The 13th IAWS National Conference on Women’s Studies underway in Wardha, Maharashtra has come under attack from over zealous anti terror security police in India. Professor Ilina Sen, who is the conference convener and also head of the Department of the Women’s Studies at the Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University (MGAHV), Wardha has seen a police case registered against her concerning bureaucratic rules and procedures about police reporting of foreigners participation in Conferences in India. The foreigners participating at the conference have valid tourist visas. The Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) have slapped charges of violations of Foreigners Act, 1946 and have arrested the owners, managers of two hotels where foreign participants to the conference were staying. The events in Wardha do not protend a healthy future for participation by foreigners attending conferences in India.
Space for academic and cultural freedoms seem to be definitely shrinking in India. Sometimes its the Hindutva thugs or their mirror opposite from the Islamists circuit who strike fear and intimidate by issuing fatwas and sometimes the official powers that be find ways to curb and intimidate. Intimidation of conference organisers on grounds of National security is utterly shocking. There is an urgent need to register widespread protest against the heavy handed ways of the security agencies. Posted below are news reports giving details so far reported in the media. People should write letters of solidarity to Indian Association of Women’s Studies at: iaws.secretariat[at]gmail.com
Foreigners Act wrongly invoked against Ilina Sen?
by S. Arun Mohan and Siddharth Varadarajan
The Indian Association for Women’s Studies (IAWS) has strongly contested the Maharashtra police decision to file an FIR against Ilina Sen, wife of Binayak Sen, for her alleged failure to inform the police about the participation of foreign delegates at an academic conference organised by the IAWS and the Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Vishwavidyalaya (MGAV) in Wardha last week.
Prof. Ilina Sen, who is an Executive Committee member of the IAWS and head of the MGAV’s Women’s Studies Department, was booked under Sections 7 and 14 of the Foreigners Act on Monday. The police also arrested the owner of a local hotel where some foreigners were staying on account of the management’s failure to inform them of their arrival.
The Foreigners Act requires hotel keepers and other persons who own, occupy or control the premises where foreigners are accommodated to submit such information to the authorities in a prescribed format known as ’Form C’. It is unclear how Prof. Sen, who is a coordinator of the IAWS, has been booked under the Act given that the relevant provisions apply only to persons who furnish lodging to foreigners for payment.
Umesh Chandra Sarangi, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), told The Hindu that the conference organisers had not informed the police about their stay. “These people came and stayed in a guest house which was booked. They were organising a conference. There is a rule that whenever a conference is organised, the police should be informed about it. The Director-General of Police is looking into the case,” he said.
In fact, the Foreigners Act itself places no such obligation on Indians who invite foreigners for conferences or social events. The four Pakistani and Bangladeshi participants named in the FIR were residing on the university campus. The IAWS sources told The Hindu that three of these women scholars were in fact staying in the Vice-Chancellor’s residence as personal guests while the fourth was put up at the university guesthouse. Ironically, full political and security clearance from the Ministries of Home Affairs and the External Affairs had been obtained in advance for the participation of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan scholars as government rules currently prescribe in order for visas to be granted.
The FIR filed by the ATS Nagpur Unit notes that Form ‘C’ as prescribed under the Foreigners Act has not been filed by the University. However, Form C pertains only to ‘Hotel Arrival Information’ and does not contemplate the present situation in any manner. The distinction is relevant as Section 7 of the Act, under which Prof. Ilina Sen has been booked, will be applicable only to instances where the accommodation is paid for by foreigners. In fact, the Home Ministry in 2001 scrapped a controversial 1971 order that required persons to report the presence of foreigners in their households.
Even if one were to hold the University responsible for failing to provide the required information, the responsibility for filing a C form belongs only to those running a hotel, inn or hostel and not to the organisers of an event in which foreigners participate.
On the concluding day of the Conference, the police entered the Yatri Niwas premises in Wardha, where a large number of women participants, mostly students and teachers, were staying to attend the event.
The organisers have condemned the actions of the police and expressed their anguish over unwarranted interference from the authorities.
Mr. Sarangi denied that the police had taken action against the organisers because Prof. Sen was Dr. Binayak Sen’s wife.
(With inputs from Rahi Gaikwad in Mumbai)
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ATS slaps case against Sen’s wife for foreigners’ presence at meet
by Vivek Deshpande
Posted: Tue Jan 25 2011, 00:04 hrs Nagpur:
The Nagpur Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Monday registered a case against Ilina Sen, wife of Binayak Sen, for not informing the local police about foreigners participating in a women’s convention convened by her at Wardha’s Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University, where she is a teacher.
A few foreigners participating in the global convention had lodged themselves in a local hotel. The ATS had, on Sunday, arrested the owner, manager and an employee of Hotel Harisons for not informing the police about their arrival.
On Monday, they also arrested manager of Sant Kanwarram dormitory, where a few other foreigners had lodged themselves, for a similar offence.
A senior ATS officer said, “The organisers of any such meets or conclaves have to inform the police about the foreigners participating in the meeting or the convention under Section 7 of the Foreigners Act. Not doing so attracts provision of Section 14, under which we have registered the offence. Ilina Sen was convenor of the meet.”
The foreigners who had lodged themselves at these places, however, had given their visa and passport to the hotel management. “So, the fault lies with the management,” the officer said.
He, however, said, “Some foreigners were part of the protests on the premises of the Hindi University where participants led by Sen raised slogans demanding scrapping of some Acts like Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and for release of Binayak Sen and the recently arrested Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawle. All this has been video recorded. Foreigners can’t do this, that too on the premises of Indian government’s institution.”
Asked if action is also contemplated against the foreigners, the officer said, “The local police should be doing it.”
Asked how then foreign observers could be allowed to witness Binayak Sen’s trial, the officer said, “It’s got official sanction of the government and they are not here to raise slogans or protest.”
Inspector General (Nagpur range) Prabhat Ranjan said, “Wardha police have arrested some hotel personnel, but we will have to check whether foreigners participated in protests and if yes, how we can move against them if at all we can.”
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Ilina booked under Foreigners’ Act
Soumittra S Bose, Supriya Sharma & Sanjeev Chandan, TNN, Jan 25, 2011, 12.39am IST
NAGPUR/ WARDHA/ RAIPUR: Ilina Sen, wife of activist Dr Binayak Sen, was on Monday booked by Wardha police for not informing them about the participation of foreign nationals in 13 th National conference for the Indian Association of Women’s Studies (IAWS) organized under her supervision at Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University. The four-day conference concluded on Monday.
The cops have also booked the in-charge of the accommodation committee of the conference. The offences against Sen and the accommodation committee in-charge have been registered under the relevant section of the Foreigners’ Act at Sewagram police station. Local unit of state Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) initiated action against the owners of the premises who had neglected to inform local police about the arrival of foreign nationals at their respective places.
Reacting to reports of offence against her, Ilina Sen told TOI in Raipur, "this is exactly what I was fearing all along, that police and administration in Naxal affected states are looking for opportunities to implicate me in false cases and I am not safe in this country. There is no question of sheltering any foreign nationals (without the police’s knowledge) or involving them in political activity." She had come to attend bail plea of her husband before the Chhattisgarh high court in Bilaspur.
On Sunday, offences under the Foreigners Act, 1946, were registered against a hotel owner and his two employees at Wardha city police station. On Monday, offence was registered against manager of a dharamshala, Virendra Mohnani, at the same police station. A Sri Lankan national was staying here.
However, no action was initiated against the vice-chancellor Vibhuti Narayan Rai or others who too had allowed foreign nationals to stay at their respective premises. ATS sources said they had learnt about Rai’s involvement in allowing three foreign nationals at his bungalow in the university premises. The fact that Rai, a former IPS officer of Haryana cadre, had played the host to three foreigners featured in the statement of the security officer Rajendra Ghormade.
"The local police may register an offence against him in due course since Rai’s name featured in the statement recorded by us," said an ATS official. The ATS also gave a clean chit to hostel authorities. "The hostels and the premises of the university were handed over to Sen (Ilina) for the conference. The premises were under her control during the conference. Her letter had urged the organizing committee to ensure that arrangements for accommodation were being made for the foreign nationals," said an official source.
ATS and local police faced tumultuous protest at University when they went to question the authorities. The organizing committee too sent its complaint to the higher officials of the district police who opted to refrain from commenting on the episode and ATS actions.
Anita Ghai, president of IAWS, said that the organizing committee had invited three foreign nationals while the rest came on their own. ATS, on the other hand, claimed that the foreign nationals were visiting India on a tourist visa and there participation in political agitations against Indian Government was an outrageous act.
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Binayak Sen’s wife booked by ATS (Hindustan Times, 25 January 2011)
Binayak Sen’s wife booked for violating Foreigners Act (Mumbai Mirror, 25 January 2011)
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Ilina pleads innocence
Supriya Sharma, TNN, Jan 25, 2011, 12.40am IST
RAIPUR: Reacting to Wardha police slapping her with charges of ’sheltering’ foreign nationals in violation of law, Ilina Sen, wife of Dr Binayak Sen, pleaded innocence.
She told TOI in Raipur that she was part of the executive of Indian Association of Women’s Studies and in that capacity, had organised a five-day national conference of women’s studies from January 20-24. "The association had invited three foreign writers from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Police registration is mandatory for Pakistani nationals. In this case, Zaheeda Heena (Pakistani delegate), had been exempted from it. Her visa clearly said she had an exemption," Sen said.
She stated that from these three, several others had come to the conference on their own. For instance, 19 students had come from Ambedkar University. A young student Malliam, who turned out to be a Ugandan citizen, also came on her own. "I was not even aware she was a foreign national," Sen added. Similarly, another researcher turned out to be from Manchester. But the association was responsible for only three delegates it invited. "We provided them accommodation on the university campus. The others, perhaps 3-4 foreign nationals, stayed on their own."
On involving foreigners in political activity, Sen said the meet passed several resolutions. "Some were related to state of women’s studies, others were expressions of solidarity with human rights defenders like Irom Sharmila and Binayak Sen. On the final day, the general body took out a procession within the campus to express this solidarity. I was not part of the procession, I was busy signing certificates of participants," she added.
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Hotelier held for not reporting foreigners
Soumittra S Bose, TNN, Jan 24, 2011, 12.44am IST
NAGPUR: Local unit of State Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) slapped charges of violations of Foreigners Act, 1946, against a hotel in Wardha city. Offences against owner of a hotel and two others were registered at Wardha City police station on Sunday.
Several foreign nationals are under scanner for their participation in a socio-political conference despite entering India on tourist visa. The foreigners had come to Wardha allegedly to participate in ongoing 13th Indian Association of Women Studies meet at Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University. Ilina Sen, wife of Chhattisgarh physician Dr Binayak Sen, convicted by a Raipur court for sedition, has been a moving force behind the conference.
Sources said Elina too is under watch now for vigorously spearheading the campaign to free Dr Sen and others like Sudhir Dhawale, recently arrested for alleged Naxal link, using the podium of the conference to organize support against the so-called Naxal sympathizers.
ATS sleuths indicated that the University authorities may also be liable for action given the strong rhetoric against government voiced during the conference. The delegates, who had come for the conference, also organized protests against the recent arrests of some alleged Naxal sympathizers. Intelligence agencies had been keeping a close watch on the developments.
ATS sleuths, who were also present undercover, rounded up the key personnel of a prominent Wardha hotel. Offences were registered against owner Murliharan Kruplani, manager Moreshwar Puri and receptionist Purushottam Bhoyar. Police have arrested Puri and Bhoyar.
ATS sources said that the hotel should have informed the local police or Foreigner Registration Officer at special branch after the arrival of the foreign tourists. Two United Kingdom (UK) nationals were staying at the hotel where ATS swooped down.
It is learnt that the local police had been informed about the arrival of foreigners by the security agencies but no action was initiated against them. Apart from two UK nationals, there are other foreigners present at different venues. ATS is gearing up for more action on last day of the conference on Monday.
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21-24 January, 2011
Resisting Marginalizations, Challenging Hegemonies: Re-visioning Gender Politics
in collaboration with Department of Women’s Studies
Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya (MGAHV), Wardha