Interview of Barrister Bains

Watch – ‘A Policeman Can’t Play The Role Of An Executioner’

As a CBI court in Mohali sentences six Punjab Police personnel 10-year rigorous imprisonment for the disappearance (read extra-judicial killing) of Baba Charan Singh and six members of his family in 1992-93, LokMarg speaks to Barrister Satnam Singh Bains, the lawyer-activist behind the conviction.

Watch – Supporters Keep Shaheen Bagh Protest Alive In Delhi

Anti-Citizenship Act protesters at Shaheen Bagh in south Delhi have drawn solidarity from many quarters – from tea-sellers to medical fraternity. These supporters have been distributing hot cups of tea, snacks, food items and medical aid free of cost.

JNU victim Aneek Das violence has left deep scars

‘JNU Violence Has Left Deep Scars On My Memory’

Aneek Das, 22, a Third Year German Language student in Jawaharlal Nehru University, recalls the terror unleashed by masked mob inside the campus on January 5. He still gets nightmares

Many students and teachers had assembled at the Sabarmati T-point on Sunday (January 5) for a peace march called by JNUTA (Jawaharlal Nehru Teachers’ Association). The peace march had been called because the campus had been witnessing sporadic incidents of violence related to registration issues.

The students who had been protesting against the fees hike were of the view that agreeing to registration would mean agreeing to the increased fee structure. Also, since the examinations for the current semester had not been conducted in the university, how could we possibly get ourselves enrolled for the next semester?

A day before the Sunday march the JNU students affiliated to the BJP-backed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad or ABVP wanted to get themselves registered. However, they could not do so because the Wi-Fi connection was disconnected (It is still not clear if someone disconnected the Wi-Fi on purpose or it was a mechanical glitch). The main fight between the left and right wing students was on this issue until matters got out of hand on Sunday around 7.30 pm. From then on, it was mayhem at an unprecedented scale.

Men and women were both part of the masked mob that entered our campus on Sunday. The police, which till then had been keeping a very sharp eye on the campus (even checking each and every auto that entered the campus), allowed a mob to run riot. Being masked should have raised suspicion and they could have been denied entry. Even the guards who are supposed to ‘guard’ the campus were nowhere to be seen. It was disheartening as well as scary to know that such violence can occur on a university campus. Once the attackers charged on the march, the participants ran to save their lives. However, several professors couldn’t run fast and were targeted by the mob. The respected faculty got beaten mercilessly along with a few other students.

I, along with many of my friends, ran to the nearest hostel which is Sabarmati to save our lives. We entered rooms of our friends and put the bed as barricade on the doors. The frustrated mob smashed the window panes to strike fear and vent out their anger. Finally, they went away to another hostel. Though most of us were not badly physically hurt, some of us are undergoing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) for sure. Even while sleeping I wake up in cold sweat when I feel a group of men is banging on my door to break it open. I guess it will take a long time for these scars to go away.

I am a third year student of German at JNU, and I haven’t seen this scale of violence in the campus. Reports are out which shows outsiders entered the campus and unleashed terror on unsuspecting students and teachers. You can’t even imagine the pain and worry that our parents are going through. We are protesting the fees hike because we can’t afford increased fees (which is quite a large amount, unlike what a section of the media have shown).

Our parents are asking us to come home or keep away from the campus until the situation returns to normal, but the thing is that the situation in JNU isn’t being allowed to be normal for the past 3-4 years. When is the situation ever going to be normal enough for us to feel safe?

‘Attackers Were Brutal, Didn’t Spare Teachers, Girls’

Usman Ahmad, 20, a Third Year student at the School of Language (Pashto) in Jawaharlal Nehru University, suffered severe knee injury when masked men attacked a peaceful march by teachers’ body on January 5. Ahmad recalls the chain of events that led to the unprecedented violence on the campus

On Sunday evening (January 5, 2020) around 4 pm, many of us students gathered to attend a peace march called in by JNUTA (Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers’ Association) from Sabarmati T-point.

