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PUCL, March 2004

3rd March Rally in Jaipur
Protests against the acquittal of all the accused in the Sati glorification cases

-- By Kavita Srivastava

Also see 'Trial by fire' A special Report by Kavita Srivastava and Prem Krishna Sharma, Communalism Combat, February-March 2004.

On the 3rd of March, about seven hundred women from about twelve districts of Jaipur, marched the streets of Jaipur and protested outside the State Secretariat demanding that the :

Government immediately file an appeal in the Rajasthan High Court against the four judgements which acquitted all the accused in the Sati glorification cases as there is only a month left for appeal.

Action be taken against all Government and police officials who turned hostile witnesses in court. Some of the officials who turned hostile were Nar Hari Sharma (ADM), Gyan Prakash Shukla (SDM Amer), Shukam chand (ADM Neem Ka Thana ), Madho Lal ( police photographer ), Bhoop Singh (ASI), Nathu Singh (Head Constable), Noor Mohammed ( RAS), Nathu Ram ( ASI ), Prabhu Dayal (SI, Behror ) Ram Niwas( RPS, SHO Adarsh Nagar ), Satish Kumar ( Bhilwara SHO), Sawar Mal ( constable), Chagan Lal (SHO, Nagar Nigam, Jaipur), Prabhu Singh (SI, Patan Sikar ). ( the posts mentioned against the person are of 1987).

· a special committee of legal experts be set up to assist the prosecution to argue the 18 other cases which at trial stage.

The protest on the 3rd of March in Jaipur was led by national leaders Brinda Karat of AIDWA and Sehba Farooqui of the NFIW. Educationists Anil Bordia and Sharada Jain, writer and senior journalist Ved Vyas, Janwadi Lekhak Sangh Secretary Rajeev Gupta and others also raised their voice in solidarity with the issue. There were several participants from autonomous women's groups in Delhi and Baroda too. The Chief Minister was out of station and therefore was not available to the rallyists. The Chief Secretary received the memorandum and agreed to present our views to the Chief Minister. We were told by the Home Secretary that they were in the process of studying the papers inorder to know whether a case of appeal can be made out. Women's groups presented the critique of the judgement that they had prepared in consultation with experts.

The slogans in the rally accused the government of protecting the sati supporters. The slogans also did not spare the judiciary. They demanded that the Government's break its silence on this matter. It was clear to the rallyists that that the Chief Minister refusal to issue a statement or meet women's groups on this matter was because the decision required was potent politically. Taking a decision in favour of appealing against the judgments in the High Court would mean taking action against her own party leaders. It would also affect the vote bank of a particular caste whose political identity was constructed around the pro-sati movement after Roop Kanwar's murder in eighty seven. It would also mean coming out against her mother's Vijaya Raje Scindia's views, who openly supported the practice of Sati at that time. It would also mean going against the hindu revivalist prevailing in her party and its supporting organisations like the VHP and the Bajrang Dal. Incidentally, the vice President of the VHP Acharya Dharmendra was one of the religious leaders who led the pro Sati movement and was also the master of ceremonies at the one year death anniversary of Roop Kanwar, he represents the strong hindu revivalist current in the VHP in Rajasthan .

The demonstrators also said that the Chief Minister's attitude of denying women's groups an appointment established her feudal and arrogant character, for which there was no place in Indian Democracy. This act of hers also illustrated her attitude towards women, treating them as subordinated and with disrespect.

The meeting finished with a pledge that Black Flags would be shown to the Chief Minister wherever she would go for the Lok Sabha election campaign.

With the deadline for filing the appeal being only till the 30th of March, women's groups donot have too much time. We have decided not to give up on our demands. The mobilisation and protest will continue till we are heard. We will let you know of our plan soon. We are also planning a legal meeting with experts in order to plan the legal intervention from the side of women's groups.

The rally had the participation and the support from the following groups in Rajasthan

Women's Rehabilitation Group, Rajasthan University Women's Association, National Federation of Indian women, All India Democratic Women's Association, All India Progressive women's Association, Mahila Prakoshta- All India State Government Employees Association, National Muslim Women's Welfare Society, People's Union for Civil Liberties, Vividha - Women's Documentation and Resource Centre, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Academy of Socio Legal Studies, Vishakha-Women's Groupfor Education and Research, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Rajasthan Mazdoor Kisan Morcha, Urmul network, Maila Jan Adhikar Samiti (Ajmer), Sasvika Ajmer, Sathin Karamchari Sangh, Janwadi Lekhak Sangh, Jan Vichar Manch, Lok Adhikar, Barmer network, Prayas. They all are a part of the Mahila Atyachar Virodhi Jan Andolan, Rajasthan a loose network of women's rights and human right's organisations.

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