BY KISHALAY BHATTACHARJEE
“I have spent most of my working life so far studying the lives of people in what we casually refer to as ‘conflict zones’… as a journalist and chronicler, I approached them through a completely different route,”
I have spent most of my working life so far studying the lives of people in what we casually refer to as ‘conflict zones’. The Adivasis living along what the government calls the ‘Maoist corridor’ and the eight states referred to as India’s North East are among them. I gathered that the people in the Maoist corridor are marginalized in every way, and have only themselves and their spoken words to indicate who they are. Ethnographers and anthropologists will have different perspectives and methodologies when trying to interpret these people. As a journalist and chronicler, I approached them through a completely different route.
For a broadcast journalist, writing a book is like editing a film with an abundance of visual footage from where one must choose the sequences and the points of view to tell the story. I was sure whose story I would be telling – Claudio’s of course – but I also had to ponder deeply to understand the questions, the whys and wherefores surrounding the Adivasis which led to Claudio’s crisis.
In 2011, I was appointed Chair, Internal Security, and Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in New Delhi. I wanted to pursue field-based research to see what the state response has been towards long-running insurgencies in India, the CPI (Maoist) being one of them. My view was that in the absence of a national policy to address such insurrections, the state has been engaged in a protracted ad hoc mechanism of dealing with the resistance without really addressing the problem. To study this, I visited Koraput and Malkangiri in Odisha. I also wanted to explore the dynamics the Adivasis have with the extreme left-wing Maoists.
"I don’t know of Adivasis ideologically theorizing a war against the state. The Maoists have a theorized war against the state"
I was certain that viewing Adivasis as Maoists or Maoist sympathizers is a stereotype we have perpetuated and that Maoists have only found Adivasis a convenient and vulnerable group to help sustain the party.
* * * * *
One of the things I have been trying to understand through this book is this dynamics. Are Adivasis with the Maoists? Yes, of course. While the majority of the Maoist cadres are drawn from the Adivasi tribes, I don’t know of Adivasis ideologically theorizing a war against the state. The Maoists have a theorized war against the state. When Adivasis are fighting, they are doing so to defend resources, to defend his or her forest or even their way of life. They have been fighting for hundreds of years against various forms of exploitation but that is only to protect what is theirs and not against the state to usurp power. The Adivasi Maoist cadres I met in the course of researching for this book too had little idea of what was going on in the rest of the country or the world.
The Maoists, on the other hand, are clear about what they want in terms of theory. However, this comes with huge contradictions and dishonesty. For example, after the kidnapping of the collector in Malkangiri in 2011, the moment the Maoists got their cadres released and the alleged ransom from the government, they dropped all the other demands and left. At that point, they didn’t care about all the issues they had raised regarding the villagers; basically, both the government and the Maoists deserted the people. This has been the story of the Maoist movement over the years and across all the districts they claim to have some presence. The Maoists enforce codes on people or the government hunts the same people down on one pretext or the other; neither ensures the interests of the civilians caught in a deadly battle of turf war over resource and power.
"The Maoists, on the other hand, are clear about what they want in terms of theory. However, this comes with huge contradictions and dishonesty"
Whether through force or indifference, the nature of state response is bound up with the whole politics of dispossession, of throwing people out of their own land. Why the word ‘resource’ is important is because it is at the heart of the Maoist movement as well as of Adivasi resistance. The first response of the Indian state to any battle over resource has been to use force and criminalize the people demanding what has been granted to them by the Constitution.
In an email sent to me, historian and social scientist Ramachandra Guha pointed out that after Independence:
Dalits, women and Muslims continued to be discriminated against. Yet, their problems were taken up by influential parties and politicians ... On the other hand, Adivasis, always neglected, became victims of a development process that rested on the exploitation of their lands, their forests, and their waters. In the 1950s and 1960s, they were displaced by mines, dams and logging projects conducted by the state; from the 1990s, by such projects executed by the private sector. And still, no major political party took up the growing dispossession of Adivasis. It was in this vacant space that the Naxalites moved in.
