SACW - 7 April 2018 | Sri Lanka: Office of Missing Persons / Pakistan: Textbooks / Genomic Formation of South Asia / India-Pakistan: - making nuclear war likely / India: through the glass darkly / From Malala to Parkland / China: Communist Party Abandoning Workers / Korea’s island of ghosts

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at
Fri Apr 6 17:01:37 EDT 2018

South Asia Citizens Wire - 7 April 2018 - No. 2981 
[via South Asia Citizens Web - since 1996]

1. How Pakistani school textbooks mould its students’ skewed worldview | Madiha Afzal
2. Genomic Formation of South and Central Asia / Tony Joseph on How The Indians & South Asians, Came to Be / David Reich on use and abuse of ancient DNA 
3. India: Statement by Bebaak Collective on role of right wing forces in the aftermath of triple talaq judgement
4. USA: Our employer shouldn’t be in the business of war - Open letter signed by Google employees
5. Recent on Communalism Watch:
 - India: Communal Riots in bihar - Harmony on the Surface, Deep Wounds Beneath (report by NewsClick)
 - India: Editorial in The Hindu on violence over Ram Navami processions
 - India: Students of madrassas and pathshalas may have to kiss their job future goodbye - Editorial, DNA
 - India: HC tells Gujarat Police not to arrest Teesta Setalvad, associate till May 2, 2018
 - India: Who is harassing Teesta Setalvad and why - Sabrang's Official Statement on latest false FIR
 - Gurus and Gifting: Dana, the math reform campaign, and competing visions of Hindu sangathan in twentieth-century India
 - India: The Maulana who set aside personal grief and calmed a frenzied mob must get justice - Editorial, The Times of India
 - Press Release by CPI(M) on Communal Riots in Parts of West Bengal
 - Liberal democrats owe it to themselves to choose their words and fora responsibly | Javed Anand
 - In both religion and law, polygamy has no place | Tahir Mahmood
 - India: Nilanjana Bhowmick on Noida's Thriving Militant Hinduism
 - India - Tripura: on takeover of minority graveyard land by BJP leaders
 - India: Shameful display of Hindutva terror in festive processions | M Shamsur Rabb Khan
::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::
6. From Malala to Parkland, why are the victims demonised? | Nesrine Malik
7. Office of Missing Persons Provides ‘Audacity Of Hope’ to Sri Lanka | D.B.S.Jeyaraj
8. India and Pakistan are quietly making nuclear war more likely | Tom Hundley
9. IAF to launch war games to hone fighting skills on Pakistan, China fronts | Rajat Pandit
10. Data exposes what India & Pakistan don’t reveal about the constant ‘ceasefire violations’ | Happymon Jacob 
11. India through the glass darkly |  Latha Jishnu
12. India: Article 370 has acquired permanent status - Supreme Court | Dhananjay Mahapatra
13. India’s political class has failed to realise the gravity of the employment crisis | Editorial, Hindustan Times
14. Not Mei Lin’s Republic | Bindu Menon
15. China’s Communist Party Is Abandoning Workers | Harvey Thomlinson
16. While Facebook faces the music, maybe it is time to #DeleteWhatsApp | Vivek Wadhwa
17. The ISIS Files | Rukmini Callimachi Photographs by Ivor Prickett
18. On Jeju, Korea’s island of ghosts, the dead finally find a voice | Andrew Salmon
19. 'Being cash-free puts us at risk of attack': Swedes turn against cashlessness | David Crouch in Gothenburg
20. The shame of antisemitism on the left has a long, malign history | Philip Spencer

Excerpt from Pakistan Under Siege by Madiha Afzal (Penguin Random House India)

The Nazi ideology of a “pure” Indo-European-speaking Aryan race with deep roots in Germany, traceable through artifacts of the Corded Ware culture, has been shattered by the finding that the people who used these artifacts came from a mass migration from the Russian steppe, a place that German nationalists would have despised as a source. The Hindutva ideology that there was no major contribution to Indian culture from migrants from outside South Asia is undermined by the fact that approximately half of the ancestry of Indians today is derived from multiple waves of mass migration from Iran and the Eurasian steppe within the last five thousand years.

We strongly believe that the right wing groups have united with various political parties and religious organizations to oppress the voices of all the progressive Muslim women who created democratic spaces for themselves, are talking differently and opposing the bill from a gender rights perspective, which is indeed away from the religious perspective

In this open letter to Google’s CEO, over 3,000 employees urged the company not to work on a Pentagon ‘AI surveillance engine’ used for drone warfare

India: Rakesh Sinha says psuedo-secular intelligentsia has fractured the concept of Indian citizenship, kept Muslims in an impermeable silo
India: Communal Riots in bihar - Harmony on the Surface, Deep Wounds Beneath (report by NewsClick)
India: Editorial in The Hindu on violence over Ram Navami processions
India: Students of madrassas and pathshalas may have to kiss their job future goodbye - Editorial, DNA
India: HC tells Gujarat Police not to arrest Teesta Setalvad, associate till May 2, 2018
India: Who is harassing Teesta Setalvad and why - Sabrang's Official Statement on latest false FIR
Vikash Singh on neoliberal precariousness and religion - Kanwarias in India
Gurus and Gifting: Dana, the math reform campaign, and competing visions of Hindu sangathan in twentieth-century India
India: The Maulana who set aside personal grief and calmed a frenzied mob must get justice - Editorial, The Times of India
Press Release by CPI(M) on Communal Riots in Parts of West Bengal
India: Teetsa Setalvad, Javed Anand seek pre-arrest bail move Bombay High Court
India: marginalisation of Muslims - Doing away the burka and skull-cap will not end it | Shamsur Rahman Faruqi
Liberal democrats owe it to themselves to choose their words and fora responsibly | Javed Anand
In both religion and law, polygamy has no place | Tahir Mahmood
India - West Bengal: Swapan Dasgupta on the explosion of political Hindutva, as personified by the Ram Navami celebrations
India: Nilanjana Bhowmick on Noida's Thriving Militant Hinduism
India - Tripura: on takeover of minority graveyard land by BJP leaders
India: Secularism anyone? Madhya Pradesh state gives ministerial (MoS) status to five religious leaders
India: Shameful display of Hindutva terror in festive processions | M Shamsur Rabb Khan

 -> available via:
::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::
Nesrine Malik
The Guardian
5 April 2018

The Nobel prize winner and the Florida school children have been vilified. It’s because the powerful want to stay in control

Malala Yousafzai is one of the world’s best-known figures, a Nobel prizewinner and a global advocate for female education. She went from being a schoolgirl in the Swat valley of Pakistan to a global figure, all before the age of 20, and throughout she has maintained an almost preternatural poise and unwavering loyalty to her home country. Last week she returned to Pakistan for the first time since she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman six years ago. Yet her visit was marred by a grotesque coordinated campaign, where private school teachers announced an “I am not Malala” day. Children were made to wear black armbands, hold up placards and sit through lectures on why Malala should be condemned.
'Happiest day of my life': Malala returns to Pakistan for first time since Taliban shooting
Read more

This is not a recent phenomenon. Almost from the moment she was shot, conspiracy theories swirled around the young girl. As Malala lay in her hospital bed, half her head shattered, the whispers started. The shooting was all fake so that she would be granted asylum in the west. Her father had coordinated the whole thing. She was taking advantage of the situation in order to make money by portraying Pakistan as a place of perpetual victimhood, feeding western stereotypes.

Inevitably, there were allegations that it was all a CIA conspiracy to undermine Pakistan and sully its reputation abroad. The more Malala’s stature increased, the more feverishly she was attacked. The reaction is not confined to trolls or particularly conservative parts of Pakistan society. It has crossed over into the mainstream, where even in liberal circles people snidely cast aspersions on her. It has all gone rather too well for her, hasn’t it? And her father, who pushed her into the limelight and put her at risk: he is just a bit too pushy, is he not? Of course, no one is suggesting that the poor girl wasn’t shot at all, but one can ask who is financing it all.

It’s enough to shake your faith in humankind that this is the reception Malala experienced. Yet sadly her example is not unique. Attacks on spokespeople for obviously virtuous causes are not confined to countries in the grip of tribalism or religious fundamentalism. They often take place in liberal, less feudal societies.

This is why, in Britain, concern expressed publicly by popular figures is dismissed as “attention seeking” or “virtue signalling”. Celebrities such as the singer Lily Allen and the TV presenter and ex-footballer Gary Lineker, for example, are told to stick to what they know rather than engaging with the plight of child refugees. And those refugees in turn are condemned as too old or not poor enough.

Emma González, a survivor of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school, has been dismissed as a ‘frothing-at-the-mouth moonbat’ by a Republican politician. Photograph: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, this February, in which 17 students and teachers were killed, have been attacked in ways that mirror Malala’s character assassination. First they were dismissed as fake, “crisis actors”; then their moral and physical fibre was questioned.

An unverified photo of Malala wearing jeans and high-heeled boots circulated on social media and attracted abuse for her allegedly scandalous fashion choices (she has never been seen without a headscarf). Emma González, one of the more prominent Parkland student campaigners, has been called a “skinhead lesbian” by a Republican candidate. He also called David Hogg, another survivor, a “moron” and a “bald-faced liar”. All three have been Photoshopped on to images that were then circulated as real on social media in order to “prove” that they are stooges for some liberal lobby.

The result is that the smear campaigns, so vicious and unrelenting, sow seeds of doubt in the larger population. More importantly, they end up diverting the conversation away from the core issue – the fundamental flaw in a society that has failed to protect its children, those most innocent of victims, and fixates instead on the figurehead as corrupt or as a vehicle of sinister puppeteers.

These figureheads are also not held to be competent agents of political change and so are seen as upstarts, precocious transgressors, pretentious people who think they are better than everybody else. This is an impulse that is suspicious of activism when carried out by everyday people, even those who have been unwillingly thrust into the spotlight by traumatic events. In the case of the young, the smear campaigns have to be especially vicious because there is so little information available that would easily discredit them. They have no history, no romantic past, no adult failings or idiosyncrasies.

Society has a problem with public campaigners because they are symbols of all the threats that encroach upon its comforting myths and hierarchies. It is not really about gun control in America or about girls’ education in Pakistan or about providing safe harbour to refugees. It is about upholding the status quo in all the ways that ensure our small relative superiorities are enshrined; and it is about our prejudices as to who gets to advocate or campaign.

The pompous head of the private school association in Pakistan that planned the anti-Malala day does not like it that a random young woman wields more influence than him, so he tries to tear her down. A politician is a little irritated that a cocky teen’s voice is beginning to be louder than his, and so he scoffs at him.

Collectively, in less obvious ways, we become mired in the business of questioning the messengers at the expense of the vulnerable. The Pakistani headteacher was, inadvertently, correct: there is only one Malala. But there are many of her abusers’ impulses in all of us.

• Nesrine Malik is a Guardian columnist

by D.B.S.Jeyaraj
Daily Mirror
3 March 2018

Let me begin on a very personal note. The first major emotional upheaval I underwent as a result of losing a very loved one, was when I lost my maternal grandfather in December 1968. I was 14 years old at that time. I was inordinately fond of him and he of me, his eldest grandchild.

My grandfather had been ailing for some time and his impending demise was expected. Both his children, their spouses and all his grandchildren were around his bed when my grandfather breathed his last.

We were living in Kollupitiya at that time and my grandfather passed away peacefully at our residence. The doctor came and certified his death there.

The undertakers took the body away, embalmed it and brought it back in a coffin for people to pay their respects. The funeral service was at our home. The burial was at Kanatte. A memorial service was held two months later in a Methodist Church in Colombo. A memorial monument was duly erected at Kanatte.

Why I relate all these details is to emphasise that I was witness to each and every aspect of my grandfather’s final farewell to this world - from his deathbed to tombstone. I knew fully well that my grandfather had died and that he was not among the living yet I refused to accept that he was dead. Being quite young and having been so fond of him I could not cope with his loss. We were living at the bottom of the lane (Aloe Avenue) by the seaside then.

    All such illusions were shattered when war came to Sri Lanka. War is nothing but nasty, brutal destruction. There is nothing laudable in it except perhaps the individual bravery of those courting death for what they thought was a just cause. 

I was learning Tennyson’s “break, break, break” in my GCE (OL) English Literature class. The poem written by Tennyson over the loss of his friend Arthur Hallam resonated very much with me then. I would sit on the rocks along the Colpetty beach just as Tennyson did “at the foot of thy crags O’sea” and think of my “Appa” as I called my grandfather. (I called my father Papa & grandfather Appa).The lines “But O’ for the touch of a vanish’d hand, And the sound of a voice that is still!” would strike responsive melancholy chords in my heart.

Still, the loss was too much to bear then. I just could not accept the fact that my grandfather was dead and gone. I started imagining that he was really alive and that he never died. Whenever I saw an elderly male who bore a resemblance to my grandfather, I would go up to him and stare intently at the point of embarrassment. Sometimes while travelling alone by bus, I would see someone who looked like him on the pavement, get down at the next halt and run back only to be disappointed. Far worse was the thought that like Jesus Christ, my grandfather too had risen from the dead. I would go to Borella, look at his grave and then wander around Kanatte hoping to catch a glimpse of him.

Burden Of  “Sorrowful Affection”
Finally, I was liberated from this burden of “sorrowful affection”. Due to certain reasons, my family relocated from Colombo to Jaffna in December 1969 just one year after my grandfather’s death. While my parents and siblings lived at Chavakachcheri, I was boarded at Jaffna College, Vaddukkoddai. The change of environment and the different experience of living in the North as opposed to that of living in Colombo brought about a change in me. I stopped imagining that my grandfather was alive and began adjusting to life after his death. With the passage of time the sorrow and grief lessened but never ever went away. And then, of course, there were other losses and deaths. (I lost my parents, sister and close relatives and friends over the years).

Then there was the escalation of the ethnic conflict and its consequences. I began losing track of the people whom I knew who died or disappeared or went missing or were injured or got displaced as a result of the ethnic conflict.

Why I recount my experience of almost half a century ago is to show how the loss of a loved one could have a traumatic effect on people. In my case, I had seen the death, funeral, burial and memorial service of my grandfather and even knew the grave in which he lay. There was full closure.
Yet I could not for many long months accept his death or come to terms with the fact that he was no more. This experience makes me ultra-sensitive to the agony and pain suffered by those who have undergone loss without proper closure particularly those who do not know what has happened to their loved ones.

    Still, the loss was too much to bear then. I just could not accept the fact that my grandfather was dead and gone. I started imagining that he was really alive and that he never died

When a loved one disappears or is made to disappear and you have no news at all about the missing person how does one cope with that loss? How can memory be consoled when there is no knowledge of what had happened to a loved one? How can a troubled heart be pacified by the mind if no one knows the fate of what befell a loved one?

For many decades I have been writing on politics of Sri Lanka. The island’s politics has for long been overshadowed and even overwhelmed by an armed conflict. War has its own consequences and its distinct fall-out. Very often the original causes of war are forgotten and even replaced by new problems and grievances. When I was young and read about the war in newspapers and saw battle scenes on screen, I had a romanticised outlook on war. I regarded war as a noble adventure and fighting as heroic.

All such illusions were shattered when war came to Sri Lanka. War is nothing but nasty, brutal destruction. There is nothing laudable in it except perhaps the individual bravery of those courting death for what they thought was a just cause. 

The war in Sri Lanka was a dirty war. It was not fought by soldiers carrying the UN Human Rights Charter in one hand and love in their hearts as former President Mahinda Rajapaksa once stated. The Tigers and other militant fighters were no saints either.

An inevitable consequence of the war was the phenomenon known as Enforced Disappearances. A very large number of people in Sri Lanka disappeared or were made to disappear or went missing as a result of the conflict regarded at one time as South Asia’s longest war.

The well-known Human Rights Organization, “Human Rights Watch”(HRW) observed thus in a statement: “Tens of thousands of people were forcibly disappeared in Sri Lanka since the 1980s, including during the last months of the war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009...... The UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances ranks Sri Lanka as the country with the second highest number of disappearances in the history of its tenure.”

“Most of those reported disappeared during the three-decade long conflict between government forces and the LTTE were ethnic Tamils. A short-lived but violent insurgency with a majority Sinhala militant group in the country’s South in the late 1980s also led to many enforced disappearances and other abuses by both sides. Various Commissions of Inquiry established by successive Sri Lankan Governments in response to pressure from victims’ groups and others have produced reports that have largely remained unpublished and have not resulted in criminal prosecutions of those responsible.”
    For people whose loved ones pass away tragically in an accident or are killed through violence the struggle to cope is more painful. The worst, however, is for those whose loved ones are made to disappear or have gone missing.

Enforced Disappearances Phenomenon
The HRW statement focuses on enforced disappearances during the war and its aftermath and also highlights the fact that most victims were Tamils. But disappearances did not occur only during the ethnic conflict and neither was the enforced disappearances phenomenon a Tamil monopoly. 
People of all ethnicities were victimised but the bulk of war victims were certainly Tamils. A large number of Sinhala youths were made to disappear when the State ruthlessly suppressed the bloody insurgencies led by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in 1971 and 1988/89.

As a journalist writing about politics and war in Sri Lanka, I had to write about missing persons too. There were some disappearances like those of Fr. Thiruchelvam Nihal Jim Brown the Allaippiddy Parish Priest and Eastern University Vice-Chancellor Prof.S. Raveendranath about which I wrote extensively.

There were other disappearances about which I did not write in very great detail. Time, media space and scanty information being the reasons. Very few Sri Lankan journalists wrote about disappearances and irked the powers that be then. There were many disappearances about which nothing was written. They have become part of official and unofficial statistics.

Yet every single case of a missing person has a heart-rending story behind it. A missing person may be treated by officialdom as a mere statistic but he or she has a family and many loved ones who yearn for some reliable information about what has happened to him or her.

The disappearance of loved ones is not something restricted to one community or one ethnicity alone. It is correct that the Tamil people have suffered more than other ethnicities proportionately. Yet, the Sinhala people to have suffered immensely during the JVP insurgency of 1988-89. The State ruthlessly suppressed the JVP revolt then. Thousands were killed and thousands simply disappeared.
Many years ago before Chandrika Kumaratunga came to power, Dr Manoranee Saravanamuttu the mother of Richard de Zoysa was in Canada for an event organized by the University of Toronto.
Apart from meeting her at seminars and dinners, I also had a one to one conversation with Aunty Manoranee for about ten hours at the university’s Massey College where she was staying. During that very long conversation, she told me so many harrowing tales about the deaths and disappearances in the south during 1988-90.

She told me that the bulk of the victims were from socio-culturally underprivileged caste groups and that there was no strong voice raised, on their behalf. She told me about the activities of the Mothers Front and how the common experience of loss, deprivation, suffering and sorrow brought the Tamil speaking and Sinhala speaking mothers, daughters, wives and sisters together and how the state resented it. I have never and will never forget that conversation.

As I mentioned earlier I had found it very difficult to cope with the death of my grandfather who died peacefully of natural causes. I could not accept it for long although there was full closure.

For people whose loved ones pass away tragically in an accident or are killed through violence the struggle to cope is more painful. The worst, however, is for those whose loved ones are made to disappear or have gone missing. 

For them, the lack of knowledge and uncertainty is sheer agony. There is no closure after death for them because they are not sure whether their loved ones are among the dead or the living. All that they need or want is some official pronouncement of what had really happened. Reason tells them that persons gone missing for so long cannot be among the living but their hearts full of love for the lost loved ones refuse to accept the loss as permanent. The heart has reasons which reason itself may not understand. Humans are not systems of intellect alone. They are bundles of emotion too. They mourn and they yearn. They grieve and they hope.

“Audacity Of Hope” Sustains Loved Ones
It is this “audacity of hope” (To borrow from Barack Obama) that sustains these loved ones of the missing persons to pursue with their quest of seeking the truth about their loved ones. It is this audacity of hope which compels someone like Sandya Priyangani Ekneligoda to prolong her search for the truth about what really happened to her husband Prageeth, the well-known cartoonist and journalist.

It is this audacious hope, which makes the mothers, spouses, sisters and daughters of the disappeared in the North and East to persist with their search for the truth about their loved ones. They demonstrate with placards, go on protest fasts, walk-in processions, sign numerous petitions and above all observe regular religious rites seeking the truth about their loved ones. In the process, they are very often exploited by crafty politicians, misguided priests, mercenary NGO operatives, so-called civil society activists and publicity seekers.

Regardless, they go on motivated only by their love and devotion to their loved ones.

I once asked an old mother why she continued in her quest to find out about her son who went missing over a decade ago. She answered me thus in Tamil “Money (son) Nee Kaanaamap Ponaa, undai ‘Komma’ (Mother) unnai ippadi Theda Maattavey?” (If you go missing won’t your mother search for you like this?).

She went on to say “Avanukku Enna Nadanthathendu Theriyealleiye.Unmai theriya Vaenum Avan irukkiraanaa? illaiyaa?endu. Illaiyendu thelivaaichchonnal enakku kavalai endaalum nimmathi “ (I don’t know what has happened to him. I must know the truth about him, whether he is alive or dead? If I am told clearly that he is no more then I will be sad but would be at peace). And then she said wistfully “Aetho enakkoru nambikkai. Avan Engeyo Irukkiraan. Avanaik Kandupidichidalaam Endu”( Somehow, I have a belief that he is there somewhere. I feel he can be found). This then is the audacity of hope.

Alexander Pope wrote “Hope springs eternal in the human breast”. Cicero stated, “Dum Spiri Spero” (While I breathe, I hope).

As a journalist, it has been my duty to interact with a cross-section of people from all walks of life. This has resulted in my keeping in touch with those in power and authority as well as being accessible to the powerless, ordinary people. It goes with the territory. The challenge is to know the “truth” through interacting with the common people and then speak that “truth” to power. There are many, many sad moments for journalists who feel and empathise. As a safety mechanism, you construct a cocoon around yourself because if you are what is termed as a “bleeding heart liberal” you may very well bleed to death.

    There are mothers and sisters of soldiers who still shed tears urging us to at least find a bone fragment of their sons and brothers who went missing during the years of conflict if they are to come to terms with what they have been told – that these soldiers are no more

For me, some of the most poignant moments in my journalistic vocation have been when those dear and near to the missing persons seek my aid to help seek information about their loved ones. They approach me directly or someone approaches me on their behalf and seeks my help to find out about their missing loved ones. It is very painful and emotionally debilitating to reply that I won’t be able to help because I am helpless in this. There is no one to ask or seek answers from in this regard. I have tried several times in the past to find out about people taken away without a trace or made to disappear but always came up against a stonewall of silence from those in power. As journalists we are supposed to seek the truth but what does one do in situations like this? What is the definite reply one can give to these families about their missing loved ones? More importantly what is the response of the State or those in power to these questions?

Minister Mangala Samaraweera
Mangala Samaraweera in his previous avatar as Minister of Foreign Affairs aptly described the predicament of the people in this situation and the dilemma faced by those in authority in a statement tabled in Parliament on August 11, 2016.
Mangala in his statement said -

“As you know, there is no corner of this blessed and beloved country of ours, that has not been drenched by the tears of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and children who have wept and continue to weep, not knowing where their loved ones are, or what happened to them. They only know that they are missing. They don’t know whether they are dead or alive.”

“Tears and pain have no ethnicity, no religion, no race, no caste: All their tears are the same. The grief they feel, their anguish, their pain is personal, but the same. Their suffering cannot be explained in words. Every day, there are people in this country who go to sleep at night, praying that their loved ones will return. There are mothers who are paralyzed with grief; they are lost in time; unable to continue with their day-to-day lives, worrying whether their sons, wherever they may be, have enough food to eat, or whether they are being treated alright; wondering how much they may have grown, or how much they may have changed since they last saw them. These people are torn between hope and despair, and are unable to live meaningful lives.”
    The war in Sri Lanka was a dirty war. It was not fought by soldiers carrying the UN Human Rights Charter in one hand and love in their hearts as former President Mahinda Rajapaksa once stated. The Tigers and other militant fighters were no saints either.

“When one sees a dead body, no matter how unbearable the pain of loss may be, there is closure, because there is a knowledge that one’s loved one is no more. But how can one find closure, and how can one be expected to find closure when there is no knowledge of what has happened to someone?”
“There is probably no district, and certainly no province in this country which has been untouched by the phenomena of someone going missing – either in the 1970s, the 80s, the 90s, or later. In my electorate in Matara, there are mothers who still go from astrologer to astrologer trying to find out what happened to their children who went missing in the 80s and 90s, and some even as far back as the 70s. They still live in hope.”

“There are mothers and sisters of soldiers who still shed tears urging us to at least find a bone fragment of their sons and brothers who went missing during the years of conflict if they are to come to terms with what they have been told – that these soldiers are no more. Without that, they say they cannot come to terms with  the fact that their loved ones are no more. They have only heard, they say, that a camp was overrun but received no further details. They have received no evidence that their loved ones are dead. So they wait and they wait forever, without carrying out the last rites; without giving alms to confer merit on the departed. Is this what the families of our soldiers deserve?”

“As a responsible State, can we continue to ignore their tears and their pleas? Can we just say to them that we don’t know what happened to their loved ones, and ask them to accept that they are dead? Can we expect them to take whatever few thousand rupees that is given to them as compensation and lead normal lives?”

“Can we, as a responsible State, just tell them that all the people who are missing – and this includes soldiers, policemen, and other security forces personnel – have all probably gone overseas and are now leading new lives under new identities, and so, they are best forgotten? Can we, as a responsible State, say that no country in Asia or no country in NATO has established an Office to ascertain the fate of those who have gone missing and that therefore, we should also not make any attempt to find out what happened to the Missing in our country, to provide answers to families or loved ones?”

‘Those Who Went Missing Are Our Citizens’
“These are our citizens: those who went missing are our citizens; those who grieve are also our citizens. Don’t we, as a responsible State, have a duty to try to alleviate their agony? Try to at least help them find an answer; or try to help them find closure?

“If this is not the compassion that Gautama Buddha has taught us, then, what is? It certainly cannot be the symbolic chanting of Gathas, or offering of flowers, or building new statues and temples. We have to be able to reach out to our fellow citizens who are suffering; who have been suffering for years and years, and alleviate their pain.

“If the loved ones they seek are no more, we have to be able to help them find the truth. We have to help them to come to terms with the truth. We must assist them in their process of healing. We must help them to continue with their lives in a meaningful way, and be productive citizens of our country. How can we say that we are guardians of the noble teachings of the Buddha if we don’t practise his Teachings? Can we, as the compassionate nation we claim to be, shut out the grief of a large number of our mothers, our fathers, our brothers, our sisters, and our children, and be deaf and blind to their pain, their wailing, their silent agony, their psychological trauma and their tears?”

“For some, this emotive and heart-wrenching issue is a mere numbers game. They try to justify the numbers by saying such and such a number is overseas and accuse countries for not sharing information. This is not the way to approach this issue. It is not a matter of numbers. It is a matter of individuals. It is a matter of human beings. It is a matter concerning our citizens, and it is a matter of creating mechanisms that are credible which enable people to share information, even entities in countries in which some who are reported as missing may be leading new lives under new identities. I am sure there is duplication and errors in the various records maintained by various different entities. With the setting up of this Office, by an Act of Parliament, we will finally have a credible mechanism that will be in a position to centralize data at national level, integrating all information with regard to missing persons currently being maintained by different agencies, as recommended by the LLRC, way back in 2011.”

The regime change in Sri Lanka on January 8, 2015, saw a glimmer of light emerge at the end of the dark tunnel. The newly installed Sirisena - Wickremesinghe Govt. adopted a series of progressive measures. Among these was the attempt to institutionally tackle the missing persons issue.

On August 11, 2016, the Island nation’s Parliament passed legislation to set up an Office of Missing Persons (OMP) in the country. The then Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera hailed the passage of the OMP bill as “historic”. Addressing a news briefing soon after the Bill had been ratified, he said the new law would give relief to the loved ones of thousands from the North and South of the country who had disappeared.

“This is the first step towards rectifying the mistakes during the past 68 years,” said the Minister who had a long history of championing the cause of persons made to go missing through enforced disappearances.

Four Main Functions Of OMP
In a public statement issued earlier in August, the Foreign Minister explained basic details about the envisaged Office of Missing Persons Bill. In that statement he said: “The Bill outlines four main functions for the OMP -- (i) Searching and tracing of missing persons; (ii) Clarifying the circumstances in which such persons went missing and their fate; (iii) Making recommendations to relevant authorities to reduce such incidents of missing and disappeared persons and (iv) Identifying proper avenues of redress. As such, it is not a law-enforcement or judicial agency but a truth-seeking investigative agency.”

Mangala Samaraweera went on to say: “The Office on Missing Persons is a truth-seeking investigative agency. It does not make judgements on disputes. In fact, the legislation states that “the findings of the OMP shall not give rise to any criminal or civil liability.” Its primary function is to establish whether a missing person is dead or alive and, if he or she is dead, discover when, how and where they died.”

Despite the aura of hope and optimism exuded by ex-Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera progress on the OMP front was very slow. The process was extremely slow but then this has been the tragedy of this blessed island since independence - Whatever that is bad is done very quickly while whatever that is good is done at a painstakingly slow pace. So the OMP process moved forward not by leaps and bounds but in fits and starts. Though the legislation was passed in August 2016 to set up the office of missing persons, it began assuming operational form only a year later.

President Maithripala Sirisena signed the gazette notification operationalising the OMP in September 2017. The Acting Secretary General of the Constitutional Council called for applications to appoint members to the OMP in October 2017. Applications were called from persons with previous experience in; fact-finding or investigation, human rights law, international humanitarian law, humanitarian response, or possessing other qualifications relevant to the carrying out the functions of the OMP.

There were over 300 applications and the selections were made through an open and competitive process conducted by the Constitutional Council. After intensive perusal and much deliberation, the Constitutional Council which includes political leaders with diverse viewpoints such as Ranil Wickremesinghe (UNP), Rajavarothayam Sampanthan (ITAK), John Seneviratne (SLFP), Champika Ranawaka (JHU) and Vijitha Herath (JVP) arrived at the unanimous decision.

UN Human Rights Council Sessions
Meanwhile, Mangala Samaraweera in his new avatar as Finance minister allocated 1.3 Billion rupees towards the office of missing persons in the 2018 budget presented in November 2017. The names of the OMP nominees were submitted to the President by December 2017.If the President did not approve or wanted changes he was required to send the nominee list back to the Constitutional Council(CC) within two weeks. Since he did not do so, it was obvious that the President was in agreement with the CC.

However, presumably because of the local Govt. poll on February 10, 2018, President Sirisena made no forward movement on the matter and virtually “sat” on the list. Finally, President Sirisena moved and on the last day of February formally appointed the chairman and other council members of the Office of Missing Persons (OMP) with effect from March 1st, 2018. Again, it may not be entirely a coincidence that the UN Human Rights Council sessions begin in Geneva during March.

The Chairman of the OMP is the reputed Human Rights and Constitutional Lawyer, President’s Counsel Saliya Peiris.

The other members are academic- lawyer and well-known human rights activist - Dr Sriyani Nimalka Fernando, Retd Major - General Mohanti Antoinette Peiris, Women’s Rights activist and lawyer - Ms Jayatheepa Punniyamoorthy, Lawyer cum Researcher -Mirak Rahim, Lawyer cum researcher T. Somasiri Liyanage and Human Rights worker Kanapathipillai Venthan.

They will serve initially for a term of three years. The OMP work will be coordinated by the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (DCRM) headed by Mano Tittawella of which former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga is in overall charge as head of the Office of National Unity and Reconciliation.

A certain amount of gender and ethnic balance has been achieved in the composition of the OMP body. Sufficient attention has also been given to real life experience as opposed to academic qualifications alone.

Ms Jayatheepa Punniyamoorthy is someone whose husband went missing while they were living in Mullaitheevu. She is now in Batticaloa and actively involved with an organization called “Women in Need” focusing on women’s issues.

Lawyer Somasiri Liyanage is someone who worked comprehensively in compiling the report on the prison riots.

Mirak Raheem has been associated for many years with the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) as a researcher on human rights, reconciliation and minority rights issues.

Kanapathipillai Venthan is a human rights activist who has rendered yeoman service to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in helping to trace missing persons.

Nimalka Fernando’s track record as a human rights activist is impeccable. She has courageously withstood charges of traitorous  acts and death threats by regularly going to Geneva for the UNHRC sessions.

The inclusion of Maj-Gen (retd) Mohanti Peiris in the OMP is very interesting and most welcome.An old girl of Uduvil girls high school in Jaffna, Mohanti passed out as a lawyer and joined the Army’s Legal Affairs Division and went right up the promotional ladder to end up and retire as Major - General.

Mohanti herself hails from a family of distinguished lawyers in Jaffna. Her father Selvaratnam, as well as his brothers Thambiratnam and Sabaratnam, were a well-known trio of lawyer brothers. She is  married to Brigadier (retd) Basil Peiris.

Given the current context where the armed forces are being blamed for many cases of disappearances and missing on the one hand while families of defence personnel reported missing in action blame the military top brass with disbelief on the other, Maj-Gen Mohanti Peiris will face an uphill task in discharging her duties in the OMP. Those who know her well opine that she will complete her mission successfully.

Transitional Justice Mechanisms
According to the Presidential Media Unit, the OMP’s main mission will be to determine the status of all missing persons in Sri Lanka and will be the first pillar of the transitional justice mechanism through which the government hopes to bring about reconciliation and lasting peace. The OMP is the first pillar of Sri Lanka’s four transitional justice mechanisms under design and implementation. The others are Office to handle reparations, a truth and reconciliation commission and a judicial mechanism to address allegations of wartime abuses. The Presidential Media Unit also said that the OMP would be an independent body reporting to Parliament and was expected to bring a degree of closure to surviving family members of Sri Lanka’s internal conflicts. It would also set the stage for sustainable reparations for victims and their families.

So the long-awaited Office on Missing Persons (OMP) has become operational at last. It is too early to speculate on how the Office of Missing Persons would function in the future and how it would tackle the prickly issue of missing persons and disappearances. There are also perplexing doubts about the future when Mahinda Rajapaksa and his political minions orchestrate a pseudo-patriotic backlash against the OMP.

How will the Sirisena -Wickremesinghe Govt. that is united by name and divided in practice respond? Will the “predictably unpredictable” President brandish his sword against those opposing the OMP or will he twirl his “kaduwa” inwards to cause self-inflicted injuries? Will the functions of the OMP be restrained and be used merely as a showcase to appease international opinion?

These are all valid questions and no answers can be forthcoming at this point in time. Nevertheless, the setting up of an office of missing persons is by itself an accomplishment. More importantly, it signifies that the Sri Lankan nation has shed its customary denial mode and realistically acknowledged the existence of the missing persons problem. May the setting up of the Office on Missing Persons symbolically determine that no Sri Lankan will ever go missing again and that no Sri Lankan family will languish in the future about their missing loved ones.

Magic of This Moment
For a nation long denied positive gains on the human rights front the setting up of the OMP and commencing operations is a significant milepost. These events are like silver linings in dark clouds. We need such happenings to feel good and to retain our sanity. This then is our day and let us seize that day. Whatever the future may be, this is our magical moment. Let us then capture the magic of this moment.

D.B.S.Jeyaraj can be reached at dbsjeyaraj at

Both countries are arming their submarines with nukes.
by Tom Hundley
======================================== - April 2, 2018

KARACHI, Pakistan — The Karachi Naval Dockyard, home port and strategic nerve center for Pakistan’s fleet, sits on a sliver of land bracketed between Port Grand, a “family fun” pier that features kiddie rides and a panoramic view of warships at anchor, and Machar Colony, a sprawling slum where cattle graze on garbage and a million human inhabitants live in nearly unimaginable squalor.

It was here, during the quiet predawn of May 6, 2014, that four rogue naval officers walked up the gangway of the PNS Zulfiqar, a 4,000-ton frigate that was preparing to put to sea. A guard inspected their ID badges and saluted. Once on board, their plan was to join up with another group of six militants disguised in marine uniforms who were approaching the Zulfiqar in an inflatable dinghy. Together they hoped to hijack the ship and use it to attack a US Navy patrol in the Indian Ocean.

But an alert sailor on board the frigate noticed something was wrong. The men in the dinghy were armed with AK-47s — not the standard weapons used by Pakistani marines. When he challenged the group in the dinghy, a gunfight quickly erupted. While the attackers fired automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, the sailor shredded the dingy with an anti-aircraft gun, killing all six.

Hearing the commotion, navy commandos from another vessel rushed to the scene, but it still took several hours to regain control of the ship from the four rogue officers already on board. Eventually all of them were killed, the last one blowing himself up after he was cornered.

The audacity of a bloody attack inside one of the most heavily secured naval facilities in Pakistan was jarring enough. Even more jarring was the source of the attack: al-Qaeda, which claimed responsibility for the strike and praised the dead men as “martyrs.” Five more naval officers implicated in the plot were later arrested, charged with mutiny, and sentenced to death.

The Zulfiqar incident is the most serious in a long string of deadly security breaches at Pakistani military installations, from multiple attacks on nuclear facilities near Dera Ghazi Khan (2003 and 2006) and on the air force bases at Sargodha and Kamra (2007 and 2012) to the the gruesome 2014 attack on a school for the children of military officers in Peshawar that left more than 140 people dead, including 132 children.

But even if Pakistani bases have been hit before, the Zulfiqar strike is particularly alarming. That’s because Pakistan is preparing to arm its submarines and possibly some of its surface ships with nuclear weapons — which means terrorists who successfully fight their way into a Pakistani naval base in the future could potentially get their hands on some of the most dangerous weapons on earth.

The Pakistan navy is likely to soon place nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on up to three of its five French-built diesel-electric submarines. It has also reached a deal with China to buy eight more diesel-electric attack submarines that can be equipped with nuclear weapons. These are scheduled for delivery in 2028. Even more disturbing, Pakistani military authorities say they are considering the possibility of putting nuclear-tipped cruise missiles on surface vessels like the Zulfiqar.
"The new generation of nuclear submarines increases the risk of a devastating war between India and Pakistan"

Pakistan says its decision to add nuclear weapons to its navy is a direct response to India’s August 2016 deployment of its first nuclear submarine, the Arihant. A second, even more advanced Indian nuclear submarine, the Arighat, began sea trials last November, and four more boats are scheduled to join the fleet by 2025. That will give India a complete “nuclear triad,” which means the country will have the ability to deliver a nuclear strike by land-based missiles, by warplanes, and by submarines.

The submarine is the key component. It’s considered the most “survivable” in the event of a devastating first strike by an enemy, and thus able to deliver a retaliatory second strike. In the theology of nuclear deterrence, the point of this unholy trinity is to make nuclear war unwinnable and, therefore, pointless.

When it comes to India and Pakistan, by contrast, the new generation of nuclear submarines could increase the risk of a devastating war between the two longstanding enemies, not make it less likely.

India and Pakistan have gone to war four times since 1947, when Britain partitioned what had been a single colony into Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan. They have been in a state of constant hostility ever since, and for the past two decades, they have been locked in a frightening nuclear arms race on land. Pushing the contest into the Indian Ocean makes the situation even more dangerous by loosening the chain of command and control over the weapons, increasing the number of weapons, and placing them in an environment where things tend to go wrong.

“The nuclearization of the Indian Ocean has begun,” Zafar Jaspal, a nuclear security expert at Islamabad’s Quaid-i-Azam University, told me. “Both states have now crossed the threshold.”

This should be setting off alarms throughout the international community. Growing numbers of nuclear weapons will soon be deployed to submarines patrolling some of the most bitterly contested waters on earth — and controlled by jittery and potentially paranoid officers on perpetual high alert about a surprise attack from the other side.

The result is a game of nuclear chicken every bit as dangerous as the “my button is bigger than yours” competition between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un on the Korean Peninsula. The difference here is that this one is going almost completely unnoticed.
Putting nukes on submarines makes a nuclear war much more likely

The modern nuclear-powered, nuclear-armed submarine is arguably the most fearsome weapon ever conceived. The US Navy’s 18 Ohio-class boats can each carry 154 nuclear-tipped cruise missiles. They can travel beneath the sea for months, virtually undetectable, and their range is limited only by the crew’s endurance and food supply.

When we talk about nuclear submarines, we talk about two different, but related, things: what powers the subs, and what kinds of weapons they carry. The US, Russia, the UK, France, and China have nuclear-powered submarines that are also armed with nuclear weapons. Israel is thought to have submarines that are armed with nuclear warheads, but they’re powered by diesel-electric generators. That matters because those types of submarines, unlike the nuclear-powered ones made by America and other major world powers, are noisy — and thus easier to track — and can generally stay underwater for only a week or two at most.

India has spent billions of dollars to join that exclusive club — and came close to disaster. The $2.9 billion Arihant nearly sank a few months after its commissioning when a hatch was left open and seawater flooded the propulsion compartment. The embarrassing mishap, blamed on “human error,” was hushed up by the ministry of defense. Even India’s senior political leadership was kept in the dark. The boat has been undergoing extensive repairs since last February, according to a January 8 report in the newspaper the Hindu, which was the first to report the entire saga.

Meanwhile, India’s “other” nuclear submarine, the INS Chaka — an Akula-class submarine on loan from Russia primarily for training purposes — is also in dry dock after an unspecified accident damaged its sensitive sonar equipment. In February, Russia sent India a $20 million bill for repairs.

Pakistan, for its part, announced last year that it had successfully test-fired a submarine-launched cruise missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. That was a clear indication that the country wanted to start arming its submarines with nukes. It had already signaled that it was willing to put nukes on some of its surface ships.

The problem is that putting nukes at sea significantly weakens the chain of command and control over the weapons, which means the risk of an accidental exchange of fire — or full-on nuclear war — between India and Pakistan will increase exponentially.

Up until now, both Pakistan and India have implemented rigorous checks to keep their weapons safe and eliminate the possibility of inadvertent or rogue launches. In India, ultimate authority in the chain of command and control rests with the country’s civilian political leadership.

In theory, Pakistan’s nuclear trigger is also in civilian hands. A body called the National Command Authority, headed by the prime minister, must authorize any decision to use nuclear weapons. But in reality, it is the military, widely regarded as the most stable and disciplined institution in the country, that controls all aspects of the country’s nuclear program.

Equally important, both India and Pakistan have kept their warheads and delivery systems “de-mated” — that is, the nuclear warhead is stored far away from the missile that would deliver it. Or in the case of India’s bombs, the trigger or detonator is kept far from the fissile core.

But at sea — and especially when you go beneath the sea — this is pretty much impossible. The warheads and missiles have already been assembled and stored in the same place, and individual submarine captains have significant freedom to decide whether to launch their nukes.

“The new danger for both countries is that the problem of command and control over the submarines becomes very tenuous,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy, a Pakistani nuclear physicist and frequent visiting scholar at Princeton University, where we spoke last summer. “With land-based weapons, the warhead is separated from the delivery system. You can’t do that with warheads on a submarine. When it leaves the port, it is already armed.”

Hoodbhoy said that leaves military planners with two options: “Either you do not give the arming code to the captain … or you give it to him before he leaves the port and he can, of his own accord, launch a nuclear missile.”

In submarine warfare, the glaring weak link in the chain of command has always been communication between the sub beneath the sea and the central command. Normal radio waves cannot penetrate the ocean’s depths. To communicate with a submerged submarine, very low frequency (VLF) and extremely low frequency (ELF) radio transmissions are necessary. These frequencies cannot carry voice communications, only coded messages or — at a snail’s pace — text messages. It’s also difficult for the subs to receive communications of any kind if they’re submerged too deeply.

These communications are also strictly one-way; subs can hear what ground commanders are telling them but can’t reply or ask questions. “Essentially the submarine is on its own,” said Hoodbhoy, adding that “it can’t communicate back” unless it sticks an antenna above the surface and potentially reveals its location.

Hiding beneath the ocean, almost impossible to detect, nuclear submarines have the great advantage of being able to survive a nuclear strike by an enemy nation and launch a devastating second-strike response. The same can’t be said for the land-based VLF transmitters that give the subs their orders. These are impossible-to-hide sitting ducks, vulnerable to enemy attack in a first strike. Knock out these installations and the submarines are operating blind.

If you watch Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman fight it out in the underwater thriller Crimson Tide, you get a pretty accurate picture of how things can go south quickly in the extreme isolation of a nuclear submarine cut off from its centralized command.

Pakistan and India went to the nuclear brink during a 1999 war in the disputed territory Kashmir, coming closer to pulling the trigger than even the US and Soviet Union during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. The Kashmir issue continues to roil both countries, so it’s not hard to imagine a Crimson Tide scenario in which an Indian submarine commander, aware that his country is under attack, receives an incomplete or unclear order to launch. What does he do?

Here’s another scenario: India knocks out Pakistan’s only VLF transmitter in Karachi. The beleaguered commander of one of Pakistan’s diesel-electric submarines — lost in the fog of war, unable to communicate with the National Command Authority, and under attack by one of India’s highly capable anti-submarine hunters — launches a cruise missile. Is it armed with a conventional warhead or a nuclear warhead? Do Indian authorities wait until it hits a major population center to find out? Or do they order an immediate retaliatory attack?

Experts who have modeled an India-Pakistan nuclear exchange say that once the first nuke is launched, it would be nearly impossible for either side to deescalate.

That means each side would likely attempt to unleash its entire arsenal of 100 or more nuclear weapons on the other side’s population centers. The ensuing firestorm would release a cloud of radioactive ash that would darken skies, cool temperatures, and disrupt agriculture around the globe for a decade or more. Millions would die, and millions more would be faced with displacement and starvation as we enter what scientists have termed nuclear winter.

In many ways, the power to start — or prevent — such devastation rests in the hands of individual submarine commanders. During the Cold War, US submarines had a “two-man rule” that required a commander (Hackman’s character in Crimson Tide) and executive officer (the part played by Washington) to agree that a launch order was valid.

As Cold War tensions eased, the two-man rule was replaced by a more rigorous system of checks that require the sub commander to utilize an externally provided code in order to launch.

India has not said how it will maintain control of its submarines. “There’s a lot of confusion and not much clarity on this,” said Yogesh Joshi, an analyst at Stanford University who is writing a book on India’s nuclear submarine program. “They are acting as if this is something still in the future, something they can think about later.”

The situation will become even more fraught if Pakistan follows through on its threat to arm its surface vessels with nuclear weapons. In that scenario, some ships will carry nuclear weapons and some won’t. This ambiguity creates all kinds of new pathways for mistakes, misunderstandings, miscalculations, and mischief. If a missile is launched from one of these ships, how will India know whether it is a nuke or not?

“That will lead us to Armageddon,” warned Abhijit Singh, a former Indian naval officer and current senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank.

The other big worry, especially with regard to Pakistan, is that nuclear weapons will somehow fall into the hands of terrorists. With Pakistan’s existing land-based arsenal, the warheads and missiles are stored separately in a series of heavily guarded secret locations. That can’t be done with ships and submarines. The weapons will have to be handled and stored at the Naval Dockyard in Karachi or at the newer Ormara facility in Balochistan. Either way, terrorists will know exactly where they have to go to get what they want.

And al-Qaeda has already shown a willingness and capability to hit those facilities. Naval Station Mehran, a sprawling base in Karachi that is headquarters for the navy’s air fleet, is adjacent to the Pakistan air force’s giant Faisal base, a likely repository of nuclear components.

In 2011, a team of 15 to 20 heavily armed militants breached the security perimeter at Mehran, made their way to the heart of the base, and destroyed two P-3C Orion anti-submarine aircraft.

Pakistani commandos and security personnel spent nearly 18 hours fighting to retake the base, and at least 13 of them died in the effort. The Pakistani Taliban initially claimed responsibility, but later there were credible suggestions that al-Qaeda may have carried out the attack. Either way, the ease with which the attackers entered the base — and their focus on destroying the most valuable military assets — suggested they had inside help.

When the Mehran base came under attack, both Pakistan and India immediately put their nuclear assets on high alert because of its proximity to one of Pakistan’s key nuclear stockpiles. The incident left both sides uneasy about the security of their most destructive weapons.

“The Pakistan navy was always known to be a highly professional force. Now all of that seems to have changed,” Singh, the former Indian naval officer, told me. “The systemic infiltration of the navy by these radicalized elements is shocking to us,”

Although these incidents are cause for alarm, most experts agree that Pakistan has done a good job safeguarding its nuclear weapons. Protecting the nukes — from India, from homegrown terrorists, and from the US military, which has spent millions of dollars helping Pakistan secure its nuclear arsenal but still remains a suspect ally — is Pakistan’s highest priority.

The supervision of the nation’s nuclear arsenal is managed by an elite agency within the military called the Strategic Plans Division. Rising above the morass of Pakistan’s domestic politics, the SPD projects an image of calm professionalism. In Islamabad, I met with Brig. Gen. Zahir Kazmi, director of the SPD’s arms control and disarmament branch, who made the case that Pakistan “is very much alive” to the dangers of managing nuclear weapons at sea.

“We are confident but not complacent,” he said.

Kazmi recognized the responsibility of safeguarding the weapons in the face of a challenging domestic security environment but bristled at any suggestion from an American that Pakistan’s military might not be up to the task of protecting its most important assets.

“Managing nuclear safety and security is not a white man’s burden only,” he said. “Pakistan is managing its responsibilities quite well. There is a deliberate tendency to forget that Pakistan’s record is as good, if not better, than that of the US.”

America’s role in the growing numbers of nukes in the Indian Ocean has been one of muddled ambiguity. In 2008, the US signed a commercial agreement that allows India to share in most of the benefits of the Nuclear Suppliers Group even though India has never signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This bending of the rules allows India to import uranium for civilian energy projects, freeing up domestic capacity for production of the highly enriched uranium (HEU) needed to fuel the reactors on its new submarines.

Last summer, the US signaled a sharper tilt toward India by conducting joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean with India and Japan. This was meant as a warning to China, with its growing ambitions in the Indian Ocean, but it did little to calm anxieties in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, in his very first tweet of 2018, President Trump abruptly and unexpectedly cut off military aid to Islamabad.

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit,” Trump tweeted on New Year’s Day. “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No More!”

Aside from the oddity of conducting foreign policy via Twitter, the public scolding was taken in Islamabad as a humiliating insult, further complicating ties with an admittedly difficult but necessary US ally in Washington’s never-ending “war on terror.”
The cold war between India and Pakistan seems to be heating up

As the Indian Ocean arms race accelerates, both India and Pakistan are rethinking when and how they might take the nightmare step of launching the doomsday weapons at each other.

Their nuclear rivalry goes back to May 1998, when both countries shocked the world with a series of nuclear tests. Five years later, India declared its “no first use” doctrine. India’s political leadership has made clear that it views nukes as political weapons — a way to project global power and perhaps win a seat on the United Nations Security Council — not as war-fighting weapons. India’s military, however, has been frustrated by Pakistan’s tactic of allowing terror groups to fight a low-grade proxy war against India.

Pakistan calculates that it can use this tactic to hurt India without fear of retaliation because India would be afraid of provoking a nuclear response. The 2001 attack on India’s parliament building and the 2008 Mumbai attack are the most notorious examples of this.

Both were carried out by Pakistan-based militants with well-established links to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the military’s powerful spy agency. Terrorism is the classic underdog’s tactic. Pakistan is clearly the underdog in any nonnuclear matchup with India, but it is certainly the world’s first nuclear-armed underdog to successfully apply the tactic against a nuclear rival.

Infuriated by what it sees as a kind of blackmail, India’s military is looking to develop strategies in which it could apply its superior conventional force to punish Pakistan without provoking a nuclear response.

Pakistan, meanwhile, has tweaked its nuclear doctrine from “credible minimum deterrence” to something it calls “full spectrum deterrence,” which apparently countenances the use of low-yield tactical battlefield nuclear weapons on its own territory in the event of an Indian incursion — another unsettling first in the annals of nuclear deterrence.

During the Cold War, the dynamic that drove the US-Soviet arms race was MAD — mutually assured destruction — which saw both sides accumulate vast arsenals with tens of thousands of warheads. The logic was that each side possessed such overwhelming destructive power that neither would ever dare use it. Both sides understood that a nuclear war would be unwinnable and, therefore, unthinkable. A reverse — and equally perverse — dynamic propels the India-Pakistan rivalry. As India searches for ways to use its overwhelming conventional military advantage, a nervous Pakistan is forced to keep lowering the threshold for nuclear retaliation.

As a result, there have been recent signals that India is rethinking or reinterpreting its no-first-use doctrine. A 2016 book by Shivshankar Menon, a respected national security adviser in the previous government, caused a stir by declaring “a potential grey area as to when India would use nuclear weapons first.” Menon suggested India would be prepared to order a preemptive strike if it appeared Pakistan was about to use its nuclear weapons.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party floated a similar idea in 2014, urging a more flexible nuclear doctrine to deal with Pakistan. And while Modi himself says he remains committed to no first use, his previous defense minister, Manohar Parrikar, argued that India needed a less restrictive nuclear doctrine.

If nothing else, Indian generals are speaking much more aggressively since they completed the full nuclear triad, which gives them an assured way of hitting Pakistan even if India has been hit by a nuclear attack. In January, Gen. Bipin Rawat, the army’s new chief of staff, declared that India was prepared to test Pakistan’s threat to use nuclear weapons if a new war broke out.

“We will call their bluff,” Rawat said. “If given the task, we will not say we cannot cross the border because they have nuclear weapons.”

And that’s why this all matters so much for the two countries and their hundreds of millions of citizens — and the world as a whole. India and Pakistan are mortal enemies that have dozens of nuclear warheads aimed at each other. That was scary when those nukes were only on land. It’s a much scarier situation now that those nukes have been put onto submarines that move deep underwater, holding the deadliest payloads imaginable.

Tom Hundley is a senior editor at the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Rajat Pandit | TNN | April 6, 2018

Happymon Jacob 
The Print
3 April, 2018

On the ground, there is no commonly-agreed rule among the Indian and Pakistani armies and the BSF and Pakistan Rangers for counting ceasefire violations.

The border between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has been the scene of unrelenting firing for more than a year now — in the first two months of this year alone, India has reported 633 ceasefire violations (CFVs) and Pakistan around 400. This follows the trend of violence set in 2017 which was the bloodiest year since the ceasefire agreement (CFA) came into effect in 2003.

Ceasefire violations along the India-Pakistan border in J&K have been a major cause of political, military and diplomatic escalation between the two rivals over the past several years. And yet research on what triggers CFVs is extremely limited, and consequently ill-informed propaganda is often passed off as reasoned analysis.

Official and non-official reports published in India and Pakistan routinely blame each other for initiating and sustaining CFVs that violate the 2003 CFA between the two armies. A closer look at the causes of CFVs, when and where they take place, however, offers a much more nuanced and often counter-intuitive understanding of the causes of CFVs. Data available on Indo-Pak Conflict Monitor, a recently-launched online archive, which analyses official and non-official CFV data from India and Pakistan for the past 16 years, help demythify several deeply-entrenched popular notions around ceasefire violations and their causes.
Understanding CFVs

It is important to understand certain basic facts in order to appreciate the complexity involved in explaining ceasefire violations. First of all, the ceasefire agreement of 2003 was not a written down agreement signed by the two countries. Unlike the previous ceasefires of 1948, 1965 and 1972, all of which were also war-termination agreements, the 2003 CFA came at the end of a particularly tense period between India and Pakistan. Negotiated through the back channel by the RAW and ISI chiefs in mid-2003, the telephone conversation between the two DGMOs on 23 November became the basis of a ceasefire. Note that there were no agreed principles or norms associated with the agreement as it was a mere phone conversation that ended the firing. For reference, India in 2002 had reported 4,134 ceasefire violations which came down to just four in 2004, thanks to the ceasefire agreement.

Secondly, there is no clarity with regard to how CFVs are counted. On the ground, there is no commonly-agreed rule among the Indian and Pakistani armies and the BSF and Pakistan Rangers for counting CFVs. In general, a violation usually does not consist of one shot. One CFV might be thousands of shots fired by a range of weapons from personal firearms to heavy artillery across multiple areas within a period of 24 hours in reaction to an initial violation. Speculative firing that soldiers undertake for a variety of reasons is not counted as a violation. Firing on one’s own side is also not counted as a CFV. Moreover, stray firing without effect often doesn’t get counted.

We must also note that not all CFVs are reported to the top rungs of the government on either side or, sometimes, even up the chain of command of the force manning the border. Reporting depends on a variety of factors, including whether it might be advantageous to those patrolling the border — whether Pakistani or Indian — to play up or play down violations in a particular area. Lot of subjectivity goes into counting CFVs — local level decision on what should be counted as a CFV. What then emerges is a complicated picture on what constitutes a CFV.
The perfect symmetry of CFVs

Contrary to popular perceptions in either country, both the Indian and Pakistani sides violate the ceasefire agreement. As a matter of fact, the sequence of violations over the past 16 odd years indicates precisely that. More importantly, CFVs initiated by one side are usually responded to by the other side using roughly the same calibre, creating a near perfect symmetry of violations between the two sides (see graph). During 2017, however, there was a clear increase in the firing from the Indian side indicating a strategy of disproportionate bombardment from the Indian side. Data for the past two months indicate that Pakistan has fired more than the Indian side. Moreover, in the past fortnight since the 19 March, Indian forces have desisted from firing back in response to Pakistani firing.
Demythifying CFVs

What causes ceasefire violations? Indian side offers a uni-causal explanation: ceasefire is violated by the Pakistani side to provide covering fire to terrorists infiltrating into the Indian side of J&K. Pakistan, on the other hand, blames India of engaging in unprovoked firing targeted at the former’s civilian population.

However, an analysis of the CFV data for the past 16 years shows that such violations have multiple causes which are not understood properly. These include: construction, repair or enhancement of defence works on either side of the dividing line by the respective forces; lack of proper mechanisms to regulate the crossing of civilians from one side to the other; occasional lack of territorial clarity as to which piece of land falls on whose side which arises due to an absence of proper territorial demarcation of the LoC, and; reaction to political and diplomatic developments on either side.

In short, what this means is that several little-known local level military factors often trigger CFVs that could last for days. Such tension on the LoC in Kashmir and IB in Jammu may not have been sanctioned by the military or political higher-ups in India or Pakistan.

Data gathered by the monitor also tells us the locations where most CVFs take place. The areas most affected by ceasefire violations on the Indian side are Poonch and Jammu, followed by Samba and Rajouri. On the Pakistani side, Sialkot, Rawalakot, and Kotli have reported high incidence of CFVs. These locations essentially face each other across the international border and LoC.
How to limit CFVs?

Several measures can be taken by the two sides to control CFVs. For one, the 2003 CFA should be written down clarifying the principles, norms, dos and don’ts that are required to sustain the CFA. Second, the two sides should consider finalising the ground rules agreement of 1961 to manage the International Border in the Jammu sector. Third, provide for regular biannual meetings of DGMOs. Frequency of structured flag meetings between local commanders should also be increased. Finally, it would be useful to jointly identify sensitive sectors so that the specific related issues can be understood and resolved at senior levels.

(Happymon Jacob is an associate professor of disarmament studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University and curates an online archive on the India-Pakistan conflict, Indo-Pak Conflict Monitor)

by Latha Jishnu
2 April 2018

MAHATMA Gandhi, revered as the father of the nation for helping to free India from the British, has made a sudden exit from history. Millions of schoolchildren will never know what happened to Gandhi after independence since new textbooks have carefully scrubbed out any reference to his assassination by a militant Hindu who was once a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the mothership of Hindu nationalism.

That Gandhi fell to bullets pumped into him by a right-wing Hindu killer is being hidden from a new generation as the Hindu right turns myths and an imagined past into a new history of India tailored to meet political ends.

History has always been a contested arena in India, where the past has been interpreted through the ideological lens of the left and the rest, but never before have outright lies been peddled as facts.

Indoctrination to turn out a nationalist generation, that is, children who will believe that the past was one of unrivalled Hindu supremacy in all fields, from science to war, is in full swing in the states where the BJP, the RSS’s political offspring, is in power.

And here, history is being turned completely on its head. In Rajasthan, textbooks proclaims that Mughal Emperor Akbar lost the famous Battle of Haldighatti to Rana Pratap, the ruler of Mewar, in 1576, while students in the rest of India are taught that Rana Pratap lost to the Mughal forces led by Raja Man Singh, a fellow Rajput.

In Madhya Pradesh, another BJP-ruled state, children are being taught a whopper: that India won the 1962 war against China, although we came off badly in the confrontation. But for the Hindu right wing, the ressentiment over the defeat continues to colour India’s relations with its large neighbour.

    The falsification of history is not the only danger the young — and the old — are going through.

The falsification of history, though, is not the only danger the young — and the old — are going through. The belittling of science is an even greater threat as India slips further into obscurantism under a regime that glorifies myths as evidence of scientific prowess. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s claim at the Indian Science Congress early into his tenure that the elephant-headed god Ganesha was proof that India was skilled in plastic surgery in ancient times has been roundly criticised; Indians have learned to live down that embarrassment. But his breathtaking audacity in denying climate change during a nationally televised programme for schoolchildren has left everyone dumbstruck and provided little solace that the country can deal with one of the gravest challenges confronting it.

When a schoolgirl asked how India could protect the environment, the prime minister was dismissive. Climate has not changed but people have changed and destroyed the environment. For good measure he added that the elders often complain that it is colder only because their tolerance level has dipped and not because of climate change.

India has come a very long way from Nehru’s ideal of building a rational society by fostering the scientific temper in the people. The BJP loses no opportunity to belittle and abuse its first prime minister and the new textbooks have practically erased Nehru even though the foundation for the country’s modern secular state and its scientific prowess in everything from space technology to software was laid during his time.

What the BJP provides is never-ending embarrassment that makes India look ridiculous. Most recently there was more humiliation as the country’s education minister cla­i­med that Darwin’s theory of evolution is “scientifically wrong” since no one has seen “an ape turning into a man”.

And soon after Stephen Hawking’s death, the science and technology minister Harsh Var­dhan claimed that the renowned physicist and cosmologist had said that the Vedas have a theory that is superior to Albert Einstein’s e=mc2 theory of relativity.

The contempt for proven scientific knowledge, coupled with the saffron brigade’s campaign to promote a dubious “swadeshi science” that aims to combine “Bharatiya heritage with a harmonious synthesis of physical and spiritual sciences”, augurs ill for the country. So the ministerial prescription for agricultural distress is yogic farming (yoga by farmers for “vibrations of peace, love and divinity to seeds and land”) or havans, the ritual burning of ghee and firewood to bring rains!

Juxtapose this with what is happening on the political front. As religious bigotry and old hatreds are stoked across the most backward stretches of northern India and fomented in opposition states, communal clashes and horrific caste violence are ripping apart the fragile social fabric of a country that is confronting a demographic nightmare.

India is an extraordinarily young country. Half of its population of 1.3 billion is under the age of 25, and two-thirds are less than 35. By 2027, all of this will add up to a staggering workforce of a billion people, the largest in the world.

How is India going to cope with such a vast sea of humanity looking for jobs, the legion which has neither the education nor the skills to be productive workers? Steeped in the mediaevalism of the times and with nothing going for them, how will this generation transform India into a superpower that its rulers claim it will soon be?

Caught up in its agenda of creating a Hindu nation and faulty economic policies, the government has quietly jettisoned its plans to provide skills to 500 million young people by 2022, having trained less than a fraction so far. The BJP, it appears, has more important tasks at hand.

The biggest chunk of the young are in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh where a priest runs the state and is hell-bent on creating communal tensions. He does not even pretend to have a development agenda and is used by the ruling party to drum up support for Hindutva across India. The other sizable mass is in Bihar which is now notorious for frequent communal flare-ups and not much else.

What India needs is the miracle of quality education, specialised skills and a host of openings in factories and offices for millions. Will havans and deep breathing do the trick?

The writer is a journalist based in New Delhi.

Dhananjay Mahapatra | TNN | Apr 4, 2018
NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said Article 370 of the Constitution, conferring special status on Jammu and Kashmir and limiting the Central government's power to make laws for the state, had acquired permanent status through years of existence, making its abrogation impossible.

Editorial, Hindustan Times
Hindustan Times
April 03, 2018


Our education system, barring a few exceptions, has failed to impart the skills to India’s young job-seekers to even compete for high-skill and better paying jobs in the private sector.

Twenty-five million people have applied for 90,000 blue collar jobs recently advertised by Indian Railways. This statistic captures the fundamental divide in the Indian economy. All talk of young Indians being engaged in the knowledge-based digital economy and creating potential unicorns is valid only for a minuscule minority. An overwhelming majority is desperately looking for government jobs, even if it involves daily drudgery.

The preference for government jobs has traditionally come from three reasons. Interestingly, two of these are rapidly becoming less relevant. One, the majority of jobs with secure incomes and social security are still in the public sector. The latest data (for 2011-12) from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy puts this figure at 60%. Two, the reservation policy gives a better chance of landing these jobs to almost half of India’s population, those belonging the scheduled castes and tribes and other backward classes. The public sector is not going to be generating enough jobs to meet India’s employment challenge. And in many states, cut-offs in reserved categories are already on a par with or even above the scores for unreserved seats. The third reason is still valid. A large number of public sector jobs do not require any special skill. A person just needs the minimum educational qualification to apply for these jobs.

The third reason is the biggest threat to India’s demographic dividend. Our education system, barring a few exceptions, has failed to impart the skills to India’s job-seekers to even compete for skill and better paying jobs in the private sector.

India’s political class has failed to realise the gravity of the problem. This government’s political detractors accuse it of derailing employment growth due to its policies. The government says it is fostering entrepreneurship as a way to create jobs. It is disappointing that the fundamental challenge described above is not even being discussed. 2014 was no ordinary mandate in India’s political history. Does young India think not enough has been done with it? We will know a year from now.

A sweeping novel reaches back to an early Chinese worker in Assam, and tells the story of his hapless descendant and his kinsmen during the 1962 War
Bindu Menon
Outlook Magazine
09 April 2018


Chinatown Days
By Rita Chowdhury
Pan Macmillan | Pages: 400 | Rs. 599

In 1962, the ‘Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai’ construct was splintered by the Sino-­Indian border conflict, sowing seeds of mistrust between the two neighbours. The war is remembered in many ways: as betrayal, as blunder, as political turning point, and as a continuing irritant in ties bet­ween the two nations. But what rem­ains a blip in memory is the tragic upheavals faced by the Chinese community in India. Thousands of Chinese settlers were forced to leave their homes overnight following a frenzy of anti-China sentiment and bundled off by train to a large internment camp in Rajasthan’s Deoli. Families were torn apart, properties confiscated, business establishments looted, livelihoods lost and the ethnic conclaves called Chinatowns reduced to ghost towns.
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Rita Chowdhury’s Chinatown Days, an English translation of her acclaimed Ass­­amese work Makam, brings to life this shameful chapter. The novel wea­ves in mul­tiple strands of narratives, histories and timelines to bring a heart-rending tale of the disruptions faced by the Ass­a­mese-Chinese settlers of the town of Makum.

The novel opens with Arunabh Bora, an Assamese novelist, recalling his meeting with an angry Chinese writer, Lailin Tham, in Canada. Lailin’s hatred for India and Indians unlocks the “doors of an unimaginable past”. That past is revealed to be Makum, with its tea gardens and a large community of mixed Assamese-Chinese descent who inhabit the Cheena­patti (Chinatown). Early Chinese imm­­i­­grants who worked in the tea estates had married local women and spawned a community that assimilated both cultures.

Chowdhury gives us more than a glimpse of Makum’s idyllic life, through the Chinese New Year celebrations, the shy courtship of two young lovers, Mei Lin and Pulok Baruah, football matches and inter-community weddings. Until gun­­fire from across the border changes it all one October dawn of 1962. The Ass­am­ese-Chinese are branded as enemies. Their thriving businesses suffer, they are ostracised and rounded up as PoWs. The viciousness of war doesn’t even spare newlyweds Pulok and Mei Lin, despite their love holding out against the envelop­ing darkness of hate. Mei Lin is torn away from Pulok and forced into the ‘Enemy Train’ to the faraway detention camp.
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The community, which believed their “destinies were mixed with the soil of Assam”, finds itself banished to the deserts of Rajasthan. But worse is to follow. Many, including a pregnant Mei Lin, are deported to China, where they again become outcasts. Forced into hard labour in Maoist China, they are despised by the locals, who see them as enemies and usurpers of land. The refugees, who were better off in India, learn to live on meagre rations and Communist indoctrination.

Many Indian-Chinese were rounded off and sent off to the internment camp in Deora, Rajasthan. Cruelly, some were deported to China, where they faced severe ostracism.

Chowdhury has given us a vast canvas, spanning almost two centuries and peopled by an array of characters. Mei Lin’s ancestry is traced to Ho Han, one of the first Chinese immigrants brought to Upper Assam, when dense forests were making way for tea plantations.

It was also the time when the British were looking to supplant Chinese mon­opoly over tea to satiate its national obs­ession for the beverage. In the early 1820s, a Scottish explorer and trader, Robert Bruce, discovered that a plant in the upper reaches of Assam produced a brew similar to tea. But it wasn’t until over a decade later that his brother Charles, an East India Company official, introduced Assam tea to the West. This changed the course of tea trade. As tea gardens mushroomed in the Northeast, Chinese junks ferried skilled labourers from the Canton region.
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Ho Han, Mei Lin’s great grandfather, came as one and made India his home. Chowdhury captures the horrors of the slave trade through the life of Ho Han, who is sold first as a four-year-old by his impoverished father in famine-ridden China and then shipped again along with other slaves to work in the many colonies of the British Empire.

This tale of enduring migration is shared through private, fragmented mem­ories of people who Chowdhury met. Her extensive research is evident, as she details the run-up to the war, the vacillating political climate, and the anxieties of a community, viewed merely as collateral damage by the state. The futility of war is echoed by Arunabh as he reads out from his novel within the novel: “The Sino-Indian war is just a chapter of history. But there remains a wound that will never heal.... There rem­ains a multitude of rootless people who will carry with them a legacy of loss to the end of time....”

Amid the bleakness, Ho Han and Mei Lin stand out, with their quiet fortitude and optimism, epitomising the Ernest Heming­way code of the hero. Of grace under pressure.

by Harvey Thomlinson
The New York Times
April 2, 2018

HONG KONG — China is a sea of labor unrest. During the first 10 weeks of this year there were more than 400 publicly reported strikes, more than double the number during the comparable period last year. President Xi Jinping’s government has responded with a firm hand: Labor activists are being arrested and assaulted simply for demanding their wages.

As China’s rate of economic growth has slowed over the past few years, China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based organization, tracked a surge in reported strikes — most likely a small measure of all the actual strikes — from fewer than 200 in 2011 to 1,256 in 2017. Government data indicates a 38 percent increase in the number of labor dispute cases heard by Chinese courts, from 589,244 in 2011 to 813,589 in 2015.

Mirroring the recent trend of manufacturing moving from the coasts to the middle of the country, the most labor strife this year appears to be happening in central provinces such as Henan, Jiangsu and Anhui. And the unrest isn’t affecting only traditional industries like manufacturing. White-collar workers and new-economy industries like e-commerce and green tech are also dealing with labor struggles.

In January, hundreds of teachers from all over China assembled in Beijing to bring attention to missing pensions and other perks. Last month, workers at a solar power factory in Guizhou Province staged a sit-in, and poorly paid taxi-app drivers protested in Shandong and Guangxi. Medical staff in Hebei demonstrated in February over unequal pay and the nonpayment of social insurance.

Labor activists are also organizing online. In Spring 2016, the Walmart Chinese Workers’ Association, an independent group of China employees of the retailer, opposed a change that would have permitted Walmart to schedule long shifts for workers without paying them overtime. The activists used the popular WeChat messaging service to organize strikes that forced their employer to retract the new policy.

The government’s default approach to labor disputes has been to treat them as a threat to law and order. After a widely reported miners’ strike in the northeastern city of Shuangyashan in 2016, for example, the Public Security Bureau arrested 30 people for what it called serious criminal charges. Miners in Hebei and construction workers in Hubei were beaten last month just for protesting to get their wages. In Guangdong Province, activists like Meng Han of the Panyu Migrant Workers Center, a now dissolved grass-roots group that helped local workers with collective bargaining, have been jailed.

The fact is that in most strikes Chinese workers are demanding only to be paid wages and benefits that are owed to them, and for their legal right to collective bargaining. Still, why are strikes on the rise?

The slowing economy has squeezed manufacturers and service-oriented companies. Many owners have responded by simply not paying workers. Many companies close shop overnight, surprising workers with the closure and the news that they won’t be paid wages that are owed to them. Meanwhile, it appears that workers are becoming more aware of their legal rights to demand pay and benefits.

The 2008 China Labor Contract Law, successor to the 1995 China Labor Law, codifies wide-ranging protections for Chinese workers, including the right to collectively bargain. The law was drafted to help raise living standards but has always been unpopular with big business and its political friends. Yet in 2015 President Xi Jinping urged the sole official union, the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, to come up with a plan to improve workplace representation.

Experts say that five million to six million workers could lose their jobs in the coming years as the economy continues modernizing. If history is any guide, the result of the job losses is likely to be more unrest. And a government that denies hard-pressed workers a legitimate channel to express their grievances is inviting trouble. As strikes continue, workers broaden their demands and are driven to more extreme measures.

By ensuring that workers can use their legal right to collective bargaining, the government could help families to share more of the rewards of growth and give a boost to the rebalancing of the economy. This was the story of America’s postwar boom years, when strong unions helped to expand the middle class.

The Communist Party should fully embrace its historical claim to representing workers. By enforcing legal protections the party may find that higher household incomes are a solution to slower growth as well as to the country’s more serious ills of unfairness and inequality.

Harvey Thomlinson is the author of the novel “The Strike.”

A version of this article appears in print on April 3, 2018 in The International New York Times

It is time to hold all the social media companies accountable for their massive breaches of our privacy
Vivek Wadhwa
Hindustan Times
April 04, 2018

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton expressed outrage at Facebook’s privacy policies by tweeting: “It is time. #deletefacebook”.(Reuters File Photo)

WhatsApp differentiates itself from Facebook by touting its end-to-end encryption. “Some of your most personal moments are shared with WhatsApp”, it says, so “your messages, photos, videos, voice messages, documents, and calls are secured from falling into the wrong hands”. A WhatsApp founder recently expressed outrage at Facebook’s privacy policies by tweeting “It is time. #deletefacebook”.

But WhatsApp may need to look in the mirror. Its members may not be aware that when using WhatsApp’s “group chat” feature, they are susceptible to the same type of data harvesting and profiling that Cambridge Analytica employed on Facebook. WhatsApp goes further, making available mobile phone numbers, which can be used to accurately identify and locate group members.

WhatsApp groups are designed to enable discussions between family and friends. Businesses also use them to provide information and support. The originators of groups can add contacts from their phones or create links enabling anyone to opt in. These groups, which can be found through web searches, discuss topics as diverse as agriculture, politics, pornography, sports, and technology.

Researchers in Europe demonstrated that any tech-savvy person can obtain treasure troves of data from WhatsApp groups by using nothing more than an old Samsung smartphone running scripts and off-the-shelf applications.

Kiran Garimella, of École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, in Switzerland sent me a draft of a paper he co-authored with Gareth Tyson, of Queen Mary University, UK, titled “WhatsApp, doc? A first look at WhatsApp public group data”. It details how they were able to obtain data from nearly half a million messages exchanged between 45,754 WhatsApp users in 178 public groups over a six-month period, including their mobile numbers and the images, videos, and web links that they had shared. The groups had titles such as “funny”, “love vs. life”, “XXX”, “nude”, and “box office movies”, as well as the names of political parties and sports teams.

The researchers obtained lists of public WhatsApp groups through web searches and used a browser automation tool to join a few of the roughly 2,000 groups they found—a process requiring little human intervention and easily applicable to a larger set of groups. Their smartphones began to receive large streams of messages, which WhatsApp stored in a local database. The data is encrypted, but the cipher key is stored inside the RAM of the mobile device itself. This allowed the researchers to decrypt the data using a technique developed by Indian researchers, LP Gudipaty and KY Jhala. It was no harder than using a key hidden atop a door to enter a home.

The researchers’ goal was to determine how WhatsApp could be used for social science research. They plan to make their dataset and tools publicly available after they anonymise the data. Their intentions are good, but their paper has exposed the flaws of the application, and how easily marketers, hackers, and governments can take advantage of the WhatsApp platform.

Indeed, The New York Times recently published a story on the Chinese government’s detention of human rights activist, Zhang Guanghong, after monitoring a WhatsApp group of Guanghong’s friends, with whom he had shared an article that criticised China’s president. The Times speculated that the government had hacked his phone or had a spy in his group chat; but gathering such information is easy for anyone with a group hyperlink.

This is not the only fly in the WhatsApp ointment that this year has revealed. Wired reported that researchers from Ruhr-University Bochum, in Germany, found a series of flaws in encrypted messaging applications that enable anyone who controls a WhatsApp server to “effortlessly insert new people into an otherwise private group, even without the permission of the administrator who ostensibly controls access to that conversation”. Gaining access to a computer server requires sophisticated hacking skills or the type of access that only governments can gain. But as Wired wrote, “the premise of so-called end-to-end encryption has always been that even a compromised server shouldn’t expose secrets”.

Researcher Paul Rösler has said: “The confidentiality of the group is broken as soon as the uninvited member can obtain all the new messages and read them… If I hear there’s end-to-end encryption for both groups and two-party communications, that means adding of new members should be protected against. And if not, the value of encryption is very little”.

WhatsApp also announced in 2016 that it would be sharing user data, including phone numbers, with Facebook. In an exchange of emails, the company told me that it does not track location within a country and does not share contacts or messages, which are encrypted, with Facebook. But it did confirm that it shares phone numbers, device identifiers, operating system information, control choices, and usage information with the “Facebook family of companies”. That leaves open the question as to whether Facebook could then track those users in greater detail even if WhatsApp doesn’t.

Facebook and its “family of companies” are being much too casual about privacy, as we have seen from the Cambridge Analytica revelations, harming freedom and democracy. It is time to hold them all accountable for their massive breaches of our privacy.

This is the first in a series of articles on data privacy

Vivek Wadhwa is a Distinguished Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University at Silicon Valley and author of The Driver in the Driverless Car: How Our Technology Choices Will Create the Future

by Rukmini Callimachi Photographs by Ivor Prickett
We unearthed thousands of internal documents that help explain how the Islamic State stayed in power so long.
On five trips to battle-scarred Iraq, journalists for The New York Times scoured old Islamic State offices, gathering thousands of files abandoned by the militants as their ‘caliphate’ crumbled.

by Andrew Salmon
Asia Times, 
3 April 2018

70 years ago, an estimated 30,000 people were massacred in an anti-communist blitz on today's vacation island of Jeju. Now, fingers point at America 

Go Wan-soon won’t forget the day the soldiers came.  Then seven years old, she was sitting in her home in the seaside village of Bukchon  when troops burst in. Go, her mother and three-year-old brother were herded outside at bayonet point. Houses were going up in flames. They were dragged to the yard of the elementary school, which was ringed by soldiers.

“It was crowded, full of people,” she recalled. “I thought, ‘Why so many? What is it?’” Many people, she noticed, were holding hands.

Fearfully, Go sat behind a low wall. When her little brother wailed, a soldier smashed him over the head with a stick. “He went very silent.” Then Go heard the ripping sound of automatic gunfire. People toppled to the ground.

She “crawled like an ant” through a nightmare. “I saw a bloody leg, I saw a baby on top of a mother’s breast, looking for milk, but the mother was already dead,” she said. “Heads were separated, all the bodies were mixed together, the soil was dark with blood – it shone in the sun.”

Go sheltered in a narrow street. “All the houses were burning, ashes were flying around,” she said. An old woman sat in front of her blazing home, her hair on fire. Soldiers appeared. Go heard the click of rifle bolts, then a jeep pulled up. A voice ordered, “Cease fire!”

The troops departed. The village had been attacked in revenge for the death of two soldiers, killed nearby in an ambush by partisans.

In the smoldering ruins, “bodies lay scattered like radishes in a field,” Go said. Among the dead lay her aunt, breasts and belly ripped open by bayonets.

She was instructed to cover cadavers with blankets “so crows would not peck out their eyes.” Go, now 77, paused in her account. “When I remember, it breaks my heart.”

Survivor Go Wan-soon stands in front of the memorial to the dead children of Bukchon village. Photo: Asia Times /Andrew Salmon

In the months that followed, there were more traumas. Her uncle “disappeared” – she heard soldiers had tied rocks to his body and hurled him into the sea. Her little brother died from the after-effects of his head wound. Go almost died of starvation in the ruins.

And at night, she heard of spectral encounters. “People said they saw a white skirt, a white top – there were ghosts,” she said. “I could not go to some places, I was so scared.”

Bukchon was, in fact, just a small part of a much wider tragedy. Goh is one of the last witnesses to what Koreans today call “Sa-Sam” (literally “4:3” or April 3rd), the biggest – but probably least known – massacre in recent Korean history. Up to 30,000 people were killed on Jeju Island amid a murderous counter-insurgency campaign in 1948-49, prior to the Korean War, which started in June 1950.

Black secrets of a sunlit paradise

This gruesome history is not known by most of the millions of Chinese who visit Jeju (also spelled Cheju), 80 kilometers off South Korea’s south coast, with visa-free access, or the South Korean honeymooners who flock here.

Dubbed “the Hawaii of Korea,” Jeju is famed for its sparkling water, women divers and picturesque dormant volcano, Mount Halla. It welcomes visitors with brochures advertising mazes, a dinosaur theme park, a “Hello Kitty” museum – even a museum of eroticism. Few visitors are aware that Jeju International Airport’s runway was paved over a mass grave.

Visitors to Jeju Island may be shocked to learn that the runway at the international airport paves over mass graves. Photo: Asia Times/ Andrew Salmon

Today, President Moon Jae-in spoke at a ceremony on the island to mark the 70th anniversary of the uprising, the massacre, and the decades-long cover-up.

“Despite the lingering tragedy and deep sorrows that have led to tears, spring will blossom here in Jeju like late blossoms in full bloom,” he told a crowd of thousands. “You have not forgotten the incident… we are overcoming the time of silence.”

A message of reconciliation from Pope Francis was also read out.

4000 gravestones to the missing of the Jeju massacre stand at the April 3 Peace Park. Photo: Asia Times/ Andrew Salmon

‘Red hunt’

In 1945, Korea was divided by the USA and the USSR following the defeat of Imperial Japan. In the South, UN-mandated elections were scheduled for May 1948 against considerable opposition; both Labor Party leftists and some nationalists resisted on the grounds that elections would reinforce division. In a demonstration in Jeju on March 1, a child was trampled by police and six demonstrators shot. A general strike spurred hundreds of arrests.

On April 3, 1948 – the date from which the subsequent conflagration takes its name – 500 to 700 partisans attacked police outposts island-wide. Some had ties to North Korea; others were aggrieved at local misgovernance. So significant are the day’s events that in “The War for Korea, 1945-50” (2005, University of Kansas Press) US military historian Allan Millett considers 4:3 the start of the Korean War. The conventional date, however, is 25 June 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea.

In response, Seoul deployed police, troops and – most notoriously – the “Northwest Youth Corps,” a paramilitary manned by fanatical Christians who had been forced to flee North Korea. Adding to the distrust, some troops deserted and joined partisans in the hills.

With the line between combatants and non-combatants blurred, a “Red hunt” was unleashed across Jeju’s 700 square miles. The population was herded into coastal villages protected by militias with bamboo spears; Jeju’s rugged interior became a free-fire zone. On this killing ground, subject to scorched-earth tactics, people hid from sweeps in volcanic caves and tunnels. There, in claustrophobic blackness, they were hunted by troops using thermite grenades. Villages were razed. Bloodied bodies of dead partisans were displayed in public. Many of those captured were shipped to mainland prisons, never to return.

Only in the campaign’s final stages were amnesties offered and aid distributed. Seoul declared victory in April 1949, but there were more killings ahead. Hundreds of leftists were shot in 1950 in the early stage of the Korean War, in “preventative execution.” Jeju officials today estimate a total butcher’s bill of 25-30,000 dead – 10% of the island’s population, a fifth of them women.

A guide stands in front of a pit where leftists were executed during the early stage of the Korean War. Photo: Asia Times/ Andrew Salmon
Cover-up, remembrance and reconciliation

Members of the Northwest Youth Group settled on Jeju, establishing churches and communities; some became senior figures in the police and politics. And under military governments in Seoul, what happened on the “Red Island” was suppressed for decades. A memorial raised by islanders to their dead was destroyed in the 1960s. In 1978 a sympathetic novel about the massacre was published, but withdrawn shortly after and its author imprisoned.

An early monument to the massacre was torn down by South Korea’s authoritarian government as part of efforts to cover up the scale of the killings. Photo: Asia Times/ Andrew Salmon
An early monument to the massacre was torn down by South Korea’s authoritarian government in a bid to cover up the scale of the killings. Photo: Andrew Salmon

Anyone connected to partisans was ostracized. “I could not get a job, I could not speak out,” said Go, the massacre survivor. “Everyone thought Bukchon people were communists: I had to give up all my dreams.”

Bereaved families were silent. “It is very easy, even today, to blame someone saying, ‘You are a communist, you are pro-North Korea!’” said Kim Eun-hee, head of research at the Jeju 4:3 Peace Memorial. “If anyone was related to the uprising, they could not get a job; if you were the bereaved family members of police or army, it was different.”

It was only after democratization in 1987 that a Jeju newspaper was able to start an investigation. Books, films and TV dramas followed. Finally, liberal president Roh Moo-hyun visited Jeju and delivered an apology in 2003.

Today, some 109 civic groups, funded largely by the island’s local government, research, excavate remains and commemorate the killings. The Jeju 4:3 Peace Memorial was raised in 2000. It includes a domed shrine with names of the dead, plus 4,000 graves of those lost in prisons on the mainland, and a museum.

The memorial in Bukchon to children slain in the village. It replicates their scattered bodies. Photo: Asia Times/ Andrew Salmon

Even today, the extent of the killings remains little known; many still find it hard to break the habit of years gone by and speak out. “A Korea History for International Readers” (Humanist, 2010) by the Association of Korean History Teachers devotes entire chapters to Japanese colonial atrocities; yet the Korean-on-Korean killings on Jeju merit one line.

“Not many people know what happened on this island 70 years ago,” said Yang Yoon-kyung, chairman of the 60,000-member Association of Bereaved Families. “This pains us.”

Across Jeju, there is an almost desperate urge to inform the world. Last month, a restaurateur refused payment for drinks, imploring a visiting reporter to write the story. “Please let people know,” pleaded Kim.

Still, there are contradictory narratives about “4:3.”

While some partisans certainly had North Korean connections, Jeju tour guides label them pan-Korean nationalists. Go, the massacre survivor, is even-handed. “During the day, the soldiers and police bullied us,” she said. “At night, the armed resistance came down and bullied us.”

The numbers killed are questioned by some. Millett, in his history, cites census figures between 1946 (233,445) and 1949 (253,164) which actually show a rise in the island’s population. But even Millett concedes that the peace won was “Carthaginian” – a reference to the city famously annihilated by Rome.

There are no surviving partisans: Only a handful escaped to Japan. The victors – those who did the killing – never confessed and were never punished for their excesses. “Not a single person has spoken up from the police or paramilitaries,” Kim said. “Maybe they are ashamed.”

Still, there have been reconciliatory moves between representatives of victims and the security forces. “Every year, we meet and we pay respects at different memorial parks; we go together,” said Han Ha-young, chairman of the Jeju City branch of the Bereaved Families Association. “The police officers were also victims.”

Younger people dispute this. “Deep inside their hearts, they still hate each other,” said Kim. “We are very uncomfortable with the word ‘reconciliation,’” a tour guide admitted.
America’s role?

While no US troops were directly engaged, the April uprising started under the US Military Government in Korea, which held power from September 1945 to August 1948. US officers – though critical of the Jeju governor – advised and supplied South Korean forces and praised counter-insurgency operations, while US vessels patrolled the waters, intercepting insurgents boats.

A photo in the Peace Museum shows US officers, who authorized a crackdown that became a massacre. Photo: Asia Times/ Andrew Salmon

“I feel that the US government was heavily responsible for this, it happened during the US military government,” said Yang Jo-hoon, chairperson of the Jeju 4-3 Peace Foundation. “Now is the moment to ask the US for responsibility.”

Members of the Bereaved Families Association have met US academics, researchers and individual senators, but were advised to make Jeju a government-government issue. To this end, the foundation is collecting 100,000 signatures for a petition to present to US officials.

However, Moon, in his remarks today, made no mention of the US role or responsibility.

Survivors of the “4:3 incident” are passing, but 70 years later, still bear psychological scars. “We have depression, we are traumatized,” Go said. Recalling the post-massacre lack of food, she said, “I still cannot bear it when my stomach is empty – I feel scared.”

In Bukchon – known as “The Village with No Men” after the massacre – body-sized black stones are crafted in a memorial artwork. It includes a rough, rock sculpture of a dead, nursing mother. A more intimate monument of black stone erected to commemorate the dead children stands in a copse of pines where the wind blows in from the sea. Visitors have placed sweets and toys in its recesses.

In her twilight years, Go finds some contentment in the monuments and freedom to speak. “This is the peak of my life: I am happy I can speak up about those killed souls,” she said. “Now, I am ready to die in front of you.” 

David Crouch in Gothenburg
Sweden’s central bank governor has called for public control over its payment system. Others say a fully digital system is vulnerable to fraud and attack

Philip Spencer
The Guardian
 1 April 2018

The origins of today’s crisis in Labour date back to the 19th century, and ever since Jews have been seen as a problem by a strain of socialist thought

Demonstrators in Parliament Square protesting against antisemitism in the Labour party. Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Images

So, we’re back to the “Jewish Question”? The current antisemitism crisis on the left has not come out of nowhere. Instead, it has its roots in a tradition on the left itself, which, at best, has always had difficulty in responding swiftly to antisemitism and, at worst, excused or condoned, even promoted it. It is not, of course, the only tradition on the left, but unless we understand this history, we won’t get very far in resolving today’s crisis.

We need, above all, to think about why some on the left have always seen Jews as a problem and why they have helped the idea of a “Jewish Question” to re-emerge with such potency. At root is the thought that if antisemitism exists, it must have something to do with how Jews supposedly behave. That supposed behaviour may be described in different ways – sometimes it has an economic character, sometimes a social one, sometimes a political one. But what is common is the idea that Jews are to blame for antisemitism and that to protest against them is understandable, or even necessary.

This first became a serious problem on the left in the late 19th century, as antisemitism first became a political force in the modern world. Some on the left flirted with the response that there might be something progressive about antisemitism: that it was a kind of anti-capitalism, however crude, which could be harnessed to the socialist cause. They also thought that philosemitism was more of a problem, because it supposedly encouraged Jews to make too much of (or even fabricate) antisemitism and to resist assimilation. One criticism of this approach at the time was to call it the “socialism of fools”, a problematic formulation because it suggested that antisemitism was still some kind of socialism.

As antisemitism was radicalised by the Nazis – it no longer being enough to exclude Jews when they should be wiped off the face of the Earth – this way of thinking made it difficult for too many on the left to prioritise solidarity with Jews. Neither the Social Democrats nor the Communists in Germany made opposition to antisemitism a major issue, nor did the Resistance across Europe. The fear was that to highlight the fight against antisemitism would alienate potential supporters. This is not to ignore some wonderful examples of solidarity, though the repeated invocations of Cable Street can give a misleading picture. The Communist party soon switched to loyally supporting the Hitler-Stalin pact, which effectively delivered large numbers of Jews up to the Nazis.

‘The repeated invocations of Cable Street [the 1936 anti-facist demonstration in London] can give a misleading picture.’ Photograph: David Savill/Getty Images

When the Soviet Union was finally forced to fight the Nazis, the suffering of Jews was deliberately and repeatedly downplayed. But after the war, things got much worse. The Soviet Union not only suppressed knowledge of what had been done to Jews but launched its own vicious antisemitic project, one that would have culminated in another genocide had Stalin not died.
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This campaign matters because it was around this time that some key elements of today’s antisemitism on the left were first formulated. The charge laid against Jews then was that they were cosmopolitans and Zionists. This may seem like a bizarre contradiction: how can one, after all, be both a cosmopolitan and a Zionist? But what connected them is the idea that Jews are a problem, that as cosmopolitans they are more loyal to each other across national borders and, as Zionists, are loyal to another, foreign state. The charge of cosmopolitanism is heard less frequently these days, though one finds echoes of it in the idea that Jews are responsible for the evils of globalisation. The charge of Zionism, though, has now become absolutely central to today’s version of the “Jewish Question”. What began as a Stalinist cry was taken up in some on the New Left, which helped shape the world view of Jeremy Corbyn and many of his supporters.

For both Stalinists and that part of the New Left, Zionism is a racist ideology that pits the interests of Jews against the interests of everyone else. Furthermore, the state of Israel is an integral part of the western imperialist power structure that exploits and oppresses the rest of the world and the Palestinians in particular, whose land Jews have plundered and colonised and whom they keep in a state of permanent subjugation.

The Soviet Union formulated its approach within the context of the cold war, when it often appeared to support anti-colonial, national liberation struggles, although only for strategic reasons. Those on the left who (rightly if often too uncritically) supported those struggles, especially in Vietnam, where the Americans were so clearly the enemy, slipped fatally, however, into embracing this anti-Zionism into their world view, even though the Israel-Palestine conflict had such clearly different roots.

At the same time, they found it unbearable to acknowledge what was glaringly obvious – that the establishment of the state of Israel was profoundly connected to the Holocaust, which had changed everything for Jews. To integrate anti-Zionism into an anti-imperialist, anti-western, anti-American world view therefore also meant either denying or (better) reinterpreting the Holocaust. Holocaust denial is not an accidental feature of today’s antisemitism, but it is more common to downplay what happened to Jews as Jews. So the Holocaust has to be thought about only in universal terms, as only one genocide among many and one that supposedly excludes the others. (Actually, of course, it is the other way around: thinking about the Holocaust helps people think about other genocides.) Indeed, some have gone further. Not content with accusing Israel of being like apartheid South Africa, it is supposedly guilty of genocide itself… against the Palestinians.

If such purported behaviour makes people antisemitic, it is understandable and part of a fundamentally progressive view of the world, which can be harnessed to the cause. We are back then to where we started, with Jews as the problem, only with this difference: what was previously attributed to Jews inside nation states is now attributed to the Jewish state on the international stage.

There has always been, though, another tradition on the left, which has never accepted the very idea of a “Jewish Question”. What it understands is that there is a question of antisemitism; that Jews are not responsible for antisemitism but antisemites are; that Jews are not a problem but antisemites are. Antisemitism is not something that should be excused or condoned. It has to be fought wherever it shows its face, even – and sadly now more than ever – when that face is on the left.

Philip Spencer is emeritus professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at Kingston University and a visiting professor in politics at Birkbeck College He is the co-author with Robert Fine of Anti-Semitism and the Left: On the return of the Jewish Question, Manchester University Press, 2017


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