16 March 2015

Nandigram's Forgotten Rape Victims Living In Precarious Conditions

A team of Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS), West Bengal, comprising Anuradha Talwar, Nisha Biswas, Rama Debnath, Rangta Munshi, Saswati Ghosh, Sharmistha Choudhury and Swapna Banerjee visited Nandigram on March 10, 2015, to study the condition of the women of Nandigram who had been at the forefront of the heroic struggle against land acquisition back in 2007-2009.

What we saw saddened and disturbed us for a number of reasons, the foremost being the fact that these women, who had once been powerful leaders of a historic mass movement, are today not only distressed but disempowered as well. We tried to assess the present condition of the women of Nandigram and here is what we learned:


Status of legal cases
  • Nobody was able to give any concrete information on the status of the cases filed by the rape survivors. It is not certain that cases of rape were filed at all.
  • A total of 362 cases – including 9 murder cases – against more than 4,000 persons involved in the Nandigram Movement were registered in 2007-2009.
  • 160 minor cases have been withdrawn so far. The court has not allowed withdrawal of some of the cases that the government wanted to withdraw.
  • According to BUPC leaders, chargesheets have been filed in almost all the cases, though trial is yet to begin.
  • However, we were unable to ascertain the exact status of the cases.

Compensation Payment 
  • All 159 injured on March 14, 2007 have received compensation of Rs 1 Lakh as per High Court order.
  • Only 3 out of 16 rape survivors have received compensation of Rs 2 lakh.

CBI Investigation 
  • In December 2013 CBI instituted cases against more than 30 men and women – including women who were severely injured and/or raped like Radharani Aari, Kajal Majhi, Gouri Pradhan, etc. – on charges of attacking the police and inciting violence.
  • BUPC sought dismissal of above cases in HC, but was denied by the Single Bench. Now appeal is lying before the Division Bench of HC.
  • CBI also sought Govt. permission to initiate criminal proceedings against some Police Officials.
  • Govt. is yet to respond on the above.
  • It appears that the CID was in charge of the cases at some point. According to BUPC leaders, the subsequent intervention of the CBI threw everything in disarray due to confusion regarding the respective domains of responsibility. What is beyond doubt, however, that all this has resulted in justice being denied to the victims.

Status of some women of struggle:
  1. Tapasi Das (38 yrs)  
  • Bullet injured her uterus, causing permanent gynecological and neurological problems.
  • Remains in persistent pain and is confined to bed most of the time.
  • Difficulty in walking, severe limp.
  •  Gets meagre Rs 1500 per month from local MP for treatment. This amount, however, is not even sufficient to cover the travel expenses she has to incur to continue with her treatment.
  •  Husband got a temporary job in Metro Rail.

  1. Radha Rani Ari (45 yrs) 
  • Gangraped twice.
  • Not received compensation. Rumour is some imposter made away with her compensation.
  • Suffers severe social stigma, husband too accuses her. 
  •   Rape accused are out on bail and are back in the locality. 
  • Gets meagre Rs1500 per month from local MP. 
  •  One son got a temporary job in Metro Rail.

  1. Angur Das (40 yrs) 
  • Raped on 14th March along with her daughters Kabita (married with 2 kids) and Ganga (then unmarried) 
  • No compensation 
  • 3 sons work in a carpet factory in U.P. 
  •  Husband works in small patch of own land. 
  • Heavily depressed. Ganga is now married but is facing problems at in-laws’ for non-payment of agreed dowry.
  1. Kabita Das (22yrs) 
  •  Daughter of Angur Das. 
  • Not allowed to return to marital home after rape incident. 
  •  Lives with mother. Husband visits occasionally.

  1. Srabanti Das Adhikari (35yrs) 
  • Received compensation of Rs 2 Lakh as per HC order 
  •  Works as cook in ICDS 
  • Unwilling to talk, ‘I am fine, have to stay here.’

  • Women like Tapasi Das, Radharani Aari and others, who had become the face of the Nandigram Movement, who had suffered rape, bullet wounds and state terror but had remained at the forefront of the heroic struggle against forcible land acquisition, who had subsequently been instrumental in unseating the then Left Front government from power, have today been absolutely edged out of the political space. They are neither called to Bhumi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee (BUPC) meetings, nor invited to Martyrs’ Day observations, nor given the recognition they deserve.
  • Radharani Aari recalls how, in the run-up to the Bidhan Sabha election of 2011, she was much sought after by the present ruling party. She would be taken on political campaigns all across the country and made to describe the barbaric sexual torture that was inflicted on her. “My body was like a property that would get the votes,” she says. Now, with that party firmly in power, she has been carelessly abandoned, left to fend for herself. “I often contemplate suicide,” she says.
  • The women have been silenced by the brute force of male domination. All the rape accused, like Badal Garu, Kalia Garu, Rabin Das, etc., have returned to their homes – after months of exile to escape public wrath – and this ‘rehabilitation’ has taken place after negotiation with the BUPC (male) leadership. Radharani Aari and the other women allege that the BUPC leaders took hefty sums of money from the rapists in exchange of granting them permission to return home. None of the raped women was consulted in the process. Now with the rapists at large, and often inhabiting adjacent houses, these women live in constant fear. BUPC leaders tell them, “What’s your problem?” Their problem is that justice has not been done, and it does not seem like that it will.
  •  Very few of the women who were raped, injured or otherwise tortured in the course of their valiant role in the Nandigram Movement have been rewarded by the government. In most of the cases, the husband or the son has been provided some kind of a job by the new government, in lieu of the woman’s sacrifice. The woman, however, has received virtually nothing. For example, the son of Radharani Aari – who was gang raped twice in 2007-2008 – has been given a job by the new government, and leaders now tell her, “What else do you want?”
  • The women are in precarious health. Tapasi Das, whose thigh was almost sawed off and uterus hit when the police opened fire on unarmed women and children on March 14, 2007, lives in perpetual pain. There is nobody to oversee her medical treatment or ensure that she gets it. Radharani Aari and other women who were raped by hoodlums of the then ruling party are victims of severe trauma. They are all in need of medical attention, which is absent.
  • A grand hospital built in memory of the martyrs of Nandigram stands amidst sprawling acres, the picture of grim dereliction and waste. The caretaker said that a doctor visits once or twice a month, but even that thin story did not ring true. It is indeed an irony that with so many women in desperate need of medical attention, a hospital in the very middle of Nandigram should be allowed to go to seed.
  • These women, who were once leaders of one of the most famous mass movements of recent times, are now confined to their homes and subject to all kinds of patriarchal oppression. They cannot marry off their daughters without paying massive dowries as if to ‘compensate’ for the ‘stigma’ of rape. Some of the daughters have been thrown out of their marital homes as ‘punishment’. Even neighbours have now taken to pointing fingers at the rape survivors. This social chastisement, in conjunction with crippling poverty, has broken their hearts.

These are the findings of our first visit to Nandigram. We hope to follow this up with more visits in the future and stand firmly by the women in their fight for justice.

13 March 2015

Press Meet On Violence Against Women

Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is a non-funded grassroots effort started in November 2009, to put an end to the violence being perpetrated upon our bodies and societies. We are a nationwide network of women from diverse political and social movements comprising of women’s organizations, mass organizations, civil liberty organizations, student and youth organizations, mass movements and individuals. We unequivocally condemn state repression and sexual violence on our women and girls by any perpetrator(s).

For further information, please go to our website at http://wssnet.org

A team of WSS, West Bengal visited Nandigram on March10, 2015 in view of Nandigram Divas, observed on March14 each year to commemorate the historic land movement of Nandigram.

The team is saddened to observe the status of women who were in the forefront of struggle.