Then suddenly we heard some commotion we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a group of abusive men, their faces covered with mask, who started throwing stones at us. This caused panic among us and we began to run for cover and shelter towards the hostel area. The mob chased us and started beating students or teachers, whoever they could lay their hands on.

The attackers were beating up people indiscriminately – boys or girls, old or young, they hit them all brutally with sticks and iron rods. Even the elderly professors were not spared. Just as I was attacked by a stranger, I was saved by another stranger.

There were frantic calls for police and medical help as students were worried about the injured. But the attackers had clearly come with a strategy to inflict maximum violence. Not only was the mob beating us up, a group of them were on guard to not let any help or ambulance enter the campus. The police, which needed no permission to chase students in Jamia, did nothing to save the students from the mob this time.

The street lights outside the main gate had been damaged or switched off. It all seems well-planned to me. I have never seen this scale of mob violence in my life and I hope I never see it again. A lot of my friends were injured on Sunday and I am saddened about what is going on in my university.

I belong to Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh and I am the first person from my family to take up higher studies. I lost my father early in life and my elder brother, a mechanic, is the sole breadwinner for the family. Sunday’s incident has shaken my family too. They insisted on video calls to see if I were safe.

Why is it so difficult for people to understand that the increased fees will be a huge burden on many families who can’t afford to send their children to private universities? The JNU fees structure was such that people from any section of society could avail the benefits of higher education here.

We have been protesting against the fee hike for long. JNU authorities had asked us to register ourselves for the next semester. I want to ask if the exams have not been held how we can enrol ourselves for the next semester! Plus, enrolling ourselves would mean we agree to the new fee structure when we clearly don’t. So much has happened and yet our Vice Chancellor is nowhere to be seen. I feel sad and still wonder what is going on in a university we felt so proud to be a part of.

Watch – ‘With CAA, Modi Has Woken Up A Sleeping Tiger’

LokMarg visits Shaheen Bagh in south Delhi, where hundreds of protesters, largely women, have been sitting on demonstration against Citizenship Amendment Act since December 14. They say Modi government has woken up a sleeping tiger and they will not back down till the anti-Constitutional law is revoked.

‘I Celebrate New Year Eve With Cops On Duty’

When revelers hit the streets to celebrate New Year Eve, Ajeet Pandey, 33, from Noida has chosen to serve piping hot tea to policemen on duty. He sees it a humble gesture to acknowledge a thankless policing job

Five years back, I was returning from a New Year Eve’s party with my wife from a friend’s house in Noida. I was barely three kilometers from home when the one of the tyres of my car flattened and I pulled over. As luck would have it, even my spare wheel turned out to be punctured.

Stuck on a Noida road at one o’clock in the night with one’s wife is not exactly a pleasant thought. Suddenly, out of nowhere, two policemen on a patrol bike approached us. As we explained them our situation, they immediately called for assistance and got our tyre fixed. One of them, in his late forties, suggested me to always double check the spare tyre if venturing out at night with family. I thanked them wholeheartedly and went home.

That was the time I realised how important a policeman is for our society and how difficult their job is. These must be sipahis, constables, ASIs (assistant sub inspectors) and sub inspector level officials who do not earn a fat check from their job but forego all festivals in the line of duty and we the residents of this metropolitan city, remain thankless.

At that moment I decided that I will visit policemen who are on duty at every festival. The next evening, when revelers were on the streets of Noida on January 1st 2015, I prepared three flask full of tea, packed up 100 paper-cups, a dozen biscuit packs along with some chips and drove around the city for hours. I randomly visited policemen who were working late in the bone-chilling weather and offered them piping hot tea.

I was amazed to see the reaction from the cops. They were happy and grateful with one cup of hot tea and some biscuits. Actually, they were happy that the residents of this city thought about them. It was a small gesture but it won hearts of the cops and I too returned satisfied with the act.

Ajeet Pandey with Noida Police patrol on New Year Eve

Since then, I visit policemen on duty at all possible festivals to serve them tea and snacks. This New Year’s eve also, I visited many policemen on night patrol with tea and followed it up the next evening too.

If we keep calling the cops with all the bad names that are popular in the culture, how can we expect them to keep us safe? If we thank them at least once a year for their service, it will change the perception of a policeman. If someone is in trouble, the first relief comes in the form of Khaki. This is the truth.

So, why do we shy away in thanking them? Why can’t we celebrate our festivals with those spending nights on the streets to keep us safe? This is a very small gesture and if all of us start following this, there will be a drastic change in policing and police- people relationship in India.

‘Tardy Justice Breeds Calls For Extra-Judicial Killings’

Shaina, 33, a resident of Loni area in Delhi-NCR, was returning from college on August 11, 2009, when she was attacked with acid by a jilted lover. An activist for women’s rights, she demands speedy justice in crimes against women and death penalty for rapists.

I cannot forget that day. It was a beautiful evening. I was feeling a cool breeze after a spell of rain. I was returning from my college classes unaware of how things would change for me from that day onward. A man had been stalking me for several months and had proposed me time and again for marriage. That day he was on a two-wheeler with an accomplice. As soon as he came in front of me, I thought he would try to convince me once again. I was wrong. Angered by taking a no to his moves, he had carried a bottle of acid with him, which he threw on my face.

The pain was unbearable. Even while in pain, I tried to catch hold of him but he escaped. I felt my skin was melting and I cried for help. The passers-by were also shocked as they be seeing such a horrific incident in person for the first time.

They took me to the hospital but by that time, my face was had been severely damaged. The treatment was long and costly and even though I survived, I could not find the courage to see my face in mirror.

I fought a long legal battle and today both the attackers are behind the bars, serving life imprisonment.

That incident happened more than a decade ago. But when I look at social scenario today, not much has changed in these ten years. Like me, all the women who faced similar or more heinous crime, have to wait for years to get justice. Families of those who were raped and killed, like Nirbhaya, have to live often with disgrace, agony and pain. Laws after laws are being passed but the prevention of crime against women is not possible with a tardy justice system.

This is why most people, including me, feel that the Hyderabad Police is probably right in having killed the rapists and murderers of Dr Reddy, even though it has set a wrong precedent. What will the policemen do if the judicial system takes so long to hang such monsters?

The rapists and murderers of Nirbhaya are still in jail for years even after being awarded the capital punishment. One mercy petition after another is being filed for them to buy time. How long the parents of Nirbhaya seek justice? There has to be an end. There has to be a fear of law among such criminals. Without eminent threat of death, such heinous cases are hard to be prevented. 

Not only the justice system but the police too needs to act fast on such complaints. There should be no laid back attitude by the agencies and immediate disciplinary action must be taken against those officers who are delaying investigation.

Today my life’s only aim is to fight against atrocities against women. I know I have lost a lot of things in life but the acid attack has given me a new motive to carry on. I am working with the Delhi Commission for Women as a Mahila Panchayat member and giving strength and providing all possible aid to women who face violence and sexual assault. Hope the governments work together in strengthening of laws, courts and police for effective action and quick justice in all such cases.

‘Why Can’t India Show Some Heart To Rohingyas Too?’

Mohammad Haroon, 50, a Rohingya from Myanmar, says he is grateful to have found shelter and safety in Okhla, New Delhi some five years back. However, he is worried about “new laws” that seek to leave them homeless once again.

Nobody wants to leave his or her ancestral land unless there are severe compulsions. Rohingya Muslims are no exception. We fled our motherland about five years back. The military-led government of Myanmar was trying to kill us all, charging the entire Rohingya community with involvement in terrorist activities. Village after villages were burnt down, our people were chased away or taken to custody and tortured.

Many of our people were killed in cold blood and labeled as terrorist without any trial. The country’s regime did not want us. There was state-sponsored ethnic cleansing happening in Rohingya-dominated Rakhine. We were left with no other choice than to pack our belongings on a dreaded night and leave before the military could knock on our doors.

