SACW Jan 25-26, 2011 | Bangladesh Minorities / India: 62nd Republic Day Reflections / Nepal’s Revolutionaries / Private Vices Public Virtues
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Tue Jan 25 21:39:43 EST 2011
South Asia Citizens Wire - Dispatch No. 2704 - January 25-26, 2011
 Bangladesh: Perpetrators of attack on Manipuri family must be punished (editorial, New Age)
 Pakistan: Strategic surrender (Afiya Shehrbano)
(ii) Baiting Veena Malik (Hamna Zubair)
 India: The 50-50 democracy (Ramachandra Guha)
(ii) 62nd Republic Day : Redouble Resolve - Strengthen Secular Democracy (edit, People's Democracy)
 India: Dr Sen's jailing is a stain on democracy (Letter to Editor, The Guardian)
 Women's Studies Conference, The Latest Victim of India’s War on Terror: (reports)
 Nepal’s Restive Revolutionaries (Brendan Brady)
 India: Recent Posts on Communalism Watch
 International: Private Vices Public Virtues (Jasmina Tesanovic)
- Amnesty at 50 - A BBC - 4 Radio documentary
- Upcoming Lecture :The Virtues of Violence and the Arts of Terror by Professor Chetan Bhatt
New Age, 26 January 2011
EDITORIAL | PERPETRATORS OF ATTACK ON MANIPURI FAMILY MUST BE PUNISHED
THE attack on a Manipuri ethnic minority family in Sylhet on Sunday by the district secretary of the Juba League, also the local ward councillor, along with his accomplices allegedly belonging to the local Chhatra League and Juba League, student front and youth front of the ruling Awami League respectively, in a bid to grab the homestead of that family, as mentioned in a report of New Age on Tuesday, tends to highlight not only the attackers predilection for land grabbing but also their chauvinistic attitude towards the ethnic minorities at large. According to the report, the attackers swooped on the family members and relatives who gathered in that house on the occasion of a wedding, and snatched valuables, including gold ornaments bought for the bride, injuring at least five.
Atrocities and excesses by leaders and activists of the ruling party in general and of its student and youth fronts in particular have become a regular phenomenon these days. They have been engaged in crimes like extortion, land grabbing, rent seeking, abduction, etc since the Awami League-Jatiya Party government assumed power in January 2009. Thus, the attack in question with a view to grabbing land may not be anything new. However, what needs to be pointed out that, according to the son of the family quoted in the report, a case regarding the land is pending with the court and, more importantly, in response to an appeal on the family’s behalf, the prime minister ordered the home ministry to take necessary measures to protect the land from grabbers. Yet, the grabbers dared to unleash the attack to grab the land. Needless to say, it clearly indicates the government’s apathy, if not downright antipathy, to the interests of the ethnic communities of the country; and, no denying, such apathy or antipathy, however one puts it, seems to boil down to the nationalistic chauvinism of the majority Bengalis.
It may be pertinent to note that the reality of Bangladesh being a land of diverse communities has hardly been reflected in the policies pursued by the ruling quarters, irrespective of their partisan affiliation and ideological inclination, thus far; whereas, without ensuring a strong bond among its peoples, of all religions and ethnicities, Moreover, the parameters for an inclusive state and pluralism in society, which are key to a democratic polity, have by and large been defined in terms of the interests of the ethnic majority community in Bangladesh—the Bengalis, that is.
Be that as it may, the government needs to take immediate actions against the attackers, along with ensuring necessary security to the family and the piece of land in question. It also needs to realise that it should be more serious and sincere in addressing the woes and miseries of the minority communities in particular.
The News, January 26, 2011
by Afiya Shehrbano
Every time there is a political crisis, civil society activists in Karachi become conflicted over ‘strategy’. Which political force best represents their liberal, progressive cause? The regrouping of progressives, to counter the fresh wave of religious extremist sentiment after Governor Taseer’s murder, raises the same dilemmas once again.
Civil society is split on whether it should partner with the MQM on resisting religious extremism in Karachi, particularly after the Nizam e Adl and now, the Taseer murder. During the lawyers’ movement of 2007, civil society had grouped under a resistance banner and recognising their limited street power, had carried out some protest rallies with the right-wing religious parties. The common dual-point agenda was to restore the CJ and civilian governance. The MQM was not quite so forthcoming an ally then.
However, the dynamics of activism around the lawyers’ movement were very different from the current blasphemy politics. A comparison is completely unhelpful both conceptually and/or to borrow strategic parallels. The aims and politics of the lawyers’ movement were clear; civil society was incidental to the lawyers’ independent movement; and the issue was not related to religion or the nature of the state (directly). This resulted in very different strategic allegiances. It was old-world, pro-democracy struggle for the independence of the judiciary and to remove army from politics. The politics of adjusting the place of religion and state is a completely different and far more complex issue.
There were other conflicts of interests too. Many members of the resistance group initially supported the lawyers’ movement, but abandoned it right after the PPP leadership made a deal with General Musharraf. In fact, many turned vocally anti-lawyers’ movement and disagreed with the restoration of the CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry and supported the PPP appointment of Justice Dogar instead.
Today, some of the same liberal activists who abandoned the people’s movement have rejoined for another democratic cause. While it was their prerogative to cut off their alliance with the people’s movement then, there is a need to remember and reconcile that such decisions by liberals also redefine principles and movements.
Yes, for the ‘higher’ democratic cause, during the lawyers’ movement there was a conscious decision that in Karachi, civil society would temporarily rally with religious parties. However, to suggest that this is comparable to rallying with the MQM in today’s context is inaccurate. There are a few reasons for that; first, the MQM is part of the government – what does it signify for it to conduct oppositional strategies such as street rallies? The concern is that this party takes up issues for its own expediency not on the basis of a consistent, representative ideology.
Second, there is a repeated misconception that it represents a ‘liberal, secular’ politics. How does this compare with the recent MQM’s massive support and rallies for Afia Siddiqi? Whatever political justifications we give it, does this not contradict civil society’s rallying point, which is to resist, not support extremist politics whenever expedient?
Third, theoretically, oppression that is based on tribal and feudal political structures can be challenged, by removal of the material bases of their power and dismantling class hierarchies. What are the means of challenging the abstract but truly ominous power of urban-based parties when it is not based on class oppression but on a horizontal sharing of the benefits of a culture of violence? If leaders and cadre benefit equally from this kind of politics this amounts to class complicity with no desire for liberation. Also, while ‘feudal’ and tribal politics and politicians are criticised (often by name) and challenged, this is impossible in the context of Karachi.
When larger crises of state are in question, such as army rule or removal of CJs or dissolution of parliament, then temporary alliances become easier, since most democratic parties have a stake in that cause.
Other national and provincial parties are equally oppressive and even non-democratic in their constituencies, as well as in terms of internal hierarchies. However, for the purpose of civil society strategy, the only relevant factor is that the hegemony of MQM in Karachi is unrivalled by any other party or group.
In other words, to take out a rally in Raiwind, Mansoora or Dir with religious groups has very different implications to shouldering with them in Karachi. Not to suggest that this is not a precarious, troubling and moral dilemma – just that strategically, the context of resistance politics makes a lot of difference.
An additional dilemma confronting civil society today is that despite the anti-liberal policies and statements of this supposedly liberal, secular government, many in civil society are still reluctant to criticise the government, including at protests and rallies. Is this not another conflict of interest – to self-censor while demanding the right to free debate and differences of opinion?
The broader goals of civil society groups today are vague compared to the lawyers’ movement. In the latter case, the CJ was to be restored and there was a conscious challenge to army rule. What is the goal here? Rule of law, change in procedures for the Blasphemy law, moderation, secularism or de-weaponisation? After one rally, what’s next....continued collaboration towards this undefined vague idea of ‘liberalising’ Karachi? Unless this is a seriously considered project, it only qualifies as a euphemistic call for ethnic cleansing.
The politics of vigilantism is another troubling strategy proposed by liberal groups. To encourage political workers to lay vigil at mosques to monitor sermons is a bizarre suggestion. What about the right-wing’s equal right to conduct vigilantism at public parties, fashion shows and study groups then?
The boundaries of extremist rhetoric, fatwas and incitement have to be dealt with through legal discourse and linked to criminal consequences. This cannot be done by arbitrary reports by political enemies accusing each other of something called extremist speech. What qualifies as ‘extremist’ rhetoric and who defines what may offend the moral sensibilities of liberals? This is the same strategy taken by the right when it objects to liberals’ public expressions as offensive, even irreligious. No vigilantism is acceptable – only regulation and that can only be done by the state.
These are not perfect choices but when strategic allegiances are formed they should at least carry historical clarity and intellectual honesty. To pretend that the MQM is some liberal alternative to some homogenous right-wing is to self-delude. To strategise on the basis of short-term comparative politics is to fall into the trap of seeking legitimacy through street politics.
It’s as futile a strategy as invoking enlightened, moderate interpretations of Islam from Al-Azhar, Saudi Arabia and even Malaysia. On the one hand, liberals object to conservative fatwas by local clergy but on the other, they welcome fatwas that fit their liberal agendas from foreign sources. This is undemocratic. And how does one counter the foreign authority on other non-progressive interpretations regarding women, minorities and other groups?
This is a political and ideological surrender to the opposition. It’s also an admission of defeat that the liberal’s own framework is non-representative and illegitimate. Half the battle is lost by simply taking such strategic decisions.
Perhaps a clarification of terms would help as a starting point. Rather than posing the choices as the right vs liberal/moderate, we need to identify the political divisions in Karachi as communal, as a far more accurate placement. This allows at the very minimum, an exposure of how close these two supposedly ideological poles really are, and how linked their agendas and parochial, material interests.
It may also open up an opportunity to present a meaningful liberal alternative in people’s imagination, one based on liberal politics and ideas, regardless of numerical strength. At the very least, it may prevent the current strategic nightmare that sees us bouncing between two equally dangerous and illiberal political options.
o o o
The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2011
BAITING VEENA MALIK
by Hamna Zubair
If someone wants to know how the Pakistani media sows seeds of extremism in the general public’s minds, they have to go no further than watching Kamran Shahid’s interview with Veena Malik, aired on January 21, 2010.
Shahid’s television show, “Frontline”, was promoted with the tagline: “Did she [Veena Malik] tarnish the respect of her own nation?” This alone is enough to inform the discerning viewer that Malik will be walking into an ambush, not a fairly conducted, unbiased conversation.
The interview was arguably set up to ignite a debate along religious and cultural lines. Malik was made to ‘discuss’ her appearance on “Bigg Boss 4” with Mufti Abdul Qavi, who repeatedly questioned her morals and character. This gentleman’s favoured retort was: “Do you think you will be able to watch “Bigg Boss 4” with your son, or with your father?”
In fact, the interview seemed to be entirely focused on Malik’s attire, her relationship with male contestants on the show and how she insulted Pakistan’s ‘honour’. Conversation between Malik and Qavi quickly devolved into a petty religious debate — with Qavi shooting irrelevant, hypothetical questions at Malik like: “Will God be pleased with your character and your actions?” and Malik replying, “What I do is between me and God.”
So much can be said about this interview: We can talk about how it highlights the abysmal status of women in Pakistan, how it sensationalises a tiny blip on our cultural radar, how it reveals the hypocrisy of the ‘religious right’ and how it relies on dangerous religious rhetoric to boost TV ratings.
The interview is the epitome of unethical and irresponsible journalism and could further divide the nation by spreading hate and intolerance. It was irresponsible because it should have been conducted in an unbiased manner, and it wasn’t. This means Malik and Qavi should not have been asked leading questions. The host should have taken pains to ensure the conversation didn’t stray far from the topic that was ostensibly meant to be discussed. None of this happened. Instead, Kamran Shahid amusingly focused on trivial details. More significantly, the host failed to moderate the discussion, falling completely silent for long stretches as Malik and Qavi battled it out.
This interview is dangerous and will spread intolerance because it couches the entire discussion in religious terms. Malik must be given kudos for stressing that she appeared in “Bigg Boss 4” as an entertainer, not as a religious leader or a youth icon. However, any talk of the entertainment industry in general was completely ignored by the host and Qavi. Instead, the host and the Mufti focused on the ‘cultural and religious’ (which, in Pakistan, are interchangeable concepts) impact of Malik’s appearance on Bigg Boss. This treatment will draw a line right down the middle of society: Those who believe in Islam will be forced to form strong negative opinions about Veena Malik, and entertainers like her, because they will not wish to question a religious scholar. Those who question Qavi’s stance will be labelled ‘liberals’ — and this will be tantamount to them painting a target on their ‘liberal’ backs, as was proven by Salmaan Taseer’s assassination.
In fact, the treatment meted out to Veena Malik is a lesser degree of the unethical reporting that followed Taseer’s assassination. At that time, religious scholars invited to talk shows to discuss the governor’s assassination, seemed to have a singular purpose — to distance themselves from Taseer, and all but condoned the murder. Tolerant, moderate views were noticeably absent during that time, and were absent when Malik was on air, too.
Tomorrow, when fatwas are issued against Malik and crazed killers take it upon themselves to eliminate ‘immorality’ from Pakistan, who will be responsible?
25 January 2011
THE 50-50 DEMOCRACY
by Ramachandra Guha
Some years ago, when the Government of India was asked to make a special presentation at the World Economic Forum at Davos, it showcased the country’s achievements under the title: ‘The World’s Fastest-Growing Democracy’. The words, carefully chosen, were aimed at Western liberals whose attractions
to the world’s fastest-growing economy were tempered by reservations about its political system. This was not an isolated occurrence — for, as manifest most recently in the decision of our Ambassador in Norway to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Indian Establishment is not shy of claiming moral superiority over China on account of our democratic traditions.
This positioning of India as the Asian nice guy can backfire, as when those Western liberals (most famously, President Obama) chastise us for endorsing the military regime in Myanmar. The scolding has been dismissed as hypocritical, on the grounds that the United States has historically been very keen on supporting dictators against democrats in Asia (remember Suharto, Zia, Musharraf), Africa (Mobutu and many others) and Latin America (Pinochet, Somoza, sundry Brazilian generals). But, as we mark our 62nd Republic Day, it is harder to dismiss a criticism made by an increasing number of Indians — that there has been a sharp erosion of democratic values and processes within India itself.
This erosion is evident most strikingly in two spheres —the rule of law and the freedom of the Press. One of India’s most respected lawyers, Shanti Bhushan, claims that of the 16 chief justices of the Supreme Court he has appeared before, at least half were corrupt. Other senior lawyers confirm that the claim is credible. Levels of corruption in the lower courts may be even higher. That some judgements can be ‘fixed’ is widely believed — so much so that a powerful journalist is now known to have advised Niira Radia how to doctor a case in her client’s favour.
Apart from cash, violence and intimidation can also pervert the law or stop it from pursuing the true ends of justice. Even when manifestly guilty of looting the public exchequer, politicians do not spend extended time in prison. This is in part because judges and prosecutors worry about their own safety if the party of the accused were to return to power.
The frailties of the legal system are abundantly on display in India’s conflict zones — such as Kashmir, Manipur, and the Naxalite-affected areas of central and eastern India. Police officers and soldiers who commit human rights violations are rarely charged and never punished. In Dantewada, a district whose tragic recent history I have been closely following, tribals who have had their homes burnt or women raped by a vigilante group promoted by the state government, are simply too terrified to register a complaint. Even if they had the necessary legal support, local police stations will not accept FIR’s, and local courts will not entertain cases. Out of despair, a brave adivasi leader named Kartam Joga moved the Supreme Court. His reward was a spate of spurious cases filed by the state government, who then put him away in jail, in an act of vicious retribution.
The sufferings of the tribals are a product of the barbaric methods adopted both by the Maoists and by State-sponsored vigilantes. The Maoists are accountable to nobody, but it is a sign of the abdication of its Constitutional responsibilities that when the Supreme Court chastised the Chhattisgarh government for its failure to rehabilitate displaced tribals, it set up an enquiry committee composed of the same politicians — Raman Singh, Mahendra Karma, et al — who had energetically promoted the vigilantes. (By the same moral standards, A Raja should be appointed chairman of a committee enquiring into the 2G scandal.)
This callousness of a professedly democratic regime towards the human rights of its citizens provides ammunition to extremists who wish to secede from India or convert it into a one-party State. But our democratic claims are also undermined by increasing curbs on the freedom of the press. Sometimes, it is newspaper owners and managers who are at fault, as when they enter into private treaties with corporate houses to provide favourable coverage, or pass off party propaganda as impartial assessments (what is called ‘paid news’). At other times, it is individual journalists who are guilty, as when they act as spokesmen for particular businessmen or industrial houses.
A third threat to press freedom comes from government interference. Consider the curbs on setting up community radio stations, or the banning of news broadcasts from privately owned radio channels. These are a product of a general fear of free expression, but, speaking in more particular terms, states governments often withdraw departmental advertisements (a key source of revenue) from newspapers which have been critical of its policies. Sometimes, the intimidation is less subtle; as when politicians threaten independent-minded journalists, and even (as has happened in Dantewada) have them beaten up by hired goons.
That India, unlike China, has regular elections, and that Indians, unlike the Chinese, can live anywhere they want, are freedoms to cherish and be grateful for. Among other visible (and admirable) strengths of Indian democracy are the independence of institutions such as the Election Commission and the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, and the sturdily apolitical character of our armed forces. Set against these gains are the corruption and criminality of our political class, the corruption and corrosion of our legal system, and the increasingly self-serving nature of our Press. Rather than brag about how much more democratic we are than China, we should pay attention to how far Indian democracy, c. 2011, falls short of the ideals envisaged and the standards laid out by our own Constitution in 1950.
(Ramachandra Guha is the author of Makers of Modern India)
*The views expressed by the author are personal
o o o
January 23, 2011
62ND REPUBLIC DAY : REDOUBLE RESOLVE - STRENGTHEN SECULAR DEMOCRACY
AS we go to press, communal passions continue to be stoked by the BJP whose youth wing insists on hoisting the Tricolour at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk on Republic Day, January 26. The argument that since Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India, there should be no objections to hoisting the national flag is more than misleading. By this very same logic, every inch of land of our country is an integral part of India. The fact that the BJP chooses to make an issue of hoisting the flag in Srinagar alone, not elsewhere, is, clearly, aimed at gaining political mileage by sharpening communal polarisation.
Some of BJP’s allies in the NDA have publicly asked it to desist from such a move, which instead of strengthening peace that has arrived in the Valley due to the diligent efforts of the people, will hamper it further. However, it is precisely such fomenting of communal unrest that the BJP seeks as the vehicle for its political journey.
Way back in 1992, the BJP’s then newly elected president, Murali Manohar Joshi, embarked on a similar yatra and hoisted the national flag with a handful of swayamsewaks including Narendra Modi and a huge battery of security personnel that was meant to put his stamp on the party by demarcating from the earlier BJP president, L K Advani’s infamous `rath yatra’ to Ayodhya that left behind a trial of communal riots and bloodshed paving the way for the eventual demolition of the Babri Masjid.
In Jammu & Kashmir, the RSS/BJP have continuously fished in troubled waters seeking political advantage by sharpening communal polarisation. The Amarnath yatra movement that it spearheaded in 2008 resulted in widespread dislocation of normal life and strengthened the alienation between the two religious communities and between Jammu and the Srinagar valley. One of the key RSS personnel, who had allegedly played an important role in this movement, Indresh Kumar, is now in the spotlight of CBI investigations into the Hindutva terror network. He has been named in a confession said to have been made before a Magistrate by Aseemanand, a key accused jailed for the 2007 Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast that killed nine people. The RSS/BJP, of course, predictably decried this confession as having been obtained under coercion.
This confession has been reported widely in the media laying bare an explosive story about the involvement of some Hindutva leaders with RSS links, including Aseemanand in planning and executing a series of terror attacks. These attacks include the Hyderabad terrorist blasts of May 18, 2007, the terrorist attack at the Dargah in Ajmer on November 11, 2007, terror attacks in Malegaon, first at Idgah in September 8, 2006 and again on September 29, 2008 and the blasts in the bogeys of the Samjhauta Express on February 18, 2007.
Through these columns in the past, we had repeatedly exposed the mechanics of the Hindutva terror network. While doing so, we had stated that terrorism in India is not religion-specific and all types of terror are unacceptable and the country must unitedly display a zero tolerance for such terrorism.
Many a Muslim youth who are routinely rounded up after such terror attacks continue to languish in jail even after the exposure of this Hindutva terror network and its role in these four acts of terrorism. The pending judicial proceedings against them needs to be speeded up and they be released in accordance with the principles of law and justice. The Supreme Court recently hearing petitions seeking a judicial enquiry into an alleged encounter killing of a Maoist had observed, “Our Republic cannot bare the stain to kill its own children”. The apex court, being the custodian of our secular democratic constitution, must surely mean all our children irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. In this very spirit, all those detained in custody on suspicion of involvement in these terror attacks must be provided justice urgently.
There can be no compromise on upholding and strengthening the secular democratic character of our Republic. Let us declare to redouble this resolve on this 62nd Republic Day.
(January 19, 2010)
The Guardian, 26 January 2011
DR SEN'S JAILING IS A STAIN ON DEMOCRACY
As India celebrates Republic Day today, we draw attention to our concerns about the increasingly common cases of human rights violation and miscarriage of justice in the world's largest democracy. The case of Dr Binayak Sen, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on 24 December 2010 on a charge of "sedition", is particularly appalling. An acclaimed public health professional, Dr Sen has worked tirelessly for decades on issues of basic health and social justice in Chhattisgarh, one of the poorest states in India. He is also a prominent human rights defender and has been a fearless critic of the state government's policy of arming a vigilante militia, which has committed violent crimes against civilians. In 2007 the Chhattisgarh state government arrested him under India's draconian "anti-terror" legislation and its own Special Public Security Act. He was only granted bail after two years in jail and by the supreme court of India.
He has now been found guilty on the basis of highly suspect and often contradictory evidence, Among those who have condemned this judgment, which contravenes all international standards of fair trial, are human rights groups in India, Amnesty International and a number of British MPs.
We urge readers to join us in putting pressure on the Indian government to immediately release Dr Sen and withdraw all charges. We also request the British government to ask the Indian prime minister to intervene urgently in this case. On Republic Day, we ask Indian and world leaders: what kind of democracy incarcerates and abuses those like Dr Sen who work fearlessly for progressive change?
Priyamvada Gopal Cambridge, Amrit Wilson London, Jonathan Parry London, Darlena David London, Easterine Mills-Clarke London, Margaret Dickinson London, Agrotosh Mookerjee Norwich, Aby Jacob Southampton, Joel Almeida London, Roger Jeffery Edinburgh, Radha D'souza London, Jaykishan Godsora Birmingham, Nandini Nayak London, Mohita Bhatia Cambridge, Shalini Sharma London, Shailaja Fennel Cambridge, Perveez Mody Cambridge, Anuj Kapilashrami Edinburgh, Usha Menon London, Vaskar Saha Manchester, Joshua Chandran Bristol, Anke Holst London, Brendan Donegan London, Manan Ganguli Cambridge, Kumar Sarkar London, Aunkar Sangha Birmingham, Subir Sinha London, Abraham George Norwich, Maya Unnithan Brighton, Saleh Mamon London, Dwijen Rangnekar Warwick, Raghu Jayantiya London, Tongogara Tewodros London, Sarbjit Johal London
sacw.net - 25 January 2011
WOMEN'S STUDIES CONFERENCE, THE LATEST VICTIM OF INDIA’S WAR ON TERROR
ANTI TERROR POLICE FILE CHARGES AGAINST ILLINA SEN THE CONFERENCE HOST
The 13th IAWS National Conference on Women’s Studies underway in Wardha, Maharashtra has come under attack from over zealous anti terror security police in India. Professor Illina Sen, who is the conference convener and also head of the Department of the Women’s Studies at the Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University (MGAHV), Wardha has seen a police case registered against her concerning bureaucratic rules and procedures about police reporting of foreigners participation in Conferences in India. The foreigners participating at the conference have valid tourist visas. The Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) have slapped charges of violations of Foreigners Act, 1946 and have arrested the owners, managers of two hotels where foreign participants to the conference were staying. The events in Wardha do not protend a healthy future for participation by foreigners attending conferences in India.
Space for academic and cultural freedoms seem to be definitely shrinking in India. Sometimes its the Hindutva thugs or their mirror opposite from the Islamists circuit who strike fear and intimidate by issuing fatwas and sometimes the official powers that be find ways to curb and intimidate. Intimidation of conference organisers on grounds of National security is utterly shocking. There is an urgent need to register widespread protest against the heavy handed ways of the security agencies. Posted below are news reports giving details so far reported in the media. People should write letters of solidarity to Indian Association of Women’s Studies at: iaws.secretariat[at]gmail.com
= = =
26 January 2011
Foreigners Act wrongly invoked against Ilina Sen?
by S. Arun Mohan and Siddharth Varadarajan
The Indian Association for Women's Studies (IAWS) has strongly contested the Maharashtra police decision to file an FIR against Ilina Sen, wife of Binayak Sen, for her alleged failure to inform the police about the participation of foreign delegates at an academic conference organised by the IAWS and the Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Vishwavidyalaya (MGAV) in Wardha last week.
Prof. Ilina Sen, who is an Executive Committee member of the IAWS and head of the MGAV's Women's Studies Department, was booked under Sections 7 and 14 of the Foreigners Act on Monday. The police also arrested the owner of a local hotel where some foreigners were staying on account of the management's failure to inform them of their arrival.
The Foreigners Act requires hotel keepers and other persons who own, occupy or control the premises where foreigners are accommodated to submit such information to the authorities in a prescribed format known as 'Form C'. It is unclear how Prof. Sen, who is a coordinator of the IAWS, has been booked under the Act given that the relevant provisions apply only to persons who furnish lodging to foreigners for payment.
Umesh Chandra Sarangi, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), told The Hindu that the conference organisers had not informed the police about their stay. “These people came and stayed in a guest house which was booked. They were organising a conference. There is a rule that whenever a conference is organised, the police should be informed about it. The Director-General of Police is looking into the case,” he said.
In fact, the Foreigners Act itself places no such obligation on Indians who invite foreigners for conferences or social events. The four Pakistani and Bangladeshi participants named in the FIR were residing on the university campus. The IAWS sources told The Hindu that three of these women scholars were in fact staying in the Vice-Chancellor's residence as personal guests while the fourth was put up at the university guesthouse. Ironically, full political and security clearance from the Ministries of Home Affairs and the External Affairs had been obtained in advance for the participation of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan scholars as government rules currently prescribe in order for visas to be granted.
The FIR filed by the ATS Nagpur Unit notes that Form ‘C' as prescribed under the Foreigners Act has not been filed by the University. However, Form C pertains only to ‘Hotel Arrival Information' and does not contemplate the present situation in any manner. The distinction is relevant as Section 7 of the Act, under which Prof. Ilina Sen has been booked, will be applicable only to instances where the accommodation is paid for by foreigners. In fact, the Home Ministry in 2001 scrapped a controversial 1971 order that required persons to report the presence of foreigners in their households.
Even if one were to hold the University responsible for failing to provide the required information, the responsibility for filing a C form belongs only to those running a hotel, inn or hostel and not to the organisers of an event in which foreigners participate.
On the concluding day of the Conference, the police entered the Yatri Niwas premises in Wardha, where a large number of women participants, mostly students and teachers, were staying to attend the event.
The organisers have condemned the actions of the police and expressed their anguish over unwarranted interference from the authorities.
Mr. Sarangi denied that the police had taken action against the organisers because Prof. Sen was Dr. Binayak Sen's wife.
(With inputs from Rahi Gaikwad in Mumbai)
o o o
ATS slaps case against Sen’s wife for foreigners’ presence at meet
by Vivek Deshpande
Posted: Tue Jan 25 2011, 00:04 hrs Nagpur:
The Nagpur Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Monday registered a case against Ilina Sen, wife of Binayak Sen, for not informing the local police about foreigners participating in a women’s convention convened by her at Wardha’s Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University, where she is a teacher.
A few foreigners participating in the global convention had lodged themselves in a local hotel. The ATS had, on Sunday, arrested the owner, manager and an employee of Hotel Harisons for not informing the police about their arrival.
On Monday, they also arrested manager of Sant Kanwarram dormitory, where a few other foreigners had lodged themselves, for a similar offence.
A senior ATS officer said, “The organisers of any such meets or conclaves have to inform the police about the foreigners participating in the meeting or the convention under Section 7 of the Foreigners Act. Not doing so attracts provision of Section 14, under which we have registered the offence. Ilina Sen was convenor of the meet.”
The foreigners who had lodged themselves at these places, however, had given their visa and passport to the hotel management. “So, the fault lies with the management,” the officer said.
He, however, said, “Some foreigners were part of the protests on the premises of the Hindi University where participants led by Sen raised slogans demanding scrapping of some Acts like Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and for release of Binayak Sen and the recently arrested Dalit activist Sudhir Dhawle. All this has been video recorded. Foreigners can’t do this, that too on the premises of Indian government’s institution.”
Asked if action is also contemplated against the foreigners, the officer said, “The local police should be doing it.”
Asked how then foreign observers could be allowed to witness Binayak Sen’s trial, the officer said, “It’s got official sanction of the government and they are not here to raise slogans or protest.”
Inspector General (Nagpur range) Prabhat Ranjan said, “Wardha police have arrested some hotel personnel, but we will have to check whether foreigners participated in protests and if yes, how we can move against them if at all we can.”
FULL TEXT AT:
Newsweek, January 13, 2011
NEPAL’S RESTIVE REVOLUTIONARIES
Unease about a new Maoist revolt flares up as U.N. peace monitors leave.
by Brendan Brady
In the midday heat, Jeevan Budha sits on a rickety wooden armchair stranded in the middle of an open, bone-dry field. He’s speaking with a young Nepalese female graduate student about why his side—the country’s Maoists, formerly a guerrilla group and now a political party—will correct the failure of previous regimes to address women’s rights in Nepal. The country’s Maoists, who fought a bitter insurgency from 1996 to 2006 and now are locked in a political stalemate with their adversaries, have presented themselves as being on the righteous side of history. “Weapons are not powerful—powerful are those who have strong ideas and humanity,” says Budha (whose Yoda-like phrasing could simply be a matter of idiosyncratic translation). But, ultimately, it is as much their weapons as their populist ideology that makes the Maoists potent.
Budha oversees the Seventh Division Cantonment, a barracks of disarmed Maoist fighters in Kailali District, a rugged, isolated southwest corner of this poor South Asian country. In 1996 the Maoists launched a war to replace the parliamentary monarchy with a “people’s new democratic republic,” promising to end centuries of crippling social and economic inequality under royal rule. A decade later—after at least 13,000 people were killed, the monarchy was abolished, and the insurgents’ efficacy in recruiting fighters and political adherents had far surpassed the expectations of the state Army and political establishment—both sides signed a peace treaty to be temporarily monitored by the United Nations. It stipulated the creation of a new constitution and truth and reconciliation committees, as well as the integration of both armies into one national defense force. The rub: the Maoists’ estimated 19,000 combatants would have to be confined to barracks, where they’d be disarmed (though it’s not clear their weapons are entirely inaccessible) and temporarily monitored by U.N. officials.
After several extensions, the U.N. Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) charged with overseeing the country’s postwar transition says it’s packing up for good. And its scheduled departure on Jan. 15 has cast further doubt over the fate of Maoist combatants, whose confinement had been one of the few stabilizing developments in an otherwise fractious, unfulfilled peace process. Nepal has been functioning with only a caretaker government for more than six months following a no-confidence motion, and leaders appear more at odds than ever. Sixteen attempts to vote in a new prime minister have failed. Work on drafting a new constitution designed to address inequality has stagnated. Some analysts warn that the peace process could soon tailspin. “There has been so little trust and agreement between the parties, and the situation is getting worse,” says Damakant Jayshi, a local political columnist.
The mission’s outgoing chief, Karin Landgren, told reporters Monday that the U.N. was “confident the parties will come to some agreement” before Jan. 15 on a new system for monitoring cadres in the cantonments. Her grim assessment earlier this month to the U.N. Security Council was likely more candid: she described the peace process as “largely deadlocked” and referred to the specter of a renewed Maoist revolt or a state Army-backed coup.
A recent poll on public attitudes by the U.S.-based Carter Center’s office in Katmandu echoed her sentiment. The study, which polled more than 3,000 Nepalese, described the public as “disillusioned” and “pessimistic” that a new constitution would be completed by the May deadline, which is already a one-year postponement from the original date. For its part, the royal family, which not long ago was a revered authority in many quarters of the country despite its often callous rule, continues its downward spiral: would-be crown prince Paras Shah (son of deposed King Gyanendra Shah) was temporarily detained last month after he fired a handgun into the air at a hotel dinner following an argument.
Though the Maoists have officially been transformed from a guerrilla group into the Unified Communist Party of Nepal and earned the most seats (though not a ruling majority) in the 2008 election, many politicians and members of the public still view them as a radical force that, if in power, would push for divisive reform measures, says Manjushree Thapa, a Nepalese author who has written extensively about her country’s political history. The other parties, including the main opposition bloc, the Nepalese Congress, have failed to advance a substantive platform to counter the Maoists, she adds.
If the Maoists’ revolutionary tenor unsettles some, it also presents the former guerrillas with a potent bargaining chip, says Kunda Dixit, a columnist and co-owner of the country’s largest publishing house. “It lets them say, ‘If you don’t agree with us, we’ll go back to war,’ ” he says. (These fears are exacerbated by ongoing reports of political-related violence by the Maoists and groups affiliated with them.) Furthermore, says Dixit, even moderate Maoists who are at odds with hardline elements within the party may want to cultivate an image of their side as loose cannons to force compromises from their adversaries. But Kunda holds onto some cautious optimism. “It’s easy to underestimate how much has been accomplished: monarchy to republic in four years,” he says.
This bigger picture is easily obscured in the current climate of uncertainty. In the meantime, finding clarification from leaders about the country’s future may be difficult. Maoist spokesman Dina Nath Sharma, who dismisses claims that his party is saber rattling, says the Maoists will “try to settle by consensus” and engage only in “peaceful agitation.” He says this in the party’s headquarters in Katmandu, where a publication with glowing images of Mao and Stalin on its cover sits on his coffee table. The Maoists, he insists, have no intention of revoking multiparty democracy, as some critics suggest. So what path forward does he offer? “Not a Chinese model, not a Russian [Soviet] model. It’s our Nepalese model: it’s communism with multiparty competition.”
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PRIVATE VICES PUBLIC VIRTUES
20 Jan 2011
by Jasmina Tesanovic
Many years ago, I took part in a movie directed by Miclos Jancso, called “Private Vices, Public Virtues.” It was a dissolute story of sex drugs and rock-n-roll, anachronistically set in the Austro-Hungarian empire.
In the film, the rebellious heir to the crown of Franz Joseph gets murdered by his own father, the Emperor, for a criminal public display of orgiastic excesses, which involve the nobles of the court, plus the many less noble participants of the collapsing empire.
I remember vividly when a group of girls arrived from Rome to participate in the film. “Il gruppo Max,” they were called, and they brought their film assignment with them: “pronte a tutto,” ready for anything. Meaning ready to do anything requested by the film production, ready to dance, to sing, to strip, to have sex on camera. Ilona Staller, who later became the famous Italian parliamentarian Cicciolina, was one of that group.
And they perfectly performed that task: it was in the seventies, make love not war, hippies, free love, with men and women, among men and women, kings and beggars, friends and foes…
The movie was a commercial flop, and an artistic failure.
However, from today’s perspective, that film was clearly a futuristic experiment. These days, all the Italian dailies have headlines which are paraphrases from that Movie: “ragazze pronte a tutto,” “vizi privati pubbliche virtu,” “il re perverso e triste,” papi of the nation.…
Of course they refer to the Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi, and his endless squalid story with underage girls, professional paid escorts, TV stars who become deputies and government officials, all thanks to his protection.
“Rubygate” they call it in the Italian press: it’s named after his biggest and weirdest sex-scandal yet, with an illegal, thieving, juvenile delinquent belly dancer from Morocco.
The most recent public confession of the girl, who is an Italian media star these days, is that she was raped at nine by her Muslim uncles, then almost killed at 12 by her father, when she declared her intention to become a Christian. This appalling story, told in tears, won her an eager audience of millions, and suddenly her affair with the 75 year old premiere seems a true happy-end to her tragic destiny, if not, indeed, true love.
While he is in power, I will eat, declared the girl, after Silvio politically survived by a single vote in the parliament. In the meantime, a very restrictive and harsh law on university and students has been passed in Italy, notwithstanding huge students protests. Factories are closing. Workers are forced to work for minimal wages, or in the black market. Fake bankruptcies are also commonly reported these days, because business owners can earn more profit using state support.
Every day, a new economic model of survival, in an economic crisis where rich become fewer and richer, and poor poorer and vaster in numbers.
In the meantime, the nation’s premiere, pressured by the unrestrainable torrent of confessions and leaks from entire squads of party girls, declares candidly that he has found a steady relationship. The search for la dama Bianca of his heart instantly takes the front pages of Italian press.
What makes all this paparazzi nonsense so credible and plausible is the amazing resemblance of these girls, Silvio’s sweethearts, to his wife, who recently divorced him. She said that she couldn’t endure his dalliances with underage woman, and sure enough, all these starlets seem to be under thirty, if not, indeed, under the age of legal consent.
Somehow, the Italian audience and people manage to behave as if nothing unbearably strange is going on. For centuries, tales of sex and power, perversion and violence have lingered over Italian history: from Caligula to Mussolini, from Caesar to the pedophile scandals in the Catholic church.
However, the new development is that this sinister behavior has become a public fact, and yet, that makes no public difference. On the contrary, those who once secretly envied and admired the immoral dissolution of the premiere of Italy nowadays are loud and public in their firm support of him. Silvio, as the role model, has become the mainstream,not the excess.
Perverse curiosity and passive voyeurism accompanies the daily leaks from the court, the wiretaps, the police investigations. There is fatalist expectation of the worst, which is yet to come. A international Twitter stream of those two vulgar simplistic words, “bunga bunga,” makes Italian public life a reality show.
Berlusconi owns almost all the media in Italy, and he has become the star in every one of his own properties. His personal scandals overshadow the mafia killings, the economic crisis, the earthquakes and the floods. Italy, a G7/G20 major world power, is losing its credibility, honor and dignity day by day, sometimes hour by hour.
The president and the Vatican are asking for caution and clarity. As my American friend noticed: the frightening thing is not the slipping façade of Italy, but the genuine face behind that mask. The time of “ragazze pronte a tutto,” of court politics as pornography, is finally here.
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AMNESTY AT 50 - A BBC - 4 RADIO DOCUMENTARY
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Department of Sociology / Centre for the Study of Human Rights
THE VIRTUES OF VIOLENCE AND THE ARTS OF TERROR
By Professor Chetan Bhatt
23 March 2011, 6.30pm, Sheikh Zayed Lecture Theatre, New Academic Building, London School of Economics and Political Science
The human bomber has come to symbolize a new kind of political violence, one that is aimed at civilians, is intended to cause fear and terror and is claimed to be linked to cosmic religion. This lecture explores what the ideologies and activities of Al Qaeda and related transnational militia might tell us about new forms of political violence in many contemporary societies. Using examples from South Asia, the Middle East, the UK and the USA, the lecture elaborates the aesthetic and cultural universe created by these armed groups and shows how aesthetic elements, as well as ideology, have appeal for some young people. Central to the political ideologies of Al Qaeda and its affiliates are new ideas about how virtue, law and sovereignty should inform politics, including violent political activity. The lecture also considers how novel visions about nature and technology (including, for example, the design of instruments of violence) have been mobilized. The links made by transnational militia between virtue and violence lead to a mixing up of the worlds of the living with the worlds of the dead. This area is explored and its challenging implications for international human rights are drawn out.
Chetan Bhatt is Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the LSE. He was previously Professor in the Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths and has taught at the universities of Essex and Southampton.
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