Freedom Under Fire: Protests Against Rahat Fateh Ali Khan Concert; Gujarat Govt Dictates PhD Topics

A round-up of news, both bad and good, on the rights front from India.

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Credit: Thomas Rome/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. Credit: Thomas Rome/Flickr CC BY 2.0

Right-wingers rage against Rahat Fateh Ali Khan concert

Amid protests by right wing groups against a concert by Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan in Ahmedabad, the organisers of the show (scheduled for April 30) are firm on going ahead with the event despite the protests raised by Hindu outfits like Shiv Sena and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), The Times of India reported.

On Monday , around 20 activists of the Sena first tore up a large banner near the Shahibaug Underbridge and then defaced another banner at RTO Circle with black ink. According to a report in Ahmedabad Mirror, Shiv Sena’s central Gujarat president Ashok Sharma said, “Pakistan has always betrayed and backstabbed us. Why should we allow their singers in our country and make them wealthy? How can we forget the recent Pathankot attack in which our soldiers were killed? We protested at Shahibaug by removing the posters of the concert in the city. We will not allow any Pakistani singer in Gujarat or in India until that country behaves like a good neighbour. This concert will not happen. We will not let Rahat Fateh Ali enter the event venue.”

“We have receiving good bookings. The show will go on as scheduled. We haven’t learned about any protests. We hope to have a successful show,” the organisers said.

Gujarat government gives universities list of topics for PhD theses

In a move that will make PhD students no different from on the ground researchers for the state bureaucracy, the state government in Gujarat has dictated a list of 82 topics for doctoral theses, which include various welfare schemes and programmes of the state and central governments, a Times of India report says.

The government has directed that each university should ensure that doctoral students opt for at least five subjects from this list. The list of topics include ‘Comparative study of Sardar Patel Awas Yojna and Indira Awas Yojana’; ‘Education of minorities — A critical study’; ‘Gujarat: Good governance for growth, scientific management and development — A critical study of existing pattern and future course —A policy suggestions (sic)’; ‘Mutual cooperation among states’ action plans and comparative analysis of strategies for development — A Gujarat Model’; and ‘Comprehensive analysis of growth of water in seven reservoirs of Saurashtra through SAUNI Yojana’, in addition to schemes like the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Many educationists have sharply criticised the move, saying that it seems like the state government wants students to do the work of government servants.

Once again, ABVP members try to attack Saibaba on campus

ABVP members allegedly tried to attack Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba on Monday, Hindustan Times reported. This was the third attempt to attack the disabled English teacher.

The incident occurred at Ram Lal Anand college, where Saibaba used to teach before he was suspended, after Maharashtra police arrested him on the allegation that he had Naxal links. He was released on bail earlier this month.

“(The attackers) were outsiders who did not want me to come to college. They also oppose my reinstatement,” Saibaba said.  A committee constituted by the college is currently looking into the matter of his reinstatement.

The protest against Saibaba was headed by Delhi University Students’ Union president Chhatrapal Yadav. “We have told him not to come to college repeatedly, but he doesn’t listen. There are serious allegations against him. He comes to college to turn students into Naxalites,” Yadav said.

The RLA staff association has condemned the incident. “We condemn the principal’s inaction. He didn’t act when outsiders where attacking Saibaba and senior teachers. We demand that the committee decide on his reinstatement soon,” said Rakesh Kumar, secretary of the association.

Fighting child trafficking through football

According to the Jharkhand police website, as many as 189 cases of kidnapping were registered in the state over the last five years, a Hindustan Times report says. Almost 90% of the victims were taken to Delhi or Mumbai and sold as domestic helps. About 33,000 minors are trafficked out of Jharkhand every year. Over 50% of the minors rescued from households across the country hail from the state.

However, NGOs believe this figure may be just the tip of the iceberg. “A number of cases go unreported because of a major communication gap between the people and the police force that guards them. The police should begin community policing in collaboration with NGOs to address the issue,” said a child rights activist who works in the Naxal-hit areas of Gumla.

Football is used to spread awareness about trafficking in Gumla, the district in Jharkhand worst affected by trafficking. “It’s all about letting the rescued girls build their lives through sports. Football is a big part of our village-level sensitisation programmes against human-trafficking, and everybody – from district administration officials to child welfare committee members – is doing all they can to help,” says Rishi Kant of Shakti Vahini, a Delhi-based NGO. Youngsters from various walks of life come together to fight human-trafficking at these football matches, he adds.

Thakurs kill Dalit youth for urinating

According to a report in The Hindu, a Dalit youth was allegedly killed by Thakurs in a Saharanpur village on Saturday for urinating in a plot belonging to them, a charge the dominant community denied. According to the FIR registered by the victim’s father, Ramsharan, Narendra had gone out to urinate on Saturday night when he was mobbed by the Thakurs in Saharanpur’s Fatehpur village.

Narendra was abused and beaten up, said Yogendra Pal, the circle officer of Gangoh area under which the village falls. The police said that when Ramsharan reached the spot and intervened, he was also allegedly beaten.

The police have arrested five persons and registered a case under sections 302, 323, 504 and 3(2) of the SC/ST Act.

Malaya tribals’ struggle for land remains unresolved

The land struggle initiated by members of Moorthikunnu settlement of Malaya tribal people at Kadappara of Palakkad district, Kerala continues unresolved even after reaching 100 days because of the indifferent attitude of Revenue and Forest authorities, The Hindu reported. This is despite an order from the district collector that says the occupied land should be given to 75 members of 19 tribal families involved in the struggle.

The agitating families are living in temporary sheds on the occupied land since January 15. “There were 18 huts and 23 graves on such a small patch and no cultivation was possible over the rocks. As far as the dead were concerned, there was no burial ground. We had no option but to put up graves in the close proximity of houses,” explained Mathu, a tribal woman, narrating the situation that forced them to go on a land occupation struggle. The group is seeking ownership over 22 acres of vested forestland in the locality under the Forest Rights Act.

Do you know of any other incident we should highlight in this column? Write to me at [email protected].

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