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Archives for : August2018

A journalist came to Helsinki to ask about nuclear weapons

Husseini: “This is a free press in Finland?”

Sam Husseini, a journalist with The Nation, was forcibly ejected from the press conference held at the conclusion of the US-Russia summit in Helsinki. A piece of paper that he held on which the words “nuclear weapon ban treaty” were written, seen briefly on video as he was being dragged from the room by Finnish security, provided a pretty big clue as to why he was unwelcome.

Husseini has now published an article in The Nation describing exactly what happened during the incident and his subsequent arrest, and the important, if uncomfortable, questions he wanted to ask Trump and Putin about US and Russian nuclear disarmament obligations, the build-up of nuclear arms in both countries, and their opposition to the Ban Treaty.

“After I was finally able to listen to the news conference, it became evident how important my questions were. Both Trump and Putin attempted to sound like paragons of enlightened rule when talking about nuclear policy. But the emphasis was on nonproliferation. Putin spoke of the pair as being “major nuclear powers” who “bear special responsibility for maintaining international security” so as to ensure “global security and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction.” Similarly, Trump stated: “We also discussed one of the most critical challenges facing humanity: nuclear proliferation.”

But nonproliferation is not disarmament. Indeed, nonproliferation is about ensuring that other countries don’t get nuclear weapons. It is not about getting rid of this all-encompassing threat to humanity. It is an attempt to preserve the nuclear powers’ monopoly on violence rather than actually ensuring security.”

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Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Never again

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Hiroshima and Nagasaki: 7 things you should know

 

Today  marks 73 years since two atomic bombs were dropped over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed and maimed, and the effects are still being felt today. But while the mushroom clouds became iconic symbols of mass destruction, and the paper cranes a symbol of hope for a nuclear-free world, there are many things you may not know – or may have forgotten – that are really important if we’re going to make sure this never happens again.

#1 More than 210,000 people were killed

By the end of 1945, the bombing had killed an estimated 140,000 people in Hiroshima, and a further 74,000 in Nagasaki. In the years that followed, many of the survivors would face leukemia, cancer, or other terrible side effects from the radiation.

“Each person had a name. Each person was loved by someone. Let us ensure that their deaths were not in vain.”

  • Setsuko Thurlow, survivor of the August 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima
    Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, December 2017

 

#2 The bombs were detonated in the air

Bombs don’t have to hit the ground in order to detonate. For nuclear weapons, detonating them in the air causes the blast to have a larger geographical impact. Both “Little Boy” (the uranium bomb dropped on Hiroshima) and “Fat Man” (the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki) were detonated in the air. You can find out more about what impact a detonation on the air or on the ground would have on your city through the Outrider Foundation’s powerful (but terrifying) interactive tool:

Blast Radius of the Hiroshima Blast

 

#3 First responders couldn’t help back then, and they wouldn’t be able to help now.

If a nuclear weapon were to be detonated over a city today, first responders – hospitals, firemen, aid organisations – would simply be unable to help. This powerful video by the Red Cross explains why:

Tthe reason we know this is that the extent of the damage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 made it nearly impossible to provide aid. In Hiroshima, 70% of all buildings were razed and burned, 42 out of 45 hospitals were rendered non-functional and 90% of physicians and nurses in were killed or injured. In Nagasaki, ground temperatures reached 4,000°C and radioactive rain poured down. As a result, most victims died without any care to ease their suffering. Some of those who did enter the cities after the bombings to provide assistance later died from the radiation.

#4 The effects last to this day

It takes around 10 seconds for the fireball from a nuclear explosion to reach its maximum size, but the effects last for decades and span across generations. Five to six years after the bombings, incidence of leukaemia increased noticeably among survivors. After about a decade, survivors began suffering from thyroid, breast, lung and other cancers at higher than normal rates. Pregnant women exposed to the bombings experienced higher rates of miscarriage and deaths among their infants; their children were more likely to have intellectual disabilities, impaired growth and an increased risk of developing cancer. And for all survivors, cancers related to radiation exposure still continues to increase throughout their lifespan, even to this day, seven decades later.

 

#5 The Paper Cranes are symbols of peace and action

 

1000 paper cranes at Oslo's Parliament building ahead of Nobel Peace Prize Award Ceremony

Paper cranes are a traditional Japanese symbol for good health, but they have also come to symbolize the Hibakusha – the survivors of the bombings. From the iconic story of Sadako’s 1000 paper cranes to the tireless efforts by Hibakusha to rid the world of nuclear weapons to this very day, their stories are stories of hope and determination that must not be lost. Survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are living witnesses to the horror of nuclear war and when we talk about nuclear weapons, we must talk about the real unacceptable effects they can have on human beings.  The paper cranes are not just a symbol of peace, but also a call to action. They are a reminder that we must keep pushing to see the #endofnukes.

To learn more, you can find a vast number of Hibakusha testimonies online, but good starting places are Hibakusha Stories and the 1945 project, as well as these resources by the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.

#6 There is a way to make sure it never happens again: the Nuclear Ban Treaty.

On July 7th, 2017, the UN adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This historic treaty bans nuclear weapons and all activities related to them. One it enters into force, this legally binding treaty will prohibit nations from:

  • Developing
  • Testing
  • Producing
  • Manufacturing
  • Transferring
  • Possessing
  • Stockpiling
  • using or threatening to use nuclear weapons
  • or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory.

The treaty also prohibits states from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of these activities and is the first international agreement on nuclear weapons that makes countries take action on the health and environmental legacies of past use and testing.

But the impact of the treaty also extends beyond its legal implications. With a ban in place, it becomes easier for all those who oppose nuclear weapons to call out those countries and institutions that carry out nuclear-weapons related activities. Every time someone speaks up against nuclear weapons and says: “I believe nuclear weapons are inhumane, immoral and illegal. All countries should join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” it chips away at their legitimacy. This kind of stigmatisation has been incredibly successful in the past, for the elimination of other weapons – such as landmines and chemical weapons – to changing social norms around behaviours – such as smoking.  If we all keep pushing, we can create a world where nuclear weapons are an unacceptable, nearly unbelievable thing of the past.  So say it, loud and say it often. And if you’re in a country that endorses nuclear weapons, demand change! You can find 5 concrete ways to take action here >> 

What's next: We have the nuclear Ban Treaty, here's who we're going to achieve it's purpose

 

#7 Countries around the world: hear the calls of the Hibakusha, join the Nuclear Ban Treaty

After decades of campaigning for a world free of nuclear-weapons, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons holds great significance for the Hibakusha. A recent survey among 6000 Hibakusha carried out by Kyodo News showed that a vast majority feel that Japan should join the U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons, underscoring their discontent with the government’s opposition to the agreement. Joining the treaty would represent a recognition by Japan of its affected citizens’ rights and suffering – continuing to oppose it on the other hand could be seen as a rejection of these.

