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SACW | July 2-3, 2009 / Refugees / Kashmir / Court decriminalizes homosexuality

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    South Asia Citizens Wire | July 2-3, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2640 - Year 11 running From: www.sacw.net [ SACW Dispatches for 2009-2010 are dedicated to the memory
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2009
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | July 2-3, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2640 - Year 11 running
      From: www.sacw.net

      [ SACW Dispatches for 2009-2010 are dedicated to the memory of Dr. Sudarshan Punhani (1933-2009), husband of Professor Tamara Zakon and a comrade and friend of Daya Varma ]
      ____

      [1] Pakistan / Afghanistan:  HRCP questions voluntary nature of refugees' repatriation
      [2] Pakistan's Kashmir problem (Alok Rai)
      [3] Punditry about Muslims (Jawed Naqvi)
      [4] Some Thoughts on Developments in Nepal (Anand Swaroop Verma)
      [5] India: Landmark Delhi High Court Ruling decriminalizes homosexuality
      + Full text of the 2 July 2009 ruling
      + End to unnatural exclusion (Shohini Ghosh)
      Homophobia Unites Moral and Culture Police From All Religio-Political Lobbies In India: Secular Forces Must Not Duck
      - Legalising homosexuality will lead to sexual anarchy: church (The Hindu)
      - Govt resolve to act on Section 377 hits Deoband hurdle (Times of India)
      - Excerpt from PTI report in Herald
      - Excerpt from report in Times TV
      - Religious leaders disapprove HC judgement on homosexuality
      - Muslim clerics deplore homosexuality, lesbianism (Atiq Khan)
      [6] India: The Rebellion in Lalgarh - The CPI(M) itself is responsible for the predicament it is in (Ashok Mitra)
      [7] Tributes: Ram Narayan Kumar - An Obituary (Pritam Singh)
      - A Condolence Message from Naga People's Movement For Human Rights
      [8] Protecting and Promoting Rights in Natural Disasters in South Asia: Prevention and Response - Summary Report (Brookings / Berns Project)
      [9] India: Regardless of contents, Liberhan report is bad news for BJP news analysis (Siddharth Varadarajan)
      [10] Book Review: Women's work - Never done and poorly paid (Nirmala Banerji)
      [11] A Statement From Honduran Women's Organizations and Feminist Networks

      _____


      [1] Pakistan / Afghanistan:

      Human rights Commission of Pakistan

      HRCP QUESTIONS VOLUNTARY NATURE OF REFUGEES' REPATRIATION

      Press release, 24 June 2009

      Lahore: The repatriation of registered Afghan refugees from Pakistan does not meet the required standard of voluntarism deemed mandatory by international refugee law, a report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has said.

      The report entitled `Push Comes to Shove' – whose publication coincided with the World Refugee Day, June 20 – studies the trends and patterns of repatriation of Afghan refugees through 2007 and 2008 to determine whether the process was voluntary.

      The study conducted by HRCP's Peshawar chapter says that even though many Afghan refugees in Pakistan signed up for repatriation, large numbers did so not because they thought that it was safe to return, but because they believed they had no choice in the matter.

      Refugees interviewed from camps slated for closure spoke of harassment by police, lack of security, basic infrastructure, education, health and livelihood opportunities in Afghanistan as the main reason for their hesitation to return.

      All Afghan refugees registered in Pakistan were required to leave by the end of 2009. Those living in camps slated for closure could opt to relocate to another camp. An overwhelming majority of refugees declined relocation to another camp, not because they were keen to return to Afghanistan but said they would not want to be uprooted again when the December 2009 deadline arrived. That deadline has now been extended to 2012.

      According to the report, outside the camps slated for closure, "an environment of persecution and intimidation was created by checking movement of refugees and harassment at the hands of police. In camps, houses were razed and businesses locked, often resulting in confrontation between the authorities and the refugees."

      Repatriation may be the preferred solution for all concerned but adhering to the principle of voluntarism must not be ignored and the needs of refugees with additional vulnerabilities must be considered, the report said.

      "Any attempt to repatriate Afghan refugees must take into account their willingness to return and the conditions back home, especially security and shelter," it added.

      I.A. Rehman

      Secretary General

      ______


      [2]

      The Daily Times
      July 03, 2009

      PAKISTAN'S KASHMIR PROBLEM

      by Alok Rai

      My Pakistani interlocutor assures me that it is the hour before dawn that is the darkest, that the present generation, even in Punjab, is ready to move out of this mutually destructive cycle and start a new chapter in the sad history of our sub-continent

      (The present article grew out of a series of exchanges between two friends, one Indian, the other Pakistani. "Kashmir" is a problem with far-reaching consequences for both societies. It is important that members of civil society on both sides of the border talk to each other in a spirit of serious engagement, and so carry forward the people-to-people dialogue beyond the not insignificant level of biryani and banter. It is in that spirit that this view from India is offered.)

      My proposition is simple — despite the proclamations of generations of Pakistani leaders, Pakistan's Kashmir problem has nothing to do with Kashmir. It is a fact that the transfer of power in Kashmir way back at the time of Independence and Partition was a messy business — but that is over and done with.

      As far as the UN Resolution is concerned, there is simply no possibility of a return to the status quo ante. Even if it were possible to imagine Pakistani forces vacating "Azad Kashmir" — a.k.a. POK, but why bother to go that way? — and of Indian forces vacating Indian Kashmir, there is no possibility of returning to that time in which the plebiscite was supposed to be held.

      Further, it needs to be asked: what is the nature of the engagement of Pakistani civil society with "Kashmir"? Is it an engagement at the level of our common humanity — in the sense in which I may, for instance, be deeply involved with the tragedy of Africa? But if it is something more or other than that, it needs to be spelt out just what that something more is. Because the most evident explanation for Pakistan's special claim to a locus standi in "the Kashmir problem" can only be in terms of the two-nation theory.

      I realise that the state of Pakistan must have a somewhat fraught relationship with the two-nation theory — it is after all the necessary foundation for the state of Pakistan. But members of civil society may well feel — on both sides of the border — the "theory", first propounded by the ideologue of Hindutva, Savarkar, was a historical blunder, a catastrophic political mistake, one that was at the root of millions of destroyed lives, Hindu and Muslim. It also left the Muslims of India, the putative beneficiaries, somewhat less politically consequential than they would have been otherwise.

      (This rejection of the two-nation theory is entirely consistent in my mind with accepting the present reality of two independent, sovereign states, India and Pakistan, which should have mature relations.)

      In the light of this, "Kashmir" becomes a way of addressing the Pakistani problem of legitimacy — because if Kashmir can be maintained as an "issue", then the "two-nation theory" is still available as a founding principle, despite all that has happened in the last 60 years.

