SACW | Nov 24-25, 2009 / Bridge to build between India and Pakistan / Watchdog for women's rights / Liberhan Report
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Tue Nov 24 20:01:39 CST 2009
South Asia Citizens Wire | November 24-25, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2669 -
Year 12 running
[ SACW Dispatches for 2009-2010 are dedicated to the memory of Dr.
Sudarshan Punhani (1933-2009), husband of Professor Tamara Zakon and
a comrade and friend of Daya Varma ]
 Sri Lanka: The War's Winners Fall Out (The Economist)
 A bridge to build between India and Pakistan (Ahmed Rashid)
 Lessons and challenges for Pakistan (Hassan Abbas)
+ Pakistan conspiracy theories stifle debate (Ahmed Rashid)
 Watchdog for women's rights : An Interview with Sunila Abeysekera
 India - Human rights: An invisible world (Ramachandra Guha)
+ We Welcome the Prospect of Talks between Govt and Maoists
(Statement from Citizens Initiative for Peace)
+ The Police Firing on Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha in Orissa - A
Citizens Report (K Sudhakar Patnaik, Manoranjan Routray, Sharanya)
 India: Resources For Secular Activists
Report of the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission of Inquiry - Full Text
(i) Proof of planning, conspiracy a big blow to BJP, RSS
(ii) Babri Masjid Demolition and Liberhan Commission Report
(Asghar Ali Engineer)
(iii) Judicial archaeology (The Economic Times)
(iv) Ugly face of communalism (Editorial, Kashmir Times)
(v) The ‘millions’ behind BJP: Price of Yeddy-Reddy peace
in Karnataka (J. Sri Raman)
(vi) Bringing the Sena to justice (Editorial, The Hindu)
 UK: Prey for the BNP (Priyamvada Gopal)
(i) Rummana's Question: is it what you think?’ - a lecture by
Geeta Kapur (New Delhi, 25 November 2009)
(ii) Public meeting on the “Right to Dissent” (New Delhi, 26
(iii) "India's Linguistic Diversity: A Political View" a talk by
Ayesha Kidwai (New Delhi 1 December 2009)
(iv) Public Meeting And Film Screening - Corporate Crimes,
Environment Plunder (New Delhi, 17 December 2009)
 Sri Lanka:
Sri Lanka's retired army chief
November 19th 2009 | Colombo
THE WAR’S WINNERS FALL OUT
WHEN Sarath Fonseka sought permission this month to retire as chief
of Sri Lanka’s defence staff from December 1st, President Mahinda
Rajapaksa replied through his secretary that the general, who had led
his government’s victory against the Tamil Tigers, could consider
himself retired with immediate effect. So General Fonseka had to
vacate his office in less than two days. He was told his large
security detail would be slashed. He must quit his official
residence. The impromptu farewell ceremony for him was so hastily
arranged, apparently, that the commanders of the army, navy and air
force could not attend.
His retirement, more than a month before the end of his term, fuelled
rampant speculation that General Fonseka would stand against Mr
Rajapaksa at the presidential election he wants to call next year,
nearly two years early, to capitalise on the government’s defeat of
the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in May.
General Fonseka played no small part in that rout. But with a new
opposition alliance, led by former Prime Minister Ranil
Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP), hinting strongly that
he would be their presidential candidate, the gloves are coming off
almost as quickly as billboards of Mr Rajapaksa are springing up
around the country. In an interview with a Tamil newspaper, Mr
Wickremesinghe confirmed that his coalition has agreed to nominate
General Fonseka. He urged a Marxist party, the Janatha Vimukthi
Peramuna (JVP), and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), once seen as a
proxy for the Tigers, to support him.
The JVP, however, is already wooing General Fonseka to contest as its
own candidate. The third force in Sri Lankan politics, the JVP, which
was trounced by Mr Rajapaksa’s party at recent provincial and local
government polls, wants to back a winning horse. The TNA has not
commented on General Fonseka. But the Tigers hated the army commander
with such a vengeance that they once deployed a female suicide-bomber
to assassinate him. (She exploded on target but he survived to return
to work just three months later.)
It is the general’s steely grit that Mr Rajapaksa seems to fear. The
president has always counted on populist appeal to garner votes and
knows that General Fonseka, who is considered a national hero, could
significantly eat into his base among the Sinhala-Buddhist majority.
Mr Rajapaksa’s anxiety is beginning to show. Two days after he
accepted General Fonseka’s retirement, his Sri Lanka Freedom Party
held its annual convention in a sports stadium hired for the
occasion. The venue was brimming with members who had been promised
“an important announcement” about elections. The event was
broadcast live on television. But Mr Rajapaksa failed to name the day.
General Fonseka is yet to reveal which party he will join or, indeed,
whether he will contest at all. This week he said that he would make
his decision public next week. But just two days before he had told
journalists that he would reveal his plans in 48 hours. Sri Lanka’s
first four-star general, it seems, is in a dither.
Many analysts feel that if he does decide to contest the election,
General Fonseka will pose a formidable challenge to Mr Rajapaksa.
Sanjana Hattotuwa, of the Centre for Policy Alternatives, a Colombo
think-tank, says he will present himself as the architect of the
victory over the Tigers and as a war hero. No other challenger could
hope to boast as much.
The Washington Post, November 25, 2009
A BRIDGE TO BUILD BETWEEN INDIA AND PAKISTAN
by Ahmed Rashid
Visits from three senior U.S. officials in three weeks indicate
troubles in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship. Washington has failed to
deliver on the regional strategy it promised this spring, and
friction with Pakistan seems to be contributing to the long delay in
announcement of a new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Pakistan is
critical to any Afghan strategy the Obama administration undertakes.
Pakistanis hope that President Obama will push his state guest this
week, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to be more flexible
toward Islamabad. But Pakistanis too must compromise if there is to
be hope for Afghanistan, and South Asia in general.
In their recent visits Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, national
security adviser James Jones and CIA chief Leon Panetta have promised
to push the Indians on regional issues. But the Pakistani army does
not trust American promises and has leaned on the civilian government
in Islamabad to scale back its largely pro-U.S. positions.
Any surge of U.S. or NATO troops into Afghanistan would depend on the
Pakistani army's help to protect the truck convoys that would supply
the extra Western troops in landlocked Afghanistan. Washington would
need even greater clandestine cooperation from the Pakistani military
in targeting terrorist hideouts along the border.
Pakistan's army, which is overshadowing the elected government on
regional policy, does not want U.S. forces to pull out of
Afghanistan. But neither does it want a massive surge of U.S. troops,
which it fears will ultimately drive more Afghan refugees into
Pakistan or boost morale for the Pakistani Taliban.
The army is finally fighting decisively against the Pakistani Taliban
on several fronts in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and has
had some success in driving the Pakistani Taliban out of its main
stronghold in South Waziristan. Yet the army is loath to even
acknowledge the presence of the Afghan Taliban leadership that is
based in Baluchistan province and North Waziristan.
U.S. troops cannot roll back the Taliban in southern and eastern
Afghanistan without the Pakistanis cutting off the men and materials
the Afghan Talian can draw on.
If U.S.-NATO troops stay on in Afghanistan and beat back the Afghan
Taliban in the next few years, the Pakistani military is likely to
cooperate with the West.
If, however, President Obama speaks soon of an exit strategy, as many
in the United States and Europe want, the Pakistani army is likely to
push Afghan President Hamid Karzai to accept a Pakistani-brokered
deal to form a pro-Pakistan government with the Taliban in Kabul.
