Pakistan-Nurses ‘poisoning’: Christians call for inquiry


 

By Our Correspondent

Published: August 1, 2012

PHOTO: EXPRESS/IRFAN ALI

KARACHI: Christian leaders have called for an impartial inquiry into the alleged poisoning of nine nurses at a government-run hospital.

Nine Christian trainee nurses at the Civil Hospital Karachi fell ill Sunday night allegedly after drinking poisoned tea prepared at their hostel. They were claimed to have been deliberately poisoned because of their faith.

Parliamentarian Saleem Khokhar, while speaking to The Express Tribune, called on the government and the police to launch a joint investigation to find out the actual cause of poisoning. While rumours initially floated that the poisoning took place as the nurses were drinking tea when their Muslim colleagues were fasting, Khokhar ruled that out, saying that the incident took place late night when everyone had broken their fast.

Condemning the incident, Christian leader Michael Javed went a step ahead and asked for a judicial investigation.

Claiming that the society has become extremely intolerant and was not allowing the minorities to live in peace, the former MPA requested the chief justice to take suo motu notice of the incident. “The government has turned a blind eye to the persecution of minorities; our girls are being [forcibly] converted and our churches are being attacked,” he lamented. Javed said that it was unfortunate if the nurses were really poisoned because the religious minorities also respect the Muslim faith and refrain from drinks and food in front of them. Human Rights Commission of Pakistan’s Abdul Hai also expressed concern over the incident. “A large number of nurses are Christians and are [already] subjected to ill-treatment and prejudice,” he added.

Lambasting the incident, the Christian community members also organised a press conference at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday.

William Sadiq, the coordinator of a welfare organisation working for minority women, was suspicious of the hospital administration and alleged that they were hiding the real matter. She suspected some other girls in the hostel may have poisoned the students over some rivalry.  “It could even be religious targeting,” said Sadiq. The Christian leaders also shouted slogans outside the Karachi Press Club against the hospital’s administration and the rising religious intolerance.

The Civil hospital medical superintendent, Prof Saeed Quraishy, ruled out the involvement of anyone from the hostel, however. “They made the tea themselves, how can there be someone else involved,” he said.

He added that the hospital has registered a case at the Eidgah Police Station and tea samples have been sent to the Aga Khan University Hospital for toxicology tests. He confirmed that except for one student who is still admitted to the hospital, all ‘poisoned’ nurses were discharged.

According to one of the affected nurses, a colleague had made the tea after 10pm and immediately after drinking the liquor they fell ill. They were taken to the Civil hospital’s emergency and sent back after treatment. But the students developed complications in the morning and had to be taken to the hospital again.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st, 2012.

 

 

In the name of Bharatiya Sanskar


 

RASHEEDA BHAGAT

...and stop lecturing women on all the wrong things.
…and stop lecturing women on all the wrong things.

Can we, as a mature country, stop pointing an accusing finger at women all the time? How come nobody is giving homilies to men that it is not alright to assault and molest women, as witnessed in Guwahati recently?

July 23, 2012:

In Khalid Hosseini’s heart wrenching and brilliant novel A Thousand Splendid Suns, Nana tells her little daughter Mariam, the protagonist: “Like a compass needle that points north, a man’s accusing finger always finds a woman. Always. You remember that, Mariam.”

That story is set in Afghanistan and traverses the country’s 45-year period, beginning with the pro-Soviet era. However much women in the developed world and non-Islamic countries such as India might pity the pathetic state and status of women under the Taliban era in Afghanistan or even Pakistan, in their hearts, they know these searing words hold good for any woman.

Let’s take this comment in the context of the horrendous incident that took place in the heart of Guwahati, where a 17-year-old girl was molested by 11 men — some accounts say 15 — for more than 20 minutes. And this, not in a confined space but a busy street, as shown from the footage captured by a television cameraman.

One needs to have nerves of steel to watch on the Net the footage of that barbaric incident, where the young girl, who is being relentlessly pawed, pushed and pulled brutally by her hair, her top ripped to expose her breasts. She keeps pleading: “Aisa mat karo … tera bhi bahen hei (Please don’t treat me thus; you too have sisters),” but to no avail.

What is even more depressing to watch is that nobody does anything about it. The entire nation has expressed outrage at the incident; some finding fault with the photographer for filming the whole episode instead of helping the victim; others at a member of the National Commission for Women (NCW), Ms Alka Lamba, for making public the girl’s identity. Actually, in the footage, the girl gives her name when the police do arrive, a good 30 minutes later. And, this, despite a police station being barely one km away from the scene of crime.

ANOTHER TWIST

But once everybody had condemned the beasts who assaulted a girl in this horrendous manner, the debate took another turn.

The schoolgirl had come out from a bar where a fight had broken out. So eyebrows were raised at why “respectable” girls should go to bars and drink, or rather, why they should drink at all. After all, isn’t this against our Bharatiya sanskar?

And, then, we had a real gem from the Chairperson of the NCW, Mamata Sharma. If you thought NCW is supposed to bat for women, you thought wrong.

A few days ago, we had a lecture from the honourable lady on how women need to be “careful about the way they dress, because blindly aping the West can result in such incidents.”

After a sermon on how “aping the west is eroding Indian culture”, she deigned to admit that after 64 years of Independence it was not fair to give “such blanket directions” to women. But what to do, the poor woman had no option.

Now, this is absolute rubbish, and of the worst kind. First of all, from what I could see from the footage, the teenager was dressed in a pair of jeans and a top that thousands of Indian women wear.

Where does erosion of Indian culture come if girls/women want to wear jeans? By the way, a young Pakistani cop in Lahore shot his sister dead two days ago for wearing jeans.

And even if the Assamese girl was wearing what Ms Sharma and her ilk might consider “provocative” clothes, isn’t that her own business, or at the most that of her parents or immediate family?

Emboldened, perhaps by the missive let loose by the NCW chief, we now have the Madhya Pradesh Minister for Industries, Mr Kailash Vijayvargiya, lecturing Indian women on their dress code. His words of wisdom: “Women’s fashion, lifestyle and conduct should be in accordance with Indian culture. They should not wear clothes that provoke others. They should dress in such a way that they invoke respect in others.”

DRIVEL, AT BEST

I am livid at being forced to listen to this kind of drivel. By blaming the poor girl, a mere child of 17, and insinuating that she was responsible for the disgusting behaviour of the morons who attacked and molested her, totally ignoring her repeated pleas for mercy, can we please have somebody lecturing the male devils who assaulted her? Why is it that I am yet to hear any mantras on “Bharatiya sanskriti” being read out to men?

How come no one of any consequence is giving homilies to men that it is not alright to assault and molest women; to paw or pinch them in buses; to stalk them on streets; to kill them for the sake of saving your family’s so-called honour — oh yes, honour killings do happen in India, too — to rape them to show their physical superiority?

Can we as a mature country, a mature people, please stop pointing the accusing finger at women all the time? And, stop lecturing them on how they should dress or behave? One is getting a little tired of trite comments from modest brains that take it for granted that women dress in one fashion or another only to please men, or attract them, or “provoke” them. Most of the time this is the male point of view; it is tragic that the NCW chief fell into that old trap too.

Instead of such nonsense and moral policing, can we have sensible debates on the serious issues that confront Indian women? Such as challenges on adequate health care, sanitation or drinking water, to fetch which millions of Indian women have to move heaven and earth; equal opportunities for education, employment and a supportive environment for employed women? Most of all, how do we ensure a safe environment in which women can move freely without fear of being violently assaulted as happened in Guwahati?

Last, but not the least, let’s talk about a safe home, where girl babies are allowed to be born and not slaughtered in the womb after sex selection tests, or burned because they did not fetch adequate dowry. Forget the streets of Delhi, Guwahati or Patna, our fast declining gender ratio points an accusing finger at the home being the most unsafe place for the girl child, sister, wife or mother.Bharatiya sanskar? Give me a break, please.

Responses to rasheeda@thehindu.co.in and blfeedback@thehindu.co.in

 

Team Anna lived by the media and is dying by the media #IAC #Janlokpal #Annahazare


 

Anna Hazare on Fast unto Death

Anna Hazare on Fast unto Death (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

A media creation

 

Sujata Anandan, Political Editor, Hindustan Times
August 01, 2012

 

 

 

When the India Against Corruption (IAC) movement, with Anna Hazare at its head, began their protests amid much excitement and frenzy last year, I was among the first to say that it left me cold, reminding me suspiciously of a real life Peepli Live from Jantar Mantar

More than once in this column, too, I have stretched my neck and stated that Anna and his “team’’ are a media creation – essentially the electronic media and mostly by those from outside Maharashtra who had had no idea about what this so-called Gandhian was all about.

The amount of abuse I received from 18 year-olds to 80 year-olds, all of who mistakenly believed that I was supporting corruption rather than pointing out the truth, was truly unbelievable. But while the rest of the world was ecstatic at discovering this so-called Gandhian – an insult to Mahatma Gandhi, given the vast difference between the intellect of the original and the wannabe – at least media persons in Hazare’s home state knew what he was all about: a flip-flop man who sailed with the wind and who believed everything he heard, without checking out the facts for himself and a tinpot dictator in his own village. But more importantly, even in the 1990s, without the advantage of so many TV channels, a media creation by those of us who were absolutely enthralled at the manner in which he seemed to take on the mighty (chief minister) Sharad Pawar. He was then supported by Shiv Sena boss Bal Thackeray but, being easily influenced, he went hammer and tongs at Thackeray, too, in no time at all.

And how he was manipulated by his handlers became very apparent when he thought he was exploding a real estate scam against then deputy chief minister Gopinath Munde – but all that he ended up doing was hurting Munde’s family by bringing his private liaison with a tamasha dancer into the public domain.

However, what took the cake was that while he was exposing corruption against the ministers in the Maharashtra government, his own Hind Swaraj Trust was found guilty of misappropriation of funds – a fact ratified by a judicial commission and one to which Anna admitted and apologised. The media disillusionment with Anna was by then complete. But neither the ministers at the Centre in the UPA nor the people outside Maharashtra knew what Anna was all about. Rather than relying on the three former CMs from the state in the Union Cabinet (Sharad Pawar, Vilasrao Deshmukh and SushilKumar Shinde) to neutralise Hazare, the government was taken in by all the media hype, only to accord the movement the legitimacy it did not deserve.

“They should have made use of me long before they did,’’ Deshmukh told me recently. Deshmukh had Anna’s measure but so did Pawar and Shinde, all of who had played him along through various agitations while at the same time meeting him halfway on his demands that did succeed in cleaning up their governments and getting rid of some corrupt elements (the IAC hasn’t even come close). However, as one senior All India Congress Committee general secretary told me some months ago, “Our ministers just sit before television and believe that everything that is hyped up on this or that popular channel is the gospel truth. They have added to the myth of Anna Hazare.’’

But now that myth has been busted – by those in the media outside Maharashtra (remember how Anna left the Bombay media cold last December, leading to the downfall of his movement?), given that the contradictions in Team Anna are now starkly visible, as are the differences between them, the scams against various members and, more importantly, the dwindling crowds at IAC rallies.

But while people like Shanti Bhushan were quite happy to go along with the very same media `looping’ images of crowds throughout the day last year that made the movement larger than life, they seem to now have a serious problem with the thin crowds at the IAC rallies being similarly looped through the day. And though there are other reasons for the thin crowds (lack of RSS participation, for example), I guess it is only Anna Hazare (and not those who actually abused the media) who apologises because he alone has past experience of what it means to live by the sword and die by the sword: the media, in this regard.

I guess the IAC’s Peepli Live moment is now well and truly over.

 

 

 

NAPM- No land should be forcibly acquired for Private and PPP Projects


 

English: Medha Patkar in Sasthamkotta

English: Medha Patkar in Sasthamkotta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

NAPM welcomes the decision to cancel 4 SEZs

 

 

No land should be forcibly acquired for Private and PPP Projects

 

 

Mumbai, August 1: The decision of the Maharashtra Government to cancel 4 SEZ projects which were proved to be illegal & unjust, on one ground or other, brings a hope to the people’s struggles for justice & against land grabbing. These projects were stalled by the common people, farmers to fishworkers, and women as well as youngsters who were at the forefront of the struggle.

 

 

 

The issues were clear & justifiable. Land to be acquired for private corporates is an illegitimate and unconstitutional act. When the profit-motives are clear in these projects, earning crores of rupees, out of land & other sources of livelihood, these resources are received with the State facilitating them. It’s this role of the State which is bullying & ousting our rural folk that was objected by the natural resource based communities, asserting their right to approve or disapprove the project which the State government has ultimately admitted.

 

 

 

The non-violent struggles are raising basic questions of inequity which is a clear outcome of SEZ Act & similar moves promoting corporatisation. We question and oppose industries which are land & water-intensive, capital intensive but not labour intensive and their impacts on ecologies, neither mitigated nor compensated. It is unfortunate the more sustainable & employment generating, local resource-based industries proposed by the movements as alternative options are negated by the governments. People are certainly not for the industrialisation at the cost of agricultural, since food security and livelihood is certainly our first priority. The whole model of SEZ with subsidised land, water, electricity, outside the jurisdiction of the gram sabhas and panchayats, tax holidays and exemptions is a blot on democracy and sovereignty of both, people & the State.

 

 

 

It’s obvious that all tactics & manoeuvring efforts by the Corporates failed in this regard & the State level ministers couldn’t carry out their initial agenda of joining hands with Corporates earning out of these projects. It’s, however, an ultimate victory of the firm view, clear perspective & perseverent strategy, along with an all pervasive analysis of the fraud that SEZ Act & projects are. Maharashtra cabinet too deserves a pat for this pro-people decision. Even though this is later, but better late than never. They should, without any delay must remove restrictions & reservations put up, on the titles of the landholders. If this cancellation is to bring in another project like Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor at the cost of farms & farmers, that will also face the same fate, we warn. We continue to fight the battle for cancellation of the undemocratic & unconstitutional SEZ Act, 2005.

 

 

 

We would also like to mention that the proposed amendments being brought out by the UPA government to the SEZ Act is not going to alter our opposition to the Act since, they are only aimed at facilitating land grab. Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation Act is also going to facilitate the land grab for private corporations and we oppose this. People’s Movements will thwart every attempt at subverting the laws of the country and handing over the precious natural resources to the predatory corporations. It’s time the governments across the country listened to the voices of dissent and worked in favour of the majority of the population.

 

 

 

Suhas Kolhekar, Prasad Bagwe, Suniti S. R., Medha Patkar

 

 

 

For details contact : 9423571784 / 9818905316

 

 

 

Israel’s Biometric Database Deemed “Harmful” by High Court Judges #UID #Aadhar


JULY 27, 2012 | BY REBECCA BOWE

Cartoon of a man being checked on biometric fe...

Cartoon of a man being checked on biometric features (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Israel, a heated debate is underway about whether Israel’s Interior Ministry will move ahead with the creation of a governmental biometric database containing digital fingerprints and facial photographs, which would be linked to “smart” national ID cards containing microchips. At the heart of the issue is a major concern about privacy: Aggregated personal information invites security breaches, and large databases of biometric information can be honeypots of sensitive data vulnerable to exploitation.

On July 23, Israel’s High Court of Justice held a hearing on a petition filed by civil rights advocates who sought to strike down a law establishing a governmental biometric database and an associated two-year pilot program. The law approving the database, enacted in 2009, met with public resistance until the government backed down and agreed to begin with only the pilot program. The pilot was supposed to be a test for determining whether it was actually necessary to move forward with building the biometric database, but an Interior Ministry decree that sanctioned the program did not actually contain any criteria to measure whether the program succeeded or failed.

While three justices voiced harsh criticism of the database, they didn’t move to cancel the project altogether. Instead, they determined that the pilot program description has to present clear criteria for success and failure, so that it would be conducted as a true test. The ruling requires the Interior Ministry to examine the very necessity of a central database, and to seriously weigh possible alternatives. The court also called for an independent review of the program, and preserved petitioners’ right to return and present their claims against the database and pilot program.

In the course of the hearing, several justices characterized the proposed database as a “harmful” and “extreme” measure. They have good reason to be skittish: Last fall, officials discovered that information in Israel’s primary population database had been hacked in 2006, and the personal records of some 9 million Israelis—both living and dead—were uploaded to the Internet and made freely available. The database contained substantial information including full names, identity numbers, addresses, dates of birth and death, immigration dates and familial relationships. Given this blemished track record, there is naturally a concern that a database that also contained biometric information would meet the same fate.

“Every once in a while, we find the census in .torrent files all over the web,” noted Jonathan Klinger, an attorney who teamed up with Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) lawyer Avner Pinchuk in opposing the biometric database. The petitioners included ACRI, the Movement for Digital Rights, Professor Karin Nahon of the University of Washington and Hebrew University, and Doron Ofek, an information security expert.

“The State in fact accepted the position of the petitioners and the Justices, according to which the order establishing the biometric database is illegal and does not enable an examination of the database’s necessity,” noted Pinchuk, the ACRI attorney. “The Interior Ministry’s intention to establish a database even before this essential flaw is amended demonstrates the hastiness and aggression that have characterized this dangerous project since its inception.”

Israel’s biometric database is just one of several massive governmental identification programsmoving forward at the global level. India is still working toward creating the world’s largest database of irises, fingerprints and facial photos, while Argentina is building a nationwide biometric database of it own. As more of these identity schemes crop up across the world, serious critical examination of these systems is urgently needed.

Pussy Riot trial: Defendants claim ‘torture,’ accuse judge of bias #FOE


Pussy Riot’s lawyers accuse the trial‘s judge of “torturing” the three defendants, who they say have barely had any sleep or food since Monday. As the trial resumes, prosecution witnesses claim severe moral wounds and reluctance to forgive the girls.

The hot July day in a Moscow court started with a short but desperate fight among journalists as the proceedings over the three members of punk band Pussy Riot were relocated to a much smaller room than the one used Monday. Only ten places in the room were left for reporters; the most persistent ones continued their reports via Twitter, since pictures and videography were banned.

The session kicked off with the defense almost immediately attempting to file a motion to change the judge. The court shrugged the request off, as it had “ruled on a similar motion on Monday evening.” Still, three hours later, the defense succeeded.

The core reason behind the motion, Pussy Riot’s lawyers said, was that their clients were being subjected to “torture” because of the way the court proceedings were organized.

The lawyers maintained that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich went to bed late after the previous day’s trial ended at ten in the evening, and were woken up early and hadn’t been fed since. Correspondents tweeting from the courtroom said that by the end of the day, the girls were literally falling asleep in their tiny bullet proof booth.

In response, the defendants were accused of purposely drawing out the trial.

The defendants only prolonged the investigation, claiming that they were held in custody for too long and contesting the terms of their arrest,” said prosecutor Larisa Pavlova, adding that the defense’s appeal was nothing but “playing to the gallery.

The motion failed with the judge, who added that there would be breaks for lunch and the opportunity to have a nap during the trial.

Apologies not accepted

Many in the courtroom rustled through their Bibles, and Tuesday generally went under the refrain “Do you accept our apology?

Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich are accused of “hooliganism, motivated by religious hatred and hostility” for performing a mock prayer “Virgin Mary, banish Putin” in Moscow’s main cathedral in February.

On Monday, the three girls said in a statement that they did not mean to insult any religious feelings and that their motives were purely political. They expressed regret for their “ethical mistake” and said they were sorry for taking their action to the cathedral.

But as the court listened to the nine “victims” – people aggrieved by Pussy Riot’s performance – it appeared none of them really believed the apology was sincere.

Thus, Tatyana Anosova, who collects donations and gives out candles in the cathedral, said: “They did not merely insult me, they spat into my face, spat into the face of my God.

One of them was bowing with her back turned onto the altar – she was showing her bottom to the altar, and it is God who’s there! My soul was torn to pieces.”

The defense posed provocative questions, pressing onto witnesses that forgiveness is a Christian value, and trying to figure out what exactly would constitute a sincere apology. This was transformed into a fierce battle, with the judge occasionally banning questions before they were even fully uttered.

To make a credible apology, the witnesses nevertheless said, “you should not smile,” “you should not deliver it through a statement,” “you should get baptized.” One of them even advised the girls to go to the convent, take vows and beat themselves with shatters.

Many of the witnesses told the court that Pussy Riot’s “diabolic dances in a sacred place” had affected them so much they had to skip work. Still, none of them wanted financial compensation, leaving the punishment “to the court and God.

If the court supports the prosecutors’ charges, Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and Samutsevich will face up to seven years in prison, according to Russia’s Criminal Code.

Claims of forged evidence

The session wrapped up with an unexpected dispute over whether prosecutors had made mistakes with the evidence. One of the books used in the case proved to be 100 pages longer than it was expected to be.

Moreover, the prosecution witnesses’ evidence was suspected of being copy-and-pasted from one and the same document. The defense pointed to paragraphs copied word for word – with the same spelling mistakes.

But the judge said the books often get recompiled and, as for the evidence, if the witnesses do not mind this, then this is not a case for an appeal. Witnesses did not mind.

Still the defense is going to lodge a complaint.

The trial will resume on Wednesday, with interviews of the witnesses for the defense, who include the father of Ekaterina Samutsevich.

Stephen Fry joins Pussy Riot’s supporters

Meanwhile, outside the courtroom Pussy Riot’s supporters brandished balloons with “Free Pussy Riot” emblazoned on them. However, during the course of the day their protests lost momentum and they resorted to lying on the grass waiting for the session to finish.

From the international perspective, British actor and comedian Stephen Fry has appealed to his Twitter followers, calling them to “do everything they could to help Pussy Riot.”

Fry’s message comes on top of similar calls from musicians like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Sting urging for the release of the punk rockers.

Bihar: Private hospitals removing uterus and making money of the insurance scheme


 

RSBY logo

RSBY logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

30 JULY 2012

 

 

Bihar: It is reported that some of the private hospitals at Bihar is using Government’s insurance scheme provided for the people below the poverty line (BPL) and against the moral principles they earn money with or without the knowledge of the people.

The centre has launched the insurance scheme for the BPL during 2008 in the name of Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yorjna (RSBY) with the aid of the state government to serve the BPL in healing the diseases. Under the scheme, the beneficiary has to pay a registration fee of Rs.30/-, and the state government will pay the premium. Under the scheme, the beneficiary will be covered for Rs.30,000/- and could take medical treatment in the approved hospitals under the scheme.

But, now a fraudulent medical business scheme has come to light where some of the private hospitals are performing unnecessary organ removal, mostly removing uterus for profit of the hospital and to pocket the insurance money.

It is reported that private hospitals in Bihar state has performed more than 15,000 hysterectomy (removal of uterus by surgery) in the last one year to earn the insurance amount of Rs.30,000/- allotted by the scheme.

The preliminary enquiries has shown that Samastipur district alone in the state, has performed around 15,000 hysterectomy surgeries on women in the last one year including uterus removal on unmarried girls below the age of 22.

Following the allegations, the Samatipur district magistrate Kundan Kumar has ordered a probe about the unnecessary hysterectomy including around 5,500 urgent surgeries carried out.

Six teams are being organized including doctors and the team will submit their report within 31 July.

“The probe will bring out the glaring anomalies in the execution of the scheme by private hospitals,” said, the District Magistrate.

”It is learnt that the private hospitals have claimed upto 12 crores under the scheme by the last one year and the in-depth probe will do the needful take necessary stern action against them on the basis of the inquiry.” he added.

It is also reported that many of the private hospitals has claimed insurance money without performing any operations at all.

“Door-to-Door” search and ultrasound tests will definitely reveal whether really the beneficiary had under gone the surgery – said Kumar.

The district administration of Samastipur has organized for camps during first week of August to enable the BPL families under the scheme to lodge complaints against erring hospitals.

A district official who visited the nursing homes under the scheme said that many of the nursing homes approved under the scheme do not have necessary facilities to perform surgeries.

“Nurising homes found guilty would be deleted from the approved list soon,” said Amrit Lal Meena, principle secretary of the state labour resources.

The RSBY scheme is suspected to have such wrong doings not only in Samastipur district, but also in the other states.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ordered the district magistrates and civil surgeons to inspect all eligible private nursing homes to investigate the scam and ensure whether they are equipped to provide proper healthcare to the poor.

 

 

 

How are legitimate citizens converted into public enemies?


– By Ilina Sen
[ PUCL Bulletin, August 2012, www.pucl.org ]

On June 26, as we remembered the clamping down of the internal Emergency on the people of the sovereign democratic republic of India 38-years ago, why is that our thoughts turn, almost as if drawn by a magnet, to the history of jurisprudence in the city of Allahabad?

The dark history of the Emergency, a time when all civil and constitutional freedoms stood suspended, was triggered by a series of events in the corridors of the Allahabad judicial establishment – a time when the judiciary elected not to oblige the political establishment, and countermanded the irregular election of the politician laying claim to the highest office in the country. Although the entire country underwent a trial by fire after this, the Indian public institutions, especially the judiciary gained hugely in terms of its reputation for independence and fearlessness.

Today, it is another judgement coming out of the judicial corridors at Allahabad that has us mesmerised, and this time for different reasons. The conviction under sections of the IPC and UAPA of Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay and the sentence of life  imprisonment given to them earlier this month has sent shock waves among Indian citizens not because these two were special people in any sense. Many of us did not know them, but their arrests, trial and conviction has once more highlighted the malevolent way in which the internal security laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) are used. More frighteningly, this has demonstrated the close nexus between the prosecuting agencies and the judicial system.  The independence of the judicial process on which we once prided ourselves is nowhere in evidence.

The lengthy judgement convicting and sentencing Seema and her husband on charges of waging war against the State rests on the evidence of 14 witnesses, 12 of whom are police personnel involved in their arrest and its documentation, and two others are officials belonging to the telephone department. There is not a  single public witness, and in a sense this is fair enough because there is nowhere any mention of anything to be witness to. No act of violence or criminality is alleged anywhere, in which they are  supposed to have been involved. The items seized from them and sealed after their arrest have been illegally opened in the police station ‘for inspection’, and they are assumed  to be responsible for certain literature that is critical of state policy only on the grounds that this was found in their house. Nowhere is there any specific act or deed that endangers the state even attributed to them, and their conviction on serious national security charges is entirely on the basis of generalities.  The court’s conclusion can only be explained by the fact that the court refused to assume the innocence of the accused.

The judgment pronounced by the sessions court at Allahabad in the case of Seema Azad and Vishwa Vijay is a perfect example of how, in the name of combating terrorism or Maoism, a large number of halftruths, inadmissible evidence, procedural violations and a paranoid piece of legislation can convert legitimate citizens into public enemies. The implied embargo on reading critical literature goes against the spirit of our Constitution.  If judicial pronouncements of this nature are allowed to pass into the realm of acceptability, we are really at the beginning of a second National Emergency, with our rights and spaces suspended. The Indian people will no doubt resist this attempt to curtail their constitutional rights; but this time round, do we have the judiciary with us in our struggle?

Assam, Muslims and the Insiders


 

By Kashif-ul-Huda, TwoCircles.net

Recent Bodo-Muslim violence that left at least a hundred dead and hundreds of thousands homeless has given an opportunity to many to indulge in the usual Muslim-bashing rhetoric. A few insiders of the Indian establishment has also taken the trouble to put on record their anti-Muslim views while they appear to position themselves as against illegal migration.

Writing in the Indian Express, Election Commissioner of India Harishankar Brahma declares that Assam clashes were not unexpected and asks the question: “ why did it take a few decades to occur in the first place? Assam has been virtually sitting on a huge tinderbox.”

“The present ethnic clashes between the two communities can be directly attributed to the aforementioned facts of illegal migration into Assam.” He informs us that population in districts around Indo-Bangladeshi borders is going up “leaps and bounds.” However, when it comes to giving a number, only number he quotes is that 1.5 lakh voters are on Election Commission’s list of D-voters (voters whose citizenship is considered doubtful).

 

Over 400,000 have been displaced as a result of the recent violence. The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh meeting the violence-hit of Kokrajhar district, at a relief camp, in Assam on July 28, 2012. 

Not to be outdone By Mr. Brahma, former intelligence official and now a professional conspiracy theorist B. Raman, writes in Outlookmagazine, in a column appropriately titled “The Outsiders,” that the conflict in Assam is between “Indian sons of the soil” and “Bangladeshi intruders.” Masterfully drawing parallels of the Assam conflict with the plight of Rohingya Muslims, he urges the Indian state to follow the same tough stance as taken by Myanmar.

But what about the Assamese Muslims? Mr. Raman will be doing a great disservice to his fans if he somehow does not take this opportunity to threaten Indian Muslims. He writes, “the problem is rendered even more explosive by the insensitive attitude of the indigenous Muslims of Assam.” It is important to begin by patronizing them first, so he declares, “they are one of us. They are our co-citizens entitled to the same rights and protection as you and I.” But we will not give them this right, Raman seems to suggest because of “their misplaced feelings of religious solidarity with the Muslim intruders from Bangladesh and their tendency to downplay the extent of illegal migration and the threats posed by the migrants” as this is “creating suspicions in the minds of the non-Muslim sons of the soil.”

Raman will not be a true patriot without telling Indian Muslims what to do so here is what he orders them to do: “The indigenous Muslim sons of the soil should identify themselves with the feelings, suspicions and concerns of the non-Muslim citizens. They should be in the forefront of national solidarity.” Else, here comes the threat, “the wedge between the Muslim and non-Muslim sons of the soil could grow wider and create more tensions and violence.”

Now, the reality.

Muslims have been part of Assam since early thirteenth century. The migration of Bengali-speakers, both Hindus and Muslims, into Assam started in the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century as a British policy to find people for filling government jobs and a majority of them came as labourers for tea plantation and jute cultivation.

Overlooking these historical migrations, these “insider experts” want to put all Bangla-speaking Muslim in the category of Illegal migrations or simply Bangladeshis. Even if we take the recent census data, the numbers do not show any signs of huge influx of Muslims into Assam. In 1951, Muslims were 26.60% of the state population while in 2001 their population share was 30.90%. The rate of growth is slower than Muslims growth in the rest of India, which will suggest that Muslims are leaving the state.

This is not to deny that there is no illegal migration into Assam but the bogey of “intrusion” cannot be used to put into doubt citizenship of millions who have been living here for hundreds of years. Advocate Muij Uddin Mahmud, who is researching this issue for a number of years, told TwoCircles.net last year that there are very few foreigners in Assam both among the religious minorities or linguistic minorities like Bengali Hindus. Bangladeshi Hindus who have crossed the border into India are protected under section 2 of the Immigrants (Expulsion from Assam) Act, 1950 but the same law does not apply to Muslims from Bangladesh.

 

Survivors of Nellie massacre that took place in Nagaon district of Assam in 1983- Photo TCN 

Label of “Illegal migrant” has been used as a tactic to harass Muslims of Assam and therefore organizations representing Muslim have always taken a tough stand against it blaming the government for letting it happen. Member of Parliament Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, representing Dhubri in Lok Sabha had opposed the idea of giving work-permit to “illegal migrants.” His party All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) supports early disposal of all cases where citizenship of a person is considered doubtful.

Indian Constitution recognizes only two categories of citizenship- either you are a citizen or a foreigner. But the Election Commission has invented a third category in Assam- the doubtful voters list or the D-voters. “The provision of putting a “D” mark (Doubtful) is not provided in Indian constitution or laws. This is ridiculous and unconstitutional,” argues Dr. Baharul Islam, General Secretary of AIDUF. “This is a tactic to put pressure on the minority community. The politics in Assam is that Hindu migrants are refugees and Muslims migrants are outsiders.”

But even many Bengali Hindus found their name in the D-Voters list effectively denying them their democratic rights and therefore citizenship. Retired CRPF Jawan Anath Bandhu Biswas and his wife Arati Biswas are in D-Voters list since 1996. Interestingly, their children are not categorized as D-voters.

Advocate Muij Uddin Mahmud estimates that 80% of those on D-Voters are Muslims. However, even by Election Commissioner of India Mr. Brahma’s own admission there are only 1.5 lakh voters on D-Voters list. So does that mean there are only 1.5 lakh “illegal” in a population of over 30 crores? Forty-times more Nepalis live and work in India but that doesn’t seem to be any drain in Indian economy or cause of concern for India’s security.

 

State Demons in Forests of Bastar #chhattisgarh


 

Salwa Judum soldiers in Chhattisagrh

Salwa Judum soldiers in Chhattisagrh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Vol – XLVII No. 31, August 04, 2012

Is the deliberate targeting of the support base of the Maoists good counter-insurgency policy?

 

The counter-insurgency operations to wipe out the Maoists have gone hi-tech – unmanned aerial vehicles are now being deployed for, among other things, “remote sensing” of “left-wing extremists”. On 28 June, a couple of hours after the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and its elite Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) troops aided by Chhattisgarh state police began returning to their camps, CRPF officials in New Delhi began to dish out ­details of the “biggest encounter”, the “big victory of the secu­rity forces in Chhattisgarh” in which they killed “19 Maoists”. But in Raipur, the state capital, the Chhattisgarh police had its own version of the specific intelligence input, the episode and the singling out of the dead, and the two did not match.

 

The CRPF version traced the 17 deaths (two more in a separate incident nearby) to prolonged exchange of fire with the dreaded Maoists in which six of its commandos sustained injuries. ­Union Home Minister P Chidambaram duly parroted the same, of course, commending the forces for their courage and their skills, and claiming that three important Maoist leaders were among the dead. But his own local Congress Party unit had a different tale to tell – according to its version, the official story of the encounter of the security forces with the Maoists was cooked up; it was a “fake” encounter, and the victims were “innocent adivasis”. Going by the local Congress version then, the security forces, whose job it was to prevent unlawful activities on the part of the Maoists, had themselves engaged in activities that render them culpable under Section 302 (murder) of the Indian Penal Code and under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, besides being accused of the sexual molestation of women and the destruction and looting of properties.

 

The villagers of Sarkeguda, Kothaguda and Rajpenta who had survived the attack of the security forces had an altogether different account of the incident. According to them, as related by the report of the Coordination of Democratic Rights Organisations (CDRO), there were no Maoists around that night when the CRPF and its CoBRA commandos and the state police cordoned off those villages and fired indiscriminately and without warning on the unarmed residents. Indeed, there was no exchange of fire; it was just that security forces first fired from the west, and then from three other directions and so some stray bullets may have injured some members of the forces themselves. And the brutality: those who did not die from their ­bullet wounds were put to death with axes that the police could lay their hands on in the villages.

 

When the local Congress version of what happened came to light, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader, dished out the old yarn that the Maoists had used the innocent adivasis as human shields and so they perished. Thus, the 12-year old girl, Kaka Saraswati – who was hit by a bullet and died as she was fleeing towards her house – was forced to act as a human shield of the Maoists, according to those who peddle such falsehoods. So were 16-year-olds, Kaka Rahul and Madkam Ramvilas, Class X students in a Basaguda school, now dead and gone. When it was pointed out that there were no Maoists around, then it was argued that whoever supports the Maoists deserves to be killed, and, according to intelligence, these were villages that had backed the Maoists. The ­National Human Rights Commission, instead of independently investigating the incident, is (reportedly) relying on the CRPF version. And the judicial inquiry: will it hold its major sittings at the venue of the so-called encounter? Going by past precedence, with the dead buried, the truth will also be consigned to the grave.

 

Now, the very office holders of the Indian state, the union home minister and the Chhattisgarh chief minister, seem to have no commitment to the rule of law or the Constitution. So what do we tell them? We are reminded of an old message from Robert Thompson, who was a veteran of the Malayan civil service, as also the chief of the British advisory mission to South ­Vietnam during 1961-65. In his book, Defeating Communist ­Insurgency: Experiences from Malaya and Vietnam (1966), Thompson argued that it was imperative that the security forces operate within the ambit of the law. Yes, we need to draw the attention of P Chidambaram and Raman Singh to the very counter-productiveness of their acts of omission and commission in achieving the objectives they have set for their counter-insurgency strategy. From June 2005, when the vigilante group Salwa Judum began to be deployed in the counter-insurgency operations in Chhattisgarh, up to today, when it is soon going to be three years since the launch of Operation Green Hunt, no one really knows the actual count of the number of innocent tribal peasants killed. But as Thompson would have surely felt, these acts of killing by the security forces have only served to “create more communists than they [have] kill[ed]”. The Indian state refuses to admit that it is in a state of civil war, but its citizens should force it to admit to this truth and agree to abide by the fourth Geneva Convention in not harming non-combatants/civilians.