Tuesday, 31 July 2012

65 miners still trapped in coal shafts in Jharkhand

Two hundred miners trapped in West Bengal coal mines have been evacuated, while efforts are going on to rescue 65 others stuck in Jharkhand mines. 265 miners were trapped in various coal mines of state-owned Eastern Coalfields and Bharat Coking Coal in the two states following massive power failure across the country due to collapse of grids. "All the 200 stuck inside Sodepur and Satgram mines in Burdwan (West Bengal) have come out. We arranged emergency power to rescue our trapped miners," Eastern Coalfields General Manager, Technical, Niladri Roy told PTI.Bharat Coking Coal chief Tapas Kumar Lahiry said six of 65 trapped in mines in Dhanbad district of Jharkhand are being evacuated. "We are hopeful of evacuating all others soon," he added. Rescue operations are going on and power supply has been restored in some of the mines.

"Our 40 miners are trapped inside Bargarh underground mines. Besides there are some 25 miners still stuck in Moonidih, Putki Balgora and Jairampur mines. Rescue operations are on and we are hopeful of bringing them out soon," Mr Lahiry said. Mr Lahiry said that though the power has been restored in Bargarh mines, there is voltage fluctuation.  There were about 3,500 miners in the first shift and majority of them came out immediately after the power cut, said BCCL Director, Technical, Ashok Sarkar.

He added that the electric supply has been restored in the area through Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC) and adequate food and water are being supplied to the trapped miners. Meanwhile, Central Coalfields in Jharkhand has prevented about 5,000 of its miners from entering about 25 underground mines in the second shift till normalcy is restored. "There is no vertical shaft in our mines. All 5,000 miners in the first shift were asked to come out soon after the news of the grid collapse reached us," said CCL Director Technical, TK Nag.

Russia - Pussy Riot trio defiant as 'hooliganism' trial begins

One of the most talked-about trials in Russia for years began in a Moscow courtroom yesterday, with three girls from the punk group Pussy Riot facing charges of hooliganism inspired by religious hatred that could see them jailed for up to seven years. Their crime was to burst into Moscow's biggest cathedral in February and perform a shrieky key punk tune calling on the Virgin Mary to kick Vladimir Putin out of office. Three of the five women involved were arrested two weeks later, and after being refused bail, have been held in prison. The powerful Orthodox Church has refused to call for clemency for the women, and while many Russians found their stunt distasteful, the harsh response has brought public opinion round to their side.

After lengthy preliminary hearings, the trial proper started yesterday. "I thought the church loved all its children," said Maria Alekhina, 24, in her opening statement. "But it seems the church loves only those children who love Putin." She, together with Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 23, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29, pleaded not guilty to the charges. The trio looked pale but in good spirits, and were in combative mood, frequently prompting the judge to interject and silence them. "I can't say whether I admit the charges or not as I don't understand the charges," said Ms Alekhina at one point, to the frustration of the judge, who scolded her and suggested she was being deliberately obtuse. "You have a higher education. Do you speak Russian?" the judge asked angrily. The prosecution has said the three women are agents of Satan and are the tip of an iceberg of nefarious interests bent on destroying the Russian state. Yesterday the women admitted to making an "ethical mistake" but denied any criminal activity.

Lawyers for the women rejected the charges as "absurd" and said there had been numerous procedural violations in the build-up to the trial. The court has rejected most of the motions the defence has put forward, including a request to call Mr Putin and the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church as witnesses in the case. The defence says that harsh words from Mr Putin about the stunt could prejudice the court, as well as comments the Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev gave the day before the hearing started, suggesting that in other countries the punishment for such an act would be even harsher. The trial comes nearly three months after Mr Putin returned to the Kremlin amid large street protests. His response to the protest movement has been crackdown rather than compromise. Laws have been introduced that increase the fines for unsanctioned demonstrations and force all NGOs that receive any grants from abroad to identify themselves as "foreign agents".

In a new development, Alexei Navalny, a blogger who has targetted the allegedly corrupt dealings of government officials and became one of the de facto leaders of the protests, was called into the Investigative Committee yesterday to answer questions about alleged misdeeds when he worked as a consultant for a regional governor several years ago. He said charges against him were due to be announced this morning, and insists he did no wrong and that the investigation against him was politically motivated. In her opening statement at the Pussy Riot trial, Ms Samutsevich said: "I see [the charges] as the start of a campaign of authoritarian repressive measures aimed at lowering the political activity of citizens. Its aim is create a sense of fear among those citizens who take active part in politics." The case continues today. ..

Monday, 30 July 2012

The rise and rise of a Hindutva hitman

Subhash Padil, the Hindu Jagaran Vedike activist who led Saturday’s attack on women at Morning Mist Homestay in Mangalore, was a street-level activist of Sri Rama Sene when he was arrested in 2009 for his role in targeting women at a pub in the same Karnataka city. The ferocity he displayed during that attack — well-documented by television crew — gave him both stature and position in the Sene, which he had joined in 2006. He soon gained a reputation in Mangalore as a ruthless goon for hire, sought after by builders and land sharks. On May 25 this year, a First Information Report was slapped on him along with contractors and officials of the Mangalore Special Economic Zone for assaulting a family of farmers which opposed land acquisition for the project. Four of them, including two children, had to be hospitalised.
Two days before the attack at Homestay, around 1.30 p.m. on July 26, Padil’s followers kidnapped and assaulted a Muslim boy and a Hindu girl who were travelling in a bus from Mudipu to Mangalore. The couple were later handed over to the Bunder Police who, however, took no action against the assailants. Bajrang Dal leader Sharan Pumpwell confirms that Padil was his rival for political turf and visibility within the Sangh Parivar. They had a heated exchange around 10 days ago when Padil wanted to set up an office in Pumpwell, centre of Sharan’s power base. Padil reluctantly agreed to open the office in nearby Shivbaugh instead.
“Since that incident he wanted to prove a point. The [Saturday’s] attack was also aimed at sending out a message to rival Hindutva outfits,” claims a Parivar insider who did not want to be named. In fact, Padil was active as early as in 2008 when Sri Rama Sene tried to enforce a shutdown in Mangalore over the Ram Sethu controversy. Padil and his men tried to stab this reporter and television journalist Agnel Rodriguez with a trident when we caught them vandalising shops whose owners defied the shutdown call. Prasad Attavara, then a leader of Sri Rama Sene, slapped Padil publicly for this. To us, he said: “You are our friendsYou and us need to work together.”
Padil was just 18 when, inspired by the Bajrang Dal’s role in the Gujarat riots, he joined the outfit in 2002, say his friends. “He used to worship a photograph of [Chief Minister] Narendra Modi that he had put up in his house,” remembers Sudatta Jain, who joined the Bajrang Dal one year before Padil did. Childhood friends, Jain and Padil were ardent followers of Pramod Muthalik, who inducted them into the Bajrang Dal. Muthalik fell out with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2005 and quit the Bajrang Dal. Both Padil and Jain followed Muthalik when he founded the Shiv Sena’s Karnataka unit the same year.
“At that time, we felt that the Bajrang Dal, the RSS and the BJP were too soft on the question of Hindutva. We wanted to do something big,” says Jain, who now heads a trade union (Akhil Bharatiya Karmika Sene) and keeps his distance from Hindutva groups. “I still believe in Hindutva but I don’t like violence. But Subhash was very ambitious and he was very strong physically. He wanted to be a big leader,” he says. Padil quit the Shiv Sena along with Muthalik in 2006 over the Marathi-Belgaum issue. A few months later, he joined Muthalik’s Rashtriya Hindu Sena which subsequently morphed into Sri Rama Sene.
Despite his leading role in the 2009 pub attack, Padil felt he was overshadowed by the Sene’s then leader Prasad Attavara. When Prasad Attavara was arrested in mid-2010 along with his followers for running an international extortion racket, Padil and Jain quit the Sene and laid low for a few months. While Jain started the trade union, Padil joined the Hindu Jagarana Vedike in February 2011 along with his trusted lieutenants Suresh Padil and Sharath Padavinangady. By doing so, he hoped to rebuild ties with the RSS and the BJP.

Raze illegal construction near Akbarabadi mosque: Delhi High Court

NB: Following the recent purported discovery of the remains of the Mughal era Akbarabadi Mosque during digging by Delhi Metro, local people led had begun building a mosque there earlier this monthThey were led by MLA Shoaib Iqbal. This is an instance of blatant communal mobilisation by this MLA. As usual, 'religious sentiment' is being used to violate the law. The idea is to create a furore if the authorities try and demolish the half-completed new mosque. It is irresponsible provocation for selfish ends, and should be resisted. - Dilip

The Delhi high court on Monday allowed the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) to remove illegal construction at the purported excavated mosque site near the historic Jama Masjid. A special bench of acting chief justice AK Sikri, justice SK Kaul and justice Rajiv Shakdher asked the ASI to implement its order dated July 19 in which it directed North Delhi Municipal Corporation to remove the unauthorised construction within 15 days. People in Subhas Nagar area close to Jama Masjid started the construction of a mosque at the site after a building's remains were discovered early this month at the site excavated for Delhi Metro work. The area people claimed that the remains were those of the 17th century Mughal-era Akbarabadi mosque...

Also see: Mosque site cordoned off amid protest from locals

ASI, corporation told to remove building
ASI had asked the corporation to remove the unauthorized construction within 15 days of the receipt of the notice, failing which the heritage body would remove it. In response, the corporation indicated its willingness to remove the construction as it fell within the regulated area of Red Fort.  The full bench also pulled up MLA Shoaib Iqbal and his conduct, reminding him that the State is not supposed to advance the cause of one religion to the detriment of another. "At least, an elected member of the Assembly, who belongs to the ruling government, and, thus, a part of the State, should not have resorted to illegal construction. The State has no religion," the bench said, asking police to immediately book miscreants who damaged public property and attempted to create a communal atmosphere at the site. "It is high time that such a group is made accountable both in civil law and criminal law," the court said. 

The bench added it is for ASI to decide how it wants to carry out its task and said it has full authority to undertake further digging at the site if required. HC also made it clear even if some pre-existing religious structure is unearthed at the site by ASI, the land will still be a public land and ASI will be the sole authority to decide to what use it puts the site to.  Asking ASI to submit its first report in a sealed cover by October 11, the court said, "ASI should begin its task in right earnest with all technical assistance." Extending its order restraining construction at the site, the court directed the corporation and police to assist ASI and ensure that the area is cordoned off. HC also asked police to prevent rumour mongering so that any endeavour to give communal overtones is stopped. "All measures as are necessary to do so will be taken," the judges said and declined a plea to allow people to offer prayers for Ramzan or perform puja at the site. Following the purported discovery of the remains of the Mughal era Akbarabadi Mosque during digging by Delhi Metro, local people led had begun building a mosque there earlier this month.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Research article: The UN and War Crimes/ Genocide Trials for Pakistani Soldiers in Bangladesh 1971–1974

By A Dirk Moses
"The happenings in East Pakistan constitute one of the most tragic episodes in human history. Of course, it is for future historians to gather facts and make their own evaluations, but it has been a very terrible blot on a page of human history" - U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations June 3, 1971

A significant part of the human rights regime established by the United Nations after the Second World War was the protection of group rights and the further regulation of warfare by prosecuting the violators of these new international laws. Unlike the interwar period when the League of Nations stood by haplessly as Italy invaded Abyssinia , the protection of human rights and international law was supposed to have teeth. Thus the United Nations General Assembly passed the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide on 9 December 1948 (it came into force in 1951), one day before it adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On the heels of the Nuremberg Trials, the Genocide Convention provides explicitly for prosecutions of suspects. Article 6 says: “Persons charged with genocide or any other acts enumerated in article III shall be tried by a competent tribunal of the State in the territory of which the act was committed, or by such international penal tribunal as may have jurisdiction with respect to those Contracting Parties which shall have accepted its jurisdiction.” What is more, Article 8 stipulates that contracting parties can have recourse to the UN: They “may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide.”

A year later, in 1949, the Third Geneva Convention was signed by members of the “international community.” With respect to “grave breaches” of that Convention, which overlap in part with the Genocide Convention, it requires states “to enact legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions” and “to search for the persons alleged to have committed or ordered the commission of grave breaches and to try such persons before their own courts, or alternatively to hand them over to another contracting state that has made out a prima facie case.” The Convention also requires that states assist one another in criminal proceedings, such as extraditing suspects, as does the Genocide Convention.

Finally, the General Assembly of the UN authorized the Internal Law Commission (ILC) to formulate the principles of the Nuremberg Tribunals, which had been affirmed by the Assembly as part of international law. In 1950, the ILC specifi ed the elements of “Crimes against Peace,” “War Crimes,” as well as “Crimes against Humanity,” which, again, overlapped with the Genocide Convention. They are: “Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connexion with any crime against peace or any war crime.”

Far from guaranteeing the absence of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, this legal regime stood by for fi fty years as the nation-states of the “international community” consistently violated them. The People’s Republic of China was alleged to have committed genocide in Tibet between 1959 and 1960. Dag Hammarskjold called the massacre of Balubas in the State of South Kasai of the Congo in 1960 “a case of incipient genocide.” The Hutu killing and expulsion of the Tutsi in the Rwandan revolution of 1963–1964 and the Tutsi massacres of Hutu nine years later in Burundi were also genocidal in character. Then there was the secessionist civil war in Nigeria between 1966 and 1970 in which the Igbos were subject to a famine campaign that took perhaps several million lives. In 1965 the massacre of half a million communists in Indonesia also targeted ethnic Chinese in genocidal attacks. No trials were mooted by members of the UN. This is a short list of cases until the end of the 1960s. Worse was to follow....

To illustrate these dilemmas, I focus on the case of the East Pakistani secession and the issue of related war crimes /genocide trials between 1971 and 1974. The reason for this choice is that the West Pakistan Army’s brutal, indeed genocidal, suppression of the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) autonomy/ independence movement received more international attention than any other of the above-mentioned cases, yet nothing was done by the UN or nation-states to interdict, let alone condemn, the killing. As I will show, the term “genocide” was used extensively by eyewitnesses, journalists, and politicians throughout 1971 and subsequently. And for the first time since Nuremberg and Tokyo, war crimes trials were seriously considered, in this case by the new Bangladeshi state, which wanted to prosecute numerous Pakistani soldiers and officials held in Indian custody.

Contemporary legal observers thought that such trials would be as significant as the Nuremberg Trials, although they have received surprisingly little scholarly attention since that time. In the high diplomatic drama between Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, the trial issue was even listed at the International Court of Justice in 1973, the first time such a notification had occurred. Even though the Bangladeshi state enacted a statute to try Pakistanis for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, however, the trials never eventuated.

I proceed as follows. The first section highlights the vocabulary that the media used in reporting the events. I show that the genocide concept was used extensively by the media and even diplomats to label the human rights atrocities committed by the Pakistani Army during its “Operation Searchlight” against the East Pakistani nationalists. Then I examine how the various UN agencies responded to the crisis in East Pakistan and to the media reporting. Finally, I briefly reconstruct the domestic and international drama of the proposed war crimes /genocide trials...

The Genocide Debate about the Pakistan Campaign
When Pakistani military violence was unleashed on the evening of 25 March 1971, the press naturally did not call it genocide. Civil war was the vocabulary of the first few days of Western reporting, which noted the existence East Pakistani resistance forces. The Boston Globe even spoke about “bloody clashes between staff and students” and the military in what were in truth one-sided massacres. Sydney Schanberg at the New York Times was more realistic: “The Pakistani Army is using artillery and heavy machine guns against unarmed East Pakistani civilians to crush the movement for autonomy in this province of 75 million people,” he wrote on 27 March. In successive days, he painted a picture of a well-planned military attack on civilian opposition figures and groups, an image captured by the title of his 29 March report, “Sticks and Spears against Tanks.” Like the editorial of the Sydney Morning Herald on 29 March, the civilian casualties were reported as extraordinarily high, between 10,000 and 100,000 –after only three or four days!

The reporting was the same in England. The Daily Telegraph’s Simon Dring, who, unlike other foreign journalists, managed to avoid expulsion from the country, reported 15,000 dead on 30 March, as well as the specific targets of the terror: students and Hindus, whose women and children were burned alive in their homes. The next day, the Telegraph reported that “killing was on a mass scale.” Given the general rhetorical caution of the media – no one had mentioned “genocide” – it was all the more remarkable that already on 27 March the American Consul General in Dacca, Archer Blood, sent a telegram to Washington headed with the phrase “Selective Genocide”:

1. Here in Dacca we are mute and horrified witnesses to a reign of terror by the Pak[istani] Military. Evidence continues to mount that the MLA authorities have list of AWAMI League supporters whom they are systematically eliminating by seeking them out in their homes and shooting them down. 2. Among those marked for extinction in addition to the A.L. hierarchy are student leaders and university faculty.… Moreover, with the support of the Pak[istani] military, non-Bengali Muslims are systematically attacking poor people’s quarters and murdering Bengalis and Hindus… Full horror of Pak. Military atrocities will come to light sooner or later. I, therefore, question continued advisability of present USG posture of pretending to believe GOP [Government of Pakistan] false assertions and denying.. that this office is communicating detailed account of events in East Pakistan. We should be expressing our shock, at least privately, to GOP, at this wave of terror directed against their own countrymen by Pak military. 

Using uncannily similar language, the New York Times editorial of 7 April, entitled “Bloodbath in Bengal,” condemned Washington’s silence on what it called the “indiscriminate slaughter of civilians and the selective elimination of leadership groups in the separatist state of East Bengal.” Only a day earlier, with the carnage continuing without condemnation from the White House, Blood and twenty-nine diplomatic colleagues sent another telegram from Dacca – the celebrated “Blood Telegram” – to the State Department headed “Dissent from U.S. Policy Toward East Pakistan.”..

Download the full article: http://dirkmoses.weebly.com/uploads/7/3/8/2/7382125/moses_east_pakistan_in_hoffmann_human_rights.pdf

Full title  A Dirk Moses; The United Nations, Humanitarianism and Human Rights: War Crimes/Genocide Trials for Pakistani Soldiers in Bangladesh, 1971-1974; in Stefan-Ludwig Hoffman, ed., Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (New York: CUP 2011)

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Public Meeting cum Peace Vigil against Ongoing Ethnic Violence in Assam

Arts Faculty Gate, North Campus, Delhi University Friday July 27, 2:00pm until 4:00pm

We the people from various parts of northeast residing in Delhi, along with concerned individuals, university members, civil and human rights organisations from Delhi, have taken serious note of the on-going ethnic conflict that has erupted in four districts (Kokrajhar, Dhubri, Chirang and Bongaigaon) of Lower Assam. 

In last one week we have witnessed the tragedy of nearly 200,000 people belonging to the Bodo and the Muslim communities, being forced to flee from their homes and villages, internally displaced, scarred and traumatized. Official figures tell that around 40 people have lost their lives, while unofficial estimates from the grounds are much higher. More than 400 villages have been torched down. This has been one of the most widespread and alarming conflicts in the recent history of Assam. Also this is not the first time that such kind of ethnic conflict has occurred in this area. Various ethnic groups inhabiting the area, like the Koch Rajbongshis, Santhalis, Oraons, Mundas, Bodos, religious minority community (Muslims), ethnic Assamese etc., have time to time been engulfed in cross-ethnic tensions and conflicts. We are also aware that abductions, extortions and sporadic killings (for both personal business rivalries and political gains) have been infesting the concerned area for a decade now.

The eruption of this conflict is not an abrupt or ‘spontaneous’ one. Tensions between the two communities have been brewing for sometime now, primarily over the questions of access to the limited resources available in this area. One also cannot rule out communal tensions that has existed between the different communities inhabiting this area.

We understand that both the Assam Government and Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) administration were very much in the know of the shimmering tensions between the two communities. But the authorities turned a blind eye to the gravity of the situation. The authorities allowed the tension to escalate to such an extent which resulted in a massive spree of arson, violence and killings. This ongoing conflict has resulted in irreparable damages. While lives and properties have been lost, it has created a deep chasm of suspicion, mistrust and fear amongst the people inhabiting the four districts, especially amongst the Bodos and the Muslims. There is a high possibility that this endemic of suspicion, mistrust and fear will define the inter-ethnic relations among all the communities inhabiting this area and beyond as well.

Both the Bodos and the Muslim population of this area have historically been at the margins of the ‘Assamese society’. However in a very convenient manner the mainstream Assamese society at large and a section of the Assamese media as well as the national media have been portraying this conflict as a clash between the Bodos and the ‘illegal’ Muslim immigrants, that is, Bangladeshis who need to be sent back to where they come from. We are aware that there are ‘illegal’ Bangladeshi immigrants residing in these four districts like any other parts of the north east, but to label the undifferentiated masses of Muslim population inhabiting this areas as ‘illegal’ Bangladeshi immigrants amounts to a travesty of history and injustice meted out to a whole section of the society. We should be aware that the mainstream Assamese society/media is not concerned about either the Bodos or the Muslims so far as the ‘sanctity’ of their nationhood is protected. Both the Bodos and the ‘illegal’ immigrants are disposable. The easiness with which many groups and the mainstream Assamese society have chosen this clash as an opportune moment to reiterate their longstanding demand of deporting Bangladeshi immigrants is deplorable. It is deplorable because loss of human lives cannot and should not be used to further longstanding political demands of this kind.

The point however is not about who has killed whom and who has killed and destroyed more of the other. The point is that human lives are being lost; it does not matter if it is a Bodo or an ‘illegal’ Bangladeshi immigrant or for that matter anyone else who has been killed or displaced. The point is that killings and violence have to stop, while we may continue engaging with our difference in perspectives.

We demand that: 
1) the Assam government and BTC administration should take full responsibility of the loss of lives and livelihood; and rehabilitate all those who have been displaced.

We appeal that:
1) The members of various communities in Assam to play a proactive role in stopping the mayhem in these districts of Lower Assam.
2) The leading organizations of various communities in these four districts to call out for a collective resolution to restore peace and normalcy.
3) The media, both regional and national, abstain from inciting further communitarian animosities.

Muslims And Sikhs Need Not Apply

From 1969 till today, the 10,000-strong RAW has avoided recruiting any Muslim officers. So has has NTRO, a critical arm of external intelligence..Humayun Kabir was known, among other things, for being a prominent Bengali politician who did not subscribe to the Muslim League's vision of Pakistan. Instead, he chose secular India, rose to be the education secretary. Little did Kabir know that nearly fifty years later, one of his grandsons would not be inducted into RAW, India's external intelligence agency. Reason: he was a Muslim.

The year was 2000. The NDA government was restructuring the Indian security apparatus following the Kargil war. Kabir's grandson had been cleared for induction into the RAW's air wing, the aviation research centre (ARC). He was found to be competent for the job and met all the required parameters. His interviewers were very impressed with him. They had no doubt that they had found their man. But hours later the decision was reversed. The members of the selection board came to the view that there was a question mark on Kabir's suitability for the job. He was a Muslim and the unwritten code within the agency was that Muslims could not be inducted it. That code vis-a-vis Muslims is still followed. From 1969 till today - RAW's current staff strength is about 10,000 - it has avoided recruiting any Muslim officer. Neither has the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), a crucial arm of external intelligence. The Intelligence Bureau (IB) with 12,000 personnel has been a little more open. It has a handful of Muslim officers, the senior-most is a joint director.

Many intelligence officials say keeping Muslims out or minimally represented is unwise. Post-9/11 the Indian intelligence community has been tasked to keep its eyes and ears open to global Islamic terrorism. It is here that the presence of dedicated Muslim officers will add to the expertise and capabilities that an organisation like RAW requires. But, senior officers are quick to point out that this should be done not to appease the community. "We have to realise that by following the unwritten code we are denying a pool of talent that is readily available. We need bright, dynamic, intelligent operatives. Should we deny them an opportunity just because they are Muslims?" asks a senior official.

According to former RAW chief A.S. Dulat, appointing Muslims is not only necessary but also critical. He feels that only a Muslim is capable of understanding the psyche of the community. Says Dulat: "The Muslim psyche can be baffling to non-Muslims. However much a person claims to be in tune with what the community feels, he can never really know all the nuances. A Muslim, on the other hand, would have the feel for the language, the metaphor and the culture. If you have to know what is happening in Aligarh Muslim University or SIMI, a Muslim will be much better informed. And you cannot wish away the feeling of neglect, the hurt and the discrimination that the community feels. That too is something a Muslim would be able to understand better."

Similarly, while dealing with intelligence inputs from Pakistan and Bangladesh, a Muslim could be far more effective. But officials point out that appointments should not label Muslim officers as Pakistani specialists. As Indians, their expertise can be deployed elsewhere too. The point they make is that efficient and qualified candidates should not be barred because of their religious identity. As opposed to RAW, the IB, tasked with internal security, took a decision during the Narasimha Rao government to induct Muslim officers.

Soon a couple of young IPS officers were taken in—one from the Uttar Pradesh cadre became the first inductees into the IB. Since then a few more appointments have taken place. According to official feedback, the performance of Muslim officers has never been under question. In fact, some of them went on to hold senior positions and one officer has risen to the rank of joint director presently handling a sensitive unit.. Read more: http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?233087

Saving Pakistan, one tweet at a time: By Feisal Naqvi

Pakistan does not have permanent public spaces for reasoned conversation. You cannot go somewhere in Lahore or Karachi for the conversation; at best, you can go somewhere for the food. The sad part is that it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when people interested in ideas had places to go to.. Social media needs to be protected because it is the only safe space for intellectual discussion in Pakistan...
Imagine that you are a person of independent thought in Pakistan. Now imagine further that you would like to discuss your thoughts with other people. Where can you go? 
In the real world, the short answer is ‘nowhere’. Pakistan does not have permanent public spaces for reasoned conversation. You cannot go somewhere in Lahore or Karachi for the conversation; at best, you can go somewhere for the food. The sad part is that it wasn’t always this way. There was a time when people interested in ideas had places to go to, the most famous being the Pak Tea House of yore. Lesser intellectuals with more money also had places to go — primarily clubs — where they could meet for a drink or to chat. It was all extremely parochial and elitist. But at least it was something.

The clubs were the first to go, killed by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. When he banned alcohol, people moved from the clubs to their homes in order to keep on drinking. The result was that people stopped meeting new people. Instead, with rare exceptions, they met only the ones they already knew. The universities and the teahouses were the next to go, killed by the aggressively violent self-righteousness of the Zia years. It was no longer safe to be a progressive intellectual in public or to believe in things like rights for workers and women. For a man, the only safe thing to do in public was to grow a beard and hike up your shalwar. For a woman, the only safe thing to do in public was to cover herself and keep quiet.
The only reason why General Ziaul Haq and his successors did not succeed in completely killing intellectual curiosity in Pakistan was due to the efforts of a brave few in the media. When Zia died and a new era emerged, the forces of repression eased enough to allow the emergence of new newspapers and magazines. Herald was joined byNewslineDawn was joined by The Nation and the The Frontier Post.
The liberation of the electronic press by General (retd) Pervez Musharraf changed everything. Prior to the advent of cable television, the entire English press in Pakistan probably had a combined readership of less than 100,000. The Urdu press probably accounted for a million people more. Compared with the population of the country, print circulation was nothing. On the other hand, the audience for cable television was in the tens of millions. Suddenly, people were no longer getting their news just from PTV but also from Geo and ARY.
At the same time, the liberation of the electronic press changed very little. All that happened is that the same talking heads that wrote columns in the press started fulminating on talk shows. Yes, the universe of faces expanded because each talk show needed guests. But at the end of the day, the number of people actually involved in public conversation remained very limited. If you weren’t a talk show host or a talk show guest, then your options for expressing or discussing your opinions remained as they were during the Zia years. Which is to say, nil.
It is in this context that the arrival of social media is revolutionary. Go back to the example I started with. The young independent thinker still does not have a physical location where he or she can pose their questions. If s/he gets uppity in class, s/he is likely to be disciplined. If s/he resists being objectified, the local fundos will still threaten. But out in the virtual world, it’s a different story. As a cartoon in The New Yorker once put it, “On the Internet, no one knows you are a dog”.
Pakistan’s sharpest wit at this time is an anonymous individual who delivers one-liners under the name of “majorlyprofound” (recently upgraded to Dr Majorly Profound). If the good major were to present his one-liners before a physical audience, he would probably require medical attention (our sensitivity to criticism being what it is). But behind the shelter provided by the internet, he is free to deliver his barbs... Read more:

Turning the tables on Russia’s power elite — the story behind the Magnitsky Act

By Bill Browder: I have my family history to blame for the fact that I ended up working in Moscow. My grandmother was from Russia and my grandfather was the head of the American Communist Party between 1932 and 1945 (he was subsequently persecuted in the 1950’s). So when I was growing up as a teenager and going through my teenage rebellion, I thought the best way of rebelling against a family of communists was to become a capitalist.
I ended up studying economics at the University of Chicago, probably the most right-wing institution in America, and then I enrolled at the Stanford Business School. I graduated business school the year the Berlin Wall came down and as I started contemplating the next stage of my life, I had a personal epiphany: ‘if my grandfather was the biggest communist in America, I should become the biggest capitalist in Eastern Europe’. So I set off to do just that.
After a spell working on the Russian privatisation programme at Salomon Brothers in London, I moved to Moscow in late 1995 to set up the Hermitage Fund, which focused on investing in the newly privatised shares of Russian companies. Over the next few years, the business grew to become the largest investment firm in the country with $4.5 billion. Success was exciting. But this turned to frustration when I realised that the companies I was investing in were essentially ‘non-profit’ entities. They were ‘non-profit’ not because they were giving money to charity, but because the senior managers were stealing the profits.

The Sidanco scandal : The experience that changed my life was dealing with a scandal in the oil company, Sidanco, now a subsidiary of TNK-BP. In 1997, we had an investment worth $100 million in the company. But in 1998, the oligarch who owned Sidanco tried to steal about three quarters of the value of the company through a dilutive convertible bond scheme. Shocked by the financial and the moral implications of the scheme, I started a campaign to fight it... Read more:

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Death and the Factory:The Casualties of Maruti Suzuki, Manesar

Since the day of the confirmation of the unfortunate and condemnable death of Awanish Kumar Dev, a sad casualty of the ongoing class conflict in north Indian Industrial heartland of Haryana, we have witnessed tsunami of rage from those who view the killing of a manager in a factory as a calamity. Regrettably, sometimes the most terrible of tragedies (and the death of Mr. Dev is no doubt a profound human tragedy for his family and friends) becomes an instrument for larger and more impersonal agendas.

On the first of May, (International Labour Day) 2009, several workers at the Lakhani Shoe Factory in Faridabad, Haryana, were struck by a ball of fire, which engulfed them before they could run to save their lives. The fire, caused by willful neglect of elementary safety procedures, did not result in criminal charges being framed against the management or proprietors of the Lakhani Vardaan Group, which owns the Lakhani Shoes Factory.
A report in the Gurgaon Workers News (No.9/18) has this account of the fire -
“On 1st of May 2009 the Lakhani Shoes factory, plot 122 in Faridabad Sector 24 caught fire, the newspapers first wrote of six, then of ten, then of fifteen dead workers. Lakhani is said to be the country’s largest maker and exporter of canvas and vulcanised shoes, has two dozen units in the district. A younger worker who is employed in a neighbouring factory came to Faridabad Majdoor Library three days later. He said that it is more than likely that 50 – 100 or more workers have been killed. A boiler on the first floor exploded, the floor collapsed and buried many workers who were waiting for their over-time payment in the basement. He said that he saw at least 100 burnt bicycles outside the factory. He met a landlord in industrial village Mujesar who said that his three tenants, employed at Lakhani haven’t returned. He met an older woman whose son is still missing. Most of these workers were not officially employed, their names were not on the Lakhani pay-roll. Many of them were from Nepal and single, meaning that they were not immediately reported missing by their families. From the reported 38 workers who were brought to various hospitals – in Faridabad there is no hospital for severe burn treatment – only one worker had an official ESI health insurance number. The rest is unknown.”
Bodies burnt to cinders are difficult to identify, unless they leave behind distinct identifying objects, like gold teeth. DNA matches are possible to do if there are records of relatives. None of the workers at the Lakhani fire had gold teeth. Many of them were contract workers, nobody knew who their relatives were. They were incinerated without trace.
On the 20th of July 2012, a charred body found at the site of an incident of alleged mob violence the evening before (19th July) by the workers of Maruti Suzuki India Limited’s Manesar plant was identified as that of Awanish Kumar Dev, a manager in the Human Resources department of the Maruti Suzuki Manesar Plant. Mr. Dev had a gold tooth. DNA samples were also taken and these proved his identity when matched with DNA samples taken from his immediate family. His family’s agony, while waiting for confirmation of the identity of the deceased, can not be imagined. Imagine the agony of the relatives of some of the evaporated workers of Lakhani shoes.
Several posts in Kafila have gone into the background of the tragic incident of Mr. Dev’s death in Manesar in some detail. We have guest-posts from the Maruti Suzuki Employees Union, and posts from Aman Sethi, Aditya Nigam and Anumeha Yadav. Each of these has been useful in thinking through this thorny and intractable issue. In the interests of economy, I will try and not repeat what they have said already. My concern is death, and the meaning of death, especially when it happens in and around a factory... Read more:

Assam riots: Violence was in the air, but govt missed the signs

The fear of ethnic riots hung heavy in the air but the authorities never saw it coming. The riot situation was building up gradually in the ethnically sensitive Bodoland Territorial Administered Districts (BTAD) - Kokrajhar, Baska, and Chirang barring Udalguri in Assam - since the beginning of July. The police were slow to anticipate trouble and still slower initiating action to quelling the flare-up. Nineteen people have lost their lives so far and people are still fleeing their homes for safety.
“On 6 July two persons from the minority community were killed. Again on 19 July, another two persons people from the minority community were found dead. These two incidents were indicators of what would follow. Yet in both the cases, police failed either to identify or nab the culprits,” Pramod Boro, president of All Bodo Students’ Union, told Firstpost in a telephonic conversation. Given the history of ethnic acrimony in the region, a retaliation was expected. “On 20 July, four ex-Bodo Liberation Tigers cadres were shot dead at Joypur under Kokrajhar police station,” Boro said. The killings were evidently acts of mischief-makers, who were aware about what exactly it takes to trigger a riot. But Boro blames the state government more.
“Whenever there is violence in the BTAD areas, the state government never takes any initiative to check it. There is an absolute lack of security forces. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is handling the home portfolio. He is also heading the Unified Command. There is not enough military or paramilitary presence in the disturbed areas. We are not safe. The administration is weak and not doing enough. We have already given them a list of sensitive areas where forces are needed. But there has been no deployment of forces,” he said. He was hinting at lack of forces deployment to protect about 50,000 Bodos living in the 33 relief camps.
The indigenous Bodos consider the Muslims in the area as illegal migrants from Bangladesh, even though many of them are settled migrants, born in this region after 1947. There have been several clashes between both the groups over the last decade. Boro sought to emphasise (without saying in as many words) that the indigenous people were under threat from outsiders whose population has been rising.
The All Bodoland Minority Students’ Union (ABMSU), president Sultan Alam, has a different take though. “I have heard that 10 companies of security forces are in Kokrajhar. Where are they deployed? They are certainly not deployed in Muslim villages. Not a single security personnel is in my village. I am myself living like a refugee fearing for my life,” he told FirstpostAlam was indicating that forces were deployed to protect the Bodo areas, not the minority-dominated areas. He also gave a different spin to the 20 July killings. While Boro called it a killing by “Bangladeshi minorities”, Alam said that the ex-BLT members were caught by “locals” and lynched for allegedly opening fire.
On 23 July, the Rajdhani Express was stopped at the Kokrajhar railway station for hours by activists from the minority community. Both the leaders, however, insist that ethnic harmony should prevail. Alam has appealed the Central government to intervene and order a CBI inquiry in to all the incidents between 20-23 July. Despite the smooth talk from both sides, the situation remains volatile and the government looks like it is in no position to provide a time frame within which peace would be restored... Read more: http://www.firstpost.com/india/assam-riots-violence-was-in-the-air-but-govt-missed-the-signs-388471.html


“Every country has, along with its core civilities and traditions, some kind of inner madness, a belief so irrational that even death and destruction cannot alter it.”
Mike Twohy 20041115[3]_opt.jpg
Cartoon by Mike Twohy

That was my colleague Adam Gopnik commenting the other day on America’s attitude toward gun laws. Having read some of the comments on my own post about President Obama’s failure to pursue more restrictions on the sale of firearms, I can only agree with Adam. When Bill Moyers, Keith Olbermann, Mayor Bloomberg, and Rupert Murdoch are all in favor of something—in this case, tougher gun laws—and there’s still no chance of it being enacted, you can rest assured that forces other than reason and partisan politics are involved.

My only quibble with Adam is his use of the singular form: “a belief.” Are firearms the only subject on which Americans are, let us say, a little batty? I’m not so sure. Having lived here for almost thirty years, and having been a U.S. citizen for the past five, I am greatly attached to this country and admire many aspects of it enormously. But the dogged persistence of certain American shibboleths has always struck me as somewhat curious.

What are these shared convictions? I could go on all day, but here, for argument’s sake, are ten. Not all Americans subscribe to them, of course. In some instances, the true believers may amount to a small but vocal minority. Still, the popular sentiment underlying these statements is so strong that politicians defy it at their peril.
1. Gun laws and gun deaths are unconnected.
2. Private enterprise is good; public enterprise is bad.
3. God created America and gave it a special purpose.
4. Our health-care system is the best there is.
5. The Founding Fathers were saintly figures who established liberty and democracy for everyone.
6. America is the greatest country in the world.
7. Tax rates are too high.
8. America is a peace-loving nation: the reason it gets involved in so many wars is that foreigners keep attacking us.
9. Cheap energy, gasoline especially, is our birthright.
10. Everybody else wishes they were American.
Some of these statements may be true. But truth or falsehood isn’t the point here: it is whether or not certain beliefs are amenable to reason. I don’t think these are, which is what puts them in the category of irrationality, flakiness, nonsense, nuttiness, absurdity, craziness….Call it what you want, the upshot is the same: a failure to look reality in the eye and deal with it on a sensible, empirical basis. Which, if you think about it, pretty much defines Washington politics over the past twenty or thirty years.


The Philosophy of the Technology of the Gun

Does the old rallying cry "Guns don't kill people. People kill people" hold up to philosophical scrutiny? By Evan Selinger 

French philosopher Bruno Latour goes far as to depict the experience of possessing a gun as one that produces a different subject: "You are different with a gun in your hand; the gun is different with you holding it. You are another subject because you hold the gun; the gun is another object because it has entered into a relationship with you."

The tragic Colorado Batman shooting has prompted a wave of soul-searching. How do things like this happen? Over at Wired,David Dobbs gave a provocative answer in "Batman Movies Don't Kill. But They're Friendly to the Concept." I suspect Dobbs's nuanced analysis about causality and responsibility won't sit well with everyone. Dobbs questions the role of gun culture in steering "certain unhinged or deeply a-moral people toward the sort of violence that has now become so routine that the entire thing seems scripted." But what about "normal" people? Yes, plenty of people carry guns without incident. Yes, proper gun training can go a long way. And, yes, there are significant cultural differences about how guns are used. But, perhaps overly simplistic assumptions about what technology is and who we are when we use it get in the way of us seeing how, to use Dobbs's theatrical metaphor, guns can give "stage directions."

Instrumentalist Conception of Technology: The commonsense view of technology is one that some philosophers call the instrumentalist conception. According to the instrumentalist conception, while the ends that technology can be applied to can be cognitively and morally significant, technology itself is value-neutral. Technology, in other words, is subservient to our beliefs and desires; it does not significantly constrain much less determine them. This view is famously touted in the National Rifle Association's maxim: "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." 

To be sure, this statement is more of a slogan than well-formulated argument. But even as a shorthand expression, it captures the widely believed idea that murder is wrong and the appropriate source to blame for committing murder is the person who pulled a gun's trigger. Indeed, the NRA's proposition is not unusual; it aptly expresses the folk psychology that underlies moral and legal norms. The main idea, here, is that guns are neither animate nor supernatural beings; they cannot use coercion or possession to make a person shoot. By contrast, murderers should be held responsible for their actions because they can resolve conflict without resorting to violence, even during moments of intense passion. Furthermore, it would be absurd to incarcerate a firearm as punishment. Unlike people, guns cannot reflect on wrongdoing or be rehabilitated.

Beyond Instrumentalism: Gun Use: Taking on the instrumentalist conception of technology, Don Ihde, a leading philosopher of technology, claims that "the human-gun relation transforms the situation from any similar situation of a human without a gun." By focusing on what it is like for a flesh-and-blood human to actually be in possession of a gun, Ihde describes "lived experience" in a manner that reveals the NRA position to be but a partial grasp of a more complex situation. By equating firearm responsibility exclusively with human choice, the NRA claim abstracts away relevant considerations about how gun possession can affect one's sense of self and agency. In order to appreciate this point, it helps to consider the fundamental materiality of guns.

In principle, guns, like every technology, can be used in different ways to accomplish different goals. Guns can be tossed around like Frisbees. They can be used to dig through dirt like shovels, or mounted on top of a fireplace mantel, as aesthetic objects. They can even be integrated into cooking practices; gangster pancakes might make a tasty Sunday morning treat. But while all of these options remain physical possibilities, they are not likely to occur, at least not in a widespread manner with regularity. Such options are not practically viable because gun design itself embodies behavior-shaping values; its material composition indicates the preferred ends to which it "should" be used. Put in Ihde's parlance, while a gun's structure is "multistable" with respect to its possible uses across a myriad of contexts, a partially determined trajectory nevertheless constrains which possibilities are easy to pursue and which of the intermediate and difficult options are worth investing time and labor into... Read more:

Greenland ice sheet melted at unprecedented rate during July

The Greenland ice sheet melted at a faster rate this month than at any other time in recorded history, with virtually the entire ice sheet showing signs of thaw. The rapid melting over just four days was captured by three satellites. It has stunned and alarmed scientists, and deepened fears about the pace and future consequences of climate changeIn a statement posted on Nasa's website on Tuesday, scientists admitted the satellite data was so striking they thought at first there had to be a mistake. "This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?" Son Nghiem of Nasa's jet propulsion laboratory in Pasadena said in the release. He consulted with several colleagues, who confirmed his findings. Dorothy Hall, who studies the surface temperature of Greenland at Nasa's space flight centre in Greenbelt, Maryland, confirmed that the area experienced unusually high temperatures in mid-July, and that there was widespread melting over the surface of the ice sheet.
Climatologists Thomas Mote, at the University of Georgia, and Marco Tedesco, of the City University of New York, also confirmed the melt recorded by the satellites. However, scientists were still coming to grips with the shocking images on Tuesday. "I think it's fair to say that this is unprecedented," Jay Zwally, a glaciologist at Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center, told the Guardian. The set of images released by Nasa on Tuesday show a rapid thaw between 8 July and 12 July. Within that four-day period, measurements from three satellites showed a swift expansion of the area of melting ice, from about 40% of the ice sheet surface to 97%. Zwally, who has made almost yearly trips to the Greenland ice sheet for more than three decades, said he had never seen such a rapid melt.
Greenland ice sheet composite.
The Greenland ice sheet on July 8, left, and four days later on the right. An estimated 97% 
of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12. Photograph: Nasa
About half of Greenland's surface ice sheet melts during a typical summer, but Zwally said he and other scientists had been recording an acceleration of that melting process over the last few decades. This year his team had to rebuild their camp, at Swiss Station, when the snow and ice supports melted. He said he was most surprised to see indications in the images of melting even around the area of Summit Station, which is about two miles above sea level. It was the second unusual event in Greenland in a matter of days, after an iceberg the size of Manhattan broke off from the Petermann Glacier. But the rapid melt was viewed as more serious... Read more:

The Artist's Lens: What It Means to See the World With an Eye Toward a Facebook Update

Our online experience (and this is particularly true for specific ones, such as gaming or digital photography) seems to proceed in four stages. The first is tentative exploration, testing the waters; the second is wholehearted immersion; the third is a determination to maintain boundaries; the fourth is recalibration of the relationship between what happens online and what happens IRL -- as we still like to put it. This has been happening to millions of people for around twenty years now, and what's most remarkable is how little progress we have made in understanding ourselves. Nathan Jurgenson's recent essay in The New Inquiry shows how this recalibration happens -- and, perhaps more important, how we hide its real nature from ourselves:
But this idea that we are trading the offline for the online, though it dominates how we think of the digital and the physical, is myopic. It fails to capture the plain fact that our lived reality is the result of the constant interpenetration of the online and offline. That is, we live in an augmented reality that exists at the intersection of materiality and information, physicality and digitality, bodies and technology, atoms and bits, the off and the online. It is wrong to say "IRL" to mean offline: Facebook is real life.

Jurgenson discusses Sherry Turkle's April essay for the New York Times in which she laments the displacement of material experience from our consciousness in favor of the digital, and he argues that the very material experiences she celebrates took on greater and fuller meaning by having an online destination:
When Turkle was walking Cape Cod, she breathed in the air, felt the breeze, and watched the waves with Facebook in mind. The appreciation of this moment of so-called disconnection was, in part, a product of online connection. The stroll ultimately was understood as and came to be fodder for her op-ed, just as our own time spent not looking at Facebook becomes the status updates and photos we will post later.
I'm not sure Jurgenson's reading is correct: maybe Turkle was not thinking about translating her experience into online terms but rather simply planned to write about it -- in this sense writers and artists have always been self-conscious consumers and filterers of experience, saving it and using it for artistic purposes later on. Perhaps Facebook and Twitter and Instagram incline more and more of us to respond to our experiences as only artists once did -- perhaps in that sense the optimistic view that all of us are becoming creators is really true. Though whether that's a good thing or not, whether the moment tends to get lost in the anticipation of its digital representation -- that bears thinking about, as Nick Carr and Michael Sacasas have thought about it in response to Jurgenson's essay.

But surely Jurgenson is right to say that "The current obsession with the analog, the vintage, and the retro has everything to do with this fetishization of the offline. The rise of the mp3 has been coupled with a resurgence in vinyl. ... Digital photos are cast with the soft glow, paper borders, and scratches of Instagram's faux-vintage filters." It's this kind of behavior that I call recalibration: it's a matter of finding more and better ways to relate what we do online to what we do, or might do, or used to do, offline... Read more: