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Archives for : October2018

A Mother’s Account: They Beat My Son to Death

Father suffers cardiac arrest

 SRINAGAR: The family of a 31-year-old youth, who died under suspect circumstances during an encounter in capital Srinagar earlier this week, has accused the government forces of beating him to death.

Rayees Sofi, who ran a bakery out of the first storey, was killed when forces raided their four-storied house in Fateh Kadal locality of downtown Srinagar on Wednesday. Two Lashkar-e-Toiba militants and a policeman were also killed in the encounter.

“At midnight, forces barged into our home and started beating us up without rhyme or reason. Then they went upstairs and started assaulting Rayees, asking him to lead them to militants. I could hear his screams saying that he was innocent but they didn’t let us go up,” Shakeela, mother of Rayees said.

According to family, Rayees was taken away by government forces while his father, Habibullah Sofi suffered a minor cardiac arrest, “His (Rayees’s) brother (Mudasir) rushed him (Habibullah) to a hospital. All this while, I was hoping that Rayees will return home soon,” Shakeela said.

As the encounter ended, a pall of gloom descended on the family when they came to know that Rayees has also been killed. “When they were taking him (Rayees) away, I begged them to let him go. He was innocent. He has a one-year-old child and he worked hard to provide not only for his family but for us also,” Shakeela said.

However, police has said that Rayees refused to come out of the house when the “contact was established with militants,” “The complicity of Rayees Ahmad who was part of the group in providing shelter and logistics to the militants is being investigated,” a J&K Police spokesperson said in a statement.

Two militants, including Mehraj-ud-Din Bangroo, a top Lashkar-e-Toiba strategist from Fateh Kadal who brought the capital Srinagar on the militancy map, were killed in the encounter that sparked massive protests across the city. Bangroo had come to visit his family when forces laid siege of the congested locality.

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Dussehra turns tragic in Amritsar as 60 crushed under train

TNN | Updated: Oct 19, 2018, 22:20 IST


  • The tragedy took place at the Joda Fatak area where a large crowd had gathered to watch the fireworks
  • As the firecrackers went off, the organisers asked people to move back
  • A large number of people moved towards the railway tracks
  • Cops said that the revelers could not hear the train approaching because of the loud explosions

Dussehra turns tragic in Amritsar as 60 crushed under train

AMRITSAR: Dussehra celebrations turned tragic in Amritsar on Friday evening when a speeding train ran over hundreds of people who were watching Ravana’s effigy going up in flames. At least 60 people were feared dead according to initial estimates with authorities saying that the fatalities could rise.

The tragedy took place at the Joda Fatak area where a large crowd had gathered to watch the fireworks. As the firecrackers went off, the organisers of the Dussehra celebration asked people to move back. A large number of people moved towards the railway tracks.

At the same time, the Jalandhar-Amritsar DMU was crossing the spot. Police officials said that the revelers could not hear the train approaching because of the loud explosions from the effigy and were run over by the train. Eyewitnesses said the Amritsar-Howrah train had crossed the spot minutes earlier. Had the two trains crossed at the same time, the casualties would have been much higher.

Amritsar commissioner of police SS Srivastava confirmed the death toll. He said they were trying to clear the bodies from the tracks and take the injured to nearby hospitals.

Amritsar deputy commissioner Kamaldeep Singh Sangha said ambulance services had been pressed into service to take the injured to the hospitals. “All hospitals in the city have been alerted about the injured patients and ambulances from the neighbouring districts have also been requisitioned to carry the injured and dead,” he said.

Dussehra was being celebrated in the Amritsar (East) constituency represented by Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu. His wife and former MLA from the area, Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, was at the function and left before the mishap. “I had left the spot only moments earlier after seeing that all arrangements were in place,” she told reporters after the tragedy. “I rushed back as soon as I got a call about the accident.”

Sources said that when the effigy was being burnt, the spectators pushed back around 100 feet on to the railway tracks as they feared that the burning effigy would fall on them.

As news of the tragedy emerged, people gathered in large numbers at the accident spot. Many of them alleged negligence on part of both the organisers of the Dussehra celebrations as well as the state government for not making adequate safety arrangements given that the railway tracks were right next to the celebration site. They blamed the administration and politicians for failing to protect them.

Local MLA and Punjab minister OP Soni visited the spot after the tragedy where he had to face the anger of the people.

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh has directed home secretary NS Kalsi, health secretary Satish Chandra and ADGP (law and order) Hardeep Singh Dhillon to immediately rush to Amritsar. The chief minister would fly to Amritsar on Saturday to assess the situation.

Amarinder tweeted, “Rushing to Amritsar to personally supervise relief & rescue in tragic rail accident on Dussehra in Amritsar. My govt will give Rs 5 lakh to kin of each deceased & free treatment to injured in govt & pvt hospitals. District authorities have been mobilised on war footing.”

Punjab BJP president and Rajya Sabha MP Shwait Malik, who is a former mayor of Amritsar, said, “It is a very unfortunate incident. It should not have happened.”

In Video: Amritsar train mishap: Shocking video footage of accident site

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Non-profit sends three staff on leave after sexual harassment complaints- #MeToo at Teach for India

by-Neerja Deodhar

After the media and entertainment industries, voices from the education sector are now speaking up about harassment and abuse at the workplace, as part of the #MeTooIndia movement. As of 19 October, at least five such accounts have emerged on Twitter involving Teach For India, which is known as India’s leading non-profit organisation in education.

Poulomi Roy, an alumna of Symbiosis Centre for Media and Communication, has alleged that she was mentally and sexually harassed by Teach For India fellow Kapil Dawda when she was interning at the organisation as part of a compulsory internship, facilitated by her college. In an account posted on Twitter, she alleges that the harassment took place in a school in Govandi, Mumbai. She was 18 at the time.

Roy has accused Dawda of touching her inappropriately, invading her personal space, chastising her for interacting with fellows who were closer to her own age, and making demeaning comments about her. She adds that he allegedly threatened her with a bad report, and went on to write a report which contained “blatant lies”.

Roy eventually informed her college authorities about Dawda’s alleged behaviour. As part of their investigation, staff members called up fellows from the organisation, claims Roy, asking them if Dawda had harassed her. Roy alleges that following this, the fellows who were contacted asked her why she had falsely accused Dawda of harassment. Her college cancelled her internship, Roy told Firstpost, adding that no action was taken against Dawda, who is now the city director for Teach For India in Bengaluru.

#MeToo has created a platform where women — or anyone who has faced sexual harassment — can speak out, and be counted

At least five #MeToo accounts have emerged on Twitter involving Teach for India

When contacted by Firstpost, Dawda said he “unequivocally denied all allegations” made against him. “I am on a temporary leave of absence while the organisation’s internal complaints committee is investigating the matter. I intend to fully cooperate with the process. I am also independently considering legal recourse. I will not be able to comment further at this time,” he said.

Anupam Siddhartha, director of Symbiosis Centre for Media and Communication, when reached for comment regarding Roy’s case, said, “The Symbiosis International (Deemed University) ICC is investigating the matter as of now. As the matter is sub judice, we cannot comment on the same.” Siddhartha said the deputy registrar, SIU, could be reached for further updates.

A woman fellow working in Pune has accused her one-time manager Sachin Paranjape of asking her inappropriate questions, and touching her even when she made her discomfort with such behaviour evident. She alleges that Paranjape would call her at odd hours on the pretext of giving her feedback, usually negative in nature. The fellow also alleged that Paranjpe forced her to be alone with him in an empty room, where he verbally harassed her. She adds that she did not speak to the HR manager because the latter “claimed to be his [Sachin’s] best friend publicly”.

Speaking about her view of the organisation’s stance towards women’s safety at the workplace, she told Firstpost, “There are a lot of ex-female employees who are coming out and talking about their horror stories at the hands of senior members of the organisation. But recently, we got an e-mail from the founder Shaheen Mistry, asking us to directly complain to TFI and not publicly speak about the experiences. It really infuriated me.”

Firstpost’s emails to Paranjpe (who is currently a senior programme manager at Central Square Foundation), from 16 October onwards, went unanswered.

One woman fellow, who did not wish to be identified, details an experience involving a male fellow at her school who would allegedly harass female Teach For India staff by flirting with them. She says that he would turn ordinary conversations over text messages into conversations about their profile pictures. “He was known to save women’s WhatsApp pictures and send it back to them with unwelcome comments about how they look… He would stand outside our classrooms to ‘observe’ us and ‘shadow’ us as we taught — it always felt lecherous and sleazy.”

Despite confronting him and telling him to stop engaging in these behaviours, she says the man persisted. The woman adds that she and her colleagues also discovered that their male peer had physically hurt some of the children in his care; in particular, he had pinched a girl student. This is when the woman and her colleagues decided to formally complain to Teach For India.

“We had a formal conversation with the HR and our programme manager at the time. We were told by the HR to ‘seriously consider’ whether or not to raise a sexual harassment complaint. This automatically caused us to second guess ourselves. We were not encouraged or believed, and it was dismissed as unimportant,” she says. She adds that of all the accusations made, Teach For India allegedly only took cognisance of the child protection policy violation.

She says that action taken against the male fellow in question was that he was put on a “support plan”, where the programme manager they worked under would visit his classroom more frequently. Despite this, she says, he continued to be abusive. Teach For India allegedly took up active measures only when one fellow approached the headmistress of the school, because she felt that her safety was compromised even within the premises of the school. Members of the human resources department, the project manager and some senior staff members arrived at the school and asked him to resign immediately, she said.

“Little was done during our fellowship when fellows raised complaints about teachers/school staff who were sexually abusing children in the school. TFI was in a position of power and could have leveraged this to call out these abusers, but they chose not to, and dissuaded fellows from speaking up about it,” said this fellow, about the organisation’s attitude towards sexual harassment.

A Mumbai-based ex-employee of TFI, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke about the harassment that she was witness to when she was a fellow. She alleges that in 2012-13, a male employee forced himself on and subsequently harassed her colleague and friend. “His behaviour affected her considerably, and she went on to inform the TFI management about it. The CEO was aware of who the harasser was,” she said to Firstpost. She alleges that no action was taken against the accused, because the survivor’s complaint was “not recorded over email and said in person”.

Were these employees aware of Teach For India’s policy on sexual harassment at the workplace? Two of them say that there was never any public or open conversation about it (it is mentioned in their contract), while one remembers it was spoken about as part of the HR policy, but an internal complaints committee was not mentioned. “To the best of my knowledge, I remember that the process was to complain to HR and take it forward from there,” she explained.

Two of the accusers also spoke about the work culture at Teach For India, highlighting how committed fellows have to be to their job. “Anyone who has done the fellowship knows how emotional the experience can be. There is literally no day that I did not work and I gave it my all to teaching — and this I did while dealing with harassment by my manager,” she said. She added that very often, the boundaries between one’s personal and professional life become blurred over time at the organisation.

Firstpost contacted Teach For India to ask about the organisation’s policy on sexual harassment, including whether it allows accused employees to interact with school children. The organisation said that it cannot address questions regarding the specific cases since it is investigating allegations, and has instead shared the following statement:

We are shocked and saddened by the allegations that have recently been raised involving members of the Teach For India community. We believe in a workspace where all of our members, especially our women, feel valued and safe. We are currently working around the clock to investigate and take necessary actions, in line with the Sexual Harassment Act. We have an Independent Complaints Committee in place as per the law and being guided by independent counsel and expertise to ensure objectivity.

While our current investigations are going on, we have asked the three alleged members of our community to take a temporary leave of absence.

We want to ensure that all female members of our community have forums to speak. We encourage the usage of the right-to-speak platforms and have activated a grievance redressal email ID ( where all sexual harassment complaints can directly be addressed to the Internal Complaints Committee. Our team is also working to gather advice from external consultants to assess that we have a robust mechanism in place to not only ensure compliance to policy guidelines, but equally importantly to also engage with women. We’re also in the process of scheduling town-hall meetings to engage with community members. Finally, we’ve directly engaged with some of the complainants and are working to get in touch with others. We will continue to reach out to ensure that they have a platform to express themselves openly.

As an organisation, we do need to go beyond compliance and ensure our culture is one that is safe and caring. This includes our ability to stay vigilant in educating ourselves, our teams and the ecosystem; taking a stance on behaviors encountered no matter how small; admitting mistakes and practicing accountability.

We fully support the public discussion surrounding sexual harassment in the workplace. We acknowledge that it is long overdue. And we are committed to doing the right thing. At present, all of our emotions are invested in ensuring we maintain and build a work environment in which our colleagues can work together in an atmosphere that is open, engaging and free from sexual harassment.

Network 18, of which Firstpost is a part, has received complaints of sexual harassment as well. The complaints which are within the purview of the workplace have been forwarded to our PoSH committee for appropriate action

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Mumbai-11-year-old on way home after garba raped by tempo driver #WTFnews


An eleven-yearold Class VII student was raped and sodomized for 30 minutes by a tempo driver inside the vehicle in Sakinaka on Tuesday night. When the 30-year-old accused learned that the police were on his trail, he chopped off his “funky hair” but was caught within 24 hours of the crime from his Sakinaka residence. Police have seized his mobile phone and retrieved the minor’s photos which he had clicked before committing the offence.

The crime took place when the girl and her 11-year-old male friend were returning home around 10pm on Tuesday after playing garba some distance away from their residence.

Alleged rapist had consumed narcotics: Police

The accused, an unemployed man who works part-time as a tempo driver, spotted the two children. “Khan had consumed some narcotic substance that day. He followed the children and when they reached a deserted spot, he attacked the girl’s friend who got frightened and fled. The accused then raped and sodomized the girl and released her around 10.30pm,” said a Sakinaka police official.

The child was since hospitalized. She has been discharged but is in shock.

After the accused released her, she went home and narrated her ordeal to her mother who took her to the police station. In her police statement, the child said she told her mother about the crime when asked to explain the delay in reaching home. “I was terrified but somehow managed to walk through the deserted lane to reach home. The man threatened me and clicked my photos and my friend’s too on his phone. He then slapped my friend and asked him to leave. He threatened me and told me to remain quiet before raping me. The entire stretch was deserted and there was no one around to help me.”

Based on the complaint, DCP Navinchandra Reddy (Zone X) supervised a team of Sakinaka police senior inspector Kishore Sawant, inspector Sunil Mane, assistant inspector Abdul Rauf and the detection staff, and arrested the accused on Wednesday.

“The victim and her friend helped us prepare his sketch that helped us get a lead from informers about his whereabouts. Meanwhile, he tried to change his hairstyle to evade arrest but we managed to nab him. He had deleted the girl’s photo from his phone but we retrieved it with the help of the forensic lab,” said a police official. The accused, who is in police custody, has been booked under Indian Penal Code sections 376 for rape and 377 for unnatural offences, and Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act. Police are probing if he had committed similar offences in the past. He is married and has a daughter.

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