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Archives for : June2018

India – Who Killed Marya?

On the morning of the 28th of June 2018, Marya wore the same smile that she did every morning. She left the house assuring me that she would return rather soon as the weather conditions were clearly not right for a test flight of a small plane such as the Beachcraft King Air C90(VT-UPZ) twin turboprop. She was sure that the commission to undertake such a flight would not be given. Considering Captain Rajput held and shared the same view with Marya, I was confident they would not fly this day. The weather conditions were just not right.
We know that the aircraft was well beyond its prime. We know it was more than 20 years old. We know it had already had an accident in 2009 and that the UP government chose to sell it rather than spend on its repairs. Considering all the above stated facts we, the family of Marya Zuberi, want answers. We want to know who exactly was at fault and who will bear the responsibility?
Indemar the company involved in the ill fated plane’s repairs seems to have been incapable of detecting the technical snags that could have led to its crash. We want to know whether their technical teams are capable of detecting technical snags or not and whether profit motives superseded the need for diligence before letting such a plane off the ground.
UY aviation the owners of the plane seem to have completely disregarded their responsibility to check whether such a plane should go off the ground. We want to know if they in anyway pushed Indemar to test fly a plane that was clearly not ready.
DGCA norms do not permit test flights of small planes in rainy weather. Who then let such a flight take place? Is the agency culpable? Did officers within the agency allow the flight, that clearly flouted its own norms? We want to know who took the call, who signed the papers for the flight to take place from the DGCA’s side?
Which or how many of these agencies are at fault? Were profit motives the reason why we have lost our loved ones? Who pushed them to fly?
We are in shock and so must be the family members of all those who lost their lives on this ill fated flight. We had expected a call, a word, a message, anything at all from those who run these various companies and agencies. But so far the government structures and the companies have both failed us as well as the families of the victims of this ghastly tragedy. Today on the 29th of June 2018 at the time of releasing this statement we are still to receive word from any of the above mentioned agencies. What may have prompted them to treat us in such an uncivilised way is beyond our understanding.
by
Prabhat Kathuria & Family of Marya Zuberi in solidarity with her colleagues who lost their lives.
Prabhat Kathuria – +91 9167009297

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Mumbai-Bandra Police STOPS #Aadhaar Hearing at National College #Emergency

As Part of Break Aadhaar Chains Campaign we are having public events, meetings , hearing nationwide , we had events in Chennai, Bangalore Thane  and many more will Happen

The Mumbai Public hearing on Aadhaar was scheduled on June 30th at National College Bandra, today in evening two cops from Bandra Police Station  reached the Principals’ office , and threatened Him of  dire consequences

Police asked Principal Mr. Dinesh Panjwani why you are holding the meeting ,  and that they will not allow  the meeting to happen . They asked to withdraw the permission .No reason was given about why they wanted to stop the Aadhaar Hearing.

 

Whats is this, then— It is Emergency times … are we a democracy?

 

We will definitely have the event , they cannot stop us pl note

Change of venue

Peasants and Workers Party office( शेकाप ) 
Fishermen colony behind Swami Vivekanand Udhyan
(Landmark :: Near Fisherman statue mahim)
S V Road Mahim Mumbai 

Date and Time: June 30, 4pm-7pm

On June 30, 2018, millions will lose access to their rations, to MNREGA job and wages, to their LPG subsidies, to old age pensions, disability benefits, scholarships, and over a hundred other such welfare benefits. The singular reason for this widespread exclusion? Aadhaar.

How did this happen, despite explicit Supreme Court orders that no one should be deprived of any entitlement for want of an Aadhaar? How has the government got away with expanding the Aadhaar scheme far beyond the 6 schemes allowed by the SC, and in-practice mandatorily at that?

On June 30, at the #BreakAadhaarChains event in Bandra, we will introduce you to people who have already suffered such exclusion. People whose very existence has been denied by the government and the Unique Identification Authority of India in their brazen attempts to whitewash Aadhaar. Worse, the government touts exaggerated Aadhaar savings claims via depriving such people of the be benefits to which they are entitled by law.

We believe that citizens need to collectivize urgently and make their presence felt on the various issues relating to Aadhaar. Irrespective of the Supreme Court’s judgment, the Aadhaar menace will have to be curbed legislatively as well.

Our expert panel comprising Ex Justice Hosbet Suresh, Prof. R Ramakumar, Ms. Sucheta Dalal, and Adv. Bapoo M Malcom will deliver the people’s verdict, along with their views on Aadhaar and the citizen’s relationship with the government.

The event is part of a series which began in Chennai on June 24 with a talk by legal researcher Ms. Usha Ramanathan. On. June 26 there were events in Bangalore and Thane. More events are being planned closer to the monsoon session of Parliament, in Kerala, Telangana, Delhi, and other places.

#BreakAadhaarChains Mumbai event is supported by….

 

Anna Adhikar Abhiyan, Maharashtra Jan Arogya Abhiyaan, Maharashtra
National Federation of Hawkers Kachra Vahatuk Shramik Sangh
National Alliance of People’s Movements People’s Union for Civil Liberties
Ration Kriti Samiti Rethink Aadhaar
Say No 2 UID Habitat and Livelihood Welfare Association

We request you to please cover this event in order to reach out to more people.

Please do not miss: A protest poetry and Music : Ramu Ramanathan, Sambhaji Banned and Kabir Café

#BreakAadhaarChains Mumbai event is supported by….

 

Anna Adhikar Abhiyan, Maharashtra Jan Arogya Abhiyaan, Maharashtra
National Federation of Hawkers Kachra Vahatuk Shramik Sangh
National Alliance of People’s Movements People’s Union for Civil Liberties
Ration Kriti Samiti Rethink Aadhaar
Say No 2 UID Habitat and Livelihood Welfare Association

Contact Kamayani-9820749204,   Raghu Godavar- 9717749998

#BreakAadhaarChains Campaign

Break the Aadhaar Chains is a campaign of concerened Citizens to stop the government from treating us like criminals out to loot the state.  In the context of  the Supreme Court case  the aftermath of the enactment of AadhaarAct 2016 as Money Bill and subordinate legislation, the campaign is having Nation- wide  awareness meeting, tallies and public hearing . https://www.facebook.com/BreakAadhaarChains/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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India- Have your heard of our very own Bob Dylan – Gaddar ?

But the revolutionary poet-singer from Telangana is iconic in his radical creativity and pursuit of social justice.

BRAHMA PRAKASH
  • But a bird that stalks
  • Down his narrow cage
  • Can seldom see through
  • his bars of rage
  • his wings are clipped and
  • his feet are tiedso he opens
  • his throat to sing.

— Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird” from Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing?

Maya Angelou’s poetic quest, Why don’t you sing, or, why the caged bird sings resonates well in the present socio-political context in India. The quest especially draws our attention as the Emergency anniversary forms a backdrop to times when the state, more than ever, is trying to silence dissident voices.

The enduring harassment of the artists of the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) in Maharashtra, the arrest of folk singer Kovan in Tamil Nadu and the story of Jiten Marandi in Jharkhand, whose trial inspired the making of the award-winning movie, Court, are just a few examples of such harassment.

court690_062818044601.jpgArtist in the dock: A still from Court

Recently, the Maharashtra police registered an FIR against the members of the KKM for all the most bizarre reasons — these include ‘provocative speeches’, ‘promoting enmity’ between two communities and having links with ‘Urban Naxals’.

But the most fundamental reason the authorities do not state is this — ‘Why do they sing?’

kab690_062818044428.jpgMembers of the Kabir Kala Manch continue to be harassed

Singing becomes an act of rebellion. In the eyes of the state, it is a language of provocation. The song as an inciting form of speech is a new entry into the nationalist project of Indian keywords. Singing as an act of rebellion is the larger background against which a particular singer began to be recognised as representing rebellion — Gaddar (a misspelling of the Urdu word ‘Ghadar’ or ‘Gadar’).

Every region in India has its own story of the caged bird. But one artist who can be considered unparalleled and a trendsetter in the art and act of rebellion is Gaddar from Telangana. He embodies the mother of all caged birds.

gadar690_062818045059.jpgThe voice of rebellion

Nearing his 70s now, the revolutionary balladeer discarded his real name — Gummadi Vittal Rao — and become the metaphor of the rebellion. Gaddar has seen life inside out. From the experience of untouchability, to being a daily wage labourer, living an underground life in forests, to being a caged bird in an Indian jail to a near-fatal escape with a bullet in his body, Gaddar has closely witnessed both life and death.

He has become a living legend in the Telugu-speaking region in India. The name ‘Gaddar’ stands for the Urdu word Ghadar — the rebellion — the spirit, for instance, of the Gaddar movement founded by Punjabi immigrants in the United States and Canada to overthrow British rule in India in 1913. Gummadi Vittal Rao, in the process of claiming that spirit of the past, has become the spirit in the present.

Born in 1948, a year after Independence, the cultural radical has been struggling since to find the meaning of that independence for the downtrodden in India. His songs and satires are full of observations and ironies.

‘Friend, I was born in a free India – in 70 years of my life, after seeing the situation of Dalits in India, I could not understand the meaning of that freedom.’

As an individual, Gaddar carries a larger-than-life persona. He tries to distance himself with that figure in his formal conversations. To my surprise, when we met, he rarely used Gaddar as a first person in conversation.

Not even with a slip of the tongue did he utter, I did this or I didn’t do this. He would rather say, ‘You need to understand why people listened to Gaddar and joined the revolutionary movement.’

In a strange paradox, Gaddar de-familiarised Gaddar.

I felt Gaddar would not write his autobiography — but a biography is equally flabby for him. Writing a biography of the rebel would be breaking the language and genre of biography itself. After all, he is an iconoclast who incessantly broke the structure of language. An anecdote goes that he influenced the great Telugu poet Sri-Sri to come out of his linguistic ghetto and write in the people’s language.

It is difficult to make out when he is recounting his own experiences and when he is creating an epic out of one particular experience. The essence of the poet is that he cannot be captured. He does not fit into a specific genre. He does not fit into a one-to-one question-answer session.

Thus, when he speaks, let him speak. When he listens, let him be a listener.

‘Now you forget that you are from JNU, you are a professor, researcher, this and that. Now you listen about Gaddar,’ he says.

And I do.

When he is happy, he sings; when he suffers from anxiety, he sings. He sings in pain and suffering. When he gets angry, he sings, he sings when things fall apart. He sings as a keeper of memory, he sings as an advocate of justice, he leaps and sings as a free bird out of the cage.

Whenever he feels silenced, he breaks into song.

He becomes self while singing, he embodies others while singing. He becomes the mother of revolutionaries when he sings. He sings as Gaddaranna for the Telugu masses. He craves equality and justice through his songs. He sings about the birth of revolution, he sings about the death of revolutionaries. His song is life and death. Gaddar is made of the song.

When he survived a near-fatal attack in 1997, he keeps singing — with a bullet in his body.

Every time he sings, he proves that Gaddar — the Rebellion — is made of rhythms.

Gaddar in the film Maa Bhoomi, written and produced by B Narasing Rao of the Art Lovers Association (ALA), Hyderabad

Gaddar’s famous song on Telangana

He could have become a figure like Federico Garcia Lorca if he was born outside caste-based Indian society. Karthik Venkatesh rightly remarked that Gaddar is the [Bob] Dylan we don’t talk about. He is the cultural phenomenon we don’t recognise. Google ‘popular banned artists around the world’ — despite his story, you will not find his name there. (One finds Amy Winehouse, Bob Dylan and others whose performances were at times banned). From Walid Raad of Lebanon to the Beatles of Britain and MF Hussain from India, we all love our banned artists. But being a radical, Gaddar does not figure into the debates of censorship. As a matter of fact, he faced a ban and censorship rarely faced by any other singer-performer in India.

bob690_062818045551.jpgGaddar is the [Bob] Dylan we don’t talk about

amy690_062818045741.jpgAmy Winehouse’s performance was banned several times

hussain690_062818045921.jpgMF Hussain was punished merely for being an artist

Still, he does not care whether you write about him or not. He has faith that people will remember him. One day, he gets angry with me and says, ‘Who cares if you don’t write. Pandits did not write about Kabir — did they stop Kabir from flowering in peoples’ minds? Upper castes tried hard to hide the compositions of Saint Tukaram — did they succeed?’

kab690_062818050215.jpgNo one could stop Kabir from flowering in peoples’ minds.

He is in his late 60s — but the passion of the late 60s is not over yet.

He joined the cultural movement when he was in his late 20s. It was just after the Naxalite movement in India. He came in contact with a small group called Art Lovers Association (ALA) in the suburbs of Hyderabad.

The group comprised filmmakers, theatre and cultural activists. The group came in contact with members of Virasam (acronym for the Revolutionary Writers’ Association). The group changed its name from ALA to Jana Natya Mandali.

It was the start of a new dawn that transformed Gummadi into Gaddar.

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NWMI Stands with Women in Cinema Collective, Protests AMMA’s Reinstatement of Dileep

The Network of Women in Media India (NWMI) strongly condemns the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes’ (AMMA) decision to reinstate actor Dileep who stands accused of being the mastermind behind the abduction and assault of a prominent woman actor from the Malayalam film industry in February 2017.

The decision to reinstate the accused has been taken without consulting the members of AMMA, particularly the Women in Cinema Collective (WCC) of which the survivor is a member. The survivor and three other members resigned from AMMA on June 27, in protest.

We salute the members of the WCC who openly risked their career opportunities by resigning from AMMA in disgust at the misogynistic treatment of a survivor of sexual assault. We recall with pride that the beacon of self-respecting women in film industry was first kindled in India in February 2017, when the rape-survivor from Malayalam movie industry boldly spoke out, months before Hollywood woke up to the “Me Too” movement.

It is with dismay that we note that within a week of Padmashri Mohanlal taking over as the president of AMMA, Dileep was hastily re-admitted to the organisation. The National Award-winning actor has also been bestowed with the honorary title of lieutenant colonel and it is unbecoming that the organisation should take such an insensitive decision under his leadership.

In a letter issued to the film body on June 28, three other WCC members who continue to be members of AMMA, have pointed out that they were not consulted about the decision to take Dileep back into their fold and demanded to know the basis on which he was welcomed back into the association. They have called for a general body meeting to discuss their concerns. The air has been rife with questions, but AMMA President Mohanlal is alarmingly silent.

Dileep, alleged to be the conspirator of the abduction and molestation of a colleague, is more than only the seventh accused in the actor-molestation case. He is actor, producer, distributor and movie-house owner and has been in the steering committees of all these guilds. The woman who survived the sexual assault, had earlier complained to AMMA that this powerful man from the industry had been influencing producers to avoid casting her. Instead of supporting her, AMMA jumped at the chance to re-instate Dileep’s membership, unabashedly revealing its oligarchic and patriarchal beliefs.

In yet another shocking expression of its misogyny, AMMA’s fund-raising show had a skit that ridiculed the brave new brigade of WCC. We are aghast that the masters of AMMA could find patriarchy-conditioned women to pen the distastefully anti-women skit and enact it.

It is a grave situation that the film industry in India’s most literate State is apparently completely unaware of the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act, 2013.

Further, Mr Mukesh, the Vice-President of AMMA, is also the CPI(M) MLA from Kollam. We demand that as an elected representative who is duty bound to uphold the law, he asks AMMA to withdraw its decision to reinstate the man until his name has been legally cleared. Other members of AMMA too hold important positions of office, like actor Innocent who is an MP and actor Ganesh Kumar, who is an MLA.

While it is heartening that several Left Ministers in Kerala have condemned the re-admission of Dileep to the AMMA fold, nevertheless, NWMI feels let down by the CPI(M), for its lack of moral, social and political accountability for the gender-insensitive statements and actions of its two MLAs and one MP, who are decision-makers in AMMA.

The NWMI expresses its solidarity with the survivor and the Women in Cinema Collective, and stands with the Collective in its fight for justice. We demand that:

1. AMMA hold the emergency Executive meeting called for by the WCC
2. AMMA ensure that the survivor feels sufficiently secure continuing work in the Malayalam film industry.
3. Allegations about AMMA silencing those who speak out against the accused be investigated without any delay.
4. AMMA put in place robust mechanisms to address gender inequality and women’s safety in the Malayalam film industry.

With the gutsy women of WCC, NWMI awaits a new dawn of gender equity in the film industry.

The Network of Women in Media, India

June 28, 2018

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Why Pride Isn’t Everything #LGBTIQ

Once again, Pride is upon us. At this time of year, it is easy to get caught up in the outpouring of excitement and visibility within the queer community, but we also cannot forget our anger at knowing that LGBTIQ people are still often living in fear of violence and discrimination. These two realities can be difficult to reconcile. How do we understand vibrant, overwhelming Pride celebrations in the midst of unprecedented backlash against the LGBTIQ community, and rising violence around the world?

For many LGBTIQ people, especially outside of US and Western metropolitan areas, Pride is not just a celebration, it can be very political. While in many places, Pride has become an assumption over the years, in nations where Pride is called into question every year, it takes enormous courage by activists and individuals to rally in the face of violence or threats of violence. For those who have been fighting for years to be visible, the possibility of a march can both in itself be an immense leap forward, and can be a catalyst for other social changes. Even in the most accepting of places, the symbolic act of walking down a public street, visibly queer, can hold great weight.

In a place like Swaziland, which is planning to hold its first-ever Pride March in the last weekend of June, Pride represents a concrete symbol of the LGBTIQ community finally getting its foot in the metaphorical door. But despite the possibility of a first Pride March, Swaziland’s laws and policing practices remain unchanged. Although a march can do important work in increasing the visibility of queer people, a place does not automatically become more queer-friendly in response to Pride.

This paradox is sometimes easier left unprobed, and many people make broad assumptions that the occurrence of a Pride March, regardless of other concrete details about a nation’s track record with LGBTIQ human rights, is a clear indicator of progress, safety, and inclusivity. Sometimes, the metric of “the Pride March” becomes the single most important, fail-safe gauge of attitude – as if all other indicators of freedom or oppression (or lack thereof) are erased.

Needless to say, this metric has its shortcomings. All over the world, Pride marches take place in nations where LGBTIQ people are threatened, abused, denied basic human rights, and killed everyday. In the media, we see high-profile cases in which attempted Pride celebrations are brutally shut down, with marchers injured and imprisoned. What are less visible, are the instances in which Pride marches still happen, but take place amidst existing tensions with abusive police forces, homophobic governments, and aggressive civilians in places where queer people are assaulted from day to day. Although Pride is an important show of strength for the queer community, and can be a social catalyst, it is dangerous to assume that it is the main event of the human rights campaign for LGBTIQ individuals globally.

Brazil is a prime example of this paradox. A few weeks ago, on June 3rd, an estimated 3 million individuals marched in São Paulo Pride, making it the biggest Pride March in world history. Brazil also has one of the highest LGBTIQ murder rates in the world. Fatal hate crimes perpetrated against queer and trans individuals in Brazil have radically increased; this year they have hit an all-time high, and it is estimated that violence in Brazil accounts for 40% of all homophobic and transphobic assaults in the world. The energy, visibility, and enormity of Brazilian Pride celebrations every June can conceal the fundamental reality of the pervasive intolerance faced by the LGBTIQ community. The essential paradox to recognize is that a nation like Brazil can be at once both the most outwardly prideful in the world, and the most intimately driven by anti-LGBTIQ violence.

While it is vital for everybody to hold this dialectic purely for the sake of understanding the need for continued activism, the lack of nuance with which nations like Brazil are painted actually has much more far-reaching consequences. For queer asylum-seekers, forced in court to “prove” their queerness and the level of persecution they experienced in their home countries, originating from a nation in which Pride is celebrated can put them at a significant disadvantage. Judges ostensibly could argue that the asylum-seekers could not have been persecuted because their countries of origin have demonstrated their support for LGBTIQ people through the production of a Pride March.

This employment of the sweeping logic of Pride goes in the opposite direction as well. For nations like Turkey or Uganda, where Pride celebrations are shut down year after year by police in riot gear, their human rights records are instantly written off by the rest of the world and again their societies are painted without nuance or curiosity. After Uganda’s Pride March was attacked and shut down in 2016, Ugandan Pride organizers were unable to come back in 2017, after renewed threats from authorities. In the past few months, as the Ugandan LGBTIQ community has moved toward reigniting Pride events in 2018, global news has focused almost exclusively on Uganda’s Pride planning, rather than exploring how the lives of queer people are actually impacted by human rights violations in Ugandan society.

At times like these, when global human rights values are in flux, it is significant to remember that Pride celebrations alone are never an accurate measure of a nation’s political and social climate. In caring more about Pride than about overall human rights, we show the world that superficial markers of progress are enough. In order to achieve holistic change around the globe, we must learn to search for other, more meaningful markers of freedom, safety, and respect, and to embrace Pride events as important but limited signifiers of progress. In order to understand the changes that must be made to support LGBTIQ human rights around the world, we must first more fully grasp the nuances of oppression that are often overlooked.

 

About the Authors: Rashima Kwatra serves as the Communications Officer at OutRight Action InternationalEmma Rosner serves as the Communications Intern at OutRight Action International

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Jaggi Vasudev backs Sterlite, says ‘lynching large businesses is economic suicide’ #WTFnews

“Am not an expert on copper smelting but I know India has immense use for copper,” Jaggi Vasudev said.

Spiritual guru Jaggi Vasudev, known as Sadhguru, has spoken up in defence of the Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi. Jaggi Vasudev gave an interview to an English TV channel on Sunday, and after several people reacted to his comments during the interview, he took to Twitter on Wednesday to back the Vedanta-owned company.

Jaggi Vasudev, who runs the Isha Foundation, tweeted, “Am not an expert on copper smelting but I know India has immense use for copper. If we don’t produce our own, of course we will buy from China. Ecological violations can be addressed legally. Lynching large businesses is economic suicide.-Sg”

Sadhguru

@SadhguruJV

Am not an expert on copper smelting but I know India has immense use for copper. If we don’t produce our own, of course we will buy from China. Ecological violations can be addressed legally. Lynching large businesses is economic suicide.-Sg @Zakka_Jacob @CMOTamilNadu@PMOIndia

His tweet came after a recent interview with CNN News18’s Zakka Jacob. When they touched on the topic of the Sterlite plant in Thoothukudi and the subsequent protests, Jaggi Vasudev said, “Now you close down an industry because of political pressure…This is not right. You compel the industry to find ways to ensure pollution doesn’t happen. I am sure there are ways to do it… You close down business after business like this, where will you take this country?”

Just days ago, yoga teacher Baba Ramdev, too, tweeted in support of Sterlite after meeting with Vedanta’s Executive Chairman in London. And much like Ramdev’s tweet, Jaggi Vasudev’s tweet, too, made no reference to the pollution caused by the company, because of which it was shut down by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. He also made no reference to the police shootout, that left 13 people dead and injured several others on the 100th day of the protests against the plant.

