anuja-jaiman http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman anuja-jaiman's Profile Mon, 04 Jan 2016 14:25:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.5 Updated: Delhi police helpline: if your stalking case is not urgent, please press 1 http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2013/05/02/delhi-police-helpline-if-your-stalking-case-is-not-urgent-please-press-1/ http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2013/05/02/delhi-police-helpline-if-your-stalking-case-is-not-urgent-please-press-1/#comments Thu, 02 May 2013 18:06:45 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/?p=45

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters Corp.)

Citizens First: those are the two words at the top of the Delhi Police department’s website. An alternative could be: “first come, first served.”

I called the stalker line after receiving some text messages and telephone calls that made me feel unsafe. The upshot: a dispatcher routed my call to three police stations, none of which have a record of the complaint. Furthermore, it will take several days to get back to me with the results of any investigation. This is happening when the police are under intense criticism for not doing enough to prevent rape, harassment and assault, not to mention reports of their views on women. This latest incident was not an inspiring episode.

Here’s what happened:

April 28-29: I receive anonymous calls from different numbers on my mobile phone. I receive two text messages from one of the numbers. Here is what they said:

Jab ho jaye mohabbat to Dil sambhalta hai nahi,

Wapas lotne ka rasta milta hai nahi,

Koi lakh bhulaye apne Dil se magar,

Dil mein rehne wala Dil se nikalta nahi. Send of I LOVE YOU,

(It is difficult to control the heart when you fall in love,

Difficult to find a way back,

As much as one may try to erase

One who lives in the heart, does not leave. Send of I LOVE YOU,)

And:

Aasu Nikale Teri to Aankhe Meri ho,

Dil Dharke Teri to Dharkan Meri Ho,

Khuda Kare ki Hum Dono ka Rishta Itani Ghahari Ho,

Ki Mere Bachche ki Ma Bane Aap

to Mehanat Meri Ho

(If the tears are yours, may the eyes be mine,

if your heart beats, may the beat be mine,

May god make our relation so deep,

that you be the mother of my child

due to my hard work (on you))

I call the Delhi police department’s women’s anti-stalking helpline. A constable takes my name, number and address. She says she will forward it to the local police station. I get no call back.

April 30: I call the helpline again. The operator tells me that my complaint “must have been forwarded to the relevant station. Please check with them.” She gives me the number for Model Town Police Station. The constable there says no one received a complaint the night before. She also said that I should be under the jurisdiction of the Maurice Nagar police station, which is 2.2 kilometers from where I live. The Model Town station is 600 meters away.

Maurice Nagar: no record, no luck. Call the Mukherjee Nagar station instead. That’s my jurisdiction, a constable tells me.

Mukherjee Nagar police station, 3.4 kilometers from my house: again, nothing. An officer tells me, “galti ho gayi hogi unse, aap aapni complaint to bataiyye” – “They might’ve have made a mistake, tell us what your complaint is about.” They ask me to register a complaint.

Sub-Inspector Subhash comes to my apartment to take a written report. He promises to give me a stamped complaint letter within two hours.

I call the women’s helpline again to complain about my report apparently going missing. The dispatcher refuses to tell me the name of the constable I spoke to the night before. She also won’t tell me her name. She says, “RTI kar lijiye. Naam nahi bata sakte kisi ka, dekhiye hum aapko apna naam to nahi bata saktey hain.” “File a Right to Information request. I cannot give you any names.” Right.

May 1: I call Sub-Inspector Subhash. He says he sent someone to deliver the complaint to my house hours ago, and is surprised it hasn’t reached me. He blames thin staffing. I asked for it to come before 2:30 p.m. because I had to leave after that. It arrived at 5 p.m.

May 2, 5:40 a.m.: The stalker calls nine times.

1 p.m.: I tell Subhash that I’m still getting calls and SMS messages. He says he filed the complaint, and that the department has four or five other complaints to work on as well. It will take four business days to handle mine, not the two that it was supposed to take. I ask him why: “Main busy tha, mere paas aur bhi kaam hain. Har cheez ka ek procedure hota hai. Main aapko accountable nahi hunh. Aur bhi behinein aur ma-ein hain jinki complaints hoti hain. Jab kuch ispe response aaega tab aapko bata denge.”

Or: “I was busy. I have other things to do as well. Everything has a procedure. I am not accountable to you. There are many other sisters and mothers whose complaints I have to look into. When there is a response on this, I will let you know.”

