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

SACW | Nov 13, 2008 / Bigots vs Bauls / Taliban in Lahore / Obama's Indian

Expand Messages
  • aiindex
    South Asia Citizens Wire | October 10 - November 13, 2008 | Dispatch No. 2579 - Year 11 running [ Apologies to SACW subscribers for the month long
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 12, 2008
      South Asia Citizens Wire | October 10 - November 13, 2008 | Dispatch
      No. 2579 - Year 11 running

      [ Apologies to SACW subscribers for the month long interruption, we
      are doing our best to keep this over a decade old information
      diffusion effort afloat. So many of you have written to us expressing
      concern. Formal letters of support are invited from willing
      subscribers to help us build a dossier to fund raise to keep South
      Asia Citizens wire and its sites lists and web sites going. You can
      send your letters to: <sacw@...> ]

      [1] Bangladesh : The Battle Over Culture - Fundamentalist threats and
      secular response :: The Baul statues episode
      [2] Sri Lanka: Recent regulations concerning TV broadcasting
      challenged (CPA)
      [3] Pakistan, Indian govts urged to avoid arresting fishermen
      [4] Pakistan: In City of Tolerance, Shadow of the Taliban (Salman Masood)
      [5] The blasphemy case against Afghan journalist Parwiz Kambakhsh
      (Coordinamento Italiano Sostegno Donne Afghane)
      [6] An Artist in Exile Tests India’s Democratic Ideals (Somini Sengupta)
      [7] India: Terror Has No Religion (Brinda Karat)
      [8] India: An appeal for peace in South Bastar (Ilina Sen)
      [9] India: Old fears and bitterness now resurface in Assam (Sanjoy
      [10] India: Letter from Feminists to Orissa's Chief Minister
      [11] USA: Obama’s Indian - The Many Faces of Sonal Shah
      [12] India: Book Review: Unfolding the communal agenda (Ranjona Banerji)
      [13] Announcements:
      (i) QUEER AZADI MUMBAI invites you to an important public protest and
      public meeting (Bombay, 13 November 2008)
      (ii) Shubha Mudgal sings for SAHMAT (New Delhi, 22 November 2008)


      The Baul statues episode

      A compilation of reports and opinions

      assembled by Harsh Kapoor / sacw.net | 12 November 2008



      [2] The Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA)


      5th November 2008, Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Centre for Policy
      Alternatives (CPA) this week filed action in the Supreme Court by way
      of a fundamental rights petition, challenging the validity of recent
      regulations concerning television broadcasting.

      The Minister of Mass Media and Information promulgated a new set of
      regulations on 10th October 2008, cited as the Private Television
      Broadcasting Station Regulations, under powers conferred by the Sri
      Lanka Rupavahini Act, No.6 of 1982. These new regulations seek to
      regulate all aspects of private television broadcasting, including
      classification of stations and services; issue, revocation, and
      duration of licenses; fee structure; territorial coverage; ownership;
      duties and responsibilities of private television broadcasters;
      extended powers of the Ministry; and content controls.

      CPA is of the view that the regulatory regime imposed by the new
      regulations violates the fundamental right to freedom of expression
      recognised by the Constitution, balanced against the legitimate aim of
      reasonable regulation. In particular, the wide areas of discretion
      conferred on the Minister in respect of the grant, suspension, or
      cancellation of television broadcasting licenses lead us to believe
      that the new regime would be seriously susceptible to abuse, both in
      respect of the freedoms of expression and information, as well as the
      independence and integrity of the Sri Lankan media. Moreover, we do
      think that the power to make regulations conferred on the Minister by
      the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation Act, extends to such a broad area
      as the new regulation seek to cover.

      We also note that the new regulations are an attempt to introduce
      wide-ranging controls and regulation of the televisual broadcasting
      sphere without adequate regard or reflection about the implications of
      technological advances of the last decade or so, especially in respect
      of internet and telephony based communications. Furthermore, it is our
      firm belief that the necessary regulatory regime in this field is a
      matter that is more properly to be dealt with by legislation enacted
      by Parliament, rather than by executive fiat and subordinate rule-making.

      CPA hopes that the Supreme Court would be pleased to grant leave to
      proceed with its application, and further, that the Court would use
      the opportunity afforded by this case to further develop its
      jurisprudence in securing, protecting, and advancing the freedom of
      speech and expression in Sri Lanka.



      The News, October 21, 2008


      By our correspondent

      Speakers on Monday urged the Pakistan and Indian governments to find a
      permanent solution to avoid arresting fishermen from the open sea,
      while they are engaged in fishing near the controversial Sir Creek.

      The Sir Creek divides sea boundaries between the neighbouring
      countries, Pakistan and India. The speakers in a seminar on Detained
      Fishermen, organised by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), pointed
      out that there is no visible demarcation in the sea. Therefore,
      fishermen of both sides mistakenly violate the boundary. In return,
      the border security forces of both the countries, arrest them
      instantly, dealing with the boat crew as ‘prisoners of war’, they said.

      Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister on Jail Affairs, Gul Mohammed
      Jakhrani, presided over the seminar, while Pakistan Institute of
      Labour Education and Research (PILER) Director, Karamat Ali, head of
      the Indian fishermen’s delegation Velji K Masani, Haji Wali Mohammed,
      representing the Fishermen Cooperative Society (FCS), PFF Chairperson,
      Mohammed Ali Shah, Sami Memon, Mai Bhagi, Ali Walri and Mai Assi spoke
      on the occasion.

      Mai Bhagi and Mai Assi, the poor fisherwomen, whose sons are
      languishing in Indian jails, portrayed the picture of their families’
      lives, in the absence of their bread winners. They said since their
      bread winners were in jails abroad they were facing hardships to run
      their family affairs.

      The poor fisherwomen demanded of the government to ensure release of
      their sons or extend help to them in this difficult time as they are
      facing problems. Velji K Masani said there was the same situation
      facing the mothers, wives and sisters of those Indian fishermen,
      languishing in the Pakistani jails. This is the same kind of pain
      facing the parents of fishermen on both the sides. “I receive a large
      number of poor women daily complaining about their plight as their
      sons and husbands have been caught by the Pakistani coastal authorities.”

      “I dislike the exchange of fishermen by both the countries, because it
      is a human rights issue. They should be released unconditionally,
      because they are innocent and not criminals,” he said.

      The speakers also pointed out that while the fishermen are released
      they have to travel for one week to reach their destination. There are
      434 Indian fishermen in Pakistani jails, besides 379 boats. However,
      55 Pakistani fishermen are in Indian jails along with 87 fishing boats
      caught by the border security forces there.

      Karamat Ali said being neighbouring countries, Pakistan or India
      should take the first step to release fishermen unconditionally so
      that the other country could realise the fact and respond positively.
      He said this might be the only solution to bring happiness in the life
      of disturbed families, whose loved ones were in jails.

      PFF Chairperson, Mohammed Ali Shah, said 100 nautical miles should be
      declared special zone for fishermen of both the sides to enjoy their
      livelihood activity without any fear. Shah also urged close
      coordination between the community representatives of both the sides
      to help each other to fight the same war.

      He said the fishermen organisations, representing the community should
      have access to visit jails on both the sides and meet their community
      people. Shah claims that the fishermen families of Thatta coastal
      villages had received letters, which showed that the boat crew
      members, who had gone missing after the cyclone hit the wide Sindh
      coast on May 19, 1999, are alive and have been in Indian jails.

      He said the community people released from Indian jails recently have
      confirmed the presence of Pakistani fishermen there. Shah allegedly
      said the Indian authorities were denying confirming the actual number
      of Pakistani fishermen languishing in their jails.

      Gul Mohammed Jakhrani said since the matter was related with the
      federal government he could not announce any help for the poor people
      on this forum. But he assured to convey the suggestions of this
      seminar to the concerned authorities in Islamabad so that they could
      use diplomatic sources to find any solution.



      The New York Times
      November 2, 2008

      Lahore Journal

      by Salman Masood

      LAHORE, Pakistan â€" This city has long been regarded as the cultural,
      intellectual and artistic heart of Pakistan, famous for its poets and
      writers, its gardens and historic sites left over from the Mughal Empire.

      Salman Masood for The New York Times

      In Lahore, Pakistan, sellers of CDs and DVDs complained of slumping
      business after threats.
      The New York Times

      Panic over an insurgency has found its way to Lahore.

      The turmoil sown by militancy may have reached into the capital,
      Islamabad, but it rarely seemed to intrude here among the leafy
      boulevards that are home to many of Pakistan’s secular-minded elite.

      But in recent weeks, panic has found its way even here, with a series
      of small bombs and other threats that offer a measure of just how
      deeply the fear of militant groups like the Taliban has penetrated
      Pakistani society.

      On Oct. 7, three small bombs exploded in juice shops in a sprawling,
      congested neighborhood called Garhi Shahu. The shops, which had gained
      a reputation as “dating points,” offering enclosed booths for young
      couples to cuddle, were gutted in the blasts. One person was killed,
      and several others were wounded.

      An unknown group called Tehreek-ul Haya, or Movement for Decency,
      claimed responsibility and warned of more attacks against “centers of
      immorality” in the city.

      On Oct. 9, Shabbir Labha, the president of the local traders
      association, received an unsigned handwritten letter that threatened
      to bomb Lahore’s biggest video and music market.

      The next day, he got an anonymous phone call asking him if he could do
      something about the sale of the pornographic CDs and DVDs there. “I
      assured the caller that I can,” Mr. Labha recalled, sitting in his
      basement office on a recent afternoon.

      Within a day, the traders had handed over more than 60,000
      pornographic videos and burned them in a bonfire as the city’s top
      government officials, the police and a large crowd looked on.

      “We were not sure if the threats were made by the Taliban or not,” Mr.
      Labha said. “But the bomb blasts in Garhi Shahu had made us
      apprehensive. We didn’t want to take any chances.”

      The fact that a single, anonymous letter could inspire such a
      spectacle surprised many people here. Some voiced alarm that the
      tolerant, liberal outlook of Lahore was under attack from
      Taliban-style moral policing, usually found only in more restive
      corners of the country, like the North-West Frontier Province. There,
      in cities much closer to the tribal areas where many militant groups
      are based, music stores have been attacked repeatedly by the Taliban.

      But in Lahore, the capital of Punjab Province, the music and video
      market on Hall Road was famous for the sale of English and Indian
      movies, as well as a thriving underground trade in pornographic
      movies, which are illegal here. The small stores in dingy, clustered
      plazas had attracted buyers for more than two decades.

      Despite repeated crackdowns and warnings, the police had been unable
      to stop the trade in pornography. But the specter of the Taliban
      achieved in a day what the police had been unable to do in years.

      Ahmad Rafay Alam, a columnist for The News, one of the country’s
      leading daily publications, wrote afterward that the “Talibanization
      of Lahore has begun.”

      “I was very surprised,” said Moonis Elahi, a member of the provincial
      assembly, referring to the response of the traders, who he said were
      less concerned about making a stand than about saving their livelihoods.

      “The traders wanted to pacify the extremists,” he said.

      Since then, the lingering threat of bomb blasts and suicide attacks
      continues to sow fear, though many of the letters and the calls have
      proved to be hoaxes. Mr. Elahi said a close friend was so fed up with
      threats to a school that his child attended that he was contemplating
      a move to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

      Police officials, however, dismissed the concerns of “Talibanization”
      as overblown and played down the threats. “In our assessment the
      letter was a hoax,” said Pervez Rathore, the police chief of Lahore.
      “It was a local mischief.”

      In addition to fear, the Hall Road episode has exposed fissures in
      society in Lahore, between the city’s liberal elite and the
      conservative impulses of its working and middle classes, some of whom
      have excused or supported the threats and the traders’ response.

      Ejaz Haider, an editor at Daily Times, one of the leading English
      newspapers, said the burning of the CDs did not necessarily mean that
      the Hall Road traders had become reformed Muslims overnight. “It just
      showed the pragmatism of the traders,” he said.

      Khalil Rehman Chugtai, the secretary of the traders’ union of Hall
      Road, said the threats were in fact a blessing. “We had been trying to
      eliminate the sales of porn movies for long with no luck,” he said.
      “The letter helped us to get rid of them.”

