South Asia Citizens Wire | February 1-9, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2604 -
Year 11 running
[Khalid Hasan (1934-2009): This issue of the wire is dedicated to
remembering Khalid Hasan, the translator, writer, a world citizen with
secular views. ]
 Nepal: Endangered Press Freedom (International Media Mission)
 Letter From Sri Lanka (Sumana Raychaudhuri)
 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
 Struggle for Justice by Deceived Afghan Bride Resonates in India
 Statement on the Treatment of Rohingya and Bangladeshi 'Boat
People' in Asia
+ Abandoned at Sea: The Sad Plight of the Rohingya (Ishaan Tharoor)
 Pakistan: Rally for peace between Pakistan, India
 Clash of Civilisations Within India: The Various Taliban at work
(i) The Hindu Taliban Assaulting Freedom, Militarising Society
(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
 India's Terror Dossier: Further evidence of a conspiracy (Raveena
 Israel / Palestine / India: Reflections on the carnage in Gaza
 India - Human Rights: Court rulings re police encounters and the
state's outsourced militia (News Reports)
- The Rule of the Road (Sanjay Subrahmanyam)
- Cosmopolitanism's Alien Face (Amit Chaudhuri)
- Speaking in Tongues (Zadie Smith)
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.
 LETTER FROM SRI LANKA
by Sumana Raychaudhuri
 PAKISTAN: MENACE OF TALIBANISATION
Dawn, February 7, 2009
PAKISTAN: THE NIGHTMARE MUST END
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
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
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
o o o
(ii) SWAT'S DESCENT INTO CHAOS
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
SWAT MUSEUM A VICTIM OF OBSCURANTISM
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
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
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
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
"The museum will reopen only after peace returns to the valley," Mr
And peace is what the people of Swat are dying for.
o o o
PAKISTAN APPEAL RE MUKHTAR MAI: WRITE LETTERS AND EMAILS TO THE
 Afghanistan / India:
STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE BY DECEIVED AFGHAN BRIDE RESONATES IN 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
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."
 STATEMENT ON THE TREATMENT OF ROHINGYA AND BANGLADESHI 'BOAT
PEOPLE' IN ASIA
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
ABANDONED AT SEA: THE SAD PLIGHT OF THE ROHINGYA
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.
 Pakistan / India:
The News, February 01, 2009
RALLY FOR PEACE BETWEEN PAKISTAN, INDIA
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
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.
 CLASH OF CIVILISATIONS WITHIN INDIA - VARIOUS TALIBAN AT WORK:
The Hindu Taliban Assaulting Freedom, Militarising Society
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
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
MENACE OF MORAL POLICING: FUNDAMENTALISTS OF VARIOUS HUES CURBING
YOUNG PEOPLE'S RIGHTS AND FREEDOM
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
(iv) GIRLS INTERRUPTED BY UP'S 'TALIBAN'
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
"It's as if the responsibility of culture, tradition, morality is only
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
FIGHT BACK THE HINDU TALIBAN JOIN THE PINK UNDERWEAR CAMPAIGN
 THE ATTACKS IN BOMBAY AND INDIA'S TERROR DOSSIER: FURTHER
EVIDENCE OF A CONSPIRACY
by Raveena Hansa, (sacw.net, 5 February 2009)
 South Asia Voices for justice and peace to Palestine/Israel
"WHAT IS OBTAINED BY FEAR CAN BE RETAINED ONLY AS LONG AS THE FEAR LASTS"
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
INDIA - HUMAN RIGHTS: COURT RULINGS RE POLICE ENCOUNTERS AND THE
STATE'S OUTSOURCED MILITIA
(Thanks to Shalini Gera for sending the below list of Material)
(i) A LANDMARK RULING BY THE AP HIGH COURT: POLICE ENCOUNTERS
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 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,
o o o
(ii) RE: THE SUPREME COURT HEARING ON THE SALWA JUDUM PIL:
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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