South Asia Citizens Wire - 1 May 2012 - No. 2746
1. Pakistan: Free laptops is not the answer. What is? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
2. India: Missiles, missiles everywhere (Kanti Bajpai)
3. India: Regulating cultures through food policing (Kalpana Kannabiran)
4. India : Superstition continues to Kill
5. India: 1984 Anti Sikh Pogrom in New Delhi: The case against Sajjan (Harinder Baweja)
6. India: Upper caste male Hindu iconography in Alphabet Sheets in Education Ad - Open Letter to Hindustan Times
7. Publication Announcements
(i) Human rights in South Asia and the functions of SAARC
(ii) Shahzad Bashir and Robert D. Crews, eds., Under the Drones: Modern Lives in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Borderlands
8. Upcoming Events:
(i) PILER International Conference Labour in the Age of Globalization (Karachi, 2-3 May 2012)
(ii) 32nd Bhimsen Sachar Memorial Lecture by Shri Ashish Nandy (New Delhi, 3rd May 2012)
9. An Imperialist Springtime? - Libya, Syria, and Beyond - Samir Amin Interviewed by Aijaz Ahmad
10. USA: We Japanese Americans must not forget our wartime internment (George Takei)
1. PAKISTAN: FREE LAPTOPS IS NOT THE ANSWER. WHAT IS?
by Pervez Hoodbhoy
(Express Tribune, 30 April 2012)
To loud applause at a special distribution ceremony on Pakistan Day, PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif declared: "We do not give weapons in the hands of youngsters, we give them laptops; we give them education". The laptop scheme is the brainchild of kid brother Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab. He says that the Punjab government plans to distribute a further 300,000 laptops - in addition to the 100,000 already distributed - as a "weapon against poverty and ignorance".
The Sharifs are surely to be commended for preferring computers over Kalashnikovs (some of their political rivals would want it the other way around). But laptops are not silver bullets that can transform Pakistan's education. Cost is not the main issue. Of course, we do know that Dell laptops, purchased at Rs 37,700 apiece, are more expensive than the Rs 2,200 indigenous product developed by Tata for use in India's schools. Possible cuts and commissions by middlemen, and allegations of unfair distribution, also cannot be ruled out. But this too is a peripheral matter.
Instead, the central question is: how exactly are these laptops to combat poverty and ignorance, or improve education? The answer is not clear in any developing country but is even muddier in Pakistan. The purchased computers did not come loaded with school books, supplementary educational materials, or programmes like "Comic Life" which make math learning fun. There are no locally-developed programmes, and none in Urdu or any local language. Nor have schoolteachers been trained to deal with computers as a teaching tool. Of course, there will be some Google searching and perhaps some educational material will be downloaded. But overwhelmingly they will be used for chatting, surfing, or video games.
The false notion of technology as a magic wand has made our rulers euphoric from time to time. Few Pakistanis will remember the bulk purchase of Apple-II C computers for schools at the end of the 1980s. General Ziaul Haq's minister of education, Dr Muhammad Afzal, (now deceased), was a progressive man in a religiously-charged government. Somehow he was seized with the notion that computers would revolutionise everything. In one of my occasional meetings with him, I unsuccessfully sought to persuade him that his idea was fundamentally flawed. Sadly, the warning turned out to be correct: it is likely that many machines were not even turned on before they were junked en masse 10-15 years later.
Earlier on, a still bigger revolution had been promised. Pakistan Television was founded on the premise that its core purpose would be education. At the invitation of the Pakistan government, a Unesco team visited Pakistan and met with the ministers of law, broadcasting, and education. In a subsequent report the team leaders, HR Cassirer and TS Duckmanton, wrote:
"We arrived in Lahore on October 10, 1960, where we were the guests of the Regional Director of Radio Pakistan, as well as the Provincial Department of Education. We pursued our consultations with officials concerned with the following: university and college education, primary and secondary education, vocational education, village aid, broadcasting, the Arts Council". The report document does not even mention entertainment or news broadcasts, but has paragraphs on how telecourses should be conducted.
But PTV never made a sizable contribution to education. For 50 years its broadcast content has been almost exclusively entertainment and news. In this period PTV has produced only two documentary serials that sought to popularise science for the general public, one in 1994 and the other in 2002. I can testify that these had the lowest priority accorded to any programme series; for months I was given the midnight shift and would work through on the editing until morning arrived, at which point I would go bleary-eyed to teach my classes at Quaid-e-Azam University.
These negative examples do not mean that technology is valueless for education. Far from it! Distance education, conveyed via laptops and notebooks, is clearly the future. Open Course Software (OCS) from the world's best universities brings a wealth of knowledge to those who can absorb it; the clever instructional techniques of the Khan Academy helps millions of students across the world; and increasing interactive learning programmes are becoming more effective learning tools.
But students who benefit from internet resources already know what they are looking for; they have already achieved a certain level. A digital utopia cannot be constructed on a shaky educational base such as ours. Most Pakistani schools do not have the bare minimum infrastructure like blackboards, toilets, library, or wall posters. More importantly, they do not have competent teachers. Expectedly, the recently released Annual Status of Education Report paints a dismal picture of basic reading and writing skills. Laptops can do nothing to improve things here.
What about well-off city schools that do have reasonable infrastructure? Unfortunately here too, the laptop can presently play only a marginal role because, with some honourable exceptions, students mostly study for grades. If grades were awarded on the basis of real learning, it would be a different matter. But where money buys marks and cheating is rampant, the incentive for self-improvement diminishes. Moreover, exams test little beyond that contained in guidebooks or prescribed textbooks. They stress memorisation rather than internalisation of concepts. I think revamping the examination system will do more good than buying a million laptops.
Of course some good does come from merely connecting children to the internet. Nicholas Negroponte of MIT, who fathered the idea of one-child one-laptop, argues that children are naturally inquisitive and access to an internet-enabled computing device is sufficient to release their creative faculties. He says somehow they will "figure it out" and "learn to learn". But this view is excessively optimistic.
Connectivity and access, already provided by cellphones, alone does not create a thinking mind. For example, consider Darul Ulum Haqqania at Akora Khattak. This "Harvard of madrassas" has produced Mullah Omar as well as other such luminaries. It is awash in computers but, even in a hundred years from now, shall not have added an iota to the stock of human knowledge.
