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Archives for : March2017

Indian fishermen warn Australia against environmental impact ahead of Adani coal mine talks


Noor Mohammad

Noor Mohammad had to relocate with his wife, two sons and their families when the Adani project started.


Fishermen in India say a local Adani project is harming them and killing off sea life, warning Australia to be wary as Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk prepares to decide whether to proceed with the Carmichael coal mine.

Ms Palaszczuk and eight regional mayors are preparing to sit down with the chairman of Adani Enterprises, Gautam Adani, ahead of the company deciding whether to proceed with the proposed mine.

The Queenslanders will be shown the Adani’s Gujarat port and power station, which itself has a chequered environmental record, of which the local fishermen said Australia should be wary.

Noor Mohammad — a fisherman in coastal Gujarat —said his home used to be in Mundra, where Adani’s port and power project now stands.

He was forced out when the Adani project started, and relocated with his wife, two sons and their families to a camp nearby.

But he and other fishermen, like Buddha Ismail, said the destruction of tidal mangroves and ash from coal burnt at the power station had damaged the fishing.

“The Adani project is harming us. Their coal dust and stream discharge are harming us,” Mr Mohammad said, adding he now caught a quarter of what he used to.

“There are no fish in the sea water near the coast. All living creatures are dead.”

Adani was heavily criticised for a series of environmental breaches during construction that included destruction of mangroves, failure to regulate the ash generated by the power plant and altering the flow of waterways to the fishing’s detriment.

At Hazira, another site on the Gujarat coast, early last year a court ordered the company to pay nearly $5 million in reparation for illegal construction work, which damaged the environment and deprived 80 fishing families of their access to the sea.

Mr Mohammad and Mr Ismail said based on their experiences Australia should be wary of Adani.

“From our side, we want to tell them that they should force [the] company to run away,” Mr Mohammad said.

“I want to suggest them to not allow an [Adani] plant there,” Mr Ismail said.

The ABC sought comment from Adani on measures it had taken to address the ash problem, identified in a key environmental report in 2013, but received no response before the deadline.

Mundra is slated to receive coal from the Queensland Carmichael mine if it goes ahead.

Adani said coal would help expand power generation, providing some jobs and critically, cheap electricity to 100 million Indians still without.

Despite their criticism, the fishermen both admitted they would see things differently if their sons worked with the company.

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Remembering Student Activist Rachel Corrie’s on her 14th death anniversary

 International Solidarity Movement, al-Khalil team | Gaza, occupied Palestine

Today marks the 14th  anniversary since the passing of fellow ISM activist Rachel Corrie (April 10, 1979 – March 16, 2003). Rachel was tragically crushed to death under the front blade of an Israeli military, American funded, Caterpillar D9R bulldozer near Rafah, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Rachel died whilst placing herself in the path of the military bulldozer to protect the family and their home that the bulldozer was on route for and due to be demolished. Rachel’s death created a global outcry towards the Israeli military’s actions and prompted an international investigation under the contested circumstances in which she died during the height of the second intifada.

The message of caring for others that Rachel articulated as a child (see her 5th grade video of her imploring her classmates to care about hunger

Rachel Corrie

Rachel had come to Gaza during part of her senior-year college assignment that connected her home town with Rafah in a sister cities project. Whilst in Palestine, Rachel had engaged with other International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activists in efforts to prevent the Israeli army’s continued demolition of Palestinian homes in operations that the Israeli military claims were aimed at eliminating weapons smuggling tunnels.

Less than two months after Rachel had arrived into Palestine, on March 16, 2003, Corrie was killed. Her death came during an Israeli military operation after a three-hour peaceful demonstration between occupying Israeli forces operating two armoured bulldozers and eight ISM activists.

Rachel Corrie after being crushed

Rachel Corrie after being crushed

The exact nature of her death and the culpability of the bulldozer operator have since been disputed largely through extended judicial proceedings, with fellow ISM protestors that were at the scene saying that the Israeli soldier operating the bulldozer deliberately ran over Corrie, and Israeli eyewitnesses saying that it was an accident since the bulldozer operator could not see her.

