Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

2825SACW - 17 April 2014 | Nepal: Don't grant amnesties / Bangladesh's Birangona women / Pakistan: Between the soldier and the citizen / Ernesto Laclau - 1935-2014 / Indian Democracy Fighting for its Life; Appeal to voters from concerned Filmwalahs; Who is paying for Modi's publicity Blitz? / Nigeria: Communal Violence

Expand Messages
  • Harsh Kapoor
    Apr 16, 2014
    • 0 Attachment
      South Asia Citizens Wire - 17 April 2014 - No. 2818
      [since 1996]
      --------------------------------------------------------------------------

      Contents:
      1. Nepal: Pillay warns against new attempt to grant amnesties for serious human rights violations
      2. Pakistan: Between the soldier and the citizen | Harris Khalique
      3. Kashmir: No end to the woes of families returning from PAK under the amnesty scheme
      - Editorial, Kashmir Times
      4. Elections 2014: Indian Democracy Fighting for its Life | India United Against Fascism
      5. India: His Master’s Voice - Amit Shah’s speeches in UP belie the promise of a new BJP | Mukul Kesavan
      6. India: The murky past of Narendra Modi’s right-hand man | Andrew Buncombe
      7. India 2014 Elections: An Appeal to Voters from Concerned Citizens and Workers Associated with the World of Cinema
      8. Narendra Modi: Britain can't simply shrug off this Hindu extremist | Priyamvada Gopal
      9. India 2014 National Elections: TV Discussion series - Battle Ground 2014
      10. Selections from Communalism Watch:
      - India 2014 elections: Who is paying for BJP's publicity Blitz?
      - Does US really care? - Jawed Naqvi
      - India: BJP, RSS, ABVP, VHP cadres campaigning for modi in Varanasi
      - India: Why the Sangh fears Modi | Manjari Katju
      - India: BJP candidate adresses elections campaign meeting directly from Hindu Temple
      - How The Media Whitewashes Modi: BJP’s true colours | Praful Bidwai
      - India election 2014: The woman calling for Narendra Modi to take responsibility for mass murder | Dean Nelson

      ::Full Text::
      11. Bangladesh's Birangona women: 'Tell the world our story' | Tahmina Anam
      12. Narendra Modi as prime minister of India: what will it mean? | deshi sense blog
      13. India: A Story of Displacement in Gujarat Comes to Mumbai | Zahir Janmohamed
      14. Leaving Sexist Stereotypes Behind in a Cloud of Dust | Victoria Burrows
      15. Ernesto Laclau, 1935-2014 | Robin Blackburn
      16. Paul Robeson, A Life - Book Review | Paul Von Blum
      17. Nigeria: Escalating Communal Violence

      =========================================
      1. NEPAL: PILLAY WARNS AGAINST NEW ATTEMPT TO GRANT AMNESTIES FOR SERIOUS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
      =========================================
      GENEVA (14 April 2014) - UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Monday expressed grave concern at a bill presented to the Nepalese Parliament which could lead to amnesties for serious human rights violations.
      http://www.sacw.net/article8362.html

      =========================================
      2. PAKISTAN: BETWEEN THE SOLDIER AND THE CITIZEN | Harris Khalique
      =========================================
      Like in any third world country, the contradiction between the rich and the poor, across ethnic, provincial and sectarian lines, is sharp as ever. The Pakistani state is doing next to nothing to change that massive imbalance in favour of the rich. There is an inherent bias towards the powerful and the privileged in all institutional arrangements and functioning of the state. The lack of provision of basic facilities and services, health and education, employment and entertainment, to the large majority of Pakistanis is shameful. This was a contradiction the state inherited from colonial rule; while it did not create it itself, it did nothing serious to resolve it either.
      http://www.sacw.net/article8380.html

      =========================================
      3. KASHMIR: NO END TO THE WOES OF FAMILIES RETURNING FROM PAK UNDER THE AMNESTY SCHEME
      - Editorial, Kashmir Times
      =========================================
      It is a pity that the woes of the families returning from Pakistan Administered Kashmir (PAK) under the amnesty policy for surrendered ultras have remained unheeded. The tragic suicide by a wife of one of beneficiaries of this policy last week demonstrates this beyond a shadow of doubt. It turns out that three years after Jammu and Kashmir government gave the nod for rehabilitation and amnesty policy for youth who had crossed the borders for arms training and wish to return to lead normal lives is a major fraud with them. Several men who picked up guns after 1989 but had no cases against them did return, most of them with wives they married there and children who were born out of the wedlock, after crossing the Line of Control or taking the long route via Nepal. However, the policy is both conceptually flawed and ambiguous. Besides, there is as yet no mechanism in place for making the policy effective and allowing beneficiaries to settle back in their original homes to lead normal lives, disconnected from the conflict.
      http://www.sacw.net/article8379.html

      =========================================
      4. ELECTIONS 2014: INDIAN DEMOCRACY FIGHTING FOR ITS LIFE
      by India United Against Fascism
      =========================================
      The most common question being asked about the ongoing Indian elections is: Will Narendra Modi win? This in itself is strange, because India has a parliamentary, not presidential, system, and the usual question asked is: Which party will win? If the focus has shifted to an individual, it is worth asking why.
      http://sacw.net/article8351.html

      =========================================
      5. INDIA: HIS MASTER’S VOICE - AMIT SHAH’S SPEECHES IN UP BELIE THE PROMISE OF A NEW BJP
      by Mukul Kesavan
      =========================================
      The difficulty with believing the BJP’s new ‘governance’ anthem is that Modi and his right-hand man, Amit Shah, chose during their election campaigns to sing a succession of the sangh parivar’s oldest tunes. As political disc-jockeys they showed a marked preference for the BJP’s bloodiest hits. In Bihar, Modi made speeches where he re-mixed the cow-slaughter theme song under a new title, the ‘Pink Revolution’. The lyrics of his cover version went like this: the Congress government had subsidized cow-slaughter, butchers had grown rich on the back of meat exports, did Yadavs really want to make common cause with people who killed the sacred cow? Amit Shah, hand-picked to deliver Uttar Pradesh to the BJP in 2014, made even more viscerally provocative speeches.
      http://www.sacw.net/article8377.html

      =========================================
      6. INDIA: THE MURKY PAST OF NARENDRA MODI’S RIGHT-HAND MAN | Andrew Buncombe
      =========================================
      Last spring, a year ahead of the election now gripping India, Amit Shah was dispatched by Mr Modi to Uttar Pradesh with instructions to build support for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in the nation’s largest and politically most-important state. He set about identifying candidates and meeting local leaders in an effort to deliver Mr Modi the "wave" he will need to become India’s next prime minister. But while Mr Shah has cemented support for Mr Modi, he has also run into problems. Over the weekend, one week into the five-week voting process to elect a new government, the Election Commission (EC) banned Mr Shah from addressing public meetings in the state, and ordered that charges be filed against him after he was accused of stoking communal tensions.
      http://www.sacw.net/article8376.html

      =========================================
      7. INDIA 2014 ELECTIONS: AN APPEAL TO VOTERS FROM CONCERNED CITIZENS AND WORKERS ASSOCIATED WITH THE WORLD OF CINEMA
      =========================================
      Indian society has prided itself on being essentially secular in character, rejecting communal hatred, embracing tolerance. As Indian citizens who love our motherland, we appeal to you to vote for the secular party, which is most likely to win in your constituency.
      http://www.sacw.net/article8373.html

      =========================================
      8. NARENDRA MODI: BRITAIN CAN'T SIMPLY SHRUG OFF THIS HINDU EXTREMIST
      by Priyamvada Gopal
      =========================================
      The UK will also suffer if India elects this far-right activist. We must sever our links with him
      http://sacw.net/article8350.html

      =========================================
      9. INDIA 2014 NATIONAL ELECTIONS: TV DISCUSSION SERIES - BATTLE GROUND 2014
      =========================================
      A series of half an hour TV discussions on Rajya Sabha TV from six crucial states in India's 2014 general election.
      http://sacw.net/article8345.html

      =========================================
      10. SELECTIONS FROM COMMUNALISM WATCH
      =========================================

      India 2014 elections: Who is paying for BJP's publicity Blitz?
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2014/04/india-2014-elections-who-is-paying-for.html

      Does US really care? - Jawed Naqvi
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2014/04/does-us-really-care-jawed-naqvi.html

      India: BJP, RSS, ABVP, VHP cadres campaigning for modi in Varanasi
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2014/04/india-bjp-rss-abvp-vhp-cadres.html

      India: Why the Sangh fears Modi | Manjari Katju
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2014/04/india-why-sangh-fears-modi-manjari-katju.html

      India: BJP candidate adresses elections campaign meeting directly from Hindu Temple
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2014/04/india-bjp-candidate-adresses-elections.html

      How The Media Whitewashes Modi: BJP’s true colours | Praful Bidwai
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2014/04/how-media-whitewashes-modi-bjps-true.html

      India election 2014: The woman calling for Narendra Modi to take responsibility for mass murder
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2014/04/india-election-2014-woman-calling-for.html


      ::: FULL TEXT :::
      =========================================
      11. BANGLADESH'S BIRANGONA WOMEN: 'TELL THE WORLD OUR STORY'
      by Tahmina Anam
      =========================================
      (The Guardian, 15 April 2014)

      Hundreds of thousands of women were raped during Bangladesh's war of independence. Now they are speaking out in a powerful new play

      A scene from Birangona: Women of War
      Defining moment of violence … a scene from Birangona: Women of War.

      When writer and actor Leesa Gazi was 17, her father told her a story that would leave an indelible mark. He said that after the end of the 1971 war – the war that gave Bangladesh its independence from Pakistan – he crossed paths with a convoy of trucks full of women. These were the women people had been whispering about, the ones captured from their village homes and interred in rape camps, most having witnessed the death of their family members. He saw hundreds and hundreds of them, standing up in those trucks as they were finally freed, and this was one of the abiding images he carried with him as his country took its first steps into nationhood.

      Birangona: Women of War
      Lost theatre,
      London

      Until 20 April
      Box office:
      020-7622 9208
      Venue website: http://www.losttheatre.co.uk/

      It is this ugly history that Gazi and her team, the Komola Collective, address in their production, Birangona: Women of War. The choice of subject matter is a bold one for a company's debut production, but underlines Komola's mandate to "tell untold histories from women's point of view". The project began in 2010 when Gazi accompanied a friend to Sirajganj, five hours from Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka, to visit a group of "Birangona" women – the label the state gave to women who suffered sexual violence during the war. The 21 women she met have lived with the shame and ignominy of their wartime experiences for more than four decades. Shaken by what she heard – stories of rape, imprisonment, torture – Gazi returned to London determined to break the silence surrounding them. Two years later, she went back to Sirajganj, this time with the newly formed production company she founded with three other London-based artists. With the help of a videographer, they filmed the testimonial of five Birangona women, and, along with a local playwright, developed the script for a one-act play.

      The result of this collaboration is currently running at the Lost theatre in London, before a tour that takes in Oldham, Birmingham and Leeds. Birangona: Women of War tells the story of Moryom, a young village girl who is newly married and expecting her first child. Then war breaks out, and Moryom is captured by the Pakistan army. The play follows Moryom as she goes from the innocence of village life to being captured and sent to a rape camp. Her story is interspersed with her early memories: learning to swim in the pond near her home; getting married to a local boy who she calls her "tamarind man"; the first movements of the child she carries.
      One of the Bangladeshi rape victims One of the Bangladeshi rape victims. Photograph: Nabil Uddin Ahmed/Rex

      She also tells the stories of the women she meets while she is interred, each with their own sorry tale of murder, kidnap, and rape. It makes for a brutal 60 minutes, and would be almost unbearable to watch if not for the use of mixed media, the clever animation of a Bengali folktale and flashbacks. At the end, there is a long segment of video footage in which the Birangona women speak directly to camera. They say they are still taunted for losing their honour, that their children are stigmatised, and that they worry no one will come to their funerals when they die. The women bear not only the scars of what happened to them in the past, but the continual pain of everyday life as a woman marked forever by that defining moment of violence.

      When the Komola Collective staged the production in Dhaka for the first time, they invited the Birangona women of Sirajganj to see the play. The women traveled the 200km to the capital and sat in the audience, watching their own images in the video footage. One of them fainted in the aisle and was led away. Afterwards, they greeted Leesa and her company with a hard silence. Then, finally, one of them said: "Go out and tell the world our story." And that is exactly what Komola are doing with this groundbreaking production.

      • Birangona: Women of War is at the Lost theatre, London SW8 until 20 April. Box office: 020-7622 9208. Venue: losttheatre.co.uk. Then touring.

      =========================================
      12. NARENDRA MODI AS PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA: WHAT WILL IT MEAN?
      - deshi sense blog
      =========================================
      14 April 2014
      http://deshisense.blogspot.in

      Comparisons have been drawn in national and international media between Narendra Modi and Berlusconi, Putin, Abe, and a long list of other right-wing demagogues. The need for such comparisons is understandable (especially in articles in the foreign media trying to explain the significance of the Indian elections to a non-Indian audience). Often these comparisons are accompanied by comforting, but uncertain, noises to the effect that Indian democracy is strong, that even if he comes to power Modi will be "reined in" by the BJP's allies, that Modi has moderated his earlier discourse as he has come closer to national power, etc. You sense some journalists trying to convince themselves as much as anyone else. The reality is that right now we don't know what a Modi victory will mean. But Modi lies at a certain intersection which makes him fairly unique even among ultra-right demagogues.

      Ethnic/religious nationalism. He is an avowed ethnic and religious nationalist. Moreover he is embedded in a "family" of chauvinist organisations, the Sangh Parivar, which is unique in itself - no country in the world boasts a comparable network of ethnic supremacist organisations. Their sheer number, the way they manage to reach different audiences from school children to the devout to urban youth, the way they converge when necessary, the way they include paramilitary and terrorist activities as a natural component of their "portfolio" - all are quite amazing. Occasionally a foot-soldier gets sacrificed to the law, but the top brass appear mostly to speak and act with impunity. They run tens of thousands of schools, have tens of thousands of "cells" (apparently 2000 new RSS shakhas have sprung up in the last three months), control tens of thousands of religious bodies, have their people in the judiciary, the police, the civil service, the military, and so forth... Having access to a pre-prepared network of organisations of this kind would make Modi the envy of many would-be dictators.

      Backing of a mass movement. Modi has a huge mass movement behind him which is not necessarily affiliated directly to the BJP, or even to the Sangh Parivar. He is a charismatic leader who has shown he can control his own party by successfully sidelining elders of the BJP with little protest from the party or beyond. Many supporters who claim they are not ordinarily BJP voters support him in terms which are millenarian. A typical sentiment on social media for some not-so-light entertainment: "O son of Bhaarat,arise,awake and lead us till we achieve a India of our dreams..tis not merely d B'day of @narendramodi,tis dawn of New Era."

      Political violence as a strategy. Modi is, of course, deeply implicated in the Gujarat violence of 2002. His role in encouraging this violence is well documented and commonly acknowledged even among his supporters - despite extensive work at a whitewash, which has involved subverting the (ongoing) legal process, and an intensive PR campaign. What Modi has demonstrated time and again, both directly and through his lieutenants such as Amit Shah, is that using political violence to gather votes is central to his political strategy. This is not new of course in India: several parties indulge in political violence on a large scale; but the BJP still stands among a very few whose existence in the political sphere can be traced almost entirely to violence. Never has violence as a strategy been more openly endorsed than at the present moment.

      Authoritarianism and oratory. Modi is acknoweldged to be deeply authoritarian at a personal level. He never apologises, even when those he has promoted and guided such as Maya Kodnani have been convicted of serious crimes. He is open in his contempt for the judiciary, for minority rights, and for the democratic process. He speaks with contempt about liberals, about minority communities, and about people with disabilities. Again, this is part of his appeal - he is the man who speaks his mind, is not afraid to say it like it is, can by-pass regulation, cut red-tape and would retaliate appropriately to foreign aggression. His oratory is ultra-nationalist and populist. He presses the correct buttons in a skillful way: "strength", "pride", "honour", "nation" and victimhood. His political opponents are weak-kneed, dithering and indecisive, and would let India's enemies take control. After terrorist attacks in Mumbai, he suggested that as a strong leader he would have started a war with Pakistan, and this got him applause from the audience. (As we know, the BJP has indicated that if they come to power, they will review India's 'no first use' nuclear policy, and this is unlikely to meet much resistance from their allies.)

      The support of big business. Modi has the support of a large section of big business who finance and back him quite openly. This has come as something of a shock even to the liberal intelligentsia, as big business has tended to hedge its bets, and has previously preferred a slightly lower profile when it comes to influencing the political process. Something is different this time round, leading naturally to comparisons with Nazi Germany where "helping to undermine democracy at important junctures produced high returns" for big business.

      Middle class support. Modi has the support of a significant section of the "educated" middle class. This has been achieved via extensive and successful manipulation of the media, and also by riding on the economically rightist (anti-welfare, anti-tax, pro-business) sentiments which are widespread in this class. The myth of development in Gujarat has been very skillfully constructed, and he has managed to present himself as an economic moderniser able to bring growth and development to the country.

      This list could go on, but in brief Modi is not just another right-wing demagogue. He combines support from powerful business interests and large sections of the middle class, ultra-nationalism, ethnic supremacism, the backing of a huge and diverse network of Sangh Parivar organisations, skill as an orator and great confidence. He has got away with Gujarat 2002, and successfully recreated himself as "Vikas Purush". Whether comparisons with German Nazism and Italian fascism are justified remains to be seen, but even a weak Modi-led coalition would dramatically accelerate the erosion of the fabric of democracy. Sangh Parivar members and sympathisers will be given positions of power in the judiciary, the civil service, the military, the police. We can expect an increase in the levels of political and communal violence. Liberal and secular voices in the media will face huge pressure to moderate their words, and those speaking out will do so at significant personal risk. Minority communities will be increasingly marginalised and fearful, with some being tempted to turn to their own most right-wing elements for protection.

      What is still unknown is whether Modi has really managed to gain sufficient support amongst the rural and urban poor - the vast majority of India - to make his dreams come true. This question will be answered on May 16th.

      [also available at: http://communalism.blogspot.com/2014/04/narendra-modi-as-prime-minister-of.html%5d

      =========================================
      13. INDIA: A STORY OF DISPLACEMENT IN GUJARAT COMES TO MUMBAI
      by Zahir Janmohamed
      =========================================
      (The New York Times, April 16, 2014)

      [photo]Yadavan Chandran
      [caption]Performers during the Vikram Sarabhai International Arts Festival in Ahmedabad, India, before its reprise in Mumbai.

      AHMEDABAD, India — When the noted Indian classical dancer Mrinalini Sarabhai and her husband, Vikram, founded the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts in 1949, the couple took care to avoid displacing any of the residents who lived next to their property on the western banks of the Sabarmati River in this city.

      At the time, most of Ahmedabad’s residents lived on the opposite side of the river, in and around the walled city built by Ahmedabad’s founder, Ahmed Shah, in 1411. Gradually the population of Ahmedabad began shifting westward, as the mills that made Ahmedabad famous as the “Manchester of the East” closed and families began searching for income in other parts of the city.

      Last week, the Sarabhais’ 59-year-old daughter, Mallika, a renowned dancer who now runs the academy, stood on the sprawling grass lawn outside the house her father built and pointed to a construction site a few hundred feet away. “There used to be thousands of people who lived right there by the river, but today they almost are all gone,” Ms. Sarabhai said.

      It was the disappearance of these people that inspired Ms. Sarabhai, a recipient of the Padma Bhushan, India’s third-highest civilian award, to create a work in their honor.

      For the past 38 years, the Darpana Academy has hosted the Vikram Sarabhai International Arts Festival, and when it came time to plan this year’s theme, Ms. Sarabhai knew right away what it would be. “I wanted to pay tribute to the river residents in Ahmedabad, but I also wanted to broaden the theme to include all different types of displacement,” she said.

      The three-day festival, which was first presented in Ahmedabad in December, will be reprised at Mumbai’s Nehru Center Auditorium starting Wednesday, sponsored by the Bajaj Group and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

      Yadavan Chandran
      Mallika Sarabhai, the head of a performing arts academy, addressing the audience at the festival in Ahmedabad. She wanted to pay tribute to people forced out of homes along the Sabarmati River.
      The festival opens with “LDR,” which Ms. Sarabhai called “an examination of what happens when you are displaced from your lover in a long-distance relationship,” hence the name.

      Choreographed by Ms. Sarabhai’s 29-year-old son, Revanta Sarabhai, much of “LDR” is lighthearted and humorous, especially in a scene where a couple struggles to communicate over Skype. Other parts of “LDR” allude to same-sex romance and the challenge of finding acceptance as a homosexual in India.

      The second performance, to be held in Mumbai on Thursday, is a play called “Unearthed,” written by the filmmaker Yadavan Chandran, which is loosely based on the short story “A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings,” by the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez.

      Ms. Sarabhai, who acts in the play, described it as an exploration of how “we displace ourselves from ourselves.”

      “We become insecure, we lose who we are, and that allows us to see another person as the ‘other,’ ” she said.

      But it is the third night of the festival, on Friday, that is the most personal for Ms. Sarabhai. In “The Damned,” created by the Dutch choreographer Naomi Deira, dancers re-enact what it means to be displaced from one’s home.

      Ms. Sarabhai is known for her mastery of two styles: the south Indian dance Kuchipudi, which is usually accompanied by Carnatic music; and Bharata Natyam, a dance form that originated in temples in Tamil Nadu. But neither of these styles was appropriate to tell the story of displacement, Ms. Deira, 28, said in an interview.

      Before the Ahmedabad premiere, she stood off to the side of the stage and held her two hands together by her chest. “In classical Indian dance, keeping control is the main thing. But I wanted to break that because when you fall, you do not fall like this, with your hands still in this position,” Ms. Deira said.

      She then flayed her arms around and moved her head in a circle. “When you fall because of displacement, I imagine it is like this—uncontrolled, chaotic, traumatic,” she said.

      For Ms. Sarabhai, the challenge with “The Damned” was to make the performance specific to Ahmedabad but also universal. Ms. Sarabhai is a well-known activist who has been an outspoken critic of the Sabarmati Riverfront Project. In 1997, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation began developing a six-mile promenade on the banks of the Sabarmati, opening it in 2011.

      Navdeep Mathur, an assistant professor in the public systems group at the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, said the estimated cost of the riverfront project was around $300 million. Supporters of the project say that it has created jobs in Ahmedabad, as well as a much-needed public space, and that the riverfront project will promote Gujarat tourism. They also point out that the city government has provided housing to those displaced by the riverfront project.

      But critics, including Dr. Mathur, say that the number of displaced could reach 100,000 and that many who have had to flee their homes now live in substandard conditions, while others still await homes.

      Both Ms. Deira and Ms. Sarabhai said “The Damned” was about the broader theme of displacement. At the conclusion of the December performance of “The Damned” in Ahmedabad, Ms. Sarabhai stood on the stage with tears in her eyes and held up a sign that read, “65 Million Displaced.” The number referred to all the Indians who have had to leave their homes because of development projects, according to a report released in 2012 by the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the United Nations.

      The report said that of these displaced, over 40 percent were tribals and another 40 percent were Dalits, one of the lowest castes, and other rural poor. Not taking into account displacement due to armed and ethnic conflict, India is estimated to have the highest number of people displaced annually as a result of ostensible development projects.

      Ms. Sarabhai’s sign was meant to highlight the broader problem of displacement across India, but her words after the premiere in Ahmedabad kept returning to the Sabarmati riverfront.

      “I grew up with the river residents, and this three-day festival is inspired by them. They were part of my extended family, and I watched them forced out,” she said.

      “If you are middle class in India, you may never experience displacement. It is something you read about. But I wanted people to think about what is happening in this country and, for a night, experience what it is like to be displaced,” Ms. Sarabhai said.

      Zahir Janmohamed, a writer from the United States, lives in Ahmedabad. Follow him on Twitter @zahirj.

      =========================================
      14. LEAVING SEXIST STEREOTYPES BEHIND IN A CLOUD OF DUST
      by Victoria Burrows
      =========================================
      (India Real Time / WSJ , April 12, 2014)

      Urvashi Patole, co-founder of The Bikerni, Indias first all-women motorcycle club, poses with her Royal Enfield bike.
      Courtesy Bikerni Motorcyle Club

      A group of Indian women are leaving gender stereotypes behind in a cloud of dust by embracing what was once a male-only activity: riding motorcycles.

      Swapping a salwar kameez for armoured jackets and sandals for biker boots, a new breed of Indian woman is conquering mountain passes, swollen rivers and bone-rattling terrain on big-engined bikes. Their biggest challenge, however, lies much closer to home.

      “The most common insult we get is: ‘What are you doing out on the streets – a woman’s place is in the kitchen.’ But we also often hear, ‘You women bikers are a hazard on the road,’ and, ‘You’re encouraging women to dream big and pursue passions they are unable to ever achieve,’” says Urvashi Patole, co-founder of The Bikerni, India’s first all-women motorcycle club.

      The Bikerni was founded in Pune in January 2011 by a handful of women. It now has more than 350 members, ranging in age from 18 to 55. The club was started by Ms. Patole and Firdaus Shaikh, both female stunt riders in a male-dominated field. It is India’s biggest women-only pan-Indian motorcycle association, with chapters in 12 Indian cities including Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata.

      Ms. Patole gets a thrill out of defying stereotypes: “It’s fun to watch jaws drop when you ride past all geared up on your motorbike,” she says. “It makes us feel more independent, confident and in control of our life.”

      Manufacturers also are beginning to take notice.

      Yamaha launched its first Indian scooter designed for women, the Ray, in 2012. In an advertisement for Hero MotoCorp’s Pleasure scooter, Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, herself a biker, asks “Why should boys have all the fun?”

      Harley-Davidson, which set up its first dealership in India in 2010, is also gearing up for a surge in women riders. Anoop Prakash, managing director of Harley-Davidson India says women make up a “small but growing” proportion of its customers. Ms. Chopra, who owns a hot pink Harley-Davidson, is one of them.

      In the development of their latest motorcycle, the Street 750, women were included in customer research surveys, and the vehicle was developed with female-friendly features, such as a lower seat, lighter weight, and easy handling.

      “The dark custom styling also appeals to women bikers,” says Mr. Prakash, adding that they regularly feature women riders in their marketing campaigns.

      Women are expanding what is already a massive market. Two-wheelers make up 77% India’s automobile market, according to the government.

      While female commuters tend to buy scooters, which allow women to wear skirts and saris, the motorcycle of choice for members of the Bikerni club is the iconic Royal Enfield.

      Most Indian women bikers are found in the large cities, with Pune and Bangalore at the forefront.

      “In both these cities, girls begin riding small motorcycles to work or their studies at an early age,” says Sheetal Bidaye, who was India’s first woman to take part in the two-wheeler section of the grueling high-altitude rally race, Raid de Himalaya, in October last year.

      The Bikerni club is now targeting women in rural areas, where gender roles are more conservative.

      “Family pressure and lack of backing plays a major role in the development of female riders in India, so we are doing our best to tackle those issues through rallies, awareness meet-ups and personal talks with the families,” says Bikerni’s Ms. Patole.

      It’s not just the stereotypes about women in the kitchen that Bikerni hopes to overcome. Biker chicks tend to be portrayed as scantily-clad, in hot pants and heels.

      “We wear protective gear, we are highly skilled, and extremely confident in our capabilities of handling even very powerful motorcycles. That’s what makes us sexy,” says Ms. Patole.

      Men are also doing their part to promote women bikers. Joshua John, who runs the Delhi Bikers Breakfast Run, welcomes female riders on the group’s monthly day.

      “It’s twice as tough here than anywhere else for women bikers to be accepted … guys think they have to teach women everything with regards to cars, mechanics, and bikes,” says Mr John. “If women bikers want things to improve, they must have patience and allow male bikers to mature.”

      =========================================
      15. ERNESTO LACLAU, 1935-2014
      by Robin Blackburn
      =========================================
      Verso Books Blog / 14 April 2014

      It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of Ernesto Laclau, the outstanding Argentinean political philosopher, at the age of 78. Ernesto had a heart attack in Seville where he was giving a lecture. He was the author of landmark studies of Marxist theory and of populism as a political category and social movement. In his highly original essays and books he demonstrated the far reaching implications of the thought of Antonio Gramsci, probed the assumptions of Marxism and illuminated the modern history of Latin America, rejecting simplistic schemas linked to notions of dependency and populism.

      After studying in Buenos Aires, Ernesto came to Britain in the early 1970s, where he lectured at the University of Essex and later founded the Centre for Theoretical Studies. The Centre ran a very successful postgraduate programme, attracting students from around the world. In the 1970s Ernesto made his mark with his critique of the so-called ‘dependency school’ of Latin American political economists such as Fernando Enrique Cardoso.

      In 1985 Ernesto published the best-selling Hegemony and Socialist Strategy, a book co-authored with his Belgian wife Chantal Mouffe whom he met at Essex. His latest book, The Rhetorical Foundations of Society, is due to publish in May 2014.

      Ernesto and Chantal used the work of Antonio Gramsci to reject what they saw as the reductionism and teleology of much Marxist theory. Though sometimes calling himself a ‘post-Marxist’ and an advocate of ‘radical democracy’, Ernesto insisted that he remained a radical anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist. His criticisms of Marx and Marxism were made in a constructive spirit, and without a hint of rancour.

      As a young man Ernesto had been attracted to Argentinian Trotskyism and its rejection of Stalinism. He was also pre-occupied with understanding the Peronist popular movement, with its strong trade union following. Ernesto published a pioneering essay on populism in the 70s but followed this up with On Populist Reason in 2005, a work which sought to explain the democratic and anti-imperialist impulses sweeping Latin America in the wake of the electoral victories of Hugo Chavez and other leftist standard-bearers in a dozen countries.

      In Ernesto’s view radical democracy did not spurn electoral and representative politics but defined itself by drawing the mass of citizens into political life and ensuring that the national wealth was dedicated to real improvements in the living conditions of all. Ernesto was recognised as a keynote thinker with invitations to address the Argentine national assembly and to act as a roving ambassador for his native country.

      Chantal Mouffe also brought to the work they published together her own experience with social movements, especially the women’s movement.

      Ernesto was recognised as leading thinker in Latin America but also as an intellectual star in the academic world, co-authoring Contingency, Hegemony and Universality with Slavoj Žižek and Judith Butler in 2008. He gave courses at a string of leading universities in Europe and the Americas, including North Western and the New School for Social Research. Ernesto became Emeritus professor at Essex in 2003, but the Centre he established continues its work.

      Ernesto and Chantal each pursued their own work but also continued to collaborate on joint projects. Verso was delighted to be the publisher of a dozen books they wrote separately or together, and of the series Phronesis, which they co-edited.

      In March this year Ernesto was invited to give a lecture at the Argentine embassy in London to mark the publication of his latest book, The Rhetorical Foundations of Society. At the dinner which followed Ernesto was in excellent form leading the company in the singing of revolutionary songs, with special emphasis on those associated with the Italian partisan movement. It is a memory of political good cheer which all who were present will cherish.

      =========================================
      16. PAUL ROBESON, A LIFE - BOOK REVIEW
      by Paul Von Blum
      =========================================
      (truthdig - April 11, 2014)

      “Paul Robeson: A Watched Man”
      A book by Jordan Goodman

      “Paul Robeson,” historian Joseph Dorinson ruefully wrote in the 2002 introduction to his co-edited collection of essays about him, “is the greatest legend nobody knows.” When the man who was one of the most striking Renaissance people in American history died in 1976, in loneliness and obscurity, his magnificent athletic, scholarly, artistic and political accomplishments were largely erased from national consciousness, stricken from the media and from history books. This tragic void, eerily reminiscent of Stalin-era removal of enemies from photographs and other Soviet documents, was a deep stain on American history, resulting from the worst excesses of McCarthyism from the late 1940s through much of the 1960s.

      The long overdue restoration of Robeson’s stellar reputation, fortunately, began shortly after his death, slowly propelling him back to some public recognition. Several books, plays, films and conferences, especially after the 1998 centenary of his birth, highlighting his life and multifaceted activities, complemented such awards and honors as his posthumous election to the College Football Hall of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The belated issuance of a Robeson United States postage stamp constituted an oblique government apology and encouraged people to explore his diverse artistic and political contributions.

      The growing literature about Robeson encompasses every feature of his life. Some books and articles are overviews, giving readers an opportunity to understand and gauge the full range of his life and work. Others address particular areas such as his films, music, theater or politics. Jordan Goodman’s new book, “Paul Robeson: A Watched Man,” is an effective and informative treatment of Robeson’s political awakening in the United States and England, and the disgraceful pattern of persecution he suffered, especially during the Cold War years after 1945. Readers who are already familiar with Robeson and seek greater detail about the complex political activities that increasingly became the major focus of his life will find the book especially valuable, though it is also useful for general readers.

      Goodman is a British academic who is particularly well positioned to address Robeson‘s political activities in the U.K., especially in the postwar era. He provides informative detail about Robeson’s close associates and contacts in Britain as he worked publicly for peace with the Soviet Union, which resulted in increased surveillance by both British and U.S. intelligence agencies.

      A key focus of the book is Robeson’s most controversial political act, his speech in April 1949 at the World Congress of Partisans of Peace in Paris. Attended by leftist artists and intellectuals from around the world, this event threw Robeson into a political maelstrom from which he would never recover. Goodman discusses the Congress events extensively, providing the background to Robeson’s presentation there, where, in addition to his songs, he observed that “we,” referring to all black and colonized people throughout the world, had no desire to make war against the Soviet Union.

      The reaction in the United States was swift and severe. Both the mainstream media and major elements of the African-American press, as well as the black community generally, accused Robeson of disloyalty to his country and maligning the patriotism of African-Americans by claiming that they would refuse to fight in a war against the Soviet Union. Although the press had garbled Robeson’s words, it scarcely mattered because a wide variety of forces were already conspiring to remove him from political visibility and leadership by attacking him with the anti-communist fervor sweeping the nation.

      “Paul Robeson: A Watched Man” is particularly strong in accounting Robeson’s political efforts in the late 1940s through the 1950s, when he became increasingly marginalized and persecuted. He strongly defended the Trenton Six, an egregious case in New Jersey in which six black men were accused of murder and sentenced to death in 1948. Robeson sought to make the case the equivalent of the infamous Scottsboro Boys case in Alabama during the 1930s. This episode adds impressive substance to understanding Robeson’s courageous and enormous commitment to fighting domestic racism. It likewise returns this tragic case to public consciousness about the long racist history of American criminal law.

      Goodman also chronicles Robeson’s extensive work against colonialism in Africa, particularly his efforts and leadership on the Council on African Affairs, where he worked with such luminaries as Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois and various radical and liberal figures from the black and white communities. Robeson was one of the first prominent Americans to call public attention to Africa, including the monstrous apartheid regime in South Africa. His stance drew strong opposition from the U.S. government, further alienating him. As Goodman notes, it was another blow against Robeson in his ultimate blacklisting and persecution.

      One of the most intriguing parts of the book concerns Robeson’s former colleague on the Council on African Affairs, the loathsome Max Yergan, who had served admirably with Robeson and who had had a long and impressive record of progressive political activism. By 1948, however, Yergan’s opportunism led him to burnish his anti-communist credentials by turning viciously against Robeson. Later, Yergan’s political turnabout transformed him into a rabid anti-communist cold warrior and apologist for the South African apartheid regime.

      Goodman recounts Robeson’s protracted struggle to regain his passport after the State Department withdrew it on the grounds that “the Department considers [his] travel abroad would be contrary to the best interests of the United States.” This was a devastating blow, both emotionally and financially. As Goodman reveals, this action, which the Supreme Court ultimately declared unconstitutional in 1958, further marginalized Robeson in America.

      Goodman also explores Robeson’s relationship with the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee, a disgraceful feature of the postwar anti-communist hysteria in America. One early episode involved baseball legend Jackie Robinson’s appearance as a “friendly witness” before HUAC in July 1949. Robinson was reluctant to testify and spent most of his time commenting on the difficulties that African-Americans faced in a racially discriminatory society. Robinson was strong in denouncing Jim Crow, but he also rebuked Robeson for his (misinterpreted) comments from the Paris Peace Congress.

      Years later, near the end of his life, Robinson expressed regret for allowing himself to be used by HUAC and other conservative forces in the persecution of Robeson. He indicated his increased respect for Robeson’s steadfast commitment in the continuing struggle against American racism. Goodman places Robinson’s problematic testimony in a nuanced historical context, and reveals the influence of Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers owner who brought Robinson into Major League Baseball in 1947. Rickey, who was a staunch anti-communist, clearly helped manipulate Robinson into serving as a believable and respected black celebrity in opposition to Robeson.

      The same year that Robinson denounced Robeson before HUAC, one of the most violent reactions against Robeson occurred in Peekskill, N.Y., where he had given an annual concert since 1946. The book describes the horrific events in detail. The local press ran hostile stories about Robeson, and local groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and various veterans organizations, called for anti-Robeson demonstrations because of his radical views and activism.

      When Robeson arrived in Peekskill that year, he found a massive mob, many shouting anti-Semitic and racist language. The mob threw rocks and attacked concertgoers. Robeson rescheduled the show and once again, ugly racist language and brutal mob violence, with the active complicity of local police, injured numbers of spectators. Robeson himself barely escaped the carnage. Later, Gov. Thomas Dewey claimed that communist agitators were responsible for the Peekskill riot, a grotesque cover-up of the deeply repressive political atmosphere of the early Cold War period.

      The most emotionally compelling chapter of “Paul Robeson: A Watched Man” involves his 1956 appearance before HUAC. Robeson was defiant and eloquent, often pointedly questioning his inquisitors about their questionable motivations and reactionary ideologies. Goodman shows meticulously how Robeson drew on his considerable acting talent to express his righteous contempt for a process that, in its essence, contradicted American ideals and constitutional standards.

      What Goodman only alludes to in his book is that Robeson testified before HUAC while he was in the midst of a severe emotional depression. Indeed, his courageous stand before the committee evoked positive responses from the progressive and black press, which lifted him temporarily from the emotional darkness that pervaded his later life. That aspect of Robeson’s life is often underplayed or omitted altogether in the growing literature about his life and work. In fact it is all the more remarkable that Robeson accomplished so much even while fighting and suffering from the effects of debilitating mental illness.

      This work is a splendid addition to Robeson scholarship. Though limited in scope, it nevertheless provides powerful insights into Robeson’s remarkable life of political engagement and activism. More ominously, it also reveals the pernicious impact of a social order determined to destroy its most effective and outspoken critics. That lesson should not be lost today.

      =========================================
      17. NIGERIA: ESCALATING COMMUNAL VIOLENCE
      Hundreds Killed Since December in North Central Region
      =========================================
      (Human Rights Watch - April 15, 2014)

      The aftermath of a bomb explosion on April 14 that killed more than 71 people in a bus station near Nigeria's capital city of Abuja.
      © 2014 Getty Images

      The lack of justice for years of violence resulting from inter-communal tensions has created a combustible situation. The government needs to ensure full criminal investigations and provide justice for the victims and their families.
      Daniel Bekele, Africa director

      (Abuja) – Escalating violence across five states in central Nigeria has killed more than 1,000 people since December 2013, Human Rights Watch said today. The failure of Nigerian authorities to investigate the attacks or bring those responsible to justice is likely to exacerbate the cycle of violence in the conflict-prone north central region.

      Communal violence, stoked by competition between local farming communities and nomadic herdsmen, has plagued this region for many years and is spreading to other states in northern Nigeria.

      “The lack of justice for years of violence resulting from inter-communal tensions has created a combustible situation,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “The government needs to ensure full criminal investigations and provide justice for the victims and their families.”

      Adding to the overall tension in the central region, a bomb explosion on April 14, 2014, killed more than 71 people and injured hundreds others in Nyanya, in the Abuja suburbs. The attack, occurring during an early morning peak period and at a usually crowded commuter motor park, appeared aimed at achieving a high casualty rate. Nyanya is in Nasarawa state, one of the states affected by communal violence, though it did not immediately seem to be connected to those conflicts.

      The recent conflicts have taken a very high toll in lives and livelihoods and led to the displacement of hundreds of people, who have sought refuge in neighboring urban areas.

      Human Rights Watch spoke to scores of displaced residents of affected communities camped at six locations in Makurdi, the capital of Benue, one of the affected states. The others are Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, and Taraba. Other northern states to which the violence is spreading include Zamfara and Katsina.

      In a December 2013 report, “‘Leave Everything to God’: Accountability for Inter-Communal Violence in Plateau and Kaduna States, Nigeria,” Human Rights Watch analyzed the pattern of violence that has engulfed two states in central Nigeria since 2010. The report documented how the lack of accountability for communal violence and mass murder led to preventable cycles of violence and reprisal killings in those states.

      The main causes of the violence appear to include struggles around livelihood and identity, particularly between sedentary farmers and nomadic pastoralists over access to grazing lands. An activist working on peace initiatives in the north central states told Human Rights Watch that some affected state governments were failing to impartially protect residents, siding with one group against the other. In other cases, the advocate said, state governments were using force to restore peace, but, instead of quelling violence, seemed to exacerbate it.

      Since mid-December, accusations of attacks by herdsmen against farmers in rural parts of Kaduna and Plateau states have intensified. On January 6, 2014, armed men described by residents as herdsmen attacked Bachit and Shonong communities in Riyom in Plateau State and killed an estimated 36 people. Attacks on Wase and Barkin Ladi communities in Plateau State killed 22 and 13 people respectively. In Kaura, part of Kaduna State, early morning raids by unidentified gunmen on February 3 and March 15 left 30 and 100 people dead respectively.

      On April 2, Nigerian media reported that soldiers in the southern Kaduna town of Kafanchan killed two young men who were part of a group of youths protesting perceived unfairness in the justice system. The demonstrators had been protesting based on fears of the release of a group of men who had allegedly been arrested at a military checkpoint with a truckload of weapons. The killings of the two youths set off widespread violence in the town.

      Benue State, with a majority agrarian population, has had some of the worst attacks, in Logo, Guma, Gwer West, Gwer East, and Agatu local government areas, where more than 321 people have been killed since early March. In a March 28 attack on several villages in Agatu, gunmen killed 19 people and abducted 15 others, including women and children. On March 25, gunmen killed more than 60 people in their beds in an early morning attack in Agena in Ikpayongo district of Gwer East local government area.

      A resident who spoke to Human Rights Watch said that when herdsmen set their town on fire, his brother was asleep and died in their burning house.

      Apparently in response to these attacks, on March 31 the Nigerian military announced a major internal security operation aimed at restoring peace in Benue, Nasarawa, and Plateau States. On April 3 security forces allegedly invaded the town of Keana in Nasarawa State, killing at least 30 Fulani people, mostly aged men who had gathered to pay their condolences at a home where a man had died three days earlier.

      While moves to provide better protection and security are needed, security forces should also take adequate steps to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those responsible for the violence that has claimed so many lives. In addition, it should investigate the allegation that security forces invaded the homes of, and killed, unarmed residents in Keana. In responding to the violence, the authorities should be evenhanded and impartial, while ensuring that the right to life of all is protected and crimes are investigated and prosecuted.

      “The security forces should not be creating greater insecurity in this volatile area,” Bekele said. “They should investigate violence by community residents and prevent their own forces from causing further harm.”

      Accounts from Benue State
      More than 1,300 people have taken refuge at the Local Government Education Authority (LGEA) primary school in Wurukum, Makurdi. They were displaced from Gbajimba, about 32 kilometers northeast of Makurdi, on the shores of the Benue River. Witnesses at the school told Human Rights Watch that on March 23, 2014, Fulani herdsmen and local Hausa/Kabawa residents razed their town. One said:

      It was on a Sunday, as I came out of church I heard sounds of gunshots coming from the bush around the town. I began to run toward the river but I saw our Kabawa and Hausa neighbors shooting and cutting people with machetes as they came in my direction. My father-in-law at 85 years old was too old to run and was shot. My brother fell and died without any bullet or machete touching him. I do not know what killed him. I, with the rest of my family, are lucky to have escaped.

      Officials of the camp said most of the 25 people killed in that attack were the very old and infirm who could not run.

      Displaced residents, predominantly farmers, camped at Saint Mary primary school, in north bank Makurdi, told Human Rights Watch that the local government failed to protect them from repeated attacks from unidentified gunmen. The attacks had forced more than 852 people taking shelter there to leave their villages and farms since January.

      About 270 people camping at the abandoned Otum Plastic factory fled the town of Adaka, near Makurdi, after more than three attacks in late 2013 in which much of the town was burned down. They told Human Rights Watch that herdsmen have seized their land. They have not been able to return to their homes or fields or even to bury the bodies of relatives killed in the attacks.

      Local farmers have also been involved in revenge killings against herdsmen. On March 27, 2014, seven Tiv men were arraigned at a Makurdi magistrate court, accused of killing two Fulani men and burning the truck they were using to transport cows near Gboko, in Benue State.

      Security Forces’ Abusive Response
      One witness to the security force killings in the town of Keana recalled that at about 10 a.m. she was at home receiving visitors expressing condolences over her father-in-law’s death when four military trucks pulled up to the house and began to shoot into the crowd. She hid in the compound for a while, but then saw the soldiers break the hands of a pregnant woman even as she was pleading with them to leave her. At that point, the witness ran out and managed to escape.

      The Nasarawa state secretary of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association told Human Rights Watch that the security forces came into town the previous night, but did not begin the killings until the following morning. He said he had personally attended the burials of the 30 people killed in the attack. He said that some criminal elements in the Fulani community have been involved in the violence and killings across northern Nigeria, but that “There is no reason why people should be killed in their houses by government troops who are supposed to protect them.”

      Recommendations
      Human Rights Watch renewed its earlier calls on the Nigerian government to:

      Establish and publicize clear boundaries for international and regional cattle routes and grazing reserves;
      Establish mechanisms to mediate between local farmers and nomadic herdsmen on the basis of recognizing and protecting the rights of all;
      Ensure that those responsible for mass killings, including security forces, are promptly investigated and prosecuted;
      Order a thorough review of the status and outcome of police investigations into communal violence in north central Nigeria; and
      Establish and train a mass crimes unit in the police force that can be quickly deployed to investigate mass crimes.


      _/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/_/

      South Asia Citizens Wire
      Buzz for secularism, on the dangers of fundamentalism(s), on
      matters of peace and democratisation in South
      Asia. Newsletter of South Asia Citizens Web:
      www.sacw.net/

      DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.
      =====================================