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SACW - 4 July 2011 | Bangladesh: Secularism lite / Talks with Taliban / India: terror list / Squeeze on Greece / Australia invasion

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  • Harsh K
    South Asia Citizens Wire - 4 July 2011 - No. 2719 ... Contents: 1. Bangladesh: Awami League chooses to be a slave, not master, of history (editorial, New Age)
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      South Asia Citizens Wire - 4 July 2011 - No. 2719
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      Contents:

      1. Bangladesh: Awami League chooses to be a slave, not master, of history (editorial, New Age)

      2. The tide of war in Afghanistan (editorial, The Hindu)
      2.1 Amid Push for Talks With Taliban, Where Do Rights of Afghan Women Fit In? (PBS)
      2.2 What will happen in Afghanistan and Pakistan after 2014 (Tariq Rahman)
      2.3 How the Taliban and America met in Munich (Ahmed Rashid)
      2.4 In Kabul, Taliban videos hold allure (Pamela Constable)

      3. A Primer on Pakistan (Mohammed Hanif)
      + Democracy Now: Inquiry Into the Murder of Journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad May Implicate Pakistan Intelligence Agency

      4. India: Small but lively tribute to Husain - Dance and bollywood songs at memorial (Pheroze L. Vincent)
      4.1 Beyond the debacle [in West Bengal] (Sumanta Banerjee)
      4.2 Law Before Magnanimity (Dipankar Gupta)
      4.3 More Equal Than Most - Many Indian politicians still like authoritarian democracy (Ashok Mitra)

      5. Recent content on Communalism:
      -Televised religion in India : couch spirituality of the new millennium and its revenue model
      -The story of Aastha TV is the story of Baba Ramdev
      -Take on all religious outfits : release all the land papers of temples, mutts, gurudwaras, churches and mosques
      -MF Hussain's sand sculptor vandalized
      -Some paths to forgiveness
      -Gujarat government has destroyed incriminating records of the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms
      -Bangladesh: Restriction eased on Religion in Politics
      -Thugs play moral police and terrorise young girls in small town Sri Lanka

      6. International: Statement of action and solidarity May 2011 - Declaration of Athens
      6.1 U.S. shifts to closer contact with Egypt Islamists (Arshad Mohammed)
      6.2 The invasion of Australia (John Pilger)

      -------------------------

      BANGLADESH:

      1.

      New Age
      30 June 2011

      editorial

      AWAMI LEAGUE CHOOSES TO BE A SLAVE, NOT MASTER, OF HISTORY

      THE passage of the 15th amendment to the constitution in parliament on Thursday marks a sad episode in the political history of Bangladesh. By pushing the amendment through, the ruling Awami League officially completed its deviation from the spirit of the liberation war and bracketed itself with all those that it has consistently castigated as forces opposed to the spirit of liberation.

      In the objective clause of the amendment bill, the law minister claimed that the legislative exercise is aimed at restoration of the essence of the 1972 constitution by reinstating certain provisions therein in respect of fundamental rights of the people, fundamental principles of state policy, etc. The claim cannot be any farther from truth, since the amendment approves functioning of political parties formed on the basis of religious faith, and retains ‘Bismillah’ in the preamble of the constitution and Islam as the state religion, which were not in the 1972 constitution and run counter with the secular-democratic spirit of the liberation war. Notably, these were inserted in the constitution by the regimes that the party has always projected as undemocratic.

      The chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on law, justice and parliamentary affairs in its report on the amendment bill termed the retention of Bismillah and Islam as the state religion and allowance of religion-based politics a ‘compromise…in the greater welfare of the people.’ He suggested, albeit not in so many words, that his ‘matured’ understanding of the ‘importance’ of religion in power politics over the past three decades or so. In other words, the ruling party, which dictated history when it presided over the country’s war of liberation, has now chosen to be a slave of history despite its numerical strength in parliament.

      The compromise regrettably has resulted in dichotomies on the basis of not only religion but also ethnicity, between Muslim and non-Muslims, Bengalis and non-Bengalis. The amended Article 6 (2) says the ‘people of Bangladesh shall be known as Bengalees’, essentially relegating the members of the non-Bengali ethnic minority communities, who have lived in this country for generations through centuries, to second-class citizens, just as retention of Islam as state religion has done people of other faiths. While Bangladesh is the country of Muslims and non-Muslims, Bengalis and non-Bengalis alike, its state has become primarily of the Bengali Muslims.

      The consolation clauses, so to speak, in this regard, i.e. Article 12 (b) that says the state shall not grant ‘political status in favour of any religion’ and Article 23 A that says the ‘State shall take steps to protect and develop the local culture and tradition of the tribes, minor races, ethnic sects and communities’, tend to highlight the contradiction on the one hand and the Awami League’s nationalistic chauvinism on the other. The religious and ethnic stratification, needless to say, would contribute to further deepening of the sense of insecurity of non-Muslims and non-Bengalis.

      The least said about the essential hypocrisy behind the retention of socialism as one of the fundamental principles of state policy the better. The Awami League has long ceased to be a party ideologically inclined to socialism, if it ever were, and pursued anti-people neo-liberal economic policies, prime concern of which is profit-making, not people’s welfare, let alone egalitarianism.

      By pushing the amendment through the parliament, the ruling party has not only deviated from the spirit of the liberation war, which was fought in the hope of establishing a state that would be politically a people’s republic, culturally secular-democratic and economically egalitarian, and betrayed the people but may also have committed a political suicide. After all, the party now stands bereft of even the moral right to claim itself to be committed to the spirit of the liberation war and at par with the pseudo-democratic and autocratic military regimes of the past. Simply put, the Awami League has ultimately joined the ranks of its political rival, whom it has called anti-liberation.

      As for scrapping the election-time non-party caretaker government provision, which the party forced upon the constitution in 1996 to pave its way to power, it only proves that the politics of the ruling class is about crude struggle for retention of or return to state power. Understandably, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party is now fighting for its retention.

      Under these circumstances, it also draws the battle line between the power-obsessed ruling class and the politically conscious and democratically oriented sections of society. The latter needs to realise that they need to win the battle for realisation of the values and ideals of the liberation war so many people sacrificed their lives for. They also need to realise that, to win the battle, they must strive to become the master of history, not its slave, as the Awami League and its allies have chosen to be.

      o o o

      AFGHANISTAN:

      2.