Rather than looking at the social impact of the protests, his comment merely focussed on economic aspect of shutting down a single plant. Moreover, it is ironical that he chose to use the words ‘lynching’ and ‘economic suicide’ to describe the shutting down of a company, without mentioning the fact that 13 people were killed in the police firing.

Jaggi Vasudev’s Isha Foundation has been embroiled in a controversial legal battle over its facility in Coimbatore since 2012. It has reportedly received demolition notices from the state government in the past. The Vellingiri Hill Tribal Protection Society has sought demolition of the alleged unauthorised structures constructed by the foundation, so as to restore the wetlands at Ikkarai Boluvampatti Village.

Animal rights activists have also been engaged in a running battle with the Isha Foundation. They allege that the construction work by the Foundation has adversely impacted the ‘elephant corridor’ in the western region of the state. However, Jaggi Vasudev has repeatedly claimed there is no such thing as an ‘elephant corridor’.

Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi has been in the eye of a storm for several months now, as the people of Thoothukudi started protesting against the pollution by the copper smelter. Several documents show that Sterlite did not follow environmental norms, especially regarding the height of the chimney stacks, as well as the green belt required around the plant in order to reduce the effects of the effluents released by the factory.

On the 100th day of the protest on May 22, as thousands of people gathered, the police resorted to shooting at the protestors in a bid to quell the protests after some agitators reportedly resorted to stone pelting.

Visuals from Thoothukudi showed some of the police officers in plainclothes taking aim with snipers and shooting at the protestors. In the shootout, 13 civilians were killed, including a minor girl, Snowlin.

Sterlite’s smelter was shut down on May 28, after the TNPCB declared they were not following environmental norms

https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/jaggi-vasudev-backs-sterlite-says-lynching-large-businesses-economic-suicide-83766

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The Monks Who Spew Hate

Why Jailing of Gnanasara Did Not Become News in This Part of Asia
Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the controversial leader of Bodu Bala Sena

“Ordered disorder, planned caprice, And dehumanised humanity…”

– Bertolt Brecht in The Exception and the Rule (quoted in The Sunday Leader)

“I have done my duty towards the country,” Gnanasara told reporters as he boarded the bus taking him to prison. Why should I regret?”

Rarely does Sri Lanka convict Buddhist monks.

But few days back a court in Sri Lanka made history when it convicted Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, the controversial leader of Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force) who is referred to as ‘Thero’, The Venerable, and sent him to jail. Scores of his followers, mainly Buddhist monks, were reciting Buddhist prayers when he was being arrested and packed in to the police vehicle.

Reports tell us that Sri Lanka is still facing mini-turmoil over this conviction.

Marches were organised in different cities of Sri Lanka demanding that President pardons him using his special powers. Protesters have also asked that this revered monk should not be forced to wear jail uniform and be allowed to wear saffron robes only.

For people outside Sri Lanka, it would be rather difficult to understand why a Buddhist monk has suddenly become such a polarising figure in the society there.

Remember the courts found him guilty of intimidating the wife of a missing journalist Sandhya Eknaligoda inside the courts itself when he had interrupted a court hearing over the abduction of the journalist, Prageeth Eknaligoda, in which military intelligence officials were accused. He had shouted at the judge and lawyers because the military officials involved in the disappearance had not been allowed bail.

Public memory is very short but the abduction followed by disappearance of Prageeth had made international headlines. He had been investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians by Sri Lankan army in the fight against the Tamil rebels. It was perhaps a dark period as far as journalism in Sri Lanka was concerned when journalists were intimidated, made to disappear or even killed just for being critical of the then Rajapkshe led government’s heavy handedness. Around a year before Prageeth’s disappearance the murder of senior journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge by Army Intelligence people had also caused tremendous uproar.

“This is a government created by Sinhala Buddhists and it must remain Sinhala Buddhist. This is a Sinhala country, Sinhala government. Democratic and pluralistic values are killing the Sinhala race”[Al Maeena, Tariq A.; Neo-fascism on the rise in Sri Lanka; Gulf News; 23 February 2013]

He also told the crowd at the rally that they “must become an unofficial civilian police force against Muslim extremism. These so-called democrats are destroying the Sinhala race” [Bodu Bala Sena gives ultimatum to Ban Halal certification; Mirror; 18 February 2013]

No doubt Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara or TheroGnanasara is no ordinary monk.

With his latest smartphone, designer glasses and a chauffeur driven car, his look may be at variance with the time-honoured image of a Buddhist monk who survives in a meagre way, but by his intervention in the already fraught polity of this multireligious, multi-ethnic country he has emerged as an influential voice of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism, which has always been an undercurrent in Sri Lanka. With suppression of Tamil militancy it has discovered ‘new enemies’ – the religious minorities – as its fresh targets. For it. Muslims (7.5%) are target number one but Hindus (15%), who are mainly Tamil speaking as well as the Christians (7.5%) are not far behind.

The surge in violence targetting Muslims, their properties and places of worship in March 2018, in district Kandy and adjoining areas, over a minor incident, which prompted President Maithripala Sirisena to declare an island-wide state of emergency was a fresh indication of the simmering tension.

For the likes of Gnanasara and his followers ‘democratic and pluralistic values are killing the Sinhala race’ and the minorities there should stick to the ‘global principle that minorities must reside in a country in a manner that does not threaten the majority race and its identity.”

The demolition of a mosque near the Golden Temple of Dambulla – a Buddhist cave temple, famous since 3rd century, part of UNESCO world heritage site – with petrol bombs by a mob led by radical Buddhist monks in the year 2012, claiming that for them it was a ‘sacred area’ had signalled how things would unfold in a post Tamil militancy Sri Lanka. It was then rather disturbing to note that the government had also bowed to the mob’s demand and ordered the mosque’s demolition and relocation. It did not matter to the rampaging mob that not only the mosque but the temple as well as church there, were decades old and had been constructed on the land by taking valid permission from the concerned authorities.

It was only last year that Amnesty International had issued a strong statement focused on Bodu Bala Sena asking “Sri Lankan authorities to act immediately to end attacks on Muslims in the country, and to rein in violent groups that target religious minorities, and take action against perpetrators.”

Providing details of violence and intimidation against Muslims, including petrol bomb and mob attacks on mosques, businesses and homes that have resulted in extensive property damage, and the failure of police to prevent these attacks, it had specifically mentioned the role of Buddhist monks associated with Bodu Bala Sena who “..[a]ttempted forcible land grabs in eastern Sri Lanka, and the media has reported a series of provocative and religiously charged speeches by BBS leader Gnanasara Thero.”

It has said how Gnanasara Thero’s hate speech vis-a-vis Muslim Rohingya refugees had created tension and how petrol bombs were thrown at a mosque when a BBS procession was stopped by police which was fourth attack on a mosque since mid-April. According to it, anti-Muslim violence in the town of Aluthgama claimed four lives and substantial property damage after speech by a BBS leader in June 2014.

The observations of a reporter who interviewed him in May 2018 were no different. He wrote: “Bodu Bala Sena leader Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara is a man whose words lead to action. When he threatens Muslims in a speech, mobs ransack Muslim neighbourhoods. And people die.

It would be important to watch how the whole issue of Thero Gnanasara’s arrest unfolds: whether the present President Sirisena would succumb to the pressures being exerted by Sinhala-Buddhist Supremacists to release him or would he allow the law to take its course.

For him it is a rather difficult choice to make looking at the fact that the earlier President Mahinda Rajapakshe and his brother Gotobhaya had facilitated emergence of Bodu Bala Sena. When Mahinda Rajapakshe was still holding reins of power the country, Gotobhaya was the chief guest at the opening of the Buddhist Leadership Academy floated by Bodu Bala Sena and heaped praise on them for their “nationally important task”.

Any such principled stand by President Sirisena can definitely damage him at the political level and benefit Rajapakshe whose party won big in the local elections held few months back.

And it would not be an exaggeration to say that it would have regional implications because the import of Gnanasara and his brand of politics is not limited to the island nation alone.

Words and actions of Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara can remind people of saffron robed monks/priests/Babas on this side of the border belching out similar hate speeches and calling for violence against the minorities here.

One can discover an eerie of similarity between how the Sinhala-Buddhists militants and the Hindutva Supremacists talk, act and think on similar lines. And much like them, there is hardly any action against them here.

Sinhala-Buddhists believe that they are part of the “Aryan Sinhala race”, Sri Lanka is their home land, the mission of protecting Buddhism has been entrusted to them by Buddha himself and Sri Lanka is the home for Sinhala language while their Hindutva counterparts talk of making India a Hindu Rashtra and pushing the non-Hindus to a secondary status of citizenship. An ideologue of this vintage even writes in his book that they are the ‘internal enemies’ of independent India.

As one writer has put it:

An important feature of the Sinhalese that has influenced their attitude to minorities is that they are, as noted Sri Lankan anthropologist Stanley Tambiah described in his book Sri Lanka: Ethnic Fratricide and the Dismantling of Democracy, “a majority with a minority complex.” Thus although Sinhalese vastly exceed Tamils and Muslims in terms of numbers, they feel outnumbered by them. They see the island’s Tamils, for instance, as part of the larger Tamil community in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and the Sri Lankan Muslims as part of the Muslim ummah.

This “minority complex” has resulted in Sinhalese viewing themselves as victims, who have to act, even violently, to defend the island and Sinhalese-Buddhist culture from being taken over by the asinhala (un-Sinhala) and abaudha (un-Buddhist). These groups are viewed as essentially “foreigners,” who are staying on the island due to Sinhalese-Buddhist sufferance.

If the Sinhala-Buddhists demand that the minorities in Sri Lanka should follow the ‘global principle that minorities must reside in a country in a manner that does not threaten the majority race and its identity.” the proponents of Hindu Rashtra think on similar lines wherein they want to ensure that the minorities here should remain at the mercy of the majority or should adopt to Indian (read Hindu) ways.

While Sri Lanks celebrates its pluralism and India has formally adopted secularism as a core principle of the Constitution, one observes on ground that the response of the respective states to the overt and covert violence against the minorities, leaves much to be desired. There are reports galorewhich show how the state has looked the other way when religious minorities of various dispensation have come under attack or has even connived with the majoritarians and denied the minorities justice.

While the world at large could easily look through what BBS stands for and how it’s increasing clout would impact negatively in a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-lingual country which was trying to establish peace and reconciliation after culmination of a long drawn civil war against Tamil militants, the reaction of Ram Madhav, an RSS leader, who is now a key leader of the BJP, was baffling :

“Bodu Bala Sena – a Buddhist organisation many wish to call as Right or Ultra-Right – is a new phenomenon in Sri Lanka. One may prefer to brand them in any manner one would like to. But the fact remains that this new outfit is slowly growing in stature and popular support in the country’s Buddhist-dominated areas.”

…”the issues raked up by the BBS are worthy of active and sympathetic consideration. BBS is able to capture the attention of the Buddhist population of Sri Lanka. ”

It is possible that the way BBS had framed its world view – about ‘growing Islamisation and Christianisation of the Island nation’ – had stuck a chord with the then Akhil Bharatiya Sah Sampark Pramukhof RSS before he shifted to BJP.

It was no mere quid pro quothat when BJP assumed power on its own in 2014, Dilantha Withanage, chief executive of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) and close associate of Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara, had supposedly returned the compliments. Claiming that Bodu Bala Sena “is inspired by what the RSS and BJP do in India” and had also underlined the similarities in the situation existing in both the countries ““There are lots of similarities between India and Sri Lanka,” Withanage said. “Both of us face threats from Muslims and minorities who are actively engaged in conversions. When Sinhalese families have a child or two, minorities have half a dozen or more. When foreign money plays behind such activities, we need to resist. So Modi and his party is a great inspiration for us,”

The reporter who had filed this report had rightly commented “This is one overseas fan base that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party BJP would not wish to flaunt.”

The rise of Sinhala-Buddhist Supremacism in our neighbouring country and the ascent of Hindutva here around same time cannot be considered an exception at least in this part of South Asia where majoritarian voices/forces owing allegiance to a particular religion or ethnicity are either gaining strength or consolidating themselves.

The growing Saudisation of Pakistan or the rise of Islamist forces/organisations in neighbouring Bangladesh underlines how such voices have taken shape there, basing themselves on the constructed ‘anxieties of the majority community’. Pakistan seems to be bursting at its seams where various fanatic groups with their violent acts against the ‘others’ – ranging from the Ahmadiyas, Shias, Hazaras, Hindus etc – have created a situation of implosion.

The recent killing of Shahzahan Bachchu, owner of Bishaka Prokashoni, a publishing house, who was gunned down in his home town in Munshiganj once again brought to the fore the clout Islamists hold in formally secular Bangladesh. It is true that because of a strong tradition of secular movement, situation seems to be still under formal control of such forces in Bangladesh (of course, it is not a great consolation) but that has not stopped it from penetrating deep into the pores of society there.

Few years back when a mass movement had arisen in Bangladesh demanding punishment for the War Crimes committed during the liberation war (1971) – where the focus was on the Islamists led by Jamaat-e-Islami who had collaborated with the Pakistani army – a study was published in Mainstream (Mar 22-28, 2013) which had elaborated upon the political economy of fundamentalism. It is an issue about which not much material is available also. According to Prof Abdul Barkat’s unique study, who was then with Dept of Economics, Dhaka University and President of Bangladesh Economic Association:

..[f]undamentalists have created an “economy within the economy” and “a state within the state” They have adequate economic strength (from micro to macro levels) to sustain their political organisations. The economics of fundamentalism, in the narrow sense of the term, can be explained in terms of enterprises ranging from large financial institutions to household level micro credit, from mosques and madrassas to news media and IT, from nationwide trading enterprises to local level NGOs. The estimated amount of annual net profit generated by these enterprises would be US $ 250 million. All these economic enterprises are run by ideologically motivated and professionally competent persons. At least 10 per cent of their net profits are being used to finance the political organisation, which is sufficient to fund the salary of 500,000 full-timers in Islamic fundamentalist politics. The relative strength of the economics of fundamentalism in Bangladesh can be traced to the fact that its annual net profit is equivalent to six per cent of the government’s annual development budget and the annual growth rate of the economy controlled by the fundamentalists is higher (7.5 per cent to nine per cent) than that of the national economy (five to six per cent).

Discussing how fundamentalism was experimenting the effectiveness of various politico-economic models with the help of cadre based politics, he had discussed how the following twelve, constitute the key sectoral elements of the model : “financial institutions, educational institutions, pharmaceutical-diagnostic and health related institutions, religious organisations, transport related organisations, real estate, news media and IT, local government, NGOs, Bangla Bhai or JMB, Jamaetul Muzahideen Bangladesh, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (Bangladesh HuJi-B) (and such programme based organisations), and occupational/professional activity based organisations including of farmers and industrial workers.”

According to him

The estimated annual net profit of economic fundamentalism in Bangladesh would be about US $250 million. The highest share of such profit, 27 per cent (of the total net profit), comes from financial institutions (banks, insurance companies, leasing companies, etc.

The second highest, 18.8 per cent of the total net profit, comes from NGOs, trusts and foundations, 10.8 per cent comes from trading concerns, 10.4 per cent profit comes from the pharmaceutical industry and health institutions including diagnostic centres, 9.2 per cent comes from educational institutions, 8.5 per cent comes from real estate business, 7.8 per cent comes from the media and IT business, and 7.5 per cent comes from the transport sector

Explaining the methodology of estimation, Prof Barkat had made it clear that it is largely based on heuristic estimates, but the pattern was indicative of the direction.

It can be observed that the rise of the politics and economics of fundamentalism in Bangladesh has led to institutionalisation of fundamentalism which implies organised penetration of Islamist fundamentalist forces in all key spheres of life and state operation. In fact, the relative strength of this institutionalised fundamentalism is also evident in formation and operation of Islamic Sharia Council against the usual norm of the Central Bank. Prof Barkat adds that this

“Islamic Sharia Council – the central policy making body of all Islamic financial institutions – is a body fully controlled by the mainstream Islamist Party (Jamaat-e-Islami in this case) and headed by the Pesh Imam (the head) of the National Mosque, who is a government servant, who preaches in favour of implementation of Sharia rule through the mosque based administration and judiciary. This Islamic Shariah Council is an illegal entity according to the Company Act and Banking Act operating in Bangladesh. The Central Bank’s attempts to ban this Islamic Shariah Council and even the move to institute a “guideline for Islamic Banking” in Bangladesh could not be materialised in the past. And finally, an attempt to pass a law in the parliament “against religious extremism” ended up in gross failure.”

There was a period in the first part of the 20th Century when the people in this part of South Asia, then under colonial subjugation, had fought against the Britishers in their own way and gained political independence. It has been more than 70 years that they achieved freedom but today they are confronted with an altogether different challenge.

If one digs further one can as well trace the roots of this situation in the way the anti-colonial struggle was fought or how the tensions arising from the internal asymmetries and fissures in the respective societies could not be properly addressed. No doubt, it is a very precarious situation and if it is not handled properly, the whole region can become a tinderbox of sorts.

One can even discern a pattern in the rise of Sinhala-Buddhist nationalism in Sri Lanka, ascent of Hindutva Supremacism in India or Political Islam taking its strides in Pakistan as well as Bangladesh.

What is noticeable in this picture is that

– perpetrator community changes as you cross the national borders. In fact, one finds a reversal of roles. Perpetrator community on this side of the border metamorphoses into victim community on the other side of the border

– One type of fanaticism feeds on the other. And there are reports that different types of alliances are coming up between them

Situation unfolding in neighbouring Mynamar, explains how this alliance building of sorts between various exclusivist/sectarian ideologies/formations is taking shape.

Mynamar, as everybody knows is making headlines the world over because of the plight of Rohingya Muslims, which is developing since last few years. Many reports have appeared detailing the role played by the army in the ethnic cleansing of the hapless citizens, burning down of their villages and the silence maintained by the likes of Aung San Su Kyi.

And here also the role of saffron robed Buddhist monks has come under scanner, who have been accused of making hate speeches targetting Muslims, instigating riots, etc. For example, Thitagu, a prominent abbot (head of monks) had in an interview said that “In ethnically diverse Burma, members of different religions should live together like water flowing together” and in the same interview he warned that “just like the Buddhist host has warmly welcomed other faiths into the country, the guests should strive to get along with the host. They should not trespass on the host’s goodwill and take over the home”. Of course, the most controversial among them is Wirathu . ‘Guardian’ had done a special story on him few years back who with his 2,500 follower monks has become a dreaded name in the country, instigating Buddhist fanatics to attack Muslims.

Attempts to coordinate activities against a ‘common enemy’ had received a boost when the infamous Wirathu visited Sri Lanka and a proposal was put forward by Wirathu and BBS jointly seeking Hindutva Supremacists nod to form what they called a “Peace Zone”:

..The time has come to ally internationally,” Galagodaththe Gnanasara, the leader of the radical Sri Lankan Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena, announced at a convention held in Colombo last month. The guest of honor was Ashin Wirathu, a Buddhist radical whose picture Time magazine put on its July 1 cover as “The Face of Buddhist Terror.” The government of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa ignored pleas by Sri Lankan Muslim and Christian civil groups, fearful of more anti-Muslim violence in their country, to deny Mr. Wirathu a visa. Granting Mr. Wirathu a visa can only reinforce the fears of many Muslims that the government — and perhaps more powerful regional allies — back Bodu Bala Sena, which translates as Buddhist Power Force.

Last week, Mr. Gnanasara claimed he was in discussions “at a high level” with the right-wing Indian Hindu group Rashtriya Swayam Sevak to form what he called a “Hindu-Buddhist peace zone” in South Asia. A Rashtriya Swayam Sevak spokesman, Ram Madhav, promptly denied that there were any such discussions. But Mr. Madhav, now general secretary of India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party, has written comments sympathetic to Bodu Bala Sena and Mr. Wirathu’s group 969 in Myanmar on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The plight of Rohingya Muslims has become a cause of international concern. The military in Mynamar has provided tacit support to their ethnic cleansing of the hapless minority.

What is rather disturbing to note that when PM Modi visited Myanamar last year the joint statement he and Myanmar’s State Counsellor and de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi issued remained silent on the mass cleansing of the Rohingyas but expressed grave concern on the ‘terrorist’ activities of a section of Rohingyas in self-defence. It read:

“It is important to maintain security and stability along the long land and maritime borders of India and Myanmar…India stands with Myanmar over the issue of violence in the Rakhine state which has led to loss of innocent lives.”

In his article “Genocide of Rohingyas in Myanmar: the Hindutva Imprints” commenting on this trip Prof Shamsul Islam underlined

“This statement remained silent on the mass cleansing of the Rohingyas but expressed grave concern on the ‘terrorist’ activities of a section of Rohingyas in self-defence. In a more shocking development the RSS/BJP Indian Government has issued instructions to deport nearly 40,000 Rohingyas, who escaped to India while under attack, for being a security threat.

How does one understand this silence?

As the dictum goes: Silence speaks and, in this case, also should we say that the silence of the Indian rulers over the mass cleansing of Rohingyas spoke a lot.

Forget Rohingyas. And the Indian rulers for a moment.

Why did the conviction of Thero Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara not become news here?

Rarely does Sri Lanka convicts monks but when judicial history of sorts was made in the neighbouring country why did the media here keep mum?

https://www.newsclick.in/monks-who-spew-hate

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5 custodial deaths daily during 2017-2018, India must ratify the UNCAT

New Delhi: Asian Centre for Human Rights in its report, “Torture Update India” (http://www.achrweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/TortureUpdateIndia.pdf), released on, the 26th June, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture 2018, stated that a total of 1,674 custodial deaths including 1,530 deaths in judicial custody and 144 deaths in police custody took place from 1 April 2017 to 28 February 2018 as per the statistics placed by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India before the Rajya Sabha on 14 March 2018.

This implies 1,674 deaths in 334 days (11 months) i.e. over five custodial deaths per day on an average during 2017-2018. This constitutes a significant increase in the number of custodial deaths as a total of 14,231 custodial deaths i.e. about four custodial death per day on an average were reported during 2001 to 2010”.- stated Asian Centre for Human Rights.

During 2017-2018, the highest number of custodial deaths took place in Uttar Pradesh (374) followed by Maharashtra (137), West Bengal (132), Punjab (128), Madhya Pradesh (113), Bihar (109), Rajasthan (89), Tamil Nadu (76), Gujarat (61), Odisha (56), Jharkhand (55), Chhattisgarh (54), Haryana (48), Delhi (47), Assam (37), Andhra Pradesh (35), Uttarakhand and Telangana (17 each), Karnataka (15), Himachal Pradesh (8), Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura (6 each), Jammu & Kashmir and Meghalaya (4 each), Mizoram (3), Manipur, Chandigarh, Sikkim and Nagaland (2 each).

On the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture 2018 being observed today, ACHR stated that India must commit to ratify the UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT) and place the Prevention of Torture Bill of 2017 as drafted by the Law Commission of India before the parliament during upcoming monsoon session to address the menace of torture in India.

The ratification of the UN Convention Against Torture is also indispensable if India is serious to extradite fugitives to India as the UNCAT prohibits refoulment or extradition where there are substantial grounds for believing that the requested person sought to be extradited would be in danger of being subjected to torture. India has already lost the case of extradition of Kim Davy, an accused of Purulia arms dropping case of 1995 in Denmark and extradition of Sanjiv Chawla, an alleged cricket bookie in the United Kingdom on the ground that prison conditions in India amount to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and that India has not ratified the UNCAT. Unless India removes the legal obstacles by ratifying the UNCAT, it may lose other extradition requests. Putting pressure on th e European governments for extradition to India will not work as the European Governments like the Government of India cannot interfere in subjudice matters and the financial fugitives will mount legal challenge at every step.” – further stated Asian Centre for Human Rights.

In addition to Nirav Modi, India had 16 extradition requests pending with the United Kingdom Government i.e. of Rajesh Kapoor & Seema Kapoor, Patrick Charles Bowring, Tiger Hanif @ Mohd. Hanif Umarji Patel, Palaniappan Rajaratinam, Pavilose [email protected] Samuel, Lokendra Sharma, Sanjeev Kumar Chawla, Kartik Venugopal, Shaikh Sadiq, S. Balakrishnan, Vijay Mallya, Ritika Avasty, Rishikesh Surendra Kardile, Kavaljit Sinh Mahendra Singh Raijada and Arti Dhir, Chandan Sharma and Raj Kumar Patel.

The non-ratification of the UNCAT is seriously hurting India’s counter-terror and anti-corruption measures”, stated ACHR.

Background:

India signed UNCAT in 1997 and assured the parliament on 3 May 2000 that it would ratify the UNCAT. It did precious little to ratify it. The Lok Sabha passed highly the flawed the Prevention of Torture Bill (PTB), 2010 on 6 May 2010 but the Rajya Sabha preferred to refer the Bill to a Select Committee which had proposed amendments to the Bill to make it more compliant with the UNCAT. However, the Bill drafted by the Rajya Sabha Select Committee was allowed to lapse by then UPA government with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha. The Parliamentary Committee on Government Assurances of the ongoing 16th Lok Sabha in its 30th Report dated 16 March 2016 while reviewing the assurance of the Ministry of External Affairs dated 3 May 2000 to ratify the UNCAT recommended that the ratification “be taken to its log ical end by amending the relevant status”. In September 2016, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Union of India on a Writ Petition filed by former Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Select Committee on the PTB, 2010 Dr. Ashwini Kumar seeking directions for a legal framework in terms of the UNCAT. Pursuant to the petition filed by Dr Kumar, the Central Government vide its letter dated 8 July 2017 asked the Law Commission to examine the issue of ratification of the UNCAT and submit a report on the matter. On 30 October 2017, the Law Commission submitted the Prevention of Torture Bill of 2017. The Supreme Court disposed off the petition of Dr Kumar on 27 November 2011 in view of the submission of the Attorney General that the report of the Law Commission is being seriously considered by the government.

Even neighbouring Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka ratified the UNCAT and enacted national laws against torture.

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India – When One WhatsApp Message Killed 22

Death By WhatsApp

The fatal messages were both in text and in audio. They were in Telugu, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, Assamese and Gujarati among others.

Guys please be on high alert10:24 PM

Three kids were kidnapped from my friend’s area this morning.. There were 10 guys giving biscuits and people from that area have caught all 10 n 5 more based on their info…10:24 PM

Cops arrived at scene and informed that 400 people have landed in Hyderabad (or Bangalore or Chennai or KarbiAnglong or Singhbhum or any other place) for child trafficking. Check my next video and repost. Parents pls be on high alert.10:25 PM

The Snowball Effect

No one had any idea where the messages originated from or who was the original sender. But when it comes to the safety of one’s children, these questions become irrelevant.

Maybe, if someone had stopped to ask these questions, this fake WhatsApp message wouldn’t have led to 22 murders in one year. These 22 ‘outsiders’ were lynched by mobs on the mere suspicion of being the non-existent ‘child lifters’.

Phony as a three-dollar bill, the message spread like forest fire from Jharkhand to Tamil Nadu and Assam to Gujarat. In each state, it preyed on the raging ‘local versus outsider’ sentiment. It started doing the rounds of southern states around the time when political discourse was hijacked by the ‘North versus South’ debate.

It might be easy now to scoff at those who believed and further shared the fake message, but hindsight is always a perfect 20/20.

In fact, according to a research by University of Warwick, 40% of fake news cannot be spotted by average educated adults. Even if they do feel something is amiss, only 45% adults can place their finger on what exposes the news as fake.

Social media and internet penetration have only aggravated the problem in India, where the written word is rarely doubted.

Social media and internet penetration have only aggravated the problem in India, where the written word is rarely doubted.

In the last four years, social media usage in the country has gone up by 150% with an 83% increase in smartphone ownership. Such proliferation and the availability of competitive data plans have ensured digital intrusion in areas where people have had no exposure to the concept of fake news or digital privacy.

Caveat emptor does not apply in this case, says Sunil Abraham, the Executive Director of Bangalore-based research organisation Centre for Internet and Society.

A Timeline of Deaths

CHAPTER 1

The Propaganda Machine

WhatsApp has unfortunately become a fertile breeding ground for parasites that prey on fear. At present, it has 200 million active users. These users are potential victims of fake news given the complex form of anonymity that WhatsApp offers. It is mainly to arrest the fake news propaganda that the first step in violence-hit areas is to suspend internet services.

In this case, too, the original culprits took cover in this anonymity and experts believe they may never be unmasked. While Facebook and other social media websites are under pressure to address the menace, an inter-personal software, such as WhatsApp, skirts the scanner.

“Those who are passing the rumours cannot be traced or haven’t been traced purely because they are on WhatsApp groups. My guess is that they would have started it (the rumours) on WhatsApp because it is difficult to trace. Once it starts, it (the message) makes its way to everywhere. Somebody gets it on WhatsApp, they put it on their Facebook profile or forward to other WhatsApp users. It goes across multiple platforms. It is not limited to one platform,” says Alt News co-founder Pratik Sinha.

Those who are passing the rumours cannot be traced or haven’t been traced purely because they are on WhatsApp groups

Given its penetration, WhatsApp has emerged as a cheap medium to propagate hate.

Police officials investigating the murder of senior journalist and Left-leaning thinker Gauri Lankesh in Bengaluru were surprised to find out that a key suspect was an ‘admin’ for hundreds of groups.

KT Naveen Kumar, a college dropout, floated his outfit ‘Hindu Yuva Sena’ in Mandya near Bengaluru three years ago. The Hindutva activist confessed to the police that he created several WhatsApp groups — Hindu Yuva Sena, Jago Hindu Maddur, Bajrang Maddur and Kaveri Boys among others — to propagate his ‘Save Hinduism’ agenda.

Once you create a WhatsApp group and add ‘participants’, you are free to make others the ‘admin’, who in turn can add scores of people to the group. There is no known cap to the number of participants in a WhatsApp group.

How To Spot Fake News

CHAPTER 2

Jharkhand

The fake message on ‘child lifters’ added fuel to fire in Jharkhand, which has been plagued by child abductions and kidnappings for years. Young girls from the state have been known to be abducted and forced into modern-day slavery in other states.

Villagers, who had never heard of the concept of fake news, bought into the rumours. And since a photo can say a 1,000 fake words as well, graphic images freely available on the internet were used alongside the message. The propaganda did the trick and aroused murderous rage among the local tribal population.

At least nine people were killed in separate incidents over as many days in Singhbhum district. Angry mobs beat and hacked the victims to death, assuming they were saving their young ones from ‘child lifting’ gangs that were rumoured to be abducting children for organ trade.

The death toll would have been higher had protest marches against the fake news and the killings not been held in cities like Jamshedpur. While these protests did not get the police to act against hate mongers on social media, the uproar publicised the fact that the message was a fake one.

Over the next few days, alleged ‘child lifters’ were caught in other villages, but were duly handed over to the police.

The disinformation campaign died a natural death in Jharkhand, but moved to a new hunting ground.

CHAPTER 3

Tamil Nadu

More than 2,000 km from Jharkhand, the message landed in Tamil Nadu with an additional detail — be wary of ‘North India people’. It warned of a gang of 400 ‘North Indians’ out to lure children for organ trade. These people, the message added, may try to gain entry inside homes on the pretext of being repair men or hawkers. Again, the images of mutilated bodies did the trick.

No one stopped to think whether a ‘gang of 400 outsiders’ could travel undetected. No one called the 100 helpline to confirm the rumour with the police. The mere ‘police-arrived-at-the-scene’ was enough to convince people of its authenticity.

A man in Thiruvalluvar, north of Chennai, became the state’s first victim of the fake news. A mob beat him mercilessly and hung him from a bridge in Pulicat on May 10.

The mob didn’t even give her a chance to be heard.

The second lynching came in less than 24 hours. This time the victim was an elderly woman identified as Rukmani in the temple town of Thiruvannamalai. She was returning from a temple visit with her relatives when they stopped their car at a village. Rukmani was handing out ‘foreign chocolates’ to local children when word spread that a woman was ‘luring’ kids with sweets.

“The mob didn’t even give her a chance to be heard. Giving out chocolates to children doesn’t make you a child trafficker. I’m scared to even step out after this incident,” says a relative who was in the car with Rukmani and was grievously injured.

Police officials rounded up at least 30 people and charged them with murder.

CHAPTER 4

Andhra Pradesh & Telangana

The mob madness spread to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana next, again preying on anti-migrant sentiment. The first attack was reported mid-May when 12 people were suspected to be members of ‘Parthi’ gang, a group notorious for dacoity in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

A couple of days later, a mob beat up two beggars in Vishakhapatnam, killing one of them.

Another horrific attack unfolded in Hyderabad where a transgender was stoned to death by a mob of 200. The victim had travelled from Mahabubnagar district with three others to seek alms in the holy month of Ramzan.

Soon, the fake news reached other districts. A man visiting a relative in Nizamabad was killed when he failed to give ‘satisfactory’ explanation to the mob about his presence there.

A murder in Yadadri district of Telangana, an attack on nine people in Vikarabad district and an assault on a woman at the Guntur railway station followed within days.

CHAPTER 5

Karnataka

The mob mentality fuelled by the fake news campaign reached Karnataka, where the ‘local versus outsider’ debate had reached fever pitch during election campaigning.

WhatsApp users in Bengaluru, India’s Silicon Valley, started receiving warnings on ‘child lifters’ in Kannada.

“Don’t leave your kids unattended..if you find such traffickers, tie them up and call the cops (sic),” one such message advised.04:24 PM

A 26-year-old construction labourer from Rajasthan, identified as Kalu Ram, who had come to look for work was tied with a rope, dragged through the streets of Chamarajpet in west Bengaluru. Beaten with bats and other household ‘weapons’, he succumbed to his injuries.

According to Additional Commissioner (West) BK Singh, India saw a similar kind of ‘madness’ 20 years ago with the ‘Ganesha drinking milk’ rumour, but WhatsApp has taken it to a dangerous new height.

“This hapless man was walking alone. Two persons standing there saw him and started following him to a shop just 100 metres away. Suddenly, a crowd gathered. People brought whatever they could find in their homes — cricket bats, stumps, ropes etc,” Singh says.

“Once a crowd becomes a mob, you cannot control it. Many of them may be meek persons individually, but they are taken in by the presence of the mob. The mob thinks that if they act collectively, police won’t act and they can get away easily,” Singh adds.

People brought whatever they could find in their homes — cricket bats, stumps, ropes etc.

Around 20 people were arrested based on CCTV footage and videos taken by bystanders, who did nothing to help the hapless victim. One of the main accused is 26-year-old Anbu, who has other criminal cases pending against him. Four women and a minor were among those in custody. All of them face murder charges now.

The spread of the fake news in Tamil Nadu may also have led to the violence.

Pension Mohalla in Bakshi Garden where the attack took place has a dominant Tamil population. Some of them could have been aware of the rumours before it made its way to Bengaluru. When the WhatsApp messages started doing the Silicon Valley’s rounds, it may have been perceived as a confirmation of the fake news.

Another person was killed under similar circumstances in Salem. The state witnessed seven more such attacks.

CHAPTER 6

Assam

The latest casualty of the fake news was reported in Assam, again a state which deals with anti-migrant sentiment.

On June 8, two youths from Guwahati were battered to death in Karbi Anglong district on suspicion of being child lifters. Police said Abhijit Nath and Nilutpal Das were on their way to the Kanthe Langshu picnic spot when their vehicle was attacked by a group of men at Panjuri Kachari village, 16 km from Dokmoka town.

Eyewitnesses said the two boys were brutally beaten with bamboo poles and wood, and tortured to death by a mob of allegedly inebriated villagers.

“It happened when some locals informed a group of villagers about two men travelling in a black car with an abducted child. These few villagers were drinking in the roadside dhaba and immediately called upon more people to trace the car and catch them. The mob stopped the car and surrounded the two boys inside. The village elders tried to stop them from beating the boys, but they would not listen,” said a local shopkeeper.

The two boys were brutally beaten with bamboo poles and wood, and tortured to death by a mob of allegedly inebriated villagers.

This incident was yet again preceded by paranoia fuelled by WhatsApp forwards. The messages warned people of ‘sopadhora’ (child lifters) being on the prowl. Many in Karbi Anglong, one of the most backward areas of the country, took those messages as gospel.

“We have arrested 35 people so far. Some of them are directly involved in the attack, while one has been arrested for posting objectionable content on social media, inciting communal violence soon after the incident took place. There’s no substance to the rumour of ‘sopadhora’ (child lifters) in the area. But it had created a fear psychosis among people here,” says Agarwal.

https://www.news18.com/news/immersive/death-by-whatsapp.html

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When Daughter meets her mother in Prison #ReleaseShomaSen #DefendDissent

Mulaquaat #1

By Koel Sen
Yerwada Women’s Jail Pune
26 June 2018

She says, “It’s nice, not as bad as I had expected”.. Maa already looks different.
“No cots in the barrack… But the womens cell seems OK. Bedsheets and blankets are clean atleast. The women here, mostly the convicts try their best to work hard cleaning the jail premises, so that their sentence gets reduced.”

“I gather a lot of strength looking at these women here. These women are spending so much time in jail for theft and small time crookery. Some who have got life have been charged with murder. But they are so young. It’s sad.”

“I have a small notebook and pen… .”
“So you should start writing about this experience Maa”, I tell her. “Sketch out these characters, write their stories.. and yours, then I can make a film out of it”, and we both laugh.. .

Our laughter ran in echoes over a thick glass wall separating us both. A cheap intercom acted as the umbilical chord that once connected us. We laughed and laughed till tears fell out of both our eyes. “We’ll get through this”, I said. She kept her hand on the cold glass wall, I kept mine till we both could feel each other’s warmth cut across its harsh coldness.

#DefendDissent  #ReleaseShomaSen  #JusticeforShomaSen

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