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SACW | Feb 1-9 , 2009 / Fight Back The Fundamentalists

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    South Asia Citizens Wire | February 1-9, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2604 - Year 11 running From: www.sacw.net [Khalid Hasan (1934-2009): This issue of the wire is
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 8, 2009
      South Asia Citizens Wire | February 1-9, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2604 -
      Year 11 running
      From: www.sacw.net

      [Khalid Hasan (1934-2009): This issue of the wire is dedicated to
      remembering Khalid Hasan, the translator, writer, a world citizen with
      secular views. ]

      [1] Nepal: Endangered Press Freedom (International Media Mission)
      [2] Letter From Sri Lanka (Sumana Raychaudhuri)
      [3] Pakistan: Menacing Talibanisation
      (i) Pakistan: The nightmare must end (Beena Sarwar)
      (ii) Swat's descent into chaos (Basim Usmani)
      (iii) Swat museum a victim of obscurantism (Sher Baz Khan)
      (iv) Pakistan Appeal Re Mukhtar Mai: write letters and emails to
      the authorities
      [4] Struggle for Justice by Deceived Afghan Bride Resonates in India
      (Rama Lakshmi)
      [5] Statement on the Treatment of Rohingya and Bangladeshi 'Boat
      People' in Asia
      + Abandoned at Sea: The Sad Plight of the Rohingya (Ishaan Tharoor)
      [6] Pakistan: Rally for peace between Pakistan, India
      [7] Clash of Civilisations Within India: The Various Taliban at work
      (i) The Hindu Taliban Assaulting Freedom, Militarising Society
      (Praful Bidwai)
      (ii) Hindu Taliban (Editorial, The Hindu)
      (iii) Menace of moral policing: (Editorial, Kashmir Times)
      (iv) Girls interrupted by UP's 'Taliban'
      (v) Fight Back the Hindu Taliban Join the Pink Underwear Campaign
      [8] India's Terror Dossier: Further evidence of a conspiracy (Raveena
      [9] Israel / Palestine / India: Reflections on the carnage in Gaza
      (Dilip Simeon)
      [10] India - Human Rights: Court rulings re police encounters and the
      state's outsourced militia (News Reports)
      [11] Miscellanea:
      - The Rule of the Road (Sanjay Subrahmanyam)
      - Cosmopolitanism's Alien Face (Amit Chaudhuri)
      - Speaking in Tongues (Zadie Smith)


      [1] Nepal:

      Nepali Times, 8 February 2009

      A high-level delegation of international media watchdog groups has
      concluded a four-day inspection visit of Nepal and has said that press
      freedom is in danger in Nepal.

      The International Media Mission said it found that journalists in
      Nepal were working in an environment of threat and intimidation
      despite the hope that restoration of democratic rule would improve the

      The FNJ has recorded a 342 press freedom violations in 2008 alone,
      including a significant escalation in the number of physical attacks
      on journalists and media hourses. Uma Sigh, JP Joshi, Birendra Sah and
      Pushar Bahadur Shrestha have been killed since 2006. A total of 29
      journalists have been killed since the Maoist-led People's War began
      in 1996, some killed by the Maoists, others during state detention.?

      The mission expressed worries over the attack on media houses and
      called on the authorities to undertake "prompt, independent and
      impartial investigation of these and all other cases of murder and
      disappearances of journalists".

      "Attacks on media, workers, publications and property are
      unacceptable. Those responsible must be held accountable for their
      actions," it stated.

      The mission also expressed concern that a due process is not being
      observed in the cases against Rishi Dhamala, Subhak Mahato and
      reported kidnapping of Pankaj Das in Birgunj. The mission urged the
      authorities should follow up on the cases.

      The mission concluded that the authorities are failing in their duty
      to prevent, punish and redress the harm caused by such attacks. "The
      violations of journalists' rights is a direct infringement of the
      public right to information. The links between political parties and
      some the perpetrators of these violent acts are a matter of serious
      concern and would indicate the acceptance and possible complicity of
      those political parties in the violence," said the statement.

      The mission urged the government and political parties to implement
      the recommendations for freedom of expression and press freedom
      outlined in the Agenda for Change document as swiftly and fully as
      possible. It has talked about guarantees of freedom of expression,
      right to information, end of control of media and introduction of
      public service broadcasting, independent regulator for broadcasting,
      end of criminal defamation through civil law and implementation of
      Working Journalists' Act.

      The mission included members from Article 19, the International
      Federation of Journalists, UNESCO, IMS, and visited Nepal at the
      invitation of FNJ. Delegates met the prime minister, ministers,
      constituent assembly, leaders of political parties, security heads,
      media and civil society organisations. Mission members also visited
      Janakpur where the journalist Uma Singh was murdered in January. The
      mission incorporates 15 international organisations including UN
      agencies, global media associations, freedom of expression advocates
      and media development organisations.



      by Sumana Raychaudhuri




      Dawn, February 7, 2009


      by Beena Sarwar

      Of the many challenges Pakistan's elected government faces perhaps the
      most menacing and deep-rooted is Talibanisation — a phenomenon
      identified earlier on by the then exiled Afghan government's acting
      foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, on Sept 21, 2000, in his address
      to the United Nations General Assembly.

      Pleading for urgent measures to combat this threat, Abdullah wondered
      "how far the evil threat of Talibanism shall expand … before the
      conscience of the international community would be awakened, not to
      just consider, but to adopt immediate and drastic preventive measures."

      His warnings fell on deaf ears. Today, Pakistan bears the brunt of the
      Taliban fallout, thanks to short-sighted Pakistanis fixated on
      creating an illusionary `strategic depth' and Americans who thought
      routing the Taliban militarily in Afghanistan, thanks to superior
      technology, would `root out the evil'. All it did was push their
      support base underground for a while, even as the political vacuum
      created by mainstream Pakistani party leaders being in exile allowed
      the Taliban-sympathetic Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (also referred to by
      Benazir Bhutto as the Mullah Military Alliance) to win elections and
      strengthen these forces.

      They have been gaining ground since Pakistan's creation, with
      formulations like the Objectives Resolution. The process accelerated
      with successive governments pandering to right-wing ideologues who
      practically took over the country during the Afghan war. Then it
      suited Washington and its allies, including the Zia regime, to arm and
      train the Mujahideen and initiate what Dr Eqbal Ahmad called `jihad

      Writers and artists also courageously took on these elements. The
      dozens of works exhibited recently by the Peshawar-based cartoonist
      Zahoor at The Second Floor in Karachi included one dated Dec 23, 2007
      in which he personifies a cloud as an armed, bearded man (`Taliban'
      inscribed on his turban) hovering ominously overhead, moving from
      Darra towards Peshawar. Another cartoon titled `Scenic Swat Valley'
      shows a mean-faced, hirsute volcano overseeing a pile of burning
      television sets.

      Perhaps most prescient was the short-story writer Ghulam Abbas who
      during another time of `enlightened moderation' (Ayub Khan's)
      predicted the logical conclusion of organised bigotry and fanaticism
      in Hotel Mohenjodaro, a futuristic story in which guests at the
      fictional Hotel Mohenjodaro celebrate Pakistan becoming the first
      country to send a man to the moon (Abbas wrote it in 1967 or so,
      before Neil Armstrong's feat).

      Mullahs around the country condemn the astronaut's act as heretical.
      They whip up a frenzy that topples the government, grab power, destroy
      universities, schools and libraries and impose strict gender
      segregation. They ban music, art, English and modern inventions — but
      don't mind using these inventions (loudspeakers then, Internet,
      television and FM radio stations now) for their own purpose. Their
      infighting leads to anarchy. Pakistan is invaded and destroyed. Years
      later, a tour guide points to the spot in a desert "where, before the
      enemy struck, stood the Hotel Mohenjodaro."

      The Taliban have already reduced many hotels and educational
      institutions to rubble in Swat and other previously idyllic areas.
      Recovery from the nightmare they have unleashed will take much time,
      once it is over. And over it must be, later if not sooner. In the long
      term, as Pervez Hoodbhoy predicts, "the forces of irrationality will
      cancel themselves out because they act at random whereas reason pulls
      only in one direction."

      Those who justify the Taliban uprising in Pakistan as an
      anti-imperialist movement forget that since the Taliban first swept
      into Afghanistan in 1996 (with the blessings of the Pakistani
      establishment), they have been a threat to women, pluralism and
      democracy in the region. Their oppressive order in Afghanistan
      pre-dates the American invasion of Iraq, bombing of Afghanistan, and
      drone attacks in Pakistan.

      Although many Afghans initially welcomed the Taliban for their `speedy
      justice', oppressive measures like closing girls' schools and pushing
      women out of the public sphere added to the people's miseries. Forced
      to give up their jobs, thousands of women, the sole bread-earners for
      their families, had three choices: beggary, starvation or prostitution.

      Pushed out of Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban and their ideological
      extensions began attempting to enforce this order in Pakistan. Over
      the past months they have closed or demolished scores of girls'
      schools in Swat and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata),
      forcing thousands of girls to discontinue their education.

      The diary of a seventh-grade Swat schoolgirl writing under the pen
      name `Gul Makai' (BBC Urdu Online) bears poignant testimony to these
      horrors. On Jan 3, she wrote, "I had a terrible dream yesterday with
      military helicopters and the Taliban. I have had such dreams since the
      launch of the military operation in Swat…. I was afraid going to
      school because the Taliban had banned all girls from attending
      schools." That day, only 11 out of 27 students attended class because
      of the Taliban's edict. Three of her friends had already moved to
      Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families. In the latest
      installment, her own family has moved to Islamabad.

      Here in Karachi, even my seventh-grade old daughter argues that all
      this has nothing to do with Islam.

      What it has to do with is territorial control and power. As the
      historian Rajesh Kadian notes, most of Asia's major countries are
      "frayed at the edges with central authority barely maintaining the
      functions, power and dignity of the state". Pakistan's "frayed fringe"
      Fata was strategically important to the West during the Afghan war and
      after 9/11. The exception was "the extraordinary valley of Swat", the
      cradle of Tibetan Buddhism, the home of Shah Mir whose piety converted
      the Kashmiris to Islam, boasting the highest literacy rates in the
      area especially among women. By targeting this peaceful, settled area
      with its diverse cultural and religious traditions, the Taliban have
      made life hell for its residents. They have also challenged the writ
      of the state by establishing their own parallel system.

      This would have been impossible if the heavily armed and trained
      Pakistan Army meant business. Instead, they say they are unable to
      even neutralise the FM radio station from which daily announcements
      are made of the Taliban's next targets. The army's recently stated
      resolve to work in tandem with the civilian government counters public
      perceptions about its reluctance to do just that. Somewhere, the will
      seems to be lacking. It will continue to remain lacking unless those
      who control Pakistan realise that the target of these `jihadi' forces
      is not just to control some areas, but to overrun the entire country,
      just as Ghulam Abbas predicted.

      The writer is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker based
      in Karachi.

      o o o

      Taliban militants have taken the Swat valley in Pakistan – why is
      the country turning a blind eye?

      by Basim Usmani


      o o o


      Dawn, February 04, 2009


      by Sher Baz Khan

      MINGORA, Feb 3: The 2000-year-old heritage of Swat is now at the mercy
      of militants loyal to Maulana Fazlullah. They had made their
      intentions clear from day one: symbols of pre-Islamic cultures are an
      abomination and must be destroyed.
      The Swat museum, a repository of relics dating as far back as to the
      3rd century BC, has itself turned into a picture of ruin.
      The museum was taken over by the Army after it launched the operation
      in 2007. An explosion at a nearby army premises and the hostels of the
      Jehanzeb College badly damaged parts of the building in February of
      last year.
      Insiders told Dawn that 150 items of pottery dating back to the 1st
      century BC fell to the ground from the impact of the blast.
      The transportation of the damaged pottery to a Taxila-based laboratory
      for repair has been posing a challenge to the museum staff and law
      enforcement agencies due to fear of attacks by militants.
      The curator, Mohammad Aqleem, has appealed to the authorities for
      security. But so far no law enforcement agency has responded to the
      curator's SOS.
      It has now been decided to bring experts to Swat so that they could
      repair the broken pottery, but the when and the how are being kept secret.
      All the items which were once on display in the eight-gallery museum
      have been removed to an unknown place.
      In the wake of threats by the Fazlullah-led Taliban, only a handful of
      the 54 people employed at the museum could be seen in the compound.
      Located in the heart of Mingora city, the museum looks like a military
      fort from the outside --- its entrance protected by sandbags and bunkers.
      From the inside it is no more than a jail. Mr Aqleem and his family
      have been living in the museum premises and have restricted their
      They are being guarded by the Army. The curator, who has chosen to
      stay in Swat despite the lurking danger, sat brooding over the fate
      awaiting a once serene valley.
      He recalls, with a tinge of sadness, that it was on one Saturday night
      in Nov 2007 that the historic statue of Buddha in the Jihanabad area
      of Swat was blown up by militants.
      "This was the second attack on the seventh century statue of Buddha,"
      he observed with a wry smile.
      The fresh attack had caused irreparable loss to the head of the statue
      and also damaged its shoulders.
      "It was a most complete and inspiring symbol of Gandhara art," Mr
      Aqleem said, looking up to the ceiling of his office. The room which
      now serves as his office was once a dining room for guests. His office
      is no longer safe for him.
      After the destruction of the Bamiyan statue of Afghanistan, the one in
      Swat was the most awesome. It stood seven metres tall, showing Buddha
      in meditation.
      The museum was founded in 1959 by the Wali (head) of the then state of
      Swat. Its building was designed by an Italian architect, Vittonio
      Cardi, and renovated in 1992 thanks to a Japanese grant in 1992.
      Its items cannot be displayed anywhere else except Swat for it is a
      site museum.
      "The museum will reopen only after peace returns to the valley," Mr
      Aqleem said.

      And peace is what the people of Swat are dying for.

      o o o




      [4] Afghanistan / India:



      Sabra Ahmadzai, a 20-year old Afghan woman, finished high school and
      came to India in November to look for her Indian army husband who
      deceived, married and abandoned her. (Rama Lakshmi - The Washington Post)

      by Rama Lakshmi
      Washington Post Foreign Service
      Saturday, January 31, 2009; Page A08

      NEW DELHI -- Twenty-year-old Sabra Ahmadzai finished her final high
      school test in Afghanistan, took out a bank loan and then flew to
      India on the last day of November. She came to look for an Indian army
      doctor who she said had deceived, married and then abandoned her in
      Kabul, making her an object of shame and ridicule.

      In India, Ahmadzai's journey has become a rallying point for young
      women across college campuses who find in her a source of inspiration
      to question powerful hierarchies of traditional societies. The
      students in three universities in the capital are trying to set up a
      "Justice Committee for Sabra" by enlisting eminent lawyers, retired
      judges, professors and independent activists.

      The first thing Ahmadzai did in India was confront her husband in
      front of his first wife and children. But Ahmadzai did not stop there.
      She also filed a police complaint and challenged the Indian army,
      meeting with government officials, women's groups, human rights
      organizers and student activists. She says her mission is to see her
      husband, Maj. Chandrashekhar Pant, punished under Indian law
      prohibiting bigamy.

      Pant was stationed at the Indian medical hospital in Kabul and married
      Ahmadzai two years ago. The ceremony was held 20 days before he
      returned to India, she said.

      He later called Ahmadzai to inform her that he was already married and
      had two children.

      "I had nothing else but anger when I left Kabul. I did not know a
      single person in India," said Ahmadzai, her close-set eyes darkening
      as she recalled her troubles.

      She sat in the office of the students union of New Delhi's prestigious
      Jawaharlal Nehru University, under a large poster with the words,
      "Oppression is your privilege, protest is your right."

      "But now so many Indians see my fight as theirs," she added. "I want
      him behind the bars of a jail so that no man ever attempts this again
      with any other woman in the world. My family trusted him. He not only
      cheated me, but broke their heart, as well. My family has been
      ostracized in Kabul because of this shame."

      Pant did not respond to multiple text and telephone messages
      requesting comment and does not have a lawyer representing him publicly.

      Ahmadzai carries her nikaah nama, or marriage certificate, and a
      compact disc of photographs and video clips of her elaborate Kabul
      wedding, attended by about 700 people. "She is battling the power
      structures in both Afghanistan and India. She is an inspiration for
      all of us here," said Sucheta De, 25, a geography student who is a
      counselor at the student union. "What we women regard as our personal
      struggle is often a political struggle against dominant social

      Ahmadzai worked at the Indian hospital in Kabul as a part-time
      interpreter for the equivalent of $150 a month, while attending school
      in the afternoon. She said she had learned Hindi from the popular
      Bollywood movies in her middle-class home.

      Pant, who was her boss, approached her family three times with his
      marriage proposal, Ahmadzai said. When her mother sent him away
      because he was not a Muslim, he returned with a priest pledging to
      convert from Hinduism to Islam, she added.

      "I did not love him. He was my boss and twice my age. But the elders
      and the priest said, 'We have given our word and cannot take it back,'
      " she recalled. "He had won their hearts by treating sick children of
      my relatives, too. They liked him. I followed their wishes obediently."

      Pant changed his name to Himmat Khan, and called her "Cat" in Hindi,
      she said. But after less than three weeks of married life, she said,
      Pant told her that the army was sending him back to India and that he
      would return for her. Ahmadzai said she received three calls in six
      months and the last one, in the middle of 2007, was an "unimaginable
      blow." "He said: 'Sabra, you are young, beautiful; you should remarry.
      I have a wife and two sons here in India,' " she recalled.

      Then the taunts began. People in Kabul jeered at her. "If I spoke ill
      about him, it was like slapping my own face. So I kept quiet," she
      said. "Women said that I was a stigma on earth and should take poison
      and die. The local boys harassed me and shouted that they are ready to
      marry me for 20 days, too. I decided to come to India to confront him."

      She pledged her uncle's ancestral land for a bank loan, collected her
      savings and went to India with her mother. From New Delhi, she took a
      bus to meet Pant in the Himalayan town of Pithoragarh, where he is

      "I told him to come to Kabul and divorce me in front of everybody,"
      Ahmadzai said. "It is better to be divorced than abandoned in my society."

      Pant refused to accept her or divorce her, offering her money instead,
      she said. Enraged, Ahmadzai filed a police complaint. Overnight, her
      cause was adopted by local activist groups. A signature campaign
      began. Women and students waved placards and protested in support of
      her, and blocked traffic for five hours demanding that Pant be
      punished. Ahmadzai addressed the crowds. The city's newspapers
      splashed her story on their front pages. Ahmadzai's mother fell sick
      and returned to Kabul, but Ahmadzai came to New Delhi and met the home
      affairs minister and the National Commission for Women.

      Earlier this month, Gen. Deepak Kapoor, the Indian army's chief of
      staff, told reporters that army officials are looking into Ahmadzai's

      Pant could face charges of bigamy and changing his religion without
      the army's permission, transgressions that could result in expulsion
      from military service. Under Indian civil law, Pant could face seven
      to 10 years in prison for bigamy, if convicted, according to Ravinder
      Singh Garia, Ahmadzai's attorney in New Delhi.

      Police in Pithoragarh said they have registered Ahmadzai's complaint
      but have not filed charges against Pant because the case involves
      actions allegedly committed abroad and because the army is conducting
      a probe. "Our inquiry is in progress," Kapoor said. "If he is found to
      be at fault, we will not hesitate at any point to take action."

      But, the army chief added, there was a discrepancy in the dates. "She
      said in her police complaint that her marriage took place in
      December," he said. "But as per our records, the major was there in
      Afghanistan from January to November."

      Ahmadzai said the army interpreted the date incorrectly from the
      Islamic Afghan calendar date she gave in her police report.

      Her supporters say that Pant should be tried in a civilian court.

      "The army can punish him, but it cannot give her justice. Only a civil
      court can," said Mobeen Alam, 30, a doctoral student and joint
      secretary of the Jawaharlal Nehru University student union. "If the
      army is indeed conducting an inquiry, why have they not contacted
      Sabra to record her version?"

      Ahmadzai's appointments in New Delhi are now managed by the university
      students in the sprawling campus that is the font of India's liberal
      politics. She communicates with her family daily on Google Talk, sits
      in on films and debates the Israeli war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

      Ahmadzai now says that if her case drags on, she may try to enroll in
      an undergraduate course. "I do not know how long my struggle will go
      on," she said. "At least I will have a degree while I wait for justice."



      by sacw.net, 7 February 2009

      We, the undersigned organizations, are extremely concerned about the
      treatment of over a thousand Rohingyas from Burma and migrants from
      Bangladesh who have been forcibly expelled and abandoned in
      international waters by the Thai security forces since December 2008.
      Over the past few weeks, several boats have been rescued off the
      coasts of Indonesia and the Andaman Islands of India. Survivors tell
      of having been detained in Thailand, beaten, and towed out to sea on
      boats without engines or sufficient food and water. Several hundred
      remain missing and are feared dead.
      [. . . ]

      o o o



      by Ishaan Tharoor Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009

      A Bangladeshi man is assisted by an Indian Coast Guard officer after
      being rescued off the coast of the Andaman Islands on December 28.
      Sanjib Kumar / Reuters

      Around early December, in eastern Bangladesh, hundreds of people
      boarded a few rickety wooden boats and embarked on a journey they
      thought would convey them to a better life. They would land perhaps on
      Thailand's southwestern coast, and then seek work there or in the
      Muslim promised land of Malaysia. On Dec. 28, 98 of them were found
      drifting by India's remote Andaman islands, starving and dehydrated, a
      picture of the hardship weathered by generations of boat people
      fleeing adversity only to fall into even greater trials.

      Reports trickling out in recent weeks from various countries lining
      the Andaman Sea have related portions of this ordeal as well as other
      similar incidents involving the same ethnic group. But the tale of one
      survivor has emerged that, if accurate, paints a picture of a
      dehumanizing odyssey, portraying the actions of surrounding
      governments in horrific tones. The man's name is Muzaffar and his
      testimony was obtained over cell phone from his place of temporary
      detention in India by the Arakan Project, a Bangkok-based group
      advocating the rights of these boat people. Muzaffar's account appears
      to amplify other published reports — except with greater detail. He
      said that Thai security forces first forcibly detained him and
      hundreds of other refugees offshore, and then towed them back into
      international waters in a motorless barge, where they were at the
      mercy of the shark-infested sea. Over 300 people who were with
      Muzaffar are missing; they are all believed to be dead.

      These refugees were subject to such treatment, in part, because few
      will defend them. Muzaffar, whose full name is being withheld by the
      Arakan Project, is a member of the Rohingya community, a Muslim ethnic
      group living in abysmal conditions on the margins of Burma and
      Bangladesh. Some 800,000 Rohingya, who look South Asian, remain in
      western Burma, where they are denied citizenship and most rights by
      the military-run government; about 200,000 eke out an existence in
      squalid refugee camps across the border in Bangladesh. A scattered,
      quiet diaspora scratches at the fringe of society in countries as far
      flung as Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Stateless and unwanted, they are
      one of the world's most forgotten people.

      Over many desperate years, they have tried to flee to the
      comparatively richer climes of Southeast Asia. Waves of Rohingya
      migrants routinely take to the sea from the marshlands and jungle of
      eastern Bangladesh, often with the help of people smugglers who charge
      extortionate rates for their services. One report says Thai
      authorities alone picked up some 4,886 Rohingya in an unspecified
      period from 2007 to 2008.

      Muzaffar was part of the most recent exodus. In the transcript of his
      interview with the Arakan Project, Muzaffar claimed that after sailing
      for 12 days in a contingent of two boats, the Thai navy picked them up
      and moved them to a barren isle off the Thai mainland — NGO sources
      suspect this is Koh Sai Daeng, or Red Sand Island — alongside Rohingya
      detainees captured from other refugee expeditions. They were 412 in
      total. For eight days, Muzaffar said, they were kept in the open and
      given little more than "two mouthfuls of rice" per meal. Thai
      soldiers, he said, "beat us up whenever they felt like it."

      Then, Muzzafar said, they were all taken aboard a navy vessel, which
      towed an empty, open-deck barge behind it. The ship, he said in the
      transcript, sailed for a day and a half into international waters, at
      which point it stopped and the navy men allegedly ordered the refugees
      to board the barge. "First, they pointed their guns at us but we still
      refused to move," Muzaffar related. "Our hands were already tied on
      the Navy ship, but this time they also tied the legs of some people
      and threw four of them into the sea." Those people, he said, drowned.
      The rest of the refugees, mostly Rohingya, boarded the barge. It had
      no motor or sail. According to Zaw Win, another Rohingya detainee
      interviewed by the Arakan Project, the Thais gave the refugees four
      bags of rice grain and two drums of water, a woefully insufficient
      supply for over 400 people with nowhere to go. Then they allegedly cut
      the rope between the barge and the navy ship and left.

      The boat drifted for a total of 10 days, and 10 nights. During the
      daytime, Muzaffar said he saw "large fish swimming along the boat that
      looked like sharks." His account went on to say that at night they
      would see a light, perhaps from a passing ship or from a nearby
      island, and many onboard attempted to swim for it lest their boat
      drift in the wrong direction. "We saw many drowning, one by one, as
      the current was carrying them away and none of them had any energy
      left to swim," Muzaffar told his Arakan Project interviewer.

      Eventually, the Indian coast guard picked up the refugees and
      immediately noticed their abject state. The coast guard's report
      stated that there was also a significant amount of water flooding the
      barge; Indian ships reportedly attempted to search for the 300
      missing, but were only able to rescue nine refugees from the sea. The
      survivors have been fed and given medical treatment. They are being
      housed in relief camps where they were reached by phone calls by the
      Arakan Project as well as a reporter from the BBC. The Thai government
      has yet to return TIME's calls on the matter of the treatment of these
      refugees but the country's foreign ministry released a statement on
      Jan. 16 saying that officials were investigating the "facts and
      surrounding circumstances" of the incident.

      Other reports from around the region suggest that Muzaffar's
      experience was not an isolated incident. A Jan. 14 story in the
      Jakarta Post said that 193 Rohingya were rescued by Acehnese fishermen
      on Jan. 7, and are now being housed in an Indonesian naval base. The
      refugees there claim Thai marines also cut them adrift, after
      destroying the engines on their boats, and they managed to stay afloat
      by erecting sails made of plastic tarpaulin. Survivors from a second
      wave of refugees "pushed back" from Thailand — a contingent of some
      580 in total — have also made their way to India's Andaman Islands. It
      is not fully determined whether those who landed at Aceh were part of
      this same group. The front page of the Hong Kong daily South China
      Morning Post on Jan. 15 displayed pictures snapped by an Australian
      tourist in Thailand of Thai troops whipping recently detained Rohingya
      on the beach of an Andaman island popular for snorkeling — in full
      view of sunbathing tourists. What happened to this particular set of
      migrants remains unclear.

      The rescued Rohingya in India and Indonesia are likely to be
      "repatriated" to Bangladesh — a return to Burma would spell arrest and
      far worse. The Rohingya's lot in Burma is dire, says Sean Garcia, a
      consultant for the Washington-based Refugees International. "They are
      not allowed to survive," he says. Denied state documents, the Rohingya
      have to apply for permission to move from village to village, to
      repair a mosque, even to get married. Rohingya frequently fall victim
      to forced labor drives by the military. The Burmese government, say
      Rohingya rights groups, see them as interlopers in the predominantly
      Buddhist land. Illiteracy rates in North Rakhine state, where the
      Rohingya are a majority, run near 80%, malnutrition at 60%. (See
      pictures of the devastation of Burma after the huge 2008 cyclone.)

      As a consequence of their downtrodden condition, the Rohingya don't
      have the kind of diaspora-based support groups that provide publicity
      and aid to some of Burma's other oppressed minorities. Their plight,
      though, may be a central issue at the next regional ASEAN Summit,
      which will take place at the end of February in Thailand. By then,
      observers hope the Thai government will employ different methods in
      tackling the problem. "Governments in the region need to put together
      a proactive plan to meet the needs of the Rohingya," says Garcia. "You
      can't literally make these people go away, as if they were less than
      human." But, for thousands of Rohingya refugees, that is a fate to
      which they are all too accustomed.


      [6] Pakistan / India:

      The News, February 01, 2009


      By Our Correspondent
      A MASSIVE turnout at the peace rally organised by the Aman Tehreek
      from Regal Chowk to Punjab Assembly building in a bid to defuse
      tension and war-mongering between India and Pakistan was seen on Saturday.

      A large number of citizens from different walks of life, social and
      cultural organisations, political parties, professional organisations,
      NGOs, trade unions, students and teachers came together to work
      towards one point agenda `Peace.'

      The South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA), Communist Mazdoor
      Kisan Party (CMKP), Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), South
      Asian Partnership (SAP), Aurat Foundation, Pakistan People's Party
      (PPP), Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), students and lawyers participated
      in the rally. They demanded an end to terrorism and Talibanization in
      the country. They also called for the rehabilitation of girls' schools
      in Swat. The participants were white flags as well as banners and
      placards inscribed with peace message. They chanted anti-war slogans.

      They said the Pakistani government should respond positively to the
      dossier provided by the Indian government regarding probe into the
      Mumbai attacks.

      They said that the government should make concerted efforts to
      establish its writ and restore peace in the valley in Pakistan instead
      of war-mongering. They said millions of people in India and Pakistan
      were starving and jobless but their governments were thinking about
      war in these conditions. They said that they `needed bread not
      weapons' and `peace not war.'

      The PPP workers were also chanting party slogans and extended their
      support to the cause of peace. They said that their part in
      collaboration with the other political parties to defuse tension
      between the two countries.

      Students from various educational institutions also turned up at the
      rally as they were also chanting slogans for peace. They urged the
      government to take stringent steps against those militants who were
      found guilty of blowing up girls' schools in Swat.

      They condemned the Mumbai attacks and warned the governments of India
      and Pakistan that the war between the two countries would benefit
      terrorists who wanted to keep control over the whole region.

      Students were also distributing flyers, promoting peace. They also
      collected funds for peace activities. They also gave out pink, yellow
      and white flowers to the participants. A signature campaign was also
      part of the rally as many people were signing a white sheet in support
      of peace. The activists also set at liberty pigeons at the end of the
      rally. Some blind performers also staged a drama on theme of peace at
      the rally which was appreciated by the participants.





      The Hindu Taliban Assaulting Freedom, Militarising Society
      Praful Bidwai

      One can only marvel-if that's the word-at the breathtaking speed with
      which the sangh parivar has vitiated the social climate in state after
      state. Within months of taking power in Karnataka, it has unleashed
      savage repression and turned Mangalore into a Hindu Taliban bulwark,
      where women are attacked if they go to a bar, where Hindus must not
      mix with Muslims, and where there's no media freedom and free
      interaction among young men and women. The Sri Rama Sene, led by
      Pramod Mutalik, has emerged as a menace. Karnataka has become the
      Gujarat of the South.
      In Maharashtra, Abhinav Bharat and Lt Col Shrikant Prasad Purohit have
      declared war on the Indian state and targeted mosques and innocent
      civilians with bombs. The state's Anti-Terrorism Squad has issued a
      lengthy charge-sheet against this Hindutva terrorist outfit. New
      connections between "Sadhvi" Pragya Thakur, Bajrang Dal, the RSS,
      Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janjagruti Samiti are coming to light.
      In Gujarat, the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team
      (SIT) has declared Minister of State for Women and Child Welfare Maya
      Kodnani and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Jaydeep Patel absconders in a
      case of instigating violence at Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam during
      the 2002 pogrom. Their role was established by eyewitnesses and
      corroborated by mobile telephone records from February 25 to March 4,
      2002, collected by the police.
      Jansangharsh Manch, a group representing the victims, analysed the
      records and produced location graphs to prove that Ms Kodnani and Mr
      Patel were physically present at the sites of crime. These were
      presented to the Nanavati Commission and the SIT. The SIT dragged its
      feet on this issue for two months and allowed the two to abscond.
      The JSM says this "raises doubts" about the SIT's seriousness in
      booking them. "In the Naroda Gam case, some other accused arrested by
      the SIT were let off by court on regular bail within 48 hours." Also
      missing in the SIT approach is a focus on conspiracy to carry out the
      pogrom. Ms Kodnani and Mr Patel have since been granted bail. This
      speaks volumes about the kind of justice that the victims can expect
      in Narendra Milosevic Modi's Gujarat.
      It's in Karnataka that the Hindutva forces' danse macabre has taken on
      an especially grotesque form since 1998, when the Surathkal communal
      riots occurred in coastal Kannada. According to human rights
      activists, a communal incident was reported every 6 months between
      1998 and 2000, became a monthly occurrence between 2000 and 2004, and
      now happens virtually every week. Since May 2008, there have been "14
      recorded incidents of violence" against Hindu girls for been seen with
      Muslim or Christian boys.
      The most obnoxious recent incidents include coordinated attacks on
      churches last September, and the Sri Rama Sene's raid on the Amnesia
      Lounge Bar in Mangalore on January 25, during which young women were
      dragged out and molested. Instead of apologising for these and booking
      the culprits, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa brazenly said there has
      been no "major law and order problem" and Home Minister VS Acharya
      criticised the public outrage as "hype" and "fuss when no deaths have
      occurred." Sene goons are now hounding human rights defenders such as
      Pattabhirama Somayaji, who spoke out against the Amnesia attack.
      There isn't the least doubt that the Karnataka government has been
      shielding the Sene, and in particular Mutalik, who is being
      investigated by the Maharashtra ATS for his links with Purohit in a
      plot to mobilise Hindutva groups to create a Hindu Rashtra by violent
      means while establishing an interim government-in-exile in Israel! In
      August 2007, when Mr Yediyurappa was Deputy Chief Minister in the
      JD(S)-led government, he dropped as many as 51 cases against sangh
      parivar activists, including Mutalik.
      Amidst this explosion of intolerance, communal prejudice and hate
      acts, stand out the two features that the sangh parivar's fanatical
      followers share with the Taliban of Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal
      agency areas. The two common agendas are: imposition of an extremist,
      male-supremacist, puritanical code of conduct with which to regiment
      society in the name of "authentic culture" and "indigenous tradition";
      and second, to use violent means to capture state structures and
      establish an obscurantist, xenophobic, closed and intolerant social order.
      This order bears different names in the two contexts. The parivar's
      Hindu Rashtra is meant to recreate the "glory" and "honour" of ancient
      (read, Hindu) India and secure Hindu primacy or domination. The
      Taliban's goal is the establishment of Nizam-e-Mustafa, where medieval
      barbarism is promoted in the name of Islamic "purity" and "authenticity".
      Both agenda reject and are deeply suspicious of modernity, the
      Enlightenment traditions of reason and scepticism, and the idea of an
      open society which values freedom. For both, people are not citizens
      first-free beings with equal rights who have the liberty to do what
      they like so long as their actions don't harm others. Rather, people
      are fixed by just one identity, that of religion, interpreted in an
      illiberal, sexist and bigoted manner.
      There are intimate, multiple and structural connections between the
      Hindu Taliban and other members of the sangh parivar, from the
      Extreme-Right Bajrang Dal all the way to the Bharatiya Janata Party,
      the parliamentary face of Hindutva or "Cultural Nationalism". Their
      mutual relationship has a "revolving door" character. The BJP uses the
      VHP and Bajrang Dal/Sene whenever convenient. In turn, these
      organisations gain from their association with the BJP-politically,
      financially, and by getting a figleaf of legitimacy.
      Thus, it's no aberration that Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee defended Mr
      Modi's pogrom, or Mr Advani sided with "Sadhvi" Thakur and recommended
      Ms Kodnani's induction into Mr Modi's Cabinet. Ultimately, they are
      all mutually linked via the RSS, and share the same project, that of
      Hindutva. This project has always been deeply suspicious of democracy
      and at best regards it as a means to power or an expedient tool.
      It bears recalling that the RSS, which was deeply influenced by
      European fascism, opposed universal adult franchise until the 1950s.
      Its organ Organiser termed the first general election a "precipitate
      dose of democracy" and "a leap in the dark", and predicted that
      Jawaharlal Nehru would "live to confess the failure of universal adult
      franchise in India".
      So it's amusing to see the BJP parade itself as a great defender of,
      indeed a warrior for, democracy, as it's trying to do on the Election
      Commission issue. It's the only party to support Chief Election
      Commissioner N Gopalaswami's decision to recommend the removal of
      Commissioner Navin Chawla barely 3 months before the CEC retires. This
      has divided the EC just when it must show coherence and unity in view
      of the impending general election.
      The BJP is defending the CEC in the calculation that this issue has
      the same importance as the Emergency and will give it political
      capital "against the Congress for 25 years". But its devious,
      opportunist, and substantively wrong-headed campaign is now coming a
      There are two aspects to this: legal, and more vitally,
      moral-political. Legal opinion is divided over whether the CEC can
      recommend an Election Commissioner's removal suo motu (on his own).
      The majority view says the CEC lacks such powers. But experts are
      unanimous that the President shouldn't accept the CEC's recommendation
      without examining its merits.
      Ironically, Mr Gopalaswami bases his suo motu claim on former Attorney
      General Ashok Desai's interpretation of the Supreme Court's Seshan
      case judgment, which holds that "the CEC cannot act on his own and
      must await [a] reference through proper channels to be able to act on
      a complaint or petition seeking the removal of an EC".
      Equally ironically, 5 years ago, Mr Gopalaswami had urged a change in
      the procedure for removing Election Commissioners by amending Article
      324(5) of the Constitution. This, it argued, "requires an amendment to
      provide the very same protection . in the matter of removing ECs from
      office as is available to the CEC"- namely, impeachment by Parliament.
      The CEC doubtless enjoys administrative primacy in a multi-member
      Commission. But in all material decisions, its members have an equal
      vote. The CEC can be overruled by the other two members. In any case,
      the CEC must not act on "his whim and caprice", and become "an
      instrument of oppression" which would "destroy the independence of the
      The overarching purpose of Article 324 is to insulate the EC from
      executive interference by protecting the Election Commissioners
      against arbitrary removal, and by fixing their terms. This objective
      cannot achieved by limiting special protection only to the CEC, while
      leaving the Election Commissioners defenceless against his adverse
      This is not to ignore Mr Chawla's past. After the Shah Commission's
      indictment, he shouldn't have been in public service. But the BJP
      didn't object to his postings until 2005, including important ones
      under its own rule. It's now raking up the issue to despicably
      self-serving ends.
      We must reform the EC by creating a broad-based collegium, including
      the Leader of the Opposition and Lok Sabha Speaker, to appoint all
      Commissioners. But the BJP isn't interested. It's ploughing a
      viciously sectarian line.

      o o o

      (ii) Editorial, The Hindu, February 7, 2009


      The impunity with which the leader of the Sri Ram Sene, Pramod
      Muthalik — Hindutva's latest self-appointed standard-bearer — is
      issuing public threats to disrupt Valentine's Day celebrations on
      February 14 is a disturbing indication of the resurgence of the
      challenge of sectarian fundamentalism. Mr. Muthalik's intimidatory
      remarks in Bangalore on Thursday featured explicit threats of violence
      directed at young couples. His "action plan; for Valentine's Day was a
      public declaration loaded with criminal intent. Sene activists would
      assault young couples who chose to enjoy the day together in public by
      dragging them to temples and forcing them to marry. If they resisted,
      the girls would be forced to tie "rakhis" on the boys they were with,
      thereby culturally outlawing the possibility of taking their
      relationships in the directions they desired. This sort of cultural
      policing has fascist overtones and translates into vandalism and
      violence against women and minorities. It is also typical of both
      Hindutva and Islamist fundamentalism. The sangh parivar has long
      peddled the stereotype of the backward-looking and antediluvian
      Islamist fundamentalist exercising a stranglehold over an entire
      community. Yet it has no compunctions in allowing its offshoots, the
      Bajrang Dal and now the Sri Ram Sene, to implement a version of Hindu
      culture that is the spitting image of Islamist fundamentalism. What is
      there to distinguish these Hindutva outfits from the fundamentalist
      Dukhtaran-e-Millat in Kashmir, which has frequently threatened to
      disrupt such events as Valentine's Day and has been issuing
      Taliban-style edicts to coerce Muslim women into wearing burqas?

      Mr. Muthalik is now out on bail in two cases, one relating to a
      similar incendiary speech in 2003 and the other relating to the
      Mangalore pub attack on January 24. That the Ram Sene leader continues
      to roam freely in the public arena and make inflammatory anti-social
      utterances indicates the sense of immunity fringe elements of the
      parivar appear to have under the aegis of tolerant if not friendly and
      complicit regimes. Both Chief Minister B.S Yeddyurappa and Home
      Minister V.S Acharya seem disinclined to take firm punitive action
      against these saboteurs. These leaders seemed to rationalise if not
      endorse such deviant behaviour by arguing in the wake of the attacks
      that "pub culture" was a phenomenon that needed to be discouraged.
      Providing such rationalisations of criminal acts is a familiar aspect
      of fundamentalist, and specifically the sangh parivar's, practice. For
      now, the Bangalore police are said to be taking Mr. Muthalik's threat
      seriously and considering pre-emptive action. The Karnataka government
      and the BJP must immediately take credible steps to enforce the rule
      of law — and dispel the notion that Hindutva chauvinists enjoy a free
      ride in BJP-run States.

      o o o

      (iii) Editorial, Kashmir Times, February 5, 2009


      Moral policing by right wing organizations, in the name of cultural
      ethos or religion, has become a problem to reckon with throughout the
      length and breadth of South Asia. If the various Senas are at work
      carrying on their hate soaked agenda against Valentines Day, dating
      and pubs or enforcing dress codes in various parts of India, Jammu and
      Kashmir too has it share of trouble makers on the prowl. After Mumbai,
      Bangalore the shocking moral policing case pertains to Sri Rama Sene's
      January 24 attack on women in Mangalore's Amnesia Club. Instead of
      taking action against the hooligans, the BJP government in Karnataka
      misused its executive power and in blatant violation of rule of law,
      shielded the Sene Chief Pramod Muthalik and others. The latest in
      series are hoardings in Srinagar's Karan Nagar area forbidding people
      to interact with anybody from the opposite gender, describing dating
      or even any kind of interaction as Zinna as per Islamic tenets.
      According to a newspaper report, the hoardings in the area state, "If
      you will be found along with opposite gender you will either be handed
      over to the police or your head will be shaven and then handed to your
      parents." Local newspapers are also filled with reports about how
      religious scholars in the Valley have started a campaign against the
      FM radio stations, objecting to young boys and girls interacting with
      each other through the radio shows and describing these as
      promiscuity. The media itself has gone overboard in making sweeping
      remarks about branding the radio programmes as `vulgar', `obscene' and
      a deliberate onslaught against religion.
      Obscenity and immorality are relative things that may be defined
      differently by different people and individuals. Besides, campaigning
      against immorality in the society and various other evils may be one
      thing but curbing young people's rights, their freedom of expression
      and movement is yet another. It is common knowledge that most of these
      obscurantist diktats stem from a gender bias with women and girls
      bearing the greater brunt of it. Whether or not they come with a
      sexist streak, such intolerant attitudes do not augur well either for
      a healthy society or for democracy. Worse is the condition of
      countries in South Asia where weakened democracy and the lopsided
      logic of religion have allowed politicians to bring in unhealthy laws
      only to silence organizations that raise a hue and cry in the name of
      morality. But even in India, the police and the official agencies have
      often given protection to organizations and individuals taking
      recourse to hooliganism instead of taking action against them – all in
      the name of morality.
      The issuing of moral codes and illegal ways of enforcing these only
      expose a vein of intolerance, chauvinism and hooliganism which cannot
      be justified in the name of morality, which can mean different things
      to people. Morality is a contentious and complex subject. Immorality
      does not simply lie in the clothes one wears, lifestyles, visits to
      restaurants or proximity with the people of opposite gender. These are
      personal matters and differences need to be respected. There is more
      immorality in the society beyond these personal matters, which in fact
      have a greater bearing on the society. Things like corruption, dowry,
      domestic violence, victimisation of the girl child and drug abuse,
      which may be far greater immoral acts than violating dress codes, are
      causes of collective concern. They affect peoples lives in several
      ways. But even if these are seen in the paradigm of morality, ethics
      and core values, the only ways of tackling these is by spreading
      education, and not just literacy, and by friendly persuasion. Other
      ways of tackling these are by taking recourse to legal measures and
      ensuring that there is enough public pressure for the existing system
      to become more functional. The same principle should become the basis
      even if there is a section of society that believes that morality lies
      in lifestyles and clothes. In no case, retrogressive diktats and
      sanctions from obscurantist, most gender biased and intolerant moral
      police should be acceptable. Hooliganism cannot and should not be
      justified. Neither should chauvisnism of any kind – whether it is in
      the name of religion, ethnicity, culture or morality.

      o o o


      Mail Today Bureau
      Lucknow, February 3, 2009

      Muslim intellectuals and organisations from across the country have
      condemned the Uttar Pradesh Board of Madrassa Education's (UPBME)
      order banning girls from co-educational madrassas, terming it
      "Talibani high-handedness". Various organisations have called it a
      "fatwa inspired by Taliban" and declared that it would be unacceptable
      to the masses. They allege that it was a design of the anti-education
      elements to push Muslim society into the dark ages.

      "The people will reject this decision simply because it is neither
      practical nor religious. It is against the masses and also against the
      spirit of Quran," says Dr Ali Ahmad Fatmi, head of the Urdu department
      of Allahabad University and a well-known writer. He adds: "The first
      verse of Quran speaks about education and doesn't ask the followers to
      deprive women of education." The row erupted on Sunday when the UPBME
      issued an order to remove girls from co-educational madrassas in the

      The board finds co-education un-Islamic. Haji Rizwanul Haq, chairman
      of the UPBME, asked all 1,900 board-affiliated madrassas to show the
      doors to all girl students in and above Class IX because it was
      "against Sharia". This order will interrupt the education of over
      25,000 girl students in the state, who will be given their
      school-leaving certificates and asked to sit at home.

      Small consolation that girls in lower classes have been spared. "We
      are not going to disturb the girls from classes I to VIII. But those
      in higher classes wouldn't be allowed to study. Purdah is essential in

      Allowing girls to continue in madrassas means defying the spirit of
      Islam," Haq says.

      "We can follow the Islamic law only by doing away with co-education.
      We also want to follow it meticulously and to ensure that the
      madrassas follow the instruction," he adds.

      Dr M.A. Siddiqi, president of the All India United Muslim Morcha,
      rejects the order calling it "Talibani highhandedness". "The Quran
      doesn't prohibit co-education.

      If these people had any problems with girls, they should have ensured
      more schools for them before taking such an' extreme step," Siddiqui says.

      Lyricist Javed Akhtar minces no words when he says, "What else can you
      expect from them? They should make it clear whether they want girls to
      be educated at all, by giving them separate madrassas." Akhtar echoes
      Siddiqui when he says, "Instead of first setting up separate madrasa
      for girls, they preferred to throw out the girls and stop their
      education." "Sometimes I feel that fundamentalists of all religions
      don't like women. Everything is done to segregate women and reduce
      their space.

      "It's as if the responsibility of culture, tradition, morality is only
      with women.

      Men can drink, wear western clothes, go to pubs but women can't. This
      attitude is common to all fundamentalists of all religions and all
      communities," Akhtar adds.

      Shaista Amber, chairperson of All India Mulsim Mahila Personal Law
      Board, an advocate of appointment of women as Maulvis, says: " Such
      orders shouldn't be taken seriously. It is unfortunate that such
      people are trying to pull back the community into oblivion. How can we
      expect an educated family without having an uneducated woman there?" "
      Those who have little idea about educating our girls shouldn't be
      given the power to decide the fate of their education. I request
      responsible members of the community to ensure better educational
      opportunities for our girls so that they can join the mainstream of
      development," she adds.

      Chairman of National Minorities Commission, Mohammed Shafi Qureshi,
      says: "Have those who had passed this order given the solution in the
      longer run? Where would our girls go to find all- girls institutions
      if they want to study engineering, medical and other professional
      courses? Will girls becoming doctors from our community only operate
      on women? Can somebody give a reply to this before passing the order?
      Segregation at schools will only end careers of minority women, who
      are already lagging in education.'' Anees Ahmed, the state minority
      welfare minister, under whose ministry the UPBME falls, has come out
      in support of the board. "I agree that after an age, girls and boys
      shouldn't study together. Co- education is unwise not only in Islam
      but also in Hinduism," he says.

      Courtesy: Mail Today

      o o o





      by Raveena Hansa, (sacw.net, 5 February 2009)


      [9] South Asia Voices for justice and peace to Palestine/Israel

      Reflections on the carnage in Gaza

      by Dilip Simeon, sacw.net 6 February 2009

      Israel's Operation Cast Lead in Gaza has ended (coincidentally?) just
      before President Barack Obama's inauguration. It has cost 1,300
      Palestinian lives, half of them children and women. Over 5,500 have
      been wounded. Thirteen Israeli soldiers and civilians have been
      killed. Clinics, schools, cemeteries and UN buildings stocked with
      humanitarian supplies have been decimated.

      John Ging, head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency in Gaza, has
      spoken of violations in international law. The Israeli military are
      accused of using powerful shells in civilian areas which they knew
      would cause casualties; using banned weapons such as phosphorus bombs;
      holding civilians as human shields; attacking medical facilities,
      killing 12 ambulance men, and killing policemen with no military role.
      The Red Cross protested after the army moved a Palestinian family into
      a building and shelled it, killing 30. The surviving children clung to
      the bodies of their dead mothers for four days while the army blocked
      rescuers from reaching the wounded. One extended family has lost 48

      Human Rights Watch has called on the UN Security Council to set up a
      commission of inquiry. Amnesty International says hitting residential
      areas with shells that send blasts and shrapnel over a wide area
      constitutes "prima facie evidence of war crimes". Two leading Israeli
      human rights organisations have written to the country's
      attorney-general demanding he investigate the allegations. Almost 540
      Israeli citizens have announced that "Israel has returned to openly
      committing war crimes, worse than what we have seen in a long time",
      and called for "massive intervention by the international community",
      asking the world to "condem and not become an accomplice in Israel's

      Despite all this, the West continues to give carte-blanche to Israel,
      and equates the colonised people of Palestine with a rampaging army
      which has always blocked all attempts to stop its expansionism. In
      extreme situations, the issue is treated as if it were one of two
      equal parties, one of whom - the Palestinians - are for no rhyme or
      reason, launching terrorist attacks upon the other, Israel, which we
      are repeatedly told, has "the right to defend itself".
      [. . .]
      FULL TEXT AT: http://www.sacw.net/article610.html



      (Thanks to Shalini Gera for sending the below list of Material)


      FIR mandatory in encounter cases: HC

      HYDERABAD: In a landmark judgment in a state where naxal activities
      and encounter deaths are rampant, a larger bench of the A P High Court on
      Friday ruled that it is mandatory for the police
      to register an FIR under the relevant sections of the law whenever an
      encounter death takes place.

      Thereafter, it is the magistrate, and not the police, who has to
      decide whether to continue the trial or to close the case after
      hearing the police argument.

      Delivered after much deliberation, the judgment was welcomed by
      several human rights organisations who claimed that this would put an
      end to the practice of the police closing encounter cases on the plea
      of self defence. Police officials, however, termed the verdict as
      disturbing as in the days of terrorism, policemen would be more
      worried about legal consequences of their actions rather than tackle
      the threat.

      The five-judge bench comprising Justices Goda Raghuram, V V S Rao, R
      Subhash Reddy, Ramesh Ranganathan and G Bhavani Prasad, pronounced the
      verdict after hearing a petition filed by the Andhra Pradesh Civil
      Liberties Committee which sought the names of the police personnel who
      participated in an encounter on July 23, 2006, in which 8 Maoists were
      killed. The petitioners had sought the information in order to file a
      case against the police officers who were involved in the incident.
      "It is necessary to examine the larger issue of the powers of the
      police and the rights of the civilians in such cases," the bench said
      in its 150-page order.

      The bench made it clear that the magisterial enquiry (inquest),
      generally done by a revenue authority immediately after such deaths,
      is not an alternative to the obligation to record the information in
      the FIR and to conduct investigation and arrest the offenders, if

      "The opinion on such deaths recorded by an investigation officer (IO)
      and forwarded to a magistrate is only an opinion of the IO and such an
      opinion shall be considered by the magistrate in the context of the
      record of the investigation together with the material and evidence
      collected during the course of investigation," the bench said. The
      magistrate, it said, shall critically examine the entire evidence to
      ascertain whether the opinion of the IO is borne out by the
      investigation. The magistrate has the discretion to disregard the
      opinion and take cognizance under section 190 of CrPC, it said.

      On the issue of the investigating officer's role, whether or not he
      should reveal to the complainants the names of the police personnel
      who participated in such encounters, the bench said it is not an issue
      before them. The bench, however, made it clear that the identity of
      such personnel should be disclosed to the investigation officer. This
      is absolute and there is no immunity whatsoever from this obligation,
      it said.

      o o o



      Take jobs, not guns to Naxal areas: SC

      New Delhi: Making it clear that the state cannot arm any citizen in
      the name of self-defence against the Naxal problem as prevailing in
      Chhattisgarh, the Supreme Court on Thursday made a suggestion to take
      programmes like NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) to the
      areas affected by the Naxalite menace.

      "There are NREGA programmes, extend them to problem areas. This would
      help address the basic problems of poverty, unemployment," noted a
      Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan while hearing a bunch
      of petitions, seeking directions for the state Government to refrain
      from allegedly supporting and encouraging the Salwa Judum movement.

      Bringing out the predicament of the displaced tribal families,
      affected by Salwa Judum, the Bench also comprising Justice P
      Sathasivam observed, "They (affected families) do not know what to do,
      whether to support the state or Naxalites."

      Even the National Human Rights Commission, which was asked by the apex
      court earlier to probe allegations of human rights violations in the
      affected areas, found that the villagers had become victims of the
      fight between Naxalites and Salwa Judum.
      Agreeing with senior counsel K K Venugopal, appearing for the Raman
      Singh Government, the Bench observed, "We do not underestimate the
      enormity of the problem."

      Earlier, Venugopal, citing the recent instance of Maharashtra where
      several cops were killed fighting Naxals, argued, "It is not a normal
      law and order problem. Local people are arming themselves." Saying
      more than 200 policemen were killed while fighting the Naxalites in
      the last one year, the counsel tried clarifying that the state was not
      behind arming civilians but only SPOs.

      However, the Bench noted, "People would be happy to be armed... Where
      do they get arms from? They get it from the state."

      While perusing the state's action taken report filed in compliance
      with the earlier order, the court asked the petitioners to give their
      response and suggestions to deal with this. It also sought for a next
      status report from the Government by the next hearing.

      During the last hearing in December last year, the court had observed,
      "It is a question of law and order. You cannot give arms to somebody
      (a civilian) and allow him to kill. You (state) will be an abettor of
      the offence under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code."

      The Salwa Judum movement in Chhattisgarh wherein civilians, allegedly
      armed by the state, counter Naxalites has come under the scrutiny of
      the apex court after Nandini Sundar and few others, including
      Ramchandra Guha, sought directions for the state to refrain from
      supporting the movement.


      Apex court ire over Chhattisgarh arming Salwa Judum activists

      Salwa Judum disappearing: Chhattisgarh
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