      In the context of "Kashmir" that fatal "theory" raises its ugly head again. Still, it would be the height of political irresponsibility if it were to be legitimised now, and allowed to work its malign destruction again, unleashing the ethnic cleansing that would necessarily result in Kashmir — with its Muslim majority and its Hindu minority, in Jammu with its Hindu majority, and in Ladakh with its Buddhist majority. The notion of a religion-based plebiscite at this point in history is quite simply a horrible idea — and one that should be unthinkable even, perhaps particularly, in contemporary Pakistan. Is it?

      I do not by any means wish to suggest that all is well in Kashmir — even in Indian Kashmir — I don't know enough about the other one. The Indian state has a serious problem with commanding the loyalties of the people of Kashmir, who might legitimately be said to have a problem with the state of India and its armed forces.

      It may be argued that the widespread exercise of democratic franchise by Kashmiris in the last election shows that the situation might be changing — that the people of Kashmir have, so to speak, voted with their votes, and voted not only in the immediate elections, but even in that hypothetical plebiscite on whether they wish to be a part of India.

      But it would be silly — worse, cruel — to pretend that "India's Kashmir problem", and "Kashmir's India problem", has thereby come to an end. It hasn't. A lot more needs to be done — and trigger-happy soldiers cannot be part of the solution.

      But all this — and more, much more — has nothing to do with Pakistan. In fact, the best thing that Pakistan can do for the people of Kashmir — for whom many tears are shed — is to lay off, let be, recognise that while it can certainly make things worse — difficult for Indian forces of course, but also worse for the people of Kashmir — it can certainly not make them better. Pakistani meddling — infiltration, "freedom fighting", etc — can only prolong the agony of the people of Kashmir and their ordeal at the hands of Indian forces.

      But is Pakistani civil society prepared to recognise this? It appears that there is far too much invested — in terms of material resources, of course — but also in terms of emotion, of national purpose — for Pakistan to be able to let go of "the Kashmir problem". This is not the same as letting go of Kashmir — nothing is going to change the situation on the ground, not in J&K, not in AJK. It is "Kashmir" — the foolish fantasy of "freeing" Kashmir — that enables the Army to maintain its stranglehold on Pakistan. The ideological investment in "freeing" Kashmir — in schools and out of them — will not easily be dissolved. Pakistan's Kashmir problem is its inability to rid itself of the notion that it has a role to play in the resolution of Kashmir's India problem.

      There is of course the valid military insight that Pakistan can, by keeping "Kashmir" on the boil, bleed India, and "avenge Bangladesh". But such is the dynamic set in motion by the explosive rise of jihadi Islam in Pakistan that now India, too, can crucify Pakistan by teasing it over Kashmir and so prolonging its ordeal at the hands of the jihadis.

      However, it devolves upon civil society in both countries to force their states not to continue with this cynical game, a game in which Kashmir — and Kashmiris, "ours" and "yours" — are merely the pretext; the instrument, the bloodied means to a suicidal end, a wilful prolongation of the tragedy of South Asia.

      But my Pakistani interlocutor assures me that it is the hour before dawn that is the darkest, that the present generation, even in Punjab, is ready to move out of this mutually destructive cycle and start a new chapter in the sad history of our sub-continent. I am writing this in the hope that he is right and I am wrong. Happy to be wrong.

      The writer is a professor at the University of Delhi

      _____


      [3]

      Dawn
      2 July, 2009

      PUNDITRY ABOUT MUSLIMS

      by Jawed Naqvi

      Farah Pandith (pictured above) is the US Special Representative for Muslim Outreach. Pandith is a Kashmiri Muslim who immigrated to the United States. - File photo


      (AN open letter to Ms Farah Pandith, US Special Representative for Muslim Outreach)

      DEAR Ms Pandith,
      Welcome to the chaotic club of seekers who have periodically set out to engage with Muslims of the world, obviously with good intentions but not always without a flawed plan to carry out the mission.

      I use the word `chaotic' to describe the experience so far, not to berate your mission.

      There were two recent messages from the US embassy in Delhi in my inbox, one concerning your appointment by Ms Hillary Clinton to your new position at the US State Department. An older message underscored your participation in an interfaith dialogue in July last year, which was sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace. Both messages point to your keen interest in creating a global cornucopia of religions, if I have understood the gist correctly, in which mutual tolerance and harmony are the main attractions.

      According to your new brief, you will carry out Ms Clinton's efforts to `engage with Muslims around the world on a people-to-people and organisational level'. We are also told that you were previously an adviser on `Muslim engagement' at the State Department, serving as a senior adviser to the assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs. You have also served on the National Security Council as the coordinator for US policy on outreach to Muslims, and worked at the US Agency for International Development on assistance projects for Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories.

      We are told that you are a Kashmiri Muslim who immigrated to the United States. You have been quoted as saying that along with the importance of education, you `also learned … to balance pride in my cultural heritage with a deep attachment to the values of America'. To set the context of your new job, the official note makes a reference to President Barack Obama's speech of June 4 in Cairo, where he sought `a new beginning' between the United States and Muslims `based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and … based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition'.

      At the interfaith dialogue, almost exactly a year ago, you supported a participant's view that groups like Al Qaeda exploit young people's search for an identity. `We cannot allow them … to take advantage of things that we all in this room understand are just very natural.'

      Allow me to make a few quick observations about your road ahead. First, the syncretic culture of Kashmir to which you belong has been subjected to vile abuse in your absence. Beginning with 1990 an exclusivist and narrow-minded Islam was sought to be imposed on the people by armed groups with the alleged support of zealots within Pakistan's intelligence and security forces. On the other hand, the demonic logic of occupation has spurred Indian security forces to brutalise the people at will, without accountability.

      You must have wondered, Ms Pandith, how the tragedies of our times are getting identified with religious strife. Take the important briefs that you have held. The Palestinian question is posed as a Muslim issue. Afghanistan is described as a religious problem. Note also the sleight of hand, since the colonial era, in the orchestrated positioning of identities. Shia, Sunni and Kurds in Iraq, for example, comprise a scantly noticed absurdity: two religious groups and one ethnic community. Does that ethnic community have a religion? Wouldn't the word `hydrocarbons' explain the ethnic-religious discourse better?

      In Lebanon, it is the Shia, Sunni and Druze that beg the question. I think the mischief began with colonial historiography. In India, English chroniclers divided us into Hindu, Muslim and British period. The subterfuge found an echo in Sri Lanka, where Sinhalese, Tamils and Burghers are lumped with Muslims: three ethnic groups and a religious category. Do the Muslims have an ethnicity?

      This question acquires urgency because of President Obama's speech in Cairo, where he said America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Pardon me for saying so, but his formulation was inane, possibly rooted in a poor management of specificity. Not even the state of Israel will claim that it has a deep-rooted suspicion of Islam. What the world would like to know from Mr Obama is why apologists of the Fukuyama and Huntington worldview are still powerful in the US Congress, and in the White House in his watch.