Some of us managed to cross the border first to Bangladesh and from there to India. Doing odd jobs, my family made our journey to Delhi for better means of living. But of late, for several months, we hear the talks about throwing out infiltrators, illegal migrants from India. Do Indians not have the heart to show some sympathy for a persecuted community? I want to ask all Indians from your platform: Why can’t we live here?

Most of the Rohingyas living in India are working in garbage disposal sector. Most of us are in the business of collecting garbage and segregating them for bigger contractors. We are helping this country keep clean. There is no harm if we continue with our business.

Children of Haroon family outside their dwelling at Okhla in New Delhi

We earn just enough to feed ourselves. We are poor. Our kids don’t have proper clothing for winters. We have actually never faced such winters before we came to Delhi.

The winters in Myanmar are mild and, often, pleasant. Not as harsh as here in Delhi. Since we do not live in pucca houses, the wind at night makes it worse. But home is where safety is, where acceptance is.

Many media persons come here to interview us. We show them the condition of our houses. They are all made of bamboos and polythene. We live in conditions very similar to the Hindu refugees who came from Pakistan. But now, with passing of the new law, they will be accepted as citizens, while we will continue to be refugees.

We have been repeatedly requesting the Indian government to give us citizenship, considering us as refugees. We do not want to live in fear, that’s all. We just want to live our lives peacefully and don’t want our children to face what we have faced in Myanmar. 

We worry for our children. Thanks to the diverse culture of this country, we are not seen as outsiders mostly. Yes, we do face several hardships because we do not have any identification documents. But we are grateful to this nation as we are at least alive here. Even if our children become rag-pickers, they will at least be alive here in India.

‘North-East Economy Will Suffer If Citizenship Act Is Implemented’

Nicky Chandam, a 36-year old theatre artist from Manipur, believes the new Citizenship law will have a disastrous impact on the already-fragile economies of the Northeastern states

As a Manipuri who has been living in Delhi for many years now, I have experienced discrimination first hand. I would never even dream of having a bigoted view about people who have been displaced and seek shelter as refugees. However, one must realise how Northeastern states are demographically and economically different from other states in India. The economies of North-East is fragile because of continuous blockades etc. and the resource crunch has reached its limit.

Although I work in Delhi, it has been a few months that I have been in Imphal (Manipur) for family work. And what a tough time it has been! I am whole-heartedly participating in the protests against Citizenship Act because this will bring in lot of troubles for our already restive region. There is another reason for protest as I find this law openly discriminatory in nature and, as an artist who believes in a Utopian world, I cannot accept it.

However, help and shelter to refugees must not come at the cost of indigenous people. There needs to be a proper procedure in place to rehabilitate immigrants or refugees in such a manner that the native population doesn’t suffer tremendously.

In 2013, around three lakh people were said to have moved from various parts of the country to North-East. As per records, and the crime rates have also been reported as having gone up. This when the indigenous people are migrating from the region for better livelihood, which creates a demographic imbalance. The central government need to pull up their socks if they want the refugee/immigrants crisis to be truly solved.

We understand the pain of displaced people and refugees around the world. All we are saying is that we are against illegal immigrants. Rather than filtering out the illegal immigrants, this new law wants to straightaway give legality to everyone, except Muslims. We feel cheated by the current government.

As an artist I understand how effective and impactful art can be bringing about major changes. Last year I had organised a program where poetry was used as resistance. Artists need to speak up now against this unjustified law. As an artist, I believe in a world where one human being will love another.

The left worldview has had its day in politics across the world, and now it’s time for right wing politics. And when this reaches its crescendo, people will have no choice but to strike the middle path. The left thinks of others at the cost of oneself while the right wing thinks of oneself at the cost of others. Life, however, thrives in balance.

The current Finland Prime Minister, Sanna Marin (34), the youngest to hold the high office, and her cabinet of empowered women, many of whom are in their early thirties, give me hope that such a world is possible. Someday I hope India will rise like the Phoenix from the ashes of hatred and be happy once again.

(The narrator is the founder and managing director of the Octave Foundation, a cultural group that aims to tells stories from North-East through craft and arts)