AIDS aur hum in the eye of the storm in UP, NSA invoked

(Also see, Invoking of NSA condemned

'Sahyog', an NGO working in the field of women's health and empowerment, Panchayati Raj, Dalit development, and public education has a Centre in Almora, UP. It released a report in its study on AIDS in Uttarakhand in September 1999. It is a field study on the prevalence of AIDS/HIV in five villages of Almora. The report is based on interviews, questionnaires, discussions, etc. This forty page report is these days at the center of a fierce storm. There is organised resistance to the report. The agitation started all of a us sudden about six months after the publication of the report. The sentiment of local Nationalism has interpreted the report as an insult to the people of the region. The group has reproduced and analysed its data in about fifteen pages. At some places it has reproduced the words that were actually used by the respondents. On the basis of those words the report has been termed as obscene. The local administration has arrested some activists and they have not been not able to get bail. In the face of local outrage, no lawyer is prepared to take up their case.

The fact-sheet: The District Administration invoked NSA on May 12. Earlier, on April 20 an FIR was lodged. There were demonstrations and violence against the NGO and its personnel. By April 24 eleven people connected with the NGO were arrested. Some were released on bail. Its work in Almora was banned on April 25. On May 4 they were taken to the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, the four men in handcuffs.

Salient points of the of the notice served, translated into English, are: The book has upset the sentiments of the peoples as expressed through demonstrations, Dharnas etc. People in the region, civilians, sainiks, are outraged. Jasodhara Dasgupta is a mischievous woman and is anti Uttarakhand and anti Indian men. The activities of the NGO are against society and disturb law and order. If released on bail they will frighten and terrorise the people. People will get angry. Foreign funding agencies, through Sahyog, have hurt the sentiments of the people through indecent literature.

Aids aur hum is a 40 page report brought out by an NGO Sahayog, headed by Dr. Abhijit Das and Ms. Jasodhara Dasgupta. It is divided into two parts. The 1st part running into 11 pages gives information about AIDS, a global perspective, and Indian perspective, and perspective of Uttarakhand. The second parts runs into 28 pages. It is divided into the procedure of study, information collected, analysis of information collected, conclusions, indicators for the future. Last 5 pages are devoted to lists of AIDS concerned organisations, references and a list of the investigated groups of Sahyog. The conclusions high light the reasons responsible for the spread of AIDS. These are ignorance, migration of male population to the plains, lack of knowledge of use of contraceptives etc. Important/ controversial statements in the report are as follows:

1. At the end of the chapter on the procedure of study the following statement is made: " on the other hand it can be wrong to form a uniform opinion about the whole of the Uttarakhand"

2. While reporting the collective discussion with male contact persons of the four out of the five selected villages, it says that sexual relations exist within the families. The respondents mention the names of other villages where this practice was found.

3. One person said that in a neighboring village one woman had relations with her nephew. The same person said that in another village one woman of a family had relations with many men. Her daughter was also spoiled.

4. One person, who was working in the plains, confessed to going to prostitutes and with a women in the neighborhood in another city.

5. Another person confessed that when he was in the 9th standard he had relations with a girl of neighboring village for one year.

6. Another person, working in the plains as a cleaner on a truck, confessed that the Ustaad committed sodomy on him and he became (at this place the report uses the actual Hindi words for the actions and the parts of the body.).

Reporting the discussion with women contact person, the report says: 1. Two women said that a woman with grand children is regularly visited by three or four persons and earns money. The girls of the neighboring village indulge this activities in the forest. 2. One woman mentioned the village where there were such relations between father and daughter and brother and sister. 3. There are some women in the neighboring village who go to other villages where they satisfy the urge of other men. 4. One woman said that multiple sexual relations were nothing new. The group discussion with the youth revealed that 1. Men and women both have relations 2. It was reported that there was an old man who had relations with small children. 3. Eleven students talked about oral sex and eight talked about sodomy. 4. Seven students confessed to relations with married women. 5. Eight students mentioned relations between love-couples.

At the end of the chapter on conclusions the report says, "This is an indication of how serious is the danger of the spread of AIDS in Uttarakhand".

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