Friday, 30 June 2017

Vietnamese blogger jailed for 10 years for 'defaming' regime

NB: As a staunch supporter of the Vietnamese struggle against US imperialism, this comes as a terrible disappointment to me. Why can't communists in power tolerate criticism? Socialism that is inimical to democracy will dig its own grave. Democratic socialism is the need of the age - DS

A prominent Vietnamese blogger has been sentenced to 10 years in prison after being found guilty of distorting government policies and defaming the communist regime in Facebook posts and in interviews with foreign media, her lawyer said. Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, also known as “Mother Mushroom”, was sentenced at the end of a one-day trial in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa, her lawyer, Vo An Don, said.\

The conviction related to the content of 18 articles on her Facebook page and interviews with foreign news outlets such as Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, Don said. Quynh, 37, co-founded a network of bloggers and is very popular in Vietnam. She has written about human rights, civilian deaths in police custody, and the release of toxic chemicals by a Taiwanese-owned factory that killed thousands of fish in one of Vietnam’s worst environmental disasters.

Quynh, the single mother of two young children, maintained her innocence throughout the trial, her lawyer said. “Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh did not admit that she committed any crime, saying she has a right to freedom of expression,” Don said. Don said the sentence was “too harsh and unjust” and that Quynh plans to appeal against the verdict. Quynh’s sentencing drew a stern rebuke from the United States, which said it was “deeply concerned” about her conviction and those of other peaceful protesters over the past year… read more:

Arwa Mahdawi - Trump is constantly attacking women’s looks and clearly has a bizarre obsession with bodily fluids

Trump loves attacking women's looks. And America rewards him for it

It’s official. America is stuck in an unrelentingly gruesome Groundhog Day. In the morning, Trump tweets something unhinged and/or misogynistic. Then a slew of commentators express their shock, even though Trump became president on a platform of unhinged misogyny. In the midst of all this, a member of the president’s band of female apologists (Melania, Ivanka, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and Kellyanne Conway) is summoned to jump to Trump’s defense. 

Then we spend the rest of the day enthralled in the reality-TV-style shenanigans while the Trump administration continues to dismantle democracy and hack away at healthcare. In case you somehow missed the latest drama, here’s a quick recap. On Thursday morning Trump, the man who is president of a supposedly civilized country, took to Twitter to attack the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe. He reserved most of his vitriol for anchor Mika Brzezinski who he described as “low IQ”, “Crazy”, and “bleeding badly from a facelift.” 

If all of this sounds horribly familiar it’s because it is. Trump is constantly attacking women’s looks and clearly has a bizarre obsession with bodily fluids. In 2015, for example, he accused then-Fox News Host Megyn Kelly of unfairly targeting him, saying “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.”

Despite the fact that Trump’s latest tweetstorm was entirely in character for the president, there were some in the media who still managed to express surprise at the outburst. Like Michael Grynbaum at the New York Times, for example, who wrote “President Trump assailed the television host Mika Brzezinski on Thursday in unusually personal and vulgar terms.” Sorry, did he say “unusually”? Exactly where has Grynbaum been for the last year? 

And, on CNN, Brian Stelter wrote: “Even by President Trump’s standards, these tweets were shocking.” Again, you’d have to have been hiding under a rock for the last year to think that these latest tweets (although obviously disgusting) were somehow more shocking than the gazillion other ghastly things the president has said and done. You want to know what’s truly shocking? The fact that, ultimately, Trump’s misogyny doesn’t hurt him at all; if anything it helps him… read more:

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Allies of slain Putin critic Nemtsov allege cover-up after guilty verdict. By Svetlana Reiter and Andrew Osborn

A court on Thursday convicted five men of murdering Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, but the late politician's allies said the investigation had been a cover-up and that the people who had ordered his killing remained at large. Nemtsov, one of President Vladimir Putin's most vocal critics, was murdered in 2015 as he walked across a bridge near the Kremlin after dining with his girlfriend. Aged 55, he had been working on a report examining Russia's role in Ukraine. His killing sent a chill through opposition circles.

After more than eight months of hearings, a jury trial convicted five ethnic Chechen men of his murder, including the man prosecutors said pulled the trigger, Zaur Dadayev, a former soldier in Chechnya. The four others had acted as his accomplices, it said, and the group had been promised a bounty of 15 million rubles ($253,889.59) for the high-profile assassination, tailing Nemtsov around Moscow before choosing their moment to strike.

Nemtsov's supporters welcomed the verdict, but said Dadayev and the others were low-level operatives. The case remained unsolved, they said, because those who had ordered, financed and organized the hit had not been caught. "It's the biggest crime of the century and yet they haven't identified the real organizers or those who ordered it," Vadim Prokhorov, a lawyer for the late politician's daughter, told reporters after the verdict.

"The Russian government was not prepared to look into the entourage of (Chechen leader Ramzan) Kadyrov," he said, despite his view that one of the masterminds was a close associate of the Chechen strongman. Zhanna Nemtsova, the slain politician's daughter, has repeatedly said she wanted Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya who calls himself "Putin's foot soldier", to be questioned about what he knew about the case. Kadyrov has praised the trigger man Dadayev as a "true patriot of Russia." But Kadyrov, who has denied allegations he was personally involved, never appeared before the court.


The Kremlin, just like it did when journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in 2006, has downplayed Nemtsov's significance, calling his killing a "provocation" designed to cause problems for the Russian authorities… read more:

see also

EVGENIA LEZINA - The revival of ideology in Russia

ISIS - Iraq declares end of caliphate after capture of historic Mosul mosque

After eight months of grinding urban warfare, Iraqi government troops on Thursday captured the ruined mosque in Mosul from where Islamic State proclaimed its self-styled caliphate three years ago, the Iraqi military said. Iraqi authorities expect the long battle for Mosul to end in the coming days as the remaining Islamic State fighters are now bottled up in just a handful of neighborhoods of the Old City. The seizure of the 850-year-old Grand al-Nuri Mosque is a huge symbolic victory for the Iraqi forces fighting to recapture Mosul, which had served as Islamic State's de facto capital in Iraq. "Their fictitious state has fallen," an Iraqi military spokesman, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool, told state TV.

The insurgents blew up the medieval mosque and its famed leaning minaret a week ago as U.S.-backed Iraqi forces started a push in its direction. Their black flag had been flying from al-Hadba (The Hunchback) minaret since June 2014. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi "issued instructions to bring the battle to its conclusion," his office said. The fall of Mosul would in effect mark the end of the Iraqi half of the IS caliphate even though the hardline group would still control territory west and south of the city. Its capital in Syria, Raqqa, is also besieged by a U.S.-backed Kurdish-led coalition. The cost of the battle has been enormous, however. In addition to military casualties, thousands of civilians are estimated to have been killed.

More posts on ISIS

About 900,000 people, nearly half the pre-war population of the northern city, have fled the battle, mostly taking refuge in camps or with relatives and friends, according to aid groups. Those trapped in the city suffered hunger and deprivation as well as death or injury, and many buildings have been ruined. Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) troops captured the al-Nuri Mosque's ground in a "lightning operation" on Thursday, a commander of the U.S.-trained elite units told state TV. Civilians living nearby were evacuated in the past days through corridors, he added.

He Told His Class He Would Marry Her In Preschool. 20 Years Later, He Did

The pair first met as kiddos at a preschool in Phoenix where they would chase each other around the playground and stay up together during nap time. In a post on the Instagram account The Way We Met, Matt said that one of his earliest childhood memories was standing up in front of his class and declaring his love for his best friend Laura, writing, “I was enamored with Laura as a child, and I still am to this day.”…

The two ended up going to different elementary schools and eventually lost touch. They reconnected years later during their freshman year of high school after Laura saw Matt’s name in a mutual friend’s phone. The friend wanted to set her up with Matt, but Laura was wary at first. “I was hesitant to go out with him,” she said. “But he texted me and we hit it off.” Within two weeks they were boyfriend and girlfriend. They attended different high schools and went to college in different states but they stayed together through it all….

In May 2015, Matt made good on his childhood promise when he popped the question to Laura at the preschool where they first met. She just thought they were there for a picnic date to celebrate the end of their junior year of college. “The whole car ride to the preschool she kept asking me why I seemed anxious. I kept checking my pocket when she wasn’t looking to make sure the ring was still there.. 
I dropped down on one knee while my brother came in with the phone, snapping photos. Laura was shocked. I gave her my pitch on why I wanted her to marry me and she said yes ― whew!”… 
see photos of this charming love story:

US quietly publishes once-expunged papers on 1953 Iran coup. By JON GAMBRELL

Once expunged from its official history, documents outlining the U.S.-backed 1953 coup in Iran have been quietly published by the State Department, offering a new glimpse at an operation that ultimately pushed the country toward its Islamic Revolution and hostility with the West. The CIA’s role in the coup, which toppled Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh and cemented the control of the shah, was already well-known by the time the State Department offered its first compendium on the era in 1989. But any trace of American involvement in the putsch had been wiped from the report, causing historians to call it a fraud.

The papers released this month show U.S. fears over the spread of communism, as well as the British desire to regain access to Iran’s oil industry, which had been nationalized by Mosaddegh. It also offers a cautionary tale about the limits of American power as a new U.S. president long suspicious of Iran weighs the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran reached under his predecessor. It exposes “more about what we know about this milestone event in Middle East history and especially U.S.-Iran history. This is still such an important, emotional benchmark for Iranians,” said Malcolm Byrne, who has studied Iran at the non-governmental National Security Archive at George Washington University. “Many people see it as the day that Iranian politics turned away from any hope of democracy.”

The 1,007-page report , comprised of letters and diplomatic cables, shows U.S. officials discussing a coup up to a year before it took place. While America worried about Soviet influence in Iran, the British remained focused on resolving a dispute over the nationalization of the country’s oil refinery at Abadan, at the time one of the world’s largest. Many also feared further instability following the 1951 assassination of Premier Ali Razmara. “Nationalization of the oil industry possibly combined with further assassinations of top Iran officials, including even the shah, could easily lead to a complete breakdown of the Iran government and social order, from which a pro-Soviet regime might well emerge leaving Iran as a satellite state,” one undated CIA analysis from the report warned.

Out of that fear grew TPAJAX, the CIA codename for the coup plot. Papers show the CIA at one point “stockpiled enough arms and demolition material to support a 10,000-man guerrilla organization for six months,” and paid out $5.3 million for bribes and other costs, which would be equivalent to $48 million today. One CIA document casually refers to the fact that “several leading members of these (Iranian) security services are paid agents of this organization.” The CIA also described hoping to use “powerfully influential clergy” within Shiite Iran to back the coup, something that would be anathema by the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It offers no definitive proof of that, though several documents show American officials in contact with Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani, an anti-British leader in the Iranian parliament who turned against Mosaddegh.

The agency faced problems, however, chief among them Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi himself. Diplomats and spies referred to him as a “weak reed” and “petulant.” “His inability to take decisions coupled with his tendency to interfere in political life has on occasions been (a) disruptive influence,” the U.S. Embassy in Tehran warned in February 1953. Ultimately, his twin sister Princess Ashraf and a U.S. general helped convince him. Mosaddegh was tipped off about the coup, and it appeared doomed as the shah fled to Baghdad and later Italy. But protests supporting the shah, fanned in part by the CIA, led to Mosaddegh’s fall and the monarch’s return.

The report fills in the large gaps of the initial 1989 historical document outlining the years surrounding the 1953 coup in Iran. The release of that report led to the resignation of the historian in charge of a State Department review board and to Congress passing a law requiring a more reliable historical account be made. Byrne and others have suggested the release of the latest documents may have been delayed by the nuclear negotiations, as the Obama administration sought to ease tensions with Tehran, and then accelerated under President Donald Trump, who has adopted a much more confrontational stance toward Iran. Byrne said the new administration needed just two months to agree to release the documents. “That kind of speed is unheard of in the government unless there is some sort of political foundation,” he said.

Die-hard opponents of Iran’s current government might look to 1953 as a source of inspiration. But the Americans involved in the coup acknowledged at the time they were playing with fire. Wide-spread Iranian anger over the heavy-handed Western intervention lingered for decades, and fed into the 1979 revolution, when Iranians seized control of the U.S. Embassy and held those inside captive for 444 days. To this day Iran’s clerical leaders portray the U.S. as a hostile foreign power bent on subverting and overthrowing its government. As President Dwight Eisenhower wrote in his diary in 1953, if knowledge of the coup became public, “We would not only be embarrassed in that region, but our chances to do anything of like nature in the future would almost totally disappear.”

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Jharkhand: 15 policemen stave off 1,000-strong mob to rescue dairy farmer whose cow died

NB: More of the same. The Sangh-instigated cow vigilantes now seem to be demanding that all cows owned by Muslim cattle-herders should be immortal. This is a plan to destroy livestock-farming by anyone other than RSS certified 'patriots'. DS

A police team of just 15 managed to hold off a mob of around 1,000 people for around two hours before reinforcements from a CRPF camp nearby arrived to rescue a 60-year-old dairy farmer, who was attacked after the carcass of a cow was found outside his house at Barwabad village in Jharkhand’s Giridih district. According to eyewitnesses and police, the mob also set fire to a portion of the house on Tuesday afternoon and wanted to throw the victim, Mohammad Usman, into the flames before police dragged him into their jeep and prevented attackers from pulling him out, twice.

“We were only 15 personnel. The crowd, which was there for the weekly bazaar, had swelled to a thousand. Our first aim was to take Usman in our custody. We managed that but were not able to take him out of the village. Then, we got information that his family members were holed up inside the house. We managed to enter the house through a staircase in the back and rescue them. By that time, Usman had been beaten up badly and was unconscious,” said Prabhat Ranjan Barwar, the sub-divisional police officer, who headed the team from Deori that reached the spot first.

Barwar’s version was corroborated by at least three eyewitnesses that The Indian Express spoke to at the village: Jawed Ansari, a watchman from Khasgodi village nearby; Nizamuddin, another watchman; and Manzoor Alam, pradhan of Barwabad village. On Wednesday, these three were among a handful of men present in the village, which wore a deserted look — by evening, only a few shops had opened. Usman and his family were in Dhanbad, where he is under treatment at the BCCL central hospital… read more:

see also

Dongria Kondh Tribal leader dies in police custody – as tribe denounce harassment campaign

A leader of a tribe in India, which made headlines around the world when it won a David and Goliath battle against a British mining corporation, has died in police custody – following a violent police campaign of harassment and intimidation against activists. Bari Pidikaka of the Dongria Kondh tribe was arrested and detained on his way back from a protest in October 2015, and died this week.

The Dongria from central India report systematic “intimidation, abduction and wrongful incarceration” of their leaders by state police, who they claim are acting to “further the interests” of Vedanta Resources, a British-based mining company. Local police also arrested Kuni Sikaka, a 20-year-old Dongria activist and relative of the two most prominent Dongria leaders. She was dragged out of her house at midnight, despite the fact that police had no warrant.

She was then paraded in front of officials and local media as a “surrendered Maoist [member of an armed resistance group]” despite there being no evidence to support this. Other members of the tribe have also faced brutal harassment. Activist Dasuru Kadraka has been detained without trial for over 12 months. Dongria have been beaten, and tortured with electric wires to force them to stop campaigning for their rights. With the support of local officials, Vedanta has previously attempted to pressure the tribe into allowing bauxite mining on their ancestral land in the Niyamgiri Hills. In a historic referendum in 2013, the tribe unanimously rejected the proposal

But the Dongria fear that, as long as Vedanta operates its refinery at the foot of the hills, the threat of mining remains. Those detained claim that police demanded that they stop protesting against the mine. In an open letter to the President of India, over 100 independent Indian organizations said: “In the last 2-3 years, several Dongria Kondh youth and elders have been arrested, harassed, and killed, and one has committed suicide after repeated harassment and alleged torture by security forces. In none of these cases have [officials] been able to produce evidence linking them to so-called Maoists.”

Dasuru Kadraka said: “I was arrested and taken to the superintendent of police’s office. There I was tortured with my hands tied and electric wires attached to my ears and electric shock given to me, to force me to surrender… and to make me leave the Save Niyamgiri movement. But I refused… The movement is my life, I will never stop protecting the Niyamgiri hills and forests.”

The Dongria Kondh’s right to their ancestral land has been recognized in Indian and international law. Survival International led the global campaign to protect their land, and will continue to fight for the Dongria to be allowed to determine their own futures without harassment. Survival’s Director Stephen Corry said: “It’s now clear that there’s a brutal campaign to harass, intimidate and even murder the Dongria Kondh, to weaken their resistance to the exploitation of their land. But the Dongria are absolutely determined to protect the Hills, which not only provide them with food, housing and clothing, but are also the foundation of their identity and sense of belonging.”

For more information and images, contact:

A million bottles a minute: world's plastic binge 'as dangerous as climate change' - Sandra Laville and Matthew Taylor

Annual consumption of plastic bottles is set to top half a trillion by 2021, far outstripping recycling efforts and jeopardising oceans, coastlines and other environments

Humans produce almost 20,000 plastic bottles every second

More than 480bn plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300bn a decade ago. If placed end to end, they would extend more than halfway to the sun.

A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and the number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change. New figures obtained by the Guardian reveal the surge in usage of plastic bottles, more than half a trillion of which will be sold annually by the end of the decade.  The demand, equivalent to about 20,000 bottles being bought every second, is driven by an apparently insatiable desire for bottled water and the spread of a western, urbanised “on the go” culture to China and the Asia Pacific region. More than 480bn plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 across the world, up from about 300bn a decade ago. If placed end to end, they would extend more than halfway to the sun. By 2021 this will increase to 583.3bn, according to the most up-to-date estimates from Euromonitor International’s global packaging trends report.
Most plastic bottles used for soft drinks and water are made from polyethylene terephthalate (Pet), which is highly recyclable. But as their use soars across the globe, efforts to collect and recycle the bottles to keep them from polluting the oceans, are failing to keep up.  Fewer than half of the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling and just 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead most plastic bottles produced end up in landfill or in the ocean.

Between 5m and 13m tonnes of plastic leaks into the world’s oceans each year to be ingested by sea birds, fish and other organisms, and by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic by weight than fish, according to research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Experts warn that some of it is already finding its way into the human food chain. Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently calculated people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year.  Last August, the results of a study by Plymouth University reported plastic was found in a third of UK-caught fish, including cod, haddock, mackerel and shellfish. Last year, the European Food Safety Authority called for urgent research, citing increasing concern for human health and food safety “given the potential for microplastic pollution in edible tissues of commercial fish”.

Dame Ellen MacArthur, the round the world yachtswoman, now campaigns to promote a circular economy in which plastic bottles are reused, refilled and recycled rather than used once and thrown away. “Shifting to a real circular economy for plastics is a massive opportunity to close the loop, save billions of dollars, and decouple plastics production from fossil fuel consumption,” she said.
Hugo Tagholm, of the marine conservation and campaigning group Surfers Against Sewage, said the figures were devastating. “The plastic pollution crisis rivals the threat of climate change as it pollutes every natural system and an increasing number of organisms on planet Earth. “Current science shows that plastics cannot be usefully assimilated into the food chain. Where they are ingested they carry toxins that work their way on to our dinner plates.” Surfers Against Sewage are campaigning for a refundable deposit scheme to be introduced in the UK as a way of encouraging reuse... read more:

More on microplastics
We could end up with 'as much plastic in our oceans as fish'
There are currently estimated to be around 800m tonnes of fish in the oceans and 100m to 150m tonnes of plastic. This is increasing by around 20m tonnes a year, but that growth is expected to accelerate as far greater numbers of people are able to afford to buy products that are made with, or packaged in, plastic.

Sunita Viswanath - I refuse to cede Hinduism to those who want to make India a Hindu rashtra

NB: Thank you for writing this Sunita. Yes it is necessary for all decent people, whether they believe in a deity or not, of whatever denomination, of whichever political allegiance, to stand up, to speak out, to protest the violent speeches and acts of so-called patriots who are destroying not only the rule of law in India but the very dignity of humanity. Indeed, by doing what they do, they destroy their own better selves, their own consciences. Whatever they win as a result of this evil campaign, it will not be worth the price they - and all the rest of us - have paid for it. "Violation of truth poisons every-thing gained by the violation". I wish you and Sadhana all the best. And you are right: many who consider themselves progressive tend to be dismissive of the liberal democratic tradition generated within the ambit of Sanatan Dharma - represented most powerfully in modern times by Mahatma Gandhi. May the Almighty - if she or he still listens to human kind - bless your efforts. DS

Even as I write this piece, I come across news of yet another lynching in India – this time of a 15-year-old Muslim boy died after he and his brothers were allegedly attacked by a group of 10-12 Hindu men on a train. This is not the Hinduism I recognise, or accept. In 2011, a few of us created the group Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, headquartered in New York, because we could no longer bear that there was no politically progressive Hindu voice in the face of a growing and rampantly Islamophobic and casteist Hindu nationalist movement.  Sadhana’s founders and members are Hindus who were raised to believe that the heart of our religion is pluralistic. We were taught to embrace the teachings of oneness of all (ekatva), compassion and nonviolence to all beings and all the universe (ahimsa). We have worked hard over the years – writing, speaking, marching, organising events and holding Hinduism classes for children that are grounded in the teachings of social justice at the heart of Hindu texts – and have been recognised for our efforts.

In the years since we began, our numbers have grown, but not nearly enough. What has, meanwhile, grown in monstrous proportions in this period is the movement of Hindu nationalists. Amid the growing incidents of lynching, in recent weeks we have come across several articles by writers and intellectuals in India asking the same question in various ways: Where are the progressive Hindus?....

Speaking up as a Hindu: In my experience, everyone speaking up for human rights in India, even if their name sounds Hindu, is loath to identify as one. And anyone identifying publicly as a Hindu, almost without exception, supports the idea of Hindutva. I have reached out to numerous progressive Hindu-born Indian thinkers and activists, including some of those quoted above, asking if they would identify as a Hindu when they critique and condemn Hindutva. They either explain politely that they are not religious, or say that they are avowed secularists and to speak up as a Hindu in India would alienate minority communities, cause non-Hindu allies to mistrust them, and compromise their commitment to secularism.

Generally, Indian Leftists and progressives react to the notion of a progressive Hindu movement with respectful scepticism. I am sometimes told that Hinduism and Hindus are irredeemable because our scriptures are casteist and elitist at their core. The result is that practicing Hindus who are against the violent Islamophobia of the Hindu right feel alienated from and unwelcome in the human rights movements in India. Keeping this massive group out strikes me as a strategic, ethical and practical blunder, if the desired goal is justice for all. The response that many practicing Hindus have to the deep suspicion of Hinduism and Hindus on the part of Leftists and progressives is an understandably defensive one: all Leftists and progressives are accused of being anti-Hindu or Hindu-phobic. The anger that ought to be directed at Hindu nationalists ends up being directed at Leftists and progressives. Any critique of Hindutva is seen as a critique of Hinduism itself and of all Hindus.

Asking “Where are the progressive or dissenting Hindus?” and bemoaning the rise of violent Hindutva is no longer enough. It is imperative we work together to open the eyes of practicing Hindus. Many may be quietly living their lives, praying rather than protesting – perhaps too afraid, too apathetic, or just too worn out to rise up against Hindutva. I believe many are grieving the deaths of those lynched at the hands of Hindus, but just feel powerless. We need to include them, mobilise them, inspire them to take a stand.

When progressive Jews (both practicing religious Jews and those who aren’t religious) advocate for Palestinian rights and an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine, they do so as Jews who refuse to cede the public voice of Judaism to right-wing Islamophobic Jews who are committing human rights atrocities. I call on every Hindu Indian who cares about justice, whether they are religious or not, to speak up as Hindu, and refuse to cede Hinduism and the Hindu public voice to those who want to make India a Hindu Rashtra. In the words of a wise man from another faith, Rabbi Hillel, from 2000 years ago: “If not now, then when? And if not us, then who?”.. read the whole article: 

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Memorandum to Prime Minister: Contain Religious Adventurism in Faridabad-Mewat-Alwar Belt

Memorandum to Prime Minister
Contain Religious Adventurism in Faridabad-Mewat-Alwar Belt

The merciless lynching of 16 year old Junaid (resident of Khandawali, Ballabgarh) in a crowded train in broad day light on June 12, 2017 is a high point of religious humiliation and violence being perpetrated on the Muslim masses by organized gangs in the Faridabad-Mewat-Alwar belt for the last 2 years. Junaid and his brothers were bitterly abused and vulgar aspersions were called on their religion while they were being brutally beaten and stabbed. His brother Shakir Hussain is struggling for life in Trauma Center, Safdar Jung Hospital, New Delhi. The incident is not an isolated event, it has a sinister pattern.

In May 2015, an attack was mounted on 150 Muslim families of Atali (Ballabgarh)  when they were preparing to complete an unfinished mosque following court order in their favor. 25 people were injured and 25 homes burnt before police intervened and took the Muslim residents to police station for safety. A week later people returned back, however, offensives against them continued until all the families were forced to flee. Not many families since then have returned.

In 2016, murderous attack was carried on the family of Zaheeruddin in Deengerhedi (Tauru, Mewat) in which his son Ibrahim (39) and daughter in law Rashidan (37) were killed, daughter and son in law were critically injured and their daughters’ dignity was attacked. On April 1, 2017 a farmer from Jaisinghpur, Mewat, Mr. Pehlu Khan, his sons Irshad and Arif and neighbors Azmat and Rafiq, returning from Jaipur after purchasing 5 milking cows, were stopped in Behror (Alwar) by motor riding cow vigilantes and brutally thrashed. Pehlu Khan died a day later. The police confiscated their cows and have not yet returned them despite valid papers. The government has not paid any relief so far. On April 5, 2017 a procession was taken out in Behror, not showing any sympathy with Pehlu Khan but demanding that no ‘innocent’ Hindu should be arrested. There have been instances of sectarian offensives in Tikri Brahmin (Palwal) and elsewhere also. Blatant drive to check biryani samples on the occasion of Id ul Zuha has only brought immense humiliation and fear.  

We demand 
i) immediate compensation for the victims of these heinous crimes 
ii) bringing the attacking gangs to justice, 
iii) cessation of political and administrative patronage to cow vigilantes/ fanatics, 
iv) disbanding of the recent moves on cow slaughter that have become a curtain for criminals to project themselves as heroes, 
v) declaration by the state that cow can’t be protected unless tractor based farming and truck based transport stop.

You may recall, when Gandhi was attacked in South Africa, his struggle was directed against the state that patronized color discrimination. Similar onus falls on the Government of India and State governments as it is under them that these elements are emboldened.  

Sadbhav Mission, 9717309263

We invite like-minded groups and individuals to be a part of this memorandum. We also plan to reach out to people in the villages in these districts.

V.K. Tripathi

see also

The roots of poison: Mahadev Desai on communal strife. By Ramachandra Guha

In April 1941, communal riots broke out in Ahmedabad. The violence raged for three whole days, during which many people were killed, many more injured, and hundreds of homes razed to the ground. Mosques and temples were also desecrated. What happened in Ahmedabad in 1941 was a product of a countrywide polarization of religious communities. The Muslim League was growing in strength, challenging the Congress's claim to represent all Indians. Jinnah and the League had charged the Congress provincial governments that held office between 1937 and 1939 of following anti-Muslim policies. The Congress governments resigned when the Second World War broke out, but the polarization persisted. In March 1940, the Muslim League passed its so-called 'Pakistan resolution', demanding a separate nation for Muslims. On the other side, Hindu extremist groups such as the Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh were priming themselves for action.

The outbreak of rioting in a town he had once called home deeply distressed Gandhi. The Mahatma had lived in Ahmedabad from 1915 to 1930. However, in 1941, he was based in his new ashram in Sevagram, near the central Indian town of Wardha. He immediately dispatched his secretary and confidant, Mahadev Desai, a native Gujarati speaker, to Ahmedabad. Mahadev Desai spent several weeks in the town, talking to a cross section of people. He wrote a long report on the riots, which remains unpublished. I found this report recently in the archives, and rehabilitate it here, for it is both very moving and speaks directly to the communal situation in India today.

As a long-time follower of the Mahatma, Mahadev Desai was profoundly disturbed by the destruction of tombs, temples and mosques. He called them "acts of cowardly [and] cruel desecration". Mahadev wrote that "whatever the Mussalmans may have done - and they were, I am sure, instruments in the hands of conspirators who have set the ball of religious hate and destruction rolling in the land - I would, if it was in my power, perform penance by restoring the mosques and the tombs... It would surely pave the way for concord and mutual understanding."

In Mahadev Desai's opinion, "there could be no real communal unity without a mutual expression of contrition translated into concrete acts..."

A new rapid bioremediation process that can remove garbage hills. By Isher Judge Ahluwalia ,

Most Indian cities are surrounded by hills of garbage, which are a testimony to our neglect over a long period of managing and disposing of the waste we generate in the course of our household activities and commercial activities in the cities. The waste has been dumped for decades, dry and wet, plastic, textiles, and what have you, without sorting, on the outskirts of the cities. Even after the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 specified that landfill sites should be allocated on which sanitary landfills should be developed to receive the final residual waste, the sites have been used only as open dumpsites for all kinds of waste, mixed together.

The proliferation of airless open dumps of garbage leads to emissions of methane, which absorbs the sun’s heat, warms the atmosphere and contributes to global warming. Methane is over 20 times more potent as a heat trapping gas than carbon dioxide. At the same time, leachate, a black liquid oozing out from the waste as it slowly decomposes over a period of 25 to 30 years, contaminates soil and ground water, the latter being used by many in the urban areas as a primary source for drinking. Foul odour from the waste rotting in airless heaps, and smoke from the fires that routinely erupt in them, are other consequences of dumping waste in the open. The garbage hills are now closing in on the cities as the cities expand. The city residents have been going from pillar to post, from courts to the National Green Tribunal, in the hope of some corrective action. Let us recall that it was civic action — a Public Interest Litigation in the Supreme Court in December 1996 by Almitra Patel, one of the authors of this column — that had put solid waste management on the agenda of the government. The court issued an order to set up an expert committee in January 1998 with Patel as a member, to submit a report on sustainable techniques of managing waste. Based on this committee’s report, the Municipal Solid Waste Rules, 2000 were notified by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Even though the progress has been very slow, we now have Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 which cover much more than only municipal areas, provide for collection charges and for penalties on waste generators for non-compliance, and most importantly, unlike the earlier Rules, make it the duty of every waste generator to segregate the wet waste from the dry, that is, keep the two kinds of waste unmixed. This is actually in line with the duties outlined in Article 51A (g) of the Constitution which lists among every citizen’s fundamental duties, “to protect and improve the natural environ-ment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife.”. Current laws in India are also very progressive in that they require “appropriate biological processing for stabilisation of waste”, whether or not the processed waste can be used or sold as compost, while landfilling is restricted to non-biodegradable inert wastes or pre- and post-processing rejects.

The challenge lies in implementation. The earlier so-called landfills, actually old dumps, are without bottom liners and side liners. Capping of these dumps is not a solution because it leaves methane and leachate to form for decades within the cosmetically covered heap. The disastrous effects of building on and around a “closed landfill” were so clearly demonstrated at Malad in Mumbai, where trapped landfill gases seeped sideways through the soil into the basement of the adjoining Mindspace Commercial Complex, wreaking havoc on every possible electronic equipment and causing unwellness for residents nearby. The good news is that we have a simple, low-cost solution of bioremediation to remove the garbage hills and their lingering ill effects, which permanently achieves near-zero emission of harmful gases (such as methane, hydrogen sulphide, and ammonia) and leachate... read more:

Turkey’s Writers Face Yet More Trials. By Aysegul Sert

On a sweltering afternoon in Istanbul last summer, loud noises woke the Turkish novelist Aslı Erdoğan from a nap. “Open, police! Open, or we will break the door,” a voice called. When Erdoğan, an award-winning writer, unlocked her door, the cold muzzle of an automatic rifle was placed against her chest. Soldiers in black masks and bulletproof vests barged in, shouting “Clean!” as they moved through each room. Erdogan, who is fifty years old, was alone in her apartment. The men, Turkish special forces soldiers, left after the arrival of dozens of members of the Turkish counterterrorism forces. As Erdoğan watched, men scoured every corner of her apartment.

Erdoğan, who is not related to the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was informed that she was going to be charged with supporting terrorism. The basis for the criminal case, she was told, was her five years of writing articles and serving on the advisory board of a daily newspaper, Özgür Gündem, which the Turkish government said was linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, and which was shut down in 2016 but later reëmerged under a different name. After spending seven hours searching through the thirty-five hundred books in Erdoğan’s home library, the officers took six books on Kurdish history with them as evidence.

“Later, the judge asked me about those books,” Erdoğan recalled in an interview earlier this month, in Istanbul. “Is it a crime to read about Kurds in this country? Aren’t they a part of this nation? Not to read about them should be a crime,” she said, as she calmly smoked a cigarette.

When Erdoğan was arraigned before a judge and told the charges she faced, she fainted. She was charged under Article 302 of the Turkish penal code: disrupting the unity and integrity of the state. She was held in solitary confinement for the next five days - the first two of which she was deprived of water - and then jailed with other female prisoners. On Erdoğan’s hundred and thirty-third day in prison, she was given her first opportunity to defend herself in court. Looking thin and tired, she delivered a statement to the judge hearing her case: “I will read my testimony as if there is still rule of law in this country,” she declared. The courtroom microphone was off, though, and the journalists present could barely hear her. Later that night, Erdoğan was released from the Bakırköy state prison, in Istanbul, to a cheering crowd of family and friends. She is out of prison but barred from travelling outside the country, and her trial resumed last week. It was her fourth court appearance since December. She faces a life sentence if convicted.

In a separate trial that began last week, seventeen journalists stand accused of serving as the media arm of the failed July, 2016, coup. They include Ahmet Altan, age sixty-seven, a prominent novelist and journalist; and his younger brother, Mehmet Altan, sixty-four, a distinguished academic and the author of forty books. Prosecutors initially accused the Altans of sending “subliminal messages” to the plotters of the failed coup. “It was the first time in my career that I heard this term,” their lawyer, Veysel Ok, told me, smiling. “It was probably so for the prosecutor who wrote the indictment as well.” All told, the brothers have spent nearly three hundred days in jail awaiting trial… read more:

Monday, 26 June 2017

Basant Rath - We the Cows / Pratap Bhanu Mehta - May the silent be damned

NB: Thank you Basant. India needs police offers like you to uphold our constitution and the rule of law, which is being buried on a daily basis by the votaries of Hindutva - DS

Who resolved to constitute India into a sovereign, secular, democratic republic on November 26, 1949? We, the People of India, or We, the Cows of some states of India? Does the protection of cow override the fundamental rights of Dalits and Muslims as the citizens of this nation? From Jhajjar to Jharkhand, from Dadri to Latehar and from Una to Alwar, a reign of terror in the name of cow protection has spread in some states in the country. Irrespective of the veracity of the claims – real, rumoured or WhatsApped – of the criminal mobs bent on taking law into their politically protected hands, the moment an Akhlaq in Dadri or a Naeem in Shobhapur is justified in dettol-sanitised TV studios, the cause for lynching becomes arbitrary.

Any alleged harm to the cause of cow protection has suddenly become reason enough to justify street-level mafia-style instant justice at the hands of a mob baying for human blood and bones. No proof needs to be provided and no legal procedures to be followed. If a mob suddenly decides one fine morning that the cow is being wronged, it can chase anyone, drag them out of their houses and kill them. As organised criminal squads roam India’s highways inspecting livestock trucks for any trace of the animal and terrorise citizens of this country, the Supreme Court has issued notices to Rajasthan along with five other Indian states namely Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Karnataka and to the central government asking for a ban on such groups.

Pratap Bhanu Mehta - May the silent be damned

Every week mobs are lynching, torturing and humiliating innocent Muslims and Dalits in the name and under the pretext of cow protection. They have unleashed a reign of terror. And the police have turned inaction into an art form.

Why the BJP has no incentive to stop the lynching of Muslims in India. By Sushil Aaron

NB: The brutal nature of RSS politics and the Modi government has never been so clear as today. This is a government that openly sympathises with and protects hooliganism in the name of religion and 'patriotism'. The Indian Constitution and Article 21 - which protects a citizen's right to life - has been rendered a joke by this regime. If we do not protest this galloping criminalisation of India we will have ourselves to blame for what happens next - DS

There is no doubt that a form of medieval madness has taken over India in the shape of Islamophobia and regular lynching of Muslims in different states. The situation has moved quickly from not renting out homes to Muslims to refusing to tolerate their presence in public spaces. Muslims are being taunted on trains and streets, fights initiated and lynched. The lynchings have become so common that we do not know which one to respond to. Should we weep for Mohammad Naeem in Jharkhand or Hafiz Junaid in Haryana? How many remember the details of Pehlu Khan’s murder in Rajasthan? Mohammad Akhlaq is now just another milestone in this steady journey of wanton death. Many on social media who were horrified by Srinivas Kuchibotla’s murder in the US in February are strangely muted about the lynching of Muslims in India.

There is scarcely a word of condemnation from the BJP’s leadership. Forest fires in Portugal get more notice from this government than the ravaging of India’s social fabric that has taken centuries to nurture. Rather than express concern – let alone enforce the law – the Union Cabinet and BJP leaders found a way to signal to gau-rakshaks that they are on the same side. They skipped President Pranab Mukherjee’s iftar reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan in an unprecedented flouting of convention and political grace. The politicians are essentially conveying to the vigilantes that they too have such contempt for Muslims that they’d rather not be seen in public breaking bread with them.

The striking thing about vigilantism now is that there is no incentive for the BJP to make it stop. The Opposition is powerless, the police are bystanders, courts have not shown interest, the ruling party feels that it will no longer lose elections and so it has no dread of the hustings. There is also notably no fear of violent retaliation. Muslims in India are effectively hostages in their own land, unable to take on a section of the majority that is fortified by a State that looks the other way in the face of gratuitous violence. 

Sunday, 25 June 2017

How the Judiciary Defied the Government to Uphold Constitutional Values During the Emergency BY ASHOK H. DESAI

The declaration proclaimed on June 25, 1975, under Article 352(1) of the constitution that a grave Emergency existed whereby the security of India was threatened by internal disturbance was the declaration of a phoney Emergency. Its real cause was the erosion of Indira Gandhi’s hold on power. The occasion to declare it on that day was an adverse decision of the courts. On June 12, 1975, in the election petition filed by Raj Narain, Jagmohan Lal Sinha, justice of the Allahabad high court, had found Gandhi guilty of corrupt practices.

The Supreme Court had risen for its summer vacation and Justice Krishna Iyer happened to be the vacation judge. On the very day of the decision, the judge received a curious telephone call from the law minister H.R. Gokhale (popularly known as Balasaheb) that he wanted to call on the judge. On inquiry, Gokhale mentioned that it was about the verdict in the prime minister’s case. The judge declined to meet him, but advised him to file an appeal and seek an early hearing.

At the hearing on June 24, 1975, Gandhi’s counsel Nani Palkhivala pressed for a complete stay, urging that otherwise the very legitimacy of the prime minister would become an issue. The judge, however, followed the established practice and granted only a limited stay (Indira Nehru Gandhi vs. Raj Narain, (1975) 2 SCC 159). Now the citizens of India had the protection of a ‘double Emergency,’ because from December 3, 1971, we were already governed by an earlier proclamation that an Emergency existed whereby the security of India was threatened by external aggression.

At 9:30 pm on the night of June 25, 1975, the proclamation was sent to President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed. No cabinet meeting had been held to discuss the matter, much less to approve of the measure. Gandhi evidently wanted even her colleagues to face a fait accompli. The president also did not insist on a cabinet meeting, but was persuaded to sign the midnight proclamation. It is a historic irony that the order of a judge keen on preserving the rule of law provided the excuse for its suspension.

The report of the Shah Commission and now the book The Emergency by Coomi Kapoor shows that the actual preparation for an internal Emergency had started much earlier. Gandhi was being advised by a core group close to her, namely Siddhartha Shankar Ray (chief minister of West Bengal), D.K. Barooah (Congress president), Rajni Patel (chairman of the Bombay Pradesh Congress Committee) and Balasahab Gokhale, the last two being the contribution of the Bombay Bar… read more:

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Friday, 23 June 2017

Reporter Recounts How a Mob In Delhi Assaulted Him When They Identified Him As Muslim

NBThis is what happened earlier this month to my student Malik Abdul Basit, who works for Caravan, when he went to cover a story. A criminal assault on an innocent young man doing his job, and of course we know what will happen to the case. I am horrified and appalled, even though it should come as no surprise. The poison of communal hatred that makes any person suspect because of his or her name or place of origin is destroying our humanity on a daily basis. Abdul Basit is a Kashmiri, working in Delhi. Does he have no right to live and work without fear? Some people shout night and day about national integrity - is this the way to keep the country united? Hindutva is the mirror image of the ideology of the Islamists, and is the most potent method to prove the two nation theory correct. My heartfelt sympathy and solidarity with Basit for having undergone such a terrible ordeal. Don't lose heart my young friend. Humanity shall prevail against all odds - Dilip

On 9 June, I was investigating the alleged demolition of a mosque in Sonia Vihar, in Delhi. A group of Hindus I was speaking to became violent when they learnt that I had a Muslim name.

The voter card I had handed over to the men included my middle name as well, which is Abdul. (As is the naming convention, it reads: “Malik Abdul Basit.”) “Saale Muslim!” one of them yelled, upon seeing the card. Then, one of them asked me how I had found out about the meeting. I told him that Bharat had asked me to come with him.  The members of the gathering began to question Bharat. “How could I have known he was a Muslim?” Bharat said… By this time, many other people had joined the mob surrounding me, and several others continued to enter the lawn. A man in the crowd, who was wearing a red t-shirt, asked me my name again. “Basit Malik,” I responded. “Nahi, Abdul Basit!” someone to my left yelled… The man in the red t-shirt slapped me. My spectacles slipped from my face, but I was able to catch them before they fell to the floor. Another person, whom I could not see, slapped the back of my head. My head started to spin. “Harami toh Musalman hai” -this bastard is a Muslim, Singh said loudly. “Hum yahan police se bhaag rahe hain aur tu hamari pareshaniyan badhana chahata hai”- we are on the run from the police, and you’re trying to make matters worse, he said. I told Singh that I had no such intention, and that I only wanted to listen to their accounts.

At close to 11.30 pm on 7 June, the news publication the Milli Gazette published a video to its Facebook page. The video showed a group of people demolishing a brick structure. According to the caption that accompanied the clip, this structure was a rudimentary mosque located in Ambay Enclave, a small basti near Sonia Vihar in Delhi, where 25 Muslim families resided. Finding themselves with no place of worship during the month of Ramadan, the caption said, these families had constructed a makeshift mosque. “Its existence began to pinch certain enemies of peace,” the caption alleged. On the morning of 7 June, a group of people attacked the structure, and razed it to the ground.

On the afternoon of 8 June, I went to Sonia Vihar to investigate the incident. That day, I spoke to several Muslim residents from the area. They told me that the Hindu residents of the area - primarily members of Thakur and Gujjar communities - were displeased with the construction of the mosque and had decided to demolish it. A Muslim woman residing in the basti told me that the mob was shouting slogans such as “Masjid todo, swarg banao”- break the mosque, and build heaven instead. A 23-year-old Muslim man who resides in the area said that members of the Muslim community earlier prayed in a small building that functioned as both a madrasa and a mosque, and was located down the lane from the demolished structure. This space was too small, the 23-year-old said. “We just needed a large space,” he added. He told me that the Muslim residents had then approached Akbar Ali, who owned a small plot of land, and obtained his permission to construct a four-walled structure that could function as a mosque on it. “It had only been nine days” since the structure had begun to be used, the 23-year-old said. Later that evening, I spoke with officials from the Sonia Vihar police station, but was unable to obtain a response. Subhash Vats, the station house officer, said “it was not my jurisdiction,” and directed me to the district and the assistant commissioners of police. Sudhir Kumar, the ACP, denied that any such incident had taken place. The DCP’s assistant asked me to return the next day.

The next morning, I called one of the Muslim residents that I had met during my visit to Sonia Vihar. The resident told me that the situation had worsened. He said that a Muslim barber who had rented his shop from a Hindu resident, had been asked by his landlords to shut the business for the day. He added that the Muslim residents were worried that they would not be allowed to set up stalls during the weekly market, which was to take place that evening. I decided to go to Sonia Vihar and to speak with the members of the Gujjar and Thakur communities who had allegedly been involved in the demolition… read more:

Apocalyptic Vandalism - ISIL blows up 800-year-old Nuri Mosque in Mosul. By Juan Cole

al-Hayat (Life) reports that on Wednesday evening around 9:30 pm local time, Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) blew up the Nuri Mosque in Mosul. The destruction of the 800-year-old edifice was undertaken at a time when Iraqi government troops were closing in on this area in Mosul’s Old City, the last remaining bastion of Daesh there, where 3,000 fighters are still keeping some 100,000 people as human shields. That is about a tenth the strength they initially had.
I once called the destruction by the US Air Force of the annex to the Iraqi National Archives where 19th century administrative documents were housed a “cliocide,” a killing of history itself. The razing of the Nuri Mosque is another act of cliocide. Ironically, I also once suggested that the main antecedent for Daesh, of a state that held both Mosul and Aleppo, was the Zangid polity before the rise of Saladin Ayyubi. Daesh emulated the Zangids geographically and now they have wiped out one of their major surviving architectural legacies.

Iraq prime minister Haydar al-Abadi remarked that the terrorist organization was by this act announcing its own defeat. This is a fair observation. Daesh was proud of having captured Mosul and of having taken that mosque, built in the rule of Nur al-Din Zangi, a Muslim ruler who held Mosul and Aleppo during the era of the medieval Crusades. They would not have destroyed the mosque where their leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared his claim to the caliphate (a lapsed medieval institution akin to the Christian papacy) unless they knew they were about to lose control of it.
Daesh has beheaded and otherwise slaughtered so many real, living human beings that it is perhaps wrong to concentrate on the destruction of a mere building.

But historical consciousness matters, and helps make us who we are. Mosulis were fiercely proud of the great mosque. Its minaret famously leaned, and that seems to have started happening soon after it was built. The medieval traveler Ibn Battuta spoke of seeing a leaning structure at the city’s citadel, and he likely was referring to this mosque. The siege of Daesh has gone on for months, and the Iraqi counter-terrorism brigades are exhausted. They continue to fight on, and will eventually liberate all of Mosul. Daesh sought support from sympathizers by falsely claiming that the US struck at the mosque. The US Air Force, however, denied that it was running any bombing raids in that part of Mosul.

We are seeing the slow destruction of Daesh as a territorial state. Eventually West Mosul will fall (though they have put up a more bloody-minded and dogged existence than anyone would have imagined.). Daesh believes that the last days are upon us, and its destruction of the mosque is likely an announcement of the near advent of the Judgment Day in their eyes. But actually we’ll all be around for a while to do ordinary non-apocalyptic politics. But the grievances that gave rise to Daesh and led to the establishment of this iniquitous city-date are still there. How Baghdad treats post-war Mosul will be crucial.

More posts on ISIS

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