Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Carola Binney - Beyond the pale: China’s cheerful racists

NB: The commercial is worth seeing, I request readers to watch it once. Apologists of the regime may kindly reflect upon this blatant racism in the public domain after seven decades of rule by the Chinese Communist Party - DS.. 

Setting off to spend a year teaching English in Zhejiang province in south-eastern China, I expected plenty of surprises. But what struck me most was something they tend not to tell you about in the guidebooks: the racism. It started when I went around the classroom, asking pupils which city they were from. When I got to a slightly darker-skinned boy, his classmates thought it was hilarious to shout ‘Africa!’ It’s a theme. A girl with a similar complexion was taunted with monkey sounds; her peers refused to sit next to her, saying she smelt bad. I apparently erred when, teaching the word for wife, I showed my students a picture of Michelle Obama. The image of the then First Lady was greeted with exaggerated sounds of repulsion: ‘So ugly!’ they said. ‘So black!’

Such comments would have been treated harshly in a British classroom a quarter-century ago, let alone today. But my own protestations were met with confused faces — crestfallen that they’d disappointed their teacher, but clueless as to the nature of their mistake. And this stretches far beyond the classroom. To many Chinese, ideas about racial hierarchies are not outdated anathema but unquestioned belief.

In Britain, a politician who uses a defunct idiom like ‘nigger in the woodpile’ loses the whip. In China, racism is a standard undercurrent of public debate. A few months ago, Pan Qinglin, a Tianjin politician, announced to reporters that he had found out how to ‘solve the problem of the black population in Guangdong’ — a province with a small amount of African migration. Warning that the new arrivals brought drugs, sexual assault and infectious diseases, he urged local policy-makers to tighten controls to prevent China turning ‘from a yellow country to a black-and-yellow country’.

The Chinese don’t make a big deal about their racism: it’s so commonplace it can seem almost cheerful. An advert for a detergent shows a black man chatting up a Chinese woman, only for her to shove him in the washing machine until he emerges a fair-skinned Asian. The advert aired for months before it was picked up by an English-language website and caused uproar. The company, Qiaobi, apologised — to its non-customers. Its analogy of black skin and dirty laundry made perfect sense to the Chinese… read more:

Govt trying to take away independence of judiciary, alleges Prashant Bhushan

Janhastakshep and PUCL jointly organized a public meeting on 19th January 2018 at ‘Press Club’ on the topic Felling of the Last Bastion: Is Indian Democracy in Peril with the Judiciary Becoming a Victim of Political Interference. The meeting was presided over by the Prof Ish Mishra of Delhi University, Speakers were Mr. Prashant Bhushan, Hartosh Singh Bal (Editor: The Carvan), Ms. Poonam (Adv.) and Mr. N D Pancholi (President PUCL).

While introducing the topic Mr. Satentra Ranjan (Senior Journalist) said that the unprecedented media conference by the four senior most Judges of the SC expressing their anguish over what they perceive to be a process under way that threatens the last independent bastion to protect Indian democracy – the judiciary.  They also highlighted that there are irregularities in constitution of benches and assignment of cases by the Chief Justice and asked for remedial measures. They have said, in their letter addressed to the CJI, unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, the democracy will not survive in this country, or any country.

They revealed that not only did their letter evoke no response, it was followed by even more arbitrary assignment of cases and constitution of benches comprising judges who had no domain knowledge or history of knowledge in the cases that had far-reaching consequences for the people i.e. the Aadhar case that pertains to fundamental questions about the powers of the State and the individual, the right to privacy and public interest. According to media reports, the matter related to allocation of a suitable bench for hearing the case about Judge Loya’s death was the final reason for the four judges of the Supreme Court to make their concerns public.

The other cases that worried the four judges were the Sahara-Birla diaries and the case regarding the allocation of a bench to hear a matter in which judges were allegedly bribed by a medical college in UP to obtain a favourable order. Citing conflict of interest the petitioner in the medical college case had asked CJI Dipak Misra to recuse himself from the decision to assign a bench to hear the matter. The request was not accepted… read more:

also see

Alok Pandey: IAS Officer Takes Down Controversial Facebook Post On Kasganj Violence

LUCKNOW:  Raghvendra Vikkram Singh, the Bareilly district magistrate who had put up a post on Facebook that appeared to blame right-wing Hindu groups for provoking communal clashes in Uttar Pradesh, removed the post. Mr Singh's now-deleted post said a "strange trend" had started of late. "To visit Muslim areas and raise slogans against Pakistan. Why? Are they (Muslims) Pakistanis?" The same thing had happened in Khailam village of Bareilly. Then stones were thrown, FIRs lodged," the officer's post, in Hindi, that was seen in context of the Kasganj violence and triggered a controversy, said. A short service commission army officer before joining the civil services, Mr Singh, 59, was last year posted as district magistrate of Bareilly, about 100 km from Kasganj town.

He put up the Facebook post on Sunday, just two days after 22-year-old student of commerce 
Chandan Gupta died in communal clashes that broke out in a Muslim-majority locality of Kasganj during a "Tiranga bike rally" by members of the local unit of the RSS-affiliated students' group, ABVP. Governor Ram Naik had called the Kasganj violence a "blot" for the state ruled by Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. The situation in Kasganj is still tense but a heavy deployment of police personnel combined with a crackdown on hooligans in the district has ensured peace.

Two more people were also injured in the Kasganj violence. Naushad, a labourer on his way back home, was hit by a bullet in his leg in the clashes that killed Chandan Gupta. In the violence and arson that followed, Mohd Akram was also injured when a mob out for revenge dragged him out of his Maruti car and tried to gouge out his eye. The administration hasn't elaborated on what triggered the Kasganj violence. A cell phone video of the rally accessed by NDTV shows hundreds of young men, many holding saffron flags, standing at one of the streets.  Reports say they were asked by locals to move off, but they refused. In the video, they could be heard saying they won't change route. Slogans were being shouted, that said everyone will have to say "Vande Mataram" if they wish to live in India. Reports have suggested that the police had not given permission for the bike rally.

Mr Singh later told reporters that his point was that "you need to have police permission or permission by the administration for certain things". "The problems of law and order that we are facing... if someone does these things without proper permission from the administration, so many problems happen. When you are aggressive without a reason, when you do not seek police permission, you defy, there are many problems...  Sometimes these things take a turn and incidents like Muzaffarnagar happen. Restraint is what is needed," he said.

Monday, 29 January 2018

How the Indian cricket team reacted to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi

NB: On the 70th anniversary of his assassination, the Mahatma still haunts us, almost as if in answer to Sarojini Naidu's broadcast of February 1, 1948: My Father, Do Not Rest. Given that the politics of his assassins grips a section of our ruling class and that malicious propaganda against him continues unabated, we would be doing ourselves a favour by learning more about his final weeks and days of life. Above all, that period manifested both his monumental strength of character and boundless compassion for suffering humanity. As Mary Catherine Bateson once said, "the timing of death, like the ending of a story, gives a changed meaning to what preceded it". If the Mahatma remains relevant today it is because his message of love and non-violence appeals deeply to the human spirit in search for a new way of life. This moving essay by Gopalkrishna Gandhi reminds us of the impact of the news of his passing. DS

Photos: Seventy years ago today

I have no interest in cricket at all. But it is one thing to have no interest at all in the sport, another to be interested in cricketers as persons, individually and as a category. Like being uninitiated in classical music, yet finding musicians fascinating, as persons and as a community.
Turning the pages of a rare volume, Memories of Bapu, brought out by The Hindustan Times in early 1948 , I was struck by the photograph in it of Indian cricketers, members of our Test team, touring Australia in January 1948. This was not only India’s inaugural tour of Australia but also the first tour by a team from Independent India. The ‘tourists’ in the picture are in Melbourne, standing in a row, distraught, paying homage to the memory of the assassinated leader.

