SACW 2 April 2012 | Bangladesh: rape as weapon of war in 1971 / India: democratic rights, dissent, intellectual freedom / Global Homophobia / Labour in post revolutionary Egypt
- South Asia Citizens Wire - 2 April 2012 - No. 2737
1. The Birangana and the birth of Bangladesh (Laxmi Murthy)
2. Democratic Rights at Home and Abroad: The Case of India (Rohini Hensman)
3. India: Democracy and the right to protest (Gautam Bhatia)
4. India: When the academe becomes the grave of intellectual freedom (Ananya Vajpeyi)
5. India: Congress and BJP (Praful Bidwai)
6. India: Evidence of Volcanic Activity In Koodankulam / Intimidation of Anti Nuclear Activists
7. India: We demand that the Alliance Francaise reopen Sunil Gupta’s photographic exhibition ‘Sun City & Other Stories’ (Nigah)
8. Many voices of history - Romila Thapar Interview with Pushpa Chari
9. Review: Green and Saffron (Vipul Mudgal)
10. 1969 Report of Jeevan Lal Kapur Commission of Inquiry in to Conspiracy to Murder Mahatma Gandhi (Part 1 and Part 2)
11. The sources of global homophobia (Rachael Crook)
12. Egypt: Relations between the Labour Movement and the Political Uprising in Post-revolutionary Egypt
1. THE BIRANGANA AND THE BIRTH OF BANGLADESH
by Laxmi Murthy
(Himal SouthAsian 20 March 2012)
Women and wombs during, and following, the Liberation War.
The year 1971 was a landmark in Southasian history for many reasons. It included the birth of Bangladesh but also the war fought by Pakistan and India. It was perhaps the only such conflict involving the three most populous Southasian countries, clashing for the first time since the end of colonial rule. High-level politics and the tumultuous times spawned a number of books on war, international relations and human rights. However, an uncanny silence has remained about one aspect of the war – the sexual crimes committed by the Pakistan Army and its collaborators, the Razakar militia, against Bangladeshi women. It is only now, 40 years on, that some of that silence is being broken.
Bina D’Costa’s new Nationbuilding, Gender and War Crimes in South Asia takes on the mammoth task of placing violence against women during the war in a larger political context. While what D’Costa calls the ‘original cartographic trauma’ of the Subcontinent has been well researched, gendered nation-building narratives have been given little consideration. Yet D’Costa proposes that any theorisation of nation-building in post-Partition India and Pakistan, or post-Liberation Bangladesh, is incomplete without a gendered analysis. Recognising that women have largely been silenced by state historiography, feminist scholars and activists in Southasia – Veena Das, Kamla Bhasin, Ritu Menon, Urvashi Butalia – have attempted to explore this sordid aspect of war.
That rape has been used as a weapon of war has been well documented. One of the more famous examples is American feminist Susan Brownmiller’s investigation of rapes committed during the two World Wars, in Vietnam and then in Bangladesh, which emerged as the 1975 classic Against Our Will: Men, women and rape. The idea of defiling the enemy population by raping its women and impregnating them, often while their helpless and ‘feminised’ menfolk watch, is based on notions of honour, purity and emasculating the opposition. These notions of defilement also led to the sacrificial killing, sometimes by their own families, of women who had either been raped or even simply exposed to the potential of sexual violence.
These ‘honour’ killings were widespread during the Partition riots of 1947, a phenomenon documented by Bhasin and Menon. Expanding on this theme, Butalia has talked about how women also colluded in maintaining family ‘purity’ by forcing those who had been raped to commit ‘suicide’. The post-Independence ‘recovery’ programme, whereby abducted women and children were sent back to their families, was fraught with problems, precisely because of prevalent notions of desecration and impurity, which hindered acceptance by families and communities. We see a similar drama played out with the birangana, or rape survivors, and war babies of 1971.
Psychiatrist Ruth Seifert defined rape not as an aggressive manifestation of sexuality but as a sexual manifestation of aggression. Her study of sexual violence during World War II exposed a hitherto little-known side of that period. Seifer writes:
Soldiers of Nazi Germany also committed rape on a massive scale. It is furthermore known that the Wehrmacht ran brothels where women were forcibly made to work. In the Eastern territories the Wehrmacht used to brand the bodies of captured partisan women – and other women as well – with the words ‘Whore for Hitler’s troops’ and to use them accordingly.
Helke Sander and Barbara Johr, in their research on the mass rapes of German women by Red Army troops at the end of World War II, allege that between April and September 1945, nearly 110,000 of Berlin’s 1.4 million female residents were raped, and about 1000 infants were born as a result. While many have criticised Sander and Johr’s methods, it is undeniable that rape was part and parcel of the strategy of the victorious army to subdue the once-ascendant community. The silence around this aspect of the war also follows a pattern of denial evident in wars throughout history.
Sexual violence and rape during conflict have only recently been recognised as war crimes in international law. Women’s experiences of sexual violence and rape in Rwanda, Bosnia and Congo were classified as war crimes and as crimes against humanity. Feminist scholars such as Kelly Askin re-reading the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials following the genocide of Jews during World War II have highlighted the failure of the international community to prosecute gender-specific crimes.
Nationbuilding, Gender and War Crimes in South Asia
By Bina D’Costa
Wars and their heroines
An analysis of 1971 cannot be complete without examining 1947. The wound of Partition –cleavages of territory and populations – continued to fester, impinging on almost every aspect of life in India and Pakistan. D’Costa provides an insightful historical backdrop against which we can understand why Partition was almost inevitable, and why, in turn, the foundations had already been laid for the birth of Bangladesh, 24 years later. Reinvented and fractured identities, moving from ‘Indian’ to ‘Pakistani’ to ‘Bangladeshi’ with gradual anti-India and pro-Pakistan leanings, have complicated the pursuit of the war-crimes agenda in Bangladesh. More specifically, it has ensured that the story of women during the war has remained largely in the realm of propaganda, deployed for nationalistic purposes when suitable and then relegated to an uncomfortable corner of history.
D’Costa’s is not the first writing on sexual violence during the Liberation War. Nilima Ibrahim, a social worker during the war, published Ami Birangana Bolchi (The Birangana Speak) in 1994, followed by the publication of the oral-history project undertaken by the Ain O Shalish Kendra (ASK). More recently, to mark the 40th year of liberation, feminist publisher Women Unlimited published Yasmin Saikia’s Women, War and the Making of Bangladesh, a work based on oral testimonies of women who had suffered rape and torture during the war.
