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Archives for : March2018

Complaint before NCW against Mahesh Murthy – 6 women file sexual harassment cases #Vaw


  • Story Highlights
  • Half a dozen women allege wrongdoing by the Seedfund managing partner and file complaints with NCW. At least one woman claims attempted rape.
  • Two new cases come up in FactorDaily’s reporting. The first is a woman who says she was physically assaulted when she was a student at Sophia College of Women in Mumbai.
  • The second is an entrepreneur, who he communicated inappropriately with on Facebook Messenger and text messages. She says she was shocked and worries for young woman professionals.

A year after the first allegations of sexual misconduct came up against venture capital investor Mahesh Murthy, at least half a dozen women have filed written complaints before the National Commission for Women (NCW) – at least one of them alleging rape.

“In the very first meeting, he started misbehaving with all of them, as per complaints,” according to Rekha Sharma, member NCW. “ the complaints I have received… he caught hold of them and put his hands all over and tried to rape them.” She did not specify if this was the charge in more than one complaint.

“I have seen that he’s targeted the girls when they were very young, novice and they didn’t know about anything except that he’s a speaker and a good guide for them. That’s why they came forward and met him thinking he will be guiding them in future,” she says.

Sharma holds additional charge as chairperson of NCW, a statutory body advising the Indian government on policy issues relating to women.

Rekha Sharma, Member, National Commission for Women

She declined more detail on the complaints. The NCW had earlier said that the four complainants included a journalist and a government official and that they are from Mumbai, Bengaluru, Bhubaneshwar, and Australia.

NCW has forwarded the new complaints on Murthy to Mumbai Police which is investigating the matter. Subsequent to NCW’s first complaint on November 17 last year, the Mumbai Police said January 3 it had started an investigation in the case. Murthy was arrested by the Mumbai Police on February 9 and was released since he had an anticipatory bail. At the time, the police had said it wanted more women to come forwardwith complaints to strengthen the case.

“Ultimately this will go to the court and the court has to decide,” says Sharma, referring to the normal course for such cases.

Questions sent to Murthy, a managing partner at early stage venture fund Seedfund, for comment remained unanswered at the time of publishing this story. If and when we receive a response from him, we will update this story.

FactorDaily had last year written a series of stories about sexual misconduct allegations against Murthy. He had made us a party to an existing case filed in the Delhi High Court against those who had first written about their experiences with him in February. We are fighting the case.

More allegations surface

Since last year, FactorDaily has interviewed over two dozen women who shared their experiences dating back 13-14 years. The latest that came before us was last month – a woman now 33 years old and based in Australia, who narrated to us her story of alleged sexual misconduct by Murthy in 2004. The woman, who was doing her B.A. in economics at Mumbai’s Sophia College when the incident happened, requested anonymity.

She was 19 years old when she first met Murthy in 2003 at Oxford Bookstore near Sterling Cinema in south Mumbai.

“I can’t recall the month but I remember I was a part of a dance play by for which I was learning the flamenco and was, therefore, reading a book about Spain. And he came up to me saying, ‘You’re off to Spain?’,” she tells FactorDaily on a text message. FactorDaily interviewed her on a phone call and on text conversations.

Murthy gave then college-goer his business card and offered to help and guide her. A year later, when she was preparing for a project about bank mergers, her classmates suggested she meet Murthy because he was knowledgeable.

When she contacted Murthy, he was ready to meet and even offered to pick her up from Bandra suburban railway station and take her to a coffee shop in Bandstand. She said she’d meet him directly there.

Very soon into the meeting, Murthy’s intentions became clear to the woman. “He seemed more interested in my personal life and soon started touching and feeling my thighs and my back and waist. I realised he’s not going to help me with my assignment. I just got up and started walking towards the street where I could catch an auto rickshaw,” she recalls.

Murthy offered to drop her at the station. “He kept waiting with me and kept insisting that he wanted me to stay for some more time and that he would share information for my assignment. I finally got into an auto,” she says.

But, that’s when things took a bizarre turn. Murthy, says the woman, leapt into the auto. The auto was now in motion. I told him sternly ‘I’ll manage; you don’t have to drop me to the station.’ He pounced on me grabbed me all over and started kissing and biting my neck and face and lips. He was strong and forceful,” she says.

“I was so shocked as this was something beyond my imagination. My brain froze in fear and trauma and I felt no strength to fight. I couldn’t scream as I felt choked. He had grabbed my face fiercely. The auto stopped at Bandra station and this man stopped chewing on me,” she remembers and that she could take a train back to her hostel.

Her trauma didn’t end there, she says.

A college mate she confided in started spreading rumours that the woman was not making a complaint out of it because she enjoyed the experience with Murthy. “I understood that I won’t get any support from men or women in my country because the victim is and will be blamed every time she wants to speak up. Plus, I didn’t have any proof. It was a time when phone cameras or screenshots were not a common use and nothing happened over text or I couldn’t have been recording while he was assaulting me brutally.”

It is important to reiterate here that FactorDaily doesn’t yet have Murthy’s response to this allegation.

Yet, there is a pattern of sexual predatory behaviour in business and professional situations emerging. In the some two dozen women FactorDaily had spoken and taken details of situations that range from verbal flirtations to outright physical assault, Murthy is brazen in how he hits upon women.

Don’t bring “that bugger”

When Asha Satapathy, a former Sun Microsystems engineer-turned entrepreneur was looking to connect with VCs for funding options, she asked around and came across Murthy’s LinkedIn profile. She and her husband Ahimanikya Satapathy still remember that it was August 2012.

“The only reason we go to him is because he’s projecting himself as an investor, a serial entrepreneur,” says Asha.

