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Round Table Conference (RTC)

On the eve of 7th Annual State Conference, Dalit Sthree Sakthi (DSS) has organized a state level Round Table Conference (RTC) on the Violence Against Dalit Women and Girl Children on 27th February 2013, at SSS Kalyana Manadapam, Secunderabad.

The victims and witnesses of 30 major incidents of violence comprising of rapes, gang rapes, murders, mass attacks and cheating in the name of love have narrated their agony before the jury. The jury was constituted with IAS & IPS Officers of Line Departments, State & National SC Commissions, Editors of Prominent Print & Electronic Media and Intellectuals.

The Jury Members On The Dais Were:

· K. Praveen Kumar IAS, Director-Fisheries Department

· P. Chandramouli IPS, Inspector General of Police-PCR Cell

· D. Hanumantharaya Director-National SC Commission

· R. Subba Rao IAS, Secretary- State SC/ST Commission

· Manikyala Rao Joint Director-Director of Prosecutions

· Swarna Latha Joint Director-Women & Child Welfare Department

· Jumuna Director Advocacy –SERP

· Mallepalli Laxmaiah, Director CDS

· Lakshmi - NREGA

· Vimala-Senior Advocate

· Jupaka Subhadra-Writer

· K. Srinivas Editor-Andhra Jyothi

· Allam Narayana Editor-Namaste Telangana

· K. Venkateswarlu Deputy Editor-The Hindu

· Shiva Prasad Chief Editor-ZEE 24

· Premamalini Input Editor-TV9

· Aruna-HMTV

The program started with the hoisting of DSS flag by P Chandra Mouli IPS, followed by the felicitation of the photos of Ambedkar and Savitribai Phule. The program was presided over by the Convener of DSS, Ms Jhansi Geddam. Giving a brief introduction to the programme, she said that, hundreds of violence against dalit adivasi women and girl children addressed by DSS, 30 incidents with major gaps are being presented on the day. These cases would exhibit the reasons behind their incidence, the response of the society, government and officials before, during and after the occurrence of the incident.

The underlying objective of presenting these cases in public and before the jury is that, the members of the jury would examine each case thoroughly. As the cases are presented by the victims themselves with the evidences gathered by DSS, necessary solution could be sought to overcome the gaps and render justice to bring them to the mainstream. These cases would lay bare the fact that the dalit adivasi women do not have a safe place - be it home, school, work place, devotional place or the society. Each case is an example of struggle for the basic rights - starting from the registration of case and arrest of the accused. There is not a single case, where these have happened as a rule of law, without the interference of the IGP-PCR Cell, DIG, SP or other officials. In addition, the victims face threats from the perpetrators and caste elders for compromise. What is even more pressing is that, even the police force the victims to take back the case or create situations to suppress the case. Besides these, simple procedures such as investigation on time, filing the charge sheet, presenting in the special courts and effective role of PPs are always delayed as a rule. The willful negligence by Social Welfare (SWD), Women and Child Welfare Departments is evident.

She said that the media is the bridge for the victims to connect with the society and government. That is the major reason why the editors of all the prominent electronic and print media are invited to the event as jury members. Their presence would strengthen the programme. The recent rape case of Nirbhaya has come to lime light due to the publicity rendered by the media. The media, apart from focusing the issue, has raised a movement in solidarity to the victim. Then she said that, a number of such incidents are happening on dalit adivasi women, which are not being focused by the media. For instance, acid attack on Lalithabai (14), a tribal girl of Tenali in Guntur district was murdered for rejecting love. Tenali is not a remote area. Still, neither the media, nor the government officials here have no clue of this incident for reasons unknown. The media is unaware of most of the incidents being presented here this day.

Jhansi then briefed about the cases being presented for the day. They consist of both inter and intra community violence. These cases clearly depict the negligence of the Social Welfare and Women & Child Welfare Department in discharging their duties. Though the District Vigilance and Monitoring Committee is there for monitoring the implementation of the SC/ST (PoA) Act, the SWD is not paying the compensation, relief and rehabilitation to the victims. In the case of Chellapu Devi, a mentally retarded minor girl, who was sexually exploited and has given birth to a child, compensation or rehabilitation have not been taken care till date by the WCD. This is annoying to the fact that the same department has announced that Rs. 950 crores has remained unspent with them. Jhansi said that the RTCs of DSS have been conducted in 7 districts where DSS is operational and the cases were presented before the officials. The cases which remained unresolved at district level are presented before the state jury this day.

Daniel Vijay Prakash, Programme Manager, DSS explained the interventions of DSS to address the gaps in the cases. Taking the instance of Bullitalli case, he explained in detail the efforts taken to get the case registered by continuous follow up with the DSP, special review with SP, several representations to the IGP-PCR Cell etc. Regrettably, SWD and WCD have not responded till date. Same is the case with Narendra Devi, where SWD and WCD have not taken action to the date. DNA test was not conducted even after giving birth to a baby. In the abetment to suicide case of Renuka, the accused have not been arrested till now. Sections of SC/ST (PoA) Act were not added even though she has mentioned caste discrimination clearly in her dying declaration. In the gang rape and murder case of Triveni, the accused were arrested after 2 years owing to the continuous efforts of DSS, but the injured have not been rehabilitated till now.

Cases Presented Before the Jury:

1. Narendra Devi (17) with her infant – Cheating in the name of love

2. Bulitalli (20) with 8 months pregnancy – Cheating in the name of love

3. Anjali (7) – Rape

4. Jaya Lakshmi (13) with her infant – Rape

5. Kalavathi (13) – Sexual exploitation

6. Lalitha Bai (14) – Death due to acid attack

7. Triveni (12) – Attack, gang rape and murder

8. Renuka (14) – Abetment to suicide

9. Laxmi Durga (17)- Rape

10. Ashok (25) - Caste abuse and mass attack

11. Jayamma (40) – Caste abuse and harassment at work place

12. Sandhya and Naga lakshmi – Kidnap and rape

13. Aruna (24) – Murder

14. Swapna (19) – Rape and murder

15. Karagraharam – Land grabbing

16. Gundala – Land grabbing

17. Darla Durga (7) - Rape

18. Kappiri Divya (12) – Rape and murder

19. Ch Devi(16) – Sexual exploitation

20. Jippiga Kumari (16) - Kidnap and rape

21. Katti Mariamma (11) - Murder

30 cases of serious unresolved violations, their present status and the demands were compiled as a book and presented to the jury and media as jury kit. Victims, survivors and witnesses narrated the incidents while the DSS team members explained the gaps in each case. A power point presentation with the videos, audios, photos and concerned evidences was presented for each case in the back drop.

The victims, survivors and the relatives of the deceased and rape victims could not control their emotions and burst out to tears as they narrated their cases. Their painful experiences moved the hearts of the audience and even the jury. Padmamma, mother of the deceased Swapna (rape and murder) told her painful story of bringing up and educating her daughter with Rs.20/- earnings per day. She lost her beautiful and intelligent daughter to the lust of the accused who raped and murdered her in the church. That was the day where all her dreams for her daughter shattered. While the parents of the deceased in Renuka and Lalita Bai case shared their agony, everyone was in tears.

The Response from the Jury Members


K. Praveen Kumar, IAS said that the composition of jury was excellent and demonstrates the effort of DSS. He has been well acquainted with the convener and program manager of DSS for a long time. DSS is in the stage of reaching the places where even the government is not reaching. DSS has become the ‘Hope of the Hopeless’. DSS remains in the hearts of the victims for the invaluable services they have rendered. Then he stressed on the need to create awareness on SC/ST (PoA) Act among the officers and educated. There is a need to approach in a comprehensive manner in every case. SCP and TSP Acts were achieved as a result of mass movement lead by Kaki Madhava Rao, IAS. In spite of the presence of numerous Acts and Laws, DSS still has to intervene in quite a few cases due to the lack of knowledge on the acts among the duty bearers. Quoting Nirbhaya’s case as example, he said, that the case gained visibility due to the intervention of media and state, but none of the atrocities gained such visibility though they were terrible and inhuman. Same is the case with the dalit workers. The production in the country would impede in the absence of dalit workers. But no one is either aware or fights for the rights of Unorganized Workers. Hence there is a need to ensure that all the statutory bodies acting for SC/ST (PoA) Act, Unorganized Workers Act and other related acts should be formed and function effectively.

Premamalini, Input Editor-TV9 has appreciated the work done by DSS and for bringing many serious cases on to one platform. She expressed her agony that though she was in media since many years, she has never come across such inhuman incidents. She said that it is very painful to listen to the gruesome traumatic experiences of the dalit women who went through atrocities like sexual violence, rape, acid attacks, murders, cheating. As a representative from media, she felt that all these cases need to be taken seriously and focused till they get justice. Media is not the only responsible social agent for not giving much visibility to the cause. It is also the responsibility of the movements to bring the incidents to the notice of the media. Saying about the importance given to Nirbhaya’s incident by media, she said that if the incident was not given such importance, it would have also been stifled. She requested to bring to their notice any incident and promised to give their best to access justice.

P. Chandramouli, IPS, Inspector General of Police of PCR Cell said that he is attending such a meeting for the first time.He appreciated that the work of DSS is commendable.

The Constitution of India speaks about the Abolition of Untouchability in Article 17. As it failed to curtail the atrocities, separate acts such as Untouchability Offences Act and PCR Act. As these acts have also failed, SC/ST (PoA) Act, Special Courts and Special PPs etc., have been introduced. PCR Cell has been established for the effective implementation. He said that DSS has played a prominent role in bringing the amendment to the Act at national and state levels. It is noticeable that even the National Advisory Council has accepted most of the recommendations.

He said that most of the victims complained that their cases were not registered even after approaching the police station. He suggested them to approach the SP, who is bound to take action in case the SHO fails to respond. The complainants should make sure that the complaint to the SP is recorded. Then the IO is obliged to take required action of arresting the accused, providing protection to the victims, conducting DNA tests, etc.

He promised to review the cases of DSS once in a month on behalf of the PCR Cell. He said that PCR Cell is planning to organise sensitization programmes to the police department in APPA.

Allam Narayana, Editor, Namaste Telangana said that the violence is systemized.Media, which is supposed to function independent of any institution, is not so, owing to many reasons.

It is good that DSS has invited media as jury members which would help in sensitizing them. The situation would have been worse if sincere officers like Chandramouli and Praveen Kumar not there. The faction of perpetrators is very tough. He said that the program has brought positive awareness towards dalit issues to the media. He gave a word that Namaste Telangana would give ample time and space for eradication of violence on dalit adivasi women and girl children.

Shiva Prasad, Chief Editor, Z 24 said that in spite of being experienced in media, he could not take the miserable tales of the victims.Nirbhaya's incident was thought provoking, he said.The role played in responding to the incident as an individual and media person was not

satisfactory. He felt that, often this feeling of guilt is covered by giving self-excuses. The cases heard in the jury of DSS are even more severe and need immediate attention. Has DSS not stood by the side of the victims from the beginning, even this justice would not have been rendered to the victims. He concluded saying that the concerned departments and media need to put in more efforts to address the injustice in the society.

Swarna Latha Joint Director of Women and Child Welfare Department said that, payment of relief to the rape victims should be prioritised as soon as the violence takes place.The amount can be later reimbursed to the head of account.

After witnessing the cases in the RTC, she felt the urge to immediately address the pending cases in her department. She opined that the voice of the Dalit Adivasi Women needs to be raised even louder. It is pathetic that the situation of the dalit girl children is more vulnerable, they are the ones mostly prone to cheating in the name of love. She said that there is every need to conduct sensitization programmes to the youth and men to bring in a change in the attitude. The responsibility towards this positive change lies on everyone in the society.

K. Srinivas, Editor, Andhra Jyothi said that despite the fact that the Editors of media are put in cages these days, they are still giving their best to sensitize the larger civil society.Earlier, the media expressed biased opinions towards societal issues.For instance, Pritish Nandy criticised communists.At present, the situation is different.Every newspaper has its stand on responding towards the issues.He said that, as a representative of Andhra Jyothi, he is proud to state their immediate and continuous response towards sensitive issues, like Vakapalli.

Not every newspaper does that. It is not completely true that media is prejudiced with caste and class. In the case of Nirbhaya which has come to lime light due to media, the victim belongs to back ward community and belongs to lower middle class family. The editors need to balance between addressing the concerns of the society, as well as, maintaining the ethics of media, which is a double edged knife. The incidents happening in the recent past resulted in NGOs keeping a distance from media. He assured that still, media is a reliable source of communication.

Lakshmi, NREGA said that NREGA always worked in favour of dalit women. It is shameful that incidets degrading dalit women are happening till date. She proposed that all the institutions work together to address the issues. She said that possessing sound economic background also helps in fighting violence and NREGA is a good instrument towards achieving economic status for dalit women.




Manikyala Rao, Joint Director, Director of Prosecutions said that he would take necessary steps towards strengthening the victims and witnesses, sensitizing PPs and increase the conviction rate. It is obligatory to see that the witnesses do not become hostile. He said that he would give required instructions to the concerned PPs.


Aruna, HMTV appreciated the dedicated work of DSS. She said that HMTV was always with DSS and will continue to be. She alleged that media is colour blind which cannot focus the suffering of dalit adivasi women. The recent instance is the case of Nirbhaya which was highlighted by the media whereas the protest of women in front of secretariat, who were lathi charged and not covered by media.

Jamuna, SERP said that SERP formed social action communities with 11,000 women of which

majority are dalit women. Even these action communities are not free of violence, the root cause being the patriarchal ideology of the society. Sexual violence is persistent in the families, communities and society. There is a need to open up and bring in a change in this situation with continuous effort. It should also be understood that it is the vulnerable situations of the victims that push them towards compromise. Non-provision of medical assistance, delay in conducting medical and DNA tests is itself denial of justice, she said. There is a need to provide medical card and provide free medical assistance to the victims for life time.

Hanumantharaya, Director National SC Commission said that the commission has been formed as per Art 338 of Indian Constitution to protect the SCs and STs from atrocities. This also enables the commission to take up the cases reported in the news papers as suo- moto and deal with them. He assured that the cases presented in the RTC would be taken up by

by the commission for necessary action. He said that immediate instructions would be given to the concerned authorities for the arrest of the accused, payment of compensation, etc. Speaking further, he said that supporting the victims and witnesses is on one hand, while preventing the atrocities before occurrence is on the other hand. This needs huge ground work such as building awareness in the civil society, counselling the perpetrators, taking care to cut down the incidence of violence within the society and family. Media, NGOs, government institutions, should work together to eradicate violence.

Advocate Vimala said that she is well acquainted with Jhansi for many years. She said that people from different groups in the society are responsible for the atrocities, the central cause being the patriarchal society. 90% of violence is concentrated on dalit adivasi women. Ironically, most of the cases are pending in the courts, thus denying justice to the victims.

R Subba Rao, IAS, Secretary of State SC/ST Commission first appreciated the work of DSS and remembered his long association with the organization and Jhansi, the convener.He said that

there is no difference in the treatment of SCs and STs as untouchables since ages. Legal provisions could not completely eliminate the differences. Moreover, the dalits and adivasis are being denied of justice even in the existence of special laws and acts. Even Justice Punnaiah has stated this fact long time ago. The government needs to look through the effective implementation of his recommendations. Daniel from Asmitha, Mallesh from MV Foundation, Sridevi from NREGA, Ratnam, Indira and Padmavathi from State Women Collective of DSS have expressed their solidarity for the victims and witnesses.

Recommendations:

Ø Government to release a white paper on the status of the cases of violence on dalit adivasi women and girl children

Ø Government to release a detailed report on the cases pending in various courts

Ø To establish fast track courts

Ø To appoint a commission on violence against SC, ST women and girl children

Ø To make the PPs accountable to SWD

Ø To release a status report on the rate of convictions and acquittals

Ø Create awareness about the laws and acts to the duty bearers and the community

Ø To ensure effective functioning of statutory bodies at district and state level under SC/ST (PoA) Act

Ø All line departments including DoP to sit once in two months and review the implementation of the Act from FIR to judgement

Ø To organize workshops regularly to empower the dalit women and girl children

Ø To hold a special review by IGP – PCR cell once in two months on the cases taken up by DSS

Ø To issue necessary instructions for immediate action on all the cases presented in the jury

Ø The cases to be referred as false by investigating officers to be sent to the SP for finalization

Ø To pay compensation immediately to the rape victims

Ø To confer judicial powers to State SC/ST Commission

Ø Proceedings of the false counter cases to be stalled till the case is registered by the victim

Ø To register cases U/s 4 of the SC/ST (PoA) Act

Ø Deploying female police personnel in police stations

Ø To conduct DNA test during pregnancy

Ø Considering the added facts as circumstantial evidence

Ø The discrimination of dalit children in educational institutions to be perceived as organized crime

Ø Confiscate the assets of the accused in mob attacks

Ø The State Legal Aid Authority to pursue the stay orders and quash petitions against the atrocity cases

Impact:

ü Involving the editors of print and electronic media in the jury could bring a shift in their thinking, further identifying their gaps.

ü Raising voices in front of the duty bearers and media demanding justice has increased confidence levels among the victims and witnesses

ü Increase in the accountability of the concerned departments

ü Officials sensitised towards the cause

ü Linkages strengthened with the state officials

ü Much visibility at state level

ü Much visibility for the cause through print and electronic media

ü For the first time an editorial was published for the cause in Andhra Jyothi, special stories in other prominent news papers. An exclusive program telecast in many electronic channels


7TH ANNUAL STATE CONFERENCE

28 February 2013 - Hyderabad