      The Hindu, 2 July 2011
      Editorial

      THE TIDE OF WAR IN AFGHANISTAN

      “The tide of war,” President Barack Obama said of Afghanistan earlier this month, “is receding.” The storming on Wednesday of the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul, which claimed the lives of 12 civilians, was a sharp riposte. Believed to have been carried out by a suicide squad despatched by the Taliban-affiliated warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani, the assault isn't the most lethal the country has seen this summer: suicide attacks, bombings, and ambushes continue reaping the lives of Afghans in ever greater numbers. In a report released this week, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said violence in Afghanistan caused 2,950 civilian casualties, including 1,090 deaths, in the last three months — up a dramatic 20 per cent from the number for the same period in 2010. It said anti-government forces were responsible for eight in ten of the killings; one-tenth were caused by Afghan and allied forces; and a tenth could not be attributed to either side. Noting that “suicide attacks have increased significantly since March,” the report observes that “abductions and assassinations of Afghan citizens also rose.” Fighting has escalated in the country's east, and jihadist groups like the Islamist Movement of Uzbekistan are reported to have an increasing operational capability in the north, an area long considered relatively peaceful.

      Earlier this month, Mr. Obama announced a schedule for the withdrawal of 33,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of next summer, a precursor to a final pullout. His claims notwithstanding, Afghanistan is being left to its fate: none of the strategies intended to lay stable foundations for the future has worked. Last year's surge of troops did cause heavy attrition among the Taliban, but failed to contain violence. The United States and its allies, which have now held three rounds of meetings with interlocutors for the Taliban in Europe and the United Arab Emirates, also hoped the surge would push the jihadists into agreeing to a peace deal. However, secure in the knowledge that its superpower adversary is leaving, the Taliban have good reason to escalate violence — suffering attrition in the hope of demonstrating to its supporters that it drove the U.S. out, and to its enemies, that its rise is inexorable. Islamabad, in turn, continues to shelter and fund the Jalaluddin Haqqani network as well as other Taliban elements, in return for their help in battling jihadists seeking to overthrow the Pakistani state. In the months to come, more blood will be spilt as both Afghan jihadists and their adversaries compete to secure their positions in anticipation of the final U.S. pullout. Barring a miracle, Afghanistan has little to look forward to other than a rising tide of blood.

      2.1

      AMID PUSH FOR TALKS WITH TALIBAN, WHERE DO RIGHTS OF AFGHAN WOMEN FIT IN?
      http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/world/jan-june11/afghanwomen_06-20.html

      2.2

      The Express Tribune, July 3, 2001

      WHAT WILL HAPPEN IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN AFTER 2014

      By Dr Tariq Rahman
      Published: July 2, 2011

      The writer is Distinguished National Professor Emeritus of Linguistic History tariq.rahman@...

      For more than a quarter of a century, the history of Afghanistan is one of unending violence, death and tears. Now let us see what the future holds for this unfortunate land and, by extension, for Pakistan and the whole South Asian region. This future begins in July 2011, when US President Barack Obama will begin withdrawing 10,000 troops. General David H Petraeus wants the withdrawal to be slow because, in his opinion, the eastern part of the country is still insecure. But Obama’s mind seems to be made up. He wants this done soon and, in addition, he wants the 33,000 troops he sent in the autumn of 2009 to come back home before 2012 too. This withdrawal is widely linked with the coming presidential elections in the US but, even granting this, is this a bad thing? If many Americans want the end of the Afghan war, is the desire of the military and the neocons to give a tough nationalistic front to the world the best course of action? Or is it peace and reconciliation and the cutting of losses?

      Those who have read Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars (2010) know how the American military, which surrounded the president, finally persuaded him to send in these troops as part of the ‘surge’ policy. But now, perhaps because of the confidence Obama has gained in the last few months, he has decided not to give in to the military’s pressure ending on this protracted and useless conflict. And, in my view, it is a good decision.

      Anyone who has read my article on the surge in The News on Sunday (Dec 12, 2010) will bear witness that the policy supported by the military has not achieved what it was supposed to achieve. Indeed, anyone who goes back even further to my article warning against a war in Afghanistan (The News, Sept 17, 2001) will agree that the war was not the solution to the threat posed to the US by al Qaeda. If at all any policy would have worked, it was covert action based on intelligence reports and predators. However, that did not happen and now, after 10 years and thousands of wasted lives and incomputable anguish, the war might be ending by 2014.

      What does this mean for Afghanistan? For Pakistan? For South Asia? And for the rest of the world? The optimistic scenario is that the Afghan government will be powerful enough to resist a complete takeover by the Taliban. Indeed, the government will become cleaner day by day, and the influence of the Taliban and the warlords will decrease as good governance bears fruit. India and Pakistan will act sensibly and not indulge in a proxy war in Afghanistan. Pakistan will initially experience a trust deficit in Afghanistan but when they see no interference in Afghan affairs, the Afghan government will start building a new relationship with Pakistan. On the domestic front, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, or other religious militants who still continue to fight the state of Pakistan, could be fought single-mindedly as the people will no longer consider this as somebody else’s (America’s) war. The confusion which so divides Pakistanis and makes the public so lukewarm about fighting the militants will vanish and a united response to terrorism will emerge. Being so strengthened Pakistan will wipe out religious militancy and turn the leaf in its relations with India. Our policy need not remain India-centred and there would be a new phase of peaceful coexistence in South Asia.

      The pessimistic scenario is that the Taliban will take over Afghanistan or at least parts of it adjoining Pakistan, leaving some northern provinces to the warlords. This means going back to square one for most of the country. Girls’ schools will close down again; investors will be frightened away; women rights and human rights will be held in abeyance. Afghanistan will revert to medievalism of a frightening variety yet again and, of course, all shades of religious groups, including al Qaeda, will flourish. For India, it means that all the money spent in reconstruction will go down the drain. Pakistan is mistrustful and annoyed anyway, but then Afghanistan will also be antagonistic. Moreover, with the Taliban sworn enemies of non-Muslims, India will face a rise in militant activities domestically and a hostile country in the neighbourhood.

      For Pakistan, while the Taliban regime may appear friendly in certain ways, it will increase its influence in Fata, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and even in the rest of Pakistan. It would be difficult to fight the militants who, if left alone, will establish their sovereignty over parts of Pakistan. And, if fought with, will seek help and safe havens in Afghanistan. Such a battle will be impossible to win and Pakistan might well succumb to a Talibanised or a civilian authoritarian regime backed by the military.

      There is a third scenario too — that the Americans withdraw leaving the Afghans fighting. In such a case Pakistan is sure to back the Taliban and India, the Kabul regime. In short the Indo-Pakistan conflict will be expressed through a proxy war in Afghanistan. In this case, too, the Pakistani state would find it difficult to fight the religious militants and their influence would not decrease. In a sense, then, the present scenario of supporting some militants while fighting others will drag on while parts of the country gradually fall to the militants and the people remain confused.

