SACW - 1 Nov 2018 | Sri Lanka: Coup & Crisis / Pakistan: Supreme Court ruling on Asia Bibi Case / India - Pakistan Must Talk / India: Media under Modi Regime; Mobs Defy Supreme Court / Palestinian Authority & Hamas have a human rights problem / Brazil: Bolsonaro victory / Gorbachev on New Nuclear Arms Race

Harsh Kapoor aiindex at
Wed Oct 31 17:12:47 EDT 2018

South Asia Citizens Wire - 1 Nov 2018 - No. 3004 
[via South Asia Citizens Web - since 1996]

1. Sri Lanka - Coup d’etat and Constitutional Crisis
2. Pakistan: Text of Supreme Court judgment on Asia Bibi Case
3. Bangladesh: Let Shahidul resume his journey
4. India: Media under Modi Regime - Remembering Balagopal 9th Memorial Lecture by Hartosh Singh Bal
5. India: A Growing Fear Among Us - Text of Keynote by Shanta Gokhale address at 2018 Ooty Literary Festival
6. India: News from Social Movements - Opposition to Nuclear Power projects / To Bullet Train Project / To Adani power-plant in Jharkhand 

7. Recent on Communalism Watch:
 - India - Malegaon Terrorism Case 2008: Lt Col Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Among 7 Hindutva Activists Charged
 - India: American Hindutva Activist Rajiv Malhotra Gets Appointed as Visiting Prof at JNU
 - Two part article by Abhishek Choudhary on the RSS and its role in shaping India’s future
 - India: Show of Force by Far Right Nationalists of the RSS at New Delhi's elite gated residential complexes
 - From Allahabad to Prayagraj-What's in the name?
 - Hindutva in Chicago | Slok Gyawali
 - The Right-wing’s use of draconian anti-free speech laws comes home to roost

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8. Pakistani woman Asia Bibi acquitted after Supreme Court overturns death sentence for blasphemy
9. India, Pak leaders have to put in place a format for talks that is insulated from interruptions | Editorial, Hindustan Times
10. India’s glaring confidence deficit: It should not turn its quarrel with Pakistan’s government into a quarrel with its people | Sadanand Dhume
11. South Asia: High costs of not trading with neighbours | Seema Sirohi
12. India: Can SC [Supreme Court] stand up to mobs? | Dushyant
13. India: The BJP is turning faith into a corrosive force - Editorial, The Telegraph
14. India: Past perfect and a future tense | Rajesh Kochhar
15. Isakava on Gorter, 'The Red Soul'
16. Arbitrary Arrest and Torture Under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas
17. Brazil: What Bolsonaro’s election victory means | Benjamin Fogel 
+ Hitler in Brasilia: The U.S. Evangelicals and Nazi Political Theory Behind Brazil's President-in-waiting | Alexander Reid Ross
18. A New Nuclear Arms Race Has Begun | Mikhail Gorbachev

On 26 October 2018, President Maithripala Sirisena purported to remove the existing Prime Minister Ranil Wickremasinghe and purported to appoint Mahinda Rajapakse MP as the new Prime Minister. Having examined the legal position, LfD concludes that this move is clearly unconstitutional and undemocratic for the following reasons

There were three dramatic announcements on the evening of Friday 26th October 2018 from the Presidential Secretariat, which occurred in the following order: (a) the announcement of the withdrawal of the UPFA from the government; (b) the swearing-in of Mahinda Rajapaksa before President Maithripala Sirisena as the Prime Minister; and (c) the announcement that the President has informed Ranil Wickremesinghe in writing that he has been removed from the office of Prime Minister under Article 42(4).

Asia Bibi had been living on death row since 2010 when she became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Asia Bibi acquitted after Supreme Court overturns death sentence for blasphemy

It is nothing if not misguided to believe or suggest Shahidul Alam’s motivations were in any way mala fide, as he waded into the student protests in August to provide his own eyewitness accounts, taking advantage for the first time of that remarkable tool that has emerged for all story-tellers: Social media.

Video recording of a public lecture by the noted India journalist Hartosh Singh Bal in early October 2018

on 14 September 2018 at Ooty Literary Festival in Tamil Nadu Shanta Gohale was given the Ooty Literary Festival Lifetime Achievement Award. This is the full text of the keynote address delivered by her.

(1) India: Forceful land acquisition and government brutalities define Jharkhand’s Adani power-plant project - Press Release by Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha
With much fanfare, Jharkhand government signed an MoU with Adani groups in 2016 to setup a powerplant in Godda district. A recent fact-finding visit of members of Jharkhand Janadhikar Mahasabha, an umbrella network of more than 30 people’s organisations, found that this project has gathered several accolades in the last two years - forceful acquisition of land, severe violation of processes set by land acquisition act 2013, bulldozing standing crops of farmers, lying to people about the potential benefits, intimidating affected people with police brutalities, lawsuits and so on.

(2) Days of Nuclear Power are Over: Movement groups from across India demand Scrapping Chutkha and other Nuclear Power Projects
Anti-Nuclear movement groups from across India, through the initiative of National Alliance of Anti-Nuclear movements came together in Bhopal for a two-days national conclave, and demanded the immediate scrapping of Chutka Nuclear Power Plant, and all other NPPs planned in India.

(3) India: Scrap the Bullet Train Project - Memorandum to Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) by Bhumi Adhikar Andolan [Land Rights Movement] (signed by reps. of 12 political parties)

 - India - Malegaon Terrorism Case 2008: Lt Col Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Among 7 Hindutva Activists Charged
 - India: American Hindutva Activist Rajiv Malhotra Gets Appointed as Visiting Prof at JNU
 - Two part article by Abhishek Choudhary on the RSS and its role in shaping India’s future
 - India: BJP wanted the ayodhya hearings in court to go on as it would have helped before the 2019 elections - select tweets
 - India: Will the BJP take an ordinance route to the Ram temple in Ayodhya ?
 - India: Show of Force by Far Right Nationalists of the RSS at New Delhi's elite gated residential complexes
 - From Allahabad to Prayagraj-What's in the name?
 - India: Video about Nadeem, who was left with nothing after the 2013 Muzaffarnagar Riots and has from there  
- Hindutva in Chicago | Slok Gyawali
 - The Right-wing’s use of draconian anti-free speech laws comes home to roost
 - India: Shri Ram Mandir Nirman Sahayog Manch - the RSS’s new outfit quietly takes up much of VHP’s Ram Janmabhoomi work in Ayodhya

 -> available via:
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8. Pakistani woman Asia Bibi acquitted after Supreme Court overturns death sentence for blasphemy
South China Morning Post
31 October, 2018
* Asia Bibi has been living on death row since 2010 when she became the first woman to be sentenced to death under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws
* She was condemned for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Islam after neighbours objected to her drinking water from their glass because she was not Muslim


by Rabia Mehmood
The News
October 16, 2018

As the world awaits the Supreme Court’s verdict on Aasia Bibi’s unjust conviction and death sentence in a blasphemy case, hardliners have started agitating both online and offline, increasing pressure on the authorities to uphold the sentence. A not-so-cryptic tweet by Rizvi Media of Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLYR) reads: “Think carefully before making any decision.”

The fate of those unjustly accused of blasphemy hinges on this emblematic case, which has created an environment of fear and hostility for Pakistanis especially those who adhere to religions other than Sunni Islam.

Since Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer’s killing in 2010, I have interviewed and spoken to hundreds of Pakistani minorities. The impact of Taseer’s death, for taking a stand against Aasia Bibi’s arrest on blasphemy charges, came up a lot in the conversations. Many spoke about how unsafe minorities felt in Pakistan. If a governor could not be protected, then what of religious minorities, who are at a higher risk?

Eight years on, the situation seems to be getting worse. Prosecutions on blasphemy charges have expanded to the internet and people have been accused even for social media posts.

In February this year, a video of an injured young man, Sajid Masih, went viral on social media. Sajid alleged that he was tortured by an officer belonging to the Federal Investigation Agency who ordered him to have sex with his cousin, Patras. Unable to bear the humiliation, Sajid jumped off from the fourth floor of the FIA building.

Patras Indreyas Masih, Sajid’s cousin, was charged with committing blasphemy – taken into police custody on February 19 after being accused of posting a blasphemous message on Facebook. The case, which was filed by a TLYR supporter, went to trial on April 30.

Patras Masih’s lawyer and family insist that he was a minor at the time of the alleged offence. However, the authorities have prosecuted and tried Patras as an adult. His family says that, despite allegations in the media that his National ID card showed he was 21, his age on his CNIC was changed for him to be able to get a job and provide for his low-income family.

His birth certificate clearly shows he was born in 2001, proving he was 17 at the time of the post. Pakistan is party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, according to which each child has the rights to freedom of religionand expression.

Accusing and prosecuting children for blasphemy is not new to Pakistan. Many other minors who were arrested on blasphemy charges include Salamat Masih (11) of Gujranwala, Rimsha Masih (13) of Islamabad, Nabil Chohan (16) of Kasur, Ryan Stenton (16) of Karachi and Aqib Saleem (15), an Ahmadi of Gujranwala. Nabil Chohan has been in jail for two years without access to a lawyer of his choice.

In addition to minors, the list of Pakistanis condemned under blasphemy charges include women, older people, persons with mental disabilities, teachers, school and university students and many others. In 2009, a blasphemy case against a Muslim woman living with schizophrenia, Zaibunnisa, was quashed by the Lahore High Court after she had spent nine years in jail and five in a mental health facility.

Even the faintest suspicion of a blasphemy allegation is enough to put the accused and, in case of religious minorities, their entire community in danger. In 2012, I had reported on an Ahmadi man who was acquitted in a blasphemy case after spending years in prison sharing a barrack with militants. Despite being proven innocent, he ended up living in hiding, unable to step out the town his family was living in. He eventually had to flee Pakistan for a safer place for him and his family.

Christians and Ahmadis have been displaced within Pakistan and others have had to either flee the country or seek asylum elsewhere due to the lack of protections and the constant threat of blasphemy laws pending over them.

The impunity and free pass given to those who use blasphemy laws to threaten and attack minorities is not a mystery. So far, there has been no accountability for those who have justified and advocated hatred and discrimination against the most marginalised sectors of society.

Despite decades of activism by civil-society organisations, journalists and legislators to amend the blasphemy laws to protect the rights to freedom of religion and expression for all, Pakistani authorities seem reluctant to bring laws in line with international law and have preferred to stay in the past. In the meantime, the list of victims who fall prey to blasphemy allegations keeps growing.

The question is: will Naya Pakistan take a stand against the religious discrimination that has hounded minorities for decades in Purana Pakistan?

Today, Patras Masih’s parents remain displaced from their home due to threats they have received since their son was accused. It is time for the justice system to ensure that blasphemy allegations are no longer used to silence and violate the human rights of any Pakistani.

The writer is a South Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

Email: rabia.mehmood[at]
Twitter: @rabail26

Hindustan Times
Oct 29, 2018


India, Pak leaders have to put in place a format for talks that is insulated from interruptions
These talks must focus on low hanging fruit while chipping away at the more contentious issues

If India and Pakistan have been unable to resume some form of dialogue in the 10 years since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, it is not for want of trying. The two sides have gone through the one step forward, two steps back routine several times in the years since. Indian leaders have made concessions on key issues such as Balochistan and undertaken surprise visits to Pakistan to get the ball rolling, and the national security advisers of the two sides have held secret meetings to help ease tensions. But the two sides never came to grips with the main issues that have bedevilled the bilateral relationship.

India has consistently maintained that talks and terror cannot go together, a stand that isn’t surprising given the global clamour for Pakistan to do more to tackle terrorism emanating from its soil. Many in Pakistan are still reluctant to acknowledge how much of a game changer the terrorist assault on Mumbai was, and for millions of Indians, there is no sense of closure as Pakistan seems to be still dragging its feet on prosecuting those responsible for the attacks that killed 166 people. For Pakistan, Kashmir remains the “core issue” to be addressed through any talks, and a worsening of the situation in the Indian state in the past few years appears to have only hardened the stance of the Pakistani leadership on this issue.

There are numerous takers for the theory that Pakistan’s former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, was targeted by the military for opposing its stranglehold on foreign policy by extending a hand of friendship to India. There are also many in India who believe Mr Sharif’s successor, Imran Khan, is in power today largely because he has the blessings of the military establishment and will thus toe the army’s line on all matters related to India. And as India pursues plans to consolidate its position in Asia, there is an inevitable feeling that Islamabad no longer figures on New Delhi’s, at least not for the foreseeable future.

Mr Khan has already gone on record as saying that talks may be possible only after India’s general elections in 2019. However, Mr Khan needs to keep in mind the fact that any dispensation in New Delhi will be reluctant to engage with Islamabad as long as members of his cabinet openly share the stage at public events with Lashkar-e-Taiba founder, Hafiz Saeed. The two sides have to put in place a format for talks that is insulated from interruptions and focuses on low hanging fruit while chipping away at the more contentious issues.

Sadanand Dhume
The Times of India
October 20, 2018

Is it still possible to have a sane conversation about Pakistan in India? If the hyperventilating shouting matches that pass for TV news programmes are anything to go by, it’s hard to answer in the affirmative.

Earlier this month, former cricketer and current Congress Party politician Navjot Singh Sidhu riled both TV studio generals and Twitter hashtag warriors with perfectly anodyne observations about India’s western neighbour at a literature festival in Kasauli. In a discussion about Punjabiyat – the common culture of Punjabis on either side of the border – Sidhu pointed out that in many ways he feels more at home in Pakistan than in Tamil Nadu.

In Tamil Nadu, said Sidhu, “the culture is totally different.” He does not speak Tamil, and has only a limited appetite for idlis. Across the border, in Pakistan, they even share the same swear words.

That such commonplace observations can induce outrage, even if only of the synthetic variety, suggests how much India’s national discourse on Pakistan has deteriorated in recent years. This ought to concern not just those who prefer butter chicken to butter masala dosa. A more even-keeled approach to Pakistan – one that eschews both the breathless sentimentalism of the pappi-jhappi crowd and the clownish fulminations of studio generals – is in India’s own best interest.

The principles underlying this commonsensical approach are simple. Those Pakistanis who work against India – primarily the military and the witches brew of jihadist groups it has nurtured – do not deserve a shred of empathy. But with ordinary Pakistanis India ought to take the opposite tack. They are not an enemy people, merely estranged cousins who took a different path. You don’t need to be a woolly-headed peacenik who lights candles at the Wagah border to wish them well.

At first glance this approach may carry the taint of sentimentalism, but in reality it’s grounded in plain facts.

For starters, Pakistan may be a troubled nation but it’s not about to disappear any time soon. For all its problems – over-bearing generals, a stuttering economy, fundamentalist mullahs, restive ethnic minority groups – Pakistan has endured for nearly 50 years since the secession of Bangladesh.

Indeed, in some ways Pakistan is a more coherent political entity than India. The vast majority of Pakistanis share the faith of Islam and the language of Urdu, albeit as a lingua franca rather than as a native tongue. India cannot simply wish away the fact that it will likely share a border with a nuclear-armed nation of more than 200 million people for a long time to come.

Only Pakistan can fix its myriad problems, but if it manages to become a relatively stable and prosperous country that focusses on exporting garments rather than jihad, India will unquestionably be among the biggest beneficiaries. Indians ought to root for Pakistan growing richer, stabler and more democratic. We can call this hope “getting to Canada.”

Evidence suggests that the average Pakistani bears no hostility towards India. Over the past decade, both the left-of-centre Pakistan Peoples Party and the right-of-centre Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) have found that promising improved relations with India is a vote getter. Historically speaking, the parts of undivided India that became Pakistan had no appetite for Partition until shortly before it occurred. In undivided Punjab, the Unionist party dominated by Muslim, Hindu and Sikh landlords held sway until provincial elections in 1946.

To be sure, the bloodletting that accompanied Partition created a measure of ill-will on both sides of the border. But, as the Pakistani scholar-diplomat Husain Haqqani points out in his fine book, Reimagining Pakistan, for the most part anti-Indian sentiment does not occur naturally in Pakistan. It is fostered by the army and its sympathisers as part of an ill-conceived attempt to yoke the argument that drove Partition to a modern nation-building project.

A more self-confident India would couple a brass-knuckle approach to terrorism with an expansive embrace of talented Pakistanis. Instead of calling for Pakistani movie stars to be banished from Bollywood and cricketers to be banned from the Indian Premier League, India ought to actively woo them. Competition invariably raises standards. The added undercurrent of rivalry between Indians and Pakistanis would raise it more sharply still. India would be enriched by hosting more Pakistani writers, musicians, actors and cricketers.

Instead of viewing Pakistanis as potential interlopers, India should aspire to be the stage on which the brightest talent from across the subcontinent shines. The US performs a similar function for Canada; Australia does the same for New Zealand. Those who believe India ought to shun Pakistanis are only hurting themselves, and stunting India’s soft power in one of the few countries genuinely receptive to it.

Contrast this idea of an open and self-confident India with the current reality. TV anchors throw tantrums over the most innocuous praise for Pakistan. The ruling party’s troll factory has perfected the art of turning any visit to that country by an opposition politician into a lurid conspiracy against the Indian government. The government diminishes itself by making ordinary Pakistanis seeking medical treatment in India grovel for visas. This is not how aspiring great powers behave. These are hallmarks of the deeply insecure.

by Seema Sirohi

Raisina Debates
Oct 25 2018

The politics of South Asia have always cast a shadow over the economics of the region, making it a tariff-ridden jumble of impossibilities rather than a neighbourly place of opportunities.

Connectivity is abysmally low, information flows even lower and hidden duties are high, fragmenting a region already dotted with isolated and landlocked areas.

Nowhere else, perhaps, is proximity such a curse as in South Asia where countries actively discriminate against each other on trade. The South Asian Free Trade Agreement of 2006 is undermined by long “sensitive lists,” restricting almost 35% of intra-regional trade.

Numbers have a way of waking governments and entrepreneurs up – even if momentarily – to see the tremendous cost of not trading freely with each other.

Ironically, South Asia is the world’s most rapidly growing region at 7% but it is also the most disjointed, disconnected and distrusting group of countries. It muddles along, content to realize only a third of the trade potential.

If things were normal trade among South Asian countries would be $67 billion not a mere $23 billion. More trade could lead to more trust, which would lead to more understanding to create a virtuous cycle.

In 2015, intra-regional trade as a share of regional GDP was less than 1% -- the lowest in the world. Compare that to nearly 10% for East Asia and the Pacific. Latin America and the Caribbean did better at 3%.

Similarly, intra-regional trade accounted for only 5% of South Asia’s total trade while it was 50% of the total trade in East Asia and the Pacific and more than 20% for Sub-Saharan Africa. Surely, something is wrong with this picture.

The figures are from a recently released book titled, A Glass Half Full: The Promise of Regional Trade written by a team led by Sanjay Kathuria, lead economist for South Asia in the World Bank. The book takes a comprehensive look at regional ground realities and should be a “must read” for trade officials in South Asia.

