Monday, 17 November 2014

Britain’s population policies are fuelling atrocities like India’s sterilisation camp deaths

The full horrors of the deaths by sterilisation of poor women in Chhattisgarh are continuing to emerge. At least 14 women have died so far and more than 50 women are struggling for their lives. This is nothing short of a massacre.

Relatives of the victims have revealed that the women were forcibly taken to the camps by health officials. They were operated on in appallingly unhygienic and unsafe conditions in an abandoned private hospital close the Chief Minister’s residence.  The doctor, RK Gupta, who performed 83 operations in 5 hours, had been given an award on Republic Day this year by the Chhattisgarh government for conducting a record number of sterilisations of women. In this case, the deaths appear to have been caused by poisoning by contaminated medicines which the women were given after the operations. 

Indian feminist and left activists are demanding: 
  • Action against Chhattisgarh’s Health Minister and resignation of the BJP Chief Minister Raman Singh.
  •  A moratorium on the Indian Government’s policy of sterilisation as a form of family planning, and the use of sterilisation targets (which although discontinued at national level are still set by a number of states in India)
  • A review of the whole ‘family planning/population control’ framework.
  • Expansion of women’s access, through informed choice, to a range of safe methods of contraception, with non-invasive methods being promoted instead of surgery
See more at

Britain’s population policies are fuelling atrocities like India’s sterilisation camp deaths

By Kalpana Wilson

The horrifying deaths of at least fourteen women after undergoing surgery at sterilisation camps in Chhattisgarh, one of India’s poorest states, highlight the ongoing violence of the population control policies which the British government is at the forefront of promoting globally. Far from giving poor women in the global South much-needed access to safe contraception which they can control, these policies dehumanize them as ‘excessively reproductive’ and set ‘targets’ which make atrocities like those of Chhattisgarh possible. And while these policies are rooted in deeply racist and patriarchal ideas they are now implemented in the name of reproductive rights and ‘choices’.

Two years ago, the British government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which has been instrumental in influencing Britain to take the lead on population issues hosted the London Family Planning Summit. Along with USAID, UNFPA and other international organisations, they announced a $2.6 billion family planning strategy. A few months later Development Secretary Justine Greening announced ‘determined UK action on family planning’: on top of existing drives to get 120m more girls and women in the poorest countries to use ‘voluntary family planning’ by 2020, further initiatives would include the increased distribution of contraceptive implants.

Despite its insistence that it opposes coercion, it had already been revealed that Department for International Development(DfID) aid was helping fund forcible sterilisations in the Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Bihar in which, as at last Saturday’s sterilisation camp, poor women, many from Dalit castes, died after being lied to about the operation, threatened with loss of ration cards or access to government welfare schemes, and bribed with small amounts of cash, and then operated on under appallingly unsafe conditions, to meet targets set by the government.

Sterilisation of women has long been the main method used in India’s population control policies. During India’s “Emergency” in the mid-1970s, with civil liberties suspended, men were forcibly taken to similar camps for vasectomies but this generated massive opposition contributing to the historic electoral defeat of the Congress party in 1977. Research conducted in 2005-06 suggested that around 37% of married women had under gone sterilisation. Officially recorded deaths caused by sterilisation between 2003 and 2012 translate into 12 deaths a month on average, and actual figures may be much higher. In 2012 a Human Rights Watch Report warned that without a change of policy on sterilisation, the commitments made by the Indian government at the London Family Planning summit would lead to further abuses and increased pressure on health workers to meet targets.

Britain’s support for the mass sterilisations of poor and marginalised women which characterize India’s population policy is covert – but many of the contraceptives which DfID and its corporate partners more openly promote also deny women control and put their lives in danger. Feminists in the global South and feminists of colour in North America and Britain have campaigned for years against unethical testing of new drugs, and the dumping of unsafe injectable and implantable contraceptives, like Depo-Provera - which is being coercively administered to Ethiopian women in Israel - Net-En, and Norplant.

The Gates Foundation has been repeatedly criticized for its close relationship with pharmaceutical giants, and its role in financing drug trials and vaccine programmes which were found to be unethical and unsafe. These include a clinical trial of the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer manufactured by Glaxo Smith Kline and Merck Sharp and Dohme in India in 2009, falsely claimed to be a ‘post-licensure observational study’, for which 23,000 girls aged 9-15 from impoverished communities were selected and requirements for parental consentwere bypassed. The trial was suspended following the deaths of seven adivasi (indigenous) girls aged between 9 and 15.

DfID’s current initiative with Merck involves promoting the long-lasting implant Implanon to ‘14.5 million of the poorest women’ by 2015’. Implanon was discontinued in the UK in 2010 because trained medical personnel were finding it too difficult to insert, and there were fears about its safety. As well as debilitating side-effects, the implant was reported as ‘disappearing’ inside women’s bodies. Merck has introduced a new version Nexplanon, which is detectable by X-ray, but have been allowed to continue to sell their existing stocks of Implanon. This is the drug which is being promoted in DfID and UNFPA programmes in the ‘poorest’ countries, despite these countries’ huge deficit of trained health personnel. In fact, in Ethiopia, one of the target countries, mass insertions of Implanon are part of ‘task shifting’ where hastily trained health extension workers are being made to take on the roles of trained doctors and nurses.

Like earlier versions dating back to Malthus, current approaches to population are based on shifting responsibility for poverty away from capital and onto the poor themselves. Population growth in the global South is being linked to climate change, shifting attention from the role of carbon emissions in the North, and is held responsible for the escalating food crises generated by land grabbing by transnational corporations and foreign governments. While population control is argued to be linked to declining maternal mortality and improved child survival rates, this cannot be achieved without a change in the dominant economic model which could make substantial investment in health provision possible. But current population discourse insists that the World Bank and IMF-imposed neoliberal policies in which health provision, along with education, sanitation and other essential public services, has been decimated since the 1980s, can remain in place. Tellingly, erstwhile Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell described population policies as ‘excellent value for money’ citing the example of Tanzania which he claims would ‘need 131,000 fewer teachers by 2035 if fertility declines - saving millions of pounds in the long run’.

Today population control is in fact part of a broader strategy of global capital in which women’s labour is extended and intensified, with responsibility for household survival increasingly feminised, and more and more women incorporated into global value chains dominated by transnational corporations. It is this, not concerns about rights and choices, which underpins the policies like those of DfID and the Gates Foundation which deny women in the global South real control over their bodies. Increasingly, women are demanding ‘reproductive justice’, which involves exposing this strategy and confronting structures of power and inequality, as the only way of preventing more deaths like those in Chhattisgarh.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Support the Sheikh Sisters Struggle for Justice!

Pack out the court room at Gloucester Crown court on 29th September 2014! 

No more racist attacks!

On 31st March 2014, Gloucester Crown Court was forced to order a re-trial of Mark Ridler and his partner Charlotte Mace for a racially aggravated attack on the Sheikh sisters on 28th August 2012.

The Sheikh sisters are four young Asian women living in Gloucester who were subjected to a horrendous campaign of racist abuse by a neighbouring white family and their racist friends which started in 2009. It included besieging the sisters in their house, constant racist abuse, and threats to kill.

The sisters reported the abuse to the police and local authorities on numerous occasions but no action was taken. In fact, hate crime protocols were ignored. The racists openly boasted that they had contacts with the police who would protect them.

As a result Mark Ridler, Charlotte Mace (along with Mark’s mother) felt emboldened to launch an extremely violent attack on the sisters on 28th August 2012. The sisters were so seriously injured that one of them had to be hospitalised with serious head injuries, which now, two years later, still require treatment.

Stop the Crown Prosecution Services and Police colluding in a travesty of justice

  • In a travesty of justice both the police and local authority have refused to treat the sisters as victims and have conducted no effective investigation.
  • The Crown Prosecution has colluded in this cover up and this vicious three year campaign of racist abuse has been treated in court as an isolated incident. Vitally important evidence about the prolonged and continuous racial harassment and intimidation which were part of this campaign of racist harassment were not made available in court.  
  • No proper specialist medical assessment of the sisters' injuries was organised by the police or CPS.

The sisters had to provide their own photos taken on their own mobile phones. In court the barristers representing Ridler and Mace were allowed to abuse the sisters accusing them of lying and claiming that it was they who attacked the racist gang. The Judge even questioned the sisters about their commitment to the UK. They were not able to view their own court case and were forced to leave the court after they gave evidence. Requests for them to be accommodated in a safe space in the court were refused. They were told they could sit in the public gallery (with the racist family & friends) or go home! Despite the way the case was conducted, because of the sisters' courage and determination to pursue the truth, the all-white jury refused to acquit the racists and did not reach a verdict.

The Judge and CPS have been forced to order a retrial which is due to take place at Gloucester Crown Court on 29th September 2014. Pack out the court room for that retrial. Support the Sheikh sisters!

For details of transport from London email:

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Aderonke Apata from the Lesbian Immigration Support Group, Manchester, speaking at Women Resisting the Racist ‘Security’ State Meeting

3rd July, 2014 

Aderonke Apata speaking at the meeting

I am honoured to be here to speak to you about what LBGT people face, people who are asylum seekers in the UK, people who have been persecuted back in their countries of origin and thinking they are coming to the UK for sanctuary. Instead, when they get to the UK they are criminalised again, having to go through the same problems that we went through whilst we were back at home. Platforms like this are an opportunity for us to raise awareness amongst people so that they know what’s happening. 

Therefore I would like to speak about the work of the Lesbian Immigration Support centre in supporting lesbian women, bisexual, transgender people. We give social support to people when they go to court. When we go to interviews, LBGT asylum seekers are asked very intimate questions, questions which you don’t want to share with people, things you don’t want anyone to know about. They [immigration authorities] keep asking people to answer such questions. But even when you answer such questions they are still not satisfied. This has led to desperate situations where people have had to prove their sexuality to immigration officers by recording scenes making love with their lovers in the bedroom and sending them to immigration officers to say that this is my proof to say that I am a gay person. I think that this is wrong. Even with heterosexual people you don’t need to prove that, so I don’t think we should be subjected to that kind of inferior treatment because it is degrading for us to go through. Even when we do all that, there is always something wrong, they will always pick up something out of your evidence to use against you. Such a catalogue of wrong doings the Home Office is doing against LBGT people. This is a time for people to speak out, this is a time for people to resist this racism and homophobia, there are a number of campaigns against this treatment all around the country, you even have different individuals campaigning against this.

In a Channel 4 report way back in March, Theresa May announced that she would be reviewing the immigration system when it comes to the interviewing of LBGT asylum seekers. I am glad this is happening. They have been going around the country to meet with LBGT asylum seekers, collecting evidence of people's personal experiences to see how they can change their policies. They had these guidelines before but they did not follow them. 

What we are saying to them is this. We want staff to be properly trained with diversity issues. We want them to apply sensitivity when it comes to dealing with cases of LBGT people, because this is quite intimate, it’s not what you want to talk to people about. In the UK people are lucky and I am lucky here as I can express myself the way I want. Back in my country and in other countries from where people have come to seek asylum here, it is not an easy thing, you can’t even mention it to a friend of yours, so whatever you are going through you have to bottle it up. But they don’t know all this, they don’t take them into consideration when they are carrying out these interviews and making these decisions against us. It makes it very, very difficult. Even if they do know, because they need to keep down the immigration numbers, they just don’t want to look at it. So with campaigning, with everybody talking about it they are coming in the direction in which we think they should be coming. I hope that by September when this report is out it will influence policy in such a way that they will change the way they interview asylum seekers when it comes to sexuality claims.

However, it’s not just about the interviewing and decision making, for the people who have been persecuted back home, or even myself, after having been arrested and tortured back in my country I was kept in a detention here for over a year. And,  it’s not just me, we have so many people who have been through that detention centre. There is a scene of going back, so I am going through the same again. I am being locked up again for being who I am. For nothing more, and it's the same for anyone else who has come from Uganda, Nigeria or any other country because they are LBGT people. We have mental and psychological effects that people face every day as a result of people being locked up, they have lost their relationships, they have lost their families, lost everything they have got and people are still kept in detention. At the end of the day some of them will be released into the community, because not everyone in the detention centre will be deported. So why do they have to take us through that torture in the first instance, can they not deal with our cases while we are out there in the community, why do they have to lock us up? I see that as injustice, I see it as the state wanting to suppress people from fighting against them or fighting for their own rights and the rights of other people. 

There has been so much talk about detention centres. On the 21 June I think it was, we had a big demonstration in Manchester to shut down Yarl’s Wood detention centre, and that was not the only demonstration that has been going on, even inside Yarl’s Wood there has been a demonstration to shut down Yarl’s Wood which I was part of in 2012. There are so many detention centres around the country and people are pressing for them to get shut down. I believe and I know that detention is not the solution. Some people are pressing for change of management of detention centres in the wake of this scandal that has come up with SERCO staff sexually abusing detainees, exploiting people’s vulnerability and I think it is horrendous that all this is happening in the UK. People are pressing for change of management, but I don’t think a change of management will do anything because there is a culture and that will still come back whoever gets the contract even if it’s not SERCO, it will still come back. So what we are talking about is a total shut down of all detention centres. They can do what they want to do while we are out in the community, they don’t have to lock us up.

The surveillance for us is massive, they will ask us to come to reporting centres, we go there to sign, what do they do, they detain us. If you don’t go to sign and you are caught up somewhere you will still be detained. So you don’t know which way to go, you don’t know whether you should abide by the rules or not, you don’t know what you are doing is right, all this makes us think we are in the wrong, but we are not. While thinking about this means people are having depression, mental and psychological problems, even physically people have been abused in detention centres. We have seen male guards abusing females in detention centres and we don’t think that is right at all. So that is why you see a campaign, I ask you please join in, although it may not concern you directly, there might be a friend of yours or a neighbour of yours that might have someone in a detention centre. 

It is said that detention centres should be used as a last resort for deporting people, but how do you justify keeping people in detention centre for one, two, three years, how do you justify that? I can’t see the rationale. It is not the last resort. Therefore detention centres are not fit for purpose, we don’t want them at all. Each time we have a voice to raise we talk about what is a happening to LBGT and other asylum seekers. There are people who are here for political reasons, others who are here because of FGM and so many other reasons why they left their countries, they are treated in the same manner. I was just talking to somebody about a BBC report last night, where every fifteen minutes they were running this news about FGM and it makes me laugh. There was a family with a high profile campaign who was deported back to Nigeria about two or three months ago. This lady, she had two female children and she was saying that if she was deported, her children would have to undergo FGM, she had an online signature campaign of maybe about 200,000, she was supposed to be taken on a Virgin airline plane, even the director of Virgin spoke against it and refused to fly her, he spoke out against the FGM. The government is talking today that people should report FGM, any professional in this country who does not report back to the government would have to go jail, which means the government knows there is FGM going on outside this country and even within this country, so why are people being deported? That’s why I said I was so amazed when I heard it last night. I couldn’t digest it.

It’s the same thing with everyone else seeking asylum. This government is always commenting on how these other governments are abusing Human Rights in Syria etc. But what is happening here in this country? I feel this is the reason we need to stand up against the state, to let them know that what they are doing is injustice and we don’t want it to happen. If we don’t stand up they will continue to do what they are doing as if it’s alright. The Summit [global summit to end sexual violence in conflict 10-13 June] that happened last month, I attended it, I was just looking at William Hague when he was talking about rape and condemning these countries that rape women during conflict. Yes, they should be condemned because it is violence against women. But what about Yarl’s Wood that has over 400 women locked up for two or three years, they are subject to violence, and that is happening here in the backyard, and nobody is talking about it. People have been pressing for a public enquiry into that place. They are going to have an enquiry but it is not public. Two years ago when it went public they pretended as if they knew nothing. Now, because so many people are shouting about it, they are talking about it in the media, they cannot ignore it. That’s why they are calling for an inquiry. 

We need, as individuals and organisations, to come together and begin to push for a change, push for freedom, push for justice. It might take a long time, but I believe we can achieve it. If we know that this is what we want and we want to go for it, we will get there, because the freedom that I am enjoying today some other people fought for it so many years back, probably when I was not even born. So if we are doing what we are doing today and if we are not seeing the result with time even if you cannot see it another generation may enjoy it. That is my message for you all. Thank you.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Calls to action following Women Resisting the Racist Security State Open Meeting

Thank you all who came to the FWFP open meeting on July 3rd 2014. Special thanks to our speakers who all provided unique perspectives on the struggles for a more meaningful justice.

We will shortly post a more detailed account of the meeting and contributions from the speakers. In the meantime do have a look at the following websites which relate to Aderonke and Sarah's talks:

Kamila and her family were really moved by the support of the people at the meeting and were really encouraged by the messages of support and solidarity. We are working with the sisters to build a campaign of support and will update you in the next two weeks with the next steps. In the meantime:
  1. FWFP is looking to organise buses to Gloucester on the 29th September from London and from Birmingham. If you would like to contribute to the costs of this and/or travel on the bus please get in touch with us directly at We are an unfunded group so would need a critical mass and contribution to afford the bus hire – once we have campaign materials, we will email these out and ask you to circulate widely so that the sisters have some solidarity on the day.
  2. For people who want to be in touch with the MP in Gloucester, his details are here: . We will be drafting a template letter for people to send to Mr Graham and will send this out with the campaign materials in the next couple of weeks.
  3. For people who want to be in touch with the Sheikh sisters to arrange your own solidarity actions directly, please email with your phone number and some details of who you are and why you are wanting to get in touch (the family is understandably cautious of who they provide their details to so please provide as much detail as you can and we can forward directly to the family to respond).

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Our letter to the Indian Prime Minister to be handed today at the High Commission

Shri Narendra Modi
Prime Minister of India
4th June 2014

Dear Prime Minister

We the undersigned women’s organizations, South Asian community organizations and Dalit and anti-caste discrimination organizations in Britain are writing to you to express our acute concern about the ongoing horrific attacks on Dalit and oppressed caste women and children across India, including most recently, the appalling gang-rape and lynching of two girls aged 14 and 15 in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, on Wednesday 28th May. Only two months earlier, four teenage Dalit girls aged 13-18 were raped by ‘higher caste’ landowners in Bhagana in Haryana, and the survivors are still fighting for the arrest of the rapists.

We note that: 

  • These caste/gender atrocities are not confined to one state but have been occurring across the country - from Bathani Tola and Bathe in Bihar to Khairlanji and Khadra in Maharashtra.
  • These are taking place with the collusion of the police as recently highlighted by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women. In many cases the police themselves are the perpetrators.
  • There has also been collusion by public prosecutors and the judiciary, which has led to acquittals of the guilty.
  • Public figures who have been responsible for rapes and murders of  minority, Dalit and Adivasi women have been rewarded and promoted – two of many examples are Muzaffarnagar-accused Sanjeev Baliyan, now made a central government Minister, and Police Superintendent Ankit Garg awarded for gallantry after supervising the rape and torture of Soni Sori.

We urge you therefore to ensure that:

  1. In the Badaun case: The police involved in the rape-murders must be prosecuted: In the FIR lodged by the police, the culprit policemen have been charged only with abetment (120B) whereas they should be named as the accused and 
  2. Section 166A (which refers to police and other public servants refusing to do their duties) also should be invoked in the case. The government must take measures to guarantee the security of the families of the victims since police are among the accused.
  3. In the Bhagana case: The eviction today from Jantar Mantar of the rape survivors and their families who have been forced to protest in Delhi for many weeks must be stopped. Their demands must immediately be met:  all those named by the survivors must be arrested; the Dalit community in Bhagana must be given land and guaranteed security as is their right; full compensation must be provided to the Bhagana rape survivors.
  4. In the cases of the Bathani Tola and Bathe massacres and mass rapes carried out by the Ranvir Sena in Bihar: all those convicted on the evidence of eyewitness survivors have been subsequently acquitted by the Patna High Court. These acquittals must be overturned. The Amir Das Commission investigating the Ranveer Sena which was hastily disbanded before it could make its findings public, must be reinstated.
  5. Sanjeev Baliyan who is a main accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots and mass rapes of Muslim women in U.P. (and has continued to break the law, taking out inflammatory victory processions against Prohibitory Orders) must be removed from his post as Minister of State for Agriculture and Food Processing in the central government immediately.
  6. The Atrocities Act which is specifically designed to address caste violence must be applied in all cases of caste/gender violence against SCs and STs.

Yours sincerely,

Sarbjit Johal, Freedom Without Fear Platform
Amrit Wilson, South Asia Solidarity Group
Santosh Dass, Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organisations (UK)
Ravi Kumar, Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance
Davinder Prasad, British Organisation of People of Asian Origin
Bholi Randhawa, Shri Guru Ravi Dass Mission International (Kanshi TV)
Desraj Bunger, Sri Guru Ravidass Sabha, UK, Europe and Abroad
Satpal Muman, CasteWatch UK
Faquir Chand Sahota, Central Valmik Sabha (UK)
Eugene Culas, Voice of Dalit International
Pastor Raj, Minority Christian International Federation
Baljit Banga, Newham Asian Women’s Project
Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters
Sumanta Roy, Imkaan
Anjum Mouj, Rape Crisis England and Wales
Balvinder Saund, Sikh Women's Alliance UK
Shahida Choudhury,Women’s Networking Hub

Monday, 2 June 2014


Wednesday 4th June 4.30 - 6.30pm 
Indian High Commission
The Aldwych, London WC2 (nearest tube is Holborn) 

The appalling gang-rape and lynching of two Dalit girls aged 14 and 15 in Badaun, Uttar Pradesh, India on Wednesday 28th May is the latest in a long line of horrific murders and sexual assaults perpetrated on young Dalit women across India recently. Only two months earlier, four teenage Dalit girls aged 13-18 were raped by ‘higher caste’ landowners in Bhagana in Haryana, and the survivors are still fighting for the arrest of the rapists.

Dalit women and girls are facing an onslaught of gender, caste, and class based violence in which the Indian state collaborates. Less than 1% of rape cases of Dalit women by non-Dalits end in conviction. The level of impunity is so total that the perpetrators feel confident to finish off their vile crimes by murdering the victims and leaving their bodies on display. Are the lives of young Dalit women so expendable?

In the Badaun case, the police refused to investigate when the girls’ families reported them missing and even threatened to kill them if they filed a case, and two policemen have now been charged with conspiring with the higher caste rapists. In Bhagana, the courageous survivors and their families have been forced to travel to Delhi and stage an ongoing protest to demand the arrest of the rapists –after the police refused to register cases against the powerful men named by the girls in their testimonies.

Dalit women have been targeted for sexual violence wherever Dalit communities are challenging oppression and exploitation. In Bhagana, the four girls were raped in ‘revenge’ after Dalits demanded that the upper caste controlled village council hand over the land which had been allocated to them by the government, and protested against eviction and harassment. In Bihar, the Ranvir Sena, a landowners’ army aligned with Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, targeted Dalit and Muslim women for horrific violence when the rural poor organized for land and a living wage.

The recent election victory of Narendra Modi and the BJP has further emboldened upper caste and economically powerful rapists. The Brahmanical-patriarchal ideas of the Hindu right, in which Dalit women’s lives have no value, are being combined with intensified neoliberal economic policies which leave Dalits and other exploited and marginalised people even more vulnerable. While Modi tried to reach out to Dalits in his election campaign, his close ally Baba Ramdev’s offensive remarks about Dalit women as the sexual property of upper castes exposed once again the misogynistic casteism of the Hindu right. In the wake of the Badaun case, Modi has condemned the appalling levels of gender violence in opposition-ruled UP, but the fact that he has given a Ministerial post in his government to Sanjeev Baliyan, one of the main accused in the Muzaffarnagar communal violence in UP last year which involved mass rapes of Muslim women, sends out a very different signal.

The last year and a half has seen a powerful movement against gender violence in India. But the Badaun and Bhagana cases painfully underline once again that the struggle continues, and can only succeed if the lethal connections between gender, caste, class and communal violence are recognized and fought.

 Dalit groups and progressive and left women’s groups and students organisations in India are on the streets demanding justice for the victims and survivors of Badaun and Bhagana.

Join the solidarity protest outside the Indian High Commission in London on Wednesday 4th June from 4.30 to 6.30pm.

Organised by
Freedom Without Fear Platform

Supported by 
Anti Caste Discrimination Alliance; BOPA; CasteWatch UK; Central Valmik Sabha UK; FABOUK; Imkaan, Newham Asian Women’s Project; Rape Crisis England and Wales; South Asia Solidarity Group; Southall Black Sisters; Sri Guru Ravidass Sabha, UK, Europe and Abroad; Shri Guru Ravi Dass Mission International (Kanshi TV); Voice of Dalit International; Women’s Networking Hub

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Speakers indict Narendra Modi for orchestrating gender violence and serious violations of women's human rights


Photographs of those murdered. The gaps are those for whom no photos exist.
A packed meeting at the London School of Economics organised by the LSE Gender Institute in collaboration with the Freedom Without Fear Platform and South Asia Solidarity Group on 3rd March, discussed the rise of Hindu fascism and its impact on gender and called for Narendra Modi to be brought to justice.

Outlining the context of the meeting, Kalpana Wilson of the LSE Gender Institute emphasised that the targeting of minority women for appalling violence is not a side effect but absolutely central to the project of the Hindu right and how it operates. Linked to this, she said was the intensification of surveillance and control over women, the rise of ‘moral policing’ targeting students and other young people, and the invocation of the "protection" of Hindu women as a justification for violence against religious minorities and Dalits, including rape of women.

She also noted that Hindu right supporters here in Britain have been promoting the completely unfounded myth of 'love jihad' in British universities by students and this fits in with the agenda of the British state and its Islamophobia. While these groups are promoting the image of a so-called 'Gujarat model' of development the position of women in Gujarat where Modi has been Chief Minister since 2001 is abysmal - demonstrated by the sex ratio (2011 census) of 918 women per 1,000 men (below the already scandalous national average of 940), that hints at the magnitude of female infanticide, and the very high gender imbalance in school enrolments compared to all-India levels. Very high rates of domestic violence against women are accompanied by very low conviction rates in the state. 

Nishrin Jafri Hussain, in a powerful and moving contribution spoke of the unimaginable brutality perpetrated on the bodies of Muslim women in the villages around Ahmedabad. Speaking in London for the first time Nishrin, whose father, the MP Ahsan Jafri, was brutally murdered in the 2002 anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat state, and whose family is waging an ongoing legal battle to bring Narendra Modi, who presided over the violence as Chief Minister of Gujarat, to justice showed a series of photographs of those who had been murdered, with many gaps for those of whom no photos exist. She told the meeting that the numbers of rapes were far more than those reported because these experiences were not only deeply traumatising and humiliating but that it was a taboo speaking about them.

Nishrin and her father

She said that in the Gulbarg society where she grew up and the area around it every Muslim house had been burnt down and every family had lost loved ones - deep scars of these losses remain. She told the meeting that her father had been against the ghettoisation of Muslims and committed to living in a mixed Hindu and Muslim area even after the riots of 1969.

When his house where nearly 200 people were sheltering was attacked, and was surrounded by armed Hindu mobs, he had called for help to the central government to no avail. When he phoned Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister replied ' You are on your own Jafri, save yourself'. 

Many in the audience had tears in their eyes as Nishrin reaffirmed her family's commitment to bringing Narendra Modi to justice.

Angana Chatterji an anthropologist and leading human rights specialist, who convened a people's tribunal in Odisha in 2005 spoke about her work documenting the experiences of sexual violence in Odisha, noting that ideologies of conservative patriarchy had been taken over and intensified by the Hindu Right across India in a series of attacks on women in minority communities Christian, Muslim, Adivasi and Dalit over the years.

Meena Kandasamy a Dalit feminist and writer spoke about the way the language and discourse of Hindutva is conveniently utilised by fanatical Hindu upper caste groups like the Pattali Makkal Katchi, in Tamil Nadu or other caste organisations to construct Dalit men as the “Other” and create a myth similar to that of 'love Jihad' that they deceive Hindu upper caste girls by “making” them fall in love. The idea that once such a formula of love-jihad is deployed it can serve to function to contain, and threaten, women’s independence.

The meeting was as one student who attended it described it, 'both deeply disturbing and a call to action' and the organisers announced that the campaign internationally to bring Modi to justice would continue.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Gender and the Hindu Right in India

A Public Meeting With Nishrin Jafri Hussain, Dr Angana P. Chatterji and Meena Kandasamy

Chaired by Kalpana Wilson

Monday 3rd March 2014
Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building, LSE
Freedom Without Fear Platform in collaboration with the LSE Gender Institute and South Asia Solidarity Group are hosting a panel discussion on Gender and the Hindu Right in India. In the context of the forthcoming Indian elections in which the current Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi is the Prime Ministerial candidate of the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party, a panel of human rights campaigners and academics will discuss questions including: 

  • What are the implications of the rise of the Hindu Right for gendered violence in India - and what would a possible victory for Narendra Modi at a national level mean? 
  • What are the experiences of those seeking justice for the victims and survivors of organised violence against minority communities in Gujarat and Odisha? What has been the role of the state in the violence and its aftermath in each case? 
  • How does the Hindu right mobilise gendered discourses of religion and caste? 
  • How have practices of 'moral policing' and fabrications such as 'love jihad' impacted on gender relations, and how are they are being resisted? 
  • What is the relationship of the British and US governments, transnational corporations and diaspora communities with the Hindu right in India? 
Join us for this panel discussion and subsequent Q+A session with the following speakers:

Nishrin Jafri Hussain is a campaigner for justice for the victims and survivors of the horrific violence against minority communities which took place in Gujarat in 2002. Her father, Ahsan Jafri MP, was brutally murdered during the violence and her family continues to fight for Narendra Modi to be brought to justice.

Dr Angana P. Chatterji is a cultural anthropologist and human rights specialist. In 2005, she convened a people's tribunal in Odisha, calling attention to the impending violence against minorities and religionised oppression. In 2009, her collaborative work through a people's tribunal she co-convened in Jammu & Kashmir called attention to the issue of unknown graves and the need for accountability to families of the disappeared, and subsequently received corroboration from the State Human Rights Commission of Jammu & Kashmir. Her publications include: Violent Gods: Hindu Nationalism in India's Present; Narratives from Orissa (Three Essays Collective, 2009); a co-edited volume, Contesting Nation: Gendered Violence in South Asia; Notes on the Postcolonial Present (Zubaan, 2012); and the reports, BURIED EVIDENCE: Unknown, Unmarked, and Mass Graves in Kashmir (2009), Communalism in Orissa (2006), and Without Land or Livelihood (2004)

Meena Kandasamy is a writer, activist and political columnist. She has published two collections of poetry, Touch and Ms.Militancy. Her first novel, The Gypsy Goddess, revisits the 1968 Kilvenmani massacre where feudal landlords in Tanjore killed 44 Dalit peasants striking for higher wages. Her work is centered on caste annihilation, the Tamil national question and feminism in contemporary India.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Feminism then and now

Camille Kumar delivered this talk on 21st January 2013 at the LSE Gender Institute's event Feminism Then and Now.

I am an anti-violence practitioner and campaigner; I provided direct support for women experiencing violence for 10 years in various settings in Australia, Bangladesh and the UK, and have been active in the ending VAWG movement, amongst related campaigning with black feminists and other groups. I was invited today as a member of Freedom without Fear Platform. 

The FWFP formed to express and foster UK based solidarity with the anti-rape movements in India and globally and to give platform to BME women in the UK to lead discussions around VAWG issues; to make the connections between anti-VAWG struggles around the globe; to counter the imperialist racist discourse that UK mainstream media continuously bombard us with and; to highlight the cynical co-opting of VAWG issues by various groups in the UK who are seeking to further their own racist/ anti-immigration/ Islamaphobic agendas. Freedom Without Fear Platform seeks to practice and develop a feminism that is working on the principle that until all are free, none are free.  

Violence against women and girls was for me on a personal/political/ professional level the starting point for my journey with feminism so it is with this that I will start, and I would like to share a story. 

Eki  is a young woman I supported five years ago. Eki is a trafficking survivor and had insecure immigration status. Eki had multiple symptoms of ill health and was referred to us by the psychiatric nurse at a nearby walk in health centre. Eki moved into our refuge, and we worked together towards Eki’s needs and goals. Eki was registered with the local GP. Eki did not feel comfortable or safe to report to the authorities, due to experiences of state perpetrated abuse in her country of origin; her decision not to report was respected. Eki was referred to one of our partner legal firm advisers and received free legal advice to begin the process of regularising her immigration status. Eki was seen by one of our in house counsellors who was able to offer Eki a space she had not had before, to heal, to learn to trust again and to begin to rebuild her future. Eki accessed ESOL at the local college and pursued her ambition to become a nurse. When Eki’s immigration status was regularised, she was supported into social housing. Eki received legal aid to begin the process of bringing her two small children to the UK. Eki’s determination, resilience, and ambition, combined with specialist support she received enabled Eki to navigate this complex array of services to heal, recover and create a future for herself and her children. 

What would happen to Eki now?