Monday, September 30, 2013

Heard the one about the Saudi cleric who said driving damages ovaries?

The wild claim made by Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan is so absurd, all we can do is make a joke of it and hope it goes away

If you want to stop a child doing something, sometimes you have to lie to them. Don't want them to stand on the seats on a train? Eventually you will tell them that the train guard will throw them off if they don't stop. It was an evil genius parent who first told their child that the music playing from the ice-cream van means they are out of ice-cream. Now it seems that Sheikh Saleh bin Saad al-Lohaidan has tried to apply this logic to the women of Saudi Arabia.

The ruling elite have run out of reasons to stop women from driving cars in the kingdom and so have resorted to the "kiddie lie"; driving harms women's ovaries. He used his best authoritative parental voice, claimed that there was medical evidence of this and then walked away whistling hoping no one would realise how ridiculous it sounded.

Women not being able to drive in Saudi Arabia is ridiculous. They are not officially banned, but they are not able to get a driving licence, and can be prosecuted and imprisoned for driving without a licence or participating in the protests that women have organised there against the ban. But ridiculous behaviours need ridiculous justifications.

The Vatican didn't want people to use condoms so propagated the myth that HIV can pass through tiny holes in them. Polio vaccinations in Nigeria have been called a western plot to make people infertile. Men were told that they would have to start helping with raising their children when women got the vote. OK, that last one was true.

In general, religious zealots are not the most clued-up on current sexual health advice. People like Sheikh Lohaidan and Todd Akin in the US, who when he was a congressman claimed that women couldn't get pregnant from "legitimate rape" because "the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down", seem to take fertility and sex information from idiot 13-year-olds. The ones at school who used to state with considerable authority that you couldn't get pregnant if you did it standing up, you could get pregnant by French kissing, or you would catch Aids from the toilet seats in the gym... read more:

Christophe Jaffrelot - Gujarat's law unto itself // Modi's oratory

Justice V.M. Sahai... declared that the "pranks of the chief minister demonstrate destruction of our democracy and the questionable conduct of stonewalling the appointment of Justice Mehta as lokayukta threatened the rule of law". 

If the Gujarat Lokayukta Aayog Bill becomes law, it will reduce the lokayukta's independence and create inequalities among states

With the Lokpal bill meeting the fate of the women's reservation bill, the lokayukta remains, in many states of the Indian Union, the only ombudsman in charge of fighting corruption among the politicians and the functionaries. But this most useful institution remains fragile, as its trajectory in Gujarat testifies.

The Gujarat Lokayukta Act introduced it in the state in 1986 (15 years after Maharashtra, which played a pioneering role in that domain). According to this act, the lokayukta is appointed by the governor after consulting the chief justice of the state high court. The first lokayukta of Gujarat, S.M. Soni, resigned in 2003. Three years later, in 2006, the chief justice of the Gujarat High Court approved the candidature of Justice K.R. Vyas, whose name had been suggested by the government of Gujarat. The year after, Justice Vyas was appointed chairman of the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission. In September 2009, the governor of Gujarat returned the file recommending the appointment of Justice Vyas as lokayukta, claiming that the man was not available for the job. 

In November 2009, Kamla Beniwal took charge as the new governor and soon asked the chief justice to put together a panel of personalities qualified for selecting the names of people who could become lokayukta.

The Gujarat government went to the court, claiming that the governor could not take any initiative in this matter, but only follow the recommendations of the council of ministers. The court agreed and Narendra Modi, therefore, in February 2010, asked the chief justice to suggest four names. Among them, the council of ministers supported the name of Justice J.R. Vora. Opponents of the chief minister objected that Vora had been preferred because, as a member of a division bench of the Gujarat High Court, he had upheld the verdict of the Vadodara fast-track court acquitting all the accused involved in the Best Bakery case of 2002 — many of whom were to be sentenced to years of jail after the Supreme Court transferred the case to Mumbai.

Then the governor asked the attorney general whether the procedure that had been followed was right and the latter objected that only one name should have been recommended, something the government of Gujarat rejected, but that the SC upheld. Then, Beniwal asked the chief justice who was the best candidate between Justice R.P. Dholakia, the president of the Gujarat Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, and Justice Vora.

The chief justice opted for the former, but the governor, instead of appointing him, asked the chief justice to recommend only one name. The then chief justice of the Gujarat High Court, S.J. Mukhopadhyay, recommended the name of Justice (retired) S.D. Dave in December 2010. The governor submitted this name to the government of Gujarat, which rejected it and suggested instead the name of Justice Vora. The chief justice replied that the man was not available any more, since he had been appointed director of the Gujarat State Judicial Academy. But Justice Dave said that he was not interested in the post.

Then the chief justice suggested the name of Justice (retired) R.A. Mehta. The governor asked Narendra Modi to appoint him. But the chief minister objected that Justice Mehta was too old (he was 75) and that he had displayed an antagonistic attitude vis-à-vis the state government. The chief justice responded in August 2011 that he had investigated the case personally and considered that Justice Mehta had "a high reputation, great integrity and his neutrality is well acclaimed, besides the fact that he has not shown any aspiration to any government post whether Central or state". .. read more:

Modi's oratory
... what does Modi signal by trashing films that sell poverty to win foreign awards? Who decides what is selling poverty? Will filmmakers need ethical clearance from his government? His government banned Parzania, probably for selling poverty of thought, in Gujarat though the film won two national awards and nothing abroad. Aamir Khan’s Fanaa was also blocked, unofficially, probably for selling the poverty of families displaced by the construction of Narmada dam. 

It is not a coincidence that Modi rarely hides his admiration for China, or that those who root for Modi share much of his values and are excited about putting the wayward liberals in their place when he occupies South Block. They want to decide for others with Modi till Modi starts deciding for them. Other political parties have their share of autocrats. The Congress has growth hawks who, given their way, will junk all rule books tomorrow. It has ministers who want to crack down on social media. But the presence of multiple power centres in the party creates a semblance of balance. Most regional parties are one-leader shows and the result is showing in states such as Bengal. But these leaders never had or will have a free run at the Centre. The BJP today is the only national party with a single, uncontested leader. It is very unlikely that Modi can become PM without the support of allies who will cram him for space. Yet, he may change the ideas of freedom and dissent. Those who back authoritarianism may not realise its danger till they themselves are at the receiving end...

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Koodankulam Police Inspector & Valliyoor DSP engage in vendetta & vindictive behavior against anti-nuclear activists

S. P. Udayakumar, 
M. Pushparayan, 
M. P. Jesuraj, 
R. S. Mugilan, 
V. Rajalingam
c/o Parish Priest; Idinthakarai 627 104
Tirunelveli District

The Director General of Police
Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai
Mylapore; Chennai 600 004

Sub: Requesting you to take action against Koodankulam Police Inspector and Valliyoor DSP for their personal vendetta against us and vindictive behavior.

Dear Sir 
Greetings! We write to complain formally against Mr. I. Rajapal, Inspector of Koodankulam police station, and Mr. Stanley Jones, Valliyoor Deputy Superintendent of Police, who have been harassing us for a long time with personal enmity, vendetta and hidden agenda. These two officers have been instrumental and personally involved in filing some 340 criminal cases against us and a total of some 2,27,000 peaceful and nonviolent anti-Koodankulam nuclear power project protestors.

On March 21, 2012 at around 9 pm, when Mr. R. S. Mugilan was produced in the Valliyoor Court by police, Mr. Rajapal had threatened him not to report any of the harassment and physical assault he had suffered at the hands of police to the Judge. Mr. Rajapal even warned menacingly: “If you say anything, I will get rid of you.” When Mr. Mugilan reported it to the Judge, the angry Mr. Rajapal beat him up when Mr. Mugilan got out of the Court shouting, “I won’t let you go alive when you come out of the prison.” Mr. Mugilan filed a detailed complaint with all of this information to the State Human Rights Commission on March 16, 2013 (Case No. 2116/2013). We have documentary evidence for all this.

On April 14, 2012, Mr. Rajapal filed two FIRs (164/2012 and 165/2012) on the false complaints of one Mr. Stalin (s/o Michael, aged 65) and one Mr. Sahaya Peppin Raj (s/o Michael, aged 45) that we - Udayakumar, Pushparayan and Jesuraj - had instigated a violent attack on them. On April 22, 2012, Mr. Rajapal filed yet another FIR (175/2012) on another concocted complaint of one Mr. X. A. Walter Edward (s/o Xavier Anthony, aged 64) that we had burned down his motor bike and haystack.

On May 11, 2012 one of our Struggle Committee members, Mr. V. Rajalingam from Koodankulam, was badly beaten up and verbally abused at 5:15 PM near the East Bazaar of Koodankulam by Mr. Stanley Jones and Mr. Rajapal. Both Mr. Rajalingam and one Mr. R. K. Selvakumar who witnessed this brutal attack submitted written and signed depositions at the Public Hearing conducted on May 14, 2012 in Chennai by the Chennai Solidarity Group for the Koodankulam Struggle. Mr. Rajalingam also complained to the National Human Rights Commission about this brutal attack.

On October 11, 2012, the women of Koodankulam village complained to the Honorable Chief Minister about the reckless and violent harassment of the Koodankulam police headed and directed by Mr. I. Rajapal, Inspector of Koodankulam police station, and Mr. Stanley Jones, Valliyoor Deputy Superintendent of Police.

On May 29, 2013, one Mr. Prathap (s/o Martin, aged 22) filed a complaint at the Koodankulam police station against Vimal (s/o Peter), Kishok (s/o Peter), Infant (s/o Selvan) and Dhoni (s/o Thomas) for a personal scuffle. But Mr. Rajapal and Mr. Stanley Jones included the names of us in the case as usual; but the complainant gave interviews to the media that he had not mentioned our names in the petition at all. We also formally complained to you, the IG (South Zone), the DIG (Tirunelveli) and the SP (Tirunelveli) through registered letters dated June 4, 2013 about the reckless behavior of these two officers. We have documentary evidence for all this.

On July 29, 2013 Mr. Rajapal and Mr. Stanley Jones filed another ridiculously false case that Rev. Fr. M. P. Jesuraj, who had been living at Idinthakarai, hurled country bombs at Koothenkuzhi village along with some 18 men from Koothenkuzhi village.

On August 24, 2013 at 10:30 pm, some five bombs exploded outside the Parish Priest's bungalow and near the Tsunami Colony of Idinthakarai. At 12:30 am, three eye witnesses, Ms. Mary (w/o Sebastian, age 75), Ms. Amali (w/o Nasren, age 70) and Ms. Lilly Pushpam (w/o Clement, age 58), who had seen Sahaya Kapoor (s/o Siluvai Anthony, age 35), Socrates aka Mutti (s/o Siluvai Anthony, age 36), Lawrence (s/o Siluvai Anthony, age 38) and Sathip (s/o Bernard, age 22) throw the bombs, went to the Koodankulam police station by car to file a complaint. We also sent our complaint to the CM Cell, the DGP and other officials through email. The Sub-Inspector, Mr. Thirumurugan, told them that he had to consult with his higher officials and asked them to come back in the morning at 9 am. He did not even give a receipt for the petition. But on August 25, 2013 at 1:30 am, Mr. Thirumurugan filed an FIR holding 65 of us (15 named accused including S.P. Udayakumar, M. Pushparayan, M. P. Jesuraj, R. S. Mugilan, V. Rajalingam, Peter Milton, K. Kebiston and 50 unnamed accused) under four serious sections such as 147, 148, 294 (b), 307 r/w Sec. 3, 4 of ES Act 1908 at the instigation of the Koodankulam Inspector Mr. I. Rajapal and the Vallioor DSP Mr. Stanley Jones. Ironically enough, the petitioner is the same Kapoor who had hurled the bombs.

On September 19, 2013, two families here at Idinthakarai had a physical fight around 9:00 pm because of some previous enmity. When a few people were injured, the aggrieved party, Mr. Elango (s/o Santacruz) and Brighton (s/o Rosari) complained to the Koodankulam police the same night. But theKoodankulam Inspector Mr. I. Rajapal and the Vallioor DSP Mr. Stanley Jones filed FIRs (238/13 and 239/13) against the 19 people mentioned in the petition and included the three of us, S.P. Udayakumar, M. Pushparayan and M. P. Jesuraj for completely unknown reasons. We had nothing to do with the family feud whatsoever and the complainants have confessed that they had not even mentioned our names in their complaints or depositions.

The Honorable Supreme Court in its May 6, 2013 verdict in the G. Sundarrajan vs. Union of India case (on the Koodankulam nuclear power project) offered, among others, the following recommendation: “Endeavour should be made to withdraw all the criminal cases filed against the agitators so that peace and normalcy be restored at Kudankulam and nearby places and steps should be taken to educate the people of the necessity of the plant which is in the largest interest of the nation particularly the State of Tamil Nadu.” Later the Honorable Madras High Court also recommended withdrawing all the cases against us in their July 29, 2013 verdict. But the Government of Tamil Nadu has not taken any effort to withdraw the above cases against the nonviolent and peaceful protestors of the Koodankulam agitation. Instead, the Koodankulam Inspector Mr. I. Rajapal and the Vallioor DSP Mr. Stanley Jones, have been filing more and more private criminal cases to keep us all under their clutches and to harass us.

Mr. Rajapal has been colluding with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, enjoying several privileges at their Anuvijay Township at Chettikulam including free housing, free food and other special conveniences for his loyal anti-people services. He is said to be constructing a big house at Valliyoor with items donated by the NPCIL contractors and subcontractors and unaccounted money from unknown sources. Similarly, Mr. Stanley Jones has been accused of hunting wild life for a long time and several news magazines have reported this anti-social activity. Both of them are being protected by higher officials for unknown reasons. These two officials should be probed for their illegitimate NPCIL connections and disproportionate wealth accumulation.

These two officers are also known locally for their casteist and communal fervor and hateful behavior. They have been openly and publicly invoking people’s caste and religious identities to divide and harass them. They have been behaving unprofessionally, unethically and recklessly against us and the other anti-Koodankulam protestors as well. We are afraid that these two officers are behaving partially in favor of the NPCIL and hatching a major conspiracy with anti-social elements and the KKNPP officials to hurt us and our people. We are getting worried about our physical safety and security.

Please institute an inquiry into the unprofessional and prejudiced behavior ofMr. I. Rajapal, Inspector of Koodankulam police station, and Mr. Stanley Jones, Valliyoor Deputy Superintendent of Police, and take disciplinary action against them before these two officers lose control of themselves completely and hurt or harm or kill us.

Thanking you in anticipation, we send you our best regards and all peaceful wishes.


S. P. Udayakumar,   M. Pushparayan,   M. P. Jesuraj,   R. S. Mugilan,   V. Rajalingam

Copies to:

[1] The Home Secretary
Government of Tamil Nadu
Fort St. George
Chennai 600 009

[2] The Inspector General (South Zone)
New Natham Saalai
Madurai 625 002

[3] The Deputy Inspector General (Tirunelveli Range)
4, St. Thomas Road
Maharaja Nagar
Tirunelveli 627 004

[4] The Superintendent of Police
Tirunelveli District
Tirunelveli 627 001

Lalu Prasad convicted in fodder scam case, taken to jail // What about Gujarat’s Babu Bokariya? // The Lalu-Congress Alliance Is Over

In a body blow to RJD before next year's Lok Sabha polls, its President Lalu Prasad was on Monday convicted by a special CBI court here in the fodder scam corruption case that disqualifies him from Parliament and renders him ineligible for contesting elections for at least six years. Another 44 accused, including former Bihar Chief Minister Jagannath Mishra, six politicians and four IAS officers, were also convicted by court of Pravas Kumar Singh for fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from Chaibasa treasury.
Quick Edit: After Lalu's conviction, Cong explores option
The court fixed October three for pronouncement of sentence against Yadav, Mishra and others. The RJD chief was taken to the Birsa Munda Central Jail in Ranchi after being convicted by the court. The RJD chief faces immediate disqualification as Lok Sabha member under a recent Supreme Court order that an MP or MLA would stand disqualified immediately if convicted by a court for crimes with punishment of two years or more and under some other laws even without jail sentence... read more:

Lalu verdict welcome, but what about Gujarat’s Babu Bokariya?  
Now that the ordinance to overturn the Supreme Court order disqualifying MPs and MLAs convicted by a court has virtually been thrown out, the focus of media has shifted to Lalu Prasad Yadav. Now that he has been convicted by the court, he must resign. Babu Bokhariya, the Gujarat Water Resources minister, however is luckier. He was convicted in June this year, just before the SC verdict came out. Technically, he is not required to resign. And he and his boss, Narendra Modi, have decided to avail of this technicality. But since the larger debate this SC order, and the entire ordinance follow-up, has raised is about probity in public life, shouldn’t we demand that all people who have convictions standing against them resign and re-contest?

Why rely on technicality at all? After all, the BJP has decided to take the high moral ground on this issue, completely ignoring the fact that it is way worse than the Congress on the issue of criminality, with 31 percent of its MPs/MLAs charged with criminal charges unlike the Congress’s 21 percent? Babu Bokhariya was charged with profiting from illegal mining operations with the scam figure put at Rs 54 crores. He was convicted for the crime in June this year by a Porbander court. To be sure, he has already appealed to, and obtained a stay from, a higher court. But like I said, the issue can hardly be one of technicality. If Modi really wants to prove that he is different from the Congress, then shouldn’t he have already sacked Bokhariya? Even if he hasn’t done so yet, shouldn’t he do it now?..

The BJP had agreed to support the bill which would have nullified the SC order. But publicly it now claims that it is opposed to the ordinance. See the difference? Opposed to the ordinance, but not opposed to the concept of protecting convicted politicians. That high ground has now been usurped by Rahul Gandhi, and before him, the BJD. Just in case anyone has any doubts about the BJP’s support for overturning the SC’s order, here’s a piece that will dispel that doubt. 

On 1st August, Zee News reported this on its website: “Political parties united Thursday against a Supreme Court order on criminals in politics and wanted the government to address the issue during the Monsoon Session of Parliament. Leaders belonging to the Left parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) expressed concern over the implications of the court order that disqualifies a legislator if convicted in a criminal case and bars him from contesting the polls if under arrest. They said the government should address the issue as misuse of the law could be rampant just before any election. “We want a discussion on the apex court order,” CPI-M leader Basudeb Acharia said after an all-party meeting called by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath. The BJP’s Ravi Shankar Prasad, JD-U president Sharad Yadav and RJD chief Lalu Prasad also expressed their concern” 

Gujarat headed for legal showdown with Dalit panel

Narendra Modi's Gujarat appears to be getting embroiled in a legal tangle with a Congress-led panel over fake encounters. The National Commission for SCs has sent notices to the chief secretaries and DGPs of Gujarat and Rajasthan as also the CBI director asking them to depose on September 30 on a complaint that senior BJP leaders were trying to derail the probe into the infamous Tulsiram Prajapati fake encounter case. It has Modi-aide Amit Shah as a key accused.
The complaint stems from a sensational sting operation that featured senior BJP leaders allegedly conspiring to leave the Prajapati family defenceless -- by seeking affidavit from the deceased's mother to allow two alleged BJP contacts to take decisions on her behalf. NCSC chairman PL Punia told TOI, "It is a serious case of trying to rob the legal safeguard of a backward caste person. We have taken the case seriously and will seek details from the officials."
While the encounter case is sub-judice in which the dalit panel cannot intervene, the fresh allegations of alleged sabotage have provided an opening. At some stage, the commission could either ask the CBI to apprise the Supreme Court of the sting-related details or to seek an investigation into the sting.
A fresh probe could open up possibilities that may not be palatable to Modi. The protagonists in the sting claim that top state leadership was in the know of the attempt to hoodwink Prajapati's mother. Investigations into the allegations could thus train fresh spotlight on top BJP leaders. Coincidentally, the claims made by jailed encounter cop D G Vanzara in his resignation letter -- that the state government and former home minister Amit Shah were aware of the actions of police officers -- are in sync with the sting's claim that the bid to win over the deceased's mother too had sanction from the top.
The dalit panel had earlier asked Gujarat and Rajasthan to give its version on the plaint alleging sabotage of justice, but found no response. The quasi-judicial power of a civil court provides muscle to the commission while the presence of a Congress MP as its head creates unease among rivals. In the police firing on farmers in Bhatta Parsaul in Noida, the commission took up cudgels on behalf of Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi by summoning officials and seeking details about deaths.
While the then Mayawati administration kept stonewalling, there came a point when the state had to file an FIR and probe the issue.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sanjaya Baru: The inheritor as insurgent // Santosh Desai: The leader who isn’t

The voters of Andhra Pradesh had been so loyal to the Indian National Congress from the very first general election that even when large parts of the country threw the Congress out after the Emergency was lifted in 1977, the Telugu people stood by Indira Gandhi. She wielded so much power that she could overlook the claim of every senior party leader and appoint the diminutive T. Anjaiah as chief minister. So beholden was Anjaiah to the Delhi durbar that he spent more time in Delhi than Hyderabad. He was loyalist par excellence.

Then one day Rajiv Gandhi landed at Hyderabad's Begumpet airport, wagged his finger at Anjaiah, admonished him for some reason on the tarmac, in full view of the state's council of ministers and the media, got into his plane and flew away to Delhi. Poor Anjaiah was reduced to tears. The media captured that unfortunate moment. That photograph, of Rajiv admonishing Anjaiah and Anjaiah's pathetic expression, was splashed across every newspaper in the state the next day. The revulsion of the Telugu people at New Delhi's arrogance generated a sympathy wave for Anjaiah, which N.T. Rama Rao immediately took advantage of. NTR swept to power on Anjaiah's bent back.

Those who have inhabited Delhi's durbar have always been given a reality check every now and then by the ordinary people of this subcontinent. If Rajiv had good reasons to upbraid Anjaiah, he could easily have done that in private. Why did he have to do it on an airport tarmac in full view of the media? Everyone concluded that Rajiv was either arrogant or immature. The Anjaiah episode sprang to mind as I watched Rahul Gandhi seek to project himself as the angry young man of the Congress Party rebelling against the sleaze and the corruption of his seniors... 

Santosh Desai: The leader who isn’t

Rahul Gandhi’s dramatic and altogether strange public intervention in the ordinance issue makes it clear that he cannot conceivably be the leader of any future government. It is also likely, given his actions over the past some time, that he has in fact no desire to do so, and this is just as well. In this case, the cause was worthy and his intervention important, but the timing and manner in which it happened raises many questions.

There are many who read his public outburst as a calculated gambit, seeking to convert what would probably have been a huge embarrassment for the government had the President refused to sign the bill into a huge embarrassment for the government (but a personal triumph for Rahul Gandhi). It is seen as a desperate political move that seeks to deny the BJP credit for opposing the ordinance, while establishing Rahul’s credentials as a free thinker determined to do the right thing. If this is indeed so, and it is certainly possible that it is, then perhaps Rahul should get some credit for being a shrewd political opportunist, willing to take high-risk bets in order to salvage a lost cause. 

The trouble with this is that it suggests that Rahul Gandhi took a deliberate studied view and acted decisively, if surprisingly. What does not fit is the notion that he was fully in control of his actions, and knew exactly what he was doing. Given that there were any number of options available to him if he wanted to intercede, including the choice of manner and language used, it does seem that the act of crashing a Press Conference and speaking with such pent-up disdain suggests that he acted out an untethered impulse. A seasoned politician would have played things differently; it would have been possible to generate the same effect with considerably greater finesse. In fact, had Rahul Gandhi been a power-hungry aspirant for the top job, he could have waltzed into the role anytime he wanted. .. 
read more:

Sudanese women: you can beat us but you cannot break us

Amira Osman is awaiting trial for refusing to cover her hair. She is one of thousands of Sudanese women who are being arrested under Sudan's criminal code, sentenced, and publicly lashed.

For 25 years now, women in Sudan have been flogged publicly. The current Sudanese regime’s ideology was clear from day one; terrorizing women - which amounts to paralysing a whole nation. Like all dogma in political Islam, the regime sat and agreed that the road to secure their position was through controlling women’s bodies, minds, existence and interaction in public.

"I am a Muslim woman but I will not cover my head, a piece of cloth should not determine my spirituality" - Amira Osman
While the anger is accumulating in Sudan and peaceful demonstrators are being injured and killed by the Sudanese regime forces, this comes as a natural result of years of injustices.  Sudan has been exposed to the brutality of the dogmatic ideology of political Islam, and the people have been stripped of their dignity. The story here is just a tip of the iceberg. Sudanese women are the mirror of the cruelty and disparity imposed by the ruling regime.

Woman wiping a tear away
For 25 years now, women in Sudan have been flogged publicly. The current Sudanese regime’s ideology was clear from day one; terrorizing women - which amounts to paralysing a whole nation. Like all dogma in political Islam, the regime sat and agreed that the road to secure their position was through controlling women’s bodies, minds, existence and interaction in public. Their misogynistic ideology is based on women being problematic and in need of being disciplined and controlled: that women are both dangerous and the main instigator of immorality, equally responsible for all evil in society, hence the need to be told how to behave in public.
“It’s not enough to talk to them; we have to punish them and install fear in their minds because they are not intelligent and are spiritually unfit. Their fathers and husbands are unable to control them”. These are the beliefs that underpin Article 152 of the Sudan criminal code, ‘Indecent and Immoral Acts’ - on the basis of which Amira Osman, a Sudan activist, is currently facing trial, and under which thousands of invisible poor women have already been tried, sentenced and publicly lashed. Their laughter is seen as a crime, their presence provoking sin.
This is how the regime vaguely drafted Article 154 of the criminal code, 'Practicing Prostitution.” The article defines a place of prostitution’ as "any place designated for the meeting of men and women between whom there is no marital relationship, or kinship, in circumstances in which the exercise of sexual acts is probable to occur".  Hundreds of women are being charged under this article every day, inside their homes and work places. The breadth of interpretation effectively allows women in  any public place in which a woman can be in the same room as an unrelated man to be tried under this article.
The offence of " possession of materials and displays contrary to public morality" of Article 153 has exposed thousands of young women to the madness of the public order police and deprived them of simply living normally, and with dignity. The Sudan public order laws are written in a vague and elusive way in order to allow judges and the law enforcers to employ their own interpretations of the law. This has turned the legal system into self serving machinery manipulated and twisted against women's presence and participation in public. 
Sara is a 25 year old artist and school teacher at a private school. Early this year, while on her way back home, she was stopped and picked up by the public order police. She was wearing trousers and a long sleeved T- shirt. She was sexually assaulted, verbally humiliated and then charged under Article 152 for wearing trousers. According to her story, by the time they picked her up, there were twelve  other women inside the vehicle all of whom had been picked up randomly by the public order police while walking on public roads. None of them had committed any crime, all were just walking along minding their own business.. 
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Biswajit Roy - Dilemmas of Democracy and Its Friends: Appraisal of an Appraisal

How to resolve the dilemmas of the democrats when they are torn between their commitments to a popular regime and democratic principles? What are the pitfalls and advantages of continued moral and political obligations to a government that has born out of an anti-hegemony mass awakening but is fast becoming autocratic itself?

How to assess a maverick mass leader turned populist leader when h/she is pro-poor and anti-elite but also an epitome of intolerance, arrogance and paranoia? How far the 'good' economic policies make the 'bad' political practices tolerable? How long we should allow ourselves to remain in a catch-22 situation? To be precise--- how long the fear of return of the CPM's regimented rule and logic of TINA factors should continue to dictate the quandary of the conscientious friends of Bengali avatar of Joan of Ark when she has begun behaving like Caligula?

In the larger context of contemporary politics, are we destined to be the Sisyphus of late Bourgeoisie world where we would fight psychopathic dictators and totalitarian parties only to follow demagogues and benevolent authoritarians? Is it an opportunist and utopian idea to think of an independent civil society linked to non-partisan mass movements given the increasing fault-lines of the polarized polity and growing gulf between the elected representatives of all hues and their electors across the world and closer home too?  

These questions came to my mind after I have gone through A Bengali booklet titled Paribartan---Phire Dekha (Change-- looking back), published by the Friends of Democracy, a forum of civil society activists who had joined campaign for regime-change in Bengal quite actively and extended critical support to Mamata Banerjee government. The booklet is an appraisal of the two years of change of guard in Bengal. Edited by veteran educationist Asokendu Sengupta and leading human rights activist Sujato Bhadra, it offers a report card of the Trinamul dispensation on the implementation of its pre-poll promises.

The FOD and its prominent members have tried balanced judgments on the new government vis-à-vis their collective and individual expectations and hopes, some fulfilled and others belied. Sujato Bhadra, Bibhash Chakroborty and Bhanu Sarkar dealt more with democracy and human rights while others have focused primarily on their respective areas of expertise. They include Kalyan Rudra (water management), Asokendu Sengupta and Malabika Mitra (education), Debashis Bhattacharya (development in Junglemahal), Subrata Bagchi (Darjeeling Hills) Sanjoy Mukherjee (economy), Anindya Bhattacharya ( industry), Tushar Chakroborty (agriculture), Dr. Sidhartha Gupta (health), Rabin Mazumder( environment) and Kalyan Sengupta( employment). Ranabir Samaddar in an interview to Sivajipratim Basu also offered some new insights into post-Paribartan political churnings while calling the Trinamul as the party of 'small proprietors but not petty bourgeoisie'.

But I will limit myself to the FOD's overall evaluation and judgments related to democracy and human rights in this article, though other aspects are no less important.  But they deserve separate and elaborate examination. . read more:

Javed Anand - Justice, not apology

The middle class seems to think saying sorry is enough to move on from gross violations.

... this say-sorry option is only for state actors accused of complicity in, or sponsorship of, mass crimes such as the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi (1984) or of Muslims in Gujarat (2002). No one ever suggested, for example, that those accused of the gruesome gangrape and murder of a young woman in Delhi in December 2012 be offered the say-sorry route.

Until now, the democratic world had known only two ways of dealing with mass crimes, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. It now appears that sections of the media and intelligentsia in India have discovered a third way.

The first is founded on the principle of justice: trial of the accused and punishment to the guilty; even the worst perpetrators are entitled to a fair trial. Some refer to this as the "Nuremberg method" — recall the post-World War II Nuremberg Trials of top Nazis.

At the end of Apartheid in 1994, South Africa chose to take a different approach, addressing gross instances of human rights violations through a Truth and Reconciliation process. As different from the principles of retributive justice (focus on deterrent punishment) and rehabilitative justice (aimed at reforming the criminal), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) sought to base itself on the principle of "restorative justice" (premised on equal concern for the victim and the offender, placing emphasis on the harm done to persons and social relationships rather than on the rule of law). Both victims of atrocities and its perpetrators were invited to testify before the TRC. 

The presumption was that the act of sincere "truth-telling" by both sides, followed by adequate reparation and rehabilitation of victims, amnesty against civil or criminal prosecution to the offenders in select cases, will help heal wounds, bring closure. Some call this the "TRC method".

The Nuremberg method is based on a principle that democracies are familiar with. For the rule of law to prevail, criminals must be tried as prescribed by law and those found guilty must be punished. The jury is still out on the TRC method. A 1998 survey of several hundred victims of human rights abuse during Apartheid, conducted by South Africa's Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, found that most victims believed the TRC had failed to achieve reconciliation and that, without justice, there could be no reconciliation.

Whatever the merits of the TRC approach, the fact remains that, until now, constitutional democracies have known only these two ways of dealing with human rights violations on a mass scale. To these, the Indian middle class now seems to be proposing an altogether new third option. Call it the "apology principle". For the offender, the apology route is the most attractive. Forget court trials, forget truth-telling, forget reparation or rehabilitation to restore dignity and rebuild the broken lives of victims. Just say sorry and "move on".
It may first be noted that the proposed apology principle is not about the wrongs of the distant past or wounds of history. It's about gross violations committed here and now. 

Second, this say-sorry option is only for state actors accused of complicity in, or sponsorship of, mass crimes such as the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi (1984) or of Muslims in Gujarat (2002). No one ever suggested, for example, that those accused of the gruesome gangrape and murder of a young woman in Delhi in December 2012 be offered the say-sorry route.

Third, this amnesty-come-cheap for state actors is only for mass crimes: one terrible railway accident and we all demand that the railway minister be sacked. This is not how it always was. For whatever it was worth, as Shekhar Gupta pointed out in his column, 'Pot's blacker than the kettle' (IE, April 6, 2002), "even as the riots were dying out on November 3 (Mrs Gandhi was assassinated on October 30, 1984) Delhi's Lieutenant Governor, P.G. Gavai, was fired"; nine days later, the city's police commissioner, Subhash Tandon, was replaced. Within a month of the 1992-93 riots in Mumbai, then Maharashtra chief minister Sudhakarrao Naik was sacked.

Token measures, no doubt. But evidently, we no longer need even such elementary accountability from our political masters. The only relevant question today is whether Gujarat's chief minister, and now the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP, Narendra Modi, has or hasn't expressed regret for 2002. Some claim that he already did in 2004 and, if anything, it is Congress chief Sonia Gandhi who has yet to apologise for the anti-Sikh carnage that took place while her husband Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister.

"The only civilised alternative to (the victims') desire for revenge is to render justice," the Italian legal luminary Antonio Cassese had pleaded during the trial by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia of former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes and crimes against humanity. But the new civilisational paradigm that many among us are so earnestly postulating not only renders justice, truth, reparation and rehabilitation redundant, it also "invisibilises" the victims of heinous crimes. 

Closure, what's that? Do we care?

Muslim groups oppose ban on child marriage

NB - This is a disgraceful stand taken by a handful of political organistions & ulema. They cannot & must not be alotted the status of being representatives of Indian Muslims. Their approach contributes to the communalised climate in the country; & their decisions speak to the interests of Muslim men only. They take no account of the plight of children & make special claims to violate the fundamental rights of young citizens - all in the name of minority rights. Child marriage is unlawful in many countries with Islamic constitutions. The Muslim clergy must realise that they too have an obligation to defend the basic features of the democratic constitution - Dilip
Muslim organisations, including the Indian Union Muslim League, have joined hands to oppose the law banning child marriage on the ground that the Child Marriage (Prevention) Act is against the provisions of the Muslim personal law.
At a meeting of Muslim organisations convened by the Samastha Kerala Jam-Iyyathul Ulama here on Friday, a committee was constituted with Kottumala Bappu Musaliar, secretary, Samastha Kerala Jam-Iyyathul Ulama, as chairman, M.C. Mayeen Haji, IUML leader, as convener, and Mustapha Mundupara as coordinator to “protect” the Muslim personal law and also explore scope for legal remedies whenever necessary.
Mr. Mundupara, spokesman for the convention, told The Hindu on Saturday that the meeting was convened in response to complaints from many mahal committees about problems in families in which girls were given in marriage before the age of 18 due to ‘unavoidable circumstances.’
Criticising the Child Marriage (Prevention) Act, which made marriage of girls below the age 18 an offence, speakers at the meeting said the law violated religious rights of the Muslim community since the Muslim personal law did not specify the age for marriage of girls in the community. “The constitutional protection enjoyed by the Muslim community should not be diluted or taken away. The Muslim personal law does not prohibit marriage of girls below the age 18,” Mr. Mundupara said.
The convention also endorsed a suggestion to carry on a campaign to avoid marriage of girls at an early age except under unavoidable circumstances, he said. The meeting, in a resolution, appealed to the State and Central governments to take remedial measures on this issue. Kotumala Bappu Musaliar presided over the convention.
Besides representatives of the Samastha Kerala Jam-Iyyathul Ulama and the Indian Union Muslim League, leaders of the two factions of the Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen, Jammaat-e-Islami Hind, Muslim Educational Society, and the Muslim Service Society participated in the convention.

Syrian Nonviolence Movement

 SUAD NOFAL stands before the jihadist-occupied municipal building of Raqqa, Syria, with her protest sign. Suad Nofal has stood there every afternoon at five o'clock, ever since the jihadist abductions of Father Paolo and activist Firas al-Haj Saleh. 

Silent and powerful, Suad Nofal protests there daily against Raqqa's tyrants (the Replacement Tyrants, replacing the regime), the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria"

Photo: THE STAND of SUAD NOFAL: She stands before the jihadist-occupied municipal building of Raqqa, Syria, with her protest sign. 

Suad Nofal has stood there every afternoon at five o'clock, ever since the jihadist abductions of Father Paolo and activist Firas al-Haj Saleh. 

Silent and powerful, Suad Nofal protests there daily against Raqqa's tyrants (the Replacement Tyrants, replacing the regime), the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (Da'esh/ISIS).  

Suad marches each day from her home to the headquarters carrying a protest sign through the streets to make this stand in the name of civilian resistance, and the activist group Free Women of Raqqa. 

Yesterday her sister Rimal found a note at home, scrawled by her sister, that said, "Forgive me." Rimal, who has herself suffered imprisonment and torture at the hands of the "jihadists' Sharia Court," ran to Da'esh headquarters to save her sister, whom she found ringed by armed Da'esh fighters trying to tear the protest poster from Suad's hands. 

The poster held up yesterday by Suad (a Sunni Muslim woman of Syria) says: "State of Evil, Churches are Houses for the Worship of God Almighty--Signed, Free Women of Raqqa," with an intertwined cross and crescent, referring to the churches desecrated by the jihadists the prior day.

The armed men, who are reportedly Tunisian, tried to take Suad's sign from her forcibly. Suad resisted, clinging to the poster, which was torn to pieces that were rescued by Rimal (see photo, right).

Rimal managed to yank Suad away from the ring of fighters, who fired shots to terrorize the two women. 

The Da'esh jihadists then threatened Suad Nofal with assassination should she make her daily stand against Da'esh again. 


Suad marches each day from her home to the headquarters carrying a protest sign through the streets to make this stand in the name of civilian resistance, and the activist group Free Women of Raqqa. 

Yesterday her sister Rimal found a note at home, scrawled by her sister, that said, "Forgive me." Rimal, who has herself suffered imprisonment and torture at the hands of the "jihadists' Sharia Court," ran to Da'esh headquarters to save her sister, whom she found ringed by armed Da'esh fighters trying to tear the protest poster from Suad's hands. 

The poster held up yesterday by Suad (a Sunni Muslim woman of Syria) says: "State of Evil, Churches are Houses for the Worship of God Almighty--Signed, Free Women of Raqqa," with an intertwined cross and crescent, referring to the churches desecrated by the jihadists the prior day.

The armed men, who are reportedly Tunisian, tried to take Suad's sign from her forcibly. Suad resisted, clinging to the poster, which was torn to pieces that were rescued by Rimal (see photo, right). Rimal managed to yank Suad away from the ring of fighters, who fired shots to terrorize the two women. 

The Da'esh jihadists then threatened Suad Nofal with assassination should she make her daily stand against Da'esh again. 


PAVAN K. VARMA : When art masks politics - Sardar Patel, Modi and the RSS

Pavan K. Varma in The Times of India, September 28, 2013

When art masks politics

Narendra Modi is a good orator, and his first public speech, after being declared BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate, at Rewari in Haryana on September, 15, provided ample evidence of this.  I was intrigued though by his fulsome tribute to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.  Modi announced that he is building in Gujarat a statue of Patel, made from iron pieces contributed by every village in India, which would be the tallest in the world, twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. 

I was intrigued because Sardar Patel was the man who banned the RSS, the institution which Modi joined at the tender age of fifteen, and which, on his own admission, has played an exceptionally valuable role in moulding his life and thought processes.  Patel was the Home Minister of India when, on February 2, 1948, the Government banned the RSS, in pursuance to its ‘determination to root out the forces of hate and violence that are at work in our country and imperil the freedom of the Nation and darken her fair name’.   In a letter dated September 11, 1948, to Guru Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the then Sarsangchalak of the RSS, the Sardar was forthright in his denunciation of RSS leaders: ‘All their speeches were full of communal poison.  It was not necessary to spread poison in order to enthuse the Hindus and organize for their protection.  As a final result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the invaluable life of Gandhiji’. 

Significantly, the Sardar was never in doubt about the role of the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha in the murder of the Mahatma.   In a letter dated February 27, 1948 to Pandit Nehru he states this clearly: ‘It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that hatched the conspiracy and saw it through...Of course, his assassination was welcomed by those of the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha who were strongly opposed to his way of thinking and to his policy’.   

He reiterates this position in a letter dated July 18, 1948 to Shyama Prasad Mookherjee: ‘As regards the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha...Our reports do confirm that, as a result of these two bodies, particularly the former, an atmosphere was created in the country  in which such a ghastly tragedy became possible’.   Incidentally, although Nathuram Godse denied any direct link with the RSS at the time of his trial, many years later, in an interview to the  magazine Frontline in January 1994, his brother, Gopal, was quite candid about the truth: 

‘All the brothers were in the RSS, Nathuram, Dattareya, myself and Govind.  You can say we grew up in the RSS rather than in our home.  It was like a family to us.  Nathuram had become a baudhik karyavah (intellectual worker) in the RSS.  He said it but he never left it’. 

Sardar Patel was a staunch follower of Gandhiji and his inclusive vision.  His emphatic opposition to the RSS, the institution which mentored Modi and shaped his world view, is documented fact.  What is then Modi trying to convey by co-opting Patel, and building the world’s tallest statue as a tribute to him?

One view could be that Modi agrees with the Sardar about the RSS.  After all, there cannot be such a violent difference of opinion, on such a vital matter, between an ardent admirer and his new found hero.  If this is the case, Modi must say so.  If not, he should accept that he is lionizing Patel through a conscious process of selective amnesia and cynical manipulation, harping on what Patel did to unite India, but deliberately ignoring his strong views on those who wanted to divide her through the politics of communal incitement and violence.   

Available evidence is definitive that the RSS played a key role in the political choice of Modi to lead the BJP.  The evidence is also categorical that Modi is deeply influenced by the philosophy of the RSS. Modi was a Pracharak in the RSS when Golwalkar, the longest serving and most ‘successful’ RSS chief was the Sarsangchalak (1940-73).  Modi reportedly wrote a book in his praise. Does he agree with Golwalkars explicitly stated views that India is an exclusively Hindu nation, with no place for people of other faiths, not even the rights of a citizen?  Does he support Golwalkar’s praise of Nazi Germany, for having manifested a nation’s highest pride in exterminating the Jews?  Does he believe, like Golwalkar, that the Manusmriti, that consigns Shudras to perpetual service of Brahmans and advocates servitude of women, is the only valid law for India?   The BJP, I think, made a valiant attempt under Vajpayee to downplay this regressive thinking and broad base its political appeal.  But with the rise of Modi, the core philosophy of the RSS is back as the driving ideology of the BJP.  

Sardar Patel, if he is at all watching these developments, must be both a deeply anguished and a very angry man.   Angry, because of his clever appropriation by those whom he steadfastly opposed.  Anguished, because the vision of India being offered by his new devotees is so different to the one for which he dedicated his entire life.

Also see: 

Hitler's annihilation of the Romanis“I as a German prefer much more to see India under British Government than under any other...I must not connect the fate of the German people with these so-called ‘oppressed nations’ who are clearly of racial inferiority (Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, German edition, p. 747)

More signs of artistry:
In the year 2000 the Gujarat government of Keshubhai Patel, with the support of the Vajpayee government, lifted the ban on RSS recruitment among civil servants. In the ensuing controversy Patel said the RSS was not political (the usual story). This was stoutly resisted and the BJP was forced to withdraw. Read more: