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Hyderabad ‘Encounter’: We Can’t Hoist The Flag Of Fiasco As A Mark Of Victory

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The Hyderabad, alleged, encounter is a blatant blot on the Republic of India, and a sheer betrayal of our Constitutional commitments. This, prima facie, seems to be a staged murder orchestrated by the State. The story of the police, that they had to open fire in self-defense, appears to be a crystal-clear concocted narrative. No one in their right state of mind can buy this logic, because to buy this logic means defying one’s common sense.

The police claimed that the alleged accused tried to overpower the armed police personnel with sticks and stones. They added that the alleged accused managed to snatch their arms and started firing at the police force in order to escape. This forced retaliation on the part of the police that led to their deaths, they argued. This is not merely a farcical reasoning proffered by the police, but also encompasses enormous confidence that, irrespective of the ludicrousness of logic, they can get away with it.

 

Cyberabad’s current Police Commissioner VC Sajjanar has a shoddy history of proffering similar reasoning for similar encounter killings in the past. In 2008, three men, accused in an acid attack case, were shot in a similar encounter by the police. Sajjanar was then the Superintendent of Police, Warangal, and had advanced astonishingly similar reasons in defense of police actions.

This time too, he presented to us the same stale script of self-defense. The legal sanctity of the doctrine of self-defense doesn’t stay in the statute book to extend shelter to someone’s murderous mentality. It is not there to harbour someone’s homicidal habits.

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana Police have a pernicious past of indulging in extrajudicial killings. A recent RTI response from NHRC too revealed that Andhra Pradesh topped in fake encounter cases. VC Sajjanar simply continued this ignominious legacy of trampling India’s Constitutional values with nearly absolute impunity.

This is the danger of de facto impunity once it is accorded to a police officer by snubbing his glaring illegalities. It starts acquiring a monstrous momentum that, in turn, can gain the potential to put democracy at peril. Such cold-blooded murders relegate rule of law to a ridiculous idea of justice.

The world at large saw the dreadful acts of terrorists Ajmal Kasab and his companions on live television, massacring the masses by invading India’s sovereignty. But yet, after being caught alive, this country gave him his rights of legal defense. He had his lawyer arguing for years before he was convicted and hanged.

It enhanced India’s image as a robust republic in global eyes. Democracy is nothing sans due process. The idea of due process runs deep into the body and spirit of a democratic republic. On this count, the Hyderabad alleged encounter fails our fundamental Constitutional beliefs.

No country becomes a democracy merely because it is declared so in its Constitutional document. It has to earn its reputation of being one over a considerable period of time through its democratic actions. There are many totalitarian regimes across this world that call itself democracies, but the people know that they are not. This is because they have not earned it. This is because their actions defy their words.

People celebrating the alleged encounter of four rape accused by Hyderabad Police encounter. Image source: USNews

India is a democracy, not merely because we have declared to be one in our fundamental legal document, but because we have earned it over a period of time. India cannot afford to rupture its hard-earned reputation of a robust republic.

Audi Alterem Partem is one of the fundamental tenets of natural justice. It implies that an accused too must be accorded a fair hearing. Article 21 in the Constitution of India also argues for the same principle. It guarantees Constitutional protection against arbitrary State actions. To violate this Constitutional sanctity means to crush the credibility of a democracy, and the cornerstone upon which it stands.

I agree that in India, the justice delivery system is too sluggish to conquer people’s beliefs. But, at the same time, I must say that vigilantism can never be a valid response to such sluggishness. The people are the real stakeholders in a democracy. It entrusts a greater responsibility at our shoulders to ceaselessly fight for the establishment of a proper and responsive system.

Our duties, in a democracy, do not terminate at polling booths. The people should invariably keep fighting for political accountability, police accountability, judicial accountability, and bureaucratic accountability. The solution will emanate from there, not from demanding frontier justice.

Representational image.

When people and Parliamentarians celebrate such seemingly State-orchestrated brutalities, they are ostensibly trying to hoist the ‘flag of fiasco’ as a mark of victory. The celebration of the killing of our Constitutional values can be termed nothing but a fiasco.

The celebration of such chilling chicanery in the name of encounters symbolises a cessation of our willingness to march towards a civilised society. India cannot march back to a darker age. Despite all it’s failing and flaws, India is a democracy and it must remain one.

Our Constitutional and Civilizational values do not imbibe the idea of celebrating barbarism. In a Constitutional democracy, insanity must perish and sanity must prevail.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

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.

Read more about her campaign.

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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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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 Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’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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