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Rajasthan labour activist's lynching: Swacch Bharat campaign blamed for "shaming" women defecating in open

By Our Representative
The lynching of Zafar Hussein, a political and trade union activist of Pratapgarh, Rajasthan, attached with the CPI-ML (Liberation), was the direct result of India’s ruling establishment’s approach to Swacch Bharat Abhiyan, the national cleanliness drive launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a detailed letter sent to Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje has alleged.
The lynching happened during the Swaach Bharat Abhiyan team's campaign in the presence of the municipality chairperson Ashok Jain at 6 am on June 16. Hussein belongs to the Mehtab Shah (Jagwas) Kachhi Basti houses, where more than 450 families of all castes and communities live.
“The women of the Mehtab Shah (Jagwas) Kachhi Basti have no option but to go to khal (a ditch) behind the Basti. The community toilets are too few and not functional, showing the failure of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan”, Kavita Srivastava of the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan, said in a letter sent to the chief minister, and forwarded as email alert to Counterview.
Pointing out that the lynching has taken place as a result of the policy of “shaming” especially women, defecating in the open, the letter says, “To indulge in shaming via taking photographs of people when they are relieving themselves as a policy in Swach Bharat Abhiyan is to put the onus on the poor that they are responsible for this condition; it also encourages men to commit the act of sexual violence, including voyeurism where women are concerned as we saw in the case of Pratapgarh.”
Those who have signed the letter include well-known activists Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Kavita Srivastava, Bhanwar meghwanahi, Kailash Meena, Harkesh Bugalia, Mamta Jaitly, Renuka Pamecha, Komal Srivastava, RD Vyas, among others.
According to the letter, “It is ironic that before this incident Hussein had repeatedly written to the municipality, including his last letter-cum-press note on the June 14, which states that money which came for toilets to be constructed in Ward No 2 was diverted by the municipality officials, which showed the prejudicial behaviour of the municipality.”
Hussein had complained that the public toilets in the basti were “non-functional due to negligence on the part of the municipality”, even as seeking help of Rs 12,000 per toilet to individual households earmarked under the Abhiyan. He had added, how safai Karamcharis, on a daily basis, would chase women, taking their photographs with their mobile cameras “while they were relieving themselves, and also grabbed them.”
Kavita Srivastava
Case of sexual violence
Calling the lynching a clear act of “sexual violence”, the letter said, June 16, 2017 was the fourth day when the team of safai karamcharis committed the crime under section 354C of the Indian Penal Code, which states that “any man who watches, or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act … shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment…”
"Private act" is defined in as one “includes an act of watching carried out in a place … where the victim's genitals, posterior or breasts are exposed or covered only in underwear; or the victim is using a lavatory…”
Insisting that the safai karmacharis had “no right to go near the women when they were relieving themselves”, the letter said, “What is shocking is that not only did they go too close to where the women were, encroaching on their privacy, they also started kicking their water containers and to top it all started taking photographs of women in a state of undress.”
Pointing out that all this happened in the presence of the chairperson of the municipality, Ashok Jain, the letter said, “When the women objected, the men from the basti came running out, which included Zafar Hussain, who intervened and stopped the men from invading the privacy of the women. He was instead targeted and beaten brutally to death.”
Identifying the culprits as Kamal Harijan, Ritesh Harijan, Manish Harijan and Ashok Jain, the letter said, “Instead of taking Hussein to the hospital the karamcharis sped away in their vehicle to lodge an FIR against him under sections 332 and 353 at the behest of the municipal commissioner of having beaten up the safai karamcharis and obstructed them in governmental duty.”
Regretting that, despite post mortem under public pressure, no arrests have happened, the letter demands, “immediate suspension and arrest of all the three safai karamcharis and the chairperson of the municipality”, adding, “The family be given a compensation of Rs 1 crore” and there should be immediate “construction of community and individual toilets in the Jagwas Kachhi Basti.”

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