D’Costa, however, steers clear of essentialising women or invoking any ‘common interest’ among women that supersedes class, ethnic or religious identity. D’Costa also eschews the voyeurism inherent in oral testimonies, the use of which represents an ethical dilemma with which sensitive researchers through the ages have grappled. What do the horror stories and personal pain, the cries of anguish and the desperation of revenge, add to our understanding of the narrative of rape or the politics of silence? Do the anguished words of women kept confined and raped repeatedly by enemy soldiers drive home the reality of violence more effectively? How comfortable are the women with having their lives exposed, and can their vulnerability enable them to give genuine informed consent to the interview and its subsequent publication? What is the long-term impact of the interview process on already traumatised women having to recount the horrific past? Grappling with these questions, and despite having interviewed several birangana, especially in the rural areas, D’Costa instead chooses to publish already existing testimonies, such as those collected by the ASK.
Birangana, meaning ‘war heroine’, was a term coined by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh’s founding prime minister, as a way of acknowledging these women’s ‘sacrifice’ for the freedom of Bangladesh. Mujib claimed that about 200,000 Bengali women had been raped by Pakistani troops. These numbers were never proved, however, nor were the perpetrators of rapes or killings ever brought to justice. Instead, these women began their lives in the newborn country under a shadow of shame. While the moniker was originally meant to honour all women – political activists, freedom fighters and rape survivors – it slowly became a term to identify those subjected to rape and sexual violence during the war.
Ironically, rather than honouring or dignifying them, this term became a label to mark a ‘fallen woman’ (barangana, meaning prostitute, is phonetically too close to ‘birangana’ for comfort). In turn, this prompted activists to coin a new phrase: nari jodha, or women fighters. Likewise, the attempt to wipe out all visible evidence of the women’s ‘impurity’ – the babies born of the rapes – by encouraging large-scale international adoption had serious implications not only for the women and their babies, but also for the social workers involved in the process, who were complicit in furthering the government agenda.
There are echoes here of the intense emotional dilemmas faced after Partition by social workers trying to re-unite families in Pakistan and India. Anis Kidwai’s memoir, Azadi ki Chao Mein, first published in Urdu in 1949, and recently translated into English as In Freedom’s Shade by her granddaughter Ayesha Kidwai, is a moving and nuanced account of her experiences as a social worker involved in ‘recovery’ efforts. D’Costa interviews Nilima Ibrahim, Maleka Khan, Margaret Mary, Geoffrey Davis and nuns from the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata, revealing that Bangladeshi social workers associated a similar anguish with their own mission. These testimonies also display the prevalent patriarchal view of women’s bodies and motherhood. Nilima Ibrahim’s account of her conversation with Mujib over the future of the ‘war babies’ is telling: ‘No apa. Please send away the children who do not have their father’s identity. They should be raised as human beings with honour. Besides, I do not want to keep that polluted blood in this country.’
The popular proclivity to pity the birangana is shaken when some of the women share stories in which they do not easily fit into the roles of victims. Sculptor Ferdousi Priyobhashini’s tale is one that speaks powerfully of the complexity of survival in a wartime situation, the role of the individual and the interplay of violence, emotion and sexuality. In her mid-20s in 1971, Priyobhashini was abducted by the Pakistan Army. Rescued from a ‘rape camp’ by an officer with a soft spot for her, she says:
I also started to love him. Maybe it was just an infatuation or just to stay alive. Maybe that love was of gratitude. But just because a Pakistani saved my life, I couldn’t marry him and go to Pakistan. In that way I would’ve only betrayed my country.
Dubbed a collaborator because she did what she could to survive in the circumstances, Priyobhashini was denied recognition as a birangana, although she had been raped and tortured for nine months. When, in the euphoria following liberation, she was sacked from her job at the jute mill for being ‘anti-national’, Ferdousi fell silent. She spoke up only 28 years later, first telling her story to ASK and subsequently going public in the local media.
The right to speak
While following in the post-colonial tradition of challenging feminist scholarship of the Global North, D’Costa does not pull punches when calling for the need to analyse the authenticity and position of Southern feminists, who, with a few exceptions, are from privileged backgrounds, speak English and were trained in Western institutions, where many of them are still located. Yet the author also acknowledges that respondents, especially women, may be ‘more comfortable speaking with women researchers from locations other than their own, as the power inequality is at times quite visible between southern researchers and respondents.’ Referring to the complicated interplay between ‘sameness and difference’, she concludes, ‘We can no longer afford to argue about who has the right to represent, or whose representation is more “authentic”.’ In answer to the question of who can best represent the marginalised, D’Costa calls for more forthrightness about research commitments. ‘We should be able to say what we have to say while being aware of the politics of location,’ she writes.
D’Costa’s point is especially relevant, given the reaction to another significant book published in 2011 to mark Bangladesh’s 40th year of liberation: Sarmila Bose’s Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War. It is not Bose’s Indian origins that should come under the scanner but the dubious methods employed in her work. Bose’s controversial Dead Reckoning, which questions the scale of the killings and rapes and disputes the genocidal character of the violence, generated a predictable storm of protest in Bangladesh as well as corresponding sighs of moral relief in Pakistan, which is still weighed down by collective guilt over allegations of sexual violence and torture perpetrated by the Pakistan Army. Bose refutes the popular Bangladeshi claim of three million dead, and prefers instead to rely on the figure of 26,000 dead put forth by the Hamoodur Rahman Commission. The first report by this commission – constituted by the Bhutto government to investigate both the causes of the ignominious defeat and the claims of atrocities committed by the army against the local populace – was never published. The controversy it raised within Pakistan perhaps convinced Bose of its veracity.
In a hard-hitting rebuttal in the Economic and Political Weekly, Bangladeshi writer and researcher Naeem Mohaiemen rips into Bose’s findings on methodological grounds and takes apart her flawed perspective. He acknowledges the need for a more multi-layered analysis of 1971, eschewing the binary of victim and victor, to look at the violence perpetrated by the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) and the violence inflicted upon the Bihari (Urdu-speaking) community, which was not simply a retaliation against the Pakistan Army. But Bose’s attempt at neutrality in order to correct the balance in the biased narratives of 1971 seems like a wild swing to the other extreme.
Dead Reckoning does seem to accept the Pakistan Army officers’ version of events in good faith. In her reconstruction of some notorious events, such as the massacre in Joydebpur on 19 March 1971, Bose chooses to conclude, for example, that the death toll did not come to 20 people (as the Bengalis claimed) but only to two. An examination of Bose’s methodology must consider respondent fatigue and the construction of narratives in response to research questions, where the framing of the question can guide the response. These are daunting challenges for researchers in any field, the more so when the research focuses on fraught human lives, anguished memories and profound trauma.
D’Costa boldly proposes that crimes against women – rape, pregnancy, abortion, and the forceful separation of mothers and their children born as a result of rape – were not an unfortunate by-product of war, but inherent in the very premise of the nation-building project. She goes on to show how the new state of Bangladesh, in building its national identity, attempted to provide space for the co-existence of Islam and Bengali ethnic identity and also promoted communal harmony. ‘In this new patriotic space, which required nationbuilding to make peace with the two conflicting identities (the religious and the ethnic), it was crucial to silence women’s experiences of the Liberation War.’ The post-Independence rise of the Islamic right in Bangladeshi politics, as well as clashes between secular and communal forces, remains an ever-present reality in Bangladesh today, much as it does in India.
Yet, as Ruth Seifert points out, bringing the matter of violence back into the cultural consciousness and making it public is the sine qua non for change. ‘Only when sexual violence is perceived as a political issue, when it is publicly discussed and analysed, will it be possible to establish the causes and contexts and to envisage strategies to overcome this situation,’ she says. Official rehabilitation efforts apart, one notable finding of D’Costa’s research is the informal network of rape survivors, many of whom have kept in touch with each other, offering financial, emotional and other forms of assistance. This is particularly heartening given the lack of transnational feminist mobilisation around the birangana, which stands in sharp contrast to the movement for justice regarding Korean comfort women, to whom Japan has officially apologised. This is perhaps because the women’s movement within Bangladesh was unable to elevate its post-war efforts above considerations of charity and justice for individual women.
D’Costa urges that it is not too late for the Bangladeshi women’s movement to amplify its voice, motivate action, and seek truth and justice. Her book provides ample material to trigger this significant campaign.
~ Laxmi Murthy is consulting editor at Himal Southasian, and director of the Hri Institute for Southasian Research and Exchange.
2. DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS AT HOME AND ABROAD: THE CASE OF INDIA
by Rohini Hensman
dissidentvoice / March 30th, 2012
Recent votes by India in the UN, censuring first Syria and then Sri Lanka for human rights violations, seem to indicate a new willingness to join initiatives by the international community supporting democracy in other countries. This is a welcome move. While it is entirely justifiable to oppose military aggression against another country, or to oppose sanctions except in cases where the oppressed population calls for them, condemning a regime that is repressing its people is the least the international community can do to defend the human rights of citizens of the world when those rights are being violated. However, to avoid the charge of double standards, governments involved in such votes should be able to show that they respect the same rights in their own countries. Scrutiny of India’s domestic record does not support such a conclusion.
It does not follow that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre is responsible for all human rights violations in India. Anyone listening to members of the Anna Hazare movement could be forgiven for concluding that politicians and the state are responsible for everything that is wrong in India, and civil society can do no wrong. But all‘civil society’ really means is capitalist society, with its multiple divisions and contradictions between capitalists and workers, majority and minorities, upper and lower castes and so on, as well as competition within each category. Its ‘other’ is political society or the state, which is supposed to rise above the struggle of ‘each against all’ and manage it so that civil society doesn’t tear itself apart. In a democracy, in theory, it is also supposed to protect the interests of weaker and more vulnerable sections of the population from depredations by the powerful.
There are a few instances where this actually happens. But in general, the reality is much more complicated. Often, individuals carry their greed and prejudices with them from civil society into the state. Or they abuse the power that is vested in them as officials of the state. There are times when one arm of the state is in conflict with another, as when a court directs the state government of Gujarat to compensate those who lost their property in the pogroms of 2002 and the state government objects. In a democracy, it is even possible that right-wing groups within civil society, in collusion with fascist political forces, seek to overthrow a democratic state. If the theoretical picture of a good state and conflict-ridden civil society is inaccurate, so is the opposite picture of an evil state and virtuous civil society.
Having said that, however, it is undoubtedly true that the more wealthy and powerful sections of society have a greater chance of manipulating, infiltrating, or dominating the state, and this means that the poor and powerless have to resort to protests, legal challenges and mass movements to get their voices heard. Without such activism, democracy would very soon deteriorate into oligarchy or majoritarianism. It is thanks to the plethora of such protests in India that democracy has been kept alive.
Fascist movements and the state
28 February 2012 marked ten years since the start of the horrific carnage in which thousands of innocent Muslims were massacred in Gujarat. The survivors continue to suffer to this day, with the state government posing massive obstacles to justice or even compensation for the losses they have suffered; indeed, ethnic cleansing and ghettoisation have continued even after the rapes and killings stopped. The evidence points to the involvement of civil society organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal in collusion with the police, Intelligence Bureau (IB), and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers including chief minister Narendra Modi, with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) acting as a connecting link. It is particularly disturbing to note large-scale complicity in the crimes and perversion of the course of justice on the part of Gujarati civil society, both in acting as storm-troopers engaged in arson, rape and murder, and in voting for the Modi regime in two subsequent elections.
The tradition hitherto has been for the perpetrators of crimes against minority communities to have complete impunity, whether the slaughter involves thousands – as in the Nellie massacre of Muslims (1983), the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi (1984) or the massacre of Muslims in Bombay (1992-93) – or smaller numbers, as in countless other pogroms scattered throughout the country. Commissions of Inquiry may identify the perpetrators accurately, but at most a few low-level goons are apprehended; those who plan, instigate and control the murder and arson have never been touched.
In the case of Gujarat, for the first time, this tradition has been challenged in a sustained manner. Despite almost insurmountable odds, hundreds of courageous victims, with the support of civil society organisations like Citizens for Justice and Peace and Jan Sangharsh Manch, have pursued cases against those who were responsible for the violence. These have been accompanied by parallel cases against those who carried out around twenty fake encounter killings of Muslims falsely accused of plotting to assassinate Modi. There are a few cases where perpetrators have been convicted; but in the vast majority, the struggle goes on. There is a broader constituency countrywide, including groups like Anhad, that has been supporting the quest for justice for the victims and a reversal of the fascist transformation of the state in Gujarat.
We now have mounting evidence to show that from the beginning of the 21st century, the Hindutva Right has been supplementing its strategy of communal pogroms (which continued, as in Khandamal in 2008) with terrorist attacks consisting of bomb blasts. When the cases are put together, as Subhash Gatade does,1 it is evident that their number and geographical distribution leaves Islamist terror in India lagging far behind, although one would never believe it if one followed only the mainstream media. The new strategy relies on the myth that ‘all terrorists are Muslims even if all Muslims are not terrorists,’ so that even when the victims are Muslims, it is still assumed that the perpetrators are Muslims. While the number of people killed may be smaller than in pogroms, hundreds of innocent Muslims can be incarcerated and tortured for years and a whole community demonised in this manner. These victims may ultimately be released for lack of evidence, but in the meantime their lives and families are ruined.
Once again, as Gatade documents, the terror attacks are carried out by members of civil society organisations like the VHP, RSS, Abhinav Bharat, Sri Ram Sene, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti and Sanatan Sanstha. Many elements in the mainstream media assist by blaming Muslims for attacks carried out by Hindutva terrorists. But this strategy, even more than that of communal pogroms, relies on collusion by elements in the state, which, he shows, has been provided by the police, state and central IBs, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Anti-Terrorist Squads (ATSs), and BJP state governments, all of which have helped to pin the blame on innocent Muslims while allowing the real culprits to escape and kill again.
The honourable exception to this rule was Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare, who meticulously followed the clues in the Malegaon blast case of 2008 and was well on the way to unravelling a massive network of Hindutva terror when he was killed under mysterious circumstances during the 26/11 terror attacks in Bombay. (‘Mysterious’ because his autopsy report shows he was shot five times from the top of the shoulder downwards, suggesting the killer was someone sitting behind him inside the police vehicle rather than terrorists outside). The National Investigation Agency, set up by Home Minister P.Chidambaram after the 26/11 attacks, has followed up on many of Karkare’s leads. But innocent Muslims are still being blamed for terrorist attacks, and one way in which people in civil society have combated Hindutva terrorism is by challenging the fabrication of evidence against them. This has been done by journalists in independent media like Tehelka, social activists like those in the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, and lawyers like Shahid Azmi, who paid with his life in February 2010 for proving that his Muslim clients had been framed by the police.
Three of the most fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution are at stake here: the rights to life, to equal protection of the law, and to equality before the law. But the victims and activists engaged in combating Hindutva communalism and terror are doing more than defending these rights: they are defending Indian democracy itself, which, as M.S.Golwalkar made clear long ago and Subramanian Swamy reiterated recently, the Hindutva Right seeks to replace with a Hindu Rashtra in which non-Hindus would have no rights.
When protecters become predators
An unintended by-product of the Anna Hazare movement was some welcome publicity for Irom Sharmila’s eleven-year fast for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Like several other draconian laws, AFSPA allows state security forces the power to act against civilians, upto and including killing them, with virtual impunity. It was after witnessing such a massacre of civilians in Manipur, and realising there would be no redress because of AFSPA, that Sharmila embarked upon her marathon fast, during which the authorities, who keep her locked up, have kept her alive by nasogastric feeding. She fasts alone, but has many supporters in the Northeast and throughout India.
AFSPA has unsuccessfully been challenged in the Supreme Court on the grounds that it violates the right to life, but it also violates the right to equal protection of the law (which is denied to the victims of crimes by the security forces) and the right to equality before the law (since perpetrators in the security forces are effectively placed above the law). The result has been to turn forces vested with the power to protect civilians into predators who rape, torture and kill civilians with impunity. That the Armed Forces chiefs cling tenaciously to this ‘privilege’ is evident from their obdurate opposition to the repeal or amendment of this law, even when it is proposed by other state actors. The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and many state-level laws suffer from the same weaknesses, allowing the police and other security forces to frame, arrest, incarcerate and torture innocent people (including democratic rights activists) with complete impunity. It should be abundantly clear that putting state personnel above the law, as these laws do, is a sure way of encouraging them to engage in unlawful activities and undermining the rule of law.
A country in which the police and state security forces routinely violate the fundamental rights of the civilian population cannot be called a democracy. This does not happen in all parts of India, but in some areas it is the rule rather than the exception. That these tend to be areas where there is anti-state militancy is no excuse: far from solving the problem of militancy, indiscriminate attacks on unarmed civilians generally make it worse. Therefore even in such areas, as Sharmila and her supporters correctly contend, it should not be lawful for security forces to rape and kill unarmed civilians, and if they engage in such behaviour, they should be punished just like anyone else. But is anybody in the state listening?
The Pathribal case, in which five civilians were killed by army personnel in a fake encounter, may answer this question. The army, as usual, claims that its personnel cannot be prosecuted without sanction from the central government, which the Ministry of Defence has always refused to give even in the few cases where the Ministry of Home Affairs has given the go-ahead. But on 4 February 2012, a Supreme Court bench of Justices B.S.Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar told the army that rape and murder committed by its personnel should be considered normal crimes, and there should be ‘no question of sanction’ from the government before prosecution of offenders in such cases, since AFSPA gives only very limited protection for action ‘in discharge of duty.’
The Court’s observations are eminently logical, and echo the argument implicit in Sharmila’s protest. What would it say about India if army personnel could claim, ‘We raped these women in discharge of our duty’ or ‘We rounded up and killed these innocent civilians in discharge of our duty,’ and the judiciary accepted their claims? Wouldn’t this be an admission that India is not, in fact, a democracy where the rule of law prevails? Yet as of now, it is not clear that the Supreme Court’s order will reflect its observations, nor have excessive powers and impunity clauses in other laws been challenged by the courts. The Centre continues to insist that sanction from it is required before armed forces personnel can be prosecuted. Irom Sharmila’s struggle for democracy and the rule of law is not yet over.
Nuclear power versus the right to life
India’s model of development has rightly been criticised for allowing an elite few to become obscenely rich while 48% of its children are stunted due to malnourishment, as a recent Save the Children survey showed, resulting in extremely high under-5 mortality rates. Although the central and state governments can be held responsible for these unnecessary deaths to the extent that they are the result of faulty policies, they cannot be accused of killing these children deliberately. But what do we say when a policy that is known to cause deaths is undertaken? The projected expansion of the number of nuclear power plants is such a policy.
An impressive and sustained campaign against the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) gained publicity in 2011, although it had been going on since 1988. The important role played by women was particularly apparent. Several planned nuclear power plants in other parts of the country faced similar protests, and all received a boost after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Anyone with an iota of imagination would be able to empathise with these protesters completely. The ghastly consequences of an accident in a nuclear power plant were reported day after day; no sane person would want to run that risk. Yet, having failed to answer safety-related questions of the local people to their satisfaction, the government resorted to repression of the protesters.
It is not surprising that people are sceptical about government guarantees of absolute safety. The state government of MP swore that the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal was absolutely safe shortly before the disaster that killed thousands. And in Kurosawa’s prophetic film Mount Fuji in Red, a woman fleeing a nuclear disaster in Japan laments that they were told the nuclear plant was absolutely safe. If there is no chance of accidents in the planned nuclear plants in India, why are the countries selling them so adamantly opposed to a Nuclear Liability Act that could make them liable for an accident which, they say, will never happen? Why will no commercial insurance company touch any nuclear power plant with a barge-pole? Why is it always tax-payers who have to pick up the tab? And why are the victims of the disasters that never should have happened never compensated adequately?
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s allegation that the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) is driven by foreign NGOs is especially egregious since, as Praful Bidwai pointed out in November 2011, ‘Former DAE [Department of Atomic Energy] secretary Anil Kakodkar told Marathi daily Sakaal (Jan 5) that India is handing out lucrative reactor deals to foreign suppliers for their governments’ support to the US-India nuclear deal: “We also have to keep in mind the commercial interests of foreign countries and … companies … America, Russia and France were … made mediators in these efforts to lift sanctions, and hence, for the nurturing of their business interests, we made deals with them ….”’ In other words, if anyone is acting in the interests of foreign powers, it is the Indian government!
It is to the credit of some people in these countries that, despite the loss of exports it would represent for them, they do not want these deals to go through. There is increasing evidence, in scientific articles in the International Journal of Cancer and elsewhere, that even without any accidents, nuclear plants cause deaths from cancer (including leukemia) due to routine radioactive emissions. As nuclear waste – which continues to be radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years, and for the safe disposal of which there is no method to date – mounts, the danger increases exponentially. This is why French Green MP Anny Poursinoff objected to the sale of the Areva nuclear plant to be built at Jaitapur, asking ‘Why offer our Indian friends such a poisoned present?’ Anyone who has gone through the heart-breaking experience of watching a loved one die of cancer would agree with her.
Manmohan Singh’s statement that ‘the thinking segment of our population’ supports nuclear power also drew ridicule, not only in India but also abroad. ‘The “thinking segment of our population”? Really?’ mocked a Wall Street Journal article. ‘Mr. Singh is dismissing all people who don’t agree with him as not thinking. As Mr. Singh surely knows, protests against nuclear power in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere in India were by no means isolated incidents. The nuclear crisis that followed Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami sparked a global backlash against nuclear power. The Japanese government said no new reactor would be built in the country and in Germany, the government vowed to close down all its nuclear power plants by 2022. Elsewhere, including in the United Kingdom, nuclear expansion plans have since slowed down. No thinking people there, surely. Indeed, it is precisely the thinking segment of the population that opposes nuclear power. Those who support it are either ignorant of the human suffering it causes, or too callous to care. Neither category can be classified as ‘thinking’.
Seen from this perspective, the anti-nuclear protesters in Koodankulam, Jaitapur and elsewhere should be honoured for their struggle to defend the right to life of present and future generations, instead of being served with preposterous charges, including sedition and waging war against India! If more electricity is needed, India is blessed with plentiful sources of renewable energy; unlike nuclear energy, these can be exploited without resorting to human sacrifice. They are cheaper than nuclear energy and indigenously available, thus securing India’s energy security far better than nuclear energy would be able to. Since the Kudankulam plant has already been built, it can be converted into a coal-powered plant, while plans for other nuclear power plants should be dropped. Indeed, experts have shown that if the abnormally high transmission and distribution losses in India are brought down to a more normal level, that alone would save more power than all the new nuclear power plants put together would produce.
None of the arguments in favour of nuclear energy that have been put forward by the government can stand up to scrutiny. Forcing communities to sacrifice their lives and health for nuclear plants that are going to burden future generations with even heavier human and economic costs is a violation of the fundamental democratic principle that those who are most affected by a decision must be most empowered to make it.
Democracy at home
These are just three examples of hundreds of causes taken up by civil society activists, and the very fact that the struggles are still ongoing and their outcome is not clear shows that the legislature, judiciary and executive cannot, by themselves, safeguard democracy and the rule of law. It is therefore cause for grave concern that non-violent activism in support of fundamental rights is currently under so much attack by the state in India. If the Indian government wishes to take its place in the international community as a supporter of democracy, it cannot afford to contradict the principles it upholds abroad by its actions at home. It needs to listen to these activists instead of accusing them of sedition and waging war against India, throwing them in jail, and allowing them to be tortured and killed.
Subhash Gatade, Godse’s Children: Hindutva Terror in India, Pharos Media, New Delhi, 2011. [↩]
Rohini Hensman is an an idependent scholar, writer, and activist based in India and Sri Lanka. She can be reached at: rohinihensman@...
[The above paper is also available at: http://www.sacw.net/article2617.html%5d
3. INDIA: DEMOCRACY AND THE RIGHT TO PROTEST
by Gautam Bhatia
(Asian Age, March 19, 2012)
In 1971, at a student rally in the US, I was part of an anti-war demonstration against the US’ involvement in Vietnam. An enraged group of some 20,000 people, with placards of “No War” and “Get out of Vietnam”, we shouted slogans against the US government and heckled the occupants of the White House. I carried a “Nepalm Pentagon” sign amongst many other foreign students who also opposed the war. As a resident in the US, I had every right to raise my voice, even though I was ineligible for the draft or to vote. Freedom to protest was not confined to American citizens.
India, however, denies democratic rights not just to foreigners in the country but also to its own nationals. While Indian NGOs are regularly targeted for harassment by the Indian government, Sonnteg Reiner Hermann, a German on a tourist visa in India, was recently deported by the home ministry for participating in the anti-nuclear protest in Tamil Nadu. Defending his deportation decision, home minister P. Chidambaram said, “There was information to show that Hermann had links with the anti-Koodankulam stir”, and that “was not consistent with a person who had come here on a tourist visa”.
Is a tourist visa only for viewing monuments and shopping? If so, could Mr Hermann have been jailed for not visiting the Taj Mahal, or not buying trinkets? Should tourist itineraries be approved by the home ministry before a visa is issued? Should then foreigners on a work visa even be allowed to visit monuments?
Within the law, unless there are clear signs of promoting anti-national and seditious activities, a tourist is understandably free to participate in any activity in the country, except employment.
Protest is a singularly democratic method for any government to soften its shrill and dogmatic line, and is tolerated in most democracies around the world. The cross-border protest against Dow Chemicals’ sponsorship of London Olympics is a case in point. Should Britain, like India, outlaw these demonstrations and deport demonstrators for embarrassing one of its top sponsors, and that too for an incident that Britain has nothing to do with.
It is well known that the nuclear debate in Europe and the propagation of new power plants by some countries there garnered massive opposition from Greenpeace and local parties, enough to alter the thinking of some governments. The protesters were an international coalition whose remarkable anti-nuke cause was without boundaries. As a result of their efforts, almost 40 per cent of Germany’s energy needs are today met by alternate sources.
In India, the problem lies inherently in an archaic nationalism. A couple of years ago, a tired Sania Mirza after a gruelling match, inadvertently stretched her feet to relax, towards the Indian flag. Before she could retract, unknown to her, a cameraman had snapped a picture of her “unpatriotic” gesture and published it in a newspaper. At a rural school in Uttar Pradesh, a young girl who didn’t know the lyrics of Vande Mataram was punished by the teacher. More recently, the heavy hand of the Indian government stretched beyond the borders of Ukraine, refusing visas to young women tourists believed — erroneously — to be prostitutes. So outrageous was the presumption that Femen, a politically savvy protest group of young topless women, raised a stink at the Indian embassy, stomping on the Indian flag and demanding an apology. Instead of resolving this situation diplomatically, the embassy officials were so enraged at the desecration of the flag that they filed criminal charges against the women with the local police. The reaction from the topless women was even more telling. Many among them asked openly, “Is India a democratic country? If so, why can’t it tolerate protest?”
The answer to their first question is a resounding “maybe”. Antiquated norms in India are the result of having accepted and wholeheartedly embraced old colonial ideals as our own, and an unwillingness to remove moral policing from the judiciary and politics. As society changed, rules and legal codes continued to change in England. But India has remained steadfast in its adherence to old foreign ideas in bureaucracy, civic regulation and other matters of governance. Moreover, social and caste forces today not only make generations unsure of each other but also create new barriers of misunderstanding. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the broader definitions of individual freedoms — the freedom to speak freely, make sexual choices freely, use the flag or any other national symbol in personal expression, travel across borders, exchange ideas across the Internet, buy products online.
Much of this was not even possible in the 20th century. The state’s maintenance of personal, professional and national boundaries at the time was taken for granted. Today, of course, changes in technologies, social mores and instant communications have, for all intents and proposes, altered that. In a world so closely connected, the state’s imposition of its antiquated models calls for a fresh mandate. The hokey and trivial patriotism that had plagued an unconfident India of the 20th century will, hopefully, be dumped. Burning a flag or protesting across international borders can no longer be treated as a crime. The government’s recognition of a new reality will only bridge the growing divide between the state and the citizen. And protest is a crucial measure of the differences remaining between the two. Without it, we might as well vote for Hugo Chavez or Vladimir Putin. Or, for that matter, Manmohan Singh.
Gautam Bhatia, architect, artist and writer, has built extensively in India and the US
4. WHEN THE ACADEME BECOMES THE GRAVE OF INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM
by Ananya Vajpeyi
(The Telegraph, 1 April 2012)
Over the past couple of weeks I found myself invited to speak at universities at two ends of the country: one in Gujarat, the other in West Bengal. Apart from the thematic interest of the seminars to which I was invited, I felt curious about the condition of academic life and the state of higher education in different parts of India. The institutions that I visited are both old and large, and in their time, used to be well-regarded. Colleagues I knew personally or knew of through their work awaited me in both places. Yet I have to admit that what I saw left me, in varying degrees, disheartened, alarmed and worried, not just about academia in smaller cities but also about the health of our democracy more generally.
Of the two universities, the one in Gujarat was definitely in a worse condition, partly because it had fallen from its reputation for quality teaching, a roster of august scholars and artists being associated with it over the decades, as well as a cosmopolitan atmosphere, to a position where it is now intellectually moribund, creatively stultified and physically decrepit. The one in Bengal, on the other hand, seemed badly off, but no worse than any provincial university at a time when infrastructure and resources are more and more concentrated in the big metropolitan centres, and young people themselves are leaving the backwaters to study in urban or foreign locations.
The university I went to in Gujarat (which shall remain unnamed) was the legacy both of an enlightened ruler of one of western India’s princely states, as well as of the larger atmosphere of the anti-colonial movement, which saw the establishment of a range of institutions fuelled in equal part by nationalist sentiment and the example of the great universities of Britain where Indians had been going to study since the 19th century. In the Nehruvian era, many of these universities, begun in the colonial period, became imbued with a fresh energy and a mission to establish the highest standards of knowledge, research, pedagogy and public spiritedness for the new nation.
Nehru, a great believer in what we today call “brain-gain”, brought a number of physical and social scientists, humanists, artists, philosophers and administrators back from England, Europe and America and charged them with building up postcolonial institutions of the highest quality all over India. Together with a normative call he gave to the best-educated Indians at home and abroad to serve the nation, he also provided all manner of practical support to enable a transformation of the institutional landscape in a variety of disciplines.
The 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were thus a golden era for both the older universities made by the British and the more recent ones set up by Indians for themselves. In those decades, it was possible to get a really excellent education not just in Delhi, Calcutta or Bombay, but also in Lucknow, Allahabad, Banaras, Poona, Madras, Mysore, Ahmedabad, Baroda, Dharwar, Srinagar, Patna, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Chandigarh and a number of other towns and cities all across the country. A far cry indeed from the present moment, when India’s economic growth, supposedly miraculous, coincides with a near-total collapse of the academic system, whether government-supported or privately funded. It is true that huge numbers of new institutions are being funded by the University Grants Commission and being set up by state governments and by private donors, but whether these will grow into centres of excellence remains entirely to be seen. Many of them are off to an inauspicious start, with confused reservations practices, inadequate environmental clearances, regulatory problems, and broader policy guidelines surrounding domestic and international investment still unsettled.
As far as I could gather from talking to faculty and students, in Gujarat the main problem is that the government is authoritarian and illiberal, and viciously persecutes anyone who does not confirm to its narrow vision for the future. Its targets at the universities thus include not just those who actively and openly oppose the current regime (few though such people might be), but all those who might fall on the Left or liberal side of the political spectrum, non-Gujaratis, Muslims, and other minorities. Even people who struggle to create a distance between their professional life and their personal beliefs and private opinions are not left in peace.
In my previous piece, “Gujarat then and now” (March 1), I wrote about the consensus society that appears to be in place in Gujarat: now I see more clearly how that consensus is built. Unfortunately, this happens not just through the successful dissemination of right-wing ideology that more and more people are simply persuaded by, but rather through the relentless persecution of those who do not share the administration’s agenda, whether political, intellectual or moral, and those whose identity, in the state’s eyes, does not in the first instance conform to the community that is being constructed and projected as the favoured majority.
What this means is that everything from the content of textbooks to faculty appointments, staff promotions, student discipline, hostel life, administrative posts, syllabi and teaching programmes, to more abstract issues of whether or not the university campus is a secular precinct, how people, especially women, are expected to dress, and what kind of debate and discussion can go on in informal settings within the university — each and very word and gesture becomes highly fraught and continuously policed. The ambience is absolutely stifling. Over and above the routine inefficiencies and mild forms of corruption that plague Indian academia, in Gujarat there is a type of state interference that actually leaves thousands of individuals who are just trying to do their job beleaguered and demoralized.
You cannot trust colleagues or students, who may turn out to be ‘informants’; you cannot speak except in very small circles of extremely close friends and people whom you have discovered to be genuinely like-minded through long association. Needless to say, the chances are abysmal that anyone is going to write great books, deliver memorable lectures or produce beautiful art in this setting, when the thought-police are everywhere. Even the possibility of having a regular, more-or-less uneventful academic career, where one can work with a degree of competence and retire with a degree of dignity, is thwarted.
After both these trips I came back to Delhi, to the haven of freedom and the bastion of dissent where I work, asking myself why it is that an undeniably popular government in Gujarat and a genuinely populist government in Bengal, both elected, both symbolizing the will of the people, are so terribly bad for local academia? Throughout history there has been a mutually enabling relationship between the centres of political power and the institutions of learning. Indeed, they cannot survive without one another. Sometimes — for example in the totalitarian states of Europe in the first part of the 20th century — this has been a dangerous and destructive relationship for the rest of society, because the academy has legitimated regimes that were fundamentally unethical. But that’s not what we are seeing in India today. It’s not as though there is some Martin Heidegger out there for Narendra Modi’s Hitler, making his brilliance subservient to evil.
Instead, universities that existed for decades and functioned properly are simply being destroyed, with nothing — left, right, or in the middle — to replace them. Decent people are either marginalized or harassed or simply excised from the system. What kind of mutation is it in our democracy that has twisted and broken a constitutive link between knowledge and patronage, scholars and rulers? Why is it that no one in the entire political spectrum, whether it is Manmohan or Mayavati or Modi or Mamata, can either build afresh the new temples of modern India, or even so much as allow a good university to survive? These questions merit collective reflection.
5. INDIA: CONGRESS AND BJP
by Praful Bidwai
(The News, April 01, 2012)
So disastrous has been the recent performance of India’s Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance government that some observers have begun to write it off. Scandals continue to haunt it week after week – the latest being the insidious privatisation of the Indian Railways services, underselling of coal blocks, and the army chief’s charge that he was offered a Rs14-crore bribe to approve substandard vehicles, and the implication that the defence ministry didn’t act on this.
The government is courting increasing unpopularity because of its disastrous economic policies and callousness towards the aam aadmi, in whose name it won the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Singh has become a liability for the UPA with pet horses like nuclear power and public sector divestment. He’s obsessed with killing the food security bill and deny minimum wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the UPA’s biggest achievement, whose allocation was recently cut.
The Congress performed badly in the recent state assembly elections and by-elections. In Uttar Pradesh, it got only six more seats than its 2007 score of 22 in the 403-strong assembly despite anti-incumbency against Mayawati and the Gandhi family’s energetic campaigning. This showed the hollowness of the claim that Rahul Gandhi represents the Congress’s “trump card”. The party has no core-base nor a strategy in India’s most important state. And Gandhi lacks the vote-pulling power attributed to him. Earlier too, most candidates he handpicked for the Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Kerala elections lost.
The Congress has just lost all seven assembly by-elections in Andhra Pradesh because it dithers on separate statehood for the Telangana region. Andhra is vitally important: the Congress won 33 of 42 seats there, its highest success rate anywhere nationally, the Congress’s political strategy is in tatters, its organisation demoralised, and its leadership confused. It’s again in decline, perhaps like in the quarter-century-long post-1987 phase. Sonia Gandhi is behaving as if she had abdicated responsibility. Unless she takes drastic measures to rejuvenate the party and restore its relevance, the Congress will probably lose the 2014 elections.
However, the Congress’s plight should give no consolation to the Bharatiya Janata Party. It’s itself in bad shape. It performed poorly in all the assembly elections, barring Goa. It UP, it performed the worst of all, losing two percentage-points in votes and four seats. In Punjab, its tally fell from 19 seats to 12. In the latest Lok Sabha by-elections, the BJP suffered a rout in Udupi-Chikmagalur, considered a Sangh bastion because of the communal mobilisation around the Baba Budangiri shrine.
The BJP lost the seat vacated by Chief Minister Sadananda Gowda by over 45,000 votes to the Congress. No less significant was the BJP’s defeat in Gujarat’s Mansa Assembly by-election, where its vote-share fell by nine percentage points. This speaks to the popularity of Narendra Modi, its “star” performer. The BJP declared Karnataka its “gateway” to the southern states, which have 130 Lok Sabha seats. In 2009, it won 19 of Karnataka’s 28 Lok Sabha seats, because it expanded its base outside the Lingayat caste, its old bastion. It also used crassly communal tactics in the southern coastal districts.
But with his sectarian caste-based politics, disgraced Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa has reduced the BJP to a Lingayat party, which has alienated other castes. His monumental corruption, and his collusion with illegal iron-ore mining, documented by the state ombudsman, is only exceeded by his family’s greed.
The Karnataka High Court recently granted Yeddyurappa some relief on procedural grounds. He has used that to try to blackmail the party’s central leadership into reinstating him as CM, using despicable methods like spiriting away his supporters to a luxury resort, and parading them before party national president Nitin Gadkari. This mockery of political decency has repulsed many BJP middle class voters, probably closing the Southern “gateway”. The party has no base in any other southern state. And it may now be in terminal decline in Karnataka.
In today’s BJP, regional satraps call the shots. Much of the blame for this lies with Gadkari, easily the least respected of all BJP national presidents Gadkari, who has never shed his provincial outlook, was nominated to the top position by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. UP was his biggest test. His strategy there was based on entrusting the party’s choice of candidates and micromanagement of elections to RSS pracharak Suresh Joshi while inducting health scam-tainted minister Babu Singh Kushwaha, recently sacked by Mayawati. Joshi’s appointment antagonised Modi, his old adversary, who refused to campaign in the state elections.
Eventually, Gadkari came a cropper. He then messed with the party’s Rajya Sabha tickets, handing one to Nagpur-based businessman Ajay Sancheti and another (in Jharkhand) to London-based NRI Anshuman Mishra. The second move provoked a vitriolic attack from former finance minister Yashwant Sinha. Gadkari had to beat a retreat and lose face. Gadkari is despised by the party’s “second generation” leaders such as Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, besides Modi. But they in turn, especially the Delhi-based duo, both close to LK Advani, have no love lost for each other. The central leadership is divided as well as rudderless.
Advani himself hasn’t tempered his ambition for power despite his age and had to be forced out as the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha by the RSS. He has the image of a patriarch who never made it to the Prime Minister’s position which he so desperately craves. But he cannot play the role of the final arbiter in the BJP leadership crisis. That crisis remains unresolved.
The BJP is unable to moderate itself by cutting its umbilical cord with the RSS. It remains wedded to rank communalism and the Hindutva ideology. Nor can it forge a strategy to overcome its recent setbacks and expand its social base and electoral support. It hopes that a combination of popular disenchantment with the UPA, and pure luck, might help it win more than its present strength of 116 Lok Sabha seats. However, relying on flukes is not strategy.
The BJP’s fallback option is to win the support of non-Congress regional parties like the Trinamool Congress, AIADMK , Janata Dal (United) and Biju Janata Dal to revive and expand the National Democratic Alliance. After all, they have all broken bread with the BJP in the past to keep the Congress out of power. But their support cannot be taken for granted. It depends on the ‘M’ (Modi) factor.
The RSS has systematically tightened its hold on the BJP party machine and appointed its loyalists as state organisational secretaries. It has however failed to rein in defiant leaders like Narendra Modi. If Modi wins the Gujarat Assembly elections due later this year, he will want to become the national party president and project himself as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate. His bid could become viable in the unlikely event of the BJP winning 150-170 seats. That will confront the regional parties with a wrenchingly cruel choice. Will they legitimise a leader whose name is synonymous with the state-sponsored mass murder of India’s Muslim citizens? That would be shameful, but it can’t be ruled out. Regrettably, Indian democracy’s fate will depend on that hideous, if unlikely, outcome.
The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1@...
6. INDIA: EVIDENCE OF VOLCANIC ACTIVITY IN KOODANKULAM / INTIMIDATION OF ANTI NUCLEAR ACTIVISTS
Deccan Chronicle, April 2, 2012
Kudankulam: Bhushan flays CBI
Senior Supreme Court lawyer and Team Anna member Prasanth Bhushan has urged the Centre to conduct a fresh safety audit before giving its final nod for the Koodankulam power plant. He also said the CBI action against the activists in Kudankulam was politically motivated.
He told reporters here on Sunday that the three safety audits conducted so far, by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) in 1979, 1986 and 1995, had come to the conclusion that there were serious problems of safety with the existing plants. “But, these reports had not been put in public domain. This is despite the promises being made by the Prime Minister,” he said.
Bhushan wanted the government to set up an independent regulatory body for nuclear energy. The present AERB functioned as a department of the atomic energy commission, he said. “An independent expert committee had come out with scientific evidence of volcanic activity in the area. It is also an earthquake prone zone which can have a Tsunami as well,” Bhushan said.
He also termed the CBI cases framed against activists taking part in the Koodankulam agitation as politically motivated.
There had been several instances of the party heading the central government using the CBI for its political gains. The CBI should be delinked from the government control and brought under the direct control of the Lokpal, he said.
o o o
CRACKDOWN: UDAYAKUMAR TRUST RAIDED
by Gopu Mohan
Chennai, March 30, 2012
Maintaining pressure on the activists protesting against the nuclear power plant at Koodankulam, a team of Central officials conducted a search at the office of an NGO run by S P Udayakumar, the leader of the agitation, following allegations that the protesters had received funds from abroad to organise the agitations.
The team of three officials from the Foreign Division of the Union Home Ministry landed in Nagercoil on Thursday and checked the accounts and other details of the South Asian Community Centre for Education and Research Trust run by Udayakumar and his wife Meera. The trust runs a school in Nagercoil.
The team also searched Udayakumar’s residence nearby and sought clarifications from Meera regarding the activities of the trust. The officials also questioned their connection with Sonnteg Reiner Hermann, a German national who was deported recently due to suspicion that he had a role to play in the agitations.
Claiming that he had nothing to hide, Udayakumar, the convenor of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy, said the latest action from the Centre was an attempt at intimidation due to the protests he helped organise. “All the money that the trust received have been accounted for and necessary documents have been sent to the ministry as is mandatory,” he said.
Now at Idinthakarai where the protest is still going on in the form of a relay fast, Udayakumar told the media that the trust had received a letter from the ministry seeking clarifications on foreign donations about a month ago. He was asked to present himself in Delhi, which he refused to comply with citing the ongoing activities at Koodankulam.
7. INDIA: WE DEMAND THAT THE ALLIANCE FRANCAISE REOPEN SUNIL GUPTA’S PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION ‘SUN CITY & OTHER STORIES’ (NIGAH)
Statement by NIGAH
On Friday, March 23 2012, Sunil Gupta’s photographic exhibition ‘Sun City & Other Stories’ opened at the Alliance Francaise in Delhi. That evening itself, plaincloth<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)