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SACW | May 16- June 3, 2008 / Dhaka's Mass Arrests / Sri Lanka: Violence, Media / Bangladesh -India: Friendship Express? / Pakistan's Bomb / India: State impunity

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | May 16 - June 3 , 2008 ... [1] Bangladesh: Arbitrary Arrests Can Never Strengthen Democracy (editorial, New Age) [2] Sri Lanka: (i)
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 2, 2008
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | May 16 - June 3 , 2008
      | Dispatch No. 2517 - Year 10 running

      [1] Bangladesh: Arbitrary Arrests Can Never
      Strengthen Democracy (editorial, New Age)
      [2] Sri Lanka:
      (i) Is there no end to the violence? (Shanie)
      (ii) Contradictory Positions on Media Freedom
      Encourage Impunity (National Peace Council)
      [3] Bangladesh-India: Trouble on the Friendship Express? (Antara Datta)
      [4] Pakistan: Has the bomb helped us? (M B Naqvi)
      [5] India: The saga of State impunity (K G Kannabiran)
      [6] India: Statement and charter of demands @ the
      seminar 'Scapegoats and Holy Cows' - The Indian
      State's 'Response' to Terrorism
      [7] International: Gender Imbalance of UN Human
      Rights Council Panel on Intercultural Dialogue -
      NGO Intervention
      [8] India: Withdraw FIR against Journalists in Ahmedabad (SAHMAT)
      [9] India: The Second Murder (Vir Sanghvi)
      [10] Announcements:
      - India-Pakistan: Themes Beyond Borders -
      Selections from Nikhil Chakravartty's Writings

      ______


      [1]

      New Age
      June 2, 2008

      Editorial
      ARBITRARY ARRESTS CAN NEVER STRENGTHEN DEMOCRACY

      WE ARE alarmed by the initiation of fresh drives
      by the military-controlled interim government to
      arrest grassroots politicians from around the
      country. Although the inspector general of police
      has claimed that these are routine drives to
      contain crime and have not been triggered by any
      political motive, it is evident from the
      identities of most of those detained thus far
      that the regime has decided once again to tighten
      the noose around the Awami League and the
      Bangladesh Nationalist Party. It is also probably
      not a coincidence that these drives come at a
      time when both the BNP and the Awami League have
      decided to pull out of planned dialogues with the
      government and have hinted at initiating
      movements to free their detained leaders and to
      bring to an end the ongoing state of emergency.
      Leaders of both parties have already condemned
      the new arrests and have stated that these are,
      in their opinion, nothing more than the latest
      attempts by the regime to frighten politicians
      into submission.

      Our anxiety about these fresh arrests stems
      from the fact that the current regime is doing
      nothing but making a bad situation worse. Already
      the country is reeling under a state of emergency
      that has suspended the fundamental rights of
      citizens as granted by our constitution, has put
      restrictions on the people's right to seek bail
      and to move the courts and has attempted to
      muzzle the free press and control the flow of
      information. The people are not only being
      governed by a regime that they did not chose and
      have little control over, they are being made to
      live as prisoners in their own land, unable to
      raise their voice or create a platform to protest
      even when the prices of essential commodities
      like food have gone nearly out of the reach of
      the vast majority.

      Under this repressive state of emergency, the
      government, during its prolonged tenure, have
      arrested some 440,000 people, according to a
      recent report of the UK-based Amnesty
      International. Besides, the 69 jails of the
      country are bursting at the seams as they are
      currently home to over 90,000 detainees,
      including the high-level politicians and
      businessmen who were the early targets of this
      regime. A spate of new stories in different
      newspapers has reported on the abysmal state
      within our prisons at present and a recent story
      in this paper reported that there are only 16
      doctors for the over 90,000 detainees in our
      prisons.

      The regime now apparently wants to add to that
      figure by arresting more politicians, although
      the focus seems to have shifted to grassroots
      level politicians who are essential for the
      parties to mobilise public support against the
      government and who would undoubtedly stand in the
      way of any plan by the government to set up a
      political platform at the grassroots through the
      holding of local government polls. However, the
      arbitrary arrest of politicians cannot and will
      not strengthen democracy. Hence, we would like to
      remind the government that instead of arresting
      more people in its endless quest to weaken the
      political parties in order to cling to power, it
      would do better to lift the suffocating state of
      emergency that has made us all prisoners in our
      own land and to hold parliamentary elections in
      order to allow the people to be governed by their
      elected representatives.


      _______


      [2] Sri Lanka

      (i)

      The Island
      May 31, 2008

      IS THERE NO END TO THE VIOLENCE?

      by Shanie

      The level of violence with its attendant
      abductions, targeted killings, disappearances,
      etc has once again reached a high after a period
      of lull. The bombings targeting civilians using
      public transport at Dehiwala, Piliyandala and
      Colombo Fort have been blamed on the LTTE. The
      LTTE was also undoubtedly responsible for the
      killing of a prominent civilian Maheswary
      Velayutham. She may have been working for the
      EPDP leader but was by no means a militant
      herself and was an unarmed civilian; and there is
      no evidence to suggest she had any connection
      with or even condoned the violence in Jaffna
      blamed on EPDP cadres. She was killed because she
      was a prominent civilian who dared to defy the
      LTTE.

      Like the LTTE, the Karuna/Pillayan Group also
      continues with its violence against civilians,
      targeting anyone who defies them in the East.
      Even the resurgence of abductions and
      disappearances outside the North and East is
      blamed on this Group with or without the
      connivance but at least enjoying the protection
      of the security forces. Some of the abducted
      persons have been released, but some who are
      found to have had any connection with those
      opposed to the Karuna/Pillayan Group are paying
      the price. That is also precisely why the Muslims
      in the Eastern province are being targeted by
      Pillayan. They dared to vote for the SLMC. The
      Government is making a huge mistake by allowing
      the security forces to turn a blind eye to the
      systematic harassment of civilians who dissent
      from the politics of Pillayan. In due time, this
      will come to haunt President Mahinda Rajapaksa
      and the SLFP. The SLFP has enough senior leaders
      with the political sense to realise the dangers
      of supporting an outfit like that of Pillayan. If
      they want to survive as a significant force in
      Sri Lankan politics, then the SLFP must distance
      themselves from Pillayan - now, before it is too
      late.

      The security forces themselves have not been
      blameless. The recent claymore mine attacks
      within LTTE-held areas in the Vanni, the
      intimidation of media personnel and some
      abductions and disappearances are directly or
      indirectly blamed on the security forces. The
      'war on terror' or even the fact that the LTTE is
      in gross violation of human rights by killing
      dissidents cannot justify the extra-judicial
      killing of any civilian. In any case, Governments
      must not sink to the level of 'terrorist' groups.

      One simply fails to understand the reasoning
      behind the direct targeting of civilians. What
      did the LTTE hope to achieve by the horrendous
      act of killing innocent civilians returning home
      from work in a train? What does the Pillayan
      Group (or their minders) hope to achieve by
      intimidating and alienating the Muslims in the
      Batticaloa District? What is hoped to be achieved
      by the indiscriminate attacks in the Vanni
      allegedly carried out by the Deep Penetration
      Unit of the security forces?

      Only the Government can find a way out of this
      impasse. It must take the civil society into
      confidence and invite them to mediate in bringing
      these senseless loss of lives - civilian and
      military - to an end. That is the first step and
      that must lead on to a political settlement that
      ensures justice for everyone.

      AHRC as defenders of human rights

      D. Siriratne from Ambalangoda takes issue with
      this columnist for our reference last week to the
      Asian Human Rights Commission which has been
      taking up violations of human rights throughout
      the region, and in particular for the initiative
      they took in the case of young Rizana Nafeek in
      Saudi Arabia. He refers to five members of our
      security forces being held captive by the LTTE
      and asks what the AHRC has done in their case.
      That is a question which this columnist cannot
      answer for the AHRC. But Siriratne must know that
      there is a difference between civilians and
      combatants in a war. The treatment of prisoners
      of war is governed by the Geneva Convention. Even
      though the LTTE may not be signatories to the
      protocols of the Convention, we would expect them
      to honour the Geneva Convention. We would also
      expect them to allow, in the absence of the SLMM
      now, the ICRC to have access to these young men
      in their custody. If, as Siriratne says, they are
      being held incommunicado, then that is totally
      unacceptable.

      I hope Siriratne is also concerned about the
      hundreds of non-combatant civilians who are being
      held in custody without any charges being brought
      against them. They and their families, like the
      prisoners of war, also go through trauma. The
      same goes for the many who are even today being
      abducted and some disappearing without a trace.
      Thousands remain in camps for the internally
      displaced persons. Siriratne surely also knows
      that all parties to this conflict - the security
      forces, the LTTE and the other para-military
      armed groups - are guilty of all these violations
      of human rights. I am sure he will apply the same
      standard in judging the violations by all parties.

      Organisations like the Asian Human Rights
      Commission, the University Teachers for Human
      Rights (Jaffna), Amnesty International, Human
      Rights Watch, and various other human rights
      organisations have for decades been campaigning
      for the observance of human rights and the rule
      of law. They have not been selective in their
      condemnation of human rights violations, as many
      of us with our own prejudices and partisanship
      are. Terrorism and deliberate violations of human
      rights cannot be justified under any
      circumstances and it will do our country good if
      we have a strong citizens' movement that will
      lobby all parties to the conflict to respect
      human rights.

      SCOPP and civilian deaths

      Rajiva Wijesinhe, Secretary General of the
      Secretariat for the Co-ordination of the Peace
      Process, also takes issue with this column for
      stating that the Peace Secretariat was in a state
      of denial as regards civilian deaths. He states
      that the Peace Secretariat has not denied that
      there have been civilian killings, nor indeed
      that there have been civilian deaths in the
      course of military operations. He adds that at
      the Peace Secretariat, they monitor all reports
      of civilian deaths to the extent of seeking
      clarification if explanations seem insufficient.
      We are certainly glad to hear this because this
      is the job which a Peace Secretariat is expected
      to do. Unfortunately, none of it has come out in
      the many Press statements that Wijesinhe has been
      issuing in the name of the Press Secretariat.

      In one of the recent Press Statements dated 22nd
      May 2008, Wijesinhe was critical of former
      President Jimmy Carter and Bishop Desmond Tutu
      for the statements they issued and titled his
      piece invoking Coleridge's poem on the ancient
      mariner shooting the albatross. Referring to
      criticisms of indiscriminate attacks on
      civilians, Wijesinhe states that 'their on
      reports could only cite one civilian deaths in
      the course of operations - and in that instance,
      the deaths were caused by mortar locating radars
      with the HRW report itself testifying to the
      presence of armed LTTE cadres and the existence
      of bunkers in the refugee camp that was fired
      upon.' Now could Wijesinhe, who is familiar with
      the nuances of the English language, explain if
      that statement accepts or denies civilian
      killings. Is he not saying that only one instance
      of civilian deaths has been cited and in that
      particular case there was justification for the
      killing? Could he cite any statement that he has
      issued, where he accepts that there have been
      unacceptable civilian deaths. If not, is that not
      being in a state of denial?

      During the course of the last couple of weeks,
      Wijesinhe has issued a statement correctly
      condemning the killing of Maheswary Velautham, a
      civilian, almost certainly by the LTTE. He has
      also issued a statement correctly condemning the
      use of child soldiers by the LTTE. But why has he
      not issued a statement on the use of child
      soldiers by the Karuna/Pillayan Group? (He must
      know that the recent token release of a few child
      soldiers is as hollow as the earlier token
      release of a few child soldiers by the LTTE.) And
      why was no statement issued by the Peace
      Secretariat on the
      deaths/disappearances/abductions of other
      civilians blamed on the security forces and/or
      paramilitary groups?

      Why was no statement issued on the discovery of
      mass graves at Kebbitigollawa? I trust he does
      not see his role in the Peace Secretariat as that
      of only being a propagandist for the government.
      If, as he suggests in his response, he is engaged
      in silent diplomacy with the Government, then
      that diplomacy will be better served if his
      public statements refrain from selectively
      justifying violations of human rights.

      (ii)

      National Peace Council of Sri Lanka
      12/14 Purana Vihara Road
      Colombo 6
      Tel: 2818344, 2854127, 2819064
      Tel/Fax:2819064


      30.05.08
      Media Release

      CONTRADICTORY POSITIONS ON MEDIA FREEDOM ENCOURAGE IMPUNITY

      The silencing of journalists by killing and
      intimidating them has become a major problem in
      Sri Lanka. The National Peace Council condemns
      the killing of Paranirupasingam Devakumar who is
      the ninth journalist to be killed in the past two
      years. We are appalled at the brutal manner of
      his death by waylaying him as he was traveling
      and hacking him to death. This killing comes soon
      after the brutal assault and torture of senior
      journalist Keith Noyahr in Colombo.

      International experience has shown that a key
      component of any political solution is its
      acceptance by the people of the country. It
      through public awareness creation, in which the
      media plays a central role, that the people's
      mandate for a sustainable political solution can
      be found. The National Peace Council notes that
      the government continues to stand by the position
      that it is for a political solution to the ethnic
      conflict and the ongoing military operations are
      meant to facilitate that political solution.

      In this context, the killing of Paranirupasingam
      Devakumar, who worked for a national television
      network in Jaffna will be a further constraint on
      the free flow of information from the war zones
      of the north. We reiterate our concern about the
      continued incarceration of senior journalist J S
      Tissaianayagam, whose arrest and detention now
      continues into its third month without charges
      being made against him in a court of law.

      We are perturbed by statements made by senior
      Defence Ministry officials that the military and
      its leadership should not be criticized by the
      media and that journalists working for the state
      controlled media had no right to criticize the
      government. While welcoming the Media Minister's
      statement that this is not government policy, we
      ask the government to ensure a unified media
      policy as contradictory statements may be taken
      by various groups as a further license to behave
      with impunity towards the media.

      The National Peace Council expresses solidarity
      with those journalists who are courageously
      committed to revealing realities from the ground
      and to risking their lives in the service of
      truth. We express our admiration of the
      willingness of media personnel to continue their
      work in the face of such fatal risks. We call on
      the government to put in place protection
      mechanisms that would ensure the safety of
      journalists in Sri Lanka and the right of
      citizens to access a diverse media that provides
      free and accurate reporting on national affairs.

      Media Director
      On behalf of the Governing Council


      _______


      [3]

      Economic and Political Weekly
      May 24, 2008

      TROUBLE ON THE FRIENDSHIP EXPRESS?

      by Antara Datta

      The Maitreyi (Friendship) Express, the rail
      service between India and Bangladesh that was
      restarted recently evoked nostalgia and hopes for
      stronger ties between the two nations. However,
      it will take more than a rail link to deal with
      fears of infiltration by Bangladeshi Muslims that
      is being used in aggressive political rhetoric.

      On April 14, this year the Bengali new year was
      ushered in with the reopening of a train link
      between India and Bangladesh after a gap of
      nearly four decades. As the Maitreyi (Friendship)
      Express chugged out of the Kolkata railway
      station in Chitpur bound for the Dhaka
      Cantonment, there were those who argued that it
      would strengthen bilateral relations between the
      two neighbours. The biweekly train that has the
      capacity to carry over 350 passengers and takes
      about 12 hours (including the time taken at the
      border), parallels the Samjhauta Express that
      runs between Lahore and Delhi.1 The train link
      between Dhaka and Kolkata is not the first train
      between the two regions. Prior to 1965 there were
      three trains - the East Bengal Mail, East Bengal
      Express, and the Barishal Express that serviced
      the two halves of the region. These were stopped
      following the 1965 war. Freight services were
      resumed in 1972 but were later discontinued. A
      bus service between Kolkata and Dhaka began in
      1999 and there are daily flights between New
      Delhi and Kolkata and Dhaka and Chittagong. But
      it was the opening of this train link that had
      many waxing nostalgic about a time when the two
      Bengals were not separated by manmade borders2. A
      refugee from East Pakistan, Janatosh Pal spoke of
      how he was six when he left for India but that
      Kalindi, the village he was born in Bangladesh,
      "remained my motherland".3 Such sentiment though
      was not echoed by all. A group calling itself the
      Nikhil Banga Nagarik Sangha (All Bengal Citizens'
      Committee) opposed the opening up of a train link
      with a country they accuse of persecuting Hindus.

      Deep Insecurities

      What then does this new train symbolise? Does it
      mark a metaphorical coming together of people
      separated by borders they did not create, or is
      the reality far more complicated? A closer look
      at the negotiations and controversies
      demonstrates that bilateral relations between
      Bangladesh and India will take more than just a
      train link to heal. Given the sensitive nature of
      discourse regarding any movement of human beings
      across this fractured border, it is unlikely that
      the train will heal deeper prejudices and
      insecurities.

      When negotiations about the train first opened
      there was friction between the two countries when
      Bangladesh refused to accept India's proposal for
      a 800-metre fence from the border on either side.
      India wanted a box like fence from the border
      crossing point to Gede in the Nadia district.
      Bangladesh objected to both the construction of
      the fence as well as the terming of any such
      "fortification" as a "fence".4 India's demand for
      a fence was a reflection of the fear that the
      train could be used by illegal infiltrators
      including terrorists.5 The entire discourse about
      illegal infiltration from Bangladesh has several
      con- notations. On the one hand, the Bharatiya
      Janata Party (BJP) has protested in the past that
      vast numbers of Bangladeshis are "flooding" the
      Indian mainland particularly along the eastern
      border and changing India's demographic structure.

      In April 1992 the BJP national executive passed a
      resolution blaming the Congress
      Party for not taking action against illegal
      infiltration. There was a call for a rally in
      Calcutta in April 1993 and the BJP issued a
      direct threat that they were willing to target
      and expel Bangladeshi workers. This rhetoric
      became particularly strident and violent in
      Mumbai with the Shiv Sena picking on a
      non-Marathi, non-Hindu "other", in this case
      Muslim Bengalis whom they accused of being
      "infiltrators" from Bangladesh. In April 1995
      they threatened a large-scale deportation of such
      illegals and carried out another attempt to do so
      in April 1998 which provoked international
      tension between Bangladesh and India.6

      'Infiltrators' and 'Refugees'

      This is not to say that there has not been
      illegal migration from across the border,
      particularly of a labour force that does not
      accept the sanctity of the international
      boundary. India has in the past repeatedly
      expressed concern about the presence of illegal
      immigrants and the porous border between the two
      countries. However what is striking about this
      political discourse is that only Muslims who
      cross the border illegally are "infiltrators" and
      deserve to be sent back, whereas Hindus, who
      cross the border, more often than not, illegally,
      are "refugees" who deserve the sympathy and
      protection of the Indian nation. Such a belief
      mirrors the two- nation theory that saw east and
      west Pakistan as a homeland for the Muslims, and
      assumes that India then would be a similar
      homeland for Hindus.

      Indian law does not recognise "refugees" as a
      distinct legal category. All who cross a border
      into India are either citizens and thereby have a
      valid right to do so, or "aliens" who fall under
      the 1946 Foreigner's Act. Any non-citizen who
      enters the country without a visa is technically
      an "illegal infiltrator".8 But in both popular
      and political discourse the term "infiltrator"
      has come to signify Muslims from Bangladesh who
      cross the border into Bengal and Assam, usually
      in search of employment. This then has two
      implications. First, it assumes, that all Hindus
      across the world (and particularly those from
      Bangladesh) deserve refuge in India as legal
      residents whether or not they cross the border
      legally. Second, it marks out the Muslim who
      crosses illegally both as an illegal migrant and
      as a Muslim infiltrator - he is marked both by
      his legal and communal status. It implies that
      the influx of Muslims infiltrates and infects the
      body politic that would otherwise be "pure" and
      free of such contamination.

      The fear that the Maitreyi Express would become a
      conduit for terror and illegal workers meant that
      there had to be extensive checks at the border
      areas leading to significant delays. Almost five
      of the 12 hours of the journey is spent by
      passengers at the border waiting for immigration
      checks to be completed.

      These delays are perhaps a result of bureaucratic
      incompetence but they also reflect a certain
      official and popular unease about a border that
      can be seen as a "central space where the
      relationships between state and citizenship,
      between nation and territory, were and are being
      constantly tested and negotiated".9
      Post-Partition the eastern frontier was not a
      closed defined space.

      The government of India in 1947, as in 2008,
      remained uneasy about the people who were
      crossing this frontier. Jawaharlal Nehru and the
      Congress high command did not think that
      conditions in east Bengal were particularly grave
      and that the flight of the Hindu refugees was a
      product of baseless and imaginary fears, which
      meant that the human flow could be halted,
      perhaps even reversed.10 The Nehru-Liaqat Pact
      of April 8, 1950 provided for the return of
      migrants on both sides to their original
      homelands.11

      The first part of the pact was concerned with
      ensuring equal citizenship rights for minorities
      in both countries while the second part attempted
      to ensure that such migrants had freedom of
      movement along with protection in transit and if
      they decided to return to their homes by December
      31, 1950, they would be entitled to the
      restoration of their immovable property, house or
      land.12 Those refugees who came from East
      Pakistan/Bengal between October 1946 and March
      1958 were termed "old migrants" (a total of 41.17
      lakhs) and were eligible for aid but those
      crossing the border between April 1958 and
      December 1963 were not eligible for assistance.
      In 1952 a passport system was introduced and the
      fear that the border would be permanently closed
      pushed up migration. In 1956 the Indian
      authorities tried to install a barrier of permits
      and migration certificates and finally they tried
      to deter people by not recognising them as
      refugees and refusing them rehabilitation.13
      Following riots in 1964, refugees who crossed the
      border between January 1964 and March 1971 were
      termed "new migrants" (a total of 11.14 lakhs)
      and relief was to be given only to those who
      agreed to settle outside West Bengal. The 6.1
      lakhs in West Bengal were not eligible for relief
      and rehabilitation benefits.14 The
      bureaucratisation of the border area and the
      classification of refugees however masked the
      reality that the border was an interstitial space
      that many navigated by evading officialdom
      without needing passports and visas.

      Much has been written about how the treatment of
      refugees on the eastern frontier was markedly
      different from those in the east - how refugees
      in the east were not seen as "true refugees", as
      opposed to the "deserving poor", the hardworking
      Punjabis, and how the state functioned as a
      benevolent despot deciding what was best for the
      refugee.15 Haimanti Roy has argued that these
      refugees were forced to claim and proclaim their
      victimhood before they could claim their
      nationality.16 What this particular line of
      argument demonstrates is that in the
      post-Partition period, the concern about the
      movement of people was not a communal question
      since the bulk of the refugees were Hindu. By
      the time of the refugee crisis of 1971 though,
      the public and official tone had changed
      somewhat. The government of India keen to
      emphasise that those who crossed in 1971 were not
      going to be considered for rehabilitation, that
      they were "foreigners" and would be treated as
      such.17 A series of semantic strategies in naming
      and labelling the refugees ensured that this was
      emphasised. However, in popular discourse as the
      number of refugees multiplied, there were
      increasing concerns about the communal nature of
      the problem. The concern was no longer about the
      relief and rehabilitation that had not been
      provided for East Bengali refugees but about the
      changing communal configurations.

      Letters to the Amrita Bazar Patrika in late April
      and early May 1971, less than a month after
      refugee crisis had assumed serious proportions,
      reflected this concern. S A Basu from Nagpur
      wrote to express his displeasure at the growing
      numbers of Muslim refugees predicting that, "The
      hope that these refugees will return to their own
      homes as soon as normalcy is restored to East
      Bengal is rather a faint hope".18 A month later
      an anonymous letter to the editor pointed out
      that Hindus in East Bengal had been attacked by
      those Muslims who had subsequently become
      refugees. "India is now thoughtlessly allowing
      those very people to come to West Bengal in their
      millions...Surely India is overdoing charity and
      imperilling (sic) the interests of her own
      people." Suggesting that there was an insidious
      plan to plant Muslim teachers in West Bengal
      schools in order to subvert and Islamicise the
      education system, the anonymous reader predicted
      that the "Muslim escapees" would soon turn West
      Bengal into a Muslim majority area.19

      In official discourse while the communal
      composition of the refugees was never publicised,
      it is believed that Hindus made up a bulk of the
      refugees.20 The government was sensitive to any
      attempts to publicise and potentially exploit the
      communal composition of the refugees. The journal
      Mother India was prevented from publishing an
      editorial on the subject of Muslim refugees
      titled 'Refugees or Trojan Horses' that would
      have suggested that Muslim refugees had been sent
      to deliberately destabilise the country. The
      government of India declared that this would be
      "prejudicial to the maintenance of communal
      harmony and were likely to affect public order"
      and prohibited the publication of the editorial
      under Section 6 of the Criminal and Election Laws
      (Amendment) Act of 1969.21

      Communalisation of the Border

      As a result of this fluid border the fear of the
      "infiltrator" has now become an almost accepted
      part of the political discourse about relations
      between India and Bangladesh. This unease is a
      product of actual illegal infiltration,
      aggressive political rhetoric and what can be
      described as the "communalisation" of the border.
      On the day the train set off, a group of
      protestors representing the Nikhil Banga Nagarik
      Sangha disrupted its passage at Aranghata in the
      Nadia district. The police blamed the group for
      planting seven crude bombs on the tracks that
      were defused a day before the inauguration of the
      train. The bombs were found at Bikramtola near
      Dhantola by local residents who then informed the
      police. The bombs were not powerful enough to
      cause any significant damage and were seen as a
      political statement by the group (which denied
      any association with the bombs).22 The leader of
      the group, Subhas Chakrabarti, described the
      train as a "cruel joke" and asked "Why should
      democratic and secular India seek to develop such
      intimate links with Islamic Bangladesh, where
      Hindus continue to suffer huge torture,
      intimidation and dishonour".23 The group then has
      two distinct demands - first that Bangladeshi
      Hindus who have been tortured be rehabilitated
      properly in India. Next, that India take
      responsibility for the plight of Hindus in
      Bangladesh and ensure that it forms a key part of
      bilateral relations. Such demands demonstrate how
      the refugee/infiltration/ migrant issue remains a
      thorn in the side of both countries. On the one
      hand, groups such as the Sangha locate them-
      selves specifically within the Indian nation
      state and demand rehabilitation from it, and yet,
      they claim rehabilitation and assistance for
      those, who in the eyes of the state ought to be
      seen as "foreigners". Just as the discourse about
      the Muslim migrant becoming a terrorist
      infiltrator while taking away scarce jobs from
      Indians was a concern voiced by the Sangha,
      similarly the Hindu migrant was seen as a
      legitimate refugee worthy of the protection of
      the Indian state. Thus, in such a discourse, the
      Hindu is twice disadvantaged - first, he is being
      "swamped" by illegal Muslims from across the
      border, and second, he is denied the rights that
      he deserves both as a refugee, and as a victim of
      oppression by the Indian state.

      It is patently illogical to suggest that illegal
      migrants attempting to sneak across a national
      boundary would use a train that stops for nearly
      four hours to check for visas. The less than
      stellar record of the train since its inception
      however suggests that this fear, however un
      founded, will not come to fruition. There have
      been very few takers for the Friendship Express
      and passengers have cited the difficulty in
      booking tickets, the long wait at the border and
      lack of publicity about the train as contributing
      factors. Despite the yearning for the past of
      those like Janatosh Pal who would like to return
      to a homeland they left behind nearly six decades
      ago, such nostalgia about the movement of people
      across the two halves of Bengal is only one part
      of the story about the Maitreyi Express. In fact,
      the rumblings about the ill-treatment of refugees
      and fears about infiltration indicate that it
      will take more than a train to mollify the unease
      about the flow of humanity that has and continues
      to cross the Bengal border. As long as there
      remain disgruntled Hindu refugees in West Bengal
      and masses in the east seeking a better life
      across the border there will be more than a few
      hiccups along the way for the train of friendship.


      Notes
      1 'Kolkata-Dhaka Moitree Express Flagged
      Off', The Times of India, April 14, 2008.
      2 'The Train Next Door', The Telegraph, April 17, 2008.
      3 Subir Bhaumik, 'Dhaka-Calcutta Train Link
      Resumes', BBC News, April 14, 2008.
      4 Nishit Dholabhai, 'Friendship Express
      Runs into a Fence', The Telegraph, November 2,
      2007.
      5 'Train to Bangladesh Caught in Row over
      Wire- Mesh', The Deccan Herald, October 3, 2007.
      6 Michael Gillan, 'Refugees or Infiltrators? The
      Bharatiya Janata Party and 'Illegal' Migration
      from Bangladesh', Asian Studies Review, 26/1
      (March 2002).
      7 Government of India, Ministry of External
      Affairs, 'India Bangladesh Political and Economic
      Relations' (April 2008).
      8 B S Chimni, 'Status of Refugees in India:
      Strategic Ambiguity', in Ranabir Sammadar (ed),
      Refugees and the State: Practices of Asylum and
      Care in India - 1947-2000, Sage, New Delhi, 2003.
      9 Haimanti Roy, 'Citizenship and National
      Identity in Post-Partition Bengal, 1947-65',
      University
      of Cincinnati, Ohio, 2006, unpublished PhD
      dissertation, 17.
      10 Joya Chatterji, 'Rights or Charity?
      Government and Refugees: The Debate over Relief
      and Reha- bilitation in West Bengal, 1947-1950'
      in Suvir Kaul
      (ed), Partition of Memory, Permanent Black,
      New Delhi, 2001, pp 74-110.
      11 Committee of Review of Rehabilitation
      Work in West Bengal, Ministry of Labour and
      Rehabilitation, Department of Rehabilitation,
      'Report on Conferment of Right and Title to Land
      on Dis- placed Persons from Erstwhile East
      Pakistan in West Bengal and Remission of Type
      Loans, 12th Report', 1973.
      12 Jhuma Sanyal, Making of a New Space, Ratna Prakashan, Kolkata, 2003.
      13 Nilanjana Chatterjee, 'Midnight's
      Unwanted Children: East Bengali Refugees and the
      Politics
      of Rehabilitation', Brown University, 1992,
      un published PhD dissertation, p 35.
      14 Ministry of Supply and Rehabilitation,
      Govern- ment of India, 'Report of the Working
      Group on the Residual Problem of Rehabilitation
      in West Bengal' (March 1976).
      15 Joya Chatterji, op cit.
      16 Haimanti Roy, op cit
      17 The exact instructions for the
      registration of refu- gees read like this:
      "Refugees from East Bengal should be got
      registered under the Foreinger's Act, 1946
      according to the instructions of the Ministry of
      Home Affairs to all State Governments and they
      are required to obtain residence permit for stay
      at the place where registered for a period of
      three months. After registration if any refugee
      desires to leave the present place of residence
      unauthorisedly he should be handed over to the
      police for violation of the provision of the
      Foreigner's Act". Government of India, Minsitry
      of Labour and Rehabilitation, Branch Secretariat,
      'Administrative Instructions for Transit Releif
      Camps for Refugees from East Bengal' (1971) 12.
      18 The Amrita Bazar Patrika, April 29, 1971.
      19 The Amrita Bazar Patrika, May 21, 1971.
      20 United Nations High Commision for Refugees,
      The State of the World's Refugees, UNHCR, 2000,
      66.
      21 Rajya Sabha Debates, Vol LXXVIII, No 4, July 22, 1971, 93.
      22 'Bag of Bombs near Maitreyee Tracks', The Telegraph, April 14, 2008.
      23 Subir Bhaumik, 'Excitement Mounts over
      Train Link', BBC News, April 9, 2008.

      _______


      [4]

      The News International
      May 28, 2008

      HAS THE BOMB HELPED US?

      by M B Naqvi

      Today is the tenth anniversary of Pakistan's test
      explosion of nuclear weapons in Chagai ordered by
      then prime minister Mian Nawaz Sharif. The tests
      were in response to India's actions of May 11
      when it tested five nuclear devices.

      Let's get one thing clear. All test explosions
      are basically military threats to the enemy: On
      May 11 and 13, 1998, India was threatening to
      nuke Pakistan if it did not stop its proxy war in
      Indian-held Kashmir. Pakistan's reply was, We too
      will nuke you; come on. Both India and Pakistan
      paid a price in sanctions that in fact hurt
      Pakistan more than they did India.

      A second truth about the Bomb is that it
      unavoidably causes its intended enemy to reply in
      kind and a competitive build up of atomic
      weaponry ensues. Western bomb-making was aimed at
      communist powers. Nobody could mistake that
      communists' nukes were aimed at Western targets.
      Israeli nukes are meant to annihilate Arab states
      or Iran. India's enemy remains ambiguous: it
      could be China or Pakistan. This mystery is
      intended. But irrespective of what L K Advani,
      the BJP's prime minister-in-waiting, may say,
      circumstantial evidence suggested that the BJP
      decision in 1998 was Pakistan-centred.

      Anyhow, Pakistanis should make honest
      cost-benefit analysis of the Bomb. Why Pakistan
      decided to have atomic weapons should not be
      difficult to understand. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto
      meant what he said when he said that "we will eat
      grass" but have the Bomb. What he said has
      happened because the people of this country are
      close to doing just that. It is time to ascertain
      the costs and benefits that it has given to
      Pakistan's security. Pakistan achieved the
      ability to enrich uranium in 1984. By 1986 it was
      able to threaten India with a possible nuclear
      response if Operation Brass Tacks grew into an
      invasion. Next came the Kargil adventure in
      which, the Americans inform us, Pakistan readied
      its missiles with nuclear warheads and asked
      India not to go too far. However, Nawaz Sharif
      managed to extricate Pakistani troops from those
      heights with American help. Far from being an
      achievement, it was a political and military
      defeat despite Pakistan's nuclear arsenal.

      The Agra talks are irrelevant here, but 2002 is
      not. That year the Vajpayee government threatened
      an all-out invasion and sent the Indian army on
      the borders in ready-to-attack mode. Again
      Pakistan threatened some 13 times in the first
      few months that it would launch nuclear weapons
      if India's troops crossed the international
      border - and India refrained from doing that. But
      overall judgement on the matter should be based
      on several factors: effective American mediation
      and that Delhi's purpose was to coerce Pakistan
      into giving up its proxy war in Kashmir. Finally,
      the Indians got what they wanted: a firm promise
      from Pakistan that the mujahideen would not be
      allowed to cross over into Indian-controlled
      Kashmir, with probable American guarantees.

      This is not a glorious record in terms of
      national security; Pakistan has been
      unsuccessfully seeking concessions out of India
      since 2004 in negotiations. The fact of the
      matter is that the Bomb has helped neither in war
      nor in peace time.

      In all the above cases the Indians knew that
      Pakistan had the Bomb. Also, India's generals
      must have known that there is no defence against
      nuclear weapons and if Pakistan had launched its
      arsenal the losses would have been unacceptable.
      How could they then dare to blatantly threaten
      Pakistan in 2002? And the answer to that is that
      they were obviously not overly afraid of the
      Pakistani Bomb. Perhaps, by 2002, if not 1999,
      the Indians reasoned that the maximum Pakistan
      can do is to take out a few Indian cities? Let
      it. But India, with a second-strike capability,
      could retaliate decisively. Pakistan comprises
      seven or eight urban-industrial centres and India
      must have felt that it could wipe out all of
      them. Hence, can any Pakistani government or
      general really take the risk of launching nuclear
      weapons against India, knowing that in
      consequence most of Pakistan could be destroyed?
      Thus, Pakistan's Bomb has amounted to what one
      could call a bluff.

      And with this the much-hyped deterrent value of
      nuclear weapons has been dealt a mortal blow. The
      only plus point was in 1986 when Pakistan
      threatened India with a nuclear strike and the
      Indians retreated. But that has not prevented
      India from credibly threatening Pakistan with a
      conventional invasion, in full confidence of
      gaining a victory and knowing that Pakistan, when
      the chips are down, would not nuke India. Thus,
      India's conventional superiority again becomes
      relevant. In that sense, our costly nuclear
      arsenal is more or less irrelevant for our
      national security, if not completely a minus
      point.

      Politically, Pakistan has paid a huge price. Far
      from being an important or respected country, it
      is now seen as an American satellite. The kind of
      micro-managing that the Americans are doing in
      Pakistan politics is an abject lesson. Besides,
      minor EU countries continue advising it what to
      do and what to avoid in forming a government
      after an election. How much lower can it sink? As
      for economics, look at the state of our economy
      today. How does having nuclear weapons help us in
      any way - with a massive current account deficit
      and rampant inflation? Those who think that the
      cost of the arms race with India does not play a
      key role in all of this are sadly mistaken. Since
      resources are limited, those that are diverted to
      the upkeep of the nuclear arsenal and the defence
      budget means that less are available for
      socio-economic development.

      It is time that Islamabad rids itself of its
      nuclear arsenal - in the responsible that for
      instance South Africa has done. Even the size of
      the conventional army is too big for a country
      like Pakistan. Leveraged by help from the US
      (which allows the latter to achieve its own
      geo-political aims), the army continues to
      threaten democracy because of its repeated
      interventions.


      The writer is a veteran journalist and freelance columnist.

      ______


      [5]

      rediff.com

      THE SAGA OF STATE IMPUNITY

      by K G Kannabiran

      May 28, 2008
      Less than a year after the Chhattisgarh
      government arrested Binayak Sen, the general
      secretary of the People's Union for Civil
      Liberties, PUCL, another PUCL member, Ajay T G,
      has been arrested on charges of being a Maoist
      sympathiser.

      The real question underlying these arrests is not
      of guilt or innocence, but rather, how far can
      the State go in harassing human rights activists
      who challenge it. So many civil liberties
      activists, colleagues of mine, have been killed
      by the state and their deaths left unaccounted
      for that I am beginning to despair.

      Binayak Sen: A people's doctor

      Dr Binayak Sen is a doctor focused on providing
      medical and health access to the poor. He
      graduated first in his class from CMC, Vellore,
      and has been practicing in Chhattisgarh for
      around 25 years.

      Binayak, along with other activists of that area,
      established a workers hospital at Dalli-Rajhara.
      He did not know that as a people's doctor, his
      work could be sedition, could be conspiracy to
      wage war against a lawfully established
      government.

      He extended medical health facilities to the
      impoverished men, women and children living in
      Chhattisgarh, which the government of
      Chattisgarh, despite its Constitutional mandate,
      was unable or unwilling to do. If Binayak Sen's
      attempt to fulfill the demands of the
      Constitution of India is an offence under the
      law, then, of course, he does not have any
      defence!

      One of the 'crimes' charged against Binayak is
      that he visited Narayan Sanyal, a 70-year-old
      undertrial prisoner and an alleged Maoist in
      Raipur Central Jail a number of times and acted
      as his courier. The truth is that Binayak met him
      to assess his health condition and his desire to
      get legal aid, as is Sanyal's right under law.

      Binayak applied for permission every time he
      visited Sanyal and there was never any demur by
      either the authorities or the intelligence
      service at any point of time. Now Binayak's
      efforts to try and provide an undertrial with
      medical and legal aid, efforts made in full
      compliance with the demands of the authorities,
      are a crime!

      It seems that the law in this country is now
      employed more as a trap, than as an instrument of
      discipline; as a method of inculcating the habit
      of unquestioning obedience to those in power.

      Ajay T G: The incarceration of another PUCL activist

      On May 4, 2008, the Chhattisgarh government
      arrested another PUCL activist, Ajay T G, on
      similarly spurious charges. Ajay has worked with
      Professor Jonathan Parry, a world renowned social
      anthropologist at the London [Images] School of
      Economics, and also with Professor Murli
      Natarajan, who teaches anthropology at William
      Paterson University in New Jersey.

      In September 2005, Ajay started an organisation,
      Drksakshi, aiming to provide a dignified
      educational environment for young girls from
      extremely impoverished families who live in an
      urban slum in Bhilai. By providing the nutritious
      meals and regular health check-ups, Ajay and his
      small team at Drksakshi have given some dignity
      and positive vision to all the children.

      For this work, Ajay now stands accused by the
      state of being a Maoist sympathiser!

      The Maoist movement: A political solution or a law and order issue?

      In the absence of Constitutional governance, the
      formal structures listed in the Constitution of
      India have no impact on the struggle for
      equality, or on the quest for justice in all its
      facets, and do not provide any possibility of
      social transformation leading to the improvement
      of the living conditions of 80 per cent of the
      population.

      Under these conditions, movements of varied sorts
      arise. The Maoist movement in Chhattisgarh aiming
      to overthrow the exploitative order is one of
      them. The state treats this as a law and order
      problem, and entrusts it to the police and its
      intelligence wing, granting them enormous
      impunity, and total immunity for all violent
      deeds.

      If political movements are dealt with as criminal
      acts, without reference to law and legality, what
      meaning does our democracy have?

      As a general secretary of PUCL, Binayak Sen
      opposed the destruction of households and
      displacement of tribal habitats in the name of
      Salwa Judum or police combing operations in the
      guise of searching for Maoists. Defenders of
      human rights do not have to support the politics
      of the targeted, and such defenders often do not,
      but they certainly must oppose the use of violent
      methods and of the kind of impunity that has been
      sanctioned to the state law enforcement agencies.

      No honest person can doubt that Binayak Sen has
      been accused of terrorist activity precisely
      because the state did not like his condemnations
      of the human rights violations by the state.

      State impunity: When the State turns lawless

      As the last 40 years have shown, radical
      movements cannot be treated exclusively as a 'law
      and order' problem by the government. Political
      solutions must be found. When the government
      resorts to violence, it results in a variety of
      human rights violations, forcing human rights
      organisations to step in.

      It was during such a process of contending with
      human rights violations by the state machinery
      that Dr Binayak Sen, like many other human rights
      activists who preceded him, risked his life and
      liberty -- not for any personal gain but to
      preserve the constitutional value system of
      India's democracy.

      The question is if the State identifies civil
      liberties activities as extremist activity, how
      would one enforce human rights? India has signed
      the International Covenant on Civil and Political
      Rights and the 1998 Declaration of the Rights of
      Human Rights Defenders, but how is one to enforce
      them? Human rights and criminal justice are
      intertwined -- how does one effectively bring
      about integration between the two?

      It is in the process of crime detection and
      intelligence gathering, investigation and
      apprehension of the accused that human rights
      violations takes place. The accused may be held
      in illegal custody for long periods, subjected to
      torture, coerced to confess to planted recoveries
      -- none of which is permitted by the Constitution.

      These are the areas in which the human rights
      activists operate, but the law enforcement
      agencies see them as impediments to be put out of
      the way. With a view to silence criticism and
      produce results (it is the 'productivity ethic'
      that governs) the police very often end up
      framing persons on suspicion.

      When the government employs the police to control
      political dissent, it trains the police force
      into a political force. When Hindu communalism
      came to the fore in Delhi, Mumbai and Gujarat,
      the ideologically trained police force bared its
      anti-minority claws and fangs.

      In Chhattisgarh, we are witnessing its
      vindictiveness against left extremist politics as
      well.

      The methods used by the government are in fact
      enlarging the constituency of the sympathisers of
      the Maoist movements. If the government wants to
      contain this movement, it will have to retrace
      its steps to sanity and make human rights a
      non-negotiable component of governance.

      According to the Constitution, the government is
      obligated to ensure that justice -- social,
      economic, and political -- shall inform all
      institutions of governance, political justice
      being most important. That is what has been
      absent in Chhattisgarh throughout, as evident in
      the needless arrests and detentions of T G Ajay
      and Binayak Sen. The law enforcement agencies of
      India need to learn to distinguish between human
      rights activity and extremist activity.

      K G Kannabiran is an eminent human rights lawyer
      and the National President of People's Union for
      Civil Liberties, an organisation founded by
      Jayaprakash Narayan.

      ______


      [6]

      Statement and Charter of demands adopted at the
      seminar 'Scapegoats and Holy Cows' - The Indian
      State's 'Response' to Terrorism, at IIC new
      Delhi, May 29, 2008

      organised by PEACE, HRLN and ANHAD


      Each time there is a bomb blast like the recent
      one in Jaipur, the Indian State reaches out its
      'long arms of injustice' to pick a scapegoat from
      amidst the Indian population to cover up its own
      incompetence in providing security to its
      citizens.

      The hapless creature, decorated and demonized by
      the 'fashion designers' of Indian officialdom, is
      then paraded before the entire nation to create a
      public spectacle prior to its ritual sacrifice.

      The armchair warriors then call for 'tougher
      laws' to deal with terrorism while the scapegoat
      disappears forever into the black hole of the
      Indian prison system.

      That the 'prime suspects' in such cases always
      happen to be bearded young Muslim men and Islamic
      theologists to boot is not a surprise at all. In
      the racist imagination of theadministration,
      police , intelligence agencies , security
      forces, sections of the media and politicians all
      the criminals in this country wear their
      'criminality' on their faces- the suspects are
      always MAD- Muslim, Adivasi, Dalit.

      The latest example of such scapegoating comes
      from Jaipur where within hours of the heinous
      bomb blasts that killed innocent people the state
      police has started harassing, arresting and
      deporting Bangladeshi and Bengali speaking
      Muslims in the city.

      What we have witnessed in the last decade is that
      after each blast or surprise violent act, arrests
      are made, organisations named but the police and
      investigative agencies have not been able to
      prove their claims in any of the cases. But the
      people arrested continue to languish in jails or
      suffer other kinds of victimisation. It is very
      disturbing as it shows that the agencies
      responsible for the security of the people are
      incapable and to cover their inefficiency, they
      keep abducting people from the minority community
      which are produced at their chosen time. The real
      culprits remain at bay and the threat remains
      undiminished.

      However, The Indian state's treatment of
      scapegoats is in stark contrast to the 'holy
      cows' it protects, irrespective of their
      trespasses or crimes against the people of the
      country.

      Whether it be the Hashimpura massacre of 1987,
      the Babri Masjid demolition and the Mumbai
      massacre of 1992, the Gujarat genocide of 2002 or
      the Nanded bomb blasts of 2002, the real culprits
      are either never apprehended and even if they are
      - never punished. Despite the open involvement of
      the leaders of the BJP and Shiv Sena , RSS, VHP
      and other Sangh outfits in a systematic and
      consistent hate campaign, organised communal
      massacres and in stockpiling and manufacture of
      arms they are never declared terrorist
      organisations and banned. Open armed parade by
      the RSS , Trishul dikshas Dikshas are tolerated
      and allowed. They are the holy cows who are
      never touched.

      It is time to end the division of the Indian
      people into scapegoats or holy cows and ensure
      equal justice to all irrespective of caste,
      class, community or religion. And to achieve this
      we the citizens of India have to pledge to fight
      atrocities of the Indian State and its holy cows
      wherever they occur, from the smallest to the
      highest levels in the country.

      This convention on 'Scapegoats and Holy Cows- The
      State's 'Response to Terrorism' therefore
      condemns:

      - The way innocent people, especially Muslims,
      across India are being harassed, picked up,
      arrested and tortured in the name of fighting
      terrorism;

      - The existence of draconian 'anti-terrorist'
      laws like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act,
      ASPA,1958 and calls for more new ones that will
      suspend basic Constitutional rights as this will
      only worsen the problem of terrorism and never
      solve it.

      - The victimization of the entire Muslim
      community in the country without a proper
      investigation of the role of specific individuals
      who may come from any community in the country;

      - The failure of the Indian Home Ministry and
      national security agencies in providing proper
      intelligence on terrorist activities and
      protecting the lives of innocent civilians;

      - Attempts to prevent lawyers from providing
      legal assistance to those arrested on 'suspicion'
      of being involved in the 'terrorist' act;

      We further demand the Indian government:

      - Repeal all repressive laws that have
      replaced POTA at both the national and state
      level or are already part of the Indian Penal
      Code as also the Armed Forces Special Powers Act
      and the Disturbed Areas Act;

      - Stop promoting civil war through the
      unconstitutional arming civilians to fight
      'terrorists' as in the case of Salwa Judum in
      Chattisgarh and also in the Indian northeast and
      Kashmir;

      - Closely investigate the involvement of the
      RSS, VHP and other Sangh outfits in terrorist
      bomb blasts and attacks as also their vast
      network of individuals and institutions
      propagating anti-Constitutional values;

      - Present a White Paper to the Indian public
      on the follow up and results of investigations
      into various terrorist attacks that have happened
      in the country over the last twenty years;

      - Present a White Paper on the numbers of
      Muslims, Adivasis and Dalits imprisoned in the
      country and the status of the cases against them;

      -Stop harassing human rights activists and
      release with due compensation to all innocent
      people arrested and tortured in the name of
      countering terrorism;

      - Make the Indian intelligence service
      accountable for its grand failures in either
      warning the public or catching the real
      masterminds behind terrorist attacks despite all
      the huge sums of taxpayer money spent on them;

      - End the culture of fake encounters that has
      taken hold within the Indian security forces
      seeking material rewards for their anti-terrorism
      operations;

      - Evolve a humane national policy towards foreign
      migrant labour coming into India from
      neighbouring countries particularly migrant
      Muslims, if necessary by promoting a visa-free
      regime for South Asia;

      - End the rampant corruption of border security
      forces that has criminalised the entire migration
      process and aggravated the problems of both
      migrants and host populations;

      We on our part as citizens of India pledge to;

      - Fight the demonisation of Muslims and other
      communities in the country by the Indian state as
      also sectarian, communal political forces in the
      country;

      - Set up an independent Commission comprising
      retired judges, eminent intellectuals, retired
      police officials, and journalists to probe into
      atrocities and discrimination against Muslim as
      part of anti-terrorism operations;


      ______


      [7]


      From: Womens United Nations Report Network
      Sent: 15 May 2008 21:54
      Subject: Gender Imbalance of UN Human Rights
      Council Panel on Intercultural Dialogue - NGO
      Intervention


      Human Rights Council 7th Session- 18 March 2008
      PANEL ON INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE

      JOINT NGO INTERVENTION ON GENDER IMBALANCE OF UN
      HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL PANEL ON INTERCULTURAL DIALOGUE

      Delivered by Conchita Poncini - International Federation of University Women

      Joint Statement in the interactive dialogue on
      behalf of International Federation of University
      Women, Zonta International, International
      Federation of Business and Professional Women,
      Femmes Africa Solidarité, Interfaith
      International, Women's International Federation
      for World Peace, International Council of Women,
      Women's International Zionist Organization:

      In any country, whether developed or developing,
      women and girl children have been the target of
      cultural stereotypes and harmful practices. The
      CEDAW Convention has 22 reservations on culture
      and religion. We strongly feel that the all-male
      panel of experts today although incontestably
      competent in discussing intercultural dialogue on
      human rights, should have been gender balanced in
      order to ensure a more realistic assessment of
      factors paramount to such a dialogue. May we
      remind this august body of its resolution 5/1 to
      have a gender perspective and a gender balance in
      its programme of work and institutional
      mechanisms.

      Culture and religion are closely interlinked and
      have been the two main factors used in human
      rights discourses and practices to subordinate
      women's reproductive and caring roles and
      excluding women from decision and policy-making
      in all spheres. Furthermore, gatekeepers of
      cultural and religious institutions being
      fundamentally male-dominated, it is necessary to
      invite women from the grassroots and experts
      level to give their views and present models of
      best practices on intercultural, ethnic and
      inter-religious dialogue among civilizations
      notably in conflicts situations, as called for in
      Security Council Resolution 1325.A good example
      of this model is the case of the Mano River women
      who succeeded in bringing together African male
      leaders under one roof to reach peace agreements.

      Finally, as reported by the first Special
      Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Ms Rhadika
      Coomaraswamy, cultural relativism has been the
      most pervasive factor in perpetuating violence
      against women. Through building alliances and
      global campaigns, women organizations have
      advanced inter-cultural dialogue. We ask the
      panelists if any of them have analysed
      intercultural dialogue systematically with a
      gender lens?

      ______


      [8]

      SAHMAT
      8, Vithalbhai Patel House, Rafi Marg
      New Delhi-110001
      Telephone-23711276/ 23351424
      e-mail: sahmat [at] vsnl [dot] com

      2.5..2008


      Press Statement
      WITHDRAW FIR AGAINST JOURNALISTS IN AHMEDABAD


      The registration of a criminal case by the
      Gujarat police against Times of India journalists
      at Ahmedabad is a highly condemnable and
      deplorable act. It is aimed at throttling freedom
      of expression of the media, which needs to be
      strongly opposed by all democratic minded people
      in the country.

      The approach of Gujarat police has not been
      impartial at all, which was apparent from its
      role in the 2002 riots resulting in the murders
      of more than one thousand innocent citizens in
      the state. It has faced severe indictments from
      the Supreme Court and National Human Rights
      Commission.

      The latest unexplainable act of booking
      journalists in a case of sedition, criminal
      conspiracy and common intent proves that there is
      no room for any differing views in that state.
      The journalists booked in the case had merely
      written about the Police Commissioner of
      Ahmedabad, on the basis of their investigation.

      The FIR on such flimsy grounds exposes the
      hypocrisy of the Sanghparivar leadership and the
      administration run by it on the vital issue of
      defence of freedom of expression. We demand that
      the FIR against the journalists should be
      immediately withdrawn.


      Rajen
      For
      SAHMAT

      ______


      [9]

      Hindustan Times
      June 01, 2008

      THE SECOND MURDER

      by Vir Sanghvi

      May 31, 2008

      Sometimes, a single event can tell us more about
      the times we live in than an entire library full
      of sociological treatises. The Aarushi murder
      case is one such event. The responses to the case
      reveal the flaws in the institutions that we
      depend on: the police, the government, the media
      and the great Indian middle class itself.

      But, first, let's clear up one thing: I'm not a
      detective and neither are you. One of the
      problems with the way in which we have approached
      this case is that we've all spent too long trying
      to solve the mystery of who the killer was.
      That's a legitimate goal, but not one that we, in
      our living rooms or our OB vans, are qualified to
      pursue. Perhaps her father killed her; perhaps he
      didn't. I don't know. And nor do you.

      Many of us forget that there are two separate
      issues at stake here. The murder mystery is only
      the first. The more important one is our response
      to the murder. How have we treated the reputation
      of a slain 14-year-old girl? What does the manner
      in which the police have behaved tell us about
      law and order in India? Should we have any faith
      in our political system? And is it time to
      regulate the media?

      The Police: The Noida police appear to have the
      investigative abilities of the Keystone Cops and
      the sensitivity of the Gestapo. At almost every
      stage, the case has been bungled. There's been
      the failure to properly search the house and,
      therefore, the inability to discover the corpse
      of their chief suspect. There's the fiasco of the
      remand of the father with no evidence, no
      confession, no motive and no murder weapon.

      More worrying is the way in which the police have
      deliberately set out to destroy the reputation of
      a murdered teenager. The IGP in charge of the
      case has called Aarushi "characterless". Her
      emails have been leaked to the media. So have her
      texts to her friends, violating not just her
      privacy but that of her schoolmates.

      Most worrying of all is the IGP's obsession with
      sex. Every possible motive leads back to sex.
      First, there was the extraordinary statement that
      Rajesh Talwar found his daughter in an
      'objectionable' position with Hemraj, the
      servant. As Aarushi and Hemraj are dead, and
      Rajesh Talwar denies the story, how could the IGP
      possibly have known about the incident? Then,
      there's the suggestion that Rajesh Talwar was
      having an affair with a colleague and that his
      daughter objected; off the record, the police
      have painted the parents as orgy-goers and wife
      swappers. And now, the cops are claiming that the
      father was motivated by anger at Aarushi's
      relations with various boyfriends.

      This is not a sex crime. So why are the Noida
      police going on and on about sex, ruining the
      reputations of the dead and the living without a
      shred of evidence?

      My guess is that they are not just incompetent,
      they are also sex-starved. Perhaps the IGP needs
      professional help.

      The Government: The media act as though the Noida
      police report to nobody. Some channels have even
      confused the IGP with his boss, the DGP of Uttar
      Pradesh. In fact, there is a chain of command.
      The DGP reports to a home secretary who reports
      to both a chief secretary and the home minister.

      What is bizarre is that nobody in this chain of
      command has reprimanded the IGP or taken the
      investigation away from him. Instead, chief
      minister Mayawati has turned it into a political
      issue.

      Imagine now that a joint commissioner of the
      Delhi or Bombay police had referred to a murdered
      child as "characterless". The media uproar would
      have been enough to seal his fate. Why doesn't
      the same happen in UP? In fact, why does this
      never happen in UP? Even during the Nithari
      killings, the Noida police got off scot-free, and
      Mulayam Singh's brother dismissed the serial
      murders as being of little consequence.

      I would argue that it's the difference between
      national parties and regional parties. A BJP, CPM
      or Congress chief minister would have felt
      obliged to act, both because of an innate sense
      of right and wrong, and because of public
      pressure. But neither Mayawati nor Mulayam have
      any sense of right and wrong. As for the media
      uproar, they don't give a damn: it doesn't touch
      their vote-banks.

      Now that regional parties threaten to take power
      at the Centre as part of a Third Front, it's
      worth pondering the difference.

      The Middle Class: As an educated Indian, I share
      the general outrage at the shredding of
      reputations, the sloppy investigation, the
      manhandling of a suspect against whom there is no
      solid evidence, and the denial of the presumption
      of innocence.

      But let's consider another scenario. Suppose
      Hemraj had lived. The police were certain to have
      arrested him. Would anybody in the middle class
      have given a damn about how he was treated in
      custody? We, who are so angered by the
      manhandling of Rajesh Talwar, would have been
      unaffected by the third-degree methods that would
      almost certainly have been used on Hemraj. He
      would have been beaten up and tortured into
      signing a confession. He would have no right to
      privacy, no presumption of innocence and none<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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