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KERALA LETTER
Solar scam reveals decadent polity and sociery
A Dalit poet writing in English, based in Kerala
Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen
Change of heart? Or stooping to conquer?

വായന

31 May, 2011

JNU bid to silence Forum against War on People

A proctorial inquiry is going on in the Jawaharlal Nehru University against the JNU Forum against War on People.

The university administration has also prohibited the Forum from holding any public meetings or other events on the campus till the inquiry is over.

It has also instructed the JNU printing shops not to photocopy any written material issued by the Forum.

The JNU Forum against War on People was formed two years ago in opposition to the initiation of Operation Green Hunt. The proctorial inquiry was issued following the distribution of a campaign document containing “objectionable material”.

The material is a pictorial description of the Indian State smashing the people under its jackboot, which is widely available in the public domain. According to the university administration it violates sections 3 and 7 of State Emblem Act, 2005.

The Forum used it in the campaign for a public meeting organized on 5 March 2011 opposing Operation Green Hunt and state’s onslaught on the people. The meeting was addressed by noted writer Arundhati Roy and well known economist Prof. Amit Bhaduri, who is also the Emeritus Professor of the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, JNU. The meeting saw attended by more than 600 students.

The JNU Forum against War on People has been mobilizing public opinion against the mounting onslaught on the Adivasis and other oppressed and deprived sections of the people in the name of Development by the State, it is imperative that the students and all other sensitised sections discuss the manifold dimensions of Operation Green Hunt.

The gagging of the Forum is a part of the ongoing attempts to clamp down on voices of dissent. The incarceration of Dr. Binayak Sen and scores of civil and political rights activists have been going on unabated in urban centres while the resisting Adivasis and other people are repressed by the state in mineral-rich forest areas.

The JNU administration’s interpretation of the Forum’s use of a publicly and widely available image as a supposed violation of legal provisions is uncalled for and unacceptable. A university as acclaimed as JNU must have spaces to discuss, debate and deliberate on all important issues of socio-economic and political significance. The JNU is setting dangerous precedents through the proctorial inquiry and the objectionable circulars.

An online petition has been created for those who oppose the JNU administration’s action to register their protest and demand withdrawal of the circulars issued by the Chief Proctor’s office on 19 May 2011.

It can be accessed at http://www.petitiononline.com/jnufawp0/petition.html

30 May, 2011

People’s Tribunal member denied entry into Kashmir


The following is a message received fro: Dr. Angana Chatterji, Convener IPTK and Professor, Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies; and advocate Parvez Imroz, Convener IPTK and Founder, Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society:

On May 28, 2011, Mr. Gautam Navlakha, Convener, International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK) and Editorial Consultant, Economic and Political Weekly, was stopped at Srinagar airport on his arrival from New Delhi, and asked to go back. Officials invoked Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. By the time the authorities finalized their decision regarding his return, there were no remaining flights out of Srinagar. Mr. Navlakha was detained and taken to an undisclosed location until May 29, when he will be allowed to return home.

Mr. Navlakha is a noted public intellectual and peace activist. His denial of entry raises urgent concerns about the status of freedom of speech and movement in Kashmir. Given the egregious violence that was inflicted on people by state forces in the Summer of 2008, 2009, and 2010 in Kashmir, we are deeply concerned that state forces not suppress democratic activities in the Summer of 2011, and not isolate Kashmiris from human rights defenders that travel to Kashmir to bear witness to atrocities and speak for peace and justice.

We understand that harassment, intimidation, and threats to IPTK members or their families are acts aimed to target and obstruct the work of the Tribunal. In November 2010, Professor Richard Shapiro, an academic from the United States and life-partner of IPTK Co-convener Angana Chatterji, was denied entry into India without any charges or due process.

Earlier, in June 2008, IPTK Co-convener Pravez Imroz and his family were targeted and an explosive device was thrown at his home. Imroz has been denied a passport. In July 2008, a First Information Report charged Angana Chatterji and IPTK Co-convener Zahir-Ud-Din, then editor of Etalaat English Daily, with acting to incite crimes against the state, following his publication of an article on mass graves written by Chatterji. IPTK Liaison Khurram Parvez has been threatened and is under extensive surveillance. All Tribunal communications and the movements of its members in India and abroad are monitored.

We remain gravely concerned about the physical and psychological safety and integrity of all Tribunal members. We remain gravely concerned about our ability to continue our work, and the ability of out-of-state Tribunal members to travel to Kashmir.

Scramble for Africa

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flew into Addis Ababa last week for a meeting with leaders of 15 nations, the Western media proclaimed that India and China were engaged in a scramble for Africa. A section of the Indian media echoed the sentiment. “India now rivals China for top honours in the new Great Game in Africa,” wrote one newspaper.

It is not surprising that those fed on history texts that chronicle the European competition for acquiring colonies should view the Indian and Chinese efforts to expand their contacts with Africa, which are in keeping with their status as fast growing economics, in terms of 18th and 19th century imperial endeavours.

If there is a conflict in Africa today it is not between the two emergent Asian powers but between them and the Western nations which brought the continent under their heel in the colonial era and continue to benefit from the gains of that period.

The United States and seven European countries are among the top 10 trading partners of sub-Saharan Africa. The Asian countries in the list are China and Japan. India does not figure in it at all.

Japan built up its African market as its economy boomed after World War II but chose to remain a junior partner of the West. China, which sets its eye on the African market about two decades ago, is now the largest exporter to the region.

In 2008, when India began efforts to enlarge its economic ties with the region, China was already at the top as an exporter, accounting for 9.8% of all sub-Saharan imports, as against Germany’s 5.6% and United States’ 5.3%. The US remained the biggest importer, receiving as much as 28.4% of all exports from the resource-rich region. China was in the second place, accounting for 13.4% of the exports, having edged past Japan and the European competitors.

At present the US is involved in a desperate attempt to beat back China’s challenge. Last year, as a matter of strategy, the US government decided to stay out of low-end competition with China, which has flooded Africa’s streets and supermarkets with cheap goods, and focus on the sensitive and highly profitable high-tech segment, which includes aircraft, medicine and medical equipment.

The Addis Ababa event which Manmohan Singh attended was the second Africa-India Forum Summit (AIFS). That forum was created eight years after the Forum on US-Sub Saharan Africa Trade and Economic Cooperation (commonly referred to as AGOA Forum, after the African Growth and Opportunity Act of 2000) and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) came into being.

Following the first AIFS summit, India had set up a pan-African e-network linking 43 countries of the continent. Although a good part of the credit line of $5.6 billion offered at that time for development and capacity-building projects is yet to be utilised, India committed more funds to take up new projects in such areas as information technology, textiles, food processing and weather forecasting.

The keen interest evinced in Africa by both developed and developing countries reflects their faith in the continent’s future. The region has more than 50 countries with a total population of about 1.5 billion. As many as 33 countries classified by the United Nations as “least developed” are located there, but the region’s growth rate compares favourably with that of the world as a whole.

As countries which suffered the ravages of imperialism, China and India have certain advantages over the West in their dealings with Africa. China’s $126 billion trade with Africa puts it way ahead of India, which is seeking to raise its trade from $46 billion to $70 billion in the near future.

The differing circumstances of China and India offer scope for assuming roles that are complementary rather than competitive. This does not mean the scramble the pundits are talking about can be ruled out forever. There are policy makers in both countries whose mindsets have been conditioned by western textbooks.

Past association in the Non-Aligned Movement and South-South exchanges will stand India in good stead as it re-engages with emergent Africa. However, it has to keep in mind a lesson from the earlier period. Many young Africans who studied in Indian universities under a scheme instituted by Jawaharlal Nehru were in high positions when their countries gained Independence. Memories of the subtle racial discrimination they had experienced as students often dulled their enthusiasm for India.--Gulf Today, Sharjah, May 30, 2011.

28 May, 2011

Slum dwellers' demands met, Medha Patkar ending fast

There is good news from Mumbai.

The Maharashtra government has conceded Medha Patkar’s demand, paving the way for ending her nine-day old fast in support of the residents of Golibar colony,

A settlement was reached last night and it was agreed that the Maharashtra Chief Secretary would meet Medha today with an official notification incorporating the terms of the settlement.

Adv Kamayani Bali Mahabal writes:


A big thank you to our Chief Minister, Prithviraj Chavan! He has set the wheels of justice turning.

The Government has conceded to the demands of the movement. After nine days of fast by Medhatai Patkar and relay hunger-strike by nearly 1,200 people today at the
dharna site, and protests and demonstrations in different cities, and thousands of letters and faxes to the CM, the Government of Maharashtra agreed to constitute two new joint committees with the representatives of the civil society.

The following are the terms of the settlement:

1) Accepting the proposal for 25 settlements and some more to be given in next few days to be declared as slums under the Maharashtra Slums Act, 1971 after due process, within three months.

2) A meeting chaired by the Chief Secretary to be convened along with National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) members, Central Government officials and state officials on June 10, to consider implementing the Rajiv Gandhi Awas Yojana.

3) Activation of the existing High Powered Committee, chaired by Chief Secretary, to amend or suggest new slum policies to government of Maharashtra.

4) Two Committees to be constituted - one four-member Committee for Ganesh Krupa Society and another five-member Committee to look into 15 societies / bastis where 3K projects are to be implemented – in Golibar, Antop Hill, Ghatkopar West, Kurla, Andheri West, Bandra East and others.

All demolitions will be halted until then.

We thank Medha and everyone who has supported this movement which reiterated that the Right to a Home is a basic right.

After the formalities are completed, the demolished homes will be repaired so our elders and children can be sheltered from the monsoon rains!

Adv Kamayani Bali Mahabal
+919820749204

23 May, 2011

Goof-up on terrorism front

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

With multiple threats from domestic and foreign militant outfits, India is at the top of the list of terrorism-affected nations of the world. Reports that cast doubts on the efficiency of its security agencies and the efficacy of its counter-terrorism strategies are, therefore, a source of worry.

In March India had given Pakistan a list of ‘50 most wanted men’ which it claimed were hiding in that country. It included the names of Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan, who was said to be wanted in connection with the Mumbai blasts of 1993, and Khan Wazhul Kamar, said to be wanted in connection with the Mulund train blast of 2003.

When the report was being drawn up Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan was in Mumbai’s Arthur Road prison and Wazhul Kamar was living in Thane after having been arrested and released on bail. When Kamar’s presence in Thane was reported, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the premier investigative agency, sought to lay the blame for the goof at the door of the Maharashtra police, which, it said, had failed to inform it of the arrest of the man, for whom the Interpol had issued a red corner notice.

When Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan’s presence in jail came to light, the CBI was left with no escape route. For, it was the CBI which had arrested and lodged him there. It will be wrong to assume that the mistakes that crept into the list of wanted men are a sign of incompetence. They are more likely the result of lack of effective co-ordination among the many police forces under the state and central governments.

The CBI, which was set up as a special police establishment directly under the Centre with authority to investigate any case referred to it, has a pivotal role in tracking fugitives who flee the country as it is the agency that liaises with Interpol.

The faulty list of wanted persons given to Pakistan was drawn up on the basis of red corner and lookout notices the CBI had sent to Interpol. Every member country of Interpol has an obligation to arrest a person against whom a red corner notice has been issued if he is found in its territory.

About 550 red corner notices issued by the CBI are currently pending. Only a few of them relate to cases it is investigating. Most relate to cases being investigated by various states. When a state government has reason to suspect that a wanted person has left the country, it informs the CBI, which, as the nodal agency, issues a red corner notice or lookout notice to Interpol.

The first to come on the scene when an act of terrorism takes place is the state police. If it is felt necessary to entrust the investigation to a central agency, the CBI or the recently established National Investigation Agency may take over.

Apart from the investigative agencies of the central and state governments, intelligence outfits are also involved in the fight against terrorism. Among them are the Intelligence Bureau, which is under the Home Ministry, and the Research and Analysis Wing, which is under the Prime Minister’s office. The IB is concerned with domestic intelligence and RAW with foreign intelligence.

There have been occasions when central intelligence officials overstepped their authority and intruded into the area of investigation. An IB officer played a dubious role in the sensational espionage case in which two scientists of the Indian Space Research Organisation and two women from the Maldives were among the accused. Even after the Supreme Court upheld the CBI report absolving the accused, he had tried to revive the case.

The Home Ministry has initiated corrective measures in the light of the revelations of the past week. But there is nothing to indicate that the government is ready to review its counter-terrorism strategies which have been criticised for their likely counterproductive results.

In a report, published early this year, Human Rights Watch documented many instances of rights violations committed by state police and other authorities, including arbitrary arrest, torture, and religious discrimination. HRW South Asia Director Meenakshi Ganguly pointed out that such unlawful responses could alienate the people and allow the real perpetrators of crimes to remain free and pose an ongoing threat to public safety. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, May 23, 2011.

20 May, 2011

Rally in Delhi to demand democracy in the forests

About 3,000 adivasis and forest dwellers from across the country gathered at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, today to protest against the blatant and criminal resource grab of the Central and State governments.

The following is a communication from Campaign for Survival and Dignity, which organized the demonstration:

Braving intense heat and travelling for days on end packed in trains, our people came to Delhi to condemn the blatant criminal looting of our resources by these governments. Joined by leaders of the the Gondwana Ganatantrak Party, the CPI, the CPI(M), the CPI(ML) Liberation as well as other organizations, the protesters rallied at Jantar Mantar till 3 pm and then marched towards Parliament, where they courted arrest and were detained by the police.

Two delegations of the protesters presented the demands to the President and to the Secretary of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.

Simultaneously, more than 3,000 people joined a protest called by the Campaign's Odisha state federation in Bhubaneshwar, on the same issues, and presented a memorandum to the State Governor.

The participants in the Delhi protest had come from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli. They raised the fact that both the Central government and the State governments are brazenly violating the law and people's rights in order to keep their control over forests and forest lands. The government's entire agenda is dictated by the interests of capital - especially private industry - and the state machinery, particularly the Forest Department, and it will stoop to anything to grab more and more forests and lands for these interests. With every passing day, whether it is the POSCO project, so-called "afforestation" programs across forest areas or illegal eviction of forest dwellers in various States, the state machinery continues on its grossly illegal drive to seize control of our homelands.

CPI(M) Politburo member Brinda Karat, CPI National Secretary D. Raja,and Girija Pathak of the CPI(M-L) Liberation addressed the protesters and called for a joint struggle by the movements gathered today and all people's forces to demand that the government respect justice and the rights of forest dwellers.

Brinda Karat declared that the government was putting the entire burden of implementation of the law on to the people throwing the law to the winds.
Raja said the struggle for democracy in the forests is an integral part of the struggle for a true democracy in this country.

Girija Pathak condemned the government's neoliberal approach and the manner in which it acts as a handmaiden to private capital even in violation of laws and people's rights.

Hirasingh Markam, Dhirendra Singh and other leaders of the Gondwana Ganatantrak Party also addressed the protesters and called for an intensified struggle to secure justice for adivasis.

For 150 years the forest dwellers of this country have fought for justice and for democracy in the forests. Today was one more moment in that fight. With every day our struggle grows stronger and wider. The state and the ruling class must realise that the days of loot, plunder and pillage are numbered. The people are rising, and however many lies they tell about "development" and "conservation", however many times they break their own laws, however many times they beat and kill us, the struggle for justice cannot be crushed forever.

Demands of today's protest:

1. The Forest Rights Act should be implemented in all forest areas, including protected areas, and the rights of all forest dwellers must be recognised. All Forest Department interference, illegal demands for unnecessary evidence, and illegal rejections should be halted.

2. All rejections and cases where people received less than the area claimed should be reviewed.

3. The gram sabha's powers to manage, control and protect forests and other natural resources must be respected, and displacement should be halted.

4. PESA should be implemented and scheduling extended to all adivasi areas.

5. CFR rights should be recognised for all villages and habitat rights recognised for all PTGs.

6. Takeover of forest land for industries, plantations, so-called "critical tiger or wildlife habitats" and forced eviction of people must be stopped and those responsible for these acts should be prosecuted. The conhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifsent of the gram sabha for diversion and compliance with the law should be required in every case.

7. Joint Forest Management should be shut down. The money channeled to the Forest Department for JFM should be transferred to the Employment Guarantee Act and the rights and power of the community to manage forests should be recognized.

Campaign for Survival and Dignity
Contact: 9873657844, forestcampaign@gmail.com

Medha Patkar detained, on fast at police station

Medha Patkar was detained by the Maharashtra police while on her way to the Golibar slum area where Shivalik Ventures demolished 11 houses yesterday and 12 persons were arrested.

Medha and about 50 slum residents who were with her were taken to the Kheruvadi police station. They are on an indefinite hunger-strike in the police station.

The following is a communication received from the National Alliance of People’s Movement in this connection:

“Today the bulldozers of Shivalik Ventures continued to demolish houses in the Golibar slum area, where yesterday 11 houses were broken down and nearly 12 people were arrested.

“Medha Patkar and nearly 50 people from other bastis were on their way to the Golibar area when they were detained and put in Kheruvadi police station. Frustrated with the constant violation of the laws and open support to the Shivalik Ventures which has been riddled with corruption, as mentioned in the letter written to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chauhan yesterday, Medha Patkar and others have started indefinite hunger-strike in police custody.”.

NAPL has appealed to all to write to the Chief Minister demanding immediate stoppage of the demolitions and release of all people arrested and detained yesterday and today.

For details, please contact Prerna Gaikawad 9221958763 in Golibar or Dinesh Shinde in Kheruvadi police station with Medha Patkar 9221001717.

Details regarding the Khar/Golibar struggle are available at http://khareastandolan.wordpress.com/

The following is the text of the letter Medha Patkar wrote to the Chief Minister:


Dear Shri Prithviraj Chavanji,

I have been reading about the good decisions of yours to review the 3-K schemes, rather scams and we welcome this courageous decision. While two of these are cancelled, enquiry of Shivalik Ventures is apparently, on. It is already an established fact that the builder, with the name changed many times and so was the enterprise (SVI Realties, Shivalik Ventures, Shi. Ventures Private Ltd., Lifestyle Realty) has committed serious criminal offences in the process of seeking approval. The Slum Rehabilitation Authority, to the Mantralaya, all have favoured the builder.

Its also seen and exposed from the letter of the Directorate of Income Tax that UNITECH has made 50% of the investment, that too by collecting advances through Neera Radia! It thus can be covered in the enquiry on the 2 G spectrum scam.

Another level of fraudulent sanctions is of the co-operatives in the Golibar region. Preparing fake documents of General Body meetings with false signatures, cheating the private owners and co-operatives member's, putting thousands of people in the transit camps, violating the rules, but also constructed on the land belonging to the Defence Ministry (Air Force) or the Railway Ministry etc......are also thoroughly assessed and exposed by us as well as the concerned authorities. FIRs filed are being investigated into, based on the High Court orders in certain cases.

In this context, while the Project deserves cancellation and legal action, its shocking that the Additional Collector, Mr. Rokhade is again issuing notices for demolition and tomorrow morning again the massive police force is to be deployed for the same. These colonies of families settled 70-100 years ago, are not "encroacher's slums", but pucca houses erected out of sweat and blood of toiling people.

The land grabbers, eyeing on this land, just 3 kms away from the airport, are up with all political pressures and interests, to not just evict, but destroy the lives of thousands of families. This must be stopped and questioned. While we are to fight the battle tooth and nail, as we did in January last, we expect you to issue immediate orders to stop the demolition during the inquiry and further take appropriate steps to cancel the Shivalik project at Golibar, to save life and shelter of the thousands of families from the jaws of land sharks. This battle, would otherwise catch fire with all the builders and all the affected shall join the people of Golibar with women at the forefront.

With Regards,

Medha Patkar

18 May, 2011

Nationwide action from May 22 to August 18 seeking repeal of AFSPA

The National Alliance of People’s Movement has called for nationwide action from May 22 to August 18, 2011 in support of the demand for repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a colonial law which the Indian government still invokes 64 years after gaining Independence.

The following is a statement issued by NAPM in New Delhi on Tuesday in this connection:


On May 22, 1958 the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a colonial law used against Mahatma Gandhi, was re-promulgated through an ordinance initially in the Naga areas of Assam (later divided between four states) and later in Mizoram, then in parts of Manipur and later in all of Manipur. The ordinance, after a brief discussion in Parliament, was endorsed and got the status of Act on August 18, 1958, despite stiff resistance from various quarters who challenged it as a martial and draconian law.

Since then it has been in force in one part or the other of the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Jammu and Kashmir (since 1991) -- even though continuation of the 'disturbed area' status under AFSPA in many parts of the country is illegal in view of violation of the mandatory six monthly periodic review directed by the Supreme Court in its 1997 judgment.

AFSPA continues to be the most potent repressive tool of the Indian state that empowers even a non-commissioned officer of the armed forces of the Union to kill on mere suspicion and provides him legal immunity from prosecution, thereby causing untold misery and agony to the peoples in the affected regions. The imposition of AFSPA is synonymous with heavy militarization leading to gross violations of civil and political rights including enforced disappearances, extra-judicial execution, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence against women, arbitrary arrest and detention. All this together has meant severe economic, social and cultural cost including erosion of civil administration, lack of access to education, basic health care, destruction of properties and sources of livelihood, and environmental destruction and 'normal' functioning of democratic institutions in these areas.

The continued and selective use of AFSPA against communities who have been demanding self-determinations rights is a cause of worry in the context of the increasing militarization of the society in the subcontinent especially after 9/11 and the growing communalization of the polity in India as a whole and suppression of people's democratic rights in the name of national security.

This law is more draconian than its predecessor ordinance used by the British to suppress the Quit India Movement. On the pretext of controlling insurgency, this Act has helped to intensify the insurgency in the region and legitimized thousands of gross human rights violations like rape, torture, murder and “disappearances” of innocent people in the Northeast and J & K. The democratic movements in the Northeast and J & K have consistently demanded the repeal of the Act and demilitarization for decades.

Continuing with our efforts for establishing democratic values in the society and in solidarity with the struggles of democratic movements of Northeast and J & K National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) calls upon the Government of India :

1. To repeal immediately
• The Armed Forces (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura) Special Powers Act, 1958 (as amended in 1972), and
• The Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990

2. To refrain from inserting any part of the Acts into any other legislation granting unbridled powers to the armed forces of the union or the State police.

3. Immediately work out and announce a phased, time-bound demilitarisation plan to withdraw the Army and other paramilitary forces from internal security duties in NE states and J & K.

It needs to be noted that AFSPA is not only opposed by the movement groups and the rights bodies but also by the Government’s own commissions and committees appointed to look into the matter. For example, the Committee to Review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, headed by Justice B. P. Jeevan Reddy in 2005, the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Dr. Veerappa Moily in 2007 and several others have damned the use of AFSPA and demanded immediate measures for its withdrawal from civil areas.

Internationally, the UN bodies including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and recently the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders have consistently urged its repeal. However, all these have gone to the deaf ears of the Government.

Along with the struggles of millions of people against the militarization and AFSPA, the fast by Irom Sharmila Chanu has crossed 10 years. She has been force-fed through her nose by the Government, arrested and charged with attempt to commit suicide, criminalized as a high security prisoner, denying her access to family, friends, supporters and the media. It is a shame that in this land of Gandhi, a non-violent protester has been subjected to such humiliation for more than ten years. Even as she continues her struggle along with many in the NE and J & K, we appeal to our comrades in human rights groups and people’s movements across the country to demand repeal of AFSPA along with other draconian laws like UAPA, MCOCA, CSPSA and others and resist the increasing militarization of democratic spaces.

You can join us by organizing

1. Public protests, dharnas, relay fasts in your area

2. Public meetings and seminars on AFSPA and Irom Sharmila demanding the repeal of AFSPA

3. Performances of the solo play `Le mashale’ on Irom Sharmila by Ojas S.V. Write to her meetojas@gmail.com or call 020 - 24251404
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4. Painting exhibitions on Irom Sharmila. The exhibition can be downloaded from: http://www.e-pao.net/epGallery.asp?id=1&src=AFSPA_Related/Neogene201102

5. Screening if films on AFSPA. Copies of the video films are available from: email: insafdelhi@gmail.com or phone: 011-26517814

6. Public signature campaigns and sending them to the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the Law Minster, the Home Minister and the National Human Rights Commission

7. Issuance of statements by well known writers, intellectuals, film personalities, theatre people, musicians and other artists

8. Any other form of action that you may find appropriate to strengthen democracy in this country

Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, P Chennaiah, Gabriele Dietrich, Suniti S R, Sister Celia, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupendera Singh Rawat, Mukta Srivastava, Faisal Khan, Anand mazgaonkar, Madhuresh Kumar

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For details contact or write to napmindia@napm-india.org | 9818905316

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National Alliance of Peoples' Movements (NAPM)http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif
C/O 6/6 (Basement), Jangpura B, Mathura Road, New Delhi 110 014
Mobile +91 9818 905316 | 011 2624 1167
email : napm.madhuresh@gmail.com | napmindia@gmail.com
Web : www.napm-india.org

Read NAPM's News magazine, Movement of India @ http://issuu.com/MovementOfIndia

Follow NAPM on Twitter : http://twitter.com/napmindia and Join us on Facebook too.

16 May, 2011

Understanding Civil Society action in the Binayak Sen case

By Ilina Sen
freebinayaksen.org

The case of Binayak Sen ( by this I mean the legal case as well as the whole body of civil society reaction across national and social boundaries) is in many ways a landmark in Indian jurisprudence. Apart from the personal pain and agony that I have gone through, in being witness to Binayak’s uncalled for incarceration and unjust conviction, the case has also intellectually challenged me along with many other citizens of my country and forced so many of us to look critically at the laws and statutes that govern our lives.

It has brought into the limelight the outdated provisions of the sedition law in India, and today our Law minister has gone on record as saying that this law needs urgent revision if not scrapping, in keeping with the spirit of the times. Many of us who are not legal professionals have looked into our statute books and discovered horror chambers in sections penalizing thought / action against ‘any Asiatic Power’ in alliance with the government of India. This particular statute obviously dates from the time when the British crown and the crown in Moscow were locked into the ‘great game’ over the control of Afghanistan, and reminds us that the Afghan people have been pawned in many games but that no game player has historically succeeded in selling them down the river.

We have also been forced to look at the way our lower courts function – at the way the police and the prosecution work in tandem, at the way in which the established law of evidence is disregared, at bizarre new interpretations of established legal interpretations and positions. One’s mind begins to form a sneaking question whether the mandate of the court at this level is to support the police in keeping anyone labeled as guilty in custody for some years, and leave the finer points of the law of the land to higher courts of appeal.

One has seen countless cases of miscarriage of justice as well as the horrendous conditions in Indian jails at first hand.

However, Binayak’s case also stands as an example where the people of the world have stood up and said to governments ( their own as well those of their neighbours) that the state cannot get away with heavy handed authoritarianism and have the people accept that lying down. Ordinary citizens are never lawless people and appreciate the fact systems and legal structures keep us safe, yet when these same laws become instruments of injustice rather than justice , we all feel it is time for us to stand up and make our concern felt. Civilized democratic societies and established political structures are all products of a social contract between the people and the structures of governance, with the ultimate power resting in the will of the people. Here we have seen how in city after city – In India, Asia, Europe, Australia and America- people have stood up and said that is unacceptable for governments to exercise the power we give them in this way. I see this as a step in the re negotiation of the social and political contacts of governance, of which there are many other manifestations in our times. For me this has been the most important learning, the most important outcome of the case.

Binayak joins me in greeting all of you, many friends whom we have met, and many others whom we have not, yet who are together with us in a spirit of common good.

Sent for presentation at the UK Seminar on “‘Dr Binayak Sen and the use of ‘Sedition’ Laws to Persecute Human Rights Activists in India” on May 14, 2011.

People prevail over system

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

Voters in four Indian states and one Union Territory which went to the polls over the past month demonstrated yet again that they are capable of choosing wisely, keeping in view the public good, even amidst cacophonous campaigns.

In West Bengal, they booted out the Left Front, led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist, which they had voted to office in election after election during the past three and half decades.

In Tamil Nadu they threw out the discredited government of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and gave a resounding victory to the All India Anna DMK, which has been alternating in power with it for decades.

In Kerala, they administered a rude shock to the Congress-led United Democratic Front, which was hoping for an easy return to power after five years in the opposition. As it happened, the UDF scraped through with 72 seats against the CPI-M-led Left Democratic Front’s 68 seats.

In Assam, they gave a rare third term to the Congress, with an improved majority which frees it from having to rely on a regional ally for an absolute majority in the Assembly.

In the Union of Territory of Puduchery (formerly Pondicherry), they dumped the Congress and plumped for the breakaway faction led by N Rangaswamy.

On a superficial view, these are mixed results but a close look reveals a common resolve on the part of the voters to rise above petty loyalties and transient sentiments and choose the best option in the given circumstances. Overcoming the cynicism engendered by the there-is-no-alternative theory propagated by political establishments of all hues, they adroitly engineered results that convey a clear message: don’t take us for granted.

The Left Front had established a solid popular base in Bengal’s countryside by initiating radical land reforms soon after it first came to power in 1977. There was no looking back thereafter. The CPI-M’s well-oiled machinery made sure that the alliance romped home every time elections were called. The opposition accused it of rigging but the Election Commission’s observers found no evidence of major irregularities.

The cosy situation that ensured the Left Front’s unbroken reign ended when the government, eager to generate employment opportunities, decided to acquisition farm land and turn it over to domestic and foreign promoters to set up industries. When farmers resisted, the police and CPI-M cadres unleashed a violent campaign to suppress the farmers’ resistance. The party was unprepared for the backlash it produced.

Mamata Banerjee, a Congress woman who had broken away from the party accusing it of pussyfooting, took upon herself the task of challenging the might of the Left. The Trinamool Congress, which she founded in 1998, soon outgrew the parent body, and became the state’s main opposition party.

The Election Commission staggered polling in the state over several days to ensure close and prevent malpractices. The Trinamool Congress registered an impressive victory, winning 184 seats in the 294-member house. The Congress, which accepted the role of junior partner, got 42 seats. The Left Front got only 63 seats.

The DMK faced the elections with its reputation sullied by corruption charges. A Raja, one of its ministers in the Central government, is now in jail as an accused in the 2G case. Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s daughter and MP, Kanimozhi, is also an accused in this case. The DMK attempted to bribe its way back to power but was rebuffed. The AIADMK and its partners made a sweep with 203 seats in the new Assembly against the DMK-led alliance’s 31.

Every election held in Kerala in the last 30 years has resulted in a change of government. The LDF, which, under Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan’s leadership, launched a vigorous campaign this time for a second successive term, came close to breaking the established pattern.

The people voted the UDF to power by a slender margin, clearly showing signalling that the choice before them cannot be reduced to one of picking the two fronts alternately. They are ready to give a front a second term if it lives up to their expectations.

Having lost control of West Bengal and Kerala, the CPI-M now wields power only in the small state of Tripura, which has the same area and population as Lebanon.

While the Congress can rejoice over the gains in Assam, its dismal showing in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puduchery and in two by-elections held in Andhra Pradesh reflects poorly on the national leadership’s management of state party affairs. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, May 16, 2011.

09 May, 2011

Green Warrior on the retreat

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, who had earned the praise of activists by seeking strict enforcement of forest and environment laws, last week gave the go-ahead for two controversial projects, reversing his earlier decisions, apparently under pressure.

On May 2 he allowed Odisha (formerly Orissa) to make available 1,253 hectares of forest land to South Korea’s Pohang Iron and Steel Company (Posco), which is to set up a giant steel plant in the state. Land acquisition for the project had been stopped in August 2009 after he directed that there should be no diversion of forest land in violation of the Forest Rights Act.

On Friday he lifted the stop-work order issued to the Maheshwar Hydel Power Corporation Ltd last year as its promoters had not complied with the conditions of environmental clearance, especially those relating to relief and rehabilitation of persons affected by the project.

The Maheshwar dam is part of the massive Narmada Valley development project which provides for the construction of 30 large and 135 medium-sized dams. The project has been at the centre of a decades-long agitation by the displaced tribal population under the banner of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Save Narmada Movement).

Jairam Ramesh’s new order refers to many letters Madhya Pradesh’s Bharatiya Janata Party Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and former Congress Chief Minister Digvijay Singh had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging continuance of the project. It also mentions a series of review meetings convened by the Prime Minister’s Office. This indicates that he has issued the order under relentless pressure.

Environmentalists have charged that the centre with clearing the two projects on the strength of false declarations made by the states about relief and rehabilitation.

The Posco plant will deprive about 50,000 farmers of Jagatsinghpur, Keonjhar and Sundargarh areas of their means of livelihood. One of the large dams under the Narmada project, the Maheshwar dam is expected to displace about 35,000 people.

The agitations against the two schemes have attracted international attention. Civil society groups in South Korea are among those who have extended support to the movement against the Posco project. The US power utility Ogden Energy Group, which was to have funded 49 per cent of the equity for the Maheshwar dam, had pulled out in 2000 in view of the widespread local opposition. It was the fourth investor group to withdraw from the project.

Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a civil society group backing Adivasi movements in the country, has pointed out that the new order relating to the Posco project is against the Supreme Court-appointed committee’s recommendation that, instead of making piecemeal allocation, the land required for the steel plant and for mining must be assessed and a decision taken on land diversion after considering the impact on ecology and the rehabilitation and resettlement plan.

India enacted a series of laws to protect its forests and the environment at the instance of prime minister Indira Gandhi immediately after the Stockholm summit of 1972, which she had attended. However, corporate promoters of projects found it easy to bribe their way out of their legal obligations. The state governments often ignored the agonised cries of forest-dwellers and environmental activists. Appeals to the judiciary, too, yielded only partial relief.

Jairam Ramesh, on becoming minister in charge of Environment and Forests in May 2009, initiated a series of steps which gave rise to hopes of strict implementation of laws. While environmentalists began to look upon him as one fighting on their side, the development-at-any-cost school dubbed him a “green fundamentalist.”

Ironically, the Green Warrior has beaten a retreat even as the government claims to be pushing for tight controls. Last week the central government said in future it would not give environmental clearance for mining and industrial projects needing more than 40 hectares of forest land unless the promoters first obtained a certificate from the forest department stating how much forest would be diverted.

India, striving to catch up with the advanced nations, needs to remember that it is working under different conditions. The United States has about 30 per cent area under forest, as against 21 per cent in India. Its population density is only 34 per square kilometre as against India’s 324 per sq km. China, with a population density of 140 per sq km, is trying to raise its forest cover of 18 per cent to 26 per cent by 2050. --Gulf Today, Sharjah, May 9, 2011.

02 May, 2011

Partisanship mars democracy

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

India’s successful conduct of massive elections has earned praise, and countries like Egypt and Nigeria are trying to profit from its experience as they seek to democratise their political systems. But, then, democracy means much more than holding elections at regular intervals. It calls for an ability to rise above narrow loyalties with common good in view.

When the Indian constitution, which incorporates the good practices that evolved in all democratic societies, was finalised, its chief architect, BR Ambedkar said, howsoever good the document might be, it would turn out to be bad if those called upon to work it were a bad lot. Six decades later those words ring ominously true.

As the country grapples with the menace of growing corruption, there is unabashed display of partisanship by both the ruling coalition and the disparate opposition. They are more interested in scoring political points than in bringing to justice those who loot the public.

The 2G scam, brought to light by the Comptroller and Auditor General last year, is the biggest corruption case in India’s history. In a 77-page report tabled in Parliament, the CAG had slammed Communications Minister A. Raja for causing the state a presumptive loss of Rs1,766 billion in 2007-08 through allocation of second generation (2G) and dual technology licences.

The 2G allotment irregularities were already before the Central Bureau of Investigation but it was dragging its feet. Public interest petitions brought the Supreme Court into the picture and its observations after scrutiny of relevant documents forced the CBI to act. Raja, who belongs to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the ruling party of Tamil Nadu, resigned. He and several of his aides are now in jail awaiting trial.

The way the government and the opposition responded to the CAG report is a sordid story of political one-upmanship. Under the constitutional scheme, CAG reports are referred to the public accounts committee (PAC), which is headed by an opposition member and includes members from both the houses of Parliament.

The PAC’s mandate is to look into government spending and ascertain whether there had been any loss or irregularities. In view of the limited scope of PAC examination, the other opposition parties demanded the constitution of a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to go into the matter. The government refused. Determined disruption of Parliament’s budget session by the opposition forced the government to yield.

As the PAC, headed by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi summoned officials of the Prime Minister’s office (PMO) to testify, JPC chairman PC Chacko of the Congress asked that it pull back. He argued there was no need for parallel investigations by two parliamentary bodies.

Joshi turned down the suggestion and speeded up PAC work to finalise its report before his term as chairman expired on April 30. (He was yesterday renominated as chairman for another year.) Congress and DMK members created a ruckus and blocked examination of PMO officials. Nevertheless Joshi went ahead and produced a draft report.

The PAC meeting called to discuss and adopt the report broke up in confusion. Joshi left the meeting with his supporters when he found that Congress and DMK members, who had won over Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party members, were determined to block the report. In the absence of the chairman and his supporters, the remaining members adopted a resolution rejecting the report. Yet Joshi forwarded the draft report to Speaker Meira Kumar. She must now decide what to do with it.

It is not unusual for parliamentary committees to divide on party lines. Such bodies often arrive at decisions not by vote but by consensus. The well established practice is to prepare a report incorporating the majority viewpoint and for those with reservations to append dissenting notes.

Both the majority and the minority in the PAC are in breach of convention. How the Congress party earned the support of two parties and chalked up a majority in the committee is not known. It should cause no surprise if it transpires that it resorted to means that do not accord with democratic norms.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who protected the tainted DMK minister until it became impossible to do so, too has not emerged as a reliable upholder of democratic norms. Politicians guided by partisan considerations are dime a dozen. The Prime Minister must be a statesman who is guided by considerations of public good. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, May 2, 2011.