Two Public Meetings on State Violence and Repression


Newsletter Sep 2009 - Apr 2010

As part of the national Campaign against Sexual Violence and State Repression, the Centenary Committee for the Celebration of International Women’s Day (which includes Saheli) organised two simultaneous meetings on 9 December, 2009 in Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Initiated to raise awareness about the issues of women living in highly militarised states, the meeting was addressed by Laishram Memma of Poirei Leimarol from Manipur who works with women street vendors and is associated with AITUC, Aarti Kujur who is involved in the struggle against displacement as part of Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan in Jharkhand, Sini Soy, who became an activist when her son was killed in the firing in Kalinga Nagar, Orissa and Geeta Charusivam of Makkal Mandram/CAVOW - Committee Against Violence on Women (Tamil Nadu) who has been closely following the developments in Sri Lanka.

In the pamphlet distributed prior to the meetings, the Committee stated that “women become the most vulnerable targets of violence during war, communal violence or military occupation”….and drew attention to the fact that “In both Kashmir and the Northeast in particular, time and again cases of abuse by the troops have come to light, but the state has never punished them for their crimes. According to a 1994 UN report, there were 882 rape cases by the security forces in Kashmir between 1990-92 alone. According to the National Human Rights Commission, there were 1,039 cases of human rights violations by the security forces from 1990-1999, an average of 109 per year! And these are just the official figures. The real numbers must be even higher as most of the cases go unreported out of fear. The perpetrators of these crimes are granted impunity by the AFSPA in Kashmir and North-east, PSA (Kashmir), the Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) and other such draconian laws. And that’s not all. In Nandigram and Lalgarh, the survivors of rape by the armed cadre of the CPI(M) in November 2007, still wait for justice. In Lalgarh, the rape and murder of Tapashi Malik is yet to result in a conviction. In Vakapalli, Andhra Pradesh, the brutal gand rape of eleven tribal women by the notorious Grey hound police force in 2007, is yet to result in justice. And the same goes for numerous cases of rape by the armed forces and the Salwa Judum in Chhattisgarh, victims of Operation Green Hunt… The instances of women being the target of state repression and sexual assault are numerous and pervasive. The state and judiciary have done almost nothing to prevent these heinous assaults on women by security forces. Hence, we must stand united against such brutal state repression which deprive people of their fundamental and democratic rights, and target the lives and dignity of women in particular.” The speakers talked at length about the people’s movements that are going on in their areas for land, livelihood, and various nationality struggles and the inhuman forms of violence that the state has been resorting to in order to crush these movements. They spoke of many specific incidents where the people have been tortured and harassed by the police, the para-military and the other local armed gangs of corporate houses and the state.

The strategy of the state to target women in particular was highlighted and the fact that the state uses rape as a weapon to crush the movements and to ‘shame’ the entire community was  brought out in all the accounts. It was highlighted that the state machinery colludes to shield the guilty and investigative agencies like the CBI have actively stood by the police and the armed forces’ in their crimes. Uncertainty abounds in every aspect of living, and women have additional burden of the family when men are imprisoned or forced to run away.

From the account of all the speakers, it was evident that that the media has stood with the state and corporate interests and failed to represent the violence that the state’s armed forces have perpetrated on the people in general and women in particular. This emerged most strikingly in the case of Sri Lankan state’s war against the Tamils. The question of political prisoners who are denied all rights and whose whereabouts often remain undisclosed by the police, and nor are they produced before the court.

The meetings ended with two unanimously resolutions passed by the house condemning the heinous attack on the women’s fact finding team in Narayanpatna as well as the systematic attacks by the state on people’s movements across the country which are being waged against the anti-poor, anti-people policies of the government. The house also expressly affirmed people’s movements in different parts of the country for people’s lives, livelihood and dignity.