Two distinguished experts in cricket, N Ram and Ramachandra Guha, helped me contextualise the tour. And Boria Majumdar identified the men in the picture as, from left to right, KM Rangnekar, CT Sarwate, and VS Hazare. He adds: “Behind them the two less visible seem to be G Kishenchand and JK Irani. The extreme right is L Amarnath and on his immediate left is Pankaj Gupta, followed by Amir Elahi and DJ Phadkar, and the last one looks like SW Sohoni.”

A review of this tour carried in the Melbourne Cricket Club Library’s journal The Yorker (2007/8), which N Ram shared with me, says: “In Victoria, the assassination raised thoughts that the Fifth Test at the MCG might be abandoned. The Indian manager, Pankaj Gupta, said, We have been stunned. None of us could get any sleep last night. We just sat around sadly listening to the All-India radio. Some of us wept at the news.’ Despite their sorrow, the Indians decided to “complete their itinerary and keep faith with the public”, but it is hard to believe that their thoughts were totally committed to cricket. As Mr. Gupta explained, Gandhi’s death was ‘a national catastrophe, and it was difficult for the team to adjust themselves and recapture the incentive to win.’ ”

The Indian team, as well as the Australian team led by Sir Donald Bradman, observed a minute’s silence before play began at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on the first day of the fifth Test. The men in the picture are now no more, Hazare being the last to cross over, in 2004 at 89. Memories of Bapu carries responses to the assassination from thinkers, statespersons, among which George Bernard Shaw’s is deservedly the most famous: “It is dangerous to be good.”

The most prescient, the most profound among them, is the following from Mary M Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women, as it was then called: “As we mothers of the world stand in awesome fear of the roar of jet planes, the crash of the atom bomb and the unknown horrors of germ warfare, we must turn our eyes to the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi.”

But as seen today, the picture of our cricketers is for me, the most tender part of the volume.
None of the players are looking at the camera. They are in fact not thinking of the camera, of posing for a picture. Their thoughts are with the slain leader and his slaying. No one who sees this picture can say cricketers are obsessed with themselves, their image, that they have no thought beyond themselves, their scores, their earnings on the turf, off the turf.

No selfie could have captured that moment in Melbourne. It is selfless.

Perhaps Majumdar can initiate a search for letters the 13 men and their manager wrote home on what they felt about the future of India and the world following the assassination. Something very different, very profound, like Bethune’s assessment might emerge from them, reflecting the minds of these men of the willow. The 70th anniversary, this year, of Gandhi’s assassination is far more significant for us, civilisationally, than the 150th anniversary of his birth, next year.

Why do I say this? Because births emerge from parents’ timelines, deaths from one’s own. They say something about us. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay has written that Gandhi was an “ichha marani”, that is, he died as he wanted to — in solidarity with those who were dying at bigotry’s hands. Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Parsi cricketers stand in silence in the picture, in deep reflection, in grief and in anxiety. They stand, in anxiety, for us, today.

Saeed Kamali Dehghan - Second woman arrested in Tehran for hijab protest

A second woman has been arrested in Iran for protesting against the country’s compulsory hijab rules after standing on a telecoms box on a Tehran street, taking off her headscarf and holding it aloft on a stick. The protest follows a similar action last month against the country’s requirement that women cover themselves from head to toe in public. Pictures posted on social media on Monday showed at least three other women standing on top of telecoms boxes in Tehran in apparent solidarity with the women, including one near Ferdowsi Square. A widely shared smartphone image of the first protest (the main image above) showed a young woman standing on a telecoms box on Enghelab Street in the centre of the Iranian capital. The woman was later identified as 31-year-old Vida Movahed.

Movahed’s act of resistance coincided with a wave of protests that spread across the country. Although they were not directly linked, her action embodied the aspirations of a movement of young Iranians frustrated with the lack of social and political freedoms. Many Iranians, including men, changed their social media profile pictures to images inspired by Movahed’s protest, and shared a hashtag that translated as “the girl of Enghelab Street”. Movahed’s identity was initially a mystery until Iran’s most prominent human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, established she had been arrested. Sotoudeh said on her Facebook page on Sunday that Movahed had been released. 

On Monday, reacting to the new protest, Sotoudeh wrote: “Today, I was informed that a second woman has stood on a telecoms box in the same place, holding up her hijab aloft on a stick. Her message is clear, girls and women are fed up with forced [hijab]. Let women decide themselves about their own body.”  The identity of the second woman has not been revealed. Women’s rights campaigner Masih Alinejad said witnesses told her the woman had been arrested. Pictures posted on social media showed the woman wearing a green wristband, in apparent reference to the 2009 Green movement whose leaders are still under house arrest.

Vahid Online, a popular channel on Telegram, the most popular social network in Iran, posted a series of images showing other women taking their headscarves off and holding them up on a stick.
One image showed a bouquet of flowers laid on top of the first telecoms box that featured in Movahed’s protest, which was also used by the second woman who has been arrested.

Iranian law has compelled women to wear a hijab since the 1979 revolution, but it has been a difficult policy to enforce. Despite the fear of reprisals, millions of women in Iran defy the restrictions on a daily basis. A growing number of women, especially in Tehran, refuse to wear a hijab while driving, arguing that a car is a private space where they can dress more freely.. The issue has become more prominent in recent years, partly thanks to a campaign run by Alinejad called My Stealthy Freedom. Her Facebook page invites women in Iran to post pictures of themselves without their headscarves in defiance of the rules. She is also behind White Wednesdays, a campaign encouraging women to wear white headscarves and take them off in protest at the rules.

“Forced hijab is the most visible symbol of oppression against women in Iran, that’s why fighting for freedom to wear or not to wear hijab is the first step towards full equality,” Alinejad told the Guardian on Monday. “These women are not protesting against a piece of cloth, it’s about our identity, our dignity, and our freedom of choice. Our body, our choice.” Zahra Safyari, an Iranian woman who voluntarily wears a hijab, tweeted: “I wear the chador. I chose to wear the hijab, it wasn’t forced on me by my family or the society, nor it was a work requirement. I am happy with my choice but I am opposed to forced hijab and that’s why I appreciate the Girls of Enghelab Street. Religion and hijab should not be compulsory.”

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Death of Judge Loya: Government documents placed before Supreme Court raise more questions, deepen the mystery. By ATUL DEV

Documents submitted to the Supreme Court by the state of Maharashtra as part of hearings regarding the death of the judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya contradict each other on multiple counts. The papers have been submitted alongside a report prepared for the additional chief secretary of the home ministry of Maharashtra by Sanjay Barve, the commissioner of Maharashtra’s State Intelligence Department, or SID. Copies of the documents were handed over to petitioners asking for an investigation into Loya’s mysterious death in Nagpur in 2014. The papers raise further questions about the circumstances of the case, and fail to resolve any of the troubling discrepancies already exposed in the matter by The Caravan. They also suggest a concerted bid to manipulate records to create a narrative that Loya died of a natural heart attack.
The submitted documents include statements from four judges - Shrikant Kulkarni, SM Modak, VC Barde and Roopesh Rathi - who claim to have been with Loya in his last hours. None of these judges had previously spoken or submitted statements on the case. A handwritten statement given to the SID by Rathi, who says he was working in Nagpur in 2014, states that the ECG machine at Dande Hospital was not working when Loya was taken there on the night he died.

Rathi’s statement says that Dande Hospital “was on 1st floor and so we all climbed stairs and went there. One assistant doctor was present there. Mr. Loya complained about severe chest pain. His face was sweating & he was continually telling about more chest pain and heart burn. At that time the doctor tried to do his ECG but the nodes of ECG machine were broken. Doctor tried and wasted some time but machine was not working.” In the copy of Rathi’s two-page statement submitted to the Supreme Court, these lines appear at the bottom of the first page. It is evident that the text has been abruptly cut off on this page of the copy produced to the petitioners by the state of Maharashtra.
Judge Rathi’s statement agrees with what Loya’s sister Dr Anuradha Biyani told The Caravan, as reported in November 2017. Biyani said that, soon after Loya’s death, the judge’s family was informed that no ECG test was performed on him at Dande Hospital because “the ECG was not working.”

Subsequently, the Indian Express, in an attempt to discredit the family’s concerns, published the chart of an ECG test purportedly carried out on Loya at Dande Hospital. The time and date on the chart indicated that the ECG test had been carried out on the morning of 30 November 2014, even though Loya died on the night intervening 30 November and 1 December. The Indian Express later quoted the owner of Dande Hospital explaining the discrepancy away as a “technical glitch.” The same ECG chart was cited in statements to the media by the commissioner of the Nagpur police, and was reported on by NDTV, which said it “was shown the ECG report by Nagpur police.”

In their statements to the SID, Modak and Kulkarni do not mention an ECG test at all. Barde states in passing that the medical officer on duty at Dande Hospital performed an examination on Loya that included an ECG test. The SID report itself makes no mention of any ECG test.
Rathi’s eye-witness testimony that the ECG “machine was not working” strengthens the grounds for doubting the authenticity of the ECG chart. If, in fact, no ECG test was performed on Loya at Dande Hospital, questions must be asked as to how a chart purportedly produced by such a test, with the words “Dande Hospital” handwritten in its margins, found its way to select media outlets within a week of The Caravan first reporting the Loya family’s suspicions.

In a follow-up report in December, The Caravan pointed out signs of possible manipulation in numerous records relevant to Loya’s death. It is notable that not a single one of the apparently doctored records pointed out in that report—including the ECG chart, pages of the occupancy register at the guest house where Loya stayed in Nagpur, and a page of his post-mortem—has been included in the 60 pages of documents submitted to the Supreme Court. Loya’s post-mortem is mentioned in an index of all the papers submitted, but only part of the document has actually been produced before the court so far. The first page of the post-mortem is listed as page number 25 of the submission, but this page has been excluded without explanation. The Caravan’s December report included an image of the first page of Loya’s post-mortem, and pointed out that a crucial date on it had been overwritten. According to a Supreme Court order regarding the Loya petitions dated 22 January, when one of the petitioners raised the issue of the missing page in court, a counsel assisting Harish Salve and Mukul Rohatgi, who are representing the state of Maharashtra in the Loya matter, said that it would be provided “in the course of the day.” The Caravan has not been able to determine whether the petitioners have yet received a copy of the missing page… read more:

also see

Saturday, 27 January 2018

America's ‘Law And Order’ Party Has Unleashed An Extraordinary Attack On Law Enforcement

President Donald Trump called himself the “law and order” candidate. Members of law enforcement, Trump said, were the “most mistreated people” in America, and it was time to give them their power back. “We’re going to support you like you’ve never been supported before,” he said in a speech last year. “We love our police and law enforcement ― God Bless them all!” he tweeted last month.
FBI agents aren’t feeling the love these days.

Call it the war on G-men. As they’ve run interference for Trump by undermining the special counsel investigation being led by Robert Mueller, some Republicans on Capitol Hill have unleashed broad attacks that suggest the nation’s premier law enforcement agency is tainted by corruption and malfeasance. 

They’ve latched onto a text showing a FBI official joking about a “secret society,” and suggested there was a “deep state” plot to “subvert the will of the American people.” They’ve compared the actions of U.S. law enforcement officers to the KGB, and said they have a secret memo written by Republican staffers  proving “shocking,” “sickening,” “jaw-dropping” law enforcement conduct that was “worse than Watergate.”.. read more:

Swara Bhaskar writes to Sanjay Leela Bhansali: ‘At The End of Your Magnum Opus, I Felt Reduced to a Vagina – Only'

NB: An excellent and timely critique of Padmaavat from another angle altogether. Well written Swara, and thank you. Lets hope all the great men with moustaches read it. DS

No Sir; Rajasthan in the 13th century with its cruel practices is merely the historical setting of the ballad you have adapted into the film Padmaavat. The context of your film is India in the 21st century; where five years ago, a girl was gang-raped brutally in the country’s capital inside a moving bus. She didn’t commit suicide because her honour had been desecrated, Sir. She fought her six rapists. She fought them so hard that one of those monsters shoved an iron rod up her vagina. She was found on the road with her intestines spilling out. Apologies for the graphic details, Sir, but this is the real ‘context’ of your film. A week before your film released, a 15-year-old Dalit girl was brutally gang-raped in Jind in Haryana; a crime bearing sinister similarities to the rape of Nirbhaya.

You do know that acts like Sati and raping women are two sides of the same mindset...

It was with great difficulty that a group of reform-minded Indians, and the provincial British Colonial governments and Princely States in India abolished and criminalised Sati in a series of judgments between 1829 and 1861. In independent India, The Indian Sati Prevention Act (1988) further criminalised any type of aiding, abetting, and glorifying of Sati. Your act of thoughtlessly glorifying this misogynistic criminal practice is something you ought to answer for, Sir. As your ticket- buying audience, I have the right to ask you how and why you did this. You must be aware that modern Indian history has recorded some more recent Jauhar– like acts. During India and Pakistan’s bloody Partition some 75,000 women were raped, kidnapped, abducted, forcibly impregnated by men of the ‘other’ religion. There were numerous instances of voluntary and assisted suicides by women, in some cases husbands and fathers themselves beheaded their wives and daughters before men of the ‘other’ religion could touch them...

Dear Mr. Bhansali,
At the outset Sir, congratulations on finally being able to release your magnum opus ‘Padmaavat’ – minus the ‘i’, minus the gorgeous Deepika Padukone’s uncovered slender waist, minus 70 shots you apparently had to cut out.. but heyyyy! You managed to have it released with everyone’s heads still on their shoulders and noses still intact. And in this ‘tolerant’ India of today, where people are being murdered over meat, and school children are targets for avenging some archaic notion of male pride, that your film even managed a release – that is I guess commendable, and so again, congratulations.
Congratulations also on the stunning performances all around by your entire cast — primary and supporting.  And, of course, the film was a stunning visual treat. But then all of this is to be expected from a brilliant auteur like yourself, a man who leaves his stamp on everything he touches.

By the way Sir, we know each other, after a fashion. I don’t know if you remember, but I played a tiny role in your film Guzaarish. A two-scene -long role, to be precise.  I remember having a brief chat with you about my lines, and you asking me what I thought about the lines. I remember feeling proud for a whole month that Sanjay Leela Bhansali had asked me my opinion. I watched you agitatedly explaining to junior artists in one scene, and to the jimmy jib operator in the second scene; some minutiae of the particular shot you were taking. And I remember thinking to myself, “Wow! This man really cares about every little detail in his film.” I was impressed with you Sir.

An avid watcher of your films, I marvelled at how you pushed boundaries with every film you made and how stars turned into fierce and deep performers under your able direction. You moulded my idea of what epic love must be like and I fantasised about the day I will be directed by you in a protagonist part. I was and remain a fan. And I want you to know, I really fought for your film when it was still called Padmavati. I grant you, I fought on Twitter timelines –not on the battlefield, and I sparred with trolls not raving manic Muslims; but still I fought for you. I said to TV cameras the things I thought you were not being able to say because your Rs 185 crore were on the line. I genuinely believed what I said. I genuinely believed and still believe that you and every other person in this country has the right to say the story they want to say, the way they want to say it, showing how much ever stomach of the protagonist they want to show; without having their sets burnt, their selves assaulted, their limbs severed or their lives lost.

Tavleen Singh: Surreal India

The sickening attack by Karni Sena hoodlums on a school bus last week had a surreal quality when seen from Davos. Our Prime Minister had just left after giving a speech whose gist was that from ancient times India has believed that the world was one single family. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. In a conference whose theme was building bridges in a fractured world, these words of ancient wisdom had real resonance. Then came those images of small children screaming in terror as their teachers urged them to hide under the seats of their bus to escape the stones and glass from broken windows. If the teachers had not been speaking in Hindi, I would have found it hard to believe that the attack was in India and not in some war-ravaged African country.

It was an attack so reminiscent of the kind of thing Boko Haram does that Farhan Akhtar could not have said it better than he did in this tweet. ‘Attacking a school bus is not an agitation. It is terrorism. The people who did this are terrorists. Please refer to them as such.’ The truth is that the Karni Sena is a terrorist organisation. But it appears to function under the fond gaze of BJP chief ministers. If the Chief Ministers of Haryana, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and UP had not been indulgent patrons, these hoodlums would have been jailed a year ago when the first attack happened in Jaipur.

Tavleen Singh - Modernity or murder, Mr Modi? // Vipin Tripathi: Funds to help Pehlu Khan's family

The maintenance of law and order is the primary duty of chief ministers. This is usually done by being on the side of those who suffer when it breaks down. Not on the side of those who break the law. When they assumed high office, these chief ministers swore by the Constitution of India to do this without fear or favour. And yet they have shown more than once that they favour these Karni Sena terrorists. This is very much in keeping with their implicit support for the cow vigilantes who have lynched Muslims and Dalits working in the leather and meat industries and in the cattle trade. Not very different to the implicit support given to the violent goons who wander about attacking lovers and married couples in the name of ‘love jihad’.

Mohsin Hamid: ‘In the land of the pure, no one is pure enough’

Perhaps it is living half your life in Pakistan, for Pakistan is the land of the pure. Literally so: the land, stan, of the pure, pak. Perhaps that is why you have come to question the commonly held perception that purity is good and impurity is bad. For a tribe of humans newly arrived in a location never before inhabited by humans, such an outlook is perhaps sensible. Purity in a stream of water renders it fit to drink. Impurity in a piece of meat sickens those who eat it. Purity is hence to be valued and impurity to be avoided, resisted, expelled. And yet you believe the time has come to seek to reverse, at least partially, the emotional polarity of these two words, to extol impurity’s benefits and denounce purity’s harms.

The issue is, of course, personal. We are each of us composed of atoms, but equally we are composed by time. Since your time has been spent half inside Pakistan and half outside, and your outlook and attitudes shaped by this, you are in a sense half-Pakistani, which is to say, as Pakistan is the land of the pure, you are half-pure: an impossible state. You cannot exist as you are. Or rather, you must be impure. And if impurity is bad then you are bad. And to be bad is hazardous, in any society. So yes, the issue is personal, and pressing.

But in Pakistan, the issue is political as well, for it affects everyone. Once purity becomes what determines the rights a human being is afforded, indeed whether they are entitled to live or not, then there is a ferocious contest to establish hierarchies of purity, and in that contest no one can win. No one can ever be sufficiently pure to be lastingly safe. In the land of the pure, no one is pure enough. No Muslim is Muslim enough. And so all are suspect. All are at risk. And many are killed by others who find their purity lacking, and many of their killers are in turn killed for the same reason. And on and on, in a chain reaction. The politics of purity is the politics of fission.

This should not be surprising. Pakistan was founded by fission, the splitting of British imperial India into two separate independent states, Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India. And Pakistan has experienced further fission, the splitting of its western and eastern wings into Pakistan and Bangladesh. In each case, a more complex entity was broken into what was believed would be two more internally harmonious ones. But a retreat from complexity is no guarantee of future harmony. Too often, it is accompanied by the rise of a fetish for purity, the desire to exterminate lingering traces of complexity within.

Pakistan is not unique. Rather, it is at the forefront of a global trend. All around the world, governments and would-be governments appear overwhelmed by complexity and are blindly unleashing the power of fission, championing quests for the pure. In India a politics of Hindu purity is wrenching open deep and bloody fissures in a diverse society. In Myanmar a politics of Buddhist purity is massacring and expelling the Rohingya. In the United States a politics of white purity is marching in white hoods and red baseball caps, demonising Muslims and Hispanic people, killing and brutalising black people, jeering at intellectuals, and spitting in the face of climate science... read more:

Kota Neelima - No one can save Padmaavat(i)

NB: The author if this excellent and timely article, has been threatened by the very same people who claim to defend the honour of women. Their brutish behaviour only proves the point she is making. These strong men are actually a disgrace. Let them investigate the figures for female foeticide in Rajasthan and tell us why they never thought to agitate to protect babies from being murdered. DS

Women in India are in a constant state of war. Women are attacked on roads, in public transport, at homes, offices, classrooms, on social media and even in religious places. They are killed as children, and even as foetuses. Acid is thrown at women’s faces when they reject men, and they are beaten and even burnt to death if they don’t pay dowry to their husbands and their families. Women do not get the same education, opportunities and even the same food as men. Women are neglected, discriminated, assaulted and killed because they are women. That, is the actual state of women in India.

Now, women can also be made to commit suicide; the Karni Sena has threatened that women will commit ‘jauhar’ or self-immolation if the movie, Padmaavat, is released. The protest is not against the death of Padmavati herself in the story, but against a creative interpretation of her exposure to the public gaze. Karni Sena has protested in the past against movies to safeguard the notion of women as symbols of ‘honour’ of a caste or a religious community. Questions arise; why doesn’t Karni Sena protest against demeaning ‘item numbers’ done by women in movies? Why doesn’t Karni Sena threaten violence to stop the use of sexual assault as a weapon in Indian cinema? Has Karni Sena protested against depiction of women as submissive and men in dominant roles?

The list of crimes against women is long. In 2016, according to the National Crime Records Bureau, the total crimes against women were 3,38,954. Of which, reported cases in the category of cruelty by husband or his relatives were 1,10,378; assault cases were 84,746; and, rape cases were 38,947. In 2015, 67 per cent of the investigated cases of crimes against women were disposed of by the police, according to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. The Ministry also reveals that only 2.3 per cent of cases of crimes against women were convicted in courts in 2015.

Not all crimes are overt. Social and patriarchal traditions fix a woman’s reproductive role as her only identity and contribution. According to the Ministry, the literacy rate among girls over 15 years of age was 59.3 per cent as against among boys of the same age at 78.8 per cent. Adult literacy of women was 50.6 per cent in rural areas, while that of men was 74.1 per cent. Women are pulled out of schools mainly for marriage at an early age. A study by ActionAid in 2016 revealed that out of total 10.3 crore child marriages as per Census 2011, 8.5 crore are underage girls, constituting 83 per cent. The National Family and Health Survey 4 (NFHS 4) for 2015-16 states that among women of 20-24 years of age, 26.8 per cent were married before they turned 18.

Women do not get to eat well, taking a toll on their health. According to the NFHS 4, more than half or 53 per cent of women between 15-49 years, were anaemic. Out of these, 54.2 per cent lived in rural areas, while 50.8 per cent were in urban areas. Over 26 per cent of rural women had a Body Mass Index (BMI) below normal. When was the last time Karni Sena demanded better nutrition or compulsory education for girls? When was the last time such protestors threatened violence to stop girl children from being married off? What are the views of the Karni Sena on employment rights of women? We are in the dark about such matters.

Ironically, some women have lent their voices in favour of the threats and protests of Karni Sena, reminding one of the women who support regressive practices of fundamentalist Islam. In this, perhaps, there is no difference between religious communities; women are slaves everywhere. Often when women survive, it is not because they revolt but because they surrender. Women are aware that their submission jeopardises their own chances of equality and freedom. They also know that they accept honour as a precondition to the protection and security of patriarchy, and become subjects of men’s interpretation of such honour. But what option do they have without the support from the state and the community, except to give in to the need for survival? That is why a married woman puts up with domestic violence. That is why sexual assault cases are not taken to the police, leading to low reportage, especially in rural areas.

The state reinforces patriarchy by making it difficult for women to make their voices heard. The government application forms that demand the male suffix to a woman’s name, necessitate the woman’s loyalty to the notions of patriarchy. The schemes that deal with women as dependents, underline the role of the male as the provider in their lives. The rules that stop short of ensuring rights over property and land, ensure that the women are at the mercy of men.

Signs of improvement in education for women, rights, empowerment, etc., are better expedited when supported by progressive thinking among men. The assertive among women, however, face not only extraordinary hurdles in their path but also discrimination at every level of personal and professional advancement. That is the central reason why progress on gender lines is sporadic, and uneven across the country. The ills that afflict the darkest corners of India can also be seen in the brightest cities. An urban, educated, and working woman may have to remain silent about the abuses and injustices as a rural, uneducated and unemployed woman. What is common in such scenarios is the Indian man, whether he is educated, uneducated, rural, urban, poor, rich, traditional, or modern. No wonder, then, that Karni Sena can get away by threatening to mutilate the face of a woman if a movie is released. There is no one who can protect Padmavati.

Friday, 26 January 2018

PRESS RELEASE False promises to Indian women and restriction of movement in production for Western garment brands

January 26, 2018

New report: False promises to Indian women and restriction of movement in production for Western garment brands

Utrecht, January 26, 2018 - Female migrants employed in India’s garment factories supplying to big international brands like Benetton, C&A, GAP, H&M, Levi’s, M&S and PVH, are subject to conditions of modern slavery. In Bangalore, India’s biggest garment producing hub, young women are recruited with false promises about wages and benefits, they work in garment factories under high-pressure for low wages. Their living conditions in hostels are poor and their freedom of movement is severely restricted. Claiming to be eighteen at least, many workers look much younger.

These are some conclusions from the report Labour Without Liberty – Female Migrant Workers in Bangalore's Garment Industry. The study found that five out of the eleven ILO indicators for forced labour exist in the Bangalore garment industry: abuse of vulnerability, deception as a result of false promises (wages etc.), restriction of movement in the hostel, intimidation and threats, and abusive working and living conditions. Some of these aspects are also felt to a certain extent by the local workforce, but are more strongly experienced by migrant workers.

Uma comes from a small village in northern states of India like many of her young colleagues. She was recruited and trained to go work into one of the 1200 factories in Bangalore, the ‘textile capital’ of India. Uma used to go to school and help her mother, now she stitches dresses and sportswear for H&M, Benetton, C&A, Calvin Klein and many other big international brands. Six full days a week. The target is hundred pieces per hour. For a minor like she is - her mates reminded her she was 18, but she turned out to be only fifteen - work at the factory in a faraway city is difficult. She misses her family and friends, who are thousands of kilometres away.

DAGMARA MOSKWA - Rewriting Russian history

In 2015 the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany was celebrated in grand style. During that time, a larger than usual number of Stalin monuments was erected in several cities especially in south-western parts of the country upon the proposal of the communist party.  The communists’ call came after a 2014 law passed by the Duma introduced a criminal penalty for rehabilitating Nazism and criticising Soviet activities during the Second World War. The law stipulates up to five years in prison for ‘lying about history’. Similar steps have been taken with regards to teaching history in schools.

In August 2017 Olga Vasilyeva, who is known for her close ties with the Kremlin and the Orthodox Church, was nominated as the new Russian minister of education and science. She replaced Dmitry Livanov who was considered to be a liberal-minded technocrat. This change came as no major surprise. Livanov’s dismissal from his post had been discussed in the circles close to Putin for some time. The minister had many enemies, especially after the fierce battle he led against academic plagiarism in doctoral and postdoctoral dissertations at Russian universities. Livanov also worked on reforming the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) which, in theory, was meant to improve Russian academia and science. In practice, it has led to the government taking control of RAS’s assets and operations. As a result of the reform, the Federal Agency for Scientific Organisations (FANO) was established in 2013. It is a body that is subordinate to the government that manages fixed property and other assets of all educational institutions in Russia.

Even though the RAS reform turned out to be to the government’s advantage, Putin still decided to move Livanov, making him his advisor on trade and economic relations with Ukraine. The decision was seen as the president’s concession to conservatives in the ruling elite, who believed Livanov did not put enough effort into promoting patriotism, pride and the accomplishments of the Russian state.
In academic circles, Vasilyeva is a highly regarded historian, specialising in the Orthodox Church. 

Her research has mostly focused on the Soviet era and specifically on relations between the communist regime and the clergy. Less known, however, is the fact that Vasilyeva graduated in music, with a focus on conducting church choirs. She began her academic career as a teacher of history and singing. Without doubt, the minister is a prolific scholar. She has published nearly 160 academic articles over a span of 30 years. Thus, the controversy around Vasilyeva’s nomination is not related to her academic accomplishments, but rather revolves around how she interprets the past… read morehttp://www.eurozine.com/rewriting-russian-history/

"Only love can save those who are infected with anger" - Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich speaks to director Staffan Julén

Belarusian journalist and author Svetlana Alexievich was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature for her work documenting the lives of Soviet and post-Soviet citizens. Her latest project, about love, is the subject of a documentary film by Swedish filmmaker Staffan Julén. Here, Alexievich discusses with Julén why she chose the subject, and what drives her work.
Life itself gives birth to all my themes. At first, as you know, it turned into several books. A history of that period of time, the Red time, when the idea mattered most of all. Everyone was infected with the idea, to a greater or lesser extent. Or, at least, they were curbed by it. But everyone depended on it and many believed sincerely in it. In the end, many lost faith. But the idea remained, like an unyielding inner core, a reinforcing steel bar. During this lifetime, the time when the idea ruled, various things happened. I selected the most overpowering, most dramatic events, ones that could shed a light on what kind of people we were. What we had been through. How we had been deceived by that utopian vision. And how, at first, we hadn’t understood but eventually began to understand. How we wouldn’t have been able to endure living in any other way than we did. It wouldn’t have worked for us. As I moved on, from one book to the next, something struck me. People talk about the war or about Chernobyl. But only rarely do people talk about happiness.

A feeling grew on me that people didn’t talk about the things that really matter in human lives. And I’d look back over my own life. My childhood, for instance. My parents never spoke about happiness. About how you ought to be happy and grow up. How beautiful life is, how joyful it is when love comes to you. How you will have children but not only that, you will also find love. And that it is something so enigmatic, so interesting. But … all the talks we had were about death and the mother country. Talks about what is important about being human simply never happened. Later in life, it was just more of the same. Of course, people did fall in love and led their lives. But there never seemed to be … a philosophy of life. It was up to the individual to try every day to push ahead, and reach for the meaning of it all. This was neither seen as a philosophy for individuals nor for communities.

Always, there was something that mattered more. That towered above human beings. A striving of some kind, a sacrifice of some kind. Which you must be prepared for, always. And when I had come to the end of that series of books – when utopia had been defeated, when we were all caught up in the rubble it left behind – I began to think that I wanted to write an account of who we are, in ourselves, but from a different point of view. I wondered: what would be the core of a narrative like that? If, earlier on, the core had been Afghanistan or the war or Chernobyl – where would you find it now? I thought that it would probably be found among the things we never used to think about. Never, that is, until now, when private life has finally been resurrected. When, finally, money has taken on meaning, significance. Before, everyone was just as broke as everyone else. Money hadn’t meant anything in particular. Now, though, people had started to travel, to see the world. For them, a lot of questions had surfaced, they had found desires. If they wanted to, they could dive into a kind of vast ocean that was completely unknown to them. That’s to say, into private life.

It offered another form of human meaningfulness than to go off and die somewhere. As it turned out, literature – Russian literature – was unable to help them because it has always been preoccupied with quite different things. With loftier and high-order ideas, that is. It always contains something ready to squash human life. Whatever higher order idea it is. And then I thought, of course, love is the most important, essential aspect of us; it, and the time when we are about to slip away. When we prepare ourselves for disappearing from this world.

So, I thought, as a preliminary idea: Love and Death. Then I decided to go for that idea and began questioning people and asking them to tell me about their lives. Most importantly, to speak about love, whether it had been there or had not been found. It seems true that people are in one group or the other: either, they know what love is or they don’t know what love is. They may have had children or not, that doesn’t affect anything. So, for quite a long time … since five, six, seven years ago, thereabouts, I have been actively thinking about this. Meanwhile I record people as they talk. That is the time when you somehow get the hang of the material, and gradually get a feel for the book, a foretaste of the theme… read more:

More posts on Svetlana Alexievich

Thursday, 25 January 2018

George Soros: Facebook and Google are a menace to society // ‘Trump would like to establish a mafia state’

Facebook and Google have become “obstacles to innovation” and are a “menace” to society whose “days are numbered”, said billionaire investor and philanthropist George Soros at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday. “Mining and oil companies exploit the physical environment; social media companies exploit the social environment,” said the Hungarian-American businessman, according to a transcript of his speech.

“This is particularly nefarious because social media companies influence how people think and behave without them even being aware of it. This has far-reaching adverse consequences on the functioning of democracy, particularly on the integrity of elections.” In addition to skewing democracy, social media companies “deceive their users by manipulating their attention and directing it towards their own commercial purposes” and “deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide”. The latter, he said, “can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents”.

Tech's terrible year: how the world turned on Silicon Valley in 2017
In March, the Times of London revealed that YouTube had paid, via an advertising revenue share, Islamic extremists to peddle hate speech, leading to a boycott from many major advertisers. A second boycott started this month after brands discovered that their ads were appearing alongside content being exploited by paedophiles. In May, the Guardian’s investigation into Facebook’s content moderation policies revealed that the social network flouted Holocaust denial laws except where it feared being sued. Four months later, Pro Publica discovered that Facebook’s ad tools could be used to target “Jew haters”.  “The power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies. It takes a real effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called ‘the freedom of mind’. There is a possibility that once lost, people who grow up in the digital age will have difficulty in regaining it. This may have far-reaching political consequences.”

Soros warned of an “even more alarming prospect” on the horizon if data-rich internet companies such as Facebook and Google paired their corporate surveillance systems with state-sponsored surveillance – a trend that’s already emerging in places such as the Philippines. “This may well result in a web of totalitarian control the likes of which not even Aldous Huxley or George Orwell could have imagined,” he said. The companies, which he described as “ever more powerful monopolies” are unlikely to change their behaviour without regulation… read more:

Keeping the republic - by Suhas Palshikar

Benjamin Franklin is said to have made this observation on the American constitution: “A republic if you can keep it”. It was as much a comment on ability as it was on intent. Republics are easy to form; they are difficult to sustain. Republics can be sustained in a formal manner more easily than they can be sustained in their content. A majority of the countries claim to be republics but republicanism eludes many of them.

Like every year, the Republic Day this year too would be full of a display of India’s cultural heritage and military might. Cities and states will compete with each other to raise the mast higher to hoist the flag. But the Franklin poser could still not be easily avoided. Our founding fathers gave us a republican constitution but all they could hope was that a civic virtue, necessary for republicanism to strike roots, would be cultivated by the recipients of the benefits of the republic.

Dr Ambedkar warned that “however good a constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, are a bad lot”. He did not refer merely to elected representatives or the “rulers”, but to the incomplete project of transforming people into citizens. Therefore, Republic Day, just as it brings celebrations and pronouncements of pride in the might of the state, exhorts us to introspect on the fragile republican culture that would undercut the formal edifice of the republic. At least four core challenges to the idea of republic can be identified.

The first concerns the distortions of democracy. Among the more glaring, we can list majoritarianism, rise of vigilantism and institutional corrosion. As democracy gets converted into shows of numerical strength, the capacity to negotiate and deliberate drowns under the noise of numbers. This trait gives way to an anarchic articulation of vigilantism by protectors of various causes, rejecting the idea of rule of law. Both a cause and an effect of this is the all-round corrosion of institutions. It would be tough to identify institutions that continue to enjoy and consolidate confidence in their institutional practices and in their capacity to deliver. There is an inter-institution competition to display their flair for failure. From media to military and from administration to adjudication, we seem to be witnessing non-performance, transgressions, disconnects or betrayals. The republic is besieged with misplaced cultural priorities, bragging generals and brawling judges. The republic crumbles when statesmanship stops at showmanship, politics breeds fear and institutions fail to strengthen norms and procedures.

The second challenge pertains to citizenship itself. As Ambedkar presciently warned, caste and community intervene in the shaping of citizenship. Seven decades down the line, the fortresses of community have become more impenetrable. In today’s India, nobody can criticise, comment or censure the practices of “another” community of which she is not part. On the other hand, insiders can only uphold and celebrate the practices and symbols of the community. Communities are beyond debate and criticism; they exist as sacred and protected enclaves where outsiders are barred from entry (save for glorification) and members are imprisoned inside.

Relations among communities are also marked by mutual suspicion. This is not confined only to Hindu-Muslim relations; even among castes, relations are, more often than not, competitive. The violence a few years ago between the Gurjjars and Meenas or the violence during the Jat agitation in Haryana are cases in point. Religious minorities are vulnerable to riots and pogroms, Adivasis face repression from expanding capitalism and Dalits continue to be subjects of humiliation and violence from upper and middle castes. As a result, individuals are unable to transcend their group identity or link their group identity to their identity as citizens. Caste-community based separation, suspicion and violence ensure that the idea of citizenship becomes a chimera. Rather than pursuing the agenda of social justice, caste action often culminates in consolidating identities, constructing symbols and creating boundaries made from cultural universes.

In this situation, it is near impossible that any idea of common or public good would emerge and sustain. So, the third challenge emerges from the absence of a shared vision of what constitutes public good. Communities are so clearly separated that each entertains a separate notion of what constitutes the “public” and therefore, what public good is. Given the fragmentation of the public and impossibility of common good, all politics and policymaking takes the form of a cynical exercise of balancing competing expectations. But the more serious casualty in this process is the loss of the idea of commonwealth which is at the core of a republic.

Finally, our republic suffers from the inability to evolve public reason. Legislatures fail to debate; television debates have become notorious for their decibel capacity rather than deliberative power; nothing debatable can be presented in textbooks; academic seminars are monitored for who the participants will be; attacking meetings of rival viewpoints is a common political act; banning works of art, literature, and academic value is the national passion across the political spectrum. Demands by almost every social section often lack in legitimacy. If communities could be imagined as persons, we might equate ourselves to the Hobbesian situation of being utterly limited in our view of self-interest. So, the problem is not merely the inability to evolve procedures and terms of debate, it is about foreclosing the possibility of debate because we are unwilling to accept that the nation is the common property of all citizens.

Obviously, republics are not made in heaven nor do they always grow out of readymade social homogeneity. The creation of India’s republic was indeed an audacious attempt because of the many social schisms. But the audacity shown by the founding fathers in creating the republic needed to be matched by the sustained collective audacity to “keep the republic”.

There has been a grievous mismatch between the ambitions of the founding fathers and the will of members of the new republic. The social structure was an impediment in the republican project, as Ambedkar pointed out, but the skills of the political process and the willingness of the collective must have been wanting too. So, on each Republic Day, the nagging question would be this: The constituent assembly gave us the republic, but do we really want to keep it?

Anti-Semitism is still alive in Germany 70 years after the Holocaust. By Paul Hockenos

The facts jar and perplex ordinary Germans: Seventy years after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is still alive in Germany -- and apparently getting worse. So concerned are Germany's lawmakers, they've just established a high-level commissioner post to fight discrimination against the Jewish community.
Even after decades of rigorous political education and intense, self-critical soul searching, 9% to 10% of Germans express classic anti-Semitic feelings, according to a 2017 report commissioned by the
Bundestag. Many more, up to 50%, harbor more mild anti-Semitic prejudices.

The issue was catapulted to the foreground this year when, in protest against US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, demonstrators -- some wavingPalestinian flags -- burned Israel's flag beneath Berlin's Brandenburg Gate and in migrant-rich neighborhoods. The ugly outbursts and a spike in anti-Semitic incidents -- insults, assaults, graffiti -- come against the backdrop of the far right's ascendance across Europe. Xenophobic populists now sit in the German parliament, too.

Because most Germans are so sensitive about the issue, I for one didn't anticipate the cries of protest when Berlin politico Sawsan Chebli, a Muslim, proposed making it mandatory for all Germans -- among its population millions of migrants with no link to the Nazi reign -- to visit one of the former Nazi concentration camps, which are today memorials and learning museums.

Some information for Israelis (and the rest of us)

"It makes sense to me," said Chebli, a 39-year-old daughter of Palestinian refugees and currently deputy minister in Berlin's City Hall, "that everyone in this country be required at least once in their life to visit a concentration camp memorial. And that applies to those who have come to Germany recently, too," she told Bild newspaper, referring to refugees and other immigrants.

Jojje Olsson - Ignore China's economic muscle and condemn it for kidnapping Gui Minhai

The kidnapping of a foreign citizen in front of accompanying diplomats constitutes a new level of assault, even for China. If the world does not condemn it in the strongest possible terms, it will also represent a new level of submission, encouraging China to continue exporting its repression abroad.
Ever since Swedish publisher Gui Minhai was first kidnapped in October 2015, my government’s primary focus in its relations with China has been to increase economic cooperation. Last year, our prime minister, Stefan Löfven, visited China with the largest Swedish trade delegation in decades.

Yet while Löfven claimed he had raised the issue of Gui Minhai behind closed doors, neither he nor anyone else, uttered a single word about Gui in public. The post-trip communique was packed with details about new trade deals and economic cooperation. Not a single line mentioned the Swedish political prisoner who was falling sick behind bars at a secret location far from conventions and banquets. The quiet diplomacy that has characterised Sweden’s handling of Gui Minhai stands in stark contrast to the case of Martin Schibbye and Johan Persson, two Swedish journalists who were jailed in Ethiopia in 2011. Swedish ministers became personally involved in that case almost immediately. The prime minister branded Ethiopia a “dictatorship”. 

Gui Minhai has enjoyed no such support. Despite several requests, his daughter, Angela Gui, only managed to speak on the phone with foreign minister Margot Wallström for the first time at the weekend. The foreign ministry has told her not to contact the Swedish embassy in Beijing. Last year Angela told me that Lars Fredén, the Swedish ambassador to China until 2016, had deliberately avoided her when they ended up at the same social event in Stockholm.

Gui was kidnapped for a second time last Saturday. But only after the story was reported on Monday did Wallström issue a short statement calling for “the immediate release of our fellow citizen”.
That was the first time during Gui’s 829 days of extralegal detention that the Swedish authorities had openly criticised China’s actions. That is, of course, exactly the way Beijing wants it. Because shedding light on the regime’s oppression hurts its ambitions to build its soft power to help increase the Chinese influence in international organisations, and make overseas investments with as little scrutiny as possible.

Several western countries have already been brought into line by the stick and carrot of economic cooperation. When Liu Xiaobo received the Nobel peace prizein 2010, Beijing severed diplomatic and trade relations with Oslo. Only after the Norwegian foreign minister in late 2016 travelled to Beijing and read aloud a humiliating joint statement was Norway again able to export its salmon to China... read more:

Aung San Suu Kyi lacks 'moral leadership', says US diplomat as he quits Rohingya panel

Bill Richardson, the veteran US diplomat, has resigned from an international panel on the Rohingya crisis, calling it a “whitewash” and accusing the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi of lacking “moral leadership”. Richardson, a former Clinton administration cabinet member, quit as the 10-member advisory board was making its first visit to Rakhine state, from where nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled in recent months.

Aung San Suu Kyi once called for a free press. Now, the dead are used for fake news

“The main reason I am resigning is that this advisory board is a whitewash,” Richardson told Reuters in an interview, adding he did not want to be part of “a cheerleading squad for the government”.

Richardson said he got into an argument with Suu Kyi during a meeting on Monday with other members of the board, when he brought up the case of two Reuters reporters who are on trial accused of breaching the country’s secrets act. He said Suu Kyi’s response was “furious”, saying the case of the reporters “was not part of the work of the advisory board”. The argument continued at a dinner later that evening, the former New Mexico governor said… read more:

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Memphis Barker: Pakistani police chief accused of leading hit squad that murdered dozens

A Pakistani police chief accused of leading a hit squad reportedly responsible for 250 extra-judicial killings was prevented from boarding a flight out of the country on Tuesday as investigators probed the death of an aspiring model the police chief claimed to be a member of the Taliban. Dozens of families have come forward since the killing of Naqeebullah Mehsud, 27, to claim that Rao Anwar and his lieutenants murdered their relatives over a 10-year reign in the biggest policing district of Karachi, Pakistan’s business capital.

Officials from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) stopped Anwar at Jinnah airport early on Tuesday. Anwar, along with other police officers, had been accused of serial fake “encounters”, mostly involving Taliban suspects. The father of Naqeebullah, Muhammad Khan, on Tuesday lodged accusations of terrorism, kidnapping and murder against Anwar and his team with Karachi police, the first step towards expected charges being launched in court.

On Sunday, around 1,000 activists and members of the Mehsud tribe held a rally on the outskirts of Karachi, demanding the launch of an enquiry into all the alleged incidents of extrajudicial killing.
“He should be hanged in public,” Sher Pao Mehsud told the Guardian, tearfully flicking through pictures of himself and Naqeebullah at a New Year’s Eve party.

One of those hoping to attach their case to that of Naqeebullah, was 30-year-old Faizullah Khan, who said his best friend was killed by Anwar’s team while in custody seven years ago. He said that since then, while seeking justice, he had been arrested three times, forced to pay a bribe of £3,000 to secure his release, and told to stay out of Karachi for two years. Naqeebullah, whose popular Facebook page boasts modelling shots and videos of himself dancing with friends, was picked up by police on 3 January. According to local news, one of Anwar’s informers had overheard him talking on the phone about receiving money from his brother in Dubai… read more:

Friday, 19 January 2018

January 20, 1948. Mahatma Gandhi's speech at his prayer meeting, where an attempt was made on his life

NEW DELHI, January 20, 1948
Source: CWMG, Vol 90, pp 464-467

Gandhiji was carried in a chair to the prayer meeting. As the microphone was not working and Gandhiji's voice was feeble the substance of his speech was repeated aloud by Sushila Nayyar.

The first thing I would say to you is that I hope that those who have signed the document have signed it with God as witness. There are still voices being raised in Calcutta expressing the fear that what has happened here may all be a show. If the people of Delhi and the refugees who have come here stand firm, then whatever may happen outside I am certain they will be able to save India as well as Pakistan. Delhi after all is an ancient city and what is achieved in Delhi is bound to have an impact on the whole of India and Pakistan.

If you read carefully what the Sardar has said in Bombay you will realize there is no rift between Pandit Nehru and the Sardar. They may talk in different ways but they do the same thing. They cannot be enemies of the Muslims. I have no doubt that one who is an enemy of the Muslims is also an enemy of India. Let us realize the truth of this. Elsewhere in the world they have already realized this except perhaps in America where Negroes are still lynched. There are a good many white men there who do not consider this repugnant. They have no shame in their hearts. But elsewhere people do not approve of it. They consider it barbaric. Our own newspapers have described the acts of American whites as barbaric. Though Americans are so much given to reform, they still indulge in such behaviour. We assume we are better people and cannot do such things. And yet, think of what happens here. I would therefore ask your categorical assurance that irrespective of any injustice perpetrated here or elsewhere, you are not going to seek revenge privately, but will leave it to the Government to deal with. If this at least is agreed to, people can move about freely.

I told you it was possible I might go to Pakistan. But I shall go to Pakistan only when the Government invites me as a friend of the Muslims as well as Hindus and the Sikhs. Of course the doctors insist that I must first recoup from the effects of the fast which may take another 15 days and that during the next 15 days I cannot go anywhere or eat anything solid. I can only take liquid diet which may be milk or fruit juice. Milk can of course sustain a man all his life.

I may tell you that Panditji is a man who will do everything for the refugees. If there is only one dry bed available he will offer it to a refugee to sleep on and himself go without sleep. He says there is no room left in his house and still people keep coming. He is our Prime Minister. He has visitors, some of them Englishmen. Is he to turn them out? And still he says that he will spare for the refugees one or two rooms or whatever he can. If other ministers as well as the army officers follow his example no one will be left unhappy. I congratulate Jawahar and I congratulate you on possessing such a jewel. I am told that wealthy people such as Birla will also do something in this direction. After all when the Prime Minister can do such a thing, why cannot the others? Thus vigorous efforts are being made to alleviate the distress of the refugees. Let us learn from this that we shall not treat Muslims as enemies.

I have a letter. In fact it arrived on January 16 when my fast was in progress. I am told some wicked people forged a great quantity of currency notes and started selling them to the poor. I humbly request the forgers not to indulge in such activities.

At this stage there was a loud explosion. Gandhiji remained unruffled and said to Manu Gandhi, who was visibly shaken: "Why did you get so scared? Some military personnel must have been taking training in shooting. What will you do if someone really comes to kill us?" He tried to pacify the people and resumed his speech when order was restored. It was later discovered that a guncotton slab had exploded about 75 feet away from where Gandhiji was sitting and that it was part of a conspiracy to assassinate him. The conspirators had planned to divert the attention of the people by the explosion. Their original plan to throw a hand-grenade from a servant's room behind the dais having failed, they mixed with the crowd. After the explosion Digambar Badge was to dash to the dais and throw a hand-grenade at Gandhiji, but his courage failed at the last moment. Six of the conspirators, viz., Nathuram Godse, Narayana Apte, Vishnu Karkare, Gopal Godse, Digambar Badge and Shankar Kistayya, escaped in a waiting taxi but Madanlal Pahwa was apprehended. 

More details on the assassination - which succeeded on January 30, 1948

NB: In his February 27, 1948 letter to Nehru on Gandhi's assassination, (vol 6 of Selected Correspondence of Sardar Patel; edited by Durga Das) Patel held that "it was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that hatched the conspiracy and saw it through" (p 56).

In the same letter, reflecting on the problem of identifying RSS members, he wrote "in the case of secret organisation like the RSS which has no records of membership, no registers etc., securing of authentic information whether a person is an active member or not is a very difficult task.." (p. 57)

Can they not find some honest livelihood? I must at the same time warn the poor not to be taken in. They must not for ever remain simple and gullible.

I have a wire from Lahore, from the President of the Kashmir Freedom League. He says: Highly appreciate your magnanimous gesture for Hindu-Muslim unity. Kashmir is the root cause of the present tension and a stumbling-block in the way of any rapprochement. Must receive top priority if peace actually desired. Withdrawal of aggressive Indian troops from Kashmir and handing it over to whom it rightfully belongs to is the only satisfactory solution of the problem.

The wire distresses me. If there is no settlement over Kashmir, does it mean that things must continue in their present state? Must Muslims be enemies of Hindus and Sikhs and must Hindus and Sikhs be enemies of Muslims simply on account of Kashmir? Besides, I do not agree that the armed force our Government has dispatched to Kashmir has committed aggression there. The armed force was sent in response to the appeals of Sheikh Abdullah, the Premier of Kashmir, and the Maharaja. It is true that Kashmir should go to whom it belongs. In that case all those who have gone there from outside, be they Afridis or any other, should get out of Kashmir. I cannot object to people in Poonch revolting but I object to their rebelling in order to grab the whole of Kashmir. I can understand it if every outsider leaves Kashmir and no one interferes from outside or sends help or complains. But I cannot understand it if they say that they themselves will remain in Kashmir but that others should get out.

And to whom does Kashmir belong? Right now I shall say it belongs to the Maharaja because the Maharaja still exists. In the eyes of the Government the Maharaja is still the legitimate ruler. Of course if the Maharaja is a wicked man, if he does nothing for the people, I think it is for the Government to displace him. But so far no such eventuality has arisen. If the Muslims of Kashmir say that they do not want the Maharaja, that they want to accede either to India or to Pakistan, no one can complain. I have just emerged from a fast. I am enemy of none. So how can I be an enemy of Muslims? Let them come and convince me of my error.

A Muslim gentleman of Gwalior has sent me a telegram from Ratlam. In it he says: We Muslim inhabitants Jahangirpur, District Ujjain, Gwalior inform your honour that on 15th and 16th instant our village was surrounded by a Hindu party who beat us severely. Several injured,  one died. Our crops and houses destroyed. Officer of State not taking any action. We are in danger. Kindly arrange urgently. It was sent on the 15th or the 16th of January when my fast was going on. If this is true I must tell the Gwalior Hindus that they are going to undo the achievement of Delhi. The correspondent says that those running the administration were of no help to them. But how can this be? If this happens in any part of India, then it is a matter of shame for the Government and for all of us. I hope matters in Gwalior will be put right.

I see from the papers that all the Rajas of Kathiawar - there are more than two hundred of them- have met together and decided to merge all their States to form one large State which will have an assembly of its own. 1 If this is true, it is a great thing. I must congratulate all the Rajas of Kathiawar on this step. In Bhavnagar the Maharaja has handed over all power to the people and has himself become a servant of the people. I congratulate him on this great step.

[From Hindi] Courtesy: All India Radio. Also Prarthana Pravachan-II, pp. 323-7