Monday, September 30, 2013

What we carry over to our next life

Published: 30th September 2013 09:28 AM
When the soul is in the causal body it has within itself an imprint of the impressions of the experiences it underwent during its life on the lower planes i.e., the mental, astral and the physical planes. When the life on the higher mental sub-plane comes to an end, trishna reasserts itself, and the ego once again turns its attention outwards.

Desire with its army of tendencies consisting of material qualities, sensations, abstract ideas, tendencies of mind, awaits the ego as it re-emerges to assume a new incarnation. The seeds of past tendencies commence to germinate as soon as the new personality begins to form itself for the new incarnation.

The process is brought about by the ego turning its attention first to the stored mental impressions, which immediately resume activity and then to the stored astral impressions. The tendencies, which had been in a condition of suspended animation, are thrown outwards by the ego as it returns to re-birth.   First, it draws around itself matter from the physical world, and its elemental essence.  The ego thus begins in this respect exactly where it had left off.   Next, it draws round itself matter from the astral world and its elemental essence thus obtaining the materials out of which its new astral body will be built, causing re-appearance of appetites, emotions, and passions brought over from past lives.

The astral matter is gathered by the ego descending to re-birth automatically. This material is an exact reproduction of the matter in the astral body at the end of its last astral life. The soul thus resumes its life in each world just where it had left it last time.  Each incarnation is inevitably and automatically linked with the preceding lives, so that the whole series forms a continuous, unbroken chain.

This ego in its descent to incarnation does not receive ready-made mental and astral bodies, instead it receives material out of which these bodies will be built, in the course of the life that is to follow. Moreover the matter it receives is capable of providing it with mental and astral bodies, exactly of the same type it had at the end of its last astral and mental lives, respectively.

The qualities are simply the germs of qualities, which have secured for themselves a possible field of manifestation in the matter of the new bodies. Whether they develop in this life into the same tendencies as in the last one will depend largely upon the encouragement, given to them by the surroundings of the child during its early years. Any one of them, good or bad may be readily stimulated into activity by encouragement, or, on the other hand may be starved out for lack of that encouragement. If stimulated, it becomes a more powerful factor in one’s life this time than it was in one’s previous existence, if starved out, it remains merely as an unfructified germ. The child cannot thus be said to have as yet a definite astral body, but the matter out of which to build it.

For example, suppose one was a drunkard in one’s past life, in kamaloka or astral plane one would have burnt out the desire for drink and be definitely freed from it. But although the desire itself is dead, there still remains the same weakness of character which made it possible for one to be subjected by it. In one’s next life the astral body will contain matter capable of giving expression to the same desire, but one is in no way bound to employ such matter in the same way as before.

In the hands of careful and capable parents, who regard such desires as evil, one would gain control over them, repress them as they appear, and hence the astral matter will remain unvivified and become atrophied from want of use. The matter of the astral body is slowly but constantly wearing away and being replaced, precisely as is that of the physical body.

As atrophied matter disappears it will be replaced by matter of a more refined order. Thus are vices finally conquered and made virtually impossible for the future.

The article has been taken from the book ‘Life Beyond Death’ by Anil Sharma


Saturday, September 28, 2013

CM explains the perils of bifurcation

Published: 28th September 2013 07:58 AM

 Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy pointing out at Andhra Pradesh map during the media conference at CM's camp office in Hyderabad on Friday. (Express photo)
Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy pointing out at Andhra Pradesh map during the media conference at  CM's camp office in Hyderabad on Friday. (Express photo)
Chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy has sought to build a very strong case for Samaikyandhra by narrating the problems state’s division will throw up.

Speaking to mediapersons at his camp office here on Friday, he said, “The problems are insurmountable. There might be some benefits but the problems will outnumber them. In such a case, which one is a wise decision, bifurcation or unity?

He spoke on irrigation and government and private sector employees’ problems. He recalled that the Fazal Ali Commission had recommended in 1956 that the state remain united for proper utilisation of water resources and said its suggestion held water even today. Explaining his point with the help of a map, he said that had the united state not been formed, there was no way Nagarjuna Sagar and Srisailam dams could have been built on Krishna river.

RESERVOIRS: The Nagarjuna Sagar dam (1967) led to submergence of 70,000 acres, the Srsaialm dam (1982) to 88,000 acres and Pulichintala 28,000 acres. “Had the state not remained united, could we have built these reservoirs with so much submergence? See the kind of problems we are facing on Polavaram now?” the chief minister said.

“If the state is divided, it will cause untold suffering to farmers. Several projects have been taken up under Srisilam for impounding 325 tmcft of water though assured water is only 99.7 tmcft. If the state is divided, there will only be assured water and not surplus water to feed the additional projects under Srisailam.

“There will be several other problems. Even if the Centre set ups a mechanism, it is unlikely that it will address the problems because such mechanisms set up in the past failed. If there is enough water, it is fine. If not, the problems will arise and cause water wars between the two states.”

Referring to power, he said Telangana state would suffer because the lift irrigation schemes in the region would require 175 million units. For power porjects to generate that much electricity, an investment of Rs 45,000 crore would be needed. “Where will Telangana state get that much money from?” he asked.

GOVT JOBS: On the apprehensions of employees, he said it was on account of the appointments made in accordance with rules in force in a combined state. Under the Six-Point Formula, 70 per cent of government vacancies in a district were filled by people hailing from that district. In the remaining 30 per cent vacancies, people from other districts were appointed. When the state is divided, these people will have a serious problem.

Under zonal system, there are six zones in the state. Seventy per cent of jobs in a zone are filled by people from that zone and the rest  from other zones. Ten to 11 per cent of jobs in common cadre posts are filled by people from all districts.

Then there is the question of pensions. Those who retired from service have settled down in Hyderabad or in some other districts. “After division, how will pensions be paid to them?”

NO ASSURANCE: These problems surfaced when states were divided elsewhere in the country. These problems are difficult to solve. That is why the Centre should address them first. But though it is about 58 days now since the CWC announced its decision on Telangana, no assurance has come from the Centre. The decision to divide was political. It should be backed by government’s action programme as to how it would address these myriad problem. That is lacking.”

The chief minister made an appeal to the Seemandhra government employees to call off their strike since political leadership was seized of the issue. “They have forgone Rs 1,000 crore in the form salaries. They should call off the strike now since they have made their point known to the Centre,” he  said.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

House debate on Sri Krishna report sought

Published: 26th September 2013 10:34 AM
Chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy should intervene to call a special Assembly session to discuss the Sri Krishna Committee report and adopt a resolution in favour of united Andhra Pradesh to be sent to the Centre, Andhra Pradesh Rastra Parirakshna Vedika (APRPV), a non-political organisation, has said.

The APRPV will conduct seminars in Tirupati and Guntur on October 3 and 5 respectively to tell the people about the difficulties involved in dividing the state.

Addressing a press conference, it demanded that the MPs and Union ministers should resign immediately to mount pressure on the Centre to reconsider its decision on the bifurcation of the state. However, it was of the view that MLAs should refrain from resignations to express their opposition to state division in the Assembly.

“The announcement of the CWC decision to carve out Telangana state is not in accordance with the law, because the Centre did not think about State Reorganisation Commission to divide the state,” said former High Court judge justice Lakshman Reddy, president of APRPV.

On the city police rejecting permission for seminars on the bifurcation issue in Hyderabad, he said, “It is really saddening that people do not have the right to express their views in Hyderabad. The chief minister and the government should take note of this.”

Further, he appealed to all political leaders across the state not to make provocative speeches and urged them to bring back the lost glory to the state.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

India’s Women: The Mixed Truth

Amartya Sen

“I am not a boy, I am a girl,” wrote a twenty-one-year-old woman in Delhi, called Jyoti, who was studying at a medical college to be a physiotherapist. This was in a text message sent in December 2010 to a twenty-six-year-old man who worked in information technology and who had initially taken Jyoti to be a man. They met, and what began as a casual communication became a close friendship.


