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Are You A Terrorist-Sympathiser If You Question The Bhopal Encounter Killings?

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By Abhishek Jha:

The family members of the 8 alleged SIMI activists, who were shot and killed in an encounter recently, are about to file a complaint at the MIDC police station in Solapur, Maharashtra, Thahavur Khan, one of the defence advocates of the slain prisoners, told YKA on November 3. This will include cases against high-profile office bearers, he said.

The police version of the October 31 encounter, which took place after an alleged jailbreak from the Bhopal Central Jail, has since run into contradictions with questions being raised about the veracity of the claims being made.

Two videos of the encounter, contradictory accounts given by officials as to whether or not the accused were armed, court documents, and defence lawyers– all argue against the police narrative. Despite these questions, both Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and MoS (Home Affairs) Kiren Rijiju have been reiterating that doubts should not be raised since those killed were accused of acts of crime and terrorism.

Such an approach, Prof. Manisha Sethi- who is a member of the Jamia Teacher Solidarity Association (JTSA)- says, mixes up the terms of the debate. JTSA was formed after the infamous Batla House Encounter in 2008 by teachers of Jamia and has since done extensive documentation on false terror cases. Most recently they have supported the questions raised in the Bhopal encounter and raised some of their own in a press statement.

Sethi says that what is being defended is the “rule of law, on which alone democracies can be based. Our Constitution mandates a trial regardless of the charges against the accused” responding to the refrain that one should not defend criminals. Madhya Pradesh CM Chouhan has, for instance, in various manners expressed shock that “dreaded terrorists” are being sympathised with. “It is at the conclusion of the trial that the courts decide the punishment. No one, not the Home Minister, not the Chief Minister, not the DIG, not the jailor, has the power to mete out justice through the gun”. Article 21, she adds, grants the right to life to all citizens, irrespective of what they are accused of, Sethi says.

“Second, there are many who will say today that these Constitutional principles ought not to apply to terrorists. This is a very dangerous argument,” she explains. The reason she cites is this might lead to a slippery slope where, once the principle of the rule of law is eroded, it would not apply to even thieves, pick-pockets, striking workers- “any one in fact whose ‘crimes’ can be shown to be horrible enough“- and eventually to none of us.

Furthering the acceptance of the encounter is the fact that they were allegedly members of a banned organisation. This fact that SIMI was banned, Sethi says, has become a convenient excuse for filing cases against Muslim youth.

“If you were to look at the FIRs in these SIMI cases from Madhya Pradesh, you would realize how they are basically copies of each other: similar charges, similar stories, even identical accused and evidence in different cases. It’s a mockery of the criminal justice system. The same copy of a magazine has been produced in at least 4 different cases across the state, clippings of newspapers carrying reports about SIMI activists arrests, posters and pamphlets of meetings that dated to the time before SIMI was banned – this is the kind of evidence that is produced against these ‘dreaded SIMI terrorists’,” she tells YKA. These cases were recorded in the JTSA report ‘Guilt by Association’ published in 2013.

Chouhan has also reportedly said that he “would have understood” in case the jail guard Rama Shankar Yadav was mourned. Sethi says that the death of the jail guard, Rama Shankar Yadav, is “senseless and condemnable as all violent deaths are“. “Only a free and fair enquiry can establish the course of events that took place in the jail. But alongside there is a question: will the death of the jail guard be used cynically by the police establishment and the ruling dispensation to throw the Constitution into the dustbin?” she asks.

Featured and Banner Image Credit: Hindustan Times/Contributor/Getty Images

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  1. ashutosh_jha91

    Can YKA verify the statements given by Prof.Sethi? Why her statements are directly put down with so much authority?

    Not a complete click Bait but the title suggested otherwise.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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