New on my other blogs

Solar scam reveals decadent polity and sociery
A Dalit poet writing in English, based in Kerala
Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen
Change of heart? Or stooping to conquer?


31 December, 2007

Khaitan Award for Dr. Binayak Sen

Dr. Binayak Sen, General Secretary, People's Union Civil Liberties (PUCL), Chhattisgarh, who has been an undertrial prisoner since May, has been given the prestigious RR Keithan Gold Medal instituted by the Indian Social Science Congress.

The award was received on his behalf by his wife Dr. Ilina Sen at a function held at the SNDT University, Mumbai, on December 29, 2007.

Rajendra K Sail, President, Chhattisgarh PUCL, said in a press realease that about 200 persons, mostly social scientists and administrators, gave a standing ovation as the award for Dr. Sen in recognition of his service to the community was announced.

Dr. B N Mungekar, Member, Planning Commission and Chairperson of the Indian Academy of Social Sciences, presented the award.

The award honours the memory of noted Gandhian activist R R Keithan.

The citation says, "The Academy recognizes the resonance between the work of Dr. Binayak Sen in all it's aspects with the values promoted by the Father of the Nation. In bestowing the Award on him while he is in incarceration and unable to receive it personally, the Academy expresses its solidarity with people's movements and defenders of human rights…

"His work offers fresh and radical interpretation of Gandhiji's core concerns, and his present personal predicament is a poser to all who profess and practice similar ideals. He has rendered a valuable service in the spirit of antyodaya to those of our people whose lives are at the margins of our consciousness, while also creating with them opportunities for their development in the truest human sense of the term".

It recalls that Gandhiji had said “real Swaraj will come not by the acquisition of authority by a few but by the acquisition of capacity by all to resist authority when abused."

Wall Street Journal laments plight of India's Brahmins

The Wall Street Journal carries in its edition dated December 29, 2007 a Chennai-datelined story on the plight of India’s Brahmins.

The reporter, Eric Bellman, says Brahmins, who, as Hinduism's priestly and scholarly caste, traditionally occupied a place of privilege in India, are feeling left out of the economy’s rapid expansion.

Bellman’s story is based on the “reversal of fortune” suffered by R. Parameswaran, a 29-year-old Brahmin of Tamil Nadu. One Tariq Engineer also contributed to the story.

Parameswaran teaches English at a small vocational school. On his monthly salary of $100, he can't afford an apartment, and so he sleeps in the classroom at night, says Bellman.

He quotes Parameswaran as saying, “I see so many Brahmins begging (in Mylapore, Chennai). It's very difficult to see. It makes me totally upset."

To read the entire story, please go to
Eric Bellman can be reached at

30 December, 2007

Bhutto assassination heightens threat of US intervention, says scribe

The mass popular revulsion over Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has unleashed intense instability in Pakistan, says Bill Van Auken, US political activist.

According to him, the developments could well draw the US military into direct involvement in the attempt to suppress popular upheavals in that country.

Bill Van Auken is a full-time reporter for the World Socialist Web Site. He contested the 2004 US presidential election, as candidate of the small Socialist Equality Party, and has been nominated by the party to contest again in this year’s election.

Van Auken’s article appears at site.

29 December, 2007

We like our leaders dead!

Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has moved the world far more deeply than any other political murder of recent times.

The US-based New American Media, which caters especially to the needs of ethnic minorities in that country, carried several reports that looked at how people in different countries reacted to it.

NAM editor Sandeep Roy recalled other assassinations that occurred in the region in a piece, carried under the telling title: We South Asian like our leaders dead. Benazir Bhutto not only redeemed herself but, in a way, the politics as well, he said.

News analyst Ketaki Gokhale pointed out that loggers in Pakistan were shocked by Benazir Bhutto’s the assassination of Benazir Bhutto but annoyed at Western attempts to turn her into Pakistan's Aung San Suu Kyi. See Today We Mourn, Tomorrow We Think of Politics: Pakistani Bloggers.

NAM Korean media monitor and editor Kenneth Kim said Bhutto’s assassination struck an unusual chord with Koreans. The outpouring of posts on Korean websites shows that Koreans, with their own history of military regimes, can readily empathize with the turbulence in Pakistan.

NAM Chinese media monitor Jun Wang noted that the Chinese government condemned the assassination but its reaction was a little different from the usual Chinese reactions to such tragedies and the Chinese Internet picked up on that. See Benazir's death resurrects ghosts in Asia.

28 December, 2007

Dr. Binayak Sen still in prison

Dr. Binayak Sen, well-known pediatrician and human rights activist, who was arrested by the Chhattisgarh police on May 14 on specious charges is still in jail.

His case was due to come up in the court of the Additional District Judge (Fast Track Court), Raipur, today. There were reports that charges will be framed against him today, but information on the day’s proceedings was still awaited at the time of writing

The Supreme Court had rejected Dr. Sen’s bail application and Special Leave Petition on December 10, Human Rights Day.

The court's decision is out of tune with the dictum laid down by it on an earlier occasion that "bail is the rule, jail is exception."

The People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Chhattisgarh Unit, has appealed to all human rights and democratic organisations and activists to express solidarity with Dr. Sen, whom it describes as “one of the most articulate and active defenders of human rights in India”.