      Under the circumstances, Pakistan would do well to talk to the US, India, Iran and Afghanistan in order to make a clear and unambiguous policy against terrorism. Talking to Taliban groups in Afghanistan, like the Americans are doing now, may be an option too, but only to secure our role as a neutral body. What Pakistan should never do is to fight a proxy war with India in Afghanistan and this is precisely what India should also do. What must be guarded is the democratic freedom of Pakistanis and their right not to be controlled by the Taliban or any other religious groups. This means that the Pakistani state should stop playing games in order to continue its proxy war against India and should start looking after Pakistan for a change.

      o o o

      2.3

      Financial Times
      June 29, 2011

      HOW THE TALIBAN AND AMERICA MET IN MUNICH

      By Ahmed Rashid

      The daring night-time raid on one of one Kabul’s best-known hotels by Afghan militants on Tuesday underlines once again how much depends on the secret talks with the Taliban. Following Barack Obama’s plan for a limited withdrawal of troops, hopes of a settlement that would allow a full and safe western troop withdrawal by 2014 depend on these negotiations.

      However, the recent leaks by government officials in Washington, Kabul and London are extremely dangerous and could scuttle the talks just as they enter a critical phase. I have followed in detail the many attempts at Afghan dialogue since 2005, hoping they would bring peace to a country that has known only war since 1978. These talks have largely been between president Hamid Karzai and the Taliban and only recently included Americans.

      At stake is not just peace for Afghanistan but the region, including a deeply precarious Pakistan. The talks are premised on the realisation that neither a successful western withdrawal nor a transition to Afghan forces can occur without an end to the civil war and a settlement between the government and the Taliban, but also Pakistan, the US and the region.

      In an attempt to avoid further speculation, I am laying out the bare facts of the talks as western officials have described them to me. The first face-to-face meeting between Taliban leaders and US government officials took place in a village outside Munich on November 28 2010. It was chaired by a German diplomat. There were also Qatari officials whom the Taliban had asked to be involved. The talks lasted 11 hours.

      The second round took place in Doha, the Qatari capital, on February 15. Three days later Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, made the most far-reaching US public statement to date, saying: “We are launching a diplomatic surge to move this conflict toward a political outcome that shatters the alliance between the Taliban and al-Qaeda, ends the insurgency and helps to produce not only a more stable Afghanistan but a more stable region.’’

      The third meeting took place again in Germany on May 7 and 8. All the same participants have taken part in the three rounds, which have largely involved trying to develop confidence-building measures between the Taliban and the Americans, such as lifting sanctions from the Taliban, the freeing of Taliban prisoners and the opening of a Taliban representative office.

      On June 17, in a big step forward, the UN Security Council accepted a US request to treat al-Qaeda and the Taliban separately on a 13-year-old UN list of global terrorists. There will now be two separate lists and UN sanctions on al-Qaeda members will not necessarily apply to the Taliban, making it easier to take them off the list – a significant boost to the dialogue.

      Mr Karzai has been fully briefed after each round and has unstintingly supported the Taliban’s desire to hold separate talks with the Americans, even as his government continues its talks with the Taliban. Pakistani leaders have also been briefed about the talks, but have expressed reservations about them.

      One US-German target is to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2001 Bonn meeting that set up the Afghan interim government with another meeting in Bonn, in which the Taliban will participate. This would formalise the process, but there is still a long way to go before the Taliban agree to this demand – all the more reason that the identities of interlocutors are kept secret. Even so, some believe that the Americans are going about the talks too slowly.

      The process began when German officials, at the request of the Taliban, held their first meeting in September 2009 in Dubai. Germany has always been admired by the Afghans because it has stayed neutral – never taking sides in Afghan conflicts and even tried to mediate to end the 1990s civil war between the Taliban and opponents.

      The Germans made sure the interlocutors represented the Taliban Shura (its governing council), which is headed by Mullah Mohammed Omar. (The Americans have also taken pains to verify the authenticity of the Taliban.) The Germans held eight further meetings with the Taliban to build trust, before bringing in the Americans. The Germans have never doubted their role as facilitators – while the actual negotiations must take place between the US and the Taliban.

      Qatar has played a role because the Taliban wanted a Muslim country at the table and considered Qatar neutral. Qatar has never backed any of the regional countries who have taken sides in past Afghan conflicts, such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, India, Turkey or Iran. The next big steps would hopefully involve how both sides could reduce violence on the battlefield. At some stage the Taliban would have to admit talks are taking place, which they strongly deny at present.

      A former Taliban leader told me recently: “The fundamental problem is between the US and the Taliban and we consider the Afghan government as the secondary problem.’’ He added: “The talks we want must involve the international community and end with international guarantees.’’ If that is the case and the Taliban would like to see an orderly western exit, the media and governments must allow these talks to succeed. The only way to do that is to respect the participants’ need for secrecy.

      Particularly dangerous has been the speculative naming by journalists of participants, endangering their lives at the hands of groups such as al-Qaeda, who want to sabotage the talks. Afghan efforts have always been undermined by governments in the region or extremists. These talks are clearly no longer secret but their contents must stay private if the talks are to have any chance.

      The writer is author of Descent into Chaos and The Taliban

      Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2011.

      o o o

      2.4

      The Washington Post

      IN KABUL, TALIBAN VIDEOS HOLD ALLURE

      (Pam Constable/ The Washington Post ) - Afghan men at a sidewalk DVD stall in Kabul that sells videos of popular Afghan and international singers, but also sells DVDs of battle scenes from the country’s war against the USSR in the 1980s.

      (Pam Constable/ TWP ) - A young man browses at a sidewalk computer in the Afghan capital, where dozens of vendors download and sell video clips of popular singers and other entertainment, and sometimes also download Taliban videos.

      By Pamela Constable, Sunday, July 3, 2:45 PM
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle-east/in-kabul-taliban-videos-hold-allure/2011/06/28/AGT33AwH_story.html


      o o o

      PAKISTAN:

      3.

      Sunday Book Review (The New York Times), June 24, 2011

      A PRIMER ON PAKISTAN

      By Mohammed Hanif

      During the regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, it became the policy of the United States to help spread Sufi Islam in Pakistan. A Sufi council was formed and a few seminars and some musical concerts were held; a Sufi University is still being worked on. Meanwhile, Sufi shrines have been attacked all across Pakistan. Many Pakistanis now believe Sufis to be the allies of American intelligence operatives, a belief only strengthened by the recent Raymond Davis affair, in which a Central Intelligence Agency contractor was detained in the killing of two Pakistanis.

      PAKISTAN
      A Hard Country
      By Anatol Lieven
      Illustrated. 558 pp.PublicAffairs. $35.
      Related
      Excerpt: ‘Pakistan’ (Google Books)
      http://books.google.com/books?id=Ztr4xfSjH_4C&printsec=frontcover

      The American strategy to target Islamist militants from the skies while helping to establish a tolerant version of Islam on the ground has turned into a bloody joke that nobody laughs at anymore. In his ambitious book, “Pakistan: A Hard Country,” Anatol Lieven has a sarcastic comment about the policy on Sufism: “In reality a more helpful strategy in the ‘war on terror’ might be to use the F.B.I. to support American Methodists against American Pentecostals.”

      “A Hard Country” is described by its publisher as “a magisterial investigation.” The sheer scope of the book is proof of that. With patience and determination, Lieven observes and records all aspects of the curiosity otherwise known as Pakistan — and after more than 500 pages what we find out is that actually it’s not very different from many countries of the past. From climate to religion to ethnic tension, it has everything, only more of it.

      Lieven worked as a foreign correspondent in Pakistan during the late 1980s for The Times of London. But unlike so many foreign correspondents who have churned out books from the files of their journalism, he has written a book that is much more than a collection of recycled dispatches interspersed with descriptions of lavish weddings and accounts of the obligatory visits to tribal areas.

      Lieven is in no hurry to reach conclusions; he takes his time so that he can get into the complexities of provincial and caste relationships. He is a writer bent on documenting everything he encounters, pausing long enough to make sense of what he’s seeing and hearing and then always remembering to cross-reference other countries and other histories. And he generously quotes people who have tried to cover the same ground before.

      Lieven lays bare the well-embedded power structures in the country, devoting separate chapters or sections to Pakistan’s provinces, its political parties and, most important, its army. He hangs out with Taliban sympathizers and generals, traces the role of religion and explains the concepts of kinship and honor at play in the country’s current travails. Although he’s a patient listener, he is not afraid of reaching his own conclusions. Shariah, he discovers, is not so much a strict set of rules as a system for how justice is delivered and who delivers it.

      In Lieven’s opinion, the West doesn’t realize that the problem in Pakistan is not a lack of democracy, but too much of it, with many competing parties and interest groups. When some among Lieven’s elite hosts in Peshawar, referring to a rising Taliban leader, wonder who would possibly want to follow a former bus driver, Lieven replies: other bus drivers, of course.

      Lieven has a sharp eye not only for class divisions, but also for the tribal and clan loyalties that underpin Pakistani society. Ethnic leaders, generals, industrialists all get a sympathetic hearing, if a skeptical one: Lieven says in his introduction that he has many liberal Pakistani friends but that he always takes their opinions “with several pinches of salt,” since those opinions may be devised to satisfy a Western journalist’s preconceived notions.

      Even so, he occasionally comes across as too understanding of Pakistan’s elite. Sometimes he mistakes hospitality for honesty, politeness for efficiency and fluent English as a sign of sincerity. Pakistan’s nobility, if they can be bothered to read so sprawling a book, will no doubt be pleased at their portrayal.

      By the same token, Lieven’s interactions with common Pakistanis tend to be filtered through the outlooks of his influential friends and journalistic contacts, and are infused with the kind of imagined dangers Pakistan’s elite feel from their less prosperous countrymen. Once, in Lahore, Lieven talks to people in the middle of a dozen anarchic cricket matches. They ask him aggressively about why America is doing what it’s doing. They also offer him a cold drink. At that moment Lieven pictures himself in the tribal areas, imagining that he has been decapitated and his head used as a ball. If you spend enough time with Pakistan’s military and civilian elite, you catch some of their paranoia, and start seeing yourself drowning in rivers of blood.

      Fortunately, Lieven always seems to pull himself back. He is too committed a journalist to let any imagined fears overwhelm what is in the end a sweeping and insightful narrative.

      Mohammed Hanif, a journalist based in Karachi, is the author of “A Case of Exploding Mangoes.”

      A version of this review appeared in print on June 26, 2011, on page BR29 of the Sunday Book Review with the headline: Survival State.

      o o o

      DEMOCRACY NOW: INQUIRY INTO THE MURDER OF JOURNALIST SYED SALEEM SHAHZAD MAY IMPLICATE PAKISTAN INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
      http://www.democracynow.org/seo/2011/6/29/inquiry_into_the_murder_of_journalist

      o o o

      INDIA:

      4.

      The Telegraph, 3 july 2011

      SMALL BUT LIVELY TRIBUTE TO HUSAIN - DANCE AND BOLLYWOOD SONGS AT MEMORIAL

      by Pheroze L. Vincent

      The Mukesh Band plays Hindi songs at the MF Husain memorial event in Delhi on Saturday. Picture by Prem Singh

      New Delhi, July 2: Bollywood numbers greeted a small but lively crowd that gathered today in Delhi to celebrate the memory of artist M.F. Husain.

      The gathering in central Delhi’s Vithalbhai Patel House lawns included artists, poets, socialites, socialists and Husain’s sons.

      The organisers, Sahmat, said the idea was to have a memorial befitting the zest-full life of the artist, who died in London on June 9.

      The evening began at the 75-year-old Dhoomimal Art Gallery — Husain had painted murals in its corridor in 1962 — in Connaught Place, where an exhibition put up by Jamia Milia Islamia students to pay tribute to the artist in 2009 was showcased again today.

      After a brief appreciation of Husain’s works on display, the crowd moved to VP House, opposite Anusandhan Bhavan, the head office of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The Bhavan bears Husain’s “Nehru mural” in its front.

      Artists Anjolie Ela Menon and Vivan Sundaram, beautician Shahnaz Husain, actor M.K. Raina, economist Prabhat Patnaik were part of the gathering.

      Raina and members of theatre troupe Act One danced with umbrellas bearing Husain’s signature motifs.

      Sundaram and Husain’s son Shamshad released a booklet published by Sahmat, On MF Husain, with essays by choreographer Geeta Kapur and photographer Ram Rahman documenting the events that led to the painter going on exile and the defence of the artist in the public sphere.

      “We need to reclaim history and be vigilant insomniacs as the people who forced him to leave are very dangerous,” said musician Madan Gopal Singh.

      Menon spoke about how the government didn’t do anything to let him stay back. “I’m glad he never had to face his creativity diminishing with age.… It diminishes the artist to give undue importance to any piece of paper,” she added, referring to the Qatari citizenship he accepted.

      Husain’s artist son Owais said that though his father’s exile was an emotional issue for the family, “he was the master of his destiny. Sure, I would want my father at home. But he belonged to everyone.”

      “Everything has its series of consequences — even the ones we don’t want. We need the sense to accept the meandering river of history,” said Owais, who attended the memorial along with his brothers Shamshad, Shafat and Mustafa.

      He added that what he cherished about his father was his enriched ideas and the “curiosity he imparted to his children to consume life”.

      Husain’s debut film Through the eyes of a painter (1966), which won the Golden Bear the following year, was screened.

      As his admirers trailed out after the event, Mukesh Band played Dum Dum Diga Diga, Mausam Bhiga Bhiga.

      “So what if our gathering is small. Do I forget defending diverse plurality? What else is India,” said Madan Gopal Singh as he was leaving.

      o o o

      4.1.

      Himal SouthAsian
      July 2011

      BEYOND THE DEBACLE
      By Sumanta Banerjee

      From the ashes of the CPI (M)’s electoral defeat in West Bengal, a ‘New Indian Left’ can be born.

      In the aftermath of the West Bengal elections, most commentators today are tracing the defeat of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to its suicidal handling of the situations in Singur and Nandigram in 2006-07. Many have tended to discern signs of the beginning of this fall, first with the rout of CPI (M) candidates in the local-level panchayat elections that followed the public protests in those areas, and later in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. In other words, much of the public rhetoric today holds that it was only during the last phase of CPI (M) rule, between 2006 and 2011, that the party made the serious mistakes that alienated it from the people. On the contrary, I believe the roots of the disaster can be traced back much farther; Singur and Nandigram were merely the last straw, providing the trigger for the popular explosion of anger and frustration that had been gathering steam for multiple reasons and over many decades.

      In fact, rumblings of discontent against the Left Front – the grouping that ruled West Bengal for three decades led by the CPI (M) – could be heard within a few years of its assuming office, though confined to a few particular areas of concern. One such issue was human rights. Although the CPI (M)-led government after coming to power in 1977 kept its electoral promise of releasing all political prisoners (the majority being its erstwhile enemies, the Naxalites), it failed to punish the notorious police officials who were nailed for atrocities from 1970 till the Emergency period – by multiple official commissions. Under the charge of veteran Chief Minister Jyoti Basu, the government merely reinforced the old system of using the same police force and its disreputable officers to suppress demonstrations of popular protest. The following years saw the re-emergence of the police as a trigger-happy force ready to suppress all manifestations of popular discontent. In the two-year period of 1980-81 alone, there were at least 248 cases of police firing killing 62 people, including women and children. During the same period, the number of killings of undertrial prisoners in police lock-ups and jails showed an alarming increase – recalling the days of the Emergency.

      Despite its atrocious human-rights record, the CPI (M) made impressive advances in the agrarian sector during its first five years of rule. During this time, it distributed land to the peasantry, ensured the rights of sharecroppers, raised the wages of daily labourers, and decentralised power through panchayats. But by the beginning of the 1980s, it had reached a dead end of sorts. Several shortcomings led to a stagnation of the rural economy, including its failure to anticipate that the small size of holdings made available to the rural poor through land redistribution would yield inadequate income; its indifference to the need for state investment in agricultural inputs and infrastructure to help these small farmers; and its lack of a long-term plan of agro-industrial enterprises to provide jobs for the unemployed rural youth. The CPI (M) leadership turned deaf ears to each of these weaknesses, the cost of which was the alienation, over the next three decades, of these large sections of the rural populace, which were becoming increasingly impoverished.

      End of ideology
      The CPI (M) did indeed gain popular support from villagers for its promotion of the panchayati system. For the first time, the latter were being promised participation in policy decisions at the ground level, and overcoming the rules and hurdles of a bureaucratic administration. But this system soon degenerated into an institution dominated by local CPI (M) and other Left Front cadre, who diverted government social-welfare investment to build party offices as well as to develop personal property. Inevitably, resentment grew.

      The roots of the corruption were embedded in the manner in which the panchayats were composed. In the first panchayat elections, held in June 1978, the majority of the successful candidates chosen by the CPI (M) and its allies came from the middle-class families of farmers (50.7 percent) and schoolteachers (14 percent). Among the rural poor – claimed to be the main base of the left – the sharecroppers constituted only 1.8 percent of the candidates and the agricultural labourers 4.8 percent. Given this inequitable class composition in the panchayats, it is no wonder that their pradhan headmen soon turned them into dens for the exploitation of the rural poor.

      Let us turn to the industrial sector. The industrial proletariat are designated by the CPI (M) in its programme as the leaders of its proposed ‘people’s democratic revolution’. But during all these years, while factories closed down throwing thousands of workers on the streets, the Left Front government remained a passive spectator. It consistently refused to get involved even when unions sought to form cooperatives and run the factories that were about to close.

      From the 1980s onwards, while the workers acceded to Chief Minister Basu’s advice to refrain from striking, the factory owners were allowed by him to resort to closures and lockouts. The number of strikes came down from 43 in 1981 to 29 in 1982; during the same period, 54 factories imposed lockouts, affecting 53,000 workers, and industrial houses announced the closure of 13 units, throwing out 12,300 workers. The situation is no different today. According to figures collected by the Labour Bureau in 2005, West Bengal saw 26 strikes and 182 lockouts that year. The CPI (M)’s latest tilt towards the multinational Salim, or India’s multinationals such as the Tatas and Jindals, can thus be traced back to industrial policies adopted as far back as the 1980s.

      The other traditional constituency of the CPI (M), the Muslim community, ultimately discarded the party during the recent elections. West Bengal under the Left Front was always regarded as the safest citadel of the religious minorities, including providing refuge to victims of the 2002 anti-Muslim carnage in Gujarat. Despite the memory of Mamata Banerjee being a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government that was in power during the Gujarat violence, however, many Muslims of West Bengal voted for her, probably as a gesture of protest against the Left Front’s indifference to their basic requirements, a fact substantiated by the Sachar Committee report of 2006.

      One might have expected that the CPI (M), as a typical social-democratic party promising to create a welfare state, would at least have followed a few basic parliamentary rules, primary among which was tolerating political competition. In its narrow objective of clinging to office by any means, however, the party defaulted first by elevating its Kolkata headquarters into an extra-constitutional centre, thereby encouraging its local-level party bosses all over West Bengal to take over the reins of day-to-day administration. In the process, the CPI (M) leaders and their minions destroyed the state’s educational and health infrastructure. Second, the party squeezed West Bengal’s democratic space in order to serve its own partisan interests, by trying to eliminate its political competitors. The successive victories of the CPI (M) in West Bengal were due to the party’s cynical mixture of coercion and persuasion.

      In the 2011 election, however, this twin strategy did not work for two reasons. First, the party’s coercive apparatus was kept on a leash by the Election Commission. Second, the CPI (M)’s persuasive appeal could not convince its rural electorate, which this time around began to see the Trinamool Congress as a viable alternative.

