SACW - 20 April 2012 | War zones and Patriarchy / Pakistan: religious right attack left rally ; deaf and mute to wage jihad / UK Muslim leader in Bangladesh war crimes / India: Bengal FIR raj; Manufactured communal riots / US: Forty Years In Solitary
aiindex at gmail.com
Thu Apr 19 14:57:10 EDT 2012
South Asia Citizens Wire - 20 April 2012 - No. 2742
1. A brutal manifestation of patriarchy (Sunila Abeysekera)
2. UK: British Muslim wheeler dealer part of Muslim Aid and Muslim council of Britan facing war crimes charges in Bangladesh (Andrew Gilligan)
3. Pakistan: Religious extremists attack left rally against forced conversions
4. Pakistan: Jamaat-ud-Dawa using the deaf and mute to wage jihad against India, America and Israel (Waqar Gillani)
5. Pakistan: Global Day of Action against Military Spending event by Pakistan Peace Coalition and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research
6. Pakistan - India: Many more Chishtys (Iqbal Haider)
7. Excerpts from Delhi Declaration from India Pakistan: Civil Society Review of Strategic Relations March 29-31, New Delhi
8. India: Leading Questions - Aruna Roy
9. India: Misuse of state power to curb freedom of press, freedom of expression, academic freedom in West Bengal - Statements by PUCL, Sahmat and PUDR
10. India - West Bengal: The spectre of FIR raj
11. India: selected posts on Communalism
- India: Custom-built communal riots (Ram Puniyani)
- Exposing Prejudices, Breaking Myths (Subhash Gatade)
- Ranbir Sena killers who orchestrated 1996 Bihar Dalit carnage acquitted
- Justice Denied in the Bathani Tola massacre of Dalits case
- Is Patidars devotion to Hinduism binding them to BJP?
- Why Is Narendrabhai Afraid of the Indian Media?
- Photo of a Sarasvati Shishu Mandir school in Uttrakhand Hills in India
- Telangana: A new Hindutva laboratory in the making
12. India's archives and libraries are in a state of ruin
13. USA: Forty years in solitary - two men mark sombre anniversary in Louisiana prison (Ed Pilkington)
14. In Iraq, concern over shrinking rights (Alice Fordham)
15. Son's Parties and Privilege Aggravate Fall of Elite Chinese Family
- Release of ‘...and miles to go’ (New Delhi, 20 April 2012)
- Aman Biradari invitation to Annual day of Sneh Ghars for residential schools and hostels for street kids (Ne Delhi, 21 April 2012)
- Public discussion: 'Resisting Internet Censorship: Strategies for Furthering Freedom of Expression in India' (Bangalore, 21 April 2012)
- Concert by the Progressive Pakistani Band Laal (New Delhi, 23 April 2012)
1. A BRUTAL MANIFESTATION OF PATRIARCHY
by Sunila Abeysekera
The involvement of women in anti-war actions and in support of peace activism worldwide is a critical part of modern history, yet the vulnerability of women in conflict situations to violence of all forms is perhaps the most brutal manifestation of patriarchy in modern times. We must probe the areas of ambivalence in women’s activism for peace and human rights, argues Sunila Abeysekera
Full Text: http://www.sacw.net/article2640.html
2. UK: BRITISH MUSLIM WHEELER DEALER PART OF MUSLIM AID AND MUSLIM COUNCIL OF BRITAN FACING WAR CRIMES CHARGES IN BANGLADESH
by Andrew Gilligan
One of Britain's most important Muslim leaders is to be charged with war crimes, investigators and officials have told The Sunday Telegraph
[Photo Caption] Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, left, with the Prince of Wales at the Markfield Islamic Foundation, Leics
15 April 2012
Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin, director of Muslim spiritual care provision in the NHS, a trustee of the major British charity Muslim Aid and a central figure in setting up the Muslim Council of Britain, fiercely denies any involvement in a number of abductions and "disappearances" during Bangladesh's independence struggle in the 1970s.
He says the claims are "politically-motivated" and false.
However, Mohammad Abdul Hannan Khan, the chief investigator for the country's International Crimes Tribunal, said: "There is prima facie evidence of Chowdhury Mueen-Uddin being involved in a series of killings of intellectuals.
"We have made substantial progress in the case against him. There is no chance that he will not be indicted and prosecuted. We expect charges in June."
Mr Mueen-Uddin could face the death penalty if convicted.
Bangladesh's Law and Justice Minister, Shafique Ahmed, said: "He was an instrument of killing intellectuals. He will be charged, for sure."
For 25 years after independence from Britain, the country now known as Bangladesh was part of Pakistan, even though the two halves were a thousand miles apart with India between them. In 1971, Bangla resentment at the "colonial" nature of Pakistani rule broke out into a full-scale revolt.
Hundreds of thousands of civilians were massacred by Pakistani troops.
Mr Mueen-Uddin, then a journalist on the Purbodesh newspaper in Dhaka, was a member of a fundamentalist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, which supported Pakistan in the war. In the closing days, as it became clear that Pakistan had lost, he is accused of being part of a collaborationist Bangla militia, the Al-Badr Brigade, which rounded up, tortured and killed prominent citizens to deprive the new state of its intellectual and cultural elite.
The sister-in-law of one such victim, Dolly Chaudhury, claims to have identified Mr Mueen-Uddin as one of three men who abducted her husband, Mufazzal Haider Chaudhury, a prominent scholar of Bengali literature, on the night of 14 December 1971.
"I was able to identify one [of the abductors], Mueen-Uddin," she said in video testimony, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, which will form part of the prosecution case.
"He was wearing a scarf but my husband pulled it down as he was taken away. When he was a student, he often used to go to my brother in law's house. My husband, my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law, we all recognised that man."
Professor Chaudhury was never seen again.
Also among the as yet untested testimony is the widow of another victim, who claims that Mr Mueen-Uddin was in the group that abducted her husband, Sirajuddin Hussain, another journalist, from their home on the night of 10 December 1971.
"There was no doubt that he was the person involved in my husband's abduction and killing," said Noorjahan Seraji. One of the other members of the group, who was caught soon afterwards, allegedly gave Mr Mueen-Uddin's name in his confession.
Another reporter on Purbodesh, Ghulam Mostafa, also disappeared.
The vanished journalist's brother, Dulu, said he appealed to Mr Mueen-Uddin for help and was taken around the main Pakistani Army detention and torture centres by Mr Mueen-Uddin. Dulu Mostafa said that Mr Mueen-Uddin appeared to be well known at the detention centres, gained easy admission to the premises and was saluted by the Pakistani guards as he entered. Ghulam was never found.
Mr Mueen-Uddin's then editor at the paper, Atiqur Rahman, said that Mr Mueen-Uddin had been the first journalist in the country to reveal the existence of the Al-Badr Brigade and had demonstrated intimate knowledge of its activities.
After his colleagues disappeared, he said, Mr Mueen-Uddin had asked for his home address. Fearing that he too would be abducted, the editor gave a fake address. Mr Rahman's name, complete with the fake address, appeared on a Al-Badr death list found just after the end of the war.
[. . .]
Since moving to the UK in the early 1970s, Mr Mueen-Uddin has taken British citizenship and built a successful career as a community activist and Muslim leader.
In 1989 he was a key leader of protests against the Salman Rushdie book, The Satanic Verses.
Around the same time he helped to found the extremist Islamic Forum of Europe, Jamaat-e-Islami's European wing, which believes in creating a sharia state in Europe and in 2010 was accused by a Labour minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, of infiltrating the Labour Party.
Tower Hamlets' directly-elected mayor, Lutfur Rahman, was expelled from Labour for his close links with the IFE.
Until 2010 Mr Mueen-Uddin was vice-chairman of the controversial East London Mosque, controlled by the IFE, in which capacity he greeted Prince Charles when the heir to the throne opened an extension to the mosque. He was also closely involved with the Muslim Council of Britain, which has been dominated by the IFE.
He was chairman and remains a trustee of the IFE-linked charity, Muslim Aid, which has a budget of £20 million. He has also been closely involved in the Markfield Institute, the key institution of Islamist higher education in the UK.
FULL TEXT AT: http://communalism.blogspot.in/2012/04/uk-muslim-leader-connected-to-muslim.html
3. PAKISTAN: RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS ATTACK LEFT RALLY AGAINST FORCED CONVERSIONS
Sunni Tehreek Harassment of a Peaceful Rally against Forced Conversions
17 April 2012
About a dozen people have been mildly injured and three have been booked under blasphemy laws for staging a rally against forced conversions of Hindu girls in Hyderabad, Sindh today. According to local sources, this peaceful rally was organized by Sindh Progressive Committee, an alliance of left wing parties, including Labour Party to voice their concern over growing number of forced conversion of Hindu girls and also to show support for Rinkel Kumari, who is due to appear before the Supreme Court today . It is reported that about a dozen of Tenreek e Sunni activists appeared with sticks and stones and started attacking the protestors who were marching from Old Campus to Hyderabad Press Club. Most protestors, including women and children took shelter in Hyderabad Press Club and remained trapped their until the police intervened for their rescue. However, on request of Sunni Tehreek vigilantes, around 30 Progressive Committee activists were arrested instead and were taken to a local Police Station in Hyderabad where FIR has been filed against three of them, while the remaining are still held at the lock-up.
A spokesman of the Labor Party informs that this incident has caused an uproar in local public, and many political parties, including the zonal office of MQM has strongly condemned this incident. Hundreds of people have now gathered outside the Police Station where the protestors have been held, for sit-in protests and are refusing to leave unless all their activists have been released. Earlier, they had also blocked the national highway in protest, forcing the authorities to bring the Sunni Tehreek and Progressive Committee activists to negotiations to resolve the stand-off.
‘We are a political party, and to express our concern against growing religious extremism is our democratic right and no one should that away from us.” States Farooq Tariq, a spokesperson of Labour Party Pakistan. “ Sunni Tehreek, on the other hand, is not a political party and uses violence to stop any democratic move. The progressives and the Sindhi people here strongly condemn this shameful act and press on the state to stop aiding these groups who infringe on our basic rights”.
More protests are expected today over this issue as negotiations take place.
Abduction of Hindu girls have been going on for a long time, sometimes it is reported and most often, it is not brought into mainstream news. The motive behind this, as some social activists suggest, is linked with ransom money their abductors seek by exploiting their parents. Forcing religious conversions of these girls, therefore, becomes a convenient way for them to justify their marriage legally, and also allows them to make best of the constitutional flaw that doesn’t recognize Hindu marriages as they are not registered, thus making it very difficult for an abducted girl to prove her previous marriage in the court of law. Furthermore, her abductor cannot be charged under the case of ‘kidnapping” as he is legally married to a “Muslim” girl. Moreover, the perpetrators also know it very well that once a non-Muslim has “converted” to Islam, reverting back to the previous religion is considered blasphemy, hence the victim feels helpless in face of further exploitation and unavoidably, rape. Women belonging to minority communities, especially Hindus, therefore become very convenient prey.
This is further worsened when the authorities deliberately remain silent or show completely apathetic attitude towards it for most part when the parents or spouses complain of kidnapping, hinting at the involvement of the state itself, directly or indirectly. There is a pressing need for the state to review its laws that are most exploitative in nature i.e the blasphemy laws and the marriage laws, as these have become the catalyst for the abductors to make easy gains by showing their crime as legally registered marriage when it is not in spirit or even in the mind of the girl whose basic right to choose has been allowed to be morbidly humiliated.
4. PAKISTAN: JAMAAT-UD-DAWA CLAIMS THE DEAF AND MUTE ALSO HAVE A RIGHT TO WAGE JIHAD AGAINST INDIA, AMERICA AND ISRAEL
by Waqar Gillani
Jamaat-ud-Dawa claims the deaf and mute also have a right to wage jihad against India, America and Israel. No wonder the organisation has instituted training camps for its members with sight and hearing impairment, most of them young. Presently, the number of these members runs into thousands. There are 1,500 in Lahore alone that regularly attend JuD resource persons’ lectures in which they are taught about society and religion.
5. PAKISTAN: GLOBAL DAY OF ACTION AGAINST MILITARY SPENDING EVENT BY PAKISTAN PEACE COALITION AND PAKISTAN INSTITUTE OF LABOUR EDUCATION AND RESEARCH
Karachi, April 17: Pakistan Peace Coalition (PPC) and Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) organised a demonstration and a candle-light vigil in front of Karachi Press Club on Tuesday April 17th, 2012 to mark Global Day of Action against Military Spending.
A large number of civil society and human rights activists, labour leaders and students attended the vigil and raised their voice against increased spending on military in Pakistan.
6. PAKISTAN - INDIA: MANY MORE CHISHTYS
by Iqbal Haider
(The Indian Express, April 19 2012)
India, Pakistan must address human rights issues relating to prisoners
Shoa Jawaid, the daughter of Khalil Chishty, had forwarded to me a copy of the representation addressed to President Asif Ali Zardari with a request on the telephone to ensure it is received by the president. Luckily, I succeeded in contacting two of Zardari’s close aides, who passed it on to him. Zardari appreciated the merits of this case and, during his very short visit to India, suggested to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to consider the release of Chishty on humanitarian grounds. In a stroke of luck, the Supreme Court of India, in a positive gesture, ordered the release of Chishty.
The governments of India and Pakistan must address human rights issues relating to each other’s prisoners, jailed in the other country. It is pertinent to remind the governments of their own decision to constitute the Joint Judicial Commission in 2007, comprising four retired judges of the superior courts of each country, which was expected to resolve expeditiously all problems pertaining to prisoners. Unfortunately, this has been undermined by either not allowing the commission to meet frequently or by not implementing the commission’s recommendations. Unanimous recommendations for the release and welfare of prisoners of the two countries still await implementation. If India and Pakistan abide by the recommendations of this commission, almost all problems of the prisoners will be resolved and they will be saved from unnecessary agony.
India and Pakistan had also entered into an Agreement of Counselor Access in 2008 to expedite the process of nationality verification of prisoners, which is necessary for repatriation. This process is not followed expeditiously and avoidable delay is caused in the release and repatriation of prisoners. This issue was considered by the Indian Supreme Court. Justices Markandey Katju and R.M. Lodha, in an order dated March 8, 2010, directed the concerned ministry to determine the nationality of foreign prisoners as soon as possible and if they had completed their sentence and their nationality had been verified, to have them deported forthwith to their country. After a similar petition was filed by me in the Supreme Court of Pakistan on behalf of the Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum, an identical directive was issued by the court. This resulted in the immediate release of the largest number of Indian prisoners (about 442 from Karachi) in one go in August 2010. On April 12 this year, 26 more Indian fishermen were released from Karachi. Although there are hiccups, it is heartening that the release of prisoners continues.
Soon after the release and repatriation of the prisoners in 2010, a delegation of peace and human rights activists from India and Pakistan, of which I was a part, was received by Sonia Gandhi over tea in New Delhi. She appreciated our efforts and thanked us for securing the release of such a large number of prisoners. She immediately informed the home and external affairs ministries and necessary notification was issued the very next day for the release of Pakistani prisoners who had completed their sentences and whose nationality had been verified. Such reciprocal gestures on the part of the judiciary and leadership of the two countries accelerated not only the release of prisoners but also the peace process. In the following year, we witnessed the exchange of the largest number of official delegations between the two countries. The exchange continued with the visit of President Zardari to India last week and the promise by PM Singh to visit Pakistan very soon.
Other than Chishty’s, there is a high-profile case before us: Sarabjit Singh, awaiting execution in Kot Lakhpat Jail, Lahore. For about two decades, the case has received wide publicity and the indulgence of the political leadership of the two countries. Voices have been pleading for Sarabjit’s pardon on humanitarian grounds or at least for commuting his death sentence into life imprisonment. Unfortunately, the stigma of espionage and his alleged involvement in terrorist activity is not easy to remove. Sarabjit pleads his terror charge is on account of mistaken identity. On his family’s appeal, the former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, asked the authorities in Pakistan to convert his punishment on humanitarian grounds. I oppose the death sentence and, hence, support Sharif in this regard. I request the highest authorities in Pakistan to examine Sarabjit’s case with an open mind and to consider the quality of admissible evidence, if any, against him.
Another commendable order came from the Supreme Court of India, urging the Indian government to forthwith repatriate mentally unsound Pakistani prisoners. Justice Lodha, while passing this order, was moved by the pitiable condition of 21 prisoners, 16 of whom are mentally unsound and five deaf or mute, but who have to suffer jail even though they have served their sentences.
I admire the effective support the apex courts of both the countries have offered to the human rights of the prisoners. But we have many more Chishtys in India and Pakistan.
The writer is a former Pakistan minister for human rights and law and justice
[The above article is also available at: http://www.sacw.net/article2642.html ]
7. EXCERPTS FROM DELHI DECLARATION FROM INDIA PAKISTAN: CIVIL SOCIETY REVIEW OF STRATEGIC RELATIONS MARCH 29-31, NEW DELHI
The Conference was of the firm view that a sustainable solution of the Afghanistan problem can only be found in a regional framework involving the full participation of Iran, Central Asia, China and Russia.
It was of the view that India and Pakistan should in immediate terms come to an agreement for a peaceful resolution of the Afghanistan crisis.
The Conference was of the firm view that the people of Kashmir should be stakeholders in the peace process, and be part of the dialogue process between India and Pakistan.
It strongly recommended the demilitarization of both parts of Kashmir, including Gilgit Baltistan.
The Conference underlined the serious threat to international as well as regional peace and security that terrorism poses. Combating this menace requires adopting a holistic approach including addressing the root causes that give rise to terrorism.
The Conference urged both India and Pakistan to cooperate to address this scourge together. It proposed activating a mechanism for joint action against terrorism by both India and Pakistan.
The Conference noted that persons struggling for the realization of their aspirations, such as self -determination, should not be treated as terrorists by the governments of India and Pakistan.
The Conference concluded that a No War Pact between India and Pakistan is possible and would result in saving the two countries from the scourge of an arms race, especially the nuclear race.
The Conference demanded that India and Pakistan should forthwith stop increasing their arsenals, and move towards complete nuclear disarmament.
In addition, the Conference urged India and Pakistan to vigorously implement all military CBMs that they have mutually agreed upon, and extend CBMs to other areas whereever possible.
The Conference noted that India and Pakistan, contrary to their earlier decision favouring a more relaxed visa regime, are tightening controls thereby denying people-to- people contact. This trend must be immediately reversed, and measures taken to assure free movement across the border for members of civil society, media and others in the interests of larger people-to-people contact.
FULL TEXT AT: http://sacip.blogspot.in/2012/04/text-of-delhi-declaration-from-ndia.html
8. INDIA: LEADING QUESTIONS: ARUNA ROY
(The Guardian, 4 April 2012 / Public Leaders Network)
Indian right to information campaigner Aruna Roy on the fight for rights, her position as a female leader, and the importance of exploring transparency
Aruna Roy has long campaigned for people to have access to
Q. Why has the Right to Information movement been so important to you? Where did your enthusiasm for this work spring from?
A. I have been concerned about poverty, inequality and injustice for as long as I can remember. When I moved to rural India to live and work with workers and peasants, we looked for non-violent ways to reduce inequality, inequity and injustice. I got involved with what we call "peoples' politics": the politics of conscience, and politics with ethics. As both a woman and somebody who believes in a participatory democratic process, for me, my life is "indeed a revolution". In the poor communities I had come to live and work with, I discovered many shared objectives. We want and need democracy, but we lack the power to make it work for the values we hold dear.
The Right to Information movement and strugglewas, and is, a collective search for principles and modes to restore the balance of power in favour of the ordinary citizen.For anyone on a journey to infuse reason and justice in basic systems of democratic governance, it became increasingly clear that it would not be possible in an opaque and unaccountable system.
The MKSS, the peasants' and workers' organisation I work with, unearthed startling discrepancies between government records of labour and the reality of what was happening on the ground. The poor depend on daily – adequate – wages to survive. The link between transparency and wages led to the movement's slogans, which are now very popular: "the right to know, the right to live!" and "our money, our accounts!"
The campaign was not merely a demand for information, but was an effort to reclaim democratic institutions, by demanding transparency and accountability. It also came from realising that democratic governance cannot be carried out by any group, left unmonitored and unaccountable.
Q.Over the three decades of your work with poor rural communities, what do you regard as your biggest successes, and why?
The biggest success is that the struggle, campaign and movement for the RTI and the Right to Work began with poor people who needed these rights to help them survive. They seemed to be fighting an almost hopeless battle, but have redefined notions of power and empowerment. The passing of the national law in 2005has given millions of Indians the same power as their members of the national parliament and state legislatures and has enabled people across the board and at thousands of locations across India, to ask important questions of government and its functionaries.It has allowed the people of India to start unraveling the complex web of exploitation emanating from a feudal and colonial legacy, and the powerful waves of neo liberal globalisation. Ultimately, it has begun the vital task of redistributing power in a democratic framework.
What have been the other milestones in your fight for transparency?
In terms of scale, the enactment of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in 2005 has been highly significant. It was enacted at a time when the dominant global belief was that governments must step away from responsibilities, and leave employment and even development to "the market" - but this legislation guarantees every Indian rural household 100 days of work a year at minimum wages. One of the biggest challenges was to ensure that the money reached the people, and that has had lessons in transparency and participatory governance that are proving to be most useful. The small village level public hearings we fashioned in the early 1990s are now growing . This is the first law that requires statutory social audits or public audits to be carried out, where the details of expenditure are to be proactively shared, painted on walls, read out aloud, and audited by the people themselves. This would have been unthinkable15 years ago.
Butover the past 38 years, I have realised that defining success through scale alone is very limited. It is oftena commitment to detailalong with the appreciation of the sanctity of basic principles, that allow for the scale to emerge. What sustains me, are the individual stories that one realises are naturally woven together in the collective struggles that make change possible.
Q. Which international organisations do you work most closely with, and why?
The Right to Information movement connects with almost every movement. In fact,it is only when it connects with every live issue – and in some cases, its use establishes the basis for an issue to be raised – that its power and utility can be understood. The RTI has been owned by people in India, because it has connected with almost every movement. It has helped move towards more rational decisions based on fact, truth, and stated constitutional values in a democratic framework.
There has also been growing frustration across the world with corruption and deceit in structures of implementation and decision making. This is true in India as well. The RTI has actually helped expose many of these shortcomings, and the absence of culpability and accountability has increased popular anger and frustration.The recent anti-corruption protests in India have also used non-violent protest to demand strong anti-corruption legislation.
We have also begun to understand the need for extensive debate in the search for solutions as well. Eventually, the capacity to popularise not just dissent, but also a solution that empowers people, is what will help us understand how transparent, open, democratic governance allows us to fight not just corruption, but also the arbitrary use of power.
If there is true participation, people can play a very useful, vigilant, and even corrective role in governance.
The MKSS has maintained its grass-root orientation, despite being a part of many large national campaigns. Transparency and accountability issues have become catchphrases around the world. Countries from the south, like India, provide many of the living examples of how participatory governance can be shaped. The MKSS has kept in touch with these international debates and therefore occasionally participated in meetings where such exchange of experiences and ideas can take place. The Open Government Partnership is the first international platform where the MKSS has become part of the steering committee. We feel strongly that there is a need for people-to-people exchanges, not in seminar rooms but at the grassroots so that the solidarity of ordinary people can infuse democracies with new energy and ideas.
Q. Have there been any particular challenges for you as a female leader in Indian society? What advice would you give to younger women keen to follow your example?
India is a vast country with divisions of class, caste, language, religion, local traditions to mention a few. I remember Jill Tweedie, who spent a fortnight with me in the 80s, asking to meet a typical Indian woman! It was one of the high points in my larger feminist understanding. Butshe had to settle for one of the many variables of a "typical Indian woman". As I talked to her I tried to see myself from her eyes: I belong by lineage and class to the elite group, that can withstand prejudice and taboos. I come from south India where women from privileged families have been literate for generations. My mother graduated in physics and mathematics. For me it has been much easier than it is for a first generation woman who begins to challenge patriarchy. Yet I find that in many ways working class rural women of Rajasthan are more liberated than their urban counterparts. The challenges of exclusion and oppression prevalent in a patriarchal society lead to a greater determination and feminist solidarity. Even while working in a peasant and worker organisation, women have participated in larger numbers in most of the struggles. The RTI movement may have fewer women applicants than men but it has a more 'feminist' understanding of change.
Q. What is your view of the Open Government Partnership and the first conference on open government in Brasilia in April?
The OGP is a very important international initiative. It is creating spaces for exchange of ideas, and even establishing a forum for governance. It is the first initiative not only towards transparency but openness; of citizens' participation in governance through participatory governance and democracy. Civil society and governments have been in this together from the beginning. Numbers are growing, and standards being evolved. There is much to learn from different practices. The concept of an open government is an evolving one; it is a creative form of democracy,with justice and equal opportunities as an important value.
It is important for leadership to be shared, to observe and learn from practices of both the north and south. In fact some of the practices in the south redefine and reinvent vibrant forms of democratic participation. We need just to look at South, Africa, Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines, Bangladesh, Nepal, to name a few.
The Indian government has not yet agreed to be a part of this partnership, but several Indian groups have participated in some of the meetings. We feel that countries like India must join and share their important learning.
9. INDIA: MISUSE OF STATE POWER TO CURB FREEDOM OF PRESS, FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, ACADEMIC FREEDOM IN WEST BENGAL - STATEMENTS BY PUCL, SAHMAT AND PUDR
PUCL Press Statement on Anti-democratic Conduct of West Bengal Government
The recent developments in the state of West Bengal are very disturbing for all democratically thinking people in the country. The Chief Minister of the state is behaving more as a medieval despot than as the head of a government democratically elected. One is extremely surprised that such public conduct should come from a leader of the party that has rode to power accusing the previous regime of anti-democratic ways.
First the Chief Minister stooped to the level of accusing two unfortunate victims of rape of being part of a conspiracy to defame her government even before the police had investigated the case, and then retaliated by transferring the police officer who found the allegation of rape being true and nailed her lie. Secondly, instead of improving governance , she has banned the purchase of newspapers critical of her conduct and has gone to the extent of warning that she may dictate to the people what they should read or not read. Third is the outrageous act of arresting a professor of Jadhavpur University along with his friend for mailing to a few persons a very decent cartoon critical of her erratic behavior. Now we hear that the state CID is instructed to trail the IP addresses of all those who post material on social website Facebook critical of her ways, policies and conduct. It seems that Chief Minister has forgotten that we have a constitution and a functioning democracy accordingly. Add to this the brutal attack on protesting slum dwellers of Nonadanga in Kolkatta and arrest of Scientist Parta Sarathi Roy for allegedly leading the slum dwellers’ protest. These acts of the state government constitute multiple democratic aberrations violating freedom of press, freedom of expression, academic freedom and blatant misuse of state power and are totally unacceptable and deserve to be condemned in the strongest possible words. PUCL demands that the state government desist from strangulating the social media, arrested professor be forthwith released and democratic norms be restored in the state.
Pushkar Raj (General Secretary, PUCL National)
Prabhakar Sinha (President, PUCL National)
o o o
Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust
29, Feroze Shah Road,New Delhi-110001
Telephone- 23381276/ 23070787
e-mail-sahmat8 at yahoo.com
We are dismayed by the spiralling descent into irrationality of the administration in West Bengal state, in under a year since Mamata Banerjee took office as chief minister.
We believe the increasing illogic of the administration is inspired from the very top, by the impetuous and ill-considered statements and actions of the chief minister on every matter that falls within her gaze: crimes against women, the poor oversight of medical facilities, or the alarming deterioration in the quality of civic services.
Early hopes and beliefs some may have harboured, that the descent would be halted once the new ruling order consolidated itself, have been belied.
The West Bengal state government order issued late in March, prescribing in minute detail the newspapers that public libraries could subscribe to, was an unwarranted intrusion into the right of the people to seek information from any source of their choosing. In what is clearly a retaliatory move against newspapers that have been critical of certain official decisions since the Mamata Banerjee government took office, the circular left out the two most widely circulated Bengali language dailies and all English newspapers. Curiously, three dailies whose owner-editors were recently elected to the Rajya Sabha on Trinamool Congress tickets, find mention in the list.
It soon became evident that this effort to rig the decks in favour of friendly newspapers was part of a wider intolerance of dissent. By any account, the arrest of Jadavpur University professor Ambikesh Mahapatra – after he had been roughed up by political cadre of the ruling party – for circulating over the internet a subtle joke about Mamata Banerjee’s leadership style, must rank among the gravest violations of the free speech right by an elected government in recent times.
We are also shocked at the continuing incarceration of Partho Sarothi Ray, an internationally renowned molecular biologist and professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, after he took part in a peaceful demonstration against the eviction of slum dwellers in the eastern part of the city. Though he was arrested in the course of the April 8 protests, he is being charged with involvement in an incident of April 4, when he was not even present.
We support the mounting protest against such acts of brazen violation of basic democratic rights and call upon people all over the country to register their protest.
Prof. J.V.Naik, Prof. Rajiv Gupta, Prof. Amar Farooqui, Prof. Kesavan Veluthat, Prof Mridula Mukherjee, Prof. Aditya Mukherjee, Prof. Irfan Habib, Prof. Prabhat Patnaik, Prof. Arjun Dev, Prof. Indira Dev, Prof. D. N. Jha, Prof. C. P. Chandrasekhar, Prof. Shireen Moosvi, Prof. Iqdar Alam Khan, Prof. Ramesh Rawat, Prof. Wasi Hyder, Prof. Saira I. Habib, Prof. Atluri Murli, Dr. Archana Prasad, Prof. Shakti Kak, Prof. Javeed Alam, Sashi Kumar, Madhu Prasad, Jawarimal Parakh, Nasir Tyabji, Astad Deboo, Saeed Mirza, M. K. Raina, Madan Gopal Singh, Ram Rahman, Sohail Hashmi, Virendra Saini, Teesta Setalvad, Dr. P. K. Shukla, Prof. Anil Bhatti, Prof. J. M. Parakh, Dr. Sanjeev Kumar, Dr. Lata Singh, Prof. Utsa Patnaik, Prof. Jayati Ghosh, Asad Zaidi, Manmohan, Rajesh Joshi, Chanchal Chauhan, Moloyshree Hashmi, Sudhanva Deshpande, Indira Chandrasekhar, Saroj Ganpath, Zoya Hasan, Teesta Setalwad, B. N., Uniyal, Ruchira Gupta, Santosh Kumar Rai, Shaleen Jain, Indira Mukherjee, Anil Nauria, Anil Sadgopal, Badri Raina, Aniket Alam, Sukumar Murlidharan, Ritu K Singh, Jagdish Lal Dawar, Daanish Raj, Shabnam Hashmi, Rajendra Sharma, Samvartha Salil, Rahul Verma, N. K. Sharma, K. Ashok Rao, M.M.P. Singh, Vishnu Nagar, Maya Krishna Rao
o o o
PUDR statement condemning the Kolkata arrests on the issue of cartoons
April 13, 2012
PUDR is astounded by the West Bengal government’s latest incident of intolerance of dissent and suppression of democratic rights. Media sources state that a professor of Chemistry at Jadavpur University, Ambikesh Mahapatra, was assaulted by TMC hoodlums at his residence and then arrested on 12th April for allegedly circulating, by email, a political cartoon lampooning the chief minister, Ms. Mamata Banerjee for the rail budget fiasco. A neighbour of the professor, Mr. Subrata Sengupta, has also been picked up. The police has charged Prof. Mahapatra under u/s 66, (sending offensive messages through electronic mail) of the IT Act, and u/s 500 (defamation), 509 (insulting the modesty of a woman through word, gesture or act) and u/s114 (presence of abettor at the time of commission of offence) IPC. A light-hearted, non-professional attempt of the variety that is very common on the internet, the cartoon can be viewed with a simple Google search or at the website of major media organisations reporting the incident (eg. Hindustan Times or IBNlive.in.com). The absurdity of the charges are self-evident.
It has been reported that Mr Madan Mitra, the Trinamul minister who led yesterday’s TMC goon squad violence on democratic rights activists from APDR has defended the attack on Prof. Mahapatra.
Throughout the month of April, a number of incidents including arbitrary extra-legal assaults and violent police action on peaceful, democratic protest are showing the TMC led West Bengal government’s extreme intolerance of any form of dissent. First there was the brutal demolition of the Nonadanga slums to hand the land over to real estate developers. Then the anti-eviction activists are arrested and slapped with ridiculous charges without an iota of substantive evidence. The convenient ‘Maoist’ bogey is being invoked, as if that relieves the state of all responsibility to follow the due process of the law.
It has also been reported that some of the arrested activists are being booked under UAPA the notorious ‘terror’ law, again without a shred of real evidence. Evidently, peaceful protests on issues of life and livelihood or political dissent have become an ‘act of terror’ in the eyes of the West Bengal government.
On the other hand, TMC goon squads are being unleashed on people’s protests and activists. The administration has the full political backing to shield the perpetrators of these attacks and arrest the victims.
It has also been reported that the government is trying to implicate the arrested activists in old cases pertaining to the Nandigram protests – which is doubly shocking, given that Nandigram was one of Mamata Banerjee’s prime electoral planks.
PUDR wishes to remind those in power in Kolkata that the fundamental right to speech, thought and association cannot be curbed simply because a government dislikes democratic forms of dissent or disagrees with the politics of the protesters.
* An unconditional release of Professor Mahapatra and Mr. Sengupta
* Immediate and unconditional release of all arrestees on the Nonadanga anti-eviction issue
* An FIR be lodged against the TMC goons who are leading the assaults on dissenters
* That the draconian, anti-democracy UAPA not be invoked to deal with peaceful protests
Paramjeet Singh and Preeti Chauhan
10. INDIA: THE SPECTRE OF FIR RAJ
(The Telegraph, 15 April 2012)
Proxy device easy to plant and detonate to settle scores
April 14: The manner in which a professor and a retired engineer were arrested and locked up for over 16 hours in Calcutta has blown the lid off a tactic increasingly being employed in Bengal to intimidate or settle scores with dissenters.
The weapon of mass-scale harassment is an oft-mentioned but little-understood piece of paper called the FIR or first information report.
The method is scary — a word that cropped up several times yesterday when commentators were discussing the professor’s arrest — in its simplicity. FIRs are filed — unofficially at the behest of political bosses — for any conceivable transgression, against anyone deemed to be an opponent. The state then uses arrest or threat of arrest to browbeat them.
The FIR, the document that was given teeth with the noble intention of reducing the chance of police inaction when aggrieved citizens approached them, has been turned into a device for multiple ambushes.
The FIR landmine can be planted by purportedly aggrieved persons over perceived transgressions across the state’s police stations, where it will lie dormant and can be detonated at will on unsuspecting critics who step out of line.
The advantage of the FIR guerrilla tactic is that the trail to the origin of the complaints, which are filed by proxies, will rarely lead directly to the executive. The government can also claim that it cannot do anything about the complaints as private citizens are behind them.
Complaints can be filed with such clauses that a non-cognisable offence — which requires a court warrant for arrest — can be converted into a cognisable one where the police can use their discretion and arrest those named in the FIR.
Take the case of professor Ambikesh Mahapatra, who has been arrested for circulating the clip of a joke that lampoons Mamata Banerjee and a central minister. If the subjects of the cartoon felt that they were being defamed, the norm is that the alleged victim should file a defamation suit in a court that will decide if the law has been broken.
More important, defamation is a non-cognisable offence — which means the alleged perpetrator cannot be arrested without a warrant.
Why worry about such annoying details if you have an all-weather weapon called the FIR? A Trinamul supporter — who was among those arrested on Saturday in what is being seen as a damage-control bid by the government ( ) — set the stage on Thursday night by filing a complaint that accused the professor of sending “an obscene printout and message in the name of the honourable chief minister”.
The police pounced on the complaint and converted it into an FIR and charged the professor with trying to insult the modesty of a woman — a cognisable offence that ensured that the professor and his septuagenarian neighbour spent at least one night and most of the next day in a police lock-up.
Sources say this is just the tip of the iceberg and very elementary. A sophisticated operation will see FIRs mushroom in many police stations and under clauses that require separate anticipatory bail applications for each complaint.
Unless the target has the resources to hire the best legal services, incarceration is next to impossible to avoid.
Although the option of seeking anticipatory bail exists, citizens like a professor or a retired engineer could find themselves sucked into an administrative quagmire — a point that illustrates the harassment potential of FIRs.
If FIRs have such powers, it raises the question why those in power cannot be treated to the same medicine. The problem here is that FIRs cannot be filed without the police’s co-operation although cognisable offences have to be registered.
The police have many options to dissuade a person whose complaint they find unpalatable. A common trick played on the uninitiated is to advise them to file a general diary and approach a court.
There is little a citizen can do to get an officer-in-charge disciplined if he misuses the FIR system. One can technically complain to the officer’s superiors if the victimisation is at an individual level but incase of state-backed FIRs, very little can be done.
Courts can be moved over harassment and damages can be sought but few ordinary citizens are expected to have the resources and tenacity to soldier on against a mighty array of officials and political bosses.
Few lawyers wanted to comment on tweets that detected echoes of “Stalinism in Bengal” or answer questions if an “FIR gulag” is taking shape in Bengal.
Lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi confined himself to the following eloquent comment: “The only thing that distinguishes us from our neighbours is the spirit of accommodation and tolerance which we display in this festival of democracy. That spirit of accommodation and tolerance should never be allowed to diminish.”
11. INDIA: SELECTED POSTS ON COMMUNALISM
INDIA: CUSTOM-BUILT COMMUNAL RIOTS
by Ram Puniyani
IN Saidabad and Madannapeth areas of Hyderabad (first week of April 2012) violence was unleashed against the local Muslims. Women were allegedly raped, houses torched and scores were left injured. What triggered the riots was an inflammatory speech by Vishwa Hindu Parishad functionary Praveen Togadia. News that fundamentalists (read Muslims) had thrown beef and green colour at a Hanuman temple in the locality triggered the communal strife. Just a rumour was good enough to instigate violence. But when police succeeded in arresting the culprits, it was discovered that those behind the ‘so-called riots’ were goons from different Hindu communal outfits.
EXPOSING PREJUDICES, BREAKING MYTHS
by Subhash Gatade, 18 April
RANBIR SENA KILLERS WHO ORCHESTRATED 1996 BIHAR DALIT CARNAGE ACQUITTED
JUSTICE DENIED IN THE BATHANI TOLA MASSACRE OF DALITS CASE
IS PATIDARS DEVOTION TO HINDUISM BINDING THEM TO BJP?
WHY IS NARENDRABHAI AFRAID OF THE INDIAN MEDIA?
PHOTO OF A SARASVATI SHISHU MANDIR SCHOOL IN UTTRAKHAND HILLS IN INDIA
thousands of such schools are spreading Hindutva ideology
TELANGANA: A NEW HINDUTVA LABORATORY IN THE MAKING
12. INDIA'S ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES ARE IN A STATE OF RUIN
Our past is being moth-eaten
by Dinyar Patel
India's archives and libraries are in a state of ruin. We would lose our history and heritage if the government does not act to save them.
Experiencing the Indian Archives
by Shilpi Rajpal
Archives, where public records are preserved, are indispensable for a healthy dialogue between the “past” and the “present”. But unfortunately, the Public Record Act of 1993 is a piece of legislation without meaning because the government neglects its role in preserving records. Across the country, government archives are in poor shape and few institutions are taking an interest in preserving records.
13. USA: FORTY YEARS IN SOLITARY - TWO MEN MARK SOMBRE ANNIVERSARY IN LOUISIANA PRISON
by Ed Pilkington
(The Guardian - http://bit.ly/IzdQ1S)
They've spent 23 hours of each day in the last 40 years in a 9ft-by-6ft cell. Now, as human rights groups intensify calls for their release, a documentary provides insight into an isolated life
16 April 2012
Herman Wallace, left, and Albert Woodfox in Angola prison in Louisiana. Robert King, the third member of the Angola 2, had his conviction overturned and was released in 2001.
"I can make about four steps forward before I touch the door," Herman Wallace says as he describes the cell in which he has lived for the past 40 years. "If I turn an about-face, I'm going to bump into something. I'm used to it, and that's one of the bad things about it."
On Tuesday, Wallace and his friend Albert Woodfox will mark one of the more unusual, and shameful, anniversaries in American penal history. Forty years ago to the day, they were put into solitary confinement in Louisiana's notorious Angola jail. They have been there ever since.
They have spent 23 hours of every one of the past 14,610 days locked in their single-occupancy 9ft-by-6ft cells. Each cell, Amnesty International records, has a toilet, a mattress, sheets, a blanket, pillow and a small bench attached to the wall. Their contact with the world outside the windowless room is limited to the occasional visit and telephone call, "exercise" three times a week in a caged concrete yard, and letters that are opened and read by prison guards.
A new documentary film takes us into that cell, providing rare insight into the personal psychological impact of such prolonged isolation. Herman's House tracks the experiences and thoughts of Wallace as he reflects on four decades banged away in a box.
The film is based on recorded telephone conversations between Wallace and the documentary's director Angad Bhalla. Wallace, a New Orleans native now aged 70, speaks with powerful understatement about his time in solitary.
Angola prison Louisiana The entrance to Angola prison. Photograph: Judi Bottoni/AP
"Being in a cage for such an extended period of time, it has its downfalls. You may not feel it, you may not know it, you may think you're OK, and you're just perfunctory about it."
In recordings that are not included in the film but have been made available to the Guardian, Wallace gives more detail about his cell: "Every time I stand up from the bed I could hit my hips on the table, it's that close. As far as moving about – there is no movement. I suffer from arthritis that has come about because of being in the cell."
Wallace was first imprisoned in 1967 after he commited a bank robbery. The late sixties were a heady time inside Angola, reputed to be the worst jail in America, whose 5,000 inmates were still racially segregated and where violence and sexual slavery were rampant.
Wallace, Woodfox and a third black man, Robert King, came together to form a chapter of the Black Panther movement inside the prison, hoping to organise African American inmates against the brutal treatment they endured. Then on April 17, 1972, a prison guard called Brent Miller was murdered during an arrest on one of the wings.
The Angola 3 were immediately accused of the murder, and placed that same day in solitary. They have insisted ever since on their innocence, pointing to the lack of any physical evidence linking them to Miller's death and suggestions that the main eyewitness against them was bribed by prison officials.
They say that the murder charge was trumped up to punish them for their political activities.
Since 1972, Wallace and Woodfox have been brought before more than 150 prison boards where their unprecedented duration in solitary confinement has been reviewed only for them to be sent straight back to their cells. The only explanation given: "Nature of the original reason for lockdown".
"This is a case of innocence and the abuse of human rights," Robert King said on the eve of the anniversary. King's conviction was overturned and he was released in 2001, and he said he fears for his former fellow inmates now bearing in mind that they have spent more than a decade longer in solitary than he did.
"I was in a six-by-nine cell for 29 years and I know what it did to me – it shunk the brain, it shrunk the individual. You become acclimatised to small distances."
Amnesty hopes to build pressure on the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, to release the two remaining men from solitary by delivering a petition bearing more than 65,000 signatures to the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge on Tuesday. The human rights organisation decries their prolonged solitary incarceration as a form of cruel and inhumane treatment that is banned under both the US constitution and international law.
In his recorded conversations with Bhalla, Wallace gives a glimpse into his mental state after so long alone. He says his memory is deteriorating. "A lot of times I lose it. I have trouble coming up with the simplest of things, the A,B,C..."
Many days he doesn't bother to come out of his cell at all, he tells Balla. "I have to spend a lot of time reading and writing. It helps me to maintain what little sanity I have left, to maintain humanity and dignity and to fight back to what people are trying to do to Albert and I from a mental perspective."
The film follows the relationship between Wallace and a young artist called Jackie Sumell who was so outraged by his story that she decided to help him imaginatively escape from solitary confinement by having him design his perfect house. She asked him to describe to her the ideal house of his dreams.
"What kind of house do a man in solitary dream about?" he says in the film. "I don't dream about no house. Being out there in the streets, even if I was homeless, I'd be satisfied."
But he does go on to design for Sumell his perfect house, sending her drawings and descriptions in words from which she builds a recreation of Herman's house as an art installation.
"In the front of the house," he writes, "I have gardens full of gardenias, carnations and tulips. This is of the utmost importance. I would like my guests to be able to smile and watch the flowers all day long."
Beside the gardens is a swimming pool with a large black panther drawn in tiles on the bottom. Entering the house, there is a wall lined with portraits of rebel slave leaders and abolitionists – Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, John Brown and Harriet Tubman.
In the master bedroom upstairs there is a king-sized bed, African art on the walls, and a mirror ceiling (remember, Wallace has been jailed since 1967). Next to the bedroom is an ensuite bathroom which contains the most telling imaginary detail of all: a bath tub in which the free Herman Wallace will be able to wallow.
It measures 9ft by 6ft, the size of his cell for the past 40 years.
Herman's House, directed by Angad Bhalla and produced by Lisa Valencia-Svensson, will be shown at the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival on April 27.
14. IN IRAQ, CONCERN OVER SHRINKING RIGHTS
by Alice Fordham
(Washington Post, April 4, 2012)
AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/GETTY IMAGES - Iraqi police women march during a parade to mark 90 years since its foundation in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, on Jan. 9, 2012.
BAGHDAD — The Iraqi government is debating proposed laws that would impose strict controls on freedom of speech and association, prompting fears that the authorities are playing a growing and increasingly oppressive role in citizens’ lives.
As the country settles into its new identity as a sovereign state, about four months after the departure of the last American troops, some Iraqis are nervous that the government is moving back toward the heavy-handed monitoring of citizens that was a hallmark of life under dictator Saddam Hussein.
Youths in Iraq: The war generation: Those who came of age during the American-led occupation reckon with life after the U.S. withdrawal as they prepare to inherit a nation scarred.
In parliament, there has been fierce debate of several draft laws. One would carry harsh penalties for online criticism of the government. Another would require demonstrators to get permission for any gathering.
Local and international human rights groups say the proposed legislation is vague and would give the government power to move against people or parties critical of the government.
“In Iraq, we need to respect all the ideas,” said an activist and blogger known as Hayder Hamzoz who is campaigning against a proposed information technology law that would mandate a year’s imprisonment for anyone who violates “religious, moral, family, or social values” online.
The proposed law also contains a sentence of life imprisonment for using computers or social networks to compromise “the independence of the state or its unity, integrity, safety.”
Hamzoz, who does not use his real name out of concern for his safety, said the legislation is intended to allow the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to control social media. The government essentially did just that more than a year ago, when it swiftly smothered an uprising inspired by the Arab Spring revolts sweeping the region.
“It’s to attack the activists,” Hamzoz said.
Activists and nongovernmental organizations have criticized the proposed laws that would impose rules on gatherings and forbid meetings in religious establishments, universities and government buildings for anything other than the facilities’ primary purpose.
The Center for Law and Democracy, a U.S.-based advocacy organization, produced a report in December criticizing Iraq’s government for proposing a “number of legal rules which do not meet basic constitutional and international human rights standards.”
In addition to the legislation on Internet use and demonstrations, parliament is debating a law governing the formation of political parties and media organizations.
The Center for Law and Democracy’s report argues that vague rules “may be used to prohibit a wide range of expression which is either merely offensive or perhaps even simply politically unpalatable.”
Many argue that the country, which is emerging from more than 30 years of autocracy under Hussein and then years of conflict and instability after the U.S. invasion, needs tough laws to establish clear ground rules.
“Something should be organized, and the people should know their rights,” said Tariq Harb, a legal expert close to Maliki.
Harb was scornful of those campaigning against the new legislation, saying that the measures reflect international norms. “In London, when there were riots, there were people jailed because of the Internet,” he said.
Harb also argued that Iraq is far more liberal than some of its neighbors, notably Iran and Saudi Arabia, with alcohol available in Baghdad and no official dress code for women.
But others, particularly women’s rights groups, balked at a letter issued late last year by a government committee suggesting that female government employees dress modestly. Another committee has instructed university students of both sexes — who generally adorn a rainbow of head coverings and fashionable jeans — to adopt a muted palette and “decent” clothing.
Alaa Makki, a member of parliament who is part of the committee that issued the rule, said he had reservations about imposing a dress code on young people. But, he added, members of the powerful religious parties had more influence than did liberals.
“The religious parties are politicians, and they are religious leaders in society,” Makki said. “And politicians have to fulfill the demands of imams or they will be marginalized.”
Basma al-Khateb, a women’s rights activist, said some of the government’s moves reminded her of the harsh controls under Hussein, before he was ousted in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion. She said she feared that the new democratic system had brought to power groups with autocratic tendencies and conflicting religious and political loyalties.
“At least with Saddam, we had one red line,” she said. “Now everyone is Saddam. We have 300 Saddams, each with his bloc and his party.”
15. SON'S PARTIES AND PRIVILEGE AGGRAVATE FALL OF ELITE CHINESE FAMILY
Communist party officials are angered by the lifestyle of Bo Guagua, whose parents, Bo Xilai and Gu Kailai, are subjects of corruption and murder investigations.
(i) Release of ‘...and miles to go’ a pocket book by Syeda Hamid( member Planning Commission), Noorjahan Diwan (grass root worker from Juhapura), Sofiya Khan ( Director Safar, Ahmedabad), Zakia Soman( founder Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan) and Shabnam Hashmi ( social activist Anhad).
Five Muslim women/ women of Muslim descent reflect on how 2002 Gujarat influenced their lives.
Dr Abhijit Sen (member, Planning Commission of India) will release the book and
Prof Apoorvanand (Professor, Delhi University) will introduce the book.
Date : April 20, 2012
Venue: 23, Canning Lane Lawns, New Delhi-110001
(ii) Aman Biradari invitation to Annual day of Sneh Ghars for residential schools and hostels for street kids
Just over 6 years ago, we dreamed of a new life for children who have had the most difficult lives – surviving parents who profoundly let them down, hunger, homelessness, incest and even horrendous massacres.
It is five years since we opened our first Sneh Ghar in Delhi for boys, an open home offering love, healing and comprehensive care to all our children. Love, comprehensive care and education in running government schools – on the Rainbow model of Sr. Cyril combined with community mobilisation of MV Foundation led by Shantha Sinha, showed us the way. Today we have more than 300 children in Delhi in our care, in 3 Sneh Ghars (as we have come to call our residential schools and hostels). These are Kilkari and Khushi for girls, and Ummeed for boys; and one house for young adult children who graduated from Ummeeed, called Udaan.
We have discovered our children to be brave, spirited and resilient. Even after they suffered hugely, let down by most adults, abused in a variety of ways, hurt, denied all rights - with love and security, we find our children able to love again easily, to hope, to forgive ready to give life another chance. We have found in them great talent and energy. Children who grew up alone on railway stations and streets have passed their board exams in 2 or 3 years. More than two-third of our children who were forced to beg or pick rags are in regular schools. Many are soon ahead of the class academically, as well as shining in all the opportunities that the schools offer to express their talents.
All of this has been possible firstly because we believe in working closely with governments. The Sneh Ghars are SSA residential schools of the Delhi government, in Delhi government buildings. The model has been greatly supported nationally, and is now a formal new programme of the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, for residential schools for urban deprived children under SSA. It has grown to many cities, most dramatically Hyderabad, in which more than 3000 former street children are living in 22 residential schools (converting running day schools), and further to government schools in Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, and hopefully soon in Patna, Lucknow and other cities. We have been supported enormously by a range of wonderful people, and organisations which give of their resources, but more importantly of their faith, empathy and affection to the children.
This year we decided to spread our direct work to adult homeless populations as well. We have now made a modest start with shelters for homeless men and women in Delhi, in collaboration with the Delhi Government, and also 2 Aman Langars respectfully serving food, and 3 health clinics.
Each year we come together and celebrate our children, on the Annual day. This time it is scheduled on 21st April, 2012, at Ummeed Aman Ghar (opposite Qutub Minar), New Delhi, from 6 pm to 8.30 pm. Admiral Tahaliani, Justice Rajiv Shakdher, Delhi High Court, Ms Anshu Vaish, Secretary Education, Government of India, and Ms Dipa Dixit, Member NCPCR will be Guests of Honour. We would be delighted if you could please join us for the celebrations as our Special Guests who are our deeply valued supporters!!
(For the Aman Biradari and Centre for Equity teams)
The Centre for Internet and Society and the Foundation for Media Professionals invite you to an open discussion on
'Resisting Internet Censorship: Strategies for Furthering Freedom of Expression in India'
Date: April 21, 2012
Time: 2.00 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.
Venue: Bangalore International Centre, TERI Complex, Domlur Stage II
The discussion will be moderated by Paranjoy Guha Thakurta.
* P. Rajeeve, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha, CPI(M))
* Rajeev Chandrashekar, Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha, Independent)
* V.R. Sudarshan, Member of Legislative Council, Karnataka (Congress)
* Na. Vijayshankar, Cyber Law College
* Mahesh Murthy, Pinstorm
* B.G. Mahesh, OneIndia.in
* Sudhir Krishnaswamy, Centre for Law and Policy Research
* Siddharth Narain, Alternative Law Forum
* Ram Bhat, Maraa
* S. Senthil, FSMK [tbc]
* Arati Chokshi, People's Union for Civil Liberties (Karnataka) [tbc]
## Immediate Background
Member of Parliament, P. Rajeeve has introduced a motion in the Rajya Sabha calling for the Internet censorship law passed last year ("Intermediary Guidelines Rules") to be annulled. This motion will be taken up once the Budget Session 2012 reconvenes, and will need the support of the majority of both Houses to be passed. Apart from this, we have seen multiple cases in the past few months of flagrant abuse of the speech laws, especially the Information Technology Act, including the removal of CartoonsAgainstCorruption.com, the arrest of M. Karthik, a 20-year-old atheist from Hyderabad, and of Prof. Ambikesh Mahapatra
from Kolkata for 'defamatory' cartoons of Mamata Banerjee, both under s.66A of the Information Technology Act. We need to develop strategies
to combat this over-eagerness by authorities to abuse speech laws.
## More Detailed Background
Internet censorship has been in India ever since VSNL brought internet connectivity to Indians in the mid-1990s, when websites were blocked through executive fiat. In 2000 the Information Technology Act was passed, and while it had a provision on electronic publication of obscene materials, it did not contain any provisions for blocking of websites. Still, Rules were made under the Act under which the government blocked numerous websites.
In 2008 the Act was amended, bringing more transparency to the censorship regime. Unfortunately, cases like the CartoonsAgainstCorruption.com and the disparity between censorship statistics published by Google and the official statistics revealed under RTI by the Department of Information Technology show a large amount of extra-legal censorship happening.
In February 2011, the DIT published draft rules that were severely criticised by many MPs, including Rajeev Chandrashekar, P. Rajeeve, Mahendra Mohan, and Kumar Deepak Das, organizations including CIS, Software Freedom Law Centre, IAMAI, and companies like Google India.
Many MPs, including Rajeev Chandrashekar and P. Rajeeve, raised concerns about the draft. In April 2011 disregarding all these concerns, the government pressed ahead with the Rules. These rules allowed any person to get content removed from the Internet by writing to any 'intermediary' (like Rediff, BSNL, Google, Facebook, etc.) within 36 hours, with no questions asked, and no intimation to the content owner (hence no question of challenge), and once again made internet censorship as unaccountable as it was pre-2008, only with the power to censor in the hands of every citizen, rather than just a few government officials.
In May 2011, due to the backlash in the media, with negative editorials in prominent newspapers, Mr. Kapil Sibal indicated in an interview that the rules would be revisited. From August 2011 onwards there was a crackdown on several web companies, including Indiatimes, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Facebook, with the government asking them to proactively monitor online content and remove what it deemed objectionable material. Since then, a number of egregious cases of censorship through filing of intimidatory FIRs and lawsuits have been happening.
The Foundation for Media Professionals is an independent, not-for-profit organisation, set up in April 2008, by a group of Indian journalists with diverse media backgrounds and work experiences. Though we are traditionally referred to as journalists, we have decided to call ourselves differently to emphasise the importance we place on professionalism, so that we can be true to our vocation as watchdogs of
The Centre for Internet and Society was registered as a society in Bangalore in 2008. As an independent, non-profit research organisation, it runs different research programmes on topics such as Accessibility, Access to Knowledge, Openness, Internet Governance, Telecom, Digital Natives and Digital Humanities.
(iv) Concert by the Progressive Pakistani Band Laal
23 April 2012 at 6.30 pm
@ India Habit Centre, New Delhi
South Asia Citizens Wire
Buzz for secularism, on the dangers of fundamentalism(s), on
matters of peace and democratisation in South
Asia. Newsletter of South Asia Citizens Web:
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.
More information about the SACW