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SACW | Oct. 1-2, 2008 / Sri Lanka civilians / New Nepal / India: Communal Bias, Police, Human rights, Chhattisgarh, Homophobic State

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | October 1-2, 2008 | Dispatch No. 2575 - Year 11 running [1] Sri Lanka: Removal of international NGOs worsens civilian plight [2]
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2008
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | October 1-2, 2008 | Dispatch No. 2575 -
      Year 11 running

      [1] Sri Lanka: Removal of international NGOs worsens civilian plight
      [2] Nepal: Nepal’s Evolving Identity (Drew Haxby)
      [3] India:
      - Terrorism, Police and Minorities in India (Asghar Ali Engineer)
      - Why Everybody Loves A Good Stereotype (Antara Dev Sen)
      [4] India - Homophobia of the State: Home bias (Indian Express)
      [5] India: Chhattisgarh - the illegal was of the state
      - Letter from 139 academics to the Police Chief of Chhattissgarh
      - Scrap Salwa Judum (Editorial, The Tribune)
      [6] Announcements:
      (i) Peoples March to protest against communal violence (New Delhi, 2
      October 2008)
      (ii) The National Public Meeting on Software Patents (Bangalore, 4



      New Age
      October 1, 2008


      It is important that the international humanitarian organisations led
      by the UN should also insist that they be permitted to stay on to
      monitor the distribution of the relief supplies, as that too is part
      of their international obligation, Jehan Perera writes from Colombo

      THE special representative of the UN secretary general on the Human
      Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Professor Walter Kalin, who
      visited Sri Lanka recently laid down the appropriate guidelines to be
      followed in dealing with the victims of Sri Lanka’s earlier phase of
      war, tsunami and displacement. He said that displaced persons have
      the right to go back to their homes in the conflict zones or relocate
      to any other part of the country. He said that the UN and
      humanitarian organisations have a vital role to play in securing the
      lives of the people. He also said that lasting peace was only
      achievable if they were assured safety and security from war and
      bombs, compensated for lost property, provided with reconstructed
      houses and safeguarded against discrimination.

      But with government troops nearing the LTTE’s administrative
      capital of Kilinochchi statements by government spokespersons exude
      confidence that Sri Lanka has had enough with foreign advice, and
      will do things its own way. Those in charge of the war effort in
      particular have reason to be upbeat in their mood. The government’s
      progress on the battlefield has gone better than anticipated. The
      town of Kilinochchi is within range of the government’s firepower.
      There is a human trait when things go well to believe in the
      correctness of one’s own assessment of the current position. But when
      this is coupled with the narrowing of vision that accompanies ethnic
      nationalism, the possibility of mistakes becomes higher.

      One of the areas in which the government has taken strong but
      questionable action has been with respect to international
      humanitarian organisations. Earlier this month the government
      requested the international humanitarian organisations working in the
      north to vacate the battle ground areas. The government’s
      justification for this order was that it could not guarantee the
      safety of international humanitarian workers and did not wish to see
      a repeat of the tragedy that occurred in the east. Two years ago 17
      national aid workers belonging to an international humanitarian
      organisation were summarily executed in a battle zone.

      But there has also been a perception within the government, and
      one that is shared by the wider population, that many international
      organisations have been sympathetic if not downright supportive of
      the LTTE. There have been many public speeches by government members
      that NGOs are pro-LTTE and cannot be trusted, and this charge has
      received wide publicity in the government-controlled media and also
      in sections of the nationalist media. After the government forces
      started to recapture territory held for a long period by the LTTE
      they began to find equipment and other donations of international
      NGOs within captured LTTE bases. This gave rise to the suspicion that
      the NGOs had been deliberately supplying the LTTE.
      Sections of the media, especially those of the government-
      controlled media, gave wide publicity to these findings that were
      adverse to the NGOs claim to be impartial and neutral humanitarian
      actors. However, speaking to the UN General Assembly last week,
      President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself admitted that the LTTE had been
      taking a portion of the relief supplies that the government itself
      was sending to the people in the LTTE-controlled areas. The president
      did so to highlight the more important point that Sri Lanka was
      unique amongst war-affected countries, in that it did not
      discriminate against people living in rebel-held areas, but supplied
      them irrespective of where they lived.

      National interest

      Despite President Rajapaksa’s statesmanlike speech in New York,
      the government’s insistence that international NGOs should leave the
      northern battle zones continues to prevail. Government spokespersons
      have said they have evidence that some international NGOs have tried
      to cover up the extent of LTTE take-over of their supplies, while
      some of them may have permitted their supplies to fall into LTTE
      hands. Powerful sections of the government believe that the
      international NGOs are on the side of the LTTE. Accordingly, the
      government’s decision to completely handle the distribution of food
      and other relief items is seen as being in the national interest.

      As its alternative to the presence of international humanitarian
      organisations within the LTTE-controlled areas, the government has
      requested them to deliver their assistance through the government’s
      administrative system that continues to operate within the LTTE-
      controlled areas. The government has reason to be satisfied that its
      administrative system continues to function in LTTE-held areas. The
      government has also offered the international NGOs an opportunity to
      travel with the food and relief convoys into the LTTE-controlled
      areas and to ensure that the relief supplies are handed over to the
      care of the government agent of the area.

      However, the problem is that the government officials working in
      the LTTE-controlled areas have to be very mindful of what the LTTE
      also wants. Their salaries are being paid by the government and they
      are responsible to the government. But it is also likely that the
      government officials in the north are more fearful and possibly
      supportive of the LTTE, and are less independent of them, than the
      international NGOs. In the past the LTTE has assassinated several
      government officials, including government agents who headed the
      district administration, presumably for non-compliance with their
      directives. On the other hand, the LTTE has not dared to punish any
      international member of an NGO in a similar manner.

      What this means is that the government’s decision to evacuate the
      international NGOs from the north is likely to lead to greater LTTE
      dominance over the issuance of food and other relief items. It is not
      reasonable to expect the government officials working in the LTTE-
      controlled areas to be independent of the LTTE and to check them in
      case of any abuse of those relief supplies. Ironically, with the
      departure of the international NGOs at the government’s behest, there
      will be no one who can independently monitor the distribution of
      relief supplies and report back without fear of being punished by the

      Human shields

      Fortunately, there is still time for the government leadership to
      reconsider their stances in favour of the civilian population. At the
      present time, it is reported that Kilinochchi has become a ghost town
      with most of its inhabitants having fled to the eastern part of the
      Wanni. Therefore the problem of civilian casualties and human shields
      is reduced. The problem will arise after the battle for Kilinochchi,
      if the government forces decide to carry on the battle to the last
      LTTE-hold town of Mullaitivu in the Wanni. At that point there will
      be nowhere left for the civilian population to flee.
      The government needs to consider if it is doing right by ordering
      the evacuation of the international humanitarian organisations. The
      government’s most recent decision to permit the international NGOs to
      accompany the humanitarian convoys into the LTTE-controlled areas is
      a positive development, but it is unlikely to prove sufficient. If
      limited to having the international community verify safe receipt of
      the supplies, it will not help in the distribution process after the
      convoys leave. After the international NGOs leave the area having
      ensured that the supplies are delivered to the government agent,
      there will be no one who can independently monitor what happens to
      those supplies.

      One of the fears expressed about the plight of the civilians is
      that they will be utilised as human shields. If the international
      humanitarian organisations do accompany the relief convoys sent in by
      the government, without safeguards for longer-term monitoring, there
      is the distinct possibility that they will be giving legitimacy to a
      process that is open to abuse. There is a possibility of the LTTE
      ordering the government officials to send the supplies to areas they
      consider strategic in order to compel the people to also move there.
      The government officials working in the LTTE-controlled areas may not
      be in a position to give advance notice of such decisions, let alone
      challenge the LTTE on them.

      The UN spokesperson is reported to have said that relief workers
      would be part of the convoys going into the LTTE-controlled areas in
      keeping with international obligations during conflict situations.
      The hope has also been expressed that this measure would be
      reassuring to the people of those areas that they have not been
      abandoned to the mercies of the two armed combatant parties, and that
      the international community continues to watch over their welfare.
      However, it is important that the international humanitarian
      organisations led by the UN should also insist that they be permitted
      to stay on to monitor the distribution of the relief supplies, as
      that too is part of their international obligation.


      [2] Nepal: Prachanda's in New York

      The Nation, October 1, 2008


      Drew Haxby: Pushpa Kamal Dahal, newly elected Maoist Prime Minister
      of Nepal, provides insight into his country’s political dilemmas.

      But Nepal defied the usual story line. Galvanized by King Gyanendra’s
      grab for power, the parliamentary parties put aside their differences
      and began peace talks with the Maoist rebels. Weeks of protests
      forced the King to reinstate the Parliament. The Maoists agreed to
      peace accords overseen by the United Nations, and entered the
      government as a nonviolent political party. The monarchy was soon
      abolished and—in the first election of the new constitutional assembly
      —the Maoists won the largest bloc of seats. And so it was on the
      evening of September 26 that the newly elected Maoist Prime Minister
      and former revolutionary leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal (better known by
      his guerilla nom de guerre "Prachanda," meaning "the Fierce One")
      arrived at the New School in New York City, fresh from the UN, to
      speak to of an audience of students, journalists, Western-style
      communists and expatriate Nepalis.

      Those expecting a fiery diatribe denouncing right-wing ideology and
      foreign hegemony were in for a disappointment. "We will focus
      ourselves on three major issues," the Prime Minister said, "taking
      the peace process to a logical conclusion, writing a democratic,
      inclusive and forward-looking constitution and thinking about the
      socioeconomic transformation of the country." The speech sounded less
      like Prachanda the guerilla warrior than Dahal the statesman, eager
      to ameliorate rifts with Nepalis and to recast Nepal’s image as a
      nation moving toward a peaceful, economically stable future. He
      talked about the inclusion of women and "untouchable" castes in the
      constitutional assembly. He referred to the UN’s help in brokering
      the cease-fire and portrayed his government as an aspiring member of
      the international community. He talked of stomping out corruption and
      criticized Nepal for failing to tap its natural resources. He spoke
      at length about plans to rebuild Nepal’s infrastructure and encourage
      private enterprise and foreign investment in order to develop its
      hydroelectric capabilities. By the time PM Dahal had finished
      speaking, the vision he had painted resembled contemporary European
      socialism much more than it did China, circa 1966.

      The discrepancy between Dahal’s vision and Mao’s was not lost on
      either the audience or on the prime minister himself. During the
      question-and-answer period, one questioner asked if the Nepali
      Maoists plan to disconnect themselves entirely from their communist
      roots, to which Dahal quipped that, if they are supposed to dismiss
      Engels and Mao, then what about Lincoln and Washington as symbols of
      American democracy? Communism, he seemed to say, is a heritage, not
      an orthodoxy, a point that he returned to repeatedly as he railed
      against the condescending rigidity of Western Marxists and described
      his movement as "the Prachanda Path," a new, more "scientific" step
      in the evolution of communism. "Concrete analysis of concrete
      conditions is the soul of Marxism," the Prime Minister said. "We are
      devising our policy and program according to the changed situation of
      the first decade of the twenty-first century."

      Dahal’s willingness to adapt Maoist doctrine is partly a reflection
      of how nebulous modern Maoism can be. Indeed, Maoism today is defined
      as much by its military strategy as it is by its economic and
      political ideals—the so-called "people’s war" that uses popular
      peasant support and guerilla warfare to cripple the state and wear
      down its military capabilities. But with the Maoists’ turn towards
      peaceful multiparty democracy, this defining aspect no longer
      applies. What then? Follow China’s lead of hyper-capitalism? Move
      towards a centralized economic model? Even the original forty-point
      platform the Maoists submitted to the Nepali government at the
      beginning of this conflict was less a blueprint of radical leftist
      economic and political models than a list of pragmatic, nationalistic
      grievances aimed at reforming a failing democracy. One exception was
      the condemnation of "so-called privatization and liberalization to
      fulfill the interests of all imperialists," a position from which
      Dahal now seems to be backing away.

      As inspiring as it was to hear a revolutionary talk so pragmatically,
      it did little to mask the fact that many difficult decisions lie
      ahead. Three times audience members asked the Prime Minister whether
      the government’s harsh treatment of its Tibetan refugee population
      was a result of back-room dealings with the Chinese government. Each
      time, the Prime Minister dodged the question, stating that the
      government will respect human rights but cannot tolerate actions "on
      our own soil" that might be taken as hostile towards its neighbors.

      Questions about Nepal’s corrupt ministry of finance and the Maoists’
      infamously violent youth wing were met with equally evasive answers.
      And yet, more than undermining Dahal’s credibility, these questions
      only emphasized the fundamental challenges facing Nepal as a small,
      poor and unstable country, sandwiched between two rising Asian
      superpowers. Despite advances in the last few years, Nepal’s economy
      remains in shambles, its infrastructure nonexistent, and its future
      as unclear as it has ever been. The bloodshed is over, at least for
      now, and that alone is a miracle. But for Nepal to fulfill Dahal’s
      vision, many more miracles will be necessary.


      [3] India: Communal Bias, Police, the Media


      Secular Perspective,
      October 1-15, 2008


      by Asghar Ali Engineer

      The police as such has strong minority bias right from the dawn of
      freedom. Our freedom came at the cost of partition and partition
      further increased Hindu-Muslim divide and the police could not remain
      unaffected by communalization of society. Though communalism and
      communal violence has changing graph in India it reached its
      crescendo during Ramjanambhoomi-Babri Masjid controversy and during
      the decade of eighties communal discourse became almost mainstream
      discourse and BJP indulged in this discourse blatantly and
      unabashedly while the Congress, being a secular party, had to
      exercise caution in using it. But nevertheless Congress too displayed
      its communal bias in a more restrained and sophisticated way.

      The police was also communalized in the same way as political
      rhetoric. Even when the Congress appealing to minorities to support
      it in return for its secular credentials and also tried to assure
      minorities of protection and security, it never tried seriously to
      inject secularism into the minds of security agencies. The police
      record, as various inquiry commission reports into various major
      communal riots show has been extremely poor and tainted.

      While the Congress Government shunned from giving proper ideological
      training the Sangh Parivar made constant efforts to communalize the
      police in various ways. Apart from the fact that it recruited those
      trained in RSS ’shakhas’ (branches) into the police force whenever in
      power in states or Central Government, its strident communal rhetoric
      deeply affected police mind.

      To what extent the police has been affected by the communal virus
      became abundantly evident during its conduct in investigating terror
      attacks. What happened in Delhi in Batla House on 21st September is
      indeed hair raising story of police prejudice against Muslims. It is
      indeed great mystery as to who is behind terror attacks in various
      places. When Delhi had bomb explosions on 13th September the police
      as usual assumed that SIMI is behind it who has assumed the new garb
      of Indian Mujahidin (IM).

      It raided Batla House on the morning of 21st September where five
      students, all from Azamgarh district studying in Jamia Millia Islamia
      University, Delhi. Let me emphasize one thing here that Jamia Millia
      Islamia has been the centre of Nationalism and it was established at
      the height of civil disobedience movement in post 1st World War by
      Nationalist Muslims of great stature like Zakir Husain, Mohammad Ali
      Jauhar and others at the instance of Mahatma Gandhi and when number
      of Muslim teachers and students boycotted Aligarh Muslim University.

      The Jamia has ever since has maintained its nationalist character and
      Zakir Saheb and others made great sacrifices to keep it running
      despite severe economic crunch. Later it became Central University.
      Even today it has strong nationalist and secular credentials. It is
      unimaginable that those studying there would be so badly affected by
      communal ideology so as to turn terrorists.

      But the police suspected these students and in fact claimed that Atif
      (or Atiq) was the mastermind behind Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad
      blasts and was responsible for sending the e-mail in the name of
      Indian Mujahidin. The Delhi police killed Atif and Sajid in
      ’encounter’ and a police inspector Sharma was also killed. The police
      also claimed to have found AK-47 and a country revolver in the place
      where these students lived. It arrested one Saif and claimed that two
      other escaped.

      All leading human rights activists who carried out investigation on
      the spot found serious gaps in the police claim and raised several
      questions blasting the police theory of ’encounter’. Inspector Sharma
      who was killed was ’encounter specialist’ in Delhi Police Force. Not
      only Delhi police, but police all over India, particularly in
      Maharashtra, Gujarat are known to carry out false encounters in
      league with underworld dons and accumulate phenomenal wealth.

      The police has not been able to answer these questions raised by
      human rights activists and there seems to be genuine concern among
      people about killing these ’dreaded terrorists’. They might have been
      quite innocent. Police claimed that Sajid was 22 or 23 years old
      without producing any proof. His parents showed certificates to prove
      his age was 18 years and he had come to Delhi only three months ago
      to seek admission in 11th standard in Jamia Millia Islamia.

      This has created strong feeling of alienation among Muslims
      throughout India. The police, after every blast arrests innocent
      young Muslim boys, mostly from lower middle class and, accuses them
      of being involved in the conspiracy to carry out terror attacks
      despite total lack of any proof. After arrest it manages to obtain
      ’confession’ from them and gives out story of having cracked the
      case. It is well known how this confession is obtained.

      What is more unfortunate is that the media publishes these stories
      uncritically and describes these boys as ’dreaded terrorists’ and
      masterminds. The police changes after every explosion the names of
      masterminds and even then the media – both print as well as
      electronic – does not question the police version. Some human rights
      activists or the ’Tehelka’ team has done splendid work in exposing
      serious flaws in the police claim.

      Why this police approach? One obvious reason is its natural
      assumption, due mainly to its communalization, that no one else but
      Muslim boys belonging to SIMI who have also assumed the name of IM
      can do it. Despite lack of any proof except self ’confession’ they do
      not change their track. Many Bajrang Dal youth were caught making
      bombs but police downplays these explosions and completely ignores
      any possibility of their role.

      Secondly police, apart from being infected by communal violence, is
      under pressure to ’solve’ the case as any delay exposes it to not
      being able to do its work efficiently. Thirdly, it has found easy way
      out to arrest some innocent youth, obtain their confession, and claim
      they have ’solved’ the case. Thus they are also able to satisfy their
      political bosses under pressure from public to solve the case and
      stop further terror attacks.

      Such casual and communal approach on the part of police has serious
      consequences for the country. After every police claim that it has
      caught the mastermind further terror attacks take place as if to
      ridicule their claim. Thus it is resulting in continuous terror
      attacks. In no time after Batla House ’encounter’ wherein police
      claimed that it has nabbed the masterminds of Delhi blast and even
      killed them another blast took place on 27th September in which one
      boy of 12 years was killed on the spot and another killed later in
      the hospital and several persons seriously injured.

      Unless police sheds its communal bias and does hard work through
      collecting credible evidence terror attacks cannot be stopped.
      However, no one, much less the media, is prepared to buy the theory
      that police is lacking in its duty. In every blast several innocent
      people are killed. The Governments, state as well central, are
      failing to provide protection to its people. How many more will be
      killed in such blasts?

      The BJP, on the other hand, is further communalizing the situation in
      the hope of getting more Hindu votes by demanding enactment of POTA
      or POTA like law to nab the terrorists. It was BJP which had enacted
      dreaded law and despite POTA several major terrorist attacks
      including one on Parliament took place. More terrorist attacks will
      give more advantage to the BJP in coming elections. Should this
      dimension also not be taken into account for these repeated attacks
      despite claim that real masterminds have been arrested?

      The police approach is also creating anguish and anger among Muslims.
      In several meetings with important Muslim leaders and intellectuals
      that we held in different towns and cities, they said what is the
      guarantee that my son’s turn will not come tomorrow? Today they are
      feeling quite alienated and isolated and it is not healthy for a
      multi-religious country like India to alienate the largest religious
      minority to such an extent.

      The Sangh Parivar has seriously damaged the secular character of our
      country. It has completely destroyed its secular character and its
      age-old tradition of tolerance and human values for its lust for
      power and for making India Hindu Rashtra. Now the Christian minority
      is under similar attack, Christians who have contributed so richly to
      modern India. Christians are also anguished today like never before.
      It is highly regrettable that our Prime Minister described these
      attacks on Christians as ’sporadic’ during his trip abroad.

      He also described these attacks as ’shameful’, which is more honest
      description. Remember Mr. A.B.Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister, had
      said after Gujarat riots of 2002 what face will I show abroad? And
      now Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has to face embarrassing situation
      in France. Then why does he not act firmly against communal forces?
      Why is he so soft towards the Sangh Parivar. Why does he not ban
      Bajrang Dal and VHP for attacking Christians in Orissa (Kandhmal
      district) and in Karnataka? The role of police has been no different
      in Orissa and Karnataka. Its sympathies were obviously with Sangh
      Parivar when Christians were being attacked.

      Is not our country inching towards fascism?

      o o o


      The Asian Age
      October 2, 2008


      by Antara Dev Sen

      "You support terrorists?" my friend was horror-struck.

      "We can’t presume they are terrorists," I begin, "there must be a
      trial first."

      "Rubbish! They are terrorists! And it’s indefensible that Jamia Milia
      University is using government money to protect them."

      "Everyone is entitled to legal aid and is innocent until proven

      "They are guilty. The police nabbed them."

      "That’s the police version…"

      My friend, a secular and sensitive writer, is mortified. "The
      terrorists shot an officer dead! But you still won’t believe them?"

      "You believe police ‘encounters’?"

      "Certainly. You don’t?"

      "Maybe, if they’re credible."

      "Why won’t you believe the police?"

      "It would have been easier to believe the cops if they didn’t offer
      several versions of the same ‘encounter’, if they could find the
      bullets that killed Inspector M.C. Sharma and the gun that fired
      them, or answer the questions locals and activists are throwing at
      them punching holes in their theories, if fake ‘encounter’ killings
      like Sohrabuddin’s and his wife’s were not fresh in our minds…"

      "A police officer is killed, and you side with the terrorists!"

      "No, a life cut short is tragic — especially for the family. But two
      boys were also killed in the shootout. Terrorists? Prove it. Sharma
      did have a reputation — remember his killing ‘terrorists’ in a fake
      encounter at Ansal Plaza?"

      "He faked his own killing, you say?"

      With bombs going off every few days and our threat perception
      spiralling, it’s not easy to root for civil rights. Logic and ethics
      get all tangled up as fear spooling out of bombed markets and
      grieving neighbourhoods flood your senses. Where does one draw the
      line between safeguarding human rights and supporting terrorism? How
      much of our rationality and morals are we ready to barter for some
      more security? Would it really buy safety or are we being manipulated
      into fighting others’ battles? Conversely, are we bending over
      backwards so much to protect civil rights that we can’t see the obvious?

      For example, you can’t deny that there is Muslim terrorism in India.
      We are not immune to the global virus, especially since some
      neighbours have been diligently breeding it for us. And it is naive
      to pretend that all Muslim terrorism in India is retaliation against
      discrimination and abuse, or to romanticise the murder of innocents.

      But to prop up Muslims as the enemy, or suggest that every Muslim is
      a potential terrorist, is ridiculous. For decades, we have faced
      terrorism from non-Muslims, from Punjab to the Northeast to the
      recent rash of terror across India by Maoists or Hindutva extremists.
      We have lost one Prime Minister to Sikh killers and one to Hindu
      terrorists. And lost thousands of lives to Muslim militants, from
      Jammu and Kashmir to the Mumbai blasts.

      Yet the trend today is to equate terrorism with Islam. Take Delhi.
      Every recent bomb blast has been blamed on Muslims — the attack on
      the Red Fort in December 2000 and on Parliament in December 2001, the
      Diwali blasts of October 2005, the serial blasts of September 13,
      2008, and the blast last Saturday. Even though 15,000 clerics had
      congregated in February at Darul Uloom Deoband, the Muslim seminary
      in Uttar Pradesh whose alumni include the Taliban, and denounced
      terrorism as anti-Islam.

      We love stereotypes. So while parading the three suspects in the
      Delhi blasts — middle class kids, two of whom are students of the
      Jamia Milia Islamia University — instead of the hood to protect their
      identity, the police wrapped brand new red Palestinian scarves around
      their heads, revealing only their eyes, like Hamas militants.
      Manipulating the perception of the Muslim as terrorist, or the
      terrorist as Muslim, was easy.

      Religious profiling has been part of our anti-terrorism drive, and
      with their socio-political deprivations, Muslims are easy targets.
      According to the Sachar Committee Report, only 59 per cent of Muslims
      are literate and their participation in governance is severely
      limited: only 4 per cent in the IPS, 3 per cent in the IAS, barely
      1.8 per cent in the IFS, etc. Marginalised for long, Muslims are now
      being pushed dangerously close to the edge.

      Apart from violating the constitutional guarantee of equality,
      religious profiling hinders the fight against terror. It diverts
      attention from those who are tangibly linked to terrorism but do not
      fit the religious profile. So stereotypes about Muslim terrorists
      make us ignore State-sponsored Hindu terrorism like in Gujarat, where
      justice was so beyond reach that the Supreme Court had to transfer
      the 2002 "riot" cases outside of the state. Or the continuing terror
      attacks on Christians in Orissa (about 50 killed in Kandhamal this
      time), and Karnataka by Hindu extremists. Bajrang Dal activists have
      been found making bombs, like in Kanpur a month ago. Maharashtra’s
      Anti-Terrorism Squad found them making bombs in Nanded in 2006 and
      also recovered a false beard, moustache and sherwani. This Hindu
      group had bombed three mosques since 2003. Once free from
      stereotypes, the police can efficiently counter terror.

      But stereotyping terrorists is easier. We remember the jailing and
      torture of Iftikhar Gilani, Delhi bureau chief of Kashmir Times, for
      almost seven months, before intense lobbying by the media and
      politicians got him released in January 2003. Similarly, Tariq Ahmed
      Dar, a young Kashmiri model, was jailed for several months in 2006,
      as a "Pakistani spy". He was released after intervention by the media
      and top politicians. In August, cops picked up Milan Molla, a tea-
      shop owner in Kolkata, threatening to brand him a terrorist unless he
      paid up Rs 150,000. His mother paid part of it with borrowed money,
      freed him and went public with a complaint. Every year, there are
      dozens of such cases. Given that young Muslim men are routinely
      targeted in the name of fighting terrorism, Jamia’s decision to
      provide legal aid to its students is perhaps essential.

      "But would Jamia have provided this support if the boys were accused
      of rape?" exclaimed my friend. Maybe not. But then, being accused of
      a crime against an individual is not the same as being charged with a
      crime against the nation. The loyalty of Indian Muslims is regularly
      questioned — from India-Pakistan cricket matches to national
      politics. In a terrified society, officially branding them anti-
      national would be easy. To prevent our strained social fabric from
      falling apart, we need to pursue the truth, not myths, and protect
      civil rights. That does not make us supporters of terrorism, it helps
      us curb it.

      Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted
      at: sen@...


      [4] India: Homophobia of the State

      The Indian Express
      Oct 02, 2008



      In reports emerging of the reactions of the judges of the Delhi High
      Court who are hearing the government’s arguments against the
      legalisation of homosexuality, the outrage and confusion that they
      clearly feel at the illiberal and contradictory stand that the
      additional solicitor-general has taken on behalf of the Government
      come through quite clearly. The court’s incredulity is something that
      is, needless to say, shared by all of liberal India, as the
      government has in succession said that homosexuality “disturbs the
      public peace”, impacts health adversely for homosexuals, impacts
      health adversely for non-homosexuals, that it would “open the
      floodgates for delinquent behaviour”, that it is a “social vice” and
      a “reflection of a perverse mind”. This cavalcade of antediluvian
      attitudes and half-formed misinformation is supposed to serve as
      justification for keeping an unknown but large number of otherwise
      law-abiding citizens of India in a state of permanent criminality.

      Let us be clear on this: as the court implied, in asking for
      empirical evidence, there is absolutely no data that can back up the
      government’s claims. Indeed, in Brazil, for example, increased public
      and administrative acceptance of homosexuality in an otherwise macho
      culture was one prong of a multi-pronged effort to contain the spread
      of AIDS. Some years later, the number of HIV/AIDS patients was barely
      half the figure that had been predicted by the World Bank. Compare
      that to famously homophobic Jamaica, where efforts to stem the HIV
      epidemic have stumbled on the fact that no homosexuals come forward
      to be treated, according to its own health ministry. India’s health
      minister, Anbumani Ramadoss, has repeatedly said that it is his
      ministry’s position that criminalisation of homosexuality impedes
      anti-HIV work. He is to be lauded for this. What is even more
      laudable, and impressive, is that he has chosen to publicly take on
      the home minister on the subject, not only as a doctor and health
      practitioner but as a liberal, demanding that Patil be “more
      progressive” and “a lot more sensitive”, while pointing out that
      acceptance of alternate sexualities has grown “the world over”.

      Fortunately, this is a question of rights — fundamental rights in the
      Constitution clearly prohibit sex-based discrimination — and the
      domain of the courts. But whatever the decision, it is also a
      question of basic dignity, and the government has already failed
      miserably in ensuring that one of India’s minorities is provided the
      minimum respect that any liberal...


      [6] India: Chhattisgarh



      Letter from university faculty to the Police Chief of Chhattissgarh

      September 27, 2008
      Berkeley, California

      To: Mr. Vishwa Ranjan
      Director-General of Police, Chhattisgarh

      We, concerned members of university and college faculties, write to
      condemn the ongoing violations of the human and civil rights of its
      citizens by the state of Chhattisgarh, primarily through the agency
      of your department, the Chhattisgarh police force. These violations
      include the arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention of hundreds of
      people, including Dr. Binayak Sen, an internationally respected
      provider of medical services to Chhattisgarh’s tribal communities,
      threats and assaults against civil liberties activists, lawyers and
      journalists, and most egregious of all, the growing depredations of
      the state-sponsored violent militia known as the Salwa Judum. We
      regret to note that not only have you been unsuccessful in halting
      these violations of human rights, but you have actively justified
      them and accused anyone opposing them as “demoralis[ing] the state

      In a report released this past July, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has
      documented in detail the human rights abuses committed by the Salwa
      Judum against civilians in Chhattisgarh. HRW’s report gives the lie
      to your oft repeated claim that the Salwa Judum is a spontaneous
      unarmed peaceful anti- Naxalite movement by documenting eyewitness
      accounts of “police participating in violent Salwa Judum raids on
      villages - killing, looting, and burning their hamlets.”1 Similar to
      earlier investigative reports by the People’s Union of Civil
      Liberties (PUCL) and People’s Union for Democratic Rights, among
      others, the HRW report also documents the arbitrary detentions and
      torture of villagers by the Chhattisgarh police. Reporters without
      Borders noted with concern that “[journalists] are prevented from
      reporting and investigating by corrupt politicians, police and Salwa
      Judum members, many receiving harassment, intimidation and beating …
      Currently journalists report from press releases produced by the
      government or risk their life and career by reporting objectively
      both sides of the struggle.”2

      Perhaps the best-known case of a non-violent dissenter being arrested
      and jailed in Chhattisgarh is that of Dr. Binayak Sen, a prominent
      and early critic of the Salwa Judum and of state violence. Dr. Sen, a
      physician serving the poorest and most marginalized communities in
      the interior and tribal areas of Chhattisgarh for more than 25 years,
      has been a guiding light for peace and community health. He has won
      many awards for his work, including the Paul Harrison Award in 2004
      from CMC Vellore, his alma mater, from which he had been graduated
      over 30 years ago following a most distinguished academic career, and
      most recently the Jonathan Mann Award from the Global Health Council
      in May 2008. Binayak Sen appears to have earned the government’s ire
      by being a vocal critic of the high-handed and illegal ways adopted
      by the state in the name of suppressing the Maoist insurgency in
      Chhattisgarh. For instance, Dr. Sen’s and PUCL’s investigations had
      exposed that 12 alleged Maoists, killed by the police in Santoshpur
      village in a supposed gunfight on March 31, 2007, were unarmed
      tribals executed at close range. The State Human Rights Commission
      took note of this investigation, and ordered the bodies of the
      victims exhumed. Shortly afterward, Dr. Sen was arrested.3 Not only
      have you and the state prosecutor failed to present any legally valid
      evidence against Dr. Sen, the responsible police officers appear to
      be blatantly concocting fables and planting false evidence.4

      Other citizens who have been harassed by the police include: Amarnath
      Pandey and DP Yadav, two lawyers who had filed lawsuits regarding the
      ‘encounter killing’ of one Narayan Khairwar and the custodial rape of
      one Ledha Bai; filmmaker Ajay TG, a member of the State Executive
      Committee of the Chhattisgarh Unit of PUCL, and journalist Sai Reddy,
      both of whom had to be released on bail when the police failed to
      file a chargesheet even after ninety days; Himanshu Kumar of the
      Vanvasi Chetna Ashram, an NGO that implements implements government
      programs on health, nutrition, and education, for the “crime” of
      assisting fact-finding teams investigating human rights abuses;
      journalists Santosh Poonyem and Kamlesh Paikra for daring to write
      about the violence committed by Salwa Judum; and even the
      participants at the third annual meeting of Chhattisgarh Net
      (www.cgnet.in), an online citizen journalism initiative.

      It bears noting that such actions by the law enforcement machinery of
      any state are not only in violation of the laws of India, but also
      run counter to India’s international treaty obligations. The
      International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (CCPR), which
      India acceded to in 1979, declares in relevant part that:

      • All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that
      right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue
      their economic, social and cultural development. (Article 1.1)

      • Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall
      be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his
      life. (Article (6.1)

      • No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or
      degrading treatment or punishment. (Article 7)

      • Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. (Article

      • Anyone who has been the victim of unlawful arrest or detention
      shall have an enforceable right to compensation. (Article 9.5)

      • All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with
      humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human
      person. (Article 10.1)5 We strongly urge you, as the highest police
      official in the state of Chhattisgarh, to:

      • Follow in letter and spirit, the values enshrined in the Indian
      Constitution and the CCPR.

      • Stop encouraging an all-out civil war in Chhattisgarh in the name
      of Salwa Judum, an organization whose violent activities are so
      distasteful and blatant that the Supreme Court of India recently
      noted that support of Salwa Judum by the state amounts to abetment of
      murder by state officials, and whose excesses as documented in a
      recent NHRC report were deemed “very painful to read” by the Chief
      Justice of the Supreme Court of India.

      • Drop all charges against political prisoners, including Dr Binayak
      Sen, filmmaker Mr. Ajay TG, journalist Mr. Sai Reddy, release them
      unconditionally, pay compensation for the harassment and loss of
      liberty they have suffered due to their unwarranted detention, and
      arrest and prosecute all police officers involved in arresting and
      holding all these political prisoners.

      • Stop victimizing dissenters in Chhattisgarh;

      • Ensure a just and honest governance that improves the lives of
      millions of desperately poor people in Chhattisgarh.

      — EndNotes
      1 http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2008/07/14/india19345.htm
      2 http://www.rsf.org/IMG/pdf/Report%e2%80%a2Chhattisgarh-2.pdf
      3 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/ASA20/013/2007/en/
      4 http://www.phmovement.org/cms/en/node/751
      5 http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/a%e2%80%a2ccpr.htm



      Concerned Faculty of Universities and Academic Institutes

      Itty Abraham
      Associate Professor of Government Director of South Asia Institute
      University of Texas at Austin

      Meena Alexander
      Poet & Distinguished Professor of English Hunter College, City
      University of New York

      Bernardo Attias
      Professor and Chair of Communication Studies California State
      University, Northridge

      Niharika Banerjea
      Assistant Professor, Sociology University of Southern Indiana

      Pranab Bardhan
      Professor of Economics University of California at Berkeley

      Dilip Basu
      Professor and Founding Director Satyajit Ray Film and Study Center
      University of California at Santa Cruz

      Amitabh Behar
      Executive Director National Centre for Advocacy Studies, Pune

      Kim Berry
      Associate Professor of Women’s Studies Humboldt State University
      Arcata, California

      Satindar Mohan Bhagat
      Professor of Physics University of Maryland College Park

      Nirveek Bhattacharjee
      Senior Research Fellow University of Washington

      Arabinda Bhattacharya
      Reader in Statistics & Business Management Calcutta University

      Purnima Bose
      Associate Professor of English Indiana University

      Peter E. Caines
      Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering McGill University
      Montreal, Canada

      Mia Carter
      Associate Professor of English University of Texas at Austin

      Rabin Chakraborty
      Reader in Applied Physics Calcutta University

      Nandini Chandra
      Visiting Assistant Professor of Asian Languages and Literature
      University of Minnesota

      Shefali Chandra
      Assistant Professor of South Asian History University of Illinois
      at Urbana-Champaign

      Sharad Chari
      Assistant Professor of Geography London School of Economics

      Angana Chatterji
      Associate Professor of Anthropology California Institute of
      Integral Studies San Francisco

      Indrani Chatterjee
      Associate Professor of History Rutgers University, New Jersey

      Kalyan Chatterjee
      Distinguished Professor of Economics and Management Science
      Pennsylvania State University

      Kumkum Chatterjee
      Associate Professor of History Pennsylvania State University

      P.S. Chauhan
      Professor of English Arcadia University Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

      B. J. Cherayil
      Associate Professor of Pediatrics Harvard Medical School Cambridge,

      Lawrence Cohen
      Associate Professor of Anthropology and South & Southeast Asian
      Studies University of California at Berkeley

      Dia Da Costa
      Assistant Professor Queens University Kingston, Canada

      Om Prakash Damani
      Associate Professor of Computer Science Indian Institute of
      Technology Bombay

      Veena Das
      Professor of Anthropology; The Johns Hopkins University Baltimore,
      [. . .]

      SEE FULL TEXT at: http://www.freebinayaksen.org/wp-content/

      o o o

      The Tribune
      September 27, 2008


      Brigandry in the name of self-defence

      THE Supreme Court has strongly disapproved of the Chhattisgarh
      government’s Salwa Judum or self-defence group to combat the
      increasing Naxalite menace. It has directed the government to follow
      the recommendations of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in
      this regard. The NHRC’s report, presented to the court, is believed
      to have pointed out innumerable instances of human rights violations
      and high-handed behaviour by the Salwa Judum activists. Chief Justice
      K.G. Balakrishnan, who headed the Bench hearing the case, said: “If
      private persons, so armed by the state government, kill other
      persons, then the state is also liable to be prosecuted as an abettor
      of murders.” Salwa Judum was initiated by the government in June 2005
      as a people’s movement against Naxalism and terrorism. However, the
      remedy proved to be worse than the disease. It became a violent
      institution and its activists are charged with rape, loot and arson.

      In all fairness, Salwa Judum was introduced for ensuring effective
      coordination between the security forces and the local people in
      tackling Naxalism. However, it soon degenerated into a private
      militia that behaved in much the same manner as the Naxalites,
      killing villagers to settle old scores and perpetrating atrocities on
      those who opposed them. The government’s strategy of picking up local
      men, giving them arms training and inducting them as Special Police
      Officers (SPOs) to assist the security forces in the anti-Naxal
      operations also backfired. The SPOs used the opportunity to enforce
      their might in the villages and indulged in arson, loot and mayhem.

      The Planning Commission, the Administrative Reforms Commission, the
      National Commission for Women and several other organisations have
      pointed out the dangerous track record of the ill-conceived campaign.
      The Raman Singh government should understand that Salwa Judum is not
      the answer to the Naxalite violence. Besides improving governance, it
      must focus on socio-economic measures to help the downtrodden. Giving
      arms to civilians is illegal and it does not have the force of the
      law. The Chhattisgarh government would do well to follow the court’s
      advice to scrap Salwa Judum.


      [6] Announcements:



      In Defence of Pluralism, Harmony and Peace
      People’s March in New Delhi on 2nd October 2008

      Come and join

      People’s March on 2nd October
      Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday and the International Day of Non-Violence

      The march is a protest against communal violence and increasing
      brutal attacks on innocent people, minorities and human rights’
      defenders by fanatics and terrorists of all kinds

      The March will start at 1400 hours (2 pm) from Jantar Mantar till
      Rajghat New Delhi

      PLEASE come in large numbers for a show of strength and solidarity!

      o o o



      On behalf of the organizers, the Free Software users Group-Bangalore
      cordially invites you to The National Public Meeting on Software Patents


      2nd Floor, Ecumenical Resource Centre, United Theological College,
      Millers Road, Benson Town. (Behind Cantonment Railway Station)

      ==Date and Time==

      Saturday, October 4, 2008


      Software patents in India occupy a contentious and indeterminate
      legal space. While recent amendments to the Patent Act have sought to
      bring our law in conformity with WTO-mandated standards, these
      amendments have shied from pronouncing conclusively on the
      patentability of software. The result is an equivocation in the law
      which is being wrestled aggressively and effectively by corporate
      interests, patent attorneys and the Patent Office in favour of
      granting software patents. Unheard, and so unrepresented in this
      powerful triad are the interests of millions of citizen-consumers who
      are either presumed too ignorant to be credited with a view on the
      issue, or are presumed to be irrelevant to the determination of
      issues which are seen as purely "business" matters (as opposed to
      "citizen" matters).

      Software is everywhere you look (and many places you never think of
      looking). With the explosion of low-cost computing devices (think
      mobile phones and iPods), software has leaked out of its traditional
      home-the PC-and begun infiltrating various aspects of our lives. From
      traffic signals to toilet commodes in some countries, refrigerators
      to railway tickets, vacuum cleaners and electronic voting machines,
      TVs, refrigerators and electronic pacemakers, inanimate objects of
      all sizes are humming to themselves, chattering amongst themselves in
      an intricate, highly complex tongue called ’software’ that few of us
      can ever hope to understand. On the impulses of software, we stop or
      move on streets, fill up on petrol, and elect governments. Someone’s
      heart beats. Someone else receives land records on a village kiosk.
      Someone is standing by helplessly for fourteen years (the un-
      evergreened term of a patent) because software failed to factor in
      her disability.

      There are big stakes involved in the control of software in an era
      when software is becoming increasingly central to the way we humans
      organize our lives and inhabit a democracy. At one level this is
      about preserving the right of agency and self-direction that citizens
      have in their own lives. At another, it is about the right not to be
      silenced when our long-fought democratic republic is at risk of being
      diminished by a few lines of software in a machine. Whether or not we
      are all in fact capable of deciphering software is inessential. Those
      of us who are ought not to be denied the freedom to interrogate,
      tinker and improve.

      Patents have the effect of adding an additional layer of ’protection’
      to already existing copyright protection of software, while
      simultaneously overriding the various affordances and safeguards
      built into copyright law. For instance, the right of "fair dealing"
      under copyright law permits users to examine and modify any software
      in order to make it interoperable with other software. This is an
      extremely potent right that reasserts our right to intervene in the
      shaping of our surroundings. It is also one of the rights that is
      most imperiled by software patents.

      The present "public hearing" on software patents is an invitation for
      dialogue on the various issue surrounding software patents. Although
      the Patent Office had scheduled a public consultation on its Draft
      Patent Manual to be held in Bangalore in August this year, that
      meeting was abruptly cancelled (or postponed indefinitely, or to an
      unannounced date-we can’t be sure) without any reasons having been
      assigned by the Patent Office. This signals either of two unpleasant
      scenarios: first, the Patent Office is proceeding with its
      consultations in an extremely mechanical fashion, not intending
      inputs received in the course of these consultations to qualitatively
      impact their functioning in any way; or secondly, perhaps the Patent
      Office underestimates the amount that citizens living in the IT
      capital of India might have to say on the subject of software
      patents. It is our attempt in this public hearing to organize the
      kind of consultation that the Indian Patent Office ought to have
      conducted. We hope also hereby, to serve as a gentle but firm
      reminder to the Patent Office that its task is as yet undone.


      Presentation on the principles of patent law and software patents

      Sudhir Krishnaswamy (National Law School)

      Prabir Purkayastha (Delhi Science Forum)

      Nagarjuna G. (Free Software Foundation of India)

      Discussion on software patents in the Indian context: Indian Patent
      Act, and the draft patent manual
      Prashant Iyengar (Alternative Law Forum)

      Venkatesh Hariharan (Red Hat)

      Tea break

      Discussion on patents and the development sector (freedom of
      speech, open standards, healthcare, biotech, agro-sector, etc.)
      Sunil Abraham (Centre for Internet and Society)

      Anivar Aravind (Movingrepublic, FSUG-Bangalore)


      Presentation on the software patents that have been granted so far
      in India

      Pranesh Prakash (Centre for Internet and Society)

      Lunch break

      Open House

      Those speaking will include:
      Joseph Matthew (Special IT Adviser to the Government of Kerala)

      T. Ramakrishna (National Law School)

      Abhas Abhinav (DeepRoot Linux)

      Sreekanth S. Rameshaiah (Mahiti Infotech)

      Vinay Sreenivasa (IT for Change)

      (And any others who wish to speak)


      Centre for Internet and Society;
      Free Software Users Group-Bangalore;
      Free Software Foundation of India;
      IT for Change;
      Alternative Law Forum;
      Delhi Science Forum;
      Swathanthra Malayalam Computing;
      Servelots - Janastu;
      DeepRoot Linux;
      Wiki Ocean;
      Turtle Linux Lab;
      Zyxware Technologies;


      Buzz for secularism, on the dangers of fundamentalism(s), on
      matters of peace and democratisation in South
      Asia. SACW is an independent & non-profit
      citizens wire service run since 1998 by South
      Asia Citizens Web: www.sacw.net/
      SACW archive is available at: http://sacw.net/pipermail/sacw_insaf.net/

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