New on my other blogs

"Gandhi is dead, Who is now Mahatmaji?"
Solar scam reveals decadent polity and sociery
A Dalit poet writing in English, based in Kerala
Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen


30 March, 2008

Is Bollywood taking over TV news?

The three Cs – cinema, crime and cricket – encapsulate most of the content on television news in India, says Daya Kishan Thussu.

Thussu, Professor of International Communication at the University of Westminster in London, is the author of a recently published book “News as Entertainment: The Rise of Global Infotainment”

Thussu’s article “Is Bollywood taking over TV news?” appears at

29 March, 2008

What, Me Retire?

For some people, age is just a number. They just keep going and going and going. NAM editor Viji Sundaram profiles one of them, Harikrishna Majmundar, an Indian American who has worked tirelessly for his senior fellow Indian Americans for nearly 25 years.

See NAM News feature.

27 March, 2008 seeks support, which completes six years of operation today, is seeking support by way of lifetime, annual or monthly subscriptions.

Please see its Appeal for Financial Support.

26 March, 2008

AHRC criticizes judge for praising IPS officer convicted on murder charge

The following is the text of a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission:

"Except for the crime in question, Mr. R. K. Sharma was an asset to the nation…" The national media in India reported that this observation was made by the Additional Sessions Judge Mr. Rajendra Kumar Shastri on 18 March 2008 while delivering his judgment in the Shivani Bhatnagar murder case. Shastri was the trial judge at the Fast Track Court, New Delhi where the case was tried.

The crime is question was murder. Sharma, along with three other persons he hired, were accused of masterminding and murdering Shivani, who was alleged to be Sharma's girlfriend. Shivani was a newspaper reporter. Sharma was convicted for murder and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for life. Sharma was a police officer with India's elite force, the Indian Police Service (IPS) and served in many covetable positions like at the United Nations, Interpol, the Prime Minister's Office and at the Central Bureau of Investigation. When charged with the murder, Sharma was serving in the rank of Inspector General. Sharma is the first IPS officer to get a life term for murder in India.

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is not surprised by the 'praise' showered upon the murderer police officer by the court. It is a judicial prerogative to make remarks about the case or the persons involved in the case in a judgment. The remarks made by the trail judge while convicting Sharma is however an alarming trend within the Indian judiciary -- to downplay heinous offences. Sharma is not an ordinary individual. He is a police officer who masterminded a murder. The accused also incited others to join in the heinous act with lucrative offers of money and quasi-government jobs through corrupt means. The fact that such an officer in fact served in some of the most sensitive positions must be, instead, a matter of concern.

The accused police officer evaded arrest for a considerably long time. The investigating agency had to initiate steps through the court to declare the officer a 'Proclaimed Offender'. Later, the investigating agency had to attach the officer's properties through the court in an attempt to force the officer to surrender before the court. Even though the crime was committed on 19 January 1999, the accused was able to evade arrest till 27 September 2002. Despite all this, the court has showered its praise for the convicted police officer, while at the same time convicting him for murder along with three other co-accused.

There are five objectives sought to be achieved through punishing a crime. They are retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation and restitution. Common law, which is practiced in India, views murder as a public wrong. Murder is one of the most heinous crimes, if proved, that attracts the highest possible punishment. When such an act is committed by a law enforcement officer, that too of high rank, it compounds the severity of the crime. The remarks made by the trial judge in the sentence in this case praising the prime accused showcases the jurisprudential wilt within the Indian judiciary.

When a court delivers its judgment, it is not only applying the law, but is also contributing to the process of social engineering. This process though could be influenced by the presiding officers' conviction and understanding about the particular fact in issue, must not be an occasion for the officer to express his personal opinion, though often judges make such remarks. Such remarks, if within the threshold of reasonable expressions, which the facts at hand might warrant, might be appreciated. When the judge crosses this threshold, it attracts criticism and is referred to as judicial extravaganza.
Law enforcement officers are not ordinary individuals in a society. In the Asian context, this category of public servants enjoy enormous powers, which due to overwhelming misuse, has generated fear about law enforcement officers among the ordinary public sans jurisdictions.
The message that is delivered unfortunately through the unwarranted remarks made by the trial judge in the Shivani Bhatnagar murder case appears as if the judge was forced to convict the accused due to his legal conviction, though his moral conviction was against it. What is showcased in a case that has attracted such media attention is not only the fact that the accused is finally convicted, but that the trail judge was sorry to do so. This casts shadows upon the trail judge's intention in making such unqualified remarks, particularly when the defense is preparing for their appeal.

In fact a murderer police officer who has proved to have conspired to take the life of a mother is not an asset to the country, but a shame to the entire police force in India. A judge who showers praise to such a person is not an impartial judge, but a cloud that casts shadow upon the judiciary.
# # #
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Dr. Binayak Sen’s trial set to begin on April 30

Rajendra K Sail, President, People’s Union for Cicil Liberties (PUCL), Chhattisgarh, writes:

The much awaited trial of Dr. Binayak Sen, General Secretary, Chhattisgarh PUCL, begins on 30th April 2008. The prosecution submitted a schedule on 14th March with a list of six witnesses who would depose before the trial court during the four days of the first session of the trial from 30th April to 3rd May. We hope that all of you would plan to be present during the hearings on all or any of these dates.This clearly indicates that the State is trying to drag the proceedings, thus subjecting Dr. Binayak Sen to a longer period of incarceration (detained since 14th May 2007). The State seems to have gained some sort of legitimacy as the Supreme Court of India dismissed the bail petition in a very strange manner, without even assigning reasons for refusing to grant bail to Dr. Sen.

Remember that in the case of illegal detention of a human rights activist, which has drawn the public attention all over resulting in a sustained protest and demand for his release, the Supreme Court of India just uttered five words:"This Special Leave Petition is dismissed".A copy of the English translation (unofficial) of the charges framed against Dr. Binayak Sen on 2nd February, 2008 by Mr. B S Saluja, Additional District and Sessions Judge (Fast Track Court), Raipur is enclosed herewith. (Kindly note that this is not posted here).

In the mean time, protest against illegal detention of Dr. Sen and others by the Chhattisgarh State is entering yet another phase with a series of public meetings and yatras being organized in different parts of Chhattisgarh beginning 13th April (Jalianwala Massacre Day) and culminating in a public protest demonstration on 14th May 2008, which would mark one year of illegal detention of Dr. Binayak Sen.We are also appealing to various people's organizations to observe theLabour Day (May 1, 2008) to protest against the growing State repression in Chhattisgarh and demand the repeal of the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act 2005, and release Dr. Binayak Sen, and all others detained under this anti-democratic law. Kindly note that the trial proceedings will be held on this particular day too!In the meantime, the Amnesty International has selected Dr. Binayak Sen as the Prisoner of the Conscience, and protest letters demanding unconditional release of Dr. Sen are being sent to the Home Minister,Government of Chhattisgarh. All concerned are requested to join this campaign.

Previous posts on Dr. Binayak Sen:
Doctor, State and Sinister Case
No end to Binayak Sen’s ordeal in sight
Dr. Binayak Sen still in prison
Binayak Sen: Redefining healthcare in an unjust society

25 March, 2008

'The biggest genocide of modern times'

Credible surveys have estimated that at least 1.3 million innocent Iraqis — the majority of them women and children — have been brutally murdered in cold blood, making the Iraq genocide the biggest single mass murder of modern times, says Ghali Hassan, an independent writer living in Australia, in a commentary distributed by

See article "Five Years of War Crimes"

24 March, 2008

Hindi journal seeks news of people's movements

Mukta Srivastava <> has forwarded the following mail from Medha, Associate Editor, Samayik Varta:

I am writing this mail on behalf of Samayik Varta. Varta, as you might know, is a Hindi monthly founded by Kishan Patnaik Ji some thirty years ago. At present Yogendra Yadav is its editor.

Samayik Varta has been and dreams to be a platform of various people's movements of India. In order to be able to accommodate more struggling forces, Samayik Varta has recently reshaped itself.

Samayik Varta carries articles, analyses and reports on various issues and processes. Other than these regular things Varta does carry a section on 'Andolan Samachar' (News of People’s Movements). I am particularly requesting you to send small news reports of any civil disobedience / struggle / movement / people’s initiative of critical importance for this section. Just to mention a few, Varta has carried reports of various struggles ranging from SEZ, Posco, Niyamagiri, Nandigram, Chengara to Dow Chemical in recent months.

As far as possible Varta would prefer news that are contextualized and reflect a process to those which merely report about some event or personalities.

I request you to circulate or forward this mail to the relevant groups and activists. I also request you to add the address ( in your mailing list for movement related dispatch / press release / write-ups. We prefer reports in Hindi but this is not binding at all.

If Varta does not reach you please do write us for a complimentary copy. We also need your support in reaching out to our prospective readers.
With regards and best wishes,
Associate Editor
Samayik Varta
Phone 91-9910203639
fax 011-23981012 (attn: Samayik Varta)
FF6, Apana Apartment,203 - Savitri Nagar, New Delhi 110017

22 March, 2008

New television network to serve South Asians in US is launched

The following is a press release on the launch of 'Pan Desi' a new television network

NEW YORK, NY– March 22, 2008 – Pan Desi, an English-language television network was officially launched today on Colours TV. Targeted at South Asians living in America the network is the first to be available to over 50 million people everyday during prime time.The new network will capture the American Desi experience by uniquely targeting key Desi demographics and age groups. Pan Desi programming will be aired daily on CoLours TV at the Prime Time of 9PM (8 Central).

CoLours TV is a pioneer in multicultural television and is carried as a basic channel to Dish network subscribers, is a digital basic channel on many cable systems and also free, over-the-air in some Metros

Pan Desi is led by an award winning, key senior management and advisory board representing over 100 years of experience at such top concerns as NBC, CBS and American Express. Additionally, key executives at Pan Desi are beneficiaries of lessons learned from “American Desi”, the unsuccessful first such venture in 2005.“It is a perfect time for this important segment of the population to have its own television content that will stand as a virtual meeting place in which to keep touch with Desi culture and share it with others. We are extremely proud to be the first to create a daily Prime Time television marketplace reaching over 50 million people to unite the Desi community and to position ourselves with CoLours TV, a leader in reaching and influencing the multicultural consumer.” said Vimal Verma, Chairman and CEO of Pan Desi.

“As Desi people we are well aware of our roots, but we are also aware that our lives are intertwined with the American culture, making it vitally important for our programming to be in English, panning the American Desi experience.”Catering to specific aspects of the Desi lifestyle and to key demographics, Pan Desi’s programming schedule exhibits the high production and editorial values, and ranges from the inspirational to the tongue-in-cheek to the exciting.The new network offers a series of “firsts” for the American Desi community – American Desi-themed shows; animated children’s fare in English; a multi-generational lifestyle talk show for women; cutting-edge teen shows; a sports news and magazine show showcasing international and American sports; interview programs; a late-night American Desi comedy block; Desi and inter racial wedding themed shows with Bollywood and Hollywood rounding out the mix.

“In keeping with our commitment to offer best in class programming services that meet the needs of all of our discerning viewers, CoLours TV is very proud to become the new home of Pan Desi,” said Tracy Winchester, President/C.E.O of CoLours TV.

“It is a natural fit for CoLours TV to add Pan Desi everyday in prime time to our strong line-up, serving the English-language South Asians in America,” said Arthur O. Thomas, Executive Vice President of CoLours TV.The sponsor-supported Pan Desi network promises to be very attractive to marketers, as the Desi market is young and affluent according to the latest US Census data, which states that Desi households have median income 50% higher than for all US households.Beginning March 22, Pan Desi is available on CoLours TV during prime time (9 PM) every night (8 Central). For additional channel information or to learn more about CoLours TV please visit

Desi States of America: A lively, fast-paced news round up designed to meet the needs of the busy American Desi community. Pan Desi’s winning team is working around the clock to give American Desis compelling information and insight they need to give them an edge, live, everyday.

The Best Half: One thing is clear; American Desi women have a lot on their mind. The Best Half welcomes different generations of Desi women to share a cup of Chai and lively conversation about arranged marriages, romance in the workplace to anything and everything that’s on your mind.

It's My Life Yo Wait ‘til I am 18! It’s a common phrase heard by Desi teens trying to navigate their own paths. It’s My Life Yo is the only television destination where Desi teens get to take over the airwaves to explore life on their terms.

DesiALaMode: DesiALaMode brings you the best in movies, songs and entertainment news from box office blockbusters to timeless classics from Bollywood to Hollywood. We’ve got the movie reports, the DVD features and the latest to give you your Entertainment Fix.

Huts & Toys…: Making It Happen We sit down with people making it happen and appreciate the fruit of their labor, their ‘huts’ and ‘toys’.

PrimeTime: Primetime is your time to take over the airwaves for our celebration of the American Desi experience. From live interviews with the biggest stars, candid conversations with the movers and shakers, to great debates on the topics important to American Desi’s, it’s on PrimeTime.

What’s on your mind is what’s on our air- including topics relevant to the Desi community that the mainstream media completely misses.

Sports Insight: We bring you the best in cricket and the American pro sports, be they hardball, hoops or the gridiron. Sports are a passionate part of the American Desi experience!

Late Night Comedy: An irreverent end to the day … from the freshest Comics, hottest social scenes to conversations about the subjects that might make you blush, Late Night Raw will tackle the subjects Desis are whispering about. From Sex and Drugs to all Lifestyles, nothing is out of bounds.

# # #

About CoLours TV: CoLours TV is America’s only national satellite and cable network delivering programs that target an urban audience which is multicultural, sophisticated and tech savvy. We have a social concious and offer a unique and cross-cultural programming mix that reflects our viewer’s perspective on living and entertainment.
CoLours TV delivers programming 24/7 to over 17 million TV households. For more information, visit

About Pan Desi: Pan Desi is a privately-held, New Jersey-based company that owns and operates the only English language television network for South Asians in America. Programming from the Pan Desi Network is available nationwide to more than seventeen million households through an agreement with CoLours TV. The new TV network, which launched in 2008, uniquely targets the previously under-served audience of Americanized people of Indian, Pakistani and similar South Asian descent. Pan Desi's audience of South-Asian Americans represents the most affluent and one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the United States. The network offers programming for Desi families, women, men, teens and children. The network’s programming slate includes entertainment, movies, sports, magazine shows, late night comedy blocks and issues-based, interactive audience participation programs that make use of in-person, telephone and computer technologies. For more information on Pan Desi, please visit

Declining dollar portends collapse of American power

It is well known that the war the US waged to free Kuwait from Iraqi occupation was bankrolled by the Gulf States. That war ended with a clear profit: the funds provided by the oil-rich states exceeded the actual US expenditure.

Who is financing the present US war in Iraq and Afghanistan? These wars are financed principally by China and Japan, which buy the Treasury bonds that the USA issues to balance its budget, says Paul Craig Roberts, an academic who has been Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal and worked as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under President Reagan.
Roberts says, financially, the USA is not an independent country. Foreign borrowing is paying government salaries--perhaps that of the President himself--or funding the expenditures of the various cabinet departments.

He warns that the dollar is failing in its role as reserve currency and will soon be abandoned. When that happens, the USA will no longer be able to pay its bills by borrowing more from foreigners.

On to Paul Craig Roberts' article at site

21 March, 2008

Ancient tiny humans discovered?

Thousands of human bones belonging to numerous individuals have been discovered in the Pacific island nation of Palau. The remains are between 900 and 2,900 years old and give new understanding to the potential of human variation.

Some of the bones are ancient and indicate inhabitants of particularly small size, scientists announced today. (See pictures of the Palau remains and where they were found.)

John Roach of National Geographic reports on the discovery: Ancient Tiny Humans Discovered

A Video by Public Television's Wild Chronicles, from National Geographic Mission Programs, shows a scientist uncovering tiny human bones in the island cave. It can be accessed here.

20 March, 2008

Indian media coverage of Arthur C. Clarke's death

The Indian media’s coverage of Arthur C. Clarke’s death is illustrative of its professional weakness. Here is a man who foresaw the technological developments which made a big difference to the way the media functions. He lived in our neighbourhood, having taken up residence in Sri Lanka in 1956. Yet no Indian newspaper had a worthwhile obituary.

The Hindu carried a three-paragraph report from its Colombo correspondent on Clarke’s death under a single-column headline. Alongside, it featured under a six-column headline the syndicated New York Times obit.

The Times of India is not a newspaper to which one turns for good reading material these days. It redeemed itself somewhat this time by publishing a write-up by one of its staffers, Narayani Ganesh. It was not an obit but an account of a meeting she had with Clarke in Colombo.

(Narayani Ganesh is a daughter of the late Gemini Ganesh, eternal lover of Tamil cinema)

The poor performance of the newspapers can be attributed to bankruptcy at the higher levels. Clarke died early on Wednesday. Access to material is easy these days and most of the big newspapers have on their staff persons who are capable of producing a good write-up in time for Thursday’s edition. The editors did not put the resources at their disposal to proper use probably because such activity is not very important in their scheme of things.

Arthur C. Clarke’s death, of course, is not an event with political relevance. But even on political developments with implications for our country, the major newspapers, including The Hindu, routinely carry syndicated material from abroad.

19 March, 2008

Arthur C. Clarke is no more

ARTHUR C. CLARKE (1917-2008)
Arthur C. Clarke passed away in Colombo early today.
Here are links to obituary by different news agencies:

18 March, 2008

Taslima Nasreen: I have to escape from this death chamber

Sanal Edamaruku, President, Rationalist International, writes:
I have been in constant phone contact with Taslima Nasreen in her secret prison. The following shocking document, written by her some days ago and sent to me, has been kept under wraps according to her wishes till the eve of her departure. This morning she told me that I can release it.
Sanal Edamaruku

Taslima Nasreen

I HAVE TO ESCAPE FROM THE DEATH CHAMBER. I used to call this the torture chamber. I gradually came to realize that it was the chamber of death instead. I was not even allowed to stay in hospital for long though the doctors felt it was necessary in order to stabilize my blood pressure. But then, orders are orders and the government did not want to be inconvenienced by me in any way whatsoever. The government did not want the media to know I had been hospitalized. I did not have my mobile phone with me and the doctors at the government's hospital (All India Institute of Medical Sciewnces) were instructed to discharge me after a certain period of time. Curiously though, the decision was not left to the doctors as to what this certain period of time was to be. The last time I was admitted to this hospital a few weeks ago I was suddenly discharged as a result of governmental pressure. I am sure this was linked to a report in the Times of India which stated I had been hospitalized.

At this undisclosed location I am neither allowed to go to a doctor for consultation nor is one allowed to come to me. I suffer from severely fluctuating blood pressure and the strange thing is that I was not even allowed to speak to any of the doctors at the hospital over the telephone. Even after repeated requests I was not given a single phone number. When I was in hospital, I asked the doctors if I could call them if necessary but they said that they were not allowed to hand out their numbers. I had to make inquiries through officials to get even the simplest of answers from these doctors.

I have suffered tremendously both physically and mentally. My blood pressure is now impossible to control. The doctors say it is due to stress which I must avoid at all costs. How can I not be stressed when everything is continuously stressing me out? I am brought to this place and incarcerated like some animal; my human rights constantly and continually violated. I am not allowed to step out or meet anyone. How can I not be stressed? I received the extension of my resident's permit, but the status quo continued. And because of the high blood pressure caused by stress, I developed heart disease (hypertrophy) and hypertensive retinopathy, both of which were diagnosed at the hospital. The hypertensive retinopathy will eventually cause me to go blind. The blood pressure if uncontrolled destroy the heart, kidneys and eyes.

Prior to my confinement, my blood pressure had been under control and all my organs were in perfect condition. After returning from hospital, I wanted to leave this country at the earliest as I knew I would never be free from stress here. I said I needed to go to Kolkata urgently to collect a few important documents and other assorted things including bank cards and to sign my tax papers. That too, just the basic permission to visit my Kolkata flat to wrap up my life there, was denied for security reasons. THEY FINALLY DID IT. Even though they constantly pressured me mentally to leave the country, I refused to budge. I was determined I would not leave this country. When they saw it was pointless trying to destroy my mind, they attempted to destroy my body. In this they succeeded by ruining my health which leaves me with no other alternative but to leave this country. I WAS NOT ALLOWED TO SEE ANY DOCTOR FOR 'SECURITY REASONS'

It is important that all this be known. I made repeated requests to be allowed to consult a medical specialist as my condition was growing worse with the ever increasing stress I had to face in this not-so-gilded cage. I was not allowed to see a doctor for more than two months. The decision makers asked the officials not to attend to me especially when I desperately needed a doctor. Two months after my initial request, I was eventually taken to a quack to an undisclosed third location who could, unsurprisingly, do nothing at all. I insisted that I had to see a cardiologist or at least a specialist. I was then told that this would entail a visit to the doctor's chamber. I agreed to go but was told that I would not be allowed to go to a doctor's chamber because of the 'security risks' involved. I fell very ill and told the officials I was likely to have a heart attack.

After a few days, at the same undisclosed location, I was allowed to see a doctor from the AIIMS who prescribed some medicines, after taking which I fainted. The same night I was admitted to hospital where my blood pressure fell alarmingly and had to be given life-saving drugs to survive. The doctors told me that I needed to spend two or three weeks in hospital but the officials whisked me away from the critical care unit after just three days and took me directly to meet the Minister for External Affairs. The Minister asked me to leave the country, the shock of which made my blood pressure shoot up to 220/120. I was rushed to the hospital but the doctors were instructed by the officials not to admit me for 'security reasons'. In my not-so-gilded cage, I had no help at all.

It has been nearly eight months that I have been living under virtual house arrest, in a prison without any facilities. I have been asked continuously by the government to leave this country. Naturally, this has upset me a great deal as I left Europe to relocate to India; to make India my permanent home. I settled in Kolkata where I was living peacefully in a Bengali milieu. I was very active helping oppressed women and writing feminist and humanist literature. Just because a few Muslim fundamentalists objected to my being in this country, I was first imprisoned in Kolkata and then moved to Delhi. In order for the politicians to secure their Muslim vote bank, I had to be locked up and, as a consequence, my health was irreparably destroyed.IMPORTANT I was not allowed to see a doctor even when my blood pressure was fluctuating uncontrollably because of the stress put on me by the GoI.I was not allowed to see a specialist for 'security reasons'. I was finally seen by a doctor chosen by the GOI, just after having his prescribed medicine, drug poisoning started, I fainted and I was admitted to a government's hospital. Life-saving-drugs saved my life. I was not allowed to stay in hospital for 'security reasons'.When it was made clear that I must avoid stress and stressful situations, I was taken from the CCU( cardiac care unit) to meet the Minister for External Affairs who put great mental pressure on me to leave the country.When my blood pressure reached 220/120 after talking with the Minister, I begged to get admission in the hospital, but I was not allowed. I am not being allowed to go to Kolkata before I leave the country to pack some important things and secure my house. I was not allowed to step out for eight months ( 4 months in Kolkata, 3 and 1/2 months in Delhi) I was not allowed visiting hours at my place of confinement. I was not allowed to meet my friends and acquaintances.

Taslima Nasreen

17 March, 2008

The changing idiom of politics of murder

THE FEUD between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which was confined to the Kannur district of Kerala for nearly half a century, created waves at distant places this time. The new development makes one thing clear. It may not be possible to limit political killings as a regional mega serial any longer.

Kannur has been a CPI (M) stronghold since long. Now it is also the centre of power in the party. The experience of Vinitha Kottayi, whom even the District Collector, could not help, testifies that life will be difficult for any one who incurs the hostility of a local party leader. There are party villages in the district where there is no space for one who is not a member of sympathizer of the party and no newspaper other than the party organ Deshabhimani is available. Recently I had occasion to learn of Kannur’s political influence. While talking to a high government official, he said he does not vote in the general elections. He explained that experience in Kannur had destroyed his faith in the electoral system.

Sacrifices by leaders and ranks from Kannur have written a glorious chapter in the history of the Communist movement. After the party split, despite stiff challenges from the right and the left, the CPI (M) could hold the district in its grip. That it has tremendous following in the district is not in doubt. Yet it resorts to violence in elections because it is not satisfied with mere victory. It wants total victory as in the erstwhile communist countries. If possible, it wants to be in power uninterruptedly, as in West Bengal. These are justifiable desires. But the methods it follows for the purpose are not justifiable.

The violent series of Kannur began in the 1960s. It was the time when, following the Communist split, the CPI (M) was resorting to violent agitations to prove that it had greater revolutionary sense than the other faction. That was when the Bengal party invented the bandh and the gherao and the Kerala party adopted them as its own. The politics of murder started with attacks on defectors from the party. The earliest conflicts were with the Congress as it was to that party that the defectors went. When the impression spread that the RSS was able to offer them better protection, the defectors started moving to it and the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Recently a CPI (M) supporter gave a class-based interpretation to the violent series. According to him, the problem started when the organized strength the beedi workers of Kannur scared the beedi manufacturers of Mangalore. The RSS got involved as its cadres provided security cover for the stocks of the Mangalore manufacturers.

There have been variations in the intensity of violence but it cannot be said with certainty that it is more when the CPI (M)-led Left Democratic Front is in power and less when the Congress-led United Democratic Front is in power. Kannur was peaceful under the last UDF regime, according to its spokesmen. However, according to official figures, 3,500 incidents, small and big, were reported during those five years. Thirty-six people were killed in these incidents. That makes an average of two incidents in a day and seven murders in a year.
The fiercest CPI (M)-RSS clashes occurred in 1981. That year 12 CPI (M) men and an equal number of RSS men were killed. A year-by-year scrutiny indicates that the two sides have been endeavouring to maintain parity—or, to put it differently, to settle scores immediately. This time five RSS men and two CPI (M) men were killed. That means one side has been able to establish a clear lead.

The police, the media or the concerned parties have not given any firm information about how violence broke out this time. According to one newspaper report, the first incident occurred on March 5 at 2.45 p.m. In that, an RSS worker was attacked. By 3 p.m. there was retaliation. A CPI (M) worker was attacked. Not long afterwards, another RSS man was killed. If this account is correct, who unsheathed the dagger first is of little relevance. Both sides were clearly ready to clash.

Since violence has been continuing for 40 years, we can surmise that the present combatants belong to the second generation. Is it party loyalty that leads them? Or is it vengeance? It is not easy to say. Each party protects the families of its martyrs and helps the families of those who get caught for murder both during trial and, if convicted, while in prison. Because of this approach it is not difficult for the parties to get people who are willing to take as well as to give. The CPI (M) has more favourable circumstances than the RSS. Since it comes to power in alternate elections, members of its suicide squads can expect special consideration in matters like parole and bail.

The faith of the RSS and the CPI (M) in democracy is doubtful. When M. N. Vijayan was the cultural spokesman of the CPI (M), he wrote a series of articles setting forth the fascist character of the RSS. It was perhaps the most authentic writing on the subject in Malayalam. Anyone who read it with care can notice the close similarity between the RSS style and the CPI (M)’s style in Kerala.

The RSS is supposed to be non-political. It was banned following Gandhi’s assassination. The ban was lifted after its leadership assured the government that it was a cultural organization and would not engage in political activities. Today it is active in the public life directly and through front organizations and in electoral politics through the BJP. It was the RSS’s long-time efforts to build a Hindu vote bank that helped the BJP to become the largest party in some of the States.

Today the BJP has the most popular support in the country after the Congress. It was able to remain in power throughout the life of one Lok Sabha with the help of numerous small national and regional parties. Even now it is the party that wields power in the largest number of States. The inability to win even one Assembly seat in Kerala is an eternal woe it lives with.

For many years the CPI (M) and the BJP have been in competition for the support of both the forward and the backward sections of Hindus. The forward-level competition is visible in the attempts to dominate temple committees. The portrait of Sree Narayana, which adorned the venue when the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the BJP’s predecessor, held a national meet at Kozhikode in the 1970s, made it clear that it had set its eyes on a backward community in which the CPI (M) commanded immense influence.

According to the latest statistics, 173 lives have been sacrificed in Kannur between 1968 and the present. The party-wise break-up is as follows: CPI (M) 66, RSS-BJP 53, Congress 40, Other parties 14. The sociology of murder is as important as its politics. The parties may be different but a large majority of those killed (84 per cent) belongs to one backward caste. Most belongs to the working class too. The hunter and the hunted are not class enemies, but members of the same class. It is just that they are under different flags.

Having altered the scores, which were almost level, to 5:2, the CPI (M) was in a buoyant mood when the RSS-BJP national leadership freed Kannur’s politics of revenge from its geographical limits. Accusing the CPI (M) of trying to suppress them with the help of the administration in the State where it commands much influence, BJP vice-president M. Venkiah Naidu asked it to ponder over what will happen if they retaliated where they had more influence. But the RSS did not give it time to ponder. Sangh Parivar staged a demonstration outside AKG Bhavan, the CPI (M) headquarters in New Delhi. It was a rehearsal. The next day, while the CPI (M) central committee was in session, the demonstrators came back, better prepared. They stoned the party office, trespassed into its premises and damaged property.

That the BJP attack was pre-planned is not in doubt. All other parties condemned it strongly. When the matter came up for discussion in Parliament, the BJP was totally isolated. CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechuri, who raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha, pointed out this was the first time that the headquarters of a national party was thus attacked. Other parties also picked up that argument. The BJP’s lament that its workers’ lives were in danger in Kannur did not evoke a comparable response. Thus, knowingly or otherwise, Parliament conveyed to the country the message that the sanctity of the party headquarters is more valuable than the lives of party members.

Sangh Parivar struck at Bangalore, Hyderabad and Nagerkovil, besides New Delhi. The house of the CPI (M) Karnataka State secretary in Bangalore was attacked. That was probably because he happens to be a Malayalee. Since there was retaliation in all southern States, it may be presumed that there was central direction behind it. This also conveys a message. If members of a party are attacked in one State it can settle scores in another State.

The March 9 attack on the CPI (M) headquarters in New Delhi, like the Ayodhya episode of December 6, 1992, was the result of a conscious decision aimed at changing the course of politics. When Babri Masjid was demolished, the then Prime Minister declared it would be rebuilt. As years are pass by, that declaration remains unimplemented. Every passing year renders that declaration more irrelevant and its implementation more and more difficult.

Although universally condemned, the Sangh Parivar’s retaliation is part of acceptable war tactics. When Pakistan sent infiltrators into Kashmir to stage an insurrection in 1965, it had imagined that as in 1947-48 the fighting will be confined to the State. The Indian army’s movement across the international border towards Lahore upset its calculations. India’s intention was not to capture Lahore, but to create conditions that will force the Pakistan army to give up any gains it may make in the valley.

The CPI (M) responded to the Sangh Parivar attacks with protests in New Delhi and in Kerala. Generally the CPI (M) employs its front organizations for such demonstrators. This time the party came on the scene directly. This shows the leadership is taking a serious view of the new development.

Those roaming in Kannur with drawn daggers are members of two parties which have high reputation for sense of discipline. When one side commits murder, those on the side come out to wreak vengeance because the leadership does not restrain them. Not only do they not restrain them but they actually encourage them by either maintaining criminal silence or offering justification in the name of resistance. In the experience thus far there is a lesson which the two parties concerned must learn urgently. That lesson is that they do not have the ability to liquidate the other side completely and that prudence demands coexistence.
Based on article in Malayalam appearing in Madhyamam weekly which has just hit the stands

16 March, 2008

Chinese media coverage of Tibet developments

Anyone wanting to know how the Chinese media is covering the Tibetdevelopments?You can see the front page of Saturday's issue of the China Daily, the official English language newspaper, at the site of James Fallows,National Correspondent of the US magazine The Atlantic Monthly at

Fallows also provides a write-up on the coverage by the People's Daily,official organ of the Communist Party of China, at

14 March, 2008

Indian workers in the Gulf among most dissatisfied

With living costs growing faster than salaries, a large section of expatriate employees in the Gulf States are dissatisfied and want to change jobs, according to the findings of the Arabian Business Salary Survey 2008.

A total of 8,914 respondents from 121 nationalities took part in what the website describes as “the most comprehensive salary survey the GCC has seen”. They answered 28 questions.

More than half of Indian expatriates working in the UAE saw their real wages diminish during 2007, outnumbering those who saw their salaries rise by more than four to one.

Workers from India and Pakistan were particularly dissatisfied with their current employment, with 70.6% and 65% respectively saying they were more likely to quit their jobs this year. Only 14.6% of Indian and 16% of Pakistani workers said they were less likely to switch jobs.

Almost three-quarters of employees in Oman said that were more likely to quit their job this year, with only 14% saying they were more likely see the year out in their present position. In Saudi Arabia 67% of employees said they were looking for another job, while in the UAE the figure stood at 68%.

According to the Survey report, 45.4% of the Indians send home over 20% of their income. The corresponding figures for some other nationalities are: Filipinos 68%, UK citizens under 40%, Americans 38.7%, Pakistanis 36% and Frenchmen 35.2%

Many more of those in the low and middle income brackets - which include the majority of Indians, Pakistanis and Filipinos - repatriate between 10% and 50% of their salary than those in the high income brackets.

Expatriates constitute over 40% of the region’s population. Over 20% of the employees do not send any money back to their home country.

For details of the report, please go to SALARY SURVEY REPORT

Nature publishers start India portal

The Nature group of publicatipons, which runs the prestigious Nature magazine and other academic journals, launched an India portal on February 1.

It was started to highlight research by Indian scientists, report on science policy, provide a firum where scientists can advertise and look for jobs and link with the network of Nature journals.

Nature magazine was launched in 1869. Other academic publications followed later. It is now focusing on the Asia Pacific region because there has been an increase in the number of scientific publications coming out of the region.

You can go to Nature India from here.

Medical camps in support of demand for Dr. Binayak Sen’s release


A nationwide initiative has been launched for the release of popular health and human rights activist Dr Binayak Sen, arrested in May last year on grounds of having links with Maoists in Chhattisgarh.

The initiative, of holding regular Free Binayak Sen Medical Camps for the urban and rural poor, in cities and towns around the country, is meant to raise public awareness about Dr Sen's detention under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, and call for his unconditional release.

Dr Sen, a heart patient, kept in a prison in Raipur for the past ten months, has lost over 15 kilos of weight during the course of his detention.

The medical camps are part of an effort to take forward Dr Sen's innovative public health work to new areas and highlight the issues of nutrition, child health and the link between socio-economic rights and health. India has one of the worst health indicators in the world, even lower than that of sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in the areas of infant and maternal mortality.

The first such camp will be held in an urban slum area in the national capital New Delhi on 15 March with the help of community organizations and volunteer doctors. Other camps are planned for March in Chennai, Coimbatore, Bangalore and Kolkata.

From April health activist groups in another six cities, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Lucknow, Kozhikode and Alappuzha, will join the campaign.

Two medical camps in solidarity with Dr Sen have already been held at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in late February, organized by the JNU Students Union and meant for daily wage workers on the campus.The arrest of the internationally renowned pediatrician, on what are widely seen as trumped up charges, has outraged health and human rights groups throughout the world. Activists see Dr Sen's arrest as an attempt to punish him for exposing human rights violations in Chattisgarh.

Apart from being a public health activist, Dr Sen is also Vice-President of the People's Union for Civil Liberties, India's largest civil rights organization formed three decades ago as aresponse to the Emergency imposed on the country.

For further information, please contact:

Dunu Roy, New Delhi Ph: 9910687627

Satya Sivaraman, New Delhi Ph: 9818514952

Dr Rakhal Gaitonde, Chennai Ph: 9940246089

Dr Punyabrata Gun, Kolkata Ph: 9830922194

Dr N.Devadasan, Bangalore Ph: 080-26645232

(I am grateful to Anivar Aravind ( for the above information)

13 March, 2008

Sri Lankan Tamil journalists arrested and beaten by police

Reporters Without Borders has voiced concern about the fate of five Tamil journalists of Sri Lanka, who were picked up by police in Colombo. A statement by the organization, which has been forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission, says:

Reporters without Borders is concerned about the fate of five Tamil journalists arrested by anti-terrorist police in Colombo in the past six days and urges the Sri Lankan authorities to explain why they are being held.

The anti-terrorist police are accusing the journalists of receiving money from the Tamil Tiger rebels, but after investigating, we can confirm that the funds in question came from a German foundation and from Tamil exiles. We condemn the fact the some of these journalists were badly beaten during their first few days in detention, and that this was clearly done to extract confessions from them.

The funds received by two of the journalists, V. Jasikaran and J.S. Tissanayagam, were to finance the Outreach ( website and to help Tamil students. An official with the German foundation FLICT told Reporters Without Borders that Tissanayagam, Outreach's editor, received 12,000 euros in November as part of this initiative.
Several other sources told Reporters Without Borders that Jasikaran received money from members of the Tamil exile community in Germany to help students in the east of the island.
The owner of the E-Kwality printing works and a writer known for his Tamil nationalist stance, Jasikaran was arrested in Colombo on 6 March. His computer and printing equipment were seized, and his wife, a TV producer, was also detained.

Tissanayagam, who writes for the Sunday Times newspaper as well as editing Outreach, was arrested by anti-terrorist police on 7 March. Reporter Kithsiri Wijesinghe, photographer Gayan Lasantha Ranga and video director Udayanan were arrested later the same day.

Journalist S. Sivakumar, the spokesman of the Free Media Movement, was detained for a few hours on 8 March in connection with the same case. He has been ordered to present himself to the police again.

Political establishments in search of convenient enemies

To me, August 15, 1947 is not a day in history. It is a day in my memory. Only one difference was noticeable in the country on that day. The flag flying on top of government buildings changed. The officers were the same. The laws were the same. The way they were implemented was the same. With the Constitution coming into force in 1950 efforts to democratize the establishment began. The old laws and feudal-colonial traditions created obstacles to democratization. The Communists experienced its ill-effects most.

Under the impression that circumstances were favourable for revolution, the Communists had begun an armed struggle. Following this, the party was banned. After abandoning armed struggle, it regained freedom of operation. A. K. Gopalan’s release from preventive detention and lifting of the ban on Crossroads weekly, which was propagating the party’s views, were decisive judicial interventions. Despite aberrations like dismissal of the first Communist government and proclamation of the Emergency, the nation stuck to democracy.

Apart from Communists, from the Dravidian movement of Tamil Nadu to tribes of the northeast, many sections had rejected the nation. Most of them are now part of Establishment. Followers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which had promoted the Hindutva ideology that led to Gandhiji’s assassination, are also active in power politics. A truly democratic dispensation must be able to take in all. We have been able to do it substantially. For India, this is a new experience. The basic character of the system that prevailed in the country for centuries was rejection, not inclusion.

In many parts of the country, democracy is now getting circumscribed even without Emergency. The Congress, which had taken over from the colonial administration, and parties of the Right and the Left which later found places in power politics, are one in limiting it. The cases of Binayak Sen, P. Govindan Kutty and Lachit Bordoloi, who were arrested in Assam, Kerala and Chhattisgarh, which are under the Congress, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Bharatiya Janata Party respectively, testify to the return of anti-democratic conditions.

Sen, who was arrested last May, is a paediatrician who has been working among the tribes of Chhattisgarh for years. Apart from trying to solve the Adivasis’ health problems, as an office-bearer of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties he took an interest in civil rights as well. This he raised his voice for those who were denied legal protection and human rights following allegations of extremist links. Govindan Kutty, who gave up his job in a scientific establishment and launched People’s March to propagate Left ideology, was taken into custody by the police in December following the arrest of a Naxalite leader of Andhra Pradesh from his hideout near Kochi. Bordoloi, a journalist, was picked up by the police last month while trying to prepare the ground for talks between the government and the United Liberation Front of Assam (Ulfa), an extremist organization.

All three have been charged with having links with extremists. Of the three, only Govindan Kutty has been able to get bail, and that too subject to stiff conditions. Sen and Bordoloi are still in jail, having been refused bail. The charge-sheets against them are packed with puerile references. One of the allegations against Sen is that he visited Naxalite leader Narayan Sanyal 33 times in jail. All the visits were made with prior permission with a view to making arrangements for a surgery for Sanyal. A deputy inspector-general had given a letter to the jail superintendent stating that the police has no objections to Sen meeting Sanyal.

The charge that Bordoloi was in touch with Ulfa is even more ludicrous. How could he try to bring the organization’s representatives to the conference table without getting in touch with it? It is obvious that those who do not favour restoration of peace are behind the move against the mediator.

Govindan Kutty countered the allegation that People’s March was propagating extremist ideology by pointing out that it was being published lawfully. Applying hindsight, the administration cancelled the magazine’s licence. That a government under Communist leadership has taken the country back to the pre-Crosswords period can be taken as a cruel irony of fate.

Governments are denying civil rights invoking two kinds of extremism. One is Left extremism. The other is Islamic extremism. Both are, of course, active in several parts of the country. But each administration approaches them in the light of its own political interests. Each party finds the enemy that suits its purpose. It prepares the police for its own purposes using various tactics, including infiltration.

While speaking at a police function recently, Kerala Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan recently asked the Special Branch police to identify the ideology behind extremist activities and submit the kind of reports needed to root it out. This is something the police has done since the colonial days. Today, with men holding party membership in the force, this can be done even more efficiently. It is against this background that the reference made by a judge of the Kerala high court to the credibility of the police must be seen. The unease caused by unpleasant truth is evident in the State CPI (M) Secretary’s angry response to it.
Based on column Nerkkazhcha published in Kerala Kaumudi dated March 13, 2008

12 March, 2008

Blacks can help Obama to get party nomination but not to win

In a news analysis circulated by New America Media, NAM editor Earl Ofari Hutchinson says African American voters will help ensure that Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama keeps his slight edge over Hillary Clinton, for now. But they will not help him beat John McCain if he eventually gets the Democratic nomination.

Yet it’s still a virtual article of political faith that a strong, united, and crusading black vote can tip the scale for a Democratic presidential candidate. This is a myth and it’s risky business for Obama and the Democrats to believe that.

On to Hutchinson’s piece

Nandigram martyrdom anniversary

The following is an appeal from National Alliance of People's Movements in connection with the observance of the first anniversary of the martyrs of Nandigram

We invite you to join the first Memorial event to pay tribute to the people of Nandigram who gave up their life while protecting their land, livelihoods and sovereignty and democracy of our country.

The struggle of Nadigram has created history. 14th March will go both in terms of ugly and inspiring way in the history of Nandigram struggle. Ugly because the blood-bath at Nandigram has been a gory face of state repression and the disturbing sign of the discontent, distress and threat to democracy created by the neo-liberal and land grab policy of the state. That too, in such an ideological régime, which is suppose to bring about socialism and protect the interest of common people. We all know the killing of innocent men, women and children who were protesting against the land grab in Nandigram on 14 th March 2007.
Inspiring because of the grit, determination and fighting spirit of the common people of Nandigram who became martyrs to protect Nandigram from destruction and displacement. Despite all the fear created, despite the missing persons list increasing in the area, despite facing bullets again and again people of Nadigram are still struggling with even more zeal to save their culture, livelihoods, life and environment apart posing a big challenge to the state terrorism and global corporate threat to the sovereignty.

Farmers, Dalits, Adivasi and women across India have been putting a brave front to oppose such development paradigm which is only leading to displacement, destruction, degradation and threatening vast rural, agricultural and forest communities. Many have given their lives for this cause not only in West Bengal but in other parts of India such as in Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand...

Let's join together to commemorate the first Shaheed Anniversary of Nandigram ON THE 14TH MARCH TILL 16 TH March 2008.
The Events:
14th March' 08: In Nandigram
· Inauguration of Shaheed Stambh (Tower of Martyrdom) in two places in Nandigram
· Maintaining 20.min Silence to pay tribute to the revolutionary martyrs
15th March' 08: In Kolkata:
· Dharna and maintaining 20 min silence
in Kolkata by Nandigram Manch which includes many people's movements, organizations and artist and intellectual forums.
16th March'08: In Kolkata:
· Rally in Kolkata
Looking forward to your participation…
Sincerely yours,
Pranab Baneerjee,

Debjit Bhai,

Mukta Srivastava

Murad Bhai,
Shaktiman Ghosh
NAPM-west Bengal, Nandigram Manch NAPM National Convenor

Contact : 09433624241 09433972662

10 March, 2008

Preparations for BlogCamp in Kerala

Some bloggers of Kerala are making efforts to organize BlogCamp in Kerala.

Below is a report from Kenney Jacob on a meeting held in this regard at Thiruvananthapuram:

A few of us met at Museum to discuss about the blogcamp Kerala, which is being planned right now. Here is a list of those who attended.

Me -

Sajith -

Sanil -

Anand -

Uncle -,

Jal -

We discussed about the importance and reach of local language blogs and how we can get more people to blogging. Some tools, tips and tricks were also discussed. The final conclusion was that we need to get more bloggers into the wiki. We need more people to know about the event and help in planning and conducting. It will be really nice, if everyone can put a post in their blogs with a link to the wiki.

Photos of the meeting are available here. -

Maharaja Ranjit Singh
MARCH 9. It was on this day in 1846 that the Treaty of Lahore, which marked the end of the so-called Sikh War, was signed.

The British were prepared to leave Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the saddle as the ruler of Punjab if he paid Rs.7.5 million in war reparations. He could not come up with the money.
Gulab Singh, Ranjit Singh’s commander in charge of the Jammu and Kashmir region, struck a deal with the British. He paid the amount demanded by the British, and they made him the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir.
It was following the Battle of Plassey in 1757 that the British first obtained control of territory in the subcontinent. With the annexation of Punjab, conquest of the subcontinent was completed. They were still to bring many of the tribes of the northwest and northeast fully under their control when they pulled out in 1947. Here are some interesting points emerging from these facts of history:
The British took close to a century to bring the entire subcontinent under their heel.
In another year, they had to quit.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir came into being only a century before Independence.

08 March, 2008

On this Women’s Day, let us remember Irom Sharmila, human rights defender

Today, International Women’s Day, the national media reported that an Imphal court had ordered the release of legendary Manipuri human rights defender Irom Sharmila. She had been arrested on a charge of attempted suicide.
Sharmila, 37, has been on a fast unto death since November 2000 demanding withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in force in Manipur, which gives the military arbitrary powers. She has been kept alive all these years through forced feeding in jail or in hospitals.
It was a brutal firing by security forces at the Malom bus stand, 15 kilometres from Imphal, on November 2, 2000, resulting in the loss of ten innocent lives that prompted Sharmila to stake her own life in the cause of human rights. She took her mother’s blessings, saying she wants to work for the betterment of humanity, proceeded to the scene of the bloodbath and began her fast.
Friday’s court order does not mean the end of her ordeal. Reporting her release, NDTV 24x7 said, “Sharmila, who has become the face of protests against the controversial Armed Forces Special Power Act, was released Friday evening. She will be arrested again on Saturday afternoon. This routine has been followed for years, as under the law a person accused of attempted suicide cannot be detained for more than a year.”
For a detailed account of her heroic struggle, please see Irom Sharmila: ‘Iron Lady’ of Manipur by Subhash Gatade at site.
Irom Sharmila’s demand was basically accepted by the Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission, which in its report to the Central government recommended that rhe Armed Forces Special Provisions Act be scrapped, and that an amended version of the Unlawful Acts (Prevention) Act of 1967 be used instead. However, the government has been stalling its implementation. See report by Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu dated October 8, 2006.
On this International Women’s Day, let us salute this indefatigable fighter.

07 March, 2008

Indian workers walk out of US shipyard alleging human trafficking

WNYC Reporter Arun Venugopal
Over a hundred Indian H2B workers at a shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi, USA, have walked out, alleging they were lured into a human trafficking ring created by a company.

According to Arun Venugopal, WNYC correspondent, they plan to "report themselves to the Department of Justice as victims of trafficking” and demand prosecution of the company.

Arun Venugopal’s report can be seen at

06 March, 2008

A place where media academics and media professionals come together

A new Internet magazine, styled as Interjunction, has made its appearance.

Interjunction is a platform for media academics and professionals to interact -- and it will present issues of relevance to both groups, from media ethics, to effects, to education.

It is edited by Chindu Sreedharan and Rohit Chopra. Sreedharan lectures in news and feature journalism at the Media School, Bournemouth University, England. He describes himself as an accidental academic, “a journalist who strayed into academia in the line of duty”. Chopra is Assistant Professor of Media Studies at Babson College, Massachusetts, USA.

This is how they explain their mission:

Why we exist
To facilitate knowledge-exchange between media and academia
To enable interaction between and across newspeople and scholars
To comment on issues related to media and the academic study of media
To examine media coverage and academic analysis of key issues
To present political perspectives on media issues

Let the courts move closer to the people

Lawyers of Thiruvananthapuram, capital of Kerala, have been agitation for a month demanding a high court bench. This is not the first agitation on this issue. Normally, the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary all have their seats in the capital. When the princely states of Travancore and Cochin were integrated six decades ago, it was decided that Thiruvananthapuram would be the capital but the high court would be at Kochi. The Centre had offered the high court as a consolation prize to Kochi, which was losing the status of state capital.

The Centre applied the same formula when Rajasthan was created by integrating several princely states. Jaipur was made the capital, but the high court was located at Jodhpur. Both Jaipur and Thiruvananthapuram were given high court benches. Later these were abolished. Subsequently the Jaipur bench was restored, but not the Thiruvananthapuram bench. The reason for this is not clear.

Lawyers of Thiruvananthapuram argue that the State government is a party in a majority of the cases that come before the Kerala high court and that if there is a bench in the capital the huge amount expenditure involved in official travels in connection with court cases can be avoided. Lawyers of some districts of Malabar region have now come forward to demand a bench at Kannur or Kozhikode. They point out that a majority of the cases before the high court are from these districts. Lawyers of Kochi are against having a bench anywhere else.

Organizations in Thiruvananthapuram support to the local lawyers’ demand. Presumably, lawyers of Malabar and Kochi also enjoy local support. But those responsible for decision-making must be able to rise above regional sentiments and vested interests and approach the issue objectively.

Both under Left Democratic Front rule and under United Democratic Front rule, the State government has said it favours the location of a bench at Thiruvananthapuram. But it is doubtful if any government has sincerely worked for it. However, the main obstacle in the way of establishment of a bench is not the apathy of the State government but the unfavourable attitude of the high court and the Supreme Court and the reluctance of the Centre to take a firm stand. The Centre has an obligation to consult the Chief Justice on the issue of setting of up a bench. It is not willing to proceed without the Chief Justice’s consent probably because the Supreme Court has said in one of the cases relating to appointment of judges that consultation means concurrence.

The high court’s latest response to the Thiruvananthapuram bench demand came not as the Chief Justice’s opinion but a full court decision. The Chief Justice has created a new precedent by leaving to the full court a decision that he should have taken. The full court is said to have concluded that a bench at Thiruvananthapuram is not feasible. It is not clear on what basis the judges reached this conclusion. Of the 21 high courts in the country at least seven already have benches outside their headquarters. The high court at Guwahati in Assam serves seven States. It has benches in all those States. The Jammu and Kashmir high court, like the government of that State, functions from Srinagar in the summer and from Jammu in the winter. What practical problems can arise at Thiruvananthapuram which are not there at other places?

On the last Law Day (November 26), Chief Justice K. G. Balakrishnan presented to the people of India a report on the working of the Judiciary. The Constitution says in its Preamble that the people of India adopted it and gave it unto themselves. Yet it did not occur to any of his predecessors to present a report to the people. In the report, he said access to justice was a constitutional right and every civilized state had a duty to provide it. Setting up of benches, not only of high courts but also of the Supreme Court, must be seen as part of the effort to make justice easily accessible to the people. All Chief Justices so far have opposed the setting up of a bench of the apex court outside New Delhi. The fear that quality will suffer if two or three judges sit in Chennai, Kolkata or Mumbai, instead of New Delhi, is irrational. Technology which can help overcome any practical problem involved in the process is available today.

More benches will reduce the distance between the people and the courts and make the judiciary more democratic. Justice Balakrishnan must be able to provide the leadership to make changes of this kind.
Based on column “Nerkkazhcha” appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated March 6, 2008

04 March, 2008

Conference to press for rights of political prisoners

A conference is proposed to be held in New Delhi on March 31 and April 1, 2008 to discuss the rights of political prisoners and initiate a process to work towards recognizing them.

Preparations for the conference are being made by a Convenors' Committee comprising Surendra Mohan, A Marx, SAR Geelani, GN Saibaba, Rona Wilson and Amit Bhattacharya (Coordinator).

The following is a communication from Bhattacharya explaining the circumstances leading to the convening of the conference:

Time and again, there is an unprecedented urgency when the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh talks about development or governance. Manmohan Singh has made it clear that the development model being pushed by the government—euphemistically called as the 'second generation reforms'—can only solve the problems of the vast sections of the people. For an India, which is ostensibly marching ahead in the 21st century towards prosperity, he has spelt out the main dangers that she faces in three ways.

Firstly, voices of dissent in the form of struggles—against loss of homes, hearths and the very cultural survival of the people due to the policies of development through globalization, privatization and liberalization of the economy—are anti-development and against the national interest, as per the learned prime minister. Any opposition to the present model of development is deemed anti-national. Secondly, the subcontinent in general and India in particular cannot be secure without being part of the so called 'war against terror' under the aegis of US imperialism. Thirdly, the prime minister who never shies away from an opportunity to wax eloquently on Voltaire has pointed out that the Maoists are the "single largest threat to internal security" in the region. He does not mince his words when he exhorts to 'cripple the Maoists' and totally weed them out from the political geography of the subcontinent.

Through these three postulates Manmohan Singh and his government have effectively become part of the doctrine of Bush—either you are with us or against us.

It won't be an exaggeration to say that every question or issue of social, political and economic significance has been reduced into a 'law and order' problem. Effectively the military, paramilitary and police the run the everyday administration in many regions with blanket powers bestowed on them by the political leadership.

The World Bank-sponsored development panacea which Manmohan Singh is aggressively implementing have created islands of prosperity while leaving the vast sea of humanity deprived of their right to lead a dignified existence free of all forms oppression and exploitation. This has naturally given birth to widespread discontent reflected in the numerous protests of the masses. The people have no other way to express their opinion. The prisons all over have become seats of torture, custodial death, of 'disciplining' political dissent of vast sections of the people. More and more prisons are being constructed while the present ones are flooded with inmates beyond their capacity. The prisons have the worst conditions. Jail manual is hardly followed. In addition to the already existing draconian laws like AFSPA, Disturbed Areas Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention (Amendment) Act, different states in India have enacted its own internal security laws that have given the military, paramilitary and police sweeping powers to apprehend anyone under the slightest of suspicions or even without it.

Thus the Muslims who protest against religious and social discrimination, lack of representation or dignity become the terrorist or the enemy within, who are destabilizing the country. Thousands of them are behind bars, branded as terrorists or as having links with terrorists. The prison conditions are highly communal. Muslims face some of the worst forms of humiliation and mistreatment apart from the inhuman torture. In many cases, they are arrested under some pretext and charged under yet some other flimsy grounds.

The Kashmiris, Nagas, Kamtapuris, people of Manipur, Assam, the Bodos and other communities who are demanding their right to self-determination have been dubbed as terrorists 'waging war' against the sovereignty and integrity of the Indian nation. These people are put behind bars. Many remain in the prison without even proper charge sheets for years. There are several cases of inmates belonging to a certain community, political group, nationality or region who have served their term in prison are not being released, instead, framed in other cases and lodged back in the prison.