      Where was the need to mask America's obvious allergies with political Islam? Even Muslims have problems with extremist categories of fellow believers. What the middle-path Muslim youth, the constituency that you are seeking to address, would like to hear from the White House (and you) is an assurance that no US presidential candidate will henceforth do genuflection before the Israeli lobby (not to be confused with the Jewish people, the most revered of whom is Noam Chomsky) no matter how influential they are in your adopted country.

      When you embark on your mission, Ms Pandith, you would realise the truth of my submission — from Indonesia to Morocco. You will meet fairly moderate Muslims, who are willing to bend key prescriptions of religious beliefs but would not flinch from their core beliefs in humanism and fair play. At present there is a yawning gap between religious punditry and the need for a just and peaceful global order.

      To achieve that you would need to reach out to the world's dwindling liberal community regardless of their religious affiliations. They are the most marginalised everywhere. Sincerely.

      The writer is Dawn's correspondent in Delhi.

      _____


      [4]

      SOME THOUGHTS ON DEVELOPMENTS IN NEPAL

      by Anand Swaroop Verma, 30 June 2009

      Translation of the Hindi article published in the June 2009 issue of FILHAAL, a radical Hindi fortnightly published from Patna.

      After the resignation of the Prime Minister, Mr Pushp Kamal Dahal " Prachand" the political parties once again have created the situation which reminds of the days of the 12-point agreement which took place in November 2005. The 12 point understanding was reached at that time between the CPN-Maoists (which was underground and carrying out peoples' war) and seven parliamentary parties. This was a historic accord as based on this the programme which was framed that culminated in November 2006 peace agreement, election to the Constituent Assembly and establishment of republic. If 12- point accord was not signed then the monarchy would not have been thrown out so soon in Nepal. This is worth recalling that America had brazenly launched a campaign against the accord. The then US Ambassador to Nepal, Mr James Moriarty had advised the parliamentary parties not to join hands with the Maoists and instead should face the Maoists in league with King Gyanendra. He also told the parties that even if they had signed the accord they should come out of it and do some evaluation. This is imperative to mention that this agreement was signed in Delhi and at a time when the government of India was also busy arresting the Maoists of Nepal. Obviously this accord could not have been signed without the consent and knowledge of India. Since the image of Nepali Congress of the then Nepal prime minister, Mr Girija Pradad Koirala has been quite good in the eyes of the Indian government, this accord could be signed in India due to his efforts. However after some time once the situation completely normalised it was revealed that Mr Prachanda had suggested to hold the meeting in Rolpa and had even offered to ensure the security of the political leaders but Mr Koirala did not agree for this. Instead he selected Delhi while giving guarantee of security to Mr Prachanda and his colleagues. In fact once Mr Gyanendra took control of power on February 1, 2005 and launched the drive to arrest the leaders of the parliamentary parties then they realized the need for joining hands with the Maoists for providing strength to fight against monarchy. Maoists were also looking for proper opportunity to forge alliance with parliamentary parties.

      The American reaction to this accord also revealed that notwithstanding mutual cooperation between India and US on many issue of having control on Nepal they have sever contradictions. India treats a strong presence of America in Nepal against its national interest.

      The political polarization in Nepal on the issue of dismissal of the old Shahi army chief Rukmangad Katwal to a large extent is the manifestation of the American desire that all the parties should form a front against Maoists. Monarchy has been abolished but its remnants are present in the form of Katwal and once again America, which had earlier lost the game, has tried to turn the situation in its favour.
      [. . .]
      Full text at: http://www.sacw.net/article981.html



      _____


      [5] India: Great Leap forward - Landmark Ruling by Delhi Court decriminalized homosexuality by striking down section 377 of the
      Indian Penal Code.

      + FULL TEXT OF THE DELHI HIGH COURT DECISION - WP(C) NO.7455/2001
      http://www.sacw.net/article985.html

      o o o

      END TO UNNATURAL EXCLUSION

      by Shohini Ghosh

      Hindustan Times
      New Delhi, July 02, 2009
      In a historic judgement, a two-judge bench comprising Chief Justice A P Shah and Justice Murlidharan has decriminalised non-heterosexual sex between consenting adults. In an eloquently argued judgement of 150 pages, the bench has struck down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), a colonial legislation drafted by Lord Macaulay in 1860, that criminalised "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" punishable by imprisonment extending up to ten years. India was one of the few countries left in the world that criminalised and discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. By overturning Section 377, the Delhi High Court has foregrounded the importance of sexual rights, lent dignity to people of different sexualities and upheld the Constitutional values of democracy and equality.

      Arguing that Section 377 is violative of Articles 21 (right to life and personal liberty), Article 14 (equality before law and equal protection from law) and Article 15 (prohibiting discrimination on several grounds including sex), the judgement holds that if there is one "constitutional tenet" that can be considered an "underlying theme" of the Indian Constitution, it is "inclusiveness".

      Nurtured over many years, "inclusiveness" recognises "a role in society for everyone" where "those perceived by the majority as `deviants' or `different' are not `excluded or ostracised'". It argues that "Constitutional law does not permit the statutory criminal law to be held captive by the popular misconceptions of who the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) are. It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is the antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster the dignity of every individual."

      However, it retains the provisions of Section 377 to govern "non-consensual penile non-vaginal sex and penile non-vaginal sex involving minors" thereby allowing child sexual offenders to be prosecuted under it. However, it is now being strongly argued that child rights are best protected, not by the provisions of 377, but an entirely separate law.

      This visionary judgement is the culmination of a ten-year legal battle. In 2001 Naz Foundation (an NGO related to HIV/Aids issues) filed a petition in the Delhi High Court asking for Section 377 to be `read down' by decriminalising consensual sex among adults. In September 2003, the Government insisted on retaining Section 377 on the grounds that `Indian society's disapproval of homosexuality was strong enough to justify it being treated as a criminal offence even where adults indulge in it in private'.

      In February 2006, the Supreme Court ordered the High Court to reconsider the constitutional validity of Section 377. The Naz Foundation petition was supported by Voices Against 377, comprising 12 organisations across the country while it was being opposed by the government of Delhi and others. The position of the government (represented by the Ministries of Health and Law) has been conflicted while many of its affiliates demanded decriminalisation.

      Naco (National Aids Control Organisation) demanded the scrapping of Section 377 as it was obstructing effective health interventions. The 172nd report of the Law Commission of India and the recommendations of the National Planning Commission for the 11th Five Year Plan also demanded decriminalisation of homosexuality.

