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Archives for : May2018

India – Removing Jinnah’s Portrait and an exclusive idea of Nationhood

Those opposing Jinnah’s portrait share an ideological heritage with him: An exclusive idea of nationhood.

Delhi chapter of AMU alumni passes resolution, demand time-bound judicial enquiry into case

Delhi chapter of AMU alumni passes resolution, demand time-bound judicial enquiry into caseNeedless to say, the streets belong to the “nationalists” and so does the state. (Express Photo by Gajendra Yadav/File)Hindutva’s hooligans seem to have perfected the fine art of hounding and harming Muslims — Christians and Dalits too — without bruising their own little fingers. In Hindu majoritarian India with democratic pretensions, the saffron brotherhood’s job is made easy thanks to a blatantly partisan police under orders from above to treat victims of violence as the accused.

The law-breakers can also count on help from complicit sections within the media, who are experts in diverting public attention away from the central issue — police inaction against vigilante violence in brazen disregard for the rule of law — in some tangential direction. What is this if not a mockery of Article 14 — the right to equality and equal protection of the law — and Article 15 — prohibition of discrimination between citizens — of the Constitution?
The engineered controversy over the portrait of Pakistan’s founder-in-chief, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, on the Aligarh Muslim University Students Union’s wall of fame and the Haryana government-blessed targeting of namazis in Gurgaon are but the latest examples of the ominous intrusion of Hindu Rashtra in secular India. This is happening under the watch of BJP leaders in Delhi and the states who, after having sworn to protect the Constitution, are happy to preside over its dismantling brick by brick.

The students of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) are now damned if they do and damned if they don’t. If they don’t remove the portrait of Jinnah, it will be “proof” yet again of the anti-national mindset of Indian Muslims. If they pull it down Hindutva’s hoodlums will jump with joy, look for the next stick to beat Muslims with. Where there is ill-will, there’s an issue to be found: Love jihad, cow slaughter, namaz on the streets, loud-speakers in mosques, hum panch-hamare pachees, Haj subsidy, pro-Pakistan, anti-national.. the list goes on.

Needless to say, the streets belong to the “nationalists” and so does the state. Thus, there never is a question about Hindu festivals clogging the streets or state subsidy for the Kailash-Mansarovar pilgrimage.

M S Golwalkar, the second and the longest serving sarsanghchalak(chief) of the RSS remains the most revered guru in Hindutva’s pantheon. “Guru” Golwalkar wrote in 1939 telling Muslims and Christians to expect nothing more than second-class citizenship in free India. In 1966, he wrote to warn Hindus to beware of the “three internal enemies” of the nation: Muslims, Christians and Communists. In the common sense of the sangh parivar, therefore, the Indian Muslim, the “enemy number one” will remain forever suspect.

Since the Aligarh episode, many secular-minded commentators have pointed out that the Jinnah portrait at AMU is just a pretext, that the real motive of the Hindu Yuva Vahini (private army of UP’s chief minister Yogi Adityanath) and the sangh parivar lies elsewhere. Yet, they end up talking mostly about Jinnah and Partition. When will we refuse to get diverted, stay focussed on the masterminds and perpetrators of hate politics who have taken India’s prevailing culture of impunity to a new level? Talk of Jinnah we will. But before we get to the long-departed “Quaid”, why not train the searchlights on those out to trap Muslims, Christians and Dalits in a pincer movement, between the Hindutva goons and the partisan police? Who can name one communal utterance or incident in the last four years in which someone from the BJP or the sangh parivar — the prime minister downwards — is not the main culprit?
Let’s turn to Jinnah and Partition. Who was (were) responsible for India’s partition? With no claims to being a historian or a history expert, permit me to venture a simple, even simplistic, explanation.

In the course of the freedom struggle, there emerged leaders among Hindus and Muslims who believed India belonged equally to all who were born in this land and consider it their watan. In sharp opposition to them emerged others, both among Hindus and Muslims, who subscribed to the notion that Hindus and Muslims belong to opposite camps and never the twain shall meet. Hindus who subscribed to this divisive theory — V D Savarkar, B S Moonje, K B Hedgewar, M S Golwalkar of the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS — argued that India belongs to Hindus alone. What about Muslims and Christians? They could go back to where they came from (in Hindutva’s version of history both are foreign invaders) or stay as second-class citizens. Jinnah, once adored as an “ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity”, later became the chief proponent of the two-nation theory on the Muslim side. Could it be argued that with their dogged refusal to concede equal rights to Muslims, the Mahasabha and the sangh reinforced Jinnah’s demand?

It follows then that a section of Hindus and a section of Muslims were equally responsible for creating a communal climate that finally led to the vivisection of India. No amount of invocation of the “secular Jinnah” can wash away the ugly fact that in the decade prior to Independence, he engaged in communal mobilisation of Muslims to the hilt. Unlike him, Gandhi, Nehru, Maulana Azad and Badshah Khan never did so even while Savarkar, Moonje, Hedgewar, Golwalkar and their ilk preached Hinduisation of the military and militarisation of Hindus. Not against the British but against Muslims. The common agenda of the Hindu Mahasabha, RSS and the Muslim League was not to pit Indians against the British but Hindus and Muslims against each other.

India’s bloody partition was the inevitable outcome of communal politics on both sides. Don’t point fingers at Gandhi and Nehru. Blame Jinnah especially because of his secular credentials. And blame the saffron brotherhood no less for denying equal space to Muslims under the Indian sun.

If Jinnah’s portrait is to be removed from AMU, what about Savarkar’s hanging in Gandhi’s proximity in Parliament? Didn’t the Kapoor Commission indict the man for complicity in the assassination of the Mahatma by Nathu Ram Godse? The same Godse whose statues are popping up in parts of India today?

Postscript: While speaking at AMU in March 1941, Jinnah declared: “As a self-respecting people, we in the Muslim minority provinces say boldly that we are prepared to undergo every suffering and sacrifice for the emancipation and liberation of our brethren in regions of Muslim majority”. Jinnah may have “insufficiently imagined” the idea of Pakistan. On the fate of Indian Muslims post-partition, however, he was neither unclear nor in the least concerned.

For and against

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First-ever WHO list of essential diagnostic tests to improve diagnosis and treatment outcomes

 Geneva

Today, many people are unable to get tested for diseases because they cannot access diagnostic services. Many are incorrectly diagnosed. As a result, they do not receive the treatment they need and, in some cases, may actually receive the wrong treatment.

For example, an estimated 46% of adults with Type 2 diabetes worldwide are undiagnosed, risking serious health complications and higher health costs. Late diagnosis of infectious diseases such as HIV and tuberculosis increases the risk of spread and makes them more difficult to treat.

To address this gap, WHO today published its first Essential Diagnostics List, a catalogue of the tests needed to diagnose the most common conditions as well as a number of global priority diseases.

“An accurate diagnosis is the first step to getting effective treatment,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “No one should suffer or die because of a lack of diagnostic services, or because the right tests were not available.”

The list concentrates on in vitro tests – i.e. tests of human specimens like blood and urine. It contains 113 products: 58 tests are listed for detection and diagnosis of a wide range of common conditions, providing an essential package that can form the basis for screening and management of patients.  The remaining 55 tests are designed for the detection, diagnosis and monitoring of “priority” diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis B and C, human papillomavirus and syphilis.

Some of the tests are particularly suitable for primary health care facilities, where laboratory services are often poorly resourced and sometimes non-existent; for example, tests that can rapidly diagnose a child for acute malaria or glucometers to test diabetes.  These tests do not require electricity or trained personnel.  Other tests are more sophisticated and therefore intended for larger medical facilities.

“Our aim is to provide a tool that can be useful to all countries, to test and treat better, but also to use health funds more efficiently by concentrating on the truly essential tests,” says Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant Director-General for Access to Medicines, Vaccines and Pharmaceuticals. “Our other goal is to signal to countries and developers that the tests in the list must be of good quality, safe and affordable.”

For each category of test, the Essential Diagnostics List specifies the type of test and intended use, format, and if appropriate for primary health care or for health facilities with laboratories. The list also provides links to WHO Guidelines or publications and, when available, to prequalified products.

Similar to the WHO Essential Medicines List, which has been in use for four decades, the Essential Diagnostics List is intended to serve as a reference for countries to update or develop their own list of essential diagnostics. In order to truly benefit patients, national governments will need to ensure appropriate and quality-assured supplies, training of health care workers and safe use. To that end, WHO will provide support to countries as they adapt the list to the local context.

The Essential Diagnostics List was developed following an extensive consultation within WHO and externally. The draft list was then considered for review by WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on In-Vitro Diagnostics – a group of 19 experts with global representation.

WHO will update the Essential Diagnostics List on a regular basis. In the coming months, WHO will issue a call for applications to add categories to the next edition. The list will expand significantly over the next few years, as it incorporates other important areas including antimicrobial resistance, emerging pathogens, neglected tropical diseases and additional noncommunicable diseases.

First edition of first edition of the WHO Model List of Essential In Vitro Diagnostics (EDL) is now published at  http://www.who.int/medical_devices/diagnostics/EDL_ExecutiveSummary_15may.pdf?ua=1

WHO provided a link to its work on diagnostics: http://www.who.int/medical_devices/diagnostics/Selection_in-vitro_diagnostics/en/

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Remembering India’s most-loved Pakistani theatre activist Madeeha

File photo of Madeeha Gauhar

The great theatre director Madeeha Gauhar, who died on April 25, began her crusade against political repression in Pakistan with her first play Jaloos. She was inspired by IPTA and Badal Sircar

At a time when India-Pakistan relations are on a rough turf with no exchange of diplomacy, cricket, art or cultural processes making any headway, the great theatre director Madeeha Gauhar’s untimely death in Lahore has jolted the strongest invisible bridge between the people of the two countries, which she had made with her theatre movement spanning over three decades. She was our most vocal and loved cultural ambassador. “I have won the respect of the people of Pakistan and the hearts of the people in India,” Madeeha was fond of saying.

Her Ajoka Theatre’s repertoire, included “Bullha” about the sufi saint Bulleh Shah, “Kaun Hai Yeh Gustakh” about the life of Saadat Hasan Manto, “Mera Rang De Basanti Chola” on Bhagat Singh, “Dukh Dariya” on Kashmiri families divided by the border , “Toba Tek Singh” based on a Manto story of the same name which deals with the Partition and “Hotel Mohenjodaro” about religious fundamentalists taking over Pakistan and grinding liberal values to dust.

These plays have been staged in various parts of India such as Amritsar, Chandigarh , Kolkata and Delhi as well as UK, US, Australia, Hong Kong, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Her plays transcended all the barriers of the past and the present and sent a crystal clear message to the two nations that India and Pakistan could see progress and prosperity in their being together as friends or brothers forever “as our soil, our cultural, our roots, our shared legacy, our problems and predicaments are the same,” said Madeeha Gauhar to this writer 14 years ago after the staging of her play ‘Bullha” at the 6th Bharat Rang Mahotsav, at NSD, Delhi.

Born in 1956 in Karachi, Madeeha Gauhar was educated at the Kinnaird College, Lahore, where she headed the Dramatic Society and the Government College, Lahore, from where she obtained her MA in English after which she went on to obtain her Masters in Theatre Studies from London University. She began her career as a Lecturer of English in Lahore and then in 1973 she started her acting career on television. Teaching and acting both were mediums of expression through which she commented on the women and child issues, atrocities on them and also rising fundamentalism and militarianism in the society and soon she had to suffer the brunt. She was suspended from teaching and television could not provide her creative space for her social commentary and free expression.

Inspired by Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA), Badal Sircar and Rati Bartholomew, she founded Ajoka Theatre in Lahore in 1983 and began her crusade against political repression in Pakistan with her first play ‘Jaloos’ (originally written by Badal Sircar) and set out on her odyssey to search for a ‘geo- political identity’ as a citizen in Pakistan. But she had to face the ire of the administration for almost two decades, especially during General Zia- Ul- Haq’s military regime and censorship.

“But it is pity that there is no theatre in Pakistan. No institutions are teaching theatre or any such performing arts there. Performing arts are still considered anti- religious in Pakistan,” said Gauhar

“As a response to the then military suppression, climate of hostility and apathy towards the performing arts, Ajoka Theatre came into being as our freedom of expression and since then it has struggled against all odds and vicissitudes of time,” recalled Madeeha in her interview to this writer in Delhi in 2004.

For her art has no meaning, if it is not political and artistically viable. Any art is political and anti- establishment according to her. She was an active member of International Drama in Education Association and South Asia Theatre Committee and she participated in theatre workshops, seminars & conferences around the world and could successfully make some impact.

“But it is pity that there is no theatre in Pakistan. No institutions are teaching theatre or any such performing arts there. Performing arts are still considered anti- religious in Pakistan,” said Gauhar. Recalling how ‘revivalism’ started in Pakistan in the 80s, she said any art form like Swang, Nautanni, or Sufi ethos –showing ‘Indianness’—was banned in Pakistan. They even started changing the ‘ragas’ like ‘Raga Durga’ and the shared history of both the nations.

The Internationally-acclaimed theatre director Madeeha Gauhar directed over 20 plays for Ajoka, most of which were written by her writer-husband and human rights activist Shahid Nadeem and performed all over Pakistan and abroad. About her play “Bullha” and its significance she said, “It is a culmination of art or search for an idiom against fundamentalism in Islam in general. “Bullha” is about the times of Bulleh Shah (1680- 1758) and it has some lessons for the present-day Pakistan and the whole world. It is a strong plea for love and peace, and an indictment against intolerance violence and hatred. It is not just a period play. It is very much contemporary and relevant for us today.”

The choice of plays revealed Gauhar’s concerns. Her best-known productions — most of which were written or adapted by her husband and human rights activist Shahid Nadeem — included Bulha about the Sufi saint Bulleh Shah, Kaun Hai Yeh Gustakh about the life of Saadat Hasan Manto, Mera Rang De Basanti Chola on Bhagat Singh, Dukh Darya on Kashmiri families divided by the border, Toba Tek Singh based on a Manto story of the same name which dealt with the Partition, and Hotel Mohenjodaro about religious fundamentalists taking over Pakistan and grinding liberal values to dust. These have been been staged in various parts of India such as Amritsar and Chandigarh, as well as at the Bharat Rang Mahotsav organised by the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi.

Her other plays like “Panch Paani”, “Dara Shikoh”, “Ek thee Nani”, “Lo Phir Basant Ayee” and Zanani Theatre Festivals conducted all over India also won millions of hearts and she became our greatest and most-loved cultural icon.

As the news of her passing away –on April 25, 2018 – after a three-year battle with cancer spread, the sense of loss was felt by theatre activists on both the sides. Remembering her, Neelam Man Singh said, “She was a very brave woman, from the themes she enacted to fighting her own illness. Just the last December she was here to watch a rehearsal of my play “Dark Borders”, making a detour from Amritsar.” She added that the value of her theatre could be appreciated greater in retrospect as theatre actors in India too were engaged in finding ways of combating diverse forces. “Madeeha always laid emphasis on the shared heritage of the people of the subcontinent,” she said.

One of Ajoka’s greatest contributions was “Theatre for Peace”, a project to bring India and Pakistan closer by increasing collaborations between theatre groups of the two countries. “She was our link with Pakistan and I feel that it has snapped. I have been to Lahore four times, thanks to Madeeha. I had also invited her group to Chandigarh, where I did a workshop with them. We have all heard of the legendary warmth and hospitality of Pakistanis and it manifested in the way Madeeha and her husband welcomed us. I am hurting so deeply since I heard of her death. She was a movement, not an individual,” says Neelam Mansingh Chowdhry, theatre director from Chandigarh.

Two very relevant cross-border plays by Madeeha are “Aik Thee Naani” and “Dukh Dariya”. In the former she brought together two sisters of the IPTA on stage after 50 years. They were Zohra Sehgal and Uzra Butt, the latter used to be the leading lady of Prithvi Theatres in the pre-Partition era. The second play “Dukh Dariya” was based on the real-life story of a woman, Shehnaz Parween of Mirpur, who jumped into the river as she was tormented for not bearing a child. She was rescued in India and jailed. Raped by two jail wardens, she bore a child. The irony arose when Pakistan agreed to take the woman but not the child. Such Mantoesque stories would inspire plays from Madeeha Gauhar. Her play against the purdah system “Burquavaganza” which created quite a furore was banned in Pakistan.

gauhar was a regular to Amritsar; Kewal Dhaliwal, theatre actor, director and founder of Manch Rang Manch, says they would joke that Amritsar started missing Gauhar if she didn’t visit the city once in two months. For more than 20 years, Dhaliwal worked with members of Ajoka, workshopping with them in acting and technical aspects of the stage. Dhaliwal says that his last conversation with Gauhar, a few days ago, was about a theatre festival marking 70 years of the Partition, to be held in Chandigarh and Lahore. “I told her that she was a strong woman and she needed to get well soon, so that we could work towards the festival. Now, I will have to do it on my own. I will dedicate the festival to Madeeha,” he says.

Gauhar’s relationship with Indian directors was nourished over decades. Theatre actor and director Sahib Singh of Adakar Manch in Mohali was associated with her for 15 years and had travelled to Pakistan often to stage his plays and would invite Ajoka to stage its productions in Amritsar and Chandigarh. Singh’s theatre group was instrumental in organising the five-day ‘Humsaya Theatre For Peace Festival’ in Chandigarh in 2016, which featured plays by Ajoka. “I feel she was responsible for the impactful cultural exchange between Indian and Pakistani theatre,” says Singh, who acted as a Pakistani in Ajoka’s Anni Mai Da Supna, a production based on the Partition, and as Banda Singh Bahadur in Bulha.

It is tragic that this year we have lost two great souls who fought relentlessly for the rights of the child, women and minorities across the borders. Earlier Asma Jahangir in February and now Madeeha Gauhar on April 25. These are indeed, irreparable losses for the toiling mankind and the Indo-Pak amity process. We will miss you, Madeeha. Rest in Peace!

https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/obituary/remembering-indias-most-loved-pakistani-theatre-activist-madeeha

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Killing Gaza- #Film #MustWatch

Starting Tuesday, May 15, “Killing Gaza” can be seen at Vimeo On Demand.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Israel’s blockade of Gaza—where trapped Palestinians for the past seven weeks have held nonviolent protests along the border fence with Israel, resulting in scores of dead and some 6,000 wounded by Israeli troops—is one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. Yet the horror that is Gaza, where 2 million people live under an Israeli siege without adequate food, housing, work, water and electricity, where the Israeli military routinely uses indiscriminate and disproportionate violence to wound and murder, and where almost no one can escape, is rarely documented. Max Blumenthal and Dan Cohen’s powerful new film, “Killing Gaza,” offers an unflinching and moving portrait of a people largely abandoned by the outside world, struggling to endure.

“Killing Gaza” will be released Tuesday, to coincide with what Palestinians call Nakba Day—“nakba” means catastrophe in Arabic—commemorating the 70th anniversary of the forced removal of some 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 by the Haganah, Jewish paramilitary forces, from their homes in modern-day Israel. The release of the documentary also coincides with the Trump administration’s opening of the new U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

 

Because of Nakba Day and the anger over the transfer of the embassy to Jerusalem, this week is expected to be one of the bloodiest of the seven-week-long protest that Palestinians call the “Great Return March.” “Killing Gaza” illustrates why Palestinians, with little left to lose, are rising up by the thousands and risking their lives to return to their ancestral homes—70 percent of those in Gaza are refugees or the descendants of refugees—and be treated like human beings.

Cohen and Blumenthal, who is the author of the book “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel,” one of the best accounts of modern Israel, began filming the documentary Aug. 15, 2014. Palestinian militias, armed with little more than light weapons, had just faced Israeli tanks, artillery, fighter jets, infantry units and missiles in a 51-day Israeli assault that left 2,314 Palestinians dead and 17,125 injured. Some 500,000 Palestinians were displaced and about 100,000 homes were destroyed or damaged. The 2014 assault, perhaps better described as a massacre, was one of eight massacres that Israel has carried out since 2004 against the 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, over half of whom are children. Israel, which refers to these periodic military assaults as “mowing the lawn,” seeks to make existence in Gaza so difficult that mere survival consumes most of the average Palestinian’s time, resources and energy.

The film begins in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood, reduced to mounds of rubble by the Israelis. The wanton destruction of whole neighborhoods was, as documented by the film, accompanied by the shooting of unarmed civilians by Israeli snipers and other soldiers of that nation.

“Much of the destruction took place in the course of a few hours on July 23,” Blumenthal, who narrates the film, says as destroyed buildings appear on the screen, block after block. “The invading Israeli forces found themselves under ferocious fire from local resistance forces, enduring unexpectedly high casualties. As the Israeli infantry fled in full retreat, they called in an artillery and air assault, killing at least 120 Palestinian civilians and obliterated thousands of homes.”

The film includes a brief clip of young Israelis in Tel Aviv celebrating the assault on Gaza, a reminder that toxic racism and militarism infect Israeli society.

“Die! Die! Bye!” laughing teenage girls shout at the celebration in Tel Aviv. “Bye, Palestine!”

“Fucking Arabs! Fuck Muhammad!” a young man yells.

“Gaza is a graveyard! Gaza is a graveyard! Ole, ole, ole, ole,” the crowd in Tel Aviv sings as it dances in jubilation. “There is no school tomorrow! There are no children left in Gaza!”

Terrified Palestinian families huddled inside their homes as Israel dropped more than 100 one-ton bombs and fired thousands of high-explosive artillery shells into Shuja’iyya. Those who tried to escape in the face of the advancing Israelis often were gunned down with their hands in the air, and the bodies were left to rot in the scorching heat for days.

“I was inside when they started bulldozing my house,” Nasser Shamaly, a Shuja’iyya resident, says in the film. “They took down the wall and started shooting into the house. So I put my hands on my head and surrendered myself to the officer. This wasn’t just any soldier. He was the officer of the group! He didn’t say a word. He just shot me. I fell down and started crawling to get away from them.”

Shamaly, who hid wounded in his house for four days, was fortunate. His 23-year-old cousin, Salem Shamaly, who led a group of volunteers from the International Solidarity Movement to dig bodies out of the ruins in Shuja’iyya, was not.

“On the offensive’s 14th day, July 20th, 2014, four other activists and I went to the Shuja’iyya neighborhood, which Israel had bombed for days, to accompany rescue teams in the rubble during the two-hour cease-fire,” Joe Catron, one of the members of the International Solidarity Movement rescue team, says in the film. “A young Palestinian, whose name we later learned was Salem Shamaly, asked us to go with him to his house, where he hoped to find his family. It sounds ridiculous now, but at the time we thought the cease-fire would make it safe.”

“As we crossed an alley with a clear line of sight to Israeli positions by the separation barrier, a gunshot from their direction struck the ground between us. We scattered into two groups, sheltered behind buildings on either side. After a pause, Salem stepped into the alley, hoping to lead his group to our side, but was struck by another bullet. He fell to the ground.”

The film shows Shamaly wounded on the ground, barely able to move and crying out in pain.

“As he lay on his back, two more rounds hit him,” Catron continued. “He stopped moving. The gunfire kept us from reaching him. The Israeli artillery began flying overhead and striking the buildings behind us. We were forced to retreat, leaving him. We only learned his name two days later, when his mother, father, sister and cousin recognized him in a video I had tweeted.”

“We couldn’t retrieve his body for seven days,” Um Salem, the mother, says in the film. “His body was in the sun for seven days.”

Waseem Shamaly, Salem’s brother, who appears to be about 8 years old, is shown with his eyes swollen from crying. “He would take care of us, like our father,” the boy says. “Even at night, he would get us whatever we wanted. He used to buy us everything. Whatever we wished for, he would buy it. There was nothing he wouldn’t buy for us. He used to take us to hang out. He’d take us out with him just to kill our boredom a little.”

Waseem wipes his eyes.

“Now he is gone,” he continues weakly. “There is nobody to take us out and buy us treats.”

“This boy hasn’t been able to handle losing his brother,” says the father, Khalil Shamaly. “He couldn’t handle the news, seeing the way his brother died. He is in shock. It gets to the point where he goes lifeless. He collapses. When I pick him up he tells me his dying wishes. His dying wishes! As if he is leaving us. He is so young. But he gives us his dying wishes. If it weren’t for God’s mercy, I would have lost him too.”

“Destroyed cities and shattered homes can be rebuilt if the resources are there,” Blumenthal says. “But what about the survivors? How can they heal the scars imposed on their psyches? The youth of Gaza has grown up through three wars, each more devastating than the last. At least 90 percent of adolescents in Gaza suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. With mental health services pushed to the brink, these unseen scars may never heal.”

The film turns to the town of Khuza’a, a farming community with 20,000 people, which was systematically blown up by Israel after three Israeli soldiers were killed in fighting with the al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the ruling Hamas government in Gaza. The film shows a video from inside an Israeli tank as soldiers wait for explosives to bring down buildings in the town, including the mosque. When the explosions occur, the Israeli soldiers cheer and shout, “Long live the state of Israel!”

“We were shocked to see so many bodies in the streets,” Ahmed Awwad, a volunteer with the Palestinian Red Crescent, says in the film about Khuza’a. “Many were decomposing. We wanted to deal with it, but we didn’t know how. Once, when the Israelis let us in with our ambulance, we found about 10 corpses from different areas, scattered. As you approached a body, of course there is the odor, and there are worms. Hold it like this, and flesh comes off. Lift an arm and it pulls right off. We didn’t know what to do. There was nothing we could do. We had to stop. It would have been easier just to bury them. But we figured families would want the bodies. Bulldozers eventually loaded the bodies in trucks. We couldn’t pick up these bodies on our own. Most were executions, like an old lady at her front door. There was a young man, another man, and a little kid. The scenes, to be honest, were very ugly.”

The Rjeila family, including 16-year-old Ghadeer, who was physically disabled, attempts to escape the shelling. As a brother frantically pushes Ghadeer in her wheelchair (the scene, like several others in the film, is reconstructed through animation), the Israelis open fire. The brother is wounded. Ghadeer is killed.

The camera pans slowly through demolished houses containing blackened human remains. Walls and floors are smeared with blood.

Ahmed Awwad, a Palestinian Red Crescent volunteer, describes what happened after he and other volunteers finally receive permission from Israeli forces to retrieve bodies from Khuza’a. They find a man tied to a tree and shot in both legs. One of the volunteers, Mohammed al-Abadla, gets out of a vehicle and approaches the tree. When he switches on his flashlight, which the Israelis had instructed him to do, he is shot in heart and killed.

“For 51 days, Israel bombarded Gaza with the full might of its artillery,” Blumenthal says. “According to the Israeli military’s estimates, 23,410 artillery shells and 2.9 million bullets were fired into Gaza during the war.”

That’s one and a half bullets for every man, woman and child in the Gaza Strip.

There is footage of Israeli soldiers in an artillery unit writing messages, including “Happy Birthday to Me,” on shells being lobbed into Gaza. The soldiers laugh and eat sushi as they pound Palestinian neighborhoods with explosives.

Rafah is a city in Gaza on the border of Egypt. The film makes it clear that Egypt, through its sealing of Gaza’s southern border, is complicit in the blockade. Rafah was one of the first cities targeted by the Israelis. When Israeli troops took over buildings, they also kidnapped Palestinians and used them as human shields there and elsewhere, forcing them to stand at windows as the soldiers fired from behind.

“They blindfolded and handcuffed me and took me inside,” Mahmoud Abu Said says in the film. “They told me to come with them and put a M16 to my back. There were maybe six of them. They dropped their equipment and began searching. They started hitting me against the wall. And then sicced their dogs on me while I was handcuffed.”

“They put me here,” he says, standing in front of a window, “and stood behind me. Israeli soldiers placed me here while they stood behind me shooting. They took me to that window and that window too. Then they hit me against the wall and pushed me down. They put a mattress here,” he says, showing holes punched through the wall at floor level, “and sat down to shoot through these holes.”

“You see that car?” asks Suleiman Zghreibv, referring to a hunk of twisted metal that lies next to the ruins of his house. “He drove it,” he says of his 22-year-old son, who was executed by the Israelis. “This is the car we used to make our living. It wasn’t for personal use. It was a taxi. I can’t describe the suffering. What can I say? Words can’t express the pain. We have suffered and resisted for so long. We’ve been suffering our whole lives. We’ve suffered for the past 60 years because of Israel. War after war after war. Bombing after bombing after bombing. You build a house. They destroy it. You raise a child. They kill him. Whatever they do—the United States, Israel, the whole world, we’ll keep resisting until the last one of us dies.”

Israel intentionally targeted power plants, schools, medical clinics, apartment complexes, whole villages. Robert Piper, the United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities, said in 2017 that Gaza had “a long time ago” passed the “unlivability threshold.” Youth unemployment is at 60 percent. Suicide is epidemic. Traditional social structures and mores are fracturing, with divorce rising from 2 percent to 40 percent and girls and women increasingly being prostituted, something once seen only rarely in Gaza. Seventy percent of the 2 million Gazans survive on humanitarian aid packages of sugar, rice, milk and cooking oil. The U.N. estimates that 97 percent of Gaza’s water is contaminated. Israel’s destruction of Gaza’s sewage treatment plant means raw sewage is pumped into the sea, contaminating the beach, one of the very few respites for a trapped population. The Israelis did not even spare Gaza’s little zoo, slaughtering some 45 animals in the 2014 assault.

“I liked the monkeys best,” says a forlorn Ali Qasem, who worked at the zoo. “We laughed with them the most. We would laugh and play with them. They would take food right from your hand. They’d respond the most. There is a heavy feeling of sorrow. I used to spend 18 hours a day here. I was here all the time. I’d go home for five or six hours, then come back. I worked here as a volunteer. A few volunteers built this place little by little. We were excited to finish and invite visitors for free. To me, it was like humans were killed. It’s not OK because they were animals. It’s as if they were human beings, people we know. We used to bring them food from our homes.”

The film shows Palestinians, who have received little reconstruction aid despite pledges by international donors, camping out amid the ruins of homes, gathered around small fires for heat and light. Moeen Abu Kheysi, 54, gives a tour of the smashed house he had spent his life constructing for his family. He stops when he comes upon his 3-month-old grandson, Wadie. His face lights up in delight.

“Months passed and the cold rains of winter gave way to baking heat of spring,” Blumenthal says. “In Shuja’iyya, the Abu Kheysi family was still living in remnants of their home, but without their newest member. Born during the war, little Wadie did not make it through the harsh winter.”

“He was born during the war and he died during the war, well after the war,” a female member of the family explains. “He lived in a room without a wall. We covered the wall with tin sheets. We moved, but then we got kicked out. We couldn’t make rent. [We] had to come back, cover the wall and live here. Then the baby froze to death. It was very cold.”

“One day it suddenly became very cold,” Wadie’s mother says. “Wadie woke up at 9 in the morning. I started playing with him, gave him a bottle. Suddenly, he was shivering from the cold. I tried to warm him up but it wasn’t working.”

She begins to weep.

“There wasn’t even time to get to the hospital,” she says. “He stopped breathing before they left the house. His heart stopped beating instantly. His father started running in the street with him. He fainted when they yelled, “The baby is dead!” The baby’s uncle took over and carried him. He looked everywhere for a taxi but couldn’t find one. We couldn’t give him first aid ourselves. They finally found a car. They did all they could at the hospital, but he never woke up. He was dead. What can I say? We remember him all the time. I can’t get him off my mind. It’s as if I lost a piece of my heart. His sisters want to sleep in his cradle and wear his clothes. This one always asks to wear her brother’s clothes. We can’t forget him.”

“Grandpa!” Wadie’s small sister cries out. “Mama is crying again.”

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/killing-gaza/

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Congress Will Have to Relinquish National Space to Regional Parties to Defeat BJP in 2019


 NEW DELHI: Decisive majority or not, the BJP has wrested Karnataka from the Congress party. And while the devil might lie in the details of Modi-Shah campaign and strategy, with no bar too low, the Opposition in India has to realise that it is up against not a political party but an ideological organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh whose chief Mohan Madhukar Bhagwat had only recently announced that his ‘army’ could scramble for duty ahead of the Indian Army.

And this army has been very visible on the streets, in either targeting innocents in the name of food or love and carrying arms into processions and protests. Old conventional methods of countering a ruling party, by a quarreling, fractious Opposition this will not work in containing, let alone defeating, the Hindutva forces that are now controlling 21 Indian states.

There is concern and movement within the Opposition but it is not cohesive as yet. And will not become unless the realisation sinks in that one, the challenge to the BJP will come from the regional parties; and two, the Congress party will have to give due respect and space to the regional political parties in specific states as well as in the larger political arena.

Karnataka has demonstrated this, with the BJP weak in the areas dominated by the Janata Dal-Secular. In the Old Mysuru belt for instance the contest was between the JD-S and the Congress party with the presence of the BJP in 50 odds seats in Karnataka negligible. Instead of turning this to its advantage, the Congress decided to fight the JD-S in Karnataka with visible anger within the smaller party about this ‘treatment’. As JD-S leader Danish Ali told The Citizen, first Rahul Gandhi went to Deve Gowda’s constituency Haasan and called us the B team of the BJP, and then the Congress continued to derile us.” As he pointed out there was no movement by the Congress to even speak with the JD-S before the elections.

After the elections were known, Congress president Sonia Gandhi telephoned Deve Gowda to come together to form the government in what is a belated move which the Governor might or might not recognise. Siddaramaiah came before the media, flanked by Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot, to say that he would accept a JD-S government in what is clearly a response to the smaller party’s demand to make its stand public. The Congress has suggested a Dalit Deputy CM with Kumaraswamy in the first spot. And all this is possible only because the BJP has not got a full majority, with this last shot in the hope that it will not be able to break legislators from the others to make up the shortfall, and hence the Governor will ultimately have to give the coalition a chance.

All this could have been avoided with a pre-poll alliance between the Congress and the JD-S with a joint, enthusiastic campaign in the state. The Congress party allied with the JD-U and the RJD in Bihar and the coalition swept the state despite an aggressive BJP. The Congress played the junior partner, and realised that a coalition was the only way forward. The organisation of the regional parties was strong and able to make inroads into the rural areas, counter the assertive BJP propaganda, and win the elections. It is of course another matter that CM Nitish Kumar could not walk the talk and squandered away the mandate by allying the BJP.

In UP the Congress that does not have a presence of any kind tried to repeat the performance with the Samajwadi party. The two could not succeed because of the inner feud within the SP between the father and the son, and the sabotage of seats from within. The Congress party being without a basic organisation was unable to bring anything to the table. However, more recently in the parliamentary bypolls the Bahujan Samaj party and the SP came together with Akhilesh Yadav now in clear charge, and won both Gorakhpur and Phulpur. This seems to have run sufficient bells in UP, with the two parties now having tied up with the Rashtriya Lok Dal for the Kairana by poll that is due soon. If the coalition wins this seat it will be a major plus in a belt that the BJP has communalised since 2013.

The Congress should have done the same in Karnataka, instead of displaying its usual arrogance insofar as the JD-S was concerned. As Ali and other said, the two would have swept the state together, more as the Congress still has a higher vote percentage than the BJP. Both JD-S and Congress today have an over 55% vote share in Karnataka, despite the BJP emerging as the single largest party and closest to the finishing line.

The federal parties in fact have been stopping the BJP juggernaut as it were. Be it in West Bengal where Mamata Banerjee has given the party a run for its money; Kerala where the Left Front has contained its determined effort to emerge as a force; Bihar where it had to come in through the back door; currently UP where it has lost key by elections; Tamil Nadu where it has been unable to grow because of the determination of the DMK and the AIADMK; Andhra Pradesh where ally Chandrababu Naidu and the Telugu Desam has parted ways to control the state singly.

In fact the BJP growth in states where it’s contest is directly with the Congress party is assured. Although now the Congress claims it will win Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh both. There is a question mark actually on both, with the BJP now announcing its intention to camp in these states and turn around the recalcitrant Rajasthan where it admits to having a “slight problem.” This has more to do with Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje than the BJP, the party believes, and will probably project Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a new leadership to win over the state.

The Congress party will have to learn to play second fiddle to the regional parties, and help set up an alternative Opposition alternative where it does not necessarily remain in the centre. There are political parties who are as opposed to the Congress as the BJP—such as the Biju Janata Dal— who still remain crucial to the emergence of a viable alternative. A below the radar presence by the Congress will allow larger Opposition unity, and act as a restraint on those who are not averse to flirting with the BJP for power. The JD-S, BSP, RLD are at least three such political parties.

Besides these, there are any number of smaller regional parties many of which like the Apna Dal and the Lokjanshakti party, the BJP had got on board in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. These political parties could all be persuaded to join the larger federal front, provided it is not dominated by the Congress party. It is no secret from the Janata Dal days of power at the centre, that the regional political parties have a far more penetrative presence on the ground with better organisational skills than the Congress party.

Time is running out for the Lok Sabha polls, more so if the government decides to pre-pone these by crucial months. The desperation shown by the Congress after the Karnataka results gave the thumbs up to the BJP, should be visible in efforts to form a broad coalition for 2019 without dictating the mandate. This writer has always found the regional parties to be wary of the Congress and the arrogance associated with the First Family. The lead will have to be taken by a group of regional leaders, with the Congress and the Left supporting from outside if necessary and providing the stability required to keep it together.

This alone will ensure a one on one contest in the 2019 elections in what can in some states take on anti BJP, anti Congress form. In Orissa for example the Congress, even if kept out of a local alliance, should ensure a one on one election by leaving the key seats to the BJD to fight against the BJP. Anyway the Congress is barely a force in India now, and a strategic retreat in the forthcoming general elections could help in a revival in later years. Competition and animosity with the regional groupings will only hasten its end.

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India – The blurring line between corporate and national interests

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with billionaire businessman Gautam Adani

Today, corporate power has not only grown to unprecedented levels, its muscular arms also reach far and wide. Representatives of private businesses sit on all sorts of government committees

Among other major developments in Indian society and politics during the last twenty-five years or so is the steady growth of corporate power. It is not that corporate interests were devoid of influence earlier – India’s leading business houses, like the Tatas and Birlas, have had a cosy relationship with the government for a long time.

Even Dhirubhai Ambani, the icon of Indian entrepreneurs, made his fortune on the back of the Licence Raj (e.g. by getting hold of valuable import permits), with a little help from pliable bureaucrats and politicians.

In those days, however, there were some boundaries – real or pretended – between the corporate sector and state policy, and the state sometimes took decisive action (for better or worse) against corporate interests, such as the nationalisation of banks and the coal industry. Further, the concentration of wealth was still at an early stage.

Today, corporate power has not only grown to unprecedented levels, its muscular arms also reach far and wide. Representatives of private businesses sit on all sorts of government committees, oblivious of conflicts of interest.

The Sensex, tensely watched by the Finance Ministry, pronounces instant verdicts on economic policy. State governments are competing to enhance their ranking in terms of the “ease of doing business”. Public–private partnerships give private business wide powers to invade the earlier realm of the public sector with full state support. The magnitude of corporate scams (such as the 2G scam or the coal scam) keeps breaking new records. India’s largest corporate houses are also bankrupting its public-sector banks by saddling them with billions of rupees of “non-performing assets”.

The largest of them all, Reliance (headed by Dhirubhai Ambani’s sons, Mukesh and Anil), has so much power that, as India Today once put it, “when they don’t like policy, they change it”. Corporate interests increasingly drive not only the traditional areas of business but also urban planning, academic research, communications, sports, entertainment, the mass media, and much more. India is in danger of becoming a “business-driven society”, as Noam Chomsky aptly describes the United States.

We had a bitter taste of the invasion of public policy by corporate interests in the context of child nutrition programmes, especially school meals and the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). With millions of children covered, a contract to supply ready-to-eat food to them under these programmes, instead of cooked food prepared by local women, can be very lucrative.

India’s food industry has not lost sight of this business opportunity, and it has persistently lobbied for the replacement of cooked food with branded products in the midday meal scheme and ICDS. One example is the biscuits industry’s attempt, in 2008, to persuade the Ministry of Human Resource Development to replace cooked midday meals with biscuits. That particular attempt was defeated, but there have been many others since, and some of them have succeeded, at the state level if not at the national level.

The hold of corporate power on public policy in India has many other manifestations, from the plunder of public sector banks to the appropriation of land, water, minerals, and (until recently) spectrum at throwaway prices. Another example is technocracy, in the broad sense of an over-influence of technology experts on public policy. Technological innovation, of course, is very important and has often made major contributions to more effective social policies.

For instance, the NREGA’s web-based monitoring and information system (MIS) has become a model of pro-active information disclosure for all government programmes in India. Sometimes, however, technology seems to become an end in itself, driven by hidden interests at the expense of the public.

There is a strong element of technocracy in India’s unique identity (UID) project, also known as Aadhaar. The project was sold to the public by claiming, firstly, that Aadhaar was a “voluntary facility”, and secondly, that its main purpose was to remove corruption from social programmes.

This was a brilliant act of what the leading lights of Aadhaar call “smart demand evangelisation”. The claim that Aadhaar was voluntary defused criticism from libertarians, despite Aadhaar representing a real threat to privacy, civil liberties, and the right to dissent.

The swift linkage of social programmes like NREGA to Aadhaar helped to herd people en masse towards UID enrolment centres. Later on, it became clear that the voluntary nature of Aadhaar was a fiction, and that the real purpose of the project had little to do with social policy.

Rather, the project seems to be driven by a convergence of corporate interests (from the biometric industry, software companies, finance-technology developers, and so on) and state interests (related inter alia to the value of Aadhaar as a tool of surveillance).

The Aadhaar juggernaut, however, rolls on. In fact, the coercive nature of the project reached new levels last year with notifications making Aadhaar compulsory for children who wish to benefit from the midday meal scheme. No Aadhaar, no food.

This is being projected as an anti-corruption measure, but the real purpose is clear: forcing parents to get their children enrolled under Aadhaar (the bulk of the shortfall from universal enrolment is among children). It would be more honest for the government to admit that Aadhaar is compulsory, and to make the case for compulsion.

(This is an excerpt from the author’s recent book, Sense and Solidarity: Jholawala Economics for Everyone).

https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/book-extract/the-blurring-line-between-corporate-and-national-interests-in-current-india-modi

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Canada sued over years of alleged experimentation on indigenous people

Class-action suit filed on behalf of thousands of people allegedly subjected to medical tests without consent in the mid-20th century

canada flag

A class action lawsuit has been filed in a Canadian court on behalf of the thousands of indigenous people alleged to have been unwittingly subjected to medical experiments without their consent.

Filed this month in a courtroom in the province of Saskatchewan, the lawsuit holds the federal government responsible for experiments allegedly carried out on reserves and in residential schools between the 1930s and 1950s.

The suit also accuses the Canadian government of a long history of “discriminatory and inadequate medical care” at Indian hospitals and sanatoriums – key components of a segregated healthcare system that operated across the country from 1945 into the early 1980s.

“This strikes me as so atrocious that there ought to be punitive and exemplary damages awarded, in addition to compensation,” said Tony Merchant, whose Merchant Law Group filed the class action.

The lawsuit, which has not yet been tested in court, alleges that residential schools – where more than 150,000 aboriginal children were carted off in an attempt to forcibly assimilate them into Canadian society – were used as sites for nutritional experiments, where researchers tested out their theories about vitamins and certain foods.

“The wrong here is that nobody knew it was happening. Their families didn’t know it was happening,” Merchant said.

As the diet at the schools was known to be nutritionally deficient, the children were considered “ideal experimental subjects”, according to court documents. It cites six schools, stretching from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, and links them to experiments carried out from 1948 to 1953.

At times, researchers would carry out what Merchant described as trials aimed at depriving the children of nutrients that researchers suspected were beneficial.

“So what they did on a systemic basis … they would identify a group of indigenous children in schools where they were being compulsorily held and they would not give them the same treatment,” said Merchant. “They used them as a control against experiments that they were doing in other places and they also used them to test certain kinds of foods and drugs.”

Court documents describe the lengths researchers at times went to protect their results: after a principal in Kenora, Ontario, asked that all the residential school’s children be given iron and vitamin tablets, the researcher asked him to refrain from doing so, as it would interfere with the experiment.

In other instances, researchers withheld dental treatment from children, worried that healthier teeth and gums would skew their results.

The school in Kenora was also used to test an experimental drug on children with ear problems, leaving nine children with significant hearing loss, according to court documents.

The lawsuit notes that those who did not cooperate were subject to physical abuse.

The experiments also extended to reserves, court documents note. At times children were used to study the effectiveness of drugs and given varying dosages of treatments in order to compare their effectiveness on illnesses ranging from amoebic dysentery to tuberculosis. In Saskatchewan, children living on reserves were used to test the effectiveness of a new tuberculosis vaccine.

At a reserve in northern Manitoba, researchers visiting in the 1940s suspected malnutrition was behind several cases of blindness as well as an outbreak of tuberculosis. In order to test their theory, they gave nutritional supplements to 125 people. The others on the 300-person reserve were used as a control group, left to fend off malnutrition amid a collapsing fur trade and sharp limits on government aid.

Years later, researchers noted they had seen an improvement in health among those given the supplements.

Merchant believed that the number of those affected by the experiments could run into the thousands. “Some people don’t even know that they were the subject of experiments,” he said. “In some instances we can prove that principals of the schools said, ‘Well, we need consent,’ and they said, ‘We’re not going to ask for consent.’”

The lawsuit is directed at the federal government, as it was Canada that established, funded and oversaw residential schools, Indian hospitals and sanatoriums.

The plaintiff in the case is John Pambrun, 77, a First Nations man who spent nearly six years of his childhood in Indian hospitals and sanatoriums. In 1955 – long after antibiotics had become the standard treatment for tuberculosis – doctors removed part of his right lung, according to court documents.

“We can’t find anything in the medical records that indicates that he even had tuberculosis,” said Merchant. “We’re just mystified.”

The years of treatment took him away from his family and his education, while the partial loss of a lung left him suffering shortness of breath and limited his employment options. “It has just been gnawing him all these years that he was mistreated by a nation that took him into their care and had a special responsibility for his care,” said Merchant.

Many of the allegations contained in the lawsuit stem from investigations done by Ian Mosby at the University of Guelph.In research published in 2013, he documented more than a decade of nutritional experiments on indigenous peoples.

In a statement to the Guardian, a spokesperson for Canada’s indigenous and northern affairs department described news of the allegations as “very troubling”. Noting that the federal government had yet to review the statement of claim, the ministry declined to comment further.

While Merchant acknowledged that the lawsuit was aimed at the government of the day, rather than the many governments who allegedly allowed these experiments to happen under their watch, he described it as part of Canada’s fledgling efforts to confront its historical mistreatment of the country’s indigenous population.

“We’re in a time of patching our relationship with indigenous people,” he said. “So to go back and recognise that there was wrong and pay compensation, I think, is important.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/11/canada-indigenous-people-medical-experiments-lawsuit

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India – 20 IITians have moved the Supreme Court to decriminalise homosexuality #LGBTQ

  • HIGHLIGHTS

    • The petition has been filed on behalf of LGBT alumni association of IITs, comprising over 350 members.
    • The petitioners belong to different parts of the country and are well-established in their professional lives.
    • Among the IITians, the youngest is 19-year-old and a student of IIT Delhi and the oldest graduated from IIT in 198

New Delhi, May 14

A group of present and past students of IITs across the country on Monday moved the Supreme Court to challenge the constitutional validity of Section 377 of the IPC that criminalises homosexual activity and other unnatural sex.

The petitioners belong to different parts of the country and are well-established in their professional lives. Some of them are scientists, teachers, entrepreneurs and researchers and are of different age groups.

Among the IITians, the youngest is 19-year-old and a student of IIT Delhi and the oldest graduated from IIT in 1982. The petition has been filed on behalf of LGBT alumni association of IITs, comprising over 350 members. Most of the petitioners, including two women and one transwoman, are recent passouts.

Loss

Ruling that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is “deeply offensive to the dignity and self-worth of an individual”, the apex court had earlier agreed to examine the constitutional validity of Section 377 of CrPC criminalising gay sex.

“Despite being among the brightest minds in the country, having graduated from top national institutions, with the best possible opportunities available in terms of career, they are nevertheless criminalised by the archaic colonial provision in Section 377 and are deprived of the rights and freedom guaranteed to them by the Constitution,” the petition said.

A group of 20 students, claiming to represent more than 350 LGBT alumni, students, staff and faculty from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) said that the existence of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code had caused them “mental trauma and illnesses, such as clinical depression and anxiety and relegated some of them to second-class citizenship”.

Coming from different parts of the country with diverse religious, age, sex, and other backgrounds, the petitioners said that Section 377 legitimises the stigma associated with sexual orientation and its expression—something which is essential, fundamental, intrinsic and innate to an individual.

Contending that the Section violates Articles 14, 15, 16, 19 and 21 of the Constitution, the petitioners said: “The silence of our legislative wing and its ineffectiveness to even consider debating the need for the existence of this law is shameful, to say the least.” “The stigma, silence and violence that the Section brings in its wake has led to some of us dealing with suicidal tendencies and some others attempting suicide in the past,” the petitioners said in a press note.

The group of over 350 LGBT IITians have come together through an informal pan-IIT LGBT group Pravritti which they say is a “safe space for us to interact, connect and network”.

Noting that despite having studied in the best scientific institutions and having worked with the best of the minds, the petitioner group said that Section 377 had left a “very deep impact on our lives”.

“One can only imagine the amount of suffering and pain that Section 377 has caused and continues to cause in the lives of LGBT individuals across the country,” the statement said.  — IANS

 

Rising Number of Petitions Signals Positive Trend

The legal battle against Section 377 spans over two decades. It has been spearheaded by Naz Foundation, an NGO working to prevent HIV/AIDS, which filed a petition in 2001.

A total of 26 LGBT petitioners filed writs challenging Section 377 at the apex court in 2016, the HT report added. These included activist Akkai Padmashali and Sahitya Akademi award winner Navtej Singh Johar.

In April this year, three separate petitions were also filed against the archaic law.

In 2013, the Supreme Court had struck down the Delhi High Court judgement of 2009 and effectively re-criminalised homosexual sex by upholding Section 377.

A total of 1,157 students, staff members from IITs across the country wrote an open letter to the government and the directors of the IITs, expressing their disenchantment against the judgement, the report added.

In a landmark decision in 2017, the apex court had unanimously declared the right to privacy a fundamental right under the Constitution.

A nine-judge Constitution bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India JS Khehar had ruled that “right to privacy is an intrinsic part of Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Article 21 and entire Part III of the Constitution”.

(With inputs from Hindustan Times)

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India – Kudankulam is on way to Chernobyl

interview with V T Padmanabhan

 

V.T.Padmanabhan is a researcher continuously involved in a rigorous study of the technological, safety and generation history of the #Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant’s (#KNNPP) first two units. Mr. Pon Chandran, a human rights activist, interviews him on behalf of #TuNo Media.

 

This is an interview of great historical significance. The operational history of these two units highlight all the problems that crop up when a developed, technologically advanced nation like Russia collaborates with a less advanced one like India, to build nuclear reactors. However, the case of these two Indian examples give us a very special lesson because of the prior presence of a nuclear bureaucracy. One is able to understand clearly, without any doubt, the effect that geo-politics has on the day to day operational history of these plants. This interview shows clearly that the #nuclear reactors built in such a structural world #environment, are quickly sliding in to the path that the doomed #Chernobyl reactor took.

Here is Ponniah Chandran’s interview with V T Padmanabhan, in English:

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