SACW - 23 Feb 2012 | Afghan Taliban / Pakistan: More Nukes / Bangladesh: Islamists / Sri Lanka: citizens statement / India: Gujarat needs justice / Iranian feminists on International Solidarity
aiindex at gmail.com
Wed Feb 22 22:08:03 EST 2012
South Asia Citizens Wire - 19 January - 23 February 2012 - No. 2731
[Special edition in solidarity with secular activists still campaigning for justice and reparations after Gujarat Massacres of 2002.]
1. Afghanistan: West's Romancing of the Taliban (Praveen Swami)
2. Pakistan: Bring Army to Book (Najam Sethi)
3. Pakistan: Bullying tactics of Jihadis (Edit. Daily Times)
4. Pakistan: Minorities under attack
5. India - Pakistan: PPC welcomes Pakistan-India trade accords after commerce ministers’ talks
6. Bangladesh: Coup Bid Reveals Extremism Within Army (Naimul Haq)
7. Sri Lanka: Practical steps to meaningful reconciliation - Joint statement by concerned citizens
8. India’s secular state is in a state of slow-motion collapse (Praveen Swami)
9. Pakistan’s rush for more bombs — why? (Pervez Hoodbhoy)
10. India: Hindu Nationalists expanding project to poison school curriculum
11. India: The Path to a Conflict Free Chhattisgarh (Nandini Sundar)
11. Workers, Unions and the Left: Responding to the Global Crisis (Rohini Hensman)
12. India: Kandhamal- The Law must change its course (Vrinda Grover)
13. India: Treat television as a public utility and guarantee citizens access (Arvind Rajagopal)
14. Gujarat authorities must face justice over mass killing (Savitri Hensman)
15. India - Madhya Pradesh.: Path Way to Hindu Rashtra (Ram Puniyani)
16. India: Lower Subansiri and the Politics of Expertise (Dr. Sanjib Baruah)
17. India: Bill on Sexual Harassment: Against Women's Rights (Geetha K K)
18. India: selected content from Communalism Watch
- Truth about Godhra SIT report: Why are they protecting Modi?
- Karnataka: Schools and colleges to shut in protest against 'communalised textbooks'; letter from PUCL
- Cow dung and Bombs: Haryana bombings reveals role of cow protection outfit [a covert hindutva operation?]
- Is Karnataka the new Gujarat, the second lab of Hindutva fundamentalists
19. India: Press Release - Externment Notice to Anti Nuclear Activist
20. Solidarity and Its Discontents (Raha Iranian Feminist Collective)
21. Announcements: Upcoming events
(1) ‘Insaf Ki Dagar Par’ - List of the programs on 10th year of Gujarat carnage (26 February to 7 March 2012)
- Public Events: Commemorating 10 Years of Resistance in Gujarat DASTAK (24-26 Feb) + National Convention in Delhi (4 March 2012)
(2) ‘Ten years of the Gujarat Genocide’ a Commemoration Meeting in Mumbai: ‘Justice for Victims of 2002 Genocide’ (27 Feb 2012, Bombay)
(3) Invitation: Dialogues of Survivors in Delhi and Ahmedabad (5th and 6th March)
(4) Call For Papers On ‘Interrogating Indian Capitalism’
(5) "Fiction Writing as History: Narrating the Indian Maoist Revolt of the 1960s and 70s in Literary Representation"
Talk by Dilip SIMEON (2 March 2012, Paris)
1. AFGHANISTAN: WEST'S ROMANCING OF THE TALIBAN
by Praveen Swami
The Hindu, January 18, 2012
An Afghan soldier stands guard near arrested Taliban suspects and confiscated arms and ammunition at a police compound in Herat, west of Kabul. File photo
AP An Afghan soldier stands guard near arrested Taliban suspects and confiscated arms and ammunition at a police compound in Herat, west of Kabul. File photo
People of Afghanistan will pay the price for the West's looming deal with the Islamic Emirate it destroyed after 9/11.
In the spring of 1839, the extraordinary Indian adventurer and spy, Mohan Lal Kashmiri, engineered one of the greatest intelligence coups of the 19th century: using nothing more lethal than cash and intrigue, he brought about the fall of Kandahar and secured the Afghan throne for Imperial Britain's chosen client, Shah Shuja-ul-Mulk.
Less than three years later, in the bitter winter of 1842, Kashmiri found himself working undercover in insurgent-held Kabul, seeking to ransom the remnants of his masters' once-magnificent army — children, women and men at threat of being sold as slaves in Central Asia.
For decades after, imperial historians agonised over the Afghan debacle of 1842, using tropes that still colour discourse on the country: religious fanaticism; treachery of native rulers; savagery of the tribal culture; primitiveness of its civilisation.
In a June 1842 paper, authored for the attention of the Governor-General in New Delhi, Kashmiri offered a simpler explanation. Britain's easy victory in Kandahar and Kabul, he recorded, persuaded commanders that “there was no necessity for wearing longer the airy garb of political civilities and promises.” He concluded: “there are, in fact, such numerous instances of violating our commitments and deceiving the people in our political proceedings, within what I am acquainted with, that it would be hard to assemble them in one place.”
Eleven years ago, the United States went to war in Afghanistan, promising to free its people from a despotic Islamist regime. President George Bush never delivered on his promises of reconstruction. Afghanistan received a fraction of the aid handed out to less-troubled Kosovo and Bosnia, a 2003 RAND corporation study demonstrated, let alone post-Second World War Japan or West Germany. Neoconservatives hostile to big government dominated the development agenda; the war in Iraq sucked away desperately-needed troops.
Now, as first revealed by The Hindu last year, even the political promise is vanishing: the U.S. is spearheading an effort to make peace with the Islamists it promised to free Afghanistan from.
Figures like the northern warlord Rashid Dostum, former Afghan intelligence chief Amarullah Saleh and former vice-president Zia Massoud, have been lobbying against the looming deal with the Taliban — but the tide of western opinion seems against them.
In capitals across Europe and in the U.S., leaders have been persuaded that an end to the war in Afghanistan must mean reconciliation with the Taliban — cast by a growing phalanx of apologists as representatives of a culturally legitimate religious-nationalist tradition.
The part of the story that is strangely absent from history-telling today is this: until the events of 9/11, the U.S. was engaged in precisely the same process of reconciliation that is being marketed today.
Muhammad Najibullah Ahmadzai's last minutes were the first of Afghanistan's Islamic Emirate, the Taliban's short-lived state. Early on September 27, 1996, Afghanistan's former President was dragged out of the United Nations compound where he had taken sanctuary. He was beaten, then castrated; his bloodied body was dragged behind a truck before being hung on a traffic light for public display.
The President's last visitors included Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Panjshir-region warlord who would himself be assassinated on the eve of 9/11. Massoud, for decades a bitter adversary of Najibullah, offered to help him escape, an offer that demonstrated courage and decency.
Glyn Davies, the U.S. State Department's spokesperson, demonstrated neither when he was asked about Najbullah's murder a few hours later. The barbaric killing, he said, was merely “regrettable.” Mr. Davies proceed to explain that he found “nothing objectionable” in the laws of the new Islamic Emirate; these, he suggested, were “anti-modern”, not “anti-western” and, therefore, presumably legitimate. He hoped the Taliban would “form a representative interim government that can begin the process of reconciliation nationwide.”
From 1994, the administration of President Bill Clinton had sought just this outcome. The story had something to do with oil. The scholar and journalist, Ahmad Rashid, has shown the U.S. threw its weight behind oil giant Unocal's efforts to build an ambitious pipeline linking Central Asia's vast energy fields with the Indian Ocean. Mullah Muhammad Ghaus, the Islamic Emirate's foreign minister, led an expenses-paid delegation to Unocal's headquarters in Sugarland, Texas, at the end of 1997. The clerics, housed at a five-star hotel, were taken to see the NASA museum, several supermarkets and, somewhat peculiarly, the local zoo.
In April 1996, Robin Raphel — then Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, and now President Barack Obama's ambassador for non-military aid to Pakistan, visited Kabul to lobby for the project. Later that year, she was again in Kabul, this time calling on the international community to “engage the Taliban.”
Ishtiaq Ahmad, Pakistani commentator and scholar, has pointed out that oil wasn't the only driver of these sentiments. It suited the U.S., he argued in a perceptive 2002 essay, to back the “emergence of an inherently anti-Iran Sunni force in Afghanistan”.
The U.S. was well aware that the Taliban's dramatic rise had something to do with forces other than its purported popularity among Afghans: “my boys and I are riding into Mazhar-i-Sharif,” Rafiq Tarar, the head of the Pakistani intelligence's Afghan operations, was recorded saying in an intercepted 1998 conversation.
It was also evident that the regime the U.S. was endorsing was exceptionally savage. In a 1998 report, Physicians for Human Rights documented the Islamic Emirate's war against Afghanistan's women: the closing down of schools, the denial of medical care facilities, public floggings and institutionalised child-rape. It noted that men faced “extortion, arrest, gang rape, and abuse in detention because of their ethnicity or presumed political views.”
From at least January 1998, evidence also emerged of systematic war crimes. Larry Goodson, in his 2002 scholarly work, Afghanistan's Endless War, documented the use of scorched-earth tactics, the denial of United Nations food-aid to ethnic minorities, and the demolition of their homes. Ms Raphael had these words for the critics: “The Taliban do not seek to export Islam, only to liberate Afghanistan”.
In 1996, a State department report described Osama bin Laden as one of the “most significant sponsors of terrorism today.” Even though the Islamic Emirate sheltered bin Laden, it was never declared a state sponsor of terrorism.
“Madeline Albright, [her] undersecretary Tom Pickering and regional specialists in state's South Asia bureau,” records Steve Coll in his magisterial work Ghost Wars, “all recommended that the administration continue its policy of diplomatic engagement with the Taliban. They would use pressure and promises of future aid to persuade [Taliban chief Mullah Muhammad] Omar to break with bin Laden.”
Islamic Emirate officials thus met with State Department representatives as late as March and July 2001. From the memoirs of Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Islamic Emirate's envoy to Islamabad, we know that they also passed on information that bin Laden was planning an attack on the U.S. — to no effect.
“The truth”, Ms Albright would later argue, “was that those [attacks before 9/11] were happening overseas and while there were Americans who died, there were not thousands and it did not happen on U.S. soil”. It isn't: Libya, Iraq, South Yemen, and Syria, all secular states, hadn't killed “thousands” or “on U.S. soil” in 1979, when the State Department first began designating sponsors of terrorism. There was something about the Islamic Emirate that was different.
Deeper than oil rigs
For a sensible understanding of the intellectual underpinnings of western romancing of the Taliban, therefore, one must excavate deeper than oil rigs: the West's relationship with Islamism has to do with ideas about the world, not just cash. In search of reliable collaborators across the Middle East, colonial states threw their weight behind reactionary tendencies in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Islam was used to legitimise this project.
Led by the enigmatic scholar, Gerhard von Mende, Nazi Germany's Ostminsterium recruited Muslims from Central Asia to aid its fight against the Soviet Union. Ian Johnson's remarkable history, A Mosque in Munich, shows the Central Intelligence Agency recruited many of these ex-Nazis.
The West's Afghanistan policy marks a return to these geostrategic roots —this time founded on the hope that religious-authoritarian regimes will provide a volatile region stability. Its growing engagement with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, its tactical embrace of jihadists in Libya and Syria, its use of the right-wing cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, as a mediator with the Taliban form other parts of this mosaic.
Afghanistan's political parties and political representatives aren't the ones, notably, who will be doing the deal. The Taliban isn't being asked to agree to terms acceptable to other Afghans. Afghanistan's women's organisations or ethnic minorities aren't at the table in Doha.
Last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sought to reassure secular Afghans, promising that her country “intends to stay the course with our friends.” “We will not leave you on your own”, said Germany's Foreign Minister, Guido Westwelle, echoing her words.
Mohan Lal Kashmiri might have had some thoughts on these promises. Those they are directed at in Afghanistan almost certainly do.
2. PAKISTAN: BRING ARMY TO BOOK
by Najam Sethi
Mail Today, 3 February 2012
THE QUESTION of the jurisdiction of civilian courts over military matters is now firmly posed in the public imagination. In the last few years, hundreds of Baloch nationalists and alleged secessionists have “ disappeared” into the black hole of the military’s various intelligence outfits.
Attempts by the Supreme Court to extract them from the clutches of the agencies have met with only limited success. But the recent custodial deaths of four alleged terrorists facing court martial for attacks on the army has made front page news and compelled the SC and Peshawar High Court to take notice.
Part of the problem is related to the law of civilian jurisdiction and part of it has to do with the long- standing and unaccountable power of the military. But the major political parties are now contesting the military’s political outreach. So it is time to also argue for a relevant change in the law in order to facilitate the application of fundamental rights.
The laws in question are the various Army, Air Force and Navy Acts of 1952 etc., and articles 199 ( 3) and 184 ( 3) of the constitution.
Article 199( 3) says: “ An order shall not be made [ by the High Court] under clause ( 1) on application made by or in relation to a person who is a member of the Armed Forces of Pakistan, or who is for the time being subject to any law relating to any of those Forces , in respect of his terms and conditions of service, in respect of any matter arising out of his service, or in respect of any action taken in relation to him as a member of the Armed Forces of Pakistan or as a person subject to such law.” Article 184( 3) says: “ Without prejudice to the provisions of Article 199, the Supreme Court shall, if it considers that a question of public importance with reference to the enforcement of any of the Fundamental Rights conferred by Chapter I of Part II is involved have the power to make an order of the nature mentioned in the said Article.” A combined reading of such Acts and Constitutional provisions has served to restrict the jurisdiction of the high courts to matters pertaining to the application of sections of the militaryrelated Acts, including denial of Habeus Corpus, to civilians even in peace time and in “ non- disturbed” or special areas. Consequently, proceedings of courtsmartial and appeals cannot be challenged in the high courts of Pakistan. Judges Advocate- General of the military are always soldiers. And the SC’s jurisdiction under 184( 3) is limited to matters that are both of “ public importance” and also related to fundamental rights.
The various military Acts are inherited from the colonial era.
The irony is that in the UK and Europe where such laws have since been amended to enable civilian jurisdiction over military matters, the opposite has been happening in Pakistan during various military regimes. For example, there are no standing military courts in countries like Denmark, Germany, Austria, Holland etc.
IN BRAZIL and Spain etc. the military courts cannot intervene in political matters.
In the UK, military Appeal Tribunals are headed by civilian Judges- Advocate with experience in practicing law and further appeals lie with the High Court of England or the Supreme Court of the UK. Even in India, civilians subject to military law may appeal in the high courts of the states. But not in Pakistan where the high courts have no jurisdiction to accept petitions against military court judgments even in the case of civilians during peacetime.
Indeed, General Pervez Musharraf went an extra mile to beef up the Army Act in November 2007 by inserting various clauses in section 2( 1)( d), including some related to the “ security of Pakistan” and “ ideology of Pakistan”, etc., whereby the military was empowered to detain and summarily convict any civilian on any pretext even in non- martial law times. Fortunately, after the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, and fellow judges were restored in March 2009, the SC struck down all Musharrafrelated legislation after November 3, 2007, including draconian amendments in the Army Act, in the famous “ judges case” which also led to the revival of the corruption cases against President Asif Zardari and cohorts.
The SC is now hearing three petitions that have a bearing on the subject. The first refers to a case in which the DGISI and COAS accept having paid off politicians to determine the course of a general election in 1990. The second relates to disappearances of civilians in Balochistan and the third to deaths of civilians in military custody. All are related to questions of law and the military’s unaccountable status. If the SC can blithely accept the military’s deposition in Memogate as a matter of “ public importance” by making “ national security” a fundamental right, there is no reason to believe it cannot, by the same yardstick, strike down articles 199( 3) and 184( 3) of the constitution and make military law subservient to civilian law while abolishing the ISI’s internal political wing as a transgression of civilian supremacy in a constitutional democracy. All the transitional populist interventions of Chief Justice Chaudhry to date will then dwarf in comparison to such an abiding historic legacy for constitutional supremacy.
The writer is editor of The Friday Times
3. PAKISTAN: BULLYING TACTICS OF JIHADIS
Editorial - Daily Times
Daily Times, 22 Feb 2012
Difa-i-Pakistan Council (Defence of Pakistan Council) is at it again. The group staged another rally, this time in Islamabad, despite the ban imposed on three of its main leaders — Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) President Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, Secretary General Maulana Khalid Dhillon and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed — from entering Islamabad. Due to the ban, these three men did not attend the rally but the question is: what happened to Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s ‘promise’ that banned outfits would not be allowed to hold a rally in the federal capital? Would the SHO of Aabpara be suspended for this rally? There are speculations that a compromise between the government and the powers that be was struck to allow the Difa-i-Pakistan Council to hold the rally in Islamabad. Instead of holding it in front of parliament, the rally was held in Aabpara, quite close to the ISI headquarters. It seems that the Difa-i-Pakistan Council has the backing of our military establishment and has been unleashed because of the fraught relationship with the US. As far as Pakistan-US relations are concerned, there is no resolution in sight at the moment. What kind of a message is the military trying to give to the international community in the form of this conglomerate of religious hardliners is quite apparent.
That the Difa-i-Pakistan Council openly threatened the media in its previous rally in Karachi did not persuade the government one bit to stop it from holding another protest in the heart of the capital. The government and the military are carrying on with General Musharraf’s mischief — turning a blind eye to banned organisations that have only renamed themselves but are carrying on with their activities with impunity. This is completely unacceptable. Putting further pressure on the Americans and Indians through these gentlemen is not going to benefit Pakistan. Let’s not fool ourselves. Pakistan cannot be held hostage to the jihadists and their apologists because they are more harmful to us than any other country in the world. What is needed is a complete ban on the Difa-i-Pakistan Council.
4. PAKISTAN: MINORITIES UNDER ATTACK
PAKISTAN: AHMADIYAS UNDER ATTACK NEED PROTECTION - STATEMENTS BY AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AND AHRC
WORSHIP SITE ROW: LARGE PROTEST AGAINST AHMEDIS IN RAWALPINDI
SOFT CORNER FOR EXTREMISM TO BLAME FOR KHANPUR KILLINGS: HRCP
Posted on January 16, 2012 by HRCP
Lahore, January 16: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has condemned the attack on a Chehlum procession in Khanpur and said that sympathetic attitudes towards religious extremism in all institutions of the state are responsible for the failure to confront the menace of sectarian terrorism.
In a statement issued on Monday, HRCP said: “HRCP condemns the killing of innocent people in an explosion targeting a Chehlum procession in Khanpur and sympathises with the bereaved families. The perpetrators of sectarian violence regularly keep exploring new and more deadly ways of causing harm to the people. The police actions that follow such brazen targeting of religious events stand little chance of stemming the tide of sectarian killings. While paying attention to symptoms of the malaise is important, sectarian violence continues in Pakistan because the cause is usually left unaddressed. And it is clear that that happens because nearly all institutions of the state have a soft corner for religious extremism and they are certainly not keen to deal with it according to the law. In this environment the bloodletting will not stop.
“It is a welcome change that the leader of at least one religious-political party has condemned the killings in Khanpur. HRCP hopes that other parties and groups, especially the religious ones, would also not have any reason to hesitate in condemning this act of terrorism as such. It is of vital importance that all segments of civil society that believe in tolerance play their role in unison to expose the passive response to such barbaric brutalities and also the reasons for that. But the state must allow the citizens due space to register their concerns and wishes. Any delay in taking decisive action amounts not only to negligence but complicity. The state must also reach out to the affected community in a manner that demonstrates its concern and shame in failing to protect citizens’ lives and try to promote tolerance after having tried the opposite for so long.”
5. INDIA - PAKISTAN: PPC WELCOMES PAKISTAN-INDIA TRADE ACCORDS AFTER COMMERCE MINISTERS’ TALKS
Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC)
KARACHI, Feb. 17:
Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC), while welcoming signing of three trade accords between India and Pakistan has called upon the two governments not only to ensure the strict implementation of these agreements but also to follow it up with some essential steps towards facilitating people-to-people contacts at various other levels.
In a statement here on Friday, PPC said that in the context of the not so happy relations between Pakistan and India, the outcome of the just-concluded talks between the commerce ministers of the two countries in Islamabad should be considered as a major step in the direction of improving our mutual relations.
While welcoming the signing of several agreements related to promotion of trade and the promise of a relaxed visa regime for businessmen of the two countries, Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) has suggested the following measures:
1. The visa relaxation facilities being offered now to businessmen, such as exemption from police reporting and removal of city-specific limitation be extended to cover all the citizens of the two countries without discrimination.
2. The cumbersome exercise of having to attach a slew of different documents with the visa applications be made easier.
3. Issuing of normal Tourist Visas be resumed to enable people to visit popular historical and scenic spots in the two countries.
4. Students and youth of the two countries be encouraged to visit each other’s country by further liberalizing the visa regime for them.
5. Consulates be re-opened in Karachi and Mumbai respectively at the earliest.
6. Newspapers, magazines, books and other publications be allowed unrestricted movement between the two countries.
7. T.V. news channels of the two countries be freed from the existing restrictions.
8. Karachi-Mumbai-Karachi sea route be re-opened for movement of people and cargo.
6. BANGLADESH: COUP BID REVEALS EXTREMISM WITHIN ARMY
Analysis by Naimul Haq
Inter Press Service
DHAKA, Feb 2, 2012 (IPS) - Bangladesh’s army has won paludits as leading United Nations peacekeepers, but the January coup attempt against Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government has exposed lurking religious extremism within its ranks.
On Jan. 19, the army brass disclosed that it had foiled a coup attempt masterminded by some mid-ranking army officers and that several have been either confined or put under the scanner.
At a rare press conference in the Dhaka cantonment, Brig. Gen. Masud Razzaque, flanked by senior officers, said: "Specific evidence has been unearthed that a group of retired and serving officers have been involved in the conspiracy to topple the democratic government through use of the armed forces."
Razzaque said two of the alleged conspirators had admitted to having connections with the outlawed political party, Hizbut-Tahrir (HuT), suggesting that religious extremists continue to maintain links within the country’s armed forces.
The HuT website openly urges army officers to "Remove Hasina, the killer of your brothers and establish the Khilafah to save yourselves and the Ummah from subjugation to U.S.-India."
"Initial investigations suggest that links with non-resident Bangladeshis could not be ruled out," Razzaque said, hinting that forces inimical to Bangladesh’s 1971 liberation from Pakistani rule were at work and may also have had a hand in the coup conspiracy.
The HuT is known to have strong links with Bangladeshi expatriates in Britain along with other Islamist groups such as the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) opposed to the professed secularism of the AL and to the 1971 liberation.
This was the first time that the defence establishment has admitted to extremists in its midst, though the country has seen a series of coups, starting with the one in which Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, the founder of Bangladesh and father of Sheikh Hasina was killed.
Indeed the army is known for the deep divide that exists between officers who fought for Bangladesh’s liberation and those who did not and this has fomented no less than 19 coup attempts.
Significantly, the January coup attempt follows the execution of a number of officers convicted for the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur, 40 years ago.
Hasina has also put on trial several religious political leaders, including the former chief of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI), Golam Azam, for alleged collaboration in the genocide committed by the Pakistani military in trying to bludgeon Bangladesh’s struggle for independence.
The JeI is one of the key allies of the four-party main opposition led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of former prime minister Khaleda Zia.
The path for the trials was cleared on Mar. 25, 2010 when the government set up a special tribunal to try the religious leaders for their alleged crimes against humanity committed during the country’s liberation war four decades ago.
Five of the JeI’s top leaders, including its party chief, Prof. Motiur Rahman Nizami and secretary general, Ali Ahsan Mojaheed, both former ministers in BNP government, are currently being held in prison.
Soon after taking office for the second time in January 2009, the Hasina government banned 12 religion-based organisations suspected to have strong militant bases across the country.
Among them was Jamaat-ul Mujahideen, Bangladesh (JMB), the second largest Islamist organisation and one that is believed to have links to the banned Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).
After the JMB carried out 500 synchronized bombing attacks in almost all the 64 districts of the country on August 17, 2005, police have arrested over 200 of its members.
Many of its leaders have been executed, including its founder - Shaikh Abdur Rahman and the man known to be second in command, Siddiqul Islam, popularly known as ‘ Bangla Bhai’.
But, the arrest of about 100 JMB activists since October 2008 and the unearthing of huge caches of firearms, explosives and ammunition demonstrated the JMB’s ability to regroup, recruit and reorganise.
The Hasina government faces increasing challenges in restoring a secular outlook for the country’s polity originally promoted by her father and the Awami League (AL) party as opposed to the more Islamist face of the opposition.
Significantly, Khaleda Zia alleged at a rally held in Chittagong on Jan. 9 that the government had kidnapped certain army officers and was torturing them. While Khaleda’s statement was refuted by the army, it admitted to trying officers for ‘dereliction of duty’.
Over the years Hasina’s pro-liberation, secular AL party has faced violent challenges from the so-called Islamic nationalist and anti-liberation forces which apparently also do not believe in democratic principles.
Hasina’s government has also been extending friendly gestures to India which helped Bangladesh in its struggle for freedom from the military junta then ruling Pakistan.
After being swept back into office in January 2009 with a two-thirds majority in parliament, Hasina’s 14-party grand alliance restored the four fundamental secular principles of the constitution enacted by her father.
That step angered many religion-based political parties. In February 2009, the national border guards, then known as the Bangladesh Rifles mutinied killing some 70 people including 57 army officers.
The revolt was believed to have been orchestrated by anti-liberation forces and the names of the religious extremist groups were not far down the list of suspects.
It is unlikely that the Bangladesh army would venture to take over power from a democratically elected government – that would jeopardise its prized role as top international peacekeeper – but it will certainly have to deal with extremism within its ranks, as the January events show.
7. SRI LANKA: PRACTICAL STEPS TO MEANINGFUL RECONCILIATION - JOINT STATEMENT BY CONCERNED CITIZENS
17th February 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka:
Several valuable recommendations are contained in the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission’s (LLRC) Report and they are all the more compelling because they have issued from a Presidential Commission. In pursuance of this, we the undersigned call upon the government of Sri Lanka, in consultation with the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and the leadership of the Muslims, to take steps to implement the recommendations. In this statement we have highlighted certain important recommendations. The government is morally bound to implement the proposals of its own commission or otherwise stand indicted of a lack of sincerity.
A lasting solution to the ethnic imbroglio can be reached only if power, including police powers, land use and allocation, and fiscal and budgetary authority is devolved to the Provincial Councils in accordance with the Constitution of Sri Lanka; but the government is stalling. In the context of this statement we refer in particular to the Northern and Eastern Provinces. The governance of the Northern Province should be handed over forthwith to democratically elected representatives of the people. We also state that without restoration and empowerment of the civil administration, effective demilitarisation, resettlement of Tamil and Muslim displaced persons, disbanding paramilitary forces, releasing illegally detained persons and rejuvenating the local economy, all talk of reconciliation is a deception.
There have been a number of proposals which if implemented would have gone some way towards ameliorating the conflict; the Mangala Moonesinge Report, President Kumaratunga’s proposals in the 1990s, the draft constitution of 2000, and the Majority Report of the Experts Committee advising the APRC. Now a set of recommendations has been made by the President’s LLRC appointees. Notwithstanding our criticisms of the LLRC in the Concluding Note below we are of the opinion that if the government implements the most important of its Recommendations, progress can be made towards reconciliation of the communities.
The ubiquitous presence of and pressure exerted by the armed forces in the Northern and Eastern Province engenders grave and direct fear among the people and inhibits social life. Militarization and armed paramilitary groups are the root cause of harassment and are associated with abduction and other unlawful acts. The spread of military tentacles into reconstruction projects is alarming and military sponsored expansion into small and medium business undertakings are taking precedence and steamrolling the local community out of the neighbourhood economy. Commitment to the concept of the primacy of civilian democracy over military power makes it imperative that the LLRC recommendations quoted below be implemented forthwith and in full. This needs the approval of no Parliamentary Select Committee or endorsement by the TNA. There is no justification for procrastination.
“The Commission, as a policy, strongly advocates and recommends to the Government that the Security Forces should disengage itself from all civil administration related activities as rapidly as possible” - (9.134).
“It is important that the Northern Province reverts to civilian administration in matters relating to the day-to-day life of the people, and in particular with regard to matters pertaining to economic activities such as agriculture, fisheries land etc. The military presence must progressively recede to the background to enable the people to return to normal civilian life and enjoy the benefits of peace” – (9.227)
The importance of demilitarisation extends beyond the North-East. There is alarm in the Sinhalese and Muslim communities in other parts of the country about mounting military involvement in civilian life such as state corporations and businesses, construction and urban development, provincial governorships and the diplomatic service. Demilitarisation of civilian and economic life is the common demand of people of all communities. The peril of military involvement in financial matters and sinecures of prestige has been well learnt in recent years from the Burmese, Egyptian and Syrian examples to name but three.
High Security Zones, paramilitaries and child soldiers
The LLRC Report deals with High Security Zones (HSZs) in paragraph 9.142 and recommends a review for the purpose of releasing more land to the public. We call for the immediate dismantling of all HS zones which serve no rightful purpose. All occupied land must be returned to rightful owners. The Report refers to illegal armed groups in paragraph 9.73 and to the alleged crimes of the EPDP in paragraph 9.208, but only calls for further investigation in both matters. We fail to see why paramilitaries and armed goons are allowed free reign in the Tamil areas at all. It is the duty of the state to disband these unlawful groups forthwith; the state needs no LLRC recommendation to carry out its bounden obligations. We support the recommendation that past activities of these gangs be investigated with a view to prosecution where warranted.
We support the recommendations in the report (9.77 to 9.80) regarding rehabilitation, return to families and provision of employment opportunities for former child soldiers. The recommendations in respect of tracing families or tracing child soldiers (9.81) are also commendable and need to be acted on. These are completely non-controversial matters, but it is regrettable that the government has commenced no action. There is no reason whatsoever for delay.
In ten paragraphs in a separate subsection titled “Treatment of Detainees” the Report deals with several aspects of lawful and unlawful detention and the treatment of detainees. The following passages are of particular note.
“However, the Commission expresses concern over some detainees who have been incarcerated over a long period of time without charges being preferred. The Commission stresses again that conclusive action should be taken to dispose of these cases by bringing charges or releasing them where there is no evidence of any criminal offence having being committed” - (9.70).
All places of detention should be those, which are formally designated as authorized places of detention and no person should be detained in any place other than such authorized places of detention. Strict legal provisions should be followed by the law enforcement authorities in taking persons into custody, such as issuing of a formal receipt of arrest and providing details of the place of detention – (9.67).
The commission has put its finger on a pervasive and persistent problem in the breakdown of law enforcement and justice in the country; illegal detention without adequate cause, failure to prosecute or release, and detention at unauthorised locations at which victims are alleged to be tortured or eliminated. Does a responsible government need the recommendations of a presidential commission to eliminate such practices forthwith? The government is dragging its feet while detainees linger in jails and camps.
The next of kin of detainees have the fundamental right to know of the whereabouts of their family members and they have the right of access to detainees. The LLRC notes numerous representations were made about this matter.
“A large number of representations were made with regard to those whose whereabouts are unknown, sometimes for years, as a result of abductions, unlawful arrests, arbitrary detention, and involuntary disappearances” – (9.43)
Land; Return of IDPs; Return of Muslims
Some recommendations in respect of land issues overlap the larger of question of devolution of land powers to Provincial Councils (9.124, 9.126 and 9.150). Other matters such as expediting the return of Muslims evicted by the LTTE to the North and steps to prevent the legitimisation of properties forcibly occupied during the war are worthy of support. These issues will be more complex in implementation than the matters adverted to previously as they require legislation and will certainly need the establishment of administrative support mechanisms. The government must demonstrate its good intentions by declaring its intention to implement these recommendations and state the time frame within which they will be completed.
We recognise that the full reintegration of IDPs into the community and ensuring the return of the Muslims (covered in 9.103 to 9.108 and 9.109 to 9.113, respectively) are important issues. The same is true of the broader discussion in paragraphs 9.121 to 9.152 dealing with several land related matters. While recognising the need for patience on these matters we are perturbed that there seems to be a lack of seriousness on the part of the government in getting started on the job. A matter of more immediate concern is that the provision of basic facilities is neglected while IDPs languish in dire conditions.
Right thinking people of all communities are dismayed by the whitewash of atrocities against the civilian population committed by the Sri Lankan military in the final stages of the war. The LLRC has ignored allegations about the military targeting safe zones, hospitals, and locations where tens of thousands were packed together. The large scale and permanent displacement of the people of the Vanni and the destruction of homes and built infrastructure portends an effort to change the ethnic population profile of the region. The LLRC has documented LTTE atrocities and concluded that it is guilty of human-rights violations. Taking into account all these we believe that there is prima face evidence of human-rights violations by the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE; we demand an independent investigation.
The purpose of this statement is to express our dismay that the government is taking little follow up action to get down to simple actions that are not particularly controversial if there is a genuine commitment to democracy, human rights and reconciliation. Since in this statement we wish to emphasise matters that can be implemented expeditiously, we have not engaged in extended discussion of two fundamental concerns; that accountability for human rights violations must be followed up, and that a political solution based on devolution is the only feasible permanent solution. Nor is this document comprehensive since we have not dealt with women’s issues, education, compensation, restrictions on travel and the hard to understand delay in rebuilding the railway to the north - a one time artery of commerce and people movement.
Kumar David (Prof)
Nirmal Ranjith Dewasiri
Sarath Fernando (Monlar)
Sivaguru Ganesan (Prof)
N Ganesanathan (Dr)
Farzana Hanifffa (Dr)
S.H. Hasbullah (Prof)
Rohini Hensman (Dr)
Kumara Illangasinghe (Bishop Emeritus)
M. C. M. Iqbal
Vickremabahu Karunaratne (Dr)
S. V. Kasynathan (Dr.)
Sumanasiri Liyanage (Dr)
Anita Nesiah (Dr)
Devanesan Nesiah (Dr)
Nigel V. Nugawela
Surendra Ajith Rupesinghe
Pakiasothy Saravanamuttu (Dr)
Willie Senanayake (Dr)
Jonathan V Thambar
Selvy Thiruchandran (Dr)
8. SALMAN RUSHDIE & INDIA’S NEW THEOCRACY
by Praveen Swami
The Hindu, 21 January 2012
India’s secular state is in a state of slow-motion collapse. The contours of a new theocratic dystopia are already evident.
In 300CE, the historian and cleric, Eusebius, fearfully recorded the rise of a new “demon-inspired heresy.” “From innumerable long-extinct blasphemous heresies,” he wrote, the new religion’s founder “had made a patchwork of them and brought from Persia a deadly poison with which he infected our own world.”
Manichaeism, a new religion which posited an eternal struggle between good and evil, had dramatically expanded across the ancient world. Less than half-a-century after its rise, though, the faith had been all but annihilated. Bahram II massacred its followers in Persia; in 296, the Roman emperor, Diocletian, decreed its leaders “condemned to the fire with their abominable scriptures.” Khagan Boku Tekin, the Uighur king, made Manichaeism the state religion giving it a home — but even this last redoubt collapsed in 840.
Eusebius’ own Christian faith, by contrast, flourished after it won imperial patronage: the word of god grows best in fields watered by the state’s pelf, and ploughed by the state’s swords.
Salman Rushdie’s censoring-out from the ongoing literary festival in Jaipur will be remembered as a milestone that marked the slow motion disintegration of India’s secular state. Islamist clerics first pressured the state to stop Mr. Rushdie from entering India; on realising he could not stop, he was scared off with a dubious assassination threat. Fear is an effective censor: the writers Hari Kunzru and Amitava Kumar, who sought to read out passages from The Satanic Verses as a gesture of solidarity, were stopped from doing so by the festival’s organisers.
In a 1989 essay, Ahmad Deedat, an influential neo-fundamentalist who starred in the first phases of the anti-Rushdie campaign, hoped the writer would “die a coward’s death, a hundred times a day, and eventually when death catches up with him, may he simmer in hell for all eternity.” He thanked Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for his “sagacious” decision to ban The Satanic Verses. Now, another Indian Prime Minister has helped further Mr. Deedat’s dream.
The betrayal of secular India in Jaipur, though, is just part of a far wider treason: one that doesn’t have to do with Muslim clerics alone, but a state that has turned god into a public-sector undertaking.
Few Indians understand the extent to which the state underwrites the practice of their faith. The case of the Maha Kumbh Mela, held every 12 years at Haridwar, Allahabad, Ujjain and Nashik, is a case in point. The 2001 Mela in Allahabad, activist John Dayal has noted in a stinging essay, involved state spending of over Rs.1.2 billion — 12,000 taps that supplied 50.4 million litres of drinking water; 450 kilometres of electric lines and 15,000 streetlights; 70,000 toilets; 7,100 sanitation workers, 11 post offices and 3,000 phone lines; 4,000 buses and trains.
That isn’t counting the rent that ought to have been paid on the 15,000 hectares of land used for the festival — nor the salaries of the hundreds of government servants administering the Kumbh.
Last year, the Uttar Pradesh police sought a staggering Rs.2.66 billion to pay for the swathe of electronic technologies, helicopters and 30,000 personnel which will be needed to guard the next Mela in 2013. There are no publicly available figures on precisely how much the government will spend on other infrastructure — but it is instructive to note that an encephalitis epidemic that has claimed over 500 children’s lives this winter drew a Central aid of just Rs.0.28 billion.
The State’s subsidies to the Kumbh Mela, sadly, aren’t an exception. Muslims wishing to make the Haj pilgrimage receive state support; so, too, do Sikhs travelling to Gurdwaras of historic importance in Pakistan. Hindus receive identical kinds of largesse, in larger amounts. The state helps underwrite dozens of pilgrimages, from Amarnath to Kailash Mansarovar. Early in the last decade, higher education funds were committed to teaching pseudo-sciences like astrology; in 2001, the Gujarat government even began paying salaries to temple priests.
In 2006, the Delhi government provided a rare official acknowledgment that public funds are routinely spent on promoting god. In a study of its budget expenditure, it said it provided “religious services, i.e. grants for religious purpose including repairs and maintenance of ancient temples, contribution to religious institutions and for memorial of religious leaders like Guru Nanak Birth Anniversary, Dussehra Exhibitions [sic., throughout]”.
The study did not reveal precisely how much had been spent on what kind of religious promotion. It did, however, note that spending on a broad category called “cultural, recreational and religious activities” had increased steadily — from Rs.526.5 million in 2003-2004, to Rs.751 million in 2006-2007. In 2006-2007, these kinds of activities accounted for 0.74% of Delhi’s overall budget — ahead of, say, environmental protection (0.17%), mining and manufacturing (0.59%), and civil defence (0.12%).
India’s clerics, regardless of their faith, have long been intensely hostile to state regulation of religion — witness the country’s failure to rid itself of the faith-based laws that govern our personal lives. In the matter of the perpetuation of their religion, though, the state is a welcome ally.
The contours of the bizarre theocratic dystopia that could replace the secular state are already evident. The state tells us we may not read the Satanic Verses, or Aubrey Menen’s irreverent retelling of the Ramayana; it chooses not to prosecute the vandals who block stores from stocking D.N. Jha’s masterful Holy Cow, James Laine’s history of Shivaji, or Paul Courtright’s explorations of oedipal undertones in Hindu mythology.
Regulation on what we eat, drink
It doesn’t end there: the state regulates, on god’s behalf, what we may eat or drink — witness the proliferation of bans on beef, and proscriptions on alcohol use in so-called holy cities. It ensures children pray in morning assemblies funded by public taxes, provides endowments for denomination schools and funds religious functions. It pays for prayers before state functions, and promotes pseudo-sciences like astrology. And, yes: it censors heretics, like M.F. Husain or Mr. Rushdie.
Even the rule of law has been contracted-out to god’s agents. Last week, a self-appointed Sharia court issued orders to expel Christian priests from Jammu and Kashmir; neither the police, the judicial system nor political parties stepped in. In many north Indian States, local caste and religious tyrannies have brutally punished transgressions of religious laws. In 2010, the National Crime Records Bureau data show, a staggering 178 people were killed for practising witchcraft.
For decades now, Indian liberals have shied away from confronting theism, choosing instead to collaborate with the marketing of allegedly tolerant traditions. Back in 2005, the Human Resource Development Ministry set up a committee to consider how state-funded schools could best promote tolerance. Lingadevaru Halemane, a linguist and playwright, made clear the committee was chasing a chimera. “These days,” he argued, “whichever religion dominates in the area, they open the schools.” Local culture, he said bluntly, “will be dominated by the dominant group.”
Leaving aside the question of whether India’s religious traditions are in fact tolerant — a subject on which the tens of thousands of victims of communal and caste violence might have interesting opinions — this spurious secularism has served in the main to institutionalise and sharpen communal boundaries. It has also allowed clerics to exercise influence over state policy — insulating themselves from a secularising world.
The strange thing is this: India’s people, notwithstanding their religiosity, aren’t the ones pushing the state to guard god’s cause. India’s poor send their children to private schools hoping they will learn languages and sciences, not prayer. Indian politics remains focussed on real-world issues: no party campaigns around seeking more funds for mosque domes or temple elephants.
Eight years ago, scholar Meera Nanda argued that “India is a country that most needs a decline in the scope of religion in civil society for it to turn its constitutional promise of secular democracy into a reality.” “But,” she pointed out, “India is a country least hospitable to such a decline”. Dr. Nanda ably demonstrated the real costs of India’s failure to secularise: among them, the perpetuation of caste and gender inequities, the stunting of reason and critical facilities needed for economic and social progress; the corrosive growth of religious nationalism.
India cannot undo this harm until god and god’s will are ejected from our public life. No sensible person would argue that the school curriculum ought to discourage eight-year-olds from discovering that the tooth fairy does not exist. No sensible person ought argue, similarly, that some purpose is served by buttressing the faith of adults in djinns, immaculate conceptions, or armies of monkeys engineering trans-oceanic bridges. It is legitimate for individuals to believe that cow-urine might cure their cancer — not for the state to subsidise this life-threatening fantasy.
In a 1927 essay, philosopher Bertrand Russell observed that theist arguments boiled down to a single, vain claim: “Look at me: I am such a splendid product that there must be design in the universe.”
The time has come for Indian secular-democrats to assert the case for a better universe: a universe built around citizenship and rights, not the pernicious identity politics the state and its holy allies encourage.
[Selections from recent content on sacw.net]
9. PAKISTAN’S RUSH FOR MORE BOMBS — WHY?
by Pervez Hoodbhoy
On January 24, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon vented his frustration at Pakistan’s determined opposition to a treaty that would limit fissile material production for use in nuclear weapons. For three years, Pakistan has single-handedly — and successfully — blocked the Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva from discussing an effort that would reduce nuclear weapons globally. Consequently, within diplomatic circles, Pakistan has acquired the reputation of an outlier that opposes all efforts towards this end.
10. "INDIANISATION REFORMS" IN SCHOOLS ANOTHER NAME FOR COMMUNALISM CURRICULUM
Intensifying attempts of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-led Sangh Parivar at “saffronising” education
11. INDIA: THE PATH TO A CONFLICT-FREE CHHATTISGARH
by Nandini Sundar
Contrary to the dominant narrative that areas where Naxalites are strong are where the state has been absent, for the last 100-150 years, there has been a gradual expansion of the state in tribal areas regardless of whether the people want it or not. However, the state has been expanding in the wrong areas. You have an extension of the forest department, the bureaucracy, the patwari and the forest guard. But at the same time there is no state presence in the form of school teachers, healthcare workers and other services.
11. WORKERS, UNIONS AND THE LEFT: RESPONDING TO THE GLOBAL CRISIS
by Rohini Hensman
[Text of a talk by Rohini Hensman introducing her book Workers, Unions, and Global Capitalism: Lessons from India (Columbia University Press, New York, and Tulika Books, New Delhi) at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, on 23 January 2012.]
12. INDIA: KANDHAMAL- THE LAW MUST CHANGE ITS COURSE
Edited by Vrinda Grover
The tragedy of Kandhamal is that the attack on the Christian community was familiar and the subsequent failure of the legal system to accord justice to the victim-survivors predictable. There is today a vibrant debate seeking legal reform to ensure accountability for mass crimes by extending culpability to those who sponsor and profit from the carnage.
13. INDIA: TREAT TELEVISION AS A PUBLIC UTILITY AND GUARANTEES CITIZENS ACCESS TO IT
by Arvind Rajagopal
Market forces may decree that millions of viewers can no longer afford the television service they have had many years, unless the government takes pre-emptive steps to treat television as a public utility and guarantees citizens access to it.
14. GUJARAT AUTHORITIES MUST FACE JUSTICE OVER MASS KILLING
by Savitri Hensman
The persistence of Zakia Jafri in her fight for the truth after her husband was murdered is in the interests of all Indians
15. INDIA - MADHYA PRADESH: PATH WAY TO HINDU RASHTRA
by Ram Puniyani
Recently (December 2011) M.P. Government’s Gau-Vansh Vadh Pratishedh (Sanshodhan) Act (Bill for Protection of Cow Progeny) got the Presidential clearance. As per this act punishment for slaughtering the cow or its progeny, transporting them to slaughter house, eating and storing beef, is punishable with a fine of R 5000 and prison term up to seven years. States like Gujarat, Karnataka, Jharkhand and Himachal Pradesh already have laws against cow slaughter, while Orissa and Andhra Pradesh permit the killing of cattle other than cows if the animals are not fit for any other purpose.
16. INDIA: LOWER SUBANSIRI AND THE POLITICS OF EXPERTISE
by Dr. Sanjib Baruah
From Assam Tribune, January 22, 2012
The mobilization of a variety of highly credentialed experts to settle the controversy over the Lower Subansiri hydropower project reminds me of an American Doonesbury comic strip. It features Stewie, a young researcher, who is frustrated with his calculator because it wouldn’t produce the ‘right’ answer. Stewie grumbles that he can’t get the ‘pesky scientific facts’ to ‘line up behind [his] beliefs.’ Some of our decision-makers seem to be behaving like Stewie. They are looking for experts whose opinions can be interpreted as being in line with what officials consider to be the ‘right answer’ to the questions raised about the Lower Subansiri hydropower project.
It is perhaps not a coincidence that a North American comic strip speaks to our present predicament in Assam. The Doonesbury strip was a comment on former US president George W. Bush’s attitudes toward scientific truths vis-à-vis a number of issues including climate change and evolution. (Many of Bush’s Christian fundamentalist supporters are ‘creationists’ who believe in the Bible’s story of creation and reject Darwin’s theory of evolution). Thus an authority figure dressed in a white lab coat, based on the real-life character of the science adviser at the Bush White House, appears in the scene. He advises the confused Stewie on “situational science” which he explains is “about respecting both sides of a scientific argument, not just the ones supported by facts.” The “situational science adviser” then lists a number of “controversies” where “situational science” could be useful, among them the “evolution controversy,”“the global-warming controversy” and the “pesticides controversy.”
In the comic strip cartoonist Garry Trudeau uses the term ‘controversy’ ironically with reference to subjects on which there are well-established scientific truths. However, we live in a world where knowledge controversies have become a familiar part of public debates in many parts of the world. Such knowledge controversies are examples of what Dutch social theorist Annemarie Mol calls ontological politics.
Controversies about the dangers of the “mad cow disease” or what scientists call Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in the UK, and other recent panics about food safety in Europe, are examples of ontological politics. What is common about these controversies is that significant sections of the public challenge the knowledge claims of scientists and technologists that inform government decisions and practices. While a few years ago the authority of science and the reassurances provided by technocrats may have been enough to reassure the public about “acceptable risks,” they now fail to convince those that are affected by policy decisions informed by expert knowledge. The debate on the Lower Subansiri project is best seen as a knowledge controversy – an example of ontological politics.
In these cases, the first-hand experience of citizens and the vernacular knowledge generated by that experience are in tension with what is regarded as authoritative science by decision-makers. They fail to allay public concerns. German sociologist Ulrich Beck explains this as a characteristic feature of “risk society.” Experts in the context of such knowledge controversies fail to convince the public that the risks involved in a new product or in an infrastructural project are “acceptable.”
At the root of the controversy over the Lower Subansiri project are two sets of tensions (a) between first-hand experience and vernacular knowledge on the one hand, and expert knowledge that informs government decisions on the other; and (b) between expert knowledge produced by one group of well-credentialed experts familiar with the local context, and by a second group of equally well-credentialed experts based at institutions in the Indian heartland, but viewed locally as experts who have few stakes in the region.
A number of factors account for these tensions.
First, the people of the Brahmaputra valley have known floods in a way that very few other people in the world have. Second, the experience of the earthquake of 1950 and the catastrophic floods that followed are deeply etched in the collective memory of the people of the Brahmaputra Valley. A research team studying flood adaptation in the Brahmaputra Valley found that even after six decades villagers affected by those catastrophic floods remember them as ‘Pahar Bhanga Pani’ [hill-destroying floodwaters] and ‘Bolia Pani’ [floodwaters driven by madness]. It is hardly surprising that hydropower plants in the mountains that surround the valley would evoke a raw sense of danger and foreboding in Assam.
In the words of an Assamese engineer who has had a long career building and managing hydropower plants in the region, experts from India’s premier water research institute IIT-Rourkee, “have not seen the earthquake-induced landslides of 1950 . . . when hundreds and thousands of trees floating downstream covered nearly the entire Brahmaputra river. They were not witness to that extraordinary spectacle. How can they say with certitude what a future disaster on the Subansiri might bring?”
Third, the experience of devastating man-made floods, most likely caused by water released from recently built upstream hydropower plants like that on the Kurichhu river in Bhutan, a tributary of Assam’s Manas river, and on the Ranganadi river in Arunachal Pradesh have only added to this anxiety. In the absence of transparent public inquires about these floods and reassurances that they won’t occur again, the people of Assam have few option but to take them as harbingers of a calamitous future.
It is extremely unlikely that the authority of experts would at this point be able to bridge the trust gap that has developed regarding the Lower Subansiri project. But we should be glad that we do not have an “unconstrained technocracy” like that in China where as the Economist magazine pointed out last year, “all but one of the nine members of the Politburo Standing Committee are engineers.” Unconstrained technocracy, says the Economist has not been a guarantee of “good ideas or decisions” in cases such as the Three Gorges dam, the SARS epidemic or the high-speed rail network.
But democracies can find ways of engaging with ontological politics that autocracies cannot. However, to find a way out of the impasse on Lower Subansiri the authorities will have to go beyond dogmatically asserting the authority of the elected government or of the law.
Fortunately, in a democracy people who fear the potential adverse impact of a government decision has the ability to organize itself into a public. The memories of devastating earthquakes, the lived experience of frequent floods, and the knowledge of scientists, technologists and intellectuals deeply engaged with the region, have constituted an extremely well-informed regional public around the issue of Lower Subansiri. Indian democracy has to find a way of meaningfully engaging that public.
The writer is Professor of Political Studies at Bard College, New York.
17. INDIA: BILL ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT: AGAINST WOMEN'S RIGHTS
by Geetha K K
(Jan 21, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
18. India: selected content from Communalism Watch
TRUTH ABOUT GODHRA SIT REPORT: WHY ARE THEY PROTECTING MODI?
KARNATAKA: SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES TO SHUT IN PROTEST AGAINST 'COMMUNALISED TEXTBOOKS'; LETTER FROM PUCL
COW DUNG AND BOMBS: HARYANA BOMBINGS REVEALS ROLE OF COW PROTECTION OUTFIT [A COVERT HINDUTVA OPERATION?]
IS KARNATAKA THE NEW GUJARAT, THE SECOND LAB OF HINDUTVA FUNDAMENTALISTS
19. INDIA: PRESS RELEASE - EXTERNMENT NOTICE TO ANTI NUKE ACTIVIST
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Against the background of the call given by Janhit Seva Sangh for “Jail baro” andolan, two days before republic day the situation around jaitapur is heating up and unprecedented measures are being adopted by the government to crush the andolan. In this context, social activist and a renowned anti nuclear leader has been slapped with a notice for externment from Ratnagiri under sec 56(1) of Mumbai Police Act 1951. The police of Nate, district, Ratnagiri; citing two registered cases of mass agitation that are pending in the court, the DYSP of Lanja shri. Tushar Patil has by the notice (outgoing no 63/2012) ordered Vaishali Patil to appear before the sub-divisional officer of Ratnagiri. Adv. Baba Parulekar appeared before the sub divisional magistrate of Ratnagiri on behalf of Vaishali Patil.
For the last two years, against the background of Jaitapur agitations, the collector of Ratnagiri has time and again under sec 144 (4) of the cr. prod. Code prevented ex justice of Supreme Court, PB Sawant, Kolse Patil and Vaishali Patil from entering Ratnagiri district. This order was challenged by the petitioners under writ petition No 3339 of 14th Nov 2011. The Mumbai High Court in spite of having given an order against the government, the government taking recourse to the Mumbai Police Act of 1951 has initiated the fresh process of externing vaishali Patil from Ratnagiri. Jusice Mohit Shah and Justice Ms. Roshan Dalvi in their order of 14th Nov 2011, citing Rammanohar Lohia v Bihar government, Madhu limyae v subdivisional officer has upheld the fundamental right of movement and speech granted in the constitution and has held the order of the collector of Ratnagiri dist as illegal. In spite of this order the govt. and the police deliberately with a view to crush the ongoing non violent agitation against the Jaitapur nuclear project taken this step to harass and intimidate activists and leaders of the agitation.
‘The externment order that is essentially used against thieves, goondas, murders is being used against activists to muzzle free speech and movement and intimidate leaders of the agitation”.
President, Praveen Gavankar, Janhit Seva Samithi has condemned.
“The movement against the Jaitapur nuclear project will go on peacefully and non violently”
Said Ahmjad Borkar, Leader of fisherman.
Earlier the process of externment has already been initiated against the sarpanch of Madban Shri Bhikaji Waghmare, asst. sarpanch shri prashant Manjrekar, Suhas Gavankar, Shivprasad Gune, Nandkumar Raut, and Praveen Gavankar.
Those involved in disrupting the meetings of Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samithi, MP Prakash karat; and those involved in Pelting stones during the meeting of MP D Raja, MP Tapan Sen –all supporters of Rane have been booked for minor offences. In its weekly meeting the Konkan Vinashkari Prakalp Virodhi Samith has condemned the partisan action of the Ratnagiri city police and have accused them of coming under political pressure.
20. SOLIDARITY AND ITS DISCONTENTS
by Raha Iranian Feminist Collective
sacw.net - 23 Feb 2012
(originally published on jadaliyya.com)
While building solidarity between activists in the U.S. and Iran can be a powerful way of supporting social justice movements in Iran, progressives and leftists who want to express solidarity with Iranians are challenged by a complicated geopolitical terrain. The U.S. government shrilly decries Iran’s nuclear power program and expands a long-standing sanctions regime on the one hand, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad makes inflammatory proclamations and harshly suppresses Iranian protesters and dissidents on the other. Solidarity activists are often caught between a rock and a hard place, and many choose what they believe are the “lesser evil” politics. In the case of Iran, this has meant aligning with a repressive state leader under the guise of “anti-imperialism” and “populism,” or supporting “targeted” sanctions.
As members of a feminist collective founded in part to support the massive post-election protests in Iran in 2009, while opposing all forms of US intervention, we take this opportunity to reflect on the meaning and practice of transnational solidarity between US-based activists and sections of Iranian society. In this article, we look at the remarkable situation in which both protests against and expressions of support for Ahmadinejad are articulated under the banner of support for the “Iranian people.” In particular, we examine the claims of critics of the Iranian regime who have advocated the use of “targeted sanctions” against human rights violators in the Iranian government as a method of solidarity. Despite their name, these sanctions trickle down to punish broader sections of the population. They also stand as a stunning example of American power and hypocrisy, since no country dare sanction the US for its illegal wars, torture practices and program of extrajudicial assassinations. We then assess the positions of some “anti-imperialist” activists who not only oppose war and sanctions on Iran but also defend Ahmadinejad as a populist president expressing the will of the majority of the Iranian people. In fact, Ahmadinejad’s aggressive neo-liberal economic policies represent a right-wing attack on living standards and on various social welfare provisions established after the revolution. And finally, we offer an alternative notion of and method for building international solidarity “from below,” one that offers a way out of “lesser evil” politics and turns the focus away from the state and onto those movement activists in the streets.
We hope the analysis that follows will provoke much needed discussion among a broad range of activists, journalists and scholars about how to rethink a practice of transnational solidarity that does not homogenize entire populations, cast struggling people outside the US as perpetual and helpless victims, or perpetuate unequal power relations between peoples and nations. Acts of solidarity that cross borders must be based on building relationships with activists in disparate locations, on an understanding of the different issues and conditions of struggle various movements face, and on exchanges of support among grassroots activists rather than governments, with each group committed to opposing oppression locally as well as globally.
The spectrum of protest
Numerous protests and actions took place over the week of Ahmadinejad’s UN visit in September 2010, with at least eight activist groups organizing protests on the day of his General Assembly address—all claiming to speak in the interests of the Iranian people. However, despite some commonalities, these voices represented very different political approaches and agendas. Whether clearly articulated or not, one major fault line was on the question of the appropriate US and international role in relation to Iran, especially on the issues of sanctions and war.
The protests gaining the most media attention were organized by a newly-formed coalition called Iran180 and by the Mojahedin-e Khalq (PMOI). Both take a hard line, pro-sanctions position on Iran. Iran180, launched by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, organized a press conference under the banner “human rights, not nuclear rights.” The PMOI on the other hand, held a large rally of reportedly 2000 participants from far and wide. The PMOI is an organization known for its militant opposition to the Iranian regime and its anti-democratic, cult-like structure; it has been largely discredited among Iranians and is also listed as a “terrorist” organization by the State Department. Speakers included former mayor Rudy Giuliani, former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, and British Tory MP David Amess, all calling for a hard line on Iran and apparently positioning the PMOI as the legitimate diasporic alternative to the current Iranian leadership.
By contrast, Where’s My Vote-NY (WIMV), an organization formed to express solidarity with Iranian protests after the contested election in 2009, called for protection of human rights in Iran but also took an explicit no war and no sanctions position, making them the only organization to do so. WIMV’s strong anti-sanctions stance has been controversial among some human rights activists in the US who have supported so-called “humanitarian sanctions” that are supposed to target individual Iranian human rights violators. In fact, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International pulled out of a WIMV-organized protest in September 2009 precisely because they refused to endorse a no sanctions platform. Below we size up the efficacy of “humanitarian sanctions” that claim to be in support of the human rights of Iranians.
The record on “humanitarian” sanctions
From 1990 until 2003, a United States-led United Nations coalition placed what amounted to crippling financial and trade sanctions on Iraq in an ostensible effort to weaken Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian regime. Sanctions, we were told, amounted to a humane way of combating intransigent authoritarianism around the world while avoiding mass bloodshed. The results of that strategy should have shattered these illusions for good. The complete collapse of the Iraqi economy during thirteen years of sanctions coupled with the inability of ordinary Iraqi people to access banned items necessary for their day-to-day survival—such as ambulances and generators—led to over half a million Iraqi civilian deaths. Furthermore, the sanctions were an utter failure in their purported primary goal—thwarting the Hussein regime while avoiding full-scale war. Not only was Hussein not dislodged by the sanctions, but he also managed to consolidate power throughout the ‘90s while resorting to increasingly autocratic means of suppressing dissent. Finally, in March 2003, the United States and a small “coalition of the willing” began a full-scale military intervention in Iraq, which has shredded the fabric of Iraqi society and left a network of permanent US military bases—and Western oil companies—behind.
Despite the benefit of this hindsight, we are being told again to trust in the humanitarian aims of a state-sponsored sanctions effort as an alternative to war, this time against the Islamic Republic of Iran. In fact, some form of sanctions against the Islamic Republic have been in place with little effect for over thirty years. But since President Barack Obama took office, the sanctions have been amped up to new heights. In June of 2010, a US-led United Nations coalition passed the fourth round of economic and trade sanctions against the Islamic Republic since 2006. The stated goal: limiting Iran’s nuclear program. Soon after, the European Union imposed its own set of economic sanctions. A month later, President Obama signed into law the most extensive sanctions regime Iran has ever seen with the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA).
It should not be surprising, given the United States’ historic attempts at controlling Iranian oil, that CISADA’s primary target is the management of the Iranian petroleum industry. These sanctions would penalize any foreign company that sells refined petroleum products to Iran, which are a necessity for Iran’s primary industry as well as for the everyday functioning of modern life. This winter, shortages of imported refined gasoline forced the Iranian government to convert petro-chemical plants into makeshift refineries that produce fuel loaded with dangerous particles. As a result, the capital city of Tehran has been plagued by unprecedented levels of pollution, shutting down schools and businesses for days at a time and leading to skyrocketing rates of respiratory illnesses and at least 3,641 pollution-related deaths.
Further, Iran’s ability to import and export vital goods has been profoundly curtailed because the most powerful Western-based freight insurance companies—many of which worked with Iran until these most recent sanctions—can no longer do business with any company based in the Islamic Republic. Without insurance coverage, most international ports refuse any Iranian ships entry because they are not covered for potential damages. The current round of U.S.-led sanctions have had the effect of cutting off more of Iranian businesses because foreign companies are simply unsure of whether or not their business is sanctioned. As a stipulation of the US, EU, and UN sanctions, no corporations or private individuals can do business with the majority of Iranian banks or industries. Parts and supplies for a great deal of machinery—and not only those potentially associated with nuclear industry—are denied entry into Iran; indeed, one of the deadly examples of the effects of these sanctions in recent years has been the spate of commercial Iranian aircrafts that have crashed due to faulty or out-of-date parts. These measures have already had disastrous effects on the Iranian economy and the health ordinary Iranian citizens, adding to historic levels of inflation, unemployment and pollution-related illness.
Despite mounting evidence warning against the humanitarian disaster of unilateral, state-engineered sanctions, many people outside of Iran are still compelled to support them as a diplomatic alternative to war. The operating principle behind such a belief is that these sanctions—unlike those wielded against Iraq, which limited all facets of the economic life of the nation—only target certain individuals, groups, and aspects of economic life. In the case of the Islamic Republic, the argument goes, these individuals and groups are directly linked to the state, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC—or Sepah Pasdaran) and the paramilitary Basij forces, which do indeed command much of the economic resources of the Islamic Republic. Unfortunately, the reality of even “targeted” sanctions is not nearly so rosy. To see why this strategy is almost certain to be a failure, we consider the recent example of Zimbabwe.
Since 2001, there has been a similar set of so-called “smart” sanctions in place against Zimbabwe in an effort to weaken President Robert Mugabe and to force him to join a coalition government with his principal political opponents. In the decade after the imposition of these sanctions, Zimbabwe has suffered enormously, experiencing one of the most cataclysmic instances of hyperinflation in history, skyrocketing unemployment rates, a startling lack of basic necessities, a rapidly growing income disparity, and the rise of a black market for goods that only an elite few can access. Indeed, the story in Zimbabwe is remarkably similar to that in Iraq: in both cases the authoritarian state only increased its power as a result of the economic stranglehold on the country due to its monopoly over all of the available wealth and resources in the nation. As the Iraqi and Zimbabwe cases demonstrate, sanctions are not an effective means to avoid war, nor do they inevitably undermine repressive and authoritarian states. Most importantly of all, they further immiserate the very people they claim to be helping.
Often, these failed examples are countered by one historic success story, namely, the divestment and sanctions movement against apartheid South Africa—a very compelling instance of international solidarity with a mass domestic opposition movement. Is this an apt analogy for the Iranian case? A crucial difference is that sanctions against South Africa came only after a divestment campaign led by South African activists, which succeeded in convincing a great deal of private capital to flee the country before US or UN involvement. As a tactic developed and deployed within South Africa, sanctions were not the result of power machinations between antagonistic states or a strategy that enhanced US global dominance.
Iran presents a very different situation. No member of any Iran-based opposition group—from leaders of the “green” movement, to activists in the women’s and student movement, to labor organizers—have called for or supported the US/UN/EU sanctions against the Islamic Republic. On the contrary, leaders from virtually all of these groups have vocally opposed the implementation of sanctions precisely because they have witnessed the Iranian state grow stronger, and the wellbeing of ordinary Iranians suffer, as a result. Imposing sanctions in the name of “human rights,” as the US did for the first time this fall, doesn’t alter these outcomes. The US government’s long record of either complicity with or silence regarding the treatment of dissidents in Iran—from the 1950s when it helped train the brutal SAVAK torture squads right through to the post-election crackdown in 2009—makes it nothing if not hypocritical on the issue of human rights in Iran.
The spectrum of support
In stark contrast to the range of groups protesting the Iranian president and the Islamic Republic’s policies, some 130 activists from anti-war, labor and anti-racist organizations took an altogether different approach in September 2010, attending a dinner with Ahmadinejad hosted by the Iranian Mission to the UN. According to one attendee, the goal of the dinner was to “share our hopes for peace and justice with the Iranian people through their president and his wife.” During two and half hours of speeches, activists embraced Ahmadinejad as an ally and partner in the global struggle for peace and, with few exceptions, ignored the fact that his administration is responsible for a brutal crackdown on dissent in Iran (click here for one notable exception).
Rather than listening to the millions of Iranians who protested unfair elections and political repression, these activists heard only the siren song of Ahmadinejad’s “anti-imperialist” stance, his vehement criticism of Israel and his statements about US government complicity with the September 11th attacks. Their credibility as consistent supporters of social justice has been shipwrecked in the process. Many of these groups are numerically small organizations with histories of denying atrocities carried out by heads of state that oppose US domination. But some attendees are national figures, such as former US Congresswoman and 2008 Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, who has been a beacon of principled opposition to neo-liberalism and the “war on terror.” While it is important not to lump all of the groups and individuals together as sharing the same set of political ideologies or organizing strategies, we need to investigate the reasons that these activists showed up to express support for the current Iranian regime. Below we take up the most common reasons attendees expressed for standing with the regime—that it has populist economic policies benefiting workers and the poor, is anti-imperialist and pro-Palestine.
Do Ahmadinejad’s policies support Iranian workers and the poor?
One of the most bewildering misrepresentations of Ahmadinejad outside Iran has been around his economic policies, which are often represented by the US left as populist or even pro-working class. In reality, the extent and the speed of privatization in Iran under Ahmadinejad has been unprecedented, and disastrous, for the majority of the Iranian people. The International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s report on the Iranian state’s neo-liberal policies glows with approval, confirming once again that the Fund has no problem supporting undemocratic attacks on the living standards of ordinary people. Privatization in Iran has happened under government/military control. State-affiliated actors, mainly Sepah, have bought a huge share of the country’s economic institutions and contracts—from small companies all the way to the largest national corporations such as telecommunications, oil and gas. Recently, despite vast opposition even from the parliament, the government annulled gasoline and food subsidies that have been in place for decades. Gas prices quadruped, while the price of bread tripled, almost overnight. This is an attack on workers and the poor of historic proportions that had been in the works for many years but was delayed due to fear of a popular backlash. It was only under conditions of extreme militarization and suppression of dissent that Ahmadinejad’s administration could finally implement this plan. Arguing that subsidies should go only to those the regime decides are deserving, the government will now be able to use this massive budget to reward supporters and/or buy loyalty. The massive unregulated import of foreign products, especially from China, has made it impossible for agricultural and industrial domestic producers to survive. Import venues are mainly controlled by the government and Sepah, which profit enormously from their monopolies. These hasty and haphazard developments have severely destabilized Iran’s economy in the past few years, leading to rocketing inflation (25-30%) and growing poverty. Unemployment is very high; no official statistics are available but rough estimates are around 30%, creating fertile ground for recruitment into the state’s military and police apparatus (similar to the “poverty draft” in the United States).
Is the Ahmadinejad administration anti-imperialist?
The 1978–79 revolution was one of the most inspiring popular uprisings against imperialism and homegrown despotism the world has seen, successfully wresting Iran away from US control over Iranian oilfields and ending its role as a watchdog for US interests in the region. Denunciations of American imperialism were a unifying rallying cry and formed a key pillar of revolutionary ideology. However, in the more that thirty years since, the Iranian government has, like all nations, ruthlessly pursued its interests on the world stage. Despite its anti-American/anti-imperialist rhetoric, Iran cannot survive without capital investment from and trade with other “imperial” nations, without integration into a world market that is ordered according to the relative military and economic strength of various states. Witness the large oil, gas, and development contracts granted to Russia and China, and the way that these countries, as well as France and Germany, have cashed in on the Iranian consumer goods market. The Islamic government has even cut deals with the US, such as during the infamous Iran-Contra episode, when it served its interests. US opposition to Iran’s nuclear program, and multiple rounds of sanctions, should be understood as part of the American effort to re-exert control over this geo-politically strategic country and re-enter the race for Iranian energy resources and markets from which it has been shut out.
Iran’s foreign policy cannot and should not be reduced to one individual’s inflammatory speeches. In fact, the same Ahmadinejad who grabs western media headlines by criticizing the US is the first Iranian president to send a letter directly to a US president requesting a new era of diplomacy, something unthinkable under previous administrations. Diplomacy, to be clear, carries with it the goal of re-entering a direct relationship with the so-called “Great Satan.” Far from acting as an outpost of anti-imperialism, the Ahmadinejad administration is maneuvering to cut the best deal possible and to renegotiation its place in the global hierarchy of nations. Given its massive oil and gas resources and strategic location, Iran would likely be playing a far more significant and powerful role if not for decades of isolation, sanctions and hostility from the US. It is in the Iranian governments interests to break this stranglehold. Its strategy is to play all cards possible in extending its regional influence in smaller and weaker countries, such as Lebanon and the occupied territories of Palestine. As Mohammad Khazaee, the Iranian ambassador to the UN told the New York Times, Iran is a regional “heavyweight” and deserves to be treated as such.
The Iranian government’s support for Palestinians also scores it major points with many leftists in the US and around the world. Again, it is crucial to see through the rhetoric and examine the more complex aims and effects of Iran’s policies. While the Iranian government does send material aid to Palestinians suffering under Israeli blockades and in refugee camps in Lebanon, they have also manipulated the situation quite cynically for purposes that have nothing to do with Palestinian liberation. Using money to buy support from Palestinians, and financing and arming the Hezbollah army in Lebanon, are crucial ways the Islamic Republic exerts its influence in the region.
There is no mechanism for Palestinians or Lebanese people, who are impacted by Iran’s actions, to have any say in how Iran intervenes in their struggles, even when the results are harmful. For instance, Ahmadinejad’s holocaust denials undermine the credibility of Palestinian efforts to oppose Israeli apartheid by reinforcing the false equation between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. At the 2001 UN conference against racism in Durban, South Africa, an anti-Zionist coalition emerged and got a hearing. But at the 2009 conference in Geneva, Ahmadinejad’s speech on the first day overshadowed the whole conference and undermined any possible critique of Israel, creating a serious set back for the anti-Zionist movement.
Relentless state propaganda about Palestine coming from an unpopular regime has tragically resulted in the Iranian people’s alienation from the Palestinian’s struggle for freedom. Leaving aside the hypocrisy of Ahmadinejad claiming to care about the rights of Palestinians while trampling on those of his own citizens, the policy of sending humanitarian aid to Palestinians while impoverishing Iranians has produced massive domestic resentment. In an article on The Electronic Intifada, Khashayar Safavi attempted to link the pro-democracy Iranian opposition to broader questions of justice in the region. “We are not traitors, nor pro-American, nor Zionist ‘agents,’” he wrote, responding to Ahmadinejad’s verbal attacks on the movement, “[W]e merely want the same freedom to live, to exist and to resist as we demand for the Palestinians and for the Lebanese.” Unfortunately, sections of the US left support the self-determination of Palestinians while undermining that of Iranians by supporting Ahmadinejad’s government. We now look at some of the key problems of Ahmadinejad’s government, exposing the high cost of aligning with repressive state leaders.
Harsh realities for labor and other social justice organizing in Iran
Currently no form of independent organizing, political or economic, is tolerated in Iran. Attempts at organizing workers and labor unions have been particularly subject to violent repression. The crushing of the bus drivers’ union, one of the rare attempts at independent unionizing in the last few decades, is one of the better-known examples. The story of Mansour Osanloo, one of the main organizers of the syndicate, illustrates the incredible pressure and cruelty labor organizers and their families experience at the hands of the regime. In June 2010, his pregnant daughter-in-law was attacked and beaten up by pro-regime thugs while getting on subway. They took her with them by force and after hours of torture, left her under a bridge in Tehran. She was in dire health and had a miscarriage. These unofficial security forcescontinued to harass her at home in order to put psychological pressure on Osanloo, who is still in prison and is not yielding to the government’s demands to stop organizing. Currently, even conservative judiciary officials are complaining about violations of their authority by parallel security and military forces who arrest people, conduct interrogations and carry out torture, pressure judges to issue harsh sentences, and are implicated in the suspicious murders of dissidents. (In the past few months, not only political dissidents, but even physicians who have witnessed some of the tortures or consequences of them, have been murdered.)
No opposition parties are allowed to function. No independent media—no newspapers magazines, radio or television stations—can survive, other than websites that must constantly battle government censorship. The prisons are full of journalists and activists from across Iranian society. Conditions in Iran’s prisons are gruesome. Prisoners are deprived of any rights or a fair trial, a violation of Iranian law. After the election protests, killing, murder and rape of protesters and prisoners caused a scandal, which resulted in the closing of the notorious Kahrizak prison. Executions continue, however, as the government has meted out hundreds of death sentences in the last year. Iran has the second highest number of executions among all countries and the highest number per capita. In January 2011, executions soared to a rate of one every eight hours.
The women’s movement has been another major target of repression in the past few years. Dozens of activists have been arrested and imprisoned for conducting peaceful campaigns for legal equality; many have been forced to flee the country and many more are continually harassed and threatened. Women collecting signatures on a petition demanding the right to divorce and to child custody are often unfairly accused of “disturbing public order,” “threatening national security,” and “insulting religious values.” Ahmadinejad’s government employs a wide range of patriarchal discourses and policies designed to roll back even small gains achieved by women.
Ahmadinejad’s anti-immigrant positions and policies are the harshest of any administration in the past few decades. The largest forced return of Afghan immigrants happened under his government, ripping families apart and forcing thousands across the border (with many deaths reported in winter due to severe cold). Marriage between Iranians and Afghan immigrants is not allowed and Afghan children do not have any rights, not even to attend school. Moreover, Ahmadinejad’s government has been repressive toward different ethnic groups in Iran, particularly Kurds. It is promoting a militarist Shia-Islamist-nationalist agenda and escalating Shia-Sunni divisions.
Given these realities, how is it that large parts of the US left can support Ahmadinejad? We now look at the confusions that make such a position possible.
US left support for Ahmadinejad
Despite the many differences between the individuals and groups represented at that dinner with Ahmadinejad a few months ago, what the overwhelming majority of them have in common is a mistaken idea of what it means to be anti-imperialist or anti-war. The sycophantic speeches at the dinner can be understood as an enactment of the old adage “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” There are two problems with this approach. The first is that it equates governments with entire populations, the very mistake the activists at that dinner are always saying we shouldn’t make when it comes to US society. The second problem is that support for Ahmadinejad means siding with the regime that crushed a democratic people’s movement in Iran. This position pits US-based activists who want to stop a war with Iran against the democratic aspirations and struggles of millions of Iranians.
Part of the confusion may stem from a distorted notion of what it means to speak from inside “the belly of the beast.” In other words, the argument goes, those of us in the United States have a foremost responsibility to oppose the actual and threatened atrocities of our own government, not to sit in hypocritical judgment over other, lesser state powers. But in the case of the vicious crackdown on all forms of dissent inside Iran, not judging is, in practice, silent complicity. If anti-imperialism means the right to only criticize the US government, we end up with a politics that is, ironically, so US-centric as to undermine the possibility of international solidarity with people who have to simultaneously stand up to their own dictatorial governments and to the behemoth of US power. The fact that the US is the global superpower, and therefore the most dangerous nation-state, does not somehow nullify the oppressive actions of other governments. China, for example, is increasingly participating in economic imperialism across Asia and Africa, exploiting natural resources and labor forces well beyond its borders. There is more than one source of oppression, and even imperialism, in the world. The necessity to hold “our” government accountable in the US must not preclude a crucial imperative of solidarity—the ability to understand the context of other people’s struggles, to stand in their shoes.
If any of the activists defending Ahmadinejad would honestly attempt to do this, they might have some disturbing realizations. For example, if those same individuals or groups tried to speak out and organize in Iran for their current political agendas—against government targeting of activists, against ballooning military budgets, against media censorship, against the death penalty, against a rigged electoral system, for labors rights, women’s rights, the rights of sexual minorities and to free political prisoners—they would themselves be in jail or worse.
Given that these are the issues that guide the work of these leftists in the US, we must ask: don’t the Iranian people also deserve the right to fight for a progressive agenda of their choosing without execution, imprisonment and torture? As we demand rights for activists here, don’t we have to support those same rights for activists in Iran?
Solidarity: concrete and from below
In the tangle of conflicting messages about who speaks for the “people of Iran”—a diverse population with a range of views and interests—what has been sorely lacking in the US is a broad-based progressive/left position on Iran that supports democratization, judicial transparency, political rights, economic justice, social freedoms and self-determination.
There is no contradiction between opposing every instance of US meddling in Iran—and every other country—and supporting the popular, democratic struggles of ordinary Iranians against dictatorship. Effective international solidarity requires that the two go hand in hand, for example, by linking the struggles of political prisoners in Iran and with those of political prisoners in the US, not by counterposing them. Iranian dissidents, like dissidents in the US, see their own government as their main enemy. The fact that Iranian activists also have to deal with sanctions and threats of military action from the US only makes their work and their lives more difficult. The US and Iranian governments are, of course, not equal in their global reach, but both stand in the way of popular democracy and human liberation. US-based activists must not undermine the brave and endangered work of Iranian opposition groups by supporting the regime that is ruthlessly trying to crush them.
We are calling for a rethinking of what internationalism and international solidarity means from the vantage point of activists working in the US. Internationalism has to start from below, from the differently articulated aspirations of mass movements against state militarism, dictatorship, economic crisis, gender, sexual, religious, class and ethnic oppression, in Iran, in the US and all over the world.
For activists in the US, this means being against sanctions on Iran, whether they are in the name of “human rights” or the nuclear issue. It means refusing to cast the US as the land of progress and freedom while Iran is demonized as backward and oppressive. Solidarity is not charity or pity; it flows from an understanding of mutual—though far from identical—struggle. It means consistent opposition to human rights violations in the US, to the rampant sexism and homophobia that lead to violence and destroy people’s lives right here. But we don’t have to hide another state’s brutality behind our complaints about conditions in America. We have to be just as clear in condemning state crimes against activists, journalists and others in Iran, just as critical of the Iranian versions of neo-liberalism and oligarchy, of attacks on trade unions, women and students, as we are of the US versions.
For solidarity to be effective, it must be concrete. US-based activists need to educate ourselves about Iran’s historic and contemporary social movements and, as much as possible, build relationships with those involved in various opposition groups and activities in Iran so that our support is thoughtful, appropriate to the context and, ideally, in response to specific requests initiated from within Iran. It is our hope that these struggles may be increasingly linked as social justice activists in the US and Iran find productive ways of working together, as well as in our different contexts and locations, towards the similar goals of greater democracy and human liberation.
 For example, Workers World, ANSWER and several other groups who share the same political tradition have historically supported Soviet crackdowns against popular uprisings in Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968, the Chinese state’s massacre of unarmed protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the ethnic cleansings carried out by ultra-nationalist Milosevic throughout the 1990s.
[available at: http://www.sacw.net/article2549.html]
(1) ‘INSAF KI DAGAR PAR’ - List of the programs on 10th year of Gujarat carnage (26 February to 7 March 2012)
Public Events: Commemorating 10 Years of Resistance in Gujarat DASTAK (24-26 Feb) + National Convention in Delhi (4 March 2012)
Dastak and ’Bol ki Sach Zindaa Hai Ab Tak’ programmes announced
(2) ‘Ten years of the Gujarat Genocide’
Invitation to a Commemoration Meeting in Mumbai: ‘Justice for Victims of 2002 Genocide’
Day/Date: Monday, February 27, 2012; 6-8 pm. (Meeting starts at 6 pm sharp)
Venue: St. Xaviers College Main auditorium, Next to Rang Bhavan,
5, Mahapalika Marg, Mumbai. (Phone: 22620661)
(3) Invitation: Dialogues of Survivors in Delhi and Ahmedabad (5th and 6th March)
Aman Biradari has organised two Remembrance and Reflection Meetings, mainly Dialogues of Survivors. The first of these will be in Delhi at JNU (Centre for Arts and Aesthetics) on 5 March, 2012, in collaboration with the Programme for Discrimination and Exclusion, School of Social Sciences, JNU. The programme will be from 2 to 4.30 pm. It will involve a Dialogue of Survivors of sites of earlier major communal massacres – Nellie (1983), Delhi (1984), Bhagalpur (1989), Gujarat (2002) and Kandhamal (2007-08). The programme will end with songs for peace, communal harmony and justice by Vidya Rao.
The second programme will be in Ahmedabad on 6 March, 2012, from 1 to 9 pm, at the Chippa Community Centre, Astodia road, Ahmedabad-380001. In this meeting, we will also reflect on the struggles of the survivors, community peace and justice workers and lawyers in the fight for legal justice.
(4) CALL FOR PAPERS ON ‘INTERROGATING INDIAN CAPITALISM’
You are invited to submit abstracts for a conference panel on 'Interrogating Indian Capitalism' at the BASAS Annual Conference,
SOAS, London. 12-14 April 2012.
Organised by Dr Pritam Singh (Oxford Brookes University)
The papers in this panel should aim to provide analysis of different dimensions of the nature of Indian capitalism today. Papers can be historical in character but should aim to throw light on contemporary Indian capitalism. Studies on capitalism in different regions of India or different sectors of the Indian capitalist economy would be equally
welcome along with more macro-level views of Indian capitalism. The macro level dimensions could include the expansionary forays of Indian capital abroad and the new forms of collaborations developing between Indian capital and foreign capital in India as well as abroad.
Papers do not need to be from a narrow economics perspective. Papers exploring bourgeois thought formations through media, education, religion, sports and family would be equally welcome. Similarly papers on class formation, class/caste interactions and on links between business and politics would be welcome. Other areas worth exploring could be discourse analysis of the Indian elites’ perceptions of the rise of India as an economic power in the global capitalist economy.
Explorations of creative and imaginative critiques and challenges to capitalism would be especially appreciated. These critiques and challenges could include practical political struggles also.
Please submit your abstracts to the panel convenor Pritam Singh
(psingh at brookes.ac.uk) by Friday 27th January 2012
For further information about the conference please go
ECOLE DES HAUTES ETUDES EN SCIENCES SOCIALES, PARIS
Centre d’Étude de l'Inde & de l'Asie du Sud
(équipe "Industries culturelles, scènes artistiques et littéraires indiennes")
est heureux de vous inviter à la conférence de
Directeur d'études invité à l'EHESS
"Fiction Writing as History: Narrating the Indian Maoist Revolt of the 1960s and 70s in Literary Representation"
de 10h à 12h
vendredi 2 mars 2012
190 Av. de France
Discutant: Sanjay SUBRAHMANYAM
Professeur d'histoire à UCLA, membre associé du CEIAS
Historien du travail et de l'action politique, Dilip SIMEON est parmi les intellectuels engagés les plus connus en Inde aussi bien que sur la scène internationale. Lauréat de plusieurs fellowships prestigieux, il est également écrivain et vient de publier Revolution Highway (Penguin, 2011), une tentative d'écrire l'histoire du mouvement maoïste en Inde par le biais de la fiction.
Contact: Kapil Raj (raj at ehess.fr)
Catherine Servan-Schreiber (kschreib at ehess.fr)
Raphael Rousseleau (r_rousseleau at hotmail.com)
South Asia Citizens Wire
Buzz for secularism, on the dangers of fundamentalism(s), on
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