Women shielding themselves from a dust storm, Rajasthan, India, 1983; photograph by Steve McCurry from his book Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs, which includes fourteen of his photo stories from India, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and other countries, along with essays about his work and ephemera from his personal archive. It has just been published by Phaidon.

 Two years later, on December 16, 2012, after they had seen a film, The Life of Pi, Jyoti was gang-raped with extreme brutality, and the man was severely beaten as he tried to protect her. They had been tricked into boarding a bus that seemed to be going their way and that had offered them a ride. It was a closed bus with darkened windows in which five determined rapists were waiting for their prey, with their impatience heightened, it is alleged, by the drugs they had taken. The battered bodies of the abused pair were dropped off on a lonely street, and by the time Jyoti received medical attention, she was on her way to death from the injuries, despite specialized medical care in Delhi, and later in Singapore.

The gang rape, including the violence accompanying it, not only got headlines in every serious Indian newspaper, it received continuous coverage around the clock on radio, television, and cable channels. It also led to large-scale public protests and demonstrations that continued for many days in Delhi as well as in other Indian cities, with agitated crowds—men and women—much larger than any seen before in protests of this kind. The insecurity of women, including their vulnerability to rape and abuse, became overnight a national issue in a way it had never been.

Public anger at gender inequality in India must be seen as an important—and long-overdue—social development, and it can certainly help in remedying the persistent inequalities from which Indian women suffer. It is, however, very important to understand the nature of female disadvantage in India, which can take many different forms. If the lack of safety of women is one aspect of it, the old phenomenon of “boy preference” in family decisions is surely another. Boy preference relates closely to the deep-rooted problem of what has been called “missing women,” which refers to the shortfall of the actual number of women from the number we would expect to see, given the size of the male population, and the female–male ratios that could be expected if there were symmetry in the treatment of women and men. There is, moreover, strong evidence that the economic and social options open to women are significantly fewer than those available to men; and going beyond women’s well-being, we have reason to ask also about women’s limited role in society and their ability to act independently, and how their initiatives and actions influence the lives of men as well as women, and boys as well as girls.

Numbers and Insecurity

One of the positive consequences of the agitation following the barbaric incident of December 16 has been to draw attention both to the prevalence of sexual brutality and rape in India, and to the failure of the media to report on it seriously, thereby limiting public discussion and the likelihood of social change. Even though Indians buy more newspapers every day than any other nation, the reporting of sexual assaults and sexual harassment had been quite rare in the widely circulated papers. It is, therefore, impressive and encouraging that newspapers in India, smarting from intense criticism of the negligence in their coverage, rapidly reinvented themselves as rape-reporting journals, and many of them have been devoting several pages every day to reports of rapes gathered together from all the different parts of India. This dramatic change is certainly a welcome development, but it can be asked whether the ongoing news reporting is well aimed and as helpful for public discussion as it could be.

How frequent is rape in India? If there are pages and pages of reports of rapes from across the country in the newspapers, the incidence must be high. There are, in fact, good reasons to believe that the majority of rapes go unreported in India, and the actual incidence of rape may be much higher (some estimates suggest that it is larger by a factor of five or more) than what gets recorded by the police. Based on the news coverage of rape across India, it has been argued, with some plausibility, that India has an extraordinarily high frequency of rape. To what extent is this the right way of thinking about India’s problem? Rape and brutality against women are not exactly unknown around the world. One question is whether rape is relatively more common in India than elsewhere, despite the increased attention it is now getting in Indian news reports.

In fact, if we go by the comparative statistics of reported rape, India has one of the lowest levels of rape in the world. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found the incidence of rape in India for 2010 to be 1.8 per 100,000 people, compared with, for example, 27.3 in the US, 28.8 in the UK, 63.5 in Sweden, and 120.0 in South Africa. The number of recorded rapes in India is certainly a substantial underestimate, but even if we take five times—or ten times—that figure, the corrected and enlarged estimates of rapes would still be substantially lower in India than in the US, the UK, Sweden, or South Africa (even with the assumption that there is no underreporting in these other countries).

High frequency of rape may not be the real issue in India, but all the evidence suggests that India has a huge problem in seriously monitoring rape and taking steps to reduce it. The failure of the police to help rape victims and to ensure the safety of women is particularly lamentable. Following the December incident there were large clashes with the police by protesting crowds, not only because of the attempts by the police to break them up, but also because the demonstrators frequently confronted the police for their very poor record in dealing with this problem.

Even though the alleged rapists in the particular case on December 16 were picked up by the police quite quickly and promptly charged in court, the police were criticized for acting too slowly in giving emergency care when the raped victim and her beaten male friend were found lying on the street. Even in dealing with another terrible aspect of the December incident, the failure of people in passing cars to stop to help the victims (even though some of them did call the police), it was claimed that many passersby are afraid to get involved in a scene of criminal activity because of the fear that the police can—and often do—harass the good Samaritans who are found near the victims of crime, rather than searching diligently for the criminals who have fled the scene.

There was discussion also of the large number of cases in which the police seemed to doubt the credibility of a rape victim on the ground that the suspected rapist told a different story that seemed “equally credible” to the authorities. The Indian judicial system is itself extremely slow, and has not typically been able to rise to the challenge of bringing about speedy convictions of rapists and assaulters on the basis of the information provided by the victims. But the courts are certainly not well served by the unclear information provided by police reports on what exactly happened. From what we know, India’s problem may well lie not so much in a particularly high incidence of rapes, but in its inefficient policing, bad security arrangements, slow-moving judicial system, and, ultimately, the callousness of the society.

Legal Reform and Social Change

One of the salutary effects of the public agitation about women’s insecurity and the inadequacy of the law and policing was the appointment—within a week of the December 16 incident—of a Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law, chaired by a former chief justice of the Supreme Court of India, J.S. Verma, with two other leading jurists, Leila Seth and Gopal Subramanium, as members. Their report, which was thoroughly researched yet delivered in less than a month, led to a new law, enacted in Parliament by the end of March, aimed at providing more adequate, and quicker, legal remedy to violated or threatened women.

Some of the proposals of the Verma Committee were diluted in Parliament, and many human rights activists have plausibly criticized this weakening, including the continued failure to include among sexual offenses what is sometimes called “marital rape”—forced sexual activity with an unwilling partner. There are other gaps too in the parliamentary act; but taking everything into account, the new act is a substantial, though partial, step forward in dealing with gender injustice in India.

Four new provisions are important. First, the act has a broader and more inclusive definition of the crime of “sexual assault”: it includes, but goes beyond, what counts technically as rape. Second, there is a prima facie presumption of nonconsensual sex when the affected woman affirms (even if unilaterally) that there was no consent. Third, “sexual harassment”—common on the streets of some cities in India—is included among the list of criminal acts. Finally, there is a new emphasis on the criminality of the sexual trafficking of young women, mainly for the purpose of forced prostitution.

Such trafficking—sometimes even of very young girls—remains disturbingly common in India, although few serious statistics have been collected about it. There is, however, considerable evidence that the sex trade is indeed big business in India. And yet the newspapers are still shockingly negligent in their failure to investigate this area of darkness (unlike what has happened in the case of rape). Most cases of sexual trafficking involve young women from very poor families, and here the difficulty in getting authorities and journalists, among others, to cross class barriers in their care and concern—a distressingly general phenomenon in India—affects the zeal with which information is sought. There is a clear need for the new activism of newspapers to go well beyond the reporting and discussion of only rapes.

To some extent, the class barrier preventing information from being collected is a problem even in dealing with rapes, not just sex trafficking. Even though Jyoti came from a family of modest means (her father is a baggage loader at the airport), her family was upwardly mobile. It was easier for the Indian middle classes, including the educated middle classes, to take an immediate interest in the predicament of a young medical student than it would have been in the case of a rape of a poor and socially distant Dalit woman. There is a broad and urgent need to supplement the new provisions of the recently enacted law with ways to obtain and disseminate information about the treatment of women from the poorer classes.

There is also a regional dimension to the problem of women’s insecurity in India. It is clear that Delhi, where Jyoti’s rape occurred, has a very special problem that may not apply, in quite that form, to the other megacities in India. The rate of recorded rape per 100,000 people was 2.8 for Delhi in 2011, compared with 1.2 in Mumbai, 1.1 in Bangalore, 0.9 in Chennai, and 0.3 in Calcutta. Since there is nothing to indicate that keeping track of rape is much more efficient in Delhi than in the other cities, it is indeed remarkable that Delhi has a record that is more than nine times worse than Calcutta’s. No matter how unfriendly to women Indian society may be, huge differences exist between different regions of India, which apply to other kinds of gender inequality as well. In many ways India can be seen as a collection of distinct countries with diverse records, experiences, and problems.

Missing Women and Boy Preference

A distressing aspect of gender bias in India that shows little sign of going away is the preference for boys over girls. One of the most pernicious manifestations of this pro-male bias is the relatively higher mortality rates of girls compared with boys, not because girls are killed, but mainly because of the quiet violence of the neglect of their health and illness in comparison with the attention that male children receive. Studies have shown that male priority in care continues for adults as well as children, raising the mortality rates of adult women above those of men.

A distinct bias of “boy preference” can be found in countries extending from North Africa and West Asia to South Asia, including India, and East Asia, including China. That such discrimination has a place in a large part of the modern world is distressing: the number of “missing women” can be quite large. When I wrote on “missing women” in these pages in December 1990,* and also in the British Medical Journal, I based my conclusion on data available up to the 1980s. The missing women could be identified then as the result of the differences in mortality rates between men and women. These in turn reflected discrimination, mainly in health care, against girls and women.

Over the last couple of decades those kinds of discrimination have substantially declined in most of the countries I wrote about. Even though female mortality is still higher than male mortality for children in many Indian states, and the gap is even higher for infants in China, nevertheless in both China and India, and indeed in many of the other countries in the region, women now have a substantially higher life expectancy at birth than men.

However, since the 1980s, the wide use of new techniques such as sonograms for determining the sex of fetuses has led to huge—and growing—numbers of selective abortions of female fetuses, offsetting the gains in declining difference in mortality rates (as I discussed in the British Medical Journal in December 2003). Selective abortion of female fetuses—what can be called “natality discrimination”—is a kind of high-tech manifestation of preference for boys. Because of this counteracting influence, the proportion of missing women in the total population has not declined in many countries, including China and India. Women’s education, which has been a powerful force in reducing mortality discrimination against women and also in achieving other important social objectives such as the reduction of fertility rates, has not been able to eliminate—at least not yet—natality discrimination.

Still, we must not underestimate the effects of women’s education. There is definitive empirical evidence that women’s literacy and schooling cut down child mortality and work against the selective neglect of the health of girls. They are also the strongest influence, among all relevant causal factors, in cutting down fertility rates. The reduction of fertility that has taken place throughout India (and more sharply in Bangladesh) is clearly connected with the expansion of women’s literacy, which empowers women to have a stronger voice in family decisions. The lives that are most battered by excessive bearing and rearing of children are those of young women; any change that increases the force and impact of their voice, such as girls’ education and women’s ability to earn an independent income, has the effect of sharply reducing childbearing.

Bangladesh’s steep fall in total fertility rate from nearly seven children not long ago to 2.2 now (quite close to the replacement rate of 2.1) is strongly connected with the power of women to gain more control of their lives, and both girls’ education and women’s outside employment have done much to yield that result. I should also note here that even China’s shift from high fertility to below-replacement fertility can in many cases be more easily explained by women’s having more say, and more power, in family life—helped by education and greater economic independence—than by the draconian compulsions of its punitive “one-child policy.”

In India too, expansion of women’s schooling has contributed to its significant reduction in fertility rates. While the average of 2.4 children per family for the entire country is still above the replacement level of 2.1, this reflects a big fall from earlier rates, and nine of the twenty largest states of India have fertility rates now that are below the replacement level, which seems to reflect mainly the impact of the increased power of women to influence decisions about bearing children. Women’s education does not seem to be adequately effective in reducing discrimination against giving birth to girls; but it would be a mistake not to appreciate what female education clearly does achieve.

It is important to ask why women’s education and the corresponding enhancement of women’s voice and influence in family decisions have not done much to eliminate selective abortion of female fetuses. Educated mothers seem clearly less inclined to neglect girls compared with boys once they have been born; but they seem almost as keen on having boys rather than girls as uneducated mothers are. Here larger questions of enlightened understanding and scrutiny of traditional values become central and go beyond women’s role and influence in family decisions. There seems to be a lack of adequate awareness of the oddity of seeing girls as inferior to boys, and a lack of knowledge about what happens in other places where such discrimination against girls is not present.

An analogy can be drawn here with Adam Smith’s discussion, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, of the willing acceptance of the alleged necessity of infanticide by intellectuals in ancient Greece. Smith quoted Plato and Aristotle in defense of infanticide. He thought that the hold of parochial values can be broken primarily by knowledge of what happens elsewhere and how other people think about the same problems. It was with respect to such parochialism that Smith emphasized the importance of considering how a local custom would look to people at “a certain distance from us,” which is a part of his thought experiment of invoking an “impartial spectator.” What is crucial here is not just freedom of action but also freedom of thought and the ability to overcome parochial boundaries of thinking.

In China and South Korea, the standard routes to women’s empowerment, such as female literacy and economic independence, have resulted in major achievements. But with the new techniques of sex determination of fetuses, discrimination through selective abortion of female fetuses became surprisingly common in both countries. This has led to organized public initiatives to make women aware of the value of having daughters and not just sons. Such efforts have had much more success in Korea than in China, where the female–male ratio at birth remains lower even than in India.

Contrasts Within India

While female education does not serve as a silver bullet to prevent discrimination against girls, other factors make the experience of the different regions within India quite diverse. In fact, there is a sharp regional divide. In the northern and western states, there is clear evidence of extensive use of selective abortion of female fetuses. In the states in the south and east of India, we do not typically find evidence of its widespread use.

Everywhere in the world more boys are born than girls, and the female–male ratio at conception is even more sharply biased in the direction of males (the standard ratio is often taken to be 910 conceptions of female fetuses compared with 1,000 male conceptions). But females do better than males in survival, if they have equal care, which they tend to get in the uterus. By the time births take place, the female–male ratio is around 940 to 950 females per 1,000 males in European countries. Between 2005 and 2010, the average ratio of females to males at birth for Europe as a whole was 943 females per 1,000 males.

There are variations within the European countries that cannot be plausibly attributed to the effects of presumed practices of sex-selective abortion; and so we have to accept a range of values for “normal” sex ratio at birth. Among the larger European countries, the female–male ratio at birth is 941 in Italy, 940 in Spain, 939 in Greece, and 935 in Ireland. If we take the ratio of 935 per 1,000 (the ratio for Ireland) as a standard against which to measure selective abortion of female fetuses, what can be said about the Indian states?

Since birth registration is incomplete in India, the ratios of girls to boys at birth are calculated by first looking at the actual numbers of girls and boys in the age group between zero and six (counted by the census), and then working backward to the female–male birth ratio by adjusting the zero to six figures for differences in mortality rates at specific ages between birth and age six. Using this method with the data provided by the 2011 census, it appears that all the states in the north and west of India, without exception, show absolutely clear evidence that sex-selective abortion is practiced to a much greater degree than is generally the case in the states in the east and south. Though many of the states even in the south and east have had some fall in female–male ratio among children between the censuses of 2001 and 2011, even in 2011 the female–male ratio at birth in the south and east of India remains not only substantially higher than in the north and the west, but also within the European range for such ratios.

Mike King

Estimated female-male ratio at birth, per 1,000 males

In fact, we can draw a dividing line to cut India into two halves (see the map above), with the states in the west and north (including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarkhand, and Jammu and Kashmir) showing clear evidence of widespread sex-selective abortion, with female–male ratios well below the cut-off line of 935 per 1,000 males. In fact, in all western and northern states this ratio actually is even below 920, and in many of these states well below 900.

