Saturday, 30 September 2017

Living under house arrest, I'm losing hope in democracy and free speech, says Kancha Ilaiah

Social scientist Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd has been facing heat from the arya vysyas, who have taken offence at his analysis of the community as 'social smugglers'. After reprints of his book were circulated, a TDP politician called for Ilaiah to be hanged, effigies of him were burnt, protesters have urinated on his photograph, and he has been threatened on the streets. The state, he says, has not offered any protection. In an interview to Amulya Gopalakrishnan, he explains his position

Could you explain what you meant by 'social smuggling'? How does caste interact with economic exploitation?
The notion of social smuggling, which I coined in my book Post-Hindu India, is meant to capture the idea of cultural and economic exploitation. From the post-Gupta period onwards, one caste controlled business. The banias or vysyas alone had that right, as per the Manusmriti, and as decreed by the Gupta rulers.

Smuggling is a process of illegally taking away goods and commodities or wealth out of a nation's borders. Social smuggling, as I define it, draws wealth, grain, goods and commodities from all the productive (agrarian and artisanal) lower castes, into the boundaries of the bania caste. The bania business often involves deceptive mechanisms while buying and selling, which is called dandekottuta in Telugu. The lower the caste, the higher the level of exploitation by the shahukars at the village level. At higher levels, non-banias are either not allowed to enter business, or not allowed to survive in it. Bania social relations with others were/are very negative, without any element of "moral sentiments", as Adam Smith would describe it. This is what leads to massive poverty among the lower castes and massive wealth in the hands of bania business and industry.

In ancient and medieval times, it took the shape of guptha dhana. Now, it has led to the massive accumulation of billionaires without any social responsibility. A 2012 study of corporate boards in India shows that vysyas make up 46% and brahmins 44.6%. Shudras, including all OBCs are a mere 3.8%, and SC-STs are 3.5%. The population of banias is so small, how do they control such a large share, right from the village grain market to the top industries? And okay, there is no problem if you have historical control, but what is your moral relationship with the rest of the productive market? There is no responsibility towards farmers and foot soldiers. Forget the sham of corporate social responsibility, there is no sense of social or national obligation. People keep asking the Modi government and state governments for jobs, but when they privatise everything, how can they give jobs? Why can't the private sector give some jobs to lower castes, or create a fund? I have said I am willing to modify the book if these demands are met.

Instead, for taking these academic positions, I have been targeted by arya vysyas in two states, not in seminar rooms but on the streets. Their MP has issued a fatwa against me, and I have been attacked.

Why are some parties reacting so strongly to your book now?
The value of a piece of scholarship can't be judged by politicians in press conferences or by angry members of a community, but by other scholars. If there is indeed a dispute, it should be settled by the courts.

So your analysis is a description of social conditions, rather than a claim about the essence of any person or group?
What I suggest is that caste is also an economic category that has material effects on living standards, and is not merely a social category.

Your view of free speech in India today?
In the ancient and medieval period, there was no right to speech for dalits and shudra castes. Now, they may have some space to talk freely about class, but not about caste. The moment one talks about caste exploitation, one becomes suspect. I have experienced this deeply. They say my methodology is suspect, my English is suspect, my academic morality is suspect. I am losing hope in democracy and constitutionally guaranteed free speech. That is the reason I am living in self-imposed house arrest. Nobody has to protect me after my death.

Was this always the case, or is there a new climate of intimidation?

Absolutely, it is on a new scale. Our food habits are now in danger — tell me, what will the lower-caste soldier fighting China at the border eat, if not beef? Journalists like Gauri Lankesh have been killed for speaking freely. My books have been in the market for a long time. Earlier, there was some space for disagreement. Now, it is fatwas and threats of violence, even from arya vysyas who claim to be peace-loving people and share a heritage with Mahatma Gandhi.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Saeed Kamali Dehghan - 'Is it art or pain?' Iran's Parastou Forouhar on family, death and the failed revolution

Every autumn, the Iranian artist Parastou Forouhar returns to Tehran from Germany to hold a memorial service for her murdered parents. 

Dariush Forouhar, a secular politician, and his wife, Parvaneh, were two of Iran’s most high-profile political activists when they were stabbed to death in their home on 22 November 1998. The killers placed her father’s body in a chair facing towards the Qibla, the direction of Mecca. “I called a close friend of my parents in Paris and he was crying,” Forouhar says. “I thought, it mustn’t be just an arrest. We were used to [arrests]. I said, is Dad killed? He said, it’s not just your dad.”
Work by Parastou Forouhar.
Work by Parastou Forouhar. Photograph: Courtesy of the artist

Every year since, Parastou has gathered with close relatives to light a candle and pay tribute to her parents’ secular democratic values. The public are routinely blocked from attending by security officials. “They won’t let people in for the ceremony [but] it gets media coverage and it becomes an act of protest,” says Forouhar, whose work was recently exhibited at Pi Artworks in London.
Forouhar says regularly revisiting the suffering she has endured for nearly 20 years has helped to heal the wounds of her past. “When I work, I also have pain, you want to move on but also reproduce the pain at the same time,” she says. “Sometimes I can’t distinguish; is it art or pain? It’s really like finding healing in repetition. For me, the way to deal with pain is to reproduce it in art.”

The murder of Forouhar’s parents shone a spotlight on the killings and disappearances of other Iranian dissident intellectuals in the 1990s and created an atmosphere of fear that helped put the brakes on the reformist agenda of President Mohammad Khatami. In a rare admission in 1999, Iran’s ministry of intelligence took responsibility for the killings, saying it had “committed these criminal activities … under the influence of undercover rogue agents”. Saeed Hajjarian, a reformist politician and journalist involved in revealing the “chain murders”, survived an attempted murder the following year but was left severely disabled.

Forouhar studied art at Tehran University after the 1979 Islamic revolution and says it was the failure of the revolution that made her the artist she is today. “We thought, we’ll build a better life, we thought it was possible, but then we realised those who hijacked the revolution are suppressing the segment of the society that did not approve of revolutionary policies,” she said. “The streets turned unsafe and the arrests and the executions followed.”

She left for Germany in 1991, graduating with a master’s from Offenbach am Main and holding her first exhibition at her university in 1994. Forouhar established a portfolio of works that she defines as being between “abstraction and the formation of metaphors”, drawing on what she learned in Tehran, when students expressed dissent through highly coded and alternative methods… read more:

see also

Jamie Bartless - Return of the city-state

Nation-states came late to history, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest they won’t make it to the end of the century

f you’d been born 1,500 years ago in southern Europe, you’d have been convinced that the Roman empire would last forever. It had, after all, been around for 1,000 years. And yet, following a period of economic and military decline, it fell apart. By 476 CE it was gone. To the people living under the mighty empire, these events must have been unthinkable. Just as they must have been for those living through the collapse of the Pharaoh’s rule or Christendom or the Ancien Régime.

We are just as deluded that our model of living in ‘countries’ is inevitable and eternal. Yes, there are dictatorships and democracies, but the whole world is made up of nation-states. This means a blend of ‘nation’ (people with common attributes and characteristics) and ‘state’ (an organised political system with sovereignty over a defined space, with borders agreed by other nation-states). Try to imagine a world without countries – you can’t. Our sense of who we are, our loyalties, our rights and obligations, are bound up in them.

Which is all rather odd, since they’re not really that old. Until the mid-19th century, most of the world was a sprawl of empires, unclaimed land, city-states and principalities, which travellers crossed without checks or passports. As industrialisation made societies more complex, large centralised bureaucracies grew up to manage them. Those governments best able to unify their regions, store records, and coordinate action (especially war) grew more powerful vis-à-vis their neighbours. Revolutions – especially in the United States (1776) and France (1789) – helped to create the idea of a commonly defined ‘national interest’, while improved communications unified language, culture and identity. Imperialistic expansion spread the nation-state model worldwide, and by the middle of the 20th century it was the only game in town. There are now 193 nation-states ruling the world.

But the nation-state with its borders, centralised governments, common people and sovereign authority is increasingly out of step with the world. And as Karl Marx observed, if you change the dominant mode of production that underpins a society, the social and political structure will change too. The case against the nation-state is hardly new. Twenty years ago, many were prophesising its imminent demise. Globalisation, said the futurists, was chipping away at nation-states’ power to enforce change. Businesses, finance and people could up sticks and leave. The exciting, new internet seemed to herald a borderless, free, identity-less future. And climate change, internet governance and international crime all seemed beyond the nation-state’s abilities. It seemed too small to handle international challenges; and too lumbering to tinker with local problems. Voters were quick to spot all this and stopped bothering to vote, making matters worse. In 1995, two books both titled The End of the Nation State – one by the former French diplomat Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the other by the Japanese organisational theorist Kenichi Ohmae – prophesised that power would head up to multi-national bodies such as the European Union or the United Nations, or down to regions and cities.

Reports of its death were greatly exaggerated, and the end-of-the-nation-state theory itself died at the turn of the millennium. But now it’s back, and this time it might be right… read more:

Thursday, 28 September 2017

South Africa: How Gupta-linked firm scored big by connecting officials and consultants. By Susan Comrie | amaBhungane

Bianca Goodson, the former chief executive of a Gupta-linked consulting firm, has broken her silence 18 months after resigning in dismay. She has released a detailed statement and 65 annexures, charging that her former firm, Trillian Management Consulting, facilitated access to decision makers for consulting multinationals McKinsey and Oliver Wyman. In return for this political capital, she states, Trillian was to get up to half the fees in lucrative consulting contracts with state entities.
Goodson initially started preparing her statement for the expected parliamentary inquiry into state capture, but after repeated delays decided to make it public via the Platform for the Protection of Whistleblowers in Africa (Pplaaf).

It is telling that Bianca Goodson’s whistleblower statement starts with the title, “My introduction to; and exit from Trillian”. The former Anglo American manager spent just five months working for the controversial consulting firm. On March 19, 2016, she resigned as the chief executive of Trillian Management Consulting, the consulting subsidiary of Trillian Capital Partners, then controlled by Gupta lieutenant Salim Essa.

"The risks associated with this position, and specifically … with the shareholders of this company, are exceptionally high. Succinctly put – my career would be over if there was ever a public association between myself… Guptas and/or Salim,” her 06:00 resignation letter read. “Although not much, my humble career history has been established on bloody hard work and integrity. I would rather have a future career defined by those attributes than a politically connected one.”

Since then, she has sat on a goldmine of information about Trillian, its special relationship with “captured” officials, and the on-off partnership with consulting giant McKinsey that landed Trillian hundreds of millions from Eskom. “I wanted to speak up sooner, but I was scared... I was 100% out of my depth in terms of the company that I briefly kept,” Goodson told amaBhungane this week.
“When [former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s] team approached me for a statement towards their state of capture report, I was excited because I felt that I finally had the opportunity to do the right thing. “Alas, her report appears to not have been effective in stopping the likes of Trillian… [The parliamentary inquiry] came up as an option and straight away, I started preparing… I've been waiting for Parliament since [but] I don’t believe that I will be called and I feel that I'm not doing the right thing by just waiting and keeping quiet. “So now, I'm doing the right thing, regardless of risk.”

The gatekeeper
Goodson’s disclosures add to the growing body of evidence that suggests that starting in December 2015, Trillian became the gatekeeper of lucrative consulting contracts at some state entities.
If international consulting firms wanted in, they would have to take Trillian as their “supplier development” partner and give it anywhere up to half of the contract. “TMC’s [Trillian Management Consulting’s] business model was that work is secured through [Salim] Essa’s relationships and TMC benefits from these relationships through ‘supplier development’ agreements,” Goodson says in her statement. “As such, TMC did not directly conduct any work with government departments or state-owned entities like Eskom, Transnet or Cogta [the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs]. 

Rather, [Trillian] secured work and thereafter passed the work over to internationally recognised companies and acted as the supplier development partner of choice, with roughly a 50% share of revenues.” This was a symbiotic relationship. The Trillian group was set up in 2015, and although it planned to bring experienced staff on board, the company itself had no track record. As such, TMC needed reputable international companies to act as an icebreaker, bringing Trillian in their wake. 

Trillian denied most of Goodson’s allegations and responded in writing, saying: “Trillian has never held itself out to be a gatekeeper of any institutions and is of the firm view that the skills base of its employees and its history of delivery was sufficient to procure work… Trillian consisted of approximately 80 highly skilled consultants and financial services professionals… Trillian has always followed due process in securing work either directly or in partnership with others. Trillian did not have any advantage over any of its competitors and Trillian had to compete on its offering.”.. 
read more:

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Gary Younge - Remember this about Donald Trump. He knows the depths of American bigotry

Two Sundays ago, after a night of tense confrontations, police in St Louis trooped through the city chanting: “Whose streets? Our streets.” They were mocking marchers protesting at the acquittal of a former police officer, who had fatally shot a black man after a high-speed pursuit. This in the city just a few miles away from Ferguson, where Michael Brown was shot dead in the middle of the day in 2014.

Then last Friday, Donald Trump went to Alabama and branded NFL players who have been expressing their support for Black Lives Matter by kneeling during the pre-game national anthem, “sons of bitches”. To cheers from the crowd, he said: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. He is fired. He’s fired! … Total disrespect of our heritage, a total disrespect of everything that we stand for. Everything that we stand for.” This in the state that kept its local ban on interracial marriage until 2000.

The battle lines in America’s struggle against racism and white supremacy are become increasingly clear to a degree not seen since the 60s. With the balm of Barack Obama’s presence in the White House having so quickly evaporated, the contradictions of the post-civil rights era are once again laid bare. The codified obstacles to freedom and equality have been removed, but the legacy of those obstacles and the system that produced them remains. Black Americans are far more likely than white people to be stopped, frisked, arrested, jailed, shot and executed by the state, while the racial gaps in unemployment are the same as 40 years ago, the racial disparity in wealth and income is worse than 50 years ago. They have the right to eat in any restaurant they wish; the trouble is, many can’t afford what’s on the menu.

“The Negro today finds himself stymied by obstacles of far greater magnitude than the legal barriers he was attacking before,” wrote the civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, presciently, in 1965. “Problems which, while conditioned by Jim Crow, do not vanish upon its demise. They are deeply rooted in our socio-economic order.”.. read more:

Journalist gets threat for criticising a Modi Govt scheme. Is reminded of Gauri Lankesh's fate

Journalist threatened for criticising a Modi Govt scheme. Is reminded of Gauri Lankesh's fate

NB: Since the message was received with a phone number, it should be easy for the police to identify the source. If the Sangh Parivar is being slandered by false information, they should be at the forefront of efforts to catch the culprits. DS

Times of India Takes Down a Story the BJP Finds Embarrassing, Again

On 17 September 2017 a Jaipur-based reporter for The Times of India who had written a  report Crop insurance: Farmers taken for a ‘premium’ ride, critiquing Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojna - a scheme launched by Prime Minister Modi, received a WhatsApp message stating that people who would dare to write against Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the RSS would not be spared.

The threatening message was an image with text written in Hindi gives the example of journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder, saying a similar fate awaited anyone who wrote against the RSS or Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Posted below is a picture of the article written by Rosamma Thomas which has been taken down from the website of The Times of India. Read the full report:

'The Government is committed to the freedom of the Press': DG, Press Information Bureau

Over the past year, a number of instances have emerged highlighting  the inappropriate relationship between editors in organisations like the Times of India and Dainik Jagran and the ruling party and /or government officials. Stories deemed embarrassing to the BJP have been taken down with no explanation offered to readers. An op-ed article critical of the government’s handling of China was taken down from HT’s website in July 2017 - criticism on social media led to it being restored.

Sonali Kokra - BHU's Sordid History Of Sexual Violence // BHU VC's Reaction To Sexual Assault Follows India's Time-Tested Formula Of 'Bharatiya Sanskaar'

Shutting down the university by prolonging Dussehra holidays might offer some immediate respite to the powers that be at Banaras Hindu University (BHU), in the immediate aftermath of the student unrest, angry protests and violence that broke out on campus after a brazen incident of sexual harass-ment came to light on Thursday, 21 September. It is unlikely to make the matter go away. As details about the incident emerge, it is becoming increasingly clear that the students' outrage is not over one isolated incident — anger has been simmering in them for a long time over the pitiable state of security measures to ensure women's safety on the campus and the blasé attitude with which past cases have been dealt with.

Hostel Rules Of Indian Colleges - Gross Misogyny In Action
A Rapist Culture - read for the 2012 agitation; and V.D. Savarkar's advocacy of punitive rape in Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History, Rajdhani Granthagar 1963, translated 1971. Chapter 8 is entitled 'Perverted conception of virtues'. See pages 179. Savarkar is the Sangh Parivar's icon. Sadguna vikriti - the term he used to criticise Shivaji's decency towards Muslim women, is in the Hindi version. 

BHU has a sordid history of sexual violence, especially in the last couple of years. Ever since the appointment of current vice-chancellor, GC Tripathi, in 2014, the university has been a hotbed for protests over gender-based discrimination. 2016 was among the most turbulent and violent years in the 101-year-old university's history. In January 2016, a research scholar at BHU was allegedly repeatedly raped by her senior. In April, clashes between students of the science and arts faculties ended in bullets being fired and at least 10 students injured, according to a report. In August 2016, a 19-year-old male student was allegedly gangraped by five men in a moving car with the university logo. After raping him in turns, the men dumped him near the agricultural department of the university. Reportedly, neither the patrolling vehicle of the proctorial board, nor the security staff bothered to stop the rapists' car as it drove around the campus for a long time.

MANINI CHATTERJEE - Manufacturing an icon: The Deendayal Upadhyaya blitzkrieg

For the RSS, Nehru is a bigger hate figure than anyone else because he was not just a person but an embodiment of ideals -secular, socialist, democratic- that it abhors… to pit Deendayal Upadhyaya against Jawaharlal Nehru is a travesty of both history and common sense. Upadhyaya may have been a committed RSS pracharak and central to setting up and expanding the Jana Sangh, but his contribution to nation building was, to put it politely, limited. Those who call him a "visionary" cite his advocacy of antyodaya and his doctrine of 'integral humanism' as proof. It is a testament to the RSS's skills at fabricating myths that antyodaya - a concept championed by Mahatma Gandhi who acknowledged the influence of John Ruskin's Unto This Last behind it - is now being attributed to Upadhyaya.

The people of Assam deserve our congratulations for calling out a truth that many others are too meek to utter. A number of groups in the northeastern state vociferously protested against the move by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government to name several new district-level colleges after the ruling party's current favourite icon - Deendayal Upadhyaya. With even ally Asom Gana Parishad backing the protests, the state government was forced to rescind the decision.

As a result, Assam stood out as an oasis of resistance to an epidemic sweeping across BJP-ruled states in the country at the express command of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.
The deification of Deendayal Upadhyaya began soon after the Modi regime came to power in 2014. But it began to develop into a monstrous State-sponsored creed exactly a year ago, on September 25, 2016 that marked the birth centenary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader who was also the co-founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the earlier of avatar of the BJP. To mark the occasion, the government embarked on a year-long commemoration of Upadhyaya. Since then, BJP-run states as well as Central ministries have been in a mad rush to transform a relatively obscure politician into a towering ideological deity of modern India. Social welfare schemes in state after state are being launched in his name; ports, towns, and educational institutions are being named after him; statues are being erected, and commemorative coins of Rs 10 and Rs 5 are being issued.

There is more. State government schools in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are holding quiz competitions on the man and his message, state libraries in Maharashtra and Rajasthan have been ordered to stock his books, and all government offices in Uttarakhand must carry his photo and logo. There has also been a spate of articles by RSS and BJP members extolling the "simple life" and "profound vision" of the man who the RSS chief, M.S. Golwalkar, apparently described as "a 100 per cent swayamsevak".

And, of course, India's new president, Ram Nath Kovind - also from the RSS stable - chose to salute Deendayal Upadhyaya in his first speech and pointedly avoided taking the name of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Monday, 25 September 2017

BHU Alumnus Join Student's of BHU Protesting at Jantar Mantar on 26th September, at 4:30 pm

Former Presidents of BHU Students Union;
and Alumnus Join Student's Protest at Jantar Mantar on 26th September, at 4:30 pm

Call for joint action led and called by the BHU Alumnus along with students of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) at Jantar Mantar on 26th of September (Tuesday) at 4:30 pm.

The students will be reaching Delhi on Tuesday morning and will be present at Jantar Mantar to continue their protest against police atrocities, violation of fundamental rights of women students, gender-based discrimination and violence against women. 

Please join us at Jantar Mantar on 26th at 4:30 pm.
We also urge you to spread the word and request others to join. 

Prof. Anand Kumar
Dr. Anand Pradhan
Shri Mohan Prakash & Joint Action Committee and students of BHU. 

Seamus Heaney’s Advice to the Young. BY MARIA POPOVA“you’ve got to tell the world how to treat you... if the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble” James Baldwin

ANUJ SRIVAS - Hindustan Times Editor’s Exit Preceded by Meeting Between Modi, Newspaper Owner

'The Government is committed to the freedom of the Press': DG, Press Information Bureau

NB: That's good to hear! I suppose the reports below are false? Products of inebriated minds? DS
Over the past year, a number of instances have emerged highlighting  the inappropriate relationship between editors in organisations like the Times of India and Dainik Jagran and the ruling party and /or government officials. Stories deemed embarrassing to the BJP have been taken down with no explanation offered to readers. An op-ed article critical of the government’s handling of China was taken down from HT’s website in July 2017 - criticism on social media led to it being restored.
New Delhi: Hindustan Times (HT) proprietor Shobhana Bhartia’s decision to announce the abrupt exit of Bobby Ghosh as editor was preceded by a personal meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and objections raised by top-level government and Bharatiya Janata Party officials to editorial decisions taken during Ghosh’s tenure. The government insists the meeting was “confined to” Bhartia’s efforts to secure Modi’s participation in a flagship HT event. But sources in the newspaper say that in the run-up to that meeting, she faced sustained objections from senior ministers to aspects of HT’s political coverage, to Ghosh’s own views expressed on social media, and to the fact that he does not hold Indian citizenship. One of these minsters had even hinted at escalating matters to Modi. Ghosh, a journalist and editor with extensive worldwide experience, joined HT in May 2016 after successfully running Quartz and TIME magazine. His 16-month stint is widely seen as having perked up the 90-year-old newspaper, even if some of his editorial initiatives – notably the ‘Hate Tracker’ – have rubbed the BJP-led political establishment the wrong way. 

His departure from HT was announced by Bhartia on September 11. The fact that Bhartia’s statement did not say Ghosh had resigned, but that he would “be returning to New York for personal reasons” – and that Ghosh has made no public statement of his own – is seen as a sign within the organisation that his exit was forced.

China’s dystopian push to revolutionize surveillance. By Maya Wang

China’s dystopian push to revolutionize surveillance. By Maya Wang. August 18, 2017
As part of a new multimillion-dollar project in Xinjiang, the Chinese government is attempting to “build a fortress city with technologies.” If this sounds Orwellian, that’s because it is. According to the Sina online news portal, the project is supposed to strengthen the authorities’ hands against unexpected social unrest. Using “big data” from various sources, including the railway system and visitors’ systems in private residential compounds, its ultimate aim is to “predict … individuals and vehicles posing heightened risks” to public safety. And this isn’t the only project in China that aims to expand surveillance while denying people privacy rights. Across the country, local governments are spending billions of dollars implementing sophisticated technological systems for mass surveillance. The consequences for human rights are ominous.

Beijing’s impulse to surveil is certainly not new. But mass migration and privatization during the transition to a market economy have undermined the power of older practices that allowed the state to keep tabs on people, such as the “hukou” residency registration system. To bolster and broaden surveillance, the Ministry of Public Security turned to new technologies, launching the Golden Shield Project in 2000. The project aims to build a nationwide, intelligent digital surveillance network capable of identifying and locating individuals, as well as offering the state immediate access to personal records at the push of a button.

This dystopian project is bearing fruit. China’s pervasive Internet censorship and its use of countless security cameras in public spaces are well known. Recent reporting reveals authorities’ aspirations to enable facial recognition through upgraded cameras, to calculate citizens’ “social credit” scores based on economic and social status and to establish a national DNA database that logs genetic code irrespective of anyone’s connection to a crime.

Pakistani MP who says Imran Khan harassed her faces wave of abuse

When the Pakistani politician Ayesha Gulalai Wazir accused the cricket-star-turned-opposition-leader Imran Khan of sexual harassment, the vitriol unleashed against her was swift and vicious.
First, leaders of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (PTI) party – which Gulalai also belongs to – publicly denounced her and demanded 30 million rupees (£218,000) in compensation for damage to his reputation and “mental torture”. Then came the trolls. On social media, some said Gulalai, 31, should have acid thrown in her face, others that she should be whipped. She was called a liar and a carpetbagger. Mocking TV hosts asked, smirking, if she actually wanted to marry the man she accused. Gulalai says the political backlash is evidence of the abuse reserved for Pakistani women who venture to speak out publicly against harassment – abuse that increasingly takes place online.

“They [the party] have sent a message to women of Pakistan, that if you speak out against misuse of authority, you will face this kind of attitude,” Gulalai told the Guardian. “And this is from PTI who [say they] stand for change in Pakistan .. because of this culture, women will keep mum.” Gulalai says Khan began sending her “inappropriate” text messages in 2013, including sexual intimations and propositions to see him alone, and that he persisted after she rebuked him. She has declined to publish the messages, saying sharing them with the media would fuel further abuse. “His abusive brigade is always with him on social media,” Gulalai said of Khan and his supporters. Instead, she said she would present them to a parliamentary investigation and has called for a forensic audit of her and Khan’s phones. The Women’s Action Forum condemned the reactions to Gulalai’s allegations as “character assassination.” In a country where hundreds of women each year are murdered in so-called honour killings, public debasement of women carries real danger... read more:

see also

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Pakistan: Deradicalising Our Universities - by Pervez Hoodbhoy

Last week’s exposure of a terrorist hive inside Karachi University (KU) prompted a remediation proposal by the chairman of the Higher Education Commission. His solution: if parents "switch off TV and internet early at night and send children off to bed", university students could be shunted away from terrorism. (The reference to adult students as bachas [children] is not unusual-university-going adults are generally considered kids incapable of independent thought.)

If flippant, this proposal trivialises terrorism. But if meant seriously, one fears for the future. HEC’s current counterterrorism strategy is to establish a "directorate of students" within universities so that challenges faced by "students and staff would be registered, analysed and resolved". Extracurricular activities-football and cricket chiefly-will supposedly keep students away from guns and bombs. Should one laugh or cry?

Down the chain of command it’s no better: Karachi University’s vice chancellor denied responsibility even after being presented police evidence that a terrorist network Ansarul Sharia Pakistan (ASP) was operating from KU. The ASP has killed several policemen and a retired army colonel. But the vice chancellor and KU’s faculty say terrorism is the security agencies headache, not theirs. Security agencies disagree, having encountered well-educated terrorists now for many years. The police chief says the ASP’s head and fellow militants received BSc/MSc degrees from the applied physics department at KU. Others are from various universities in Karachi and Balochistan. The unsuccessful assassination attempt on Sindh Assembly’s leader of the opposition led to one suspected attacker being killed. He held a PhD. Football and cricket are supposed to keep students away from guns and bombs. Should one laugh or cry?

Arthur Koestler - A quintessentially twentieth-century life. By Daniel Gascon and Michael Scammell

Born in Hungary before becoming a communist in Germany, then a French Foreign Legionnaire, then a wartime propagandist for the British government – but, above all, a writer and thinker – Arthur Koestler was one of the most intriguing intellectuals of the twentieth century. Michael Scammell, the author of his official biography, 'Koestler, The Indispensable Intellectual', spoke to Eurozine partner journal Letras Libres about Koestler’s life.

[Daniel Gascón:] You have said that there was a yearning for utopia in Koestler and other writers. What does he have in common with other twentieth-century writers, and what makes him special?
[Michael Scammell:] What Koestler had in common with so many writers of his era (and what distinguishes him and them from our present generation) was hope. No matter how disillusioned they became with the societies in which they lived, or disappointed by their failures, both personal, social and political, they retained what looks to us now like a naïve belief in human possibilities and a conviction that the future would be better. 

Much of this optimism was fuelled, consciously or unconsciously, by the apocalyptic promise embodied in the October Revolution in Russia and the hope that the utopian goals set by the French Revolution – liberty, equality, fraternity – might at last be realized everywhere. We are only too familiar now with the catastrophic failures of the Soviet experiment, but you have to remember that those ideals held powerful sway throughout most of the last century (and are by no means dead even now). 

Tony Judt called Koestler ‘an exemplary intellectual’, Christopher Hitchens ‘a zealot’, and Mario Vargas Llosa has said that he was more a journalist than an artist. Do you agree with these descriptions?

I agree with Judt, if by ‘intellectual’ we mean someone who devotes the better part of his life to investigating ideas and if necessary sacrifices his comfort, his reputation, and even his friends for them. I disagree with Hitchens, because despite the element of zealotry in the way Koestler first embraced a variety of beliefs and political movements, he never entirely lost his critical faculties and was fearless in confronting his disillusionments when concluding he had been wrong. 

As for Vargas Llosa’s criticism, it was commonplace in Koestler’s lifetime, and, as Koestler pointed out, had also been levelled at a celebrated predecessor with similarities to Koestler: H.G. Wells. There is some truth to the charge, given the enormous size of Koestler’s output and his later turn to scientific interests, but I believe it is based on too narrow a definition of art. As someone who has written nonfiction all his life – and taught it at college – I would say there is an art to writing nonfiction that transcends journalism and expresses truths in ways that are perhaps not as sublime as the best poetry and fiction, but are none the less valid and effective for that. 

I would also say that, apart from Darkness at Noon and certain passages in Arrival and Departure and Thieves in the Night, Koestler’s best work is to be found in his nonfictional auto-biographies, Dialogue with Death, Scum of the Earth, Arrow in the Blue, and The Invisible Writing, and in the best of his essays… read more:

Joseph Conrad and the East. By DOUGLAS KERR

One of the most acute chroniclers and critics of the 19th-century European empires of the East was neither a historian nor a political scientist, but a Polish mariner. Douglas Kerr examines how Joseph Conrad mastered the narratives of empire in a language that was not his own.

Before he ever left home, Joseph Conrad knew what powerful nations and material interests could do to weaker peoples. Born Józef Teodor Konrad Nałęcz Korzeniowski, in Berdychiv in modern-day Ukraine in 1857, he belonged to a nation, Poland, which was no longer to be found on the map. His father Apollo, a writer and prominent Polish nationalist, was arrested and exiled with his family for anti-Russian conspiracy when his son was four years old. This was Conrad’s first lesson in the power of empires and the cost of idealism. Life was difficult and by the time he was 11, both his parents were dead.

Conrad never forgave imperial Russia: ‘from the very inception of her being’, he was to write in 1905, ‘the brutal destruction of dignity, of truth, of rectitude, of all that is faithful in human nature has been made the imperative condition of her existence.’ At age 17, the young Korzeniowski went to sea, serving first as an ordinary seaman and later as a ship’s officer, mostly in vessels of the British merchant marine. He learnt English in his 20s and developed an ambition to become a writer in this, his third language.

In retrospect: His first book, Almayer’s Folly, was published in 1895 under the anglicised name of Joseph Conrad. For some time he continued his career at sea before devoting himself full-time to writing. He wrote slowly, constantly struggling with deadlines and anxious about money, his work frequently interrupted by agonising periods of writer’s block and persistent illnesses. He did not achieve commercial success until late in his career. Conrad went on to write some 20 novels as well as some of the world’s greatest short fiction. Much of this work drew on places and people he had encountered during his voyages. At the end of his career, he told an interviewer that he simply wrote ‘in retrospect of what he saw and learnt during the first 35 years of his life.’

Most of the atlas of the world Conrad travelled as a sailor was marked in the colours of competing empires – British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Austro-Hungarian, German, Russian or Ottoman (there were also emperors in China and Japan). He sailed the Mediterranean and the Caribbean and was briefly a riverboat captain on the Congo river, working for the infamously rapacious Société Anonyme Belge pour le Commerce du Haut-Congo – an experience captured in his most famous tale Heart of Darkness (1899)… read more:

The tide is starting to turn against the world’s digital giants. By John Naughton

In his wonderful book The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began, the literary historian Stephen Greenblatt traces the origins of the Renaissance back to the rediscovery of a 2,000-year-old poem by Lucretius, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). The book is a riveting explanation of how a huge cultural shift can ultimately spring from faint stirrings in the undergrowth.
Professor Greenblatt is probably not interested in the giant corporations that now dominate our world, but I am, and in the spirit of The Swerve I’ve been looking for signs that big changes might be on the way. You don’t have to dig very deep to find them. Some are pretty obvious. In 2014, for example, the European Court of Justice decided that EU citizens had the so-called “right to be forgotten” and that Google would have to comply if it wanted to continue to do business in Europe. In May this year, the European commission fined Facebook €110m for “providing misleading information” about its takeover of WhatsApp. And in June the commission levied a whopping €2.4bn fine on Google for abusing its monopoly in search.

Since the European commission is the only regulator in the world that seems to have the muscle and inclination to take on the internet giants, these developments were relatively predictable. What’s more interesting are various straws in the wind that show how digital behemoths are losing their shine. 

Many of these relate to Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, and to the dawning of a realisation that Google and Facebook in particular may have played some role in these political earthquakes.

This was not because the leadership of the two companies actively sought these outcomes, but because people began to realise that the infrastructure they had built for their core business of extracting users’ data and selling it to companies for ad-targeting purposes could be – and was – “weaponised” by political actors in order to achieve political goals… read more:

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Students Injured As Police Lathicharge During Late Night Clashes At Banaras Hindu University // BHU Students Petition to Prime Minister

NB: The demands of the students are genuine and need to be attended to, not merely in BHU but in all campuses. But all the authorities are concerned about is their 'image' and that of the Prime Minister. Not only have protesting students been beaten up and injured, the authorities have now dubbed the protest the work of 'anti-national forces'. We should not be surprised - this is the stock response of the RSS/BJP to any criticism whatsoever. Whoever doesn't sing the praises of the Sangh Parivar and its government is anti-national. What is alarming is the extent to which university authorities, who are supposed to be autonomous and in charge of higher education, are rapidly transforming themselves into hatchet-men and censors for the ruling party. There have been repeated instances of this censorship - the last being a ban on a discussion of the Indian Constitution in Allahabad University. Meanwhile the atmosphere is full of intimidation and threat caused by the assassination of critics; hooliganism and pressures on the independence of the media. Indians who value democracy need to resist this disguised Emergency. We will have only ourselves to blame if we allow this government to deprive us of our rights and freedoms. DS

Seamus Heaney’s Advice to the Young. BY MARIA POPOVA“you’ve got to tell the world how to treat you... if the world tells you how you are going to be treated, you are in trouble” James Baldwin
Videos: Scenes of police action against women student protesters at BHU show who was violent

VARANASI:  Just hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi left Uttar Pradesh's Varanasi following his two-day visit, clashes erupted at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) around 11 last night between the police and a group of protesting students who tried to enter the Vice Chancellor's residence. The police claim that the students threw stones at them and they had to lathicharge to contain violence on the campus. About six to seven students got injured in the incident.

The students claim that the police lathicharged without provocation and didn't even spare women students. They also alleged that the cops entered a girls' hostel. At least three motorcycles were set on fire in the violence allegedly by some of the protesters. The main gate of the university has been cleared of protesting students. The situation is under control, and officials say Dussehra holidays, which are about to begin, could diffuse tension.

While reacting to violence against protesting students, former UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav tweeted, "Lathicharge on BHU students is condemnable. The government must find solutions through talks and not force. There should be action against those involved." Students have been protesting against the university administration's alleged inaction and victim shaming after a first-year woman student reported an incident of molestation on Thursday.

The woman alleged that three bike-borne men harassed her inside the campus when she returned to her hostel on Thursday evening. The men abused her and fled when she resisted their attempts, she said. She alleged that security guards, who were right there, did nothing to stop them and her hostel warden, instead of taking up the issue with the administration, asked her why was she returning late to the hostel. The warden's response angered the students who sat on 'dharna' at the main gate later that evening. One of the students reportedly got her head tonsured.

Harish Khare on the conceits of mofussil minds. The demagogue’s spell is over

A reader is unhappy with the Prime Minister's remarks at the dedication of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Sunday. The dismayed reader writes a letter to the editor (The Tribune, September 20): "The remark was vitriolic and not in harmony with the celebratory occasion….Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the head of the largest democracy, should forsake the detestable job of a low-level party hatchet man." For the record, the Prime Minister had menacingly remarked that he had access to the "kacha-chitta" of all those who were opposed to the dam. News reports also noted that the Prime Minister pointedly did not mention Nehru, even though it was Nehru who had laid the dam's foundation stone.

Not long ago, there was a time when such cultivated pettiness would have been music to many ears. No longer. Now, it is beginning to jar. There was a time when the country was in need of a catharsis. May 2014 happened. For a while, very many people found themselves dazzled — especially those who pride themselves on their technocratic detachment — by the sheer political energy, fast-talking, tongue-lashing leadership; the new anti-intellectual strain and invocation of popular nationalism seemed so natural and so very much in order.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Appeal for Solidarity and Action: Festival on Constitution Blocked: Allahabad University

NB: The Allahabad University authorities have acted in a brazen and partisan manner by forcing the cancellation of this event - and there are suggestions this was done under pressure from the Union Government. According to their logic, discussions on the Indian Constitution may only take place in states where the BJP is not in power. Does that mean the ruling parties in non-BJP ruled states are violating India's statutory law? In which case the Centre should dismiss them and install Presidents Rule. In addition, if the BJP/RSS find it offensive that Indian students should discuss the Constitution in states ruled by them, why not drop the subject from all university and school syllabi as well?

India is still a democracy, in case the university authorities need to be reminded of the fact. The RSS/ BJP talk about the Emergency as if they were the heroic defenders of democratic rights. It seems now that they wish to use democracy to deprive us of our right to speak. Should we presume that it might soon be declared be 'anti-national' to talk about the Constitution? Or is only the RSS permitted to discuss it? DS

RSS Ideologue Govindacharya: ‘We Will Rewrite the Constitution to Reflect Bharatiyata’

Here is a letter circulated by the organisers

Appeal for Solidarity and Action: Fest on Constitution Blocked: Allahabad University

Some of us came together to initiate a series of events by the name ‘Liberty Festival’ that would 
engage youth across different college and University campuses to talk and celebrate the Constitution of India. In this series, the next one was to be held in Allahabad University, on September 18, 2017. The conceptualization of the Liberty Festival was a day of discussions, theatre, films, workshops, paintings etc. where young people are encouraged to think critically. The idea is to aware youth about the Constitution and its rich legacy.

Based on this idea, students of Allahabad University approached the Vice Chancellor for permission to hold the event and received his written consent on 13.09. 17. The letter allocated the Senate Hall for the this event. He also agreed in this letter, to be the Chief Guest of event. Based on the permission, due arrangements began at our end.

However, as the mobilization began on the ground, the Vice Chancellor was contacted by senior officials from the Ministry of Human Resource Development inquiring about the event. After which, the permission for the venue was withdrawn. The withdrawal of permission was verbally communicated by the University administration. In this communication, it was mentioned that they (the University administration, especially the VC) have been pressurized to immediately cancel this event, as this is an anti-state event. We were asked why do we need to celebrate the Constitution here in Allahabad? By doing this, are we implicating that the functioning of this University is anti-Constitution? If we at all want to talk about the Constitution, then we should go to Bengal and Kerala and do such events. We were also asked to start events celebrating the Swach Bharat Abhiyan instead.

This was a gross violation all forms of agreeable norms and standards. Written permission confirming a venue was given by the University administration.  Based on which arrangements were made. Artists from Delhi had agreed to come and booking had been made. Cancelling the venue on the last day jeopardized the entire event, making sure that we fail to make any alternative arrangements. 

Meanwhile on social media and other platforms, ABVP and RSS groups launched a malicious campaign targeting the different guests who had committed to be present at the festival. (Attached the pamphlet circulated by ABVP) 

However, since there was no written communication cancelling the permission, we went ahead with the event. We assembled in the front lawns of the Senate Hall on Monday (September 18) morning in presence of police personnel. We initiated discussion on the Constitution and principles of equity, equality and freedom. More than 200 students participated in this discussion.

We seek your solidarity in protesting and raising our voice against blatant violation of freedom of speech and expression. We feel if we are stopped and blocked to celebrate our Constitution in University spaces, where minds of our future citizens are been nurtured and shaped, then where is our country headed after completing 70 years of independence and democracy.

We written an open letter to the Vice Chancellor, which has been published widely by various news daily (news links given below). 

We feel there is an urgent need to come together and stand up against a force that threatens to shut us down by branding us anti-national and anti-state. The incident in Allahabad University is not an isolated event, but what this incident indicates is severity of the problem. If students are not even allowed to talk and discuss the Constitution, then there is much to worry.

In Solidarity,

Concerned Citizens Group &
JAC, Allahabad University

News Coverage: 

See also