As a feminist activist in India here’s what I went through to file an FIR with the police!

An FIR (First information report) has to be filed with the police to initiate investigation of any crime in India.  The police often refuse to file an FIR.  And even though as a feminist activist I’m aware of the law and my rights it took me more than 2 weeks to file an FIR case with my local police station for my mother in a case involving threats, extortion and cheating.  Not only that, the FIR report in the police register is not the complaint we submitted.  But we were told either had to accept it as it is, or we don’t any FIR report.

A man in our building, Mr.D, who calls himself the ‘President’ of a flat owners association, that does not not exist on paper, or have any legal or written documents, has been trying to force my mother to put the building maintenance money for her flat into a bank account.  For many years she had been putting money into an account under the name “Palm Place Syndicate”, assuming that even if Mr. D. does not show us any registration or bye-laws, or anything in writing/print showing such an association actually exists, it must exist.  There must be documents, otherwise how can the bank allow for an account to exist under the name “Palm Place Syndicate.”  And then in October 2014, we discovered that account was in the banks own legal department because it had no documents! No registration, bye-laws, identity — nothing!  And the way we found out was that Mr. D. invited my mother to be a signatory to the account without telling her that the account was in legal trouble and faced RBI closure.  We then also found out  the account was not even set up as a building society account, but Mr.D’s business partnership account. One of his business partners was a man who had sold his flat and didn’t even live in our building. The third business “partner” was a man who had been dead for 10 years!

Why should we be putting money into someone’s business partnership account? So we stopped putting money into that account. In the meantime, in November 2014, Mr. D. pulled out 90% of the funds in the account and then for the next 4 months went all quiet.  We heard he was trying to open a similar business partnership account in other banks.  I imagine without documents it would be hard.  But not impossible. For by end of March 2015, he managed to open a new account — another business partnership account, with undisclosed “business partners.”  Then he demanded we put our maintenance money in there directly with a penalty for late payment based on a building bye-law which does not exist on paper, and he refuses to provide us a copy.  When we refused to put money into this account (we’d been voluntarily doing so in the last one unaware of his set-up!) Mr.D started threatening us.  He said he’d turn off our water, electricity and put more penalty on us.  Interestingly, we had managed to get printout of the last bank account, and we don’t see very many monthly maintenance payments by Mr. D. himself! But he thinks he’s not required to provide audits and accounts either!

When we went to the police to file an FIR for fraud, criminal intimidation and extortion against Mr.D, they refused to register the complaint and wrote a general police diary. They also refused to give us the carbon copy of the report we filed. Then we went to the next higher up, the DC – deputy commissioner of police who ordered an FIR.  However, again, the sub-inspector, (the same one who did the General Police Diary the last time) they took our carbon copy to stamp but refused to stamp and give it back. He gave a little slip saying – come and get the FIR report tomorrow. Next day he wasn’t there and they couldn’t find it. We kicked up a fuss and finally I saw the FIR report in the police register. The sub inspector who wrote it had filed a wrong story, saying there was attempt to extort money through threats of grievous injury.  Mr.D had 4 years ago attempted to physically push my mother over another matter, and the police had refuse to file an assault FIR then too.  However in the current case we cannot yet complain of or prove physical threats.

So we objected but the police refused to change the FIR report. Then they said that we don’t get a copy of the FIR report because it’s an internal thing.  They tried to tell us it does not matter, judge will only see your written complaint! Again we had to go back to the Deputy commissioner of Police.  It still wasn’t easy.  They tried to give us a copy of our written formal complaint with the police stamp, signature and penal code it was submitted under, blanked out.  It looked like it had been covered with a blank paper on the margin and photocopied.  We did get — but after another bout of fighting. We refused to sign the FIR report with the wrong story.  They said, this is the only one you get. Like it or leave it!  We finally decided to sign at the back — stating simply received a copy of the FIR without signing the bottom of the form accepting the report as true.

We’ve been told this happens! And that it’s OK. The police file different stories from the one’s the complainants file! And that eventually the court will look at what you’ve written.  Will it? I don’t know. And why should there be a wrong story officially filed in the police register?

So I ask other Indian women activists, lawyers, and anyone else reading this – please advise me on what to do. It’s been 6 months of hell and I’ve knocked on dozens of doors – lawyers, NGOs, government offices, consumer affairs, RBI.

Also I’d appreciate any advice on what can I do about Mr.D?

Who Silenced Anjali Bhushan , Indian Co-Producer of #IndiasDaughter Film, and Why?


Anjali Bhushan was the Indian Co-Producer of the new “India’s Daughter” documentary on the Delhi gang rape, and a big mystery because even though her name was repeatedly mentioned in media articles, introducing this film to India as a joint Indian-British venture, Bhushan wasn’t seen or even heard from. It’s now clear that Bhushan’s involvement was necessary for the team to get access to Tihar’s high security prison, since Leslee Udwin, the director, as a foreigner may not have got access. Interestingly, though some vaguely speculated that Bhushan was in hiding, the Indian and western media have been oddly silent on the question of the “missing producer.” Stranger still, from her statement now, she had contacted them!

Then The Hindustan Times published the piece below, written by Bhusan in the first person, explaining her role in this film and what had really happened. Her assertions are scandalous and answer questions that have been raised about official procedures and the aim of the director. What is more odd is how HT was forced to remove this content. The same had happened a few weeks ago with one newspaper reporting on Pachauri’s sexual harassment case and then being forced to remove it. Of course soon after as other women came forward, all the media houses were compelled to report it. What’s most odd, is while the media loudly protests the ban on “India’s Daughter” as muzzling of free-speech, it deliberately mutes a journalist whose statement and experience shows the dark underbelly of the making of this film, and indeed exposes issues with ethics and exploitative abuse within the journalistic community, with an eye to fame and capital gain.


By Anjali Bhushan in The Hindustan Times

Make no mistake. Rape is a heinous crime. When public anger over the Nirbhaya incident boiled over, the question which confronted our society was how a human being could be driven to commit acts of such depravity. Although, it is said that the moral compass of all criminals is skewed the brutality of this incident made it necessary from a social viewpoint to examine the question of where such behaviour stems from.

The documentary “India’s Daughter” was therefore conceived to serve a social cause which was unfortunately overshadowed by the self-promoting agenda of my collaborator, Ms. Leslee Udwin. I had fallen out with her by the time that the principle photography of the film was completed and was conveniently excluded from the final edits.

Subsequently, her attempt to exploit the subject matter of the documentary in a self-advancing attempt to sensationalize the content has not only brought disrepute to my profession and the country but also resulted in hurting the sentiments of the victims of rape who would invariably be exposed to the film. Granted editorial and journalistic privilege, there is also a particular sensibility that should be a guiding factor as an ethical standard.

This is the same sensibility because of which the international media decides against telecasting the brutal immolation of a Jordanian pilot by terrorists. The social message which is the very essence of the film I wanted to make is now lost in the unfortunate controversy which has followed. When one edits several hours of footage, it is this sensibility, suitably deployed, which comes into play. It was this ‘sensibility’ which I was not able to exercise having been prevented by Ms. Leslee Udwin from participating in the post-assembly review of the film. And it was the lack of exercise of this ‘sensibility’ on her part, (having denied herself of my input as an Indian woman), in a cynical attempt to capture eyeballs and headlines which has led to the unfortunate controversy which will continue to cast a shadow on her career as a film maker.

The story does not end here. Regardless of her lack of sensibilities and judgment, Ms. Udwin knowingly and cynically breached the conditions and undertakings under which the permissions were granted. It was clear right at the outset that the permission to shoot the documentary was conditional upon the viewing of the unedited footage and the final cut by the authorities. Having completed the shooting, Ms. Udwin arrogantly refused to comply. On being shown snippets of the film, the authorities at Tihar Prisons had categorically stated that the comments of the convict were objectionable. The authorities further asked for the full i.e. unedited film to be able to review the same in the proper context. It was reiterated that the film should not be released till it is approved by the prison authorities and the Ministry.

When Ms. Udwin categorically refuted this demand by Tihar Prisons, I was horrified especially since I had repeatedly pleaded with her to comply with all conditions and formalities. Ultimately, in September 2014, I received a letter from Ms. Udwin’s lawyers terminating our agreements. One of the grounds of termination was that my warnings had in fact led to the DG (Prisons) sending a legal notice to her company on the grounds of breach of permissions granted by the jail authorities!

Subsequently, when I accidently stumbled upon the fact that plans to release the documentary were afoot, I was both angry and surprised, since I had been informed that the BBC will not air the documentary until the Supreme Court hearings were over. I immediately proceeded to warn the media houses planning to telecast the film, both about the fact that permission to do so had not been received and also the fact that the matter was still sub judice.

That despite my warnings the documentary, which includes an abominable portrayal of the issue, was still aired is a sad reflection of the triumph of the personal ambition of a producer who valued publicity and international recognition over the social agenda of the entire production.

(This is the full statement of co-producer of controversial documentary “India’s Daughter”. Views expressed are personal)

This is the link to the Hindustan Times article in the Google cache which the newspaper it appears was compelled to remove.


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Does India Understand these Dangers of #GMO Food?

Where GMO food is a major concern for the public and environmentalists in other countries, in India, the environment minister seems to be a comfortable supporter of the government’s eagerness to open the floodgates to GMO vending corporations!

Geneticist Suman Sahai, founder of Gene Campaign in India, in her recent interview warns the nation of the dangers of GMO and lists the following reasons why (in her words) India does “not have the competence to play around with GMO food.”

1. No technological expertise: Our biosafety (prevention of risks associated with biotechnology processes) competence has not improved at all. We need officials trained in genetics who can understand the biosafety data. We have none.

2. No proper field trials: The GMO crop trials are understood [but] nobody follows them. Take the trials of Bt rice conducted in Jharkhand in 2004. We found that one of the farms was in the midst of the farmers’ fields. No signboard, no fencing, no containment of any sort. One farmer put in charge of it had been threshing the produce and may have even eaten it. Later we found volunteer plants (those that grow on their own) had come up on the farm. We sent them for testing and of course they were GM.

3. Government corruption and greed: When we informed the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) that Jharkhand has the highest genetic diversity of rice and such lapses contaminate everything, they sent us a showcause notice for entering the field instead of taking action against shoddy trials.

4. Danger of losing biodiversity: Both brinjal and mustard [two crops India are allowing in] are cross-pollinating plants, so the consequences will be no single, non-GM mustard or brinjal left. Some say you can segregate, but have we managed to segregate Bt cotton? It has gone everywhere.

5. Larger impact on the environment: Uniformity of biodiversity will have its own environmental implications. There is a well-known phenomenon called gene silencing. Very often plants altered genetically don’t survive because you have interrupted the natural process. Those that do survive, certain genes may stop expressing. What can get silenced we have no idea. Yet we are ready to risk the entire germplasm.

6. Risk of Toxicity in food: Brinjal belongs to the Solanaceae family. It’s the family of not just tomato, chilli and potato but also datura (angel’s trumpets) and belladona. These are some of the most toxic plants. We can’t Read the full post »

Standard Chartered @StanChart: Your Bank Helped an Illegal Account Steal From My Mother

As a feminist activist for women’s rights in India, I find it hard to explain to people that even when you are educated, and know your rights and can fight for them, there will always be a network of educated, and professional people (men) who will blatantly violate the laws and your rights along with it.  And so I share here with you the nightmare I am going through with my mother as a multinational bank arrogantly violates her rights.

Below is a letter that I have sent on behalf of my mother to Standard Chartered Bank requesting them to protect her legal rights and her money as a customer at their bank, which the bank has blatantly refused to do.  I want to point out that their officers have been calling us constantly, for what reason we don’t know! Because they’ve done nothing! Our complaint is that another account in this bank, which is for my mother’s building funds, has cheated my mother not only of her money, but actually tried to steal her PAN no. (which is like the Social Security no. in the US) and in India there is widespread identity theft through this number and extensive money laundering.  We found out that this other “building” account actually was not a building account. It had no registration and has no legal documents!  And it has been in the banks own legal department since 2010. But even on our repeated insistence, to protect her money and follow the procedure set by the government, the bank refuses to freeze the account.  The account landed in the banks legal department in June 2014 again and they are supposed to freeze it immediately. But despite 4 years of knowing that this account is completely illegal (from 2010 onwards), and that its activities are very nebulous, and that it has other people’s money in it, who it has deceived,  the bank has refused to freeze it!  On 29th November, a few days after a senior bank official assured us of a freeze in the account, the signatories Mr. Biman Dhar and Mr. N.C. Roy, pulled out almost the entire amount in one go and wrote a check out to some company called ‘Sriram.’ [STANDDARD CHARTERED WILL HAVE TO GET THIS MONEY BACK IN THE ACCOUNT!] We have no idea what is going on with this account, or with its “business” activities.  One of these two men, was thrown out of a multinational company for financial irregularities, and that was in the national newspapers in India! Why wouldn’t the bank be extra careful with someone like this or heed our complaints and warnings? How much of a liability is this is for us who own apartments in this building? And all this has been going on with the banks blessings! Indeed full support!

Here is the letter and details

To The Standard Chartered Bank HQ, London, England, UK

This is a letter of request my mother, Indira Banerji, had tried to hand-deliver to your bank, in Kolkata’s Church Lane branch where she is a very old customer. The manager read the letter, gave her a verbal assurance, but refused to accept the letter. The letter simply requested a written assurance from the bank that her PAN number would be used only for her personal account with the bank. Given the circumstances, as explained below, a written assurance from the bank in her case is necessary, and so we then tried to deliver the same letter to the bank via registered post. The letter was accepted by the bank on November 10, 2014, and two weeks her letter was put into an envelope and returned to her with a standard nonsensical note from the bank, like they were sending back trash! After I began to tweet this post to your bank’s head quarters in the UK, a senior official from India called, and tried to tell us various convoluted statements they could give us. But all we want is a simple statement saying “Your PAN will be used only for your personal account and no other account in our bank.” That actually is a legal responsibility of the bank to its customer, but your bank refuses to give us this statement! What’s going on? Why would your bank refuse to give this statement?

Included at the bottom of this post is a scan of the letter sent and its enclosures which explain my mother’s problems with another account, the ‘Palm Place Syndicate’ (PPS) account, which is at the same Church Lane branch, which necessitates her specific request.

The ‘Palm Place Syndicate’ account is for the building maintenance fund for the flat owners in my mother’s building, where for many years she has deposited a monthly maintenance payment. However there were a lot of problems such as no accounting, billing details, or even an audit report for 2014. More so, we also found out that despite there being other residential flat owners the signatories of this account had retained a person who owned no flats in the building, and had been deceased for 9 years as the third signatory on this account.

The primary signatory of the PPS account who had sold his flat in the building but retained control of the account for a year, even as he informed the other owners that he had no interest in the problems of the building, suddenly decided a year later in August 2014, that he was resigning, and my mother was asked to be a new signatory.

We then found out that this account has no legal standing, and it has been used by the signatories to convince flat owners to put money into it!  In fact even as they knew this account faced closure, they told the owners to increase the monthly maintenance payment! Why would your bank allow this account to continue even though this account has already been to your legal department 4 years ago, still continues to sit in your legal department since June 2014? And your bank has even refused to freeze this account to protect our money which a State Bank official advised us is the RBI required procedure and should have been implemented immediately.

However we did not know this before. When the old signatories asked my mother to be a new signatory, they refused to provide vital information about this account and its history, such as the registration certificate for the PPS, the resolution, mode of operation etc, or even what type of account it was, and whether it was in accordance with the West Bengal Apartment Owners Laws. My mother thought, perhaps being a signatory would put her in a position to prevent the mismanagement of the funds and protect her own money too. But hesitant to sign blindly to the account, my mother approached your bank for this information and exchanged a series of emails describing her situation and her concerns to your bank’s Head office customer service. They informed her that unless she was a signatory they could not give her that information.

Thereafter, my mother filled the forms that the existent signatories provided her with, and on their request gave them a copy of her PAN card. It is thereafter, while making her monthly payment to the PPS at another branch, that my mother found out that this account had been in the bank’s legal department because it did not have the very documents she had been requesting, which are in fact required as per RBI rules for it to even have any kind of legitimacy. In fact the account was in the bank’s legal department in 2010 too, but for some reason was allowed to continue without these documents. Below is a copy of the printout we were given.

We then sought counsel and were told that she was being deliberately misled. This was not a society type of account for apartment owners, that is the norm, and that my mother was being led to believe it is. That this account seems to be set up as some sort of business partnership account, and its activities seem rather murky. Most importantly she was told that the signatories had no right to take her personal PAN for this account. Palm Place Syndicate must have its own registration number and PAN, which it didn’t, and therefore we needed to be extremely concerned about their intentions when they took her PAN number from her. In fact, when she demanded her application and PAN xerox back, we were concerned how evasive and aggressive one of the signatories got! On counsel, my mother then via email informed all the PPS signatories and members of this, as well as the bank’s customer service, and asked that the bank protect her PAN and give her an assurance in writing that it will be used only for her personal account.

An email response from your head office indicated that the kind of forms she was given to fill were not the ones required for this account. And the manager of the Church Lane branch told her that they never asked for the personal PAN for this kind of account.

However my mother did not know that, and what option did she have? She had already explained to the bank that she was literally a financial hostage to this account. On one hand she had been putting her money in here, and that the mismanagement of the funds also affects her life as she is a resident in this building. She thought perhaps being a signatory would allow her to have an input on the fund management. Yet, without the prior history and documents how could she sign blindly to this account? But even there she got no help from your bank. The only reason she continued to put money in here, and in fact even agreed to be a signatory is because she believed in your bank. The fact that your bank had allowed this account to continue made her believe that it must be at least legitimate, even if there seem to be problems with its handling.

We do not understand why the PPS seems to be set up as a business partnership when it is not. We now have many other concerns about what’s really going on with the Palm Place Syndicate account, and whether we are in the dark about other activities which would become a liability for the flat owners. One of the account’s signatories, who owns no apartments here and does not reside here, owns a private business, where he shows the building address exactly as it shows on the Palm Place Syndicate account as the registered address of his business (on this link). The other signatory, who owns a small house, a separate property, which stands within the apartment complex with its own walls and gates, rents it out commercially to a high-end fashion store, called Avoire. We have no confirmation on whether he has a commercial license for renting it out, or why he has periodically put a maintenance for this house into the PPS account which he’s not supposed to. More so, while our property deed clearly indicates that the house is separate and only has the right of passage through the apartment complex, and indeed has its own compound wall and gate, without the permission of the flat owners, the owner has allowed Avoire to put a massive hoarding in front of our apartment building gates essentially marking our residential building complex as a commercial complex. In fact the house and the apartment building have the same address “Palm Place” and are differentiated only by a number, 1A and 1B. Therefore, we are concerned that the “Palm Place Syndicate” account name may have left out the apartment building number 1A, and included “syndicate” instead of “Association of Apartment Owners” as is usually used, to be deliberately ambiguous.

My mother is a widow and a senior citizen. As a women’s activist in India, I have seen women like her, harassed and taken advantage of by men and the larger systems, one too many times, and I’m obviously very upset. But the fact also is, as my mother herself has told me many times, that she had approached the bank repeatedly because she trusted it after so many years of being a customer there. She had told the bank she was being asked to be a signatory, why this account was important to her living conditions and cash investment, and that she was not being given the right information. Then at point shouldn’t the bank have given her some sort of warning to hold off, knowing that the account was sitting in your legal department ? Indeed, the RBI rules which for some reason were repeatedly waived for this account, are there for the protection of all customers. And as a result this has caused a lot of financial and emotional stress to customers like my mother.

I also repeat the request we’ve already made to your bank’s head office’s customer department. Please take into account the information you  have been provided with here and in my mother’s previous letters to your bank, and freeze this account till my mother talks to some of the other residents and they open a legitimate account for an Apartment Owners Association in a nationalized bank, as is specified by the RBI, in accordance with RBI rules and so they can protect their funds and have it transferred to the new account. Many people have put their money in this account which the signatories have treat with utmost secrecy as if it were their personal account and have recklessly and arrogantly abused it. It has made no difference to them how it would impact on the owner-residents of this building since one of them doesn’t own a flat here or live here, and the other has another base where half his family lives. Even though some of the other owners have grumbled about their money, they are too intimated to stand up to the signatories. In fact, some of these owners also told us that they are aware that one of the signatories was fired from a big company for financial mishandling, and this was in the national newspapers. And they say that these signatories are so wealthy and socially well-connected that even the bank caters to them, despite this. I sincerely hope that is not so! And that your bank will give my mother the assurance she seeks, and put an immediate freeze to the Palm Place Syndicate account, till the apartment owners of our building get a legitimate explanation from the signatories, and set up a legitimate account for the building’s maintenance.

PPS closure warnings





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