The bottom line: good education requires planning, organisation, integrity, resources and, above all, a mindset that is oriented towards the future and not the past. Techy hi-fi stuff has glitz, but it's really the sub-stratum of thought that matters.
2.INDIA: MISSILES, MISSILES EVERYWHERE
by Kanti Bajpai
(Times of India)
Apr 28, 2012, 12.00AM IST
Why can't we in India be more business-like? When we tested nuclear weapons in 1998, the government, the media, and the Indian public were spectacularly undignified. A lot of vulgar and foolish things happened in the ensuing months - intemperate statements by our leaders, media coverage that was adulatory and clownish, and public behaviour that was childish (handing out sweets in the streets).
Predictably, the Pakistanis punctured our bubble. They tested immediately and then attacked in Kargil to show that nuclear weapons did not scare them. Pakistan's public reactions were as juvenile as ours, if not more so, which shows that South Asians are cut from the same cloth.
With India's Agni V missile test two weeks ago and Pakistan's Hatf IV Shaheen-1A test, we have had a replay of 1998. Missiles are not as big a deal as nuclear weapons, so our leaders were more restrained this time round. The media, though, was pretty much as bad as before, thinking it appropriate to talk a lot of nonsense about India's ability to project power (to Europe, amongst other destinations). Unlike 1998, the public did not rush out into the streets to party, which was a relief; instead, the blogosphere, the new public square, lit up with commentary, most of which would shame a nine-year-old.
When the Agni V has been properly tested, it will certainly strengthen India's deterrent with respect to China. Having said this, the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) goes back to the 1980s. That it managed to produce a missile which can carry a nuclear warhead 5,000 km is noteworthy but hardly the stuff of national celebration. After all, it took nearly 30 years to produce a missile of that range.
Any one of a dozen countries today could do it - and in short order. These include Japan and both the Koreas, just in Asia, and surely it would not take Australia very long. Pakistan's latest Shaheen already has a range of 3,000 km, so it is not technologically beyond our next-door neighbour's capabi-lity either. And Iranian missile technology is catching up fast.
The point is that missiles, as much as nuclear weapons, are old technology. Hopping up and down about them is silly. India's scientists have not particularly distinguished themselves (nor have Indian social scientists). If we look at the number of scientific papers published in leading journals, patents filed, and inventions credited to Indians, our scientists do not rank high. China ranks well ahead, as do Japan and South Korea. Britain, with 60 million people, has had 76 Nobel laureates in science and technology.
India has had only one that worked in India (C V Raman, who worked in British and not independent India) and three that worked outside India (Har Gobind Khorana, Subramanyan Chandrashekhar and Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, all in the US). There are probably only two Indian technologies that have international name-recognition - the Jaipur leg prosthetic device and the Nano mini car - which are home-grown.
Why are we so undignified over things like the missile test? The answer most likely is that we have so little to celebrate, with human development indicators lower in key areas than our South Asian neighbours and sub-Saharan Africa. Indians are eating less in calories terms than a decade ago. We have millions of more males than females in our population: the social consequences of this male surplus will be massive. Our education system is in a shambles. Our infrastructure is scarily bad. The only town in India with clean drinking water is Jamshedpur. We have a fiscal crisis looming, stuttering growth, rising prices, stagnating agriculture, caste and religious discrimination, partisan politics to the maximum, and policy paralysis. Governance, particularly at the state-level, where one absurd chief minister replaces another, is so awful that you run out of adjectives.
If India wants to be respected and secure in the long run, it should celebrate clean renewable energy and the eradication of polio far more than the launching of a new missile. That would be worth many sweets in the streets.
3. INDIA: REGULATING CULTURES THROUGH FOOD POLICING
by Kalpana Kannabiran
(The Hindu, May 1, 2012
Organising a food festival can hardly be described as an act promoting hatred between students or communities.
The controversy over the Beef Festival recently organised on the campus of Osmania University in Hyderabad and the threat of professors being investigated by the police for “instigating” the organisers needs to be understood in the context of the larger politics of food and policing of food practices.
Across the country, different communities in different regions have widely varying food habits. It is also well known that food is closely linked to ideas of the sacred and the profane — and must vary along the scale of social diversity. The dense nesting of beliefs related to food extends from what vegetables may be consumed, whether meat may be consumed or not, which kinds of meats are food and which not, which kinds of meat are deemed vegetarian, and whether animal products come within the definition of meat or not.
Ideas about eating
Ideas about food also extend to who can eat together; within a family, who consumes which parts of an animal's body; what is the sequence in which people in a family eat, depending on gender, generation and social status; whether vice chancellors, judges and peons can partake of the same feast at the same time — or in earlier times or even today in more self declaredly caste ridden locales whether the “chuhri” can even dare to ask for fresh cooked food from “chowdhriji” — to recall Omprakash Valmiki's Joothan. And further in the caste context, who must not be sighted by a Brahmin man while he is in the vulnerable state of ingesting food — the shudra, a menstruating woman, pigs, dogs — all to be equally banished from sight.
Because food is surrounded by thick religiosity, there are days and times of the year and cycles in a month or in a reproductive lifetime when certain foods are proscribed and others mandatory. There are also rigid rules around the slaughter of animals and the preparation of meat for consumption — meat consumers do not eat all meats and do not eat the same meat at any place. The acceptance of meat as food is determined by whether the slaughter of the animal has been appropriate. And there are castes who were condemned to eat only carrion, not animals freshly slaughtered for consumption. There are communities in Andhra that share the hunt with the tiger — they believe the tiger leaves enough of its prey for its human kin — with a delicate balance in mutual food security in the deep forests. When religions proscribe the killing of animals, communities of believers who live in hostile and difficult mountainous terrain may drive a herd off a cliff and strip and dry the meat to meet a year's supply of meat. Even with people and communities that eat meat, there are places and times when meat may be eaten — and these vary widely as well. While a religious occasion for some may be marked by the abstinence from meat, for others it is marked by the sacrifice of an animal, its ceremonial preparation and its distribution in a prescribed manner among kin.
Ideas of purity, danger, potency, malevolence, uncleanness, tastes (not individual but social) and aesthetics thickly overlay our attitude to food. Faint hearted but brahmanical consumers of meat can swoon or get terribly sick at the sight of a butcher at work, or the sight of “unclean” parts of the animal body — entrails, head, hooves and so on. The same could be the case with lovers of fish when they see a beach overlaid with dry, pungent fish or the baskets of fish vendors on the train on their way to the market. Similarly too, it is not uncommon to find strong negative reactions to snake gourd, bitter gourd, and several other vegetables, not to speak of cooking oils from vegetarians. There are of course caste hierarchies in vegetables and oils too.
Its life giving and life sustaining quality also makes food the medium through which faith is expressed, through sharing on particular auspicious, festive occasions. Whom food is shared with and how is determined by status and social location ranging from “poor feeding” to mutual exchanges of festive food. There is then the renunciation of certain foods as acts of faith (temporarily or permanently) or as an acknowledgement of loss and mourning. It is not uncommon to hear of people giving up their favourite food on the death of a loved one. And of course giving up food is a way of renouncing life itself.
Change in habits
There are also histories of food habits that show that they change over time: the beef eating Vedic brahmin is a well known example.
Among the meats that are consumed in India are chicken, goat, fish and other aquatic creatures, frog, dog, pork, monkey, beef, buffalo, a variety of insects, field rats, deer, a range of birds, some reptiles and many, many more. Across this entire range of food, there are some we might love and relish, and others we might recoil at the mention of. What we relish and what we find unthinkable depends on religion, caste, tribe, and social location, after which individual taste plays a role. The diversity in food habits is part of the plurality of cultures and the right to consume, accept and share food, privately and in festivity, is part of cultural expression.
To the extent that culture is a matter of politics, food becomes the mobilising point for politics. The ubiquitous blessed food that believers partake in at places of worship now gets distributed in street-corners to believers and non-believers alike in every neighbourhood. This is part of an aggressive proclamation of religiosity demanding acceptance as an act of faith from all — often spreading tension that has the police in full force out on the streets for days.
We have sizeable communities in India who eat beef and pork — and these are the two meats on the Indian subcontinent that are used to stoke collective emotions in ways that present polarised stereotypes. Yet we know that the realities of beef and pork consumption defy these stereotypes. There is, however, a distinction between the two: beef is traditionally consumed not just by non-Hindus but by subaltern castes as well, a reality that is denied by the dominant castes.
In this context, if there is a hegemonic cultural formation across or within a religious group that proscribes or stigmatises the consumption of certain kinds of foods, a central part of resistance and of cultural assertion is to share that food publicly. Acquiescing to one proscription will pave the way for another, and the intolerance to diversity in food habits and through food to plural cultures will spiral upwards.
The choice of whether or not to partake of the feast is one an individual makes. In the recent beef festival organised on the campus of Osmania University, there were no reports of any coercion or force-feeding of beef to unwilling people. The people who were there went because they wanted to be there and were people for whom beef was not taboo. The argument on the need to take action against spreading hatred can scarcely be sustained. Even more irrelevant is the suggestion that professors were instigating students — it was a gathering of consenting, free thinking adults.
The organising of a food festival is not a matter for courts to interfere with or order an investigation into. There are more pressing matters related to life and liberty that wait endlessly to get a hearing.
(The author is Professor and Director, Council for Social Development, Hyderabad. Email: kalpana.kannabiran@...
4. INDIA : SUPERSTITION CONTINUES TO KILL
(Rediff, April 25, 2012 )
'IT IS DIFFICULT TO BE A RATIONALIST IN A COUNTRY WHERE SUPERSTITIONS ARE RAMPANT'
The Velankanni church in Tamil Nadu's Nagapattinam district where a miracle is said to have taken place. (Inset) Sanal Edamaraku, president, Indian Rationalists Association
Vicky Nanjappa in Bengaluru
In a country where most people are religious and believe in superstitions and miracles, the toughest profession to take up is that of a rationalist. Be it the miracles proclaimed by the church or holy men and their remedies, even though many of them have been proven wrong, people continue to flock to these people and places.
Recently, a huge controversy had erupted over the claim that the water flowing from the statue at the Velankanni Church in Tamil Nadu's Nagapattinam district was caused by a leak in the sewage system and not a miracle as claimed by the church.
The revelation was made by Sanal Edamaraku, president, Indian Rationalist Association. What followed was a series of threats from the church and also a case under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code -- outraging religious feelings by insulting religion or religious beliefs.
Edamuruku, the author of 25 books, has spoken out against miracles and god men in the country. In this interview with rediff.com's Vicky Nanjappa, Edamuraku says he has sought to exercise his constitutional right to develop scientific thinking, while lashing out at the churches, Sathya Sai Baba and Baba Ramdev for the miracles and so-called magic theories that they promote.
How does it feel to be a rationalist in India -- a country that thrives on magic, miracles and beliefs?
It is a question of choice, and the more difficult the choice is, the more important it is. No doubt it is a difficult task when one is a rationalist in a country where superstition is rampant.
Which religion according to you has the highest element of superstitions?
I would say every religion. However, there are a many that have a modern thought and others who have fanatics.
You claimed that there was no miracle in Velankanni, but sewage water. How has the reaction been?
They were shocked and outraged. They were trying to make a miracle out of that thing. The priest himself was leading the prayers and trying to show that it was a miracle.
They were collecting that water in a bucket and giving it to devotees. I had asked for a sample of the water, but they refused to give it to me. I found that there were hardly one or two drops which had come from the statue and the Church had mixed it with extra water and were distributing it to the people.
Later, I went ahead and touched the nail on the crucifix and found that there were drops of water on it. On further examination, I found that there was a sewer pipe behind the statue which had a leak. The church obviously did not like my findings and what followed was outrage.
People have a right to follow a religion of their choice. Is it right on your part to come in the way of that?
I am not abusing any religion. I just feel that no one has the right to fool people in the name of miracles. I do believe in the right to belief.
You have written and spoken about Sathya Sai Baba as well.
Yes I have. Sathya Sai Baba used miracles to dupe people. He gave the impression that he was God. As a result, many bigwigs flocked to his ashram, and liberally donated large sums of money. I have been speaking on and also demonstrating how he did magic to rope in disciples, and trust me, it is very easy to do that magic.
But the other aspect to Sathya Sai Baba is his philanthropy.
Yes, that is there. However, the amount spent on philanthropy was only four per cent of the donations. The rest of the money was spent on extravagance, which is not needed for a human being.
So why do you think miracles are being promoted?
In the churches miracles are promoted so that it becomes a pilgrimage centre. There is a lot of money in such things. Once it becomes a pilgrimage centre then it automatically brings in the people who pump in a lot of money.
This is why churches artificially create miracles. What can one say about churches creating miracles when the Vatican itself has a policy of creating miracles? We have around 10,000 saints and a miracle has been attributed to each one of them.
Take the case of Sister Alphonsa from Kottayam. It is said that a boy with upturned feet was cured after he started to pray to her. Her tomb, in Bharanagaram in Kottayam, has now become a place of pilgrimage.
They are trying the same thing at Velankanni. There was also a failed attempt at the church in Mahim (in Mumbai) where they tried to say that blood was oozing out of Mother Mary's picture.
What about Baba Ramdev?
Baba Ramdev does not speak about miracles, but about magical remedies. He has been trying to say that yoga can work like magic. He says that he has the results, but his claims are not substantiated. I feel sad when I see people in parks rubbing their fingers to prevent themselves from growing old faster.
Ramdev has also said that tulsi (basil) leaves give protection from the H1N1 virus and also claimed that yoga can also protect one from HIV. These are baseless, and more importantly very irresponsible statements.
These people continue to have a very big following. Are people then basically stupid?
Yes, they do have a following. However, take the population of the country as a whole and compare the following these people have. The number of followers is not all that great.
Yes, Sai Baba was an exception. That is because it was systematic. They had identified loopholes in religions and exploited that. For instance, not everyone can enter a mosque or some other place of worship. That was never the case in a Sai Baba ashram.
How has the response been to your campaign against miracles been?
I have had a very good response. There are people who are interested in what I am trying to say. Many others agree with me, but have been either too oppressed or scared to speak.
Are there are threats to your life?
When I embarked on this mission, I was aware of the threats that would follow, especially in the case of the church which has been intolerant right from the time of Galileo.
On Tuesday, one Catholic organisation had even said that I need to put into a mental asylum and not sent to jail because I am talking rubbish. However, I will continue with my work, since I do not care about the consequences.
o o o
Madurai, April 29, 2012
HAPLESS DALIT GIRL CHILD A VICTIM OF SUPERSTITION
by D. Karthikeyan
The life of the five-year-old Dalit girl was sacrificed based on the superstitious belief that the sprinkling of her blood at the construction site will give the proposed structure life and enduring strength.
Rajalakshmi, daughter of poor agriculture laborers Thotthan and Annakili of Kachakatti, was killed on new moon day. The state of the body and the manner in which the child was murdered had sent shockwaves among the villagers.
Dalit activists who spoke about the issue said that as the victims of human sacrifice were often strangers or marginal members of the community the practice was rarely challenged. It was based on “construction sacrifice,” a practice done during the execution of building projects.
There are two categories: a sacrifice made to please supernatural possessors of the land for obtaining the title of the land; and another to bring the proposed structure to life by warding off evil spirits. This case belonged to the second category.
PUCL, CPI (ML)'s role
A People's Union for Civil Liberties team led by R. Murali, principal, Madura College, found that the murder could have had no economic or social reason as all people in the colony were Dalits.
Mr. Murali said that they concluded that it must have been a case of human sacrifice as the child was found missing a day before Amavasai. Also, a person who indulged in black magic in the area was missing since the day of the murder. The PUCL found that there was not a single drop of blood in the body and the flesh near the child's face had been cut using a sharp weapon.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) demanded Rs.10 lakh compensation for the family of the victim.
C. Mathivanan, district secretary, CPI (ML), said those protecting the offenders and destroying evidence should be brought to book. The government should take strong action to end ensure that no one involved in such practices hereafter.
5. INDIA: 1984 ANTI SIKH POGROM IN NEW DELHI: THE CASE AGAINST SAJJAN
by Harinder Baweja
New Delhi, April 28, 2012
The skyline was dark; it was uncomfortably grey and it stayed that way. For three long days and nights, the Capital resembled a huge funeral pyre to its west and east, and the stench of burning rubber and bodies started filling the air. Word had spread that Indira Gandhi had been shot dead by her Sikh bodyguards and a motley crowd of angry blood-thirsty protestors roamed the streets, hunting down turbaned men and their children; sprinkling them with kerosene or simply throwing burnt tyres around their necks.
That time, from late-evening of October 31 to November 3 in 1984, a daughter saw her father being set on fire, a wife looked on helplessly as her husband and son were dragged by lumpens and bludgeoned to death with iron rods and a brother lost three siblings. He identified them from the watch one was wearing and the other two, from their half-burnt clothes.
Daughter Nirpreet Kaur, wife Jagdish Kaur and brother Jagsher Singh have lived a wretched life in the pursuit of justice, perhaps because they had seen a powerful Congressman and Member of Parliament of the area, Sajjan Kumar, exhort the mob and order the killing of Sikhs in the Raj Nagar locality, in Delhi Cantonment. For 27 of the 28 years, each of the three have variously approached the police and the many commissions of inquiry (see box) to give a first-hand, ‘I witnessed the carnage’ account, but it stayed buried in affidavit after affidavit.
For them, revisiting 1984 is always a painful memory; the denial of justice a second stab in the heart. They had seen Sajjan Kumar, and heard him, saying, “Ek bhi sardar zinda nahi bachna chahiye… en sardaron ko maro, enhone hamari maa ko mara hai,” but till June last year, no court of law had ever heard their testimonies. Says HS Phoolka, their lawyer, “Whenever it came to the commissions of inquiry, Sajjan Kumar’s name appeared prominently, but whenever it went to the police, his name disappeared.”
If today, the noose is tightening around Sajjan Kumar’s neck, it is because the CBI, and not the police, is the investigating and prosecuting agency. If today, public prosecutor RS Cheema, has, in his concluding remarks in the sessions court, said that the riots were a conspiracy of terrifying proportions that indict the police, it is because the men in uniform sided with the rioters. The police’s daily diaries of that time are blank. Ironically, there are only two entries and they pertain to complaints against the Sikhs; of them assembling with kirpans.
Nobody knows the abysmal conduct of the police better than former police commissioner and governor, Ved Marwah. Soon after the riots, he was asked to inquire into the role of police officers and give a report in three months. He spent, day and night, examining a number of persons and seizing all records of the police stations, including the one at Delhi Cantt. That sent alarm bells ringing and because the daily diaries could not have been challenged. It was obvious that the men in uniform had vanished from their police stations
According to police rules, all movements of police officers are recorded minute by minute in the thana daily diary and the diaries were totally blank. Police officers, whose names figured prominently, filed a writ against the inquiry in the High Court, but when the court refused to stall the inquiry, Marwah received an order to stop the inquiry — and tear all his notes. In Raj Nagar, specifically, Jagdish saw the chowki in-charge applaud the mob and ask them, ‘kitne murge bhun diye’ (how many Sikhs have you roasted). All this, while the bodies of her husband and son lay nearby.
The policemen had also colluded in Delhi Cantt, tagging over 30 deaths, including Nirpreet’s father, Nirmal Singh, into a single FIR. Sajjan Kumar’s name was never put in the list of the accused and the summons for Nirpreet, in yet another act of treachery, were sent to an address that never belonged to her (see Page 1). Respite for Sajjan’s victims came only after the Nanavati Commission submitted its report in 2005 and concluded that there was ‘credible evidence’ against the Congressman. Affidavits filed by Jagsher and Jagdish finally counted for something. After tremendous pressure from the Opposition — for now too the government tried to exonerate him in their action taken report — Prime Minister Manmohan Singh relented after a stirring speech in Parliament.
“On behalf of our government, on behalf of the entire people of this country, I bow my head in shame,” he told the House, adding, “But, Sir, there are ebbs, there are tides in the affairs of the nation. The past is with us. We cannot rewrite the past. But as human beings, we have the will power, and we have the ability to write a better future for all of us.” The case against Kumar was entrusted to the CBI and perhaps, a better future had been scripted for Nirpreet, Jagdish and Jagsher.
But 2005 to 2012 is a long time. Each of the three claim they were under immense pressure to turn hostile — in return for land and money, but they held out. Nirpreet went through a vilification campaign — she was charged under TADA, the defense lawyers said but failed to add that she had been discharged in two cases and acquitted in one. The pressure was so acute and the frequency of threats so alarming, the victims had to apply for police protection; and couldn’t be from the Delhi police, whose men stood condemned for siding with the perpetrators. The CBI director wrote to the DGP Punjab and got them the gun-toting policemen who shadow them to court.
The eye witness accounts and the daily diaries form good evidence but the CBI has more — the testimony of a joint secretary in Delhi government’s home department, who told the court that the director of prosecution had signed off on a file, saying, the sanction to prosecute Kumar should not be granted. It finally was, by Delhi’s lieutenant governor and the sessions court in Delhi framed charges against him — of murder, rioting with deadly weapons and promoting disharmony amongst communities. His lawyers contested the framing of charges but his revision petition was struck down both by the High Court and the apex court.
Finally, hope peeps faintly through the legal and psychological debris. With a judgement due in a few months from now, it still might be time for history to write a better future. And give them a tomorrow.
Enquiries over the years
Various committees and commissions that have probed the 1984 riots
MARWAH COMMISSION: Set up to look into role of police in the riots but suddenly stopped by the central govt. Records selectively passed on to next commission
MISHRA COMMISSION: Formed to find out if the violence was organised. The August 1986 report recommended the formation of three new committees: Ahooja, Kapur-Mittal and Jain-Banerjee
DHILLON COMMITTEE: Set up to recommend rehab for victims. Asked that insurance claims of attacked businesses be paid, but the govt rejected these claims
KAPUR-MITTAL COMMITTEE: Set up to probe, again, the role of police. 72 cops identified for connivance/ gross negligence, 30 recommended for dismissal, none punished
JAIN-BANERJEE COMMITTEE: Looked at cases against Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar. Recommended cases be registered against both. Later, the Delhi HC quashed the appointment of this committee
AHOOJA COMMITTEE: Set up by the Misra Commission to ascertain the number of people killed in the Delhi massacre. In August 1987, Ahooja’s report put the figure at 2,733 Sikhs
POTTI-ROSHA COMMITTEE: Appointed as a successor to the Jain-Banerjee committee. Potti-Rosha also recommended registration of cases against Kumar&Tytler
JAIN-AGGARWAL COMMITTEE: Appointed as Potti-Rosha’s successor, also suggested cases against HKL Bhagat, Tytler&Kumar. No case registered, probe stopped in ‘93
NARULA COMMITTEE: In its Jan 94 report, it was the 3rd committee in 9 years to repeat the recommendation to register cases against Bhagat, Tytler and Kumar
NANAVATI COMMISSION: One-man commission appointed by the BJP-led government. Found ‘credible evidence’ against Tytler and Kumar. The CBI tried to give a clean chit
CBI finds case against Sajjan, framed charges that included murder and rioting with deadly weapons
6. INDIA: UPPER CASTE MALE HINDU ICONOGRAPHY IN ALPHABET SHEETS IN EDUCATION AD - OPEN LETTER TO HINDUSTAN TIMES
An Open Letter
The Editor In Chief
The Hindustan Times
We were attracted by the announcement made by the Hindustan Times that it intends to spend 5 Paisa earned from the sale of each copy on educating the children of India. It did not however tell us how it intends to spend this money. That is important since education of a child is not a sum of random acts. Schooling is a holistic experience composed of several components identified and selected through a Curricular Design which seeks to attain the education goals which a society sets for itself from time to time.
The issue of 19 April, 2012 of the Hindustan Times carried on its pages alphabet -sheets in English and Hindi with pictures. It asked its readers to cut all the sheets, staple them together to make a pictorial alphabet book and give it to a poor child to motivate her to read. This move seems to be driven by good intentions, however, it is clearly a misconceived , directionless and futile investment which does not help the poor child at all. There are social as well as educational reasons to say this. The Right to Education Act has made education a right, an entitlement for each and every child of India. It is not realized through some disparate acts of benevolence of some well meaning people. It is based on the principle of equity meaning thereby that the child is entitled to get education of equitable quality. It is to be done though a well defined institutionalized mechanism. What the HT does is to appeal to the conscience of its readers who , out of compassion for the poor children should find time to prepare a first language textbook for them by cutting and pasting these sheets. This is an act of pity which no self respecting individual would accept. The campaign designers must ask themselves this question: would they do this for their own children? If not, how is it right for a poor child? It would also be interesting for the managers of this campaign to do a survey to find out how many of its readers have actually indulged in this act of charity.
This campaign, apart from showing its insensitivity to the issue of equity and equality is also faulty in its design from the point of view of language pedagogy. In 2012 no language teacher ought to prescribe alphabet-books as the first learning tool. Language pedagogy has moved far ahead from the days when alphabets used to be the first step in language learning. Had the campaign designers taken care to read the National Curriculum Framework 2005 and the focus group papers on language teaching, they would have realized that now language teaching has become much more sophisticated. If the argument is that children deprived of the latest language teaching methods should at least be given this much, it again violates the constitutional principle of equality.
We have moved away from the ‘A for Apple’ nonsense after considerable effort, and it is disconcerting to see a major media agency reviving it without much thought.
Textbooks are only one part of it, significant and crucial though they are. Textbooks are held together by integrity of content and design, they are not merely a cut-paste- sew job. Designing of a first language book for a child in a multi-lingual context, requires a lot of responsible thinking which minds uneducated in the issues of language learning and unaware of the latest research in this field should not do. The first book in the hands of a child is a total experience. It should be able excite and stimulate all her/ his sensory perceptions. Moreover, the act of reading at the very first stages is now taken very seriously. It would do well to the designers of this campaign to have a look at the reading programs initiated by the NCERT and many states for the first and second grade children. Poor children deserve quality textbooks and reading material designed and produced well to last a full term, and printed on good quality paper and not on newsprint.
Seen even from the angle of social diversity, the pictorial alphabets sheets use images which leaves out a large population of children who have not been brought up in the tradition of upper caste male Hindu iconography .
The cavalier manner in which the whole campaign is designed again leads one to question the minds behind it: are they serious in their intention to support the educational system? If yes, they should give the money to the professional agencies involved in the business of schooling rather than squandering it on such tokenistic gestures which is also bad investment.
Apoorvanand, Professor, Delhi University, Member, Focus Group On Indian languages, National Curriculum Framework, 2005
Krishna Kumar, Professor, CIE, Delhi Unv, Former Director, NCERT
Kumar Rana, Pratichi, Kolkata
Shabnam Hashmi, Member, MAEF, NLMA
Vinod Raina, Member, NAC- RTE
7. PUBLICATION ANNOUNCEMENTS
(i) HUMAN RIGHTS IN SOUTH ASIA AND THE FUNCTIONS OF SAARC
The purpose of this publication is to serve as a baseline study of human rights situations in South Asia in relation to the functions of SAARC as a regional grouping. We hope this publication and the subsequent monitoring reports will help track the development of the role of SAARC in the promotion and protection of human rights in the coming years and generate wider interest and discurrion in following this development.
o o o
(ii) SHAHZAD BASHIR AND ROBERT D. CREWS, EDS., UNDER THE DRONES: MODERN LIVES IN THE AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN BORDERLANDS
Table of Contents:
Introduction / Shahzad Bashir and Robert D. Crews
1. Political Struggles over the Afghanistan–Pakistan Borderlands / Amin Tarzi
2. The Transformation of the Afghanistan–Pakistan Border / Gilles Dorronsoro
3. Religious Revivalism across the Durand Line / Sana Haroon
4. Taliban, Real and Imagined / James Caron
5. Quandaries of the Afghan Nation / Shah Mahmoud Hanifi
6. How Tribal Are the Taliban? / Thomas Ruttig
7. Ethnic Minorities in Search of Political Consolidation / Lutz Rzehak
8. Red Mosque / Faisal Devji
9. Madrasa Statistics Don’t Support the Myth / Tahir Andrabi, Jishnu Das,
and Asim Ijaz Khwaja
10. Will Sufi Islam Save Pakistan? / Farzana Shaikh
11. The Politics of Pashtun and Punjabi Truck Decoration / Jamal J. Elias
12. The Afghan Mediascape / Nushin Arbabzadah
13. Women and the Drug Trade in Afghanistan / Fariba Nawa
Epilogue / Shahzad Bashir and Robert D. Crews
8. UPCOMING EVENTS:
(i) PILER INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE LABOUR IN THE AGE OF GLOBALIZATION
2-3 May 2012
Conference Day One
Wednesday 2 May 2011
Inaugural Session 09:30 am – 11:00 am
Welcome Address Dr. Syed Jaffer Ahmed
Director, Pakistan Study Center, University of Karachi
Introduction to the Karamat Ali
Conference Executive Director, PILER
Keynote Speech Labour and Poverty in Pakistan
Professor Dr. Jan Breman
University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Chairperson’s Remarks Professor Dr. Muhammad Qaiser,
Vice Chancellor, University of Karachi
Concluding Remarks Rasheed A. Rizvi, Advocate Supreme Court of Pakistan &
President PILER Board
Tea Break 11:00 am – 11:30 am
11:30– 1:30 pm Session One: Growth Paradigm and Decent Work Crisis
The Plight of the Non-Labouring Poor, Prof. Jan Breman
Employment security: lessons from India, Dr. Amrita Chachhi
Creating spaces for decent work in urban centres, Arif Hasan
Global Capitalism and the Negation of Democracy: The Case of Labor Rights, Dr. Rubina Saigol
Social Protection in Times of Crisis, Dr. Asad Saeed
Question and answer
1:30 – 2:30 pm Lunch
2:30-5:30 pm Session Two – Unions and the Crisis: Rethinking Strategies
Chair: Karamat Ali
Unions in the informal sector, Ashim Roy, India (NTUI), & Pakistan, Mian Abdul Qayyum, Labour Qaumi Movement
Labour relations and the state in the post-18th Amendment era, Faisal Siddiqui
Decentralizing labour legislation: Workers’ perspective, Farid Awan
Public Sector Unions: Workers’ response to privatization,
Case studies: Pakistan Railways, Manzoor Razi and Karachi Electric Supply Corp, Lateef Mughal
Peasants’ movement for land rights: Post-victory struggle, Aqeela Naz
Question & answer
Conference Day Two
Thursday, 3 May 2012
10:00-1:00 PM Session Three -- Climate Change: Impact on Livelihood & Labour
Climate Change Induced Disasters: Vulnerabilities and Impacts on the Poor, Nikhat Sattar
Disaster Management, Development Planning and Role of the State, Kaiser Bengali
Women and crisis management in times of disasters, Mariam Bibi
Post-floods implications on labour: bonded labour, Bisharat Ali
Climate change and disaster preparedness: role of the community, Mohammad Ali Shah
1:00 – 2:00
2:00 – 4:00 pm Session Four: South Asian Labour: Emerging Trends & Challenges
(Thematic areas: legislation, trade unionism, social protection, state policies)
Bangladesh, Abul Hossain
Pakistan, Harris Gazdar, Globalisation, Labour Non-Markets and Conflict
Sri Lanka, Arumugum Muthulingum
Nepal, Ramesh Badal
4:00- 5:00 pm Plenary/Open discussion
Resetting the Agenda: Informalization of Labour--The Coping Strategies, Jan Breman
Recommendations from the informal labour
Recommendations from the formal unions
Note of thanks
o o o
(ii) 32nd Bhimsen Sachar Memorial Lecture by Shri Ashish Nandy on 3rd May 2012 at 5.30 P.M. at Constitution Club (Speaker Hall) Vithal Bhai Patel House, Rafi Marg, New Delhi.
9. AN IMPERIALIST SPRINGTIME? - LIBYA, SYRIA, AND BEYOND
Samir Amin Interviewed by Aijaz Ahmad
Samir Amin: You see, the US establishment -- and behind the US establishment its allies, the Europeans and others, Turkey as a member of NATO -- derived their lesson from their having been surprised in Tunisia and Egypt: prevent similar movements elsewhere in the Arab countries, preempt them by taking the initiative of, initiating, the movements. They have tested their experience in Libya, and they have tested it in Libya with success, in the sense that, in Libya, at the start we had no [broad popular] movement . . . against Gaddafi. We had small armed groups, and one has to question immediately . . . where those arms were coming from. They were -- we know it -- from the beginning, from the Gulf, with the support of Western powers, and the US. And attacking the army, police, and so on. And the same day, not even the next day, those very people who qualified themselves as "liberation forces," "democratic liberation forces," called upon NATO -- the French and then NATO -- to come to the rescue, and that allowed for the intervention. That intervention has succeeded in the sense that it destroyed the regime of Gaddafi. But what is the result of the success? Is it democratic Libya? Well, one should laugh at that when one knows that the president of the new regime is nobody else than the very judge who condemned to death the Bulgarian nurses. What a curious democracy it is! But it has also led to the dislocation of the country on a Somalian pattern: that is, local powers -- all of them in the name of so-called "Islam," but local warlords -- with the destruction of the country. One can raise the question: was this the target of the intervention -- that is, the destruction of the country?
I'll come back to this main question, because they tried to implement the same strategy immediately afterward on Syria -- that is, introducing armed groups from the very beginning. From the north through Turkey, Hatay particularly. The so-called "refugee camps" in Hatay are not refugee camps -- there are very few refugees -- they are camps for training mercenaries to intervene in Syria. This is well documented by our Turkish friends. And Turkey as a NATO power is part of the conspiracy in that case. And similarly with Jordan, introducing from the south, with the support -- not only neutrality but, I think, active support -- of Israel, through Daraa, southern armed groups.
Facing that in Syria we have objectively a situation similar to the one of Egypt: that is, a regime which a long, long time ago had legitimacy, for the same reasons, when it was a national-popular regime but lost it in the time of Hafez Assad already -- it moved to align itself with neoliberalism, privatization, etc., leading to the same social disaster. So, there is an objective ground for a wide, popular, social-oriented uprising. But by preempting this movement, through the military intervention of armed groups, the Western imperialist powers have created a situation where the popular democratic movement is . . . hesitating. They don't want to join the so-called "resistance" against Bashar Assad; but they don't want to support the regime of Bashar Assad either. That has allowed Bashar Assad to successfully put an end, or limits, to external intervention, in Homs and on the boundary of Turkey in the north. But opposing state terror to the real terrorism of armed groups supported by foreign powers is not the answer to the question. The answer to the question is really changing the system to the benefit of, through negotiations with, the real popular democratic movement. This is the challenge. And this is the question which is raised. We don't know, I don't know, I think nobody knows how things will move on: whether the regime, or people within the regime, will understand that and move towards real reform by opening, more than negotiations, a re-distribution of the power system with the popular democratic movement, or will stick to the way of meeting explosions just brutally as they have done until today. If they continue in that direction, finally they will be defeated, but they will be defeated to the benefit of imperialist powers.
Now, what is the real target of imperialism, in Syria and in the region? It is not at all bringing democracy. It is destroying societies just as they have destroyed the society of Libya. If you take the example of Iraq, what have they done? They have replaced the real dictatorship of Saddam Hussein by three uglier dictatorships: two in the name of religion, Shia and Sunni, one in the name of so-called "ethnicity," Kurds, which are uglier even than Saddam Hussein's dictatorship. They have destroyed the country by systematic assassination -- I have no other word for that. In addition to hundreds of thousands of people who were bombed in humanitarian bombings and so on, the systematic assassination of the cadres of the regime: scientists, doctors, engineers, professors of universities, even poets, and so on -- all the real elite of the nation. That is destroying the country. This is the target of imperialism in Syria. What does the so-called "Liberation Army of Syria" claim to have as its program? That we should eradicate the Alawis, the Druzes, the Christians, the Shia. When you add those four "minorities," you come to 45% of the population of Syria. What does it mean? It means democracy? It means the ugliest possible dictatorship and the destruction of the country.
Now, who has interest in that? This is the common interest of three intimate allies: the US, Israel, and the Gulf countries. The US. Why? Because the destruction of the societies of the region is the best way to prepare the next stage, which is the destruction of Iran, with a view of the containment and possibly rolling back of major "emerging" countries, the dangerous ones, China and Russia (and potentially, if India is naughty, India -- but India is not naughty, for the time being). That is the target. It implies the destruction of the societies of the Middle East, including that of Iran, as a major target. This project of destruction of societies, accompanied with the continuation of lumpen-development, is also the target of Israel. Because, if Syria is split into four or five insignificant, confessional, small states, it allows for further easy expansion of the process of Israel's colonization. It is also the target of the Gulf. Well, it is almost a farce to see today the Emir of Qatar and the King of Saudi Arabia, standing with the Westerners Obama, Sarkozy, and Cameron, as the leaders of the struggle for democracy. One can only laugh. But their hegemony in the region in the name of Islam -- in the "name," because there are different possible understandings of Islam of course -- implies the destruction of countries like Egypt basically, because, if Egypt is standing on her feet, then the hegemony of the Gulf is, you know, what was the Gulf in the time of Nasser, in the days of Nasser? So they have this in common.
And they are supported, within the societies, by the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, I would conclude by that. We should look at the Muslim Brotherhood not as an "Islamic" party. The criterion for qualifying and judging organizations, parties, is not whether they are "Islamic" or whether they are "secular," but whether they are reactionary or progressive. And when we look at the Muslim Brotherhood, on all real issues, they are against the strikes of the working class, they are against the resistance of poor peasants, they are for privatization, they are in favor of the dismantling of public service, which means that they are fully aligned with the most reactionary forces. This is a reactionary party using Islam as a front. This is the real criterion.
This is the global picture of what are the strategic targets of imperialists and their internal allies, reactionary forces, within the societies of the Middle East.
[Samir Amin is an Egyptian Marxist economist. Aijaz Ahmad is an Indian Marxist critic. The above text is an edited partial transcript of a video interview released by NewsClick on 24 April 2012. ]
10. USA: WE JAPANESE AMERICANS MUST NOT FORGET OUR WARTIME INTERNMENT
by George Takei
(The Guardian, 27 April 2012)
The degrading treatment of Japanese American families like mine is the theme of my new musical, Allegiance
[Caption] Japanese American children outside California internment camp
Two Japanese children stand underneath a notice detailing 'Civilian Restrictive Order No 1' outside the Pinedale assembly centre, California, in 1942. Photograph: Us Army Signal Corps/ CORBIS
Seventy years ago, US soldiers bearing bayoneted rifles came marching up to the front door of our family's home in Los Angeles, ordering us out. Our crime was looking like the people who had bombed Pearl Harbor a few months before. I'll never forget that day, nor the tears streaming down my mother's face as we were forcibly removed, herded off like animals, to a nearby race track. There, for weeks, we would live in a filthy horse stable while our "permanent" relocation camp was being constructed thousands of miles away in Arkansas, in a place called Rohwer.
I recently revisited Rohwer. Gone were the sentry towers, armed guards, barbed wire and crudely constructed barracks that defined our lives for many years. The swamp had been drained, the trees chopped down. Only miles and miles of cotton fields. The only thing remaining was the cemetery with two tall monuments.
Because I was a child, I didn't understand the depth of the degradation and deprivation my parents suffered, or how courageous and foresighted my mother had been to smuggle a sewing machine into camp, which permitted her to make modest curtains for our bare quarters. I didn't grasp what a blow the ordeal was to my father's role as provider, as he struggled to keep our family together. The family ate, bathed and did chores along with a whole community, pressed together in the confines of a makeshift camp, in the oppressive heat and mosquito-infested swamps of Arkansas.
Later my family would be shipped to a high-security camp in Tule Lake, California, constructed in a desolate, dry lake bed in the north of the state. Three layers of barbed-wire fences now confined us. Out of principle, my parents had refused to answer yes to a "loyalty" questionnaire the government had promulgated. It had asked whether they would serve in the US army and go wherever ordered, and whether they would swear allegiance to the US government and "forswear" loyalty to the Japanese emperor – as if any had ever sworn such loyalty in the first instance.
Because the government had already taken so much from us, and broken its promise of "liberty and justice for all", how could my parents give them the satisfaction of a forced oath? I still remember the irony of holding my hand to my heart and pledging allegiance to the US flag in the tar-paper barrack schoolroom, even as armed guards watched over us and barbed wire kept us locked inside that prison, without charge, trial or due process.
My father once said: "America is a democracy as great as the people can be, but also as fallible." When I was a teenager, I began to understand better what had been done to us, and to question my own father about it. In one heated exchange, I said to him angrily: "Why didn't you do anything, Daddy? You led us like sheep to slaughter!" And for the first time, I saw the great sadness in his eyes as he said simply,: "Maybe you're right" – and turned and walked from the table, shutting his bedroom door behind him.
I will always regret those words. The tragedy of the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans was not only that it was the greatest violation of our constitutional guarantees, but that it broke apart families and whole communities, and left scars that today remain unhealed, even after the government later apologised and issued reparations. It was almost a half-century too late. President Ronald Reagan only reluctantly signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. It expressed regret for the injustice and paid a token redress of $20,000 to those survivors still alive. My father had already passed away in 1979, never to know of the apology or receive the redress money. I donated the sum to the most fitting institution, the Japanese American National Museum, which tells the story of the experience of Americans of Japanese ancestry.
When I returned to Rohwer this year, it was not in anger or sadness, but with a deep resolve to help ensure such a thing never happens again within our shores. I will soon be appearing in Allegiance, the first piece of American musical theatre to ever address the subject of the internment, which remains one of the darkest and most little-known chapters of our history. We also plan to bring the show to the great stage of Broadway next year, so that the world can hear the story and our profound message: "Never forget, never again."
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