Mention: G. Venugopal
Saswati Bora wins the 20th PUCL 'JOURNALISM
FOR HUMAN RIGHTS' Award
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
Venugopal's Reply Speech at the PUCL Award
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
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
Once again I express my sincere thanks to all of you.