      Mr. Chugtai said there would now be no tolerance for the sale of such
      “immoral movies.” A few days after the bonfire, he said, one video
      store owner was found selling pornography again. “We apprehended him,
      blackened his face and paraded him through the market,” he said.

      Saeed Ahmad, who owns a juice shop near the three juice shops that
      were attacked last month, even defended the bomb blasts.

      “What happened was for the better,” he said. “They didn’t just serve
      juices there. Immoral acts were going on inside the cabins set up by
      the owners, who took money from couples.”

      Still, Raza Ahmad Rumi, a writer and blogger who takes great pride in
      his city, insisted that “Islamic extremism has had very little appeal
      here.” The cultural life of Lahore goes on, as it has for centuries.

      He said that a recent stage play, “Hotel Moenjodaro,” whose theme was
      against religious fundamentalism, drew a packed audience. “It was very
      encouraging,” Mr. Ahmad said.

      Nonetheless, he said, the Hall Road incident and the juice store
      blasts were alarming. “If the traders, the merchant class, which forms
      the bulk of the middle class of Lahore, becomes Talibanized, then the
      whole complexion of the city will change,” he said. “That’s a fear
      amongst the secular intelligentsia and elite of Lahore.”

      A version of this article appeared in print on November 3, 2008, on
      page A8 of the New York edition.




      by Coordinamento Italiano Sostegno Donne Afghane, 23 October 2008

      The outcomes of the “judicial reform programme” run by the Italian
      government in Afghanistan:
      The case of journalist Parwiz Kambakhsh




      The New York Times, November 8, 2008


      Maqbool Fida Husain, India’s most famous painter, in one of his homes
      in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where he now lives.

      by Somini Sengupta

      DUBAI, United Arab Emirates â€" Maqbool Fida Husain, India’s most famous
      painter, is afraid to go home.

      Mr. Husain is a Muslim who is fond of painting Hindu goddesses,
      sometimes portraying them nude. That obsession has earned him the ire
      of a small but organized cadre of Hindu nationalists. They have
      attacked galleries that exhibit his work, accused him in court of
      “promoting enmity” among faiths and, on one occasion, offered an $11
      million reward for his head.

      In September, the country’s highest court offered him an unexpected
      reprieve, dismissing one of the cases against him with the blunt
      reminder that Hindu iconography, including ancient temples, is replete
      with nudity. Still, the artist, 93 and increasingly frail, is not
      taking any chances. For two years, he has lived here in self-imposed
      exile, amid opulently sterile skyscrapers. He intends to remain, at
      least for now. “They can put me in a jungle,” Mr. Husain said gamely.
      “Still, I can create.”

      Freedom of expression has frequently, and by some accounts,
      increasingly, come under fire in India, as the country tries to
      balance the dictates of its secular democracy with the easily inflamed
      religious and ethnic passions of its multitudes.

      The result is a strange anomaly in a nation known for its vibrant,
      freewheeling political culture. The government is compelled to ensure
      respect for India’s diversity and at the same time prevent one group
      from pouncing on another for a perceived offense. Ramachandra Guha, a
      historian, calls it “perhaps the fundamental challenge of governance
      in India.”

      The rise of an intense brand of identity politics, with India’s many
      communities mobilizing for political power, has intensified the
      problem. An accusation that a piece of art or writing is offensive is
      an easy way to whip up the sentiments of a particular caste, faith or
      tribe, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, an Indian political scientist, points out.
      He calls it “offense mongering.”

      There have been isolated episodes of violence, and many more threats,
      often prompting the government to invoke British-era laws that allow
      it to ban works of art and literature. India was among the first
      countries to ban Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses.”

      In March, Taslima Nasreen, a Bangladeshi novelist living in exile in
      the Communist-controlled state of West Bengal, was forced to leave for
      several months after a Muslim political party objected to her work.

      Meanwhile, in the western state of Gujarat, controlled by the Hindu
      nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, a political psychologist, Ashis
      Nandy, was charged with “promoting enmity between different groups.”
      His offense was to write an opinion article in The Times of India
      criticizing the victory of the Hindu nationalists in state elections;
      the case is pending.

      “That politics has gotten out of hand,” Mr. Mehta, the political
      scientist, argued. “It puts liberal democracy at risk. If we want
      social stability we need a consensus on what our freedoms are.”

      Even threats of violence from offended parties are a powerful
      deterrent. In Mumbai, formerly Bombay, where Mr. Husain lived for most
      of his life, a recent exhibition on Indian masters did not include his
      work. Nor did India’s first modern art fair, held in New Delhi in
      August. The same week in the same city, a small show featuring
      reproductions of Mr. Husain’s work was vandalized.

      Of Mr. Husain’s exceptionally large body of work â€" at least 20,000
      pieces, he guesses â€" there are three that have angered his foes. Two
      are highly stylized pencil drawings of Durga, the mother goddess, and
      Saraswati, the goddess of the arts, both faceless and nude. The third
      is a map of India rendered as a female nude, her head in the
      Himalayas, a breast jutting out into the Arabian Sea. Mr. Husain
      insists that nudity symbolizes purity. He has repeatedly said that he
      had not meant to offend any faith. But one of his paintings, showing a
      donkey â€" to the artist, a symbol of nonviolence â€" at Mecca, created a
      ruckus among his fellow Muslims.

      Harsh Goenka, a Mumbai-based industrialist and one of the country’s
      most important collectors, has a similar Husain nude, an oil painting
      of the goddess Saraswati. As “an average normal Hindu,” he says he is
      appalled that Mr. Husain is not safe in his country.

      “Keeping him away is, in a way, showing the weakness of the system,
      that we cannot protect the rights of the citizen,” Mr. Goenka said.
      “If he has done a crime, punish him. If he hasn’t, let him live here
      with dignity and peace of mind.”

      Mr. Husain calls the current Congress Party-led government too
      weak-kneed to offer him protection from those who might harm him.
      Mostly, though, he cautions against making too much of his case.
      India, he insists, is fundamentally “tolerant.”

