Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Orbán’s assault on academic freedom SHALINI RANDERIA

Another indicator of the malaise fallen over Hungarian education policy is the alarming decline in student applications and enrolments between 2010 and 2014, which fell by 24%. In 2016, the number of applications to state universities declined at en even sharper rate, from 160,000 to 110,000. This dramatic reduction amounting to a fall of 45% in student applications has been undertaken deliberately by the government. The less privileged, who are denied access to the education system in favour of middle and upper middle class students, are to fit themselves into Orban’s hierarchical corporate system as ‘simple labourers’ in the service or industrial sectors.

The legislation targeting the Central European University is part of the systematic erosion of the autonomy of Hungary’s universities. Instead of following the path paved by the CEU towards the internationalization of knowledge, the Hungarian government is committed to the nationalization and political control of science.

The very existence of the private, internationally renowned Central European University (CEU) in Budapest is under threat. Following attacks by the state controlled Hungarian press, a newly drafted law was passed on Tuesday 4 April by the Parliament that will extensively curtail the autonomy of the university, and indeed in effect aims at its closure. The CEU, which embodies the liberal spirit of its founder George Soros, is an attractive place to study for masters and doctoral students in the humanities and social sciences from Hungary and throughout eastern and central Europe, as it is for young scholars from all over the world. This makes it a thorn in Viktor Orbán’s flesh. In an ‘illiberal state,’ as Orbán’s himself describes the political system of his country, there can be no room for cosmopolitan, free thought.

While the new Legislation on the Regulation of Private Universities does not mention the CEU by name, it is nevertheless clearly tailor-made to it. The Andrássy University in Budapest, which has been supported by Austria and several German states, was carefully excluded from the purview of the legislation. The law requires, among other things, that a university maintain a campus in its country of origin, which, it is well known, is not the case for CEU. The CEU must comply by these conditions by January 2018 or cease functioning in Budapest. Orbán has succeeded in enforcing his new media regulations by means of similar legislation, which serve to obscure the authoritarian regime of control that is being established in Hungary. Will the EU tolerate this attack that calls into question the very freedom of thought and knowledge while rejecting the fundamental values of the Union?

Although this new amendment directly targets the CEU, the attack must be viewed in the context of the systematic erosion of the autonomy of all universities in the country. Since 2006, Hungary has spent less and less on education both in real terms and as a percentage of the GDP. Only Mexico and Turkey spend less among OECD countries. Large funding cuts to Hungarian state universities have created a budget deficit that has made it increasingly difficult to maintain their operations. The result of this fiscal policy has been the closure of many departments, and those that remain are entirely financially dependent on the benevolence of the state. State expenditure on higher education also declined by 25% between 2010 and 2013. This led to the establishment of a financial state of exception, which provided the occasion for the installation of state-nominated ‘chancellors’ at each university, in order presumably to consolidate the financial situation. Many of these chancellors are former FIDESZ functionaries with no expertise in financial management, and yet who are not only making financial and managerial decisions, but also determining academic appointments.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hong Kong police detain pro-independence lawmakers after China protest

Hong Kong police have detained two former pro-independence lawmakers at their homes, amid a widening crackdown on dissenting voices in the former British colony. The pair, Yau Wai-ching and Sixtus “Baggio” Leung, were disqualified from the city’s legislature late last year after a dramatic anti-China protest during their swearing-in ceremony in October.

During that ceremony, Yau and Leung, who have both called for a complete split with mainland China, altered the text of their oaths, declaring allegiance to the “Hong Kong nation”. They also unfurled banners that said “Hong Kong is not China” and used an expletive to refer to China. The protest enraged officials in Beijing and led Hong Kong’s chief executive to launch an unprecedented legal challenge, seeking to remove the pair from office.

The two lawmakers were taken from their homes at 7am and are being interrogated over their attempt to retake their oaths, which were declared invalid. That attempt saw the pair storm the legislative chambers and ended in scuffles with security guards, three of which were treated at hospital. Pro-Beijing lawmakers called the police for assistance at the time.

Yau confirmed her detention today in a Facebook post. The detentions were also confirmed by their political party. At least one of their assistants, as well as “a few volunteers”, were also detained by police. “The actions of the Chinese communist party and their puppets in Hong Kong are pure evil,” the pair’s political party Youngspiration said in a statement. “Evil such as this deprives Hong Kong people of the freedom and democracy they cherish.” “Hongkongers attempts to achieve the democratic autonomy guaranteed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration have been in vain,” the statement added. “We shall struggle against evil on the streets.” Read more:

A government of death is plundering our ancient Munduruku lands. Help us stop it

We, the Munduruku people, send our thoughts and words to you who live far away. We echo the cry for help from our mother, the forest, and from all the indigenous peoples in Brazil. Our home of Mundurukânia and all 13,000 of our people are threatened by the Brazilian government’s plans to build more than 40 hydroelectric dams in the Tapajós basin, as well as an industrial waterway and other major projects.

This would destroy the rapids of the Tapajós river that have long protected us from the pariwat (white people). Construction of the São Luiz, Jatobá and Chacorão dams would also flood our territory and erase the history written in the land. Such a disaster has already happened on the Teles Pires tributary, where the government and companies blew up our sacred waterfall, Sete Quedas. This left the spirits of our dead without a resting place. What would you say if we destroyed your graveyards, or the Vatican or Jerusalem?

The mining of gold, minerals and precious stones also carries the suffering of our people to distant lands. Diamond extraction in Sawré Muybu threatens another of our most sacred sites, called Os Fechos (Dajekapap), which we see as our origin and the site of the footprint of our god Karosakaybu.
Loggers are entering our lands and destroying our agũkabuk (abandoned villages that are archaeological sites). This is why at the beginning of April, alongside riverine communities, our warriors prevented the government from holding a public hearing that would have advanced plans for timber extraction. We will not accept logging projects in our lands.

Some of the places are said by the government to lie outside our lands. But we have occupied these places, along with the riverine communities, for many generations. We have our own ways of learning and taking care of the forest. We have been doing this for more than 500 years. Yet we must still remind the white people of their own laws. Brazil’s 1988 constitution has an entire chapter dedicated to indigenous peoples. Brazil also signed the International Labour Organisation’s indigenous and tribal peoples’ convention and the UN declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. Are these dead words?.. read more:

25 CRPF personnel killed in Maoist attack // Some states want Maoism to continue: CRPF chief (2014)

NB: This is yet another terrible tragedy in the 50-year history of Naxalism. It will achieve nothing aside from adding momentum to the spiral of violence. The consequences of the brutal waste of human life in the name of an ever-receding 'people's democratic revolution' can be summed up: lifelong trauma for the families of the dead; more repression unleashed upon the civilian population; a handle for the government to attack journalists and lawyers doing their jobs; further onslaughts on democratic organisations struggling for various popular causes; and steady erosion of constitutional governance. As regards human rights, resistance to communal politics (which the Maoists never seem to notice) and the preservation of democracy, what has been achieved in these decades of 'armed struggle'? Has there been progress or regression?  Is it not clear that a section of the Indian ruling class is already bent upon doing away with democracy? India does not need a violent revolution to overthrow the constitution, but a non-violent mass awakening to defend and implement it. But that will require serious political re-thinking - which the extreme left refuses to undertake. Maoist ideology is at a dead-end, and those citizens who are still attracted to it must pause and think very seriously as to what has gone wrong with revolutionary ideals. 

Jairus Banaji: Fascism, Maoism and the Democratic Left
What is to be Undone

As for the government, when the Home Minister declares this attack a cold-blooded murder, need we remind him that that it's own allies are assaulting and murdering people on some pretext or other on a regular basis? Was not the murder of Pehlu Khan equally cold-blooded, and what was the reaction of its ministers? Have there not been serious violations of human rights in Chhatisgarh? Did not the NHRC this January indict the state police for sexual violence against Adivasi women? Have not front organisations of the RSS brazenly attacked a police station and beaten up policemen doing their jobs just 3 days ago in Uttar Pradesh? Why are murder trials involving Hindutva activists collapsing mysteriously? What extra-constitutional role does the RSS play in this government and why? Why does it increasingly appear to sober observers that the ruling party is sponsoring an assault on the foundations of the Indian state? State officials in the IAS, IPS and judiciary may kindly remember that they are servants of the constitution, and it is the constitution to which they took an oath of loyalty. The integrity of the Indian Union depends upon democratic governance, and cannot be surrendered to extremists of any colour. 

And lastly, why, as reported by the Times of India in November 2014, did the just-retired DG of the CRPF declare that certain states have developed a vested interest in Naxalite violence? Will the hyper-ventilating TV channel TimesNow, owned by the same corporation, please investigate this serious allegation? Not to mention the IB and other intelligence agencies? Is anyone serious about dealing with extremist violence? - DS

25 CRPF personnel killed in Maoist attack
Sukma attack: The CRPF’s loss of 25 personnel in a Maoist ambush in Chhattisgarh’s south Sukma region on Monday is the second fatal reverse for the force in two months. The slain Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers were part of a team providing security to workers building a road. Road opening parties of CRPF, known as ROPs, are crucial to getting roads built in the Maoist-affected areas of Bastar. Maoists executed the Monday attack after serving a chilling reminder of their strike capabilities on March 11 killing 12 CRPF troopers as well as stalling work on a crucial road...
read more: 
For some states, continuing Naxal violence is beneficial. It helps them get central funds. And then it's not their men who die but those from outside the state (central force personnel). ...the DG was hinting at Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha… The easier way of fighting IEDs is to ensure Maoists do not get explosives easily. But the government is not serious about regulation of explosives' sale. State governments have to stop explosives from reaching MaoistsEx-DG, CRPF, Dilip Trivedi in 2014

Outgoing CRPF director-general Dilip Trivedi on Thursday made serious allegations of Maoism benefitting Naxal-affected states. Trivedi, who is retiring at the end of this month, said certain states had vested interest in letting Maoist violence continue as it helped them get massive central funds. He also said the government was not serious about regulating sale of explosives whose easy availability to Maoists had led to increasing deaths of force personnel. In a free-wheeling conversation with journalists, the DG even blamed government policies and systemic problems for non-resolution of Jammu and Kashmir and northeast problems. Without talking about the Army, he even said there was no need for Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and that the simple Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) had enough protection for forces.

He even hinted at various committees and studies conducted by the government for welfare of forces as waste of public money. The outgoing DG made these observations in a question answer session with journalists. When asked about lack of participation from states in fighting Naxals, Trivedi said, "For some states, continuing Naxal violence is beneficial. It helps them get central funds. And then it's not their men who die but those from outside the state (central force personnel)." Sources said the DG was hinting at Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha.

While speaking on how the force was dealing with IED blasts, Trivedi said, "The easier way of fighting IEDs is to ensure Maoists do not get explosives easily. But the government is not serious about regulation of explosives' sale. State governments have to stop explosives from reaching Maoists." Asked whether he thought even CRPF needed a special law, like AFSPA, given that it was working in fairly hostile and tough conditions, Trivedi said, "We don't need AFSPA. The CrPC provides enough protection to forces fighting militants. India already has too many laws."

Talking about how his force was working in some of the most dangerous theatres of conflict, Trivedi said, "There are systemic problems and policies involved that have led to non-resolution of Kashmir and northeast problems." When quizzed on why he had refused to participate on two committees set up to restructure CRPF, Trivedi narrated a long story, summing up that committees were a waste of public money and government time. He also said the government had spent huge amounts of money conducting IIM studies on problems of the force to arrive at conclusions that they force already knew. "They could have just asked us. But the problem is we are not consulted. Consultants are hired who charge lakhs of rupees," said Trivedi.
Ruling party is sponsoring an assault on the Indian state / Tavleen Singh - Is this Hindutva ?
A letter to Jaitley: Why do students get jailed but RSS leaders who issue vile threats walk freely?
Report of Fact Finding Team of Editors Guild of India on attacks on media in Bastar (Chhattisgarh)
BHARAT BHUSHAN - Narendra Modi's Republic of fear ...

Chitrangada Choudhury Aga - Illegal mining's ground zero ...
Atul Dev - The attack on Soni Sori follows her attempts at holding the police in Bastar accountable

Bibi van der Zee - Democracy campaigner: governments are scared of the participation revolution

The global pushback from governments against civil society is ‘an emergency’, says the head of a worldwide network of NGOs

Danny Sriskandarajah is charged with the job of looking out for countries where governments are cracking down on NGOs or on grassroots groups. Two years ago his organisation Civicus launched a monitor which tracks threats or infringements of the right to freedom of association, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, both for grassroots, voluntary organisations, and for the larger professionalised NGOs. 

“In the last four years things have changed so dramatically,” he says. “In 2013 we would be issuing press statements or alerts about Russia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, countries where you’d expect to see this sort of thing. But over the last few years we’ve been issuing alarms about the UK, US, Hungary and Poland. What’s begun to emerge is that we really think there is a global emergency around civil space, that for a variety of reasons governments and sometimes non-state actors are going out of their way to shut down the ability of citizens to collectively organise and mobilise.”

There is a global emergency around civil space. Red flags have been flying for a couple of years now. Doug Rutzen, head of the International Centre for Not-for-Profit Law says: “Since January 2012, more than 140 laws have been proposed or enacted by governments in 65 countries around the world aimed at restricting the registration, operation, and funding of NGOs.”

Alarm bells began to seriously ring for Sriskandarajah when India moved to tighten up restrictions on foreign funding for NGOs. In 2014 a leaked report by India’s Intelligence Bureau had accused NGOs of reducing India’s GDP; over the next year under prime minister Narendra Modi, the government cracked down on foreign funding for organisations like Greenpeace and the Ford Foundation. “This was a real wake up call,” he says. “Firstly this was the world’s largest democracy, and a country still in need financially of foreign aid. But the political arguments the government was making around demonising civil society were being won easily. Indian civil society just wasn’t responding at the political level to challenge what the government was saying and doing.”

In the last couple of years, he observes, the same pattern has been playing out in the west. In the UK for example a number of moves by the government – “the lobbying act [which limits the amount that charities can spend on political campaigning], gagging clauses on NGOs, undercover surveillance by police officers, the well-documented extra restrictions on muslim charities…” have come at the same time as a sustained campaign against aid by the right-wing press, and aid organisations have been oddly unable to make the case for themselves... read more:

Lindy West - 100 days of gibberish – Trump has weaponised nonsense

The Trump White House approaches language with the same roughshod entitlement he’s applying to the presidency. His sloppy lies and vague promises must not stop us holding him to account.. If Trump never makes a statement of commitment, Trump supporters never have to confront what they really voted for

With only a week left of his first 100 days in office – traditionally a milestone for American presidents – Donald Trump sat down with the Associated Press to reflect on his accomplishments (sic) and preemptively brag about future ones. This remarkable artefact, a transcript of which AP then released in full, captures, more than any other piece of media (except perhaps Trump’s Twitter feed), the unifying ethos of the Trump White House: weaponised nonsense.

The interview is deep, pure, tangy, umami Trump. I felt like I was reading one of those children’s stories in which a villain’s soul is written into a book and imprisoned there for ever – only without, in America’s case, such a happy ending. Donald Trump remains in the Oval Office, making decisions about whom to explode next (in the interview he calls this responsibility “the bigness of it all”), not gathering dust on a sorcerer’s shelf. Bad! (Not good.)

Trump lies relentlessly about his achievements (claiming, for example, that he’s “mostly there” on his 100-day plan, despite appearing not to know what it is), admits he “never realised” how big a job it is to be president, forgets how many missiles he fired at Syria, even though he got the number right only 17 words earlier, and compares his TV ratings favourably to those for 9/11. In my second favourite moment in the interview – the first being when he inexplicably drops the word “hamlets” – Trump describes a meeting with Democratic congressman Elijah Cummings:

“Well he said, you’ll be the greatest president in the history of, but you know what, I’ll take that also, but that you could be. But he said, will be the greatest president but I would also accept the other. In other words, if you do your job, but I accept that. Then I watched him interviewed and it was like he never even was here. It’s incredible. I watched him interviewed a week later and it’s like he was never in my office. And you can even say that.”

Cummings remembers the exchange differently, explaining that he told Trump he “could be” a great president if he stopped doing literally everything that he was doing and started doing other stuff that wasn’t horrible instead. Sixteen times during the interview, which took place in the Oval Office, Trump’s speech is recorded as “unintelligible”, either because he was mumbling like a weirdo or because an aide was talking over him and didn’t want to be quoted in the interview – both of which, the Toronto Star notes, are “highly unusual”. Highly unusual is our normal now.

Whether or not Trump is capable of calculation (and, judging by his largely noun-free syntax in this interview, it’s debatable), his rhetorical style, untethered from both meaning and reality, serves his agenda well. Language is where we find common ground, where we define ourselves and teach others how to treat us, where we name problems so we can see and fight them. There’s a reason why social justice movements care about things such as pronouns and racial slurs and calling a Nazi a Nazi and saying “abortion” out loud – it’s the same reason why rightwingers, Trumpists in particular, are so eager to cast language as a frivolous abstraction and any critique as “political correctness”.

Without language, there is no accountability, no standard of truth. If Trump never says anything concrete, he never has to do anything concrete. If Trump never makes a statement of commitment, Trump supporters never have to confront what they really voted for. If his promises are vague to the point of opacity, Trump cannot be criticised for breaking them. If every sloppy lie (ie: “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower … This is McCarthyism!”) can be explained away as a “generality” or “just a joke” because of “quotes”, then he can literally say anything with impunity. Trump can rend immigrant families in the name of “heart”, destroy healthcare in the name of “life”, purge minority voters in the name of “justice”, and roll back women’s autonomy in the name of “freedom”. The constitution? Probably sarcastic. There are “quotes” all over that thing!

If criticism is “political correctness” and “political correctness” is censorship, then aren’t all ideas equally valid? Is the most qualified presidential candidate really more qualified than a person who is not qualified at all? If we let a scientist testify before congress about climate change, shouldn’t we also let the retired basketball player Shaq come and tell them about how he thinks the Earth is flat because he drove all the way across America and at no point was he upside down?

We must keep calling these ideas what they are, and to do that we need a shared understanding of what words mean. That’s why Trump’s 100 days of gibberish aren’t just disorienting and silly – they’re dangerous. Trump approaches language with the same roughshod imperialist entitlement he’s applying to the presidency (and, by extension, the world) – as though it’s a resource that one man can own and burn at will, not a vastly complex collective endeavour of which he is only a steward.

Kavita Krishnan - A Citizen Stands With Victim Of Communal Bullying

Last week, Comrade Santosh Roy, National Secretary of AICCTU and a long-standing leader of the DTC Workers’ Unity Centre, was traveling on the violet line of the Delhi metro. Opposite him, two young men were seated on the senior citizens’ seats. A senior citizen (who appeared to be Muslim because he had a beard and no moustache) came up to the young men and asked one of them to allow him to sit. The young men refused. When the senior citizen asked them again, the young men told him, “This seat is for Hindustanis not for Pakistanis like you. If you want a seat go to Pakistan and get it there.” 
Comrade Roy got up promptly and told the young men to apologize for their hate speech, and also to give the seat to the senior citizen. Some other young men came to the support of the two abusive young men, one of whom caught Comrade Roy by the collar and told him also to “Go to Pakistan.” Comrade Roy stood his ground, and several other passengers in the metro came to his support. When the metro stopped at Khan Market station, a guard entered the compartment. As the guard, accompanied by Comrade Roy and the elderly Muslim gentleman, took the two young men to the police chowki at Pandara Road, the young men’s other ‘supporters’ promptly deserted them. A complaint was filed at the police station, though the two young men kept threatening ‘Hamare log aa rahe hain’ (Our supporters will come). The police offered to escort the elderly Muslim gentleman home, but he went home on his own. 

The next day onwards, Comrade Roy got calls from the police saying the young men wanted to apologize. He responded that he was not interested in an apology, and in any case the apology was not due to him in the first place, but to the elderly gentleman. Some days later Comrade Roy visited the police chowki. There, the elderly gentleman had given a written statement that he accepted the apology from the two young men and that he had forgiven them keeping in mind their young age. 

The young men were contrite and made many apologies to Comrade Roy also, while their parents, who were also present, said that their sons had done a shameful and wrong thing.  The elderly gentleman was generous enough not to pursue the complaint against the two young men. Perhaps, also, he did not want to pursue tedious and long-drawn out legal proceedings. But the most important thing is that a communal remark by two men did not go unchallenged by bystanders, ensuring that the men who made the remark had to withdraw it and apologize to their victim. Those men had been emboldened by the prevailing communal climate to think they could get away with abusing a Muslim person. Certainly, Comrade Roy’s intervention ensured that they will feel less bold in future and will think twice before doing such a thing. Perhaps they will also reflect on the immorality of their own behaviour – since it met with public opposition rather than public support. 

In times when a communal climate is being manufactured all around us, it is important for every Indian to show active support for minorities when they are subjected to abuse, indignities or violence. In 2014, after a gunman held people hostage at a café in Sydney, Australia, Muslims in Australian feared an Islamophobic backlash. Australians then used social media messages with the hashtag 
#illridewithyou (I’ll ride with you) offering to accompany Muslims on public transport. After a Muslim imam was shot dead in Queens in the USA in 2016, people in the US offered to walk Muslims to the mosque to ensure their safety, using the hashtag #IllWalkWithYou (I’ll walk with you). 

With Muslims being lynched all over India in the name of cow protection, anti-Romeo squads and various other pretexts, Muslims in India are insecure in public spaces and even inside their own homes. Following a minor quarrel between children in a Meerut park, Muslim women were thrashed by women of the Valmiki community whose husbands shouted ‘Aa gaya hai tera baap Yogi’ (beware, you ‘father’ Yogi is here now). Every day, in public spaces, Muslims are subjected to hate speech, threats and violence. Kashmiri students and youth in various Indian campuses too are facing hate speech, threats and violence. Africans in India are frequently subjected to racist abuse and violence. Poor people are lynched in the name of being 'pickpockets' or thieves. We need to intervene to stop, prevent and resist such incidents.

It’s time for Indians to tell vulnerable Muslim people around them #IStandWithYou – and speak up against every incident of communal abuse, bullying, lynching, rumour-mongering. Let us all be public spirited human beings like Comrade Santosh Roy and let Muslims, Kashmiris, Africans and people from other vulnerable communities that we are there for them. Let us stand with them and speak up for them when we hear them abused, threatened or attacked. Let us do what we can to prevent lynch mobs from forming around us on any pretext. Each of us can make a difference. Let us share and publicise such experiences so that we can encourage all Indians to stand up for the rights and dignity of vulnerable people.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Shoaib Daniyal - In Bangladesh, a movement against a statue of Lady Justice reveals the dangers of rising Islamism

Should Bangladesh’s foundational ideology be secular Bengali nationalism or Islamic nationalism? This is a question that has bedevilled the country since it gained independence in 1971. The word secularism itself was part of its original Constitution, only to be removed in 1977, and then reinstated in 2010. The latest battleground for this war is an unlikely one. Bangladesh’s Islamists are angry that the compound of the country’s Supreme Court has a statue of Lady Justice. The very existence of an idol goes against Islam’s strictures, they argue. The country’s secularists, under attack for some time now, are mostly silent. As a result, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in what could be considered an instance of appeasing the Islamists, has hinted at having the statue removed, reported the Daily Star.

Lady Justice: The statue, which was erected outside the Bangladesh Supreme Court in December, depicts the Greek goddess of justice, Themis, holding a sword in one hand and the scales of justice in the other. To give her a local flavour, she is dressed in a sari, the near ubiquitous dress of Bangladeshi women. Almost immediately, the statue set off a controversy in the Muslim-majority country. The Far-Right group Hefazat-e-Islam took out marches across the capital Dhaka asking for the statue to be pulled down. Idols have been controversial throughout Islam’s history, given that they are seen by conservative Muslims as trying to match Allah’s power of creation. As a result, they have rarely been commissioned in the subcontinent, even by its many Muslim kingdoms. In Bangladesh, this is not the first time the Far-Right has brought up this issue. In 2008, Islamist protestors had destroyed a statue of the famous Bengali folk singer Lalon Fakir situated outside the Dhaka airport.

Advantage Islamists: While that was a fringe, Islamists in Bangladesh have since acquired enough power to make statue removal a part of the country’s mainstream politics. The Hefazat-e-Islam is a body of madrassa teachers and students. Yet, its movement to pull down Lady Justice has attracted mainstream political support, including from a body of clerics associated with the ruling Awami League and, eventually, the prime minister herself. Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of the country’s founder, Mujibur Rahman, expressed her disapproval of the statue on Monday. Given that she leads the nominally secular Awami League, she did not explicitly agree with the Islamists, instead making a roundabout cultural and even sartorial argument. “Why would the statue of Greek Goddess Themis be set up in Bangladesh?” the Daily Star quoted her as saying. “The Greeks had a certain type of costume, but here a statue has been built and it’s wearing a sari. It’s a funny incident. I don’t know why such an incident happened.” read more..
see also

RSS front organisations launch violent attacks on Police stations and policemen. Hooliganism rampant in UP

NB: The Bajrang Dal and VHP are fronts of the RSS. We can see what respect they have for the law, and what they plan to do to the Indian constitution. It is utter hypocrisy for the Modi government to criticise Maoist violence when their parent organisation is unleashing controlled mobs as and when they like. It is clear that these musclemen believe the BJP victory in UP is a license to run riot, because they are assured of political protection. Let us see whether the BJP's leaders have any use even for the mask of respect for law. Judges, magistrates and IPS/IAS officers can curb this hooliganism, but it will require courage and a willingness to remember their oath of office, which many senior elected representatives have forgotten. India is not the fiefdom of a private army. DS

In Shocking Videos Of Cow Vigilante Attack, Jammu Family Begs For Mercy

Agra violence: 14 arrested after attack on police stations
Fourteen persons were arrested by the police on Sunday after a case was registered against over 200 people for attacking Sadar Bazaar and Fatehpur Sikri police stations in Agra on Saturday. The members of Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other groups attacked the police stations, hurling stones and roughing up policemen, demanding release of five men. According to a PTI report, the police registered cases against 30 people belonging to these groups and 200 other unidentified persons on charges of dacoity, unlawful assembly, rioting, obstructing a public servant in discharge of his duty and causing damage by fire. DIG Mahesh Mishra told PTI that they have arrested at least 14 people in connection with the violence yesterday. The five men were detained for allegedly harassing some people belonging to minority community. As per reports, a BJP MLA was also among the mob but had left before the violence started. The mob allegedly slapped Achnera Circle Officer Ravi Kant Parashar and thrashed a sub-inspector at Sadar Bazar police station.

A letter to Jaitley: Why do students get jailed but RSS leaders who issue vile threats walk freely?

Agra Policeman Attacked, His Car Burnt Down
Violence erupted in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, on Saturday as a state police personnel was allegedly attacked by members of the rightwing Hindutva outfit Bajrang Dal. The mob later set the officer's vehicle ablaze. The incident took place when protestors, led by BJP Fatehpur Sikri MLA Udaybhan Singh, went to the Sadar Bazaar police station to demand the release of 5 people, believed to be Bajrang Dal workers, who had been held there. The assault on Sub-Inspector Santosh Kumar and the burning of his car happened soon after the MLA had left the scene, The Indian Express reported.

The five men had been detained after they gheraoed the police station in the morning demanding that an FIR filed against 9 Hindu men for beating up members of the minority community be expunged. They also wanted a fresh case to be registered against the members of the minority community, who were allegedly attacked in the first place.

Bajrang Dal activists attack police station to rescue 5 from lock-up
The Sadar Bazar police station in Fatehpur Sikri of Agra came under attack by Bajrang Dal activists yesterday as they attempted to rescue five of their 'co-workers'. The attackers set a vehicle ablaze during the attack on the police station. One policeman was injured in the clashes with the agitators. The detained persons were said to be Bajrang Dal activists, who were taken into custody following a clashes with police earlier in the day at Fatehpur Sikri police station. The agitators demanded that a case registered against the activists of the Bajrang Dal and VHP in an assault case be withdrawn. They also sought action against some policemen. The protesters were led by BJP Fatehpur Sikri MLA Udaybhan Singh. However, police said that the attack by the Bajrang Dal activists took place after the legislator left the spot. Fourteen persons associated with different right-wing outfits have been arrested in connection with violence. "We have arrested 14 persons in connection with the violence yesterday," said DIG Mahesh Mishra.

HOW IT BEGAN: It all started on Saturday morning when nine men, reportedly belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal, were booked on the charges of beating up men from minority community. The suspects were detained by police. But, as the news spread activists of Bajrang Dal and VHP reached the Fatehpur Sikri police station, where they, according to local reports, had a heated exchange with the Circle Officer Ravikant Parashar. As tempers flew, VHP leader Jagmohan Chahar reportedly slapped the CO. The police responded with lathicharge causing minor stampede. Later, a mob gheraoed the Fatehpur Sikri police station and pelted stones at it. Local reports say that police responded in the same kind. It went like this for about half-an-hour. People on both sides received injuries. Some more people - five to six - were taken into custody. Five of the detained men were taken to Sadar Bazar police station, where the Bajrang Dal activists launched an attack late night… read more:

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Natalie Nougayrède - France’s identity crisis: ‘People just don’t know what to think any more’

The quiet, lovely medieval towns and soft, rolling hills covered with orchards and vineyards of south-west France are an unlikely setting for a citizens’ uprising. Yet just days before the presidential election, conversations with the inhabitants of this once leftwing region, stretching from the city of Toulouse to the rural settings of the Tarn-et-Garonne, offer a glimpse into France’s mood of rage and confusion. Popular resentment, fears and frustrations set the stage for a major political upheaval, almost 60 years after De Gaulle founded the country’s Fifth Republic.

France is a republican quasi-monarchy. Its institutions are centred on the president. But what is at stake in this vote isn’t just the choice of a personality, nor only an economic or political programme. The very essence of France’s democracy hangs in the balance, as well as the survival of the 60-year-old European project. Much of what is at work resembles the trends that produced Brexit in Britain and Trump in the US – not least the disgruntlement of those who feel they have lost out to globalisation. But there are also specific, distinct elements of a collective French identity crisis.

In the town of Moissac, a doctor in her 50s describes the mood this way: “We are experiencing a huge evolution, and it might well become a revolution. It would only take a spark.” “People are fed up and disorientated,” says a shopkeeper in Montauban, a town 30 miles north of Toulouse. “Many don’t yet know how they’ll vote, but be sure they will want to kick some bums. Things can’t go on like this”.

The French are notorious for complaining, and for their divisiveness. “How is it possible to govern a country that produces 246 varieties of cheese?” De Gaulle once asked. Brooding is a national sport. Surveys have shown the French are more pessimistic than Iraqis or Afghans . It’s hard to square this with the living standards of the world’s fifth largest economy, a country of high social protection and well-developed infrastructure, which has known 70 years of peace. But these are difficult, mind-boggling times. If comments from people in France’s south-west are anything to go by, then populist, extremist and even conspiratorial views are likely to define much of what will happen on Sunday and beyond… read more

Michael Safi - The ice stupas of Ladakh: solving water crisis in the high desert of Himalaya

It is the latest solution to an old problem in the Himalayan foothills. Despite its breathtaking scenery, life in Ladakh has always been hard. It is a desert at 10,000 feet, receiving on average just 50mm of rainfall each year. “The only reason people can live there is the glaciers,” Wangchuk says.
Each winter, titanic shelves of ice form at high altitudes and melt throughout the spring, flowing downwards into the streams that are the veins of civilisation on the mountain. Lately, that cycle has faltered.

Unnaturally high global temperatures threaten ice shelves everywhere – but researchers believe Himalayan glaciers are shrinking more quickly than any on earth. Less water is reaching Ladakh’s farms and villages, and when it does, the volume of water from the faster-melting glaciers can break the banks of streams, causing floods.

Wangchuk is not the first to try to wring a more sustainable water supply from the mountains. For centuries, inhabitants of the Hindu Kush and Karakoram ranges have practiced “glacier grafting”, chipping away at existing ice and pooling the pieces at higher altitudes, hoping to create new glaciers that can supply streams throughout the growing season. Apocryphally, villagers in the 13th century “grew” such glaciers across mountain passes to stop the advance of Genghis Khan.

More than a decade ago, another Indian engineer devised an update. Chewang Norphel earned the nickname the “iceman of Ladakh” by using a network of pipes to divert meltwater into artificial lakes on shaded sides of the mountain. The water would freeze at night, creating glaciers that grew each day as new water flowed into the basin. Norphel created 11 reservoirs that supplied water to 10,000 people... read more:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Mohd Asim - When Modi Asked BJP Leaders To Stay Silent, He Left This Out // Aatish Taseer - Anatomy of a Lynching

A lynching is a majority’s way of telling a minority population that the law cannot protect it. That is why in the American South so many African-American men were dragged from jails or hanged outside courthouses

Mr Modi is a master of messaging. So much that his silences, much like his speeches, convey a lot. And there is a pattern to his spells of silence. Mr Modi goes mum when he knows that his words might provide a healing touch to a section of population that is being terrorised and marginalised by elements in the larger Sangh Parivaar. Yes, I mean Muslims. So you will not have a word of condemnation over killings of an Akhlaq or a Pehlu Khan or other Muslims in Jharkhand or Jammu. He prefers silence while his party motormouths send across a clear and unmistakable message that Muslim lives don't matter in the India of today. Events after the public lynching on April 1 of Pehlu Khan in Alwar are chilling to say the least. It was Dadri deja vuGau goons attack and kill on the assumption of cow slaughter. The BJP brigade sides with the killers. The usual "killing is wrong, but..." responses follow. The law is secondary. Assumed sentimentalities that are hurt over an assumed act (read cow killing) are paramount. A murder becomes fair game.

 मुकेश कुमार - हम क्यों चलें जाएं पाकिस्तान?

After the killing of Pehlu Khan in broad daylight on a highway in Rajasthan, the BJP has sent a clear message that it firmly stands with killers. The state's Home Minister, Gulab Chand Kataria, who is directly responsible for law and order, first underplayed and then sought to justify the medievalism and barbarism of the attack in the name of the holy cow. Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi even went on to say on the floor of the House that "the incident didn't happen on the ground as narrated by the opposition members" who quoted newspaper reports detailing the mob violence. This, to my mind, was a new low in state denialism. Through all this, Vasundhara Raje, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, kept quiet. Not a word of consolation for the family of Pehlu Khan, no assurance of justice. Ditto with the government of Haryana, whose citizen Pehlu Khan was. No word from anyone in power that they cared. .. read more: 

Aatish Taseer - Anatomy of a Lynching
A lynching is much more than just a murder. A murder may occur in private. A lynching is a public spectacle; it demands an audience.

The lynching of Pehlu Khan, a 55-year-old dairy farmer, in the western Indian state of Rajasthan at the beginning of this month attracted a live audience of dozens and a virtual one in the millions. Mr. Khan, a Muslim, stood accused of smuggling cows, which are sacred to Hindus. A whole nation watched the scene on its smartphones and televisions: Mr. Khan, a lone hunted figure in white, lurches and stumbles along the edge of a dusty highway. He is pursued by “cow vigilantes,” young men in striped T-shirts and jeans, armed with belts and sticks. Eventually they gain on Mr. Khan, who falls to the ground, clutching his stomach. A crowd with cameras and smartphones circles. In screen within screen, we see Mr. Khan brutally beaten by the vigilantes in broad view of everybody. He died three days later, the sixth fatality since 2015 of a Muslim man subjected to vigilante justice of this kind.

M.N.Roy Memorial Lecture: Free Speech, Nationalism and Sedition by Justice AP Shah

M.N. Roy Lecture by Justice A. P. Shah (retired) 
April 19, 2017, Speaker Hall, Constitution Club, New Delhi. 
Organised under the aegis of The Indian Renaissance Institute
Short excerpt of the lecture / Full text is available in PDF below

A. Introduction: “A parochial, selfish, narrow minded nationalism has caused so much misfortune and misery to the world. A mad and exaggerated form of this cult of nationalism is today running rampant....” This statement made by M.N. Roy, as far back as 1942, may resonate with many even today, particularly in these times we live in. Good evening, Justice Chalmeswar, Mr. Pancholi and distinguished members of audience. It is a privilege and an honour to be here to deliver the M.N. Roy Memorial lecture today.

M.N. Roy was a leading intellectual and thinker, and an activist philosopher, who was deeply involved in the Humanist Movement. He was critical of the fundamentals of Indian nationalism and the ideology of nationalism in general, particularly in light of the rise of Fascism and Nazism and the outbreak of the Second World War. Roy left India during the earlier part of the First World War as a full-blooded nationalist, but changed his views after much reflection and new political experiences. 

He founded the Communist Party of Mexico in 1919, the first Communist Party outside Russia. During the second World Congress of Communist International, Roy helped formulate the famous Thesis on the National and Colonial Question by Lenin, although he disagreed with Lenin on the class composition of the leadership of the nationalist movement in colonies. Subsequently, on account of disagreements with Stalin, Roy returned to India in December 1930.

His return, however, was short lived. In July 1931, he was arrested on charges of sedition for the Bolshevik Conspiracy Case and tried in Kanpur Jail, without any open trial. He was sentenced to jail for 12 years, and was eventually released within six years at the age of 36. Thereafter, Roy joined the Congress, although he ultimately fell out with them on account of their reluctance to support the British to oppose fascism (which he considered to be a greater evil) in the Second World War.

After India became independent, Roy became a chief proponent of the idea of “radical humanism”, which he described as “a new humanism”. He continued writing on nationalism and on its economic and political aspects. In 1944, he drafted a “Constitution of Free India”, where he included a chapter on “Declaration of Fundamental Rights” which clearly stated that a “right to revolt against tyranny and oppression is sacred”.

B. The Situation Today: Roy’s ideas thus covered a broad range of topics, including speech and dissent. In fact, that is exactly why I have chosen to speak on Nationalism, Free Speech and Sedition for this memorial lecture. Today, we are living in a world where we are forced to stand for the national anthem at a movie theatre, we are told what we can and cannot eat, what we can and cannot see, and what we can and cannot speak about. Dissent, especially in the university space, is being curbed, and sloganeering and flag raising have become tests for nationalism. We have a 21-year old University student who is subject to severe online hate, abuse, and threats, only because she dared express her views... read more: 

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Supreme Court blasts Centre over making Aadhaar mandatory, says it was supposed to be optional

The Supreme Court of India lambasted the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre for making Aadhaar card a mandatory prerequisite to avail government services. The government was told that the Aadhaar can only be an optional requirement, as per the court's earlier ruling on the issue. The court was making the observations while hearing a PIL filed against the government's decision of making Aadhaar compulsary.

To this, the Centre responded saying Pan cards were found to be misused, and the only option to combat this problem was to make Aadhaar mandatory. "We found a number of PAN cards were being used to divert funds to shell companies. To prevent it (from happening), the only option was to make Aadhar card mandatory," said Attorney General of India, Mukul Rohatgi, appearing in the Supreme Court on the government's behalf.

Last month, the government had said it is mandatory to use one's Aadhaar card while filing Income Tax returns. The move was purportedly part of the Centre's efforts to battle the menace of black money. Aadhaar is also a must while applying for a Pan card. This apart, an Aadhaar number has also become mandatory to seek free gas connections under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana. Those below poverty line (BPL) women looking to avail free LPG connections but do not have the Aadhaar number, have been asked to apply for it by 31 May.

The Supreme Court had said in August 2015 that Aadhaar cards will not be mandatory for availing benefits of government's welfare schemes, and had also barred authorities from sharing personal biometric data collected for enrollment under the scheme.

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