#India–#Untouchability is an instrument in the hands of the upper castes #dalit


Dalit and Tribal activists plan a “Dilli Chalo” campaign demanding an amendment to the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act

Shazia Nigar 
New Delhi

The National Coalition for Strengthening Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act on Thursday 25 October 2012, announced the launch of “Dilli Chalo” a nationwide campaign to pressurise the government to amend the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Prevention of Atrocities Act. The campaign will culminate in a show of strength of 63,000 Dalits and Adivasis participating in a National Samelan (conference) in New Delhi on 23 November, 2012. The date has been fixed to coincide with the winter Session of the Parliament in the hope that the government will take up the issue during this session.

In a build up to the conference in Delhi several coalition partners of the movement have organised consultations, rallies and public hearings in their home states. Discussions revolve around the lacunae in the present Act and how it can be strengthened.

According to Dr SDJM Prasad, general secretary, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights and a prominent human rights lawyer, “The government has given a positive response so far. We have invited all political parties to share their stand on the issue.”

“Despite the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes, National Commission for Minorities and National Commission for Women atrocities against these communities have not stopped. Cases of atrocities on SCs and STs are not even registered. Conviction rates are abysmally poor, going down to 8% in some states” said Henri Tiphagne, executive director of People’s Watch.

Vimal Thorat, convenor of All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch harked back to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement from two years ago when he said “Our necks should hang in shame”, commenting on the condition of SCs and STs in India. She urged the media and civil society to build pressure on the government.

Untouchability is an instrument in the hands of the upper castes to suppress the lower castes. When the lower castes revolt they have to face atrocities. This is why this Act is important. The present Act suffers from casual implementation” said retired bureaucrat PS Krishnan. Ramesh Nathan, director, Social Awareness Society for Youth in Tamil Nadu said, “More than 150 Dalit and human rights organisations have reviewed the Act and come to the conclusion that it is not effective and untouchability is still prevalent.”



#AFSPA has never stopped rebellion #Northeast #Manipur

Those who worry that repealing AFSPA would open a can of worms, may be better advised to let such insecurities go

Sudeep Chakravarti, Live mint

AFSPA is a legal prophylactic. It provides India’s armed forces and operational adjuncts such as Assam Rifles and Rashtriya Rifles both immunity and impunity in areas that AFSPA is enforced.
India’s Wikileaks-like politics du jour has masked a byplay of a significant magnitude of security and self-respect—at least the perception of it. A public interest litigation is admitted to the Supreme Court challenging the extension of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, (AFSPA) 1958, in Manipur. A bench of the court on 19 October asked the government of India and Manipur to respond by 5 November.
The official response will likely parrot what it has in the past: without AFSPA, currently applied to parts or the whole of most northeastern states, India’s security will continue to be at risk, and the armed forces couldn’t effectively do their job. It will be another exercise in perpetuating myths in the name of national security; in quite the manner a country cousin of AFSPA is applied in Jammu and Kashmir. A sledgehammer where a nutcracker would do, they remain among India’s most controversial laws, nearly on par with separate legislation that anyway permit many states, those affected by the Maoist rebellion as well as those in India’s north and east to, de facto, do what they wish to even non-combatants in the name of law and order.
AFSPA is a legal prophylactic. It provides India’s armed forces and operational adjuncts such as Assam Rifles and Rashtriya Rifles both immunity and impunity in areas that AFSPA is enforced. The sweep includes the standard modus of shooting to kill, if need be, anybody breaching law and order, ranging from a gathering of five or more unarmed protesters to those possessing weapons; to destroying suspected arms dumps and places thought to harbour any manner of rebel or sympathizer. “Any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces may, in a disturbed area”, do so.
It then leapfrogs to precognition by allowing such personnel to, without warrant, enter premises, search, seize whatever they wish, and arrest whomsoever they wish even on “reasonable suspicion” that “he has committed or is about to commit a cognizable offence and may use such force as may be necessary to effect the arrest”. This applies also to places “likely” to be used as shelters not only for armed attacks but by “absconders wanted for any offence”. And, for everything, to use “such force as may be necessary.” Such a law encouraged India’s official rage and revenge—including widespread torture, molestation, rape and the killing of non-combatants—in the Naga areas and Mizoram in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. And, later, relatively more isolated cases in Nagaland, Manipur and Assam, because “No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.” (At the time of the parent law’s birthing in 1958, a prescient parliamentarian from Manipur described it as “a lawless law”. He was steamrolled.)
Since 2004, several government committees have repeatedly recommended the repeal of AFSPA, arguing that there exists without it, enough legal provision in national security for search and seizure, arrest, interrogation, even a firefight—where police, paramilitary and the armed forces can fire upon other armed or violent combatants. The Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee conducted numerous interviews and sought representation all across north-eastern India from all players—victims to security forces—and submitted its report in 2005, suggesting AFSPA be repealed. The government buried it.
In 2007, the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily also suggested the repeal of AFSPA; suggesting instead that the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act be bolstered, with a provision to enable the armed forces to operate in conflict zones. The government ignored it.
What such attitude disrespects is the undeniable proof that application of AFSPA has never stopped rebellion—it has instead consistently bred resentment against India by protecting prejudices and atrocities. Too, recent reverses for several key insurgencies in the northeast have not happened on account of AFSPA, but a combination of pin-point and coordinated policing and combat operations; effective Indian diplomacy and changing political realities in countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar that have made regimes there less inclined to harbour anti-India rebels, and creeping realization that active peacemaking, governance, development, and ethno-regional respect are the surest guarantors of India’s internal security.
Those in the security establishment who worry that repealing AFSPA would open a can of worms, as it were, may be better advised to let such insecurities go. The worms—the truths—have been out for decades. Prophylactics aren’t exactly foolproof.
Sudeep Chakravarti is the author of Red Sun: Travels in Naxalite Country and Highway 39: Journeys through a Fractured Land. This column, which focuses on conflict situations in South Asia that directly affect business, runs on Fridays.
Respond to this column at rootcause@livemint.com

No place for Dayamani, in mainstream media why ?

No place for Dayamani, Media Watch, Thehoot .org
A significant agitation against land acquisition and the bail and re-arrest of its leader were barely noticed by mainstream media.
 Isn’t it the media’s disdain for lower caste/class dissenters, wonders ARITRA BHATTACHARYA. Pix: Dayamani Barla, Indiatogether.org
 Friday, Oct 26 11:16:49, 2012

I remember my first glimpse of Dayamani Barla: there she was on the screen, fierce, stoic, talking about the ravages the Koel Karo dam and hydel power project would bring to the people of the region. I remember thinking of her as a charismatic-yet-grounded activist then, taking my cue from the images flickering on the screen. She was featured on a documentary on radical women writers, poets, and activists I think, but I may be wrong; I remember nothing of the documentary except that I encountered Dayamani Barla (and Putul Murmu) there for the first time.

Since that day in 2007, I encountered Barla on numerous occasions–in news reports on agitations against land acquisition, in meetings and agitations against excesses committed by the state, in newsletters of grassroots NGOs, and in her own writings on numerous issues.

And so, it wasn’t so much of a surprise when I came across this news report stating that she’d been sent to jail in a 2006 case. Of late, the convener of the Adivasi-Moolvasi Astitva Raksha Manch and one of the national conveners of National Alliance for People’s Movement had been camping with villagers in Nagri, who were protesting against the “acquisition” of fertile agricultural land for the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and the NationalUniversity for Study and Research in Law (NUSRL). Barla’s activities as a journalist turned anti-displacement (tribal, woman) activist had been a sore point for the Jharkhand government, and her participation in the Nagri agitation perhaps tested the State’s patience, which sent the police to hound her. She evaded arrest and surrendered before the court on October 16 and was granted bail two days later.

The jail authorities, however, refused to release Barla on October 19, and instead said that she had been arrested in a fresh case. Among similar instances, my mind went back to the occasion when activist Arun Ferreira was re-arrested in front of the very jail he was released from this January. Like Barla, Ferreira had spent years exposing the excesses of the state, and it’s no secret that the state’s machinery tries to keep such elements behind bars.

Barla’s bail and her re-arrest, however, were hardly noticed by the mainstream media. None of the big three among the English papers—The Times of IndiaHindustan Times, and Indian Expresscarried a story on Barla’s bail and re-arrest. There was no story either on the two English television news networks–NDTV and CNN-IBN.

What was more surprising, however, was the fact that while Dainik JagranHindustan andAmar Ujala had no story on her surrender, bail, or re-arrest, Dainik Bhaskar and Navbharat Times reported her surrender before the court, but had no story on her being granted bail, and her subsequent re-arrest. Only Prabhat Khabar, the paper Barla used to write for, carried ashort article on October 19 on her being granted bail. But even here, there was no report on her being re-arrested thereafter.

Holy cows

It has often been observed by media analysts that the regional media is more sensitive to local happenings, and the spurt in the regional media’s readership and circulation owes a lot to the localization of content. What might the exclusion of news about Barla’s re-arrest tell us about the regional media then?

For one, it might point to the fact that across the board, the media considers the IIMs and such educational institutions as holy cows; they are, like the Kudankulam nuclear power plant, a matter of prestige, and essential to the progress of the country. Anyone opposing these is viewed with deep suspicion therefore. So also Barla.

Another factor to keep in mind perhaps in the context of localization of the regional media’s content and the exclusion of Barla’s bail and re-arrest is numbers. Barla surrendered before the court against the backdrop of the Nagri agitation. Arguably, the 153 families that are the landowners–or project-affected in the land acquisition for IIM and NUSRL, on paper–do not constitute a large enough number for the regional media to take notice and tweak their content.

Also, when a paper carries an article on someone being sent to a 14-day judicial custody, mentioning the charges she is accused of, but chooses not to report on her being subsequently granted bail and then re-arrested–like in the case of Dainik Bhaskar and Navbharat Times–where does that leave the reader? Does such partial news serve to discredit/malign the activist in the eyes of the reader?

Since the IIM is a matter of prestige, it comes as no surprise that The Times of India did cover the Nagri protest. The article in the paper, however, does not mince words about which side it is on, when it states, “All the protesters, led by Barla, were carrying traditional weapons and attacked the policemen on duty”. With this one statement, an alleged act of attacking the policemen on duty, in a case for which the accused has not even appeared in court, is converted into an undisputed fact.

Still more curious is The Times of India’s attribution of a quote to Barla for a story datelined October 20. How did the paper manage to speak to Barla when she was supposedly in jail? Are we, as readers, to disregard the Asian Human Rights Committee report which states that Barla has been in jail since October 16? In the TOI’s scheme of things, Barla was clearly still leading the protesters!

Pecking order

Does the exclusion of Barla’s bail and re-arrest reflect the social hierarchies that the media is deeply entrenched in? Tehelka happens to be the only mainstream media outlet in English that has carried a story on Barla and the Nagri agitation. (Or is it Nargi? Why does Tehelka say it’s Nargi, when everyone else across the Hindi and English media calls it Nagri? Further, why doesTehelka state that Barla surrendered before the Jharkhand police when everyone else says she surrendered before the local court?).

In the media’s pecking order perhaps, Barla is not a credible activist; at least she’s not big enough for her case to be reported.  

To be considered powerful/ credible in the mediascape, an activist has to be based in Delhi, and/or take potshots at big politicians (readers might recall how the national media “discovered” Anna once he shifted “base” to Delhi; we might recall Kejriwal too. And also think of how the media ignored P.V. Rajagopal and his march though the numbers he was commanding was more than Anna Hazare’ s).

It has often been said that non-violent agitation requires an audience to be effective, and in the context of agitations in rural areas, this audience is absent. And so is the media, which does not bother to report on an agitation unless the numbers are big enough for it not to ignore. The absence of media reports often becomes a credible ploy in the hands of the state in its efforts to criminalise dissent. No media coverage could very well feed into the theory that the dissenter was carrying out activities secretively and illegally.

Of course, agitators could resort to spectacles; they could work towards creating images that capture attention. Think of the jal satyagraha in Madhya Pradesh, and how the national media honed in on the story then, only to forget all about it once the spectacle was over.

Then again, even a spectacle offers no guarantee of coverage; the jal satyagraha in Kudankulam was hardly used by the media to raise questions it ought to have, as this recent Hoot storyshowed.

Barla’s exclusion from newspapers and newsreels also points to another factor: the thousands of activists and dissenters lodged in jails and the systemic ignoring of their cases by the media. Binayak Sen has often been at pains to explain that his case is just one among thousands in the country. Yet why is it that we never hear of Dayamani Barlas, Jeetan Marandis, Sudhir Dhawales, Anjali Sontakkes, or Sheetal Sathes in the same way as we heard of Sen?

Is it the media’s bias–against people from a lower caste-class background, against “people not like us”? For, the one thing common between all the names mentioned above is the fact that none of them comes from the middle class. They are from among the tribal or lower caste sections of society, and have/had been leading struggles against state excesses in various ways before being branded Maoists by the state and arrested.

Barla hasn’t been called a Maoist as yet–at least there’s no government propaganda in the media labeling her of leading a Maoist cell or indoctrinating the youth. But her case isn’t so different from the few mentioned above. And in ignoring her case, the media has once again shown itself to be part of the systematic disdain with which lower caste-class dissenters are treated.


Breaking the silence around disabled sexuality #mustread

Desexualised or hypersexualised because of their impairments, women with disabilities are denied the right to see themselves and be seen as independent sexual beings. Introducing a series on disability and sexuality byRicha Kaul Padte

 disabled sexuality

“I’d rather use my legs as wings” Source: Disability Culture

‘To be human is to be sexual’ – Winder

At first glance, this series may seem superfluous. Disability and sexuality doesn’t sound nearly half as important or pressing as disability and education, disability and employment rights, disability and healthcare, or disability and practically all the access issues that people with disabilities in India face on a daily basis. Sexuality belongs, perhaps, to the realm of afterthought – an added bonus when the ‘real stuff’ is sorted out. There are others to whom the issues may seem unconnected – sex and sexuality are often seen as belonging outside the parameters of the lives of the disabled. People with disabilities have more important things to worry about. Sex is not on their minds. And definitely not on the minds of disabled women. And on the mind of theIndian disabled woman? Not a chance.

But what if sexuality was more than simply sex? What if it had to do with what you feel when you look in the mirror; who you love and why; what your sexual orientation really is (despite what you are forced to tell people); the violences you have suffered in silence? Throughout the world women’s sexuality – in its all-encompassingWHO definition as thoughts, behaviours, attitudes, preferences and relationships that are influenced by a series of economic, social, psychological and cultural factors – is a topic shrouded in silence and secrecy. In a South Asian socio-cultural context where the sexualities of women are actively contained, controlled and oppressed – or passively ignored and denied – the repercussions for all women can be and often are deeply debilitating.  Constructed through images of advertising beauty, housewives producing the best meals, and always through a heterosexual male lens, Indian women find themselves living in a world where their sexuality struggles to find expression outside these frameworks. However, a life outside this framework does not necessarily mean a life of liberation. What about some of those women who aren’t held up to beauty standards or shaadi.com’s standards or any standards at all — not because they have escaped their chains, but because their chains are even deadlier — because they aren’t even considered to be in the gamebecause they aren’t considered to bewomen. Desexualised – or in the case of the mentally disabled, hypersexualised – because of their impairments, women with disabilities are denied the right to be sexual, and to see themselves and be seen as independent sexual beings.

Between 5 and 6% of the Indian population lives with an impairment (the social model of disability rights defines an impairment as the physical or mental handicap, and disability as the structural and societal barriersthat prevent an impaired person from living a full life). So with 70 million disabled Indians and a sex ratio that suggests that just under half of these 70 million people are girls or women, why is the subject of sex and the Indian disabled woman so hard to stomach? And furthermore, what are the far-reaching consequences of this indigestion?

Consistently framed within a discourse of charity, pity, or burden, and relegated to the status of ‘things’ to be ‘managed’, women with disabilities face disproportionate levels of sexual violence and abuse, suffer from low self-esteem and body image, and are given little to no sexual education (in a country where the levels and quality of sex education are practically negligible for even the nondisabled) under the belief that they cannot and will never have sexual partners. They consequently face a range of discriminatory practices and humiliating experiences from healthcare professionals, families and organisations that stem from similar myths and misconceptions about their sexuality, or lack thereof. However, what is changing faster than policies and attitudes are the sounds of resistance breaking through the silence around disabled sexuality – ie: sexuality that has very literally been disabled by society. Women from across the subcontinent – and the world – are bringing to the fore issues surrounding their sexualities. Demanding the right to be heard, accepted and actively included within larger discussions on sexuality and sexual rights, these women are activists, lawyers, educationists, counsellors, or simply individuals who seek to rupture the systemic silence around the rights and violations of their sexual selves. They are demanding conversations about sexuality through which first and foremost, a disabled woman is not seen for her cane, her wheelchair, or her crutch, but as a woman – just like you or me.

This series aims to explore and highlight the multifaceted arena of disability and sexuality through the narratives, voices, and perspectives of women with disabilities. It tries to reframe the discourse around sex, beauty, relationships, mental health and violence, and believes that through a redefining and expanding of what these terms have come to mean, all women – irrespective of disability -­- can deeply benefit. It seeks to further the whispers and murmurings of a powerful dialogue, and encourages others to join in.

On her blog, an activist and writer who calls herself Wheelchair Dancer writes of her experiences in coming to terms with her disability. After a long struggle – both personal and political, or somewhere within the always already mixed arena of the two – she declares: “I’m here. I’m disabled. And I do it. Yes, I do. Even in this body that you cannot imagine anyone [doing it with] and loving.”  This series asks you to dance with her.

(Richa Kaul Padte is a freelance writer and feminist activist living between Bombay and Goa. She was the co-author and project coordinator of www.sexualityanddisability.org, an online initiative by Point of View and CREA)

Infochange News & Features, September 2012


Indian woman with a steely resolve

By Moushumi Basu in Ranchi, BBC

Dayamani Barla

Ms Barla runs a small tea-shop

An Indian woman who worked as a housemaid washing dishes and sweeping floors for the rich is now leading a protest campaign against a major corporation.

Dayamani Barla leads the tribal campaign against Arcelor Mittal‘s proposed steel plant in the eastern state of Jharkhand.

In recognition of her work, Ms Barla was recently invited to Sweden to attend a European Social Forum (ESF) workshop on the rights of indigenous peoples.

She was also chosen as one of 23 speakers from across the world to speak on indigenous peoples’ rights and environmental justice.

Paltry income

Ms Barla’s life story is one of struggle, but also one of extraordinary determination and achievement.

Often sleeping on railway platforms, she paid for her education with what little income she had.

After completing a master’s degree, she entered journalism, becoming the first tribal woman journalist from the largely tribal state of Jharkhand.

A crowd of tribals in Jharkhand, India

The tribals say they will not give up their land for the steel plant

For her work, she has won prestigious awards.

But she earns her livelihood by running a small tea-shop in the state capital, Ranchi, which she claims is “one of the best places to listen to the voices of the people”.

At the conference in Sweden, she spoke about the people from nearly 40 villages in Jharkhand who are expected to lose their land to the Arcelor Mittal steel plant.

Arcelor Mittal wants to invest $8.79bn to set up one of the world’s biggest steel plants in the area.

The greenfield steel project requires 12,000 acres of land and a new power plant.

‘Not an inch’

Ms Barla’s group – Adivaasi, Moolvaasi, Astitva Raksha Manch (Forum for the protection of tribal and indigenous people’s identity) – says apart from causing massive displacement, the project will destroy the forests in the area.

It will also have an impact on the water sources and ecosystems, thereby threatening the environment and the very source of sustenance for indigenous peoples, it says.

“We will not give an inch of our land,” says Ms Barla.

For Arcelor Mittal, Dayamani Barla could prove to be as much trouble as the fiery Bengali politician Mamata Bannerjee has been for Tata Motors in the state of West Bengal.

A crowd of tribals in Jharkhand, India

Tribal protesters say land is their heritage

“We will give away our lives, but we will not part with an inch of our ancestral land. The Mittals would not be allowed here – do not grab our ancestral land,” is the message from Ms Barla and the villagers who back her campaign to save their land.

Arcelor Mittal’s Vijay Bhatnagar told the BBC that his company was not trying to grab any land. He said that they were willing to wait as long as it takes to sort out the issue.

“We are trying to hold a dialogue with the villagers, they may have their genuine reasons for grievances, but we will certainly succeed in convincing them that the rehabilitation and resettlement policy of Jharkhand will be followed in letter and spirit by us,” he said.

Local Congress party MP Sushila Kerketta believes the villagers will be won round in the end.

She says she has been holding successful meetings with local people to explain the benefits of the deal to them.

“If companies such as Arcelor Mittal set up industries here, it will largely solve the problem of unemployment,” she says.

The villagers, under Ms Barla’s leadership, however, are refusing to budge.

“Her campaigns have the ability to draw masses from the grassroots,” says Ville Veikko Hirvela, social activist and a member of Friends of the Earth, and Etnia, one of the organisers of the ESF workshop.

“For any tribal community, land is not an asset to be sold, it is their heritage. They are not masters or owners of it, but its protectors for the next generations,” he says.

Ms Barla says: “The corporate houses are simply ignorant of the concept of the subsistence economy of a tribal society that is rooted in agriculture and forest produce.

“The natural resources to us are not merely means of livelihood, but our identity, dignity, autonomy and culture have been built on them for generations.

“These communities will not survive if they are alienated from the natural resources. How is it possible to rehabilitate or compensate us?” she asks.

JOIN US ON FACEBOOK HERE – https://www.facebook.com/jaljangalzameen? Dayamani Barla’s Supporter page


‘Baloch Groups to Unite Against #Pakistan’-Dr Allah Nazar

By Karlos ZurutuzaReprint |

Karlos Zurutuza interviews ALLAH NAZAR, Balochistan Liberation Front commander.

Baloch fighters at a location in Pakistan. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS.Baloch fighters at a location in Pakistan. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS.

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain, Oct 26 2012 (IPS) – Fighters in the Balochistan province of Pakistan will soon set up a common front to take on the Pakistani military in their fight for Baloch independence, a senior commander of the Balochistan Liberation Front tells IPS in an interview.

“We are in full coordination with all Baloch resistance movements and we are soon to form a united command,” Dr. Allah Nazar, a doctor turned guerrilla fighter tells IPS in the interview on the phone earlier this month.

Divided by the borders of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Baloch have their own language, and live across a land the size of France they call “Balochistan.” The rugged terrain under their feet boasts enormous reserves of gas, gold and copper, and untapped oil and uranium. But this is also the most underdeveloped region across these countries.

This IPS reporter interviewed Dr Nazar on the phone after extended visits earlier to the three parts of the region (Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan) in 2009 and 2010. Excerpts from the interview:

How would you describe the group you lead?

In the Baloch Liberation Front there are people from all walks of life, from peasants to doctors. There are more than 6,000 fighters in our ranks and the number is growing by the day. The BLF is waging a guerrilla war inside East Balochistan which is under Pakistani control.

Do you coordinate with Jundullah (“Army of God”) – the Baloch insurgent movement in neighbouring Iran?

We know the people fighting in Jundullah are also Baloch but we have no relation with them. Ours is a pure nationalist war, miles away from Jundullah´s religious extremism.

Islamabad has always claimed that the Baloch resistance is been backed by India.

That´s just fake propaganda from Pakistani state media in order to show the world that the Baloch are proxies. India is not supporting us.

Pakistan controlled Balochistan has a provincial government. Why have you taken up an armed struggle and not parliamentary politics?

We had been declared an independent state from Pakistan in August 1947, even before Pakistan came into existence. Seven months later, Pakistan occupied our land by force. From the first day the Baloch have not accepted the occupation of Pakistan, so our struggle is a continuation of the struggle of our forefathers. Parliament makes laws brutally against Baloch national identity, our culture and language. And the Supreme Court is legitimising the brutality of the State.

Some Baloch leaders speak of self-determination and not independence.

Leaders such as Akhtar Mengal – former chief minister of the province and leader of the Mengal clan and head of the Balochistan National Party are calling for “national self-determination”, but that’s still a vague term. Self-determination has a broad meaning and it can imply that we remain inside the state. But we have our own history, our own language, our own national identity and so we want our freedom.

What do you think of the Freedom Charter, a road map for Balochistan independence supported by leaders like Hyrbyair Marri, the London-based tribal and political leader?

The Freedom Charter is a very good step as taken by Hyrbyair Marri. All Baloch fighting for freedom should suport the Freedom Charter.

Islamabad claims that projects such as Gwadar’s deep water harbour would boost the economy of Balochistan.

The Gwadar project has been planned in the interest of Punjabi and colonial powers and not for the welfare of Baloch people. It´s meant to bring demographic change in Balochistan; they want to bring in the Muhajirs –immigrants – and other people into Balochistan in order to unbalance demography. Gwadar is a death warrant for Baloch people.

The Baloch say the government in Islamabad is trying to Talibanise Balochistan in order to quell the Baloch nationalist movement.

That’s true. Balochs are basically secular, by their culture, by their tradition, by their historical background, so the Pakistani regime is trying to Talibanise the Baloch society. Just where I am right now, the ISI – the Pakistani secret service – has set up two religious militant groups against the Baloch national struggle: one is Ansar-al-Islam and the other is Tahafuz-e-Hadoodullah (Protectors of God’s Rule).

They have formed these groups in the name of Islam but their real aim is to crush the Baloch freedom movement. Pakistan is the cradle of the Taliban and the breeding ground of the Taliban. Pakistan is nourishing and funneling the Taliban and Al-Qaeda terrorists into Afghanistan, India, Saudi Arabia, Yemen… Pakistan is an irresponsible state that is putting the civilised world in danger. A free Baloch state would therefore be in the interest of the whole civilised world.

Washington is reconsidering a pullout from Afghanistan due for 2014. How will this affect the Af-Pak region?

If America and NATO pull out from Afghanistan, that will lead to turbulence and destabilisation. A weak Afghanistan will not only destabilise the region but it will be harmful for the whole civilised world.


CENTRAL ASIA: Disabled Citizens Find Avenues to Advancement Blocked

By Alisher Khamidov

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan, Oct 24 2012 (EurasiaNet) – As a child, Feruza Alimova dreamed of becoming a lawyer so she could help disabled people.

But the 22-year-old cannot pursue a law degree because a bone deformity keeps her homebound. Her parents, who make a living growing cotton and tobacco in the Kyrgyzstani hamlet of Chekabad, in the Ferghana Valley, spend a large chunk of their income on expensive medications for Feruza and two other children suffering a similar bone condition.

Mukhabat, Feruza’s mother, says neighbours blamed her and her husband for their children’s disabilities. “We were also ashamed at the beginning, but gradually we decided that what mattered is not the opinions of others, but the happiness of our children,” Mukhabat told EurasiaNet.org.

Because public minibuses do not accommodate her wheelchair, Feruza could not attend law school. Instead, last year she completed a knitting course offered by a local vocational school.

Across Central Asia, hundreds of thousands of disabled people are unable to attend school because they live in a world with few handicap-accessible amenities, according to the State Department’s 2011 Human Rights reports for Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.

In Tajikistan, the law “requires government buildings, schools, hospitals, and transportation to be accessible to persons with disabilities, but the government did not enforce these provisions,” the report states.

In Uzbekistan, the State Department maintains that disabled Uzbeks are stigmatised and educational opportunities are limited for those unable to walk on their own. “Many of the high schools constructed in recent years have exterior ramps, but no interior modifications that would allow wheelchair accessibility,” the report stated.

Civil society groups say Central Asian governments are resistant to addressing the issue.

“Authorities (across the region) view a disability as a medical ailment that can be treated, and not as a social condition that needs to be accepted by society,” said Azat Israilov of Kelechek, a Bishkek-based non-governmental organisation that works with disabled children. As a result, state assistance is often limited to monthly payments to help cover medicine, he said.

In a continuation of Soviet-era practices, all of the Central Asian republics divide disabilities into three groups. People with “category one” disabilities are completely dependent on others for care; people in “category two” can take care of themselves with assistance (blindness, some intellectual disabilities, and bone deformities fall into this category); “category three” can include impaired vision and rheumatism. State-run medical commissions assign the categories.

According to official data, in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, individuals in category one receive up to 70 dollars per month; no precise figure is available for Kazakhstan, though the number is sometimes reported as 100 dollars.

The cash is welcome, but nothing like the benefits that disabled people received a generation ago, before the Soviet Union collapsed.

“During the Soviet period, we (disabled people) enjoyed many privileges such as free healthcare, state subsidies, and allowances. Now most of these perks are gone,” said Ilkhom Madumarov, a Tashkent resident in his late fifties who, missing a leg, is in category two.

Mukhabat, Feruza’s mother, says the cash benefits for her children, whose disabilities all fall into category one, is not enough to cover their monthly treatment. But it’s not the size of the payments that makes her angry.

“What my children need is not just small monetary compensation; they want to be treated like everyone else. The government needs to create conditions in which children like mine can function like normal people despite their disabilities,” she said, such as access to schools.

For years, international aid agencies have promoted reform. But in recent years, their support has dwindled. Following the May 2005 massacre in Andijan, a suspicious central government in Tashkent forced many foreign non-governmental organisations out of Uzbekistan. And since the 2010 political turmoil in Kyrgyzstan, Israilov of Kelechek complains, much of the donor community’s attention has focused on post-conflict reconstruction efforts.

In some cases, too, aid agencies appear to be suffering from donor fatigue. Despite pressure from international development outfits, endemic corruption and bureaucracy have hampered reform efforts, aid workers say privately.

For example, given the monetary compensations and other perks associated with disability status (people with disabilities pay lower taxes, obtain subsidised medical treatment at state-funded clinics, and receive discounts when using public transportation), government disability commissions throughout Central Asia often try to extort bribes from applicants, some of whom do not have disabilities.

A December 2010 law adopted by Uzbekistan’s parliament abolished financial payments for category three disabilities, a move that impacted 200,000 individuals, who lost monthly benefits of 60,000 sums (37 dollars) a month. Legislators said they were trying to make the system more efficient. Observers in Tashkent believe the law is also intended to crack down on corrupt government employees selling disability permits.

More generally, benefits seem to be on the chopping block in budgeted-squeezed Central Asian states. On Oct. 18, Kyrgyzstan’s government announced budget cuts that will affect social spending.

Some disabled people have taken radical measures to improve their plight. Since the April 2010 uprising in Kyrgyzstan, a group of disabled people have illegally occupied a mansion belonging to the ousted president’s hated son.

In Uzbekistan, meanwhile, a group of people with disabilities petitioned several independent news outlets in March, blowing the whistle on alleged infighting within the Society for Disabled People of Uzbekistan, a quasi-government agency that administers some of the state’s assistance programmes. The petition claimed the Society is rife with corruption and nepotism.

Such outspoken criticism of the government is rare in Uzbekistan and often punished severely. “These protest letters indicate the extent of despair,” said a local teacher familiar with the campaign.

*Editor’s note: Alisher Khamidov is a researcher specialising in Central Asian affairs.

This story was originally published by EurasiaNet.org.


#India #Aadhaar #UID- The Big One- #Lawrence Cohen

The Big One

Posted on October 19, 2012

At the Annual South Asia Meetings this past week in Madison, Wisconsin, I organized a set of panels, with Gayatri Reddy and Martha Selby, on Number: participating were (in addition to we three) Sonal Acharya, Michele Friedner, Mather George, Ajay Skaria, and Harris Solomon.

The primary paper I gave was on UIDAI/Aadhaar. It was preceded by a somewhat more impressionistic set of comments on number designed to open the imagination as it were.

Both merit critique and so I am posting them here, though the first is tangentially relevant to UID, and both suffer from the limits of 15 minute presentations.

The conceit of the panel was that every paper be given a number as a title. My UID paper was entitled “1.”

Here it is, after the requisite picture of Madison.

South Asia, materialized annually on a Midwestern isthmus


Lawrence Cohen

A new and massive expansion of identity has been underway in India since the 1999 conflict with Pakistan known in the country as the Kargil War. Certitudes abound in the wake of this expansion: Geeta Patel yesterday spoke of a cottage industry of expertise. And yet as recently as this summer not only journalists and scholars but cabinet members appeared uncertain as to what the identity project was, whether it was legal, and who controlled it.  I want today to offer what partial certitudes I can and to share some questions I face.  Let me begin by summarizing my main assertion baldly. India is now a database[Whether it makes sense to say that it has been a “database” in the past I would leave open for now.] For this nation-cum-database governance is being redefined as an “technocratic” operation that has been termed de-duplication.  If we are to think about politics and economics in the age of the nation as database, we might attempt to understand both what may be entailed by the nation’s de-duplication, its reduction to a population of singularities, of ones, and, in contrast, what form, what thing, or what practice duplication of the one entails

For duplication is a problem. The architect of the dominant version of the current expansion of identity, Nandan Nilekani the former CEO of the outsourcing giant Infosys, argues compellingly that India is plagued by leakage and inefficiency that dooms it to stagnation, illiteracy, and impoverishment and in effect keeps it, unlike China, out of history. This is the old Hegelian sickness from which China has apparently broken free. But India is awash in duplicates, precisely the symptomatology Hegel offered in theAesthetics in his claim that for the Hindus spirit or divinity, being radically separated from nature, is indeterminate and can only take determinate form through a sensuous rejoining with nature: but a rejoining that must mark the primary ontological division between nature and spirit by exaggerating nature.

Read more here and follow the blog http://followuidai.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/the-big-one/


#Abraham Lincoln- on Felons Right to vote

By Oct. 25, 2012
Image: The statue of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, enshrined in the Lincoln Memorial
DAVE ETHERIDGE-BARNES / GETTY IMAGESThe statue of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States, enshrined in the Lincoln Memorial

Last month at New York’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, I had the opportunity to see Abraham Lincoln’s draft of the Emancipation Proclamation, written in his remarkably elegant, almost feminine handwriting. I was surprised by my reaction. I felt a warm flush of gratitude, and even found myself murmuring “Thank you.” The freedom of four million people is no small thing.

(MORECover Story: Lincoln to the Rescue by David von Drehle)

Lincoln not only advocated black freedom, but in the last speech of his life, he voiced support for giving the vote to some freed black men as well as about 200,000 black Civil War veterans, a decision that literally cost him his life. His assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was in the audience that night and upon hearing Lincoln’s views, turned to his companion and said “that means ni**er citizenship. Now by God, I’ll put him through.” Two days later, Booth murdered the President.

Knowing that, I began to wonder what Lincoln would make of controversial laws denying far too many blacks the right to vote today. As legal scholar Michelle Alexander has pointed out in her book, The New Jim Crow, more black people are either in prison or jail, or on probation, or parole than were enslaved when the Civil War began. What that means is that in 2004, almost 280,000 black women were denied the vote, even if they had already served theirtime. And if the research that we have from 2010 holds true for today, at least 1.4 million black men will be denied their right to vote on this upcoming election day. Nationwide, almost eight percent of all African Americans—and 13 percent of all black men—will not be able to cast a vote next month. These laws hit blacks disproportionately hard. Although 3.9 million whites also lost the right to vote due to these laws, that figure represents roughly 2 percent of their total population. Overall, these numbers are so troubling that in 2008, a United Nations Committee studies the issue and urged the United States to reform these laws.

(MORETouré: Put To Death for Being Black? New Hope Against Judicial System Bias)

These so called “felony disenfranchisement” policies were first enacted in Southern states beginning in 1870 when the 15th amendment giving black men the right to vote was ratified. The policies were designed to keep blacks from going to the polls, and they continue to do so today. The laws prohibit voting in both state and federal elections and, as was true in the 19th century, are enacted on a state-by-state basis. As a recent report from the Sentencing Project shows, while 9 states impose a lifetime voting ban on convicted felons, in 32 states felons can vote after completing parole and three states have no prohibition and even allow prisoners to vote. A majority of those denied access to voting are in the South: Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Virginia and in some of these states, felony convictions have led to staggeringly high percentages of blacks losing their right to vote. For example, this year in Virginia such laws will deny 20 percent of the overall black population the right to vote, and in Florida the number is an even higher 23 percent.

(MOREViewpoint: Will Blacks Vote For Obama Because He’s Black?)

Unlike giving black men the vote in Lincoln’s time, public opinion today largely favors restoring voting rights to felons after they have served their time. In one of the few polls on the issue, University of Minnesota Professor Christopher Uggen conducted a telephone survey involving a random sample of 1000 people. Sixty percent thought voting rights should be restored as soon as an individual left prison and 68% thought we should wait until they had completed parole. But only 31% believed that current prisoners should be allowed to vote, which may be in part because it could be quite easy for prison officials to coerce the votes of those still behind bars.

For those who have completed their sentence however, research shows that when voting rights are restored, they have a much lower chance of becoming repeat offenders, and are more productively integrated back into their communities.

In Lincoln’s day, John Wilkes Booth was far from alone in his views about black people and voting. Following Lincoln’s death, black enfranchisement continued to be hotly and even violently contested throughout the south for the next 100 years, up to and even after the passage of the voting rights act in 1965. But considering that today enfranchisement for former felons enjoys widespread public support, we need only turn that support into political will and then action. We know what Lincoln would do. The question is, are we willing to follow his example?


Rooks is an associate professor at Cornell University. The views expressed are solely her own.

Read more: http://ideas.time.com/2012/10/25/what-would-lincoln-think-about-laws-denying-felons-the-right-to-vote/#ixzz2ANpVH7AP


#Chhattisgarh- Village woman uses web portal to protest “dress code” imposed by caste leaders #Vaw #Kractivism

, TNN | Oct 25, 2012, 12.44PM IST

RAIPUR: A powerful Other Backward Classes(OBC) community in Chhattisgarh has imposed a ‘dress code‘ on women to force them to wear saris in a particular way in the village of Panditarai in Ambagarh Chowki block in Rajnandgaon district, sparking protests from the females.The issue came to light after a woman, who identified herself as Jayanti, raised the issue through ” CGNet Swara“, a voice-based portal, freely accessible via mobile phone, which allows anyone to report and listen to stories of local interest.

“Local Sahu community has imposed a dress code for women. Anyone disobeying the code will have to pay a fine of Rs 501 as punishment,” Jayanti pointed out expressing her protest over the local community leaders decision to impose the dress code.

Jayanti told TOI over telephone that the local Sahu caste leaders convened a meeting of men and conveyed that all women folk must wear sari in traditional form in which the “pallu” should be on the right shoulder, fully covering the naval portion. She said the local caste leaders were now exerting pressure on men to force women to follow what they term as an age-old tradition of the community. “I have no idea about such diktat. Sahus belong to a progressive community which believes in women’s freedom and their right to choose their dress,” Community’s Rajnandgaon district president Moti Sahu told TOI over telephone.

Sahu Samaj state vice-president Shantanu Sahu said they were not aware about any such diktat by the local leaders in the village and would certainly inquire into it.

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