Friday, 29 June 2012

Kejriwal hits out at Modi, says it’s ‘free for all’ in Gujarat

Ahmedabad: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was protecting his cabinet colleagues by not allowing prosecution against them, Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal said here today. Kejriwal said: “I don’t have evidence which shows that Modi is corrupt, but at least Modi is protecting his cabinet colleagues, by not granting sanction for prosecution of his Ministers against whom allegations were made, and also by not appointing Lokayukta for nine years.
“For the past nine years, government has not appointed Lokayukta in the state but only indulged in politics over the issue. If Modi government was serious about creating a corruption-free state, it would have appointed Lokayukta,” Kejriwal alleged at a press conference here. “If a Minister or principal secretary in Gujarat has been indulging in corruption, who will investigate or inquire into it? There is no authority. “This is a very dangerous situation that there is no authority to investigate corruption of Ministers, high-ranking officials; and that too for the past nine years. It seems that BJP Government of Gujarat has no priority for corruption in the state. It is free for all,” he said.
Kejriwal is here to support an agitation against allotment of community grazing land at Lavad village in Gandhinagar District for the state government’s proposed Raksha Shakti University. He referred to the recent controversy over Modi’s refusal to sanction filing of FIR against Purushottam Solanki, Minister of State for Fisheries. Ishaq Maradia, an activist, has accused Solanki of corruption in the grant of fishing contracts and filed a petition in the High Court over the issue. The state has told the HC that Modi and two other Ministers had taken the decision to refuse the sanction to prosecute Solanki.
Referring to this, Kejriwal said: “We are not saying that Minister is guilty or innocent, the court will decide that, but what is the harm in investigating it, in sanctioning the prosecution. “If Modi believes that his Minister colleague is not guilty, he should immediately call for investigation and at the end people will know the truth.” Kejriwal added that such a situation would not arise if Lokayukta was in place. Stating that currently people had no agency to approach with their complaints, he said, “It is a free for all in Gujarat.”
“Recently RTI activist Nathalal Sukhadia was attacked, allegedly by supporters of an MLA. In the last couple of years RTI activists Amit Jethva, Nadim Saiyyad, Vikram Dodia, Jabbardan Gadhvi, Jayesh Barad and Yogesh Sendhva were killed…..It seems that there is a situation in Gujarat that corruption will go on, there won’t be anyone to investigate and whoever raises the voice against corruption will be murdered,” he said.
“We have only two demands from the Gujarat Government. One is to introduce Uttarakhand-type strong Lokayukta Act and appoint the Lokayukta promptly, and (second is) give back grazing lands to people of villages,” Kejriwal said. “Land is a prime area where large-scale state corruption takes place. Government will aquire land, mostly grazing land and give it to big industries,” he added.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Stunning! A century-old collection of photographs of India

Indian Glass Plate Negatives

A century-old collection of photographs of India has recently been discovered in the RCAHMS archive. The rare and fragile glass plate negatives, which date back to around 1912, show life on the subcontinent at the high point of the British Raj. The 178 negatives were stored in their original five-by-eight inch plate boxes and wrapped in copies of the 'Statesman' newspaper dating from 1914. Founded in 1875, the 'Statesman' is one of India’s largest circulation English language newspapers, and is still published today.

Highlights from the imagery include celebrations for the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Calcutta in 1912 – the only visit by a British monarch to India while it was still part of the Empire – with the city’s buildings lit up at night in tribute; ships arriving at the Chandpal Ghat, the main landing place for visitors to Calcutta along the Hooghly river; pilgrims gathered for a religious festival on the Maidan, the large urban park at the centre of Calcutta; and merchants selling their wares outside the eleventh century Jagganath Hindu temple in Orissa. All 178 negatives have now been digitised, and you can browse a selection of the best images here in our gallery.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

A Hard Rain Falling: on the death of TP Chandrasekharan and related matters (EPW, June 2012)

A Hard Rain Falling 
by Dilip Simeon
He went to bed, turned on the BBC World News and switched it off again. Half-truths. Quarter-truths. What the world really knows about itself, it doesn’t dare say:  
John le Carre, in Our Kind of Traitor

A baleful feature of contemporary Indian politics is the subjugation of the mind to partisanship in the narrowest sense. All commentary appears as the standpoint of this or that party, and hence not worthy of consideration by anyone other than the faithful. Serious dialogue fades away, and all we do is hurl ‘positions’ at one another. Communalism is identified with one party, caste-ism with another, corruption with a third. Conversation is reduced to sloganeering. We forget that the polity as a whole exhibits all these complex phenomena, regardless of which party commands power. And we also ignore the more far-reaching inquiry, into the acceptability of controlled mobs, private armies, vigilante groups and political assassination. These bloodthirsty practices are driven by community honour, party loyalty, caste pride or pragmatic realism. One way or another, they signify a return to a pre-political condition imbued by the dogma that might is right.

The term radicalism (going to the root of things) is usually taken in a positive sense, although ‘root’ explanations can be simplistic. But radicalism cuts across the political spectrum. What Right, Left and ‘marketist’ radicalisms have in common is dogma and fanaticism. It is not a Party but a platform of political moderation that is lacking. I do not wish to gloss over the serious distinctions between various radical doctrines, but will focus here on the similarities. These include the idea that independence is incomplete until their dogma attains power; the view that the Constitution and democracy should be used rather than respected (see below[1]); sustained attempts towards the ideological infusion of state institutions; a self-fulfilling vision of civil society as a theatre of civil war; and the maintenance of armed groups that can be ‘spontaneously’ deployed when required. This is the ground shared by enemies and it tends to remain unspeakable. All we have is the refrain: ‘my violence is better than your violence’.

India has an old militarist tradition. It was called revolutionary terrorism in the early twentieth century, and was represented by organizations such as Anusilan and Jugantar. One of its first actions was the attempt by Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose to kill judge Douglas Kingsford in 1907. This resulted in the deaths of the wife and daughter of Pringle-Kennedy, a friend of the judge. Chaki and Bose are martyrs for nationalist hagiographers, although their bomb resulted in the first piece of collateral damage by Indian patriots in the twentieth century.[2] The tradition has many offspring, including Naxalites and Hindu Rashtravadis. The Maoist sensibility is deeply nationalist, and its basic conviction is the doctrine of just war. The Hindu Mahasabha leader V.D. Savarkar’s favourite slogan was Militarise Hindudom! This linkage is unpalatable to many, but the ideological osmosis between these different forms of patriotic fervour was based upon their common belief in violent activism and the cult of martyrdom. It is visible in the personal accounts of revolutionaries, some of whom (such as the members of the HSRA) were drawn to anarchism and communism in the 1920’s and 30’s.[3]

Subhas Bose’s attraction to military force is well-known, and he remains popular amongst both rightists and leftists.[4] For its part, the RSS has been a paramilitary since its inception - an AICC resolution in November 1947 warned that “the activities of the Muslim National Guards, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Akali Volunteers and such other organizations…represent an endeavour to bring into being private armies, (and) must be regarded as a menace to the hard-won freedom of the country.” [5] The resolution dates from Sardar Patel’s time, as does the ban on the RSS after Gandhi’s assassination.[6] Since then, militarism has remained active across a broad spectrum. The Khalistanis organised ‘commando forces’ during the 1980’s. Islamist guerillas see themselves as warriors of Allah, and flaunt words like lashkar and mujahid. The North-East is teeming with generalissimos; and private armies such as the Ranvir Sena and Salwa Judum have been openly supported by mainstream parties.

By the late 1930’s, revolutionary terrorism had made an ideological impact upon politics. In an era of global warfare, now there appeared dreams of liberation by an army of patriots, to be established via a compact with the enemy’s enemy. One effect of Boses’ military adventure was to sanitise Nazism in nationalist consciousness. The implications are disturbing. A Facebook site named Lets Speak India recently posted a photo of Bose shaking hands with Hitler. At time of writing, 508 people ‘liked’ it, and many of the 68 comments expressed high admiration for Hitler. A decade ago a Delhi-based columnist reported a conversation with the principal of an elite college, who recalled that over 60 percent of the applicants for admission cited Adolf Hitler as their role model for having “given self-esteem to Germany.” For many of our youth, the deaths of millions in wars and genocide are a mere throw of the dice. The disdain for history and the mania for glory are bad enough, but the normalization of mass killing in the public consciousness should alert all democrats.

The communist attraction for People’s War became pronounced in the late 1940’s, when the CPI turned the anti-Nizam struggle into an all-out war against the Nehru government. After the Army action in 1948, the stalwart leader Ravi Narayan Reddy reportedly argued for a cessation of armed struggle. However by this time the leadership had hailed Telengana as the ‘Yenan of India’, and denounced him as a traitor. One memoir recalls Reddy being sentenced to be shot, and obliged to flee to Bombay.[7]

In the scientific stance adopted by Marxian socialists, the ethical and emotional aspects of political activity are not considered significant. Not only is this a deflection from the intensely moral roots of their own politics, it also points to the baleful consequences of reducing rationality to a mathematical dimension. Social consensus is a fragile entity, but how is it affected by partisan vigilantism? When people are humiliated or killed for furthering some cause, the emotional effects carry political ramifications. This is true even if the victims were ‘collateral damage’, and we know that communists have no problem citing this defence of their actions.[8]

T.P. Chandrasekharan was killed brutally, his face damaged beyond recognition. Whatever be the CPI (M)’s role in this, the fact remains that a Party secretary publicly avowed the practice of killing rivals - he even supplied details of the murders. Not long ago a primary schoolteacher was murdered in front of his students – we may imagine the impact of this upon the children. There is little doubt that the Party maintains and protects killer gangs in Kerala. In 2007 the CPI (M) deployed hundreds of armed men in vigilante actions in Nandigram. This happened whilst it was in power and could prevent the police from doing its duty. This disregard for the law had electoral consequences, but it also relates to broader questions regarding left-wing politics in India.

The Maoists have made matters worse. (I leave out the Jnaneswari train massacre for lack of space). They beat the NREGA activist Niyamat Ansari to death after abducting him from his home. They have been known to hang perceived enemies upside down to die, and to kill policemen in their custody – one of whom was beheaded. What exactly is scientific about cruelty? What is its class character? How do such acts bring us nearer to a just society? Who amongst us looks forward to a state controlled by such people? Every such action creates a spiral of bitterness. The relatives of the dead are affected for a lifetime – some dream of revenge, some repress their feelings, but in any event, they are unlikely to be impressed by communist ideas. It is time for human rights activists to start investigating the social aftermath of communist violence.

Given the partisan ambiance of all political speech, these matters will probably dissipate into a cloud of jargon-laden accusations. Pejorative ‘isms’ will be flung about to rally the faithful. Ideologies function as stones in the head, rendering their adherents devoid of human empathy and impervious to dialogue. But if there were any link whatsoever between ordinary life and grand visions, that connection is seriously damaged by the experience of cruelty. For the victim, and those close to him, it is irretrievably lost - annihilation signifies the end of hope, beauty and meaning. Fascism, Stalinism, Nationalism, Liberalism and Communalism all merge into an undifferentiated nihilist morass. Time itself is fractured - those of us who remain alive bear the loss even if we continue to fight for good causes. This is what Gandhi meant when he said: “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?[9]

Death as punishment for loss of faith is reminiscent of the Inquisition, under which dissenters were burnt alive. Theological concepts such as heresy and blasphemy still operate amongst Leftists, giving them the aspect of medieval Popes or latter-day Ayatollahs. Murderous activities brutalise activists and create shock-waves in society. There is no doubt that goondas maintained by parties such as the SP and Trinamul conduct violent campaigns to defend vested interests. But Left politics was meant to be the civic sense of a (potentially) just order. This was what was implied in the saying: there is another world, and it is in this one.” Surely Leftists must hold themselves to a higher standard than the ruling classes?

Violence is the very grammar of exploitation and oppression related to class, caste, sex and race. It has always borne the tendency to break free of institutional constraints and become a force in itself. That is why bands of warriors are the most stable feature of class society. Capitalism thrives on violence.[10] Tragically however, the major communist currents, instead of providing a wholesome alternative to violent reality, have become an indistinguishable feature of it.

All these historical vectors converge in their effect upon the public sphere, which is undermined by the impunity of India’s numerous controlled mobs. In 1984 the Congress transformed itself into yet another vehicle for communal hooliganism; and thereafter protected the criminals. This allowed the RSS to drag the very idea of moderate constitutionalism through the mud and slime. The habit of self-deceit progressed by leaps and bounds. For example, reports about communal incidents generally tend to name (or hint at) this or that community, but for 1984, a political category came into play: ‘Congress killed Sikhs’. (Were there Bahais and Parsis in the streets?). Here too, mobs shouting communal slogans were desecrating shrines and killing people to assert the superiority of one religion over another. And many residents of Delhi were enjoying the spectacle. But judging from the typical responses to any discussion of Gujarat in 2002, the RSS is delighted at the precedent – it enables them to say ‘What of it? The Congress did the same in 1984’. For the Sangh Parivar, it appears that one massacre deserves another. One little fact tells a big story however – the number of BJP MP’s elected to the 1985 Lok Sabha was precisely two, because Hindutva ideologues and their voters had switched to the Congress. This is why fascism cannot simply be reduced to partisan affiliations, even if some parties propagate fascist ideas whilst others make pragmatic adjustments to it. And the ruthless practice of certain Leftists completes the picture. What we are witnessing is the criminalisation of the polity – and I’m not referring to a head count of MPs. The process intensifies with every instance of impunity.

In August 1939 the ex-Nazi Herman Raushning published a book named The Revolution of Nihilism. Speaking of the dissolution of thought, he said: ‘To the conscious nihilist there are no ideas. But there are substitutes for ideas which can be foisted on the masses…The great paradox of this revolution is that its lack of principle is one of the main secrets of its effectiveness… how long can a State, a nation, a society, endure a governing elite devoid of all principle, without disintegrating?’ [11] 

The great delusion of our time is that ‘revolution’ is the totem of historical progress. There is indeed a revolution underway, but not of the communist fantasy. It is the revolution of nihilism, wherein ideas and virtues lose all meaning, human beings become mere instruments, ‘action’ is always imbued with violence, and everything is subsumed within a quest for absolute power. Those swayed by Absolute Truths cannot understand that such language leads to an endless oscillation between domination and chaos. From now on, no left-wing politics can carry philosophical conviction if it fails to address the scourge of violence. The sad truth is that a faction-ridden communist movement has proven itself incapable of self-reflection when it comes to understanding its own decline.

Speak the truth
Stop the killing

[1] For example, the NDA’s surreptitious attempt to nullify Schedule 5:

[2] For more on this episode, see Permanent Spring, in Seminar # 607, 2010:

[3] See Mallikarjuna Sharma (ed, five vols); In Retrospect: sagas of heroism and sacrifice on Indian revolutionaries; Hyderabad, 1999. Religious symbolism was evident in the murder by Naxalites of a police officer named Gorachand Sanyal in Baranagar in 1971. Sanyal’s severed head was placed on a thali. Thereupon a female member of the squad decorated herself with his blood: A. P. Mukherjee; Maoist Spring Thunder: The Naxalite Movement (1967-1972); Kolkata, 2007; p 16. Charu Mazumdar’s incantation about communists needing to dip their hands in the blood of the class enemy is an expression of the ritualist significance that bloodshed carried for the Naxalites. Also see The Other Side of Maoism, where I argued that Hindutva was the Maoism of the elite:

[4] Though it must be remembered that in the 1920’s, Tatasons’ management found it a point in his favour that the communists decried Bose as a ‘Mussolini of Bengals fascists’. See Dilip Simeon, The Politics of Labour Under Late Colonialism; Delhi 1995; pp 64-67; 347

[5] Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (online) vol 97, p 480
[6] Find the text of the order in D.R. Goyal: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Delhi, 1979; 201-202; and at
Also relevant is Justice Kapur’s Report into the Conspiracy to Murder Mahatma Gandhi:

[7] Mohit Sen; A Traveller and the Road: the Journey of an Indian Communist; Delhi, 2003; p. 125

[8] “No people’s war can be so clinical, as to have no civilian casualty.. no class war can be conducted with clinical precision. It is very tortuous and painful..” Maoists in India: A Rejoinder, EPW; 14/10/06, by CPI (Maoist) spokesperson Azad.

[9] Harijan, 29-9-1940. Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi; (online) vol 79, 257
[10] Force is the midwife of more force, whatever Marx may have thought of it. ‘What is granted under fear can be retained only as long as the fear lasts’: M.K Gandhi. Hind Swaraj; Ahmedabad, 2003; p. 60
 [11] Hermann Raushning; The Revolution of Nihilism: Warning to the West; New York, 1939, p 24-5

Read in EPW: A Hard Rain Falling

Planning Commission To Launch Shaandar Shauchalaya – A Premium Toilet Chain

New Delhi. After spending rupees 35 lakhs on renovating toilets in their office, Planning Commission has decided to launch a premium range of public toilets named Shaandar Shauchalaya, which means luxurious washrooms in Hindi. These premium toilets are being projected as the high-end version of Sulabh Shauchalaya, a popular brand of low-cost public toilets run by an NGO.
“We want to make cleanliness a fashion statement,” Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission said, “We hope that the common man will start using public toilets when they will see the page-3 crowd and the affluent people use Shaandar Shauchalaya – a new range of public toilets.” Ahluwalia cited a report by Planning Commission that claimed that the usage of public toilets in India was very poor and people were still defecating or peeing in open. Planning Commission was very worried over this unhygienic trend and decided to promote use of public toilets.
Since charity begins at home, Commission renovated their own toilets, which will also act as prototypes for the proposed range of premium public toilets. “We have been often hearing that there were more mobile phones in India than toilets, and we thought how to address the issue. Public toilets run by various NGOs were helpful, but perhaps they needed a new push – just like cricket was given a new push by IPL,” Ahluwalia argued and justified why a premium range of public toilets was needed. When Faking News asked if the premium public toilets by the government were like IPL of hygienic practices, the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission nodded his head in agreement. 
“Indian Potty League?” Faking News reporter asked for a clarification, to which Mr. Ahluwalia shook his head vigorously. “No, no, It’s just packaged marketing of public toilets, nothing else, and we are calling it Shaandar Shauchalaya, not IPL or BPL,” he clarified. As per the plans, Planning Commission will open such premium range of public toilets in all leading metro cities. Taking a dump in such toilets will cost 1000 rupees while one will have to shell out 500 rupees for having a pee. Taking a bath will cost 5000 rupees. 
“We are roping in celebrities to promote this,” Ahluwalia informed, “We are in talks with Mahesh Bhatt to promote his new film Jism-2 through Shaandar Shauchalaya.” “No, not because his movies are shit,” he hastily added before our reporter could interpret it this way, “Sunny Leone will have the first bath in our public toilets and we will release exclusive footage to all media organizations. We hope this will create a buzz and more celebs will follow suit.” To encourage shit drops foot falls from the upper middle class, Shaandar Shauchalaya outlets will have ATMs, magazine stalls, ticket booking centers, and other such utilities. They will also have good looking female attendants, like cheerleaders in the IPL.
“They will encourage constipated users,” Ahluwalia justified presence of such amenities in the air-conditioned public toilets. Planning Commission has asked for a budget of 3500 crore rupees from the government for this scheme to promote hygiene in the country, sources say...

India To Be Electricity-Free To Stop Fires Arising Out Of Short-Circuits
Emerging from the UPA cabinet meeting held under candlelight in New Delhi, a beaming Prime Minister told waiting reporters about the cabinet’s decision: “Today is a historic day for India. In one giant stroke, we have found a green answer to managing our economy. As of January 1, 2013, India shall become an electricity-free nation. Not only will our nation rid itself from the dependence on the outside world for power, we will also be the leading nation in controlling its carbon footprint.” “There won’t be any coal related scam as well,” he added. The mission has been christened “Gol Bijli Gol!”. 

Israel subjecting Palestinian children to 'spiral of injustice' - Children in military custody

A belief that every Palestinian child is a potential terrorist may be leading to a "spiral of injustice" and breaches of international law in Israel's treatment of child detainees in military custody, a delegation of eminent British lawyers has concluded in an independent report backed by the Foreign Office.
Israeli soldiers guard Palestinian children
Israeli soldiers stand guard over Palestinian children arrested in the West Bank 
city of Hebron. Photograph: Abed Al Hashlamoun/EPA
The nine-strong delegation, led by the former high court judge Sir Stephen Sedley and including the UK's former attorney-general Lady Scotland, found that "undisputed facts" pointed to at least six violations of the UN convention on the rights of the child, to which Israel is a signatory. It was also in breach of the fourth Geneva convention in transferring child detainees from the West Bank to Israeli prisons, the delegation said. Its report, Children in Military Custody, released on Tuesday, was based on a visit to Israel and the West Bank last September funded and facilitated by the Foreign Office and the British consulate in Jerusalem.
It makes 40 specific recommendations concerning the treatment of Palestinian child detainees. The issue has come under increasing scrutiny by human rights organisations and visiting delegations over the past year. In January the Guardian highlighted the use of solitary confinement in a report on the experiences of children under the military justice system.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

URGENT - Delhi Police says it is diffusing bombs

To The Police Commissioner, Delhi

Dear Sir,
Today's Times of India (June 27, 2012) carries an advertisement from you on page 5, with the following message:

"Your city isn't about the bad news that you read about every day.. it's also about the good news that you don't.. Like the numerous bombs we diffused, accidents we prevented...etc etc"

Please note that 'diffuse' means "to spread over a wide area". 
If the Delhi Police is diffusing numerous bombs, it is very bad news indeed.

The word 'defuse' means to remove the fuse from an explosive. Perhaps you meant to tell us that you 'defused' bombs. 

As a citizen of Delhi, I sincerely hope this is the case.

yours sincerely
Dilip Simeon

Gujarat worse than days of emergency: BJP leader Keshubhai Patel

In a fresh salvo at Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, veteran BJP leader Keshubhai Patel said on Tuesday that the situation in the state has become "worse" than the Emergency era. Mr Patel, who was chief minister of Gujarat before being replaced by Mr Modi in 2001, has been targeting the BJP stalwart in the run-up to the state elections scheduled in December.

The 82-year-old chose the 37th anniversary of the imposition of Emergency to slam Mr Modi and his style of functioning."Today is the 37th anniversary of imposition of Emergency in the country. On this day, I would like to remind people what is the position in Gujarat," Mr Patel said in his maiden blog. "Some parents of missing children of Gujarat wanted to represent their case to the chief minister. However, they were detained by the police and interrogated," Mr Patel wrote.

"Those who do not have any political affiliation and want to put forward their point of view cannot meet the chief minister of the state... What kind of fortification is this," he asked. "Why does the chief minister fear the people of the state?... Is this not worse than emergency days," he questioned. Mr Patel was referring to yesterday's police action to stop the rally of 'Association of Parents of Missing Children' and detained the members saying they had organised the procession without proper permission.

"I have been raising the issue that there is no freedom of expression in Gujarat and this incident has once again proved my words," Mr Patel said. The Modi-baiter has taken up the social media in an apparent bid to reach out to youths in his campaign against Mr Modi, sources close to Mr Patel said. During his meeting with senior BJP leaders in Delhi last week, Mr Patel reportedly submitted a representation against Mr Modi. 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Dhaka to honour Indian Colonel who rescued Hasina

Bangladesh will confer the Friends of Bangladesh Award on a retired Indian Army officer for his outstanding contributions in the 1971 war. Colonel Ashok Tara, now retired from service, rescued Sheikh Hasina, who is now Prime Minister, her mother Begum Fajilatunnesa Mujib, her sister Sheikh Rehana and her brother Sheikh Rasel from a house in Dhaka’s Dhanmondi where they were held captive by Pakistani military throughout the nine months of the country’s liberation war. A team led by Colonel Tara rescued them on December 17, a day after the Pakistani Army surrendered to the joint Bangladesh-India command in Dhaka. Cabinet Secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuyan said the award was decided on Monday at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Hasina.
Earlier this year, the Hasina government prepared a list of 561 “foreign friends” to be honoured. The highest national award, the ‘Bangladesh Freedom Honour’, was awarded to Indira Gandhi for her role in the country’s liberation. In March this year, the government conferred awards to a total of 83 individuals, institutions and organisations in two categories — the Bangladesh Liberation War Honour and the Friends of Liberation War Honour. The maximum number of individual awardees, 31, were from India followed by 15 from the United States, seven from the former Soviet Union, five from the United Kingdom, three from Japan, two from Germany and one each from Nepal, Bhutan, the former Yugoslavia, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Denmark..

Short man with tall character

See also:

Edvard Munch at Tate Modern – in pictures

From paintings of vampires, deathbeds and murder sites to self-doubting self-portraits, Edvard Munch dedicated his life to depicting grisly scenes. Here is a selection of works from the man behind The Scream

Edvard Munch: The Sun 1910-13, by Edvard Munch
The Sun, 1910-13

Edvard Munch: Starry Night 1922-1924 , by Edvard Munch
Starry Night, 1922-1924

Edvard Munch: The Girls on the Bridge 1927 , by Edvard Munch
The Girls on the Bridge, 1927

See more:

Charles Dickens identified as author of mystery article

An article championing the rights of the working classes, published in one of the journals edited by Dickens for more than 20 years, has been attributed to the author himself

"Any new Dickens material is exciting," said Drew. "It's not a new opinion [from him] but on the other hand, where an author has become as important as Dickens, it's as much about how he says things as what he's saying."
The article comments in depth on the proposal to establish dining-halls and kitchens for the use of poor people – a move the author commends, as long as certain principles are adhered to. "The poor man who attends one of these eating-houses must be treated as the rich man is treated who goes to a tavern. The thing must not be made a favour of," he writes. "The officials, cooks, and all persons who are paid to be the servants of the man who dines, are to behave respectfully to him, as hired servants should; he is not to be patronised, or ordered about, or read to, or made speeches at, or in any respect used less respectfully than he would be in a beef and pudding shop, or other
house of entertainment. Above all, he is to be jolly, he is to enjoy himself, he is to have his beer to drink; while, if he show any sign of being drunk or disorderly, he is to be turned out, just as I should be ejected from a club, or turned out of the Wellington or the Albion Tavern this very day, if I got drunk there."

Tales in search of listeners: memories from post-Partition Punjab

This essay concerns two tales, narrated by two different people -- one a Sikh and the other a Muslim -- about the perpetrators of genocidal violence in east Punjab in 1947.

The first telling dates to January 2003, when I was returning to Delhi from three hectic days at the Asian Social Forum in Hyderabad where my documentary Ek Minute Ka Maun was screened. It was on that journey on an overcrowded train that I met Sidhu, a burly middle-aged Sardarji with a weather-beaten face, who ran Sidhu Refrigeration and was an expert at setting up entire air conditioning plants by himself. The train lurched forward, gently nudging us closer, the distance further bridged by our common mother tongue of Punjabi. In the way strangers open up to each other, he rambled on about a lifetime spent in Hyderabad. It was inevitable that the conversation of two Punjabis would turn inwards to confront the ghosts of India’s Partition in 1947. Sidhu remorsefully told me about how his paternal uncle had killed Muslim children, holding them aloft on his spear.
“My father broke off all ties with him,” said Sidhu. After a long pause he continued his story. “My uncle was punished severely for his acts. None of his children survived. Born with some disability or the other each died within a few hours of birth.”
Echoes of Sidhu’s story surfaced almost a year later when I was shooting Kitte Mil Ve Mahi, a documentary bringing to light the deep bonding between Dalits and Sufism in Punjab. Roaming the villages of southern Punjab for local histories, I met Hanif Mohammad, who had a similar Partition story revolving around a mazaar near the village entrance. Hanif Mohammad had retired as peon from a local high school. He was a tall frail man of around 60, with an unlined face, a flowing grey beard and a white skull cap. I realized with a shock that in my 40 years, this was the first time I had seen a Punjabi Mussalman. The story of the shrine turned into the story of Hanif Mohammad; Hanif’s story turned into the story of Partition, intertwined with the fate of Punjabi Muslims of East Punjab. Recounted without bitterness, it was a seamless blend of multiple tales, which began in 1947 when Hanif was five years old. Hanif wound up his narrative recounting that the local villagers who tried to desecrate the Pir’s grave in 1947 lost their mental balance and died of madness. It was an echo of Sidhu’s story.
These two tales, as different as they were, both invoked a folk morality. The perpetrators paid for their crimes in their own lifetimes; people were witness to this justice. These stories seemed familiar to me, because lodged in my memory was a narrative I had overheard in my childhood from a villager during a visit to our village Akal Garh in Punjab...

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Celebration in Egypt as Morsi declared winner

Tens of thousands of people flocked to Tahrir Square to celebrate Morsi's victory, where they waved Egyptian flags and chanted "God is great" and "down with military rule." Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt's military ruler, congratulated Morsi on his victory, state television reported. Reactions also trickled in from around the region: The governments of Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and the Palestinian Authority congratulated the winner.

The final results: 
Turnout: 26,420,763 (51 per cent)
Invalidated votes: 843,252
Morsi: 13,230,131 votes (51.7 per cent of valid votes)
Shafik: 12,347,380 votes

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said in a statement that he "respects the outcome" of the election, and "expects to continue cooperation with the Egyptian administration". Morsi made an oblique reference to Israel in his victory speech, when he promised to "keep all international treaties," a vow which would include the 1979 Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt.

The White House also congratulated Morsi, and urged him to "advance national unity by reaching out to all parties and constituencies." Bishop Pachomius, the caretaker pope of Egypt's Coptic Church, issued a short statement congratulating Morsi. The Coptic community makes up about 10 per cent of Egypt's population, and some were worried by Morsi's candidacy, fearing that his government would restrict their personal freedoms. Gehad el-Haddad, Morsi's campaign spokesman, said in an interview shortly after the results were announced that Morsi would work to be a "president for all Egyptians". The president-elect is expected to take his oath of office later this month in front of the country's supreme court - though a spokesman said on Facebook that Morsi would take the oath in front of parliament, the "only elected institution" in the country.

The Muslim Brotherhood said in a statement that Morsi had resigned his positions in both the Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party, fulfilling a campaign pledge...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity

People aren't always awful. Sometimes, they're maybe even just a little bit wonderful. 
Here are 21 pictures to remind you of that fact.

This photograph of a man giving his shoes to a homeless girl in Rio de Janeiro.
a man giving his shoes to a homeless girl in Rio de Janeiro.

This picture of a villager carrying stranded kittens to dry land during floods in Cuttack City, India.

a villager carrying stranded kittens to dry land during floods in Cuttack 

This interaction between a Guatemalan girl and a tourist she just met.

interaction between a Guatemalan girl and a tourist she just met.

And this photograph of two best friends on a swing.

photograph of two best friends on a swing

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Books reviewed: The Violent Visions of Slavoj Žižek

Throughout the enormous corpus of work he has since built up, Marx is criticized for being insufficiently radical in his rejection of existing modes of thought, while Hegel—a much greater influence on Žižek—is praised for being willing to lay aside classical logic in order to develop a more dialectical way of thinking. But Hegel is also criticized for having too great an attachment to traditional modes of reasoning, and a central theme of Žižek’s writings is the need to shed the commitment to intellectual objectivity that has guided radical thinkers in the past. Žižek’s work sets itself in opposition to Marx on many issues. For all he owed to Hegelian metaphysics, Marx was also an empirical thinker who tried to frame theories about the actual course of historical development. It was not the abstract idea of revolution with which he was primarily concerned, but a revolutionary project involving specific and radical alterations in economic institutions and power relations. Žižek shows little interest in these aspects of Marx’s thinking. Aiming “to repeat the Marxist ‘critique of political economy’ without the utopian-ideological notion of communism as its inherent standard,” he believes that “the twentieth-century communist project was utopian precisely insofar as it was not radical enough.” As Žižek sees it, Marx’s understanding of communism was partly responsible for this failure: “Marx’s notion of the communist society is itself the inherent capitalist fantasy; that is, a fantasmatic scenario for resolving the capitalist antagonisms he so aptly described.”...
.. his use of a type of academic jargon (features) allusive references to other thinkers, which has the effect of enabling him to use language in an artful, hermetic way. Žižek borrows the term “divine violence” from Walter Benjamin’s Critique of Violence (1921). It is doubtful whether Benjamin - a thinker who had important affinities with the Frankfurt School of humanistic Marxism - would have described the destructive frenzy of Mao’s Cultural Revolution or the Khmer Rouge as divine. But this is beside the point, for by using Benjamin’s construction Žižek is able to praise violence and at the same time claim that he is speaking of violence in a special, recondite sense—a sense in which Gandhi can be described as being more violent than Hitler...
There may be some who are tempted to condemn Žižek as a philosopher of irrationalism whose praise of violence is more reminiscent of the far right than the radical left. His writings are often offensive and at times (as when he writes of Hitler being present “in the Jew”) obscene. There is a mocking frivolity in Žižek’s paeans to terror that recalls the Italian Futurist and ultra-nationalist Gabriele D’Annunzio and the Fascist (and later Maoist) fellow traveler Curzio Malaparte more than any thinker in the Marxian tradition. But there is another reading of Žižek, which may be more plausible, in which he is no more an epigone of the right than he is a disciple of Marx or Lenin.
Whether or not Marx’s vision of communism is “the inherent capitalist fantasy,” Žižek’s vision—which apart from rejecting earlier conceptions lacks any definite content—is well adapted to an economy based on the continuous production of novel commodities and experiences, each supposed to be different from any that has gone before. With the prevailing capitalist order aware that it is in trouble but unable to conceive of practicable alternatives, Žižek’s formless radicalism is ideally suited to a culture transfixed by the spectacle of its own fragility. That there should be this isomorphism between Žižek’s thinking and contemporary capitalism is not surprising. After all, it is only an economy of the kind that exists today that could produce a thinker such as Žižek. The role of global public intellectual Žižek performs has emerged along with a media apparatus and a culture of celebrity that are integral to the current model of capitalist expansion.
In a stupendous feat of intellectual overproduction Žižek has created a fantasmatic critique of the present order, a critique that claims to repudiate practically everything that currently exists and in some sense actually does, but that at the same time reproduces the compulsive, purposeless dynamism that he perceives in the operations of capitalism. Achieving a deceptive substance by endlessly reiterating an essentially empty vision, Žižek’s work—nicely illustrating the principles of paraconsistent logic—amounts in the end to less than nothing.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Greek election result: an assessment

The New Democracy party will lead the government even though it is utterly clear that at least one in three of the voters who backed it think very little of the party but felt they had no other option.

Greek voters gave their contradictory verdict: While 55% voted for parties that stood explicitly against the ‘bailout’ terms and conditions, a pro-’bailout’ government is about to be formed – such is the nature of Greece’s electoral system (which rewards the largest party with a bonus of 50 additional MPs in the 300 seat chamber). The New Democracy party will lead the government even though it is utterly clear that at least one in three of the voters who backed it think very little of the party and its leader but felt they had no option but to vote for them simple because the alternative, a Syriza government, might bring upon the nation the combined wrath of Berlin, Frankfurt and Brussels. This is as inauspicious a beginning for a new government with a mountain range of challenges as one could have imagined.
So, what next? Setting aside the shenanigans of the next few days (that will be necessary before the degenerate socialist party, PASOK, finds the ‘narrative’ which will allow it to explain to itself its support to the New Democracy-led government), the main ‘feature’ to look forward to is the upcoming EU Council meeting, on 28th and 29th June where a Greek Bailout Mk3 will no doubt be shaped. For despite Germany’s protestations (that Greece must stick to the terms and conditions of Bailout Mk2), reality has overtaken and effectively annulled Bailout Mk2. To put it simply, all the underlying hypotheses (primarily regarding Greece’s recession and the related tax revenue projections) have been violated by the facts on the ground. Bailout Mk3 is an inevitability, since a Grexit would be tantamount to the instant dismantling of the Eurozone.
What is beyond doubt is that Europe will reward New Democracy with a relaxation of the terms of conditions of Bailout Mk2. This relaxation will be heralded both in Greece and internationally as a triumph. Alas, the half life of those celebrations will be even more short-lived than that which followed Bailout Mk2 and infinitesimal compared to the duration of the merriment that followed Bailout Mk1...

China: witnessing the birth of a superpower

The primary driver for change has been the movement of people. Over the past nine years 120 million Chinese people – almost twice the population of the UK – have moved from the countryside to the city.

We had come from Japan – a democratic, comfortable, polite, hygiene-obsessed, orderly, first-world nation – to the grim-looking capital of a developing, nominally communist country that looked and sounded like a giant building site. For all enthusiasm, my family must have felt we were taking a step backwards in lifestyle.
It required an adjustment of preconceptions. Like many newcomers, I delighted at discoveries of Chinese literature and Daoist philosophy, Beijing parks, the edgy eccentricity of Dashanzi and the glorious mix of classicism and obscenity in the Chinese language, though I never managed to master it. The mix of communist politics and capitalist economics appeared to have created a system designed to exploit people and the environment like never before. It was so unequal that Japan appeared far more socialist by comparison. And it was changing fast. As swaths of the capital were being demolished and rebuilt for the Olympics, there was an exhilarating (and sometimes disorientating) sense of mutability. Everything seemed possible.
Looking back over the stories that followed, it is hard to believe so much could be compressed into such a short span of time – the outbreaks of Sars and bird flu, the attempted assassination of the president of Taiwan, deadly unrest in Tibet, the devastating earthquake in Sichuan, murderous ethnic violence in Xinjiang, as well as the huge regional stories: two tsunamis – in 2004 in the Indian Ocean and last year in the Pacific, a multiple nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, and the protracted rattling of nuclear sabres on the Korean peninsula.
One of my first tasks in 2003 was to chose a Chinese name. I opted for "Hua Zhong", partly because it sounds a little like "Watts, Jon", but mainly because the characters mean "Sincere to China" – something I was determined to be as a reporter. Nine years later, that sentiment has not faded. But at various times, I have been called a communist sympathiser, supporter of Taiwan, a stooge of the Dalai Lama.
However, my focus has been on development and its impact on individuals and the environment. In 2003, China had the world's sixth-biggest GDP. It passed France in 2004, Britain in 2006, Germany in 2009, and Japan in 2011. On current course, it will replace the US as No 1 within the next 15 years. It has already top in terms of internet populationenergy consumption and the size of its car market...