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

30 November, 2008

Shivraj Patil’s resignation a welcome step

Home Minister Shivraj Patil’s resignation is a welcome step. When things go wrong, someone has to assume responsibility. In a democratic set-up like ours, constructive responsibility lies with the Minister, as Justice M. C. Chagla pointed out when he inquired into the Mundhra scandal decades ago.
Several instances of intelligence failure have surfaced in the recent past. Against this background, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the main Opposition party, has been demanding Patil’s resignation for some time. However, until now, the United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi was reportedly unwilling to let him go. It is good that she has changed her mind. Personal loyalty is not a relevant consideration in taking decisions on matters of this kind.
The BJP, which is already in election mode nationally, has said Patil’s resignation has come too late. It is a valid criticism. However, Patil can draw comfort from the fact that the terrorists, who had held a large number of hostages at different points, did not make any demands on the government and create a situation where he, like former BJP minister Jashwant Singh, had to personally escort jailed terrorists to freedom in a neighbouring country.

Wake Up call for India

Dr Girish Bhaskar
KaumudiSingapore.com


India watchers were not entirely surprised by the horrific terror attack by Islamic extremists in the bustling financial capital of India, Mumbai. In the past Mumbai has had two major terror attacks each killing hundreds of people. Within the last one year Islamic terrorists have created havoc in many parts of India including Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Hyderabad and New Delhi. While the Central government has condemned these cowardly acts in strong terms, it has been reluctant to take stringent measures lest it will upset the significant Muslim community in India. Meanwhile terrorists quickly learned that they can strike anywhere in India with impunity and extract maximum publicity.

As the national elections are nearing, security threat to the country will become the most important topic for public debate. The opposition BJP has made inroads in the State elections and is seen as more determined to deal with terror threat than the current Congress-led coalition group. While the Indian economy has done well in spite the global economic slowdown, without internal security, the investment climate in India can rapidly deteriorate.

What the latest Mumbai attack has shown is that the State police are not well equipped or trained to deal with terror strikes. That such a brazen attack took place in eight different locations of a major city raises questions about the intelligence gathering ability of the State and the Central governments. What is clear is further terror attacks are likely unless the government gets serious in dealing with the recurring menace. Indonesia, a large Muslim country, has been successful in keeping the home grown terrorists in check by establishing a federal anti-terrorism force.

To begin with, the State governments should build a professional police force. It is not that the State governments lack adequate police force. Their approach to maintaining law and order leaves much to be desired. Every major city must have a well trained rapid response force which is trained to deal with modern warfare.

Considerable time is wasted in pressing the services of the national security guards from the Central government. Security cameras should be made available in all important locations. If the Mumbai railway stations had proper security checks, unnecessary deaths in the busiest Mumbai city railway station could have been avoided.

Whenever Islamic terrorists strike India, the government is quick to point the finger at Pakistan. India’s efforts to prevent extremists from Pakistan entering the country have so far been a failure. While strong condemnations of attacks are routinely made through diplomatic channels, the government has not gone aggressively in pursuit of the terrorist training camps inside Pakistan. Such lukewarm responses only help to embolden the enemy. Not all the Islamic terrorists are from Pakistan. In recent years Pakistani terror groups have been successful in recruiting disaffected Indian Muslims to their cause. In a recent encounter by the Indian military in Kashmir with the infiltrators, some of the killed terrorists were identified as Muslims from the Malabar area of Kerala. The State police had no clue regarding the recruits from Kerala.

One major factor that has hobbled the major political parties in India in taking a tough approach to the terror menace is the Muslim votes they need to get elected. Perhaps the government should seriously consider giving proportional representations to Muslims in Parliament and the legislative assemblies based on the population. This will help avoid the reluctance of the politicians to take bold measures to deal with terrorism.

Without taking drastic measures, India’s Islamic terror menace is not going to go away. People expect the country’s political leadership to take all steps to prevent terror attacks. Compounding the problem is the growing Naxalite strikes on security forces in recent months in various States. The government’s lackluster response also is creating an opening for Hindu fundamentalists to take law into their hands. India’s rapid economic growth depends on ensuring a peaceful and stable India. The challenges ahead are daunting. But only a strong political leadership can take on such challenges head on.

Dr. Girish Bhaskar, a physician based at Lake City, Florida, is a regular commentator on Indian and US affairs.

28 November, 2008

Bombs and bullets cannot destroy India

By Shashi Tharoor in Kerala
The Guardian

There is a savage irony to the fact that the unfolding horror in Mumbai began with terrorists docking near the Gateway of India. The magnificent arch, built in 1911 to welcome the King-Emperor, has ever since stood as a symbol of the openness of the city. Crowds flock around it, made up of foreign tourists and local yokels; touts hawk their wares; boats bob in the waters, offering cruises out to the open sea. The teeming throngs around it daily reflect India's diversity, with Parsi gentlemen out for their evening constitutionals, Muslim women in burkas taking the sea air, Goan Catholic waiters enjoying a break from their duties at the stately Taj Mahal hotel, Hindus from every corner of the country chatting in a multitude of tongues. Today, ringed by police barricades, the Gateway of India - and gateway to India's soul - is barred, mute testimony to the latest assault on the country's pluralist democracy.

The terrorists knew exactly what they were doing. Theirs was an attack on India's financial nerve-centre and commercial capital, a city emblematic of the country's energetic thrust into the 21st century. They struck at symbols of the prosperity that was making the Indian model so attractive to the globalising world - luxury hotels, a swish cafe, an apartment house favoured by foreigners. The terrorists also sought to polarise Indian society by claiming to be acting to redress the grievances of India's Muslims. And by singling out Britons, Americans and Israelis, they demonstrated that their brand of Islamist fanaticism is anchored less in the absolutism of pure faith than in the geopolitics of hate.

Today, the platitudes flow like blood. Terrorism is unacceptable; the terrorists are cowards; the world stands united in unreserved condemnation of this latest atrocity. Commentators in America trip over themselves to pronounce this night and day of carnage India's 9/11. But India has endured many attempted 9/11s, notably a ferocious assault on its national parliament in December 2001 that nearly led to all-out war against the assailants' presumed sponsors, Pakistan. This year alone, terrorist bombs have taken lives in Jaipur, in Ahmedabad, in Delhi, and several different places on one searing day in Assam. Jaipur is the lodestar of Indian tourism to Rajasthan; Ahmedabad is the primary city of Gujarat, the state that is a poster child for India's development; Delhi is the political capital and window to the world; Assam was logistically convenient for terrorists from across a porous border. Mumbai combined all the four elements of its precursors: a grand slam.

Indians have learned to endure the unspeakable horrors of terrorist violence ever since malign men in Pakistan concluded it was cheaper and more effective to bleed India to death than to attempt to defeat it in conventional war. Attack after attack has been proven to have been financed, equipped and guided from across the border, the most recent being the suicide-bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul, an action publicly traced by American intelligence to Islamabad's dreaded military special-ops agency, the ISI.

The risible attempt to claim the Mumbai killings in the name of the "Deccan Mujahideen" merely confirms that wherever the killers are from, it is not the Deccan. The Deccan lies inland from Mumbai; one does not need to sail the waters of the Arabian Sea to get to the city from there. In its meticulous planning and military precision, the assault on Mumbai bore no trace of what its promoters tried to suggest it was - a spontaneous eruption by angry young Indian Muslims. This horror was not homegrown.

The Islamist extremism nurtured by a succession of military rulers of Pakistan has now come to haunt its well-intentioned but lamentably weak civilian government. The militancy once sponsored by its predecessors now threatens to abort Pakistan's sputtering democracy and seeks to engulf India in its flames. There has never been a stronger case for firm and united action by the governments of both India and Pakistan to cauterise the cancer in their midst.

India is a land of great resilience that has learned, over arduous millenniums, to cope with tragedy. Bombs and bullets alone cannot destroy it, because Indians will pick their way through the rubble and carry on as they have done throughout history. But what can destroy India is a change in the spirit of its people, away from the pluralism and coexistence that has been our greatest strength. The prime minister's call for calm and restraint in the face of murderous rampage is vital. If these tragic events lead to the demonisation of the Muslims of India, the terrorists will have won. For India to be India, its gateway - to the multiple Indias within, and the heaving seas without - must always remain open.

• Shashi Tharoor is a former UN under-secretary general
and author of The Elephant, the Tiger & the Cell Phone shashitharoor.com

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

Terrorist atrocity In Mumbai

By Keith Jones
WSWS.org

Mumbai, India’s most populous city and commercial center, has been the scene of a terrorist atrocity that has left at least 127 dead and more than 300 wounded.

Beginning late on the evening of Wednesday, November 26, seven or more sites in southern Mumbai came under attack from gunmen wielding automatic and semi-automatic weapons and grenades. Several bombs are also reported to have exploded.

The targeted sites included one of India’s busiest commuter railway stations, a hospital, a Jewish center, a café popular with tourists, and two luxury hotels.

The synchronized attacks are said to have been perpetrated by a group of 20 or more young, South Asian-looking men. They were clearly aimed at inducing panic and inflicting the maximum civilian casualties.

Indian army commandos were soon mobilized to suppress the attack and free dozens, if not hundreds of people, who had been taken hostage or had hidden from the gunmen at the Chabad Lubavitch Centre as well as the Taj Mahal and Oberoi-Trident hotels.

A tense stand-off, punctuated by gunfire and explosions, continued through the day Thursday at the two hotels, both of which came to be partially engulfed in fire. Only late in the evening Thursday did Indian authorities announce that they had secured the Taj Mahal. Military operations were said to be continuing at the Oberoi and at the Jewish Center.