In this context, the WSS is organising a Press Meet on March 14, 2015, at 2.00 p.m. at Kolkata Press Club to share their experiences

On behalf of WSS, West Bengal:

Anuradha Talwar, Swapna Banerjee, Rangta Munshi, Sharmishtha Choudhury, Rama Debnath, Saswati Ghosh, Nisha Biswas

01 March 2015

'Miserly Wages Will Worsen Poverty Among Tea Workers'

We are shocked by the tripartite wage agreement signed on 20.2.2015 in the presence of the State Government in West Bengal. The agreement has provided a raise of Rs.37.50 over three years to tea plantation workers in Terai and Doars and Rs.42.50 to workers in Darjeeling. Workers will therefore be paid a miserly amount of Rs. 112 .50 in the first year, Rs.122.50 in the second year and finally Rs. 132.50 in the third year. These amount to starvation wages and are likely to worsen conditions of poverty and malnutrition amongst tea plantation workers. We are thus likely to continue to get shameful reports of starvation deaths in an industry that is a huge export earner and has a flourishing and ever expanding domestic market.

By no logic can such an increase be justified. Firstly it comes nowhere near the repeatedly articulated demand by the workers for minimum wages, which all unions had calculated to be between Rs.285 and Rs.345. Nor does it make tea plantation workers at par with other sectors, with the State Government-declared minimum wage even in the poorest agricultural sector, being Rs.206 at present.
As a face saver, the agreement has also put down in writing that the agreement will remain in force till a Government committee formed on 17.2.2015 puts forward its proposal on minimum wages under the Minimum Wages Act 1948. Despite repeated appeals by various unions, no deadline has been given for this committee and it has been asked to submit its report “as early as possible”.

There are well defined and well accepted norms for the calculation of minimum wages. In West Bengal, such an exercise has been carried many steps forward, with a draft notification given in 2010 by the previous Government. With proper political will of all concerned, the exercise to declare a minimum wage for the tea sector should be possible within a short time.
We call upon the State Government to ensure that the minimum wage committee submits its report in the next three months and that the wages in tea sector are raised to meet all accepted norms and Supreme Court orders for a minimum wage.

We also extend our solidarity and support to the tea plantation workers who will now have to continue their struggle for a decent wage.

All India Forum of Forest Movements
Asanghatit Kshetra Shramik Sangrami Union, West Bengal
Binodini Shramik Union
Chemical Mazdoor Panchayat
Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (Mazdoor Karyakarta Committee).
CHITRA - Centre for Human rights Initiative, Training & Research Association, Delhi
Darjeeling Dooars United Development Foundation (DDUDF)
Durbar Mahila Sammanvay Committee, West Bengal
Durbar Disha Mahila  Griha Shramik Sammanvay Committee
Garment and Allied Workers Union , Haryana
Haldia Dock Complex Contractor Shramik Union, West Bengal
Hazards Centre , Delhi
Hero Honda Theka Mazdoor Sangathan , Haryana
Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, Uttarakhand
Hosiery Workers Unity Centre, West Bengal
Indian Oil Petronas  Contractor Shramik Union, West Bengal
IIT Kanpur Citizens' Forum
Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan, Madhya Pradesh
Jyoti Karmachari Mandal, Gujarat
Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity, Assam
Mahila Mukti Morcha, Chhattisgarh.
National Hawkers Federation
Prayavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat
Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity, West Bengal
Paschim Banga Swarojgari O Radhuni Union, West Bengal
Pragatisheel Cement Shramik Sangh
People's Union for Democratic Rights(PUDR)
Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics Workers Union, West Bengal
Shramajivi Mahila Samity, West Bengal
Shramajivi Samanvay Committee, West Bengal
TUCI West Bengal State Committee
Udayani Social Action Forum, West Bengal
Uttar Bango Bon-Jon Shromojivi Manch, West Bengal
Vadodara Kamdar Union, Gujarat
Vettiver Collective, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Amit Bhaduri, JNU, Delhi
Ankita Agarwal, Jharkahnd
Chitra Joshi
Geeta Charusivam, Tamil Nadu
Greeshma Rai
Imrana Qadeer
Juhi Jain
Kaveri Indira, Hyderabad
Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA , Delhi
Nandini Rao
Uma V.Chandru