A round-up of news, both bad and good, on the rights front from India.
Four killed after soldiers fire at protestors in Kashmir’s Handwara
According to a Hindustan Times report, forces opened fire at a group of people protesting the alleged molestation of a schoolgirl by a soldier and demanding his arrest, killing three and injuring many in north Kashmir’s Handwara on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, a fourth person died from gunshot wounds – this time a woman who was working on her kitchen garden when the army firing erupted.
The Kashmir Valley is witnessing a complete shutdown after the army firing, and curfew has been imposed in Handwara, Kupwara and parts of Srinagar, The Wire reported. All shops and business are closed, and there is no public transport on the roads. The shutdown call was given by Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani, Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front chief Yasin Malik and Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to protest the alleged molestation and firing by security forces on the protesters.
On Thursday morning, mobile internet services are unavailable in Handwara, a NDTV report says.
For Mandya couple, love unites, but ‘love jihad’ divides
When Ashitha and Shakeel, long-time friends from Mandya decided to get married, their families agreed to the inter-religious relationship immediately, the Bangalore Mirror reports.
However, this was not the end of it. A group of right-wing and Hindutva activists from the BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal staged a protest dharna outside Ashitha’s parents’ house, terming the relationship a case of ‘love jihad’.
Ashitha’s father said, “We were shocked to see a group of Hindutva activists urging us to call off the marriage. They were in front of our house for almost one hour before we called the police and the protest had to be withdrawn. We have now sought police protection and we hope the matter will be resolved at the earliest.” The wedding is set to go on as planned next Sunday as the families stand united.
According to a report in The Hindu, the Mandya east police has registered a suo moto case against those protesting outside Ashitha’s house.
Police question one more journalist in Bastar
According to a report in The Hindu, another local journalist based in Dantewada district of the Bastar region in Chhattisgarh was questioned by the police for alleged Maoist links on Wednesday. Ajay Patel, a contributor to a Hindi daily, was asked to come to the Dantewada police station.
“A Maoist leader was arrested for a case of an IED blast from Bade Gudra area recently. He confessed that the ultras bought wires from Mr. Patel’s shop. We called him only to crosscheck some of the Maoist leader’s versions. There is nothing much in the case and he is not a journalist. The police have the right the crosscheck if something comes as a part of our investigation. He was let off after questioning,” Dantewada district superintendent of police Kamlochan Kashyap said.
Four journalists from different parts of Bastar are in jail under various offences, while one journalist was forced to leave Bastar in the last six months.
Activists in Odisha seek timely hearing of cases
According to a report in The Hindu, a team of concerned citizens and social activists met the Odisha’s director of public prosecutions in Bhubanewsar on Tuesday and sought the timely hearing of the cases of under-trial prisoners in different courts of the state, especially in Nayagarh and Bhanjanagar sessions courts.
The activists also told the director about the ongoing hunger strike by prisoners in Jharpada and Bhanjanagar jails demanding speedy trial of their cases, and the order of the Odisha Human Rights Commission on the issue.
Ramdev booked for ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ slogan remark
According to a report in The Indian Express, yoga guru Ramdev, who had said he would have beheaded lakhs of people for not chanting ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ slogan if the country didn’t have laws, was booked on Wednesday by the Hyderabad police. A case was registered based on a complaint by Mohd Bin Omer, a medical college student and an activist of Darsgah Jihad-O-Shahadat, under section 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings) of the IPC, a senior police officer said.
Omer said in his complaint that Ramdev had threatened members of a particular community.
Government looks at counselling to help farmers in Maharashtra’s drought zone
Maharashtra reported more than 40% of the total number of farmer suicides in the country last year, and 57 suicide cases have been reported from the state in the first three months of 2016. However, a few lives may have been saved by counsellors at the state health advice call centre operated from Pune, a report in The Indian Express says.
“We received 2,089 calls (from farmers identified to be suffering from depression) between October 2015 and March 31 this year, and 60 were (found) with suicidal tendencies. Our counsellors had long chats with them and explained what crops can be grown in a drought-prone region that do not require (much) water,” Nirja Banker, coordinator of the call centre said. “There is always a solution to a problem,” Banker added.
The idea to create counselling services for farmers suffering from depression was sparked by a massive survey launched by the state government in October last year. In the last four months, the survey has identified 2.95 lakh farmers with significant health problems. Of them, 4,607 were found suffering from depression and 15,622 had hypertension.
Maharashtra passes law against social boycott
The Maharashtra legislature unanimously passed the Prohibition of Social Boycott Bill on Wednesday, meant to end the menace of extra-judicial institutions like caste and community panchayats, The Indian Express reports. The bill was initiated by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who said: “The Act was required in the backdrop of prevailing atrocities inflicted on people in the name of tradition, caste and community which cannot be allowed in Maharashtra. Social boycott will be dealt with an iron hand in my government. The atrocities inflicted by a handful of people in the name of ‘jaati panchayats’ or groups citing caste and community traditions will not be tolerated if it questions the dignity of a human being.”
Terming social boycott as an offence, the punishment is set at imprisonment upto seven years, a fine of five lakh rupees, or both. The victim or any member of the victim’s family can file a complaint either to police or directly to the magistrate. The bill has also asked for speedy trials on such cases, within six months of the chargesheet.
Kejriwal offers grade-IV job to Rohith Vemula’s brother, Dalit activists ‘insulted’
According to a Hindustan Times report, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has offered Rohith Vemula’s brother Raja Vemula a ‘compassionate appointment’ as a grade-IV clerk. Raja said he is grateful, but is yet to decide whether he will take the job. He has a MSc in applied geology and has also cleared the NET exam, enabling him to teach in government colleges.
Dalit activists from Hyderabad Central University (HCU) thought the offer was “insulting”, given Raja’s qualifications. “Raja is a highly qualified, hard working and bright Dalit. Offering him a job like this is simply insulting,” said Gummidi Prabhakar, a close friend of Rohith and a leader of the Ambedkar Students’ Association. Sowmya Dechamma, an assistant professor at HCU supporting the students’ agitation, was also critical of Kejriwal’s offer.
Madras HC orders special cells set up to protect inter-caste couples
Aimed at preventing “honour” killings, the Madras high court on Wednesday gave a series of directions to the Tamil Nadu government, including setting up of special cells to deal with complaints of harassment and threat to couples of inter-caste marriage and provide protection to them, Hindustan Times reported. The judge passed the order during the hearing of a petition by B. Dilipkumar, a Dalit whose caste Hindu wife was murdered in a case of “honour” killing.
Third accused in RTI activist murder held
The police on Wednesday arrested Shivaprasad (28) of Panjimogaru in connection with the murder of 51-year-old RTI activist Vinayak Baliga on March 21, 2016, The Hindu reported.
Shivaprasad was with the other accused, Vineet Poojary and Nishit Devadiga, who have already been arrested, when they attacked Baliga near his house on March 21. The police said that a search is on for Srikant who has been accused of hiring the three arrested persons for murdering Baliga.
Founder of Mangaluru unit of Namo Youth Brigade Naresh Shenoy, whom the police are looking for in connection with the murder, has filed an anticipatory bail application. He has been missing since the day of the killing.
Do you know of any other incident we should highlight in this column? Write to me at email@example.com.
If you want to receive regular email updates from this column, subscribe to the Freedom Under Fire newsletter.