There have been press reports, based on eyewitness accounts, that the terrorists deliberately targeted foreigners and specifically sought out US and British citizens at the targeted hotels.

However, the vast majority of the reported fatalities were Indian civilians, although this could conceivably change after the two hotels have been secured and thoroughly searched

One report listed the dead as six foreigners, the head of the Maharastra State Anti-Terrorism Squad, 14 other police and home guard personnel, and 104 Indian civilians, including dozens of railway commuters and several hotel employees. Seven foreigners and 26 police personnel were among the more than 325 injured.

Mumbai is India’s most cosmopolitan city, although in recent months it has been shaken by a reactionary, frequently violent agitation mounted by a split-off from the Hindu communalist and Maharastran-chauvinist Shiv Sena against workers from north India.

The Deccan Mujahedeen, a previously unknown group, is reported to have claimed responsibility for the attack. The Western media has been full of speculation that al-Qaeda, whose roots lie in Saudi Arabia and the Arab Middle East, instigated the Mumbai atrocity.

The BBC has reported eyewitnesses as saying the gunmen spoke Hindi, India’s principal national language, while Indian Army Major General R.K. Hooda has claimed that the attackers spoke Punjabi in intercepted conversations. One of India’s official languages, Punjabi is also the mother-tongue of the majority of Pakistanis.

In a nationally-televised address Thursday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that “the group which carried out these attacks” was “based outside the country.”

In an apparent ratcheting up of Indian pressure on its arch-rival Pakistan, Singh threatened undisclosed reprisals against India’s neighbours if they fail to satisfy New Delhi’s demand to do more to suppress anti-Indian terrorist groups. “We will take up strongly with our neighbours,” said Singh, “that the use of their territory for launching attacks on us will not be tolerated, and that there would be a cost if suitable measures are not taken by them.”

Later Thursday it was reported Indian naval personnel had searched a Pakistani ship docked in Mumbai harbour and the Indian navy had apprehended two Pakistani merchant vessels off India’s west coast. Indian authorities have said that the attackers arrived in Mumbai by boat.

New Delhi has repeatedly blamed Pakistan for terrorist attacks, including a bomb-blast last summer at the Indian embassy in Kabul.

In 2001-02, the two countries almost went to war for the fourth time after India alleged Pakistan was responsible for a terrorist attack on India’s parliament and mobilized a million troops, for the better part of a year, along the Pakistani border.

The two countries have been pursuing a peace dialogue since January 2004. But New Delhi, conscious of India’s growing economic power and buoyed by a burgeoning strategic partnership with the US that has included the signing of a nuclear cooperation treaty and Washington’s strong support for India playing a major role in Afghanistan, has ceded no ground whatsoever to Islamabad on the vital issue of Kashmir.

Pakistan was quick to forcefully condemn the November 26-27 terrorist attack and express its support for the Indian government. From New Delhi, where he was participating in the latest round of peace talks, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi warned against a rush to judgment. “Our experience in the past tells us that we should not jump to conclusions,” Qureshi told Dawn television.

In a show of “national unity,” Manmohan Singh has offered to tour Mumbai with L.K. Advani, the prime ministerial candidate of the official opposition Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP.

This will bring no comfort to the Muslims of Mumbai or India’s Muslim minority as a whole. Advani is a rank Hindu communalist, and the principal leader of an agitation to build a Hindu temple on the site of a famous mosque in Ayodhya that climaxed in 1992-93 in the worst communal rioting in India since the 1947 partition of the subcontinent. Advani is also a close associate of the BJP Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, who incited in 2002 a pogrom against the state’s Muslims, with a series of statements that implied Muslims were collectively responsible for a train fire, whose origins remain in dispute, that killed several score Hindu supremacist activists.

Whoever were the authors of this week’s terrorist attack in Mumbai, it was a vile act that will only serve reaction in India and internationally.

The White House will invoke the Mumbai events to justify the “war on terror”—the predatory policy the Bush administration has pursued around the world, but which found its supreme expression in the US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

The incoming Democratic administration of Barack Obama shares the same basic imperialist goals as its predecessor and has given every indication that it will employ much of the same rhetoric, first and foremost the claim that the US is locked in an open-ended war on terror. A spokesman for president-elect Obama, Brooke Anderson, said the “co-ordinated attacks on innocent civilians” in Mumbai “demonstrate the grave and urgent threat of terrorism”; then added, “the United States must continue to strengthen our partnerships with India and nations around the world to root out and destroy terrorist networks.”

Obama has been advocating a major intensification of the US-NATO war in Afghanistan, including extending it into the border regions of neighboring Pakistan, in the name of destroying al-Qaeda and the terrorist threat to America.

Manmohan Singh in his address to the nation Thursday promised to strengthen India’s anti-terrorist laws, i.e. give security forces greater powers, a longstanding demand of the BJP and the political right. India’s police and security forces have an atrocious human rights record, including frequently resorting to dragnets, torture, and summary executions

The past two days’ events in Mumbai are a godsend to the Hindu supremacist right.

The BJP and it allies have been rocked by the recent exposure of a Hindu supremacist terror network, with connections to the Indian military. Police say this network was responsible for twin bombings on September 29 that killed 6 people and is suspected of carrying out other bombings, including possibly the 2006 attack on a train bound for Pakistan that killed 68 people, most of them Pakistanis. Several of the chief suspects have longstanding and close ties to the BJP and other prominent Hindu nationalist organizations. (See: “India: Hindu supremacist terror network had ties to military”)

So fearful are the BJP and its allies of the political fallout from the exposure of the Hindu terror conspiracy that they have been mounting a hysterical campaign against the special anti-terrorist police, whose activities they have hitherto praised to the sky, accusing them of mounting a vendetta against Hindus.

Unquestionably the BJP will seize on the Mumbai atrocity and its horrific toll in human life to try to suppress public discussion of, and derail the investigation, into the Hindu terrorist network.

Exposure of the network was threatening to disrupt the BJP’s plans to place at the center of its campaign in the coming election the charge that the Congress Party, the dominant partner in India’s United Progressive Alliance coalition, is “soft” on terrorism. The BJP has long tied this fatuous claim to communal incitement—to claims that the Congress won’t take the stern measures needed to defeat “Islamic terrorism” because it is intent on “coddling Muslims.”

Speaking Thursday, BJP leader Advani called for “patriotic unity” and “communal harmony,” but then in the next breath served notice that the BJP sees the Mumbai atrocity as grist for its electioneering. Said Advani, “In the context of what has happened last night in Mumbai, there is no doubt that both the UPA Government at the Centre and the Congress-NCP coalition Government in Maharashtra have a lot to answer for.”

In declaring this week’s attack to be a “continuation of 13 March 1993,” Advani may, however, have said more than he wished. On March 13, 1993, a Muslim-led criminal gang carried out a series of bombings in Mumbai. The bombings were in retaliation for pogrom-style riots that had killed hundred of Muslims in Mumbai two months before as part of the communal bloodletting triggered by Advani’s campaign to build a Hindu temple on the ashes of the Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya.

The rise of Islamacist terrorism in India is not principally due to forces outside the country. It is a consequence of the Indian elite’s increasingly pronounced promotion of Hindu communalism, as exemplified by the rise of the Hindu supremacist BJP over the past quarter-century. Even a recent Indian government inquiry was forced to conclude that India’s 140 million Muslims face systematic discrimination and police harassment and are at, or near the bottom, as measured by key socio-economic indicators, of India’s overwhelmingly poor and grossly unequal society.

Distributed by countercurrents.org

Abhinav Bharat trained cadres to lie, says report

"Injure yourself if you have to"; "complain of torture"; "make personal, embarrassing allegations against the police in court."

These are some instructions members of the radical Hindu group Abhinav Bharat – under investigation for its involvement in the Malegaon blast – were given at a training camp conducted by Lt Col Prasad Purohit at Pachmarhi, Madhya Pradesh, earlier this year.

The September 29 blast in a crowded marketplace in Maharashtra's powerloom town claimed six lives.

Investigators found details of these training sessions in Purohit's laptop, which was recovered after his arrest on November 5. The Hindustan Times had access to the armyman's detailed lecture notes. Officials said at least 30 senior Abhinav Bharat members attended these sessions, referred to in the laptop as personality development workshops.

The allegations made by Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and the other co-accused at the special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court on Monday are very similar to the instructions in Purohit's sessions.

"With his military intelligence background and knowledge of interrogation procedures, this strategy to derail investigation in the event of being arrested was designed by Purohit," said a police officer involved in the probe.

Maharashtra Director General of Police A.N. Roy said these are delay tactics. "It is becoming common to level allegations against investigators, to slow down the probe and to make investigators wary," he said.

The court on Monday denied the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) custody of seven of the 11 accused, a major setback and embarrassment for the police. The sadhvi was the first to file an affidavit that the ATS had tortured her.

"It's a procedure straight out of the Al Qaeda manual. Once a precedent is set, everybody follows suit," said advocate Raja Thackeray, who specialises in criminal matters.

The allegations are similar to those made by the July 11/7 train blasts accused and Indian Mujahideen members, arrested for their links with the blasts in Ahmedabad and Delhi.

27 November, 2008

Salute to Hemant Karkare and colleagues killed in action


HEMANT KARKARE

He wore a helmet, talked on his cellphone and finally put on a bullet-proof jacket before he met his deathly fate in the country's biggest Terror seize.

Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Hemant Karkare, who was probing the Malegaon blasts case, suffered three bullet injuries in his chest as he was leading the offensive against the terrorists in one of the places the ultras had holed out early on Thursday morning.

The last television visuals of the 54-year-old officer showed him in a light blue shirt and dark trousers surrounded by uniformed policemen armed with firearms and walkie-talkies.

Karkare, a 1982 batch IPS officer, became the head of ATS in January this year following his return to the state cadre after serving seven years in Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in Austria.

One of the brightest officers, Karkare had solved the serial bomb blasts in Thane, Vashi and Panvel and was also credited for the stunning revelations in the investigation of the September 29 blast in Malegaon. He is known for his discipline and fair investigation.

During the Malegaon investigation, Karkare had told his officers not to create false evidence, saying, "We should do our job and it is for the court to decide."
Incidentally, the Pune ATS on November 26 reportedly received phone calls threatening to blow up the residence of Karkare "within a couple of days".
In his last interview to a television channel on Wednesday, he referred to getting the custody of Malegaon blast accused Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, and said "police custody would have helped investigations to proceed faster but still we will see how best to deal with it in a legal way".

When asked about criticism levelled by BJP leaders, especially L K Advani's outbursts against the agency, Karkare said, "When allegations are made anyone (we) will feel hurt."

He rejected charges of the Sadhvi being tortured during police custody. "We are going by the copy book. We are producing the accused in court whenever orders for the same are issued by the court," Karkare had said.
Among the other police officers dead in Wednesday night's terror attacks was Vijay Salaskar, who had killed around 75 dreaded criminals in police encounters.
After being out of the spotlight for quite sometime, the encounter specialist was given the plum posting of heading of the anti-extortion wing of the crime branch.
Another officer, Ashok Kamte, a 1989 batch IPS officer, was the DCP, Zone 1, in Mumbai and.was also the key officer in state police. He had also served as the commissioner of Solapur and was always known to be in the thick of action. Kamte was killed while fighting terrorists at Metro Cinema in the city along with encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar.

Before joining the ATS, Karkare was serving as the Joint Commissioner of Police (Administration). He had also worked with the National Productivity Council and Hindustan Lever before joining the Indian Police Service (IPS) in 1982.
Karkare had served in various places in Maharashtra like Nanded, Akola, Thane and Bhiwandi and in Mumbai as Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in the Economic Offences Wing.

He also handled the July 2006 Mumbai local train blasts. Salaskar was brought to the squad in February this year in the wake of the 7/11 serial blasts in Mumbai trains.
Salaskar along with another police officer Pradeep Sharma is credited with breaking the backbone of the Arun Gawli and Amar Naik gangs. Salaskar shot to fame in 1997 after he killed Naik in an encounter.

Salaskar, the son of a professor and a 1983 batch officer, was abruptly transferred along with other officials after the functioning of the Anti-Extortion Cell, in which he was serving, came under a cloud following allegations of nexus with the mafia.
Some of his other encounter victims are Gawli aides Sada Pawle and Vijay Tandel, Sadhu Shetty, Jaggu Shetty, Kundan Singh Rawat and Zahoor Makhanda.

(distributed by Rights Support Centre)

AHRC condemns Mumbai terror attack: an act of cowardice

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) condemns the violent attacks unleashed in Mumbai by an underground armed group calling itself the Deccan Mujahudeen. As reports come in, an estimated 107 innocent persons have lost their lives and more than 300 persons injured in the incident. More than 200 persons are currently being held hostage by this armed group. The attack has prompted the government to impose curfew in many parts of Mumbai, which is also the financial hub of the country.

The pattern of attacks on soft targets, like innocent persons in a railway station, three hospitals, at least three hotels, other public spaces and government establishments like the police headquarters shows the military-style coordination of the assailants and their absolute disregard of human life.

The fact that most of the assailants are relatively young is alarming. It is of particular relevance given the fact that several terrorist recruitment cells were reported to be operative throughout the country. The topography of the city, the widespread and simultaneous nature of the attack with high level of coordination and the sophisticated weapons reportedly being used by the assailants suggests the possibility of large-scale preparation prior to the attack.

While world leaders have condemned the ongoing terrorist attack, the terrorists through their actions have made it clear that they have nothing in common with Islam, the religion they claim to represent or defend.

It is reported that the Indian authorities have taken steps to contain the ongoing violence and to end the hostage situation. It is reported that in at least two hotels, the Oberoi Trident and the Taj, the terrorists are holding hostages.

Mumbai and several other cities in India have been subjected to similar attacks by underground forces in the past. On 11 July 2006, 147 persons were killed and an estimated 439 persons injured in Mumbai when bombs planted in suburban trains went off. On October 30 this year, 62 persons were killed and an estimated 300 persons were injured after 12 high-intensity bombs went off in Kokrajhar, Barpeta Road and Bongaigaon – three towns in the state of Assam.

A hundred persons were injured and 20 killed when five bombs went off in busy market places in the national capital New Delhi on September 13 this year. Forty persons were killed and over 100 persons were injured in bomb explosions that rocked Ahmedabad in Gujarat state on 26 July. Sixty persons were killed and 150 injured when 10 bombs went off in Jaipur in Rajasthan state on 13 May 2008. Most of those who lost their lives or were injured in all these incidents, like many other terrorist attacks across the world, were innocent civilians.

Violence against innocent persons is an act of cowardice. Loss of human life can never be an excuse for the propagation of an ideology or conviction. Those who resort to murder and violence as a means of communication rule out the possibility of a peaceful space to settle disputes and are a threat to democracy and its norms. Violence is only a crude tool for societal fragmentation. The assailants who murdered innocent civilians in India in this incident and those in the past have only increased the unwarranted divides among religious groups in the country.

The AHRC iterates that it condemns the violence and wishes to express its concern for those who have lost their dear ones and have been injured in this incident. It also calls upon the authorities in India to ensure that all possible measures are taken so that the least damage is caused in putting an end to the violence.

# # #

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.

US based Indian Muslim group denounces terrorist attacks

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 terror attacks in Mumbai, the financial capital of India. IMC-USA empathizes with the families of victims, hostages and police officers killed in the attacks and hopes for the safe release of the hostages.

According to reports, a series of bomb blasts and shootings in the city's main train station, a hospital, luxury hotels and tourist attractions have killed and injured more than one hundred people. Dozens, many of them foreign tourists, are also reportedly taken hostage by these armed groups of young men at different locations. Several police personnel including Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare were also killed and many more injured while engaging the militants. Rasheed Ahmed, President of IMC-USA said: "The perpetrators of these crimes against humanity should be captured and punished to the maximum extent of the law."

IMC-USA calls on the Indian government to find ways to increase the safety and security of ordinary citizens as well as provide immediate and adequate compensation to all the victims of this carnage. Recent years have witnessed an alarming growth in the number of groups committing mindless acts of violence against innocent civilians. In the past few months alone there has been a string of bomb blasts in many cities, ethnic cleansing and targeting of minorities, police harassment and scapegoating of innocent civilians and fake encounter killings. "The Home Minister is responsible for this widespread deterioration of law & order and security situation and should be held accountable", stated Rasheed Ahmed.

The current attack also highlights the lapse in the intelligence gathering of the different law enforcement agencies. "More than two dozen terrorists seem to have let loose a string of blasts and shootings in different locations; a coordinated attack on this scale with the number of people involved points to a major failure on the part of the intelligence agencies", he further added.

IMC-USA also calls on the Indian government to setup a high level commission to investigate the increasing scourge of violence and terrorism in the country and ways to engage the civil society in effectively curbing this menace.

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

Tolerating Terrorism

By Ram Puniyani
Countercurrents.org

Things have been changing by the day on the issue of terrorism investigation since the proof of Sadhvi Prgya Singh Thakur’s involvement in the Malegaon blast has come to the surface. So far the word Islamic terrorism has been in the air in the post 9/11 phase when the US administration ensured that media takes up this new word and propagates it. The social common sense that ‘all terrorists are Muslims’ went to such a pass that many a lawyers taking up the cases of terror suspects were not only beaten up but also some of the Bar Associations passed the resolutions, contrary to their own professional ethics, that they will not take up the cases of the terror suspects. The basic adage that one is innocent till proved guilty was turned upside down. The legal aid to many of these suspects was meager if at all.

Matters change with Sadhvi being arrested by the Maharashtra ATS. The RSS associates, VHP, Shiv Sena rushed to put together the team of lawyers to stand for the terror accused. The Shiv Sena is calling a bandh in support of Pragya and Co. We are hearing strange arguments; Hindus can’t be terrorists as it is not in their genes. This statement also subtly hinted that terrorism is in the genes of ‘some’ other community. But lets be clear terrorism is not a genetic problem, it is due to social, political and economic reasons.

It was stated that Maharashtra Government is doing all this at the behest of the Government, reducing all investigations to being merely politically motivated one. Not that these things don’t happen but one has also to see that in the prevailing situation where the social mind set accepts the formulation that ‘all terrorists are Muslims’, to suspect a non Muslim will require more than a mere grain of truth to venture and touch any non Muslim and that too one with divine robe adorning on one’s body or the one wearing the green fatigues of army with its holy cow image. Logically no officer in the right frame of mind can even dare think of such a move unless impeccable evidence is there.

In pre-Sadhvi period of terrorism RSS affiliates accused the Congress of being soft on terrorism, in turn encouraging terrorism. They came up with the formulation that they will provide a Government with Zero tolerance for terrorism, meaning a total high handed ness in case of terror accused. Now the matters stand turned upside down and no question of zero tolerance for terror accused, special efforts are being made to ensure that popular pressure is built up to save the likes of Sadhvi, Acharya or Lt Col. Not only that, the issue is being communalized and many right wing political parties are offering the accused the tickets for the forthcoming elections. At the same time propaganda is launched that the holy person like sadhvi is being targeted for political reasons or that the noble institution of army is being sullied by the Congress Government. Both these are baseless as the investigation seems to be proceeding with extreme caution and the leads
provided by Sadhvi’s motor cycle, used in Malegaon blasts is being pursued meticulously.

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt Col. Prasad Purohit have alleged that they were tortured in the police custody. A major morning newspaper reports that the training camp conducted by Abhinav Bharat, instructed the trainees that in order to deflect the investigation, all should be done to implicate the investigation authorities themselves. So one does not know whether they were tortured or they have been tutored to say so. One waits with baited breath for the real truth to come out. It goes without saying that torture of accused in police custody is not a matter of surprise, it must be condemned and there is no place for compromising with the human rights of accused, who so ever one is. One will condemn the authorities if the torture of Sadhvi and company has taken place.

So far no one from RSS affiliates talked of human rights of accused. Now this section is talking that the terror accused are being tortured and that their human rights are being violated. One must ensure the truth behind this. While police is capable of using its usual arms twisting methods to extort confession, one will doubt if the police can dare touch a saffron robed sadhvi or green uniformed Lt Col. Let the inquiry decide, whether it is a genuine complaint or a ploy to deflect the investigation.

One interesting aside to the investigation of acts of terror is that so far during last few years, the Muslim youth were caught hold of after every terror attack, for a couple of days the media was abuzz with the same news and then once they were produced in the court for the lack of evidence many of them were quietly let off. This part was generally not in the news. While a wrong person is accused, that person does suffer all the humiliation etc, the additional point is that because of this the real culprit merrily keeps planning the further things. And that seems to be the case. As despite the leads provided by Nanded blasts, where two Bajrang Dal workers were killed while making bomb. Despite this the other acts of terror were not investigated on this line, so one after the other the tragedy kept happening. Hopefully with this the further blasts will be arrested in the tracks.

Overall the logic of the events as unfolding makes it clear that the RSS affiliates have been caught with their pants down. How so ever much they deny the ideological and organizational difference, it seems that there is lot of proof to point the finger towards the Abhinav Bharat and ex workers of ABVP as a part of the plot of Malegaon blasts, Ajmer blasts and Samjhauta express blasts. The proximity of the accused to many a top brass of the organizations is being reported day in and day out.

To deflect from the issue a campaign has been started to defame the ATS, the Mahrashtra Government and even Sonia Gandhi. Rumours are being spread that these are the one’s who are framing and torturing the accused. One is amazed at the double standards of those saying this. Till yesterday when the police was blindly apprehending the Muslim youth for all these crimes, especially police was being cheered for the investigation. In the aftermath of Ahmedabad blasts and the series of bombs found in Surat, hanging on trees and all that, Modi took the credit for showing the way to deal with terrorism. Now with his own ideological associates accused in the acts of terror, another type of offensive has been launched to wriggle out of the situation. One hopes that truth alone will prevail and guilty, irrespective of their religion, holiness, and military uniform are given punishment for the suffering they have inflicted on the nation.

26 November, 2008

Setting the agenda to counter the fascist state

A Seminar on “The Fascist state: setting the agenda to counter” was held at the Gujarat Vidyapeeth, Ahmedabad, on Sunday, November 23, 2008. Below is the text of a resolution adopted at the seminar:

We, the participants of the Seminar on 'The Fascist State: Setting the agenda to counter' held at the Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad, on Sunday, 23rd November 2008, are extremely concerned at the increasingly fascist nature of the Indian State, as illustrated by several instances in the recent past.

Gujarat 2002 certainly heralded the fascist era in Indian politics; but it is getting deeply entrenched in Indian politics as a whole, without exception of the party in power. The genocide of Muslims in Gujarat, the subversion of the criminal justice system in order to achieve this, the application of POTA on Muslims in Godhra and other cases, the refusal to acknowledge the large numbers of Internally Displaced Muslims, the persecution of Christian and Muslim Adivasis and the holding of the Shabri Kumbh in the Dangs – all these did expose the fascist characteristics of the State in Gujarat. Encounter killings of Muslims under the pretext of a conspiracy to kill the CM, the appointment of Sanghis in the universities and the saffronization of the campuses, the recent massive drive against Muslim youth following the Ahmedabad blasts also reiterate this.

The brutal and blatant attacks on Christians and their institutions in Orissa and Karnataka, with total connivance of the State governments has exposed the massive fascist project that is underway. The misrepresentation of the constitutionally granted right to practice and propagate one's religion as "forced conversions", in order to threaten the marginalized communities into submission and acceptance of the dominant Hindutva discourse which finally culminates in draconian anti-conversion laws, seems to be passively accepted by the political parties and civil society across the board.

We express deep anguish at the increasing fascist mobilization in society, rising State terror and a circumvention of the rule of law by the law enforcing agencies, and the large scale violation of civil and political liberties.

We condemn these acts of repression in no uncertain terms. We call upon the Central and State Governments to act immediately: uphold and protect the sanctity of the Constitution, to guarantee the rights and freedom of all citizens and to contain the fascist forces which are inimical to the pluralism and diversity of the country.

We invite civil society and all citizens of India, to raise their voice against these fascist forces and make our country in the real sense of the word, one which is 'by the people, for the people and of the people'.


The seminar was organized by Action Aid * Aman Biradari * Aman Samuday * Antarik Visthapit Haq Rakshak Samiti * Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan * Centre for Development * Documentation and Study Centre for Action * Himmat * INSAF * JanVikas * Lok Kala Manch * Mahila Swaraj Abhiyan * Movement for Secular Democracy * National Alliance for Women * Niswa * PRASHANT * PUCL * Safar * SAHR WARU * Women's Action and Resource Unit * Samarpan * Samerth * Samvedan Cultural Program * Sanchetna * Saurashtra Dalit Sangathan * St. Xavier's Social Service Society * Swabhimaan Andolan * URJA

All-India Christian Council reports 118 deaths in three months of violence

The following is a report circulated by the All India Christian Council, a coalition of Indian Christian denominations, organizations and lay leaders:

HYDERABAD, Nov. 25, 2008: Sparked by the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati on August 23, 2008, anti-Christian violence swept through the eastern state of Orissa during a bandh on August 25, 2008 and continued for almost two months. Today about 10,000 Christians – mostly Dalits and a few tribals – languish in state-run relief camps and are afraid to return home due to continuing threats by Hindu extremists. Maoist militants claimed responsibility for the swami's murder, but rightwing Hindu groups blamed Christians and attacked Christians in 14 of 30 districts.

Today the All India Christian Council (aicc) announced it has reliable reports of 118 murdered Christians. Names, locations, and more details are available for 91; the remaining 27 are confirmed by reliable sources but bodies haven't been identified. Previously, the confirmed death toll was 60 people. However, a fact-finding report by an Indian political party estimated 500 deaths after interviews revealed many bodies were not recovered by authorities and some were cremated or buried clandestinely by attackers.

Dr. John Dayal, aicc Secretary General, said, "For thousands of displaced Dalit and tribal Christians in Kandhamal district, this will be their second Christmas spent in relief camps or hiding in the forests. Children couldn't go to school for much of the year and their parents were unable to find steady work. Threats and coercion against Christian leaders continues unrestrained. We pray for peace and restoration of the rule of law, but the local Christian community is understandably pessimistic." Hindu extremists targeted Christians in Kandhamal District between Dec. 24, 2007-Jan. 2, 2008.

Rev. P.R. Parichha, aicc Orissa chapter president, said, "Of the 54,000 displaced Christians, about 24,000 victims were in 14 government relief camps until some camps were closed and victims asked to return to their villages. However, due to ongoing threats of attacks and forced conversions, most victims fled to private relief camps in major cities of Orissa or bordering states. Many will never return home." The aicc has provided blankets and other household items to thousands of victims in both private and government relief camps.

Dr. Joseph D'souza, aicc President, said, "Greater than the tragedy of violent attacks on innocent Christians is the ongoing travesty of justice in Orissa, Karnataka, and other states across India. We have not seen any ringleaders punished, and both the state and central government refuse to prosecute rightwing Hindu ultra-nationalists who incite violence against minorities. This impunity is disgraceful for the world's largest democracy."

The aicc hosted a fact finding visit by Baroness Caroline Cox of Queensbury in Greater London, a member of the British House of Lords, from Oct. 30-Nov. 4, 2008. She initiated a debate on India's anti-Christian violence in the United Kingdom Parliament on Monday, Nov. 17, 2008. Read the transcript here: http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.com/pa/ld200708/ldhansrd/text/81117-0001.htm#0811175000016. She is also Chief Executive of HART (Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust). Read her report here: http://indianchristians.in/news/images/resources/pdf/2008_HART_UK_Orissa.pdf.

According to the Christian Legal Association of India, over 1,800 complaints about crimes including arson, assault, and murder were collected in the last three months. Aicc has assisted in collecting complaints from victims in relief camps. Lawyers made at least 800 of these into First Information Reports (FIRs) which are filed with police. Hundreds, including a few Christians, were arrested but most released on bail. Fast track courts, promised by the state government, are not functioning yet.

On Nov. 16, 2008, the Orissa government announced compensation ranging from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 200,000 depending on the extent of damage and whether it was a church building or a "prayer hall". This was in response to a decision on Oct. 22, 2008 by India's Supreme Court on Writ Petition Civil, 404 of 2008 (Archbishop Raphael Cheenath S.V.D. vs. State of Orissa & ANR). When 105 churches from 15 denominations were vandalised over Christmas 2007, the state authorities refused to assess damaged churches and assist in rebuilding them. Only houses and educational or medical institutions were eligible for compensation. The first structures damaged in the attacks, Dalit businesses, did not receive any assistance.

D'souza said, "We will carefully track the rehabilitation efforts of the state authorities, but we are deeply skeptical at this point. In the past, state assessors categorized fully damaged houses as only partially damaged or endlessly delayed monetary compensation to victims. We're worried the promise of assistance for churches will not match the reality."

Dayal said, "The legal status of the Kui people, classified as Scheduled Tribe by the government, and the demands of the Pano people, a Kui speaking tribe classified as Scheduled Caste or Dalit by the government, needs to be resolved. These are critical identity issues exploited by rightwing Hindu leaders in the region."

Christian leaders are concerned over the progress of investigations by two state-appointed "commissions". Each is comprised of a single retired Orissa High Court judge. Basudev Panigrahi continues to investigate the Dec. 2007 violence, and Sarat Chandra Mohapatra started an inquiry into the killing of swami Saraswati and subsequent communal violence. At the national level, the National Commission for Minorities issued a report in mid-September. India's National Human Rights Commission sent an investigative team to Kandhamal, Orissa, from Nov. 12-18, 2008, although a public report is not expected.

Since Aug. 23, 2008, the aicc recorded: 315 villages damaged, 4,640 Christian houses burnt, 54,000 Christians homeless, at least 6 pastors and one Roman Catholic priest killed, 10 priests/pastors/nuns seriously injured, estimated 18,000 Christians injured, at least two women (including a nun) raped, 149 churches destroyed, 13 Christian schools and colleges damaged. Attacks mostly stopped in mid-October, but sporadic violence continues. On Nov. 12, 2008, local aicc leaders said a Catholic church was attacked in G. Udayagiri by a mob of about 200 people. Yesterday, Nov. 24, 2008, police imposed Section 144 in Daringbadi to prevent protests planned by a tribal leader with ties to anti-Christian attacks. Indian Penal Code Section 144 prohibits more than four people from gathering.

The All India Christian Council was established in 1998, to “protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes”.

25 November, 2008

An Open Letter To L K Advani

By George Menezes
Countercurrents.org

Dear Advaniji

I write to you in anguish. A mixture of sadness and anger. I do not expect you to remember me. I am therefore attaching a picture of my induction into the BJP’s National Executive at the instance of my friend Ram Jethmalani and the invitation of Mr. Vajpayee.

I joined the BJP because I believe in the checks and balances of Parliamentary Democracy where a non performing Party is replaced by another that holds out hope of good governance. I had hoped that the BJP would do better than the Congress did despite years in power with large majorities.

You could have done better, much better because of the discipline in your Party, because, at that time, you did not have people tainted by corruption. But as they say in cricket, which you understand, you blotted your copy book.

We had a nice moderate group in the Party. Ram Jethmalani, Shanti Bushan, Rajinder Puri and some not so well known members like me.

What hopes we had! All dashed to pieces. Each one of us quit for reasons of their own. I quit when your Rath Yatra started to assume menacing proportions leading to the destruction of the Babri Masjid mosque.

It is an irony that I am writing to you instead of the Government in power when heinous acts of genocide are being committed against my community in Orissa, Karnataka and other parts of the country.

Logically I should have appealed to the Government and Party in power at the Centre. A Party that most members of my community vote for, opting for the evil of non governance and corruption over the evil of communalism.

But the Congress of today is a Party in power that lives in denial, thrives on ignoring the inhumanity heaped upon minorities that are too miniscule to be vote banks.

I write to you because you are “Prime Minister in waiting”, because of the faint hope that something at St Patrick’s school where you studied has rubbed off on you. Compassion and concern for human rights, for example.

I write to you because the atrocities unleashed on a peace loving, completely patriotic and law abiding people is taking place in the States governed by your Party and executed by the cadres that owe their allegiance to you.

Violence that diminishes the possibility of dialogue or the functioning of the rule of law is a dangerous instrument in the hands of those who use it. As I write this, violence is the first choice of a Party in Mumbai who want to drive North Indians (you excluded perhaps) from the State.

You have always had a strong commitment to fighting terrorism from Pakistan. I appreciate that. I urge that you extend that commitment to the terrorism that is home grown and used against brothers and sisters who are Indian first and Christians, Muslims and Dalits later.

For the good of this country I pray that you can control your cadres and not vice versa. I pray that unlike many leaders in this world who encouraged their cadres to violence and had violence visiting them in the long run, you will use the power that God has given you to do good.

In the seminars that I conduct on “Self Awareness” (I conducted some for the RSS cadres in 1985) I encourage participants to write their own obituaries so that they can work towards living up to those obituaries.

May your obituary read that you were a statesman and not a mere politician. That together with statesmen from other parties, you brought peace and tranquility to a nation that was being torn asunder. That you were able, against great odds, to uphold the Constitution of this multi-religious, multi-cultural and beautiful country.

God bless you and give you a long life

George Menezes



George Menezes who is at present, President Emeritus of the All India Catholic Union, has been an Award winning writer, an Indian Air Force officer, a diplomat with the Indian Embassy in Paris, a member of Pope John Paul's Pontifical Council for the Laity, a member of The Asian Bishop's Think Tank and a member of the Nation Executive of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He retired as Director Human Resources of Hoechst Pharmaceuticals after which he had a stint as Associate Diretor of the Xavier Institute of Management.

Yemeni woman filmmaker's "Amina"


The picture shows Khadija Al-Salami (left), Yemen’s first woman filmmaker, with Amina al-Tuhaif, about whom she has made a film. Amina has been in jail for 10 years awaiting execution.

The film “Amina” was screened at an Arab film festival held in San Francisco recently

At age 11, Amina was united in an arranged marriage to a man many years her senior, and at 14 she was sentenced to death when a court found her guilty of murdering her husband. Amina strongly argued her innocence throughout the process, insisting that her husband had been strangled by a cousin over a land dispute.

Khadija talks about Amina in an interview with New America Media.

22 November, 2008

Will Michelle Obama make a difference to the lives of black women?



New America Media

As the Obama family makes plans to settle into the White House, Youth Outlook Multimedia asked young black women if they think having Michelle Obama as the First Lady will change their lives in a positive way. Jazmyne Young is a content producer for YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia and Araijah, Tajh, Breanna and Akilah are contributors to the blog Oakland Girls Speak, a collaboration between YO! and The Mentoring Center.


Michelle Obama Gives Me Hope

In the earlier months of the election, before six out of eight people owned a Barack Obama t-shirt, if you asked me why I liked Obama – I would say it was because he was black. But I think the first time I really considered that maybe Obama was a good choice for president for more than his race – that he was someone with a good head on his shoulders – was when I saw his wife, Michelle, give a speech.

As this poised and elegant Black woman spoke, I thought: “You know what? Obama is different, because any man who would marry this woman has got to be smart.”

I think it’s true what they say about every good black man having a strong black woman behind him. But, honestly, you don’t see this so often. It seems like a lot of successful black men – especially one’s who come from a diverse background like Barack – would have ended up marrying a white woman. And if this hypothetical black man were to marry a black woman, she would probably be light-skinned. The fact that Barack Obama has a wife of African decent, who was raised in the predominately black Southside Chicago neighborhood, who is a ‘bonafide sista’ – well, that lets me know that he’s all right.

Michelle Obama is definitely just as appealing to me as Barack Obama, if not more. She gives hope to black women, particularly young black girls, in a way that we may have never seen on such a global scale before.

Black women are often plagued by the legacy of slavery and the generational demise of most black families, leaving us to be the most unlikely demographic to get married in this country. We often feel unlucky, like we’ll never find a good man. And by a good man, I just mean someone with a job who tells us we’re pretty every now and then. Before Michelle, I never even dreamed that I could become the First Lady of this country – especially on the arm of a black man. She has set a new standard and I believe a lot of black women will carry themselves with an elevated sense of dignity and grace due to her example.

It seems like a lot of black women are talking about how we feel as a collective about our new First Lady. I found writers praising her for her fashion sense and trendsetting appeal, and even a few discussions on Mrs. Obama's backside - and why we should and should not focus on it. But above all, it seems that most women appreciate her story. We are inspired at how this “regular” black girl from Chicago, through her undeniable intellect and determination, has now joined the ranks of those whom history will remember fondly.

More than my only being excited about her being the First Lady, I’m touched by how – for the first time in a long time (aside from a few examples in Hollywood, i.e., Will and Jada, Denzel and Pauletta) - we have a positive image of a healthy, Black nuclear family unit here in America. In certain neighborhoods, a family like the Obamas is unheard of, and it is important for us to have those images, and know that, we too, can attain the American dream.

- Jazmyne Young, Age 20, Berkeley, CA

We Have to Bring the Change for Black Women

Me personally, I don't think Michelle Obama will change how some people look at black women, but for most I think it's not gonna change anything. No matter what color the First Lady is, black women will always be labeled as bitches, hoes, hood rats, or just a baby mama of somebody. We as black woman have to make that change for ourselves. We have to present ourselves as intelligent, beautiful, black women. We have to start having and showing that we have more respect for ourselves and just love being black women, but if we continue to act ignorant and show no respect for ourselves and others – we're gonna be called and looked at as those bad names.

- Araijah, Age 14, Oakland, CA

Michelle Won’t Make the Change Her Husband Will

I don't think anything is going to change just because Michelle Obama is the First Lady. A lot will change for the boys and men, though. They have a role model now with Obama, so their perspective on life maybe different. There is hope for African American males now and they can achieve anything they put their mind to. There’s so much negative things that are portrayed about women. A lot of people see women half-dressed, nude, and/or doing provocative things. A lot of people say "sex sells," so how is a black First Lady going to change this? For Michelle Obama, most people might think that it's her job to dress neat, stay covered up, and looking conservative - since her husband just became president. So, it doesn't really affect the rest of us.

- Breanna, Age 15, Oakland, CA

Michelle is an Important Leader


In my mind, I believe that Michele Obama is an African American leader. I say this not only because she's of African American descent, but also because she's bringing lots of change to what we see everyday. I know, personally, she's the reason my mother gets up and does her best everyday. I like that Michelle gives speeches and relates to the changes that we want in our communities. You could tell that she's genuine with her goals, and it's not just an act or to look good. I feel she believes that it should come natural to help your husband - not just at home, but also with everything he does. Also, I believe that she could hold her own.

-Akilah, Age 15, Oakland, CA


No Free Ride with Michelle

I think that with Michelle Obama as the First Lady, a lot more women will start going to college and stuff like that because they know that they can be like Michelle Obama, but I also think that black people will start thinking they have a free ride. They're gonna think that since we have a black family that went through the same struggle, that they can relate to them, that Obama will give them everything for free – like set up different programs where they get money, but they have to remember they have to work for it.

- Tajh, Age 14, Pinole, CA

21 November, 2008

Sadhvi's allegations and Advani's response

Bharatiya Janata Party leader L. K. Advani’s reaction to Sadhvi Pragyan Chandrapal Singh Thakur’s affidavit alleging torture in custody is clearly a political response. Considering that he is the BJP’s Prime Minister-in-waiting, Prime Minister Manmohann Singh has set a good precedent by talking to him personally on this issue and asking National Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan to brief him on the investigation. This, however, is unlikely to cause any change in Advani’s public posture since there is reason to believe that the entire extended Hindutva family, and not just Sangh Parivar, appears to have decided to make common cause with the Sadhvi and others under investigation in connection with the Malegaon blasts.

Advani’s demand for a judicial inquiry into the Sadhvi’s allegations is untenable. She made the allegations in an affidavit filed in a Nashik court, and it is for the court to examine them and take such action as it deems fit. It is not open to the government to set up a commission to go into a matter which is before a court. If they are not satisfied with the Nashik court’s decision, she or Advani can approach a higher court. In fact, a Shiva Sena functionary has already taken the issue to the high court.

Allegations of the kind that Sadhvi Pragyan Thakur has levelled against the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad have been made by others nabbed by the police in connection with various criminal cases from time to time. However, this is the first time that Advani has demanded a judicial inquiry into such allegations.
This is not to suggest that the Sadhvi’s allegations must be discounted straightaway. Use of torture and other inhuman methods are a part of the tradition of our police forces, which originated in the era of colonialism and feudalism. The Executive has failed to take adequate steps to modernize the forces and free them from their colonial traditions. The Judiciary, the human rights commissions and such other institutions, which have the power to look into such allegations and render justice, do not have a particularly good record in this respect.

There is a strong case for an independent investigation into the allegations made by the Sadhvi as well as others, including the Muslim youths under investigation on terror charges.

Sadhvi Pragyan Thakur’s affidavit
The following is the text of Pragyan Singh Thakur’s affidavit, as reproduced at a blog (http://hindtoday.com/Blogs/ViewBlogsV2.aspx?HTAdvtId=2792&HTAdvtPlaceCode=IND), which, it may be noted, does not vouch for its accuracy:

AFFIDAVIT

I, Sadhwi Pragyan Chandrapal Singh Thakur, Age 38 years, Occupation - Nil, residing at 7, Ganga Sagar Apartment, Katodara Road, Surat, Gujarat State do hereby state on solemn affirmation as under:

1. I say that I am a resident of Madhya Pradesh. My parents live in Surat, Gujarat where they shifted residence a couple of years ago. I say that for some years now, I found myself becoming increasingly detached from the material world and correspondingly found tremendous comfort and solace in Spiritualism. Accordingly I decided to renounce the material world and become a Sanyasin. On 30.1.2007, after performing the appropriate Hindu Religious rites and prayers I became a Sadhwi. I say that ever since then, I have been residing in a ashram at Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. My life at the Ashram almost exclusively consisted of prayers, meditation, yoga and the reading of spiritual texts. At the ashram I did not watch TV channels and had practically no access to newspapers.

2. I say that apart from my activities at the ashram, I travelled chiefly around North India for the purpose of religious discourses and sermons. In connection with these latter activities, between 23.9.2008 and 4.10.2008, I was in Indore where I stayed at the residence of one Annaji who is my disciple. In the evening of 4th October, 2008, I returned to my ashram in Jabalpur.

3. I say that on 7.10.2008, when I was at Jabalpur Ashram, I received a call from a police officer from the ATS, Maharashtra, called Mr Sawant, who wanted to know about my LML Freedom vehicle. However, I told him I had sold it long back and not concerned with it. However, he insisted me to come down to Surat as he wanted to question me at length about it. I was reluctant to go to Surat by leaving the Ashram and insisted for him to come down to Jabalpur, but he refused and told me to come down to Surat as early as possible.

4. I further say that accordingly I travelled to Surat by train via Ujjain and arrived at Surat on 10.10.2008 early in the morning and my disciple Shri Bhimbhai Pasricha had to receive me at Railway Station and I went to his place at Atop Nagar.

5. I say that here at about 10 AM, I met officer Mr Sawant who had apparently travelled to Surat to trace the ownership of a LML Freedom two wheeler and I questioned him as to what had happened to my vehicle and why you are asking about it. I say that I it was at this point time, Mr Sawant told me that my vehicle had been allegedly planted with the explosives and subsequently detonated in Malegaon in the last week of September. I also say that it was here for the first time, I came to know that my old vehicle had been allegedly used in Malegaon blast, which was completely shocking to me. I confirmed to Mr Sawant that the LML Freedom 2 wheeler of the colour and number, he mentioned had once belonged to me.

6. I say that in Surat during the course of my interrogation with Mr Sawant, I mentioned to him that the LML Freedom two wheeler once owned by me was subsequently sold to one Sunil Joshi of Madhya Pradesh way back in October, 2004 and that Mr Joshi had paid me Rs 24,000/- for the same. I had also signed the necessary TT Form for RTO transfer in October, 2004 itself. I categorically asserted to Mr Sawant that since October, 2004 I had no control over the vehicle or its movements and usage.

7. I further say that in spite of my answers, Mr. Sawant repeatedly asked me how the vehicle reached Malegaon and how it came to be involved in the bomb blast on 29.9.2008. I repeatedly replied that I could not answer his questions as I had no control of the vehicle since October, 2004.

8. I also say that Mr Sawant however informed me that he did not believe me and that I would have to accompany him and his ATS team to Mumbai for further interrogation and he assured me that after such interrogation I would be free to go back to my ashram.

9. It is significant to mention that I was not formally arrested on 10.10.2008. Even though no formal summons to attend as a Witness was served upon me to make my self available for interrogation in Mumbai, and even though I was within my rights to insist that I be interrogated at the place where I reside ie Jabalpur, trusting Mr Sawant and having nothing to hide, I agreed to accompany the ATS team to Mumbai. I say Mr Sawant told me take my father along with me. However, due to his old age, I told him it was not proper take down him to Mumbai and suggested that my disciple, one Mr Bhimbhai Pasricha, in whose very residence my questioning was being done by the ATS. I further say that at 5.15 PM myself, Mr Pasricha and the ATS officer left Surat and reached Bombay on the very night of 10.10.2008. In Bombay I was taken straight away to the ATS office at Kalachowkie.

10. Thereafter for two days I was detained and interrogated by the ATS team in Mumbai. The questions were repetitive and directed at somehow involving me in the bomb blast in Malegaon on 29.9.2008. My answers remained constant throughout.

11. I further say that on 12.10.2008 the ATS changed the mode of interrogation and became extremely aggressive with me. At first they asked my said disciple Mr Bhimbhai Pasricha to beat me with sticks, belts etc, on my palms, forehands, soles, etc. When Mr Pasricha refused to do so, he was severely beaten by the ATS. Ultimately with the greatest reluctance, he complied with the ATS orders but obviously being my disciple, he exerted the very minimum of force on me. He was then pushed aside by a member of the ATS squad knows as Khanwilkar, who then himself commenced beating me severely with a belt on my hands, forearms, palms, feet, soles, causing me bruises, swelling and contusions in these areas.

12. I say that from the 13th onwards, I say that I was beaten during the day, night and midnight. On two occasions I was even woken up in the early hours of the morning at 4 am and questioned about my knowledge of the blasts. On these occasions, I was beaten by a senior officer having a moustache, whom I can identify. In addition I was subject to vulgar abuse and obscene language by members of the ATS team interrogating me. My Guru was abused and my chastity was questioned. I was physically and verbally traumatised to the extent that I wanted to commit suicide.

13. I further say that on 14th taken out for the examination at a far away place from ATS and was brought back in the afternoon and that I day I had no meeting or even knowledge about Mr Pasricha.

14. I say that on 15th October, after noon, both myself and Mr Pasricha were taken by ATS vehicles to Hotel Rajdoot in Nagpada locality of Mumbai and were kept in Room Nos. 315 and 314 respectively and we were made to sign the Hotel Entry register, however, we did not pay or deposit any money with the hotel manager, which was done by the ATS.

15. I say that after putting into this hotel I was asked to make phone calls from mobile No. 94066 00004 and from one more mobile instrument not belonging to me to speak couple of persons including one of my female disciple and I was asked to say that I was in a hotel in Mumbai and hale & hearty and was doing fine. I say that at that time, I did not know why I was made to say so. I would reveal the name of my female disciple at an appropriate time.

16. I say that as a result of the custodial violence/torture, mental stress, anxiety that were developed in the process, I was subjected to, I developed acute abdominal and kidney pains. I lost my appetite, became nauseous and giddy and prone to having bouts of unconsciousness. In view of this, within few hours after putting in Rajdoot Hospital, I was removed from the ATS office and was taken a hospital which learnt it to be Shusrusha Hospital wherein I was kept in ICU. I say that within half an hour Mr Bhimbhai Pasricha came down to Shushrusha Hospital with some ATS men and my Hospital admission forms, and other medical examination forms, etc were signed by him. I say that Mr Khanwilkar deposited money to the hospital management for me, which I learnt from Mr Bhimbhai. I say that after some time Mr Pasricha left the Hospital along with the ATS men and thereafter I have no contact with of any nature.

17. I say that I underwent a treatment over here for 3 to 4 days. I say that as my condition did not improve, I was taken to another hospital whose name I cannot recall. This hospital consisted of a high rise building where I was treated for 2 to 3 days. I say that no female police constable was by my side either in Hotel Rajdoot or in either of the two hospitals.

18. I say that both at the hotel and the hospitals, I was carried on a stretcher and my face was always covered with a black hood to avoid my face from being seen. From the second hospital, I was brought back to the ATS office at Kalachowkie.

19. I say that I was finally arrested on 23.10.2008 and produced before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Nasik on 24.1.2008. I was remanded to police custody on that date till 3.11.2008. Up to the 24.10.2008 and even sometime thereafter, I was denied access to a Lawyer or any member of my family. A polygraph test was conducted on me while I was in illegal detention prior to 23.10.2008. Thereafter a second polygraph test was conducted on 01.11.2008. On 04.11.2008, after I was remanded to Judicial custody on being presented before Nasik court on 03.11.2008, I also say that a Narco analysis test was also conducted on me.

20. I say that both the lie detector test as well as the Narco analysis test were conducted with out my consent. Never the less all these investigative tests have only established my innocence in the Malegaon bomb blast that took place on 29.9.2008. I finally was allowed to meet my sister Mrs Parthibha Bhagwan Jha on the evening of 02.11.2008, who had brought vakalatnamas of Advocate Ganesh Sovani who was engaged by my sister and her husband Mr Bhagwan Jha and had met him couple times in that week. This meeting was not conducted in private since members of the ATS stood within hearing distance of my sister and myself. I met my Advocate Ganesh Sovani for the first time in the court room of this Hon'ble Court very briefly for 4 to 5 minutes prior to the arguments commencing on my remand application on 03.11.2008.

21. I say that this period of 4 to 5 minutes was too short for me to give complete instructions as to what had transpired from 10th October onwards, about my vehicle, my stay at Kalachowkie, my illegal detention, the ill-treatment mitigated to me by ATS men, the beating job that was forced on my disciple to beat me, but which he carried out reluctantly, without any force, etc. I say that for this reasons, all the details had not reflected in the hand written application that was placed on record by my advocate Mr Sovani, for paucity of time to give all these instructions.

22. I say that on the evening of Wednesday 12.11.2008, I was allowed to meet my Advocate Ganesh Sovani for about 5-6 minutes again in the presence of female staff of Byculla jail. I say that again on 13.11.2008 I was allowed to talk to my said lawyer for 8-10 minutes to give him some more details. Thereafter, on Friday 14.11.2008 evening at about 04.30 PM, I was given nearly 20 minutes to talk to my said lawyer at length, and it was during this period I could narrate my entire ordeal with the ATS which is reproduced hereinabove.

23. I unambiguously state that I am totally innocent of any offence whatsoever. In particular I have no connection with the Malegaon bomb blast of 29.9.2008. While my former ownership of LML Freedom 2 wheeler, which was allegedly used in the Malegaon bomb blast entitled the ATS to interrogate me, that agency was not entitled to subject me to the treatment mentioned hereinabove. Their conduct discloses a blatant violation of statutory provisions of law, custodial abuse and violence, mental and physical torture and prolonged illegal detention. The ATS are fully aware that I am innocent. It appears however that they have a mandate from their political superiors to necessarily implicate me with Malegaon blasts with a view to suggest that Hindu Religious extremists were resorting to terrorism. The prolonged illegal detention, custodial abuse and physical torture were designed to compel me to confess to crimes I had not committed. This attempt of false implication persisted for the entire period between 10.10.2008 and 02.11.2008 . During this entire period I was deliberately isolated from my family and denied access to Lawyers. I say that no arrest panchanama was done after my arrest on 23.10.2008 and I was never asked about the names, addresses and telephone / mobile Nos. details to whom I would like to convey my arrest. I say that attention from my illegal detention was sought to be diverted by the ATS by daily leaking information regarding my involvement which was manifestly false and only indicated the malafide nature of the investigation..

24. I say that While I was thus painted as a sinister mastermind of the Malegaon blasts, a role which has now been subtly reassigned by the ATS to Lt Col Purohit - crippled and vulnerable as I was by the detention, abuse and torture, I could not protest my innocence. Nor was I allowed access to family, friends and Lawyers who could have done so.

25. I say that it is necessary that a detailed enquiry of my illegal detention, custodial torture, etc needs to be done and for which I am ready and willing to get subjected to any such medical test or tests and I also want the ATS officers, who interrogated me, tortured me, etc should also be put to the same tests.

26. I say that the ATS has caused blatant violations of my human rights and I should get a justice and they need to be adequately dealt with as per the provisions of law.

27. In the circumstances I now pray for the following relief:

a) that the ATS be directed to submit an explanation for my detention without authority of law between 10.10.2008 and 23.10.2008;

b). that enquiry/investigation be conducted into my accusation made hereinabove on oath, regarding custodial torture/violence and mental and psychological abuse;

c). that such investigation as referred to in (b) above, include a polygraph test, as well as Narco analysis on me to determine the veracity of my accusations;

d). that such investigation to include a polygraph test and narco analysis on officers of the ATS named by me, and also of those officers whose names, I do not know, but I can identify, for they subjecting me to mental and physical abuse during custody as well as others to be identified by me;

e) that a report be called for from the ATS for the reasons of my admission in two hospitals ( Shusrusha an another) and the medical treatment undergone by me at the said two hospitals;

f) The ATS be directed to disclose the reasons for my stay at Hotel Rajdoot at Mumbai.;

g) For such further and other reliefs as may be fit and proper in the facts and circumstances of the case.

Filed in court on 17.11.2008
Contents Explained to the
Deponent in Hindi &
Confirmed with Deponent.
(Deponent)

20 November, 2008

Jamia teachers demand probe into Special Cell's 'gallantry'

The recent revelations by the CBI to the Sessions Court that the Special Cell had falsely implicated two Muslim youths, Irshad Ali and Mohammad Qamar as Al-Badr terrorists raises serious questions over the methods and motives of the Special Cell.

The CBI has recommended severe punishment for the Cell's officers Ravinder Kumar Tyagi – the recipient of the President's Gallantry award at this year's Republic Day Parade – and Vinay Tyagi and Subhash Vats, who forged and fabricated evidence to prove that Ali and Qamar were terrorists. It has turned out that both men were actually Intelligence Bureau informers and that they were punished by the Special Cell for noncompliance with their orders. The Special Cell was also driven by its insatiable lust for awards and promotions, which it appears, can only be attained by arresting and 'encountering' young men who can later conveniently be proclaimed as 'Islamic terrorists'.

While welcoming the CBI's disclosures, we are however, surprised that the CBI does not comment on the role of the Special Cell senior officers who were supervising the now disgraced officers. Surely, the latter could not have acted on their own, nor have planted the false evidence without the knowledge of their senior officers, ACP Sanjeev Kumar Yadav and the late Inspector M.C. Sharma.

But what is most startling is the fact that a majority of this Special Cell team also led the charge on L-18, Batla House on 19th September. Given their now proven past record of indulging in falsehoods, manufacturing evidence where none exists and framing innocents as terrorists, the need for an enquiry into the Batla House 'encounter' is all the more urgent.

Civil rights groups have been pointing out the glaring contradictions in the various police versions of the Batla House 'encounter' and the complicity of the arrested and killed students in 'terrorist' activities. The national Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan had earlier termed our demands for a judicial probe into the incident as a 'travesty'. But given the CBI's conclusive findings about the involvement of the very same Special Cell team in past sham frame ups, we would also like to ask, why he maintains an eerie silence now.

Special Cell's bloodied history has been marked by fake encounters (Ansal Plaza, Millennium Park etc) and gross violations of procedures laid down by the NHRC. No democracy can survive by glorifying such killers and murderers by bestowing gallantry awards on them.

Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Group reiterates its demands:

1) A Judicial probe under a sitting judge of the Supreme Court into the Batla House 'Encounter'
2) Handing over the investigation to the CBI as we have no faith in the impartiality of the Special Cell.
3) A thorough probe into the past and present activities of the Special Cell.

Signed/-
Manisha Sethi (9811625577)
Adil Mehdi (9990923027)
Anuradha Ghosh (9868881756)
Sreerekha (9868120339)
for JAMIA TEACHERS SOLIDARITY GROUP

19 November, 2008

Indian language newspapers forge ahead of English language papers

Sreenath Sreenivasan, writing in SAJA forum, draws attention to new statistics on newspaper circulations in India, released by Newswatch.in, a media watchdog organization.

He says:

The results make a fascinating read and are a wake-up call to anyone who, like me, has a lot more contact with the English media in India than with vernacular newspapers.

The Times of India is the country’s largest circulation English daily (13 million) and yet there are newspapers in five vernacular languages whose readership figures demolish that of the Times. Furthermore, the English dailies’ circulations have tended to contract slightly since last year while over the same period the Hindi dailies have made gains on the order of 1 to 3 million additional readers.
In Hindi, the top paper, Dainik Jagran, has a circulation of 56 million and the second place paper, Dainik Bhaskar, is read by 34 million people. Indeed, all five of the Hindi papers listed by newswatch.in have higher circulations than any English paper.

In Bengali, Ananda Bazar Patrika has a circulation of 15 million (while the local English-language paper, the Kolkata-based Telegraph, has a circulation of only 3 million).

Additionally, papers in Marathi, Tamil and Telegu have a higher circulation than the Times and if we lower the standard of comparison to the second-highest circulation English daily, Hindustan Times, which has 6 million readers, then there are more widely read papers in Gujarati, Kannada and Malayalam.

Of course these general statistics cannot answer some of the most interesting questions we might ask, such as whether the Hindi papers are read much outside the “Hindi belt” of north-central India or whether the English papers, smaller circulation figures notwithstanding, are actually more influential than any of the vernacular papers. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that it is indeed the case that the elite read English papers, and yet the statistics indicate that Hindi papers are rapidly expanding while three of the five English papers listed are slowly losing readers.

In any case, since the total readership of the top five Hindi papers is 160 million compared to 31 million for the top five English papers—which is a staggering difference, it looks like I should add Dainik Jagran to my daily media overload.

18 November, 2008

Sangh Parivar's double talk: beware of perverse patriotism

By B G VERGHESE
Deccan Herald

It causes deep concern that the armed forces may have been penetrated by ideologically driven groups.

One must beware of perverse patriotism, disturbing signs of which have been recently manifest. The arrest of an Army officer on suspicion of having assisted alleged Hindu right extremist terror bombings in Malegaon and possibly elsewhere appears sinister. At the moment here are only allegations that must be thoroughly investigated before definitive conclusions are reached.

Nevertheless, enough has been established to cause deep concern that the armed forces may have been penetrated by dangerous, ideologically driven groups.


The civil and, specially, uniformed services are non-political servants of the people acting under the directions of the government of the day, owning allegiance to the Constitution and not to any extraneous ideology or group.

The defence minister has taken note of whatever has happened and intends to get to the root of the matter so that incipient mischief is nipped in the bud. Meanwhile, the single incident that has come to light should not be considered a trend but an aberration.

What is surprising, however, is the response of the spokesmen of the Parivar. They disown any association with sadhvi Pragya and other civil suspects held for the Malegaon bombing. Yet they take the line that Hindus cannot be terrorists and that the armed forces are a part of Indian society which has been horrified by the pusillanimous and apologetic approach of the UPA government to terror attacks and cannot therefore be blamed for patriotic reactions.

This apologia comes close to showing sympathy for and indirectly condoning what is undoubtedly a grave dereliction of duty and rank indiscipline. It echoes the chorus from across the border in praise of “freedom fighters” as opposed to terrorists, “our” boys versus the dreadful “other”. Such pernicious double talk is scarcely in keeping with the Parivar’s insistent demand for “strong” action against terror.

The same attitude of “patriotic anger” was revealed in the disgraceful conduct of young ABVP hoodlums who broke up a Delhi University meeting on Democracy and Fascism last week and spat on one of the invited speakers, SAR Geelani, who was discharged by the Supreme Court in the parliament bombing case. What was witnessed was fascism in action, made worse by two comments by the saffron fraternity. ABVP president, Nupur Sharma said that the offenders were not ABVP members but “outsiders” and then went on to state in a TV discussion that she would have done much the same thing in patriotic anger against the government’s poor record in fighting terror.

The BJP spokesman, Ravi Pratap Rudy’s comment was that the protest against Geelani could have been “more hygienic” but was nevertheless an expression of “patriotic emotion” on the part of students with regard to what was perceived as Geelani’s mistrial. VHP’s Pravin Togadia repeated the same mantra as senior RSS spokesmen and other saffronites that a Hindu by definition cannot be a terrorist. He warned that persisting with such “false charges” against a Sadhvi and army personnel would evoke a “political backlash.”

In another episode last August, BJP-backed protesters in Jammu rioted and vandalised property during the Amarnath Yatra Board land agitation. Here again the commentary extolled demonstrations by “patriotic Indians” holding aloft the tricolour, as against Valley separatists brazenly marching to Muzaffarabad. The national flag must be honoured but cannot be used as a shield against riot police.

Perverse patriotism feeding on false notions of jingoistic nationalism must be squarely fought as it manifests a malignant fascism. Terrorism is terrorism, irrespective of community, and can find no place in a democratic society that offers many avenues for grievance redressal. Even if poor or partisan governance, political bias in policing and a creaking criminal justice system have closed many doors, wrong means cannot be justified in the name of seeking right ends.

The Delhi High Court has sternly admonished police officials to stop rushing to hold press conferences to leak premature and fallible “leads” that disclose their line of investigation and instead get on with their job of bringing criminals to justice. Warped notions of public interest and press freedom have made nonsense of good reporting and a growingly irresponsible section of the media is becoming a social menace rather than performing its proper role of mediation.

Two other straws merit comment. Though Chaat Puja passed off peacefully, one must be wary of the tendency to use festivals for political and electoral mobilisation and to overawe “the other” whosoever that other might be.

The second relates to a parliamentary committee recommendation that would make a non-official chairman of the Central Wakf Board rather than a Joint Secretary as at present. But why on earth should government enter this constitutionally forbidden territory and, likewise, fund Haj, Kailash-Mansarovar and other pilgrimages at the taxpayers’ expense? This is to dilute secularism, court trouble and invite competitive religiosity to garner votes.

Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind clerics have just met in Hyderabad to reinforce their previous Deoband fatwa denouncing terror masquerading as jihad. This is a positive move and should the starting point for further efforts in the direction of national integration. Bhutan and the Maldives are happily marching towards democracy and Barack Obama has set an inspiring example by going beyond narrow identity politics to set himself larger and higher goals for the United States and the world. These are beacon lights to follow.

17 November, 2008

AP political prisoners observe a day's fast

Political prisoners in Andhra Pradesh jails observed a day's fast on November 15, 2008. Following is a press note on the subject issued by the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners:

We, on behalf of Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP)
express our support and solidarity, to the Political Prisoners who are on hunger strike for a day. These Political Prisoners are languishing in jails all over the state and they are demanding the State to accept their just and legal demands.

The Political Prisoners throughout the Andhra Pradesh state have been fighting for the just demands for more than a decade. But the state government is silent on many of their long standing demands. The CRPP strongly condemns the undemocratic attitude of the Government and appeal to all democrats and rights organizations, various people’s organizations and all opposition parties, in the state, to support the struggle of the prisoners. It should be noted that the relentless struggle of the Political Prisoners in the jails of Andhra Pradesh in the 90s had made possible the achievement of many rights. But the state government is—slowly but steadily—nullifying those rights day by day. For example, the state government has issued a G.O facilitating the release of certain class of prisoners like lifers. An advocate had filed a SLP in the Supreme Court against the G.O. The state government had been silent on the SLP till date. As a result many prisoners are languishing in jails even though they come under the purview of the said GO. Similarly, non-lifers also are in thousands. According to the rules in force, many of them should be released if the state government grants them remission of sentence.

According to the rules followed, there must be an advisory board in each jail, but the state government has not yet constituted them. Of late, for want of proper medical assistance prisoners are dying in hundreds in prisons all over Andhra Pradesh. Some prisoners are even committing suicide. There are quite a good number of prisoners in our jails who are 60 or above in age. In addition to these, many prisoners are incarcerated by the arbitrary sentence imposed by jail authorities, without any enquiry or trial what so ever. In this background, the Political Prisoners in the prisons of A.P. have resorted to protest by sitting on hunger strike for a day.

Today, on the 15th November 2008, Political Prisoners in the jails of Andhra Pradesh have taken a decision to observe hunger strike and protest against the anti-people policy of the State. In many cases, there is no nominal enquiry even. The political prisoners are expressing their protest against all these criminal irregularities and negligence like insufficient supply of ration, non-observance of rules in the jail manual. When a prisoner is convicted in more then one case, all the sentences should run concurrently. But this rule grossly violated so as to ensure that the prisoner will never see the light of the day throughout his/her life. Similarly, if a Political Prisoner is accused in cases in two or three states, the P.T. warrants received from those courts are not even informed to the prisoners nor their counsel.

We at the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners once again appeal to all the Democrats, Rights organizations, people’s organizations and all the opposition parties in Andhra Pradesh to stand with the just struggle of the Political Prisoners in the state. CRPP demands:

1. Release the political prisoners unconditionally.
2. Restore right to life with human dignity of prisoners
3. Fulfill the demands of Political Prisoners
4. Political parties should clear their stand on political prisoners, on the state of human rights and these issues must be in their election manifestoes.

Lateef Mohd khan V.V.Bala Krishna BSA.Satya narayana
Secretary CRPP Secretary .CRPP Advocate and E.C member

B.Ravindra Nath Advocate
E.C.member of CRPP
Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners,

2-2-121/3/E, Nallakunta, Hyderabad-500044
Contact Numbers:- 09441163893. 09848798708. 09391051586