I call the station house officer to escalate the matter, and ask what they would do if that delay proved to be more than enough time for a stalker to pay me a visit in person. He echoes the bit about similar complaints. At this point, I’m sure that I want to write about this experience, so I tell him I’m a journalist and plan to write a story. He mumbles something about swift action and getting back to me A.S.A.P.

It took me 12 hours to get my complaint properly registered. I’m awaiting word from the police. The nasty and weird messages keep coming. Here are two more examples:

My Dear Girl Friend Good Morning. What are you Doing? I Love You. Mai aap se payar karta hu,

And:

Sab se Pahle Use kis karo,

Phir Bed par Lita Do ,

Phir Tange Upar karke ,

Niche Hath Lagakar Dekho ,

Ager Bebi Ne Su kiya Hai to

Daipar Chenj kar do,

(First of all kiss her,

then lay her down on a bed

then after lifting her legs

put your hand under and see

If the baby has peed.

Change the diaper)

I can’t be the only person dealing with this kind of behaviour. And even though this may turn out to be a harmless prank, not every case may be so benign. If this is routine treatment, then it can hardly be a surprise to discover that people in India are still angry and that little has changed since last December.

UPDATE: They say it’s all about whom you know.

I called the police again after hearing nothing from the Mukherjee Nagar police station, and learned that there was no new information for me. Then, last Friday, a contact of a friend of mine forwarded my story to Neeraj Kumar, Delhi’s police commissioner.

That made a difference. I’ve received a bunch of calls, including from Special Commissioner TN Mohan. Someone from the women’s helpline then asked me for details about my complaint, which of course I’d given already.

I also got a call from Arti Sharma of the Crime Branch, who gave me her personal number and said that I could call her about anything regarding the enquiry into the calls and messages, which indeed has been initiated.

My main question now is: how would my situation look if I didn’t have a friend of a friend?

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2013/05/02/delhi-police-helpline-if-your-stalking-case-is-not-urgent-please-press-1/feed/ 0
Just another rape in India. Are we becoming numb? http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2013/04/30/just-another-rape-in-india-are-we-becoming-numb/ http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2013/04/30/just-another-rape-in-india-are-we-becoming-numb/#comments Tue, 30 Apr 2013 14:56:24 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/?p=43 (Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

A grim parlour game sometimes comes to mind when I read the latest story about someone raping a woman or a child in India. Is this the one that’s going to change everything? Is this the one that’s going to keep me up for days contributing to the news media’s coverage? Or is this just another rape?

There is no such thing as “just another rape” for a victim. Beyond the sexual violation, there is the torture. The physiotherapy student who was raped on a bus in New Delhi last December died as the result of injuries sustained by being penetrated with an iron rod. Everybody knows this, and everybody got angry, but anger runs out.

Between then and now, there have been many reports in the press about rape incidents. Which one was going to be the big one? It was that of a five-year-old girl in east Delhi. A neighbour kidnapped her, raped her and tried to kill her. Then the police tried to bribe the parents 2,000 rupees (about $37) to not talk about the case.

Apart from the bruises around her neck, face and chest, doctors removed a bottle and a candle from her body. From CNN-IBN: “Panic gripped the two accused when the five-year-old girl started bleeding after they raped her, and one of them inserted a small glass bottle and bits of candle into her vagina to stem the flow of blood, police said on Tuesday. One of the accused, Manoj Kumar, 22, allegedly tried to slit her throat with a blade, a police officer told IANS.”

Since then, there have been more:

Six-year-old girl assaulted in Delhi: Police official Ajay Chaudhry said: “There is a slum colony where a small child had gone to use the public toilet, she was assaulted there.”

Five-year-old girl raped and killed in Ranchi, suspect Mohd Saddam arrested: “Police said after she was last seen with Saddam on Wednesday afternoon, the girl, a student of Class I, had gone missing. Parents of the girl had recovered her strangulated body, after 14 hours of manhunt, from near the house. The private parts of the girl were injured and bleeding. Later post-mortem reports confirmed rape.”

Ten-year-old girl raped, then locked in jail: “Two women constables have been suspended while two sub-Inspectors including the station-in-charge have been sent to police lines following the incident, SSP Gulab Singh said. The victim spent several hours behind the bars after her mother brought her to a women’s police station to lodge a complaint against a local goon for allegedly raping her. She was rescued only after locals protested over the matter. According to Singh, the minor from Meerpur village here was found lying unconscious in a field by her parents last night where she had been dumped after being allegedly raped.”

