New on my other blogs

KERALA LETTER
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
Change of heart? Or stooping to conquer?

വായന

31 December, 2008

Women on indefinite relay fast in support of Irom Sharmila

















IROM SHARMILA. Picture: Courtesy World Sikh News

Dr Sandeep Pandey, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), Imphal, writes:

Dear friends,

Women's organizations in Manipur, coordinated by 'Meira Paibee' (mothers' organization), have come together as 'Sharmila kanba lup' (Save Sharmila Group) to launch an indefinite hunger-strike since the International Human Rights Day, December 10, 2008, with the slogan 'Save Sharmila, repeal AFSPA'. Hundreds of women from nearby areas arrive every morning and sit for the entire day, and next day it is the turn of women from another locality. With a strong network of 'Meira Paibees' in Manipur the movement is self-propelling. Groups of women are coming in by reading about the protest in local newspapers.

The fast is going on at PDA complex, next to Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal, where Irom Chanu Sharmila is under arrest in a hospital ward. She is charged with attempt to commit suicide.

It is now the 8th year continuing of Irom Sharmila's fast! Her demand is very simple - 'Repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act'. The government has now even stopped talking to her. Recently in protest she even gave up nasal feed, which has kept her alive, but later the doctors and jail staff convinced her to resume nasal feed. One can only imagine how she can go on being fed through nose every day for eight years.

I met her in the hospital today along with some journalists. To meet her one has to get permission from the offices of Chief Minister, Prinipal Secretary., Joint Secretary., Director General of Police and the jail authorities. Sharmila's brother singhjit arranged the permission for me.

Since the last time I met her in September 2007, she has become paler -- because of lack of nutrition and sunlight. In spite of being disappointed that Sonia Gandhi has not responded to her letter that she gave us last time and which NAPM activist Faisal Khan had handed over to Ahmed Patel, she is determined to continue her struggle. She has tremendous faith in god and is certain that she will succeed one day.

I've extended NAPM's total support to the struggle of the women of Manipur. Earlier Bela Bhatia had also come here to express solidarity with the women's movement in the early days of the ongoing fast. I think more activists from other states of India must come out to Imphal to support this extraordinary struggle.

Contacts in Imphal: Irom Singhjit Singh (brother of Irom Sharmila): 9862696184
Shanti Devi (one of the coordinators of Meira Paibee): 9856192286

Love,
Sandeep
Imphal,
29th December, 2008
Dr Sandeep Pandey can be contacted at: ashaashram@yahoo.com)

May we no longer be silent

By Paul Craig Roberts
Countercurrents.org

The title of my article comes from the sermon of the Episcopal Bishop of Washington DC, John Bryson Chane, delivered on October 5, 2008, at St. Columba Church. The bishop’s eyes were opened to Israel’s persecution of Palestinians by his recent trip to Palestine. In his sermon he called on “politicians seeking the highest office in [our] land” to find the courage to “speak out and condemn violations of human rights and religious freedom denied to Palestinian Christians and Muslims” by the state of Israel.

Bishop Chane’s courage was to no avail. As Justin Raimondo reported (Antiwar.com, 27 December), when America’s new leader of “change” was informed of Israel’s massive air attack on the Gaza Ghetto, an area of 139 square miles where Israel confines 1.4 million Arabs and tightly controls the inflow of all resources--food, medicine, water, energy--America’s president-elect Obama had “no comment.”

According to the Jerusalem Post (26 December), “at 11:30 a.m., more than 50 fighter jets and attack helicopters swept into Gazan airspace and dropped more than 100 bombs on 50 targets. . . . Thirty minutes later, a second wave of 60 jets and helicopters struck at 60 targets . . . More than 170 targets were hit by IAF aircraft throughout the day. At least 230 Gazans were killed and over 780 were wounded . . .”

As I write, news reports are that Israel is sending tanks and infantry reinforcements in preparation for a ground invasion of Gaza.

Israel’s excuse for its violence is that from time to time the Palestinian resistance organization, Hamas, fires off rockets into Israel to protest the ghetto life that Israel imposes on Gazans. The rockets are ineffectual for the most part and seldom claim Israeli casualties. However, the real purpose for the Israeli attack is to destroy Hamas.

In 2006 the US insisted that the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank hold free elections. When free elections were held, Hamas won. This was unacceptable to the Americans and Israelis. In the West Bank, the Americans and Israelis imposed a puppet government, but Hamas held on in Gaza. After unheeded warnings to the Gazans to rid themselves of Hamas and accept a puppet government, Israel has decided to destroy the freely elected government with violence.

Ehud Barak, who is overseeing the latest act of Israeli aggression, said in interviews addressed to the British and American publics that asking Israel to agree to a ceasefire with Hamas would be like asking the US to agree to a ceasefire with al Qaeda. The terrorism that Israel inflicts on Palestinians goes unremarked.
According to the London Times (December 28), “Britain and the United States were on a collision course with their European allies last night after refusing to call for an end to Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza. The wave of attacks marked a violent end to President George W. Bush’s sporadic Middle East peace efforts. The White House put the blame squarely on Hamas.” The British government also blamed Hamas.

For the US and UK governments, Israel can do no wrong. Israel doesn’t have to stop withholding food, medicine, water, and energy, but Hamas must stop protesting by firing off rockets. In violation of international law, Israel can drive West Bank Palestinians off their lands and out of their villages and give the stolen properties to “settlers.” Israel can delay Palestinians in need of emergency medical care at checkpoints until their lives ebb away. Israeli snipers can get their jollies murdering Palestinian children.

The Great Moral Anglo-Americans couldn’t care less.

In his 2005 Nobel Lecture, British playwright Harold Pinter held the United States and its British puppet state accountable for “the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought.” Everyone knows that such crimes occurred in the Soviet Union and in its East European empire, but “US crimes in the same period have only been superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged, let alone recognized as crimes at all,” this despite the fact that “the United States’ actions throughout the world made it clear that it had concluded it had carte blanche to do what it liked.”

Soviet crimes, like Nazi ones, are documented in gruesome detail, but America’s crimes “never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn’t happening. It didn’t matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.”
America’s is “a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words ‘the American people’ provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don’t need to think.”

Pinter presents a long list of American crimes and comes to Iraq: “The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was . . . an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading--as a last resort--all other justifications having failed to justify themselves--as liberation.” Americans and their British puppets “have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it ‘bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East.”

“How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal?” Pinter’s question can also be asked of Israel. Israel has been in violation of international law since 1967, protected by the United States’ veto of UN Resolutions condemning Israel for its violent, inhumane, barbaric, and illegal acts.

American evangelical Christians, who are degenerating into Zionists, are Israel’s greatest allies. Jesus is forsaken as Christians swallow whole the Israeli lies. A couple of years ago the US Presbyterian Church was so distressed by Israel’s immorality toward Palestinians that the church attempted to disinvest its investment portfolio from assets tainted with Israel. But the Israel Lobby was stronger. The Presbyterian Church was unable to stand up for Christian principles and knuckled under to the Israel Lobby’s pressure.

This is hardly surprising considering that the US government doesn’t stand for Christian principles either.

America’s doctrine of “full spectrum dominance” means that, like Lenin’s dictatorship, America is not bound by law or morality, but by power alone.
Pinter sums it up in a speech he had dreams of writing for President George W. Bush:
“God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden’s God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam’s God was bad, except he didn’t have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don’t chop people’s heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don’t you forget it.”

If only our ears could hear, this is the speech we have been hearing from Israel for 60 years.

28 December, 2008

'Development via state terror in Jharkhand': Insaf report

The following is a report of the INSAF Fact-Finding Team which visited Kathikund in Jharkhand:

The state-repression culminating in police firing on people protesting peacefully on 6th December 2008 at Kathikund, Dumka District, Jharkhand was "un-called for, un-justified and, from all accounts, pre-meditated. The well-planned and systematic repressive measures adopted by the State Government appear to be part of a strategy to peddle development via state terror without any regard to Constitutional provisions and/or people's democratic rights to life, livelihood and determination". A Fact-Finding Team of the Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF) has thus drawn the conclusion after visiting the affected region on 20th & 21st December 2008, meeting various segments of society, and analyzing the data and documents.

The pre-announced people's programme to protest by courting arrest after paying homage to Shaheed Sidhu Kanu on 6 th December 2008 did not warrant such a heavy police presence and excessive use of force resulting in killing of one Lukhiram Tudu, and injuries to about 15 others. The district administration did not follow the procedures laid down in the police manual and opened fired indiscriminately on the protesting people without any warning. The use of tear-gas and lathi charge was resorted only to fulfil the regulatory demands. Even those village folks helping the seriously wounded in police firing were fired upon. Due to this Lukhiram Tudu was not provided timely medical aid and, thus, died of excessive bleeding. Police brutally beat up, abused and took into custody those who were taking the wounded to the hospital. The wounded were treated with contempt and inhumanly, even their bodies were dragged like dead dogs.

The stray incidents of people giving vent to their anger and frustration by responding to the police firing by resorting to use of bow and arrow prima facie appears to be a result of extreme provocation by the police on an otherwise peaceful protest.

Varying figures are being given for those seriously injured or wounded. Not less than 15 persons may have sustained bullet injuries. The INSAF Team found and met one person with bullet piercing his right shoulder and coming out from the back. He told the team that he was helping Shiv Lal, another wounded in police firing, and was bent upon him, when he got hit by the bullet. Terrorized he is getting local treatment in the village itself, but his spirits are high.

The people's peaceful protest against their land acquisition for building dam for power plant is two-and-a-half years old, but took definite shape after notices were published in early May this year for acquiring about 264 acres of land in two villages of Aamgachi and Pokhariya. The INSAF Team visited five such villages and found all inhabitants united in their resolve to protect their land -- only means of life and livelihood – in the absence of any development. Neither any political ideology nor any political organisation was responsible for people's determination, except the issue of their survival and sustenance.

The INSAF Team came across a unique example of co-operative farming in Jangla Village by people's own initiative without any government assistance, where 60 to 70 families had pooled some 50 acres of land. The field was green and yellow with blooming Sarson plants and vegetables. The village Manjhiram named Lal Kisku was responsible for motivating them, who have developed such a sustainable agricultural farming that it could provide deep insights to the Agricultural Scientists.

Unfortunately, such creative intervention and indigenous initiative of the people have gone un-noticed by the local MLA, Sri Nalin Soren, who happens to be the Agriculture Minister in the State Government.

While people are firm in their resolve not to leave their land for the so-called development, the politicians and bureaucrats have utterly failed to protect the right to Life, Liberty & Livelihood of the people. On the contrary, the people of the region believe that there is a clash between the Constitutional Obligations and private vested interests of the politicians and bureaucrats. Not only the people's consent has not been obtained for the so-called development by the State which is mandatory under the law of the land, but the statutory institutions like Gram Sabha and procedures for Scheduled areas under PESA are being flouted in letter and spirit. The formation of the Tribals Advisory Council under the Vth Schedule in 9 states has been criminally and deliberately delayed as no rules and regulations have been formed, as yet.

The deliberate falsehood about "Maoist's linkage" is mischievously and systematically spread by the official machinery which appears to be serving the commercial interests over against the people's welfare. This seams to be the tirade and new found mantra of the State subservient to the national and international capital for defaming and repressing the people's initiative and movements in protecting their fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India, especially the right to life, liberty and livelihood. The people's upsurge in the region is also linked to the historical and cultural roots in collectively protecting and using the land, water and forest (jal, jangal aur jameen).
The arrest and harassment of Woman Social Activist, Munni Hansda and her co-activists and continued incarceration is part and parcel of their larger strategy of the State machinery to silence the voices of dissent and protest against usurping of people's resources for survival and sustenance under the globalization agenda. INSAF Team found out that five criminal cases have been already filed against Munni Hansda and others prior to her illegal detention on 26th November, 2008, but no arrest was made, although she was freely available in the region. The present case related to a motor/cycle warrants only action under The Motor Vehicles Act, but the authorities seem to have even invoked action u/s 392 i.e. dacoity. Therefore, the detention of Munni Hansda appears to be a deliberate act of provocation and prejudice by the police administration.

INSAF demands that normalcy be restored in the region, proper independent and high level enquiry be instituted in the incident of 6th Decmber, 2008, and appropriate action be taken against officials found guilty of indiscriminate police firing. Immediate medical aid should be provided to the injured/wounded. Adequate compensation should be given to all affected people. Land acquisition process should be withheld and statutory provisions under laws of the land like PESA should be strictly applied and followed. Criminal cases instituted against the social activists, people's leaders and people should be reviewed by officials and agencies with credibility. Till such time, all detained be released on bail. Further harassment and repression be immediately brought to an end.

Chittaranjan Singh
Dayamani Barla
Sheikh Ansar
Rajendra K. Sail
On Behalf Of INSAF FACT-FINDING TEAM (INDIAN SOCIAL ACTION FORUM)
(124-A/FF, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi-110 016:
E-mail: insaf@vsnl.com)

INSAF is a forum of about 750 social action groups, social movements, NGOs and intellectuals drawn from all over the country committed to resisting globalization, combating communalism and defending democracy.

Beware of Madoffs of the world

by Dr GIRISH BHASKAR

kaumudiSingapore.com

Bernard Madoff was not a household name until his arrest by police in Canada in connection with a massive investor fraud case. Later Madoff was rearrested in New York when his two sons reported his fraudulent investment methods to the police. After preliminary investigation, authorities have concluded investors lost about $50 billion. As the details of the fraud became known hundreds of investors were bilked by Madoff whom they trusted as Uncle Bernie. He is charged with one count of securities fraud.

Madoff ran a giant Ponzi scheme which lasted more than two decades. Ponzi scheme is nothing new to Americans. Ponzi is an Italian who first devised the scheme. In a ponzi scheme returns for the existing investors are paid by new investors like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Madoff was able to consistently generate 12 to 14 % returns year after year on the investment. As the word passed around about Madoff’s financial genius, more and more investors vied to participate in his “safe” investment. Madoff created an aura of invincibility around him. Madoff carefully chose his clients. He would reject potential investors without assigning any reason.


How Madoff was able to pull off such a huge fraud without eliciting suspicion from his faithful clients for many years has befuddled the investors. Madoff was a reserved and elusive person. Brought up in Queens, New York, Madoff did not finish law school. He made his fortune as a stock trader in the early seventies. Whenever an investor suspected Madoff operation could be a Ponzi scheme, he would return the money as soon as requested. What is remarkable is the investigative agency Security and Exchange Commission had looked into his books over the years and found nothing unusual. Madoff was one step ahead of the sleuths.

The investor community had nothing to worry about the Madoff investment strategy. His credentials were impeccable. Madoff was the Chairman of the famous NASDAQ stock exchange in 1990, 91 and 93 and held a seat on a government advisory panel on stock market regulations. He cultivated a large circle of wealthy friends through his business and country club affiliations. Those who were wealthy knew who Madoff was. His clients included rich individuals, small investors (minimum required was $100,000), Yeshiva University, New York Law School, International Olympic Committee, Tufts University and many Jewish charities.

A disproportionate number of Madoff clients turned out to be from the Jewish community. Well known names like movie director Stephen Spielberg, Frank Lautenberg and Elie Wiesel have lost heavily. So many Jewish charities which helped wide ranging causes have lost most of the money invested. Many organization throughout the country depended on the annual donations from these Jewish charities. Some had to close down. Then there were individual investors who put in from half a million to 5 million dollars with Madoff. The last group has lost all their hard earned money and retirement savings and now faces the prospects of starting all over again.

Madoff’s financial operations were not limited to the United States of America. Banks in U.K, France, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Japan and Singapore were affected. French financier Villehuchet, 65 years old, committed suicide in New York on Dec 3rd. His firm Access International Advisors had lost 1.5 billion dollars. Some will go into depression while others will have sleepless nights and nightmares. All the Madoff investors will need psychiatric counseling to help them cope with the financial crisis. Some people were wise enough not to invest all their savings with Madoff. They are the only winners in this unfolding tragic saga.

Ultimately Madoff’s Ponzi scheme went undetected because of the human tendency to trust a fellow human being. That trust will be further secured when all the people in the group belongs to the same community. The Jewish community is a close knit group. A fellow Jew can well relate to their common ethos. It is that basic trust that Madoff violated and betrayed. Herein lies a cautionary tale of unpredictability in human nature.

If an investment appears too good to be true, it probably is. Return on investment of 12% year after year even in a bear market should raise suspicion. The adage “Do not invest all your eggs in one bssket “especially if you have no other source of income holds true. Retirement savings should always be invested in stable funds. Those who depend on financial planners should know their credentials and investment strategy. In the Madoff case some investors got sucked in, even though their money was placed in other reputable funds. This was done without the investor’s knowledge. As long as there is money to be invested, there will be a crook somewhere waiting to bilk the client. As long as the lure for money remains a flaw in human character, one has to be cognizant of the potential fraud. Often it is the greed and trust that pave the way for fraudulent activities. Treat money always with respect and prudence.

Will Obama spell justice outside the US?

by JOSEPH D'SOUZA

www.sojo.net


More people around the world will watch Barack Obama's inauguration than any other presidential inauguration in history. From here in South Asia, it is also safe to say the world's oppressed will follow the statements and actions of this president more than any other. Will Obama courageously speak for a group of slaves numbering more than 250 million?

It was understandable and, in many people's opinion, right for Obama to distance himself from race issues and slavery's legacy in his election campaign. This is largely possible because of a U.S. that is post-Martin Luther King and post-civil rights movement. But would it be right for him to keep silent on issues of modern slavery and neo-colonialism in our world?

Recently, while riding in one of London's famous black taxis, I asked the black driver from Ghana what he thought of Obama's election as president. He said, "It is the best thing that has happened to Africa." When I enquired further, he said Obama has become a symbol of self-belief and hope for many Africans.
I looked at the Bible next to the driver's seat and asked the taxi driver what he expected from Obama as a Christian. "To remind the world of the current problems of racism, slavery, and poverty in the world," he said.

I wonder who Obama's speechwriters will be. Will they compel him in the world of realpolitik to toe the line? To not mention the problem of modern slavery? India's human rights defenders wonder whether he will, for example, mention the Dalits — the single largest group of humans victimized by a historic, religiously-sanctioned racism? One of Obama's fellow students at Harvard, an Indian attorney who now litigates in India's Supreme Court, told an Indian newspaper that as a law student, Obama was curious about the "untouchables" of India — today known as Dalits.

