SACW - 18 Oct 2018 | Afghanistan: Privatizing War / Bangladesh: Secular Icon Ties up with opposition / Pakistan - India: Narrow miss amid tension on Kashmir border / Pakistan: Islamists push for execution of Asia Bibi / India: Punjab Blasphemy Law: Militarism on Campus / Brazil Elections: statement by MST /

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at
Wed Oct 17 18:07:08 EDT 2018

South Asia Citizens Wire - 18 Oct 2018 - No. 3003 
[via South Asia Citizens Web - since 1996]

1. Women’s Action Forum files legal complaint against Chief Justice of Pakistan
2. India: Audio recording of 24th Sunanda Bhandare Memorial lecture - ’Women Under Religious Fundamentalism’ by Nayantara Sahgal (9 Oct 2018)
3. India: Foisting Militarism and Hyper-nationalism on Educational Spaces
4. India: Punjab Blasphemy Law Violates Constitution and is an Attack on Democratic Rights of Citizens - Statement by PADS
5. Interview with Gita Sahgal: ’we should learn to distinguish between attacks on the people and right to criticise religion’ 
6. Recent on Communalism Watch:
- India: Championing vegetarianism is discriminatory, Edit, The Telegraph
- India: Despite all the proof, why Sanatan Sanstha has been handled so mildly | Subhash Gatade
- A bit of naming history on Allahabad / Prayag, both in Mughal times and more recently
- BJP's agenda and the frankness of Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh
- India: The Supreme Court must consider gagging Amit Shah from speaking on the National Register of Citizens | Ajaz Ashraf
- India: Sanatan Sanstha and Its Hindutva Designs | Sanghamitra Prabal
- India: Allahabad city to be called Prayagraj, says Yogi Adityanath, the UP chief Minister
- Sabarimala Temple and Women's Entry in Holy Shrines | Ram Puniyani
- Cartoon by Manjul on anti migrant violence in Gujarat 
- India - More Religion in Politics: In Telangana, Swami Paripoornananda may join BJP, fight election
- India: Religious segregation in a North MCD Boys’ School, Wazirabad village, in Delhi - Report in Indian Express
- Anti migrant violence in Gujarat - A report in Times of India, 10 Oct 2018

::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::
7. Privatizing War In Afghanistan Endangers Civilians | Mariam Amini
8. In Bangladesh, a Secular Icon and the Centre-Right Opposition Join Hands | Nazmul Ahasan
9. Modi should lower regional tensions before disaster strikes - Editorial in Dawn
10. Pakistan: When democracy turns into a farce | Raza Rumi
11. Blasphemy case: Pakistani Islamists push for woman’s execution | F.M. Shakil 
12. India: Punish those who fabricate false cases
13. India and the RSS: Ever the opportunists | Mani Shankar Aiyar
14. Caste costs lives: Violence against inter-caste couples exposes gap between law and reality
15. India: Govt Keeps Job Data Close To Its Chest
16. India: Championing vegetarianism is discriminatory, Editorial, The Telegraph
17. India:  Reign of ABVP - The students' wing of RSS gets ready for a new avatar | Radhika Ramaseshan
18. India catches cold with US interest rate rise | Pritam Singh & Vanessa Petrelli Correa
19.  1988 and the beginning of the Barelvi assertion | TCA Raghavan
20. India: The Unique Identity of Bengal Violence | Ranabir Samaddar
21. India: There are no short cuts to building State capacity | Yamini Aiyar
22. Manto speaks post-partition truth with relentless fury | Saeed Naqvi
23. Outraged by the Attacks on Yazidis? It Is Time to Help | Nadia Murad
24, MST Open Letter on Brazil Election

The Women’s Action Forum (WAF) and members of the civil society have filed a reference before the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) against Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar for his remarks and actions that are unbecoming of a judge.

24th Sunanda Bhandare Memorial lecture was delivered by Nayantara Sahgal, the distinguished writer and public figure in India. The lecture was held at the India International Centre, in New Delhi on the 9th of October 2018. This recording was made in public interest by a the non profit public archive and website.

India: Tanks on Campuses to Celebrating Surgical Strike Day Growing Signs of Militarization
This has no place in a democracy where it is possible to not be a hypernationalist and yet be a good citizen. Educational institutions in any event are not the grounds for what is obviously a politically motivated drive to inculcate nationalism.

Punjab assembly recently passed a bill for an addition to IPC clause 295 to give life imprisonment for any ‘injury, damage or sacrilege’ of four religious books, (Guru Granth Sahib, Koran, Bible and Geeta) ‘with the intention to hurt the religious feelings of the people’. This is the first time in independent India that a punishment usually given for willfully murdering another human being has been recommended for defilement of religious books. ... The bill shifts the constitutional balance between fundamental rights of freedom of expression and religion on the one side and the powers of the sate machinery and organized social bodies to restrain these rights on the other.

Gita Sahgal Interviewed by Prabir Purkayastha, 15 Oct 2018
Produced by Newsclick

- India: Championing vegetarianism is discriminatory, Edit, The Telegraph
- India: Despite all the proof, why Sanatan Sanstha has been handled so mildly | Subhash Gatade
- A bit of naming history on Allahabad / Prayag, both in Mughal times and more recently
- BJP's agenda and the frankness of Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh
- India: The Supreme Court must consider gagging Amit Shah from speaking on the National Register of Citizens | Ajaz Ashraf
- India: Sanatan Sanstha and Its Hindutva Designs | Sanghamitra Prabal
- India: Allahabad city to be called Prayagraj, says Yogi Adityanath, the UP chief Minister
- Sabarimala Temple and Women's Entry in Holy Shrines | Ram Puniyani
- Cartoon by Manjul on anti migrant violence in Gujarat that has commissioned multi million dollar project called 'statue of unity'
- India - More Religion in Politics: In Telangana, Swami Paripoornananda may join BJP, fight election
- India: Religious segregation in a North MCD Boys’ School, Wazirabad village, in Delhi - Report in Indian Express, 10 Oct 2018
- Anti migrant violence in Gujarat - A report in Times of India, 10 Oct 2018
- Ezhava outfit in Kerala denounces RSS plans for Sabarimala stir
- Migrants under suspicion and attack in India - Cartoon in the Times of India, 10 October 2018 | Sandeep Adhwaryu

-> available via:

::: URLs & FULL TEXT :::

Mariam Amini
Human Rights Watch
October 2, 2018

Smoke rises from the site of the car bomb attack on the police station in District Six, Kabul, March 1, 2017. © 2017 Mohammad Ismail/Reuters

This month, the US war in Afghanistan turns 17. Americans born after the conflict began can now enlist in the armed forces. It’s a war in which all parties have committed war crimes and grave human rights abuses, and civilian casualties have reached new highs. But Americans and Afghans looking for solutions to end the war should not lose sight that some approaches may exacerbate abuses and undermine what fragile justice systems exist.

During a televised interview in Kabul last week, Erik Prince, billionaire businessman and brother of US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, pitched a plan to an Afghan audience to privatize the fighting. Prince said he could end the war in “six months after the program is fully ramped,” using “contracted veteran mentors” to support Afghan forces.

Private contractors, including employees of Blackwater, who have made up a large proportion of US forces in Afghanistan since 2001, do not directly report to the military. While they can be prosecuted for crimes in US courts under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, they rarely are. Prince said his forces would be subject to Afghan law.

Prince’s company, Academi, formerly known as Blackwater, has been implicated in serious crimes in Iraq. On September 16, 2007, Blackwater employees opened fire on Iraqi civilians, killing 17. Although five Blackwater employees were indicted on murder and manslaughter charges on December 31, 2009, a federal judge threw out the indictment. The case was reopened in 2013. On October 22, 2014, one Blackwater employee, Nicholas Slatten, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, and three others were given 30-year sentences for involuntary manslaughter. However, an appeals court threw out Slatten’s conviction and called for a retrial in 2017. On September 6, 2018, that trial ended in a mistrial.

Afghanistan already has a poor track record prosecuting members of its security forces implicated in serious human rights abuses, including killing civilians. Given the impunity already enjoyed by the security forces, placing them under the command of private security contractors could further undermine accountability.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis rejected Prince's proposal, as has Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. They recognize Afghanistan doesn’t need foreign contractors operating as a law onto themselves. President Trump should listen.

by Nazmul Ahasan
Defying all odds, Bangladesh’s centre-right opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party, has just clinched a deal with Kamal Hossain, an 82-year-old secular icon, raising its hope to end the ruling Awami League’s decade-long rule.

Dawn, October 2, 2018


THE line between catastrophe and the tension-ridden norm along the LoC in the disputed Kashmir region has yet again been shown to be unbearably thin.

On Sunday, Azad Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Farooq Haider survived what could have turned into a nightmare attack for the region.

A civilian helicopter carrying the AJK prime minister came under fire from across the Line of Control as Mr Haider travelled to a village along the LoC to condole the death of a relative of a cabinet member.

Predictably, the Indian side has claimed that Mr Haider’s helicopter strayed across the LoC, but AJK officials have denied that to be the case.

It is also unlikely that Indian security personnel mistook Mr Haider’s helicopter to be a military aircraft, which are required to inform forces on the other side of the LoC ahead of flights along the volatile and highly militarised zone.

As ever, the facts are likely to be swallowed up by partisan accusations on both sides.

Yet, the incident on Sunday should serve as an urgent warning to military leaders on both sides of the LoC that if tensions are not reduced and military-to-military communications not increased, disaster could strike at any moment.