      Not least, he said, he has always been a vagabond, sleeping on the
      Mumbai streets during his impoverished youth, wandering through Europe
      to study Rembrandt, or bouncing, as he does now, among several lavish
      apartments and villas here in Dubai â€" or rather, cruising among them,
      in one of his five costly thrill machines, including a lipstick-red
      Ferrari, his current favorite. Mr. Husain is India’s best-paid artist.
      Last March, at a Christie’s auction, his “Battle of Ganga and Jamuna,”
      part of a 27-canvas series on the Mahabharata, the Hindu epic, fetched
      $1.6 million.

      “I am working, it’s O.K.,” he said. “If things get all right, I’ll go.
      If they don’t, so be it. What can I do?”

      And then he quoted the poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, a Pakistani who went into
      exile in the late 1970s during President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq’s regime
      and who wrote about missing the animosity of his enemies as much as
      the affection of friends. “Of course,” he conceded, “the heart is there.”

      On the morning of Id al-Fitr, Islam’s holiest day, Mr. Husain sat in
      the back seat of his Bentley as it whizzed past a row of construction
      sites, taking calls from Mumbai on his new iPhone.

      Back home on the same day, his granddaughter Rakshanda was getting
      engaged. It was the first major family function he had missed since
      his exile. “Such an auspicious day,” he murmured. “Anyway, we will
      have a ceremony here again.”

      In Mumbai, it had been his custom to host an annual Id al-Fitr
      breakfast for his community, a Shiite subsect that calls itself
      Suleimanis. This morning, he hosted one here, too, at a community hall
      with steaming plates of mutton and flatbread. A stream of people came
      to pay their respects, taking his gnarled right hand, placing it above
      their eyes, one after the other, then to their lips. Mr. Husain, a
      master of flamboyance, stood beaming in a green silk jacket
      embroidered with motifs from his paintings, including several
      voluptuous, scantily clad women.

      He is now working on two ambitious series: one on Indian civilization,
      to be mounted in London, the second on Arab civilization, which will
      be exhibited in Qatar.

      Here in Dubai, he is at work on a whimsical installation titled “Form
      Meets Function,” which will incorporate his five luxury cars,
      including a sound piece he intends to create using their engines.

      At sundown, he climbed into the passenger seat of the Ferrari, pounded
      the dashboard and instructed his driver to hit the gas pedal. The
      engine revved, and he squealed in delight. He said he had stopped
      driving several years ago, after cataract surgery.

      He does not have a studio in Dubai. There are easels in each of the
      homes he has bought for his extended clan. He spends a night here, a
      night there.

      One of them is an 11th-floor apartment with spectacular, south-facing
      views of jagged skyscrapers under construction. It is filled with
      dozens of small canvases from the 1950s that he had given to a Czech
      woman he had once intended to marry, though she turned him down.

      She found him recently and returned his paintings. “They belong to
      India,” she told him.

      This afternoon, recalling the story, Mr. Husain said he would
      eventually have to take them home. “Temporarily,” he mused, “they are



      The Times of India
      11 Nov 2008


      by Brinda Karat

      The aggressive defence by the Shiv Sena of the terrorist activities of
      people acting in the name of Hindutva, combined with the BJP's refusal to
      condemn these activities, represent a danger mark in the political
      response to the rising tide of bomb attacks and violence against
      innocents. Any effort to give terrorism a communal colour will surely
      spell disaster for our country.

      Maulana Abul Kalam Azad once ascribed India's "inner vitality and
      resilience" to a "confluence of cultures, faiths and beliefs that has
      gone into the making of a composite India". In the Assam serial bomb
      blasts, Hindus, Muslims, and tribals were equally victims. It is our
      country's tragedy that we have before us another type of "confluence",
      the confluence of the blood of innocent victims, regardless of
      community, religion, sex or age. The death of five-year-old Morromi,
      her beautiful face and little body burnt beyond recognition,
      symbolises the helplessness of the innocent victim.

      Between 2004 and 2008, India has been the victim of at least 25 major
      bomb blasts in which 717 people were killed and hundreds injured.
      Earlier, after every such attack, investigating agencies would point
      to the involvement of Pakistan-based terrorist networks. In some cases
      such terrorists were identified, and many shot dead. A feature of
      recent terrorist attacks, however, is the involvement of a network of
      groups drawn from a small section of Indian Muslim youth, revealed in

      The failure of the state to ensure justice to the victims of communal
      attacks and to punish those guilty of serious crimes against the
      minorities is indeed attracting a few elements among Muslim youth to
      the extremist cause. Such feelings of alienation get exacerbated when
      Muslim youth in various localities are rounded up, harassed and
      tortured even when there is not a shred of evidence against them.

      We require the widest possible secular mobilisation against the
      profiling and demonisation of a whole community. Prominent Muslim
      organisations have condemned those involved in terrorist attacks. It
      is essential to isolate and fight back those extremist forces within
      the community who seek to exploit the genuine grievances of Muslims.
      These extremists are the enemies of the Muslim people at large and
      seek a social order that denies ordinary Muslims their fundamental
      human rights. Groups and individuals who are in a state of denial
      about the involvement of such elements, regardless of their
      intentions, can hardly be considered friends of the victimised
      minority community.

      Strong action must be taken against the guilty established through
      legal, transparent procedures and must apply to terror groups
      regardless of what religion they claim to represent. On the basis of
      the evidence it has, the Centre has pleaded before the Supreme Court
      for a continuation of the ban on SIMI. It is wrong for some parties to
      demand that the ban be lifted. The list of 32 organisations that are
      proscribed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act also
      includes terrorist organisations such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba,
      Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizb-Ul-Mujahideen, Khalistan Zindabad Force,
      International Sikh Youth Federation and Babbar Khalsa International.
      Yet today when there is mounting evidence of involvement in terrorist
      attacks against the Bajrang Dal and other such organisations, the
      government has not taken action against them. It is such double
      standards that deeply compromise, if not put to question, the secular
      character of the state.

      Particularly disturbing is the report of the possible involvement of a
      serving army officer along with two ex-army officers, both of whom are
      linked to the Bhonsala Military School run by an RSS-founded trust in
      Nashik. This is the first time that a serving army officer is
      suspected to be involved in a terrorist crime of this nature. It is
      known that army recruitment is disallowed for anyone with political
      affiliations. But is the screening applied to all affiliations,
      including those who may have direct or indirect contacts with the RSS
      or affiliated organisations?

      The Bhonsala school was already on the radar of the Anti-Terrorist
      Squad (ATS) in Maharashtra in the 2006 Nanded bomb blast case. The ATS
      unearthed a conspiracy by the Bajrang Dal in 2006 after a bomb they
      were making exploded and killed two of them. Two of the accused
      confessed that they underwent training at the branch in Nagpur. One of
      the accused stated that he attended a training camp organised there by
      the RSS in which two retired ex-servicemen and a retired officer of
      the Intelligence Bureau were present. Three dozen more, mainly Bajrang
      Dal activists, were also named. Shockingly, nothing came of this
      investigation. The cases were handed over to the CBI where the entire
      matter was given a quiet burial.

      Maharashtra is run by a Congress-led government. Why did it not act on
      the earlier ATS investigation? Who was responsible for the CBI's
      weakening of the case? Why has the Bhonsala school been allowed to
      function even after its links with the accused in the earlier Nanded
      case were established? Has any enquiry been conducted into its
      activities and if not, why so? What is the extent of penetration of
      such elements into our security forces?
      India's fight against terror is as much a political fight as an
      administrative one. Although extremist groups act in the name of
      religion, the vast majority of believers, whether Muslim or Hindu,
      abhor violence that kills innocent people. This is the abiding
      strength of our country. Terrorism cannot be ascribed to any one
      religion. The politics of secularism is the only means to ensure the
      unity of India in the fight against terror.

      The writer is a CPM Rajya Sabha MP.


      [8] [visit: www.freebinayaksen.org]

      The Hindu, 21 October 2008


      by Ilina Sen

      Dr. Ilina Sen presents certain proposals made by Dr. Binayak Sen,
      medical practitioner and leading member of the People’s Union for
      Civil Liberties, Chhattisgarh. She has written this based on
      discussions with him during recent visits to the Raipur Jail where he
      is since May 14, 2007.

      The present situation in South Bastar is characterised by an
      infinitude of chronic deprivation, along with a complete absence of
      political discourse. On the one hand we have the Salwa Judum, which
      the government dishonestly tries to characterise as a “people’s
      response to Maoism.” On the other hand, there is a purely military
      engagement between the state-based forces and the Maoists, which act
      as a proxy to a political discourse. Both parties to this enga gement
      deliberately ignore the fact that a purely military solution, imposed
      by either party, even if it were possible, would be neither valid nor
      Phase 1

      Any quest for a resolution of this situation cannot start by
      addressing the humanitarian problem on the ground alone, catastrophic
      as that no doubt is. The humanitarian situation in South Bastar today
      is both the end product as well as the precipitating factor behind the
      current impasse. Any standard appeal for peace would begin with an
      agenda for the resolution of the humanitarian situation, but given the
      total breakdown of societal mechanisms in the area, this might have
      limited possibilities for success. Instead, the first and most urgent
      necessity is the establishment of an institutional forum for political
      engagement without preconditions. The purpose of this forum will not
      be to search for solutions, but rather to concentrate on the
      identification and recognition of participants in the forum, and the
      elaboration of an agenda as well as the guarantees necessary for the
      forum to conduct its business, that is, talks about talks.

      Essentially this proposal resembles that suggested on certain
      occasions for the resolution of the current situation in Jammu and
      Kashmir. The identification of members of the forum must be an
      inclusive process. This must include, apart from the government and
      the Maoists, representatives of political parties as well as civil
      society in the area of South Bastar.
      Phase 2

      Once this institutional mechanism is in place, it would undertake,
      within its overall supervision, a specific series of measures directed
      at relieving the humanitarian situation on the ground. As an immediate
      priority, the problems to be addressed will include Food and Water,
      Shelter and Livelihood, Health Care, and Transport and Infrastructure.

      Education is a more contentious subject and may be addressed once we
      move beyond the preliminary stages.

      Food and Water: For all intents and purposes, the entire region is
      famine-stricken and should be treated as such. The indigenous systems
      of food production and livelihood have been destroyed. A universal
      public distribution system (PDS), at zero cost to the identified
      card-bearing consumers, should be put in place as an immediate
      priority. The identification of consumer households should be through
      electronic ration cards that can be redeemed at any geographical
      location in the affected area. This will leave the option open for
      households and household members to either return to their villages or
      continue to reside at whichever camp or other place they may have
      relocated to. The PDS should supply, in addition to cereals, pulses
      and oil. Adequate locally relevant measures to obtain potable, safe
      drinking water should be put in place.

      Shelter: Village homes, which have remained unoccupied for months,
      will need repair and reconditioning to make them habitable. Help
      should be at hand to enable returning families to rebuild their homes.

      Livelihoods: The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act should be
      extensively deployed over the entire area to secure a minimum
      livelihood for all returning families. Only when guaranteed
      livelihoods are effectively put in place will people enjoy some degree
      of autonomous control over their own lives. The issue of pattas to
      revenue lands abandoned for lengths of time, and cultivation of what
      are technically forest lands, are extremely complex. In view of the
      new Act for granting land rights to families cultivating these lands,
      the matter should be handled with extreme sensitivity. Pending the
      reclamation and recording of people’s land rights, implementation of
      all decisions for land acquisition must be put in abeyance.

      Health Care: Adequate and accessible health care facilities,
      universally accessible to all on a cashless basis, must be put in
      place as soon as possible. This should include supplies of drugs and
      other necessary equipment. No discrimination should obtain between
      different population groups with respect to access to basic health
      facilities. In case state-based facilities are not available,
      non-state providers who fulfil these criteria should be welcomed.

      Transport and Infrastructure: The network of weekly markets must be
      restored on a priority basis. The minimum infrastructure for
      resumption of agriculture, including animal husbandry, should be put
      in place.

      Citizenship records and voter rights: Widespread displacement and
      population dislocation have made citizenship records and voter rights
      critical issues at this particular time. Transparent mechanisms must
      be put in place to ensure that citizenship rights are preserved and
      entitlements to democratic decision-making are ensured.

      Demilitarisation: It will not be possible or practicable to wait until
      full normalcy is restored in all these parameters. However,
      significant progress that demonstrates the bona fides of all parties
      as far as their commitment to peace and political discourse is
      concerned will have to precede the negotiations and a move for full
      demilitarisation. It is our belief that significant progress towards a
      ceasefire and eventual demilitarisation can only take place when the
      ordinary people have a stake in the maintenance of the peace.



      Asian Age
      October 21, 2008


      by Sanjoy Hazarika

      The girl from a television channel in New Delhi was extremely
      enthusiastic on the phone. She wanted me to go on air the next evening
      on a live interview with another panelist on the situation in Assam â€"
      conveniently called the "Bodo-Muslim clashes". I debated the issue
      internally and finally decided that it was not appropriate to do so
      because the situation was so complex and difficult. Scholars and media
      who have visited the area, not armchair pundits sitting in New Delhi
      and Guwahati, say that it is clear that whatever triggered the
      violence earlier this month, the roots of the suspicion and bitterness
      are still untouched.

      A complex maze of factors have emerged at the heart of the problem,
      ranging from disputes over land and concerns about land alienation by
      different ethnic and religious groups, as well as fears of being
      driven out from their own villages. Muslim settlers, many of whom are
      originally Bengali-speaking but now have adopted Assamese as their
      language, are embittered by the fact that they are categorised as
      Bangladeshis despite having lived in the region for decades and
      remained poor and marginalised all this time.

      These groups have kept a social and cultural distance from the other
      ethnic communities living in western Assam, unlike the "Assamese
      Muslims" who converted to Islam centuries ago, who maintain Assamese
      customs and a folklorish approach to the faith and have close
      relations with Hindus and those of other faiths. The result of the
      distance of the settlers is an enduring divide that has increased with
      the changing demographic profile of the region as the Muslim
      population began to grow and the influx from Bangladeshi became a real
      issue, even if media reports of their involvement in the recent riots
      are pretty fanciful.

      The perception of the problem is as much a critical component of the
      tragedy that has unfolded these past weeks in Assam. Thus, the view of
      the "other" has been fuelled by some wild media reporting (for
      example, leave aside the local vernacular or English media, an
      international news agency has proclaimed, without attribution, that
      the clashes were between the Bodos and "Bangladeshi settlers", that
      the Indian government bestowed "citizenship in 1985 to millions of
      settlers from former East Pakistan who arrived before 1971.") If ever
      there is a case of turning facts on their head, this is one. Under the
      Assam Accord, which ended the six-year student-led agitation against
      illegal migration â€" although the issue is still volatile, a total of
      about nine lakh settlers, largely Hindus who had come from East
      Pakistan from 1966 to 71, were to be given citizenship after 10 years
      of the accord; and they were not even supposed to cast their votes
      during that period.

      Assam has a total population of 30 million, of which the Muslim
      population is about 30 per cent. There are two clear groups of
      Muslims, those of Assamese stock, who number about 350,000, while the
      others, of Bengali stock, make up the balance of about 8.2 million.
      Many Bengali settlers have reported Assamese as their mother tongue as
      part of a complex political pact with the Congress which dates back to
      the 1960s. Although Islamic, the Assamese Muslims are far more liberal
      and open than the settler group and their identity is inexorably
      connected with the Asomiya language and the state of Assam. Today,
      Muslims are a decisive factor in at least 30 of the state’s 126
      Assembly segments and are a majority in six of 27 districts. A court
      ruling also appears to have aggravated the tension; a judge described
      the influx of migrants as a "cancerous growth" and called for
      "political will" and "public activism" to fight it.

      Vigilantism and pressure tactics followed, from groups wanting to
      detect and push out "Bangladeshis" while the state administration
      behaved like a disinterested spectator.

      The confrontation in these areas is not new, although the recent bout
      was sparked by an attack on Bodo youth during a bandh called in August
      by a little-known Muslim organisation. Clashes between settlers and
      "local" groups goes back decades and many hark to the massacres of
      1983, when over 3,000 persons, mostly Muslim and of Bengali origin
      (not Bangladeshi), died in clashes in Assam, especially on the killing
      fields around a little town called Nellie. A number of us reported on
      those riots and the recent incidents spark a sense of deja vu.

      A senior minister has declared that a Bodo armed group, currently
      locked in peace talks with New Delhi, is behind some of the killings,
      although the organisation, the National Democratic Front of Bodoland,
      has denied it. There are reports of Pakistani or Jaqmaat flags flying
      in some areas.

      While these are important points, they are no longer the issue â€" the
      heart of the matter is that if Assam is to survive, trust and security
      must be restored to these areas. But how? How can dialogue be
      initiated and promoted between the communities, at the village,
      district and state level? There are disturbing voices who say they no
      longer can live with the other groups and want separate habitations.
      If this happens, then whatever remains of Assam’s composite culture,
      devastated by years of confrontation, ethnic divides, suspicion and
      assaults by the State and non-state actors, would be wiped out.

      It is critical that civil society groups, scholars and activists who
      have worked here â€" and even those who have not â€" go to the area,
      especially the relief camps, to help the resumption of a basic
      dialogue and conversation among the groups. One learns that there is
      an understanding among some settler groups that their deliberate
      distance and social customs have created misunderstanding. The
      government must enable such processes to take place for only these can
      bring long-term peace.

      The government cannot be seen as supine: it has to bring a set of
      governance tools to bear on the situation, for without that no
      dialogue or process of reconciliation can last. For such conversations
      to have any meaning there must be justice: justice for those who have
      suffered by punishing the attackers and protecting the weak and
      sufferers, from whichever community. While it is obvious that the
      government cannot provide protection to all at risk, it must marshal
      its resources competently and strategically so that such incidents are
      quickly quashed.

      Should governments, at the state and Central levels, go about business
      as usual and sleep over these issues and hope that the problem will
      just go away, then they will be guilty of criminal conduct; unless the
      media and extremist politics are reined in, Assam could be, in for
      another bloodletting during the Lok Sabha elections.

      Illegal migration cannot be accepted but rhetoric, which has spawned
      frustration and deep anger over these decades, does not solve the
      problem. Fences and laws do not keep migrants out.

      Better border management and identity cards for all Indian citizens
      must be part of a better border management policy. But even more
      critical, keep the doors open for dialogue among the communities, the
      conversations going and the media hype down.

      Sanjoy Hazarika is an author, journalist and filmmaker




      Mumbai, 4th November, 2008

      From: Ammu Abraham
      Women's Centre, 104B Sunrise Apts; Nehru Rd,
      Vakola, Santacruz (E), Mumbai - 400 055
      tele: 91-22- 2668 0403


      Shri Navin Patnaik, Chief Minister of Orissa
      Navin Nivas, Aerodrome Rd, Bhubaneshwar, Dist. Khurda,
      Orissa - 751 001

      Sub: State complicity in further oppression of the Catholic nun raped
      during the attacks on Christians in K Nuagaon, Orissa

      Dear Chief Minister,

      We have been informed by the media that you have 'suspended' 5
      policemen on duty during the rape of a Catholic nun in K Nuagaon,
      Kandhamal, Orissa on August 25th, 2008. Apparently they have been
      suspended for 'misconduct and negligence of duty'.

      As women's rights activists, and women in human rights and civil
      liberties, people's rights activists, members of NGOs, civil society
      groups, activists for democracy and a secular India, we are enraged by
      your serial suspensions of your police personnel, and your absolute
      refusal to face upto the genocide of Christians in Kandhamal district
      of the state of which you are the Chief Minister.

      It took you more than a month to admit that this 28 year old sister of
      a religious order was raped during an attack by an armed mob of 40 to
      50 Hindutavadi men on her and a priest, Fr Chellan. When you finally
      did, you called it a 'shameful and savage act' and promised
      'stringent' action. Then you 'stringently' suspended the inspector -
      in - charge of the Baliguda police station. This was a month ago, in
      the first week of October.

      Dear Chief Minister, it has taken you a further whole month to realize
      and to admit to the public that another five Orissa policemen were
      guilty of dereliction of duty when the sister was raped and when she
      was paraded in a barely clothed state along a public road to a market
      place in the afternoon.

      Through September and October, you have allowed this derelict police
      force to harass this rape survivor by demanding that she co-operates
      with them in their "investigations" into her rape. Some of them have
      landed in Delhi and rushed about looking for her in odd places. She
      has also been intimidated by the women's wing of the RSS, the
      Rashtriya Sevika Samiti who were calling for her arrest if she did not
      surrender herself to the investigations of the Orissa police.

      Sir, we consider this a grave dereliction of duty on your part as the
      Chief Minister of Orissa. And who shall suspend you? Sir, are we all
      to accept once and for all, that not only is there discrimination
      against religious minorities in our country, but that their right to
      life can be violated with impunity? The violated nun had requested a
      CBI investigation, instead of one by the state police. She had
      expressed not only her lack of faith in the Orissa police as the
      investigating agency, she has expressed her fear of vidictiveness on
      their part.

      After sister was brutally beaten, stripped, raped and paraded half
      naked, her statement says, that they reached a market place where
      there were about a dozen Orissa State Armed Police. (Please note,
      about a dozen and not five; and why should anyone have faith that of
      the five suspended now, any are from the dozen at the market?) This
      desparate woman tried to sit between two of them and asked them for
      protection from the mob which had been assaulting her and parading
      her. But these policemen sat stone faced and allowed the mob to
      recapture her and to parade her again till the Nuagaon police post. At
      this place too, a member of the mob stayed behind talking in a
      friendly manner to the police. The sister has no faith in them or
      their colleagues as investigators.

      Now we find that these same would-be investigators have been busy
      trying to discredit the sister. According to them, she did not record
      their handing over her to the mob in her First Information Report and
      this proves that her statement to that effect is untrue. But it is
      definitely not uncommon for the police to try to sheild their
      colleagues and fail to note such episodes in the FIR. The Orissa
      police have also tried to say the FIR was lodged the day after the
      rape, insinuating delay. Sister has stated that she tried to give a
      full account in the FIR, but that the police warned her first of the
      'consequences of filing an FIR' and also asked her to restrict it to
      one page. She was raped in the afternoon, her medical examination was
      done in the evening; the police took her for registration of the FIR
      the next day, according to the sister. She was also abandoned by them
      halfway to Bhubaneshwar and asked to take public transport the rest of
      the way.

      After that it took them nearly 40 days to collect the medical report,
      despite the doctor telephoning them to do so, and to start the
      'investigations' . Their conduct thereafter has not been that
      befitting a state investigating agency; they have conducted themselves
      instead as a force trying to clear their colleagues by discrediting
      and harassing a rape victim.

      It is not surprising then that the sister refuses to 'cooperate' in
      this process of investigation. But she must be empowered to fight this
      case. It is not unprecedented for a state government to agree to ask
      for a CBI investigation in such situations. The murders of all but one
      of a Dalit family in Khairlanji in Maharashtra is a relevant example,
      though the decision came rather late.

      Dear Chief Minsiter, it is within your power to ask for and engage the
      C.B.I. in the investigations into this case; to help this sister to
      seek justice in the courts; to make it more probable that justice may
      be done in this case.

      We request you, on behalf of this rape survivor, to do so immediately.
      We really hope that you will accept our request and act on it.

      sincerely yours,

      1. Ammu Abraham, Women's Centre, Mumbai
      2. Sandhya Gokhale, Forum Against Oppression of Women, Mumbai
      3. Soma Marik, Nari Nirjatan Pratirodh Manch, Kolkatta
      4. Madhuchanda Basu Karlekar, Sachetna, Kolkatta
      5. Deepti Sharma, Saheli, Delhi
      6. Sheba George, SahrWaru, Ahmedabad
      7. N. B. Sarojini, S.A.M.A., Delhi
      8. Chayanika Shah, Labia, Mumbai
      9. Trupti Shah, Sahiyar, Vadodara
      10.Aleyamma Vijayan, Sakhi, Kerala
      11. Kerala Streevedi (network of 35 women's organizations)
      12. Sudha Verghese, Nari Gunjan, Madhya Pradesh




      by Vijay Prashad, 7 November 2008



      Daily News and Analysis, November 09, 2008


      by Ranjona Banerji

      RSS, School Texts and the Murder of Mahatma Gandhi
      Aditya Mukherjee, Mridula Mukherjee and Sucheta Mahajan
      Sage Publications, Paperback, 112 pages. Rs 195

      A potted history of Hindutva sectarianism that reminds people of the
      pitfalls of an ideology based on hatred and violence

      In the beginning, the problems: This is a book written to and for the
      converted. That is, someone who already knows about the doings of the
      Hindutva organisations. It is also written by "the usual suspects",
      that is, names and institutions that are associated with the
      anti-Hindutva movement. The second is a problem to the extent that the
      battle lines are so strongly drawn in this debate that any mention of
      Jawaharlal Nehru University and the other side tends to go up in
      flames. However the writers do have the scholarship and credentials to
      take on such a subject and do justice to it.

      The first problem is the larger one. This is a thin book which appears
      to have been put together in a hurry. While it could not have come at
      a more opportune moment, as everyday brings headlines of a "Hindu"
      terror network spreading across the country, a littler more heft would
      not have hurt. It makes sense then to examine how this communal
      thinking is engendered and the effects it has had on Independent India.

      The first part of the book looks at the history textbooks used in the
      schools run by the RSS and its affiliate organisations, which are full
      of invectives and distortion of facts. It examines how the BJP
      government, when it was in power at the Centre, attempted to change
      NCERT textbooks to suit their Hindu supremacist agenda. One 10th
      standard textbook on contemporary India did not even mention Mahatma
      Gandhi's assassination. After objections were made, a bald statement
      of the fact of his death â€" with no mention that it was the Hindu
      rightwing which had killed him â€" was introduced.

      However, while the absurd assertions made by RSS textbooks are
      mentioned - India brought civilisation to China and so on - no
      attempts are made to counter these claims. Instead, it is assumed that
      everyone would know that they are absurd. But if one contention of
      this book is that the communal virus has spread enormously over the
      past 20 years through this network of schools, it would greatly help
      the lay reader if the statements made are effectively proved to be false.

      This book should serve as a real eye-opener when it comes to the
      assassination of Gandhi, especially for those who are unaware or have
      forgotten that it was the efforts of all the Hindu rightwing
      organisations which inspired Nathuram Godse to kill Gandhi. Over the
      years, VD Savarkar's role in the conspiracy has been ignored or
      glossed over.
      As it happens, Nathuram Godse expressed his deep hurt at the way
      Savarkar ignored him during the trial.

      The assassination of Gandhi is India's most shocking event as a
      nation. Yet today, as this book reiterates, after years of Gandhi
      being vilified by a sustained campaign carried out by the Hindutva
      lobby, a portrait of Savarkar hangs in Parliament, opposite his own.
      This is not irony: this is the theatre of the absurd where a man who
      played a key role in the plot to assassinate him is portrayed as a hero.

      But the plot to kill Gandhi once and then kill his reputation again
      has been at work since 1948, which this book clearly puts down.
      Contrary to claims by the rightwing that Sardar Patel was somehow one
      of them, his disapproval at the communal agenda of the RSS was
      complete and clearly stated and is shown here. The role of Shyama
      Prasad Mukherjee has also been outlined.

      The RSS agenda â€" and to this can be added the Hindu Mahasabha â€" was
      always to inculcate a sort of "Hindu" nationalism and to put down
      religious minorities, particularly Muslims. Gandhi had to be killed
      because he did not believe in either and his influence over India and
      the world was great. While the admiration of the RSS for Hitler and
      his assault on the Jews is well-known, sometimes it is worthwhile to
      repeat it so that the extent of the organisation's hate philosophy is
      understood. As this book makes clear, as long as India was under the
      influence of a "Nehruvian view" for want of a better expression, the
      RSS had limited underground appeal. The last 20 years has seen a
      substantial change in that view, perhaps to our detriment as a nation.

      This book, part of The Hindu Communal Project with a foreword by
      renowned historian Bipan Chandra, is a worthwhile read as a sort of
      potted history of Hindutva-inspired hatred and to remind those who may
      want a refresher course in the context of recent happenings.




      QUEER AZADI MUMBAI invites you to an important public protest and
      public meeting on Thursday 13 November

      Dear Friends,
      These are stirring times for the LGBTI communities in India.
      Queer Azadi on 16 August was an empowering day for us in Mumbai. So
      many individuals and groups worked together to make it happen, and
      marched together with such a sense of affirmation. Bangalore, Delhi
      and Kolkata had already had Pride marches, well covered by the media,
      and these inspired all of us here.
      Meanwhile, the Delhi High Court has concluded its hearings around the
      petition (filed by various activist groups) seeking to have Sec. 377
      of the IPC read down, because it criminalises sexual acts between
      consenting adults of the same sex. Even as we await the Court’s
      ruling, there is room for cautious optimism because of the progressive
      stance of the Bench throughout, and the contradictory positions taken
      by the Govt. of India, with the Home Ministry opposing the petition
      and the Health Ministry supporting it.
      Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are making
      their presence felt, on the streets and in the media, and there is a
      lot more discussion today about our long-denied human and civil
      rights. Yet this did not prevent the horrific arrests, abuse and
      torture by the police of hijras and activists of Sangama in Bangalore
      recently. This was not an isolated incident: as public, media and
      legal sympathy for the right of queer people to live with dignity
      builds, we may expect, and must be prepared with strategies to resist,
      such right wing and state-sponsored backlash.
      If stirring things have been happening here, a revolution has been
      cooking across the border in Nepal! Sunil Pant of the Blue Diamond
      Society, a queer rights organisation, is the country’s first openly
      gay elected MP. The new Nepali Constitution that is even now being
      written includes committees working on same sex marriage rights and
      protection of LGBTI people, no mean achievement.
      We have planned an afternoon that brings all these issues into focus.
      7 November was observed in many places as a National Day of Protest
      against the Bangalore incident. We are holding our public protest in
      Mumbai on 13 November, along with a public meeting to coincide with
      Sunil Pant’s visit to the city.
      Please make yourselves free and attend in large numbers! We have to
      keep up the momentum of Pride and Azadi.
      In solidarity,
      Queer Azadi Mumbai
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.