Solidarity with assaulted Patna social worker
24 December 2009
Partners for Law in Development, New Delhi, are seeking expressions of solidarity with Varsha Ashok Jawalgekar, a sincere and enthusiastic social worker in Patna, who has been physically attacked on 8 occasions by her husband and his associates to deter her from pursuing domestic violence cases against him. The last such attack in court premises that resulted in grievous injury occurred on Oct 13, 2009.
Varsha Ashok Jawalgekar, is fighting several cases in relation to her abusive marriage - 5 criminal cases of 498A and bigamy, one contesting divorce initiated by her husband (now dismissed), and one in relation to maintenance. After her separation from her husband, Renji George Joseph (also a development worker in Patna), she has been attacked violently on several occasions on the street, in court, outside court by him or his associates, to deter her from pursuing criminal remedies. On two occasions following the violence, a team of eminent social activists in Patna undertook a fact finding into her case, both times expressing concern for Varsha's security. The last fact finding was undertaken in response to the attack on Oct 13, 2009. This fact finding report states her life is in danger, and there is a real fear of recurring attacks. This fact finding was undertaken after Varsha was beaten by her husband and his family/ associates, 11 persons in all, on October 13, 2009 in the court premises in Barh where her case was listed. She was chased and dragged in the court premises, even from the court room in full view of the judge, and beaten. Her medical report shows grievous injury, and her arm was fractured. She spent many hours in the police station - until late in the night to lodge an FIR, which reduced the complaint to that of simple injury. In retaliation, her husband, Renji Joseph, filed a case against Varsha under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act alleging she abused and attacked his second wife on the same day that Varsha was attacked. This patently false case was dismissed on Dec 16, 2009. The fact finding team comprised of Sushila Sahay, Neelu, Anita Mishra, Meena Devi, Manu Dung Dung, Chitrali, Sudha Verghese (Padam Shree), Punam, Kanchanbala, Pradip Priyadashi, C.A Priyadarshi and Rupesh. The summary of their findings and recommendations are as follows:
1. The team demands the counter case against Varsha under SC/ST Act to be withdrawn (the case against her was dismissed on Dec 16, 2009).
2. Varsha was attacked on 13 October at 11.00 am and her FIR was registered after twelve hours at 11.30 at night and she was made to wait at the Police station till 2.30 at night without the presence of any woman constable. In the wake of these circumstances, the team demands immediate suspension of the station inspector.
3. Owing to continued attacks and threats to Varsha by her husband Renji Joseph and his family, the last being in front of the Judge at Barh (despite that no action was taken), the team recommends that the cases from Barh and Danapur be transferred to the Patna High Court.
Varsha's husband, the accused in all the cases, is a development worker - Renji George Jospeh, founder of Alliance for Holistic and Sustainable Development of Communities (AHSDC). He continues to head his NGO, garner support from organisations and donors (Christian Aid) despite his criminal conduct.
She has submitted the fact finding report, and other material supporting her appeal to the PUCL, State Legal Aid, High Court Legal Aid, and PLD - asking for the following:
1. Protection of her life through provision of security and protection order from court.
2. Impartial investigation of her cases.
3. Quashing the false counter case under the SC/ST Atrocities Act registered against her her.
4. Expeditious hearings and provisions of free legal aid.
While Varsha has solidarity of social workers and activists in Patna, it is important that her situation be known outside of Patna - to monitor progress of cases and their follow-up, as well as extend support to actions in Patna. She is single, lives on her own without any police protection and remains at risk. This is an appeal to all colleagues and friends to endorse the solidarity letter and follow up at their levels to monitor and support her case. She would also like financial support to fight cases, as only one of the cases is covered by state legal aid, and she currently has no source of income. There is no private/ NGO sponsored legal aid so while she has supportive lawyers, she has to bear the cost of litigation on her own. Please feel free to get in touch with her directly to express solidarity or render suppport.
Partners for Law in Development, New Delhi
Nirantar, New Delhi
Vrinda Grover, Lawyer/ MARG, New Delhi
Geeta Ramaseshan, Lawyer, Chennai
S.K. Priya, Lawyer, Chennai
Purnima Upadhyay, Khoj, Amravati
Saumya Uma, Lawyer/ Activist, Bombay
Sophia Khan, SAFAR, Ahmedabad
For more information contact:
Partners for Law in Development
F-18, First Floor, Jangpura Extension
New Delhi - 110014
Tel. No. - 24316832 / 33
Telefax - 24316833
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org