The  #nuclearban will enter into force when 50 countries sign and ratify the treaty. World leaders must heed the calls of Hibakusha, and of concerned citizens around the world, for a nuclear-weapon-free future.

http://www.icanw.org/action/hiroshima-and-nagasaki-7-things-you-should-know/

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Dear Kejriwal, Transphobic Alka Lamba Must Aplogise!: Memorandum from Queer Groups and Activists

To

Sh. Arvind Kejriwal

The Hon’ble Chief Minister of Delhi

Dear Chief Minister,

The object of writing this letter to you is the welfare and the dignity of the transgender community. On the 29th of July, Ms. Alka Lamba, one of your party members and serving MLA from Chandni Chowk constituency, took to the online platform of Twitter to pass a comment on someone, understandably a political critique. In doing so, she referred to transgender persons as “beech wale” who clap loudly (“thaali peetna”). Her exact statement (translated into English) was this:  “Even the ‘middle ones’ don’t clap so much as this person does single handedly ! Clever people understand by a mere gesture”

We take severe offense at the fact that your party member and sitting MLA chose to ridicule trans people, to make her point about a third party, and that she used a deeply disrespectful and stereotyped reference to transgender persons. Further, despite she being notified of the same and being asked to withdraw the tweet as well as apologize by numerous people, she has neither pulled down the tweet nor has she apologized to the transgender community. The link to the tweet is here and a screenshot of the tweet (as it exists online today is attached) https://twitter.com/LambaAlka/status/1023632214347657216

This development comes at a time when your government has taken a progressive step to establish a Transgender Welfare Board in Delhi, after pursuit by friends from the transgender community, and it sullies the record of your party and the efforts of all those sensitive individuals in your party. How can a government trying to take steps towards the welfare of a community simultaneously allow its members to degrade the same community?

We wish to make it clear that it is not our objective to name and shame people, but what Alka Lamba did was not only wrong, it was extremely humiliating for an entire community and we hope she realizes the gravity of this. As your good self must be aware, just a few days back, Ms. Maneka Gandhi, the Union Minister for Women and Child Development also made some derogatory remarks and gestures about transgender persons inside the Parliament and had to apologize, owing to intense public pressure. While it is anybody’s discretion to criticize someone in a constructive way, it is definitely not alright to offend and denigrate a whole section of people in the garb of ‘critique’ of some third party or on the pretext of ‘lack of knowledge’.

It needs not reiteration that transgender individuals are human beings and equal citizens, with all rights under the Constitution as well as per the judgement of the Apex Court in NALSA and we deserve to be treated with dignity.  We, therefore, demand an immediate public apology from Ms. Lamba for her tweet and a withdrawal of the same. We also demand that AAP must issue a statement publicly condemning this tweet of its sitting MLA and assure the transgender community, especially in Delhi, that it would fully respect and implement the judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in NALSA versus Union of India, in all aspects and particularly would adopt a zero-tolerance approach as regards discrimination of transgender persons.

We shall support any genuine efforts from your government towards the well-being and strengthening of rights of the transgender community and hope that such incidents will not happen again. We also urge you to take adequate and consistent measures to sensitize your party members, at all levels, to ensure they don’t conduct themselves in a manner that cause offense or harm to other people, especially the marginalized and vulnerable sections.

Signed,

The Trans Community and Its Allies,

Organizations:

1. Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti (THITS)

2. Sampoorna Working Group – A Network of Trans & Intersex Indians.

3. Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS)

4. LABIA – A Queer Feminist LBT Collective Mumbai

5. Sangama

6. Karnataka Sex Workers Union

Individuals:

1. Grace Banu, Transrights Now Collective, Delhi

2. Bittu Karthik, Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti, WSS- Delhi, Karnataka Janashakti

3. Rihana Yadav, Community Empowerment Trust, Delhi

4. Satya Rai Nagpaul, Trans Activist, Delhi & Mumbai.

5. Anshu, Trans Activist, Delhi

6. Jamal, Transman Collective, Delhi

7. Meera Sanghamitra, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) & Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti (THITS)

8. Vyjayanthy Vasantha Mogi, Telangana Hijra Intersex Transgender Samiti (THITS)

9. Rachana Mudraboyina, Telangana Hijra Intersex transgender Samiti

10. Gee Imaan, Trans rights activist, Bangalore and Kerala

11. Esvi Anpu Kothazham, Transgender Person

12. Shyam Balasubramanian, Transman Coimbatore.

13. Kanaga Varathan, Transrights Activist, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

14. Rumi Harish, Trans Activist, Bangalore

15. Vihaan Peethambar, Board member – Queerala, an LGBTIQA+ organization

16. Shilpi Banerjee, Clinical Psychologist, Delhi

17. Uma, Jeeva Organization, Bangalore

18. Aaditya, Executive Board Member Tweet Foundation, Trans man, Delhi

19. Namrata Jaiswal, Activist and member of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Telangana State and working with Aman Vedika, a non profit organisation.

20. Nishank, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Youth Wing Convenor, Madhya Pradesh.

21. Dr. Sylvia Karpagam, Public Health Doctor and researcher, Karnataka

22.Madhu Bhushan, independent activist-writer, CIEDS Collective, Bangalore

23. Xavier Dias, Human Rights Activist, Editor Khan Kaneej Aur ADHIKAR.

24.Sreedhar, Managing Trustee, Environics Trust

25. Arundhati Dhuru NAPM

26.Nishi Khandelwal, Nirantar

27.Krishna Shree, M.A. student, Madras School of Social Work

28.Purnima Gupta, Feminist Activist, Delhi

29. Saswati Ghosh, Academic and activist, Kolkata

30. Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, Rajasthan

31. Pyoli Swatija, Advocate-on-record at Supreme Court of India

32. Anuradha Banerji, Independent researcher, New Delhi.

33. Urmila Chanam, Breaking the Silence, Ambassador World Pulse, UNFPA National Laadli Awardee, Iconic Women Awardee( WEF)

34. Badal Saroj , CPM, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

35.Amit Kumar, National Organizer, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM)

36.Roma, All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP), Uttar Prdaesh

37.Rishit Neogi, Ambedkar University Delhi

38.Vidya Dinker, Citizens Forum for Mangalore Development & INSAF

39.Gabriele Dietrich, Pennurimai Iyakkam, Tamil Nadu.

40.Basant Hetamsaria, NAPM, Jharkhand.

41.Sabita Parida, Independent Research and Evaluation Consultant New Delhi

42. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Feminist and Human Rights Activist, Mumbai

43. R. Indira, Basti Adhikar Manch

44. Chayanika Shah, Queer feminist activist, Mumbai

45. Kiran Shaheen, All India People’s Forum, (AIPF) New Delhi

46. Venkat Reddy, Child Rights Protection Forum, Hyderabad

47. Himshi Singh, NAPM-Delhi,

48. Uma; National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) , Uttarakhand

49. Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan and NAPM

50.Gautam Mody, New Trade Union Initiative (NTUI)

51.Tara Murali, Activist

52. Prof. C. Ramachandraiah, Centre for Economic and Social Studies, Hyderabad.

53. Ajita, People’s Union for Democratic Rights (New Delhi)

54. Prof. Padmaja Shah, Retired Dean of Journalism, Osmaina University, Hyd.

55. Samhita Barooah, Independent Researcher, Guwahati, Assam

56. Prof. Sujatha Surepally, Satavahana University, Telangana,

57. Suresh Ediga, Concerned Citizen

58. Nimisha Agarwal, Scientist, Activist

59. Komal Mohite, Activist, Delhi

60. Prof. Mary E John, Feminist Scholor, New Delhi

61. Adv. Shalini Gera, Chhattisgarh.

62. Priya Shkla, Advocate and Aam Aadmi Party, Youth Wing Convenor, Chhattisgarh.

63. Inji Pennu, Journalist, Global Voices

64. Kavitha Kuruganti , Farmers Rights Activist

65. Anjali Bhardwaj and Amrita Johri, Satark Nagrik Sangathan, New Delhi

66. Nita Mahadev, Social Activist, Gujarat

67. Anil Hebbar, Activist, Mumbai

68. Priya Pillai, Environmental and Social Activist, Delhi.

69. Nandini Rao, Feminist Activist and Trainer, New Delhi

70. Rinchin, Social Activist , Chhattisgarh

71. Madhuri, social activist, Jagrit Dalit Adivasi Sangathan, Madhya Pradesh

72. Uma V Chandru, Bangalore

73. Karuna, Chennai

74. Nisha Biswas, Civil Liberties Activist, W. Bengal

 

