Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Perseverance Pays

Gender based violence especially rape within and without marriage continues unabated despite there being a higher level of awareness and legal strictness after the infamous Delhi gang rape incident of 2012. On the 13th of April 2014 a fifteen year old Gond Adivasi girl who is deaf and dumb and also has a disability in one hand was abducted and gang raped in Chhindwara district town in Madhya Pradesh. Despite the case being reported and also covered by the local newspapers, the police did not conduct a proper investigation primarily because one of the perpetrators was the son of a police officer in Chhindwara. The police took advantage of the fact that the girl was deaf and dumb to plead that she was not able to identify her assailants properly and communicate the details of the crime and so the investigation was closed with one person being arrested who was not directly involved in the rape. What is of real concern here is that the magistrate who is supposed to monitor the police investigation, especially when it is a case of rape of a disabled girl, went along with the police version and did not insist on independent investigation.
The matter would have ended there but for Kanika Sharma, a social activist who hails from Chhindwara and is an alumnus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Tuljapur. Initially she was not in Chhindwara but elsewhere on work, nevertheless she took up the matter by contacting activists in Bhopal and the rest of the country over phone and email and also liaised with the State and National Women's Commissions. However, since the local police in Chhindwara, from the Superintendent of Police downwards, were hell bent on hushing up the case nothing much happened for the abused girl.
Kanika, was not to be fobbed off, and so once she became free from her work elsewhere, she came down to Chhindwara and began campaigning for justice for the girl. As a first step formal complaints were filed with the State and National Women's Commissions resulting in notices being sent to the Superintendent of Police, Chhindwara. Next she got women's rights activists to form a team and carry out a fact finding of the whole incident. As a result of this fact finding mission and its report the sordid details of the case were revealed - the flimsy and false investigation by the police to shield the real culprits, one of whom was the son of a local police officer and the crude use by the doctors of the banned two finger insertion test to check whether the raped girl was a virgin or not and a despicable attempt on the basis of that by the police to characterise the girl as a sexually loose person. Giving the lie to the claim by the police that the girl could not identify the accused because of her disability, the girl revealed to the fact finding team the sequence of events and the locations where she was taken after abduction and raped and the persons who did so.
Thereafter, Kanika mobilised the women's groups and the press in Bhopal and a team went and met the Director General of Police (DGP) of Madhya Pradesh and submitted the fact finding report to him demanding prompt action to give justice to the girl. The press in Bhopal too highlighted the main issues of the poor investigation by the police and the use of the banned two finger test by the medical personnel. The DGP took immediate action and initiated a high level probe by the Inspector General of Police in charge of the women's cell who is mandatorily a lady officer. This resulted in a fresh First Information Report being filed naming all the accused and with the correct details of the case and the arrest of the accused. The procedure for financial compensation to the abused girl as per the law and rules has also been initiated.
This is an exceptional campaign and shows what perseverance can achieve given the tremendous spotlight against gender based violence that is there at present. While other NGOs and the press had tried to do something the active connivance of the police had stymied these earlier efforts. However, Kanika was not to be deterred and she pursued the matter with consummate activist skill, using legal acumen and media advocacy and forced the Police to act according to the law and provide justice and relief to the raped girl. This is a huge achievement that comes from Kanika skilfully leveraging the laws and the general mood against gender based violence, especially rape. The major problem in this country is that the laws are never implemented in favour of the poor and downtrodden. And especially if it is the police themselves who are in the legal dragnet, as they often are, then they invariably manage to wriggle out. On innumerable occasions we here in Alirajpur have had to haul the police up for their misdeeds but it is a tough ask requiring legal recourse in courts because the police and administrative set up is loathe to act against their own. Under the circumstances when the campaign began I had thought that in this case too, eventually Kanika would have to go to the courts which is both an expensive and time consuming proposition. However, the perseverance of Kanika and the general focus on acting strictly against gender based violence and possibly the fear of the police that if the matter went to court then strictures would be passed against them for inaction led to a successful conclusion to this campaign.
Kanika Sharma, who is pictured below, could have landed a plum job in a funding agency or a big NGO but she did not take part in the campus placement process organised by TISS after passing out from there recently with a post graduate degree in social work. Instead she has joined the National Alliance of People's Movements as a full time activist.

This is the kind of spirit and commitment that is required of the youth of today if the injustice that is there in society is to be done away with. Given the consumerist culture that engulfs society it is difficult for youth these days to shun money making jobs but to her credit Kanika has decided to take the road less travelled and if she continues with the same sagacity and courage that she has shown in her campaign for the Adivasi girl in Chhindwara then both she and the human race have a lot to look forward to. May her tribe increase.

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