It’s exhaustive in its research and analysis, using focus groups, surveys, stakeholder interviews and new data to make the case for more integration in a region that still has 33% of the world’s poor and 40% of the world’s stunted children, as Kaushik Basu, professor of economics at Cornell and the former chief economist for the World Bank, reminds in the foreword.

Why should Sri Lankans pay $1.23 for a dozen eggs when the price in India is $0.91? The same goes for potatoes. Meanwhile, prices for eggs and potatoes in Bangkok, Hanoi, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur are comparable because of better links and flow of goods.

Why should India discriminate against imports from South Asia when it puts fewer restrictions on imports from the rest of the world by comparison? Protectionist measures in Nepal against regional imports are the highest.

The two elephants in the room are of course, India and Pakistan, and their tortured history. The debilitating dynamic between the two largest countries in the region makes a breakthrough very difficult. Politics always intervene.

Some key statistics bear repeating. Trade between India and Pakistan is only $2 billion but it could be $37 billion if there were no artificial barriers, according to the book.

The writers keep their distance from politics but one could argue that even the Pakistan army stands to make more money from more trade since it has a finger in many sectors of the economy.

Pakistan’s civilian leaders in the past have tried to open doors to more trade only to be held back by domestic industry fears of being overwhelmed by competitive Indian products. Concerns raised by Pakistan’s pharmaceutical, auto and agriculture lobbies managed to dampen the enthusiasm of the Nawaz Sharif’s government, sending the idea back into the box.

India for the time being has decided to create linkages minus Pakistan, especially in the east to bypass Islamabad’s intransigence. In the short and medium term there are no prospects that Pakistan will actually take measures to open up to India.

Kathuria says there are ways to deal with the India-Pakistan concerns in serious trade negotiations – backload the opening of sensitive sectors and give time to domestic industry to catch up. Decide on what’s fair – 10 years or 15 years – but the two sides need to start talking because the cost of not normalizing trade is very significant.

“Trade doesn’t have to be dictated by politics,” Kathuria told me in a telephone conversation. Just look at China-Taiwan trade or even India-China trade. “Our analysis shows that trade can play a ver important role in building trust. South Asian countries have not allowed that to play out.”

He advises a slow, systematic, low-key approach and building incrementally. Indian and Pakistani technical teams, for example, can meet to discuss food safety standards and try to bring down real and perceived barriers. This is already happening, for example, between India and Bangladesh.”

“I don’t see anyone raising objections to that and it would have a significant impact. No one is talking of producing a NAFTA overnight,” Kathuria says, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was recently renegotiated as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

A bright spot in a disconnected region is the Sri Lanka-India air connectivity. Colombo was quick to see the potential of tourism from India and an air travel agreement has allowed 14 Indian cities to be connected to the Sri Lankan capital with 147 flights every week.

Pakistan has only 10 flights to Sri Lanka while Bangladesh has just six. The recommendation is not to wait for open skies agreement to begin liberalization in the air.

The idea is to start modestly – the book examines the weekly “border haats” on the India-Bangladesh border and the immense impact they have had on the lives of ordinary people, especially women, to say nothing of the good will generated.

The authors recommend scaling up the initiative and Kathuria suggests trying it out with Pakistan on the Wagah border.

India’s leadership is critical “to deepening trade and reducing the trust deficit ” because others worry about its size and economic might. , India has a trade surplus of $15 billion with the region despite all the problems.

India must increase its imports from the region from 0.6% of total imports and incentivize Indian companies to invest more in South Asia.

“One has to have oodles of optimism to work in this space in South Asia. You can’t give up from the development standpoint. Some day the decision makers will see that the costs have become unacceptable,” Kathuria says.

By Dushyant
Mumbai Mirror
Oct 19, 2018

Protests after Sabarimala and Jallikattu verdicts show that majoritarian views can dictate constitutional rights. SC must assert authority if it wants its decisions respected.

"We are not a tiger or something. We are not a maneating tiger. They should not have fear." A bench of the Supreme Court of India felt the need to make this statement in a case pertaining to allegations of illegal mining in Andhra Pradesh last month. Perhaps it would help if the court was feared more.

Not a single woman has been able to enter the Sabarimala Temple despite the Supreme Court’s verdict, which held that they have the right to. Women journalists have been attacked — kicked, beaten with sticks, their hair and clothes pulled, and their vehicles damaged. Protesters, including “rightwing” elements”, even tried to pull a 22-year-old woman out of a bus. Reports say police vehicles have been damaged, and a video appears to show cops taking out their anger on some parked vehicles.

In his annual address, the sarsanghchalak of the RSS spoke out against the judgment, which said women of all ages can enter the temple. “The Supreme Court did not take tradition into consideration... The situation is not conducive for the peace and healthiness of the society (sic),” he said.

Given the tone and thrust of his speech, it is difficult to say which ‘situation’ was he referring to, but I can list some options: 1) the existence of a Supreme Court; 2) The Constitution of India superseding many discriminatory practices, regardless of whether they are traditional or not; 3) The existence of organisations such as the RSS that are devoted to defending the Heckler’s veto; 4) The violence against people trying to exercise the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India and upheld by the Supreme Court.

“Majoritarian and popular views cannot dictate constitutional rights. We have to vanquish prejudice, embrace inclusion and ensure equal rights,” the court observed in its judgment, which read down Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. If the developments after the court’s orders on Sabarimala, Jallikattu and Dahi Handi are anything to go by, it is more than clear that majoritarian views, and protesters out to enforce them through violence, can very well dictate constitutional rights. Public personalities can deliver speeches defending this behaviour and get away with it.

The Supreme Court’s fury was on display when retired justice Markandey Katju expressed views that disagreed with its observations. It was on display on many occasions when it was not warranted. The challenge today, however, is clear. The Supreme Court needs to answer if its judgments, especially those which are progressive, especially those which go against majoritarian views, are at the mercy of the mob.

Sure, the Kerala government is responsible for maintaining law and order and I dare say it is trying hard. Section 144 has been imposed, for instance. But it is the moral and practical authority of the apex court, which is under threat today. Even in the NRC case, where the court has censured a government officer for making comments on the matter, senior politicians seem to have no fear whatsoever.

The consequences of ignoring this challenge are not limited to erosion of respect for the court. They indicate that much worse could be in store in cases where majoritarian views have a much bigger stake. For instance, even though utterances by politicians make it seem otherwise, the Ram Janmabhoomi case is yet to be decided. Will the apex court be able to execute its writ whichever way it decides? If not, what will be the consequences of such hypothetical failure?

If the court wants its orders to be taken with the seriousness they deserve, if it wants that the respect for the institution remains healthy, then it cannot afford to look away when mobs challenge it with impunity. The court, as it said last month, is certainly not a man-eating tiger, but it needs to do more than just roar at the mob. What the court does now will be keenly watched by those who look towards it for protection and also by those who express displeasure when it rules against ‘tradition’.

The Telegraph
30 October 2018


The ruling party's leaders seem eager to use faith as a tool to subvert the institutions that form the base of a democracy

Faith in public institutions is of paramount importance in a democracy. But the matter of faith is a rather curious thing in New India. Leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party — the architect of New India — seem to be eager to use faith as an expedient tool to subvert the very institutions that form the base of a democracy. On a visit to Kerala, the BJP president, Amit Shah, had thundered that courts should not pass decrees that “hit people’s faith”. Mr Shah — seemingly indifferent to the prospect of legal contempt — was alluding to the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that lifted the ban on the entry of women of menstruating age to the Sabarimala temple. Mr Shah’s motive is expressly political. Over the years, in spite of sustained efforts, the electoral returns from Kerala have been rather poor for Mr Shah’s party. In 2016, the BJP bagged a solitary seat. It is evident that the Sabarimala ‘controversy’ — the BJP had initially welcomed the apex court’s order but there are whispers of the party extending covert patronage to protesters — is now being viewed in the sangh fraternity as a potential weapon to make inroads into Kerala before the general election.

Polarisation has been the BJP’s preferred strategy when it comes to political mobilisation. The consequences have been injurious to India’s inclusive fabric. But that is no longer the only threat. Explicit attempts are being made to exert pressure on crucial institutions that have, so far, held the nation’s secular edifice together. Earlier, while delivering a speech on Vijaya Dashami, Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, demanded that there should be a legal provision for the construction of the Ram temple, ignoring the fact that the highest court is deliberating on this sensitive issue. Tellingly, Mr Shah has been joined by Arun Jaitley, the finance minister, in this dangerous chorus. He has pushed the envelope further by claiming to have spotted a schism between ‘constitutionalists’ and ‘devotees’. Does this mean that India’s ruling party finds devotion to constitutional principles and to the agencies that uphold them to be an aberration? This could only strengthen suspicions that the sangh parivar’s real agenda — political and ideological — is to transform India’s representative Constitution into a majoritarian one. The court is one of the bulwarks against such a disastrous transition. Is that why it is now a target?

Legitimising suspect ‘traditional knowledge’ and passing it off as proven wisdom is perilous.
by Rajesh Kochhar
The Indian Express
October 31, 2018

AICTE should put its present proposal on hold for the time being. It should ask Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to heavily annotate its textbook so that a reader can check the veracity of the claims made. (Illustration: C R Sasikumar)

The things All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) wishes to formally teach engineering students in the name of ancient Indian scientific achievements is a gross insult to ancient India. Making unsubstantiated claims about the past detracts from the genuine contributions that were actually made, and brings ridicule to an otherwise respected discipline.

AICTE is an apex body set up by the HRD ministry for the promotion of quality in technical education. The Delhi centre of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan is offering, through its website, a post-matric course on “essence of Indian knowledge tradition”, and a post-graduate diploma in “Indian knowledge tradition: Scientific and holistic”. To serve as a text for these courses, a book titled Bharatiya Vidya Saar has been prepared.

AICTE, no doubt guided by HRD ministry, has co-opted this programme and decided to offer a credit course based on the Vidya Saar — meaning that students will be formally examined in it and assigned grades.

The proposed textbook is not freely available. Whatever excerpts have been published makes for disturbing reading. Students will be told that “In Vedic age, ‘Maharshi Bhardwaj wrote an epic called Yantra Sarvasva and aeronautics is a part of the epic. This was 5,000 years before Wright brothers’ invention of the plane… Yantra Sarvasva is not available now but out of whatever we know about it, we can believe that planes were a reality in Vedic age.”

A number of questions arise immediately. How do we know that Yantra Sarvasva existed? If it discusses aeronautics, what is the actual term used? If the text does not exist anymore, which are the works that have preserved the extracts? Details should be provided so that readers can decide for themselves how much credence is to be placed on such claims. In the same fashion, it is claimed that Maharishi Agastya in Agastya Sanhita talks about the discovery of electricity and invention of batteries.

Students should, no doubt, be made aware of ancient Indian science. We cannot, however, ask students to switch off their mental faculties when they are being instructed in the essence of Indian learning, but bring their intellect into full use an hour later when the regular curriculum is taught.

In recent years, a flourishing industry has sprung up which takes stray passages from ancient texts and relates them to modern scientific and technological discoveries.

In 2002, B G Matapurkar, a surgeon at the Maulana Azad Medical College Delhi, claimed that the Mahabharata description of the Kauravas’ birth proved that “they not only knew about test-tube babies and embryo splitting, but also had the technology to grow human foetuses outside the body of a woman — something unknown to modern science”. If the learned surgeon had taken the trouble of reading the original description (given in Adi Parva, Chapter 14) he would not have been so rash.

Gandhari could not possibly have given natural birth to 100 sons. One is inclined to believe that 100 was not meant as an exact number but as a poetic exaggeration. The Mahabharata tells us that Gandhari was pregnant for two years after which she delivered a piece of flesh which was as hard as iron. It was irrigated with cold water and split into 100 thumb-sized portions. These portions in turn were placed in pitchers filled with ghee which were carefully kept at secret places. After another two years, each pitcher produced a boy. A small piece of the aborted flesh was still left from which, after a month, a daughter was born. Immediately on birth, the first born, later to be known as Duryodhana, started braying like a donkey whereupon, the “other” donkeys, vultures, jackals and crows in the area also joined the chorus. Here is an attempt to take Duryodhana’s villainy back to his birth itself; any resemblance to modern research is purely incidental. It is extraordinary that the creativity and imaginativeness of ancient poets and dramatists should be sacrificed at the altar of modern science.

In October 2016, the PM, while inaugurating a hospital in Mumbai, claimed that the Hindu god Ganesha’s having an elephant head showed that plastic [?] surgery began in India. He also speculated that genetic science must have been known in ancient India because the Mahabharata says that Karna was born outside the mother’s womb. The Mahabharata also says that virgin Kunti’s motherhood was due to her recitation of a mantra and that, fearful of the public opinion, she clandestinely set the newborn afloat in a river. What use is a scientific discovery if it has to be presented as a miracle and hidden from the public at large? More recently, the newly-elected Chief Minister of Tripura concluded that internet existed in the age of Mahabharata, because Sanjaya narrates the happenings in the war-field to Dhritarashtra who is located miles away.

Such dubious claims have been made by persons in power or in inaugural addresses, etc. But, alarmingly, the government has now decided to give such claims the legitimacy of a teachable subject, and that too, at the level of professional colleges.

By definition, science today is better than science yesterday. It is, therefore, anachronistic to pit one against the other. Production of wealth today depends on modern science. Prosperity in ancient India depended on agriculture and un-organised manufacturing activity — knowledge systems connected with these two spheres were exclusively the domain of farmers and artisans and there was no reason for sacred Sanskrit texts to incorporate this parallel knowledge system into their own. In other words, it makes no sense to look for products of modern technology in ancient sacred texts.

AICTE should put its present proposal on hold for the time being. It should ask Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan to heavily annotate its textbook so that a reader can check the veracity of the claims made. The draft text should be uploaded online, and comments invited on its content. The textbook should be finalised in the light of the feedback received. Only then should it be placed in the hands of teachers and students. The proposal, as it stands now, is an insult to human intelligence and aimed at the “moroni-fication” of the students.

Rajesh Kochhar is with the mathematics department, Panjab University.

 Jessica Gorter, dir. The Red Soul. Brooklyn: Icarus Films, 2018. 90 mins. Color/B&W.

Reviewed by Volha Isakava (Central Washington Universiy)
Published on H-SHERA (September, 2018)
Commissioned by Hanna Chuchvaha (Independent scholar/Alberta College of Art + Design)

Red Soul begins with a beautifully shot sequence of a remote farmstead on a sandy, grassy beach. Quickly an old woman comes into focus. She boards a small row boat, and the first few panning shots of this bucolic, secluded countryside are accompanied by her narration, a description of GULAG mass graves in her area. This powerful beginning of the film encapsulates its preoccupation with memory, history, and trauma narrated through the intense and private lens of witness accounts. Directed by a Dutch filmmaker, Jessica Gorter, and released in 2017, this documentary film looks into hot-button social issues surrounding Stalin's legacy in today's Russia, and the politics of memory and justice for the victims of the Great Terror.

Following well-established narrative and visual approaches within the social justice documentary genre, the film seeks to elucidate the individual experience of the historical and the political. It tackles difficult questions through impartial observation, unscripted interviews, and location cinematography. The film features attentive and observant camerawork, allowing its subjects to express themselves without too much narrative guidance; only a few times in the film does the filmmaker ask a pointed direct question. In a sense, the film itself is a witness: it gives voice to the long-gone victims via their immediate family members, bearing witness to their tragic private family histories. It also provides a window into contemporary controversies by interviewing an assortment of actors: from teenage participants of pro-Putin youth camp in Crimea to ageing Communist Party members protesting in today's Moscow. Alongside a heartbreaking story of two orphaned sisters, now in their old age, who vividly recall being violently separated from their parents, the film shows an intimate portrait of a father ravaged by the drug-related death of his son, giving us a glimpse into how an ordinary middle-class Muscovite might become a hard-line Stalinist. The unmediated narratives of grief, political persuasion, and traumatic memory in the film recall the Nobel Prize-winning oral histories by the Belarusian writer Svetlana Alexievich. Her monumental pentology, Voices from the Big Utopia that concludes with Second Hand Time (2013) is a self-professed exploration of the "Red Man," bearing witness to individual stories at particularly turbulent and tragic junctions of Soviet history. (Among Alexievich's subjects are Chernobyl, the Soviet war in Afghanistan, WWII, and Stalinist repressions).

The interviews in Red Soul are powerful and, similarly to Alexievich's books, they point to a depth of human suffering that is not easy to process. However, what struck me most as a viewer were the film's visuals. Similar to the opening sequence, Red Soul's impact is in the powerful juxtaposition of landscape cinematography and first-person narration. Following its subjects to the sites of mass graves, the film often finds itself in natural settings: thick woods, grassy fields, sandy ravines. A middle-aged woman is shown picking up bone fragments in a thick pine grove. She carefully describes the bones before placing them in a plastic shopping bag. An old man and a young girl walk in a sunlit boreal forest deciphering burial grounds along old trenches now covered by soil and foliage. Perhaps the most striking image of the film happens when the camera, at an extreme low angle, fixates its gaze on pine-tree tops: the sun is shining through the branches, the wind is gently rocking them back and forth. Then, slowly, the camera pans down and lingers on an old photo affixed to the tree trunk at eye level: it reveals a face of a man, the dates of birth and death. As the camera zooms out we see many more photos, and then few scattered visitors to this forest of mourning. These visuals poignantly present to the viewer the spaces and rituals of public mourning for the victims of Stalinist repressions. It is an "indifferent nature:" silent forests, fields, and ravines that bear witness for the dead and those who grieve them. In parallel, it is the crammed spaces of archives and libraries, tucked away from the public eye, that represent the grassroots efforts of activists who sustain the collective memory.

In contrast to these images, the film takes us through officially sanctioned public spaces of remembrance: examples include celebratory commemorations of WWII, or lively discussions about Stalin, the commander in chief, at a Crimean youth camp. The film's poignant visuals unambiguously point to the lack of public investment in restorative justice for the victims and their descendants, as well as the lack of public recognition for spaces of trauma and mourning. The issues the film raises could not be more timely given recent troubling developments around these sites of memory and the people who work with them. A case in point is criminal charges brought against Karelian historian and activist Yuri Dmitriev (featured in the film but not identified by name), seen by government critics at home and abroad as politically motivated.[1] Another recent controversy involves a Russian Military-Historic Society excavation of the mass graves in Karelia, seen by the critics as a move to reinterpret the history of the Sandarmokh memorial site.[2] The film effectively introduces the viewer to one of the most prominent debates in recent post-Soviet history: the politics of memory in relation to state violence. 

I commend Red Soul for capturing polarizing and divergent views on public remembrance, but it needs to be pointed out that it hardly breaks any new ground, especially considering vast scholarly research and public debates stretching back to the 1980s on the politics of memory in Russia. This comes as no surprise because the film's target audience is likely international, aiming to educate the foreign viewer on controversial issues surrounding the Putin-era treatment of history and memory. It is no coincidence that the film ends with the elderly sisters insisting that the filmmaker not "slander" (ochernit') Russia in her final product, as if understanding implicitly that the film does not aim to tell their story to their own countrymen, but instead is made for external consumption. This fact does not detract from the Dutch film's value and importance. However, it does open the door for some exoticizing and essentializing rhetoric. Take the film's title. "Red Soul" alludes to a cliched narrative of the "Russian soul" in its Cold War incarnation that has entered the Western imagination through the now iconic words of Winston Churchill. The film's own promotional website describes it as laying "bare the Russian psyche of today." To use terminology such as national psyche, character, mentality or soul is both to grossly generalize and to arrogantly assume essentialist views of nations and people. Such essentialism imagines nations as monolithic entities whose movement through history is defined by a set of inalienable traits supposedly propelling them towards catastrophe or triumph. While the director's statement on the same website provides a nuanced and sophisticated take on her work, the film's title becomes a red flag for any education professional who is to consider using this film in the classroom. That being said, "Russian soul" is an easily recognizable trope that anchors the film in popular imagination, perhaps providing an easier marketing path for this independent documentary. The film bounces back and forth between pro-Putin summer camp, Communist Party demonstrations, sequences featuring grassroots activists' work, and sequences that illuminate personal narratives of the repressed without establishing any contextual connections beyond a simplistic pro-Stalin vs. anti-Stalin dichotomy. This diminishes the complexity of Russia's contested political landscape of memory and remembrance, especially when it comes to pro-Stalin public sentiment. Stalin's legacy in today's Russia is subject to much political appropriation precisely because it is not imagined as one-size-fits-all: Stalin of the Communist Party and pro-Putin youth camps are not identical products from the same social and political imagination and ideological bias. A more interesting question, which I wish the film had asked, is how the historical legacy of Stalinism is used in today's political and cultural battles to shape collective memory and the collective vision of history. Finally, there are some relatively minor translation inaccuracies in the film's subtitles. I would like to point out just one: the Russian word tiazhelo, which means hard or difficult, is rendered as "awkward" in the film. The word is used to describe the relationship between local townspeople and GULAG prisoners whose labor was deployed to build the town. "Awkward" might be a good descriptor for a less-than-exciting date or a party; the context of forced labor and state violence is something else.

I recommend this film to international audiences unfamiliar with the topic and to education professionals seeking to introduce their students to the debates on politics of memory in post-Soviet context.


[1]. For ongoing coverage of Dmitriev's criminal case, see: "Two weeks after acquittal is overturned, historian Yuri Dmitriev is again detained by Russian police," Meduza, June 27, 2018,

[2]. "Dig Near Stalin-Era Mass Grave Looks to Some like Kremlin Dirty Work," Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, September 4, 2018,

Arbitrary Arrest and Torture Under the Palestinian Authority and Hamas
- A report by Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch
October 23, 2018

In the 25 years since Palestinians gained a degree of self-rule over the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, their authorities have established machineries of repression to crush dissent, including through the use of torture.

​Benjamin Fogel 
Mail and Guardian
28 Oct 2018

Brazil, the largest economy in Latin America and the world’s sixth most populous elected a neo-fascist this weekend in the second round election run-off against Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party (PT).

Jair Bolsonaro has promised to enact a historic cleansing against the left, promising that ‘red bandits’ will be imprisoned or banished. The problem with the term fascism, is that it has been so frequently used as a political pejorative it has lost its meaning, like the boy who cried wolf overuse has meant that when a real wolf arrives people are too weary to recognise for what it is. 

Bolsonaro is the embodiment of the most hardline faction military dictatorship that ruled Brazil for twenty-one years that embraced torture, murder and rape, as necessary tools in the fight against communism. He has always been quite open about his contempt for democracy and the majority of the Brazilian electorate is ready to vote for him.

This election has been driven by Anti-PT sentiment, which has come to stand end for anti-systemic rage encompassing, class hatred of the rich, weariness brought upon by the party’s four successive election victories, the bias of the mainstream media, anti-corruption sentiment and WhatsApp driven fake news.
Paranoid ‘rooi gevaar’ type propaganda –– despite there being no active communist threat –– has been promoted by the mainstream media, fake news groups and the centre-right, who have made the PT to be some sort evil communist conspiracy.

Bolsonaro’s Social Liberalism Party (PSL) has ridden this wave jumped from irrelevance to become the second-largest party in the country overnight, as an array scoundrels including Bolsonaro’s sons, an ex porn-actor and a police officer who achieved fame after killing a suspect on camera were elected through their connection to Bolsonaro.

Who Supports Bolsonaro?

Bolsonaro’s base is strongest among the upper-middle class who after traditionally voting for centre-right parties have radicalised en masse in the last few years and the powerful evangelical bloc who have put their huge numbers and resources behind Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro’s support base also includes large numbers of women, black and working class voters, all of who stand directly in his cross hairs. This can be explained in large part by security concerns, in the context of Brazil’s rising levels of violence driven by organised crime. 

Large numbers of working class Brazilians are prepared to support an increase of violence against ‘criminals’ as a solution or like his support for gun ownership. Although it is worth noting that Bolsonaro’s support is lower in the most violent areas of the country.

Bolsonaro’s elite support

Bolsonaro has refused to debate his opponent, claiming that he belongs in prison and only grants interviews to the most sycophantic journalists. He has flaunted all standards of a normal election; he can get away with this because he has the backing of Brazil’s elite. Big capital is salivating over his pro-market policies and he is openly backed by powerful sections of the armed forces. Bolsonaro’s military allies far from being a moderating force are actively supporting many of his most extreme policies.

Brazil’s judiciary has also a key role in Bolsonaro’s election campaign. Brazil’s electoral court –– the TSE for instance banned a PT campaign video containing testimony from the victims of Brazil’s military dictatorship highlighting Bolsonaro’s unashamed and open support for torture, while allowing Bolsonaro supporters to go around calling Haddad a paedophile. 

The court has proved itself unwilling to tackle the illegal campaign financing and fake news key to Bolsonaro’s campaign. Sérgio Moro, the protagonist of Lava Jato (Brazil’s gigantic anti-corruption investigation for instance) released damaging testimony from a close Lula ally collected six months before in the week before the first round in a clearly move designed to enact maximum damage to the PT’s electoral prospects. Bolsonaro in turn has mooted his name as a possible future Supreme Court pick.

Despite posing as an anti-corruption crusader, Bolsonaro’s campaign has been driven by illegal funds set up by businesses to fund WhatsApp groups spreading toxic fake news. 

A survey of popular fake news stories will reveal such gems as the PT giving out ‘gay kits’ to kindergarten kids, complete baby bottles with penis shaped teats. This would be comedic, if large sections of the Brazilian public didn’t believe it, and it hadn’t poisoned public discourse.

Brazil like South Africa suffers from high levels of violence, however in the past few weeks this violence has begun to take an openly political character. This includes incidents such as a transwoman being murdered by thugs chanting Bolsonaro’s name, a woman having a swastika carved into her neck for wearing an anti-Bolsonaro t-shirt and a capoeira master being murdered after admitting that he voted for Haddad in Bahia. The darkest sides of Brazilian society, the violence, racism and misogyny are being brought into the open as part of Bolsonaro’s campaign.

Bolsonaro will likely unleash a historic slaughter. In a country where already 63 000 people are murdered every year (5 000 by the police), the police and the military will have carte blanche to kill poor youth from the favelas. 

Right-wing paramilitary groups could expand and implement social cleansing in the territories they seize, given state backing in the war against ‘crime’. Organised crime will not be destroyed like Bolsonaro promises, instead factions tied to the military or comprised of police will instead see will likely benefit.

Brazil’s social movements such as the Landless Workers Movement (MST) and the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) will be declared terrorist organisations and hunted down by the police or the private militias of landowners, activists will be either imprisoned or killed with the backing of Brazil’s congress, media, and big business. 

There is a good chance that the PT, which is still Brazil’s largest party, will be criminalised with its leading members joining Lula in prison after being found guilty of ‘corruption’

Bolsonaro’s election will have profound repercussions for the rest of the world.

Bolsonaro has said little on foreign policy during the campaign, but from his political stance a number of key aspects can be gleaned. He will certainly pull out of the Paris Accords and move Brazil’s foreign policy towards the United States (and Donald Trump). This will see Brazil break with multilateralism, and might include leaving Brazil leaving BRICS. Bolsonaro will also move Brazil’s Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. It could even include future military confrontation with Venezuela and cooling relations with China –– Brazil’s leading trade partner.

What can we learn from Brazil’s tragedy? 

The social and economic crisis that has set the stage for the entry of Bolsonaro to the political stage is not too different from our own. 

Inequality, racial segregation, an absence of political leadership, corruption and an increasing disillusionment in politics as vehicle for meaningful change are all things that will sound familiar to South Africans. 

 It is by no means a stretch of the imagination too much to imagine that if the state fails to tackle underlying security concerns or offers a meaningful and progressive alternative politics large sections of South Africa could embrace an openly authoritarian politics. This would likely take the form of a chauvinism mobilised around xenophobia rather than Bolsonaro’s brand of anti-leftism. Politicians frequently call for military intervention in the townships and xenophobia is almost a political consensus among mainstream parties, the warning signs are there, but will anybody heed them?

In these circumstances one hopes that the South African government and civil society will take a strong stand against Bolsonaro, offering solidarity and even perhaps exile to those he will target after taking power.
​Benjamin Fogel

    Currently based in São Paulo, Benjamin Fogel is a PhD candidate in Latin American history at New York University and is a contributing editor for Jacobin magazine and website Africa is a Country.

o o o


Alexander Reid Ross
Mix up fascist geopolitics, Pat Robertson's LGBT hate, Bannon's nationalism and Putin's shills and you get Jair Bolsonaro, who's nostalgic for the U.S.-backed dictatorship that tortured and killed thousands of leftists - and he's about to come to power

Haaretz, Oct 28, 2018

President Trump says he plans to withdraw from a nonproliferation treaty that I signed with Ronald Reagan. It’s just the latest victim in the militarization of world affairs.
by Mikhail Gorbachev
The New York Times
Oct. 25, 2018

Mr. Gorbachev is the former president of the Soviet Union.

Over 30 years ago, President Ronald Reagan and I signed in Washington the United States-Soviet Treaty on the elimination of intermediate- and shorter-range missiles. For the first time in history, two classes of nuclear weapons were to be eliminated and destroyed.

This was a first step. It was followed in 1991 by the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which the Soviet Union signed with President George H.W. Bush, our agreement on radical cuts in tactical nuclear arms, and the New Start Treaty, signed by the presidents of Russia and the United States in 2010.

There are still too many nuclear weapons in the world, but the American and Russian arsenals are now a fraction of what they were during the Cold War. At the Nuclear Nonproliferation Review Conference in 2015, Russia and the United States reported to the international community that 85 percent of those arsenals had been decommissioned and, for the most part, destroyed.

Today, this tremendous accomplishment, of which our two nations can be rightfully proud, is in jeopardy. President Trump announced last week the United States’ plan to withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty and his country’s intention to build up nuclear arms.

I am being asked whether I feel bitter watching the demise of what I worked so hard to achieve. But this is not a personal matter. Much more is at stake.

A new arms race has been announced. The I.N.F. Treaty is not the first victim of the militarization of world affairs. In 2002, the United States withdrew from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty; this year, from the Iran nuclear deal. Military expenditures have soared to astronomical levels and keep rising.

As a pretext for the withdrawal from the I.N.F. Treaty, the United States invoked Russia’s alleged violations of some of the treaty’s provisions. Russia has raised similar concerns regarding American compliance, at the same time proposing to discuss the issues at the negotiating table to find a mutually acceptable solution. But over the past few years, the United States has been avoiding such discussion. I think it is now clear why.

With enough political will, any problems of compliance with the existing treaties could be resolved. But as we have seen during the past two years, the president of the United States has a very different purpose in mind. It is to release the United States from any obligations, any constraints, and not just regarding nuclear missiles.

The United States has in effect taken the initiative in destroying the entire system of international treaties and accords that served as the underlying foundation for peace and security following World War II.

Yet I am convinced that those who hope to benefit from a global free-for-all are deeply mistaken. There will be no winner in a “war of all against all” — particularly if it ends in a nuclear war. And that is a possibility that cannot be ruled out. An unrelenting arms race, international tensions, hostility and universal mistrust will only increase the risk.

Is it too late to return to dialogue and negotiations? I don’t want to lose hope. I hope that Russia will take a firm but balanced stand. I hope that America’s allies will, upon sober reflection, refuse to be launchpads for new American missiles. I hope the United Nations, and particularly members of its Security Council, vested by the United Nations Charter with primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security, will take responsible action.

Faced with this dire threat to peace, we are not helpless. We must not resign, we must not surrender.

Mikhail Gorbachev is the former president of the Soviet Union. This article was translated by Pavel Palazhchenko from the Russian.

A version of this article appears in print on Oct. 26, 2018, on Page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: The New Nuclear Arms Race. 


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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