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Archives for : Women Rights

Supreme Court Okays Maharashtra Dance Bars

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The Supreme Court set aside certain provisions of a 2016 law imposing restrictions on their licensing and functioning.

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Maharashtra dance bars: The court said no to the showering of money during dance performances.

Maharashtra’s tough rules for dance bars have been relaxed by the Supreme Court, which said today “liquor and dance can co-exist”. Noting that no dance bar license has been handed out since 2005, the top court said Maharashtra “can’t just ban dance bars by trying to regulate them”. The court struck down rules like such establishments can’t come up near temples or schools and the owners should be of a “good character”. In August last year, the court reserved its verdict on the pleas of hotel and restaurant owners challenging the 2016 Maharashtra law.

  1. The court said a rule that dance bars should be 1 km from religious places and educational institutes are “no reasonable ” in Mumbai.
  2. Performers at dance bars can be paid tips but they cannot be showered with cash, the top court said.
  3. The Supreme Court also backed fixing the time and asking dance bars in the state to operate from 6 pm to 11.30 pm.
  4. The rule requiring a partition between bar rooms and the dance floor was also cancelled by the court.
  5. Compulsory installation of CCTV cameras was also struck down by the court that said the rule  violates privacy. 
  6. The Supreme Court struck down a provision that the owner of the dance bar should have a “good character” and no “criminal antecedents”. “There is no precise definition of what amounts to good character and criminal antecedents,” the court.
  7. “From 2005 till date, not a single person has been given licence (for dance bars). It cannot be done. There can be regulations but it cannot amount to total prohibition,” said a bench of Justice AK Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan. “It seems like total moral policing is going on in the state,” the court had said last year.
  8. Dance bar owners had objected to the restriction of maintaining a 1-km distance from any religious or educational structure claiming it was not possible in big cities. They had told the court that the state government adopted an attitude that it will not permit dance bars irrespective of court orders. 
  9. “We are happy with the government. Our main intention was to protect the bar girls and that has been upheld by the court. Whoever comes to us fulfilling the conditions, we will give licenses,” said Nishant Katneshwarkar, the Maharashtra government’s lawyer.
  10. The Dance Bar Regulation Bill unanimously passed by the state assembly in 2016, banned serving liquor in performance areas and mandated that the premises must shut by 11:30 pm. It also imposed heavy penalties on dance bar owners and customers for not following these rules.

(With inputs from PTI and IANS)

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“Virgin Girl Like Sealed Bottle”: Professor Deletes Post After Outrage

Jadavpur University promised to take action after the professor’s social media posts drew criticism online and in the academic community.A

Jadavpur University professor Kanak Sarkar’s Facebook posts drew sharp criticism online.
KOLKATA: 

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Kanak Sarkar in his post wrote “to most boys virgin wife is like angel”
  2. He defended saying it was his personal post, cited freedom of expression
  3. Told a student she has “model-like figure”, she’s “what men would enjoy”

A professor at West Bengal’s Jadavpur University has sparked outrage with his Facebook post in which he compared a woman’s virginity to a “sealed bottle” or “packet”. The post, “Virgin Bride – Why Not?”, was taken down by him later but he continues to defend his statement citing the Supreme Court giving “freedom of expression in social media”.

Kanak Sarkar, a professor at the university’s international relations, had written in the post that, “Virgin girl is like sealed bottle or sealed packet. Are you willing to buy broken seal while purchasing a bottle of cold drinks or a packet of biscuits… To most boys virgin wife is like angel.”

He came up with an explanation on Facebook, arguing that it was his personal post and cited freedom of expression. “I have not written anything against any person, individual or anybody without any evidence or proof or any reference. I am doing social research and writing for the good and well-being of society.” He also justified saying these comments were intended for “fun” among social media friends and “not for public consumption”, reported news agency PTI.

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Kanak Sarkar deleted his controversial Facebook post.

As the professor’s social media posts drew criticism online and in the academic community, Jadavpur University promised to take action. “We will take all steps as per law,” Jadavpur University vice chancellor Suranjan Das told news agency IANS.

Meanwhile, other allegations also surfaced on Monday where a journalist said that Kanak Sarkar had asked a female student if she wants to become a model as her “figure” is “very model-like” and if she has many male friends to comment that she is “what men would enjoy”.

According to Jadavpur University’s website, Kanak Sarkar’s specialisation includes political sociology, political thought, the Constitution and government, human rights and law, development administration, and ethnicity and terrorism

On campus, students marched to the vice chancellors office and submitted a letter demanding the immediate termination of Mr Sarkar’s employment. The National Commission for Women has asked the West Bengal police chief to probe the incident and take appropriate action

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Uttarakhand, a Govt-funded Centre to Keep Women in Hiding During Their Menstrual Cycle #WTFnews

The matter came to light when villagers complained to the district magistrate about irregularities in the construction of the ‘menstruating centre’.

Anupam Trivedi |

Term Insurance Of 50 Lakh Cover For As Low As Rs 386 Per MonthEnter Phone Number & Age To Check Eligibility For Rs.1 Crore TermDehradun: In a move that puts a big question mark on the treatment of women in Uttarakhand, a government-funded building has been constructed in a village in Champawat district with the sole intention of keeping women away from their homes during their menstrual cycle. 

The matter came to light when a couple of villagers complained to the district magistrate about irregularities in the construction of the ‘menstruating centre’.

“I was shocked to know about ‘menstruating centre’ in the remote Ghurchum village. The complainants failed to justify why women were to be kept in the centre and whether they will be given sanitary pads,” district magistrate Ranbir Chauhan told News18 over phone on Tuesday.

An official said the government funds were meant for the development of the village and a probe has been ordered to find out how they got ‘misused’ for the building construction.

“The centre was constructed from the funds meant for development of Panchayat. It is bizarre that the centre is being used to keep menstruating women, it is against the basic concept of fundamental rights,” Chauhan said.

He added that a team of the officials will find out whether more such centres exist in the district. Sources say the officials will also crosscheck if the funds allocated by the 14th finance commission were misused in the construction of the centre in question. 

The concept of ‘menstruating centre’ is similar to that of ‘period huts’ in the neighbouring Nepal. Recently, a village in Nepal hit headlines after a menstruating woman and her two children died after getting suffocated in a menstrual hut.

Champawat district is nestled along the Indo-Nepal border.

In December last year, News18 had reported how teenagers in Sail village of Pithoragath district were not allowed to attend school during their period as a temple falls en route. Pithoragarh is another remote district of Uttarakhand along the Indo-Nepal-China border.

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Red Rosa’ Luxemburg and the making of a revolutionary icon

Revolutionary socialists Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were executed 100 years ago in Berlin. In the ensuing century, Luxemburg has become a cult figure for the left — and for feminists, artists and pacifists.

Buchcover Red Rosa von Kate Evans (Verso Books)

On Sunday morning, some 10,000 people braved the rain and cold to march through eastern Berlin and place red carnations at the graves of Rosa Luxemburg and her comrade, Karl Liebknecht.

The march was commemorating 100 years since the brutal execution of the two revolutionary socialists on January 15, 1919.

In the ensuing century, this diminutive Polish-born Jewish intellectual with a limp has become a cult icon for the revolutionary left. Yet she has also had a broader appeal, admired by feminists, socialists and pacifists.

She has become part of Germany’s cultural memory, immortalized in art, poetry, an award-winning biopic, a musical and a graphic novel. And in her own words too: as well as being a brilliant Marxist theorist, Luxemburg was a prolific writer of letters, and her emotive, lyrical writing has seen her emerge as a literary figure in her own right.

Read more: Rosa Luxemburg: A voice from behind bars

Rosa Luxemburg Film mit Margarethe von Trotta (picture-alliance/United Archives/Impress)

Film drama Rosa Luxemburg, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, won several awards in 1986

‘Those who do not move, do not notice their chains’

Luxemburg, who as a teenager fled Russian-occupied Poland due to her socialist activities, first attained her doctorate in Zurich before arriving in Berlin in 1898. She quickly rose through the ranks of the Social Democratic Party, the biggest labor movement in Europe at the time. Yet she broke with the SPD due to its support for World War I in 1914, helped form the breakaway Spartacist League in 1916 and spent most of the war in prison.

In November 1918, a revolt by sailors and soldiers led to the overthrow of the Hohenzollern monarchy and the end of the war. In December, the Spartacist League renamed itself the German Communist Party (KPD) and Luxemburg asserted that they would not try to seize power without the support of the majority of Germans. Yet when a second revolt broke out on January 5, 1919, she and Liebknecht gave the movement their full support. The uprising quickly faltered and the SPD leadership ordered the army and right-wing paramilitaries, the Freikorps, to crush it.

On the night of January 15, Luxemburg and Liebknecht were abducted, tortured in the luxury Hotel Eden, and then driven separately to the nearby Tiergarten Park and murdered. Liebknecht was delivered to the city morgue while Luxemburg was dumped into a canal.

Her body was only recovered five months later after the winter ice had thawed. She was buried next to Liebknecht in the Friedrichsfelde Cemetery.

Linke mit Stillem Gedenken an Rosa Luxemburg und Karl Liebknecht 12.1.2014 (picture-alliance/dpa)

Luxemburg and Liebknecht are commemorated every year on the second Sunday of January

Creation of a myth

Much of Luxemburg’s subsequent fame derives from this brutal murder, argues Mark Jones, a historian and writer of Founding Weimar. Violence and the German Revolution of 1918-1919.

“The destruction of the female body, the intense violence against it and the absence of any traditional kind of mourning leaves this trauma which impregnates German cultural thought about Rosa Luxemburg for the next 100 years,” he said.

The murder deeply divided the political left, something that undoubtedly contributed to the end of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis. As a result, after World War II, there was speculation about whether the Third Reich and the Holocaust could have been avoided had Luxemburg survived. She became a hugely popular figure for the radical student movement of 1968 and her opposition to World War I also resonated with the peace movement of the 1980s.

Read more: Why Germany’s 1968 movement has not failedWatch video03:13

Thousands honor Luxemburg, Liebknecht in Berlin

Meanwhile, the murder of “Rosa and Karl” was one of the key foundation myths of the East German state, said Jones.

However, though East Germany celebrated her as a martyr, it did not embrace Luxemburg’s political thought, particularly her criticism of Lenin and the Russian Bolsheviks’ putschist strategy and terror. 

And as dissent in the later years of the GDR grew, some marchers in January 1988 carried her words “Freedom is always the freedom of those who think differently” aloft, a deliberate rebuke of the totalitarian regime. 

Yet Jones argues that some of the hagiography surrounding Luxemburg often omits the fact that she did end up supporting political violence in January 1919. “People forget that before she was killed, when the violence of the second uprising was ongoing, she was publishing articles and a newspaper which called on workers to join in the armed struggle and to overthrow the state,” he said, adding that she rejected the option of a negotiated surrender even though the uprising was clearly failing and many civilians were being killed.

March commemorating Luxemburg and Liebknecht in East Berlin, 1988 (picture-alliance/dpa)

After the January 1988 march, several critics of the GDR regime were arrested for showing a banner with Luxemburg’s famous quote

Artistic representations of a ‘badass revolutionary’

Nonetheless, Luxemburg’s brutal killing ended up having a great cultural impact. Soon after her murder in 1919, artist Max Beckmann produced a series of lithographs, Die Hölle (Hell), which graphically depicted her murder, while a drawing by left-wing artist George Grosz showed justice as a ghost trailing a bloodstained robe across the open coffins of the two victims. In 1929, Bertolt Brecht wrote a commemorative poem, “Epitaph,” to mark the 10th anniversary of her death.

Read more: How artists captured the splendor and misery of the Weimar Republic

Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed a monument to Liebknecht and Luxemburg, which was built in the Friedrichsfelde Cemetery in 1926. But the Nazis reviled Luxemburg, and the monument was razed to the ground in 1935.

Mies van der Rohe's Memorial to Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht (1926) (picture-alliance/akg-images)

Mies van der Rohe’s memorial to Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in Berlin was destroyed by the Nazis

Following World War II, Luxemburg’s death continued to resonate. A 1960 painting by American artist R.B. Kitaj, The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg, the 1978 play Germania: Tod in Berlin by Heiner Müller, and works by artists and writers connected with the women’s movement, such as Americans May Stevens, Jane Cooper and Donna Blue Lachman, all grappled with her life and murder.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder was planning a film about her when he died in 1982. A few years later, Rosa Luxemburg, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, won Barbara Sukowa the best actress prize at Cannes in 1986. The film was regarded as a feminist retelling of her story as a liberated woman, though Luxemburg herself had little interest in organized feminism.

Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg von Kate Evans (Verso)

Kate Evans revisits Luxemburg’s life in her graphic novel

More recently, the musical Rosa premiered at Berlin’s Grips Theater in late 2008, and in 2015 the British graphic novelist and activist Kate Evans depicted her story and political thought in her biography Red Rosa.

For Evans, it was important to go back to the political writings to counteract the “sentimentalization” of Luxemburg as a “sensitive, poetic flower.” In fact, said Evans, “she is a badass revolutionary, who is quite bristly and extremely forthright and dedicated in her views, an incredibly towering intellect.”

“Concentrating on her poetry or concentrating on her death, you are not giving true credence to her life,” she said. For Evans, it’s natural that so many people read different things into Luxemburg. “It’s the mark of someone who has left an interesting and complete body of work.”

https://www.dw.com/en/red-rosa-luxemburg-and-the-making-of-a-revolutionary-icon/a-47006610

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Film Director Rajkumar Hirani Accused Of Sexual Assault By Woman Who Worked On ‘Sanju’

Hirani has denied the allegations, which were detailed in an email to ‘Sanju’ co-producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra.

MUMBAI, Maharashtra — Rajkumar Hirani, the director of heart-warming, family-oriented movies like the Munna Bhai series, and Aamir Khan-starrers 3 Idiots and PK, has been accused of sexual assault by a woman, who has said Hirani sexually abused her on more than one occasion over a six-month period between March and September 2018.

Much of the alleged assault and abuse took place during the post-production work of Sanju, the Sanjay Dutt biopic which released on June 29, 2018, the woman alleged in an email dated November 3, 2018, addressed to Sanju co-producer and Hirani’s close business associate Bollywood producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra.

Chopra’s wife Anupama, who is the director of the Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI) and a director of Vinod Chopra Films Pvt. Ltd, was also marked on the emailed complaint, as was scriptwriter Abhijat Joshi, who has scripted most of Hirani’s movies including SanjuPK and Lage Raho Munna Bhai, and Shelly Chopra, Vidhu Vinod’s sister, and the director of the upcoming Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga.

Rajkumar Hirani, responding through his lawyer Anand Desai, has categorically denied the allegations.

“At the outset, our client states that the allegations made against him are false, mischievous, scandalous, motivated and defamatory,” Desai said in an email dated December 5, 2018 to HuffPost India.

In her email dated November 3, 2018, the woman said that on April 9, 2018, Hirani first made a sexually suggestive remark to her and then sexually assaulted her at his home-office.

“I remember forming these words on my lips – “Sir. This is wrong…Because of this power structure. You being the absolute power and me being a mere assistant, a nobody –  I will never be able to express myself to you.” the woman wrote of the April 9 incident in the email to Chopra. Until the assault, the woman wrote in her email, she saw Hirani as a father figure.

“My mind, body and heart were grossly violated that night and for the next 6 months,” the email said of the period that followed.

HuffPost India has reviewed the email and spoken to the woman who made the complaint.

The woman reiterated her account, detailed in the email, to HuffPost IndiaHuffPost India also spoke with three friends of the woman, who said the woman had told them, on different occasions, that Hirani had sexually abused her.

In her interview with HuffPost India, the complainant said she was intimidated by Hirani, who was her boss at the time, and is nearly 30 years older than her. She said she took great pains to conceal Hirani’s actions towards her and maintain a facade of normalcy as her father was suffering from a terminal illness, and she desperately needed to hold on to her job.

“I had no choice but to be polite to him,” the woman told HuffPost India. “It was unbearable but the reason I endured it all, until I couldn’t, was because I didn’t want my job to be taken away from me, and work to be questioned. Ever.”

“I was worried that if I left midway, it would be impossible to find another job in this industry if he were to speak badly about my work,” the woman said. “Because if Hirani said I wasn’t good, everybody would listen. My future would be in jeopardy.” 

Hirani’s response

HuffPost India met with Hirani on two occasions, on 7th and 15th December 2018, in which Hirani refused to answer any questions, but shared printouts of text messages and emails exchanged between him and the complainant over the course of six months, to claim that he had a normal professional relationship with the complainant.

“These communications establish that the allegations made against our client to you, that have given rise to your queries, are false and completely unjustified.” Hirani’s lawyer Desai said in his reply dated December 5, 2018, in response to queries sent by HuffPost India.

In a email, dated December 15, 2018, after HuffPost India’s second visit to Hirani’s office, Desai wrote, “Our client Mr. Rajkumar Hirani has instructed us to state that he has granted you inspection of the written communications twice, the second time being today, when the same were organised in chronological sequence, pointing out the written communications from the “complainant” in context of the timelines of the allegations made by the ”complainant” resulting in your questions. It should now be absolutely clear to you that the allegations made by the ”complainant” are not only false, but are malicious and defamatory.”

Hirani showed HuffPost India a printout of an email to Chopra, dated November 22, 2018, in which Hirani wrote that he denied the allegations and said he was open to being investigated by an independent body to clear his name. Hirani also wrote he was disturbed that his relationship with Chopra was “crumbling under pressure.” Hirani did not share a copy of the printout with HuffPost India.

The allegations have put considerable pressure on Chopra and Hirani’s partnership. A June 27, 2018 teaser of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga included Rajkumar Hirani Films as a co-producer on the movie. The trailer of the film, released on December 26, 2018 — after the allegations came to light — makes no mention of Hirani.

A still from the teaser released on 27 June, 2018.
The producer credits for the trailer released on 26 December, 2018.

Chopras’ response

Vidhu Vinod Chopra did not respond to a detailed questionnaire sent by HuffPost India on December 5, 2018. HuffPost India also sent text messages to his personal number on the same day.

His wife, Anupama, also did not respond to specific queries — including why Hirani’s name was dropped from the credits of Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga.

But in an email to HuffPost India dated December 5, 2018, Anupama confirmed that the woman had shared an account with her, and that Vinod Chopra Films (VCF) has since set up a committee to address complaints of sexual harassment.

“I’ve met the complainant twice. Both times, I have offered my full support and recommended that she take the complaint to a legal body or a neutral party since we cannot be arbitrators or judges on this. We also offered to set up an ICC at VCF (which we have set up since then) even though a VCF ICC could not have taken up the case since she was an RHF (Rajkumar Hirani Films) employee at the time. These are two separate companies.

She stayed at our house for two nights. We also provided the number of an expert on the issue so she could talk to a professional.  

She said she needed time to think through how she will take it forward.  I did not want in any way to pressurise her or steer her in any direction.  As Vinod and I told her then, she has our full support and we are fully respectful of whatever decision she has taken.”

Anupama’s response suggests that Vinod Chopra Films did not have an Internal Complaints Committee at the time the complaint was made.

Vishnu Shriram, a lawyer who has dealt with several cases of sexual harassment at the workplace and who is a senior associate at Phoenix Legal, said that it is legally mandated that a production house assist a survivor in taking the complaint forward.

“Every employer having 10 or more employees is mandatorily required to have a functioning Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act).”

Abhijat Joshi, the scriptwriter (Sanju, PK, 3 Idiots) marked on the original emailed complaint, also confirmed to HuffPost India that he is aware of the woman’s complaint.

“It’s my duty to listen to the woman patiently. I am here to support her,” Joshi said. “I’m trying to do the best thing possible. I can assure you that I will do what is ethical.”

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Rwanda Just Banned Skin Lightening Creams. A Lesson For India?

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East African country, Rwanda, has officially banned skin lightening and bleaching products. The Rwandan government is now sending officials across the country to enforce the ban. 

The country is leading a campaign against skin bleaching and substandard cosmetics, particularly products that include hydroquinone.

“It is being implemented by the Ministry of Health and the Rwanda Food and Drug Authority and the Rwanda Standards Board,” Simeon Kwizera, the public relations and communications officer for the board told CNN.

“Operations are being conducted by technical people,” he said. “The police is there to oversee only and make sure that all operations are being conducted in a safe way.”

An African Nation Just Banned Skin Lightening & Bleaching Creams. A Lesson For India?

GETTY IMAGES

Back in November 2018, President Paul Kagame spoke about the need to ban the sale of skin “whiteners”.

Kagame called the bleaching creams “unhealthy” on Twitter in a response tweet to woman user calling for a crackdown on skin bleaching.

According to media reports, Rwandan police said they have seized more than 5,000 banned bleaching products — including lotions, oils, soaps and sprays — from beauty shops across the country last month.

What India can learn?

With the number of skin lightening products available in the market and the billions spent on the advertisement of such products, there’s little doubt that India is obsessed with fair skin.

The Indian fairness cream industry is worth around $450 million. The BBC once reported that in South Asia more skin lightening creams are sold than bottles of Coca Cola. 

Having a whiter skin in India is an aspiration for many. Young boys and girls grow up with lower self-esteem and self-confidence, often impacting their personal and professional success.

Creams, pills and injections that promise to lighten skin colour are immensely popular among the youth of the country. 

Perhaps, with time Indians will not hold ‘fairness’ in such high regard and accept their race and the genes they are born with.

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Telangana’s ‘villages of widows’

K. Venkateshwarlu

“Far from accepting responsibility and offering help , the government and the corporation left the workers who were suffering from silicosis to fend for themselves.” The quartz mines near Elkatta in Telangana’s Ranga Reddy district where the workers were employed. (Below) The women whose husbands died from silicosis narrate their stories. K.V.S. Giri

“Far from accepting responsibility and offering help , the government and the corporation left the workers who were suffering from silicosis to fend for themselves.” The quartz mines near Elkatta in Telangana’s Ranga Reddy district where the workers were employed. (Below) The women whose husbands died from silicosis narrate their stories. K.V.S. Giri  MORE-INTelanganaGround Zero

In the 1970s, hundreds of women from Mahbubnagar’s villages lost their husbands to silicosis, an occupational hazard that could have been prevented if safety protocols had been followed. Even after four decades, justice and compensation remain a distant dream for the affected families, reports K. Venkateshwarlu

If only someone could read them, the wrinkles on Narsamma’s face would tell an epic tale of agony and tragedy spanning four decades. Narsamma was a teenager when she married Chandramouli in the 1970s. What decided the match, as was the trend in those days, was his job in a public sector undertaking — at a quartz-mining and crushing factory of the Andhra Pradesh Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC) at Elkatta, a dusty village, 5 km from Shadnagar, in Telangana’s Ranga Reddy district (earlier in Mahbubnagar district).

For the first four years, things went smoothly for the couple. They had a baby boy in 1980. Narsamma’s relatives envied her good fortune: she was married to a man with a secure job and a good salary. For the people in this drought-hit district, mining quartz promised jobs and prosperity.

But soon things began to go downhill. In 1981, Chandramouli returned home one night with a persistent cough. “Initially, we dismissed it as common cold,” Narsamma says. “But his cough worsened, and he found it difficult to breathe. We took him to a private doctor in Shadnagar, and then to a big hospital in Hyderabad. We ran from pillar to post in search of a cure. Some said that he had tuberculosis (TB). We mortgaged the house to pay for his treatment and ran up huge debts. But we could not save him.”

There are many stories like Narsamma’s in Elkatta, Rangampally, Chowlapally, Kamsanipally and Peerlaguda villages in Ranga Reddy district. These places are known locally as “villages of widows”, as most of the women there have lost their spouses to silicosis. All of them belong to poor Scheduled Tribe, Scheduled Caste, Backward Class, or minority communities.

The mystery illness

Silicosis, an incurable disease, remained shrouded in mystery for a long time due to misdiagnosis and the delayed manifestation of symptoms. The locals called it “guttala bimari”, or “the disease from the hills”. The APMDC, now known as the Telangana State Mineral Development Corporation (TSMDC), ran the mines from 1965 to 1974, and then shut them down abruptly when they saw that the workers were succumbing en masse to silicosis.

But until the shutdown, whenever a worker fell sick, he was simply told that his cough was a temporary phenomenon and that he would get better. The workers were not told that they were victims of silicosis. Instead of being given proper medical treatment, they were given pieces of jaggery as some kind of an antidote.

Telangana’s ‘villages of widows’

According to the villagers, around 350 workers were employed in the mines and the crushing unit, and a majority of them were exposed to silica dust. The technologies of mining and crushing, the working conditions, and the safety protocols in the early 1970s were so primitive that most of the workers were exposed to heavy doses of silica dust on a daily basis. Quartz was mined at Chowlapally and brought to the crushing unit at Elkatta, where it was heated to 1,000°C in a kiln, broken into smaller pieces, and turned into fine dust in an oblong closed shed.

This shed proved to be a virtual death trap, as the workers kept inhaling the odourless silica dust that gave them a racking cough and led to shortness of breath. Over 100 employees were involved in this crushing process in each of the three shifts daily. When they fell sick, the women rushed them from one hospital to another, fighting against a disease that would soon turn into an unending battle for compensation.

Suppressing the truth

Far from accepting responsibility and offering help, the government and the corporation left the workers to fend for themselves. The authorities quietly abandoned the quartz-mining and crushing activities in 1974 though the mining lease was valid till 1985 and the mineral was available in abundance. When they realised that the health of the workers was deteriorating, instead of acknowledging the toxicity of the workplace as the issue, the corporation told the workers that operating the mine had become uneconomical. The workers were laid off in batches and paid paltry amounts instead of the full compensation and severance package that would have been their due had the legal process of closure been followed.

“Clearly, this was done to avoid the liabilities under Section 25-O of the Industrial Disputes Act of 1947 and Section 6 of the Metalliferous Mines Regulations, 1961 (which mandates that the mine owner should submit a notice to the Chief or the Regional Inspector, stating reasons for abandoning the mine and the number of persons affected),” says M. Sambasiva Rao of the NGO, Banjara Development Society (BDS).

Perhaps because the APMDC was a government undertaking, the regulatory agencies under the Mines Act and the Factories Act looked the other way. Many even wonder if the unit had any of the other mandatory permissions apart from the mining lease. Whether in overseeing the operations, putting in place safety protocols, or taking care of the sick workers and their families, the APMDC’s track record has been of consistent neglect and callousness.

For the stricken families, getting to the bottom of “guttala bimari” was itself quite a task. Exposure to large amounts of silica can go unnoticed as it is a non-irritant and does not cause any immediate health effects. The symptoms of silicosis — shortness of breath, cough, fever and bluish skin — show up only after prolonged exposure to silica dust, according to the World Health Organisation. “As silicosis is incurable, clinical management includes removing the worker from the industry and giving symptomatic treatment,” the WHO says.

When the quartz mine workers who fell sick were taken to the local government hospitals, they were wrongly diagnosed as having TB and were referred to TB hospitals in Vikarabad and Hyderabad, 50 km away. As they continued to get treated for TB, there was no clinical management of silicosis. For years after the shutdown, workers kept dying of silicosis with no remedy in sight.

“The doctors were either clueless or deliberately suppressed the fact that the workers were suffering from silicosis,” says Rao, who has been ferrying victims to hospital and fighting for their compensation for over two decades. “Our government negotiates nuclear liability clauses aggressively in international fora but doesn’t care about domestic industrial disasters. It’s been more than four decades since the quartz mine was abandoned and the workers died without proper care. But the families haven’t got a single rupee as compensation despite approaching so many government bodies and regulatory agencies, including the APMDC, the Directorate General of Mines Safety, the Directorate of Factories, the Labour and Health departments, the National Human Rights Commission, Assembly, Parliament and the High Court. It is a total failure of governance.”

Saga of insensitivity

What emerges from a study of the chronology of the events is a sordid saga of bureaucratic red tape and insensitivity. To start with, no government agency was willing to recognise the disease as silicosis. This was despite the fact that two of the victims, G. Narayana and Chandramouli, who had privately approached a chest physician, Dr. Jaichandra, in Hyderabad in 1987, were certified as afflicted by silicosis.

A medical camp set up in 1991 in Mogiligidda village (near Elkatta) by Dr. Mahender Reddy, a private doctor, also confirmed silicosis among the workers. In 1993-94, a joint move by the BDS and Dr. R. Vijai Kumar, a pulmonologist at MediCiti, a private hospital in Hyderabad, revealed 69 cases of silica dust-induced illness among the workers, with 58 suffering from silicosis and 11 from silico-tuberculosis. By as late as 1994, Dr. Kumar remained the only doctor who agreed to give evidence before a government agency. But the government hospitals either vacillated or dismissed the cases as TB.

In 1991, five affected persons and their family members filed petitions before the Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensation in Hyderabad. Two years later, they were referred to the Andhra Pradesh Chest Hospital for the checking of “past exposure and present morbidity and mortality”. A committee formed for the purpose refused to give its view and passed the buck to the Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESI) hospital, Hyderabad. The ESI hospital, too, declined to get involved, on the grounds that mines are not covered by the ESI Act. The Commissioner for Workmen’s Compensation then referred the matter to the National Institute of Occupational Health (NIOH), Bengaluru. But the NIOH too refused to take it up.

It is telling that the government’s first efforts to medically examine the cases came a good two decades after the closure of the mines and the crushing unit. It was only on September 1, 1994 that the government of Andhra Pradesh issued a letter to the Andhra Pradesh Chest Hospital, after which the superintendent of the hospital held a medical camp in Shadnagar on “respiratory problems faced by people in these villages”. The letter made no mention of silicosis. But even this late intervention turned out to be a non-starter as the critical equipment, a mobile X-ray unit, was “not available”. Apparently, the Andhra Pradesh Chest Hospital authorities could not arrange for one to be brought from their hospital in Hyderabad to Shadnagar.

In response to a complaint filed by the BDS and a Delhi-based NGO, Society for Participatory Research in Asia, the Director General of Mines Safety conducted an inquiry and seized the employment and other relevant records from the APMDC in 1995-96. But no action was taken though the Director General could have invoked Section 75 of the Mines Act to prosecute the APMDC.

After the BDS lobbied with some MLAs, the issue was raised in the Andhra Pradesh Assembly in 1997. The NGO ferried 54 workers from their villages to the Andhra Pradesh Chest Hospital in Hyderabad for a proper medical examination. But again there was no report.

In the absence of any succour from any of the government agencies, the victims, with the help of the BDS, petitioned some MPs. Responding to a question raised in the Lok Sabha in 1997, the Union Health Ministry released a note prepared by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). The note blandly stated that a team of doctors from ICMR visited Hyderabad, Mahbubnagar and the office of the Mandal Revenue Officer, Shadnagar, from February 20 to 22, 1997.

The team’s findings were baffling. First, it found that no cases of silicosis had been reported to the Director/Inspectorate of Factories. Second, it observed that though there may have been cases of deaths due to silicosis, no authentic records were available to establish this. These findings, however, fly in the face of a report from the Society for Participatory Research in Asia that was submitted to the ICMR team. The report, based on a house-to-house survey on deaths due to silicosis in select villages of Mahbubnagar district, stated that 136 people (85 men and 51 women) died from silicosis. Most of those who died were 40 to 49 years old.

A perusal of all the documents pertaining to these deaths leads to the conclusion that the ICMR team, instead of getting to the bottom of the causes behind the workers’ deaths, simply washed its hands of the whole mess with a perfunctory note. This non-response remained the norm with nearly all the government agencies.

Judicial intervention

Things began to move only after the issue was taken up by the National Human Rights Commission following a representation filed by the BDS in 1995. Five years after the petition was filed, the Commission issued a notice to the Chief Secretary of the Andhra Pradesh government, asking why no effort was made to find the cause of the illnesses and ameliorate the suffering of the victims. The government formed a committee under the leadership of Dr. K.J.R. Murthy, an expert in respiratory medicine, and ordered another round of tests on those willing to come to Hyderabad. The committee members examined 143 people in late 2000. Twenty-nine of them, including 11 women, were found to be suffering from silicosis. It was after this exercise that another silicosis victim, N. Sevia, died while returning to his village. Yet again, the entire exercise yielded nothing concrete for the affected families — no compensation and not even an allowance for those taking care of the victims.

More than 20 years after the death of their husbands, the women of these villages were still to see a glimpse of either justice or compensation. Distraught, they then approached the Andhra Pradesh High Court in 2000. Helped by the BDS, three petitioners, including Narsamma, moved the court under Article 226 of the Constitution. The case was effectively argued by human rights activist K. Balagopal.

After more than a decade of litigation, the High Court converted the writ petition into a Public Interest Litigation on September 13, 2012, and passed the final order in February 2013. It directed the authorities, including the APMDC, to propose a scheme to safeguard the life and liberty of the persons suffering from silicosis. On March 5, 2013, the Advocate General, appearing on behalf of the APMDC, placed a scheme before the court. It entailed the APMDC agreeing to pay the silicosis-affected workers compensation as decided by the Compensation Commissioner under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, 1923.

The High Court gave two weeks to the affected persons to obtain the necessary documents from the authorities and another two weeks for the latter to complete the task. Fully aware of how bureaucracies tend to function, the court noted, “If any help is required from the Revenue authorities by the persons who were affected, generosity shall be shown and shall be dealt with on humanitarian ground.”

Another five years have passed since the court order. Only on December 19, 2018 did an official team of the TSMDC start a preliminary survey of the villages. While the visit has triggered hope among the families of the victims, there is also an unmistakeable note of cynicism. What will they do after so many decades, the families wonder.

Their despondency is hardly surprising. The scheme submitted to the High Court is good but it again talks of submission of proof of employment and confirmation and verification of workers who suffered silicosis. The government and the TSMDC are still struggling to put together a list of victims and their families who are eligible for compensation. G. Deepti, general manager, sales and marketing, TSMDC, however, says that the corporation would ensure that the families are compensated.

Rao has his doubts. He wonders how many of these poor families will have 40-year-old records and documents, given that the Director General of Safety had seized most of the employment-related records. “The authorities should show their human face and be generous in extending compensation instead of forcing the victims to again visit offices and hospitals seeking assorted documents to prove their misery,” he says.

Will these families, devastated by a deadly combination of industrial callousness, medical tragedy and official neglect, ever find closure? “I am not sure,” a weary Narsamma says. “Let’s see if I get something in hand.”

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/telanganas-villages-of-widows/article25914226.ece

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Statement by key accused in Gauri Lankesh murder


We shot him in the head; they couldn’t catch us

Bike rider who took shooter to Gauri Lankesh’s house was told…

Binoy.Valsan@timesgroup.com

It’s official – had Karnataka CID police done its job thoroughly after the murder of Professor MM Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh would have been alive. The CID’s callous approach (even the Supreme Court used some harsh words for the CID) in the Kalburgi murder case not only delayed justice, it emboldened the killers, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) charge-sheet shows.

Documents accessed exclusively by Bangalore Mirror show that Amol Kale, commander of the Karnataka module, boasted about the ‘Kalburgi event’ (they used the code ‘event’ for murder) and how they got away with it to instil confidence among new recruits.

“We had another event recently. Our people walked up to his house, knocked on the door and fired at his forehead from point blank range. Even then nothing happened to us. She (Gauri) should also be killed in the same way. Our work is divine and we are protected by the Gods,” states Ganesh Miskin in his statement included in the Gauri Lankesh case charge-sheet. Though the statement does not mention Professor Kalburgi by name but the instance Kale was referring to has been established as his murder in 2015.

Miskin, the third accused in Gauri’s murder case, has also claimed that Kale used to tell them that the police were unable to trace their operatives even after their facial features got covered on a security camera during the operation. But again he uses it as an example to reiterate the ‘divine protection’ that their operatives had while fighting for their religion.

“They were not wearing monkey caps properly and got captured on the camera. The police even sent the footage to some foreign country for analysis. But they had no luck,” reads the statement.

Two months after this conversation, Miskin was told by Kale that he would be the bike rider and would have to take the shooter Parashuram Waghmare to Gauri’s house.

Ganesh Miskin’s past

The SIT charge-sheet claims that Ganesh Miskin (27) was initially involved with the Bajrang Dal in Hubballi. Miskin allegedly told the SIT that he was deeply interested in his religion and was very spiritual. He claims that he came in touch with Manohar Edave, one of Kale’s main recruiter in Karnataka in 2012, at a Hindu Shakti Sangama event in Vijaypura. Miskin was engaged in incense manufacturing and supply business and also used to repair incense making machines.

Love Jihad, cow slaughter, religious conversion

In 2012, Miskin opened a juice stall at Akshay Park in Hubballi and Edave would frequently visit him with CDs of love jihad, cow slaughter and religious conversions happening in the country to highlight the threat faced by Hinduism. Miskin’s statement claims that Edave used to give the propaganda CDs to 20-25 youngsters like him in old Hubballi area.

“We used to have a meeting every week to motivate us to protect our religion. We were also asked to oppose Valentine’s Day and New Year celebrations,” reads the statement.

In 2013, Miskin was arrested by Kasba Peth police station for rioting during a Shivaji Jayanti Rally in Hubbali. Along with his friend and co-accused Amit Baddi and other recruits, he was asked to meditate and chant to become stronger than the ‘Dhram Drohis’ (traitors of religion).

In April 2015, Miskin met Kale near Hubballi glass house along with Baddi and both of them were asked to carry out target practice with air guns.

“We asked him why did we have to do it. Kale said he would let us know when the right time comes,” Miskin told the SIT. Kale also asked them to draw up a list of people who target the Hindu religion publicly.

Target Gauri Lankesh

In 2017, Kale told Miskin that Gauri Lankesh was a fierce critic of their religion and she had even made some inappropriate remarks about Lord Shiva and Parvati in some of her articles and needed to be taught a lesson. He also told Miskin that Hinduism would not survive in such circumstances and something had to be done. So he handed Misking and Baddi a piece of paper with Gauri’s residence and office address in Bengaluru and asked them to tail her and track her daily routine. It has also been claimed that Kale gave Miskin Rs 2,000 to buy a basic model mobile phone. Miskin came to Bengaluru along with Baddi and conducted a recce thrice.

‘We will not get justice’

In August 2017, Kale summoned Miskin, Baddi and Waghmare to Belagavi and then asked them to go to the residence of Suresh in Seegahalli. Miskin was told that though there were many cases against Gauri Lankesh for defaming their religion, nothing positive has come out of them and it was time to take matters into their own hands.

“I was told that I would ride the bike and Waghmare would shoot Gauri Lankesh. I was also a back-up shooter in case Waghmare failed to pull the trigger,” Miskin told SIT.

They also conducted three rehearsals on a bike and were cautioned against coming too close to Gauri’s house as it was under CCTV coverage.

Miskin’s statement at one point claims that Kale had influenced him so much psychologically that he was under his control and could do anything for Kale.

An SOP for Gauri Killers

On September 3, Miskin and Baddi arrived at Bengaluru but Kale told them that a new base was arranged for them at a rented house in Kumbalgodu. Kale had also purchased new set of shirts pants, jackets, helmets and monkey caps for Miskin and Waghmare. A final rehearsal was also carried out.

Kale also laid down an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for the shooter and bike rider.

“We were asked to start from our base at 6 pm and then head along the prescribed route. We were supposed to halt near Chinmaya School on the way and change our clothes. We were also supposed to check our pistols. While returning after killing her, we were supposed to halt at the same spot and change our clothes again. Baddi would be waiting for us nearby and we were to hand over the guns and clothes to him,” the charge-sheet states. They also used to meditate for two hours before heading out for their task. Miskin was also instructed to always ride close to the central median of the road or behind any big vehicle so as to minimise chances of them getting recorded on traffic and security cameras.

Missed on Sep 4, almost missed next day too

Waghmare and Miskin reached the Rajarajeshwari Nagar residence of Gauri at 7.45 pm on September 4; as per their info, she used to reach home at 8 pm. However, after waiting for 15 minutes they sneaked up to Gauri’s house avoiding the camera and found that her car was already parked inside. They were then asked to strike the next day.

On the D-Day, they followed the same routine but got delayed and reached Gauri’s residence at 7:50 pm just as Gauri was driving into the lane of her house. Miskin overtook the car and took a U-turn after Waghmare got off – he pumped four bullets into her and both escaped. They met Baddi at the designated spot and handed over their clothes. Kale had asked them to reach Belagavi on September 7 where the group members distributed sweets and Kale handed out some chocolates to Miskin for murdering Gauri Lankesh.

‘We have one more task’

In November 2017, another training session was conducted at Belagavi. After Naveen Kumar’s arrest in February 2018, Kale asked Baddi and Miskin to flee to Sarget in Pune. Miskin says that they used to constantly ask him about Naveen Kumar’s arrest and Kale had told him that he should not be bothered about it.

“They (cops) will never reach us. You just carry on with your meditation and yoga. Soon we will have one more task for you,” Kale told Miskin.

Prof MM Kalburgi was shot in the head at the door of his house in Dharwad

Kale’s 10 commandments for shooters

1 Always carry route map

2 Leave base at 6 pm

3 Tyre pressure of the bike should be checked

4 Petrol tank should be always be full

5 Always wear a helmet

6 The rider should never get down from the bike

7 The engine should be revved up and the vehicle should be in gear

8 Change clothes midway to the target

9 Ensure there is enough money in the pocket

10 Check the gun

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India – “Brutal” police crackdown on farmers, womenfolk in Bhavnagar

Demand for judicial probe

Prominent civil rights network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), has strongly condemned the “brutal” lathicharge on farmers on January 2 in Bhavnagar district, Gujarat, and has sought judicial inquiry into the incident. The police lathichargetook place in Mahua and Talja tehsils of Bhavnagar district of Gujarat. NAPM claims, Ultra-Tech Cement was given land for mining in Mahua and Talaja tehsils, in Uncha Kotada, Nicha Kotda, Talli, Kalsar, Dayal, Bambhor and Methla villages, about 20 years ago. However, no mining activities have been undertaken on the land, leading to farmers demanding their land back under the 2013 land acquisition Act.

This led the company to organize public hearing for mining. At the public hearing, local people protested. Despite farmers’ opposition, the company “managed to get” environmental clearance. People challenged the company in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Pune. As the deadline for hearing the case allegedly expired, farmers took the matter to NGT, Delhi. 


Meanwhile, the company started mining on the basis of the disputed environment clearance certificate. Mining began near Bhambhore village, where about 2000 people went on protest. Women and children also participated. Police promptly intervened to “rescue” of the company. People were surrounded and were brutally beaten up. Male cops attacked women who were protesting by singing songs. 


Those seriously injured were sent to the Bhavnagar Civil Hospital. The remaining people are in jail in an injured condition. Ninety two people have not been granted bail, and they have been sent to Bhavnagar jail under section 307, including women. 


NAPM has demanded that police “vandalism” be investigated by a sitting judge of the Gujarat High Court, FIR is filed against the police personnel involved, fictitious lawsuits filed against farmers are unconditionally withdrawn, and farmers’ land is returned

https://www.counterview.in/2019/01/demand-for-judicial-probe-into-brutal.html

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Mukul Mudgal, ex-chief justice of Punjab & Haryana HC, accused of sexual assault #MeToo

SIMRIN SIRUR

Mukul Mudgal | ThePrint.inText Size: A- A+

Mukul Mudgal has been accused by a family friend of forcing himself on her in the 1990s. Former judge vehemently denies it.

New Delhi: On a winter night in the early 1990s, Mukul Mudgal, who would go on to become chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, allegedly waited in the parking lot of a house in A Block in Delhi’s upscale Nizamuddin East for a woman he knew through her cousin.

She said she emerged some time later from a Maruti 800 — having just driven back from a friend’s house — and was politely asked for a cup of coffee by Mudgal. It was around 11 pm, an unusual hour to be asking for coffee, but choosing not to dwell upon it, she let Mudgal in.

“I wasn’t pleased about it, and that must have been some kind of basic instinct that I didn’t know how to read,” the woman, 59, told ThePrint, insisting that only Mudgal be named.

Mudgal and she had apparently been well-acquainted with one another since her cousin married a relative of his. She worked in a design firm and lived alone. But their relationship was certainly not one that warranted spontaneous visits late at night, she recalled.

“We weren’t ever taught that when a man asks to come into your home at 11 at night, and you don’t want him there, you say no.”

Like countless other Indian women, lines of consent were never discussed in her home growing up, let alone a sense of discomfort arising from situations like the one she found herself in that night. So, it was swept aside, and feeling the weight of familial obligation, she said she proceeded up the stairs with him in tow.

She opened the door to the small barsati of the house, and made two cups of coffee. But before she could finish, she alleged he grabbed the cup from her, put it down on a surface nearby, and slammed her onto the bed in the room.

“I was down on the bed, and he was on top of me with full force. And I mean full force,” she alleged, grimacing.

As she narrated what she said happened that night, her body recoiled, and she pulled a hand over her face. “He slobbered all over me…It was disgusting.”

Before that night, she said she never would have imagined that Mukul Mudgal, a man with whom she had shared strictly familial relations, would come into her home on the pretence of wanting coffee and assault her.

“You know, when you’re pressed down by a man who is stronger than you and you’re trying to push him off with everything you’ve got, all you can manage is a grunt. You can’t even scream.”

With her arms flailing and legs kicking, he finally relented and left the house, she said.

“He didn’t go all the way. He didn’t rape me. But he did attack me.”

Reached for comment, Mudgal, 69, denied the allegation as “utterly false and baseless”.

“The alleged incident is said to have taken place more than 25 years ago. While I did have a few meals with her around that period, our friendship did not continue as I felt that we did not have much in common,” Mudgal told ThePrint.

“However, the allegations that I went to her house or that I had assaulted her and caused bruises are utterly false and baseless.

“I have lived a life without moral blemish. I have worked and moved with women of different ages and different spheres of life without giving a cause for complaint to anyone,” he said.


Also read: India’s #MeToo accused are back in action – with wedding bells & celebratory cake


‘I was covered in bruises’

By 1990, Mudgal was a lawyer well on his way to eminence. He was already an Advocate on Record in the Supreme Court and a member secretary/treasurer of the Supreme Court’s Legal Aid Committee, positions he kept until 1998 and 1995 respectively.

In 1989, he rose to prominence working alongside one of India’s most powerful jurists and attorney generals, Soli J. Sorabjee, representing six cricketers who had been banned by the BCCI. It was a case that shook the world of cricket, and Sorabjee and Mudgal emerged from the case as heroes.

It didn’t occur to her, she alleged, that a man of such competence would turn up uninvited, blatantly disregard her palpable resistance, and continue to “violently” hold her down as she struggled to push him off.

“When I saw myself the next day, I was covered in bruises. Even the exposed parts of my neck and shoulders were totally black and blue,” she said.

A friend of the woman from the time told ThePrint that she knew about the alleged assault and saw the bruises on her body.

“She had come to my house, and she told me that Mr Mudgal had tried to force himself upon her. She showed me the bruises. They were over her neck and shoulders,” the friend told ThePrint.

“I felt so ashamed, I remember thinking I had to cover the bruises that were exposed, and I wrapped myself up in a shawl,” said the woman.

But unavoidable circumstances led to uncomfortable run-ins with Mudgal, she claimed.

“When I met him at my cousin’s house soon after, I ignored him and tried to go about my day. But I must have been acting strangely, because when we had a moment alone, my cousin asked me ‘Why are you behaving so badly?’ So, I unwrapped the shawl and showed him what Mudgal did.”

Her cousin stayed quiet and did nothing about the allegation at the time: Mudgal was apparently an indispensable part of their closely-knit group of friends and family. Until then, Mudgal’s visits to her cousin’s house with tea-time snacks had become an evening ritual.

Mudgal came from a family rich in taste of food, music and culture, having produced some of India’s finest artists who now head Delhi’s Gandharva Mahavidyalaya. She was well-acquainted with his family, and sharing meals with them was a regular occurrence.

Before the alleged attack, she said she and Mudgal had only spent one other occasion alone, eating out at Yashwant Place in the diplomatic neighbourhood of Chanakyapuri. She recalled nothing having gone amiss.

“I had no reason to feel threatened by him. The time we spent together wasn’t suggestive or romantic in any way. It was just two people sharing some food.”

A few days after the alleged assault, she said Mudgal came knocking on her door for forgiveness.

“He said he was sorry for what had happened, but that he was sad and lonely because his wife had just left him,” she claimed.

“He didn’t say he had committed a violent crime. No. He said he was upset because his wife was gone, and that was his explanation.”

She showed him her bruises and turned him away, she said.

The trajectory of Mudgal’s career, meanwhile, was on a steady incline: He continued to take up cases in civil law, constitutional law and labour law, and working on prison reforms.

In 1998, Mudgal was elevated to the position of judge in the Delhi High Court.


A


Why she’s speaking up now

During his tenure as a judge, Mudgal was said to have been liberal-minded and sensitive in his judgments. In Gaurav Sondhi vs Diya Sondhi, a well-known case adjudicated by him, he ruled that after divorce, women should be given maintenance within the first 10 days of the month.

It was among judgments seen as progressive and in favour of gender equality. In 2009, Mudgal was made chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

As he grew in stature as a judge, he and the woman he allegedly assaulted crossed paths on and off, even after she moved out of Nizamuddin East and went on to marry. At social gatherings and other occasions, she was unfailingly subject to obsequious greetings from him, she said. He would approach her almost fearfully, so as to placate her hostility, she claimed.

“For years I couldn’t say anything because of how close our families were. I felt too many people would be hurt if I spoke up against him,” the woman said.

It took years, she said, to understand the gravity and effect of their collective silence — her’s, her cousin’s and Mudgal’s — on her sense of justice.

At the time of the alleged assault, and the years after it, she considered the shame of the incident to be solely hers, she said. But that changed in 2016, when a next-door neighbour allegedly sexually harassed and impersonated her daughter online. An FIR was filed but the only action taken by the police, the woman claimed, was that the neighbour was questioned.

Her daughter’s experience, compounded by her own, has shaken her faith in the judiciary and courts to an irreconcilable degree, she said.

“Everything magnified for me when my daughter was targeted,” she said, adding that one thought kept bothering her: “If you are representing the judiciary and are a perpetrator yourself, what right do you have to take that chair?”

Two months back, the #MeToo campaign that was making headlines encouraged her to confront Mudgal, she said. She sent him a message on WhatsApp on 18 October, she said. He apparently asked if he could call her, she said no. Mudgal’s next move was to get in touch with her cousin.

The cousin later called the woman and said Mudgal had made a “mistake”, she claimed.

Infuriated and upset that Mudgal’s action could be viewed as a “mistake”, she said she decided to come out with her story.

“All these years later, what Mudgal did is still considered a mistake,” she told ThePrint. “He continues to justify his actions by saying he was sad and lonely.”

It was no mistake, she said. “It was a crime. With intent.”

But, according to Mudgal, he “didn’t understand what had upset her”.

“I spoke to her cousin to find out what was troubling her,” Mudgal told ThePrint in an email.

“I told him that I was willing to say sorry about anything which had hurt her feelings.”

When asked to comment on the cousin using the word “mistake”, Mudgal denied using the word.

“I did not say to him that I had made a mistake. However, it is possible her cousin may have used those words or even added something else in order to resolve the matter.”

ThePrint is privy to the text messages exchanged between the woman and Mudgal, as well as the telephone calls between her and her cousin.

Mudgal no longer adjudicates, having retired as chief justice in 2011. He headed the Mudgal Committee, formed by the Supreme Court in 2013 to conduct independent inquiries into allegations of corruption in the Indian cricket board.

He is also a member of the FIFA Governance Committee and Review Committee, and he continues to be invited for panel discussions for events and news debates.

But for the woman, telling her story is neither about exacting revenge nor about getting even for an injustice done to her decades ago, she said.

“I want to tell this story because my child has suffered the same fate — even if in a different way,” she said. “If the keepers of the law are themselves the perpetrators, can any woman hope to have any justice?”

https://theprint.in

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