India Insight

from Expert Zone:

Slow change comes to India a year after Delhi gang rape

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

One year ago, a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was raped and murdered. Her story showed the world that women across India are viewed as dispensable, undeserving of full human rights.

One year later, what has changed?

It is heartening that the case of Nirbhaya, as she is known, led to the setting up of the Justice Verma commission that recommended strengthening outdated laws to protect women and their rights. Although change has been slow, more cases of sexual violence are being reported rather than silenced, scuttled or quietly settled. However, crime statistics and prosecution rates show that most of these crimes go unnoticed, unreported and absorbed into the culture of “that’s the way things are."

Looking through the National Crime Records Bureau’s report for 2012, it is evident that the number of complaints registered with the police, the first information reports on rape, has risen by nearly 3 percent. The number of cases that were charge-sheeted -- documented as a crime -- was 95 percent. But fewer than 15 percent of rape cases came to trial in 2012.

Violence against women remains the most widespread and tolerated human rights abuse. Catcalling, taunting and grabbing women in public arise from, and perpetuate, notions of masculinity that define “real” men through power and dominance. "Minor" assaults and inequities are part of the continuum that includes rape, domestic abuse and attacks on women and girls.

This culture is enabled by men who tacitly condone it by not challenging it. That’s why to end violence against women, and change the culture, men must stand alongside us.

Kashmir seeks return of hanged separatist leader’s remains

A Kashmiri man puts his signature on a banner during a signature campaign by the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) in Srinagar February 4, 2011. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliMohammad Maqbool Bhat, the pioneer of Kashmir’s separatist struggle, was hanged in New Delhi’s Tihar jail on February 11, 1984.

Bhat, also the founder of Kashmir’s influential separatist group Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), was executed on the charge of killing an Indian intelligence officer. His body was buried in the jail.

Five years after Bhat’s hanging, Kashmiri militants including JKLF launched an insurgency against Indian rule in the Muslim-majority region and the bloodshed has continued ever since.

Suu Kyi underlines India’s strategic approach to Myanmar

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmarese pro-democracy leader who was released from seven years of continuous house detention on Nov 13, used her first interview with an Indian media organisation to criticise the world’s largest democracy for its foreign policy towards the military junta-ruled nation.Aung San Suu Kyi addresses supporters outside her National League for Democracy party headquarters in Yangon November 14, 2010. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

“I am saddened with India. I would like to have thought that India would be standing behind [the pro-democracy movement]. That it would have followed in the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru,” Suu Kyi told the Indian Express on Wednesday.

“I do not oppose relations with the Generals but I hope that the Indian government would talk to us as well. I would like to see talks begin immediately. I would like to see close and friendly relations, like those that have not been seen recently.”

Killing of civilians fuels Kashmir anger

Supporters of separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq shout slogans while being detained by police during a protest in Srinagar June 17, 2010. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliJust days ago, scenic Kashmir, torn by two decades of war, was near normal.

Thousands of tourists were flocking to the region and honeymooners were once again gliding in shikaras, small Kashmiri boats, across the mirror-calm Dal Lake.

The disputed Himalayan region has seen a significant drop in violence between Muslim rebels and security forces.

But now the Valley is again under siege in the backdrop of rising public anger.

In Kashmir, nearly half favour independence

Nearly half of the people living in the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir want their disputed and divided state to become an independent country, according to a poll published by think tank Chatham House.

A man walks past closed shops during a strike in Srinagar June 11, 2008. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli/Files London-based Chatham House says the poll is the first to be conducted on both sides of the Line of Control (LoC), a military control line that has separated Indian and Pakistani controlled Kashmir since the U.N.-brokered ceasefire between two rivals in 1949.

The poll has produced startling results. On average 44 percent of people in Pakistani-administered Kashmir favoured independence, compared with 43 percent in Indian Kashmir.

Amnesty International on rare visit to Kashmir

Amnesty International member Ramesh Gopal Krishan meets Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Chairman of Kashmir's All Parties Hurriyat Conference, before a meeting in Srinagar May 18, 2010. REUTERS/Danish Ismail

New Delhi has allowed a team from rights watchdog Amnesty International to visit strife-torn Kashmir for the first time since an armed rebellion against Indian rule broke out over two decades ago.

The two-member team arrived earlier this week to assess the human rights situation in the region where officials say more than 47,000 people have been killed since 1989.

Local human rights groups put the toll at about 60,000 dead or missing.

Amnesty International has in the past reported on human rights violations in the disputed Himalayan region and accused both government forces and separatist rebels of abuses against
the people of Kashmir.

Is it time to end the death penalty in India?

Special Prosecuter Ujjwal Nikam holds up a document, with a cover showing Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, at Arthur Road Jail where Kasab's trial was held, in Mumbai May 6, 2010. REUTERS/Arko Datta

Suddenly, everyone in India is talking about executions.

Grim hangings are a topic of animated conversation at water coolers, cocktail parties and chat shows. Everyone seems to favour them, the quicker the better.

Just weeks ago, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the Pakistani gunman convicted in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was sentenced to death by hanging.

Everywhere in Mumbai, where 166 people were gunned down by Kasab and his accomplices, people cheered and fought to express their joy to newspapers and TV channels.

Sympathy for the devil? Maoist supporters get flak

maoists

Hours after Maoist rebels detonated a landmine under a bus in central India on Monday, killing about 35 people including policemen, Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram was unapologetic in his criticism of civil society organisations that he said were getting in the way of the state’s efforts to contain the rebels.

It is “almost fashionable” to be sympathetic to the Maoist cause, Chidambaram said in an interview to NDTV news channel.

In defending the rebels and questioning the motives of the government — and not of the rebels — they were weakening the apparatus of the state, he said.

India’s ‘amnesty’ to Pakistan-based Kashmiri rebels

The Indian government has for the first time offered amnesty to hundreds of Kashmiris who had crossed over to the Pakistani part of Kashmir and are now willing to surrender and return home.

Thousands of Kashmiris have slipped into Pakistan-administered Kashmir for arms training since an anti-India insurgency broke out twenty years ago.

A Kashmiri man rides a bicycle past a closed shop during a strike in Srinagar June 1, 2009. REUTERS/Fayaz KabliHundreds have returned and joined Muslim rebel groups, many died on a rugged military control line while sneaking into the Indian side and many more are still living in different parts of Pakistan or Pakistani Kashmir.

Frequent strikes a crippling blow to Kashmir’s economy

During two decades of anti-India revolt, Kashmir has lost tens of thousands of people, property worth billions of dollars and much more.

But the disputed Himalayan Valley has also lost over 1,500 working days (more than four years) to separatists’ shutdown calls in the past 20 years, dealing a crippling blow to its ailing economy.

The tourism industry of the scenic Valley, ringed by Himalayan peaks and dotted with mirror-calm lakes, shimmering streams and dense pine and conifer forests, is frequently disrupted by strikes and violent protests over the separatist cause.

  •