Bahrain rights leader arrested for ‘offensive’ tweets: BCHR #Censorship


Published Monday, May 7, 2012

Human rights leader Nabeel Rajab is being held in a Bahraini jail because of comments he made on Twitter, his daughter said on Monday.

Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center of Human Rights (BCHR), was arrested on Saturday evening after flying into the country, and was charged with a string of offenses on Sunday afternoon.

Maryam al-Khawaja, who has taken over as acting head of the BCHR while Rajab remains incarcerated, said the charges against him were based on comments he had made on the social networking site.

“He is going to have several charges against him, mostly about what he writes on Twitter. They said he offended an official in the government and because of his Twitter there were violent attacks on police and calling for illegal protests,” she told Al-Akhbar.

“We knew they had been building up a case against him using Twitter because the last two times he has been arrested what they would do is bring out a file of hundreds of pages of copies of his tweets. That’s their evidence,” she added.

Maryam said that Rajab had refused to respond to any of the charges put against him as he did not recognize the legitimacy of the court.

A statement from the Interior Ministry confirmed that the evidence against Rajab was predominantly from publicly available social networks, but did not specifically mention Twitter.

“The Public Prosecution filed a case against the defendant after compiling compelling evidence of his involvement in inciting illegal rallies and marches online on social networking websites,” it said.

Following an interview with the BBC’s Hard Talk show two weeks ago, Rajab was threatened on Twitter by Bahrain’s foreign minister Khalid Al-Khalifa, saying “you are not going to get away with this every time.”

Maryam also said her sister, prominent rights campaigner Zainab famous for her Twitter handle @angryarabiya, was being unfairly treated in jail.

Zainab has been detained for three weeks and is due to face a number of charges on Wednesday, including insulting a police officer.

“They have been harassing her inside prison,” Maryam said. “One of the things she has been doing is making paper toys for her two-year-old daughter. They came in and took away the toys.”

Their father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and co-founder of the BCHR, has been on a prolonged hunger strike to protest his detention.

Abdulhadi, along with a number of key activists, remain imprisoned for leading pro-democracy rallies last year, despite a government-backed commission in November calling on all political prisoners to be released.

Bahrain was the scene of a number of large Arab Spring inspired protests last February, following the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

Bahraini and Saudi troops violently suppressed the protests in March, but demonstrations have continued.

(Al-Akhbar)

 

https://twitter.com/#!/NABEELRAJAB

Koodankulam – Anti-nuclear Struggle Continues: Deepa Rajkumar


MAY 7, 2012

As Japan shut down its last reactor, the Koodankulam project is to go critical in ten days.  Because Japan depends on local consensus for its nuclear decisions, unlike the World’s Largest Democracy, the views of Japanese people counts for something. Thousands of Japanese marched in celebrations to celebrate  the switching off of the last of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors on Saturday May 5th. 

Traditional ‘koinobori’ fish-shaped banners for Children’s Day have become a potent symbol of the Japanese anti-nuclear movement, symbolizing the commitment to leave a safe and clean earth to children.

Meanwhile, back home in Koodankulam, as  this guest post by DEEPA RAJKUMARreminds us, unrelenting state repression continues of the massive, non-violent struggle against the proposed nuclear plant there.

6,800 people in Koodankulam face charges of sedition and/or waging war against the state, possibly the largest number so charged ever, in colonial or independent India, in just one police station.

Sathish Kumar and R. S. Muhilan began an indefinite hunger strike from 25th April in Tiruchirapalli prison, Tamil Nadu. They were demanding a fair trial, stoppage of new charges being filed against them and the withdrawal of existing false charges against them. They are among nearly 200 people arrested following the Tamil Nadu government’s unprecedented para-militarized crackdown on the local, strong, peaceful, 10 month-long hunger strike by People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) in its struggle against the setting up of the central government-backed Indo-Russian Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) in coastal Southern Tamil Nadu. Sathish Kumar and R.S. Muhilan are two among more than 55,000 people, co-accused ‘others’, against whom 107 FIRs (First Information Reports) were  filed between September and December 2011 in Idinthakarai, Tamil Nadu.

Now, they are the only two people still in prison. And they are being dragged through farcical legal proceedings and unending time in prison, with judicial remand being extended, court hearings postponed, bail being denied, being shunted from court to court. When they were granted bail in High Court, immediately they had to face new charges, judicial remand and courts all over again. Putting their very lives in peril, they entered the 9th day of their hunger strike with their bail being rejected yet again on May 2, 2012. Finally on the 10th day, May 4th, with minimal media coverage of the movement, and in response to an appeal from PMANE, they called off their strike.

Read more at Kafila

Gujarat riots: Amicus curiae says Narendra Modi can be prosecuted


PTI | May 7, 2012, 04.39PM IST

Godhra riots: Amicus curiae report questions Modi's role

Godhra riots: Amicus curiae report questions Modi’s role
AHMEDABAD: In a jolt to chief ministerNarendra Modi, a Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae has held that he can be prosecuted under various sections of the IPC for “promoting enmity among different groups” during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The report by Raju Ramchandran on the complaint of Zakia Jaffrey is in sharp contrast to the report of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) which had earlier given a clean chit to Modi and others.”In my opinion, the offences which can be made out against Shri Modi, at this prima facie stage, are offences inter alia under Sections 153 A (1) (a) & (b) of IPC which means promoting enmity among different groups on grounds of religion and 153 B (1) which says assertions prejudicial to national integration,” Ramchandran said in his report.

“He (Modi) should also be prosecuted under IPC 166 which says public servant disobeying law, with intent to cause injury to any person and 505 (2) meaning statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will,” the amicus curiae said in the report.

The SIT in its report had rejected suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt‘s allegations that Modi had given instructions in a meeting held on Feb 27, 2002 to “allow Hindus to vent their ire and teach Muslims a lesson” in the wake of the Godhra train burning incident.

Bhatt had filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court in this regard.

Regarding Bhatt, the amicus curiae (adviser to court) said that “in my opinion, despite the aforesaid background (SIT rejecting Bhatt’s claims), it does not appear very likely that a serving police officer would make such a serious allegation against Modi, the chief minister of the state, without some basis”.

The complainant Jaffrey was today handed over the SIT report, along the with report of the Amicus Curiae, by the SIT in the court of the metropolitan magistrate.

Jaffrey’s husband and former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffrey was among the 69 people killed at the Gulberg Society during 2002 post-Godhra riots.

“There is no documentary material of any nature whatsoever which can establish that Shri Bhatt was not present at the meeting on 27.02.2002. In the absence of the minutes of the meeting, there is again no documentary material available as to the participants in the meeting and what transpired at the said meeting.

“Therefore, it is the word of Shri Bhatt against the word of other officers, senior to him. The SIT has chosen to believe the word of the senior officers”, Ramchandran said in his report.

As a result, he said it was difficult to accept the conclusion of the SIT that Bhatt’s statement is motivated, because he has an axe to grind with the State on the issues of his career.

“Though the SIT, as the investigating agency, has taken a view, the question whether Shri Bhatt was present at the meeting on 27.02.2002 and whether Shri Modi had indeed made such a statement (as spoken to by Shri Bhatt) can only be decided by a court of law. It would not be correct to disbelieve the version of Shri Bhatt, at this prima facie stage”, Ramchandran further said.

“Hence, the question to be examined is whether the making of the statement by the chief inister in the meeting on 27.02.2002, by itself, is an offence under law,” the amicus curiae said in his report which was submitted to the Supreme Court on July 25, 2011.

Palestinian hunger strikes: Media missing in action


Is the mass Palestinian prisoner hunger strike the beginning of the Palestinian Spring?

Richard Falk,United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. 
Last Modified: 07 May 2012 0

‘The official Israeli response to Palestinian moves toward political restraint and away from violence [has been to increase] settlement expansion, extensive targeted killing… and a 50 per cent increase in [arrests]’ [GALLO/GETTY]

Santa Barbara, CA Can anyone doubt that if there were more than 1,500 prisoners engaged in a hunger strike in any country in the world other than Palestine, the media in the West would be obsessed with the story? Such an obsession would, of course, be greatest if such a phenomenon were to occur in an adversary state such as Iran or China, but almost anywhere it would be featured news, that is, anywhere but Palestine. It would be highlighted day after day, and reported on from all angles, including the severe medical risks associated with such a lengthy refusal to take food, with respected doctors and human rights experts sharing their opinions.

At this time there are two Palestinians who were the first to start this current wave of resistance to the practice of administrative detention, Thaer Halalheh and Bilal Diab, enduring their 70th day without food. Both men are reported by respected prisoner protection association, Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, to be in critical condition with their lives hanging in the balance. Examining doctors indicated recently that both detainees were reported to “suffer from acute muscle weakness in their limbs that prevents them from standing” and are under the “dual threat” of “muscle atrophy and Thromohophilia, which can lead to a fatal blood clot”.

Despite this dramatic state of affairs until today there has been scant notice taken by Western governments, media and even the United Nations of the life threatening circumstances confronting Halalheh or Diab, let alone the massive solidarity strike that is of shorter duration, but still notable as a powerful expression of nonviolent defiance.

In contrast, consider the attention that the Western media has been devoting in recent days to a lone blind Chinese human rights lawyer, Chen Guangcheng, who managed to escape from house arrest in Beijing, find a safe haven at the US Embassy, arrange a release and then seek an exit from China. This is an important and disturbing international incident, to be sure, but is it truly so much more significant than the Palestinian story as to explain the total neglect of the extraordinary exploits of thousands of Palestinians who are sacrificing their bodies, quite possibly their lives, to nonviolently protest severe mistreatment in the Israeli prison system, and by extension, the oppressiveness of an occupation that has gone on for 45 years?

Hana Shalabi was among those released in the prisoner exchange, but then barely recovering from her prior detention period, was rearrested in a night arrest raid, once again confined by an administrative detention decree for a further four months in Israeli jail.

Except among their countrymen, and to some extent the region, these many thousand Palestinian prisoners have been languishing within an opaque black box for over four decades, are denied international protection, exist without rights of their own, and cope as best they can without even a proper acknowledgement of their plight. There is another comparison that comes to mind. Recall the outpouring of concern, grief and sympathy throughout the West for Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was captured on the Gaza border and held captive by Palestinians for five years. A powerful global campaign for his release on humanitarian grounds was organised, and received constant reinforcement in the media.

World leaders pleaded for his release, the UN Secretary General exhibited concern and Israeli commanding officers even told IDF fighting forces during the massive attacks on Gaza at the end of 2008 that killed more than 1,450 Palestinians that the real mission of the Operation Cast Lead campaign was to free Shalit or at least inflict pain on the entire civilian population of Gaza for his capture, a grotesque instance of unlawful collective punishment.

When Shalit was finally released in a prisoner exchange a few months ago there was a joyful homecoming celebration in Israel that abruptly ended when, much to the disappointment of the Israeli establishment, Shalit reported good treatment during captivity. Shalit’s father went further, saying if he was a Palestinian he would have tried to capture Israeli soldiers.

Hunger strikes, administrative detention and Palestinian witness

This current wave of hunger strikes started on April 17, Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, and was directly inspired by the earlier recently completed long and heroic hunger strikes of Khader Adnan (66 days) and Hana Shalabi (43 days) both of whom protested against the combination of administrative detention and abusive arrest and interrogation procedures. It should be understood that administrative detention depends on accusations contained in secret evidence not disclosed to the detainee or defense lawyers and allows Israel to imprison Palestinians for six months at a time without bringing any criminal charges, with terms renewable as they expire.

Hana Shalabi was among those released in the prisoner exchange, but then barely recovering from her prior detention period, was rearrested in a night arrest raid, once again confined by an administrative detention decree for a further four months in an Israeli jail. Or consider the experience of Thaer Halahla, although only 33 years of age has been eight times placed in administrative detention for a total of six and a half years, despite the absence of any signs that he was involved in any violent activity.

Israeli prison guards and authorities are doing their best to intensify the torments of hunger… the strikers are being subjected to belittling harassment and a variety of punishments... “

Both Mr Adnan and Ms Shalabi were released through last minute deals negotiated at a time when their physical survival seemed in doubt, making death seem imminent. Israel apparently did not then want to risk a agitating Palestinians by such martyrdom. At the same time Israel, as usual, did not want to seem to be retreating under pressure, or draw into question its reliance on administrative detention and imprisonment. Israel has refused, until the present, to examine the grievances that gave rise to these hunger strikes.

In Hana Shalabi’s case her release was coupled with a punitive deportation order, which cruelly confines her to Gaza for the next three years, away from her family and the familiar surroundings of her home village of Burqin near Jenin in the West Bank. There are some indications that Ms Shalabi was not fully informed about the deportation feature of her release, and was manipulated by prison authorities and the lawyer representing her interests. It may now be with the continuation of the hunger strikes, and their rapid expansion to a majority of those imprisoned, and even to Palestinian civil society, that Israel has altered its calculations, thinking that deaths among such fear into the Palestinians as to lead those still alive to abandon their hunger strike. It is difficult to assess the direction of the Israeli response at this stage.

There are reports that some of the current hunger strikers have been offered similar conditional releases, but have so far steadfastly refused to resume eating if it means deportation or exile. A fierce struggle of wills between the strikers and the prison authorities is underway, between those with the advantages of hard power domination and those relying on the soft power resources of moral and spiritual courage, and societal solidarity. As the strikers repeated affirm, their acts are not meant for their own release alone, but on behalf of all prisoners, and beyond even this, in support of the wider Palestinian struggle for dignity, self-determination and freedom from oppression.

The torment of these striking prisoners is not only a consequence of their refusal to accept food until certain conditions are met. Israeli prison guards and authorities are doing their best to intensify the torments of hunger. There are numerous reports that the strikers are being subjected to belittling harassment and a variety of punishments, including constant taunting, solitary confinement, confiscation of personal belongings, denial of family visits, disallowance of examination by humanitarian NGOs and hardhearted refusals to transfer to medically threatened strikers to civilian hospitals where they could receive the kinds of medical treatment their critical conditions urgently require.

‘When Palestinians resort to nonviolent forms of resistance, whether hunger strikes or BDS or an intifada, their actions fall mainly on deaf ears and wooden eyes’ author argues [GALLO/GETTY]

There are also broader issues at stake. When in the past Palestinians resorted to violent forms of resistance they were branded by the West as terrorists, their deeds were widely covered by dwelling upon their sensationalist aspects, but when Palestinians resort to nonviolent forms of resistance, whether hunger strikes or BDS or an intifada, their actions fall mainly on deaf ears and wooden eyes. Worse, there is a concerted propaganda spin to depict a particular tactic of nonviolent resistance as somehow illegitimate, either as a cheap trick to gain sympathy or as a dirty trick to subvert the state of Israel by drawing its legitimacy into question.

All the while, Israel’s annexationist plans move ahead, with settlements expanding, and now recently, with more than 100 settler outposts, formerly illegal even under Israeli law, in the process of being retroactively legalised. Such moves signal once and for all that the Netanyahu leadership exhibits not one iota of good faith when it continues to claim that it seeks to negotiate a conflict ending peace treaty with the Palestinians. It is a pity that the Palestinian Authority has not yet had the diplomatic composure to call it quits when it comes to heeding the hollow calls of the Quartet to resume direct talks with Israel. It is long past time to crumble this long bridge to nowhere.

Liberal hypocrisies

That rock star of liberal pontificators, Thomas Friedman, has for years been preaching nonviolence to the Palestinians, implying that Israel as a democratic country with a strong moral sensitivity would surely yield in the face of such a principled challenge. Yet when something as remarkable as this massive expression of a Palestinian commitment to nonviolent resistance in the form of this open-ended hunger strike, dubbed ‘the war of empty stomachs’, takes place, Friedman along with his liberal brothers is stony silent, and the news sections of the newspaper of the New York Times were unable to find even an inch of space to report on these dramatic protests against Israel’s use of administrative detention and abusive treatment during arrest, interrogation and imprisonment weeks after the seminal events associated with Khader Adnan and Hana Shalabi had ended their hunger strikes. Not until the 65th day of the strikes of the continuing strikes of Bilal Diab and Thaer Halahla, along with the 1,500 or so Palestinian prisoners who commenced their refusal of food on April 17 or later, did the Times report on the strikes.

“[A hunger strike] is both scary and physically taxing even for a day or so, and to maintain the discipline and strength of will to carry on such a strike for weeks at a time requires a rare combination of courage and resolve.

Robert Malley, another influential liberal voice who had been a Middle East advisor to Bill Clinton when he was president, while more constrained in offering Palestinians advice than Friedman, suggests that any sustained display of Palestinian nonviolence if met with Israeli violence would be an embarrassment for Washington. Malley insists that if the Palestinians were to take to the streets in the spirit of Tahrir Square, and Israelis responded violently, as the Netanyahu government could be expected to do, it “would put the United States in an… acute dilemma about how to react to Israel’s reaction.”

The dilemma depicted by Malley derives from Obama encouragement of the democratic aspirations of a people who he has repeatedly said deserve their own state on the one side and the unconditional alignment with Israel on the other. Only a confirmed liberal would call this a genuine dilemma, as any informed and objective observer would know, that the US Government would readily accept, as it has repeatedly done in the past, an Israeli claim that force was needed to maintain public order, and even more assuredly during a heated presidential campaign. In this manner, Palestinian nonviolence would be once more disregarded, and the super-alliance of these two partners in crime once more reaffirmed.

Self-sacrifice and the Palestinian search for peace

Let there be no mistake about the moral and spiritual background of the challenge being mounted by these Palestinians. Undertaking an open ended hunger strike is an inherently brave act that is fraught with risks and uncertainties, and is only undertaken in situations of extreme frustration or severe abuse. Of course, others have engaged in hunger strikes in the past to protest prison abuse, including the 2011 strikes in California prisons that lead to the death of Christian Alexander Chavez, a 27-year-old prisoner serving a life sentence for a murder he may never have committed. A prison hunger strike is never an act undertaken lightly or as a stunt.

For anyone who has attempted to express protest in this manner, and I have for short periods as a free citizen during my decade of opposition to the Vietnam War, it is both scary and physically taxing even for a day or so, and to maintain the discipline and strength of will to carry on such a strike for weeks at a time requires a rare combination of courage and resolve. Very few individuals have the psychological makeup needed to adopt such an extreme tactic of self-sacrifice and witness, especially when the ordeal is aggravated by punishments and tauntings by prison officials.

For a hunger strike to be done on this current scale of collective action underscores the horrible ordeal of the Palestinians that has been all but erased from the political consciousness of the West in the hot aftermath of the Arab Spring. It also suggests that a new Palestinian uprising may be in the offing, which would present Washington with the dilemma Malley worries about. The world has long refused to take notice of Palestinian one-sided efforts over the years to reach a peaceful outcome of their conflict with Israel.

It is helpful to keep reminding ourselves that in 1988 the PLO officially accepted Israel within its 1967 borders, a huge territorial concession, leaving the Palestinians with only 22 per cent of historical Palestine on which to establish an independent and sovereign state. In recent years, the main tactics of Palestinian opposition to the occupation, including on the part of Hamas, has been largely to turn away from violence, adhering to a diplomacy and practice that looked toward long-term peaceful coexistence between two peoples. Israel has refused to take note of either development, and has instead continuously thrown sand in Palestinian eyes.

The official Israeli response to Palestinian moves toward political restraint and away from violence have been to embark upon a program of feverish settlement expansion, extensive targeted killing, reliance on excessive retaliatory violence as well as an various forms of intensifying oppressiveness that gave rise to these hunger strikes. One expression of this oppressiveness is the 50 per cent increase in the number of Palestinians held under administrative detention during of the last year, along with an officially mandated worsening of conditions throughout its prison system.

Richard Falk is Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has authored and edited numerous publications spanning a period of five decades, most recently editing the volume International Law and the Third World: Reshaping Justice (Routledge, 2008).

He is currently serving his third year of a six-year term as a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. 

Follow him on Twitter: @rfalk13

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

To protect or to empower? Jarawa Tribe



Author(s): Kumar Sambhav , Down to Earth
Issue: May 15, 2012

Parliamentary standing committee reiterates its demand to bring Jarawas into mainstream

 

THE Centre is once again tied in knots over whether the Jarawa tribe should be protected in isolation or brought into mainstream. Brushing aside a policy formulated in 2004, a parliamentary standing committee on March 21 asked the Centre to bring the tribe into the mainstream.

With a population of just about 300, Jarawa is an ancient tribe of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and has little immunity to outside illnesses. The Policy on Jarawa Tribe of Andaman Islands mandates limited interference in the tribe’s cultural life. No attempt should be made to bring the tribe into the mainstream against their will, the policy states. But for long, some politicians, including member of Parliament from the islands, Bishnu Pada Ray, have been demanding an aggressive policy to integrate the tribe into the mainstream.

The parliamentary standing committee on social justice and empowerment had given a similar recommendation in August last year and said that minimum damage to the tribe and its cultural heritage should be ensured.

“At this juncture when many Jarawas are willing to come into the mainstream and lead a modern lifestyle, it would not be appropriate to suppress their voice and leave them in total isolation, unattended and without care,” the committee said in its Report on Demands for Grants.

In September 2010, the tribal affairs ministry constituted a committee headed by its secretary to review the policy. However, it did not initiate further action. Last year, the National Advisory Council (NAC), headed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, asked the ministry to review the policy. The ministry’s committee then asked the Andaman and Nicobar administration to send a group of experts to the middle and south of the islands to assess “the actual perceptions, needs and expectations of the Jarawas”.

The expert group examined the situation and suggested that the government conduct a social impact assessment, and monitor movement patterns and nutrition of the Jarawas. It said the Jarawa policy should be changed to empower the tribe to deal with the challenges of integration with the mainstream (see ‘Jarawas: To protect or not’, Down To Earth, February 15, 2012).

The ministry’s committee, however, told NAC that there was no need to change the policy. In fact, it said that the recommendations made by the group of experts were already covered in the policy. The Andaman and Nicobar administration must undertake evidence-based research studies if changes are to be made in the policy, it said. The ministry sent the committee’s report to the parliamentary standing committee.

But the parliamentary panel did not buy the ministry’s argument. In its recent statement it said there is a need to undertake research on topics suggested by the group of experts. “The committee reiterates its earlier recommendation to review the policy on the Jarawa tribe and bring necessary changes in the policy which should facilitate a slow and smooth process of transition,” it says. The government should send a fresh action taken report to the committee within three months, it said. Tribal ministry officials refused to comment on the parliamentary panel’s stand.

50k untraced Aadhaar cards returned #UID


  • 200 px

    200 px (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    May 7, 2012

  • By L.Venkat Ram Reddy , DCHyderabad
“Untraced addresses” plague Aadhaar card project in the state. Post offices have sent back nearly 50,000 Aadhaar cards to the UIDAI stating that they could not trace the addresses. This has led to complaints that Aadhaar cards were registered with fake addresses. Interestingly, majority of the cards that were sent back were issued in Hyderabad. These cards are lying undelivered with several post offices in the city for nearly a year.

The postal department has communicated to the civil supplies department expressing its inability to deliver Aadhaar cards due to wrong addresses and informed that it has returned them to UIDAI. The civil supplies department is the nodal agency for implementing the Aadhaar project in the state. Following this, the department has directed all the enrolment agencies to be extra cautious while submitting address details of people in the online system during the second phase of Aadhaar enrolments, which began recently, after a two-and-a-half month break, in February.

“People not residing in the addresses specified can be understood for reasons like shifting from rented houses, transfer of jobs etc. But, the non-existence of addresses itself is a serious issue. This shows that the enrolment agencies have submitted Aadhaar online details without verifying correct addresses,” said an official of civil supplies department. Though the UIDAI had established about 3,000 enrolment centres in AP, till date only 3.5 crore people have been enrolled and around 4 crore people are yet to be enrolled.

