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A rightward shift in Dalit politics
September 13, 2014 | AJAY GUDAVARTHY

For Dalits, mobility by gaining acceptance looks far more tangible and achievable than the abstract and rather utopian idea of annihilating caste

Where is Dalit politics heading in India today? Dalits seem to have come a full circle from the agenda of “annihilation of caste” to “secularisation of caste,” and conversion from Hinduism to actively claiming the Hindu identity, as is evident from the spate of communal riots in Uttar Pradesh in the last few months which have been primarily between Dalits and Muslims. The dynamics in rural Dalit politics seems to have moved from challenging the upper castes to finding acceptance and becoming a part of the majoritarian polity that is under construction. Mobility by gaining acceptance looks far more tangible and achievable than the abstract and rather Utopian idea of annihilating caste. This acceptance can be perceived as a mobility as well as an undermining of the dominance of the upper castes by compelling them to recognise that they need Dalit support in rural hinterlands against the perceived aggression of Muslims, and that they are mutually interdependent.

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India appeals against U.K. refusal to extradite child sex offender
The Hindu | 29 May 2014

The Indian government has filed an appeal in England for extradition of Raymond Varley, who is facing charges of sexual offences against children in India committed between 1989 and 1991.

They are appealing a May 8 order by a District Judge, admitting Varley’s plea that he was suffering from dementia and refusing to grant the Indian government’s request for extradition. The judge recorded: “Finding an extradition order to face trial for a man suffering from dementia needing ‘immediate daily support’ must be both ‘unjust’ and ‘oppressive’ and therefore barred.”

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Supreme Court recognizes transgenders as ‘third gender’
Dhananjay Mahapatra,TNN | Apr 15, 2014

NEW DELHI: In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court on Tuesday created the “third gender” status for hijras or transgenders. Earlier, they were forced to write male or female against their gender.

The SC asked the Centre to treat transgender as socially and economically backward.

The apex court said that transgenders will be allowed admission in educational institutions and given employment on the basis that they belonged to the third gender category.

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YouTube eye on a brutal caste system
April 13, 2014 | Amrit Dhillon

When a volunteer worker in Rajasthan recently saw dalit (formerly untouchable) women labourers in a village removing their shoes for a stretch of road on their way to work at a construction site and then putting them on again for the rest of the way, she was mystified. ”Why are you taking off your shoes?” she asked.

”The upper castes have ordered us to show respect to them by taking off our shoes when we walk past their homes,” the women told her. The next day, she took a camera with her, filmed the women removing their shoes and uploaded it on to a new YouTube channel called Dalitcamera Ambedkar.

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India IT worker ‘killed by parents’ in Andhra Pradesh

24 March 2014 | BBC News India

A 26-year-old IT worker has been found strangled at home in what police say is a rare “honour killing” in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.  Police say her parents, who are in custody, have admitted to murdering their daughter after she married against their wishes.

She wed another IT professional on 21 February.  But her parents thought her husband came from an unsuitable community, police say.  “The parents have confessed to the crime. They strangled her with her chunri [scarf] by tying it to the bed post in their house,” Gopinath Jatti, superintendent of Guntur police, told BBC Hindi’s Imran Qureshi.

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Indonesian Province May Pass Law Requiring Residents to Participate in Islamic Prayers
19 January 2014 | By Hemant Mehta

Legislators in Bengkulu, a province of Indonesia, are in the process of drafting legislation that would make it mandatory to attend Islamic prayers every week:

“Yes, the bylaw is being prepared,” Mukhlis, head of the office, told news portal “The name of the bylaw is ‘Bengkuluku Religius.’ It will not only [applied] for mass prayer, but also five times [daily] prayer. There’s a tax bylaw; why not a bylaw about mass prayer?”

Mukhlis said the bylaw was part of Mayor Hemli Hasan’s plan to recast Bengkulu as a religious city.

Although though the bylaw is still under deliberation, the city has already begun phasing it in for municipal employees, who are currently required to attend public Friday prayers once per month.

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‘Show constructive alternatives to youth’
The Hindu, updated: January 6, 2014

German humanist Volker Mueller, CCMB Hyderabad Founder-Director P.M. Bhargava, Vijayawada Atheist Centre chairperson Mythri and former president of International Humanist and Ethical Union, Oslo, Norway, Levi Fragall at the International Atheist Conference in Vijayawada on Sunday. Photo: Ch. Vijaya Bhaskar

German humanist Volker Mueller, CCMB Hyderabad Founder-Director P.M. Bhargava, Vijayawada Atheist Centre chairperson Mythri and former president of International Humanist and Ethical Union, Oslo, Norway, Levi Fragall at the International Atheist Conference in Vijayawada on Sunday. Photo: Ch. Vijaya Bhaskar

Most atrocities in the world committed in the name of religion: CCMB Founder-Director

In the face of growing fundamentalism there is a need to show constructive alternatives to the youth, according to P.M. Bhargava, Founder-Director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad.

Delivering inaugural address at the International Atheist Conference which coincided with the platinum jubilee celebrations of the Atheist Centre, Vijayawada, at Siddhartha auditorium on Sunday, Mr. Bhargava said most atrocities in the world were committed in the name of religion and cited the example of the recent Muzaffarnagar riots.

Temples in India hold mammoth wealth, he pointed out, suggesting that this concentrated wealth could be utilised to address hunger, malnutrition and disease. He said although he was born in a very orthodox family, he was gifted with the spirit of questioning which helped him comprehend ground realities. Stressing on the need for developing critical thinking among students, he attributed all the progress in the world to scientific advancements.

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India Is Sitting on a Time-Bomb of Violence Against Women

This piece first appeared on

Imagine a world where the proportion of girls being born is so low that large proportions of males just cannot find partners when they come of age. In such a world they are more likely to congregate in gangs for company. In turn, that means they are more likely to engage in risky behaviour: i.e. commit crime, do drugs and engage in violence against women. In gangs, men are more likely to harass women and even commit rape.

But this isn’t some dystopian fantasy – there are 37 million more men than women in India, and most of them are of marriageable age given the relatively young population. A social time-bomb is now setting off there with terrifying consequences.

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From hell to the sun and the moon
May 29, 2013, Amrit Dhillon, The Age

To be a widow in India is to be treated with contempt and inhumanity. But some women are fighting back – and winning.

It wasn’t the stories that struck Dr Ginny Shrivastava, though they were bad enough. Their children taken from them, their land and homes seized by in-laws, and being constantly prey to sexual assault because, as single women, they are “fair game”. After all, this has been the lot of Indian widows for centuries. No, it was a number that stuck in her mind – 34 million. There were 34 million widows in India.

“That’s the population of Canada,” she thought, on learning this number more than 13 years ago. A Canadian national, Shrivastava was working as a community organiser when she wed an Indian army officer she had met in Toronto.

They moved to Udaipur in the desert state of Rajasthan 42 years ago to begin jobs as social workers. “I saw the magnitude of the problem when I learnt that figure,” she says.

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Child rape case sparks outrage in Malaysia
May 23, 2013, Lindsay Murdoch, South-East Asia correspondent for Fairfax Media

A 40 year-old Muslim man charged with raping a 12 year-old girl and marrying her in Malaysia says he sees nothing wrong with his actions under sharia or Islamic law.

“There are many cases of men marrying underage girls,” restaurant owner Ruduan Masmud told reporters.

“I do not see how my case can be any different,” adding it was “suka sama suka” or mutual consent acceptable under sharia law.

In a case that has outraged rights activists Mr Masmud, a father of four from his first wife, allegedly raped the girl inside a car parked by a road in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the Borneo state of Sabah, on February 16.

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Japanese mayor’s WWII comment sparks outrage
May 14, 2013, Hiroko Tabuchi, The Sydney Morning Helrald

Tokyo: Toru Hashimoto, the populist mayor of Osaka, who is seen by some as a possible future prime minister, drew an outcry Monday after he said that women forced into wartime brothels for the Japanese army during World War II served a necessary role in providing relief for war-crazed soldiers.

Lawmakers and human rights groups swiftly condemned the remarks. So did South Korea, whose citizens made up the bulk of the “comfort women” who served Japanese soldiers in military brothels.

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Girl, 4, dies after rape in India
From Sumnima Udas and Neiha Sharma, CNN, May 1, 2013

New Delhi (CNN) — A week after the news of a child rape sparked protests in India, hospital officials confirmed the rape of another girl.

The 4-year-old died Monday from cardiac arrest at Care Hospital in Nagpur, India, a spokesman said. A 35-year-old man has been arrested and accused of sexually assaulting the girl, said Mithilesh Shukla, superintendent of police.

It is the latest in a number of assaults that caused outrage and raised questions about how women and girls are treated in India.

The girl was allegedly abducted from Ghansaur, a small town in central India, on April 17, and her family found her the next day, unconscious and with severe head injuries, Shukla said.

She was airlifted to the hospital in Nagpur and put on a ventilator but did not survive.

“The doctors tried very hard but were not successful,” hospital spokesman P.S. Shriram said.

Police say the suspect, Firoz Khan, has confessed to the assault.

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They’re taking our kids
May 4, 2013, Michael Bachelard, Indonesia correspondent for Fairfax Media

West Papua’s youth are being removed to Islamic religious schools in Java for “re-education”, writes Michael Bachelard.

Johanes Lokobal sits on the grass that cushions the wooden floor of his little, one-room house. He warms his hands at a fire set in the centre. From time to time a pig, out of sight in an annex, squeals and slams itself thunderously against the adjoining wall.

The village of Megapura in the central highlands of Indonesia’s far-eastern province of West Papua is so remote that supplies arrive by air or by foot only. Johanes Lokobal has lived here all his life. He does not know his exact age: “Just old,” he croaks. He’s also poor. “I help in the fields. I earn about 20,000 rupiah [$2] per day. I clean the school garden.” But in a hard life, one hardship particularly offends him. In 2005, his only son, Yope, was taken to faraway Jakarta. Lokobal did not want Yope to go. The boy was perhaps 14, but big and strong, a good worker. The men responsible took him anyway. A few years later, Yope died. Nobody can tell Lokobal how, nor exactly when, and he has no idea where his son is buried. All he knows, fiercely, is that this was not supposed to happen.

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Islamists up ante in vast rally
The Age (Bangladesh), 8 April 2013

Hundreds of thousands of members of a hardline Muslim group have rallied in Bangladesh’s capital to demand anti-blasphemy laws to punish people who insult Islam.

Members of the group, Hifazat-e-Islam, also clashed with police and pro-government activists outside the capital, leaving a ruling party supporter dead.

The massive rally in Dhaka was staged on Saturday amid heightened security throughout the country after Hifazat-e-Islam members targeted bloggers who they say are atheists.

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Drop blasphemy charges against Sanal Edamaruku
Petition by Rationalist Association, posted 7 April 2013

Sanal Edamaruku, a prominent rationalist campaigner for scientific education in India, faces blasphemy charges and a possible prison sentence following unfounded complaints made against him by various Catholic organisations in March 2012.

The charges stem from Mr. Edamaruku’s debunking of a supposed miracle at a Catholic Church in Mumbai – a statue thought to be ‘leaking holy water’ was revealed, by Mr. Edamruku, to be leaking water from a faulty drainage system.

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Rohingya kill 8 Buddhists in Sumatra jail
The Australian, BY ATAR AHMAD, AAP, April 07, 2013

A GROUP of Myanmar Muslims beat eight Buddhists to death at an Indonesian detention centre after becoming enraged at news of deadly communal violence in their homeland, officials say.

The Rohingya Muslims launched the attack at the immigration centre on Sumatra island using weapons made from smashed-up beds and broom handles after seeing pictures of religious violence in Myanmar last month that left dozens dead.

The attack underscores the soaring Muslim-Buddhist tensions that have cast a shadow over political reforms in Myanmar, where the end of decades of authoritarian military rule has laid bare deep sectarian fault lines.

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Witch Hunt: West Bengal, India
SBS Dateline, Aired: 19th March 2013

It sounds like something from the distant past, but witch hunts are alive and well in parts of India.

Dateline gets inside the communities of West Bengal, where violent justice is being meted out to people accused of casting spells and curses on their villages.

Innocent families describe being attacked because the tribal traditions of superstition are so strong. Some alleged witches have even been murdered.

Dateline also follows a group of activists trying to reason with them and reunite the communities, but can they win against the power of witchcraft?

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Court orders flogging of alleged rape victim
ABC News, Wed. Feb 27, 2013 9:40pm AEDT

A Maldives court has sentenced a 15-year-old alleged rape victim to 100 lashes and house arrest after she admitted having premarital sex in a separate incident.

During a police probe into allegations the girl had been raped by her stepfather, investigators uncovered evidence that she had had consensual sex with another man.

“Though she has been sentenced she will be lashed once she turns 18,” the court official, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

“The sentence will be enforced immediately if she wants it to be carried out now.”

Premarital sex is illegal under the Indian Ocean nation’s strict Islamic law.

The child’s stepfather faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of rape and a murder charge, after he allegedly killed a baby which resulted from his alleged rape of his stepdaughter.

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Radio National: Tuesday 26 February 2013, 9:05 AM

Her grandfather is a household name in India, the man who helped to win independence with non-violent protest. Ela Gandhi is in Australia to talk about the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi and its relevance to contemporary social problems.

Listen here

Bigots demand death for top bloggers
The Daily Star (Bangladesh), Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A few hundred people staged a rally in Hathazari upazila headquarters in Chittagong Tuesday afternoon demanding death penalty for top bloggers of the ongoing Shahbagh movement.

The bigots further threatened of tougher movement if the bloggers were not punished as they demanded.

“They are active online for several years defaming Islam and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) through their writings,” Maulana Jahangir Alam, upazila unit general secretary of Bangladesh Khelafat Andolon, told The Daily Star.

Hefazate-e-Islam, meanwhile, announced it would hold a mass rally at Hathazari Parbati High School on February 25 to press home the same demand.

During Tuesday’s demonstration, the speakers specifically demanded deaths for Omi Rahman Pial, Ibrahim Khalil, Arif Jebtik and Asif Mohiuddin who are at the forefront of the Shahbagh movement that continued for the 15th straight day on Tuesday in demand of capital punishment to the war criminals.

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