Joe Carr, an American ISM activist who used the assumed name of Joseph Smith during his time in Gaza, gave the following account: “Still wearing her fluorescent jacket, she knelt down at least 15 meters in front of the bulldozer, and began waving her arms and shouting, just as activists had successfully done dozens of times that day…. When it got so close that it was moving the earth beneath her, she climbed onto the pile of rubble being pushed by the bulldozer…. Her head and upper torso were above the bulldozer’s blade, and the bulldozer operator and co-operator could clearly see her. Despite this, the operator continued forward, which caused her to fall back, out of view of the driver. He continued forward, and she tried to scoot back, but was quickly pulled underneath the bulldozer. We ran towards him, and waved our arms and shouted; one activist with the megaphone. But the bulldozer operator continued forward, until Corrie was all the way underneath the central section of the bulldozer. “

Caterpillar D9R bulldozer

A Caterpillar D9R bulldozer

Corrie’s father, Craig Corrie has said “I know there’s stuff you can’t see out of the double glass windows.” But he has denied that as a valid excuse, saying “you’re responsible for knowing what’s in front of your blade… It’s a no brainer that this was gross negligence”. He added that “they had three months to figure out how to deal with the activists that were there.”

The report on the autopsy findings that were initially denied to the public by Israel were later revealed by the Human Rights Watch, who say a copy was provided to them by Craig Corrie, along with a translation provided by the U.S. Department of State. In the report they quote Professor Yehuda Hiss, who performed the autopsy, as concluding, “Her death was caused by pressure on the chest (mechanical asphyxiation) with fractures of the ribs and vertebrae of the dorsal spinal column and scapulas, and tear wounds in the right lung with haemorrhaging of the pleural cavities.”

The Israeli army conducted an investigation into Corrie’s death, which concluded that her death was an accident, and that the driver of the bulldozer could not see Corrie due to limited visibility from his cab. Many have criticised the investigation as bogus and are outraged at the level of direct negligence displayed by the driver and the impunity that the Israeli army receives under Israeli law.

Corrie’s family has been involved in ongoing legal battles through the Israeli supreme court in an attempt to attain justice for Rachel.

Following extended trials in an attempt to attain justice for their daughter, the Corrie family lost their latest appeal in the Israeli Supreme Court on the twelfth of February, 2015, exempting the Israeli defense ministry from liability for actions by its forces that it deemed to be “wartime activity,” but wrongly refused to assess whether those actions violated applicable laws of armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said.

A statement from the Corrie family on the twelfth of February, 2015 read, “Today we received word from our attorneys that the Supreme Court of Israel dismissed our appeal in the wrongful death case of our daughter and sister Rachel Corrie.  Our family is disappointed but not surprised. We had hoped for a different outcome, though we have come to see through this experience how deeply all of Israel’s institutions are implicated in the impunity enjoyed by the Israeli military.”

Cindy and Craig Corrie

Cindy and Craig Corrie

Human Rights Watch documented that in the primary stages of Rachel’s trial, Israeli investigators failed to call any Palestinian witnesses, threatened to indict other foreign volunteers who witnessed Corrie’s death while questioning them about the incident, and failed even to ask witnesses to draw a map of the area at the time of the incident. The initial military inquiry into her death even concluded that “no signs substantiate [the] assertion that Ms. Corrie was run over by a bulldozer,” a conclusion that the military later reversed.



Rachel’s death is an extremely sad and timely reminder of the callus acts of negligence and the immunity that the Israeli military receives under Israeli law. However, Corrie’s death is no way in vein nor is it forgotten. The spirit she displayed in her actions along with her will to take up the fight against injustice to those whom it is imposed upon by the zionist regime will forever be remembered.

Rachel Corrie

Rachel Corrie

At the time of her death, Yaser Arafat, the first President of the Palestinian Authority, offered his condolences and gave the “blessings of the Palestinian people” to Corrie. The municipality of Ramallah in the West Bank dedicated a street to Rachel Corrie whilst a cafe in Al-Khalil/Hebron bears her name. Yearly demonstrations are held in the name of Rachel by Palestinians and by activists for human rights alike. The memory and the fight for justice displayed by Rachel will not be forgotten and will continue to be remembered by those fighting the war of injustice and human rights abuses that plague the Palestinian people to this day and onwards, until occupation is non existent and there is peace.

Rachel Corrie St. in Ramallah

Rachel Corrie St. in Ramallah

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Jharkhand -Dalit Man Beaten To Death By Cops For Throwing Color On Upper Caste Man #WTFnews


The widow of a Dalit man has alleged that her husband was beaten to death by police personnel in the Koderma district of Jharkhand after he threw colored powder on an upper caste man during Holi celebrations, The Hindustan Times reported on Thursday.

 Holi was celebrated on 13 March in many parts of the country.

According to the HT report, Pradeep Choudhary, 52, and a couple of other villagers sprinkled color on a local chowkidar Rajendra Yadav, who got upset at the gesture and called the police to teach them a lesson. “The police started beating up Pradeep till he fell unconscious. They then took him to the police station,” Jashwa Devi, Pradeep’s widow, told the newspaper.

 Jashwa said that her husband’s body had many bruises when the police dropped him home, the next morning. She also claimed that instead of helping them, cops at the Satbarwa police station abused them over caste.
 Prabhat Khabar reported that the cops took Pradeep to the hospital after they beat him in his village, but after he revived, they took him to the police station where he was thrashed again.

Pradeep succumbed to his injuries at the Koderma Sadar hospital.

 Dainik Bhaskar reported that Pradeep, a herder, was the father of six children. He was beaten so severely that his body turned had turned a shade darker from the bruises, DB reported.

This alleged crime in Koderma district is not an isolated instance of violence against Dalits on Holi. In Patheri village in Ambala, Dalits alleged that they were attacked with sharp-edged weapons by upper caste men during Holi celebrations. Two of the ten injured men were reportedly in a critical condition. In Boh village in Ambala, a Dalit man was allegedly thrashed by upper caste men because he was giving sermons on Holi.

In 2015, a Dalit man in Sonbhadra district was tonsured and paraded through a village on suspicion of having burnt a “holika” pyre.

Courtesy:-Huffington Post

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Demonetisation violation? Banks accepted over Rs 1 lakh crore without PAN details


Banks received about Rs 1.13-lakh crore from customers without valid documents after demonetisation.(AP File Photo)

In the weeks after demonetisation, banks across India received about Rs 1.13-lakh crore in “high-value deposits” from customers without valid documents, indicating possible collusion of officials to conceal dodgy cash, classified government data accessed by HT revealed.

About half of these transactions took place in six states — Gujarat, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The deposits have raised the suspicion of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), a government agency that monitors illicit transactions.

A high-value transaction is defined as a bank deposit above Rs 2.5 lakhs that the government made liable for tax scrutiny as part of its cash-purging, anti-corruption campaign launched on November 8.

Together, these states also received a third of all high-value bank deposits – with and without identity documents — made in the first two months of demonetisation. In these states, Jan Dhan deposits under the government’s banking-for-poor programme were 25-30% higher than the national average.

But to be fair, these states are farming and trading hubs that see high volumes of cash deals. Plus, farm income is not taxed.

The November 8 scrapping of 500-and 1,000-rupee banknotes was aimed at stamping out illegal cash from the economy. But many say corrupt bank officials helped some people park their ill-gotten cash in others’ accounts. In December, two junior central bank officials were arrested in Bangalore for illegally converting banned currencies for the new.

HT analysed bank data for 26 states that is available with the FIU. The data was sourced from 187 public, private and cooperative banks across India. A bank-wise breakup of the data was not available.

The data shows that the so-called high-value transactions across the country between November 9 and December 30 amounted to Rs 7.33-lakh crore. Of this, Rs 1.13-lakh crore was deposited without Permanent Account Numbers (PAN).

PAN details, which are mandatory for deposits above Rs 50,000, help detect tax evasion and fraud.

Experts say the demonetisation decision was so sudden that it left banks with little time to prepare, leaving gaps in enforcement of regulation.

“So, some elements surely misused the system as we saw in many cases,” MM Joshi, ex-chairman of Central Board of Direct Tax (CBDT), told Hindustan Times.

“In the past also we have found many instances in which banking officials were party to opening of fake accounts.”

Spiking deposit base

The six states reported the maximum spike in deposits above Rs 2.5 lakh, accounting for Rs 2.3-lakh crore in deposits. Of this, Rs 55,000-crore came in without PAN details.

The spike in the deposit base of these states after demonetisation has been significant.

For instance, the maximum number of high-value deposits was made in Maharashtra (Rs. 1.1-lakh crore). But the state already had a substantial bank deposit base at Rs 6.51-lakh crore on November 7.

Compare this with Rajasthan: High value amounts totalling Rs 50,000-crore were deposited within 50 days of demonetisation. The deposit base of banks in the state on November 7 was Rs 1.16 trillion.

Another pattern that emerged from the data accessed by HT showed that deposits in three conflict zones—Jammu and Kashmir, Chhattisgarh and the Northeast — were consistent with their deposit bases.

This possibly belies government apprehensions that these insurgency-hit regions were used to push fake Indian currency and unaccounted-for money.

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Kuldip Nayar – Caste – discrimination that haunts Indian campuses

  • Kuldip Nayar |
Dalits, Campus, Discrimination, Rohith Vermula

Representational Image (Photo: Shahnawaz Khan)

However democratic we may be, discrimination on the basis of caste has not diminished. Every day, in some part or the other of the country, there are atrocities on Dalits. Only the other Dadri, near Delhi, was the scene of a Dalit family being consigned to fire.

In the national capital itself, a JNU student hung himself because he could not stand the jibe of discrimination. The 28-year-old M.Phil student had dreamt of studying in JNU and was fortunate to get through on his fourth attempt. Hailing from the South, Muthukrishnan was reportedly a sober personality and generally kept to himself.

Surprisingly, there is very little impact on society or, for that matter, on India. It was just an incident and forgotten. Instead, the country on the whole should have been shaken. Had this been the case of an upper caste student, there would have been many statements and calling attention notices in Parliament. But there was not even a whisper in the present case.

The media was equally guilty because it reported the incident only as a periphery to other bigger stories. This only underlined that the media persons, generally belonging to the upper caste, have the same old mindset. The youth is supposed to be radical, but this was not the case.

Obviously, the deceased student’s father and even some students believe that there was some foul play. The police was led to record FIR under relevant provisions because the police thought that it was a case of suicide. The parents have demanded a CBI inquiry. I don’t know how it would make any difference because the CBI would itself depend on Delhi Police which is in the doghouse.

A similar issue had cropped up when Rohith Vemula, a Dalit research scholar from Hyderabad University, committed suicide last year. However, unlike in the JNU student’s death case, there was a big hue and cry and students took to the streets and the agitation even led to a change of guard in the university department.

Incidentally, Muthkrishnan had recalled Rohith’s death and condemned Hyderabad University’s alleged role in the scholar’s suicide. The JNU student had a Facebook post in which he had criticized JNU’s new admission policy, obviously recounting several instances where he had to face discrimination.

What do these incidents in varsities indicate? We need to apply our minds to address the problems that Dalit students face in institutions of higher education. Not long ago, Hyderabad University had to revoke the suspension of students after Rohith’s death. Indeed, his suicide had caused great shock and resulted in outrage, but similar sentiments were expressed when Senthil Kumar from Salem, another student from the University of Hyderabad, killed himself in 2008. Muthukrishnan, too, is from Salem in Tamil Nadu.

There have been over a dozen cases of suicide by students, mostly Dalits, in various institutions in Hyderabad between 2007 and 2013. In the north, besides two cases of suicide by Dalit students at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, 14 other cases of suicide by Dalit students were reported between January 2007 and April 2011.
It is almost as if we have become immune to these frequent instances of suicide mainly by Dalit students. The student population on campuses of higher education has become increasingly diverse. According to 2008 data, of the total number of students in higher education in the country, four per cent are Scheduled Tribes, 13.5 per cent Scheduled Castes and 35 per cent Other Backward Classes. Hindus alone accounted for about 85 per cent of students, followed by Muslims (8 per cent) and Christians (3 per cent). And yet, 23 out of 25  suicides were of Dalits!

There are several researches which indicate that experiences of discrimination, exclusion and humiliation are the predominant reasons. After analyzing some cases of suicide, the conclusion seems to be that there seems to be more than enough evidence to believe that caste discrimination played a significant role in driving these extraordinary individuals into committing suicide, and that elite professional institutions are the places where caste prejudice is so firmly entrenched that it has become normal.

A study in 2010 by Professor Mary Thornton and others of five higher educational institutions in India and the United Kingdom observed that “separation of groups on the higher education campus is pervasive and ubiquitous. While some such separation may be for supportive reasons, at other times it is due to overt discrimination on the grounds of race, region, nationality, caste, class, religion, or gender”.

In 2013, Samson Ovichegan, in a study on the experience of Dalits in an elite university in India, observed that “this university is yet another arena in which the practice of caste division continues to exist. The university environment reinforces and maintains a divide between Dalit and non-Dalit. Dalit students do, indeed, experience overt and covert discrimination based on caste at this premier university”.

As much as we admit to the persistence of caste discrimination and stigmatization as a problem plaguing higher education campuses, there is also a constant denial or attributing of suicides to incident-specific situations with total disregard for links with the larger social milieu of exclusion. True, there are incident-specific reasons, but it cannot be a coincidence that out of 25 cases of suicide, 23 were of Dalits. Thus, the first thing for policymakers is to come out of denial mode.

No doubt, the situation may have improved. But the shame of caste system continues in one form or the other. Relations between the Dalit students or, for that matter, with other students and teachers and administrators, have always been questioned. In my view, we need to takes steps to address the problems of Dalit and other marginalized students. The only solution I can think of are legal safeguards against discrimination, civic education, academic assistance to students who need support, and participation of Dalits in all decision-making bodies of universities and colleges.

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Women’s Pay Gap “Biggest Robbery in History”: UN Women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women with actress Patricia Arquette. Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women with actress Patricia Arquette. Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 14 2017 (IPS) – A new UN initiative launched on Monday night calls the women’s pay gap, which sees women paid 23 percent less than men globally: “the biggest robbery in history.”

During the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting, UN Women and the International Labor Organisation (ILO) launched the high-profile Equal Pay Platform of Champions to raise awareness on the persistent gender wage gap.

The coalition consists of celebrities and activists including award-winning documentary filmmaker Kamala Lopez, Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach, President of the Garment and Allied Workers Union Anannya Bhattacharjee, and actress Patricia Arquette.

“There has been a normalization for centuries of a bias against women, an acceptance that we are less than…there is no woman that [the wage gap] does not affect,” Lopez said as she moderated the launch.

UN Women’s Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka echoed similar sentiments, stating that such bias has led women’s work in a range of sectors to be undervalued.

“What does a woman in Wall Street have in common with a woman who has a shop in Brazil? Or in a cane farm in South Africa? Or in a sweatshop in Bangladesh? Chances are that they are all not paid equally by their different employers,“ said Mlambo-Ngcuka to delegates in the filled General Assembly Hall.

Globally, the gender pay gap is at approximately 23 percent as women make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

The figure is even higher in some regions and among certain communities. In the U.S., African American women earn only 60 cents, Native American women 59 cents and Hispanic women 55 cents for every $1 that white men earn. In Turkey, women earn up to 75 percent less than their male counterparts.

“What does a woman in Wall Street have in common with a woman who has a shop in Brazil? Or in a cane farm in South Africa? Or in a sweatshop in Bangladesh? Chances are that they are all not paid equally by their different employers,“ — Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

Retired U.S. soccer player Abby Wambach shared her story and reasons for joining the Platform of Champions, stating: “I have two gold medals, I won a World Cup with my country…but I actually have to worry about paying my bills now.”

Before the enactment of Title IX, which guarantees that no person in the U.S. can be discriminated on the basis of sex in education receiving federal funds, opportunities for women in sports were extremely limited as women received only two percent of academic athletic budgets. It has since increased to 40 percent due to the law, but its existence is now threatened by the new administration.

“I want to make sure that the world that I leave is better than the world that I found,” Wambach said in reference to raising her stepdaughter.

Garment and Allied Workers Union’s President Anannya Bhattacharjee shed light on the plight of garment workers around the world, including those in Asia who are responsible for the production of over 60 percent of the world’s garments.

Bangladesh alone, which is the world’s second largest textile industry, earns more than $25 billion a year from exports and employs over 4 million workers, the majority of whom are women.

“The workers of this industry who are mainly women cannot access their basic human rights…industries that are dominated by women tend to be lower paid, which means that millions of women and generations of families live in poverty,” said Bhattacharjee.

In December, protests erupted in the South Asian nation as garment workers took to the streets to demand a monthly minimum wage increase from 67 dollars to 187 dollars. The call was dismissed, more than 1500 workers were fired, and over 40 arrested.

Bhattacharjee highlighted the need for a living wage, and to recognize the additional unpaid labor that women often take up to care for their families.

ILO estimates that it will take 70 years to close the gender wage gap at the current rate while the World Economic Forum warned that it could take 170 years for women and men to be paid the same for equal work due to reversed progress over the last few years.

Governments also joined in the call to action, including the Government of Iceland who recently became the first country to require equal pay for all.

“We had laws banning pay discrimination since 1961 in Iceland. Still, even though we are leading in equality, we still have a gender pay gap of around 7 percent. And that’s absolutely intolerable,” said Iceland’s Social Affairs and Equality Minister Thorsteinn Viglundsson.

The country says it wants to eradicate the gender pay gap by 2022.

Mlambo-Ngcuka noted the need for a comprehensive response to the complex wage inequality issue including by providing education to promote a shift in societal norms and sharing best practices from around the world to push for laws similar to those of Iceland.

“We can no longer afford to stand by and allow these deeply entrenched discriminations to persist…Every one of us can be a champion for women and girls. There are no superpowers necessary,” Lopez said.

CSW is the largest inter-governmental forum on women’s rights. The Equal Pay Platform of Champions is a part of the broader UN Women-ILO led Global Equal Pay Coalition that helps create concrete targets and laws to reduce the gender pay gap by 2030 at the global, regional and national levels.

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Dutch people struck a beautiful blow against Trumpism

Something fantastic just happened. The Dutch Trump, Geert Wilders, who was leading in the Netherlands’ election race right up to the last moment, was just defeated!

Wilders had promised to close all mosques, pull the Netherlands out of the EU and ban the Koran. After Brexit and Trump, the whole world was watching to see if the far-right would continue its terrifying rise.

But in the end, the Dutch people struck a beautiful blow against Trumpism. The tide just turned against the global spread of fascist politics. And our movement was right in the middle. How?

20,000 marchers, 500km on a bus, 5 million views, 300,000 reached with newspaper ads, and a community united against hate.

Click to say Thank You to the people of the Netherlands

Just before the election, we helped mobilise 20,000 people onto the streets to march together to celebrate the Netherlands’ long history of openness and tolerance.

Dutch Avaazers hit the campaign trail in a giant orange Unity Bus. Three days before the election, many voters still hadn’t decided which way to cast their ballot! So we went up and down the country handing out flowers, listening to people and encouraging them to vote against hate. Then we emailed and texted over half a million people to get out the vote!

When we found out a key thing driving people away from Wilders was his love of Trump, we made a hilarious spoof video of Trump endorsing Wilders. It went crazy viral in hours, and 5 million people had watched it before the elections!

But that wasn’t all. We then targeted the key areas where Wilders had potentially strong support with full-page newspaper ads, spoofing the Hollywood hit La La Land to show how Wilders would turn the Netherlands into Trumpland!

Finally, today we took to the streets in The Hague, Paris and Berlin to celebrate and send a strong warning signal to Le Pen in France and the AfD in Germany that we are coming to stop them in elections there.

With the threat of hate spreading everywhere, the world needs our 44-million-strong global community like never before. Together, we’ve built the most powerful civic campaigning movement in history, and with that power comes responsibility. Responsibility to rise against hate, to defend the values of unity and tolerance that make us strong. But most of all, the responsibility to dream of a better world. And this week, the Netherlands has taken us one step closer to that dream.

In hope and celebration,

Emma, Alice, Christoph, Anneke, Lisa, Oscar, Mike, Spyro and the whole Avaaz team


A Trump bump to reorder European politics? Not so fast.

Geert Wilders’s anti-immigration party does worse than expected in the Dutch election

Dutch Leader Claims Victory Over ‘Wrong Kind of Populism’ in Election

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‘Sing on Nahid, sing on Suhana,’ says Muslim group against ‘blinkered brand of Islam’

Statement issued by Indian Muslims  for Secular Democracy

‘The maulanas of Assam and the ‘Mangalore Muslims’ present before others the unpleasant picture of bigoted Muslims and an intolerant Islam.’


Two young singers, who happen to be Muslim, have recently come under attack from those claiming to speak on behalf of Islam.


A Mumbai-based organisation, Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy, has released a strong statement, supporting the young singers and condemning “the attempts of certain Muslims who with their blinkered brand of Islam seek to silence the nightingales of Indian Islam”.

Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy describes itself as “a forum of Indian Muslims committed to the values of democracy, secularism, equality and justice as enshrined in the UN’s ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ and the Constitution of India”. These values, it believes, “are fully in consonance with the core teachings of Islam”.

Following is the full text of the statement issued on behalf of the forum by its convener, Javed Anand.

Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy applauds the achievements of two young Muslim women, Nahid Afrin (Assam) and Suhana Sayed (Karnataka), who have wowed music lovers cutting across religions with their outstanding singing talents.

And it condemns the attempts of certain Muslims who with their blinkered brand of Islam seek to silence the nightingales of Indian Islam.

In the latest instance of dissonant discourse, 46 Muslims from Assam, maulvis and madrassa teachers included, have put out a pamphlet seeking to muzzle the 16-year-old Nahid Afrin who was the first runner-up in the 2015 season of a musical TV reality show.

Five days earlier, 22-year-old Suhana Sayed was trolled by an outfit that identified itself as “Mangalore Muslims” after she received a standing ovation at a Kannada reality TV show for her superb rendering of a bhajan in praise of Lord Balaji. The judges even applauded the young hijab-wearing woman as a “symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity.”

The pamphleteers from Assam and the trolls from Mangalore are cultural misfits who seem to have imbibed nothing of India’s composite culture where for centuries Hindus and Muslims have dressed alike, shared the same cuisine, spoken the same language, sung, danced and played music together.

Who hasn’t heard of Bismillah Khan, or Allah Rakha’s jugalbandi with Ravi Shankar? Or Mohammad Rafi singing, Hari Om! Man tadpat Hari darshan ko aaj with lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni and music composed by Naushad?

Suhana who was warned that even “her parents will not go to heaven” because of her sinful act reportedly went “underground”. But the gutsy Nahid is not so easily frightened.

“I was shocked and broken from inside at first, but many Muslim singers gave me inspiration to not quit music, will never do so,” she has told the media.

Bravo, Nahid. Be not afraid, Suhana.

Through the simple act of singing their songs, they project an image of Muslims at peace with the world. In striking contrast, through their pamphleteering and threat of hell-fire, the maulanas of Assam and the “Mangalore Muslims” present before others the unpleasant picture of bigoted Muslims and an intolerant Islam.

Sing on Nahid, sing on Suhana. Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy is proud of you.

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Australians head to Ahmedabad, ask Adani to shelve project


‘No coal. Go solar,’ says petition by citizens, including cricket legends Ian and Greg Chappell

The protests against the Adani Group’s Australian coal-mine project, on Thursday, spilled over from Queensland to Ahmedabad.

An Australian group of green activists delivered an “open letter” to the office of Gautam Adani here to tell him: “We want solar, but not your coal mine,” referring to the A$16.5-billion Carmichael coal project to be developed there by the Indian billionaire.

They urged Adani, who is attempting to develop the project in the untapped Galilee Basin in Central Queensland, Australia, to abandon the plan which involves a 60-million-tonne per annum coal mining plant, a 388-km rail line, and construction of an export terminal at the Abbot Point coal port.

Although the Australian authorities have given the go ahead — the Queensland Premier and six regional mayors are currently visiting India to promote it — the project has been dogged by controversy from the start. Aboriginal landowners and environmentalists are concerned about the project’s impact on groundwater and on climate change due to the burning of coal.

‘Highly controversial’

In addition, its effect on the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area has made the project “highly controversial”.

Activists claim that over two million people have expressed their opposition and 13 global banks have ruled out providing funding for the project.

As part of this campaign,90 prominent Australians, including former cricket captains Ian and Greg Chappell, and top businessmen, signed the ‘open letter’ along with well-known musicians, artists, journalists, novelists, stakeholders and business leaders.

The letter was handed over by the leader of the activist delegation,Geoff Cousins,the president of the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“We could have mailed the letter, but we wanted to make a direct contact with the executive,” Cousins told BusinessLine.

Adani response

Reacting to the development, an Adani Group spokesman said that Cousins’ legal challenge has been dismissed by the Australian courts.“We categorically reject such motivated letters of representation by a very small group of misled people. The proposed mine in Australia has been cleared after rigorous assessments and strict conditions.” He said the proposed mine is supported fully by the people of Queensland and their elected representatives who in turn represent millions of Australians.

A national opinion poll found that almost two-thirds of Australians would prefer that Adani invest in large-scale solar energy projects rather than a new coal mine in Australia. The green activists’ delegation will meet politicians, business representatives and civil society leaders.

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