Email to Ms. Jaya Bachchan, MP about Samajwadi Party and rape

I sent the following email today from proactiveindian@rediffmail.com to jbachchan@sansad.nic.in (Ms. Jaya Bachchan’s email id provided at http://www.archive.india.gov.in/govt/rajyasabhampbiodata.php?mpcode=1964). As stated in the email, I will publish the response from Ms. Jaya Bachchan if and when I receive it.

Subject: Your passionate speech in the Rajya Sabha about the 2012 Delhi gang rape

Dear Ms. Jaya Bachchan,

I was extremely impressed by your passionate words in the Rajya Sabha during the discussion on the 2012 Delhi gang rape and the documentary ‘India’s Daughter’ on March 04, 2015:
“Inhone jo kiya, yeh bhi vahi kar rahe hain …. Yeh crocodile tears nahi chaahiye auraton ko … us aadmi ko jail se chhoddiye, we will deal with him … crocodile tears! …”
(“The NDA Government is doing exactly what the UPA Government did …. Women don’t want these crocodile tears … release that man from jail, we will deal with him … crocodile tears! …”)

Madam, like all right-thinking persons, I agree wholeheartedly with you that women, in fact all citizens, do not want crocodile tears.

You pointed fingers at the present NDA Government and at the previous UPA Government. However, Madam, what is the track record of your own party, the Samajwadi Party, in matters pertaining to rape?

In April 2014, NDTV.COM reported that your party Chairman, Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav, ‘sparked outrage with his comments questioning the death sentence to three men who were convicted of two gang-rapes in Mumbai last week. “Should rape cases be punished with hanging? They are boys, they make mistakes,” he said today while campaigning for the national election.’ What is your comment on this outrageous statement?

On January 16, 2015, another NDTV.COM report on a 13-year-old girl who was gangraped in Lucknow in May 2005 stated that ‘Gaurav Shukla, the main accused, also happens to be the nephew of former Samajwadi Party Member of Legislative Council Arun Shukla. Mr Shukla had contested, and lost, the 2014 Lok Sabha elections on an SP ticket from Unnao ….. Soon after the incident, Gaurav claimed to be a juvenile, in a separate case filed by his co-accused against him. On the basis of this, the juvenile board declared him a juvenile in the gangrape case in October 2005.
Jalaj Gupta, the lawyer for the survivor, claimed that the accused used forged documents to hide his real age.
“We got a copy of the municipal birth certificate which shows his age was 18 years and two months at the time of the incident,” says Mr Gupta. But the accused produced a transfer certificate from a local school, claiming he was born in 1989, and was 16 at the time of the rape.’
Madam, you expressed outrage about the fact that Nirbhaya and her family have not yet got justice for over 2 years. What do you have to say about the fact that the rape survivor in the May 2005 case in Lucknow has not yet got justice for almost 10 years?

I look forward to your reply. I will be publishing the text of this email on my blog later today, and will also publish your response whenever I receive it.

Yours sincerely,

Proactive Indian
http://proactiveindian.com

P.S.: I have chosen to remain an anonymous blogger since I do not want my name, age, gender, religion, caste, economic status, educational background, profession, place of residence, etc. to colour people’s reaction to my views. If you wish, I will certainly let you know my name, age, gender, and place of residence.

No more hypocrisy!

Many years back, my uncle’s colleague was in tears when he described the unreasonable demands made by his daughter’s parents-in-law before, during and immediately after the wedding. My uncle felt really bad that all he could do was to offer his colleague a shoulder to cry on. I remember my uncle giving us a detailed description of the unreasonable demands and telling us how the bride was shocked and disgusted by the behaviour of her parents-in-law.

A few months later, my uncle attended the wedding of the same colleague’s son. My uncle was dismayed to observe his colleague torturing his daughter-in-law’s parents, making almost exactly the same unreasonable demands that his daughter’s parents-in-law had made. What pained my uncle, and all of us, was the fact that his colleague’s daughter, who had been shocked and disgusted by the behaviour of her parents-in-law, seemed to enjoy the spectacle of her parents doing the same things that her parents-in-law had done. Her shock and disgust seemed to have vanished into thin air!

This kind of thing happens all the time.

We are shocked and disgusted when we, or our loved ones, are victims of any form of discrimination.

But how do we react when we, or our loved ones, are perpetrators of the same form of discrimination?

Does our attitude towards any sort of discrimination depend on whether we gain or lose by such discrimination?

At the workplace, all of us like our seniors to treat us as equals, but don’t many of us love to boss over our juniors?

How many parents can claim that they genuinely try to treat their daughters-in-law just like they treat their daughters?

Women belonging to ‘upper caste’ families may complain about gender discrimination, but do they speak out against caste discrimination?

How many of us try to ensure that the economically weaker persons in our lives are treated with dignity?

Do we discriminate against certain persons or groups, particularly when we think nobody else will know about it and/or when we think we can get away with it?

Are we shocked and disgusted when we, or our loved ones, are perpetrators of discrimination?

Or are we shocked and disgusted only when we, or our loved ones, are victims of discrimination?

Let us all try to remove all kinds of discrimination, irrespective of whether we, or our loved ones, are victims or perpetrators.

Let us stop being hypocrites.

(This post was originally published on Nov 23, 2013.)

Live and let live!

We have seen a great amount of religious intolerance in the last few weeks in India. In the midst of all this insanity, I thought it would be a good idea to share once again an episode that I had shared earlier on January 04, 2014 as ‘Religious fanatics?’

Abdul, who owned a small readymade garments shop in a metropolitan city in India, lived with his wife and two sons in a small cottage on the same street as my friend. The incident described below was narrated to me by this friend.

Abdul’s was the only Muslim family on that street, while there were two Christian families and seven Hindu families. All the residents, including Abdul and his family, enjoyed cordial relations with one another, but most of the others were a bit uncomfortable about the fact that Abdul had a long beard and wore a skull cap, and sacrificed a goat in his compound every Bakri Id.

Ram, an officer in a nationalised bank, lived with his wife, daughter and mother two cottages away. While he had purchased his cottage 11 years earlier like all the others, Ram and his family had not lived there for 9 years since Ram had been posted in other cities. If Abdul was visibly Muslim, Ram and his family were visibly Hindu! They always wore huge ‘caste marks’ on their foreheads, visited temples very regularly and were very vocal, almost fanatical the others felt, about their religion. This caused some discomfort among the others in the neighbourhood.

As mentioned earlier, all the residents in the neighbourhood enjoyed cordial relations with one another. Ram’s elderly mother, as the oldest resident, was fondly addressed as Mausi (Aunty) by all the adults and as Daadi (Grandmother) by all the children.

One morning, when they happened to meet as they were both leaving home for work, Abdul asked Ram why Mausi had not been seen for the last few days. Ram replied that she was slightly unwell, nothing to worry about.

A week later, Abdul overheard Ram’s daughter telling another girl that Daadi was extremely upset about the goat sacrifice at Abdul’s house during Bakri Id. She had stayed at home from the day the goat had been brought to Abdul’s house and had started coming out only a couple of days after Bakri Id. In fact, she had shut the windows of her room since she could not bear the sound of the goat bleating.

Abdul was shocked! He rushed to Ram’s house and asked Mausi why she had not spoken to him about the matter. Mausi replied that, while the goat sacrifice upset her terribly, she thought it would not be right for her to comment on Abdul’s religious practices, especially since he was doing it in his own compound.

Abdul immediately replied, “Mausi, you are like my mother. I cannot see you upset. From now on, I will conduct the goat sacrifice during Bakri Id in some other place.”

A staunch Muslim and a staunch Hindu had shown that persons who are fiercely proud of their religion are not necessarily religious fanatics! They had shown respect for each other’s religious beliefs without compromising their own religious beliefs. They had resolved in no time a matter that could have caused a communal riot elsewhere!

Can’t we resolve our differences in a non-confrontational manner like Abdul and Mausi did? Of course, we can!

If we want to, it’s not so difficult to “Live and let live!”

If you see a child crying on the road …

A few days back, the Principal of a leading girls’ school in our city sent the following letter to all parents:

Kindly note the following message from the Police Department.

This message is for girls/women who go alone to school, college or office. You may notice a child crying on the road and the child may request you to be taken to some address. Such a child shall be taken to the nearest police station and never to the address shown by the child.

This is a new technique adopted by criminal gangs who indulge in flesh trade, kidnapping and rapes. Do share this information with others. This may save someone from becoming victim of such gangs.

I was impressed by this message because:
1. In addition to telling the public what they should not do, the message suggests how such situations should be handled.
2. The Police Department has circulated this message through schools, not by the usual method of newspaper advertisements or press releases or posters. Obviously, almost all parents will read a communication from their child’s school principal and most will take it seriously.

I do hope people take the entire message seriously. I’m quite sure that most girls/women who have read this message would not take the child to the address given by him/her. However, given the number of highly publicized cases of policemen having misbehaved with women, how many girls/women would feel safe going alone to a police station? So, what will happen if any “girls/women who go alone to school, college or office notice a child crying on the road”? Do they just ignore the child?

The answer was provided by an incident that took place in the same area about 2 weeks back. A young woman saw a small boy, around 4 years old, crying just outside the bus terminus. The boy was too agitated to reply when the woman asked him his name, address, etc.. The woman was not a resident of that area, but had come there to attend an interview in an office there. She did not want to be late for her interview, but she did not want to leave the young boy stranded there. She took the boy to a newspaper/magazine shop nearby and explained the situation to the owner and requested him to handle the situation. Realizing that the shop owner may not believe a total stranger, she showed him her college Identity Card and the interview call letter. When the shop owner assured her that he would take care of the child, she proceeded for her interview. In about 10 minutes, the shop owner managed to calm down the boy sufficiently to be able to get some replies from him. The boy only knew his first name and the area where he lived, which was about 6 kilometers away. He could not provide his home address, parents’ names or telephone numbers, school name, etc.. The shop owner then decided to take the boy to the local police station. Coincidentally, the local police station had just received information about a missing boy from the same area mentioned by this boy. The boy was reunited with his parents an hour later.

If any girl/woman notices a child crying on the road and is reluctant to go alone to the police station or to even approach a policeman alone, she could/should take the help of local persons who appear trustworthy. It is always better to approach a shopkeeper, as the young woman did, instead of any random person on the road.

Another possibility, suggested by Simple Girl in her comment on my post Brave in thought and word, but not in deed? is to keep all the police emergency numbers stored in one’s mobile phone so that something like this can be reported to the police immediately.

The police and other government departments are all expected to help citizens. But citizens also have to do their bit.

Empowering rural / tribal / differently abled youth

Meera Shenoy works with rural, tribal and differently abled youth. She is founder of Youth4Jobs (www.youth4jobs.org) which helps companies build an inclusive workforce. She is known for her work in setting up the country’s first Jobs Mission for the poor in AP. She has consulted for World Bank, ILO and UNDP across South Asia. She is currently working on a book featuring entrepreneurs who have disability and businesses with disability as their core.

Meera’s Guest Post is the text of her Convocation Speech at Sadhana Centre for Management & Leadership Development, Pune (SCMLD) on May 01, 2011.

Seven years back I took a decision to work with youth – youth around 17-18 years old, full of hope, full of aspirations. But there is a difference – they all came from remote rural and tribal villages and now I work with youth who are differently abled. Their fathers are agricultural labourers. This means if there is no rain, there is only one meal. And if father or grandmother falls ill, you have to take a loan from a moneylender at high interest. So all are permanently in a debt trap and this in management terms is called “the vicious cycle of poverty”. And this is Bharat. And what do they see on TV. Shining India, youth like you with jeans, T-shirts, motorbikes and cars… and the frustration deepens. Thus you see newspaper headlines of the spread of the Naxal belt and rise of theft and crime.

I like telling stories; real stories. Ramiah painted walls. But what he wanted to do was study and get a different kind of job. His first attempt at writing the twelfth class exam never happened as the teacher ran away with the hall ticket money. Finally, with the paper certificate he knocked at several doors for a job. Six months later, not a penny in pocket, he was back to painting walls. He entered our short term training and at the end of three months, he became a white collar McDonald’s employee. When I go to his upmarket Banjara Hills outlet, he is teaching new alumni how to please the customer, giving some Hindi coaching and sending home Rs. 24,000 a year to educate his younger sister.

Then Rama. She was born normal like you and me. When she was two year old, with high fever, her father took her to the local doctor. The injection given paralysed her limbs. She came to our training class and refused to speak.
I found her singing softly in the garden (we have an open air classroom). Her story…her father wanted her to study since her legs did not work. So he carried her on his shoulder to the bus stop. She had to take two buses and sometimes only one came. Then her tricycle to go to college would get stuck in the mud and there was no one around to push it in the torrential rain. Years of sadness because, even after the struggle and a degree, she could not get a job. We showed her and others videos in the class room where disabled dance the Mahabaratha, told them nothing is impossible. We taught them English inspiration songs like “We can overcome.” It hardly sounds like the original singer but what happens is a shift takes place. “I cannot” shifts to “I can”. Today Rama works in HDB Finance, drawing Rs.96,000 a month. Recently a disabled youth from an MNC wrote to me if I could find him a girl like him. I told him I do not know any rich girls but poor yes. So we are match making…..And who knows, Rama may just reach Austrian soils.

In this journey, as initially head of a state government Jobs Mission for the underprivileged which I set up from scratch, we trained 280,000 youth linking 70% to organized sector jobs. I built an IT architecture for transparency so that the data could be seen by the villagers and the minister. We did many innovations because no one had looked at this space, six years ago. I set up the country’s first rural retail academy with the help of industry; then I set up the grassroots English, work-readiness and computer academy in the heart of the Naxal area. … short, market-linked trainings which close the loop giving them an organized sector job. And now, we are doing the same for the visually, hearing and orthopedically impaired. The transformation of the rural, tribal and disabled youth when they get a job and stand on their own two feet can only be described in one word, “Magic”. Caste is not important, they tell me stories of rich relatives calling them, of village landlord asking if his son can get a job, and thus social and economic equations change. Girls who taste the working world want a career; so child marriage goes out of the window. And yes, I find, in many places where my alumni stay, beauty parlours are springing up for this new customer.

And these boys and girls will bring up their children into a different world – a world with education and health – a world closer to us. So, when you all fly from this college, degree in hand, remember be in the attitude of gratitude that you have received so much – from the founder, teachers, friends, parents, grandparents…And we must Give as we Get. So look around you, wherever you are, in the workplace or at home, and experience the joy of giving…To remove this Bharat-India divide and help create a young vibrant tomorrow.

Let me end with an anecdote. To receive any award I always make the youth speak. So I had taken Shekhar, a tribal boy with me to receive a South Asian award. His father had drunk himself to death and four children were brought up by a mother who earned her living by sweeping the school. We put him in a telecom company. He taught himself the intricacies of the stock market and moved to a large financial company. Shekar was speechless when he saw all the video cameras and the huge auditorium. He forgot his speech and said something from the bottom of his heart, which I want all of you to remember, “I, Shekhar, do not want your money. You have been to better schools, colleges and countries. I need only your time to grow my knowledge.”