Friday, 31 January 2014

Marina Hyde - Here's how Tony Blair really can face the judgment of history

The great thing about the judgment of history is that the defendant is never around for it. It is handed down in absentia, and unless Earth has an extradition treaty with the 357-room celestial palace in which Tony Blair's idiosyncratic brand of faith presumably leads him to imagine he will spend eternity, then the former prime minister is safe to continue telling every second interviewer that "history will judge me", or that he is "prepared to be judged by history".
If only it were possible to leave someone else's body to cryogenic science, instead of being limited to freezing oneself in the hope that medical advances could effect reanimation at some moment down the line. By means of a whip-round, I'm sure we could soon raise the necessary funds to keep the Blair corporeal form on ice in some secret Alpine lab, to be awakened at whichever vantage point in the future even he would concede might be lofty enough to survey his works. And then … well, then he would be forced to survey his works.
Come my afterlife revolution, in fact, there would be a special circle of hell reserved for history-will-judge-me types, where they would be forced to absorb those very judgments before an audience. I rarely find myself searching for any kind of violent end to the personal journeys of the age's grotesque, great and small, though others will disagree. For instance, there are those who may wish for climate change deniers such as Jeremy Clarkson and James Delingpole to be swept away by a literal and metaphorical wave of poetic justice, in some disaster movie-style punchline to their heroic battle against science. But I must say it would be quite enough for me to imagine them being forced to read the history books they appear to think constitute their get-out-of-jail-free card, in which their flat-earthedess relegated them to mere comic footnotes.
Seated at another desk in this most chastening of eternal reading rooms would be Mr Tony Blair, perusing the history books of the future, with a live webcam trained on his face to transmit every individual moment of realisation of his own wrongness. It's only a hunch, of course, that Blair's fundamental wrongness will be the judgment of history. But it is the nagging suspicion engendered by each and every one of his interventions into early 21st century global affairs, with the latest one being a case in point.
To Egypt, then, and Mr Blair's declaration that the military removal of a country's first democratically elected head of state represents exciting progress for the Middle East, along with the violent crackdowns and human rights abuses that have followed. There is no point wondering if this announcement came shortly after he followed a white rabbit down a hole; he has lived so long in his moral Bizarro World now that to apply even his own logic to his utterances is as pointful as reasoning with a fart... read more:

Judith Butler - Hannah Arendt's challenge to Adolf Eichmann

In her treatise on the banality of evil, Arendt demanded a rethink of established ideas about moral responsibility

