SACW - 11 June 2018 | Sri Lanka: Subversion of Democratic Spaces / Pakistan - India: Girl On The Cover / India: Intelligence Files on the RSS in 1947 / UK: forced marriages; importance of trade unions / UN Exemptions on Sexual Abuse / Russia: Erasure of Gulag Data /
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Sun Jun 10 15:48:41 EDT 2018
South Asia Citizens Wire - 11 JUne 2018 - No. 2990
[via South Asia Citizens Web - sacw.net since 1996]
1. Sri Lanka: Subversion of Democratic Political Spaces / Reimagining ‘the worker’ and resistance
2. Pakistan - India:
- Girl On The Cover: Why a photo of a Pakistani girl on a booklet in Bihar need not embarrass officials
- India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Says Keep Pakistani scholars out of an Asian Studies conference in Delhi
- India Pakistan Friendship and Peace March: Ahmedabad to Naderwai-IliyaBet, 19 - 30 June, 2018
3. Book Review: Kashmir and the Spymasters of Pakistan and India | Nyla Ali Khan
4. India: Once the RSS was under Police Watch Now Its a Touchable Outfit For Many
- India: Scans of Delhi Police and Intelligence Files on Activities of the RSS in 1947
India: Did Pranab make a Faustian bargain? | Bharat Bhushan
5. Full Report of The Rohingya Refugee Crisis Conference of 11th May 2018, New Delhi
6. India: Arbitrary arrests of Dalit & Rights Activists While Hindutva Terrorists enjoy impunity - statements by PUCL, CPDR and NAPM
7. That was the year that was: Tariq Ali talks to David Edgar
8. Recent on Communalism Watch:
- Revealed: Archive of Delhi Police Secret files on RSS activity and plans Oct-Dec 1947
- India: How RSS icon MS Golwalkar misrepresented Nehru’s words to justify the Hindutva ...
- India - Shillong: Khasis versus Dalit Sikhs - a Communal Spat Fuelled by Whatsapp rumours
- India: Post Kairana defeat, Sambit Patra on Live TV reveals BJP’s dangerous plan for 2019 Lok Sabha polls
- India - Jammu & Kashmir: crucial role of friends & social media rather than IS or religious ideology spur youth to join militancy
::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::
9. To be an environmental world power | Kanak Mani Dixit
10. India: Faint notes of a secular spring | Latha Jishnu
11. India: School textbooks are being changed secretly - Is there a ‘saffron’ design in it? | Apoorvanand
12. Heed the echoes of June 4 | Gopalkrishna Gandhi
13. India: Pussy cat at home, Bengal tiger in a mob: There’s little genteel about the bhadralok | Sandip Roy
14. Truth, Lies, and Literature | Salman Rushdie
15. Thousands enslaved in forced marriages across UK, investigation finds
16. UN Exemptions Make Mockery of Sexual Abuse in World Body | Thalif Deen
17. Russian museum discovers secret order to destroy Gulag data
18. UK: Unions are too vital to democracy to be allowed to gentrify and die | Kenan Malik
19. H-Net Review: Gramith on Prusin, 'Serbia under the Swastika: A World War II Occupation'
1. SRI LANKA: SUBVERSION OF DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL SPACES / REIMAGINING ‘THE WORKER’ AND RESISTANCE
THE SUBVERSION OF OUR DEMOCRATIC POLITICAL SPACES & WHAT IT MEANS FOR SRI LANKA’S FUTURE
by Dayapala Thiranagama
Since Independence in 1948, Sri Lanka has witnessed three unsuccessful armed struggles. Two of these (1971 and 1987-89) have been confined mainly to the Sinhalese South. The last one in the North and East of Sri Lanka waged an armed campaign for almost 30 years until the Tami Tigers were defeated in 2009. The manner of the Sri Lanka’s state victory created acute political wounds and left unresolved the fundamental problems that gave rise to Tamil militancy. The devastating effects of all three armed campaigns conducted by the state and non-state actors have scarred democratic governance in the country and its commitment to pluralism.
o o o
SRI LANKA: REIMAGINING ‘THE WORKER’ AND RESISTANCE IN THE NEO-LIBERAL ERA | VIDURA PRABATH MUNASINGHE
On the 5th of September 2017, President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe launched the government’s policy framework titled, ‘V2025: A Country Enriched’, which revealed the economic goals that the National Unity Government plans to achieve over the coming years. Although it is not uncommon to witness the showcasing of various charters, agendas and policy documents at public events, more often than not they end up unimplemented. V2025 seems to be more or less a pronouncement of the Government’s economic vision, which is in line with the Government’s overall economic policy.
2. PAKISTAN - INDIA
GIRL ON THE COVER: WHY A PHOTO OF A PAKISTANI GIRL ON A BOOKLET IN BIHAR NEED NOT EMBARRASS OFFICIALS
Why a photo of a Pakistani girl on a booklet in Bihar need not embarrass officials
INDIA’S MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS SAYS KEEP PAKISTANI SCHOLARS OUT OF AN ASIAN STUDIES CONFERENCE IN DELHI
India’s foreign ministry in a formal letter to the Ashoka University (Sonenpat, Haryana) asks the organisers of the Asian Studies conference in Delhi to keep out Pakistani Scholars see the letters.
INDIA PAKISTAN FRIENDSHIP AND PEACE MARCH: AHMEDABAD TO NADERWAI-ILIYABET, 19 - 30 JUNE, 2018
We believe if the governments cannot solve the disputes between the two countries then the people should take the initiative. If the common people of two countries are allowed to meet then over a period of time peace and harmony will prevail. We urge the two governments to facilitate the meeting of common people from two sides by granting them passports and visas easily. Since people of two sides of border share a common culture they can play an important role where the governments have failed.
3. BOOK REVIEW: KASHMIR AND THE SPYMASTERS OF PAKISTAN AND INDIA | Nyla Ali Khan
Book review of the Spy Chronicles by former Director General of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Asad Durrani, and former chief of the Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW)
4. India: Once the RSS was under Police Watch Now Its a Touchable Outfit For Many
INDIA: SCANS OF DELHI POLICE AND INTELLIGENCE FILES ON ACTIVITIES OF THE RSS IN 1947
Important archive of police intelligence files on activities of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1947
INDIA: DID PRANAB MAKE A FAUSTIAN BARGAIN?
by Bharat Bhushan
There can be no dialogue with ideological certitude. The Jews could not have had a dialogue with Adolf Hitler. The Americans could not have had a dialogue with Osama bin Laden. And the Syrians or the Iraqis can’t sit across the table and convince the Islamic State of the futility of its millennial dreams. A fascist mind functions with incredible clarity essentially because it is closed. Only those with delusions of grandeur think that they can talk fascism out of fascists.
5. FULL REPORT OF THE ROHINGYA REFUGEE CRISIS CONFERENCE OF 11TH MAY 2018, NEW DELHI
The Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Causes and Consequences: Search for a Durable Solution” was a daylong Consultation held on May 11, at the India International Centre, New Delhi. The conference was organised by the South Asia Forum for Human Rights in collaboration with Development and Justice Initiative, India International Centre and Euro-Burma office. It brought together around 80 leading activist voices from civil society in Myanmar, the Rohingya community in Bangladesh and India, exile groups in the UK, official representative from Bangladesh, diplomats, lawyers, academics, social justice and women’s groups activists, the media, international agencies, faith based organisations and students.
6. India: Arbitrary arrests of Dalit & Rights Activists While Hindutva Terrorists enjoy impunity
INDIA: PUCL, MAHARASHTRA STATEMENT ON ARBITRARY ARRESTS OF ADVOCATE SURENDRA GADLING, MR. SUDHIR DHAWALE, MR. RONA WILSON, MS. SHOMA SEN, MR. MAHESH RAUT AND MR. RANA JACOB
PUCL strongly condemns the vindictive and arbitrary arrest of Advocate Surendra Gadling, Mr. Sudhir Dhawale, Mr. Rona Wilson, Ms. Shoma Sen, Mr. Mahesh Raut and Mr. Rana Jacob on 6th June 2018. They have been reportedly booked under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), on the allegation of spreading controversial pamphlets and delivering hate speeches in connection with the Bhima Koregaon violence that broke out in January 2018.
INDIA: MAHARASHTRA GOVERNMENT’S TERROR TRAIL TO PROTECT HINDUTVA TERRORISTS - STATEMENT BY CPDR
CPDR strongly condemns this open show of State terror and complete bypassing of the Rule of Law by the BJP governments in the State and at the Centre and demands the immediate release of Advocate Surendra Gadling, Prof Shoma Sen, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson and Mahesh Raut forthwith.