The first response to any displacement battle is to criminalize the protestors. There are cases where children have been booked for attempt to murder. This kind of response not only dispossesses the family from their resources but sets them against the state that is meant to protect them. That is when the Maoists enter and pretend to protect the people and either indoctrinate them or just exploit their helplessness. And the state finds itself justified in using further force and brutalizing the entire population. The two issues – of Left Wing Extremism and Adivasi rights and resistance – are different and it is a huge error to mix them up because that in itself fuels the movement that has otherwise virtually lost moral and physical ground in terms of representing who they claim to be fighting for. Ramachandra Guha writes in his email, ‘The Naxalites are often brutal in their methods. As a constitutional democrat, I detest them. At the same time, the roots of Naxalism lie in part in the tragic predicament of the Adivasis. Unless this question is squarely and systematically addressed, the violence will continue.’
Shanti Munda carries on working with the CPI (ML) with little or no hope for the rights for workers while Animesh has long reconciled with the death of the movement. Many ‘comrades’ have joined the establishment; many more were killed in staged encounters or have ‘disappeared’. Though the movement manages to survive and sustain itself, the revolution remains unfinished.
In an interview to Hotstar, for the first time after their acquittal, Rajesh and Nupur Talwar have spoken about their life after Aarushi, their 4-year-long jail term, and the road ahead as they re-enter society and seek justice for their daughter who was murdered nine years ago.
While the interview cannot be called a “tell-all” as the Talwars, who stepped out of jail only two weeks ago, still seemed shaken. At points in the interview Nupur Talwar even says that it is “painful” to talk about certain things and she would not like to go on.
Fourteen-year-old Aarushi was found murdered in the Talwars’ Noida flat on 16 May 2008. The next day, their domestic help Hemraj’s body was found on the roof of the building.
In November 2013 a lower court found the Talwars guilty of both murders and sentenced them to life imprisonment. They were acquitted by the Allahabad High Court on 13 October. Here are some things they said in the interview.
‘We Stand Vindicated’
Speaking of the day they received news of their acquittal, Rajesh Talwar said that he received the news from a group of boys in jail who came and hugged him. “We were crying. A big load has been lifted from our back,” he said.
Nupur described it as a “miracle”, saying that the news spread very fast in the jail. They were allowed to meet each other for a bit after the verdict was announced.
It was a very emotional moment for us. We were thinking of and missing Aarushi. That’s one tragedy we can’t push past.
“We could see a lot of people outside. And we could see that it had attracted a lot of attention. It’s a little scary to face people; to go back into the world and face society,” said Rajesh, talking about the day they stepped out of jail. Inside Dasna jail, he said, everybody believed that they were innocent. They had a friend who helped them through it. “But public perception has changed,” he said.
“The very nice thing about this was the way the people in Dasna had reacted to our conviction. They were supportive. They would tell me that this would be over after a while. Slowly we got used to living there,” said Rajesh.
The first two years after the conviction when their bail plea got rejected and their matter was not being heard, were the worst, they said. It is at this time that a friend came into their lives and motivated them to work for others.
Confinement is not an easy thing to face. It’s losing your freedom, facing stigma.
Rajesh and Nupur offered to work at the clinic in Dasna which was very rudimentary when they got there. Rajesh asked the medical college there for equipment and the authorities were happy to oblige, he said. “I felt that if I work I’ll be able to serve people and also distract my mind. Do some sewa. Help people. People were very grateful and because of that I got a lot of respect there.”, Rajesh said.
Nupur recounts how she left Aarushi with her mother when she was just three months old in order to join work. Aarushi was brought up by her grandparents. “I remember her telling me that she wanted to very famous,” Nupur smiled.
Rajesh described her as a compassionate, affectionate child.
He recounts an incident when he bought some gifts for Aarushi and she gave some of them to a friend who had just lost her father.
