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

27 February, 2010

Eighth anniversary of Gujarat genocide

This weekend, February 27-28, 2010 marks the eighth anniversary of the genocide in Gujarat.

The victim-survivors and Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and other legal support groups are commemorating the occasion with prayers at Gulberg Society, Meghaninagar, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sunday, February 28.

CJP Secretary Teesta Setalvad says the victim-survivors’ struggle is at a crucial stage. In October 2009 they had approached the Supreme Court pointing out grave failures on the investigations by the Special Investigation Team. The petition is coming up for hearing on March 15.

In an Open Letter, the victim-survivors have appealed to the public to “lend your voice to our struggle”.

The text of the appeal can be accessed here.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/27563629/Lend-Your-Voice-to-Our-Struggle

24 February, 2010

Threats to human rights defenders in India undermine democracy



JITEN YUMNAM
. Picture courtesy bajanreporter.blogspot.com/2009/09/damon-corr.

The following is a written statement submitted to the UN Human Rights Council by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, Hong Kong, which has a general consultative status with the Council:

Mr. Jiten Yumnam is a human rights defender (HRD) and environmental activist working in the Indian state of Manipur. On 14 September 2009, the police arrested Jiten along with seven others in Manipur, in connection with First Information Report 178 (9)/2009 registered at Imphal West Police Station. After arrest the police tortured Jiten by applying electric shock on his genitals.

They produced Jiten in court the next day and requested the court to extend his custody for 20 days, which the court allowed. The court ordered Jiten to be examined by a doctor. The examination confirmed that he was tortured in custody. This did not deter the police as they continued torturing Jiten until he was released on January 7, 2010. At the time of release, the government withdrew all charges against Jiten.

The reason why the police arrested Jiten is that he was one of several leaders of a protest movement in Manipur, demanding an independent inquiry into the extrajudicial execution of two persons on July 23, 2009. On that day, officers of the Manipur State Police Commando Unit shot dead the two persons in full public view in the state capital. The incident was photographed and later published in the media.

The UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions has reportedly written to the government requesting an impartial investigation into the incident. The public in Manipur, including Jiten and his colleagues, were demanding the same.

Threats to human rights defenders (HRDs) are not a new or rare phenomenon in India. The Special Representative of the Secretary General on the situation of human rights defenders, Ms. Hina Jilani, expressed concern about increasing threats, intimidation and even murders of HRDs, often with impunity, at the hands of the state, in her report E/CN.4/2006/95/Add.5 on India.

The security of HRDs is increasingly becoming a concern in the country. There are no legislative or institutional frameworks providing effective protection to HRDs in India. Should the country’s justice system function properly, there would be no need for additional measures to provide protection to HRDs.

For instance, the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 mandates that a person can be arrested only when the investigating agency has reasonable suspicion that the person has committed an offense. Upon arrest, the state agency cannot resort to torture, and has to inform the detainee and a person of the detainee's choice about the reason for arrest; the place where the person would be detained; and the court in which the person will be produced within 24 hours as mandated in the Code.

In Jiten's case, nobody was informed why he was arrested, where he would be taken and when he would be produced in court. In fact Jiten was produced in court after the expiry of the 24-hour period. Even though Jiten accused the officers of torturing him, the magistrate merely referred him to a doctor and failed to take any action.

Furthermore, Jiten was charged under the provisions of the draconian National Security Act, 1980. This law has wide-ranging implications. For instance, the government may order the arrest of a citizen under this law if it is of the opinion that the person has to be prevented from acting in any manner prejudicial to the defence of the country, its relations with foreign powers, or its security. Demanding investigation in a case of extrajudicial execution is not a threat to the country, but on the contrary, strengthens its security apparatus.

A person arrested under this law is released from custody often upon advice of an Advisory Board constituted under the law. In Jiten's case, the Board repeatedly refused to advise the release. But when he was released on January 7, not only were the charges under the National Security Law withdrawn but there was no case at all against him at the police station.

The Asian Legal Resource Centre has been informed that the government dropped the charges under instructions from the Home Ministry in New Delhi. A team of civil society activists who visited Manipur after the arrest, met officials in the Ministry upon their return to New Delhi, and expressed concerns about Jiten's arrest, which eventually led to his release. However the ALRC is also aware that the Manipur state government released Jiten only after they had secured a guarantee that the state-wide strike would be called off.

Jiten's case illustrates how a HRD can become the target of the state's arbitrary authority. This is an increasing and widespread pattern, particularly in places where there is acute poverty and indiscriminate state sponsored exploitation of natural resources.

For instance, on October 29, 2009, the Madhya Pradesh state police raided the office of a local human rights organization, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA). The government reportedly wanted to stop a mass protest organized by the NBA in favour of the evictees of the Narmada Dam Project. The police not only violated all procedural laws concerning search, but assaulted HRDs and registered fabricated cases against them. No action was taken against the police officers in this case, as is typical.

It is common for victims of arbitrary detention and torture to not want to press a case against police officers, due to fear of reprisals. In the absence of any form of witness protection, independent investigation agencies and a reasonable timeframe within which cases are tried, pursuing cases against perpetrators is often a risk for victims. In addition, concepts like arbitrary detention and torture are not clearly defined in Indian law.

Domestic mechanisms like the National or State Human Rights Commissions also have no effect against the state in cases involving threats to HRDs. While the government frequently ignores recommendations by the Commission, the Commission itself has demonstrated its lack of seriousness in dealing with human rights cases in recent years.

The deteriorating state of affairs at the Commissions (national and state) is the result of its own working order. To start with, the NHRC has not had a permanent Chairperson for the past one and a half years. Additionally, the Commissions are often construed as a replacement for an investigating/adjudicating agency in lieu of other non-effective state agencies. This creates an enormous workload for the Commissions leading to delays in adjudication, and requires the Commissions to entirely depend upon the same state agencies for their day-to-day functioning.

It is now the practice of the NHRC to dismiss cases entirely depending upon the state governments' report. The ALRC's sister concern, the Asian Human Rights Commission, submits on an average 40 to 60 cases to the Commission each year.

In the past year, the NHRC has repeatedly failed to intervene in serious cases of human rights violations, particularly concerning human rights defenders, casting serious doubt upon its capacity and eligibility to be considered as a national institution of any credible standard. In addition, the NHRC has repeatedly proved that it is completely ineffective in dealing with cases involving draconian laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 and cases involving the army.

Threats to HRDs, as has been repeatedly held by experts, violate a series of rights, such as the freedoms of expression, opinion and association. In addition, as HRDs are the spokesperson of victims, silencing a HRD directly affects and demoralises the victim. What Jiten's case has proven is precisely this. In essence, suppression of human rights work negates democratic norms and vitiates India's treaty obligations.

With the leaders of the protest movement in custody, the government of Manipur temporarily succeeded in silencing the protest. Further, it launched a single-judge inquiry into the July 23 incident. But the conduct of the inquiry, headed by a retired High Court Judge has reduced it into a process where the state government is given an opportunity to find out who took the pictures of the killing and who contacted the media urging them to publish it. Human rights organizations and journalists are of the opinion that the inquiry is to prevent any future reports in the media criticizing the government.

These actions have not only demoralized the general public, but have also provided one more excuse for the underground anti-national militant entities operating in the state to lure persons into their fold. In short, the conduct of the government is more likely to promote violence than prevent it.

In Manipur and in several other parts of India, armed militant groups also pose threats to human rights work.
In Manipur, the armed insurgent groups have, for decades, reduced themselves to mere extortion gangs. In some other parts of the country, the Naxalite and other extremist leftist organizations are regularly attacking the country's institutions as well as its infrastructure and in the process injure and kill innocent persons.

The government is using the presence of the extremist groups as an excuse to counter human rights work. This is shown by Dr. Binayak Sen's case. He is a medical doctor and HRD who was detained for one year. In regions where active human rights groups are working for tribal rights and the right to food, it has become a practice for the government and state agencies to blame HRDs as the supporters of militant movements and detain them or falsely implicate them in crimes.

This prevents the HRDs from approaching the state with confidence concerning human rights issues. The ALRC has documented cases in the past year where HRDs in India were falsely accused of maligning the government after receiving support from external sources and militant organizations.

In addition, the government also sponsors armed private militias, such as the Salwa Judum and/or the village defence forces, a private armed militia sponsored by state governments in Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. This private armed militia not only divides society and forces it into a low intensity armed conflict, but also poses a threat to human rights work since its members act on behalf of the state administration. They are also supported by the state police and in most cases trained by them. The activities of the Salwa Judum and the village defence forces have been criticized by domestic as well as international experts on human rights, including the UN mandate holders.

In this context the ALRC requests the Council to:

1. Request the Government of India to ensure that its agencies will not target HRDs and falsely implicate them in cases;
2. Urge the government to take appropriate action to investigate and punish its agents that tortured Jiten;
3. Find means within the Council to guarantee that governments will not target persons who report human rights concerns to the UN.

What's going on in the Naxal belt?

Here are links to three articles which throw some light on events in the
Naxal-affected areas, circulated by Countercurrents:

Lalgarh - Lalmohan Tudu And Two Others
Murdered By CRPF

by Partho Sarathi Ray

http://www.countercurrents.org/ray230210.htm

The joint forces entered the house of Lalmohan Tudu, senior leader of the People’s Committee Against Police Atrocities (PCAPA), at around 11 pm, while he was preparing to go to bed. He was killed along with two of his relatives, Yubaraj Murmu and Suchitra Murmu, husband and wife. They were murdered in front of his mother, wife and only daughter


The Silda Attack: Understanding The Role Of
The EFR Camp In Reoccupation Strategies

by Sanhati

http://www.countercurrents.org/sanhati230210.htm

There has been a recent attack on a Eastern Frontier Rifles (EFR) camp in Silda in West Midnapur district, West Bengal, in which 24 EFR jawans have lost their lives. It is necessary to examine the function of this particular camp and its relation with local politics, to understand the tactical reasons behind the attack conducted by the Maoists


To Get Away With Murder, Chhattisgarh Style

by Javed Iqbal

http://www.countercurrents.org/iqbal230210.htm


A blow by blow account of the Gompad massacre and its aftermath

22 February, 2010

Human Rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir

The following is the report of an Independent People's Tribunal, consisting of Justice S. Suresh, former Judge, Bombay High Court, Justice Malay Sengupta, former CGI, Sikkim High Court, Justice A. Baruah, former Judge, Calcutta High Court, Professor Kamal Mittra Chenoy, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, Dr. Nusrat Andrabi, former Principal, Government Women’s College, Srinagar, Professor Anuradha Chinoy, Jawahrlal Nehru University, Delhi, and Shujaat Bukhari, senior journalist, Srinagar, organised by the Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) and Act Now for Harmony and Democracy (ANHAD):

Introduction

Since yesterday (February 20), we have been hearing about large scale violations of human rights of the people of this state. We had testimonies from about 37 victims and their kin. We have also had testimonies/statements from journalists and members of civil society.

We went through the testimonies and evidence presented before us and are presenting our preliminary observations in this interim report.

One thing is clear to us that there is a sense of suffering and injustice writ large on the face of everyone who made their statements before us. We had made it clear that we are not in any way linked with the official institutions or authority, and yet so many of them gave vent to their feelings in their physical and emotional state, which only strengthens our opinion that there is substantial truth in those allegations.

Their testimonies are spread over a canvas of various violations of human rights for a period of two decades, and it is clear that by way of reliefs and remedies, what government has done amounts to a meagre little. It is here the state has to answer in large measure for all indifferent attitudes, deficiencies and neglect.

It cannot be gainsaid that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (1958), has been in the force for nearly two decades in this state. This Act has been misused and in being misused wherever it is made applicable (Manipur, for example). Therefore, if we take this situation into account, this draconian law has undoubtedly facilitated grave human rights abuses including “disappearances” by the very nature of the power bestowed on the armed forces.

Any abuse of powers by the armed forces is criminal offence. It should promptly be investigated by an agency independent of the armed forces, followed by impartial prosecution. The testimonies of all witnesses clearly establish that there has been no satisfactory investigation by any agency or authority in the State, leave alone any prosecution. On the other hand, we get an impression that all institutions of the State, the executive, the legislature, the human rights commission, and to a certain extent even the judiciary have failed to do justice to the victims of “disappearances” and other human rights violations.

The UN General Assembly in 2006 has unanimously adopted the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances. Earlier, there was the UN Declaration to the above effect (December 1992). Article 2 of the Declaration says that, “the prohibition” of “disappearances” is absolute and no State can find an excuse. Article 7 says, “no circumstances, whether a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency may be invoked to justify” these acts of violation. Hence, it is not open to the State to resort to enforced disappearances which would include all custodial deaths on the ground of any threat to internal security or external safety and stability. It is here the State’s liability becomes absolute, and we should have no hesitation in making these observations.

We have the testimony of Ms. Parveena Ahangar, who is the Chairperson of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), which clearly establishes that 8-10,000 persons have disappeared from about 1989. Incidentally, we may point out that during the period 1984-1994 during the agitation for Khalistan in Punjab, there had been similar disappearances, and recently a report based on the State’s Human Rights Commission, shows that over 2059 bodies were identified in Amritsar district and still over 1000 bodies are lying there in the district, and there are a large number of skeletons in other districts. Moreover, internationally, disappearances and “custodial deaths” fall within the definition of “torture”. Prohibition of torture and ill treatment is underlined by its non-derogable status in human rights laws. No State can justify such an act.

General Findings

1) Various instances of the security forces’ crimes have been brought to our notice. These are violations against the Geneva Conventions (Common Articles 2/3), the Indian Penal Code and the civil law of the country. The police/paramilitary and surrendered militants have flouted Indian laws and the rules of war. As a consequence, large numbers of civilians have died, including women and children. Women, including young girls, have been harassed, raped, and gang raped, and children in their early teens shot.

2) The judicial machinery has barely functioned. Despite the stern report of the Bijbihara Magisterial Enquiry, recommending the severest action against the BSF officers and Jawans. But nothing was done. A number of cases filed in the District and High Courts have been pending for years, and there are numerous cases of lack of judicial action taken in terms of awarding compensation and instructing the security forces to produce the disappeared and so forth.

The tribunal heard repeated examples of FIRs filed by the families that were distorted by the police to accuse the victims. Counter FIRs have also been lodged by the police, the latest incident being as recent as yesterday. Under the pretext of translating FIRs in Urdu into English, the police has completely distorted the complaints made in the original FIR. One such case with evidence was produced before the Independent Tribunal.

The State Human Rights Commission has no power to investigate paramilitary and military excesses, though it does have the power to request investigation reports of the enquiry by the paramilitary and the military forces. The SHRC seems to have failed to exercise its powers proactively to provide justice to the victims. The general trend is that the State as well as the central government ignores the recommendations made by this Commission.

3) Rape

The worst case of mass rape was heard by the women jurists from the testimonies by women from Kunan posh pora, who talked about the night of February 22, 1991, when the Army came to their village, isolated the men, and gang raped at least 23 women of all ages from 14 to even a 100 year old woman. The rape took place in front of their young children. There was brutal impact on their bodies and since then, they have suffered physical and mental trauma for years. They have been socially discriminated and ostracized, landing them into a traumatic state of mind that has been permanent. This is the grossest of human rights violations.

4) Throughout the conflict, people have been maimed and disabled due to the indiscriminate firing of security forces during even non-violent protests. People have also been disabled during interrogations where torture was used. We heard the testimonies from Bijbehara, where forces had indiscriminately opened fire on peaceful demonstrators in 1993. Many injured persons have been disabled for life and have suffered mentally, physically, and financially. Hardly any steps have been taken for their rehabilitation.
The testimonies we heard of disabled persons revealed that they were totally shocked and shattered. The disabled deposed before us to say that they could bear with the aftermath of physical injury, but not with the mental pain, agony, and trauma that make them feel that they die several deaths everyday, rather than living even once.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1) The controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act should be withdrawn from J&K. Even the Public Safety Act and other anti-terror laws should correspond to the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which India has ratified.

It should be noted that India has been repeatedly criticized in the UN Human Rights Committee for the existence of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which violates crucially several articles of the ICCPR.
2) Keeping in view the large concentration of military and paramilitary forces in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, which is disproportionate to the civilian population and is also making civil administration ineffective in many matters. The Government of India should take immediate steps to minimize the number of these forces in order to bring relief to the civilian population.

3) We recommend the establishment of a special judicial authority making an independent and thorough inquiry into all allegations of human rights violations, including disappearances, custodial killings, rape, torture, including torture of prisoners, fake encounters, and all other cases related to excesses by security forces.

4) Every case of killing by police and security forces in situations like protests, demonstrations, riots, etc. should be followed by a judicial inquiry into the police/security forces firing/actions, followed by proper, time-bound administrative action. It is made clear that the police have no license to kill anyone in any situation, unless they can justify this action under Section 100 of the IPC, which has to be done in a judicial procedure.

5) Provide proper rehabilitation to families of deceased, injured, and traumatized victims, especially the raped.

6) Compensation as interim relief should be arranged promptly. Compensation should be adequate and purposeful. Compensation should be for both injury to person as well as for damage to property, i.e. houses, etc.

7) The State should immediately establish Fast Track Courts for the purpose of trying the large number of cases which are pending.

8) Both state as well as central governments should take immediate steps to address the sufferings of detainees who are languishing in various jails and interrogation centres in and outside the state of Jammu and Kashmir and have been complaining of torture and inhuman treatment inside the jails.

9) The State should provide witness protection since many of the witnesses are being threatened.

Courtesy: Countercurrents.org

21 February, 2010

Communal Violence Bill: How useful to victims?

ASGHAR ALI ENGINEER
csss-isla.com

The Government has got clearance from the Cabinet for introducing the Communal Violence Bill in the coming session of parliament. The Bill was drafted originally in 2005 after 2004 elections in view of the Gujarat carnage of 2002 under the BJP Government headed by Narendra Modi. It was because of Gujarat carnage that Muslims voted for the Congress massively, as a result of which NDA was defeated.

The Congress party had promised in its manifesto that it would bring the bill to prevent Gujarat like carnage against minorities. It did draft the Bill in 2005 which we, along with several other NGOs, human rights activists and legal experts, studied and found it wanting in many respects. We organized number of consultations and suggested number of amendments to make it really serve the purpose for which the Bill was drafted.

Mr. Shivraj Patil, the then Home Minister, also held number of consultations in few cities and promised to consider various suggestions given by various NGOs and individuals but he did not incorporate these suggestions when final draft was presented. The present draft after going through standing committee and Cabinet too, is hardly better than the original draft. One wonders what Government wants. I would say this cure suggested is worse than the disease.

The present Bill already cleared by the Cabinet, seeks to give more power to the police. In fact police has always been the part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Had police been fair and impartial, no communal riot can last for more than 24 hours. Those governments which have intended to control communal violence do nothing but ask the police to control violence within 24 hours else office in charge would be suspended. And communal violence stops before 24 hours.

All those who have investigated communal riots know what role police plays in communal riots from remaining spectators to actively helping the rioters instead of controlling it. In Gujarat and Kandhamal, to give two latest examples, but for the role of police, communal violence would have been controlled in no time. In all major riots police have played openly partisan role. In some cases they have even led rioting mobs.

And if you empower police more in such circumstances, as the present Bill seeks to do, one can very well imagine what havoc it is going to cause. It is victims who need to be empowered, not the police. In a consultation held in Delhi on 12-13 February by ANHAD, Institute of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution, Mumbai (part of CSSS) and several other organizations. They all unanimously rejected the present draft.

Also, another provision of the present draft Bill is to declare an area as disturbed area, if communal riots are not controlled. This is even worse than giving the police more power. It means to give police absolute power. Even when curfew is declared, it is enforced only in minority areas and police hardly enforces its provision in majority areas. Vibhuti Narain's writings and his novel Shahar Mein Curfew brings this in sharp focus. Vibhuti Narain was a top police officer in the U.P. cadre.

If an area is declared disturbed area police will have powers to shoot anyone at its will. In Kashmir and in North Eastern states people have demanded repeal of disturbed areas act. The victims, instead of getting relief, would feel totally helpless. Any law which gives police more powers without making it accountable cannot be acceptable to those who care for human rights of victims.

Like any other official Bill, there is not a single clause to make administration, police or politicians accountable for their failure to control communal violence. If so, you don't need any fresh law at all. Human rights activists have always maintained that present laws, if enforced sincerely, can very well take care of any situation. After all the Left Front Government in West Bengal and the RJD in Bihar successfully prevented and controlled communal riots for more than three decades in WB and one and half decade in case of Bihar.

If only state governments enforces section 153-A of Indian Criminal Code in right earnest and arrests all those who make hate speeches and vitiate communal amity, there will be no communal disturbances. No politician would like to go to jail for three years. My experience shows that right from Jabalpur riot in 1961 to Gujarat riots in 2002 to anti-Christian riots in Kandhamal, Orissa, not a single politician was arrested for openly and blatantly provoking communal violence.

Also, no standard and objective method has been laid down for working out reparations and relief measures. It all depends on the whims of chief minister today. Narendra Modi Government offered ridiculous amounts of Rs.500/- and Rs.300/- for houses completely damaged and defying public opinion closed down relief camps much before any concrete measures to rehabilitate the victims were made. Thanks to the private agencies that these camps could be run for a longer period.

Also, there is not much in the present Bill for investigations and successful trial of cases and launching of FIRs. It is well known that police is extremely reluctant to register FIRs and even when it does, it refuses to enter the names of the accused. And less said about the subsequent investigations, the better. The investigation is so shoddy that courts often dismiss the cases against the accused.

In most of the cases the police close them saying not much evidence is available. In the case of Gujarat the police closed down hundreds of cases which could be reopened only under the Supreme Court orders. Despite all this the present Bill supposedly drafted to help the victims, make no provisions for all this.

It is, therefore, highly necessary to make drastic changes in the present Bill before it is discussed in the Parliament and if the Government is unwilling to introduce necessary changes, the M.P.s should study the Bill carefully and force the Government to bring about necessary amendments in the Bill. All the eminent participants of consultation in Delhi felt that the 59 amendments proposed by the government are nothing but mere tinkering.

The participants felt that neither do the proposed amendments make any structural changes to the Bill nor has the government factored in any of suggestions made by the civil society. The national consultation in Delhi on 12-13 February found fault even with the definition of the communal violence in the Bill. The consultation suggested the definition as "any targeted attack committed on the persons and property of individual or a group of persons on the basis of their religious identity, which can be inferred directly or from the nature or circumstances of the attack.

The consultation also felt that the government's proposal to declare certain areas as "communally disturbed" was rejected. In fact it demanded that the Chapter II of the Bill be dropped completely arguing that the State already has sufficient powers vested in it by law and further empowering the State and Central governments would, therefore not remedy the situation. The Consultation felt that co-relation between crimes and disturbed area is false, dangerous and untenable, and must not find place in a law on communal violence.

The consultation also felt that instead of doubling the punishment which courts would be reluctant to apply anyway, it noted that other forms of punishment - disqualification from public office, debarring from professional associations or running from public office - should be included in the case of culpability of public officials.

The good example of such disqualification form contesting elections etc. is from Mumbai High Court Judgment delivered by Justice Suresh in late nineties when Bal Thackeray of Shiv Sena made provocative speech in Vile Parle and won the seat for his candidate. Justice Suresh disqualified him for 6 years from voting in any election or contesting any election or even campaigning for his party.

It had restraining effect on him. But this was one instance which was exceptional. If politicians are made to meet such punishment, it would indeed have great effect on them and would desist from temptation to provoke communal violence to win elections in an easy way. The reason why some political leaders are tempted to provoke communal violence, more than ideological reasons, is to win elections by polarizing the voters.

It takes us to yet in another field i.e. that of electoral reforms. In highly diverse country like India with so much religious, linguistic and cultural diversity, the first past the post method which we have blindly copied from England which was then a mono-religious and mono-linguistic society, is highly problematic. We need to either introduce 51% votes for winning or proportional voting or combination of both to remedy the situation. Such electoral method would lead to inclusive rather than exclusive as it is today. Candidates win elections by excluding certain class of people rather than including everyone.

Well until then this Bill needs to be drastically amended to give relief from communal violence.

Courtesy: Countercurrents.org

17 February, 2010

Will the Namada project be pushed through at the cost of 200,000 people?

The following is a statement issued by the Namada Bachao Andolan on Saturday:

Gujarat’s politics on Narmada is at its peak once again trying its best to grab 11,000 crore rupees of financial ‘assistance’ from the central government. After environmental clearance was received in 1987, Gujarat went ahead pushing the dam height without planning either the canals or the command area development. Having completed only 30% of the canals in 30 years, the Gujarat government announced a few months ago that it will not build the remaining 70% of the canal network, with many contradictory statements, sometimes favouring the canals and at other times the pipeline!!

Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi finally announced the appointment of a committee of water resource persons, mostly former bureaucrats, headed by B.N. Navlavala, a former Planning Commission member, to review the feasibility of laying pipelines (three feet underground), in lieu of the massive and expensive canal network, based on economic, social and environmental criteria. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had already appointed an Expert Committee in 2008 to assess and approve as also monitor various environmental studies / plans of Sardar Sarovar, Indira Sagar and Omkareshwar dams. This committee recently received submissions on the Command Area Development (CAD) plans of Madhya Pradesh and heard presentations of some officials from MP and Gujarat as late as on 31-01-2010, but it is yet to approve the same.

Can Gujarat have it own way against Environmental and Rehabilitation Sub-Groups?

Although raising the height of the dam has not been permitted by the Environmental Sub Group (ESG) led by the MoEF and the Rehabilitation (R&R) Sub-Group led by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, (MSJE) of the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), the Modi Government is known to be pursuing all kinds of political strategies and machinations to get Central clearance for raising the dam to its full height of 138.68 m by erecting gates at one go! It wants to bypass all the pre-conditions put forth while sanctioning the gigantic dam and disobey the Supreme Court’s judgment of 2000 (NBA vs Union of India and others) in terms of completing the social and environmental measures. It is clear that the vicious attempt is to take over the process of monitoring by these two Sub-Groups and the upcoming Interim Report of the Expert Committee of MoEF, which is expected any day, in the backdrop of serious violations and non-compliance.

The Narmada Basin is a huge catchment area. The three states; Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra have not done the preliminary work necessary to sustain the dam throughout its planned life without getting silted, after having submerged living villages, best land and forests. Canals in Gujarat cannot be dug nor can the waters flow in them, unless and until the CAD plans are finalized and approved by the Environment Ministry. This has been a known condition as stated in the Guidelines issued by the Central Water Commission and River Valley Guidelines (1985) of MoEF. Without implementing these conditions, the Sardar Sarovar Project (SSP) is sure to go the Bhakra way. The Government of India’s own findings way back in 1991 have established that the much-trumpeted Bhakra Nangal Project, which was pushed through without following the command area guidelines, led to degradation of a massive 2,50,000 hectares of land in Punjab and Haryana.

Will political expediency Gujarat frustrate the right moves of MoEF?


The MoEF has the necessary mandate and the responsibility to ensure that the plans to prevent water logging and salinization i.e. ensure drainage or conjunctive use of surface and ground water; to prevent negative impacts on health and on flora and fauna including cropping pattern are to be in place sufficiently in advance of the canal construction and irrigation. These were the conditions set when the project was cleared by the Rajiv Gandhi government with a lot of hesitation and under pressure from Gujarat, as stated in the records of the Prime Minister’s office (1986-87) submitted before the Supreme Court in 2000 and reported in the Apex Court’s judgment as well. Therefore, Secretary, MoEF had to write to the Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) in November 2007, stating that the canal project of Sardar Sarovar must not be funded till the full compliance is ensured. Moreover, a categorical decision was taken in the 41st Meeting of the ESG, in January 2005 itself to forbid Gujarat from carrying on irrigation until the plans are approved.

It is also to be noted that Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh himself wrote to Narendra Modi on August 6, 2009 regarding such serious non-compliance on these issues and seeking full compliance of his state on the pari-passu conditions (simultaneous implementation with dam not achieved) imposed since the environmental clearance of 1987. Considering all this, the Government of India cannot pro-actively violate the right moves by its own Ministries and facilitate sanction of more funds for the Project unless all the social and environmental protective measures necessary for saving the land, livelihood and life of the people in the Narmada valley as well as in the command area are undertaken and completed.

What will MP gain out of Sardar Sarovar after ‘Jal Samadhi’ of 200,000 people?

While the Modi government. is creating its own political pressures and extracting money from the Centre by bringing Members of Parliament together, there is no one in Madhya Pradesh (save the people of Narmada Ghati) to expose the real costs and benefits to the State. It is plain truth that lakhs of people, prime agricultural land, temples, ghats and masjids with thickly populated communities of adivasis, farmers, fish workers etc would be given a ‘Jal Samadhi’ if the Centre’s nod to canal construction is taken ahead. These include thousands of adivasi families from Alirajpur and Badwani districts whose lands and houses are already submerged since 1990s and have not been given the land-based rehabilitation in Madhya Pradesh yet.

As far as ‘benefits’ to the state of MP go, the only benefit of power (56%) that was guaranteed (of whatever is generated) through the Narmada Tribunal Award (1979) is not received by the state, as yet. Maharashtra, which is in a similar situation of betrayal by Gujarat, has demanded compensation of Rs 18 billion. Why is MP, which is to suffer double the loss, silent? On the other hand, the state seems ready to pay Rs. 40 billion more, taking to about Rs 70 billion the Balance of Payment for no gain and all loss!

Adivasis challenge Modi’s ‘violence’ and Chauhan government’s silence


While even today there are 200,00 people residing and settled in the Sardar Sarovar reservoir area, there is only ‘rehabilitation’ replete with crude and rude corruption through various forms such as fake registries, corruption in house plot allotment, payment of compensation to ineligible, flawed back water levels etc. Though, through two major MP High Court orders of August 21, 2008 and November 12, 2009, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry under Justice Shravan Shankar Jha was constituted, the MP government has been displaying a very weak political will to combat corruption.

Having experienced submergence of his land, the only means of livelihood, Kishore Manglia from the Adivasi village of Kharya Bhadal in Badwani district angrily says: “Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Modi governments seem to be conspiring together to submerge our generations-old land and are doling it to these dams and companies. Where is our consent? What is our share in this game of numbers? We matter only when our votes are sought, but not once were we consulted when our home and hearths, gods and goddesses went under a watery grave! We will see how far the governments can go ahead with these unconstitutional moves, pushing the dam with corruption and atrocities. Give us land for land or we will not move”.

Sardar Sarovar benefits and costs in doldrums


Today, the entire cost-benefit scenario of SSP has gone haywire, with the costs having sky-rocketed from the original estimate of Rs 42 billion (1983) to Rs 64.06 billion (1988) and to Rs 450 billion and further up to Rs 700 billion (by 2012) as per expert appraisal of the Planning Commission (11th Plan). The new grant for SSP’s canals by the Centre, which is planned to be released till 2015 shockingly indicates that the cost of the project may shoot up to Rs. 800 billion. All this is a gross violation of the Investment clearance of the Planning Commission which should be deemed to have lapsed. With Rs 300 billion already spent, only 7% of the reservoir waters are used and just 70,000 hectares of land irrigated till today.

It is in this context that the Memorandum of Understanding between the Union of India (UoI) and Government of Gujarat (GoG) to grant Rs 110 billion to Gujarat becomes highly questionable as being absolutely against law and justice.. How can the Centre disagree wuth the critical comments by the highest constitutional auditory authority (Comptroller and Auditor General) on the gross mis-utilization and underutilization of crores of funds granted till now? The time has come for the Planning Commission to review the entire project, along with the MoEF and MSJE and put its foot down against any further work and not to financially assist such a devastative project.

MP has one last chance

The Chief Minister, who has time and again displayed his aversion to any dialogue on Narmada should be reminded that the Narmada cannot be saved from pollution, why even destruction, unless the political conspiracy of pushing these giant dams with thousands of kilometers long canal network in the region that is prosperous with best of agricultural and horticultural land with generations-old communities in the most unplanned, unscientific, illegal and inhuman way is stopped and a firm political will is shown to save Narmada and its people which is a treasure and a heritage, for this state much more than for Gujarat.

The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh has one last chance before the dam is pushed to its full height, killing communities with 200,000 population. Will he utilize it to save the people of his state?

For further details please contact:


Ashish Mandloi
+91 7290-222464
Medha Patkar
+91 9423965153
Surbhan Bhilala
+ 9179148973

14 February, 2010

US nuclear lobby wants to relaunch industry

RALPH NADER
Nader.org

A generation of Americans has grown up without a single nuclear power plant being brought on line since before the near meltdown of the Three Mile Island structure in 1979. They have not been exposed to the enormous costs, risks and national security dangers associated with their operations and the large amount of radioactive wastes still without a safe, permanent storage place for tens of thousands of years.

All Americans better get informed soon, for a resurgent atomic power lobby wants the taxpayers to pick up the tab for relaunching this industry. Unless you get Congress to stop this insanely dirty and complex way to boil water to generate steam for electricity, you'll be paying for the industry's research, the industry's loan guarantees and the estimated trillion dollars (inflation-adjusted) cost of just one meltdown, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, plus vast immediate and long-range casualties.

The Russian roulette-playing nuclear industry claims a class nine meltdown will never happen. That none of the thousands of rail cars, trucks and barges with radioactive wastes will ever have a catastrophic accident. That terrorists will forgo striking a nuclear plant or hijacking deadly materials, and go for far less consequential disasters.

The worst nuclear reactor accident occurred in 1986 at Chernobyl in what is now Ukraine. Although of a different design than most U.S. reactors, the resultant breach of containment released a radioactive cloud that spread around the globe but concentrated most intensively in Belarus, Ukraine and European Russia and secondarily over 40% of Europe.

For different reasons, both governmental and commercial interests were intent on downplaying both the immediate radioactively-caused deaths and diseases and the longer term devastations from this silent, invisible form of violence. They also were not eager to fund follow up monitoring and research.

Now comes the English translation of the most comprehensive, scientific report to date titled Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment whose senior author is biologist Alexey V. Yablokov, a member of the prestigious Russian Academy of Sciences.

Purchasable from the New York Academy of Sciences (visit nyas.org/annals), this densely referenced analysis covers the acute radiation inflicted on both the first-responders (called "liquidators") and on residents nearby, who suffer chronic radioactive sicknesses. "Today," asserts the report, "more than 6 million people live on land with dangerous levels of contamination--land that will continue to be contaminated for decades to centuries."

Back to the U.S., where, deplorably, President Obama has called for more so-called "safe, clean nuclear power plants." He just sent a budget request for another $54 billion in taxpayer loan guarantees on top of a previous $18 billion passed under Bush. You see, Wall Street financiers will not loan electric companies money to build new nuclear plants which cost $12 billion and up, unless Uncle Sam guarantees one hundred percent of the loan.

Strange, if these nuclear power plants are so efficient, so safe, why can't they be built with unguaranteed private risk capital? The answer to this question came from testimony by Amory B. Lovins, chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, in March 2008 before the [House of Representatives of the U.S.] Select Committee on Energy Independence (rmi.org). His thesis: "expanding nuclear power would reduce and retard climate protection and energy security...but can't survive free-market capitalism."

Making his case with brilliant concision, Lovins, a consultant to business and the Defense Department, demonstrated with numbers and other data that nuclear power "is being dramatically outcompeted in the global marketplace by no and low-carbon power resources that deliver far more climate solution per dollar, far faster."

Lovins doesn't even include the accident or sabotage risks. He testified that "because it's [nuclear power] uneconomic and unnecessary, we needn't inquire into its other attributes." Renewable energy (eg. wind power), cogeneration and energy efficiencies (megawatts) are now far superior to maintain.

I challenge anybody in the nuclear industry or academia to debate Lovins at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., with a neutral moderator, or before a Congressional Committee.

However, the swarm of nuclear power lobbyists is gaining headway in Congress, spreading their money everywhere and falsely exploiting the concern with global warming fed by fossil fuels.

The powerful nuclear power critics in Congress want the House energy bill to focus on climate change. To diminish the opposition, they entered into a bargain that gave nuclear reactors status with loan guarantees and other subsidies in the same legislation which has passed the House and, as is usual, languishing in the Senate.

Long-time, staunch opponents of atomic power who are leaders in countering climate change, such as Cong. Ed Markey (D-MA), have quieted themselves for the time being, while the Republicans (loving the taxpayer subsidies) and some Democrats are hollering for the nukes. All this undermines the valiant efforts of the Union of Concerned Scientists, NIRS, Friends of the Earth, and other established citizen groups who favor a far safer, more efficient, faster and more secure energy future for our country and the world.

Just recently, a well-designed and documented pamphlet from Beyond Nuclear summarize the case against nuclear power as "Expensive, Dangerous and Dirty." The clear, precise detail and documentation makes for expeditious education of your friends, neighbors and co-workers.

You can download it free and reprint it for wider distribution from www.BeyondNuclear.org. It is very well worth the 10 to 15 minutes it takes to absorb the truth about this troubled technology--replete with delays and large cost-overruns--that has been on government welfare since the 1950s.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.
Courtesy: Countercurrents.org

12 February, 2010

AHRC: Culture of impunity must end in Manipur

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) launched on Friday an online signature campaign marking the 10th year of Irom Sharmila's (Iron Lady of Manipur, picture on the left) fast to end the culture of impunity in Manipur.

Sharmila will celebrate her 38th birthday on 14 March this year in the small hospital room where she is detained for the past 10 years by the Indian authorities.

Sharmila started the fast on 4 November 2000, protesting against the violence committed by state and non-state actors in Manipur. The protest demands an immediate end of impunity in the state, for which the withdrawal of the martial law, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA), from Manipur is a prerequisite.

"The ordinary people of Manipur have suffered enough at the hands of the underground militant organizations as well as the state agencies during the past several years..." said Mr. Basil Fernando, AHRC's Director.

"The AFSPA enforced in Manipur to support government actions in the state in countering secessionist activities and underground militant acts has certainly not helped in preventing militancy in Manipur, but has enraged it..." Fernando said.

The Act grants the military wide powers in the so-called "disturbed areas" to shoot-to-kill on mere suspicion, arrest without warrant, search and destroy property with statutory impunity. Over the years it has become a tool of state abuse, oppression, and discrimination thereby violating fundamental rights of the citizen.

The AFSPA has not only led to human rights violations, but has also allowed members of the armed forces to perpetuate abuses with impunity. Extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, disappearances and extortion have fed public anger and disillusionment in Manipur. This is one of the catalysts for militant activities to flourish in the state. The armed militant groups operating in the state also are engaged in similar acts of human rights violations.

The Act is also in the centre of international criticism. In 1997, the United Nations Human Rights Committee expressed concern over the "climate of impunity" provided by the Act. Since then, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (2006), the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (2007) and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2007), have all called for an end to the AFSPA. The High Commissioner for Human Rights has also urged the Government of India to repeal this Act during her visit to India (March 2009).

A number of national bodies like the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee appointed by the government to review the law, the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by present law minister Mr. Veerappa Moily and the Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir led by the present Vice President, Mr. Mohammad Hamid Ansari, have all recommended repeal of the Act.

"Sharmila’s struggle is not just to defend human rights in Manipur, but in reality it is reshaping the foundations of democracy in India. It has become important that all those who defend justice, peace and democracy in India support her struggle, forge ranks amongst us to renew our pledge to end impunity in India..." said Mr. Fernando.

"Irom Sharmila Chanu is Manipur's beacon of peace and hope," Fernando added.

By signing the petition, everyone can state their disapproval of using force with impunity in Manipur and express solidarity to Sharmila's silent protest. The name and other personal details will be kept confidential if required.

The petition will be open for signature until 15 March 2010.

Online petition: http://campaigns.ahrchk.net/manipur/

10 February, 2010

It is now official: the US is a police state

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
Vdare.com

Americans have been losing the protection of law for years. In the 21st century the loss of legal protections accelerated with the Bush administration’s "war on terror," which continues under the Obama administration and is essentially a war on the Constitution and U.S. civil liberties.

The Bush regime was determined to vitiate habeas corpus in order to hold people indefinitely without bringing charges. The regime had acquired hundreds of prisoners by paying a bounty for terrorists. Afghan warlords and thugs responded to the financial incentive by grabbing unprotected people and selling them to the Americans.

The Bush regime needed to hold the prisoners without charges because it had no evidence against the people and did not want to admit that the U.S. government had stupidly paid warlords and thugs to kidnap innocent people. In addition, the Bush regime needed "terrorists" prisoners in order to prove that there was a terrorist threat.

As there was no evidence against the "detainees" (most have been released without charges after years of detention and abuse), the U.S. government needed a way around U.S. and international laws against torture in order that the government could produce evidence via self-incrimination. The Bush regime found inhumane and totalitarian-minded lawyers and put them to work at the U.S. Department of Justice (sic) to invent arguments that the Bush regime did not need to obey the law.

The Bush regime created a new classification for its detainees that it used to justify denying legal protection and due process to the detainees. As the detainees were not U.S. citizens and were demonized by the regime as "the 760 most dangerous men on earth," there was little public outcry over the regime’s unconstitutional and inhumane actions.

As our Founding Fathers and a long list of scholars warned, once civil liberties are breached, they are breached for all. Soon U.S. citizens were being held indefinitely in violation of their habeas corpus rights. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, an American citizen of Pakistani origin, might have been the first.

Dr. Siddiqui, a scientist educated at MIT and Brandeis University, was seized in Pakistan for no known reason, sent to Afghanistan, and was held secretly for five years in the U.S. military’s notorious Bagram prison in Afghanistan. Her three young children, one an 8-month-old baby, were with her at the time she was abducted. She has no idea what has become of her two youngest children. Her oldest child, 7 years old, was also incarcerated in Bagram and subjected to similar abuse and horrors.

Siddiqui has never been charged with any terrorism-related offense. A British journalist, hearing her piercing screams as she was being tortured, disclosed her presence.. An embarrassed U.S. government responded to the disclosure by sending Siddiqui to the U.S. for trial on the trumped-up charge that while a captive, she grabbed a U.S. soldier’s rifle and fired two shots attempting to shoot him. The charge apparently originated as a U.S. soldier’s excuse for shooting Dr. Siddiqui twice in the stomach, resulting in her near death.

On Feb. 4, Dr. Siddiqui was convicted by a New York jury for attempted murder. The only evidence presented against her was the charge itself and an unsubstantiated claim that she had once taken a pistol-firing course at an American firing range. No evidence was presented of her fingerprints on the rifle that this frail and broken 100-pound woman had allegedly seized from an American soldier. No evidence was presented that a weapon was fired, no bullets, no shell casings, no bullet holes. Just an accusation.

Wikipedia has this to say about the trial: "The trial took an unusual turn when an FBI official asserted that the fingerprints taken from the rifle, which was purportedly used by Aafia to shoot at the U.S. interrogators, did not match hers."

An ignorant and bigoted American jury convicted her for being a Muslim. This is the kind of "justice" that always results when the state hypes fear and demonizes a group.

The people who should have been on trial are the people who abducted her, disappeared her young children, shipped her across international borders, violated her civil liberties, tortured her apparently for the fun of it, raped her, and attempted to murder her with two gunshots to her stomach. Instead, the victim was put on trial and convicted.

This is the unmistakable hallmark of a police state. And this victim is an American citizen.

Anyone can be next. Indeed, on Feb. 3 Dennis Blair, director of National Intelligence told the House Intelligence Committee that it was now "defined policy" that the U.S. government can murder its own citizens on the sole basis of someone in the government’s judgment that an American is a threat. No arrest, no trial, no conviction, just execution on suspicion of being a threat.

This shows how far the police state has advanced. A presidential appointee in the Obama administration tells an important committee of Congress that the executive branch has decided that it can murder American citizens abroad if it thinks they are a threat.

I can hear readers saying the government might as well kill Americans abroad as it kills them at home--Waco, Ruby Ridge, the Black Panthers.

Yes, the U.S. government has murdered its citizens, but Dennis Blair’s "defined policy" is a bold new development. The government, of course, denies that it intended to kill the Branch Davidians, Randy Weaver’s wife and child, or the Black Panthers. The government says that Waco was a terrible tragedy, an unintended result brought on by the Branch Davidians themselves. The government says that Ruby Ridge was Randy Weaver’s fault for not appearing in court on a day that had been miscommunicated to him. The Black Panthers, the government says, were dangerous criminals who insisted on a shoot-out.

In no previous death of a U.S. citizen by the hands of the U.S. government has the government claimed the right to kill Americans without arrest, trial, and conviction of a capital crime.

In contrast, Dennis Blair has told the U.S. Congress that the executive branch has assumed the right to murder Americans who it deems a "threat."

What defines "threat"? Who will make the decision? What it means is that the government will murder whomever it chooses.

There is no more complete or compelling evidence of a police state than the government announcing that it will murder its own citizens if it views them as a "threat."

Ironic, isn’t it, that "the war on terror" to make us safe ends in a police state with the government declaring the right to murder American citizens whom it regards as a threat.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan’s first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. paulcraigroberts@yahoo.com

Courtesy:Countercurrents

08 February, 2010

Fear Of attack on anti-POSCO movement

Following is a release issued by the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samithi on Sunday:

Balitutha, Orissa: The threat of state and company sponsored violence looms large over hundreds of farmers sitting on an indefinite dharna at Balitutha in Jagatsinghpur district against the Orissa government’s pet POSCO steel project.

Since 26 January this year the farmers have been carrying out their peaceful protest against fresh attempts by the Naveen Patnaik regime to acquire their land on behalf of the South Korean steel corporation.

“We are expecting police action any time soon including an attack on our leader Abhay Sahoo by goons hired by the company,” said a spokesperson of the POSCO Pratirodh Sangram Samithi (PPSS), which has spearheaded the agitation against the project for the past five years.

Over 30,000 farmers are expected to lose their lands and livelihood if the US$12 billion project, billed as India’s largest Foreign Direct Investment, is implemented. POSCO signed an MoU with the Orissa government in mid-2005, for the setting up of an integrated steel and power plant, a private port and mining of over 600 million tonnes of Orissa’s high grade iron ore.

For the steel and power plants alone the project needs around 4004 acres, of which 3566 acres is government owned forest and revenue land but 438 acres belongs to local farmers who are refusing to part with it. The PPSS apprehends that over 25 platoons of police are being brought in to surround the farmers sitting on dharna at Balitutha, which is at the entrance to the land that belongs to them.

As per a letter issued by the Collector of Jagatsinghpur District on January 19 this year Palli Sabhas in the project area have been asked to obtain approval of local bodies about the ‘diversion of their lands under forest category to POSCO’ by February 10th. On February 3 however, at a meeting of Palli Sabha of Nuagaon village all the 700 participants unanimously disapproved of the move. In a resolution passed at the Palli Sabha they said that such lands were being used by people for cultivation and housing since last 300 years and in no case they can be handed over to POSCO. Other Palli Sabhas in the area are expected to pass similar resolutions.

PPSS activists say, faced with the firm opposition to the POSCO project and land acquisition the Orissa adminstration is getting desperate and plans to remove the farmers by force. On February 1 the state government issued a notice in various newspapers that if the people fail to file their claims for compensation within fifteen days, they will get nothing at all.

The PPSS dharna has found support around the country with leaders of trade unions and people’s movements visiting the protestors sitting on dharna. Those participating in the dharna include leaders of leaders of the All India Trade Union Congress from different states and the Orissa Bidi Workers and Domestic Workers Associations.

For further information contact:
Prashant Paikray, spokesperson, PPSS at Ph: (0) 9437571547.

07 February, 2010

Hunting Adivasis in mineral corridor

GLADSON DUNGDUNG
Countercurrents.org

“Naxalites are our stray brothers and sisters therefore we will address the issues of Naxalism through dialogues”. These are the holy words of Jharkhand Chief Minister Sibu Soren, who repeatedly told us even after swearing in as the guard of the state for 3rd time. However, the unbearable pressure from the central government and the corporate houses made him completely helpless. Consequently, he took u turn and attended a special meeting with our ‘Corporate Home Minister’ P. Chidambaram in Delhi on January 27th on the issue of so-called ‘Operation Green Hunt’. After his return from Delhi, he started dancing in different tune, saying, operation green hunt will be started if the Maoists do not abjure violence.

Soon after he shown the green signal to the security forces for operation green hunt, the police and security forces started rehearsal in different parts of the state. The first brutal rehearsal was done in Garhwa. The CRPF brutally assaulted to the primitive tribes (the Indian state is proud of being able to keep some indigenous people in the primitive stage) who were protesting in front of the collector’s office in Garhwa. Their only crime was they demanded for 200 days employment in MGNREGA, direct appointment in the government jobs and implementation of the forest rights Act 2006 (which prime objective is to right the historic wrong that’s what our government told us).

The brutality began when the Adivasis entered into the collector’s office premises on February 2; the CRPF closed the gate and beat them up mercilessly for 20 minutes. Consequently, 50 Adivasis including women were severely injured and admitted to the hospital. As usual, the Chief Minister Sibu Soren ordered for an inquiry to bury the public anger. Ironically, the police filed a case against 13 Adivasi sufferers alleging them for attacking to the security forces (who were with the guns) and no case was registered against those security forces for beating to the Adivasis mercilessly. However, there is a public outrage on the issue therefore a small gun man might be punished for the inhuman acts of the security forces, and the officers will enjoy impunity as they have been doing for years in our democratic country. Indeed, it was just an indication of the coming ‘operation green hunt’, where dogs, cats, snakes and scorpions are ready to kill the Adivasis in the forests.

Perhaps, the state has seized the democratic rights of the citizens on the one hand and it did not let the security forces to remain as the human beings on the other. Our democratic government(s) repeatedly tells us that the security forces have been made killer animals like Greyhounds, hunter cats like Jaguar, dangerous snakes like cobras, poisonous creature like scorpions and list goes on. These Greyhounds, Jaguars, Cobras, Scorpions and other forces are left to roam freely in the forests with the license to kill the Adivasis, who have been living in the forests for the years before the existence of the Indian state. These dogs, cats, snakes, scorpions and other forces will attack, bite, sting, teardown and kill whoever they find in the forests. Of course, the most sufferers would be the Adivasis. The only census 2011 will tell us about its impact as decline of the Adivasis population.

An eastern Indian state Chhatisgarh is a living example of how the state has been carrying out a hunting of the Adivasis in the name of cleansing the Maoists, where 3 lakh Adivasis of 644 villages deserted their homes to escape from the police atrocity. 50,000 of them are living in the relief camps, 50,000 fled to Andhra Pradesh and thousands of them migrated to the neighbouring states. 5000 Adivasis women were raped, hundreds of Adivasis were killed in fake encounters and hundreds of them were thrown behind the bars alleging them as Maoist supporters. Ironically, when a SPO (Special Police Officer of Salwa Jurum) catches, attacks or kills an Adivasi, he becomes a hero for the state but when the same person rapes an Adivasi woman he does not remain as the SPO and the blame goes to an Adivasi raping his own woman (with the clear intention for shielding the inhuman acts of the police forces backed by the state).

The operation green hunt in going on in the state of Chhatisgarh and the Adivasis are being hunted everyday but our democratic government does not inform its own people about it, where the right to information is a constitutional right of the citizens. Interestingly, P. Chidambaram is not only a ‘Corporate Home Minister’, who bagged money from ‘Enron Corporation’ and ‘Vedanta’ but now he is also a person who believes in misguiding to the people of the land. When the operation green hunt was launched, he coined it as a media’s creation. “Show me one government official saying this and I will take action" these were his threatening words. Ironically, on December 4, 2009, Dantewada-based DIG anti-Naxal operations SRP Killuri unmasked Chidambaram by telling to the media, “As of today, Operation Green Hunt is underway in districts like Bijapur and Dantewada.” Unfortunately, Chidambaram did not take any action against his officer. Similarly, after attending Chidambaram’s meeting, Sibu Soren and Naveen Patnaik are tirelessly speaking for the operation green hunt but Chidambaram does not ask them to stop their holy talks on OGH.

Unfortunately, the centre and state governments do not even bother to obey the order of the supreme court, which states to re-establish those 3 lakh Adivasis in their (644) villages as they were in the previous days. Of course, these democratic governments are more interested in establishing the corporate houses in these villages rather than protecting the villagers. Now the Tata, Bhushan steel, Jindal and many others corporate sharks are roaming in these villages with the full security provided by the state. A million dollar question is how the corporate houses are peacefully running their plants in those so-called red corridors where the governments claim of not being able to carry out any development activities?

The fact of the matter is the villages in Chhatisgarh were vacated for the corporate houses in the name of cleansing the Maoists and the operation green hunt will be extended to those states soon, where there are high chances of exploiting the natural resources in the name of development. Since, there have been series of protests against displacement in the mineral corridor therefore the governments are attempting to get land clear for the corporate houses through the ‘legislations’, ‘manipulations’ and the ‘legal guns’. The state is hunting the Adivasis in the name of hunting the Maoists. The question is does state have right to kill its own people?

Gladson Dungdung is a human rights activist and writer from Jharkhand. He can be reached at gladsonhractivist@gmail.com

05 February, 2010

Sena, MNS threats: Shabnam Hashmi's open letter to Maharashtra CM

The Chief Minister,
Maharashtra

Dear Mr Ashok Chavan,

Every society gives enough warning signals before turning totally anti democratic and fascist in nature. If we go back in history we will find that even in fascist Germany the first attack came on the freedom of expression of artists and intellectuals. It is very natural as the struggle for peace, democracy, secular thought, justice and communal harmony is waged by sensitive and creative people. The dream of an equal and just society has always been projected by either the mass movements of ordinary poor and marginalized people, secular political forces, human rights activists or has been portrayed by artists, poets, film makers, theatre directors etc. So those people whose agenda and preoccupation is to spread hatred and disharmony always attack the artists, activists, intellectuals and thinkers.

Unfortunately in the past we have ignored these danger signals and violent acts thus allowing the perpetrators of hate mongering not only to go scot free but also to further vitiate the atmosphere.

What has been happening in Maharashtra the past few months is absolutely shocking and is an attack on the democratic rights of the citizens of not only Maharashtra but all Indians.

I am writing to you as a member of the National Integration Council, Ministry of Home Affairs and I request you to immediately take steps to ensure that the goondaism unleashed by the Shiv Sena and MNS is stopped immediately.

I request you to ensure that Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan , whose effigies were burnt in Mumbai and especially Shahrukh Khan, who has received threats in the past few days, are given adequate security, that there is no disturbance when their films are released or screened in theaters. I request you to ensure that no taxi driver or auto rickshaw driver is harassed for not knowing or speaking Marathi (its good that you backtracked on January 20 from a similar unconstitutional stand on the question of issuing licenses to the taxi drivers) and that their constitutional and democratic rights of working or living in any part of India are not violated by Shiv Sena hoodlums on the roads.

The kind of filthy language which is being used and threats which are being issued against the senior leaders of your own party are absolutely unacceptable and need to be condemned strongly.

I request you to urgently arrest and prosecute those who are behind the recent incidents.

Sincerely yours

Shabnam Hashmi

Member, National Integration Council, MHA

Copy: Home Minister, Government of India

Disappearance of a Sri Lankan political analyst

BASIL FERNANDO

The disappearance of Pregeeth Ekanaliyagoda, a political analyst, journalist and visual designer, attached to LankaENews; the arrest of Chandana Sirimalwatta, the editor of the Lanka newspaper and the assassination of Chandaradasa Naiwadu, the JVP Urban Council member at Ambalangoda are among the acts of violence reported during the election for the executive presidency in Sri Lanka. They were all persons who supported the joint opposition campaign on behalf of the retired army commander, Sarath Fonseka. The issue of violence in the election was raised at a press conference organised by the Commissioner for Elections this week. His explanation was that since the adoption of the 1978 Constitution the type of politics seen during the election is quite normal and that even in future elections a similar pattern of violence will continue. There has not been any attempt by the government to investigate any of the incidents mentioned above or any other acts of violence.

All three persons mentioned above are, or were, intellectuals who represent different points of view and are persons who dared to express their opinions even in the midst of a very intense culture of political violence. What is most saddening in the suppression of such voices which are trying to rise up against a general climate of violence and demoralisation and trying to develop a discourse on politics by expressing their own points of view for the consideration of the electorate. The case of the journalist and political analyst, Pregeeth Ekanaliyagoda clearly demonstrates the kind of violence that is used against the voices of reason.

"Sarath? Mahinda? Or us?"


Pregeeth Ekanaliyagoda wrote several articles in LankaEnews in the months prior to the election on the 26th January. He tried to engage his readers in a discussion on issues which were part of the public debate on the forthcoming election. In November 2009 he wrote an article entitled, “Sarath? Mahinda? Or us?” In this article he tried to enter into the debate that was taking place at the time about the entrance of the retired general, Sarath Fonseka as a candidate for the election. By using the debate that was taking place at the time he tried to demonstrate that the issue was not really about the two prominent candidates which were the incumbent president, Mahinda Rajapakse and Sarath Fonseka. He tried to highlight that the election was about ‘us’, meaning the people. He tried to reason out that what is at stake for us, the people in the election and the best ways of serving the interests of the people through the election. He tried to raise the discussion on the presidential election beyond personalities and into the issues that should concern the people.

He tried to engage in a discussion on dictatorships which was one of the issues of the election. One of the speculations against the retired general, Sarath Fonseka entering into politics was that, he being a military general, could turn out to be a dictator if he came into power. Ekanaliyagoda did not dismiss the argument lightly. He tried to bring in discussions about political experience from around the world to discuss the issue of dictatorships. He spoke of two types of dictatorships; one where the military establishes a direct dictatorship and another where the government elected through democratic means adopt the practices of a dictatorship. The issue for the people was to avoid the actual practice of dictatorship and for that they should look into the indicators of a dictatorship.

By examining dictatorships in Burma, Iran, Indonesia, Libya, the Sudan and Somalia he tried to bring to notice some of the practices of the dictatorial regimes. He identified the following: the lack of respect for public opinion and the law was one of the factors he identified in a dictatorship. He also indentified a lack of respect for the parliament and the judiciary. He further identified the lack of space for people to express and organise themselves as trade unions and other organisations furthering the interests of the people and the freedom of the civil society to actively participate in the life of society.

Having identified these factors as common experiences in countries that are ruled by a dictatorship, whether they are dictatorships which were brought about by the military or by governments initially elected democratically, he pointed out that all the features of a repressive society are present in Sri Lanka now. He pointed out that there is no respect for public opinion or the law within the country. He further pointed out the absence of the space for parliamentary democracy within the Sri Lankan context. He went on to enumerate how there is repression against people who engage in normal activities of furthering the interests of the people such as trade unions, opposition political parties, civil society organisations, those who engage in human rights work and the like.

Thus, he returned to the original question of what was at stake for the people of this election. He argues that what is at stake is to defeat these practices and to bring back the freedom which gives people the space to participate in political life which guarantees media freedoms and opens space for civil society to engage in resolving societal problems.

In this manner he tried to take the arguments between military dictatorships or democracy, not purely by those who claim to be democrats but on the basis of the policies that they advocate and the policies that are needed for society at this time. As an analyst and an intellectual he was trying to engage society on an intelligent discourse on the issues they should try to resolve in the coming elections.

He concluded his article by stating that Sri Lanka does not need a wretched dictatorship like Burma and dozens of other countries which have those kinds of regimes. Sri Lanka also did not need the Mahinda Chintanaya or any other kind of dictatorship.

"Sensitive Leader"

In an article written in December Ekanaliyagoda tried to discuss an advertisement that was commonly used on television at the time which stated that people should vote for the sensitive leader, meaning Mahinda Rajapakse, the incumbent president. In this article Ekanaliyagoda tried to analyse what was meant by a ‘sensitive leader’.

First he tried to elaborate on the concept of sensitivity and insensitivity in political life in terms of the sufferings of the people. He began with the issue of the tsunami which affected Sri Lanka badly and pointed out that during that time one of the most saddening aspects was that there were people who were willing to steal from the victims. He said that the exhibition of this tendency during this great tragedy point out a tremendous insensitivity to the suffering that had become part of the Sri Lankan psyche. The capacity, even to rob from people in a natural calamity he saw as an exhibition of tremendous breakdown of morale within Sri Lankan society. Then he went on to discuss the very serious illnesses such as dengue fever, swine flu and other epidemics that affect the young. Accompanied with such tragedies is also the revelation of fraud and attempts to earn commission from the purchase of medicines and other basic needs of the people.

That again was a manifestation of an enormous morale breakdown within society and this is reflected in the behaviour of the ministers and others who engage in such practices on behalf of the government. Dealing with such questions of insensitivity was something very much needed within the country.

Then he discussed the common news items which appeared often of suspects who are killed in custody under the pretext that while they were being taken by the police to show where they had hidden their loot they attacked the police who had to defend themselves. Such a blatant use of violence within the policing system itself and the tolerance shown to such stories by society was a clear manifestation of the insensitivity that has developed within Sri Lanka. He discussed the insensitivity in the enforcement of the law and the disregard of the courts which has become quite an entrenched part of the behaviour pattern within the country. He showed that on matters that involved huge sums of money there does not seem to be any kind of sensitivity or patriotism exhibited by the political leaders of the country.

He then went on to examine the killings of media personnel on orders from those in power and the fake condemnations of such killings without taking any steps to ensure that justice is ever done in these cases. Mentioning such killings such as the assassination of the well known journalist, Lasantha Wickrematunge he mentioned that the behaviour towards the media and the critics is almost like that of Caligula in the Roman Empire. Journalists are killed or assaulted in broad daylight or otherwise intimidated and this was not a climate of sensitivity. He also discussed the foreign debt and other issues of serious financial frauds that had taken place in the country as an indication of the absence of a political sensitivity. Thus, Ekanaliyagoda tried to develop a discourse on political sensitivity speaking of what should, in fact, be the behaviour of a sensitive political leader towards the suffering of the people within his country and what is actually found in the country.

"Should Mahinda’s government have an extension?"

His third article was in early January where he discussed the issue as to whether Mahinda Rajapakse’s government should have an extension. He discusses the work of the present government, particularly on the issue of the main allegation against the government which is corruption. Giving details of the ever increasing corruption within the government and that all aspects of national life being involved in these affairs he argued that the country would not benefit from a further extension of the government as it would only mean a continuance of the pattern of corruption that is entrenched within the country.

He argued that no plan of action has been put forward by the government with the promise to end corruption. No legal measure has been proposed in order to deal with the problem. Instead the entire machinery of the state has been made ineffective against any act of corruption and this was contributing to a climate of corruption within the country. Unless this trend is stopped it will damage the economy and the future of the nation, was his main argument against allowing the existing regime to continue in power.

Creating political discourse

The three articles that this political analyst has written within the last three months before his abduction indicates an attempt to involve the public in a political discourse on issues that he considered to be important.

A political discussion within a country cannot take place unless there is space for thinkers, writers and analysts to put forward their views and for the readers to have various views to consider. Having such serious minded analysts enhances the capacity of others to have different views and thereby to deepen the political discourse within the country.

The silencing of analysts and thinkers would only strengthen the argument made by such people that a climate for proper development does not exist presently. That development requires the serious participation of the thinking elements within society, in order to give their points of view on all aspects of life, so that an enlightened approach could prevail to support the betterment of the conditions of the people.

Ekanaliyagoda’s family constantly told the investigating authorities and the public through the media that they do not suspect any other reason for his disappearance except for political revenge. Under these circumstances there is even greater obligation for the government to investigate this disappearance and other acts of violence that is taking place in the country. The election commissioner has warned that other elections in the country are likely to repeat the same pattern of violence.

It is now the government’s turn to demonstrate its capacity to change the course of the violence and it is the duty of the international community to raise the issues of the disappearance and violence and request serious investigations and redress for victims of such violence.

Basil Fernando is Executive Director of Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong.

03 February, 2010

AHRC: 28 tribal children in two MP villages died of malnutrition in three months

The Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, writes:

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information that 28 tribal children have recently been allowed to die of malnutrition. According to a field report by Madhya Pradesh Lok Sanghash Sajha Manch and the Right to Food Campaign Madhya Pradesh, the families of the deceased children have clearly been deprived of their right to food and right to health of the children in particular, due to the failure of government programmes to reach tribal communities. Despite this, the relevant government authorities have not yet taken action to support the victims, or other children in the villages confronting the same situation.

CASE DETAILS

Shama, a four-year-old boy, died of malnutrition with the associated symptom of diarrhea on 23 December 2009. Shama belonging to the Bhil tribe and lived in Madrani village, Meghnagar Block, Jhabua District. His father Galia took him to the Anganwadi Centre (AWC; child care centre at village level) where he was not able to get any assistance; they were ignored. Even when the human rights activist assisting the villagers informed the AWC on 9 November that Shama’s health condition had severely deteriorated, no action was taken by the authorities. Shama was neither registered at the AWC nor given any support from the government facilities, and died as a result.

In the past three months (October to December 2009) there twenty more children have reportedly died in similar circumstances in the village, with seven dying of malnutrition in Agasiya village, located in the same Block (please refer to the list of the deceased children in letter below). The field report proves the implementation failure of government programmes to ensure the rights to food and health in tribal villages.

Galia and his brother Bhur Singh cultivate four acres of farmland, from which they harvested just four bags of maize in 2009 – insufficient for a family of nine, which includes his wife, brother and six children. He can only cultivate maize according to rainfall as he has no irrigation system or other agricultural facilities.

“Without the Below the Poverty Line (BPL) card, we have to buy maize and wheat from the open market at 200 rupees and 300 rupees per quintal each. Accordingly we are forced to migrate to other area seeking any kind of labour work.” Galia has reported.

The living conditions of other tribal villagers are not dissimilar to Galia’s. Most of the Bhil tribe in Jhabua District have small scale farms, and up to 92% of the land lacks irrigation systems and other agricultural facilities. Irrespective of the facility or output from the farms, many villagers that hold land are identified as Above the Poverty Line (APL), denying them access to food subsidies or other relevant programmes for food and health security. In addition, farmland is often cultivated as a joint family venture like Galia’s family, while they actually live separately.

Despite this lack of facilities and the soaring food prices since 2008, the relevant authority has not paid attention to agriculture and therefore has not ensured food security. The children are dying of hunger while the government neglects its duty, despite several interventions and appeals from civil society.

At present, according to AWC data, 25 children are identified as suffering from grade II malnutrition while five children are grade III in Agasiya village. However only one child out of them was referred to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Centre (NRC) for treatment. In Madrani village 26 children are identified as grade II while three children are in grade III, and one child is identified as grade IV malnutrition. Grade III and IV belong to the Severely Acute Malnutrition (SAM). This data does not cover unregistered children.

Food insecurity and migration


Approximately 45.5% of the children in Jhabua are recorded as belonging to a BPL family. Under the Public Food Distribution System (PDS), BPL families are entitled to collect 35 kilograms of rice and wheat at subsidized prices. In practice they only get 16 kilograms of wheat. The families can only afford to buy two kilograms of sugar during the Holi and Dewali festival from the ration shop. As a result insufficient harvests and such a meager wheat subsidy contribute to child malnutrition, which is further aggravated by the migrant labour environment. Out of the 28 deceased children 5 fathers had migrated away when their children died in their home villages, whereas two children (Sivan and Bundi) died in Kota after the families had migrated together.

“We spent 4500 rupees for Bundi’s treatment in Kota. After all, we sent Bundi back to our village for which we spent another 7000 rupees,” Bundi’s grandfather has said. Bundi’s family took a loan from the contractor for whom they worked, and Bundi’s father now works as a bonded labourer until he can pay back the debt.

Right to work


One of the key elements of programmes ensuring the right to food is the supplying of employment. The government promise of 100 days of employment under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) is not grounded in reality or practice. In both Agasiya and Madrani villages, villagers holding job cards got a maximum of 15 to 20 days employment in 2009. Furthermore villagers who worked for 10 to 15 days under the NREGA programme in October 2009 have still not been paid; it has been reported that the head of Agasiya village has kept their job cards, while not distributing their wages.

The lack of food and the failure of government programmes to be fully implemented have forced people to migrate. The social audit to monitor the implementation of programmes, which is carried out with the villagers' participation, often malfunctions due to lack of its publicity in the tribal community. As a result the social audit reports (No.172100324, 172100311 dated 20 August 2009) stated that no problems were reported in the two villages, which does not reflect the real situation. Please see more on the malfunctioning of the social audit in Jabalpur district, which was reported in a previous hunger alert; INDIA: Government's neglect and corruption drives a 30 year-old Dalit woman to death through starvation.

Child health care


The deceased children were completely deprived of health security by being excluded from the public health system. Of the 28 children, 17 were not registered at AWC, which is the most primary public health institute at village level. However even the children who were registered have never been provided with public health care such as supplementary food grain and immunization, which is a duty of the AWC.

There is one AWC in Agasiya village comprising 359 households, while there are two AWCs in Madrani village comprising of 716 (as of Jan 2009). The only AWC in Agasiya village is located in a Hindu upper caste community area which is far away from other communities who find it difficult to access. Eighty out of 150 children in total in the village are not registered in the AWC. It is commonly seen in other villages that the government data excludes a number of unregistered children. Please refer to previous hunger alert; INDIA: 22 children died of malnutrition associated with diseases for past two months in Sidhi district, Madhya Pradesh.

Even those registered among the deceased children have not received public health care – since workers and other relevant officials never visited those tribal children. As a result, although the deceased children suffered from malnutrition and other sicknesses such as fever, vomiting, and diarrhea, public servants, as duty bearers, failed to respect their right to life.

The failure of public health care creates a financial burden for families and extends their bonded labour, as with Bundi’s father Jalu (see above).

In another case Arjun, who is two months old, fell sick and began to spit up milk. Binnu, his father took him to the hospital where they were not provided with any medicine. Binnu then spent about 1000 rupees for medicine and 200 rupees for transportation, and had to pay 50-100 rupees for the consultation fee, since children there are completely excluded from public health care.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Jhabua District is located in the far west of Madhya Pradesh, adjacent to Rajasthan. The majority of people are from the Bhil tribe - comprising 86% of the total population in the district. Communities within the villages are widely scattered, which creates more difficulty for poor villagers to access available government facilities.

According to the field report, 93.9 % of the total population lives in rural areas and 87.6% of the urban population lives in poverty. Only 4.5% of the rural population has access to toilet facilities while 1.5% take water from a pipe. Merely 19.4% of the children between 12 to 23 months are fully immunized while 14.6 % of the children between 9 to 35 months have received one dose of vitamin A. These poor facilities and conditions are reflected in the fact that the government recognizes that more than 40% of the children are malnourished in this area.

SUGGESTED ACTION

Please write a letter to express your concern and grief about the needless deaths of these children, and regarding the danger faced by those currently suffering from malnutrition in Jhabua. (To send a letter please visit AHRC site)

The AHRC has also written a separate letter to the Chief Justice of India, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the Committee on the Rights of the Child calling for their intervention.