Along with this are the arrests of thousands of Maoists from Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Haryana, and other places. It is in the same regions that the people—the tribals, dalits, landless agricultural labourer, slum dwellers, small peasant, middle peasant and even the rich peasant—are fighting against the violent displacement from their lives and livelihoods; against a conscious intervention of the state that would reduce them to sub humans. These people who are fighting against displacement from their land and forests, against the loot and plunder of their valuable resources are also being put behind bars. Many of them face even charges of sedition! Worse, those who come forward to defend the democratic rights of the detained and the imprisoned are also arrested and incarcerated in prisons.

It is high time that all who cherish the principles and values of a democratic society—where the right to express ones' political opinion without fear or favour, to lead a dignified existence without being mistreated, deprived oppressed or exploited is fundamental—should raise their voice in defence of the people who are incarcerated. All these people are put behind bars due to their conviction that a better society for the greater common good is still possible in this dog eat dog world. Not only were they convinced about the need for a better world but were deeply involved in making it a possibility. One might disagree with their ideology. Yet some might have reservations about the means they resort to for the betterment of a world of miseries and wretchedness. Those who are in power might strongly disagree with their socio-political aspirations. These people, who are defied the light of the day, condemned to live a life that is lifeless within the dark walls of the prison by the powers that be, belong to a wide spectrum of political beliefs through which they dream and aspire for a better tomorrow for one and all. Yet, the fact remains that they are all working for a social cause, fighting for supreme values that would ultimately restore the human being to his/her humane self. It is this vital aspect that the authoritarian state turns a blind eye to and for which we have to stand up.

Yes, political prisoners are prisoners. They are the measure of the possibilities of our society not to say its limitations. How they are treated is the measure of our humanity. The moment we categorize them as 'foreign', as' evil', as the most 'potent threat to the nation', is the moment when we lose our possibilities, our humanity. Our limitations then take precedence. It becomes the norm.

Political prisoners are those whom the state does not want to live in a society due to their political beliefs; not because of any 'deviance' attributed to them. They should be given their rights as political prisoners irrespective of the fact that their political conviction may or may not defy the legitimacy of the status quo that the state promotes.

We invite you to the Conference to be convened on the 31th March and 1st April 2008 at the LTG Auditorium, Copernicus Marg, Mandi House, New Delhi, to discuss and initiate a process to work towards recognizing the rights of political prisoners; to fight for their right to fair trial leading to their release in the context of complete breakdown of the legal apparatus of a society; increasingly incapable of dealing with organized people's mobilization against all forms of evils that have pitted the human being against itself; a malady that the state is fundamentally answerable to.
In Solidarity,

Amit Bhattacharya
Convenors' Committee of the Conference Preparatory Committee.

The Conference on Political Prisoners,
185/3, Fourth Floor,
Zakir Nagar, New Delhi-110025
Ph: 09836318354 09810081228 09871498354
E mail:

01 March, 2008

Women’s Day eve to be observed as Betrayal Day

MARCH 8 is International Women’s Day. Exasperated by the failure of the political parties to enact legislation to provide for 33% representation for women in Parliament and the State legislatures, women’s organizations have called for observance of March 7 as Betrayal Day.

Sunila Singh (suni_manas@hotmail. com), National Programme Officer, National Project on Preventing Torture in India (Mobile: 9910272509) writes:

We are appealing to one and all to use the occasion of International Women's day, 8 March to protest against the humiliation that Indian women have experienced at the hands of the political class. On the issue of 33% representation for women in Parliament and State Legislatures, we seek your support and urge you to express solidarity towards us not because we want the piece of legislation passed but as mark of protest at the dastardly manner in which the women of India have been treated. The political leaders have not had the courage to say "no" or "yes", instead they have done the unforgivable act of keeping the women of the country guessing, waiting, testing their patience and using the issue whenever it suits them.

As you all know, many of us have been struggling for the last ten years to get our elected representatives to act on the pledge and electoral assurance they have given to the women of India during the general elections of 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004. The second major coalition is on the verge of completing its term. Every single national party and members of two leading coalitions, NDA and UPA, have been involved in this decade-long wait and watch stance towards the issue. Ostensibly, no one has objection to it, some have sought modification, others are backing it and yet no one is willing to bell the cat. Women are at best a "potential" and not necessarily a real vote bank. It is the men who have brought governments down, so no one can risk their wrath and disenchantment.

Today, we are not only disheartened and disgusted by the manner in which the political class has handled this issue but have now reached a point where we need to confront the stark reality that women do not count. It is assumed that women can be "managed". Just as the British denied us the right to be a sovereign nation on the ground that India cannot be a nation state as its society is divided on caste, creed and religious lines, the political class is today spouting the same arguments for the women of the country.

We agree that we are not a homogenous group. We agree that it is not necessary that if women are given political representation they will fight for the betterment of other women. Yet we raise the demand. Why? The answer is for the simple reason that we would like to create a level playing field for the women. We would like to create for the women the space and opportunity to be part of the political process, give expression to their concerns and needs and prevail upon the people in authority to hear them out with a sense of obligation and responsibility towards them. Most importantly, we do not want our fate to be decided by others. We would like to have a critical presence in decision making bodies so that we cannot only speak for ourselves but are also accountable to the large mass of women, who have been denied many of their basic entitlements and rights.

We all know that gender inequality and discrimination is rampant in our country. We have statistics to prove this stark reality. In last ten years, the political class has demonstrated time and again that they are afraid to face the issue. We have witnessed a series of humiliating, insincere and feeble actions taken by the politicians to prevent the resolution of the issue either way. We urge you to join us in fighting against this unprecedented betrayal by the political leaders

Next Steps

Please declare 7th March, the eve of the International Women's Day, as the "Betrayal Day" when we collectively demonstrate our deep disappointment and rightful indignation with this decade- long charade.

Plan the protest in any way you want to, using powerful tools such as satyagraha, black band, candlelight vigil, silent rallies, prayer meetings, solidarity meetings to mark the occasion.

Ensure that mass media is informed and brought on board to the extent possible.

We can create a Secretariat which has representation from each State which will be empowered to coordinate and bring all activities under a common platform.

Once this protest is launched, let us work towards making it a year long campaign and ensuring that unlike the General Elections of 2004 in the forthcoming General Elections, there is vigorous debate and brainstorming on the issues.

Why are we symbolizing 7th March as the Betrayal Day?

1996- An Aborted Effort. The United Front Government made an unsuccessful attempt on 12 September 1996, to introduce the Bill. Its introduction was prevented.

1998- Brutal Assault in Parliament on the Women's Reservation Bill. After five adjournments on the fateful day of 13 July 1998, at 5.30 p.m. when Union Law minister M. Thambidurai rose to introduce it, we witnessed an unprecedented act, an act that brought "shame" and "disrepute" to the august body of Parliament. RJD MP Surendra Prasad Yadav went to the well of the House, snatched the copy of the Bill and physically prevented its introduction. The Speaker responded by adjourning the House

1999-The 13th Lok Sabha and Lack of Political Will. Major Parties pledged 33% representation in the Election Manifesto. Made an election issue by the electronic news channels and out of all the women-related issues like women's health, education and crimes against women, the issue of reservation received the most coverage. Promises not kept. Empty rhetoric.

2000-01- Compromise is the Mantra of the Day. The Geetha Mukherjee Report is sidelined and recommendations put into cold storage. Reducing women's demand for 33% representation in elected bodies to a narrow numerical alternative and suggesting 33% representation within parties. Women continue to a victim of the age-old divide and rule policy

2002- Issue of 33% reservation pushed to the margins. With politics severely polarized, women victimized in many ways. 33% issue temporarily eclipsed.

2003- "Revival" of the Bill for Political Advantage. The impasse in Parliament continues. Within parties, support building up for an alternative formula of strengthening gender representation in parties.

2004 - It is no longer an election issue. The media gives it an unceremonial burial.
Out of the 1,342 development stories telecast on the six news channels during the nine weeks of campaign, there were barely 18 news reports on women's reservation.

2005-06 – Political Stalemate. From NDA to UPA-Irresolution, Political Charade and harangue.

2007-The Bill is in a "comatose" state, neither a "potential" social issue nor a political promise that must be redeemed.