Fifty years ago the writer and philosopher Hannah Arendt witnessed the end of the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the major figures in the organisation of the Holocaust. Covering the trial Arendt coined the phrase "the banality of evil", a phrase that has since become something of an intellectual cliche. But what did she really mean?
One thing Arendt certainly did not mean was that evil had become ordinary, or that Eichmann and his Nazi cohorts had committed an unexceptional crime. Indeed, she thought the crime was exceptional, if not unprecedented, and that as a result it demanded a new approach to legal judgment itself.
There were at least two challenges to legal judgment that she underscored, and then another to moral philosophy more generally. The first problem is that of legal intention. Did the courts have to prove that Eichmann intended to commit genocide in order to be convicted of the crime? Her argument was that Eichmann may well have lacked "intentions" insofar as he failed to think about the crime he was committing. She did not think he acted without conscious activity, but she insisted that the term "thinking" had to be reserved for a more reflective mode of rationality.
Arendt wondered whether a new kind of historical subject had become possible with national socialism, one in which humans implemented policy, but no longer had "intentions" in any usual sense. To have "intentions" in her view was to think reflectively about one's own action as a political being, whose own life and thinking is bound up with the life and thinking of others. So, in this first instance, she feared that what had become "banal" was non-thinking itself. This fact was not banal at all, but unprecedented, shocking, and wrong.
By writing about Eichmann, Arendt was trying to understand what was unprecedented in the Nazi genocide – not in order to establish the exceptional case for Israel, but in order to understand a crime against humanity, one that would acknowledge the destruction of Jews, Gypsies, gay people, communists, the disabled and the ill. Just as the failure to think was a failure to take into account the necessity and value that makes thinking possible, so the destruction and displacement of whole populations was an attack not only on those specific groups, but on humanity itself. As a result, Arendt objected to a specific nation-state conducting a trial of Eichmann exclusively in the name of its own population.
At this historical juncture, for Arendt, it became necessary to conceptualise and prepare for crimes against humanity, and this implied an obligation to devise new structures of international law. So if a crime against humanity had become in some sense "banal" it was precisely because it was committed in a daily way, systematically, without being adequately named and opposed. In a sense, by calling a crime against humanity "banal", she was trying to point to the way in which the crime had become for the criminals accepted, routinised, and implemented without moral revulsion and political indignation and resistance.
If Arendt thought existing notions of legal intention and national criminal courts were inadequate to the task of grasping and adjudicating Nazi crimes, it was also because she thought that nazism performed an assault against thinking. Her view at once aggrandised the place and role of philosophy in the adjudication of genocide and called for a new mode of political and legal reflection that she believed would safeguard both thinking and the rights of an open-ended plural global population to protection against destruction.
What had become banal – and astonishingly so – was the failure to think. Indeed, at one point the failure to think is precisely the name of the crime that Eichmann commits. We might think at first that this is a scandalous way to describe his horrendous crime, but for Arendt the consequence of non-thinking is genocidal, or certainly can be.
Of course, the first reaction to such an apparently naive claim may be that Arendt overestimated the power of thinking or that she held on to a highly normative account of thinking that does not correspond to the various modes of reflection, self-muttering, and silent chatter that goes by that name.
Indeed, her indictment of Eichmann reached beyond the man to the historical world in which true thinking was vanishing and, as a result, crimes against humanity became increasingly "thinkable". The degradation of thinking worked hand in hand with the systematic destruction of populations.
Although Arendt focuses on Eichmann's failure to think as one way of naming his ultimate crime, it is clear that she thinks the Israeli courts did not think well enough, and sought to offer a set of corrections to their way of proceeding. Although Arendt agreed with the final verdict of the trial, namely, that Eichmann should be condemned to death, she quarreled with the reasoning put forward at the trial and with the spectacle of the trial itself. She thought the trial needed to focus on the acts that he committed, acts which included the making of a genocidal policy.
Like the legal philosopher Yosal Rogat before her, Arendt did not think that the history of anti-semitism or even the specificity of anti-semitism in Germany could be tried. She objected to Eichmann's treatment as a scapegoat; she criticised some of the ways that Israel used the trial to establish and legitimate its own legal authority and national aspirations. She thought the trials failed to understand the man and his deeds. The man was either made to stand for all of nazism and for every Nazi, or he was considered the ultimately pathological individual. It seemed not to matter to the prosecutors that these two interpretations were basically in conflict. She thought that the trial necessitated a critique of the idea of collective guilt, but also a broader reflection on the historically specific challenges of moral responsibility under dictatorship. Indeed, that for which she faulted Eichmann was his failure to be critical of positive law, that is, a failure to take distance from the requirements that law and policy imposed upon him; in other words, she faults him for his obedience, his lack of critical distance, or his failure to think.
But more than this, she faults him as well for failing to realise that thinking implicates the subject in a sociality or plurality that cannot be divided or destroyed through genocidal aims. In her view, no thinking being can plot or commit genocide. Of course, they can have such thoughts, formulate and implement genocidal policy, as Eichmann clearly did, but such calculations cannot be called thinking, in her view. How, we might ask, does thinking implicates each thinking "I" as part of a "we" such that to destroy some part of the plurality of human life is to destroy not only one's self, understood as linked essentially to that plurality, but to destroy the very conditions of thinking itself.
Many questions abound: is thinking to be understood as a psychological process or, indeed, something that can be properly described, or is thinking in Arendt's sense always an exercise of judgment of some kind, and so implicated in a normative practice. If the "I" who thinks is part of a "we" and if the "I" who thinks is committed to sustaining that "we", how do we understand the relation between "I" and "we" and what specific implications does thinking imply for the norms that govern politics and, especially, the critical relation to positive law?
Arendt's book on Eichmann is highly quarrelsome. But it is probably worth remarking that she is not only taking issue with the Israeli courts and with the way in which they arrived at the decision to punish Eichmann to death. She is also critical of Eichmann himself for formulating and obeying a noxious set of laws.
One rhetorical feature of her book on Eichmann is that she is, time and again, breaking out into a quarrel with the man himself. For the most part, she reports on the trial and the man in the third person, but there are moments in which she addresses him directly, not on the trial, but in her text. One such moment occurred when Eichmann claimed that in implementing the final solution, he was acting from obedience, and that he had derived this particular moral precept from his reading of Kant.
We can imagine how doubly scandalous such a moment was for Arendt. It was surely bad enough that he formulated and executed orders for the final solution, but to say, as he did, that his whole life was lived according to Kantian precepts, including his obedience to Nazi authority, was too much. He invoked "duty" in an effort to explain his own version of Kantianism. Arendt writes: "This was outrageous, on the face of it, and also incomprehensible, since Kant's moral philosophy is so closely bound up with man's faculty of judgment, which rules out blind obedience."
Eichmann contradicts himself as he explains his Kantian commitments. On the one hand, he clarifies: "I meant by my remark about Kant that the principle of my will must always be such that it can become the principle of general laws." And yet, he also acknowledges that once he was charged with the task of carrying out the final solution, he ceased to live by Kantian principles. Arendt relays his self-description: "he no longer 'was master of his own deeds,' and … he 'was unable to change anything'."
When in the midst of his muddled explanation, Eichmann reformulates the categorical imperative such that one ought to act in such a way that the Führer would approve, or would himself so act, Arendt offers a swift rejoinder, as if she were delivering a direct vocal challenge to him: "Kant, to be sure, had never intended to say anything of the sort; on the contrary, to him every man was a legislator the moment he started to act; by using his 'practical reason' man found the principles that could and should be the principles of law."
Arendt makes this distinction between practical reason and obedience in Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1963 and seven years later she began her influential set of lectures on Kant's political philosophy at the New School for Social Research in New York City. In a way, we can understand much of Arendt's later work, including her work on willing, judgment and responsibility, as an extended debate with Eichmann on the proper reading of Kant, an avid effort to reclaim Kant from its Nazi interpretation and to mobilise the resources of his text precisely against the conceptions of obedience that uncritically supported a criminal legal code and fascist regime.
In many ways, Arendt's approach is itself quite astonishing, since she is, among other things, trying to defend the relation between Jews and German philosophy against those who would find in German culture and thought the seeds of national socialism. In this way, her view recalls that of Hermann Cohen, who argued tragically in the early part of the 20th century that Jews would find greater protections and cultural belonging in Germany than in any Zionist project that would take them to Palestine.
Cohen thought universality belonged to German philosophy, rather than considering internationalist or global models that might provide an alternative to both nation-states. Arendt lacks Cohen's naivete, and sustained an important critique of the nation-state. She reformulates Cohen's project in a new social and political philosophy: truly staying with Kant or, rather, reformulating him for a contemporary social and political philosophy in a true sense would have stopped Eichmann and his cohorts, would have produced another kind of trial than the one she saw in Jerusalem, and would have redeemed the German-Jewish philosophical vocation – one that she tried to bring with her to New York. What had become banal was the attack on thinking, and this itself, for her, was devastating and consequential. Remarkable for us, no doubt, is Arendt's conviction that only philosophy could have saved those millions of lives.
Also see:

Dan Falk - William Shakespeare, the 'king of infinite space’

Shakespeare spoke of “the inaudible and noiseless foot of time” – but the revelry will likely be quite audible indeed when the playwright’s 450th birthday arrives in April. A major anniversary is a good excuse (as if we needed one) to celebrate his life and legacy. But we may also wonder: after four and a half centuries, can there possibly be anything left to say about Shakespeare that hasn’t already been said?
The genius from Stratford-upon-Avon has worn many hats over the years, with imaginative scholars casting him as a closet Catholic, a mainstream Protestant, an ardent capitalist, a Marxist, a misogynist, a feminist, a homosexual, a legal clerk and a cannabis dealer – yet the words “Shakespeare” and “science” are rarely uttered in the same breath. A surprise, perhaps, given that he was producing his greatest work just as new ideas about the human body, the Earth and the universe were transforming Western thought. But a re-evaluation is on the horizon. Scholars are examining Shakespeare’s interest in the scientific discoveries of his time – what he knew, when he knew it, and how that knowledge might be reflected in his work.
Take astronomy. The plays are full of references to the Sun, Moon, stars, comets, eclipses and heavenly spheres – but these are usually dismissed as strictly old-school, reflecting the (largely incorrect) ideas of ancient Greek thinkers such as Aristotle and Ptolemy. Although Copernicus had lifted the Earth into the heavens with his revolutionary book in 1543 – 21 years before Shakespeare’s birth – it supposedly took decades for the new cosmology to reach England; and anyway, the idea of a sun-centred universe only became intellectually respectable with the news of Galileo’s telescopic discoveries in 1610. By then, Shakespeare was ready for retirement in Warwickshire.
But we shouldn’t be so hasty. The Copernican theory attracted early adherents in Britain, beginning with a favourable mention in Robert Recorde’s The Castle of Knowledge in 1556. The first detailed account of the theory by an Englishman came from Thomas Digges, whose book included a diagram of the solar system in which the stars extend outward without limit – a vision of a possibly infinite cosmos. Shakespeare had multiple connections to the Digges family. For a time they lived a few hundred yards apart in London, and Digges’s son, Leonard, was a fan of the playwright and contributed an introductory verse to the First Folio.
Other science-minded Englishmen were flourishing in Shakespeare’s time. There was Thomas Harriot, for example, who aimed a telescope at the night sky several months before Galileo. And John Dee, who was something like a science adviser to Queen Elizabeth (and who has been suggested as the model for Prospero in The Tempest).
The Italian philosopher and mystic Giordano Bruno travelled to England in the 1580s lecturing on Copernicanism. The curriculum at London’s Gresham College, founded in 1597, included astronomy, geometry and medicine. Francis Bacon’s The Advancement of Learning, championing observation and empirical knowledge, was published in 1605, around the time Shakespeare was working on King Lear. Michel de Montaigne’s sceptical essays had appeared in English two years earlier.
Shakespeare could have seen evidence of the “new astronomy” with his own eyes. In November of 1572, a bright new star appeared in the constellation of Cassiopeia. (We now know it was a supernova, the explosive death of a massive star.) Shakespeare was only eight at the time – but we know Digges made observations of it, as did astronomer Tycho Brahe in Denmark. Today we call it “Tycho’s star”.
Donald Olson of Texas State University has argued that the star observed by Prince Hamlet shining “westward from the pole” was inspired by Shakespeare’s boyhood memory of Tycho’s star – reinforced, perhaps, by a reference to it in Holinshed’s Chronicles 15 years later. (At the very least, Shakespeare would have seen the next supernova, “Kepler’s star”, in 1604.) One might note that Brahe observed the stars from the Danish island of Hven, a stone’s throw from the castle of Elsinore, Shakespeare’s setting for Hamlet.
Astronomer Peter Usher, recently retired from Penn State University, takes the story further, arguing that Hamlet can be read as an allegory of competing cosmological world views... read more:

Arunachal student dies allegedly after being beaten in south Delhi market // Friends have alleged it was a racist attack.

The family of an 18-year-old college student from Arunachal Pradesh alleges that he died after being beaten by a group of men in the crowded commercial locality of Lajpat Nagar in south Delhi. Nido Taniam, a first-year student, had reportedly gone to Lajpat Nagar with three friends on Wednesday evening and was looking for an address, when someone at a sweet shop allegedly began mocking him. According to a member of the Arunachal Pradesh Students' Union, Nido was teased about his hair.
Police sources say a fight erupted, in which Taniam broke a glass at the shop. A group of seven or eight local men then allegedly beat him with sticks and iron rods. The police was called in and they took the four students away, but inexplicably dropped them back at the same place after a while. There they were allegedly caught by the men and beaten again, say sources.
Nido Taniam's family says he was found dead the next morning in his room in Green Park Extension. They allege that he died of his injuries from the brutal beating. The police have detained a person from the shop where Nido was allegedly beaten. He has denied that anyone made fun of him. The police say they will wait for a report of the post-mortem conducted today at the AIIMS hospital before filing an FIR, or a police complaint.

Nido's friends have alleged that it was a racist attack. "After the Khirki incident, people from North-East have been feeling scared. He broke a window... that does not mean six people thrash him. Why did the police drop him back to that place and not where he lives?" questioned activist Bina Lakshmi.

The incident has triggered outrage on social media. Angry tweets were directed at Delhi's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, which has been criticised for its policy of encouraging people to catch corrupt officers and for standing by a minister, Somnath Bharti, who had conducted a vigilante-style "raid" in Khirki Extension in his constituency, targeting African nationals on the suspicion that they were involved in a drugs and sex racket.

