India Insight

New book describes crimes against civilians during Mizo uprising

The two-decade-long Mizo rebellion from 1966 to 1986 remains the only conflict in which the Indian government used war planes against its citizens. Few written records exist on the conflict in which the Mizo National Front (MNF) revolted against the government, trying to establish an independent country.

A new book by a former militant in the Mizo National Army (MNA), the armed wing of the MNF, recounts the air bombings and the government’s “grouping” policy, under which villages in what is now Mizoram state were burned and civilians relocated to guarded centres called Protected and Progressive Villages.

“Untold Atrocity” by C. Zama deals with incidents in which civilians suffered or were allegedly killed by security forces. The book also assumes significance today because the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which allowed security forces an almost free hand in arresting or shooting anyone during the insurgency, is still enforced in Jammu and Kashmir and some areas of India’s northeast.

Zama in this interview talks about the almost unlimited powers the army wielded during the insurgency, and why the Mizoram Accord, which is touted as the most successful peace treaty in India, has not been fully implemented.

Q: Tell us about your time as an insurgent?
A: In 1965, before the violence started, I volunteered as a MNA member while studying in high school … I was in Class VIII when the [armed] movement broke out, so I left home and school and we started living in the forest. We traded fire with Indian soldiers many times – in Mizoram and (East) Pakistan, which is present-day Bangladesh.

Mumbai police look to Bollywood for image makeover

Mumbai’s police department has deployed an unusual strategy to revamp its sagging reputation and to counter criticism that it hasn’t done a good job at solving crimes against women in the city – it called the biggest game in town and asked for help.

Top city police officers, including the police commissioner, have asked Bollywood producers, directors and writers to portray them in a more positive light than they usually do.

While films like “Ardh Satya” spoke of the pressures and frustrations of policemen, many mainstream films, which have the most reach, aren’t kind to the force. The police also have asked the studios to change how they portray the women in their films, hoping that this would cause men to behave better toward women.

Photographer gang-raped in Mumbai

A 22-year-old photographer was gang-raped by five men in India’s financial capital Mumbai on Thursday, evoking comparisons with a similar incident in Delhi in December that led to nationwide protests.

The incident took place near the posh Lower Parel area when the woman, a photojournalist with a magazine, was out on assignment. She was accompanied by a male colleague, media reports said.

A case has been registered at Mumbai’s N.M. Joshi Marg police station.

“An FIR has been registered … nobody has been arrested so far,” a head constable at the police station told India Insight. He gave no details.

Delhi rape case and the need to revamp policing

“My father has called me 15 times since yesterday,” a colleague told me today as New Delhi recovers from the shock of a woman being assaulted, gang-raped and thrown off a bus on Sunday night.

There were more comments from women on my Facebook feed: “It is a scary thought to go out for dinner at 9:15 pm”; “Men on Delhi streets can literally rape you with words … met one giggling a** just now. Felt like picking a stone and hitting it right where it all starts from …”

These comments made me think. Never had we discussed a rape case so vehemently in office; never before has a rape case moved me personally. Why? Perhaps, we are immune to such headlines in newspapers and used to the way things are.

The Aruna Shanbaug case: SC rejects plea

SPAIN/UPDATE: The Supreme Court in its judgement on Monday rejected the euthanasia plea of Aruna Shanbaug, who has been lying in a vegetative state for 37 years following a sexual assault on her.

Euthanasia in various forms is legal in some countries with safeguards, but has been criticised.

There are instances when patients are mistaken to be in a vegetative state though they are conscious of their surroundings but unable to draw attention to their condition. This is described as the Locked-in Syndrome.

Rough justice as woman kills politician she accused of rape

An alleged rape and a violent stabbing left an Indian politician dead and a 40-year-old woman in police custody on Tuesday night, as Rupam Pathak reportedly took the law into her own hands to avenge 18-month-old sexual assault charges.
A file photo showing an incarcerated prisoner REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Bihar state legislator Raj Kishore Kesri was killed in his own home before an audience of dozens by a mother of two after charges first lodged in May 2010 against the four-time representative were reportedly dropped “under duress” from Kesri and his associates.

Pathak will almost certainly be sent to jail for her premeditated crime, after appearing to take what she considered the only option available to punish the man she says raped her.

A local school owner, Pathak was beaten by Kesri’s supporters after the stabbing, and as she was taken to hospital reportedly shouted: “Don’t take me for treatment. Hang me. I don’t want to live anymore. Nobody knows what I have been through.”

India must ask: where is the honour in killing?

Three men were arrested by Delhi police this week for “honour killings” days after the Supreme Court asked eight Indian states to stop these so-called “honour” killings, where family members, typically men, kill daughters and their husbands for apparently bringing dishonour to the family by marrying below their caste.

An Indian brideThe killings, in a posh neighbourhood in Delhi, brought the tragic and shameful story of honour killings closer home to Delhi residents, who had so far dismissed the rising instances of these killings as a feature of rural India, equating them to a more traditional and conservative India they claim not to inhabit.

The clash between tradition and modernity is not new and is not unique to India, where more than two-thirds of its population lives in rural areas, and where more than half the population is below the age of 25 years.

Of sex swamis, lies and videotape

The recent scandals over two spiritual gurus have shaken the collective faith of their followers in India.

A sadhu holds a trident in New Delhi August 2, 2006. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi/FilesThe sanctity of religions or the people’s faith is not being questioned but these controversies put the spotlight on the uniquely Indian phenomenon of mortals given the status of gods.

Cities across the country teem with astrologers, tarot card readers or some self-proclaimed guru. Saffron silk robes, turban cloth and rosaries are available off the shelves in plenty.

Role of the media in Jessica Lall case

The Supreme Court has upheld the life term for Manu Sharma who was convicted for the 1999 murder of Jessica Lall.

A lawyer holds a book of criminal law as he waits to enter the Arthur Road jail in Mumbai April 16, 2009. REUTERS/Arko Datta/Files

The case became a cause celebre for the media, helping it grab eyeballs in a decade when private news channels mushroomed in the country.

It even inspired a novel by diplomat Vikas Swaroop, the author of the book on which the Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire” was based.

Should K.P.S. Gill be stripped of his medals?

Media reports saying that the central government may take away the medals of police officers convicted of crimes have had an unexpected impact.

A policeman holds a submachine gun during a function in Mumbai August 27, 2009. REUTERS/Arko DattaThis puts former Punjab DGP and “super cop” Kanwar Pal Singh Gill (better known as K.P.S. Gill) in the same dock as S.P.S. Rathore, the former Haryana police chief convicted of molesting teenager Ruchika Girhotra.

Is such a step justified?

Gill, convicted in 1996 for misbehaving with an IAS officer, has said it is not right to strip officers of medals with retrospective effect. The former DGP also said he won’t be bothered if his medals are taken away.

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