SACW - 26 Aug 2018 | Sri Lanka’s New Right-Wing Politics / Bangladesh: politics & architecture / India: 2018 Praful Bidwai Memorial Award / War in Afghanistan / Uri Avnery - 1923-2018 / Nicaragua: How Daniel Ortega Became a Tyrant
aiindex at gmail.com
Sun Aug 26 06:59:01 EDT 2018
South Asia Citizens Wire - 26 August 2018 - No. 2996
[via South Asia Citizens Web - sacw.net since 1996]
1. Sri Lanka’s New Right-Wing Politics | Jayadeva Uyangoda
2. India: Kandhamal without closure | Apoorvanand
3. RIP Kuldip Nayar: My Friend, The Man For Peace | Syeda Hameed
4. India: Text of statement by academics and concerned citizens against the assault on Prof Sanjay Kumar, in Motihari (Champaran, Bihar)
(i) Announcement: Presentation of 2018 Praful Bidwai Memorial Award (28 Aug 2018 - New Delhi)
(ii) Announced: Smitu Kothari Fellowship for Young Writers | Centre for Financial Accountability
6. Recent on Communalism Watch:
- Why linguistic diversity does not mean India is cosmopolitan
- India: Subramanium Swamy launches 'Virat Hindustan Sangam' (VHS India)
- India: Punjab Sacrilege bill - A Dangerous Game | V B Rawat
- Davis on Veluthat Essays on Indian History
- India: Questions Still Surround the Dabholkar Murder Investigation
- India: On ground, BJP works to woo Dalits, OBCs
- India: If not Godse, I would have killed Gandhi, says judge of self-styled Hindu court
- The trouble with Nehru’s country | Jawed Naqvi
::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::
7. India: Ashes of hope: Why the BJP needs Atal as icon | Bharat Bhushan
8. India: Not Just Hadiya - Hurdles to Rights of Individuals | Alok Prasanna Kumar
9. India: Politics & lynching | A.G. Noorani
10. India - Politics and punishment: Movement on cases involving Sanatan Sanstha is welcome, must be taken forward | Julio Ribeiro
11. How politics and architecture blended in Dhaka | Adnan Morshed
12. Inside the U.S. Fight to Save Ghazni From the Taliban | W.J. Hennigan
13. Uri Avnery - 1923-2018. His opponents will ultimately have to follow in his footsteps
14. Gender studies programs to be banned in Hungary | Christopher Adam
15. Nicaragua: How Daniel Ortega Became a Tyrant: From Revolutionary to Strongman | Gioconda Belli
1. SRI LANKA’S NEW RIGHT-WING POLITICS
by Jayadeva Uyangoda
One way of interpreting the confluence of post-democratic political forces around a neo-right-wing agenda and a personality constructed in the mould of adharmika ruler is that Sri Lanka’s contemporary political order is set to experience a major qualitative shift. In that emerging political order, there might develop two parallel authority structures, one secular, and the other, religious.
2. INDIA: KANDHAMAL WITHOUT CLOSURE
These 10 years have seen hate and violence against Christians being routinised. Beating up of priests, breaking up of prayer meetings and carols, desecration of churches and arrests of priests, enactment of anti-conversion laws, as in Jharkhand or villages being made out of bounds for Christians as in Chhattisgarh, lack the spectacle of Kandhamal. Our indifference to all these only indicates the normalisation of what Kandhamal saw.
3. RIP KULDIP NAYAR: MY FRIEND, THE MAN FOR PEACE
by Syeda Hameed
He was the gentle giant of India Pakistan Peace. Both countries should honour him by opening the borders for a massive memorial meeting which should be held in his karmbhoomi Amritsar.
4. INDIA: TEXT OF STATEMENT BY ACADEMICS AND CONCERNED CITIZENS AGAINST THE ASSAULT ON PROF SANJAY KUMAR, IN MOTIHARI (CHAMPARAN, BIHAR)
As sociologists, social scientists and concerned individuals across the world, we strongly condemn the brutal mob assault on 17 August 2018, on sociologist Sanjay Kumar at Mahatma Gandhi Central University, Motihari, Bihar. . . . We appeal to all university teachers, students and citizens at large to ensure the safety and civility of our campuses and ensure there is space for open discussion.
(i) ANNOUNCEMENT: PRESENTATION OF 2018 PRAFUL BIDWAI MEMORIAL AWARD (28 AUG 2018 - NEW DELHI)
Presentation Ceremony of Praful Bidwai Memorial Award 2018 to Ulka Mahajan, Sarvhara Jan Andolan on August 28 (Tuesday), 2018 at 05.00 pm | New Delhi
(ii) ANNOUNCED: SMITU KOTHARI FELLOWSHIP FOR YOUNG WRITERS | CENTRE FOR FINANCIAL ACCOUNTABILITY
a New-Delhi based organisation working to strengthen and improve financial accountability within India, invites applications for the inaugural Smitu Kothari Fellowship.
6. RECENT ON COMMUNALISM WATCH:
- Why linguistic diversity does not mean India is cosmopolitan
- India: Subramanium Swamy launches 'Virat Hindustan Sangam' (VHS India)
- India: Punjab Sacrilege bill - A Dangerous Game
- India: Punjab’s sacrilege law defiles the sacred, messes with the secular
- Davis on Veluthat Essays on Indian History
- India: Questions Still Surround the Dabholkar Murder Investigation
- India: On ground, BJP works to woo Dalits, OBCs
- India: If not Godse, I would have killed Gandhi, says judge of self-styled Hindu court
- India Kerala floods: Thrissur temple offers hall for Eid prayers | Mosque shelters Hindu families
- India: Which party for dalits Today?
- Hindi Article - Attacks on Swami Agnivesh
- The trouble with Nehru’s country | Jawed Naqvi
- India: Why can’t Yogi Adityanath be prosecuted for hate speech, Supreme Court asks UP govt
-> available via: http://communalism.blogspot.com/
::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::
7. INDIA: ASHES OF HOPE: WHY THE BJP NEEDS ATAL AS ICON
by Bharat Bhushan
The Asian Age
August 25, 2018
In all 75 districts of UP, memorial events will be organised to scatter Vajpayee’s ashes in a river.
A year ago, in September 2017, BJP president Amit Shah tore into the Congress for beginning every “political journey” with the urns bearing the ashes of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi. Metaphorically, he was reducing the party to the achievements of its past leaders.
It is undeniable that the Congress had started the process of converting the death of its tallest leaders into a national grieving event. Their ashes were scattered not only in India’s rivers but also sprinkled over the Himalayas and the farms and fields of the country.
Mr Shah, however, may have spoken too soon. Just a year later, it is his party which is trying to apotheosise its own tallest leader of recent times, Atal Behari Vajpayee, by transforming the Hindu rites of death into a political tableau.
The foster family of Vajpayee immersed his ashes at Hardwar on August 20. In Hindu belief, the cremation rites dissolve the material bond between the physical body and the soul and the immersion of the ashes in flowing water is essential to free the soul. Of these waters, the Ganga is considered the holiest. The Shankhsmriti says: “Yadavasthini gangayam tishthanti purushayshya cha; tavad varsh sahasrani Brhamaloke mahiyate (So long as the ashes of a deceased person remain in the Ganga, the soul of that person will continue to enjoy happiness in ‘Brahmalok’, the highest of the joyful worlds, for thousands of years).”
After this final ritual, Vajpayee’s ashes are also being dispersed by the party in 110 rivers and lakes across the country. This should be unexceptionable, given the precedents set by Congress governments.
However, consider the mind-boggling fact that in Uttar Pradesh alone there will be more than 100 ash immersions. In UP, Vajpayee’s ashes will be immersed in the Ganga 20 times; in the Yamuna 16 times; in the Gomati and Ghagra 11 times; in the Tons, Rapti and Sai six times; in the Hindon five times; in the Gandak, Varuna, Ramganga, Kuoni and Kali Nadi three times; in the Garra, Suheli, Rohini, Dhasan, Karban and Ishan twice; besides being immersed in the Ken, Betwa, Karnali, Rihand, Badi Gandak, Chhoti Gandak, Sot, Sengar, Arind, Sharada, Bakulahi, Aril, Kunhar, Vaan Ganga, Sharada, Sone and Kanha rivers.
In all 75 districts of UP, memorial events will be organised to scatter Vajpayee’s ashes in a river. In some districts the ceremony will be repeated up to four times in different rivers. In addition, three memorials will be built for Vajpayee in East, Central and Western UP.
In Madhya Pradesh, the urns containing the ashes will be taken to every village panchayat, condolence meetings will be organised in every district headquarters town, development block and gram panchayat and then immersed in all prominent rivers of the state. Vajpayee Memorials will be constructed in Bhopal and Gwalior, a `5 lakh award instituted in journalism, poetry and administration; the school in Gwalior which Vajpayee attended will be upgraded; a Vajpayee Library set up in all seven smart cities of the state; and naming the state’s Global Skill Park, four Shramodaya Schools and the Vidisha Medical College after Vajpayee. Vajpayee’s ashes will be carried in three processions in Chhattisgarh; its capital Naya Raipur will be named Atal Nagar and Bilaspur University will be renamed after Vajpayee. In Rajasthan the ashes will be immersed in Mahi river in Banswara, Chambal river in Kota and Pushkar Lake in Ajmer.