Over the years and decades, the pattern that has emerged is that when one side is perceived to have scored a psychological advantage or small gain over the other, the other side seeks to respond.

With no less a person than the AJK prime minister himself coming under attack in murky circumstances, it is perhaps necessary for the DGMOs of the Pakistan and Indian armies to contact each other and reiterate the rules of engagement across the LoC.

The recent bellicose statements of Indian army chief Gen Bipin Rawat, the Indian government’s bizarre spectacle of celebrating a so-called Surgical Strike Day — an attack that Pakistan denies occurred — and the continuing protests in India-held Kashmir against military repression are all contributing to an environment of intolerable tension in the region.

While it is clear that India needs to reassess its approach to IHK and on the issues of talks with Pakistan, it does appear that at the moment it is heedless to the demands of peace, normalisation and the lowering of regional tensions.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not be able to force the people of IHK into subjugation through repressive tactics and neither he nor any other Indian leader will be able to take away the legitimate rights of the Kashmiris.

It is Mr Modi who has turned up the heat in the region to near intolerable levels and it is incumbent upon him to lower tensions not only along the LoC and the disputed Kashmir region but between India and Pakistan as well.

Before dialogue, there must be a common-sense acceptance of regional realities. Mr Modi is totally on the wrong track.

Raza Rumi
Daily Times
October 7, 2018

Ultimately a free press, an independent judiciary and neutral accountability processes are non-negotiable for a well-governed polity

The arrest of Leader of the Opposition and former Chief Minister Punjab Shehbaz Sharif is a reminder of creeping authoritarianism and arbitrary governance that are turning into the new normal. Not that politicians should not be held accountable or punished, the timing of this action –days before by-elections in Lahore – raises questions and makes one wonder if its once again coming from the controlled democracy playbook. It was hoped that with a new government in office things would improve but the decline in democratic norms has been sharper than before.

Three types of controlled democracy experiments have been conducted in our history. First, when a top bureaucrat would rise to the office of Governor General or Prime minister (1950s). Second, a weak civilian government controlled by a powerful President acting as the face of civil-military bureaucracy (1990s). Third, where a military chief would lord over an obedient civilian government (1980s, 2000s) and change prime ministers at will. A common thread in all these versions of democracy was the acquiescence of the judiciary from upholding dismissals of parliaments, prime ministers and selection of those who could be elected. Another common feature of such democratic experimentation was a controlled media and civil liberties.

All three models are history now. Since 2008, we have witnessed the emergence of a hybrid democracy where the unelected institutions do not exercise direct control but have chosen their turfs to protect and exercise control through other means. The judicial appointments process approved by the Parliament under 18thamendment was resisted by the judiciary. And the civilian governments know the limits of their powers in security and foreign policies. Since the tenure of Gen Raheel Sharif and the launch of operations against militants, the role of the military has also grown in internal security matters. The apex committees, seemingly instruments of coordination, showed everyone who was in charge.

   The PFUJ has also highlighted the brewing crisis in media industry: “The media owners have taken over editors in their newsrooms, and thus the role of editor — which had played an important role (in preserving) the freedom of expression — has been eliminated…”

Since the restoration of judges under the PPP government, it was thought that independent courts would safeguard citizen rights and also protect democracy. There have been high-sounding declarations from judges that they would protect democracy at all costs and resist martial law. Yet, the courts seem to be the primary instrument of political cleansing. One cannot argue that there is a larger plan at work but the manner in which a sitting prime minister – Nawaz Sharif -was ousted (based on something that the petition never asked for) and how he was jailed a year later on a judgment that has been assailed by a higher court, it appears that the courts are dispensing due process, which is a fundamental right of every citizen including those deigned and defamed as ‘corrupt’ or ‘treasonous.’ The real worry is that this is happening not under a martial law but a ‘democracy’ of sorts.

The use of accountability regime – national accountability bureau, the federal investigation agency, the special courts and assorted joint investigation teams with intelligence officials – is a handy instrument for keeping the ‘old’ guard’ out in favour of the ‘new’.

We have a free and noisy media that knows its limits. Dozens of talk shows appear to enjoy the freedom and there are no censorship directives. Yet, the executive council of Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) at the end of last month stated: “The state institutions are trying to control the media through curtailing their advertisements, hampering the distribution of newspapers and taking off-air those television channels who do not toe their line…” The PFUJ has also highlighted the brewing crisis in media industry: “The media owners have taken over editors in their newsrooms, and thus the role of editor — which had played an important role [in preserving] the freedom of expression — has been eliminated…Most journalists and media houses have started self-censoring to avoid the wrath of the state institutions.”

In a most bizarre and worrying development DAWN’s Cyril Almeida may face a trial for treason for simply interviewing the former PM wherein the latter mentioned the role of Pakistan in 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, something that has been said before by many others. Senior journalists such as Najam Sethi and former head of electronic media regulator Absar Alam are also facing cases for conducting and allowing ‘anti-state’ programming. All of this is made worse by the fact that media professionals are divided. And many journalists claim that these claims are exaggerated. If anything the media is free. In short the corporatisation of Pakistani media has destroyed the function of editors as more and more businessmen are operating media outlets primarily for their own narrow financial and institutional interests.

Clampdown on civil society and free expression has other guises as well. At least 18 international NGOs are being sent packing. True that NGOs such as Save the Children were involved in spying but is that true for all others? What about thousands who are employed with these organisations and all the support they provide to some useful community based initiatives? The truth is that if the state was that responsive and effective Pakistan wouldn’t need aid or support by outsiders. Ironically, this move comes at a time when Pakistan’s government is all set to approach the International Monetary Fund for a bailout worth billions of dollars and the foreign minister has asked the United States to resume aid.

A young man, Hayat Khan Preghal was arrested and prosecuted for his online posts that were critical of state institutions. Preghal was a supporter of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement and had been active online. One need not agree with what Preghal or PTM say but in a democratic society all voices should find space and political engagement is always a preferable option to dissenters choosing violence. This simple lesson from our own history seems to have been ignored by those who wield power. Amnesty International before Preghal’s release had asked for “an end to the harassment, stigmatization, intimidation, unlawful surveillance and arrest of human rights defenders and ensure they can freely express their opinions and dissent without fear of reprisals.”

In the first few weeks of the current government, an Economics Professor at Princeton was asked to resign from an advisory council mainly due to the outcry against his Ahmadi faith by the right wing and the opposition. The minister for Human Rights chided Human Rights Watch for its hypocrisy and claimed that minorities enjoyed protection and equal status in the country. That such a claim was made after firing someone for his faith was an irony altogether lost on the minister and her colleagues.

More recently, the supposedly reformed police in Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa unleashed a crackdown on students at the University of Peshawar. Their crime was to exercise a constitutionally-enshrined democratic right against a hike in tuition fees. It’s about time the state stops infantilizing students and crushing their civil liberties.

Pakistan has a third elected government now but that is not enough for a democracy to function. The powerful institutions of the state and corporate media have joined hands to turn the country into a controlled democracy where curtailed press freedoms, selective civil liberties, political victimisation in the name of accountability and manipulated electoral process are being projected as acceptable.

The new government led by Imran Khan should remember that things change fast in Pakistan. By enabling such an authoritarian environment, they might be harming their own cause. For the state of being ‘in favour’ usually is transient and uninsured. Ultimately a free press, an independent judiciary and neutral accountability processes are non-negotiable for a well-governed polity.

The writer is editor, Daily Times

Asia Bibi was accused of committing blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad in 2009
by F.M. Shakil 
Asia Times
October 17, 2018

Radical Islamists in Pakistan are up in arms over the likely release of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who has been on death row since 2010 on blasphemy charges, which she has repeatedly denied. The Supreme Court judges who heard her appeal against her death sentence have also been threatened with dire consequences.

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), an anti-blasphemy party headed by the firebrand preacher Khadim Hussain Rizvi, has spearheaded a fierce campaign since Friday to influence the verdict and pressure the judiciary to send Asia Bibi to the gallows. Pakistan’s Supreme Court, which reportedly heard a final appeal against her death sentence, reserved its judgment last week. The top court did not announce a date for the ruling and restrained the media from guesswork on the reserved order until the court makes it public.

The TLP rose to prominence last year when it paralyzed the capital Islamabad by staging a three-week sit-in against ostensible modification of the Khatm-i-Nabuwwat (finality of prophethood) oath. The sit-in protest culminated in the resignation of federal law minister Zahid Hamid through a written agreement among TLP, the government, and the military establishment. The distribution of largesse among the participants by a serving Pakistan Army major-general raised eyebrows as well. Thus critics put a big question mark on the neutrality of the establishment.

Asia Bibi, a mother of five, was born and raised in Ittan Wali, a small rural village in Sheikhupura district of Punjab province where she used to work in agricultural fields along with Muslim women. In 2009, her co-workers accused her of committing blasphemy against the person of the Prophet Muhammad. A prayer leader of a local mosque stood as a witness against her. In 2010, she was convicted under Section 295-C of the Pakistan Penal Code for the offense, punishable by execution.

Mobilizing for death penalty

Pre-empting flexibility on the part of judges to uphold the death sentence, the TLP started flexing its muscles to mobilize people for the purpose of creating political turmoil in the country. They took to the streets in different parts of Punjab and Sindh provinces on Friday and issued stern warnings that if the court set Asia Bibi free, the TLP would bring the country to a halt within hours.

Pir Afzal Qadri, patron-in-chief of the TLP, said while addressing a rally: “Judges’ remarks created doubt and fears among the party leaders that Asia’s conviction may be set aside to stop her execution.”