When President Bush gave his main speech in New Delhi in 2006, he (or his speechwriters) chose to quote three citizens of India in his comments on freedom and democracy: Gandhi, Nehru, and Tagore. I've explained elsewhere why this was a huge mistake. In brief, Gandhi and Nehru were indeed India's great founding fathers, and Tagore was a Nobel Prize winner in literature. But one of the names should have been Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the father of India's constitution, a Columbia University trained lawyer, the emancipator of the Dalits and backward castes, and India's own Martin Luther King.

Will Obama mention the name of Ambedkar in any of his India speeches? Will he remind the world of India's own struggle with slavery? Will Obama understand and embrace the symbolic power of his presidency outside the U.S.?


Joseph D'souza is the International President of the Dalit Freedom Network. He lives in Hyderabad, India, and works out of Hyderabad, London, and Denver

24 December, 2008

Pakistan in a state of denial

Dr Girish Bhaskar
Kaumudisingapore.com

The investigation of the November 26th terror attack in Mumbai by the Indian authorities and the FBI has firmly concluded that all the ten terrorists came from Pakistan. Indian security personnel killed nine terrorists and captured one Ajmal Amir Iman. Interrogation of Ajmal has given details of the plan of attack. In a letter written by Ajmal to Pakistani authorities Ajmal claimed that all the ten terrorists came from Pakistan. FBI has come to the same conclusion after detailed interrogation of Ajmal.

Immediately after the Mumbai attack, the Indian foreign minister demanded the extradition of twenty terrorists which India claimed were the leaders of various terror outfits in Pakistan. Pakistan has refused to comply with this demand. Pakistani President Zardari said if any Pakistani is involved in terrorist activities, they will be tried in Pakistan as per its laws. Zardari claimed the terrorists as non state actors and denied any involvement from Pakistan’s military or the spy agency ISI.

Zardari of Pakistan People Party came to power after his wife Benazir Bhutto was murdered by terrorists while campaigning. Popularly known as Mr 10%, for the cut he received on government contracts when he was a minister in the cabinet of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, a former Prime Minister engineered the ouster of President and Army chief, Musharraf. Sharif parted ways with Sardari when he refused to reinstate former Chief Justice Ifthikar Choudhary who was fired for no good reason by Musharraf. Zardari feared for his political future if the tough minded Choudhary returned to head the judiciary.

After the Mumbai attack, the United States government made every effort to prevent a war between India and Pakistan. The region saw the visit of U.S Secretary of State, Deputy Secretary of State, Joint Chief of Staff, Senators John McCain and John Kerry. Their collective mission was to put pressure on Pakistan to co operate fully with India and defuse tension. With America engaged in a war in Afghanistan, it did not want Pakistan to lose focus on the terrorists operating on its border with Afghanistan.

That Ajmal Amir Iman hails from a small village, Faridkot in Okara district of Punjab province of Pakistan was first reported in the British newspaper Observer and later by the Pakistani newspaper Dawn and also on Geo TV. Nawaz Sharif in a TV interview suggested that Ajmal is of Pakistani origin. In spite of all the evidence about his nationality, the official Pakistan claims its database does not contain the name of Ajmal. India has now passed on a letter written by Ajmal to the Pakistani government. In the letter Ajmal stated that all the ten people taking part in the Mumbai attack came from Pakistan. More over the FBI has concluded the involvement of Pakistani military and ISI in the terror operation.

At the height of the international outrage, Pakistani forces arrested heads of Lashkar e Toiba and Jamaat ud Dawa. But they were later released to defuse domestic tension. So far Pakistan has not complied with any of the Indian demands. In press interviews President Zardari seems like a man eager for rapprochement with India. When India demanded that the chief of ISI visit India to take part in the Mumbai investigation, Zardari readily agreed, only to renege faced with resistance from the military and the opposition parties. When India pressured Zardari to bring ISI under the ambit of the interior ministry, he agreed only to rescind it due to the lack of support from the army. In a country where the army has played a vital role in setting domestic and foreign policy, power in the civilian leadership is limited. The Zardari government is weak and ineffective in bringing the culprits to book. This is the vexing problem that India is facing today.

Pakistan is India’s arch enemy. It has tried over the years to destabilize India. Indian leaders do not want a war with Pakistan. Hoping Pakistan will take action against the alleged terrorists is wishful thinking. Its mantra is subterfuge and denial. It denied any involvement in the Kabul Indian embassy killing when evidence proved otherwise. Sooner or later the terror camps in Pakistan have to be dismantled or destroyed. Finally Americans also have realized that Pakistan is a dangerous place. What India fears most by a military strike is destabilization of Pakistan and its effect on India’s internal security. While 85 terror attacks took place in India last year, Pakistan witnessed 2000 terror attacks over eight months. Nawaz Sharif recently called Pakistan a failed state. He stopped short of calling it a terrorist state. It is actually a terrorist state. The sooner the world community recognizes that harsh reality and takes collective steps to address the problem, the better for regional and world peace.

21 December, 2008

Amnesty International criticizes Indian terror laws

The following is a press release from Amnesty International:

The President of India should reject new amendments to anti-terror laws which would violate international human rights treaties, said Amnesty International today, in response to India’s speedy introduction of new legislation after the November attacks in Mumbai city in which more than 170 people died.

The organization calls upon the President, Indian authorities and lawmakers to urgently review the new amendments to the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA), 1967, and provisions of the new legislation aiming to set up a National Investigating Agency (NIA), exclusively meant to probe acts of terrorism in the country.

“While we utterly condemn the attacks and recognise that the Indian authorities have a right and duty to take effective measures to ensure the security of the population, security concerns should never be used to jeopardize people’s human rights,” said Madhu Malhotra, Asia Pacific Programme Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

The experience of other countries which have also rushed to pass sweeping anti-terror legislation in response to terrorist attacks has shown that such measures undermine the rule of law and respect for human rights internationally, and do not enhance security. The UN General Assembly said in 2006 that “measures to ensure the respect for human rights for all and the rule of law [are] the fundamental basis for the fight against terrorism.”

India's experience with previous anti-terrorism laws has shown that they can lead to abusive practices.

The new amendments include:

sweeping and overbroad definitions of “acts of terrorism"

no clear and strict definition of what constitutes “membership” of a “terrorist gang or organization”

minimum period of detention of persons suspected to be involved in acts of terrorism extended to 30 days from 15 days, and the maximum period of detention of such persons to 180 days from 90 days - already far beyond international standards

denial of bail to foreign nationals who may have entered the country in an unauthorised or illegal manner, except in very exceptional circumstances

the requirement, in certain circumstances, of accused people to prove their innocence

the new legislation on the National Investigating Agency authorises special courts to close hearings to public without defining or limiting the grounds under which they may do so.

"India's authorities and legislators should show their respect for the rule of law, in the face of terrorist attacks, by reviewing provisions such as allowing a maximum of 180 instead of an earlier provision of 90 days detention of suspects, sweeping definitions of ‘membership’ of organizations and closed trials,” said Madhu Malhotra.

Hindutva groups' bandh call triggers Christian fears in Orissa

The following is a press release issued by the All India Christian Council:

NEW DELHI – December 20, 2008 – Rightwing Hindu organisations in Orissa confirmed they will hold a bandh (strike) on Christmas Day triggering fears of further anti-Christian violence. Separately, politicians held hearings in Washington, D.C. and London about extremism and violence in India. And a European Union delegation conducted a fact finding trip to Orissa from Dec. 9-12, 2008

On Dec. 17, 2008, ultra-nationalist Hindutva groups said they will observe a state-wide shut-down for 12 hours on Christmas Day, reported The Hindu newspaper. The protest is due to the failure of authorities to arrest the killers of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati who was assassinated on Aug. 23, 2008. The Orissa Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik, opposes the bandh, and the newly appointed Minister of Home Affairs in New Delhi, P. Chidambaram, publicly assured Christians they'll be safe. Aicc leaders remain concerned it will have the same results as an August 25th bandh which saw anti-Christian violence spread across the eastern state of Orissa. Last Christmas, a bandh called by a tribal organisation, Kui Samaj, resulted in unprecedented anti-Christian attacks throughout one district.

"The bandh is provocative. Combined with a continuing hate campaign against Christians, there is potential for violence over Christmas. We appeal to police, politicians, local language media, and civil society in Orissa – and across India – to seek peace instead of hostility," said John Dayal, aicc Secretary General. "Specific actions like positioning adequate Central Reserve Police Forces and banning the entry of VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders from the sensitive Kandhamal District are essential."

Dr. Joseph D'souza, aicc President, said, "The climate of intimidation and fear among Christians continues in Orissa. Although we hope the state and central authorities act to protect thousands of innocent victims and prevent future mob violence, we're deeply worried. We are appealing for preventative action through all legal avenues."

Yesterday, Dec. 18, 2008, the British House of Lords held a two and a half hour debate about recent developments in India. Baroness Caroline Cox, whom aicc hosted during a fact finding trip in early November, initiated the debate and several peers spoke. John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich, said, "Patnaik, is a personal friend of mine from Delhi in the 1960s…But I have to tell Naveen that, from what I have read, neither his Government nor the Union Government in Delhi have taken sufficient action to find the perpetrators of this massacre or to protect its victims still in camps." Excerpts of the debate are available at: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2660/47/.

On Dec. 10, 2008, the United States Congressional Task Force on International Religious Freedom held a briefing titled, "The Threat Religious Extremism Poses to Democracy and Security in India: Focus on Orissa." Witnesses included Vishal Arora, an independent Indian journalist; Dr. Angana Chatterji, Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at California Institute of Integral Studies; Angela Wu, International Director at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty; Sophie Richardson, Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch's Asia Division; and Joannella Morales with the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom. The aicc briefed two of the panelists during their recent visits to India.

From Dec. 9-12, 2008, aicc coordinated briefings for a delegation of European Union representatives by Orissa's non-governmental organisations, advocates, and both Christian and non-Christian community leaders. The delegation included officers from the embassies of Finland, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, and United Kingdom. Despite public assurances by Indian authorities that the rule of law has returned to Orissa, both the central and state government advised the delegation not to visit the two most affected districts: Kandhamal and Gajapati. The reason given was "the prevailing law and order situation". This meant the delegation was effectively prevented from observing the current condition of government-run relief camps and victims.

D'souza said, "We are hopeful that our great democracy can resolve these issues by itself, but at the same time we welcome the interest of nations friendly to India and citizens of goodwill from across the world who believe in human rights and religious freedom."

According to aicc leaders and Indian media reports, there are still 8,000+ in government-run relief camps and victims don't have adequate food and medical care. On Dec. 1, Chief Minister Patnaik told the Orissa state assembly that 4,215 houses and 252 churches or prayer halls were destroyed. The state government issued compensation checks to a few of the families who lost loved ones or houses. Fast track courts have not been started. The aicc has reliable reports that 118 people died in the violence. In October, India's Supreme Court ordered the state government to compensate for burned churches, but no progress is reported yet. Two state-appointed investigations are ongoing. Justice (retired) Basudev Panigrahi continues to investigate the Dec. 2007 violence, and Justice (retired) Sarat Chandra Mohapatra started an inquiry into the killing of swami Saraswati and subsequent communal violence.

The All India Christian Council (www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.

17 December, 2008

'Obama Effect' highlights racism in Cuba

LOUIS E. V. NEVAER
News Analysis
New America Media

Editor's Note: Barack Obama's victory has made Cubans more willing to speak out against the institutional racism that exists half a century after Fidel Castro established a "color blind" egalitarian society.


MERIDA, Mexico – As Cuba prepares to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power, US President–elect Barack Obama’s victory is raising disturbing questions about the institutional racism in the so-called egalitarian society, where racism is said to have disappeared along with capitalism.
“Cuba, I am inclined to believe, is nervous about the impact that a black president in the White House could have upon its own black population,” writes Carlos Moore, a black Cuban of Jamaican ancestry and author of “Pichón: Race and Revolution in Castro's Cuba,” in the Miami Herald.

Since the first days of the revolution, Fidel has been aware of the racism that permeated Cuban society. “In the daily life of defense, loyalty, brotherhood, and shrewdness,” Fidel wrote in January 1959, “there has always been a Negro standing beside every white man.”

Castro envisioned a “color-blind” society, an aspiration that dated back to the 19th century liberator Jose Martí who fought to end the vestiges of slavery as part of severing ties with Spain. But there was paradox in Castro’s declarations: Castro, the son of European immigrants from Galicia, Spain, was a white man who had overthrown the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, a light-skinned mulatto born to parents who were both of mixed race.

In the decades that followed, Castro’s vision of giving Cuban blacks equal opportunities was thwarted by the realities of race outside the island nation: Soviet and East European allies preferred white Cubans, and these were granted scholarships to study for advanced degrees throughout behind the Iron Curtain. The growing disparities between white Cubans and black Cubans remained a lingering problem throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

It was the official policy of the government to deny the existence of racism, arguing that Communist “egalitarianism” made discrimination based on race “an impossibility,” simply because it was incompatible with a socialist state. This was a polite fiction. As Alejandro De La Fuente wrote in his authoritative book, “A Nation for All: Race, Inequality, and Politics in Twentieth-Century Cuba,” (The University of North Carolina Press, 2000) the color of one’s skin determines the life one leads in Communist Cuba.

“(A) strong correlation between race, the regional distribution of the population, and the quality of the housing stock persisted through the 1980s,” De La Fuente wrote. “A traditional geography of race and poverty had not been dismantled, largely because of the government’s failure to provide adequate housing to the entire population. No neighborhood was racially exclusive—this was true, for the most part, in pre-Revolutionary Cuba also—but in the most dilapidated areas of the big cities, the proportion of blacks and mulattos was greater than that of whites.”

This was considered slander against socialism. Castro shot back, and Cuban authorities offered statistical analysis to bolster their view, which revealed the lengths to which Havana was prepared to deceive others even as it deceived itself. Of Cuba’s population of 11.2 million people in 2002, officials declared, 65 percent were white, 10 percent were black, and 25 percent were mulatto. This racial breakdown matched exactly the breakdown of members of Cuba’s parliament: 65 percent white and 35 percent people of color.

The implication was as obvious as it was ridiculous: Cuba had achieved “perfect” racial representation between the people and their representatives. Europeans scoffed at such claims. In fact, most independent census reports of the Cuban nation puts the number of “whites” at anywhere from 20 to 35 percent; everyone else is black or mulatto.

The European Union recently dispatched anthropologists to study racism in Cuba. Their findings were shocking: Not only was racism alive and well in the workers’ paradise, but it was systemic and institutional. Blacks were systematically excluded from positions that involved coming in contact with foreign tourists (where they could earn tips in hard currencies), they were relegated to poor housing, complained of the longest waits for healthcare, were excluded from managerial positions, received the lowest remittances from relatives abroad, and were five times more likely to be imprisoned.

The report, “Race and Inequality in Cuba Today,” by Rodrigo Espina and Pablo Rodriguez Ruiz, published in the anthropological journal TEMAS in 2006, infuriated Cuban officials.

But the findings were irrefutable, and they reflected an acceleration of racism in the 1990s. The collapse of the Soviet Union only exacerbated the problem, particularly as Cuba now competed with Cancun and San Juan for European vacationers. As Democracy Now! reported in 2000, Cuban officials continued to exclude blacks from tourist-related industries.

When Maria Carrion of Democracy Now! interviewed a black Cuban identified only as Victor, he told her that the only jobs black Cubans have access to are in construction and cleaning. Blacks are randomly stopped on the street by police, he said, and are unable to denounce racism in Cuba for fear of going to prison for being anti-Communist.

This is why Cubans are dizzy with excitement at Obama’s victory. “I still feel my heart skip a beat,” Victor Fowler, a black Cuban, told Spain’s El Pais newspaper last month. “I listen to Barack Obama … I look at my skin, I look at my children’s skin, I cry and I smile.”

Obama’s ascendancy has emboldened Cuban blacks in their criticism of the racism in Cuba. “The bottom line is that racism is Cuba's most intractable problem,” Carlos Moore wrote in the Miami Herald. “Only an arrangement implying effective power sharing between the island's two dominant groups can prepare the ground for a reversal of Cuba's socio-racial conundrum. This would call for an entirely new institutional framework that includes the reinvigoration of civil society, the implementation of robust racial affirmative action policies in all spheres, the revival of independent cultural and social institutions, an independent media and free press and the existence of autonomous political movements, associations and parties.”

In other words, when it comes to racial progress, blacks in Cuba complain that their nation resembles the United States circa 1963, the year before the Civil Rights Act was passed.

This was precisely the point that Esteban Morales Dominguez, an economist, political scientist and essayist made last year in his book, “The Challenges of the Racial Problem in Cuba” (Fundación Fernando Ortiz, 2007), which was promptly banned by authorities.

Yet there is rising anger among Cuban blacks who view Obama’s victory as a sharp reminder of the racism that still exists in Cuba. In a country where few dare to post messages in public view that are not in support of the government, signs in windows have begun to appear that are startling: “Si se puede, coño” or “Yes we can,” with a Cuban twist – “Damn it.”

16 December, 2008

Obama's win didn't end racial stereotyping

EARL OFARI HUTCHINSON
Commentary
New America Media

Editor's Note: A new study shows that even with Barack Obama's White House win, racial stereotyping hasn't ended, and much of the public still perceives those likely to commit crimes as being poor and black. NAM associate editor Earl Ofari Hutchinson analyzes this situation.

There is still much talk about how Barack Obama’s White House win demolished negative stereotypes about blacks. That’s wishful thinking. A new study by a team of researchers from several top universities shows that stereotypes about poverty and crime remain just as frozen in time. The study found that much of the public still perceives that those most likely to commit crimes are poor, jobless and black. The surprise was that the negative racial stereotypes also applied to anyone, no matter their color, who was poor and jobless. If for instance a white commits a crime, the odds are that the respondents will reclassify that person as black.

The jumbled mental contortions that many go through to dub a white person black solely on the basis of their income and whether they have been jailed didn’t end there. If a person who was perceived as white was jailed, that person was still perceived to be black even after their release. The study did more than affirm that race and poverty and crime are firmly rammed together in the public mind. It also showed that once the stereotype is planted, it’s virtually impossible to root out. That’s hardly new either.

In 2003 Penn State University researchers conducted a landmark study on the tie between crime and public perceptions of who is most likely to commit crime. The study found that many whites are likely to associate pictures of blacks with violent crime. This was no surprise given the relentless media depictions of young blacks as dysfunctional, dope peddling, gang bangers and drive by shooters.

The bulging numbers of blacks in America’s jails and prisons seem to reinforce the perception that crime and violence in America invariably comes with a young, black male face. And it doesn’t much matter how prominent, wealthy, or celebrated a black is. The overkill frenzy feeding on the criminal hijinks of New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress, O.J. Simpson, and the legions of black NFL, NBA stars, Hollywood personalities, and entertainers who run afoul of the law or are poorly behaved, further reinforces the negative image of blacks.
There was, however, a mild surprise in the Penn State study. It found that even when blacks didn’t commit a specific crime, whites still misidentified the perpetrator as an African-American.

University researchers were plainly fascinated by this result. Five years later they wanted to see if that stereotype still held sway. By then Obama’s political ascent was in full trajectory upward. Polls showed that a crushing majority of whites not only said that they would vote for an African-American for president, but that color was not a consideration in how they viewed and voted for a candidate.

This appeared to signal a benign sea change in public attitudes on race.
It didn’t. Researchers found that public attitudes on crime and race were unchanged. The majority of whites still overwhelmingly fingered blacks as the most likely to commit crimes, even when they didn’t commit them.

There are two troubling implications in these studies. One is that Obama’s victory was more a personal triumph for him. It did not radically remap racial perceptions, let alone put an end to racial stereotyping. A significant percent of whites voted for him and were passionate about him because they were fed up with Bush’s policies, and believed that he would reverse those policies. The vote for him was race neutral. His victory was a tribute to his personal political organization and savvy as well as public fear and frustration about Bush.

The second implication is even more troubling. If much of the public still view crime and poverty through narrow racial lens then that will continue to stir public clamor for lawmakers, police and prosecutors to clean the streets of violent criminals, who are almost always seen as African-Americans. This could mean even more gang sweeps, court injunctions, stiff adult prison terms, three strikes laws, and incarceration for teens, the holding of accused teens indefinitely in juvenile jail detention.

Ironically, Obama inadvertently fed the negative perceptions of blacks. In several much publicized talks on the black family, he blasted black men for being missing in action from the home and shirking their family responsibility. It was a well-meaning effort to call attention to the chronic problems of black males and families, but it also gave the impression that black males are dysfunctional. It was a short step from that to conclude that these same men are more likely to be involved in crime than whites.

Obama’s win was a two-edged sword. It was as billed a profound historic win, but it also fanned the illusion that racial stereotypes are dead. Now we know better.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His forthcoming book is How Obama Won (Middle Passage Press, January 2009).

15 December, 2008

Jesus Christ is no guarantee to impunity, says AHRC

The following is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong:

On 27 March 1992 the body of a Catholic nun, Sister Abhaya, was recovered from a well in the compound of the Pius Tenth convent where she lived. The convent is in Kottayam district in Kerala state of India. The local police concluded that the death was by suicide. The father of the deceased nun was of the opinion that his daughter had no reason to commit suicide and wanted his daughter's death to be investigated.

After a strenuous effort, he succeeded in convincing the crime branch of the state police to investigate the case. The crime branch also concluded that the death was from suicide. Sister Abhaya's father then approached the state high court. The court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate the case. The CBI officer who started investigating the case in March 1993 subsequently resigned from his office stating the reason that he was unable to do his job independently due to the intervention of his superior officer who wanted the case to be closed as one of suicide. After having resigned, the officer declared in a press conference that Sister Abhaya did not commit suicide, but was murdered.

Sister Abhaya's father again approached the court and the court reopened the case. This time, however, the court took charge of the supervision of the investigation and directed the CBI to investigate the case according to the court's directives. The renewed investigation resulted in the arrest of two senior catholic priests and a nun, who according to the CBI, murdered Rev. Abhaya and threw her body into the well in the convent.

The CBI investigation also suggested the suspected motive for the murder. The CBI report claims that Rev. Abhaya had witnessed the nun and the priests in compromising circumstances the night on which she was allegedly murdered. There is also a suspicion that she was raped and then murdered.

The arrest of the two priests and a nun as well as the questioning of some other senior clergies like two bishops, Rev. Kuriakose Kunnassery and Rev. Mathew Moolekkat, were incidents the Christian clergy in the state could not accept without protest. Since the arrest, on a regular basis the Christian community in the state were coming out with statements accusing the CBI of working against Christian religious interests. Some senior Bishops even issued statements calling upon the Christian community to reject the investigation.

The latest of this unwarranted intervention tactic is a mass rally organised in Thrissur district in Kerala, yesterday by the Catholic clergy. Addressing the rally, the former Archbishop of Thrissur, Rev. Jacob Thomkuzhy, said that the arrest of the two priests and the nun resembled the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The Archbishop of Thrissur, Rev. Andrews Thazhath, claimed that investigating Sister Abhaya's case and arresting the three clergy would not result in the destruction of the Christian community in the state.

The question is why is the Christian community so worried about the investigation of a murder. That Sister Abhaya and the persons accused in the case are members of the clergy or not is irrelevant, as far as the investigation of a crime is concerned. Had the Christian community and their so-called spiritual leaders been interested in bringing out the truth behind the entire incident, they would have favoured an uninterrupted and impartial investigation. In order for such an investigation to take place, it is imperative that they cooperate. So far not a single person of the clergy has been heard saying "let the law take its own course to unravel the truth".

Instead, day after day, bishops, senior priests and nuns come up with statements that directly or indirectly showcase their intolerance towards the law of the country in action. The unwarranted reaction of the clergy appears to be the reflections of the nervousness of the Christian leadership concerning the case, its background and the persons currently accused in the case and those who could potentially be exposed in this case. The statements issued by these holy men and women are intended to portray the three accused in a murder case as saints and as infallible individuals. The underlying assumption of such statements is that no priest or nun can be a criminal.

Such reaction by the Christian community and its leaders is neither a rare, nor a new, phenomenon. In the past the Christian leadership in the country has misused their 'minority community' status to allege religious persecution whenever there was an allegation of fraud or misappropriation committed by church-run establishments. One such incident was the investigation into the deaths of persons who attended retreats in a Christian retreat centre in Thrissur district.

When allegations surfaced that terminally ill persons brought to Potta Divine Retreat Centre, were offered 'spiritual treatment', and in the process died, an investigation was ordered by the state administration against the centre. The Christian leadership of the state took to the streets claiming that the state was persecuting Christian establishments. False allegations of discrimination against a minority religion were consciously used as a tactic to exert pressure upon the state administration to withdraw the criminal investigation. In fact the tactic worked as the investigation was soon withdrawn.

What the Christian clergy is wrong about this time over is that in Sister Abhaya's murder case, there are no political interests involved. It is just a matter of law and procedure, taking its own course. If there is a crime allegedly committed against a person, the case has to be investigated and the accused brought to trial. This is the law of the country. Making false allegations and trying to indirectly intervene with the investigation and the process of law warrants condemnation.

This conduct of the Christian clergy and its leadership is not unique to Kerala or India. When allegations regarding sodomy and child sexual abuse surfaced in Europe and the US, the Christian community, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, tried its best to cover it up. But truth ultimately came out, and some of the clergy were even convicted.

By organising unwarranted protests and issuing unqualified statements against the investigation in Sister Abhaya's case, the Christian clergy and their leadership has once again proven a fact, that they are no better than some of the corrupt politicians in the country. History has their counterparts, the Pharisees and the Sadducees during the time of Jesus Christ.

If for the politicians, people are the tool and guarantee of impunity for their corrupt life, for the Christian clergy it is religion and Jesus Christ himself and the shameful manipulation of minority status.

# # #

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.

Assembly elections confirm bipolar trend in India

By B.R.P. BHASKAR
Comment
Indo Asian News Service

Contrary to the fond hopes of Third Front promoters, the Indian polity is moving towards a two-party system. Those who have their eyes focused on the national stage may have missed it, but the results of the just concluded assembly elections confirm the bipolar trend.

All the five states where elections were held were already well on their way to a two-party system with the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) figuring as the contenders for power in Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The Congress and the Mizo National Front clashed in Mizoram.

In Delhi, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, the ruling party held on to power though with reduced majorities in the assembly. In Rajasthan and Mizoram, the party in power and the main opposition changed places. Nowhere did a third party come within striking distance of power.

One aspect of the election results which has received much media attention is the impressive performance of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the four Hindi belt states. The party, which contested almost all the seats in these states, earned a rich dividend in the form of more votes as well as more seats.

Provisional figures indicate that the BSP's vote share registered significant increases in all the states: from 4 percent to 8 percent in Rajasthan, from 4 to 6 percent in Chhattisgarh, from 6 to 9 percent in Madhya Pradesh and from 6 percent to 14 percent in Delhi. The gains are no doubt remarkable. However, they do not represent an immediate threat to the BJP or Congress as neither seems to have suffered significant erosion of support.

The Congress' vote share dropped from about 48 percent in 2003 to about 41 percent in Delhi and the BJP's from 43 percent to 39 percent in Madhya Pradesh and from 39 percent to 36 percent in Rajasthan. These swings are attributable to the burden of incumbency they carried in these states. In Chhattisgarh, the BJP bucked the anti-incumbency factor and increased its vote from 39 percent to 41 percent.

The Congress improved its position marginally in Madhya Pradesh (from 32 to 33 percent), Rajasthan (from 36 to 37 percent) and Chhattisgarh (from 37 to 38 percent). So did the BJP in Delhi where its vote rose from 35 to 37 percent.

Such is the electoral arithmetic that while the two top players together command more than 70 percent of the votes polled, the polity will remain essentially bipolar. The BSP will have to cut into the votes of the Congress and the BJP in a big way before it can upset the two-party system that has come into vogue in these states.

This is not to suggest that the BSP's performance is a flash in the pan. The Congress and the BJP will do well to see it as a convincing demonstration of its capacity to grow beyond the borders of Uttar Pradesh.

The BSP has two distinct advantages. One is that it is now the No. 1 party in the most populous state. The other is that in Mayawati it has a charismatic leader, who is widely recognised as prime ministerial material.

Uttar Pradesh's electoral history testifies to the tortuous course of multiparty politics. In 1985, the Congress was still the leading party in that state, with a 39 percent vote share, as against its immediate challengers, Janata Dal's 21 percent and the BJP's 10 percent. Thereafter, the Janata Dal, the BJP and the Samajwadi Party rose to the top and fell, one after another, before the BSP became the largest party.

It took the BSP - which entered the election arena as an unrecognised party in 1989 and bagged less than 10 percent of the votes - six elections spread over 18 years to achieve primacy. While the BSP (30.43 percent) and the Samajwadi Party (25.43 percent) are way above the BJP (16.97 percent) and the Congress (8.61 percent), it is too early to conclude that Uttar Pradesh has become a bipolar polity.

Outside the Hindi belt too, the two-party system is gaining ground. However, the parties in contention are not the same as in these states. In Andhra Pradesh, a national party and a regional party are the contenders for power. In Tamil Nadu, it is two regional parties that vie for power.

Kerala has a bipolar polity, but it is not two parties, but two fronts that seek power. The doggedness with which the Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the leading players, have pursued coalition politics appears to have blocked the evolution of a two-party system in the state.

The bewildering variety that has come up at the state level in the wake of the Congress party's decline has made coalition governments at the centre inevitable. Even as we accept this fact realistically, it is necessary to take note of the dangers inherent in the present situation, which allows small parties with limited agendas to exercise authority on a scale beyond their ken. The big parties, which had to yield to the blackmail tactics of such parties, must order their priorities in such a way that the bipolar trend gains strength in the long run.

14 December, 2008

An Open Letter to NDTV's Barkha Dutt

By Saeed Haider

Dear Ms. Barkha Dutt:

I have always been an admirer of your objective, fearless and purposeful reporting. You are among a very few Indian journalists who rekindled my hope and trust in the Indian Fourth Estate which otherwise has lost the direction and is rather motivated by vested interest and TRPs. The 24-hour news channels have not only ignored but bypassed all journalistic norms and ethics in all kind of reporting. As a fellow journalist, in you I saw hope for India and Indian journalism.

However, you not only betrayed all my hopes but also generated a kind of nervousness and fear with your reckless comments and opinions. Yes, terrorists scared me like hell, but your reporting scared me even more because you were doing exactly what these terror outfits wanted you to do.

Being a journalist who had covered two Gulf wars (1990-91 and 2003), I am fully aware of the sensitivities and limitations of covering such events and hence I don't have any problem as far as your factual reporting is concerned. What pained and disturbed me the most was your attempt to hit the very political structure of the country. The way you tried to shape the public opinion was extremely dangerous. It was you who initiated politician-bashing. I don't think you need any kind of experience to have a clear perception of the situation. It is a basic common sense that in an event like 26/11 a reporter's prime job is to report; report sensibly and accurately and not to indulge in rhetoric and jingoism and to ignite people's sentiment. What you were doing was exactly the opposite.

You were too melodramatic, igniting people's sentiment against politicians, challenging democracy and unintentionally, or may be intentionally, preaching anarchy. Your "Enough Is Enough" catchphrase was extremely sick. It was like a clarion call for anarchism. While reporting from Nariman House you very blatantly tried to create Politicians versus Armed Forces battle. What you failed to perceive was the fact that by drawing such parallel you were forcing public opinion to opt for military dictatorship instead of democracy. It may sound a bit ludicrous but if you will see your own footage with a cool and open mind you too will reach the same conclusion.

I fully agree that India's political structure needs a drastic revamping and the country is largely a victim of corrupt, inept, insensitive and illiterate politicians. But then we all have known this for ages. We do realize that drastic changes and reforms are required. But that was not the time to initiate such hate campaign against politicians.

You quoted Narayan Murthy and Salman Rushdie congratulating you for the NDTV coverage, I am sure you don't take such comments seriously nor will they ever shape the quality of your channel's coverage. These people have limited vision and narrow approach and could not see things in totality, as you can see.

On five different occasions you compared 26/11 with Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York. You went on to say that "despite some minor wrong decisions" US succeeded in preventing terror attack. I am sure, Barkha, an astute and seasoned journalist like you know that America achieved this at the cost of hundreds and thousands of lives in Iraq, Afghanistan and the regions bordering Pakistan. It put thousands of innocent people in Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Are you professing us to become a rogue fascist state like the United States? You literally pushed India on the brink of war. Do you realize that?

Do you realize that you essentially set the tone of other media coverage of 26/11. After your style and rhetoric, overnight all major news channels like Times Now, IBN-CNN, Headlines Today, Aaj Tak and Star News, changed their tone and began bashing politicians.

Your "We the People" in the backdrop of a burning Taj was another disaster when film actress Simi Garewal made an irresponsible and pathetic remark on Pakistani flags being hoisted at every dwelling in Mumbai slums. Instead of clarifying it then and there you allowed it to pass away and only on second or third day your channel gave a one-line clarification. Don't you agree that it was an extremely irresponsible omission on your part in such a volatile situation?

Despite all these, the fact remains that you are a fine journalist and I do respect your past work but certainly your work during 26/11 did not make me proud. I am sure you will look within, do serious introspection by watching your own footage and will bounce back once again as a fearless, objective and purposeful journalist. Just be a journalist. Please don't don the mantle of a savior or a messiah.

Saeed Haider is an Indian journalist based in Saudi Arabia. He can be reached at haider.saeed@gmail.com.

12 December, 2008

Nepal Maoists to stand up for gay rights at UN

Nepal's ruling Maoist party, which till a year ago regarded homosexuality as a threat to a future socialist society, will strike a blow for gay rights at the UN later this month, marking a sea-change.

Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda has asked the foreign ministry and Nepal's ambassador to the UN to support a statement that will be tabled in the UN General Assembly this month recognizing human rights violations on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Prachanda conveyed the decision to support gay rights on Wednesday to a delegation led by Nepal's only publicly gay lawmaker Sunil Babu Pant.

The prime minister's office gave the delegation a copy of the order issued by it on Monday, asking the appropriate ministries to support the gay rights statement in the UN initiated by France and supported by a core group of eight more nations, including Japan, the Netherlands and Norway.

Pant told IANS that Nepal had becomes the 56th country to support the statement.

In Age of Migration, Human Rights Declaration falls short

JOSEPH NEVINS
Commentary
New America Media

Editor’s Note: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights actually has helped legitimate the right of countries to regulate immigration. This is because the declaration, written before the age of mass migration, protects the right of exit from a country but does not affirm a right of entry. Joseph Nevins is an associate professor of geography at Vassar College. His latest book is "Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid" (City Lights Books, 2008). IMMIGRATION MATTERS regularly features the views of immigrant rights advocates.


Sixty years ago, the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as “a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” Since its birth on Dec. 10, 1948, the declaration has played a significant role in advancing the rights and freedoms it enumerates. Yet it has also helped legitimate the putative right of nation-states to regulate immigration, thus denying freedom of international mobility and residence, and undermining basic human rights in the process.

Among the most tragic manifestations is the plight of so-called “illegal” migrants. Like Apartheid-era South Africa, which dictated where the majority of its inhabitants (black South Africans) could live and work, contemporary control of movement across national boundaries results in systematic violence and dehumanization.

From the U.S.-Mexico borderlands to the perimeter around the European Union, to the sea boundary between Yemen and northeast Africa, many hundreds—if not thousands—of unauthorized migrants die each year while trying to cross the increasingly militarized divides between the privileged and disadvantaged. And countless tens of thousands more are held in detention for violating national laws regarding movement, residence and employment.

At the same time, the millions who have succeeded in transgressing the boundaries that are supposed to keep them out must live with the everyday indignities that their unauthorized status facilitates. These range from sub-standard wages, to constant threat of arrest and deportation, to divided families.

The UDHR enshrines the right of exit from a country. However it does not affirm a right of entry—except into one’s own country—as the document’s framers had no intention of challenging the ability of nation-states to regulate movement from without.

The effect is to deny some of the most basic human rights. In a world of pervasive poverty, growing inequality, and widespread instability and insecurity, the power to move across national boundaries is tied to the ability to access resources needed to realize those rights. They include a right to life, a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and wellbeing of oneself and one’s family, and a right to work under just conditions—all of which are asserted by the UDHR.

As formidable barriers to many across the globe, national territorial boundaries thus often have life and death implications. The poor and disadvantaged are typically forced to subsist where there are insufficient resources, or, in order to overcome their deprivation and insecurity, to risk their lives trying to evade enforcement obstacles put into place by countries that reject them—at least officially.

It is widely recognized that limiting mobility—within nation-states—is both unjust (as the UDHR suggests) and harmful to those denied. In the case of Rwanda in the early 1990s, for example, the U.S. State Department characterized that country’s obstacles to internal mobility and choice of residence as human rights violations. The World Bank opined that these obstacles “increased poverty by limiting options for the poor.” Yet the injurious implications of limited mobility and residence across national boundaries are rarely noted.

No doubt the demand for a right of international movement and residence is “unrealistic” in today’s world. And certainly such freedom would be disruptive of the status quo, creating challenges (in addition to benefits) for migrant-receiving and -sending societies. But its idealistic character and disruptive implications should not prevent us from assessing freedom from an ethical perspective. Instead, they compel us to create practices and mechanisms to negotiate the challenges while working to reduce the national and global injustices that fuel much emigration in the first place.

Were we to do so, perhaps we will be able in the not-so-distant future to look back at the present and wonder how the concept of “illegal alien” could have ever existed—in the same way we now look at state-sanctioned slavery or male-only suffrage.

Reaching such a point requires that we take to heart the UDHR’s affirmation of the inherent dignity of, and equal rights for, all human beings, and understand regulation of international mobility and residence for what it is: an affront to human rights.

10 December, 2008

Poor policing is an obstacle to human rights in India

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

The AHRC is publishing its 2008 annual human rights report on India. A pre-publication version of the report can be downloaded at http://material.ahrchk.net/hrreport/2008/AHRC-SPR-011-2008-India_AHRR2008.pdf.

Yesterday, the government of India released the pictures of eight suspects who were killed in the Mumbai terrorist attack. Today, India along with the rest of the world celebrates the International Human Rights Day. The Mumbai terrorist attack that killed 171 persons is a reminder of the condition of India's security apparatus, which includes the country's policing system. In a country where a child can be abducted for a ransom as small as Rupees 100 [2 USD], the inability to prevent a well planned and executed terrorist strike is no surprise.

Anyone who know India will agree that the state of policing in the country is in an appalling condition. The police is one of the essential state agency that is required for a justice system to function properly. Poor policing results in the lack of security, defective crime investigation and finally in the denial of justice. Protection, promotion and fulfilment of human rights is impossible without an adequately functioning justice mechanism.

Serious human rights issues like the denial of the right to food, caste based discrimination, custodial torture, religious intolerance, child trafficking and extra-judicial executions continue unabated in the country due to poor policing. Each of these human rights concerns to be brought under control require proper crime investigation and an effective prosecution. Defects in investigation cannot be cured at the stage of prosecution.

The general public in India conceive the police force as one of the most corrupt government agencies. The public perception of police is that of fear. The impunity enjoyed by the police officers and the wide-spread use of custodial torture has created a huge gap of mutual mistrust between the police and the ordinary public. Bridging this divide require an enormous and conscious effort, from the police, administration and the people.

Often Indians are expected to believe that the relatively better functioning components of the justice delivery mechanism like the judiciary will step in to fill the gap generated by poor policing. Unfortunately, neither in practice nor in theory such a substitution will render any conceivable result. The ineffectiveness of the judgments delivered by the Supreme Court of India at the grass-root level is a good example to substantiate this.

Violation of fundamental human rights creates demoralisation, which affects the victim as well the person who violates the right. In India, it is the police force that is often exploited by the politicians and the rich for violating the fundamental rights of the ordinary people. The police reciprocate this exploitative regime by allowing them to be misused, so that the police officers remain unaccountable for their acts and can continue with their corrupt means.

The incapacity of the administration to guarantee the right to food, a non-derogable and fundamental human right that has placed India even below the standards achieved by some sub-Saharan countries is one example that demonstrates how the failure in policing results is serious human rights violation. In rural India, where the food subsides mean the difference between life and death from starvation, rationed food articles never reach those who are in need. The Public Food Distribution System (PDS) in India is plagued with corruption. Corruption in the PDS is a crime according to the Essential Commodities Act, 1955. Yet, hardly anyone is convicted under this law. The police officers who are deputed to investigate this crime are bribed by corrupt PDS shop licences not only to cover-up corruption with shoddy investigation, but also to threaten the complainants so that no further complaints are made.

Caste based discrimination is a crime in India. It was expected that caste based discrimination will be considerably reduced after the enactment of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. 20 years since the enactment, there has been no notable decrease in the caste based atrocities committed against the Dalit communities in the country. Caste based discrimination, one of the worst forms of human rights violation, continue unabated in India due to the failure in investigating and prosecuting those who violate this law.

The paucity of the police, wide-spread use of custodial torture and its unwillingness and inability to investigate crimes is not merely the fault of the police force alone. No government in India in the past 62 years have given priority for improving the condition of policing in the country. Politicians and high-ranking bureaucrats have in fact avoided to address this issue thus far. The reasons are obvious from the fact that an alarming proportion of Indian legislators are individuals facing criminal charges like murder, rape, arson and drug-trafficking.

62 years after independence India still is the breading ground for human rights violations. The government of India by this time has shifted from a defensive and denial mode to an offensive and oppressor mode against those who speak for the voiceless – the human rights activists. Once again, police is used to fabricate charges, threaten and also murder human rights activists and journalists who report cases of human rights violations in the country. The murder of human rights activists and an almost total prohibition of free media in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states like Manipur and Assam are examples of this phenomena. In this aspect, India is also a bad model in the region, particularly for encouraging its immediate neighbors like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, where similar intolerance against human rights defenders and the free media is the norm.

December 10, will be like any other day for the average Indian. No improvement in the living conditions will be expected by anyone in India since experience tells them that the government was not concerned about it so far and today cannot be different. As for the Mumbai terrorist attack, the politicians of the country are spending their time to device novel ways to make use of the incident for political gain aiming at the forthcoming national election. Indian administration on the other hand is doing its best in what it is good at - to continue the rhetoric that India is a democracy.

The AHRC is publishing its 2008 annual human rights report on India. A pre-publication version of the report can be downloaded at http://material.ahrchk.net/hrreport/2008/AHRC-SPR-011-2008-India_AHRR2008.pdf.

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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.

09 December, 2008

Muslims for Secular Democracy

Below is a communication from Javed Anand, circulated by the Rights Support Centre, drawing attention to the website of Muslims for Secular Democracy:


Please visit our website, www.mfsd.org for hundreds of reports by CNN, New York Times, Yahoo.com and a host of Indian publications on the March by thousands of Muslims in Mumbai and 10 other cities in India to denounce terror in the name of Islam.

In the coming days we will also uplink pictures of the rally and more reports on the same. Please help us spread this message as widely as you can. This is your and our contribution in the battle against this global scourge.

When we came up with this idea less than a week ago, we told ourselves we should mobilise at least a hundred Muslims in Mumbai. It is really a very happy sign that everyone who heard of it also wanted to participate and by Sunday scores of organisations participated in 11 different cities cutting across sectarian divides.

Best Wishes

Javed Anand

Camapign for Dr. Binayak Sen's release

The following is a report from Kavita Srivastava, General Secretary, PUCL, Rajasthan, on the meeting held in New Delhi on December 6 to consider the situation arising from the High Court’s rejection of Dr. Bianyak Sen’s bail application:

We met on the 6th of December, 2008 at the Tikona Park in Jamia Nagar. We were about 22 of us and three had sent messages about their inability to attend the meeting.

1. It was shared that the High Court had dismissed the bail application of Dr. Binayak Sen, at the stage of admittance on the ground that since 2007 there had been no change in the circumstances of Dr. Binayak Sen's case.

2. It was also shared that a Supplementary charge-sheet had been filed by the Chhattisgarh police in Dr. Sen's case. Forty-five more witnesses had been listed. The evidence presented was absolutely flimsy once again. This charge-sheet has come as the Prosecution has realised that no evidence against Dr. Sen had emerged through the 39 witnesses who have deposed till now.

In this context it was decided that the campaign for Dr. Sen’s release \should be intensive and ongoing, exposing the design of the Chhattisgarh State which is hell bent on holding Dr. Sen. We should continue this campaign till he is released.

The campaign in Delhi from December 10 to 16 in Delhi has shaped in this form.

1. A rally publicising the illegal detention of Dr. Sen will take place in Delhi University on the 10th or 11th. Harish Dhawan and Budhaditya of St. Stephen’s would be the organisers. This would be a small event due to examinations. Please get in touch with Harish or Budhaditya for timings and plans. Telephone numbers are given below.

2. After the 17th a larger cultural programme will be planned in DU on the same issue.

3. The JNU cultural programme will take place on the 11th outside one of the Hostels. Sunayana will coordinate.
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4. IT was also decided that on the 12th evening an urgent meeting of Delhi based activists must be called at a more central place. Dr. Ilina Sen will also be present in this meeting and the latest information will be shared.

5. It was confirmed that on the 16th a demonstration in "Defence of Right to Democratic Dissent and in Solidarity with Dr. Binayak Sen" will begin in the form of a rally between 1 and 2 pm from the Constitution Club and move on to the Jantar Mantar / Parliament Street Police Station, where there will \be a public meeting, including a cultural programme till 5 pm.

6. Harish along with SAMA took the responsibility to contact the Delhi medical colleges to take the message about the continued incarceration of Dr. Sen.

7. It was felt that there was hardly any Publicity material with regard to the issue of Silencing Democratic Dissent and the incarceration of Dr. Sen and others. A workshop dedicated to creation and printing of diverse kinds of materials should be organised by different groups in cities and ensure that this material is used.

Kavita Srivastava

08 December, 2008

Lessons to draw from the Assembly election results

The State Assembly elections, which a section of the media projected as a semi-final, have ended in a draw of sorts. While it has thrown up enough material for the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the major contenders for power at the national level, to make exaggerated claims, a close look reveals a slight advantage to the former over the latter.

Of the five States, where elections have been completed, three were under the BJP, one under the Congress and the fifth under a regional party.
The BJP retained Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh and the Congress held on to Delhi State, overcoming the much touted anti-incumbency factor. The Congress actually bettered its position by taking Rajasthan from the BJP and Mizoram from the Mizo National Front.

The Congress win in three States suggests that the party has been able to break the chain of reverses that has dogged it since it came to power at the Centre in 2004 under the banner of the United Progressive Alliance. The Delhi triumph has special significance inasmuch as it gives the party a third successive term in office in that small but important State.

The outcome of the elections in all the States confirms the trend towards a two-party system, which has been in evidence in many States in recent years. In Delhi and the Hindi States of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, two national parties are in contention. In Mizoram, the contending forces are a national party and a regional party.

For two reasons, it is risky to draw any conclusions from these Assembly election results about the prospects of the Third Front, which the Left wants to put together at the national level by bringing together disparate elements like Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and J. Jayalalithaa’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. One is that Assembly results are not a reliable indicator of voter preference in parliamentary polls, as the BJP discovered in 2004. The other is that the potential Third Front partners are all bit players in these States.
The BSP, which is already the biggest party in Uttar Pradesh, has convincingly demonstrated its ability to grow. However, it has still a long way to go before it can climb to the top pushing the Congress or the BJP to the third place in the other Hindi States.

The BJP initially gave the impression that it will not make the Mumbai terror strike a campaign issue but quickly reverted to its narrow, partisan path. This, however, did not prevent the Congress from giving a good account of itself in the States which went to the polls subsequently. Significantly, both urban Delhi and rural Rajasthan rebuffed the BJP bid to derive political capital out of cross-border terrorism.

05 December, 2008

Hotel Taj: icon of whose India?

By GNANI SANKARAN
Openspace.org.in

Watching at least four English news channels, surfing from one to another, during the last 60 hours of terror strike made me feel a terror of another kind. The terror of assaulting one's mind and sensitivity with cameras, sound bites and non-stop blabbers. All these channels have been trying to manufacture my consent for a big lie called - Hotel Taj the icon of India. Whose India, Whose Icon ?

It is a matter of great shame that these channels simply did not bother about the other icon that faced the first attack from terrorists - the Chhatrapathi Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station. CST is the true icon of Mumbai. It is through this railway station hundreds of Indians from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu have poured into Mumbai over the years, transforming themselves into Mumbaikars and built the Mumbai of today along with the Marathis and Kolis

But the channels would not recognise this. Nor would they recognise the thirty odd dead bodies strewn all over the platform of CST. No Barkha Dutt went there to tell us who they were. But she was at Taj to show us the damaged furniture and reception lobby, braving the guards. And the TV cameras did not go to the government run JJ hospital to find out who those 26 unidentified bodies were. Instead they were again invading the battered Taj to try in vain for a scoop shot of the dead bodies of the page 3 celebrities.

In all probability, the unidentified bodies could be those of workers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh migrating to Mumbai, arriving by train at CST without cell phones and pan cards to identify them. Even after 60 hours after the CST massacre, no channel has bothered to cover in detail what transpired there.

The channels conveniently failed to acknowledge that the Aam Aadmis of India surviving in Mumbai were not affected by Taj, Oberoi and Trident closing down for a couple of weeks or months. What mattered to them was the stoppage of BEST buses and suburban trains even for one hour. But the channels were not covering that aspect of the terror attack. Such information at best merited a scroll line, while the cameras have to be dedicated for real time thriller unfolding at Taj or Nariman House.
The so-called justification for the hype the channels built around heritage site Taj falling down (CST is also a heritage site) is that Hotel Taj is where the rich and the powerful of India and the globe congregate. It is a symbol or icon of power of money and politics, not India. It is the icon of the financiers and swindlers of India. The Mumbai and India were built by the Aam Aadmis who passed through CST and Taj was the oasis of peace and privacy for those who wielded power over these mass of labouring classes. Leopold Café and Taj were the haunts of rich spoilt kids who would drive their vehicles over sleeping Aam Aadmis on the pavement, the Mafiosi of Mumbai forever financing the glitterati of Bollywood (and also the terrorists), political brokers and industrialists.It is precisely because Taj is the icon of power and not people, that the terrorists chose to strike.

The terrorists have understood after several efforts that the Aam Aadmi will never break down even if you bomb the markets and trains. He/she was resilient because that is the only way he/she can even survive.

Resilience was another word that annoyed the pundits of news channels and their patrons this time. What resilience, enough is enough, said Pranoy Roy's channel on the left side of the channel spectrum. Same sentiments were echoed by Arnab Goswami representing the right-wing of the broadcast media whose time is now. Can Rajdeep be far behind in this game of oneupmanship over TRPs? They all attacked resilience this time. They wanted firm action from the government in tackling terror.

The same channels celebrated resilience when bombs went off in trains and markets, killing and maiming Aam Aadmis. The resilience of the ordinary worker suited the rich business class of Mumbai since work or manufacture or film shooting did not stop. When it came to them, the rich shamelessly exhibited their lack of nerves and refused to be resilient themselves. They cry for government intervention now to protect their private spas and swimming pools and bars and restaurants, similar to the way in which Citibank, General Motors and the ilk cry for government money when their coffers are emptied by their own ideologies.

The terrorists have learnt that the ordinary Indian is unperturbed by terror. For one whose daily existence itself is a terror of government sponsored inflation and market sponsored exclusion, pain is something he has learnt to live with. The rich of Mumbai and India Inc are facing the pain for the first time and learning about it just as the middle classes of India learnt about violation of human rights only during emergency, a cool 28 years after independence. And human rights were another favourite issue for the channels to whip at times of terrorism. Arnab Goswami in an animated voice wondered where were those champions of human rights now, not to be seen applauding the brave and selfless police officers who gave up their life in fighting terrorism. Well, the counter-question would be: where were you when such officers were violating the human rights of Aam Aadmis. Has there ever been any 24-hour non-stop coverage of violence against Dalits and Adivasis of this country?
This definitely was not the time to manufacture consent for the extra legal and third-degree methods of interrogation of police and army but Arnabs don't miss a single opportunity to serve their class masters, this time the jingoistic patriotism came in handy to whitewash the entire uniformed services.

The sacrifice of the commandos or the police officers who went down dying at the hands of ruthless terrorists is no doubt heart rending but in vain in a situation which needed not just bran but also brain. Israel has a point when it says the operations were misplanned resulting in the death of its nationals here.
Khakares and Salaskars would not be dead if they did not commit the mistake of traveling by the same vehicle. It is a basic lesson in management that the top brass should never travel together in crisis. The terrorists, if only they had watched the channels, would have laughed their hearts out when the Chief of the Marine commandos, an elite force, masking his face so unprofessionally in a see-through cloth, told the media that the commandos had no idea about the structure of the Hotel Taj which they were trying to liberate. But the terrorists knew the place thoroughly, he acknowledged.

Is it so difficult to obtain a ground plan of Hotel Taj and discuss operation strategy thoroughly for at least one hour before entering? This is something even an event manager would first ask for, if he had to fix 25 audio systems and 50 CCtvs for a cultural event in a hotel. Would not Ratan Tata have provided a plan of his ancestral hotel to the commandos within one hour considering the mighty apparatus at his and government's disposal? Are satelite pictures only available for terrorists and not the government agencies ? In an operation known to consume time, one more hour for preparation would have only improved the efficiency of execution.

Sacrifices become doubly tragic in unprofessional circumstances. But the Aam Aadmis always believe that terror-shooters do better planning than terrorists. And the gullible media in a jingoistic mood would not raise any question about any of these issues. They after all have their favourite whipping boy - the politician the eternal entertainer for the non-voting rich classes of India.

Arnabs and Rajdeeps would wax eloquent on Manmohan Singh and Advani visiting Mumbai separately and not together showing solidarity even at this hour of national crisis. What a farce? Why can't these channels pool together all their camera crew and reporters at this time of national calamity and share the sound and visual bytes which could mean a wider and deeper coverage of events with such a huge human resource to command? Why should Arnab and Rajdeep and Barkha keep harping every five minutes that this piece of information was exclusive to their channel, at the time of such a national crisis? Is this the time to promote the channel? If that is valid, the politician promoting his own political constituency is equally valid. And the duty of the politican is to do politics, his politics. It is for the people to evaluate that politics. And terrorism is not above politics. It is politics by other means.

To come to grips with it and to eventually eliminate it, the practice of politics by proper means needs constant fine tuning and improvement. Decrying all politics and politicians, only helps terrorists and dictators who are the two sides of the same coin. And the rich and powerful always prefer terrorists and dictators to do business with.

Those caught in this crossfire are always the Aam Aadmis whose deaths are not even mourned - the taxi driver who lost the entire family at CST firing, the numerous waiters and stewards who lost their lives working in Taj for a monthly salary that would be one time bill for their masters.

Postscript: In a fit of anger and depression, I sent a message to all the channels, 30 hours through the coverage. After all they have been constantly asking the viewers to message them for anything and everything. My message read: I send this with lots of pain. All channels, including yours, must apologize for not covering the victims of CST massacre, the real mumbaikars and aam aadmis of India. Your obsession with five-star elite is disgusting. Learn from the print media please. No channel bothered. Only Srinivasan Jain replied: you are right. We are trying to redress balance today. Well, nothing happened till the time of writing this 66 hours after the terror attack.

Gnani Sankaran is a Tamil writer based in Chennai