SACW - 30 April 2018 | Sri Lanka: war-torn Mullaitivu / Nepal: define Secularism / SAARC in a Jam / Pakistan:sectarianism / India: Misogyny; popularity of Hitler / Germany & American Holocaust Memory / French Railroad Strikes

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at
Mon Apr 30 07:22:26 EDT 2018

South Asia Citizens Wire - 30 April 2018 - No. 2987 
[via South Asia Citizens Web - since 1996]

1. Sri Lanka: Film Director Lester James Peries Passes Away - a tribute by D.B.S.Jeyaraj
2. It is crucial for secularists in Nepal to define Secularism | Yubaraj Ghimire
3. India: Every saffron terrorist may be free before Modi completes his term | Faraz Ahmad
4. India: After Demonetisation, now the Cash Crunch in ATMs - Modi Government Wrecking Public Sector Banks and the Economy - A joint statement

5. Recent on Communalism Watch:
 - Video: Supreme court lawyer Avani Bansal explains the legal issues surrounding the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute case [The Wire]
 - India: Mecca Masjid blast - is there a pattern to 'Hindu terror' acquittals or has justice prevailed? (Apr 16, 2018, The Print)
 - India: How Hate for Muslims and Rohingyas Sells
 - India:: Mecca Masjid Blast Case: Glaring Loopholes Emerge in the CBI Investigation - by Ravi Kaushal
 - India: Bajrang Dal activist forcibly converted a Dalit man back to Hindusim in Uttar Pradesh's Shamli
 - India: Karnataka Assembly elections 2018 and future of secularism in India
 - India: BJP lawmakers top the charts for hate speech
 - India: Injunction on book on Baba Ramdev’s life lifted in landmark victory for free speech - Statement from Juggernaut Books
 - India: Drop the term Dalit, stick to SC/ST, RSS tells its workers
 - India: "the Qurbani Dasta was not very different from suicide bombers . . ." Book on Dera Sachaa Sauda
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6. Sri Lanka: A land left behind - In war-torn Mullaitivu, people are looking for new leaders | Walter Wuthmann 
7. SAARC slipping into irrelevance
8. Pakistan: The right to public spaces | I.A. Rehman
9. Fearing sectarianism, Pakistan’s qawwali struggles to survive after Amjad Sabri’s killing 
10. India’s abuse of women is the biggest human rights violation on Earth | Deepa Narayan
11. India Sex Offenders’ Registry Not the Answer | Jayshree Bajoria
12. South Asia: Writers in both India and Pakistan are facing down fierce threats | Pankaj Mishra
13. Why Hitler is not a dirty word in India | Manimugdha S Sharma
14. India: The formal sector has a gender bias problem
15. India: Fear without a name | Bhaswati Chakravorty
16. India: Dying Narmada will rob fishermen of their livelihoods | Gayatri Jayaraman
17. India: Rajasthan Govt to celebrate Valentine's Day as 'Matra-Pitra Pujan Diwas' [Mother - Father Worship Day]
18. India returned runaway Dubai princess to protect strategic interests | Praveen Swami
19. Stop Privatising India’s Heritage statement by Communist Party of India (Marxist)
20. China criminalizes the slander of its ‘heroes and martyrs,’ as it seeks to control history | Simon Denyer
21. America is obsessed with the virtue of work. What about the virtue of rest? | Elizabeth Bruenig
22. Barton on Eder's Holocaust Angst: The Federal Republic of Germany and American Holocaust Memory since the 1970s.
23. The Tragedy of the Cheminots: The Deep Meaning of the French Railroad Strikes | Diana Johnstone

1. Sri Lanka: Film Director Lester James Peries Passes Away - a tribute by D.B.S.Jeyaraj
It is with great sorrow that I write of the death of Sri Lanka’s greatest film director Lester James Peries! The doyen of Sinhala cinema who celebrated his 99th birthday on April 5th passed away at a private hospital in Colombo on Sunday April 29th 2018.

2. It is crucial for secularists in Nepal to define Secularism | Yubaraj Ghimire
It is crucial for the truly committed secularists in Nepal to have the courage and honesty to define the meaning of secularism in the constitution, incorporating its universal contents.

3.  India: Every saffron terrorist may be free before Modi completes his term
by Faraz Ahmad
Few people of the present day generation would know or recall the Hawala case of mid 1990s in which several prominent political leaders of BJP. Congress and even Janata Dal, led by L K Advani were charged with collecting bribe money from Hawala dealers Jain brothers of Madhya Pradesh. Except for then Janata Dal leaders Sharad Yadav and Devi Lal, after years of apparent meticulous probe by the CBI under the supervision of the Supreme Court, all were honourably discharged, for lack of evidence. Sharad and Devi Lal unfortunately said on camera that yes they had been given party funds and therefore they were initially denied the honourable acquittal till 1999 general elections they too aligned with the BJP and then onwards no one heard anything about the Hawala scam. The same is now happening with Saffron terror.

4. India: After Demonetisation, now the Cash Crunch in ATMs - Modi Government Wrecking Public Sector Banks and the Economy - A joint statement
In the past few weeks, ATMs across India have gone cashless, bringing back nightmares of the cash crunch during demonetisation. Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Manipur and Telangana are some of the states that have experienced severe cash crunch during this period. The worst affected by the cash crunch is the informal sector.

 - India - Gurgaon: Hindutva activists who disrupted namaz out on bail, outfits to go ahead with protest
 - Video: Supreme court lawyer Avani Bansal explains the legal issues surrounding the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute case [The Wire]
 - India: Mecca Masjid blast - is there a pattern to 'Hindu terror' acquittals or has justice prevailed? (Apr 16, 2018, The Print)
 - India: How Hate for Muslims and Rohingyas Sells
 - India:: Mecca Masjid Blast Case: Glaring Loopholes Emerge in the CBI Investigation - by Ravi Kaushal
 - Why I Killed the Mahatma: Uncovering Godse’s Defence by Koenraad Elst-Review
 - India: Bajrang Dal activist forcibly converted a Dalit man back to Hindusim in Uttar Pradesh's Shamli
 - India: Karnataka Assembly elections 2018 and future of secularism in India
 - India: BJP lawmakers top the charts for hate speech
 - India: Injunction on book on Baba Ramdev’s life lifted in landmark victory for free speech - Statement from Juggernaut Books
 - India: Drop the term Dalit, stick to SC/ST, RSS tells its workers
 - India: "the Qurbani Dasta was not very different from suicide bombers . . ." Book on Dera Sachaa Sauda

 -> available via:
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Walter Wuthmann
Daily News
April 24, 2018 - 01:00

Something is stirring in Mullaitivu.

For years, this corner of northern Sri Lanka was a stronghold for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The LTTE had its own police here, its own courts. Its leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, had a house and a fortified bunker in Puthukkudiyiruppu, the area’s bustling little commercial centre.

A whole generation of young people in the Mullaitivu district today lived for longer under the LTTE administration than the Sri Lankan governments.

Mullaitivu was also the site of the LTTE’s last stand in its war against the armed forces in 2009. It was here that an estimated 100,000 civilians sought shelter from the fighting on a 3-square kilometre strip of sand in the middle of the crossfire. A UN report described the final months there as “reminiscent of hell.”

But nearly a decade since the end of the war, many scars have not healed.

Drive around Mullaitivu and you hear rumblings of discontent, not just with the government but with the Tamil National Alliance, the party that people here have traditionally supported overwhelmingly.

They’re angry that promises like the release of lands from the military and answers about disappeared people remain unfulfilled, and they blame the politicians who are supposed to represent them.

This frustration showed in the February local elections when a new political force staged something of a small coup in Puthukkudiyiruppu.

Formed just 45 days before the vote, and completely independent of any political party, a group calling itself Mattathukkana Ilajooir Amaipu, or the Youth Movement for Change, won 4 seats on the 22-seat Pradeshiya Sabha.

“The TNA has lost its way,” said T. Nithiyananthan, the chairperson of the Youth Movement for Change’s guiding committee. “In the last election, the top-level leaders, they did not even come to Mullaitivu.”

Mattathukkana Ilajooir Amaipu is now running its own candidate in the upcoming elections for the Northern Provincial Council.

And they think they’ll win, hitting the same sorts of issues they ran on for the Puthukkudiyiruppu local council.

It’s a small shift, in a small town in the country’s Northern Province, but it could be a sign of things to come.

“We are quietly doing something here,” Nithiyananthan said.

Brewing discontent

You can’t miss the legacy of the war in Mullaitivu. Shattered houses still stand between Palmyrah trees, and caravans of soldiers bump along the roads, shuttling between the many military camps around the district.

According to a data analysis by the Adayalaam Centre for Policy Research, about 60,000 Sri Lankan Army troops are currently stationed in the Mullaitivu District. That’s about 25 percent of the active military personnel in the whole country.

In front of the Pilakkudijiruppu Air Force Base outside of Mullaitivu town, a group of families has set up a makeshift tent.

On a recent morning, Arumogam Velayuda Pillai, 51, said he had been protesting outside the military base for 411 days.

“We’re not asking for anything other than our own land,” he said.

Pillai said he and his family fled their home on December 26, 2008, during the Army’s final offensive. When they returned in 2012 from an IDP camp, they found the road to their home closed off by a gate, and their access blocked by military officers.

They were resettled on a small piece of land across the road. But Pillai said it doesn’t compare to their ancestral home.

“We had the lagoon on one side, and paddy fields on the other. We had coconuts and all other resources,” he said, gesturing to the land beyond the gate. “But here, we don’t have anything … now we have to buy (coconuts) from the shop, while the Sri Lankan military is picking ours.”

Pillai is angry at the military for occupying land that he says is rightfully his. But he’s equally mad at the politicians who have promised to get it back for him, and haven’t delivered.

“Almost all the members of the TNA we’ve talked to have given their promise to get these lands back,” he said. “They are saying we are talking with the government. But so far they didn’t achieve anything, and they didn’t give us anything.”

He paused to let the point sink in.

“So these days we are untrustworthy about our own representatives also,” he said.

On the other side of town, in another protest tent, a group of women sits waiting for answers about their lost loved ones.

Mariyasuresh Isswary, 42, is the District Coordinator of the Association for the Enforced Disappeared Mullaitivu. She lost her husband in March 2009. She said the Red Cross told her that he was arrested by the Sri Lankan military, but she hasn’t received any information since.

“Ten years we don’t know if our husbands are alive or not,” she said. “Only once we know can we move on and plan for our lives, to choose to re-marry or to move on in some way.”

Like Pillai who is protesting for his land back, Isswary feels betrayed by her elected representatives.

She said that the recently established Office of Missing Persons, which is the government’s solution to their problem and largely supported by the TNA, was inadequate.

“Our own Tamil representatives may say that we can trust the OMP and work with that,” she said. But she said the fact that the body doesn’t have powers of prosecution, and that some of its members come from the Colombo elite and the military, makes her feel that it’s “a play” to the international community.

“We trusted (the TNA), and that’s why we voted for them, but nowadays they are not seriously addressing our aspirations in the Parliament, or in the international arena,” she said.

Peter Illancheliyan, the Youth Head 
of TNA Mullaitivu.

“We are suffering a lot sitting here in this tent all the time,” she added. “There’s always dust. Even when we cook, there is dust in the food. But TNA members are our representatives, and they are travelling in AC vehicles and have a luxurious life.”

“They are not genuinely and truly addressing our issues,” she said.

This growing wave of discontent is not lost on local TNA politicians.

“Look, I don’t say that the TNA is doing wonders,” said Peter Illancheliyan, the Youth Head of TNA Mullaitivu. “I accept that the TNA is not working properly in some areas.”

But he largely defended the TNA’s political manoeuvring, especially on issues related to the land release.

The army recently returned 133 acres of land in the Keppapulavu area, which Illancheliyan said the TNA was instrumental in securing.

“We protested in Keppapulavu, and as a result, we got a victory,” he said.

But he acknowledged the complaints like those of the families of the missing, who said they felt their voices weren’t heard.

“We can’t tell everything to the people,” he said. “We need to do some things technically. There may be some secrets. It doesn’t mean that our leaders are not working properly for our people.”

He said the nuances of deal-making, especially in Colombo, made it hard to be fully transparent.

“It’s not a good idea to oppose the government all the time, but rather we need to handle these matters in a soft manner,” he said. He pointed out that the Joint Opposition criticizes the current government for being too close with the TNA, which energizes their base in the south.

“We can’t do everything in a straightforward way,” he said.

Despite the independent group’s recent electoral victory, Illancheliyan said he doesn’t feel threatened by other Tamil political groups.

“They are policy-less parties,” he said. “They can be a challenge in elections, but when it comes to a solution to the ethnic problem, there won’t be a big challenge.”

Organising a new opposition

They disagree.

The leaders of the Youth Movement for Change say they think the TNA is vastly underestimating how angry their base is.

“We got around 4,500 votes without spending anything,” said Nithiyananthan, the group’s chairperson.

Before they formed the Youth Movement for Change, the individual members of the group’s steering committee were part of a social media network that organised charity works around Mullaitivu. In the past, they’ve raised money to donate sewing machines to war widows, and bicycles for children.

He said it was clear to them on the ground that the TNA was losing support.

“Nowadays, they’re career politicians. They only think about their own future,” he said. “If anyone wants to come up from the ground, they try to undercut them.”

So Nithiyananthan, a former TNA voter himself, said he decided it was time to take a new path.

The thought was that if a new party wasn’t going to emerge for them, they might as well make one themselves, he said.

They campaigned on basic issues, like education, development, and clean drinking water, and offered party membership to anyone who was interested regardless of age or caste. They also spoke bluntly about drug abuse, military occupation, and past atrocities.

When they won four seats, “for the community and the public, it was a surprise,” he said. “But it wasn’t for us.”

Nithiyananthan said they were now talking to Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister C V Wigneswaran about forming a coalition to contest the provincial council elections. The TNA said recently that it would not nominate Wigneswaran, who they see as a renegade, for the post again.

“For so many years, we have relied on one particular party, or one particular symbol, for our vote,” said K A Aputharajah, 68, a former lawyer and the Youth Movement for Change’s candidate for the upcoming provincial elections.

“It’s not easy to come away from that particular identity,” he added. “We hope that in the future, we will get even better results than this election.”

To stay or to go?

Yet even as the politicians strategize, the lives of the people in Mullaitivu go on. About three weeks ago some fishermen were arrested for protesting a Navy base that they say cut off their access to the Nanthi Kadal lagoon, their traditional fishing ground.

“We are not against the ordinary business of the government,” said R.B.S. Sanmugalingam, 51, one of the fishermen. “But this lagoon is a great resource. If the military is going to disturb this fishing, then it will affect the whole economy.”

“If we can’t access it, we’ll just protest again and again,” said S N Senthuirselvan, 42. “Fishing is all we know.”

The Express Tribune, April 10, 2018



The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) has proved to be anything but that. Whilst the concept of a regional grouping of nations to their mutual benefit remains sound as it was in 1985 when Saarc was founded, it has never reached its full potential. It has a vast bureaucracy headquartered in Kathmandu, Nepal, and links across the globe, including into the EU. No matter the good intent, prosperity and peace in the subcontinent since the Saarc foundation have been hobbled by a range of regional conflicts. Summit meetings of Saarc have from time to time provided opportunities for meetings of political leaders to meet on the margins but these have never catalysed anything beyond this. The 19th summit was scheduled to be held in Pakistan but was called off as India, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan all declined to attend.

The 2018 Saarc summit also now looks to be imperilled as the Indian prime minister has threatened to ‘sabotage’ it and possibly ‘pull away’ from the initiative, a comment he made while meeting his Nepali counterpart recently. The Indian foreign secretary chimed in saying “it was not possible to proceed with Saarc under present circumstances.” Cross-border terrorism was cited as the reason but it is the underlying and deep-rooted conflict between India and Pakistan that lies at the heart of the increasing irrelevance of Saarc.

The last summit was in Kathmandu in 2014, the following summit was cancelled and it now appears that the upcoming summit is dead in the water. There has to come a point, and this may be it, when the necessity for the continuation of Saarc has to be weighed against its cost and effectiveness. As matters stand India is never going to accept a Saarc meeting of which Pakistan will have, according to protocol, Pakistan as a chair. With Modi ensconced for the foreseeable future and Pakistan heading for a period of the politically neuter as it transitions from one government to another, perhaps it is time to draw a line under the Saarc project and stop throwing good money after bad.

o o o

The Daily Star
April 19, 2018

Mahmood Hasan

Recently, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Oli, during his visit to Delhi (April 6–8) proposed to reschedule the 19th Saarc summit. But Delhi firmly refused to go ahead with the summit because cross-border terrorism is a disruptive force in the region. Obviously, the finger was pointed at Pakistan.

The 19th summit was scheduled to be in Pakistan in November 2016 but was postponed primarily due to India's refusal to attend. India's decision came following terrorist attacks in Uri in Indian-administered Kashmir in September 2016, which left 19 Indian soldiers killed, driving Indo-Pak relations into a hostile mode. Delhi accuses Pakistan of masterminding the terrorist attacks in Kashmir, which Pakistan denies saying that these attacks are homegrown. Since then Delhi's diplomatic strategy has been to isolate Pakistan regionally and internationally by designating it as a sponsor of terrorism in South Asia.

In the process of this rivalry, Saarc has become the casualty. There has been no summit since 2016 and the process has literally come to a standstill. It does not reflect well on the members of this organisation that summits have been repeatedly postponed or cancelled because of strained bilateral relations between member states.

Saarc is a summit-driven organisation. The annual summits actually lay the roadmap for its programmes and activities. When summits are cancelled the Secretariat becomes non-functional. Records show that out of 18 summits so far, only eight (1st, 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 14th, 17th) were held more or less on time and in the designated venues. The remaining 10 were either delayed or held in changed venues.

The 2nd summit was scheduled to be held in Thimpu in 1986 after the Dhaka summit in 1985. But because of Bhutan's lack of infrastructure India hosted the summit in Bangalore in 1986. The 3rd summit also could not be held in Thimpu for the same reasons and was held in Kathmandu in 1987.

The 4th summit was scheduled to be held in Colombo in 1988, but tensions between India and Sri Lanka related to the Tamil issue and deployment of Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka, led to a change of venue. Colombo wanted the IPKF withdrawn before any Saarc summit could be hosted by Sri Lanka. After a standoff of several months, the 4th summit was eventually shifted to Islamabad and held in December 1988. When the IPKF was withdrawn in March 1990, Colombo expressed its readiness to hold the 5th summit in 1990, but it was swapped with Male and held in November 1990 to become part of Maldives' national day celebrations.

The 7th summit was scheduled to be held in Dhaka in December 1992. But just before the summit the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was demolished by Hindu kar sevaks on December 6, 1992. That led to serious communal riots in India. The then Indian PM Narasimha Rao refused to come to Dhaka for the summit citing lack of security in Dhaka. Delhi wrongly blamed Bangladesh for the unrest related to the demolition of Babri Mosque. However, Narasimha Rao came to Dhaka when Babri Mosque-related unrest cooled down in India and the summit was held in April 1993. 

A great deal of drama surrounded the 11th summit which was scheduled to be held in Kathmandu in November 1999. India was already contemplating refraining from attending the summit because of the Kargil War (May 1999) and relations between India and Pakistan plunged. Delhi's negative attitude exacerbated when, just before the moot, General Pervez Musharraf seized power in Pakistan in October 1999. After lots of diplomatic brouhaha between the two rivals, the summit eventually took place in January 2002 in Kathmandu.

The 13th summit scheduled in Dhaka in January 2005 was delayed again because of India's refusal to participate. Two reasons were put forward by India: the massive tsunami that hit the region on December 26, 2004 and declaration of emergency in Nepal by King Gyanendra. India officially announced it would not attend because of the prevailing security concerns in the neighbourhood. Actually, Delhi was unhappy with Dhaka. The summit was finally held in November 2005.

The 15th summit scheduled in Male in 2008 was not held there as Maldives went into general elections. The venue was shifted to Colombo and was held in August 2008. Male also could not host the 16th summit in 2009 because of the economic recession and the venue was shifted to Thimpu in April 2010. The 18th summit scheduled in Nepal in November 2012 was repeatedly delayed because of internal political turmoil and was eventually held in November 2014.

The issue here is that it has become normal for Saarc members to delay, cancel or change venues of summits. Since the 19th summit could not be scheduled because of India's unwillingness to go to Pakistan, it would be worthwhile for the members to try to change the venue and hold the summit as soon as possible. If Pakistan and India have any responsibility and loyalty towards the organisation, both should agree to hold the conclave at a different venue. It is silly of Delhi to think that it is punishing Pakistan by not allowing it to host the 19th summit. Delhi is actually punishing all the member countries, because all Saarc programmes have stalled. India, being the largest member of Saarc, has the responsibility to protect Saarc.

For Bangladesh the South Asian fraternity has not yet made any collective statement or shown any solidarity with Dhaka on the Rohingya problem. Dhaka should work for convening the 19th summit and get a strongly worded declaration on the Rohingya issue. A supportive Saarc declaration would have a positive impact at the forthcoming BIMSTEC summit and at other international organisations of which Bangladesh is a member.

It would be folly if member countries let Saarc wither away as they have much to lose sitting idle.

Mahmood Hasan is a former ambassador and secretary of the Bangladesh government.

o o o


India unlikely to participate in SAARC 2018

I.A. Rehman
April 26, 2018

SOON after the battle of Mochi Gate ground concluded amicably, a sizeable Lahore audience was treated to a scintillating performance by Theatre Wallay, a group of Islamabad-based theatre enthusiasts who have been looking at contemporary reality. The theme was dwindling access to public spaces. 

In a 60-minute programme, only a few instances of encroachment on the people’s right of access to public spaces could be discussed, but that was sufficient to set the citizens thinking about the erosion of their freedoms.

For instance, the first episode dealt with the freedom to enjoy a cricket match in which the players included foreign stars. The joys of watching such matches in the past were recalled, when the people didn’t throng to the stadia only to see some of the players in the act of bowling and another set of players in the act of batting — the ball and the bat and the stumps were more clearly visible on the TV screen at home. Going to watch cricket was a social event. One liked to enjoy the freedom of movement and the freedom to partake of traditional snacks and the freedom to shout to one’s heart’s content. 

    The denial of right to public spaces will inexorably lead to ghettoisation of the people.

The situation now was that getting to the stadium was a hassle. Those who did not go to the stadium suffered greater hardships as roads were blocked, traffic was jammed at many points and open spaces were converted into parking lots.

One sat glued to a seat like a prisoner, everybody looking at everybody else with suspicion, and the only shout permitted was “Jeetay ga, jeetay ga, Pakistan jeetay ga”.

People faced similar denial of freedom of movement when thoroughfares were occupied for dharnas, especially by those claiming divine sanction.

The restrictions on the people’s freedoms are justified as necessary in their own interest, as an unavoidable price for security. However sound this explanation may be, the effect of restrictions on the use of public spaces on the psyche of the people

cannot be ignored. The toll of living in a state of fear is quite heavy. The harmful effects on the minds and bodies of citizens and on interpersonal relations ought to be counted while working out the cost of security measures that impinge on basic freedoms. 

Theatre Wallay gave their performance the title Zard Patton ka Bun (a forest of yellow leaves) that Faiz Ahmed Faiz had said his country had become, and the second title was Dard ki Anjuman jo Mera Des Hai (the congregation of bruised souls that my land is.) But the beautiful poem called Intesaab (dedication), and written around the middle of

the Ayub dictatorship, was no more about dead leaves than the famous American play and movie Petrified Forest was about trees. Faiz used yellow leaves as a simile for the wasted lives of his compatriots, and the denial of their rights and freedoms and joys of living.

How does the theme of shrinking public spaces fit into a remembrance of wasted lives? A little reflection will be enough to establish the link between the people’s tribulations and shrinking public spaces. The denial of right to public spaces will inexorably lead to ghettoisation of the people.

Let us first take note of the gross abuse of a public space that occurred a little before Theatre Wallay staged their performance. A group of Test cricketers had gone to watch the flag-lowering

ceremony at Wagah. Over the years, that ritual has been developed by guards belonging to Pakistan and India to establish one’s superiority over the other in martial encounters.

One should like to avoid a critique of the spectacle out of fear of ruffling the feathers in the crowns of the privileged but, here, we are concerned with the performance of a young cricketer who intruded into the public space to outdo the guards’ display of contempt and hatred for the people on the other side. As a child he can perhaps be forgiven for lapsing into infantile nationalism. But his shameful act exposes the sports controllers to censure for failing to familiarise the players with the spirit and culture of sportsmanship.

When sportspersons belonging to different nationalities clash in the arena of sport they are not one another’s enemies; they are partners in the promotion of sports and in the discovery of the heights that human endeavour can scale. What kind of behaviour on and off the field are our players being trained in by the brigades of sports officials, trainers and coaches?

To return to the subject of public spaces, the university campuses, among the most important public spaces, have been hit by a wave of scandals — attacks on the faculty’s right to academic freedom, students’ right to freedom of opinion and cultural expression, sale of university lands for non-academic use, encroachments on playing fields and irregular appointments of vice chancellors. While one feels relieved that unfair appointments of vice chancellors are being challenged, it is impossible to be happy about the implications for the system of education and the dignity that must be attached to the headship of universities.

Mosques, supposed to be the houses of God and not the property of any mortal being, figure in the debate on public spaces in more ways than one. Every Muslim knows that building a mosque on illegally occupied land is strictly prohibited in Islam. That issue was the root cause of the horrible conflict in Islamabad’s Lal Masjid.

While the echoes of that incident are still heard in the corridors of power, no authority has had the courage to stop the expropriation of public spaces for illegally constructing prayer houses. The reservation of mosques for particular sects and the use of the pulpit to preach hatred against other sects are other forms that the abuse of public space takes on an extremely large scale

In the final analysis, the people’s right to public spaces cannot be secured without raising the level of respect for their basic freedoms, recognising the beauty in diversity and abandoning perfidious attempts at forcing uniformity.

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2018

Hindustan Times
April 27, 2018

Pakistan qawwal Amjad Sabri’s murder was just the latest in a series of blows in recent years to strike at the heart of qawwali, which has thrived in South Asia since the 13th century

Agence France-Presse, Karachi

This picture taken on October 1, 2015 shows the Pakistani Sufi musician Amjad Sabri performing during the Lux Style Award who was shot dead in Karachi on June 22, 2016. (AFP File Photo)

Nearly two years after Pakistan’s foremost qawwali singer Amjad Sabri was gunned down in Karachi, the devotional music of Islam’s Sufi mystical sect is struggling to survive, as fears of sectarianism and modern pressures slowly drown out its powerfully hypnotic strains.

Thousands poured into the streets near Sabri’s family home after his death for his funeral, a rare public display of affection in Karachi.

“He was a rockstar of the masses,” explained journalist and musician Ali Raj, who studied under Sabri.

His murder was just the latest in a series of blows in recent years to strike at the heart of qawwali, which has thrived in South Asia since the 13th century.

“I am still in shock,” Sabri’s brother Talha told AFP from his family home adorned with pictures of his superstar sibling, whose fame spanned the subcontinent and beyond.

“Why do they hate qawwali? Why do they hate music?”

Embraced widely as a part of Pakistan’s national identity, qawwali has played a key unifying role, with city-dwellers and villagers flocking to Sufi shrines for concerts.

Performances traditionally last hours, with a troupe of musicians interweaving soulful improvisational threads under lyrical, lilting vocal lines to a steady beat of thundering rhythms on dholak and tabla drums and hand clapping, sending fans drifting into trance-like transcendent states.

The genre entered a golden age in the 1970s as singers known as qawwals battled for prestige, with the Sabri Brothers -- led by Amjad’s father, Ghulam Farid Sabri -- and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan finding audiences around the world.

Following the death of Ghulam, Amjad took the helm and slowly carved out his place as Pakistan’s most prominent qawwal, becoming a fixture on national television and radio.

But now musicians worry that his murder -- and the fear it sparked -- has hastened the decline of qawwali.

Fear, faith and finances

At Cafe Noor in Karachi where qawwals have gathered for decades, musicians said business has been falling for years, with fewer shrines willing to host performances.

Sectarian militants have targeted Sufis, a mystical sect of Islam, for years -- with the Taliban and increasingly the Islamic State sending suicide bombers to attack shrines over what they see as heretical displays of faith.

Just months after Sabri was killed, IS claimed back-to-back attacks on shrines in the provinces of Balochistan and Sindh that killed more than 100 people combined.

Earlier this month, the military approved death sentences for two militants linked to Sabri’s killing.

But questions linger over who ordered the murder -- the Pakistani Taliban, or another group -- forcing his brother to spend months guarded by elite paramilitary rangers.

Such fears, meanwhile, are not the only factors triggering qawwali’s decline.

Inflationary pressures have also kept the qawwals’ working-class fanbase from hosting shows. Increasingly only the middle class or elite can afford to pay a qawwali group to perform at parties or weddings.

“In the good old times, even a poor man... would manage to organise qawwali,” explained singer Hashim Ali, saying he is now lucky to play four or five shows during religious periods compared to dozens in the past.

The rise of more globalised interpretations of Islam has similarly chipped away at qawwali’s popularity, as Muslims in Pakistan increasingly depart from the subcontinent’s syncretic religious traditions and look to the Middle East for guidance.

“People access... (qawwali music) as a part of their faith,” said Ahmer Naqvi, chief operations officer for Pakistani music app Patari.

“A lot of the younger population is abandoning the ways that the older generations worshipped.”

Increasing conservatism has also hit the genre.

Even before Karachi’s Abdullah Shah Ghazi Mazar shrine -- famed for hosting performances -- was attacked by the Taliban in 2010, organisers had imposed restrictions on shows for years as part of a campaign against qawwali’s hashish-smoking fans.

The pressure has compelled more qawwals to try their hand at fusion, or even branch into more financially viable genres such as pop. Only a minority have embraced social media to promote themselves, journalist Raj said.

But they face an uphill battle.

“The youth... they don’t know what exactly qawwali is,” said fan Muhammad Saeed, 24, citing the popularity of contemporary music at home and from abroad, during a private show in Islamabad.

‘Under pressure’

After 16 years playing by his brother’s side, Talha Sabri said he has struggled to find his place on stage until Amjad’s own sons are old enough to perform.

“We are under pressure,” he said, with his long hair and neatly trimmed beard cutting a stark resemblance to his brother.

But even as he fears the possibility of extremists striking again, he refuses to be cowed.

“Regardless of these threats, we have to keep on,” he said.

For Sabri’s mother Asghari Begum however, the murder of her son marked a turning point for qawwali, ringing the death knell for its future.

Her family previously made it through the tumultuous 1980s, when political parties and gangs battled for turf, turning Karachi’s streets into killing fields.

But they were respected then, passing unscathed through the city’s numerous pickets.

Amjad’s death proved things have changed.

“He has gone now,” she said. “And the passion of qawwali has gone with him.”

Deepa Narayan
The Guardian
27 April 2018

Tragic rape cases have shocked the country. But the everyday suffering of 650 million Indian women and girls goes unnoticed

Women protest against violence against women and children in Bangalore, April 2018. Photograph: Jagadeesh Nv/EPA

India is at war with its girls and women. The planned rape of eight-year-old Asifa in a temple by several men, including a policeman who later washed the clothes she was wearing to destroy evidence, was particularly horrific. Asifa’s rape has outraged and shaken the entire country. Yet sexual abuse in India remains widespread despite tightening of rape laws in 2013. According to the National Crimes Records Bureau, in 2016 the rape of minor girls increased by 82% compared with the previous year. Chillingly, across all rape cases, 95% of rapists were not strangers but family, friends and neighbours.

The culturally sanctioned degradation of women is so complete that the prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, launched a national programme called Beti Bachao (Save Our Girls). India can arguably be accused of the largest-scale human rights violation on Earth: the persistent degradation of the vast majority of its 650 million girls and women. And this includes the middle classes, as I found when interviewing 600 women and men in India’s cities.

India’s women are traumatised in less obvious ways than by tanks in the streets, bombs and warlords. Our oppression starts innocuously: it occurs in private life, within families, with girls being locked up in their own homes. This everyday violence is the product of a culture that bestows all power on men, and that does not even want women to exist. This is evident in the unbalanced sex ratios at birth, even in wealthy families. But India also kills its women slowly. This violence is buried in the training of women in some deadly habits that invite human rights violations, but that are considered the essence of good womanhood.

The first teaches girls to be afraid of their own bodies. When a girl is not supposed to exist, 1.3 billion people collectively pretend that girls don’t have bodies and especially no sexual parts. If girls do not have bodies, sexual molestation is not possible, and if it does happen, it has to be denied, and if it cannot be denied, the girl must be blamed.

Denial of sexuality in homes is another habit that is deadly to girls. Almost every woman I interviewed had experienced some form of sexual molestation. Only two had told their mothers, only to be dismissed, “Yes, this happens in families,” or “No, this did not happen.” Indian government surveys show that 42% of girls in the country have been sexually abused.

Speech is another basic human right. To have a voice, to speak up, is to be recognised, to belong. But girls are trained in silence. They are told to be quiet, to speak softly, dheere bolo, to have no opinions, no arguments, no conflicts. Silent women disappear. They are easy to ignore, overrule, and violate without repercussions. Impunity flourishes.

    Over 50% of Indian men and women still believe that sometimes women deserve a beating 

It serves a culture of violence to create pleasers, another habit that further erodes a woman’s sense of self. Pleasers compromise and sacrifice, all disguised through the ubiquitous phrase beta thora adjust kar lo – “darling, please adjust a little”. It means to be punished to force you to fit in, to do what others want you to do and never say no.

Women whose sense of self has been worn down, by definition must depend on others, which only serves to breed fear and violence. Over 50% of Indian men and women still believe that sometimes women deserve a beating. One woman is killed every hour for not bringing enough dowry to a husband. But dependency is still presented as a virtuous habit and independence as a bad characteristic. Dependent women have no separate identity and are legitimate only as mothers, wives and daughters. Such women are trained to put duty over self – the suicide numbers are highest for housewives.

The right to assemble is a right taken away by dictators. In India it is the culture that subverts women’s desire to organise. The cultural design of oppression is so clever, that it instils a habit of distrust and trains women to demean, dismiss and discount other women. Almost no woman I interviewed belonged to a women’s group. They said, “I don’t have time for gossip.”

The real genius of this system lies in the fact that oppression has been recast as a virtue. So erasure of self – the most treacherous human rights violation – hides in plain sight, sanctified by loving families, perfumed by our definitions of goodness. And the private sphere, the family, remains impenetrable and untouchable.

We have underestimated the power of culture in creating violence within our families. To reclaim our humanity we need a national conversation about what it means to be a good woman and a good man in India today.

• Deepa Narayan is a social scientist and author of Chup: Breaking the Silence About India’s Women

Need to Enforce Existing Laws to Protect Women and Children
Jayshree Bajoria
Human Rights Watch Dispatches
April 27, 2018

Reeling from protests across the country demanding justice for victims in the recent  spate of sexual assaults, Indian authorities are under pressure to respond. One step the government has decided to adopt is a sex offenders’ database, which will store the profile and personal details of convicted offenders and those accused of such offenses. Children accused of such crimes may also be included in the database.

For several years, some senior government ministers have been calling for mandatory registration of sex offenders. It reflects public concern that children and women are at grave risk of sexual abuse by strangers who are repeat offenders.

But this concern is not borne out by facts.

According to 2016 government data, out of 38,947 cases of reported rapes in India, the accused was known to the victim in almost 95 percent of the cases. In nearly 4,000 cases, the accused was a close family member.

Rape is already underreported in India largely because of social stigma, victim-blaming, poor response by the criminal justice system, and lack of any national victim and witness protection law. This makes rape victims highly vulnerable to pressure to forego reporting the assault from the accused as well as the police. Children are even more vulnerable due to pressure from family and society.

The fact that the offenders – often relatives or family friends – will be recorded in a national database for all time may actually lead to a decrease in reporting of such crimes. Even if the database is not public, the absence of laws to protect privacy and on data protection in India will raise further concerns.

Moreover, studies by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union show that sex offender registries in the United States have done more harm than good. Instead of crime prevention, they lead to harassment, ostracism, and violence against former offenders, especially children, and impede their rehabilitation.

The Indian government should instead better enforce existing laws and protection measures. It can start by ensuring that police officers, judicial officials, and medical professionals are sensitized on the proper handling of sexual violence cases -- and holding them to account when they don’t.

Writers in both India and Pakistan are facing down fierce threats. 
by Pankaj Mishra
26 April 2018

Last month, the Pakistani government bestowed its third-highest civilian award on the writer and journalist Mohammed Hanif. This, to put it mildly, was unexpected. It's as if Donald Trump had decided to garland Ta-Nehisi Coates with the National Humanities Medal. 

However, for many writers and journalists in neighboring India, ostensibly the world’s largest democracy, the news could only be bittersweet.   

Sweet, because few contemporary writers deserve to be celebrated as much as Hanif. The British-Pakistani novelist Nadeem Aslam once said that while "Pakistan produces people of extraordinary bravery, no nation should ever require its citizens to be that brave." Hanif has long embodied this unreasonable valor in a society dominated by venal politicians, murky spies and religious fanatics.

He has intrepidly exposed the atrocities and pretensions of Pakistan’s elites. Writing about human-rights abuses in the province of Baluchistan, he has risked murderous retribution from the country’s intelligence agencies. 

In honoring him, as well as the late human-rights activist Asma Jahangir, Pakistan’s civilian government honors itself. Presumably, its bauble will bring Hanif, if not others, some respite from the country’s more malevolent institutions and individuals.

Yet it deepens a bitter realization among many Indian writers and journalists: Their own struggles, three years after the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party returned to power in New Delhi, have in some ways become as arduous as those that have long burdened their counterparts in Pakistan.

Many of those committed to transforming the Indian republic into a Hindu nation are viscerally hostile to intellectual life in general. Still, the ferocity of their assault on the fourth estate in India has come as a surprise.

Journalism has long been a lethal profession in India’s border provinces, such as Kashmir. Journalists in the heart of India have now also been targeted by vigilante groups, assorted ideological thugs and criminals. This week, India was ranked 138 out of 180 countries in the 2018 Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, a few slots above Zimbabwe and Afghanistan. 

Armies of trolls using Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook have manufactured a whole new reality: one in which Muslims, liberals, secularists, leftists and various other "anti-nationals" are seeking to thwart hard-working Prime Minister Narendra Modi from creating a glorious Hindu nation. Last week, they targeted with especially malign force the independent journalist Rana Ayyub, author of "Gujarat Files," an undercover investigation of Modi’s colleagues and officials complicit in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in the state of Gujarat. 

"Sometimes," as Siddhartha Deb wrote last month in the Columbia Journalism Review, "it appears as if the enemy is information itself, along with transparency, exposure, critical thinking -- anything and everything that might be seen as characteristic of a free, open society."

The mainstream media tries to steer clear of some of India’s most shocking stories, such as the mysterious death of a judge investigating murder charges against Modi’s consigliere. Pressure from Hindu nationalists only partly explains this evident self-censorship. As Deb writes, "the owners down to editorial staff often seem to be a willing participant in the project of Hindu nationalism." 

This is as true of such large-circulation newspapers as the Times of India as of local rags. Journalists unwilling to fall into line have been forced out, including most recently Harish Khare, a veteran journalist and editor of the Tribune, who ran a story uncovering flaws in Aadhaar, the government's cherished biometric-identification project. A long investigative report in Outlook magazine by the journalist Neha Dixit, which described trafficking in very young girls by Hindu nationalists, resulted in the departure of the newsmagazine’s editor. 

All is hardly lost. Caravan, a monthly magazine run by fiercely contrarian journalists, has published some eye-opening accounts of violence, corruption and official skulduggery. Feisty webzines like Scroll and the Wire have preserved a space for critical commentary. Journalists in India’s regional-language media regularly uncover, at great risk to their lives, turpitude among politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen. Kashmiri reporters, working with very limited resources, persisted for months with the story of an eight-year-old Muslim girl repeatedly raped and then killed by Hindu thugs, until it became international news this month.  

In recent years, as India appeared to rise, some of the country's most influential writers and journalists were beguiled by dreams of national glory and private aggrandizement. It is not absurd to hope that, at this time of adversity, Indian journalists would produce their best work yet.

Certainly, a younger generation of writers and journalists has been forced to recognize their necessarily adversarial relationship to power. The future of Indian democracy depends on many more of them being as unreasonably brave as their counterparts in Pakistan.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Manimugdha S Sharma
The Times of India | Apr 29, 2018

The dictator’s face and quotes are often used on merchandise like mouse pads and coastersThe dictator’s face and quotes are often used on merchandise like mouse pads and coasters

From coffee mugs and laptop cases to ice cream and artwork, everything sells in the Fuhrer’s name in India

Last month, a Delhi-based publisher grabbed headlines when it released a children’s book titled Great Leaders, and put Adolf Hitler on the cover. Last week, BJP leader Chandra Kumar Bose, who is also the grandnephew of Subhas Chandra Bose, pitted Jawaharlal Nehru against the Nazi leader and declared Nehru a traitor and Hitler a “nationalist who never betrayed his nation”.

Clearly, the man much of the world views as a monster isn’t as reviled in India. In fact, Hitler is big here. His 1925 autobiography, Mein Kampf, has been a bestseller since it was first published here in 1928. Indian management students scour it for leadership lessons, Slideshare has presentations and Quora features questions on it. But that’s not all.

An ice cream brand in north India is called Hitler. A Mumbai café and an Ahmedabad apparel store were also named after him, though bad press led to a name change. Hitler’s name sells scores of products on e-commerce sites such as Amazon and Flipkart — coffee mugs, Swastika and Hitler posters, laptop casings, motorcycle helmets like the Stahlhelm worn by Hitler’s troops, T-shirts, cardigans, coasters, spikebusters, extension cords, locks, iPhone covers, jewellery boxes, lamp stands…

Colorpur, an online platform for designer artworks, has three types of Hitler merchandise. Its COO Abhinav Singh says: “We are just a platform, we don’t design anything ourselves. And we don’t make any moralistic judgement unless of course it is absolutely controversial. We don’t tell anyone to create or not to create anything.”

The Schutzstaffel, better known as the infamous SS, served as Hitler’s bodyguards

Aligarh’s Ishtiaq Ahmed, owner of Hitler Locks Enterprise, says it was the name’s popularity that worked for him. “Back in 1989 when we started the company, there were so many lock makers here. To stand out, we had to find a name that would stand out. Hitler was the perfect choice. There has been no dictator like Hitler, so nobody can forget that name,” Ahmed says.

But is he aware of Hitler’s misdeeds? “Yes, but we have nothing to do with that,” he says.

In many developed countries, like France and Austria, displaying Nazi memorabilia is a punishable offence. Not in India, where Hitler has always been a fascinating figure. Historians attribute this to ignorance about the Third Reich, and Indians’ physical and emotional disconnect from the Holocaust.

Over the decades, ‘Hitler’ became a soft pejorative used for strict teachers, bosses, even family patriarchs. Romantic soaps showed boyfriends flirtatiously calling their ladylove “Hitler-like”. A TV serial on a rather strict woman was called Hitler Didi, while the all-time superhit Sholay had an overblown caricature of Hitler in the form of a strict jailor. These representations have made Hitler more acceptable, even cute, in India.

Spotted on a car sticker.

Historians say all this isn’t entirely harmless. Prof Anirudh Deshpande of Delhi University says Indians have been influenced by fascism since the 1930s, “especially upper-caste Indians who believe they are Aryan cousins of the Germans”. In India, the anti-Semitism of Germany was replaced with the anti-Muslim and anti-Christian prejudices of the RSS. “Compared with Britain or the US, India is a new nation state with multiple problems. Insecure people who internalise a feeling of having been historically wronged are vulnerable to fascism,” he says.

Despande says most Indians admire Hitler without knowing much about him. “The average Hitler T-shirt-wearing Indian hasn’t even heard of the Holocaust. The steady failure of the Indian state over the last 30 years has discredited democracy in the country and strengthened the popular appeal of what the Japanese historian Yoshiaki calls ‘grassroots fascism’.”
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But the Hitler cult also exists because certain nationalists believe he was great as Bose had allied with him and even raised an Indian army in Germany called Freies Indien Legion.

Historian Benjamin Zachariah says the fantasy of Hindus as Aryans appealed to a lot of upper-caste Indians in the 19th century. “The Nazi model of all organisations under the control of one party and one leader is an appealing one, and the depiction of Hitler as a German patriot serves that purpose,” Zachariah adds.

Historian Dilip Menon has a slightly different take: “In India, we were so thoroughly colonised that our elite looked to European forms, whether democracy or fascism. But fascism is compatible with capitalism, unlike socialist authoritarianism.” Perhaps that’s why it appeals more. 

Livemint, April 27 2018

Editorial, Livemint

The formal sector has a gender bias problem
The assumption that this is a problem largely confined to the informal sector and traditional jobs is erroneous

Although professional occupations exhibit less gender bias, they can’t be termed gender neutral either. Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint

Indian women face immense obstacles when they try to join the labour force. It is generally assumed that the problem is restricted to the traditional rather than the modern segments of the economy. It follows that a shockingly low female labour force participation rate will rise as formal enterprises grow.

A recent paper by the World Bank, Reflections Of Employers’ Gender Preferences In Job Ads In India: An Analysis Of Online Job Portal Data, undermines this optimistic assumption. An analysis of more than 800,000 online job recruitment advertisements in the formal and informal sectors shows explicit gender targeting as well as a salary gap in the Indian job market. The data offers harsh insights into the problems faced by working women even in cities—the type that is more likely to be searching online for job opportunities.

The study finds rampant gender targeting for elementary jobs, with men preferred for intensive outdoor work and women preferred for care-giving jobs. Although professional occupations exhibit less gender bias, they can’t be termed gender neutral either. Interestingly, the jobs that prefer women—business process outsourcing centres, teaching and service industries—pay male employees better. This inconsistent relationship between demand for female employees and salary offered indicates that men are valued more by employers.

The existence of lopsided gender preference in the Indian labour market can be explained, in part, by statistical discrimination theory. Economists Edmund Phelps and Kenneth J. Arrow have argued that inequality may persist due to lack of information about the ability of workers in the demographic group that is being discriminated against. This leads to selection bias even if the employer is unprejudiced. The rest can be explained by deep-rooted cultural perceptions regarding gender-specific roles.

The resultant occupational segregation based on gender and concentration of women in relatively low-paying jobs reduces their bargaining power to negotiate the terms of employment. Even in identical jobs, men and women have different bargaining power. This is a reality across industries and socio-economic strata. For a high-profile example, look at Hollywood, where various aspects of gender discrimination are now coming into the limelight. A-list actor Jennifer Lawrence has been outspoken on such issues. On realizing the high salary gap between her and her American Hustle male co-stars, Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale, she wrote, “I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early.”

While fixing cultural prejudices takes time, the problems of statistical discrimination and women’s lack of negotiating power in the formal workplace have an immediate and effective solution. The answer lies in strengthening agglomeration mechanisms for women—women creating jobs and opportunities for themselves and bringing other women on board.

An agglomeration metrics, computed by World Bank economists in a 2012 article, “What Explains Gender Disparities In India? What Can Be Done?”, notes that “female connections in labor markets and input-output markets contribute to a higher female entry share”. In other words, when more women network with each other in the formal labour market, it lowers the implicit entry barriers for other women.

There are numerous other agglomeration benefits. Higher female participation in the labour market, which leads to gender-diverse teams, is a crucial factor for less biased policy and decision making in the workplace. It also helps improve the extent, coverage, conditions of, and remuneration for women’s work. And the likelihood of recognition of the unpaid work performed by women increases when more women are employed in formal activities. This recognition can help formalize previously unpaid work—think women running dabba services out of their homes. As argued by this paper earlier, encouraging entrepreneurship in women can be a good starting point for this virtuous cycle.

In this context, it is worth considering that governments at the Centre and in the states have been making consistent efforts to facilitate the empowerment of women in the context of employment. For instance, the government of Telangana has recently launched WE-Hub incubators for women entrepreneurs—not only in tech but in all kinds of industries. The Central government, with the help of public-private partnerships, has announced POWERED, an entrepreneurship programme—globally the first of its kind—to nurture and support women entrepreneurs building ventures in energy value chains. To enable women entrepreneurs to grow their businesses, a number of women-only schemes—such as the SIDBI Mahila Udyam Nidhi and Stree Shakti Package entrepreneur loan schemes—have also been designed. However, the lessons from failures in this effort, such as Bharatiya Mahila Bank—a bank run by women for women—should not be forgotten.

With almost 73% of India’s female population currently outside the workforce, increased education and decline in fertility have clearly been insufficient to improve women’s labour force participation. However, the recent technological changes in communication, networking and internet of things have given rise to new jobs that are relatively free of gender bias. This offers a fighting chance to recalibrate our cultural notions regarding women and authority.

Bhaswati Chakravorty
 The Telegraph, April 27, 2018

Incredible India is no longer a hyperbole; what would have been incredible some time back is happening every day. Take 'love jihad'. It represents one of the most amazing acts of myth-making in the modern world. Yet the term is now as much a part of life as, say, gau raksha or 'anti-nationalism'. What on earth are these insanities? No Indian in 2018 would bother to ask this since the incredible is part of the way we live now. Yet this sense of inversion does not require much subtlety in its production. Recent events in Uttar Pradesh, for example, lay the process bare.

Three months after the gentleman called Yogi Adityanath became chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in March 2017, he is reported to have said in a television interview, "Agar apradh karenge toh thok diye jayenge (if they commit crimes, they will be finished)." This could well have been a stern warning to criminals, even if it sounded as though encounter killings were going to be the favoured strategy of attacking crime in UP. Subsequent events suggest that the second thesis had more substance. India need not be coy about encounter killings. Most states are familiar with them, some more than others. Two famous cases in Gujarat are still part of media discourse, while UP would include in its records the 1987 Hashimpura alleged massacre and the 1991 Pilibhit encounter case. Only a long and widespread history of 'encounters' could have led to the Supreme Court's unmistakable message in 2012: "It is not the duty of the police officers to kill the accused merely because he is a dreaded criminal... This Court has repeatedly admonished trigger happy police personnel, who liquidate criminals and project the incident as an encounter. Such killings... are not recognised as legal by our criminal justice administration system. They amount to State sponsored terrorism."

The Supreme Court's statement indicates that no matter how contentious a police encounter might be, a structure to define and judge it is always present, although the effectiveness of the processes leading up to trial may be less than ideal. Uttar Pradesh's present uniqueness lies not in police encounters, but in the re-presentation of these as government policy. When listing the government's achievements after six months in power, the chief minister is reported to have said that crime was being controlled because the police had been given a 'free hand'.

Although the National Human Rights Commission had asked for a report on an encounter killing, and the state legislative council chairperson asked for a CBI inquiry into two of them, the chief minister reportedly said to the council in February this year that in 1,200 encounters, more than 40 criminals have been killed and that this trend will not stop. Other reports claim that 49 were dead, including four policemen, that over 370 people had been injured and 3,300 arrested.

The chief minister's declaration is intriguing. All encounter deaths, according to the police, have been in self-defence. The law certainly gives protection if self-defence is needed, that is, if the person 'encountered' attacks the police. But it also makes clear that force is for self-defence only, justified and proportionate to the threat presented, and never retaliatory or used for revenge. The UP police have been shot at in each encounter, or most of them, sometimes by one or two men 'planning a big crime', or charged with burglary, robbery, sometimes murder, usually from bikes or cars. How did the chief minister know in February that the police will always be shot at so the trend will not stop?

The Opposition and other sources claim that most of the dead are from the minority community, making a poor living when not in custody under various charges, Dalits and members of other backward classes. Inevitably, the families' accounts of the meetings with the police do not match the police's, neither are the accounts of wounds on the bodies consistent with mere shooting. Some claim their men did not know how to drive bikes. But the police usually recover guns from the sites, they report; so there is no reason to doubt the dead men's criminality even when they are just charged with stealing. In September 2017, the UP police communications department announced that the prize money for arresting criminals was being raised for different ranks of policemen. For superintendents of police, for example, it would go from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2,50,000 for each criminal. One report said that a reward of up to one lakh rupees would be given to a police team that conducts an encounter. The NHRC, supported by the court, directs that no gallantry award should be given unless the occasion of gallantry is properly established.

Part of the process of inverting expectations is the careful calibration of what is publicized and what remains untold. Have the police recovered any of the stolen goods or money? Surely that would add to their glory in what is being called the "swachh badmash abhiyan"? With so many murder charges, can we ask who was murdered by which encounter victim? But that might be a crime. The Opposition had demanded due process. It was reported that the chief minister asked the Opposition why it was showing such sympathy for criminals.

Here the inversion is complete. At one level, the method is without subtlety: turn the Constitution and law on their heads while occupying a constitutionally designated chair. Our form of parliamentary democracy does give the scope to show that might is, crudely enough, right. A Bharatiya Janata Party chief minister's might in his own territory is complemented by the might emanating from the Centre. But the clash of the constitutional position with constitutional tenets and the laws derived from them overturns an inner sense of order that people are used to. This goes far beyond and inward than dismay at the seeming transformation of the police into a terror army or the reduction of other institutional authorities into ineffectual grumblers.

The UP chief minister's reported comment about the Opposition's sympathy for criminals makes a bigger point than being just a political attack against his predecessors for indulging criminals. Yogi Adityanath is moral: he is cleansing the state of prisoners. To oppose him is immoral. Yet the perceived reality clashes with any recognizable sense of morality and natural justice. The means of cleansing can be perceived as illicit, the accounts often not just false but impossible, and an identifiable population segment appears to be at the receiving end.

What is being produced, therefore, is an enveloping fear. It is not just a physical fear, but a fear of the unnameable. The presence of due processes of law and institutions of recourse provides a hardly noticed stability; their disappearance is like the vanishing of the ground beneath. They are different expressions of the agreed principles of legitimacy without which society cannot function, and their loss causes terrifying confusion.

The confusion is not the achievement of UP alone; the government there is an excellent example because it is so open about the methods of inversion. The uncertainty mesmerizes us into accepting a yogi not just as a politician but as a chief minister who is apparently preaching lawlessness in the name of morality, a baba touting commodities of a 'patriotic' provenance, just the advertising of which runs into uncountable millions, other sadhus entering government elsewhere as ministers of state. It is not just Ram Navami, once a peaceful ceremony, that has changed character. The proponents of the ancient religion who now suffuse the country with their colour have cleansed saffron, too, of its traditional associations with renunciation and sacrifice. How would a child now elucidate the symbolism of the Indian flag?

Gayatri Jayaraman
Hindustan Times
April 26, 2018

Fishermen fear the Bhadbuth Weir­cum­Causeway will rob them of their livelihood. It will cut off a unique ecosystem and after that, Narmada’s hilsa is expected to die out in three years

Members of the Samast Bharuch Machimar Samiti are a worried lot these days. The fishermen waved black flags at PM Narendra Modi on his visit last year.(Gayatri Jayaraman/HT)

The approach towards dam-building on rivers is to save every drop of sweet water from “running waste” into the sea. That dammed water is then redirected to those the government decides need it the most. These are typically urban centres, industrial zones, and farmers. But those who love the river say the one who needs the water first is the Narmada herself. It is an ideological chasm between those who live off the river, and those who would harness it.

What happens when there is no water left for the river? It begins to die. That death begins with the death of the organisms that live in it, and spreads to the death of organisms that live off it.

At the office of the Narmada Grievance Redressal Authority, Medha Patkar is pleading the case of Hazariabhai, a Bhilali adivasi from Barwani district. A community that survives on fishing, it has been allocated compensatory land 100km away from the river. The story repeats itself along the route of the river as fishermen seek access to former breeding grounds that are now submerged and restricted. As mangroves vanish, flow turns to dead water, and the river runs dry. While the GDP of India from agriculture always includes fisheries — it contributes 1.1% of the GDP, 5.15 % of the agricultural GDP; India ranks second globally in fisheries, and the sector engages 14 million people with an output of 10.07 metric tonnes — the protests of fishermen are almost always suppressed.

In Bharuch, Kamlesh Madhivala, 38, Praveen Madhivala, 43, Heral Dheemar, 38 and Praveen Machi, 31 — members of the Samast Bharuch Machimar Samiti and under the banner of the Narmada Bachao Andolan — led a 4,000-member march to the district collector’s office on April 17. They protested on behalf of 35,000 fishermen who would be affected. It was not their first protest against the construction of the Bhadbuth Weir-cumCauseway at Kalpasar. The fishermen waved black flags at the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his visit last year.

The tendering process is on and construction is expected to begin in six months, raising the barrage at Ambetha near Dahej, 5.15km downstream. The project received Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance in August 2017. The protestors say they were not consulted or informed, and were only able to file objections in November 2017, a month after the objection period lapsed. The NGT accepted the application nevertheless after all, livelihoods were at stake. The barrage will “save” the flow of sweet water out of the Gulf of Khambat, form a final wall between river and sea, and divert water to the Kalpasar reservoir, envisaged as a sweet water lake, to also draw tourism.

Except, the fishermen fear, nothing about it will be sweet. Already, they say, their hilsa fishing boats lie on sewage coming from the towns downstream, carried in with sea water as it encroaches on the absent river’s territory. Once dammed, nothing will move the filthy water out from the stilled river. It will accumulate sewage and industrial effluents, they predict. At the river bank, the Narmada barely exists.

Without consistent flow from the Sardar Sarovar dam throughout the year, the ingress of the sea is unstoppable, says Mahesh Pandya, environmentalist and director of NGO Paryavaran Mitra. The banks on both sides of the river have already turned saline, salt surfaces on the baking river bed. Nothing will grow here soon enough — another Kutch in the making. Protection walls line the west bank, as the river has begun to veer left. But they’ve been futile.

When she flowed, the Narmada dug the soil out from behind the protection wall and went on her way.

Most importantly for the fishermen, they fear their livelihood will be over. The Narmada’s hilsa is expected to die out in three years. The Narmada’s most famous catch, the hilsa is female. The Nar Hilsa, or male hilsa, spawns in other estuaries, but the female tends to return to the mouth of the Narmada. The fish uniquely spawns in the brackish waters caused by the back and forth of the sangam - the mixing of river and sea during June, July and August. During the other nine months, the fishermen survive on other fish. But what they make in those three months is much larger than what they make off the rest of the year put together and is what allows them to perform marriages, build homes, and replace nets and boats.

The weir will cut off this unique ecosystem. Officials from the Kalpasar project last year explained how they planned to build a fish lock for the hilsa to climb. The fishermen say they wanted to laugh in their faces. The hilsa, unlike the Atlantic salmon, for whom the lock systems work, cannot climb or fly. Once the female hilsa dies out, it is only a matter of time for the male.

Of the remaining river species, 80% have already disappeared. Varieties they used to fish don’t exist anymore: the Masheer, the unique Narmada prawn, disappeared in 2003. Local varieties called magyan, diggar, modda, gojira, and jeeptha too are also not to be found. Now, they get crocker fish and gotya instead. As of 2014, Praveen Dheemar used to carry off five tempos full of hilsa, he says. The fish would reach Kolkata the next day by train, where it would retail for Rs 800-1200 a kilogram. Now, he barely fills a tempo.

The fishermen also helpfully pointed out a flaw in the design of the dam to its technical team. “Every year, the sea deposits silt in the river. All it takes is one monsoon day, and the river in full spate tosses the silt back to the river. This has been the natural pattern of the river for centuries,” says Kamlesh Madhivala. With the dam and restriction of water flow in dry summers, this exchange no long persists. So silt builds up. The fishermen say the salinity of the river was 4.5 EC (electrical conductivity) six months ago — that equals 16 feet of silt deposits. With repeated ingress of sea water, this increases. The weir’s height is designed at 86 feet. With Bharuch lying 36 feet upstream, and salinity expected to be 6.5 EC —an additional 20 feet of silt —the usefulness of the dam is reduced by half.

VP Kapadia, chief engineer of the Kalpasar project, says the fishermen’s fears are natural, but believes the project will actually save them. He said the government does not have official salinity figures but will release some in the first week of May, after taking samples only after the full moon, so as to measure it at its worst and doing an EC test as well as a chloride test. “There is no water now in the river but once the weir is built, it will retain what water is there. The impression that hilsa and other migratory fish will lose breeding grounds is false, as the weir is designed to include a fish path. This small channel will allow the intermingling of fresh water with the sea water to simulate breeding grounds. In fact, now when there is no water, the situation is worse,” he says. The size of the channel and the amount of water it will release is a dynamic consideration. As for the silt, Kapadia says there will be no change to the dam’s height, which will cause other engineering issues such as more submergence of villages, but will require them to undertake a desilting of the riverbed.

The indigenous knowledge of those who know the river first-hand is slowly being backed by research. A January 2017 study by Utpal Bhaumik et al, researchers of the Central Inland Fisheries Institute (CIFRI) showed that temperature changes along the river when it was not dammed were once naturally variegated. In its upper ranges, it was milder (15.0-30.5 Celsius), the central highlands and lower plains held at 19 to 33 degrees. These fluctuated by 7-9 degrees depending on the season. Post damming, the river got divided into some stagnant parts and some that flowed. “This creates two different environments,” Bhaumik says. It made the temperature change erratic. The process began to kill off plankton, microphylae, floating and aquatic fauna. In the middle and lower zones, the level of dissolved oxygen fluctuated. The ambient chloride values increased in the lower Narmada because of less freshwater discharge and incoming tidal salinity. Experts say the dying of fish species has been two decades in the making.

In 1996, K Sankaran Unni of CIFRI had found 174 species of river plankton and 111 kinds of zoo plankton covering nearly 550km of the river between Amarkantak and Sethanighat. By 2009, SN Singh, also from CIFRI Barrackpore, was reporting only 72 macrobenthic organisms in the estuary. The diversity and density of organisms are indicative of environmental conditions. “The Narmada river, with existing, ongoing, and proposed river valley projects, faces the pressure of severe shortages of river flow and a resultant acute shrinkage of habitat areas for the benthic organisms. The riverbed with mostly gravel, pebbles, and boulders has been gradually replaced by a coarse sand bed, which does not support the growth of macrobenthic fauna,” Bhaumik notes. In the building of the Indira Sagar dam, the nesting habitats of the shastradhara turtle, alongside that of crocodiles and monitor lizards, were submerged. The destruction of river turtle habitats greatly upset the ecological balance .

In 1941, Hora and Nair (authors of Fishes of the Satpura Range, Central Pronices, Records in Indian Museum, Calcutta), recorded 40 species of fish from the Satpura range alone. In 1967, Karamchandani et al (CIFRI) recorded 77 species in just the upper and middle zones. In 1990, Doria found 76 species within the river in Madhya Pradesh. In 1991, Rao et al (Inland Fisheries Society) studied the whole river and found only 84 species. Arjun Shulka and Sunita Sharma (Model Science College, Jabalpur) in 2017 found 25 species in the post monsoon season.

Annual fish production in the Narmada was estimated at 269.8 metric tonnes (Dubey, 1984) between 1958–1959 and 1965–1966, i.e. prior to the development of dams. Figures through the years and recent figures for fisheries from the Narmada alone are not available.

The fish-loving Bengalis are having the worst of it. In the estuary, the carp, mainly the Mahseer, rohu, kuhi or gunia, declined as have gegra and reta. Large catfish have been replaced by medium and small species. After the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam, giant freshwater prawns, unique to the river, declined. The brood stock of Hilsa moved to only breed within 100km of the Gulf of Cambay. “Annual catch of 16,000 tons of the species (hilsa) during 1990-1991 reduced to 4,000 tons in 2007-2008 and indicated a 75% decline in production over a period of one-and-a-half decades” Bhoumik notes.

The river bank of the Narmada has now receded 3km away from the oncebustling Bharuch bunder. Locals in the old fishing villages recall having to move to higher ground for the roaring monsoon floods, collecting driftwood that would last them as firewood stocks for the whole year. “If they dam her up like this she will cease to flow. If she dies, our livelihood may go. No one will miss her more than us,” says Hiralbhai Dheemar.

Apr 29, 2018 | 19:40 IST | Times Now Digital

To counter the growing influence of Valentine's Day, the Rajasthan education department will observe 'Matra-Pitra Pujan Divas' on February 14 every year from 2019. The department has included the event in its yearly calendar, Shivir Panchang. According to state education minister Vasudev Devnani, the move was meant to inculcate a sense of love among students for their parents.

Jaipur: Now, the Valentine's Day will be celebrated as 'Matra-Pitra Pujan Diwas'. How does that sound? Well, that's the new order by the state education department in Rajasthan. In a move to counter the growing popularity of Valentine's Day and to “instil a sense of love” among students for their parents, State Education Minister Vasudev Devnani made the announcement in the state Assembly. The department has included the event in its yearly calendar -- Shivir Panchang.
According to the state education department order, February 14 will be observed as 'Matra-Pitra Pujan Diwas' every year from 2019. Devnani had made the government's intention clear to this effect in the Rajasthan Assembly earlier this year. “Students should first learn to love their parents before anyone else. The idea is to inculcate a sense of love for parents. A similar kind of event is being held in Chhattisgarh,” Devnani had mentioned. The order, which has come into effect, was issued on April 23.
Devnani was earlier in the news when a controversy regarding omission of Jawaharlal Nehru's references from school textbooks in the state surfaced.
Last year, the Chhattisgarh government had asked schools to celebrate February 14 as 'Parents' Day' to “acquaint students with Indian culture and traditions”. On this day every year, parents are invited to the schools of their children, who would offer prayers to them.

Praveen Swami
Business Standard

India located the United States-flagged yacht, Nostromo, some 50 km off the coast of Goa

 New Delhi  Last Updated at April 27, 2018 00:34 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi authorised a secret Coast Guard operation to intercept a yacht carrying runaway Dubai royal Latifa Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum after key national security officials advised it was necessary to secure India’s counter-terrorism and strategic interests, highly placed government sources have told Business Standard.

The unprecedented March 4 operation involved three Coast Guard ships, including the state-of-the-art offshore patrol vessels Samarth and Shoor, helicopters and a maritime surveillance aircraft.

India located the United States-flagged yacht, Nostromo, some 50 km off the coast of Goa.

New Delhi has so far declined to either confirm or deny the operation took place. “No such incident has been brought to our notice”, a Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said in response to a query from Business Standard. The Coast Guard did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The operation, which the sources said was coordinated by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, led to the rendition of the 33-year-old princess, who has said she was seeking to escape torture inflicted by her father, United Arab Emirates Prime Minister and Dubai ruler Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum.

In a pre-recorded video released online after her arrest, Princess Latifa said she and her elder sister, Shamsa, had been beaten, tortured, threatened, detained, and forcibly drugged for years because of their efforts to seek personal freedoms.

Princess Latifa, eyewitnesses on board the yacht have said, was handed over to UAE military personnel by the Coast Guard even as she demanded asylum — sparking an international row over India’s action.

Former French intelligence officer Hervé Jaubert and Princess Latifa’s friend Tiina Jauhiaien were also handed over the UAE by the Coast Guard, but subsequently released after pressure from western diplomatic missions on the UAE.

In an interview to The Helsinki Times, Jauhiaien said “15 men came onboard fully masked, in black clothing, with machine guns and laser sights. It was the most terrifying experience of my life”. In the interview, Jauhiaien said Princess Latifa, whose passport was held by her family, planned to land in Goa and then fly to the United States to seek asylum.

Lawyers representing Princess Latifa did not respond to email from Business Standard asking how she intended to enter India without legal travel documents.

New Delhi, two officials familiar with the Coast Guard action said, acted after personal messages were received from Prime Minister al-Maktoum seeking assistance in seizing the United States-flagged yacht, which, he claimed, had been used to kidnap his daughter.

“There is no illegality,” one Indian diplomat said. “Indian and international laws authorise the government to intercept foreign-flagged vessels to enforce customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws in the contiguous zone and even further. In this case, we acted because we were informed that the individuals on the yacht were sought by the UAE for a crime.”

London-based law scholar Abhimanyu George Jain, however, told Business Standard that “if the interception and subsequent detention are sought to be justified on the basis of Indian immigration law, in the absence of further facts, at the very least there would be an obligation of due process”.

He added that if India was aware the princess had faced torture, “both international and Indian law would prohibit returning her to Dubai”.

A government source admitted India did not seek a formal legal request from the UAE for Princess Latifa’s return. But, he added, “We have to respect other countries’ laws, domestic political institutions and interests if we want similar treatment in return.”

The operation, interestingly, took place even as Indian and UAE officials were engaged in final negotiations for extradition of 1993 Mumbai serial bombings accused Farooq Yasin Mansoor, also known as Farooq ‘Takla’, who was returned to face trial on March 8.

Alleged by the Central Bureau of Investigation to have arranged transport for bombers linked to ganglord Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, Mansoor had been sought by Interpol for over 20 years.

Nineteen of 64 fugitives extradited to India have been sent by the UAE, including alleged Indian Mujahideen financier Abdul Wahid Siddibapa, Lashkar-e-Taiba linked terrorist Abdul Sattar, and a slew of 1993 bombing perpetrators.

In addition, a number of suspects wanted in ongoing investigations have been quietly forced to return home, without formal legal process — notably alleged Islamic State financier Moinudheen Para Kadavath and Indian Mujahideen suspect Faizan Ahmed.

New Delhi has also cultivated a deep strategic relationship with the UAE, which is India’s fifth-largest source of hydrocarbons. In addition to holding a 10 per cent stake in a UAE oilfield, India’s underground strategic petroleum reserves near Mangalore are also being filled by the country.

April 28, 2018

Press Statement

The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the
following statement:

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) expresses its opposition to the agreement (MOU) arrived at  between the Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Culture and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and Dalmia Bharat Limited which virtually hands over the iconic Red Fort in Delhi to the Dalmia group for a period of five years in exchange for a  payment of 25 crores.

The Dalmia group in its own press release has said that they will ‘have to own if for five years initially’ and the contract gives them the freedom to make the Dalmia brand prominently visible.  It has the right to use its brand name on all kinds of publicity material to be displayed during events organized at the site and also on all signage. In fact, it will be allowed to proclaim in a prominently displayed sign that the Red Fort has been ‘adopted by Dalmia Bharat Limited’.

It must be remembered that the Red Fort is not just one of many heritage sites in our country.  It is the place where the National Flag was hoisted in commemoration of the place that the Fort occupies in the history of our freedom struggle.  The first Proclamation of Indian Independence from British rule was read out from its ramparts by Bahadur Shah Zafar in l857. Subsequently his trial was held in the Fort.  Some decades later, the historic INA trial which played such a significant role in the battle for Indian freedom was held in the Red Fort.  It is this fact that the Red Fort is a symbol of Independent India that has ensured that on Independence Day, 15th August, the Prime Minister addresses the nation with the Fort as his backdrop. Handing over this iconic monument to a corporate entity is nothing short of blasphemous.

The CPI(M) wishes to remind the Government that the Parliamentary Committee that went into the issue of handing over heritage sites to private corporate had decided against this unanimously.  It urges upon the Government to rescind its decision.

(Hari Singh Kang)
For CPI(M) Central Committee Office

by Simon Denyer
Washington Post
April 27, 2018 

BEIJING — China’s Communist Party has always understood the importance of policing its history.

On Friday, it tightened the screws another notch with a new law banning the slander of “heroes and martyrs” — figures drawn from wartime propaganda said to have given their lives in defense of the Communist Party or the nation.

Chinese schoolchildren are taught about the heroic deeds of figures who fought against the Japanese during the World War II, or who gave their lives for the Communist Party in its civil war with the Nationalists. Memorials to some of the most famous dot the country. 

Now, it will now be illegal to suggest those tales might not be wholly factual.

“Only the official narrative is allowed to exist,” said historian and critic Zhang Lifan. “But ‘What is the historical truth?’ — is not a question we ask now.”

The law is part of a much broader and long-standing attempt by the Communist Party to mold or rewrite history in its interests, that extends from obfuscating the causes and extent of the famine that killed tens of millions of people during the disastrous Great Leap Forward that began in 1958, or the chaos of the Cultural Revolution that followed, through to the determined attempt to erase from history the 1989 pro-democracy movement and subsequent deaths of many demonstrators.

The “Heroes and Martyrs Protection Act” was passed by the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, China’s largely rubber-stamp parliament, and goes into effect on May 1. It threatens unspecified “administrative penalties” or even “criminal sanctions” against those who damage memorials or “insult or slander heroes and martyrs.”

Yue Zhongming, a member of the standing committee, told a news conference the law was not intended to restrict academic freedom, but that this should not be used to harm the honor of the nation’s heroes.

“We often say there is no banned area of academic research, while there is a bottom line of law,” he told a news conference.

Zhang, for his part, maintained the law was largely meant to emphasize and protect the legitimacy of the Communist Party, and to tie up the idea of “loving the country” with “loving the party.”

The law was first submitted for deliberation last December, with its final draft expanded to include a provision to punish people who “glorify acts of war or invasion.”

State media said that provision referred to a handful of Chinese who have taken to dressing up in Japanese World War II army uniforms, and photographing themselves at famous wartime sites or memorials. The so-called “spiritually Japanese” movement is thought to be a small group of people fascinated with that country’s war-era militarism: a group that Foreign Minister Wang Yi referred to as “scum” at a recent news conference.

But the law’s genesis lies in the protection of the Communist Party’s version of history, experts say.

“In recent years, a few people in China have slandered or derogated heroes and martyrs via the Internet, magazines and other media in the name of ‘academic freedom,’ ‘restoring history’ or ‘probing into details,’ which provoked anger from all walks of life,” state news agency Xinhua wrote.

In 2016, for example, historian Hong Zhenkuai was ordered by a court to issue a public apology after questioning the veracity of the much celebrated tale of the “five heroes of Langya Mountain” in which five Communist soldiers killed dozens of Japanese soldiers before leaping off the mountain shouting “long live the Community Party,” rather than surrender.

The pressure to sanitize history has intensified under President Xi Jinping, who has repeatedly warned about what he calls “historical nihilism,” a term that essentially means any attempt to question the Communist Party’s glorious account of its own past.

China also passed a law last year threatening 15 days in detention for any disrespect of its national anthem, the March of the Volunteers, a law that is now being extended to cover Hong Kong after fans there booed the anthem at international football matches.

One historian, who declined to be named for fear of inviting problems with the authorities, said there was growing pressure on his profession within China, with public security officials warning historians not to write anything critical about any aspect of history since the 1949 Communist takeover, under the threat of losing jobs, pensions or access to social services, for them and their family members. 

Perry Link, Chancellorial Chair at the University of California at Riverside and Emeritus Professor of East Asian Studies at Princeton, said the law’s main aim is to protect the Communist Party’s version of history.

“We should also note that protecting history has nothing to do with empathy for people in a bygone time and everything to do with maintaining the party’s power and control today,” he wrote in an email.

Link cited the writings of Liu Xiaobo, China’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning pro-democracy activist who died in captivity last year, noting the inspiration he drew from people such as Lin Zhao, Yu Luoke and Zhang Zhixin — all of whom were executed during China’s Cultural Revolution “for expressing truths the party did not want to hear,” Link wrote.

“The fact that the present law will have nothing to do with protecting the reputations of those (true) martyrs says all one needs to know about the purpose of the law,” Link wrote.

Shirley Feng contributed to this report.

Simon Denyer is The Post’s bureau chief in Beijing. He previously worked as The Post's bureau chief in New Delhi; a Reuters bureau chief in Washington, New Delhi and Islamabad, Pakistan; and a Reuters correspondent in Nairobi, New York and London.

by Elizabeth Bruenig
The Washington Post
April 25, 2018

Americans love to contemplate — and legislatively promote, to whatever degree possible — the virtue of hard work. Here in the United States, we already work more hours per year than our English- ­speaking counterparts in Britain, Canada and Australia — not to mention those enviable denizens of European social democracies, who enjoy the kind of leisure time only our highest-paid workers can afford.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that several new pro-work policy ideas are enjoying attention on the left and the right. On the right, work requirements for Medicaid, food stamps and housing assistance represent the latest conservative effort to make sure Americans work for any benefits they receive. Meanwhile, on the left, the idea of a federal job guarantee has gained increasing attention, showing up in statements from the likes of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).  

In all of these proposals, much is made of the special dignity that comes through work. In President Trump’s executive order outlining his desire that work requirements be attached to assistance programs, he called upon the federal government to elevate “principles that are central to the American spirit — work, free enterprise, and safeguarding human and economic resources.” In his column defending Booker’s job guarantee proposal, Bloomberg News writer Noah Smith pointed out that “jobs provide a kind of dignity that traditional welfare programs, or even innovative new ones like universal basic income, probably don’t.” 

It isn’t that the programs are tonally identical. The right’s approach to making sure everyone who receives government aid works has always seemed vaguely punitive, while the left’s interest in providing jobs — and thus an income — to people who have neither rings of Rooseveltian solidarity with the victims of an unfair economy. Regardless, these pro-work programs inevitably fixate on work as a provider of independence or self-esteem. With just a little nudge in the direction of the labor market, one concludes, people who feel disempowered and diminished by their economic situation would find themselves newly dignified, self-sufficient, proud.

And maybe that is the case: Trump isn’t wrong, after all, in identifying work as a cardinal American virtue — and infractions against virtue are the stuff of vice. But in terms of our wider cultural context, it doesn’t appear to me that a lack of respect for work is the No. 1 threat to American dignity. If we undervalue anything to the detriment of dignity, it is the virtue of rest. 

Many victories of the labor movement were premised on the precise notion that the majority of one’s life shouldn’t be made up of work: It was the socialist Robert Owen who championed the eight-hour workday, coining the slogan “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.” For Owen, it was important not only that workers had time to sleep after a hard day’s labor, but also that they had time to pursue their own interests — to enjoy leisure activities, cultivate their own projects, spend time with their families and so forth. After all, a life with nothing but work and sleep is akin to slavery, and not particularly dignified. As Stockton, Calif., Mayor Michael Tubbs recently told Politico: “Work does have some value and some dignity, but I don’t think working 14 hours and not being able to pay your bills, or working two jobs and not being able — there’s nothing inherently dignified about that.” 

Nor is there anything dignified in parents being unable to take time off to care for and bond with infants, or in the elderly being forced to avoid retirement for lack of funds, or from pitting the two needs against each other, as a recent policy plan has proposed. Nor is there much dignity in pouring all of one’s energy into the purposes of another — which is what it generally means to work for a boss — with little time or money spared to learn or contemplate or travel or enjoy oneself. And in the United States, neither parental leave nor retirement nor vacation is a sure thing: In 2016, for instance, more than half of workers left vacation days unused, either unable to afford time off or unwilling to risk disappointing their employers. 

There’s a balance to be struck where it comes to work and rest, but in the United States, values and laws are already slanted drastically in favor of work. I would advise those concerned about Americans’ dignity, freedom and independence to not focus on compelling work for benefits or otherwise trying to marshal people into jobs when what they really need are health care, housing assistance, unemployment benefits and so forth. Instead, we should focus more of our political energies on making sure that American workers have the dignity of rest, the freedom to enjoy their lives outside of labor and independence from the whims of their employers. 

 Jacob S. Eder. Holocaust Angst: The Federal Republic of Germany and American Holocaust Memory since the 1970s. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. 320 pp. $35.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-023782-0.

Reviewed by Deborah Barton (Université de Montréal)
Published on H-TGS (April, 2018)
Commissioned by Benjamin Bryce (University of Northern British Columbia)

In this fascinating monograph, Jacob S. Eder explores the Federal Republic of Germany’s response to America’s growing interest in Holocaust remembrance. In the late 1970s, an extensive network of West German politicians, diplomats, lobbyists, and academics began to fear that the growing memorial culture of the Holocaust in the United States would damage the Federal Republic’s relationship with its closest Cold War ally. For Eder, this “Holocaust angst” saw the West German government make a concerted effort to shape and control the narrative of Germany’s Nazi past that was emerging in the United States.

Eder uses several cultural and political cases to trace the evolution of US engagement with the Holocaust and Germany’s responses: the introduction of Holocaust courses in American high schools, the broadcast of the NBC miniseries Holocaust (1978-79), the founding of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) and the German Historical Institute (GHI) in Washington, DC, US President Ronald Reagan’s visit to Bitburg, Steven Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List (1993), and the publication of Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners (1996). As Eder shows, through various initiatives the Federal Republic sought to emphasize its own democratic success story and detach itself from the shadow of the Third Reich. In focusing on how German concerns about the representation of its history abroad had a significant impact on the country’s foreign affairs and national identity, Eder sheds new and important light on the Federal Republic’s search for a “usable past.”

The book is divided into five thematic chapters. The first chapter addresses the beginnings of “Holocaust angst” in the 1970s. It traces West German reactions to the heightened American awareness of Jewish suffering, the growing prominence of survivors, the introduction of Holocaust courses in high schools, and the broadcast of the miniseries Holocaust in 1978-79. Although German officials carefully followed all of these phenomena, as Eder shows, it was not until Helmut Kohl entered office in 1982 that “Holocaust angst” became a central concern of the government. Indeed, the book covers the late 1970s to the late 1990s, but it is Kohl’s tenure as chancellor and his politics of history that dominate this account. Eder demonstrates that Kohl never sought to disown Germany’s violent past, but he feared this history would negatively influence Germany’s ability to conduct its foreign policy and achieve an equal partnership with the United States. According to Eder, Kohl and his associates actively sought to shape the discourse of German history for political intent.

Chapter 2, hence, looks at the delicate relationship between West Germany and several American Jewish organizations during Kohl’s time in office. A central focus of the chapter is the controversy surrounding Kohl and Reagan’s visit to a German military cemetery in Bitburg. While much has been written about this political blunder, Eder is the first historian to use the correspondence of German diplomats, and his transnational approach allows us to view Bitburg from a fresh perspective. Despite intense discussions, debates, and misunderstandings, Eder reveals how Bitburg actually improved the relationship between the Federal Republic and American Jewish organizations. The controversy provided the opportunity for increased dialogue about the Federal Republic’s engagement with its Nazi past.

The third chapter highlights the decade-long discord between the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, in charge of building the USHMM, and West German officials over the creation of that museum in Washington. Eder demonstrates how the German government sought to influence the development of the museum, most significantly its permanent exhibition. Eder reinforces his argument that these (failed) attempts were again based on the fear that the museum would give Americans a negative impression of the Federal Republic by closely linking it with the Nazi state. After the museum’s opening, German politicians acknowledged that these fears had been largely unfounded.

It is in the fourth chapter that Eder offers some of the most striking insights into Kohl’s behind-the-scenes politics of history. Here Eder demonstrates how a circle of German historians and political scientists, such as Michael Stürmer and Werner Weidenfeld, played a critical part in the realm of foreign relations. By examining the chancellor’s (and his advisors’) attempt to use the American academic community to disseminate a positive historical narrative for the Federal Republic, Eder reveals how “Holocaust angst” provided the catalyst for the establishment of the GHI and three Centers of Excellence for German Studies at Harvard University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University. Eder shows that while West German politicians and academics acknowledged that the GHI needed to function as an independent institution for scholarship, tensions developed over the competing goals of academic freedom, historical truth, and German national identity. Indeed, West German officials hoped to make the institute, as Kohl’s minister for Research and Technology, Heinz Riesenhuber, put it, a “visible presence for German understanding of history” (p. 137). Despite these tensions, the GHI’s founding director Hartmut Lehmann managed to safeguard the institution from excessive government influence.

Finally, chapter 5 deals with the transformation of Holocaust memory after German unification. Hit by a wave of neo-Nazi violence and a flourishing of debates about the representation of the Nazi past, German officials began to realize that rather than attempting to shape American discourse about the Holocaust, engaging in public commemoration in the Federal Republic was the key to improving Germany’s reputation abroad. American influence was still important, however, as two American imports, Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List and Goldhagen’s controversial book Hitler’s Willing Executioners,advanced Germany’s confrontation with the Holocaust. Despite Kohl’s former politics of history, in the early 1990s he publically advocated an open engagement with the past that made the Holocaust the “core” of Germany’s identity and brought about an “utter transformation” of Holocaust memorial culture in Germany (p. 196).

Basing his book on a remarkable breadth of previously untapped archival sources, Eder has produced an original and nuanced analysis of the transnational politics of Holocaust memory. The book reveals the vast circle of political, cultural, and academic elites who played a part in this process. This important monograph should be read by those interested in Germany’s efforts to confront its past and in memory studies in general. Not only does it illuminate how fear and perception can drive foreign policy, but it is also a timely reminder that democratic states—not simply dictatorial regimes—have devoted significant effort and resources to shaping and rewriting the narratives of the past for contemporary political purposes. German efforts to rewrite its history were ineffective and offer an example to countries that now seek to do the same.

Diana Johnstone
The Unz Review
April 21, 2018 

The current series of railroad strikes in France are portrayed in the media as “labor unrest”, a conflict between the government and trade union leaders, or as a temporary nuisance to travelers caused by the self-interest of a privileged category of workers. In Anglo-American media, there is the usual self-satisfied tongue-clicking over “those cheese-eaters, always on strike”.

In reality, the strike by train conductors and other employees of the SNCF (Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer) is a deeply significant chapter in a social tragedy that is destroying France as we have known it.

What has made France a most comfortable country to live in for over half a century is not only the food and the scenery. Above all, it has been the public services – the best in the world. The postal service, public education, health coverage, public utilities, railroad service – all were excellent, exemplary. True, the French telephone system for a long time lagged far behind other developed countries before catching up, and there have always been complaints of over-the-counter rudeness in governmental offices, but that can happen anywhere. The important point is that thanks to its public services, France ran smoothly, providing favorable conditions for business and daily life. When people take good things for granted too long, they begin not to notice as they are gradually taken away.

President Emmanuel Macron’s program for destroying the SNCF is a wakeup call. But there is reason to fear that much of the public has already been plunged into a slumber too deep to be awakened.

It takes a long history to produce something as good as French public services. It goes back to the centralization of the French state in the seventeenth century, associated with the finance minister of Louis XIV, Jean-Baptiste Colbert. The SNCF was formed in 1938 by merging France’s various railroad companies as a state monopoly as part of the progressive social reforms of the Popular Front. At the end of World War II, public services received a decisive boost from the paradoxical alliance between the opposite wings of the French Resistance, the Communists and the Gaullists. General Charles de Gaulle, although anti-communist, was the sort of conservative (look back at Bismarck) who understands that a nation’s strength and unity depend on a modicum of social justice. Despite open opposition on many issues, the Gaullists and the communists joined in a unified National Council of the Resistance, which in March, 1944, adopted a program calling for a mixed economy combining free enterprise with strategic nationalizations, along with social security programs and trade union rights. This program of social justice laid the groundwork for an extraordinary increase in economic development, called Les Trente Glorieuses – the glorious thirty years of peace and prosperity. The French mixed economy functioned better than either the bureaucratic communism or profit-centered capitalism in terms of freedom, equality and human well-being.

It is harder to build things up than to tear them down.

The Thatcher neoliberal putsch signaled the death sentence of the glorious thirty and the start of the forty inglorious: the persistent campaign, ideological and institutional, to destroy the social state, lower wages and benefits, and eventually transfer all decision-making power to the movements of finance capital. This is variously called neoliberalism or globalization.

The counter-revolution struck France in the early years of the presidency of Socialist President François Mitterrand, causing his government to change its policies and break its “common program” alliance with the Communists. To hide its anti-social shift, the Socialist Party changed its line to “anti-racism” and “the construction of Europe” (meaning the European Union), presented as the new horizon of “progress”. The concern of workers to maintain the standard of living they had achieved in recent decades was derided as “reactionary”, in opposition to the new concept of borderless, global competition, the new “progress”.

In reality, “European construction” has meant the systematic deconstruction of member states’ sovereignty, bringing about the destruction of social welfare systems bolstered by sentiments of national solidarity for which there is no substitute in the vague abstraction called “Europe”. Step by step, Europe is being deprived of its social protections and opened up to the whims of the likes of Goldman Sachs, industrial takeovers and shutdowns, and Qatar.

The cheminots – France’s railroad workers – are not just fighting for themselves. They constitute the front lines of the final battle to save France from the ravages of neoliberal globalization.

Emmanuel Macron – protégé of the Rothschild bank, which helped him join the ranks of millionaires – presents his “reform” of the railways as a measure of “equality”, by depriving railroad workers of their “privileged status”.

Privileges? Train conductors lead a hard life, long hours and few weekends to spend with their families. The lives of millions of passengers depend on their concentration and devotion. In consideration of all this, their “privileged” status included job security and relatively early retirement (privileges that the rich can give themselves, and which are standard in military careers).

The striking rail workers protest that they do not want to be “privileged” but rather wish to see such “privileges” extended to others. In any case, much more is at stake here than wages and hours.

Public services in France were more than conveniences. For millions, they were an ethic, a way of life. In many countries, public services are totally undermined by corruption and neglect. This does not happen when people believe in what they are doing. Such belief is not automatic: it is historically acquired. The French cheminots have been like an extended family, held together by belief that they are carrying out an essential social duty. In fact, many are literally “family”, as the job of train conductor often passed from father to son, as a matter of pride.

This devotion to social duty is more than a personal attitude: it is a spiritual value that a nation should treasure and preserve. Instead, it is being sacrificed to the demands of finance capital.

How is that? There is now an excess of capital sloshing around the world on the lookout for profitable places to invest. That is what “neoliberalism” is all about. Ordinary businesses may go broke, or at least fail to turn a profit to stockholders. That is why the public sector must be privatized. The great thing about investing in public services, is that if they don’t make money, the government will step in and subsidize them – at taxpayers’ expense!

That is the attraction of the arms industry. It can also apply to education, health care, transportation, communications. But the official pretext is that these services must be privatized because that will make them “more efficient”.

That is the big lie.

It has already been exposed in the United Kingdom, where the privatization of the railroads has produced not only worse service but fatal accidents, especially since there is no immediate profit in rail maintenance.

Pride in the job well done was a much-neglected aspect of the rise of socialism. Artisans who were obliged by the rise of capitalism to abandon their independent activities in order to become slaves of industry were often the vanguard of the socialist movement in the nineteenth century. Such pride is a far more stable element of social cohesion than increasingly childish anarchist calls to “destroy the system” – with no alternative in sight.

Macron is only a pawn. It is not Macron who decided to destroy France’s rail system. It was decided and decreed by the European Union, and Macron is merely carrying out orders. The orders are to open the rail system up to free international competition. Soon, German, Italian, Spanish trains may be sharing with French trains the same rails – rails whose upkeep is turned over to another company, also in it for the profit. The stress of the rail workers will be increased by their insecurity. To fill the profit margin, passengers will inevitably have to pay more. As for residents of small rural communities, they will simply lose their railroad service altogether, because it is not profitable.

Run as a public service, the national railroad used its benefits from lines with heavy traffic to finance those in more sparsely inhabited rural areas, this providing equal benefits to people wherever they live. That is on the way out. The destruction of public services hastens the desertification of the countryside and the growth of mega-cities. Hospitals in rural areas are being shut down, post offices closed. France’s charming villages will die out with the last elderly inhabitants still clinging to them.

That is the “modernization” program underway.

Overlooked in the multitude of foreign misunderstanding of France is the hallucinatory power of terms such as “modern” and “progress”. The champions of privatization attempt to mesmerize the public with these magical words, while meanwhile slyly cutting back service in order to prepare the public to accept the planned changes as possible improvements.

Two things should be mentioned to complete this sad story. One is that in the wake of its privatization, France Télecom underwent a wave of employee suicides – 39 in two years – certainly in part due to stress and demoralization, as methods were introduced to reduce the quality of service and increase profits. When pride in work is destroyed, the path is short to indifference, negligence and even corruption.

Another point to recall is the propaganda campaign mounted about twenty years ago to smear the SNCF for its role in “deporting Jewish children” to Nazi concentration camps. This was unjustifiable, considering that the Nazi occupiers confiscated the French railroads, which had no choice in the matter.Moreover, railroad employees (many of them communists) played an important role in the Resistance by sabotaging military trains – until the United States Air Force pounded the hell out of most major French railroad stations (and the surrounding neighborhoods) to prepare for the Normandy invasion. This slander of the SNCF was naturally used by U.S. rivals to exclude French fast-speed trains from the U.S. market.

As Macron raises taxes to build up his military industrial complex, the only public employees who will soon be left to enjoy social benefits and early retirement will be the military – whose task will not be to serve France but to act as auxiliary in United States foreign wars.

Until soldiers are replaced by robots.


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