      In the last two decades, LGBT activism played a major role in creating awareness on the issue. In 2006 writer Vikram Seth released a public letter demanding that the "cruel" law be struck down. The letter was supported by a large number of signatories including Captain Lakshmi Sehgal, Aruna Roy, Soli Sorabjee, Shyam Benegal, Shubha Mudgal, Arundhati Roy, Aparna Sen, Mrinalini Sarabhai and demanded the scrapping of the "brutal law" that "punitively criminalises romantic love and private, consensual sexual acts between adults of the same sex" while being used to "systematically persecute, blackmail, arrest and terrorise sexual minorities". Amartya Sen also asked for an abolition of the "colonial era monstrosity" that ran contrary to "the enhancement of human freedom" and India's commitment to "democracy and human rights".

      Like all laws, Section 377 was used both inside and outside the courtroom. In 2001, activists of Bharosa Trust, Lucknow were arrested under Section 377 for running a "gay racket" and conspiring to "promote homosexuality" through advocating safe sex practices among homosexual and bisexual men. In 2006, the Lucknow police entrapped five gay men by tracking them over the internet and then arresting them under Section 377. For years, police have used Section 377 to extort, threaten, intimidate and harass LGBT people. Commenting on how law-enforcers can misuse such penalisable offences, Amartya Sen observed that the harm done by such an "an unjust law" can, therefore, "be far larger than would be indicated by cases of actual prosecution".
      It remains to be seen how the UPA government responds to a judgement that derives its inspiration from a Nehruvian vision of `Equality'. While moving the `Objective Resolution' on December 13, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru said (and the Judgement quotes): "Words are magic things often enough, but even the magic of words sometimes cannot convey the magic of the human spirit and of a Nation's passion. [The Resolution] seeks very feebly to tell the world of what we have thought or dreamt of so long, and what we now hope to achieve in the near future."
      These words no doubt echo the feelings and aspirations of all LGBT people and their friends and family.

      Shohini Ghosh is Sajjad Zaheer Professor at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi


      o o o

      HOMOPHOBIA UNITES MORAL POLICE FROM ALL RELIGIO-POLITICAL LOBBIES IN INDIA

      [The 2 July 2009 judgement by the Delhi high court is a great victory for human rights; but all secular forces must be beware that all the major religious and conservative forces will unite to block and oppose the full legalisation of homosexuality in India. So lets us firmly fight them back on a secular platform. A common front of retrogressive forces from the religious spectrum ranging from Maulvis, catholic clergymen, Hindutva types and also people from mainstream political parties are likely to appeal and challenge legal decision and any moves to develop state policy. A selection of reports and excerpts from the Indian press is posted below. -hk]

      o o o

      The Hindu, July 2, 2009 : 2015 Hrs

      LEGALISING HOMOSEXUALITY WILL LEAD TO SEXUAL ANARCHY: CHURCH

      Kochi (PTI): Expressing reservation over the Delhi High court judgement legalising homosexuality, the Catholic Church in Kerala on Thursday said this would 'open up' the society to 'sexual anarchy'.

      "Though Homosexual act is immoral, we should be merciful, considerate to people with homosexual tendencies. However, that does not mean they have the right to the homosexual act," the Catholic Church spokesperson Paul Thelekat said.

      "Legalising gay sex will open up the society to some sort of sexual anarchy. Perhaps Indian culture is being eroded by the western promiscuous culture," he said.

      The Church would work with every sensitive person and community to keep the moral fabric of the society intact, he said.

      o o o

      Times of India

      GOVT RESOLVE TO ACT ON SECTION 377 HITS DEOBAND HURDLE

      30 June 2009

      NEW DELHI: Islamic seminary Deoband's condemnation on Monday of moves to repeal Section 377 of IPC to legalise same sex liaisons -- by calling it
      a wish of an "ungodly few" -- set off fears that conservative religious opinion could dilute the resolve of the government to "decriminalise homosexuality".

      The seminary, reacting to statements from government circles that there was a case for scratching Section 377, called it a "contemptible move likely to corrupt the gullible in society". The strong criticism may well increase the wariness that has marked the reactions of ministers after initially signalling a preparedness to legalise homosexuality.

      While there was a strong reaction from Muslim clerics in general, their stand was bolstered by Deoband with deputy V-C of Darul-Uloom, Mufti Mohammad Abdul Khalik Madrasi, warning, "Homosexuality is an offence under Shariat law and haram (prohibited) in Islam."

      Two days after reactions from Union ministers raised hope among groups working for its repeal, the mood was one of caution and the ruling Congress itself made it clear that it had no particular views on the matter. The apprehensions are largely on account of conservative opinion from religious quarters, which can have a social resonance and are seen to have a political impact as well.

      What may make withdrawal of Section 377 a challenge are hints of convergence across religious barriers against the move. Mohammad Arshad Farukhi from the fatwa department of Darul-Uloom said, "A joint forum of Hindus, Muslims and Christians must be set up to check the government from making the offending legislation."

      It has tempered the aggression in government. Law minister Veerappa Moily assured that a wide debate on the issue would take care of reservations of Christian groups. "The government cannot take a decision in a hurry. We need to apply our mind," he said in Hyderabad, adding, "We are examining it."

      Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad was as non-committal. "I can simply say there should be more debate -- public debate, Parliament debate. There has to be a consensus. The negative and positive has to be evaluated and then a conclusion should be evolved," he said.

      Azad favoured a debate in Parliament, saying, "There should be a total consensus. Not only government, but other political parties should also be in line with it (amendment)."

      As the two key ministers advocated debate and consensus, Congress refused to take sides on the issue. "This is under consideration of the government. It is a normal government process. The party does not have any opinion on it," party spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said in response to queries about the party's stand on repealing Section 377.

      o o o

      EXCERPT FROM PTI REPORT IN HERALD
      http://oheraldo.in/pagedetails.asp?nid=23802&cid=2


      "While Rt Rev Abraham Mar Paulos Episcopa, head of Marthoma Syrian Church of Malabar diocesan, said homosexuality is not at all acceptable and agreeable as it is against the tenets of Bible.

      According to Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, repeal of the section would create "sexual anarchy" in the society.

      VHP said homosexuality is against the culture and family system in India and will result in spread of number of diseases."

      o o o

      EXCERPT FROM REPORT IN TIMES TV

      http://www.timesnow.tv/Political-divide-over-legality-deepens/articleshow/4321162.cms

      "Kamal Farooqui, Member, All India Muslim Personal Law Board, speaking against the judgement said, "This judgement is just to please our western and american friends. In Indian socieity this is not accceptable whether Muslim or Hindu. Basically we are a religious society. Our temperament is that homosexual act is an unnatural act."

      Amar singh, General Secretary, Samajwadi Party, also speaking against the high court order said that the party does not support homosexuality or sexual relations between the same sex."

      Meanwhile, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Islamic scholar, said, "As far as the practice of homosexuality is concerned, I think that is completely wrong."

      Acharya Giriraj Kishore, VHP Leader, not in favour of the judgement said that the high court order is unfortunate and that it would destroy the society."

      o o o

      http://www.indianexpress.com/news/Religious-leaders-disapprove-HC-judgement-on-homosexuality/484077

      Indian Express

      RELIGIOUS LEADERS DISAPPROVE HC JUDGEMENT ON HOMOSEXUALITY

      Posted: Thursday , July 02, 2009 at 1326 hrs IST New Delhi:

      Certain religious leaders on Thursday strongly disapproved of the Delhi High Court judgement which legalised gay sex among consenting adults. "This is absolutely wrong to legalise homosexuality. We will not accept any such law," Jama Masjid Imam Ahmed Bukhari said. He also critcised the government for trying to amend the Indian Penal Code to scrap section 377 that criminalizes homosexuality. "If the government makes such attempt to scrap the Section 377, we will oppose it strongly," Bukhari said.

      All India Muslim Personal Law Board member Maulana Khalid Rashid Firangi Mahli said homosexuality is not allowed by any religion. "It is against all religions. It is against the culture of Indian society. We feel there is no need to legalise homosexuality. This practice is unnatural. It should continue as a criminal act," he said. Father Dominic Immanuel said that churches have no objection to decriminalisation of homosexuality but it should not be legalised. "We have no objection to decriminalisation of homosexuality because we do not consider these people as criminals on par with other criminals," Immanuel said.

      However, churches do not approve of homosexual relations as ethical and moral right of the people, he said. "It is against nature.Our position is that homosexuality should not be legalised," he said, adding such practice will increase paedophilia and HIV/AIDS. The court said Section 377 of the IPC as far as it criminalises gay sex among consenting adults is violation of fundamental rights.

      o o o

      The Hindu
      July 03, 2009

      MUSLIM CLERICS DEPLORE HOMOSEXUALITY, LESBIANISM

      by Atiq Khan

      Lucknow: Taking a firm view that homosexuality and lesbianism threatened to destroy the already crumbling family system in the country, Muslim religious leaders are unanimous that consensual sex of this form should not be legalised in a multi-religious society such as India's.
      The leading Islamic seminary, Darul Uloom - Deoband in Uttar Pradesh, the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JeI) and the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) have struck a common chord on this issue.
      For them, the issue does not concern Islam alone as no other religion sanctions this form of sex.

      Clerics told to unite

      "The time has come for all religious leaders to unite on this issue and jointly protest the government's proposed move to legalise gay rights. A consensus should be evolved for challenging the Delhi High Court order in the Supreme Court," said Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umri, Amir (president) of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.
      Questioning the right to freedom for consensual sex (homosexuality and lesbianism), the JeI chief said it would destroy the family system as has been the case in Western societies where consensual sex has been legalised.

      `Against Indian ethos'

      "Homosexuality does not jell with India's `mizaaj' [cultural ethos] and cannot be tolerated in our society. Moreover, medical evidence has also been found of homosexuals being carriers of HIV-AIDS," the Maulana said from the Jamaat office in Delhi.
      In Islam, homosexuality is treated as "gunaah" [sin], and is against the concept of a family as a unit. If the family is destroyed, the society gets disintegrated. This is the commonly-held view among Muslim clerics.

      "Retain Section 377"

      "Section 377 of the IPC should stay and nothing should be done by the government which legalised homosexuality," said Maulana Abdul Rahim Qureishi, assistant secretary general and spokesperson of the AIMPLB while talking to The Hindu from Hyderabad.
      He said it was the fallout, or even a manifestation of the promiscuity so prevalent in the West. "Consensual sex is one the reasons for the break-up of the family system in Western societies, mainly in Europe and the U.S.," he added.
      The Maulana did not rule out the possibility of the issue figuring in the one-day executive committee meeting of the Muslim Personal Law Board in Kozhikhode on July 12.
      In Lucknow, the Naib (deputy) Imam of Aishbagh Idgah and AIMPLB member, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, said the Union government should ensure that no such law was framed in the country which legalised homosexuality. "No religion approves of unnatural form of sex; besides, the family cannot be expanded by indulging in homosexuality," Maulana Rasheed said.
      Verdict `disappointing'
      The Maulana described the Delhi High Court verdict as "disappointing" and said it should be challenged in the Supreme Court.
      The Darul Uloom - Deoband had also voiced its concern over the prospect of gay laws being legalised.
      Voicing the seminary's view, the Deputy Rector, Maulana Abdul Khaliq Madrasi, had reportedly said: "Homosexuality is an offence under Shariat laws and prohibited in Islam."



      _____


      [6] India: The Rebellion in Lalgarh

      The Telegraph
      July 3, 2009

      FIRE AND FOREBODING - The CPI(M) itself is responsible for the predicament it is in
      Cutting Corners - Ashok Mitra

      Legal rhetoric is not the real issue though. Spokesmen of the administration led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in West Bengal had been importunating for the despatch of Central forces to quell the rebellion in Lalgarh. We have obviously travelled aeons since the days the Left questioned the very right of the Centre to raise police and security forces on the ground that law and order were an exclusively State subject. In response to the state government's plea, CRPF personnel have entered West Bengal, taken charge in Lalgarh and its neighbourhood, and are currently engaged in combing operations with gusto. The drama, however, has only reached Act One, Scene Three. Having answered the state government's prayer, New Delhi is now intent on extracting its pound of flesh. The Maoists are a national menace; to combat that menace, other states have banned them in terms of the relevant Central legislation. West Bengal too must fall in and apply the same legislation; the West Bengal government has agreed to do so.

      From the first day of Independence, the Left has fought against what it used to describe as the obnoxiousness of preventive detention. The regime in West Bengal, led by the CPI(M), has now gone on reverse gear. It is, in consequence, in the tentacles of a double jeopardy. The perverse logic they subscribe to induces the Maoists to target the Marxists as their biggest enemies. The grisly, indiscriminate killings of Marxist cadre in and around Lalgarh have no other explanation. But are the Marxists sufficiently aware of the other peril lying in wait for them? The Congress leadership mapping the strategy in New Delhi wants to liquidate not just the Maoists but the entire Left, including the CPI(M). To make a particular coalition partner happy is only one part of it. The `soft Hindutva' line of the Bharatiya Janata Party does not worry the Congress; it is confident about containing that challenge — if necessary, by organizing a spell of round-the-clock temple-hopping by the Nehru-Gandhis. There is, in any event, no class divide as far as the BJP is concerned. That is not the case with the Left, which, at the national level, continues to put up irritating roadblocks to thwart the completion of the `economic reforms' agenda, class interest according to demands choking the Left wherever possible.

      The Marxists would therefore be living in a fool's paradise if they think that once Lalgarh is cleared of Maoists, the Centre would shake hands in a gentlemanly way and withdraw its forces from West Bengal. The aforesaid coalition partner, fired up further by the results of the state municipal polls, will turn more raucous with every passing day. It will, rest assured, plot to create a situation in the state where the demand will intensify to bring certain parts of the state under the purview of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Chaos will mount, and the Left Front administration will be fighting simultaneously on several fronts; New Delhi, it is a fair surmise, expects it to collapse reasonably soon.

      Is not the CPI(M) itself responsible for most of the predicaments it finds itself in? It was inordinately confident of its ability to persuade the Congress to rein in enthusiasm for both neo-liberal economic policies and the strategic alliance with the United States of America. And in spite of its severe disappointment, elements in the party still seem to think all was not lost, the Congress might yet bail the Left out at the very last moment.

      Even more worrying is the gradual withering away of the party's mass base in what was hitherto its strongest bastion, West Bengal. The Left Front administration's desperate move to re-establish its control over certain parts of the state through induction of Central forces, with all its implications, is a sad admission of that reality. The CPI(M)'s political line for coping with the Maoist threat is unexceptionable: to isolate the Maoists from the people. In this context, should not the prime task of the party and the state administration have been to use all the energy and resources in their command to improve the conditions of the wretchedly poor adivasis in areas such as Lalgarh? The panchayats should have been made the focal point of welfare and developmental activities, with party leaders and cadre acting as the eye and ear of the masses.

      Nothing of the sort, it is now clear, took place. Funds allocated to the panchayat bodies under different heads were either not spent or disappeared in mysterious directions. Party leaders generally played a passive — if not negative — role. Many of them imbibed the habits and attitudes of feudal overlords and allowed a social distance to grow between them and the people. What Gunder Frank had called the development of under-development expanded its empire. This, in sum, is the story that unfolded over the past decade or thereabouts in several districts of the state.

      Lalgarh has, for the present, been freed from Maoist clutches through Central help. The prior question, though, is to ask how the Maoists got their opportunity to penetrate into territories where the CPI(M) had once overwhelming mass support. The answer is simple: instead of isolating the Maoists, the CPI(M) succeeded in getting itself isolated from the people.

      When Maoist mayhem was at its peak at Lalgarh last month, television cameras had occasion to zoom their sight on a particular event: a frenzied mob setting fire to an apparently newly built, dazzlingly white palatial building, standing in unabashed and isolated splendour in the midst of squalor and destitution all around: parched earth, dishevelled huts, rickety children with not a stitch on, men and women with sunken cheeks and deep hungry looks. Then came the astounding revelation: that mansion was owned by the CPI(M)'s zonal secretary — by profession, trader, and by caste, high Brahmin; the party's zonal office too was located there.

      When the Left Front assumed charge of the state administration in 1977, it made a commitment to itself: notwithstanding the restraints set by the Constitution, it would carve out a Left alternative for social and economic development that would inspire the rest of the nation. Its initial years, marked by land reforms, speedy decentralization of administration and animation of the panchayat institutions, enabled it to make great strides toward that direction. Something obviously snapped in the later years. It could be the lure of economic liberalization in spite of the general party line: class awareness wobbled, and hubris set in. The panchayats, once considered the salvation of the people, can no longer claim to be as clean as a hound's tooth. The state administration, as a whole, is in a state of atrophy. The CPI(M)'s state leadership, which was expected to act as a moral guide, is transformed into an unfeeling bureaucracy.

      Does not one almost hear the whispered foreboding of an excruciating tragedy? Objective conditions in the country call for radical initiatives on the part of the Marxists and their allies. Were they to fail to fulfil that task, the nation's millions, hapless victims of deprivation and relentless exploitation, would conceivably have no alternative but to migrate toward the direction of those who promise nothing beyond murderous anarchy.

      _____


      [7] Tributes:

      http://www.sacw.net/article986.html

      RAM NARAYAN KUMAR : AN OBITUARY

      by Pritam Singh

      Ram Narayan Kumar, one of the finest human rights researcher, activist and campaigner in South Asia, passed away on June 28 at his house in Kathmandu (Nepal). His death at a relatively young age of 54 has sent shock waves among all those struggling for justice and fairness in South Asia.

      His first major confrontation with state power was in 1975 when he opposed the authoritarian Emergency regime in India and was imprisoned for 19 months for his political act of defiance to defend democracy. He came from the Indian socialist tradition influenced by JP Narayan and R M Lohia but had the courage to oppose the overemphasis on the caste dimension in somewhat opportunistic politics of some of the followers of JP and Lohia. It was, perhaps, this disenchantment with his erstwhile comrades, which attracted him to the more universalist appeal of human rights work.

      By family background, he came from a distinguished religious family of India. His father was the head of a math/peeth in Ayodhaya with a very large following. Ram was groomed until his teenage years to succeed his father as the head of the math but Ram revolted and joined the secular world of socialist politics. However, the large following of the math in Austria resulted later on in Ram marrying an Austrian doctor.

      Although he worked on almost all regions of India where human rights violations took place such as Kashmir, North East, Gujarat and Eastern India, and even in the Middle East against US interventions and Israeli aggression, his most remarkable contribution to human rights practice and documentation was in Punjab. Coming from a South Indian Brahmin family, he had no personal link with Punjab. However the massacre of the Sikh minority in Delhi in 1984 pushed him into the study of Punjab and its troubles. He never abandoned Punjab after this in spite of his many time demanding pre-occupations elsewhere. It is a reflection of his deep humanity that he spent about 15 years of his life studying and documenting human rights abuses in Punjab, a state with which he had no other relation except the bond of humanity. He traveled to remote villages of Punjab to hear the painful stories of victims of human rights violations, expressing solidarity with them and bringing their plight to the attention of concerned Indians.

      I met him for the first time in 1988 when during one of his visits to the UK; I invited him to speak in Oxford on the crisis in Punjab from a human rights perspective. Our friendship grew and since 2008, we were involved in a joint project to write a book on Punjab. His death means the death of that project also.

      He had phenomenal knowledge of Punjab's history, politics, geography, culture, civil and police administration and Punjab's troubled relationships with the federal Centre in Delhi. He was meticulous in his research to the point of obsession, never compromising on the empirical evidence of his claims. His work on disappearances in Punjab Reduced to Ashes is destined to become a classic in the literature on disappearances and the brutality of state power. He published a pioneering paper on the institutional flaws in human rights law and practice with reference to Punjab in the International Journal of Punjab Studies. On the invitation of the Association of Punjab Studies (UK), he presented a paper on the constitutional and institutional rigidities in defending human rights in Punjab at the Association's bi-annual conference in Oxford in 2003 where he received standing ovation from the conference participants for the rigour of his analysis and his towering moral integrity.

      His last book on Punjab was Terror in Punjab: Narratives, Knowledge and Truth (2008) and it is some solace to me that my review of this book was published in the June 2009 issue of Himal South Asia magazine (Kathmandu) and Ram was able to see this review.

