic space for journalism is shrinking.”
  7. There is a general feeling (in government) in Chhattisgarh that a large section of the national media is pro Maoist. One senior editor, who is perceived as close to the government, said this.
  8. Newspapers and other media houses are appointing journalists as stringers in the remote areas without any formalities. These journalists gather news, collect advertisements and arrange the distribution of the newspapers too. They generally  survive on the commission they get from advertisement collections or they rely on other professions for the same.  A separate and detailed report on stringers is recommended.
  9. There is no mechanism in place for accreditation of those journalists who are working beyond the district head quarters. So when the question of identity arises government conveniently denies that someone is/was a journalist. Media houses also disown them because they see them as liability beyond a point.
  10. The state government wants the media to see its fight with the Maoists as a fight for the nation and expects the media to treat it as a national security issue, and not raise any questions about it.
  11. Chief Minister instructed the administration for better coordination and co operation. A journalist was arrested shortly after the FFT meeting with him, suggesting that there is no shift in policy.
  12. FFT is of the view that news paper organizations should take care while appointing stringers and give them adequate protection.

Vinod Verma                                        Seema Chisti                                        Prakash Dubey   
Member Executive Committee        Member Executive Committee           General Secretary
                                                       EDITORS GUILD OF INDIA

List of people the fact finding team met

CM Dr. Raman Singh
  1. Leader of Opposition T.S. Singhdeo
  2. Pradesh Congress Committee Chief Bhupesh Baghel
  3. ACS, Baijendra Kumar
  4. Special DG (Naxal Oprations) D.M. Awasthy
  5. Principal Secretary to CM, Aman Singh
  6. Principal Secretary (Home) B.V.R. Subramaniam
  7. DG Upadhyay
  8. ADG, Intelligence, Ashok Juneja
  9. DPR, Rajesh Toppo
  10. Collector Jagdalpur, Amit Kataria
  11. President, Bastar Divisional Journalist Association and UNI correspondent S. Kareemuddin
  12. Subba Rao, coordinator of Samajik Ekta Manch, Jagdalpur
  13. Manish Gupta, Chief of Bureau, Navbharat, Jagdalpur
  14. Hemant Kashyap, Nai Dunia, Jagdalpur
  15. Satyanarayan Pathak, Bhaskar, Jagdalpur
  16. Naresh Mishra, reporter, IBC24
  17. Santosh Singh, Navbharat, Jagdalpur
  18. Lalit Surjan, Chief Editor, The Deshbandhu, Raipur
  19. Ramesh Nayyar, Former Editor, Raipur
  20. Sunil Kumar, Editor, Chhattisgarh
  21. Alok Putul, Contributor, BBC Hindi, Raipur
  22. Malini Subramaniam, Contributor Scroll.in (Over phone from Hyderabad)
  23. Santosh Yadav, Arrested journalist, in Central Jail, Jagdalpur
Reports etc.
Sai Reddy Killed: 


Two Journalists Arrested: 

Malini Subramaniam house was attacked:


Alok Putul was forced to leave Bastar: