Freedom Under Fire: Handwara Girl Remains in Police Detention; JNU Students, Teachers Reject Punishment

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

Security forces in Handwara after the protests. Credit: PTI

Security forces in Handwara after the protests two weeks ago. Credit: PTI

Handwara girl remains in ‘police detention’, lawyers allege intimidation

The young girl in Handwara allegedly molested by an army official remains in police detention, which the police have called ‘protective custody’, Hindustan Times reported. The alleged molestation gave rise to protests, where five were killed in security force firing two weeks ago. The girl has told the chief judicial magistrate that the accused where in fact two local boys and not an army man, but her family and supporters have said this statement is because of police pressure.

The girl’s lawyers have said she will “continue to remain in police custody for the time being”.

Jammu & Kashmir State Commission for Women chairperson Nayeema Mehjoor will meet the girl on April 27. The girl had reportedly written a letter alleging “intimidation by police” to Mehjoor on Monday.

JNU students, teachers reject punishment

Both the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) and the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA)  on April 26 “rejected” the punishments meted out to students by university authorities on the basis of the high-level enquiry committee’s report on the February 9 incident, reports say.

However, dismissing the HLEC report as “undemocratic”, the students refused to accept the punishment or pay the fine. Members of JNUSU burnt copies of the report, and said they would hold a protest march in campus Wednesday and a “fast unto death” after that. “We wholly reject the committee, its report and the punishments and will not be following it… Tomorrow, we will march… and reclaim our Freedom Square, where we will begin an indefinite hunger strike,” said Kanhaiya Kumar, JNUSU president.

The JNUTA also dismissed the report and, in a letter addressed to the VC, expressed its “strong protest against the unacceptable attitude of the administration”. They had earlier dismissed the HLEC as a whole, saying it was formed by flouting university norms.

116 farmers committed suicide so far in 2016

According to a Hindustan Times report, as many as 116 farmers have committed suicide so far in 2016, with maximum cases reported in Maharashtra, followed by Punjab and Telangana, parliament was informed on Tuesday. This comes as more than a third on the country’s districts have been declared to be facing a severe drought.

Trafficking a real risk as villagers flee worst drought in decades, say activists

The worst drought in decades across several states in India is forcing tens of thousands of people to migrate from rural areas in search of water, food and jobs, simultaneously increasing the risk that they may be trafficked or exploited, Hindustan Times quoted activists as saying.

“There’s no water, so there are no jobs to be had on the fields and no food to feed their families,” said Vishwanath Todkar from the NGO Paryay in Osmanabad district, which is helping build water management systems in some villages. “The women and children are particularly vulnerable, as there is no one looking out for them.”

“Disasters are the ground zero for trafficking,” said Dhananjay Tingal, executive director at Bachpan Bachao Andolan. “Everyone’s so focussed on just getting by, that they are easy prey.”

Differently abled people stage protest at bus stand

A group of differently abled people staged a protest in front of a TNSTC bus in Tiruvannamalai bus stand in Tamil Nadu, as the conductor demanded luggage fare for a wheel chair brought in by a differently abled passenger, The Hindu reported. There is a government order exempting differently abled persons having to pay luggage fare for a wheel chair.

A group of more than ten differently abled people gathered at the stand, including a local disability rights activist. TNSTC officials apologised for the incident and promised an enquiry.

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

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