IN Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, the police first brand young tribal women as Naxalite sympathisers and use this ruse to raid their homes and villages. (Women recruits in Maoist camps are not allowed to marry or become pregnant). It is when a young woman beseeches the cops that she is not a Maoist and that she is a mother, the law-enforcers demand proof. So they squeeze her breasts to verify that she is not telling a lie. Obviously, the “anti-national” slur is only a ploy to satiate their crude, carnal pleasures, inflicting deeps wounds into the psyche of the hapless women.
On January 31, Gayathiri Bose, a 33-year-old Singaporean mother, was forced to lactate by security officials at Frankfurt airport (en route Paris) to prove that she was still breastfeeding as they thought her breast pump was suspicious. She was travelling without her baby due to some domestic reasons. Bose told BBC that she was forced to go into a private room for questioning with a female officer where she was told to open her blouse, show her breast and squeeze it. After a 45-minute ordeal she was allowed to board her flight to Paris. Bose said she left ‘humiliated’ and is considering legal action. Bose is educated, articulate and well-off and may pursue her tormentors, and make a fortune out of a possible damage suit. The German official’s conduct is deplorable even if it was spurred by the looming shadow of global terrorism.
If you are shocked to hear about the humiliation of Gayathiri Bose, hold your breath; you will be even more jolted to read about what is happening in our own backyard. In Frankfurt, Bose was told to lactate by a “woman officer”, who did not touch her breast. In Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region, policemen, yes you heard right (male cops), squeeze the breasts of young tribal women to “certify” that they are lactating. Even more disgusting is the fact that women’s breasts are fondled and squeezed in the pretext of “anti-national operations” by gun-toting, fun-loving male cops. The police first brand them as Naxalite sympathisers and use this ruse to raid their homes and villages. (Women recruits in Maoist camps are not allowed to marry or become pregnant). It is when a young woman beseeches the cops that she is not a Maoist and that she is a mother, the law-enforcers demand proof. So they squeeze her breasts to verify that she is not telling a lie. Obviously, the “anti-national” slur is only a ploy to satiate their crude, carnal pleasures, inflicting deeps wounds into the psyche of the hapless women.
A group of tribal women in a village in Bastar, recently narrated their demeaning existence to television journalist Tanushree Pandey of CNN-News 18. Huddled in a remote forested area, shamed and vulnerable, the victims recounted their horror stories (that they endured between October 2015 and January 2016) to News 18, the only channel that traversed 1500-odd km to talk to the abused women caught between a ruthless police and the Maoists. “I was four months pregnant when I was raped. They (the security forces) did not care I was pregnant,” said a feeble voice, her face blurred by the channel. Another said, she had just delivered (eight hours before) and lactating. “They were not convinced and a cop squeezed my breasts to see if there was milk.” Another woman said “they groped me, sexually assaulted and beat me.” Yet another said “Four men blindfolded me and raped me, later they left me unconscious…” The women said the police also “loot their homes in the name of search” for Maoists. Some rued that their houses were “hijacked” by the security men and “we could not enter our own houses”.
These incidents have been happening for quite some time away from civilisational glare. Unfortunately, they do not make prime time news. With the sole exception of CNN-News 18, no national television channel has aired the abominable acts of the law-enforcers. In TRP obsessed television journalism, a rape in Delhi, Mumbai or Bangalore gets instant, feverish coverage with anchors dissecting every detail of the incident, mouthing simulated indignation. Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi last Friday demanded President’s rule in Kerala following the rape of a Malayalam film actress near Kochi. Hope she will seek stringent action against Chhattisgarh cops if not President’s rule in the state.
Despite a slew of social welfare schemes, the condition of the downtrodden continues to be abysmal. Even basic human rights are denied. The horror stories from Chhattisgarh invalidate the claims that smaller states are better administered. The situation of the underprivileged is more or less the same in Jharkhand and Telangana also. While in Chhattisgarh, those questioning government policies are branded “anti-nationals” and Maoist sympathisers, in Telangana, they are dubbed “anti-Telangana people”. Last year, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) released a “perspective paper” on alternative development. The party undertook a “mahajana padayatra” in Telangana to canvass and mobilise public support for the slogan “Comprehensive Development of State with Social Justice.” The padayatra crisscrossed some 2000 km in 600-odd villages in two months and received tonnes of inputs from people seeking better alternatives and better governance.
The TRS, which rode to power in 2014 in the emotionally charged elections, has become yet another bourgeoisie party vigorously pursuing globalisation and liberalisation policies even as disparities between people and regions have been widening. According to social scientists, the main reason for the uneven distribution of income in India is the “large sectoral income variations” giving rise to widening regional disparities. The Economic Survey released last month by the finance ministry has mooted Universal Basic Income (in lieu of existing state benefits) to combat poverty. While UBI has become a globally accepted policy concept as an antidote to high inequality and the prospect of job losses due to automation, critics do not fully endorse it. In place of UBI, the CPM has demanded “Universal Basic Entitlement” – as the income is not stable and can evaporate whereas entitlements remain constant and people can always access them for their own utility. Rather than a client-ship paradigm, “equal partnership” programme is best suited in the Indian context, the comrades aver. Development economist Jean Dre’ze though supports the UBI in principle, is also cautious as it could become a “Trojan horse” for dismantling of hard-won entitlements of the underprivileged.
Hasinaben and Sakina Fakir, the only two Muslims left in Paliyad village, say they are still fighting the case. (Source: Express photo by Javed Raja)
The grill doors of Haji Pir Ki Dargah are half open. Two women are sitting inside on rusty chairs that are held together by gunny sacks, soaking in the Saturday morning sun. Noticing visitors, one gets up to fetch a cot from a corner of the house.
The dargah and its scanty furniture comprise the entirety of Sakina Fakir and sister Hasinaben’s world. After the post-Godhra riots, they are the only two Muslims left in Paliyad village of Gandhinagar district.
On January 31, following a prolonged trial, an additional district court in Kalol acquitted all the 26 accused in the case. The order said most of the eyewitnesses had turned hostile and a “compromise was struck between the accused and the victims”. While no written documents were submitted, the court accepted the oral information given “about the amount (not mentioned in the order) of compensation given to the victims by the accused”.
The accused had been booked for “rioting, attacking Muslims, burning their houses and destroying properties” and for insulting “their religion by damaging the (Haji Pir Ki) dargah”
One of the eyewitnesses who the court said had turned hostile was Sakina, who is in her early 60s. She denies this, and both she and Hasinaben, who is a few years younger, say they are still fighting the case. “Woh log 10-20 hazaar de kar samjhauta karna chahte the. Maine mana kar diya (The accused wanted us to compromise by giving us
Rs 10,000-20,000. I refused),” Sakina says, adding that while she has also heard there has been a compromise, she doesn’t know of anyone accepting money to settle the case.
The dargah was one of the places attacked by rioters on the night of February 28, 2002, a day after the fire on the Sabarmati Express at Godhra railway station. Sakina and Hasinaben’s home was destroyed. While the two sisters shifted to the dargah, their brother left Paliyad with his family and their father took shelter at a relief camp, where he later died.
“A mob of 500 to 1,000 men barged in. They thrashed my brother. They destroyed all the houses and robbed this dargah,” Sakina says. “Bees ke kareeb ghar the Musalmanon ke, dheere-dheere sabne gaon chhod diya (There were around 20 families of Muslims in the village, one by one they all left).”
Now the sisters look after the dargah and live on the alms offered by the stray visitors. Hasinaben has difficulty speaking since a paralytic attack some years ago.
Sakina says they are determined to stay. “All our relatives and people from our community left the village soon after the riots. This is our land, our village. We are just trying to keep this place intact. We won’t go anywhere,” she says.
‘Accused No. 1’ in the riot case, Natvarbhai Kalidas Patel, who is among the 26 acquitted, is now the village sarpanch. When The Sunday Express visited, Patel was not at the village.
Rasik K Patel, whose son Nitin, 21, is among those acquitted, says he is not surprised at the court order. “The entire case was bogus and full of lies. Gaon walon ne milke unko samjhaya ki shanti ke liye samjhauta kar lo (The villagers convinced the victims to compromise for peace),” he says.
Vinod S Patel, 42, also acquitted, claims he had no role in the violence. “They dragged my name in just because I was known to them.”
Another accused, Govind Patel, is now chairman of Kalol Nagrik Sahkari Bank, College Road, Kalol.
A villager, Lalobhai Raval, claims the accused paid Rs 2.5 lakh to the dozen or so victims. “I have nothing to do with the case but I attended most of the court hearings,” he says.
The advocate who represented some of the victims expressed disappointment at how things had turned out. “The victims have not been consistent. When I learnt about the compromise, I left the case.” Requesting not to be quoted, he said, “The case was pending since long and the victims are very poor. And that’s the reason they chose to compromise. They couldn’t have fought the legal battle on their own.”
Activist Prita Jha, who was helping the victims, says she too withdrew after hearing about the compromise. “This is the biggest problem with the criminal justice system, and this is not restricted to the 2002 riots-related cases but other serious offences,” Jha says.
One of those who left the village following the 2002 violence was Sakina’s niece Madina Fakir, then 15, who now lives with her family at a relief camp in Nandasan in Mehsana district, about 50 km away. “As news of rioting came from various places, our Hindu neighbours told us to hide in the fields. We spent a day in fear. The mob arrived at midnight. They tried to kill my father Chandmiyan; he was hit with a sword in his left eye,” says Madina.
Her mother Hasinaben says Madina was about to get married in March 2002 and they had arranged the money, and bought all the jewellery. “The rioters took away everything.”
Around 34 other families affected by the 2002 riots live at this relief camp. Hasinaben says they feel reassured living among Muslims. “I won’t go back. There is no mosque, madarasa or even a kabaristan (graveyard) in Paliyad. We survive on alms. We can’t fight legal battles,” she says.
Madina’s husband Jaan Mohammed — the two finally got married a year after the riots — says principles can only take them so far. “We can compromise with the accused if we get a good amount, so that we can end this poverty. Or else we will keep fighting.”
From Cambodia to California, industrial-scale sand mining is causing wildlife to die, local trade to wither and bridges to collapse. And booming urbanisation means the demand for this increasingly valuable resource is unlikely to let up
Times are good for Fey Wei Dong. A genial, middle-aged businessman based near Shanghai, China, Fey says he is raking in the equivalent of £180,000 a year from trading in the humblest of commodities: sand.
Fey often works in a fishing village on Poyang Lake, China’s biggest freshwater lake and a haven for millions of migratory birds and several endangered species. The village is little more than a tiny collection of ramshackle houses and battered wooden docks. It is dwarfed by a flotilla anchored just offshore, of colossal dredges and barges, hulking metal flatboats with cranes jutting from their decks. Fey comes here regularly to buy boatloads of raw sand dredged from Poyang’s bottom. He ships it 300 miles down the Yangtze River and resells it to builders in booming Shanghai who need it to make concrete.
The demand is voracious. The global urbanisation boom is devouring colossal amounts of sand – the key ingredient of concrete and asphalt. Shanghai, China’s financial centre, has exploded in the last 20 years. The city has added 7 million new residents since 2000, raising its population to more than 23 million. In the last decade, Shanghai has built more high-rises than there are in all of New York City, as well as countless miles of roads and other infrastructure. “My sand helped build Shanghai Pudong airport,” Fey brags.
Hundreds of dredgers may be on the lake on any given day, some the size of tipped-over apartment buildings. The biggest can haul in as much as 10,000 tonnes of sand an hour. A recent study estimates that 236m cubic metres of sand are taken out of the lake annually. That makes Poyang the biggest sand mine on the planet, far bigger than the three largest sand mines in the US combined. “I couldn’t believe it when we did the calculations,” says David Shankman, a University of Alabama geographer and one of the study’s authors.
All that dredging, researchers believe, is a key reason why the lake’s water level has dropped dramatically in recent years. So much sand has been scooped out, says Shankman – 30 times more than the amount that flows in from tributary rivers – that the lake’s outflow channel has been drastically deepened and widened, nearly doubling the amount of water that flows into the Yangtze. The lower water levels are translating into declines in water quality and supply to surrounding wetlands. It could be ruinous for the area’s inhabitants, both animal and human.
A building problem
Poyang Lake, which sits in a verdant rural area best known for a waterfall in the nearby hills, is Asia’s largest winter destination for migratory birds. It hosts millions of cranes, geese and storks during the cold months – as well as several endangered and rare species. It is also one of the few remaining habitats for the endangered freshwater porpoise. Studies have found that the sediment stirred up and the noise generated by sand boats interfere with the porpoise’s vision and sonar so drastically they cannot find fish and shrimp to feed on. And there are fewer fish to be found in the first place, say locals.
“The boats are destroying our fishing areas,” says one wrinkled fisherwoman selling plastic bags of crayfish. The dredging destroys fish breeding grounds, muddies the water and tears up her nets. These days, she says, she’s lucky to make £1,200 a year.
“I’ve been fishing here for 30 years, and there are fewer and fewer fish,” says Tan Jung Hwa, another local fisherman. He’s taken to working part-time on the sand boats because he can’t earn enough otherwise.
Lake Poyang may be a unique place, but the damage being done there is not. All around the world, riverbeds and beaches are being stripped bare, and farmlands and forests torn up to get at the precious sand grains. It’s a worldwide crisis that nobody has heard about.
The main driver of this crisis is our era’s unprecedented urban growth. Cities are expanding at a pace and on a scale far greater than at any time in human history. The number of people living in urban areas has more than quadrupled since 1950, to about 4 billion today. More than half of the world’s people now live in cities – with another 2.5 billion to come in the next three decades, according to the UN.
All these new cities require mind-boggling amounts of sand. Just about every apartment block, skyscraper, office tower and shopping mall that gets built anywhere from Beijing to Lagos is made with concrete, which is essentially just sand and gravel glued together with cement. Every yard of asphalt road that connects those buildings is also made with sand. So is every window in every one of those buildings.
In India, the amount of construction sand used annually has more than tripled since 2000, and is still rising fast. There is so much demand for certain types of construction sand that Dubai, which sits on the edge of an enormous desert, imports sand from Australia.
China in particular is on a city-building spree that beggars anything the world has ever seen. Over half a billion Chinese now live in urban areas, triple the total of 60 years ago. That’s roughly equal to the populations of the US, Canada and Mexico combined. China is also home to the world’s biggest urban agglomeration: the Pearl River Delta, across from Hong Kong, bursting with somewhere between 42 and 60 million inhabitants. Even Nanchang, the unglamorous provincial city that is the nearest major urban area to Lake Poyang, is fringed with fast-growing forests of high-rise apartment blocks.
In the past few years, China has used more cement than the US used in the entire 20th century. Last year alone, the nation used enough construction sand to cover the entire state of New York an inch deep.
All that sand has to come from somewhere. In the region around Shanghai, it came until recently from the bed of the Yangtze River. That turned out to be a bad idea. By the late 1990s miners had pulled out so much that bridges were undermined, shipping was snarled, and 1,000ft swaths of riverbank collapsed.
Unnerved by the damage to a waterway that provides water to 400 million people, Chinese authorities banned sand mining on the Yangtze in 2000. That sent the miners swarming to Poyang Lake.
The boats used to dig up the sand are essentially gigantic floating platforms, fitted with two huge conveyor belts studded with buckets that haul up sand from the bottom of the lake. The sand is then transferred to transport ships. In one narrow part of the lake, dozens of dredgers extend from the shore in a line, leaving only a narrow passageway for a tugboat hauling a barge piled up with yellow sand.
“We used to make more money, but now there is too much competition,” complains a crew member aboard one of the dredgers. “There are too many people doing this job.”
Sand mining is causing environmental damage worldwide. In some places locals dig out riverbanks with shovels and haul it away with pickup trucks or donkeys; in others multinational companies dredge it up with machinery. Everywhere, the process impacts its surroundings in ways that range from cosmetic to catastrophic.
In mid-January, just north of Monterey, California, several dozen cheering activists made an odd political statement: they dumped 200 pounds of bagged, store-bought sand onto a beach. They were returning the grains to where they had come from. The sand had originally been mined from that beach – a beach which, according to researchers, is gradually disappearing as a result.
“This is the fastest eroding shoreline in California,” says professor Ed Thornton, a retired coastal engineer with the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey who has been studying the impact of the mine for years and who spoke at the demonstration. “We’re losing eight acres a year of pristine shore, some of the most beautiful in the world. It’s because of sand mining.” (A spokesperson for Cemex, the company that operates the mine, says via email that Thornton’s conclusions “are based on what we believe to be erroneous, speculative data and unsound theory”.)
The beach is the only one in the US that is still being mined for construction sand. Cemex, a global construction firm based in Mexico, operates a dredger that sucks up an estimated 270,000 cubic metres of sand every year. For most of the 20th century there were many such sand mines along the California coast, but in the late 1980s the federal government shut them down due to the erosion being suffered by the Golden State’s famous beaches. The Cemex plant is still operating thanks to a legal loophole – it appears to sit above the mean high-tide line, putting it out of federal jurisdiction. But protesters want state authorities to step in.
Environmentalists in many places are similarly calling on their governments to rein in sand mining. In Northern Ireland, activists are trying to stop dredging in Lough Neagh, an important bird sanctuary. In southern England, developers want to dredge sand to expand the port of Dover from a stretch of offshore sandbars and shoals, prompting an outcry from conservationists who fear that would endanger the seals, birds and other marine life for whom the sandbars provide habitat and food.
Different types of sand mining inflict different types of damage. Dredging from river beds destroys the habitat of bottom-dwelling creatures and organisms. The churned-up sediment clouds the water, suffocating fish and blocking the sunlight that sustains underwater vegetation. Kenyan officials shut down all river sand mines in one part of the country a few years ago because of the environmental damage it was causing. India’s supreme court recently warned that “the alarming rate of unrestricted sand mining” is disrupting riparian ecosystems all over the country, with fatal consequences for fish and other aquatic organisms and “disaster” for many bird species.
Sand extraction from rivers has also caused millions of dollars in damage to infrastructure. When stirred, sediment clogs up water supply equipment, and all the earth removed from river banks leaves the foundations of bridges exposed and unsupported. A 1998 study found that each tonne of aggregate mined from a California river caused $3 in infrastructure damage – costs that are borne by taxpayers. In Ghana, sand miners have dug up so much ground that they have exposed the foundations of hillside buildings, putting them at risk of collapse.
Mining sand from the floodplains near rivers is less damaging but it can alter the water’s course, creating dead-end diversions and pits that have proven fatal to salmon in Washington state. In Australia, flood plains that are home to the world’s biggest collection of rare carnivorous plants are being wiped out by sand mining. In Wisconsin and Minnesota, farmers fear that a recent boom in sand mining is polluting their water and air. In Vietnam, miners have torn up hundreds of acres of forest and farmers’ fields to get at underground sand deposits.
As land quarries and riverbeds become exhausted, sand miners are turning to the seas. The UK, for instance, gets about one fifth of the nation’s sand from the ocean floor. Worldwide, thousands of ships vacuum up millions of tonnes from the seabed each year, tearing up habitats and muddying waters with sand plumes that can affect aquatic life far from the original site.
Closer to shore, in places such as coastal Cambodia, dredging threatens important mangrove forests, seagrass beds and endangered species like Irrawaddy and spinner dolphins, and the royal turtle. On land, sand miners have devoured whole swaths of beach, from Jamaica to Russia.
The most dramatic impact of ocean sand mining is surely felt in Indonesia, where sand miners have completely erased at least two dozen islands since 2005. The stuff of those islands mostly ended up in Singapore, which needs titanic amounts to continue its programme of artificially adding territory by reclaiming land from the sea. The city-state has created an extra 20 square miles in the past 40 years and is still adding more, making it by far the world’s largest sand importer. The demand has denuded beaches and river beds in neighbouring countries to such an extent that Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam have all restricted or banned the export of sand to Singapore.
“It’s the same story as over-fishing and over-foresting,” says Pascal Peduzzi, a researcher with the United Nations environment programme who authored a study on sand mining. “It’s another way to look at unsustainable development.” The problem is that the supply of sand that can be mined sustainably is finite – but as the great urbanisation boom is proving, the demand for it is anything but.
President Donald Trump has signed another executive order aimed at eliminating regulations that he claims are damaging to the U.S. economy, but some worry that the measure will roll back critical environmental protections.
The order, called “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda,” directs each government agency to create a task force to evaluate existing federal regulations and recommend whether they should be kept, repealed or modified.
A White House official told POLITICO that the task forces will “focus on eliminating costly and unnecessary regulations.”
The new order also directs agency heads to appoint “regulatory reform officers” to ensure that agencies are carrying out the president’s other executive orders, such as his recent 2-for-1 rule that requires federal agencies to repeal two old regulations for every new one.
“Excessive regulation is killing jobs,” Trump said during the signing ceremony. “Every regulation should have to pass a simple test: Does it make life better or safer for American workers or consumers? If the answer is no, we will be getting rid of it.”
“We will stop punishing companies for doing business in the United States,” Trump added. “It’s going to be absolutely just the opposite. They will be incentivized to doing business.”
The president was flanked by leaders of major U.S. corporations, including Lockheed Martin, Johnson & Johnson, Dow Chemical Co. and Campbell Soup.
Dow Chemical Co. chairman and CEO Andrew Liveris, who leads Trump’s advisory council on manufacturing and received the presidential signing pen. Just yesterday, Liveris praised the Trump administration for being “the most pro-business administration since the Founding Fathers.”
Bloomberg Politics pointed out that The White House already has an entire agency, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, that reviews all government regulations before they are issued. It is unclear how the existing office will be working with the new officials.
Environmental groups have criticized Trump’s latest executive order, saying that it is crafted to help the country’s biggest polluters.
“The Trump administration wants less government, except when it wants more to carry out its oil and gas industry agenda,” Greenpeace spokesperson Travis Nichols said in a statement. “This executive order will put Trump’s unvetted corporate minions above experts at our federal agencies in charge of protecting our water, our land and our climate.”
“We can only hope that the resistance inside these agencies will be strong enough to stop these destructive Trump toadies from dismantling protections for the American people,” Nichols continued. “This administration and its deluded enforcers will never understand what it feels like to worry about the water their families are drinking, the food their families are eating or if their houses will survive the next superstorm. It’s up to all of us outside the billionaire bubble to resist the ways in which the Trump administration is destroying this country.”
On April 28th, 2016, a video of Gurmehar Kaur, the daughter of a Kargil martyr, went viral. In this video, she appealed the Governments of India and Pakistan to find ways to make peace. This video has been watched by over 1.5 million people on the Facebook page it was initially posted on and tens of thousands of times on other platforms such as Youtube. In a 4 and a half minute video, she held 36 posters, one after another, with handwritten messages on them where in she narrated her story of how she lost her father at the age of 2, how she used to hate Pakistan, Pakistanis and Muslims, and how she overcame her hate. The 13th poster out of the 36 posters read “Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him”. After Gurmehar Kaur recently spoke out against the attack on students by ABVP at Ramjas College, Delhi, this 13th poster has become a bone of contention for many.
Ever since Gurmehar spoke out against ABVP, she has been trolled incessantly and has been at the end of endless abuse, rape threats and more. She was even accused of misusing her father’s martyrdom for political ends. As if that weren’t enough, a couple of celebs got into the act last evening. It started with Virendra Sehwag posing with the following poster.
The poster read, “I didn’t score two triple centuries, my bad did.” The poster was meant to mock Gurmehar’s 13th poster which read “Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him”. Soon enough, Randeep Hooda joined the action when he tweeted a poster comparing the above two images.
Around the same time, BJP MP Pratap Simha tweeted the following comparison between Gurmehar and Dawood Ibrahim.
These tweets kicked off a new round of vicious trolling and abuse with many Modi supporters whom the PM himself follows on Twitter getting into the act. Unfortunately, Sehwag, Hooda and the trolls completely overlooked the context in which she held up that 13th poster. In fact, the words in that 13th poster weren’t even hers, they were the words of a slain army officer’s wife, they were the words of a mother trying to tell her angry-conflicted daughter that it is the war that killed her husband, and not Pakistan. The little girl had just tried to attack a burqa-clad woman thinking that it was the woman who was responsible for her father’s death and the mother was trying to hold her daughter back and trying to calm her down. Even though the nuance of such a statement could be hard for many to understand, especially for those who form their world-view based on WhatsApp forwards, what the mother was probably trying to express is that it is the war and the politics of wars that consumes people.
In fact, Sehwag, Hooda and the troll gang fixated on exactly 9 words out of Gurmehar Kaur’s 347-word message of peace. I have transcribed the video and the 347 word message is as follows:
“Hi 🙂 My name is Gurmehar Kaur. I am from Jalandhar, India. This is my dad Capt. Mandeep Singh. He was killed in the 1999 Kargil War. I was 2 years old when he died. I have very few memories of him. I have more memories of how it feels NOT to have a father. I also remember how much I used to hate Pakistan & Pakistanis because they killed my Dad. I used to hate Muslims too because I thought all Muslims are Pakistanis. When I was 6 years old, I tried to stab a lady in a burkha. Because for some strange reason, I thought she was responsible for my father’s death. My mother held me back and made me understand that Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him. It took me a while to know but today I do. I have learnt to let go of my hate. It was not easy but its not difficult. If I can do it, so can you. Today, I am a soldier too, just like my dad. I fight for peace between India and Pakistan. Because if there was no war between us, my father would still be here. I am making this video because I want the Governments of both countries to stop pretending and solve the problem. If France & Germany can become friends after 2 World Wars, if Japan & USA can put their past behind and work towards progress, then why can’t we?? Majority of regular Indians and Pakistanis want peace, not war. I am questioning the calibre of leadership of both nations. We cannot dream of becoming a first world country with third world leadership. Please pull your socks up. Talk to each other and get the job done.Enough state sponsored terrorism. Enough state-sponsored spies. Enough state-sponsored hatred. Enough people have died on both sides of the border. Enough is Enough. I wish to live in a world where there are no Gurmehar Kaurs who miss their Dad. I am not alone, there are many like me. #ProfileForPeace”.
The original video can be seen below:
After reading the above text and watching the above video, one can easily see how Sehwag, Hooda and the troll gang robbed all the nuance from this poignant message of peace. Randeep Hooda, in fact, kept going on for quite a while and called her a ‘pawn’ and a ‘prop’ thus trying to portray that Gurmehar doesn’t have an independent faculty of thought.
One may or may not agree with what Gurmehar has to say but it is rather disgusting to cherry-pick a single poster out of the 36 posters and make that the basis of trolling, abuse and character assassination. It is even more disgusting when one realises that those words were a mother’s advice to a daughter who’s lost her father. While the 20 year old Gurmehar handled all this with a lot of poise and elegance, for many others, this episode is deeply unsettling.http://www.altnews.in/gurmehar-kaurs-message-peace-347-words-sehwag-randeep-hooda-modi-bhakts-read-9/
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vjayan unleashed a scorching attack on Sangh Parivar in Mangalore on Saturday at an event to promote communal harmony. The event was held amid threats from the BJP-RSS-VHP that it will stop him from attending the programme. In his speech, he ripped apart the Sangh pointing at its history of licking the British feet and of worshipping the Nazis. The speech has garnered much praise for the CM from outside the state and even from Congress supporters in the state.
“I have this to say to the RSS and to [the other communal forces] who challenged me. I, Pinarayi Vijayan, did not drop down from the heavens one fine day into the chair of the Chief Minister. I am not a person who doesn’t know you – the RSS – directly. My political activism until now has proceeded by seeing and knowing you closely. Right now I travel in the midst of the protection of the weapons of the police. But there was also a time after I completed my studies at Brennen College, Thalassery and started working outside. If the new RSS men do not know about those times, they should ask the old RSS men. Then, I had walked amidst the knives you had drawn out and amidst the swords you held up. When you couldn’t do anything to me during those times, what do you think you are going to do to me today?,” he asked, amid loud cheers from the crowd which had gathered in large numbers.
Mr.Vijayan had a few weeks back cancelled a visit to Madhya Pradesh, following threats from Sangh organisations to stop him. Referring to that episode, he said – “You [the RSS] have been gloating about having managed to stop my journey to Madhya Pradesh. As a serving Chief Minister, when I go to another state, it is basic courtesy that I accept some things that the government of that State tells me. That government said that I should not go there, and I accepted it. But if Pinarayi Vijayan was not a Chief Minister, not even Indra (the king of gods in the Hindu pantheon) or Chandra (moon) would have stopped him.”
Viajayan, who started his speech thanking Karnataka government for taking all the precaution for his safety amid threats from various right-wing organisations, alleged that several media houses are functioning to promote the interests of big corporates.
The CM also launched into a long tirade against the RSS, based on their history of taking inspiration from the Nazis.
“RSS was inspired by Mussolini’s fascist movement. The founder member of RSS himself went to meet Mussolini. When Hitler destroyed the minorities of Germany, RSS was one of the organisations which praised the actions of Nazis. Golwalkar praised the anti-semitic policies of the Nazi party. RSS wants to implement Nazi policies in India. Muslims, Dalits and Communists are their prime targets. Every riot organised by RSS has a similar pattern – spew venom and divide the society. The RSS mouthpiece had on 17 June, 1947 published an article demanding that the Bhagwa Dhwaj be adopted as the National flag,” he said.
He said that the RSS has always been against the idea of secular India.
“Sree Narayana Guru played a huge role in creating a secular mindset in Kerala and Karnataka society. RSS wants to destroy it,” he said.
He praised the Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah for providing adequate security and ensuring the smooth conduct of the programme. Though RSS leaders in Kerala claimed that they will not let Kerala chief minister to address the meeting and Sangh parivar organisations even called for a hartal, thousands of people attended the rally and procession preceded it.http://www.altnews.in/braving-sangh-threats-kerala-cm-launches-scorching-attack-rss-mangalore-communal-harmony-meet/?utm_content=buffer0cab5&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Rajshree Ranawat, an assistant professor of English at Jodhpur’s Jai Narain Vyas University (JNVU), has been suspended for inviting Professor Nivedita Menon of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) to deliver a lecture.
Speaking to Catch, Menon, a professor at the School of International Studies at JNU, said that the recent series of disciplinary actions against teachers was part of the Modi government’s overall attack on “academic freedom, critical thinking and freedom of expression.”
“Teachers are being criminalised for conducting standard academic activities like talks, conferences, plays, etc.,” said Menon.
“Meanwhile, the government is gradually restricting access of students to public higher education, cutting funds, and cutting seats as the 5th May UGC notification on MPhil/PhD admissions seeks to do,” she added.
She said the government was especially targeting the social sciences, as the discipline fosters critical thinking regarding social and political issues.
“The government is trying to shut down critical thinking. Any criticism of the government or the RSS is immediately equated with being ‘anti-national’ to shut one up,” she said.
Among the allegations raised against Menon is that she showed the map of India “upside down”, besides speaking about Kashmir, a topic that got her branded as “anti-national” last year. Menon was speaking as part of a two-day conference on 1 and 2 February on the theme, ‘History Reconstrued through Literature: Nation, Identity, Culture’.
In an article, Menon has pointed out, the protests were based on the testimony of one retired JNVU professor, NK Chaturvedi.
Moreover, it was a “right-side-up” map published in Himal Southasian magazine, which sought to make a political point by showcasing the global South at the top and the global North below.
“A world map is a way of representing an object to scale on a flat, two-dimensional surface. There are techniques of map projections, and all projections are distorted. How can one show a map “upside down”, when the earth is round?” said Menon.
Skimming the history of map projections, she said, “The most common form is the Mercator projection, which kept the longitudinal and latitudinal distances proportionate but distorted the land mass sizes. Then, in the 1960s, there was the Arno Peter’s projection, which kept land mass sizes to scale and tolerated distortions in longitudes and latitudes. This was controversial, because it showed how enormous the colonised world is and how small the colonisers.”
Menon said it was “illiterate” of the RSS to call this “anti-national”.
“The RSS is ignorant of the history of the world and even of India, despite claiming to be nationalists and patriots.”
As for Kashmir, as she made it clear in her Kafila piece, Menon did not make the statement that “India is illegally occupying Kashmir,” as headlines in the local newspapers claimed.
Ranawat merely quoted this statement made by Menon “a year ago” while introducing the JNU professor.
“I only asked the students to read widely and find out for themselves the history and context of Kashmir’s struggle,” she said.
“The people precede the nation, which is why all questions on how to relate to the nation are legitimate.”
Coming to Ranawat’s suspension, which is pending inquiry by a committee, Menon says, “Rajshree is an extraordinarily committed young teacher.”
“The conference was a huge success. Rajshree had invited a range of intellectual and political voices, from the Right-wing to the Left. Students also presented excellent papers. If anything, she should have been congratulated for organising this. The action against her is untenable and unconstitutional. The community of teachers is fully behind her and we are working to build up wider support for her.”
The Federation of Central Universities’ Teachers’ Associations (FEDCUTA) and the People’s Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) have already publicly supported Ranawat.
Police complaints have been registered against Menon, Ranawat, and Professor Vinu George, also part of the varsity’s English department. Showcause notices were also served on George and Ranawat, with the latter being suspended on 16 February.
“Academics are being punished for doing their jobs. When we find that our everyday practices of teaching are hitting headlines, we know something is deeply wrong. A professor speaking students should not be a headline. This is what teachers do: we teach.”
As in Ranawat’s case, the crackdown against intellectuals in many universities is being triggered by protests by the RSS-backed students’ vigilante organisation Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP).
Last September, for instance, two English department teachers of the Central University of Haryana were reprimanded by the varsity and even had police complaints registered against them over the staging of the play ‘Draupadi’ by the late Mahasweta Devi, as it depicted a tribal woman being raped by the armed forces.
But even without the ABVP spark, varsities have been clamping down on teachers.
At JNU, the administration in January issued warning letters to five professors, including Menon, for addressing students at a public meeting in front of the administrative block, a popular protest site where protests have been banned.
At the University of Hyderabad, showcause notices have been served to faculty members who’ve been critical of the administration before the media.
Last week, the criminal trial of the surgeon who conducted laparoscopic tubectomies which resulted in the deaths of 13 women in Chhattisgarh was quashed by the Chhattisgarh High Court. After telling the Supreme Court in Devika Biswas’ case — a PIL filed by a social activist — that the prosecution would be conducted properly once the case ended, the State government assisted the doctor by refusing to grant sanction for prosecution. As a result, the prosecution was quashed.
On November 8, 2014, the surgeon and an assistant performed over 80 surgeries within 90 minutes at a State-run family planning camp, in an abandoned building near Bilaspur. Within 24 hours, many of the women began complaining of abdominal pain. Thirteen women died while 65 others were injured.
The State government responded petulantly to the Supreme Court’s decision of 2016 in Devika Biswas’ case — where the court had criticised governments for the manner in which sterilisation camps were run — by threatening to stop all such sterilisation operations in the rural areas. Women are now being forced to approach the prohibitively expensive private sector.
In one of the first decisions on reproductive rights, the Supreme Court, in 2005, was shocked by a Uttar Pradesh and Bihar Health Watch report which showed photographs of women after laparoscopy tubectomies. They were lying on straw on the floor with blood-stained sarees. The photographs prompted the filing of the landmark Ramakant Rai case in the Supreme Court. The court set out directions such as the qualification of empanelled doctors, physical examination of women prior to the operation, informed consent, quality assurance committees to be set up, an insurance policy, compensation and an inquiry after every death. These directions were ignored.
In 2012, the case of a government doctor together with an NGO, going to an abandoned school in Bihar at night, dusting the tables, having unqualified staff administering 61 women anaesthesia, and then operating on them in torch light shocked the world.The doctor hardly spent 3 minutes on each woman. There was no sterilisation of the laparoscope, no change of gloves, no running water and no arrangements for disinfection, counselling, medical examination or post-operative care. Against a maximum of 30 sterilisations a day with one laparoscope, twice that number was operated upon. The women were placed on straw on the floor, still bleeding. The doctor and the NGO then left. Biswas then filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2012 highlighting similar horror stories from Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.The spread of this gruesome crime against women in the face of the Ramakant Rai case of 2005 demonstrated that human rights decisions of the Supreme Court are routinely defied on the presumption that the poor will be unable to proceed further in contempt. The response of the Union of India was typical. It resulted in a series of publications in English setting out new standards and procedures. The manuals specified that women are to be informed of all the methods of family planning and that they have the option of refusing to be operated upon. Post-operative care required that the woman rest overnight at the facility. All complications were to be documented, cleanliness to be maintained and sterilisation of needles and linen to be done. While the case was going on, the Chhattisgarh incident took place in 2014. A district judge observed in a judicial investigation report that consent was not taken, the operation was done in utterly unhygienic conditions, that targets were set by the Central government, that each surgery took only a few minutes, gloves were not changed, the floors and sheets were dirty, health checks were not done prior to the operation, that the insurance scheme had failed, and that deaths were due to infection and spurious drugs.
Focus on female sterilisation
In September 2016, the Supreme Court decision in Devika Biswas’s case recorded the statement of the Union that such camps would be phased out. The Court also recorded the submission of Devika Biswas that 97% of all sterilisation procedures were conducted on women and 85% of the family planning budget exclusively went towards female sterilisation. Virtually no attention is paid to male sterilisation. Biswas also pointed out that between 2010-13, 363 people died due to sterilisation. She also said that unrealistic targets have been set resulting in non-consensual and forced sterilisations including on the physically and mentally challenged and young persons.
Once the camps are stopped, the operations are to be performed in government institutions such as primary health-care centres, community health-care centres and district hospitals. The reported reduction in sterilisation operations in the State has forced poor women to approach the private sector which they can ill-afford.
It looks as if gruesome crimes against women in this country will always go unpunished. Perhaps the only way forward, as in the right to food case, is to have civil society monitoring integrated in court orders. Only this will make governments wary and afraid of contempt proceedings. Otherwise it will be business as usual, court orders notwithstanding.
Colin Gonsalves is the founder of the Human Rights Law Network
“Revolting that cops pinch n punched girls. Shame that protectors turned violators,” Swati Maliwal tweeted.
Ramjas College had on Wednesday witnessed attacks on Ramjas students and Left-affiliated AISA and protests by the RSS-backed ABVP.Two days after the Ramjas College incident, the Delhi Commission for Women on Saturday issued a notice to Delhi Police asking who ordered the lathi-charge against the protesting students. DCW chairperson Swati Maliwal also said that the policemen attacking female protesters in DU could be charged for molestation and that severe punishment was needed. “Policemen attacking female protesters in DU may amount to molestation; severe punishment needed,” she told news agency ANI.
Students Raise Slogans Against ABVP At Delhi’s Ramjas College
Maliwal also tweeted saying that she was shocked that police was now openly molesting the protesters and it was shameful that those who were supposed to protect had turned into violators. “Was part of several protests. Been lathi charged but never touched by police. Cops turning into goons now. Molesting protesters openly (sic),” she said, also urging for an independent high level inquiry in the matter. “Revolting that cops pinch n punched girls. Shame that protectors turned violators. Need a high level independent enquiry into the incident.”
Ramjas College had on Wednesday witnessed attacks on students, the Left-affiliated AISA and protests by the RSS-backed ABVP against an invite to JNU students Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid to address a seminar on ‘Culture of Protests’. The seminar was withdrawn by the college authorities following opposition by the ABVP. The Delhi Police has acknowledged “unprofessional” conduct on the part of some of its personnel during the clash and suspended three policemen.
The biases and misconceptions about conversions and population growth have been used by communal forces to divide the society. This became apparent once again when Minister of state of Home, Kiren Rijuju tweeted that that Hindu population is decreasing in the country as Hindus don’t convert and that minorities in India are flourishing unlike in the neighbouring countries.
Threat of decline in Hindu population and increase in population of minorities is being propagated time and over again. As per the data of 2011 census figures, Hindu population now stands at 79.8 % and Muslim population at 14.23%. “The data on Population by Religious Communities of Census 2011 show that between 2001 and 2011, Hindu population grew by 16.76 per cent, while that of Muslims by 24.6 per cent. The population of both communities grew faster during the previous decade, at 19.92 per cent and 29.52 per cent, respectively. As a long-term trend, say demographers, the communities’ growth ratesare converging.” This means that the decadal rates of growth of both communities is declining and converging closer to each other.
This is pointer to the fact that while charting out the future projections it is important to keep in mind that the rate of growth of Muslim population will be falling and will stabilise closer to that of rate of rise Hindu population. In the total population Muslims will remain a religious minority for the times to come. Interestingly the population increase of Hindus during the period of 2001 to 2011 has been 133 millions, which is close to the total population of Muslims in 2001.The scare being spread through word of mouth campaign and through social media about Muslim population taking over the Hindu population holds no water, as there are clear trends of decline in the decadal rate of growth of Muslim population as well.
The demographers point out that the higher rates of fertility are due to lack of education and poor health facilities. Muslims in Kerala have a lower fertility rate than many Hindu communities in North India and even in Kerala. The economic profile of Kerala Muslims is much different than the Muslims in Assam, West Bengal, UP and Maharashtra for example. If we broaden this point we will see that the rise in population among Dalits (Schedule castes) and Adivasis (Scheduled Tribes) is much higher as such . As per the 2011 census STs are 8.6% while they were 6.23 % according to 1951 census. SCs now are 16.6%, while as per 1951 they were around 15%.
As such the whole truth will show us that the propaganda of communal forces has nothing to do with reality of society and deeper causes of the same. It is in this background that the likes of Praveen Toagadia said that two child norm should be imposed, while the likes of Sakshi Maharaj and Sadhvi Prachi have been extolling the Hindus to produce more children.
BJP President has called for the ‘Look North East’ to raise the scare about the Christian population in the North East. This primarily Tribal area saw the increase in percentage of Christians in the decades of 1931-1951. The rise in percentage of Christian population has a lot to do with the spread of Civil Administration with Independence and also with the spread of education in the region. Country wide we can see that the percentage of Christians is static from last few decades. If at all it has declined and stabilised. If we see from 1971, we see that Christian population was 2.60% (1971), 2.44 (1981), 2.34 (1991), 2.30 (2001) and 2.30 (2011). In the meanwhile the propaganda of Missionary activities and increase in the number of Christians has dominated the scene. The anti Christian violence came to the public attention with the ghastly murder of Graham Stewarts Stains (1999). Dara Singh of Bajrang Dal, which is affiliated to RSS, incited the local people that the Pastor is doing conversions which is against Hindus. Wadhwa Commission, which investigated Pastor Stains murder, concluded that he was not involved in the work of conversion and that in Keonjhar, Manoharpur Orrisa where the Pastor was working, there was no increase in the percentage of Christian population. Similarly Kandhmal anti-Christian violence was unleashed on the pretext of murder of Swami Laxmananand. Gujarat also saw anti Christian activities again due to propaganda that the Missionaries are converting. At the same time we see that the national population of Christians remains static. Some people do allege that conversions to Christianity are there but the converts are hiding their religion, this is again a matter of conjuncture and nothing definite can be said. Any way it cannot be a large number in any case.
As such conversions have been a part of the agenda of Hindu nationalism times and over again. During freedom movement two parallel processes of conversions were going on. One was Tanzeem, which was to convert the people to Islam, the other was Shuddhi which was aimed at those who were supposed to have left their ‘religion-home’ and were converted toalienreligions. The premise was that conversion to other religions has made them impure so they need to be brought back through a process of purification. Last several decades RSS-VHP-Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram have been active in what is called Ghar Wapasi (return Home) to bring back the Dalits and Adivasis who it is alleged have been converted through force (to Islam) and allurement or fraud (to Christianity). This Ghar Wapasi campaign has been undertaken through many newly devised rituals like bath in hot spring or rituals around fire. This has been rampant inAdivasi areasand in slums-villages.
Adivasis are animists, while RSS claims they are Hindus. To Hinduize them Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, now runs a growing network of schools and hostels in large numbers in North East. Such assertions and accompanying activities have more to with politics rather than social welfare as such. The attempt of RSS combine is to link religion with Nationalism.