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2816SACW - 6-7 Feb 2014 | Afghan Child Brides / Sri Lanka adrift / India, Pakistan, Kashmir: Long distances/ Pakistan: Taliban & Fast Bowler / India: Voices Against Death Penalty; On Kashmir, the same din; Patriarchy; Aseemanand & RSS Terror Tie-up / Lesson From Auschwitz / France: Unions Counter Far Right / Birds & Language

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    Feb 6, 2014
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      South Asia Citizens Wire - 6-7 February 2014 - No. 2809
      [year 16]

      1. Child Brides in Afghanistan: Overview of Situation, Challenges and Options | Massouda Jalal
      2. Bangladesh: Eternal Othering and Presentation of Communalism on the World Stage | Nasrin Khandoker
      3. Plight of Hindu women in Bangladesh
      4. India, Pakistan and Kashmir: Long distances, physical and psychological | Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal
      5. 1996 BBC Documentary: Stories My Country Told Me - Eqbal Ahmad on the Grand Trunk Road
      6. Why do Pakistani columnists make up history? | C M Naim
      7. India: Concerned Citizens Statement Against Death Penalty
      8. PIPFPD Press Release: regarding the attack by Shiv Sena on Pakistani and Indian artists and against open threats to peace activists
      9. India: How rising inequality threatens our democracy | Praful Bidwai
      10. India: It’s better to be safe than sorry | M. V. Ramana, Suvrat Raju
      11. Patriarchy is an Institution to be Outlawed | Kamla Bhasin
      12. India: On Kashmir, the same din | Muzamil Jaleel
      13. India: Chirala Declaration 2014
      14. India: Documentary Film Maker Anand Patwardhan’s Acceptance Speech for the V Shantaram Award, MIFF 2014
      15. India: Letter from trade union platform protests modified rules that would reduce compensation for delayed wages in NREGA
      16. India: Kandhamal Unresolved - a documentary film on anti christian violence in Orissa
      17. India: Protest Demo Following Racist Attack on Student from North East India in Delhi
      18. India must win justice for Muzaffarnagar | Harsh Mander
      19. India - terrorist attacks: Swami Aseemanand in Service of the Hindutva Far Right
      20. India: Democracy is not always the will of the majority | Ruth Vanita
      21. Tom Lehrer’s Anti War Songs
      22. Selections from Communalism Watch:
      23. New Book:: Pathways to Power: The Domestic Politics of South Asia by Arjun Guneratne and Anita M. Weiss, editors
      :: Full Text ::
      24. Pakistan: Snarling, not pouncing: Militants are eating at Pakistan’s heart. Will Nawaz Sharif take them on? | banyan
      25. India: The Mary Roy Style of Activism | Shahina KK
      26. India: Destigmatise leprosy by scrapping unfair laws | Rimjhim Jain
      27. Sri Lanka, an island on a drift | Tomasz Augustyniak
      28. The Pakistani Taliban’s P.R. Offensive | Huma Yusuf
      29. Former Yugoslavia: Living Again With the Ways of Tito and Stalin | Vesna Peric Zimonjic
      30. The Dangers of Certainty: A Lesson From Auschwitz (Simon Critchley)
      31. France: Trade Unions Counter Far Right ï Gregory Marin
      32. Birds hold key to secret of human speech | Steve Connor
      + The Evolution of Language | W. Tecumseh Fitch

      The persistence of child bride practice is fuelled by many factors. A culture of patriarchy that relegates Afghan women to a lifetime of subordination makes their situation one of the worst in the world

      It’s very distressing that today the notion of communal harmony has become a myth, an overstatement. It is true as daylight that we are not living in a state of communal harmony. While this did not happen out of the blue, because of the recent attacks in Rangamati and Ramu, this is being newly comprehended by many of us.

      Hindus don’t register their marriages, and divorce is not allowed legally. Widow marriage is still not a Hindu social norm in Bangladesh. Polygamy is an open secret among Bangladeshi Hindus. Muslims may have 4 wives by religious culture but Hindus have no number limitation. Adultery is a common fact among Hindu men and it is a hush-hush matter. Hindu Bengali widows in Bangladesh still live in utter disgrace and face inhuman treatment and discrimination. Hindu widows are not allowed in social gathering such as weddings; they are not supposed to eat fish and meat and must wear simple white clothes only. In some cases they are not even allowed to wear shoes.

      by Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal
      The distance between Delhi and Islamabad could be longer than anyone’s imagination, especially if you decide to reject the Wagah border crossing option. With Air India having stopped its flights and Pakistan International Airlines reducing the sorties to just once a week, which too are cancelled frequently due to stringent visa regimes and thus less number of passengers, it’s a long road via Dubai. The absurdity of it all and the inadequacy of the resumption of peace process between the two countries dawned during last week’s travel to Islamabad. Soon after the plane takes off from Delhi westwards, it flies somewhere between Lahore and Islamabad, goes all the 3000 kilometers westwards to land in Dubai and then another flight back the same distance to a place closer to the starting point. A distance of 600 plus kilometres covered by travelling about 6000 kilometres! And if you please, confidence building measures was one of the main agendas at the conference organized in Islamabad.

      Part of a 5-part 1996 BBC documentary series entitled Stories My Country Told Me.

      All four pieces of writing are lively; they are well-intentioned too. So why couldn’t their authors resist concocting ‘facts’ when there was actually no need to do so? Why couldn’t they resist making a rhetorical flourish even at the cost of truth? Is it because they believe an anecdote, even an invented one, will be more convincing to their readers than a stark statement based on rationality and logic? Or is it simply because they know they can do it — that they can get away with anything in Pakistan, so long it is in Urdu?

      (sacw.net - 6 February 2014)
      We, concerned citizens and organisations from different walks of life and with different worldviews, are united in opposing the death penalty and demanding its repeal in India.

      Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD), India chapter strongly condemns the dastardly attack on Pakistani and Indian artists at the Mumbai Press Club on Tuesday, February 4, 2014. The gathering included members of Mumbai Press Club, senior journalists and members of PIPFPD and other citizens, was facilitated by Jatin Desai, Secretary, PIPFPD, India.

      by Praful Bidwai
      A vitally important issue that has altogether fallen off India’s economic-political discourse is growing economic inequality. In part, this is because of the continuing hangover of the euphoria generated by economic liberalisation, and the growth of social-Darwinist ideas and moral indifference towards the poor within our burgeoning middle class. In part, this also reflects India’s Rightward political drift, and the declining ideological-political influence of the Left and its own retreat from egalitarianism.

      by M. V. Ramana, Suvrat Raju
      Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has often claimed that nuclear energy is crucial for the country and his government has announced a massive programme of reactor construction. Leaving aside other problems with this plan, a minimal prerequisite for the safe operation of these new and existing plants is a sound regulatory body. The prime minister would do well to carefully read the recent report from the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the subject.

      In early December 2013 I received a call from Swaraj, a Karnataka wide network of women’s groups, fighting against violence and all forms of discrimination against women, to invite me for a function to felicitate six rural women who have challenged the oppression of widows in their families and villages. They asked me to speak on Patriarchy as a Superstition. I was amused by this formulation and asked them why this topic. They said the government of Karnataka was planning to bring a new law against superstition and they want patriarchy to be declared a superstition and outlawed. I smiled whole heartedly and said, WOW. What a great idea!! Once again I marveled at the wisdom of working class rural women. I wondered why in spite of such wisdom of rural working class women, so many media people think feminism is an urban phenomenon.

      No serious questioning is allowed. All parties keep the status quo by foreclosing meaningful discussion. No serious questioning is allowed. All parties keep the status quo by foreclosing meaningful discussion.

      Reaffirming our struggles against capitalism, patriarchy, feudalism, brahmanism, communalism and nationalist jingoism, we also declare our determined solidarity and support to all movements and groups fighting these destructive anti-people forces. We recognise the fact that women have been the strength behind such struggles and their strength socially and culturally continue to sustain the energy, unity and the focus of our struggles. We pledge to bring our resistance struggles and social movements to the political centre-stage without falling prey to partisan populism. We believe that the resistance spirit as demonstrated by adivasis and dalits, along with fishworkers, forest dwelling communities, agricultural workers, traditional artisans and especially, women of these communities, reflect the spirit and courage to change this structure and nurture alternatives to capitalism.

      Anand Patwardhan won the V. Shantaram Lifetime Achievement Award at the Mumbai International Film Festival, 2014. In This, his Acceptance Speech, he talks about why he thinks he is a failure, no matter what the world thinks of him and his works.

      NREGA: The Rashtriya Mazdoor Adhikar Morcha, a platform of trade unions, membership-based organisations, NGOs and individuals, has written a letter to the Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh to protest against the recent amendments that are being planned in the rules which could drastically reduce the compensation to workers for delayed payment of wages.

      A 60 min film by Shailendra Boora. This 2013 film looks into the present situation of Kandhamal, especially the struggles of victims, denial of peace and justice, intimidation and hate campaign by Sangh Parivar [The Far Right Circuit part of Hindutva]

      From Independent sources: As a reaction to the death in Delhi of a young man from Arunachal Pradesh [North East India], groups and individuals gathered at a spot across the road from the samadhi of M.K. Gandhi on 2 February 2014 [New Delhi]. See Photos by Mukul Dube in the portfolio below.

      This is a winter of sorrow. A few hundred kilometres from the country’s Capital, children are dying in the cold, neglected and humiliated by an uncaring government, and in mortal fear of neighbours with whom they lived peacefully for generations.

      Swami Aseemanand, the Hindu firebrand accused of plotting several terrorist attacks on civilian targets across the country between 2006 and 2008 . . . RSS launched its most vehement public protest (and one of the largest in its history) a week and a half before Aseemanand was arrested, in November 2010—on behalf of Indresh Kumar, whose name had begun cropping up in media reports about the investigations. The Sangh’s chiefs marshalled a nationwide protest. According to Organiser, more than a million people participated in over 700 dharnas across the country; virtually the entire leadership of the RSS and the VHP appeared on stage at the rallies.

      Democracy involves subjecting ourselves to a difficult discipline. We are often tempted to equate democracy with the simple will of the majority. The problem with this was demonstrated in Athens, the birthplace of democracy, when a majority of citizens voted to execute Socrates. To guard against such miscarriages of justice the political thinker Montesquieu recommended separating the judiciary, the executive and the legislature, a principle incorporated into all modern democracies. What Montesquieu could not anticipate is the way media, especially social media, would come to dominate public opinion.


      India: Press Release Caravan Magazine with Audio and Trascripts of Swami Aseemanand saying terror attacks were sanctioned by RSS

      India: Under attack in Andhra, churches seek CM’s help

      India: Rumour as strategy

      9 overwhelming reasons why India needs me as her PM. - A press release | [ a propaganda tract sent by unnamed ]

      India: 'Bizarre' communist joins BJP along with grandson of Rajnarain

      India: Poem in Hindi on UP and Gujarat by ~ इमरान प्रतापगढ़ी ~Imran Prataapgadhi

      Power, Privilege and Terrorism : Hindu Extremism in India and its tentacles in the Indian American Diaspora (Talk, 10 Feb, San Francisco)

      23. NEW BOOK:: PATHWAYS TO POWER: THE DOMESTIC POLITICS OF SOUTH ASIA by Arjun Guneratne and Anita M. Weiss, editors
      (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014)
      428 pp.
      ISBN 978-0-7425-5685-0 . Hardback
      ISBN 978-0-7425-5686-7 . Paperback
      ISBN 978-1-4422-2599-2 . eBook

      Pathways to Power introduces the domestic politics of South Asia in their broadest possible context, studying ongoing transformative social processes grounded in cultural forms. In doing so, it reveals the interplay between politics, cultural values, human security, and historical luck. While these are important correlations everywhere, nowhere are they more compelling than in South Asia where such dynamic interchanges loom large on a daily basis. Identity politics---not just of religion but also of caste, ethnicity, regionalism, and social class---infuses all aspects of social and political life in the sub-continent. Recognizing this complex interplay, this volume moves beyond conventional views of South Asian politics as it explicitly weaves the connections between history, culture, and social values into its examination of political life.

      South Asia is one of the world's most important geopolitical areas and home to nearly one and a half billion people. Although many of the poorest people in the world live in this region, it is home also to a rapidly growing middle class wielding much economic power. India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, together the successor states to the British Indian Empire---the Raj---form the core of South Asia, along with two smaller states on its periphery: landlocked Nepal and the island state of Sri Lanka. Many factors bring together the disparate countries of the region into important engagements with one another, forming an uneasy regional entity.

      Table of Contents

      Introduction: Situating Domestic Politics in South Asia
      /Arjun Guneratne & Anita Weiss/

      Chapter 1: The Colonial Legacy
      /Shabnum Tejani/

      Chapter 2: India
      /Christophe Jaffrelot/

      Chapter 3: Pakistan
      /Anita M. Weiss/

      Chapter 4: Sri Lanka
      /Arjun Guneratne/

      Chapter 5: Nepal
      /Pratyoush Onta and Seira Tamang/

      Chapter 6: Bangladesh
      /Haroun er Rashid/

      For futher information see: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780742556850

      ::FULL TEXT::
      by Banyan
      (The Economist - Feb 1st 2014 | From the print edition)
      THE prime minister’s sprawling house in Lahore is crammed with cat sculptures, cat paintings and enough stuffed ex-cats to make a taxidermist purr. Nawaz Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), has a badly drawn tiger as its symbol. Now that he is prime minister, the “Lion of Punjab”, as he is widely known, has to decide whether to show his claws and order a military campaign against the Pakistani Taliban, an assortment of three dozen home-grown terrorist groups based mainly in the wild north-west of the country. For now, at least, he is likelier to hiss than act.

      Mr Sharif, in office since June (his third go at being prime minister), should be doing much more about the Islamist violence that has claimed thousands of lives over the past decade. Sectarian murders and extremists’ bombs give Pakistan the feel of being on the brink of war. Karachi was once a liberal, industrial city, but the Taliban make their presence ever more strongly felt. In January they killed the city’s leading anti-terrorist cop, a charismatic and effective officer. They have also murdered journalists in the city whose coverage they did not like. Farther north, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, militants blew up a bus, killing over 20 army recruits. Even dispensers of polio vaccines are targeted.

      Mr Sharif has long set store on talks with the terrorists. Perhaps the Taliban would agree to murder less in return for concessions. Some in the Taliban say talks are possible. Mr Sharif and his brother, Shahbaz Sharif, who runs Punjab province, have a history of dealmaking with extremists. The brothers, who are religious conservatives, used to say little against the Taliban, condemning instead “America’s wars” in the region. This policy bought protection: for the past five years the Taliban and their Punjabi allies, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), have carried out no big suicide-attacks in Lahore or elsewhere in Punjab. Nor, during last year’s election campaign, did candidates or rallies of Mr Sharif’s party suffer the threats and bombs endured by luckless secular types, such as the Pakistan Peoples Party. Hasan Askari Rizvi, an analyst in Lahore, calls such dealmaking a “naive view of dealing with terrorism”. But since some of Mr Sharif’s associates claimed ties to the LeJ, perhaps he saw a useful channel to the Taliban.

      Yet a growing view is that Mr Sharif really is set on eventual military action, and that talks are about winning time. In the past few months the prime minister has been busy replacing the country’s president, army chief and chief justice. He has tried to keep on good terms with the army—a delicate act with Pervez Musharraf, a former dictator claiming a dodgy heart, on trial for treason. Mr Sharif and the new army chiefs appear to be rubbing along, helped by the fact that his government is a bit less incompetent and crooked than the previous crew. Meanwhile, he has tried to improve the economy and forge ties with India. A lot going on, in other words. Besides, political support for a military push is much harder if talks have not been tried first.

      Evidence of a greater appetite for a full-blown assault on Taliban bases in North Waziristan is growing. Last week, officially for the first time since 2007, Pakistani forces bombed North Waziristan, reportedly killing over 20 Taliban fighters. On January 27th lawmakers from Mr Sharif’s party appeared to back a broader military push. Two days later, for the first time in months, Mr Sharif showed up in parliament to talk about such an assault—though he also said a high-level team would continue to seek talks. He has huddled with the new army chief to discuss strategy. The rhetoric is getting tougher. Shahbaz Sharif says, “We have to win this battle hands down”; the time has come, he says, to act. Others in Mr Sharif’s camp say, “It is time to fight, to end this problem of the past 15 years”. Earlier criticism of America has been put aside. Indeed, America may quietly be helping create useful conditions. There have been few drone strikes in Pakistan, always controversial, since the death in November of Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban’s deputy commander. And on January 27th John Kerry, resuming stalled “strategic dialogue” talks in Washington, pledged that America will keep aid flowing to Pakistan.

      None of this, however, means that a push into North Waziristan will come soon. Deep winter is no time to start a campaign. And the Taliban has already promised to retaliate, making places like Punjab and the capital, Islamabad, vulnerable to large-scale violence again. To forestall this, the government has in mind a sweeping ordinance to give the army and police impunity in grabbing terrorism suspects. Increased abuse and torture would almost certainly follow. Those close to Mr Sharif say the risk of “some abuse” is worth taking. Yet it is unclear what difference the proposed ordinance would make: it was not a scrupulous regard for legal rights that let previous bombers through.

      Mr Sharif probably also worries about politics. He has no wish to let Imran Khan—an ex-cricketer and diehard opponent of any attacks on the Taliban, and an ethnic Pushtun like them—assume the galvanising role in opposition that Mr Sharif previously enjoyed. As if to stiffen his resolve, Bilawal Bhutto, the new young leader of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, this week urged Mr Sharif to push on with military action. Militants, after all, killed his mother, Benazir.

      The time is now

      Talk of Pakistani military action against the Taliban should be welcomed, even if it is actually designed to press them to talk. Making a better public case against violent groups who set off bombs in the name of Islam is a basic but long-neglected task of Pakistan’s leaders. Terrified of becoming targets themselves, few in public life dare to say the obvious: that extremists are destroying Pakistan from within. Like another lion, the timorous one in “The Wizard of Oz”, Mr Sharif may not be ready to act, but at least he could start to roar a little louder.

      by Shahina KK
      (Open Magazine - 05-11 Feb, 2014)

      Arundhati Roy’s mother, who has a history of feisty public engagement, has joined the AAP

      KOTTAYAM ~ “Everyone has a right to demonstrate. You spent two days in jail in support of the Narmada struggle.” This was what Mary Roy said to her daughter, writer-activist Arundhati Roy, when the latter expressed scepticism about Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s street protests.

