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 August, 2008

Human Rights organizations call for tangible affirmative action in Orissa

The following is the text of a statement issued jointly by the Asian Human Rights Organization, Hong Kong, the National Human Rights Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, India, and the Dalit Solidarity Network, Denmark, on the Orissa developments:

The current wave of violence in Orissa, India is not surprising. After all, Orissa is a state in India ruled by the Biju Janata Dal (BJD). The BJD has remained in power with the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu fundamentalist political force operating in India. As a result, the BJD has subscribed to the larger Hindutwa agenda propagated by the BJP and its political allies like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal.

The ongoing violence in Orissa, though has been principally portrayed as a Hindu - Christian issue is in fact an act of attempted subjugation by the dominant caste upon the Dalits. Orissa like the rest of India is in abstract a society where the political economy is defined by the capacity of a dominant caste to arbitrarily subordinate the rest of its members especially the Dalits and the tribal communities. Social order is the excuse for this arbitrary domination; caste and religious practices its scepter.

In a society dominated by caste, the concept of individual and individual freedom does not exist. Caste is the language of unchallenged ascendancy of one group over the other. Subordination of the lower ranks is a rule than an expectation. The possibility of change is ruled out by awarding sempiternal birthrights to the privileged and anchoring perpetual subjugation and bondage to the underprivileged.

The essence of Hindu religion is this adamantine de rigueur of life. Vedas and the ultimate Sanadana Dharma are the pharisaic justifications offered to this slavery. The concept of Hindutwa, advocated by the BJP, VHP, BJD and its allies, in principle is the legitimisation sought for the attempted third revival of the Hindu religion and its necromantic practices.

The statements issued by these fundamentalist forces and their antagonism against other religions are transuding with hate speech, calling for the use of brute force to suppress any challenge to the dominant caste supremacy. The violence in Orissa used to suppress the Dalit empowerment in this context is not a surprise.

Orissa is a state in India with an estimated population of 32 million. About 84 percent of this population lives in villages and one third of them do not own any substantial extent of land other than their homestead. An estimated 28 percent of this population are Dalits. Until recently, this large Dalit population suffered unchallengeable exploitation by the dominant castes.

In the past 10 years there has been a massive social movement in Orissa empowering the Dalit communities. Empowered Dalits who declared themselves as socially equal in status started levelling the centuries old uneven social balance in the state.

Education and the knowledge gained through exposure emboldened the Dalits to fight and raise their voice against dominant caste supremacy. Discrimination and slavery were no more tolerated by the Dalits. Obviously, the dominant caste groups led by the VHP and its allies had to take drastic actions to suppress this awakening.

New avenues opened up for the Dalits by delinking themselves from the Hindu caste system and its pretentious hegemony has been an eyesore for the fundamentalist Hindu political forces in the state. The VHP that leads the fundamentalist Hindu forces in Orissa started forcibly closing all possible exits for the Dalits to escape from the furnace of the Hindu caste system. For this, they employed the wisdom they had gained from the annihilation of Buddhism in India.

Naturally for the Dalits the practice of any other religion other than Hinduism was declared a taboo. Regional and state-wide campaigns were organised by the VHP to counter the Dalit empowerment. Sections of the Dalit communities in the state were forced to declare their subjugation to the dominant caste groups in ritualised ceremonies conducted by brute use of force and intimidation.

The state government of Orissa led by the BJD, an invisible partner of the VHP, let these 'reintegration' ceremonies happen throughout the state. The confusion, trauma and sufferings caused by this religious vandalism was exploited by the so called anti-state actors like the Maoists operating in the state. Natural calamities, extreme poverty, starvation and malnutrition also added further fire to the commotion.

The murder of a VHP leader and four of his colleagues on August 23 was only yet another excuse for the communal forces like the VHP to fan out their vendetta against the Dalits and their empowerment in the state. What is being witnessed in Orissa is the meticulous execution of a larger plan to force the Dalits back into the talons of caste based discrimination.

A state government that lets such evil to befall upon a population by its inaction shares equal responsibility like the VHP. The conspiracy of the state administration and the VHP is evident from the five days of complete inaction of the administration to take any steps to prevent the violence. The state administration must be held equally responsible for the loss of life and property, including that of the VHP cadres.

Now that the state administration has proved itself to be a silent spectator to the violence in the state, the government of India must ensure that the ongoing violence is arrested immediately. The Dalits who were forced to seek shelter and safety in the forests must be provided security to return. The government must also ensure that the victims of violence are adequately compensated.

The true test of a state in protecting and promoting democracy and pluralism is not how much these terms are mentioned in the domestic laws, but how good is the state apparatus in preventing the infringement of democratic values and how much equipped are the state mechanisms in providing redress for any violations.

The government of India, by virtue of its Constitutional mandates and the moral and legal obligations arising out of its ratification of international treaties and conventions must ensure that a state of normalcy returns to Orissa.

India by virtue of ratifying international conventions like the Convention on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination also has an obligation under the international human rights law to ensure that similar instances does not recur in the country. The international community also has a moral responsibility to urge the government of India to immediately put an end to the violence in Orissa.

It is only by such tangible affirmative action that the government of India can stand the test of commitment that it has sworn primarily to its own people and also to the protection, promotion and fulfilment of human rights and human values in the world.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984

29 August, 2008

Orissa Bachao Andolan’s memorandum to State Human Rights Commission

The Orissa Bachao Andolan (Save Orissa Movement) has, in a memorandum to the State Human Rights Commission, given a detailed account of the attacks on Christian institutions in the State’s tribal belt by Hindu communal outfits.

The text of the memorandum is available at the Countercurrents website.

Countercurrents.org has also distributed to two articles on the Orissa developments:

Pogrom against Christians: by John Dayal and Shabnam Hashmi

Dance of Terror in Orissa: by Nikunj Bhutia

28 August, 2008

Nuclear war if Republicans win, says US expert

The gratuitously aggressive US military policy toward Russia will lead to nuclear war, says Paul Craig Roberts.

In an article circulated by Countercurrents.org, he adds, “I am confident that if Americans elect John McCain, or the Republicans steal another presidential election, there will be nuclear war in the second decade of the 21st century. The neocon lies, propaganda, macho flag-waving, and use of US foreign policy in the interests of a few military-security firms, oil companies, and Israel are all leading in that direction.”

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts is no scare-monger. He was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury in the Reagan Administration. He is a former Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal and a former columnist for Business Week, the Scripps Howard News Service and Creator’s Syndicate in Los Angeles. He has held numerous university professorships, including the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by the President of France and the US Treasury’s Silver Medal for “outstanding contributions to the formulation of US economic policy.”

Kashmir and Jammu are burning

JAMMU PROTEST: AP Photo by Channi Anand

For weeks Jammu and Kashmir State has been burning. More precisely, the capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu are burning. In Kashmir valley, sometimes serious acts of violence occur even outside Srinagar. But such events occurring outside Jammu city in Jammu province is extremely rare. The media have been describing the current events as unprecedented. But the valley has witnessed such events on several occasions since Independence. This does not mean we can write off the events as routine. The reference to the past is intended to underline the need to take steps to prevent recurrence of such events.

The present troubles were precipitated by the dispute over allotment of forest land to provide amenities for Amarnath pilgrims. They show that communal forces have succeeded in a large measure in destroying Kashmir’s secular traditions. Along with the extremists who have gained the upper hand in the Muslim majority Kashmir valley, the Sangh Parivar, which has been stoking up communal passions in Hindu majority Jammu bears responsibility for this.

The journey to the Amarnath cave shrine, located at an altitude of more than 4,000 metres in the Himalayan ranges, is a difficult one. The main attraction of the temple is the ice Siva lingam formed as water drops falling from the roof freeze. To reach the cave one has to travel 45 kilometres along a narrow mountain path on foot or on pony. Since parts of the path lie buried under snow for nine or ten months in the year, the pilgrim season lasts only about two months. There have been occasions when many died because there is no place where one can take shelter if there is snowfall during the journey. About 25,000 people undertake the pilgrimage each year. Most of them are from outside the State. And most of them are elderly people. Since extremism made its appearance, pilgrims have been facing security threats.

There is a reference to Amarnath pilgrimage in Rajatarangini, believed to be a 12th century work. At a later stage, the pilgrimage stopped. No one even knew where the cave was. About 160 years ago, in the time of Gulab Singh, whom the British had installed as the king, a Muslim shepherd while moving with his flocks chanced upon the ice idol in the cave. Thereafter the pilgrimage began again. The king decided to give the shepherd’s family one-third of the temple’s income.

Only subjects of Jammu and Kashmir can buy land in the State. In the tribal regions of the country, too, there are laws to prevent people from outside grabbing land. It is another matter that encroachers are able to grab land with the help of politicians and officials. Interested parties propagated in the valley that allotment of land to the Board which is charged with the task of making arrangements for the pilgrims will help people from outside to settle in the State. The ineptitude of the Governor and the political leadership made matters worse. Cancellation of the order allotting land to the Board led to protests in Jammu.

Hindu communal organizations in Jammu adopted the barbarous method of blockade, which is widely used by political, labour and student movements in Kerala. Kashmiris were perturbed by the paralysis of traffic along the 300-kilometre long national highway running along the mountainside. It was mainly through Lahore that the people of the valley maintained contacts with the rest of the country before Independence. It was after Independence that the Jawahar Tunnel at Banihal which helps cross the Pir Panchal range that separates the valley from Jammu was built.

The agitation by communalists in Jammu helped the separatists in Kashmir immensely. The slogan ‘Azadi’ (freedom) is now resounding all over the valley. There are two groups among the separatists. One wishes to make Kashmir a part of Pakistan. The other hopes for the status of an independent state. Both have their roots in Muslim communalism. Events in Kashmir and Jammu show that, basically, Hindu communalism and Muslim communalism are not enemies, but friends who help each other grow.

The problem in Jammu and Kashmir is a result of the partition of the subcontinent. Those who are upset by the Azadi slogan must remember that we are not hearing it for the first time. It was this slogan that the maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir raised when the British divided the land on communal basis and left. The princely regimes in Travancore, Hyderabad and Junagadh also dreamed of independent states. The Independent Travancore project was demolished by the people of the state. India extinguished the hopes of the Nizam of Hyderabad and the Nawab of Junagadh through military action. India deposed and arrested Sheikh Abdullah, who was prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir, in 1953 as he was suspected to be entertaining hopes of Independence under American inspiration. He was a leader who saw India as one. I had first met him as a journalist when he was out of office for two decades, most of it in detention. He asked me where I came from. “From the other end, from Kerala,” I said. “Both ends must pull together,” he immediately observed. “Only then can the country move forward.” That is not a thought which can originate in a secessionist mind. Yet, from this we cannot deduce that the idea of an independent Kashmir never entered his mind. It was circumstances that turned Jinnah, who started out as a nationalist, into an advocate of Pakistan. It was circumstances that made Mujibur Rehman, who should have become prime minister of Pakistan, father of the Bangladesh nation. Those who are stoking regional sentiments in Jammu are helping to spread the message of Independence in the Kashmir valley.

The present revolt in Kashmir has prompted at least some individuals to react in a different manner than before. Arundhati Roy’s statement that Kashmir needs to be liberated from India and India from Kashmir is an example. But it is foolish to imagine that peace will reign in the subcontinent if Kashmir is handed over to Pakistan or made independent. As in 1847, Independent Kashmir remains an impractical proposition. Even if India and Pakistan are ready to honour its independence, it cannot survive. Like many other small states of the world it will come under the influence of some big country. If Kashmir had become part of Pakistan in 1947, Kashmiris would have sought India’s help to gain independence earlier than the people of East Bengal. For the kashmiriness of Kashmiris is stronger than the bengaliness of Bengalis.

Basically, the problems in Kashmir are no different from those in other states. Because of geographical and historical circumstances the sense of alienation of the Kashmiri Muslims finds expression in the political sphere mixed up with their Islamic identity. There is only one solution for the problems of Kashmiris as also of other peoples: they must be assured equality and equal opportunity in political, economic and social spheres. This is the task of Manmohan Singh and company, not the National Security Adviser and the Army chief.
Based on column ‘Nerkkazhcha’ appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated August 28, 2008.

26 August, 2008

China exchanges athletes and coaches with the world

Chinese athletes have been going abroad to play or coach for foreign teams. China itself used more foreign coaches than ever before to pull in medals in the Beijing Olympics, says New America Media reporter Jun Wang, who monitors the Chinese media.

See NAM report.

24 August, 2008

Police victimizing young Muslims in the name of fighting terrorism: Tribunal

A large number of innocent young Muslims have been and are being victimized by the police on the charge of being involved in various terrorist acts across the country. This is particularly so in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan, though not limited to these States.

This is one of the interim observations of a nine-member People’s Tribunal on Atrocities Committed Against Minority in the name of Fighting Terrorism, which recorded depositions and statements in over 40 cases from across the country.

The tribunal held sittings at Hyderabad from August 22 to 24, 2008.

The following are the members of the tribunal: Mr Justice Sardar Ali Khan, Mr Justice S.N. Bhargava, Mr KG Kannabiran, Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, Mr Prashant Bhushan, Mr Ram Puniyani, Ms Rooprekha Varma, Mr Lalit Surjan and Mr Kingshuk Nag
A detailed report on the subject is available at the Countercurrents.org site.

20 August, 2008

Statement by US activist on his detention during a fact-finding visit to India

Dave Pugh, a San Francisco-based teacher working with the Left-wing International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS), who was in India to study various people’s movements, was taken into custody by the Orissa police.

Reproduced below is Pugh’s account of his brush with the law in India, written on Sunday after he returned to the US.

A piece he wrote on Nandigram can be read here.

ILPS has an international coordination committee headed by Professor Jose Maria Sison, who was the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines and is chief political consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which is leading an armed campaign against the government. He has been living in exile in Europe since the 1980s.

Sison’s home page:http://www.josemariasison.org/jumi02//index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1


Yesterday (August 15) I returned to the US after spending three and a half weeks gathering information about the anti-displacement movement in India. I travelled across five states in central and eastern India to the sites of projected industrial and mining projects and real estate developments. I spoke with hundreds of villagers who are threatened with displacement and with many dedicated activists who are helping to organize the people's resistance.

On the evening of August 12, I was returning to the state capital of Orissa, Bhubaneswar, after spending a day in the area of Kalinganagar. This was the site of a massacre of 15 tribal farmers in January 2006 by Orissa police who were protecting the construction site of a large steel plant owned by the Tatas, one of the biggest industrial houses in India. Since then the farmers and their allies have stopped construction in its tracks, much to the consternation of Tata Steel and the Orissa government.

At approximately 8 pm, the car transporting us was pulled over by local police for a traffic-related reason. My translator Pratima Das, my guide Pradeep, our driver and I were taken to a police station for questioning. For the next eight hours, all of us were interrogated, first by the local police, and then by the chief police official of the state of Orissa. The latter was particularly hostile, accusing me of being an "anti-government agitator." When I insisted that I was a teacher researching the issue of forced displacement in India, he insisted that only "communists" would be interested in speaking with villagers.

After a night of harassment by the Orissa police, I was dropped off at my hotel at 4 am and told to stay there while they "verified" my story with US Homeland Security and Interpol. I was questioned once more in my hotel room the following day. Whether due to the efforts of my local friends, or the police leaking the story to the press, or both, I was interviewed by two TV stations and a local newspaper in my hotel room. A press release issued by Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan (the nationwide Anti-Displacement and People's Development Movement) produced many phone calls and emails to government officials in Orissa and New Delhi. In addition, supporters of the International League of Peoples' Struggle called Indian embassies and consulates in many countries. These calls undoubtedly made it more difficult for the Indian authorities to detain me any longer.

Shortly before I left Bhubaneswar, I heard that Pratima and Pradeep had been arrested and charged with serious political crimes that can keep them behind bars for many years. This is an outrage which has to be vigorously protested. Pratima and Pradeep are guilty only of being anti-displacement activists and introducing a foreign friend to the realities of India's villages and the devastating impact that capitalist "development" will have on tens of millions of people in India in the coming years. As soon as I hear from friends in India, I will send you information on how to support the immediate release of Pratima and Pradeep from jail.

Dave Pugh can be contacted at dpugh@mindspring.com.

18 August, 2008

Woman conducts the Nikaah

Dr Syeda Hameed, Member, Planning Commission, recently became probably the first woman in India to conduct a nikaah (Muslim marriage ceremony).

In a first-person account, distributed by the Women’s Feature Service, Dr Hameed says by solemnising the marriage - ubiquitously conducted by male clerics - she wanted to show the true spirit of Islam, a faith often maligned as being anti-women.

According to her, around 1,400 years ago women were empowered enough to ask the Prophet what Islam entailed for them. Women scholars and muftis were also common during that era. The Prophet's granddaughter, Hazrat Zainab, was, in fact, one of the greatest interpreters of Islam.

The Women's Feature Service (WFS) office is located at G-69, Second floor; Nizammudin West, New Delhi: 110013; India.

Phone: +91-11-2435 9886, +91-11-2435 2546; Fax: +91-11-2435 4606

Email: wfsdelhi@vsnl.com; Website: www.wfsnews.org

Pakistan forces out another military ruler

In 61 years of existence, Pakistan has seen several military rulers. Not one of them could make a quiet exit. They all quit under pressure of circumstances. Ayub Khan and Zia-ul-Haq, who reigned longest, remained in office for 11 years. Pervez Musharraf’s exit comes nine years after he seized power.

Musharraf sent his resignation letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly even as the house was preparing to impeach him. Earlier, all provincial assemblies had adopted resolutions asking him to resign or face impeachment.

In the first military coup, staged in 1955, eight years after Pakistan’s creation, Iskander Mirza, an ex-army man serving as Defence Secretary, became the Governor-General. Later he made himself President. In 1958, he proclaimed martial law and made the army chief, Ayub Khan, the chief martial law administration. Within weeks, Ayub Khan exiled Mirza and took over as President.

In 1969, as public opinion turned against him, Ayub Khan handed over the reins to army chief, Yahya Khan, whom he had earlier promoted over the heads of seven other generals.
The 1971 war with India, which resulted in the emergence of Bangladesh as a free country, sealed his fate. Under pressure of public opinion, he turned over control to Z. A. Bhutto. By 1977, the civilian administration got discredited enough to tempt army chief Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq to seize power. His death in a helicopter crash under mysterious circumstances in 1988 paved the way for another round of civilian rule.

Then came Pervez Musharraf. After wielding authority unchallenged for nearly nine years, he ushered in a civilian government. Before that, while still in uniform, he secured for himself a new term as President. Public opinion forced him to quit the army. On August 7, the leaders of the two largest parties, the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League, agreed on his impeachment. Neither the army nor the United States came to his rescue.

16 August, 2008

A Revolutionary Communist Party in the belly of US imperialism

RCP Publications, USA, has announced the publication of the new Constitution of the RCP, USA—one that lays out the mission and vision of a new stage of communist revolution, informed by Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communist theory.

It says: “The constitution puts forward this vision in a very accessible way, as well as laying out the principles of organization and the theoretical foundation of the Party. This includes an important appendix on communist theory as a scientific and revolutionary theory.

“This constitution serves as a bold declaration that there is indeed a party, in the belly of the imperialist U.S., with the determination and strategic analysis to make a revolution. . . and the vision, method and understanding of society and history to ensure that it is a revolution worth making.”

Click here to read the Constitution

15 August, 2008

Caste-based discrimination in a Tamil Nadu village

The report on India circulated by the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission on the eve of Independence Day is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in the country.

The AHRC statement is based on developments in a village in Tamil Nadu.
It says:

A resolution, recently passed by the Naloor panchayat in Narikudi block of Virudunagar district in Tamil Nadu state is the quintessence of caste based discrimination in India. The panchayat convened a meeting a few months ago and resolved that the proposed construction of a public library building in the panchayat must not be permitted.

The minutes of the panchayat meeting reveal the reason for the council decision. The council and its members feared that the library would be of use to the Dalits (lowest caste/untouchables) in the locality and that the Dalits might get enlightened by accessing knowledge through the public library.

Not stopping at the resolution the council had the audacity to approach the Tamil Nadu High Court with an application seeking the direction of the court to the government to prohibit the government from constructing the library building against the wish of the panchayat. The court while expressing anguish about the very nature of such a resolution dismissed the application. While dismissing the application the court also expressed its concern that such decisions would in fact lead to social unrest and is fundamentally against Article 17 of the Indian Constitution. MORE

14 August, 2008

Waiting for the Olympics era


Abhinav Bindra poses for a photo after the men’s 10m air rifle final at Shooting Range Hall at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing on August 11. Bindra won the gold medal. (AP photo)


SOME 1.15 billion Indians are glowing with pride as Abhinav Bindra’s gold medallion shines. According to the Olympics philosophy, the games are contests of skills and strength of individuals, not nations. Accordingly, the International Olympics Committee does not keep a tally of the medals won by each country at the games so far. Yet the media transforms all Olympic events into contests between nations.

Europe is the birthplace of the Olympics. It was the Europeans who took the initiative to revive the ancient Greek tradition. When the first modern Olympic Games were held at Athens in 1896, European imperialism was at its zenith. Of the 12 Olympics held between then and 1952, ten were in Europe. The remaining two were held in the United States, an emerging imperial power. Later Australia had the opportunity to host the Olympics.
Japan was the first Asian country to host the Olympics. It was only after South Korea that China got the privilege of hosting the games. All three countries received the honour by virtue of their economic growth.

I was in Tokyo when the IOC, at a meeting in Europe, decided in the summer of 1959 to hold the 1964 games in that city. While walking down the famed Ginza, I heard cheers rising all around. Small groups in trucks moved along planting flags on roadside posts. The flags were of Japan, the IOC and the Japanese Olympics Association. Looking up I saw a board on top of a tall building presenting news headlines in English and Japanese in moving letters. The English headline read: TOKYO CHOSEN VENUE OF 1964 OLYMPICS.
It was a proud moment for the Japanese. After the Berlin Olympics of 1936 it was Tokyo’s turn. World War II came in the way. After the war, Olympics began again in 1948. Japan, still suffering from the havoc wrought by the war, was in no position to extend an invitation to the IOC. Even if it had invited, it would not have been accepted as the country’s standing was low as the one which started the war and had lost. The big strides made in the post-war period emboldened the country to approach the IOC with a request to stage the 1964 Olympics there. The metropolitan governor of Tokyo went with a big team to convince IOC members that his city and the country were ready to play hosts.

The next day’s newspapers revealed the extent of the home work done by the Japanese government. Each government department gave details of what it proposed to do in the five years before the Olympic Games. New stadia, new roads, monorail from the airport to city centre, more hotels – so ran the schemes. A big firm was entrusted with the responsibility of building the monorail. Since the available accommodation was not enough to meet the anticipated needs, the government offered financial assistance to anyone willing to build new hotels. Japan demonstrated its ability to estimate tomorrow’s needs and meet them. China has done the same thing now. Most of what our government does now is to meet not tomorrow’s needs, nor even today’s, but yesterday’s.

The Tokyo Olympics recognized Japan’s re-emergence. Likewise, the Beijing Olympics recognize China’s re-emergence. There was a lot of murmur when the government decided to build new stadia for the Asian Games in Indira Gandhi’s time. Later, there was a half-hearted bid for the Olympics. It did not succeed. What is disturbing is not that we are not getting a chance to host the Olympics but that we are not able to produce word-standard sports persons.

When the modern Olympics began, Britain, France and other European countries were fat and rich, thanks to the opportunity to exploit the human and material resources of their colonies in many lands. Athletes from these countries made a sweep of the medals. European domination remained unchallenged till the middle of the 20th century. In 1928, hockey was introduced in the Olympics. British soldiers in Canada were the first to play this game, but India won the first hockey gold. We could not retain the dominant [position for long after the country gained freedom. This time we did not even qualify to enter Olympics hockey. There is a major lesson in our hockey experience. It is not possible to earn and retain a high position without mastering new techniques.

As victors of the World War, Britain and France could keep up the pretense of being Big Powers but as they lost the colonies one by one the world realized that they were not big any more. The Olympics later became the arena where the new big powers, the USA and the USSR clashed. Under Communist rule, the countries of East Europe climbed up the medal list. This time all eyes are on China. We now see that country rising up to expectations.

What is the relationship between growth of the economy and development of sports? An individual can make gains through excellent but isolated performance. But a country can shine in the field of sports through organized efforts on a large scale to spot talents and provide training facilities. This is yet to begin in our country. P.T.Usha’s lost bronze created tremendous interest in the country as a whole and in Kerala in particular. Bindra’s gold is certainly capable of providing even more excitement. But it represents only the rise of a star, not the birth of an era.

Abhinav Bindra took interest in a sport that is expensive. His father possessed enough financial resources to provide at home the training facilities needed to achieve excellence. With a business of his own, Abhinav could easily spare seven hours for training each day. How many people in India have such favourable circumstances?

At a time when several small countries held secure positions in the medal list, India and China, the two most populous countries, were out because there were no facilities to spot talent and provide training. Economic prosperity can help overcome this limitation. Although India is close behind China in economic development, it cannot come anywhere near China in the field of sports. The reason is that modern sports facilities will continue to remain beyond the reach of the vast majority of people. Centuries ago, India’s elite had evolved the strategy of excluding all those who had the capacity to beat them. While its influence lasts, only the small, rich urban community can have Olympic hopes. The interest of that community is in sports like cricket. Plenty of money flows into those areas. The elite are not interested in events like athletics which call for greater physical effort. Kerala has become a front-rank State in sports because it has been able to overcome this class division. Kerala society has been able to bring the middle classes into the field of sports. This is particularly evident in the case of girls. Elsewhere, feminine presence in this field is still low. We have to thank the Christian institutions for the absence of the kind of conservatism seen in other parts.

In many countries, universities play a big role in identifying and developing sports talent. I had occasion to visit the University of Florida which had trained many of America’s swimmers. It has swimming pools of Olympic standards. Thirty-two swimmers who trained there and three coaches ate at the Beijing Olympics under the flags of 20 countries. How can the idea of developing the university into a major training centre enter the heads of rulers who are busy figuring out how they can smoke out the vice-chancellor appointed by the previous regime and smuggle their favourites into various posts?
Based on column “Nerkkazhcha” appearing in Kerala Kaumudi dated August 14, 2008

10 August, 2008

Could the Olympics widen the gap between China and the world?

The Summer Olympics are supposed to be China’s coming out party on the world stage. But it has brought into sharp focus how differently Chinese think the world views them, and how the world actually views China. And even the most hospitable gestures by Beijing residents might not be able to bridge that gap, writes Jun Wang who monitors Chinese media for New America Media.

See New America Media report

09 August, 2008

When Red Fades, It Turns Saffron

‘When Red fades, It Turns Saffron'.This is the telling headline of a commentary by journalist KA Shaji, circulated by Countercurrents.org.

In it, Shaji mentions how the Sangh Parivar’s attempt to wrest control of the Left bastion of Kodungallur, an ancient town of Kerala, is threatening to undo its historic legacy of communal harmony.

It can be read here.

07 August, 2008

US journalists heading to India for work

The following is from SAJAforum, the newsy SAJA blog - new South Asian stuff daily: http://www.sajaforum.org

SAJAforum's editor, Arun Vengopal (whose day job is as a reporter for WNYC Radio), has a piece in Salon that looks at a phenomenon that didn't exist a few years ago: US journalists heading to India for work.

Excerpts from "Journalists Seeking Paychecks? Try India":


So, what's an underemployed journalist to do? Some move on to academia or cross over to the dark side of public relations. But a few
forward-thinking souls are heading to a land where journalism jobs not
only aren't disappearing, but are more plentiful by the day: India.

In recent years, India's steamroller economy has diversified well
beyond tech and outsourcing, including a big boom in the news media.
Circulation has been steadily growing at Indian newspapers, and new
dailies and magazines are popping up on a monthly basis. Among the new serious business publications that cater to the economic elites (or aspiring elites) is Mint, edited by Raju Narisetti. Narisetti is the former editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe, and before that served as deputy managing editor of the US edition, which helped him lure several journalists from the US.

"Mint has a handful of American citizens in its newsroom, including
me," he wrote me. "India is a fascinating country where history is being made in many respects so it is a fertile place for good journalism. Hopefully some of the non-Indian journalists will have a better understanding of India when they do go back."

Foreign journalists aren't the only ones taking advantage of India's
growth. The Wall Street Journal has a 26 percent stake in Mint (that's the maximum stake the Indian government allows for foreign owners of newspapers). Rolling Stone has also launched an Indian edition, following Vogue, FHM and Maxim. People magazine's local edition is launching soon. However, the growth is even greater in the non-English media, in part because rural and small-town India are becoming more literate and have more disposable income.

In broadcast, the change is even greater.

Read the rest of the piece at
http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/08/07/journalists_go_to_india/

Post your feedback at the Salon page or at
http://www.sajaforum.org/2008/08/jobs-salon-look.html

All eyes on China as the Olympics Games begin

Friday August 8th, China will display all its splendor and pomp to showcase the country to the world…. Everyone everywhere should watch the ceremonies. It will be a sheer delight, writes Dr. Girish Bhaskar.

See article at KAUMUDI SINGAPORE site

06 August, 2008

No energy to take care of Mom in India

After going from California to India to take care of her ailing mother, New America Media commentator Sarita Sarvate is confronted by the stark reality of the energy divide between the world’s haves and have-nots. It gives her a new perspective on the importance of the troubled Indo-U.S. nuclear deal.

Sarvate, a contributor to Pacific News Service, is a physicist and a writer for India Currents and other publications.

Over to her NAM commentary

Ajay T.G’s release rekindles hope

Here is an update from Kavita Srivastava, Secretary, PUCL, Rajasthan on the case of Ajay T.G., film-maker:

Dear friends,

Ajay TG was released from jail today, the 5th of August, only after 8 pm. It took them till four pm today to get all the papers ready. The work of notarising the property list of Ajay took no time in the jail in the morning. However, the Tehsildar had to verify and countersign the bail sureties that were to be presented by Shobha, Ajay's wife, and another person. The Tehsildar asked the Patwari to verify the papers. The Patwari was not available till very late. However, all the work was done and the papers were finally filed in court by 4pm. Following this, the release order was made out and sent to the jail and then the formalities in jail took more than an hour. The entire process went on till late evening. It was worth the wait for all.

Ajay was given a big welcome back. Shobha, several of his friends, family members from both sides including Shobha's brother Babu and her sister were all there. The most difficult moment was the reunion with his parents.

Ajay spoke over the phone to some of us. When he spoke to me he was very happy. He said that he would not lose a single day to plan the next step on the "case" front. He said that he wouldl be calling his lawyers and working it out

Ajay's release has rekindled hope that things will change in Chhattisgarh.

Kavita Srivastava

05 August, 2008

Ajay TG granted bail

Ajay TG, film-maker, arrested in Chhattisgarh on trumped-up charges, has at last been granted bail.
Here is a report from Kavita Srivastava, Secretary, PUCL, Rajasthan, who has been tracking Ajay’s case:


So there is good news for all of us. Ajay TG was granted bail today (August 4). However, the release will happen tomorrow.
Chandra Kumar Kashyap, Judicial Magistrate First Class, Durg District, granted bail to Ajay today, the 4th of August, around five pm. The bail was granted under sec 167 (2) (a) (i), which is called statutory bail in local parlance. Since the ninety days had expired and the police had not furnished the charge sheet thus the magistrate who was authorising the detention had to grant him bail.

During the remand hearing on 2nd of August morning the police took further remand till the 12th . The bail had been applied for on 2nd evening itself at 4.45 pm as the ninety days period was over at 5 pm. Since the court asked for the case diary, it was slated for Monday morning. Today Ajay's two friends Dilip Ingley and Bose Thomas were there when the matter got listed and the order was reserved for the evening when they were joined by Ajay 's lawyer Mahendra Dubey and Advocate Sudha Bharadwaj. The order after stating why bail was being granted also stated the conditions under which he would be released. They are
Ajay will furnish a personal bond of Rs. 50,000.
Two sureties of Rs. 25,000 each.
On affidavit, he will give a list of the movable and immovable property he has.
Every 2nd Monday of the month he will give his attendance in the local police station.
He will not move out of the country without the permission of the Court.

While the two sureties (condition 2) were prepared in advance, it was condition (3) which has caused the delay in the release. The Court has asked the lawyers of Ajay to take the notary public to the jail tomorrow morning and get the list of property signed and notarized after which he will be released.

We hope this is the beginning of good news for Ajay TG. Will keep all of you informed of the developments.

Kavita Srivastava

The Story of Binayak Sen – A Report to the Nation

Doctors in Defence of Dr. Binayak Sen, a group formed to take up the case of the well-known pediatric surgeon and human rights activist arrested in Chhattisgarh on charges of aiding extremists, has brought out a book. It is titled “Indian Doctor in Jail: The Story of Binayak Sen – A Report to the Nation”.

The 112-page book has been published by Promila and Co. in association with Bibliophile South Asia, New Delhi and Chicago. It is priced Rs. 250.

Mainstream weekly carries a review of the book by K.B.Saxena in its latest issue (Vol XLV, No.33): “Threat to State Security: Incarceration of a public health practitioner”.

04 August, 2008

Independent and objective inquiry into Ahmedabad and Surat blasts demanded

Reproduced below are two documents with a bearing on Gujarat. One is a memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister by Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer and four other activists demanding an independent and objective inquiry into the Ahmedabad and Surat blasts. The other is an article by Teesta Setalvad, well-known activist and journalist, which points out how Gujarat’s social fabric has survived the animosity which tore the state into two communal halves during the 2002 riots.

MEMORANDUM


 'Pray, terror does not touch Gujarat. C.M. Knows state's anti-terror machinery is cracking' warned Times of India on 16th May, 2008.

 Is Ahmedabad safe under new Commissioner of Police O.P. Mathur? Prashant Dayal asked on 27th May, 2008 and onwards in serial articles in Times of India.

Yet instead of reconsidering the appointment of Police Commissioner Gujarat Government allowed SEDITION COMPLAIN being registered against Times of India Resident Editor Bharat Desai and reporter Prashant Dayal on one hand and made several statements after Bangalore blast one was by Minister of States for Home affairs Amit Shah in Dhoraji (Rajkot District) on 25th July, 2008. Second by BJP State President Purshottam Rupala at Virpur (Kheda District) on 26th July, few hours before the first blast in Ahmedabad took place. Over and above Chief Minister himself saying in Jetpur (Rajkot District) making a statement that if the terrorist dare to do what they did in Bangalore I shall hunt them down to death. (Patal Mathi Pan Sodhi Ne Emne Kabrastan Ma Pahochadi Daish, Saaf Kari Nakhis). He earlier had told a public meeting in Mumbai of similar kind and off course Gujarat remembers him boasting during election meetings. Chest as wide as 56", claimed earlier to fight terrorism is now nowhere in the scenario.

 The central agencies, according to Minister of State for Home Affairs in the Union Government, Shakeel Ahmed, had given warnings about high terrorists threat to Gujarat. High alert was advised but Narendra Modi chose to ignore, as if it was weather forecast and decided not to act, Why?

 Is it not too much of coincidence that Surat bomb detonators has been traced to Government factory in Dholpur, in Rajasthan a BJP ruled state and Ammonium Nitrate trail in Nagpur where the RSS headquarter is situated ?

 All the Muslim organisations and leading individuals from the Community have condemned the serial blast in Ahmedabad, they have demonstrated against and asked for independent probe while Hindu organisations have preferred not to do so. Why?

 A total of 27 live bombs were recovered in Surat in places like Varachha, Kapodara, Mahidharpura and Umbra in four days after the Ahmedabad blasts. The bombs were recovered through the local people and not by Surat police or any crime detection agencies. How this fact is explained?

 Why there are long pending vacancies for five Superintendent of Police, 9 Inspectors and 40 % post of lower level staffers in Intelligence branch resulting in non-availability of intelligence report from bordering districts like Kutch and Banaskantha.

 It is beyond anybody's comprehension that all the live bombs in Surat did not explode while in Ahmedabad most of them did. The bomb disposal squad diffused the explosive without any safety gear and with smiling faces, even they by-standards showed no fear as they watched the bombs being diffused. Did they know that bombs were not to be exploded?

 Surat bombs were planted as high as on hoardings and tree tops which had to be brought down with the help of crane. Are we to believe terrorists were planting the bombs with the help of cranes which Surat police did not know?

 What is the evidence or information available against the survivors of Gujarat carnage 2002, who suffered personal losses six years ago that they are being targeted for the blasts? Or is this the new theory that the Sangh and the administration is selling us?

 Was it true that Pota detainees had called Rasool Party in Pakistan, if so, what action has been taken against the Sabarmati Jail authorities? Are we to believe prisons in Gujarat are the hide outs of terror cells?

 Why the CCTV cameras installed at the state border and in Ahmedabad hospitals failed on 26th July when the blast took place yet no action seems to have taken against them nor anyone is held responsible for the failure?

 Former deputy Prime Minister and leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha
L.K. Advani downwards in saffron brigade are demanding Pota and Gujco like laws but they do not seems to know that baring two provisions Pota is existing in Gujarat in the form of Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act. Moreover terrorist attacks on Parliament House, Red Fort, Akshardham in Gandhinagar and Jammu Mandir had taken place when POTA law was in operation. Any law can help in penalizing those who are arrested but law by itself does not arrest anybody or prevent any crime.

• All the above points are either gross and serious failure by Gujarat Home Department or the State Police or it was a case of criminal complacency in either case an independent inquiry should be held by CBI or by a commission headed by sitting judge of Supreme Court of India.

• Is it not true that direct evidence is available against the Sangh Parivar outfits in the following terror attacks/ bomb blasts: Nanded Bomb blast case, Tenkasi terrorist attack, Thane bomb attacks in the theatre, Nagpur attack on the RSS office?

• Why the intelligence agencies at the centre ignoring this evidence and why these organizations not banned so far?

• Is it not true that Bal Thackrey said that Hindu Suicide squads should be formed and Hindu terror should be unleashed? Also that the bombs planted in Thane should have been stronger? 'It is time to set up Hindu suicide squads to ensure safety of the Hindu society and to protect the nation'. Why he was not arrested? Why Shiv Sena not banned after this statement?

• Why RSS, Bajrang Dal have not been banned?

• Is it not true that in 2002 bombs were used to blow up mosques and dargahs and residences? Who made them?

• Is it not true that various outfits of the Sangh are giving arms training to their cadre?

We the undersigned demand:

• Independent inquiry into the bomb blasts in Ahmedabad and Surat by CBI or by a commission headed by sitting judge of Supreme Court of India.

• An inquiry in to the role of RSS, Bajrang Dal and other Sangh Parivar organizations in various terror attacks.

• Suspension of Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad.
Dr Asghar Ali Engineer- All India Secular Forum
LS Hardenia- Editor, Secular Democracy
Jyotsna Shukla- Executive Quami Ekta Samiti
Digant Oza- People's Movement of India
Shabnam Hashmi- Anhad, Delhi

To
1. Dr. Manmohan Singh
Prime Minister of India

2.Smt Sonia Gandhi
10. Janpath
New Delhi

Some good amid the bombs?

By TEESTA SETALVAD

SHOCK, PAIN and grief were visible on the faces of survivors and family members, be it at the VS Hospital, the Civil Hospital or the LG Hospital in Ahmedabad. The bewilderment at the mindless acts of terror, especially the two bomb blasts at the hospitals that targeted the injured and the doctors, was palpable. Exhaustion of the determined band of doctors, paramedics and nurses attending to the injured in the blasts that claimed over 50 lives, was visible. Yet they greeted each visitor with patience, detailing aspects of the terror and their response.

Five days after 18 bomb blasts tore Ahmedabad's fragile social fabric, a tenuous peace reigns over the city. There has been some hardening of hearts but no overt expressions of hatred, yet, on the streets. Violence leading to grief and loss, especially of the kind witnessed by Ahmedabad last Saturday, can often lead to mindless acts of revenge against imagined perpetrators who simply bear the identity badge of a community. Such feelings were stoked to perfection in Gujarat in 2002. Thankfully, they were starkly missing after bomb terror hit the commercial hub of Gujarat last week.

As the nation rallied around to praise the resilience of Gujaratis, we saw, for the first time, that serious efforts were made by the political class (the whacky press conference by Sushma Swaraj apart) not to politicise the issue of bomb terrorism, avoid the usual blame-game and mend the cheap divides.

Ironically, it was the master of political manipulation, Chief Minister Narendra Modi — a man who had never failed to attack the Opposition on cleverly constructed slogans like "Mia Musharraf" and "Sohrabuddin, the terrorist''— who emerged as the beneficiary of a decent national response.

Since the devastating riots of 2002, all of us who hail from the soil of Gujarat have pointed at its forbearing past, towards the poetry of Narmada and the welcoming soil that gave Wali Dakhani a home and final resting place. Just a year before the riots of 2002, Gujarat saw similar moments of glory in the aftermath of the Kutch earthquakes which claimed many lives. All Gujaratis — cutting across communities — chipped in bravely to rebuild homes and hearts. In fact, a victim of 2002 riots, unable to fathom the reason behind the pogrom, told Justices Krishna Iyer and Sawant that the violence was aimed at destroying the harmony and bonhomie between the Hindus and the Muslims.

The land of Gandhi that has abandoned his values needs to rebuild itself on acknowledgement, justice, remorse and forgiveness. Gandhiji was also a victim of a terrorist's bullets. The birthplace of an icon of forbearance and non-violence stands scarred by deep schisms. Gandhiji was killed because he spoke the language of peace and toleration.

The fragile peace prevalent even after the bomb blasts, hopefully, will help Gujarat and Gujaratis see the inherent values of a lasting and comfortable peace.

Madras celebrates founding day on August 22

Friday, August 22, is Madras Day. It was on this day in 1639 that Damarla Venkatadri Nayakudu, Nayak of Wandiwash, gave a grant to Francis Day of the English East India Company to set up a factory on the Coromondal coast. The English settlement gradually grew into the city of Madras.

On August 22, 2004, a small group of people got together and organized Madras Day celebrations to mark the founding of the city. Since then, interest in Madras Day celebrations has grown.

Although the city now bears the name of Chennai, those organizing celebrations to mark to its founding use the name the East India Company gave to the city.

Sify.com, one of India's oldest and largest internet news portals, is
running a special series to celebrate Madras Day this year.
Ramananda Sengupta, Chief Editor, Sify Interactive Services, Chennai, says as part of the series the portal will carry stories on and by NRIs from Madras. NRIs wishing to convey their feelings about the city may provide “memories, raves and rants and even pictures from the family album”.

Material for publication may be sent to Sreedevi Arun at sreedevi.arun@sifycorp.com before August 20.

03 August, 2008

Pain of being Untouchables: Gypsies And Dalits

Do Dalits and Gypsies get equal opportunities in their countries?

Will Dalits and Gypsies be able to feed, give education to children, and get them well placed in life?

Pardeep raises these questions in a commentary distributed by Countercurrents.org

01 August, 2008

'Release Ajay TG' Film Festival

A ‘Release Ajay TG’ film festival is being organized in Mumbai on Sunday, August 3. According to the organizers, it is dedicated to all political prisoners who have been unlawfully and illegally detained in several parts of the country, while working for protecting the fundamental rights of every citizen. It is also in support of the demand for release of human rights activists Ajay TG and Dr. Binayak Sen, arrested in Chhattisgarh on charges of aiding extremists. .

Below is a list of films to be screened during the festival. The brief note on each film testifies to Ajay’s commitment to the cause of human rights and the remarkable work he has done during the past few years..

Anjam
20 mins 41 sec / 2007-08
Directed by Ajay TG

Documentary about Binayak Sen

Hathaure Wala (Man with the Hammer)
5 mins 46 sec / 1999
Directed by Ajay TG

A portrait of an 80-year old blacksmith who works in the shadow of the Bhilai Steel Plant in Chhattisgarh. This is Ajay's first film and one from the first trio of films made at Jandarshan.

The Other Side of the Mirror
7 mins 26 sec

An extract of an unfinished film, which links a critique of Indian chauvinism with the contrast between the education of rich and poor children. It then introduces the school which Ajay started.

Aisa Kyon?
1 min 51sec / 2007 / Original Language
A short drama devised and shot by girls at the school run by Ajay TG. The brief was to focus on an issue which affects them. In this film they chose discrimination in education. It was to have been the first of a series of such short dramas on various issues but the project has been interrupted by Ajay's imprisonment.

Photographs
5 mins 57 sec / 2007

A sequence of stills taken by girls in the school Ajay runs, put in order and set to music.

Golapalli: A Fact Finding by the PUCL
15 mins / 2004
Direction, Camera, Editing and Graphics by Ajay TG

This film describes an incident in which two school teachers and a student were killed by paramilitary forces in Golapalli, Tehsil Konta, District Bastar. The film is based on testimonies of the people of the village to a fact finding team of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties.

Jiramtarai: A Fact Finding by the PUCL
15 mins / 2004
Editing and Graphics by Ajay TG

Through interviews of peasant men and women of the village, this film investigates an incident when the CRPF ostensibly provoked by a mine blasted by Naxalites had entered into the fields and village of Jiramtarai and killed three people.

The Journey (Safar)
15 mins 7 sec / 2001 / English subtitles
Directed by Reeta Chandel and Ajay TG

A Jandarshan student film about Reeta's father, a porter in the hospital of the Bhilai Steel Plant. This film is a development of Reeta's 5 minute film, Papa Says, shot by Ajay, as part of an earlier student exercise. The Journey was made because Ajay felt that they should explore questions about marriage and gender which had come up by chance during the shooting of the earlier film.

Living Memory
33 mins 41sec / 2002 / English narration and subtitles
Directed by Shobha Ajay / Co-Directed and partly shot by Ajay TG

A Jandarshan student production, Living Memory is a personal, autobiographical film in which Shobha reflects on her roots in an Andhra Christian community, her marriage with Ajay, a Hindu from Kerala, and grieves for her beloved father who died of cancer during the filming.

Letters and Learning / English subtitles
41 mins / 2003
Directed by Ajay TG

A film about an elderly Satnami who got a job in the Bhilai Steel Plant in return for giving up land, and how he prospered, enabling his daughter to become a school teacher and his granddaughter a doctor. Ajay got to know him when working as Jonathan Parry's field assistant. This Jandarshan student film is not only a biography, but also a critique of attitudes to literacy and knowledge.

Bhook ke Virudh, Bhat ke liye . . . (That No One May Go Hungry)
49 mins / 2004 / Original Language
Direction, Camera, Editing and Graphics by Ajay TG
A documentary about food diversification and the right to food in India.

More information on the campaign as well as Ajay's work is available on
http://www.releaseajaytg.in/ajaytg.html