Hindustan Times wrote an article about a study by the Asian Centre for Human Rights. It said this: “48,338 child rape cases were recorded during 2001-11, which was an increase of 336% in such cases since 2001 when only 2,113 child rape cases were recorded. The number rose to 7,112 cases in 2011. With 9,465 cases, Madhya Pradesh was on the top of the child rape table, followed by Maharashtra (6,868) and Uttar Pradesh (5,949), while Daman and Diu (9), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (15) and Nagaland (38) reported the least number of child rape cases during 2001-11.”

Anuja Gupta, who heads an NGO that deals with rape and incest victims, says violence is increasing in society and people are becoming more aggressive.

“(But) does it reflect also in rape, and in the way rape is being conducted. Maybe. But too early to say there is a trend. Such cases are a minority amongst rape cases,” says Gupta, director of Recovering and Healing from Incest (RAHI).

“In order to call it a trend, you have to see a progression over the years and that data nobody has,” she added.

Regardless of the reason for the rise – more incidents or more reporting of incidents – what will push people to go beyond demanding change, and actually make it happen? What will it take to get them to be angry every time it happens instead of focusing on one here and one there and then losing interest because the day-to-day shopping needs doing? Will this outrageous brutality make a difference? Sometimes I wonder. Please let me know what you think.

If you are a resident of New Delhi, please also participate in our survey on women’s safety at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/3M6SH55

 

(You can follow Anuja Jaiman on Twitter @AnujaJaiman)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2013/04/30/just-another-rape-in-india-are-we-becoming-numb/feed/ 0
Finding harmony in music and Islam http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2013/02/21/finding-harmony-in-music-and-islam/ http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2013/02/20/finding-harmony-in-music-and-islam/#comments Wed, 20 Feb 2013 19:20:19 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/?p=40 The grand mufti whose words against music ended the short career of an all-girl teenage pop band in Kashmir last month made me wonder: is music really un-Islamic? He said that if women indulge in indecent, immoral acts such as singing, it would be a step toward their destruction. Is it really that simple in Islam? Of course it isn’t.

On one hand, you find words in the Qur’an such as “Zoor” – an Arabic word used for “falsehood” and musical expressions; “Laghv” – vain words and actions, useless entertainment;  “Ghina” – prolonged sonic vibration, with pitch changes to such an extent that it might as well be “singing”, and of course, it’s sinful. According to another interpretation, singing, reciting poetry and playing instruments is allowed on occasions such as weddings and other festivals. Then there is debate going on all the while.

Music is also said to affect the body in a negative way – increasing blood pressure, impeding digestion, releasing adrenaline. All this could excite men’s lust and desire, and destroy their brotherhood and make them angry. If women do it, they should do it only around other women. And then there are videos like this, which clearly demonstrate another point of view.

While the Qur’an is read in a lyrical way, interpretations of how good or bad music is tend to depend on pitch, content, musical instruments, gender, situation and occasion. Some Muslim scholars say classical music is OK, or any music that is not meant for entertainment. For some, it invites divine wrath. In Sahih Bukhari, one of the six major hadiths of Sunni Qur’an, a musical instrument belongs to Satan.

From interviews I conducted with a variety of people, there seems to be little support for the idea that Islam and music can’t exist together.

“The idea is to protect society from sex pollution. It needs to be understood that the Qur’an cannot be changed or amended. It exists from a time when there weren’t any music varieties, and therefore there is no description that a certain type of music is allowed or disallowed. It says that anything that affects a person’s mind, body or time adversely is prohibited,” said Syed Bilqis Fatima Husaini, head of Persian studies at Delhi University.

“Art is not bad or wrong – but stuff like Jumma chumma de de, choli ke peeche kya hai – these are in bad taste and that’s what the Qur’an says – that anything, whatever it is, that spoils the society is prohibited,” she said.

The music of the Sufi mystics, meanwhile, has been around for centuries, and many celebrated musicians have sung their ghazals and qawwalis. Whether classical or pop, there is good reason to let people get acquainted with music, said Professor Syed Ahmad Kamal, head of the Department of Islamic studies at Jamia Milia Islamia University.

“Young people should be allowed to participate in as many extra-curricular activities as possible because it broadens their mind. There is nothing wrong in them going and singing on stage,” he said.

In fact, it is the highest form of meditation and knowledge (ilm) possible, said Sufi singer Ustad Zila Khan. “Music, and especially singing, is the closest to ibaadat and meditation.”

Theatre performer and dastango Danish Husain said it is pointless to ask whether music is Islamic. “This debate about music being haraam has been going on for centuries, it isn’t a new thing. … You will always find people saying that there is no explicit mention of music not allowed in Qur’an, while some will say yes there is. … There is a prophetic tradition of David in the old testament and Dawood in the Qur’an having a sureela gala (melodious voice)…  and when he would sing everything would come to a hold, be mesmerised.”

Kashmiri singer Alam Ara Janbaz, who faced death threats in 2004 for recording an album of Sufi songs, and was forced to relocate from Kishtwar to Jammu, said it was senseless to call music un-Islamic, especially because Kashmir has had a tradition of song, and that the government should support the girls.

“These are young girls, they are talented, they should not give up… but they will lose hope unless they are supported.”

Sufi singer Ustad Raza Ali Khan said, “Everyone has their own interpretation of Islam, and they use it for their personal end in quoting Qur’an. It is very very unfortunate and condemnable..” The mufti’s interpretation might be open to debate, but Khan said that it resembles the kind of hard-line Islamic nature of the Taliban rather than something that should be permitted in Kashmir.

“By giving a fatwa to the girls it is an insult to the Indian democracy and its people.”

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2013/02/20/finding-harmony-in-music-and-islam/feed/ 0
Movie Review – Vishwaroopam: Saga of faith in troubled times http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/02/04/movie-review-vishwaroopam-bollywood-idINDEE9100FW20130204?feedType=RSS&feedName=everything&virtualBrandChannel=11709 http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2013/02/04/movie-review-vishwaroopam-saga-of-faith-in-troubled-times/#comments Mon, 04 Feb 2013 11:14:58 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/?p=37 DELHI (Reuters) – For a spy thriller that has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, “Vishwaroopam” is surprisingly tame.

What I’ll remember most about “Vishwaroopam” is its technical finesse, breathtaking locations, stark imagery and a crisp edit.

The film features at least three different religions and five nationalities. It never takes a stance on which God is greater, nor does it brand you a freedom fighter or a radical militant. The central message is that bloodshed will lead to more bloodshed.

But first let’s talk of Kamal Haasan — writer, producer, lead actor — who plays a dance teacher in New York. His wife hires a detective to tail him, setting off a chain of events that sees the action shift from the skyscrapers of Manhattan to the dusty sands of Afghanistan.

The build-up is steady, with dialogue that doesn’t induce boredom and the twist which reveals a layer to Haasan’s character is absolutely unexpected and brilliant. To reveal any more of the plot would be an injustice.

Let’s just say that the al Qaeda and the travails of living in a post-9/11 world play an important role in the film. “Vishwaroopam” is also not for the queasy. You might want to shut your eyes for the bloodied combat sequences.

Rahul Bose impresses as the main villain of the piece while “Elizabeth” director Shekhar Kapur makes a delightful cameo. But it’s Haasan who single-handedly shoulders the film — in three different roles, no less.

A couple of over-the-top sequences aside, “Vishwaroopam” is a work of art that surpasses Bollywood potboilers and tries to initiate a conversation about a not-so-perfect world and its great religious divide. Watch it for Haasan and your right to freedom of expression.

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Reuters)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2013/02/04/movie-review-vishwaroopam-saga-of-faith-in-troubled-times/feed/ 0
Vishwaroopam: Saga of faith in troubled times http://blogs.reuters.com/indiamasala/2013/02/02/vishwaroopam-saga-of-faith-in-troubled-times/ http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2013/02/01/vishwaroopam-saga-of-faith-in-troubled-times/#comments Sat, 02 Feb 2013 00:44:28 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/?p=34 (Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Reuters)

For a spy thriller that has been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, “Vishwaroopam” is surprisingly tame.

What I’ll remember most about “Vishwaroopam” is its technical finesse, breathtaking locations, stark imagery and a crisp edit.

The film, released as “Vishwaroop” in north India, features at least three different religions and five nationalities. It never takes a stance on which God is greater, nor does it brand you a freedom fighter or a radical militant. The central message is that bloodshed will lead to more bloodshed.

But first let’s talk of Kamal Haasan — writer, producer, lead actor — who plays a dance teacher in New York. His wife hires a detective to tail him, setting off a chain of events that sees the action shift from the skyscrapers of Manhattan to the dusty sands of Afghanistan.

The build-up is steady, with dialogue that doesn’t induce boredom and the twist which reveals a layer to Haasan’s character is absolutely unexpected and brilliant. To reveal any more of the plot would be an injustice.

