Posts Tagged ‘India’

Ashutosh Bhardwaj : NewdelhiThu Dec 26 2013

Maoist exile
Soni Sori with nephew Lingaram Kodapi in Delhi. IE

Away from their forested home in Dantewada, two alleged Maoists are living in exile in a crowded lane in Delhi. Barred from entering their “motherland” Chhattisgarh, tribal teacher  and her nephew Lingaram Kodapi, both accused in the Essar-Maoists payoffs case, spend their days meeting activists, students and readingMarx among other things.

“If you say Lal Salaam or use the word Marx in , you will be termed aNaxal and arrested immediately. In Delhi many people say Lal Salaam,” says Sori, 37.

“I am surprised that Marx is taught in colleges here. Arrest all these students,” adds Kodapi, 25.

In Chhattisgarh, Marx is considered to constitute Maoist literature — sufficient evidence for arrest under the stringent Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act.

After spending over two years in , the duo were released after being granted interim  by the Supreme Court last month. But they were prohibited from entering Chhattisgarh.

“My tragedy is not the jail term. I could have lived with that. Tribals in my region (Bastar) are usually put in jail for no reason. The bigger tragedy is that I lost my motherland. Puri duniya men badnaam ho gayi main (I have been dishonoured in the whole world),” says Sori.

Her two daughters and a son live with her brother in Dantewada. “I cannot go back to my children. Their childhood has been destroyed,” she adds. After being released on bail, Sori was given little time to even meet her children, as she and Kodapi had to leave Chhattisgarh within 24 hours. They now live in the office of their lawyer,Colin Gonsalves. Always accompanied by a guard, they have to report to the nearest police station every week.

“Policemen in Delhi don’t know our case, they taunt us saying that we are notorious Naxals. They say `tumhen chhorna nahi chahiye tha. Supreme Court ne tum par meharbani kar di (you should not have been released. The Supreme Court did you a favour),” says Kodapi.

“It’s not bail. We are still living in a jail,” adds Sori.

These days, Kodapi is watching Steven Soderbergh’s Che, a gift from a British friend. He reads English books and quotes Nelson Mandela.

“The government of India has not done justice to tribals. We never asked for anything. We only want liberation, not reservations. My Constitution gives me the right to equality,” he says.

The duo have been acquitted in all other cases except the Essar-Maoists payoff case. Sori was in jail when her mother died last year. Her husband and co-accused Anil Futane reportedly succumbed to injuries he sustained in jail days after he was acquitted in August this year.

“They granted bail to the Essar general manager and B K Lala (Essar’s contractor), but denied it to us. If the high court had given me bail, I could have gone back to live in my village, but now I have been evicted, without a home,” says Sori.

Essar is alleged to have paid “protection money” to Maoists, and Sori and Kodapi are alleged to have acted as conduits.

Kodapi blames both the security forces and the Maoists. He says while the former wanted him to become a special police officer (SPO), the Maoists also wanted him to join their ranks. He refused both offers, he says.

“Maoists force tribal youths to join them. Several years ago, Badru (a Maoist commander) called me and asked me to fight against the police. I refused. Now, Badru is the police’s man,” he says.

He says the trial has steeled his resolve and “faith in the Constitution and non-violence”. “They have pitted me against myself. When they arrested me, I asked them to kill me, or else I will defeat them. Even if you keep me in jail for 20 years, I will come out and defeat you,” he says.

Read more here- http://m.indianexpress.com/news/this-isn-t-bail-we-are-still-living-in–jail-says-soni-sori–exiled–in-delhi/1211809/

 

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“The greatest pleasure in life is to defeat your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see those dear to them bathed in tears, to ride their horses, and to ravage their wives and daughters.”

– Genghis Khan, in an address to his courtiers

 

By: Subhi  Safvi, in Tehelka

Wars have been fought since civilization began. These have been for resources, expansion among other reasons. Women have begun to play an active role in wars more recently as they have been recruited in the various militaries of the world. But even before, they had important roles. Women served as nurses, cooks and laundresses. During the Second World War, the Soviet military employed women in many combative positions where they served as aviators and combat soldiers, as well as non-combative ones.

War is a masculine action, one that involves defending women and children and our country- which is almost always considered female. War is about taking charge, feeling strong and powerful, hurting and killing. War demands strength and power, it requires soldiers to go beyond the realm of being mere mortals to perform feats that earn them immortality. Though women have played active roles in many conflicts through the ages, they continue to be perceived as the weaker sex, to be protected by the men in the community. Hollywood’s depiction of the US military, based on actual practices, often shows a loud mouthed officer shouting abuses at fresh recruits. The abuses, while innovative, follow a common pattern. If a soldier performs well at tasks, he or she is considered strong and powerful, like a man. Those unable to perform as well are generally likened to women and homosexuals. These associations are then carried forward to the mind-set of soldiers in active duty. Women are often treated as second class, no matter how worthy they have proved themselves.

According to Amnesty International, in modern warfare, 90% of casualties are civilian; of these 75% are women and children. Women, while regarded as inferior to men in many cultures, are thought to hold the honour of a community. Raping a woman is a method used to destroy the progeny of the family and annihilate a community. It is now included as a tool of genocide and regarded as a war crime.

Rape during Indian wars and conflicts

 

“Rape, as with all terror-warfare, is not exclusively an attack on the body- it is an attack on the ‘body-politic’. Its goal is not to maim or kill one person but to control an entire socio-political process by crippling it. It is an attack directed equally against personal identity and cultural integrity.”

Though being held accountable for rape or, for that matter, considering rape as a tool of war is recent, instances where rape was used as a weapon of war have been highlighted in other wars and struggles in the recent past. It is reported that 100,000 women were abducted during the India-Pakistan partition and only 10% returned to their homes. These women were raped and tortured as a way of humiliating the enemy and ruining their honour. Muslim men abducted Sikh and Hindu women to later rape them while Sikh and Hindu men abducted and raped Muslim women. The anti-Sikh riot in 1984 showed the same type of brutality. Men were killed and the women were raped. Official figures state that 2,146 people were killed in Delhi and 586 people in other parts of the country.

The Gujarat riots in 2002 saw a similar mob fury. According to an Amnesty International report, close to 300 women were killed by the violent mob. Most of these girls were first stripped naked and forced to parade in front of their families after which they were raped or gang raped.

Areas of conflict within our country like Kashmir, the North East and the Maoist regions, particularly Chhattisgarh have also had several reports of women being raped by the Indian armed forces. A study by an international organisation, ‘Doctors without Borders’, found that the number of victims of rape was close to 10,000. These numbers exceed that of Sierra Leone and Chechnya. Yet these crimes are often unreported as according to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) the armed force personnel are provided immunity. Under this Act, the army can “Enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests, or to recover any person wrongfully restrained or any arms, ammunition or explosive substances and seize it.”

These powers have been used by several men in the army to rape women that are suspected of harbouring militants or helping them in some other way. Many accounts of the victims have been published by reputed international organisations but the rapists themselves are rarely punished. The militant groups have also been responsible for their share of rapes in Kashmir. Women have been abducted and raped as they are held hostage by rival militant groups, making Kashmiri women doubly vulnerable.

In 2004, the women of Manipur held a protest after the brutal murder of Thangjam Manorama who was taken into custody from her home by the Assam Rifles under suspicion of having links with rebels. Her bullet ridden body was found a few kilometres away from her home, bearing signs of torture. Twelve Manipuri women came out naked, holding a banner saying ‘Indian Army Rape Us’ to protest against the paramilitary forces of the Assam Rifles demanding justice and taking a stand against the many rapes of other girls. Despite the curfew imposed, the protests by the women continued as they wanted the men responsible to be punished.

Chhattisgarh, one of the newer states in India, is home to a violent Naxalite problem. People of the villages face threats from both the police and the Naxals in the region. Women have been detained, raped and tortured when they are suspected of having links with Naxalites.

Soni Sori, from Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, was arrested and raped on allegation of being a messenger between the Essar Group and the Maoists. A hospital in Kolkata found stones in her private parts- which was part of the alleged torture used by the Chhattisgarh police. Other members of the police have been accused of molestation and rape as well.

The report submitted by the Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law headed by Justice Verma has suggested that AFSPA be reviewed and that any gender based violence by the armed forces be punishable under the law. The report was aimed to examine the changes required to the criminal law when it came to sexual violence and had a portion on sexual violence in conflict zones. This report was completed in a month and was monumental since the committee was formed in the wake of the gang rape of a 23 year-old girl inNew Delhi in December 2012.

Reasons for rape during conflicts

 

“…They stripped a girl naked…she looked scared and lost…three of them held her down. The soldiers told me I should rape her and the others too…“ The recollections of a soldier in Bosnia-Herzegovina who was forced to prove he was a man by his commanding officer, by raping 12 women.

In the wars of the past, the permission to rape women of the conquered community was considered a normal part of war. The lower ranks of the soldiers had some form of enjoying ‘the spoils of war’. It brings with it another feeling of conquest, this time over a woman’s body. Violence of this nature is not just for the sake of sex, it has more deep rooted reasons. These crimes are not committed to claim a woman’s body, but to claim a community.

In groups, men find it necessary to prove their masculinity. In the case of groups, this generally means that men have to prove they are strong, dominant and powerful, especially when it comes to sex. This is a phenomenon that is seen in the civilian population very often, but during a conflict these feelings are elated. They are stretched to dominating the struggle and teaching the opposing side a lesson. This lesson often comes in the form of raping and mutilating women, thereby taking control of the means of reproduction. Raping women and girls is a way for a soldier to prove that he is devoted to the cause and is willing to do whatever it takes to destroy a community.

Rape is used as a violent means to subdue, humiliate and control a population. There are fears among the community because any one of them might be next. Children born of rape are often shunned as well as they are not a part of the community where they live and were conceived from a ‘shameful’ deed. It has often been used as a tool of ethnic cleansing; in this case women are raped in an attempt to eradicate a community, national, ethnic or religious, from an area. Women that have been raped are often scared to go to the authorities. In many cases when they go to file a report they are raped again by the police. Governmental agencies, while aware of these crimes, are hesitant to gather proper data as the survivors are unwilling to report their experiences, and when they are, there are few eye witness reports.

In order to stop the use of rape as a tool of war it is necessary for the world to understand how commonplace it is in conflict zones. There is also a need to hold all perpetrators of this crime to be held accountable and punished. There are many international peacekeeping agencies that have deployed a large number of troops to protect civilians and reduce the fighting in conflict zones, but the sexual violence continues, there should be troops deployed that focus on preventing gender based violence as well. The authorities that are responsible for handling these charges must also be sensitised to the plight of the victims so they are not forced to relive the trauma. The state should also be held responsible to ensure that the victims of these human rights violations receive financial and medical support. Care centres should be set up to counsel these victims along with their families. There should also be more ground level awareness to help the community become more sensitised.

The use of rape as a weapon of war results in long term consequences that are usually ignored. As a part of the community, women play an important part in the reconstruction of a post conflict zone, a task that becomes difficult when they suffer from trauma and/or are ostracised by their families and their community.

Peace becomes difficult to achieve when a large section of society is still stuck in the traumas of the conflict. The long after effects of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the violence they face within their families because they were raped makes them unable to take part in the post conflict reconstruction. As their scars serve as a daily reminder of the conflict, it is often difficult for the community to move past these atrocities as well. While there are still people who seem to be ignorant about the prevalence of this tool or about its effects, the international community as a whole has taken this up as a humanitarian crisis that must be resolved. With the increasing number of conflicts in the world there is little room left for the victimisation of females.

A Big thank you from SONI SORI on thousands of post cards she has received , and she says-

Whenever I am Heartbroken I take out each post Card and read it. They give me strength and empower me to Fight

sonisori_postcard

Please continue to send her postcards,

at the following address

sonicard

Posted March 8, 2013 by Shiney Varghese

Soni Sori is an Adivasi school teacher who was arrested, tortured and sexually assaulted by Chhattisgarh state police in 2011.

As the world was getting ready to usher in the New Year, most Indians were mourning the death of one of their young women, gang-raped on the night of December 16 on a bus that she boarded along with her companion. This is not the first time a woman was raped while travelling, nor was it the first time ayoung middle-class woman was gang-raped. Yet it galvanized the young and the old, women and men of India in a manner that had not happened before. There were many gatherings across the country to protest and mourn; there was an outpouring of grief and anger online too.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this year, I am most acutely aware of the grim reality faced by most women in this world: gender-based violence. It manifests itself differently in different cultures, but is omnipresent all the same.

Gendered violence is intrinsically linked to women’s livelihoods as well, such as women’s roles in agriculture and food systems: as farmers, agricultural laborers, food processors, and finally as the main persons responsible for providing and preparing food for homes.

Sheelu, a feminist activist with Tamil Nadu Women’s Collective, realized early on that sexual violence was an everyday reality for the women that the collective worked with, whether they were engaged in a household related activity (collecting water or firewood) or an economic activity (collecting fodder, employed in a agri-processing factory). Campaigns against gender-based violence quickly became one of the central focuses of the women’s collective. These campaigns, in turn, created the conditions for the collective’s members to begin other work to empower women within the community and the region to address resource rights to improve their livelihoods. They became much stronger political actors able to more effectively claim their rights to food and land, something they could not have done without first addressing the violence that held them back at every turn.

Violence against women occurs in a multiple contexts: in the family, in the field, at the workplace, during caste, religious and communal conflicts, as well as by police and state officials. Sexual violence is used to control women (within the household or within the community), or the class/community she belongs to (e.g., in conflicts over land, inter-caste or communal violence or state-sponsored violence) in the event of a conflict. In contexts where women have no access to economic assets, they often have no recourse but to tolerate domestic violence.

Moreover, if the woman belongs to a community that is already in the margins of society, such acts of violence are often carried out with impunity, as is in the case of indigenous women in Canada, Native American women in the United States or Dalit women in India. According to Violence Against Dalit Women, the plight of Dalit (SC) women “seems much more alarming when one looks at the data pertaining to serious crimes such as rape and murder.” Simply put, women’s bodies often become the battleground for a number of different kinds of fights: cultural, communal, ethnic, racial, social, economic and domestic, and these fights can take place anywhere, public or private.

In the case of developing countries that are undergoing rapid urbanization and industrialization, the state can perpetuate or be complicit in human rights violations, as can be seen from the attempts to silence vocal women such as Soni Sori and several other less well known women in India. Similarly, when communities faced with displacement or destruction of livelihoods choose to exert their right to homeland and livelihoods, companies in search of metals and minerals may even resort to violence to silence them. Survivors of the gang rape of the eleven Q’eqchi’ women of Guatemala are suing the Canadian mining company Hudbay Minerals Inc. and its subsidiary HMI Nickel for its role in the violence against women protesting its operations.

But the winds are changing: Thousands of ordinary women around the world joined organizers of one billion rising marking a day of action to protest against violence against women and girls last month. As if in recognition of the changing mood of millions of people, when the 57th Commission on the Status of Women (CSW-57) meets at the United Nations in New York this week (March 4–15), its focus is on violence against women and the priority theme is the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. A multitude of events are held this International Women’s Day to protest violence against women, seek justice and celebrate the distance we have traveled over the last century.

New Jersey, March 13, 2013 -Against a background of everincreasing

reports of rape and other violence on women in India, several individuals including the NJ chapter members from Association For India Development ,

People For Loksatta , India Against Chapter, Telangana Development Forum gathered on Friday,

March 8th, in Oak Tree Road, New Jersey to stand in solidarity with victims and survivors of

gender violence in India. Given the growing outrage in India as a result of the recent rape case in

Delhi, the protestors wanted to raise awareness and express anger against the alarming

incidence of violence. This event marked special mention of Soni Sori, an adivasi school teacher

currently held in the Central Jail in Jagdalpur, Chhattisgarh, India. Similar protests have also

been organized in other cities including Boston, London and several cities in India on the

ocassion of the International Women’s Day on March 8th. Soni Sori has been the symbol of

global protests in the past due to the custodial rape and torture she had to face from the jail

authorities.

Sori was arrested in New Delhi on October 4, 2011 and accused of being a Maoist supporter.

Despite her appeals to cowaurts in New Delhi, she was handed over to the Chhattisgarh police

and taken to the state where she was beaten, sexually assaulted and given electric shocks by

the police. Sori documented her torture in letters she wrote to her lawyer, and which have since

been widely publicized.

A petition in support of Soni Sori was read out by Suresh Ediga, the organizer of the event. The

petition was then signed by all the participants and a copy of the same would be handed over to

the Indian Embassy in New York in the coming days. They then took out a silent march in an

effort to create more awareness about Soni Sori and her fight for justice. Each one of the

participants recorded a 10 second video in support of Soni Sori, as part of the One Billion rising

for Soni Sori. It is noteworthy to mention that Sori has been acquitted in four out of the eight

cases in which she was charged.

Participants also took part in an impromptu discussion and discussed among the other things

why Soni Sori should matter, why tribal issues in remote villages of Chattisgarh should matter

and how citizens can play an active role in bringing transparency and accountability in

governance? Organizers assured that this is just one in a many series of actions to speak

against the injustice and violence that women face on a daily basis.

Pica Avilable  here-https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152675593270192.1073741827.859825191&type=1&l=167eff96d5

About 35 students from Hidayatullah National Law University, Chhattisgarh . joined the one billion rising campAign for soni sori and decided to do a flash mob , at a mall in raipur The video of the Flash Mob is available here:

Do join us as we continue to rise till soni sori and other women prisoners arrested under draconian alws are free

here is our group page- https://www.facebook.com/OneBillionRisingforsonisori

 

Posted: January 19, 2013 in ankit garg, chhattisgarh, SONI SORI, Supreme Court, torture, Uncategorized, Women rights Tags: , , , , , , ,

 

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The National Commission on Women (NCW) is mandated to ‘investigate and examine all matters relating to the safeguards provided for women under the Constitution and other laws’, ‘ and ‘take suo moto notice of matters relating to deprivation of women’s rights’. Soni Sori turned to them for support. As early as 10th October, 2011, several women’s groups and activists too, called upon the NCW to take action in Soni’s case.

Read more… 1,738 more words

The National Commission on Women (NCW) is mandated to ‘investigate and examine all matters relating to the safeguards provided for women under the Constitution and other laws’, ‘ and ‘take suo moto notice of matters relating to deprivation of women’s rights’. Soni Sori turned to them for support. As early as 10th October, 2011, several women’s groups and activists too, called upon the NCW to take action in Soni’s case. Many visits and appeals later, it became clear that their pleas were falling upon deaf ears. On the 10th of October, 2012, around a hundred women and student activists stormed the NCW office on Delhi’s Deen Dayal Upadhayay Marg, protesting against its year-long inaction. Video of the protest by women’s groups and activists as they storm the NCW office, demanding action – http://youtu.be/ahCqI3kBNcoOn the 4th of October 2011, Soni Sori a 36-year old adivasi school warden from Dantewada, Chhattisgarh was arrested on false charges of being a Maoist supporter and taken into custody by the Chhattisgarh police, by whom she was brutally tortured and sexually assaulted. Over the past year, her right to life and dignity has been repeatedly violated by jail and police authorities. She has been consistently humiliated and denied medical attention. Today, despite the efforts of various individuals, activists and women’s groups, Soni has received no justice. No action has been taken against the Chhattisgarh police. Instead, Ankit Garg, the SP of Dantewada under whose behest Soni Sori was subjected to sexual violence and torture, was awarded the President’s Police Medal for Gallantry. Soni, however, continues her brave fight against injustice. In an open letter to social workers, activists, the women’s commission and the citizens of India, Soni Sori poignantly asks ‘…by giving me current, by stripping me naked, or by brutally assaulting me [and] inserting stones in my rectum, will the problem of Naxalism end? Why so many atrocities on women?’ Wondering whose support she could seek out in her fight for justice she asks ‘Whom should I have called? It was the courts, themselves, who handed me over to the police’Given that the National Commission on Women (NCW) is mandated to ‘investigate and examine all matters relating to the safeguards provided for women under the Constitution and other laws’, ‘ and ‘take suo moto notice of matters relating to deprivation of women’s rights’, one would assume that Soni could turn to them for support, as she rightly has. As early as 10th October, 2011, several women’s groups and activists too, called upon the NCW to take action in Soni’s case. Many visits and appeals later, it became clear that their pleas were falling upon deaf ears. On the 27th of September 2012, representatives of some women’s organisations once again approached the NCW regarding Soni Sori’s case. Despite the fact that the NCW had ordered an inquiry with the Chhattisgarh Police, Hemlata Kheria, Member-in-Charge of Chhattisgarh, was not even aware of Sori’s case. It took two hours for her file to be dug out. The file contained a reply of the Chhattisgarh police dated 17th February, 2012. The NCW had neither taken cognizance of this reply, nor forwarded it to the complainants.protestors outisde the NCW office A fortnight later, on the 10th of October, 2012, around a hundred women and student activists stormed the NCW office on Delhi’s Deen Dayal Upadhayay Marg, protesting against its year-long inaction. Meeting with the protestors, NCW member secretary Charu Walikhanna informed the group that Soni Sori’s case had been closed by the NCW on the 4th of October, 2012, saying that “since this matter is sub judice in the Supreme Court, it will not be proper for us to intervene.” Their closure report stated that ‘at our end, nothing seems more to be done.’ Once again, the NCW had not bothered to convey its decision to the complainants. Had a simple ‘report’ from the accused in the case – the Chhattisgarh Police – sufficed to convince the NCW of their innocence? Could it have served as grounds enough for the apex national level organization instituted to protect and promote the interests of women, to close down a case of reported torture and sexual violence by a woman prisoner? We are compelled then to ask whether the NCW is effectively addressing the issues for which it had been created and upholding the rights of those whose interests it is supposed to protect. The NCW, established in 1992 under the provisions of the 1990 National Commission for Women Act, was set up to monitor, scrutinize and influence state policies – a body that was located inside the government and yet independent of it – giving it in the dual responsibility of being a watchdog body that constantly scrutinizes and checks anti-people policies of the state and also one that positively helps to develop capacities within the government to address the issues of the marginalized from the rights and justice perspective. The creation of the NCW was the result of the pressure of a vibrant women’s movement which began in the 1970s that gave visibility to women’s issues and changed the state’s perspectives on women’s roles and participation. Given its history and intent, one would assume that the NCW should be expected to play a pro-active role in the struggles of women, and do so by influencing state policies and institutions. But to what extent is any of this being done? To what extent is the NCW accomplishing what it set out to do? Is it exercising its power to ‘call for special studies or investigations into specific problems or situations arising out of discrimination and atrocities against women’? To ‘take up the cases of violation of the provisions of the Constitution and of other laws relating to women with the appropriate authorities’? To what extent is it able to bring in changes in the culture and practices of bureaucratic structures of the state? In the case of Soni Sori, none of this was done. Despite being empowered to conduct independent fact-findings, to visit jails and remand homes, to submit their reports in court, to summon witnesses and examine them, and to hold public hearings, the NCW did not utilize any of these extensive powers to look into the serious complaints of Soni Sori who has been imprisoned and tortured. It made no attempt to contact her when she was hospitalized in Delhi for over a month, or help women’s groups reach her in jail. But this isn’t the first time that the NCW has failed to execute its sworn duty. It has repeatedly and frequently denied reports of sexual violence by security forces in several parts of the country, instead of seeking to investigate and end the impunity granted in such crimes. It refused to get involved in the Shopian case where Nilofer and Aasiya Jan were sexually assaulted and killed; it remained a mute spectator to the whisking away of Sodi Shambho, the crucial witness to Gompad massacre, by the Chhattisgarh police; it has yet to take action on a 15-month old petition for an investigation into the human rights violation of Irom Sharmila, who is being illegally detained by the Government. When the women of Koodankulam were brutally assaulted by the police for fighting for their rights, the NCW looked the other way. In Khairlanji, as a Dalit mother and daughter were stripped naked, dragged from their hut and hacked to death by the dominant castes of their village, the silence of the NCW resounded through the nations ears.Achievements of the NCW: a news clipping from the NCW website showing Chairperson Mamta Sharma at the launch of an album of devotional songs for Lord Ganesha The conduct of the Commission over the years has obscured the systemic injustices inflicted on women, trivialized the violations, and reduced the dignity of the institution itself. It isn’t simply on account of inaction that the NCW has failed us. Several controversial positions have reflected the Commission’s lack of understanding of women’s issues. Advising victims of sexual assault to dress “carefully” to avoid sexual violence and calling upon women to graciously accept the term ‘sexy’, members of the commission have repeatedly revealed their anti-women prejudices and patriarchal outlook. Probing the appointment of the Chairperson and members of the Commission puts some of these remarks in context. Rather than being chosen by virtue of their involvement in the women’s movement and their championship of women’s rights, the appointment of the Chairperson and members of the NCW has been largely influenced by political considerations. Over the years, several have been nominees of the government in power with no history of working on women’s issues. As a result, they have not only lacked the experience and necessary expertise for the job, but also the perspectives needed for processes of social change.
The political nature of the appointments has affected the autonomous functioning of the Commission and has compromised their ability to act against those in power. After a prolonged discussion on October 10th, 2012, once the protesting activists pointed out the provisions of the NCW Act which empowers the Commission to intervene and/or assist in any pending case, members of the Commission finally relented and agreed to reopen Soni Sori’s case. However, our experience of dealing with the NCW, together with the experience of countless women over the years, has compelled us to ask some fundamental questions of the Commissions members and its mode of functioning. At a time when we are faced with an unprecedented number of incidents of State repression and sexual violence against women, the need for an autonomous and effective statutory body that protects the interests of women is stronger than ever before. It is most distressing that at a time like this, the National Commission on Women has become inert, ineffective and incompetent. The WSS, together with other organizations and voices of resistance, refuses to let the NCW lightly explain away its inactivity and shrug its duties. We demand accountability and action. The protest on October 10, 2012 resulted in the formulation of the following demands: • Immediate resignation of the present Chairperson and other Members • Re-constitution of the Commission in an open and transparent manner •
Immediate enquiry into the custodial torture of Soni Sori • Initiation of investigations into conditions of women prisoners in Chhattisgarh • Performance audit of the NCW by an independent panelThe action was part of the JUSTICE FOR SONI SORI CAMPAIGN and was attended by members and activists of All India Progressive Women’s Association (AIPWA), All India Students Association (AISA), Delhi Forum, Delhi Solidarity Group, National Alliance of People’s Movement, People’s Democratic Front of India (PDFI), People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), Right to Water Campaign, SAHELI, and Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS).