Showing posts from August, 2018

Statement by People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) against arrest of Human Rights Activists // Open Letter from civil servants about recent events

Statement by People’s Alliance for Democracy and Secularism (PADS) against arrest of five Intellectuals a nd Human rights Activists on 28 August, 2018 Press Release 30 August, 2018 Pune police under BJP government in Maharashtra arrested five well known left leaning intellectuals and activists under UAPA on August 28.  Eighty years old Varvara Rao is a famousTelegu poet.Sudha Bhardwaj is general  secretary of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, and a leader of Chhatisgarh Mukti Morcha. Gautam Navlakha is a journalist and has been associated with Economic and Political Weekly and People’s Union for Democratic Rights. Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves are lawyers. They were arrested by Maharashtra police years ago for being associates of banned CPI(Maoist), but were acquitted by courts of all charges as there was no evidence against them. Arun Ferreira has been an active campaigner for the rights of people detained under black laws like POTA and UAPA. Police also raided hou

Prashant Bhushan: Worse than Emergency // Former CJI RM Lodha: Arrests undermine basics of democracy

On Tuesday, the Maharashtra Police arrested some of India’s finest human rights activists from five cities across the country on completely fabricated charges under various provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the IPC. The activists arrested are Sudha Bharadwaj, a civil rights activist and labour lawyer from Chattisgarh, presently teaching at the National Law University, Delhi, Gautam Navlakha, former president of the People’s Union for Democratic Reforms, Varavara Rao, a poet-activist, Vernon Gonsalves, human rights activist, and Arun Ferreira, a civil rights activist and lawyer based in Mumbai.  Residences and offices of other activists were raided, and laptops and mobiles seized. These include pro-democracy activists who have been leading peoples’ resistance movements for several years, such as Father Stan Swamy, an Adivasi rights activist based in Ranchi, Anand Teltumbde, a management expert, intellectual and writer, and Susan Abraham, civil liberties lawyer a

'We ​can’t go back': Syria's refugees fear for their future after war

Each day for as long as he can remember, Abu Ahmed, a Syrian merchant, has hawked Qur’anic pamphlets in central Beirut, one eye out for a buyer and another for the police. He has been in the Lebanese capital for the past six years, as war consumed his homeland, casting more than a million refugees like him into near permanent exile. Now, however, as the seven-year conflict approaches what many believe to be an endgame in Syria’s north-west, Abu Ahmed fears his meagre, but so far safe existence is in jeopardy. The blazing guns of insurgency have largely been silenced in central and southern  Syria , and politicians in Damascus, Beirut and Amman are claiming with increasing vehemence that a ruined country from which at least 6 million people have fled is now a safe for them to return. Few Syrians in Lebanon seem convinced. “I’ll serve my country proudly and shed my blood for it with a smile on my face, but not like this,” said Abu Ahmed, 41, who hails from the former opposition st

Michael Safi - Demonetisation drive that cost India 1.5m jobs fails to uncover 'black mone

More than 99% of the currency that India declared void in a surprise announcement in 2016 was returned to the country’s banks in subsequent weeks, according to a Reserve Bank of  India  (RBI) report. The figures suggest prime minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation policy, which likely  wiped at least 1% from the country’s GDP  and cost  at least 1.5m jobs , failed to wipe significant hordes of unaccounted wealth from the Indian economy — a key rationale for the move. Modi shocked Indians in November 2016 when he announced on live television that all 500 and 1000-rupee notes, equivalent to about £6 and £12, would be banned in four hours’ time. People were given several weeks to exchange their demonetised currency for new notes at banks. But new notes could not be printed fast enough, and the policy sparked a months-long currency crunch that left  tens of millions of Indians cashless  or standing in line for hours each day to retrieve small sums of cash. As India’s massive

Pune police conduct raids on human rights activists all over India, Sudha Bhardwaj arrested

NB: A government that protects lynchers ; covers up the mysterious death of the judge hearing the case against Amit Shah; indulges in the blatant sabotage  of the justice system, is now engaged in intimidating its critics. We should all resist the newest malevolent actions of the BJP government:  DS Pune police on Tuesday conducted searches in various cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Goa, Haryana and Chhatisgarh in connection with the recent arrests of five persons allegedly linked with Maoists activities. The searches are being conducted at the residences of the persons having Maoists links and who were directly or indirectly connected with the organizers of 'Elgaar Parishad', said sources. According to the sources in Pune police, the police have arrested left-wing activist and poet Varavara Rao in Hyderabad and trade unionist Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad. They are being produced in a local court in respective cities and will be brought to Pune after getting tra

Pratap Bhanu Mehta - A blasphemous law

NB : The proposed law is a disgrace. It shows how our political leaders' first instinct is to appease the most base features of public mentality; instead of upholding the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Pandering to 'hurt sentiment' is a means of empowering goondas, nothing less. How does one 'injure' a book? Suppose I claim that the contents of such and such holy book are questionable, or not to be taken literally (something Mahatma Gandhi often observed); or that claims to speak divine wisdom are unconvincing, do I therefore deserve to be put to death? In a country where lynchers enjoy impunity, is the avowal of atheism now to become a crime? The Punjab Congress government must be forced to withdraw this poisonous proposal. The Almighty God can look after himself or herself without the assistance of political hypocrites. DS The Punjab government’s proposal to amend Article 295 of the Penal Code is deeply regressive and will have deep ramifications beyond

Roland Barthes: A double grasp on reality

Andy Stafford considers Barthes’s analysis of how we create a world of meaning, and how it creates us   Towards the end of  Mythologies  (1957),  Roland Barthes ’s study of contemporary myths, he claimed: “I have tried to define things, not words” – surprising perhaps, given the philosopher’s popular association with language, communication and meaning. It is not that words are not also things; but the comment suggests an important corrective to the understanding of his work. Barthes was not (simply) an aesthete interested in forms, but a theorist who tried to understand how these forms constructed our imagination. As an early theorist and user of semiology, the science of signs and meanings, he offered analyses that attempted to find the intelligible in almost all human activities. Barthes was a Houdini, using the essay form to wriggle his way out of (but not necessarily, away from) the tight constrictions of post-war Hegelian thought. The essay, by being both literary  and  sc

ALOMA RODRÍGUEZ: The feminist moment

Feminism maintains that one half of the population should have the same rights and opportunities as the other half. This affects many areas of life, and develops in different ways in different places. Obviously, the situation of women in Europe is infinitely better than that of women in Saudi Arabia – even though they can now drive a car. However, it is not the same for an immigrant in France as for a senior executive, nor is it the same whether someone is transgender, homosexual or heterosexual.  Differences of degree exist, but, despite all the possible nuances, the goal is to advance towards the most egalitarian society possible, in which all individuals are protected whatever their gender, ethnicity or other origin. This may seem an obvious truism but it is the goal of the Enlightenment and of liberalism, and of feminism in the most global sense. The marches of women against Donald Trump, the publication of the allegations against the film producer Harvey Weinstein and the #M

Pratap Bhanu Mehta: The Age of Cretinism

NB : A good characterisation of our time. In her first reflections upon Nazism’s death factories, Hannah Arendt called them ‘the organized attempt to eradicate the concept of the human being.’ We live in their shadow, and the shallowness of our moral sensibility is witnessed every day.   Benedetto Croce , the Italian philosopher who defied Mussolini and called fascism a 'moral illness', believed that liberty is not a natural right but an earned right that arises out of continuing historical struggle for its maintenance. Croce defined civilization as the continual vigilance against barbarism.. DS IN AN ERA WHERE LANGUAGE HAS LOST ALL STABLE REFERENTS, it is difficult to find a word that describes the tenor of our times. But if, at the pain of gross simplification, one were to choose a word to characterise the times, ‘cretinism’ might not be a bad candidate. This is an age of both moral and political cretinism. The term ‘moral cretinism’ was perhaps first used by Alan Bull

The Double Standard for Black Athletes Began Long Before Trump. Just Ask Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

President Trump keeps lashing out at black athletes, trying to change the subject from his inner circles’  guilty pleas  and  verdicts  back to  NFL players protesting the anthem , calling Colin Kaepernick, who wouldn’t kneel for the anthem, a “son of a bitch” and LeBron James dumb for good measure. The insults seem at once pointed but almost generic, as if he sees these athletes as inter-changeable parts, devoid of their own will. He seems easily shocked when they prove that they aren't. Tommy Smith (307) (1st place) and John Carlos (259) (3rd place) of the US raise their fists in the "Black Power Salute" during the playing of the national anthem at the Olympics in Mexico City, Mexico; 1968   NCAA PHOTOS/GETTY Trump is a very new kind of president, but he’s tapped into a long tradition of black athletes using their prominent platforms to speak up about American injustice, and powerful fans then telling them to keep quiet and just play. In 1968 , the same year

Trump is the alpha con man. Rick Wilson

Is it dangerous to be friends with Donald Trump?   Duh. If yesterday didn’t prove to you my theory that  Everything Trump Touches Dies , I have to presume you were locked somewhere deep in an underground bunker, submerged in a warm-water sensory deprivation tank while tripping balls on some high-quality hallucinogens. You certainly weren’t watching  now-wrecked lives of two of Trump’s former confidants , fixers, business associates, wives, girlfriends (compensated and otherwise), and political allies join the long, long line of people who have learned that it’s dangerous to be friends of Donald Trump. The associative property of Trump’s reality-TV glamour, his crude fame, his various blandishments, and his seductive promises of fame, wealth, and empowerment have long lured in suckers. Don’t be ashamed if you’re one of them; from major international banks to the thousands of people who bought into his low-rent, ersatz “university” multilevel vitamin marketing schemes, shoe-leath

Condemnation of the mob attack on Professor Sanjay Kumar, Department of Sociology, MG Central University, Motihari Bihar

As sociologists, social scientists and concerned individuals across the world, we strongly condemn the brutal mob assault on 17 August 2018, on sociologist Sanjay Kumar at Mahatma Gandhi Central University, Motihari, Bihar.  This particular trend of mob violence directed at dissenting voices in various university/college campuses of late has become ‘normal’. Teachers have been targeted and abused on account of their political opinions and social position. In particular, because of the nature of the social sciences where we engage with contemporary society, social scientists have come under attack. As per media reports, the complicity of the office of the Vice-Chancellor, M G Central University, Motihari in the macabre attack on Sanjay Kumar cannot be ruled out. We unequivocally demand the effective intervention of the Government of Bihar to probe the dastardly act and provide all necessary legal and medical help to the victim.  We appeal to all university teachers, students an

'Our memories have vanished': the Palestinian theatre destroyed in a bomb strike

The Said al-Mishal Centre brought theatre, dance and music to the beleaguered residents of Gaza City. Its destruction in an Israeli air strike last week has sparked outrage – and dealt a heavy blow to Palestinian culture. Can the show go on? It was the deep panic of the last-minute rush known to everyone involved in theatre. One of the playhouse’s top directors, a precocious 27-year-old who had been working in theatre since he was a teenager, was preparing his latest production – a dark comedy. Stage crew and actors had been working for months, all leading up to the  Eid al-Adha  performance, one of the biggest productions of the year timed for the Islamic holiday period. The show was to be held in  Gaza  City’s premier auditorium, the Said al-Mishal Cultural Centre, where the audience could relax into red fabric seats for a night of escapism. On 9 August, the show’s final decorations were being hoisted. Outside, in the early evening sun, people in the Mediterranean city w

Human rights activist Israa al-Ghamgham in danger of execution by beheading in Saudi Arabia

Israa al-Ghomgham from Qatif province has been in detention for 32 months. She was put before the specialized criminal court (SCC) in Riyadh recently where the public prosecutor recommended death penalty for six defendants, which included her as well as her husband Moussa al-Hashem. "The call of the public prosecution for a death sentence for the detainee is a dangerous indicator that the trial outcome will lead to a death penalty sentence being issued," The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights (ESOHR) said, adding, because the “Saudi mechanisms involved in the prosecution process are not independent and serve the needs of King Salman directly… Israa is being subjected to an unfair trial, which uses flawed laws and can be regarded as a ‘show trial,’” Sputnik News  reported. She appeared on government radars during 2011 protests in Qatif, demanding an end to anti-Shia discrimination and also the release of political prisoners. Al-Ghomgham and her husband were

DARIA KHLEVNYUK - Stalin’s continuing, disputed legacy

The memory of Stalin’s Terror is now receiving more attention in Russia than at any time since the 1980s. However, the scope of the debate needs to be widened still further, argues Daria Khlevnyuk. The Stalin epoch’s influence on Russia is undeniable. Present-day Russians mainly live in a country inherited from the Stalin-era Soviet Union, not least in terms of infrastructure, architecture and social institutions. 1  However, scholars, intellectuals and journalists agree that Russian society has yet to thoroughly work through the totalitarian legacy of Stalin’s era. 2   Lately, a lot of work has been done on this front. In 2017, a memorial to Stalin’s victims was erected, while last year’s Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions saw a record number of media outlets publishing pieces on Stalin’s repressions. 3 The investigation by a private citizen, Denis Karagodin, into his great-grandfather’s execution attracted a lot of attention from both the national and int

The whole world is watching. How the 1968 Chicago 'police riot' shocked America. By David Taylor and Sam Morris

By the summer of 1968, Americans were dying at a rate of more than 1,000 per month in the bloodiest year of the Vietnam war Where the National Guard once stood in formation with bayonets fixed, a line of stands for rental bikes now stretches away along South Michigan Avenue. Where protestors against the Vietnam War once massed, chanting “the whole world is watching”, sun shines on formal flower beds filled with purple hostas and golden lilies. Across the street, the facade of the Hilton Chicago looms, four towers of brick rising above war-like stone carvings of figures carrying shields and axes. There are few clues, but 50 years ago, this spot was a crucible of violence, which exposed fault lines in a divided and traumatised nation. A tumultuous season of assassinations, riots and war, 1968 was the year that changed America, in ways that still unfold today. And part of that momentous drama played out on summer nights in Chicago when blood ran in the streets and police orchestr

Touré - Sorry to Bother You: is this the most shocking anti-capitalist film ever?

A wealthy man once told me that you can’t get really rich unless you have other people working for you. To achieve the American dream of boundless wealth, you need to stand on many other people’s backs. That’s capitalism. But how do you entice them to let you stand on their backs so you can make more money than them, and what do you owe them for that privilege? These questions are at the core of  Sorry to Bother You , a comedy-drama starring Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson, written and directed by  Boots Riley , a rapper with Oakland band the Coup. Sorry to Bother You, set in an alternative version of that Californian city, is one of the most anti-capitalist movies Hollywood has ever produced. We’re used to seeing the rich portrayed as evil, but here we see people sell their souls to ascend the corporate ladder. The film shows how easily people will compromise their principles for money – and, more frightening still, how far owners and management will go to create perfectly o

Fifty years ago: Moscow crushes the Prague Spring - archive, August 1968

In the night of August 20 1968 Soviet tanks and troops invaded Czechoslovakia in an effort to stop the so-called  Prague Spring . For four months, under the leadership of  Alexander Dubček , the country broke free from Soviet rule, with the government allowing freedom of speech and removing state controls over industry.  Dubček claimed he was offering ‘socialism with a human face,’ but the Soviet Union viewed developments as tantamount to counter-revolution. Czechoslovakians did not fight the invading Russians but instead stood in front of the tanks, with some putting flowers in the soldiers’ hair. The reforms were curtailed, hard-line communists retook positions of power and Dubček was deposed in April 1969. Guardian Editorial: Jackboots again over Eastern Europe  22 August 1968 Czech youngsters holding a Czechoslovak flag stand atop an overturned truck  as other Prague residents surround Soviet tanks in Prague, 21 August 1968.  Photograph: Libor Hajsky/AFP/Getty Images

Piyasree Dasgupta - Jailed for waving a black flag at Adityanath

LUCKNOW, Uttar Pradesh — A few hours before Prime Minister  Narendra Modi addressed a forum of investors in the city last month, police constables surrounded Pooja Shukla as she stepped out of her friend's house in Ismailganj. Shukla, a 23-year-old student activist with the Samajwadi Party (SP), said the policemen and women dragged her to a waiting jeep, snatched her phone, drove her around the city for five hours and only let her go when she pretended to be ill. Another group from the police, she said, raided her house in Sarojini Nagar, where she lives with her parents. "They abused me for hours inside the car," Shukla said. "They narrated how encounters are done by the police. Then they said that I have been creating problems for them and I might get into big trouble." This wasn't Shukla's first brush with the law: images of her sparring with the police have been widely shared among university students in the city. Last year,  she spent 26 days