Showing posts from September, 2018

War took a heavy toll on her family. Now she is fighting … for Afghan democracy

Zakia Wardak’s family has been fractured and diminished by long decades of war in Afghanistan. Soviet forces killed her father four decades ago, Americans seized and tortured her husband two decades later and her  brother was murdered  in the capital this past summer. Yet, somehow, she has not abandoned hope. Relatives abroad begged her to join them after the latest killing. Instead, convinced that  Afghanistan  can still change, that the peaceful country of her childhood memories can be reclaimed, she has taken a tentative step into the dangerous, notoriously corrupt arena of Afghan politics, running for a seat in parliament.  “There’s a lot of injustice going on, particularly affecting the younger generation,” said Wardak, a successful engineer who virtually shuttered her business several years ago to focus on health and women’s rights. “If you have a seat in parliament, you can raise people’s voices.” The odds are stacked against her. It is still not clear if the 30 October

Amitabh Bachchan's Comments On Unnao/Kathua Isn't A First, He Has Always Shied Away From Taking A Stand. By Ankur Pathak

It's no secret that one of Hindi cinema's most influential star, Amitabh Bachchan, is also the industry's most feeble voice, especially when it comes to taking a stand on issues of national significance. A master of verbal diplomacy, Bachchan has consistently shied away from explicitly taking a position that directly affects the very society that has made him a megastar. Being in a position of power that Bachchan is in, comes with a certain moral obligation to use that power responsibly. It's not a lot to expect our stars to call out regressive drivel that gets perpetuated online or otherwise, especially when it affects a member of their own fraternity. Bachchan routinely talks about 'women empowerment' on Twitter, but never in a specific context. For him, it's always been a calculative decision, not a sincere one, like was evident when he wrote an open letter to his granddaughters, talking about women becoming victims of patriarchy, just in time to c

Pehlu Khan lynching case: Sons, other witnesses shot at on way to testify / Constable in UP shoots dead Apple executive in cold blood

NB: At least 67 people have been killed in encounters since 2017, but not a single charge-sheet has been filed nor action initiated against police officers involved. In May, the NHRC directed the state government to constitute a five-member team to investigate 17 of these cases. This is a government of gangsters, for gangsters, and run by gangsters. DS Key witnesses to the lynching of Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan last year, including two of Khan’s sons, were Saturday fired upon on National Highway 8 in Alwar while on their way to a court in Behror to depose in the lynching case. While police have registered an FIR and assured the family of security for court appearances in the future, Khan’s family said they will move an application to transfer the case to Alwar from Behror before the next hearing. Asad Hayat, the lawyer representing Khan’s sons, Irshad and Arif, told The Sunday Express that he was in the car with them when a black SUV without number plates tried to force them to sto

WILL OREMUS - Facebook Can’t Say Why Users Should Still Trust It

On Friday, Facebook  announced a massive security breach —probably the most significant in its history. Taking advantage of three separate bugs in tandem, hackers gained full control of at least 50 million users’ Facebook accounts. That meant that, in theory, the users could do just about anything on those accounts: post status updates for you, download your photos, send messages to your friends, download your friends’ nonpublic photos, and much more. Facebook confirmed later on Friday that the breach would have also given hackers access to  users’ accounts on third-party apps  and websites for which they used their Facebook credentials to log in. Facebook executives said in a call with reporters Friday afternoon that the company had learned of the attack on Tuesday, notified law enforcement on Wednesday, and had fixed the bugs by Thursday night. But Facebook doesn’t know yet who the hackers were, what they were after, or what they planned to do with any information they might hav

Republicans Will Rue The Day They Stood Behind Brett Kavanaugh

NB : The Republican Party is now led by a gang of racist and misogynist thugs. That Abraham Lincoln's party could be reduced to this is one of the greatest  ironies of history. First they humiliated Anita Hill - with the assistance of Joe Biden - now they humiliate Christine Ford. They cannot accept that women are people. Listen to these women confronting a Republican senator. Will anyone now believe the US Supreme Court to be a neutral arbiter? May God (whose name is imprinted on the almighty dollar bill) have mercy on their souls: DS There is no question our lives will be altered in ways that right now are immeasurable if Kavanaugh sits on the Supreme Court. All of the gains we’ve made (and that we’ve already seen eroding) for civil rights for women, people of color and LGBTQ people will be rolled back by this extremist-dominated court. There is no question about that. The power of money in politics will be further unleashed. Unions will become even more vulnerable after alr

Free speech lifeblood of democracy: HC on Cobrapost sting on media

Calling “free speech” the “lifeblood of democracy”, the Delhi High Court Friday set aside its single-judge order restraining web portal Cobrapost from making public a documentary on various media houses that were allegedly involved in malpractices like paid news, mass polarisation and accepting black money.  Holding that “unless it is demonstrated at the threshold that the offending content is malicious or palpably false, an injunction and that too an ex-parte one, without recording any reasons should not be given”, a bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and A K Chawla remitted the matter back to the single judge and asked it to hear afresh the question of granting interim relief on the petition of Dainik Bhaskar Corporation (DB) Ltd. The High Court Friday directed the parties to remain present before the single judge on October 3. Following the ruling, Kotla Harshavardhan, the advocate for Cobrapost, said that “the web portal released the sting operation in view of the judgment in

Robert Fisk: Take my word for it, the English language is facing destruction

There is, you see, an element of coercion, of correctness – not political but semantic – in this ocean of verbal porn. Who dares question lecture titles like “Contextualising Iranian Accented Cinema – Exilic, Diasporic, Ethnic” at the British Museum? Or suggest that the title of an article in America’s most prominent philosophical journal in 2012 – “On the Supposed Inconceivability of Absent Qualia Functional Duplicates” – might just be a bit over the top. Noam Chomsky, the plain-speaking philosopher and cognitive scientist par excellence, complained to a French newspaper last year that “when I hear words like ‘dialectic’ or ‘hermeneutic’ and other pseudo-profundities, then, like Goering, I reach for my gun”… But if, for example, I read Russell or analytical philosophy, or even Wittgenstein, it seems to me that I can understand what they are saying… On the other hand, when I read Derrida… I do not understand. It’s as if the words were marching past under my eyes. Chomsky called this

JOHN HARRIS - American Politics Is Boofed

The Kavanaugh-Ford hearing was a spectacle three decades in the making.  By JOHN F. HARRIS There have been other days—lots of them, actually, when you stop to count—over the past generation when Washington has had the nation gaping at its screens, squirming at the sight of private lives sliced open for public judgment while simultaneously thrilling to the spectacle of it all.  Those earlier  are-you-watching-this?!  moments, when politics and culture collided on live television amid revelations and recriminations, were inevitably accompanied by furrowed-brow commentary gravely asking, “Where will this all lead?” Now we know: This all leads to a hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office building, where Brett Kavanaugh and senators of both parties over eight hallucinatory hours on Wednesday served up the distilled essence of a potion - a toxic mixture of foaming malice, self-righteousness and conspiracy theory - that has been brewing for nearly three decades.  No single exchange

Piyasree Dasgupta: 51 Students Signing A Sexual Harassment Complaint Against A Law Professor

In March this year, a faculty member allegedly called a second-year student of Hidayatullah National Law University to his desk during a class and asked her to dance for him. "I have seen you dancing at parties. Why don't you dance for me here?" the man told the 19-year-old girl. The student told  HuffPost India  that even as the classroom was stunned into silence, the man kept badgering her. "You can dance in public places, you can't dance for me?" he is reported to have told her. Shocked, the girl managed to mutter that she was uncomfortable and hurried back to her seat as his booming laughter drowned the silence in the room. The student of the law school in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, had been uncomfortable around the professor since the beginning of the year. She had been routinely mocked for her accent and had to field juvenile comments on her place of origin. That apart, the professor often called her to his room and revealed details about her

Harsh Kapoor: Modi's Idiom and Indian Version of Fascism

First published on : Harsh Kapoor interviewed by Andy Heintz; June 2018 Do you see Prime Minister Narendra Modi as part of a worldwide trend of country’s electing nationalist leaders around the world?  There is an international phenomenon of nationalistic and xenophobic forces that are on the rise in the world. There are some similarities, but considerable local national differences that have driven Modi’s rise. The big common element is creating perceptions of being anti-elite, anti-cosmopolitan, anti-intellectual, and nationalist. The local national conditions are crucial here though there are international factors, the most notable being the role of India’s influential right-wing diaspora from the UK and the USA. What can the Left do to counter the nationalist appeal of figures like Modi? What mistakes have the Indian Left made that has allowed Modi and his Hindu nationalist party to gain such a foothold in Indian politics?   The long process of rise of the Far r

Ramachandra Guha: Narendra Modi’s paradoxical claim on the legacy of Gandhi

The Indian prime minister is linking his name to a man his own mentor despised  India has established a committee to commemorate next year’s 150th anniversary of the birth of the “father of the nation”, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the members include politicians across party lines as well as some foreign representatives, among them the Nobel laureates Desmond Tutu and Al Gore. Hailing Gandhi as “India’s greatest gift to human-kind”, whose “name finds resonance across the continents”, the committee plans a year-long prog-ramme of celebration, commencing on his birthday, October 2, and ending on the same day in 2019. 1948: Supreme Court, RSS and Gandhi Delhi Police Archive on RSS activity in October-December 1947 More threats and lies from the RSS Mr Modi’s bid to appropriate Gandhi is paradoxical. The prime minister spent most of his formative years in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a hardline Hindu organisation which reviled Gandhi for

Arun Shourie: Modi was embracing Hollande then. Is he a liar now?

With former French President  Francois Hollande  saying the Indian government gave the Rafale manufacturer Dassault no choice but to work with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as an offset partner, the  Opposition claimed corruption in the fighter aircraft deal has finally been exposed. Both the French government and Dassault have since issued statements, but they do not address the main claim that India pushed for Anil Ambani’s company to get the offset partnership.  The Indian defence ministry also released a  statement  on Saturday, claiming that the government, as a policy, “has no role” in the selection of an offset partner, which is solely a commercial decision of the foreign manufacturer. It too, however, does not directly address Hollande’s claims. Former Bharatiya Janata Party minister Arun Shourie, who has termed the Rafale deal as the “ biggest defence scam ever ”, told  that the French government’s response to Hollande’s claims was an attempt to save the comm

Japan's space rovers send pictures back after first ever successful landing on asteroid

Two tiny robots have landed safely on an  asteroid  after a Japanese spacecraft  dropped them there on Friday . The scientists behind the historic mission expressed their delight as the rovers sent back the first images from the surface of the space rock Ryugu. Dubbed MINERVA-II1, the robotic explorers are the first of their kind to be successfully landed on an asteroid. The Japanese space agency JAXA announced that both units were operational after a period of silence between the unmanned spacecraft Hayabusa-2 depositing them and connection being established with the team on Earth. “I cannot find words to express how happy I am that we were able to realise mobile exploration on the surface of an asteroid,” said Hayabusa-2 project manager Dr Yuichi Tsuda. The rovers will use the low gravity conditions on Ryugu to hop across the asteroid’s surface, measuring temperatures and sending images back to Earth via Hayabusa-2... read more:

Lesley McDowell - interviews Yan Lianke: ‘It’s hard to get my books published in China’

Yan Lianke published his first story in 1979 at the age of 21, and has gone on to produce a formidable body of work. Some of Yan’s novels have been banned in his native China for their satirical take on contemporary life, including his latest work,  The Day the Sun Died , which had to be published first in Taiwan. The novel, about 14-year-old Li Niannian, who tries to save his fellow townsfolk from themselves during one dreadful night of “dream walking”, has been read in the west as a critique of Xi Jinping’s “Chinese dream” of national greatness. Yan has won the Man Asian literary prize and the Franz Kafka prize, has twice been shortlisted for the Man Booker international prize, and has been widely tipped for the Nobel. Born in Henan province, he lives in Beijing, where many of his novels are set. What was the idea behind the novel? I had experienced some instances of sleepwalking myself, and I kept seeing reports on my phone of other people sleepwalking. The idea for the novel

Edward White: The Short, Daring Life of Lilya Litvyak; the world’s first female fighter ace

On June 22, 1941, the Third Reich launched its ill-fated invasion of Russia. It was pestilential in scale; more than three million Axis soldiers swarmed Russia’s borders in a matter of hours, overwhelming Soviet defenses. Hitler regarded the peoples of the Soviet Union to be a subhuman rabble against whom victory was inevitable. But the supposed  Untermensch  turned out to be ferocious opponents, hardened by decades of deprivation and fueled by an unbending love of country. Among those supercharged patriots were eight hundred thousand women who volunteered for frontline action, in roles such as snipers, machine gunners, and tank drivers. Nearly two hundred thousand women served in air defense, including those who flew bombers and fighter planes in Air Group 122, at the time the world’s only all-female air-combat unit. It was established in the fall of 1941 by the twenty-nine-year-old navigator Marina Raskova. Thanks to a series of daring long-distance flights undertaken in the lat

‘Her war never stopped’: the Dutch teenager who resisted the Nazis. RIP Freddie Oversteegen

The first thing the Nazis took from Freddie Oversteegen was her bed. Her mother, Trijn, a communist bringing up her children independently in the Dutch city of Haarlem, sheltered Jews, dissidents and gay people as they fled Germany in the 1930s. Oversteegen, who was seven when Adolf Hitler came to power, bunked in with her big sister Truus to make room. It was the start of a struggle that would last until she died on 5 September, the day before her 93rd birthday, in a nursing home not far from where, as teenagers, she and Truus carried out a campaign of assassinations and sabotage against Nazi invaders with pistols hidden in their bicycle baskets. “If you ask me, the war only ended two weeks ago,” her son Remi Dekker told the  Observer . “In her mind it was still going on, and on, and on. It didn’t stop, even until the last day.” Oversteegen’s war began one Friday in May 1940 with planes roaring overhead and the smell of smoke. Realising the Nazis had invaded the  Netherlan

China Treats Uighur Kids As ‘Orphans’ After Parents Seized

ISTANBUL (AP) — Every morning, Meripet wakes up to her nightmare: The Chinese government has turned four of her children into orphans, even though she and their father are alive. Meripet and her husband left the kids with their grandmother at home in China when they went to nurse Meripet’s sick father in Turkey. But after Chinese authorities started locking up thousands of their fellow ethnic Uighurs for alleged subversive crimes such as travel abroad, a visit became exile.  Then, her mother-in-law was also taken prisoner, and Meripet learned from a friend that her 3- to 8-year-olds had been placed in a de facto orphanage in the Xinjiang region, under the care of the state that broke up her family. “It’s like my kids are in jail,” Meripet said, her voice cracking. “My four children are separated from me and living like orphans.” Meripet’s family is among tens of thousands swept up in President Xi Jinping’s campaign to subdue a sometimes restive region, including the internment o

CBI chief Alok Verma under CVC lens after colleague files complaint // 200-Member Government Team Is Watching How the Media Covers Modi, Amit Shah

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Alok Verma is facing Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) probe after a complaint filed by his colleague. Special Director Rakesh Asthana has alleged that Verma has sought to impede his functioning, interfere in investigations and malign his reputation on the basis of unverified facts. The action was initiated by the CVC after Asthana wrote a letter to the Centre. As special director, Asthana heads a Special Investigation Team that is probing high-profile cases such as the Kingfisher and AgustaWestland investigations, among others. According to reports, Asthana has also alleged that Verma asked to call off the planned raids against RJD supremo Lalu Prasad in Patna last year at the eleventh hour. The CVC has initiated a primary inquiry, though the CBI spokesperson has refuted all the claims... read more: Bharat Bhushan

After a murder, fearful inter-caste couples dial police for help

Ever since P Pranay Kumar was murdered in Miryalaguda in Telangana on September 14 in a suspected case of honour killing, apprehensive inter-caste couples have started calling up nearest police stations in the state and neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. The calls increased on Wednesday evening after there was an attack on another inter-caste couple, this time in Hyderabad, by the father of the woman. Telangana Director General of Police M Mahender Reddy Thursday issued an advisory to Police Commissionerates and District Superintendents of Police to inform all police stations to respond to the calls seriously and take action accordingly. The advisory stated that if the local police officers deemed it necessary, they should immediately provide protection to the couples concerned. Police officers have also been asked to review complaints or petitions given by inter-caste couples earlier, assess the situation and take necessary precautions. “Callers are seeking information about the la

More threats and lies from the RSS

In four years of control over the Indian state, the RSS-led government has driven Indian Muslims and Dalits to despair; and allowed its allies and cadre complete impunity whilst committing heinous crimes. Now its supreme leader is lecturing us on justice: anyone with half a mind can hear the threats in his latest utterances, in the company of the BJP top brass: Ignoring justice could lead to Mahabharat in Ayodhya . In his comments he tells us that allegation and  discussions on the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and the demolition of 'that structure' (his name for the Babri Masjid) and "would continue as they are part of the politics". There's no mystery about the demolition: its been avowed by its own members and allies. Bhagwat's cynical statement reminds me of the ethical nihilism of the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, about whom I commented recently in another context. This government has  protected  lynchers ; and covered up the  death  of the judge hearing the

Book review: Andersen-Damle book helps RSS perpetuate convenient myths // Shridhar Damle: Modi Gave Idea For RSS Book; Promotions Deliberately Focused On White-Skinned Andersen

Instead of offering objective analysis, Andersen-Damle book helps RSS perpetuate myths   By Dhirendra K Jha Every organisation needs a little make-believe sometimes, but the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, it would appear, simply cannot do without it. With its contentious past and dubious present, the RSS has always found it difficult to capture the imagination of India’s Hindu majority. Which is perhaps why it has found it necessary to create and perpetuate myths in its quest for legitimacy. One would expect research by serious scholars to explode such myths. But the book under review, The RSS: A View to the Inside , by Walter K Andersen and Shridhar D Damle, disappoints on this score. This should, however, not be such a surprise for those familiar with the 1987 book by the same authors, The Brotherhood In Saffron: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh And Hindu Revivalism . In fact, one could go so far as to say that for the RSS, the new book is as important a milestone in its elaborate pu

Oxford University's Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme comments on Venkat Dhulipala

I will open this comment with an anecdote. Some months ago, whilst exercising in the gym I visit, the senior trainer was talking politics with someone. He is a friendly individual and I normally do not converse whilst exercising. He happens to be an admirer of Narendra Modi. On this occasion, Modi was in election mode and the communal signalling quite blatant. I felt compelled to interject and say that it was unacceptable for the PM to spread hatred amongst Indians. He paused a bit and then (with a hint of shame) said, “Yeh toh politics hee hai sir.’ (‘But this is only politics, sir’). Oxford University's Contemporary South Asian Studies Programme (CSASP) has  circulated   a comment on Venkat Dhulipala's attendance at a seminar in Chicago organised by the World Hindu Congress; which to the best of my knowledge is an RSS front [ Here is a link to the talk in Chicago by Venkat Dhulipala ] .  The comment has been  endorsed  by others; and seeks to re-circulate Faisal Devji'