New on my other blogs

KERALA LETTER
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?
Some thoughts on the historic Battle of Colachel

വായന

29 October, 2009

Your Mama! Or The Blitzerization Of Indian TV

TREVOR SELVAM
Countercurrents.org

In the past two weeks, I have viewed three shows on NDTV 24/7 and one on CNN-IBN live. On one NDTV show, the moderator was Mr. Vikram Chandra and the other one had the ubiquitous Ms. Barkha Dutt. The CNN-IBN show was moderated by Ms Sagarika Ghose. All three of the shows had to do with Naxalites or Maoists. The NDTV shows had the emblematic war-drum like sound effects and graphic interplay that aped the “War on Terror” style of the Fox/CNN networks. The lead caption of the “Maoist Muddle”, the talk show hosted by Ms. Dutt, had an old Western badlands style letter font in use, which would swish back and forth, when Ms. Dutt took a break. (No! they did not play the theme tune from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or Appaloosa).

Ms. Ghosh’s moderation was subdued in comparison and I would say, more interested in extracting a minimum possible new thought process in this discussion. However, the two guests on this show, Mr. Gautam Navlakha of the EPW and Mr. Swapan Dasgupta of trash-the-left-any-which-way-you-can fame, took off their gloves in no time and while Mr. Navlakha could have restrained himself a wee bit, I could understand the anger he felt with the asinine, Rush Limbaugh-esque harangue of Mr. Dasgupta. A third guest, Mr. Sudipta Chackravarti, writer of the book Red Sun, attempted to steer a safer line between the absurdly nonsensical right wing cant of Dasgupta and the enraged decency of Navlakha and got nowhere in terms of contributing to the discussion. While this particular show did make an attempt at clean lines and decency in terms of format, the NDTV show, as usual, was like a Vegas-style slot machine/ video game box circus with Ms. Dutt rushing around town-hall style, impatient as hell, and making shallow summaries from time to time. Mr Vikram Chandra used his stationary command centre approach to parse everyone’s unfinished thoughts, by interrupting them and making sweeping summaries and essentially telling off those who wanted to raise larger issues.

Barkha Dutt’s pancake makeup and potty-designer clothes added further vacuous glitter and frenzy to the otherwise polyvinyl theatre that she now stages frequently. I think Ms. Dutt has run out of the chutzpah that characterized her initial foray into cable news and live reporting. She has bought into the ethos that employs her i.e be true to the status quo definition of the nation, no matter what, uphold some sanctimonious interpretations of “terror, violence and democracy” and mendaciously ignore the institutionalized violence that characterizes the Indian state and all its institutions, especially the police. I am sure the fact that there are at least one hundred criminals sitting in the Indian Parliament, does not seem to have any impact whatsoever on all these apologists in her show, regarding the greatness of “the world’s largest democracy.” One of the goofy guests in the show, named Tavleen Singh, gave an “Arey Baba!” style shpeel on how great it is to be part of Indian democracy and not be part of Pakistan or China. No jingoism there! And these are experts on “the greatest threat to Indian democracy”?

What is wrong with these shows?

They all pander to a sensationalist, alarmist and finally a fabricated version of the facts on the ground to start with. In their rush to compete with each other they also use melodramatic terminology to describe events. During a Chukka Bundh or a Rail Roko (stopping trains during a general strike in an area, for example West Mednipur) , some channels in no time started referring to it as a “Train Hijack”. Chukka Bandh has been going on for ages. In fact in India it happens almost every day. People vent their anger by stopping trains. A hijack is something else and as a result in no time people are talking about the Taleban and prisoner swaps etc. Arnab Goswami’s Foxy network (Times Now) goes over the deep edge with Goswami almost leaking sputum from the sides of his mouth, calling the Lalgarh PCPA, a “ terrorist” outfit repeatedly during his so-called moderation of events. He invites people to speak and then trashes them continuously, hogging the limelight himself and repeatedly changing his “one basic question” several times. Santhals and tribals with traditional weaponry are called “armed Maoists and terrorists.” Even the CNN and BBC prefer to use words like militants, referring to these same incidents. Goswami, of course, is universally recognized in India as the yellowest of all TV moderators.

The primary problem, as I had stated elsewhere in a previous essay, is that these Indian TV channels have not gone through the stage of development that American radio and TV shows had gone through—of nuanced, thoughtful interdictions---that preceded the Wolf-Blitzerization of Cable news. The Bill Moyers and the Amy Goodmans of PBS, NPR and Democracy Now! have for a long period of time upheld decent, selfless, incisive, conclusive interviews and glamour, glitz and circus acts have not been their bag. A tradition exists in American radio and to a certain extent in Public TV that preceded Time-Warner’s onslaught on the mind waves. India’s Doordarshan, staid and unexciting as it often may seem, does not follow this bombastic TV style that Barkha Dutt and Vikram Chandra espouse. But, Indian TV has missed out on the tradition of the thoughtful radio show. It has taken a leap into the nightmare Vegas style, as far as intellectual cadence goes. Pretty much like the fact that India also skipped over (for the most part) the laying down of optical fibre-glass high speed lines and jumped into the wi-fi data card and satellite disc technology, at least in some regions. Convenient, but unnatural, in some respects. There is thus a missing link in India’s media development. It is not a matter of quickly leap-frogging into the newest technology; it is very simply a question of missing out on a stage of incipient intellectual development. And that stage requires some genuflection on what it is to be a real democracy. Having elections every five years or having law courts and elected officials (even without criminal records) amounts to drawing lane markers on Indian city roads. Nobody takes it seriously or avails of it with pride. It is like an attempt at showcasing the trappings of democracy. As simple as that. When Mr. Chidambaran cajoles the country’s intellectuals and so does the West Bengal government officials, suggesting that any sympathy for the Naxalites amounts to seditious behaviour, it is the beginning of a McCarthyite era of “Un-Indian” activities. In that sense the Americanization of the Indian polity has been seamless since the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It is no wonder that the Indian state, once a champion of non-alignment and independent post-colonial political direction, has done a fantastic somersault into the lap of the United States. It is unthinkable that the same forces that have just decided to “phase out ”of Iraq, have now arrived in India and are engaging in what a US commander described, only a few hours ago on NDTV, “the most advanced counter-insurgency operations” with Stryker tanks and various elements of the US Army, Airborne and Cavalry divisions and paratrooper wings, right next to New Delhi! Does Barkha Dutt care? Does Vikram Chandra give two hoots that American boots that were kicked out of Vietnam and are being kicked out elsewhere and especially out of Latin America, are now stomping around in this country? When Barkha Dutt and Vikram Chandra and others invite Indian intellectuals, historians, economists and political scientists who wish to raise some fundamental issues about Indian democracy, they are swept away by the undignified hollerings of the loafers they also invite. So first rule: Do not invite more than three people, at a time. Let them speak to a very specific and elevated concept about the actual workings of Indian democracy. Let them conclude and do not bust them up, half way, with your own impatient and argumentative vox populi style journalism. If you need to invite other people, arrange for a Part 2 of the same debate, with others.

What are some other reasons?

Aside from the two or three people at a time that PBS and National Public Radio invite, the calibre of the people invited also happen to be those with extraordinary historical acumen and analytical skills.

Mr. Chandra, amongst the hordes he invites, brings in loafer-type MPs from the BJP and CPM to trot out their standard rhetoric on behalf of “Indian parliamentary democracy, law and order, national security and non-violence”. The BJP fellow keeps ranting hysterically about how “criminal” the Maoists are with their barrel of the gun power politics and the wily CPI(M) fellow (typical of the Bengal CPIM) snidely jibes away, with a crooked smile on his lips, at the Maoists for not “following the example of the Nepali Maoists.” Also invited are a Maoist sympathizing poet, a Gandhian activist, another EPW editor, a retired police officer (who turns out to be quite sane, decent and at least logical, despite his law and order leanings). Surprisingly, there is also a young Congress MP from Andhra, who is quite lucid that the Naxalite problem cannot be a resolved by guns and choppers, when for sixty two years the State has been absent in the lives of the Adivasis. Anyone who is decent (and the Congress MP who seems very much like one) and waits his turn, does not get the chance to lay down the facts. He or she is either shouted down or stopped short by Chandra or Dutt. Such a procession of flag bearers and party hacks and straight laced law and order folks can never provide education to the masses, who expect to imbibe something from these shows. It ends up being a five-a-side indoor football mêlée and opinions, ideas are never developed. People go home, convinced that India is a flourishing but troubled democracy, Naxalites are violent idealists backed by foreigners and terrorists, that wealth will trickle down someday to the poor if law and order is maintained and the ultimate profanity ---that if Maoists participated in the democratic process (as some other Naxalites seem to be) then they could also have their day under the sun! All these sacred Indian cows are then chewed vociferously and then spat out like pan-masala on the walls of Indian media, for the next half hour in rapid-fire mode. By the time we are two minutes into these so-called forums, not a single assertion is made about the actual facts. There is no discussion on what constitutes “development”, no discussion on institutionalized violence, no discussion the existing statutes of the Indian constitution and how they remain unfulfilled after 60 years, no discussion on the role of the Indian Police force, dubbed as the world’s worst law-breaking and human rights violating outfit, no discussion on the charter rights of the aboriginal people of India, no discussion on the megalomaniac plans of P. Chidambaran to relocate 85% of India’s population into urban centres, no discussion on the devastating and stultifying environmental impact of damming India’s rivers and attempting to join them up (another Chidambaran hair-brained plan) and no discussion on the twenty five years of systematic development work in the Dandakaranya, which the Naxalites have engaged in from using shifting crop agriculture, innovative irrigation, land distribution, mobile educational projects, health clinics, where for 62 years the GOI has done zip. Mr. Chandra demonstrates clearly that he is not a moderator, not a listener, that he has come made up his mind and injects silly conclusions each time the bell rings for an ad and Barkha Dutt does the same with a proto yank mannerism-- “Don’t go away.” In reality, it is time to switch off. But I keep my patience till the end and until the swishing militarist/western sound effects that keep happening every few seconds, come to a final end.

When I sat down to write this essay, I was reminded of a time, in the early seventies when I was in the US and the Watergate scandal had broken out and Nixon was about to be indicted. I was sitting in a room with African American friends, when one of the TV commentators, mostly white at that time, declared that American Democracy would weather this storm and the rebels in US campuses were nothing but agents of foreign left-wing governments. My buddy, who sat next to me, spat out two words-- “Your mama”!

Trevor Selvam is a free lance journalist

Opposition to use of armed forces against citizens

A group of Human Rights defenders is collecting signatures for a statement voicing opposition to the use of armed forces against insurgents. Those who wish to endorse the statement may kindly communicate their support to the group at struggleindia2009@gmail.com by October 30.

WE CANNOT REMAIN SILENT WHILE THE GOVERNMENT HEADS TOWARDS WAR AGAINST THE PEOPLE

We have read about moves to use the Air Force, assisted by ISRO satellite imagery, for so-called surgical strikes against CPI (Maoist) centres, situated among tribal habitats in the jungles of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. This is a matter of great alarm. The murderous impact of such aerial attacks on civilians, despite all claims to the contrary, is well documented in all its horrors in every instance, be it Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka or Pakistan. Though the Prime Minister has stated that the Air Force won't be used in offensive actions, this is hardly reassuring. There is already a long record of using the armed forces against internal uprisings and movements in the North-East and Kashmir, with numerous instances of gross human rights violations. The immunity it enjoys under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act has made this doubly oppressive.

Whatever may be one's views on the activities of the CPI (Maoist), it is undeniably a political movement enjoying wide support among the people of these regions, overwhelmingly Adivasis living in utter poverty. Even the government admits these socio-economic-political dimensions. It is then imperative that the issue be addressed politically and not as a mere law and order issue.

We appeal to all to raise their voices and demand that the government step back from the disastrous course it is taking. The horrors inflicted on the Adivasi people by the state inspired Salwa Judum, condemned by the Supreme Court itself, are still fresh in our minds. We cannot stand silent while even more horrendous atrocities are being prepared; when the government is heading towards a war against its own people. This irony sears our minds --the last time a political movement in India had to face aerial attacks from the British colonialists--in Medinipur during the 1942 Quit India Movement.

26 October, 2009

‘Love Jehad’: When courts provide fodder for Sri Ram Sene

KAVITA KRISHNAN
Countercurrents.org

‘Love Jehad’ is a new phrase coined by the Sangh Parivar – that is being echoed in courtrooms and cabinets across the country. The Sangh Parivar has claimed that thousands of Hindu girls are being lured by Muslim boys into conversion to Islam and recruitment into ‘jehadi’ outfits. And what is extremely worrying is that the Kerala HC, Karnataka HC and even the Maharashtra Government have expressed the same sentiments.

The Kerala HC made its comments on ‘Love Jehad’ in the context of two cases where Hindu women had eloped to marry Muslim men. The women’s parents had filed complaints claiming the women had been abducted, and the Kerala High Court ordered them to stay with their parents for a week. At the end of the week one of the women had given a statement claiming she had been brainwashed into adopting Islam and shown ‘jehadi’ CDs. Based on this single statement, the Kerala HC chose to order the Kerala Government and the Union Home Ministry to probe what it alleged was a nationwide ‘Love Jehad’ racket.

Following this, the Karnataka HC passed similar observations in the case of a 23-year old woman civil engineer who told the Court clearly that she had converted to Islam of her own accord and wished to marry her lover Ashgar and live with him. The HC chose to suspect the veracity of the woman’s statement, ordered her to stay with her parents, and ordered a probe by the Karnataka police saying the matter had ‘national ramifications concerning security, besides the question of unlawful trafficking of women.’

Earlier, the Congress-NCP Government of Maharashtra had passed an order to investigate into every case of Muslim men marrying Hindu women, alleging a trafficking racket, but had to withdraw this probe in the face of protest.

The Kerala State DGP has submitted a report to the Kerala HC declaring that there is no evidence of any ‘Love Jehad’ movement anywhere in the country. Karnataka’s Dakshina Kanada district police has also busted the myth of ‘Love Jehad.’ Recently when Anitha (22) went missing in June this year, Sangh Parivar organisations claimed that she was forcibly converted to Islam by a Pakistan-backed, professional ‘jehadist lover’. The police, however, established that Anitha was poisoned to death by Mohan Kumar, a serial killer arrested on October 21, who allegedly confessed to having murdered her and robbed 17 other women by luring them with offers of marriage. A top police official told an English daily: “By cracking the Anitha case, we hoped to put an end to this ‘Love Jehad’ controversy once and for all….certain fundamentalist groups that have been carrying out vigilante attacks against inter-community couples for several years have now started using the ‘Love Jehad’ theory to justify their attacks.”

Let us recall that in innumerable cases of inter caste/inter religious marriages, where the girl has voluntarily married, her parents have falsely accused her of being an “abducted”, “brainwashed” minor, and have pressurized her into denying the relationship. Nari Niketans in every city are full of adult women imprisoned for months because their parents have accused them of being minors; the Nari Niketans separate the women from their husbands but freely allow their own parents to meet and coerce them. In the Nitish Katara case and Rizwanur Rehman case, the girls (Bharati Yadav and Priyanka Todi) eventually refused to complain against their fathers and brothers, even after overwhelming evidence that their lovers had been killed or forced to commit suicide in cold-blood. The Kerala and Karnataka HCs has absolutely no right to order adult women to stay with their parents; statements taken by such women in forced parental custody are certain to be taken under coercion, and the Courts are highly irresponsible to make such statements the basis for sweeping orders that perpetuate communal myths without a shred of evidence. Such “enquiries” into every marriage of a Hindu man with a Muslim woman – be it by Courts or the Maharashtra Government –violate the Constitutional right to privacy and choice in matters of marriage, enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution, and upheld by numerous Supreme Court verdicts.

Let us also remember that the Sangh Parivar leader Babu Bajrangi of Gujarat boasts of having ‘rescued’ thousands of women who have married outside the caste or community, and forced them to give up their husbands. Sadhvi Pragya’s organization too used to indulge in the same activity. And the Sri Ram Sene in the Dakshin Kanada district has indulged in innumerable attacks on Muslim and Hindu women who befriend each other – one young 15-year old schoolgirl even committed suicide after public humiliation by the Sene. The Courts’ observations provide a shot in the arm for the Sri Ram Senes and Babu Bajrangis – they can now claim their attacks on women are acts of ‘nationalism.’ We wonder why neither the Courts never pass orders to ban Khaap panchayats and the Sri Ram Sene; why Courts never order enquiries into suspected cases of honour killing, but the same Courts are so eager to fan up communal and anti-women flames by making irresponsible comments about ‘Love Jehad’?

‘Love Jehad’ is a communal fantasy – a new pretext to attack the freedom of women to love and marry by choice, and to witch-hunt Muslim men. In the name of ‘Love Jehad,’ every Rizwan-ur-rehman can be branded a terrorist; every Priyanka’s right to choose can be denied on the grounds that she is ‘brain-washed’ by jehadis; every police officer as well as every Pramod Muthalik justified in harassing the Rizwans and Priyankas in the name of ‘national security.’

Women all over the country will certainly defy and resist any attempt – be it by Court or any government to police their freedom, or to bring their loves and marriages, irrespective of community, under any scanner.

Kavita Krishnan is Secretary, All India Progressive Women's Association - AIPWA. She can be contacted at kavitakrish73@gmail.com

19 October, 2009

A book that exposes ‘the real actors behind Islamic terrorism’

“Who Killed Karkare? — The real face of terrorism in India” is the title of a book, written by S.M. Mushrif, a former senior police officer.

The publishers claim that, for the first time, it probes deep into "Islamic terrorism" in India. Of particular interest is the book's detailed study of the 26/11 attack on Mumbai during which Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare was killed.

From the back cover of the book: “Political violence, or terrorism, by State as well as by non-State actors has a long history in India. The allegation that sections of and individual Indian Muslims indulged in “terrorism” surfaced for the first time with the ascent of the Hindutva forces in mid-1990s and became state policy with the BJP’s coming to power at the Centre. With even “secular” media joining the role as stenographers of security agencies, this became an accepted fact so much so that common Indians and even many Muslims started believing in this false propaganda.”

Mushrif, a former officer with a distinguished career that included unearthing the Telgi scam, peeps behind the propaganda screen, using material mostly in the public domain as well as his long police experience. It comes out with some startling facts and analysis, the first of its kind, to expose the real actors behind the so-called “Islamic terrorism” in India whose greatest feat was to murder the Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare who dared to expose these forces and paid with his life for his courage and commitment to truth. While unearthing the conspiracy behind the murder of Karkare, this book takes a hard look at some of the major incidents attributed to “Islamic terrorism” in India and finds them baseless.

The book, published by Pharos Media Publishing Pvt Ltd, is priced Rs 300/US$25.

The publishers can be contacted at books@pharosmedia.com

15 October, 2009

Human Rights film festival in solidarity with Irom Sharmila

About 140 organizations have given a call to initiate solidarity actions on the eve of the tenth year of the hunger fast by Sharmila Irom against the rule of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur state.

Protests, one-day symbolic fasts, film festivals, posters, letters to the Chief Minister of Manipur and Prime Minister as well as solidarity poems by students in different parts are being planned in many places. The central idea behind the campaign is to support not just Sharmila Irom’s demand to repeal AFSPA in Manipur. Ultimately, there is a need to remove such repressive laws wherever they are in place, in the entire north east, Jammu and Kashmir, Chattisgarh, etc. We believe that collective action by all organizations who have come forward to support Sharmila Irom’s demand has the power to change the authoritarian character of the Indian state.

Many groups have expressed an interest in organizing film festivals on human rights in solidarity with Sharmila Irom during the period November 2-6, 2009. We have put together a package of relevant films which can be made available to any group that is interested in organizing such an effort.
For getting copies of films, place a request on insafdelhi@gmail.com and solidarity@manipurfreedom.org with your programme details. Packages will be couriered to you from following address:

INSAF national secretariat 124-A/6, First Floor, Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi-110016 Ph: +91-11-65663958, Telefax:+91-11-26517814 E-mail: insafdelhi@gmail.com

Please send your announcements and reports of your actions to solidarity@manipurfreedom.org so that they can be viewed by a larger audience.

The following documentary films are available:

Soldiers in Sarong: By Lokendra Arambam. Duration – 45 minutes Abstract – “sarong” -women traditional wear. Manipur, a small state in north east India is in deep political and social turmoil. The impact of armed conflict and the confrontation between the State and Non state actors were most acutely felt by the women. Their lives are testimony to the impact of violence on traditional societies forced into the painful threshold of modernity.

Tales from the margin: By Kavita Joshi. English. Duration - 23 minutes Abstract – A travel to the remote, strife torn corner of India. It documents the extraordinary protest of Manipuri women for justice. The film also focus on the everyday lives of women and human tragedies in Manipur ( India) .

Sharmila – the iron lady: CNN- IBN A 30 minute story on Iron Sharmila. Her struggle and the cycle of violence in the State of Manipur by a Delhi based national media – CNN- IBN
True lies in Manipur: CNN- IBN 30 minutes story on the fake encounter in July 23, 2009 and the aftermath of the expose.

Redefining Peace: By K.P Sasi Duration – 58 Minutes Abstract - 1000 women were nominated for the 2005 Nobel peace prize by net work of women movements and organizations across the globe. Of which 91 women were from India. The film tells the story of the struggle and contribution of these 91 women, who in their own ways redefine the definition of Peace. Sharmila Irom is one among the list.

Jashn-e-azadi (How we celebrate freedom): By Sanjay Kak Duration - 138 minutes Amidst the everyday violence and ever-present fear in Kashmir, there are no easy answers to such questions. Where truth has been an early victim, all language, speech, poetry, even cinema, becomes inadequate to describe what we know and feel here. So we reshape our curiosity, and point ourselves at what we can see, what we are allowed to see

Development flows from the barrel of the Gun: By B. Toppo and Meghnath Duration - 55 miniutes. This film presents and examines orchestrated state violence against indigenous and local peoples when they protest against development projects on their lands. The film strengthen their thesis by documenting examples from all over India – Orissa, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh.

Prisoners of Conscience: Zameer ke Bandi (1978, 45 mins, B&W) On political prisoners in India before, during and after the State of Emergency in 1975-77.

An important historical record of a traumatic period in India's recent political history, PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE focuses on the State of Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi from June 1975 to March 1977. During the Emergency the media was muzzled, over 100,000 people were arrested without charge and imprisoned without trial. But political prisoners existed before the Emergency, and they continue to exist even after it is over.

14 October, 2009

Raise your voice against military offensive in tribal areas

The following is a joint statement issued by the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a national platform of Adivasi and forest dwellers' mass organizations from ten States:

The Campaign for Survival and Dignity unequivocally condemns the reported plans for a military “offensive” by the government in the country's major forest and tribal areas. This offensive, ostensibly targeted against the CPI (Maoist), is a smoke screen for an assault against the people, especially adivasis, aimed at suppressing all dissent, all resistance and engineering the takeover of their resources. Certain facts make this clear:

• The government tells us that this offensive will make it possible for the “state to function” in these areas and fill the “vacuum of governance.” This is grossly misleading. The Indian state is very, very active in these areas, often in its most brutal and violent form. A vivid example is the illegal eviction of more than 3,00,000 families by the Forest Departments a few years ago. Laws have been totally disregarded; Constitutional protections for adivasi rights blatantly ignored and their rights over water, forest and land (jal, jangal, jamin) glaringly violated. Every month an increasing number of people are jailed, beaten and killed by the police. If this is the picture of what “absence” of the state means, people are terrified of what the “presence” of the state will mean. It can only mean converting brutalized governance into militarized rule, a total negation of democracy.

• This is not a war over “development.” People's struggles in India today are over democracy and dignity - Meaningful development must contribute to strengthening the right of all people to their resources and their production, and thereby to control over their own destiny. For generations, adivasis have fought for their Constitutional rights and entitlements. More recently, mass democratic movements have fought for new laws and policies, such as the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA), the Forest Rights Act, the right to work and the right to food, in addition to earlier laws like the Minimum Wages Act, the Restoration of Alienated Lands Acts, and land reform and moneylending laws. These laws make it possible for people to fight for greater control over their lives, their livelihoods, their lands and their forests. However these laws are respected more in the breach; if the government wants “development”, let it first stop the blatant disregard of its own laws. Let people determine the path of their own development, in accordance with their rights over their resources and the type of infrastructure they desire. The Constitution itself requires this kind of planning. The claim that “development” can be provided through military force is both absurd and ridiculous.

• This war is not about “national security”; it is about ‘securing’ the interests of global and Indian capital and big business. Any government worried about security would send its troops against mining mafias, the forest mafias, violent vigilante groups like the salwa judum and others. Rather than being curbed, these killers are in fact supported by the police. Have the security forces ever been deployed to defend the people struggling to protect themselves, their forests, their livelihoods and their futures? The answer is no. The notion of “security” being advanced by the government clearly has nothing to do with the people. Rather, it is to enable big business to engage in robbery and expropriation of resources, which they have decided will be one of their main sources of accumulation. Hence, mining, “infrastructure”, real estate, land grabbing, all aimed at super-profits, are being projected as “development” needed by the people. Huge amounts of international and government money are being pumped into so-called “forestry projects” which displace people from their lands and destroy biodiversity (even while they are trumpeted as a strategy for climate change). The UPA is rushing into agreements with the US and other imperial countries to throw open mining and land to international exploitation. But where do the forests, land, water and minerals lie? They are found in the forest and tribal areas, where people - some organised under the CPI (Maoist), some organized under democratic movements, some in spontaneous local struggles, some simply fighting in whatever manner they can – are resisting the destruction of their homes, resources and their lives. The “offensive against the Maoists” is only a subterfuge to crush this citizens’ resistance and to provide an excuse for more abuse of power, more brutality and more injustice.

• The government knows perfectly well that it cannot destroy the CPI (Maoist), or any people's struggle, through military action. How can the armed forces identify who is a “Maoist” and who is not? The use of brute military force will result in the slaughter of thousands of people in prolonged, bloody and brutal guerrilla warfare. This has been the result of every “security offensive” in India's history from Kashmir to Nagaland. So why do this? And why now? Unless the goal has nothing to do with “wiping out the Maoists” and everything to do with having an excuse for the permanent presence of lakhs of troops, arms and equipment in these areas. To protect and serve whom?

• Hence the need for fear mongering and hysteria about Maoist “sympathisers” and their “infiltration” into “civil society.” The government has a very long history of labeling any form of dissent as “Naxalite” or “Maoist.” The Maoists' politics are known; their positions are public; the only secret aspect of their work is their personal identities and military tactics. We who work in these areas do not fear this bogey of “infiltration” in our groups by Maoists, for the different stands taken by our organizations and theirs are clear, and in some areas there are open disputes. This scaremongering is just an excuse to justify a crackdown on all forms of dissent and democratic protest in these areas, a crushing of all people's resistance, and the branding of any questioning, any demand for justice, as “Maoist.”

In the final analysis, peace and justice will only come to India's workers, peasants, adivasis, dalits and other oppressed sections through the mass democratic struggle of the people. A democratic struggle requires democratic space. The conversion of a region into a war zone, by anyone, is unacceptable. In the forest areas in particular, there is now a need for a new peace, one that can only be achieved through a genuine democratic dialogue between the political forces involved. For this to happen, this horrific “offensive” must first be called off. If the government really wishes to claim that it is committed to protecting people and their rights, let its actions comply with the requirements of law, justice and democracy.

The following are members of the Campaign for Survival and Dignity:
Bharat Jan Andolan, National Front for Tribal Self Rule, Jangal Adhikar Sangharsh Samiti (Mah), Adivasi Mahasabha (Guj), Adivasi Jangal Janjeevan Andolan (D&NH), Jangal Jameen Jan Andolan (Raj), Madhya Pradesh Jangal Jeevan Adhikar Bachao Andolan, Jan Shakti Sanghatan (Chat), Peoples Alliance for Livelihood Rights, Chattisgarh Mukti Morcha, Orissa Jan Sangharsh Morcha, Campaign for Survival & Dignity (Ori), Orissa Jan Adhikar Morcha, Adivasi Aikya Vedike (AP), Campaign for Survival and Dignity – TN, Bharat Jan Andolan (Jhar).

12 October, 2009

A Facebook tragedy

Kathleen Mary O’Brien, an American national, was found dead on Sunday in the Kolkata flat of Rohan Prakash Yellore, whom she had befriended on Facebook, according to a report in The Hindu.

The newspaper’s reporter, Ananya Dutta quoted a police officer as saying, “Since there are no injuries on the body, it is believed that she may have died of cardiac arrest, but we are waiting for the post-mortem report before we ruled out any foul play.”

06 October, 2009

Call to stop multinational’s field trial of genetically modified corn in MP

The Coalition for Genetically Modified (GM) Free Madhya Pradesh has written to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan to intervene and stop the field trial being conducted by the American multinational company Monsanto in Jabalpur. The following is the text of the letter, which has been circulated by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong:

Respected Chief Minister,

A prominent newspaper had recently carried a detailed story on the field trial of a Genetically Modified (GM) Corn of the American multinational company Monsanto being conducted in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. Your respected self might be aware of the serious concerns that many nations and citizens across the world have, with regard to GM technology in our food and farming.

Based on a permission letter issued by the Department of Biotechnology’s RCGM on 19th June 2009 (Ltr No.BT/BS/17/44/97-PID) for an open air trial of Monsanto’s transgenic corn hybrid (HiShell and 900M Gold containing MON 89034 event and NK603 event), a Jabalpur institute (National Research Centre for Weed Science) had gone ahead with the planting of this GM corn trial in Jabalpur.

We have several serious concerns with regard to this trial in terms of its need, biosafety issues and the corporation for which this trial is being conducted (Monsanto is the world’s largest seed company and it is to further the commercial interests of this corporation that this trial is being conducted).

1. We question the very need for this herbicide-tolerant, pest-resistant GM technology that is being tried out here: Herbicide tolerance trait inserted into our agricultural crops would mean that millions of poor agricultural workers will not find employment through de-weeding, one of the main sources of employment in rural India today. It does not make sense for the State to decimate existing employment opportunities in agriculture and then increase the state financing burden with regard to programmes like NREGA. Herbicide tolerance might be a technology suitable for countries like the USA, where only 2% of the population live off farming, but not for India.

When it comes to traits like insect resistance through Bt crops, it is obvious that this is not a sustainable solution since the pests will develop resistance to the Bt pesticide now being produced from within the plant and that pest management cannot rest on Bt genes being inserted in all our crops! There are hundreds of practices that are safer, affordable and natural that can be used by farmers to control pests in their farming and there are lakhs of farmers who are successfully proving it on the ground too. In such a case, where is the need for this technology in the first instance?

2. GM technology is known to cause various health impacts: Genetic Engineering or Genetic Modification is a technology that involves the insertion of foreign genes, most often, into our agricultural crops so that new traits that do not exist in the crop before could be obtained with this technology. However, given that many changes are brought about at the molecular level due to such forcible insertion of genetic material from elsewhere, the results are unpredictable and hazardous. Worse, given that we are talking about seeds which contain their own life within, this becomes an irreversible technology once released into the environment – the seeds that grow into plants have a self-propagating mechanism thereafter and are therefore, uncontrollable.

GM foods, in various experimental studies, have been shown to cause adverse health effects like allergies, impaired immune systems, damage to vital organs like kidneys, liver and pancreas, affecting and stunting growth and development, affecting reproductive health and causing infertility and even bringing about inter-generational impacts. Given the evidence that exists of such adverse impacts on our health with GM foods, a precautionary approach should be deployed on this technology and no deliberate release of any GMOs into our environment should be allowed.

3. Herbicides will leave their adverse impacts on our health too: In addition to the evidence on adverse health impacts due to the technology of genetic engineering, there is a growing body of evidence that shows the adverse impacts of chemical herbicides like Glyphosate on our health including on reproductive health. An increase of chemicals in our farming is not desirable at all from a health and environment perspective and we are sure you would agree on this, Sir.

4. Monsanto is a seed corporation known for its anti-farmer policies: Monsanto is known to have criminalized farmers in America for saving their own seeds. The company is reported to have sued and jailed many farmers for this “crime” of “saving their own seeds”. This company is known to have bribed officials to get regulatory clearances for its GM crop elsewhere and is known to have suppressed biosafety information from public scrutiny. A recent documentary from France has documented the antecedents of this giant corporation seeking more and more profits and has shown that Monsanto controls the regulatory bodies in the USA through systems like “revolving doors”. This profit-hungry corporation, which is reported to have announced that “No food shall be grown that we don’t own”, has also been seen to have avoided accountability and liability time and again through a variety of strategies including using Indian corporations and public sector agencies as the front. Why should such an anti-farmer profiteering company be allowed to advance its commercial interests through hazardous technologies in the state of Madhya Pradesh?

5. No SBCC that is functional: The newspaper report about this field trial on 3rd September clearly shows that the state administration is not aware of this trial and this is a violation of the Environment Protection Act’s 1989 Rules. The State Biotechnology Coordination Committee is obviously not functional and is not overseeing the trial as the law requires it to.

6. Contamination from such trials is inevitable: The fact that illegal Bt Cotton proliferated in this country on thousands of acres much before a formal approval was provided by the regulators and the fact that a GM rice trial a few months ago in Jharkhand is found to have contaminated rice plants in the vicinity of the trial are testimonies to the fact that contamination (both physical and biological) from such open air trials are inevitable and therefore, the MP government should step in to stop such trials from taking place in its jurisdiction.

7. Agriculture and Health are state subjects: The Constitution of India vests the state governments with rights and responsibilities over two very important subjects concerning their citizens: Agriculture and Health. Other states have exercised such a constitutional right and responsibility by disallowing GM crop trials and cultivation in their state. A prominent example includes Kerala which has declared itself a GM-Free and Organic state. Madhya Pradesh government, under your dynamic leadership should take such a stand too, in pursuance of the authority vested by the Constitution of India.

8. Madhya Pradesh as an Organic State: You had announced that Madhya Pradesh would be converted into an organic state which would keep the natural resources of the state free from erosion, degeneration and contamination even as livelihoods of farmers and farm workers would improve through increase in their net incomes and their health. We welcome this approach of the state government and strongly support this initiative which would assure safe and abundant food for all in a sustainable manner. However, organic and GM cultivation are contradictory to each other in their philosophical and technical frameworks and therefore, GM cultivation should be disallowed in the state. Further, formal (certified) organic farming does not allow the presence of GM in its standards.

Moreover, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has in its manifesto clearly laid down the potential of Indian traditional farming and had taken an express stand against approvals of GM crops in the country without full scientific data on long term effects and this precisely what is missing right now in India even as field trials are being allowed which pose a distinct threat of contamination and irreversible leakage of seeds as has been seen in the case of Bt Cotton. The BJP in its manifesto had promised to promote nature-friendly cultivation, even as you had assured to free farmers from the burden of mounting debts (through intensive farming models).

It is in this context that we hope that you would concede to the demand of farmers’ organizations, people’s movements, consumers and other civil society organizations to immediately intervene with regard to the GM Corn trial of Monsanto being conducted in open air conditions in Jabalpur and stop it. Further, we request you to announce a policy of making Madhya Pradesh free of GM crops/foods in keeping with your overall agricultural policy.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Coalition for GM Free Madhya Pradesh
C/0 Sampark, Village Raipurai, Petlavad Block, Jhabua District,
Madhya Pradesh, INDIA
0952532922,
ndesai52@gmail.com

Copy: National Commission on Farmers

03 October, 2009

South Asian organizations must be more active against caste-based discrimination

Human rights organizations working against caste-based discrimination in the region must engage in debates on the need for a comprehensive UN framework to tackle caste- based discrimination and should encourage affected governments to support such initiative at the UN level. This is the response from the Asian Human Rights Commission and The International Dalit Solidarity Network to the recent media attention following a parallel meeting at the 12th session of the Human Rights Council.

There have been several attempts by institutions, for instance the UN, to address the problem of caste internationally. However, there have so far been very few effective interventions to address caste based discrimination internationally owing to political pressure and regional dynamics.

International attempts to recognise caste discrimination as a human rights violation have been 'diplomatically softened' owing to objections mostly by governments, particularly by the Government of India. Of particular relevance is the objection by India to consider caste based discrimination as a form of blatant human rights violation coming within the sweep of international instruments, for instance, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh are parties to this convention.

Of the five countries, India has remained the most active opponent of having caste-based discrimination included within the scope of the ICERD. The convention in its sweep, however, cover caste-based discrimination as a form of human rights violation based on descent. India's leading role in lobbying states against this view has been a subject of criticism within India.

On September 16 however, Nepal broke the ranks of states opposing the consideration of caste based discrimination as a serious human rights violation within the sweep of international human rights law. In a parallel event organized at the UN in Geneva, sponsored by The International Movement against all forms of Discrimination and Racism and co-sponsored by Human Rights Watch, Anti-Slavery International, Minority Rights Group International, The Lutheran World Federation, The World Council of Churches and Pax Romana/ICMICA in association with the International Dalit Solidarity Network, Nepal's State Minister for Ministry of General Administration, Mr. Jeet Bahadur Darjee Gautam said that his county welcomed the idea that the proposed draft principles and guidelines sponsored by the UN, would augment collective efforts of the international community, regional and international mechanisms, the UN and its organs, international civil society and the private sector to contribute to the elimination of caste based discrimination. The proceedings of the event and ensuing debates are available here.

Soon an article appeared in The Times of India titled 'UN set to treat caste as human rights violation'. While the article is slightly misleading, since caste-based discrimination is already considered as a form of human rights violation in international law, it speaks about the possibility of Government of India's objections of bringing caste-based discrimination as a subject for international debate, especially at the UN. In addition, the BBC World Service aired a 50 minute live radio debate on caste discrimination on September 29. A BBC blog has been established to debate further on this issue. This has created a vigorous debate on the internationalization of the issue of caste-based discrimination with contributions from all over the world. Another interesting debate is taking place on the Readers' Opinions page of The Times of India.

The response by the Government of India regarding this debate is eagerly awaited. But chances are, instead of viewing caste from a wrong point of view as a tool for 'Indian bashing' the government will show its maturity by contributing positively towards addressing the centuries-old practice of caste based discrimination. India's Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has repeatedly expressed his view, that he and his government condemn caste based discrimination.

On September 7, Dr. Singh while inaugurating a new scheme intended for the Scheduled Castes in India, the Pradhanmantri Aadarsh Gram Yojna, said that much more need to be done at the domestic level on prevention of manual scavenging and the rehabilitation of manual scavengers. Manual scavenging is an evil practice in India rooted in caste based discrimination, where members of the Dalit communities are forced to work as manual scavengers.

While waiting for a response from other states in the region, particularly India, regarding the debate triggered off by the statement made by Mr. Jeet Bahadur Darjee Gautam on September 16, it is important for human rights organisations working against caste based discrimination in the region to make use of the new momentum to engage in debates against caste based discrimination. Such participation will further encourage the Government of India to take a positive position on the issue and support the initiative at the UN.

Caste discrimination – in context

Caste based discrimination is one of the worst forms of human rights violation known to humans. The widely accepted period of the origin of the inhuman practice dates back at least three thousand years. It is still actively practiced in societies following religious hierarchy, particularly among the Hindus. For this reason, the practice is mostly concentrated in regions influenced by the Hindu religion, in particular, countries like India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

The concept of caste is stratification of society based on purity of origin and thus duties defined by birth to a particular caste group. It is a defining tool to cast obligatory duty on people that could not be taken away. The worst form of discrimination in caste is the practice of untouchability. Those who are worst affected by caste based discrimination are the members of the lowest group in the Brahminical hierarchy, including those considered to be outside the four Varna system of caste. This large group, more known as Dalits, is estimated to be slightly more than 250 million in number globally.

The closest comparison to discrimination based on caste is slavery. Caste based discrimination is however worse than slavery. This argument is crystallised in Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's statement comparing caste and slavery when he said, "either slavery nor untouchability is a free social order. But if a distinction is made, and there is no doubt that there is distinction between the two, the test is whether education, virtue, happiness, culture and wealth is possible within slavery or within untouchability. Judged by this test it is beyond controversy that slavery is hundred times better than untouchability. In slavery there is room for education, virtue, happiness, culture or wealth. In untouchability there is none". Dr. Ambedkar is the father of the Indian constitution.

Within India, there have been continuous attempts to address the problem of caste based discrimination. For instance, the practice of untouchability is prohibited in the constitution. The Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 criminalises untouchability, social ostracism based on caste and various other forms of caste based discrimination. The courts in India have also on several occasions adjudicated issues based on caste, often in favour of the Dalits and other lower caste groups. However, the practice of caste based discrimination still continues in India.

Source: AHRC

02 October, 2009

District administration bans communal harmony programme at Ayodhya

The following is a statement issued by Sandeep Pandey and four others:

Ayodhya ki Awaz and Asha Parivar were to organize a Sarva Dharma Sadhbhav Sammelan like every year on the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti. This time the programme was scheduled to be held on October 1 at Ram-Janki Mandir, of which Jugul Kishore Shashtriji is the Mahant. But the Faizabad district administration cooked up a false allegation that a CD containing the controversial Gorakhpur MP Yogi Adityanath's speech was going to be screened at the programme and banned the programme itself.

Jugul Kishore Shashtri was taken by the police to the Pura Kalandar police station, 30 km from Ayodhya, so that he could not organize the programme in any way. The decision of the organizers was that if permission for the outdoor programme was not given then a meeting should be held indoors without a loudspeaker.

Members from Christian, Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu communities had assembled from various places at Shashtriji's temple to take part in the programme as in previous years. Ayodhay ki Awaz, Asha Parivar and NAPM have been organizing programmes every January 30, October 2 and December 6 in Ayodhya to strengthen the forces in favour of communal harmony and peace. Just last month (on September 24) Shashtriji had oranized an Id-milan programme in Faizabad.

A former District Magistrate, Amod Kumar, has even participated in some of the programmes of Ayodhya ki Awaz. But this time the district administration showed its communal colour and based on a false charge banned the programme and detained Shashtriji for the entire day. Shashtri was released in the evening.

We strongly condemn this act of the district administration of Faizabad to gag the right to expression and indirectly favour the communal forces.

Sandeep Pandey,
Faisal Khan,
Father Anand,
Father Baptist,
Bhante Tejankar Deep

Ayodhya, October 1, 2009

Note:
Jugul Kishore Shashtri may be contacted at 0-9451730269
Sandeep Pandey may be contacted at

01 October, 2009

India needs an independent-minded news and analysis channel

By TREVOR SELVAM
Countercurrents.org

For the past several years I have watched -- with some amusement, some intrigue and some sneaking admiration -- the avaricious style of India’s advent into the CNN and SkyNews style of journalism.

I say avaricious, because Indians like to eat up everything they can watch, feel or hear. Like ice cream. If they could, they would eat up a flat panel TV set, right off the wall mounting, with cable, bolts and everything. Including Arnab Goswami, while he would be carrying on his mendacious, Fox-style blather.

India needs an independent-minded new channel. I am emphasizing the word Minded, because there is a wealth of minds in India, who are not being interviewed, asked to comment on critical issues.

Indians love two phrases to describe themselves. One is the collective version of Me, Me, Me Too-ism (more like Us too-ism), which drives most TV anchors to emulate a mode that makes a mockery of mimicry itself. We can do it too! Whatever they do, we will do also!

The problem is that neither CNN, nor Skynews, nor MSNBC are symbolic of any sober journalistic standards. The BBC, somewhat abstemious and even pious by contrast, is after all a preserver of a post-colonial dignity in the face of American trashiness. If there is any news and analysis channel that stands out for putting out sober, dignified and reflective journalism, it is Al Jazeera. And Indian journalists are not looking at Al Jazeera for inspiration, for sure.

In my columns before, I have stated my admiration for the significantly serious journalism of Al Jazeera. Al Jazeera sends out its correspondents to the farthest corners of the world, to investigate the conditions people live in. From the remotest mountains in the Andes, the forest of the Amazons, to the backwaters of Louisiana and to the Uighur areas of China. Al Jazeera even does a report on Kolkata rickshaw pullers, which one would be hard pressed to find on an Indian channel. Their journalists are extraordinarily articulate, nuanced and non-partisan. They also handle all the hot potato items one can imagine, being based in an Islamic country.

And the other phrase is “We are like that only!” The latter is used, when glaring contradictions in behaviour, in consumption patterns, in national key statistics regarding poverty, literacy, the violence of the police forces are compared to India’s recent stratospheric conquests and claims to apostolic notions of non-violence. “We are like that only.” In other words, take us for what we are. Complex, unexplainable, contradictory and fitting right into the mould of the exotic and the mysterious--an enigma and a stereotype that is beyond classification.

Well, that enigma is actually turning out to be tattered at the edges, quite flaky, quite dangerous and quite an affront to the majority of India’s population that live in that swathe of the country that is beginning to be called the Naxalite corridor. This corridor has India’s best sources of water and therefore power, mining resources, precious metals and ah yes! The aboriginal people of India live here. With the Dalits, they are one fourth of India’s population. Has anybody figured out what would happen if these people got really mad and energized, because they have finally found someone who will fight with them? Urban India better start figuring things out soon.

Indians like the boom-bang, dhoom-dhamaka style of journalism. The journalism that combines doe-eyed twenty-five year old journalists asking seemingly penetrating questions about nothing, to incoherent reporters in the field, while in the background, war-drum like sounds continue with swishy computer graphics that fly in and out in accompaniment with the sound track. The reporters themselves have gone from the realm of hard core comedy to an outright parody of live journalism..

The latest was when while reporting on Lalgarh, a young journalist in a near panic stricken voice kept asking his cameramen to zoom in on a forest in the distance saying “anytime the Maoists could come out from there and anytime I could be stepping on a mine. That is how dangerous it is.” Meanwhile an Adivasi man sauntered by the camera with a tangi ( the double edged curved hatchet that Adivasis have used forever) resting on his shoulders and very casually sidestepping a distraught looking CRPF soldier who was staring into the jungle in the distance.

Suddenly, we have a generation of people using the new media, who have not been exposed to the facts of India’s political history, pre-independence and post-independence. If these journalists do not know who Bhagat Singh or Khudiram were and why they were executed by the British Empire, if they do not know anything about the Santhal rebellion and Sidhu and Kanu, if they do not know what happened in Telengana and Tebhaga, long before Naxalbari, how can they ask the right questions about what is happening in Lalgarh?

The government of India has cleverly planted the debates in the media. So, for a while the Indian nation will be discussing development first or law and order, first? So there is the KPS Gill and CPI(M)/BJP school of parliamentary intellectualism that will insist on the rule of law. And then the ruling Congress will come out swinging and looking good, saying “Uh! Uh! We will not call in the Army on the Maoists! It is a development problem and we shall bring in the water, the schools, and the clinics and by the way we are mopping up the Maoists alongside.”

So, the debate of whether the Government of India should be “development centric” or “security centric” will meander along into an insipid ending and quietly the paramilitary operations will proceed with ruthless speed. And the TV anchormen and women will hum and haw and go on to the next debate, which could be on the topic of “Corruption in the Police” or some other insanely hackneyed issue.

Other than the newsmagazine Tehelka, it seems none of the mainstream news journals select particularly intelligent reporters, brief them accurately, when they send them out to missions in the interiors of India. Tehelka tends to go far beyond newspeak. They provide researched and investigated data. They seem to be away from bombastic soundbytes.

Shoma Choudhury, writing in the October 3 issue of Tehelka Magazine states the following --“Over this past year, the Home Ministry has been planning a major armed offensive against the Naxals, particularly in Chhattisgarh. According to reports, the plan involves stationing around 75,000 troops in the heartland of India — including special CRPF commandos, the ITBP and the BSF. Scattered newspaper accounts have spoken of forces being withdrawn from Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast; there is also talk of bringing in the feared Rashtriya Rifles — a battalion created specially for counter-insurgency work — and the purchase of bomb trucks, bomb blankets, bomb baskets, and sophisticated new weaponry.” (Please take the time to read Shoma Choudhury at http://www.tehelka.com/story_
main42.asp?filename=Ne031009coverstory.asp
)

Something big is afoot in India and none of the TV channels are talking about it. The Government of India is withdrawing forces from everywhere and getting set to attack its own people in its heartland area and nobody is talking about it? How can this be?

When Mr. Kobad Gandhy, the Maoist leader was recently arrested, an epidemic of sensationalist articles appeared discussing his pedigree, his jovial mannerisms, his Doon school education etc and then there was a dumbfounded notion of how a well-to-do Parsee family could produce a Naxalite? Well, wake up! Because 40 years ago, almost 80% of the Naxalites came from well-to-do or middle class families and invariably all had solid educational backgrounds..

Why don’t Indian news channels discuss violence? I am talking about the violence perpetrated by 62 years of Independence that still leaves 53% of India’s population below the poverty line? The violence of malnutrition, hunger, infanticide, femicide, where India rules the world in statistics? Do Indian journalists like Vikram Chandra have the balls to rise to the occasion and demand a discussion on the violence of the state? Of course not!

I have never seen any journalism anywhere in the world, where such a large mass movement of aboriginal first-nation peoples are seen by the mainstream media with such racist distance and only in terms of incidents, party statements, interviews and dailyspeak.

What India needs is a renaissance in the realm of journalism and intellectual analysis. Folks who have been there and done it all, who are professionals, doctors, lawyers, journalists, engineers, artists, judges (especially those who were witness to the carnage in the 60s and 70s) to step forward and make that climb over the hump and point out that horizon that is beyond this Karat-Biman Bose-Montek-Chidambaran-BJP world.

India needs an independent voice, an independent network and the class who can finance it. Yes, a nationalist bourgeoisie would be good. People who have a soul, have a mind and wish to contribute their resources to an India that will really shine! Because no matter how many articles we write, how many letters we sign, Indians are already in the newsbyte snapshot evening news and blackberry breaking news mode and unless you have a restrained analytical feature programming channel, Indian TV journalism remains in the dark ages with a lot of techno features and sound effects but no light, no investigative ability when it comes to the political terrain of India. One must ask ourselves why that is so? Are they afraid of the Indian government?

Trevor Selvam is a freelance journalist, based in Chennai. He can be reached at trevorselvam@yahoo.in