The Pakistani army has no love for Islamic extremists now, but it
differentiates between the Afghan Taliban, which it sees as a
potential ally in a pro-Pakistan Afghanistan if U.S. efforts there
fail, and the Pakistani Taliban, which is viewed as a threat to the
state to be eliminated.
In reality, the two Taliban groups and al-Qaeda are closely allied.
Both Taliban groups acknowledge the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah
Mohammed Omar as head of the essential jihad against Western forces
in Afghanistan. Even though the Afghan Taliban are careful not to
fight alongside their Pakistani brothers in South Waziristan, they
would be happy to see larger parts of the NWFP controlled by the
Pakistani Taliban so that their own base areas expand.
Pakistan's military insists that any U.S. surge will lead to havoc
along its border. In fact, since 20,000 additional U.S. troops
started arriving in Afghanistan in March more and more Afghan,
Pakistani and Central Asian fighters have left Pakistan and gone to
Afghanistan to take on the Americans. Summertime fighting raged in
Helmand in the south, where 10,000 Marines are based, but in the
previously peaceful west and north of Afghanistan, where the
additional Taliban manpower has helped it expand its territorial
The Pakistan military's primary interest in a U.S.-led regional
strategy was that the Americans would help restart Indo-Pakistan
talks on Kashmir and other disputes that ceased after the terrorist
attack on Mumbai last year, and negotiate a reduction of India's
influence in Kabul, which Pakistan now blames for a host of ills
(some imagined, some real).
Washington pledged in March to involve all of Afghanistan's neighbors
and regional powers such as India, Saudi Arabia, Russia and China to
work on a common agenda to secure peace and cease interference in
Afghanistan. India pointedly snubbed the United States and its
regional strategy and demanded that Pakistan first eliminate
terrorist groups targeting India from Punjab and Karachi. Iran,
Russia and China presented other setbacks to the U.S. initiative.
Now India and Pakistan are both playing for broke. Pakistan says it
will support a U.S. regional strategy that does not include India,
while India is talking about a regional alliance with Iran and Russia
that excludes Pakistan. Both positions -- throwbacks to the 1990s,
when neighboring sates fueled opposing sides in Afghanistan's civil
war -- are non-starters as far as helping the U.S.-NATO alliance
bring peace to Afghanistan.
To avoid a regional debacle and the Taliban gaining even more ground,
Obama needs to fulfill the commitment he made to Afghanistan in
March: by sending more troops -- so that U.S.-NATO forces and the
Afghan government can regain the military initiative -- as well as
civilian experts, a revised plan and more funds for development that
will help kick-start the Afghan economy. He must bring both India and
Pakistan on board and help reduce their differences; establishing a
regional strategy is a necessary first step for any U.S. strategy in
Afghanistan to have a chance at succeeding. The United States needs
to persuade India to be more flexible toward Pakistan while
convincing Pakistanis to match such flexibility in a step-by-step
process that reduces terrorist groups operating from its soil so that
the two archenemies can rebuild a modicum of trust.
The writer, a Pakistani journalist, is the author of "Taliban" and
"Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan,
Afghanistan, and Central Asia."
The Hindu, 25 November 2009
LESSONS AND CHALLENGES FOR PAKISTAN
by Hassan Abbas
Pakistan is learning the hard way that religious extremists and
militants of all stripes are bad for the country.
The tragic Mumbai attacks in November 2008 unfortunately derailed the
India-Pakistan peace process in its wake. It should have brought both
countries closer instead. The humanistic traditions and values of the
Indian sub-continent and Indus Valley civilisation demanded so. On
the contrary, masterminds of the terror attacks are succeeding so far
because disruption of South Asian peace process was one of their
prime targets. India legitimately expected that Pakistan would do its
best to pursue and prosecute those involved in the heinous crime but
in its hour of pain and grief it forgot that Pakistan is also a
victim of terrorism and is passing through turbulent times.
Pakistan has faced enormous challenges in 2009. It has been
confronted with the growing menace of terrorism — ranging from
militancy in the Swat valley to insurgency in parts of the Pashtun-
dominated Federally Administered Tribal Areas bordering Afghanistan.
Dozens of suicide bombers have targeted urban centres of Pakistan,
killing civilians and security forces alike. Police and law
enforcement have lost hundreds of their personnel in this battle this
year alone. The fact that even Pakistan army’s General Headquarters
in Rawalpindi and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) offices in
Lahore and Peshawar were also attacked indicate that terrorists
consider them their arch enemy. Somehow, the significance of these
developments has not been fully recognised in India.
Pakistani public opinion about the identity of militants and
terrorists has transformed in to a great degree. The earlier denial
and misperception that ‘outsiders are doing all this’ has given
way to acceptance of the fact that country’s internal dynamics are
largely responsible for the rise of violence. There is also an
understanding that religious extremism has played a gruesome role in
all of this. People increasingly acknowledge that domestic and
foreign policy mistakes of 1980s and 1990s are coming back to haunt
Many Pakistanis, however, also believe that India leaves no stone
unturned in making things more difficult for Pakistan whenever it
can. Alleged Indian interference in Baluchistan for instance is often
referred to in this regard. The matter was even mentioned in the
joint statement issued after the Prime Ministers of the two countries
met at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in August 2009. More recently,
Pakistani security forces operating in South Waziristan have also
hinted that they have found some evidence of Indian support to
militants in FATA. Whether true or false, the real issue is the
widespread Pakistani belief that India is involved in destabilising
Pakistan’s response to Mumbai attacks must be understood in this
context. The initial Pakistani public reaction to the attacks was one
of shock and alarm. Pakistanis become distressed, however, when the
electronic media started showing clips from live Indian television
channel transmissions declaring that Pakistan was the culprit. Once
the facts of the case started getting disseminated, especially about
the identity of Mohammad Ajmal ‘Kasab’ — the lone surviving
member of the terrorist group that created havoc in Mumbai — there
was initially disbelief in Pakistan. Pakistan’s various media
channels wasted no time in sending their investigative teams to
Faridkot, ‘Kasab’s’ hometown in Punjab. To Pakistani
journalists’ credit, they confirmed ‘Kasab’s’ nationality and
exposed his links to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani militant group
known for its activities in the Kashmir region. Despite delay and
reluctance on the part of Pakistan’s government to acknowledge this
connection, the independent media fulfilled its professional
responsibility without fear or favour.
Consequently, Pakistan deputed some of its finest law enforcement
officials in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to spearhead the
investigations. Despite concerns about LET’s old connections with
security agencies of the country, the political leadership acted
quite swiftly. The arrest of important suspects like Zaki-ur-Rahman
Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai terror attacks, would
not have been possible without the help from country’s intelligence
services, too. The clamp-down on the Jamaat-ud Dawa, the charity cum
proselytising group associated with LET, all across the country was
no small job as well. Since then, Pakistan and India have exchanged
many dossiers containing their respective investigations and
questions for the other side. India legitimately expects quick
progress in this case and it is in Pakistan’s interest to proceed in
the matter in a transparent fashion. It is worth remembering, though,
that any law enforcement organisation’s evidence-gathering exercise,
as per standard legal guidelines, takes time. Indian law enforcement
has also taken many months to investigate and prepare the case for
prosecution in Indian courts.
One of the reasons for a disconnect between Indian and Pakistani
positions on the subject relates to the varying views about the
alleged role of Pakistani intelligence services in all of this. The
difference between acts of omission and commission should be clearly
understood. Prosecution in the court of law needs concrete evidence
rather than suspicion or bad reputation. Pakistan’s judiciary has
earned a lot of respect in the last couple of years and it will guard
its newly won independence irrespective of anything else. This alone
should make India comfortable with the trial stage of the case. Ideal
Pakistan has an ideal opportunity to show to India that it is fully
committed to defeat terrorism in all its shapes and forms. Political
rhetoric for public consumption on the subject, both in India and
Pakistan, should not be allowed to disrupt honest and professional
investigations of the Mumbai attacks. All other disputes between the
two countries should be dealt with and tackled separately from this
case and no quid pro quo arrangement or expectation should come in
the way of giving an exemplary punishment to those responsible for
this crime against humanity. This includes all who are to be found
involved in planning, facilitating, or orchestrating the atrocity. My
opinion on this is not a minority view in Pakistan. Pakistani
writers, journalists and politicians have said this repeatedly.
President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, and
prominent political leaders like Nawaz Sharif and Altaf Hussain are
all on record supporting such an outcome. A renowned Pakistani lawyer
and writer Babar Sattar very aptly says: “It is not the Pakistani
identity of Ajmal ‘Kasab’ that makes Pakistan guilty of having a
hand in Mumbai. But it is the misguided inclination to hide
unflattering truth born of false pride and misperceived patriotism
that could make us complicit.”
Pakistan is learning the hard way that religious extremists and
militants of all stripes are bad for the country. There is no such
thing as ‘Good Taliban’ or ‘Bad Taliban.’ Those who have
distorted religious ideals and are involved in brainwashing many
youngsters in Pakistan are looking to expand their space in the
country. Lack of education and economic distress strengthen their
role in society further. Pakistan is currently taking unprecedented
military action against these forces, but it will not be able to
defeat these forces of darkness comprehensively without regional
stability and help from India. A good beginning in this direction can
be more interaction and cooperation between the civilian law
enforcement agencies of the two countries.
No one can deny that both countries have produced fanatics of one
kind or the other and insurgencies of various intensities are brewing
in various parts of both the countries. The longer the South Asian
peace process remains frozen, more extensive will be the damaging
impact of extremism and mutual mistrust.
( Dr. Hassan Abbas is a Bernard Schwartz fellow at the Asia Society
and senior adviser at the Belfer Centre, Harvard Kennedy School. He
is also the author of Pakistan’s Drift into Extremism.)
o o o
BBC News, 24 November 2009
AHMED RASHID: PAKISTAN CONSPIRACY THEORIES STIFLE DEBATE
Protests against US in Pakistan
Many Pakistanis blame others for the country's problems
Guest columnist Ahmed Rashid reports on how the real problems facing
Pakistan are being sidelined by a surge of conspiracy theories.
Switch on any of the dozens of satellite news channels now available
You will be bombarded with talk show hosts who are mostly obsessed
with demonising the elected government, trying to convince viewers of
global conspiracies against Pakistan led by India and the United
States or insisting that the recent campaign of suicide bomb blasts
around the country is being orchestrated by foreigners rather than
Viewers may well ask where is the passionate debate about the real
issues that people face - the crumbling economy, joblessness, the
rising cost of living, crime and the lack of investment in health and
education or settling the long-running insurgency in Balochistan
The principal obsession is when and how President Asif Ali Zardari
will be replaced or sacked
The answer is nowhere.
One notable channel which also owns newspapers has taken it upon
itself to topple the elected government.
Another insists that it will never air anything that is sympathetic
to India, while all of them bring on pundits - often retired hardline
diplomats, bureaucrats or retired Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)
officers who sport Taliban-style beards and give viewers loud, angry
crash courses in anti-Westernism and anti-Indianism, thereby
reinforcing views already held by many.
Collapse of confidence
Pakistan is going through a multi-dimensional series of crises and a
collapse of public confidence in the state.
Suicide bombers strike almost daily and the economic meltdown just
seems to get worse.
But this is rarely apparent in the media, bar a handful of liberal
commentators who try and give a more balanced and intellectual
understanding by pulling all the problems together.
A poor neighbourhood in Pakistan
The media debate 'misses real Pakistani life'
The explosion in TV channels in Urdu, English and regional languages
has bought to the fore large numbers of largely untrained, semi-
educated and unworldly TV talk show hosts and journalists who deem it
necessary to win viewership at a time of an acute advertising crunch,
by being more outrageous and sensational than the next channel.
On any given issue the public barely learns anything new nor is it
presented with all sides of the argument.
Every talk show host seems to have his own agenda and his guests
reflect that agenda rather than offer alternative policies.
Recently, one senior retired army officer claimed that Hakimullah
Mehsud - the leader of the Pakistani Taliban which is fighting the
army in South Waziristan and has killed hundreds in daily suicide
bombings in the past five weeks - had been whisked to safety in a US
helicopter to the American-run Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.
In other words the Pakistani Taliban are American stooges, even as
the same pundits admit that US-fired drone missiles are targeting the
Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan.
These are just the kind of blatantly contradictory and nut-case
conspiracy theories that get enormous traction on TV channels and in
the media - especially when voiced by such senior former officials.
The explosion in civil society and pro-democracy movements that
brought the former military regime of President Pervez Musharraf to
its knees over two years has become divided, dissipated and confused
about its aims and intentions.
A Pakistani soldier in South Wazirstan
Troops and militants are fighting in South Waziristan
Even when such activists do appear on TV, their voices are drowned
out by the conspiracy theorists who insist that every one of
Pakistan's ills are there because of interference by the US, India,
Israel and Afghanistan.
The army has not helped by constantly insisting that the vicious
Pakistani Taliban campaign to topple the state and install an Islamic
emirate is not a local campaign waged by dozens of extremist groups,
some of whom were trained by the military in the 1990s, but the
result of foreign conspiracies.
Such statements by the military hardly do justice to the hundreds of
young soldiers who are laying down their lives to fight the Taliban
Nor has the elected government of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP)
tried to alter the balance, as it is mired in ineffective governance
and widespread corruption while failing to tackle the economic
recession, that is admittedly partly beyond its control.
Moreover the PPP has no talking pundits, sympathetic talk show hosts
or a half decent media management campaign to refute the lies and
innuendo that much of the media is now spewing out.
At present, the principal obsession is when and how President Asif
Ali Zardari will be replaced or sacked, although there is no apparent
constitutional course available to get rid of him except for a
military coup, which is unlikely.
The campaign waged by some politicians and parts of the media - with
underlying pressure from the army - is all about trying to build
public opinion to make Mr Zardari's tenure untenable.
Victim of a suicide attack in Pakistan
Pakistan is caught in a spiral of violence
Nobody discusses the failure of the education system that is now
turning out hundreds of suicide bombers, rather than doctors and
Or the collapsing and corrupt national health system that forces the
poorest to seek expensive private medical treatment, or the explosion
in crime or suicides by failed farmers and workers who have lost
Pakistan cannot tackle its real problems unless the country's leaders
- military and civilian - first admit that much of the present crisis
is a result of long-standing mistakes, the lack of democracy, the
failure to strengthen civic institutions and the lack of investment
in public services like education, even as there continues to be a
massive investment in nuclear weapons and the military.
Pakistan's crisis must first be acknowledged by officialdom and the
media before solutions can be found.
The alternative is a continuation of the present paralysis where
people are left confused, demoralised and angry.
Ahmed Rashid is the author of the best-selling book Taliban and, most
recently, of Descent into Chaos: How the war against Islamic
extremism is being lost in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.
 WATCHDOG FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS
by Rajashri Dasgupta
Thirty years after CEDAW, does the Convention really serve a useful
purpose? Sunila Abeysekera, Sri Lankan human rights campaigner who
heads International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific, says
the Convention is a good space for democratic countries to reaffirm
that they respect women’s rights
For over two decades, Sunila Abeysekera has been an ardent campaigner
of human rights and women’s rights in Sri Lanka and around the
world. She defied threats to her life when she brought human rights
abuses in Sri Lanka to the attention of the international community.
In 1999, she won the UN Human Rights Award and was honoured for her
work by Human Rights Watch last year.
In this interview, Abeysekera, who heads the International Women’s
Rights Action Watch (IWRAW) Asia Pacific, talks about how the UN
Convention on The Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
Women (CEDAW) can be “kept alive” to protect the rights of women.
It’s been 30 years since CEDAW came into force as an international
treaty. What has the Convention achieved?
The Convention is now applicable in at least 120 countries that have
ratified the treaty. It is often described as an international bill
of rights for women. It defines what constitutes discrimination
against women, and sets up an agenda for national action to end such
discrimination. Countries that have ratified or acceded to the
convention are legally bound to put its provisions into practice.
Every four years, a committee of experts reviews the work of
countries that have ratified the Women’s Convention, as CEDAW is
popularly known. They are also committed to submitting national
reports on measures they have taken to comply with their treaty
obligations. Since Sri Lanka and India have both ratified the
Convention, their governments submit a report to the CEDAW Committee
(henceforth, Committee) on how well they are doing in terms of
applying and making CEDAW rights applicable to women in their countries.
Can women’s groups keep the pressure on governments during the
review process, to keep alive the spirit of the Convention? After
all, government reports can be an eyewash…
Exactly. The Committee welcomes the involvement of women’s groups in
making a separate submission called the Shadow Report to the
Committee. These groups provide bits of information that governments
forget, such as about minority groups and poverty. The Committee
really tries to encourage a national process which includes different
women’s groups working on different issues that represent different
communities and issues.
How important is the Shadow Report?
The way it works, the report provides valuable information to members
of the Committee. When the government submits its report, it also
sends representatives from the capital, foreign ministry, human
rights desk, embassy, and the ambassador in Geneva to attend the
review meeting. It is quite an active dialogue between
representatives of the government and members of the Committee.
Governments often say only good things, not bad about their own
country. The sharpness of the questions asked by Committee members to
government representatives depends on whether they have alternative
and good information from the Shadow Report.
Did the Shadow Report from India help to question the Indian government?
It is interesting that national organisations like the National
Alliance of Women’s Organisations have a comprehensive process
whereby they reach out to an extensive network of women’s groups.
The report put together was edited by five or six women who have the
competence necessary for the task. Largely based on this, the
Committee specifically recommended that the government report back
later on the status of cases with regard to the Gujarat carnage (in
2002). Women’s groups actually relayed valuable information showing
that these cases were being delayed; victims of rape and violence
have not got justice…
At the end of the review process, as concluding observations, the
Committee comes out with a set of recommendations; it could be on
reforming the law or a policy that is discriminatory or flawed. In
the next four years, the government is meant to implement these
recommendations. Women’s groups should be following up on what the
government is doing, or not doing.
Can the recommendations create international pressure?
It can, it can. Whatever the Committee says the Indian government is
obliged to take seriously, even though the Committee does not have
the power to really enforce the recommendations. Still, for
governments like India it is an important process to say ‘we are
accountable, we respect women’s rights, we are democratic’. It’s
a good space for democratic countries.
What is IWRAW’s role in the CEDAW process?
We have an office at the High Commission for Human Rights in New York
that, every year, puts out a list of countries that will be reviewed.
We get advance warning. For instance, this year the committee will
review countries including Brazil and Azerbaijan. We send out
messages through email or word-of-mouth to women’s groups, that such
and such country will be reporting (we have a good network and
contacts). Thirty years down the line, many countries have a process
This year, both Laos and Timor are submitting their first reports to
the committee. IWRAW members with expertise visited Laos and Timor to
help groups with the process, provide guidelines and technical and
legal know-how on how to prepare a Shadow Report. IWRAW also helps
and supports groups on following up on the committee’s
During the review process, IWRAW runs a programme called ‘From the
Global to Local’, where women from the community grassroots visit
Geneva and New York to take part in the review meeting. They can
actually observe the whole process and talk to Committee members
before the meeting. But they do not have any speaking space at the
meeting. They can only observe the process -- even when their own
country is reporting.
The dialogue at the meeting is between country representatives and
Committee members. But there are many spaces and places where
grassroots-level women can interact with Committee members. It’s a
dynamic and lively process that enables women to become involved…
after all, the whole environment is very conducive to planning and
implementing steps concerning women’s rights in the presence and
precincts of a committee created for this very purpose, with a clear
and specific agenda, supported by experts in this field and women’s
Governments, including India, have reservations about many articles
of the Women’s Convention. It is ineffective if the Indian
government has reservations about articles related to marriage,
customs and cultural practices that are discriminatory against women,
in the name of non-interference in the personal affairs of
There are global and national campaigns by women’s groups against
the reservations of governments. Groups are always saying: what is
the point of having the Women’s Convention and ratifying it if you
also take away some of these rights…
The Government of India has reservations based on the fact that it is
a multicultural society and does not want to impinge on the cultural
rights of minorities (Articles 5 a and 16 i and ii). Many Islamic
countries have reservations about Article 2 which is about
eliminating discrimination against women, and Article 16 regarding
marriage, custody, inheritance, and divorce.
Last year we had a really big success when Morocco lifted its
reservations on Article 16; there was a strong campaign because it is
a North African country. In 2005, the Bangladesh government lifted
its reservations on Article 2.
Why is it that there is no mention of violence against women in the
earlier CEDAW document?
If you examine the proceedings of the first world conference on women
in 1975, the focus was on economic empowerment. Violence against
women was not recognised then as an issue. If you see the
proceedings, it is women’s labour that is the focus. Groups worked
on the issue of violence in the late-1970s and early-’80s. When
groups saw that CEDAW was not reflecting an issue that was so
critical to many women they launched a campaign and it was rectified.
In 1992, the Committee created something that is called General
Recommendation 19 -- it’s about violence against women (VAW) and it
went to the UN General Assembly and was adopted as a resolution. Such
general recommendations (GRs) then come back and the Committee tells
governments that CEDAW is now looking at VAW and that it has to
report on it.
At this moment, many women’s groups from regions of conflict are
talking to the Committee about creating a GR about women affected by
conflict; this is not covered by CEDAW.
There are other gaps too. The Women’s Convention has an ambiguous
section on trafficking of women…
There is a separate Article 6 on trafficking but it is couched with
the perception of trafficking being very much linked to prostitution
and forced prostitution, though these words are not mentioned. Unless
the reader is looking for it, she can miss it. There has been a lot
of pressure on the Committee to articulate its opinion on
trafficking. Since there are other human rights mechanisms like the
Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, who did a special
report on trafficking, the Committee has not moved on this issue. But
it is important to push for the rights of trafficked victims; it is
the best way to combat the criminalisation of victims of trafficking
that we see happening at this point.
Source: Infochange News & Features, November 2009
 India: Human Rights
Hindustan Times, November 23, 2009
AN INVISIBLE WORLD
by Ramachandra Guha
Every Indian city has a road named after Mahatma Gandhi, each
presenting in its own way a mocking thumbs-down to the Mahatma’s
legacy. The M.G. Road of my home town, Bangalore, is a celebration of
consumerism, with its array of shop-windows advertising the most
expensive goods in India. In other cities, government offices are
housed on their M.G. Road, where work — or laze — politicians and
officials consumed by power and corruption.
The Mahatma stood, among other things, for non-possession, integrity
and non-violence. The M.G. Road of Imphal chooses to violate the last
tenet, demanding that citizens negotiate pickets of heavily armed
jawans every few metres. When I visited Manipur last year, I was
staying at a lodge on M.G. Road, from where I watched a boy aged not
more than ten clasp the hand of his even littler sister as he walked
her past the pickets on their way to school. He was terribly tense,
as the urgency by which he guided his sibling along the barricades
made manifest. Back in Bangalore, for my own son and his younger
sister the everyday act of going to school has been wholly relaxed,
and mostly enjoyable — and yet, in this other state of our shared
Union, it was fraught with fear.
Exactly five years ago, in November 2004, the Prime Minister visited
Manipur. He had come in response to a massive popular protest against
army excesses, among them the brutalisation of women. After meeting a
cross-section of the population he agreed to vacate the historic
Kangla Fort of armed detachments, and to ‘sympathetically
consider’ the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA),
under which the security forces are given wide powers to arrest
without warrant and to shoot without provocation.
The opposition to the AFSPA in Manipur is near-unanimous. However, by
the nature and duration of her protest one individual has made her
opposition distinctive. This is Irom Sharmila, a young woman who in
November 2001 began an indefinite fast for the repeal of the Act.
(The immediate provocation was the killing, by the Assam Rifles, of
ten bystanders at a village bus-stop.) Arrested for ‘attempted
suicide’, she continues her fast in her hospital-cum-jail, where she
does yoga, and reads religious texts, political memoirs, and folk-
tales. As her biographer Deepti Priya Mehrotra points out, while the
law accuses her of fasting-unto-death, Sharmila is better seen as
‘fasting unto life, to remove a brutal law that allows the murder of
On his return to New Delhi from Manipur, the PM set up a committee to
report on whether the AFSPA should be scrapped. Headed by a respected
former judge of the Supreme Court, the committee’s members included
a highly decorated general and a very knowledgeable journalist. The
committee’s report is based on visits to several states, and
conversations with a wide spectrum of public opinion. It makes for
fascinating reading. The entire text is up on the Web; here, however,
a few excerpts must suffice.
The committee found that ‘the dominant view-point expressed by a
large number of organisations/individuals was that the Act is
undemocratic, harsh and discriminatory. It is applicable only to the
North-eastern states and, therefore, discriminates against the people
of the region. Under the protection provided by the Act, several
illegal killings, torture, molestations, rapes and extortions have
taken place particularly since the Act does not provide for or create
a machinery which provides protection against the excesses committed
by armed forces/paramilitary forces… The Act should, therefore, be
The committee agreed, recommending that AFSPA be taken off the
statute books. It noted that with the insertion of suitable
provisions in the existing Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act
(ULP), the security needs of the state would be served without
impinging on the human rights of its citizens. The ULP Act, it
pointed out, permitted swift deployment of the army to combat
terrorism, while simultaneously ensuring that those arrested would be
handed over to the police and provided legal protection.
In making its recommendations, the committee also offered this astute
assessment of the popular discontent in the state: ‘[A]gitations
such as those in Manipur and elsewhere are merely the symptoms of a
malaise, which goes much deeper. The recurring phenomena of one
agitation after another over various issues and the fact that public
sentiments can be roused so easily and frequently to unleash unrest,
confrontation and violence also points to deep-rooted causes which
are often not addressed. Unless the core issues are tackled, any
issue or non-issue may continue to trigger another upsurge or
When I was in Imphal, I was driven to the Kangla Fort by a respected
professor of economics. As he took me through the various shrines and
memorials, he wondered when — or if — the PM would match the
removal of the Assam Rifles from Kangla with a repeal of the AFSPA.
Only that, he felt, would signal that the Government of India treated
the residents of Manipur as full and equal citizens. As the professor
put it, ‘if you love a people, do so wholly — not half-heartedly’.
The AFSPA was first enacted in parts of Manipur in 1960. Even from a
narrow security point of view it does not seem to have worked, for
the discontent and the violence have only escalated in the decades it
has been in operation. It is past time that it is done away with. A
generous deadline for its repeal might be November 2010 — before the
10th anniversary of Irom Sharmila’s fast, which, as matters
presently stand, may be the only thing Gandhian about the whole state
Ramachandra Guha is a historian and the author of India After Gandhi
o o o
STATEMENT FROM CITIZENS INITIATIVE FOR PEACE
We welcome the reports that the Government of India and the CPI
(Maoist) are agreeable to the idea of talks. In the present situation
talks are the only way to come to a resolution of any problem,
however difficult it may be.
We reiterate that the talks should be unconditional, and that
they should be held at the central level. We propose the following
steps to expedite the dialogue:
1. Security forces should not move forward and should cease
2. Maoists should cease all operations.
3. This ceasefire should take place immediately.
4. In order to enable villagers to resume their normal life
the security forces must withdraw from schools, dispensaries and
other civilian buildings, as recommended by the NHRC. The Maoists
must also give a commitment that government institutions like
schools, ration shops etc. will be allowed to function.
We hope and trust that both sides will carry on the talks with
an aim to finding solutions to the concrete problems faced by the
people of the affected regions. Any disagreement in the first round
should not lead to the breakdown of talks. There should be a series
of talks to arrive at mutually agreed solutions.
Rajindar Sachar Manoranjan Mohanty
(on behalf of the Citizens Initiative for Peace)
o o o
THE NARAYANPATNA POLICE FIRING ON CHASI MULIA ADIVASI SANGHA IN
ORISSA - A CITIZENS REPORT
by K Sudhakar Patnaik, Manoranjan Routray, Sharanya (sacw.net, 24
 India: Resources For Secular Activists
Full Text of Report of the Liberhan Ayodhya Commission of Inquiry
[These PDF files are bad, but it is expected that the correct
versions will replace them, so keep the URL's]
Part I http://bit.ly/4SQwu5
Part II http://bit.ly/5AaJYC
Part III http://bit.ly/5WgXus
Part IV http://bit.ly/8nLoND
Part V http://bit.ly/4SQwu5
+ Other Articles
(i) The Hindu, 24 November 2009
PROOF OF PLANNING, CONSPIRACY A BIG BLOW TO BJP, RSS
by Siddharth Varadarajan
New Delhi: Once the dust from the unnecessary debate over who leaked
the Liberhan Commission’s findings settles down, the country will be
in a better position to reflect upon the political consequences of
the enquiry report on one of independent India’s most sinister mass
crimes: the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya on December 6,
Though it is not yet clear whether Mr. Liberhan has fixed criminal or
merely political responsibility on top Bharatiya Janata party leaders
like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, the
commission report seems to have concluded that the demolition was no
act of spontaneous vandalism but a pre-planned conspiracy. The circle
of conspirators may well have been small but it is impossible to
imagine that leaders like Mr. Advani were completely unaware of what
was underfoot. Either way, the Manmohan Singh government is duty-
bound to get to the bottom of the matter and to do so without any
For years, the BJP walked a fine line on the demolition. Senior
leaders like Advani sought to avoid direct culpability for what was,
after all, a criminal act, while also exploiting the communal
polarisation the masjid/mandir issue caused for political gain. The
strategy worked fine at first. The demolition was used by the BJP,
the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to
spread the sangh parivar’s influence beyond the Gangetic plains and
into Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.
By the time the BJP came to power in Delhi as part of the National
Democratic Alliance, however, the signs of mandir fatigue were
already apparent, especially in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. As the
communal virus of the 1990s slowly exhausted itself and robbed
Ayodhya of its political potency, the BJP moved on to other issues.
With Mr. Liberhan content to drag out his enquiry, the legal fallout
of the demolition was managed by petty clerical fiddles at the
Central Bureau of Investigation and the U.P. bureaucracy. The end
result: many senior leaders of the party, including Mr. Advani,
extricated themselves from the demolition cases which were, in any
case, progressing at snail’s pace.
The problem for the BJP today is two-fold: First, Mr. Liberhan chose
to complete his labours and that too during the tenure of a Congress-
led government; and second, the scope for whipping up religious
sentiments and rallying Hindus around the prospective martyrdom of
leaders like Mr. Advani is extremely limited. Indeed, ordinary Hindus
know that the Babri Masjid’s demolition, like the Gujarat massacres
of 2002, is part of the backstory of urban terrorism, including the
rise of homegrown terrorist outfits like the Indian Mujahideen. They
also know instinctively that religious polarisation of the kind the
sangh parivar has sought to engineer has made India a more dangerous
and violent place. Any campaign the BJP mounts now will be marked by
the desperate search for legal loopholes, alibis and fixes, not
defiance and bravado in the service of Lord Rama.
Ironically, the best hope for the BJP lies in the Congress’
reluctance to press ahead its political advantage. At the best of
times, the party has never been too enthusiastic about ensuring
punishment of those involved in communal crimes. The findings of the
Srikrishna Commission of Enquiry into the 1992-1993 communal killings
in Mumbai, for example, have remained largely unimplemented. Going by
the law of probability — since the probability of law is so low —
there are good reasons to believe the Liberhan findings will also
meet the same fate.
(ii) INDIA: BABRI MASJID DEMOLITION AND LIBERHAN COMMISSION REPORT
by Asghar Ali Engineer
The Economic Times, 24 Nov 2009
The BJP’s umbrage over media reports of the Justice Liberhan
Commission’s findings is laughable. They are outraged over
procedure: how did the
report find its way to the press before the hon’ble members of
Parliament have had a chance to see it?
This matters less to India’s polity than the substance of the
commission’s report, which finds the entire top leadership of the
Sangh Parivar culpable for demolition of the Babri mosque at Ayodhya,
not sparing even the most moderate of the lot, former prime minister
Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The Liberhan Commission’s putative findings raise three questions.
One, anti-national conduct in bringing about a deep communal divide
in the country and culpability for such conduct; two, the propriety
of the commission’s report finding its way to the press before being
tabled in Parliament; and, three, the gross delay in the submission
of its report by the commission. All three merit serious attention.
That the Babri mosque was demolished and did not crumble under its
own or the kar sevaks’ weight is well known. Equally well-known is
the nationwide campaign carried out by the Sangh Parivar on the
slogan, mandir wohin banayenge! (we’ll build the temple there
itself, the there being where the mosque stood), which was an
undisguised call to demolish the mosque.
It took extreme disingenuousness for anyone to seriously believe that
the BJP leadership distributed sweets and hugged one another after
the demolition of the mosque in pain and in shock. That the
demolition of the mosque considerably eroded the minority
community’s faith in the Indian Republic’s secular character is
also well known.
The only purpose served by the commission’s findings would be that
these well-known facts would now be official.
Parliamentary privilege is one of the most over-rated institutions of
democracy. The Fourth Estate is called thus only because it mediates
information between the people and the state. The people have
primacy, not their representatives. If important information is
leaked to select groups, that would be breach of privilege.
But making information available directly to the people through the
media is no more a crime than Satyagraha is. As for judicial delay —
the commission took 17 years and 48 extensions to state the obvious
— it leaves justice to be a matter of interpretation by historians,
without operative import.
Kashmir Times, 25 November 2009
UGLY FACE OF COMMUNALISM
Inaction against communalists is a bigger cause of concern
A report in a national daily has pointed out how the Liberhan
Commission probing the Babri mosque demolition has maintained that it
was meticulously planned and indicted among other Lal Kishen Advani
and even Atal Behari Vajpayee for inciting communal passion. The
report has also not spared leaders of Muslim organizations for their
irresponsible remarks and for not caring for the welfare of the
Indian Muslims. The report has been lying pending with the government
for over four months but there has just not been any forward movement
on the case even as Babri mosque demolition, that sparked widespread
riots throughout the country and caused an unbridgeable divide among
the communities of the country, will be an 18 year old mishap next
month. It is not simply the case of Babri mosque demolition alone.
Anything that has communal overtones is something that successive
governments in this country have dragged their feet over. Various
courts and panel reports have been marked by either serious flaws or
inordinate delays in filing reports on Mumbai riots that followed the
blasts, the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 or the Gujarat carnage of 2002.
Interestingly, in the Mumbai case, while action was indeed taken
against perpetrators of the blasts, the riot hoodlums have been left
untouched even as they caused acute panic among people, left many
homeless and several killed or tortured. The Sikh victims of 1984
have not got any justice till date and the Gujarat victims continue
to linger on in camps in neglect and face constant threat that is
also state sponsored. The successive governments have virtually
failed to act against irresponsive governments and take that much
needed initiative in pursuance of justice. Justice delayed is justice
denied, it is said. When it comes to victimisation through communal
discourses and violence, justice is not the only casualty. Inaction
on part of the government legitimises the communal discourse and more
significantly, it encourages a vicious cycle of greater tyranny and
thus perpetuation of more victimisation at the hands of communalists,
whose hands only get strengthened by the inaction. It needs to be
recalled that the founders of free India like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru
had excessively cautioned against the majoritarian communalism being
the greatest threat to the nation. The last three decades, with
mounting cases of minorities being hounded in various parts of the
country, amply demonstrate the perils to the country that Nehru
talked about. Yet, the leaders who swear by his name or Mahatama
Gandhi's fail to pay any heed.
The Tribune, 24 November 2009
THE ‘MILLIONS’ BEHIND BJP: PRICE OF YEDDY-REDDY PEACE IN KARNATAKA
by J. Sri Raman
Millions stand behind me”, says the caption. The famous poster of
the early thirties by German photomontage artist John Heartfield
connects the Fuhrer to corporate capital. It shows Hitler delivering
his Nazi salute, with the hand bent over the shoulder, and receiving
a backhand donation from a giant figure behind representing Big
Business, dominated then by the Krupps.
Mt. Bokanakere Siddalingappa Yeddyurappa and the Bellary brothers, of
course, are far less known than Adolf Hitler and the Krupps
respectively. But the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and the big-
money backers of his regime are tied by the same bond of millions
that is no synonym of the soapbox orator’s “masses”.
Mr Yeddyurappa has just survived a challenge from the Reddy brothers
(as they are also known) and saved his rudely shaken throne as the
Chief Minister of India’s southern State of Karnataka. But he has
not done so before providing yet another abject proof of whom the far
right really represents despite its apparent priority for an agenda
of fanaticism and ultra-nationalism.
It is, of course, not only the far right anywhere, or the BJP’s camp
alone in this country that has these firm bonds with corporate
patrons and puppeteers. So do several others. India’s Parliament has
witnessed a debate between two parties — the ruling Congress and the
opposition Samajwadi Party — taking sides in another corporate
sibling rivalry, between the Ambani brothers. Even bit players in
electoral politics, like regional parties, have their big-buck
But there is an important difference. What sets apart the business
partnership of the far right is the nature of the return benefit
sought and secured. The fund-givers, in this case, are not asking
only for direct favours of the kind political parties and forces can
dispense, especially if in power. They are even more interested in
far-right campaigners creating a political ambiance, in which their
ill-gotten fortunes won’t be a major public issue. A “temple”
issue of the BJP’s type, for example, can help tycoons by keeping
some inconvenient taxation issues away from the headlines.
The financial patrons of the far right, of course, expect it to pay
attention to their problems of excess. But they expect it even more
to divert popular attention away from the diverse socio-economic
problems of their creation. They make no secret of the returns they
seek from their political investment. The far right can exercise
political power, but without interfering with its freedom of
profiteering. The Bellary brothers have made this clear beyond doubt
to the BJP.
The brothers — Revenue Minister G. Karunakara Reddy, Tourism
Minister G. Janardhana Reddy and legislator G. Somashekhara Reddy —
control what has been described as a mining mafia worth Rs. 300
billion. Allegedly including an illegal segment, the Reddy operations
in the otherwise backward district of Bellary set new profit records
since 2003 when the Chinese started importing iron ore from here on a
huge scale in preparation for the Beijing Olympics of 2008. Thus it
was that the brothers acquired the financial clout that eventually
gave them the state BJP on a platter.
The same year as the Bejing Games came a big political break for the
party. In the last week of May 2008 came the results of the Assembly
elections in Karnataka, giving the far right its first ever regime in
South India. A hiccup preceded the victory, though, and the Reddys
helped the party make history. The trends reported on the television
showed that the BJP would have to draw on the support of Independent
legislators to form the new government.
The Bellary brothers set out for Bangalore, the state’s capital, and
were to buy up the required legislative support. This was in addition
to their money power winning the mandate for the BJP in 37 of the 117
seats out of a total of 224 in the Assembly.
If the BJP and the Chief Minister thought they had compensated the
mining kings with a couple of Cabinet posts, they were to learn a
costly lesson. The Bellary brothers were soon to conclude that they
had struck a bad bargain. They did not like to be given less
importance in the Cabinet than Rural Development Minister Shobha
Karandlajy, an Yeddyurappa favourite. And they deemed the
government’s proposal for an additional tax of Rs 1,000 per
truckload of iron ore as nothing short of a declaration of war on
them. They joined the war when the Chief Minister ordered the
transfer from Bellary of officers suspected to be loyal to the brothers.
The Reddys raised the standard of revolt in the last week of October,
demanding the removal and replacement of the Chief Minister who had
incurred their displeasure. Both factions descended soon on New
Delhi, forcing an already beleaguered BJP leadership to put on a
brave face and pretend to find a political solution. The farce went
on for days even as parts of Karnataka went under floods. Relief
operations awaited a resolution of the political crisis, as none of
the BJP top brass denied the priority of the need to save the sinking
It all ended in an unabashed capitulation to the Reddys, after a bout
of crying on a TV channel by the Chief Minister. He hated, he said in
a hoarse voice, to compromise for the sake of his “chair” but had
to do so “for the sake of the state”. He stays on in power, but
only after agreeing to abandon the minister the Reddys disapprove of,
the idea of transfers unhelpful to them, and, of course, the tax
proposal. The brothers, meanwhile, have told their supporters that
this is only the “intermission” in the blockbuster they have been
The spectators, however, have not been confined to Karnataka. The
whole country has been a horrified witness to this latest scene in
the long and sordid drama of the BJP’s internal dissensions ever
since its debacle in the Lok Sabha elections. The struggle between
the Chief Minister and its challengers has shed lurid light on a less
recognised dimension of the party’s ever-deepening crisis. It is a
dimension from which an abstractly political analysis of the crisis
can no longer divert public attention.
The Karnataka episode has come as an expose of the claim that the BJP
is going back to a golden age of ideology under the guidance of the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the patriarch of the “parivar”
or the far-right “family”. The mantra of “cultural
nationalism” is proving no match for the “millions” behind the
BJP and its band.
The Hindu, November 24, 2009
EDITORIAL: BRINGING THE SENA TO JUSTICE
It is no secret that the Shiv Sena has regularly attempted to stifle
free expression by carrying out violent attacks on journalists and
media establishments — and has got away with it thanks to a policy
of appeasement pursued by successive governments in Maharashtra,
mostly Congress or Congress-led regimes. But the regional party may
have gone too far this time. The recent assault on the offices of the
IBN television network, captured blow-by-blow by CCTV cameras,
featured a mob of Sainiks armed with rods and baseball bats punching
and kicking male and female journalists and trashing furniture,
fittings, and electronic equipment. The Sena leadership would have us
believe the attack was a “spontaneous” reaction to strong remarks
made on the channel against supremo Bal Thackeray. This is
demonstrably false. That it was a planned attack is evidenced by the
fact that the mobs carried out simultaneous attacks on the TV network
in Mumbai and Pune, and by information gathered by the police
investigation that, among others, Sunil Raut, the brother of Shiv
Sena leader Sanjay Raut, was involved. A special target of the
Sena’s wrath was its intrepid critic, Nikhil Wagle, Editor-in-Chief
of the Marathi channel IBN-Lokmat and former Editor of the Marathi
daily Mahanagar who has been assaulted repeatedly by Sena goons.
At one level, the brazen assault reveals the ugly face of competitive
chauvinism, and the continued existence of a goon political culture,
in India’s ‘maximum’ city. At another level, it reflects the
Sena’s sense of insecurity during a phase of political decline —
when it has been challenged by the copycat methods of a youthful
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, and has fared poorly in elections. It is
no accident that Bal Thackeray’s, and Saamna’s, broadsides against
Sachin Tendulkar for implicitly making a stand against linguistic
chauvinism by affirming his Indianness alongside his Maharastrian
identity have been followed up by targeting a channel that has aired
opposition to the chauvinism. Such acts of vandalism have gone
virtually unpunished in the past. This time, under pressure from an
aggressive media, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has pledged no-nonsense
action and the Mumbai police have arrested close to 20 of the
perpetrators and registered cases of attempted murder. The
investigation, however, has not so far led to anyone more significant
than Sunil Raut, who has just been arrested. The widely shared
suspicion is that the State government’s response will return to the
traditional policy of appeasement once the feelings of shock and
anger subside. This is decidedly a case to be handed over to the
Central Bureau of Investigation.
The Guardian, 23 November 2009
PREY FOR THE BNP
The Sikhs who join in the hatred of Muslims are deluded if they
expect to avoid racial exclusion
by Priyamvada Gopal
Rajinder Singh, a British Sikh with an extreme dislike of Muslims,
is, according to the BNP, "the kind of immigrant you want if you're
going to have them". And if, as expected, the party members vote to
allow ethnic minorities to join, Singh will be the first to be
conferred this "honour".
Sikh organisations have dismissed him – and fellow BNP wannabe "Ammo
Singh" (a pseudonym) – as unrepresentative, and it is easy to write
them off as self-hating lunatics or pranksters. But to do so is to
obscure the larger realities of how race, religion and hate operate.
What has been lost in the storm over Nick Griffin's BBC appearance
and the debate over the freedom to voice hatred in the guise of
"white rights" is that modern racism survives through a parasitical
alliance of vicious groups and ideologies, each of which thinks it is
superior to and more entitled to preservation and growth than the
others. What they share is a commitment to delusions of absolute
racial or religious grandeur and purity even as they compete for
The two Sikhs' hostility to Islam is strong enough for them to
overlook the contempt in which the BNP ultimately holds all racial
minorities. Communities in Britain with links to the Indian
subcontinent have, over time, seceded from their rich shared heritage
and the assertive "Asian" banner under which they fought successfully
for their rights in the 1960s and 1970s. Dispersed into the sectarian
religious identities of Sikh, Hindu and Muslim, they have all but
forgotten how to mobilise together against the threat of an
opportunistic ethnic majoritarianism that does not, ultimately, make
fine distinctions among those it perceives as outsiders.
Generalising labels like "Asian" may have their drawbacks but, as
Arun Kundnani of the Institute of Race Relations notes of Sunrise
Radio's bizarre decision to drop "Asian" from its banner under
sustained pressure from extremist groups like the World Hindu
Council, the hope underlying such disaffiliation is that "racist
whites could be persuaded to exclude Hindus and Sikhs from their
hatred, and focus instead solely on Muslims". A 2006 Runnymede Trust
survey claims that as many as 80% of Hindus and Sikhs in Britain
wished to be seen as specifically distinct from Muslims. "Don't
Freak, I'm a Sikh", urged T-shirts printed after the 7 July bombings.
Griffin's assertion that "many" Hindus and Sikhs support the BNP is a
wild exaggeration. But we need to face up to the messy reality of a
society where ethno-religious fragmentation and tensions between
minority groups work to the advantage of majority chauvinism.
Kundnani points out that as early as 2002 the BNP was able to
persuade a tiny Sikh faction called the Shere-e-Punjab to participate
in its anti-Muslim campaign. Even if such collaborators are a tiny
fringe, minority communities need to be aware of the ways in which
their participation in divisive categories and separatist communal
warfare only strengthens the positions of the racists who seek to
subordinate them entirely.
Anti-immigrant views among migrants are not new, but what extremisms
also share is an exaggerated fear that other groups are numerically
overwhelming theirs. When Sikh-Muslim gang fights broke out in
Slough, the language used mimicked the defensive territorial language
of the BNP. "Muslims run Slough," one gang member insisted at the
time. "Why are Sikhs coming from outside?"
Ammo Singh told the BBC, which has made a habit of using fringe
groups as representatives of entire communities, that Islam was
planning to take over Britain through "a combination of immigration,
high birth rate and conversion".
Rajinder Singh, like many Hindus and Sikhs, has invoked the 1947
partition of India, in which he lost his father, as the cause of his
enmity towards Muslims. This selective emphasis conveniently obscures
two facts. The first is that it was the British empire and its
policies of divide and rule which culminated in the partition that
was its last official act. The second is that all three communities
are fully responsible for the horrific butchery, bloodletting and
rape that followed. Rather than mourning the tragedy of partition,
men like Rajinder Singh seek to re-enact it in Britain, once again
under the aegis of British racial supremacism.
The time has come for us to recognise racial and religious hatred in
all its manifestations for what it is and take a stand against it –
alongside right-thinking whites – not only when it is directed at
us, but also when it is undertaken in our name. The colour line
hasn't disappeared yet, but the real struggle is between fascist
hatreds and humane solidarity.
(i) Remembering Rummana Husain
SAHMAT presents a lecture by Geeta Kapur
Rummana's Question: is it what you think?’
Chair: Kumar Shahani
Time and Date: 5.30 pm on Wednesday 25th November 2009
Venue: ICSSR Conference Room,
35 Ferozshah Road, New Delhi-110001
29, Ferozeshah Road,
Tel: 23070787, 23381276
o o o
Janhastakshep, Campaign Against Fascist Designs Invites you for a
public meeting on the “Right to Dissent”
Date & Time : November 26 at 5 P.M.
Venue: Gandhi Peace Foundation, Deen Dayal Upadhaya Marg, ITO, New
1. Mr. Surendra Mohan (Former M.P.)
2. Mr. Rajendra Sachar (Former Chief Justice Delhi High Court)
3. Mr. Neelabh Mishra (Journalist)
4. Mr. Prashant Bhushan (Advocate Supreme Court)
5. Mr. Manoj Mitta (Journalist)
6. Mr. Jaspal Sidhu (Journalist)
Prof. N.K. Bhattacharya
o o o
(iii) Jana Natya Manch 1973 — 1989 — 2009
The Safdar Janam Talks on Culture and Politics
This year, to observe 20 years of Safdar's death, as well as 35 years
of our work, Janam is organizing a series of talks, one every month,
each focusing on the complex and critical interconnections between
culture and politics. The talk is followed by a discussion on the
issues thrown up. The eleventh of these is:
"India's Linguistic Diversity: A Political View" a talk by Ayesha Kidwai
1 December 2009, Tuesday
Muktadhara Art Gallery
Banga Sanskriti Bhavan
18-19 Bhai Veer Singh Marg
New Delhi 110001
Between Gol Market and St. Columba's School
AYESHA KIDWAI teaches linguistics at the Jawaharlal Nehru University,
New Delhi. A formal linguist by training, her academic focus is on the
syntax and semantics of India's minority languages.
Jana Natya Manch
ALL ARE WELCOME
Email: jananatyamanch at gmail.com
o o o
(iv) CORPORATE CRIMES, ENVIRONMENT PLUNDER: Peoples’ Struggle
against Vedanta company and its powerful supporters
PUBLIC MEETING AND FILM SCREENING
Thursday, 17 December, 2009 4.30 to 7 PM
· What is it like for those most directly affected by Vedanta
plc and its subsidiaries?
· What is the role of the government, the judiciary, Hindutva
forces International agencies and NGOs?
Samarendra Das activist, film-maker and researcher will discuss
these and related issues at a screening of extracts from his
remarkable film Wira Pdika (Earthworm and Company Man) in which
people from the Adivasi Dongria Kondh and Majhi Kondh communities,
activists, singers and dancers, forest dwellers and fisher people
speak about their lives and their struggles against ‘the company’.
Samarendra has been an activist for the past 16 years with the
Kondh communities, and his research includes extensive studies of
transnational companies, NGOs and the institutional architecture of
the global elite.
His path-breaking book ‘Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and
the Aluminum Cartel’, co-authored with Felix Padel is likely to be
On the 23 September, more than a hundred people lost their lives in
one of the worst accidents in India's recent construction history at
a power plant being commissioned by the Vedanta-controlled Bharat
Aluminium Company (Balco) in Chhattisgarh state. In India, health and
safety rules are routinely flouted, even so, this was one of the
worst accidents in recent history. While a state-level inquiry was
launched, Balco officials fled Chhattisgarh leaving local people
rescuing the survivors. Meanwhile Vedanta officials in London
ascribed it all to ‘bad weather’. In fact, Vedanta and its
subsidiaries are routinely implicated in death and destruction in
other parts of India too, most notably in the state of Orissa state
where their mining activities are causing:
*The drying up of streams and major rivers, which are the lifeline
for tens of thousands of people leading to unprecedented
environmental disasters in drought and famine prone districts
* The pollution of fertile agricultural lands and contamination of
drinking water sources in vast areas
*The destruction of the Niyamgiri hills – known as the most
beautiful mountains in India - which will wipe out the ancient
civilization of the Dongria Kondh adivasi community who regard the
Niyam Dongar mountain and forests of the area as their Gods.
*Mass Unemployment and Destitution as farmers, fishing communities
and forest dwellers are being displaced and abandoned in shanty-towns.
*The destruction of the social structure in the areas where the
company and its subsidiaries are involved leading to a sharp rise in
illegal liquor shops, fraudulent money-lenders, domestic abuse and
You are requested to attend and strengthen peoples’ struggle
against corporate crimes and environment plunder.
Date: 17th December, 2009 Thursday : 4.30 PM to 7 PM
Venue : Plenary Hall, Indian Law Institute,
(Opposite Supreme Court of India)
Bhagwan Dass Road, New Delhi-110001
Uma Chakravarti (Phone: 011-24117828)
N.D.Pancholi (M: 09811099532)
On Behalf of : Champa – the Amiya and BG Rao foundation
South Asia Citizens Wire
Buzz for secularism, on the dangers of fundamentalism(s), on
matters of peace and democratisation in South
Asia. An offshoot of South Asia Citizens Web: www.sacw.net/
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