This contrasts sharply with the figures for states in the east and south—Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, and Assam—all of which have ratios above 935 (with Odisha marginally so). In those states the use of sex-selective abortion, when present, is not on a scale to pull the female–male ratio below the cut-off line based on Irish figures. Incidentally, the data from Bangladesh, where the female–male ratio for the age-group zero to four years is 972, conform strongly to the pattern of eastern India, which it adjoins.

Why is there such a regional difference? I do not know of any convincing clear-cut answer to this question, even though the correspondence of these gender-specific differences with language groups and cultural practices offers fruitful lines of research. Any serious explanation will demand a much fuller understanding of the diversities between India’s different traditional cultures, as well differences in economic, political, and social influences.

While that important research must be done, there are many necessary actions that need not await the results of that research. There is a need for better policing and for greater media attention to neglected issues, including sexual trafficking and marital rape. There is an extremely powerful case for paying much more attention to schooling for girls, for more political and social discussion of the peculiarity—and the moral strangeness and inequity—of “boy preference,” and for more commitment by India’s mainstream political parties to address the issues central to gender inequality. There is a lot to do on the basis of what we do know, even as we remain engaged in finding out more about regional cultures and divergent behavior within India.


Thursday, September 19, 2013

ANR's birthday to be celebrated with fanfare

By IANS - HYDERABAD | Published: 18th September 2013 12:31 PM

Akkineni Nageswara Rao (EPS Photo)
    Akkineni Nageswara Rao (EPS Photo)

Acting legend Akkineni Nageswara Rao (ANR) turns 90 Friday. His birthday will be celebrated as a grand affair here by Lalitha Kala Parishath, under the supervision of politician and film enthusiast T. Subbarami Reddy.

The film industry's bigwigs are expected to grace the event, which will take place at Ravindra Bharathi.

"We have decided to celebrate his birthday on a grand scale. It's a proud moment for our industry to honour an actor of this stature. Besides the Akkineni family, the event will also presided over by governor ESL Narsimhan, actor-politician Chiranjeevi and filmmaker D. Rama Naidu among many more," a member of Lalitha Kala Parishath, told IANS.

"He (Nageswara Rao) will be felicitated on this occasion by our governor and Chiranjeevi. Several other Telugu academies such as Yuva Kala Vahani and Delhi Telugu academy will also felicitate him for his contribution to Telugu industry," he added.

Meanwhile, popular southern composer M.M. Keeravani will receive the ANR lifetime achievement award, which was instituted by Rasamayi Foundation, a Telugu cultural forum.

"He will receive the award in a separate ceremony on Saturday (Sep 21) in Ravindra Bharati. He will be felicitated by Nageswara Rao on the occasion," said Ramamurthy, convener of Rasamayi Foundation.


Monday, September 16, 2013

Telugu Woman Wins Miss America: Nina Davuluri


VIJAYAWADA: Nina Davuluri was on Sunday night crowned Miss America-2013 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The 24-year-old Miss New York is the first contestant of Indian origin to become Miss America.

Nina's family hails from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh and the city is busy celebrating Nina's victory. Her maternal grandmother V Koteshwaramma, who runs the Montessori group of institutions was elated at her grand daughter's feat. Her mother Shiela Ranjani and her father Koteswara Chowdhary, both of whom are doctors, had migrated to the US in the early 80s and Nina was born and brought up in America...
Nina grew up in a family of doctors. Apart from her parents, her maternal aunt and uncle are also doctors and so is her elder sister Meena, who is studying medicine in the US. Her paternal uncles are also doctors in the US.

"In fact, Nina also wanted to pursue medicine and wanted to become a cardiologist. However, she has ended up winning the Miss America title," Koteswaramma said. According to her, Nina is a fan of Telugu films and Telugu culture and is trained in Kuchipudi and Bharatha Natyam.

Read article (Times of India).

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Delhi rape: how India's other half lives

The brutal gang-rape on a bus highlighted the routine abuse of Indian women – and how the nation's surge to superpower status has left millions behind struggling on the margins

in Delhi
The Guardian,
Indian activists at a candlelight vigil in Kolkata after cremation of gangrape victim

Protesters at a candlelit vigil in Kolkata after the cremation of the Delhi gang-rape victim. Photograph: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty

It was a Sunday evening routine: heavy drinking, some rough, rustic food, and then out in the bus, cruising Delhi's streets looking for "fun". This particular Sunday, 16 December last year, was like many others for Ram and Mukesh Singh, two brothers living in a slum known as Ravi Das Colony. The "fun", on previous occasions, had meant a little robbery to earn money for a few bottles of cheap whisky and for the roadside prostitutes who work the badly lit roads of the ragged semi-urban, semi-rural zones around the edges of the sprawling Indian capital.

However, this Sunday evening was to end not with a "party", as one of the men later called their habitual outings, but with the gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman. The incident was to prompt a global outcry and weeks of protests in India, and to reveal problems often ignored by those overseas who are perhaps too eager to embrace a heartwarming but simplistic narrative of growing prosperity in the world's biggest democracy.

If sympathy lay, naturally, with the 23-year-old physiotherapist who was the victim of the attack, fascination focused on her assailants. These were not serial sex criminals, psychopaths or brutalised men from the margins of society. Their backgrounds were, perhaps more worryingly, like those of tens of millions of Indian men.

Nor was Ravi Das Colony "the underbelly" of the Indian capital, as one local newspaper described it. A few hundred homes crammed on to a patch of land flanked by a road, a temple and a recently restored medieval tomb, it lies like an outpost of another, poorer India amid the relatively well-off suburbs to the south of the city.

Like hundreds of other settlements across the metropolis, all founded by squatting migrants, who have been drawn to Delhi for decades, its single-room homes are overcrowded and noisy, but its doorsteps are swept clean each night and, though police venture rarely into its narrow lanes, order is maintained by the knowledge that almost every act, even the most intimate, will be instantly known to the entire community.

For Ram and Mukesh Singh, 34 and 26 years old, Ravi Das Colony had been home for most of their lives. Ram earned a living as the driver of a bus that, albeit without the necessary permits, carried schoolchildren.

Ram Singh, who led the attack on the Delhi rape victim  

Ram Singh, who led the attack, according to his fellow accused. He died in police custody. The police said he killed himself; his family disputes this Ram's brother, fired from a dozen jobs, intermittently drove a taxi.

The two had grown up on a small homestead in Karauli, a remote eastern part of the state of Rajasthan, five hours by train from the capital. They attended a local school with few facilities and an often absent teacher, playing in the fields and dried riverbeds. They came to Delhi in 1997. India was then beginning to boom after the reforms of the early 1990s injected a new capitalist energy into the sclerotic, quasi-socialist-quasi-feudal economy, and their landless labourer parents decided to try their luck in the capital.

Percentage of Indian population living in urban areas  
Percentage of Indian population living in urban areas

But if life in the city was better than the brutal poverty of the village, the improvement was only marginal. After a decade, their father and mother returned to Karauli and the brothers stayed on in a one-room brick home, brutally hot in the heat of the summer, freezing in winter. Ram, a slim, dark, small man, married a woman with three children by another man. She died of cancer shortly afterwards without bearing him a child of his own. After her death, he started drinking heavily and fighting. When he drove his bus into a lorry, he damaged an arm permanently. (Ram later appeared on one of India's hugely popular reality shows, angrily accusing his former employer of refusing him compensation for his injury. The bus owner accused him of being negligent and rash.)

Though they left local girls alone, the Singh brothers were known among their neighbours for drunkenness, petty crime and occasional, unpredictable violence. The younger brother, Mukesh, was personable, if impressionable, according to teenagers in the neighbourhood. "He was fine on his own but different when he was with his brother," one said, speaking a few days after the incident that would make the pair, if only for a short time, globally infamous.

