New on my other blogs

KERALA LETTER
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?

വായന

31 July, 2008

Cheating the party and cheating the people

When the Communist Party of India (Marxist) withdrew its support to the Manmohan Singh government, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had before him two choices. He could give up the Speakership and stand with the party which sent him to the Lok Sabha. Or he could reject the party’s suggestion and stand with the house that had made him the Speaker. If he thought solely as a CPI-M man, he could only take the first choice. If, as demanded by the office of the Speaker, he looked at the issue from outside the framework of party politics, the second choice would become more acceptable.

If the report that he informed the party leadership that he did not want to vote with the Bharatiya Janata Party is correct, it is clear that he did not look at the matter solely as the Speaker. As critics have pointed out, the CPI-M has voted with the BJP in the past too. Whenever the party so directed, like other comrades, he had voted with the BJP. But it will be not be proper to characterize his present stand as dishonest on that ground. On the previous occasions, no other way was open to him. This time a new path was available and he took it. He had two different identities as a member elected to the Lok Sabha on the CPI-M ticket and as the Speaker. In the end, he attached more importance his identity as the Speaker. A democratic sensibility that makes it possible to set aside party interests and act in keeping with wider national interests is discernible here.

As one with long political experience, Chatterjee certainly knew that the party will brand him a lover of office. That this did not dissuade him from taking the path that he chose is something the party cannot easily accept. Under the system that the party follows, those lower down are duty bound to accept decisions taken by those at higher levels unquestioningly. Chatterjee’s decision has the potential to undermine its foundation.

Speakers usually assume charge with a promise to stay above party politics. When Varkala Radhakrishnan of the CPI-M, who has been Speaker of the Kerala Assembly, questions the concept of the Speaker’s impartiality and asks whether Vakkom Purushothaman, a Congressman who served as Speaker, had maintained impartiality, the gap between precept and practice in politics comes to the fore. In this country, there have been occasions when a person who was in the Speaker’s chair became the Chief Minister or a minister before one could flutter one’s eyelids. But it is not proper to torpedo the principle by pointing to such deviations. Leaders must treat them as exceptions and work for good precedents.

In including Somnath Chatterjee’s name in the list of party members submitted to the President, CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat harmed the concept of the Speaker’s impartiality. In the early years of Independence, the Congress had established the tradition of the Speaker staying out of the party while he held that position. It is doubtful if even that party observes that practice today. There are people in that party who, while being Speaker, were active in group politics.

Somnath Chatterjee continued his party connections even after he took over as Speaker in 2004. But he was excluded from the Central Committee at the party congress of 2005. It is said that he wanted to remain in the committee but gave up the desire on Karat’s advice. It is interesting to note that three years ago Karat was more eager than Chatterjee to adhere to precedents.

The confidence vote would have taken place without a hitch even if Chatterjee had resigned as Speaker in compliance with the party’s directive. The Deputy Speaker would have presided while the confidence motion was being discussed. Since he, like the Speaker, was under a party whip to vote against the government, there would have been no change in the vote count on either side.

Beyond the attitude of individuals and parties, what should be decisive in such matters is the desire to maintain healthy democratic practices. Everyone swears publicly to act without fear or favour when he takes up a constitutional post. He has to remain truthful to the Constitution, which says that We the People of India made it and gave it unto ourselves. But, for a Communist, the party is above everything else and his primary loyalty is to it. Loyalty to the Constitution comes only after that. According to a saying of the days of princely rule, the royal command can break the rock. As far as the CPI-M is concerned, commands issuing from the A.K.G. Bhavan in New Delhi and the A.K.G. Centre in Thiruvananthapuram have the same force.

Somnath Chatterjee’s crime is that he valued loyalty to the Constitution more than loyalty to the party. That is why State party secretary Pinarayi Vijayan called him a cheat. As Politburo members, Pinarayi Vijayan and Kodiyeri Balakrishnan stand higher in the party hierarchy than Chatterjee who only got to the Central Committee level. Those looking at things from within the party framework will have no doubt at all that Chatterjee deserves the ridicule. But at least some people outside it now see Chatterjee as a saviour of democracy.

The basic question is not whether Somnath Chatterjee’s decision as an individual is right or wrong. It is: to whom should party members who hold constitutional or other positions be loyal? The Speaker, the Chief Minister and the ministers are elected representatives. They got these positions as part of their political activity. If their conduct or that of their party is not satisfactory, those who elected them will have the opportunity to give a verdict against them. At the most they will have to wait for five years for it.

There are many government employees in Kerala who maintain relations with political parties. The political affiliation of their organizations is widely known. It is not uncommon for one to establish relations with a party while still a student. At one time, government jobs were denied in the name of such relations. The end of that practice is a triumph of democracy. For, one’s political belief must not be a bar to government employment. At the same time, under the service rules, a government employee does not have the right to be member of a political party. If he is a member of a party at the time of appointment he has to give up the membership. If he is not, he should not seek or accept membership while in service.

A government employee can be member of a cultural organization. There are many cultural organizations with political links in the country. Among them are the Rashtreeya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Purogamana Kala Sahitya Sangham (progressive artists and writers organization). Not content with being members of such organizations, government servants at various levels maintain party membership. Information about CPI-M members has come out from time to time. The clandestine membership of some government officials came to light when they earned the leadership’s displeasure and were expelled from the party. They included a university vice-chancellor and an executive engineer. Two police constables’ membership of the party became known when a leader attempted to prevent them from voting in party elections as they belonged to a rival group. Party considerations surface at election time in the organization set up to promote the welfare of policemen and take care of their work-related problems.

Like Somnath Chatterjee, government employees who are members of the CPI-M are bound by party rules to obey its orders. Since Chatterjee belonged to a high party body, the general secretary alone could issue directions to him. The branch secretary can issue instructions to a policeman who is member of a branch committee. The activities of persons in the lower echelons are keenly watched by those at the top. Television channels had brought us the scene of the party State secretary upbraiding an employee of the Kerala House in New Delhi who had raised an allegation against film star Mammootty.

It is not CPI-M members alone who have infiltrated government service. There will be occasions when a government employee who belongs to a party is compelled to decide whether his loyalty is to the party or to the government. Will he then cheat the party or the government? Here, cheating the government means cheating the people.
Based on column “Nerkkazhcha” appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated July 31, 2008

30 July, 2008

Kashmir may be the key to Obama’s counter-terrorism policy: NAM commentary

Barack Obama’s South Asia policy adviser says coming to grips with Pakistan’s obsession with India is critical to realizing American objectives in Afghanistan and beyond.

In a commentary distributed by New America Media Sunil Adam outlines the views of a key aide to the prospective Democratic presidential candidate.

See his commentary: Kashmir May Be the Key to Obama’s Counterterrorism Policy

27 July, 2008

Kalavati Bandhukar leads Vidarbha farmers’ rally demanding fresh crop loan

On July 22, during the Lok Sabha debate on the confidence motion, Rahul Gandhi mentioned the case of Kalavati, wife of a Vidarbha farmer who had committed suicide and mother of nine children. He said she had told him her husband landed in trouble as he depended on a single crop, cotton. She was now trying to diversify her sources of income.

As Gandhi brought up Kalavati’s name more than once, there were derisive comments from opposition members, who presumably thought he was building her up as a counterpoise to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, who was spearheading the move to bring down the government.

Rahul Gandhi claimed that energy security resulting from the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement would help rural families like Kalavati’s to realize their dream of better lives.

Gandhi had visited Kalavati in her modest village home on July 18 during an unannounced visit to Vidarbha.

In a report from Mumbai, the Malayalam daily Malayala Manorama said that arrangements for the visit were made by Margaret Alva, AICC general secretary in charge of Maharashtra, and that P. Sainath, The Hindu’s Rural Affairs Editor, who was largely responsible for drawing the nation’s attention to the Vidarbha farmers’ plight, had helped in drawing up the itinerary.

Kalavatibai Bandhukar has now emerged as a spokesperson of Vidarbha’s farmers. She was among the speakers at a rally organized by the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) on July 25 and attended by thousands of farmers of Yavatmal district.

According to VJAS, more than 90% of the cotton farmers have been left out of the loan waiver scheme announced by Indian government and farmers in Vidarbha are not getting fresh crop loans. It plans to stage dharna before all banks to press the demand for complete loan waiver.

VJAS, which has been keeping track of farmers’ suicide, says more than 5,000 farmers of Vidarbha have taken their lives since June 2005.

Kalavatibai Bandhukar, addressing the rally, said she had not received any help from the administration so far and was finding it very difficult to keep her family alive. She would be forced to follow the same path as her husband if the administration continued to be apathetic. .

A resolution adopted at the rally urged the government to implement the National Food Security Mission (NFSM) in Vidarbha and make a special outlay for the region under the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY). It also called for a comprehensive policy for land rights to landless, marginal farmers and tribals cultivating barren land.

Information about the rally is based on a report circulated by Kishore Tiwari, President of VJAS. His telephone number: 09422108846
e-mail: kishortiwari@gmail.com

US based Indian Muslim group denounces bomb blasts in Ahmedabad and Bangalore

Washington D.C., July 26, 2008

Indian Muslim Council-USA (IMC-USA: http://www.imc-usa.org), an advocacy group dedicated towards safeguarding India's pluralist and tolerant ethos, denounces in strongest possible terms the bomb blasts in the Indian cities of Ahmedabad and Bangalore and expresses solidarity with the victims.

According to reports, a series of 17 blast occurred in crowded places in Ahmedabad city leaving at least 29 people dead and over 100 injured. A day earlier, the city of Bangalore was struck with bomb blasts that killed 2 people and injured several others. "Humanity is the ultimate victim in such acts of mindless violence" said Mr. Rasheed Ahmed, President of IMC-USA. He further stated that "The authorities should conduct a thorough and transparent investigation immediately and refrain from adopting the usual template of blaming Muslim sounding virtual groups whose existence or lack thereof cannot be proven".

In recent months, authorities have come under intense criticism for their ineffectiveness in conducting honest and transparent probes into blasts that rocked other Indian cities. During the blasts in Hyderabad last year, rather than track the culprits, the police arrested scores of innocent Muslim youths associated with various civil liberties groups in the city. After weeks of harassment and torture, almost all the arrested had to be released on account of lack of evidence.

This police embarrassment was preceded by the high profile expose and convictions of top police officials from Gujarat who were running a racket of killing innocent Muslims in "fake encounters" by labeling them as terrorists belonging to Muslim militant groups.

Earlier last year, some Intelligence Bureau officers confessed to an official CBI inquiry that members of Intelligence Bureau itself are involved in "training and manufacturing terrorists" who are recruited and sent on "terrorist missions" where they are handily arrested by awaiting cops. These cops then get promotions and bravery awards.

IMC-USA calls upon government and police authorities to demonstrate political will and nab the perpetrators of this heinous crime by conducting a transparent and honest investigation rather than taking the convenient route of scapegoating innocent people.

Indian Muslim Council-USA is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation.

CONTACT:
Dr. Hyder Khan
phone/fax:1-800-839-7270
email: media@imc-usa.org

24 July, 2008

India is rapidly becoming global R and D hub: research finding

The following is a message from researcher Vivek Wadhwa (vivek@wadhwa.com), announcing the release of his findings on Indian industry. The message was addressed Prof. Sreenath Sreenivasan, who circulated it in SAJA Forum.
Sree, many have been predicting the demise of Indian industry. They say that rising salaries, poor infrastructure, a weak education, etc. will cause Indian industry to implode, that the Indian IT industry was just a flash in the pan.

Yet my research at Duke and Harvard has shown the opposite -- that despite all the obstacles, India is rapidly becoming a global R&D hub. I used to be a tech CEO, and was one of the first to outsource R&D do India. What I saw the Indian It industry achieve in 15 years is happening in half the time in an assortment of industries. Its scientists are doing sophisticated drug discovery for Big Pharma, its engineers are designing key components of jetliners for Boeing and Airbus, helping to design automobile bodies, dashboards, and power trains for Detroit vehicle manufacturers, and are developing next-generation networking solutions for companies like Cisco.

Indian companies are also developing innovative solutions for the Indian marketplace, such as the $2500 car produced by Tata.

My own research has shown that India is in poor shape with its higher
education - the country graduates less than 1000 PhD's in engineering --which is not even enough to staff the growing universities, let alone build an R&D machine.

So how is India doing all this?

Finding the answer has been an obsession for my team, for the last year. Kauffman Foundation, Duke and Harvard are releasing a report tomorrow, which solves this puzzle. The report is called " How the Disciple became the Guru: Is it time for the US to learn workforce development from former disciple India?". It shows how India's companies learned the best practices of Western companies and perfected these. Indian industry has developed a surrogate education system which can take workers with weak education and turn these into world class R&D specialists…

Imagine how far India has come that a prestigious foundation like Kauffman does such a press release saying it is time for the US to learn from India.

Kauffman is the "foundation for entrepreneurship" - they are
considered the guru's on US entrepreneurship, education and
competitiveness.

For journalists, I have uploaded an interim version of the report here:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1170049.

'Living Without a Car: My New American Responsibility'

New America Media editor Andrew Lam, an immigrant from Vietnam, has given up his car, considering it his “new American responsibility” in view of the gas crisis.

In an article, titled “Living Without a Car: My New American Responsibility”, he describes how the experiment is proceeding.

When the third alternative emerges

With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh proving that he commands majority in the Lok Sabha, the government has earned the right to go ahead with the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement. However, the odour left behind by the tactics employed by government supporters to win the confidence vote and by its opponents to defeat it will not die down quickly. The Left parties, which had withdrawn support to the government on the issue of the nuclear deal, were as keen to defeat the motion as the government was to carry it through. In the beginning, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition, demonstrated the same zeal too. However, when the possibility of a third front in the form of Mayawati emerged in the distant horizon, its enthusiasm cooled considerably.

At no stage did the confidence vote turn into a struggle between the ruling United Progressive Alliance and its national alternative, the National Democratic Alliance. The main combatants were two parties which are not in either combination, Mulayam Singh”s Samajwadi Party (SP) and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). For them it was an extension of the power struggle in Uttar Pradesh.

Mayawati is a leader who could see on the sky what Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat saw on the tree. Even as the Left kept repeating that it would withdraw its support to the government, she went ahead and did it. That, too, on the issue of the nuclear deal. Like the Left, the SP and the BSP had extended support to the UPA to prevent the BJP’s return to power. Mulayam Singh, who had been nicknamed Maulana after he garnered Muslim support on a large scale, could not have gone with the BJP. Mayawati, who had become Chief Minister of UP twice earlier with BJP support, had no difficulty in joining hands with that party. But even with its support, the BJP would still have been too far from a parliamentary majority.

The Congress, which drew up a common minimum programme with the Left, did not establish a special relationship with the SP or the BSP. After the bid by former CPI-M general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet to bring the SP close to the Congress failed, the relationship between the two parties was not even very friendly. Sonia Gandhi had given indications of the Congress party’s interest in forging ties with the BSP in different ways including sending flowers to Mayawati but there was no favourable response. What kept the Left, the SP and the BSP on the same side for more than four years was the hopeless situation created by the results of the last Lok Sabha elections. It is the approach of fresh elections that has compelled them to review their stands.

The fact is that all parts including the Left are in a hopeless situation. To secure its base in Kerala, West Bengal and Tripura, the CPI-M has to abandon the Congress. The question before the SP and the BSP is how they can safeguard their position in UP. In that State, following a continuous decline, the Congress party is now in the fourth position. At different stages, Mulayam Singh’s party and the BJP emerged as the alternative to the Congress but they could not retain that position. It is the consequent change in political equations that has led to Mayawati’s emergence as the Queen of the Third Front and prompted Prakash Karat to go to Lucknow to seek her darshan.

UP sends the largest contingent of 80 members to the Lok Sabha. Kanshi Ram had founded the BSP aiming to seize power by bringing Dalits, backward classes and minorities under one flag. It could not take away backward classes from Mulayam Singh, who is a Yadav. For some years now the SP and the BSP have been in competition for Muslim support. Unlike in other States, Brahmins have considerable numerical strength in UP. The success of her efforts to woo them was one of the factors that enabled the BSP to come to power on its own in the last Assembly elections there.

The SP needs an ally badly to prevent Mayawati from repeating her Assembly poll Assembly poll performance in the Lok Sabha elections. It is not easy for Mulayam Singh, who has been a strong opponent of the Sangh Parivar from his Janata Dal days, to make friends with the BJP. An alliance with the Left will not help as it has no base in the Hindi States. In the circumstances, he cannot rely on any party other than the Congress. That was why he came forward to save the government within minutes of the Left withdrawing its support, ignoring a public warning by CPI-M Politburo member MK Pandhe about Muslim reaction. His conscience-keeper Amar Singh girded up his loins and jumped into the arena.

All speeches by leaders during the debate on the confidence motion were election perorations. Although the government has been able to demonstrate majority support, it is unlikely that the Congress will attempt to carry on until the end of the current Lok Sabha on its strength. The reason is that Mulayam Singh, like Prakash Karat, will be a troublesome ally. Amar Singh is a new generation politician who maintains close links with the captains of industry and other vested interests. Karat troubled the government with demands which were mostly related to party ideology. Mulayam Singh and Amar Singh are not travelling with ideological baggage. Their demands are likely to be related to the needs of their friends.

Whether the elections are early or late, there is no reason to assume that the next Lok Sabha will be very different from the present one. The only party that seems to have the ability to improve its position is the BSP. The BJP’s hopes rest on the anti-incumbency factor that the Congress has to contend with. There are several States where the Congress and the BJP are in virtual direct conflict. Most of them are under BJP rule. As such, the anti-incumbency factor may hit too to some extent. Most opposition parties consider the price rise, which has imposed a heavy burden on the people, a good election issue. This, too, may not yield the expected results. In Kerala, even as it puts the Congress in the dock for the petrol price hike, the Left will have to answer for the increase in bus fares and electricity rates.

The CPI-M reckons that it can get out of the present hopeless situation if the dream of a third alternative is realized. It was the undivided CPI that loomed large as the national alternative after the first general elections. In the 1960s, it lost that position. Later, one after another, the Swatantra Party, the Janata Party and the BJP arose. The BJP is a party with inherent weaknesses. The possibility of another party rising to take its place cannot be ruled out. But the Left parties, individually and collectively, lack the ability to occupy that space today. The policies and programmes followed by the CPI-M, which became the main flag-bearer of the Left after the CPI, played a big part in the emergence of a right-wing alternative at the national level. If the attempt to promote a third alternative under Mayawati’s leadership succeeds, the concept of Left alternative will recede farther. At the same time the Dalit empowerment resulting from it, howsoever limited, may lead to beneficial changes.
Based on column ‘Nerkkazhcha’ appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated July 24, 2008.

22 July, 2008

What do US universities do with the money they collect?

Some US universities like Harvard, Yale and Stanford have enormous endowments, tens of billions of dollars, and receiving more. But NAM contributor Cristina Cordova, a Stanford student, says that they are not being charitable enough when it comes to supporting their own students and their communities.

"Give back." "Donate." "Be charitable." Maybe these elite universities need to be taking more of their own advice, she says in a commentary distributed by New America Media.

See University Endowments: Charity Begins and Stays at Home

NAPM Convenor killed in Karnataka

The following is a message circulated by the Rights Support Centre

We are writing to share the extremely shocking news that NAPM Karnataka Convenor A.D Babu has been killed.

Mr Babu was on his way to attend a meeting organized by NAPMas part of the anti- liquor campaign at Ramnagaram, along with Sr. Celia and a couple of other colleagues when a group of people stopped the vehicle at Mayanagram and attacked him with knives and swords. He was killed on the spot, in front of his comrades.

It is believed that the liquor mafia of Karnataka is behind this gruesome murder.

Mr A D Babu was among the most active comrades who emerged within the leadership of NAPM and was made a convener of the State unit recently.

We call upon all sections of the people to condemn murder of A D Babu and demand immediate action by the State government.

20 July, 2008

How Rahul Bajaj built his empire

A few days ago, I made a reference here to a Dalit group’s call for boycott of Bajaj products. What prompted the group to issue the call was Rahul Bajaj’s opposition to reservation for Dalits and other socially and educationally backward classes of people, which is sanctioned by the Constitution of India.

"Anonymous", who posted a comment, asked, “How honest are these Great Guys in their business dealings?”

As far as Rahul Bajaj is concerned, we have his own words to go by. Returning to India with an MBA from the famed Harvard Business School in 1964, he entered the family business. Four years later, at age 30, he became CEO of the Bajaj Auto Limted, founded by his father in 1945.

Rahul Bajaj was one of five distinguished alumni whom Harvard honoured in 2005. A document in which the Harvard Business School narrates his achievements. It says the company had a licence to manufacture 20,000 scooters a year. It goes on to quote Rahul Bajaj as saying: "Ignoring a government regulation, I increased my volume by more than the permitted 25 percent of my licensed capacity. If I had to go to jail for the excess production of a commodity that most Indians needed, I didn't mind." (Italics added).

Of course, the grandson of Jamnalal Bajaj, who, apart from being a businessman, was a freedom-fighter and friend of Mahatma Gandhi, did not have to go to jail for breaking the law. On the contrary, the nation rewarded him with a Padma Bhushan in 2001.

The document from which the Rahul Bajaj quotation has been taken can be seen at the website of the Harvard Business School.

Film-makers rally in support of Ajay TG

The Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT), led by Dadasaheb Phalke Award winners and eminent filmmakers Mrinal Sen, Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Shyam Benegal, have condemned the arrest of independent filmmaker and journalist Ajay TG by the Chattisgarh police.

Speaking at the Osian Film Festival venue Siri Fort in New Delhi the Recipient of the Osian's Lifetime Achievement Award, renowned filmmaker Mrinal Sen signed the petition condemning Ajay TG's arrest.

Demanding Ajay TG's release, Mrinal Sen said, "I am with you. I wish I was 30 years younger so I could have physically joined you all in this campaign to secure the release of Ajay TG."

Earlier this week filmmakers, artists and activists distributed hundreds of RELEASE AJAY TG pamphlets at the opening ceremony of the 10th Osian's Cinefan - Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema, in New Delhi.

Filmmakers across the country are now organising several Release Ajay TG film festivals where Ajay TG's films will be screened. Ajay TG's recent film 'Anjam' about the life and work of Dr Binayak Sen will also be screened.

Dr Binayak Sen, eminent doctor and social worker in Chattisgarh and General Secretary of the PUCL, was arrested in May 2007 and is still in prison. Both Dr Binayak Sen and film maker journalist Ajay TG have been charged under the Chattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA) .

The following is the text of the statement issued by the Committee for the Release of Ajay TG and endorsed by the trustees of The Public Service Broadcasting Trust:

We the undersigned strongly protest and condemn the arrest of independent documentary filmmaker and freelance journalist Ajay TG on the 5th of May 2008 by the Chattisgarh Police.

We reiterate that it is not possible to silence the voice of dissent, the expressions of our conscience or even the reporting of facts by intimidation, imprisonment and the politics of branding.

We feel that legislation's like the Chattisgarh State Special Security Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, which are used to make such arrests, undermine not just democracy but also the flourishing of all artistic creativity.

Ajay TG has been put behind bars because he had the courage to show what he sees and tell what he feels in his short films. For that he is now in prison. He is not a member nor was he ever a member of any Maoist organisation. Dr Binayak Sen was also arrested an year ago on similar charges by the Chattisgrah police. Dr Sen has been denied bail and is in prison for over an year.

We demand the immediate release of Ajay TG from prison and the dropping of all charges against him.

Ajay TG has a right to make films.

Ajay TG has the right to show his films.


We have the right to see his films.


FOR MORE INFORMATION : www.releaseajaytg.in
Contact : AMAR KANWAR Email : amarkanwar@gmail.com

19 July, 2008

N. Ravi says nuclear deal is the best any government could negotiate

N.RAVI
N.RAM

While The Hindu under its Editor-in-Chief, N. Ram, toes the Communist Party of India (Marxist) line on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, the paper’s Editor and Ram’s brother, N. Ravi, has come out in support of the deal.

In an edit page article, titled “Missing the wood for the trees”, published today, Ravi commends the deal in these words: “On balance, it becomes clear that the advantages overwhelmingly outweigh any threat or flaw and it is as good a deal as any government can negotiate. Were the country to miss this chance, it will be an uphill task for any future government to resurrect the deal with a new administration in Washington.”

Ram was widely tipped to succeed his uncle, G. Kasturi, who was the paper's Editor from 1965, but was bypassed in the wake of his publicly aired differences with him over coverage of the Bofors scandal. While Ram remained the Editor all other publications of the Hindu group, Ravi was appointed Editor of the flagship daily in 1991 and headed its editorial operations for 12 years.

In 2003, Ram took over as Editor-in-Chief under an arrangement, which was reportedly worked out at the instance of Kasturi himself, to prepare the paper for competition with the Times of India which was known to plans to launch a Chennai edition. Ravi still carries the title of Editor. The ToI Chennai edition appeared this year.

18 July, 2008

Nelson Mandela is 90


Nelson Mandela, the legendary hero of South Africa’s freedom movement, is 90 today.

A new documentary, "Becoming Nelson Mandela", being aired on NPR's All Things Considered, at 4:30 PM (East Coast time) today, looks back at Mandela's 1963 treason trial where he outlined his dream of democracy in South Africa and declared, "It's an ideal for which I am prepared to die." It was the moment when Mandela became known to the world as a symbol of resistance and democracy.

After the broadcast, the audio will be available at this website: http://www.radiodiaries.org

Whether UPA government stands or falls, the nuclear deal will stay

When Communist Party of India (Marxist) General Secretary Prakash Karat flew to Lucknow to seek Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayavati’s blessing for his campaign to oust Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, his friend and Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu N. Ram was in New Delhi for an interview with Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prime Minister-in-waiting L. K. Advani.

The newspaper carried the report of the one-hour in-depth interview in two instalments on Friday, July 11, 2008 (“In the name of energy autonomy, you are surrendering our strategic autonomy”) and Saturday, July 12, 2008 ("Coalition dharma means whatever is agreed upon in a common minimum programme should be implemented”).

The Advani interview is politically as significant as one conducted by The Hindu with Mahatma Gandhi in the last century. The country was still under colonial rule at the time and The Hindu was one of the newspapers championing the cause of freedom.

The Gandhi interviewed was conducted not by the paper’s editor but by B. Shiva Rao, who headed its bureau in New Delhi for many years. The British government was considering some proposals for reform and wanted to know in advance how Gandhiji would respond to them. With the help of a senior ICS officer, Sir Benegal Narasinga Rau, the Viceroy framed a set of questions and passed them on to Shiva Rao.

Shiva Rao, who was Narasinga Rau’s younger brother, himself revealed this many years later.

Advani’s replies to Ram’s questions make it clear that any interruption in the process of operationalization of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, resulting from the Left’s withdrawal of support to the UPA government, will be short-lived.

If Manmohan Singh wins the confidence vote on July 22, there is nothing to stop the UPA government from going ahead with that process. If it fails to win the confidence vote, the UPA will have to bow out without completing the process. It will be for the next government to decide what to do.

Since the current Lok Sabha may not be able to throw up an alternative government, the UPA’s defeat may lead to immediate elections. Even if the government wins the confidence vote, it is likely to call early elections at a time considered favourable to it. This may well be later this year.

If the UPA leaves office after operationalizing the nuclear deal, even if it loses the elections, the agreement will remain in force as the successor government will find it difficult to repudiate an international agreement without impairing the country’s credibility in the comity of nations.

If the UPA leaves office without operationalizing the deal, the next government will have the option of pulling out or at least not going ahead with the remaining processes. Given the current political scenario, the next government will be headed by either the Congress or the BJP. Karat’s predecessor, Harkishen Singh Surjeet, was able to prop up minority governments because there were many parties which were not willing to back either the Congress or the BJP. That stage is over. Now there is no party left which has not worked with either of them. Some parties have actually worked with both.

Advani told Ram that if he became the Prime Minister he would seek re-negotiation of the nuclear deal. If the US rejected the suggestion, he would consider amending the Atomic Energy Act. The idea is to put in position a domestic law, which lays down what India should do, to overcome the effects of the Hyde Act, which is a US domestic law that lays down what US government should do. Advani did NOT say his government will scrap the deal.

Karat’s main objection to the deal is that it paves the way for strategic relationship between India and the US, which may include military ties with Israel as well. Advani favours strategic relationship. He told Ram that the last BJP-led government had initiated talks with the US not for a nuclear deal but for a strategic relationship. As for Israel, it was BJP leader A.B.Vajpayee, who, as External Affairs Minister in the Janata Party government, decided to establish diplomatic relations with that country.

Barak Obama, who opposed certain provisions of the Indo-US deal in the Senate, does not now favour any changes in it. This means end of the Bush presidency does not mean end of the deal.

16 July, 2008

Dalit group calls for boycott of Bajaj products

A Dalit website, DalitforDalits.com, which describes itself as “Global home of Dalits,” has called for boycott of Bajaj products.

A notice at the website quotes Bajaj Group chairman Rahul Bajaj as having said, "I don't know if reservations are the ultimate goal or not but I can tell you that I am completely opposed to mandatory reservation."

It goes on to add, “As Bajaj Group chairman Rahul Bajaj is opposing ALL forms of Reservations SC/ST/BC/OBC, he will spend his money and power against reservations.

“If you buy Bajaj bike (Pulser,etc), Scooter, bulb, iron box, anything that has the symbol above( Bajaj Logo)...Remember You Are Voting Against Reservations. Join Hands by taking Oath that We Will Never Buy A Bajaj Product....Let Us Save Ourselves from Bajaj.”

15 July, 2008

Farewell to the world’s oldest blogger


Olive Riley, the world’s oldest blogger, passed away peacefully at WoyWoy, New South Wales, Australia, on Saturday, July 12, according to Eric Shackle, a retired Sydney journalist, who says his hobby is searching the Internet and writing about it. She was 108.

Olive Riley started blogging at 106. Her blog was named All About Olive. URL: http://www.allaboutolive.com.au/

Olive Riley contributed 74 posts during her short blogging career. After she entered the nursing home Shackle opened a temporary blog for her. Her last posts appeared there. It was named The World’s Oldest Blogger. URL: http://worldsoldestblogger.blogspot.com

Her 74th and last post, reproduced below, testifies to how she spread good cheer around the wide world in her last days. Adieu, Olive Riley, you made the world richer, happier.

OLIVE RILEY'S 74th POST

Olive says:

Hello, dear friends everywhere.

I can't believe I've been here in this nursing home for more than a week. How the days have flown, even though I've been in bed most of the time. I still feel weak, and can't shake off that bad cough.

I've never been treated so well in all my life. The nurses can't do enough for me. Ask them for anything, and they are only too happy to provide it.

Penny, who's in the next bed to mine, had a visit one day this week from her daughter, who's a professional singer. Guess what happened! She and I sang a happy song, as I do every day, and before long we were joined by several nurses, who sang along too. It was quite a concert!

Mike expects to be back home from his world tour on July 9. Perhaps he'll make a video next time our choir performs, so you can all join in.

Eric read a whole swag of email messages and comments from my internet friends today, and I was so pleased to hear from you. Thank you, one and all.

Brenda Bryant, from Newcastle, just 50 miles north of WoyWoy, read my earlier post about my memories of Washing Day when I was a young girl in Broken Hill a century ago, and cleverly turned it into a poem, which she has sent to me. I'd like to share it with you.

FOR OLIVE RILEY
The World's Oldest Blogger

Sometimes, I hear the young complain of all they have to do.
But I am sure that their complaints should really be quite few.
Take Washing Day, for instance, all they do is press a knob,
And then machines go whirling round and quickly do the job.

They throw in powder, maybe bleach, and softener as well,
And dirty clothes are whirled about, then spun around, pell-mell.
And then, to follow up, I hear, they set the dryer spinning,
They've hardly raised a finger to the end from the beginning.

But things were very different in the days of long ago,
When Olive Riley's mother washed her clothes as white as snow.
And Olive well-remembers that, when it was Washing Day,
Daughters had to do their bit; there was no time for play.

First Olive looked for firewood, which was sometimes hard to find,
She had to hunt for broken twigs or sticks of any kind.
Sometimes she found a fruit-box that was thrown down on the floor.
She chopped it with a tomahawk, though it made her fingers sore.

After filling up the copper, her Mum would light the fire,
And the water would start heating, as the flames grew ever higher.
Then she threw in some soap chips, followed by Reckitt's Blue,
(That was a clever little bag that made things look like new.)

Next she got the Sunlight Soap to scrub at all the stains,
And, sometimes, if she scrubbed too hard, there were blisters for her pains.
The corrugated board was rough, her hands were roughened too,
Ruined by years of scrubbing, but what else was there to do?

Then, she threw in the dirty clothes, and gave them all a stir.
The steam rose up in clouds and very nearly smothered her.
She was splashed by boiling water, and the bubbles stung her eyes.
And a line of snowy washing was to be her only prize!

Yet, now, would come the starching, of the collar and the cuff,
And, however hard she starched them, it was never quite enough.
For Father must look perfect when in his Sunday Best,
He mustn't look inferior, measured against the rest.

At last, the clothes were clean and rinsed and the fire had lost its heat.
Mother was quite exhausted, after so long on her feet.
But the hardest job was yet to come, an energetic trick,
For she had to get the clothes out with a hefty copper-stick!

Imagine sheets all water-logged and weighing half a ton!
Her back was nearly broken by the time that job was done.
A soggy mass lay, wetly, in a tub, somewhere nearby.
The washing was as clean as clean, but not the least bit dry.

Now Olive had a job to do, though she was scarcely grown,
For Mother couldn't mangle all the washing on her own.
Between the wooden rollers Mother fed the dripping clothes,
While Olive turned the handle, standing on tippy-toes.

The mangle squeezed the water, it came quickly pouring out,
But the washing was still wet and heavy, that I do not doubt.
But Olive and her Mother had to drag it to the trees,
Where a line was stretched, so washing could be dried off in the breeze.

When all was safely pegged, they stood and eyed the white perfection.
But a flock of noisy magpies swooped and swirled in their direction!
They aimed for Mother's washing, causing splish and splash and stain!
'Oh well' said Olive's mother, we must do it all again!' http://rinklyrimes.blogspot.com/

Thank you Brenda, for a really lovely poem! Love to all of you from wintry Woy Woy.

14 July, 2008

America’s Wakeup Call

The rapid spurt in oil prices in the global market has forced a sense of urgency to the energy crisis that America faces, says Dr. Girish Bhaskar.

In an article, published by Kaumudi Singapore, he writes:

With the average gasoline prices hovering above $4 per gallon, the middle class has started to feel the pinch. For millions of people who are minimum wage earners, the pain has been acute and palpable. People are adapting to the new realities to cope up with the surging oil prices…

For the rest of the article, over to KAUMUDI SINGAPORE

12 July, 2008

Gujarat University V-C accused of caste-based discrimination

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) says in a release:

The AHRC has received information from Navsarjan, a human rights organization working on Dalit rigshts in Gujarat, regarding caste discrimination practised by the Vice Chancellor of Gujarat University.

The AHRC strongly condemns this behavior by the Vice-Chancellor, a person who can influence public opinion. The practice of caste based discrimination is a crime and prohibited by law in India. Despite the passage of two months since the incident and a High Court order, police have still not completed the investigation of this case.

CASE DETAILS:
On 3 May 2008, Mr. Parimal Trivedi, the Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat University, verbally abused Mr. Pankaj Magan Shrimali, a professor of history at the University calling Mr. Shrimali a "Dheda". The naming of "Dheda" is a derogatory word used against the Scheduled Castes. Trivedi is a Brahmin. Shrimali is a Dalit.

The Vice Chancellor appointed Mr. Pradeep Prajapati, Dean of the faculty of arts, as coordinator for Central Assessment of Examinations. Prajapathi appointed Shrimali an assistant coordinator. The Vice-Chancellor had to confirm the appointment..
Shrimali started working under instructions from the Dean, but the Vice Chancellor refused to confirm the appointment. In fact, he removed Shrimali’s name from the list of appointees. When the Dean asked why Shrimali's name was removed, the Vice Chancellor answered that "Such an important work cannot be assigned to a 'Dheda' like Pankaj Shrimali."

The Dean asked the Vice Chancellor to apologize for the remark. The Vice Chancellor said, "Why should I apologize? He is a Dheda and shall remain so forever."
According to Prof. Shrimali and the Dean, when they met Trivedi in his office on 3 May to seek appropriate explanation for the rejection of the appointment and use of abusive language, instead of giving a reasonable answer he repeated the same words, indicating Prof. Shrimali’s caste seven times.

On the same day, Prof. Shrimali lodged a complaint against Vice Chancellor at the Navarangpura police station, located near the Gujarat University. The First Information Report (FIR, No. ll 3042/08) was filed under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 (SC/ST Act), Section 3(1) (x) (Whoever not being a member of a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine).

Mr. Trivedi, in a petition to the High Court Gujarat (Special Criminal Application No. 913 of 2008) denies the facts of the case and insists that the victim Shrimali and the Dean created a false story to harass him. He has demanded quashing of the police complaint against him.
The High Court gave an oral order on 15 May 2008 in which it asked Trivedi to co-operate with the Investigating agency. It also asked that no coercive action be taken against him.

Justice R. H. Shukla, who passed the order, asked the investigating officer to investigate this case but the police did not record Trivedi’s statement.

On 19 June the High Court rejected Trivedi's plea to quash the complaint against him.
The police still have not recorded the statement of Trivedi. Nor have they taken any action against him.

The Assistant Commissioner of Police, Mr. N. D. Parmar, claims he is investigating the case.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION:
This is not the first incident involving the Vice-Chancellor, where he is accused of practicing caste based discrimination at the university. It is reported that on 29 March 2008, the Vice-Chancellor Parimal raised heckles regarding the gang rape incident at the Patan Primary Teacher's Training College. He even said in public that this gang rape incident by the teachers was praiseworthy. For details about this gang-rape case, please see the previous Urgent Appeals, UAC-063-2008 and UAU-030-2008.

Two years ago, the Vice-Chancellor had abused Prof. Shrimali using language with derogatory and caste based undertones. He then sent an appeal letter to the National Human Rights Commission of India but no appropriate action has been taken against Mr. Trivedi. This suggests that the police and education authority allow the Vice-Chancellor to practice caste based discrimination abusing his position of power.
It is also alleged that the Vice-Chancellor uses the University budget for the expenses of the case against him. When the AHRC along with Prof. Shrimali visited the Gujarat University on 3 June 2008, the Vice-Chancellor did not permit taking pictures inside the University.

Government authorities play a significant role in eradicating untouchability and caste based discrimination. Through different government policies, like positive reservation, the government tries to eradicate caste based discrimination in India. However, most of these policies fail to deliver results due to the failure of the implementing agents like the Vice-Chancellor. The education authority is one of the important agencies that could mold a generation without caste based prejudices in India. Due to the fact that teachers have better access to the young, the role of a teacher is more important in eradicating caste based discrimination. A Vice-Chancellor who is the 'highest teacher' in a university in such a context assumes a major role in this exercise.

According to the victim Prof. Shrimali, no one from the Scheduled Castes has ever been appointed in non-reservation seats at Gujarat University. Even some seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes in Gujarat still remain empty.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:
The mere fact that a government servant is practicing caste based discrimination increases the gravity of crime that violates the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

In the FIR against Mr. Trivedi, Navarangpura police did not mention the Section 3(2)(vii) (being a public servant, commits any offence under this section, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year but which may extend to the punishment provided for that offence), which reduces the responsibility and gravity of the crime when committed by a public servant.

Despite the High Court order, as well as the SC/ST Rules 1995 (Rule 7 (2) investigation on top priority within thirty days), police have yet to finish an investigation into the case or to record a statement from the accused. Under Section 18 of the SC/ST Act anticipatory bail cannot be given to an accused.

SUGGESTED ACTION:
The AHRC has written to the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance calling for intervention in this case. It has also appealed to concerned citizens to write to the authorities.

To support this appeal, please click here:

SAMPLE LETTER:

Dear __________,
INDIA: The conduct of the Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat university practicing caste based discrimination must be investigated

Name of the victim: Mr. Pankaj Magan Shrimali, age 39, a professor of history at Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Name of the alleged perpetrator: Mr. Parimal Trivedi, age 47, Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

Date of incident: 3 May 2008

Place of incident: Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

I am concerned to know about the conduct of the Vice-Chancellor of the Gujarat University who is reportedly practising caste based discrimination in the university.
The Vice Chancellor Mr. Parimal Trievedi is alleged to have used derogatory language referring to the caste of one his professors concerning the professor's appointment to a post monitoring the examinations of the university. The incident happened over the appointment of Professor Pankaj Magan Shrimali as the assistant coordinator to a university department providing central assessment of examinations. It is reported that Vice-Chancellor Trievedi not only refused to approve the appointment, but also stated in public that the work to be carried out as the coordinator could not be carried out by someone from the Scheduled Caste.

It is reported that the Vice-Chancellor said "Such an important work cannot be assigned to the 'Dheda' like Pankaj Shrimali." Dheda is a derogatory term used by the upper caste against the lower caste to demean the members of the lower caste as low in social hierarchy. I am also informed that this is not the first instance where the Vice-Chancellor has made derogatory remarks against a lower caste in India, justifying the 'superior position' of the upper caste.

In addition, the police have failed to act promptly or to carry out their duties to properly investigate the complaint of the victim. It is reported that the Vice-Chancellor is misusing his authority and his office to deny and further justify his act. The mere fact that the person practicing caste based discrimination is the Vice-Chancellor of a university aggravates the nature of the crime.

I am informed that caste based discrimination is a crime in India. It is prohibited and punishable under the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 (SC/ST Act). I am informed that the Vice-Chancellor not only justified his conduct, but also approached the Gujarat High Court seeking the court's assistance to quash the criminal complaint filed by Professor Pankaj Magan Shrimali at the police station.

I am informed that the Court has not only refused to grant any relief to the Vice-Chancellor, but has also directed the police to complete the investigation in the case within the statutory period. However, the police have failed to comply with the order of the court. I am informed that the police have refused to arrest the accused despite the court's order, or even record his statement.

I am informed that India has ratified the UN's International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination which is legally-binding and obligates the state to be responsible for removing exclusions based on origin. The government of India must act to eradicate the systematic abuse against a wide section of its society made vulnerable by a system that is one of the most oppressive in the global world.
I urge you to act to immediately investigate this case in accordance with the law and to ensure that the perpetrator is punished.
Yours sincerely,
----------------
PLEASE SEND YOUR LETTERS TO:

1. Mr. Narendrabhai Damodardas Modi
Chief Minister

New Sachivalay
Gandhinagar - 382 010
Gujarat
INDIA
Fax: + 91 177 23222101
E-mail: cm@gujaratindia.com

2. Mr. Amit Anilchandra Shah
Home Minister

Block No.2, 3rdFloor, New Sachivalay
Gandhinagar - 382 010
Gujarat
INDIA
Fax: + 91 177 23250501
E-mail: pshome@gujarat.gov.in

3. Secretary of Department of Social Justice and Empowerment
Government of Gujarat

Block No.5, 8th Floor, Sachivalay
Gandhinagar
Gujarat
INDIA
Fax: + 91 177 23254817
E-mail: secswd@gujarat.gov.in

4. Director General of Police
Police Bhawan Sector – 18
Gandhinagar
Gujarat 382 009
INDIA
Fax: + 91 177 23253918

5. Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment
Government of India

Shastri Bhawan, Dr Rajendra Prasad Road
New Delhi - 110 001
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 23384918
E-mail: min-sje@sb.nic.in

6. Minister of Human Resource Development
Department of Higher Education
Government of India

Shastri Bhawan
New Delhi -110001
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 23381355, 23382947
Email: hrm@nic.in

7. Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission

Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110001
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 2338 6521
E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in

8. Chairperson
National Commission for Scheduled Castes

5th Floor, Lok Nayak Bhawan
Khan Market
New Delhi 110 003
INDIA
Fax + 91 11 2463 2298
E-mail: jointsecretary-ncsc@nic.in or chairman-ncsc@nic.in

Thank you.
Urgent Appeal Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission
(ua@ahrchk.org)

11 July, 2008

On the ordeal of Binayak Sen and Ajay T.G. in Chhattisgarh jails

Kavita Srivastava, General Secretary, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Rajasthan, who has paid two visits to Chhattisgarh in the past few weeks, says in a communication from Jaipur dated July 5:

Dear friends,

I have been to Raipur twice in the last ten days. From the 24-26 June, I was there to express solidarity with the ten-day fast that Sandeep Pandey and three others had undertaken, demanding the release of Binayak Sen and Ajay TG and against the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act, 2005. On the last two days of the fast a national seminar against State Repression and Repressive laws was organised by the Chhattisgarh PUCL, timing it with emergency day.

In this period I also met Ajay TG in Durg Jail and also spent some time with his wife Shobha (also a film maker), there 20 month old son called Aman and several cousins and friends of Ajay including a couple of lawyers in Durg.

The second time I went was during the second phase of Binayak's trial on 2nd and 3rd of July, 2008. On this occasion too I met Shobha and his lawyers.
Both the visits as usual were undertaken to stand in solidarity with Chhattisgarh PUCL who is facing the ire of the State and support the struggle for justice being undertaken by the families of those in jail.

25th June being Wednesday was the weekly day for visitors for Ajay so I accompanied Shobha to Durg jail. Shobha who had expected a face to face meeting with Ajay and had hoped that their son would get an opportunity to hug the father was very disappointed when we were all told that we could only talk to him through the window. Left with no choice all of us, including Ajay's cousins living in Bhilai talked to him though the grilled and wire meshed window. Ajay who had lost his younger brother Anura only on the 19th of June in a tragic road accident in Kerala, was visibly upset. He was very keen to talk to me separately so we took a chance and I got the permission from the Jail authorities to meet him inside the jail. They just would not allow Shobha but agreed to Aman coming into the Jailer's room which was our meeting room. Those thirty minutes spent together between father and son was memorable.

Ajay also spoke to me. He asked me to give a message to all. He said that he was innocent and he felt that his arrest was part of the agenda to finish the PUCL. He had been targeted for several reasons:
1. Since he had worked with Nandini Sundar and she had filed the Salwa Judum case in the Supreme Court, it was one way of getting back at her and him and all those who were opposed to the Salwa Judum.
2. Since he had made short films on some of the PUCL, Chhattisgarh fact finding misions, like on Gola-Palli and Jiramtarai which had belied the official version of naxalite attacks, he was being taught a lesson for that. These two CDs along with another had been seized from Binayak's house during the house search in May 2007.
3. Since he was one of the persons who had conducted the search on the body of the policemen who had carried out the house search of the residence of Binayak Sen as per rules, the particular policemen had told him that he would be taught a lesson one day.
4. Since he had stood by Binayak and he was one of the few who was regularly coming to the court in solidarity, he was made a target.

Incidentally his analysis is what most of the members in and outside PUCL Chhattisgarh also state. He felt that Chhattisgarh PUCL was a target and had to be supported with greater strength and that the people within the PUCL need to sit and form a strategy as to how to fight this onslaught of the State.
I also learnt that the family was coping with this crisis mostly on its own. The support for the legal case they had organised on their own with some inputs from a few friends in the PUCL and outside.

Ajay being denied access to a Magistrate:
It was shocking to learn from Ajay that although four remand hearings had happened he had been produced only once, that was on the day he was arrested, after that he was never taken on the date of the hearing under the pretext that there was not enough security needed to take a Naxalite prisoner out to a court and the times he was produced he was taken to the Babu of the Magisterial Court and made to sign and brought back..

Incidentally, on the 27th June too (after Shobha and I had brought this to the notice of all in the national convention) he was still taken to the Babu of the remand court where he was made to sign and brought back. After all these hearings are supposed not merely an extension of judicial remand but also an opportunity to share any grievance that the detainee may have, however, that right has been completely denied to Ajay. This was also tried in the case of Binayak Sen when he was prevented from reaching the Court on the grounds that sufficient force was not available. But our protests and lodging written complaints with the Court, DG and the IG gave a message to the authorities

It was definitely a case of the lack of support of a good local lawyer who was neither present for all the hearings and if present did not see that it was wrong, therefore Ajay has never represented his point to the Court. Incidentally we have brought in another local lawyer who hopefully will take on these issues.
Hand Cuffing of Ajay when taken to Court:

The worst part has been that whenever he was taken to Court he was handcuffed and taken. Since he was never produced in front of the Magistrate he was never able to present his point about handcuffing. Here too the local lawyer was not of much help, infact when Shobha raised this with him he felt that there was no escape from the handcuffing.

The legal position is completely clear. Ordinarily the accused must not be handcuffed. This is the settled law through various judgements of the Supreme Court. Only when the Court is completely satisfied by the argument of the prosecution of the likelihood of the accused escaping from custody, the court will permit handcuffing.
In this case neither has Ajay got an opportunity to raise this issue, nor has it been raised by his lawyer. This is the most disturbing thing that unless we monitor what is happening in the court there will be a denial of basic rights even of the most aware and educated of the lot.

We raised this issue with the Jail authorities and gave it in writing to the DGP on the 2nd of July and on the 3rd July too when Shobha and I met the DGP. He has assured that he will look into it and hopefully this should not happen again, otherwise we really need to protest very loudly on the 11 of July which is the next date of hearing.
Well we hope that now with the change of lawyer in Durg things will improve and also our lobbying with the DGP and IG will help.

No legal advice was also made available to them when Ajay got the news of his brother's death. No bail application was presented in Court.
Ajay also has no access to books. He did apply for it in court but he was refused. Shobha has not been allowed to give books. This was another request that we made to the Jail Authorities. He is only allowed to read one of the local newspapers.

The Text of the Bail order
As you all are aware Ajay was denied bail in the lower court exactly a month after his arrest on the 5th June, 2008. The sections under what he has been booked are 124 (a) (Sedition) and sections 3,4, 8 (1) of the Chhattisgarh Public Security Act, 2005.
Ms. Renu Divekar Special Addl Sessions Judge, Durg in the bail rejection order passed by her presented the argument of both sides but went along with the view of the prosecution, stating that,
" a letter written by the applicant / accused Ajay TG was found in the house of K R C Reddy alias Gudsa Usendi during the house search on 22.01.2008 when a woman Naxalite leader Shanti Priya alias Malti the w/o Vijay alias KRC Reddy was arrested from Raipur under various sections of the arms act, telegraph act, CPSA and ULAC. It was in this context that the handwriting of the applicant / accused Ajay TG was found to have matched with the letter that was found during the search. In the letter written by Ajay TG to Gudsa Husendi he has mentioned in the letter that camera is in Gachanpalli. Gudsa Husendi alias Vijay alias RC Reddy is a resident of Andhra Pradesh and is a member of the Dandakarnya Special Zonal Committee and is also the spokes person. He is a member of the CPI which is mainly a party with left ideology, which has been banned in the State of Chhattisgarh. The applicant / accused Ajay TG has mentioned village Gachanapalli which is very sensitive from the point of view of Naxalite activities. Prima facie it appears that the applicant / accused has had truck with an organisation which has been banned by the State Government. And since the matter is under investigation thus it has not been found appropriate that the applicant / accused be given the benefit of bail.

As such the first bail application of Ajay TG moved u/s 439 Cr PC by the applicant / accused is rejected".

Although in the arguments presented by Mahendra Dubey the counsel for Ajay TG it had been clearly stated by him which is also mentioned in the order and I quote, " that Ajay is a film maker and a video-grapher and had gone at the behest along with Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar in 2004 in the Adivasi areas of Bastar district. Prof Nandini Sundar has been researching on the life styles of Adivasis. When the applicant / accused was returning from Bastar after having done videography with Nandini Sundar then some villagers surrounded the two and snatched the video camera from the applicant / accused. The particular camera did not belong to the applicant / accused but belonged to his friend. It was six months later that a young boy a stranger to the applicant / accused came to his house in Supela (Durg) enquired about the cost of the camera. On the 22nd of January itself the police had raided the house of the applicant / accused and found no item or document that was incriminating. The applicant / accused is a videographer and works with different social organisations. The Maoists were banned only in 2006 and the said act is of 2004. That the applicant / accused is innocent and has been falsely implicated as such should be granted bail".

Well, dear friends, every time I go to Chhattisgarh I feel like what many others also feel that we must really stop what is happening there. Apart from Binayak Sen, Piyush Guha, Ajay TG there are several others who are languishing in the various Jails of the State. They are journalists like Sai Reddy?? and several of the 53 who were booked under the CPSA, 2005, a few lucky ones having got bail. We know our friends who are threatened by the officials of the State that they too will be booked if they expose the truth about Salwa Judum or if they support those who are exposing it.
I also sometimes feel that in Raipur and this time I felt it in Durg too, that every body knows that something terrible is happening but live in fear that if they get involved then the ire of the State might strike them. There is this constant fear that your phone might be tapped, your emails hacked. People are trying to keep the right distance so as not to appear a suspect.

I also feel that these arrests are throwing up issues that we (organisations like the PUCL) are not always faced with. Like taking care of the families of those of us who have been jailed, working on the legal cases on a day to day basis in multiple courts, constantly petitioning the police and the administration, running around meeting political leaders, continuously mobilising for the public campaign, writing to the NHRC although it has failed miserably in this context.

Members of the Chhattisgarh PUCL along with the support of many other groups and the families and friends of those whose kin are in Jail are trying hard. But the State is playing a decisive game. I know Mr Kanabiran will tell us that this is what AP has been for years and years and now it is spreading to other States, Maharashtra is not far behind. Others who have suffered in Kashmir, Manipur, Assam will tell us how they have lived with terror and death all along and how none of us noticed it when everyone was a "suspect" for the State agencies.

Let us do something fast before it is too late and we are unable to live the lives we wish to.........!!!

10 July, 2008

Play acting in the name of nuclear deal

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance and the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front have finally stopped play acting. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party has stepped in to save the government which has lost the support of 59 Left members. SP’s 39 members are not enough for the UPA to chalk up a majority in the Lok Sabha. Yet the Congress says there is no threat to the government. The Lok Sabha’s term ends only next year. The Congress hopes that in a confidence vote it will have the support of small parties and Independents who want the house to complete its term.

This does not mean that elections will take place only next year. If the government loses the confidence vote, elections will become necessary this year itself. For, it will be difficult for the present Lok Sabha to throw up an alternative government. Even if the government wins the confidence vote, it can seek dissolution of the house and fresh elections any time it conditions are considered favourable.

The media has extensively debated the propriety of the Left withdrawing its support to the government when the Prime Minister was abroad. The Left argues that it was left with no choice as the Prime Minister announced the decision to go ahead with the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal during a foreign trip. Actually, both sides should have given thought to propriety much earlier. The decision on the nuclear deal emerged from a meeting between US President George W Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh three years ago. The Left immediately made it clear that the deal was not acceptable. In the circumstances, there were only two possibilities before the UPA-Left combine. Either the Left should have withdrawn its objection or the government should have dropped the deal in deference to the Left’s feelings. If the deal was dropped the ruling front had to drop the Prime Minister who had made as well. Instead of choosing either course, the two sides pretended that the difference of opinion was something that could be resolved through discussions. It was their common desire to keep the government going and avoid early elections that prompted them to do so.

The pretence did much damage to the government and the Prime Minister. The sight of the government supplicating before a mini front, which was not a part of it, for permission to take follow-up measures on the deal it had signed with another government was not an edifying one. As the government’s position weakened, the impression gained ground that those who had reduced it to that state were powerful. They too started believing it.

What is the worth of a Prime Minister who is unable to give effect to an agreement he had signed? To maintain his credibility before Bush, Manmohan Singh, who had an invitation to attend the summit of the wealthy nations, found it necessary to stop play acting and declare publicly that he was going ahead with follow-up measures. The US administration had been pressing India for some time to complete the deal. It is said that Bush, who is due to lay down office shortly as a colossal failure, reckons that if the deal is completed he can claim it as a personal victory.

When Bush and Manmohan Singh announced the nuclear deal in 2005 it had invited much opposition both in India and in the US. There is a law in US which prohibits the supply of nuclear material to any nation that has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and agreed to inspection of its nuclear facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency. After India conducted nuclear tests, the US government had imposed a strict embargo. As a result, India was unable to obtain fuel even for its existing nuclear power stations. Opposition to the deal in the US was directed against freeing India from this situation. However, the US Congress approved the deal in 2006, rejecting the amendments proposed by its critics.

After that, the only obstacle was the Manmohan Singh government’s inability to take follow-up measures. But opposition in the US has not completely died down. Only last Saturday, the influential New York Times, in an editorial, demanded that the US government must not complete the deal in a hurry even if India is ready. It listed five arguments against the deal. One, it forgives India for making nuclear bombs. Two, for the first time in 30 years, it gives India permission to buy nuclear fuel and equipment from not only the US but also other countries. Three, it does not ask India to stop making bombs. Four, India does not undertake not to increase its nuclear arsenal. Five, India does not promise not to conduct more tests. It points out that if the deal goes through India will be able to get nuclear fuel and technology from countries like Russia and France.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has been opposing the nuclear deal saying it does not allow India to conduct more tests and acquire more weapons. The New York Times opposes it saying it allows India to do all that. This shows that each one is interpreting the terms of the agreement in such a way that it suits his purposes.

The main basis of the Left’s opposition to the deal is that the US is the other party. The Left parties believe that the government is trying to forge military ties with the US. They attach much importance to US officials’ statements favouring a ‘strategic partnership’ with India. The expression ‘strategic partnership’ was heard often while Sino-US relations were growing after President Nixon sent Henry Kissinger on a secret mission to Beijing. The official statement issued after Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited Washington in October 1997 for talks with President Bill Clinton had said the two agreed to work for constructive and strategic partnership. The then Assistant Secretary of State Stanley Roth explained later that the concept of strategic partnership did not involve military ties and that it only envisaged a relationship that involved mutual consultations on all issues.

The Left and the BJP are one in denouncing the nuclear deal on the ground that it would endanger India’s policy of non-alignment. A. B. Vajpayee as Prime Minister had tried hard to build close ties with the US. It was an initiative that he took which led to the nuclear deal. His party’s present stand is wholly dishonest. It was around the time leaders of the Communist Party of India undertook a secret visit to Moscow to ask Stalin what they should do that Jawaharlal Nehru declared that India would not join any power bloc. Stalin and the Indian Communist leaders could not comprehend what non-alignment meant. That was why the Communist Party went around saying India had not really become free and that Nehru was boot-licker of the imperialists. Non-alignment did not stand in the way of India accepting the US nuclear umbrella following the Chinese aggression of 1962 or entering into a friendship treaty with the Soviet Union 1n 1971 to face the Pakistan-US axis. Those who either desire or fear Chinese or American servitude will do well to remember Jawaharlal Nehru’s observation that India is too big a country to become anybody’s appendage.
Based on column “Nerkkazhcha” appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated July 10, 2008

07 July, 2008

Campaign in support of victimized Romani women of Europe

The saddest memory of a journey I undertook through East Europe in the 1980s as the Communist regimes were collapsing is that of an incident in Budapest, capital of Romania.

As I was walking through a roadside market, an elderly gypsy woman, who was selling some handicraft products, tried to attract my attention, hoping to make a sale. My young guide, a fresh college graduate, immediately flew into a rage and started shouting at her. The torrent of abuse did not end until I drew her away.

I remonstrated with her for being unduly harsh on an old woman who had done nothing more than what any street vendor anywhere on earth would do. Her response was a litany of complaints against the gypsies, whom she painted as the filthiest, rottenest people on earth. I could not believe that a girl in her twenties who grew up in a Communist society, and knew no other world, could carry so much ethnic hatred in her pretty little frame.
Romania, I gathered, had Europe’s largest gypsy community -- estimated at between one million and two million.

The gypsies of Europe, officially classified as Romanis, are nomadic people, believed to be of Indian origin. They are to be found all over Europe. Under Nazi occupation, there were efforts to exterminate them. (See account at the site of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum).

The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), an international public interest law organization established in 1996, is now engaged in a range of activities aimed at combating anti-Romani racism and human rights abuse of Roma. The approach of the ERRC involves, in particular, strategic litigation, international advocacy, research and policy development, and human rights training of Romani activists.

What has prompted me to write about European gypsies today is a forwarded message from a human rights group about a campaign in support of Romani women who were subjected to forced sterilization. Below is the text of the message:

Today (3 July 2008), a coalition comprising the Ostrava-based Group of Women Harmed by Sterilization, the ERRC and the Peacework Development Fund launch a global campaign seeking support for Romani women victimized by coerced sterilization practices in Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia. The campaign is supported by the Open Society Institute's Public Health Program and the Heinrich Boll Stiftung, Warsaw.

The governments concerned have failed to react, through public apologies and compensation for the harms inflicted upon Romani women, to 5 years of targeted advocacy and lobbying by the victims and their advocates. Today, the survivors and their advocates turn to the global human rights movement to strengthen their efforts to secure justice, beginning with action around the 2008 Women's Worlds Congress in Madrid, Spain, from 3-9 July, where the most pressing women's rights matters from around the world will feature.

The campaign includes a panel discussion on coerced sterilisation practices in Central Europe by survivors and their advocates, as well as a letter-writing campaign targeting key officials in Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia , calling on the respective governments to recognise the extreme human rights violations perpetrated on their territory and to ensure apologies and compensation for the survivors.

Tell the governments concerned that it is time for action! Support the Romani survivors of coerced sterilization in Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia by sending our postcard or letter, available on the ERRC website in English, Spanish, Czech, Hungarian and Slovak.

For updates on our work at the Madrid Congress, the pamphlet and the postcards/letters, please visit the ERRC website at: http://www.errc.org/cikk.php?cikk=2965.

Tell us you sent the letter or postcard, or otherwise supported the campaign, and join our online list of supporters by writing us at: compensation.now@errc.org.

For further information or interviews, please contact:

Group of Women Harmed by Sterilization:
*Elena Gorolova (Czech, Romanes), elena.gorolova@seznam.cz

European Roma Rights Centre:
* Anita Danka (Hungarian, English), Staff Attorney, anita.danka@errc.org
*Ostalinda Maya (Spanish, English), Women's Rights Consultant, ostalinda@gmail.com
*Monika Pacziga (Hungarian, English), Women's Rights Officer, monika.pacziga@errc.org

Peacework Development Fund:
*Gwendolyn Albert (Czech, English), Director of Women's Initiatives Network, gwendolyn.albert@gmail.com

During the Congress, the representatives can be reached on the following mobile numbers: +34.627.212.118 or +36.20.398.8303 or +420.774.895.444.

04 July, 2008

US immigrants rights groups watch poll scene

As the US presidential election campaign gathers steam, immigrant rights groups are paying attention to what the candidates are saying (and not saying) when it comes to immigration.

In a teleconference organized by New America Media, three spokespeople from major immigrant rights groups defined their priorities for the presidential campaign and beyond.

See news report by Melanie Reynard: Immigrant Groups Strategize for Presidential Campaign

Beijing’s efforts to contain pollution for Olympics

The Chinese authorities, preparing for the Olympic Games, have taken several steps to ensure that the air is clean, says Jun Wang in a New America Media news feature.

See story Beijing Turns Green Before the Olympics

02 July, 2008

‘If a journalist cannot write, who else will?’

If a journalist cannot write, who else will? Why harass Ashis Nandy?

With these questions, the Supreme Court of India on Tuesday restrained the Gujarat police from arresting or even summoning political analyst Ashis Nandy for questioning in connection with a case filed against him for writing a newspaper article.

The article “Blame the Middle Class” had appeared in the Times of India on January 8 this year.

The Supreme Court’s vacation bench, which heard a petition by Nandy, besides quashing a summons issued by a police inspector seeking his appearance for questioning on July 8, declared that “any further summons issued against Mr. Nandy in future relating to the case will stand quashed.”

With this judgment the apex court has struck a big blow for freedom of the press.

J. Venkatesan’s report on the court’s decision can be seen in The Hindu.

Ashis Nandy’s article which angered Gujarat’s Narendra Modi government can be accessed here.