Sunday, 28 July 2013

MPs' letters to Obama on Narendra Modi visa 'original and authentic'

The controversy over Indian MPs' letters to President Barack Obama for denying visa to Narendra Modi has taken a new turn with a California-based Forensic Document Examiner certifying that the signatures of the lawmakers are "original and authentic" and not a cut and paste job as claimed. "Using accepted principles and methods of forensic examination, it is my opinion that the Q1-Q3 (three pages of Rajya Sabha MPs' letter) document was created in a single event, and that the signatures found upon it are original/authentic wet ink signatures," said the report after a forensic examination of the letter.

A similar finding was made in respect of the letter by Lok Sabha members. The forensic examination of the handwritings on the two letters to Obama by members of Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on November 26 and December 5 last year respectively, which were re-faxed to the White House on July 21, was done by Nanette M Barto, approved Forensic Document Examiner, in California. The examination was prepared at the request of Coalition Against Genocide (CAG) campaigning against Modi after some parliamentarians, notably CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, M P Achutan (CPI) and K P Ramalingam (DMK) denied having signed the letter to Obama.

CAG, a broad alliance of about 40 Indian American organisations, has been campaigning against US visa for Modi. When contacted for reaction to the forensic examination report, Achutan maintained that he did not remember to have appended his signature to a memorandum like this. All that he remembered was that he had signed a representation expressing anguish at the detention of Muslim youths in different parts of India, especially in northern states, by branding them as terrorists on flimsy grounds, he said.

Ramalingam said this was a privilege matter which has to be given to Chairman Hamid Ansari. "I have already said I have not signed the letter," he said. Yechury, who had earlier said that he had not signed the letter and his purported signature on the document, was a "cut and paste job" is away in Pyongyang on a visit as part of a parliamentary delegation to North Korea. He could not be reached for his comments. Raja Swamy of CAG claimed that the forensic examination proved that the documents "are authentic, without any cut and paste operation done on either the paper copy or the electronic version and that each of the signatures is distinct individual".

"Since the authenticity of these letters has been called into question by some members of parliament who either do not recollect or deny having signed the letters, CAG decided to engage a professional forensic examiner, to verify the authenticity of the two letters. "The forensic examiner we engaged is Ms. Nanette Barto, a court qualified Forensic Document Examiner and Handwriting Analyst," Swamy, a CAG spokesperson, told PTI. Notarised copies of the reports, which are admissible as evidence in a court of law, were provided to PTI by the CAG. "To summarise, the forensic examination proves that the document is authentic, without any "cut and paste" operation done on either the paper copy or the electronic version, and that each of the signatures is from a distinct individual," Swamy said.

In her forensic report, one for each of the letters, Barto said that font, leading, and kerning are consistent between each page indicating that the document was created all at one time. "Staples impressions are consistent with the three-page document having been stapled together at the same time. The jpeg scan was scanned in at 300 dpi and in color. Examination of the handwriting revealed that this document was the original wet ink document scanned in at a high resolution," the report said. "Careful examination of the document blown up to 400 per cent revealed that each entry was crisp, smooth, and fluid handwriting in various color and types of inks. Natural pooling, breaking, and feathering of ink can be easily seen to support that this is a scan of an original document," it said... read more:

IAS officer, heading anti-sand mafia campaign in UP, suspended

NB -property related criminal activities often take place behind religious identity of one sort or another. If this report is correct, then the UP government is guilty of a shameless protection of criminals and the age-old practice of transferring honest officers at the behest of the rich and powerful - DS

LucknowA woman IAS officer, who had recently taken on the powerful sand mafia in Uttar Pradesh, has been suspended barely six months after she got her first posting in the state. Durga Shakti Nagpal, the Sub-Divisional magistrate of Greater Noida, was removed after she ordered the demolition of a mosque being built illegally on government land in Greater Noida on Saturday. 

The state government justified her suspension, claiming that her order to stop the construction of the mosque during the holy month of Ramzan could have created trouble. "To prevent communal tension and avoid dispute in village, sometimes we have to take such decisions," Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said. While the government has dubbed it as an "administrative decision", many believe that the move was a result of pressure from the mining mafia.

Ms Nagpal, a 2009-batch IAS officer, had in the last few weeks cracked down on illegal mining in Greater Noida, seizing nearly 300 trolleys of sand from the Yamuna river bed. She also formed special flying squads to check the menace, rampant along the Yamuna and Hindon rivers in western UP. "We have acted against these people, we face implicit threats," Ms Nagpal had said earlier. The Opposition immediately attacked the government, alleging that it was trying to shelter the sand mafia.

"It proves that the government was not liking those officers who are leading drives against the mafia... What mistake has she made?" senior BJP leader Kalraj Mishra said. The suspension order has again put under scanner the Akhilesh Yadav government which has been routinely criticised for failing to deliver on his electoral promise of wiping out lawlessness and introducing transparency in the government's functioning. The latest episode has not really helped its case.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Wings of desire: why birds captivate us

Our affections for wild animals are distributed very unevenly. Take insects. Some 750,000 species have already been documented worldwide and the great American naturalist EO Wilson called them "the little things that run the world". Through their recycling of nutrients and the supply of base-level protein to a vast array of higher life forms, insects underpin the existence of life on this planet. Yet when it comes to human concern for creepy-crawlies, forget it.

BugLife is Britain's most important invertebrate conservation organisation. Yet Matt Shardlow, its director, recently lamented: "We have a membership of about 1,000, and we are responsible for 40,000 species." Compare those figures with the statistics for theRoyal Society for the Protection of Birds, which today claims 1.3 million members, substantially more than the members of all the UK political parties combined. It tends to the welfare of 250 bird species.
What is it about creatures with feathers that so captivates us? It's certainly not just a modern love affair: Aldous Huxley once claimed that if you took the avifauna out of English verse you would have to dispose of half the poetic canon. It is also wrong to think of it as a purely British phenomenon, although we do seem to be among the more bird-obsessed nations.
There are apparently more than 50 million proper birdwatchers in the US, with three times as many people feeding the feathered visitors to their gardens, creating a national bird-food industry worth $1bn. Through these backyard encounters, birds often function as the central ambassadors in the relationship between people and nature.
In 2005, having finished my book Birds Britannica, which examines Britain's relationship with its island avifauna, I conceived the idea of exploring how and where such ornitho-passions are replicated worldwide. There are roughly 10,500 bird species on Earth, giving rise to a tangle of connections between humans and birds that is rainforest-like in its size and complexity. These range from the chillingly clinical processes of the industrialised chicken unit, to the song and dance ceremonies of the Papuan highlands, with their bird-of-paradise feather displays. The aim of my project was to document as many of these connections as possible. After seven years, Birds and People has now been published.
I wonder at times whether our preoccupation with birds stems from the sheer variety of functional applications into which we have pressed their various body parts. Almost everything that the creatures could yield, from the breast down of sea duck (eider down), and the saliva-composed nests of swiftlets (bird's-nest soup) to the webbed feet of the albatross (tobacco pouches) or the thick fibrous skins of penguins (golf gloves) has been exploited at one time or another.
The chicken is undoubtedly now the most economically important species, supplying us with more protein than cattle, pigs, sheep or goats. In the last decade our annual global consumption was 90m tonnes of meat and 57m tonnes of eggs. The British alone eat 26m eggs a day.
To this we can add an array of more exotic purposes. The Inuit still make rattles from puffin beaks. In the Santa Cruz islands near Samoa they use the scarlet plumes from a gorgeous little scrap called the cardinal myzomela to make carpet-like scrolls of red cloth that once functioned as money. Ortolans are much loved by the French after the buntings have been fattened on oatmeal and drowned in armagnac (the tiny lungs then supply a "liqueur-scented flower of taste" for the epicure diner). The number of ortolans has now declined dramatically but they are still served illegally in certain swanky French restaurants at around €2,000 a kilo... read more:

Edward Snowden's not the story. The fate of the internet is

The press has lost the plot over the Snowden revelations. The fact is that the net is finished as a global network and that US firms' cloud services cannot be trusted.."the rhetoric of the 'internet freedom agenda' looks as trustworthy as George Bush's 'freedom agenda' after Abu Ghraib."

Repeat after me: Edward Snowden is not the story. The story is what he has revealed about the hidden wiring of our networked world. This insight seems to have escaped most of the world's mainstream media, for reasons that escape me but would not have surprised Evelyn Waugh, whose contempt for journalists was one of his few endearing characteristics. The obvious explanations are: incorrigible ignorance; the imperative to personalise stories; or gullibility in swallowing US government spin, which brands Snowden as a spy rather than a whistleblower.
In a way, it doesn't matter why the media lost the scent. What matters is that they did. So as a public service, let us summarise what Snowden has achieved thus far.
Without him, we would not know how the National Security Agency (NSA) had been able to access the emails, Facebook accounts and videos of citizens across the world; or how it had secretly acquired the phone records of millions of Americans; or how, through a secret court, it has been able to bend nine US internet companies to its demands for access to their users' data. Similarly, without Snowden, we would not be debating whether the US government should have turned surveillance into a huge, privatised business, offering data-mining contracts to private contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton and, in the process, high-level security clearance to thousands of people who shouldn't have it. Nor would there be – finally – a serious debate between Europe (excluding the UK, which in these matters is just an overseas franchise of the US) and the United States about where the proper balance between freedom and security lies.
These are pretty significant outcomes and they're just the first-order consequences of Snowden's activities. As far as most of our mass media are concerned, though, they have gone largely unremarked. Instead, we have been fed a constant stream of journalistic pap – speculation about Snowden's travel plans, asylum requests, state of mind, physical appearance, etc. The "human interest" angle has trumped the real story, which is what the NSA revelations tell us about how our networked world actually works and the direction in which it is heading.
As an antidote, here are some of the things we should be thinking about as a result of what we have learned so far.
The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered. It was always a possibility that the system would eventually be Balkanised, ie divided into a number of geographical or jurisdiction-determined subnets as societies such as China, Russia, Iran and other Islamic states decided that they needed to control how their citizens communicated. Now, Balkanisation is a certainty.
Second, the issue of internet governance is about to become very contentious. Given what we now know about how the US and its satraps have been abusing their privileged position in the global infrastructure, the idea that the western powers can be allowed to continue to control it has become untenable.
Thirdas Evgeny Morozov has pointed out, the Obama administration's "internet freedom agenda" has been exposed as patronising cant. "Today," he writes, "the rhetoric of the 'internet freedom agenda' looks as trustworthy as George Bush's 'freedom agenda' after Abu Ghraib."
That's all at nation-state level. But the Snowden revelations also have implications for you and me.
They tell us, for example, that no US-based internet company can be trusted to protect our privacy or data. The fact is that Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are all integral components of the US cyber-surveillance system. Nothing, but nothing, that is stored in their "cloud" services can be guaranteed to be safe from surveillance or from illicit downloading by employees of the consultancies employed by the NSA. That means that if you're thinking of outsourcing your troublesome IT operations to, say, Google or Microsoft, then think again... read more:

A fine Byzantine church in Turkey has been converted into a mosque

Religion in Turkey : Erasing the Christian past

ON JULY 5th the mufti of Trabzon gathered with other citizens for the first Friday prayers of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, not at a mosque but at an ancient Byzantine church. The gathering was a symbolic re-enactment of the conquest in 1462 of this ancient Greek Black Sea port by Mehmet II, the Ottoman sultan who had wrested Constantinople from the Byzantines in 1453. He marked his victory by converting the Haghia Sophia cathedral of today’s Istanbul into a mosque.
Haghia Sophia’s sister of the same name in Trabzon is less grand. Yet with its dazzling frescoes and magnificent setting overlooking the sea, the 13th-century building is regarded as one of the finest examples of Byzantine architecture. As with other Christian monuments, the Haghia Sophia in Trabzon has become a symbol in the battle between secularists and Islamists. It was converted into a mosque around the 16th century and, after other incarnations, became a museum in 1964. But the Islamists won the last round in 2012 when a local court accepted the claim by the General Directorate of the Pious Foundations, the government body responsible for Turkey’s historic mosques, that the Haghia Sophia belonged to the foundation of Mehmet II and was being “illegally occupied” by the culture ministry.
The decision provoked surprising anger in a city notorious for its ultra-nationalist views. “It’s about erasing the Christian past, reviving Ottomanism,” says a local historian. “There are enough mosques in Trabzon, half of them empty, what was the need?” chimes in Zeki Bakar, a neighbourhood councillor. A lawsuit has been brought to undo the conversion.
Even so, the mildly Islamist Justice and Development (AK) government carried out the conversion in time for Ramadan. A red carpet now obscures exquisite floor mosaics. Shutters and tents beneath the central dome shield Muslim worshippers from “sinful” paintings of the Holy Trinity. Shiny steel taps with plastic stools for ablutions clutter a once-verdant garden filled with ancient sculptures.
Mazhar Yildirimhan of the Pious Foundations Directorate’s office in Trabzon shrugs off complaints as propaganda. But for experts the conversion is tragic, and will inevitably lead to damaging the building. “It seems to follow closely that of Haghia Sophia in Iznik,” warns Antony Eastmond of the Courtauld Institute of Art, referring to another conversion.
All this is prompting anxiety that the Haghia Sophia in Istanbul “will be next”. These fears are overdone. Restoration work on the famous basilica has continued under a decade of AK rule and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister, has dismissed worries about its fate. Yet Mr Yildirimhan makes no secret of his desire for a conversion, which he says is shared by fellow Muslims. “It was ordained by the sultan,” he says. “We have all the records.”

Book review: The Frankfurt School at War - the Marxists Who Explained the Nazis to Washington

Secret Reports on Nazi Germany: The Frankfurt School Contribution to the War Effortby FRANZ NEUMANN, HERBERT MARCUSE, and OTTO KIRCHHEIMER. edited by RAFFAELE LAUDANI

reviewed by William E. Scheuerman

War makes for strange bedfellows. Among the oddest pairings that World War II produced was the bringing together of William “Wild Bill” Donovan, head of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS) -- a precursor to the CIA -- and a group of German Jewish Marxists he hired to help the United States understand the Nazis.

Donovan was a decorated veteran of World War I and a Wall Street lawyer linked to the Republican Party. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt tapped him to create the United States’ first dedicated nonmilitary intelligence organization. At that time, many in the foreign policy establishment saw intelligence and espionage as somewhat undignified, even unimportant. So Donovan cast a wide net, recruiting not only diplomats and professional spies but also film directors, mobsters, scholars, athletes, and journalists.
Even in that diverse group, Franz Neumann stood out. Neumann, a Marxist lawyer and political scientist, had fled Germany when the Nazis came to power in 1933. He arrived in the United States a few years later, where he was hailed as an expert on Nazi Germany after the 1942 publication of his book Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism, which depicted Nazism as a combination of pathological, monopolistic capitalism and brutal totalitarianism. Neumann’s work brought him to the attention of Donovan, who was eager to mobilize relevant expertise regardless of its bearer’s political views.
Donovan put Neumann in charge of the Research and Analysis Branch of the OSS, studying Nazi-ruled central Europe. Neumann was soon joined by the philosopher Herbert Marcuse and the legal scholar Otto Kirchheimer, his colleagues at the left-wing Institute for Social Research, which had been founded in Frankfurt in 1923 but had moved to Columbia University after the Nazis came to power. What came to be known as the Frankfurt School combined an unorthodox brand of Marxism with an interdisciplinary approach to research that stressed the pivotal roles played by culture, law, politics, and psychology in buttressing injustice. Its members always disdained the more rigid leftist thinking that had claimed Marx’s mantle in the Soviet Union and elsewhere...

TONY CURZON PRICE - Commercial masters of our Voice

If you want to understand a magazine, read its advertisements.
Here’s the example from my favourite weekend indulgence, the brilliant UK edition of “The Week”. When I read it, for that hour on a Saturday breakfast, I inhabit a new persona. Its voice addresses me as a member of an English middle class with all its best virtues on display - humour combined with seriousness; responsibility without self-aggrandisement; common sense and clarity that doesn’t for that reason dumb down; and lots of entertainment. And addressed as that person, I feel that’s who I am - that’s what an audience does, and that’s where the power of the Voice comes from: by convincing you are something, you become it just a little more.
So when I pick up the postal cellophane wrap, I am about to enter an identity. Only the advertisement on the back cover shows. It’s for Patek Philippe. A watch I’m neither ever likely to desire or to afford. But if you do desire one, or even have one, you’ll associate your desire and the persona you’re about to enter. It’s Pavlovian, really. The salivation at the indulgence to come is associated with the bell that is the advertisement for an expensive watch. Patek Philippe is making itself part of the landscape of aspiration of the English middle class.
The next advertisement is on the inside front page, a double spread for Breitling, another watch I have no time for. I’ve spent a moment on the cover. The saliva is rising. The bell has gone. But a new conditioning signal gets interposed between the anticipation and the satisfaction. It’s the “Super Avenger II”, with lots of dials and a chunky, action-man look. “Yes, of course,” I can almost hear my temporary persona whispering, “that’s also part of who I am. I’ll need it for when I take the pre-war by-plane out for a spin over green hedgerows and Cotswold villages later in the afternoon”.
For the next 6 pages, the Voice takes over. The Voice briefs - interspersed with just a few jokes - and makes me feel that I’m ready to rule the world. Serious business; I’m a responsible national and global citizen with my role to play. It’s important I be informed about all this; not only would I not want to be disturbed by anyone hawking me their wares, but no one would seriously want to set up shop in the vicinity of such weighty matters - I’m in Whitehall, not Whiteleys.
The next advertisement comes with the first piece of naked entertainment. It’s opposite the celebrities page and offers me investment management services. After the tribulations of our world, I’m offered the theatre of the personal to relieve my troubled mind. A pretty good moment for an investment management pitch - my savings are also all about the theatre of the personal, and the vicissitudes of the world, with all its worries, are a receding yet still present memory.
On it goes. Try it yourself - the advertisements and the contents of a well-designed magazine exist in a complete symbiosis. Read the two together for a complete understanding not only of how the Voice proclaims, but also how it whispers... Read more:

WHAT ABOUT 1984? - Mukul Kesavan on pogroms & political virtue

'The Congress, by a kind of historical default, is a pluralist party that is opportunistically communal while the BJP is an ideologically communal (or majoritarian) party that is opportunistically ‘secular’..'

NB - as the highlighted section below suggests, the perpetrators of the violence actually boast about it. This is as true of the Congress behaviour in the 1985 elections, as it is of the symbolic meaning of the title Hindu Hriday Samrat accorded to Modi. Is it a big secret that his samrat status is a means of signalling his 'great' deeds in 2002? Rajnath Singh, president of the BJP asks us to forget 2002. Does he really mean what he says? Has his parivar forgotten 2002? If it has, what makes Narandrabhai Hindu Hriday SamratAnd why should we forget 2002 when till the other day his parivar was urging us never to forget 1528 ?

The stock response of the Bharatiya Janata Party to the argument that Godhra makes Narendra Modi politically untouchable is “What about 1984?” There are several inadequate comebacks to that question and the best of them is that no one should use one pogrom to justify another. I once heard this used to good effect by the columnist, Aakar Patel, in a television discussion. This answer has the virtue of not being party-political nor attempting in some grotesque way to demonstrate that the pogrom permitted and encouraged by the Congress government in Delhi in 1984 was morally less horrible than the pogrom that occurred on the BJP’s watch in Gujarat in 2002.

The problem with this response, though, is that it doesn’t answer the questions that fly in close formation behind the “What about 1984?” question, namely, “Why is the BJP worse than the Congress?” and, relatedly, “Why is Narendra Modi any worse than Rajiv Gandhi?” specially given the latter’s infamous comment, “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes,” which seemed, retrospectively, to rationalize the systematic killing of Sikhs in the days that followed Indira Gandhi’s assassination.These are important questions regardless of who asks them. The fact that they are often asked by Narendra Modi’s unlovely supporters isn’t a good reason for not taking them seriously.

It has been nearly thirty years since the earth shook, and for those who didn’t live through the horror of those days as reasoning adults, it is worth rehearsing the hideous significance of 1984 in the history of the republic. There had been communal violence right through the early history of the republic with mostly Muslims at the receiving end. The complicity of the lower echelons of the state apparatus in this violence — Uttar Pradesh’s Provincial Armed Constabulary was notorious for its institutionalized animus against Muslims — was widely recognized. But the scale on which Sikhs were killed, the participation of Congressmen at every level, the total complicity of the police and the fact that the butchery happened in the country’s capital, in Delhi, made 1984 a watershed in the history of the republic.

In a previous column, I wrote about Modi doubling down on the Gujarat killings by refusing any expression of regret or responsibility and also by continuing to sponsor individuals like Maya Kodnani who had taken an active part in the violence. In this context, we should remember the way in which Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress exploited the Delhi pogrom by running a fear-mongering election campaign that suggested that 1984 was a feature not a bug.
I remember a Congress advertisement that unsubtly suggested that Indians ought to vote for the party of firm governance if their taxi-drivers made them nervous, this, remember, at a time when Sikhs drove taxis in large numbers in Indian cities. I remember the Congress’s election doggerel: “Chunauti nayi, ek sandesh,/ Mazboot hai haath, akhand hai desh.” This, roughly translated, encouraged voters to vote for the ‘Hand’ (the Congress’s election symbol) if they wanted a government capable of preserving India’s unity. The use of the word, akhand, to indicate the unity and integrity of the nation was significant: the Congress, unprecedentedly, was using a word from the sangh parivar’s playbook, stealing the idea of a majoritarian “akhand Bharat”.

Similarly, the reluctance of the Congress to purge itself of members accused of participating in the 1984 pogrom, its willingness to field them as parliamentary candidates and to appoint them to ministerial office, doesn’t add up to a record that can be virtuously contrasted with the BJP’s and Narendra Modi’s brazenness after Godhra.

1984 had two major consequences. First, it radically undermined the Congress’s claim to being a secular party that respected the political tradition of pluralism pioneered by its colonial avatar and consolidated by Nehru in the early years of the republic. The willingness of the Congress under Indira Gandhi to use sectarian issues for political ends had been evident before 1984 but the party’s willingness to sell its pluralist soul for immediate political advantage was most vividly illustrated in the days and months after her death. The Congress, after 1984, stood out more and more clearly as a party that couldn’t even be accused of not having the courage of its convictions because it didn’t have any convictions at all. Pluralism and its traditional opposition to majoritarianism became labels that the Congress used for brand management in particular political contexts, not as principles that shaped its political agenda... read more:

Here’s listening to you, Mr Modi

A Hard Rain Falling - private armies & political violence in India.the public sphere .. 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 ..

AHMAD HOSNI - Revolution and the limits of populism

revolution is too loose a category to describe what is happening in Egypt. The real fight is not between revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces but between different strategies that lay claim to the idea of revolution. 

Since the deposition of the Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi by the military on July 3, debate has circled around whether to call this a coup or a popular uprising. History has traditionally placed the two concepts at opposing poles from each other. This time they have become entangled as never before.
Unorthodox positions have been taken up by political players on both sides: revolutionary groups, despite their previous attitudes to the military, have hailed the generals’ decision, while the conservative Muslim Brotherhood decries it a military coup on the basic premise of defending democracy. But the convergence of interest between the revolutionary forces and the military requires an altogether new term. 
Coup is an unambiguous notion: when an army interferes to overthrow a government it is a coup. Revolution on the other hand, is less amenable to such technical definitions. It is identified intuitively: we know it when we see it. We tend to register it as image, an image of the people in congregation against the sovereign, the acute surge that seems to come out of nowhere, reshuffles the scene and soon dissipates. But that is rarely the case. History is ripe with revolutions that lingered on without endpoints and became constant states under the rubric of revolution: revolutionary parties, revolutionary governments and revolutionary policies and even revolutionary countries. It is during this afterlife that revolution assumes its indeterminate and loose character, even to the point that it might subsume a coup under its semiotic cloak.
We can think of revolution according to two analytic schemes. Firstly, it is the event of a quasi-absolute consensus against a common target, namely the sovereign, followed by a mobilization of the populace. Consensus temporarily suspends discordances typically held among factions of the populace for the sake of the single antagonism. This mobilization is typically momentary, and as history has repeatedly demonstrated, unpredictable. The uprising against Mubarak’s regime in January 2011 could be read according to this definition. 
It is also possible to think of revolution not as the event per se but as theadherence to the event as an idea. The historic event is only an incomplete version of what is yet to come. Here revolution does not become simply a happening in the past but a moment to be concluded in the future. It is the afterimage of the revolution that keeps the notion of revolution alive as a valid political choice despite its ever-receding horizon. There is another name for that: messianic. Messianic prophecies whether in politics or religion have managed to survive against the odds of objectivity. Like religion, it is impossible to demarcate the perimeters of revolution by objective means.
Revolution is an ideology rather than an event. And like all ideologies it comes with its edifice of narratives, interpretive strategies indispensable to which are two premises: the totality of the people and the articulation of an incontrovertible antagonist. It is hard to think of a revolution that did not invoke both. Yet, if the antagonist is always incontrovertibly articulated and identified (be it Mubarak, Morsi or the Tzar), the “people” is a much looser notion. People is not a population, the latter is the statistical count. Instead, people is a semiotic function, a signifier that is always less than the sum of the parts. There is always a portion of the population that will not be counted into the totality of the people. It is a counting strategy, but not the actual numbers. The difference between the overwhelming sway of a population and the substantial portion, between people and faction is not analytical but discursive. Did the army’s intervention come as a response of popular demand or was it merely favourable to the majority of the population? The difference is that the former situates the people as the subject of statistics while the latter endows the people with the agency of a cohesive solid entity. Stress the latter and it becomes a revolution. The former articulation renders it a coup.
Much of the current political conflict in Egypt nowadays involves a battle over the right to these two notions: people and revolution. What happened on the June 30 was a revolution in the second sense of the word; it was a revolution not in terms of its mobilization force but in terms of its appropriation of the idea of the revolution and the invocation of the idea of people as a unity.
Morsi’s opponents have no doubt that what took place was a true revolution. There were over twenty million who have signed no-confidence petitions against Morsi, a large portion of whom took to the streets on June 30 demanding his resignation. .. read more:

Friday, 26 July 2013

Chitradurga Deputy Commissioner Office Swarmed by Villagers & Thousands of Sheep

Protest against illegal diversion of Grasslands intensifies

● Over 1,000 people gather along with 4,000 sheep protest against handing over of Amrithmahal Kavals to DRDO, IISC, BARC and other institutes
● Noted Writer Banjagere Jayaprakash and others address the rally and condemn the government’s move in illegally diverting Amrithmahal Kavals
● Residents of 80 villages threaten to boycott Lok Sabha polls if illegal diversion of Amrithmahal Kavals not reversed
● Memorandum submitted to DC highlighting severe impacts on rural life and asking for their rightful access to Kavals to be restored
● DC assures that until the cases are settled in the court, access to grazing, water and other needs in the Kavals will be reinstated


The massive diversion of around 10,000 acres of Amrithmahal Kavals in Challakere Taluk in Chitradurga District for a variety of industrial, defence, institutional and infrastructure developments by the Deputy Commissioner of Chitradurga since 2009 has caused widespread concern. The diversion has caused agony to thousands of pastoral and farming families dependent on the Kavals for their livelihoods, as various beneficiaries of land have begun project activities by building high walls and thus blocking access to the Kavals. These developments have been challenged before the Hon'ble High Court of Karnataka and the Hon'ble National Green Tribunal (Southern Zone).

Massive Rally taken out in Chitradurga

The struggle to preserve the Amritmahal Kavals in Chitradurga has intensified. Earlier this morning 1000 people from about 80 villages dependent on the Kavals for their livelihoods took out a rally under the "Bruhat Kurigala Pratibhatane" banner from the Government Science College to the DC's office in ChitradurgaIn an unusual display of dissent, the shepherding communities brought along with them about 4,000 sheep for the protest reiterating the heavy dependence on livestock rearing in this region and the impact of cutting off access to the grazing lands crucial for their livelihoods.

Addressing the rally, noted author Banjagere Jayaprakash said that the State and Central Governments should reconsider the decision of diverting the Kavals and should take necessary steps to restore access for the communities. He said that the manner in which the lands have been given away has resulted in gross injustice.

Meese Mahalingappa, ZP member and President of the Nomadic Shepherds Association said that the struggle to preserve the Kavals will intensify until they get the Kavals back. Karianna GP member from Dodda Ullarthi said that false documents have been submitted in the court and previous court rulings have been flouted to approve these projects. He said the the officials guilty of this should be immediately suspended. He also said that the people will continue to fight for what is rightfully theirs and the Government will be responsible for the unrest.

Muruga Rajendra said Aditya Amlan Biswas, the ex-DC of Chitradurga who had falsely submitted facts in favour of the project should be suspended. According to the 73rd amendment of the constitution, the Gram Sabhas should have been consulted and their approval sought before giving away the Kavals and the DC is guilty of flouting this. He also said that the region has been suffering from prolonged drought and the people are heavily dependent on livestock-rearing. In the absence of alternatives, the struggle to secure the grazing lands will only intensify in the future.

Nilkantha Mama, an elderly nomadic shepherd from Belgaum also addressed the gathering. He said he has grazed his sheep in these kavals and has seen that they are rich in medicinal plant wealth. There are also several fruits and tubers that they would eat while grazing their sheep and he attributes his good health and the longevity of his ancestors to these foods. He extended his support for the campaign and said these kavals are crucial for their survival. Women from Dodda Ullarthi and Molakalmuru sang songs on the Kavals.

The rally concluded with a submission of a memorandum to the DC, Chitradurga. The DC accepted the memorandum from the people and assured that until the court orders are passed, access to the Kavals will be restored. He also said that no other Kavals in the district will be given away for development projects in the future. He assured that goshalas will be set up in order to address the growing fodder crisis.

Some of the main points of the memorandum were:
* With the fodder prices sky-rocketing, and access to kavals cut off, they are unable to either maintain or sell off their livestock and are in a desperate situation.
* About 70 of the Devara Danahave been lost
* The state has flouted the forest conservation laws, violated human rights and the 73rd amendment of the constitution making a mockery of democracy
* All the beneficiaries have begun work without obtaining any environmental clearances. By constructing high walls, they are restricting the movements of people, livestock and even wild animals, thus taking away their right to life
* It is inhuman that the decision makers take decisions for the villages and kavals from their airconditioned rooms without even visiting them
* If the government does not intervene and does not provide immediate relief, the affected 80 villages will boycott the upcoming LS elections and the government will be responsible for the resulting chaos

The organizations which participated in the protests are – Karntaka Raita Sangha; Mahila Samakhya; Janamukhi Sanghatane, Chitradurga; Alemari Budakattu Mahasabha, Bangalore; Jilla Gollara Sangha, Chitradurga; Karnataka Banjara Janajagruti Abhiyana Samiti, Chitradurga; Chitradurga Jilla Valmiki Sanghatane; Satyameva Jayate Yuvaraksha Sangha; Chitradurga Jilla Pinjara Janajagruti Abhiyana Samiti; Jilla Kurubara Sangha Neeravari Horata Samiti; Bayaluseeme Grameena Abhivruddhi Samsthe; All India Kisan Sabha.

For more details contact:
Manohar - 9008729784
Karianna - 9900954664

1 The local communities rear native varieties such as Amruthmahal and Hallikar, another indigenous breed of cattle and crossbreeds of these. These pure breeds are known as “Devara Dhana” or “God’s cattle”. The females of these cattle are never given away; only the male calf is given away. This is done to preserve the breed purity. The families, which take care of the'Devara dhana' have been doing so for generations. They graze the 'Devara dhana' in these Kavals. These families are custodians of genetic diversity of some of the last remaining pure breeds. Pertinently, after the diversion of these Kavals, the population of these Devara Dhanacattle have significantly reduced, due to the lack of grazing space.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

The struggle to save Egypt's revolution

There was a time in Egypt when many hailed "one hand", one square, one people rising up to make their own history. That one-ness is no more.
In Egypt today, a people pulls apart, two public spaces in Cairo are seething, and many hands are now said to be at work. In the iconic Tahrir Square, where protesters played a key role in ousting President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011, "one hand" now includes the army which ousted the elected President Mohammed Morsi last week. In this famous gathering space, green laser lights and fireworks are now on sale to celebrate what banners emphatically proclaim was "not a coup" but the biggest demonstration in Egypt's history to put democracy back on track.
In eastern Cairo, in tented encampments plastered with Morsi photographs around the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, people are selling thick bamboo sticks which they insist are for self-defence against soldiers and police. A widening array of makeshift stalls are also selling hot and cold drinks, hats for protection against a scorching sun, and food of all sorts to cater to a fast-growing community of protesters, mainly Muslim Brotherhood supporters, who say they are not leaving until their elected president is reinstated.

About a kilometre away, there is a tense stand-off around the Republican Guard Officers' Club. More than 50 people were killed and hundreds injured there on Monday, when soldiers and police opened fire at dawn just before morning prayers. There is no agreement on what happened there either. In eastern Cairo, in tented encampments plastered with Morsi photographs around the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque, people are selling thick bamboo sticks which they insist are for self-defence against soldiers and police.
A widening array of makeshift stalls are also selling hot and cold drinks, hats for protection against a scorching sun, and food of all sorts to cater to a fast-growing community of protesters, mainly Muslim Brotherhood supporters, who say they are not leaving until their elected president is reinstated. About a kilometre away, there is a tense stand-off around the Republican Guard Officers' Club. More than 50 people were killed and hundreds injured there on Monday, when soldiers and police opened fire at dawn just before morning prayers. There is no agreement on what happened there either.
Army spokesman Col Ahmed Ali told a news conference that security forces had no choice but to open fire. "We had to respond," he insisted, giving details of "snipers behind buildings" and "armed groups attacking the area" as well as security forces.
Dialogue 'impossible'
When that press conference was being broadcast live on Egyptian and international media, the large crowds milling around the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque chanting angry slogans against a "massacre" did not pay attention. I asked a spokesman for what is called the Legitimacy Coalition, Ahmad al-Nashar, whether they would consider this detailed account by the security forces. "Definitely not," he declared. "We were there. We have our own films that show they opened fire on civilians who were praying."
In a sense, what matters most now is not what happened but what people believe. It is what drives a deepening sense of anger and injustice in two rival camps. And the battles over what should happen next are just as difficult, and dangerous.. 

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

French MP accused of saying Hitler 'didn't kill enough' Travellers (Romanis)

A centrist MP is facing expulsion from his party and legal action by the state after he allegedly said of French Travellers: "Hitler maybe didn't kill enough of them." Gilles Bourdouleix, MP and mayor of the town of Cholet in the Maine and Loire region of western France, was reported to have made the comments on Sunday during an encounter with a group of Travellers who had parked over 100 caravans in a field owned by the local authority. According to the local paper Le Courrier de L'Ouest, the meeting, in which Bourdouleix told the Travellers they would have to move on, was tense, with some Travellers accusing him of racism and a few making a Nazi salute towards him.
During the exchange, as reported by the newspaper, a man said to Bourdouleix: "You know how to talk better than [the former president Nicolas] Sarkozy." The MP replied that "the law must be implemented". There was murmuring and Bourdouleix reportedly said in a hushed tone: "Just goes to show that Hitler maybe didn't kill enough of them." When the MP denied the comments, the paper published a recording on its website. The 53-year-old insisted he had been the victim of a "scandalous montage" and was considering suing.
He told BFM TV: "I mumbled something like, 'If it was Hitler he would have killed them here,' meaning: 'Thank goodness I'm not Hitler and so there's no reason to call me Hitler.' This is shameful score-settling which aims to smear me." The newspaper said it absolutely stood by its reporting and the published recording. The local police prefect's office has filed a legal complaint with a state prosecutor against Bourdouleix for glorification of crimes against humanity. At least 200,000 Gypsies are estimated to have been killed during the Holocaust.
The Socialist interior minister Manuel Valls said he hoped the MP would be sanctioned "very heavily". He said: "A case has been brought before the courts because this is praise for the crimes of the second world war, it's praise for Nazis, and coming from a mayor it's intolerable." Praising crimes against humanity in France carries a maximum sentence of a year in jail and €45,000 (£37,700) in fines. Bourdouleix belongs to the centre-right grouping the Union of Democrats and Independents (UDI), headed by the former environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo. The party will meet to discuss his possible exclusion on Wednesday.
France has one of the biggest Traveller communities in mainlandEurope. There are around 350,000 French Travellers, a nomadic population which is different from the Roma community from eastern Europe. Politicians from right and left united to condemn Bourdouleix's alleged comments. Valérie Trierweiler, the partner of the president François Hollande, tweeted that the comments were "intolerable" pointing out that one of the Nazi internment camps for Gypsies during the Holocaust was located in Montreuil-Bellay – only 60km (37 miles) from Cholet.
The prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, said Bourdouleix's comments were "unacceptable, worrying" and "punishable by the law". Valérie Pécresse, of the traditional right-wing UMP party, said the comments were "utterly reprehensible" and parliament should sanction him.
Rights groups have warned of rising tension in France over non-settled communities, after several rightwing politicians recently spoke out against illegal caravan camps, using strong language that the left said was provocative. This month Christian Estrosi, Nice's right-wing mayor, expelled one group of Travellers from a sports field, vowing to "crush" the "delinquents", and urged other mayors to revolt against what he called leniency by the Socialists. Last month, rights groups said they would take legal action against the far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen after he told a meeting in Nice that Roma in the city were "rash-inducing" and "smelly".
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Maoism in Jharkhand - For Latehar villagers, a hill once their lifeline now a death-trap // Maoists raise crores through extortion

Even after the end of the anti-Maoist operation in Kumandih forest in Latehar, nobody told villagers in Jharkhand's Barkadih panchayat to keep away from Beang, the hill on which they depend for their survival. Neither the state, nor the Maoists. Till Jaspatia Devi, 45, had her legs blown off by a landmine when she went up the hill with her husband on July 14. Jaspatia had stepped on one of the many pressure bombs planted by the Maoists to fortify their position atop the hill where they set up a training camp. After the June 25-July 11 operation by the police and CRPF, they left this camp and escaped. Although the forces scaled the hill and destroyed the camp, no demining operation was mounted. As a result, an unknown number of landmines lie over a 100-sq-km area. "My parents had gone to Beang hill, 10 km from our village Jobla, at 5 am to pick dori (fruit of the mahua tree). As they were walking back around 8 am, my mother was some three paces ahead of my father. She was suddenly lifted up by an explosion," says Jaspatia's 20-year-old son Vir Kumar Singh. Jaspatia is at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi. Her right leg was amputated below the knee, the left may soon follow.

The importance of Beang hill, officially called Rajgarh hill, to the area is obvious from the urgency with which Jaspatia and her husband braved it less than three days after the massive operation. Villagers go up to collect mahua flowers around March and to pluck tendu leaves by May end. The villagers also get their wood and bamboo from the hill. Villagers of Barkadih panchayat, which falls in the plains, are now terrified of climbing the hill. All along the way from Kumandih railway station to Kurumkheta, people offered the same warning: "Don't set foot on the Beang." Vir says the Maoists have since warned villagers not to go up the hill: "Someone from Hata village told me that after what happened to my mother, someone from the party went to Hata village and prohibited people from climbing the hill for the next two years." "Demining is not easy. The landmines cover a hilly area of about 100 sq km," said Latehar SP Michael S. Raj. The police have no intention of clearing the mines till they have to do it for their own safety. "We will demine when we go for operations in the region, which is what we usually do. The tactic exposes the ugly face of the Maoists, how they don't care for the people," he said.

Maoists raise Rs 140-250 crore a year through extortion
They wield influence in nearly 203 of India’s 708 police districts, routinely kill people and policemen in 90 districts, often have the last word in 27 of them, hope to lead a revolution and — by 2050, according to one account — overthrow the Indian State. So how does the Communist Party of India (Maoist) find the money to keep the fire burning for the revolution? A government-commissioned study concluded this month has told the home ministry that Maoists generate at least Rs.140 crore annually from extortion rackets that target businesses — big and small — industry, contractors executing public works, corrupt government officials and political leaders. “The largest and principal sources of income for the Maoists are the mining industry, public works and collection of tendu leaves,” the study says. Police officer ML Meena has seen some of it first-hand. In January this year, Meena, inspector general of police, Bokaro Range in Jharkhand, ordered a crackdown on trucks carrying coal from illegal mines in remote parts under his charge. In at least one instance, local policemen were also penalised for their brazen collusion with the coal mafia. “Illegal mining is a key source of income for the Maoists,” said Meena, conceding that it was difficult — if not impossible — to put a figure on the size of the annual Maoist budget.
In 2010, the Intelligence Bureau came up with a much larger all-India estimate of Rs. 1,500 crore.A year earlier, former Chhattisgarh police chief Vishwaranjan guesstimated that the Maoist budget was closer to Rs. 2,000 crore while chief minister Raman Singh recently put it at Rs. 1,000-1,200 crore. A senior government official associated with anti-Maoist operations suggested much of this was an exaggeration and that the actual amount could hover between Rs. 140 crore and Rs. 250 crore. Researchers at the security think-tank Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses — that conducted the study — tried to unravel some of the mystery surrounding Maoist finances.
The Central Committee of the CPI (Maoist) fixes the annual amount to be collected at an all-India level in consultation with various levels. The zonal committee then conveys the decision on the amount to be collected from each source. In mineral-rich Jharkhand — one of the biggest sources of funds for the rebels — police officers have noticed that Maoists generally collect 7% as levy from all development works from contractors in the areas under their dominance. A similar figure — 7-10% levy — is cited as the rate for industrial and mining companies. Often, the armed guerrillas don’t need to come into the picture at all. “Usually, an over-ground member of the outfit is deputed to collect the money,” the study says. Each level retains some amount for its expenses, before sending its collections to the next higher level. Home ministry officials in Delhi — that has been struggling to come up with ways to block the flow of funds to the Maoists — concede that choking the Maoists’ extortion industry is a big challenge for the security establishment. So it was no surprise that when the chief ministers of Maoist-affected states met in June, this was one of the key points of discussion. “It may be difficult to completely cut off their supply of funds but it is possible to curb the flow,” said the IDSA’s PV Ramana. This will be a very important element in the counter-Maoist action plan.

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