Our colleague Mansi Sharma joins the November 18 mobilisation against Narendra Modi government’s snooping of woman in Gujarat.

Statement jointly issued by womens’ rights organisations and citizens groups at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi at a protest demonstration against Narendra Modi government’s snooping of woman in Gujarat

November 18, 2013 | New Delhi

We strongly condemn the illegal, unconstitutional and essentially anti-women snooping conducted by the Gujarat government as revealed in the recent media expose’. We collectively demand that a CBI inquiry should be initiated in the case at the earliest as it concerns the future of our democracy and polity. The direct involvement of the opposition party’s prime ministerial candidate in such brazen and fundamental violation of democratic rights and the party’s shameless defence is totally unacceptable.

Illegal surveillance is a serious crime, a violation of Constitutional rights.

When done to a woman, especially to probe her personal life and relationships, it’s often stalking – violence against women.

But what when an elected head of state, his Home Minister, and a posse of senior cops stalk a woman obsessively wherever she goes? When taxpayer’s money is spent on cops following the woman around on flights, in hotels and malls, when her phone is illegally tapped? Do we even have a word to describe this kind of terrifying, arbitrary misuse of state power?

The ‘Saheb’ tapes reveal that Gujarat Home Minister Amit Shah monitored the snooping on the woman by his top cops, reporting every movement of hers to ‘Saheb’. Saheb himself, it is revealed, had his own surveillance mechanism to verify the cops’ diligence.

Who is ‘Saheb’? The tapes don’t say. But the defence trotted out by the BJP has actually revealed more than the tapes do. They are citing the statement issued by the woman’s father, that the surveillance was actually a favour done by ‘family friend’ Modi for the woman’s ‘safety’, and this ‘family matter’ should not be policiticised.

The father’s statement actually confirms that the tapes are genuine and ‘Saheb’ is in fact, the Gujarat CM, Modi. This is an admission of – and a lame excuse for – an appalling violation of constitutional entitlements of privacy and personal freedom.

The BJP’s defence is painting a graphic picture of their notions of ‘women’s safety’, where illegal surveillance of a daughter at state cost, personally monitored by the head of state and Home Ministry, is perfectly in order for a father to expect and receive. It is another matter whether the father’s explanation actually explains the chilling transcripts, where the Home Minister talks vengefully of jailing a young man the woman is meeting, ‘for as long as Vanjara is jailed.’

In its ridiculous defence, the BJP has argued that the women’s father had asked for security which the Gujarat state had to duly provide. This diaboloical answer only raises further questions: where are the documents supporting that the father made such request? Even if he did, is it constitutional to snoop on a women to provide security to her? On the contrary, the tapes reveal malicious intentions, not security concern. The conversation shows that Mansi was not only kept in dark but the police was actually trying to lay a trap to find out what she was upto. The tapes clearly reveal that Amit Shah’s ‘Saheb’ was particularly interested in knowing who ‘Madhuri’ was meeting. With or without consent, stalking and snooping against citizens is a gross violation of the fundamental constitutional rights. Snooping against a women on behest of her father is also unconstitutional and only exposes the deeply patriarchal and undemocratic mindset.

The BJP’s claim about security is exposed further by the fact that Gujarat has seen a steep rise in crime against woman in the recent years – a 7% increase in rape over last one year. Gujarat has the lowest conviction rate for dowry killings in India: 0.0%. Conviction rates in crime against women are dismal and much below the national average.

The Home Ministry of the Gujarat Government was already implicated in a communal pogrom and a series of staged encounter killings. And now we have evidence of this illegal stalking of a woman. The Government that could not respond to Ehsan Jafri’s desperate SOS calls now tells us that they put their crack police corps and Home Ministry at the service of a ‘worried father’.

The truth about this chilling instance of state-sponsored stalking must be known. The conspiracy of silence around it must be broken, and patriarchal defences of it may be welcomed by the khaps and the Sangh’s moral policing mobs, but never by common citizens and women. The BJP’s shameless justification for its Prime Ministerial candidate’s criminal acts deserves a wider public condemnation and reinforces our conviction for the need of defeating and politically isolating such anti-women, communal and undemocratic forces.