Lipstick under my burkha

The Central Board of Film Certification (popularly known as the Censor Board), which exists because there are no adults in India who can think for themselves, is being unfairly attacked. I, for one, will not stay silent while this injustice continues. However, I do advise that you stop right here and take this article to someone in the Censor Board and ask them if it is OK to read it.

With that out of the way, here’s what is happening: the board has refused to certify Prakash Jha’s upcoming film Lipstick under my Burkha. I saw the trailer and the movie seems to be about four independent-minded women who have sexual desires sans the objective of having a child/independent of marriage. If only the filmmakers had argued that the movie is fantasy fiction like the Lord of the Rings, then maybe the movie may have made some sense, but they did not do that. More importantly, and this is an act of deceit no one seems to have noticed, the title of the movie is Lipstick under my Burkha.

CBFC refuses to certify Prakash Jha’s film Lipstick Under My Burkha

This was clearly done to fool the Censor Board, because going by the trailer there is more lipstick outside the burkha than inside it, and even the women seem to want to get out of the burkha, or any clothes at all, without appropriate permission from the society/their husbands/boyfriends/fathers/men.

The Censor Board, it must be known, does not take the responsibility of controlling the minds of crores of Indian citizens lightly, and therefore the movie was rejected for the following reason: “The story is lady-oriented, their fantasy above life. There are contanious sexual scenes, abusive words, audio pornography and a bit sensitive touch about one particular section of the society.”

Many people are saying that this line of thinking is regressive but they are wrong. I am yet to read an order of the board, which is this honest, compassionate and forward-thinking. The board bravely calls out the movie for being lady-oriented. Pray, tell me, what is lady-oriented in this country?

Not public spaces, not marriages (dowry, marital rape, viri locality), not employment inside or outside government, not the judiciary, which hardly has any women judges, not the Supreme Court of India, which recently held that women are duty-bound to live with their in-laws, not religion for sure.

Why must such unrealistic ideas be perpetuated? The board also rightly identifies their fantasies as being ‘above life’. This has more depth and wisdom than is apparent at first glance. Firstly, the very idea of women fantasizing is unknown in our society except for a few victims of western culture.

Secondly, it is well-known that women fantasizing about choosing who they want to marry, or forgetting that they are merely a part of someone’s ‘honor’ -— often costs women their life. The board is therefore simply saving lives. The order states that the movie contains sexual scenes. The problem is that the film seems to be about women who want sex without any reasonable goal. They don’t want it to bear a child who will take the name of his/her father forward. They are neither married nor sex workers. Why else would women want to have sex?

Despite rumors to the contrary, Indians know that women don’t masturbate. There are no women who want to have sex just for the sake of sex. No women who want to pick up men, have sex and say thank you, goodbye. (Men do this but women don’t.) Everything that women wear each day of their lives is to either please men or provoke them. Women don’t have a body independent of how it exists in the minds of men. Every aspect of a woman’s life exists for consumption by men. Coming to the board’s beef with women using abuses/expletives, I can’t believe that experienced filmmakers can be this naive.

Women don’t use expletives. Women are expletives. How else would men insult/humiliate each other? There would hardly be any expletives if there were no women (which is something many Indian families tried very hard to achieve — kill before being born, kill immediately after birth, kill after marriage, and so on).

Similarly, women don’t watch pornography; they are the subject of pornography. Thousands of women have been destroyed for these ideas to be clearly understood by the society. I am sure that the board believes that their sacrifice must not be in vain. I leave you with an anecdote that a friend shared, but I obviously did not believe. My friend said she walked into her mother’s room to find her masturbating with a radish. She was shocked, and the first and only word that came out of her was Mooli!

Her mother calmly responded: “Kela naazuk hai, jaldi toot jaata hai.” (The banana is delicate, it breaks very quickly).


This article was first published in Mumbai Mirror



National media’s silence on Kalikho Pul’s suicide note is deafening

First, the facts. A former Chief Minister of a state commits suicide. He leaves behind an emotional suicide note running over 60 pages. The suicide note contains allegations against several politicians, including a sitting Chief Minister, sitting Supreme Court Judges and senior lawyers/legal officers (to the effect that he was asked to pay bribes by people claiming to act on behalf of these judges to swing a decision in his/his party’s favour).

Also Read: Late CM Kalikho Pul’s Tainted SC Judges and Fixed Vetting Process

In any other democratic country, with even an iota of shame, nay, pretence of shame or even notions of integrity, this event would have shaken the country. Everything else would have stopped. Television news channels would have been debating the matter day and night. This would have been a front page news for months in any newspaper which continues to believe that speaking truth to power or demanding accountability is still fashionable.

At least one politician or a judge would have resigned fearing outrage. The government would have probably sanctioned an inquiry headed by a lame-duck pliable person out of need, just to show that something was being done. One would expect nothing less than 2.5 years after so many people came on the streets protesting ‘corruption’ and of course, a Lokpal.

The Brazen Impunity of Ignoring Pul’s Suicide Note

Is any of this happening?

Jaane bhi do yaaron.

What is happening can only be described in two words: brazen impunity. The person who committed suicide was the former Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh Kalikho Pul. According to a report here, his wife has petitioned the Chief Justice of India, seeking that a FIR be registered and investigation into the allegations against judges be commenced. The permission of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) is necessary before any FIR can be registered against a Supreme Court Judge.

Also Read: ‘Receipt’ Could Nail SC Judges Who Took Bribes From Late CM Pul

She has reportedly also requested the CJI to place the petition before another judge “in accordance with the judgment in the Veeraswami case for consideration of my request.” The Veeraswami judgment inter alia says that if allegations are being made against the Chief Justice herself, then they must be placed before his brother/sister judge to decide whether the allegations prima facie merit investigation.

Also Read: Exclusive: Kalikho Pul’s Wife Says She’s Lost Faith in Judiciary

Suicide Note Doesn’t Mean an Investigation Can’t be Launched

At the center of this controversy is the suicide note. What is the evidentiary value of this suicide note?

In this case, while the note by itself cannot be a decisive clincher for the allegations contained therein, the first step, (if anyone is interested in investigating the matter that is) is would be to prima facie establish the authenticity of the note. The note is reportedly signed by Kalikho Pul.

Also Read: Late CM Kalikho Pul Blames Corrupt Law Officers in Suicide Note

At the very minimum the authenticity of his signature can be easily established. The second step would be to begin investigation insofar as the allegations are concerned. For instance, the note talks about Pul having met x/y person at x/y Five Star Hotel, this can be easily verified by obtaining the CCTV footage of these hotels.

There are just examples and I’m giving them to counter a narrative which says merely because a sentence is written about someone somewhere does not mean that an investigation should be commenced; especially when senior constitutional functionaries are involved.

Let me make this clear: the fact that today, all we have is a suicide note, is no bar against an investigation being launched. It would be incorrect for anyone to hold that an investigation cannot be commenced merely because there is nothing else, besides the suicide note.

SC Should Take the Lead

While it is important to understand, and discuss the evidentiary value of such a note in strictly legal-technical terms, in my opinion that in an ideal world, a world where the dignity of the highest court of the land was considered sacrosanct and precious, the Supreme Court would, especially in the facts of the case, take the lead in saying that to preserve this dignity we don’t need to wait for enquiries.

In an ideal world, the judges named would want to set extraordinary standards of probity and would resign or recuse from further judicial work. The Supreme Court will not be seen doing justice if all continues as usual despite the dark cloud of those allegations hanging over its head.

They would do this to uphold and practice the principle of natural justice that “Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”

When the Lokpal ‘movement’ was at its peak, many people expressed concern and said the authority of the parliament was being undermined. They said that populist sentiment and mobs should not be dictating the parliament.

Many lamented that if only people at large believed that the Parliament was doing its job and had faith; then maybe things would not have come to such a pass and would have urged elected representatives to reflect.

I say this with complete humility; perhaps there is a lesson in this for the judiciary as well.


This article was first published on Quint

Stings being a woman in law.

At a get-together in Delhi which was full of lawyers, I overheard this conversation:

A: Do you know of this (woman) lawyer who’s recently become quite famous?

B: Yes, I have. Why?

A: Well, you know how she’s getting all this coverage and fame? She’s sleeping around.

B: C’mon, how can you possibly know that?

A: Someone told me. And when I met her she was adjusting her attire provocatively.

At a different get-together three months later where the gentlemen in conversation weren’t present, another person spoke about the same lawyer, this time to me:

C: Is that woman your friend?

Me: I know of her, but we aren’t friends. Why?

C: Boss, all her success is happening because she sleeps around. She even dresses provocatively and uses her body language to attract men.

The fascinating thing about these two conversations was that even the words used to describe the woman’s alleged bearing were the same. I knew for a fact that C had never met A or B. So I said “Have you considered that she may just be dressing or acting like she wants to and it is you who are objectifying her? Maybe it is you who feel that if a woman is dressing or moving in a certain way it is obviously for someone’s pleasure and not because that’s how she wants to be? That a woman can have multiple partners only to “get ahead” in life and not because that’s her choice?

C said I was misunderstanding him and that even the quality of the woman’s work was poor, citing how he had witnessed some of this “substandard” work. I found it surprising that criticism of the woman’s work was not the main argument but a supporting claim. Besides, there are plenty of incompetent lawyers who are famous men, why isn’t anyone talking as much about them?

The practice of law is a profession that is extremely hostile to women. Litigation is perceived to be this adversarial contest where victory goes to the person whose style is aggressive, who can shout the loudest, and so on. Women, on the other hand, are generally perceived to be incapable of this aggression. This also surprises me, because most men don’t tire of making jokes about how terrified they are of their wives.

You will be hard-pressed to find a woman lawyer who hasn’t been patronisingly told that this profession is not for them and they should join a company as an in-house counsel. Or clients who when they are recommended a female lawyer don’t ask “Will she be able to argue?”

You will also hear the ‘arranged marriage’ crowd advising bachelors to avoid marrying a lawyer at all costs since she will know too much about her rights, and presuming how an aggressive successful lawyer must be in a terrible marriage because she can’t be coy or submissive. A very senior lawyer I met once proudly told me that he did not “let” his wife practise law because most women lawyers were “loose”.

Despite all these obstacles, when women still choose to pursue law and somehow succeed, the perception is that their success must be because of reasons that have nothing to do with their competence.

Since late 2014 there has only been one woman judge in the Supreme Court, whose total strength after the recent elevations will be 28. Five judges have been recently promoted; not one of them is a woman. As per a report of the Department of Justice cited by legal news website, across the high courts in the country, there are 67 women judges out of the total working strength of 646.

A friend whom I was speaking to recently wondered: Shouldn’t competent judges be chosen regardless of their gender? The truth is, the numbers cited don’t reflect a lack of competence, they only reflect overwhelming prejudice and hostility.

But, why do we need more women judges? Patricia Wald, a former appellate judge in the US and justice on the International Criminal Tribunal for what was once Yugoslavia, was in 2012 quoted by Americas Quarterly, a policy journal of Cornell Law School, as saying: “Being treated by society as a woman can be a vital element of a judge’s experience… A judge is the sum of her experiences and if she has suffered disadvantages or discrimination as a woman, she is apt to be sensitive to its subtle expressions or to paternalism.”

Therefore, by appointing more women judges, institutions are only improving the quality of justice. And no institution which is so thoroughly unjust as to leave out women has any business believing that whatever it is doing is anywhere close to the idea of dispensing justice.

This article was first published in the Mumbai Mirror

Muzaffarnagar 2013: Lest we forget.

Dozens of women are gang raped. Seven (including at least two who were raped in front of their own children) gather the courage to come forward and fight for justice. The accused seem to have powerful friends. They use every trick in the book to abuse the criminal justice machinery. The women and their families are intimidated, the accused secure bail and delay trial by not appearing in court despite court orders.

The police do their best to delay the trial by not registering FIRs, not filing charge-sheets, not ensuring that the witnesses and the victims receive sufficient security. All odds are set against the victims who are fighting institutions which are veterans in this kind of a battle.

Here’s what these institutions (the government, politicians, the police, the courts) appear to be saying to the victims: this may be your first case, but we have done this over and over again. We will crush you. Now comes the twist in the tale. Ordinary folks like you, witness all this happening and refuse to stay quiet. They refuse to forget. They decide to tell these institutions – you may think these women are alone but they’re not. We have had enough. They decide to tell those women that they are not alone. All over the country, people hold candle marches, write to their elected representatives, start tweeting, demanding justice.

Suddenly the fight becomes a little equal. Because the one thing all these institutions fear is ordinary folks, especially angry ordinary folks, especially thousands of them. I don’t know what happens next. If you were writing this story, what do you think would happen next? If this was going on in a movie, let’s call it Rang De Muzaffarnagar, what would need to occur in the script to make you feel happy? Or even proud?

Everything I have shared in the paragraph above is true in the context of the gang-rapes in Muzaffarnagar in 2013. Except for the bit about the Aam Janta deciding to lend their voice to the victims. The gang-rapes in front of children, police delaying FIRs and charge-sheets, courts granting bails on the condition that the accused will not seek adjournments. The accused repeatedly seeking adjournments and no one batting an eyelid. No convictions.

Women and their families being intimidated and receiving death threats. Women being forced to withdraw their cases. In some cases, the investigating officer himself terrorizing the victims. Some of these cases are still going on. In at least one the charge-sheet has not been filed till date. The State government appears to be continuing under the belief that no one is watching. Continuing with the hope that delay will kill the victims who they are not able to scare, or harass to the point of exhaustion.

Why am I repeatedly talking about the failure and/or collusion of the government? Some context is necessary: these rapes happened during the riots in Muzaffarnagar. In 2014, the Supreme Court put the blame for the riots squarely at the door of the Samajwadi Party-led state government. Sangeet Singh Som, who is a sitting MLA of the BJP, is one of the chief accused in the case for allegedly making provocative speeches and uploading incendiary fake videos. Justice Vishnu Sahai Commission’s report on Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013 has also concluded that Sangeet Som was guilty of instigating people to riot. A member of Parliament from BSP has also been accused of giving incendiary speeches and was sent to Judicial Custody in December 2013.

What I’m saying is, the political class has sufficient cause to be united and probably is united. We do, too. The political class has a lot of power at its disposal. We do too. As I’m writing this, I receive a message from a friend. He has shared a quote by Alice Walker: “The most common way people give up power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Those in power seem to be doing their best to crush these victims and to also crush us, because, mark my words, every act of violence against a woman that no one is held responsible for leads to many more acts of violence against women.

Those in power are counting on you to forget. Let me confess, I had forgotten too until I read a thorough report authored by Amnesty International on the matter. Much of the information I have shared here is sourced from their report. The victims, on the other hand, are probably hoping what each of us who have been in such a situation and who, heaven forbid, may one day be in such a situation would be thinking. Fervently hoping justice is done, praying with every iota of our being that we get all the support we can.

Wanting to be told – you’re not alone. Like I said, those in power are hoping you forget. The victims are hoping that you don’t forget, and don’t let anyone forget. From here on, the script is yours to write.

This article was first published in Mumbai Mirror

Indian and American Patriotism

The 9/11 terrorist attacks inflicted a wound on the American national psyche that the country is arguably yet to recover from. Islamophobia in America ballooned after 9/11 (with a lot of help from the government and several media organizations).

American citizens were repeatedly fed a particular image of what a Muslim looks and acts like, and were told that ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ was the number one challenge the country faced. Cut to 2017, America has a xenophobic, bigoted President who is hell-bent on enforcing a “Muslim Ban”. How do thousands of Americans react? They march on streets in protest, taxi unions go on strike, CEOs of companies express disagreement, dozens of lawyers land up at airports to provide free legal representation. The admirable thing about these protests is that they are by and large organic in the sense that they aren’t led by any one politician or celebrity. There is no ‘leader’ of this movement. Most of these people appear to believe that their country stands for a set of values, and a Muslim ban isn’t compatible with those values. Many of these citizens refer to the ban as un-American.

I woke up in the morning to see a message from a Muslim friend who lives twenty minutes away from me asking if I will help her and her family if such a thing were to happen in India. “Yes, I will no matter what the cost.”, I promptly responded. To be honest, I am very reluctant to grant myself this confidence about what I will do. Only time will tell, and I hope no one ever has to answer this question. But I can’t help but wonder how most Indians will react. What will it take for so many of us to take to the streets? What is the set of values we stand for? What does being an Indian mean for us?

An attempt to answer this question leads me to another one: how have we reacted in the past? What is our response to the blatant oppression and abuse of civil liberties in Bastar? Or in Kashmir? Or in Manipur? How do we react to the fact that over twenty thousand people die every year because the practice of casteism condemns them to manual scavenging? What was it that made us erupt on the streets (at least in Delhi) after the gang rape in 2012? That certainly wasn’t the last gang rape to happen in India, so why did we stop? My guess is as good as yours. A favorite answer is that well we have jobs and families to take care of. Believe it or not, so do Americans.

I hope that I am wrong, but I think the difference between our brand of patriotism over the decades and their brand of patriotism on display at the moment seems to be that we are constantly engaged in the pursuit of identifying who amongst us isn’t Indian enough, or, as is popularly known these days, who is anti-national. Does our sense of kinship diminish as we travel towards the eastern states? Is it contingent on many markers of identity such as religion, race, region? It isn’t the case that a resentment for the ‘other’ isn’t on display in America but over there the battle in terms of numbers at least seems to be evenly matched. In America, thousands of Americans also went to protest against their army waging war in Vietnam. They didn’t feel the need to endorse everything their Army did. As opposed to India, where even when our Army crushes our fellow citizens we feel the need to express solidarity with the Army. Any Indian against the Army automatically becomes the enemy.

Sanjay Rajoura, who is an acclaimed stand-up artist, says that our docility probably begins from our homes, where we teach our children to “respect” (here respect means blind obedience), and this reverence for all authority continues well into adulthood. Questioning is a terrible sin. A protest is akin to the worst kind of betrayal.

So, what does the basket of Indian-ness contain? Let me first list the obvious and easy answers. I peek into this basket, and I see the national anthem, the national flag, victories in sports (especially cricket, especially the men’s cricket team), enmity with Pakistan and China, some politicians, some movie stars and some cricketers. I can’t think of others at the moment at least. But these aren’t quite the answers I am looking for and/or feel satisfied with. I think what I really want to know is — what is the length, breadth, and depth of the fraternity and/or kinship we feel for each other as Indians. What scale of atrocity and oppression will it take for so many of us to say we will not sit down and watch this happen while those in power oppress? Even if, especially if those being crushed belong to a community the ‘majority’ has complicated relations with. I don’t have an answer. Maybe, I am terrified of looking in the mirror. Are you?

This article was first published in Mumbai Mirror

Explainer on some laws that govern violence against women.

My neighbor once came to me and said she was being followed by a man every day, from the bus stop to her home. He would keep saying “Hi Madam”, “You are cute Madam”, and continued this behavior even after she implored him to stop several times. She wondered something could be done about this. “Surely a person following and saying hi/hello could not be a crime?” she asked me. I dialed 100 and told the police that she was being stalked. The cops’ response: “Is the culprit still there? If not what can we do about it? If he isn’t harming her, how is it a crime? Just ask her to ignore him and he will go away.”

Stalking is a crime, but in this instance even though the letter of the law clearly spelled this out neither the victim nor the cops seemed to know that it was. As far as the police are concerned one of the following three reasons lies at the heart of their giving wrong advice/information:

1 Incompetence (genuinely not aware).

2 Laziness (don’t want the hassle).

3 Malice (have vested interest in discouraging the victim).

This article is an attempt to explain some of the laws that deal with crimes against women, especially some of the changes brought about in the law via amendments in 2013 and some advice on countering the attempts by cops to stonewall a victim trying to file a first information report (FIR).

Indian Penal Code Section 354A (1) which criminalises i) “physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures”, ii) “a demand or request for sexual favors” iii) Showing pornography against the will of a woman and iv) “making sexually colored remarks”.

The punishment for ‘i’ to ‘iii’ is minimum zero to maximum 3 years imprisonment or the payment of a fine, or both. The punishment for ‘iv’ is maximum 1-year imprisonment or a fine or both.

What is an “unwelcome and sexual overture”?

What is unwelcome depends on the consent of the person who is being subjected to this ‘overture’. Something as simple as keeping one’s hand on a woman’s shoulder can be an unwelcome and sexual overture. However, there is nothing draconian about this. It is best to expressly ascertain and respect the personal physical boundaries set by every person.

Let us now take a step backward in the chronological scheme of the Indian Penal Code and discuss Section 354 (as opposed to 354A) which talks about assault or criminal use of force coupled with “outraging the modesty of a woman” (punishment minimum 1 year, maximum 5 years imprisonment+ mandatory fine). What constitutes the “outraging of modesty” and how is it different from, for instance, “physical contact and advances involving explicit overtures”? The act of assaulting and disrobing a woman used to be covered under Section 354, but it is now a separate crime under 354B after amendments in 2013.

Is the act of groping covered under Sections 354 or 354A?

In theory, the answer is that if there’s an “assault”, it will fall under the former, if not, it falls under the latter. The purpose of this discussion regarding the difference between the two provisions is not to confound you with complicated legalese, but to mildly digress and point out that because several provisions appear to overlap and cover the same crime, corrupt cops often try to dupe a victim and draft the FIR in a manner that it results in registration of offences that attract lesser punishment.

The first thing that you must do while filing a complaint is to ensure that the incident is recorded in as much detail as possible. Insist on recording the incident in words that best describe the matter according to you and don’t get persuaded by cops who insist on telling you what words/sentences to use. Pertinent to point out here that even if cops do have their way and record a distorted version of what happened, this can be challenged before the court.

Under Section 354B, the intentional act of assault/use of criminal force+disrobing a woman or the ‘abetment’ (enabling) of this act by someone else can lead to imprisonment of minimum 3 years and maximum 7 years, and a mandatory fine.

Another addition to the Indian Penal Code via the 2013 amendment is the offense of voyeurism. Watching, recording (photographs/video) a woman engaged in a ‘private act’ or the dissemination of such image/video(s) is punishable by imprisonment for minimum 1 year and maximum 3 years plus a mandatory fine when the offence is committed for the first time, and for a minimum 3 years and maximum 7 years for every subsequent offence. The phrase ‘private act’ includes acts where the “victim’s genitals, posterior or breasts are exposed or covered only in underwear; the victim is using a lavatory, or the victim is doing a sexual act that is not of a kind ordinarily done in public”.

Needless to add that as far as the mere act of recording is concerned, this offense gets invoked only if such recording is done without the consent of the victim and while the victim is engaged in such act in a private place where the victim has the reasonable expectation of privacy. For example, the mere act of ‘recording’ a person stripping and running on the streets is not an offense. If the victim has consented to the recording but not to the dissemination, this offense will get triggered.

Getting back to the issue of stalking. It is now a criminal offense, defined as the act of following a woman and contacting her, or attempting to, to initiate a personal interaction despite a clear expression of disinterest by the woman. In case there is any ambiguity over this, a woman saying “no” once is sufficiently “expressing disinterest”. Stalking is punishable by maximum imprisonment of 3 years for the first commission of the offense and maximum 5 years at every subsequent commission.

A most welcome step has been the expansion of the definition of rape to include:

i) The act of inserting the penis not only in the vagina but also in the mouth, and/or urethra of a woman.

ii) Inserting any other part of the body into the anus, urethra or vagina of a woman.

iii) Applying the mouth to the vagina, urethra or the anus of a woman.

iv) Manipulating a woman’s body in a manner to cause penetration in the anus, urethra or the vagina of the woman.

v) Compelling the woman to do any of the above acts with any other person.

The said acts are a crime only if they are done against the will or the consent of the woman. “Against the will” and “without her consent” are phrases used in the provision criminalising rape and the difference between the two is that the latter refers to situations where either consent is obtained by coercion or deceit. It is critical to note here that the absence of resistance by itself does not constitute consent. Without reproducing the letter of the law, I think it suffices to say that unless the woman expresses a firm and clear yes, please believe that consent is absent.

Shifting focus to the procedural aspects, it is critical to know that the registration of a FIR cannot be denied on grounds of ‘territorial jurisdiction’ — an excuse cops often use. They say they are helpless as the crime did not occur in their area. The truth is they are duty bound to register a case and if territorial jurisdiction is lacking, they register what is called a ‘Zero-FIR’, which is subsequently transferred to the relevant police station.

If the information about any of the aforementioned crimes (and many others such as throwing of acid) is given to the cops, their refusal to file a FIR can in fact land them in prison for a minimum period of 6 months and a maximum period of 2 years besides the payment of a mandatory fine. I often tell people that the moment cops refuse to register a FIR in any of the aforementioned cases, the first thing one should do is dial 100 and report that the police thana in question is refusing to lodge a case. You can also report the non-filing of the FIR to senior officers or to the nearest magistrate. If the victim is herself reporting the crime, the FIR must be mandatorily recorded by a woman police officer. If the victim is temporarily or permanently mentally or physically disabled, then the FIR must be recorded at the residence of the person who wants to report the offense or at a place convenient to the person. Moreover, this needs to be done in the presence of a special educator or an interpreter as the case maybe. In such cases, the process of recording the FIR must be video-graphed.

It is important to remember that the FIR need not necessarily be filed by the victim and can be filed by a bystander or any person requested to do so by the victim. The police have no business questioning the authority of the person filing the FIR. The officer writing the FIR is duty bound to read the FIR back to the complainant who must make sure that he/she has noted everything correctly. If not, then corrections must be made. Finally, the complainant is entitled to a free copy of the FIR.

The government of the day needs to do a lot more to make sure that more people are made aware of the provisions of such laws, failing which most of them will remain a dead letter.

Kashmiris deserve an acknowledgement of the horrors perpetrated upon them.

I must start with an apology to Kashmiris since it may appear I’m presuming to speak on their behalf. I am not. I cannot. I can’t even begin to imagine, much less preach, about the pain they have suffered. Please forgive me, I couldn’t help but feel enraged at what Chetan Bhagat wrote in Times of India. Bhagat’s post is an attempt at suppressing the truth camouflaged as advice. I can’t help but call out his lies.

He starts with “Dear Kashmiri friends (the ones who don’t like India)”. This is where the deceit begins.

Many Kashmiris have been wronged by India. By glossing over this inconvenient truth, he tries to shift the blame from the perpetrators of atrocities to their victims. It is the equivalent of addressing rape victims by saying “Dear women friends (the ones who don’t like men)”. In one sentence, the cruelty suffered by those being addressed is rendered non-existent.

I must briefly digress here. Most Indians find the very idea of our nation being unjust or cruel to its citizens unacceptable. For most of us, political parties and politicians can do wrong, but the nation or our society cannot. “Mera Bharat mahaan” and anyone who wants to add a but or question this belief is declared “beimaan”.

Criticism and questions are met with the retort – if you don’t like the country, you can go to another country. One is also accused of “defaming” the country – as if our attempt at denial and suppression of truth isn’t visible to the world. As if merely a repeated assertion that we are great will make us great.

One problem with this attitude is that the “integration” that Chetan Bhagat appears to be seeking is, inter-alia not possible as long as we live in denial. You can’t simultaneously call the victim a liar on one hand and seek reconciliation on the other.The intriguing thing is that until May 16, 2014, if you called the government “corrupt”, there was no doubt that it was the government of the day which was being accused and not the nation. Post May 16, any criticism of the government is also criticism of the nation, and how dare anyone criticise the government nation?

Every year, Australia celebrates National Sorry Day, May 26, to remember and commemorate the mistreatment of the country’s indigenous population.

On February 13, 2008 Kevin Rudd, the then prime minister of Australia gave a speech in the Australian Parliament, where he apologised to the “stolen generations” on behalf of the nation. The full speech is available here but it is important to quote some excerpts:

  • “There are thousands, tens of thousands, of them: stories of forced separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their mums and dads over the better part of a century.
  • There is something terribly primal about these firsthand accounts.
  • The pain is searing; it screams from the pages.
  • The hurt, the humiliation, the degradation and the sheer brutality of the act of physically separating a mother from her children is a deep assault on our senses and on our most elemental humanity.
  • These stories cry out to be heard; they cry out for an apology.
  • Instead, from the nation’s parliament there has been a stony and stubborn and deafening silence for more than a decade; a view that somehow we, the parliament, should suspend our most basic instincts of what is right and what is wrong; a view that, instead, we should look for any pretext to push this great wrong to one side, to leave it languishing with the historians, the academics and the cultural warriors, as if the stolen generations are little more than an interesting sociological phenomenon.
  • But the stolen generations are not intellectual curiosities.
  • They are human beings; human beings who have been damaged deeply by the decisions of parliaments and governments.
  • But, as of today, the time for denial, the time for delay, has at last come to an end.
  • The nation is demanding of its political leadership to take us forward.
  • Decency, human decency, universal human decency, demands that the nation now step forward to right an historical wrong.
  • That is what we are doing in this place today.
  • This is not, as some would argue, a black-armband view of history; it is just the truth: the cold, confronting, uncomfortable truth-facing it, dealing with it, moving on from it.
  • Until we fully confront that truth, there will always be a shadow hanging over us and our future as a fully united and fully reconciled people.
  • It is time to reconcile. It is time to recognise the injustices of the past. It is time to say sorry. It is time to move forward together.
  • To the stolen generations, I say the following: as Prime Minister of Australia, I am sorry.
  • On behalf of the government of Australia, I am sorry.
  • On behalf of the parliament of Australia, I am sorry.
  • I offer you this apology without qualification.
  • We apologise for the hurt, the pain and suffering that we, the parliament, have caused you by the laws that previous parliaments have enacted.
  • We apologise for the indignity, the degradation and the humiliation these laws embodied.
  • We offer this apology to the mothers, the fathers, the brothers, the sisters, the families and the communities whose lives were ripped apart by the actions of successive governments under successive parliaments.”

Australia isn’t an exception.

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau recently announced that on May 18, 2016, he will make a formal apology in the House of Commons for the Komagata Maru incident where 376 passengers of mostly Sikh descent arrived in Vancouver and were refused entry into Canada due to the discriminatory laws of the time.

Chetan Bhagat in the piece says: “I write in this open forum because something terrible is happening in the Kashmir Valley.” Sorry, Chetan Bhagat but everything terrible is happening in Kashmir. For starters, murder.

This piece written by me illustrates how the members of the armed forces have been getting away with fake encounters for all too long, thanks to AFSPA.

Within last week about half a dozen people have been killed by the armed forces, including a 17-year-old boy studying in Class 11. Their alleged crime? They were protesting by throwing stones. This report claims, however, that the firing in Kupwara was entirely unprovoked and casts aspersions on the claims of stone throwing.

The tragic bit is, when Bhagat talks about “something terrible” happening in Kashmir, he isn’t referring to these deaths at all. They find no mention in his sermon. No, he washes away every crime committed by the government and the Army under the garb of the difficulties in controlling “terrorism that co-exists with a civilian population”‘.

Secondly, the irony in Bhagat’s piece is cruel, especially because he argues:

“Another issue is women’s rights. Half of the Valley’s people are women. Given the hold of fundamentalist Islam, their rights would be curbed under both the independence and Pakistan options. This half of the population would be better off with India. Or do what women want not matter?”

Women in the valley, like women outside the world want justice for the crimes perpetrated upon them. If Chetan cares about what women want he can start with reading this report which describes how members of the armed forces rape and get away with rape all too often.

He then cites the landlocked nature of Kashmir to argue that their best hope of a happy future is with India. What he seems to be saying is, your life is miserable, but this degree of misery is the best and the only choice you have, so suck it up.

I’m guessing Kashmiris, like most of us, want a future and a present with complete dignity and freedom. That they expect equality and not justification of murder on account of them being pawns in an international conflict. Bhagat reserves the cruellest bits for the concluding paragraphs of his post, where he astonishingly demands that it is Kashmiris who must “integrate” with India. “So, it is youth in the Valley who have to now start a movement to really solve this problem,” he writes.

Gee. I suspect those guys are busy mourning their dead Chetan Bhagat. They’re busy swallowing the indignity and humility heaped upon them for decades. They’re busy waiting for justice. They’re busy suffering on account of the “difficulties in containing terrorism”. They’re busy witnessing the horror of their women being raped by those who claim to be there for their security.

They’re powerless and helpless. And they’re expressing is grief and rage in the small ways that they can. Throwing stones when their loved ones are murdered and bursting crackers when India loses in a sport. Even that seems to trouble us so much, doesn’t it? We feel so much hurt at the bursting of crackers in a loss at a sport. Imagine then what those getting away with murder, rape and oppression must feel like to the victims of this oppression?

The first step to reconciliation is the oppressor acknowledging the oppression, not the oppressor demanding that the victims forget what happened and move on, because what other choice do they really have.

Dear Kashmiri friends, I hang my head in shame. I am ashamed at the injustice that Kashmiris have suffered for decades. I am not ashamed to accept that the nation I belong to perpetrated atrocities. Our nation cannot become great unless it accepts and embraces the dark chapters in its history and its present.

This article was first published on DailyO