The Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul
Views of a Libertarian Socialist.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Support Mallika Sherawat for The (next) President of India
APJ Abdul Kalam’s tenure as the president of India ends in july next year, and a search has already started to find India’s next head of state. The political temperature is already heating up, with names being propped up from left (Somenath Chatterjee), right (B.S. Shekhawat) and center (Karan Singh). And somebody actually had the audacity to suggest the name of universally reviled Arjun Singh as a possible candidate. Karan Singh holds the dubious distinction of always being in reckoning for the post of President of India since last two decades. Somenath won’t be acceptable to a majority of legislators (and many of our citizens) because of his politics. Vice president Bhairon Singh Shekhawat is also out of contention because of the same reason, because of his RSS past. This scenario and the enduing confusion gives me the liberty to propose one possible name for the post, that will be acceptable to all its citizens and who will best represent the face of changing India. I propose the name of Mallika Sherawat (henceforth referred to as Mallika ji), actress and model, as the next president of our country.
Personality and achievements are two important criteria to judge any prospective candidate for India’s president. Mallika ji stands taller than most Indians in her charismatic personality. She is bold and beautiful, clever and charming, smart and morally upright, all roles rolled into one. She has demonstrated extremely high standard of honesty in her personal and professional life. She is one of the few individuals (Himesh Reshammiya being the other one), who takes criticism in her stride and have never shied away from people who are not in accordance to her personal choices. I have never heard any Indian politician be brave and sensible enough to say that, “It’s great to have critics blasting you all the time. It keeps you on your toes, spurs you, challenges you, makes you want to get better. I take everything positively. There’s so much to learn and do.” Mallika ji was honest enough to say that. She was offered to pose nude in the playboy magazine, and despite huge sum being promised, she turned down the offer “due to her morals and upbringing.” How many Indian politicians will resist the offer of appearing nude in playboy, considering the nakedness of their corruption scandals openly propping up in the media.
India as a country should set an example for the rest of the world to follow. The people of the usofa have elected Bush, not once but twice. They made the mistake, the rest of the world paid the price. In our neighouring country, Bangladesh, a stooge of the ruling party is the president. Down south we have hardliner Rajapakse, and to the west it is the congenial general, who elected himself the president. Russia has Putin who has made his country a living hell for its people and immigrants, Israel had katsav who was charged with rape, Zimbabwe has Mugabe who evicted millions of its poor from the cities, Iran has Ahmedinejad who wants to repeat holocaust by denying it, and the little north Korea has cute little Kim Jong Il, about whom, the less said the better.
In such global conundrum, in such global misdirection, India should and must show the light. We should elect the best person available in our country, the most honest and sensible one, to prove others that how deeply we revere the institutions of our country. Electing Mallika ji as the next president of India will not only please the billions of toiling masses in the country, it will also raise the stature of our country among the brotherhood of the world’s nations. Let’s use this platform to support the symbol of peace, messenger of humanity, activist for freedom, Mallika Sherawat as the country’s foremost leader.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
The explosion of bad news
North Korea (DPRK) did its first nuclear test on 9th october and now, depending on who you believe, is either apologetic or is ready to do a few more test. Iran is just a couple of steps away from conducting the tests, which gives a convenient excuse to the americans to attack that country. According to this IAEA report, nearly 30 more countries are in the race of acquiring nuclear weapons in near future. With Indian nuclear tests on May 12 1998, we have entered the second round of nuclear weaponisation in the world. Those tests were perfect examples of bad news spreading fast and wide.
The nationalists, led by BJP and its sisters went into a wild frenzy after the tests. The congress, after initial doubts, supported the tests. An unprecedented hysteria engulfed almost the entire populace of this country in subsequent weeks. Ironically, the then prime minister AB Vajpayee termed the nuclear blast as a victory of science. He didn't mind that an atom bomb, can serve no purpose other than killing a huge population. And of course, no sensible country will ever use it against its enemy, whatever be the provocation. Again, India's (or Pakistan's) far right religious fundamentalists can hardly be credited as being 'sensible people'. How can the tests be a victory of science, when science education in India remains in such a dismal state? We produce fewer scientific papers than any developed country, and less than half of the developing world. Baring IISc and TIFR, most of our science institution are in a dilapidated state and science education is in a continuous slippery path in past many years. How can it be a victory of science when, if we break statistics down to mere numbers, in every single aspect, we are behind China, Malaysia and even Brazil?
Pre-independence, with people liek CV Raman, JC Bose, Meghnad Saha, and many more, India was rated very high in science. Look, what have we made ourselves into? We have degenerated to such a level that an evil perversion of science, an inversion of knowledge was applauded as a victory of science, and NOBODY protested. Baring of course, those 4000 students in Kolkata and Arundhati Roy. And she was left alone to write the end of imagination, which the tests surely were. Ok, the left parties protested, but the kind of silence that they are practicing after North Korea did similar blasts 8 years later, it puts a big question mark over the Indian left's sincerity? Even Iam not sure whether the cpi(m) is against nuclear weapons in general or just against India acquiring those bombs?
We have to be objective in our decision. Let's forget about who is supporting the bomb, and wh is oppossing it. Let's look at the objective merits against the case for atom bomb. One of the best reports on DPRK's nuclear tests can be read at, surprise, the onion. Titled as "N. Korea detonates 40 years of GDP", this article tells us about the actual cost of the nuclear bomb, albeit in a humourous manner. What price did we pay for our nuclear tests in 1998? What have we sacrificed for this so-called deterrence?
There are huge indicators that India's tests had in a way encourage the rest of the world, notably Pakistan, Iran and North Korea to follow the same path. We are a self-confessed superpower, who can't even decide which country to vote for, in the elections to security council elections for non-permanent member. We are a self-appointed superpower, who cannot ensure security of its own people, where the state acts as a apparatus in the hands of the moneybags. It is actually unfortunate that the world is letting us carry this delusions. Treating us with kid-gloves. Most of the world knows this to be untrue, but some countries like DPRK and Iran have started to believe that India has raised its status because of teh atom bomb.
It is similar to what happenned in my village. The biggest Gunda gets the most respect, just because he can beat up or kill anybody whom he doesn't like. So some of the people think that it is good to become a Goonda themselves. The sensible people know that the Goonda is wrong to beat up anyone at whim, and the real courageous stand up to him, without becoming a goonda themselves. We went the I-will-become-a-goonda-because-China-is-a-goonda way of solving our problems.
It is very important for all of us to know PRECISELY the cost of a nuclear bomb. It is important to know why Amartya Sen, Mahatma Gandhi and Einstein are/were against it. The numbers speak for themselves. We remain in the world periphery in majority of human development indicators. The direct and indirect cost of India's nuclear bomb is anywehere between $50 billion to $500 billion. (I have filed an RTI application, and hope to get a reply soon) Till then note down that number. Who is paying for it? Of course, you and I. And who else?
We have achieved absolutely nothing by having nuclear weapons. And lost a lot. Nuclear war reduces the whole paradigm of war to a competition of which country can kill more number of oridinary people, and who can withstand more casualties of its citizens. As I mentioned above, it is an evil pulverisation of science, of humanity and of religion. The whole concept of nuclear bomb goes against the tenets of freedom and democracy.
South Africa remains the only country in the world to have voluntarily destroyed its entire nuclear arsenal in 1994. Its a pity that no other country followed South Africa's example. It is not that we are a poor country inspite of the nuclear bomb. We are a poor country because of the nuclear bomb.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Rs. 20 WAS the cost of his LIFE
Indian army's famous naga batallion is in Chhattisgarh. To flush out the naxalites, as they say. And of course, they have not been successful in doing that in last two years.
But this post is about a bengali shopkeeper in Dornapal, who was shot dead by jawans of Indian army on 17th september 2006. When Amit first wrote about it, I thought it must be an exaggeration. A couple of phonecalls later, it turned out to be more brutal than actually presumed. The story doesn't end with Shekhar's death. Let me repeat the story here. Shekhar, family's only breadwinner was running a small clothes shop in front of Dornapal camp. Four jawans of naga batallion came to his shop on 17th evening, and asked for a banyan. Shekhar quoted Rs. 35 for it (Amit mentions Rs 30). The jawans said, "Hamare nagaland me Rs. 15 me milta hai". (We get it in Rs. 15 in our Nagaland) Altercation ensued, and then the armymen promptly took him aside. His body was found in the evening. What happenned next is no surprise.
Each one I spoke to have admitted that it were the armymen who killed Shekhar. But nobody wants to say this to police or in front of a judicial magistrate, fearing for their lives. The family is highly scared, which is natural in such circumstances, and have refused to file an FIR. A couple of days later, I read a report in a local daily, blaming the naxalites for his murder. Isn't it ridiculous? Why can't the people of our country stand up against the attrocities committed by the army? Do we lack the courage, or the moral drive? Or do we really believe that a life worth Rs 20, is actually no life at all. That people like Shekhar deserve to die. Remember that he was not killed in crossfire, or a collateral damage. It was a cold blooded murder, with full circumstantial evidence present against the murderers?
The only condemnation of this incident has come from a naga human rights group:
Naga Vigil HRG Condemns Killing by 9th Naga Btn IRP
The Naga Vigil Human Rights Group condemns the killing of an innocent shopkeeper at Chatrisgarh by a serving jawan of the 9th Btn IRP from Nagaland without reservation. It demands that the 9th IRP Commandant Bendang Lemtur Ao from Sungratsu Village in Mokokchung Distrct of Nagaland resident of Aoyimti Dimapur makes full and frank admission of the incident and bring the culprit to book as well as making adequate reparations to the next of kin of the victim.
Furthermore it is wholly appropriate for the Chief Minister of Chatrisgarh to make official complaint to his Naga counterpart Neiphiu Rio Angami and if necessary demand the removal of the 9th Btn IRP from their territory. There is a catalogue of abuses in the trail of this particular unit which includes violations against innocent civilians in Nagaland prior to their posting to Chatrisgarh. It is not the solution to post out of district troops against Maowadi or People's War Group activists because it amounts to civil war. It is better by far to enter an unconditional dialogue and find a solution to the complex problems that exist in Chatrisgarh.
David P. Ward
Naga Vigil HRG
22nd October 2006
Please check this page for more updates. The murderers are still serving in the Indian army. If this is what is happenning in Chhattisgarh (without AFSPA/UAPA/DAA), just think what might be going on in North east and Kashmir, with all these draconian laws in place? A friend mentioned that the center cannot send back the naga army from Chhattisgarh to Nagaland, as they have done enough damage to that state. So, are they here in Chhattisgarh to fight against the naxalites or to create more of them?
Update: While I was writing this post, people in Kashmir were protesting against the killing of another 19 year old boy in the hands of Indian army (Rashtriya rifles batallion). Kashmir tells us more about the details, which the government of India will try their best to gloss over. Ths important question is how many armymen have been punished in India in last 60 years for rape or murder? Why do they feel so immue while committing these acts of terror? Why are they so sure that they will get away with anything?
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Political Compass asked me to asnwer 36 questions, and then tells me that Iam -8.68 leftist, and -5.69 libertarian, on a scale of +10 to -10 (both my scores being negative). Nothing new in that, and it is actully foolish to answer a bunch of questions to know his/her political views.
Economic Left/Right: -8.38
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.69
While my own politics is hardly bloggable, what is interesting is the analysis presented in their website. Note that how similar are the thinking ot Gandhi, Mandela and Dalai Lama. Hardly surprising, but it makes me happy to know that I also lie somewhere close to them in that scale. Talk about self-propaganda?
The interesting fact that the site tells me is, "If you could get Hitler and Stalin to sit down together and avoid economics, the two diehard authoritarians would find plenty of common ground.
One more interesting titbit on that site is the political preferences of famous composers. Check it out.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Jounalism: The most dangerous job in the world
Despite the (over?)crowding of journalists in Indian blogsophere, and despite recent remarkable collective attempts at fighting censorship by the bloggers of our country, I was slightly disappointed that the murder of
She authored numerous articles critical of the war in Chechnya, including a number that specifically aimed at exposing abuses committed under the Russian-backed Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov, as well as his son, deputy prime -minister, then prime-minister, Ramzan Kadyrov. She also wrote a book critical of the Putin presidency, specifically his pursuit of the Second Chechen War. She tirelessly chronicled human rights abuses and policy failures in Chechnya and elsewhere in Russia's North Caucasus. In 2003, she published a book called A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches From Chechnya, which painted a picture of brutal war in which thousands of innocent citizens have been tortured, abducted or killed at the hands of Chechen or federal authorities.
As reported widely, Ms. Politkovskaya was murdered in front of her apartment in Moscow. She was a fierce, and probably the only critic of russian government, its anti-terrorism policies, the suppression of human rights by the state, and in particular Mr. Putin's man ruling in Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov. Though there is no proof, the suspicion naturally points towards the russian state, or the chechen warlord.
Without being preachy, let me air my grievances against the top Indian journalists. Of course there are many brave and unnamed ones working in the heartland, but the top ones, the ones who appear daily in our televisions and newspaper, their attitude can be generalised. The only reason Ms. Politkovskaya's murder does not find a mention in the Indian media is the fact that we don't have a leading journalist who scares the state, whose life is in danger. No prominent reporter has dared to stand up and chronicle the attrocities committed by the Indian state in Kashmir, Punjab, North east, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh. The worst part is that they have also not studied and reported the human rights violations committed by the armed millitants and terrorists. Seems like the best ones are the afraid of anything and everything.
Let me shred a myth. India is not at all a safe country for journalists. According to RSF, India ranked a lowly 106 out of 167 countries in press freedom index in 2005. Though we are better than our neighbours Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, we are lot worse than most european and south american countries. Even places like Poland, Argentina, Nicaragua, Uganda and Venezuela, countries that are not known for being a vibrant democracy (huh?) are ahead of us. Journalism is fast becoming the most dangerous job in the world, if you are honest and upright. The RSF 2005 report says that,
2005 was the deadliest year for journalists since 1995: 63 journalists and 5 media assistants were killed doing their job or for having expressed their opinion; more than 1, 300 physical assaults were recorded and more than 1, 000 media were censored, an increase of 60% compared to 2004.
International federation of Journalists (PDF document) echoes similar views. World Association of Newspapers reports that 78 journalists have been killed so far in 2006.
I am sure that the voice against oppression in Russia will not be silenced by the murder of one individual, however tall in his/her standing. We need people like Ms. Politkovskaya in India, and in every part of the world. I doubt, if the MSM, with their profit motives and multiple interests, can stand up to the state. In that respect, blogs have tremendous untapped power and responsibility. But the bloggers don't have an organization to fall back upon, who will work as a safety net, who will stand up as one voice against some dissenter being 'encountered' by the state for criticising it. The bloggers collective, started to protest against attempted internet censorship by the government in India in June 2006 gave me some hope. But it fast died down, after the ban was revealed to be a a result of mistakes by the ISPs, and most bloggers went their own way.
Ms. Politkovskaya's newspaper Novaya Gazeta does not have an english edition, but a computer translation of the whole website can be read here. Her last unfinished article was published yesterday, the title of which is ironically and prophetically, "We appoint you the terrorists" (addressing the Russian state). Who is going to tell that to the Indian state? And if he/she does so, how long will he/she live after that? As long as cases like Kamlesh continue to happen, the incidents which despite being publicly known are rarely covered by the national media, until then we have absolutely no right to claim ourselves as “the world’s largest democracy”. Its a sham and a shame.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Jokes Might Kill
I want to make a few jokes. But before that, let's read what happenned to the barber in Baghdad who made some jokes. Blogging Baghdad tells us the story of a barber who made a wrong joke aout the wrong man at the wrong time at the wrong place. Although the blog claims so, I cannot verify its claims. The story goes like this:
"So Muqtada al-Sadr goes to Japan…" the barber tells his customer who was already smiling, bracing himself in the chair for a laugh. The barber tells the best jokes in Baghdad.
"So Muqtada is in Tokyo and meeting with officials and all of the top Japanese people and it’s a very big deal," the barber continues, as the customer’s hair falls on the floor in tufts.
"So Muqtada asks for a meeting, you know with who? No, you don’t know," he says. "It wasn’t with Japanese arms merchants or the army, but with the Toyota company. Do you know why?
"No," says the customer, ready for the big punch line.
"Because he wanted them to make the trunks of their cars bigger."
Like a good comedian, the barber laughs, enticing the customer to laugh even harder.
Toyotas are very common in Baghdad, and especially popular with Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. They often stuff bodies in the trunks.
No laughing matter
But another customer in the barbershop didn’t laugh. He was quietly having a haircut in another chair. He was one of those Mahdi Army men who kills people and stuffs them in the trunks of Toyotas.
The next day he went to visit the barbers and his customers to discuss their "inappropriate humor."
The conversations went like this:
The Mahdi army fighter tied the barber up, took a knife and plucked out both of his eyes. He was only left alive because he was Shiite, like the Mahdi Army.
The customer who laughed at the joke, a Sunni, was killed and stuffed in the trunk of a car, although the friend of the barber who told me the story this morning didn’t know if the car was a Toyota.
Overheard in a restaurant conversation, a national level congress party member saying this:
Congress party is a binary party, a party of ones and zeroes. Madam is one, everybody else is a zero. You add the zeroes, multiply the zeroes, divide the zeroes, and you still get a zero.
War and Piece on DD1, 15th October, 10:30 am
'Der aaye, durust aaye' is applicable for prasar bharti. And Doordarshan is going a step further now. War and Peace, a documentary by Anand Patwardhan, made in the aftermath of India's nuclear tests in 1998 will finally be shown on Doordarshan national (DD1).
Mark your schedulers for this Sunday, 15th October, 10:30 am IST.
Last sunday, 8th October, DD1 showed another award winning documentary by Anand Patwardhan, Father, Son and Holy War after a eleven year court struggle. On august 2006, the supreme court ordered DD and Prasar Bharti to telecast the uncut documentary within 6 weeks. Here is a chronology of the events that led to it, and where I first got the news.
About War and Peace:
Filmed over three tumultuous years in India, Pakistan, Japan and the USA following nuclear tests in the Indian sub-continent War and Peace is a documentary journey of peace activism in the face of global militarism and war.
The film moves on to examine the costs being extracted from citizens in the name of national security. From the plight of residents living near the nuclear test site to the horrendous effects of uranium mining on local indigenous populations, it becomes abundantly clear that, contrary to a myth first created by the U.S.A, there is no such thing as the "peaceful Atom".
Don't miss it.
Additional Links: Eleven years later by Sevanti Ninan
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Revisiting Dhananjoy Chatterjee
"Ami nirdosh, aamake ora mere phelche (I am innocent, they are killing me)", this was one of the last sentences, and possibly the dying declaration of the first Indian to be sent to the gallows in 21st century. Amid widespread public debate, hysterical frenzy, Dhananjoy Chatterjee, 44, rapist and murderer, was hanged nearly two years back in August 14 2004. At a time, when the nation is arguing whether Md. Afzal Guru should be hanged, and at a time when the TADA court in Mumbai is on the verge of announcing the sentence of nearly 60 people(till now) who were found guilty of 1993 Mumbai blast, I remember each and every argument propounded by the proponents of his hanging. Those included, much of the urban youth, the victims friends and teachers, political leaders and their wives. This article describes everything that went wrong during those months, leading to his excution. The most relevant question they ask is, ''Had Dhananjoy Chatterjee been a neighbour's son, or an engineering student, would his fate have been different?". I ask the same question to my friends.
Two years later, I want to prove wrong, each and every argument that led to his killing, in a situation that is not very different from notorious public execution in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan and rural India.
- Death sentence as a Deterrence: Dhananjoy, a watchman, was accussed of raping and murdering a 14 year old girl. Let me ask this simple question. Do we have less number of rapes in 2005 or 2006 than we had in 2004? I don't think anybody is naive enough to believe that. A simple comparision of crime statistics from 2004 and 2005, shows that the number of rapes in India has actually gone up in one year after the hanging. I believe that those who are saying that capital punishment acts as a deterrence, even they know that this is not the case. Please , please, please show me one man who was convinced that he should not commit rape, just because Dhananjoy is not living anymore.
- He is harmful for our society: How exactly? If he was not hanged on that day, he would have been serving a life sentence in Aligarh jail now. He would have been cut off from rest of the world, his freedom curtailed. There are thousands of rapists in Indian jails even now. Living. Let me assure the readers that, living in jail, not one of them is a danger to them or their near and dear ones. Rape or murder is not a philosophy that is practised by some kind of people, influenced by some other kind of people. It is not an ideology, that will die down on its own if we hang one of the perpetrators?
- He never expressed remorse for his crime: Read the first line of this post. Dhananjoy Chatterjee never confessed to his crime. he was resolute in his innocence till his death. Why should he express remorse for something, that he believed he had not committed at all?
- The victim's soul will not rest in peace as long as the perpetrators is alive: That's a self-contradictory argument. Soul, or Atma, is something that is very pure and divine. The negative emotions of hatred, anxiety or revenge cannot entrap a soul. It is completely wrong to say that if you don't kill him, the victim will not rest in its afterlife. Can a theologian of any language corroborate this argument? Find me one man or woman of God who can claim that the soul, even in its abstract concept, indeed yearns for revenge.
- Dhananjoy Chatterjee has not sufferred enough in jail: For 13 long years, Dhananjoy was in solitary confinement. His family sufferred worse than him. They had to sell their land to meet the legal expenses. His old parents nearly committed suicide. Their grief was broadcasted live on our INSENSITIVE national media. For ten long years he was sending his mercy petitions to everybody, in the knowledge that he might be killed anytime by the state and the people of this country.
I remember people saying that 'rapists will now think twice', 'it is a victory of good over evil' and things to that effect. As I mentioned earlier, just show me one rapist who thought twice before committing the crime. What happenned to Dhananjoy's family after that? Does anybody know? They, whose private grief was turned into a public spectacle, they who were pushed to penury by the state, how are they now? Let's ask these questions. Have we not condemned the entire family by murdering Dhananjoy. More often than not, death sentence is a punishment for the family of the accussed than the guilty himself/herself. When will the people of this country understand this simple logic?
The case for his mercy petition to be accepted was pretty strong. As this article mentions, "no one could have deserved mercy better than Dhananjoy. He was poor. His conviction was based largely on circumstantial evidence that could well have been fabricated by someone else who committed the offence, but was powerful and rich. He had no previous record of crime. He did not have the services of good, expensive lawyers. His behaviour in the jail gave no indication that he was a hardened criminal. He had languished in jails for almost fourteen years under fear of death. His family (including his wife) remained convinced that he was innocent. Generally speaking, in case of a rapist, his wife refuses to support him. His wife, after his death would have would have to spend the rest of her life as a destitute widow." Inspite of all that, we killed him. For the sake of revenge, at best.
Tibetans Murdered by Chinese Army in Public View
On 1st of this month, the world witnessed the muder of a young Tibetan nun by chinese forces in full public view. A detailed report of what happenned can be found here.
According to it,
The Nangpa Pass serves as a main trading route between Tibet and Nepal, and is commonly used as an escape route by Tibetans fleeing into exile. Tibetan refugees escaping from Tibet into Nepal have been fired upon before on both the Chinese and Nepalese side of the border, but this is the most serious incident for some years.
Apparently, a group of tibetans were leaving their country to escape persecution. While crossing the mighty himalayas, the chinese army took aim, and shot at them. A group of mountaneers from different parts of the world saw this and lived to tell the world about it. This blogs tells the whole story.
The irony is that UNHCR goodwill ambassador is currently in India. Maybe she can highlight the apathetic attitude of the governments in south asia towards the refugees.
Monday, October 09, 2006
Now, they have an atom bomb
Everybody loves the atom bomb. The next few days are quiet predictable. We will witness the ramblings among the world leaders, the angry denounciations by the politiciations. threats, sanctions, and then sab 'tai-tai fiss'. What matters now is that North Korea is the eighth country to conduct the nuclear tests, it is one of the ten* countries in the world to have confirmed nuclear arsenal.
While we are at it, check out this documentary, Children of a Secret State. Aired on discovery channel, this documentary takes you in the very heart of a state, that is cut off from the world, and tells the story of its neglected children. Another excellent channel 4 documentary on North Korea can be downloaded through bittorrent, Undercover in the Secret State.
Note: *The ten countries are the big 5, India, Pakistan, Israel, South Africa and North Korea.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
A wife pleads for justice
Tabassum guru, wife of Mohammad Afzal Guru, wrote a public appeal for justice which was published on 21st October 2004 in Kashmir Times. This is something that can send a shiver down our spine. Read this and decide for yourself, does Md. Afzal deserved to be killed?
A Wife's Appeal For Justice
Md. Afzal was a surrendered millitant. He worked as an informant to STF.
"My husband wanted to return to normal life and with that intention he surrendered to the BSF. The BSF Commandant refused to give him his certificate till he had motivated two others to surrender. And Afzal motivated two other militants to surrender. He was given a certificate stating that he was a surrendered militant. You will not perhaps realise that it is very difficult to live as a surrendered militant in Kashmir but he decided to live with his family in Kashmir. In 1997 he started a small business of medicines and surgical instruments in Kashmir. The next year we were married. He was 28 years old and I was 18 years."
"Some days later they took him to the Humhama STF camp. In that camp the officers, DSP Vinay Gupta and DSP Darinder Singh demanded Rs one lakh. We are not a rich family and we had to sell everything, including the little gold I got on my marriage to save Afzal from the torture.
Denied a lawyer in the lower court
Afzal was kept in freezing water and petrol was put into his anus. One officer Shanti Singh hanged my husband upside down for hours naked and in the cold. They gave electric shocks in his penis and he had to have treatment for days."
"There was no one to represent Afzal in the lower court. The court appointed a lawyer who never took instructions from Afzal, or cross examined the prosecution witnesses. That lawyer was communal and showed his hatred for my husband. When my husband told Judge Dhingra that he did not want that lawyer the judge ignored him. In fact my husband went totally undefended in the trial court. When ever my husband wished to say something the judge would not hear him out and the judge showed his communal bias in open court."
A desperate plea two years ago
"I appeal to you to ensure that my husband is not condemned to death and he is ensured a fair trial. Surely your conscience will not allow you to be a party to the death of a fellow human being who has not been represented in the court and who has not had a chance to tell his story? The police have made him falsely confess before the media even before the trial started. They humiliated him, beat him, tortured him and even urinated in his mouth. I feel deep shame to talk about these things in public but circumstances have forced me. It has taken a lot of courage for me to put all this on paper but I do so for the sake of my child who is now six years old."
Will you speak out at the injustice my husband has faced? Will you speak out on my behalf? I am of course fighting for my husband's life, for the life of my son's father. But I also speak as a Kashmiri woman who is losing faith in Indian democracy and its ability to be fair to Kashmiri Muslims.
How can the people of this country after reading this, can still ask for Afzal to be hanged? How can the whole society be a party to a murder? Can we call ourselves human after participating in this 'Samuhik Hatya'. How can an entire nation be blind in their hatred, that anybody who tries to bring out the facts or appeals for mercy generates angry comments and talks of gaddari? Is murder the only way of showing our patriotism? Are we already into an Orwellian world?
Some of my friends will dispute the authenticity of this letter. They will dismiss it as a pack of lies. They forget that Ms. Tabassum Guru takes the names of the STF officers. Has any inquiry been ordered against them? They forget that, what Ms. Tabasum Guru has written is endorsed by the entire Kashmiri population. Absolutely nobody has disputed the facts presented by her. It is common knowledge that Afzal was not allowed to choose his lawyer in the trial court. Even the STF has acknowleged that Mohammad Afzal Guru worked as a police informant.
One of my close friend who is a major in the Indian army, and was posted in Kashmir in the past says this, "Ham sab insaan hai. Yahi hamari sabse badi kamzori hai." Kya ham kabhi is insaniyat ko apni kamzori se apni takat bana paenge? Pal bhar me khata huyi, sadiyon ne sazaa payi. I wish Md. Afzal had not crossed over to Pakistan to become a millitant in 1990.
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Why Afzal Guru must NOT be hanged!!
There are two possibilities:
- Muhammed Afzal Guru is not guilty of the crime attributed on him: This is indeed possible. The activists defending him have given details of how Md. Afzal was not allowed a lawyer to represent him, how the witnesses were not cross-questioned, how forcible confessions were extracted by threatening his family. Even if some of it is correct, this makes the case for his hanging entirely baseless. Baring the likes of Narendra Modi, who believe that a human being deserves to die merely for committing the crime of being born as a muslim, it is nobody's case that an innocent should be awarded capital punishment.
- Md. Afzal did provide logistical support to the attackers on the parliament: The entire debate is based on this assumption. Let's take a deeper look at this scenario.
On the face of it, the Kashmiris are claiming that Md. Afzal has been wrongly framed by the Indian state, but it is evident that deep down his celebrity status is because of his involvement in the crime. The attack on the parliament on 13th december 2001 was a direct attack on the sovereignty of the Indian state. Let's make no mistake that the sense of alienation among the kashmiris runs deep, and except for the fact that five brave policemen died on that day doing their duties, they hail the attack on the parliament. And our state is doing its bit in making a non-descript failure as a martyr for an entire cause.
What is also evident is that the separatists, especially the hardline faction, want Md. Afzal to be hanged on the precise date fixed by the courts. They have urged him not to file a mercy petition knowing fully well that the Indian constitutional mechanism does not allow his sentence to be commuted in the absence of a formal plea for mercy. The hardline hurriyat is doing what they do best, utilizing the kashmiri alienation to further their own gains. Turning down his mercy plea will be playing into the hands of the terrorists and their supporters.
In case the allegations are true, the hindu fundamentalists believe that pardoning Md. Afzal will actually 'incentivise the terrorists'. That's not going to happen. Only the divine can forgive, the strong can give people a second chance, we are definitely not going to come up as a weak state by commutting his death sentence. On the contrary, we will emerge as a much stronger nation, not only in op-ed columns, but also in the heart and minds of the people of this country. Let us give him a chance, if not of joining the mainstream, then at least to realsie his mistakes.
In case the allegations are true, Md. Afzal is no Bhagat Singh. He is a cowardly manipulator, who has no idea what he is fighting against and why. He does not have the courage to admit to his role in the attack on parliament, or to speak up for the attrocities committed by the Indian armed forces in Kashmir. If he is pleading for mercy, he is doing it on our terms. He is not a hero, he is the weak one, the savarkar of the Kashmiri separatism. By hanging him, we are going to make a Bhagat Singh out of him, we will embolden the separatists.
In case the allegations are true, it is fundamentally wrong to use the victim's anger to kill another person. The five policemen braved their lives to maintain the sanctity of our democracy. They departed souls are not going to come back by hanging the perpetrators. Instead, he should be imprisoned for life, let him see the misery that his actions have put others into. Take it from me, one of these days he is going to cry hearing of other's pain.
Few Kashmiri friends believe that Afzal is sentenced to death because he is a Kashmiri. They are probably right. We have a history of glossing over far greater crimes. A few weeks after the attack on parliament, VHP/Bajrang dal goons entered the Orissa assembly and created a commotion. Not one of them were even arrested. How many industrialists or politicians have been punished for their crimes in independent India? Does our judiciary have the courage to convict an influential person for the crimes committed, and sentence him to death? What if instead of the terrorists, a bunch of youngsters decide to eliminate the corrupt politicians? Iam sure that the whole country would have erupted in their support (a. la. Rang de basanti). We were outraged on 13th december 2001, but we have heard people saying that, 'kuchh netaon ko lekar marte to zyada achcha hota'. The people of this country are fed up of politicians, and ironically the public opinion is manufactured to benefit their creed. Perhaps Afzal is hanged because he is a Kashmiri.
Let's first ask these questions before deciding:
- Will our country be safer if Md. Afzal is hanged: The answer is NO.
- Will we produce more terrorists, if a minor terrorist like him, without any organizational backing is put behind bars fo the rest of his life: The answer is NO.
- Will the separatists rejoice if Md. Afzal is hanged: The answer is YES.
- Will Kashmir be more integrated to the ethos of our country if his sentence is not commuted: The answer is NO
- Will there be no more attacks on our national heritage, if we hang Md. Afzal? Does he have that sort of power, charisma or backing? The answer is again NO.
- Will we be a less civilised country, if we hang a kashmiri activist who is not bold enough to speak for his people: NO.
- Finally, will there be no custodial deaths, no illegal arrests, no brutal interrogation, no encounter killings, if Md. Afzal is hanged: The answer is unfortunately again a big NO.
If the president of India accepts Md. Afzal's mercy plea, it will not only be beneficial to the accussed, but also to the Kashmiris and the citizens of this country. We will gain the trust of an entire set of people. The only person to lose out will be the politicians of all hues and colours, the 'bin-pendi-ka-lota' types, the terrorists, the hurriyat, the hindu fundamentalists, the congress party. These are precisely the forces who are going to gain the most if the mercy petition is turned down, and as is highly likely he is hung on 20th october. The BJP will have, 'one terrorist was sentenced to death because of our campaign', the congress will have its 'one terrorist was sentenced to death under our rule', the separatists will have 'on Kashmiri was murdered by the Indian state' , each will have something for their constituency. One cannot help but feel pity at the Md. Afzal guru's family, whose tragedy has been reduced to a free-for-all stepping stone for politicians.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Shankar Guha Niyogi - A revolution cut short
It will be a futile exercise to summarize Niyogi's life and activities in one small chapter. Let me try. Born on 14th Feb. 1943, Niyogi's life spanned less than 5 decades. He was educated in Bhilai, and first started as a worker in Bhilai Steel Plant. There he tried to organise the contract labourers, demanded increase in wages, and normal work hours. His activities angered the BSP management, and he was dismissed from service. After roaming around the country for several years, he finally settled in Bhilai and founded CMSS. He started by "organizing the contract labourers in over a hundred metal mines in and around Bhilai". CMSS picketed liqour shops, encouraged prohibition, opened a 15-bed hospital in Dalli rajhara, fought against social evils, opened libraries for labourers. Niyogi founded Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha (CMM) in the form of a wider movement spanning all sections of the society. Niyogi was also an environmentalist, through CMM and CMSS, took up environmental issues. Angered by the mass mobilization of his organization, his hold over a million workers, his actions against liqour, Niyogi was murdered by a hired killer in the midnight of 28th September 1991. That started anotehr sad chapter of our democracy. His murderers after being initially convicted by the sessions court, by a grand travesty of justice were finally acquitted by the supreme court. The supreme court failed to see the heavy evidence against the accussed, who were leading industrialists of Bhilai, and by a stroke gave a major thumbs down to any kind of activism across the country.
Here, I reproduce a wonderful poem by Dr. Ishtiaq, who wrote it a month after the brutal murder.
Fir ek baar
Mehnat aur Mehnatkasho ko nakara gaya,
Jo ban gaya tha bebas ki awaaz
Use sare aam maara gaya,
Koi fark nahi padta
Niyogi ke mar jane se,
Hawa me unki awaaz baaki hai,
Jin taaro ko chheda hai
Uski ungliyo ne, Woh saaz baaki hai
Ek zakhm ho gaya
Hamare seene me
Jise waqt jaroor see dega,
Der se hi sahi,
Niyogi ka ye balidaan,
Hame fir ek Niyogi dega.
Where is the Niyogi of today? In the liberalized and globalized world of today, don't we all feel the loss of Niyogi. Shubhranshu believes that by killing Niyogi, by letting the guilty go scot-free, and by not giving space to genuine disenchantment among the suffering masses, we are actually boosting the naxals (Niyogi ya naxal). We desperately need a Niyogi amongst us today.
Monday, September 25, 2006
RDB for oscars - Participation is more important than winning..
That seems to be the mantra behind selecting Rang De Basanti as India's official entry to the oscars. Of course, we know that it won't win the nomination for best foreign language film. But we are going there to participate, winning does not matter and its the spirit of participation that needs to be kept alive. RDB might be a very good movie, with superlative performances, has a deep connect with the young generation, but as I see it sending RDB as India's official entry for the oscars is not going to increment the number of India's oscar nominations. RDB is not lagaan.
Iam not going to launch into a long diatribe about synonimising mainstream bollywood cinema as the whole of Indian cinema, and how the wonderful regional language movies, despite being a hundred times better, are never allowed to represent our country. Somebody else is going to do that for me. That movies like krish with an extra r, and kabhi alvida na kehna were even considered, tells us not of the lack of good films, but the paucity of intelligence among the selectors.
Kasaravalli's Nayi Neralu or Jhanu Barua's Maine Gandhi ko nahi maara or Rahul Dholakia's Parzania (if they have made a hindi version), are some of the movies that would have had a strong chance of competing with the best of the world. Unfortunately, the rest of the world have normal sensible people choosing the movies to represent their countries.
Nagesh Anna - How he killed the Indian maoist movement!!
I don't know Nagesh Anna. I have never met him or seen him, I have never seen his photograph, nor heard his voice. I don't know his real name, nor am I sure whether he is a real person or not. For all it matters, Nagesh anna might not exist at all, he might be a figment of imagination, he might be one of those poplar legends in the villages. But for me he is the epitome of everything that is wrong with the naxalites.
During my recent travel to Bastar, I came across this sad story at three different places. The people me the story of one lakmu, from the Padekarma village. Lakmu once went to Khammam in Andhra Pradesh, and on his return told his fellow villagers that Nagesh Anna owns 15 trucks and large amount of land in a village near Khammam. Now, Nagesh anna is one of the dalam commanders (kind of naxalite batallion) working in that area. Not surprisingly, Lakmu was murdered within a week.
Since 1980s when the maoists first came to Bastar, they were able to gain the trust of the local adivasis, were successful in building a strong cadre-based support for the party and for all practical purposes, have established a liberated zone in the heart of India. Even a senior official admitted that "10km this side of the road and 10 km that side, that's where India ends and you are in alien territory". Maoist literature glorifies their success in Bastar, it tells us that they were able to apply the principles of marxism-leninism-maoism (MLM) to society, and that the people living in those liberated zones have deep respect for the maoists for the good that is done to them. The Indian maoists have created a maoist utopia and Abujhmarh is to India what Hunan was to China. The "long march ahead" is just round the corner.
Let them continue with the propaganda, but in reality the social dynamics of Bastar more closely resembles dystopian lands of Orwell or Huxley's literature. That might be being too harsh to the maoists, and to give credit where it is due, they have actually discharged the duties of the state. They gave the adivasis self confidence while dealing with police and forest guards, were instrumental in raising the prices for tendu leaf collection (a major source of livelihood), helped them in agriculture and pisciculture. The list of (real) achievements is a long one. Till the likes of Nagesh Anna destroyed it.
The first question that comes to mind is, why was Lakmu killed and was he allowed to explain his views? The answer is obvious. Because he dared to criticise a dalam commander or think about it. That was an offence big enough to command death sentence. One more aspect is that the maoists usually have public trials before they execute their punishments (usually death of disabling a healthy man/woman). Though the trials are attended by gondi-speaking adivasis, its the telugu speaking people who do most of the talking. Nothing like a summary trial happenned in Lakmu's case. He was considered a man too dangerous for the revolution. He had committed a thoughtcrime.
The next question is, what happenned to Nagesh Anna after that? The answer is once again obvious. Nothing. If he is not the dalam commander now, he has probably moved up in hierarchy and become a member of zonal committee, have accumulated more wealth back home in Khammam and is happy to be a part of the 'glorious red revolution'.
The third question is, when adivasis are kiled left, right and center, by corporates, PSUs, politicians, insurgents, counter-insurgents, and local thekedaars, why am I writing an article on the death of one adivasi, who I didn't know existed till a month back. I have explained the reason above. Lakmu's killing represents a deadly symptom. It explains te reason, why the so called proletariat war against the the semi-feudal and semi-colonial Indian state will never succeed. Lakmu was killed with the permission from the Dandakaranya region zonal commander, and in all probablity, the maoist don't regret the loss of one more life in their hands.
So what does the grandly stated terms by like "Self criticism" mean in the real context? Self-criticism is suppossed to be widely practised among the maoist parties to analyse their mistakes in the past and admit their failings. Self-criticism is important as a proof of concept of their version of democracy. In reality self-criticism rarely works, how much sincere have been their intention. It is not suppossed to work as well. It is a politician's term, everybody knows that it means nothing.
But the maoists, and Indian maoists in particular, call for constructive criticism from a much wider section of society. This wider section are typically academicians, students, journalists, artists, scientists, in short, the intellectual class. Why is this unfortunate? It is because the best people who can criticise the naxal movement in parts or in whole, are those tribals whose lives the revolution has touched. They are the best judge. People like Lakmu can tell them where they are going wrong without referring to any documented source. Instead the naxals kill Lakmu and be proud of it. And that is the reason why the Indian maoists will never be successful in capturing power.
Not only do they consider themselves superior to the adivasis in Dandakaranya just because they are aware of life and times of Mao, people like Nagesh Anna are considered infallible. The fact that the worst cobra gangs in AP are formed by ex-maoists, and it is the ex-moists again who are running a virtual parallel extortion and illegal mining industry in neighouring Karnataka. The greatest threat to CPI(maoist) is not from the state, or from the people, it is from the people like Nagesh Anna. Unless the central committee takes heed of this, and do something urgently, we are seeing the last brave bunch of extrimist left in our country.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
An excellent article on the perpetuality of oppression, hate, violence, insurgency, counterviolence, hate, violence, ... and so on. The author is a self-confessed war nerd. He talks about the hate momentum, which once it is built up, is impossible to subside.
eXile - Issue #246 - War Nerd - Sri Lanka: The Big Hate Mo' - By Gary Brecher
"There's another reason these treaties don't last: hate momentum. That's what I call it
anyway. See, people have the wrong idea; they think "violence" starts when the insurgents
set off their first bomb. It doesn't work that way. That's just when the violence first
makes the press. There was ALWAYS violence in these places, lots of violence. But as long
as the government is strong enough to dish it out, nobody notices. When the people getting
zapped non-stop suddenly start zapping back, suddenly it's a "man bites dog" story, a big
turnaround, and every TV channel in the world is on the story."
"The Tamils' hate boiled over in the 1980s when the LTTE started up its suicide bombings
and ambushes. Naturally the Sinhalese responded with artillery and air attacks, and
naturally most of the casualties were civvies. They always are. The kill-radius of a 155mm
shell is huge, and it's kids and old folks who are the worst at dodging, so they die
sooner. And picking up the shredded remains of your sister or cousin makes you an easy mark
for the next guerrilla recruiter who comes a-knockin at your door. So you walk into a bank
in Colombo, blow yourself up and kill somebody's uncle, and he orders an air strike on your
home village, and so on and so on. That's momentum. In fact, you could say tribal hate is
the only real perpetual motion machine that works."
"It's always the same story: it's not "violence" until somebody hits you back. Till then
you don't notice your guys hitting the other tribe. That's just normal background noise. It
takes blood, buckets of it, to get a person's attention. And not just anybody's blood --
it's gotta be your own, or that of a close relative. Otherwise it's just spots on the
Friday, September 01, 2006
Dhurli and Essar - The face of development
I first came to know about essar in 1995, when the central government decided to lease out a couple of mines in the Bailadila range to essar. There were agitations against the attempt to privatise the mines as the then running mines of NMDC (dep 5 and 14) were not suppossed to last more than 20 years. My school was closed for a few days, and there was genuine anger among the workers of NMDC. Luckily good sense prevailed and the central government went back on its decision.
Unfortunately, things are not as beautiful as the state of Chhattisgarh wants us to believe. When an individual from Raipur made a routine RTI application to check the contents of the MoU, his request was rejected. The grounds for the rejection is that the MoU between the state of Chhattisgarh and Essar (or Tata)
cannot be shown to any third party. Exactly who constitutes a “third party” is not defined. It is also not explained how the citizens of the state who will be losing their land and livelihood for this project can be classified as a “third party”? Since the RTI act says that any information that can be accessed by legislators cannot be denied to individuals, hence it is safe to assume that amajority of our legislators including the MLA of Dantewada is in dark regarding the precise contents of the agreement. Nobody knows exactly what we have promised to essar, what is so secretive about the whole affair? Rumours abound in the absense of transparent information. Suggestions are being made in a section of media that the notorious “Salwa Judoom” campaign in Dantewada is actually funded by the industry, that the state is blind to the plight of its own citizens because that is part of that “top secret” MoU. Some say that the Bailadila mines will be given to these investors if NMDC fails to meet the requirements of the steel plants.
Now exactly how the state treats the “third party”, its own citizens. Dhurli is connected by both road and a railway station. Almost all its inhabitants are engaged in agriculture. Last year, one fine day, three representatives of essar came to the village and said to them, “Yahaan par essar ka steel plant banega. Aap yeh zameen khaali kar do” (Essar steel plant wil come up here. All of you must vaccate this land). The villagers didn’t know whether to take it as a joke or not. They had a meeting that night and it was decided that having lived in that place for last 12 generations or more, they are under no obligation to vacate their land. A delegation met the collector after a few days and he used the exact same language as the essar people. He informed them that a decision has been taken in Raipur and Dhurli was chosen as the location of Essar’s 3.2 MTsteel plant. Their jan-pratinidhi will tell them the exact price of their land. No more arguments.
The jan-pratinidhi did come. During those times I had a talk with one of the jan-pratinidhi’s man, and laughing, very proudly he said to me, “Bhaiya, in logo ko jitna kam me mana sakenge, hamare netaji ko utna hi zyada faayda hoga. Ab tum hamare netaji ka kamaal dekhna bas. Inke kahne par to yeh log apni jaan tak de denge“. (The less the villager’s get for their land the more will our leader gain. Just see the power of our leader, these people will even lay down their lives for him). How and what will the jan-pratinidhi gain, he didn’t explain that to me. The price offerred to them was Rs. 80000 per acre and Rs. 10000 per mahua tree. Each full grown mahua tree gives the owner more than Rs. 20000 in a single year. Rs. 80000 per acre is a ridiculous price by all counts for agricultural land. Obvious to everybody and to the surprise of the jan-pratinidhi, the villagers refused the bargain. That was the start of a long drawn battle between the villagers and the administration.
There is nobody except the gram-sabha and village elders to argue against the project, and they are facing considerable harassment. Not only were they beaten and threatened in the past, last week on 25th august four of them were arrested and put in jail just before a proposed gram-sabha meeting. The media was not allowed to cover the event. Nobody knows what is going to happen in Dhurli. The events of Kalinganagar in January 2 2006, when the Orissa state police killed 12 adivasis as a new year gift to the tatas comes to my mind. Is Dhurli going to become another Kalinganagar? Will the national press take notice of it only when something terrible has happenned?