Even while the National Commission for Women (NCW) is sitting over the details gathered by the commission members over the attack on a birthday party at a homestay near Mangalore in July, a group of NGOs has released a fact-finding report on the attack and has pinpointed that the arrest of Naveen Soorinje, a TV journalist with Kasturi channel, as ‘a conspiracy’. The report put together by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Forum Against Atrocities on Women (FAAW) has likened the attacks to ‘social apartheid’.
The report, which was released on Sunday, stated that the government has used the police force to ‘frame’ the TV journalist to cover up the tracks of Hindu Jagarana Vedike activists who attacked the homestay.
Explaining the spirit of the report, PUCL state vice-president BV Seetaram said: “Arrest of Soorinje was nothing but a stern message sent to the community of journalists that the establishment can thwart their rights with impunity. His arrest was nothing, but shooting the messenger while many others who have masterminded the attack were still at large. Other journalists were also covering the incident but why only Soorinje was targeted? Seetaram asked.
Senior advocate Hemalatha Mahishi said: “If the perpetrators of the attack on the homestay are future politicians, god save us. These are the persons who belong to outfits that claim that they worship women as their mothers but look what they are doing to women.”
Social activist Vidya Dinakar said: “The fact-finding group has found out that Soorinje was not connected with the incident. He had gone there to report the incident for his channel along with other journalists. Was it wrong to carry out his duty? If it was so in the eyes of the law, did it not infringe upon his constitutional right to livelihood and also freedom of speech and expression as enshrined in the article 19 (1) (a) of the constitution?”
“Communal policing in turn leads to forms of ‘social apartheid’ which is policing of community boundaries through laying down what manners of dress and what manners of expression are appropriate for each self-enclosed community,” he said.
“The conventional understanding of apartheid as it was practiced in South Africa refers to a structure of segregation of the people of South Africa through law. By social apartheid, we mean a practice of segregating communities on the basis of religion and gender by self-styled vigilante groups as well as prescribing appropriate behaviour and conduct for the separate communities,” he said.
Social apartheid is successful only because it has the implicit support of the state, and hence enjoys immunity for its patently lawless actions. It is important to stress that social apartheid is not only about segregating communities but is equally concerned about culture, etc.