A Pakistani in Delhi


Farooq Sulehria
Tuesday, June 11, 2013
On January 6, I nervously landed at the Delhi airport. I say nervously because I wasn’t there as a tourist. I had gone to India as a researcher – to spend six months conducting research on the Indian media. As a Pakistani, I was uncertain if I’d be able to get my work done without being suspected of any other activities.

 

On reaching India, however, it did not take long to for my nervousness to dissipate. My Pakistani origin, I soon discovered, was not a disadvantage. On the contrary, my Pakistaniat was not only helping me achieve desired research goals, it also began to pose gastronomic challenges: in the form of endless dinner invitations.

 

That my arrival coincided with the alleged beheading of an Indian soldier at the LoC invoked an unknown fear within me. Four months later, Sarabjit’s murder terrified me as well for a while. A fear of the unknown would grip me even otherwise – particularly when alone or lonely. ‘Anything can go wrong and land me in trouble,’ was a thought constantly nagging at me. However, the hospitality extended by my Delhi friends and acquaintances would lay to rest all such fears. Most importantly, a sense of familiarity – at times transforming into a sense of belonging – hardly ever made me feel alien.

 

My language, skin colour, name, or religion – nothing is alien to Delhi. On the streets, people would stop by and ask for directions. In one incident, while at a metro station I had asked a person standing next to me: “Which line goes to Rajiv Chowk?” Ironically, I was standing right underneath a route-map, which happened to be in Hindi. Rather well dressed and holding a laptop, I hardly looked like the stereotypical unlettered person. The man I spoke to was perhaps in a bad mood. Pointing towards the map, he shouted, “Why don’t you read for yourself?”. “I am from Pakistan, can’t read Hindi”, I replied in Urdu. At which he apologised immediately, shook my hand and politely guided me.

 

The similarities were even stronger in the case of Punjabis and Muslims – even though I am neither Punjabi nor religious. For about four months, I lived in Malviya Nagar, a Punjabi neighbourhood. My Punjabi language skills invoked such an affinity that within weeks I had an udhar system working with two local grocery stores.

 

Everywhere in Delhi, one overhears the azaan. Is it that moezzins in Delhi recite the azaan in a highly melodic way. My Swedish-Pakistani friend Prof Ishtiaq helped me understand that the azaan is also an assertion of Indian plurality and rights of the Muslim there.

 

As if to appreciate this plurality, I would candidly discuss the Kashmir question as well as the situation of Indian Muslims with my non-Muslim friends and comrades. My interaction with Muslim and Kashmiri students at Jamia Millia Islamia, with which I was attached, helped me enrich my understanding of their situation. While Kashmiri students – infested with conspiracy theories – visualised Pakistan as an Islamic paradise, Indian Muslims have no such illusions about Pakistan even if, like any other Indian, they are concerned about the crises in our country.

 

Also, like any other religious community, Muslims are divided along ideological and sectarian as well as class and caste lines. Jamia Millia epitomises Muslim diversity as well as the cultural progress Indian Muslims have made.

 

Imagine a campus in Pakistan with statues of Mirza Ghalib and Maulana Jauhar. While the road to the Mir Taqi Mir Hall is dedicated to Manto, a beautifully built auditorium is attributed to Noam Chomsky. However, my favourite hang-out was the Castro Café surrounded by the M F Hussain Gallery and the Maulana Azad Hostel.

 

Beyond Jamia Millia, my favourite escape was Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Away from conservative Delhi, JNU’s walls – graffitied with huge images of Marx, Lenin, Che, Bhagat Singh and Manto – offer relief to any frustrated progressive. However, it is Faiz one finds all over the place. But Faiz and Manto are not confined to the JNU’s romantic campus. They are all over Delhi. In fact, Delhi it seems has become Urdu’s last refuge in the Subcontinent.

 

While the annual Jashn-e-Baharan Mushaira symbolised Delhi’s role in preserving Urdu, a qawali session during Khusro Week at the National Museum or an evening with dhrupad master Ustad Wasifuddin Dagar at the India International Centre (IIC) convinced me that Delhi is also protecting other forms of culture that Muslims have greatly contributed to.

 

There is a vibrant Urdu press and a flourishing publishing business. At the International Book Fair held in February at Pragati Maidan not merely offered a glimpse into Urdu publications, it was interesting to see an Ahmadiyya bookstore next to Tahirul Qadri’s Minhaj-ul-Quran bookstall. While Urdu press and publications promote a conservative agenda, progressive Muslim voices have found refuge in the recently-launched DD Urdu.

 

Visits to Doordarshan were always a great experience owing to the warmth shown by its Additional Director General, Ranjan Thakur. However, Faiz’s life-size portrait – surrounded by those of Gandhi jee and Tagore – at DD’s reception would add a special touch to every visit. Once a profitable enterprise, DD is now running huge financial losses. However, it remains committed to its social responsibility.

 

Apart from DD, the Indian television media is sensationalist. TRP-hungry channels have compromised themselves – journalistically and morally. Luckily, sections of the daily press, notably The Hindu and some magazines, haved stayed committed to the Indian tradition of quality journalism. Interestingly, India is the only major newspaper market that has expanded even after the arrival of the digital age.

 

But electronic media – the television – has outdone other outlets. The sprawling Noida Film City, on the outskirts of Delhi, is a testament to this growth. An enviably modern and efficient, though overcrowded, metro is the best way to reach Noida. Ironically, from metro station one can reach huge media houses via cycle-rickshaws. Initially, I tried to avoid using cycle-rickshaws pulled by skinny migrant workers from Bihar. But they were unavoidable as well as living proof of India’s ‘combined and uneven development’, a theory brilliantly propounded by Leon Trotsky.

 

Beyond glaring class contradictions, one also comes across sights that would be very familiar for a Pakistani. The traffic is messy; manholes are usually uncovered; and there is an utter neglect for monuments (with few exceptions) and old buildings. Apart from some posh areas, most streets are littered with garbage. While there may be no power cuts, there is a real water crisis.

 

Since my return on June 4, I have been quizzed by siblings and cousins, friends and acquaintances. ‘What do they think about us? Do they hate us?’ I am asked. ‘I do not know. However, I had wonderful time,’ is my standard reply. Honestly, such simple questions cannot be answered in a similarly simple manner. Also, I do not have any documented evidence to substantiate or deny any claims. I can only narrate my impressions. And I think Pakistan is not the most hated country in India. We could say that about perhaps Bangladesh or Afghanistan where Pakistan is disliked near-universally. However, I can safely assert that the only country where I have been warmly received as a Pakistani is India.

 

The writer is a freelance contributor.Email: mfsulehria@hotmail.com

source- http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-183118-A-Pakistani-in-Delhi

 

#India – Identity crisis slows Aadhaar rollout #UID #biometrics


 

Ajanta Chakraborty, TNN | Jun 15, 2013, 03.55 AM IST

 

 

200 px

 

 

 

Many residents, after waiting in long queues for biometric identification, have ended up with mistaken identities as their National Resident Identity Card (NRIC) – loosely called the ” Aadhaar” card – display the wrong data.

 

 

Blame it on the new software (Aadhaar version 2.2.1.0) which, while enrolling a resident into the system, would wrongly provide the name of his home district. Documents available with TOI reveal that several residents of Cossipore, Baghbazar, Shyambazar, Hatkhola, Beadon Street, Dum Dum, Ghugudanga, Alambazar, Baranagar, Belgachia, Motijheel, Bediapara and Noapara have been enrolled as living in Bankura. Strangely enough, the identification data displays Kolkata as a sub-district.

 

 

Residents of Bansdroni, who were enrolled as living in the sub-district of Budge Budge-1 and the district of South 24-Parganas, were one of the lucky few to have had the mistake rectified. Others have been given wrong pin-codes, even though most of the other relevant data is correct.

 

 

The mismatch of data has made collating impossible. Consequently, NPR programmes are being stalled in several areas. A ruckus erupted recently at Nurpur at Diamond Harbour, South 24-Parganas, when residents realized that the master data contained wrong inputs, sources said.

 

 

They said pin codes weren’t available at the Srifalberia mouja in the same district, and the enrolment camps had to be folded up. Trouble erupted in areas like Tollygunge and Diamond Harbour because even after verification, the errors could not be corrected as the new software has no provision for rectification. Once the enrolment is done, the census directorate, with help from local civic bodies, uplink the data and the unique identification number is generated and sent to individuals by post in the form of the Resident Identity Card (RIC).

 

 

Progress of biometric enrolment has been tardy in Bengal, which has long kicked off the process of collecting biometric imprints to create the NPR, with only about 22 per cent of the population of the 9.1 crore being covered. The pilot project for Howrah is over, but work in North Dinajpur, Bankura and Purulia is yet to commence.

 

 

Officials in the state census directorate, which is implementing NPR, revealed that the implementation of the “Aadhaar” card is likely to suffer a bigger jolt because of the flawed software. “Since an individual will be provided with his 12-digit unique identification only once in his lifetime, the mistakes should be corrected either in the second round of biometric identification or done centrally through the census directorate which functions directly under the aegis of the Register General of India (RGI),” a census directorate official said.

 

 

N S Nigam, district magistrate, South 24-Parganas, admitted to “some problems” in a few blocks. “The pin codes are different and the names of the district wrongly enrolled,” he said. Sanjay Bansal, DM of North 24-Parganas also said there were “issues related to pin codes”. State officials admit that the progress of NPR was “very slow” indeed.

 

 

P K Majumdar, acting director of census operations, said, “I am not authorized to speak to the media.” Calls to S K Chakraborty, deputy director general, Register General of India (RGI), went unanswered.

 

 

 

 

Bombay High court rejects plea to direct his wife to undergo check-up for HIV #Womenrights


, TNN | Jun 15, 2013,

High court rejects plea for wife to undergo check-up for HIV
The HC said it was “absurd” for husband to say it was in the interest of his wife to go in for early HIV detection.
MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Friday upheld a family court (FC) order rejecting a man’s plea to direct his wife to undergo a medical check-up as he strongly suspected her to be HIV positive. The court said it was “absurd” for him to say it was in the interest of his wife to go in for early detection.

Justice Roshan Dalvi heard a petition by Santa Cruz resident Joel D’Souza (name changed), who met Joan (name changed) through a marriage bureau. Both professionals, they married on December 26, 2009. In June 2010, Joan had typhoid and went to her mother’s place nearby. Thereafter, Joel stopped calling or receiving her calls. On July 7, 2010, he took her call but told her he would not take her back, without explanation. The medical test report of July 7, 2010 confirmed Joan was cured of typhoid and tests included for HIV antibodies.

On July 10, 2010, on reaching her matrimonial home, she found Joel had changed the lock. On October 22, 2010, he filed for divorce alleging impotency/non-consummation of marriage and cruelty. Pending the petition, on March 16, 2011 Joel filed an application praying for direction to Joan to undergo HIV, TB and hepatitis tests along with tests for impotency/failure to consummate the marriage as he suspected she was HIV positive.

In his application before the FC, Joel gave many reasons, including fever, tiredness, body ache, dry cough, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and headache. He said Joan had a bloated abdomen although her face, hands and legs were very thin and due to this she wore long outfits. “On an official website of HIV, it is documented that HIV is medically caused due to accumulation of fat in the stomach,” he stated. He said she spoke in her sleep using the words ‘HIV’ and ‘AIDS‘ and mentioned ‘Jack Dorsan’, who he found on the Internet was in the prostitution business. He said his wife had stored Dorsan’s telephone number and spoke to him on the day of their wedding.

He said she applied lip balm five to six times a day “as the best treatment for Herpes Simplex Virus is keeping the lips moist”. Joan said Joel’s suspicion was “reckless, wild and cruel” and he himself needed treatment.

The FC on May 16, 2012 rejected his application with costs saying, however strong his suspicion, he had to prove the allegations by furnishing evidence so that the court can grant him relief. Joel moved the high court in October 2012.

Joan’s advocate Mini Mathew argued that the July 7, 2010 report confirming she was cured of typhoid was sufficient to hold that it was not necessary to send her for an HIV test. She said Joel had been spreading rumours about her. “These allegations are stigmatizing. Her reputation is ruined,” she said.

Joel’s advocate Uday Warunjikar said, “He caught his wife taking HIV medicines. If she is not suffering from HIV, why is she afraid of the test?” he asked. Justice Dalvi remarked, “I doubt the marriage can be reconciled. Both sides must move for an amicable settlement.” She added, “Why don’t you throw her out in a little respectable way? It will boomerang on you.

 

#India – Marriage officer humiliates HC woman lawyer #Vaw #WTFnews #Womenrights


, TNN | Jun 15, 2013,

7
Marriage officer humiliates HC senior lawyer for late marriage
How can you think of getting married at this age? The officer told a shocked Nirmala, who charging him with objectionable and unwarranted conduct.
JABALPUR: What has age to do with marriage? Plenty, if one happens to be a woman in Madhya Pradesh. Only, senior lawyer in MP high court, Nirmala Raikwar, learnt it the hard way.

When, along with her friend and fiance Ramesh Raikwar (younger in age incidentally), she appeared before additional collector and marriage officer, Jabalpur, Sheelendra Singh, with her application for a court marriage, Singh publicly not only remonstrated her for choosing to tie the knot when she was already past her prime and also mocked Ramesh over his poor choice for a bride.

How can you think of getting married at this age? The officer told a shocked Nirmala, who charging him with objectionable and unwarranted conduct, has filed a complaint in the court of judicial magistrate first class even as MP High Court Bar Association has taken up her cause. Narrating the incident to TOI, Nirmala said that she had applied for a civil marriage on March 3 and notices were served thereafter on March 12. On May 24 she, along with Ramesh and her junior colleagues, arrived in the office of the marriage officer for fulfilling the formalities.

“Singh examined me closely and demanded to know my age. It was not a very polite question and I said the age is mentioned in the documents lying on the table, please check it out,” Nirmala said.

Bar association demands action, warns of agitation

Bar association has demanded action against Singh and warned that lawyers’ would launch an agitation if the issue was ignored by authorities.

Meanwhile, admitting that the additional collector had no business to behave in such a manner, Jabalpur divisional commissioner Deepak Khandekar said he was probing the matter and would take action if allegations were found true.

 

#India – Sterilization for Accomplishing Targets -टारगेट पूरा करने के लिए बंध्याकरण! #Vaw #Womenrights


jUNE 13, 2013, Prabhat Khabar

ये है हकीकत..

बंध्याकरण पर दबाव नहीं
बंध्याकरण शिविरों में महिलाएं दबाव में नहीं आतीं. वे अपनी मरजी से आती हैं. देश में कुछ ऐसी जगहें हो सकती हैं, जहां इस तरह के मामले हों, पर सब जगह ऐसा नहीं है.
एसके सिकदर, संचालक, जनसंख्या नियंत्रण कार्यक्रमपिछले कुछ समय से महिलाओं के बंध्याकरण से जुड.ी खबरें आती रही हैं. सबसे दुखद पहलू यह है कि गरीब महिलाएं थोडे. पैसे के लिए बंध्याकरण करवाती हैं. यह भी खबर आती है कि डॉक्टर बिना किसी सुविधा के ही ऑपरेशन करते हैं. जंग लगे चिकित्सीय उपकरण से भी ऑपरेशन करने के मामले सामने आये हैं. इससे महिला के इंफेक्शन होने के खतरे बढ. जाते हैं. कई बार महिलाओं की जान भी चली जाती है.भारत में एक साल में 46 लाख महिलाओं का बंध्याकरण

ये है हकीकत..बंध्याकरण पर दबाव नहीं

बंध्याकरण शिविरों में महिलाएं दबाव में नहीं आतीं. वे अपनी मरजी से आती हैं. देश में कुछ ऐसी जगहें हो सकती हैं, जहां इस तरह के मामले हों, पर सब जगह ऐसा नहीं है.

एसके सिकदर, संचालक, जनसंख्या नियंत्रण कार्यक्रमबिना किसी सुविधा के ऑपरेशन

यह एक साई है कि डॉक्टर बिना किसी सुविधा के ही ऑपरेशन करते हैं. ऑपरेशन के लिए प्रयोग में लाये जाने वाले उपकरण पुराने और गंदे होते हैं. कई बार डॉक्टर बिना ऑपरेशन थियेटर के ही सामान्य टेबल पर ऑपरेशन करते हैं.बंध्याकरण के लिए कतार में खड.ी महिलाएं.पिछले कुछ समय से महिलाओं के बंध्याकरण से जुड.ी खबरें आती रही हैं. सबसे दुखद पहलू यह है कि गरीब महिलाएं थोडे. पैसे के लिए बंध्याकरण करवाती हैं. यह भी खबर आती है कि डॉक्टर बिना किसी सुविधा के ही ऑपरेशन करते हैं. जंग लगे चिकित्सीय उपकरण से भी ऑपरेशन करने के मामले सामने आये हैं. इससे महिला के इंफेक्शन होने के खतरे बढ. जाते हैं. कई बार महिलाओं की जान भी चली जाती है.सेंट्रल डेस्क

जब भी भारत में परिवार नियोजन की बात उठती है, तब महिलाएं ही सबसे आगे होती हैं. यह जानना महत्वपूर्ण है कि दुनियाभर में होने वाले महिला बंध्याकरणों में भारत की 37 प्रतिशत महिलाएं होती हैं. पोपुलेशन फाउंडेशन की संयुक्त निदेशक सोना शर्मा के अनुसार, बंध्याकरण मुहिम में महिलाएं ही निशाने पर होती हैं, क्योंकि भारतीय समाज में पुरुषों का आधिपत्य है. पुरुष इस बात से डरते हैं कि वे ऑपरेशन से कमजोर हो जायेंगे या वे अपनी र्मदाना ताकत खो देंगे. बंध्याकरण कराने वाली महिलाओं को सरकार द्वारा दिये जाने वाले पैसे और साथ ही डॉक्टरों को भी इसके लिए अच्छी रकम दिये जाने के कारण महिलाओं के बंध्याकरण में तेजी आयी है. पिछले साल 46 लाख महिलाओं का बंध्याकरण किया गया. इनमें से अधिकांश महिलाओं ने पैसे के लिए बंध्याकरण करवाया. जबकि पिछले साल होने वाले कुल बंध्याकरण में महज चार प्रतिशत ही पुरुष थे. नयी दिल्ली स्थित ह्यूमन राइट्स लॉ नेटवर्क के ‘रिप्रोडक्टिव राइट्स’ की डायरेक्टर केरी मैकब्रूम के अनुसार, इससे समझा जा सकता है कि भारत में महिलाओं की क्या स्थिति है, उन्हें अपने प्रजनन संबंधी अधिकारों पर भी नियंत्रण नहीं है. वह कहती हैं महिलाएं आसानी से बलि का बकरा बनायी जाती हैं, चाहे इसके लिए सरकारी अधिकारी जिम्मेदार हों या फिर उनके पति. संयुक्त राष्ट्र के डाटा के अनुसार, प्रजनन पर नियंत्रण करने के लिए उपाय करने वाले 49 प्रतिशत दंपत्तियों में तीन चौथाई महिलाएं ही बंध्याकरण के लिए आगे आती हैं.

कमाई का जरिया

जब भी परिवार नियोजन के लिए बंध्याकरण शिविर लगाये जाते हैं, वहां महिलाएं कतार में खड.ी रहती हैं. डॉक्टर बस उन्हें एनीमिया टेस्ट के लिए बोलते हैं. इसके बाद डॉक्टर बड.ी तेजी से ऑपरेशन करते हैं. प्रत्येक ऑपरेशन पर केवल तीन मिनट का समय दिया जाता है. डॉक्टर को अपनी कमाई से मतलब रहता है.

पूरा करना होता है टारगेट

नयी दिल्ली स्थित सेंटर फॉर हेल्थ एंड सोशल जस्टिस के डायरेक्टर अभिजीत दास कहते हैं भारत में बंध्याकरण शिविरों में आने वाली अधिकांश महिलाएं पैसे की लालच में आती हैं. स्वास्थ्य अधिकारियों को भी अपना टारगेट पूरा करना होता है. दास का मानना है कि भारत में परिवार नियोजन एक कोटा तंत्र बन गया है. यही कारण है कि चीन के बाद भारत में परिवार नियोजन के लिए अपनाये जाने वाले उपाय सबसे खराब हैं. हमें यह जानना चाहिए कि सरकार ने 1996 में ही बंध्याकरण के लिए टारगेट पूरी करने जैसी नीति को छोड. दिया था. पर आज भी अधिकांश राज्यों में पहले वाली ही स्थिति है. वर्ष के पहले कुछ महीनों को तो ‘बंध्याकरण सीजन’ कहा जाता है. यह सब इसलिए कि 31 मार्च को वित्तीय वर्ष समाप्त होने से पहले बंध्याकरण के लिए निर्धारित लक्ष्य को पूरा किया जा सके. स्वास्थ्यकर्मियों पर बंध्याकरण के टारगेट को पूरा करने का दबाव भी रहता है.

‘ब्लूमबर्ग’ में सर्वप्रथम प्रकाशितझारखंड

राज्य में 29 प्रतिशत महिलाएं परिवार नियोजन के लिए बंध्याकरण करवाती हैं. जबकि ग्रामीण इलाकों में नसबंदी कराने वाले पुरुषों की संख्या 0.4 प्रतिशत और शहरी इलाकों में यह 0.6 प्रतिशत है.बिहार

प्रत्येक वर्ष साढे. छह लाख महिलाओं का बंध्याकरण जबकि नसबंदी कराने वाले पुरुषों की संख्या महज 12 हजार ही है. बिहार में इस साल 13 हजार से अधिक महिला बंध्याकरण शिविर लगाये जायेंगे

#India – Tribal land is Eklavya’s thumb, Dronacharya, the State is demanding as the price for ‘development’


There can also be an alternative universe

PK Vijayan and Karen Gabriel
June 12, 2013, Hindustan Times
Mahendra Karma engineered Salwa Judum (SJ), a vigilante tribal group hired and armed by the State-corporate land and mining nexus to exterminate tribals resisting resource loot. Karma was responsible for the execution of thousands of tribals, and the torture, rape, displacement and destitution oflakhs. This is the man the Congress nurtured, protected and now mourns. The State has never regretted the lakhs of civilian deaths it has caused, whether through Operation Green Hunt (OGH) or otherwise.State and corporate-sponsored violence remains under-reported and frequently justified. The government urges Maoists to eschew violence but itself plans military attacks on civilians. Notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s directives, SJ continues in its new avatar as the ‘Koya commandos’.  Abuse of State power, corporate loot and violation of human rights during OGH (and intensifying in Phase II of OGH) — all in the guise of ‘national security’ and ‘development’ — led to national and international protests and bad press. The State responded with news blackouts. The State’s right to violence is conceded only if the State is regarded as above the law, impartial and anonymous. We need to ask inconvenient questions like, ‘why has the State been violent, since when, and for whose benefit?’ ‘Why are the tribals retaliating?’ They are tired of being “collateral damage” in the intensely violent and unjust privatisation of resources (protected under the Fifth Schedule) and national wealth that is passing for ‘development’.

All areas designated Maoist are also areas in which memorandums of understanding amounting to trillions of rupees have been signed with many MNC’s for mineral extraction. When this looting is supplemented with the mythologies of ‘democracy’ and ‘progress’, the villain becomes the anti-development, non-progressive Maoist tribal. The D Bandhopadhyay report of the Planning Commission notes that the Maoists have undertaken development that the State should have. Genuine pro-poor development should enhance tribals’ productive relations with the land, not disposses them.

The tribals are asked to ‘eschew violence’ and ‘join the democratic mainstream’. But the electoral process that constitutes this ‘democratic mainstream’ is a cynical numbers game. The ‘first-past-the-post’ system has meant that parties need address the demands of only the voting populace of very specific constituencies, differentiated along lines of tribe, caste, religion, etc. And that too, only on the influential sections within them, who in turn will (often coercively) ensure the remaining votes. This has not only created  long-standing traditions of nepotism and inherited privilege, it has meant that, after six-plus decades of independence, the needs of the vast majority remain unaddressed. They have not opted out of the ‘mainstream’: they have been systematically excluded.

This exclusion has resulted in systemic, systematic and mind-boggling poverty, destitution, violence and deaths. This ‘political mainstream’ has failed so completely that even these deaths have no meaning for it. They are inconsequential, never on par with the individual deaths of the privileged who constitute the ‘political mainstream’.

The coveted tribal land is Eklavya’s thumb. This is what the Dronacharya of the State is demanding as the price for ‘development’. Why should Eklavya concede? Dronacharya and Eklavya are nowhere near equal, and well-intentioned if naïve calls for both to respect the Geneva Convention should understand this. The State denies that it is at war with its own people, and given their disparity in strength, the Maoists are hardly likely to endorse the Convention unilaterally.

If the Maoists have an alternative understanding of democracy and development that may prove more inclusive and sustainable, then perhaps it is time to listen to them, rather than banning and ‘encountering’ them. The post-May 25 suggestions to intensify police and military action in these regions will prove disastrous. The State must recognise its own strength and responsibilities, and make the first move toward peace by lifting the ban. It must allow transparent media coverage and observers in these regions. The question — whether one is for or against Maoist ideology —  trivialises, distorts and distracts from the central issues.

PK Vijayan is Assistant Professor, Department of English, Hindu College. Karen Gabriel is Associate Professor, Department of English, St. Stephen’s College
The views expressed by the authors are personal

 

#India – 80-year-old former IIT professor- G D Agarwal on indefinite hunger strike again


 

Author(s): Soma Basu  , down to earth
Date:Jun 14, 2013

‘Despite repeated assurances of government, 18 proposed hydel projects on the Ganga and its tributaries have not been scrapped’

G D Agarwal has been on fast thrice earlierG D Agarwal has been on fast thrice earlierEnvironment engineer G D Agarwal has resumed his indefinite hunger strike in Matri Sadan Ashram in Haridwar to press his demand of scrapping all hydro projects on the Bhagirathi, Alaknanda and Mandakini river basins. He has gone on hunger strike thrice earlier to protest against the Loharinag Pala hydroelectric project in Uttatrakhand which was eventually scrapped by the government under public pressure.

The 80-year-old former IIT professor, who is now known as Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand, started his fast on Thursday to commemorate the death anniversary of Swami Nigamanand  on 13 June, 2011. The 32-year-old ascetic had fasted for four months to protest illegal sand mining and stone crushing along the Ganga near Haridwar; his associates alleged he was poisoned at the behest of powerful stone crusher lobby.

Swami Dayanand of Matri Sadan ashram said Agarwal resumed his fast because despite repeated assurances of the government, 18 proposed mini and major hydropower projects on the Ganga and its tributaries have not been scrapped.

“It is imperative to maintain the ecological flow of Ganga and its tributaries. Construction of so many hydropower projects is threatening the existence of Ganga that is a symbol of India’s faith and culture. At several places, debris from construction site of projects is dumped into the river,” he said.

Earlier in 2010, Agarwal had fasted for over a month protesting the construction of the 600 MW Loharinag Pala hydroelectric project in Uttarkashi. The project would have left a stretch of 125 km of Ganga between Gangotri and Uttarkashi dry. The project work was stalled in 2010. However, Uttarakhand chief minister, Vijay Bahuguna, have been supporting two major projects—Loharinag Pala and the 480 MW Pala Maneri on the stretch of Bhagirathi between Uttarkashi and Gangotri.

 

#India – Property rights bill for slum dwellers sought


HYDERABAD, June 13, 2013

Staff Reporter, The Hindu 

Urban housing activists under the banner of the Campaign for Housing and Tenurial Rights (CHATRI) sought immediate enactment of property rights for slum dwellers as envisaged in the Rajiv Awas Yojana guidelines.

At a press conference on Wednesday, activists from Human Rights Forum and Montfort Social Institute’s Housing Rights Network among others, sought immediate tabling of the draft bill for the AP Property Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2011. The bill had been pending for the past two Assembly sessions, they said, and demanded that the authorities bring the legislation in the current session. The activists also wanted re-assessment of slums in the State, as many areas notified earlier no longer qualified as slums.

“Priority will be given to the already developed slums once funds begin to arrive from the Centre. We demand that priority in terms of energy and funds be given from bottom upwards,” said Director of the Montfort Social Institute, Varghese Thekanath.

Showing Keshav Nagar chosen for RAY pilot project as an example of official preferences, he said the colony did not qualify as a slum, as all the houses were built under Indira Awas Yojana, and each beneficiary already had pattas for 60 yards.

“The colony was built in 14 acres of prime land. Now all the houses will be demolished, for construction of G-plus-three houses within four acres. The remaining 10 acres will be at government’s disposal for allotment to commercial complexes,” Mr. Thekanath said.

‘Emulate T.N. model’

He also asked the State government to emulate the Tamil Nadu model and reduce beneficiary contribution to 10 per cent of the total cost, which again could be taken as contribution of direct labour, than cash.

 

#India- wake up to the mining-politician nexus wreaking havoc in our politics


 

On 25 May, the ghastly Naxal attack on a convoy of Congress leaders in Darbha, Chhattisgarh, jolted political leaders across the spectrum. Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh — who has been driving the development agenda in the tribal areas and is known to advocate a more empathetic response to the alienation in these parts — was reported to have called the Naxals “terrorists”. Did this mean a complete shift in stand? Did he — and the UPA government in general — now advocate a “security-only” approach to the problem? Excerpts from a conversation with Shoma Chaudhury
Shoma Chaudhury

2013-06-22 , Issue 25 Volume 10

Jairam Ramesh | 59, Rural Development Minister.
Photo: 

After the recent attack on the Congress convoy, you referred to the Naxals as terrorists. Does that reflect a radical shift in your stand? Do you also now believe the issue should only be tackled by a security-centric approach? Bring on the air force!
That’s a completely bogus debate generated by NDTV. What I said was that there are geographical areas that need more intensive policing and security operations, without which no political and developmental activity is possible. At the same time, there are areas today where security operations have de-esca-lated and development and politics have taken the front seat. For example, there’s Saranda in Jharkhand and Jangalmahal in West Bengal. Or, for that matter, some parts of western Odisha and central Bihar.

We have a four-pronged strategy to deal with the Maoists, which includes security, politics, development, and a sort of redressal of past injustices and ensuring a rights-based approach. Unfortunately, there are places where all four cannot go on simultaneously. For instance, clearly, the five districts of Sukma, Dantewada, Bijapur, Narayanpur and Kanker in southern  are fundamentally different from the other areas. Here, you have large areas that are so-called Maoist “liberated zones” where the writ of the Indian State doesn’t run. Sarpanches, Block Development Officers, superintendents of police and local political activists cannot go in there. So it’s meaningless to talk of political engagement and developmental activity in these areas until circumstances allow it.

I also said that the Maoists operate on a fundamental principle of spreading fear and terror. The NDTV journalist asked me, “So aren’t they terrorists?” I replied, in my book, anyone who spreads terror is a terrorist. What’s the big deal whether you call them terrorists or not? The fact is, it was a carnage; carefully executed and deliberately planned. If we still romanticise these guys, we are barking up the wrong tree.

There’s no doubt that the attack was heinous. But the semantics do matter. It shapes the response.
No. Frankly, the semantics don’t matter. This whole debate — security versus development, Digvijaya Singh versus P Chidambaram — is completely bogus. As I said, in any multi-pronged strategy, the relative importance of each component will depend upon the specific geography and circumstance. Two years ago, development was inconceivable in Saranda or Jangalmahal, both of which were “liberated zones” for many years. Today, you are seeing both developmental and political activity there.

But you can’t treat southern Chhattisgarh on par with these areas. What sets it apart is that the Maoist-affected area here covers nearly 10,000 sq km. Within that, Bastar is not in the same category as Sukma or Bijapur. And the whole Abujmarh area is sui generis. This area also spills over to Gadchiroli in Maharashtra and Khammam district and other parts of Andhra Pradesh. So it’s a tri-junction area.

In October 2011, the first time I went to Bijapur, only 80 out of 157 gram panchayats had MGNREGA activity and there were absolutely no roads. This year, I was in Bijapur two days before the massacre and work was going on in 111 gram panchayats and 12 roads are being constructed. So in two years, 31 gram panchayats that had earlier been inaccessible had come under the developmental radar. How did this happen? Fundamentally, because security operations had created an  that raised the confidence level of the people and reassured them that if they come out and participate in the activities, they will not be targeted.

This is not happening because I have been there five times or because the state government is doing something remarkable, but because the security operations have enabled the cycle to be completed.

But security operations have darker impacts too. Barely three weeks before the 25 May massacre, eight tribals — including three children — were killed by the forces at Edesmeta village in Bijapur, and 17 in Sarkeguda a year ago. Instead of greater militarisation, why is there no attempt for talks?
That’s not true. Talks take place on tracks 3, 4 and 5. You and I will not know whether talks are taking place. You can’t hold talks by saying like Swami Agnivesh that “Main talks kar raha hoon (I am engaged in talks)”. Look at Laldenga (of the Mizo National Front). He took on the Indian State for almost 25 years, but through a period of negotiations, the insurgents finally joined the political mainstream. So there could well be talks taking place with the Maoists just now.

Really? I seriously doubt it. I could say with fair amount of certainty it’s not. The last time there was even a semblance of it, Maoist leader Azad was killed off.
Frankly, I don’t know. In a sense, dialogue with them is impossible. If I show you a record of my conversations with Maoist ideologue Vara Vara Rao, you will see there is simply no meeting ground. It’s just entrenched ideological arguments. When P Chidambaram was home minister, he told the Maoists: don’t give up arms, don’t give up your ideology, don’t disband your cadres, just abjure violence and come for talks.

Yes, he said that in an interview with us. But what covert channels of talks did he set up?
As I said, we can’t know. In an interview to Swedish author Jan Myrdal, Comrade Ganapati put out two conditions: remove the ban on the CPI(Maoist) party and release all their leaders in jails, who can then become the interlocutors. The Indian government has three conditions, the Maoists have two. So, at what level should the talks take place? The only thing I do know is that the Indian State operates at multiple levels. To paraphrase former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, there are some known knowns, some unknown knowns and some unknown unknowns. We are operating in the realm of the unknowns here.

It’s quite possible some sort of talks are taking place, but the notion that if we address some of these issues, the Maoists will come on board — I think that’s a big question mark.

Instead, you may have an occasional Kameshwar Baitha (MP from Palamu, Jharkhand, and a former Naxalite) who says, okay, I have had enough; I will contest and go to Parliament. Alternatively, in Saranda, the villagers told me one of the sarpanches is a part of the Maoist cadre. What’s important in both cases is that the end result is they have become part of a political process. That’s good in my view.

The trouble is, in southern Chhattisgarh, absolutely no political process is taking place. I have been to Sukma and Bijapur three times; four times to Narayanpur. It’s only since last year that the Congress was beginning to even be visible on the ground, with hoardings, posters and rallies. We had a rally in Dantewada; the Parivartan Yatra was taking place; we went to Bijapur and Sukma. This unnerved the Maoists. This was the second attack on Nand Kumar Patel (the Congress president in Chhattisgarh) because for the first time he was challenging the status quo, engaging in intensive political outreach. The Maoists would have seen this as dangerous in the long run. How can we allow this to happen in our territory? So far, the Chhattisgarh government seems to have maintained a low-level equilibrium: you do what you want there; we do what we want here, and we don’t disturb each other. But in the past 14 months, Patel had challenged that equation. I’m not saying we would have won, but people were coming to the Congress rallies.

You have been driving the development process through your ministry. But that is not the only criteria. The big elephant in the room is mining. Does the Indian State have any new thinking on mining? There’s a sense that if the insurgency is curbed, rapacious mining will take over.
It’s always easy for a liberal crowd like you to find rationalisations for Maoist violence. You can always say the Forest Rights Act (FRA) hasn’t been implemented, or there is mining, so there is violence.

That’s a cheap shot! We have never rationalised the violence.
I don’t disagree with the substance of what you are saying. It’s true the Maoists are raising very serious concerns. In fact, the tragedy is that tribal issues have been brought onto our radar because of the Maoists. Our attention has been caught because of them. The Indian State has a track record of failures in the tribal areas. Laws have been enacted but not implemented. In fact, they have been brazenly violated. It’s also a fact that the tribal is caught between the devil of the Maoists and the deep sea of the security forces. But their methods are very wrong.

There’s no argument on that. Of course, their methods are wrong. But apart from the tribals sandwiched between the Maoists and the State, the dilemma is, there is only a thin layer of entrenched ideologues who make up the Maoist leadership. Our concern is for the foot soldiers, the tribals who make up their ranks. You yourself have said 40 percent of them are women. They are also the poorest of Indian citizens. Many of them have no desire to unfurl a red flag on Red Fort in Delhi. Their impulse is to defend their land, their chicken, their grain, their families, their huts.
They are still foot soldiers. They are coldblooded killers.

What was not cold-blooded about the security forces gunning down tribals while they were celebrating a seed festival in Edesmeta and Sarkeguda? We always get trapped in this dialectic of Maoist and State violence.
There are 15-year-old kids who kidnap people.

Should we not ask ourselves why then?
This root cause theory will get us nowhere.

I agree. By extension, one could argue the root cause of the Gujarat riots. But…
Root cause theories are very dangerous. I would say one has to completely and strongly reject the violence, yet address the symptoms. This is not to deny a lot of violence has taken place in the name of development. I often say that, but I’m in a minority. It’s true, mining is taking place; mining leases are being given, even in Saranda. I have written repeatedly to the prime minister saying we have had a security success and are striving for at least a moderate developmental success. Please don’t jeopardise it by opening up Saranda to the mining lobby. But it has happened.

In his farewell speech in 1961, Eisenhower warned America against the military- industrial complex. I think we have to wake up to the mining-politician complex in our country, which is wreaking havoc in our politics, in the tribal areas. These guys have absolutely no compunction, no social conscience. They are not doing it because it’s essential for economic growth. It’s just a sort of developmental theology. I’m against it. It’s not that mining has to be stopped altogether. But we have to do it in a calibrated, nuanced, prudent manner. We must ensure socially and environmentally responsible mining. It should not increase the misery of an already deprived community, but that is happening. So our track record has no doubt given ample ammunition and fodder to the Maoists. But still we have mining buccaneers masquerading in Parliament as political leaders.

How do you read what happened in Andhra Pradesh? It’s often cited as a success model.
I applaud what Andhra Pradesh did, but in a national context, we just exported the problem. In the past, Andhra Pradesh used to be the main theatre. Hard security measures over 30 years, as well as a process of development and political engagement helped sort out the state. But basically the Maoists spilled into the adjoining states. The forests of Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Maharashtra used to be a sanctuary for the Maoists. Now the sanctuary has become the arena.

This is why the Centre has a very important role to play in the tri-junction areas and quadri-junction areas: the Odisha- Chhattisgarh-Jharkhand border; the Odisha-Andhra-Chhattisgarh border; the Andhra-Chhattisgarh-Maharashtra border; the Bihar-Odisha-Jharkhand border; the Jharkhand-Chhattisgarh-Madhya Pradesh-Uttar Pradesh border.

But the lesson to learn from Punjab and Andhra Pradesh is that, within the state, unless the local police and local intelligence network is up to the task, there is no way pumping in 70,000-80,000 paramilitary forces will work. But the SP of Sukma in Chhattisgarh told me he has only 1,000 men when what he really needs is 3,000. This is the story in district after district.

There seems to be no fresh legal or constitutional thinking on this. Even in the British era, the tribal areas were seen as special zones. What is the thinking within the Indian State? The Fifth Schedule is almost toothless and Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act as you said has not been implemented.
Let’s not undermine what the Indian State has attempted to do. At least it did not adopt the American or Australian policy of extermination. The Gandhi and Nehru route was to bring them into the mainstream but at a pace that they determine. So, let’s not be self-flagellatory about what we have attempted to do. To bring 80 million people into the ‘mainstream’. It has no precedent anywhere in the world. Actually, I’d rather not use the word mainstream; it’s an abused word. We have tried to ensure their constitutional rights through a democratic process.

There are many reasons why we have had greater success in the case of the Scheduled Castes than we have had with the Scheduled Tribes — primarily it’s because they affect elections in far less constituencies. There are many obligations in the Scheduled Areas that have not been met. Land alienation has taken place on a large scale. Land transfer regulations have been violated. Non-tribals have usurped tribal land. There is no denying that, but we have to just keep moving forward and get it sorted now, instead of moping. PESA was passed in 1996. FRA was passed seven years ago, but even in a politically conscious state like Kerala, when I visited the Attapadi hills of Palakkad district — one of the most deprived tribal areas — only half of the tribals’ claims under FRA had been dealt with. But the answer to all this cannot be armed confrontation.

Ironically, an RSS man from a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram in Sarguja district in north Chhattisgarh told me part of the reason the forests in the area are intact is because of the Maoists. If not for them, the forests would long have been cut and cleared for development.
That’s an intellectually lazy argument. The forests are intact because of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA). The FCA has nothing to do with the Maoists. Having been the forest minister, I can tell you the FCA is seen to be draconian from the development point of view. But from the forest point of view, it has been the single most important reason why the forests have been intact. Had it not been legislated in 1980, many of our forests, Abujmarh, for instance, would not have existed.

You have been travelling constantly on the ground since you took over as rural development minister. How many  affected constituencies have you been to?
Out of 82 Naxal-affected districts, I have been to 47; some of them I have been to three to four times; some five-six times.

That’s pretty intensive. When you speak to people first-hand there, what are the issues they raise?
Harassment by the local forest administration, which is the first face of the government they encounter. They also complain about the police, lack of electricity, teachers, doctors, health centres, etc. After a visit to Bijapur district, I wrote to the prime minister. As an Indian, I felt appalled and ashamed that the only two agencies providing basic healthcare facilities in the district were Médecins Sans Frontières and the International Red Cross.

There is no explanation for this. After 66 years of Independence, why are we unable to assure basic health services? Why are the roads and power supply the way they are? Why don’t post offices and banks function? When I ask bank officials, they say they can’t recruit locally and others don’t want to serve in tribal areas. If you recruit locally, someone will take you to court saying it’s unconstitutional. There are all sorts of issues. But the fact is, if the Indian State actually wants to do something, it can do it. It has enough powers. I see that effort in Bihar and West Bengal; I don’t see it in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand or Odisha. Some Congressmen were very upset when I praised West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. But supported by Suvendu Adhikary, Mamata did a political outreach programme in Jangalmahal. I took part in a rally there, it was unprecedented. The former CRPF DG told me, ‘Sir, the photo of Mamata kissing a tribal baby is equal to five CRPF battalions going there.’

But the point is, no matter how much one disagrees with what’s happening in some parts of the country, you cannot pick up the gun. Am I picking up the gun because I have been overruled on Saranda?

I agree. It’s just a slightly glib argument because in cities, people beat each other if they can’t find parking spaces or don’t have electricity for a few hours and then are judgmental about those who react to their houses being burnt, women being raped, kids being killed, grain being stolen.
Let’s concentrate on addressing the issues the Maoists raise but let’s not romanticise them. Let’s not justify the root cause theory. I’m all for concerted action on mining, displacement, forest rights, etc. I wrote to three chief ministers — Arjun Munda, Naveen Patnaik and Raman Singh — telling them how their own officers have told me there are literally thousands of tribals in jail without due process and on flimsy charges. Why can’t they be released? I have been bombarding them with letters. They don’t do it. But one has to persist. Remember, Bihar was once a hotbed of Maoist activity, but now only two areas of Jamui and Gaya are affected. So the democratic process can prevail.

shoma@tehelka.com

(Published in Tehelka Magazine, Volume 10 Issue 25, Dated 22 June 2013)

 

#Gujarat- NHRC irked over denial of scholarships to dalit students


TNN Jun 14, 2013

AHMEDABAD: The National Human Rights Commission has taken suo motu cognizance of the TOI report alleging denial of scholarships to 3,125 dalit students in Ahmedabad district. Out of this, applications of 1,613 students for scholarship are pending, whereas, 1,512 have been denied due to lack of funds. Allegedly, the state government had no answer for the Rs 3 crore that was to be spent on scholarships for dalit students.

The commission, shot off notices on Thursday to state chief secretary, Varesh Sinha and has sought a reply within four weeks. The commission also observed that, “the contents of the newspaper report, if true, paints a worrisome picture and constitute a gross violation of human rights of the dalit students. In view of their socio-economic backwardness, they deserve to be given special care and that is why such special provisions for scholarships to them have been made. Any failure in their implementation would defeat the whole purpose.”

The data was procured from the department of social justice after an RTI application was filed by dalit rights activist of Navsarjan Trust Kirit Rathod. It took Rathod three years before he could land on this basic information from the department.TNN “This is the level of transparency that the Gujarat government shows when it comes to the rights of the common man and the downtrodden classes. It took me three years to access information which should ideally should have been on the government website.”

The data in the RTI comprises only of ITI, science, arts, engineering and medical colleges. The information commission failed to provide the information for the dalit kids studying in schools

 

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