Why it happened, we ask. How could they do it to her? People in the hills are not supposed to behave like that. They were monsters, high on their manhood fuelled by liquid courage and perhaps other things.
She was innocent, and what bad could she have done to them to invite this horror in her life. She just wanted to go to school like others. I assume that actions of these men have unintentionally put the future of many girl students in the area and beyond at risk, especially the ones who are not privileged enough to study in Shimla or other towns.
The girl’s parents, who are not in the position to arrange for a safe environment in which their children could study, will suffer the most. This applies strictly to rural areas where students are required to take long walk through isolated woods to reach school and back to home.
Of course, in this girl’s case, she had to walk through the prying and judgmental eyes of several men and women in village, predators worse than what are encountered in woods.
Not only in India, but women throughout the world face similar circumstances in which their mobility is a daily struggle with a risk rape, death, mutilation, acid attack, sexual harassment and so on.
Half of the Indian population, and perhaps many regions of the world, knows what it means when it gets dark. This particular insecurity where your mobility is constrained by your gender is perhaps relatively less relevant to the male population. So, now we know why males have advantages over females in terms of education, employment, and many other fields.
On the other hand, being a woman is scary, honestly. Women are more courageous than any man can ever be. They have to keep several aspects in their mind, so many things to consider apart from the regular jobs which along with normal things. For females, it’s much more challenging to keep up with male counterparts in this world of men. What else it could be since this trend works with the rhythms of male anatomy.
Does the society have any kind of sensitivity towards female body apart from granting here maternity leave?
The former only carries stigma, and is looked down upon by the society. I read the victim girl was a regular student, and had been rewarded for her sincerity.
I wish that day she had missed the school, but I am not sure these predators would have spared her another day. She was all but a game to them, and they were on a desperate hunt. They had planned it like good hunters do. Was there a way she could have saved herself from these predators? Maybe yes, maybe not!
Then why are we angry and sad when her fate, in one way or the other, on that day or another, was destined to be doomed. The odds were always against her since birth. Maybe, we, as human beings, are too hopeful, and we want the underdog to win. Maybe we see ourselves, our vulnerabilities in the underdogs. Maybe, it is our own reflection which strives to come up against all odds.
Just like a part of us that perceive things from victim girl’s perspective – striving hard, going to school, carrying an ambition, carrying hope, there is a part of us which is the predators’.
We do not acknowledge it, we have repressed it deep in our conscience, but we are one of them.
It is us as individuals, and as society that does swarm upon on women like monsters, and hunting them by exploiting their vulnerabilities. They took turns to rape her. They were aware if the pain was going through, but still they went on and on, and enjoying it. They beat her as she screamed, breaking her bones as she resisted and went mad with pain. They choked her to death for yelling for help, screaming out of suffering of being raped, beaten, bitten and maimed.
How dare she behave like a human being, react to pain, cry out in agony knowing she is on the verge of death.
She was just an object throughout the entire act, before it, and after it: an object of lust, an object of sexual gratification, an object for projecting one’s rage and anger, an object that dare not resist or fight back, and an object that cannot decide for its own.
She was an object on whom they could make declaration of the male superiority and all that patriarchy could ever be. Her death is an open declaration of a patriarchal society. We are angry because that is what we as a society are.
We see ourselves in those men, but our righteous and hopeful part is in a conflict with this perception. This part of us refuses to equate ourselves with those men, those lowly men who did that to that innocent.
Our mind cannot come to terms with it. It says we cannot be so mean and lowly, it cannot be us, we are not violent, we do not prey on weak, we are not patriarchal, or we do not objectify. Yet, as a society and those individuals, we share same traits. It is sad but true.
We are angry because it is us. This incident has only brought into public domain what we already know in private life and inside our heads, but still live in denial, waiting for the next incident, and so on.
Thus far social and physical violence against women in upper Shimla area was a private affair. It was something well known but unspoken like everywhere. But this incident has questioned the ‘Devbhumi superiority syndrome’ that afflicts us all.
If only we had realised how our gender biased and perverse gods and demigods had behaved historically and mythologically. If only we had questioned those gods and goddesses in terms of their attitudes towards women.
Rape is a mentality which afflicts our society; we just do not acknowledge it. Our day to day attitudes towards women and the impact of violence in lives of women is a case in point.
Wherever in the world such mindset exists, rape and violence against women will exist. No matter who does it, but all of us as society are responsible for it.
It is not an individual act, but is a societal act cutting across regions, faiths, etc. The language of rape is universal, and it is easily understood. The tools of violence against socially perceived weak gender are universal. Symptoms of rape and violence are present in societies where we see daily objectification of women.
The reification of lust through gestures, body language and dress is already there in our social psyche. Social stigma, social shame, and moral policing are all indicators of a dysfunctional society, which is just an incident away from violence against women, where the only thing which remains to be seen is who and when – by whom is not important.
I wish she could have survived to live another day, but then again how could she?
We make noise, we shout, we condemn, and we want perpetrators to die and suffer in hell. We are willing to kill them ourselves given the opportunity, thinking it will make a difference but sadly a societal effort will be required to prevent the next incident.
Shutting girls inside homes, putting restrain on their mobility, accompanying them to their schools implying they are weak will never solve the problem, but only reinforce the old ideas and conventions of patriarchy.
Changing the social idea of a woman will help, otherwise it can happen to anyone, anywhere, by anyone, and like always fault will be of everyone. It is a common notion that since patriarchy is about male superiority and dominance, only males are to blame. But sadly this is not true. Women equally carry patriarchy or perhaps are more lethal in spreading it because being women themselves they make it more acceptable to others.
Women have to reclaim the public space for themselves. They have to lead this battle against patriarchy with assistance of likeminded in society. They have to resist every aspect of violence like that girl in the woods did; rebelling against death. Win or lose but the battle has to be fought at all fronts starting with the idea of family itself.
Disclaimer: Views expressed in the article are entirely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect opinion of Himachal Watcher
Wah Re Corona: Himachali Folk Artist’s Lyrical Satire is Factual Rendition of India’s Agonizing Catastrophe
Shimla-Otherwise blatantly vocal and distinctively mass-mobilizing government of India is suddenly in the most subdued self after its proclaimed victory over the deathly virus; participation in uncontrolled election rallies; and permitting maha melas. The stalwarts are in the hiding, while helpless citizens – who voted them into power not once but in landslide victories twice – are dying due to lack of oxygen, poor – unavailable – medical facilities, and the denial stance of the ignorant in the helm.
Drawing a comparison between the fatal coronavirus and the mismanagement of the entire situation by the appalling government; a Himachali folk artist has released a factually appropriate lyrical satire that will tickle your mind and leave you to imagine what has brought this catastrophe onto us. The song is written by Rameshwar Sharma and music by Lalit Sauta.
With Neighboring States Going to Curfew, Himachal’s Tourism Sector Again Comes to a Halt
Shimla-Himachal Pradesh Government may not have imposed restrictions on tourist movement, but the industry is facing the heat of second wave of coronavirus pandemic, which has now reached an alarming level. Alarmed by massive spike in new cases and fatalities, Delhi yesterday imposed a curfew for six days.
Further, with neighboring states including Panjab and Haryana going into a lockdown-like situation with the imposition of weekend curfews, tourist influx in Himachal Pradesh has dropped drastically, hitting the tourism industry in Himachal Pradesh. Last weekend the hotels claimed the occupancy was almost zero. The hoteliers and other stakeholders said the current situation is similar to what they faced during the lockdowns last year. After lockdowns spoiled the peak tourist season of the last year, the industry is hardly in a position to take another blow, hoteliers said.
Conditions in Himachal are no better. In 19 days of April month alone, the state has recorded over 14,000 cases and the infection has claimed 155 lives, which is a massive surge in a very short duration. The rates of the surge in new cases and fatalities have also been recorded to be much higher as compared to the previous year.
The state government on Monday said that all educational institutions of the State would remain close till May 1 2021, and faculty of schools, colleges and universities wouldn’t have to come to duty.
The State Government also decided to put a complete ban on transfers of field functional staff.
Right after getting a nod from the Centre, the state government had also postponed the board and UG examinations. Further, the HP Board of School Education is reportedly mulling over promoting class 10 students.
Chief Minister on Monday also said that the government could take more decisions to contain the spread in the meeting to be held on April 22. Some media reports said that the state government has hinted at the imposition of a curfew. While interacting to media yesterday, Chief Minister had also said that there are no plans for a complete lockdown, but if the situation continues to worsen, a curfew can be imposed. The Chief Minister had been maintaining that a lockdown would be the last resort as it would hurt the tourist influx, thus, cause economic damages.
However, if the businessmen and hoteliers are to be believed, currently keeping the state open for tourism is hardly providing any relief. Moreover, they are not able to differentiate between a curfew and lockdown. They have begun to seek relief from the state government.
On the other hand, in case the state decides to impose a curfew, the situation would get quite difficult for the poor, especially migrant workers, daily wagers, and small street-side vendors too.
Further, fear of the collapse of health infrastructure haunts the state as the government is still in the phase of passing directions to the officers to enhance the bed capacity in the hospitals. As per the statement given by Chief Minister on Monday, the state is yet to take steps to ensure the proper availability of oxygen and staff.
“Steps would be taken to ensure the proper availability of oxygen and medical staff in the State. Bed capacity would be enhanced in Nerchowk Medical College, IGMC Shimla, Zonal Hospital Dharamshala, Tanda Medical College, Sunder Nagar Hospital and various other hospitals. Health workers would be posted in appropriate number for the care of Covid-19 patients,” Chief Minister said.
Chief Minister is being condemned for not completing make-shifts hospitals during the lockdown period along with strengthening the health services the way the it was required.
With the re-notification of Shimla’s DDU hospital- one of the busiest in the state- as a dedicated COVID care hospital, the OPDs has been closed. With the ongoing surge in new cases, more hospitals are likely to be re-notification as dedicated COVID care hospitals, and regular OPDs would be closed for other daily patients.
Moreover, for setting bad examples for the people, all political parties and their leaders, including Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, had faced severe criticism over blatant violation of COVID-19 protocols during campaign rallies for the elections to the Municipal Corporations. As a result, the public is hardly taking the second wave seriously and lowering their guards against the infections, which is only worsening the situation.
HP Govt’s Guidelines Formed in Defiance of GoI and Court Directions Leave Disabled Students Troubled
Shimla-The rights of the disabled aren’t only a human rights issue, but it is also a developmental issue. Yet, in India, this section of society is struggling to get into the mainstream and compelled to go to courts to fight for their rights, including equal access to education. Himachal Pradesh is no different when it comes to adopting a comprehensive approach and modern technology to level the field for these students. Display of sensitivity is limited to showing sympathy and feeling sad for persons with disabilities that undermines their potentials and individual capacities to excel in life.
Owing to erroneous attitude towards persons with disabilities, children trying to access education often face neglect from governments that makes their already hard lives harder.
Very recently, such gross negligence and defiance of court orders on the part of the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, HP Government, came to light after an autistic student of the first year at Government Degree College, Kandaghat, couldn’t take his exams because the current guidelines of the state government make it a mandatory condition that the qualification of his scribe should be one step below the qualification of the candidate taking the examination.
Contrary to these “Guidelines for conducting written examinations for the Persons With Benchmark Disabilities” Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in Aditya Narayan Tiwari Vs. Union of India (dated 4.12.18) has clearly directed the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India, to not fix any qualification and age criteria for scribes until the examining body doesn’t have its own panel of scribes. Following these orders in the said case (a writ petition), and Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment and the University Grants Commission had sissued fresh notifications with special clarification on the criteria of qualification and age on January 6, 2019, and February 26, 2019, respectively.
Moreover, the principal of the college was not clear on the guidelines.
The college told the father of the candidate, Mr Vishal Gupta, that it had forwarded the matter to the University for further clarification, which did not come as quickly as it was supposed to. Himachal Watcher also spoke to Mr Gupta.
“My son is suffering autism (60%) and recently got admitted to BA Part-1 course at Government Degree College Kandaghat, Solan. The previous principal was very co-operative and had allowed a scribe after consulting the University. But now, ahead of my son’s house exams, I was asked to visit the college. The college asked me to provide a copy of the guidelines. I told the Principal that the college was supposed to have these guidelines already,” he told Himachal Watcher (HW).
“The Principal told me that the exams of my son will be put on hold and would be considered only after receiving a copy of the guidelines from the University. While all other classmates are taking examinations, my son couldn’t take two exams which begin from March 13, 2021,” he further told HW.
“I don’t blame the college for this. This entire issue and inconvenience stem out of a grieve negligence on the part of the HP University as it did not circulate directions of the UGC in this regard to the colleges,” Mr Gupta said.
However, when HW took up the issue with the University authority, it turned out the varsity was not at fault either. The varsity was yet to adopt the new guidelines issued by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2020, hence, previous guidelines (2013) were already applicable. Therefore, the varsity wasn’t supposed to issue any new notification.
Mr Gupta contacted Ajai Shrivastava, Chairman of Umang Foundation (NGO) and Expert Member, HP State Advisory Board on Disability, HPU, and brought the matter to his attention.
It’s pertinent to mention that Mr Shrivastava had been fighting vigorously for the rights of the disabled in Himachal Pradesh, especially for their right to equal access to education at all levels for over a decade now. It was on his PIL that the State High Court had given a landmark judgement directing the Himachal Pradesh Government to provide free education to the students with disabilities up to the university level.
The court had also enhanced the amount of their scholarship and awarded Rs. one lac to the Umang Foundation to be spent for the welfare of the disabled children.
Mr Shrivastava, on being contacted by Mr Gupta, immediately wrote to the Chief Minister requesting him to make the Social Justice and Empowerment Department to withdraw its guidelines which are illegal as these did not comply with the court decision and UGC notification. He also held a press conference at the Press Club, Shimla on March 14, 2021.
“Addl. Chief Secretary (SJ&E) to the Govt. of HP has issued and further circulated the “Guidelines for conducting written examinations for persons with benchmark Disabilities 2020” for implementation on 16th December 2020,” he wrote in the letter.
“In fact, the above-mentioned guidelines have been issued by the HP Govt. in violation of the orders of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in Aditya Narayan Tiwari Vs. Union of India, dated 4.12.18. In this litigation, Ministry of Social Justice and empowerment, GOI; Ministry of Education, GOI, and UGC etc. were respondents,” he further wrote.
Mr Shrivastava clarified that the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on dated 1.1.2019 issued an Office Memorandum for the “Compliance of orders of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in the matter of Aditya Narayan Tiwari Vs. Union of India.”
He also clarified that the UGC dated 26.2.2019 wrote to all Registrars of Universities across the country for compliance with the order of the Hon’ble High Court for implementation. The Ministry of S.J. & E. and the UGC, both have reproduced the order of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi as under:
“Till the panel of scribes is formed if any examination is conducted by any of the departments wherein the petitioner and similarly situated persons appear in the exam. the guidelines dated 29.8.2018 shall not be applicable, however, the candidate shall appear in terms of guidelines dated 26.2.2013. ”
Mr Shrivastva further went on to say that it very unfortunate that despite the above, the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, Himachal Pradesh ignored the directions of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and issued its guidelines.
“It’s gross negligence on the part of the state government. And, the Department of Higher Education whose examinations are governed by UGC through Himachal Pradesh University, has already implemented the said illegal guidelines. HP State, he said.
Further, he wrote that the Education Board has also implemented it.
Mr Shrivastva asked the Chief Minister to keep in view the directions of The Ministry of S.J. & E. and the UGC, withdraw these guidelines of the State Government issued on dated 16.12.2020 in the interest of justice to persons with benchmark disabilities.
However, the Chief Minister Office seems to have its priorities.
Currently, one of the topmost priority of the current government led by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur appears to be the preparation for the Swarnim Himachal” celebrations and Swarnim Himachal Rath Yatra. Chief Minister is personally looking into preparations and has even constituted a High Power Committee regarding preparation for the said celebration. As a matter of fact, yesterday, the Chief Minister held a review meeting for the same at Peterhof, Shimla. Another priority, which huge billboards placed across the state indicate, is to advertise the “Swarnim Himachal” celebration.
The state of these students is a spoiler for the “Swarnim Himachal” celebration as it contradicts claims of achieving milestones in developmental works.
It should be kept in mind that fighting their battle in courts for their rights wasn’t enough to make the state government attend to this section of students. Further, the deliberate contemptuous approach of the bureaucracy is also clearly visible.
Before jumping to some references to the government’s grieve world of neglect for the disabled, try to realize the sensitivity of the matter with comments provided by Deven Khanna, a practising advocate at the HP High Court.
“It is necessary that an explicit, unequivocal and comprehensive procedural mechanism are constituted for the benefit and betterment of disability rights. It is pertinent to fathom that human rights of those living with disability cannot be fought for and secured in a vacuum,” Deven says.
It is apparent that the issue of disability is linked with several other social, economic and political aspects including those of chronic poverty, gender inequality, mal-administration and political victimization. This must be eradicated to create the ‘disability right’ an actual reality. As far as planning and policy-making process about lives and complete recognition and implementation of the human rights of the disabled and other associated rights are concerned, there must be active inclusion of the disabled people in the same process, he says.
India, one of the first few signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities, has not complied with the provisions of the same, he says.
The Constitution of India, under Article 41, imposes a duty on the State to generate necessary and effective provisions for securing the right to work, right to education, and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness and disablement.
Laws Relating to Disability:
- Constitution of India – Article 19, 21, 41 and 226
- The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
- UNCRPD Article 9
- Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992
- The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities, 1999
- Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
- Mental Health Care Act, 2017
“The State must conduct a discussion of human rights for the persons with disabilities in-depth, so that benefit can be availed out of it. As human beings along with access to and realization of all fundamental and elementary rights, persons living with disabilities require a safe, secure, convenient, beneficial and accessible environment which respects their human dignity,” Devens adds.
Now, consider the following references:
In May 2016, Mr Shrivastava had highlighted how the government was violating orders of the High Court by not providing library facility to the blind and deaf students in the special school at Dhalli. Blind students needed digital library apart from Braille books.
There was no science laboratory in the school. The dead line fixed by High Court to appoint new teachers had also expired on 3rd December 2015, he had alleged.
The government had completely failed to implement the High Court orders that had given relief to the disabled children studying in special schools at Sundernagar and Dhalli, Shimla on the PIL filed by Ajai Srivastava.
In September 2016, the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (CCPD) from the Centre was visiting Himachal Pradesh to take stock of the status of facilities for disabled persons, Mr Shrivastava had alleged that the state government of portraying a misleading picture of the disability sector. He had submitted to the CCPD alleging the government had not implemented the CCPD’s examination guidelines for the blind persons despite the High Court’s order on his PIL. He had apprised the CCPD that special school for blind and deaf girls at Sundernagar and a special school for boys at Dhalli, Shimla were poorly managed and lack basic amenities.
In a separate case, Indu Kumari, a poverty-stricken girl from the backward region of Chamba district, in her letter on July 21, 2017, told the Chief Justice that she completed her BA from Rajkiya Kanya Manha Vidyalaya College, Shimla.
However, she was denied admission in MA (Political Science) by HP University despite a provision of a five percent quota for disabled candidates under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
Not just Indu, but several other students were also told that the provisions of the new Act were not implemented in the university. These students had to return disappointed.
However, the High Court had come to the rescue of these students by considering the letter as a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).
In August 2017, as a tight slap on the face of Himachal Pradesh University and the State Government, the State High Court had asked them to explain reasons for not ensuring a five percent quota in higher education institutes for disabled students.
Earlier, the division bench comprising Justices Rajiv Sharma and Tarlok Singh Chauhan has passed a judgment on 4th June on the PIL filed by Umang Foundation (No. 30 / 2011). The bench had directed the Dr. YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry (UHF) Solan, Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla and CSK Agriculture University, Palampur to provide free education to disabled children within a period of six weeks. But despite court orders, the UHF Nuani had denied doing so and Ajai Shrivastava had to write to the Registrar of Dr YS Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry, warning that if the university does not provide free education as per the court’s order, a contempt petition will be filed.
In September 2017, the Disabled Student Association had alleged the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment of withholding scholarships of the thousands of disables studying at the government educational institutes.
When these students approached the Directorate of Scheduled Cast, OBC, and Minority Affairs; they were simply told that there was no budget for their scholarship. Pertinent to mention here that the majority of these disables belong to economically weaker sections of the society and come to the varsity from remote regions in hope of higher education.
In October 2017, The Disabled Students Association (DSA) wrote to the Governor of Himachal Pradesh Acharya Devvrat and urged him to immediately demanding the implementation of reservation of seats in MPhil and PhD under the Rights of Persons with Disability Act, 2016.
However, it did not bring any relief to them.
Further, this indifference toward disabled students is apparent from the fact that the accessible library for the disabled students of Himachal Pradesh University was inaugurated by Chief Minister Jairam Thakur on July 22, 2019, didn’t have basic facilities like a washroom and students, especially visually impaired girls faced huge inconvenience. For a toilet, the Disabled Students and Youth Association (DSYA), Himachal Pradesh, had to submit a memorandum to the Governor and Chancellor, Bandaru Dattatreya, on December 13, 2019.
It was not surprising that the Chief Minister inaugurated a library facility without basic facilities because it was merely a formality performed in response to an order of the State High Court passed in a PIL filed by a disabled student, Banita Rana, in 2014.
In March 2020, visually impaired and other disabled candidates, who were qualified for teaching posts, had to approach the Himachal Pradesh High Court complaining that the government is violating the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2017 by not implementing reservation to visually impaired and other disabled candidates, who are qualified for teaching posts, in schools, polytechnics and colleges.
Considering the way disabled students were made to fight for their right to equal access to education and even the most basic facilities, previous and current governments laid more focus on their political interests than attending to the hardships of these children.
Unfortunately, while the previous Congress Government failed these disabled children, the current BJP Government went one step ahead in making their lives harder by passing new Guidelines of its own in 2020 which contradicts court orders and directions of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
The topmost priority, not only of the current government but also previous ones, is to ensure retention of power through politics than attending to very sensitive and urgent matters, like making education equally accessible to disabled children of the state.
Regarding Court Orders in Writ Petitions Filed in 2013 and 2018 Over Availing Scribe for Written Examinations
On a Writ Petition filed in the Delhi High Court (Subhash Chandra Vashishth vs Institute of Chartered Accountants of India) in 2012, the Court in its judgement given on 11, 2013 had directed the Government of India “to abolish current restrictions/conditions imposed on scribes in terms of qualifications.”
Later, in Aditya Narayan Tiwari Vs. Union of India case dated 4.12.18, the Delhi high court clarified on revised guidelines and made it clear that “Till the panel of scribes is formed if any examination is conducted by any of the departments wherein the petitioner and similarly situated persons appear in the exam. the guidelines dated 29.8.2018 shall not be applicable, however, the candidate shall appear in terms of guidelines dated 26.2.2013. ”
But no such panel was formed and the responsibility of availing scribe still lies on the candidate.
Based on a notification issued from the Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare in January 2019, in February 2019 UGC issued a notification to all concerned Universities directing them to communicate the same to all colleges/institutes affiliated with it.
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