In Hyderabad, the centres have managed to enrol nearly 42 lakh citizens. Over 8 lakh people in the city are yet to be enrolled, though most of those who have enrolled are yet to receive their cards. In addition, people who already enrolled for the cards a year ago have not received them so far. The enrolment agencies are not maintaining a serial number for people who belong to the same family. With this, while some members within the same family have got cards, others did not.

The helpline provided by UIDAI is also not serving the desired purpose with people complaining that it was confined to register only complaints and no solution is being provided for getting Aadhaar cards.

Does the truth prevail in Aamir Khan’s Satyameva Jayate?


Satyen K. Bordoloi , http://www.sify.com

aamir
Aamir Khan in the very first episode has shown society the mirror, but perhaps we also need to investigate what lies behind the mirror, says Satyen K Bordoloi

The most surprising thing about Satyameva Jayate is Aamir Khan. The star who is otherwise so inaccessible, has suddenly become someone you cannot escape even if you want to.

What with his program being shown at the same time in eight channels and viewers being subjected to a countdown as if something earthshaking was about to happen.

To begin with, one has to give in to the marketing genius of the man, the star… who in his quest to brand himself as the “socially conscious star” has finally nailed it.

Yes, Aamir Khan indeed shows the society the mirror, exposing the hypocrisies of the educated middle class. Yet, to get the true picture we will have to see the other side of the mirror.

First, however, let’s look at what Aamir Khan wants us to see.

Read more at sify

SC suspends Narayan Sanyal’s life term, grants him bail #Justice


New Delhi, May 7, 2012

PTI
The Supreme Court on Monday suspended the life sentence of CPI (Maoist) activist Narayan Sanyal, held guilty of committing sedition by a Chhattisgarh court in 2010, and granted bail to him.

A bench of justices G.S. Singhvi and S.J. Mukhopadhaya gave bail to 78-year-old Sanyal, considering his age and the fact that he has already spent over six years in jail since his arrest in 2006.

The bench said the concerned trial court would impose the condition to its satisfaction for Mr. Sanyal’s release on bail.

Mr. Narayan Sanyal was convicted along with People’s Union of Civil Liberties’ Vice President Binayak Sen and a Kolkata businessman Piyush Guha for colluding with the Maoists in expanding their network to fight the state.

Mr. Sen was granted bail and his sentence was suspended by the apex court on April 15 last year.

They were held guilty by a Raipur court on December 24, 2010 of committing sedition and criminal conspiracy under the Indian Penal Code as well as offences under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act.

The three were also found guilty under the provisions of Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act and sentenced to five years jail term. Mr. Sanyal was also awarded 10 years imprisonment for being member of a terrorist outfit, in violation of the UAP Act.

All three had moved the Chhattisgarh High Court against their conviction and their appeals are still pending there.

Women ‘Invisible’ in Myanmar


Aung San Suu Kyi visits polling-stations in AprilAung San Suu Kyi visits polling-stations in April

Source: IPS: Roberto Tofani

While Aung San Suu Kyi enjoys iconic status in Myanmar (also known as Burma), women remain invisible in this country steeped in Buddhist tradition and emerging from decades of military rule.

“Her (Suu Kyi’s) image suggests that there is space for women,” Ma Thida, a surgeon who is also a director of the ‘Myanmar Independent’ weekly newspaper published from Yangon (also Rangoon), tells IPS. “She is a great example for all Burmese women.”

Ma Thida was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in 1993 on charges of “endangering public peace, having contact with illegal organisations and distributing unlawful literature.” She was released after five years in the notorious Insein prison.

“Today, the overall situation seems better compared to two or three years ago, but it’s far from ideal,” says Ma Thida, one of thousands of women who have contributed to bringing about changes towards democracy in Burma.

According to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, an independent non-profit founded by former political prisoners living in exile and based out of the border town of Mae Sot in Thailand, there are 18 females among the 473 political prisoners in Myanmar.

On paper, women suffer no discrimination with restrictions on civil liberties applying equally to all, regardless of gender.

Myanmar has ratified the international convention on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), but the 2008 constitution does not quite conform to it.

For example, in appointing or assigning duties to civil services personnel the constitution prescribes that there be no discrimination “based on race, birth, religion, and sex”, but it also says that “nothing shall prevent appointment of men to the positions that are suitable for men only.”

Burmese activists shout anti-China slogans during a protest against the Myitsone dam in 2011. Photo: Ahmad Yusni/EPABurmese activists shout anti-China slogans during a protest against the Myitsone dam in 2011. Photo: Ahmad Yusni/EPA”At the moment we cannot still talk or discuss freely about gender discrimination or gender equality,” says a female rights activist who prefers not to be named because of her involvement in the campaign against the construction of the Myitsone dam on the Irrawaddy River.

The controversial hydroelectric project, developed jointly by Myanmar’s power ministry, the privately-owned Asia World Company of Burma and China Power Investment Corporation, was suspended by Myanmar authorities last year, following protests.

“That controversial decision to suspend construction, which was welcomed by environment groups, was the result of protests held mostly by women,” the activist said.

“When Burmese official media reported the decision to suspend construction the women seemed to have disappeared because they were asked to sit on the ground while the cameras focused on government officials,” she said. “The presence of women in our society is extensive but we are still invisible.”

The same paradox extends through Myanmar’s political life in which women have been struggling behind the lines for years and are happy to take a back seat when it comes to leadership roles.

“Sometimes it’s not so easy to raise these kinds of issues even within women’s groups as the majority of women think that their role is within the family and that their role in society cannot change,” says Mon Mon Myat, a writer and women’s rights activist.

“In a male-dominated, Theravada Buddhist society there are many cultural barriers that limit women’s behaviour and functioning,” Mon Mon Myat told IPS.

“Female journalists, for example, cannot take pictures or videos of the audience, because they are not allowed to go up to vantage positions because as women they cannot stay above men or Buddhist monks,” explained Mon Mon Myat.

That cultural barrier contrasts sharply with the images of Suu Kyi waving or talking to people from a balcony at her house or at a party office.

An exception

Suu Kyi, according to Mon Mon Myat, is an exception because she is the daughter of Gen. Aung San, a venerated national hero closely associated with Myanmar’s independence movement.

In fact, Suu Kyi takes care to prefix her father’s name to hers, although the custom in Myanmar is for women to use their own given names through life without taking on the name of father or husband.

“Though she is a woman, Suu Kyi is a symbol of peace and democracy in our country. That is why, we can see big crowds of monks and men strongly showing their support for her,” Mon Mon Myat said.

“The outlook of the country has to change if this country is going to be democratic, but for that there has to be more freedom in the media first,” says ‘Vic’, a 24-year-old writer who goes by that pen name.

Women activists and journalists who dared oppose the junta paid a heavy price with many of them systematically tortured, raped or killed by troops fighting a long war against ethnic militias in the Shan, Kachin and Karen states,

In 2002, the Shan Women’s Action Network denounced the systematic use of rape by the Burmese military in a report where some found the courage to speak out about their own experiences.

“It is still not possible to talk freely about rape cases committed by Burmese soldiers on ethnic women in remote areas,” said Mon Mon Myat.

In many cases, she said, women do not think of rape as gender discrimination but as a problem “of fate in a society that frowns on the weaker sex wearing inappropriate dress or going to inappropriate places.”

“In Myanmar, families may prefer to be silent about a rape, making it difficult for the victim to seek justice in the courts,” said Mon Mon Myat.

Women, inside and outside Myanmar, have been able to network through the Women’s League of Burma, an organisation of women drawn from 13 different ethnic groups that is “working for the advancement of the status of women towards a peaceful and just society.”

“Changing mindsets, especially among mid-level administrators and ordinary people is essential,” says Grace Swe Zin Htaik, a former actress who devotes herself to campaigning for health and gender issues. “It will take a long time before we achieve gender equality in Burma,” she told IPS.

Though poorly represented in legislative bodies and government positions, women like Mon Mon Myat draw hope for the future from the fact that females slightly outnumber males in Myanmar’s population, presently estimated at 55 million.

There is also the memory of better times before British colonial rule (1824–1948) when Myanmar followed a matriarchal system and women held rights to own property and hold high office.

What happens when Aamir talks about an issue that is conflicted? # Satyamevjayate


Satyamev Jayate
Posted by Khamba  on May 7, 2012

Nazar Suraksha Kavach

I’ll be honest – I’m a little tired of Aamir Khan looking down at me from every hoarding in Mumbai as if I’m a pathetic human being. So annoyed infact that I’ll consider doing the exact opposite of what he tells me to do on the show just to spite the guy. If he talks about drunken driving – I’ll down a bottle of Old Monk and run over people in an auto-rickshaw. If he talks about pesticide dependency across farmlands being linked to cancer, I’ll drink bottles of Coke he endorsed a couple of years ago. If he talks about abor…well one doesn’t need to when its so easy to abuse OTC pills being sold in happy Shilpa Shetty packaging.

It’s like he’s the only one concerned with what’s happening around the country and pardon my French…like hum sab bas ch***ye bethe hain… as if staring at someone with keen intensity accentuated by soft lighting and adequate depth of field is going to solve the poverty of people’s backs. I understand one needs to play the emotional card, because without it Indians ko kuch samajh nahi aata, but I have enough people preaching their moral superiority to me everyday and I can do without another one.

But before I move on to talking about how the show told me more about us as people than it did about the issue it chose to address, I want to get some stuff out of the way.

Aamir Khan: Contrary to how annoyed I am with the marketing blitz; I actually have no beef against Aamir Khan doing the show. The intention is noble, and props to him for even trying something like this on Indian television. He’s using his star power to “raise awareness”, and while personally I will always skeptical of that terms intangibility, I hope some good will come of it. What and how? I don’t know, and I don’t even think anyone cares. People are just happy that Aamir Khan is “doing something”! And we as a people seem so starved of role models and hope that even “doing something” is enough to get them on your side.

One of the biggest challenges within the development sector always remains impact assessment – so while I don’t expect massive “societal change” (the term rich people use to say we hope poor people reach our level someday before making sure they never do) to happen through the show, it’ll definitely get rich people to think about the issues it raises through its run. (I like how rich people keep saying the show is meant for a “DD Audience” – our of saying poor bastards – because for us everything that is wrong with society only happens amidst these poor fuckers who dirty our streets and have no civic sense and have the audacity to ask for something more than minimum wage and more than one holiday a year while they clean our houses)

Again, parts of the show made me cringe (Aamir’s opening monologue – and the song in the end interspersed with pictures of helpless kids that we as society have wronged – straight out of the aao videshi tourists se gareebi ki numaish ke zariye paisa nikaalte hain playbook) but let’s face it – shots of people crying and a painful story are what work to get people’s attention and there the producers got their desired results.

The show: I don’t know why people are bothered about Aamir charging 3 crores per episode. Like any other professional he’s spending his time and effort making the show and will/should be compensated for it. I know for a fact that some of my friends who have been working their assess off on the ground for a pittance will be irked at so much attention being showered on issues they’ve been crying hoarse about for years and years purely because Aamir Khan has said it – but that’s just how we’ve become. We can’t eradicate polio till Amitabh Bachchan tells us its fucked up, so I don’t know why we’re surprised now. I am curious to see how sensitively issues are treated and whether the research is accurate – and I hope I won’t be disappointed given how television is forced to stick to broad strokes. I’m looking forward to the piles of academic literature that will flood JSTOR and the likes once the show is done, and how friends working on the ground and on campus react to it. On many levels, it is and can be a critical show.

The people’s reaction: The best thing that Satyamev Jayete did for me however was providing an insight into how people (using Twitter as a sample) thought. It immediately became taboo to even make jokes about Aamir Khan simply because “he was doing something and all we were doing was tweeting”. It’s almost as if you had to qualify yourself as having good karma before being able to comment on the show incase you didn’t like it. So what is it then? Does one have to had donated a certain amount of money to charity, spent x number of years working with an organisation, personally saved 8 kids from a fire? Why must one be chastised for not liking the show or joking about it?

It’s amazing how by just watching the show – people thought that they had done something amazing which made them morally superior beings. And while my first instinct was to mock it, I realized it became taboo to mock the show simply because Satyamev Jayete – for that moment – became a beacon of change. For that brief period, it became more than just a television show – and cheesy as it sounds – Aamir became the crusader who gave voice to people’s hope. We’ve become so disappointed and disgusted with our political and social representatives, that Aamir Khan became that one guy we could look up to because he seemed to have no personal agenda and was using his influence for something other than selling biscuits.

Here’s what made me uncomfortable however. The issue dealt with yesterday was one of female feticide and there really is no conflict within it. No one would willingly (I would imagine) admit to not wanting a girl, especially amongst the educated elite. So the sheer number of people who seemed aghast at the existence of this practice across the country was on some level – hilarious. How isolated does one have to be from the country one is living in to not have a clue about how widespread a problem this is? It was even funnier when rich people expressed shock at other rich people following this practice. “YOU MEAN EDUCATED PEOPLE ALSO DON’T WANT GIRLS?” I doubt if the upper caste farmer in Punjab who is crushed with debt and needs more male hands to help till the land will give a shit about the show, but that it hit some people on Twitter like a ton of bricks was very amusing.

What happens however, when Aamir talks about an issue that is conflicted? What when an Aamir Khan talks about caste based discrimination across religions and takes a side? What if Aamir says he is pro-reservation in educational institutions? What if Aamir Khan is against nuclear energy? What if Aamir Khan supports the ban on beef? These are all hypothetical questions – and we will likely not have these answered simply because it is a television show and Aamir cannot afford to get into so much trouble. But how will we as people react? Will we again give him the same wholehearted support we do so now when it offends our own sensibilities? In their heads people seem to have already made Satyamev Jayete more than a television show – but I don’t think we’re ready to be confronted by actual truths of our societal order. We are happy as long as we’re making a noise about issues we’re all against – but that’s not even a real debate. We will also avoid the real debate because we’re not ready for it – and instead of worrying about governance deficits we will like to be distracted by Aamir Khan for atleast he’s talking about some things we can all agree on. And that is where the massive support we’re giving Aamir right now seems to ring a little hollow. And that’s not Aamir’s fault at all – he’s doing what he can with his talent and influence and that’s a good thing – I just don’t know how much we as people are willing to be taken down that road of societal change, especially when it offends what we believe in.

I’m going to be watching the show keenly – simply because it has and can have so many implications. I’m sure everyone else will to, but maybe lets keep our shit together while we watch it?

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