Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Azadi by Arundhati Roy

Last year Arundhati Roy's article on Kashmir problem appeared in the Outlook India. Here below it is reposted.
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The people of Kashmir have made it clear once again, as they have done year upon year, decade upon decade, grave upon grave, that what they want is azadi. (The “people”, by the way, does not mean those who win elections conducted in the rifle sights of the army. It does not mean leaders who have to hide in their homes and not venture out in times like these.)
While we denounce—as we must—the gunning down of unarmed protesters by the security forces, the attacks on ambulances and hospitals by policemen, and the blinding of teenagers with pellet guns, we have to keep in mind that the real debate cannot only be about the violation of human rights by Indian security forces in the Kashmir valley. Egregious though they are, those violations are the consequence—the inevitable and unavoidable consequence—of the militaristic suppression of a people’s struggle for freedom. Kashmiris are not fighting for the establishment of the rule of law or an end to human rights violations. They are fighting for azadi. For this, they are prepared to face down bullets with stones. For this, they are prepared to die in numbers. For this, they are prepared to exhibit acts of open defiance that may lead to their death or incarceration in the most densely militarised zone in the world. For this, they are prepared to take to arms, to fight to the death, knowing full well that they will die young. They have proved that with tragic regularity. They have been nothing if not consistent.
It’s no use pretending that what the Indian government has on its hands is a fleeting law and order problem created from time to time by a fickle, volatile people. What is happening is a dangerous, spiralling crisis of unmanageable proportions in a region that is sandwiched between two hostile nuclear powers. For that reason alone it should concern the whole world.
If we really want address that crisis, if we really want to stop the endless cycle of killing and dying, if we really want to stem the haemorrhaging, the first step has to be a small concession to honesty. We have to have an honest conversation. However diverse the views may be, however opposed to one another—the subject of that conversation has to be azadi: What exactly does azadi mean to Kashmiris? Why can’t it be discussed? Since when have maps been sacrosanct? Should a people’s right to self-determination be denied at any cost? Are the people of India prepared to have the blood of thousands of ordinary people on their conscience? With what moral authority can we talk about all the other horrors being visited upon us, if we are prepared to swallow this one? Is the presumed “consensus” in India on the subject of Kashmir real or manufactured? Does it matter? In truth, it shouldn’t. What matters is what Kashmiris want, and how to arrive at that consensus in the most peaceful, democratic and informed way possible.
If there is to be a solution to this terrible, seemingly endless tragedy, we have to be able to think clearly, speak freely and listen fearlessly to things we may not want to hear. We have to find a new imagination. This applies to everybody, on all sides of the dispute.
Something beautiful could come of it. Why not? Why ever not?

Christian sect members attack Congo prison, free leader: government

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Supporters of a jailed Christian sect leader on Wednesday attacked the prison in the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo where he was being held, freeing him and about 50 other inmates, the government said.
A police officer and five attackers were killed in the raid on Kinshasa's Makala prison, said government spokesman Lambert Mende, who gave no further details.
Ne Muanda Nsemi, a self-styled Congolese prophet and leader of the Bundu dia Kongo movement, was arrested in March after a series of deadly clashes between his supporters and police.
The clashes have compounded tensions since President Joseph Kabila refused to step down when his mandate expired in December and added to fears of instability and civil conflict.
Residents heard gunfire near the prison at around 4 a.m. (0300 GMT) and saw prisoners wearing blue shirts with yellow collars in the streets.
One prisoner, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters more than 4,000 inmates had escaped, roughly half the population. But aside from Nsemi, the most prominent prisoners had not escaped.
These include opposition leaders, war criminals convicted by the International Criminal Court and soldiers convicted in the assassination of former president Laurent Kabila.
The prisoner said the attackers, armed with batons and three AK-47 rifles, easily overpowered the guards who he said had been drinking heavily.
A former prisoner, who said he had spoken to guards and escaped prisoners, also said more than half of the prisoners had escaped.
The United Nations warned its staff to avoid non-essential movement around Kinshasa, saying the situation was calm but unpredictable.
Soldiers stopped young men for questioning near Nsemi's house in the city's Ngaliema district and arrested some of them, a Reuters witness said.
The president of Bundu dia Kongo's political wing could not be reached for comment. A spokesman told the website actualite.cd that the group had no role in the attack and that he did not know Nsemi's whereabouts.
Nsemi has a strong following in southwestern Congo and wants to revive the Kongo kingdom, which flourished for centuries around the mouth of the Congo River.
At least six of Nsemi's supporters were killed earlier this year during the two-week standoff at his Kinshasa residence that led to his capture.

Was Manchester Blowback?

Was the terrorist act in Manchester a blowback? Ex-congressman Ron Paul thinks so. To view his argument, click here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Saffron politics with education in Assam

BJP is on a roll and has won many of the Indian states' legislative assemblies including Assam, next to Bangladesh, showing its ugly fascist Hindutvadi face. The state has a significant population of minority Muslims many of whom sent their children to madrasas for education.
It is worth noting here that the Madrassa Education Board was established as long back as 1934 and has been regulated since. There are more than 700 schools under this board.
Assam's current deputy chief minister is Himanta Biswa Sarma, a die-hard Hindutvadi, of the BJP government wants to stop madrasas in Assam. He has no moral qualm to grant Rs 10 crore to the schools run by Vidya Bharati, a sister organization of RSS, the Hindutvadi fascist organization.
The minister’s fixation with government-run madrassas is an example of his recent fondness for promoting Hindutva than a real intent to reform education. A few months ago, Sarma announced that state-run Madrassa schools would be closed only on Sunday and not on Friday, a day which is considered holy in the Islamic calendar and which has been general practice in Assam. He went on to point out that it was only madrassas in Pakistan and Bangladesh that remained closed on Friday.
A few days ago, Sarma tweeted that separate directorate for Madrassa education would be abolished and its functions supervised by the Board of Secondary Education.
As noted by Uddipan Dutta it is too early to comment on the modalities of this proposed change. However, one needs to be watchful of the manner in which Sarma is surreptitiously pushing a saffron agenda. This certainly doesn’t augur well for Assam which is rightfully proud of its long cherished secular tradition in education.

Come clean on Middle East air strikes: HRW

Human Rights Watch has demanded the Defence department come clean on past air strikes in Iraq and Syria and the extent of civilian casualties.
The department has begun a new attempt at transparency making fortnightly reports available on its website.
The day before the federal budget in early May, it's first report carried a brief descriptions of seven strikes in Mosul, Iraq, between April 18-30, but did not specifically mention any civilian casualties.
The second report was due to be released on Monday.
Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Elaine Pearson said the reports were a good first step and urged the department to provide backdated reports from the past two and a half years.
She called on Defence Minister Marise Payne to detail any past investigations carried out into civilian casualties and the outcomes.
"We urge you to immediately release details on civilian casualties caused by Australian air strikes, and if you are not collecting such information, to start doing so without delay," she said in a letter to the minister.
Ms Pearson said reliance on video assessments taken from the air wouldn't give the full picture of casualties, especially in densely populated areas.
"The government should actively seek this information and not wait for it to be publicly reported before beginning an investigation," she said.
Documents released under freedom of information in March said the federal government did not collect "authoritative" data on the enemy or civilian casualties.
Ms Pearson said the government should also collaborate with Airwars, a non-government group monitoring air strikes and civilian deaths in the Middle East.
It estimates 3530 civilians have been killed in coalition air strikes.
The US-led coalition acknowledges an estimated 352 civilian deaths.
Airwars last year rated Australia one of the least transparent members of the international military coalition.
A spokesman for Senator Payne said Defence would disclose allegations of civilian casualties if they were made but ruled out issuing backdated reports.
The US is the only member of the coalition against Islamic State militants that has admitted to causing civilian casualties.

Read more at http://www.9news.com.au/national/2017/05/22/13/45/come-clean-on-middle-east-air-strikes#dFCXhQc9AAZEhVkw.99

Monday, May 22, 2017

Commencement speech of Mahsheed Mahjor

This evening, while listening to the PBS Newhour, I was simply amazed to listen to the commencement speech of a young Afghan student studying in the USA. Her name is Mahsheed Mahjor, a graduate of the class of 2017 from Muhlenberg College, PA. She delivered her student address at commencement on hardships and inequities around the world, the role of citizenship and the value of her education.
Hers was a very powerful speech, which must be listened by many. I have not heard too many of her kind. It is really worth listening to this young girl who is already so wise at such a young age. Simply impressive!
You can hear her speech by clicking here.

Shame on India!

Major Nitin Gogoi, who tied a civilian to an army jeep as a human shield in Kashmir, has been awarded by the Indian Army for counter-insurgency operations.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat has awarded Gogoi with a commendation card for 'sustained efforts' on counter-insurgency operations.
"Major Gogoi has been awarded Chief of Army Staff's Commendation Card for sustained efforts in counter-insurgency operations," Army spokesperson Aman Anand said.
This news is simply shameful! It bares the ugly side of Indian occupation of Kashmir. Shame on India and its army chief!
The army had come in for criticism one the video was out, with reports saying that the act constituted a war-crime.
Sources said Major Gogoi was given the award during Gen Rawat's visit to Jammu and Kashmir last week.
The Army Chief's 'Commendation Card' is considered a prestigious award and is given for distinguished services and devotion to duties.
A video, showing the man tied to the army vehicle during polling in the Srinagar Lok Sabha by-election on April 9, had triggered a public outcry, prompting the Army to institute a probe.
The CoI was tasked to look into the circumstance that prompted Major Gogoi to tie the Kashmiri youth to the jeep's bonnet as a "human shield".
The man, who was seen tied to an army jeep on polling day had been identified as Farooq Dar, while the army unit involved in the act was 53 Rashtriya Rifles.
Dar was later quoted as saying, “I am not a stone-pelter. Never in my life have I thrown stones. I work as an embroiderer of shawls, and I know some carpentry. This is what I do.”
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In a separate news, I was equally perturbed to learn that a former Bollywood actor and now a BJP  Parliamentarian Paresh Rawal has tweeted that writer-author Arundhati Roy should be used as human-shield in the Kashmir valley instead of stone-pelters. Rawal's tweeting is simply inexcusable and sickening and shows where is India heading these days under Hindutvadi fascists.
Booker Prize winner Roy’s causes have all landed her in conflict with the Hindu Right that freely bandies the phrase ‘anti-national’.
In a tweet that instantly attracted a series of crticism as well as support, the Padmashree winning-actor made an open attack on Roy who has, on various ocassions, spoken against the human rights violation in Kashmir.