Ratio of Indian children aged under six 

Ratio of Indian children aged under six Ram Singh spent the afternoon of 16 December visiting relatives elsewhere in the city, returning home at about 5pm. The day before, a 17-year-old drifter who had worked with him a year previously as an assistant on his bus had come to collect a debt of 6,000 rupees (£70). The money was not ready and, with little else to do, the teenager had stayed on, sleeping on the bare floor of the small house. Also staying was another young man, 28-year-old Akshay Thakur, who eked out a living helping Ram Singh on his bus, and had no home of his own.

India and Pakistan income, GDP per capita  
India and Pakistan income, GDP per capita

Both the 17-year-old, known as Raju, and Thakur had their own troubled histories. Their paths had taken them through a side of India that has less to do with the emerging economic powerhouse of international repute and more to do with a tenacious, older India riven by conflict, poverty, chaos and random violence.

The eldest of five children, Raju was born to a destitute day labourer with mental health issues and his wife in a village 150 miles east of Delhi, in the vast northern state of Uttar Pradesh which has 180 million inhabitants and socio-economic indicators often worse than those in sub-Saharan Africa. As in rural Rajasthan, where the Singh brothers came from, women in the countryside of Uttar Pradesh suffer systematic sexual harassment and often violence. Rape is common and gang rape frequent. Victims are habitually blamed for supposedly enticing their attackers. Many are forced to marry their assailants; others kill themselves rather than live with the social stigma of being "dishonoured". Police rarely register a complaint, let alone investigate.

When only 10 or 11 years old, Raju was sent from his village home for Delhi. Though for some time he intermittently sent his parents money, they had no idea where he was. According to Raju's statement to police, the country boy had found food, shelter and a meagre wage as a dishwasher and server in a cheap dhaba, or roadside foodstall, in a rough neighbourhood called Trilokpuri, on the margins of the city's sprawl across the northern bank of the stinking, if still holy, river Yamuna.

Created as a new home for slum dwellers cleared from Delhi's old city in the 1970s, Trilokpuri is another zone of transition, still halfway between the urban and the rural, where buffalo graze amid plastic bags and rubbish in the wastelands that separate new, poorly built cement blocks of flats.

Age of Indian population  

Age of Indian population

After six months at a stall, sleeping below the tables and eating leftovers, Raju found work as a milkman's assistant before returning to washing dishes, this time at a dhaba serving Delhi's favourite street food of chole bhatura, spiced chickpeas. Finally he pitched up at a third establishment where the owner remembers a hardworking, slight and personable young man liked by the hundreds of customers, mainly rickshaw drivers, who each day paid 20 or 30 rupees for a bowl of beef curry with thick, rustic bread.

Delhi police inspect the bus believed to be the vehicle in which the woman was gang-raped.  

Delhi police inspect the bus believed to be the vehicle in which the woman was gang-raped. The suspects tried to run her over after throwing her off the bus. Photograph: Strdel/AFP

Raju earned 3,000 rupees a month but left in the summer of 2011 after Ram Singh, who was a regular at the dhaba, asked him to work as an assistant on his bus. After a few months he moved on again, taking a job as a cleaner at a bus station in the south of Delhi where he slept in empty vehicles but remained friends with the man from Ravi Das Colony. He had stopped sending money home and his parents, back in his remote native village, believed he was dead.

The fourth man sharing the food and cheap whisky in the Singh brothers' home in Ravi Das Colony that Sunday evening was Akshay Thakur, who also came from a distant village deep in a desperately poor and conservative part of India. He, too, had left his home, 80 miles from Patna, the state capital of Bihar, for Delhi, though his journey was less direct, taking him five years and a variety of poorly paid, often physically arduous jobs such as working in brick kilns and selling illegal home-brewed "country liquor" before he ended up replacing Raju, working on Ram Singh's bus.

The four men were thus all representative of a substantial element of contemporary Indian society. (The median age in India is 25, with two-thirds of the 1.2 billion population under 35.) They were semi-skilled and poorly educated, like so many other products of the country's failing education systems. They were migrants from the country to the town – four of the millions of individuals who over recent decades have converted an almost entirely rural country into an increasingly urbanised one. They were unmarried in a part of India where men outnumber women and gender imbalances are worsening. They were drinking in a city known for high levels of alcohol abuse. There was nothing very extraordinary about them. Yet within hours they would commit acts that would prompt outrage across the planet.

about 8pm, after the "party" had been going for nearly three hours, Ram Singh was called by the owner of the bus he drove for a living, and asked to buy a cylinder of cooking gas. He turned to his friends and, according to Raju's statement to the police, said: "Let's go out and have some fun."

Delhi traffic  

Delhi's sclerotic roads. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

The men headed for the bus, which was parked 100 metres or so away on a side road, the statement says. On the way, they called on friends in the slum to join them. Two did: Pawan Gupta, a 19-year-old fruit seller and student, and Vinay Sharma, 20, who worked part-time in an expensive gym as a cleaner-cum-instructor. Both lived with their parents and had marginally more stable backgrounds than the others but were still far from exceptional in any obvious way.

Gupta, a relative said, had grown up in a temple in the remote rural town of Basti in north-eastern Uttar Pradesh, another desperately poor part of India. He had given up further education to come to Delhi to help his parents run their fruit stall. Still only 20, he was hoping to go to college. He had "fallen in with the wrong sort", a relative said.

Sharma, the son of an airport cleaner, was doing a distance-learning college course in communications and gave his parents the rest of the 5,000 rupees he earned each month at the gym catering to Delhi's elite a few miles away. Such a stark proximity between the very wealthy and the less well-off, between the aspirant and the arrived, is also typical of the new India.

Driven by Mukesh Singh, the bus first headed north-east, along Delhi's choked, congested inner ring road. The city has two such routes, both haphazardly planned and often gridlocked. The men pulled up at designated bus stops, where one of them – Raju, according to police – called out for anyone wanting a ride to Nehru Place, a shopping centre and office complex a few miles away. It was already dark and cold.

Badri Nath, left, the father of the gang-rape victim, and her brother Gaurav at a press conference.  

Badri Nath, left, father of the gang-rape victim, and her brother Gaurav at a press conference. Photograph: Mail Today/India Today/Getty After about 10 minutes and several attempts to attract custom at different bus stops, a carpenter on his way home from work got on. Ram Singh shut the doors immediately behind him, and his brother accelerated away. Within minutes, the man had been beaten and robbed of his phone and 1,400 rupees, then dumped from the moving vehicle. He did not bother reporting the crime.

By 8.30pm, after another few abortive attempts to lure passengers aboard, the bus pulled up at a stop in a suburb called Munirka. To make the trap more effective, Sharma, Gupta and Thakur sat on different seats at the front of the vehicle, posing as passengers, and visible from outside through the open doors. Raju stood on the step of the bus. "For Palam crossing and Dwarka sector one," he shouted.

Work like a horse, live like a saint

Drive into Dwarka and the ragged reality of India's journey to prosperity is very obvious. A narrow flyover takes a stream of vehicles over a railway where packed trains pass slowly between strips of wasteland strewn with rubbish, faeces, and thin-ribbed cows. Everywhere there are people: labourers streaming from their makeshift huts to work on a series of unfinished, skeletal luxury flats that will be sold to the newly wealthy; women buying or carrying baskets of vegetables; schoolchildren in neat uniforms; young men doing little except play with their mobile phones; some beggars. Above soar billboards, advertising a conference with a "real estate guru", a "women's day" at a local gym where "cut-price classes" will "make him love your curves", and one poster composed of vast portraits of Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and the former president APJ Abdul Kalam, the "father" of India's nuclear programme.

One of the most striking elements of the Delhi gang-rape case is the similarity in the backgrounds of the victim and of her killers. The family of "J" – it is illegal under Indian law to name a rape victim – were, like those of her assailants, from close to the bottom of India's still tenacious caste hierarchy. Her father, Badri Nath, like the Singh brothers' father, had left his remote ancestral village for the capital in search of a better life. In 1982, a bus took him from his village on the banks of the Ganges in the middle of India's northern plains to a station where he bought a ticket for an overnight train to a city he had never seen. "I didn't want to leave," he said simply.

But he had little choice. Badri Nath was one of four brothers. The two eldest had been educated but funds were short and insufficient for Badri Nath to finish his schooling. His father was the only son of a man who himself was one of four sons. The family land, once enough to support a number of families, had thus been divided so many times that it was insufficient to provide a living even for one. Three years after he left the fields behind, his wife, who married when she was only 15, came to join him in Delhi.

Indians waiting for a bus in Delhi in front of an ad for the city.  

Waiting for a bus in Delhi in front of an ad for the city. If life in the capital is better than village poverty, the gains for many have been marginal. Photo: Kevin Frayer/AP

In the city, Badri Nath managed to keep food on the table and a roof over the head of his young family. This was no mean achievement. In the mid-1980s, the Indian economy was still weak. The country was apparently locked into the "Hindu growth rate". Communal violence was rife, opportunities few. He started polishing pressure cookers, then worked in a washing machine factory. A sympathetic boss gave him money for a small plot of land in what was then the semi-rural suburb of Dwarka and he built a very modest, cramped two-room home there. He took on a second job as a night watchman in a hospital.

Slowly, over the years, the district developed. Electricity was connected, though problems with water supply never seemed to be resolved. More and more people flowed in from the rural areas. A decade passed, then another. Dwarka turned into a small town, then a small city, one of the many that fuse with the metropolis of Delhi itself. Economic development, accelerating steadily as the years passed, meant a newly monied middle class, and new airlines to take them to business meetings and beaches.

Delhi's airport expanded. New workers were needed, and Badri Nath, through a friend, found work as a loader, emptying planes he would never fly in of baggage as they came in from Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Kolkata or elsewhere. He signed up for two eight-hour shifts, each one earning 100 rupees. He left home at 1pm and got home at 6am. The journey to work took 15 minutes in an unlicensed taxi, often vehicles driven by chauffeurs making some money on the side after dropping their employers off at the airport. Getting home took half an hour in an overcrowded bus.

"I heard once that to escape poverty you need to work like a horse and live like a saint," Badri Nath said later. "That is what I have tried to do all my life."

Interactive: the events of 16 December 2012  

Interactive: the events of 16 December 2012. Click on the image to launch it

His first child was a boy who died after three days. In India, sons are prized to the point where they receive not only scarce financial resources for their education but also better food. Female foetuses are selectively aborted so frequently that Delhi and the states around it suffer a massive demographic imbalance between men and women. Badri Nath thought differently, however. "My wife was so sad when we had another child, we did not care if it was a boy or a girl. We just wanted it to survive," he said. The child was J, and she was followed over eight years by two boys.

All three children went to the local government school, but it was J who stood out. "She just needed to look at something once and she remembered it," said Badri Nath. Her textbooks lined a wall in the small home. To give her space to study and sleep, the rest of the family ate and slept in the second bedroom, covering a bed with a plastic sheet to convert it into a dining table.

"The only thing that interested her was studies," her father remembered. She covered the wall of her room not with Bollywood posters or pages from magazines but diagrams laboriously copied from her textbooks. Her handwriting and written English were soon the best in the family – her parents still conversed in the Bhojpuri language of their part of Uttar Pradesh – and it was J who filled in all the myriad administrative documents that blight every Indian's dealings with government. If there was any time left after studying, she helped neighbour's children in exchange for a few rupees or watched television on the family's cable connection.

She had wanted to be a doctor, ideally a neurosurgeon, but opted instead for the more modest, and more affordable, ambition of physiotherapist and found a college in the northern city of Dehradun where she could qualify after a four-year course. To raise the 40,000-rupee annual fee, her father sold part of his land in his village and mortgaged the rest. To cover living expenses – a similar sum – J found a job in a call centre in the city.

It was through a mutual friend at the call centre that she met Awindra Pandey, the 28-year-old information technology specialist who was with her on the night of the attack. The two were "just friends", J's father said, though he often spoke to the young man on the telephone and liked him. There was no question of the pair marrying as they came from different sides of what, in India, remains an unbridgeable gulf.

Pandey's family were from the upper castes and his father was a wealthy lawyer. He had a good salaried job – only a quarter of working Indians are employed in the formal sector – as an IT specialist. But if there would never have been a match, there could at least be companionship. The couple had been seeing each other for over a year and had even been on a trip to the hills together. They had not seen each other for more than month however before the attack. It was J, back in Delhi to look for an internship as a physiotherapist, who called her friend to suggest a trip to the cinema. Pandey picked her up from home and they travelled to Saket Mall, an upmarket shopping centre in the south of Delhi, where they watched Life of Pi at a multiplex, leaving at about 8.30pm. They walked out past the western-branded clothes shops and supermarkets, the new coffee bars, the car rank where drivers pull up in imported 4x4s, which they then load with shopping as their employer settles on the back seats, past the uniformed security guards, into the darkness of the evening, and started looking for transport home. This was a different India from that which J's father had known.

Indian people light candles in memory of a gang-rape victim in New Delhi  

Women light candles in memory of J at an impromptu shrine in Delhi. The brutal crime triggered unprecedented protests, even as subsequent rapes pushed the student's death off the front pages. Photograph: EPA


Delhi's public transport is grossly inadequate at the best of times. If the reforms of the 1990s unleashed the power of the private sector, for good or ill, they did little to bolster the public sector. Since, public services and institutions, under increasing pressure, have not just failed to keep pace but have often in effect collapsed. So even a new and expanding metro in Delhi has barely made a difference in the seething city. As ever in India, where the state fails, jugaad ("frugal innovation") takes over. Unlicensed buses are broadly tolerated, or at least allowed to run, after paying a small bribe to avoid a fine.

On this Sunday night there were no official Delhi Metropolitan Corporation buses to take J and Pandey back to Dwarka. No auto-rickshaw wanted such a distant fare either. The couple convinced one driver to take them two miles from the mall to another bus stop, at Munirka, where they hoped to find more options to get back to Dwarka so Pandey could see J safely home.

According to Pandey's statement to police, the couple had been waiting only a few minutes when the bus driven by Mukesh Singh pulled up with the juvenile leaning from the open door calling out its destination. "Where are you going, didi?" he asked the woman, using the colloquial Hindi for elder sister, police statements say.

The couple got in and sat down, falling for the ruse that the men posing as passengers had prepared. "How long will it take?" Pandey asked. "Not too long," replied Ram Singh. His brother, Mukesh, was still at the wheel. One of the other men, still playing his role, asked the same question. "Let's get going," Ram Singh said as his assistant Thakur took 20 rupees as a fare from the couple. The bus moved off.

Within minutes, as the bus drove along Delhi's outer ring road in the direction of the international airport, the atmosphere darkened.

"What are you doing out roaming around with a girl on her own?," Ram Singh asked Pandey, according to the accounts given to investigators by both the juvenile and the man. "None of your business," the young IT engineer answered. The two men faced off. Ram Singh threw a punch. Then events moved very fast. Ram Singh and the others wrestled Pandey to the floor. One shouted: "The rod, [get] the rod." As the woman screamed for help, banging on the bus's curtained windows, a metal bar kept in the bus was passed back. Blows rained down on the helpless man, now pinned between two seats. He was stripped. "I was trying very hard to get to her but they had me nailed down," Pandey later told a magistrate.

As Mukesh Singh drove the bus through the heavy traffic, Thakur and Ram Singh had dragged the woman to its back seats, according to the men's statements to police after their arrest. "They beat her and pressed a hand over her mouth and tore her clothes off," the juvenile's statement says.

"Ram Singh first raped her, the girl kept shouting, and one by one all of us [raped her] and [Ram Singh] and the rest of us bit her body." Medical reports reveal bite marks were found on the woman's breasts, arms and genitals. J fought back, biting and scratching but the petite young woman had little chance.

Outside the bus, the landmarks of south Delhi passed: a temple, a flyover, a busy road junction. At Mahipalpur, a scruffy collection of cheap hotels and restaurants near the airport, they turned the bus round, heading back into the city. It was 9.34pm, according to CCTV images. The vehicle had passed through three police checkpoints, where officers from the city's overstretched, badly paid, badly trained and badly equipped force stood supposedly keeping an eye on passing traffic.

As the bus headed back into the city, the attack continued. Ram Singh exchanged places with Mukesh who had been driving. His brother then took his turn to rape the woman.

"We tried to push our [penises] into her mouth. We also tried to [sodomise] her," the juvenile later told police. His statement, corroborated by the account given by the victim to medical staff, does not mention the assault with the iron bar the woman described. Her medical examination – and the retrieval of two blood-stained rods in the bus – confirm that it was penetration by this that caused massive damage to her genitals, uterus and intestines.

"The girl was shrieking and shouting so much. Ram Singh put his hand inside her and pulled out flesh. The girl lost consciousness and started bleeding," the juvenile told police. Her friend later described how, naked and badly injured himself, he heard the men talking. One said that he thought "she was dead". Another, possibly Thakur, suggested throwing them out of the bus.

By this time – at exactly 9.54pm, according to images recorded by cameras – the bus had turned around once again and had returned to Mahipalpur. The men dragged their two semi-conscious victims, by the hair according to police documents, to the rear doors of the vehicle but these were jammed shut so they pushed the couple through the front doors. An attempt appears to have been made to run them over, but Pandey, though badly injured, was able to drag the woman out of the way. The bus then disappeared into the traffic and back into the city.

When they reached Ravi Das Colony, the men parked the bus down a nearby alley. With water fetched from one of the colony's two standpipes, they sluiced it down with water to get rid of the blood, faeces and other evidence. They lit a fire, burning the clothes of the couple, except for the man's Hush Puppies shoes, which they kept.

The six then went back to the Singh brothers' home, where the juvenile made tea. Ram Singh divided up the results of the night's robberies, distributing credit and bank cards, cash and mobiles, jewellery and the shoes. Gupta got a wristwatch and 1,000 rupees, the juvenile was given 1,100 rupees and a bank card. "Keep it carefully," Ram Singh told him. "We'll take out the money later."

There was a brief argument, overheard by neighbours. The two men, Gupta and Sharma, who lived elsewhere in the colony, went back to their houses. The others watched television and then slept, investigators say.


Mahipalpur is, like Dwarka, Trilokpuri and Ravi Das Colony itself, another place of transition, another scrawled note on the margin of the story of India's growth. Supposedly in Delhi's "green belt", it had once been where sultans had hunted. Only a few decades ago it was still a small village, surrounded by scrubby, rocky hills and small pools of water where buffaloes bathed in the summer, submerged up to their necks to fight the heat.

Now it is a noisy crossroads where the road to Delhi's airport joins a six-lane highway leading to the satellite city of Gurgaon, favoured by big international companies. Scores of unlicensed cheap hotels and restaurants cater to the passing trade of late-night arrivals from overseas, commuters heading in or out of the metropolis, lorry drivers and well-off teenagers driving their fathers' fast cars looking for a plate of chilli chicken at 5am.
For 40 minutes after their attackers had driven away, J and her friend lay, drifting in and out of consciousness, on a narrow strip of wasteland beside a slip road of the highway. A few hundred metres away, across open ground, the sign of a French-owned budget hotel under construction shone in the darkness. On the other side of the road, beyond the flyover, was a row of hotels. Lying in the gravel, bleeding heavily, they were nonetheless visible to the traffic streaming past. Vehicles slowed, almost stopped and then accelerated away, Pandey later remembered.

Eventually, as ever in India, a small crowd gathered, though no one wanted to take responsibility for actually helping the naked and injured couple lying on the ground. Finally, according to police documents, an off-duty worker on the nearby toll highway saw the bystanders, stopped, and alerted his control room, which notified the police. A constable arrived in a patrol car, then another. One fetched a sheet from a nearby hotel to cover the couple. There was a brief discussion over which police district was responsible for dealing with the situation. Then Pandey helped J into a police car and was driven away.

Police fire water cannons at protesters  demonstrating at Delhi's India Gate  

Police fire water cannon at protesters demonstrating at Delhi's India Gate over the government's reaction to the gang-rape. Photograph: Daniel Berehulak/Getty

An hour later, a policeman called J's father to tell him his daughter had been in an "accident" and was in a hospital in south Delhi. A friend with a motorbike took him across the city to Safdarjung hospital, one of Delhi's biggest public medical facilities. He found her lying on a stretcher, covered by a green blanket.

"I thought she was unconscious but when I laid my hand on her forehead she opened her eyes. She was crying. I told her: 'It'll be alright, beta [child].'"

Doctors had been appalled at extent of the woman's injuries. They attempted to remove the most damaged parts of her intestines and any infection, cleaning as much as possible of what was left and doing whatever else they could to keep her alive. But there was little hope, they all knew. One found her father, who had been waiting outside the operating theatre, and told him that it was unlikely his daughter would survive more than a few hours.

Through the morning, police worked at tracing the white bus that Pandey, badly hurt but still conscious, had been able to describe to them. They started checking CCTV footage from the hotels clustered around Mahipalpur. One noticed a bus with the name Yadav painted on the side, which passed the crossroads twice an hour before the couple had been reported. They found its owner, who had bribed local officials after being repeatedly caught running unlicensed fleets, and got an address for Ram Singh.

At Ravi Das Colony they first saw the bus, then Singh sitting inside. He ran but was caught. His T-shirt and shoes were bloodstained. The bus had clearly been washed recently. Very quickly, Singh admitted his involvement in the attack, even producing two iron rods, covered in dry blood, from a compartment in the bus's cabin. By the end of the week, five of the six were in custody. Mukesh Singh had been detained on his way to Karauli, where he hoped he could hide in the remote village where he had grown up. Gupta and Sharma were found at their family homes in Ravi Das Colony. Raju was picked up at the bus station where he slept. Thakur was found when he arrived at his parents' home in remote Bihar. By then, news of the incident was not just leading every bulletin in the city, but across India.

It had long been known that Delhi had a problem with sexual violence. Statistics backed up anecdotal evidence. For years, every few days, the media reported a serious sexual assault, though usually tucked away on the metro pages and recounted in a few dry paragraphs. Every few weeks there would be an attack, often a gang-rape. Some would receive more attention. But after the expressions of concern by police officers and Delhi's elected officials the issue would soon disappear. Few of the incidents ended in charges, almost none in a trial. The conviction rate for rapes languished around the 25% mark.

According to India's National Crime Records Bureau, registered rape cases in India had increased by almost 900% over the past 40 years, to 24,206 incidents in 2011, while murder cases had gone up by only 250% over 60 years, and incidences of riot had actually dropped. Delhi, with its population of 15 million, registered 572 cases of rape, compared with 239 in Mumbai, India's commercial capital, with its bigger population, in 2011. There were just 47 reported in Kolkata.

But no one knows quite what proportion of attacks these figures represent. Some activists say one in 10 rapes are reported; others say it is probably more like one in 100. One poll, in 2011, found that nearly one in four Indian men admitted to having committed some act of sexual violence. Two-thirds of the sample came from the capital.

Then there is the daily low-level harassment in public places, simply accepted as part of life in the city. Suggestive comments and wandering hands on buses, photographing or filming with phones, being followed or even chased were, polls showed, regularly encountered by 80% of women in the city. According to one survey, this molestation – euphemistically known as "Eve-teasing" – was seen as harmless by a majority of men in Delhi. An investigation by Tehelka, a campaigning magazine, found that the policemen supposed to investigate "Eve-teasing" and rape alike blamed women for "leading men on".

A high proportion of Delhi's police are recruited from the surrounding rural areas and the big, poor conservative states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana and Rajasthan. Their attitudes inevitably reflect those of their home communities. These are very similar to Karauli, Aurangabad, Trilokpuri and the other places where J's attackers had grown up or spent many years. Only two months before the Delhi attack, a spate of rapes and gang-rapes in Haryana prompted some debate in the media. Local politicians attributed the wave of attacks to women behaving immodestly or the amount of junk food young men were eating. One called for the age of marital consent to be lowered. The United Nations pointed out that this would do little to counteract the rape of teenagers. These states are also the parts of India where gender imbalance owing to selective abortion is worst. Violence to women starts before birth, campaigners often say.

But J's case was exceptional, standing out from the mundane background hum of sexual violence in northern India. The attack was of almost unprecedented brutality, committed by complete strangers on a Sunday evening, on the streets of Delhi itself. J was out with a friend watching a film. She was not in a village, nor was she working in a nightclub. She was thus seen as representative in a way that other victims, rightly or wrongly, had never been. Very soon she had been dubbed "Delhi's daughter" in the media, and thus neatly slotted into one of the three legitimate categories allowed to women in India: mother, spouse or child.

Within hours of the news of the assault breaking, protesters were on the streets. The reaction of India's political elite merely fuelled the anger. No parliamentarians joined the marchers. Instead, the government invoked colonial-era laws to ban demonstrations, shut metro stations and deployed thousands of policemen to guard the president's residence, the parliament building and the homes of senior ministers. Central Delhi became a citadel, defended by khaki-clad men with lathis, the iron-tipped bamboo staves also inherited, like the attitudes of the ministers and top bureaucrats, from former imperial overlords. Finally, after a week, the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and Sonia Gandhi, president of the ruling Congress party, made brief televised speeches expressing concern and sympathy, which were dismissed as too little, too late by protesters. The anger grew.

On 25 December, having held on to consciousness for long enough to twice give a crucial statement to investigators, J, still in Safdarjung hospital in the south of Delhi, began to lose her grip on life.

Her father, Badri Nath, said: "During the evening, maybe 9pm, she saw me standing outside the intensive-care unit. She turned to look at me and gestured for me to come. She asked me if I had eaten. I said yes. Then she said: 'Dad, go to sleep, you must be tired.' I patted her head.

She said: 'You should get some sleep,'" he remembered. "She took my hand and kissed it. She never opened her eyes again."

Four days later, J died in a clinic in Singapore, where she had been moved as no facilities for treatment that would even give her a chance of life existed in India. Her body was brought back to India, cremated in a public facility in Dwarka and then, as is traditional, her ashes were carried by her family to the banks of the Ganges, near the village that Badri Nath had left 30 years before, and scattered on the river.

The night of her death the angry protests that had been beaten back by riot police in central Delhi and the marches in other cities demanding security for women in India gave way to demonstrations of a different type. There was grief, even shame. At 7pm, candles were lit across the vast country: on Juhu Beach, where Mumbai meets the Indian Ocean; in the centre of the bustling southern cities of Hyderabad and Bengaluru; at the statue of Gandhi in chaotic, poverty-stricken Lucknow, 1,000 miles to the north.

In Delhi itself, though a city full of temples, mosques and churches, scores gathered at an impromptu shrine set up at the bus stop where J had waited for a lift home 13 days before. Under the hastily printed posters reading "You Inspired Us All" and "No to Violence to Women", they too lit their candles. "We are feeling very sad. We are feeling very angry. Now we hope our lives will change," said Archana Balodi, a 24-year-old student. One poster read: "She is not dead, she has just gone to a place where there is no rape."

At the Jantar Mantar, an 18th-century observatory that is a traditional site of protests in the centre of the city, crowds gathered. J's death meant her attackers would now be charged with murder, and thus could face hanging. This became the cry that united the otherwise diverse and disorganised demonstrators. "Hanging them is not enough. They should be tortured like she was," said Srishdi Kumar, a 16-year-old schoolgirl. "Then maybe there will be a change. Why not?"

Eight months later, at the conclusion of the trial of her killers, it is difficult to argue that J's ordeal and death has made much difference in India, at least so far: the rapes and sexual assaults that are now highlighted daily by the Indian media act simply as a reminder of how widespread violence to women is in the country.

The fierce debate in the weeks after the attack – setting conservatives who blamed westernisation against liberals blaming reactionary sexist and patriarchal attitudes – has faded. A package of laws increasing punishments for sexual assault and redefining a range of offences may do some good, campaigners concede, if enforcement is simultaneously improved, but dozens of men accused of rape remain members of local and national parliamentary assemblies. The special funding released by the government for measures to enhance the security of women has so far gone unspent. Few are confident that gender training for the underfunded police will have much effect. Nor are the new "fast-track courts" – such as the one, only a few hundred metres from the mall where J and Pandey watched Life of Pi, where her attackers were tried – solve the problems of the criminal justice system. "It is a few weeks of outrage against hundreds of years of tradition," MJ Akbar, a veteran commentator, said. But this may not be so. The concern is that it is the change itself that is generating the violence.

The trial has now ended. Ram Singh, the ringleader in the attack, hanged himself in his cell in Tihar prison in mid-March. J's family angrily cried that they had been denied justice. "It is wrong that he should be able to choose the timing of his death," said her brother. The other four adults who have been convicted are likely to be hanged after all appeals are exhausted. No one is quite clear what will happen to Raju, the juvenile, though he may have to be released after three years' time in a juvenile reform home.

Badri Nath, his wife and two sons have now moved to a new flat with running water, electricity and two bedrooms, a gift from the Delhi authorities. The family has also received "compensation payments", in the cold language of the bureaucrats, worth £40,000: more than Badri Nath could have ever hoped to have earned, let alone saved, in his working life. His sons are getting coveted government jobs. In a recent interview with the Guardian, he repeated one phrase: "I console myself by saying she was a good soul, set free in death."

Outside in the narrow street, a tanker had just arrived to deliver water. Dwarka's piped supply is still unreliable. A crowd had formed and neighbours argued as they jostled with buckets. A woman laughed. A motorbike clattered past. A vegetable seller shouted for custom. There was a short burst of music from a tinny radio. But the noise of an evening in a working-class Delhi neighbourhood barely reached the small basement flat where a 53-year-old man sat on his daughter's bed, and it was very quiet.


Friday, September 06, 2013

 India’s Incredibly Powerful "Abused Goddesses" Campaign Condemns Domestic Violence

Save Our Sisters” is an anti-sex trafficking initiative. This is their print campaign. posted on

Rega Jha BuzzFeed Staff 

Ad agency Taproot physically recreated scenes from old hand-painted images of Indian goddesses.

Ad agency Taproot physically recreated scenes from old hand-painted images of Indian goddesses.
Makeup was used to add bruises and wounds to the models before photographing them. This is a recreation of the goddess Saraswati.

All the props were either real or painted on, keeping both authenticity and realism in mind.

All the props were either real or painted on, keeping both authenticity and realism in mind.

“Pray that we never see this day. Today, more than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence. Tomorrow, it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray to.”

"Pray that we never see this day. Today, more than 68% of women in India are victims of domestic violence. Tomorrow, it seems like no woman shall be spared. Not even the ones we pray to."

Each ad includes a phone number to report abuse to “Save Our Sisters.”

Each ad includes a phone number to report abuse to "Save Our Sisters."
This is a recreation of the goddess Lakshmi, goddess of wealth.

The campaign simply and effectively captures India’s most dangerous contradiction: that of revering women in religion and mythology, while the nation remains incredibly unsafe for its women citizens.

The campaign simply and effectively captures India's most dangerous contradiction: that of revering women in religion and mythology, while the nation remains incredibly unsafe for its women citizens.
100 million Indians, largely women and girls, are said to be involved in trafficking.

Last year alone, 244,270 crimes against women were reported in the country.

Last year alone, 244,270 crimes against women were reported in the country.

This is a recreation of the goddess Durga, worshipped for her strength and invincibility.

This is a recreation of the goddess Durga, worshipped for her strength and invincibility.

For more information on the “Save Our Sisters” initiative, visit their website.