Friday, June 22, 2018

It's A Beautiful Day - White Bird

White bird
In a golden cage
On a winter's day
In the rain

White bird
In a golden cage

The leaves blow
Across the long black road
To the darkened skies
In its rage

But the white bird
Just sits in her cage

White bird must fly
Or she will die

White bird
Dreams of the aspen trees
With their dying leaves
Turning gold

But the white bird
Just sits in her cage
Growing old

White bird must fly
Or she will die
White bird must fly
Or she will die

The sunsets come, the sunsets go
The clouds roll by, and the earth turns old
And the young bird's eyes do always glow
And she must fly
She must fly

She must fly
White bird
In a golden cage
On a winter's day
In the rain

White bird
In a golden cage

White bird must fly
Or she will die

White bird must fly
Or she will die
White bird must fly..

White Bird was the dove of peace .. this was an iconic anti war song in 1968 and after..  if you read the comments below this version there are many by GI's who fought in Vietnam

pad pad oh hazaar kitaabaan
kadi apne aap nu padheya nahi
ja ja varde mandir maseeti
kade mann apne vich vadeyaa nahi
avein lardaa hai, shaitaan de naal bandeya
kadi nafz apne naal ladeya nahi
colourspacecolour - Ocean Floor

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Book review: Philosophy is dead

Raymond Geuss - CHANGING THE SUBJECT: Philosophy from Socrates to Adorno
Reviewed by JONATHAN RÉE

Back in the 1970s, Raymond Geuss was a young colleague of Richard Rorty in the mighty philosophy department at Princeton. In some ways they were very different: Rorty was a middle-class New Yorker with a talent for reckless generalization, whereas Geuss was a fastidious scholar-poet from working-class Pennsylvania. But they shared a commitment to left-wing politics, and both of them dissented from the mainstream view of philosophy as a unified discipline advancing majesti-cally towards absolute knowledge. For a while, Rorty and Geuss could bond as the bad boys of Princeton. The philosophical establishment denounced people like Rorty and Geuss as relativists, bent on destroying the sacred distinction between truth and falsehood. But they defended themselves by pointing out that even if there is such a thing as an almighty final truth, it looks different from diverse points of view, and gets expressed in different words in diverse times and places. They regarded themselves as “perspectivists” or “historicists” rather than relativists, and believed that – to borrow a phrase from Thomas Kuhn – philosophy needed to find a “role for history”.

In a beautiful eulogy delivered on the occasion of Rorty’s death in 2007, Geuss recalled a conspira-torial moment when his colleague revealed a plan for an undergraduate course called “An alternative history of modern philosophy”. Rorty proposed to fill his lectures with supposedly minor characters such as Petrus Ramus, Paracelsus and Johann Gottlieb Fichte, to the exclusion of canonical drones such as Locke, Leibniz and Hume, and out-and-out deplorables such as Descartes (Rorty’s pet hate) or Kant (Geuss’s). The projected “alternative history” came to nothing. (According to Geuss, Rorty blamed the Princeton “thought police”, otherwise known as the Committee on Instruction.) But Geuss’s latest book could be seen as a fulfil­ment of Rorty’s plan, forty years on.

Changing the Subject is a history of philosophy in twelve thinkers. There are lucid self-contained essays on Socrates, Plato, Lucretius, Augustine, Montaigne, Hobbes, Hegel, Nietzsche, Lukács, Heidegger, Wittgensteinand Adorno; but Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, Hume and Kant don’t even make it to the index. The whole performance combines polyglot philological rigour with supple intellectual sympathy, and it is all presented – as Geuss puts it – hilaritatis causa, or in a spirit of fun.

Out of his twelve philosophers, Geuss seems closest to Lucretius, who despised religion (though the word religio meant something rather different at the time), and maintained that the world has no moral purpose and is utterly indifferent to our existence. Hobbes comes almost as high in Geuss’s estimation: he invented the concept of the “state” as the locus of political sovereignty, and treated it as an “artificial construct” which pays no regard to such so-called principles as “natural rights” or “the common good”. Hegel, as Geuss reads him, was a good disciple of Hobbes because he avoided trying to “justify” the ways of the world, and he opened the way for Nietzsche’s furious attacks on self-serving ideas of “truth-telling”, “profundity” and “authenticity”. In the wake of Lucretius, Hobbes, Hegel and Niet­zsche, philosophy seems to be essentially a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by moralistic sentimentality.

There are two different ways of responding to this predicament. Geuss sketches one of them in a scintillating chapter on Theodor Adorno, the twentieth-century aesthete who sought to combine classical Marxism with disdain for the stupidity of the masses... read more:

'Barnacled angels': the whales of Stellwagen Bank – a photo essay

John Berger wrote of the ‘”narrow abyss of non-comprehension” between ourselves and other animals. That abyss is implicit out here, in the open ocean. Given what we have inflicted on these animals, and given the future threats they face, this protected zone seems like a modern Eden. Surrounded by jumping, feeding humpbacks, circled by minke and fin whales, with white-sided dolphins weaving in between, it seemed to me that merely bearing witness to this wonder was enough. They were in their moment, and so were we.

At the tip of Cape Cod, a sandy spit reaches out into the Atlantic, like an arm, towards a vast underwater plateau where humpbacks gather each summer to feed. This is the US marine sanctuary of Stellwagen Bank, where for the past three weeks I’ve been a guest on the Dolphin Fleet whalewatch boats, working out of Provincetown. I’ve been coming here for 18 years; it’s where I learned about whales. I’m inordinately fond of these animals and like me, they come back here too.

Every spring, the whales return from their mating grounds in the Caribbean where they’ve spent the winter, fasting: those clear blue waters hold no sustenance for a whale. The grey-green seas of the Cape are filled with food: the cycle of upwelling nutrition feeds phytoplankton, that feed zooplank-ton, that feed the sand-eels, that feed the whales. They’re unconcerned by the clouds of gulls that follow them, in the same cycle, after the same food – even stealing fish out of the whales’ mouths.

Like other rorqual whales, humpbacks’ throats expand in rubbery pleats reaching down to their navels. Opening their mouths wide, they strain their food using the strips of baleen – made of keratin, the same substance found in human fingernails – that hang from their upper jaws. Humpbacks co-operate in one of the most spectacular sights in the natural world. Blowing precisely calibrated streams of bubbles from their mouths, they swim round in circles, creating curtains of air around their prey. Then they rise, open-mouthed like giant crows. As they do so, they seem to alter the shape of the water itself... read/ see more:

Book review: How Democracy Ends by David Runciman

David Runciman: How Democracy Ends
Reviewed by Mark Mazower

Democracy dies in darkness” runs the slogan on the Washington Post masthead, but if democracy really is dying around us, its demise has never been so loudly heralded nor so brightly lit. Even before Donald Trump’s emergence as a presidential candidate, it was clear that the global trend away from authoritarian regimes to democratic ones had slowed down; his rise was accompanied by a barrage of authors’ warnings that we are heading back into the 1930s. Never have the last days of Weimar seemed so worthy of study. Historians have developed a nice sideline in self-help manuals for a life of underground resistance to tyranny.

David Runciman’s bracingly intelligent new book is both a contribution to this debate and a refutation of it. How Democracy Ends shares the widespread sense that representative democracy is not doing well, but argues powerfully against screaming fascism at every turn. History, as Runciman states at the outset, does not repeat itself. The challenge he sets himself is to use the past to see what has happened to democracy today, in particular to diagnose its ailments, without assuming that the only alternative is the one imprinted on our collective memory.

That memory, after all, is a short one. The ancient Greeks may have invented democracy but they felt deeply ambivalent about it, regarding it as just one of the phases in the political cycle. It was not until the start of the 19th century that a democratic wave began to emerge again, in the Americas and briefly in southern Europe, and not until the second half of the 20th that representative democracy in the sense we have known it spread around the world. In that relatively brief span of time, it was fought over by liberals and socialists, rejected – in its “bourgeois” form – by communists, and smothered by dictators who could rarely decide whether what they were doing was superseding or perfecting it. After the second world war, parliamentary democracy got a new lease of life. 

When the cold war ended, the collapse of the Soviet Union seemed to leave democracy as the only game in town. By the beginning of this century, most political scientists, especially but not only in the US, had come to believe that liberal democracy was the new normal, something to which the entire world should aspire. The crushing of the Arab spring, and the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey and Viktor Orbán in Hungary, could be written off as backsliding in polities whose democratic roots were shallow. It was the 2016 US presidential elections that, in a single moment, changed an implausibly rosy (and complacent) outlook, replacing it with an equally implausible pessimism. Runciman says democracy is in a funk, for reasons that go far beyond Trump, but that unless we can stimulate our political imaginations to understand the new ways in which democracies can fail, we will not appreciate the scale of the problem before us. He identifies three contemporary challenges in particular. The first, paradoxically, is that levels of political violence have gone down. This means that, in such places as the US or Europe, democratic failure is not likely to happen in the old-fashioned way, through a military coup d’état. Those will still occur elsewhere, but the stability of democratic institutions suggests it is more likely that democracies will be undermined invisibly, from within... read more:

see also

51st Victim: IB Officer Investigating Vyapam Scam Killed In A Road Accident\

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Michael Fuchs - Trump's family separation policy is as damaging to America as Abu Ghraib

The words “Abu Ghraib” have become synonymous with torture, a black eye for America that has damaged US national security. Donald Trump’s policy of ripping children away from their parents at the border is a new black mark on America that could also undermine US national security.

America’s power comes from its values: freedom, the rule of law, respect for human rights. Whatever problems America may face at home, America’s democratic system enables itself to correct wrongs in the pursuit of a fair, just society. Whatever mistakes the United States makes in its foreign policy, America still endeavors to infuse its foreign policy with these values. When America does not live up to these values, it is less safe. The experience of the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib is instructive. After the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, it used Saddam Hussein’s jail as a place to torture Iraqi prisoners. The torture of prisoners – the picture of a US soldier holding a naked Iraqi on a leash, for instance – became international symbols that shattered America’s image as a global defender of human rights.

These illegal acts hurt US national security. Abu Ghraib was used as a rallying cry by terrorist groups who were fighting American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. As one US military interrogator wrote: “I learned in Iraq that the No 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo … The number of US soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on September 11, 2001.” 

Today, America is in a moral crisis as its government takes children away from undocumented migrants and asylum-seekers at the US border. It is difficult to imagine something crueler than taking a child away from parents. These people are often fleeing violence and danger and are in search of a better life. The sounds of children crying in US jails while guards crack jokesare eerily evocative of US guards at Abu Ghraib posing smiling for pictureswith naked Iraqi prisoners in humiliating positions. As George Takei – who was imprisoned by the US government in an internment camp as a child during the second world war – pointed out, not even those Japanese-Americans imprisoned during the war were separated from their parents. In America today, border agents reportedly told parents their children were getting bathed and then never came back, evoking Nazis taking away children in death camps and telling people being led to the gas chambers that they were going to take a shower... read more: 

The best books on Hegel: recommended by Stephen Houlgate

G W F Hegel is one of the most divisive figures in western philosophy. He influenced Marx, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Adorno and countless others. And yet, he is seen as perhaps the most obscure and inaccessible philosopher to read. Is he worth engaging with? How should we read him? Stephen Houlgate, a philosopher at Warwick University, gives us an in-depth look at Hegel.

Who was Hegel? What sort of philosophical context should we place him in?
Hegel was born in Stuttgart in 1770, an exact contemporary of Beethoven and Wordsworth. He was almost nineteen when the French Revolution broke out and this had a great impact on him. There’s a story that he and Schelling and Hölderlin, who were contemporaries of his, went out and planted a ‘freedom tree’ on 14 July, 1793 and danced a revolutionary French dance around it. Even if this story is not true in all its details, it indicates that they responded enthusiastically to the French Revolution.

“People often describe Hegel as a kind of Aristotle of the modern age. ”
Hegel lived through the Napoleonic wars and took quite a long time to get a job. From the age of about thirty to thirty-six, he worked as an unsalaried lecturer in Jena. Then he was the head of a gymnasium – a secondary school – from 1808 to 1816, during which time he wrote theScience of Logic. And then in Berlin he flourished, becoming a very prominent figure. He knew Goethe and a number of the Romantics, and both Felix Mendelssohn and Ludwig Feuerbach went to his lectures. 

Hegel got married in 1811, which needs to be pointed out because Kant wasn’t married, Nietzsche 
wasn’t married, and Kierkegaard wasn’t married. In that sense, he was quite bourgeois in the life that he led and this is reflected in the institutions of the state he describes in his Philosophy of Right.
People often describe Hegel as a kind of Aristotle of the modern age. He had an insatiable desire to learn and understand things. So he was interested in mathematics, science and politics. He was also interested in art, and he would travel far in order to see it. He went on long coach journeys to Vienna and Paris and Leipzig to see people but also to go to art galleries.

He was very gregarious, and when travelling he would tell engaging stories in the letters he wrote to his wife about the people he’d met and conversed with. So he was quite personable, though he could also be fairly irascible and was not averse to picking fights with people. He was steeped in history, and very aware of the constitutional developments that were going on at the time and, of course, the expansion of Napoleon’s influence.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Stephanie Kirchgaessner - Outcry over far-right Italian minister's call for Roma 'register'

On Monday Salvini ordered the census and the removal of all non-Italian Roma – which he called an “answer to the Roma question” – and said he wanted to know “who, and how many” there were.
“Unfortunately we will have to keep the Italian Roma because we can’t expel them,” Salvini said on Telelombardia. Salvini is on record as having praised Benito Mussolini, the Italian fascist leader, and his new policy has sparked comparisons by the centre-left Democratic party to ethnic cleansing rules introduced in the late 1920s that also targeted the Roma.

“The interior minister does not seem to know that a census on the basis of ethnicity is not permitted by the law,” Carlo Stasolla, president of the Associazione 21 Luglio, which supports Roma rights, told the Ansa news agency. “We also recall that Italian Roma have been present in our country for at least half a century and sometimes they are ‘more Italian’ than many of our fellow citizens.”

Francesco Palermo, a former senator in Italy and human rights expert who has defended the rights of Roma, said it would be legally impossible to pursue the creation of an ethnic-specific census and expulsions as Salvini described, because the issue had already been taken up by Italian courts in the past, where it was rejected. But he said the bigger problem was that the reaction to Salvini was generally positive, and that his popularity was growing despite the extreme nature of his positions.
“It is very simple and very scary. Except for intellectuals and certain journalists, most people would say there is nothing wrong with this, and that is the tricky point. Salvini knows this. It is a just a means to get political support,” Palermo said.

He added that reactions would be different if Salvini was targeting other groups of people who face discrimination, but that racist views about the Roma are “innate” among many people in Italy.
Up to 180,000 Roma live in Italy, about 43% of whom are Italian citizens. About 4,000 Roma live in state-sanctioned ghettos in Rome, according to a 2013 report by Amnesty International. These out-of-city ghettoes consist of pre-fabricated containers or mobile homes in fenced-off areas, often without adequate sanitation or clean drinking water. Inhabitants are excluded from other social housing despite many having lived in Italy for generations. An Italian court in 2015 ordered the city of Rome to dismantle some of the state-sanctioned Roma facilities, after it said the capital was guilty of ethnic discrimination... read more:

see also
Hitler's annihilation of the Romanis (the Gypsies of Europe)

51st Victim: IB Officer Investigating Vyapam Scam Killed In A Road Accident

58-year-old Ajay Kumar Khare, a senior Intelligence Bureau inspector who was involved in the investigation of the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh, was killed on Sunday evening  when a speeding car hit him in Trilanga area, said the police on Monday. (NB: This report is dated June 9, 2018). The accused car driver fled the scene after the accident and investigation are still on to nab him. 
Khare was riding his scooter on his way to visit his under-construction house in Akriti Retreat Township at Kolar Road. Officials from Shahapura police station told The Asian Age, “A black car hit the scooter he was riding from the rear and dragged him for a few metres. He sustained grievous injuries to his head and several parts of the body and died on the spot.” A passer-by rushed Khare to nearby Kolar Community Health Centre, where the doctors pronounced him dead.

However, the incident was informed to police headquarters was much delayed. A police officer said that the reason for the delay is also being probed. He was investigating into undisclosed information related to the probe. Doctor Anand Rai, Whistleblower – Vyapam Scam, tweeted when a govt & its ppl are involved, they can go to any limit to cover it up #VyapamKills51

More posts on Vyapam

see also

Monday, June 18, 2018

Pratap Bhanu Mehta |- A crisis in plain sight Delhi saga showcases poison of recrimination, institutional subversion

The political and constitutional crisis over the powers of the Delhi government is not just a small drama being enacted in Lutyens’ Delhi. It is an ominous sign for Indian democracy and its institutions. It is also a story of how a sordid pettiness and politics of recrimination can so easily subvert institutions. The Delhi saga is institutionalising a new culture in Indian politics.

Look at the big institutional picture. A government in Delhi is elected with an unprecedented mandate. One can concede that because of Delhi’s special status, there might be areas of ambiguity, in the allocation of powers between the Lt Governor and the chief minister. But whatever those grey areas, under no circumstances can the allocation of power be interpreted to mean that the Lt Governor can act like a tyrannical Viceroy, subverting an elected government at every step. The Lt Governor has done exactly that. The Supreme Court allowed yet another constitutional subversion by simply delaying the clarification of Delhi’s constitutional status to a point that defies logic. The Election Commission, that most hallowed of institutions, passes an order that subverts natural justice and arbitrarily disqualifies a number of AAP MLAs. The president signs without question. Fortunately, the Delhi High Court sees through the charade and restores a modicum of justice. But no one is held responsible for this attempt at institutional subversion. The most serious checks and balances in our democracy nearly failed.

The saga continues. Some AAP MLAs may have a lot to answer for. But on the surface, the patterns by which the CBI and Delhi Police seem to have been used against them, is a reminder that these days you don’t have to declare an emergency. The chief minister is made to eat humble pie through that most controversial of mechanisms: Defamation suits. The institutions of law will follow political diktats. Then the civil service comes into the picture. Then there is an incident in which the chief secretary is allegedly manhandled. But the incident seems to become a pretext to politicise the bureaucracy.

The aftermath, instead of resolving the issue, creates an even deeper crisis. The bureaucracy claims it is not on strike but is being victimised. The Delhi government claims that IAS is not carrying out its duties; it may not be on strike but is striking against it. This formal breakdown of relationship between the bureaucracy and the elected government is another first; whatever the circumstances, this was a solvable problem. The chief minister, meanwhile, goes on dharna in the LG’s office and does not get so much as a hearing. The issue, then, becomes national with four other chief ministers, rightly sensing there is a major constitutional crisis, stepping in. Such a deep institutional crisis that has subverted every institution should have shaken us up. But we reduced it to another clash of personalities... read more:

Syed Badrul Ahsan - In Dhaka, return of a spectre

The murder of Shahjahan Bachchu in his village in Bangladesh’s Munshiganj district, last week, raises the spectre of Islamist fanaticism after several months. Close to 50 bloggers, writers and publishers in Bangladesh had been assassinated till late 2016. The latest act of criminality driven by religious hate has rekindled fears of terrorism, which the government has been trying to root out over the past two years.

After the horrific killing of 22 people, Bangladeshis as well as foreigners, at Dhaka’s Holy Artisan Bakery, two years ago, the government sat up and took notice. That seemed to have assured people who felt that religious fanaticism was being brought under control. Operations by the police and security agencies, such as the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), against Islamist terrorists, have been a sustained affair in these two years. A good number of people, alleged to be militants, have died while they were making explosives or planning to stage attacks in various regions of the country. Not long ago, two people were taken into custody after the police received information that these alleged militants were planning a large-scale attack targeting Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, leading members of her cabinet and members of the Awami League on the day when tributes are paid to the country’s founder, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

Given that several hideouts of militants were busted in security operations and individuals - including women driven by radical Islam that has absolutely no tolerance for other people’s beliefs - suspected of involvement in planning hate attacks on liberals, government installations and other institutions were arrested, it was easy to believe that things were under control. People began to feel that the government was on top of the situation. But the authorities and people from a cross-section of the society had also warned against complacency. The murder of Shahjahan Bachchu, a publisher, writer and an activist of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, puts paid to any thought of religious militancy being a thing of the past.

Bachchu’s killing comes at a difficult time for the government. With the general elections expected to be held in December, the Hasina government is facing criticism on several fronts. There have been demands, both in the country and abroad, that the government must ensure that the electoral exercise is a transparent and inclusive affair. The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) stayed away from the last election in January 2014 when its demand for a caretaker regime to oversee the voting was dismissed by the government. The result was the constitution of a Parliament in which 153 of the 300 lawmakers were returned to the House without any opposition. For all its defence of the last election as a constitutional necessity, the government remains acutely conscious of the fact that there can be no repeat of the 2014 exercise… read more:

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Richard Wolff - Capitalist employers are economic dictators

Few businesses show the skewed dynamics between employer and employees as clearly as Amazon. Its CEO Jeff Bezos is the world’s richest person, with his wealth estimated at around $130 billion. He admits the near impossibility of spending these riches and commits $1 billion a year of his “Amazon winnings” to fund a personal project of space travel. Back on Earth, Amazon’s 560,000 employees earn a median salary of $28,000, its warehouse workers face strict efficiency targets that lead some to relieve themselves in trash cans, and hundreds of Ohio, Arizona and Pennsylvania-based workers are on food stamps.

To understand why the relationship between employer and employee is so severely screwed, we have to look to capitalism. Capitalist businesses are starkly undemocratic. Employers are economic dictators. They wield enormous power and control that is unaccountable to the social majority around them: their employees and the communities in which they live. Employees’ labor produces profits, which belong 100 percent to the employers. Yet workers are excluded from decisions about how to use those profits. Instead, they depend on wages (set and controlled by the employer) as compensation for the work they produce. 

Employers’ decisions shape major aspects of employees’ lives, both at work and away from it. The employer alone decides which commodities to produce, what production technology to use (with what side effects), where to locate the workplace, as well as what to do with the profits. Celebrations of employers’ risks, used to justify their profits, rarely even recognize that workers, too, take risks in their dependence on employers (but without getting profits for doing so).

The skills employees develop, the personal connections they make, the seniority they accumulate, the home they invest in, their personal connections (in neighborhoods, schools, churches, etc.) ― always risk being lost or diminished by decisions exclusively in employers’ hands. Above all is the decision to end a worker’s job. While an employee deciding to leave a business will likely make little or no impact on an employer; employers’ decisions to, for example, relocate production overseas, or sell or close a business, carry huge risks for employees.

This undemocratic organization of production increasingly concentrates income and wealth, as well as economic power, in a tiny percentage of the population. Those concentrations dominate politics as well. Fundraising for political campaigns and policies tends to rely on those with the most resources to offer. Wealth translates into political influence. The result is a system of decisions that protect and strengthen capitalism…. read more:

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Mukul Kesavan - Killing conversation The death of Shujaat Bukhari

The deaths of Shujaat Bukhari and Gauri Lankesh have different local histories and a few all-India similarities. Lankesh and Bukhari were both journalists who had worked for what passes as the national English press before committing themselves to publications principally aimed at readerships in their states. After a career working for The Times of India and later Sunday, Lankesh took over her father's magazine, Lankesh Patrike, and then went on to edit the Gauri Lankesh Patrike, while Bukhari moved from being a correspondent with The Hindu to founding Rising Kashmir, an English newspaper based in Srinagar.

It isn't clear who Gauri Lankesh's killers were. Recent newspaper reports suggest that the police have closed in on a suspect affiliated to a vigilante organization notorious for communal goonery, the Sri Ram Sene, but there has been no trial or conclusive verdict. Similarly, no one has taken responsibility for Bukhari's assassination, though online suspicion ranges from jihadi separatists to the deep state. They were both shot by murderers on motorcycles, seemingly the preferred modus operandi for Indian assassins looking to silence dissenting journalists, intellectuals and rationalists. Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, Malleshappa Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh are now joined in their violent deaths by Shujaat Bukhari.

These killings show that the journalists most at risk in India are those who report from a ground zero that is also their home. Bukhari, like Lankesh, was a journalist who had gone out into the world and then chosen to return, to produce a Kashmiri newspaper that wasn't a partisan mouthpiece, one that produced news about Kashmir which couldn't be dismissed either as jihadi press releases or inspired leaks from a sarkari stool pigeon. This didn't mean that he was a neutral; it would have taken inhuman detachment for a Kashmiri Muslim from the Valley to be even-handed about the violence visited upon his people by the State. What it did mean was that he was committed to keep the news flowing, to keep dialogue going, to supporting any process that would mitigate the violence that had engulfed the place he called home.

To stand up for his principles as a journalist in a conflict zone took courage of an order that few of us possess. To continue to do this despite having a young family, despite having been kidnapped before, living under armed guard, suspected of being a traitor both by fanatical militants and the increasingly communalized agencies of the State, was everyday heroism of an order that we're either too cynical or too embarrassed to acknowledge. For the social media choruses of the security State and think tank hawks, Bukhari was a 'soft-separatist' or a 'quasi-Islamist'. These hyphenated terms belong to a class of conspiratorial neologisms coined to demonize positions that right-wing Hindu supremacists dislike. 'Pseudo-secularist' is the most famous of these. In the same way as Bukhari was classified as a soft-separatist, Gauri Lankesh was tagged as an 'urban-Naxal' in the unhinged echo-chambers of the Hindu Right, hours after she was murdered.

In an article he wrote for the BBC in July 2016, immediately after the killing of Burhan Wani, Bukhari bore witness to the dangers of being an independent journalist in Kashmir... read more:

Dan Sabbagh - British government ordered to open Amritsar massacre files

A tribunal has ordered that secret Downing Street files relating to Anglo-Indian relations at the time of the 1984 massacre at the Golden Temple of Amritsar must be made public.Campaigners say the Margaret Thatcher-era documents could reveal further information about the UK’s military role in the deaths of hundreds and possibly thousands at Sikhism’s holiest site following a violent assault by the Indian army in June 1984. 

The information tribunal said this week there was “a high public interest” in disclosure – partly in response to the “strength of feeling of the Sikh community in the UK and beyond” – and set aside objections from the Foreign Office, which said declassification could adversely affect the UK’s relations with India. The decision, which followed an appeal brought by journalist Phil Miller, is the latest step in a lengthy disclosure battle that began in 2014 after it emerged that an SAS officer had been dispatched in February 1984 with the approval of Thatcher to advise on Indian army plans to remove dissident Sikhs occupying the temple. 

Delhi gurdwaras to hail Indira Gandhi 's killers as martyrs? Why complain when Mahatma Gandhi's killers are lionised?

David Cameron, then prime minister, immediately ordered an inquiry by the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, who examined government files and concluded that UK involvement was limited to the visit by the SAS officer. However, the official files were not made public as part of the Heywood review and there have since been legal attempts to force their disclosure.Bhai Amrik Singh, the chair of the Sikh Federation in the UK, said the judgment “confirms the Heywood review was limited and will add to the evidence we have already presented to prove it was a whitewash”. Singh called on Theresa May to consider holding a public inquiry. He said the prime minister “should not listen to those paranoid about our relations with India”.

KP Ramanunni - ‘Hindus have to come out and say: not in our religion’s name’

Some weeks ago, this year’s Sahitya Akademi winner and Malayalam novelist KP Ramanunni said he intended to atone for the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in a temple in Kathua, Jammu. This, he said, was his response as a Hindu and a believer. He said he was following the Gandhian tradition of personal atonement for a public evil. He said he would do a shayana pradakshinam (circumambulation of the sanctum sanctorum by rolling on the ground) along with others at the Sreekrishna Temple in Kadalayi, Kannur. In an appeal, he stated the reasons for his penance:

“The Hindus have a responsibility to show an example of resistance from their own platform of faith against the forces of evil. Because, the fundamental dharma of Hinduism is to pray for the well-being of all the world and stand with truth,” he wrote. He found support from the Kerala Samskrita Sanghom, an organisation of Left-leaning Sanskrit lovers, and a section of intellectuals, including poet and scholar K Satchidanandan. 

But when Ramanunni and two others, including a Hindu monk, declared that they would undertake the penance on June 7, many Hindutva bodies opposed the decision. On the designated day, the writer, accompanied by a large posse of police, activists and believers against and in support of the act, undertook the penance by following all the rituals and traditions of the temple.

Ramanunni’s act of atonement has raised a slew of questions. The Hindu right saw it as an anti-BJP political protest. Some felt it was a vacuous spectacle. A few felt secular politics ought not to enter temple spaces or engage with rituals, since that would lead to a validation of Hindu right-wing politics. Even the claim of the circumambulation being a Gandhian act of atonement has been questioned: Can such a singular, individualistic act revive the Gandhian political tradition in a state where the tradition has been marginalised? How different is it from the instrumentalist use of religion by politicians? There are no easy or simple answers to these questions.

For the 63-year-old Kozhikode based writer, this was one way to engage with other Hindus and believers. It was very much in line with the religious syncretism that underlines his fiction, from the much-celebrated Sufi Paranja Katha (A Tale Told By a Sufi, 1995) to his last work, Deivathinte Pustakam (The Book of God, 2017). A recent paper by the Left thinker, B Rajeevan, Sarva Dharma Samabhavana, which called for reclaiming religion from bigots by combining the thoughts of Gandhi, Ambedkar, Sree Narayana Guru and Marx and positing its subaltern self against communalism, inspired him. In this interview, Ramanunni speaks about his attempt to wrest back religious thought from hate. Excerpts:

What made you undertake the act of penance at the Kannur temple?
Every religion, I believe, is getting more and more radicalised and places of worship are increasingly turning into centres of crime. How does one address this issue? I don’t think a purely rationalist approach that excludes religious thought can provide any solution. There are democratic spaces and revolutionary strands within the religious sphere that could help resist communalism. I see Mahatma Gandhi as a practitioner of this sort of a politics. He called himself a sanatani Hindu and revolutionised Hinduism. The fraternal feelings he espoused for Muslims were part of his revolutionary understanding of religion. It was also a carefully thought-out moral and political strategy. The idea was to repair the communal divide the British had created in India. But this strand of political activism ended with him, there was no continuity. It also allowed Hinduism to become reactionary and communal. We need to revive the Hinduism of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Sree Narayana Guru, Gandhiji and so on.

Many Muslim groups openly declare that what organisations like the Islamic State preach and do is not Islam. Hindus, too, have to come out and say what is being done today in the name of Hinduism is not Hinduism.. read more:

Unassuming Australian nun takes on Rodrigo Duterte

Sister Patricia Fox, who has been threatened with deportation for crossing the Philippine president, vows she won’t go quietly

On Monday, Sister Patricia Fox is likely not to be at home. Normally, she spends the morning sitting in the walled front yard of the modest home in Quezon City, north-east of Manila, that she shares with six of her fellow nuns. Mornings, she says, are “lazy” time. She drinks tea, takes calls from friends and colleagues and prepares for an afternoon of voluntary work.

But on Monday, if her legal appeals fail, officers of the Philippines Government are expected to arrive, take her away and forcibly deport her – or worse. Jails in the Philippines are tough places.
The stick-thin 71-year-old nun doesn’t plan to let it happen. “I will go to ground,” she says. “I won’t tell you more, but I won’t be sitting around talking to journalists. They should not deport me when I have an appeal underway. And it won’t happen if I can help it.” Sister Fox has been living and working in the Philippines for more than 28 years without receiving a word of publicity. Now, she has sprung to international attention as the Australian nun who has riled a president.

In person, it is hard to imagine anyone less threatening. She needs her glasses to read, admits to scattiness and a forgetfulness when it comes to names. She used to be a school teacher, but claims she was “hopeless” – too soft and no discipline. She says she isn’t scared, though she has lost weight due to stress. Under it all, though, she is determined – and brave. In a turn of events that she admits to finding completely bemusing, her personal story has overshadowed the facts she was trying to bring to international attention when she managed to annoy the president.

For the first time in this interview, Fox revealed that hers is not the only case of deportation. Five other foreign nationals who worked with her have been targeted. One is in detention, two others have had their passports withdrawn, and two have left the country, one deported and one voluntarily. In all these cases, it has been judged for various reasons that publicity will not help. Fox will not reveal their identities... read more:

Friday, June 15, 2018

Prem Shankar Jha - If Modi Assassination Plot Letter Is Fake, Indian Democracy Is in for Dangerous Time

A two decade-long history of using false allegations, faked evidence, videos and news to manipulate public sentiment proves that the BJP will stop at nothing to ensure its return to power.

The letter allegedly recovered from the house of Rona Wilson, the Delhi-based public relations secretary of the Committee for Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP), which details a meeting in which Maoist leaders ‘decided to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’, needs to be treated with the utmost of scepticism. This is not only because of its suspicious convenience, for the discovery has come at a time when the BJP has lost a string of elections and by-elections to an increasingly unified, secular opposition. It is also because the letter contains virtually irrefutable evidence of having been doctored.

Holes in the narrative: Written by someone who signs off as ‘R’, it falls into two completely separate sections with not a single connecting word, reference or idea.  The first section – one single long paragraph – is a “nuts and bolts” discussion of tactics between “comrades”, where every word suggests that it is a part of a continuing conversation over day-to-day issues facing the party leader-ship. It contains numerous references to past meetings and decisions, to the need to provide relief to Maoist prisoners languishing in jails in Delhi, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh and to the legal strategy to be employed in their defence. It derides a key Maoist leader “Prashant’ and accuses him of foisting an “egoist agenda” upon the party that has ‘harmed its larger interests”.

It gives details of a programme formulated to defend the wheelchair-bound and 90% disabled professor of English from Delhi University, G.N. Saibaba, who was sentenced to life imprisonment by a sessions court in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, in March 2017 and to mobilise public opinion in his defence. At the end of this paragraph, the letter switches registers and refers to a meeting that discussed the need to raise Rs 8 crore to be exchanged for the next batch of M4 rifles and 400,000 rounds of ammunition, at “the APT crossover”. 

This stark jump continues in the second section, which is a grand, airy, declaration of strategic aims that is not only devoid of tactical detail, but is filled with inaccuracies. It begins by saying that “defeating Hindu fascism has been our core agenda and a major concern for the party”. This is factually and textually wrong. The aim of the Maoists has always been “to overthrow the government of India through people’s war”. Its opponent is not specifically Hindu fascism, but any “bourgeois” government that oppresses the poor.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Rs 1.44 lakh crore: That’s the record bad loan write-off by banks in 2017-18. Who is the BJP/RSS government working for?

WEIGHED DOWN by huge losses and non-performing assets (NPAs), banks have written off a record Rs 1,44,093 crore of bad loans in the financial year ending March 2018 — up 61.8 per cent from Rs 89,048 crore in the previous year. The total loan write-off by private and state-owned banks in the last 10 years since 2009 has touched a whopping Rs 4,80,093 crore as on March 31, 2018 – 83.4 per cent of this amount, or Rs 400,584 crore, was from public sector banks, according to figures compiled by rating agency ICRA for The Indian Express. Of the write-off for 2017-18, Rs 1,20,165 crore loans were written off by public sector banks.

Banks normally resort to write-offs in the case of loans which are in the doubtful recovery category. “It is technical in nature. It’s a book adjustment. When a bad loan is written off, it goes out of the books of the bank. The bank will also get tax benefits. However, the bank will continue the recovery measures even after the loan is written off,” said Pradeep Ramnath, former chairman and MD of Corporation Bank. The last financial year was also the worst for the sector as banks were forced to stop evergreening of bad loans and go for NPA recognition amid huge losses to their government securities portfolio following the rise in bond yields… read more:

India has 53,000 manual scavengers spread across 12 states; a four-fold rise from the last official count (data from 121 out of over 600 districts)

AN INTER-MINISTERIAL task force has counted up to 53,236 people involved in manual scavenging in India, a four-fold rise from the 13,000-odd such workers accounted for in official records until 2017. While the numbers are an improvement from before, when a majority of states denied the existence of the practice, it is still a gross underestimate as it includes data from only 121 of the more than 600 districts in the country. 

More importantly, it does not include those involved in cleaning sewers and septic tanks, and data from the Railways, which is the largest employer of manual scavengers. Of the 53,000 identified so far through the national survey, only a total of 6,650 have been confirmed officially by states in keeping with the tendency to under-report the prevalence of this practice.

The task force is expected to submit its final tally on the National Survey of Manual Scavengers by the end of this month.The survey was to be undertaken in 170 districts of 18 states where the maximum number of “insanitary latrines” were demolished and converted into “sanitary latrines”. However, according to official records, only 121 districts in 12 states have been covered — Bihar, J&K, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Telangana and West Bengal are yet to participate in the survey.
“Of the 12 states that cooperated with us for the survey, there was reluctance when it came to verifying the numbers identified by us,” a task force member said.

The maximum number of manual scavengers — 28,796 — have been registered in UP. States such as Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, which had earlier reported zero or about 100, have now upped their count. Moreover, much of urban India has not been included. This is because while data on insanitary to sanitary toilet conversion has been made available for rural areas, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, which is in charge of Swachh Bharat (Urban), has informed the Social Justice Ministry that such “data for is not maintained separately.”