Why does this feel more than mere ritual facilitation of a departed soul to “Brahmalok”? Because the activities around ash-immersion are so much more intense in the electorally important North Indian states than in the South, where the BJP is non-existent outside Karnataka.
The party is understandably very anxious about UP, which contributes the most number of seats to the Lok Sabha and where its performance was spectacular in 2014. A comparable performance in the coming general election is threatened by the potential alliance between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
The ash immersion ceremonies provide the party an opportunity to reconnect with its cadre and voters in UP. The beleaguered party is perhaps especially hopeful of consolidating its support among the brahmins alienated by the Narendra Modi government’s belated pro-dalit moves such as amending the Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes Act and advocating reservations in promotions.
The celebration of the brahmin Vajpayee may help the party in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh as well. Re-naming of roads and institutions after another departed brahmin leader of the party, Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay (Mughal Sarai railway station was recently renamed after him) and launching Ayushman Bharat, or “Modicare”, on his birthday in September are part of the same strategy.
More important, the party perhaps also hopes to cash in on Vajpayee’s brand equity. Even though Prime Minister Modi seems confident and is not given to self-doubt, the party seems to feel the need for other icons as well.
Politically, the BJP doesn’t have too many recognisable public icons. Unlike other political parties, it can’t drink deep from the well of the Indian freedom struggle. Despite its muscular nationalism today, its ancestral outfits were simply absent from the freedom struggle. The BJP harks back to V.D. Savarkar, but his clemency petition from jail in the Andamans casts a shadow on his credentials. Appropriating Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel does not take it far because he lived and died a Congressman. At best Patel can be used to criticise some of Nehru’s decisions.
In Vajpayee, a democratically-elected and well-liked Prime Minister, the BJP has finally found someone it can be unstintingly proud of. Upadhyay may have been an intellectual giant for the BJP but he does not connect with most Indians. That is not the case with Vajpayee. He can be the Hindutva ideology’s counter to “Chacha Nehru” as an avuncular, poetry-spouting, “cuddly” figure.
Memorialising Vajpayee will help to round the rough edges of the image of the BJP and perhaps make it more acceptable to large sections of the populace. Carrying the urns of his ashes will certainly launch the BJP on a new political journey. Whether another phoenix will rise from his ashes remains to be seen.
The writer is a senior journalist based in New Delhi.
8. INDIA: NOT JUST HADIYA - HURDLES TO RIGHTS OF INDIVIDUALS
by Alok Prasanna Kumar
The Economic and Political Weekly
Vol. 53, Issue No. 33, 18 Aug, 2018 » Not Just Hadiya
(alok.prasanna[at]vidhilegalpolicy.in) is Senior Resident Fellow at Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, and he is based in Bengaluru.
Although the legal system formally defends the rights of individuals as to who they want to live with or marry, it does pose various impediments in the path of those who choose against the will of their parents or the dictates of society. The abuse of process by parents and even third parties goes unpunished by the legal system, only creating new hurdles in the free exercise of the individual’s rights.
In the first week of August came news of yet another brutal killing in the name of “honour.” Mamta, herself a Jat, was gunned down by killers allegedly hired by her family for having had the temerity to cross caste boundaries and elope with a Dalit man, Sunil. At the time of her killing, she had turned 18 a couple of months ago and was headed to the district magistrate to record her statement. Why she was headed to the district magistrate also has a lot to do with her choices. She was going there to state before the magistrate that she intended to live with Sunil and the charges of rape and kidnapping foisted upon him by her family were false (Vishwanath 2018).
Mamta and Sunil’s case is not entirely unprecedented or one of a kind. According to statistics maintained by the National Crime Records Bureau, 251 such killings were noted in 2015 and 71 in 2016 (NCRB 2016). The top three states for such killings in absolute terms were Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, and caste seems to be the main factor in such killings (Rahoof 2017). As awful as these numbers are, they do not present the full picture of how parents and community members try to stop young couples crossing caste and religious boundaries. Mamta and Sunil’s case itself shows how the legal system is used to try and break up such relationships.
Ostensibly, the law allows all adults capable of making decisions to choose whom they want to marry, whether within the framework of their customary religious laws or under the Special Marriage Act, 1954. That does not mean, however, that the police and the judicial system necessarily prove to be neutral arbiters of the law. In Mamta and Sunil’s case as well, her father had approached the police and managed to convince them to file charges of fraud, rape, and conspiracy, even though his own complaint states that she stepped out of the house willingly (Vishwanath 2018).
While such a killing may be one extreme reaction on the part of parents and family to prevent young people from making their own choices in the matter of love and relationships, there are other insidious ways in which the legal system enables the creation of hurdles. Even where the police or the judiciary are not actively questioning or denying the capacity of women to choose for themselves, on other occasions, through apathy or simple delay, they enable such harassment through the law.
Hadiya’s Case and Others
The Kerala High Court’s handling of the Hadiya case was nothing short of disgraceful. That it even entertained the petition by her father—knowing full well that she was an adult and capable of making her own decisions—was suspect. Her right to choose her religion, and whom she wanted to marry was under constant scrutiny and, eventually, her agency as a woman was completely denied by a high court driven less by law and the Constitution, and more by pure prejudice (Kumar 2017). Hadiya did not even have an opportunity to challenge the high court’s findings given that she was under house arrest and had no means to reach the outside world on her own. Eventually, Hadiya was free to choose where she went (Shafin Jahan v Ashokan K M 2018), but not before she suffered an effective imprisonment for no fault of hers (Kumar 2018).
But, Hadiya’s is not a one-off case. The phenomenon of parents approaching the high courts directly through habeas corpus petitions demanding that custody of their major children be handed over to them, against the latter’s will, has happened even after her case. Although the Kerala High Court has refused to interfere in specific instances (New Indian Express 2018), in one particular instance, its involvement is worth noting.
Arundhathi, a transgender person born Aby James, left home and chose to live as a woman. This prompted her mother to file a habeas corpus petition in the Kerala High Court demanding that she be given custody of Arundhathi. The only problem, of course, was that Arundhathi was 25 years old and free to live wherever she chose. However, the Kerala High Court ordered Arundhathi to undergo a humiliating psychological test before it could be satisfied that her wishes could be respected (Ameerudheen 2018). Not only is compelling someone to undergo such a test an affront to basic human dignity, it violates the Supreme Court’s judgment inNALSA v Union of India (2014), which recognises the rights of transgender persons to choose their own gender. Satisfied that Arundhathi had acted of her own will, the Kerala High Court dismissed her mother’s petition, but not before making condescending remarks and consistently misgendering Arundhathi.
In both cases, two features stand out. First, the allegations made by the parents turn out to have little or no basis in fact. Both Hadiya and Arundhathi came forth and disputed any allegation that they were “forced” or “brainwashed” in any way by anyone. Yet, in Hadiya’s case, the Supreme Court thought it fit to send the National Investigation Agency on a wild goose chase to “investigate” the claims. A second feature that stands out is that the parents who moved the courts suffered no consequences whatsoever. That another person was put through harassment for no reason, and the court’s time wasted does not seem to have moved the court to take any sort of action against the parents of either Hadiya or Arundhathi.
This has repercussions beyond the two cases in question. Beyond just the precedential value of a judgment or an order, parties take calls on whether to litigate or approach the court based on what they reasonably expect the court to do in their case. When the court shows patience and forbearance towards frivolous and false claims, it is telling litigants that public time and resources can be put to use to harass, intimidate or simply annoy those they want to. To that extent, the legal system, through its unwillingness to impose any costs or consequences on parents who want to control the choices of their adult children, is sending the signal that it will be an accomplice to this, where the process is punishment itself.
Looking Past the Data
These high-profile cases where parents approach the high court directly are not the archetypal case of parents using litigation to control their adult children’s choices. Another tactic used is filing false complaints of rape and kidnapping when couples elope to escape sanction from their parents and families.
A study of all cases decided by the Delhi trial courts in 2015 by the Hindu showed that as many as 40% of all cases were related to elopement, and the prosecution was launched as an afterthought by the parents of the girl (Shrinivasan 2014). A similar study of cases from the trial courts in Mumbai found that nearly a third of such cases were elopement cases (Shrinivasan 2015). It is not as if the police are not aware or entirely misled by the parents about the nature of the events. The study of sexual assault cases in Mumbai also quotes a police sub-inspector who freely admits that the first information reports in such elopement cases follow a certain script:
If the parents approach us saying their daughter has run away with a boy from the neighbourhood, we have to register a complaint of kidnap of minor and later when she says she had relations with the boy, we add the rape charge. Then it is for the court to decide whether it was rape or not. (Shrinivasan 2015)
The apathy of the police, in not caring, particularly if they are standing in the way of free choice or preventing a crime, is perhaps not unique to the Delhi and Mumbai police in this matter. The NCRB’s data for crime in India in 2016 notes 88,008 instances of “kidnapping and abduction,” grouping a range of offences together under this category under the Indian Penal Code. Curiously, while being one of the largest categories of violent crimes investigated, it is also the category of crime with the lowest rate of chargesheeting. The police filed chargesheets in less than half the cases of kidnapping and abduction. In metropolitan cities, the number comes down to less than a quarter (NCRB 2016)! This suggests one of two things: either the police are particularly lax about investigating and chargesheeting kidnapping cases (disproportionately so when compared to other violent crimes), or that a large number of these complaints are parents unhappy with their daughter’s choice of life partner.
Beti bachao, beti padhao is a popular slogan these days. India’s female literacy is rising, but Indian society seems unwilling to accept that an educated woman will also make her own choices that they may not agree with. While the formal codified law and the Constitution firmly stand behind the individual in her battle against society, the instrumentalities of state do not seem too sure on whose side they should be.
Ameerudheen, T A (2018): “‘I Felt Humiliated’: Kerala Trans Woman Hopes Court Will Stop Ordering Medical Tests to Check Gender,” Scroll.in, 10 June, https://scroll.in/article/
Kumar, Alok Prasanna (2017): “Court versus Choice,” Indian Express, 2 December,
— (2018): “Supreme Court Has Still Not Acknowledged Its Own Role in Subjecting Hadiya to a ‘Judicial Affront’,” Scroll.in, 13 April,
NALSA v Union of India (2014): SCC, SC, 5, p 438.
NCRB (2016): “Crime in India: 2016 Statistics,” National Crime Records Bureau, http://ncrb.gov.in/StatPublications/CII/CII2016/pdfs/NEWPDFs/Crime%20in%20India%20-%202016%20Complete%20PDF%20291117.pdf.
New Indian Express (2018): “Kerala High Court Thumbs-up to Teens’ Live-in Relationship,”
2 June, http://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2018/jun/02/kerala-high-court-thumbs-up-to-teens-live-in-relationship-1822623.html.
Rahoof, K K Abdul (2017): “Caste Main Factor in Honour Killings,” Deccan Chronicle, 29 May, https://www.deccanchronicle.com/nation/crime/290517/caste-main-factor-in-honour-killings.html.
Shafin Jahan v Ashokan KM (2018): SCC Online, SC, 343.
Shrinivasan, Rukmini (2014): “The Many Shades of Rape Cases in Delhi,” Hindu, 29 July,
— (2015): “Why the FIR Doesn’t Tell You the Whole Story,” Hindu, 22 December, https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/rukmini-s-writes-about-the-mumbai-sessions-court-rulings-on-sexual-assault-during-2015-why-the-fir-doesnt-tell-you-the-whole-story/article8014815.ece.
Vishwanath, Apurva (2018): “Jat Woman Who Married Dalit Shot Dead Outside Rohtak Court, 4 of Family Held,” Print, 12 August, https://theprint.in/politics/rohtak-honour-killing-dalit-man-not-allowed-at-jat-wifes-funeral-over-fears-of-backlash/97240/.
(All URLs were accessed on 14 August 2018.)
9. INDIA: POLITICS & LYNCHING
by A.G. Noorani
August 20, 2018
AT long last, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed, in measured words, his disapproval of lynchings, which have spread since he took office. He never deigned to condemn them or their perpetrators, who are his supporters. Consider, in contrast, Ivanka Trump's condemnation of "white supremacy, racism and neo-Nazism", unlike her father, who drew scorn after the bloodshed in Charlottesville last year for refusing to condemn the white supremacist rally, described by Ivanka Trump as an "ugly display of hatred, racism, bigotry and violence".
Violence does not erupt by itself. It erupts only after the atmosphere has been fouled by hate speech.
Severe condemnation from the top leadership is indispensable for checking the crime. It awakens society to its values, deters the culprits and emboldens the police. The very opposite happens when the top leader is perceived to be condoning or abetting the crime by a record of studious silence.
It is no mere accident that incidents of cow vigilantism against Muslims registered a steep rise since 2014, reaching a peak in 2017. Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Ahir merely told the Rajya Sabha in July 2018 that "the National Crime Records Bureau does not mention specific data with respect to lynching incidents". Last March, the home ministry furnished data on mob lynchings recorded only by the states, of which 14 had provided none. The motives varied from cow vigilantism, rumours of child-lifting to religious or caste hatred. Significantly, there were no details of the location of attacks or identities of attackers and victims.
This writer met an able scholar, Karthik Madhavapeddi of the data journalism initiative IndiaSpend, at a seminar in July, in which a collection of well-researched papers on Muslims in India by the Institute of Objective Studies was launched.
Figures compiled by IndiaSpend tell their own tale. About 98 per cent of these attacks occurred post-May 2014, after the BJP and Modi assumed power. At least 33 persons were killed in these attacks - 29 (ie 88pc) of them Muslim. Over 56pc of all attacks occurred in states run by BJP governments. "The violence started with cow-related vigilantism but is now building up more violent behaviour - from small to big reasons - anything could be the trigger," Upneet Lalli, deputy director, Institute of Correctional Administration, told IndiaSpend.
The truth that lies beneath these figures is far more disturbing. Hate speech leads to hate crime. The proposition is recognised by English, American and European courts. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe holds that hate crimes are violent manifestations of intolerance against entire communities. They have a deep impact on not only the immediate victim but also the community with which the victim identifies, affecting social cohesion and stability.
But hatred for Muslims and Christians is the very raison d'être of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, of which the BJP is a fully controlled subsidiary. The RSS and its affiliates assert that India is a Hindu country. Muslims are invaders. They say that the "even flow of the national life was disturbed" as Muslims arrived in "Bharat ... in the 8th century AD...".
It has also been asserted that as the "invaders ... started destruction of the symbols of national life and employed all and every means to subvert the loyalty of the Hindus to their motherland and her age-old cultural ideals by their conversion ... the leaders of Hindu society began giving serious thought to the new and unprecedented situation". India is "the common motherland (matri bhoomi) and holy land (punya bhoomi) of the Indian people". The holy lands of Muslims and Christians lie elsewhere. They are not part of the nation. "The most urgent problem of Indian nationalism today, therefore, is to Indianise or Hinduise such people."
This was written in 1969 by Balraj Madhok, one of the founders of the Jan Sangh, parent of the BJP. It was a rehash of Savarkar's thesis Hindutva of 1924, which the BJP began advocating openly from 1989 onwards and still swears by today. So does Modi. Hence his reference to a thousand years of slavery in his maiden speech to the Lok Sabha in May 2014.
This skewed version of history is used to foment hate. After the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, two of the most incisive scholars on Indian politics Susanne Hoeber Rudolph and Lloyd I. Rudolph wrote a scintillating paper called Modern Hate. It is wrong to depict recent violence as "an outgrowth of old animosities". History is abused to further the ends of modern hate politics. Their conclusion is sound and telling: "The hatred is modern, and may be closer than we think."
This is what India is up against today. It is not battling to secure Indian nationalism. It is battling to save its soul.
10. INDIA - POLITICS AND PUNISHMENT: MOVEMENT ON CASES INVOLVING SANATAN SANSTHA IS WELCOME, MUST BE TAKEN FORWARD
by Julio Ribeiro
The Indian Express
August 23, 2018
Dabholkar was a rationalist who did not believe in the supernatural and consequentially, miracles. (Express Photo/File)
Those of us who felt that the present dispensation would not look kindly on the CBI or police officers investigating the murders of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M M Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh have been proved wrong. Whether it is public pressure or the fact that the Sanatan Sanstha is an organisation that works independently of the other known Hindutva outfits, the fact remains that the investigations have successfully nailed many operatives of the Sanatan Sanstha (the Sanstha has denied any involvement), first in the Gauri Lankesh murder and now in Dabholkar’s case.
It should not take the investigators much time to unravel the entire conspiracy to eliminate intellectuals who oppose the Sanstha’s view of the divine. Dabholkar was a rationalist who did not believe in the supernatural and consequentially, miracles. Pansare, a CPI leader, followed the same line of thinking and so did Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh in the neighbouring state of Karnataka. Dabholkar was murdered five years ago on August 20, 2013 in Pune, Pansare was shot dead in similar circumstances on February 16, 2015 in Kolhapur.
Kalburgi was murdered on August 30, 2015 in Dharwad and Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017. The skein of evidence pointed to one group of assassins plotting all four murders and that is now very apparent. Probably, there were many more free thinkers on the hit list of the group! If the Bengaluru police had not identified the real culprits in Gauri Lankesh’s murder, it would have taken even more time for the subsequent arrest of Vaibhav Raut and his two companions by the Maharashtra ATS.
Once real culprits are caught, the truth spills out in torrents. It is true that the CBI investigating the Dabholkar murder had previously suspected two other Sanatan Sanstha operatives, based on the description of the suspects by bystanders. They may have been tangentially involved but the real culprits are now known.
It is quite obvious that the Sanatan Sanstha has more adherents than we imagined. They are spread across the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka in particular. Their tentacles may have spread to other states also. In fact, their main headquarters, I am told, has been set up in Goa. A trial run was attempted by causing small explosions in different churches in Goa and trying to divert the blame to jihadi terror. The attempt failed and the Sanstha and its activities were brought on the police radar. It is interesting to note that most of the people recently arrested were carrying on their individual occupation and businesses and appeared to be law abiding citizens of the localities in which they lived. They were accepted in society as such. Their Jekyll and Hyde game has now come to light and as I said earlier, it is creditable that authorities in power have not interfered as yet with the investigations.
What we have to guard against is the weakening of cases at the investigation stage due to pressures brought on the agencies concerned and later, on the prosecutors appointed by the state. I was very disappointed that the fair name of that IPS hero, Hemant Karkare, killed in the 26/11 attack by Pakistani jihadists in Mumbai, was sought to be tarred by politicians who were partial to the culprits. Their machinations came to light when a middle-ranking NIA officer approached that redoubtable public prosecutor, Rohini Salian, to go easy on the case.
The Maharashtra government, I am told, has moved to ban the Sanatan Sanstha. I do not think that the banning of such extremist organisations, whether Muslim or Hindu, serves any purpose. What is required is the political will to ensure that the guilty, whoever they are, are ferreted out, prosecuted in a court of law and punished. The process should be expedited so that anyone inclined to kill ideological opponents would know that the government of the day will not tolerate such violations of the law even if the victims were opposed to its own ideology. The rule of law has to be maintained if our country is to be respected in the comity of nations.
The writer, a retired IPS officer, was Mumbai police commissioner, DGP Gujarat and DGP Punjab
11. HOW POLITICS AND ARCHITECTURE BLENDED IN DHAKA
by Adnan Morshed
The Daily Star
August 20, 2018
The American architect Louis Isadore Kahn's Parliament building in Dhaka is considered one of the architectural icons of the twentieth century. Intriguingly, Kahn was not the first choice for the project. After two masters, Le Corbusier and Alvar Aalto, had turned down the invitation from the government of Pakistan, the megaproject went to the architect from Philadelphia. After multiple design iterations and many bureaucratic entanglements, the construction of the Parliament building began in October 1964, at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar.
Louis Kahn was born in Russian-controlled Estonia in 1901 of Jewish parents. His family immigrated to America in 1906. Kahn grew up in an itinerant household in the largely Jewish population of northeastern Philadelphia. He received his architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1924. As fate would have it, he waited nearly three decades to earn fame as an architect. In the 1950s, his design for Yale University Art Gallery and Design Center and Alfred Newton Richards Medical Research Building and Biology Building (now David Goddard Laboratories, located at his alma mater) drew worldwide attention.
Kahn was an admired professor of architecture, who created a tenacious following at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale. At Yale, his paths crossed with the Bangladeshi architect Muzharul Islam, when the latter was studying there in 1960-61. Muzharul Islam was inspired by the charismatic teacher and played an instrumental role in bringing him to Bangladesh.
Kahn first visited Dhaka in early March of 1963, after he had received the commission to plan the Parliament complex of East Pakistan. Five years earlier, the commander-in-chief of the Pakistani army, Mohammad Ayub Khan, took control of the government through a military coup and imposed martial law in October 1958. In 1960, the military man was “elected” to a five-year presidency. Pakistan's new constitution of 1962 called for a “democratic” election to be held in 1965.
The decade of the 1960s was a politically tumultuous period in East Pakistan. Bengalis felt exploited and ignored by West Pakistan's military regime and, consequently, dreamed of independence from the doomed political geography of a nation with two units separated by over 1,000 miles. Aware of the political and economic disparity between the two halves of Pakistan and concerned about his own re-election bid, Ayub Khan's administration came up with a political strategy to mitigate the grievance of the Bengalis.
The idea of a “second capital” for East Pakistan was born in this context. This showcase capital would, it was hoped, “bind East Pakistan more firmly to the nation by conducting the nation's business for half of each year.” Meanwhile, Ayub Khan was more concerned about moving the Federal or “first capital” from Karachi to Rawalpindi and then to Islamabad. The Greek architect-planner Doxiadis (designer of TSC) was put in charge of planning Islamabad in 1960.
So to create an illusion of political and economic balance between the two regions, Pakistan's military ruler sanctioned a Parliament complex in East Pakistan. He hoped this would provide the Bengalis with a sense of empowerment and, in turn, they would vote for him in the forthcoming election, ensuring his continued existence as the leader of a unified Pakistan. The fact that Ayub Khan doesn't even mention the Parliament building in Dhaka in his self-congratulatory autobiography, Friends Not Masters (1967), suggests that this building may have been his political stunt prior to his “re-election.”
The political drama that ensued from then on explains how the Parliament building, first conceived as a “bribe” for the Bengalis, gradually took on a whole new identity as a symbol of the people's struggle for self-rule. With rudimentary construction tools and bamboo scaffolding tied with crude jute ropes, approximately 2,000 lungi-saree-clad construction workers erected a monumental government building. Slowly but steadily, they unwittingly portrayed the broader resilience of a nation revolting against economic and social injustice. If the Shahid Minar symbolised the language movement during the 1950s, the Parliament building portrayed the rise of the independence-minded Bengalis during the 1960s.
Kahn searched for inspirations from the Bengal delta, its rivers, green pastoral, expansive landscape, raised homesteads, and land-water geography. Soon after he had first arrived in Dhaka, he went on a boat ride on the Buriganga River and sketched scenes to understand life in this tropical land. He didn't have any problems in blending Bengali vernacular impressions with those of classical Greco-Roman and Egyptian architecture he had studied during the 1950s.
As the war broke out in 1971, Kahn's field office in East Pakistan quickly closed and construction work discontinued. During the liberation war, an ironic story persisted that Pakistani pilots didn't bomb the building assuming that it was a ruin! That “ruin” eventually became an emblem of the country, adorning national currency, stamps, rickshaw decorations, advertisements, official brochures, and so on. When it was more or less completed in 1983—more than a decade after East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) emerged as a new nation-state and 9 years after Kahn's unexpected death in New York City—the Parliament complex emblematised the political odyssey of a people to statehood.
The focus of the 1,000-acre site—aligned on a north-south city axis—is the seven-storey diamond-shaped Parliament building, wrapped in concrete walls (135 feet high). There are two adjoining plazas. Facing the city, the South Plaza was designed as a public entrance to the Parliament building, while the northern, marble-clad Presidential Plaza as a ceremonial entrance.
Eight free-standing building masses surround the Parliament building's ambulatory which then encloses the 16-sided, 500-seat assembly chamber, the central rotunda of the octagonal building. The parliamentary heart of the country's political system, the assembly chamber hosts the 300 Members of Parliament (MPs) of the unicameral legislative body. The interior of the Parliament building—particularly the 85-foot high ambulatory, somewhat labyrinthine—is a tour de force of architectural imagination, a powerful synthesis of layered space and filtered light, and the feeling of mystical spiritualism that results from their union.
The exterior of the building features bold triangular, rectangular, circular, and semi-circular cutouts, which were framed within horizontal marble bands every 5 feet on the facade. According to some sources, it is a module established by the maximum manual pouring of concrete feasible each day. By putting horizontal marble strips, Kahn could mitigate any potential difference in the hue and texture of concrete pourings on different days. At the southern entrance of the Parliament, the prayer hall—shaped by four towering cylindrical forms—is skewed slightly off axis to conform to the correct orientation toward Mecca. The building rises majestically from a geometrically shaped water body. This moat has popularly been interpreted as a reference to the deltaic landscape and riverine geography of Bangladesh.
Much has been written about the influences of Western classical antiquity and Mughal planning on Kahn's design, as well as how his concerns for the tropical climate conditioned its multi-layered forms. Historians generally agree that Kahn's Parliament complex is a sensible blending of modernist aesthetics with Greco-Roman gravitas and a spiritualised view of pastoral Bengal, where land, water, and the hut coexist with sublime simplicity.
Today, not only does the building embody the hopes and aspirations of the nation, it also provides a much-needed urban oasis to a congested metropolis of more than 16 million people. Even though the South Plaza of the Parliament complex has been made off limits to the public, due to security concerns, the wide sidewalks of Manik Mia Avenue along the southern periphery offer a vibrant urban promenade where city-dwellers typically gather and socialise against the panoramic backdrop of Kahn's building.
Adnan Morshed is an architect, architectural historian, urbanist, and columnist. He lives in both Dhaka and Washington, DC.
12. INSIDE THE U.S. FIGHT TO SAVE GHAZNI FROM THE TALIBAN
by W.J. Hennigan | Photographs by Emanuele Satolli for TIME
August 23, 2018
An ominous orange glow lit up the sky for miles around. It was after midnight on Aug. 11, and the city of Ghazni, less than 100 miles from Kabul, was on fire. Approaching the outskirts of town in a convoy of heavily armored 22-ton vehicles, the team of Green Berets from Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) Team 1333 took it as the first sign that it wasn’t going to be an easy night.
The group was one of three U.S. Army Special Forces–led units converging on Ghazni to save it from the Taliban, which had laid siege to the city over the previous 24 hours in a surprise attack. And the closer the Green Berets got, the worse it looked. Approaching the city, ODA 1333 had to muscle their massive vehicles around bomb craters and abandoned big-rig trucks that the Islamist insurgents had set up as roadblocks.
The dismal obstacle course wasn’t just proof that the insurgents had the upper hand over the 1,500 Afghan police and soldiers based in the city, even though those forces were flush with sophisticated American-supplied weaponry. The team soon discovered the wreckage-strewn approach to the city had become a shooting gallery for hidden Taliban.
Rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun fire came screaming in from a tree line to the east—small bursts at first, then all at once. Streaks of heavy fire glowed green in the commandos’ night-vision goggles as two- and three-man Taliban teams shot rockets at the Special Forces before vanishing into nearby scrubland. The U.S. forces returned fire with rapid bursts from the .50-caliber machine guns perched atop the vehicles. At one point, one of the men shouted, “Where the f-ck are [the airstrikes]?” Almost on cue, a lumbering AC-130 gun ship circling above began showering 105-mm cannon fire on Taliban positions below. Apache attack helicopters, A-10 attack planes, F-16 fighter jets and MQ-9 Reaper drones also delivered airstrikes. The road into the city “was just a sh-t show,” one U.S. soldier tells TIME.
Back in Washington, the war in Afghanistan often seems like an afterthought. According to the Pentagon, combat missions officially ended in 2014, U.S. forces serve only as “advisers,” and peace may be at hand. An unprecedented three-day June cease-fire was followed by secret U.S.-Taliban talks in Qatar in July. “We’re seeing the strategy is fundamentally working and advancing us toward reconciliation, even though it may not be playing out the way that we anticipated,” General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said on Aug. 22.
But in August, America’s 17-year enemy in Afghanistan, the Taliban, launched a coordinated set of assaults around the country ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. With echoes of the Tet offensive carried out by the Viet Cong during the Vietnamese New Year in 1968, the Taliban attack targeted vulnerable outposts peppered across seven provinces and claimed the lives of scores of Afghan forces.
The assault on Ghazni, which engulfed nearly all of the city’s 19 districts, was the most orchestrated operation of this nationwide onslaught. And the Taliban’s surprising effectiveness—capturing districts, nearly toppling a provincial capital and briefly cutting off the main north-south highway just 60 miles from the capital—raises troubling questions about the state of the war. The battle was a major test of the Trump Administration’s long-term military strategy, which hinges on defending population centers while ceding much of the remote countryside to the Taliban. It proved that U.S. forces still routinely rush to save Afghan forces struggling to contain a resurgent Taliban. That hard truth suggests the plan to train, advise and assist Afghans so they may one day defend themselves masks the costs the U.S. is still paying nearly two decades into the war, and a year after President Trump announced a new strategy to defeat the enemy. As Ghazni shows, the “assist” part is often difficult to distinguish from a traditional American combat mission.
Nine Americans were evacuated from the battlefield by helicopter because of injuries incurred by the Taliban’s multiday barrage of roadside bombs, mortar shells and rockets. At least two soldiers received Purple Hearts after suffering serious wounds. Seven out of 10 armored vehicles in ODA 1333’s convoy were lost to battle damage. The Special Forces team considered themselves lucky: a shoulder-fired rocket had a near miss with a medevac helicopter retrieving an injured soldier.
The carnage in this city of 150,000 shows how devastating the war remains for Afghans. An average of seven Afghan adults and two children were killed every day in the first six months of this year, according to the latest United Nations data, with another 19 civilians injured each day. The figures show 2018 is on track to be the deadliest year of the war. A generation of American military officers who arrived here after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as fresh-faced lieutenants or majors have lived through the ferocious fighting. Some are now multiple-tour colonels or generals, with children who have inherited the burden of waging America’s longest war. Most of the soldiers—American and Afghan—who battled to take back Ghazni were in grade school on Sept. 11 and unable to foresee the countless ways the attacks would shape their lives.
This account of the multiday siege of Ghazni, described to TIME in on-the-ground interviews with dozens of U.S. and Afghan soldiers, commanders and citizens, offers a rare glimpse into the ongoing American military effort in Afghanistan. The extent of the destruction has not been previously reported. The Pentagon doesn’t make the information publicly available, and TIME witnessed it only after gaining approval for an embedded deployment in Afghanistan after months of trying, long before the August offensive began.
The battle for Ghazni didn’t come out of nowhere. The Taliban sensed an opportunity in the widening chaos created by years of war. For several months, five U.S. Special Forces teams, working with some 150 Afghan commandos, had left the area to fight a different threat: a growing Islamic State affiliate known as ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K. An offshoot of the Syria-based terrorist group, it formed in Afghanistan in 2015 and has terrorized towns in eastern Nangarhar province through public executions, assaults on government buildings and suicide attacks.
The effort to repel ISIS-K was one of the largest joint operations ever conducted between U.S. and Afghan special forces. By August 2018, ISIS-K had lost nearly 200 fighters and most its territory. The joint mission did not go unnoticed. Over the summer, the U.S. military received intelligence that the Taliban was aware the Americans and Afghan commandos based around Ghazni were gone, Special Forces sources tell TIME.
The Taliban couldn’t believe their good fortune. Moving weapons and fighters into Ghazni isn’t a difficult task. There are many ways to smuggle materiel into the city, through ancient trading lines or unassuming vehicles that blend in with traffic. Some local officials believe security personnel guarding Ghazni’s perimeter granted the Taliban free entry.
Despite the intelligence tip, the Taliban’s initial attacks on Aug. 10 caught Washington and Kabul flat-footed. An estimated 1,000 Taliban fighters stormed the city and surrounding districts. The insurgents attacked government buildings, assaulted the central prison, destroyed a telecommunications tower and set fire to a local television station. Afghan local police and military officials temporarily lost control of several areas of the city.
U.S. Special Operations Command headquarters scrambled to respond, deploying three 12-man Green Beret teams from 1st Special Forces Group along with their Afghan partnered force from the 2nd Commando Kandak, and conventional U.S. infantry soldiers from 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
For the men of ODA 1333 and their detachment of around 100 U.S. soldiers and Afghan commandos, the orders sounded straightforward: help secure two Afghan helicopters downed by the Taliban near Ghazni. They knew they would have to take the long way around, because the Taliban had buried so many land mines along the direct road leading into Ghazni that it was impassable. What was usually a 60-mile trip westward from Paktia province would instead cover 160 miles of terrain. The troops loaded up their weapons and clambered aboard hulking RG-33 and M-ATV armored vehicles, which rumbled into the night toward Highway 1, an ancient 300-mile two-lane road that serves as the main artery linking the seat of government in Kabul to Kandahar.
The Taliban knew the Americans were coming and where they were coming from—there was only one way in. So the militants lay in wait, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and AK-47s.
The soldiers of ODA 1333 would never reach the downed helicopters. Instead, they spent the next five days fighting hundreds of Taliban fighters in an endless series of running battles that debilitated vehicles and maimed members of their unit. “I’ve never seen that many [rocket-propelled grenades] in my career,” says the team’s sergeant, who, like others, spoke to TIME on the condition of anonymity.
In the face of recurring attacks, ODA 1333 and their attached units weren’t able to breach the city until some 17 hours later. The soldiers moved to a small makeshift outpost on Ghazni’s outskirts, where U.S. Special Forces teams had been based before the 2014 troop drawdown. Even there, they could find no refuge. Within 25 minutes of arriving, a mortar round arched over the perimeter and crashed through the back wall of a plywood structure where two Afghan soldiers were bedding down. The percussive thump of mortar fire shook the ground under the men, followed by the crack of gunfire over their heads, ODA 1333’s intelligence chief recalls. As the Americans and Afghans scrambled for protective cover, Apache helicopters wheeled low outside the base, hunting for the fighters responsible, blanketing the perimeter with gunfire and briefly quieting the attacks.
By that time, the sun was out and the fighting had died down enough to set up camp. When the Afghan troops were finally able to shed their combat gear, it was clear many of them had been toddlers when the war began in 2001. Some infantry soldiers still had baby faces, unlike the bearded, tattooed Special Forces team members. All were motivated to get back into the fight. The Taliban had not seized control of a provincial capital in Afghanistan since 2015. It wasn’t going to happen again on their watch.
On Aug. 12, ODA 1333 prepared to mount a counterattack. U.S. Special Forces Team ODA 1212, which arrived overnight, would also push inside the city. The teams would be further aided by 60 additional Afghan commandos and aerial footage from MQ-9 Reaper drones. The goal was to secure the government facilities, police headquarters, prison and district center under attack. The operational plan was coordinated with Afghan forces, which had incurred more than 100 casualties from two straight days of fighting. As they left the outpost and headed into the city, team members could see decomposing corpses in front of burned-out buildings.
For those who lived in Ghazni, the scene was apocalyptic. Gunfire rattled through the air, rockets hissed and airstrikes crashed in the distance. Sami Ahmadi, a 24-year-old English student at Ghazni University, gathered his family and huddled inside his basement for shelter. “We were terrified,” he recalls. “Police were killed, their bodies lying in the road.”
As forces pushed farther into the city, waves of citizens emerged, carrying what they could in their arms to flee the fighting. They were migrating north on foot to seek safety in nearby towns, or even onto Kabul. Behind them, small teams of Taliban were laced through Ghazni’s narrow, serpentine streets.
The insurgents had stormed the prison on the southeastern edge of the city to free captured fighters, but that attempt was ultimately thwarted. Their effort to breach the provincial government building was quashed as well. But the Taliban put up a tough fight in the streets. At one point, as ODA 1333’s convoy inched forward, three Taliban emerged from an alleyway and fired a rocket that slammed into one vehicle’s machine-gunner turret, injuring the Air Force pararescue jumper manning the position. Bits of metal and debris flew into the vehicle. The air was thick and acrid. “There was so much smoke and dust,” says Tamim Ahmed, the team’s Afghan interpreter. “I couldn’t see straight for a couple minutes.”
The vehicle’s other gunner turned his weapon on the Taliban fighters, who were dumbfounded they didn’t kill everyone inside the truck. With a burst of fire, the gunner took out all three insurgents. But the pararescue jumper was severely wounded. A young soldier in another vehicle was also hit with shrapnel that would ultimately claim an eye. Neither man has been publicly named, but both later received Purple Heart awards, according to U.S. military officers in Afghanistan. (Despite their perilous mission, the U.S. military officially labels these soldiers as “advisers.”) When a rescue helicopter arrived to evacuate the wounded, a rocket came within 150 feet of hitting it.
It was clear from the nonstop attacks that U.S. forces would have to stay inside Ghazni Provincial Center, a local government headquarters building, to ensure it wouldn’t be overtaken. ODA 1212 split off from 1333 and established a headquarters there with Afghan forces. The soldiers stayed away from open windows and tried to remain hidden on the roof from snipers positioned just outside the facility’s fortified gates, waiting for a clean shot.
Over the following two days, the Taliban switched its focus to Ghazni’s less-defended surrounding areas. Afghan commando and Ktah Khas counterterrorism teams went house to house, clearing neighborhoods of Taliban fighters. It was the audacity of the Taliban’s tactics in Ghazni that stuck out to U.S. soldiers. ODA 1333 and other teams had been attacked in Ghazni before, but typically in hit-and-runs—Taliban fighters would hang a mortar round or take a pot shot at their enemies, then melt in with the local population. During this siege of Ghazni, the insurgents walked the streets in broad daylight, firing on American armored vehicles, knowing U.S. warplanes were hunting them overhead. “From a military standpoint, it’s not very smart,” the Special Forces team sergeant says. “Because they attack and they usually die. But if they get off what they need to get off, I guess they feel like they win.”
The Taliban seemed to have a limitless supply of rockets, sometimes firing 20 or 30 at a time. One after another, U.S. vehicles were knocked out of the fight. When that happened, another unit would arrive to hook up a tow rope and drag the vehicle out of the kill zone, all while exposing themselves to enemy fire. The Taliban had all that firepower inside the city, and Afghan and U.S. forces had to deal with it.
But in addition to armor, advanced weaponry and superior training, the U.S. had another major advantage: air dominance. The military said it dropped 73 bombs and missiles in the Ghazni operation. By Aug. 15, a third Special Forces team and additional units had arrived in Ghazni. Thanks to the airstrikes, the Taliban began falling back. The U.S. military said 226 Taliban were killed during the operations.
Typically, both sides declared victory. Even as the fighting drove them from the city, the Taliban bragged that it had sent a clear message to President Donald Trump that “the conquest of this city signifies the failure of yet the latest American strategy,” according to a released statement. “The experience of Ghazni has proven that no defensive belts of cities can withstand the offensive prowess of the Mujahideen.” In truth, the strategic value of the Ghazni attack seems to have been the tweets, headlines and video footage that rippled across social-media feeds, showing armed Taliban brazenly roaming free inside the city center. The message was clear: the Taliban remains a fierce enemy who can strike whenever they choose, regardless of peace talks and hopes of reconciliation.
From the U.S. and Afghan militaries’ view, the battle was a success. Afghan soldiers, though heavily reliant on American Special Forces and airpower to turn the tide, stood, fought and routed the enemy within five days. The Afghan commandos garnered respect for their performance. “They stepped up, no doubt,” says Noah Olson, a 20-year-old Army Specialist. “They want to get this over with as much as we do.” U.S. military brass declared the onslaught a misfire from a fading enemy. “Tactically, operationally and strategically, the Taliban achieved nothing with this failed attack except another eye-catching, but inconsequential headline,” said U.S. Army Lieut. Colonel Martin O’Donnell, spokesman for the U.S.-led international military coalition in Kabul.
Like most narratives emanating from Afghanistan, the truth lies somewhere in between. Looking at the damage inside Ghazni, it was hard for anyone to declare a true victory. Carcasses of burnt-out buildings smoldered in the sun. Stores that bristled with goods for the upcoming holiday became husks of blackened, twisted metal. “At a time like this, your neighbors are like brothers,” says Said Mohammed, 63, whose restaurant managed to emerge unscathed. “We grieve for them.”
The bloodshed was also apparent. At Ghazni Provincial Hospital, rooms were filled with patients of all ages who had suffered wounds in the onslaught. Dr. Abdul Basir Ramaki, the hospital’s medical director, said that the dead tallied 150, with 265 more injured, as of Aug. 16. “Many were women and children,” he says. “All Afghan people are tired of this violence.” (A U.N. report quoted “unverifiable numbers” that put the civilian death toll at more than 150.)
Guma Khan, an elderly man with a long white beard, lay on his back in a hospital bed, recovering from a bullet wound to his left leg. “I was just walking down the street,” he says. “How am I supposed to go on living here?”
Brigadier General Dadan Lawang, the commander of the Afghan National Army’s 203rd Corps, told TIME that 112 Afghan military and police were killed, and 56 were wounded. He said his team was reviewing its security posture to guard against future attacks. “We need to ensure this never happens again,” he says.
But the aftermath of the battle shows why that vow is unlikely to hold. On Aug. 17, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani arrived at the joint military headquarters in Ghazni Provincial Center. He blamed Pakistan for the Taliban attack, saying that many of the fighters were streaming back across Pakistan’s borders. Islamabad has long been blamed for giving the Afghan Taliban safe harbor, and Ghazni lies near tribal regions in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.
Ghani claimed Pakistan’s military chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, had assured him over the phone that cross-border insurgent activity would not be allowed after the July 25 elections in Pakistan. “I need answers now,” Ghani said. “From where did they come from and why are they receiving treatment in your hospitals?” (Pakistan denied any involvement.)
The initial success of the Taliban assault was aided by the apparent lack of coordination between Afghan security forces. The local police were running low on supplies and ammunition and had difficulty communicating, according to Afghan officers. In addition, two American soldiers told TIME that they heard that the Afghan National Army had accidentally fired on their own units, as well as American convoys. When asked about the eyewitness accounts, the U.S. military command in Afghanistan said those reports remained unconfirmed. If true, the lack of readiness suggests Afghan forces may need “assists” from the U.S. Special Forces for some time to come.
When the fighting finally died down, the U.S. soldiers were looking forward to returning to their bases in the region, where they had running water, toilets and food that wasn’t prepared in a box. More than a week’s worth of combat made the prospect of returning to the amenities of a long-established headquarters particularly appealing. Almost all the men had endured close calls and considered themselves fortunate to have made it out alive. “Our luck’s running out,” one soldier said, half-jokingly. “I still have five months here. My number’s going to be called eventually.”
13. URI AVNERY - 1923-2018. HIS OPPONENTS WILL ULTIMATELY HAVE TO FOLLOW IN HIS FOOTSTEPS
We have this evening said the final goodbye. The hall in which Uri Avnery's coffin had been placed was very crowded. There were TV cameras and Knesset Members from various parties, and a high level Palestinian delegation and very many people who had either known Uri personally or read his articles and books and heard about him. There were very moving speeches and eulogies. And then it was over and the body was taken to be cremated - as he specifically asked and arranged for, already some time ago. His ashes will be scattered by his closest friends in the seashore of Tel Aviv, which he loved. We will never again see him on the way to the beach, nor hear his voice or read a new article by him. But we will continue his life work without him, as best we can, as he wanted and expected of us, and because it is our own cause.
To all the very many who wrote us expressing support and condolences in this sad hour, many thanks and our apologies for not being able to give personal answers - the flood is simply far too overwhelming.
Previous message: The coffin of veteran peace activist Uri Avnery will be placed tomorrow (Wednesday) between 5-6 pm in Beit Sokolov (Journalists' Association House) at 4 Kaplan St., Tel Aviv. That is a suitable and worthy location for a man who has made a major contribution to the development of the Israeli press. All who cherish his memory are heartily invited to come and pay their final respects. At Avnery's request, his body will be cremated. There will be no possibility of public presence during the cremation itself.
Contact: Adam Keller +972-54-2340749 Anat Saragusti +972-54-2151991
Gush Shalom grieves and mourns the passing of its founder, Uri Avnery. Until the last moment he continued the way he had traveled all his life. On Saturday, two weeks ago, he collapsed in his home when he was about to leave for the Rabin Square and attend a demonstration against the "Nation State Law", a few hours after he wrote a sharp article against that law.
Avnery devoted himself entirely to the struggle to achieve peace between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people in their independent state, as well as between Israel and the Arab and Muslim World. He did not get to the end of the road, did not live to see peace come about. We – the members of Gush Shalom as well as very many other people who were directly and indirectly influenced by him - will continue his mission and honor his memory.
On the day of the passing of Uri Avnery, the most right wing government in the history of Israel is engaged in negotiations with Hamas. Ironically, the same demagoguery accusations which were hurled at Uri Avnery throughout his life are now made against Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
In the history of the State of Israel, Uri Avnery will be inscribed as a far-seeing visionary who pointed to a way which others failed to see. It is the fate and future of the State of Israel to reach peace with its neighbors and to integrate into the geographical and political region in which it is located. Avnery's greatest opponents will ultimately have to follow in his footsteps - because the State of Israel has no other real choice.
Contact: Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson +972-54-2340749
14. GENDER STUDIES PROGRAMS TO BE BANNED IN HUNGARY
by Christopher Adam
Hungarian Free Press
August 10, 2018
The Orbán regime introduced legislation to shut down accredited gender studies programs offered by universities in Hungary. Academics now have 24 hours to respond to the government’s plan. The ban will primarily impact students at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest (ELTE)–the only institution in Hungary, other than Central European University, to offer gender studies at the graduate level, and the only one to provide this program in Hungarian.
The number of students impacted by the ban is small–only 11 applicants were admitted this year at ELTE and two at CEU. The maximum number of students that ELTE can admit any given year is 18 and those enrolled this coming academic year will be the last to take this program in Hungary. The decision to give those impacted 24 hours, in the middle of the summer vacation, to respond to this plan is a prime example of the spectacular arrogance that this regime has displayed for the past eight years. Gender studies in Hungary hardly pose a risk to the social narratives espoused by Fidesz and the Christian Democrats, but this regime is best known for kicking people and sectors of the society when they are down.
Although the government is not formally citing ideological reasons for its decision to cancel gender studies (the official reason is that this program is not “economically rational”), circles within Fidesz, most notably its Christian Democrat (KDNP) wing, have been calling for this for some time. In 2017, Lőrinc Nacsa, the leader of KDNP’s youth wing, labelled gender studies at ELTE as a wasteful luxury and also as destructive. “We must raise awareness to the fact that these programs are doing nothing to lift up our nation. In fact, they are destroying the values-centered mode of thinking that is still present in the countries of Central Europe,” wrote Mr. Nacsa in his letter to the rector of ELTE.
As well, HVG reminds its readers today that State Secretary Bence Rétvári (KDNP) in the Ministry of Human Capacities questioned whether gender studies even qualifies as a legitimate academic field, adding that this field of research is at odds with everything that the Fidesz government espouses.
I could feign shock at this news or recite the obscene mantra of how Fidesz has now truly crossed a red line–a line that up until now nobody would have thought that they would pass. Yet this would be insincere. It’s too late to be horrified that this can happen in Hungary–it’s about eight years too late. Most sectors and demographics of Hungarian society, from journalists to shop owners to NGOs, have already felt the scourge of the party state in profound ways. Academics are next in line.
Tags: Bence Rétvári, Central European University, Education, Eötvös Loránd University, Gender Studies, Lőrinc Nacsa
Author: Christopher Adam Christopher Adam received a B.A. in history from Concordia University, an M.A. in East/Central European and Russian-Area Studies from Carleton University and a PhD in history from the University of Ottawa. His research focuses on the history of the Hungarian diaspora during the postwar period. Christopher is the founding editor of the Hungarian Free Press, as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of the Kanadai Magyar Hírlap Hungarian-language paper, which won Hungary's 2015 Free Press (Szabad Sajtó) Award. Christopher resides in Ottawa, Canada.
András B. Göllner
Maybe the Orbán government will replace it with How to Keep Saudi Arabian Despots Happy Studies, and invite Paul Manafort, and other members of the Trump establishment to teach the subject ? How to Build Illiberalism might also be a popular course for upwardly mobile Fidesznyiks. That could be directed by Mária Schmidt, favorite money manager of the Orbán autocracy. I’m sure half a dozen trolls from these pages would gladly enroll, especially if given a good stipend from the EU’s Cohesion Funds, a fund, that is entirely under the control of Orbán’s office in Hungary. There is no limit to the many ingenious ways that Hungary can rip off hardworking European taxpayers.
15. NICARAGUA: HOW DANIEL ORTEGA BECAME A TYRANT: FROM REVOLUTIONARY TO STRONGMAN
by Gioconda Belli
August 24, 2018
What never should have happened is happening again in Nicaragua. Since April 18, when the violent suppression of protests against a Social Security Reform triggered a massive civic insurrection, President Daniel Ortega and his wife, Vice-President Rosario Murillo, have abandoned all pretense of tolerance and restraint and unleashed a deadly wave of repression. It is as if Anastasio Somoza—the country’s previous dictator, toppled in 1979—has returned to Managua.
Over the past four months at least 317 people have been killed, more than 2000 wounded, and hundreds more put in jail. Police and paramilitaries arbitrarily detain citizens every day. They are tortured, accused of terrorism, organized crime, illegal possession of weapons, and a litany of other crimes. Hooded, heavily armed irregular forces roam the streets, shooting at will. After 6 PM, most cities in the country look deserted. The Nicaraguan government, much as it did under Somoza, has declared war on its people.
I was born and lived until my late twenties under the grip of the Somoza regime. Along with many men and women of my generation, Ortega and Murillo among them, I became a member of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), joining the movement in 1970. Even as a small child I had been aware of family members beaten at rallies by Somoza’s National Guard, or shot at like my brother Eduardo, whose arm was grazed by a bullet in a 1967 demonstration. To be a Sandinista then was to choose armed struggle against rigged elections, an army that functioned like a pretorian guard, and political parties that were just puppets of the regime.
Beginning as guerrillas operating in the mountains, the Sandinistas evolved and slowly developed urban support. By the late 1970s, daring FSLN attacks on army posts, grassroots organizing, and the growing disgust felt by ordinary people toward the regime were combining into a serious threat to the dictatorship. Then, on January 10, 1978, Pedro J. Chamorro was assassinated. Chamorro was the editor of the major opposition newspaper, La Prensa, and the voice of right in a country where all was wrong. His death sparked a full-blown popular insurrection. On July 17, 1979, Somoza resigned and fled to Miami; two days later, the FSLN entered Managua, marking the end of the dictatorship and the triumph of the Sandinista Revolution.
The Somozas had been backed by the United States. U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt had famously said of Anastasio Somoza García, the founder of the dynasty, “He’s a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch,” and Washington was loath to see one of its allies in the region fall to a left-wing revolution. First as coordinator of the FSLN’s Revolutionary Junta and then, after 1984, as Nicaragua’s president, Ortega clashed with the U.S. administration of Ronald Reagan, who armed and supported the remnants of Somoza’s army, which had reorganized into antigovernment guerilla groups known as the contras. The young revolution lost its course as, from 1981 on, the FSLN had to dedicate its principal efforts to fighting the Contra War.
Ortega, a former guerilla, originally ruled as primus inter pares of the FSLN’s nine-member National Directorate, the governing body of the party, which was supposed to rule in line with the revolutionary principles of collective leadership. A quiet man, he was considered one of the directorate’s less renowned or outstanding figures. But after becoming president, he acquired an unexpected visibility thanks to the war, becoming an international left-wing icon and the symbol of the David and Goliath struggle between the Sandinistas and the United States that occupied front pages around the world throughout the late 1980s. Washington spent millions of dollars in support of the contras, but the war only concluded with the electoral defeat of the Sandinistas in January 1990. Violeta Chamorro, the wife of Pedro and a former member of the Revolutionary Junta, took office on April 25 of that year.
Stunned by his unexpected electoral defeat, Ortega graciously accepted the results—although before leaving office, he and his allies cashed out by taking control of formerly public assets in an episode of mass looting that came to be known as the Sandinista piñata. And once out of power, it didn’t take long for Ortega to use sandinismo’s strong territorial organization and support to undermine Chamorro. He organized strikes and riots and promised that he would return to government and “rule from below.” But his stubborness was unwelcome to many Nicaraguans, who were tired of war and scarcity. At the time, most of the Sandinista old guard, including myself, aspired to modernize the party, discarding revolutionary dogmas that seemed to have been discredited by the fall of the Soviet Union. We wanted democracy, a renewal, a constructive role in a country devastated by war and seemingly unending conflict. Many of us also wanted new leaders. Ortega’s response was vicious. He maligned dissenters, accusing them of betraying the revolution and using a barrage of insults to portray even heroes of the revolution as pawns of the U.S. Embassy. In 1995 Sergio Ramírez, Ortega’s vice-president for five years, resigned along with the entire Sandinista bench at the National Assembly.
Ortega’s purges were a rude awakening, causing many of his former allies to realize he would stop at nothing to retain his power. But it was only the beginning. A beginning that, shocking and painful as it was, could not foreshadow what has taken place in Nicaragua in these last four months. In what feels like a nightmarish episode of déjà vu, he and his wife have turned the country back into a land of terror. The red-and-black flag of Sandinismo now represents unrelenting oppression for most Nicaraguans. In the last Cid-Gallup poll taken in the middle of the uprising, 70 percent of respondents affirmed that they wanted the couple to go.
RETURN TO POWER
Ortega ran for president and lost in 1990, 1996, and 2001. On November 6, 2006, he finally won. That night, standing on a platform at the center of the most conspicuous roundabout in Managua, surrounded by the flags of the FSLN, Ortega and Murillo both looked exultant. A man not known for showing affection to his wife, he hugged and kissed her, provoking the applause of the crowd. He owed her a lot. When, in 1998, Murillo’s daughter from a previous marriage came out and accused Ortega of sexually abusing her since she was 11, Murillo disavowed her daughter. In a speech shortly after the accusation, Ortega said she had asked him to beg the people to forgive her for giving birth to such a person.
Murillo’s loyalty earned her an unusual measure of power within the party. During the election campaign, she gave him an image makeover, portraying him as a conciliatory man moved by deep sentiments of love for the poor and disenfranchised. She washed out sandinismo’s defiant, leftist impression by replacing the party’s traditional red and black colors with slick advertising in fuchsia and turquoise. She went as far as pirating the melody of a Beatles song, “Give Peace a Chance,” writing her own lyrics that promised work, peace, and reconciliation. She was also instrumental in Ortega’s return to the Catholic Church and his alliance with Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo, who in a previous election had warned Nicaraguans against electing Ortega, mentioning a parable where a good man picks up a despondent serpent from the road only to be bitten and killed. In 2005, Murillo and Ortega were married in a religious ceremony officiated by Obando y Bravo. In their public rhetoric, the couple also adopted the discourse of televangelists after professing their atheism for many years. And to top it all off, Ortega made a promise to ban therapeutic abortion, a right Nicaraguan women had had since the nineteenth century. The ban passed in 2006 with the votes of the FSLN.
But Ortega’s biggest stroke of luck—and most serious betrayal of his revolutionary past—was the bargain he struck with Arnoldo Alemán, who served as president from 1996 until 2001. In exchange for a constitutional reform, passed in 2000, enlarging the National Assembly, Supreme Court, Comptroller’s Office, and Electoral Council in order to make room for Alemán’s men, the FSLN approved a modification in the electoral law that allowed a presidential candidate to be elected the first round with only 35 percent of the vote, provided that there was at least a five percent margin between the first- and second-place candidates. Ortega won the 2006 election with 38 percent of the vote, the lowest ever for a winning candidate.
WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN
Ortega became president in 2007 under good auspices. Thanks to the good administration of the previous president, Enrique Bolaños, and, beginning in 2007, $500 million a year from Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela, the Nicaraguan economy was in good shape. Yet the couple privatized Venezuela’s money, creating an FSLN economic empire that allowed the party to increase its influence over the political system. Ortega, Murillo, and their inner circle monopolized control of the finances. They purchased Nicaragua’s best and most powerful TV channels and media outlets and named their sons and daughters directors. With Venezuela’s riches at his disposal, Ortega used blackmail and bribery to co-opt Alemán loyalists in key government posts, making a millionaire out of the corrupt head of the electoral council, Roberto Rivas, who became the target of U.S. sanctions in 2017. Ortega was also savvy enough to calm the fears of Nicaragua’s powerful big business community, engaging with them in what came to be known as a model of “dialogue and consensus.” He offered them tax exemptions and other perks in exchange for their political cooperation. And the scheme worked, for a while. Although the income gap grew considerably, the economy surged, powered by large tourism projects, sweat shops, exports to Venezula, and a booming real estate sector.
Politics for Ortega meant staying in power, and stay in power he did. Although the Nicaraguan Constitution barred presidents from serving consecutive terms, in 2011, the Supreme Court, stacked with FSLN loyalists, ruled that Ortega could be reelected, which he was in November of that year. Then, in 2014, the National Assembly changed the constitution to allow for indefinite reelection, as well as granting him sole authority to appoint military and police commanders. For the 2016 elections, Ortega barred international observers and used the Supreme Court to remove the main opposition candidate, Eduardo Montealegre, as leader of the Independent Liberal Party. Finally, he chose his wife to be his running mate. On election day, November 5, 2016, voting booths in Managua were deserted. Independent election monitors calculated a 70 percent abstention rate. It was a sign of things to come.
By the beginning of Ortega’s third consecutive term, Nicaraguans felt trapped in a tyrannical system, at a loss for ways to defeat it. The only remaining opposition to Ortega was a campesino movement, which emerged after the Sandinistas had passed a law on June 13th, 2013allowing the government to confiscate private and indigenous communal property and then cede it to the Chinese company HKND as part of a plan to build an interoceanic canal—a project that is now dead in the water. Murillo, who had been the regime’s communications director before becoming vice-president, had shaped the discourse of the regime into something Orwellian, esoteric, and religious. Gigantic billboards showed the smiling couple and text, written in Murillo’s handwriting: “It’s a victorious time for the grace of God. Nicaragua is love. Nicaragua is Christian, socialist and empathetic. Daniel and Rosario.” She had pursued other eccentric measures, too, such as erecting a forest of 125 gigantic and brightly colored metallic trees in Managua that made the city look like an amusement park. Both she and her husband boasted about progress and safety, about the country’s growing economy and booming tourist industry.
But in April, their fiction of a prosperous and politically stable Nicaragua collapsed like a house of cards. On April 16, in a press conference the government announced cuts to the Social Security system, a desperate measure to rescue its depleted finances, affected by mismanagement and the drastic reduction of Venezuela’s aid. Small protests began in different cities but then on April 18, in Managua, a group of thugs dressed in T-shirts inscribed with “love,” allegedly Sandinista Youth, dissolved a protest by force, beating demonstrators mercilessly. It was not the first time the government had repressed popular protests—in 2013, a similarly attired Sandinista group backed by police assailed a vigil held by young people who sided with seniors demanding social security rights. But that attack happened at night. On April 18, the assault took place in full daylight. Images quickly began to circulate on social media: a popular NGO director with blood all over her face, a journalist left unconscious by a beating, defenseless university students attacked with metal rods while the police stood by and did nothing. In April, Ortega's fiction of a prosperous and politically stable Nicaragua collapsed like a house of cards.
It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Students took refuge at their universities and continued the protests. In three days, 23 young people were killed by snipers and police. Their wounds and bodies were filmed by fellow students and shown on social media. The regime shut down independent TV stations and radios. Ortega was in Cuba, where he attended the April 19 inauguration of the new Cuban president, Miguel Diaz-Canel. Murillo was in command. When her husband returned, he withdrew the reforms on April 22, stopped censorship, and sought a dialogue mediated by the Catholic Church. It was too late. People had taken to the streets, infuriated by the deaths. The chants against the regime echoed all across the country: “Que se vayan! They must leave!” After eleven years of passively watching Ortega and Murillo close their grip on the country, people poured into the streets in every major city
Like many, I was astonished by the rapidly unfolding events, by the renewed valor and defiance of the crowds marching and demanding their freedom. For several weeks, we lived the euphoria of regaining power. In the first session of the National Dialogue called for by the Catholic Episcopal Conference, the first and only session where Ortega and Murillo attended, a young student, Lesther Aleman, said to Ortega: “We are here to negotiate the terms of your surrender” A young woman read aloud the names of all the dead killed by the government.
A few weeks later, Ortega and Murillo came up with their version of events: they were the victims of a coup financed by big capital and the United States. In charge of propaganda, Murillo fashioned an Orwellian narrative. The protesters were terrorists, satanic vampires intent on sucking the blood out of the happiness their government was delivering to Nicaraguan society. By May, with the military sitting on the sidelines, armed paramilitary forces loyal to Ortega began dismantling barricades and killing unarmed civilians. Prisoners have been tortured, according to the International Comission of Human Rights, and prevented from hiring private lawyers, intead being assigned public defenders of the government’s choosing. Many have been forced to flee the country. Doctors were fired from public hospitals for disobeying the order to refuse care to wounded protesters. No one who has spoken out against the regime is safe. On July 9, for instance, the papal nuncio to Nicaragua, accompanied by a Nicaraguan cardinal and a bishop, was attacked by a pro-Sandinista mob, after Ortega had accused them of participating in a conspiracy against the government. Human rights organizations and the OAS’s International Commission for Human Rights have reported more than 300 deaths since the beginning of the protests, most of them young men.
Despite the repression, large crowds continue to demonstrate in the streets all over Nicaragua. Ortega and Murillo, however, are proclaiming victory and the return of normalcy. It is an illusion. The economy has taken a nosedive and Ortega has been exposed as an abusive dictator at the UN and the OAS, which in July called on Nicaragua to hold early elections in 2019—a resolution that Ortega has ignored. Although Ortega continues to deny the objectivity of the International Human Rights Commission report, and may think that, like the naked emperor in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, he can continue to show himself in public and receive praise for his colorful cloak, he is in fact parading naked before his nation and the international community, stripped of all democratic legitimacy and holding on by naked force.
Civic, non-violent resistance can at times look useless before a well-armed dictatorship intent on holding its ground. It is not. Ortega has lost all legitimacy as a ruler. His wife has become a pathetic figure, weaving unbelievable and perverse tales. Repression might allow them to hold on to power a while longer, but it is clear they are standing on quicksand. It will not be long until the leaders of the resistance—the new crop of young, talented, and determined Nicaraguans—will once again help their country regain freedom from a tyrant.
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