      At the age of 80, Mary Roy has just joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), but this is not her first tryst with public life. In 1984, she challenged the Travancore Christian Succession Act of 1916 under which daughters in the Syrian Christian community were not entitled to equal rights to ancestral property. The 1986 verdict in her favour instantly made her a target for both community leaders and politicians relying on Christian votes.

      Roy’s house is on the campus of the Corpus Christi school she founded in Kottayam. Visitors are greeted by a strange sight at the entrance: in the verandah, there is the foundation stone of a bio-manure unit and crematorium. It was laid in 1996 by the then state PWD minister. Keeping it there is Roy’s protest against a garbage dump near the school. It is also a reminder of how neither the bio manure unit nor crematorium was ever built by the government. Roy says, “This stone, laid by the minister, was left untouched over the years. I brought it here. I want every visitor to my house to see it and know the negligence of the government”.

      “I want to see an alternative in politics,” says Roy on why she joined the AAP. “So far, the Congress, BJP and Left have proved to be failures in bringing about change.” Though Roy defends Kejriwal’s recent actions, she doesn’t think it was a good idea for a chief minister to personally take to the streets. “He has a right to do what he did, it would have been better if someone else had led the protest,” she says.

      Roy does not want to disclose Arundhati’s take on her joining the AAP. “We are two different independent individuals. She has her own political views and I have mine,” Roy says.

      by Rimjhim Jain
      (Hindustan Times - February 05, 2014)
      Priyanka Awana is a resident of the 70-acre Tahirpur Leprosy Complex in Delhi, the largest in Asia. Awana goes to a local school and says that she faces no discrimination even though she stays at Tahirpur. Contrast this with what her 62-year-old grandfather had to undergo 40 years ago: he was
      forced to drop out of college and leave home even though he was cured and didn’t require treatment since 1974.

      There are around 850 leprosy colonies in India — largely unauthorised — housing 1.35 million people but today leprosy-affected persons no longer need to live in such ghettos. Their numbers are also dwindling. The last Socio Economic Statistical Survey of Leprosy Colonies in 2005 found that most of the colonies came up 30-40 years ago and since then, there has been a progressive decline to the point that no new colonies were being reported to be set up.

      Improved treatment has helped to stop the isolation of leprosy-affected persons. Early diagnosis and quick, effective treatment now cure leprosy before it progresses to causing physical changes and disabilities. Despite being the world’s leprosy capital with over half of all new cases, India’s massive drive against leprosy saw it declaring in 2005 that the country had eliminated the disease as prevalence rates fell below one infection per 10,000 population. The turning point came in 1983 when the potent Multi Drug Therapy (MDT) was introduced and provided free of cost to patients. Though there is no vaccine, MDT cures leprosy in six-12 months.

      The fast-changing epidemiology of the disease has outpaced anachronistic legislations that no longer reflect societal perceptions of leprosy or the new paradigm of human rights. The Rajya Sabha has been petitioned for reconsidering at least 16 discriminatory laws, framed on the basis of India’s Leper’s Act, 1898, which was repealed only in 1984. The Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Special Marriage Acts still declare ‘virulent and incurable leprosy’ — which no longer exists — a ground for divorce. The Indian Railways Act, 1989, permits segregation of people suffering from contagious or infectious diseases. The Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 allows detention of ‘lunatics and lepers’. Even the more recent Juvenile Justice Care and Protection Act, 2000, says children suffering from diseases like leprosy are to be separately dealt with.

      Close to a decade after its national-level elimination, these laws need to be removed to erase all stigmas attached to the disease.

      Rimjhim Jain is a Delhi-based independent writer
      - See more at: http://www.hindustantimes.com/comment/analysis/destigmatise-leprosy-by-scrapping-unfair-laws/article1-1180457.aspx

      by Tomasz Augustyniak
      (The Times of India - Feb 4, 2014)
      COLOMBO: One of the very first things passengers getting off planes at Colombo's Bandaranaike International Airport see is a huge portrait of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The view remains pretty much the same as one travels across the island. You cannot miss the billboards and posters in every nook and corner with the president staring at you.

      You are also likely to see something more striking - gargantuan infrastructural projects, the thing which makes the nationalist government even more popular with the Sinhalese majority. Brand new roads, hotels and railway lines are to be the proofs of country's tremendous progress. The greatest efforts to make these proofs visible are being made in President's home district. The officials hope to boost economic development of the area by constructing a new city near the dull fishing town of Hambantota.

      A cricket stadium with capacity of 35,000 has been built nearby, as well as botanical gardens, offices, a huge conference centre, an ayurvedic hospital and, above all, an international airport and a harbour billed as the largest in South Asia. Most of these facilities, funded by enormous loans from China, are named after Rajapaksa or his family members.

      Matalla Rajapaksa International Airport, functional since last year, has been built in the middle of a jungle, some twenty kilometers from Hambantota. Located close to wetland areas of Bundala National Park, it is constantly visited by reptiles. A snake was recently spotted in the VIP lounge. It is also the world's only airfield from which one could watch wild elephants. An electric fence keeps them away from the spot but the tuskers do manage to come onto the expressway nearby. Two passersby were recently killed, locals recounted. Most of the airlines have refused to fly to Hambantota, Lanka's biggest investment zone, citing sparse traffic. Aircrafts often suffer birdhits. For now, only two carriers, including a Sri Lankan, dare to fly to this facility.

      Though built with much fanfare and opened in 2010, Magampura Mahinda Rajapaksa Port also looks deserted with silent machines and placid buffalos eating grass near the construction site. Hardly any ship drops anchor there. The harbour turned out to be too shallow for large vessels. As if it wasn't enough, a huge rock in the seabed, preventing access to the coast, needed to be removed. All in all, the works at haven are to be finished in 2018 but some experts say Colombo port is more than sufficient for the island's traffic.

      Such massive construction projects have had little impact on the lives of ordinary citizens. Mostly Chinese workers are employed at construction sites and it is very hard for a local to get a job, says a lorry driver in Hambantota. Fishermen also find no change in their lives since the project started, except frequent visits of the President and members of his large entourage. Still, there are a few people who are happy about it.

      Indika, 23-year-old sound engineer organizing a local beach event is one of them. "It all would have been just a dream without our President," he says pointing at the new town. "Earlier, we could just read about our leaders in the newspapers and now we see them constantly." Mahinda Rajapaksa is the first such high functionary from outside Colombo and Indika thinks President's focus on the development of his own home province helps country's remote parts. But for the rest of the population, mere sighting of the leaders is not enough as they struggle with unemployment and high prices. In areas like Hambantota, not frequented by tourists, survival is tougher.

      The North and East are still recovering from years of bloody civil war and local Tamils have a long list of grievances as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives. "People need peace. And peace doesn't mean only silenced guns, it also means opportunities to earn money and build houses for our families," a shopkeeper in Jaffna who didn't want to be named said.

      NGOs operating in the region complain about growing militarization, journalists are distressed about threats to freedom of speech and the opposition leaders moan about lack of democracy.
      However George, a Colombo businessman in his late thirties, says the latter is not something that the country needs the most. "We need 15 years of stability and growth. After that, change of leadership may be needed. There is a price to be paid for strong government but the outcome is worth it." As for now, it seems that the economic development means everything on the island.

      But it may turn out not to be as delightful as Sri Lankans wish. The opposition accuses the government of a total sell-out to the Chinese, making the island nation virtually China's colony. Most construction-related work is contracted out to the Chinese and most material is imported from there. Beijing also walks away with a huge chunk of the income generated from the toiled new highways. Just for building of Hambantota harbour Sri Lanka has taken out 1.3 billion USD credit. The loan has to be repaid within 11 years even as experts say it's unlikely the port will generate enough income to pay its annual installment. Xinhua estimates Colombo owes about 4 billion USD in total.

      During his eight year rule Mahinda Rajapaksa, once a film actor, has managed to create a personality cult. "He's funny and behaves as if he were a movie star," says Mary, manager of one of the seashore guesthouses, 40 kilometres from country's capital. "He also spends too much on unnecessary investments."

      Yet, Sri Lanka remains a true heaven for the tourists. With pleasant climate, stunning landscapes, amazing wildlife and extremely friendly people, it lures many. Backpackers enjoy its uncrowded routes and relatively low prices and don't seem to be worried neither about Lanka's haphazard development nor its future. But the people have to drift along with the whole Paradise Island, as it is described in tourist-aimed ads. Nobody really knows where the isle is drifting to but some are afraid it might be already a long way from home.

      by Huma Yusuf
      (The New York Times, 3 Feb 2014)
      LONDON — A joke has been circulating among Pakistanis on Twitter: “How to negotiate with the Taliban: Blast. Condemn. Blast. Condemn. Blast. Condemn. #Fail.” It mocks the government’s swiftness at denouncing terrorist attacks while doing too little to stop them.

      In 2013 alone, the Pakistani Taliban, a coalition of radical Islamists who want to overthrow the state and impose Shariah law, carried out 645 attacks in Pakistan, killing 732 civilians and 425 security personnel. And there can be no suicide bombing or gun attack, it seems, without politicians from the center, the opposition and even fringe parties joining a chorus of woe and regret.

      Now the Pakistani Taliban are chiming in. The spokesman of the Pakistani Taliban condemned a blast on Jan. 16 at an Islamic center in Peshawar that killed 10 people and wounded more than 50. He spoke against attacks in public places that claim innocent lives and blamed the bombing on groups seeking to “tarnish the image of the mujahedeen.”

      No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but the target and its method were characteristic of the Taliban.

      The disclaimer, however, was not. If anything, the Pakistani Taliban have long bragged about their operations, sometimes circulating gory videos to document them. In late September, the group posted on Facebook a clip showing a roadside blast in northwest Pakistan on Sept. 15; the attack killed a general, one of the group’s highest-ranking targets in its bid to destabilize the state. Circulating such footage allows the Pakistani Taliban to glorify their commanders and try to convince the public and new recruits that their mission to bring Islamic law to Pakistan is making progress.

      The Pakistani Taliban’s P.R. strategy began to shift last year when the center-right government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which was elected in the spring, proposed holding peace talks, and perhaps offering members of the group amnesty in exchange for a cease-fire. (Previous governments had favored limited military action, which only sparked more attacks.) But the idea of negotiating with the Pakistani Taliban — who have killed tens of thousands of Pakistanis since the mid-2000s — divides the country: Some people believe talks are the only option, others equate them with surrender. The public is confused partly because the Taliban fight in Islam’s name and, feeding off rampant anti-Americanism, target officials they declare to be American stooges.

      And so even as they have intensified the pace of their activities — increasing suicide attacks across Pakistan by 39 percent between 2012 and 2013, from 33 to 46 — the Pakistani Taliban have been trying to sow more confusion about their agenda. One of their spokesmen decried a double suicide bombing at All Saints’ Church in Peshawar in October, which killed more than 80 Christians, saying the attack had been carried out by malign forces intent on sabotaging the peace talks. Yet the group has targeted religious minorities before, specifically Christians, in the name of avenging the victims of American drone strikes. And two minor terrorist outfits with known links to the Pakistani Taliban, Jundullah and Junood ul-Hifsa, eventually claimed responsibility.

      The Pakistani Taliban are an umbrella group with many chapters in most cities and small towns, and close operational ties with other extremist organizations with sectarian or anti-India agendas. They train with anti-Shiite groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. By virtue of their vast network, they can be said to have a hand in virtually any terrorist attack in Pakistan.

      But there are so many different sub-groups, with their own names and chiefs, and there is so much infighting among them, that the public gets bogged down trying to differentiate them. More and more there also are “pop-up” militant groups — small radical bands that come together, often with support from the Taliban, to carry out specific attacks and then disband — that are virtually impossible for law-enforcing agencies to track.

      Meanwhile, Pakistanis are primed for manipulation. For years, conspiracy theories have swirled around suggesting that terrorist attacks are being carried out by foreign agents who want to destabilize the country. And decades of shadowy politicking have left the public thinking that government officials may be less trustworthy than terrorists.

      For years Pakistani politicians slammed Washington for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty with drone strikes, but then, last April, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the former president and army chief, admitted that his government had secretly signed off on the United States’ drone attacks. In November, soon after announcing that the government had initiated talks with the Taliban, the interior minister backtracked. The government then designated center-right politicians and leaders of religious political parties to serve as interlocutors with the Pakistani Taliban — only to rescind the appointments a few days later. Last week, even as the government confirmed wanting to pursue talks, leaders of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-N announced an imminent military operation against Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan.

      The government’s equivocations afford the Pakistani Taliban a rhetorical advantage: All they have to do is point out its contradictions and say the government isn’t serious about negotiating. This puts the onus on the state to prove its commitment to peace, perhaps by meeting the Taliban’s preconditions for talks, like an end to drone strikes. The point is also to generate public pressure on the government to pursue talks without resorting to military action.

      With its history of savage attacks and audacious jail breaks, the Pakistani Taliban have long been two steps ahead of Pakistan’s security forces and intelligence agencies. Now, the increasingly P.R.-savvy organization is also outwitting the government in terms of messaging. By obfuscating their precise responsibility for Pakistan’s security issues, the Pakistani Taliban are dampening the public’s enthusiasm for a sustained push against terrorist groups. And progress in the war of words is progress in its war for power.

      Huma Yusuf is a Pakistani journalist and global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

      by Vesna Peric Zimonjic
      (Inter Press Service)
      BELGRADE, Feb 3 2014 (IPS) - One of the best kept secrets of former Yugoslavia is out in the open after the online release of the names of 16,101 inmates of Goli Otok, or the Naked Island, the country’s only gulag – a Soviet system of forced labour camps – created 65 years ago.

      The long list, available online at the Croatian website led to unprecedented reactions among the few survivors of Goli Otok and their families across the former federation that fell apart in 1991.

      The reactions reveal how the hardships of many Bosniaks, Croats, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Slovenes or Serbs, all inmates of Goli Otok, remained a burden and a source of family shame for generations. They can now hope to come to terms with the traumatic past of their family members.
      Children were told their fathers were "on a business trip" that lasted years.

      “I always wanted to know what was wrong with the life of my maternal grandfather,” Smiljana Stojkovic, a 45-year-old teacher in Belgrade, tells IPS.

      Stojkovic remembers that her grandfather Stanko used to tell stories about his life as a shoemaker’s apprentice before World War II and of battles against Germans during the war, as he was a communist.

      “It ended there with a vacuum until the time it came to us, his grandchildren, in the 1960s. We were told never to ask what happened in between,” she says.

      Stojkovic now knows that her grandfather, who died in 2000, was an inmate of Goli Otok for seven years. “He must have said he preferred Stalin to (Yugoslav leader Josip Broz) Tito, being a loyal communist who believed in the (former) Soviet Union…Now I understand his silence,” she says.

      Goli Otok is an uninhabited and tiny, almost barren island, six kilometres off the north Croatian coast. In July 1949, it was turned into a single prison for opponents of Yugoslavia’s political leadership which decided to leave the Soviet orbit in June 1948.

      The decision is known as “the historic ‘no’” to Stalin, who demanded that Yugoslav communists topple the regime of Tito (1892-1980). In Stalin’s words, Tito became “a servant of imperialism”, or of capitalist countries of the West. Prior to that, Soviet and Yugoslav communists were allies in the battle against Germans in World War II.

      “For many communists, it was impossible that Stalin was wrong,” says Zoran Asanin, head of the Belgrade Association Goli Otok.

      In his words, and in the words and memoirs of many survivors, at party meetings they were simply asked if they preferred Stalin over Tito in 1948. If their answer was yes, they were sent to Goli Otok, without any court procedure or written sentence. Not even the closest family members knew where they were.

      Political prisoners were shipped to the island from the nearby Bakar port on the Adriatic coast. There were four camps at the 4.7 sq km Goli Otok, with no sanitation or any decent facilities.

      The island is known for its harsh climate – scorching summers and chilling winters. The inmates worked at the local quarry, often beaten by guards as “traitors” to the Yugoslav cause or even made to beat each other.

      Famine and thirst were a daily routine – 200 decilitres of water per day and simple bread were provided for each inmate.

      The recently released list of names provides a figure of 413 dead – either due to illnesses such as typhoid and untreated heart conditions or due to suicide – from 1949 until 1956 when the last political prisoners were transported to the shore and taken to ordinary jails all over former Yugoslavia.

      For years, they were deprived of political rights, could not find employment, and many faced rejection by their family members who were exposed to harassment by secret police or neighbours and friends.

      Children were told their fathers were “on a business trip” that lasted years, as many of the descendants say in their comments under the list of names available online. Wives were given instant divorces from the inmates of Goli Otok. But sometimes even that was not enough.

      “I had to publicly renounce my husband at a (communist) party meeting in order to pursue my university professor’s career,” Rada B., 88, told IPS. “I had to promise he would not be able to see our daughter ever again and I did exactly that. She never forgave me.”

      The truth about Goli Otok became slowly known in the 1990s, when Yugoslavia fell apart and many secrets of former communist regimes came out. However, the bloody wars of disintegration in those years prevented closure for the families, victims and survivors.

      Only in recent years have Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia begun to compensate victims of Goli Otok, many of whom were innocent or not even communist.

      According to Asanin, there are some 300 survivors of Goli Otok in Serbia. They have demanded political rehabilitation and compensation from the Ministry of Justice.

      The state has agreed to pay 700 dinars (8.5 dollars) for each day spent at Goli Otok to former prisoners. So far, Serbia has paid 53 million dinars or more than 640,000 dollars to survivors or their immediate heirs.

      The mostly anonymous comments and reactions under the list of names of Goli Otok inmates are touching and, sometimes, more revealing than the stories of inmates.

      “I found my uncle, I know he was there because he joked about politics,” a comment by a woman named Beba says. “My grandfather was there only because he said that diplomatic magazines (post World War II shops for privileged communist leaders) should be open for all people,” a man named Bane writes.

      People from all over former Yugoslavia have exchanged e-mails in order to learn more about the circumstances of their family member’s life or death at Goli Otok. Many have spoken of years of silence by relatives and recounted family tales of how innocent men disappeared overnight and ended up at the island.

      “Yes, one could end up at Goli Otok simply because he had more than the others, due to gossip or because someone wanted somebody else’s wife,” Rada B. says. “But those were extraordinary times that called for extraordinary measures and we had to believe our leaders. Where would we end otherwise?” asks the retired university professor.

      The island of Goli Otok remains deserted after the prison was closed, and only curious tourists visit it from time to time to see the remnants of former camps.

      by Simon Critchley
      (The New York Times, February 2, 2014)

      The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers and other thinkers on issues both timely and timeless.

      As a kid in England, I watched a lot of television. There weren’t any books in our house, not even the Bible. TV was therefore pretty important, omnipresent actually. Of course, most of what it delivered was garbage. But in 1973, the BBC aired an extraordinary documentary series called “The Ascent of Man,” hosted by one Dr. Jacob Bronowski in 13 hour-long episodes. Each episode was what he called an “essay” and involved some exotic and elaborate locations, but the presentation was never flashy and consisted mostly of Dr. Bronowski speaking directly and deliberately to the camera.

      A scientist who warned of ‘the assertion of dogma that closes the mind, and turns a nation, a civilization, into a regiment of ghosts — obedient ghosts or tortured ghosts.’
      Dr. Bronowski (he was always referred to as “Dr.” and I can’t think of him with any other, more familiar, moniker) died 40 years ago this year, at the relatively young age of 66. He was a Polish-born British mathematician who wrote a number of highly-regarded books on science, but who was equally at home in the world of literature. He wrote his own poetry as well as a book on William Blake.

      He was a slight, lively, lovely man. Because it was the early ’70s, some of his fashion choices were bewilderingly pastel, especially his socks, though on some occasions he sported a racy leather box jacket. He often smiled as he spoke, not out of conceit or because he lived in California (which, incidentally, he did, working at the Salk Institute in San Diego), but out of a sheer, greedy joy at explaining what he thought was important. But there was a genuine humility in his demeanor that made him utterly likeable.

      “The Ascent of Man” (admittedly a little sexist now – great men abound, but there are apparently few great women), deliberately inverted the title of Darwin’s 1871 book. It was not an account of human biological evolution, but cultural evolution — from the origins of human life in the Rift Valley to the shifts from hunter/gatherer societies, to nomadism and then settlement and civilization, from agriculture and metallurgy to the rise and fall of empires: Assyria, Egypt, Rome.

      Bronowski presented everything with great gusto, but with a depth that never sacrificed clarity and which was never condescending. The tone of the programs was rigorous yet permissive, playful yet precise, and always urgent, open and exploratory. I remember in particular the programs on the trial of Galileo, Darwin’s hesitancy about publishing his theory of evolution and the dizzying consequences of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Some of it was difficult for a 13-year-old to understand, but I remember being absolutely riveted.

      The ascent of man was secured through scientific creativity. But unlike many of his more glossy and glib contemporary epigones, Dr. Bronowski was never reductive in his commitment to science. Scientific activity was always linked to artistic creation. For Bronowski, science and art were two neighboring mighty rivers that flowed from a common source: the human imagination. Newton and Shakespeare, Darwin and Coleridge, Einstein and Braque: all were interdependent facets of the human mind and constituted what was best and most noble about the human adventure.

      For most of the series, Dr. Bronowski’s account of human development was a relentlessly optimistic one. Then, in the 11th episode, called “Knowledge or Certainty,” the mood changed to something more somber. Let me try and recount what has stuck in my memory for all these years.

      He began the show with the words, “One aim of the physical sciences has been to give an actual picture of the material world. One achievement of physics in the 20th century has been to show that such an aim is unattainable.” For Dr. Bronowski, there was no absolute knowledge and anyone who claims it — whether a scientist, a politician or a religious believer — opens the door to tragedy. All scientific information is imperfect and we have to treat it with humility. Such, for him, was the human condition.

      This is the condition for what we can know, but it is also, crucially, a moral lesson. It is the lesson of 20th-century painting from Cubism onwards, but also that of quantum physics. All we can do is to push deeper and deeper into better approximations of an ever-evasive reality. The goal of complete understanding seems to recede as we approach it.

      There is no God’s eye view, Dr. Bronowski insisted, and the people who claim that there is and that they possess it are not just wrong, they are morally pernicious. Errors are inextricably bound up with pursuit of human knowledge, which requires not just mathematical calculation but insight, interpretation and a personal act of judgment for which we are responsible. The emphasis on the moral responsibility of knowledge was essential for all of Dr. Bronowski’s work. The acquisition of knowledge entails a responsibility for the integrity of what we are as ethical creatures.

      All knowledge, all information that passes between human beings, can be exchanged only within what we might call ‘a play of tolerance.’
      Dr. Bronowski’s 11th essay took him to the ancient university city of Göttingen in Germany, to explain the genesis of Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle in the hugely creative milieu that surrounded the physicist Max Born in the 1920s. Dr. Bronowski insisted that the principle of uncertainty was a misnomer, because it gives the impression that in science (and outside of it) we are always uncertain. But this is wrong. Knowledge is precise, but that precision is confined within a certain toleration of uncertainty. Heisenberg’s insight is that the electron is a particle that yields only limited information; its speed and position are confined by the tolerance of Max Planck’s quantum, the basic element of matter.

      Dr. Bronowski thought that the uncertainty principle should therefore be called the principle of tolerance. Pursuing knowledge means accepting uncertainty. Heisenberg’s principle has the consequence that no physical events can ultimately be described with absolute certainty or with “zero tolerance,” as it were. The more we know, the less certain we are.

      In the everyday world, we do not just accept a lack of ultimate exactitude with a melancholic shrug, but we constantly employ such inexactitude in our relations with other people. Our relations with others also require a principle of tolerance. We encounter other people across a gray area of negotiation and approximation. Such is the business of listening and the back and forth of conversation and social interaction.

      For Dr. Bronowski, the moral consequence of knowledge is that we must never judge others on the basis of some absolute, God-like conception of certainty. All knowledge, all information that passes between human beings, can be exchanged only within what we might call “a play of tolerance,” whether in science, literature, politics or religion. As he eloquently put it, “Human knowledge is personal and responsible, an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.”

      The relationship between humans and nature and humans and other humans can take place only within a certain play of tolerance. Insisting on certainty, by contrast, leads ineluctably to arrogance and dogma based on ignorance.

      At this point, in the final minutes of the show, the scene suddenly shifts to Auschwitz, where many members of Bronowski’s family were murdered. Then this happened. Please stay with it. This short video from the show lasts only four minutes or so.

      Dr. Jacob Bronowski’s argument against certainty, made at Auschwitz for his show “The Ascent of Man.”
      It is, I am sure you agree, an extraordinary and moving moment. Bronowski dips his hand into the muddy water of a pond which contained the remains of his family members and the members of countless other families. All victims of the same hatred: the hatred of the other human being. By contrast, he says — just before the camera hauntingly cuts to slow motion — “We have to touch people.”

      The play of tolerance opposes the principle of monstrous certainty that is endemic to fascism and, sadly, not just fascism but all the various faces of fundamentalism. When we think we have certainty, when we aspire to the knowledge of the gods, then Auschwitz can happen and can repeat itself. Arguably, it has repeated itself in the genocidal certainties of past decades.

      The pursuit of scientific knowledge is as personal an act as lifting a paintbrush or writing a poem, and they are both profoundly human. If the human condition is defined by limitedness, then this is a glorious fact because it is a moral limitedness rooted in a faith in the power of the imagination, our sense of responsibility and our acceptance of our fallibility. We always have to acknowledge that we might be mistaken. When we forget that, then we forget ourselves and the worst can happen.

      In 1945, nearly three decades before “The Ascent of Man,” Dr. Bronowski — who was a close friend of the Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard, the reluctant father of the atomic bomb — visited Nagasaki to help assess the damage there. It convinced him to discontinue his work for British military research with which he had been engaged extensively during the Second World War. From that time onward, he focused on the relations between science and human values. When someone said to Szilard in Bronowski’s company that the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was science’s tragedy, Szilard replied firmly that this was wrong: It was a human tragedy.

      Such was Dr. Bronowski’s lesson for a 13-year-old boy some 40 years ago. Being slightly old-school, I treated myself last Christmas to a DVD deluxe boxed set of “The Ascent of Man.” I am currently watching it with my 10-year-old son. Admittedly, it is not really much competition for “Candy Crush” and his sundry other video games, but he is showing an interest. Or at least he is tolerating my enthusiasm. And of course beginning to learn such toleration is the whole point.

      Simon Critchley is Hans Jonas professor of philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York and the author of several books, including “The Faith of the Faithless,” and, with Jamieson Webster, “Stay, Illusion! The Hamlet Doctrine.” He is the moderator of this series.

      by Gregory Marin
      (L'Humanite, 29 January 2014)
      Original French Article: Les syndicats ripostent contre l’extrême droite by Grégory Marin
      [Translated Sunday 2 February 2014, by Gene Zbikowski]

      Faced with the National Front’s pretensions to preempting the worker vote, on Jan. 29 trade unions and youth organizations are exchanging thoughts and experiences on how to counter the ideas of the far right.

      On Dec. 4, when the campaign “against the far right, its ideas, and its practices” was launched, the CGT, FSU and Solidaires trade union confederations and the UNEF, FIDL and UNL student organizations reaffirmed the role of trade unions and youth organizations in the struggle for democracy. Born of the urgent need to deconstruct the anti-social proposals of the National Front and its satellite organizations, the inter-trade union unity day, to be held on Jan. 29, is taking a resolutely combative direction.

      The concern is not new. In early 2011, a joint leaflet by the above three trade union confederations, with in addition the UNSA and CFDT confederations (which are not participating in the Jan. 29 gathering) condemned “the use of the social situation for the promotion in public discussion of certain theories, as the National Front is doing.”

      Social Progress

      The role of the trade unions, “with regard to their history, their traditions, and their values” and also “in their practice,” is to work for social progress. The statutes of the confederations that are organizing the Jan. 29 gathering are incompatible with “the theory of national preference (which) contradicts the fundamental values of trade-unionism.” The CGT has written this into its statutes – the CGT acts “for a democratic society, freed of capitalist exploitation and other forms of exploitation and domination, and against discrimination of all kinds: racism, xenophobia and all forms of exclusion.”

      Anti-Fascist Struggle

      In his introductory report to the national council of the CGT federation of public service unions, last September, federal secretary Baptiste Talbot went further. According to him, trade union work “to improve the balance of power and change the situation regarding trade union demands” is “an integral part of the anti-fascist struggle.”

      Trade unionists working at a number of private and public-sector companies are confronted with the confusion of some of their co-workers, who think the solution is to vote for the National Front. The leaders of several trade unions have already stated that the creation of the conditions for a “policy of social progress” is what will push back the far right. For Baptiste Talbot, this is a no-brainer: “Our conception of the world is structured by class divisions, and in the class struggle on the ground, the National Front is on the side of the enemy.” The proof, based on examples, will be furnished at the Jan. 29 meeting.

      The Program of the Day of Reflection

      From 10 a.m. on, there will be workshops, at the Bourse du travail building in Paris, on the struggle against the “fake pro-labor position” of the National Front and the far right. After an overview of the “laboratory cities,” the trade unions will deconstruct the far right’s positions on “the rights of women and homosexuals and pro-family proposals,” on “immigration, racism and the national preference,” and on “the struggles of the peoples in Europe against unemployment and precarious employment.”

      In the afternoon, a discussion workshop led by the “Vigilance and anti-fascist trade union initiatives” collective will examine how trade union activists, who are confronted with these situations on the job on a daily basis, can react.

      The day will end with a meeting of representatives of the trade union confederations (the CGT, FSU, and Solidaires) and of representatives of the youth organizations (UNEF, FIDL, and UNL) at the seat of the CGT in Montreuil at 7:30 p.m.

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