Raising uneasy questions subtly


Published: Sunday, Mar 11, 2012, By DNA Correspondent | Place: Bangalore |

In a rather unusual ceremony, SK Biswas, former director of Indian Institute of Science, released four books by social activists MC Raj and Jyothi Raj in the city on Saturday.

Unlike run-of-the-mill book launching events, the discussion that followed the release was not confined to these four books alone. Larger issues that concern the society like identity politics, development, moral policing and sexuality were interestingly dealt with.

The authors are well-known for having led one of the most powerful Dalit movements in Karnataka. They are the founders of Rural Education for Development Society (REDS), a people’s movement that was started in Tumkur district, and, by now, has spread across almost 2,000 villages of Karnataka.

Shouldn’t it reflect on basic aspects of life like health and sanitation? Saying that these questions are something that he often grapples with, Raj said his novels touch upon them subtly.

Of the four books, three are novels—Blissed Out, Raachi and Yoikana. The fourth book, World Parliament of Indigenous People, is a testament co-authored by Raj and his wife Jyothi. It is based on a first-of-its-kind conference of indigenous people organised at Booshakthi Kendra in Tumkur last year.

“The big question that Raj poses in all his books is that can human beings free themselves from the multi-dimensional hierarchy of caste, class, and gender posed on individual identity by the society,” Biswas said.

Sri Lanka: A child is summarily executed


Footage of atrocity committed at the end of the government’s war with the Tamil Tigers is revealed

Callum Macrae

It is a chilling piece of footage that represents yet another blow for the beleaguered Sri Lankan government in its attempts to head off a critical resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva this week.

The short clip dates from the final hours of the bloody 26-year civil war between the Sri Lankan government and the secessionist rebels of the Tamil Tigers, the LTTE.

A 12-year-old boy lies on the ground. He is stripped to the waist and has five neat bullet holes in his chest. His name is Balachandran Prabakaran and he is the son of the LTTE leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran. He has been executed in cold blood. Beside him lie the bodies of five men, believed to be his bodyguards. There are strips of cloth on the ground indicating that they were tied and blindfolded before they were shot – further evidence suggesting that the Sri Lankan government forces had a systematic policy of executing many surrendering or captured LTTE fighters and leading figures, even if they were children.

The footage – dating from 18 May 2009 and which seems to have been shot as a grotesque “trophy video” by Sri Lankan forces – will be broadcast for the first time on Wednesday night in a Channel 4 film, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields: War Crimes Unpunished – a sequel to the controversial investigation broadcast last year which accused both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Last year, a special panel of experts appointed by the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, suggested that as many as 40,000 civilians died in the last few weeks of the war – the vast majority as a result of government shelling, much of which was targeted on so called “No Fire Zones” set up by the government itself. But as international concern grew over the emerging evidence of appalling crimes against civilians, the Sri Lankan government, headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and his powerful brother, the Defence Minister, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, launched a counter-offensive. At its heart was a special inquiry appointed by the President, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

This, they insisted, would answer the international criticisms. When the LLRC finally reported last December, it did make important concessions – not least an admission that considerable numbers of civilians had died (a fact denied by the government until then). But it specifically denied that civilians had been targeted and rejected allegations of war crimes by the government. It thus failed entirely to deal with the evidence of blame pointing to the political and military leadership.

But still the criticisms have grown – and are likely to increase, following the new revelations in the Channel 4 film. In one incident, legally significant because it is well documented, two international UN workers leading the last UN overland food convoy became trapped near a temporary hospital in a village primary school in Uddiyakattu, in the first of the government’s No Fire Zones.

With the help of other civilians they began to dig bunkers to provide some protection from incoming shellfire. As was standard practice, one of the UN workers, an Australian called Peter Mackay, took precise GPS co-ordinates of the site, and these were supplied to the government. But if that had any effect, it was certainly not the desired one. Over the next couple of days the camp was subjected to a massive, sustained barrage of incoming shellfire, much of it falling directly on or near to the UN bunker. Dozens were killed – and many more horrifically injured. It was all photographed by the UN workers.

In a sense, it was just one relatively small incident in the ongoing carnage of the war, but it is potentially significant because it provides specific evidence linking the Sri Lankan government’s chain of command to knowledge of targeted attacks on civilians – attacks that appear to constitute war crimes.

As the barrage continued, the UN workers took turns to stand clear of the bunker where they could get line of sight to make frantic sat-phone calls to the Australian High Commi-ssion and other UN officials in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, pleading with them to get the government forces to stop the shelling. They were told these requests were passed on directly to both the then Sri Lankan army chief, General Sarath Fonseka, and the Defence Minister.

Shortly after these phone calls, the shelling shifted slightly away from the UN bunkers. But it continued to rain down on the No Fire Zone. In a sworn statement about the incident, Mr Mackay describes how the shelling was re-targeted: “Now the closest shells landed 100 metres from us, indicating that they could control the fire when they wanted to.”

That is likely to be significant in any future legal proceedings over command responsibility for war crimes because it amounts to specific evidence suggesting the Defence Minister and army chief had now at least a direct knowledge of the shelling of the No Fire Zone, and that while shelling was then ordered away from the actual UN bunkers, it continued to rain down on the No Fire Zone. It also represents evidence that the attacks killing civilians were accurately targeted.

Other new evidence – some of it emerging from a massive trawl of confidential diplomatic cables sent between the US embassy in Colombo and the US State Department in Washington – reveals just how calculated was another of the most awful features of this war: the deliberate denial of adequate humanitarian supplies of food and medicine to civilians trapped in those grotesquely misnamed No Fire Zones.

To justify this policy, the government systematically underestimated the number of civilians trapped in the zones. At the end of April 2009, for example,

Read more here

 

Student’s Arrest: The Lingaram Kodopi of South India?


MANGALORE – Arrest of a student pursuing Post Graduation from Mangalore University on the charges of Naxal link, has created a row between civil society and administration in Dakshina Kannada district.

Vittala, a student of Mass Communication and Journalism, along with his father Linganna (53) was arrested on Friday 2nd March, from his house located in Kutlur village of Beltangadi Taluk amidst the dense Western Ghats, while another son of Linganna, Purushottam is absconding. Anti Naxal Force (ANF) armed with various charges like sedition, is hunting for him.

Vittala, a member of Malekudia ST Community dwelling in the Western Ghats is the only person to study beyond SSLC. He was an active associate of Anti Naxal student outfit, SFI. He had also engaged himself with several ‘Rights’ organizations fighting for the cause of Moolanivasis and Dalits of this region.

Last Friday, on the 2nd of March, a personnel of Anti Naxal Force (ANF) barged into the house of Linganna, a collie, and allegedly beat him up. He arrested him and his son Vittala, who had come home to see his father, on the charges of supporting the Naxal movement and hence waging a war against the nation..

According to the Police, who carried out a combing operation, Linganna, his son Vittala and Purushottama are supporters of Naxal outfits. They claim that handbills, paper cuttings on Naxal issues, binoculars and other related materials were recovered from Linganna’s house during the operation.

But according to the students and people who know Vittala, he is a decent and brilliant student, and was very regular to the classes. He was also fighting for the cause of Moolanivasis, especially against forceful eviction and their Land Rights.

Anti Naxal Force has taken Vittala into police custody after producing them in Beltangadi court, while Linganna was sentenced to judicial custody by the Court.

Several organizations have been protesting against the arrest of both the father and son, alleging that the government has adapted alternate means to sabotage the voice of people fighting for justice and for the Rights of moolanivasis, so that it can easily evacuate them from the forests.

Rights’ organizations of this region have been raising doubts over the functioning of the Anti Naxal Force since a long time. They have been demanding the administration to stop the practice of stereotyping Malekudia and Dalits as Naxalites. Malekudia is a primitive tribe dwelling in the Western Ghats of South Canara and is a very backward community.

Read More at Newzfirst here

 

When beauty is rendered as a tool to assert and/or negotiate spaces.


by Minakshee Rode

In a place like Pune University, whenever I look around, particularly, at the post graduate students studying English Literature, Caste and gender studies, one question always bothers me: what do we expect our mind-sets to be?

Students are learning just rhetoric and politically correct language specifically in terms of caste. Despite many attempts our educational system is still unable to make them sensitive enough to try to relate the personal with the theory, as students are not ready to unlearn their prejudices and assumptions about the non-Brahmin population.

First generation dalit female students, who have migrated to metropolitan universities from across various classes; have no touch of and knowledge about the casteism disguised in the elitist culture of these universities. This is not very easily visible, but practiced so vehemently in almost each and every classroom of the campus. In this post, I will highlight the negotiations and assertions which dalit girls intentionally and unintentionally have to make in these spaces. These processes sometimes results in higher level of confidence and sometimes it can come across as arrogance of dalit girls. Well, the reception to this change is not pleasant, confidence is treated as arrogance and stigmatized as another instance of negative caste stereotype.

At first if we look at the classroom structure at the Post Graduate level; we can clearly see class based groups are formed irrespective of castes. But slowly caste comes to the fore when the fees have to be paid or the scholarship dates are displayed on the notice board. This period is thoughest for dalit girls who don’t have any visible caste identity, most don’t want to disclose their caste identities. Because of the politically correct atmosphere on the campus, the so called upper caste female students cannot express the unease and plain disgust for fellow dalit students openly, so they slowly start excluding dalit girls from the group (if there are any at all) and activities. Many of us hear this common phrasing of a sentence addressed to us: “you don’t look like your caste or you are different, you don’t represent your caste as such”, from those who make attempts to speak to dalit girls.

So, some very basic questions: what must a dalit girl look like? More importantly what is the image of a dalit girl in their mind? What makes dalit girls so different from other students? After making several efforts at interacting with the upper caste, elite girl students, from all my years on the campus, here are a few responses that I have gathered:

Dalit girls may not be getting married so their parents have sent them here.

These girls don’t have a sense of clothing, have no sense of wearing the right make up, and manners are useless.

They are caught up in the wrong place; and they can never match up to our standards.

They don’t speak politely, and are very direct (rude).

They can speak neither good English nor pure Marathi.

Their eating habits/tastes are gross.

They are not feminine enough.

They don’t belong to our culture.

They are different and so on…

What do these resposnes reveal then ?

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