Later they also connected on Facebook and started conversations.

When Ahi, as Asha’s husband and co-founder of their startup DocEngage is known in Bengaluru circles, tried connecting with Murthy on Facebook, his request was pending.

But, Murthy had readily connected with Asha. “Suspicious bugger can steam,” Murthy said on a Facebook messenger chat with Asha. “Wondering who his gorgeous wife is chatting with.” See screenshots of the conversation below with some details redacted for privacy.






“You look beautiful.”

“Of course, we all look good,” Asha remembers replying back, trying to overlook the flirtatious tone.

“Now it was clear this guy wasn’t just another potential investor but a person looking for other things,” she says. “He mentioned he’s divorced but women keep calling, he added over seven women contacted him just that week.”

Then, during later in 2012, Murthy reached out to Asha asking to catch up on a text message.

“He said, ‘Hey babe, I am in Bangalore, do you want to come down and let us have some fun and make sure you are not bringing that bugger.’ Then, I actually realised his intentions,” says Asha.

She says she stopped talking to people in the startup community after the episode. “It did something to my brain, I am now doubting the VCs. I will never go alone to meet a VC or a serial entrepreneur.”

In the extracts below from Asha’s audio interviews, what comes through strongly is the shock of a confident businesswoman and her worries for younger women professionals faced with people like Murthy.

Complaint before NCW against Mahesh Murthy alleges rape; new harassment cases emerge

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Mumbai – ‘Slum-dwelling women face greater risk to safety and security’ #WomensDay

Mumbai | 8th March, 2018: A public meeting organised by Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan on the occasion of International Women’s Day revealed how even in Mumbai, known for being the country’s most women friendly city, women’s safety and well-being depends on the area in the city they occupy and the kind of material structures they live in.

Testimonies at the meeting, attended by around 100 women from several slum pockets in Mumbai, revealed that lives of women in these settlements are several times worse off than that of their counterparts from the upper classes who live in regularised buildings. Not only do the former have to shoulder the burden of arranging for basic amenities like water, unavailable at their door-steps, they must also deal with ever-present threats demolition and the sexual abuse and molestations that follow.

“When our homes are evicted without notice, we are left on the roads, with no toilet facility,” said Sushila Gulab Kale, a resident of Jai Ambe Nagar slum located in Govandi. “It puts our safety at risk in several ways, including possibilities of sexual molestation,” she said at the meeting organised in her slum settlement.

Another resident, Fatima, spoke of the perils pregnant women have to face. “My daughter gave birth to her child and three days after our house was demolished by the government. We spent nights without shelter. No words can explain the pain that we went through after eviction,” she said.

Several women from neighbouring slum settlements of Sathe Nagar, Mandala, Bheemchhaya and Sanjay Nagar came forward to give testimonies about similar difficulties.

Fatima, who works as a sweeper on sub-contract with the Mumbai municipal corporation, said even though she cleaned the gutters and gave sheen to Swachh Bharat, she lacked the basic toilet facility in her slum. “I clean gutters through the entire day. But we in our slum, we are forced to defecate in the open, as there is no toilet. Even then, people living in high-rise buildings adjacent to the open ground where we defecate throw stones at us. You tell us what are we supposed to do? Shall we not defecate and allow our stomachs to swell,” she asked.

Housing, which is a basic necessity, has simply been reduced to a commodity. It implies that if one can afford to buy a house only then he/she will have a house and if one cannot afford to buy a house then there is no provision to get the protection of even a minimum shelter.  The commoditization of housing is reason why slum housing comes into being. Urban poverty is a reality. Slums or informal settlement is where urban poverty exists. There is a certain kind of terminology that has been evolved over a period of time to ridicule these settlements. The terminology is totally unjustified at a time when economic inequalities are growing day by day. The existence of slums is the marker of poverty being perpetuated. The demolition of slums has not eradicated poverty but have forced people to become homeless, voiceless and invisible population of the city that ironically are also workers and toilers. These workers are toilers are responsible for subsidizing of economy at a large. Slum demolition has become a norm in major cities like Mumbai.

A number of women at the gathering expressed their anger on false promises made by every politician before elections.

“We have spent several years seeing politicians come to us with folded hands and promise us better facilities. After the elections, everyone forgets us. The only things the politicians leave behind are words. Shall we hold the words, like we hold air? They simply betray us”, said Maya Sutar from Jai Ambe Nagar. “We get paid for our hard work but politicians only make hollow promises. We are honest people, they are liars” added Sutar.

Women in the last concluded that there is no end to their suffering if they not fight themselves to make their lives better. “Though we are suffering, we have not given up. We will fight and we will win”, said Jameela Begum of Sathe Nagar slum and who also moderated the public meeting.

Girija Gupte and Mary Antony of Jagrut Kamgar Manch remained present as the guest in the public meeting.

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Gender Justice at Work: Startups Show the Way for Corporate India

35% of senior business roles women hold in startups compared with 20% across India Inc: Survey

New Delhi: India’s new-age companies seem to be leading the way in gender diversity. A survey of 100 startups commissioned by ETreveals that 35% of senior management roles are held by women and 13% of CEOs/company leaders at these startups are women. The study was conducted in collaboration with talent assessment and capability building firm Jombay.

Across India Inc, only 20% of senior business roles are held by women, and the country ranks fifth lowest globally on having women in leadership roles, according to Grant Thornton’s Women in Business report 2018 that was shared with ET and will be released on Thursday. While the percentage of senior roles held by women in India in the Grant Thornton survey increased from 17%, extending a consistent improvement year on year from 14% in 2014, startups are way ahead of the curve.

The higher presence of women in startups doesn’t seem to be driven by the active pursuit of a diversity agenda. More likely, it’s the result of trying to find the best person for the job, said company founders and recruiters. “It’s a mindset and everything else falls into place,” said Mohit Gundecha, CEO of Jombay. “The first step is to recognise women as the asset that they are.”

Sairee Chahal, the founder of Sheroes, a career services platform for women, attributes the increase in numbers to startups roping in women for operational roles. “Most founders are techies, and we see a host of women taking up the operational roles in startups, putting the framework for scaling businesses,” Chahal says, drawing parallels with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg hiring Sheryl Sandberg, who’s chief operating officer at the social media giant.

Hari TN, human resources head at Big-Basket, sees the trend at his startup—it has at least five women functional heads out of 12. “Startups tend to focus on picking up the right person for the job. These women obviously are the right people for the jobs they are in,” Hari said.

Founder CEO of three-year-old startup FreshMenu, Rashmi Daga, has an equal number of men and women in functional head roles. The heads of HR, finance, product, catalogue and the call centre are all women. “As startups, we hire not for diversity, but for competence,” Daga said, attributing the rise to women’s ability to bring about stability despite tough situations.

This has nothing to do with a diversity agenda, said Chahal. “It’s the demand of business, and operational bandwidth efficiency that is pushing the number of women in startups,” she said.

The Jombay survey reveals that women in leadership roles in startups are younger than their male counterparts, indicating that they reach leadership levels earlier. The average age of women at functional head and above levels is 34 years, while for men the average age is 36 years.

The average tenure of women at CEO to business head levels is 40 months, slightly shorter than that of men at 42 months. A significantly higher percentage of women are more educated than men for the same position. Nine out of 10 women at the senior level are postgraduates compared to 77% for men, the survey reveals.

The survey included 100 startups that got funded in the past year.

“This, to us, reads that women are achieving higher education as well as higher positions faster than men. This trend shows good promise to improve our gender diversity ratios overall,” Gundecha said. The survey included 100 startups that got funded in the past year.

Once the startups were selected, Jombay collected and studied the data regarding the hierarchy of these organisations.

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Holding Up Half the Sky: From the Son Valley to a Cockpit #WomensDay

In the summer of 1982, I travelled to Sidhi district in Madhya Pradesh to report on a fascinating archaeological expedition for India Today. An Indo-US team excavating in the Son Valley was sifting through stone artefacts from the Upper Palaeolithic period (between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago) when they came across a rough circular sandstone platform.

“In the centre of this platform was a fragment of a natural, ferruginous stone which had concentric triangular striations etched into it. The fragment stood out from the rest of the circle’s stones because of its unusual colours, ranging from a light yellowish red to a dark reddish brown, in alternating belts,” I wrote.

The archaeologists found nine other similar fragments which fitted together to form a triangular stone 15 cm high. They dated it to about 11,000 years ago. It seemed to have been placed as it was by Old Stone Age worshippers. More startlingly, a passer-by asked why the archaeologists had broken a holy stone. It turned out that the Kol and Baiga tribes in the area were still worshipping similar stone representations of their mother goddess, Mai.

So let us be clear – from prehistoric times (long pre-dating the earliest recognized origins of Hinduism with the compilation of the Rig Veda around 3,500 years ago) when early Homo erectus bands of hunter-gatherers foraged across our peninsula, we have revered the mother goddess. Combined with our worship of the elements – earth, fire, water and air – you can call them pagan or animistic beliefs – our culture is far older than the arguments going around these days about where Hinduism came from, and whether it was imported or sprang from our soil. A government-appointed committee of scholars has been carrying out a “holistic study of origin and evolution of Indian culture since 12,000 years before present and its interface with other cultures of the world.”

This period overlaps with the Son Valley discoveries. I wrote then that those findings “may be a reiteration of the woman’s pivotal position in those ancient groups. The mother was then truly a goddess: she looked after the family, gave birth to progeny that increased the tribe’s numbers, and protected her offspring.”

Whatever ideological winds are driving this ship, it is worth remembering, as we celebrate International Women’s Day, that our regard for Shakti is rooted in primeval instincts. It is significant that in every Hindu temple the place where the deity, whether male or female, is enshrined is called the garbha-griha (literally, womb-chamber).

So it is sad that, more than 70 years after we set out as a modern nation, we are still hostage to terrible stereotypes, gender discrimination, misogyny, bigotry, and the objectification of women.

It is just five years since Parliament passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013, in the wake of the Nirbhaya rape case and the Justice Verma Committee report, which recommended changes to definitions of sexual assault, rape, voyeurism and harassment among other offences and enhanced punishments. This closely followed passage of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, which was triggered by the Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan verdict passed by a Supreme Court bench headed by Justice JS Verma, then the chief justice, in August 1997.

In Vishaka, the Supreme Court spelled out a definition of sexual harassment for the first time. It said: “For this purpose, sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implication) as:

a) physical contact and advances;

b) a demand or request for sexual favours;

c) sexually coloured remarks;

d) showing pornography;

e) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.”

So, it took us 50 years to get to Vishaka, and 65 to get to tougher penalties for rape and sexual assault. In between was the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act of 2005.

These laws ought to have made India’s women feel much safer and more respected. Is that the case?

I do not believe so. Despite more than a thousand years of reverence for the mother goddess, we are riddled with prejudices and we still behave with impunity towards women.

National Crime Records Bureau data show that crimes against women totalled 338,854 in 2016, little changed from 339,457 in 2014. Delhi had the dishonour of the highest crime rate in the country (per 100,000 women) followed by Assam and Odisha.

Justice Verma, who also headed the National Human Rights Commission from 1999 to 2003 after his retirement as CJI, told me in a December 2008 interview that we have enough laws to protect human rights on our statute books. “That is how, we could in the Vishaka case, spell out the meaning of sexual harassment, and what needs to be done, and we placed the rights apart from the International Covenants etc. on Article 14 Right to Equality, Article 19 Right to Work and Article 21 Right to Life and Personal Liberty,” Verma said. “So I don’t think there is any dearth of any laws. If there is anything wanting that is in those people who are required to protect human rights.”

It is not just the protectors of our rights who fall short: we are also very willing, almost complicit, in our acceptance of sexual inequality, violence and harassment. Contrast the #MeToo movement in the United States, which has laid bare hundreds of cases of assault and harassment, and the public disgrace and resignations of a procession of celebrities, with the arrogance and impunity with which prominent men accused of similar crimes in India behave. Despite Vishaka and Nirbhaya, prosecutions take infuriatingly long to wend their way through the courts, and the predators not only escape punishment, they even begin to graze in new pastures.

I remembered what Rupan Deol Bajaj told the BBC. The senior IAS officer fought a 17-year-long battle against Punjab’s ‘supercop’ KPS Gill, leading to his ultimate conviction for sexual harassment in 2005 (Gill died last year). “I never fought against KPS Gill,” Bajaj said. “I fought against the mind-set of a society. People have started saying now, offences against women are increasing. No – now more women are speaking up.”

Let me end with a good-news story. A couple of months ago I happened to be sitting next to a woman pilot on an IndiGo flight. She was on her way back to base after a day’s flying. Our conversation led me to ask some questions of India’s most profitable airline (and I believe both its profitability and on-time performance have something to do with IndiGo’s diversity policies). Here are a few facts:

•India has among the highest number of

women commercial pilots in the world (12%) – as much as Finland and far higher than the world average of 5.4% (US 5.6%, France 7.6%, Japan 5.6%)

•IndiGo has 322 women pilots, 14% of the to-

tal; this is triple the level five years ago

•A third of IndiGo’s senior leadership are

women, and 43% of its total workforce

•The airline has 47 pilot couples, three pairs

of sisters, 11 brother-and-sister pairs, and ten father-and-daughter pairs

•IndiGo also boasts Bavicca Bharathi, who

was the world’s youngest woman commander of a commercial airliner, and who inspired her mother Judith to also train as a pilot and join IndiGo

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#WomensDay- Eight must-see documentaries about remarkable women

From India’s lady cops to Hip Hop Hijabis – Al Jazeera’s documentary picks for International Women’s Day, and every day.

To mark International Women’s Day, we’ve compiled a list of our must-see documentaries featuring brave and determined women from all around the world.

From journalists risking life and limb to report the news in Pakistan to the Cuban woman challenging tradition and reshaping rumba in one of her city’s poorest areas, these are eight stories you cannot miss.

Hip-Hop Hijabis

Muneera and Sukina are Poetic Pilgrimage, Britain’s first female Muslim hip-hop duo. This is their personal, spiritual, and physical journey.

As a tour of the UK takes the women into diverse communities, they remain undeterred by the fact that some Muslims consider music and public performances by women to be forbidden.

Instead, their music guides them to new discoveries about their faith, as they learn that they share their journey with other Muslim women around the world, and explore their desire to reconcile their conversion to Islam with their strong feminist sensibilities and Jamaican roots.

It’s a universal story about friendship, love and idealism, and about two young women finding their place in the world.

Behind the Wheel: Egypt’s Women Drivers

Very few female taxi drivers brave the unforgiving traffic of Egypt’s bustling capital, Cairo. But Um Waleed is one of them.

Driven by force of circumstance and the need to make a living, she has been picking up passengers for more than 30 years after being encouraged to buy a taxi by her father.

Her story, along with those of other Egyptian women who spend their days behind the wheels of everything from a rickshaw to a 36-tonne truck, are the focus of this film.

Long hours and the discrimination these women face their male-dominated professions only serve to increase their determination to reconcile their working lives with their identities as women in the Arab world.

Good Morning Pakistan: Journalists Under Threat

This award-winning film follows women working in one of the most dangerous and conservative areas of Pakistan.

“Where I come from, women are not usually allowed to get an education,” says Khalida Niaz, who went on a hunger strike to convince her father to let her finish school.

Now, she is a radio newsreader for the Tribal News Network, which broadcasts across Pakistan’s troubled border region with Afghanistan.

Reporting the news there can be deadly – threats by armed groups have shut down most media outlets. But Khalida and her colleagues know there are some stories that only women can tell.

Regla Gonzalez Miro: Cuba’s Rumba Roots

A community worker in the heart of Matanzas’ poorest yet most culturally-vibrant neighbourhood, La Marina, Regla Gonzalez Miro is pushing the boundaries around rumba culture.

The Cuban city is considered the birthplace of rumba music and dance, and those who live there are bound by a strong sense of community and history.

Traditionally, women are not allowed to play the drums in rumba, but Gonzalez, together with her friend Regla Mesa Milanes, is determined to change this. They created the Female Rumba Association three years ago and hold drum classes there for girls and boys.

Through Gonzalez’s story, we gain an insight into this vibrant place and its culture, to which Gonzalez’s past and present – as the daughter of an avid rumba dancer – are tied.

The Cut: Exploring FGM

At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), the partial or complete removal of the external female genitalia.

The practice is prevalent in Africa, the Middle East and Asia but happens all over the world, despite it being illegal in most countries.

Despite having no health benefits or being linked to any particular religious faith, FGM is considered an essential part of raising a girl and preparing her for womanhood by millions globally.

In this film, journalist Fatma Naib, whose family are from Eritrea where FGM is common, but who grew up in Sweden, where the practice is illegal, takes a personal journey – from Somaliland to Sweden – to explore the traditions and controversies that surround FGM.

Afghanistan: Bullets and Burqas

Amid a spate of attacks, Afghanistan struggles with a resurgent Taliban, backed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).

In the country’s most northerly provinces, ISIL are believed to be attempting to expand their influence into Central Asia and Russia, causing Afghan authorities to encourage the general populace in those areas to join local militias and provide help and support to security forces.

But in such a conservative country, few would have expected that the most enthusiastic recruits would be women.

Yet in Jowjan Province, which sits on the border between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, several hundred women have decided to take up arms against the fighters. Afghan filmmaker Najibullah Quraishi gains unique access to a group of female recruits to find out why they decided to fight, and what it means for their families, their communities and the country at large.

India’s Ladycops

Following the Dehli rape case in 2012, hundreds of women’s police stations have been set up across India to combat domestic abuse and sexual violence.

Every day, the staff at the women’s police station in Sonipat, in the northern state of Haryana, deal with the cases brought to them by the public.

Some days it’s investigating crimes or managing public order, but much of the women’s time is spent mediating family disputes, in which they act as a counsellor or social worker.

The women encounter families at war over controversial issues such as caste, dowry payments and relations with abusive in-laws. Their stories reveal how women’s lives are changing in India and how they struggle with the conflicting demands made of them.

The Lives of Black Women

Rekia Boyd was only 22 when she was killed by an off-duty police officer. Dante Servin fired five shorts, one of which struck Boyd in the head. She was unarmed.

In the United States, black women are being killed at a rate of one a month, and yet their stories often go untold.

“They don’t talk about women that much when they get killed by the police,” said Martinez Sutton, Boyd’s brother. “They barely talk about women. Why is that? It’s crazy because you see that even in death women play the second role.”

This film investigates the lesser-known stories of black women who have fallen victim to police violence in the US and asks why they are left out of the conversation on police brutality.


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Hadiya wins her Freedom – SC Restores Hadiya’s Marriage, Sets Aside Kerala HC Order  #Goodnews

The Supreme Court is hearing a petition related to the Kerala High Court’s annulment of marriage of Hadiya, an alleged victim of ‘love jihad’.

The Supreme Court is hearing a petition related to the Kerala High Court’s annulment of marriage of Hadiya, an alleged victim of ‘love jihad’.(Photo: Liju Joseph/The Quint)

The Supreme Court on Thursday, 8 March, set aside Kerala High Court’s annulment of Hadiya’s marriage to Shafin Jahan.

The bench, headed by CJI Dipak Misra, directed the National Investigation Agency to continue their probe into the alleged case of ‘love jihad’ without ‘interfering into Hadiya’s marriage’.

Responding to the court’s direction, Maninder Singh, appearing for the investigation agency, submitted to the court that ‘the probe is almost complete.’

The bench, also comprising of Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, put up the matter for order after lunch on the plea filed by a man, who claimed to be the woman’s husband, challenging a Kerala High Court order annulling his marriage with her.

Earlier this week, the father of the woman, who is alleged to be a victim of love jihad, claimed before the apex court that his efforts prevented his daughter from being transported to “extremist-controlled territories” of Syria to be used as a “sex slave or a human bomb”.

In a fresh affidavit, KM Asokan said that his daughter Hadiya was a “vulnerable adult” and she “abjectly surrendered herself to complete strangers who adopted her into their fold, offering her shelter and protection and further imparted religious indoctrination in an isolated environment”.

He was responding to an affidavit filed by his daughter, who had earlier told the apex court that she had willingly converted to Islam and wanted to remain a Muslim.

In his affidavit, Asokan said he cannot remain a mute spectator if his daughter is abducted and taken to extremist-controlled territories for being used as a sex slave or a human bomb.

The matter came to the fore when Shafin Jahan, who claimed to be the husband of Hadiya, had challenged a Kerala High Court order annulling his marriage with her and sending the woman to her parents’ custody.

The apex court had on 22 February questioned whether the high court could nullify a marriage between “vulnerable adults” after the father of the 25-year-old woman had justified the order.

In an affidavit filed before the top court, Hadiya said that she had married Jahan on her own will and sought the court’s permission to “live as his wife”.

She also claimed that her husband was wrongly portrayed as a terrorist by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and he had nothing to do with the Middle East-based terror group ISIS.

On 27 November last year, the apex court had freed Hadiya from her parents’ custody and sent her to college to pursue her studies, even as she had pleaded that she should be allowed to go with her husband.

The high court had annulled the marriage terming it as an instance of ‘love jihad’, following which Jahan had approached the apex court.

(With inputs from ANI and PTI)

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After Lenin and Periyar, vandals target statues of Mahatma Gandhi and Ambedkar #WTFnews

There have been multiple incidents of statues being vandalised in various parts of the country.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong condemnation of incidents of vandalism of statues in different parts of the country seems to be no deterrent for the miscreants. According to latest reports, a statue of the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was defaced by an unidentified person in Kerala on Thursday morning.

According to Mathrubhoomi, the Mahatma Gandhi statue was damaged at taluk office in Taliparamba in Kannur district of Kerala. The incident occurred at around 7 am on Thursday.

The report said that the unidentified miscreant broke the spectacles, damaged the garland and hurled stones on the statue. The police have launched an investigation into the case.

Meanwhile, news agency ANI reported that unidentified people poured paint on the bust of Dr BR Ambedkar at Tiruvottiyur near Chennai in Tamil Nadu.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

Tamil Nadu: Unidentified miscreants poured paint on the bust of Dr BR Ambedkar in Tiruvottiyur, Chennai last night.

This comes a day after PM Modi strongly condemned such incidents and spoke to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh over the issue.

“Incidents of toppling of statues have been reported from certain parts of the country. MHA has taken serious notes of such incidents of vandalism. PM also spoke to Home Minister in this regard and has expressed his strong disapproval of such incidents,” the Ministry of Home Affairs had said in a statement on Wednesday.

The MHA also asked the states to take all necessary measures to prevent such incidents. “Persons indulging in such acts must be sternly dealt with and booked under relevant provisions of law,” the MHA said.

There have been multiple incidents of statues being vandalised in various parts of the country. It started with the demolition of a statue of Vladimir Lenin with the help of a bulldozer in Tripura after Left Front’s debacle in the state Assembly elections. Another statue of Lenin was vandalised despite directives from the Centre.

Following this, a statue of Dravidian ideologue ‘Periyar’ EV Ramasamy was damaged in Tirupattur in Tamil Nadu. Two persons – one from BJP and the other from CPI – were arrested in connection with the incident.

And this continued with the vandalism of a statue of Bharatiya Jan Sangh founder Syama Prasad Mukherjee in Jadavpur University in West Bengal and Dr BR Ambedkar’s statue in Meerut in Uttar Pradesh.

“Such incidents will not stop and are a result of the weak Central government. The Centre needs to accept their failure or that they are guiding such mishappenings, Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury said on Thursday.

Taking a serious view of the desecration of statues in various parts of the country, the Home Ministry on Wednesday issued a second advisory, its second in the day, holding district magistrates and superintendents of police “personally responsible” for such incidents of vandalism.

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The fresh advisory came a few hours after the ministry, in its first advisory, told all states and union territories that incidents of toppling and damaging of statues must be checked immediately and stern action should be taken to prevent such incidents.

PM Modi has also expressed his strong disapproval of incidents of vandalism of statues and spoken to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on the matter.

The home minister has appealed to political parties to ensure that those found desecrating statues are dealt with strictly.

(With Agency Inputs)


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Right-wing circulates fake news about ‘commies’ demolishing Rajiv Gandhi’s statue in Tripura


“In 2008, the Commies brought down former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s statue in Tripura with the inspiration of #Lenin, neither their intellectual voices nor @INCIndia had a problem with this”, tweeted Prafulla Ketkar. Ketkar is an editor with Organiser, which is the mouthpiece of the RSS.

In 2008, the Commies brought down former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s statue in Tripura with the inspiration of , neither their intellectual voices nor @INCIndia had a problem with his.

According to Ketkar and several other right-wing supporters and sympathisers, leaders and supporters of communist parties who are crying foul over the desecration of the statue of Lenin at Belonia in Tripura, are themselves guilty of resorting to such politics. Gaurav Pradhan, who is followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter too reiterated the same. His tweet was retweeted over 800 times.

Dear @JhaSanjay @priyankac19 @rssurjewala & other @incindia PIDIs

This is Shri Rajiv Gandhi statue in Tripura which was brought down by LEFT in the most humiliating manner in 2008

Would u guys say something about it or Lenin is your new father now?

This image has been tweeted by multiple users. Here are some more examples. The Sootradhar account below is also followed by PM Modi.

CPIM demolished Rajiv Gandhi Statue in 2008 in Tripura, CPIM also demolished Netaji Bose Statue in Birbhum , West Bengal.

Communists of Tripura broke and dismantled Rajiv Gandhi’s statue in 2008. Did you hear a squeak from anyone, even from the party who elected him as PM? Nobody uttered a word. That is why the present outrage is purely hypocritical. I support removal of Lenin statues by law

Did the Left Govt raze Rajiv Gandhi statue in Tripura in 2008?

So, is it true that the Left Govt demolished a statue of the Former Prime Minister in Tripura in 2008, as claimed by right-wing supporters on social media? Not quite.

The above photograph was carried by Deccan Chronicle in the year 2013. It was clicked in Andhra Pradesh. The statue of former PM Rajiv Gandhi was pulled down by protesters who favoured a united Andhra Pradesh. The state was formally bifurcated in 2014 and massive protests had broken out then against the Congress-led UPA Govt. The picture posted above can be accessed here.

Earlier, it had been observed that the desecration of the statue of Lenin in Tripura had been applauded by BJP leaders and supporters on social media. This included BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav, BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli and Rajya Sabha member Swapan Dasgupta. Now, the right-wing ecosystem on social media is indulging in whataboutery over vandalism with the help of a misleading image.

Right-wing circulates fake news about ‘commies’ demolishing Rajiv Gandhi’s statue in Tripura

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Dreams, Songs, Laughter and Roses , but also Bread #WomensDay

March 8 seems like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and a religious festival rolled into one. But where does that leave most women? asks Anchita Ghatak

As we come marching, marching, we

bring the Greater Days —

The rising of the women means the

rising of the race —

No more the drudge and idler — ten

that toil where one reposes —

But a sharing of life’s glories: Bread

and Roses, Bread and Roses.

In its last session before the year ended in 1911, the Massachusetts state legislature, after tremendous pressure from workers, had finally passed a law limiting the working hours of children under the age of 18 to 54 hours a week. The huge textile corporations had strongly opposed the law and, as an act of retaliation, the employers cut the working hours of all employees to 54 hours, along with a commensurate cut in wages.

After this, on New Year’s Day, 1912, the textile workers of Lawrence, Massachusetts, began a nine-week strike. Some 35,000 workers in the Lawrence factories staged a complete walk out. In the course of the strike, the workers presented the bosses with many demands including a 15 per cent wage increase, double pay for overtime, no discrimination against strikers and an end to discrimination against foreign-born workers. During a parade through Lawrence during the course of the strike, a group of women workers carried banners saying “Bread and Roses”.

This poetic presentation of the demands of women workers for equal pay for equal work echoed throughout the United States of America, and James Oppenheim, a poet with strong working-class sympathies, picked up the phrase and wrote a poem, which was later set to music by Martha Coleman. This song has come to represent the struggles of women for different kinds of rights all across the world.

Struggles of women workers for economic rights in many countries of the West in the 19th and early 20th centuries, along with the struggle for women’s political rights including the very important right to vote, form the backdrop to the decision to identify a day as International Women’s Day. In 1910, a second International Conference of Working Women was held in Copenhagen. Clara Zetkin of the Social Democratic Party in Germany tabled the idea of an International Women’s Day.

The very first International Women’s Day was launched the following year by Clara Zetkin on March 19. This date was chosen because, during the 1848 revolution, the Prussian king recognized for the first time on March 19 the strength of the armed people and gave way before the threat of a proletarian uprising. Among the many promises he made, which he later failed to keep, was the introduction of votes for women.

Plans for the first International Women’s Day demonstration were spread by word of mouth and in the press. During the week before International Women’s Day, two journals appeared: The Vote for Women in Germany and Women’s Day in Austria. Various articles were devoted to International Women’s Day, such as, “Women and Parliament”, “The Working Women and Municipal Affairs” and “What Has the Housewife got to do with Politics?” The articles analysed the questions of equality of women in government and in society. All articles emphasized the point that it was necessary to make parliament more democratic by extending the franchise to women.

In 1917, on the last Sunday of February, women textile workers of Petrograd began a strike for “bread and peace” in response to the death of over two million Russian soldiers in war. Opposed by political leaders including the Bolsheviks, who thought the time was not right for a strike, the women workers continued to strike, chanting the slogan, “Down with war, down with Czar, we want bread, NOT war,” until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional government granted women the right to vote. The date on which the women’s strike commenced was Sunday, February 23 on the Julian calendar then in use in Russia. This day on the Gregorian calendar in use elsewhere was March 8. Since 1913, International Women’s Day has been celebrated on March 8.

India has a strong history of women’s political and social action from pre-Independence days. Women’s organizations, whether they were affiliated to political parties or engaged in social work, worked on issues of women’s emancipation, linking them with issues of citizenship, poverty and development. In India, the National Federation of Indian Women began commemorating International Women’s Day from the 1950s. In 1960, they took up several programmes across the country to mark 50 years of IWD.

The United Nations marked 1975 as International Women’s Year and later in the year declared the International Women’s Decade. This year also saw the first World Conference on Women organized by the UN in Mexico. All this gave an impetus to work on women’s rights and development across the world and imbued IWD with new meaning and significance.

Influenced by developments in women’s organizing of themselves both in the country and internationally, work with women in India also took on new forms. The influence of the Towards Equality report (1974), of the Committee on the Status of Women in India in shaping this change can never be overstated. The 1980s saw strong mobilization by ‘autonomous’ women’s groups, not affiliated to political parties, on issues of rape and dowry.

Since the 1980s, there are many groups, both government and non-government, working with women at the grassroots to realize women’s rights. One of the major contributions of the Towards Equality report was the churning it caused within academia, which finally led to the establishment of several centres of Women’s Studies in universities across the country. Consequently, we also have theoretical work on women and their lives, struggles and triumphs.

Even a very brief recounting of IWD in India vis-à-vis women’s struggles makes the nationalist and socialist links fairly evident. But many politically-aware women and men in this country are now dismayed to find that the IWD appears to have been appropriated by market forces and is often synonymous with discounts in clothes shops, jewellery stores, restaurants and gift shops. Businesses have become adept at exploiting the commercial potential of IWD and March 8 seems like Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and a religious festival all rolled into one. On this day, men may choose to buy gifts for their wives and girlfriends and take their mothers out to dinner, a group of women may decide to have a girls’ night out, or an individual woman may decide to pamper herself by splurging on books, music, clothes or perfume. These celebrations, we can easily see, fit in with the lives of the affluent classes. However, where does that leave the vast majority of women in India?

Women’s movements in contemporary India have many successes, both big and small, but the overall picture of women’s lives remains bleak. A very recent UN report (2007) estimates that 2,000 unborn girls are illegally aborted every day in India. This has led to skewed sex ratios in regions like Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh as well as the capital, New Delhi, where a census in 2001 showed there are less than 800 girls for every 1,000 boys. Currently, about 50 million women are missing in India. In the late 1980s, Amartya Sen coined the term “missing women” to describe the large number of women in the world who are literally not alive due to family neglect and discrimination. Female literacy is 54.16 per cent as opposed to the male literacy rate, which, according to the 2001 census, is 75.85 per cent.The participation of women in the formal labour force is much lower than that of males (33 per cent versus 67 per cent).

Women’s groups have worked to ensure that women and girls are able to access opportunities and services in this country. They have gathered data from the field, fought for redress of wrongs and even pressed for legal reform. From the mid 1980s, women’s groups, along with health and civil rights activists, started discussing the issue of abuse of medical technologies for aborting female foetuses. As a consequence, the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Regulation and Prevention of Misuse) Act was enacted in 1994, and amendments were brought in later to plug certain loopholes resulting in the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Technique (prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 2003.

Women’s movements have interrogated the way patriarchies are manifested in different institutions and social processes. Patriarchal values and practices within families, marriage, religion, educational institutions, workplaces and the State, have been identified and questioned. The Vishakha Guidelines (1997) against sexual harassment in the workplace and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005) are a consequence of women’s dogged mobilizing against injustice.

As modes of production change in a rapidly changing, technology-driven world, women’s movements are grappling with the reality that women are finding it increasingly difficult to get secure employment within the organized sector. The burgeoning of special economic zones is also putting hard-won workers’ rights under threat.

It would be a mistake to conclude that women’s groups in India are able to easily arrive at a consensus on issues and mobilize effectively. There are some issues that divide activists sharply. The issue of sex work is one such issue. Many women, including large numbers of sex workers themselves, say that sex work is work and are demanding recognition from the State as workers. Another section, including some women in prostitution, believe that prostitution is intrinsically violent and degrading for women and should never be accorded the dignity of work.

Despite a strong grassroots base, many marginalized communities have said that their issues have not been adequately recognized or addressed by women’s movements. This has led to an assertion of ethnic or community identities and the rise of movements of Naga women, Bodo women, Muslim women, Dalit women and tribal women to name a few. There has been sustained questioning of the dominant position that educated, upper-caste and upper-class women appear to occupy within women’s movements.

Women with disabilities have often said that they are invisible, both within the movement of rights of people with disability and in women’s movements. Mentally challenged women have also specifically raised the issue of their exclusion from movements of people with disability. There are strong reasons why sins of omission and commission need to be addressed.

A major challenge facing women’s movements in our country today is probably confronting its own essentialist heteronormativity. Heteronormativity is a term used to refer to the institutionalization of heterosexuality in a society and stems from the essentialist belief that there are only two sexes, namely, male and female, and that a certain set of behaviours and expectations follow from one’s sex. Queer theory denies the binary of homosexual-heterosexual, positing that gender and sexuality are always shifting on a spectrum where people may position themselves in different places at different times.

The question now has moved far beyond extending solidarity to lesbian women’s causes or gay men’s marches. If gender/sex and sexualities are no longer fixed, there are far-reaching questions of theory and practice for women’s movements. Women’s movements are becoming aware of the fact that much of their strategies and programming have taken the married heterosexual able-bodied woman as the norm.

Scholars and activists now agree that we have to speak of women’s movements to acknowledge the variety of issues that have been raised in this country. Also, it has to be accepted that all activists will not have the same viewpoint on every issue. Yet, the oppression of women in a patriarchal, class- and caste- ridden society remains. Struggles for equality will result in gains only if people can forge meaningful bonds of solidarity despite differences.

A significant day like the International Women’s Day cannot become a hostage to market forces that smooth over the struggles and realities of women. It is a day for celebrating the successes of women’s movements, pondering on failures, discussing differences and moving ahead so that the fight against inequality and injustice goes on with vigour. And dreams may live, and songs be sung and there is laughter and roses, but also bread.

Deccan Chronicle -

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Armed with demands, 25,000 farmers start ‘long march’ to Assembly – Nashik to  Mumbai

THOUSANDS of farmers and farm labourers from various districts of the state gathered in Nashik city before setting off on a six-day ‘long march’ to Mumbai on Tuesday afternoon. At least 10,000 protestors including a large number of women covered 15 km of the 180-km distance to the financial capital, where they plan to demonstrate outside the state legislature on various agrarian issues including the farm loan waiver and transfer of forest land to tillers. On Tuesday, protestors, mostly from the tribal belt, began to assemble at the CBS Chowk in Nashik, the location of the March 2016 struggle when around 1 lakh farmers had gathered for two days.

Apart from middle aged farmers and youngsters, a large number of women and senior citizens are part of the long march. The long march, called by the Left-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (ABKS), would reach Mumbai on March 12. The Peasants and Workers Party and CPI also extended support to the long march. Approximately 1 lakh people are likely to join the long march before it reaches Mumbai, said ABKS leaders.

“We have been demanding that forest land we have been tilling for three decades be transferred in our name. While we have been tilling five acres of land, I have been given a certificate by the district authorities stating that I will get only 1.5 acres. It is not justifiable. What farming can we do on such a small plot of land? We are demanding land that we are tilling for decades, nothing else,” said Bibibai Kokate, a farmer from Khedgaon village in Dindori tehsil, Nashik.

A group of nine women, all farm labourers, said they should be given a portion of forest land for farming. “We are farm labourers and have no other source of income. Our children are not able to complete their education. Our demand is to give us some portion of the remaining forest land to till and earn something,” said Sushila Pawar from Lakhmapur village, Dindori.

Vilas Babar, a farmer from Parbhani, and a member of the ABKS said that the government must fulfill its promise of compensation for farmers whose land was hit by the pink bollworm recently. “Besides, we also want a complete loan waiver, without any conditions imposed,” said Babar. The approximately 10,000 protestors stopped near Valdevi river on Tuesday night, and will proceed further on Wednesday morning.

JP Gavit, CPI(M) legislator from Kalwan constituency in Nashik, said the state should improve implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006. “Though the Act came in 2006 and the rules came in 2008, the government is not implementing it effectively. As per the Act, only 5 or 10 gunthas is being given to farmers, which is nothing. The farmers can’t do anything with it. We just want the land that tribals have been tilling for decades to be given to them. It may be five, seven or ten acres,” said Gavit.

Gavit further said they oppose any move to share river water with Gujarat through agreements. “Instead of giving water to Gujarat, it should be diverted to drought-hit parts of the state,” he added.

Ajit Nawale, the state general secretary of the Kisan Sabha, said though these demands were raised two years ago, no progress has been made. “We don’t want announcements, we want it to happen. We will not leave the Assembly premises until our issues are resolved,” sad Nawale. Ashok Dhawale, president of the ABKS, said the Left parties and secular parties would come together on issues to fight the BJP government across the country.

 Indian Express

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