75. Seshagiri BV, Social Activist

76. Meena Seshu , Sangram, Sangli

77. Chitra Mathur, PhD scholar, Public Systems Group, IIM Ahmedabad

78. Dr. Sunilam, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti and Samajwadi Samagam, Madhya Pradesh

79. Manohar Elavarthi, Bengaluru, Swaraj Abhiyan

80. Shweta Tripathi, Social Activist, Delhi

81. Maj Gen (Read.) S.G.Vombatkere  Mysore

82. Satyam Shrivastava, SRUTI, Delhi

83. Ashok Choudhary, All India Union of Forest Working People

84. Joe Athialy, Activist, New Delhi

85. Shakun Doundiyakhed, Feminist Consultant

86. Ashwini Kamal, Activist

87. Vasavi Lori, Journalist-Activist, Jharkhand

88. Devangana Kalita, Pinjra Tod

89. Ravi Rebbapragada, Mines Minerals and People

90. Geeta Gairola, Uttarakhand Mahila Manch, Dehradun

 

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India – Activists call for scrapping of UIDAI #ScrapAadhaar #DestroyAadhaar

Aadhaar in time of data theft scare:

While many activists advocate for UIDAI to be shut down to put an end to the debate, the call has had little success over the months.

Express News Service

COIMBATORE: The introduction of Aadhaar has not gone well with a large section of the masses, given the issue of privacy and date security.

The challenge put forth by TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) Chief R S Sharma and the way it backfired only helped spread the apprehensions over Aadhaar and UIDAI’s (Unique Identification Authority of India) ability to hold sensitive information secure.

While many activists advocate for UIDAI to be shut down to put an end to the debate, the call has had little success over the months.

Usha Ramanathan, a Supreme Court lawyer, is a strong advocate of this idea. “The only solution to keep our identity and data safe is to scrap UIDAI,” she tells Express.

Explaining the mechanism behind Aadhaar, she explains that it will use three numbers — Jandhan Yojana (bank account number), Aadhar number and Mobile number (JAM) — to identify someone.

“As these three numbers are linked everywhere and is mandatory in the government system, our data has become insecure,” she claims. She points out that with this information, identity theft would become far more dangerous.

While the Supreme Court has stayed the government order making Aadhaar mandatory for many of its schemes, the Central government has ignored the order and made Aadhaar as the primary identification proof for a lot of services.

“After the court ruled that privacy is a fundamental right, the Centre asked what harm would come of (someone) having your data. They could not accept that creating such a vulnerable system itself was harmful enough and once someone had our information, then it is very easy to play around with it,” she says, citing several incidents of creating bank accounts and fake insurance policies, without even the consent of the person concerned.

Speaking about the system’s vulnerability, a Coimbatore-based member of Cyber Society of India S N Ravichandran says that hackers could even extract money from an individual’s bank account by using their Aadhaar details. “Once the data is out to private partners and other enterprises at the time of registering for a service or getting a SIM card, you cannot protect it anymore,” he says.

Besides, the system of redressal also seems a little out of reach. Even if you were to find out that your bank account was hacked with the help of your Aadhaar details, according to UID Act, it would be the UIDAI and not you who can file a complaint, points out Ravi.

Denying the charges raised by Ravi that the system is vulnerable and could lead to a data breach, Bengaluru-based data scientist G Arvind claims that Aadhaar is completely safe. Any breach in data or incidents of misuse could not have happened without the consent of the individual, he suggests.

While public worry that their data is being passed on to private mobile operators, Arvind clarifies that Aadhaar only gives access to validate the identity number under the Know Your Customer portal and not the individual’s data.

Officials of UIDAI working in South India refused to comment on the aspect of data security.

http://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2018/aug/06/aadhaar-in-time-of-data-theft-scare-activists-call-for-scrapping-of-uidai-1853889.html

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Assam- Inside The Foreigners Tribunals-‘What’s Going On Is Really Unfair’

“I wonder who was declared a foreigner today.”

Inside Barpeta's Foreigners Tribunals, where those whose nationality is in doubt must prove they are Indian citizens.

ROHINI MOHAN FOR HUFFPOST INDIA
Inside Barpeta’s Foreigners Tribunals, where those whose nationality is in doubt must prove they are Indian citizens.

BARPETA, Assam — When Fazlul Ahmed came home from court every evening, his wife Haseeba could tell in an instant how his day went. If it was good, he would hand her his heavy bag of files, and ask for tea. If it was bad, he would call out to their children—he needed their bright madness to dispel the dark clouds.

As dusk fell on August 2, 2018, Ahmed yelled, “Farzeena!” even before he opened the gate. As his three-year-old daughter ran towards him, Haseeba watched. “I wonder who was declared a foreigner today,” she said.

An advocate in Barpeta district, 40-year-old Ahmed has been working in Foreigners Tribunals for about eight years, defending people whose Indian nationality is in question. It is not a long career, but it is intensely personal to Ahmed – his first case in the tribunal was his own. The second case was his mother’s. The third, his father’s. All were alleged as doubtful voters, but by 2014, he managed to clear them all as Indian.

After delivering victories for most of his clients initially, since 2017, he has found his success rate plummeting. “The tribunals are declaring more and more people foreigners,” Ahmed said. “Nothing I do and none of the papers we show seem to convince the judges.” In the past year, all of his over 40 clients – largely poor Bengali-speaking farmers who could barely afford the bus fare to come to court – were declared foreigners.

Nothing I do and none of the papers we show seem to convince the judges.

Guilt-ridden, Ahmed blamed himself. “Maybe I was not a good enough lawyer,” he said he began to think. But when he observed other hearings in the eleven tribunals in Barpeta district more closely to take pointers, he was appalled. “Every other lawyer was also failing!” In FT No. 3 for instance, he counted 25 judgements in the last 60 days – every single one declared the petitioners as foreigners.

Fourteen lawyers this reporter interviewed across the 11 foreigners tribunals in Barpeta confirmed Ahmed’s observations. Three others who work in Tezpur, and three lawyers in Guwahati also agreed. They described the process variously as “heart breaking”, “arbitrary”, “too strict”, “politicised” and “intentionally unjust”. One senior litigator said he stopped taking tribunal cases because he was miserable. “Legality and documents don’t seem to matter in the tribunals,” he said.

Legality and documents don’t seem to matter in the tribunals.

READ: This Man Moved Supreme Court To Have 40 Lakh People In Assam Declared Non-Indians

There are 100 foreigners tribunals in Assam; of these 64 were set up in 2015, to bolster the enormous exercise of determining illegal immigrants in the state through the National Register of Citizens (NRC). Under an accord signed at the end of a massive anti-foreigner agitation in Assam in the eighties, anyone who entered the state after 24 March 1971 – the day before neighbouring Bangladesh declared independence – is considered an illegal immigrant.

The bureaucratic NRC and quasi-judicial tribunals may seem like parallel systems, but NRC’s state coordinator Prateek Hajela agreed that “they feed into each other”. In the final draft of the NRC released on July 30, 2018, of the over 40 lakh people left out, more than 2.48 lakh applicants were automatically put on hold: declared foreigners, doubtful voters (controversially disenfranchised in 1997 and 2005) with cases pending in the tribunals, and all their descendants and siblings.

Anyone the tribunal declares a foreigner—and his/her family – has no chance of appearing on the citizenship registry. The border police of Assam (the only state to have one such force) apprehends such foreigners, keeps them in one of the six detention camps in the state, and finally deports them.

When the stakes are so high, how the tribunals operate becomes significant.

Till December 2016, 80,194 people were declared foreigners, and the number increased to 93,399 in February 2018. In 14 months alone, an astounding 13,205 people have been declared foreigners – that’s 943 every month. In the month of February, of 2116 cases disposed, 72 percent were deemed foreigners.

HuffPost India has asked the Home and Political Department of the Assam government, under whose jurisdiction foreigners tribunals fall, for annual data on the number of declared foreigners in the past five years. When a response is received, this article will be updated.

When the stakes are so high, how the tribunals operate becomes significant.

 

ROHINI MOHAN FOR HUFFPOST INDIA
Families wait nervously for their loved ones to finish their trial in Foreigners Tribunal 2.

‘What’s going on is really unfair’

All of Barpeta’s foreigner tribunals are clustered around an administrative block in town. They’re a few hundred metres apart, connected by a continuous stream of human anxiety and uncertainty. Buses and share-autos spit out poor men and women holding plastic covers that hold every conception of an Indian existence: residency, land tenancy, refuge, ancestry, licensed driving, birth, death, marriage, graduation, employment, taxes.

Three tribunals established in 1985 are in state-owned buildings adjacent to the crumbling moss-coated sessions courts. Dozy policemen hang around, junior lawyers woo clients in parking lots, and petitioners spend the long waits sipping tea or chewing supari. Four of the eight tribunals set up in 2015 are simply rented rooms in a fluorescent-green shopping complex with a wide Samsung board from an electronic appliances showroom.

The tribunals are governed by the Foreigner’s Act of 1946, which places the burden of proof on the accused person to prove that she is an Indian citizen. Most D-voters are poor and illiterate people of Bengali-origin, suspected of having entered illegally from Bangladesh. When they do have documents, they furnish yellowing and fraying pre-1971 voter lists of their parents, refugee cards in some instances, and land records.

Issued by different authorities in Bengali, Assamese, and English, written in ink, or printed, stamped and verified repeatedly over various phases of anti-immigrant programmes in Assam, they are a historical account of an unstable life in a densely populated multi-ethnic region that saw much strife for decades.

Nine of the eleven tribunals in Barpeta are sparsely furnished, but heavily guarded by the border police. A few tables, stacks of plastic chairs. Some rooms have fans, some don’t. There are CCTVs everywhere.

In foreigner tribunal No. 6, sitting on a plastic chair in the middle of a room that serves as the court, the member quibbled about 40-year-old Abdul Saleem’s father’s age. “Nourul Islam is 30 in the 1951 record, and 95 in the 1966 electoral roll,” he said in Assamese.

Saleem shrugged. “It is a clerical error, please,” his obsequious lawyer said in English. “Obviously, it was 45.”

“What was your father’s age when you were born?” the member asked Saleem, who looked petrified and raised his fingers to calculate.

“You don’t even know? Nourul Islam is a projected father,” said the member, handing the papers back to Saleem.

From 1985 to July 2018, tribunals in Barpeta have declared 2,284 people foreigners — 287 of them, after long retrials in the higher courts, were rejudged Indian. Over 25,000 cases are pending in the tribunals here today.

A senior border policeman posted in the tribunals for a year now, watching proceedings all day, shook his head. “Things are terrible here. What’s going on is really unfair,” he said. “These poor people they’re declaring as Bangladeshi – they are all Indian, all Indian.”

These poor people they’re declaring as Bangladeshi – they are all Indian, all Indian.

 

ROHINI MOHAN FOR HUFFPOST INDIA
A view of the shopping complex rented for four Foreigners Tribunals in Barpeta

‘Our hands are tied’

Until 2015, tribunal members were retired district court judges or additional district judges. After more tribunals were added, any practising lawyer over 55 years of age on 1 April, 2015, and with 10 years of experience, was eligible.

“Earlier, the tribunal members wouldn’t bother much about small clerical errors,” said advocate Peer Jahan, who has represented over 100 ‘doubtful voters’. If Ayyub was spelled Ayub in two different documents, the member would check to see if the house number matched. “But today, in the same situation, the new member will declare Ayub a foreigner, because of a clerical error that is not his fault.”

Members, as the adjudicators in the tribunals are called, are on two-year contracts. The Assam government’s department of home and political affairs pays them a monthly salary of Rs. 80,000. On 21 June 2017, nineteen members were dismissed for their “under performance in the last two years”. More than 15 others were warned strictly to increase their efficiency. In a petition in the Supreme Court, some of them have challenged the non-extension of contract as “illegal and discriminatory action”.

Huffpost India contacted some former tribunal members, but they refused to speak citing subjudice.

When asked about political influence, a current tribunal member in Barpeta, while turning down this reporter’s request for an interview, said, “Our hands are tied, madam. We are under a lot of pressure to show good results.”

Our hands are tied, madam. We are under a lot of pressure to show good results.

 

Good results seem to come from bad justice. “Many tribunals don’t have public prosecutors,” said Guwahati-based lawyer Aman Wadud. “Some members cross examine people like public prosecutors. In many cases they declare people foreigners on hyper technicalities like spelling errors, small age differences, appearance of titles like Ali, Ahmed, Biwas or Das in the citizenship documents.”

Hafiz Rashid Ahmed Choudhury, senior advocate at the Gauhati High Court said the powers of the tribunal members are actually limited. “They are supposed to only give their opinion on whether a person came after or before 1971, not give judgements, call for revoking ration cards, or have the police detain anyone.” But this happens widely.

If people who are served notices fail to turn up for trial, the tribunal declares them foreigners in their absence. This makes them liable to be jailed in detention camps. In a report on the whole process, activist and former member of the National Human Rights Commission Harsh Mander writes that since there is no formal agreement between India and Bangladesh governments for India to deport persons declared foreigners, “At present, it appears that they may actually be detained for the rest of their lives.”

Lawyers and activists insist that tribunal members should at least be sourced from the Assam judicial service. An advocate for 20 years in Barpeta, Montaz Ali said that today, people could only hope for justice through appeals in the high court and Supreme Court. “But how many can afford that?”

Many tribunals don’t have public prosecutors.

 

ROHINI MOHAN FOR HUFFPOST INDIA
Foreigners Tribunals in Barpeta was established in 1985. Eight were added in 2015.

Geeta Barman

Geeta Barman (name changed) sat on her haunches at the bottom of the unpainted stairs of the newer tribunals. The humidity had carried the vermillion to the tip of her nose in a red dollop, but she did not notice. She and her three brothers were doubtful voters.

The men submitted school admit certificates to establish a link to their father, born in India in 1948, and therefore within Assam’s 1971 cut-off date for Indian citizenship. Having never gone to school and married off as a teenager, 32-year-old Geeta had only one document, a certificate from the headman of her father’s village certifying that she was her father’s daughter and moved to her husband’s village after marriage.

“The judge”—as many people call the tribunal members— “asked for my father and brothers to come as witnesses today.” A farm labourer in a village 60kms away, she has already spent Rs.12,000 on lawyers, documentation and transport. “My father is 70 and can’t walk, so we hired an auto to bring him.” It would be worth it if she could prove she’s Indian.

Later that evening, when this reporter met the father, he burst into tears. “The judge asked me if Geeta was my daughter. I said yes. Then he asked me her age. I said maybe 25.”

Since Geeta is 32, and not 25, she was declared a foreigner.

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/

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Kerala Catholic priest rape case: Was minor victim coerced to say sex was consensual? #Vaw

The girl had delivered a baby and DNA tests proved that the priest is the father. Efforts are now on to prove that she was not a minor during the time of the crime.

It was a case that had rocked Kerala. A 48-year-old Catholic priest was arrested for raping and impregnating a 16-year-old girl. The arrest came despite much resistance from the Church and its allied networks. Now, more than a year after Father Robin Vadakumchery of the Mananthavady diocese was arrested, the survivor and the prime witness in the case told the POCSO court at Thalassery in Kannur district that she had consensual sex with the priest.

What has come as a bigger shock for the prosecution is that the survivor claimed that she had attained the age of consent when she had sex with the accused in 2016. The statement by the survivor, who is now an adult, has made the court declare her as hostile. The survivor has also told the court that she was ready to marry Father Robin Vadakkumchery and lead a life with him and their child.

The survivor’s mother, the second witness in the case, too has changed her statement in court. She told the court on Thursday that Thankamma Nelliyani (second accused, who worked at the maternity hospital) and her daughter Liz Maria (sixth accused) had not played any role in hiding the newborn.

TNM spoke to officers of the Childline and the police department who had unearthed the case and had tracked down nine suspects in 2017. They believe that the survivor and her family were under pressure from the accused and his coterie to change their statements.

A Childline officer TNM spoke to pointed out that the trajectory of the case was enough to show that there had been tremendous pressure on the family and the survivor. In February 2017, the girl delivered her baby in Christu Raj hospital, owned and managed by a Christian congregation. The survivor was informed that the infant had died, and meanwhile three people from the Christu Das convent in Wayanad took the baby from the hospital to an orphanage in Wayanad.

Even the Chairman of the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) Fr. John Therakom was sacked by the Kerala government for his role in the cover-up.

Childline officials had received an anonymous tip off about the baby’s birth and when they confronted the family, the girl’s father first claimed that he had raped and impregnated his own daughter.

“He was under such immense pressure that he was ready to take the blame and owned up to a heinous crime that he had never committed. But soon, he broke down and said that it was Father Robin’s baby, and that has been established beyond doubt with DNA tests,” said the Childline officer.

A police officer, who was part of the investigating team told TNM that the survivor and her mother’s claim that she was 18 during the time of crime, was the only way Father Robin could ensure he was not punished under POCSO.

Sunday Shalom, a magazine supported by the Catholic Sabha in Kerala, had also acknowledged that the girl was a minor. In 2017, the magazine had written these reprehensible lines: “Here, the girl is above the age of 15. Let me tell you this, as I consider you like my daughter – you are also at fault. Before the Lord, it is you who will have to answer first. Daughter, why did you forget who a priest is? He has a human body and has temptations. He may have forgotten his position for a few seconds, my child who has taken the Holy Communion, why didn’t you stop or correct him?”

https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/kerala-catholic-priest-rape-case-was-minor-victim-coerced-say-sex-was-consensual-85902

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Defence Of Insanity Can Be Claimed By Female Suffering From Premenstrual Stress Syndrome: Rajasthan HC

BY: ASHOK KINI


‘Although the law has not much developed in India as to the Premenstrual Stress Syndrome being set up as the defense of insanity, yet the accused has a right to plead and probabilize such defence to show that she was suffering from ‘premenstrual stress syndrome’ when the crime was committed and because of her such condition, the offence that she committed was an involuntary act on her part, inasmuch owing to this fact, she was labouring under the defect of reason or was suffering from psychological disorder or unsoundness of mind.’

The Rajasthan High Court has acquitted a woman accused of murdering a child, on the ground that, at the time of the incident she was suffering from insanity triggered by premenstrual stress syndrome (PMS syndrome).

The prosecution case against Chandra was that she pushed three kids into well. Though two of them were rescued, one boy had died. Although it was pleaded before the trial court that she was suffering from mental disease known as premenstrual stress syndrome which made her aggressive few days prior to menses, the trial court convicted her for murder and attempt to murder.

A bench of Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Goverdhan Bardhar took note that three doctors have deposed in this case to the effect that the accused was suffering from premenstrual stress syndrome. The bench also perused their statement and also various books on the disease.

One of the doctors who had treated the accused had stated that a few females do not remain normal in the days proceeding to menses and may even become aggressive and violent and sometimes they may even commit suicide. Another doctor had stated that the symptoms of PMS in the accused were very severe when she visited his house and she was quite aggressive and that he had to give her tranquilizer.

The bench quoted one such article on PMS published in the Duke Law Journal which said: “Premenstrual stress syndrome (PMS syndrome) is a disorder afflicting many women.’ The symptoms of PMS syndrome include excessive thirst and appetite, bloating, headaches, anxiety, depression, irritability, and general lethargy. Diagnosis depends on the timing of the symptoms rather than on their type, number, or severity; not all patients experience all possible symptoms. The symptoms develop and increase in intensity from seven to fourteen days prior to the onset of menses and disappear rapidly thereafter. PMS syndrome can range in severity from mild to incapacitating, in both a physical and psychological sense.”

The bench, acquitting the accused, said: “Although the law has not much developed in India as to the Premenstrual Stress Syndrome being set up as the defense of insanity, yet the accused has a right to plead and probabilize such defence to show that she was suffering from ‘premenstrual stress syndrome’ when the crime was committed and because of her such condition, the offence that she committed was an involuntary act on her part, inasmuch owing to this fact, she was labouring under the defect of reason or was suffering from psychological disorder or unsoundness of mind. She can, within the scope of Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, set up such a plea and substantiate the same by evidence.”

Read the Judgment Here

http://www.livelaw.in/defence-of-insanity-can-be-claimed-by-female-suffering-from-premenstrual-stress-syndrome-rajasthan-hc-read-judgment/

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Will Mallya extradition woes provide incentive to rectify conditions in Indian jails?

The truth is that almost all Indian prisons are far from compatible with Minimum Human Rights standards.

ARUN FERREIRA AND VERNON GONSALVES

The latest twist in the Mallya affair has been a cause of much indignation as well as mirth. The London extradition court, on July 31, 2018, called for a proper video showing adequate access to natural light and fresh air at Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail. While some edit writers angrily want the United Kingdom to look at its own jails, cartoonists are having a field day caricaturing how Vijay Mallya could sunbathe in jail.

The ire of people yearning to bring a privileged rogue to justice is understandable. Mallya should not be allowed to go scot free. The bitter truth, however, is that it is often celebrity moments like this that serve to shed light on the country’s miserable human rights record and even provide the push to make some amends.

Extradition Law and Human Rights

When Judge Emma Arbuthnot of the Westminster Magistrates’ Court asked for better evidence that minimum prison conditions would be complied with at Arthur Road, she was only acting according to a well-settled position in British law.

This law was explicated in a 2015 landmark England and Wales High Court judgment (paras 49 and 50) on an Italian request for extradition and was applied in the October 2017 judgment (para 30) that rejected the Indian request for extradition of international bookie Sanjeev Kumar Chawla.

It is in accordance with Section 87 of the UK Extradition Act, which requires the Judge to decide whether the extradition would be compatible with European Human Rights Convention rights and compliance with their Prison Rules.

Much of the discussion in the Indian media seems to suggest that British courts are unfairly demanding European standards from Indian prisons. However, the Indian government too is party to the adoption in 2015 by the UN General Assembly of the United Nations Minimum Rules for the treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) which stipulate similar conditions.

Judge Arbuthnot’s specific concerns are reflected in Rule 14 of the Nelson Mandela Rules which requires that “windows shall be large enough to enable the prisoners to read and work by natural light and shall be so constructed that they can allow the entrance of fresh air”.

panel-1-copy_080418022707.jpg(Illustration: Arun Ferriera and Vernon Gonsalves)

The truth is that almost all Indian prisons and particularly Arthur Road Jail are far from compatible with Minimum Human Rights standards. On the particular aspect of “natural light” and “fresh air”, the High-Security areas of Arthur Road are extremely deficient.

Vernon Gonsalves, one of the co-authors of this piece has had personal experience in this regard. His first realisation of the impact of this deficiency came on the day he and his co-accused, Sridhar Srinivasan were produced in court after a gap. One of the defence lawyers, who had first seen them immediately after arrest, commented, “You guys are looking fair”.

This newly acquired complexion was however not some fairness cream creation. They had by then spent some months in Barrack No 5 of the High-Security Anda Circle of the Arthur Road Jail. This is a single-cell barrack which had housed Abu Salem during the first few months after he had been extradited from Portugal. Its architecture prevents direct sunlight from reaching the cell or even the 10×3 feet patch that passes for a barrack courtyard. This had brought about the paleface look.

Anda Barracks 1 to 4 are only slightly better off. Here too the sun cannot reach any of the cells. It however pays short visits to some corners of the courtyards. As barracks are always overcrowded and only a few can get a chance, there is a rush to catch a place in the sun.

Proper access to sunlight was only possible after obtaining medical sanction or a court order. The patient would then be let out of the barrack and allowed to stand for a specified period near the Anda Circle watchtower which is exposed to the sun. In the absence of sunlight, reading is only possible with artificial light. The tube-lights are on twenty-four hours.

Cross ventilation and fresh air in the Anda is non-existent. All the cells of the Anda Circles in the prisons of Maharashtra have been built without windows. These cells, constructed from the 1980s onwards, have only security in mind.

They have even ignored the stipulation of the Maharashtra Prison Manual that requires free and thorough ventilation “by the provisions of large barred doors and windows constructed in opposite walls”. The substitute for windows are densely meshed holes of less than six-inch diameter placed very high up on the wall facing the gate. These “openings” are normally blocked by birds’ nests and other accumulated dirt, preventing any passage of air. Fans too only came in 2011.

Steel encased Circle No 12

Worse than Anda Circle is Circle no 12, which was reconstructed in 2009 for Ajmal Kasab, then facing trial in the 2008 Mumbai attacks case. Security agencies had found that new under-construction high-rise towers coming up in the jail’s vicinity offered direct line of sight into some corners of the Anda, making those portions potentially vulnerable to a sniper attack. Kasab, who was first kept alone in the six-cell Anda Barrack No 1 was soon shifted to the seven-cell Anda Barrack No 4 for this very reason.

The solution finally thought up was to construct a completely enclosed barrack, which could keep Kasab closeted away from sniper bullets. For good measure, the place was encased in steel sheeting – apparently to make it bomb proof. Obviously natural light and fresh air was nowhere a priority in the plan. Being totally cut off from the outside world, no one heard of any complaint from Kasab till his execution in November 2012.

However, the next occupant – Zabiuddin Ansari, another accused in the same 2008 Mumbai attacks case – went on a two-month hunger strike in 2015 protesting his prison conditions. He even petitioned the Supreme Court stating that he was “being detained in a cell without windows, illuminated only by a high-voltage electric bulb that is never switched off, making the cell seem like a “furnace”. Amnesty International too campaigned on his behalf. There were however no reports on any major change made in this regard.

panel-2-copy_080418023828.jpg(Illustration: Arun Ferriera and Vernon Gonsalves)

This is where Mallya is proposed to be lodged. Later entry of VIP prisoners in this section has seen the addition of facilities like western style commodes. There can, however, be no solution to the lack of natural light and fresh air. The government seems to have tried to get around this by manufacturing photographs of a naturally lit and well-ventilated setting that does not actually exist.

Judge Arbuthnot, however, caught them in the act. The Times of Indiareports that she pointed out that a shadow cast by a “distinctively shaped grill above the door” to the barrack “does not appear to be the sort of shadow cast by natural light”.

In fact, she plainly charged the Indian side with fabrication and manipulation. “The only way of getting that photo is to shine a bright light through that grill and open the doors to get it shining into the barrack. That cannot be a photo of natural light on any view,” she said. “There is no angle of the sun that I can conceive of other than by manipulation of the doors where light is shining in that way.”

Confronting and correcting human rights abuse

Going by these observations of the London court and the actual lack of light and air in the cells of Circle No 12 of Arthur Road, the government is likely to have a tough time at the next court date. The British judiciary may not also be inclined to be lenient with a state that has already sullied its reputation by violating its extradition treaty with Portugal in the Abu Salem matter.

The media has quoted unnamed Home Ministry officials who asserted that Arthur Road Jail was one of India’s best – a tall claim for a place that is horribly overcrowded with nearly 3000 inmates for a capacity of 804, ie over three and half times the limit. They want to convince the UK court that prisons in India were as good as in any other country in the world and prisoners’ rights were fully protected in Indian jails.

This sound more like bravado and bluff and will call for further fabrication at the next hearing. The reality is that Indian prison conditions are inhuman and the government is doing precious little about it. The dismal factual situation is disclosed at every hearing of an ongoing five-year-old writ petition in the Supreme Court initiated by former Chief Justice of India, RC Lahoti, entitled Re-Inhuman Conditions in 1382 Prisons.

Meeran Chadha Borwankar, who was in charge of all Maharashtra Prisons, including Arthur Road, for over three years between 2012 and 2015 has a more honest response to the UK Court’s directions. She, in a signed article, squarely admits that “In fact, the prison administration in most states is understaffed and overworked, while prisons are overcrowded. The facilities are too basic, and even hygiene is a serious issue. Skin and pulmonary infections are common; medical facilities are average to poor.”

She suggests that “the UK court can be told that the facilities at Arthur Road are very basic, and Vijay Mallya, having been brought up in India, cannot feign ignorance. …It’s now time for him to reap what he has sown. Barrack No 12 at the Arthur Road Jail, is waiting for an undertrial — not a VIP.”

Such bluntness will certainly not bring Mallya back. It could, however, save our country the ignominy of being called a liar by a foreign court. It could help us to more sincerely confront our human rights abuses and start us on the path of rectifying them.

https://www.dailyo.in/politics/arthur-road-prison-natural-light-vijay-mallya-extradition/story/1/25875.html

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Marching for Peace: From Helmand to Hiroshima

Okinawa to Hiroshima Peace Walk
Photo credit: Maya Evans

I have just arrived in Hiroshima with a group of Japanese “Okinawa to Hiroshima peace walkers” who had spent nearly two months walking Japanese roads protesting U.S. militarism.  While we were walking, an Afghan peace march that had set off in May was enduring 700km of Afghan roadsides, poorly shod, from Helmand province to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul. Our march watched the progress of theirs with interest and awe.  The unusual Afghan group had started off as 6 individuals, emerging out of a sit-in protest and hunger strike in the Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah, after a suicide attack there created dozens of casualties. As they started walking their numbers soon swelled to 50 plus as the group braved roadside bombs, fighting between warring parties and exhaustion from desert walking during the strict fast month of Ramadan.

The Afghan march, which is believed to be the first of its kind, is asking for a long-term ceasefire between warring parties and the withdrawal of foreign troops. One peace walker, named Abdullah Malik Hamdard, felt that he had nothing to lose by joining the march. He said: “Everybody thinks they will be killed soon, the situation for those alive is miserable. If you don’t die in the war, the poverty caused by the war may kill you, which is why I think the only option left for me is to join the peace convoy.”

The Japanese peace walkers marched to specifically halt the construction of a U.S. airfield and port with an ammunition depot in Henoko, Okinawa, which will be accomplished by landfilling Oura Bay, a habitat for the dugong and unique coral hundreds of years old, but many more lives are endangered. Kamoshita Shonin, a peace walk organizer who lives in Okinawa, says: “People in mainland Japan do not hear about the extensive bombings by the U.S. in the Middle East and Afghanistan, they are told that the bases are a deterrent against North Korea and China, but the bases are not about protecting us, they are about invading other countries. This is why I organised the walk.”  Sadly, the two unconnected marches shared one tragic cause as motivation.

Recent U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan include the deliberate targeting of civilian wedding parties and funerals, incarceration without trial and torture in Bagram prison camp, the bombing of an MSF hospital in Kunduz, the dropping of the ‘Mother of all bombs’ in Nangarhar, illegal transportation of Afghans to secret black site prisons, Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and the extensive use of armed drones. Elsewhere the U.S. has completely destabilised the Middle East and Central Asia, according to The Physicians for Social Responsibilityin a report released in 2015, stated that the U.S. interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone killed close to 2 million, and that the figure was closer to 4 million when tallying up the deaths of civilians caused by the U.S. in other countries, such as Syria and Yemen.

The Japanese group intend to offer prayers of peace this Monday at Hiroshima ground zero, 73 years to the day after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on the city, instantly evaporating 140,000 lives, arguably one of the worst ‘single event’ war crimes committed in human history. Three days later the U.S. hit Nagasaki instantly killing 70,000. Four months after the bombing the total death toll had reached 280,000 as injuries and the impact of radiation doubled the number of fatalities.

Today Okinawa, long a target for discrimination by Japanese authorities, accommodates 33 U.S. military bases, occupying 20% of the land, housing some 30,000 plus U.S. Marines who carry out dangerous training exercises ranging from rope hangs suspended out of Osprey helicopters (often over built-up residential areas), to jungle trainings which run straight through villages, arrogantly using people’s gardens and farms as mock conflict zones. Of the 14,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan, many to most would have trained on Okinawa, and even flown out directly from the Japanese Island to U.S. bases such as Bagram.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan the walkers, who call themselves the ‘People’s Peace Movement’, are following up their heroic ordeal with protests outside various foreign embassies in Kabul.  This week they are outside the Iranian Embassy demanding an end to Iranian interference in Afghan matters and their equipping armed militant groups in the country. It is lost on no-one in the region that the U.S., which cites such Iranian interference as its pretext for building up towards a U.S.-Iran war, is an incomparably more serious supplier of deadly arms and destabilizing force to the region. They have staged sit-in protests outside the U.S., Russian, Pakistani and U.K. embassies, as well as the U.N. offices in Kabul.

The head of their impromptu movement, Mohammad Iqbal Khyber, says the group have formed a committee comprised of elders and religious scholars. The assignment of the committee is to travel from Kabul to Taliban-controlled areas to negotiate peace.

The U.S. have yet to describe its long term or exit strategy for Afghanistan. Last December Vice President Mike Pence addressed U.S. troops in Bagram: “I say with confidence, because of all of you and all those that have gone before and our allies and partners, I believe victory is closer than ever before.”

But time spent walking doesn’t bring your destination closer when you don’t have a map.  More recently U.K. ambassador for Afghanistan Sir Nicholas Kay, while speaking on how to resolve conflict in Afghanistan said: “I don’t have the answer.”  There never was a military answer for Afghanistan.  Seventeen years of ‘coming closer to victory’ in eliminating a developing nation’s domestic resistance is what is called “defeat,” but the longer the war goes on, the greater the defeat for Afghanistan’s people.

Historically the U.K. has been closely wedded to the U.S. in their ‘special relationship’, sinking British lives and money into every conflict the U.S. has initiated. This means the U.K. was complicit in dropping 2,911 weapons on Afghanistan in the first 6 months of 2018, and in President Trump’s greater-than-fourfold average increase on the number of bombs dropped daily by his warlike predecessors. Last month Prime Minister Theresa May increased the number of British troops serving in Afghanistan to more than 1,000, the biggest U.K. military commitment to Afghanistan since David Cameron withdrew all combat troops four years ago.

Unbelievably, current headlines read that after 17 years of fighting, the U.S. and Afghan Government are considering collaboration with the extremist Taliban in order to defeat ISKP, the local ‘franchise’ of Daesh.

Meanwhile UNAMA has released its mid-year assessment of the harm done to civilians. It found that more civilians were killed in the first six months of 2018 than in any year since 2009, when UNAMA started systematic monitoring. This was despite the Eid ul-Fitr ceasefire, which all parties to the conflict, apart from ISKP, honoured.

Every day in the first six months of 2018, an average of nine Afghan civilians, including two children, were killed in the conflict. An average of nineteen civilians, including five children, were injured every day.

This October Afghanistan will enter its 18th year of war with the U.S. and supporting NATO countries. Those young people now signing up to fight on all sides were in nappies when 9/11 took place. As the ‘war on terror’ generation comes of age, their status quo is perpetual war, a complete brainwashing that war is inevitable, which was the exact intention of warring decision makers who have become exceedingly rich of the spoils of war.

Optimistically there is also a generation who are saying “no more war, we want our lives back”, perhaps the silver lining of the Trump cloud is that people are finally starting to wake up and see the complete lack of wisdom behind the U.S. and its hostile foreign and domestic policies, while the people follow in the steps of non-violent peace makers such as Abdul Ghafoor Khan, the change is marching from the bottom up.

Maya Evans is co-coordinator for Voices for Creative Nonviolence UK and has visited Afghanistan 9 times since 2011; she is a writer and a Councillor for her town in Hastings, England.

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Kis Kis Ko Quaid Karogey- Campaign Against State Repression on Rights Activists over 4000 people participated

The protest programme at Parliament Street in Delhi by Campaign Against State Repression on Rights Activists saw the participation of over four thousand people.

The protest programme at Parliament Street in Delhi by Campaign Against State Repression on Rights Activists saw the participation of over four thousand people.

Campaign Against State Repression on Rights Activists

August 3rd 2018

The protest programme at Parliament Street in Delhi by Campaign Against State Repression on Rights Activists saw the participation of over four thousand people from Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and all other parts of the country. The programme was presided by Professor G Haragopal. Justice BG Kolse Patil, D Raja, Manorajan Mohanty, Arundhati Roy, Dharamvir Gandhi, S Vanchinathan and others addressed the gathering. The programme began with cultural performances from Praja Kala Mandali from Andhra and Telangana, and cultural organisations from Punjab and Haryana.

 

Setting the stage for the programme, Prof. Haragopal laid out the purpose of the programme and welcomed the gathering. Advocate S Vanchinathan, the lawyer who was fighting for the release of residents of Thoothkudi who subsequently found himself jailed under draconian and colonial laws like the Goondas Act, spoke of the struggles of the people of Tamil Nadu. He reminded the gathering that the struggle against Sterlite in Thoothkudi has strong similarities with the struggle of Maruti Suzuki workers in Haryana. In both cases, the government in power did everything in its capacity to protect the interests of the corporations over the people of this country. He said, the TN police under the instructions of Sterlite-Vedanta Company imposed a ban on internet, created a condition of fear and ordered the firing on the people of Thoothkudi. After the targeted shooting of TN Commandos was released, the BJP government along with the Intelligence Bureau started claiming that the protests were a Naxalite conspiracy. He stated that the current government, the BJP, is doing everything in its power to invent enemies to justify its actions. Justice BG Kolse Patil reminded us that we must remember that we have evidence of the crimes of former CM of Gujarat Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in light of the 2002 Gujarat massacre of Muslims. Justice Patil said, two classes of people exist in India – the struggling people of the country and the parasitic class who live on the labour of the struggling masses. The people who neither believe in democracy nor the Constitution are sitting in Parliament today and what we face today is an unprecedented case of an undeclared Emergency. He warned against the Brahmanical nature of the state that is crippling all the democratic institutions, including the education system, by negating the collective intelligence of the country. This, he felt, is something we should strongly oppose while we strive for a world without repression.

 

Dharamvir Gandhi, independent MP in Rajya Sabha, remarked that the struggle for the rights of dalits, adivasis, Muslims and all marginalised communities need to be fought both inside the Parliament and outside it. And, he reiterated the need for all democratic forces across the country to fight against state repression and fascism expanding all over the country. Writer Arundhati Roy spoke of the breaking of two locks in the early 90s, the locks of Babri Masjid and the end to the restraints on exploitative global capital. She felt that we need to understand both capitalism and casteism in order to understand the nature of the state as both work hand in hand. The arrests of Prof. GN Saibaba, Rona Wilson and Advocate Surendra Gadling reveals that anyone amongst us could be arrested next by this exceedingly vindictive state; a state that is ready to let the country burn in order to retain control in the 2019 elections. She called the BJP the Bharat Jalao Party that spreads the politics of hatred and urged everyone to unite in the face of this hatred. Kavita Srivastava of PUCL raised the threat to all democratic institutions and activists in the lead up to the 2019 elections. As democratic state institutions collapse under the weight, journalists are constantly threatened by the police, and activists thrown behind bars under UAPA and other draconian laws. She asked for the repeal of UAPA, a draconian law which has progressively been made more draconian through amendments in 2008 and 2012.

 

Vinay Ratan Singh from the Bhim Army spoke of the continued incarceration of Chandrasekhar for challenging caste oppression. The government has set the silence of the Bhim Army against atrocities and caste-based oppression as the price for Chandrasekar’s release. On 2 April 2018, those protesting against the government were killed, arrested, and their families continue to struggle, without food. Bhim army will continue to raise their voice against caste oppression, through education, of this and the next generation. D Raja, member of Parliament, reminded the people that the constitution was enshrined to protect the people of the country but instead, under the current regime, it is being dismantled and abused and most importantly subverted to serve the ends of those in power. He challenged the BJP and the Sangh Parivar about the history of this country particularly highlighting their history in being hand in glove with the colonial state. He called the effort to build a Hindu Rashtra an attempt to establish fascism and destroy democracy. He condemned state repression, be it in the form of name-calling to outright violence, on the people fighting to save democracy in the country.

 

Baby Turi from Visthapan Virodhi Jan Vikas Andolan, Jharkhand, challenged the continuing persecution, false arrests and cases against adivasis involved in Pathalgarhi, challenging the escalated grab of land and forests. She demanded the repeal of UAPA. Prashant Bhushan also shed light on the trend of arresting those who are facing repression, such as Muslims, Christians, Dalits, Adivasis, and those raising their voices against the repression, while the perpetrators of violence and atrocities are not even investigated. This he found was visible in the case of Stan Swamy and 10 other activists being charged with sedition in Jharkhand. Surendra Gadling, representing GN Saibaba in the false case under UAPA, is arrested under UAPA. In Thoothkudi, those protesting against Sterlite are shot and killed, those leading the movement arrested. The BJP government is looting the country, while their promises of bringing a strong Lokpal, targeting black money and corruption, are all forgotten. Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi are allowed to flee the country under Modi’s watch. The attack on the people of this country as visible in Assam with the NRC is another effort by the current government to establish a Hindu state favourable to its ends. Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty reminded all that while oppressed groups have been fighting injustice but there are two new dimensions to the current regime: one, relentless repression by army and paramilitary forces, and two, mob lynchings. This is done in the name of ‘national security’. This national security is nothing but security for corporate and capital. We are fighting for the security of peoples. During the Emergency, we fought for civil liberties and democratic rights, but those are not sufficient anymore. The fight needs to be strengthened through unity.

 

Rinchin from WSS also brought to the fore the two issues of repression on women and the loot of land. She found that capitalism and patriarchy stood firmly on the ground established by a repressive state, a state that runs roughshod over the constitutional rights of adivasis as in the case of the Pathalgadi movement in Jharkhand and the assaults on women by CRPF in Bastar. She reminded that someone like Mahesh Raut who had been working for the rights of gram sabhas as enshrined in the constitution in Gadchiroli has been incarcerated and declared anti-national. She asked where are the voices of the women who have been raped, and then forcefully held under the custody by the state. She asked the gathering to resolve to fight against both capitalist loot and the patriarchal system that exists to crush the people of the country. Sujato Bhadra spoke of the Bhangar movement and the effort to crush it as indicative of the various forms of repression visible in the country today. Rajeev Yadav of Rihai Manch said that these arrests are a warning to the people that anyone who will speak will be jailed and today’s protest is an indication that people will not be threatened this way. Aparna of IFTU spoke about the banning of trade unions like MSS in Jharkhand and how the state is afraid of workers organisations that are reminding the people about the struggles of workers all the way from the Russian revolution to now. The struggle for Podu land in Telangana where the government is running JCBs on land of the people and filing cases against those speaking against it is indicative of the anti-people nature of the government. She said that we must remember that two people from amongst us, Professor GN Saibaba and Rona Wilson, are now behind bars for speaking against the loot of land and for the release of political prisoners while right wing perpetrators of violence like Milind Ekbote and Sambhaji Bhide roam free.

 

Buta Singh of Association for Democratic Rights talked about party controlled media trial that is on–going all over the country. Sawarnjit Singh, Tapas Chakrabarty, Prof. Laxman and Kranti Chaitanya all spoke of the need to unite in the face of repression. Parvez Ahmad spoke of how today is a gathering of people of all shades but what is common is our struggle against fascism and how people like Gauri Lankesh, Gadling and Chandrasekhar and all spoke about justice and now they are silenced. All participants reiterated the need to fight against the murder of constitutional rights and the need to unite and fight against all forms of state repression. The programme culminated with revolutionary songs in various languages by groups from all over the country.

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Campaign Against State Repression on Rights Activists

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