      Boshey jaoa
      Neither the CPI (M)’s central leadership nor its state units have shown signs of serious introspection over the causes of their elimination during the recent elections, nor do the top officials appear to have any intention of radically changing the party’s methods of functioning. Despite being utterly disgraced, it is clear the leadership is in no mood to step down. As for the local cadre in West Bengal, the mercenaries (musclemen known as harmads) among them will seek patronage from the new rulers; the weathercocks among the middle-class professionals are already making a beeline for the Trinamool office; and the handful of ideologically-motivated old activists, both in the trade unions and peasants organisations, seem too demoralised to revive the party.

      In particular, the grassroots groups are unable to find potential leaders in their organisations who could replace the mandarins who continue to run the party from New Delhi. Having watched the degeneration of their party, these honest activists will soon retreat into a state of boshey jaoa – the Bengali term for lapsing into political inaction. In other words, since the CPI (M) will remain saddled with its present leadership, which stubbornly refuses to acknowledge past mistakes and purge the organisation of corrupt and criminal elements, it looks set to be reduced to a non-entity in West Bengal politics in the coming years. The party’s national leadership is also yet to take up the more fundamental challenges: How can it stem the erosion of moral principles brought about by its obsession with populism and opportunism as the principles of representative government? And how can it reconcile its role as a social-democratic party, whether in power or outside, with its mode of anti-democratic functioning that harks back to Stalinist authoritarianism?

      So what of the future of the left in Indian politics in general? It is about time that one makes a sharp distinction between the CPI (M) and broader left ideology. As apparent from the record of the CPI (M) in power in West Bengal, the party steadily departed from its earlier commitment to the protection of the rights of peasants and workers, and ultimately sacrificed them at the altar of industrial tycoons and multinational companies. It turned its back on the promise to restore civil liberties by rejuvenating a notorious police force to use it against the poor. At the national level, too, the party showed scant regard for ideological principles, by seeking alliance with corrupt politicians on the plea of forming a futile Third Front. The CPI (M) therefore has forfeited the right to be called a left party, and should be treated as any other opportunist political formation, devoid of a wider ideological commitment.

      There is an urgent need for a realignment of forces within the Indian left. This needs to start with the rejection of the hegemony of the CPI (M) and the restoration of credibility among the masses, by re-establishing long-lost links with the peasantry, industrial workers and other dispossessed sections. The New Indian Left – if one can so designate it – can be a broad formation of both the left parliamentary parties – eg, the smaller partners in the present Left Front, including the Communist Party of India and the Forward Bloc, which had been critical of ‘big brother’ CPI (M) – and the non-parliamentary movements. It should align with the various popular campaigns taking place outside the political mainstream (the Narmada Bachao Andolan, the anti-POSCO movement), extend support to the groups focusing on civil liberties and democratic rights and engage in dialogue with the Maoists. Finally, in collaboration with all these forces, this new grouping needs to work out an alternative strategy for socioeconomic change.

      Will the intellectuals and economists who adorn the CPI (M)’s list of members and sympathisers – and give credibility to it – stop identifying their party as the only custodian of the ideology in which they believe? Will they now lend their talents, instead, to a campaign for the New Indian Left?

      -Sumanta Banerjee is a writer based in Dehradun, specialising in Indian left politics and the social history of Bengali popular culture. His article is an edited version of a piece that appeared in the Economic and Political Weekly (4-10 June 2011).

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      4.2

      The Times of India

      LAW BEFORE MAGNANIMITY

      Dipankar Gupta | Jul 1, 2011

      What was the home minister thinking of when he pressed the delete button and removed the names of 142 Sikhs from the "blacklist"? If these terrorists were killers once, they are killers now. None of them have shown contrition, and some even live in Pakistan. Why then, all this magnanimity?

      Or, did the home ministry make a mistake in entering their names in the blacklist? In which case, the government should apologise instead of seeking credit. There is enough evidence of administrative gaffes already. Jagjit Singh Chauhan appears among those removed from the blacklist, but he has been dead for years. As for Jafarwal and Barapind, they have been in India for all this time without a cloud over their heads.

      Or, does P Chidambaram think that the terrorists represent the ordinary Sikhs? Wrong again! Minorities are not hurt because the state is prosecuting a few monsters who happen to be from their community. What upsets Sikhs and Muslims the most is that those who led attacks against them are walking about freely, even holding positions of office. As long as they are roaming in the wild, minorities will find it hard to forget the past and get on with their lives.

      Sikhs do not really care if Paramjit Singh Panjwar and Ganga Singh Dhillon and 140 others are blacklisted in stone. Nor would the entry of the likes of Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel or David Headley to India warm the hearts of Muslims. Terrorists have never represented minorities, either Muslim or Sikh. Why then should they rejoice because the state is looking the other way and opening up the cage?

      If anything, minorities are more conscious of the law than perhaps the majority community is. They too want to forget, but amnesia is not on their side. The only way they can release their pain is if those who brutalised them are punished by the courts. That is the peacemaking gesture they are looking for and not the release of alleged terrorists. Time and time again, often against tremendous odds, minorities in this country have given evidence of their democratic intentions.

      Not only was the Muslim turnout in Gujarat's recent panchayat elections impressive, it was also difficult to figure out whether they voted for, or against, Narendra Modi. On several occasions in Punjab, Sikhs defied the terrorists and came out in large numbers to cast their ballots. The Muslims too disregarded the Shahi Imam's appeal to abstain from Republic Day celebrations after the Babri masjid episode. Even in normal times, neither Muslims nor Sikhs have succumbed to admonitions from religious heads, granthis or mullahs, and elected whoever they wished.

      After the 2002 carnage, many felt that the situation in Gujarat was just what the terrorists would have ordered. Notwithstanding the hardships Muslims faced, subsequent years have shown that there has been no fundamentalist surge in that state. If anything, madrassa education has few takers there. This has encouraged Anjuman-run establishments in Ahmedabad, and elsewhere, to teach a secular curriculum in Gujarati medium. Their Republic Day celebrations are often the most elaborate among all the schools in the neighbourhood.

      At times, even clerics of different Islamic organisations faced the displeasure of Muslims in Ahmedabad. One can hear loud complaints against them in refugee colonies like Ramola and Citizen Nagar, set up by the Jamiat-i-Ulema or the Jamaat-i-Islami. Angry though they may be, yet these Muslims are afraid to return to their earlier homes. Such is the magnitude of their fear, and this is what should be addressed. If Chidambaram were now to pardon a few Muslim terrorists, it would hardly help the situation.

      Whether Mangolpuri in Delhi or Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad, the survivors of 1984 and 2002 respectively continue to weep with their eyes dry and wide open. Why should they rejoice in the return of Bhindranwale's nephew Lakhbir Singh Rode or Wadhwa Singh Chachi of the Babbar Khalsa? As long as the guilty of 1984 and 2002 are still at large, the past will haunt their future.

      Looking behind your shoulder is not the recommended way to lead a normal life, but that is the best minorities can do. When the next political turmoil happens, will there be a target on their backs again? History, after all, has a way of repeating itself. No wonder, fear is a constant fixture at their door.

      Democracy functions on the principles of law, not on charity or noblesse oblige. It would have made Sikhs and Muslims happier if the home minister had worked a little harder and sentenced those guilty of minority bashing. This is the healing balm that the affected communities are looking for. It makes no difference to them if the blacklisted lot is kept in a safari park or a zoo.

      When Sonia Gandhi visited the Golden Temple in 1999, the Jathedars were courteous, but withheld gifting her the saropa. She apologised for 1984, but did nothing to bring in the killers. Later, Manmohan Singh's apology in Parliament in 2005 struck a hopeful note, but that soon faded away. The Sikhs that had tuned in then, slowly began to tune out.

      Chidamabaram's grand gesture in pruning the Sikh blacklist was like singing to the choir. It was an impressive show orchestrated by Tarvinder Singh Marwah, a Congress legislator. But as it played to an in-house audience, it left the ordinary Sikh out and as tone deaf as before.

      ( The writer is former professor, JNU.)

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      4.3

      The Telegraph
      1 July 2011

      MORE EQUAL THAN MOST
      - Many Indian politicians still like authoritarian democracy
      by Ashok Mitra

      A dose of cynicism is in order. The corporate sector already occupies all the commanding heights in the polity. Hullabaloo over the contents of the lok pal bill cannot but be only a divertissement: let controversy rage over the modalities of fighting corruption in high places, the interregnum will provide enough breathing space to plan new strategies to cover up shenanigans-by-courtesy-of-neo-liberalism. Most of the Supreme Court judges smitten by the activism bug are also bound to retire meanwhile. Once the judicial passion gets spent, anti-graft crusaders too will return to their cloister. Calm, too, will automatically return to the nation’s capital which is the centre of the Indian universe.

      The debate on the modalities of tackling corruption in high places has nonetheless yielded one useful by-product: we now have a clue to how some minds that matter are working. A major issue apparently dividing the government and the motley crowd of so-styled civil society warriors is whether the prime minister should or should not come under the purview of the lok pal’s surveillance. Prima facie, there is no reason why he/she should not. He/she may be primus inter pares, but is still a minister; if other ministers come under the lok pal’s scanner, the prime minister too ought to. The government and the party that heads the government coalition are not willing to go along; they abhor the idea of treating the prime minister on a par with other ministers. As points and counterpoints fly across the television channels, the heavyweight of a cabinet minister who has emerged as the principal spokesperson on behalf of the government shot a rhetorical question: is there any country in the world where its prime minister has ever been charged with corruption? The minister was confident there was none. It is therefore, he concluded, ridiculous — and demeaning to the country by implication — to introduce any legal provision to prosecute our prime minister on grounds of corruption; the lok pal must not be allowed to embark on a fishing expedition to find out whether the prime minister has or has not deviated, in the conduct of public affairs, from the straight and narrow path.

      Rhetoric deserves counter-rhetoric. Can the official super spokesperson cite the instance of any other country where a prime minister admits that he had been presiding over a bunch of ministers some of whom were corrupt to the core but he/she will not take responsibility for their misdeeds and feels no reason to resign? Do not certain other facts stare at our face too? In Japan, it is standard political practice for the prime minister to seek forgiveness of the people for any major or minor dereliction of duty on the part of the government or any individual minister and vacate office without further ado. In Britain, Harold Macmillan stepped down as prime minister owning responsibility for some sexual dalliance on the part of one of his junior colleagues. Once the convention is firmly established that under circumstances which embarrass the regime the prime minister resigns, no occasion arises to prosecute him/ her. The person elected president is both head of state and head of government in the United States of America. In not too distant a past, one such president, Richard Nixon, had to resign from his august office on the eve of his impeachment in accordance with procedures spelled in the nation’s constitution.

      Caesar’s spouse may be above suspicion, but Caesar himself is not in most parts of what is known as the democratic world. The obtuseness embedded in the argument that the prime minister is no ordinary mortal, therefore, provides food for some thought. Democracy means freedom of choice. Is that freedom being availed of to contribute a new definition of democracy itself? Perhaps the intent is to drop the hint that if there could be such a phenomenon as popular democracy or guided democracy, why not accept the notion of authoritarian or totalitarian — or, for the matter, dynastic — as well; others might abide the question, but the prime minister — conceivably belonging to only one particular family — would be free, the ordinary laws of the land would not apply to him/her. Since, exception supposedly proves the rule, the exceptional treatment of the office and person of prime minister would confirm India’s standing as the world’s largest democracy.

      Much of this, though, is not original thought and has a distinguished antecedent. Let there be a flashback to the year 1975. Indira Gandhi was peeved no end by that silly judgment of the up-to-no-good Allahabad High Court holding her guilty of electoral malpractices. The judgment, how annoying, imperilled her tenure as prime minister. Poor she; in the event, declaring an Emergency alongside suspension of the fundamental rights granted by the Constitution was the only alternative left to her. It is however an ill wind that does not yield somebody at least some good. The congenial ambience of the Emergency made it easy for Indira Gandhi to ram through a constitutional amendment. The Constitution (39th Amendment) Act of 1975 introduced a special proviso concerning the election to Parliament of the prime minister and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha; no court in the country was permitted to question, on any ground whatsoever, the validity of the election of these two eminences. The amendment was made retroactive, thereby rendering the Allahabad High Court’s verdict on Indira Gandhi’s election ultra vires of the Constitution; it was like waving a magic wand. Another point is also worth noticing. An authoritarian approach to things does not amount to abandoning a sense of aesthetics: it was a bit inelegant to treat the prime minister as a sui generis case; to keep her/him company, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha was tagged on to constitute the duet the validity of whose election to Parliament would be beyond the reach of the legal process.

      Indira Gandhi’s experiment with totalitarian democracy met a sorry end in 1977. The Janata regime that followed could at least take time out from its unending internal squabbles to pilot the Constitution (44th Amendment) Act of 1978 which got rid of the 39th amendment; the prime minister (and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha) re-entered the earth and were once more at par with one billion or thereabouts of other citizens who make up the nation.

      It is given to human beings to learn from experience. Since democracy grants freedom of choice, it is equally the privilege of human beings, or any collection of human beings, not to learn from experience. Maybe decision-makers in the country’s largest political party have not ever been able to forsake their passion for authoritarian democracy. Was it not sheer bliss to be ruling during those two heavenly years between 1975 and 1977? The wishes and whimsies of an urchin from you-know-which family had the imprimatur of law, thousands of recalcitrant and potentially recalcitrant elements could be locked up without trial in prison, encounter deaths could take care of cheeky, restless youth, the wretched inmates of ramshackle slums besmirching the texture of metropolitan beauty could be loaded like cattle in trucks and dumped in a wilderness fifty or a hundred kilometres away.

      Possibly the memory of that paradise still haunts and the blueprint of a new edition of authoritarian democracy is firmly etched on the subconscious. The occasion of the ersatz debate over the nitty-gritty of the lok pal bill is being put to excellent use. It is a sort of a preview of the re-touched dream: the prime minister is no ordinary citizen, she/he is the be-all and end-all of Indian democracy, not just holier than holy, but the holiest; how can anyone even dare to suggest that he/she should be the target of dirty investigation for this or that piffling alleged misdemeanour while in the pursuit of official duties?

      If the incumbent prime minister assumes that such solicitude is to protect his dignity and honour, he was born yesterday.

      o o o

      5. URLS OF RECENT CONTENT ON COMMUNALISM WATCH:

      Televised religion in India : couch spirituality of the new millennium and its revenue model
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2011/07/televised-religion-in-india-couch.html

      The story of Aastha TV is the story of Baba Ramdev
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2011/07/story-of-aastha-tv-is-story-of-baba.html

      Take on all religious outfits : release all the land papers of temples, mutts, gurudwaras, churches and mosques
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2011/07/take-on-all-religious-outfits-release.html

      MF Hussain's sand sculptor vandalized
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2011/07/mf-hussains-sand-sculptor-vandalized.html

      Some paths to forgiveness
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2011/07/some-paths-to-forgiveness.html

      Gujarat government has destroyed incriminating records of the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2011/07/gujarat-government-has-destroyed.html

      Bangladesh: Restriction eased on Religion in Politics
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2011/06/bangladesh-restriction-eased-on.html

      Thugs play moral police and terrorise young girls in small town Sri Lanka
      http://communalism.blogspot.com/2011/06/thugs-play-moral-police-and-terrorise.html

      o o o

      INTERNATIONAL :

      6.

      STATEMENT OF ACTION AND SOLIDARITY MAY 2011 - DECLARATION OF ATHENS

      Declaration from the Athens Conference on Debt and Austerity

      Statement of action and solidarity

      May 2011

      We, representatives of movements and activists from across the world, met in Athens to discuss the lessons of previous international economic crises, to challenge illegitimate debt and mobilise for its cancellation, to offer our solidarity to the European people struggling against unjust austerity programmes imposed by governments, the EU and the IMF, exemplified by the “Memoranda of Understanding”, as well as to formulate a plan of economic action which meets the needs of people instead of serving a tiny social elite.

      Many countries in the developing world have lived in debt crisis since the 1970s. After bouts of reckless lending by international finance, some of the poorest people in the world faced cuts in income and social provision when the IMF imposed sharp austerity policies in return for bailing out banks and financiers. These policies were unjust and did not facilitate recovery. Instead, they increased the dependency of indebted countries on the power of financial markets, making governments less accountable to their people. Only when a handful of countries demanded their rights and stood up to the imposition of austerity, to the bailing out of financiers, and to the crushing burden of debt did it become possible to recover, at least for a short while. This is what happened in Argentina in 2001. Other countries can benefit from its experience, including Egypt, Tunisia and the entire Arab world now fighting for democracy and confronting odious debts of dictatorial regimes.

      Today, in the wake of the international economic crisis, peripheral countries of the EU face a deep debt crisis. They have been pushed into it by the operations of the global financial system but also by the institutional framework and the economic policies of the EU which systematically favour the interests of capital. The Growth and Stability Pact has put pressure on labour across the eurozone, while the European Central Bank has supported the interests of large banks. The EU has been split into a powerful core and a weak periphery. The accumulated debts of the periphery are a result of the gap with the core but also of deepening inequality between the very rich and the rest of society. Workers and the unemployed, small farmers, small and medium businesses, are now forced to carry the burden of these debts even though they have not benefited from them.

      Austerity and privatisation measures will squeeze the poorest in society most heavily, while those that created the crisis will be bailed out. The Pact for the Euro will exacerbate pressure on labour. The rich and big business will also continue to dodge taxes which could be used to build a fairer society. If these measures go unchallenged, they will have an immense impact on Europe, drastically changing the balance of power in favour of capital and against labour for many years.

      The attempt to make working people and the poor bear the costs of the crisis, while the very rich escape, will be opposed by those in the firing line. The people of Greece, Ireland and Portugal, but also Poland, Hungary, Slovenia and elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe, challenge the austerity policies of the EU and the IMF, oppose international financial power, and reject the slavery of debt. We call on people across the world to show solidarity with movements in these countries struggling against debt and the pernicious policies it brings in its wake.

      Specifically, we call for support for:
      • The democratic auditing of debts as a concrete step towards debt justice. Debt audits which involve civil society and the labour movement, such as the Citizens debt audit in Brazil, allow people to establish which parts of public debt are illegal, illegitimate, odious, or simply unsustainable. They offer to working people the knowledge and authority necessary to refuse to pay illegitimate debt. They also encourage democratic accountability and transparency across the administration of the public sector. We express solidarity with debt audits in Greece and Ireland and stand ready to assist in practical terms.
      • Sovereign and democratic responses to the debt crisis. Governments must be bound primarily by their people, not by the unaccountable institutions of the EU, or by the IMF. The people of countries such as Greece must decide which policies will improve their chances of recovery and meet their social needs. Sovereign states retain the power to impose a moratorium of payments if debt is crushing the livelihood of working people. The experience of Ecuador in 2008-9 and of Iceland in 2010-11 shows that it is possible to have radical and sovereign responses to debt, even including cancellation of its illegitimate part. Even UN resolutions legalise the cessation of payments in a state of necessity.
      • Economic restructuring and redistribution, not debt. The domination of neoliberal policies and the power of international finance have led to low growth, rising inequality, and major crises as well as eroding democratic processes. It is imperative that economies are put on a different footing through transitional programmes that include capital controls, severe regulation and even public ownership over banks, industrial policy that pivots on public investment, public control over strategic sectors of the economy, and respect for the environment. The first aim should be to protect and expand employment. It is also vital that countries should adopt far-reaching redistributive policies. The tax base should become broader and more progressive by taxing capital and the rich, thus allowing for the mobilisation of domestic resources as an alternative to debt. Redistribution should also include the restoration of public provision in health, education, transport and pensions as well as reversing the downward pressure on wages and salaries.
      These are the first steps towards meeting the needs and aspirations of working people, while shifting the balance of power away from large capital and financial institutions. They would allow people across Europe, and more broadly across the world, to exercise better control over their livelihoods, their lives, and the political process. They would also offer hop
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