Category Archives: Opinion

Report on the Public Meeting organized on Justice, Human Rights & Media Trials

A public meeting was organized on Feb.22, 2014 at the Press Club of India in New Delhi to discuss cases of ‘trial by media’ and the potential for misuse of stringent laws recently enacted by Parliament.

Prominent journalists, activists and academicians discussed the implications and long term consequences of ‘sensationalist reporting’ indulged in by the media, particularly on television, in the meeting organized by the Campaign for Khurshid Anwar.

It may be recalled that Anwar, a well known NGO director, committed suicide on the morning of 18 December last year after being accused of raping an activist, after the allegation got played up on social media and on television. The family and friends of Anwar have been alleging that he was driven to this desperate step as the complainant did not take recourse to legal process and did not undergo a medical test. A social media ‘campaign’ was run with a view to harm Anwar’s reputation and professional interests, it is alleged.

Veteran journalist Seema Mustafa made a sharp attack on the phenomenon of ‘trial by media’, saying that loud reporting blurs the specific differences between different cases, uniformly casting all accused as guilty and usurping the role of the courts.

Film-maker Anusha Rizvi noted that in certain recent cases “people who are not really powerless have chosen to go to the media, rather than following the due legal process. This is a very disturbing trend as the media cannot act as judge, jury and executioner”, remarking that allegations of sexual assault are a very serious taint and the accused deserves a reasonable chance to clear his name.

Senior journalist Saeed Naqvi expressed the fear that unless remedial measures are taken urgently the media will lose what is left of its credibility.

The newly amended criminal laws, which were updated in the wake of the rape and killing of ‘Nirbhaya’ were also discussed, with academician Shohini Ghosh saying that “feminists and activists got carried away with emotion after the shocking December 16incident, and a law was enacted which can be grossly misused”.

Anwar’s family have filed a criminal complaint with the police on December 23, accusing certain persons of making false charges, and abetting suicide.

Apoorvanand, professor at University of Delhi and a friend of Anwar’s expressed his disappointment at those who want the matter dropped, saying that they are trampling upon the rights of his family.

Certain activists representing North Eastern interests raised questions at the conclusion of the meeting, and demanded that justice be sought not only for Anwar but also for the girl who has leveled allegations against him.

“The Campaign for Khurshid Anwar wholeheartedly welcomes this demand made by our north eastern friends. We have been insisting that the police file an FIR and investigate the matter from all angles. Only then can the whole truth come out and all involved can get closure”, said Ritwik Agrawal, spokesperson of the campaign.

Trial And Error | The Caravan

A balanced and well written article by Supriya Sharma of The Caravan on the motivations and the dangerous implications that follow when the media assumes the role of the court of law.

She notes, “Even when well intentioned, recent coverage of sexual violence has tended to degenerate rapidly into a series of trials by media, with the media arrogating to itself and the public the powers of both judge and jury. As a consequence, the media has chipped away at the already precarious agency of assault victims, and also undermined the possibility of justice being delivered.”

She echoes our dissatisfaction with hyped and slanted media reports when she writes, “A news report that relays only the essential details of an alleged assault might make for less riveting copy, but it is also less likely to impinge on the privacy of a victim or unfairly denounce an alleged assailant.”

She ends the article on an important note, “In the recent high-profile cases, we might have done better to stick to the more neutral “complainant”. That would have amounted not to unfairly doubting the testimony of the women who came forward, but to rightly doubting the media’s ability to be a court of law.”

Read the full article here.

‘Report Responsibly’ raises debate on responsible reporting on sexual assault in India

The recent post by Supriya Sharma on the blog Report Responsibly highlights the slanted nature of the India TV show telecast on December 17, the night before Khurshid Anwar committed suicide. It was structured in a way which “in the words of its anchor, (was) in the manner of a ‘campaign’ to ‘bring justice’ to the woman.”

Some examples of statements made by Rajat Sharma which demonstrates the skewed nature of the show are also enlisted,

“India TV ladega iss ladki ko insaaf dilaane ki jung”

(India TV would battle to bring justice to this woman) 

“Iske saath ku karm karne waale ko inzaam tak pahuchaye”

(We wish to pursue the man who has dishonoured her to the very end)

“India TV ne tay kiya ki iss ladki ko nyaya dilaana hai aur muhim chalo ki”

(India TV has decided that the woman must get justice and for that, it has started a campaign)

“Hum zaroor koshish karenge iss muhim ko anzam tak le jaane ki”

(We will try our best to take this campaign to its logical end)

Read the full entry here.

Also, read this enlightening piece by Mrinal Satish, Professor at National Law University, Delhi on the issue of media trials as an impediment to the judicial process in sexual assault cases.

He writes, “It is essential for the media to keep in mind that the presumption of innocence is a very important right of the accused in the criminal process. His/her right to a fair trial might be impacted by prejudicial reporting by the media. Such reporting might adversely affect the judicial process and even jeopardize the chances of the victim getting justice.”

A friend from Pakistan remembers Khurshid Anwar

“मुझे तोह यकीन नहीं आ रहा कि तुमने अनवर के बारे में लिखा है। बार बार पढ़ा, फिर पढ़ा, ३-४ बार पढ़ने के बाद यकीन हुआ। यार बहुत दुःख हुआ मुझे। १० साल पहले जब इंडिया आया था जवाहरलाल नेहरू विश्वविद्यालय के हॉस्टल में जब अनवर ने खुद खाना बनाया था प्यार से खिलाया फिर लास्ट इयर उसके घर गया तो वोह खाना ही बना रहा था ख़ुशी ख़ुशी बातें करते अपनी मेहमान नवाज़ी, दोस्ताना अंदाज़ फ्रैंक होकर वोह बातें कर रहे थे और वोह उसी तरह प्यार तरीके से अपनी फीलिंग्स से मोहब्बत का इज़हार कर रहे थे।

“One wonders what that television anchor and that so called feminists have to say now, and whether they have at all understood the extent of their complicity in Anwar’s tragic death. Surely this is not what the media is here for, and is it not time for the media itself to clamp down serious restrictions on itself?

There should also be restrictions placed on the manner of reporting, the detailed and sometimes bordering-on-the-perverted kind of reportage of rape cases with explicit details that do not really contribute to the story, so that the norms of journalistic ethics and decency are observed. This preoccupation with sordid details of a horrible crime is clearly to attract viewership, and through it advertisements.

Journalism seems to have crossed all barriers of decency in its coverage of sexual exploitation of women, moving from the responsible to the crass and crude world of un-accountability. Someone has to bell this ugly cat, but so far that ‘someone’ is still not visible.”

अनवर हमेशा ज़िंदा रहेंगे क्योंकि प्यार, दोस्ती, मोहब्बत हमेशा ज़िंदा रहती है। अनवर ज़िंदा हैं।”Image

Javed Naqvi writes about the Khurshid Anwar case in leading Hindi newspaper, Jansatta

Jansatta published Javed Naqvi’s article on the Khurshid Anwar case and how cases like these, which are used hyped in the media for the sake of TRPs help in turning the attention away from institutionalized rape in places like Muzzaffarnagar and Gujarat. He also writes about the importance of taking on the right, who the law does not deter when it comes to the obfuscation of facts for their own protection.

Read the entire article here.

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Condemning Misinformation and Rumours

The following appeal was issued by us on the 25th of December. We reiterate that we dissociate ourselves from and strongly condemn attempts to name or otherwise target the lady who has made a serious complaint against Khurshid Anwar. We also strongly condemn attempts by some organizations to deliberately over play the targeting of the girl and to introduce a ‘North East angle’ to the discussion. Such obfuscation is clearly being indulged in to divert public attention from their own sordid role in the matter.

If one bothers to check the facts of the case, one would realize that the complainant has been missing in action from Delhi from 24 September, well before any irate comments were put up on Facebook.We are sure the on-going investigation will reveal the reasons for her sudden disappearance from Delhi and the forces responsible for said disappearance.

We condemn attempts to equate the highly unfortunate targeting of the complainant with the orchestrated smear campaign carried against Dr Anwar which forced him to take his life. This smear campaign went on not only on Facebook but also by means of circulation of the CD shot by Madhu Kishwar in towns all over North India. Multiple testimonies to this effect are available on Facebook.

The Appeal –

We are friends, family and well-wishers of the late Dr. Khurshid Anwar. We have come together to keep alive the memory of his signal contribution to peace, secularism and communal harmony in the subcontinent, including his pioneering work in training thousands of volunteers to uphold these ideals over a long career as a grassroots activist.

We are deeply shocked and concerned at the trial by media and social media, which he was irresponsibly subjected to in the last few months, on a matter which had never been subjected to any kind of formal scrutiny by any responsible authority.

We seek to catalyze discussions on these aspects, via blogs, social media as well as public events and in responsible sections of the mainstream press. We strongly affirm the freedom of expression of the press as well as of individuals, but insist that such freedoms place an onus upon all to act with responsibility.

In keeping with this spirit of responsibility, we strongly discourage and dissociate ourselves from any attempts to reveal the identity of, or otherwise target the lady who has leveled serious allegations against Dr Anwar. As his family, personal friends and comrades, we do find it impossible to believe such allegations against a fiercely committed feminist such as himself, but do not presume to judge the matter ourselves.

Anybody who is indulging in any irresponsible statements about the lady in question is only doing a disservice to the memory of Khurshid Anwar. We request all those commenting on the matter to desist from any conjectures and speculation, and let the investigation take its course.

Ali Javed

Meenakshi Sundriyal

Ritwik Agrawal

On behalf of:

The Campaign for Khurshid Anwar

campaignforkhurshidanwar@gmail.com

Kafila publishes an Appeal for restraint on behalf of the family and friends of Khurshid Anwar

We are friends, family and well-wishers of the late Dr. Khurshid Anwar.  We have come together to keep alive the memory of his signal contribution to peace, secularism and communal harmony in the subcontinent, including his pioneering work in training thousands of volunteers to uphold these ideals over a long career as a grassroots activist.

We are deeply shocked and concerned at the trial by media and social media, which he was irresponsibly subjected to in the last few months, on a matter which had never been subjected to any kind of formal scrutiny by any responsible authority.

We seek to catalyze discussions on these aspects, via blogs, social media as well as public events and in responsible sections of the mainstream press. We strongly affirm the freedom of expression of the press as well as of individuals, but insist that such freedoms place an onus upon all to act with responsibility.

In keeping with this spirit of responsibility, we strongly discourage and dissociate ourselves from any attempts to reveal the identity of, or otherwise target the lady who has leveled serious allegations against Dr Anwar. As his family, personal friends and comrades, we do find it impossible to believe such allegations against a fiercely committed feminist such as himself, but do not presume to judge the matter ourselves.

Anybody who is indulging in any irresponsible statements about the lady in question is only doing a disservice to the memory of Khurshid Anwar.

We request all those commenting on the matter to desist from any conjectures and speculation, and let the investigation take its course.

Ali Javed
Meenakshi Sundriyal
Ritwik Agrawal

On behalf of:

The Campaign for Khurshid Anwar

campaignforkhurshidanwar@gmail.com

Read the Kafila post here,

http://kafila.org/2013/12/25/an-appeal-for-restraint-to-all-by-the-family-and-friends-of-khurshid-anwar/

Link

Resolution of the Institute for Social Democracy

Resolution of the Institute for Social Democracy

Resolution signed by members of ISD strongly condemning the baseless campaign launched against him and pledging their support and dedication to the causes Khurshid Anwar fought for.

Questions left unanswered

On 18 December 2013 Dr. Khurshid jumped to his death in his house in Vasant Kunj. There are a few questions that arise as to why Dr. Khurshid decided to end his life.khurshidanwar

1. Why the people who visited him on a night in September this year leave behind a girl who later claimed in a video that she had passed out and was raped by Dr. Khurshid? Whether the drink was laced or not is for the police to investigate. But why those who were with the girl suddenly left her in a house in which Dr. Khurshid lived alone.

2. Why did the girl not go to the police if she was raped that night by Dr. Khurshid as she alleges?

3. Why did she decide to contact through her friends Ms. Madhu Kishwar and not the police?

4. Why did Madhu Kishwar video record the girl who made the allegations? Why was her face not covered or any other attempt made to prevent identification?

5. Why did the girl, her co-workers, or Madhu Kishwar never attempt to contact the authorities via an FIR and/or a medical test so that the facts of the matter could be established? They are all activists who’ve been working on women’s issues. In the case of Ms. Kishwar such experience spans decades.

6. Why did a girl, who feared her family and apparently did not want to file an FIR so that the family does not come to know of the matter, allow for a video testimony to be taken without any attempt to cover her face?

7. Who were the people involved in the distribution of the defamatory and slanderous CD which had the video recording of the girl in Kishwar’s office. What are the motivations of these people to distribute this CD in a matter of days? Who is the force/handler behind these people?

8. Why were TV channels JIA and India TV running discussions on Dr. Khurshid and the alleged rape incident without inquiry by the police? The media trial especially by the above two channels on 16th and 17th December, it seems, ultimately forced Dr. Khurshid to take the decision to end his life.

Two aspects of the case need to be probed. One, was there any criminal conspiracy by those who decided to leave the girl alone, even though Dr. Khurshid kept on requesting them to take the girl with them, even had called taxis to ferry them? Two, what was the role in abetment to suicide of those who without going to the police were constantly accusing Dr. Khurshid of rape in the media?

A proper inquiry into these two aspects would bring out the truth behind Dr. Khurshid’s death. This is also essential to meet the ends of justice and will help in clearing his name and honour, even if posthumously.

Link

An Appeal to the media regarding the ongoing vilification of Khursheed Anwar and his organisation:Institute For Social Democracy

An Appeal to the media regarding the ongoing vilification of Khursheed Anwar and his organisation:Institute For Social Democracy

Members of ISD condemn the false and misguiding rumors surrounding Khurshid Anwar