A four-point resolution approved by the party warned that the TLP would take the acquittal of Asia Bibi as an attack on Islam. They vowed to protect the constitution and the blasphemy law even if it meant the leadership laying down their lives. The TLP warned that the responsibility for the law-and-order situation would rest squarely on the judiciary, the executive and the establishment.

“Religious might has immense influence on our society as [it] can make and break state policies. Those inimical to theocratic rule and who struggle for secular dispensation, equality, and constitutionalism are being pushed aside by the state,” Dr Mehdi Hasan, a left-wing journalist, media historian and longtime human-rights activist who is a member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told Asia Times.

Hasan said the court must take cognizance of the fact that a score of people suspected of committing blasphemy have been killed before they were even taken to a competent court for trial.

“I think the release of Asia Bibi prior to her [being sent] abroad would be hazardous for her life. The moment she stepped out of jail she would be killed,” he said, adding that the court must ensure that she gets safe shelter abroad if she is to be exonerated.

Military and judiciary indifferent

Interestingly, neither the judiciary nor the government and military establishment paid any attention to the TLP’s open intimidations. The judiciary, which earlier disqualified and jailed politicians for contempt-of-court offenses, preferred to ignore the TLP. The government and establishment also overlooked the threats to the judges of the superior judiciary and allowed the TLP leadership to challenge the writ of the state.

“The state and governments in Pakistan remain always apologetic towards religious forces and they seldom take steps to assert the legal authority of the state,” Hasan said. “Present-day Pakistan is not what the founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah had thought of but it is shaped and gradually designed on the self-conceived Islamic doctrines of the military dictator Zia-ul-Haq, who ruled the country from 1977 to 1988.”

He added that what Jinnah said in Pakistan’s first Constituent Assembly on August 11, 1947, should have been incorporated in the preamble of the constitution.

In a related development, a two-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Mushir Alam and Justice Qazi Faez Isa last week resumed hearing a suo motu case pertaining to the Islamabad sit-in protest. The Supreme Court questioned the legality of registration of the TLP as a political party and summoned the Election Commission of Pakistan to submit a detailed report on the registration process and the scope of action against any political party found involved in illegal activities.

In 2011, a bodyguard gunned down Punjab governor Salman Taseer, an upfront critic of blasphemy law, who obstinately struggled for the release of the Christian woman on death row. He was an ardent supporter of minority rights and sought amendments in the draconian blasphemy legislation but ended up losing his own life.

Just months after Taseer’s killing, Pakistani minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, who also demanded justice for Asia Bibi, was ambushed by gunmen and shot dead. 

The Economic Times
September 21, 2018

Rocket scientist Nambi Narayanan had his career cut short, life disrupted and life experience stretched to the prison, where he spent 50 days, because of wrongful police action, political expedience and slow judicial procedure. He was arrested in 1994 and the case against him was dismissed in 1998. Twenty years later, the Supreme Court has ordered the government of Kerala to give him Rs 50 lakh as compensation, half the amount recommended by the National Human Rights Commission earlier. Narayanan got a raw deal, but rawer still has been the experience of another, Delhi-based, scientist at the Department of Electronics, Dr Narayan Nerurkar, who was accused, in 1987, of leaking official documents of a military nature. The case against him was dismissed by a trial court 31years later. In the evening of his life, he has the satisfaction of seeing his name cleared, but has no clue if the CBI plans to appeal against the dismissal of the charges against him or if the department plans to give him his back pay and pension.

These are but two examples of miscarriage of justice, individual suffering and national loss because the victims were scientists working for government projects. It can be nobody’s case that every prosecution that fails is an act of mala fide. But some are. Some stem from lack of application of mind. Whatever motivated the prosecution, the consequence has been to shatter the lives of innocent people and their families. They must be compensated. It is equally important to act against those who initiated mala fide action resulting in the prosecution and those in a position of authority who went along, without application of mind. If only the police personnel responsible for fabricating cases and their superiors are given exemplary punishment, even after retirement, would future fabricators of false cases be deterred.

Compensation for victims and punishment of those who misuse state power resulting in grave injustice to those they were duty-bound to protect and serve, and both delivered with dispatch — this is the way to uphold justice and advance democracy.

Mani Shankar Aiyar
Dhaka Tribune
October 1, 2018

Bhagwat’s speech reflects concerns
Consistency has never been a virtue in the RSS. 

From VD Savarkar to Dr Hedgewar to “Guru-ji” Golwalkar to Balasaheb Deoras to Mohan Bhagwat, opportunism has marked the politics of the RSS even though they have cleaved to a “Hindu Rashtra” as their ideological goal. 

In working towards that goal, they have always favoured tactically adjusting their vocabulary and position to suit evolving situations.

Bhagwat himself admitted to this when he said at the recent three-day convention of the RSS that situations evolve, and the RSS’s stated positions have to be adjusted to changing circumstance. At the World Hindu Congress in Chicago earlier this month, he was blunter: “Politics must be fought like politics, but do it without changing yourself.”

Thus it was that having got two of his chelas to actually fire the bullets that killed two Englishmen, Savarkar then found himself caught in conspiracy charges in London, and was recaptured at Marseilles, where he had escaped from the ship carrying him to trial and sentencing in India, and transported for life to the Andamans.

Within months, he was writing the most cringing, debasing letters to the Viceroy, declaring his loyalty to the British, and begging to be released, so that he could deploy his many talents on mobilizing the youth of India in the cause of the empire. 

The Hindu right wing has always justified this craven submission to the colonial power as a tactic employed by Savarkar to return to the mainland, opportunism prevailing over principle.

The Brits relented, and just about a decade after his incarceration, allowed him to be transferred to house arrest in Ratnagiri on condition that he abjured political activism, a condition to which he swore fealty and unflinchingly adhered to until his release in 1937.

Savarkar was almost immediately elected president of the Hindu Mahasabha having, technically speaking, never been a member of the RSS. But the founder of the RSS, Dr Hedgewar, credited Savarkar with being the inspiration for the adoption by the RSS of “Hindutva,” a term coined by Savarkar. Savarakar translated this new word into “Hindudom” (modelled on Christendom), and excluding Muslims and followers of other Semitic faiths from equal citizenship in the “Hindu Rashtra” he sought to promote. 

Following from his denunciation of Muslims and Christians as anti-national, Savarkar openly embraced Jinnah’s two-nation theory. It was a theory that had not emanated initially from Muslim communalism but from Savarkar’s own maiden presidential address in 1938. In that sense, Savarkar could claim parentage to both Hindu communalism and Muslim separatism.

Savarkar, having set the example, the floundering RSS of the early days was given a shot in the arm by the grand reception accorded in Rome to Hedgewar’s closest friend and comrade, BS Moonje, by the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Moonje returned to India fascinated by fascism and persuaded Hedgewar to reorganize the RSS by giving it a distinctive uniform -- the khaki shorts and black cap of the RSS came straight from the Black Shirts of Mussolini’’ army of fascist goons.

Yet, as soon as Mussolini’s dominance in authoritarian European regimes was overtaken by Hitler, MS Golwalkar, the upcoming future successor to Hedgewar, became an avid fan of the German dictator. In extended conversations with a German acolyte, Golwalkar moved from undying admiration of Mussolini to undiluted praise for Nazi racism, particularly commending the principle of “racial purity” on which Hitler’s philosophy was founded. 

The conversations became the defining text of RSS propaganda after 1940 when Golwalkar succeeded Hedgewar as the head of the organization. But after Hitler came to be detested universally as the most vicious mass murderer in history, the RSS found Golwalkar’s fulsome remarks most damaging, and so conveniently dismissed the long published book, propagated by the RSS for the better part of a decade in the 40s, as “not authentic.”

Bhagwat is now doing exactly the same thing by bowdlerizing Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts to exorcise the embarrassing bits, and circulate the revised edition as the true “Thoughts” of the “Guru-ji.” Hypocrisy on this scale is breath-taking. 

They won’t repudiate Golwalkar 1938 and 1966, but think that “circumstances” require them to deny what might now be conveniently erased. Such “lipa-poti” on Bhagwat’s part is nothing new; it is part and parcel of the RSS tool bag of deception, deceit, and denial.

Nor is Bhagwat’s revisionism new. He began giving the RSS a new image from his Vijayadashami address last year when he and the RSS saw Modi’s support slipping, both because he was failing to fulfil the many bogus pledges he had made during the 2014 election campaign, even as demonetization and the hopelessly botched implementation of GST were transforming Modi from the Sangh Parivar’s greatest asset to their greatest liability. Moreover, while the excesses unleashed on minorities were galvanizing their cadre, they were alienating that large segment of Hindu “fence-sitters” who had decided in 2014 to give the BJP a chance.

Indeed, Walter Anderson and Shridhar Damle in their most recent book The RSS: A View to the Inside, firmly place Bhagwat’s drift from Modi-Shah in the context of the massive BJP losses in the 2018 Lok Sabha by-elections. The authors add, perceptively, “The Opposition in 2018, meanwhile, shows signs of coalescing” even as the BJP’s “favourability rating” declines.

This is the setting that has led to Mohan Bhagwat mouthing a few sentences that he hopes will change public perception of the RSS as a communal organization dedicated to the replacement of our secular order.

What Bhagwat has not taken into account is that an overwhelming majority of Indian Hindus have rejected the RSS view of Hinduism and the role of religion in our polity. 