INDIA: NDA GOVERNMENT SYSTEMATICALLY TARGETING DALIT AND RIGHTS ACTIVIST, MUZZLING DISSENT - PRESS RELEASE BY NAPM (8 JUNE 2018)
National Alliance of People’s Movements strongly condemns the unlawful persecution and arrests of pro-people activists Shoma Sen, Advocate Surender Gadling, Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, and Mahesh Raut by the Maharashtra Police and demand for their immediate and unconditional release.
7. THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS: TARIQ ALI TALKS TO DAVID EDGAR
Both my mother and my father broke politically with the family, and became communists. My father was very active in the party, which delayed their wedding a bit. My grandfather refused to allow her to marry a communist whose public denunciations of his father-in-law-to-be were hardly a secret. His condition was that my father join the British Indian Army. They must have imagined that he would never agree, but Operation Barbarossa helped since the CPI instructed all its upper and middle-
8. RECENT ON COMMUNALISM WATCH:
- Revealed: Archive of Delhi Police Secret files on RSS activity and plans Oct-Dec 1947
- Say No To Double Standards in Using Public Funds for Religious Places in India
- India: BJP joined hands with Maoist-backed outfit in rural possls in West Bengal
- India: Surprise surprise, there is now a Francois Gautier (Consul General of France in Bangalore) is he the same person as the famous hindutva driven Francois Gautier ? The French authorties in Delhi would do well to clarify
- Open Letter To Pranab Mukherjee, The Former President Of India | Shamsul Islam
- Will RSS consider Pranab Da’s Inclusive Indian Nationalism? Ram Puniyani
- India: The Sangh parivar appeared jubilant after Pranab Mukherjee's visit to the RSS headquarters
- India's Former President gives RSS legitimacy
- India: Who Are Sambhaji Bhide & Milind Ekbote? Did Have Role in Bhima Koregaon Violence ?
- India: Table on incidents of Communal Violence 2014-2016 as included in govt response to question in Parliament in 2017
- India: Ripples of the Modi marketing tide have already begun to roll - Who's paying?
- India's ruling party ordered online abuse of opponents, claims book (2016 report in The Guardian)
- The current scenario of BJP led govts shows the impunity the RSS and far-right presently has in India
- India: Former President Pranab Mukherjee at RSS event - Speech will be forgotten, visuals will remain, says daughter
- India: Ankit Saxena’s father sets an example for these fraught times
- India: Is the Karnataka police hand-in-glove with RSS & Allied Groups? | Suresh Bhat (in: Sabrang India)
- India: How RSS icon MS Golwalkar misrepresented Nehru’s words to justify the Hindutva ...
- India - Shillong: Khasis versus Dalit Sikhs - a Communal Spat Fuelled by Whatsapp rumours
- India: Post Kairana defeat, Sambit Patra on Live TV reveals BJP’s dangerous plan for 2019 Lok Sabha polls
- India - Jammu and Kashmir: crucial role of friends and social media rather than IS or religious ideology spur youth to join militancy
-> available via: http://communalism.blogspot.com/
::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::
9. TO BE AN ENVIRONMENTAL WORLD POWER | Kanak Mani Dixit
June 5, 2018
Cross-border environmentalism is crucial for South Asia, but India is not inclined to take the lead
Ecological ruin is on a gallop across South Asia, with life and livelihood of nearly a quarter of the world’s population affected. Yet, our polities are able to neither fathom nor address the degradation. The distress is paramount in the northern half of the subcontinent, roping in the swathe from the Brahmaputra basin to the Indus-Ganga plain.
Within each country, with politics dancing to the tune of populist consumerism, nature is without a guardian. The erosion of civility in geopolitics keeps South Asian societies apart when people should be joining hands across borders to save our common ground.
Because wildlife, disease vectors, aerosols and river flows do not respect national boundaries, the environmental trends must perforce be discussed at the regional inter-country level. As the largest nation-state of our region, and the biggest polluter whose population is the most vulnerable, India needs to be alert to the dangerous drift.
China has been resolutely tackling air pollution and promoting clean energy. But while Beijing’s centralised governance mandates environmentalism-by-decree, the subcontinental realities demand civic participation for sustainability to work. Unfortunately, despite being a vast democracy where people power should be in the driving seat, the Indian state not only neglects its own realm, it does not take the lead on cross-border environmentalism.
Thus, Bihar is helping destroy the Chure/Siwalik range of Nepal to feed the construction industry’s demand for boulders and conglomerate, even though this hurts Bihar itself through greater floods, desertification and aquifer depletion. Air pollution is strangling the denizens of Lahore, New Delhi, Kathmandu and Dhaka alike, but there is no collaboration. Wildlife corridors across States, provinces and countries are becoming constricted by the day, but we look the other way.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has chosen India to be the ‘host country’ to mark World Environment Day today. But when will New Delhi rise to connect the dots between representative democracy and ecological sanity?
Rivers into sewers
Truth be told, the environment ministry is invariably the least empowered in the major countries of South Asia, without clout vis-à-vis line ministries, and unable to coordinate the ecological response. Governments were content once to regard environmental protection as synonymous with wildlife protection. Today they stand unprepared when the challenges have greatly multiplied and deepened.
There is distress across the ecological spectrum, but one need only study the rivers and the atmosphere to track the inaction of governments and our weakened activism. On water, the subcontinent is running out of the resource due to the demands of industrialisation and urbanisation, and continuation of the colonial-era irrigation model based on flooding the fields.
The economic and demographic forces are arrayed against the rivers and their right-of-way. In the hills, the Ganga in Uttarakhand and the Teesta of Sikkim are representative of rivers that have been converted into dry boulder tracts by ‘cascades’ of run-of-river hydroelectric schemes. The same fate now threatens the rivers of Nepal and India’s Northeast, while the tributaries of the Indus were ‘done in’ decades ago through water diversion.
Everywhere, natural drainage is destroyed by highways and railway tracks elevated above the flood line, and bunds encircling towns and cities. Reduced flows and urban/industrial effluents have converted our great rivers into sewers. We refuse to consider drip irrigation as a solution just as we fail to acknowledge that the rivers are made to carry hundreds of tonnes of plastics daily into the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
While underground aquifers are exploited to exhaustion, the popular ‘river-training’ prescription imprisons our rivers within embankments, according to the inherited Western engineering canon that does not factor in the natural silt carried by rivers of the Himalaya. The would-be high-dam builders have not adequately studied the phenomenon of Himalayan cloudbursts, nor do they find it necessary to address the question: how do you de-silt a deep reservoir when it fills up with sand and mud?
Sadly, activists in Bihar and elsewhere who propose the ecologically sound ethos of ‘living with the flood’ have been relegated to the media backwater. They need to be heard, for the Ganga plains are densely populated for the very reason that the natural meanderings of rivers spread the largesse of loess across the land — silt that is now locked away between dykes.
Ground fog, brown cloud
As the UNEP will be the first to insist, climate change is introducing massive disturbances to South Asia, most notably from the rise of sea levels. The entire Indian Ocean coastline will be affected, but the hardest hit will be the densely populated deltas where the Indus, the Irrawaddy and the Ganga-Brahmaputra meet the sea.
The climate change discourse has not evolved enough to address the tens of millions of ‘climate refugees’ who will en masse move inland, paying scarce heed to national boundaries in the search for survival. To understand this imminent phenomenon, one may recall what the Farakka Barrage did to livelihoods in downstream Bangladesh, causing the flood of ‘undocumented aliens’ in India.
The retreat of the Himalayan glaciers is jeopardising the perennial nature of our rivers and climate scientists are now zeroing in on the ‘atmospheric brown cloud’ to explain the excessive melting of snows in the central Himalaya. This high altitude haze covers the Indo-Gangetic plains for much of the dry season and penetrates deep into the high valleys.
This cloud is made up of ‘black carbon’ containing soot and smog sent up by stubble burning, wood fires, smokestacks and fossil fuel exhaust, as well as dust kicked up by winter agriculture, vehicles and wind. It rises up over the plains and some of it settles on Himalayan snow and ice, which absorb heat and melt that much faster. It is no longer anecdotal that the icefalls of the Himalaya could before long transform into waterfalls.
Like the ‘brown cloud’, the policy-makers are yet to consider the seet lahar, the ground-hugging fog that engulfs the subcontinent’s northern plains for ever-extended periods in winter, a result of the spread of canal irrigation and simultaneous increase in the presence of particulate matter in the air. This inattention to the indescribable distress of millions of the poorest and shelter-less of the plains is hard to comprehend.
A new kind of Chipko
When environmental impact assessments have become a ritualistic farce in each country and governments react with great prejudice against environmental activists, it is little wonder that the Chipko Movement of Uttarakhand is erased from memory. Today, environmental activists all over tend to be lampooned in the media and social media as anti-national, anti-development saboteurs.
Meanwhile, the task of preserving the forests and landscapes has mostly been relegated to the indigenous communities. You will have the Adivasi communities of the Deccan organising to save ancestral forests, and the indigenous Lepcha fighting against the odds to protect the upper reaches of the Teesta. The urban middle class is not visible in environmentalism, other than in ‘beautification projects’.
Perhaps we have been foolhardy in waiting for another Chipko to emerge, and the changed times may require new approaches. Tomorrow’s activists must work to quantify the economic losses of environmental destruction and get local institutions to act on their ownership of natural resources. The activists must harness information technology so as to engage with the public and to override political frontiers, and they must creatively use the power of the market itself to counter non-sustainable interventions.
As we have seen, the highs of environmental movements are invariably followed by lows, and so to exit the cycle what is needed is an “environmental system” inbuilt into the infrastructure of state and society. Work towards ecological sustainability must go beyond ritual, with the path seeming to lie in the empowerment of local government all over. Elected representatives in cities and districts must be challenged to emerge as the bulwark of environmentalism even as the provincial and national governments are asked to rise to their regulatory responsibilities.
When ‘organic environmentalism’ rises from the grassroots and makes state authority accountable, South Asia and its peoples will be protected. At that point, no force will be able to stop activism across the frontiers and South Asia will begin to tackle pollution and dislocation as one.
Kanak Mani Dixit, a writer and journalist based in Kathmandu, is the founding editor of the magazine, ‘Himal Southasian’
10. FAINT NOTES OF A SECULAR SPRING
June 4, 2018
IT would be far-fetched, perhaps unabashedly romantic, to think that the aura of the legendary musician Abdul Karim Khan had something to do with bringing Kairana, his birthplace in western Uttar Pradesh, to its senses. In last week’s parliamentary by-election, Kairana, which had become the BJP’s laboratory for its polarising Hindutva politics, gave a clear victory to Tabassum Hasan, the combined opposition front candidate who wrested the seat from the BJP with a comfortable margin. She will be the first Muslim member from UP in the current Lok Sabha.
That, of course, sends another message to the BJP which had made it clear that Muslims did not matter in its political calculations as it pushed its toxic Hindutva agenda. There were a couple of other parliamentary victories, too, apart from a clutch of state assembly wins for the opposition parties. Even if it is too early for the opposition to break out in song, the Kairana victory is particularly sweet and it was impossible not to recall Karim Khan’s lilting notes of a khayal in Raga Basant as Hasan and her party, the Rashtriya Lok Dal, celebrated the success of the united opposition in halting the “chariot of hate” in UP.
Kairana has traditionally had a sizable Muslim population (about 33 per cent now) and it is to this town in UP’s Shamli district that the country owes the effulgence of its most popular school of Hindustani classical music, the Kirana gharana. This school or tradition of khayal singing was shaped by a gifted son of Kairana, the singular Karim Khan who was as swashbuckling in his personal life as he was original in his music.
The BJP was trounced in a key parliamentary stronghold — a rejection of everyday communalism.
If the Khan Sahib stunned the court of the Maharaja Sayajirao of Gaikwad with his brilliant singing at age 22, he caused more ripples when he eloped with Tarabai, a relative of the ruler, with whom he spawned three excellent musicians, Hirabai Barodekar, Suresh Mane and Saraswati Rane. He tutored even more illustrious disciples, foremost among them Sawai Gandharva, whose legacy lives on in the reverberating music of Gangubai Hangal and Bhimsen Joshi in India and of Roshanara Begum in Pakistan.
Karim Khan’s brilliance was drawn from many sources, a major inspiration coming from the sargam of Carnatic music which he laced into his khayal singing. Thus he introduced devagandhari and kharaharapriya to a north Indian audience who’d probably never heard these ragas before.
To music connoisseurs, Karim Khan was a remarkable innovator, the symbol of a secular, modern new style. To the lay person, too, he was extraordinary, a free spirit, unmindful of the social consequences of an interreligious alliance, impervious to convention and social hierarchy. He would certainly be anathema to the BJP and its saffron cohorts even if he did sing bhajans for Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi — or possibly because he did so! The Kairana of their making has little resemblance to the birthplace of Karim Khan at a time when its mores were gracious and inclusive.
Kairana today is the dark core of the new communalism that is being manufactured by the Hindu right in UP and it has been in the headlines for inventive ways in which the BJP has sought to polarise the Hindus and Muslims. In 2016, the BJP MP from Kairana, Hukum Singh, had unleashed a new campaign that played on the fears of the majority community by claiming there had been an exodus of several hundred Hindu families who were forced to flee because of killings and extortion demands. Kairana, he warned, had become the new Kashmir, and he released a list of those who had left Kairana. Predictably, it turned out to be fabricated.
Singh was forced to retract his allegations after reporters and an official team of the UP government found the list contained names of dead persons apart from those of a handful who had left in search of jobs elsewhere. Singh’s death in February necessitated the by-election and there was poetic justice in the fact that it was his daughter Mriganka that Tabassum Hasan trounced last week.
The opposition victory in Kairana would seem to herald a tentative new spring, a rejection by the people of the poison of “institutionalised, everyday communalism” that the BJP has been spreading, and not merely to win elections. In their recently released book, Everyday Communalism: Riots in Contemporary Uttar Pradesh, two political scientists from New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, Sudhai Pai and Sajjan Kumar, detail the perniciousness of the new strategy of communalisation, based on “using small, mundane but provocative local incidents to gradually create animosity and social jealousies between Hindus and Muslims who have lived together for a long time”. Vast stretches of UP have been living this daily horror for the past many years, and more so after the BJP was swept to power under Narendra Modi.
The book also highlights the inability of secular parties to counter the toxin of communalism effectively because of the way RSS-BJP have seeded communal politics into the way ordinary lives are lived. The secular ideal on which the Republic was founded does not make for ‘common sense’ and is, therefore, difficult to preach by other political parties confronting the wily strategies of the Hindutva brigade. For the latter, anything will suffice to construct communalism: a pile of wood that is stored for a celebration catching fire, a road accident, a game of cricket, an interfaith love affair or even a meal which is framed as a Hindu-Muslim problem to “create a permanent anti-Muslim social prejudice and make it acceptable in the popular discourse”, warn the authors.
Despite this concentrated onslaught, the Kairana result shows that there is hope yet in the Indian electorate. For one, they can see that the Modi government has been unable to halt the economic decline in the region. Although the BJP did try its best to deflect the issue by bringing Jinnah into the election rhetoric, the opposition insisted that “ganna (sugarcane) mattered and not Jinnah”. And that’s why Modi’s feverish eleventh-hour roadshow —unprecedented for a prime minister to campaign in by-elections — failed to change the mood of the voters.
It’s time for Kairana to think of music, to heal the rifts and celebrate the political spring.
The writer is a journalist.
11. INDIA: SCHOOL TEXTBOOKS ARE BEING CHANGED SECRETLY: IS THERE A ‘SAFFRON’ DESIGN IN IT?
03 June 2018
It’s high time we revived the public discourse on school textbooks which was started by the Yashpal committee report in 1993 and NCERT’s exercise to formulate a national curriculum
School textbooks are undergoing changes surreptitiously. Nobody would have had an inkling if Ritika Chopra of Indian Express had not taken the trouble of painstakingly comparing the new textbooks with the ones published earlier. Somewhat predictably, no ‘national’ mainstream newspaper other than The Indian Express published a follow-up, leave alone publishing three reports on three consecutive days on the front page as the Express did.
There is little hope, however, that the painstaking research would trigger any meaningful or major public debate on textbooks. But be as it may, this does provide an opportunity to have a renewed discussion on school textbooks.
Public memory being proverbially short, few will recall the recent controversy in Rajasthan where a ‘handbook’ or a guide to follow a textbook prescribed by the Rajasthan School Board for English medium schools described Bal Gangadhar Tilak as the ‘father of Indian terrorism’. The shoddily produced book by an Agra-based publisher had taken liberal help from Wikipedia and followed it up with a clumsy attempt to modify certain words. In the process, ‘father of Indian unrest’ turned into ‘father of Indian terrorism’.
This naturally upset not just the successors and descendants of Tilak but also those who claim to have inherited and appropriated his legacy. The comic slip could have generated a serious discussion on the quality of textbooks prescribed for schools in Rajasthan. But the opportunity was lost.
If we talk to students or teachers, most of them complain that textbooks in India put a premium on information, half baked or otherwise, with which the textbooks are put together. Information without any insight, analysis or comparison is often not very helpful in forming an understanding. What’s more,in this country school textbooks are treated like a royal decree which is final and not subject to any questioning.
Why indeed should students be forced to seek the help of a ‘guidebook’ to follow a textbook? Some might argue that in English medium schools run or approved by the government, there is no other way but to translate Hindi textbooks into English.
But then the question would arise why in that case the Government itself did not take the responsibility of publishing textbooks in English rather than entrusting dubious private publishers the job of producing indifferent and flawed guidebooks or handbooks. Yet another question is whether schools should be allowed the independence and autonomy to follow textbooks of their choice?
It is instructive to find the public discourse on school textbooks hovering around the trivial and the salacious. The mass media revel in discussing historical distortions creeping into textbooks or when controversial statements, facts or half-truths about well-known personalities find place in them. Curiously the entire nation appears absorbed in such mundane issues and not the more substantive issues around the role of textbooks in shaping the nation. Nor are questions asked why discussions on school texts remain largely confined to History. Indeed, are history textbooks meant only to eulogise our supposedly great, ancient culture?
A textbook is very different from other books. But there are very few people who appreciate this difference. If we talk to students or teachers, most of them complain that textbooks in India put a premium on information, half baked or otherwise, with which the textbooks are put together. Information without any insight, analysis or comparison is often not very helpful in forming an understanding. What’s more, in this country school textbooks are treated like a royal decree which is final and not subject to any questioning.
A third feature of textbooks in this country is their tendency to treat students as delicate, vulnerable or half-retarded or mentally undeveloped people who cannot be exposed to serious criticism or controversy.
The Yashpal committee report released way back in 1992-93 had raised these issues. It had called for freeing the textbooks from the overload of information. There was no reason for us to fear, it said, that our children would lag behind others globally in terms of information. The report pointed out that what was of concern was our complete indifference to developing the ability of students to deconstruct the text and form their own opinion and interpretation.
Influential sections in the Government and the bureaucracy buried the Yashpal committee report. The fact that influential sections of the society did not favour independent thinking by students was a pointer to the socially powerful to control ‘thought’, ‘knowledge’ and perception of children.
The concern was revived in 2005 when the renewed discourse on a national curriculum stressed that the object of school education was not to produce regimented and patriotic citizens but to help produce creative minds. The emphasis should be to introduce students to different schools of thought and different methodologies followed in different ages and in different countries to study the same subjects.
The NCERT’s exercise in 2005 to formulate a national curriculum and textbooks was an important landmark. It is generally accepted that textbooks are tailormade to suit the interests, outlook and philosophy of the government Of the day. But despite the fact that UPA Government in the saddle at the time, several textbooks produced around the period published critical assessments of the Emergency and anti-Sikh riots, to cite an example.
Evidently, the task was far from easy. But the idea was to involve the best minds and that is why one can find names of celebrated public intellectuals like Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Ramchandra Guha, Kukum Roy, Yogendra Yadav and Hari Vasudevan.
Textbooks prepared with the assistance and guidance of these scholars are now being altered without any reference to them. The official explanation being given is that the changes are being made following comments and suggestions the textbooks elicited.
The question is whose suggestions? from which quarters did the comments emanate? Who suggested that Gujarat’s anti-Muslim riot in 2002 be described just as violent rioting? Is there a design in describing the Narmada Bachao Andolan or agitation against the Tehri Dam as just an environmental protest?
Really, the only way to ensure that the painstaking work done by The Indian Express does not go in vain is to resume the stalled debate on school textbooks.
12. HEED THE ECHOES OF JUNE 4
by Gopalkrishna Gandhi
June 04, 2018
The story of Monica Felton, Rajaji, Mandela — and history’s call to today’s democratic forces to rally together
This is about two June the 4ths, both of which bear a message for Indian politics today. The first is sited in Madras, 1959. The second, again, in Madras, 1964.
An Englishwoman, Marxist by conviction, an authority on urban planning and a passionate advocate of the World Peace Council, Monica Felton, had settled in India’s ‘southern capital’. Why, or for what combination of reasons this long-time London County Councillor representing St Pancras South West for the Labour Party should have chosen, of all places, Madras to settle in is not very clear. But a person from a very different, in fact, totally contrastive politics had made a powerful impression on her. She had little in common with Chakravarti Rajagopalachari’s political views. And yet there was a certain intellectual chemistry between them, love of English literature being certainly high on that shared list. She had even begun working on a biography of the octogenarian. And Swarajya, the English weekly that CR wrote for and was the soul of, was open to her to write in.
A party is born
On June 4, 1959, Felton went, at Rajagopalachari’s casual suggestion, to a public meeting in Madras’s Vivekananda College called by the All India Agriculturists’ Federation (AIAF). It was to be addressed by AIAF’s leader N.G. Ranga and the Parsi ex-Marxist and urbanite intellectual from the Right, Minoo Masani. The meeting was supposed to voice general dissent from the ‘statist’ politics of the Nehru government. But the audience, including the Englishwoman, was surprised to see CR and Jayaprakash Narayan arrive at it. And even more surprised when CR said, “This morning a new political party was formed. And the name of the new party is Swatantra Party.” The audience broke instantaneously into applause.
The party belonged to the Right, professedly and proudly so. The veteran socialist JP who was at the meeting did not join it, giving his good wishes to the idea of a democratic alternative to the Congress. Nor did the distinguished scholar-administrator C.D. Deshmukh, to whom CR offered its leadership. But Swatantra with CR being its powerhouse and Swarajya, his platform of expression, were to become a democratic force at the time, receiving respect from a cross-section, even if not active participation. Swatantra rallied non-Congress sentiment across the country.
Did CR’s new political avatar from the Right distance him from the ardent Leftist, Monica Felton? It did not. She found the octogenarian’s fervour quite fascinating. And Swarajya’s column space remained available to her, her politics, her world view.
This had much to with the liberal political atmosphere of the times, notwithstanding CR’s accusations of ‘totalitarian’ and ‘megalomaniac’ tendencies in Jawaharlal Nehru. Speaking at a public meeting in Madras, Nehru responded to CR’s opposition typically: “May I perhaps venture to say one word to him with great respect; and that is, a little charity in his thinking may sometimes not be out of place.” Felton asked CR, “Can’t you two work together?” He demurred but without retreating an inch from his opposition to “one party rule”, CR said of the equation between Nehru and himself: “We are positive friends and love each other.” Swatantra was to collapse in 1974, after CR died, but it had made a point: democratic opposition to a democratic party in power is a democratic desideratum.
Over in South Africa
Five years on, the world watched with some wonderment one man create another democratic history. Served by very conventional, slow and ponderous technologies of news transmission, it observed this 46-years-young South African, said to be ‘non-Marxist, but close to South Africa’s communists’, well on his way to becoming the anti-apartheid resistance’s utmost charismatic leader.
Nelson Mandela was a prisoner and being tried for inciting strikes and trying to overthrow the government. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, it was said, had played a role in the apartheid regime’s pursuit of Mandela and five others for suspected collaboration between them and South African communists, particularly Joe Slovo.
In what came to be known, celebrated in fact, as the Rivonia Trial of 1963-64, Mandela made major political statements in the course of his defence. At the opening of the trial, he made his celebrated ‘I am prepared to die’ speech with the lines:
“I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But… if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Among those ‘listening’ to Mandela’s scorching words, and watching the creative interaction between the African National Congress and South Africa’s communists, was Felton.
Another June 4
On June 4, 1964, the Madras-based Swarajya carried an article by her about Mandela. It is a felicity that one of the early articles on him should have come in an organ of India’s political Right written by a figure from the Left. Titled ‘A Man Ready To Die’, her article said: “In this country, Mandela, whose ideas have been deeply influenced by India’s freedom struggle, is still not much more than a name.” She went on to say: “Although influenced by Marxist thought he did not become a communist. But there has often, he has said, been close collaboration between the African National Congress and the Communist Party.” And then she quoted Mandela directly: “Theoretical differences among those fighting against oppression are a luxury we cannot afford at this stage. What is more, communists were the only political group in South Africa who were prepared to treat Africans as human beings and their equals… Because of this there are many Africans today who tend to equate freedom with communism.”
Felton’s article showed the importance of opposition unity in fighting oppression. South Africa’s liberation was still some three decades away, a period which would see Mandela jailed. It was night time for South Africa but somewhere its future ‘rainbow’ had been born.
Felton’s astonishing foresight helps us look back from these two June the 4ths and look ahead from them.
If that democrat of democrats, Nehru, could be faulted by seasoned democrats for fostering one-party rule, then, today, when a supremacist seeks to dominate Indian politics, the duty of democrats is clear. The pre-election example set by the Congress in backing Jignesh Mevani’s independent candidature in the Gujarat Assembly elections and that adopted by the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha in the Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Bihar by-elections won by them last week demands replication.
And if that leader of leaders, Mandela, could find it necessary to team up with South Africa’s communists to fight the racist oppression of apartheid, then, in India today all democratic parties must see the criticality of reaching out to that time-tested challenger of sectarianism — namely, the Left. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain if, in Tripura, West Bengal and Kerala in particular, they fight communal divisiveness in an alliance with India’s communist forces.
To borrow a Mandela phrase, India should see, in 2019, a truly rainbow outcome.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi is a former administrator, diplomat and Governor
13. INDIA: PUSSY CAT AT HOME, BENGAL TIGER IN A MOB: THERE’S LITTLE GENTEEL ABOUT THE BHADRALOK
3 May, 2018
Dishing out mob justice, showing women their place has a powerful appeal whether in a pub in Mangalore or a train in Kolkata.
The Metro rail was once Kolkata’s pride and joy. The city, after all, was the first in India to get one all the way back in 1984. Now, overnight, it’s become a symbol of the city’s shame.
The Ananda Bazar Patrika recently carried an eyewitness account about a young couple thrashed by their middle-aged and elderly co-passengers for being “too close” on the train. That has led to great soul-searching and hand-wringing all over the city.
Et tu Metro? Then fall Kolkata.
Suddenly, we are unable to recognise our city anymore. The Metro is appealing to us to not allow anyone to tarnish Kolkata’s “cultural heritage”. “It is difficult to believe that the city I have known for decade after decade has become so dangerous underneath the surface; so intolerant, so cruel! I am unable to believe it. It feels literally like a nightmare,” laments Ujjwal Chakravarty in the Ananda Bazar Patrika.
Some are claiming this incident is just another sign that the moral policing of the khap panchayats and the Karni Senas and the Shri Ram Sene is now infecting even metropolitan Kolkata. From sword-wielding Ram Navami processions to PDA-phobic uncles on the Metro, it is but a hop, skip and hug away.
But it’s not about Right-wing/Left-wing politics as much as it’s about bhadralok gone wild. That’s what really stings.
When suburban lumpen were the villains, Kolkata could feel superior. In 2013, a college student was gang-raped and killed in Kamduni village just outside the city in an area surrounded by fisheries, ill-lit and ill-served by police stations. Local boys gathered there and drank in the open, passing lewd comments on any young woman that passed by. Kolkata marched in shocked protest.
A 21-year-old college student was hacked to pieces in 2014, killed for protesting against gambling rackets and illicit liquor dens in his neighbourhood. A 39-year-old school teacher was murdered two years earlier for daring to take on criminal gangs who raped and tortured at will in his village. But these were on the outskirts of the city, in neighbourhoods Kolkatans might have heard about but rarely had reason to visit. The Metro did not stop there.
That gentlefolk, the kind that take the Metro, could suddenly turn into a flash mob seems unbelievable. But is it really? Or does it just prove what we always secretly suspected, that the bhadralok liberalism Kolkata snobbishly prides itself on can be a thin veneer at best?
There is really nothing to indicate the bhadralok is intrinsically liberal and tolerant. The quintessential bhadralok rarely gets involved because he does not want to get his hands dirty. That squeamishness is sometimes mistaken for tolerance.
But it’s anything but, as is often evident when the bhadralok opens his mouth. When Suzette Jordan was raped after a visit to a nightclub in the heart of the city, a bhadralok minister wanted to know what a mother-of-two was doing at a nightclub.
As a young woman commented, the men who beat up the couple are also the ones that look the other way when a woman is harassed on the same trains.
Yes, Kolkata is still one of the safest cities for women in the country but National Crime Records Bureau statistics for 2016 say the state has the highest number of cases of domestic violence. The dadas in the neighbourhood, the aunties next door, the I-know-best uncles, even the student union leaders on campus, have always been moral police unto themselves. A young woman tells a story about how, as a student, she was harassed by dadas for wearing shorts and smoking in public in Kolkata. The difference is dadas dictated the norms in what they considered their own backyard while the Metro is public transport that supposedly belongs to everyone.
The heavy-handed Bengali soap operas, while apparently peddling stories of women’s empowerment, trot out the same old tropes, where girls who go to “discs” or have a drink are women who will inevitably have their “modesty outraged”. Even that genteel word ‘bhadralok’ is a cutting-edge weapon used to enforce a ‘Lakshman rekha‘ of propriety. We’ve all heard it. “You can’t dress like that/you can’t party like that/you can’t argue like that/you can’t stay out late like that, this is a bhadralok home/apartment building/housing complex.”
When a mob decides to enforce their idea of what is seemly, it shows that the middle-aged bhadralok in Kolkata is just as frustrated at the sight of carefree young love as their khap counterparts elsewhere.
When it’s discreetly out of sight, on the dark tree-lined streets near Victoria Memorial where you will find couples in a tight clinch every few feet, they pretend not to notice it. But when faced with it in the bright fluorescent light of a Metro compartment, the Bengali blood boils over.
The renowned poet Rabindranath Tagore might have famously told us ‘jodi tor daak shuney keu na aashey tobey ekla chalo re (If no one heeds your call, then go it alone)’, but in a Metro compartment in Kolkata, everyone is eager to answer the call of the mob. Dishing out mob justice, showing women their place, has a powerful appeal, whether in a pub in Mangaluru or a train in Kolkata. They might be pussy cats at home, but in the safety of a mob everyone is a Bengal tiger.
There are silver linings here. Unlike other parts of the country, the reaction has at least not been an angry bristling defence of the moral police. It was other passengers who came to the couple’s rescue. The Metro railway authorities quickly tweeted, “Metro Rly IS AGAINST MORAL POLICING”, and said they were investigating the incident though their CCTV cameras had not captured anything. However, their zero-tolerance stance was slightly dented when their official Facebook handle apparently posted a message asking, “What wrong has been done by the passengers?” calling the episode the “inevitable fallout of year-long vulgarity shown by a section of the young generation”. That message was hurriedly deleted but not quickly enough.
Now, young people are giving out free hugs as part of a ‘#HokAalingon (Let the hugs happen) campaign’. People are singing songs and quoting Bob Dylan to the media, saying the times they are a changing.
That’s all very cool and exactly the sort of reaction Kolkata prides itself on. But it does not change the uncomfortable truth. The league of extraordinary Bengali gentlemen isn’t so out of the ordinary, after all. When push comes to love, they can be just garden-variety bullies. Then, they will go back to their fish-and-rice bhadralok lives without missing a beat.
Sandip Roy is a journalist, commentator and author.
14. TRUTH, LIES, AND LITERATURE
by Salman Rushdie
The New Yorker
May 31, 2018
The breakdown in the old agreements about reality is now the most significant reality, and the world can perhaps best be explained in terms of conflicting and often incompatible narratives.
Photograph by Juergen Loesel / VISUM / Redux
“What, art thou mad? Art thou mad?” Falstaff demands of Prince Hal, in Shakespeare’s “Henry IV, Part 1.” “Is not the truth the truth?” The joke, of course, is that he has been lying his head off, and the prince is in the process of exposing him as a liar.
In a time like the present, when reality itself seems everywhere under attack, Falstaff’s duplicitous notion of the truth seems to be shared by many powerful leaders. In the three countries I’ve spent my life caring about—India, the U.K., and the United States—self-serving falsehoods are regularly presented as facts, while more reliable information is denigrated as “fake news.” However, the defenders of the real, attempting to dam the torrent of disinformation flooding over us all, often make the mistake of yearning for a golden age when truth was uncontested and universally accepted, and of arguing that what we need is to return to that blissful consensus.
The truth is that truth has always been a contested idea. As a student of history, at Cambridge, I learned at an early age that some things were “basic facts”—that is, unarguable events, such as that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066, or that the American Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. But the creation of a historical fact was the result of a particular meaning being ascribed to an event. Julius Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon is a historical fact. But many other people have crossed that river, and their actions are not of interest to history. Those crossings are not, in this sense, facts. Also the passage of time often changes the meaning of a fact. During the British Empire, the military revolt of 1857 was known as the Indian Mutiny, and, because a mutiny is a rebellion against the proper authorities, that name, and therefore the meaning of that fact, placed the “mutinying” Indians in the wrong. Indian historians today refer to this event as the Indian Uprising, which makes it an entirely different sort of fact, which means a different thing. The past is constantly revised according to the attitudes of the present.
There is, however, some truth in the idea that in the West in the nineteenth century there was a fairly widespread consensus about the character of reality. The great novelists of that time—Gustave Flaubert, George Eliot, Edith Wharton, and so on—could assume that they and their readers, broadly speaking, agreed on the nature of the real, and the grand age of the realist novel was built on that foundation. But that consensus was built on a number of exclusions. It was middle-class and white. The points of view of, for example, colonized peoples, or racial minorities—points of view from which the world looked very different to the bourgeois reality portrayed in, say, “The Age of Innocence,” or “Middlemarch,” or “Madame Bovary”—were largely erased from the narrative. The importance of great public matters was also often marginalized. In the entire œuvre of Jane Austen, the Napoleonic Wars are barely mentioned; in the immense œuvre of Charles Dickens, the existence of the British Empire is only glancingly recognized.
In the twentieth century, under the pressure of enormous social changes, the nineteenth-century consensus was revealed as fragile; its view of reality began to look, one might say, fake. At first, some of the greatest literary artists sought to chronicle the changing reality by using the methods of the realist novel—as Thomas Mann did in “Buddenbrooks,” or Junichiro Tanizaki in “The Makioka Sisters”—but gradually the realist novel seemed more and more problematic, and writers from Franz Kafka to Ralph Ellison and Gabriel García Márquez created stranger, more surreal texts, telling the truth by means of obvious untruth, creating a new kind of reality, as if by magic.
I have argued, for much of my life as a writer, that the breakdown in the old agreements about reality is now the most significant reality, and that the world can perhaps best be explained in terms of conflicting and often incompatible narratives. In Kashmir and in the Middle East, and in the battle between progressive America and Trumpistan, we see examples of such incompatibilities. I have also maintained that the consequences of this new, argumentative, even polemical attitude to the real has profound implications for literature—that we can’t, or ought not to, pretend it isn’t there. I believe that the influence on public discourse of more, and more varied, voices has been a good thing, enriching our literatures and making more complex our understanding of the world.
And yet I now face, as we all do, a genuine conundrum. How can we argue, on the one hand, that modern reality has become necessarily multidimensional, fractured and fragmented, and, on the other hand, that reality is a very particular thing, an unarguable series of things that are so, which needs to be defended against the attacks of, to be frank, the things that are not so, which are being promulgated by, let’s say, the Modi Administration in India, the Brexit crew in the U.K., and the President of the United States? How to combat the worst aspects of the Internet, that parallel universe in which important information and total garbage coexist, side by side, with, apparently, the same levels of authority, making it harder than ever for people to tell them apart? How to resist the erosion in the public acceptance of “basic facts,” scientific facts, evidence-supported facts about, say, climate change or inoculations for children? How to combat the political demagoguery that seeks to do what authoritarians have always wanted—to undermine the public’s belief in evidence, and to say to their electorates, in effect, “Believe nothing except me, for I am the truth”? What do we do about that? And what, specifically, might be the role of art, and the role of the literary arts in particular?
I don’t pretend to have a full answer. I do think that we need to recognize that any society’s idea of truth is always the product of an argument, and we need to get better at winning that argument. Democracy is not polite. It’s often a shouting match in a public square. We need to be involved in the argument if we are to have any chance of winning it. And as far as writers are concerned, we need to rebuild our readers’ belief in argument from factual evidence, and to do what fiction has always been good at doing—to construct, between the writer and the reader, an understanding about what is real. I don’t mean to reconstruct the narrow, exclusive consensus of the nineteenth century. I like the broader, more disputatious view of society to be found in modern literature. But when we read a book we like, or even love, we find ourselves in agreement with its portrait of human life. Yes, we say, this is how we are, this is what we do to one another, this is true. That, perhaps, is where literature can help most. We can make people agree, in this time of radical disagreement, on the truths of the great constant, which is human nature. Let’s start from there.
In Germany, after the Second World War, the authors of what was called Trümmerliteratur, or “rubble literature,” felt the need to rebuild their language, poisoned by Nazism, as well as their country, which lay in ruins. They understood that reality, truth, needed to be reconstructed from the ground up, with new language, just as the bombed cities needed to be rebuilt. I think we can learn from their example. We stand once again, though for different reasons, in the midst of the rubble of the truth. And it is for us—writers, thinkers, journalists, philosophers—to undertake the task of rebuilding our readers’ belief in reality, their faith in the truth. And to do it with new language, from the ground up.
Salman Rushdie is the author of thirteen novels, including, most recently, “The Golden House.”
15. THOUSANDS ENSLAVED IN FORCED MARRIAGES ACROSS UK, INVESTIGATION FINDS
May 29 2018
Experts say crime is woefully under-reported, as Guardian research
shows large scale of domestic and sexual servitude
16. UN EXEMPTIONS MAKE MOCKERY OF SEXUAL ABUSE IN WORLD BODY | Thalif Deen
Inter Press Press
The UN General Assembly, the ultimate authority to ban exemptions on sexual abuse in the UN system. Credit: UN photo/Manuel Elias
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 7 2018 (IPS) - When allegations of sexual harassment were made against a senior UN official—holding the rank of Under-Secretary-General at the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC)– the United Nations admitted that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has no jurisdiction over a UN body created by the General Assembly and answerable only to member states. http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/03/sexual-abuse-un-chief-no-jurisdiction-act/
But this glaring exemption to the UN’s much-ballyhooed “zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse” (SEA) also applies to several other UN bodies created by the General Assembly, including, most importantly, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) — making a mockery of the ongoing fight against harassment in the world body.
And these exemptions may also cover some of the UN “Commissions, Boards, Committees, Councils and Panels” – all of which are considered subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly.
“I find it absolutely appalling that three of the UN entities entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring effective functioning of the UN system are themselves flouting some basic UN norms, taking advantage of legal lacuna without any supervision of the Secretary-General,” Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General, UN High Representative and Chairman of the ACABQ (1997-1998), told IPS.
He said it is “extremely urgent” that this situation be addressed without any more delay by the 193-member UN General Assembly (UNGA).
“By feeling helpless about such abuse and misuse in view of its past resolutions, the Assembly is shunning its responsibility as the world’s highest intergovernmental decision-making body,” Chowdhury said.
Asked for her comments on the ICSC exemption from the UN’s zero tolerance policy, DrPurna Sen, Director of Policy at UN Women, Executive Coordinator and newly-appointed Spokesperson on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination, told IPS that zero tolerance is not an optional extra that (some) employers can apply or not.
“It must have universal reach so that all staff can enjoy safety and respect”.
First of all, she pointed out, sexual abuse, harassment, exploitation and assault are all aspects of sexual violence. There are laws against violence and all states have committed to ending violence by 2030 (Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals 5.2).
“The obligation for ending violence rests with states but all actors, the private sector, universities etc all have a role to play in making this happen. ICSC cannot be exempt from this work: independence cannot confer impunity,” Dr Sen said.
Secondly, the notion there can be places where accountability cannot reach is not tenable.
“With great respect for women who have shouted and hollered until they have been heard, I wish to note the international clamour from women who have put abusers on notice,” she noted.
The MeToo, BalanceTonPorc and other such women-led imperatives for change have at last got attention. Accountability has to be made real – at the ICSC, as well as elsewhere, Dr Sen said.
Finally, it seems that any exemption from the UN’ policies is something that exists due to a General Assembly resolution.
“It is surely within the authority and competence of the GA then to review and change that situation.”
The need for independence cannot trump the need for safety and respectful workplaces, where abuse of power and gender inequality are rendered obsolete, she declared.
“Surely our collective efforts are not incapable of finding arrangements for their co-existence such that staff and the public have confidence in the whole UN system.”
Seeking an intervention by the Secretary-General and the GA President, Chowdhury told IPS: “I believe very strongly that the President of the Assembly, with his trusted leadership, needs to take the initiative on a priority basis, in consultation with the Secretary-General, to table a UNGA resolution to overcome this lack of jurisdiction and control which results in such abuse without any higher supervisory control”.
He said “past decisions should not be an excuse to overlook such aberrations which the IPS article has very rightly highlighted. Independence of a UN entity should not give it immunity to disregard norms which are core values of the UN.”
Asked to weigh in with his comments, Ian Richards, President of the 60,000-strong Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations of the UN System (CCISUA), told IPS: “We expect all parts of the UN system to have policies and structures in place to prevent sexual harassment, in line with Secretary-General Guterres’s promise of zero tolerance.”
“This allows our member unions to help victims assert their individual rights to a harassment-free workplace and get justice when their rights are infringed,” he added.
However, he pointed out, “we are currently unable to assist staff who work for bodies such as the ICSC, ACABQ and JIU, to benefit from these rights. This despite their staff also having UN contracts and being appointed by the Secretary-General.”
He said the ICSC will itself touch on this issue when it discusses workforce diversity at its 87th session this July in Bonn.
“We hope it will join us in calling for consistent HR policies and structures throughout, without of course compromising the independence these bodies require to do their job.”
Brenden Varma, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly (PGA) told IPS: “It’s for Member States to take such an initiative – not the PGA. From the PGA’s side, he continues to stand firmly against all forms of sexual abuse and harassment.”
Meanwhile, providing an update on cases of sexual exploitation and abuse in the UN system, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters May 1 that for the first three months of this year, from 1 January to 31 March 2018, there were 54 allegations for all UN entities and implementing partners.
But not all allegations have been fully verified, and many are in the preliminary assessment phase, he added.
Out of the 54 allegations, he said, 14 are reported from peacekeeping operations and 18 from agencies, funds and programmes. Twenty-one allegations relate to implementing partners and one to a member of a non-UN international force.
Of the 54 allegations, 17 are categorized as sexual abuse, 34 as sexual exploitation, and 3 are of an unknown nature.
The allegations involve 66 victims — including 13 girls (under the age of 18) and 16 victims whose age remains unknown.
With regard to the status of the allegations, he said, 2 have been substantiated by an investigation; 2 were not substantiated; 21 are at various stages of investigation; 27 are under preliminary assessment; and 1 investigation’s result is under review.
With over 95,000 civilians and 90,000 uniformed personnel working for the UN, sexual exploitation and abuse are not reflective of the conduct of the majority of the dedicated women and men who serve the Organization, Dujarric said.
“But every allegation involving our personnel undermines our values and principles and the sacrifice of those who serve with pride and professionalism in some of the most dangerous places in the world. For this reason, combating this scourge, and helping and empowering those who have been scarred by these egregious acts, continue to be key priorities for the Secretary-General in 2018.”
At a meeting with the Secretary-General in London on May 3, the executive heads of UN agencies, who are members of the Chief Executives Board (CEB), reiterated “their firm commitment to uphold a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment; to strengthen victim-centred prevention and response efforts; and to foster a safe and inclusive working environment.”
In addition, they pledged to provide mechanisms such as 24-hour helplines for staff to report harassment and access support; establish a system-wide database to avoid rehire of individuals who have perpetrated sexual harassment.
The CEB also pledged to institute fast track procedures to receive, process and address complaints; recruit specialized investigators, including women; enforce mandatory training; provide guidelines for managers; harmonize policies; and launch staff perception surveys to learn from experiences.
The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen at ips.org
17. RUSSIAN MUSEUM DISCOVERS SECRET ORDER TO DESTROY GULAG DATA
Papers reveal that ministers ordered erasure of prisoner files in 2014, say archivists
Associated Press in Moscow
8 June 2018
A former Gulag for political prisoners in Perm, Russia, which now serves as a memorial for those who died there. Photograph: Rex Features
A museum studying Soviet prison camps has discovered a secret Russian order from 2014 instructing officials to destroy data on prisoners – a move it said “could have catastrophic consequences for studying the history of the camps”.
Up to 17 million people were sent to the Gulag, the notorious Soviet prison camp system, in the 1930s and 1940s. At least 5 million of them were convicted on false testimony. The prison population in the labour camps peaked at 2 million people.
Gulag grave hunter unearths uncomfortable truths in Russia
Case files of the Gulag prisoners were often destroyed but their personal data was kept on registration cards, which are still held by police and intelligence officials.
The Gulag History Museum in Moscow has discovered a classified 2014 order that instructed Russian officials to destroy the registration cards of former prisoners who had reached the age of 80 – which today would include almost all of them.
The museum’s archive expert, Alexander Makeyev, told the Interfax agency that they discovered the cards had been destroyed in one region, the remote Magadan in eastern Russia, home to some of the Soviet Union’s biggest prison camps.
Repressions perpetrated under the Soviet dictator Josef Stalin left a profound scar on the Russian nation, destroying lives and displacing millions. But in recent years under Vladimir Putin, officials have tried to play down Stalin’s terror, hailing the leader for building a new economy and helping the Soviet Union win the second world war.
The Gulag History Museum has appealed to Russia’s Presidential Council for Human Rights to look into the classified order.
The report has caused outrage in the Russian historical community and beyond.
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the nationalist Liberal Democratic party, said on his social media account that historical “archives should be opened to public, not destroyed” and that Russians should be able to know the truth about their past.
18. UK: UNIONS ARE TOO VITAL TO DEMOCRACY TO BE ALLOWED TO GENTRIFY AND DIE
3 June 2018
As strikes fade away and memberships fall, too many workers are being left vulnerable
[Photo] An Amazon distribution centre in Phoenix, Arizona. British unions warn of dangers to health. Photograph: Ralph Freso/Reuters
Two reports last week exposed both the changing character of the labour market and the degree to which the power of the organised working class has eroded.
The Office for National Statistics revealed that there were just 79 strikes (or, more specifically, stoppages) last year, the lowest figure since records began in 1891. Just 33,000 workers were involved in labour disputes, the lowest number since 1893. Victorian conditions have returned in more ways than one.
It’s not just the number of strikes that has fallen. Trade union membership has too. The latest figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show that just 23.2% of employees were unionised in 2017, a half that of the late 1970s.
The fall has been greatest among the young. The proportion of union members under 50 has fallen over the past 20 years, while that above 50 has increased.
Strikingly, too, unions have increasingly become clubs for professionals. One in five employees works in professional jobs, but they make up almost 40% of union members. These days, you are twice as likely to be unionised if you have a degree than if you have no qualifications. It’s a far cry from the old image of the trade unionist as an industrial worker. Unions have not just shrunk – their very character has changed. Like politics, trade unionism has become more professional and technocratic.
The evisceration of the meaning of trade unionism was perhaps best expressed in a series of bizarre events at the annual congress of the University and College Union. The UCU has been involved in recent months in a bitter dispute with universities over pension rights. Many members have been critical of the handling of the dispute by the union’s leadership and, in particular, by the general secretary, Sally Hunt. At the congress were two motions, one censuring Hunt for her actions during the strike, the other calling for her resignation. The UCU leadership walked out before the motions could be heard and shut down the congress on the grounds that the motions undermined their rights as union members (UCU full-timers are members not of the UCU but of Unite) and because of “concerns about their health and safety”. Union leaders refused, in other words, to be held accountable by the members who had originally voted them into office on the grounds that such accountability is contrary to their interests as union members and detrimental to their health and safety.
There is, of course, a long history of union leaders protecting their own positions and acting against the wishes of their members. But many of today’s unions seem disinclined to pay even lip service to the idea of unions as organisations of solidarity, belonging to their members and working on behalf of their interests.
While some union leaders are inventing “health and safety” reasons for refusing to be held accountable by their members, workers facing real health and safety concerns often have little support. Almost a third of British workers comprise what the economist Guy Standing has called the “precariat” – workers lacking job security and benefits, often shifting from one short-term position to another, often self-employed or working in the gig economy.
An investigation published last week by the GMB discovered that ambulances had been called to Amazon’s UK warehouses at least 600 times in the last three years – more than four times every week. On more than half of these occasions, patients had to be taken to hospital. According to the GMB’s national officer, Mick Rix: “Pregnant women [are] telling us they are forced to stand for 10 hours a day, pick, stow, stretch and bend, pull heavy carts and walk miles – even miscarriages and pregnancy issues at work.”
Not only have unions been drained of much of their power, but the workers that most need help are the least likely to be organised. The very character of the new, fragmented labour market makes organisation more difficult. The state of traditional trade unionism only compounds the problem.
Much has been written about the crisis of social democratic parties throughout Europe that have abandoned their old working-class constituencies and as a result have largely imploded. Much less thought has been given to similar trends within traditional trade unionism.
Yet, the crisis of trade unionism is as great as that of social democratic politics. The two are inextricably linked. To address the crisis of working-class politics, we need to address questions of working-class organisation and solidarity, too.
Kenan Malik is an Observer columnist
19. H-NET REVIEW: GRAMITH ON PRUSIN, 'SERBIA UNDER THE SWASTIKA: A WORLD WAR II OCCUPATION'
Alexander Victor Prusin. Serbia under the Swastika: A World War II Occupation. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017. 232 pp. $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-252-04106-8.
Reviewed by Luke Gramith (University of West Virginia)
Published on H-War (June, 2018)
Commissioned by Margaret Sankey (Air War College)
Alexander Prusin provides readers with a concise study of the social, military, and political history of occupied Serbia during the Second World War. With this geographically focused but thematically broad approach, Serbia under the Swastika stands out from existing scholarly works, which have focused either on the wider Yugoslav occupation experience or on more narrow questions of guerrilla and antiguerrilla warfare. It parallels recent regional studies of the occupation years in other parts of the dismembered Yugoslavia.
In Serbia under the Swastika, Prusin makes several well-supported arguments using a range of archival, newspaper, and memoir sources. Most should not surprise readers familiar with the existing literature on German-occupied Europe. First, Prusin convincingly shows that the German occupation regime was riven with internal contradictions and rivalries, which in turn hindered the realization of German goals. Second, the occupation unleashed a Serbian civil war that was political-ideological in nature, distinct from the ethnoreligious conflicts in other parts of occupied Yugoslavia such as the Independent State of Croatia. Third, all active participants in this civil war, from the communist guerrillas to the collaborationist figurehead Milan Nedić, sought to use the context of war and occupation to transform Serbia into something new. Finally, even amid civil war and occupation, most Serbians neither actively resisted nor actively collaborated; rather, they spent the war years attempting to survive, accommodating those who made demands of them at gunpoint.
Prusin makes these arguments in a concise text, organized into an introduction, nine short chapters, and a conclusion. Apart from the first chapter, which provides background information on interwar Yugoslavia, each chapter treats a single theme for the years 1941-44, and only a loose narrative thread runs between them. Following the conclusion, readers can view a section of endnotes (pared down to the bare minimum), a bibliography consisting mostly of English-, Serbo-Croatian-, and German-language works, and a short index limited to key organizations and persons.
Chapters 2-5 define the book’s key actors. After detailing the rapid collapse of Yugoslavia in April 1941, chapter 2 sketches the earliest German approaches to occupied Serbia. A comprehensive racial reordering was not the goal, but rather material exploitation and the creation of a pacified hinterland for easy transportation and communication in the Balkans. The Wehrmacht created the office of the Military Commander-in-Serbia to accomplish these goals, but from the first days of its existence it faced challenges from other German agencies.
Chapter 3 explores the Germans’ efforts to construct a collaborationist regime capable of realizing their goals. Prusin shows how these efforts failed due to intra-German power struggles and a refusal to grant any real autonomy to the collaborationist Council of Commissars or its successor, the Government of National Salvation. The tight leash on Serbian collaborators stands in striking contrast to the free rein received by Ante Pavelić’s Ustasha regime in the Independent State of Croatia. It resulted in the Serbian collaborators lacking both the legitimacy and the muscle necessary to pacify the territory. Here Prusin displays an objectivity in his treatment of Serbia’s collaborators, particularly in his recognition of the lives saved by the Government of National Salvation’s rapid response to the refugee crisis unleashed in 1941 as hundreds of thousands of Serbs flooded Serbia from other areas of occupied Yugoslavia. In this and subsequent chapters, he keeps the scale of active collaboration in perspective, diverging from polemical and even anti-Serbian works on the topic, most notably Philip Cohen's Serbia's Secret War (1996).
The sketch of institutions is followed in chapter 4 by a closer examination of the range of Serbian collaborators, from Dimitrije Ljotić’s fascist Zbor movement to the archconservative General Milan Nedić, head of the Government of National Salvation. In one of the book’s most enlightening sections, Prusin explicates Nedić’s archconservative vision for a Serbian “zadruga-state,” modeled after the medieval Serbian socioeconomic unit in which an authoritarian family chief—a domaćin—ruled over the property and persons of an extended kin group (p. 62). In the early years of occupation, when German victory seemed certain, Nedić formulated a vision in which he would rule as domaćin over a purified Serbian nation, with Serbia existing as a German puppet state. Communists, liberals, and Jews had no place in this future society and thus, far from merely “shielding” the population, Nedić used the modest police power at his disposal to wage war against these enemies. As Prusin later writes, Nedić was “both an ideological soldier with his own agenda and a willing tool in the hands of the occupying power” (p. 159).
Chapter 5 concludes the introduction of actors, detailing the emergence and initial cooperation of the well-known resistance movements—the fractured Chetniks loyal to the royal government-in-exile, and Tito’s communist-led Partisans, who were committed to overthrowing the old order and creating a communist Yugoslavia. Prusin shows that already by late 1941, when the Partisans created a short-lived liberation government called the Užice Republic, many Chetniks had begun to see the Partisans as more threatening to the royal government-in-exile than the Germans, prompting their drift toward collaboration.
For the most part, the remaining chapters detail certain “experiential” themes. Chapter 6 explores the emergence of the Germans’ ruthless reprisal policy. Though the Germans initially had no plans for the systematic brutalization of the Serbians, just weeks into the occupation a Wehrmacht officer ordered that one hundred Serbians be killed for each German killed by Serbian guerrillas and fifty killed for each German wounded. This policy led to hundreds of reprisal actions, chief among them the Kragujevac Massacre of October 1941, in which Wehrmacht units and Serbian collaborators murdered well over two thousand civilians. Particularly insightful is Prusin’s demonstration that the Holocaust in Serbia unfolded as part of these antiguerrilla reprisals, Nedić volunteering Serbia’s Jews as the first hostages for execution. Serbia under the Swastika not only shines light on this lesser-known aspect of the Holocaust, but also joins a litany of works that debunk the claim that the Wehrmacht was an honorable fighting force free of complicity in Nazi crimes.
Chapter 7 turns to the “quiet” Serbia of 1942-44. In these years, with the Užice Republic dismembered, the bulk of Partisan resistance activity shifted westward into Croatia and Bosnia. The Partisans in Serbia slowly regrouped and carried out sabotage actions as their comrades outside Serbia prepared for a push toward Belgrade. The Chetniks, shaken by German reprisals and seeing the Partisans growing in strength, largely ceased outright resistance and drifted toward collaboration. The primary Chetnik leader, Draža Mihailović, formed a last-ditch alliance with Serbia’s collaborationist forces in 1944 with the aim of forestalling a communist seizure of power, but Tito was in Belgrade by October. Throughout this and previous chapters, Prusin’s treatment of Mihailović is evenhanded, recognizing the latter’s increasingly impossible position without minimizing the fact that his actions often served the interests of the Germans.
The eighth chapter addresses the relationship between Serbians and Jews both before and during the occupation. Prusin finds that it was not just Ljotić and the fascist Zbor militants who participated in the murder of most of Serbia's fifteen thousand Jews, but also Nedić and his conservative allies. Prusin details a systematic attempt by the German occupation forces and their chief collaborators to inculcate antisemitic ideas in the native population, but suggests, in contrast to Philip Cohen, that virulent antisemitism remained a fringe phenomenon. He provides anecdotal evidence of Serbian “rescuers,” but lacks quantitative evidence that might definitively resolve the debate.
The final chapter examines how the war was experienced by the majority of Serbians—those who simply sought to get by. Prusin details how the occupation crippled the Serbian economy and imposed tremendous hardship, including forced labor and widespread food shortages as the occupation forces diverted scarce resources to Germany. Most significantly, he describes how the Serbian population in the villages tried to navigate the civil war when pressed for aid and cooperation by multiple sides. Many simply refused to take sides, organizing into self-defense leagues to protect themselves from outsiders’ demands on their service and resources. It is worth remembering, as Prusin does, that the unwilling participants were the majority in this civil war.
A notable feature of Prusin’s work is its organization into thematic chapters rather than a more strictly chronological narrative. This organization is beneficial for those studying discrete aspects of the occupation, but for others it will be problematic. At times, individuals or events are introduced in one chapter, but their significance is not known until later. For example, in chapter 3, Prusin introduces Belgrade mayor Dragi Jovanović and mentions that he became a pawn in intra-German power struggles, but this comes well before readers learn that Jovanović carried substantial weight as head of the collaborationist regime’s political police (pp. 45, 58-60). Prusin provides brief biographical notes on key personalities before the book’s introduction, but this does not fully solve the problems of the chosen organization. There are often large chronological jumps back and forth between chapters and more could have been done to situate events in Serbia within the contexts of the unfolding Second World War. The book is therefore best suited for readers already familiar with the basic time line of the war and the Axis occupation of Yugoslavia.
More significantly, the book’s organization limits its explanatory potential. One of the defining features of this period was the dynamic interrelation between the forces of occupation, collaboration, and resistance, not to mention the way that changing conditions of everyday life shaped popular responses to these forces. By treating each of these themes in isolation without a strong chronological narrative thread, the book loses some (but not all) of this dynamism. That Prusin relegates his discussion of Serbians’ “everyday” experiences of occupation to the final chapter is particularly unfortunate, given that these experiences served as the context in which Serbians decided to collaborate, resist, or whatever else.
Ultimately, Serbia under the Swastika does not radically revise our understanding of German-occupied Europe. Excepting Prusin’s analysis of Nedić’s worldview and of the unusually weak position in which the Germans kept Nedić’s Government of National Liberation, the key arguments of Serbia under the Swastika have been made before in different national contexts. The self-imposed chaos of the German occupation regime was not unique to Serbia, nor was the predominance of accommodation and survivalism over active resistance and collaboration. Finally, as the Italian case shows, it was not uncommon for fractures or realignments to occur within resistance coalitions as liberation drew nearer and factions attempted to position themselves to secure postwar power.
What the book provides is a concise and well-supported examination of how these phenomena played out within a specifically Serbian context. It draws important contrasts with Croatia to break down the idea of a single “Yugoslav” occupation, but it is primarily concerned with Serbia. Readers versed in the literature of German-occupied Europe will find much to compare, but Prusin leaves this task to them. For those with research or teaching interests in Balkan history, the Second World War, or twentieth-century Europe, Serbia under the Swastika is worth a careful read.
. The two key studies focused on wider Yugoslavia are Jozo Tomasevich, War and Revolution in Yugoslavia, 1941-1945: Occupation and Collaboration (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2001); and Stevan Pavlowitch, Hitler’s New Disorder: The Second World War in Yugoslavia (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008). For a study of the guerrilla war, see Ben Shepherd, Terror in the Balkans: German Armies and Partisan Warfare (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012).
. For example, Gregor Kranjc, To Walk with the Devil: Slovene Collaboration and Axis Occupation, 1941-1945 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013).
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