PUCL Bulletin, May 2001

Special Mention: G. Venugopal

Also, Saswati Bora wins the 20th PUCL 'JOURNALISM

G. Venugopal of Mangalam Daily, published from Kottayam, has
been writing for the past 25 years. He has worked for Kerala
bhooshanam and Veekshanam. At present he is the News
Editor and Leader Writer of Mangalam. He has won previously
the State Award in Developmental Journalism, the KC Sebastian
Award for Political Reporting, the Pampan Madhavan Award for
Political Reporting, and Sivaram Award for the Best News Story.

In his present series of 7 articles written in Mangalam, titled 'Injustice
in Justice', he has forcefully written about the police, the CBI, the
commissions of enquiry, the justice system, politicization of all
the arms of administration, and the need to discover the way to justice.

Writing about the judicial system of a State, which has seen 20
chief justices or acting chief justices in 10 years, he has found
many opportunities to study the socio-political-judicial fabric
of the State and has made penetrating comments, which can
very well apply to other States also.

It is for his wide canvas, his objective evaluation, and his
commitment to the right of the people to a clean system that the
jury of the 20th PUCL 'Journalism for Human Rights ' Award selected
him for this Special mention.

-- K.G. Kannabiran, President, People's Union for
Civil liberties; Chennai, March 23, 2001

G. Venugopal's Reply Speech at the PUCL Award

Conferment Function at Chennai on 23.3.2001

The President, Guests, Ladies & Gentlemen,

May I at the outset express my heart-felt thanks to this august gathering of the evening, to honour Ms. Saswati Bora of Asian Age, and myself, for excellence in Journalism for Human Rights.
I take this opportunity to heartily congratulate Ms. Bora who outstripped all other journalists of the country by showing courage to spot-light the injustice and corruption in Arthur jail, through her serial.

Ms. Bora is an exquisite example for the threat posed by women to the male domination in Indian journalism. I hope the strenuous efforts made by Ms. Bora to bring out the iniquities in the country, disregarding domestic chores, to enlighten the society.

The continuing efforts being made by the People's Union for Civil Liberties, to instill a sense of civil liberties were commendable. It is true that as a result of the untiring fights by numberless freedom fighters under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, India became a free, sovereign State in 1947. But in all the states in the country, naked human rights violations were taking place under democratic governments. When even those people's representatives who were themselves becoming killers, the relevance of organisations like PUCL come to the force.

The single incident in which Shahabuddin who is a member of the sovereign parliament of India, committed Manhunt in Bihar the other day, it was enough proof of the gruesome face of violation of human rights in the country. So, it would be in the fitness of things, if PUCL would come up and give leadership for a second freedom fight for the protection of civil liberties and civil rights, though the country was politically free now.

Kerala is a State which is model to other States in the matter of bringing in progressive legislations. Land reforms, and Education reform were examples in point. Kerala had become proving ground for coalition governments, by trying out a coalition government for the first time in the country. The serial 'Injustice in Justice' written me in Mangalam Daily, was a pointer to the injustice being meted out to the citizens under successive alternate governments led by the CPM and Congress.

In the case of six prominent political murder cases, in which judgement was delivered last year, the accused were let off, giving them the benefit of doubt. The unholy nexus between politicians, police and the prosecution was behind this. That is the reason why the conviction rate is low in Kerala. In the sex harassment case involving P. E. Usha though there were clear evidences, the government and the police attempted to destroy evidence, and to harass the already harassed girl. Even the Women's Commission members were expressing their opinion in women harassment cases on the basis of politics. In the sexual harassment case of P. E. Usha, the State Human Rights Commission failed to take up the case. At last the National Human Rights Commission had to call for explanation from the State Government.

Kerala is the first state in the country to constitute a special court to try women's harassment cases. But, in the incident in which a senior IAS Officer was sexually harassed in the legislature complex by a member of the Nayanar Ministry, apart from the resignation of the concerned minister, the case was not referred to the special court. Instead, an inquiry commission was constituted. I had pointed out in my serial, how inquiry commissions and the CBI became a force in these cases. No action was being taken on the commission reports placed on the table of the legislature. I had also pointed out with examples, how inquiry commissions had become a smoke screen for the government to hide from the wrath of the people. I had also pointed out how CBI was getting entangled in the wire pulling of the Prime Minister's office. My conclusion became pertinent when the Supreme Court declined to lend the services of a sitting judge to inquire into the weapons scam the other day. So also, when the Supreme Court nullified references to the interference of PMO in CBI were also proved right.

Courts, legislatures and the executive were trying to entangle people in the cobweb of laws. Year 2001 should be a year in which law should move in the "just" direction. Freedom Fighters, had fought for a country abound with justice, and not a country ruled by law.

My father M R G Panicker is a self-less freedom fighter who entered the fray when he was 14 years old, by participating in the historic Vaikom Satyagraha for freedom of worship and movement for the coloured Hindus. He continued to be a worker in the Public area of the State for the last 77 years - he is now 91 years old - with an uncorrupted record. Needless to say, it is the example of my father, who sold his properties and dedicated himself to the Indian National Congress, that influenced me and attracted me to journalism. All my main serials had stood for civil rights.
On behalf of the winners I express my sincere gratitude to Dr. Suresh, the President of Tamil Nadu and Pondy PUCL unit, his wife Saila, the immediate past President Sudha, her husband Ramalingam and other activists of PUCL for their whole hearted efforts to see the function a great success. Sudha took us around the historic Madras High Court this morning. It is interesting to note that Sudha has a Kottayam connection. Her father belongs to Kottayam. She is able, noble, humble and simple. I wish the PUCL Tamil Nadu and Pondy unit all success.

May I assure you that the PUCL award would give me impetus to use my pen for human rights more and more. Justice T. Chandrasekhara Menon of Kerala, a PUCL activist was a judge with a sense of justice. He passed away two weeks ago. His death is a great loss to the human rights movement of Kerala. I remain by pledging my heartfelt condolences to the memory of the great soul.

Once again I express my sincere thanks to all of you.