'Haryana women have done the most to fight khaps'

A locator map of Kaithal district, Haryana

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Jagmati Sangwan, 50, has been leading the fight against khap panchayats and honour crimes in Haryana. The articulate and spunky president of the Haryana wing of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) – formerly a volleyball player – spoke to Shreya Roy Chowdhury in Delhi:

Has the fight against honour crimes grown stronger in Haryana?
AIDWA has been active in Haryana since 1985. Initially we had a team of 10-15, now we have about 48,000 members operating in 11 districts. Violence against women, specifically violence in the name of honour, and the diktats of khap panchayats has been one of our main areas of intervention.

How did you start work?
We started working with families whose kids were killed or excommunicated by the community. Those days violence wasn’t perceived as violence at all. We intervened in lots of cases but because there is no special law against honour killings, in most cases, the culprits got away. No one was prepared to bear witness or gather evidence. But in the Manoj-Babli case – a same-gotra couple who were killed in Kaithal district in June 2007 – it was a different story. Manoj lived with his mother, a widow, and his sister. Women called the shots in this household and this was a women’s organisation active in the field for the last 20-25 years. They considered our small force a great support and agreed to fight with us. For the first time there’s been a landmark verdict on this issue and with this we have been able to set up couple protection homes. People from all over India have contributed but we feel Haryana women have done the most.

How do khaps harass young couples?
Khaps can tell a married couple with a two-year-old baby that their marriage has violated the gotra laws and they must now tie rakhis and become siblings. If the couples don’t comply, their families are ostracised. This was common in Haryana. Families got thrown out of the village, fined for Rs 21,000, hit with shoes, tonsured and urinated upon. Even against these, there should be laws. There are layers to the problem. There are many cases involving adolescent girls. There is nothing to help them. But if they ever slip up or the families even suspect anything, they’re killed. In that age-bracket, girls, not boys, are killed regularly. Schoolteachers in our group report disappearance of students. Questioned, families say things like the girl had stomach ache and died. There’s such strong acceptance of these actions that no one complains. In case of inter-caste marriages, if the boy is from a lower caste and landless, both will be killed. This isn’t an honour issue at all. We have a hierarchical society and its leaders want the divisions to remain. If the youth exercise their right to choose their partners, it has the potential to destroy caste structures. Property will go from the landed to the landless pushing towards a more egalitarian society. That’s the real threat; the cause of the murders. Those who understand these implications have, till now, controlled all social and economic structures and resources. Now they are threatened and political outfits depend on them for votes. They don’t want that kids use this right to ‘choice marriage’ because social and economic structures will collapse.

What has changed in the past few years?
The March 2010 district court verdict in the Manoj-Babli case, which sentenced five of the perpetrators to death, sent a strong message that nobody is above the law. The panchayat workers involved have also been punished. This verdict, the way cases are being registered and the construction of protection homes, have all helped. Marriage within the same gotra is in any case rare. This same-gotra wedding problem is greatly exaggerated. A National Commission for Women survey with Shakti Vahini shows that only 4 per cent marriages were within gotra. Thankfully, now girls and boys are speaking up for ‘choice marriage’.

Read more: ‘Haryana women have done the most to fight khaps’ – The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/opinion/edit-page/Haryana-women-have-done-the-most-to-fight-khaps/articleshow/7168011.cms#ixzz19EqYOFKN




The meeting was organised by Shakti Vahini  in collaboration with Women and Child Police Unit Nanakpura , Delhi Police , order to provide a platform for the Juvenile Welfare Officers  to have a open discussion on the working of the Juvenile Justice Act with various stakeholders. The program was attended by 70 police personnel’s and stakeholders associated with J.JAct. Ms Geetika- Joint Director, Department of Women and Child, Govt of NCT of Delhi, Ms Suman Nalwa – Additional DCP , Special Cell for Women and Child Nanakpura , Mr Shashank Shekhar- Member of Delhi Commission for Protection for Child Rights,  Mr Ananad Asthana -Advocate , Delhi Legal Services Authority, Chairperson , Child Welfare Committee Mayur Vihar , Chairperson , Child Welfare Committee Nirmal Chaya were the dignitaries who addressed the Juvenile Welfare Officers.

The program started  by a welcome speech by Mr Ravi Kant- Advocate Supreme Court of India , and President Shakti Vahini  who opined that the training programs which was organised by  Shakti Vahini in different police stations of East and Central district of Delhi led to the ignition of  the  present meeting . The Juvenile Welfare Officers had lots of queries which required immediate clarifications  and attention.

Ms Komal Ganotra(Specialist Training and Advocacy , CIF , Delhi) discussed  the role of CHIILDLINE programme in city. She stated that CHILDLINE  is a network committed to a mission and mandate for child protection. They want to create a child friendly  nation  that guarantees welfare of children . She requested the police personnel’s to avail the services of CHILDLINE without any kind of hesitation.She also requested the police personnels to make use of the  correct  constitutional safeguards  with respect to the issues pertaining to children.

Ms Geetika Sharma(Joint Director , Dept of Social Welfare)  discussed about trafficking of women and children. She stated that Law Enforcement Agencies should know about issues connected to trafficking of women and children . It is an organised crime so it is  extremely important for all of us to join hands  in order to curb this crime. She also talked about the Immoral Traffic Prevention Act. Dept Of Social Welfare  has initiated many activities for the emotional and economic  upliftment  of the victims .She stated  on the fact that  the main job of Social Welfare Dept is to work for the welfare of the victims. She highlighted the need of strengthening of the restoration and repatriation of the victims.

Ms Suman Nalwa(Addl.DCP,SPUWC) raised certain important issues of the police personnels. She opined that Govt has created State CWC but  the police officials who are representatives of the state are not made  part of that committe. She Higlighted the need of convergence between the different Stakeholders in the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act. She said that the local police should be aware of the different programmes being run by the different agencies for the welfare of Children and Women. She said that the Delhi Police was preparing for the Anti Human Trafficking Units to established as per the Ministry of Home Affairs Guidelines. She requested the juvenile welfare officers to come up with their issues/problems to her and she will definitely carry forward their issues to higher authorities.She also mentioned that  there should be safety areas /places like Balwadi for the protection of those kids whose both the parents go out for work.

A  briefing was also done  on Child in need  of care and protection by CWC members , Smt Neera Mullick(Chaiperson , CWC, Nirmal Chhaya), Smt Mamta Sahay(Chairperson CWC, Mayur Vihar) and Smt Paramjit Kaur Kukreja(Member, CWC, Lajpat Nagar) . They all requested the police personnels to write a detailed  case study of the  victim before producing them  to the concerned CWC. They also asked them to  get a detailed  medical check up  of the victims. They also requested the police personnels to be extra careful  and sensitive while dealing with issues pertaining to children.

Police personnels present over there discussed the challenges faced by them while they deal with cases pertaining to children. The juvenile welfare officers are  not able to give their full efforts in issues pertaining to children as they are already preloaded with other cases. All the honourable members of CWC agreed to carry forward their issues to higher authorities.

Mr Anant Kumar Asthana (Legal Aid Counsel, Juvenile Justice Board-I)  discussed about JJB and legal aid. He requested the police officials to follow the guidelines   of J.J Act  very carefully and methodically . He also asked them to be very sensitive and affectionate while handling cases pertaining to children.He mentioned the achievement of this act which has helped in raising the  success graph. He  opined that in near future  we will file a petition in support of the facilities provided  to Juvenile Welfare Officers  so that they will be able to carry out the investigation properly and independently. He requested the police personnels to treat each and every child as their own child and  they should never take J.J Act with any kind of fear or hatredness. They should try to come out  with positive measures  inorder to  fill the gaps.

SI Vishal  Dev(SJPU, EAST) and SI Meena Kumari (SJPU,CENTRAL) both of them thanked Shakti Vahini for the training programmes which is being conducted regularly in the concerned police stations and also for the legal  and counselling services.

Mr Shashank Shekhar(Representative , DCPCR)  talked about  the efficiency of Delhi Police in handling cases pertaining to child rights. He opined that at present approximately in  800  cases related to child rights DCPCR has involved   Delhi Police .He said that Delhi Police is one of the best example in the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act. He also talked about all the rights pertaining to children like ITPA, J.J Act , BPBA and Right to Education.DCPCR is the only commission which follows UNCRCand takes care of the best interest of the child and serves the best interest of the child.The framework followed by DCPCR is right to survival , right to development (education , care , leisure and recreation), right to protection (from exploitation , abuse and  neglect) and right to participation-expression, information, thought and religion. Whatever cases comes to DCPCR they take it as a complain and thus  give recommendations to competent authorities.

Finally a vote of thanks was given by Mr Ravi Kant who thanked all the resource persons for giving their valuable time and enlightening each and everyone  present there in the meeting.

Tahira refuses to meet family

Board,_Sealdah_station,kolkata india

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21 DECEMBER 2010
KOLKATA: By the time she stepped out of the train on Monday dressed in a red salwar kameez, her face veiled by a red dupatta Tahira Khatun was dog-tired. The long train journey and the last five days of twists and turns had taken their toll. But as she looked around eagerly soaking in the people, the familiar ring of Bengali her eyes started sparkling. Tahira was finally in Kolkata, not far from home. 

Or was she? “No, I don’t want to go back home. Neither do I want to meet anyone from my family. I had a good life in Delhi and I don’t want to get back to the horrible life at home,” Tahira retorted, when asked if she missed her family. She had just got off the Rajdhani Express at Sealdah.

Twenty months after she was trafficked from her village Balikhal in rural Kakdwip, South 24-Parganas, and sold off in Delhi, there are no easy answers to the Tahira Khatun riddle. Members of Shakti Vahini, the NGO that helped rescue her, and the police have said repeatedly that she has been brainwashed by those who had trafficked her.

“It seems that Tahira has been brainwashed by the traffickers, who’ve convinced her that she has no life back home. But now, she seems to have started understanding a few things. The girl needs help and proper counselling by professionals,” said Rishi Kant, an activist of Shakti Vahini.

Tahira was candid about the fact that she missed her Delhi life. “Initially, I was afraid and apprehensive. But I gradually gained confidence. I was given good food, clothes and a nice play to stay. I was happy there,” the 16-year-old said. When she went missing on April 15, 2009, no one including herself thought her life would take such a turn. According to Tahira, Kalam, the man who lured her from home, promised to bail her out of poverty and the miserable life she was leading. She had no idea that she would be sold off.

Finally, when a team of Delhi Police and state CID found her in Delhi’s Begumpura on December 16, Tahira had accepted her new life. Now, even her family is not sure if they should meet her. Though they wanted to come to Kolkata, they were allegedly discouraged by CID officials. Fearing repercussions, they stayed away from the city.

“Tahira’s mother Samiran Biwi has become all the more restless after she came to know that Tahira has been traced. She has been begging us to take her to Tahira. But we are helpless. We will do that only when CID officials instruct us,” said Tahira’s stepmother Johura Biwi.

It was Johura’s untiring efforts that saw Calcutta high court come down heavily on the state police DG, which finally led to the girl being traced. Johura had knocked on the high court’s door to find her step-daughter. But till now, CID officials have not even formally informed the family that the girl has been found. They got the news from media reports.
From Sealdah, Tahira was taken to the CID headquarters at Bhavani Bhawan. She was later shifted to Sanlaap, a home for destitute girls. Members of the state child welfare board are supposed to meet her on Tuesday. 

Read more: Tahira refuses to meet family Sumati – The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata-/Tahira-refuses-to-meet-familySumati/articleshow/7135984.cms#ixzz18hzdsfD6

Girl recoils at fear of ostracism in Bengal – ‘Tortured, humiliated and brainwashed’

South 24 Parganas district, West Bengal, India

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New Delhi, Dec. 17: Kidnapped and sold last year and rescued from Delhi yesterday, 16-year-old Bengal girl Yasmin Khatun says she doesn’t want to return home for fear of ostracism. Consumed with shame and misplaced guilt at the “different” life she has led for the past year and a half, Yasmin (name changed) has told police and social workers she has “grave doubts” about ever being accepted by the people of her South 24-Parganas village, Balikhali.“She is both traumatised and humiliated,” said Bengal CID inspector Sarbari Bhattacharya, the leader of the police team that came to Delhi to rescue the Kakdwip girl who was abducted in April last year.

“She told me she doesn’t want to go back to Bengal because she is unsure how she would be received. She wants to remain in Delhi. The traffickers who brought her to Delhi have brainwashed her into thinking that she would be humiliated and taunted by her own people if she ever returns home.”

Tomorrow, the Delhi government’s child welfare committee (CWC) will counsel Yasmin and try to dispel her fears. At some point of time, Yasmin may have to travel at least to Calcutta, whose high court has asked the police to produce her. CWC chairperson Neera Mallick, however, said: “The girl needs counselling at least for the next six months before she is exposed to the world.”

Inspector Bhattacharya said the traffickers would torture Yasmin every time she said she wanted to return home, and had brainwashed her into thinking that after her life in Delhi, she would be an “untouchable” back in Bengal. “She is confused,” Bhattacharya said. “Sometimes she smiles and sometimes she suddenly starts crying.” Over a period of time, the officer said, Yasmin began believing she would never be able to leave and began accepting her life in Delhi. Her tormentors then started tutoring her in etiquette and the social graces, and bought her expensive dresses, to transform the rustic girl into a “lady of society”.

“I was surprised last night when, while having dinner, she suddenly asked for a napkin,” Bhattacharya said. “I never expected that from a village girl. But I quickly realised that the traffickers had been grooming her. The room we rescued her from had an air-conditioner.”Rashi Aditi Ghosh, of the NGO Shakti Vahini, who had accompanied the police on the raid to rescue the girl, too said that Yasmin had told her she didn’t want to “go back to her baba and maa”.

“She said she was disgusted with her father’s foul behaviour. She seemed confused and may not be telling the whole truth.”It’s not clear what Yasmin has against her 61-year-old father Khater Bhisti, a fish seller, but she owes her freedom to her unlettered stepmother Johora Bibi who, faced with initial police apathy, fought a lone crusade to take the battle to the high court. Ghosh said her NGO had helped rescue many trafficked girls and that she did not find Yasmin’s behaviour unusual. Having accepted their new life, especially the “material comforts” that come with it, many of the girls are reluctant to return home.

“Yasmin is ashamed of the life she has been forced to lead but, at the same time, she has grown used to the comforts. In this confused state she may be trying to find excuses not to return home,” Ghosh said. “Many girls we have rescued have behaved in this way, but she needs counselling and someone she can open her heart to.”

For now, Yasmin is staying at Nirmal Chhaya, a home for girls run by the Delhi government’s social welfare department. The police have been asked to provide all the files about Yasmin, including her medical examination report, for tomorrow’s CWC hearing that will help decide if she would be returning home.

In Calcutta, the CID said it would approach the high court on Monday and seek permission to produce Yasmin. It was the court order to produce Yasmin, on a petition from Johora, that had kicked off the hunt for her.




A representation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka...

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The winter session has come to an end, but parliamentary committees continue to meet to discuss important issues.  Some of them are:

  • Lok Sabha Committee on Ethics | 21 Dec 2010 | Agenda: Adding to procedure of Lok Sabha,  rules to incorporate a committee on ethics, specify its functions and procedures to be followed by the committee
  • Lok Sabha Committee on Empowerment of Women | 21 Dec 2010 | Agenda: Informal interaction with with NGO Shakti Vahini on the subject Honour Killings and other forms of violence against Women
  • Committee on Water Resources | 21 Dec 2010 | Agenda: Evidence of the representatives of the Ministry of Water Resources on The Dam Safety Bill, 2010
  • Committee on Finance | 21 Dec 2010 | Agenda: 1. Oral hearing of the representatives of (i) Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and (ii) US India Business Council (USIBC) on the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008’. 2. Further oral evidence of representatives of Ministry of Finance (Department of Revenue) and Enforcement Directorate on ‘Tax exemptions and related matters in respect of IPL/BCCI’

SOURCE: http://prsindia.org/theprsblog/2010/12/17/important-committee-meetings/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=important-committee-meetings






Dec. 16: A parent’s worst nightmare came true when a 15-year-old girl who went to see a circus did not return home one-and-a-half years ago in a Bengal village. Today, something that few parents in Bengal or many other parts of the world can rarely hope for also came true: that same girl was found in a trafficker’s hellhole in Delhi and rescued.The perseverance of an unlettered stepmother, the helping hand of a lawyer’s clerk and the caring instincts of a judge and the insistence of the court jolted Bengal police to launch a hunt that took them to the girl who was sold for Rs 5,000 by a trafficker.

A CID team from Calcutta, with the help of Delhi police, rescued a “traumatised” Yasmin Khatun (name changed), now 16, from a hideout in west Delhi’s Begumpur today. “The girl was rescued from a house in a raid carried out jointly by our team and Bengal police early today. She had been kidnapped and kept in a house in Begumpur,” Ashok Chand, deputy commissioner (crime branch) of Delhi police, said.

Nishan Pervez, special superintendent of police, CID, said his team had confirmed that the girl was the same person reported missing from Kakdwip in South 24-Parganas. P. Nirajnayan, IG, Bengal CID, said the girl was “traumatised” and had been sent for medical examination. Plucked away by a gang of traffickers, Yasmin’s story is testimony to the free run gangs of traffickers enjoy in Bengal’s poverty-ridden villages.

Yasmin would have remained another piece of the cold statistics that say 2,500 teenaged girls disappear from Bengal every year but for the combined efforts of an unlikely group of people brought together by the persistence of her stepmother Johora Bibi. On September 18 and 19, The Telegraph had reported the plight of the family and Johora’s crusade to trace her.

Yasmin’s 61-year-old father Khater Bhisti was too preoccupied earning a living by selling fish and it was left to Johora to fight the battle to bring the girl home. (See chart) With the help of Rafique Ahmed Dorji, a lawyer’s clerk, the illiterate Johora climbed the legal stairs one by one and reached Calcutta High Court. The case caught the attention of Justice Sanjib Banerjee who sent the matter to the chief justice.

The case opened a can of worms. At the court’s bidding, the government was forced to admit that over 2,500 teenaged girls had disappeared from Bengal last year. Chief Justice J.N. Patel then asked the police to produce the girl before the court on October 1. The police could not meet that deadline but they did manage a breakthrough in November when a tip-off led them to a 32-year-old resident of Elliot Road, Kalam, who traffics in girls.

Kalam confessed he had sold Yasmin to another trafficker in Delhi, Azhar, for Rs 5,000. It is not clear yet how Kalam came across the girl. Johora had earlier alleged the hand of some relatives. The police laid a trap for Azhar using the time-tested ploy of posing as traffickers and eventually catching up with him in Delhi. (Details in graphic)This afternoon, Yasmin was rescued. According to the police, Yasmin had not been allowed to step outside the Delhi house. The girl was tortured whenever she said she wanted to return home.




Sarbari Bhattacharya, who led the CID team to Delhi, said: “At the moment, the girl is very traumatised. She was crying inconsolably, asking us to reunite her with her parents.” Bhattacharya said Azhar was part of a nationwide prostitution racket. “He has close links with traffickers in Bengal and other parts of the country,” she said. “Azhar used to supply girls to clients in Secunderabad and Goa. They had a wide network. The gang members used to accompany the girls sent to clients in other cities.” If the medical report permits immediate travel, the girl and the CID team will leave for Calcutta tomorrow.

On September 18, Johora had told The Telegraph: “I suspect the traffickers have taken her to a big city in another part of the country, and I wonder if the state police can find her. I can only hope and pray they do.” Today, 89 days later, Johora said: “We are now waiting for her to come home. I can’t say how we spent the last one-and-a-half years.”


“Show concern, start bothering and protect the victims of despicable crime like human trafficking”

Tribune News Service  Karnal, December 16 / THE TRIBUNE



“Show concern, start bothering and protect the victims of despicable crime like human trafficking” was the message for 54 participants at the three-day workshop on “Combating Trafficking in Human Beings” held at the Haryana Police Academy, Madhuban.

Representatives of departments like prosecution, police, health, women and child welfare, labour and NGOs from northern states of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Chandigarh (UT), Uttarakhand and Delhi attended the workshop organised by the Bureau of Police Research and Development to training and sensitisation about human rrafficking.

The participants were trained to work with more zeal and enthusiasm for preventing human trafficking in all forms as it completely violates the human dignity and the individual loses his health, wealth, liberty of life and his rights of safety against the violation.

The weaker sections of society like women and children were the main targets of this crime.

SN Vashisht, ADGP, crime, Haryana, nodal officer for the programme, said trafficking in human beings primarily and adversely affected the people in the lowest socio-economic group and the workshop was just a small beginning in rooting out of this social malady.

Sudhir Chowdhary, director, Haryana Police Academy, said the programme was designed with a view to striking a balance between theoretical and practical application in real situation. Trafficking in human being most lucrative, this business was spreading as an industry at an alarming speed, he cautioned.

Experts from different fields, including  Dr PM Nair, IPS, ADGP (CRPF),  New Delhi;  NC Joshi, a former DGP, BPRD;  Dr KP Singh;   Dr Achal Bhagat, Apollo Hospital, New Delhi; and  Dr Sunitha Krishnan, Prajawala, Hyderabad.Arvind Jain, a Supreme Court advocate, and Ravi Kant, President , Shakti Vahini & Advocate Supreme Court of India, updated the knowledge of participants with regard to legal provisions for investigation and prosecution, rescue and rehabilitation of the victims.

Ajay Maken, Union Minister of State for Home, who inaugurated the workshop, said human trafficking was a serious crime and the government was serious about combating this social malady and planned to establish a human trafficking unit in each district of the state.