Bhagwat’s recent speech is no more than a continuation of the Hindu right wing’s century-long tradition of political opportunism. It is yet another attempt at shoring up voter support for the BJP and, therefore, not to be read as defining a revolution in the ideology of the RSS. “Bhagwat”, say Anderson/Damle, “has often reiterated that all Indians are culturally Hindu, which is likely to remain the RSS’s stand on Hindu nationalism.”

That accounts for why just weeks earlier, Bhagwat at the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s World Hindu Congress in Chicago described his opponents as “dogs.” The full sentence reads: “Even a lion or a Royal Bengal Tiger, who is the king of the jungle, if he is alone, wild dogs can invade and destroy him. Our opponents know this.”

To take the wildlife analogy further, may I remind the Hon’ble Sarsanghchalak that a snake may slough its skin but never drains the poison from its fangs.

Mani Shankar Aiyar is a senior Congress leader and former MP, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

The Times of India
September 21, 2018


The recent historic verdict of the Supreme Court decriminalising homosexuality was a recognition of the universal principle that love transcends gender, social norms and traditions. But two incidents from Telangana serve as a stark reminder of brutal ground realities. Both cases involve inter-caste marriages with the fathers of the women unable to accept the so-called lower caste status of their sons-in-law. In the first case, Amruta Varshini and Pranay Kumar – who had tied the knot at an Arya Samaj mandir in Hyderabad in January – became victims of a murderous plot hatched allegedly by Amruta’s father. The latter simply couldn’t come to terms with the fact that his daughter had married a Dalit, and is accused of hiring a contract killer to murder the young man.

On September 14, Pranay was killed outside a hospital right in front of his pregnant wife. The incident sparked protests and the police have now arrested seven people, including Amruta’s father. But the latter’s background as a real estate developer and reported political connections have raised concerns that justice may be subverted. Amruta herself is leading the charge to bring her husband’s killers, including her father, to book. As if this wasn’t shocking enough, just days later a man attacked his daughter and her husband in the middle of Hyderabad, again because the son-in-law was a Dalit. Although the couple escaped with their lives, the woman almost lost her forearm and the man received serious injuries in the attack.

So entrenched is caste in Indian society that it cuts across economic classes. Clearly, the country’s political leadership has been unsuccessful in mitigating caste prejudice. On the contrary, our netas find it convenient to cultivate caste vote banks. It’s also anybody’s guess whether caste-based reservations, as practised today, alleviate caste divisions in society or actually reinforce them.

Add to this a weak law and order machinery, and caste prejudice thrives in this climate of impunity. It doesn’t help when authorities rake up bogeys such as ‘love jihad’, meant to impede interfaith marriages. The solution lies in speedy prosecution in cases of caste violence and honour killing. The Supreme Court struck a blow for primacy of individual choice and freedom in its homosexuality ruling. The same principle should apply to inter-caste and inter-faith marriages. Indeed, such marriages may be the best antidote to toxic levels of caste and communal sentiment that are the bane of Indian society and politics today.

Two reports, published every 3 months of the Quarterly Employment Survey, not released by the Narendra Modi govt
by Basant Kumar Mohanty
The Telegraph

Quarterly employment data considered reliable by even critics of the Narendra Modi government have not been released for this year so far, prompting concern the survey may be discontinued to hide potential warts that hold considerable significance in an election year.

Two reports of the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) are due now. The report is published every three months, covering the previous quarter.

The second quarter (July-September) of the current financial year ended on Sunday without clarity on the fate of the reports for the last quarter of the previous financial year (2017-18) and the first quarter of ongoing one (2018-19).

If the Centre fails to release the quarterly reports soon, it will reinforce fears expressed by critics that the survey may be given a burial since several previous reports had found negative job growths in key sectors like construction and manufacturing.

Also, the Annual Employment-Unemployment Survey (EUS) report for 2016-17 has not been released 18 months after the financial year ended, although the report for 2015-16 was published as early as September 2016. Sources said the annual report might be published soon.

The annual report for 2015-16 had found a rise in the unemployment rate for people above 15 from 4.9 per cent in 2013-14 to 5 per cent (no report was published for 2014-15).

The government says the 2016-17 data are still being processed. Both the QES and EUS are done by the Labour Bureau.

On June 11 — by when one QES report was pending (January-March 2018) — the labour and employment ministry had issued a media release saying a committee was examining the survey’s “limitations”.

The committee, headed by T.C.A. Anant, former chief statistician of India, was given a month but hasn’t yet handed in its report more than three months later. Another QES report (April-June 2018) is pending now.

“The QES gives more or less a practical picture in employment generation. The survey has found employment degeneration in many sectors,” Tapan Sen, general secretary with CPM labour arm Citu, said.

“The government is not interested in continuing the survey. The committee has been set up to find flaws in the survey so that it can be discontinued.”

Anant said there were “issues” with the survey’s design and sampling practices. “I have asked the Labour Bureau and government statisticians to do certain exercises and provide the inputs. We are working on it,” he had told The Telegraph in August-end.

On Sunday, labour ministry officials said the Anant committee had yet to submit its report.

The then UPA government had started the QES in 2008 to assess the impact of the global financial crisis on India’s job scene. The survey used to collect sample data from 2,000 establishments, each employing more than 10 workers, from eight sectors: manufacturing, construction, trade, transport, education, health, accommodation and restaurants, and IT/BPO.

From April 1, 2016, the government revised the sample size to 10,000 establishments. Seven reports were released since then, the last in March this year for the period October-December 2017.

All seven showed a rise in jobs in these sectors, but the additional jobs ranged from a low of 0.32 lakh (July-September 2016) to an unimpressive high of 1.85 lakh (January-March 2017).

Taken individually, however, the manufacturing and construction sectors showed a fall in jobs, or zero additions, in some quarters.

For example, jobs in the manufacturing sector declined by 0.12 lakh from 101.17 lakh in the April-June 2016 quarter. Jobs fell again in the April-June 2017 quarter. The construction business witnessed negative growth in four of the last six reports.

The government says the survey’s “flaw” is that it covers just eight sectors, and only those establishments that have 10 or more workers, taking into account just 2.4 crore workers against the national workforce of about 47 crore.

For the annual EUS, started in 2010, the Labour Bureau conducts sample household surveys in urban and rural areas.

Explaining why the 2016-17 report has not been released yet, junior labour minister

Santosh Gangwar told the Rajya Sabha on August 1 in a written reply: “Field work i.e. data collection work of the sixth round was done during 2016-17 and data processing work is being undertaken at present.”

The government has, however, clarified that no fresh EUS will be conducted any more. The survey has already been replaced from 2017-18 by the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation. It’s anybody’s guess when that report would be published.

Like the EUS, the PLFS will be released once a year and will have the same sample size of 1.3 lakh urban and rural households. But sources said it would collect the data across the whole year, better capturing the seasonal variations in the rural job scene than the EUS, which collected its data across eight-nine months.

Additionally, like the QES, the PLFS will give a quarterly break-up of employment data, based solely on its survey of urban households. Since the urban households will be chosen at random, the survey is expected to cover all the sectors.

Santosh Mehrotra, chairperson of JNU’s Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies, said the choice of sectors for the QES was driven by the need to capture export-oriented and labour-intensive industries.

“The QES was a very useful source of employment data,” Mehrotra said. But he added that the PLFS would be useful too. “These quarterly urban data will enable us to monitor employment on a regular basis. In less developed countries, workers move from agriculture to jobs in industry and the services, which are mostly in urban areas,” he said.

The Telegraph
12 October 2018

A contrived sense of difference perpetuates hatred, and hateful practices have trickled down into quasi-official policy
By The Editorial Board

The ‘trickle-down effect’, it seems, seldom works for the good things. Yet it operates most efficiently when the urge is to divide and hurt. A primary school in Wazirabad village in Delhi has been separating its Hindu and Muslim pupils into different sections. The school falls under the aegis of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, which has promised to look into the matter after being informed of this by a group of teachers. While the bright spot in the induced darkness is the fact that the teachers complained, it is an indication of the successful spread of fear that they wished to remain anonymous. The decision to segregate pupils, reportedly, came from the teacher-in-charge, C.B. Singh Sehrawat, who was installed in place of the previous principal in July. According to this gentleman — he has now been suspended — the reshuffling of sections was a management decision, routinely done to preserve peace, discipline and a good learning environment. Apparently children were ‘squabbling’, not exactly over religion but over food — that is, some were ‘vegetarian’.

The implications of Mr Sehrawat’s comments are clear. Dividing up religious communities on the basis of food assumes that vegetarian food is ‘pure’ and eaters of flesh ‘impure’. Surveys have shown that the strident insistence of the party in power at the Centre and its right-wing siblings that most of India is vegetarian is just a vociferous lie. The championing of vegetarianism is not only discriminatory from the point of view of faith, but is also casteist and region-specific. But it forms the basis of the drive against the trade in beef and leather, to the disadvantage of particular communities and castes. To indoctrinate children in primary school, even by indirect means such as classroom segregation, with this contrived sense of difference is to perpetuate hatred through future citizens. Such hate-based practices have ‘trickled down’ into quasi-official policy, too, where discrimination is more aggressive. Reportedly, applications for registration under the Special Marriage Act, needed for interfaith unions, are being routinely refused in Uttar Pradesh. One such couple had to get married in Calcutta because the registrar in UP had simply not allowed them to apply. The couple are now scared of their future as they return to work. Why are the founding principles of the republic being allowed to be subverted so easily?

In recent years, the ABVP has set its eyes on India's burgeoning private universities
Radhika Ramaseshan
Business Standard
September 23, 2018 

he Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) — the students’ front of the Rashtriya Swayam-sevak Sangh (RSS) — often makes news over kerfuffle with its ideological adversaries on prestigious campuses or when its leaders are embroiled in controversies.

Recently, Ankiv Baisoya, the newly elected president of the Delhi University Students Union, has been accused of submitting fake marks sheet by the Congress-aligned National Students Union of India — a charge rejected by the ABVP leader. That’s not how the RSS and the ABVP wanted the 70-year-old ...

o o o

RSS body plans mega outreach to universities
By Anubhuti Vishnoi, ET Bureau | Sep 22, 2018, 08.44 AM IST

Pritam Singh & Vanessa Petrelli Correa
The Tribune
Oct 1, 2018

A ROLLERCOASTER: The likely political and economic instability is a domestic contributor to capital outflows and the relative rise of dollar against the rupee.

THE US Federal Reserve has again raised interest rate to 2.25 per cent with another increase expected in December, three more in 2019 and one in 2020. Based on experience, it is expected that this interest rate rise too will have adverse consequences for emerging economies.
India and Brazil are two of the most important emerging economies in the global economy and both have recently experienced rapid falls in the exchange rate of their currencies. Behind these currency falls (Indian Rupee and Brazilian Real), there are some tendencies in the US-dominated global capitalist economy which affect currency fluctuations in all emerging economies. But there are also some distinctive internal/domestic factors in India and Brazil that need to be taken into account to have a better grasp of the fall in the exchange rates of the rupee and Brazilian real.

Regarding the impact of movements in the global capitalist economy on exchange rate volatility, there are three important stages in the last decade of the global capitalist economic crisis since the fall of Lehman Brothers in September 15, 2008 which have important bearings on the shifts in currency exchange rates.

Kickoff by 2008 crises

The first stage of this currency volatility started with the 2008 crisis that had led to a massive fall in business confidence in developed capitalist economies especially in the US, the nerve centre of the crisis. One manifestation was financial institutions holding on to their reserves and reluctant to invest. This is what created the credit crunch. The onset of the credit crunch by making borrowing more difficult, led to fall in profitability and investment. This contributed further to reinforcing the crisis. Alarmed by the prospect of deepening crisis due to credit crunch, the governments in the US and Europe lowered the interest rates to encourage borrowing and kick start economic activities. This fall in the interest rates in the two geo-economies and the relatively higher interest rates in the emerging economies led to a massive speculative movement of financial flows to the emerging economies. The increased demand for the currencies of the emerging economies led to rise in the exchange rates of currencies of nearly all emerging economies but especially of India and Brazil.

The relative fall in the exchange rate of dollar facilitating increase in US exports and the easing of credit availability at low interest rate led to revival of some business activity in USA. Very soon this revival showing declining unemployment and possible rise in wages started generating fears about the possible emergence of inflation in the US economy.

Sensitive speculative flows

The second stage in this currency volatility emerged in 2013 when hints started being thrown by the Federal Reserve Bank that there might be a need to raise the interest rate to control inflationary pressures in US economy. Even without the interest rate being raised, but merely the possibility of being raised had important implications because the global financial flows, especially speculative flows, are very sensitive to not only the actual but even the expected movements in US interest rate. The reverse direction of financial flows towards the US started emerging leading to some appreciation, though not dramatic, in the exchange rate of dollar vis a vis the currencies of emerging economies.

Fed finally hikes rates

The third crucial stage in this current exchange rate volatility started with the first interest rate rise by Federal Reserve in December 2015 followed by a marginal increase in 2016, three increases in 2017 and has culminated in already three rises in 2018. These have led to massive speculative flows of financial capital to the US resulting in dramatic rise in exchange rate of dollar and a massive fall in the currencies of emerging economies which seems so uncontrollable that even when some central banks (Argentina, Indonesia and Turkey) tried to raise their domestic interest rates to stem the outward flow of capital, it did not work.

Within this external financial environment, some of the domestic political and economic factors in Brazil and India are worth noting to capture the decline in the exchange rate of Real and Rupee respectively.

Domestic contributors

In Brazil, elections in October to Brazilian presidency and parliament have set the scene for intervention of speculative capital. A corporate-controlled media is generating an economic fear that a left-wing president might come to power which might lead to economic policies aimed at curbing the free market powers of big financial capital. This fear is further accelerating the speculative flow of capital to the US and decline in the exchange rate of Brazil’s currency. The political calculation behind this media strategy is that the average middle-class voter sensitive to exchange rate volatility is more likely to vote for market friendly right-wing candidates and even a marginal shift of this nature might eventually tilt the balance in favour of a right-wing candidate in the final count.

In India, the global financial capital, once favourable to the Modi regime, is becoming wary of its economic governance in the light of disastrous economic policies such as demonetisation, GST and NPA fiasco of big banks. This economic misgovernance coupled with the confrontational foreign policy gestures towards Pakistan and violence-generating internal political mismanagement is creating an overall future scenario suggesting instability and uncertainty. This expected future political and economic instability is a domestic contributor to capital outflows and the relative rise of dollar against the rupee.

The fact that Brazil is even more sensitive than India to speculative flows is due to relatively higher level of integration of Brazilian economy with the global capitalist economy. One big lesson from this experience of exchange rate fluctuations for future economic policy in India is to create and strengthen institutional checks against further opening of the economy to speculative flows of capital that contribute to increased volatility. 

Pritam Singh
Professor of Economics, Oxford Brookes University, UK

Vanessa Petrelli Correa
Professor, University of Uberlandia, Brazil

by TCA Raghavan
Hindustan Times
Sep 22, 2018

The Barelvis asserted themselves as a political force in the recent Pakistan general election carving out space for themselves in the area hitherto occupied by mainstream Islamist parties many of whom are affiliated to the Deobandis. Massive demonstrations of street power have generally characterized Barelvi assertion in Pakistan in the past two years.

An early and damaging controversy the new government in Pakistan has found itself facing is over the appointment of a prominent Pakistani-American economist to the economic advisory council. That he was an Ahmadi made the decision unusual but after some brave noises the government backed down in the face of mounting protests. An Anti-Ahmadi sentiment is not new in Pakistan and has long provided a platform to ideologically charged groups to consolidate and expand their following. This recent issue over the economic advisory council demonstrates the heft a new political formation the Tehreek-e-Labbaik has acquired. The recent controversy however, is also a throwback to the drama of two decades earlier over the publication of the novel Satanic Verses in 1988.

1988 does not enjoy the same cachet as the year that followed it. In 1989 a series of cataclysms mark it as a landmark year: the coming down of the Berlin Wall, the revolutions in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania that made the iron-curtain history, the uprising in Tiananmen square, among others. Europe and Asia both seemed to be in the throes of a fundamental change.

1988 is certainly by contrast seems more placid. Yet in this year too there were developments with a long after life: The Soviet Union began its withdrawal from Afghanistan, General Zia died in a mysterious air crash and in the restoration of democracy that followed in Pakistan, Benazir Bhutto became prime minister, the first woman head of government in an Islamic country.

Satanic Verses comes to mind not just because this is its 30th anniversary of publication but because of the chain of events it triggered and the debate that emerged then between freedom of expression and the outrage of the devout when deeply cherished ideals of faith are violated.

The Barelvis asserted themselves as a political force in Pakistan’s recent general election through the Tehreek-e-Labbaik by carving out space for themselves in the area hitherto occupied by mainstream Islamist parties many of whom are affiliated to the Deobandis. Massive demonstrations of street power have generally characterised Barelvi assertion in Pakistan in the past two years. That these coincided with Nawaz Sharif’s own frictions with the army did lead, not unnaturally, to the view that this may have had more than a nod and a wink from the men in uniform.

Yet Barelvi activism has deeper roots. It first drew major notice following the assassination of the Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in 2011 because he criticised the prevalent Blasphemy Law. The cult that grew around the assassin —a bodyguard— enhanced the street power of a number of Barelvis maulvis and preachers whose prominence grew almost exponentially from month to month.

There is however an even longer history to the process. Through the 1980s and thereafter it was the Deobandi groups who made news in Pakistan as the ISI and Petro dollar support fuelled militants affiliated to them in the Afghan Jihad and thereafter in Kashmir. As Pakistan itself faced the inevitable spillover effects and witnessed a growing radicalisation of its society, it was the Deobandis who grew in strength and acquired a disproportionate profile, or so it seemed to many in the Barelvi fold which has by far the larger number of followers. Barelvi leaders found themselves the target of terrorist attacks and they felt themselves losing out in numerous other ways. They remained a large but dispersed presence needing a catalyst to consolidate. This came in the form of the cult around the assassin of the Punjab governor. With that spark it was natural that veneration of the prophet, a deeply held article of faith for Barelvis in particular, would be the platform that would launch them. The Satanic Verses episode had demonstrated in the past how effective a slogan alleged insults to Islam and the prophet can be.

The controversy over the appointment of an Ahmadi to an important post has largely blown blow over after it first erupted in the first half of September. For the Barelvis, the path ahead is very clear and controversies such as this one will propel them further to claim their slice of the radicalised spaces that now exist in Pakistan. The irony is that this sect has traditionally had in the subcontinent a strong reputation for moderation, inclusiveness and the rejection of puritanical interpretation.

TCA Raghavan is a retired diplomat and currently Director General of the Indian Council of World Affairs.

The views expressed are personal

Violence is endemic in all states across India. But in Bengal, all acts of violence are essentially political in nature
Ranabir Samaddar
The Wire
07 Oct 2018

Political violence has always been an integral part of Bengal’s history. The forms of such violence – over time – have mutated and transformed themselves. In the series Bengal: Genealogies of Violence, The Wire attempts to capture some of the milestones that mark the narratives of political bloodshed spanning more than eight decades. Read the other articles here.

If you would like to receive the nine-part series directly in your mailbox, sign up here.

The discourse on political violence as advanced by thinkers, administrators and politicians is indeed baffling. Even as the critics of violence are worried over the continuance and diversification of violence, they are unable to explain why people, states and nations have become so increasingly violent.

Walter Benjamin, who perished while fleeing the Nazis on the border of France and Spain in 1940, reportedly observed that the war of 1939 actually had its origins in earlier times, dating back to 1933. The people, however, were still not aware that all episodes of violence tend to have their genesis in the past. Benjamin cautioned that while we tend to recognise mythical violence without any ambivalence, the real danger lies in the violence generated by the executive. He used the term ‘pernicious’ to describe the violence sponsored by the executive and the administration.

Bengal context

We need to analyse the different faces of violence in Bengal in this larger context of violence. And we need to clarify what we mean when we characterise Bengal as a land ridden with violence. Let’s not forget that all states have their respective genealogies of violence, and their mythic forms exist alongside executive and administrative violence which routinely visit people. But it is violence in its mythic form, such as a war, which captures popular imagination; which makes us aware of its cataclysmic nature.

It is true that Bengal has had its fair share of such divine or pure violence. It is difficult to believe that Shah Shuja, the 17th century Bengal governor, son of Emperor Shah Jahan, had described Bengal as a fertile land of peace-loving, opium-consuming, idle villagers. The villagers, according to the governor, were loath to working hard because they could grow abundant crops with minimum amount of ploughing.

Yet, within a century, Shah Shuja’s portrayal of Bengal as a peaceful state was shattered as famines, deaths, and violence savaged the state in 1770. W.W. Hunter, a colonial officer, immortalised Bengal’s plight in The Annals of Rural Bengal, which he wrote in 1865.  

Hunter quoted verses from John Shore, an officer of the East India Company who served as Bengal’s governor general between 1793 and 1797:

   Still fresh in memory’s eye the scene I view,

   The shrivelled limbs, sunk eyes, and lifeless hue;

   Still hear the mother’s shrieks and infant moans,

   Cries of despair and agonising moans,

   In wild confusion dead and dying lie;

   Hark to the jackal’s yell and vulture’s cry,

   The dog’s fell howl, as midst the glare of the day

   They riot unmolested on their prey!

   Dire scenes of horror, which no one can trace,

   Nor rolling years from memory’s page efface.

Around the same time, the novelist Bankim Chandra, in his novel Anadamath, wrote about the violence that was triggered by the famine. Understanding how people tend to remember or recall such episodes of violence is important in understanding the history of violence and the multiple layers within that narrative.

During the famine that took place between 1870 and 1880, litterateurs and administrators recalled the earlier famine that ravaged the land a century ago in 1770. But the linkages among famine, violence, and memory did not end here.

Also read: The Forgotten Massacre of Dalit Refugees in West Bengal’s Marichjhapi

Seventy years on, Bengal found itself in the throes of yet another cataclysmic famine – which since has come to be known as the 1943 Bengal Famine. Three years later, unprecedented communal violence erupted across Kolkata. Significantly, intellectuals and administrators in 1943 barely recognised the palpable violence that was gestating underneath the famine-stricken land – the violence that in no small measure contributed to the Great Calcutta Killings of August 1946. The killings, unfortunately, were projected as sudden upheavals — divine retribution, as it were.

Such projections befuddle the idea of ‘violence’ in normal times, or, to put differently, the idea of ‘normal violence’. Normal violence is administrative violence, delivered within the framework of law. We tend to overlook or underplay the everyday violence in our life. It is only when confronted with unprecedented scales of violence – a strike of divine retribution – that we wake up to the presence of violence.

Thus the Bengal Famine of 1943 in which an estimated 3 million people died did not appear as a violent episode, while the Great Calcutta Killings in 1946, were identified as markers of violence.

Social history of violence in post-Partition Bengal

Bengal was indeed once the peaceful land prince Shuja had believed it to be. But colonisation jolted the foundations of the state. During the long years of colonial rule, Bengal remained a violent land dotted with numerous bloody revolts alongside struggles for land rights, famines, police torture and burning of women on husbands’ pyres.

Kolkata, then known as Calcutta, became as violent a city as Mumbai was known to be in the latter half of the 20th century. Beginning in the 19th century, as a flourishing site of slave trade and transportation of coolies abroad, followed by gang warfare, opium trade, and murders along banks of rivers, urban violence in the course of time overwhelmed rural violence. Street violence and urban warfare, an integral part of post-Partition Bengal’s history between1950 and 1970, were consequences of such economic and social processes. The street fighters came from the ranks of lower classes and dispossessed refugees. And the police were trained by their colonial masters to tackle the restless streets, which were as much a site of gang warfare and communal violence as they were of protests. Street violence was remarkable not so much because of the number of casualties. But because of its pure nature, uncontaminated by conflicts of caste, language or religion.

View of a rally in Calcutta in support of the peasant uprising of Naxalbari, 1967.

Analysts and Bengal watchers often wonder at the lack or even absence of caste-based violence in Bengal. It is not that caste discrimination did not or does not exist in Bengal or that it does not generate violence against people from lower castes. What needs to be understood is that in Bengal, all forms of social violence seem to have been subsumed in political violence.

The Naxalite decade (1967-1977), as it is popularly known, while claiming thousands of lives, epitomised Bengal’s changing face of violence. The movement subsumed all other forms of violence generated by caste, gender and religion.

Following the ascendancy of the Left Front government in 1977, the form of violence once again mutated and transformed itself into everyday routine violence.

The changing face of violence

One can therefore argue that, like the face of protest and rebellion changes over time, so too does the face of violence. The violence one encountered in Bengal during the colonial regime changed its form in the post-Independence period. Violence in this period manifested in street warfare and strengthening of mafia economy, with extortions and informal taxes increasing. Another contributing factor to this changed form of violence was a particular kind of development model that started taking shape in this period – the model that saw various rent-seeking groups resort to extreme violence in extracting income from land development and construction industry.

Let’s consider some aspects of street violence Bengal witnessed during this period. The infamous murders of Vinod Mehta – a police officer – and Idris Ali – a gangster – in Kolkata during the 1980s and the 1990s are just some of such incidents. Yet, the scale of violence in this state has been much less compared that of, for instance, Uttar Pradesh, whether it was violence directed by police to eliminate gangsters or the kind of violence that one saw in Bihar’s Bhagalpur blinding case where the state police blinded 31 undertrial convicts by pouring acid into their eyes. Known as the ‘Bhagalpur blindings’, the case made history in criminal jurisprudence by becoming the first in which the Supreme Court ordered compensation for violation of basic human rights.

Also read: Memories of 1946 Great Calcutta Killings Can Help Us Understand Violence in Today’s Bengal

During the Left Front regime, the cataclysmic violence lessened and political violence became ‘normal’. Or to put it differently, what we can describe as violence became banal. We can recall here the words of the political theorist Hannah Arendt about the ‘banality of evil’ – in this case the banality of violence.

Political killings continued unabated during the Left Front’s 34 year rule. The scale of violence may have reduced now, but the police and para-military personnel are still standing guard over the people in conflict and tension prone regions like Jangalmahal.

In general, we can argue that social violence still remains low in Bengal. The explanation for its seeming absence is that every incidence of violence in the state appears to be an act of political violence or ‘pure’ violence. The metamorphosis of social violence into political violence is an intriguing phenomenon, one that calls for a separate discussion. Bengal is a state whose levers of power can transform the social into the political. Political violence catches the eye, and in Bengal, encounters with violence is direct — physical. One has to fight the enemy physically, one must risk one’s own life and try to kill the enemy.

There is only one exception where, unfortunately, social violence has not become political. And that is gender violence.

Finally, I argue that no state experiences the same kind of violence throughout its history. No land escapes the problematic linkage between social and political violence. Therefore, to suggest that Bengal is a state more violent than others points towards a lack of rigour in understanding the nature of violence in general. This laxity allows us to condemn violence without being specific, and to not acknowledge that violence can become the organising principle of politics in a society, where social violence can continue unrecognised. Bengal illustrates this point better than any other state in India.

Ranabir Samaddar is Distinguished Chair in Forced Migration studies, Calcutta Research Group. He can be contacted at ranabir[at]

by Yamini Aiyar
Hindustan Times
Oct 05, 2018

Fixing India’s broken welfare system is about investing in the people that make the State. As the Aadhaar debate rages on, this must not be forgotten.

Aadhaar is designed to address the problem of false identity or ghost beneficiaries. But, as activists and researchers have repeatedly pointed out, ghost beneficiaries are not the only form of corruption(Pradeep Gaur/Mint)

The Aadhaar judgment and ensuing debate offer an important moment to revisit the current framework and associated solutions to the core challenge that Aadhaar sought to address: fixing India’s broken welfare architecture and building a strong, capable State system. At the heart of the debate is the question of the relationship between technology and State capacity and the degree to which technology is a tool or a solution to capacity failures.

Drawing on an extensive review of the existing evidence, in a forthcoming article, Lant Pritchett, Shrayana Bhattacharya and I argue that much of the debate and experimentation with technology is based on the flawed assumption that technology can allow us to bypass State failures. The majority Aadhaar judgment, in my view, upholds this assumption. However, experience with using technology, Aadhaar included, point to the fact that the very State failure that technology seeks to fix particularly — the people and organisation structures that make the State — are in fact critical to the success (and failure) of technology solutions.

This is best understood by examining the link between corruption in welfare programmes and identification — the primary rationale offered and endorsed by the Supreme Court for linking Aadhaar to government subsidies. As a technology, Aadhaar is designed to address the problem of false identity or ghost beneficiaries. But, as activists and researchers have repeatedly pointed out, ghost beneficiaries are not the only form of corruption. In Jharkhand, for instance, Karthik Muralidharan’s work on PDS highlights that quantity fraud, where legitimate beneficiaries were given only a fraction of their entitlement, rather than identity fraud was the key driver of corruption. In Rajasthan, an Id-insights study finds that non-availability of ration was a key reason beneficiaries did not receive PDS.

In both cases, it is likely that leakage will be reduced far more effectively by focusing on the pipeline problem of movement of grains to PDS stores rather than last mile benefiacry “authentication”. The point is that Aadhaar and associated technologies are only as effective as the problem they are trying to solve. Understanding the nature of corruption is thus critical. Muralidharan argues that this can be best achieved by placing beneficiary experience at the centre of solution identification. But to do this, the State must be nimble, and capable of building feedback loops with citizens, with empowered frontline officers capable of adapting solutions. This is the antithesis of the current hierarchical culture accustomed to implementing one-size fits all solutions prevalent in the Indian State.

The focus on corruption obfuscates another challenge with identification — that of eligibility determination. Aadhaar can weed out ghosts and duplicates but it doesn’t help deal with the difficulties the State faces in identifying those who are eligible for benefits. The bottleneck here, as Pritchett, Bhattacharya and I argue, is not the predatory State that encourages ghosts. Rather, it is a State that is too small and too incompetent to deal with complex tasks. This was brought home to me by Centre for Policy Research’s Accountability Initiative, which studied the efficacy of using the socio-economic caste census (SECC) for housing subsidies. To ensure genuine beneficiaries received the subsidy, the panchayats were tasked with updating SECC lists. This required multiple transaction intensive tasks, including redoing parts of the survey, and dispute resolution as citizen claims differed from official records. All this was being handled by a few harried elected panchayat representatives and the sole secretary assigned. Lack of staff was one problem but an even bigger one was lack of skills. To update lists appropriately, panchayats needed a new set of skills, from data-entry skills, to people management skills to handle disputes. Without these skills and against tight deadlines, the updation process suffered and chances of genuine beneficiaries being left out were high.

From a citizens’ point of view, there are thus two challenges to identification. The first is that of asserting eligibility or declaring yourself a beneficiary; and the second is authentication. Aadhaar may help with the latter but it cannot solve the former problem. This is where discretion creeps in and politicians, as studies on targeted subsidies like pensions highlight, become critical. Getting eligibility right requires building local government capacities by employing and training cadres of workers to create beneficiary registers. Technology can help but it cannot be a substitute for people.

Rather than strengthen the State, Aadhaar and associated technologies amplify the need to invest in building State capacity, particularly at the frontlines. For the moment, however, the debate remains caught between techno-optimists who see technology as a magic bullet and the sceptics who recognise the complexities but haven’t adequately engaged with the nuts and bolts of administrative reforms needed to strengthen State capacity. Fixing India’s broken welfare system is about investing in the people who make the State. As the Aadhaar debate rages on, this must not be forgotten.

Yamini Aiyar is president and chief executive, Centre for Policy Research

Saeed Naqvi
New Age
Sep 29, 2018

NANDITA Das’s film on the subcontinent’s greatest short story writer, Saadat Hasan Manto, brought alive memories of days when it was fashionable to be on the left. That is where all the progressive writers were — Ali Sardar Jafri, Kaifi Azmi, Ismat Chugtai, Sahir Ludhianvi, Krishen Chander, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, the lot. The Pied Piper who lured them to Bombay (Mumbai) was the innovative secretary general of the CPI, PC Joshi. As part of the trend, actors like Balraj Sahni gave a boost to the Indian peoples’ theatre. Socialism even in Raj Kapoor films was influenced by the ambience that this lot had generated. They determined the character of Bollywood by their lyrics, dialogue and sheer presence. Subsequently, the influence disappeared, but not totally. Witness Nandita Das.
At one level, Manto’s uncompromising realism sustains the tension throughout the film because it clashes with the dogmatic idealism of his colleagues. Das assembles many of them and their friends in cinema, Ashok Kumar, Shyam (Chaddha) in the first Independence Day party where the legendary Jaddan Bai regales the gathering. The teenage girl behind her mother Jaddan Bai is unmistakably Nargis. It is superb casting. The way Manto protects Ashok Kumar through a mob of Muslim rioters is unbelievably realistic. His parting with his closest friend the handsome actor Shyam because of partition is rich in poignancy.
The partition of India is replete with many tragic ironies but tragedies pale before the incident that Manto picks on as a metaphor for the mayhem: Toba Tek Singh.
When the newly formed governments of the two countries complete the identification of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan’s mental asylum and Muslims left in such institutions in India, the governments decided to transfer them to the countries they were now deemed to be citizens of.
When Bishan Singh, a Sikh in a Pakistan asylum, is being transferred to India under police escort he learns that his hometown, Toba Tek Singh has been left in Pakistan. Bishan Singh begins to walk in the opposite direction. The last scene shows him lying in no-man’s land. Let Manto end the story in his own words: ‘There, behind the barbed wire, on one side, lay India and behind more barbed wire, on the other side, lay Pakistan. In between on a bit of earth, which had no name, lay Toba Tek Singh. This is just one of the Manto stories Nandita Das weaves effortlessly into her film.
‘Thanda Gosht’ or ‘Cold Meat’, a controversial masterpiece, becomes one of the film’s supporting columns. It provides occasion for a court drama where Manto defends himself against charges of obscenity. Faiz Ahmad Faiz as a witness in the case exposes the earliest fissures in the Progressive Writers Movement. In his testimony, Faiz describes ‘Thanda Gosht’ as not the ‘highest form of literature’ but clearly not obscene either.
The backdrop, once again, are the riots following partition, the cataclysm Manto could never wrench himself away from. A well built Sikh, Ishwar Singh, has returned after joining the looters. In fact he has even murdered five men with his kirpan (sword). But when he is unable to make love to the passionate Kalwant Kaur, she, in a moment of suspicion and jealousy, slits his throat with the very same kripan, demanding that he tell her who he has slept with.
The story’s final climax is — it has many — when a dying Ishwar Singh confesses: yes, he lifted a ‘very beautiful girl’ from a house, but when he laid her down, he realised to his horror… she was dead, ‘Thanda Gosht’.
An effort to critique Nandita Das’s film has involuntarily, meandered past the brilliant short stories which many readers must already be familiar with. There is a simple reason for my diversion. The succinct, vivid, picturisation of so many of the stories have made them more intimately accessible. Those who have read Manto will be enriched. The selection of stories is uncanny. When a doctor asks his helper to ‘open’ (khol do), the window to allow some light, Sakina (recovered from a riot affected area) gropes for the string of her shalwar in a daze and loosens it. She has developed a Pavlovian response to the sound ‘Khol do’, so repeatedly has she been raped in captivity. There is a disturbing, Mantovian irony attending the end. On this occasion the instruction ‘khol do’ is for the window to be opened so that Sakina’s distraught father, who has spent days searching for her, can see her face. I can go on and on.
The extraordinary directorial success lies in what Nandita Das has avoided. Despite the world’s finest short stories at her disposal, she has refrained from creating a catalogue of Manto masterpieces, however seductive the idea may have been. The stories are in the service of the director’s primary purpose: to bring out the multilayered life of a genius, struggling to keep the wolf from door, a difficult proposition when tight fisted publishers buy a short story only for rupees 20 against Manto’s demand for rupees 50. He accepts the humiliation because he is in desperate need for money for his child’s medical treatment.
To be proud, sensitive and constantly in need is a lethal combination. Initially, when Manto copes with the humiliation, he reminds me of Majaz Lucknowi.
‘Banyeen sael e gham o sael e hawadis
Mera sar hai ki ab bhi khum naheen hai.’
(A gathering storm of tragedy and pain approaches
But I have not bowed my head — the struggle continues)
Eventually, on a cold December night, Majaz was found in a coma on the terrace of a Lucknow country liquor shop. He died the next morning in Balrampur hospital, surrounded by comrades who happened to be in Lucknow for a conference of progressive writers — Ismat Chugtai, Sardar Jafri, Sahir Ludhianvi. Manto also dies of alcoholism but his is a slow end, by attrition. Both died in their 40s.
The film’s other attraction is the portrayal of an era along a distinct track — post-partition, mayhem, breakdown of friendships, relationships, Manto’s parting from Bombay deliberately preserving a one rupee debt to a cigarette seller as a ‘precious’ link with the city he loved.

Saeed Naqvi is a senior Indian journalist, television commentator, interviewer, and distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

by Nadia Murad
The New York Times
Feb. 10, 2018

Three years ago I was one of thousands of Yazidi women kidnapped by the Islamic State and sold into slavery. I endured rape, torture and humiliation at the hands of multiple militants before I escaped. I was relatively lucky; many Yazidis went through worse than I did and for much longer. Many are still missing. Many have been killed.

Once I escaped, I felt that it was my duty to tell the world about the brutality of the Islamic State. Yazidi women hoped that recounting our experiences of mass murder, rape and enslavement would bring attention to the Yazidi genocide. We received sympathy and solidarity all over the world, but now what we really need is concrete action to get justice and allow our community to return to its homeland.

On Aug. 3, 2014, the Islamic State invaded the Sinjar region in northern Iraq with the mission of exterminating the Yazidis, whose numbers are estimated to be between 400,000 and 500,000. Our religion dates back to ancient Mesopotamia and preserves pre-Islamic practices. Because of that, the Islamic State called us pagans without a holy book, and used that slander to justify murder. The majority of Yazidis fled, initially to the mountains of northwestern Iraq, and then to Iraqi Kurdistan.

Kocho, my village of 1,800 people about 15 miles from the city of Sinjar, was under siege for almost two weeks before it fell to the Islamic State. The militants lined up over 300 men behind a school and shot them. Their bodies were buried in irrigation ditches. Among those bodies were six of my brothers.

The militants then took the women and boys to Sinjar and Solagh, a nearby town. My 61-year-old mother, Shami, and the other older women were killed. The younger women, including myself, were taken to slave markets throughout Iraq and Syria. The boys, including one of my nephews, 11-year-old Malik, were forced to join the terrorist group and brainwashed.

Over three years later, Malik remains with the Islamic State and calls his mother to tell her he believes in its ideology. Thousands of Yazidis remain missing, and hundreds of thousands are stuck in refugee camps. With few opportunities for work or education, they are often forced to rely on donations of food and clothing.

Again, I was lucky. I was among the 1,100 women and children moved to Germany through a program established in the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg. Canada and Australia have also agreed to take in hundreds of Yazidi survivors of Islamic State brutality, and their families.

But the Yazidis in Iraqi Kurdistan’s refugee camps and elsewhere in the world live with the pain of losing their homeland and families. We live with growing frustration that the perpetrators are getting away. And the Yazidi religion is on the brink of dying out.

Yet we are hopeful that one day we will return to Sinjar, rebuild our families and practice our religion freely, and that our rapists will face justice.

That hope made us speak publicly about something as painful and private as our abuse by the Islamic State. By recounting what happened to us, we relived our pain and risked being judged harshly by those around us. When you ask a Yazidi to repeat her grim testimony, you should consider what an emotional toll that exacts. And when you recount what happened to us, please do not use that demeaning phrase “sex slaves” to refer to us. We are survivors.

Over the past three years, the world has come out in support of the Yazidis. But now we need to move away from the personal stories of survivors and take practical steps, steps toward prosecuting the Islamic State militants responsible for these crimes and toward reconstructing Yazidi areas in Iraq so that displaced Yazidis can begin to go back to their homes.

My lawyer, Amal Clooney, and Yazda, a global Yazidi rights organization, helped me to plead our cause at the United Nations and to put pressure on the Iraqi government and urge the international community to act. In September, the United Nations Security Council finally passed a resolution to establish an international investigation into these crimes. We hope this investigative team will be deployed soon and that it will carry out the long overdue inquiry into the crimes of the Islamic State, including by exhuming the 94 mass graves of the group’s victims that have been found in Iraq.

We continue to collect evidence of the genocide and are working with prosecutors around the world to get more cases heard. The lawyers helping us are working pro bono and with few resources.

The conditions in the Yazidi areas of Iraq remain bleak. Land mines and homemade bombs planted by the Islamic State litter the region. An overwhelming majority of the buildings in the Sinjar area have been destroyed; basic services such as sanitation, electricity and water are lacking. Access to the area, which is controlled by Iraqi Kurdish forces, remains extremely difficult both for humanitarian organizations and for the Yazidis wishing to return.

We are very grateful to President Emmanuel Macron of France, who pledged to help demine the Sinjar region. And together with the French government, we are working on starting the Sinjar Action Fund, a trust fund to rebuild Sinjar. But we need more help. I call on governments, international organizations, private entities and individuals to contribute to the Sinjar Action Fund and help us return home and rebuild our lives.


One day, I want to marry and have children. I will have to deal with the trauma of my rape personally and quietly. But like most Yazidi women, I am prepared to repeat my story, as long as it helps to achieve justice and to support genocide survivors.

Some months back, after I gave a talk at the United Nations about the plight of my people, a young African woman approached me. Boko Haram militants had kidnapped her and raped her. We instantly recognized each other as survivors and formed a bond. Since my escape I have learned how often women are victimized by war, from Rwanda to Bosnia, from Syria to Myanmar. Yazidi women now belong to a vast network of survivors of rape and enslavement.

Rather than emphasizing our victimhood, that connection to other women empowers us to take back our lives and to fight for our community’s future. Like those brave women, Yazidi survivors are much more than victims. We are activists and we need more than empathy.

Nadia Murad is the author of the memoir “The Last Girl.”

A version of this article appears in print on Feb. 11, 2018, on Page SR12 of the New York edition with the headline: We Need More Than Empathy.

Landless Rural Workers' Movement [MST)
October 7, 2018  

Comrades and Friends of MST around the World,

We would like to share some of our views on this delicate moment of Brazilian politics in the last week of the election campaign:

1. This election is very special because it can mean the victory or defeat of the coup against democracy started in 2014, which continued with the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, extended into the illegitimate government of Michel Temer. For us, the coup is not just the moment of impeachment. The coup is the project that the elites and the financial capital did not have the strength to conquer in the elections and that needed to use the force and the illegality of other apparatuses like the media and the judiciary to execute. Thus, the coup is also the reforms of withdrawal of rights, the promotion of unemployment and, mainly, the political imprisonment of president Lula, without evidence and at a fast pace, to prevent that the favorite candidate of the population disputed the elections.

2. We further understand that the coup is a symptom of the profound economic, social and political crisis that affects not only Brazil, but the whole world, as a result of the hegemony of international financial capital and the accelerated destruction of natural assets, social rights and State around the world. It is important to have this understanding, because the elections will not solve this crisis and probably, even with the victory of the popular forces, we will have the continuity of the crisis and the confrontations that marked this period.

3. The Brazilian population understood that there was a coup and that it was necessary to defeat it. But it did not choose the path of the streets and mobilizations. With the exception of the victorious general strike that blocked the pension reform. In this way, the people chose in Lula’s candidacy the way to express its discontent and desire for change. The MST defended Lula’s candidacy as far as possible. We made a beautiful march to register his candidacy and with other popular movements we made a hunger strike that lasted 26 days and denounced the manipulations of the Judiciary System. And we have kept the Camp Lula Livre in front of the Federal Police’s jail in Curitiba as a living testimony of our conviction of the president’s innocence. Despite protests from the UN and a large civic movement by Lula Livre, the judiciary prevented President Lula from running for the elections. Faced with this, the Workers’ Party chose to launch the former Education Minister and former Sao Paulo mayor Fernando Hadadd as a candidate. And we, like the other democratic forces, decided to support his candidacy, because it represents the defeat of the coup, Lula’s freedom and the possibility of overcoming the serious economic and political crisis and resuming a path of development of the country.

4. On the other hand, in these four years of the coup, the Brazilian right has used numerous tools: fabricated social movements, active militancy of the judiciary and the media against democracy … One of the fronts of these attacks was the encouragement of leaders with fascist speech like Jair Bolsonaro, a federal deputy for three decades (but presenting himself as an anti-system), former army captain, defender of the military dictatorship and torture, and the withdrawal of countless social rights. Bolsonaro is advised by military and foreign-funded funds economists. Bolsonaro’s speech of violence, homophobia and radicalism grew with the support of the media, who hoped that in the polarization between him and the left, the traditional right might present itself as “moderate” or “center.” However, the population decided to punish the parties that carried out the coup, such as the PSDB of Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Aécio Neves (whose candidate Geraldo Alckmin is expected to be fourth or fifth) and Michel Temer’s MDB (whose candidate Henrique Meirelles should not be among the top six). And the creation fled from the control of the creators, taking the vows of the old right.

5. We understand, therefore, that in this election there is a clear dispute between two antagonistic projects: the continuity of the coup and its reforms, represented by its more radical and authoritarian version, Jair Bolsonaro, and the reconstruction of democracy and rights, represented by Fernando Haddad. It is, therefore, an election marked by the class struggle. For a project that combines the most conservative sectors of our society and international capital against the workers’ project.

6. From the point of view of foreign policy, this dispute of projects is represented on the one hand by Bolsonaro’s project, a more aligned U.S. policy, non-recognition of Palestine, and attacks on Venezuela and the progressive governments of Latin America. On the other hand, by Hadadd’s project, of resumption of Latin American integration and of strengthening relations with the countries of the Global South.

7. Therefore, this will be a difficult election, disputed both at the polls and on the streets, as demonstrated by the gigantic women’s movement #EleNão (#NotHim) this past weekend. We also know that the results of this election will decisively influence the direction of Latin America and can signal a new progressive offensive throughout the world. For our part, we will continue to fight for popular agrarian reform and for a popular project for Brazil, and we ask our friends on all continents to remain attentive to developments in Brazil and to denounce both the conservative offensive and the political imprisonment of President Lula. •

MST National Board
Sao Paulo, October 05, 2018


South Asia Citizens Wire
Buzz for secularism, on the dangers of fundamentalism(s), on
matters of peace and democratisation in South
Asia. Newsletter of South Asia Citizens Web:

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