Let’s just say that the al Qaeda and the travails of living in a post-9/11 world play an important role in the film. “Vishwaroopam” is also not for the queasy. You might want to shut your eyes for the bloodied combat sequences.

Rahul Bose impresses as the main villain of the piece while “Elizabeth” director Shekhar Kapur makes a delightful cameo. But it’s Haasan who single-handedly shoulders the film — in three different roles, no less.

A couple of over-the-top sequences aside, “Vishwaroopam” is a work of art that surpasses Bollywood potboilers and tries to initiate a conversation about a not-so-perfect world and its great religious divide. Watch it for Haasan and your right to freedom of expression.

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2013/02/01/vishwaroopam-saga-of-faith-in-troubled-times/feed/ 0
Know your rights: staying safe in India’s rape capital http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2013/01/11/know-your-rights-staying-safe-in-indias-rape-capital/ http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2013/01/11/know-your-rights-staying-safe-in-indias-rape-capital/#comments Fri, 11 Jan 2013 06:22:39 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/?p=32 (Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)

Despite increased media scrutiny of violence against women after the Dec. 16 gang rape case, such incidents continue to be reported in and around New Delhi — now holder of the infamous title, “India’s rape capital.”

It’s unfair to expect women to no longer step outside their homes, but it’s best to be prepared. Carry pepper spray. Take a self-defence course. Learn kickboxing or Krav Maga. Most importantly, be aware of your legal rights.

Here’s a look at some of these laws in the Constitution, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC)

For word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman (Section 509 IPC)
Punished by simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or fine, or both.

Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty (Section 354 IPC)
Punished by imprisonment which may extend to two years, or fine, or both.

Husband or relative of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty (Section 498A IPC)
Punished by imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, also liable to fine.

Dowry death (Section 304B IPC)
Punished by imprisonment for a term not less than seven years but may extend to life imprisonment.

In case of an investigation, no male under 15 or a woman can be investigated at any place other than their residence (Section 160 CrPC)

Save in exceptional circumstances, no woman shall be arrested after sunset and before sunrise (Section 46(1: 4) CrPC)

Where a woman is suspected of concealing any article for which search should be made, the search shall be made by another woman with strict regard to decency. (Section 100(3) CrPC)

Prohibition of publication or sending by post of books, pamphlets, etc. containing indecent representation of women (The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986)
Punishable on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years.

Sexual harassment of women at workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal)
Bill includes any unwelcome act or behaviour directly or by implication of physical contact and advances, or a demand or request for sexual favours, or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature. (Expending the 1997 Vishaka verdict)

Equal pay for equal work for both men and women (Article 39(d) in the Constitution)

State to make a provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief (Article 42 in the Constitution)

(With legal inputs from Pinky Anand, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India)

(You can follow Anuja on Twitter at @anujajaiman)

ALSO READ: “Women have the right to refuse the two-finger test.” How to Report a Rape in India via @WSJ

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2013/01/11/know-your-rights-staying-safe-in-indias-rape-capital/feed/ 0
Gang rape puts spotlight on India’s rape capital http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2012/12/18/gang-rape-puts-spotlight-on-indias-rape-capital/ http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2012/12/18/gang-rape-puts-spotlight-on-indias-rape-capital/#comments Tue, 18 Dec 2012 12:53:41 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/?p=29 (Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

Yet another rape has rattled India. As I read the details, I felt familiar sensations of anger, frustration, helplessness and vulnerability. Sunday’s incident, in which a 23-year-old student in New Delhi was gang raped, assaulted and thrown out of a bus, made the front pages of India’s newspapers and was debated in parliament.

The woman is hospitalised with severe vaginal, abdominal and head injuries. One of those arrested is a 30-year-old driver who ferries school children.

As a single woman living in New Delhi for more than a decade, I find it difficult to come to terms with how vulnerable I feel each time I hear of a rape. or each time I travel by taxi at night.

It forces me to ask questions that I have harboured for years — owing to personal experiences, and plenty from friends and colleagues (almost every woman I have known in India’s rape capital has had a brush with Delhi’s groping and elbowing).

— How big a role does education, attitude and mindset play in rape?
— Who decides whether a woman is of loose character? And how could it follow that it’s all right to rape a prostitute?
— Why are New Delhi and neighbouring areas more unsafe for women than anywhere else in India?
— Are women raped because of what she is wearing, or if she is with a man, or if she is at a pub drinking and smoking? Why is it OK for people to suggest that these circumstances indicate that she is sexually active or promiscuous and then somehow subject to or deserving of an act of sexual violence?

I have lived in Mumbai and it feels safer. There are areas where women feel comfortable stepping out of the house for a midnight snack or to buy cigarettes. I wouldn’t think of doing that in New Delhi unless accompanied by a man.

Parents often urge their daughters to be careful and not stay out late in Indian cities. But why should my freedom be curbed because I chose New Delhi over Mumbai or Bangalore? I smoke and I drink, and my job requires me to work nights. Does that mean I should have been raped by now because I’m “asking for it”?

Rape, molestation and sexual harassment are social problems rooted in the moral values that people learn at home while growing up. It makes you wonder what mothers teach their sons. Newspapers teem with reports of children being raped. Experts differ on whether the problem is the deep-seated collective psyche of a male-dominated society, its social and economic diversity, or perhaps both.

What can be done? Capital punishment. Faster arrests and trials in rape cases. Sex education classes for children on gender equality. What about castration? Rapists should not be given an easy life in prison, or an easier death. Rather they must be made examples of, so that a man would think twice before groping a woman on the street. As violent as this sounds, those men who left the woman in Delhi in her shattered condition because she went to watch a movie with a friend deserve it.

In a country where women are deified and at the same time are objects to fondle, I wonder how many more rapes it will take for politicians to have stricter laws and ensure they are implemented.

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2012/12/18/gang-rape-puts-spotlight-on-indias-rape-capital/feed/ 0
Why Delhi autowallahs take you for a ride http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2012/12/05/delhi-autowallahs-meter-woes-and-the-mafia/ http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2012/12/05/why-delhi-autowallahs-take-you-for-a-ride/#comments Wed, 05 Dec 2012 11:25:40 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/?p=27 (Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters)

Here’s a phrase that you need to learn if you’re new to New Delhi. Everyone knows it and anyone can teach you: “Meter kyon nahi chalta hai?” (“Why doesn’t the meter work?”) This will become an elementary part of your conversation with autowallahs, the drivers of the green-and-yellow three-wheelers that ferry people around the region.

Never tell them that you’re new to this part or that part of the city; you’re asking to be gouged on price. Look at the meter and say the phrase that I just taught you. Say it even if the meter is working. That means it’s time to negotiate. Be confident and you will only pay a ridiculous amount of extra money, rather than an insane amount. And if they do use the meter, be prepared for them to take you the long way around to your destination.

“If I can afford to spend 10 minutes of my day on autowallahs, I insist on travelling by the meter,” said Arushi Sen, 25. “However, if I am in a rush, then I just add five to 10 rupees to the meter fare. In case it’s raining or if it’s peak traffic hour, then I make it 20 rupees more.”

Juliane Seumel of Germany, who has spent several months in New Delhi as a university student, said, “I don’t even bother to ask for the meter most of the time.”

Why isn’t there a proper system? Aren’t meters there to be used? One possible answer: drivers fleece passengers to avoid being swindled themselves.

Auto drivers in New Delhi pay about 300 to 400 rupees per day to rent their ricks. There’s always a chance that they might not make that much money in a day if they stick to the meter. Not only that, rents rise with an oversupply of drivers and too few ricks.

People who buy their ricks have another problem. An auto costs more than 138,000 rupees to buy at a dealer. With registration and other charges included, the cost can reach more than 175,500 rupees. (The new GPS meters cost an extra 13,400 rupees). So why do people often pay financiers as much as 270,000 rupees, or about $4,900, for their ricks?

To drive an auto, you need a permit. To buy a used auto means transferring the permit. Most people trying to get permits from the government can’t afford it, and don’t have the documentation required to fill out the paperwork. Financiers can make the arrangements and act as guarantor for bank loans for people with bad credit or no credit. Of course, they charge about an extra 100,000 rupees ($1,800) for their services. Call it a convenience fee.

“The transfer of permit is a complicated process, so the financiers hold the permits even after selling the autos,” said Rakesh Agrawal, who heads Nyayabhoomi, a group that represents auto drivers’ interests. “They would not register the transfer of the permits to the autowallah’s name, and instead hoard them in someone else’s name, like a relative or an employee.”

This is illegal, according to a law passed in 1988, but Nyayabhoomi’s website contains a description of how it happens often anyway.

“When a person wants to sell his autorickshaw, his only option is to approach one of the auto-finance-mafia because no sale and purchase takes place without the involvement of an auto financier. The seller is made to sign various blank documents [and] forms, and stamp papers, including those that will facilitate transfer of permits … The vehicle is sold along with loan to another auto driver without registering such a sale/transfer with the Transport authority. … [and since] control of the vehicle lies with the auto-financier, he exploits the auto-driver/new-owner to the hilt.”

The transportation ministry did not make anyone available to talk about this topic, despite repeated requests.

Drivers are forbidden from refusing to go to a certain destination or to leave the meter off. With no other options to make ends meet, they resort to double or triple the fare.

Salim Ahmed, who rents an auto with photos of actresses Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor attached to the walls for company, smiles when I ask him why drivers refuse to run the meter. (We settled on me paying him about 20 rupees more than I should have).

“The meter fare price has not been raised, while CNG fuel prices have been revised over and over again. If I need to feed my children and family, what else will I do?”

Ahmed could take a passenger on a drive that would cost 70 rupees on the meter. If it takes 30 minutes, that’s fine, but if it takes 90 minutes because of heavy traffic, he has wasted time that he could have spent picking up other fares. The meters do not charge by the minute.

Vijender Singh said gas is another concern. “On a day if I earn 700 rupees — I pay 300 rupees rent for a 12-hour shift, spend 100 on gas, about 50 on food — so in reality I have earned only 250 rupees that day.” Singh has rented an auto for 18 years because he cannot afford to buy one.

When you consider New Delhi’s often outrageous traffic jams and road accidents, you realise it’s only a matter of time until the police cite drivers with some kind of violation.

“If something goes wrong from an auto driver’s end, the traffic police in Mumbai will complain to the union, while in Delhi an autowallah is the one who is fined. There are laws, but there are plenty of loopholes, and we have no one to go to,” said Singh. “Everyone has their bribe percentage at every level.”

Jai Prakash, who has been an autorickshaw driver for 12 years, said there is another reason to avoid using the meter. “If for some reason we are chaalaned [fined], overcharging is probably the only way to earn that money back.”

But Jai Prakash did use the meter when I hailed him. He said that doing so ensures his children’s education in a government school. He saves about 200-300 rupees a day.

“Earlier, autos used to run on petrol, it was cheaper for us. Ever since they became CNG, it has become more expensive for us,” Prakash said.

Compressed natural gas was designed to make autorickshaws release less pollution into Delhi’s already smog-choked air. Of course, a clean environment costs more money.

As I complimented him for not trying to dupe people, he grinned and said that the operating philosophy for auto drivers, as far as the government is concerned, seems to be “karm kar, phal ki ichcha mat kar” (work and do not bother about results).

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2012/12/05/why-delhi-autowallahs-take-you-for-a-ride/feed/ 1
Spending time in ‘Narcopolis’ with Jeet Thayil http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2012/10/11/spending-time-in-narcopolis-with-jeet-thayil/ http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2012/10/11/spending-time-in-narcopolis-with-jeet-thayil/#comments Thu, 11 Oct 2012 15:34:07 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/?p=23 I spent some time talking with Jeet Thayil, whose book on Mumbai and opium culture is a contender for this year’s Man Booker Prize, which will be awarded on Oct. 16. You can read the interview that we published on the Reuters news wire. Here are some excerpts:

Q: Does this make you feel strongly about the city?

A: “Bombay does that to people. It makes a (connection) with you. It makes it difficult for you. It bludgeons you. I’ve been reading about that area, Shuklaji street. It is disappearing now – Kamatipura, Shuklaji street, (the) entire area between Mumbai Central and Grant Road is disappearing, being bought away by real estate sharks who are buying up all the broken-down houses and making tall buildings. So very soon that entire district will disappear, and with it a million stories.

Q: In an interview you used the word “seductive” for Bombay. In “Narcopolis”, words seem to come from under a cloud of smoke. Is there a parallel you have drawn between opium and Mumbai?

A: “That’s kind of hinted at in the book where the change from Bombay to Mumbai takes place … It’s the change from this old 19th century romantic, glamorous, quiet, slow world of opium to the quick, brutal, modern, degrading world of cheap heroin.

And here are some parts that we saved exclusively for India Insight:

Q: Is this book a tribute of sorts to Mumbai?

A: Definitely. It is also the opposite of a tribute. I don’t think it would be possible to write that kind of a portrait without feeling deeply for the city, feeling love for the city. But there is also a very ugly side to the city that you can see in the pages of the book, and the future that it points at, it is clear there is more ugliness is coming. It is horrifying. It is still a city where you get a sense of brotherhood and community, but also there is more and more a feeling of fearfulness and the kind of communication that happens between people is based on which community you belong to. People want to know that the first thing, and then tailor their speech accordingly. That’s why they always ask what your name is – your complete name.

Q: At the outset you refer to the ‘I’. Define the ‘I’ in your book.

A: There are two I’s. One is the very banal, middle class, boring narrator. With typical literary pretensions, who looks at the world as a tourist. But he only sets the frame and disappears. The author finds him the least interesting of the many characters in the book. Then the other I is the pipe, it is a literary conceit where the story is told by the pipe, and all the people who have smoked in from the pipe, there stories come out of the pipe.

Q: How does the featuring in the Man Booker shortlist feel?

A: It feels wonderful. I’m very familiar with Will Self. It is a very strong list. Although I haven’t read any as yet, I do plan to read many on the list.

Q: Tell me something about your music

A: I started to play guitar the same time I started to write poetry. I was in lots of bands over the years but I also took a break from music for many years, and recently in 2008 I got back into a band. We did an album. The name of the band is Sridhar/Thayil. And the album is STD. It is hard to define our kind of music. The singer, she sings opera, Hindustani classical and jazz. I come from a blues, rock and broken word and funk background. I write very strange pop stuff. She writes jazz.

Q: How long have you been writing poetry?

A: I started when I was very young. At the age of 13 I was introduced to poetry by an uncle in Kerala. He was an eccentric genius. He was engaged in this huge, and hugely absurd task of translating Baudelaire from French into Malayalam. He introduced me to Baudelaire. It gave me a physical reaction. Many years later I remember reading Emily Dickinson and she said you know great poetry when it takes the top of your head off… she meant it figuratively, of course. But what she meant was when you read poetry, how do you know it is good poetry is when you get a physical reaction to it. I got hooked.

(Jeet Thayil at home in New Delhi, Oct. 3, 2012. Reuters photo: Mansi Thapliyal)

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2012/10/11/spending-time-in-narcopolis-with-jeet-thayil/feed/ 0
The phenomenon called Amitabh Bachchan http://blogs.reuters.com/indiamasala/2012/10/11/the-phenomenon-called-amitabh-bachchan/ http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2012/10/11/the-phenomenon-called-amitabh-bachchan/#comments Thu, 11 Oct 2012 11:34:34 +0000 http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/?p=25 Twitter is abuzz with the spirit of festivity, and here’s why: It is Amitabh Bachchan’s 70th birthday.

One of the few people who can be described as a superstar, the ‘Big B’ is one of the greatest actors India has seen, and (I dare say) one of the few who does not need an introduction almost anywhere in the world.

I have not come across anyone who does not know who Bachchan is, or not familiar with his famous dialogues from Deewar, Sholay and Agneepath.

The man brims with charisma and the success of television show Kaun Banega Crorepati is testimony to that. Bachchan has hosted this show since 2000 with the exception of the third season, when actor Shah Rukh Khan sat on the coveted ‘hot seat’ but failed to evoke a similar response from the audience.

So can we ever explain the Bachchan phenomenon?

Tall, quiet and gaunt, Bachchan was not exactly the conventional hero material when he debuted in the Hindi film industry in 1969. It took him four years until ‘the angry young man’ was drawn out of him – and there has been no looking back.

Brief hiatus from the showbiz, dabbling in politics and an unsuccessful business venture, the actor always bounced back. And how! The only debate left is whether Amitabh Bachchan is the biggest star India has ever seen?

He sure is loved by many, and everyone who has met him, seen him, or had a glimpse of him carries a starry-eyed memory. Here’s one: My grandmother taught him at a school in Allahabad. Many years later, each time Bachchan appeared on TV, she would be reminded of the time she taught him how to tie his shoelaces.

My grandmother may not be a typical starry-eyed fan, but the fact that she remembered – with some pride – Bachchan from all those years ago, goes on to say something about the actor and the connect he makes with Indian audiences.

Whether it is his persona, his deep voice, his trademark ‘khaike paan benaras wala’ dancing style, or his ‘Rishte mein to hum tumhare baap lagte hain, naam hai Shehenshah’ dialogue delivery, Amitabh Bachchan will always have a lasting effect on audiences in India and beyond.

]]>
http://blogs.reuters.com/anuja-jaiman/2012/10/11/the-phenomenon-called-amitabh-bachchan/feed/ 0