      Ram Narayan Kumar was directing a major project on studying the culture and practice of immunity that the state officials involved in human rights abuse enjoy in India. The project covering four critical regions of India- J & K, North East, Gujarat and Punjab- and involving joint collaboration between Kathmandu-based South Asia Forum for Human Rights and Canada's International Council for Development Research (ICDR) has the promise of path breaking output in bringing transparency, accountability and justice to human rights practice in India and South Asia.

      Ram, as he was affectionately called, was an inspiration to human rights activists not only in India but also in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. Some of the key dons of Harvard Law School recognised from an international perspective Ram's contribution to furthering the cause of defending the vulnerable and the weak in India and South Asia.

      He worked too hard, was too pure in his heart and was too demanding of himself. That took its toll on his health. Though he has gone, his insights and dedication will forever remain a source of inspiration to those who want to unearth truth and bring the powerful to accountability.

      He is survived by his wife Gertie, daughter Cristina, sister Sita and brother Gopal, all living in Austria. He will be cremated in Kathmandu as per the wishes of his family.

      o o o

      http://www.sacw.net/article983.html

      A TRIBUTE TO RAM NARAYAN KUMAR

      by NPMHR, 1 July 2009

      1 July 2009

      Dear Madam/sir,
      Kindly help us to reach this message to the Naga public and to all friends in India and across the world of our deep grieve in losing a close friend in Ram Kumar Narayan, who passed away at Kathmandu yesterday.

      with prayers,
      NPMHR Secretariat

       
      CONDOLENCE MESSAGE

      The Naga People Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) is deeply shocked and saddened by the sudden death of Ram Narayan Kumar who was working as a full time project Director on South Asian Orientation Course in Human Rights and Peace Studies with the South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR), Kathmandu, Nepal at the point of his demise. Ram was an astute human rights activist, research and writer campaigning for democracy and human rights against state brutality on the innocent citizens since 1975. He was imprisoned for 19 months for his vocal opposition to Indira Gandhi`s emergency regime. Ram's work for justice and accountability in Punjab is widely recognized and is lead author on many books on the Sikh struggle. Some of his latest works are "India's Constitutional Discourse: some Unanswered Question" and "Rights Guarantees and Judicial Wrongs: Arguments for appraisal" in Recasting Indian Politics, ed. Paul Flather (Palgrave, 2007); Critical Readings in Human Rights and Peace (Shipra publications, New Delhi, 2006). Ram was a Former Reuter Foundation Fellow at the University of Oxford and has recently released his new book, Terror in Punjab: Narratives, Knowledge and Truth (Shipra Publications, Delhi, 2008). Reviewed at: http://www.himalmag.com/The-third-Sikh-ghallughara-Terror-in-Punjab-by-Ram-Narayan-Kumar_nw2960.html

      Ram is best known to Nagas for his work with Laxmi Murthy, Four Years of the Ceasefire Agreement between the Government of India and The National Socialist Council of Nagalim: Promises and Pitfalls,(New Delhi: Other Media Communications, 2002) which was an outcome of civil society engagement in peoples to peoples dialogues between the Nagas and people of India.

      When NPMHR commemorated International Human Rights day in December 2006 under the theme "Harmony through Culture- a musical celebration of Indigenous peoples", Rams message to the meet give a glimpse of his inner soul which will will be engrave in our memory forever and NPMHR takes this liberty to partly quote the solidarity note " During the time I spent in the region, I had been astonished by the mirth and the power of cultural expressions of the indigenous peoples who had, otherwise, been subjected to monstrously cruel forms of discrimination and violence and economic injustice in their subordinate relations with India that has unfortunately chosen to act like a conquest state for so long. I do not cease to wonder how a people who are weighed down by memories of death, torture and spiritual crippling can yet retain that inner mirth and beauty of soul to be able to transcend all that evil through music, dance and togetherness and sharing as aspects of their autonomous cultural identity. That spirit of transcendence also seems to permeate the flora and fauna, climate, rain, sun, soil, their loom, wood, and cane artifacts, their shawls and sarongs and their jewellery. I do not want to romanticize, but it is my firm conviction that the people endowed with these qualities must have a chance to undo the wrongs of hegemonic cultures that combine the military might with their hegemonic hubris, and to infuse the futures of the indigenous peoples with the spirit of unity in culture and through that unity towards socio-economic and political transcendence."

      NPMHR's last contact was during his visit to Nagaland in line with research work on the issue of Impunity and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. We pay our sincere respect to a great soul who has linked our struggles together with his and the rest of world oppressed, in our common search for dignity, justice and peace.

      NPMHR on behalf of the Naga people and rest of the struggling communities in this part of the world salutes Ram, our comrade, who indeed was a partner to our struggles, a profoundly compassionate human sharing our common thread of humanity and a gifted channel of communication for the voiceless people's call for Peace and Justice.

      NPMHR shares our grieve with all Ram's friends, colleagues at SAFHR besides his near and dear one at this moment of loss. We pray for his soul for to receive abundant peace and join all human rights defenders across the world during this period of mourning.

      NPMHR Secretariat
      Oking.

      _____


      [8] PROTECTING AND PROMOTING RIGHTS IN NATURAL DISASTERS IN SOUTH ASIA: PREVENTION AND RESPONSE - SUMMARY REPORT

      (Brookings-Bern Project on Internal Displacement)
      http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2009/~/media/Files/rc/reports/2009/0701_natural_disasters/0701_natural_disasters.pdf


      _____


      [7]

      The Hindu
      1 July 2009

      REGARDLESS OF CONTENTS, LIBERHAN REPORT IS BAD NEWS FOR BJP NEWS ANALYSIS

      by Siddharth Varadarajan

      But Congress may shrink from taking firm action

      New Delhi: Sixteen years on from the Sangh parivar's single biggest act of infamy, the Bharatiya Janata Party and its leaders are likely to discover there is no political statute of limitations for the crimes of conspiracy, incitement, rioting and vandalism that were committed in the name of Hindutva when the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992.

      Having prospered politically for more than a decade from the resulting polarisation, the BJP's `rath' eventually ran out of steam in 2004.
      Catalyst

      The catalyst was perhaps the Gujarat killings of 2002 or the neoliberal economic policies to which the illiberal politics of Hindutva were wedded. But today, after its second consecutive defeat in a general election, the BJP finds itself increasingly aware of the liability that communalism has become.

      Officially, the party claims the demolition was the result of spontaneous action by the mob which it had mobilised in Ayodhya that fateful day. BJP leader L.K. Advani, whose alleged role in the conspiracy is the subject of a CBI prosecution, famously described the event as the "saddest day" of his life. But the fact is that he and his colleagues had hitched their political fortunes to the violence and intolerance that was the Ramjanmabhoomi movement. And today, they have to accept political responsibility for the consequences of that movement, even if the Indian judicial system eventually proves incapable of assigning criminal liability.

      This is where the report of the Liberhan Commission delivers the cruellest blow: at a time when the BJP is looking for ways to repackage itself as an inclusive party, its role in the destruction of the 16th century monument is a reminder of its intolerant agenda. "The subject matter of the report is 90 per cent about BJP," a senior Congress leader told The Hindu. He acknowledged that the report might also criticise the role of Narasimha Rao, who was Prime Minister at the time, and his Congress-run Central government for its inaction. "But the entire episode is one which is of, for and by the BJP."

      Second, the manner in which the report names and assigns guilt is likely to accentuate the already acute internal fissures within the party. Indeed, Liberhan may become an `internal brahmastra' for Mr. Advani regardless of the role the report says he played in the demolition. Worse, by bringing Ayodhya back into the news, the report will also encourage those within the Sangh parivar who feel the Ram temple issue should remain at the core of their political agenda.

      Instead of jettisoning the Hindutva agenda, a remedy that some inside the party now say the 2009 election results indicate, the BJP might then find itself thrust into an even tighter embrace with sectarianism.

      For the Congress, the party is likely to want to use the report's recommendations to weaken the BJP and its leadership politically without allowing them to claim the mantle of martyrdom. But after 17 years, those citizens who still feel aggrieved at the criminal destruction of the mosque are also entitled to expect that justice will be done and that all politicians involved in the crime are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

      However, the track record of the Congress does not encourage optimism. Most of the recommendations of the Srikrishna Commission of Inquiry into the 1992-93 Bombay riots, for example, remain unimplemented a decade after that report was submitted. And the more fundamental reforms that are needed to protect the citizenry from official acts of omission and commission during riots are not even on the Manmohan Singh government's radar screen.

      _____


      [10] Book Review:


      WOMEN'S WORK: NEVER DONE AND POORLY PAID

      by Nirmala Banerji

      Jayati Ghosh's new book on women's work in globalising India reveals the Indian state's patriarchal attitude towards women's work

      Never Done and Poorly Paid: Women's Work in Globalising India, by Jayati Ghosh. Feminist Fine Print. Published by Women Unlimited, an affiliate of Kali for Women, New Delhi 2009. Rs 250 

      In writing about women's issues, scholars often tend to dwell on the specifics of the problems being discussed and ignore their wider context. Ghosh is a welcome exception to this because she has squarely put the issue against the backdrop of the fast globalising international economy and, within it, India's experiments with the process.

      The first chapter of the book provides the international context; the second deals with trends in India, particularly in the years 1991 and onwards when the country formally embarked on a programme of economic liberalisation. However, it is a little frustrating to find that India is generally treated as just another case of development under the growing economic imperialism of international capital. From a scholar of Ghosh's stature, one would have expected a more nuanced analysis of the structure of the Indian economy, and the special baggage of the past the country bears vis-à-vis its labour force and especially its women.

      Compared to many other newly-developing countries, especially in Asia, India carries a huge load of uneducated, unskilled labour due mainly to past policies which have been assisted or pressurised by the unholy alliance between class, caste and political power. 

      Although international capital has many ways of keeping labour vulnerable, Indian capital has a long history of exploitative labour practices in all sections of the economy, by routing work to home-based workers and combining this with a hold on them through provision of credit. International capital is merely finding new uses and users for such practices. One really has to take into account Indian capitalism nurtured by the Indian state in the first 50 or so years after Independence. The complexities of the Indian situation deserve a more sensitive approach, especially from an Indian scholar.

      The third chapter is an assessment of work by women. It seems rather unfortunate that Ghosh has ignored the huge amount of past work, particularly measurement of women's work and worker status, which has been done in this country over nearly 30 years. There has been work to show that there is a qualitative difference in the nature of men's work and women's work, arising chiefly from the fact that women are usually not in control of their own labour. Especially in rural areas, decisions about the deployment of women's day-to-day labour are most often based on traditions or the requirements of family authorities. That is why even when women work on productive tasks they have to combine those with housework. This makes it difficult for standard employment surveys to assess the distribution of women's time between economic tasks and household tasks; as a result, women tend to get labelled `housewives' even if their total time spent on productive tasks is substantial.

      In India, these controls are especially strong on young women workers and, unlike in Asian countries outside South Asia, young Indian women even today face a lot of resentment against their appearance in public. The age profile of women workers in India has therefore always been distinct from that of most developed or developing countries. In the conceptualisation of women's work in the Indian context, it is impossible to ignore the patriarchal controls under which women work.

      The book has an interesting way of dividing chapters. According to me, the best chapter is the one on women in public employment; it paints a vivid picture of the ways in which the state has increasingly put the burden of providing social services -- health and education -- on women. Ghosh offers a detailed description of the items of work that ICDS (Integrated Child Development Services) workers or ASHAs are supposed to perform, and the terms and conditions on which they are expected to work. ASHAs are in fact supposed to be voluntary workers! The picture reveals how the state is short-changing the poor as well as women workers, and exposes its little regard for the legitimate claims of the poor for provision of basic services. It also shows how the state is a major party to women's disempowerment; their hard work is still dismissed as part of their `caring' nature. The state's excuse that it does not have money to pay better wages for this work is astounding when one sees how money is being squandered on repeated awards of pay commissions to bureaucrats. This reinforces the theory that in India the state is in cohorts with patriarchal authorities in order to offload its legitimate work for women.

      Overall, Never Done and Poorly Paid: Women's Work in Globalising India makes interesting reading, with a good analysis of the available official data. My objections, such as they are, have to do with the diversion of the author's analysis into channels that are not as fruitful as they could have been. Still, the book provides a useful background for future work in the field.     

      (Nirmala Banerji is a feminist economist formerly with the Centre for Social Studies, Kolkata) 

      Infochange News & Features, July 2009



      _____


      [11] STATEMENT FROM HONDURAN WOMEN'S ORGANIZATIONS AND FEMINIST NETWORKS:

      "On Sunday June 28, the President (of Honduras), Mr. José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, was assaulted, kidnapped and sent to the Republic of Costa Rica in the presidential plane with military guards who claimed he had violated the Constitution…

      He had implemented a popular consultation through a public opinion survey, which asked the people whether or not they agreed that on November 29 (national election day) a fourth urn be placed for the people to vote on a proposed National Constituent Assembly, which would develop a new Constitution with the full participation of different social actors in the country.

      This consultation was declared illegal by the judiciary, the Public Ministry and the National Congress, to justify the arrest and extradition of the President of the Republic, which has violated the rule of law through the use of brutal force and the lack of respect by the military for his election as President of the Republic by the people.

      The National Congress immediately appointed the President of the Legislative Chamber, Mr. Roberto Michelleti, as the Constitutional President of the Republic of Honduras, arguing that President Manuel Zelaya Rosales had resigned, which was denied at a press conference in the Republic of Costa Rica by P
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