Nupur said that she started seeing Aarushi in a lot of young girls at the prison who had come with their mothers.
In particular there was a young girl who I grew very close to. She used to sleep on the next bed. I could see a lot of Aarushi in her. She cared for me, spoke to me as if Aarushi did. For me it was like I had Aarushi with me while in jail. Those 4 years I survived in jail because I had that young girl with me.
“We Have Survived, That’s All”
The worst suffering that any human can go through is losing your child and that too in such a manner. It’s been very difficult for the last nine and a half years since this incident. And we are still standing there. You try to seek happiness, relief or consolation from helping others, people in suffering, helping little girls. It is not something that is easy to face. It’s an adversity that’s very difficult to face. We have just survived, that’s all.
He added that from the parts of the Allahabad High Court’s judgement that he had read, it seemed like a complete exoneration for the Talwar couple.
On Krishna and The Justice System
Both Rajesh and Nupur said that they had very limited interaction with their compounder Krishna and that they were both very shocked when the legal process was unfolding.
It is very clear to everybody. I don’t need to repeat it again and again. I want to now just live with Aarushi’s memories and do some work for her. This should never happen to anybody again. The system should see its own issues and improve them.
While talking about the issue, Nupur says that she’s feeling uncomfortable and cannot do it anymore. When asked who she thinks killed Aarushi, she said, “I leave it to God.”
The Talwars also said that all scientific tests had cleared them of any crime.
The Talwars said that they tried to reach out to Hemraj’s family even at the time of the tragedy, but received no response from them.
I feel for him and would want to do whatever I can. I’m still going into society. Of course my tragedy is very large, but I still feel for him. I have to stand on my own feet. People are supporting me at the moment. So whatever help I can do for him, I’ll gladly do it.
Fiza Jha with Aarushi Talwar (in red)
Four years after the parents of Aarushi Talwar were convicted of killing their daughter the high court of Allahabad has said that the parents are not guilty of killing her.
In the murder case of 14-year-old, the verdict was delivered on the plea filed by Aarushi's father Rajesh Talwar and her mother Nupur challenging the order of Central Bureau of Investigation court convicting them for the murder of their Aarushi and Hemraj in 2008.
Today, the Allahabad High Court delivered its verdict in the case, freeing the Talwars from the murder charges.
I write this as Aarushi’s best friend, as her classmate, as a student of the school she went to, as a girl who was in her dance class, as a girl who lived in Noida with her, and simply as a 14-year-old of that time.
Aarushi had come to my house a day before her death. Excited, jumping, bubbly, but she had a bad cold. We were working on a school project together. She was extremely excited about the weekend, and her birthday party. She was going to have a sleepover. I spoke to her on the phone the evening before the fateful night. Everything seemed normal.
The next morning, on 16th May, Aarushi was no more.
I had just turned 14 then, a sheltered adolescent, and now, I am 21, away at college, living by myself in a different city. From then to now, these have been some of my feelings, thoughts and opinions – having seen up close the role of the media, the police, the CBI and the law.
The Night That Was Recklessly Twisted
The night of the murder has been almost written, rewritten, twisted and confused so much that eventually you just believe one version for the sake of convenience. But how were the stories written without a shred of evidence and without questioning logic or legitimacy?
There was never any compulsion for me to believe in the culpability of the Talwars or in their innocence. They were not my relatives, not even family friends. Aarushi, though, was my best friend, my class mate, my dance class partner – I had known her from the age of five, she was the first friend I had made in school. But I believed in their innocence because I knew what I knew.
But I also know that murders are not solved by one’s belief – you need hard evidence, you need proof, but that didn’t seem to be the case here.
“Like Vultures At a Crime Scene”
I saw things unfold from Day 1, and I also saw the entire process of the case being handled with complete ineptitude, the media hawking like vultures, contorting facts and information from the very morning and sensationalizing the entire incident dangerously.
I was in the house that morning after the incident occurred, with hundreds of neighbours, family members, friends, police officers, journalists, milling about the house. No part of the house was cordoned off, everything was being touched by everyone. Aarushi’s room itself had not been cordoned off, the alcohol bottles from the night before were lying around. The blood was splattered on the wall of her bedroom.
From the next day itself, I saw news channels report the case with all kinds of theories and headlines about what had happened, before anything had been really investigated.
I remember staring at the screens, and hearing screaming headlines about the adulterous affair between Aarushi and Hemraj, the wife swapping theories, the loose morals of the parents, and wondering if I was having a bad dream. All this was absolutely untrue and ridiculous. It was so surreal and absurd. There was, of course, no proof or evidence to any of this, still none to this date. But no one cared, they flashed those headlines the next morning after my 14 year old classmate was murdered regardless.
I often wonder how the case would have turned out if it hadn’t gotten so much hype, so much coverage, and so many onlookers analyzing it with their own opinions, completely disregarding the facts. Would it have been handled better by the police then? Would the CBI have behaved differently? Would the judiciary have responded differently – without the strain of India’s rapt attention?
The Facts and The Evidence Never Mattered
The facts and evidence never mattered – to any cop who dealt with the case, to any CBI investigator, any reporter, any judge, any celebrity talker that was called to the 9 o’clock prime time debate; nor to any family that was discussing the Talwars like characters of some thriller crime novel in their living rooms. No one actually cared about the forensic evidence or how it was recorded. And how the police and CBI got the prosecution witnesses to change their testimony.
It’s hard to really point out if the police was feeding the media wrong information, or being influenced by the media’s quick, baseless theories?
What if it had been me instead of Aarushi?
I have often wondered about this over the years. Would my life, how I carried myself, my hobbies, my friends, also be analyzed the same way? Would my family life also have been scrutinized like that? Would my diary, too, have been read and misunderstood, would my texts and emails have been misconstrued, would a fight with my parents over something petty have been seen as a possible motive for murder? How difficult then, would my parents’ fight for justice have been? It’s terrifying to think of it.
Debauched Parents and Daughter Make For More Salacious Copy
As an outsider, if it bothered me so much, I cannot even fathom the emotional and psychological state of Aarushi’s parents.
The girl I read about on the news, and the parents she had, were not real people, they were fictional characters created out of some collective imagination.
It has always puzzled me why people preferred to believe that the parents were guilty. I say ‘preferred’, because that’s exactly what it was, right? Was it because the narrative of a father killing his daughter is far juicier and sensational than the domestic help murdering her? Is it because a sexually perverse angle of a daughter and her debauched parents makes for a much more salacious copy?
Talwars – Guilty Till Proven Innocent
If and when the innocence of the Talwars gets proven, what we did to them as a country, as a society will also be out. We ruined them. The Talwars lost their reason to live – Aarushi – but we as a people killed them, stripping them of their dignity forever.
The whole basis of the conviction is that Aarushi was having an affair with Hemraj. However, there was no evidence to this sweeping claim. The issue of understanding Aarushi, her lifestyle, her relationship with her parents is key to the context to the case. How could the police, CBI and the judiciary correctly judge anything without understanding the context of their lives?
Avirook’s book (Aarushi) addresses that. When he interviewed me for the book a couple of years ago, I remember him asking me what it meant for us to have boyfriends at the time? Was a 14 year old girl having a boyfriend indicative of her sexual activity? No, I had said. For us, having a boyfriend then meant someone we spoke to on the phone, went to the movies with along with our friends, someone we had a crush on and our friends teased us about. We were innocent children, and her parents knowing that she had a boyfriend did not mean that they condoned ‘her looseness’, but it meant that they knew exactly what their daughter was up to. She was a growing healthy girl, who was in a co-ed school, she had lots of friends who were girls and she had friends who were boys.
Aarushi was not a suppressed, rebellious or secretive child. She had a healthy, open relationship with her parents. Her parents knew she was at the age when she would start to go out for movies and a few, select parties. It is very important to note that neither Aarushi, nor any of her peers were even remotely sexually active at this age. We were children, we did not even think about these things. The boys we were friends with, were mostly met in school or tuitions, and the conversations always revolved around pop culture, academics, or other friends.
The Talwar’s lifestyle and character was questioned without really understanding their cultural context. This family was extremely normal by the standards of an urban middle class home. It was very similar to my family, or those of our friends and other classmates, or other families of students who go to schools like DPS Noida. For a senior police commissioner to go on air at a press conference and call this fourteen year old girl ‘loose’ was unprofessional; for hundreds of media channels and news publications to question her character without checking their facts was insensitive and unethical.
Statements may have been changed later, points of views may have evolved, apologies may also have been made, but the damage was already done. Her reputation was already ruined and this narrative had already been written.
The Talwars Were a Gentle Family
This was a family of doctors, a liberal family. Not a rich family, but a middle-class hardworking family who had done well enough for themselves to be content.
The Talwars were very gentle and tolerant people. And Aarushi was a really happy girl. She was the simple, kind, peaceful and content one among all of us. I can vouch for this, because I was perpetually in my teenage funk, fighting with my mother, crying about boys, fighting with people at school.
Aarushi was the one who everyone wanted to be friends with; she was pretty, fun, kind, friendly, popular, smart and had a very positive and peaceful aura to her; she had really nice parents, she had it all. The theory of honour killing, which is the basis for suspecting the parents, makes absolutely no sense, and also has never had any evidence to back it with. But it’s such a strong allegation, that it makes imaginations run wild.
This case needed a fair investigation. A proper investigation. By the police, by the CBI. How was it supposed to make sense when no evidence was properly recorded and preserved in the first place? And later evidence cooked up to prove the ridiculous theories of the CBI?
It is a breath of fresh air to see Avirook’s book and the response it has garnered. The book has made people question the system with some degree of outrage, and forced them to look for answers once more. I think Avirook Sen’s book is extremely important because it takes an investigative, objective and critical look at the manner of functioning of the three institutions in relation to this case. He has extensively interviewed the judge, CBI officials, key witnesses and attended trial proceedings, and looked hard at the evidence placed on record in the court before arriving at any conclusions.
There are so many families whom this horrifying case has haunted; and so many children who were teenagers then, who have grown up with this sordid story. I urge those who ever had any interest in the case, to read the book and dispel their doubts, and join in, asking important questions and demanding answers.
Lewinksy, 44, teamed up with a New York ad agency on the project
In the video, people approach strangers on the street and say cruel things, commenting on things like weight, sexuality, and race
Though the bullies and victims featured in the video are actors, their words were lifted from real social media posts
The video asks why this kind of behavior is so 'normal' online when it would not be tolerated in real life
In 2015, Lewinsky gave a TED Talk in which she identified herself as 'Patient Zero' in the online bullying epidemic
She has become a vocal advocate for the anti-bullying movement
Monica Lewinsky wants people to think long and hard about the fact that cruel, racist, and bigoted comments are so commonplace on the internet when they're not tolerated in real life.
Lewinsky, 44, has become a vocal advocate for the anti-bullying movement in recent years, and recently teamed up with the ad agency BBDO New York to create a PSA for the cause.
Called 'In Real Life', the PSA features several scenes in which people are filmed slinging hurtful and bigoted insults at others around New York City.
In one, a stranger approaches a gay couple sitting and eating at a restaurant to berate them.
'I think gay people are sick, and you guys should just kill yourselves. Just end your miserable existence,' he says. 'Homosexuality is a disease. You're saving humanity by killing yourselves.'
In another scene at the same restaurant, one woman approaches another at a table to insult her weight.
'Fat b****es like you should get over themselves and go on a diet,' she tells her. 'I'm traumatized. Get a gym membership. I f***ing hate fat people.'
By Nithya NairEmailFollow
Images speak a million words. They are powerful than any other medium of expression. The expression or the incident caught at a glimpse has the power to rock the entire world. And thus was the the image of the Syrian boy washed ashore on the shores of Europe which broke the heart of the world a little. Kids being sensitive, the image grabbed eye balls all around the world. Photos of children have always given a better explanation of the world we are living in and here is a set of 11 such pictures from the past of children which lost our faith in humanity.
1. The Syrian kid washed ashore
The three-years old Syrian boy washed ashore the beaches of Europe was truly heart-breaking. The young child lying face-down on a beach near Turkish resort of Bodrum was among the 12 Syrians who drowned attempting to reach Greece. The photo was taken by Nilufer Demir. (Also Read: Heartbreaking images! Artists pay tribute to Syrian toddler who drowned off Turkey coast)
2. Children for sale
What can be disheartening more than this. In 1948, a mother in despair displayed her four children for sale next to a placard which reads, ‘4 children for sale, inquire within’ on front of their home in Chicago. She wanted to run the house and pay the pending bills, when she found the only solution. While the children seem to be talking to their siblings, the mother standing behind them is either crying or looking away.
3. Vulture stalking a little girl
Other than the downtrodden condition of the Sudanese kid, the situation was so disturbing for the photographer that he committed suicide some months after he clicked this picture. Kevin Carter, South African photojournalist had clicked his photo of a vulture waiting for a young girl to die so that it can feed on it. The parents of the child had gone to take food from the plane Carter received the Pulitzer award for this click of his.
4. Fire Escape Collapse
Clicked by Stanley Forman, this photo won Pulitzer Award for spot news photography. In the image is 19-year-old Diana Bryant and her 2-year-old goddaughter Tiare Jones falling from the collapsed fire escape of a burning apartment building on Marlborough Street in Boston on July 22, 1975. This image questioned the condition of fire exits in United States after which fire escape legislation legislation in the United States.
5. Tragedy of Omayra Sanchez
Omayra Sánchez Garzón was a 13-year-old Colombian girl killed in Armero in the 1985 eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano. The image was clicked shortly before she died in the landslide. The photograph had kick-started a debate if the photographer could have saved the girl instead of wasting time in clicking her picture. It was clicked by French photographer Frank Fournier in 1985.
6. The soldier’s boy
Holding back tears, Christian Golczynski, son of Marine Staff Sgt. Marc Golczynski is seen accepting the flag from his father’s casket. The photographer who clicked this picture Aaron Thompson described its as ‘the most emotionally moving event I may have ever witnessed and may ever witness in my life’.
7. Phan Thi Kim Phuc
This iconic photo of Phan Thi Kim Phuc running naked on a road after being severely burned on her back during a South Vietnamese attack showed the. This photo clicked in Trang Bang by AP photographer Nick Ut portrays the situation of Vietnam in 1972.
8. Syrian kid mistakes camera for a gun
This was yet another heart-breaking moment when a four-year-old Syrian child raised her hands a photographer clicked her picture. The child mistook the camera for a gun. The child was later identified as Adi Hudea. The image had gone viral with people sharing it thousands of times on social networking sites. This was clicked by Turkish photographer Osman Sagirli.
9. Famine in Karamoja, Uganda
This withered image shows the situation in Africa during the 1980s. In the picture is seen a white missionary in northeastern Uganda who is holding a tiny hand of a starving African boy. It was clicked by Mike Well.
10. Bhopal Gas Tragedy
This picture was clicked by Pablo Bartholomew after the tragic night of Bhopal Gas Tragedy on December 2, 1984. This photo received the World Press Photo of the Year in 1984. The photo shows half-buried child victim of the gas leak.
11. Young girl sits outside bombed house
In the photograoh is seens a young girl clutching her doll sitting amid her bombed-out home in 1940
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