Kashmir - 16 yrs on, Wandhama victims await justice // Text of Sanjay Tickoo's press statement on Chief Ministers 'tweets'

The Wandhama massacre happened on the eve of Republic Day 1998 and two years after the return of elected government in J&K. It was the third major massacre of Hindus in the state since the election of Farooq Abdullah's party into power. The separatists blamed Indian soldiers since the culprits were disguised in Indian combat uniforms.

Omar Abdullah has recently tweeted that justice has had its way in the Wandhama massacre since all those involved in planning and executing it were eliminated by the security forces. Mr Sanjay Tickoo's press-release of January 27, 2014, states otherwise. There is no credible information on who these terrorists were and who their local guide was. Vinod Dhar's testimony establishes that residents of the village knew what was going to happen. Omar Abdullah cannot escape his responsibility. The man known as Bitta Karate is free today - he who confessed to the killing of at least 20 people, most of them Pandits. When the judge released him on bail six years ago he clearly stated that the state seemed disinterested in the prosecution.

The RTI information obtained by Mr Sanjay Tickoo of the KPSS is important because the state has failed to arrest anyone even though there were several clues and leads to follow on. There is a suspicion that the massacre was committed by Kashmiri terrorists. An interview (the text of which shall be posted soon) with the lone survivor of the massacre is available in Rahul Pandita’s book, Our Moon has blood clots. His name is Vinod (not Manoj as in news-reports) Dhar and he was 14 years old when his family was wiped out

Text of Sanjay Tickoo's Press Statement

Before reacting on "Twitter" Hon'ble Chief Minister should have gone through the records.

Some Vital facts about Wandhama Massacre wherein 23 Kashmiri Pandits were killed.

23 Kashmiri Pandits Killed at Wandhama, Ganderbal

26.01.1998  - FIR lodged at Police Station Ganderbal under no. 22/1998 under section 30, 436, 295 RPC read with 7/27 Arms Act.

25.01.2008 - As per news reported in Daily Kashmir Times dated 25.01.2008
a) Police closed the case related to massacre of Pandits at Wandhama with the conclusion that the gun men behind the massacre are untraced.
b) Police claimed that day to had recovered a letter in which an unknown militant organization, Intikaam-ul-Muslimoon, had claimed responsibility for killing of Pandits The letter that was tagged to one of the bullet-ridden bodies disclosed that this was the beginning of a series of such attacks aimed at taking revenge for the killings in Handwara.

c) Sub Divisional Police Officer, Ganderbal Shri. Showkat Ahmad, who was then Station House Officer for the area told Kashmir Times that “The case has been closed, as no one was identified as the killer of these Pandits.”

 27.01.2012 Communication from Inspector General of Police, CID, J&K, Jammu to Director General of Police, J&K, Jammu vide no. CID/HR/SHRC-250/2008 reveals that
a) During the cause of investigation it was deposed by the locals that Harkat-ul-Ansar outfit was active in the area and the militants of the said outfit visited the area off an on, who also used to enter village Wandhama which coming down from Manasbal Hills. They pointed a finger of suspicion towards Harkat-ul-Ansar militants for this inhuman act.

b) On 17.02.1998, in an encounter at Safapora, Bandipora 06 militants got killed on spot, while as one militant who was seriously injured was laying on the hill. Security Forces started search and apprehended the said injured militant. On questioning he deposed that he alongwith other 06 killed militants were affiliated with Harkat-ul-Ansar militant outfit. He also deposed that the said 23 Kashmiri Pandits of Wandhama Village were killed by 21 militants of the said outfit under the orders of their commander namely Captain Shair Khan. Later on the said injured militant succumbed to his injuries on 24.02.1998

c) Later on 13 other militants all foreigners involved in Wandhama killings got killed in different encounters. Finally the investigation of the case was closed as un-traced on 15.06.1998.

1. At what input it was made out that the gunmen were foreigners

2. Within a period of 140 days (less than 6 months the case related to Massacre of 23 Kashmiri Pandits was closed as un-traced (25.01.1998 to 15.06.1998)

3. As per previous police version, the killing was claimed by unknown militant organization, Intikaam-ul-Muslimoon, according to an alleged letter tagged to one of the bullet ridden bodies of Kashmiri Pandits.

4. As per next version of police that on suspicion the inhuman act was done by militant outfit namely Harkat-ul-Ansar.

5. As per police statement that the injured militant encountered on 17.02.1998, wherein 6 other militants were allegedly killed in Safapora area, deposed that 21 militants from Harkat-ul-Ansar alongwith him killed 23 Kashmiri Pandits in Wandhama.

6. As per police statement out of 21 militants in all 6 + 1 + 13 = 20 militants stand killed who were responsible for killing Kashmiri Pandits as per the statement deposed by the injured militant. As such one militant is still at large.

7. But, as per RTI information provided by Police Department, filed by KPSS, there is “NO” report of any type of killing/ encounter/ cordon in District Bandipora in general and Safapora in particular on the said alleged date i.e. 17.02.1998, as has been claimed by police and now acknowledged by Hon’ble Chief Minister.
In addition to the controversial facts, the role of locals has never been addressed in this tragic incident. If the militants were foreigners, who informed them about the presence of Kashmiri Pandits in the area?

Despite the controversial facts KPSS thank Hon’ble Chief Minister Shri. Omer Abdullah for at least acknowledging what happened in the past with regard to the tragic incident of Wandhama Massacre rather than ignoring the KPSS statement as Separatists and Kashmiri Civil Society do. It exposes the real faces of Kashmiri Civil Societies and Separatist Camps in Kashmir and their hollow claims of facilitating re-settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir.

KPSS is always ready to provide all sorts of help to the State Government to address all aspects regarding re-settlement of Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir including the case so that Wandhama, Nadimarg, Sangrampora, Gool etc. are never repeated.
Sanjay K. Tickoo
President (KPSS)

Sixteen years on, the wandhama victims are still waiting for justice 
Srinagar, Jan 24, 2014 - With the police having failed to trace out the killers, the Wandhama massacre has been consigned to records. Yet another mysterious page has been added to Jammu Kashmir's beleaguered history. Justice remains a casualty…. Sixteen years have passed but nobody has been brought to justice. The police have failed to identify the killers. 

Wandhama massacre - In police files, it's a closed chapter: Shabir Ibn Yusuf
SRINAGAR, Jan 24: *Police has closed the case related to massacre of Pandits at Wandhama with the conclusion that the gun men behind the massacre are untraced.*  During the intervening night of January 25 and 26, 1998, twenty three Kashmiri Pandits were killed by unidentified gunmen in Wandhama village of Ganderbal. "The case has been closed as no one involved in the massacre was identified," says police. The gruesome killing of 23 Kashmiri Pandits on that day triggered off fresh migration of Pandit families. Several of the few Kashmiri Pandit families who had endured the turmoil and were against the migration, migrated after the massacre. The massacre of Pandits at Wandhama went uninvestigated despite repeated demands by the Kashmiris.

Hurriyat Conference observed a protest strike demanding an inquiry. Amnesty International's request to investigate Wandhama carnage was refused. After the incident a fear psychosis gripped the minority community in the valley. The indiscriminate firing on the Pandits spared 16 year-old Manoj Kumar Dhar, and, he was the lone eyewitness to the massacre. In a statement to police on that night, Kumar said a group of masked gunmen came to his house at about 11:30 pm and forced all those insid to come out. "I jumped out of the wall of my house. As soon as my father, brothers and sisters came out, I saw the gunmen shooting them. They were crying and begging for life,'' he had told the police. Kumar had further told police in his statement, "One of the  gunman spotted me and asked me to come out as well but I hid myself beneath a heap of saw dust stored in the house. They then opened fire from all sides of the house and probably believed that I too was killed in the firing. I can not identify them but they were not speaking Kashmiri." Almost all the people of the area were in the mosque as it was the holy night of Shab-e-Qader. Police recorded further statements from the locals. "We came to know about the killings only when a group of our women came wailing," Abdul Ahad, a villager told the police... Meanwhile, the police that day claimed to had recovered a letter in which an unknown militant organisation, Intikaam-ul-Muslimoon, had claimed responsibility for killing of Pandits. The letter that was tagged to one of the bullet-ridden bodies disclosed that this was the beginning of a series of such attacks aimed at taking revenge for the killings in Handwara.  Police said that the villagers from both communities blamed the "unwise" shift of an army camp from the area seven months before the incident. Militant groups at that time had blamed security agencies for the massacre and denied their involvement. The then minister of state for home Ali Mohammad Sagar had also criticised the role of army saying the army camp located only some kms from Wandhama did not react in time and reached the spot very late. This had trigerred off a major controversy between Sagar and army. Sub Divisional police officer Ganderbal Showkat Ahmad, who was then Station House Officer for the area told Kashmir Times, "The case has been closed, as no one was identified as the killer of these Pandits."

See also:

The Army’s clean chit to the accused in the Pathribal fake encounter case is an insult to the sacrifices made by its men in Kashmir..  “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” Two articles on the Pathribal fake encounter case 

Christophe Jaffrelot - The sultans of Pakistan

How a few wealthy dynasties dominate the nation’s politics, and get even richer.
Last month, the Election Commission of Pakistan, manifesting its independence, declared  Nawaz Sharif one of the country’s richest parliamentarians and revealed his assets: six agricultural properties, a house in Upper Mall, Lahore, Rs 126 million in seven bank accounts, and other properties under the name of his wife, making him a billionaire. This may be explained by the fact that he belongs to an affluent family of businessmen. His father, Muhammad Sharif, a Kashmiri from Amritsar who moved to Lahore in 1947, had slowly built up a smelting works. He was stripped of his property in 1972 by the wave of nationalisation ordered by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, but the privatisation decided by Zia-ul-Haq (who blessed the elevation of Nawaz to the post of Punjab chief minister in 1985) helped the family recover its assets. The Sharifs also benefited from the investments they made abroad, including in Saudi Arabia, where they returned (the family was already a regular visitor before) after Pervez Musharraf seized power in 1999. But when the Sharif family returned from exile, it wasn’t this rich. At that time, Asif Ali Zardari was estimated to be the richest politician and second-richest man in Pakistan. The Sharif brothers came fourth, according to one ranking.
Such personal enrichment of politicians is related to the scale of corruption that affects Pakistan. Zardari, who in 2008 reportedly owned several estates in the UK and the US can, in this regard, be held up as a symbol. In an investigative report for The New York Times, John Burns showed that Zardari had not only spent $4 million to purchase Surrey Palace and spent $660,000 in barely a month, but also that this money indeed came from ill-gotten gains. In 2003, the Swiss judiciary determined that Benazir Bhutto and Zardari were guilty of money laundering and had to return $11.5 million to the Pakistani state. A gold bullion dealer also reportedly paid $10 million into the Bhutto-Zardari account after the Benazir government had granted him a monopoly on gold imports in Pakistan. It is not for nothing that Zardari was known as “Mr 10 per cent” when he was minister. Whether Nawaz has also enlarged his fortune by resorting to dubious means has not been established, but the fact that the head of the executive has also become extremely rich is reminiscent of the kind of regime German sociologist Max Weber called “sultanism”, a blend of the personalisation of power and patrimonialism he first detected in the Ottoman Empire.
While top leaders amass fortunes through largescale corruption, there are other forms of corruption on a smaller scale involving National Assembly members. A report by Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency based on the declarations of assets by elected members of the assembly showed that, in 2010, the average value of an assembly member’s assets was three times higher than the average value of assets of members of the previous National Assembly, many being the same people.
The fact that politics pays explains, to a large extent, why it has become a family business: elected representatives not only try to transmit their ideological legacy to their scions, but also their political business. Most parties today are associated with a lineage. This is, of course, the case of the PPP, whose official head, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, was so designated (along with its “regent” Asif Ali Zardari) by his mother Benazir’s handwritten testament in a practice that harks back to that of material inheritances. The Bhutto-Zardari line (to which Zardari’s sister, Faryal Talpur, elected in Larkana in 2008, also belongs) is opposed by the one founded by Benazir’s brother, Murtaza Bhutto, whose widow Ghinwa established a separate PPP. The other major party, the PML-N, is only in its first generation but has managed to maintain phratry unity because although Nawaz is the party “Quaid”, his brother Shahbaz is the official chairman and has been chief minister of Punjab since 2008.
The Awami National Party (ANP) has in some regard entered its third generation, because even if Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan did not form a party, he started a movement — the red shirts — which spawned the NAP created by his son, Wali Khan, whose son, Asfandyar Wali Khan, leads the ANP today. The PML-Q also belongs to the club of the “three generation-plus” parties, since the son of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi (former chief minister of Punjab and son of Chaudhry Zahoor Elahi, a lieutenant of Ayub Khan after 1962), Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, was elected to the Punjab assembly in 2008.
These lineage practices are also becoming customary among the Islamic parties. Maulana Fazlur Rehman succeeded his father, Mufti Mahmud, as head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam — or at least the faction that bears his name, the JUI(F). Anas Noorani also replaced his father, Shah Ahmad Noorani, as head of Jamiat-e-Ulema Pakistan and the Jamaat-e-Islami, despite its being known for the key role played by ideology, is also affected, to a lesser extent, as the daughter of former leader Qazi Hussain Ahmad was elected to the parliament.
The percentage of members of the National Assembly and members of provincial assemblies who belong to a political family increased from 37 per cent in 1970 to 50 per cent in 1993, before falling to 44 per cent in 2008, according to The Herald. Since 1970, 597 families have controlled 3,300 seats out of the 7,600 across generations. The Legharis have had 14 elected representatives in the family since 1970.
During the last general election in May 2013, the popularity of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf partly reflected the rejection of this political class by the urban middle class. Like its Indian homologue, this social group was looking for new, clean politicians out of dynastic politics. But the PTI could only come second in terms of valid votes and third in terms of seats. Well-entrenched parties are not easy to dislodge from power, precisely because they have money and muscle. And the urban middle class is in a minority anyway.
Sultanism, therefore, may continue to prevail in Pakistan, all the more so as the army has also become a kind of commercial enterprise. This process, whose outcome Ayesha Siddiqa called “military inc” or “milbus” (for military business), uses foundations, the oldest and largest of which is the Fauji Foundation (FF). The FF has developed its own business enterprises, from sugar mills to cement factories. The air force followed its example and established the Shaheen Foundation (which manufactures a wide variety of products, from pharmaceuticals to shoes), and the navy has the Bahria Foundation (which, aside from manufacturing paint, is also involved in industrial bread-making). If armymen become businessmen, they may also indulge in corruption and create dynasties.

Delhi University professor denies link with Chhattisgarh Maoists // Nandini Sundar - Everywhere, a Maoist plot

 Delhi University professor Nandini Sundar on Thursday denied Chhattisgarh Police's claim that she is associated with a Maoist body in the state. "Meeting Maoists is no crime. Whatever meeting I had was for my research work on the Bastar region," said the award-winning sociologist.  

Sundar, who is not the first Delhi-based teacher to be accused of Maoist links, was caught in the controversy after Congress member Badri Gawde, whom Chhattisgarh Police paraded before the media, claimed he arranged meetings between Sundar and the Maoists, and that she had formed a committee at their behest to oppose all rail and mining projects in Kanker.  Sundar said, "I did meet Gawde, but once, and that for an interview. My opinions on Maoists, the Constitution and democracy are pretty clear. So what crime have I committed?"  She said she supports the cause of the Rowghat Sangharsh Committee but is not connected with it. "The claim that I have been spearheading (the movement) is completely false... Police are claiming I am spearheading the movement in Rowghat. I am either teaching in DU or working there. It can't be both." 

Sundar completed her PhD from Columbia University, New York in 1990 and is the author of Subalterns and Sovereigns: An Anthropological History of Bastar. She has been researching on the Bastar region for 24 years and is a vocal critic of Salwa Judum. She says police have been targeting her for a long time without verifying their claims. "In 2010, I was named along with Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy for attacking a local Congress leader, Avdesh Gautam, in Dantewada, whereas I was in Paris that time. I didn't even know the name of Gautam then."  Sundar said, "As researchers, we need liberty to visit difficult areas and we should have freedom from police and the underground. What is wrong if we meet Maoists to interview?" Earlier, Maharashtra Police had raided professor G N Saibaba's house in North Campus for his alleged Maoist links.

Nandini Sundar - Everywhere, a Maoist plot  
By going to town as the Chhattisgarh police and media have recently done on my alleged Maoist links, the real questions have been sidelined. As citizens of this country do we have the right to protest democratically and constitutionally, and as journalists, researchers or human rights activists, are we free to pursue our vocation?. 

The police arrested one Badri Gawde on the 23rd, and paraded him before the media four days later, after his family had filed a missing report. Puffy faced, and barely able to keep his eyes open, Gawde ‘revealed’ to the media that I was working on behalf of the Maoists to oppose the mines and rail line that are to come up in this area. The activities that my doppelganger is up to such as leading the Raoghat Rail Sangharsh Samiti in far away Chhattisgarh, even as my mundane self takes classes in Delhi, amazes me. If only I had that much energy and time. 

Like many young men in conflict areas, Gawde is a man of many parts. Stylishly dressed, and with political ambition, Gawde is active both with the Congress and in local Gond community politics, which involved supporting Vikram Usendi, the Gond BJP candidate in the assembly elections against the Halba Congress candidate. But being political in these parts also means, perforce, keeping up with the Maoists. In November 2013, soon after the assembly elections, I visited Bastar, as part of my research on counterinsurgency and democracy. With me was a friend with ancestral roots in Narayanpur-Antagarh. Badri mentioned that he was going to meet a Maoist leader the next day, and asked if we would like to come. Since this was a rare opportunity for us, we went along. Unlike the embedded journalists and others that the Maoists have given access to, they have been deeply resentful of my criticism of them. If meeting a Maoist is a crime, then dozens of journalists should be instantly arrested. Can it be anyone’s case that there is a different law for journalists and a different one for researchers and human rights activists, each of whom contributes to information and knowledge dissemination, but in different ways? On that same visit incidentally, I also met a senior police officer. 

Our meeting with the young Maoist, who had a childlike face and giggled frequently, lasted an hour or so. We discussed the implications of the Raoghat mines of course, because it would be impossible not to, but also Godse versus Gandhi, local Gods and customs, and his own life history. I came away from that meeting with a sense of great sadness, after having travelled through some of the most spectacular scenery I have ever seen - mist covered mountains blue-green with trees, and clear pebbled streams. Badri pointed out a special tree from which alone the Anga Deo, or log God can be fashioned. 

This area deserves to be treated as a national biodiversity paradise rather than mined into a wasteland. It has a unique expression of Indic religion unavailable anywhere else in the world, described by Verrier Elwin as “a special and characteristic faith.” Each hilltop houses a clan God, and people come from far away places in Maharashtra and Andhra to their clan festivals, every few years. People are immensely proud of their culture. And yet the fake gram sabha certificates which the government has produced as evidence of popular consent, all state in identical language that there is nothing of cultural or religious value in the area. This is a 5th schedule area, yet none of the safeguards that the Constitution affords in the form of PESA or the Forest Rights Act, have been followed. 

Part of my sadness is that people think that Maoists are saving the land, but they are hardly the answer. The government, however, appears insistent on stopping all peaceful protest, and violating every law to ensure the mines come up. Ten years ago, when the mines were still incipient, the police made people deposit their bows and arrows in the thana, and entire villages now have no means to defend themselves against wild animals. There are ghost villages of women and children, because all the men have been arrested. 22 CRPF camps have come up in the area financed by the Bhilai Steel Plant. Ostensibly the mines will be used by the public sector but large private players are waiting in the wings. Those who have not been arrested are being silenced through civic action programs. 

Sadly for democratic politics, the post 1947 government has inherited, among other things, a colonial theory of incitement. Unable to accept that people have a legitimate right to safeguard their lives, they are always looking for conspirators to explain resistance. In this case, the aim is not simply to target me, but to preemptively act against all democratic, peaceful and lawful opposition to the Raoghat mines, by raising the Maoist bogey. It also helps the Chhattisgarh government to deflect attention from their deliberate refusal to act on the Supreme Court’s orders. Schools are still occupied by security forces putting girl students at risk, no-one has been compensated for their houses being burnt and of course no-one has been prosecuted for the killings and rapes the security forces and salwa judum carried out. 

The Chhattisgarh government has long tried to claim that our petition against Salwa Judum in the Supreme Court has been filed at the behest of the Maoists. They cannot accept that ordinary democratic minded citizens who have witnessed or experienced at first hand the devastation brought about by Salwa Judum might independently want justice. My co-petitioners, Ramachandra Guha and EAS Sarma, can hardly be accused of being Maoist dupes. The incitement and urban network theory can only go so far. Till the day that our Constitution says that the profits of mining companies outweigh the right to life, affected villagers will continue to fight, and democratic people will continue to support them.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The music of humanity

January 30, 2014 is the 66th anniversary of Gandhi's assassination
This article has appeared in the Asian Age this morning

The music of humanity
The force of love is the same as the force of the soul or truth. We have evidence of its working at every step - M.K. Gandhi

One of the most famous anti-fascist films was Charles Chaplin’s The Great Dictator, which subjected Hitler’s fantasies of global domination to withering satire. Less well-known was his first post-war movie, Monsieur Verdoux (1947), about a genial family man who makes a living by marrying and murdering wealthy widows. Upon being caught, this anti-hero says ‘Clausewitz said that war is the logical extension of diplomacy; Monsieur Verdoux feels that murder is the logical extension of business.’ 

All distinctions notwithstanding, this is where the common trajectories of modern history show themselves. A large segment of our official elites, businessmen, opinion-makers and middle classes are accustomed to the view that some amount of bloodletting is inevitable in politics, a few thousand corpses and sundry riots and ‘encounters’ are an acceptable cost in return for the fantasy of progress, prosperity and stability. Market fundamentalists decided long ago that untrammeled capitalism is good for humanity. That it is a fantasy does not matter – fantasies are meant to deflect our minds from intolerable reality. State power is now infused in criminality; with a brazenly partisan media playing drummer-boy, its fascination with petty crime in contrast to its silence on crime in high places. To cite Verdoux again, ‘It's all business. One murder makes a villain. Millions, a hero.  Numbers sanctify.’ Let’s wait and see where our demented arithmetical imagination takes us.
Many people believe that Gandhi needs a rest. He’s irrelevant, except as an icon. Is this true? I do not think so. Ahimsa remains crucial, especially when a growing sense of injustice calls for democratic agitation on a continental scale. It also relates to the ecological impact of militarism. His assassin’s accusation that Gandhi was emasculating Hinduism and rendering it impotent points us beyond stereotypes on gender and masculinity. As opposed to rampant consumerism, Gandhi’s frugal ideals remind us that fostering ceaseless growth with finite resources is like celebrating cancer. His condemnation of the atom bomb and of the urge to use science for destructive purposes resonates with contemporary concerns. His insistence on shramdaan and constructive work are a compass for activist energy. His talisman for public policy - the suggestion that we keep the humblest of individuals in mind - is both ethical and pragmatic. The warning delivered during his last months: that failure to resolve Hindu Muslim conflict would result in the sub-continent being doomed to condominium status under the great powers was prophetic. So was his critique of communally defined nationalism, implicit in his opposition to the transfer of population in 1947. His critical engagement with modernity was surely a necessary debate.

Gandhi's mind worked in tandem with his heart and instinct. He had warned that partitioning India would not solve communal problems and that it would lead to catastrophic violence. He also warned that if the decision was taken and the two parties did not act with goodwill and trust, it would lead to a state of permanent animosity and conflict. In the last months of his life he understood his isolation from the Congress as well as from a large part of public sentiment. He said he felt as if he had been thrown into a fire pit, that his heart burned. About those who combined communal hatred with slogans of Akhand Hindustan, he remarked: ‘There is nothing in common between me and those who want me to oppose Pakistan except that we are both opposed to the division of the country. There is a fundamental difference between their opposition and mine. How can love and enmity go together?’

Gandhi derived his lessons from unremarkable things. Rather, he could see extraordinary truths in small events. He was a philosopher of the quotidian. Asked by his imaginary interlocutor (in Hind Swaraj) for historical evidence on soul-force or truth-force, Gandhi replies that the continued existence of human life despite incessant wars was proof enough. It was war and violence that made news, not the everyday love and co-operation that characterised the lives of millions. History did not record everything that happened but rather, ‘every interruption of the even working of the force of love or of the soul… you cannot expect silver ore in a tin mine.’ But he found his silver where he expected it. In 1947, two refugee women came to see him in Delhi. The first, a Hindu, had lost her son and daughter in law and was left with her grandchildren. The second was a Muslim who had no family. They were devoted to each other and wanted Gandhi’s blessings for their plan to bring up the little ones as joint grandchildren. The Mahatma was deeply moved and saw them as an embodiment of his passion for Hindu Muslim unity. And he gave an orange to each of the children.

The one stable feature of communal ideology is pessimism. To insist that people of different faiths, despite being neighbours for centuries are incapable of co-existence, is surely the most pessimistic belief there is. A year ago, the Pakistani writer Mobarak Haider wrote of Pakistan’s polity: ‘War is a tragedy but a society at war with itself and everything around, with no objective and no remorse is more than a tragedy; it is a total disaster.’ He went on to characterize it as being ‘in a state of schizophrenia passing into paranoia.’ Whether this assessment fits all of us is a matter for self-reflection.

In October 1947, All-India Radio arranged a special broadcast on Gandhi’s birthday, and requested him to listen. He declined, saying he preferred rentio (the spinning wheel) to radio. The hum of the spinning-wheel was sweeter. He heard in it the “still sad music of humanity”. He refused to release his birthday messages from the world over – it felt futile, when the public seemed to have lost faith in non-violence and truth. As we live through January 30 once more, as we replay the mindless rituals, let us think why, far from becoming irrelevant, Gandhi remains so real. It is because he drew meaning from ordinary things, especially those that signified the persistence of friendship and love amidst hatred and violence. That is why his life and message are so much a part of the “still sad music of humanity”. Today we can only hope that the sadness disperses and the music remains. 

Goodbye once again Bapu. Let’s hope we learn to deserve you.

Dilip Simeon

10 Iconic Photos That Show Why Gandhi Was Called The Great Soul
प्राइम टाइम : गांधी का नाम बस दिखावे के लिए?

क्या हम या हमारे राजनीतिक दल ईमानदारी से यह बात स्वीकार कर सकते हैं कि गांधी को पूजा तो जा सकता है, मगर उनके आदर्शों पर नहीं चला जा सकता है। क्या कोई दल अपने अतीत के तमाम राखों को झाड़ कर अचानक नए सिरे से गांधी पर चलने के लिए प्रस्थान कर सकता है। एक चर्चा प्राइम टाइम में.

See also

Abha Gandhi talks about Mahatma Gandhi's assassination

Godse pushed Manu forcefully aside with his left hand, momentarily exposing the gun in his right. The items in her hands fell to the ground. For a few moments she continued arguing with the unknown assailant. But when the rosary dropped she bent down to pick it up. At this precise moment, a burst of deafening blasts ripped apart the peaceful atmosphere as Godse fired three bullets into Gandhi's abdomen and chest. As the third shot was fired Gandhi was still standing, his palms still joined. He was heard to gasp, "He Ram, He Ram". Then he slowly sank to the ground, palms joined still, possibly in a final ultimate act of ahimsa. Smoke filled the air. Confusion and panic reigned. The Mahatma was slumped on the ground, his head resting in the laps of both girls. His face turned pale, his white shawl of Australian wool was turning crimson with blood. Within seconds Mahatma Gandhi was dead. It was 5.17 pm: