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January 31, 2016

बाल अपराध बढ़ाएगा किशोर (अ)न्याय विधेयक

गूगल

“आक्रोश और उन्माद हिंसा दे सकते हैं, न्याय नहीं, राज्यसभा में किशोर न्याय (बाल देखरेख एवं संरक्षण) विधेयक-2015 के पारित होने से यही बात फिर से साबित हुई है। उंन्‍मादित जनता बस 16 दिसंबर 2012 सामूहिक बलात्कार (निर्भया) के किशोर अपराधी का खून मांगने निकली थी, सरकार ने उसके दामन में देश भर के बच्चों को अपराधी बनाने का दाग भर दिया। जी हां, किशोर न्याय विधेयक का बर्बर बलात्कार और हत्यायों से कोई खास रिश्ता नहीं है। यह विधेयक किसी भी ‘जघन्य’ अपराध के आरोपी किशोरों के साथ व्यस्क अपराधियों सरीखा व्यवहार करने, उन पर वयस्क अदालतों में मुकदमा चलाने और उन्हें वयस्कों के लिए बनी जेल में भेजने का रास्ता खोलता है। ”
इस विधेयक में जघन्य अपराध को ऐसे किसी भी अपराध के रूप में परिभाषित किया गया है जिसकी सजासाल या ज्यादा हो। मतलब साफ है, यह कानून सिर्फ बलात्कार और हत्याओं ही नहीं, सरकार के प्रिय अभियोग ‘देशद्रोह’ जैसे मामलों में भी बच्चों को बड़ों की जेलों में भेजने का रास्ता भर है। साफ कहें कि कड़े कानून बनने से अपराध नहीं रुकते। रुकते होते तो बलात्कार के लिए सजा में मृत्युदंड जोड़ देने के बाद बलात्कार रुकने की जगह खुद राष्ट्रीय अपराध रिकॉर्ड ब्यूरो के मुताबिक 2013 में दर्ज कुल 33,707 मामलों से बढ़कर 2014 में 36,735 न हो जाते। हां, इस विधेयक के कानून बनने के बाद सरकारों के पास भारत के तमाम हिस्सों में चल रहे लोकतांत्रिक और गैरलोकतांत्रिक- दोनों तरह के आंदोलनों से निपटने का एक और रास्ता भर खुल गया है- यह रास्ता है इन संघर्षों में फंसे हुए बच्चों को अपने हथियार की तरह इस्तेमाल करना। आखिर कौन नहीं जानता कि भारत में सुरक्षा एजेंसियां किस तरह व्यवहार करती हैं और इस कानून के बनने के बाद उन्हें 16 से 18 साल तक के बच्चों पर देशद्रोह और भारत के खिलाफ युद्ध करने के आरोप लगाने से कौन रोक पायेगा? 

पर इस विधेयक की दिक्कत बस इतनी भर नहीं है। यह विधेयक सामंती और पितृसत्तात्मक परिवारों को उनके कड़े जातीय और खाप कानूनों को तोड़ प्रेम करने वाले युवा किशोरों पर नियंत्रण रखने का एक और बहुत कारगर हथियार मुहैया कराएगा। अफसोस कि इसमें कुछ नया भी नहीं होगा, ये परिवार घर से भागकर विवाह करने वाले दुस्साहसी युवाओं पर पहले भी अपहरण और बलात्कार के मुकदमे लगाते ही रहे हैं, अब वे इन बच्चों को किशोर सुधार गृहों की जगह वयस्क जेलों में भेजने में सक्षम हो जाएंगे। भारतीय न्यायपालिका परिवारों द्वारा बागी किशोरों को सबक सिखाने के लिए इस्तेमाल किए जाने वाले इस नुक्ते से अंजान नहीं थी। ठीक उलट, कई बार यह साफ़ होने पर कि मामला सहमति के संबंधों और परिजनों द्वारा विवाह की इजाजत न मिलने पर जोड़ों के भागने का है- उसने ऐसे जोड़ों की मदद करने की भी कोशिश की है। भारतीय अदालतें ऐसे तमाम मामलों में किशोरों को परिजनों द्वारा मानसिक और शारीरिक यातना से बचाने के लिए उन्हें परिवार को सौंपने की जगह संरक्षण गृहों में भेजती रही हैं। नए कानून के बाद उनके लिए 16 वर्ष से ज्यादा उम्र के लड़कों के मामले में ऐसा करना असंभव ही हो जाएगा। इसमें यौन संबंधों के लिए सहमति की उम्र का 18 वर्ष पर टिका रहना जोड़ दें, और ऐसे तमाम किशोरों के लिए जीवन फिर बस बंद गली ही बन के रह जाएगा।    

वस्तुतः यही विधेयक नहीं बल्कि कोई भी विधेयक ऐसे समाज में यौन हिंसा रोकने में सक्षम नहीं होगा जिसमें सामूहिक बलात्कार जैसे गंभीर आरोपों के बावजूद लोग केंद्रीय मंत्री और संसद उपसभापति जैसे पदों पर पहुंच जाते हों। हां, यह विधेयक अपने किशोर ही नहीं, बालिग बच्चों को भी अंतरजातीय और अंतर्धार्मिक प्रेम संबंधों से रोक अपने हुक्म मानने में मदद जरुर करेगा। उस समाज में जिसमें फर्जी डिग्रियों से लेकर फर्जी जन्म प्रमाणपत्र तक सहज उपलब्ध हों ऐसा करना कुछ खास मुश्किल भी नहीं होगा। अफ़सोस, कि बर्बर अपराध के खिलाफ उभरे जन आक्रोश से पैदा हुआ यह विधेयक उनके लिए कम और सहमति के संबंधों में शामिल किशोरों के लिए सबसे बड़ी मुसीबत बनेगा। उससे भी ज्यादा अफ़सोस यह कि सिर्फ उन्हीं के लिए नहीं बनेगा। यह विधेयक उन बच्चों के लिए भी बेहद खतरनाक होगा जो पीढ़ियों तक चलने वाली लड़ाइयों वाले परिवारों में पैदा हुए हैं। ग्रामीण भारत में आम बात मानी जाने वाली ऐसी लड़ाइयों के हिंसक वारदातों में बदलने के तुरंत बाद दोनों पक्षों द्वारा विरोधी पक्ष के सभी सदस्यों के खिलाफ जघन्य अपराधों (हत्या का प्रयास, गंभीर चोट पहुंचाने जैसे अपराध- उनकी भी सजा सात साल से ज्यादा है) की धाराओं में प्रथम सूचना रिपोर्ट दर्ज कराना एक आम बात है। इस विधेयक के बाद ऐसे तमाम किशोर भी बड़ों की जेलों में नजर आएंगे। 

बावजूद इसके कि ये इस विधेयक में अंतर्निहित सबसे बड़े खतरे हैं, इसमें तमाम और दिक्कतें भी हैं। उदाहरण के लिए यह विधेयक तमाम अंतर्राष्ट्रीय संधियों का उल्लंघन करता है। इनमें संयुक्त राष्ट्र संघ द्वारा1989 में पारित बाल अधिकार संधि, पर यह विधेयक संयुक्त राष्ट्र संघ की सामान्य सभा द्वारा 29 नवम्बर1985 को अंगीकृत किए गए ‘किशोर न्याय प्रशासन के लिए न्यूनतम नियम” (बीजिंग नियम) सबसे प्रमुख हैं। यह विधेयक भारतीय संविधान के अनुच्छेद 15(3) का भी उल्लंघन करता है जिसके तहत विशेष कानून सिर्फ बच्चों के ‘हित’ में बनाये जा सकते हैं, उनके खिलाफ नहीं. इन संधियों में यह तथ्य भी जोड़ लें कि किशोर अपराधियों की उम्र कम करने के निर्णय वाले देशों में बाल अपराध दरों में कोई कमी नहीं आई है तो तस्वीर बिलकुल साफ़ हो जाती है। हां, इन सारी बातों से भी ज्यादा भयावह यह है कि इस विधेयक ने उंमाद और आक्रोश को न्यायिक और विधायिक प्रक्रिया का स्त्रोत बना दिया है। कांग्रेस सांसद शशि थरूर ने यह बात लोकसभा में इस विधेयक पर चर्चा के दौरान रेखांकित भी की थी। उन्होंने कहा था कि यह विधेयक राजनैतिक लाभ के लिए न्याय को कुर्बान करने वाला विधेयक है। इस विधेयक पर मुख्य विपक्षी दल कांग्रेस के राज्यसभा में भी विरोध और इसे ‘सेलेक्ट कमेटी’ में विचार के लिए भेजे जाने की मांग के बाद अंततः समर्थन करने को मजबूर हो जाना शशि थरूर की बात को सही साबित करता है।  
काश कि इस विधेयक के हादसे से ‘आक्रोश इंडस्ट्री’ के ‘उदारवादी’ और ‘प्रगतिशील’ नेता सीख लें कि आक्रोश और उंमाद आपराधिक न्याय व्यवस्था में सुधार का विकल्प नहीं हैं। काश कि वे समझ सकें कि भीड़ किसी को पीट पीट कर मार तो सकती है पर न्याय करना उसके बस का काम नहीं है. काश कि वे समझें कि आक्रोश कितना भी जायज हो, सभी धर्मों की दक्षिणपंथी ताकतें उसे उंमाद में बदलने में सफल हो जाएं तो सबसे ज्यादा क्षति न्याय को ही होती है। न्याय के लिए काम करने वाली न्याय व्यवस्था कि जरुरत होती है। ऐसी न्यायपालिका कि जो पीड़ित को न्याय दिलाये और आसानी से दिलाए, जहां न्याय पाने के लिए जन आक्रोश और उंमाद की जरुरत न पड़े। ऐसी न्यायपालिका की भी जहां न्याय त्वरित हो- अपने देश जैसा नहीं जहां 2014 तक केवल बलात्कार के ही 1,25,433 मामले मुकदमा शुरू होने की प्रतीक्षा में थे, और इनमें से 90,000 तो पिछले सालों से थे। तब तक बस यह उम्मीद की जा सकती है कि राष्ट्रपति महोदय इस विधेयक को सरकार को पुनर्विचार के लिए लौटा दें, उनके पद की गरिमा उन्हें इस उन्माद से मुक्त रख सकती है।  

January 27, 2016

Modi Regime Forces President Mukherjee To Take Note Of Intolerance, Violence

Mature republics must take note of problems plaguing them. Alas, they do not always do so. It is heartening to see, therefore, the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, taking note of some of the biggest problems plaguing India at the moment- problems that can unravel despite gains the country has made in 69 years of its existence. He observed, profoundly, that the forces of violence, intolerance and unreason do not harm individuals, they rather hit the very core of nationhood. To quote him
“Our finest inheritance, the institutions of democracy, ensure to all citizens (sic.) justice, equality, gender and economic equity. When grim instances of violence hit at these established values, it is time to take note. We must guard ourselves against the forces of violence, intolerance and unreason.”
Things reaching this point so that the President has to take note of them on the joyous day, the eve of Republic Day, must worry every citizen of India. They must think what has brought a country that should have been worried about continuing hunger, the biggest humiliation as the President had noted in his acceptance speech, that forces millions of their compatriots to go to sleep on an empty stomach every night. They must have been thinking about ways to tackle malnutrition that leads to the stunting and wasting of a huge section of its children and has been referred to repeatedly, as a National Shame.

President Pranab Mukherjee, one must acknowledge, never lost sight of these pressing concerns and did rightly so. He had asserted the need for elimination of ‘hunger, deprivation and marginal subsistence’ from the base of the country’s expanding population, even in his address to the nation on the eve of Republic Day 2013. He had, in fact, called this the primary purpose of wealth creation.

India should have been worrying about its slowing economic growth, too, as it would cause loss of jobs and add to already high rates of unemployment in the country. This too had figured in President Pranab Mukherjee’s concerns consistently. One can easily recall that in his 2013 speech, he mentions very clearly that the young cannot dream on an empty stomach, a theme that kept recurring in his speeches.

This is why India must be concerned about the forces of violence, intolerance and unreason replacing real issues it needs to deal with urgently. These forces, as President Pranab Mukherjee noted, do not hit an individual alone. They undo the whole system meant to protect everyone. They may start with manufactured rages against the most vulnerable sections of the citizenry but seldom do they stop at that. They target all. It is just that they ensure doing that, one by one.

A problem much bigger than this, however, is the way these forces target public institutions, justice institutions being the foremost of them and try to delegitimise them. They try to supplant justice mechanism with rages over ‘hurt sentiment’, pretended or real. They throw serious criminal charges against those dissenting with them with impunity and substitute the required legal process with violence. They try to take the judiciary out of the equation and bring in ‘mob justice’.

All of this, one must recognise, compromises the rule of law and the justice institutions meant to enforce it. They have started drawing blood in India with a number of rationalists killed for their beliefs. They have started forcing people into committing suicide by labelling them anti-national, the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a young Dalit student being the latest addition to the list.

They do not stop at jeopardising the criminal justice system alone. They also compromise the state’s capacity to ensure social justice, to fight hunger and all the deprivations that come with it. A people fighting for mere survival in the face of such an onslaught won’t dare to queue up in front of a public distribution system shop (ration shops). That is, if the shopkeeper dares to open the shop in such an atmosphere,s in the first place. That is, also, if the state with limited resources gets left with some for such shops and other schemes while being forced to spend a huge part of it to combat such forces.

It is sad to see the need to fight these forces of violence, intolerance and unreason becoming the most pressing one for the republic. It is ominous to see that they have occurred in the President’s speech while the ones like need of eliminating hunger, deprivations, unemployment and so on have disappeared for the first time. The republic must take note of this if it does not want to turn into what many of its neighbours have become.

January 20, 2016

A Mere F.I.R Wont Bring Justice To Rohith Vemula Even In Death!

    [Published in Counter Currents.]            The tragic death of a young Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in the University of Hyderabad is not merely the death of an individual. The sordid saga behind what drove him to take this extreme step exposes all the pretensions of the republic and its institutions. It exposes how the regressive structure of caste mobilizes the entire system against the Dalits, the ex-untouchables, six decades after untouchability was abolished by the constitution..

The facts that led to his suicide are horrible, to say the least. They indict many in powerful positions. Take for example, the intervention of Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya with the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) that looks after higher education. Mr. Dattatreya had written to the Union Minister for MHRD Smriti Irani about how the University of Hyderabad had become a den of “"casteist, extremist and anti-national politics." These are serious criminal charges under Indian jurisprudence. He sought action against the members of the Ambedkar Students Union (ASA), the organization Rohith belonged to. Mr. Dattatreya made special mention of an alleged assault on a leader of the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad, student wing of his party Bhartiya Janta Party, by ASA members, despite the proctorial investigation finding no substance in the accusation.

The evidence Mr. Dattatreya offered for his charges was ASA’s opposition to the execution of Yakub Memon, a terror convict. Ironically, taking that as evidence for being engaged in anti-national activities would turn many celebrated lawyers of India into anti-nationals for opposing the execution until the intervening night of the morning of his hanging. It would, also, perhaps make the Supreme Court of India anti-national for accepting the petition in an unprecedented 5 am hearing.

The MHRD took up the matter despite this apparent absurdity. They sent 4 letters in three months, beginning September 2015, to the University of Hyderabad. They were seeking explanations and actions of ‘anti-national’ activities being conducted in the university by ASA members. The administration of the University of Hyderabad repeatedly denied the charges. To quote P. Appa Rao, the Vice Chancellor.

“There were no anti-national activities on this campus and I can vouch for all my students and faculty. They have not and will not indulge in anti-national activities.”

The MHRD did not stop its relentless persecution of ASA members. It is alleged that this is what led to the suspension of the 5 students, including Rohith, from the university and their expulsion from the hostels. This action seems to have been taken because of pressure from both the ministers. Previously it had reversed an earlier revocation of the suspension of the students pending a fresh inquiry by a new committee. It was handed over, based on the recommendation on the old one-students accused to be biased against them.

Suicides of Dalit students in premier educational institutions of India, is nothing new. Many studies have documented this fact. Yet, the brazenness with which this one seems to be forced onward is something never seen before and must be treated seriously. Rohith was not fighting an individual battle. He was part of a bigger struggle based on Ambedkarite values. He could laugh off injustices and trivialize them while fighting against them. His letter to the Vice- Chancellor on 18 December 2015 gave evidence to both his zest for life and his increasing loss of faith in the capacity of the administration to deliver justice to Dalit students. To quote the suggestions he offered to the VC.

“1. Please serve 10 mg. Sodium Azide to all Dalit students at the time of admission with directions to use when they feel like reading Ambedkar.
2. Supply a nice rope to the rooms of all Dalit students from your companion, the great Chief Warden.”

No sane person can miss the hint of what was coming in these terse suggestions. The fact that the university went ahead with the decision of overturning its own decision and punishing them afresh makes them criminally negligent towards human life-if not outright criminally culpable.

And yet, I am afraid to say, that a legal redress is almost an impossibility in this case, as in countless others of a similar nature. Take the fact, for instance, that Rohith’s suicide note categorically exonerates all his enemies while taking all the blame for his suicide on his own. Take also the fact that Mr. Dattatreya, though evidently complicit in pushing Rohith into taking the extreme step did never mention him or any other ASA member individually. Further, he sought only an intervention from the MHRD to cleanse University of Hyderabad from ‘anti-national’ activities.

MHRD, too, on its part would come up with similar arguments. It would, most probably, argue that it merely took cognizance of the concerns of a local member of parliament and forwarded it to the university concerned despite the fact that it shot 4 letters in three months. The Vice Chancellor, on his part, would blame it all on the ‘collective decision’ of the Executive Council while knowing well why the council reversed earlier decisions and went ahead with punishments.

Bring in the battery of lawyers they would have to exploit these loopholes and the recipe for injustice to Rohith even in death would be complete.

So what do we do? Where do we go from here? The answers to this questions are hard to come by but the way to redress to Rohith would open only in seeking those difficult answers. An easier said than one comes handy- a relentless, focussed socio-politico struggle for justice for Rohith on the sidelines of the legal battles waiting for us. A struggle that would require us to ensure that Rohith’s harassers never forget him, that we go to their constituencies with his pictures, his life and message and tell the people what the perpetrators have done to him, perhaps the only way to break the cordon of impunity their positions of power provide them with.

We would, however, need a dedicated campaign for that, a tough thing to sustain in a republic capable of offering a new injustice to outrage at every day. The need of the hour, perhaps, is to focus on one such outrage and get the perpetrators punished to create a deterrence. Otherwise, the powers that may know that fatigue sets in in any outrage after a while and they can keep going on inflicting insult to our injuries

दलित शोधार्थी रोहित वेमुला की आत्महत्या दरअसल 'हत्या' है?



“मैं लिखना चाहता था, हमेशा से, विज्ञान के बारे में, कार्ल सागां की तरह. और आखिर में बस यह एक ख़त (आत्महत्या का) है जो मैं लिख पा रहा हूँ.”
हैदराबाद विश्वविद्यालय में पढ़ रहे दलित शोधार्थी और छात्र नेता रोहित वेमुला ने कभी मरना नहीं चाहा होगा. उम्मीदों और सपनों के साथ जीने वाला कोई भी इंसान कभी चाह भी नहीं सकता. फिर भी, 17 जनवरी 2016 को रोहित नहीं रहा. हॉस्टल से निकाले जाने के बाद 15 दिनों से वो अपने चार साथियों के साथ जिस विरोध-स्थल पर रह रहा था, वहां से किसी बहाने उठ कर गया और उसने अपनी जान ले ली. उसी छात्रावास के एक कमरे में खुद को फांसी लगा कर जिससे विश्वविद्यालय प्रशासन में उसे निकाल दिया था. पर क्या रोहित ने वाकई आत्महत्या की है?
रोहित की आखिरी चिट्ठी पढ़ें तो साफ़ समझ आता है कि नहीं, रोहित ने अपनी जान नहीं ली. रोहित की जान ली है जातिव्यवस्था के उस भयावह पिंजर ने जिस पर हमारी तथाकथित लोकतान्त्रिक व्यवस्था टिकी हुई है . रोहित को अपनी जान लेने के लिए मजबूर किया गया क्यूंकि उसने दलितों पर, अपने लोगों पर लगातार किये जा रहे अन्याय के खिलाफ खड़े होने की हिम्मत की.
samar 1
समर अनार्य, प्रोग्राम कॉर्डिनेटर, एशियन ह्यूमन राइट्स कमीशन
रोहित को अपनी जान लेने के लिए मजबूर किया गया क्योंकि बस दलित मुद्दों की बात पर ही नहीं रुका. उसने इससे भी आगे जाकर एक अक्षम्य अपराध कर डाला था, समाज के हाशिये पर रह रहे सभी वर्गों की लड़ाई लड़ने का अपराध, अल्पसंख्यकों, मजदूरों, औरतों, आदिवासियों, सबकी लड़ाइयों को जोड़ने का, उनमें अपनी आवाज उठाने का अपराध. अम्बेडकर स्टूडेंट्स एसोसिएशन के एक सक्रिय छात्र नेता के तौर पर रोहित ने व्यवस्था को ज्यादा ही चुनौतियाँ दे डालीं थीं.
देश के इन बड़े शिक्षा संस्थानों में ऐसे मेधावी दलित छात्रों की आत्महत्याएं, दरअसल उनकी निर्मम हत्याएं, कोई नयी बात नहीं है. हाल के ही सालों में ऐसे तमाम उदाहरण मिल जाते हैं जिनमें देश के सर्वश्रेष्ठ शिक्षा संस्थानों में सवर्ण शिक्षकों और छात्रों ने दलित छात्रों को लगातार प्रताड़ित कर उन्हें आत्महत्या करने पर मजबूर कर दिया. ‘डेथ ऑफ़ मेरिट’ नाम की डॉक्यूमेंट्री ने 2007 से 2011 तक के सिर्फ चार सालों में ऐसी 18 घटनाओं के आंकड़े दिए गए थे, जिसपर काफी लम्बी बहस भी चली थी.
उनमें से एक आत्महत्या गवर्नमेंट मेडिकल कॉलेज, चंडीगढ़ के जसप्रीत सिंह की थी. जसप्रीत सिंह एक प्रतिभाशाली छात्र था, जो कभी किसी परीक्षा में असफल नहीं हुआ था, सिवाय अपनी मेडिकल की पढ़ाई के आखिरी साल में. उस साल जसप्रीत के विभागाध्यक्ष ने सिर्फ उसको फ़ेल ही नहीं किया बल्कि बार-बार ऐसा करने की धमकी दी. जसप्रीत एक हद के बाद इस यातना को बर्दाश्त नहीं कर पाया और उसने आत्महत्या कर ली. बावजूद इसके कि उसकी जेब में मिले आखिरी ख़त में उसने इस निर्णय का ज़िम्मेदार अपने विभागाध्यक्ष को बताया था, पुलिस ने विभागाध्यक्ष के खिलाफ एफ़.आई.आर. तक दर्ज करने से इनकार कर दिया. जसप्रीत की मौत और उसके बाद प्रशासन के इस रवैये ने उसकी बहन ,जो खुद उस वक्त कंप्यूटर एप्लीकेशन की छात्र थी, को तोड़ के रख दिया और उसने भी अपनी जान ले ली.
इन दोनों आत्महत्याओं से उपजे आक्रोश के कारण राष्ट्रीय दलित आदिवासी आयोग ने मामले का संज्ञान लेते हुए तीन वरिष्ठ प्रोफ़ेसरों की एक समिति बनायी ताकि जसप्रीत की उत्तर पुस्तिकाएं फिर से जाँची जा सकें. समिति ने वही पाया जो कह पाने के इन्तजार में जसप्रीत दुनिया से चला गया था. यह कि दरअसल वह उत्तीर्ण हुआ था और विभागाध्यक्ष ने उसे जबरन अनुत्तीर्ण किया था. राष्ट्रीय दलित आदिवासी आयोग के हस्तक्षेप के बाद ही पुलिस ने दलित/आदिवासी (अत्याचार निरोधक) क़ानून के तहत विभागाध्यक्ष के खिलाफ एफ़ आई आर दर्ज की. पर व्यवस्था के हाथों मारे गए ज्यादातर दलित छात्रों को इतना, न्याय की एक आभासी सम्भावना, एक झूठी ही सही उम्मीद तक, हासिल नहीं होता.
रोहित की आत्महत्या और जातिगत भेदभाव और दुर्भावना के कारण दलित छात्रों को यंत्रणा दे देकर आत्महत्या को मजबूर कर दिए जाने वाली ऐसी तमाम घटनाएँ एक जैसी होती हुई भी हकीकतन बहुत अलग हैं. इसलिए कि रोहित को जसप्रीत जैसे सैकड़ों दोस्तों की तरह शैक्षणिक संस्थानों की दीवारों के पीछे छुप कर नहीं ख़त्म किया गया. रोहित का मामला ख़राब ग्रेड मिलने का या किसी दुर्भावनापूर्ण शिक्षक द्वारा परीक्षा में फ़ेल किया जाने का भी नहीं था. उसका मामला निवारण या न्याय दोनों के लिए कोई व्यवस्था मौजूद न होने की वजह से साल दर साल अत्याचार सहते जाने, प्रताड़ित होने और अंततः आत्महत्या कर लेने का भी नहीं था. ऐसा मामला जिनकी खबर समाज तक आत्महत्या हो जाने के बाद ही पहुँचती है.
रोहित की आत्महत्या-हत्या इस सबसे अलग थी. वह समाज और लोगों की आँखों के सामने घटती रही, टेलीविज़न पे, सोशल मीडिया में, और फिर भी, हम सब, समाज उसको बचा नहीं पाए.
संस्थानों के अन्दर ऐसी आत्महत्या-हत्या के शिकार होने वाले छात्र ज़्यादातर अकेले होते हैं, पर रोहित अकेला नहीं था. रोहित के पास उसके दोस्त थे, सहकर्मी और साथी थे- ऐसे सतही जिनके साथ साझा संघर्षों का लंबा इतिहास थे. रोहित को हॉस्टल से निकाला बस 5 छात्रों के साथ गया था, पर जब वह निकला तो सिर्फ 5 छात्र नहीं, सैकड़ों छात्रों का एक हुजूम निकला था. उसके साथ उसके संघर्ष में शामिल होने, खुले आकाश में सोने, सुबह संघर्ष के गीत गाने, जुलूस निकालने. फिर मसला सिर्फ हैदराबाद विश्वविद्यालय परिसर का भी नहीं था. एएसए के साथी जब अपने कैंपस में निकलते थे तब उनकी साझीदारी में देश भर के तमाम छात्र अपने परिसरों में, अपने शहरों की सड़कों पर उतर आते थे.
ऐसे सशक्त प्रतिरोध आन्दोलन का हिस्सा होने के बावजूद, ऐसी साझीदारियों के बावजूद, रोहित को अपनी जान लेनी पड़ी, यही तथ्य इस आत्महत्या-हत्या को इससे पहले की घटनाओं से अलग करता है. इस आत्महत्या-हत्या को आने वाले खतरनाक कल की चेतावनी में बदल देता है.
अगर हम एक बार घटनाओं की उस कड़ी पर नज़र दौड़ाएं जो रोहित की आत्महत्या-हत्या का कारण बनीं तो शायद देख पायेंगें कि हमारे गणतंत्र के हाशिये पर जी रहे लोगों के लिए आने वाले दिन कैसे होने वाले हैं. इस मामले की शुरुआत अगस्त 2015 में एएसए द्वारा मोंटाज फिल्म सोसाईटी (दिल्ली यूनिवर्सिटी)पर अखिल भारतीय विद्यार्थी परिषद (एबीवीपी) द्वारा किये गए हमले के ख़िलाफ़ यूनिवर्सिटी कैम्पस में विरोध प्रदर्शन के आयोजन से हुई थी. एबीवीपी के फिल्म सोसाइटी पर हमले का कारण था उनके द्वारा मुज़फ्फरनगर दंगों पर बनी डॉक्यूमेंट्री फिल्म “मुज़फ्फरनगर बाकी है” का प्रदर्शन. एबीवीपी का गुस्सा लाज़मी था, यह फिल्म दंगों में हिंदुत्ववादी फ़सादियों की भूमिका को सामने लाती है.
सो एबीवीपी की हैदराबाद ईकाई हमले के विरोध से निश्चित तौर नाखुश थी और उनके एक नेता सुशील कुमार ने अपनी नाराजगी फेसबुक पर एएसए के साथियों को “गुंडा” कहते हुए जताई. एएसए समेत तमाम छात्रों के विरोध के बाद सुशील कुमार ने इस टिप्पणी पर लिखित माफ़ी भी माँगी. फिर उसके बाद न जाने क्या हुआ कि अगली सुबह सुशील कुमार ने ये आरोप लगाया की एएसए के तकरीबन 30 सदस्यों ने उस के साथ मारपीट की है जिसकी वजह से उसे अस्पताल में भर्ती होना पड़ा है.
यूनिवर्सिटी के प्रोक्टोरिअल बोर्ड ने इन आरोपों की जांच की और तमाम अन्य सबूतों के साथ मेडिकल रिपोर्ट के आधार पर भी सुशील कुमार के आरोपों को बेबुनियाद पाया. बोर्ड की रिपोर्ट के अनुसार,
“ श्री सुशील कुमार के साथ मारपीट होने का कोई भी सबूत बोर्ड को नहीं मिला है, न ही श्री कृष्णा चैतन्या से और ना ही डॉ अनुपमा द्वारा दी गयी रिपोर्ट से. डॉ अनुपमा की रिपोर्ट के हिसाब से श्री सुशील कुमार की सर्जरी का कोई सम्बन्ध किसी भी किस्म की मारपीट से नहीं है.”
जांच के इन नतीजों के बाद बोर्ड ने दोनों संगठनों को चेतावनी देकर मामले को ख़त्म करने का निर्णय लिया. पर इसके बाद परदे के पीछे फिर कुछ घटा जिससे बोर्ड ने अपनी आखिरी रिपोर्ट में एएसए के सदस्यों को सुशील कुमार को शारीरिक क्षति पहुँचाने का ज़िम्मेदार बताते हुए उसके साथ मारपीट करने के आरोप में रोहित समेत पांच छात्रों को निलंबित करने का आदेश दिया. एएसए ने स्वाभाविक ही इस निलंबन का विरोध किया और तत्कालीन वाईस चांसलर प्रो आर पी शर्मा के साथ जांच प्रक्रिया, तथ्यों और निर्णय के बीच बड़ी असंगतियों पर बातचीत की. इस बातचीत के मद्देनज़र प्रो शर्मा ने भी माना कि एएसए के साथ न्याय नहीं हुआ है और निलंबन का आदेश खारिज करते हुए पूरे मसले की फिर से और निष्पक्ष के लिए एक नयी जांच समिति के गठन का आदेश भी दिया.
वीसी शर्मा के विश्विद्यालय छोड़ते ही मामले का रुख बदलना शुरू हो गया. नए कुलपति प्रो पी अप्पाराव ने किसी जांच समिति का गठन नहीं किया और एग्जीक्यूटिव काउंसिल द्वारा पाँचों छात्रों के निलंबन और छात्रावास से उनके निष्कासन का निर्णय ले लेने तक अँधेरे में रखा. ऐसा क्यों हुआ इसके सूत्र केंद्रीय मंत्री बंदारू दत्तात्रेय के मामले में कूदने और मानव संसाधन विकास मंत्रालय को चिट्ठी लिखने में खुलते हैं.
दत्तात्रेय ने मानव संसाधन विकास मंत्रालय को लिखी अपनी चिट्ठी में उससे हैदराबाद विश्वविद्यालय में एएसए जैसे “जातिवादी, अतिवादी और राष्ट्रविरोधी” संगठनों से मुक्त करने का अनुरोध किया था. उनके इन आरोपों का मुख्य कारण था संगठन द्वारा याकूब मेमन की फांसी की सज़ा के विरोध में प्रदर्शन आयोजित करना. शायद उन्हें अंदाजा भी न हो कि यह कारण आनंद ग्रोवर, प्रशांत भूषण, इंदिरा जयसिंह, युग चौधरी, नित्या रामकृष्णन, वृंदा ग्रोवर जैसे देश के जानेमाने वकीलों को भी देशद्रोही बना देता है क्योंकि उन्होंने भी इस सजा का विरोध किया था. यह कारण शायद सर्वोच्च न्यायालय को भी देशद्रोही ठहरा दे क्योंकि उसने इन लोगों के विरोध का संज्ञान लेते हुए ऐतिहासिक तरीके से सुबह 5 बजे मामले की सुनवाई की थी.
सवाल उठता है कि एक केंद्रीय मंत्री को एक विश्वविद्यालय के मामले में दखल देने की ज़रुरत क्यूँ हुई. वह भी ऐसे “छोटे” से मामले में जैसे मामले देश भर के संस्थानों में होते ही रहते हैं? क्या मंत्री महोदय रोहित और एएसए द्वारा हाशिये पर रहने वाले सभी शोषित समुदायों के संघर्षों को एक साथ जोड़ने की कोशिशों से परेशान थे? शायद हाँ, क्यूंकि दलितों का अल्पसंख्यकों की लड़ाई में साथ देना उस राजनैतिक-वैचारिक फंतासी की जड़ों में मट्ठा डाल देगा जिसके बल पे वे अभी सत्ता में हैं.
यही नुक्ता है जो रोहित की आत्महत्या-हत्या को ऐसी तमाम आत्महत्यायों से बिलकुल अलग कर देता है और देश के किसी भी विवेकशील नागरिक को इस बात से डरना चाहिए. अतीत में हुई दलित छात्र आत्महत्याओं-हत्याओं के जिम्मेदारों को , कुटिल जातीय ताक़तों को साफ़ साफ पहचाना जा सकता था. उन्हें सजा दिलाई जा सकती थी क्यूंकि जातिवाद चाहे व्यवस्था में कितनी भी गहराई तक रचा-बसा हो पर इसको ऐसे डंके की चोट पे अमल में लाना इतना आसान भी नहीं था. तब दलित छात्रों को प्रताड़ित करने की घटनाएं ज़्यादातर किसी एक व्यक्ति की शुरू की हुई होती थीं भले ही व्यवस्था उनको बाद में बचाने में लग जाये. मगर इतनी बेशर्मी के साथ जातिवाद का अभ्यास इससे पहले नहीं देखा गया. पहले कभी नहीं देखा गया कि एक केंद्रीय मंत्री सामाजिक न्याय की मांग करती हुई आवाजों को खामोश करने के लिए उन आवाजों को देशद्रोही करार करना शुरू कर दे और दूसरा केंद्रीय मंत्री उसका साथ देना क्यूंकि वो आवाज़े अब तक तमाम जगहों में, खांचों में बिखरी दलित, अल्पसंख्यक, आदिवासी, स्त्री आदि को संगठित करने की कोशिश कर रही हैं.
इसीलिए रोहित की आत्महत्या को किसी हताशा से उपजा हुआ निर्णय नहीं कहा जा सकता. ना ही उसकी लड़ाई परीक्षा में उत्तीर्ण होने जैसी कोई निजी लड़ाई थी, न ही कोई और कारण था कि वो इस तरह अचानक हार जान दे दे. उसकी आखिरी चिट्ठी ये बात बहुत साफ़ साफ़ कहती है, वह चिट्ठी जो हकीकतन कोई ‘सुसाइड नोट” बल्कि इस देश के जनतंत्र के खिलाफ आरोपपत्र है, हलफनामा है. उस जनतंत्र के खिलाफ जो अरसे से अपने कमजोर लोगों को ठगता रहा था और जिसने अब उन्हें न्याय दिलाने के लिए तैयार होने का स्वांग रचाना तक भी त्याग दिया है.
रोहित के “सुसाइड नोट” से,
“इंसान की कीमत
कितनी कम लगाई जाती है
एक छोटी सी पहचान दी जाती है
फिर जिसका जितना काम निकल आये –
कभी एक वोट,
कभी एक आंकड़ा,
कभी एक खोखली सी चीज़
कभी माना ही नहीं जाता कि इंसान
आखिर एक जीवंत मन है
एक अद्भुत सी चीज़ है
जिसे तारों की धूल से गढ़ा गया है
चाहे किताबों में देख लो, चाहे सड़कों पर,
चाहे उसे लड़ते हुए देख लो,
चाहे जीते-मरते हुए देख लो” (अनुवाद – अखिल कात्याल)
इंसानों को इंसान नहीं रहने देकर उन्हें अलग-अलग खांचों में बैठा देना, रोहित ने अपनी सारी ज़िंदगी इसी के खिलाफ लड़ने में लगा दी. इसी के लिए उसने शायद अपनी जान भी दे दी, इंसानों को खांचों में कैद करने के खिलाफ आखिरी प्रतिरोध के बतौर, उन्हें ललकारते हुए कि शरीर ही न रहा तो क्या कैद करोगे?
रोहित का शरीर, एक दलित के शरीर के तौर पर, यूँ भी हमेशा से ही संघर्ष की ज़मीन बनता आया है, संघर्ष उनके बीच जो उसके शरीर पर उसके इंसान होने का सच झुठला, उसे सिर्फ दलित बना अपनी मिलकियत बनाना चाहते रहे हैं दूसरी तरफ वे जो ऐसी किसी इंसानी गैरबराबरी के खिलाफ खड़े रहे हैं. रोहित ने इस बार फिर अपने शरीर को एक और संघर्ष की जमीन में बदल दिया- उस संघर्ष के जो सदियों की गुलामी को चुनौती दे रही ताकतों और सड़ांध मारती जातिव्यवस्था के नए, सत्ताधारी अलंबरदारों में होना है.
अब ये हमारी ज़िम्मेदारी है के उसकी मौत बेकार ना जाए. हमारी ज़िम्मेदारी है कि कम से कम यह बलिदान एक ऐसी व्यवस्था और प्रक्रिया शुरू करने का बायस बने हो जो ये तय करे कि जातिगत, लैंगिक और धार्मिक भेदभाव और शोषण के खिलाफ हो रही लड़ाइयों को साथ और ताक़त मिले—फिर यह शोषण चाहे किसी विश्वविद्यालय में पद का फायदा उठा कोई अध्यापक कर रहा हो या किसी मंदिर में कोई पुजारी. हमारी जिम्मेदारी है कि ऐसी व्यवस्था बनाएं जिसमें शोषण के खिलाफ लड़ने वाले अकेले न पड़ें, उल्टा दोषियों के पास बच भागने का कोई रास्ता ना हो, चाहे फिर उनका अपराध कुछ भी हो- सामजिक कार्यकर्ताओं को निशाने पे लेना या छात्रों को प्रताड़ित करना.
[यह एशियन ह्यूमन राइट्स कमीशन के लिए लिखा गया लेख है. एबीपी न्यूज़ पर भी प्रकाशित.] 

January 18, 2016

The Sucicide Of Dalit Scholar Rohith Vemula: A Caste Instigated Political Murder

[ This is a Countercurrents article]
“I always wanted to be a writer. A writer of science, like Carl Sagan. At last, this is the only letter I am getting to write.”
Rohith Vemula, a young Dalit research scholar and student activist of the University of Hyderabad, would certainly not have wanted to die. No one with dreams does, after all. Yet, he died yesterday, on 17th January 2016. He killed himself after leaving the protest venue he was living at for 15 days, after getting expelled from his hostel. He sneaked out on some pretext and hanged himself. Did he really kill himself though?
Go through the ‘suicide note’ and it becomes apparent that he did not. He was in fact killed by the phantom limb of caste on which the pretentious democratic credentials of the republic are superimposed. He was forced into killing himself for standing against and injustices against his people, the ex-untouchables.

Rohith was forced to kill himself because he did not stop at that cardinal sin of fighting for his own people. He dared to speak for all the marginalized ones, be it the minorities, the workers or women as a leading activist of the Ambedkar Students Association (ASA).

There is nothing new in suicides, actually cold blooded murders, of bright Dalit students in premier educational institutions of the country. Many such incidents have been documented in the recent past showing how continuous harassment from the so called upper caste faculties and students pushed Dalit students into taking the extreme step. A documentary named ‘Death of Merit’ had counted 18 such cases in 4 years up to 2011 and led to a fierce discussion on the issue.

The suicides include that of Jaspreet Singh of Government Medical College, Chandigarh who was an extraordinary student and never failed even once. That was till he reached the final year of his graduation in medicine. The head of the department failed him then and threatened to do so over and over again. Unable to cope up with this torture, Jaspreet committed suicide blaming the head of department for his death. Yet, the police refused to lodge the First Information Report against the perpetrator. The trauma of losing him followed by this grave injustice was so severe for his sister, a student of Bachelor of Computer Application, that she also committed suicide,

The outrage over the suicides led to the intervention of the National Commission of Scheduled Castes (NCSC) which made a three-member team of senior professors re-evaluate his answer sheet. The team found that he had in fact passed the examination. It was only after NCSC's intervention that the police filed the FIR under SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Not all the Dalit students killed by the system were fortunate enough to get even this much; a semblance of justice of something being done against their murderers.

Despite the clear pattern of caste based discriminations leading to such ‘suicides’, there is something markedly different in Rohith’s case. He, unlike most of the other young Dalits murdered for their caste, was not killed behind the walls of educational institutions away from the public gaze. His case was not about bad grades, or getting deliberately failed by the rogue faculties. Neither was his case about years and years of such endless torture finally culminating in a suicide and the world getting to know of that only after the final act.

Rohith’s suicide-murder was not one of them. It unfolded under full public gaze, on television, in social media, a gaze that apparently failed to save him.
Further, most of the other victims of suicide-murders had no support system inside the institutions they were harassed in, Rohith had. He had his friends, colleagues and common students supporting him in droves. He was expelled from the hostel and hundreds of those not expelled came to sleep out in open with him in solidarity. He, with his activist friends, led a procession in his campus and thousands marched in their own across the country. Yet, he was forced to kill himself and that is what makes this suicide-murder different, and a dangerous marker of the times to come by.

Recapping the incidents
that led to Rohith’s suicide-murder may shed some light on the times to come by for the marginalised of the republic. His troubles started when ASA organised a protest march in August 2015 at the campus against the attack on the Montage Film Society in Delhi University by Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). They were attacked for screening a documentary movie ‘Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai” that exposed the roles of Hindutva outfits in Muzaffarnagar riots in 2013. Local ABVP unit did not, of course, like the protests and its leader Susheel Kumar posted a comment on Facebook calling ASA members ‘goons’. He later submitted a written apology. Next morning, Susheel Kumar alleged that about 30 students belonging to the ASA had beaten him up and he had to be hospitalized.

The University’s Proctorial Board conducted an enquiry into the allegations with a medical examination which found no proof of injuries claimed by Susheel Kumar. The Board observed the following-
“The board could not get any hard evidence of beating of Mr. Susheel kumar either from Mr Krishna Chaitanya or from the reports submitted by Dr. Anupama. Dr. Anupama’s reports also could not link or suggest that the surgery of the Susheel Kumar is the direct result of the beating.”
Based on these findings, the Board, reportedly, decided to end the matter with a warning to both the groups. The final report of the Board, however, inexplicably blamed ASA activists for causing injuries to Susheel Kumar and ordered the suspension of five students, including Rohith. ASA organized a protest following the suspension and held an open discussion with the then vice chancellor Prof. RP Sharma over the discrepancies in the findings and the punishment. Realising the injustice done to ASA students, Prof. Sharma revoked the suspension, subject to constitution of a new committee to enquire into the incident afresh.

Things started changing course soon afterwards. The new vice-chancellor Prof. P Apparao who took over from Prof. Sharma constituted no committee for a fresh enquiry and kept the suspended students in the dark until the Executive Council decided to suspend the students and expel them from their hostels. Self-evidently, Union Minister Bandaru Datttreya’s ‘intervention’ with the Ministry of Human Resources Development (MHRD) seems to have played an important role in the change in the university administration’s instance.

Mr. Datttreya, as it later came to be known, had intervened with the MHRD and urged it to discipline “casteist, extremist and anti-national’ elements like ASA. His primary reason for accusing ASA to be all this was simple- it had “held protests against the execution” (of Yakub Memon). Yes, he chose a reason which would turn many of the celebrated lawyers of the country including Anand Grover, Prashant Bhushan, Indira Jaisingh, Yug Choudhary, Nitya Ramakrishnan, Vrinda Grover and others into anti-nationals for opposing the same and seeking (and getting) an unprecedented 5 AM hearing by a Supreme Court bench to stop the execution.

What could have made a Union Minister intervene with the MHRD in such a ‘small’ case, likes of which keep taking in campuses across the country? Was it Rohith’s, and ASA’s, attempt to link the struggles of all the marginalized communities into one that had irked him? Perhaps it was, as Dalits standing up for Muslims, a vulnerable minority, would puncture the politico-ideological narrative that has propelled the present regime to power.

This makes the suicide-murder of Rohith markedly different from those preceding it and must send a shiver down the spine of any conscientious citizen of the country. The operational blame of past suicide-murders of the Dalit students lied, primarily, with identifiable rogue casteist elements; rogue because practicing casteism was never that easy despite it being deeply entrenched in the system. Harassment of Dalit students in prior cases could often be traced back to the individual perpetrators. It never was brazen enough to allow an incumbent union minister proactively trying to silence the voices for social justice by terming them anti-national and what not for raising issues as a united whole and not from the scattered locations of being a Dalit, a minority, tribal and so on.

This is also why Rohith’s suicide cannot be seen as an act of desperation. Neither was his struggle an individual one, for grades for instance, nor there was a reason for him to go desperate suddenly. His suicide note makes it clear too. His letter is not a suicide note in fact, it is an indictment of the republic that had been failing its vulnerable citizens for long and has started to shed even the pretence of justice of late.

To quote from his ‘suicide note’ again-
“The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. As a glorious thing made up of star dust. In very field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.”
It is this reduction of human beings into mere categories that he fought against all his life. It is this reductionism, perhaps, he tried to challenge with one last act of supreme sacrifice. His body, as a body of a Dalit, had always been a site of struggle between forces wanting to dehumanize and own it and those wanting to put an end to this dehumanization. He turned it into a site of marking the necessity of all liberation struggles joining hands against increasingly vitiating attacks of the old order with new power.

This is our turn to not let his sacrifice go in vain. This is our turn to ensure that a functioning and accessible mechanism is put in place to support those fighting against systemic discrimination based on caste, gender, religion or any such regressive identity. It is high time to ensure that perpetrators do not get away with their crimes- be it witch hunt of activists or torture of individual students.
We need to begin with ensuring that all those responsible for this suicide murder, including VC Appa Rao and Union Minister Bandaru Datttreya, are booked under both -the provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Preventions of Atrocities) Act and for abetment of suicide-murder of Rohith Vemula.

January 15, 2016

Bundelkhand now on a grass diet

[This is an AHRC Statement

People in Bundelkhand are being forced to eat grass for survival. This dire situation is being aired in reports after report of news channels. Grass and weeds are traditional diet in the area, counter officials of the Uttar Pradesh government. Neither is entirely wrong.

What villagers are being forced to eat is not exactly grass, but Fikar, traditional millet of the area, known for being drought resistant, unlike wheat and rice, and therefore handy in such situations. There was a time when Fikar was abundant. Due to various reasons and pressures, local villagers stopped growing Fikar decades ago; today, in desperation, they are being forced to eat whatever little Fikar they can find.

The ensuing cacophony in the media has missed all the necessary points that must be addressed to arrest hunger and imminent starvation in Bundelkhand, home to 18.3 million people, spread over an area of around 7,000 square kilometers in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. The debate should have focused on finding long-lasting solutions for the woes of the region – chronic water shortage in the area, with water bodies drying up, being the foremost.

The debate should also have focused on the failure of repeated government interventions to mitigate the crisis; it should have tracked how funds earmarked for the people are getting siphoned-off by vested interests, entrenched deep in the system; it could have underlined the delayed response of the state: Uttar Pradesh waited until November to declare 50 of its districts drought hit, despite being well aware of the drought conditions much earlier; it may have even highlighted the total failure of the crop insurance scheme, which had pushed farmers to pay premiums for the same; and it could have targeted the local moneylenders for fleecing farmers, with interests rates as high as 10 percent a month.

The role of the public distribution system in addressing such crisis in real time could also have been subject to discussion; for instance, universalizing the public distribution system in drought affected districts and rushing all supplies to the needy, as suggested by noted economist Jean Dreze, could have been debated. The situation of Bundelkhand was not unknown to the authorities after all, and they must have been aware what another drought, the fourth consecutive one, could do to the region. They would also have known that the total number of droughts suffered by the region stands at 19 since 1987, the worst of them arriving in the last 15 years, reaching the nadir in the 2005-2009 period.

The deepening agrarian crisis in the area is reflected in the increasing number of farmer suicides in the area. The National Crime Records Bureau, official crime statistics keeper of India, pegs the numbers of farm suicides in Bundelkhand at 568 in 2009, 583 in 2010, 519 in 2011, 745 in 2012, 750 in 2013 and 58 in 2014. The sharp fall in 2014 despite no significant changes on the ground suggests the fudging of data to avoid embarrassment, something brought out by many studies on the issue.

Attributing a significant section of these suicides to “other” non-agrarian causes – with “personal reasons” being the categorical trick of choice – has been one of the favourite tricks of this jugglery. Such statistics do not need to explain that most of the “personal” reasons behind farm suicides are precipitated by the agrarian crisis; for instance, crop failure, leading to the incapacity of marrying-off daughters in a patriarchal society, beset with diseases like dowry. Simply taking farmers suicides out of the "Self-employed (farming/agriculture)" category and putting these dead men and women in the category of "Self-employed (Others)” is another trick that the authorities routinely employ to camouflage farm suicides data. Unfortunately, the authorities seem to have forgotten that their primary task is to help citizens in distress, not fudge data to deny the very existence of distress.

Hiding the extent of distress, however, was not easy in the case of Bundelkhand, with the then union government recognizing it and having announced a "Bundelkhand Special Package" with total budgetary outlay of Rs. 7,266 crore, for drought mitigation over three years starting in 2009. The package earmarked Rs 3,506 crore for Uttar Pradesh and Rs 3,760 crore for Madhya Pradesh. The package failed to achieve anything on the ground because of a lethal combination of lethargy and corruption.

A review of the package exposed the fact that Uttar Pradesh had spent only 16.57 percent of the total allocation until February 2012, the final year of the package, while Madhya Pradesh spent a mere 21.70 percent by this date. The situation is similar this year too; the authorities kept sleeping when untimely hailstorms led to serious crop damages that in turn caused a spurt in farm suicides; furthermore the authorities did not start providing employment under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act until it was too late.

An enduring solution to the Bundelkhand farm crisis is not going to appear out of some magic wand. The authorities at both the state and the union level need to wake up to the crisis and understand it with all its nuances. They need to understand that offering piecemeal solutions to address the crisis will not help anyone. The need of the hour in Bundelkhand is to attend to the serious water crisis. It would require a concentrated and all-out effort to rejuvenate the water bodies, to conserve rain water and ensure that the area, already critically short of even drinking water, does not fare worse.

Simultaneously, the authorities also need to put a mechanism in place that responds to the individual farmers in distress in real time. It would not be a tough task, given the availability of revenue officials down to the last villages, if it were not for the lethal mix of corruption and insensitivity that makes the officials often work against and not for the farmers.

The authorities would also have to ensure the removal of the local moneylenders and putting a functional banking system in place; debts incurred from moneylenders at astronomical interest rates are often the primary reason behind farm suicides, one of the worst impacts of the crisis.

Till they do address the aforementioned issues, all the big schemes will only end up benefitting those that tweak the system for their interests. The “people forced to eat grass” stories would make it to national media on a few occasions, while hunger and starvation would continue to haunting the region on a daily basis.

January 11, 2016

Juvenile (In)Justice Bill Criminalises Children, Not Rape!

[This is an AHRC Article, republished in the Kashmir Times and Counter Currents.]


The mob bayed for the blood of juvenile convict of 16 December 2012 Delhi gang rape case. With the passage of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 in Rajya Sabha, it got the blood of India’s children on its hands. Yes, the JJ Bill has not much to do with rapes and murders. It in fact, allows trial of all juveniles accused of ‘heinous’ crimes as adults, in the adult justice institutions.

What are these heinous crimes? The government of the day, as all its predecessors, is very lenient on that. It defines any crimes carrying sentence of more than 7 years as ‘heinous’- rape and murders are definitely heinous but then it also includes charges the state love so much- sedition for instance.

The passage of the bill would not help much in controlling crimes against women, even adding death sentence in the punishments for rape did not. It would, however, help the government of the day in to use children caught in the hundreds of wars being waged within the republic- from Maoist insurgency in its heart to various ethnic and nationality struggles being waged on its peripheries. Would one, even with a cursory idea of how law enforcement agencies operate in such conflict zones, would be surprised seeing scores of under -18 years olds being slapped with charges like waging war against the country and then tried as adults to teach their parents and communities a lesson?

The passage of the JJ Bill would not be of help much in controlling crime against women but it will certainly give families yet another weapon to control their children and stop them from challenging casteist and patriarchal norms by falling in love. These families, as anyone with even a cursory knowledge of Indian justice system would be aware of, could earlier get their defiant kids in love to shelter homes by slapping charges of kidnapping and rape even for consensual sexual relations and elopements for marriages, now they can get them sent to prisons straight away.

Indian courts are not unaware of this oft used tactic by the families, generally the girl’s side to bring back their children- that is any male less than 21 years and female less than 18. The courts, when they realised that the cases were of love and not kidnapping, have often even tried to help these youngsters on threshold of adulthood. They would often try to save the girl from emotional and physical torture by not handing them over to their families but sending them to shelter homes. They would now be toothless if the boy is found to be aged a single day more than 16 years and would have to send him to adult prisons.

JJ Bill would not, and cannot curb rapes in a society that rewards rapists with Union Ministership and makes them chairperson of its parliament. It would certainly help the families even to control their ‘adult’ sons and daughters by claiming that they are minors. In a society corrupt to the core where getting falsified birth certificates is no tougher than buying a mobile phone in developed societies, after all.

Sadly, despite all the outrage against the rapists, juvenile or otherwise, these consenting adolescents are going to be one of the worst victims of the new law.They would, however, not be the only ones. The bill also threatens the children caught in the family feuds running for generations, a hallmark of most of Indian countryside. Who does not know that all members of the family including children get named in the first information reports lodged whenever such feuds turn violent? This Bill will see many of such children above 16 serving time in adult prisons.

And these are the real threats inherent in this Bill as it is passed by the Rajya Sabha. There are other and very valid arguments, but they are mostly beside the point. To count just a few, the bill falls foul of international juvenile jurisprudence, and many of the international covenants and treaty bodies India is signatory to. There is no dearth of studies providing evidence for the fact that lowering the age to juveniles in conflict with law to be treated as adult has not brought down juvenile crime rates in single country if not increasing them right away. The Bill also stands in contravention with Article 15(3) of the constitution of India which allows special legislation only “for” the children and not “against” them.

The second most worrying thing about the passage of this bill, after the threat it poses for Indian children, however, is mainstreaming of public anger and outrage as a legitimate source of lawmaking, something acknowledged by the lawmakers themselves. Take Indian National Congress MP and former Under-Secretary-General at the United Nations Shashi Tharoor’s view on the bill for instance. He had asserted during the Lok Sabha debate on the same Bill on 6 May, 2015 that

“If we pass this Bill, I say it to our treasury benches, posterity will judge us harshly. The child is our future. We must protect the child, rescue the child and not destroy the child. ... I must sadly accuse the Government of having chosen political expediency over justice.”

Even yesterday in the Rajya Sabha many a sane voice opposed the bill in its current form and recommended sending it to the Select Committee for further deliberations. And yet, at the end of the debate barring the Left wing parties all of them chose the same ‘political expediency’ over justice. They had to, perhaps, as Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi who moved the Bill and later replied to the debate consistently reminded the members that Nirbhaya’s parents, were ‘watching’ them from the gallery.

The passage of the Bill is a dangerous development in the life of the republic also because of the fact that age of consent for sexual activities remains stuck at 18 years for both girls and boys.

One can only hope that the civil society segment of the outrage industry learns its lessons at least now. The lesson, that outrage is no substitute to criminal justice reforms. Let’s hope that they learn, at least now, that mobs can lynch but not deliver justice. One needs a functioning legal system for that, a system that delivers and not keeps on piling up cases for trial with a backlog running in hundreds of years- like ours with more than 1,25,433 cases of rape alone awaiting trial in 2014, with 90,000 of them pending from previous years. One needs a legal system that addresses grievances and does not need outrage to do that.
Let’s hope till then, that the President sees the injustice inherent in the bill and returns it for a rethink, alas that is all he can do.

India Has Just Criminalized Children



[Published in Counter Currents.]







The mob just drew the second blood, riding on its ‘outrage’ over 16 December 2012 Delhi gang rape case, real or pretended. It was baying for the blood of a mere individual, the juvenile convict of that case which known to be come as “Nirabhaya case’ but got much more- blood of justice itself in getting the wrongly named Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015- the bill that allows trial of juveniles accused of ‘heinous’ crimes as adults, in the adult justice institutions.

Why the second blood? Because it comes just a little after Indian State’s refusal to lower the age of consent for consensual sexual activities, in a country billed to be the next super power and is, for all practical purposes, the reigning information technology superpower. Second blood, because in the same country parents of a girl, any girl, even a day short of being 18 years old, can slap a rape charge on her partner even in a consensual relation, call it sexual or sexual experimentation.

Second blood because that had added to the arsenal of the families ‘affronted’ in the ‘patriarchal society’ that India is to add a rape charge to the earlier ‘kidnapping’ one they used to throw at the juveniles in love- that is any male less than 21 years and female less than 18, even if this ‘less than’ was not a day more than being that. Second blood, though, not for being able to even charge ‘adult’ sons and daughters for being minors in a society corrupt to the core where getting falsified birth certificates is no tougher than buying a mobile phone in developed societies.

But none of this is what should enrage one against this juvenile (in) justice bill passed by the Rajya Sabha yesterday. I could have these, and a thousand more, if this was just another one in the long line of attacks launched by the incumbent government of India on the soul of the republic.

What should worry us all, indeed, is the fact that this Juvenile (IN) Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015 has nothing to do with the outrage it came riding on. YES, it has nothing to do with the brutal rape and murder, and the outrage that came out of. It criminalizes, and condemns to, all juveniles ‘in conflict with law’ with any crime punishable worth 7 years or more—the definition offered by the Indian state of ‘heinous’ crimes. There was an outrage on a brutal gang rape and murder; and Indian state used it to extend it to all crimes carrying a punishment more than 7 years.

If you have read that, never mind the fact that the bill turns the ‘juveniles in conflict with law’ into criminals without even giving a thought to what brought that first phrase into legal vocabulary. Never also mind the fact that the bell defines heinous crimes simply as those carrying 7 years or more (as I said earlier) as prison term and can include anything- from sedition to trafficking and not merely rape and murder.

One can easily imagine the impact of this on the children caught in the wars being waged within the republic- from Maoist insurgency in its heart to various ethnic and nationality struggles being waged on its peripheries. Would one, even with a cursory idea of how law enforcement agencies operate in such conflict zones, would be surprised seeing scores of under 18 years old being slapped with charges like waging war against the country and then tried as adults?

This Bill is blatantly unjust and goes against even women whom it claims to protect and not only children for various reasons. The arguments against the Bill are countless. The bill falls foul of international juvenile jurisprudence and many of the international covenants and treaty bodies India is signatory to. There is no dearth of studies giving evidence for the fact that lowering the age to juveniles in conflict with law to be treated as adult has not brought down juvenile crime rates in single country if not increasing them right away.

Never mind, also, the fact that the Bill also stands in contravention with Article 15(3) of the constitution of India which allows special legislation only “for” the children and not “against” them.

Most worrying thing about the passage of this bill, however, is mainstreaming of public anger and outrage as a legitimate source of lawmaking, something acknowledged by the lawmakers themselves. Take Indian National Congress MP and former Under-Secretary-General at the United Nations Shashi Tharoor’s view on the bill for instance. He has asserted during the Lok Sabha debate on the same Bill on 6 May, 2015 that

“If we pass this Bill, I say it to our treasury benches, posterity will judge us harshly. The child is our future. We must protect the child, rescue the child and not destroy the child. ... I must sadly accuse the Government of having chosen political expediency over justice.”

Even yesterday, in the Rajya Sabha, many a sane voices opposed the bill in its current form and recommended sending it to the Select Committee for further deliberations. And yet, at the end of the debate barring the Left wing parties all of them chose the same ‘political expediency’ over justice. They had to, perhaps, as Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi who moved the Bill and later replied to the debate consistently reminded the members that Nirbhaya’s parents were ‘watching’ them from the gallery.

The passage of the Bill is a dangerous development in the life of the republic also because of the fact that age of consent for sexual activities remains stuck at 18 years for both girls and boys. In a society living with the paradox of progressively increasing interaction between girls and boys and deeply entrenched patriarchal moors, it is not uncommon to see young adolescents in consensual sexual relations being charged with rape by, most often, girl’s families.

Need one remind that this bill, once signed by the President, would mark the end of the road for many of them? This should have been the reason alone for junking such a regressive bill in a society, again, known for juveniles getting named in everything- from family feuds over land to personal enmities to young couples in love getting forcibly separated by their families. The warring families, especially in cases of elopement or marrying in defiance, slap kidnapping (yet another ‘heinous’ crime) and rape cases on the boy.

Sadly, despite all the outrage against the rapists, juvenile or otherwise, these consenting adolescents are going to be one of the worst victims of the new law. Even more sadly, such injustices getting legalized by the system are often all that public outrage way to justice ended up with. The first bout of Nirbhaya Outrage, championed by civil society members opposed to death penalty and wanting lowering the age of consent for consensual sex, has ended up in getting the opposite- death penalty getting added to rape cases while no lowering of the age of consent for consensual sex.

One can only hope that the civil society segment of the outrage industry learns its lessons at least now, the lessons that outrage is no substitute to criminal justice reforms. Let’s hope till then, that the President sees the injustice inherent in the bill and returns it for a rethink, alas that is all he can do.