Tata Steel still to pay Rs.27 crore to villagers


Wordmark of Tata Steel

Raipur, March 21 (IANS) Tata Steel, India‘s largest private sector steel major, has still to pay over Rs.27 crore compensation amount to villagers in Chhattisgarh‘s Bastar district to take over their land for setting up an integrated steel plant, the assembly was told Wednesday.

“Tata Steel is still due to make payment of Rs 27.35 crore compensation amount to the villagers. The company has so far paid Rs.42.07 crore,” Revenue Minister Dayaldas Baghel told the house.

The minister said Tata Steel would require 2,044 hectares of land for setting up the steel plant. As the proposed plant area comes in a tribal belt, the state would acquire land on behalf of company and allot it on lease.

But the compensation has to be paid by the company, the minister said.

Tata Steel, whichn inked a pact with the Chhattisgarh government in June 2005, is setting up a 5.5 million tonne per annum steel plant in Lohandiguda area in Bastar, some 340 km south of Raipur.

Baghel said the Bastar administration had acquired 1,764 hectare of land from 1,707 land holders located in 10 villages between October 2007 and February 2008.

Death Penalty in the Land of Non-Violence


 

 By- Jasdev Singh Rai-Medical Doctor, with MA in politics, human rights activist and community worker

For a country that brands itself on Gandhi, non violence and cow protection, the death penalty in India and Balwant Singh Rajoana’s imminent hanging on 31 March might appear to be an aberration. Not quite so when Balwant Singh’s statement in the court is heard. He accepted being party to the assassination of the Chief Minister of Punjab, Beant Singh, on 31st August 1995. In court he said he had no faith in Indian justice and refused legal representation. He refuses to plead for clemency. This puts many Sikhs and indeed Punjabis who don’t want a hanging in Punjab in some quandary.

The death penalty is a retrogressive step in Punjab. Before any European countries got around to abolishing the death penalty (Portugal 1867), the Punjab under the Sikh ruler, Maharajah Ranjit Singh (1801-1839), had removed capital punishment. British colonialism restored the death penalty.

India has inherited a penal and judicial system from its colonial past. With the best it has also continued with the worst of laws. Laws and rules that were meant to prop up colonialism, such as prolonged detention without charge, laws against sedition (Scottish leader, Salmon, would have been incarcerated if not hung in India by now) and death penalty among others.

But India went further by enacting laws that assumed guilt until proven otherwise (TADA) and a constitutional amendment (59th ) for 2 years which removed the primary responsibility of the State (Article 21 Indian constitution) to protect life and liberty. Until the UN reminded Indian legislators of the State’s Raison d’eter. However plenty other Indian legal cocktails violate human rights.

In court Balwant Singh questioned India’s commitment to its own constitution, human rights and the law citing the assassinated Chief Minister’s actions. The Chief Minister, Beant Singh, won the election in Punjab in 1992 on a mandate of 9% of the potential electorate. Peaceful Sikh nationalists were detained and banned from standing.

The rest of Punjab reacted by boycotting the elections. India spun this by asserting the boycott was due to threats from Sikh militants. Repeated evidence and subsequent elections show that Sikh populations don’t get intimidated by such threats.

Beant Singh’s 9% electoral backing was hailed a return to democracy by many western countries and media. In Syria the west would call this overwhelming rejection of the regime! India obviously has a way with the west.

Beant Singh immediately gave the police force free reign to continue a policy of extrajudicial executions, torture and illegal detentions even more aggressively. During his four years, it is estimated that over 10000 young people were killed by police death squads given rewards for ‘eliminating suspects’, despite India’s repeated claims that there were only 300 armed Sikh Nationalists. Question, who were the other 9700 killed?

Balwant Singh, the assassin, said that someone had to stop the Chief Minister. The west mitigated Beant’s crimes with words such as ‘democratic mandate’. The Indian State gave him constitutional cover. In India, not only religious texts, but even the constitution can have schismatic interpretations depending on who it is interpreted for.

Meanwhile the Indian Supreme Court, priding itself with ‘judicial activism for human rights’, ostriched itself through this period despite daily press reports of ‘encounter’s, called ‘fake encounters’ by Amnesty and UN. India has even acquired a wikipedia page for this ‘incredible’ activity. In India everyone is equal before the law but the law is not equal before everyone.

Following the Chief Minister’s death by a human bomb, Dilawar Singh, Balwant’s accomplice, the ‘encounters’ fell dramatically. Real democracy returned and the police was largely reigned in.

Balwant Singh questioned the court about Indian justice. During the attack on the Golden Temple in 1984 over 3000 innocent pilgrims, mostly children, elderly and women were killed by the Indian armed forces. A 16,000 strong army using helicopters, tanks and heavy artillery called these ‘collateral damage’ fighting a mere 200 armed Sikhs. The Army Officers got promotions for ‘gallantry’. The Indian Army has always been too willing to kill its own citizens. Another colonial habit hard to give up.

When the Indian Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, who had ordered the attack on the Golden Temple, was assassinated in November 1984, about 4000 innocent Sikhs in Delhi were massacred by a mob fed with addresses of Sikhs, petrol, iron bars and tyres by the political establishment and the police. Burning people alive with tyres around their necks (necklacing) was started by ‘Non-violent’ India in November 1984 beating South Africa by a year.

Balwant Singh asked the judge what was Indian justice doing about the politicians and police who had masterminded or been responsible during the four days of massacres. In fact they climbed the ladder. Tytler, directly implicated, became Union Minister while Narahsima Rao, then Home Minister, went on to become India’s Prime Minister. Rao had failed to call in the army stationed only half an hour away.

Underneath the veneer of Gandhi and cow protection is a State whose mindless cruelty against minorities is baffling to an innocent observer. Perhaps that is the ironic ‘incredible’ in ‘Incredible India’ the slogan India uses to promote tourism. Killer police squads and non violent sadhus, all in one country.

India’s crimes against its own citizens and the silence of the ‘ethical west’ do not mitigate Balwant Singh’s actions. Like many Sikhs in history, he took full responsibility for what he did. He has refused anyone to plead on his behalf. But he has thrown a challenge to India and the world. ‘Show the same commitment to constitutionality, law and human rights when the Indian State, its forces, its bureaucrats and its politicians commit heinous crimes against humanity’.

The removal of death penalty from the penal code inherited from its colonial past could be the first step towards convincing ordinary people that non-violence is not merely rhetorical propaganda but really embedded in the culture of Indians. Or perhaps cows are more sacred than humans in India. ‘Incredible India?’, of course!

Article in Huffington Post

Immediate Release-Jan Sansad Demands the end of Corporate Raj


Budget was UPA’s declaration of War on Aam Aadmi and Aurat

Jan Sansad Demands End of Company Raj & Corporate Plunder of  Jal Jangal & Jameen

Thousands to March from Shaheed park to Sansad Marg and  handover Resolutions to Political Parties Representatives & Civil Society Members

22 March 2012, New Delhi: The National Jan Sansad concluded its three days with a strong demand for a people’s oriented progressive ‘Budget’ that will serve as an instrument of Social Change and promote sustainable, just and equitable growth. The Jan Sansad condemned strongly the budget, of about 15 lakh crores, proposed by the Indian Parliament which will only further the interest of corporations and the wealthy urban class. The Jan Sansad organised by the National Alliance of People’s Movements in Rajendra Bhawan in New Delhi has brought together over 350 representatives from 20 different states of India to debate key issues of people’s concerns that rarely find mention in the Indian Parliament.

Several crucial issues such as decentralized planning and increased role for Gram Sabhas in policy planning that would contribute to a comprehensive budget were raised by the Sansad. Atleast 40% of the budget should be allocated to the Gram Sabhas for spending at the local level. Making the connection between corruption and weak economy, Prafulla Samantra of NAPM, Orissa, remarked that the dialogue on corruption is incomplete unless the plunder of natural resources such as land, water, air and minerals is taken into account. Communities demanded that natural resources not be allocated for profit-making businesses without consent of Gram Sabhas. The budget should ensure equitable access to both economic and natural resources.

The previous budgets reveal that while subsidies provided to the corporations amount to over 5 lakh crores, those allocated to the poorer agricultural classes are around one lakh crore. The Saansads argued that restructuring of the Indian tax structure, for instance by imposing estate, wealth tax, gift tax, inheritance tax, will generate adequate revenue which can increase spending on rural social infrastructure. “It is not sufficient that the budget is brought to public forums in the month of January every year. And even this is only an eyewash if none of the issues raised by organisations, trade unions are reflected in the final budget”, claimed Prof Arun Kumar, Economist, JNU.

For equitable growth, the budget needs to have adequate and specific allocations for women, dalits, muslims and other minority communities. Speaking against the privatization of the health and education sectors, the Sansad also advocated for a 6% budgetary allocation. Dr. Meera Shiva spoke on the dangers of privatization of the health sector where multinational companies are into all sectors of health including services, insurance, diagnosis, and education. Their control over the patents, further facilitated by free trade agreements and WTO is denying access to millions of people across the world. The Union Budget has to stop promoting these agreements and must immediately withdraw from undemocratic processes like WTO and other bilateral trade agreements.

The days’s panelists included Medha Patkar, K.B.Saxena, Dr Satyajit Singh, Amitabh Behar, Prof Arun Kumar, Meera Shiva, Kamal Nayan Kabra, Madhu Baduri, Sumit Chakravarthy, and Praful Bidwai

While the Jan Sansad sessions continued, on the occasion of World Water Day, movement groups fighting water privatisation, dams, thermal and nuclear power plants staged demonstrations in front of Tamilnadu Bhawan and Kerala Bhawan, Jantar Mantar. In solidarity with people fighting against the Koodankulam Nuclear Power Plant, Tamilnadu movement groups joined the Jawaharlal Nehru University student’s Union demonstration in front of the Tamilnadu Bhavan condemning the States repression of the non-violent struggle by fisherfolk and local communities in Idinthakarai. Later in the day, thousands of nature based communities struggling against water acquisition and privatisation, demanded ‘Save Water, Save Life, Save People’ at Jantar Mantar. The groups included Plachimada anti-coke struggle, Nadi Ghati Morcha, Arunachal anti-mega dam struggle groups, Matu Jan Sanghatan, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti, Narmada Bachao Andolan and others and was led by Medha Patkar, Sanddep Pandey, Vilayodi Venugopal and others.

Thousands of adivasis and marginal farmers from Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh who came for Jan sansad have been demonstrating against Adani thermal power plant since yesterday at jantar mantar. They were joined today by nearly 500 people from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Kisan Sangharsh Samiti leading the struggle against destructive thermal power plants in the area have been demanding that the illegal clearance granted to Adani Thermal and Pench water diversion project be revoked. Jan sansad passed a resolution in their support and demanded that Ministry of Environment and Forest must take action against Adani & the police atrocities in the region.

Jan Sansad passed resolutions on the issues of communities’ control of natural resources, corporate corruption and many other issues. Tomorrow, March 23rd, on occasion of martyrs day, thousands of people joining the concluding session of Jantar Mantar will march from Shaheed Park, near ITO to the Sansad Marg and hand over the resolutions to the representatives of the different political parties. Bhaktha Charan Das, Mohan Singh, Sharad Yadav, Tarun Mandal and many others are expected to attend. The resolutions will also be handed over to the members of civil society, trade unions, University and others.

Lok Shakti Abhiyan, National Alliance of Peoples’ Movement

For more details contact Media Team: Madhuresh Kumar: 9818905316

Countrywide Day Long Solidarity Hunger Strike and other protest actions in Solidarity with People of Kudankulam


The state government of Tamil Nadu has finally succumbed to pressure by the Central government and decided to commission the operation of the two Russian built nuclear reactors in Koodankulam, in south Tamil Nadu. In protest against this government decision, S. P. Udayakumar, Pushparayan and 13 others are sitting on an indefinite hunger strike in Idinthikarai, a village near Koodankulam. They are surrounded by more than 10,000 people from the villages around the nuclear plant.

The government has attempted to crush this mass movement by sending in thousands of armed police who have surrounded the protestors, and has cut off even essential amenities like water, food and electricity to them. More than 300 people have been arrested, and slapped with sedition charges — no less.

Over the last six months in what has been the latest phase of a more than decade long struggle, tens of thousands of residents in and around Koodankulam have peacefully and non-violently demonstrated against the government’s nuclear power plans. They have demanded that the plant be scrapped, especially in the light of the devastating Fukushima nuclear accident which has starkly brought out to the world the dangers of nuclear energy. They are demanding that the government take recourse to more environmentally friendly ways like solar and wind energy to meet the energy crisis. Instead of addressing their livelihood and life concerns, the government has resorted to making all kinds of wild allegations like claiming that it is foreign funded, is funded by foreign NGOs, etc.

We strongly condemn the repression launched against the people of Koodankulam and southern Tamil Nadu and demand that those arrested be immediately released. If a willingness to exercise one’s democratic right of protest in peaceful and non-violent ways, or to criticize the pursuit of nuclear energy, or even to oppose government plans in this regard is to be deemed seditious and warrants being arrested, then we also declare ourselves to be as guilty as our fellow citizens in Tamil Nadu. We stand in solidarity with them.

In expression of our solidarity with the heroic people of south Tamil Nadu, activist groups and intellectuals across the country are organising solidarity actions tomorrow, March 23, on the occasion of Bhagat Singh Martyrdom Day. Solidarity hunger strikes are being organised in more than 22 cities, including Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Chennai, Panjim, Kochhi, Allahabad, Lucknow, Kanpur, Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur, Kolkata, Chandigarh, Hisar, Sonipat, Sohana, Fatehabad, Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Hazaribagh, Ranchi, Jadugoda and Almora. An indefinite relay fast has started in Chennai. Some more cities will see solidarity actions on the following days. More than 500 people are going to begin a PEACE MARCH from Nagercoil to Idinthikarai on March 26.

As a part of this nationwide campaign, the citizens of Pune, are organising a solidarity hunger strike tomorrow opposite the Collector Office.

Program: Solidarity hunger strike in support of the struggle against Kudankulam Nuclear Plant

Date: March 23, 2012, Friday

Time: 7 am to 7 pm

Venue: Opposite Collector Office, Near Sasoon Hospital, Pune.

Custody Deaths in Kerala: A Study from Post-mortem Data in Thrissur Medical College


By: Hithesh Sanker T S, Praveenlal Kuttichira
Vol XLVII No.12 March 24, 2012

Though there are reports  pointing to the magnitude of the  problem, there has been no study  conducted on the nature of deaths that have taken place in police   custody. This article is an attemptin that direction, and studies 23   autopsies related to custodial deaths that were conducted in the Government Medical  College, Thrissur

http://beta.epw.in/static_media/PDF/archives_pdf/2012/03/CM_XLVII_12_240312_Hithesh_Sanker_T_S.pdf

Nearly 1,000 Pakistan women “killed for honour” in 2011


At least 943 Pakistani women and girls were murdered last year for allegedly defaming their family’s honor, the country’s leading human rights group said Thursday.

The statistics highlight the growing scale of violence suffered by many women in conservative Pakistan, where they are frequently treated as second-class citizens and there is no law against domestic violence.

Despite progress on better protecting women’s rights, activists say the government needs to do more to prosecute murderers in cases largely dismissed by police as private, family affairs.

“At least 943 women were killed in the name of honor, of which 93 were minors,” wrote the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its annual report.

The Commission reported 791 “honor killings” in 2010.

Around 595 of the women killed in 2011 were accused of having “illicit relations” and 219 of marrying without permission.

Some victims were raped or gang raped before being killed, the Commission said. Most of the women were killed by their brothers and husbands.

Only 20 of 943 killed were reported to have been provided medical aid before they died, the Commission wrote.

Despite the rising number of reported killings, activists have praised parliament for passing laws aimed at strengthening women’s protection against abuses.

Rights groups say the government should do more to ensure that women subjected to violence, harassment and discrimination have effective access to justice.

(AFP)

Koodankulam Crisis: HC instructs TN Police to ensure access to essential needs


By Newzfirst 3/22/12

CHENNAI – In a directive to the Tamil Nadu Police, the Madras High Court today ordered Police to ensure the uninterrupted access to basic amenities like electricity, food, milk and water for villagers protesting against Koodankulam nuclear power plant.

The Judges, Chief Justice EQ Iqbal and T.S Sivagnanam have reserved orders on other prayers, including lifting of Section 144 — a prohibitory order against the gathering of more than 4 people for Monday.

The Tamil Nadu police had imposed an illegal embargo on water, food, milk and fuel by blocking roads to pressurize protestors to give up their hunger strike against commissioning of nuclear power plant coming up at Koodankulam.

Villagers, including PMANE leaders Dr. SP Udayakumar and Pushparayan are on hunger strike since four days. About eight thousand villagers have relied basic supplies brought in through the sea on boats for the last 4 days

Forest dwellers deprived of livelihood and facing forcible eviction in Assam


Summary of BHRPC fact-finding report into the Patharia land-grabbing case

The Barak Human Rights Protection Committee (BHRPC) has learnt that around 300 families of traditional forest dwellers in and around Patharia forest reserve in Karimganj district of the North Eastern state of Assam have forcibly been deprived of their sources of livelihood and now living under severe threat of imminent eviction from their dwelling houses by some businessmen allegedly in connivance with the local politician Minister of state for co-operation and border areas development in the government of Assam Mr Siddeque Ahmed. The accused persons grabbed the land measuring approximately 130 hectares (330 acres) reportedly for rubber plantation in a village where the families of the forest dwellers have been living for generations depending on the forest produces for livelihood. The forest dwellers were asked to leave the areas soon and threatened with murders, rape and jail. The BHRPC is deeply concerned over the situation of the poor forest dwellers.

The BHRPC first learnt about the situation from newspaper reports (See 14 March, 2012 issue of the Dainik Prantojyoti, a Bengali daily newspaper published from Silchar, Assam) on 14 March, 2012 and formed a fact-finding group of 1. Mr. Neharul Ahmed Mazumder, 2. Mr. Sadique Mohammed Laskar, 3. Mr. Nirmal Kumar Das and 4. Mr. Sams Uddin Laskar to study the situation and prepare a report. The team visited the Patharia area on 17 March and met with the forest dwellers and other local people. This preliminary report is based on the findings of the team during the visit.

The area where the situation has developed is known as Satkoragul, Mokkergul and Bhitorgul and falls in the village of Pecharpar under the Patharkandi Police Stattion in the district of Karimganj that has about 100 kilometres long international border with Bangladesh. The village is situated along the border. A part of the village land comes under the Bilbari forest beat of the Patharia reserve forest. It is at a distance of about 30km towards south west from Karimganj town, the administrative headquarters of the district.

The BHRPC team, even though accompanied by a resident of nearby Patharkandi (name withheld), have been greeted with an eerie silence. Fear and disbelief were visibly writ large in the faces of the people. When the team met a person after entering the village and asked about the situation, another person came out running from a house and told that nothing happened there. With fear and terror-stricken face he told that there was no land grab and threat of eviction. Then the team met a woman resident (name withheld) who took them to her house. The team were aware that many people gathered around her house and were whispering trying to remain unseen and unheard. They suddenly came out looking agitated. They asked if the BHRPC team were ‘people of the minister’. After the team introduced themselves as human rights defenders and explained the purpose of the visit they calmed down and told their story one by one.

The team met around 30 persons of 18 families of the forest dwellers (names withheld). It is learnt from the villagers that they have been living in the area for generations and at the least for more than 75 years using approximately 130 hectares (330 acres) land for both dwelling and livelihood purposes. Almost all of the residents are Bengalis; either Hindus or Muslims by religion. It is very heartening to see that both the communities have been leading a simple and idyllic life in perfect harmony with each other on the one hand and with the nature on the other. Religion does not come in their sense of communitarianism.

According to them, a part of the land held by them for generations comes under the Patharia reserve forest, another part is government khas land (un-allotted government land) and the remaining part is farag land (land once held by the (Zamindars) feudal lords but later given to the tenants under contract). The villagers primarily live on forest produces, farming of cultivable land and cattle rearing. Among the forest produces, they usually only collect dried up and felled branches of trees and sell them as fire woods, which does not affect the forest in any way. In arable land they grow paddy, ginger, turmeric, taro along with growing bamboo and betel nut tress in high land. They also rear hen, duck, goat, cow and buffalo etc. in the forest land for livelihood support.

According to the villagers, some people started to fell trees in the forest land falling under Pecharpar village in November, 2011. When the villagers inquired why they were felling the trees, they were told that the tree cutters were ‘people of minister’ Siddeque Ahmed and he bought the land from the forest department for rubber plantation. This piece of news shocked and terrified the villagers so much that they could not decide the course of actions for months. The labourers employed for felling the trees were supervised by one Mr Mahibur Rahman (also known as Bolu Mia) of Choudhury Tilla, a person known to be close to the minister and dreaded by the local people, according to the villagers. The villagers also did not have any idea how much land would be grabbed in this way. They kept mum as they were asked.

Meanwhile, the tree cutters continued their work and almost all of the land held by the villagers were cleared within about a month. They felled almost all the big trees and burnt down small trees, vegetables, bushes and grass. This clearing of the land destroyed everything which the villagers live on. They had nothing to eat and feed their cattle. In this situation, some villagers met the minister at his residence in Nilambazar (Karimganj district). He told them that he had already procured title deeds of the land and now he owned it. He also told that if they still had any grievances he would provide them with some relief in terms of money. The villagers returned with empty hand.

However, the BHRPC failed to get a confirmation or denial from the minister of the claim made by the villagers about his direct involvement in the land grab as several efforts to contact him over his mobile number that is available with the BHRPC failed. Though most of the time the phone was found switched off he received one of the calls but did not talk about the matter. Later it was learnt that he told the local news reporters that the land in question was not bought by him. It is a non-government village organization named Asalkandi Gramin Bikash Kendra that took the land from the forest department on lease for rubber plantation and he has nothing to do with the organization, he added. But the organization is yet to confirm or deny the claim of the minister. The name of the organization suggests that it is based in Asalkandi, a village adjacent to Pecharpar.

After failure at the door of the minister, when the villagers tried to organize themselves to protest against the illegal land grab and illegal felling of trees, some people who identified themselves as persons working for the minister including Mr Bolu Mia, Mr. Abdul Hannan of Raghurtuk and Mr Manik told the villagers that it would not serve anything to try to fight against the minister. According to them, the minister is a powerful person and in case of opposition to him the villagers would have to face dire consequences including facing serious police cases, serving jail terms for long period and other dangers. They further asked the villagers to stop construction of any houses and leave the place as soon as possible, the BHRPC team was informed by the villagers.

One villager (name withheld) stated that he was residing in Pecharpar since he was born and his father told that he had also been born there. He had approximately 1.60 acres of land including his house. He used to grow betel nut, fruit trees and vegetables including taro and ginger etc. in the land, which were all cut down and taken away and which could not be taken away were burnt down. He was left with no source of livelihood and he was worried how to feed his family of 12 members (6 children, 3 adult female and 3 adult male). More worryingly, he has no place to live with the family if he is forced to leave the village.

When the BHRPC team met a woman resident of the village (name withheld) she broke down with emotion and wiping her tears told that she was worried about the personal security of her daughter (name and other details withheld) and female member of her family. She told that when the people who were cutting the trees and clearing the land did not respond to her protest as she was old she sent her daughter. They abused her daughter and threatened that they would abduct, rape and kill her and other female members of her family. The woman also told that she had about 2 hectares of land including her house. The trees and vegetables that she had grown in the land were cut down and burnt down. She had now nothing to support her family of 7 persons.

Another resident of Satkoragul (name withheld) told that he held nearly 4 hectares of land under farag contract. This land was also cleared out. He used to grow bamboos in high land and paddy in low land and vegetables and fruit trees in other parts. According to him, he and his family of 12 persons were leading a happy and very contented life. But, now he even lost words to express his anxiety and worries. He had nothing to provide for the family and nowhere to go in case of forcible eviction.

All other residents talked with by the BHRPC team told more less the same story. They held land ranging from half a hectare to 3 hectares per family, which has now been grabbed by the minister and his people. The villagers have nothing to eat and nowhere to go in case of eviction. If the situation continues they may have to live under conditions of starvation and may also be subjected to forcible displacement.

Some villagers (names withheld) accompanied the BHRPC team and showed the land, logs and roots of felled trees and ashes of the burnt out vegetables, bushes and grass. He uttered some chilling words as an aside. He said that he did not accompany any politicians from the opposition who came to inspect the area for fear of life, but he was accompanying the BHRPC team as they were human rights defenders. He did not know what would happen to him after the BHRPC team leaves.

On the other hand, it is reported that after one opposition politician issued a statement demanding resignation of the minister inquiries were initiated by the forest department. However, it is said that the forest department officials who visited the village were some times accompanied by ‘the people of the minister’. Therefore, the villagers have questioned the impartiality and objectivity of the officials. It is also learnt that a case was filed at the Patahrkandi police station against some unknown persons by ranger of Patharkandi forest range for illegal felling of trees in the land of forest reserve. According to the villagers, this is a move by the department to subvert the process of law as the accused have not been named and there is none who would dare to name them. It is further learnt that the District Magistrate (Deputy Commissioner) of Karimganj has also ordered a magisterial inquiry into the felling of trees and land grabbing. But the villagers are of the opinion that an executive magistrate who works under the minister can not conduct an impartial and objective inquiry against the minister and his people.

In the meantime, destruction of forest and other land produces continue as well as the ominous threat of displacement keeps coming nearer to an infernal reality. And it is clearly written in the wrinkles that are getting deeper in the faces of the hapless villagers.

20 March, 2012

Guwahati, Assam

Note: The identity of the victims and witnesses is not disclosed in view of the threat they are facing. Disclosure may endanger their life. Concerned readers are requested to contact the BHRPC for names and addresses of the victims and other relevant information if they are required for taking actions on their behalf. The details may be provided under an assurance of confidentiality.

See Photographs here

Rumours of police action add to volunteers’ stress


Jeemon Jacob
Idinthakarai, Tehelka

Church bells tolled at Idinthakarai at 8.25am on Thursday 22 March after rumours of police moving towards the protest venue. Within minutes hundreds of villagers thronged St Lourdes Church grounds and People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) convener SP Udayakumar and his associate Pushparayan moved out of the stage where they are sitting on an indefinite hunger strike since 19 March. Fearing impending police action that the rumours warned of, the villagers shifted them to a safe area. Hundreds of women encircled the central zone and the men stood behind them. Some shouted slogans while others kept an eye on the roads. After 20 minutes of high voltage tension, volunteers keeping an eye on the police activites, informed the leaders there was no movement of police vehicles. The scene changed immediately and the children returned to their playfields; and the volunteers’ security circle was relaxed.

“Rumours of police movement have the effect of a mock drill here and the crowd gets tense. This is the fourth time that the rumours created stress here,” said Raj Leon (57) one of the many stranded at the protest grounds for the last four days. “The whole village is sitting here as we have reached a no point of return. I’m also one of them and we will remain here till they close down the plant, this is our unanimous decision,” he said. A fragile-looking Leon believes that they will win their war against Nuclear plant as the locals are talking in one voice. “Here we have only one agenda. If the government ignores our silent protests and democratic rights, then it’s our fate,” said Leon.

However, not all are as calm as him. The women, specially, are agitated and emotional but have become more aware and socially active. They have abandoned their daily chores, children and jobs to be a part of the protesting crowd. They too say they have reached a point of return .

Full story here

 

The White Savior Industrial Complex- Teju Cole


 Excerpts from”‘ The White Savior Industrial Complex”- Teju Cole is the author of Open City, which won this year’s PEN/Hemingway Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.

This weekend, I listened to a radio interview given by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nicholas Kristof. Kristof is best known for his regular column in the New York Times in which he often gives accounts of his activism or that of other Westerners. When I saw the Kony 2012 video, I found it tonally similar to Kristof’s approach, and that was why I mentioned him in the first of my seven tweets.

Those tweets, though unpremeditated, were intentional in their irony and seriousness. I did not write them to score cheap points, much less to hurt anyone’s feelings. I believed that a certain kind of language is too infrequently seen in our public discourse. I am a novelist. I traffic in subtleties, and my goal in writing a novel is to leave the reader not knowing what to think. A good novel shouldn’t have a point.

But there’s a place in the political sphere for direct speech and, in the past few years in the U.S., there has been a chilling effect on a certain kind of direct speech pertaining to rights. The president is wary of being seen as the “angry black man.” People of color, women, and gays — who now have greater access to the centers of influence that ever before — are under pressure to be well-behaved when talking about their struggles. There is an expectation that we can talk about sins but no one must be identified as a sinner: newspapers love to describe words or deeds as “racially charged” even in those cases when it would be more honest to say “racist”; we agree that there is rampant misogyny, but misogynists are nowhere to be found; homophobia is a problem but no one is homophobic. One cumulative effect of this policed language is that when someone dares to point out something as obvious as white privilege, it is seen as unduly provocative. Marginalized voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely from the discourse.

It’s only in the context of this neutered language that my rather tame tweets can be seen as extreme. The interviewer on the radio show I listened to asked Kristof if he had heard of me. “Of course,” he said. She asked him what he made of my criticisms. His answer was considered and genial, but what he said worried me more than an angry outburst would have:
There has been a real discomfort and backlash among middle-class educated Africans, Ugandans in particular in this case, but people more broadly, about having Africa as they see it defined by a warlord who does particularly brutal things, and about the perception that Americans are going to ride in on a white horse and resolve it. To me though, it seems even more uncomfortable to think that we as white Americans should not intervene in a humanitarian disaster because the victims are of a different skin color.

Here are some of the “middle-class educated Africans” Kristof, whether he is familiar with all of them and their work or not, chose to take issue with: Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire, who covered the Lord’s Resistance Army in 2005 and made an eloquent video response to Kony 2012; Ugandan scholar Mahmood Mamdani, one of the world’s leading specialists on Uganda and the author of a thorough riposte to the political wrong-headedness of Invisible Children; and Ethiopian-American novelist Dinaw Mengestu, who sought out Joseph Kony, met his lieutenants, and recently wrote a brilliant essay about how Kony 2012 gets the issues wrong. They have a different take on what Kristof calls a “humanitarian disaster,” and this may be because they see the larger disasters behind it: militarization of poorer countries, short-sighted agricultural policies, resource extraction, the propping up of corrupt governments, and the astonishing complexity of long-running violent conflicts over a wide and varied terrain.

I want to tread carefully here: I do not accuse Kristof of racism nor do I believe he is in any way racist. I have no doubt that he has a good heart. Listening to him on the radio, I began to think we could iron the whole thing out over a couple of beers. But that, precisely, is what worries me. That is what made me compare American sentimentality to a “wounded hippo.” His good heart does not always allow him to think constellationally. He does not connect the dots or see the patterns of power behind the isolated “disasters.” All he sees are hungry mouths, and he, in his own advocacy-by-journalism way, is putting food in those mouths as fast as he can. All he sees is need, and he sees no need to reason out the need for the need.

But I disagree with the approach taken by Invisible Children in particular, and by the White Savior Industrial Complex in general, because there is much more to doing good work than “making a difference.” There is the principle of first do no harm. There is the idea that those who are being helped ought to be consulted over the matters that concern them.

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