The PUCL-CG has expressed concern at the delay tactics and interference in legal proceedings by the Chhattisgarh Police. One of the examples was the presence of the Investigating Officers right inside the Court during last hearing on December 5, although as prosecution witnesses they are not permitted to interfere with the trial proceedings. When Dr. Sen’s lawyers pointed this out, the court asked the police officials to leave.

Those who wish to express solidarity with Dr. Binayak Sen may kindly do so by signing an online petition.

27 December, 2007

Benazir Bhutto: the ride to death

Benazir Bhutto photographed on way to the Rawalpindi rally where she was assassinated

Pakistan People's Party chief Benazir Bhutto was shot and killed by a sniper in Rawalpindi on Thursday. Two of her close associates were critically injured in a blast that occurred at the same time.

She had a narrow escape eight weeks ago in a similar attack at Karachi when she returned to Pakistan after several years in exile.

Benazir Bhutto is believed to have been the US administration's choice for prime ministership. Apparently Parves Musharraf was ready to instal her in office. Her nomination papers for the elections were accepted while those of her chief rival, Pakistan Musl;im League chief Nawaz Sherif were rejected.

Both Bhutto and Sherif have served previously as Prime Minister. Sherif was inclined to keep out of the elections called by Musharraf but decided to contest as Bhutto was not ready to join the boycott.

Benazir Bhutto's elimination puts in jeoprady the electoral process which was supposed to pave the way for return of democracy.

See also IANS report: Benazir's day began in triumph, ended in assassination

The lesson the Congress needs to learn from Gujarat experience

GUJARAT has rejected the Congress again. The nation is discussing the likely impact of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s fourth successive electoral triumph in the State. BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, L. K. Advani, has said the victory in Gujarat heralds the party’s comeback on the national stage. Media reports say the Congress has shelved plans to call Lok Sabha elections before the term of the present house expires.

In a country of India's diversity, the experience of one State has only limited relevance elsewhere. With the Congress continuously declining and no national alternative in sight, regional politics is a reality.

When the political developments of the past six decades are analyzed, it can be seen that a two-party system has already emerged in some States. In places like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the Congress and the BJP are the two parties vying for power. In some other places, like Assam and Andhra Pradesh the Congress has to contend with regional parties for power. In some States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Tamil Nadu, the Congress is out of the power struggle. There other national and regional parties fight it out.

The situation in Punjab, West Bengal and Kerala is different. In Punjab, where the Sikh party, the Akali Dal, and the Hindu party, BJP, can together beat the Congress, that party is sometimes able to stage a comeback. In West Bengal, a front led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has established monopoly of power. In Kerala, a two-front system has emerged. If the CPI (M) and the Congress had summoned the courage to go it alone, the State may have by now evolved a two-party system, as in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

The Congress has to learn a lesson from the Gujarat experience. It lost power in the State in 1990. While it had bagged 149 out of 182 Assembly seats in the previous election, it could get only 33 seats in that year. The Janata Dal (70 seats) came first, followed by the BJP (67 seats). When the State went to the polls again five years later, the Janata Dal disappeared. The BJP won 121 seats and came to power. The Congress got only 45 seats. There has been no significant change in the position of the two parties since then, as the following figures bear out: In 1996, BJP got 117, Congress 53; in 2002, BJP 127, Congress 51; and in 2007 BJP 117, Congress 59.
It was the Hindu consolidation brought about by the Ayodhya issue that enabled the BJP, which had got only 11 seats in 1985, to raise its tally to 67 in 1990 and 121 in 1995. The communal riots of 2002 benefited the BJP in the elections held that year. The growth of communalism spoiled the game for the Congress.

This time Narendra Modi faced a serious problem of dissidence. The Congress gave the party ticket to some BJP rebels. The Rashtreeya Swayamsevak Sangh leadership was at loggerheads with Modi. Yet the Congress could not improve its position significantly. In the circumstances, the question arises whether the party has gone out of reckoning forever. Its only consolation is that there is no party in Gujarat which can push the Congress down to the third or fourth place, as has happened in UP and Bihar.

Sonia Gandhi, whom the continuously declining Congress looks upon as its saviour, has certainly been able to control the struggle for power within the party. But she has not been able to improve the party’s position even in UP, the turf of the Nehru-Gandhis.

The reason for the Congress party’s sad plight is that it has no credible leadership at the lower levels. Indira Gandhi did nothing to strengthen the party at the grassroots level after she broke with the Syndicate leaders who had the organization in their grips. Those whom Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi installed as leaders lacked popular base. They could not build it up either. Sonia Gandhi could not bring about a change in this situation.

There is no need to see the end of one-party rule at the Centre as a great tragedy. At the same time, that two dozen parties have to come together to form a government is not a desirable state of affairs. National parties with a broad vision are needed for the healthy functioning of democracy. Therefore, it is not Congressmen alone who want the party to endure. But it is for the party’s leadership to take steps to strengthen it. No one else can do that.
Based on “Nerkkazhcha” column which appeared in Kerala Kaumudi on December 27, 2007

26 December, 2007

The official 9/11 story is a lie, says writer Joel S. Hirschhorn

The bombing of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, is an event that changed the course of the world. But how much do we know about what happened on that day?

America’s political system is a conspiracy, the official 9/11 story is a lie, says Joel S. Hirschhorn, in an article written for the Centre for Research on Globalization and on view at its website since last week.

Without mincing words, Hirschhorn says: “Years of a bipartisan cover-up of 9/11 lies make it much more than one horrendous past event. It endures in infamy as a symptom of a corrupt and dishonest government.”

In his book, “Delusional Democracy”, Hirschhorn not only exposes the American political system but prescribes a solution for the problem. The problem, as he sees it, is that American society is saddled with distractive consumerism, a culture of dishonesty, and rampant corporate corruption of government. “Despite what false patriots tell us, we now have a delusional democracy, not one that citizens can trust to serve their interests,” he says. “We clearly need a Second American Revolution.” He argues that the Republic can be fixed without overthrowing the government.

A former professor of engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and then senior official with the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Governors Association, Joel S. Hirschhorn is now an activist writer. He can be reached through

Over to Hirschhorn’s article: 9/11 Truth Manifesto

A Year of Human Rights Struggles

As we ring out 2007, let us take a look at the human rights situation in India and the neighbourhood.

“The year 2007 will be remembered as a year in which historic struggles for human rights brought out increasingly belligerent responses from ruling elites across Asia,” says the Asian Human Rights Commission, in the annual report on the human rights situation in the continent, released on December 10, Human Rights Day. .

“It is certain that throughout the region more and more people are resolved to assert their rights. It is also clear that its autocrats will respond more and more aggressively in order to keep control. Instead of acknowledging the need for change, states throughout Asia are continuing to prefer overt violence and blatant constraints on basic freedoms.”

On India, the report says, “Economic and political leaders across the world have referred to India as a model for the convergence of a new global order: democracy and capitalism going hand in hand. But from a human rights standpoint, India did not improve much in 2007, but rather increasingly showed up its failures and inabilities to give even the most basic guarantees to all of its citizens.”

For details please visit the AHRC site.

24 December, 2007

Will Modi's win in Gujarat threaten India as a democratic and secular nation?

by Ghulam Muhammed

Today, this question will be on the minds of majority of people of India and even weighing heavily with international community. Can an emerging economic power like India should be available to a fascist political movement that may wreck the peace of the world?

Modi's election victory should be analyzed through three dominant undercurrents: It pits the state of Gujarat against the Central Government. It pits Hindus against the Muslims. It pits lawlessness against the Laws of the land.

Modi in Gujarat had orchestrated a campaign against the Central government, which is ruled by Congress and the Communists, diametrically opposed to Modi's Hindutva. When he raised the slogan: Jeetega Gujarat --- Gujarat will win; he left out the other part of the slogan, haregi Dilli --- Delhi will be defeated. The old Indian History of the Mughal Delhi, whom he derisively refers to as Sultanate of Delhi, has been resurrected to de-legitimize Congress and CPM and other coalition members of the UPA government, who carry the banner of secularism. Just as Communists have carved two states as their regional strongholds, where they are ensconced on a long term basis, Modi too feels, Hindutva needs a secure base in a regional state with its own private and distinct identity.

The difference between CPM and Modi is that while CPM has courted Muslim votes, both in West Bengal and in Kerala, to solidify its rule in a longer term consolidation and reaped its benefits. Modi, a true follower of the extremely radicalized RSS movement, that is ideologically committed to the physical destruction of Muslims, in India and abroad, has deeply communalized Gujarat polity and had demonized Muslims to carve out his own communalized vote-bank that is against the letter and spirit of Indian constitution. In fact, he is grossly in violation of the election code of conduct that prohibits and even debars any political party that does not confirm to Constitutional benchmark of believing and practicing the twin fundamentals of democracy and secularism.

For all practical purposes, Modi's progress has all the contours of a Hitler winning his election in a democratic Germany but later using his political power to impose his own brand of fascism, built around nationalism and racial superiority and exclusivity. Hitler had his Jews, while Modi has his Muslims. Hitler had his kristallnacht, Modi had his 2002 pogrom. On hearing that a German Embassy staff, Vom Rath was shot by a German Polish Jew living in Paris; after intense discussion, Hitler left 'fighters dinner' while Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels delivered the speech instead, in which he commented that "the F¨¹hrer has decided that such demonstrations should not be prepared or organised by the party, but insofar as they erupt spontaneously, they are not to be hampered." This may seem a fairly innocuous comment, but attending chief party judge Walter Buch later stated that the message was clear; with these words Goebbels had commanded the party leaders to organise the pogrom that would later be known as Kristallnacht. The SA shattered the storefronts of about 7500 Jewish stores and businesses, hence the appellation Kristallnacht (Crystal Night). Wikipedia describes: "At 1:20am on November 10, 1938, Reinhard Heydrich sent an urgent secret telegramme to "All Headquarters and Stations of the State Police, All Districts and Sub-districts of the SA" containing instructions regarding the riots.
The timing of the riots varied from unit to unit. The Gauleiters started at about 10:30pm, only two hours after news of vom Rath's death reached Germany. They were followed by the SA at 11pm, and the SS at around 1:20am. Most were wearing civilian clothes and were armed with sledgehammers and axes, and soon went to work on the destruction of Jewish property. The orders given to these men were very specific, however: no measures endangering non-Jewish German life or property were to be taken (synagogues too close to non-Jewish property were smashed rather than burned); Jewish businesses or dwellings could be destroyed but not looted; foreigners (even Jewish foreigners) were not to be the subjects of violence; and synagogue archives were to be transferred to the S.D. The men were also ordered to arrest as many Jews as the local jails would hold, the preferred targets being young, healthy males.

In exactly similar scenario, Modi held a meeting of his top people and reported to have given 3 clear days to avenge the Godhra train burnings, blaming local Muslims for the accident.. Just as on cue, in Germany party cadre destroyed hundreds of shops owned by Jews; in Gujarat a similar orgy of death and destruction was unleashed on Muslims. Their shops and properties were looted and then burned. In rural areas, Muslims were unceremoniously butchered, burned or buried in mass graves. Muslim women were raped, killed and burned. Some were torched alive.

Hitler gave one night. Modi is reported to have given three days.

Modi's public campaign brought the worst fascist logic to all his aggressive assertion. When he challenged Sonia ben to hang him for the premeditated murder of Sohrabuddin, he was challenging the rule of law in India. Modi did not care for the fact that he was in open and direct contempt of court and even liable to be prosecuted as the prime accused as the mastermind in a fake encounter, that is currently being pursued in courts. During the election campaign, Modi's outbursts were typical of Hitlerian harangues. He kept on challenging the law of the land.

Congress in opposition is in such a terribly unstable condition, that it dare not challenge Modi or his Bharatiya Janata Party, even when they commit blue murder in broad daylight. This weakness of secular and democratic opposition has boosted the aggressive politics of the fascist movement and bodes ill for the future of the country, as a bastion of democracy and secularism.

If political forces in India are not alert and aware, India could become a victim of a fascist takeover. Once entrenched, only wars can dislodge the usurpers.

Ghulam Muhammed, the author of this essay, can be contacted at>

Modi leads the BJP back to power almost single-handedly

Confounding critics, Chief Minister Narendra Modi led his party to a resounding victory in the Gujarat Assembly elections, almost single-handedly. Pollsters had forecast that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, which won a two-thirds majority in the Assembly in 2002, will return to power with a reduced majority. While they thought he would lose up to 20 seats, the actual loss was less than 10.

This was BJP’s third successive electoral victory under Modi’s leadership. Modi faced a major internal revolt on election eve and his relationship with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the ideological fountainhead of the Sangh Parivar, was less than cordial. That makes his victory all the more glorious.

Modi’s record victory in 2002 came when Gujarat stood communally polarized after the riots which resulted in the death of several thousand people. This time the campaign began on a healthy note with the Chief Minister projecting himself as a champion of development. As the Congress openly courted BJP dissidents, the media discussed the possibility of a change of administration. After Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s ‘merchant of death’ speech, Modi abandoned the development plank and settled for the old Hindutva card.

The failure of the Congress's comeback bid raises the question whether the party has gone out of reckoning for power in State, as in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

In the new 182-member Gujarat Assembly, there are just five Muslims, all elected on the Congress ticket. The party had put up six Muslims. One of them, a woman, lost. It appears many Muslim voters did not take kindly to the idea of a woman of the community entering the contest. The BJP did not put up a single Muslim candidate. Muslims account for nine per cent of the State’s population.

NDTV reported that Indian Americans remained glued to television sets and computers to follow live reports from Gujarat as the election results poured in BJP supporters opened champagne bottles to celebrate Modi’s victory.

The channel quoted Chandrakant Patel, a former President of the Overseas Friends of the BJP as saying, “This will set the trend for national politics. Our next goal is Delhi.”
Voice of America correspondent in New Delhi Steve Herman echoed similar sentiments when he said the BJP victory has ramifications beyond the borders of Gujarat.

The attempt to project the Assembly results on to the national stage needs to be approached with caution. The BJP which took more than two-thirds of the Assembly seats from the State in 2002 had to concede 12 of the 26 Lok Sabha seats to the Congress in 2004.

22 December, 2007

Open Letter to Prime Minister to help Varanasi weavers suffering from tuberculosis

The Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong, has released an open letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, signed by 20 residents of Varanasi, seeking immediate action to help tuberculosis patients in that ancient city. The letter was prepared on the basis of evidence recorded by a people’s tribunal.

The following are excerpts from the letter:

Mr. Mohmoodul Hassan, son of Mohammad Hassan, residing at Lohta village, Varanasi district, has been suffering from tuberculosis for the past 22 years. Mohmoodul was diagnosed as having tuberculosis by the Banaras Hindu University Hospital in Varanasi.
Mohmoodul is a handloom weaver. Because of abject poverty and the lack of a proper income due to the decline of the handloom weaving industry in Uttar Pradesh, particularly in Varanasi, Mohmoodul’s family is finding it hard to make both ends meet. The family has hardly anything to eat. The entire family is suffering from starvation and resultant malnourishment.

Mohmoodul can only find work two to three days each week and only earns about Rs.50 a day. With this low income he cannot purchase sufficient food to feed his family. Afsana, Mohmoodul’s wife, earns Rs.40 a week doing embroidery work. Even their ten-year-old son, Sadiq, earns a small income by weaving, which helps to keep the family alive.

Mohmoodul has only obtained an Above-Poverty-Line (APL) card. The APL card does not allow Mohmoodul to obtain food grains from the ration shop at a subsidized price. Though Mohmoodul had applied for a Below-Poverty-Line (BPL) card, it was denied to him.

Even though Mohmoodul is suffering from tuberculosis, there are no public health facilities in Varanasi where he can get free treatment for his ailment. The public health system in Varanasi is not geared up even to provide emergency medical care for the poor. When Mohmoodul’s wife was in an advanced state of pregnancy early this year, medical care was denied to her at the Kashi Vidyapith Primary Health Centre since the family could not bribe the staff at the centre. There is a health insurance scheme launched by the government for handloom weavers. However, membership in the scheme is limited to the members of the Handloom Weavers’ Association. One of the conditions for joining the Association is ‘not to earn any income other than from weaving.’ This condition disqualifies hundreds of handloom weavers from becoming members of the Association.

Mohmoodul and his family are not alone. There are dozens of other persons who suffer from tuberculosis in Lohta. Mr. Sirajuddin, Mr. Ilias Ansari, his son Salman and daughter Parvin, Mr. Rahmat Ali and his wife Ajgari, Mr. Wahamoodul Hasan, Ms. Rehna, Ms. Zubeda Bibi, Ms. Aswa, Mr. Badruddin, Mr. Mustaquim, Ms. Farjana and Mr. Mohammod Gulam Ali are among the persons from the village who have been identified as suffering from tuberculosis. In fact, an estimated 70% of the weavers in Varanasi suffer from tuberculosis. Despite the existence of some governmental agencies with sufficient resources, whose specific mandate is to assist tuberculosis patients and to provide treatment, none of them has received any kind of assistance from these agencies.

The doctors in government clinics and hospitals only provide medication for a short period, sometimes for only two days, and then tell their patients to obtain further medication from private medical shops. There have also been situations in which patients diagnosed as having tuberculosis by private doctors were later told by government hospitals that they are not infected with tuberculosis, with a view to denying them treatment.

The right to health is a fundamental right. So far the State or the Central government has not devised any credible plans to identify those weavers who need assistance for health security in Uttar Pradesh. An officer from the State Handloom Department, who participated in a people’s tribunal, jointly organized by the People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, Action Aid International – India, Bunkar Dastakar Adhikar Manch and the Asian Human Rights Commission on 18 December 2007, informed the tribunal and the public that the Handloom Department has no mechanism to identify weavers who are in need of assistance. Almost all the participants who deposed before the tribunal said that when they approach the government hospitals they are asked to pay money even for taking an x-ray.

In these circumstances, the undersigned request you to:

1. take immediate measures to ensure that the persons named above, and their families, receive medical attention provided by the government, at the earliest, for treating their tuberculosis

2. take steps to initiate an immediate survey conducted by the government to assess and to identify the weavers and their family members suffering from tuberculosis in Uttar Pradesh, starting the exercise in the Varanasi District

3. direct the State government to take immediate measures so that the weavers who require the services of the Public Food Distribution System receive proper ration cards based on their actual financial status

Yours sincerely,

1. Sirrajuddin, Bajardeeha, Varanasi
2. Naseem Akhtar, Bajardeeha, Varanasi
3. Surendra Prasad, Village Amasaha, Post Office Baanspaar, Maharajgunj
4. Chhote Laal, Village Harpur Mahant, Post Office Pakadi Tribhuwanpur, Maharajgunj
5. Rajendra Prasad, PVCHR, Varanasi
6. Ved Prakash Ojha, Brahmnagar, Robertsgunj, Sonbhadra
7. Niyaz Ansari, Urdu Daily, Varis Awadh, Varanasi
8. Mukhtaar, Navapura Chungi, Varanasi
9. Ramji, Lallapura, Varanasi
10. Vijay Kumar, Lallapura, Varanasi
11. Jamalluddin, Bajardeeha, Varanasi
12. Shamimuddin, Bajardeeha, Varanasi
13. Samsudoha, Lohata, Varanasi
14. Khalilulha, Navapura Chungi, Varanasi
15. Moinuddin, Bajardeeha, Varanasi
16. Baddrauddin - Bajardeeha, Varanasi 17. Mohammad Farukh, Navapura Chungi, Varanasi
18. Amar Jama, Rewadi Talab, Varanasi
19. Akbar Ali, Kaajipura khurd, Varanasi
20. Mohammad Shakeel Ansari, Lallapura, Varanasi

21 December, 2007

Villagers on Bangladesh border are locked out of the country every night

Several thousand Indian citizens living in villages on the Bangladesh border, stretching a long distance from near Kolkata to Tripura, lose their right to move within the territory of India for 12 hours every day. They are locked out at night.

According to a note circulated by the Barak Human Rights Protection Committee, there are more than 170 villages along the India-Bangladesh international border.

Some tears ago the Government of India had erected barbed wire fences along the border to check illegal migration. Several Indian villages are outside the fenced area. As the clock strikes 6 in the evening the gates along the barbed wire fences are closed for the night. As a result, residents of the villages that lie beyond the fences are locked out of the country – until the clock strikes 6 again, in the morning, and the gates are opened.

There were unresolved boundary disputes between India and Pakistan at the time of Partition. After the birth of Bangladesh in 1971, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman of Bangladesh signed a pact providing for a 100-metre wide no man’s land along the border.

The no man’s land falls outside the fences. Once the gates are closed, people living in that area will not be able to cross over even if there is a medical emergency. When marriages and other social functions are take place, the villagers obtain prior permission from the concerned District Magistrate, who will then arrange to keep the gates open for the visitors to return home.

Veteran journalist Mrinal Talukdar of UNI has made a short film of 20 minutes, titled “Nobody’s Men” about the residents of these villages. The film was shot at Lafsai and Jarapata, two border villages in the Sutarkandi area of Karimganj district in Assam.
“Nobody’s Men” is among the 13 movies selected for screening during the International Film Festival to be held at Mumbai from February 4 to 9, 2008.

The Barak Human Rights Protection Committee has said it will send a fact-finding team to Sutarkandi and initiate action on the basis of itsrecommendations to ensure that the part-time Indian citizens the benefits of full-time citizenship.

20 December, 2007

Indian government succumbs to fundamentalist pressure

Taslima Nazrin

By asking the Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nazrin to remain in New Delhi and stay away from public activities, the Government of India has exposed itself as lacking the courage to stand up to political and religious bullies

Nazrin, who fled Bangladesh after religious fanatics held out murder threats, was living in exile in Kolkata until recently, feeling quite at home amidst people who speak her language.

That Muslim fundamentalists were not happy with her presence in India became clear a few months ago when a group of hoodlums, led by two State legislators, attempted to assault her while attending a function at the Press Club of Hyderabad.

Last month demonstrators in Kolkata raised slogans against her during a protest against the atrocities in Nandigram, called by a Muslim organization. On November 21 the Kolkata police whisked her away from her city home and dropped her in a government guest house in Jaipur, capital of BJP-ruled Rajasthan. The Rajasthan government, which was not willing to play host to her, shifted her to the Rajasthan House in New Delhi. From there the Government of India shifted her to an undisclosed destination.

Taslima Nazrin’s Indian visa is due to expire in the next few days. NDTV reported that she wants to stay in Kolkata and wants to leave the country if she is not allowed to go back to that city.

According to media reports, the Indian government has told her that she must remain in New Delhi and stay away from public functions. Although it has cited security reasons for the restrictions sought to be imposed on her, it is evident that it is succumbing to fundamentalist pressure.

The Hindu quoted Taslima Nazrin as saying she is ready to remain in Delhi if she is not able to go back to Kolkata.

19 December, 2007

Data base of justice delivery institutions in India inaugurated

People’s Watch, the Madurai-based national human rights organization, launched on Tuesday (December 18, 2007), an electronic data base of information relating to justice delivery institutions in India.

SAJI is short for Strengthened Access to Justice in India.

The Department of Justice of the Government of India and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) are associated with People’s Watch in the creation of the data base, the first of its kind in India.

The website, the culmination of a year-long effort, was formally inaugurated by the Indian Minister for Law and Justice, H. L. Bhardwaj at a function in New Delhi. People’s Watch Executive Director Henri Tiphagne described the occasion as “one of the greatest moments in our journey towards creating a human rights culture”.

The resource directory, which has been created, contains information about justice institutions in 312 districts across 19 States. It is a tool which will help the citizens to speedily access justice sector institutions through a dynamic single window system. Hopefully, easy access to information will promote increased interaction between users and justice providers and make the system transparent and accountable.

The formal justice delivery institutions covered include the courts, prisons, police, prosecutors, national / State / district / taluk legal aid services authorities, bar councils and bar associations, human rights institutions, non-government organizations offering a varieties of legal aid services, human rights organizations, shelter / rehabilitation homes, hospitals etc.

Henri Tiphagne has appealed to all to visit the website and offer their valuable comments and feedback so as to help achieve the intended purposes. He says, “Although, we are convinced that the is an incredible work, the information made available cannot be considered as complete for a number of reasons. This new initiative needs to go through a rigorous process of data verification and fine-tuning. The next phase of the project would have accomplished all those requirements in addition to having information of the remaining 293 districts to fulfil the requirements of the 605 districts in India.”

People’s Watch has suggested setting up of district level help line for justice information, which may be run by an NGO but physically located within the District National Information Centre (DNic). This will mean the work being owned by the Department of Justice but in partnership with the civil society. Another proposal it has made is that the Legal Aid system must be strengthened by making NGOs its partners.

18 December, 2007

Modi's Gujaratis

What will we call Ghulam Mohammad Sheikh, who put Gujarat on the painting map of the world.

What about Bandukwala?

What name will be given to garba music of Ismail Darbar?

Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan, Saira, Rashida, Niazben where will they fit?

Are they Gujarati or just "them" in Modi's Gujarat?

Nasiruddin Haidar Khan raises these questions in an article "Modi's Gujaratis", distributed by

17 December, 2007

BINAYAK SEN: Redefining health care in an unjust society

C Sathyamala writes in the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics
about Binayak Sen,
who has been in jail in Chattisgarh since May 14.

Binayak Sen was arrested by the Chattisgarh police under sections of the Chhatisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005, and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (2004) for alleged links with banned Maoist groups. His arrest was the upshot of his attempts to raise issues of human rights violation in government-sponsored violence, within the State and outside, in his capacity as the General Secretary, Chattisgarh People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

You are probably wondering what is the interest of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics is a person in custody on such serious charges. Well, the answer is simple, Binayak Sen is a practising doctor. He sees his activism as intrinsic to his work as a health professional, says Sathyamala in the IJME article.

Dr. Sen, who graduated in medicine from the Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, is a renowned paediatrician. He is actively associated with the Jan Swasthya Sahyog (People's Health Support Group).

When word of Dr Sen spread, noted social activist Medha Patkar and others urged the Chief Minister of Chattisgarh to release him immediately. "We have reason to believe that Dr. Binayak Sen, as a member of PUCL, is being targeted for continually raising civil rights issues in Chhattisgarh, including the recent killing of 12 Adivasis in Bijapur district on March 31,” they said in a letter to him. “We strongly condemn this politically motivated arrest and are deeply concerned about the health and safety of Dr. Sen while in custody."

For several years Dr. Sen has been involved in training people in villages to look after the health of their own communities, running free clinics in areas where the state's medical facilities are not available. For his work he was awarded the Paul Harrison Award in 2004 by the Christian Medical College in Vellore.

The government ignored the appeal for Dr. Sen's release. The courts having rejected his applications for bai, he continues to languish in jail.

16 December, 2007

An ill-advised move by the judiciary to curb media excesses

In an apparent attempt to set the parameters for “decent” investigative journalism, the Delhi High Court on Friday prohibited inducing of a person to commit an offence, which he is not known or likely to commit, and shooting it on camera as a "sting operation".

It also asked the government to consider the setting up of a panel, with members drawn from the government and the police, to clear stings before telecast.The told media houses to prohibit reporters from producing or airing any programme, which is based on entrapment of an individual or "fabricated, intrusive and sensitive".

"The media is not to test individuals by putting them through what one might call the 'inducement test' and portray it as a scoop that has uncovered a hidden or concealed truth," a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice M. K. Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Khanna said."No doubt the media is well within its rightful domain when it seeks to use tools of investigative journalism to bring us face to face with the ugly underbelly of the society..." the court said.”However, it is not permissible for the media to entice and try to actively induce an individual into committing an offence which otherwise he is not known and likely to commit."

In this context, the court referred to an instance of "inducement"drawn from mythology: "Sage Vishwamitra succumbed to the enchantment of Maneka".

The bench was giving its ruling on suo motu cognisance of a fake sting done on a government teacher, Uma Khurana, by Live India news channel in August 2007, which led to mob violence and physical violence against her.The court wanted the Press Council of India to take the initiative todraw up a "self-regulatory code of conduct" in this regard until the Ministry of Broadcasting finally draws up a statute.

"False and fabricated sting operations directly infringing upon a person's right to privacy should not recur because of desire to earn more and to have higher TRP ratings," it observed. "Regulation of electronic media has always invoked sharp and divergent views with emotive and logical pleas and counter arguments. We are informed that the Ministry has invited suggestions from the general public, including the media on a proposed Broadcasting Bill and Code of Conduct. A decision in this regard has to be taken by the government," the court noted.It directed the Ministry to consider a series of 12 guidelines recommended by A. S. Chandhok, who had assisted it as amicus curiae, while drafting the law to provide for prior grant of permission to a media house or channel from a committee appointed by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

"Permission to telecast sting operation will be granted by the committee after satisfying itself that it is in (the) public interest to telecast the same. This safeguard is necessary since those who mount a sting operation themselves commit the offences of impersonation, criminal trespass under false pretence and making a person commit an offence," the court quoted from the guidelines submitted by the amicus.The panel, as per the guidelines, will be headed by a retired High Court Judge to be appointed by the government in consultation with the High Court and two members, one of which ought to be a person not below the rank of Additional secretary and second one being the Additional Commissioner of Police. In case of persons other than employees of the channel or media houses conducting the sting, the guidelines propose that the telecaster should obtain a certificate from the person who recorded the sting certifying that the operation was genuine to his knowledge.

In the particular case, the bench said Khurana, who was dismissed from government service as a fall-out of the sting, had "enough grounds and material to file a case for causing damage to her reputation" against the news channel. "Damages in accordance with the law can be awarded by the court in case of defamation and loss of reputation," it said, adding that it was left open to the Delhi Government to reconsider through an appropriate forum her dismissal from service.

The following are the amicus curiae's suggestions:

•If sting is outsourced, get certificate saying contents authentic

•Maintain record in writing on sting

•Committee headed by ex-HC judge to clear sting

•Unedited, edited tapes to be submitted to panel

•Avoid shocking, offending audience

•Chief Editor of channel to be responsible for self-regulation

•Compliance with Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act, 1995

•Should not invade personal or private affairs, or create public panic or offend religious feelings.•Ensure accuracy

•Observe community standards of decency

The Editors Guild of India said the High Court’s suggestions would introduce “a draconian, judicially-backed Emergency by the back door”. While expressing total agreement on the need for stringent pre-telecast self-regulatory and internal checks in news organizations, it said the remedy suggested by the court was a deadly one.

The High Court’s ruling is ill-advised. There is certainly need to regulate sting operations. This must be done by the media itself. Intrusion of any external agency in the area will be an infringement of media freedom. The Live India story, as we know, was not based on a genuine sting operation. It involved breach of the law, and must be dealt with as such.

15 December, 2007

PAKISTAN: AHRC calls for Iftehkar Mohd Choudhry's reinstatement as Chief Justice

The following is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong

Iftehkar Mohammed Choudhry, the Chief Justice of Pakistan who was dismissed from office by President Pervez Musharraf after the imposition of the emergency rule, has been recognised as the lawyer of the year 2007 by the National Law Journal, published in the United States. This recognition is most appropriate. In Pakistan now the very existence of the legal profession and the judiciary, as independent institutions are exposed to imminent danger. It is to be hoped that the recognition conferred on the dismissed chief justice will evoke a response from lawyers, judges, all democratically minded people and governments regarding the endangered judiciary and the legal profession in the country.
What is now happening in Pakistan is not just a setback to these basic institutions of basic rule of law and democracy but a possible downturn which, if not addressed now will plunge Pakistan into a completely arbitrary rule and lawlessness. There are times when concerned public opinion is challenged in a very fundamental way to decide as to whether it could make a change for the better in a very critical situation. If it fails to do so it will have to sit and weep for many decades to come. Already a tremendous damaged has been done within the last few weeks since the imposition of the emergency and the virtual dismissal of many judges from the Supreme Court and from the higher courts. This was accompanied by handpicked people being appointed by judges in their place. The people of Pakistan will understand this in no other way but as a fatal wound caused to the independence of the judiciary. President Musharraf, who has claimed to be St. Michael, fighting against the dragon of terrorism has in fact turned his spear on the independent judiciary of his country. Certainly there is resistance to this move by the lawyers, judges and a very large section of the population. This resistance is the only hope that the country has.

The recognition as Lawyer of the Year conferred on the former Chief Justice is fitting as what is being challenged in Pakistan is the very meaning of the law in the country. The military ruler has treated the country’s constitution as if it were toilet paper. He has flushed it down the drain and put his own declarations and decrees in its place. In any country which has respect for law his action would be treated either an act of a madman or as an act of treason, but the super powers that keep president Musharraf in power have not seen it that way. They treat the destruction of the very fabric of the rule of law cynically. Let millions of people’s lives be damned into a lawless situation, what do they care?

Now it falls on the lawyers of Pakistan and their judges who have thought it worth sacrificing their careers to defend the independence of the judiciary and the people of Pakistan to resist with all their strength the military design to destroy the independence of the judiciary in their country. Eminent lawyers like Munir Malik, the former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association and some judges and lawyers who have even faced severe torture, arrest and detention show a determination that needs a proactive support from democratically minded people all over the world. It is to be hoped that in this hour of great need they will not be betrayed. Iftehkar Mhd. Choudhry is a symbol of this great historical moment. The Asian Human Rights Commission hopes that having recognised him as Lawyer of the Year he will also be treated in that way by the world community of lawyers, judges and democratically minded people.
The Asian Human Rights Commission, founded in 1984, is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia.

13 December, 2007

The Supreme Court sets the stage for roll-back

I wish to congratulate Justices A. K. Mathur and Markandey Katju of the Supreme Court who have called for judicial restraint and cautioned against the Judiciary encroaching upon the realms of the Executive and the Legislature.

In a judgment, delivered on December 10, they said, “Jagadambika Pal’s case of 1998, involving the U.P. Legislative Assembly, and the Jharkhand Assembly case of 2005 are two glaring examples of deviation from the clearly provided constitutional scheme of separation of powers.”

They added, “The interim orders of this court [on the conduct of floor test and motion of confidence], as is widely accepted, upset the delicate constitutional balance among the judiciary, the legislature and the executive, and were described by J.S. Verma, former Chief Justice of India, as judicial aberrations which he hoped the Supreme Court will soon correct.” ( The Hindu, December 10, 2007)

Judicial excess was the topic of the first piece that appeared in this blog: Judiciary: Time to Roll Back (April 24, 2007). Two days later I reproduced here an editorial on the subject, which had appeared in the Economic and Political Weekly: “Constitutional separation strained” (EPW, November 26, 2006).

With the Mathur-Katju judgment, I believe the roll-back process has begun. On December 12, another bench, comprising Justices S. B. Sinha and H.S. Bedi, taking note of that judgment, decided not to proceed with the hearing of a public interest litigation which had been before it since 2004. It requested the Chief Justice of India, Mr. K. G. Balakrishnan, to post the matter before a larger bench. (The Hindu, December 12, 2007)

On December 13, the issue was raised before a three-judge bench, headed by Justice Balakrishnan himself. This bench decided to proceed with the matter before it, holding that the Mathur-Katju judgment does not apply. (Zee News, December 13, 2007)

Former Chief Justice P. N. Bhagvati, in whose time public interest litigation grew in size and scope, immediately hailed Justice Balakrishnan’s decision.

Naturally the different positions taken by the three benches have given rise to confusion all around. Many are wondering whose will be the last word. It may take quite some time to resolve the confusion.

It is not anybody’s case that public interest litigation must be jettisoned. It has served as a corrective mechanism and must stay as a necessary instrument to further the cause of justice -- social, political and economic. What needs to be curbed is not the citizen’s right to seek redress through public interest litigation but the judge’s tendency to exercise powers that do not belong to him.

The most dangerous nuclear state


Which nuclear state is the most dangerous? The United States, says Dr. Shireen M. Mazari, Director-General of the Institute of Strategic Studies, Islamabad.

Dr. Shireen M. Mazari is a distinguished scholar with a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University, New York, and an an honours degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

She presents her case in an article circulated by

09 December, 2007

Colour bar in airlines

Women belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes allege they can’t make it to cabin crew jobs because they’re dark. See Arun Ram’s report in DNA, “Colour creates in-flight turbulence

06 December, 2007

IRAN: Psychological Warfare?

The NIE claims that ‘Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003’. This report now in circulation, and being repeated by every media outlet, and as importantly, by way of word of mouth, is giving credibility to the warmongers that Iran actually had a nuclear weapons program, with the idea that ‘repetition begets belief’. Drumming home a false message, the White House will get the justification it needs to impose further sanctions, with the idea of escalating into a war, says Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich.