Human Rights Information

This 'book' has sections on various human rights issues that are not (yet) part of the books.

2011 Global Hunger Index

7 Important Resources for Internet Safety

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8 Steps to Ensure Your Online Credit Card Purchases are Safe

The Essential Teen Internet Safety Guide

Create Hack-Proof Passwords to Avoid Cyberattacks

The Paranoid’s Guide to the Internet: 13 Easy Ways to Make Sure You’re Not Hacked or Tracked

Cyber Tips for Seniors

Tips for Keeping Online Tax Returns Safe from Thieves

Digital Photography Super Guide: How to Keep Your Photos Safe ǀ Awareness through the Power of Information

An open letter to NAC members from the Right to Food Campaign

September 23, 2010
Dear National Advisory Committee members,

The Right to Food Campaign has been following closely the discussions of the NAC on the proposed food security bill. It has examined the media reports and some of the documents that were circulated at the NAC meeting held on the 30th of August. We are alarmed that the NAC is still dragging its feet regarding universalising the PDS. While the press release from the earlier NAC meeting on 14th July clearly stated “while time-bound universalisation of foodgrain entitlements across the country may be desirable, initial universalisation in one-fourth of the most disadvantaged districts or blocks in the first year is recommended, where every household is entitled to receive 35kgs per month of foodgrains at Rs 3 a kg”, the proposals discussed by the NAC on 30th August 2010 are bypassing this issue and insist on dividing the nation into the Aam and Antodaya category. This means the continuation of targeting (which has repeatedly failed) with only a replacement of the BPL- APL categorisation with a new nomenclature.

We are also surprised that when the country is faced with persistent hunger and malnutrition, the NAC is ignoring the present crisis of mountains of food stocks in FCI godowns with lacs of tonnes left to rot. As a body advising the Prime Minister it should have recommended immediate distribution of the surplus stocks for universalisation in one fourth districts or 150 of the poorest districts.

We would like the NAC to relook its proposed recommendations which bypasses the question of nutritional security. The present proposals provide for legal guarantees only for the distribution of cereal. The production, procurement, and storage of cereal, pulses and oils have been pushed into the background as mere enabling provisions (outside legal guarantees), thus leaving out the very foundation of agricultural revitalization on which these entitlements are to be established. Leaving out pulses and oils from the PDS food basket that is proposed to be legally guaranteed shows that nutritional security is a non - issue, when adult male and female anaemia and malnutrition is very high.

We are shocked that the expansion of food entitlements to a larger population and also the per capita increase in the quantum of even the cereal component is not being proposed or even considered. The arguments that funds are not available, in this case Rs. 1 lac 80 thousand crores, should not come in the way when India ranks 66th in the Global Hunger Index out of 88 poorest countries. “When would funds become a priority for eradication of poverty and hunger?”, we would like to ask. Why is the NAC which is supposed to be a pro poor - pro people's body not recommending that this should be top priority for budgetary allocations.

The lack of resources however does not come in the way of MPs in hiking their salaries in stroke or providing tax exemptions and rebates of over Rs. 5 lakh crores (in 2009-2010) majorly to the corporate sector or for the nineteen times increased allocation for the commonwealth games. It clearly shows that the "Food For All Forever" motto, poignantly stated in the NAC recommendations is mere lip service and not for actual implementation.

While in unambiguous terms we would like to welcome the inclusion of nutritional and cash programs for vulnerable groups and children's right to food, we are also concerned that the Government still considers niggardly amounts like pensions of Rs.400 per month sufficient for the survival of an old person. The quantum of grain per household is still being talked of at 25 kgs and 35 kgs which for most Indian households would last for less than ten days. There are also no safeguards mentioned regarding NO to cash transfers to ensure that PDS provisions are not subverted easily.

When the proposed recommendations of the NFSB has kept the production, storage and procurement side out of the system of legal guarantees then why call this bill the Food Security Bill? It should be called the Food Entitlements Bill.

The Right to Food campaign demands for the Nation a comprehensive food security act which should include legal provisions relating to:

1. An overarching obligation to protect everyone from hunger;

2. Promotion of sustainable and equitable food production ensuring adequate food availability in all locations at all times;

3. Protection against forcible diversion of land, water and forests from food production;

4. Protection of food sovereignty and elimination of the entry of corporate interests and private contractors in food production, distribution and governance;

5. Promotion of decentralized food production, procurement and distribution systems;

6. Protection of interests of small farmers especially ensuring that farmers are given remunerative prices for food items.

7. A universal Public Distribution System (providing at least 14 kgs of grain per adult per month as well as 1.5 kgs of pulses and 800 gms of oil, with comparable quantities for children;

8. Special food and cash entitlements for households (including an expanded Antyodaya programme for single women, old, dalits, Tribals, disabled, Transgender, landless and marginal farmers, daily wagers, slum dwellers, migrants etc.);

9. No use of technology for identification purpose which can violate the civil liberties and human rights of the people.

10. Consolidation of all entitlements created by recent Supreme Court orders (e.g. cooked mid-day meals in primary schools and universalization of ICDS);

11. Support for effective breastfeeding (including skilled counseling, maternity entitlements and crèches);

12. Elimination of all social discrimination in food–related matters;

13. Safeguards against cash transfers replacing food transfers under any nutrition-related scheme;

14. Provisioning of Ration cards in the name of women.

15. Strong accountability and grievance redressal provisions, including mandatory penalties for any violation of the Act and compensation for those whose entitlements have been denied.

We are,

The Steering group of the Right to Food Campaign
Annie Raja (National Federation for Indian Women), Anuradha Talwar and Madhuri Krishnaswamy (New Trade Union Initiative), Arun Gupta (Breast Feeding Promotion Network of India), Arundhati Dhuru (National People’s Movement of India), Ashok Bharti (National Conference of Dalit Organizations), Anjali Bhardwaj, Nikhil Dey (National Campaign for People’s Right to Information), Asha Mishra and Vinod Raina (Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti), Colin Gonsalves (Human Rights Law Network), Kavita Srivastava (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), Mira Shiva and Vandana Prasad (Jan Swasthya Abhiyan), Paul Diwakar (National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights), Subhash Bhatnagar (National Campaign Committee for Unorganized Sector workers), V.B. Rawat

For more information, please contact:
Kavita Srivastava (0141-2594131 or 09351562965), Anuradha Talwar (09433002064), Deepika (9560923178), Sejal Parikh (09533819903),

Secretariat - Right to Food Campaign, C/o PHRN 5 A, Jungi House, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi 110049
Website: Email: Phone - 91 -11 -2649 9563

Coke: Icon of Anti Coca-Cola Struggle, Mailamma, Passes Away

Icon of Anti Coca-Cola Struggle, Mailamma, Passes Away

For Immediate Release
January 7, 2006

Plachimada: It is with great sorrow that we announce that Ms. Mailamma, the leader of the anti-Coca-Cola struggle in Plachimada in Kerala, passed away on January 6, 2007.

Mailamma was a central figure in the campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable for water shortages and pollution in the area, and it was under her leadership that the community forced the Coca-Cola bottling plant to shut down in March 2004. The plant has remained shut down since.

Mailamma, a member of the Eravalar tribe, was a champion of human rights, and she was the founder of the Coca-Cola Virudha Samara Samiti (Anti Coca-Cola Struggle Committee) in Plachimada which has spearheaded the campaign against Coca-Cola. The Anti-Coca-Cola Struggle Committee has held a continuous vigil directly outside Coca-Cola's factory gates since April 22, 2002, demanding its permanent closure.

Mailamma was directly affected by Coca-Cola's operations. The water in her well, in Vijaynagar colony in Plachimada in Kerala's Palakkad district, had been so heavily polluted by Coca-Cola's operations that it has been deemed unfit for human consumption.
Mailamma was also recognized widely for her leadership, and she was the recipient of the prestigious Speak Out award by the Outlook magazine and the Sthree Shakthi Award (Women’s Power Award) in recent years.

Mailamma lived with her extended family in Vijaynagar Colony in Plachimada, and is survived by three sons and a daughter.

“Her dedication to the struggle for justice was tremendous, and she will be deeply missed,” said R. Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, a close ally of Mailamma.

“Activists like Mailamma represent the new kind leadership in India, who are the 'organic intellectuals', preparing the ground for the struggle interpreting their own experiences in the larger contexts,” said Medha Patkar of the National Alliance of People’s Movements.

“The image of her etched in my mind's eye is that of a person exuding a strong sense of dignity, poise, calmness and determination, conveying a sense of belongingness with twinkling eyes with her head held high shining hope and confidence on all those who came in contact with her,” said C.R. Bijoy of the of the People's Union for Civil Liberties.

"Ms. Mailamma is the one person who was always present at the vigil, no matter when we went, and we went numerous times," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center. "Her dedication, commitment and leadership will remain an inspiration to us all."


R. Ajayan, Plachimada Solidarity Committee +91 98471 42513
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +91 98103 46161

For more information, visit

Declaration of National Convention of Workers on 30 March 2016 at New Delhi



This National Convention of Workers organized by the Joint Platform of the Central Trade Unions (CTU) of the country along with Independent National Federations of employees of different Industries and Services congratulates the workers for the resounding historical success of the strike on 2nd September 2015 and also for their huge participation in the countrywide National Protest Day on 10th March 2016. This massive unity of the working people in the joint actions has to be further widened and strengthened in the process of struggle against the anti-worker, anti-people policies of Governments.

The Convention notes that attitude of the Govt is profoundly negative and hugely challenging to the working class. Despite readiness expressed by the CTUs through joint letter to the Govt after the 2nd September 2015 strike for commencement of dialogue on the 12 point charter of demands (CoD), the Govt did not respond at all thus arrogantly ignoring the message of such a huge strike by crores of workers pressing for their demands unanimously formulated by all the CTUs. The issues in the CoD relate to basic interest of the country's economy and also issues concerning the livelihood of the toiling people of both organised and unorganized sectors including the scheme workers.

The Govt has not taken any meaningful step to curb price rise of essential necessities and to generate employment except making tall baseless claims through sound-bites in the media. Instead of universalising public distribution system, the Govt is trying to scuttle it through the inherently anti-poor targeting mechanism called 'Direct Benefit Transfer' resulting further exclusion of the common and needy people. The huge dose of additional duty on diesel, doubling of cess on coal, and increase in indirect taxes in the latest Budget (2016-17) and the recent increase in prices of all petro products are bound to fuel further spiralling rise in prices of daily necessities.

The Govt is mysteriously silent on the question of retrieving the black-money stashed abroad. This Govt is equally unconcerned on recovering the Rs 4.04 lakh crore of Bad Debts, euphemistically called Non-Performing Assets (NPA) of Public Sector Banks and almost similar amount on account of unpaid direct tax. Rather in the Union Budget, it allowed further relaxations to both loan defaulters and tax-defaulters. And at the same time, the common and marginal people are being strangulated through huge increase in the burden of indirect tax and cut in allocations on social sectors etc.

Whole range of social security measures are under severe attack. The EPF and the ESI schemes are proposed to be made optional by the Govt to pave the way for their ultimate demolition. Post 2004 entrants in govt services, defence, railways etc have been subjected to notorious new pension scheme. And for the vast unorganized sector workers, old schemes are being repackaged and renamed, without providing for funds and implementation-machinery to just befool the people.

Although the Government had to roll back their retrograde budget proposal to tax the EPF withdrawal, they have launched atrocious attack of drastic cut in interest rate on small savings instruments like PPF, Postal saving deposits, Girl Child savings scheme, Sukanya Samridhhi Yojana, Kisan Vikas Patra, National Savings Certificate and even senior citizens' deposit schemes and monthly income scheme. This retrograde move would hit the common and marginal people very hard, more particularly those living on interest income only after retirement.

Totally ignoring the united opposition of the workers, the Government has been moving fast to demolish existing labour laws thereby empowering the employers with unfettered rights to "hire and fire" and stripping the workers and trade unions of all their rights and protection provided in laws. As follow up to the PMO's written communication to the Chief Secretaries of States, state governments are being directed to carry out Rajasthan type pro-management amendments in labour laws. The Labour Secretary, Govt of India has issued executive order on this 12th January granting exemption to so called Start-up Enterprises from inspection and application of 9 major labor laws, thereby legitimizing violations.

The proposed Small Factories (Regulations of Service conditions) Bill prescribes that major 14 labour laws will not apply to factories employing up to 40 workers. Labour Code on Wages Bill and Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill under the cover of amalgamation, seek to make registration of unions almost impossible, making retrenchment and closure almost free for the employers class. These bills have been put in public domain totally ignoring the trade unions thereby violating the provisions of ILO Convention 144 on Tripartite Consultation. All these amendments are meant to exclude 90% of the workforce from

application of labour laws thereby allowing the employers to further squeeze and exploit the workers. All rights-components in all the labour laws are being demolished to impose conditions of slavery on the working people. Simultaneously, almost in all the states, the work-place level struggles of the workers are being sought to be crushed through repression including intimidation and arrests by the Govt machinery as is being nakedly visible in Rajasthan, Haryana, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat etc in recent times.

Along with, the Peasantry and Agri Labourers are also under severe attack. Through sweeping changes in the Land Acquisition Act, Farmers' Right to Land and Agri-Workers' Right to Livelihood were sought to be drastically curbed, which ultimately could be stalled temporarily through popular struggles but the danger still remains.

Attack on public sector has been pushed to unprecedented height. Not merely disinvestment, the Govt will now go for 'mega strategic sale'. The main target is the Maharatna CPSUs and those amongst the top profit making CPSUs including banks/insurance. The ownership control and management of our shinning CPSUs are being sought to be handed over to the private corporates, both domestic & foreign. Along with, almost unlimited FDI is allowed in strategic sectors like Railways, Defence and Financial Sector as complementary to the move of privatization/PPP etc.

The anti-worker and authoritarian attitude of the Government is also nakedly reflected in their refusal to implement the consensus recommendations of 43rd, 44th and 45th Indian Labour Conferences on formulation of minimum wages, same wage and benefits as regular workers for the contract workers and granting status of workers with attendant benefits to the scheme workers like anganwadi, mid-day-meal, ASHA, para-teachers etc. On the contrary, the Govt drastically curtailed budget allocations to all those centrally sponsored schemes meant for poor peoples' welfare. The legislation on the issue of Street Vendors is not being implemented appropriately.

The convention reiterates the demand for strict implementation of labour laws and a total scrap of its proposals of so called "labour law-reforms", halting mass scale unlawful contractorisation, minimum wages at not less than Rs 18000 per month with indexation and universal social security benefits and pension for all including the unorganized sector workers, etc. The demands also include compulsory registration of Trade Unions within 45 days and ratification of ILO Conventions 87 and 98.

The Convention urges the Govt. to reverse the direction of the ongoing economic policy regime which has landed the entire national economy in distress and decline affecting the working people the most. The Convention also extends support to the struggles of the govt employees, Railways and defence sector employees, bank & insurance employees, coal, telecom and transport sector employees etc on their just demands and against the policy regime.

The Convention calls upon all the trade unions, federations across the sectors to widen and consolidate the unity at the grass-root level and prepare for countrywide united movement and observe the following programme of agitation and action:

1) Joint conventions and campaigns during June-July 2016 in states, districts and at industry level and take initiative to involve peasants, agri labour and mass of the people in the campaign
2) Day-long 'Mass Dharna/Satyagraha in the Capital of the States and Industrial Centres preferably on the auspicious day of 9th August 2016 (Quit India Day) in preparation for the Strike

The Convention once again expresses its readiness for arriving at an acceptable settlement to the 12 points Charter of Demands through discussion with the Government. Effective implementation forthwith the consensus recommendations of successive Indian Labour Conferences on minimum wage, on contract workers and the Scheme workers is crucial for the CTUs to prepare for dialogue with the Government.

The National Convention of Workers calls upon the trade unions and working people irrespective of affiliations to unite and make the countrywide General Strike a massive success. Unity of working people and masses have to be defended and strengthened through the process of struggles only. Convention also appeals to the Peasants, Agriculture Labour and the rural and urban toiling people to support and participate in the strike on 2nd September 2016.


Dr. B. R. Ambedkar on Republic Day (26th January)

On 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value.

How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of democracy which this Constituent Assembly has so laboriously built up.

"I feel that the constitution is workable, it is flexible and it is strong enough to hold the country together both in peacetime and in wartime. Indeed, if I may say so, if things go wrong under the new Constitution, the reason will not be that we had a bad Constitution. What we will have to say is that Man was vile."

"There is no nation of Indians in the real sense of the world, it is yet to be created. In believing we are a nation, we are cherishing a great delusion. How can people divided into thousand of castes be a nation? The sooner we realise that we are not yet a nation, in a social and psychological sense of the world, the better for us."

“Independence is no doubt a matter of joy. But let us not forget that this independence has thrown on us greater responsibilities. By independence, we have lost the excuse of blaming the British for anything going wrong. If hereafter things go wrong, we will have nobody to blame except ourselves. There is a greater danger of things going wrong. Times are fast changing,"

"Our object in framing the Constitution is rally two-fold: (1) To lay down the form of political democracy, and (2) To lay down that our ideal is economic democracy and also to prescribe that every Government whatever is in power shall strive to bring about economic democracy. The directive principles have a great value, for they lay down that our ideal is economic democracy."

Ambedkar on Gandhi and Reason

We are standing today at the point of time where the old age ends and the new begins.

The old age was the age of Ranade, Agarkar, Tilak, Gokhale, Wachha, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, Surendranath. The new age is the age of Mr Gandhi and this generation is said to be the Gandhi generation. As one who knows something of the old age and also something of the new, I see some very definite marks of difference between the two.

The type of leadership has undergone a profound change. In the age of Ranade, the leaders struggled to modernize India. In the age of Gandhi, the leaders are making her a living specimen of antiquity. In the age of Ranade, leaders depended upon experience as a corrective method to their thoughts and their deeds. The leaders of the present age depend upon their inner voice as their guide... The leaders of the old age took care to be well clad while the leaders of the present age take pride in being half clad…

To my mind there is no doubt that this Gandhi age is the dark age of India. It is an age in which people instead of looking for their ideals in the future are returning to antiquity. It is an age in which people have ceased to think for themselves and as they have ceased to think they have ceased to read and examine the facts of their lives.

Ambedkar on Hindu Rashtra and India

It has been a topic of endless discussion why Ambedkar in the constitution of India Article 1 said 'India that is Bharat'. A clue could lie in this passage:

“If Hindu Raj becomes a reality then it would be greatest menace to this country. Whatever may Hindus say, actually it does not make a difference that Hinduism is a danger to Independence, Equality and Brotherhood. Thus it is an enemy of democracy. We should make all out efforts to stop Hindu Raj from becoming a reality.”
( Pakistan or Partition of India, Page 358)

Ambedkar knew that India is not Hindustan and wanted to prevent any such claim... as is now being claimed that Hindutva is the same as 'Indian' and 'cultural nationalism'. 'Cultural nationalism' is facism, borrowed from the Nazis by the fathers of Hindutva V D Savarkar etc.

The 42nd amendment put paid to any hope of a theocratic Hindu Rashtra, by adding 'secular' to the preamble.

Dalits in ‘Hindu Rashtra’

Posted by: subhash gatade | March 2, 2009

Dalits in ‘Hindu Rashtra’

The Gujarat Earthquake in the year 2001 and the consequent relief and
rehabilitation programme was an eyeopener to the outside world
regarding the deep seated caste bias in the Gujarati community apart
from the much talked about bias against the minorities. There were
reports that at places the relief and rehabilitation work bypassed the
dalits and the Muslims.

Interestingly Babasaheb Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar had asked his followers
to stop Hindu Raj becoming a reality at all costs.

The organised genocide of Muslims in the year 2002 at the behest of
the Sangh Parivar organisations which was aided and abetted by the
Modi government was another occasion when the travails and
tribulations of the dalits came under further scrutiny. While a
section of the dalits cooption in the Hindutva agenda and their
metamorphosis as foot soldiers of the Hindutva brigade was duly
reported, the Varna dominated media did not deem it necessary to
emphasise some related facts. The genocide in Gujarat had also a
little dalit blood accompanying it. The dalits lost 108 lives in
Gujarat, 38 alone in the city of Ahmedabad. Quite a few of these
deaths occurred due to the dalits resisting the Hindutva goons by
siding with hapless Muslims.


It was the year 2001 when Naresh Solanki’s two and half year old
nephew died. The aggrieved family from Hooda village Palanpur block of
Banaskantha district went and buried him in the community burial
grounds. No sooner they reached home came the news that a Patel
community member from the village had literally exhumed the body of
the child with a tractor. For the powerful Patels who had encroached
on some part of land next to the burial ground had felt offended with
the burial.

It has been more than seven years that the incident took place, the
dalits of Hooda village are still waiting for allotment of some land
for burial from the collector and the village panchayat since then,
but to no avail.It was only last year that one community elder died
the dalits had to carry his body to another village, where fortunately
Dalits there had a separate graveyard. .

But can it be said that the problem of no land even for burials is
limited to Hooda or it is a statewide phenomenon. A report carried by
‘Mail Today’ in the first week of Feb, 2009 had thrown light on the
issue. It tells us that dalits are not allowed to use common burial
grounds and are often forced to use a part of waste land near the
villages as burial grounds. Absence of any legal entitlement forces
them to be pushed out of such lands by dominant upper castes.

A survey conducted by Gujarat Rajya Grampanchayat Samajik Nyay Samiti
Manch found out that ‘[o]ut of 657 villages in Gujarat, 397 villages
do not have any designated land alloted for burial for dalits. Out of
the 260 villages where land has been formally allotted, 94 have seen
encroachments by the dominant castes and in 26 villages it is a
lowlying area and therefore the ground gets waterlogged.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that when the question of
burying the deads comes up, dalits share a strange commonality with
the Muslims. Muslims share similar predicament when they find their
graveyards getting encroached by the dominant classes. Few years back
the Gujarat Highcourt had to intervene and ask the State government to
post police personnel as attempts were on to encroach upon the
graveyard of Muslims in Patan..



If the dead dalits have no place of dignity in ‘Hindu Rashtra’, one
can just imagine the status of the living. One test could be
househunting as a dalit in Ahmedabad - capital of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in

The general experience is that if a Dalit approaches a upper caste
builder for accommodation, he is either directly discouraged or
tacitly denied.It is immaterial even if the Dalit belongs to a sound
economic background. For the builders and real estate agents, selling
property to even one Dalit family in a society becomes detrimental to

Perhaps it is a marker of the deeply entrenched Varna/caste mindset,
which has supposedly received new lease of life after the 2002
carnage, one witnesses a unique trend in Ahmedabad where “only Dalit
residential societies - around 300 of them” have come up in recent
years. In a recent study done by the Express reporter he emphasised
that it “.. not a matter of choice, but of compulsion.” (A Dalit? Go
find a Dalit society D P Bhattacharya Ahmedabad, June 17, 2007)”

“Even if a Dalit can afford a flat in areas dominated by the upper
castes, they are often denied by the builders or the seller,” retired
IAS officer P K Valera, who lives in one such Dalit society in
Ramdevnagar, says. Some social scientists say the alienation started
since 1982, after the anti-reservation agitation, but agree that the
caste and class distinctions have become more serious in recent years.
This trend can be seen not only in the walled city but also in the
posh areas of west Ahmedabad like Satellite, Vastrapur, Bodakdev,
Ambavadi. Socio-political scientist Achyut Yagnik says, “There are
more than 300 Dalit societies in the city. In Chandkheda alone, there
are 200 societies, most of which have come up after the 2002 riots
when people moved out from Gomtipur, Bapunagar and Dani limda area.
You will find construction contractors who only build Dalit

Of course this near segregation of dalits to specific areas under the
great umbrella of Hindu Unity, does not stop the Sangh Parivar to use
the dalits for their sectarian agenda during elections and riots.Even
a cursory glance at the the list of the dead and wounded in the riots
makes it clear that one finds names of only Muslims and Dalits, rest
of the other castes are nominal.

Interestingly a dalit from outside the state, whose caste surnames are
not identificable in the mainstream apartments, can easily get into


Look the Other Way, While Recruiting Teachers

What is common between all the non-granted schools in Gujarat whose
numbers hovers around 3255 according the website of the Gujarat State
Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board. A close study of these
schools may reveal many similarities but the foremost thing over which
they seem to be united is to violate the statutroy provisions of the
Education act 1972. None of them follow these provisions of the
Education act. while it is mandatory for such schools to adhere to
norm. End result, only handful of teachers from the scheduled
communities in all these schools

Under the provisions of the education act - 1972, it is mandatory for
all the granted and non-granted schools to abide by the reservation
policy while making recruitments. And the rule says that if any school
is found to be violating its provisions then its registration can be
cancelled. Experience shows that the rule is openly flouted by the
non-granted schools. Interestingly the state government has no qualms
in accepting that they can’t compel the schools to do it as they are
not given any aid.

It was only last year that Indian Express ( Vadodara, May 26, 2008)
carried a big expose about this ongoing scam where ‘Government looks
the other way as schools flout recruitment norms for teachers.’
According to the social justice and empowerment department, which is
supposed to supervise the implementation of the reservation policy,
the simple reason for the statutory provisions of the act being not
implemented is the absence of a roster reservation act.

Question naturally arises why the state has still not deemed it
necessary to take effective steps to stop such malpractice

In fact, a RTI application filed by a leading social worker of Gujrat
enquiring about the no of teachers who have been recruited by the
non-granted schools under the reservation policy, led to this expose
of details.Expressing concern over the state of affairs, the social
worker demanded two things : Cancelling the registration of errant
schools and punishing the officers who have been responsible for
getting the policy implemented.


Handling Atrocities Cases Atrociously

What is the rate of conviction of cases under the Prevention of
Atrocity Act against SC/ST in Gujarat ? It is mere 2.5 per cent while
rate of acquittal is 97.5 per cent. A 23 page confidential report
submitted by the state Social Justice Department to the State Chief
Secretary and legal departments provides glaring examples of
‘mishandling of cases registered under Prevention of Atrocities Act
against SC/ST. (Express, Sep 15, 2006).

The report provides details of how cases are not investigated properly
by the police and the hostile role played by public prosecutors during
time of trials.

- Act clearly stipulates that offence which are registered under this
act cannot be investigated by an officer below the rank of DySP but
more than 4,000 such cases have been investigated by Police Inspector
or Police Sub Inspector.

- Acquittal of the perpetrator because victim not identified as member
of SC or ST community. Reason, not attaching caste certificate of the
victim with the case papers

- Public prosecutors false claims before the courts that act has been
modified by the state government altough it is known that it is a
central act

- Granting of anticipatory bails although there is no such provision
in the act. Interestingly the Parliamentary Committee on SC and ST
affairs had also expressed concern over such anticipatory bails
granted ‘in atrocity cases in the state of Gujarat’.

In fact a detailed and systematic study of 400 judgements done by
Vajibhai Patel, Secretary of Council for Social Justice compelled the
government to work on this 23 page report. This report tells us that
utterly negligent police investigation at both the higher and lower
levels coupled with a distinctly hostile role played by the public
prosecutors is the main reason for the collapse of cases filed under
the atrocities act. It is worth noting that he has meticulously
documented these judgements delivered under this act since April 1,
1995 in the Special Atrocity Courts set up in 16 districts of the
state. The study also blasts the common perception is that the
inefficacy of this law is due to false complaints being lodged or
compromises between the parties, in actuality it is a complicit State
that has rendered the Act toothless.

Perhaps the whole state of affairs was a continuation of the situation
as it existed there.

The National Crime Records Bureau had made an observation few years
back which went unnoticed. Coming to atrocities against Dalits,
Gujarat ranks third in the country after U.P. and Bihar. (Asian Age,
11 April 2003) It’s earlier record also revealed a distrubing picture
of the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’. According to its 1998 report, the total no
of atrocities against dalits in the country were 25,617. Of these,
8894 cases were registered in Gujarat alone. 28 cases of rapes of
dalit women were recorded that year, which was seventh highest in the

But when it came to taking steps to check offences against the SCs and
STs the BJP government did nothing. The special dalit courts envisaged
in all districts under the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act
1989 were still not a reality. Out of 26 districts of Gujarat, only 10
have been provided with special courts, although none of these 10
courts accord special status to dalit issues, according to Dalit
activists. (same ref.)


Ambedkar’s Prognosis
One can go on belching out statistics about Dalit’s situation as it
exists in the first ‘Hindu Rashtra’ in Secular- Democratic India.
Definitely our aim here is not to present a data bank on this theme.

Our main concern is to raise two points.

- Why the near secondary status granted to the dalits has not become
an important issue in the anti-communal movement ?

- Why a section of dalits still feels enamoured about Hindutva, can it
be said to be sign of its upward mobility within the Hindu religion or
it is a marker of the hatred it had accumulated vis-a-vis the minority
communities and getting ready to play out the Hindutva agenda on its
own also.

It needs to be emphasised here that all over Gujarat one finds
thousands and thousands of boards put at prominent places by one of
the affiliates of the Sangh Parivar that ‘you are entering this or
that locality of Hindu Rashtra’ which is completely illegal and an
open proclamation of ’secession’ from the rest of the society.

At this juncture one thinks of Ambedkar’s prognosis vis-a-vis Hindu
Rajya. In his book ‘Pakistan or Partition of India, page 358) written
before partition of India, he clearly prophesises : “If Hindu Raj
becomes a reality then it would be greatest menace to this country.
Whatever may Hindus say, actually it does not make a difference that
Hinduism is a danger to Independence, Equality and Brotherhood. Thus
it is an enemy of democracy. We should make all out efforts to stop
Hindu Raj from becoming a reality.” ( Pakistan or Partition of India,
Page 358)

Is anybody listening ?

Four golden rules for writing effective RTI Applications

*Four golden rules for writing effective RTI Applications*

Dear fellow Activists,

We often sit down to draft an RTI application in an angry and unrealistic mood. When we write RTI applications, our focus should be on getting information. Instead, we are thinking about stopping some wrongdoings, getting some officials and corrupt contractors penalized, making the authorities “answerable” for negligence etc, etc. At such times, we fail to think clearly about the items of information that we need.

Right to Information Act 2005 is a law, and effectiveness in legal work depends on using the law without anger, resentment and wishful thinking.

While asking for information, the 4 golden rules are:

1. Point to various specific documents. Your application should look like a shopping-list of documents.

2. Name documents using words from Sec 2(f) and Sec 4(1)(b) of the RTI Act – reports, logbooks, emails, advices, rules, regulations, manuals etc. Only after exhausting these should you use other similar names e.g. quality audit reports, correspondence etc. In case this information is denied, the similarity of wordings will help you to convince appellate authorities that your requested information is “records” and “information” that must be mandatorily given.

3. Don’t ask questions, don’t demand explanations, and don’t make allegations.
Don’t make your application sound like a letter of complaint or a letter-to-the-editor. Don’t preface it with a covering letter or an introductory paragraph. RTI applications should be emotionless and bland.

4.Avoid vague expressions and requests such as

  • What is the status of my complaint?
    What further action has been taken on my complaint/letter?
    Give me action-taken report.

    Words like “status” and “action” are open to interpretation, and usually fail to point towards any particular document; they can mean different things to different persons like applicant, PIO, APIO and appellate authorities. In most cases, there is no such document called “action-taken report” in existence, and therefore, the PIO cannot be rightly asked under RTI to generate such a document in reply to your application; PIO can only be asked to give you copy of a document that exists. The right way is to ask for signed and stamped copy of all correspondence till date in the matter of your complaint, including memos, emails, covering letters for forwarding your complaint etc. Ask for copy of logbook or any other book where details of your complaint are entered, marked to specific officers for their investigation and action. Ask for a copy of all their remarks, feedback, reports etc. If the case on your complaint is closed, ask for the closing remarks of the officer concerned.
  • Give particulars of the project to build XYZ.
    What “particulars” do you want? Engineering drawings? Budgets? Financial projections? Feasibility reports? Consultants’ studies? This is not clear. Don’t leave it to the PIO to decide what documents to include and what to leave out. Be specific and name the documents that you want copied. Make it difficult for the PIO to loosely interpret your request.
  • Prepared by
    Shri Sailesh Gandhi
    Central Information Commissioner

    (Circulated in the interest of the public giving them tips to frame good questions while submitting RTI Applications to get the information)

Right To Information Emasculated By Prashant Bhushan

The amendments proposed to the Right to Information Act are a substantial roll back of the Act. The persistent manner in which the government is pushing them despite mounting public criticism, indicates that the prime minister has not outgrown his bureaucratic background. The disclosure of the text of the proposed amendments has given the lie to the statement put out by the prime minister’s office to the effect that the amendments actually for the first time empower the citizens to access file notings and that the restrictions relate only to notings on defence and personnel related matters. Apart from the fact that the central information commission had repeatedly ruled that the un-amended Act did not restrict access to file notings, it can be seen that the text of the amendment restricts access to all file notings except “substantial file notings on plans, schemes, programmes of the central government or a state government, as the case may be that relate to development and social issues.” This is done by amending the definition of records in the Act.

This amendment will by itself take the life out of the Act. It is the notings that are supposed to deal with the reasons and rationale for any order or decision of the government. Very often, it is the noting of an honest officer, which explains what is wrong with a proposed decision of the government. In the Panna-Mukta oil deal, it was the noting of the then superintendent of police, CBI, which gave the reasons and circumstances that explained why the decision to hand over ONGC’s developed oilfields to Enron and Reliance was against public interest. Moreover, it is only the notings of various officers which will eventually reveal whether an officer’s role was above board or whether he was acting on extraneous considerations. Thus, notings are often critical for fixing accountability. In the absence of notings, it would almost always be impossible for people to fully appreciate the official rationale for a decision.

Though the amendment restricts notings on most subjects, it may be noted that even if it related to only defence and personnel related matters, it would still be objectionable. This is because information (including notings) on defence and security matters are already exempt under Section 8(1) (a) of the Act, and there is no justification for exempting notings on personnel related matters. The transfers, postings, disciplinary proceedings, suspensions, and promotions of government servants play a critical role in governance. It is well known that there is a lot of corruption and extraneous influence in such matters, which has been having a deleterious effect on governance. Honest officers are often victimised by punishment postings. Corrupt officers are often rewarded with postings on crucial positions. It is well known that bribes are fixed for postings and transfer of officers in “lucrative” departments like police, excise, income tax etc. In Maharashtra, it was discovered in response to an application under the RTI Act, that the postings of most police officers were on the recommendations of the MPs and ministers. By far, the most effective way of checking such arbitrariness in such personnel related matters is by having complete transparency in such matters, so that people can see not just the final decision (which is always said to be on exigencies of service), but also the rationale and the entire decision making process which led to the decision.

It is often said that such disclosure of notings related to personnel matters would inhibit officers from expressing themselves freely and frankly. The truth, however, is that no honest officer is likely to be inhibited from frankly expressing himself for fear that what he writes may become known. It is only the dishonest officer wanting to make a dishonest noting who is likely to be deterred by such transparency. In fact such transparency would act as a shield for honest persons who are less likely to be victimised if the entire transaction were open to public gaze.

Apart from the amendment to exclude file notings, four amendments have been proposed to Section 8 dealing with exemptions, each of which widens the exemptions under the Act. Firstly, the amendment to the proviso to clause (i) of Section 8 now restricts access to cabinet papers to only the actual decisions and reasons thereof, after the decision, rather than to all papers. This is also unreasonable. In a democracy where the cabinet is just the representative of the people, who are the real masters, there is no justification for excluding all cabinet papers from public view, especially after the decision has been taken. If any papers are of a nature that their disclosure would adversely affect defence or security, those are already excluded under Section 8 (a). Similarly, any cabinet paper whose disclosure would be injurious to public interest in any way is already excluded under the various other clauses in Section 8.

Three new exemptions are sought to be inserted in Section 8. The first relates to the identity of officers who “made inspections,observations, recommendations, or gave legal advice or opinions …” Thus this clause seeks to mask the identity of public officials who have played any role in the decision-making, even on developmental and social issues. Again, the object seems to be to save officials from being held publicly accountable by withholding the precise role played by different officials in the decision- making. This is again anti-democratic and without merit.

Another exemption added by the newly introduced clause (k) in Section 8 is to restrict “information pertaining to any process of any examination conducted by any public authority, or assessment or evaluation made by it for judging the suitability of any person for appointment or promotion to any post or admission to any course or any such other purpose.” Again, there is no justification for removing from public scrutiny the process of deciding selections and promotions where there is rampant corruption. The opacity of such systems of recruitment and selection is what is allowing such corruption and arbitrariness to go on. The amendment is designed to allow these bodies to continue with such arbitrary and corrupt appointments and selections.

Notings are supposed to deal with the reasons and rationale for any order or decision of the government. Very often, it is the noting of an honest officer which explains what is wrong with a proposed decision of the government

Another exemption sought to be introduced is to exempt “copies of noting, or extracts from the document, manuscript and file so far as it relates to legal advice, opinion, observation or recommendation made by any officer during the decision-making process, prior to the executive decision or policy formulation”. Such a blanket exemption for restricting all access to the entire decision making, before any decision is made would allow the officials to present every decision, however corrupt and against public interest as a fait accompli. Take the Enron deal for example. With such a clause, it would be impossible for people to know how the then finance secretary had effectively prevented the central electricity Authority from carrying out a financial evaluation of the project, by falsely showing that the finance ministry had carried out such an evaluation. Thus the country came to be saddled with a liability of Rs 10,000 crore, which could have been prevented if the correspondence between the finance ministry, power ministry and the central electricity authority had been accessible and known, before the contract with Enron had been signed. This clause seeks to prevent such examination.

Similarly, many genetically modified foods are in the process of being cleared for release currently, without any transparency about the process of clearance and the various bio safety tests that they have been and have not been subjected to. This amendment will prevent access to this process of clearance until after they have been cleared and irreparable damage to human health and environment has been done.

It can be seen, therefore, that the amendments proposed are not just substantive, but very far reaching which will take the life out of the Act, which only seeks to give effect to the fundamental rights of citizens under Art 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. These amendments would be clearly unconstitutional as imposing an unreasonable restriction to the citizens’ right to know what is being done by their public servants. In any case, such far- reaching amendments to such a critical statute must not be passed by parliament without sending them to the parliamentary standing committee.

The writer is a senior advocate,Supreme Court of India
08 December, 2006
Combat Law

India Shining: The figures tell for whom and how

India is 'budding superpower', this century belongs to India, 'India Shining', 'Incredible India', 'India poised' are no longer advertising slogans, but part of the mainstream beliefs of a section of the world. The BPO capital of the world, is no longer a country that lives from ship to mouth forced to feed its population the rejects of other countries cattle feed, laced with weeds... or is it?

Certainly some have benefited from the market led polity, while some others have lost. Our bureaucrats have done what they do best: invent new spins to put a glossy façade on the dismal reality facing up to 80% of the country. Their intelligence is used more to disingenuously to at best gloss over failures or at its more frequent worst blame the victim, and shoot the messenger.

In this series of posts, we will have a look at the figures that tell us who has benefited, who hasn't and the long distance to travel.

We will see the 'three India's'

  • ‘Global India’
  • ‘Developing India’
  • ‘Poor India’

All the figures given here are the government's own.
Unless otherwise mentioned, the figures are for 2007.

01: 86% working on less than Rs 20 a day

  • 394.9 million workers (86 per cent of the working population) belong to the unorganized sector
  • 316 million workers live on less than Rs 20, or $ 0.49, a day.
  1. 88% of the Scheduled Tribes and the Scheduled Castes
  2. 80% of the Other Backward Classes
  3. 85% of Muslims
  • 90 per cent of agricultural labour households are landless or have less than one hectare of holding
  • agriculture is getting feminized with 73% women being associated with it compared to 52% men.
  • Source: Arjun Sengupta Chairman, National Commission for Enterprises in Unorganised Sector report on the Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihood in the Unorganised Sector. based on government data 1993-94 and 2004-05.

  • 02: 836m (77%) live on less than Rs 20 a day

    • In 2004-05, a total of 836 million (77%) had below Rs. 20 a day.
    • Poverty increased by a 100 million
    • The new rich has grown by 93 million.
    • The middle class and the rich grew from 162 million to 253 million
    • The middle class grew from 15.5% to 19.3%
    • Extreme poor have also benefited (274 to 237 million) – 43 million of them to be precise. Their per capita consumption has gone up from Rs 9 to Rs 12.

    Source: Arjun Sengupta Chairman, National Commission for Enterprises in Unorganised Sector report on the Conditions of Work and Promotion of Livelihood in the Unorganised Sector. based on government data 1993-94 and 2004-05.

    03: 35% live on $0.20 a day

    • Almost 80% of India’s population was surviving on less than $2.15 a day (in PPP terms).
    • That is, about 800 million people were living on $0.40 a day or less.
    • Nearly 35% (350 million) were found to be living on $0.20 a day or less.

    Source: The World Bank estimates for India based on household surveys carried out in 1999-2000.

    04: India Inc: India income contrasts

    • The top 10% alone earns 33% of all income.
    • 46% of the income is accounted for by the top 20% of the people.
    • The lowest 20% accounts for only 8% of incomes.

    The billionaires

    • India's 40 billionaires are worth $351 billion
    • Its four richest –Lakshmi Mittal, Ambani, Anil Ambani, and Mr. Kushal Pal Singh – hold more than half that.
    • India's four wealthiest men are now worth more than China's 40 wealthiest combined.
    • The total wealth of the top 2 Indian billionaires ($52.1 billion), almost double that of all 20 Chinese billionaires together.
    • The concentration and wealth of the Indian billionaires ($191 billion dollars) far exceeds the wealth of their Chinese counterparts ($28.9 billion dollars).
    • The wealth of 35 billionaire families exceeds that of 800 million poor peasants, landless rural workers and urban slum dwellers.
    • Only 3 million Indians – from a working-age population of 321 million – hold stocks. A further 3.5 million hold stocks through mutual funds.

    We have more millionaires than many 'rich' countries!

    1. United States - 415
    2. Germany - 55
    3. Russia - 53
    4. India - 40
    5. Britain - 29
    6. Turkey - 25
    7. Japan - 24
    8. Canada - 23
    9. Taiwan - 21
    10. China, Brazil, Spain – 20 each

    Source: Forbes, 2007.

    and in 2008

    • For the first time ever, the number of worlds billionaires crossed into four figures, reaching 1,125.
    • The total net worth of the group is $4.4 trillion, up $900 billion from last year.

    At number 4, the ranking remains the same for India

    1. USA, 469
    2. Russia, 87
    3. Germany, 59
    4. India, 53

    Though there are a few surprises in the details!

    • 4 of the top 8 are from India!
    • India had only 4 billionaires in 2004, 40 in 2007 and 53 in 2008.

    ... a rather rapid rise.
    Source: Forbes, 2008.

    05: The seekers and the consumers…

    Deprived/Destitute: They earn less than 90,000 Indian rupees a year ($1,969 per household, or about a dollar per person per day) estimated to be 210 million (23.3%)
    Aspirers: households earning between 90,000 and 200,000 rupees ($1,969-$4,376) per year. 275 million people (30.5 %)
    Seekers: earning between 200,000 and 500,000 rupees ($4,376- $10,941) 275 million people (30.5 %)
    Strivers: with incomes of between 500,000 and 1 million rupees ($10,941-$21,882) 150 million people (16.66%,)
    (below the poverty line in the United States, but at ppp the income of the seekers and strivers is $23,000 to $118,000)
    Global Indians, earning more than 1 million rupees ($21,882, or $118,000, taking into account the cost of living) about 6 million (0.066 %).

    SourceThe Indian National Council of Applied Economic Research

    07: Feeding us, but killing themselves…

    The Maharashtra government carried out a door-to-door survey of farmer households in the six districts of Vidarbha ( Amravati, Akola, Yavatmal, Washim, Buldhana and Wardha) that have seen the highest number of farmer suicides. Seventeen lakh households were covered, in 8,351 villages.

    • 75% of households in the six districts were distressed.
    • Over one-fourth of the 17 lakh families were under “maximum distress”.
    • More than three-quarters of the rest were under “medium distress”;
    • One-fifth were shown not to have any distress.

    Major sources of the distress

    • Debt (over half the households)
    • crop losses or failure, (70%)
    • expenses for a daughter’s marriage, (>3lakh families)
    • the rising cost of healthcare.

    The state government’s website puts the number of farm suicides at 2,400 in these six districts, between 2001 and 2006. It shows that this year has been by far the worst. By November, the number had reached 1,215.
    The report admits that in spite of the prime minister’s and chief minister’s relief packages, the number of suicides in the six districts “continues to be in the range of 100 per month”.

    Source: Government of Maharashtra, 2007

    08: Rural sanitation

    Only one in five rural households has a toilet (rural development ministry)

    1. Chhattisgarh 94.9% of households without a toilet.
    2. Jharkhand (93.5%)
    3. Madhya Pradesh (91.1%)
    4. Bihar (86.1%)
    5. Uttar Pradesh (80.8%)
    6. National average 78.1%

    09: Infant mortality rates in India: UNICEF 2007

    • Of the estimated 9.7 million children in the world dying before completing five years of age, 2.1 million, or 21%, are in India
    • 50% of child morality is due to neo-natal reasons, as opposed to 37% across the world.

    The other causes are

    • pneumonia (19%),
    • diarrhoea (17%),
    • malaria (8%),
    • measles and injuries (4% and 3% respectively),
    • AIDS (3%) and
    • other causes (10%).

    Other findings of the report are:

    • 9.4 million children in India are not immunised.
    • 8.3 million children weigh less than 2,500 gm at birth.
    • One-third of all underweight children in the world are in India.

    States with high rates of underweight children are

    1. Madhya Pradesh,
    2. Jharkhand,
    3. Bihar,
    4. Gujarat,
    5. Orissa,
    6. Chhattisgarh,
    7. Uttar Pradesh and
    8. Meghalaya.
    • Children in rural India live in unsanitary surroundings, with 700 million people without access to improved sanitation facilities.
    • The maternal mortality rate is 450 per 100,000 live births, according to the report, although domestic sources put it at 301.

    10: Neonatal deaths

    • More than 2.1 million children die every year in India before attaining the age of five, and half of them do not survive beyond 28 days
    • The under-5 mortality rate is 76 per 1,000 births.
    • With one child dying every three seconds, India registers the highest number of child deaths across the globe, which stands at 9.7 million worldwide with 4 million being neonatal deaths.

    Other findings of the report include:

    • Of the 19 million infants in the developing world who have low birth weight (less than 2,500 grams), 8.3 million are in India.
    • About 55 million or one-third of the world’s underweight children under the age of five live in India.
    • The worst affected states are Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Meghalaya.
    • 61 million stunted children, which is 51% of all Indian children under the age of five years, and 34% of all stunted children worldwide’. (Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition)
      • SourceThe State of the World’s Children 2008

    11: Nutritional status of children

    National Family Health Survey (NHFS-3) showed that there has not been much improvement in the nutritional status of children, within the last eight years.

    • During NFHS-2 (1998-1999), 47% of children under three were found to be underweight
    • 46% of children under three years of age being underweight, according to NFHS-3 (2005-2006).
    • This means every second child under six years of age in India is underweight, a statistic worse than that in sub-Saharan Africa.
    • Infant mortality is still high at 57 per 1,000 births (previous 68 per 1,000 births)
    • Full vaccination coverage: 44% of 12 to 23-month-old children receiving all the recommended vaccinations (previous 42%).
    • Only 58% of children with diarrhoea were taken to a health facility.
    • 19.1% of infants are wasting (have low weight for their height), (from 20%)
    • 38.4% of all children under three years of age have stunted growth, a sign of prolonged under-nourishment.
    • 45.9% of Indian children under three are underweight.
    • Nearly 80% of infants now have anaemia, (up from 74%)

    12: sex ratio: declining in 80% of the districts

    • India faces a declining girl/boy ratio in 80% of its districts.
    • The all-India sex ratio is 927 girls for 1,000 boys, which puts the country right at the bottom of the global charts, worse off than countries like Nigeria (965) and neighbour Pakistan (958).
    • Only three states -- Kerala, Pondicherry and Lakshadweep -- show an improvement in sex ratio.
    • Punjab is the worst offender (875 in 1991, to 798 girls for every 1,000 boys in 2001), followed by Haryana and then Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal.

    SourceState of the World’s Children 2006

    13: The more vulnerable

    • 1 in 12 households in India has a disabled member
    • There has been a 5% drop in the employment rate of physically-challenged individuals in the decade leading up to 2002.
    • Employment of people with disability among large private firms was only 0.3% of the workforce, and among MNCs, only 0.05%.
    • The fall in the employment rate of working age disabled people from 42.7% in 1991 to 37.6% in 2002 was almost universal across the country and also across all education levels.
    • 8% of its 1.1 billion citizens disabled (‘People with Disabilities in India: From Commitments to Outcomes’, World Bank).

    14: Schooling

    • The Gross Dropout Rate (GDR) between general category candidates and SC/ST candidates, which was 6.7% and 15.1% in 2001-02, deteriorated to 10.4% and 16.6% in 2003-04 respectively.” (CAG)
    • 3% of child labourers in India have been to school (planning commission 2006)
    • More than 32,000 schools in India, mostly primary schools in rural areas,
    1. do not have a single student
    2. no teachers
    3. only para-teachers.
    4. Seasonal migration of communities in search of a livelihood
  • Karnataka had the most schools with zero enrolment (7,945).
  • 23,000 schools had no teacher
  • 1.3 lakh had just one teacher.
  • 102,227 elementary schools (9.54%) had just one classroom.
  • Source‘Elementary Education in India 2005-06’, prepared by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), covered 11,24,033 schools in 35 states and union territories.

    15: Domestic Violence or how we love our women

    • Half of all women lack proper care during pregnancy and delivery
    • Sixty-two per cent of women with two daughters and no sons say they want no more children, compared with 47% in the last NFHS in 1998-99.
    • The number of women married before the legal age of 18 is 45%, (previous 50%).
    • 40% of ever-married women experienced violence (from 6% in Himachal Pradesh to 59% in Bihar).
    • Married women with no education were much more likely (46%) to have suffered spousal violence.
    • 12% of women who have 12 or more years of higher education reported violence.
    • Nearly 55% of women think that spousal abuse is warranted under several circumstances.
    • Source: the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-III) 2005-06

    16: Manunkind: Medical care for women

    • More than three-quarters of pregnant women in India received at least some antenatal care (ANC),
    • but only half the women had at least three ANC visits with a health provider during their pregnancy.
    • 74% of urban women having ANC at least three times, compared with 43% of rural women.
    • Overall, births assisted by a health professional increased to 49% from 42%; however, only 39% of rural women received assistance.
    • Most women still deliver their children at home, with 41% using hospitals.
    • Only about one-third of women received post-natal care within two days of delivery.
    • More than half of all women are anaemic.

    Source: The National Family Health Survey (NFHS-III) 2005-06

    17: Millennium Development Goals off track in South Asia: World Bank Report

    South Asia will fall short on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), says the World Bank-IMF Global Monitoring Report. Though much of the world, including South Asia, is set to cut extreme poverty in half by the due date of 2015, prospects are gravest for the goals of reducing child and maternal mortality, with serious shortfalls also likely in primary school completion, nutrition, and sanitation goals.

    Access the report

    The report stresses the link between environment and development and calls for urgent action on climate change. Arguably, few regions in the world are more at risk from climate change in terms of adverse impact on the poor than South Asia and the region faces a large potential health risk from climate change through increased malnutrition, diarrhea, and malaria.

    Read more

    Key findings:
    - South Asia is expected to contribute the most to global poverty reduction in the next decade
    - South Asia is likely to fall seriously short in some areas, including primary education, gender parity in tertiary education, and child mortality goals
    - South Asia has the world’s highest incid ence of child malnutrition and the child malnutrition rate in India is double the African average.

    # # #

    Permanent URL:

    World Bank Finds More People Live in Steep Poverty

    World Bank Finds More People Live in Steep Poverty

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The World Bank said Tuesday that more people were living in extreme poverty in developing countries than previously thought as it adjusted the recognized yardstick for measuring global poverty to $1.25 a day from $1.

    The bank said there were 1.4 billion people — a quarter of the developing world — living in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 a day in 2005 in the world's developing countries. Last year, the bank said there were 1 billion people living under $1 a day.

    The 2005 figures, the latest available, are likely to put fresh pressure on big donor countries to move more aggressively to combat global poverty.

    Even so, the new estimates, based on updated global price data, show how progress has been made in helping the poor over the past 25 years. In 1981, 1.9 billion people were living below the $1.25 a day poverty line. The data are based on 675 household surveys in 116 countries.

    "These new estimates are a major advance in poverty measurements because they are based on far better price data for assuring that the poverty lines are comparable across countries," said Martin Ravallion, director of the World Bank's Development Research Group.

    While the developing world has more poor people than previously believed, the World Bank's new chief economist, Justin Lin, said the world was still on target to meet a United Nations goal of halving the number of people in poverty by 2015.

    However, excluding China from overall calculations, the world fails to meet the United Nations poverty targets, Mr. Lin said.

    The World Bank data show that the portion of people living below the $1.25 a day poverty line fell over nearly 25 years to 26 percent in 2005 from 52 percent in 1981, a decline on average of about one percentage point a year, he said.

    Mr. Lin said the new data meant that rich donor nations needed to keep their promises of stepped-up aid to poor countries. "The sobering news that poverty is more pervasive than we thought means we must redouble our efforts, especially in sub-Saharan Africa," Mr. Lin said.

    The new figures come ahead of an updated assessment of progress in meeting the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, which will be released next month at a meeting of the General Assembly.

    While most of the developing world has managed to reduce poverty, the rate in sub-Saharan Africa, the world's poorest region, has not changed in nearly 25 years, according to data using the new $1.25 a day poverty line. Half of the people in sub-Saharan Africa were living below the poverty line in 2005, the same as in 1981. That means about 380 million people lived under the poverty line in 2005, compared with 200 million in 1981.

    Elsewhere, poverty has declined. In East Asia, which includes China, the poverty rate fell to 18 percent in 2005 from almost 80 percent in 1981, when it was the poorest region. In China, the number of people in poverty fell to 207 million in 2005 from 835 million in 1981.

    In India, the number of people below the $1.25 a day poverty line increased to 455 million in 2005 from 420 million people in 1981. But the share of the population in poverty fell to 42 percent from 60 percent.

    World Bank: Two and a half billion people live on less than $2 a day

    World Bank: Two and a half billion people live on less than $2 a day
    By David Walsh
    2 September 2008

    Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

    The World Bank reported Tuesday that in 2005 an estimated 1.4 billion
    people in the so-called ‘developing world,’ one-fourth of its
    population, lived on less than $1.25 a day, the new official poverty
    line. This figure is 400 million more than the Bank’s 2004 estimate of
    985 million. Another 1.2 billion people live on between $1.25 and $2 a day.

    The report issues from an institution correctly identified by great
    numbers of people around the world as a reactionary pillar of the global
    financial system. Despite efforts by Bank officials to put the best face
    on things, that more than two and a half billion people continue to live
    in unspeakable poverty in the first decade of the 21st century is an
    indictment of the capitalist system.

    Martin Ravallion and Shaohua Chen, of the World Bank’s Development
    Research Group, in a study entitled, “The Developing World is Poorer
    than We Thought, But No Less Successful in the Fight Against Poverty,”
    note that in 2004, for the first time, the Bank’s global poverty count
    had fallen below one billion.

    They continue: “Alas the revised estimates reported in the present paper
    suggest that our celebrations in finally getting under the one billion
    mark for the ‘$1 a day’ poverty count were premature. ... We find that
    the incidence of poverty in the world is higher than past estimates have

    The 2005 estimates are based on surveys conducted in 116 countries and
    interviews with some 1.23 million households.

    The most dire conditions exist in Sub-Saharan Africa. After a
    quarter-century (1981-2005) that witnessed the most extraordinary
    advances in technology, the percentage of people living in absolute
    poverty in that region remained unchanged; some 50 percent of its
    population subsists on $1.25 a day or less.

    The actual number of the extremely poor in Sub-Saharan Africa almost
    doubled, from 200 million in 1981 to about 380 million in 2005. “If the
    trend continues,” notes a World Bank press release, “a third of the
    world’s poor will live in Africa by 2015. Average consumption among poor
    people in Sub-Saharan Africa stood at a meager 70 cents a day in 2005.”

    Most of the 15 poorest countries in the world—Malawi, Mali, Ethiopia,
    Sierra Leone, Niger, Uganda, Gambia, Rwanda, Guinea-Bissau, Tanzania,
    Tajikistan, Mozambique, Chad, Nepal and Ghana—are located in Africa.

    In South Asia, the percentage of those living below the $1.25 poverty
    rate has decreased from 60 to 40 percent over 1981-2005, but the
    absolute number of desperately poor people did not decline; there are
    some 600 million in that category. In India, extremely uneven economic
    development reduced the poverty rate as a share of the total population
    from 60 percent in 1981 to 42 percent in 2005, but the number of the
    destitute increased from 420 million in 1981 to 455 million in 2005.

    The largest factor in lowering the percentage of extremely poor people
    in East Asia has been the explosive industrialization of China. In 1981
    East Asia was the poorest region in the world. In China the number of
    people surviving on less than $1.25 a day in 2005 prices dropped from
    835 million in 1981 to 207 million in 2005. A quarter of a century ago,
    the report states, “China’s incidence of poverty (measured by the
    percentage below $1.25 per day) was roughly twice that for the rest of
    the developing world; by the mid-1990s, the Chinese poverty rate had
    fallen well below average.”

    In the former colonial world, outside of China, the progress has been
    far more limited; the total number of extremely poor people has remained
    at about 1.2 billion. The percentage of the ‘developing world’
    population living in absolute poverty has decreased from 40 percent in
    1981 to 29 percent in 2005, according to the Bank. Excluding China,
    however, the most oppressed countries are not on track to reach the
    Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving the 1990 poverty rate by 2015.

    In Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA), the former Stalinist-ruled
    countries, the picture is bleak. “The mean consumption of EECA’s poor
    has actually fallen since the 1990s, even though the overall poverty
    rate was falling.” In passing, the authors note that social inequality
    has grown in that region since the collapse of Stalinism: “The paucity
    of survey data for EECA in the 1980s should also be recalled. Thus our
    estimates are heavily based on extrapolations, which do not allow for
    any changes in distribution. One would expect that distribution was
    better from the point of view of the poor in EECA in the 1980s, in which
    case poverty would have been even lower than we estimate—and the
    increase over time even larger.”

    The poverty rate in Latin America and the Caribbean has also declined,
    but not enough to bring down the number of extremely poor people.

    Ravallion and Chen point to two phenomena that tend to undercut even the
    limited progress they cite.

    First, although hundreds of millions of people have lifted themselves
    out of absolute poverty since 1981, the improvement has been very slight
    for vast numbers. While the increase in wealth at the other pole of
    global society, registered in the number of billionaires and the share
    of national incomes held by the top one or five percent of the
    population, has been explosive, the very poor have only inched ahead and
    remain immensely vulnerable.

    The study’s authors point to the phenomenon of “bunching up” that has
    occurred between $1.25 and $2.00 a day. They observe that the number of
    people living at that level “has actually risen sharply over these 25
    years, from about 600 million to 1.2 billion. This marked ‘bunching up’
    of people just above the $1.25 line suggests that the poverty rate
    according to that line could rise sharply with aggregate economic

    Speaking of the same phenomenon in relation to both East and South Asia,
    they note that a total of some 900 million people live on between $1.25
    and $2.00 a day, “roughly equally split between the two sides of Asia.
    While this points again to the vulnerability of the poor, by the same
    token it also suggests that substantial further impacts on poverty can
    be expected from economic growth, provided that it does not come with
    substantially higher inequality.”

    In a press release, the World Bank notes that its estimates “suggest
    less progress in getting over the $2 per day hurdle. Indeed, we have
    seen no change in the number of people living below $2 per day at around
    2.5 billion, between 1981 and 2005.”

    In another press release, the Bank is also careful to point out that the
    new estimates “do not yet reflect the potentially large adverse effects
    on poor people of rising food and fuel prices since 2005.”

    Or, as Ravallion and Chen write in their conclusion, “There are a great
    many people who have reached the frugal $1.25 standard, but are still
    very poor, and clearly vulnerable to downside shocks. One such shock is
    the steep rise in international food and fuel prices since 2005. Despite
    the progress in reducing the lags in survey data availability, it will
    probably not be until 2010 that we can make a reasonably confident
    assessment of the ex post impacts of the rising food and fuel prices on
    the world’s poor. Until then, ex ante assessments will be required,
    based on pre-crisis data and economic assumptions. Such assessments
    suggest that at least a few years of the progress reported here have
    been eroded since 2005.”

    World Bank:: One-third of world's poor in India

    NEW DELHI: India is home to roughly one-third of all poor people in the world. It also has a higher proportion of its population living on less than $2 per day than even sub-Saharan Africa.

    That is the sobering news coming out of the World Bank's latest estimates on global poverty. The fine print of the estimates also shows that the rate of decline of poverty in India was faster between 1981 and 1990 than between 1990 and 2005. This is likely to give fresh ammunition to those who maintain that economic reforms, which started in 1991, have failed to reduce poverty at a faster rate.

    India, according to the new estimates, had 456 million people or about 42% of the population living below the new international poverty line of $1.25 per day. The number of Indian poor also constitute 33% of the global poor, which is pegged at 1.4 billion people.

    India also had 828 million people, or 75.6% of the population living below $2 a day. Sub-Saharan Africa, considered the world's poorest region, is better — it has 72.2% of its population (551m) people below the $2 a day level.

    The estimates are based on recently recalculated purchasing power parity (PPP) exchange rates, which makes comparisons across countries possible. The dollar exchange rates being referred to here, therefore, are not the ones used in normal exchange rates.

    While the full report has not yet been released, a briefing note sent by the Bank had some of the data and showed that the poverty rate — those below $1.25 per day — for India had come down from 59.8% in 1981 to 51.3% by 1990 or 8.5 percentage points over nine years. Between 1990 and 2005, it declined to 41.6%, a drop of 9.7 percentage points over 15 years, clearly a much slower rate of decline.

    An FAQ on the new estimates, also provided by the Bank, however states, "India has maintained even progress against poverty since the 1980s, with the poverty rate declining at a little under one percentage point per year."

    The new international poverty line of $1.25 PPP per day has been arrived at as "the average poverty line found in the poorest 10-20 countries", according to the briefing note. In other words, more than four out of 10 Indians lives below what the world's poorest countries consider the poverty line.

    The new estimates are sobering not just for India but for the developing world as a whole, as they reveal higher levels of poverty than earlier estimated.

    East Asia, in fact, is the region that has recorded the sharpest reductions in poverty from about 79% of the population in 1981 to 18% in 2005. In contrast, Eastern Europe and Central Asia has seen poverty rates go up from 1.6% to 5%. What is noticeable in this region is the decline in poverty till 1987, when it was down to just 1% of the population, and the sharp rise subsequently.

    The Bank also makes the point that while raising people above the poverty line is a relatively achievable task — it believes poverty levels in 1990 can be halved by 2015 — it is proving very difficult to raise them above the $2 per day mark. The number of those in the developing world below this level has in fact gone up marginally from 2.5 billion to 2.6 billion since 1981.,flstry-1.cms

    Mother's Day Proclamation (and tape)

    Mother's Day was first declared in the U.S. in 1870 by pacifist Unitarian suffragist Julia Ward Howe. This was originally proclaimed as a day for empowerment and activism

    Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation

    Arise, then, women of this day!
    Arise, all women who have hearts,
    Whether our baptism be of water or of tears!

    Say firmly:
    "We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
    Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause.
    Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
    All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
    We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country
    To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
    From the bosom of the devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own.

    It says: "Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
    Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession.
    As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
    Let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel.

    Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
    Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
    Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
    Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
    But of God.

    In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
    That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
    May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
    And at the earliest period consistent with its objects,
    To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
    The amicable settlement of international questions,
    The great and general interests of peace.

    Letter of solidarity with the struggle of women of the world

    This “Letter on solidarity with women’s struggles around the world” was written by a working group composed by women from different organizations considering the debates carried out during the World Social Forum held in Dakar, February of 2011. We thank the gender and equity committee of the Senegalese steering committee for having organized the space “Women’s Village”, as well as several debates on women’s rights that have contributed to the content of this letter.

    The content of this letter was presented as a declaration proposal to the Women’s Assembly in the morning of 11th February. It wasn’t possible to finish the debate because a minority, but a very active one, sector in the Assembly was against mentioning the right to self-determination of the Saharawi women. Some organizations that participated in the Assembly had decided to spread out this content in the form of a signed Letter. Still, we are aware that many other women and organizations have contributed to the content of this Letter and that the gender and equity committee continue working on the attempt to have a consensual declaration among the organizations that were in the Women’s Assembly.

    Letter of solidarity with the struggle of women in the world

    February 11th 2011, at the World Social Forum, Dakar, Senegal

    In this year, 2011, the World Social Forum joins with the peoples of Africa for the third time, following Mali in 2006 and Kenya in 2007. We, women from different parts of the world who have gathered in Dakar, recognizing that uniting our strengths will eventually bring change, confirm our solidarity and our admiration for the struggles of Senegalese women, African women, and women of the world. Their struggles, alongside the struggles of all men and women, strengthen resistance everywhere against the globalized capitalistic and patriarchal system.

    Today, we are still experiencing the same world crises - economic, food, ecological and social - and we are concerned to observe that these crises are persisting and deepening. Here, we reiterate our analysis that these are not isolated crises, but that they represent a crisis of the model characterized by the overexploitation of labour and the environment, and by financial speculation on the economy. This is the reason why we as women continue to call for change of this model of society, this economic model, this production and consumption model, which generates increased poverty for our peoples, in particular for women.

    We as women, who are attuned to respect and defense of the principles of justice, peace and solidarity, need to make progress in building alternatives in the face of these crises; however, we have no interest in palliative responses based on market logic.

    We cannot accept that attempts to maintain the current system in place are made at the expense of women.
    In this regard, we say no to intolerance, to the persecution of sexual diversity and to cultural practices that undermine the health, body and soul of women.

    We condemn all kinds of violence against women, in particular, femicide, the trafficking of women, forced prostitution, physical violence, sexual harassment, genital mutilation, early marriage, forced marriage, rape, rape used as a systematic weapon of war, and impunity for those who commit these acts of horror against women.

    We also say no to a society that scorns the rights of women by not allowing them access to resources, land, credit, and employment in dignified conditions, where women's jobs are rendered precarious in order for capital to grow.
    We condemn the monopolization and colonization of the land of rural farmers, both men and women, whatever form it takes, by States or multinational corporations, and we condemn transgenic crops, which harm biodiversity and life.
    We say no to the arms and nuclear race, which are carried out at the expense of state investment in social, health and educational programs.

    We condemn a society that excludes women from access to knowledge and education, and where women are marginalized and discriminated against in decision-making.

    We say no to armed conflicts, wars and occupations. We say YES to a just peace for oppressed peoples.
    In the face of all of this, we propose to strengthen our struggle so our countries will achieve economic, political and cultural sovereignty with respect to international financial institutions. We want the cancellation of odious and illegitimate debts, and a citizen's audit that would allow people to be compensated: women do not owe anything - they are the primary creditors of this odious debt. We also demand the effective implementation of the Tobin tax.
    We demand food sovereignty for peoples and the consumption of local products, the use of our traditional seeds, and women's access to land and productive resources.

    We want a world where men and women have the same rights, the same opportunities to access knowledge, primary and higher education, literacy and decision-making positions, and the same rights to work and fair salaries.
    We want a world where States invest in the health of women and our children; in particular, maternal health.
    We demand the ratification and effective implementation of all international agreements, in particular, International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 156 and 183.

    We want the democratization of communications and access to information.

    We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian women for a democratic, independent and sovereign Palestinian State, with Jerusalem as its capital, and the return of refugees in compliance with United Nations Resolution 194.

    We stand in solidarity with the women of Casamance for a return to peace.

    We support the struggle of the Tunisian and Egyptian peoples for democracy,

    with the women of the Democratic Republic of Congo for an end to the conflict, and, with the Kurdish women, for a society that is democratic, ecological and free, with equal status between women and men, and where there is the right to use their mother tongue in education.

    We stand in solidarity with the right to self-determination for the Sarahoui women, in line with the United Nations Resolution, and to find a peaceful solution according to the Maghreb Social Forum.

    We are with all women victims of natural disaster, such as Haiti, Brazil, Pakistan and Australia

    We stand in solidarity with the millions of women and children refugees and displaced persons.

    We call for the return to their land and freedom of movement.

    We propose the creation of alert and information networks on and for women in conflict or occupied areas. We propose 30 March as the day of international solidarity with the Palestinian people and call for a boycott of products from the Israeli occupier. We call for the creation in 2012 of an international forum for solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people.

    We recognize all the struggles of all the women in the world and see their demands as ours: what happens to one of us happens to all of us. This is why we must fight all together.

    Dakar, 11 February 2011

    Signatory organizations:

    World March of Women
    La Via Campesina
    Marcosur Feminist Articulation
    Attac Argentina
    Attac Pais Valencia
    Brazilian Women's Union (UBM)
    Centro Brasileiro de Solidariedade aos Povos e Luta pela Paz (CEBRAPAZ, Brazilian Centre of Solidarity with Peoples and Struggle for Peace)
    Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT, Unified Workers' Central) (Brazil)
    CEAS – Sahara (Coordinadora Estatal de Asociaciones Solidarias con el Sahara)
    Colectivo Granada – España
    Democratic Federation)
    Fédération Démocratique Internationale des Femmes (FDIM, Women International Generattac
    Groupement Dang Dang – Senegal
    Groupement Défense Bargny - Senegal
    Latin American Continental Students Organization (OCLAE)
    Le Monde selon les Femmes – Belgique
    Red Vasca de Apoyo a la Unión Nacional de Organizaciones Saharauis

    La Via Campesina
    Via Campesina is an international movement of peasants, small- and medium-sized producers, landless, rural women, indigenous people, rural youth and agricultural workers. We are an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement, independent of any political, economic, or other type of affiliation. Born in 1993, La Via Campesina now gathers about 150 organisations in 70 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

    International Operational Secretariat:
    Jln. Mampang Prapatan XIV no 5 Jakarta Selatan, Jakarta 12790 Indonesia
    Tel/fax: +62-21-7991890/+62-21-7993426

    The true story of Valentine's day

    In spite of what you have been told by everyone, the truth is that Valentine's Day originated hundreds of years ago, in India, and to top it all, in the state of Gujarat !!!

    It is a well known fact that Gujarati men, specially the Patels, continually mistreat and disrespect their wives (Patelianis). One fine
    day, it happened to be the 14th day of February, one brave Patelani, having had enough "torture" by her husband, finally chose to rebel by beating him up with a Velan (rolling pin to make chapattis). Yes....the same Velan which she used daily, to make chapattis for him.... only this time, instead of the dough, it was the husband who was flattened.

    This was a momentous occasion for all Gujarati women and a revolt soon spread, like wild fire, with thousands of housewives beating up their husbands with the Velan. There was an outburst of moaning "chapatti-ed" husbands all over Anand and Amdavad.

    The Patel men-folk quickly learnt their lesson and started to behave more respectfully with their Patelanis.

    Thereafter, on 14th February every year, the womenfolk of Gujarat would beat up their husbands, to commemorate that eventful day - the wives having the satisfaction of beating up their husbands with the Velan and the men having the supreme joy of submitting to the will of the women they loved.

    Soon The Gujju men realised that in order to avoid this ordeal they need to present gifts to their wives....they brought flowers and sweets. This is how the tradition - Velan time - began.

    As Gujarat fell under the influence of Western culture, the ritual soon spread to Britain and many other Western countries, specifically, the
    catch words 'Velan time' !!! In course of time, their foreign tongues, this got anglisized to 'Velantime' and then to 'Valentine'.

    And thereafter, 14th of February, came to be known as Valentine's Day. Now you know the true story of Valentine's day.

    (Got this from a forward; reference welcome)

    Mumbai Under Siege

    Mumbai Under Siege
    Yoginder Sikand

    “O ye who believe! stand out firmly for God, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear God. For God is well-acquainted with all that ye do.”

    (The Quran, Surah Al-Maida: 8)

    Numerous theories are doing the rounds about the dastardly terrorist assault on Mumbai. The dominant view, based on what is being suggested by the media, is that this is the handiwork of the dreaded Pakistan-based self-styled Islamist and terrorist outfit Lashkar-e Tayyeba, which, ever since it was ostensibly proscribed by the Government of Pakistan some years ago, has adopted the name of Jamaat ud-Dawah. This might well be the case, for the Lashkar has been responsible for numerous such terrorist attacks in recent years, particularly in Kashmir.

    The Lashkar is the military wing of the Markaz Dawat wal Irshad, an outfit floated by a section of the Pakistani Ahl-e Hadith, a group with close affiliations to the Saudi Wahhabis. It has its headquarters at the town of Muridke in the Gujranwala district in Pakistani Punjab. The Markaz was established in 1986 by two Pakistani university professors, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and Zafar Iqbal. They were assisted by Abdullah Azam, a close aide of Osama bin Laden, who was then associated with the International Islamic University in Islamabad. Funds for setting up the organization are said to have come from Pakistan’s dreaded official secret services agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). From its inception, it is thus clear, the Lashkar had the support of the Pakistani establishment.

    The Lashkar started out as a paramilitary organisation to train warriors to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Soon it spawned dozens of camps across Pakistan and Afghanistan for this purpose. Militants produced at these centres have played a major role in armed struggles, first in Afghanistan, and then in Bosnia, Chechenya, Kosovo, the southern Philippines and Kashmir.

    Like other radical Islamist groups, the Lashkar sees Islam as an all-embracing system. It regards Islam as governing all aspects of personal as well as collective life, in the form of the shariah. For the establishing of an Islamic system, it insists, an ‘Islamic state’ is necessary, which will impose the shariah as the law of the land. If, the official website of the Lashkar announces, such a state were to be set up and all Muslims were to live strictly according to 'the laws that Allah has laid down', then, it is believed, ‘they would be able to control the whole world and exercise their supremacy’. And for this, as well as to respond to the oppression that it claims that Muslims in large parts of the world are suffering, it insists that all Muslims must take to armed jihad. Armed jihad must continue, its website announces, ‘until Islam, as a way of life, dominates the whole world and until Allah's law is enforced everywhere in the world’.

    The subject of armed jihad runs right through the writings and pronouncements of the Lashkar and is, in fact, the most prominent theme in its discourse. Indeed, its understanding of Islam may be seen as determined almost wholly by this preoccupation, so much so that its reading of Islam seems to be a product of its own political project, thus effectively ending up equating Islam with terror. Being born as a result of war in Afghanistan, war has become the very raison d'être of the Lashkar, and its subsequent development has been almost entirely determined by this concern. The contours of its ideological framework are constructed in such a way that the theme of armed jihad appears as the central element of its project. In the writings and speeches of Lashkar spokesmen jihad appears as violent conflict (qital) waged against 'unbelievers' who are said to be responsible for the oppression of the Muslims. Indeed, the Lashkar projects it as the one of the
    most central tenets of Islam, although it has traditionally not been included as one of the 'five pillars’ of the faith. Thus, its website claims that ‘There is so much emphasis on this subject that some commentators and scholars of the Quran have remarked that the topic of the Quran is jihad’. Further, a Lashkar statement declares, ‘There is consensus of opinion among researchers of the Qur'an that no other action has been explained in such great detail as jihad’.

    In Lashkar discourse, jihad against non-Muslims is projected as a religious duty binding on all Muslims today. Thus the Lashkar’s website claims that a Muslim who has ‘never intended to fight against the disbelievers […] is not without traces of hypocrisy’. Muslims who have the capacity to participate or assist in the jihad but do not do so are said to ‘be living a sinful life’. Not surprisingly, therefore, the Lashkar denounces all Muslims who do not agree with its pernicious and grossly distorted version of Islam and its hideous misinterpretation of jihad—Sufis, Shias, Barelvis and so on—as being ‘deviants’ or outside the pale of Islam or even in league with ‘anti-Islamic forces’. The Lashkar promises its activists that they would receive great rewards, both in this world and in the Hereafter, if they were to actively struggle in the path of jihad. Not only would they be guaranteed a place in Heaven, but they would also 'be
    honoured in this world', for jihad, it claims, is also ‘the way that solves financial and political problems’.

    Astoundingly bizarre though it is, the Markaz sees itself as engaged in a global jihad against the forces of ‘disbelief’, stopping at nothing short of aiming at the conquest of the entire world. As Nazir Ahmed, in-charge of the public relations department of the Lashkar, once declared, through the so-called jihad that the Lashkar has launched, ‘Islam will be dominant all over the world’. This global war is seen as a solution to all the ills and oppression afflicting all Muslims, and it is claimed that 'if we want to live with honour and dignity, then we have to return back to jihad’. Through jihad, the Lashkar website says, ‘Islam will be supreme throughout the world’.

    In Lashkar discourse, its self-styled jihad against India is regarded as nothing less than a war between two different and mutually opposed ideologies: Islam, on the one hand, and Hinduism, on the other. It tars all Hindus with the same brush, as supposed ‘enemies of Islam’. Thus, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Lashkar chief, declares: ‘In fact, the Hindu is a mean enemy and the proper way to deal with him is the one adopted by our forefathers, who crushed them by force. We need to do the same’.

    India is a major target for the Lashkar's terrorists. According to Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, ‘The jihad is not about Kashmir only. It encompasses all of India'. Thus, the Lashkar sees its self-styled jihad as going far beyond the borders of Kashmir and spreading through all of India. Its final goal, it says, is to extend Muslim control over what is seen as having once been Muslim land, and, hence, to be brought back under Muslim domination, creating what the Lashkar terms as 'the Greater Pakistan by dint of jihad’. Thus, at a mammoth congregation of Lashkar supporters in November 1999, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed thundered, ‘Today I announce the break-up of India, Inshallah. We will not rest until the whole of India is dissolved into Pakistan’.

    The Lashkar, so say media reports, has been trying to drum up support among India’s Muslims, and it may well be that it has managed to find a few recruits to its cause among them. If this is the case, it has probably been prompted by the fact of mounting murderous Hindutva-inspired anti-Muslim pogroms across the country, often abetted by agencies of the state, which has taken a toll of several thousand innocent lives. The fact that no semblance of justice has been delivered in these cases and that the state has not taken any measure to reign in Hindutva terrorism adds further to the deep-seated despondency and despair among many Indian Muslims. This might well be used by self-styled Islamist terror groups, such as the Lashkar, to promote their own agenda. Obviously, therefore, in order to counter the grave threat posed by terror groups such as the Lashkar, the Indian state needs to tackle the menace of Hindutva terror as well, which has now assumed
    the form of full-blown fascism. Both forms of terrorism feed on each other, and one cannot be tackled without taking on the other as well.

    Mercifully, and despite the denial of justice to them, the vast majority of the Indian Muslims have refused to fall into the Lashkar’s trap. The flurry of anti-terrorism conferences that have recently been organised by important Indian Islamic groups is evidence of the fact that they regard the Lashkar’s perverse understanding of Islam as being wholly anti-Islamic and as a perversion of their faith. These voices urgently need to be promoted, for they might well be the most effective antidote to Lashkar propaganda. Numerous Indian Islamic scholars I know and have spoken to insist that the Lashkar’s denunciation of all non-Muslims as ‘enemies of Islam’, its fomenting of hatred towards Hindus and India and its understanding of jihad are a complete misrepresentation of Islamic teachings. They bitterly critique its call for a universal Caliphate as foolish wishful thinking. And they are unanimous that, far from serving the cause of the faith they
    claim to espouse, groups like the Lashkar have done the most heinous damage to the name of Islam, and are to blame, to a very large extent, for mounting Islamophobia globally.

    At the same time as fingers of suspicion are being pointed at the Lashkar for being behind the recent Mumbai blasts, other questions are being raised in some circles. The significant fact that Hemant Karkare, the brave ATS chief who was killed in the terrorist assault, had been investigating the role of Hindutva terrorist groups in blasts in Malegoan and elsewhere and had received threats for this has not gone un-noticed. Nor has the related fact that the assault on Mumbai happened soon after disturbing revelations began pouring in of the role of Hindutva activists in terror attacks in different parts of India. That the attack on Mumbai has led to the issue of Hindutva-inspired terrorism now being totally sidelined is also significant.

    And then there is a possible Israeli angle that some are raising. Thus, the widely-read Mumbai-based tabloid Mid-Day, in an article about a building where numerous militants were holed up titled ‘Mumbai Attack: Was Nariman House the Terror Hub?’, states:

    “The role that Nariman House is coming to play in this entire attack drama is puzzling. Last night, residents ordered close to 100 kilograms of meat and other food, enough to feed an army or a bunch of people for twenty days. Shortly thereafter, the ten odd militants moved in, obviously, indicating that the food and meat was ordered, keeping their visit in mind, another cop added.

    “One of the militants called up a television news channel and voiced his demands today, but, interestingly, when he was asked where are they all holed him, he said at the Israeli owned Nariman House and they are six of them here", one of the investigating cops said. Since morning, there has been exchange of gun fire has been going on and the militants seem well equipped to counter the cops fire. To top it, they have food and shelter. One wonders [if] they have the support of the residents, a local Ramrao Shanker said.”

    A Mossad/Israeli hand in the affair might seem far-fetched to some, but not so to others, who point to the role of Israeli agents in destabilizing a large number of countries as well as possibly operating within some radical Islamist movements, such as a group in Yemen styling itself ‘Islamic Jihad’, said to be responsible for the bombing of the American Embassy in Sanaa, and which is said to have close links with the Israeli intelligence. Some have raised the question if the Mossad or even the CIA might not be directly or otherwise instigating some disillusioned Muslim youth in India, Pakistan or elsewhere to take to terror by playing on Muslim grievances, operating through existing Islamist groups or spawning new ones for this purpose.

    If this charge is true—although this remains to be conclusively established—the aim might be to further radicalize Muslims so as to provide further pretext for American and Israeli assaults on Islam and Muslim countries. The fact that the CIA had for years been in very close contact with the Pakistani ISI and radical Islamist groups in Pakistan is also being raised in this connection. The possible role of such foreign agencies of being behind some terror attacks that India has witnessed in recent years to further fan anti-Muslim hatred and also to weaken India is also being speculated on in some circles.

    Whether all this is indeed true needs to be properly investigated. But the fact remains that it appears to be entirely in the interest of the Israeli establishment and powerful forces in America to create instability in India, fan Hindu-Muslim strife, even to the point of driving India and Pakistan to war with each other, and thereby drag India further into the deadly embrace of Zionists and American imperialists.

    In other words, irrespective of who is behind the deadly attacks on Mumbai, it appears to suit the political interests and agendas of multiple and equally pernicious political forces—Islamist and Hindu radicals, fired by a hate-driven Manichaean vision of the world, but also global imperialist powers that seem to be using the attacks as a means to push India even deeper into their suicidal axis.

    Sukhia Sab Sansar Khaye Aur Soye
    Dukhia Das Kabir Jagey Aur Roye

    The world is 'happy', eating and sleeping
    The forlorn Kabir Das is awake and weeping

    yogi sikand

    As the Fires Die: The Terror of the Aftermath

    As the Fires Die: The Terror of the Aftermath

    As the smoke lifts from Mumbai, skepticism must prevail over those conjectures which support the official state narrative. It is crucial to increase the pressure for transparency and accountability at this moment to ensure that India doesn't slide into the same state as post-9/11 USA.

    By Biju Mathew

    This piece originally appeared in Samar 31, published online December 1st, 2008.

    The deaths continue even as I write this. The death toll stands at 195. And of the several hundred injured some may not survive. It is now official. The siege is over. The last of the gunmen inside the Taj Hotel has been shot dead. The Oberoi/Trident hotel was cleared earlier today and the Nariman House Jewish Center at the corner of Third Pasta Lane on the Colaba Causeway was stormed close to 24 hours ago. The other targets - the Leopold Cafe (a popular tourist hangout), the CST railway terminus (also called the Victoria Terminus), the Metro Cinema, the Cama Hospital, all seem to be targets the gunmen attacked as they zoned in on the hotels and Nariman House. In the end this has become a story of two sets of men with guns.

    The human story of the innocents who died, the hotel staff who kept their cool and moved guests around the hotel through the service entryways and exits, those who helped each other escape, will not really make it to the headlines. The maintenance worker at the Oberoi who shielded guests and took the bullets in his stomach will remain unsung. The hospital orderlies who ran in and out with stretchers carrying the wounded - each time not knowing if they will make it back themselves to the ambulance, will not be noted. The several trainee chefs at the Taj who fell to bullets even as other kitchen workers escorted guests away from the firing and hid them inside a private clubroom will not be written up in the book of heroes. The young waiter at Leopold who was to leave to work in a Cape Town restaurant will soon be forgotten. The two young men who dragged an Australian tourist shot in the leg away from the Leopold entrance and carried her to a taxi will not even identify themselves so that she can thank them. These stories, in as much as they are told, will remain on the lips of only the workers, the guests and the tourists who helped each other. The officials will try and produce a clean story to tell the world. And we know the clean story is untrue.

    The official story that has already begun to emerge is one that may have some facts embedded in it. But we must remember that between every two facts is a lot of conjecture. The conjectures that unite the few facts (16 gunmen, AK47s, grenades, passports of multiple nationalities, boats on which at least some of them arrived, a dead Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) chief, Hemant Karkare, who was heading the investigation against the Hindu Right wings' terror campaign, the gunmen trying to identify British and American citizens) makes the story. The story then is as much a product of the conjecture as it is of the facts. And there are certain stories that we are already oriented towards. The conjectures that create that story - the story we are already prepared for - is the one the State will dole out for our consumption. Already the conjectures that will serve the State, are out there in great profusion.

    Several reporters have noted that the gunmen were clean-shaven, dressed in jeans and T-shirts. The silent conjecture is that they were expecting and were surprised by the fact that these men did not have beards and did not sport the Muslim prayer cap. Every newspaper worth its salt - the Times of India, the Jerusalem Post, the Independent from the UK, among scores of others - have already run commentary on the unsecured coastline of India. The conjectural subtext is that securing the coastline is possible and if India had done so, this attack would have been prevented.

    There is also a quick labeling going on -- India's 9/11. The subtext is that India could and should act as the US did after 9/11 - decisively and with great aggression. There is also the subtext that the Indian State is soft on terror that adds to the US-tough-on-terror contrast. Sadanand Dhume, writing in the Wall Street Journal, has castigated the Indian government for withdrawing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and for preventing states like Gujarat from passing their own version of the draconian worse-than-Patriot Act legislations. Neither Mr. Dhume, nor the several reporters who will now write stories about how the POTA repeal represents the Indian State's soft attitude towards terror will ever feel the need to explain how POTA could have prevented this attack.

    The dead are on the floor. The vultures are moving in. The conjecture will try to unite the country into a series of unexamined positions. That POTA must be recalled. That States must be allowed to pass even more draconian laws. That Hindu terror is not a big issue and must be forgotten for now - especially now that we may not find an honest policeman or woman to head the ATS. That the defense budget must go up. That the coastline must be secured.

    None of the well educated masters of the media will write that the 7000 odd kilometer coastline cannot be protected - that all it will translate to is billions in contracts for all and sundry including Israeli and American consultants. Nobody will write that a hundred POTAs will not prevent a terror attack like this one; that Guantanamo Bay has not yielded a single break through. Nobody will write that higher defense budgets have been more often correlated with insecure and militarized lives for ordinary citizens. Nobody will write that almost without exception all of US post 9/111 policies have been disasters. Bin Laden is still around, I am told and so is the Al Qaeda. The number of fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Jews have probably gone up over the last decade. So much for good policy. But the conjecture will go on.

    The foreign hand and its internal partner will be floated without ever naming anything precise. But the country will read it just as it is meant to be read - Pakistan and the Indian Muslim. Everything will rest on the supposed confession of the one gunman who has been captured. A Pakistani from Faridkot, I am told. Why should we believe it? Didn't the same Indian State frame all the supposed accomplices in the Parliament attack case? Didn't the same Indian State claim that the assassins of Chattisinghpura were from across the border until that story fell apart? And more recently, didn't the same Indian State finally agree that all the accused in the Mecca Masjid bombings were actually innocent? And even if Mr. Assassin supposedly from Faridkot did say what he did say - why should we believe him? Why is it so difficult to believe that he has his lines ready and scripted? If he was willing to die for whatever cause he murdered for, then can he not lie? Oh the lie detector test - that completely discredited science that every militarized State trots out. And the media love the lie detector test because it is the best scientific garb you can give to conjecture.

    I certainly don't know the truth. But I do know that there is more than enough reason for skepticism. The problem is that we need a new theory of the State. We need to re-understand the State.

    There is such unanimity when it comes to analyzing the Pakistani State - that the ISI, and if not all of the ISI, at least a segment of it, is a rogue element Furthermore, that its bosses may not be sitting in Islamabad, but perhaps elsewhere in the country or even abroad. If we can accept that about the Pakistani State, why is it so difficult to accept it about the Indian State? We all know that Colin Powell was a kind of a patsy - a fall guy, who trotted out some lies on behalf of a segment of the neo-conservative movement firmly entrenched within the American State (which Obama will not touch). We also know that if the ISI has a rogue element in it, it was in good part created by the CIA. Then why do we think that the same guys couldn't render another State - such as the US - itself hollow from the inside.

    The contemporary State is a different being. For every story of money-corruption you hear, there could just as well be one of political-corruption. Every vested interest who locates himself inside the State apparatus is not just a vested interest going after money but could just as well be securing the space for creating a certain politics. The RSS has a long history of trying to take over the bureaucracy, doesn't it? So do the neo-cons and so do the jamaatis. Then why do we believe in a theory of the State that is unified and with liberal goals?

    The history of the liberal State and its relationship with capitalism of all types is a simple one. The longer that relationship persists the more corrupt and hollow the liberal State gets, leaving the space open for political ideologies to occupy its very insides. The logic for this is inherent in the very system. If profit is above all, then given the power the State has, it must be bought. Cheney is no different from Shivraj Patil, and Ambani is no different from Halliburton. They are both part of the story of hollowing the State out. And once the hollowing process begins, every ideological force can find its way in, as long as it has resources. The archetypal bourgeois liberal State is over. It never really existed, but what we have at the end of four decades of neo-liberalism bears no resemblance to the ideal formulation whatsoever. What we have instead is a series of hollowed out States with their nooks and crannies, their departments and offices populated with specific neo-conservative ideological interests. The US has its variant. India has its. And Israel its very own. It is incapable of delivering the truth, and not just the truth, it is only capable of producing lies.

    If this story of skepticism makes sense then we have only one choice. To understand that it is crucial to increase the pressure for transparency at this moment, to be relentless in our demand for openness and detail, in our call to ensure that no investigation or inquiry that was in place be halted and that every one of these be subjected to public scrutiny. It is our responsibility to reject the discourse of secrecy based on security and demand specific standards of transparency. What we should demand is that every senior minister and every senior intelligence officer be examined and the records be made available to the public. What we must demand is that an officer of impeccable record be found to replace Hemant Karkare. What we must demand is that we get explanations of how a POTA clone would have stopped this crime. What we must ask is how POTA or the Patriot Act could have ever helped prevent terror? What we must do is support the Karkare family in their demand for a full investigation of his death in the company of the encounter specialist- Salaskar. What we must have is an open debate on every single case of terror over the last decade in India.

    When I am in Bombay, I always stay at a friend's on Third Pasta Lane. Each afternoon I would walk out and see the Nariman House. I have wondered what the decrepit building was. I have always contrasted the drabness of the building with the colorful sign on the next building that announces Colaba Sweet House. The next time I won't wonder. I will know that it was one of the places where the drama that inaugurated India's renewed march towards fascism unfolded. Unless we act. Unless we act with speed and determination demanding transparency and accountability and a careful rewriting of the story of terror in India. Only a renewed movement can ensure that India doesn't slide into the same state as post 9/11 USA.

    Biju Mathew is a member of the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate and the Coalition Against Genocide and is a co-founder of the New York Taxi Worker Alliance.

    Hotel Taj : icon of whose India ? Gnani Sankaran- Tamil writer, Chennai

    Hotel Taj : icon of whose India ?

    Gnani Sankaran- Tamil writer, Chennai.

    Watching at least four English news channels surfing from one another
    during the last 60 hours of terror strike made me feel a terror of
    another kind. The terror of assaulting one's mind and sensitivity with
    cameras, sound bites and non-stop blabbers. All these channels have
    been trying to manufacture my consent for a big lie called - Hotel Taj
    the icon of India.

    Whose India, Whose Icon ?

    It is a matter of great shame that these channels simply did not
    bother about the other icon that faced the first attack from
    terrorists - the Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway station.
    CST is the true icon of Mumbai. It is through this railway station
    hundreds of Indians from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, West Bengal
    and Tamilnadu have poured into Mumbai over the years, transforming
    themselves into Mumbaikars and built the Mumbai of today along with
    the Marathis and Kolis

    But the channels would not recognise this. Nor would they recognise
    the thirty odd dead bodies strewn all over the platform of CST. No
    Barkha dutt went there to tell us who they were. But she was at Taj to
    show us the damaged furniture and reception lobby braving the guards.
    And the TV cameras did not go to the government run JJ hospital to
    find out who those 26 unidentified bodies were. Instead they were
    again invading the battered Taj to try in vain for a scoop shot of the
    dead bodies of the page 3 celebrities.

    In all probability, the unidentified bodies could be those of workers
    from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh migrating to Mumbai, arriving by train at
    CST without cell phones and pan cards to identify them. Even after 60
    hours after the CST massacre, no channel has bothered to cover in
    detail what transpired there.

    The channels conveniently failed to acknowledge that the Aam Aadmis of
    India surviving in Mumbai were not affected by Taj, Oberoi and Trident
    closing down for a couple of weeks or months. What mattered to them
    was the stoppage of BEST buses and suburban trains even for one hour.
    But the channels were not covering that aspect of the terror attack.
    Such information at best merited a scroll line, while the cameras have
    to be dedicated for real time thriller unfolding at Taj or Nariman

    The so called justification for the hype the channels built around
    heritage site Taj falling down (CST is also a heritage site), is that
    Hotel Taj is where the rich and the powerful of India and the globe
    congregate. It is a symbol or icon of power of money and politics, not
    India. It is the icon of the financiers and swindlers of India. The
    Mumbai and India were built by the Aam Aadmis who passed through CST
    and Taj was the oasis of peace and privacy for those who wielded power
    over these mass of labouring classes. Leopold club and Taj were the
    haunts of rich spoilt kids who would drive their vehicles over
    sleeping Aam Aadmis on the pavement, the Mafiosi of Mumbai forever
    financing the glitterati of Bollywood (and also the terrorists) ,
    Political brokers and industrialists.

    It is precisely because Taj is the icon of power and not people, that
    the terrorists chose to strike.

    The terrorists have understood after several efforts that the Aam
    Aadmi will never break down even if you bomb her markets and trains.
    He/she was resilient because that is the only way he/she can even

    Resilience was another word that annoyed the pundits of news channels
    and their patrons this time. What resilience, enough is enough, said
    Pranoy Roy's channel on the left side of the channel spectrum. Same
    sentiments were echoed by Arnab Goswami representing the right wing of
    the broadcast media whose time is now. Can Rajdeep be far behind in
    this game of one upmanship over TRPs ? They all attacked resilience
    this time. They wanted firm action from the government in tackling

    The same channels celebrated resilience when bombs went off in trains
    and markets killing and maiming the Aam Aadmis. The resilience of the
    ordinary worker suited the rich business class of Mumbai since work or
    manufacture or film shooting did not stop. When it came to them, the
    rich shamelessly exhibited their lack of nerves and refused to be
    resilient themselves. They cry for government intervention now to
    protect their private spas and swimming pools and bars and
    restaurants, similar to the way in which Citibank, General Motors and
    the ilk cry for government money when their coffers are emptied by
    their own ideologies.

    The terrorists have learnt that the ordinary Indian is unperturbed by
    terror. For one whose daily existence itself is a terror of government
    sponsored inflation and market sponsored exclusion, pain is something
    he has learnt to live with. The rich of Mumbai and India Inc are
    facing the pain for the first time and learning about it just as the
    middle classes of India learnt about violation of human rights only
    during emergency, a cool 28 years after independence.

    And human rights were another favourite issue for the channels to whip
    at times of terrorism.

    Arnab Goswami in an animated voice wondered where were those
    champions of human rights now, not to be seen applauding the brave and
    selfless police officers who gave up their life in fighting terorism.
    Well, the counter question would be where were you when such officers
    were violating the human rights of Aam Aadmis. Has there ever been any
    24 hour non stop coverage of violence against dalits and adivasis of
    this country?

    This definitely was not the time to manufacture consent for the extra
    legal and third degree methods of interrogation of police and army but
    Arnabs don't miss a single opportunity to serve their class masters,
    this time the jingoistic patriotism came in handy to whitewash the
    entire uniformed services.

    The sacrifice of the commandos or the police officers who went down
    dying at the hands of ruthless terrorists is no doubt heart rending
    but in vain in a situation which needed not just bran but also brain.
    Israel has a point when it says the operations were misplanned
    resulting in the death of its nationals here.

    Khakares and Salaskars would not be dead if they did not commit the
    mistake of traveling by the same vehicle. It is a basic lesson in
    management that the top brass should never t ravel together in crisis.
    The terrorists, if only they had watched the channels, would have
    laughed their hearts out when the Chief of the Marine commandos, an
    elite force, masking his face so unprofessionally in a see-through
    cloth, told the media that the commandos had no idea about the
    structure of the Hotel Taj which they were trying to liberate. But the
    terrorists knew the place thoroughly, he acknowledged.

    Is it so difficult to obtain a ground plan of Hotel Taj and discuss
    operation strategy thoroughly for at least one hour before entering?
    This is something even an event manager would first ask for, if he had
    to fix 25 audio systems and 50 CCtvs for a cultural event in a hotel.
    Would not Ratan Tata have provided a plan of his ancestral hotel to
    the commandos within one hour considering the mighty apparatus at his
    and government's disposal? Are satelite pictures only available for
    terrorists and not the government agencies ? In an operation known to
    consume time, one more hour for preparation would have only improved
    the efficiency of execution.

    Sacrifices become doubly tragic in unprofessional circumstances. But
    the Aam Aadmis always believe that terror-shooters do better planning
    than terrorists. And the gullible media in a jingoistic mood would not
    raise any question about any of these issues.

    They after all have their favourite whipping boy - the politician the
    eternal entertainer for the non-voting rich classes of India.

    Arnabs and Rajdeeps would wax eloquent on Nanmohan Singh and Advani
    visiting Mumbai separately and not together showing solidarity even at
    this hour of national crisis. What a farce? Why can't these channels
    pool together all their camera crew and reporters at this time of
    national calamity and share the sound and visual bites which could
    mean a wider and deeper coverage of events with such a huge human
    resource to command? Why should Arnab and Rajdeep and Barkha keep
    harping every five minutes that this piece of information was
    exclusive to their channel, at the time of such a national crisis? Is
    this the time to promote the channel? If that is valid, the politician
    promoting his own political constituency is equally valid. And the
    duty of the politican is to do politics, his politics. It is for the
    people to evaluate that politics.

    And terrorism is not above politics. It is politics by other means.

    To come to grips with it and to eventually eliminate it, the practice
    of politics by proper means needs constant fine tuning and
    improvement. Decrying all politics and politicians, only helps
    terrorists and dictators who are the two sides of the same coin. And
    the rich and powerful always prefer terrorists and dictators to do
    business with.

    Those caught in this crossfire are always the Aam Aadmis whose deaths
    are not even mourned - the taxi driver who lost the entire family at
    CST firing, the numerous waiters and stewards who lost their lives
    working in Taj for a monthly salary that would be one time bill for
    their masters.

    Postscript: In a fit of anger and depression, I sent a message to all
    the channels, 30 hours through the coverage. After all they have been
    constantly asking the viewers to message them for anything and
    everything. My message read: I send this with lots of pain. All
    channels, including yours, must apologise for not covering the victims
    of CST massacre, the real mumbaikars and aam aadmis of India. Your
    obsession with five star elite is disgusting. Learn from the print
    media please. No channel bothered. Only srinivasan Jain replied: you
    are right. We are trying to redress balance today. Well, nothing
    happened till the time of writing this 66 hours after the terror


    On the record: Mumbai and media coverage
    Barkha Dutt
    Group Editor- English News, NDTV
    Thursday, December,4 2008 (New Delhi)


    Sixty hours of live television at the best of times is impossibly difficult. But
    when it involves an ongoing and precarious terrorist operation and a potential
    danger to the lives of hundreds of people, it throws up challenges of the kind
    that none of us have ever dealt with before.

    Even those of us who have reported for years, on conflict, war and counter
    insurgency weren't prepared for what we encountered in Mumbai: an audacious
    attack on a city that was more in the nature of an invasion of India, than
    terrorism in any form, that we have known before.

    As India debates where to go from here and whether a "war on terror" is the
    borrowed slogan that should define our response, I notice there is a different
    sort of civil war brewing; one that places us in the media on the other side of
    the enemy line.

    For every Mumbaikar who believes we did the best we could in very trying
    circumstances- and we have received thousands and thousands of such messages-
    there are some others who are now questioning our ethics, our integrity and our
    professionalism. On the streets of Mumbai, I only met people who thanked us for
    providing a larger sense of community to a city seething with rage and grief.
    But as I fly back to Delhi, Im told that "hate" groups are trying to compete
    with "fan" communities on social networking sites like Facebook and Orkut. The
    Internet apparently is buzzing with vitriol and we, in the media in general, and
    sometimes, me in particular, are being targeted with a venom that is startling.
    I understand that India is angry, nerves are frazzled and emotions heightened.
    Even so,many of the charges are not just offensive. malicious and entirely
    untrue; they are a convenient transference of responsibility. This is not to
    say, that we made no mistakes-
    I am sure we inadvertently made a few- as did every department of government,
    when faced with a situation that India has never dealt with before. But to park
    concocted and slanderous charges at our door is simply unacceptable, grossly
    unfair and saddening.

    I would also like to stress though that this eruption of allegations is only one
    small part of a larger picture. In the past week, we have also received
    countless words of support and encouragement- from thousands of people - Indian
    citizens of every hue and ilk across the country, as well as some better known
    ones, like Narayan Murthy, Salman Rushdie, Shashi Tharoor, Sunil Khilnani and
    Suketu Mehta, to name just a few. When asked in an interview on NDTV, what
    struck him watching the events unfold on television, Narayan Murthy, said it was
    the "finest piece of TV journalism in a decade."

    But in journalism, we know that, praise and criticism are twins that travel
    together. And we welcome both and try and listen to both carefully.

    So, for those who wrote in to tell us that we got it right- Thank you so much.
    Your words encourage us.

    But for those who charged us with crimes we absolutely assert we have not
    committed, here is our response. Some of it is answer to general questions about
    the media and some to specific charges made against our organization.

    1. Please do note that at all times, the media respected the security cordon- a
    cordon that was determined by the police and officials on site- and NOT by the
    media. If, as is now being suggested, the assessment is that the media was
    allowed too close to the operations, here is what we say: we would have been
    happy to stand at a distance much further away from the encounter sites, had
    anyone, anyone at all, asked us to move. In the 72 hours that we stood on
    reporting duty, not once were we asked to move further away. We often delayed
    live telecasting of images that we thought were sensitive so as to not
    compromise the ongoing operation. Not once, were we asked by anyone in
    authority, to switch our cameras off, or withhold images. When we did so, it was
    entirely our own assessment that perhaps it was safest to do so. Across the
    world, and as happened in the US after 9/11, there are daily, centralized
    briefings by officials to avoid any inadvertent
    confusion that media coverage may throw up. Not so in Mumbai. There was no
    central point of contact or information for journalists who were often left to
    their own devices to hunt down news that they felt had to be conveyed to their
    country. No do's and don'ts were provided by officials. While we understand that
    this situation was new for everyone involved, and so the government could not
    have been expected to have a full plan for media coverage, surely the same
    latitude should be shown to us? The NSG chief even thanked the media for our
    consistent co-operation. Later the NSG commandos personally thanked me for
    showcasing their need for a dedicated aircraft- which they shockingly did not
    have - they have now been given there after NDTV's special report was aired.

    We have only the greatest respect and admiration for our armed forces, and
    throughout the coverage repeatedly underlined how they are our greatest heroes.
    But we were taken aback to hear the Navy Chief, branding us as a "disabling
    force," for reporting on an ongoing operation. If that is the case, why were his
    own officers briefing us on camera, bang in the middle of an ongoing operation
    and that too when they only had a few rushed moments at the site of encounters?
    Before the encounter was over at either the Taj or the Oberoi, his marine
    commandos even held a hastily called press conference that was telecast live,
    with their permission, across channels. If we were indeed the obstacle, or the
    "disabling force" why did they have time for us in the middle of an operation?
    While shooting the messenger is convenient , the government also needs to
    introspect and determine whether it has an information dissemination system in
    place that is geared for such
    crises. Blanking out channels- as was done for a few hours- may not be the
    ideal solution. It only leads to more rumour mongering, panic and falsehoods
    spreading in already uncertain situation.

    2. Why did we interview waiting relatives who staked out at the hotels as they
    waited for news on their families and friends? Quite simply, because they WANTED
    to talk. Allegations that I or any of my colleagues across the industry shoved a
    microphone in the faces of any waiting relative, are untrue in the extreme.
    Television, for many of these people, became a medium to express pain, grief,
    anger and hope. Sometimes, they expressed the desire to speak, because as they
    said, they just wanted to feel like they were doing something, instead of
    sitting by on the pavement for endless, countless hours. Many did not want to
    speak or be filmed, and they were neither pressured nor asked. Many personally
    asked me for my telephone number, and got in touch, requesting whether they
    could come on our shows and make their appeals. And besides, wasn't the issue at
    hand as much about their potential loss and anxieties, as it was about an
    ongoing gunbattle? Wasn't it
    important to touch upon the human dimension and not just the military one? I
    believe strongly that it was. Capturing suffering on live television is a
    delicate issue that needs the utmost sensitivity. We believed we showed that
    sensitivity, by not thrusting microphones in people's faces, by respecting
    privacy if people asked for identities or images to be withheld, by never
    showing a ghoulish close-up of a body, and by respecting the limits set by the
    people themselves. Those limits were different for different people and had to
    be adapted to subjectively. But every interview of a relative that was aired on
    any of my shows, was done so with the full consent and participation of the
    people speaking. If they wanted to share their story, vent, give an outlet for
    their grief or just make an appeal for peace- and the emotions varied- how can
    other people out there determine that they should not be speaking? But to say
    that we had no business talking to
    families is an entirely naive and misplaced criticism. They chose to talk. In
    every case, it was their choice to share and to speak. And their voices were in
    fact the real tragedy and needed to be heard and told.

    Similarly, when the rescued hostages first emerged from the hotels many of them
    WANTED to speak because they wanted to let their families know they were safe.
    The unfortunate absence of a cordon created an avoidable crowding in of
    journalists. But every rescued hostage who appeared on any of our shows did so
    entirely voluntarily. Every participant on We the People, including Shameem, a
    man who lost six members of his family at the CST railway station was there
    because they wanted to share their tragedy or miraculous escape or trauma in a
    wider community. Shameem, who said he did not have money to bury his dead, has
    since been offered help and rehabilitation by our viewers. In that moment,
    television provided a wider sense of community, when no one else had the time of
    wherewithal to talk to the waiting relatives.

    3. Could we have been more aware of the suffering and tragedy of those killed in
    the first few hours at the CST railway station and not got singularly focused on
    the two hotels? On this one point, I would concede that perhaps, this was a
    balance we lost and needed to redress earlier on during the coverage. But,
    mostly our attention was on the hotels, because they were the sites of the live
    encounters, and not because of some deliberate socio-economic prejudice. Still,
    when many emails poured in on how important it was to correct this imbalance,
    most of us, stood up, took notice, and tried to make amends for an unwitting
    lack of balance in air time.

    4. Should there be an emergency code of dos and donts for the coverage of such
    crises? We in the media would welcome a framework for sensitive events and are
    happy to contribute to its construction. But it is important to understand that
    in the absence of any instructions on site and in the absence of any such
    framework we broke NO rules. Both the NSG chief and the special secretary untrue
    took place and we have an official aknowledgment of that, including from then
    Army Chief, V.P Malik. I would urge Admiral Mehta to read General V.P Malik's
    book on Kargil for further clarity. General Malik was the Army Chief during the
    operations and puts to rest any such controversy in his book. In a formal
    letter, NDTV has also asked for an immediate retraction from the Navy and
    officially complained that the comments amount to defamation. Several writers
    have already pointed out how the Navy Chief has got his facts wrong. (DNA,
    Indian Express, Vir Sanghvi in The
    Hindustan Times, Sankarshan Thakur in The Telegraph). This, incidentally, was
    the same press conference where the Admiral threatened literally to "chop the
    heads off" of two other reporters who aired his interview ahead of schedule.

    I believe that criticism is what helps us evolve and reinvent ourselves. But
    when malice and rumour are regarded as feedback, there can be no constructive
    dialogue. Viewing preferences are highly subjective and always deeply personal
    choices, and the most fitting rejection of someone who doesn't appeal to your
    aesthetics of intelligence, is simply to flick the channel and watch someone
    else. The viewer, to that extent, is king. But, when, comments begin targeting
    character, morality and integrity of individuals and the commentary becomes more
    about the individual, than the issue, then frankly, the anger is just
    destructive and little else. More than anything else, it is tragic that at this
    time, we are expressing ourselves in this fashion. Surely, India has bigger
    lessons to learn and larger points to mull over, than to expend energy over
    which television journalist tops the charts or falls to the bottom.

    The viewer has his own way, of settling such matters. And the last word belongs
    to him.

    Mumbai:: 9 Is Not 11 (And November Isn't September) By Arundhati Roy

    9 Is Not 11
    (And November Isn't September)

    By Arundhati Roy

    We've forfeited the rights to our own tragedies. As the carnage in Mumbai raged on, day after horrible day, our 24-hour news channels informed us that we were watching "India's 9/11." And like actors in a Bollywood rip-off of an old Hollywood film, we're expected to play our parts and say our lines, even though we know it's all been said and done before.

    As tension in the region builds, U.S. Senator John McCain has warned Pakistan that, if it didn't act fast to arrest the "bad guys," he had personal information that India would launch air strikes on "terrorist camps" in Pakistan and that Washington could do nothing because Mumbai was India's 9/11.

    But November isn't September, 2008 isn't 2001, Pakistan isn't Afghanistan, and India isn't America. So perhaps we should reclaim our tragedy and pick through the debris with our own brains and our own broken hearts so that we can arrive at our own conclusions.

    It's odd how, in the last week of November, thousands of people in Kashmir supervised by thousands of Indian troops lined up to cast their vote, while the richest quarters of India's richest city ended up looking like war-torn Kupwara -- one of Kashmir's most ravaged districts.

    The Mumbai attacks are only the most recent of a spate of terrorist attacks on Indian towns and cities this year. Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Guwahati, Jaipur, and Malegaon have all seen serial bomb blasts in which hundreds of ordinary people have been killed and wounded. If the police are right about the people they have arrested as suspects, both Hindu and Muslim, all are Indian nationals, which obviously indicates that something's going very badly wrong in this country.

    If you were watching television you might not have heard that ordinary people, too, died in Mumbai. They were mowed down in a busy railway station and a public hospital. The terrorists did not distinguish between poor and rich. They killed both with equal cold-bloodedness.

    The Indian media, however, was transfixed by the rising tide of horror that breached the glittering barricades of "India shining" and spread its stench in the marbled lobbies and crystal ballrooms of two incredibly luxurious hotels and a small Jewish center.

    We're told that one of these hotels is an icon of the city of Mumbai. That's absolutely true. It's an icon of the easy, obscene injustice that ordinary Indians endure every day. On a day when the newspapers were full of moving obituaries by beautiful people about the hotel rooms they had stayed in, the gourmet restaurants they loved (ironically one was called Kandahar), and the staff who served them, a small box on the top left-hand corner in the inner pages of a national newspaper (sponsored by a pizza company, I think) said, "Hungry, kya?" ("Hungry eh?"). It, then, with the best of intentions I'm sure, informed its readers that, on the international hunger index, India ranked below Sudan and Somalia.

    But of course this isn't that war. That one's still being fought in the Dalit bastis (settlements) of our villages; on the banks of the Narmada and the Koel Karo rivers; in the rubber estate in Chengara; in the villages of Nandigram, Singur, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Lalgarh in West Bengal; and the slums and shantytowns of our gigantic cities.

    That war isn't on TV. Yet.

    So maybe, like everyone else, we should deal with the one that is.

    Terrorism and the Need for Context

    There is a fierce, unforgiving fault line that runs through the contemporary discourse on terrorism. On one side (let's call it Side A) are those who see terrorism, especially "Islamist" terrorism, as a hateful, insane scourge that spins on its own axis, in its own orbit, and has nothing to do with the world around it, nothing to do with history, geography, or economics. Therefore, Side A says, to try to place it in a political context, or even to try to understand it, amounts to justifying it and is a crime in itself.

    Side B believes that, though nothing can ever excuse or justify it, terrorism exists in a particular time, place, and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate the problem and put more and more people in harm's way. Which is a crime in itself.

    The sayings of Hafiz Saeed who founded the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure) in 1990 and who belongs to the hard-line Salafi tradition of Islam, certainly bolsters the case of Side A. Hafiz Saeed approves of suicide bombing, hates Jews, Shias, and Democracy, and believes that jihad should be waged until Islam, his Islam, rules the world.

    Among the things he said are:

    "There cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy."

    And: "India has shown us this path. We would like to give India a tit-for-tat response and reciprocate in the same way by killing the Hindus, just like it is killing the Muslims in Kashmir."

    But where would Side A accommodate the sayings of Babu Bajrangi of Ahmedabad, India, who sees himself as a democrat, not a terrorist? He was one of the major lynchpins of the 2002 Gujarat genocide and has said (on camera):

    "We didn't spare a single Muslim shop, we set everything on fire… we hacked, burned, set on fire… we believe in setting them on fire because these bastards don't want to be cremated, they're afraid of it… I have just one last wish… let me be sentenced to death… I don't care if I'm hanged... just give me two days before my hanging and I will go and have a field day in Juhapura where seven or eight lakhs [seven or eight hundred thousand] of these people stay... I will finish them off… let a few more of them die... at least twenty-five thousand to fifty thousand should die."

    And where in Side A's scheme of things would we place the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh bible, We, or, Our Nationhood Defined by M. S. Golwalkar , who became head of the RSS in 1944. (The RSS is the ideological heart, the holding company of the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, and its militias. The RSS was founded in 1925. By the 1930s, its founder, Dr. K. B. Hedgewar, a fan of Benito Mussolini's, had begun to model it overtly along the lines of Italian fascism.)

    It says:

    "Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening."


    "To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races -- the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here... a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by."

    Of course Muslims are not the only people in the gun sights of the Hindu Right. Dalits have been consistently targeted. Recently, in Kandhamal in Orissa, Christians were the target of two and a half months of violence that left more than 40 dead. Forty thousand people have been driven from their homes, half of whom now live in refugee camps.

    All these years Hafiz Saeed has lived the life of a respectable man in Lahore as the head of the Jamaat-ud Daawa, which many believe is a front organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba. He continues to recruit young boys for his own bigoted jihad with his twisted, fiery sermons. On December 11, the United Nations imposed sanctions on the Jamaat-ud-Daawa. The Pakistani government succumbed to international pressure and put Hafiz Saeed under house arrest.

    Babu Bajrangi, however, is out on bail and lives the life of a respectable man in Gujarat. A couple of years after the genocide, he left the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, a militia of the RSS) to join the Shiv Sena (another rightwing nationalist party). Narendra Modi, Bajrangi's former mentor, is still the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

    So the man who presided over the Gujarat genocide was reelected twice, and is deeply respected by India's biggest corporate houses, Reliance and Tata. Suhel Seth, a TV impresario and corporate spokesperson, recently said, "Modi is God." The policemen who supervised and sometimes even assisted the rampaging Hindu mobs in Gujarat have been rewarded and promoted.

    The RSS has 45,000 branches and seven million volunteers preaching its doctrine of hate across India. They include Narendra Modi, but also former Prime Minister A. B. Vajpayee, current leader of the opposition L. K. Advani, and a host of other senior politicians, bureaucrats, and police and intelligence officers.

    And if that's not enough to complicate our picture of secular democracy, we should place on record that there are plenty of Muslim organizations within India preaching their own narrow bigotry.

    So, on balance, if I had to choose between Side A and Side B, I'd pick Side B. We need context. Always.

    A Close Embrace of Hatred, Terrifying Familiarity, and Love

    On this nuclear subcontinent, that context is Partition. The Radcliffe Line, which separated India and Pakistan and tore through states, districts, villages, fields, communities, water systems, homes, and families, was drawn virtually overnight. It was Britain's final, parting kick to us.

    Partition triggered the massacre of more than a million people and the largest migration of a human population in contemporary history. Eight million people, Hindus fleeing the new Pakistan, Muslims fleeing the new kind of India, left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

    Each of those people carries, and passes down, a story of unimaginable pain, hate, horror, but yearning too. That wound, those torn but still unsevered muscles, that blood and those splintered bones still lock us together in a close embrace of hatred, terrifying familiarity, but also love. It has left Kashmir trapped in a nightmare from which it can't seem to emerge, a nightmare that has claimed more than 60,000 lives.

    Pakistan, the Land of the Pure, became an Islamic Republic, and then very quickly a corrupt, violent military state, openly intolerant of other faiths.

    India on the other hand declared herself an inclusive, secular democracy. It was a magnificent undertaking, but Babu Bajrangi's predecessors had been hard at work since the 1920s, dripping poison into India's bloodstream, undermining that idea of India even before it was born.

    By 1990, they were ready to make a bid for power. In 1992 Hindu mobs exhorted by L. K. Advani stormed the Babri Masjid and demolished it.

    By 1998, the BJP was in power at the center. The U.S. War on Terror put the wind in their sails. It allowed them to do exactly as they pleased, even to commit genocide and then present their fascism as a legitimate form of chaotic democracy.

    This happened at a time when India had opened its huge market to international finance and it was in the interests of international corporations and the media houses they owned to project it as a country that could do no wrong. That gave Hindu nationalists all the impetus and the impunity they needed.

    This, then, is the larger historical context of terrorism on the subcontinent -- and of the Mumbai attacks. It shouldn't surprise us that Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba is from Shimla (India) and L. K. Advani of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is from Sindh (Pakistan).

    In much the same way as it did after the 2001 Parliament attack, the 2002 burning of the Sabarmati Express, and the 2007 bombing of the Samjhauta Express, the government of India announced that it has "incontrovertible" evidence that the Lashkar-e-Taiba, backed by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was behind the Mumbai strikes.

    The Lashkar has denied involvement, but remains the prime accused. According to the police and intelligence agencies, the Lashkar operates in India through an organization called the "Indian Mujahideen." Two Indian nationals, Sheikh Mukhtar Ahmed, a Special Police Officer working for the Jammu and Kashmir Police, and Tausif Rehman, a resident of Kolkata in West Bengal, have been arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks.

    So already the neat accusation against Pakistan is getting a little messy.

    Almost always, when these stories unspool, they reveal a complicated global network of foot soldiers, trainers, recruiters, middlemen, and undercover intelligence and counter-intelligence operatives working not just on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, but in several countries simultaneously.

    In today's world, trying to pin down the provenance of a terrorist strike and isolate it within the borders of a single nation state, is very much like trying to pin down the provenance of corporate money. It's almost impossible.

    In circumstances like these, air strikes to "take out" terrorist camps may take out the camps, but certainly will not "take out" the terrorists. And neither will war.

    Also, in our bid for the moral high ground, let's try not to forget that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTTE of neighboring Sri Lanka, one of the world's most deadly terrorist groups, were trained by the Indian Army.

    Releasing Frankensteins

    Thanks largely to the part it was forced to play as America's ally, first in its war in support of the Afghan Islamists and then in its war against them, Pakistan, whose territory is reeling under these contradictions, is careening toward civil war.

    As recruiting agents for America's jihad against the Soviet Union, it was the job of the Pakistani Army and the ISI to nurture and channel funds to Islamic fundamentalist organizations. Having wired up these Frankensteins and released them into the world, the U.S. expected it could rein them in like pet mastiffs whenever it wanted to. Certainly it did not expect them to come calling in the heart of the homeland on September 11. So once again, Afghanistan had to be violently remade.

    Now the debris of a re-ravaged Afghanistan has washed up on Pakistan's borders.

    Nobody, least of all the Pakistani government, denies that it is presiding over a country that is threatening to implode. The terrorist training camps, the fire-breathing mullahs, and the maniacs who believe that Islam will, or should, rule the world are mostly the detritus of two Afghan wars. Their ire rains down on the Pakistani government and Pakistani civilians as much, if not more, than it does on India.

    If, at this point, India decides to go to war, perhaps the descent of the whole region into chaos will be complete. The debris of a bankrupt, destroyed Pakistan will wash up on India's shores, endangering us as never before.

    If Pakistan collapses, we can look forward to having millions of "non-state actors" with an arsenal of nuclear weapons at their disposal as neighbors.

    It's hard to understand why those who steer India's ship are so keen to replicate Pakistan's mistakes and call damnation upon this country by inviting the United States to further meddle clumsily and dangerously in our extremely complicated affairs. A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.

    On the plus side, the advantage of going to war is that it's the best way for India to avoid facing up to the serious trouble building on our home front.

    The Mumbai attacks were broadcast live (and exclusive!) on all or most of our 67 24-hour news channels and god knows how many international ones. TV anchors in their studios and journalists at "ground zero" kept up an endless stream of excited commentary.

    Over three days and three nights we watched in disbelief as a small group of very young men, armed with guns and gadgets, exposed the powerlessness of the police, the elite National Security Guard, and the marine commandos of this supposedly mighty, nuclear-powered nation.

    While they did this, they indiscriminately massacred unarmed people, in railway stations, hospitals, and luxury hotels, unmindful of their class, caste, religion, or nationality.

    (Part of the helplessness of the security forces had to do with having to worry about hostages. In other situations, in Kashmir for example, their tactics are not so sensitive. Whole buildings are blown up. Human shields are used. The U.S. and Israeli armies don't hesitate to send cruise missiles into buildings and drop daisy cutters on wedding parties in Palestine, Iraq, and Afghanistan.)

    But this was different. And it was on TV.

    The boy-terrorists' nonchalant willingness to kill -- and be killed -- mesmerized their international audience. They delivered something different from the usual diet of suicide bombings and missile attacks that people have grown inured to on the news.

    Here was something new. Die Hard 25. The gruesome performance went on and on. TV ratings soared. Ask any television magnate or corporate advertiser who measures broadcast time in seconds, not minutes, what that's worth.

    Eventually the killers died and died hard, all but one. (Perhaps, in the chaos, some escaped. We may never know.)

    Throughout the standoff the terrorists made no demands and expressed no desire to negotiate. Their purpose was to kill people, and inflict as much damage as they could, before they were killed themselves. They left us completely bewildered.

    Collateral Damage

    When we say, "Nothing can justify terrorism," what most of us mean is that nothing can justify the taking of human life. We say this because we respect life, because we think it's precious.

    So what are we to make of those who care nothing for life, not even their own? The truth is that we have no idea what to make of them, because we can sense that even before they've died, they've journeyed to another world where we cannot reach them.

    One TV channel (India TV) broadcast a phone conversation with one of the attackers, who called himself "Imran Babar." I cannot vouch for the veracity of the conversation, but the things he talked about were the things contained in the "terror emails" that were sent out before several other bomb attacks in India. Things we don't want to talk about any more: the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the genocidal slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, the brutal repression in Kashmir.

    "You're surrounded," the anchor told him. "You are definitely going to die. Why don't you surrender?"

    "We die every day," he replied in a strange, mechanical way. "It's better to live one day as a lion and then die this way." He didn't seem to want to change the world. He just seemed to want to take it down with him.

    If the men were indeed members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, why didn't it matter to them that a large number of their victims were Muslim, or that their action was likely to result in a severe backlash against the Muslim community in India whose rights they claim to be fighting for?

    Terrorism is a heartless ideology, and like most ideologies that have their eye on the Big Picture, individuals don't figure in their calculations except as collateral damage.

    It has always been a part of, and often even the aim of, terrorist strategy to exacerbate a bad situation in order to expose hidden fault lines. The blood of "martyrs" irrigates terrorism. Hindu terrorists need dead Hindus, Communist terrorists need dead proletarians, Islamist terrorists need dead Muslims. The dead become the demonstration, the proof of victimhood, which is central to the project.

    A single act of terrorism is not in itself meant to achieve military victory; at best it is meant to be a catalyst that triggers something else, something much larger than itself, a tectonic shift, a realignment. The act itself is theater, spectacle, and symbolism, and today the stage on which it pirouettes and performs its acts of bestiality is Live TV. Even as the Mumbai attacks were being condemned by TV anchors, the effectiveness of the terror strikes was being magnified a thousand-fold by the TV broadcasts.

    Through the endless hours of analysis and the endless op-ed essays, in India at least, there has been very little mention of the elephants in the room: Kashmir, Gujarat, and the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

    Instead, we had retired diplomats and strategic experts debate the pros and cons of a war against Pakistan. We had the rich threatening not to pay their taxes unless their security was guaranteed. (Is it alright for the poor to remain unprotected?) We had people suggest that the government step down and each state in India be handed over to a separate corporation.

    We had the death of former Prime Minster V. P. Singh, the hero of Dalits and lower castes, and the villain of upper caste Hindus pass without a mention.

    We had Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City and co-writer of the Bollywood film Mission Kashmir give us his version of George Bush's famous "Why They Hate Us" speech. His analysis of why religious bigots, both Hindu and Muslim, hate Mumbai: "Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness."

    His prescription: "The best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever."

    Didn't George Bush ask Americans to go out and shop after 9/11? Ah yes. 9/11, the day we can't seem to get away from.

    A Shadowy History of Suspicious Terror Attacks

    Though one chapter of horror in Mumbai has ended, another might have just begun. Day after day, a powerful, vociferous section of the Indian elite, goaded by marauding TV anchors who make Fox News look almost radical and left-wing, have taken to mindlessly attacking politicians, all politicians, glorifying the police and the army, and virtually asking for a police state.

    It isn't surprising that those who have grown plump on the pickings of democracy (such as it is) should now be calling for a police state. The era of "pickings" is long gone. We're now in the era of Grabbing by Force, and democracy has a terrible habit of getting in the way.

    Dangerous, stupid oversimplifications like the Police are Good/Politicians are Bad, Chief Executives are Good/Chief Ministers are Bad, Army is Good/Government is Bad, India is Good/Pakistan is Bad are being bandied about by TV channels that have already whipped their viewers into a state of almost uncontrollable hysteria.

    Tragically this regression into intellectual infancy comes at a time when people in India were beginning to see that, in the business of terrorism, victims and perpetrators sometimes exchange roles.

    It's an understanding that the people of Kashmir, given their dreadful experiences of the last 20 years, have honed to an exquisite art. On the mainland we're still learning. (If Kashmir won't willingly integrate into India, it's beginning to look as though India will integrate/disintegrate into Kashmir.)

    It was after the 2001 Parliament attack that the first serious questions began to be raised. A campaign by a group of lawyers and activists exposed how innocent people had been framed by the police and the press, how evidence was fabricated, how witnesses lied, how due process had been criminally violated at every stage of the investigation.

    Eventually, the courts acquitted two out of the four accused, including S. A. R. Geelani, the man whom the police claimed was the mastermind of the operation. A third, Showkat Guru, was acquitted of all the charges brought against him, but was then convicted for a fresh, comparatively minor offense.

    The Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of another of the accused, Mohammad Afzal. In its judgment the court acknowledged that there was no proof that Mohammed Afzal belonged to any terrorist group, but went on to say, quite shockingly, "The collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender."

    Even today we don't really know who the terrorists that attacked the Indian Parliament were and who they worked for.

    More recently, on September 19th of this year, we had the controversial "encounter" at Batla House in Jamia Nagar, Delhi, where the Special Cell of the Delhi police gunned down two Muslim students in their rented flat under seriously questionable circumstances, claiming that they were responsible for serial bombings in Delhi, Jaipur, and Ahmedabad in 2008. An assistant commissioner of police, Mohan Chand Sharma, who played a key role in the Parliament attack investigation, lost his life as well. He was one of India's many "encounter specialists," known and rewarded for having summarily executed several "terrorists."

    There was an outcry against the Special Cell from a spectrum of people, ranging from eyewitnesses in the local community to senior Congress Party leaders, students, journalists, lawyers, academics, and activists, all of whom demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident.

    In response, the BJP and L. K. Advani lauded Mohan Chand Sharma as a "Braveheart" and launched a concerted campaign in which they targeted those who had dared to question the integrity of the police, saying to do so was "suicidal" and calling them "anti-national." Of course, there has been no enquiry.

    Only days after the Batla House event, another story about "terrorists" surfaced in the news. In a report submitted to a Sessions Court, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said that a team from Delhi's Special Cell (the same team that led the Batla House encounter, including Mohan Chand Sharma) had abducted two innocent men, Irshad Ali and Moarif Qamar, in December 2005, planted two kilograms of RDX (explosives) and two pistols on them, and then arrested them as "terrorists" who belonged to Al Badr (which operates out of Kashmir).

    Ali and Qamar, who have spent years in jail, are only two examples out of hundreds of Muslims who have been similarly jailed, tortured, and even killed on false charges.

    This pattern changed in October 2008 when Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), which was investigating the September 2008 Malegaon blasts, arrested a Hindu preacher Sadhvi Pragya, a self-styled God man, Swami Dayanand Pande, and Lt. Col. Purohit, a serving officer of the Indian Army. All the arrested belong to Hindu nationalist organizations, including a Hindu supremacist group called Abhinav Bharat.

    The Shiv Sena, the BJP, and the RSS condemned the Maharashtra ATS, and vilified its chief, Hemant Karkare, claiming he was part of a political conspiracy and declaring that "Hindus could not be terrorists." L. K. Advani changed his mind about his policy on the police and made rabble rousing speeches to huge gatherings in which he denounced the ATS for daring to cast aspersions on holy men and women.

    On November 25th, newspapers reported that the ATS was investigating the high profile VHP chief Pravin Togadia's possible role in the blasts in Malegaon (a predominantly Muslim town). The next day, in an extraordinary twist of fate, Hemant Karkare was killed in the Mumbai attacks. The chances are that the new chief, whoever he is, will find it hard to withstand the political pressure that is bound to be brought on him over the Malegaon investigation.

    While the Sangh Parivar does not seem to have come to a final decision over whether or not it is anti-national and suicidal to question the police, Arnab Goswami, anchorperson of Times Now television, has stepped up to the plate. He has taken to naming, demonizing, and openly heckling people who have dared to question the integrity of the police and armed forces.

    My name and the name of the well-known lawyer Prashant Bhushan have come up several times. At one point, while interviewing a former police officer, Arnab Goswami turned to the camera: "Arundhati Roy and Prashant Bhushan," he said. "I hope you are watching this. We think you are disgusting."

    For a TV anchor to do this in an atmosphere as charged and as frenzied as the one that prevails today amounts to incitement, as well as threat, and would probably in different circumstances have cost a journalist his or her job.

    So, according to a man aspiring to be the next prime minister of India, and another who is the public face of a mainstream TV channel, citizens have no right to raise questions about the police.

    This in a country with a shadowy history of suspicious terror attacks, murky investigations, and fake "encounters." This in a country that boasts of the highest number of custodial deaths in the world, and yet refuses to ratify the international covenant on torture. A country where the ones who make it to torture chambers are the lucky ones because at least they've escaped being "encountered" by our Encounter Specialists. A country where the line between the underworld and the Encounter Specialists virtually does not exist.

    The Monster in the Mirror

    How should those of us whose hearts have been sickened by the knowledge of all of this view the Mumbai attacks, and what are we to do about them?

    There are those who point out that U.S. strategy has been successful inasmuch as the United States has not suffered a major attack on its home ground since 9/11. However, some would say that what America is suffering now is far worse.

    If the idea behind the 9/11 terror attacks was to goad America into showing its true colors, what greater success could the terrorists have asked for? The U.S. military is bogged down in two unwinnable wars, which have made the United States the most hated country in the world. Those wars have contributed greatly to the unraveling of the American economy and who knows, perhaps eventually the American empire.

    (Could it be that battered, bombed Afghanistan, the graveyard of the Soviet Union, will be the undoing of this one too?)

    Hundreds of thousands of people, including thousands of American soldiers, have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The frequency of terrorist strikes on U.S. allies/agents (including India) and U.S. interests in the rest of the world has increased dramatically since 9/11.

    George W. Bush, the man who led the U.S. response to 9/11, is a despised figure not just internationally, but also by his own people.

    Who can possibly claim that the United States is winning the War on Terror?

    Homeland Security has cost the U.S. government billions of dollars. Few countries, certainly not India, can afford that sort of price tag. But even if we could, the fact is that this vast homeland of ours cannot be secured or policed in the way the United States has been. It's not that kind of homeland.

    We have a hostile nuclear-weapons state that is slowly spinning out of control as a neighbor; we have a military occupation in Kashmir and a shamefully persecuted, impoverished minority of more than 150 million Muslims who are being targeted as a community and pushed to the wall, whose young see no justice on the horizon, and who, were they to totally lose hope and radicalize, will end up as a threat not just to India, but to the whole world.

    If 10 men can hold off the NSG commandos and the police for three days, and if it takes half a million soldiers to hold down the Kashmir valley, do the math. What kind of Homeland Security can secure India?

    Nor for that matter will any other quick fix.

    Anti-terrorism laws are not meant for terrorists; they're for people that governments don't like. That's why they have a conviction rate of less than 2%. They're just a means of putting inconvenient people away without bail for a long time and eventually letting them go.

    Terrorists like those who attacked Mumbai are hardly likely to be deterred by the prospect of being refused bail or being sentenced to death. It's what they want.

    What we're experiencing now is blowback, the cumulative result of decades of quick fixes and dirty deeds. The carpet's squelching under our feet.

    The only way to contain -- it would be naïve to say end -- terrorism is to look at the monster in the mirror. We're standing at a fork in the road. One sign says "Justice," the other "Civil War." There's no third sign and there's no going back. Choose.

    Arundhati Roy was born in 1959 in Shillong, India. She studied architecture in New Delhi, where she now lives, and has worked as a film designer, actor, and screenplay writer in India. A tenth anniversary edition of her novel, The God of Small Things (Random House), for which she received the 1997 Booker Prize, will be officially published within days. She is also the author of numerous nonfiction titles, including An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire. This piece was published by Outlook India, which is sharing it with

    Copyright 2008 Arundhati Roy

    Mumbai:: Lessons in security: Terrorists Used Google Earth, Boats, Food

    Bruce Schneier is probably the best in the business when it comes to security... and as he makes the point often, it does not have to be high cost or high tech.

    His security email CRYPTOGRAM comes like clockwork on the 15th of every month. So for those who have the time and the inclination, I would strongly recommend that you subscribe to it.

    Read on, and best wishes,


    Lessons from Mumbai

    Written right after the carnage:

    I'm still reading about the Mumbai terrorist attacks, and I expect it'll be a long time before we get a lot of the details. What we know is horrific, and my sympathy goes out to the survivors of the dead (and the injured, who often seem to get ignored as people focus on death tolls). Without discounting the awfulness of the events, I have some initial observations:

    * Low-tech is very effective. Movie-plot threats -- terrorists with crop dusters, terrorists with biological agents, terrorists targeting our water supplies -- might be what people worry about, but a bunch of trained (we don't really know yet what sort of training they had, but it's clear that they had some) men with guns and grenades is all they needed.

    * At the same time, the attacks had a surprisingly low body count. I can't find exact numbers, but it seems there were about 18 terrorists. The latest toll is 195 dead, 235 wounded. That's 11 dead, 13 wounded, per terrorist. As horrible as the reality is, that's much less than you might have thought if you imagined the movie in your head. Reality is different from the movies.

    * Even so, terrorism is rare. If a bunch of men with guns and grenades is all they really need, then why isn't this sort of terrorism more common? Why not in the U.S., where it's easy to get hold of weapons? It's because terrorism is very, very rare.

    * Specific countermeasures don't help against these attacks. None of the high-priced countermeasures that defend against specific tactics and specific targets made, or would have made, any difference: photo ID checks, confiscating liquids at airports, fingerprinting foreigners at the border, bag screening on public transportation, anything. Even metal detectors and threat warnings didn't do any good.

    If there's any lesson in these attacks, it's not to focus too much on the specifics of the attacks. Of course, that's not the way we're programmed to think. We respond to stories, not analysis. I don't mean to be unsympathetic; this tendency is human and these deaths are really tragic. But 18 armed people intent on killing lots of innocents will be able to do just that, and last-line-of-defense countermeasures won't be able to stop them. Intelligence, investigation, and emergency response. We have to find and stop the terrorists before they attack, and deal with the aftermath of the attacks we don't stop. There really is no other way, and I hope that we don't let the tragedy lead us into unwise decisions about how to deal with terrorism.,23739,24726093-954,00.html or

    Movie-plot threats:

    Our brains and stories:

    ** *** ***** ******* *********** *************

    Communications During Terrorist Attacks are *Not* Bad

    Twitter was a vital source of information in Mumbai; people were using the site to communicate with and update others during the terrorist attacks. We simply have to be smarter than this idea: "And this morning, Twitter users said that Indian authorities was asking users to stop updating the site for security reasons. One person wrote: 'Police reckon tweeters giving away strategic info to terrorists via Twitter.'"

    This fear is exactly backwards. During a terrorist attack -- during any crisis situation, actually -- the one thing people can do is exchange information. It helps people, calms people, and actually reduces the thing the terrorists are trying to achieve: terror. Yes, there are specific movie-plot scenarios where certain public pronouncements might help the terrorists, but those are rare. I would much rather err on the side of more information, more openness, and more communication. or or

    ** *** ***** ******* *********** *************

    Mumbai Terrorists Used Google Earth, Boats, Food

    The Mumbai terrorists used Google Earth to help plan their attacks. This is bothering some people:

    "Google Earth has previously come in for criticism in India, including from the country's former president, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

    "Kalam warned in a 2005 lecture that the easy availability online of detailed maps of countries from services such as Google Earth could be misused by terrorists."

    Of course the terrorists used Google Earth. They also used boats, and ate at restaurants. Don't even get me started about the fact that they breathed air and drank water.

    "A Google spokeswoman said in an e-mail today that Google Earth's imagery is available through commercial and public sources. Google Earth has also been used by aid agencies for relief operations, which outweighs abusive uses, she said."

    That's true for all aspects of human infrastructure. Yes, the bad guys use it: bank robbers use cars to get away, drug smugglers use radios to communicate, child pornographers use e-mail. But the good guys use it, too, and the good uses far outweigh the bad uses. or

    ** *** ***** ******* *********** *************

    Mumbai:: What happened and why?

    Thanks for your calls and messages of concern.
    I am safe, sad and angry.
    Safe because I choose to believe that life will go on as usual.
    Sad because people I know have lost their loved ones. What can I say or do to comfort them?
    Angry because several disturbing questions are racing through my head.

    1) Why was Hemant Karkare, the chief of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), killed? Who killed him and two other top cops? When Karkare was appointed as ATS chief in January this year, he cracked the Thane (on the outskirts of Mumbai) bomb blast that took place a year ago. Most people believed that this blast was the work of Islamic terrorists. Karkare’s investigations revealed that a Hindu right-wing group was responsible for this bomb blast and for a few others too.

    Subsequently, following the blasts at Malegaon (a Muslim-dominated town in Maharashtra) in September this year, Karkare and his team discovered that Hindu holy men and women (Sadhus and Sadhvis) along with a military officer and others were involved. Abuses and threats came his way for his investigations into this case. His critics included the top bosses of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

    2) Where were the self-proclaimed protectors of Mumbai, the Shiv Sena and the MNS when Mumbai was attacked? These political parties repeatedly attack ordinary, hardworking, poor people from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other states of India who come to Mumbai to seek a living. They recently disrupted life in Mumbai for days by unleashing violence against unarmed North Indians working as taxi drivers, security guards, construction workers, street vendors, etc. Why did these bullies cower in fear instead of flexing their muscles in the battle to defend Mumbai?

    3) Why were the TV journalists immaturely and irresponsibly reporting not facts but bytes of information that had a life span of one minute in the imagination of the journalists? These people made a spectacle of the tragedy and the rescue operation. Were the journalists trying to convey their anguish or their excitement? They seemed to be narrating the unfolding drama of a theatrical performance.

    4) Do the celebrities invited to speak on behalf of Mumbai represent the people of Mumbai? Their glitzy lifestyles are alien from the daily existence of the masses. Those who pride themselves as the elites are untouched by the misery that plagues the lives of the majority.
    In normal times their indifference is cruel and their ignorance deliberate. But on the TV channels these past few days it was garbage that was arrogantly spewing out from their glossy lips. Their statements were inane but definitely not innocuous. The ageing TV star urged people not to pay taxes and suggested brutal attack on our neighbouring country. It is a well-know fact that India has several upper crust tax defaulters who manage to creatively dodge the tax system and to get away with. By not challenging the hatred and violence against a community and a country that these painted faces were preaching, the journalists are guilty of endorsing such vile views.

    5) Why did the media focus largely on the tragedy unfolding at the five-star hotels? The newspapers too are filled with stories of the ordeal of the elites. It seems as if there is no need to grieve the killing of more than 50 ordinary people at CST station or the sweeper at Cama hospital. Are some lives more precious than others?

    6) Are these luxury hotels Mumbai’s icons? India’s journalists seemed to think so; that’s how they referred to these places. They surely know that ordinary folks in Mumbai are rudely barred from straying into these areas. That hardly matters to them. The editor of a national daily, the Indian Express, tried to stir up the sympathy of his readers for the loss of his “second home” (his words), the Oberoi - Trident hotel.

    7) Shouldn’t we overhaul our security establishment in terms of training, equipment, job specification, salaries, resources, and way of functioning? Large sections of the security forces are poorly trained, badly paid, inadequately equipped, wrongly deployed, politically controlled, and harbour communal biases. We need a security set-up to maintain law and order, to enforce the rule of law, to tackle crime and to punish the guilty without prejudice or fear. Instead, what we have is a system that is almost completely rotten and that thrives on exploiting the weak and the defenceless. And the few upright personnel are quickly sidelined or eliminated.

    8) Should we foolishly squander personnel and honest tax payers’ money to guard politicians, celebrities and cricketers? Why do they tremble in fear behind protective shields while ordinary folks apparently have no fears and so go unprotected?

    9) Can a fractured society outsmart a well-synchronised team executing a meticulously-planned operation? A rigid hierarchical system is at the core of the Indian social matrix. Thus social relations between sections of society are unequal and based on power, status and connections. Your position on the social ladder determines whether you are treated with respect or with contempt. We are unable to express solidarity that transcends caste, class, regional and religious barriers. People considered to be on the lower rungs of the hierarchy are alienated from human society. It’s not too difficult to tear down a weak, rotten, divided society that does not value the lives of all its people equally.

    10) Will we ever be able to challenge and defeat the prejudices that are spreading? We should, we will.

    chrissie d'costa



    We at NAPM unequivocally condemn with shock and deep anguish the brazen and brutal terror attacks in Mumbai that have claimed over 250 lives, and injured about 300 people besides creating mayhem at CST, the lifeline of ordinary toiling Mumbaikar; the Hotel Taj, Oberoi Trident, Nariman House and other places where people were trapped, tortured and killed over 3 days.

    We pay homage to all the people who lost their life and limb in this dastardly attack, including all those invisible ordinary Mumbaikars from different states whose death at CST will never make headlines and many of whose dead bodies, their beloved families will never see again, thanks to a callous administration that demanded thousands of rupees for their bodies to be sent back. Our heart goes out to the kith and kin of every person affected by this gruesome crime in this poignant moment.

    We salute the selfless police officials, courageous and humane National Security Guards and all commandoes and Marcos who staked their lives until the last person was rescued. The state would do well by providing them appropriate working conditions and timely paraphernalia, instead of just paying posthumous homage. We also underline with fullest appreciation the public spirited compassion of the people who in their own way were part of the brave effort to protect life at extreme personal risk and amidst incalculable trauma, some even losing their lives.

    We strongly feel that the Government should take this incident as the final lesson in addressing all the faultlines in its security administration and intelligence failure. Instead of indulging in a wild goose chase and persecuting innocent persons, especially youth from selected communities, buckling under political vested interests and exhausting limited resources, the police and intelligence department must take serious and solid action in all such cases with strict adherence to the Constitution. Government servants who err in their duty, howsoever high they might be, must be held accountable. The Government must also seriously begin to initiate the process of pro-people police reforms and delink the police department from political pressure.

    Head-on attacks of such a scale are unprecedented and in a way a consequence of corrupt, sectarian and vicious electoral party politics, demonstrating the crumbling governance and weakening of democracy. It is high time that we, as a nation, reflect on and press for radical and holistic electoral reforms, which will ensure that people don't occupy positions of power through undemocratic, corrupt and familial means. The Reforms should explicitly provide for the Right to Recall any legislator and parliamentarian, who fails to safeguard the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people.

    We also fervently appeal to the general public not to succumb to the misconception that draconian laws are panacea to terrorism. More terror laws do not increase security. The country has enough laws to tackle terror. What is required is proper and fair implementation and better coordination between different state agencies.

    We also call upon all peace loving people from India and our neighbour state Pakistan to press upon the two Governments to have a no-nonsense approach towards restoring peace in the South Asian region. The peace process, including dialogue and trade between India and Pakistan should continue, notwithstanding such incidents aimed at disrupting progress in mutual harmony. Peace-building efforts must be genuinely taken forward beyond rhetoric and translate into serious action.

    Let all our actions lead towards healing and mitigation of all kinds of hate, mistrust, parochial regionalism and communal mudslinging.

    Sandeep Pandey D. Gabriele P. Chennaiah Aruna Roy

    Mukta Srivastava Medha Patkar Sanjay M.G. Anand Mazgaonkar

    Righteous anger yes, but no bloodbath please... (a youth perspective)

    Righteous anger yes, but no bloodbath please...
    Devika Narayan

    I heard the gunfire all night. There was blood and mayhem for three days. The fear has now turned into rage. Anger is a good thing, it shakes us out of our indifference and inaction. I am angry for a number of reasons. I am angry that so many people died in this horrific way. I am angry that we were so ineffective in managing this crisis. There weren't enough ambulances, there weren't enough policemen, (and the ones present were armed with bamboo canes.) it was impossible for the system as a whole to respond appropriately. I am angry that our elected politicians are so casual about this nightmare. I am angry that they didn't respond to the multiple warnings that came from multiple sources. Now we shall watch as they become the mouthpieces for their respective agendas, shouldering one another to get ahead. I am angry at the class divisions that are playing themselves out. Why are we not talking about the dozens of victims at V.T? Why do they have to stand in longer lines to collect their dead? Why do we not value human life irrespective of their caste, class and religion? So yes, the collective outrage of a population is a powerful force.

    There is one word that is being flashed repeatedly on our screens which promises to give a focus to our anger and grief. That one word is Pakistan. As a young and extremely outraged citizen I am afraid of the direction that our anger is taking. Afraid, because I see that as a people we seem to have developed a gut-level violent reaction to that word. When I watch the news with my peers I feel the violence in that visceral reaction whenever Pakistan is named. And it fills me with dread. There seems to be an intrinsic inability to distinguish between the people of a country, the governing body, the military and the various (extremist) groups that exist with that region. knowing that Pakistan is a country often at war with itself it is both dangerous and irresponsible to speak of it as if it is a coherent unified whole. Doing so, will only result in two nuclear powers baring their teeth at each other. It will also lead to the alienation of communities within our national boundary. Our news media often seem to forget how sensitive Pakistan as an issue is and play a definite role in kindling these embers. I recognize the fact that in some twisted way, this serves the interest of the media whose revenue today depends on the increase of heart rates.

    Moreover, is it not a little too convenient? I hope that even as we make progress in establishing the identity of the agents of this atrocity we don't stop asking questions of our government and police. We ask the tough questions and demand more accountability. Pointing fingers at an outsider should not ease the pressure on our political elite. This is not to say that we don't talk of the ISI or the training camps, this is only to say that we don't let our pain numb our capacity to think. Whipping up public hate against the neighbor may make us feel temporarily better but in the long run this is destructive. Our self righteous rage against Pakistan's incapacity to 'control' its violent groups is a bit misplaced. We are simply amazed that these groups can walk the streets preaching hate and violence. We seem to have cultivated a special skill that allows us to effortlessly turn a blind eye to the devastation and violence committed by Indian extremist groups against fellow citizens. Do we ban them and put their leaders behind bars? No, we allow them unrestricted freedom or sometimes like in Gujarat we choose to democratically re-elect them to office. I don't see the organized group that mass murdered in Orissa behind bars, nor our own home-grown bunch that destroyed the city during the 92-93 riots. It is easy to ignore our hypocrisy when our emotions are volatile and our wounds throbbing. If we don't take a breath to cool off our angry chest-thumping could have disastrous consequences. Yes, we want action. But we most definitely don't want any more blood on our hands. Don't use the language of war.

    TERROR ATTACK ON MUMBAI Terror: The Aftermath - by Anand Patwardhan

    TERROR ATTACK ON MUMBAI - by Anand Patwardhan

    dear all
    this got rejected by times of india and hindustan times has sat on it
    for 9 days. if u find it useful, do circulate. best, anand


    Terror: The Aftermath

    The attack on Mumbai is over. After the numbing sorrow comes the blame
    game and the solutions. Loud voices amplified by saturation TV: Why
    don't we amend our Constitution to create new anti-terror laws? Why
    don't we arm our police with AK 47s? Why don't we do what Israel did
    after Munich or the USA did after 9/11 and hot pursue the enemy?
    Solutions that will lead us further into the abyss. For terror is a
    self-fulfilling prophecy. It thrives on reaction, polarization,
    militarization and the thirst for revenge.

    The External Terror

    Those who invoke America need only to analyze if its actions after
    9/11 increased or decreased global terror. It invaded oil-rich Iraq
    fully knowing that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, killing over
    200,000 Iraqis citizens but allowing a cornered Bin Laden to escape
    from Afghanistan. It recruited global support for Islamic militancy,
    which began to be seen as a just resistance against American mass
    murder. Which begs the question of who created Bin Laden in the first
    place, armed the madarsas of Pakistan and rejuvenated the concept of
    Islamic jehad? Israel played its own role in stoking the fires of
    jehad. The very creation of Israel in 1948 robbed Palestinians of
    their land, an act that Mahatma Gandhi to his credit deplored at the
    time as an unjust way to redress the wrongs done to Jews during the
    Holocaust. What followed has been a slow and continuing attack on the
    Palestinian nation. At first Palestinian resistance was led by secular
    forces represented by Yasser Arafat but as these were successfully
    undermined, Islamic forces took over the mantle. The first, largely
    non-violent Intifada was crushed, a second more violent one replaced
    it and when all else failed, human bombs appeared.

    Thirty years ago when I first went abroad there were two countries my
    Indian passport forbade me to visit. One was racist South Africa. The
    other was Israel. We were non-aligned and stood for disarmament and
    world peace. Today Israel and America are our biggest military allies.
    Is it surprising that we are on the jehadi hit list? Israel, America
    and other prosperous countries can to an extent protect themselves
    against the determined jehadi, but can India put an impenetrable
    shield over itself? Remember that when attackers are on a suicide
    mission, the strongest shields have crumbled. New York was laid low
    not with nuclear weapons but with a pair of box cutters. India is for
    many reasons a quintessentially soft target. Our huge population, vast
    landmass and coastline are impossible to protect. The rich may build
    new barricades. The Taj and the Oberoi can be made safer. So can our
    airports and planes. Can our railway stations and trains, bus stops,
    busses, markets and lanes do the same?

    The Terror Within

    The threat of terror in India does not come exclusively from the
    outside. Apart from being hugely populated by the poor India is also a
    country divided, not just between rich and poor, but by religion,
    caste and language. This internal divide is as potent a breeding
    ground for terror as jehadi camps abroad. Nor is jehad the copyright
    of one religion alone. It can be argued that international causes
    apart, India has jehadis that are fully home grown. Perhaps the
    earliest famous one was Nathuram Godse who acting at the behest of his
    mentor Vinayak Savarkar (still referred to as "Veer" or "brave"
    although he refused to own up to his role in the conspiracy), murdered
    Mahatma Gandhi for the crime of championing Muslims.

    Jump forward to 6th December, 1992, the day Hindu fanatics demolished
    the Babri Mosque setting into motion a chain of events that still
    wreaks havoc today. From the Bombay riots of 1992 to the bomb blasts
    of 1993, the Gujarat pogroms of 2002 and hundreds of smaller deadly
    events, the last 16 years have been the bloodiest since Partition.
    Action has been followed by reaction in an endless cycle of escalating
    retribution. At the core on the Hindu side of terror are organizations
    that openly admire Adolph Hitler, nursing the hate of historic wrongs
    inflicted by Muslims. Ironically these votaries of Hitler remain
    friends and admirers of Israel.

    On the Muslim side of terror are scores of disaffected youth, many of
    whom have seen their families tortured and killed in more recent
    pogroms. Christians too have fallen victim to recent Hindutva terror
    but as yet not formed the mechanisms for revenge. Dalits despite
    centuries of caste oppression, have not yet retaliated in violence
    although a small fraction is being drawn into an armed struggle waged
    by Naxalites.

    It is clear that no amount of spending on defense, no amount of
    patrolling the high seas, no amount of increasing the military and
    police and equipping them with the latest weaponry can end the cycle
    of violence or place India under a bubble of safety. Just as nuclear
    India did not lead to more safety, but only to a nuclear Pakistan, no
    amount of homeland security can save us. And inviting Israel's Mossad
    and America's CIA/FBI to the security table is like giving the
    anti-virus contract to those who spread the virus in the first place.
    It can only make us more of a target for the next determined jehadi

    Policing, Justice and the Media

    As for draconian anti-terror laws, they too only breed terror as for
    the most part they are implemented by a State machinery that has
    imbibed majoritarian values. So in Modi's Gujarat after the ethnic
    cleansing of Muslims in 2002, despite scores of confessions to rape
    and murder captured on hidden camera, virtually no Hindu extremists
    were punished while thousands of Muslims rotted in jail under
    draconian laws. The same happened in Bombay despite the Shiv Sena
    being found guilty by the Justice Shrikrishna Commission. Under
    pressure a few cases were finally brought to trial but all escaped
    with the lightest of knuckle raps. In stark contrast many Muslims
    accused in the 1993 bomb blasts were given death sentences.

    The bulk of our media, policing and judicial systems swallows the
    canard that Muslims are by nature violent. Removing democratic
    safeguards guaranteed by the Constitution can only make this worse.
    Every act of wrongful imprisonment and torture that then follows is
    likely to turn innocents into material for future terrorists to draw
    upon. Already the double standards are visible. While the Students
    Islamic Movement of India is banned, Hindutva outfits like the RSS,
    the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, and the Shiv Sena remain legal entities. The
    leader of the MNS, Raj Thackeray recently openly spread such hatred
    that several north Indians were killed by lynch mobs. Amongst these
    were the Dube brothers, doctors from Kalyan who treated the poor for a
    grand fee of Rs.10 per patient. Raj Thackeray like his uncle Bal
    before him, remains free after issuing public threats that Bombay
    would burn if anyone had the guts to arrest him. Modi remains free
    despite the pogroms of Gujarat. Congress party murderers of Sikhs in
    1984 remain free. Justice in India is clearly not there for all.
    Increasing the powers of the police cannot solve this problem. Only
    honest and unbiased implementation of laws that exist, can.

    It is a tragedy of the highest proportions that one such honest
    policeman, Anti-Terrorist Squad chief Hemant Karkare, who had begun to
    unravel the thread of Hindutva terror was himself gunned down, perhaps
    by Muslim terror. It is reported that Col. Purohit and fellow Hindutva
    conspirators now in judicial custody, celebrated the news of Karkare's
    death. Until Karkare took charge, the Malegaon bomb blasts in which
    Muslims were killed and the Samjhauta Express blasts in which
    Pakistani visitors to India were killed were being blamed on Muslims.
    Karkare exposed a hitherto unknown Hindutva outfit as masterminding a
    series of killer blasts across the country. For his pains Karkare came
    under vicious attack not just from militant Hindutva but from the
    mainstream BJP. He was under tremendous pressure to prove his
    patriotism. Was it this that led this senior officer to don helmet and
    ill-fitting bullet proof vest and rush into battle with a pistol? Or
    was it just his natural instinct, the same courage that had led him
    against all odds, to expose Hindutva terror?

    Whatever it was, it only underlines the fact that jehadis of all kinds
    are actually allies of each other. So Bin Laden served George Bush and
    vice-versa. So Islamic and Hindutva jehadis have served each other for
    years. Do they care who dies? Of the 200 people killed in the last few
    days by Islamic jehadis, a high number were Muslims. Many were waiting
    to board trains to celebrate Eid in their hometowns in UP and Bihar,
    when their co-religionists gunned them down. Shockingly the media has
    not commented on this, nor focused on the tragedy at the railway
    station, choosing to concentrate on tragedies that befell the
    well-to-do. And it is the media that is leading the charge to turn us
    into a war-mongering police state where we may lead lives with an
    illusion of safety, but with the certainty of joylessness.

    I am not arguing that we do not need efficient security at public
    places and at vulnerable sites. But real security will only come when
    it is accompanied by real justice, when the principles of democracy
    are implemented in every part of the country, when the legitimate
    grievances of people are not crushed, when the arms race is replaced
    by a race for decency and humanity, when our children grow up in an
    atmosphere where religious faith is put to the test of reason. Until
    such time we will remain at the mercy of "patriots" and zealots.

    Anand Patwardhan
    November 2008

    questions about the terror attacks in Bombay

    Many more questions about the terror attacks

    November 28, 2008 | 11:50 IST

    Since we posted unanswered questions about the terrorist attacks in Mumbai on Friday morning, many, many, many, readers have mailed us with their own questions that need to be investigated by the security agencies.

    If you wish to add questions to this list, please e-mail We will post the most relevant questions here.
    # How many terrorists were there? Did they number 20 as Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh told a press conference on Thursday? Or did they number many more? If two or three terrorists attacked the CST, how many terrorists were present at the Taj and Trident? Did the CST terrorists drop a grenade/explosive device at Dockyard Road on the way to the station? Or was someone else responsible for that act of terror which claimed three lives?
    # The terrorists are said to have set up control rooms at the Taj and Trident hotels, a Cabinet minister told PTI on Thursday. When were these bookings made? A detailed investigation into the bookings made at both hotels in the months, weeks and days before the attacks may reveal the names of suspicious guests who registered there.
    # Military sources tell that there was no way the terrorists could have carried so much ammunition with them when they assaulted the two hotels with their guns blazing. They believe the ammunition may have been stored earlier in rooms at both the hotels, perhaps on the higher floors.
    # If some of the terrorists had registered at the hotels earlier, could these men/women have left along with the guests who were released? Did the police record the identities and addresses of the guests who were released from both hotels?
    # Indian Hotels Chairman Ratan Tata indicated on Thursday that the terrorists had intimate knowledge of the Taj, its service corridors, its layout. Does this mean that they had a mole inside the Taj? Or more worrying, did a couple of them work there at some point of time? Did they have drawings of the layout of the two hotels?
    # If the terrorists were Pakistani, how did they have such an intimate knowledge of the terrain? The two or three cowards who attacked the CST on Wednesday night made their way from the CST through a road on the left side of The Times of India building towards the Cama and Albess hospital/Azad Maidan police station, a route that is known only to true-blood Mumbaikars. Were they locals? Or did they conduct extensive reconnisance of the likely routes of escape?
    # These same two or three men, who are said to have commandeered ATS Chief Hemant Karkare's police Qualis after shooting him, Additional Commissioner of Police Ashok Kamte and Inspector Vijay Salaskar, revealed similar familarity with the road outside the Esplanade Court, making an easy U-turn towards the Metro cinema junction rather than head on the road towards the CST. How did they know this if they were Pakistanis?
    # How did those men, whose images have appeared all over the world, get to the CST from Colaba where they are said to have landed by boat? Did they take a taxi? Or did they have local transportation? Did they come by a suburban train, which could explain the firing on one of the suburban train platforms? Who left the grenade on the Gitanjali Express, which killed a Bengali mother?
    # The terrorists are said to have done extensive reconnisance of the city.. If they are Pakistanis, how did they get earlier entry to the city unnoticed? Did they come in by boat? Or did they use other routes to escape notice?
    # Such an operation could not have been conducted without extensive training and preparation, possibly on models of the Taj and Trident or Chabad House/Nariman House. Could this have been achieved at the rudimentary training camps hosted by the Lashkar-e-Tayiba in Pakistan occupied Kashmir? Or was it a more systematised operation conducted by a State agency in a hostile country?
    # How did they know Chabad House/Nariman House, which even long-time residents of Colaba -- the area in South Mumbai where the Taj, the Leopold Cafe and Chabad/Nariman House are located -- are unfamiliar with? The choice of this target indicates precision thinking -- it is doubtful if the Lashkar strategists are capable of such deep strategy -- and again points the needle of suspicion at a government intelligence agency in a nation inimical to India or renegades within such a bureau.
    # Early on Thursday morning, the television channels spoke about an exchange of fire between the terrorists and the police near the Liberty cinema (which is close to the Metro cinema/Cama hospital, but situated on an inner road). There was even fear expressed that these terrorists would enter the Bombay hospital, but nothing was heard about them thereafter. Where did they go? Were these two/three terrorists the same men who took over the police Qualis and shot at people near the Metro junction? Or have they escaped?
    # The police say the two men, who took over the Qualis, grabbed the Skoda that was halted at a police road block near the Girgaum Chowpatty beach. One of them was later killed by the police. Where did the other man go? Is he the Ismail, the Lashkar terrorist who is appparently singing like a canary to the police? Or is he someone else? If these are the two of the three terrorists who attacked the CST, what happened to the third man seen in photographs and video captures? Where did he vanish?
    # Another terrorist is said to be in custody. Where was he captured? What has he told the police?
    # The Times of India reported on Friday morning that wellknown food critic Sabina Sehgal-Saikia's cellular phone recorded activity in the Raigad area, which is located across the sea from the Taj, where she was staying on the night of the attacks? Nothing has been heard from Saikia for over a day, so how did her phone reach Raigad? Could one of the terrorists have escaped under the guise of a guest to the Raigad area?To this Mohit says: Sabina's husband has clarified that Airtel reps have told him that since the towers around Taj were shut down, it is possible that the phone might have picked up the signal from Raigad tower.
    # Could some of the terrorists have come by boat from the Alibag-Murud Janjira area in Maharashtra's Raigad district, rather than from Pakistan? Boats ply through the day from the Alibaug area to the Gateway of India, and it would be easy for terrorists to use this mode of transport rather than high-speed boats which would have attracted the Coast Guard's attention.
    # According to a Maharashtra Times report, the two terrorists who killed the three police officers on Wednesday night spoke Marathi! This disclosure casts fresh doubt on the origin of the terrorists. Or did each terrorist from an enemy nation have an Indian accomplice accompanying him?
    # If the attacks were restricted to South Mumbai for logistical reasons, who was responsible for the explosion on the taxi near the Santa Cruz airport in northwest Mumbai, which is located at least 25 km from Colaba?


    National Policy for Development Planning, Minimum Displacement and Just Rehabilitation


    A Process towards a National Policy for Development Planning, Minimum Displacement and Just Rehabilitation

    The history of struggle as well as discussion and debate regarding displacement and development has been a long one. Emerging out of this, there is also been years long process of consultation and drafting of the National Rehabilitation Policy carried forward by peoples organisations and official bodies. A draft prepared by Narmada Bachao Andolan (by Adv. Girish Patel, Medha Patkar) in 1987 was thoroughly discussed and finalised by the National Working group on displacement, involving eminent activists, lawyers and intellectuals such as Dr. B.D. Sharma, Baba Adhav, Smitu Kothari, Vasant Palhsikar, Achyut Yagnik, Pradip Prabhu, Vasudha Dhagamwar, Bittu Sehgal and others in 1987. Another national process initiated by Indian Social Institute including Prof. Vijay Paranjapye, S.R. Hiremath, Sharad Kulkarni, Walter Fernandez and others in 1990’s, led to a draft R&R policy.

    These initiatives by the people’s movements and NGOs working in the field and on the policy changes since years involved a large number of common people especially the adivasis, dalits, other rural communities of farmers, fishworkers, artisans, labourers, forest dwellers and others facing the backlash of development. There was a debate with so called multiple stakeholders organised Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Masoorie. The draft policies brought out by the Planning Commission in mid- 90’s and the one by the Ministry Of Rural Development in 1998, incorporating non-governmental drafts were the government initiatives wherein we had participated and made extensive contributions.

    However shelving these drafts, after a long lull, the NDA government brought out National Rehabilitation Policy-2003 - highly secretively and in an absolutely non-participatory, non-transparent manner. As a fate accompli, this was analysed and assessed by the people’s organizations who brought out a strong critique of the same and demanded that the UPA government start a consultative process not just to amend the NRP but also to review the serious-most issues of displacement & rehabilitation, and therefore think and work towards a comprehensive Act on Development Planning, minimum displacement, and Just rehabilitation.

    Subsequently, a small group of concerned activists worked out a draft and presented the same to the National Advisory Council (NAC) through Aruna Roy and N.C. Saxena in 2004-2005. The national consultations; one held by the National Advisory Council at TISS, Mumbai and other national conventions such as one organised by National Alliance of Peoples’ Movements (NAPM) and collaborating organisations in Delhi, with participation of representatives of selected political parties and peoples' representatives helped consolidate diverse viewpoints and incorporate the varied comments, suggestions, etc into the draft. The same, we were told, not through any formal communication but informally, was passed by the National Advisory Council. Since then, the draft remained pending with the Central Cabinet on the excuse that there were questions and barriers to be faced and clarified, before it could get its sanction.

    It is after one full year that a new draft, mostly related to and comparable with the NRP-2006, is brought out by the Ministry of Rural Development. The shortest time of 7 to 15 days granted by the Ministry for comments has killed the possibility of consultations even if those were to be initiated and carried out by the people’s movements and non governmental organizations. However the mandate is well spell out by now, not only by the people’s struggles but also the fundamental duties of the State and the civil society as enshrined in the Constitution of India. At a time when the scale of development induced displacement has grown to a large number & brutality as well as incapability of the State to rehabilitate those forcibly evicted is established, a fundamentally different yet most reasonable thinking has to emerge.

    This can be described as follows:
    a) The British legacy of land Acquisition without Rehabilitation must be left behind. The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 should be abolished and a new comprehensive legislation must be spell out (i) our development goals (as a reference) for defining public interest (ii) the planning process including options assessments and criteria for choice and (iii) the democratic structure as well as (iv) process – legal, humane - for minimum displacement and (v) just and fair rehabilitation – principles, provisions and processes with democratic, decentralised administrative structure
    b) There should be an emphasis on the resources belonging to people and the people’s rights to statutory duties underlined in the Indian Constitution, not on the principle of eminent domain, which has created a havoc
    c) The policy, must be a step towards minimizing the displacement and not for increasing it. The policy already on paper (prepared by a large group of activist and representatives of the development project affected) should be taken as a reference, for bringing out a consensual final policy statement. for ready reference
    d) The unit of planning a project, not only rehabilitation, should be the smallest social unit, ie: hamlet / village in the rural areas and basti (of not more than 1000 families) in the urban area
    e) The change in the utilization pattern of natural resources, including land, can occur without ‘displacement’, if it is in favour of the contributor/investor of the resource; voluntary and not without an alternative ensuring a better life/livelihood & share in the benefits. This would thus mean some change in the habitat in the location or source of livelihood, but not ‘displacement’ or even severe deprivation causing migration/destitution, even if at a later point
    f) A large majority, including adivasis, dalits, farmers and laborers require protection from ‘evictions’ in the present context and hence no displacement without ‘prior informed consent’ should be acceptable in the case of any of the affected populations
    g) The options assessment as a part of the project planning process also can begin at the smallest unit and needs to be finalized, pre-facto to ensure the appropriate option with minimum of overhauling, socio-environmental impacts, displacement to destruction and effective, efficient and just distribution of benefits
    h) No use of force against the project affected should be acceptable and permissible in any development project
    i) Rehabilitation would mean social, economic and cultural alternative way of life and hence can’t be attained without an alternative livelihood which needs to be land based (to be allotted as private and common property) for agriculturist populations, forest dwellers and nomadic pastoral communities affected
    j) This policy should be for both rural (dalit and tribal) and urban populations and hence the any such draft needs a review by more than one ministry. A Consortium of ministries including Ministry for Rural Development, Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry for Tribal Affairs, Ministry for Human Resource Development, among others should be collectively taking this process forward
    k) The earlier proposal and demand for a National Resettlement & Rehabilitation Commission seems to have been omitted from the present policy draft. The NRRC was suggested in the earlier drafts as a national level redressal mechanism and formation of it should be a part of the policy plan. The purpose behind the NRRC and that of having project level Grievance Redressal Committee should be understood as separate
    l) The R&R Planning Committee as well as the NRRC, while differentiated in duties and mandate should form the basic implementation instruments as well as redressal mechanism, for any development project, to make sure exploring of maximum socio-economic options, minimum displacement and participatory economic progress.
    m) Linkage with a temporal schedule between the project impact, displacement and rehabilitation should be such as to make rehabilitation a precondition to any impact-direct or indirect with a sufficient time gap.
    n) If in any region (district or a ward) there is a substantial number of families affected by plan/project but not rehabilitated, there should be a declared moratorium on further displacement until all the affected people are fully and fairly rehabilitated.

    It is thus imperative that the draft that was widely discussed and approved amongst the civil society groups, affected peoples organizations and presented before the National Advisory Council chaired by Smt. Sonia Gandhi, be the best reference to finalize the NATIONAL POLICY FOR DEVELOPMENT PLANNING, MINIMUM DISPLACEMENT AND JUST REHABILITATION, even today.

    It is towards this end that we suggest the following as urgent steps:
    1. One national as well as 5 regional consultations (north, north east, south, west and east India level) to be held within next two months
    2. A final draft to be thoroughly discussed by a small group selected out of these consultations
    3. Declaring one year as an experimental phase for executing/applying the policy, reviewing it at the end of the year and formulating an enactment on its basis within a year’s time


    Specific Comments On the Provisions of NRP by People’s Movements

    1. Preamble

    (Refer to 1.1) There is no need to explicitly state and highlight the principle of eminent domain at the very outset. This colonial principle is being reviewed all over the world and is rejected in many countries, same needs to be done in our case.

    Instead we may put it thus: “people living in communities with access to, and control over natural resources along with those rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India and various international human rights treaties and conventions that India has ratified”.

    Plans and projects for public good involve acquisition of land and other private property and resources and also impacts upon people’s access to common property resources. This leads to displacement of people and among those most severely affected are adivasis, dalits, small and marginal farmers, children and women.

    Displacement is caused by the main project, sub-units as well as project related works. The State must fulfill its statutory obligations and constitutional duty by ensuring and protecting the right to life and livelihood of all those displaced by the project and project related works.

    Add: With the growth of projects and large scale activities in the name of development and public purpose, there is change, growth and acceleration of the scale and nature of displacement and other environmental, social and economic impacts which are being increasingly questioned and challenged. Taking cognizance of the same, the Government of India recognizes the need to minimize the incidence as well as the adverse impacts of this form of development and the displacement that follows.

    (Refer to 1.2) Add: This calls for a careful assessment of the social and economic impact of displacement and a holistic effort aimed at improving the standard of living of the affected and displaced population, covering provisions of alternative source of livelihood and just and adequate rehabilitation of households, land and other resources, villages or communities with all public amenities and services along with rebuilding socio-cultural relationships and capacities.

    (Refer to 1.3) There is a need for careful quantification, involving the communities whose resources form the capital for the project, as well as equity analysis of costs and benefits that will accrue to the affected population and the larger society, which will then determine the desirability and justifiability of each project.

    (Add 1.5) The policy will be transferred into an enactment once it is finally accepted by all the stakeholders especially the affected people and their organisations. Towards the latter objective, there will be a national consultation and some regional consultations held before the first draft is finalized and another national consultation before one year of completion so as to review the experience and only then will the final policy would be declared. The draft policy would however be applicable during the first year of operation.

    2. Objectives of the policy

    Since the objectives spell out the various special concerns, these may also include:
    • “To ensure that there is no forcible eviction/displacement and that relocation takes place only with prior informed consent and participation of the affected families and community.”
    • The objective “to provide a better standard of living to displaced families…” should be “to provide a better standard of living compared to that before displacement by ensuring ‘resource for resource’ rehabilitation and an alternative source of livelihood along with a share in the project benefits” so as to avoid any false increase in the standard of living through distribution of cash compensation.
    • At every point in the policy, reference should be to project affected persons / families/ communities and not project displaced persons alone. Family and community are to be treated as separate units and even those amongst them who may not be losing a house and hence not to be displaced but whose property or livelihood is affected, should be covered by the policy.

    3. Definition

    • “Affected zone” should mean area to be affected by a project and related works in terms of houses, farms, trees, forests, any property private or public and therein the definition need not be based on Government notification.
    • Why is definition of “agricultural family” avoided? It should be taken as it is from NRP-2003.
    • If marginal farmers are with holdings of less than 2 ½ acre, the policy should also consider the category of “small farmer”, defined and specially protected/ provided for. (Marginal farmer being one who holds upto 5 acres and Small farmer being one who holds upto 10 acres in the right kind of categorization.)
    • Which category would a trader and various, professionals or other self employed fall in? It can’t be a part of labour, agriculture or non-agriculture / artisans. Separate and specific categorization is a must.

    This policy with land acquisition as a part of it, should not equate acquisition of land by the Government for its own projects, with acquisition for (or on behalf of) any corporate body or other non-statutory agency/ies. This will mean the state is active as an agent transferring the resources of people to the private agencies for private interest and not public interest. Even if one presumes the private body brings in some benefits, when it earns profit it has to be dealt with differently through market mechanisms. Requiring body for application of this act has to be necessarily ‘the appropriate Government’.

    4. Social Impact Assessment

    (Refer 4.1) SIA should apply for any project displacing more than 100 families en masse in plain areas, and 25 or more families en masse in tribal or hilly areas and areas mentioned in schedule V and schedule VI of the Constitution of India.

    The SIA should not be linked to EIA and should be submitted to a committee, maintained by a consortium of ministries including Ministry of Rural development, Ministry of Urban Development & Planning, Ministry of Social Justice, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Ministry of Labour as well as Ministry for Women and Child Development. This committee should also be authorized to monitor the SIA.

    (Refer 4.2) SIA report should not be prepared by agencies accredited by the Government but by departments of social work, sociology, anthropology or political sciences of Indian universities or a deemed university, which is a Government aided or semi-government institution. This is a must in the case of public projects in order to prevent private profiteers/contractors and such other interests from exerting their influence leading to corruption.

    (Refer 4.3) A multi-disciplinary expert group can’t be common for EIA and SIA nor can it look at SIA in relation with EIA. To begin with, SIA, should have an independent status although it will include displacement and other social impact on the families due to destruction or degradation of environment (such as impact on fish and fisheries, affecting fish workers).

    Experts group must include experts from faculties of social work, sociology, anthropology, economics, political science, geography and archeology and atleast 1/3rd should be from non-governmental agencies and mass movements who have good experience of having worked with the project affected.

    (Refer 4.4) Clearance on the basis of SIA should not be granted by the expert group but should be the prerogative of the National Resettlement and Rehabilitation Commission (refer comments on National Commission).

    EIA also should be covered under this policy and detailed guidelines must be issued for this. The guidelines should include ways to link EIA and SIA

    (Refer 4.5) Public hearing must take place in the affected area at the most convenient and affected place and it should be; before any process related to the project begins, based on a preliminary proposal that should be made public atleast three months before the hearing. After the SIA and EIA is ready, and made public, atleast two months before hearing, separate hearings to be held on SIA and EIA. Detailed guidelines for public hearings should be made public and sought comments, suggestions on!

    (Refer 5.1) The criteria should be 100 families in plain areas and 25 in the hilly/ adivasi areas.

    (Refer 5.3) He/She should be accountable first to the Resettlement & Rehabilitation Planning Committee and then to the state/ National Commission for R&R, depending on whether the project is state level or a national level. (Please see comment on the commission)

    (Refer 5.4) The Administrator for R&R can‘t be the planner too. The agency should be in charge of implementation of a plan evolved by a ‘Resettlement & Rehabilitation Planning Committee’ which should be a multi-disciplinary body and with at least 50% of its members coming from the civil society with at least 1/3rd being the representatives of Project Affected Persons, belonging to various occupational and socio-economic classes including women amongst the affected (proportionate to their percentage among the affected population).

    The monitoring of the resettlement and rehabilitation plan must be done by the R&R Planning Committee or the National R&R Commission.

    The Administrator should not be paid her/his salary and work expenses by the project authority or acquiring body.

    (Refer 5.5) The decision and action necessary to minimize displacement of persons and to identify non-displacing or least displacing alternatives can’t be left to the Administrator and the requiring body. That would submit the scope to the least possible within a project/plains framework and can’t bring in any options of different technology, scale and location with even demand options and not just the supply options.

    (Refer 5.5 ii & iii) Consultations should not only be held with the affected persons but also with the communities, the Gram Sabhas and the Mohalla/Basti Sabhas. Similarly ensuring protection of the disadvantaged section should be done in conjunction with communities, gram sabhas and Mohalla/basti sabhas.

    Why has this process been brought down to the level of affected persons instead of affected families as it was stated in NRP- 2003?

    (Refer 5.5 v) Administrative task of budgeting also should not be left open to be based on consultation with any representatives of the affected families and the requiring body as there is no level playing field. It has to be a part of the Planning to be done by the R&R Planning Committee, with accountability.

    All the other clauses should also be appropriately modified incorporating the role of such a committee at every stage.

    6. Resettlement and Rehabilitation Plan

    Land for any project as well as for Resettlement and Rehabilitation should be acquired under a Land Acquisition law/act (a new legislation, based on this policy), so as to make acquisition a part of a holistic process that will include project planning as well as rehabilitation.

    Every survey and planning task should be carried out with full information, prior informed consent and participation of the Gram Sabhas (in rural areas) and Basti Sabhas (in urban areas), to be sought through Panchayats and through local social institutions. Finalizing the affected zone should also be done involving local self Governments from village to district level and Gram Sabhas/ Basti Sabhas.

    (Refer 6.2) Every declaration/order/notification should be published in the affected zone for resettlement and rehabilitation as also in at least three main vernacular newspapers with widest circulation in the area. It should be put up on the notice boards of Gram Panchayats and all the nearest government establishments especially: Tehsildar’s, BDO’s, Dist. Supply Officers’ offices and government supply institutions (like ration shops, among others) in the locality.

    (Refer 6.3) Before the survey, all project related information, every document whether at the preparatory/ draft stage or otherwise, should be provided/ furnished to each Gram Sabha / basti sabha. A survey team should be appointed with majority of members from the affected families and it must include women.

    (Refer 6.4) Survey must be done with affected families as well as community (gram or basti) as units (respondents) with two separate research tools for both.

    It is essential that community level survey is done first to understand the total resource base, vocational and economic practices, social institutions, amenities, traditions and culture, interrelationship to opinions on the project and visions of change regarding development as also views and choices pertaining to resettlement & rehabilitation.

    (Refer 6.4 {i} to {iv}) Survey should be exhaustive, covering all demographic data as well as opinion poll of the families. Secondary data survey also should be done and a report prepared on that basis. It should cover details of monthly and annual income of each family. It should include families indirectly affected due to impact on their source of livelihood, even if not residing in the area (by finding ways to identify them through public appeal).

    It should include those who are not affected but left behind in a no habitable condition (such as marooned area people in the case of the dam affected).

    Families living on the common property resources including government waste land or forests but with no legal rights to house plots and land should also be covered under the policy.

    In the case of the urban population, cut-off date for survey can be based on those who are in place on the date of the survey and in the case of the rural population, it can be one year prior to notification and the survey whichever is later. This can be for house details, ownership magnitude of private property status, occupation and resource base in possession.

    For survey, 3 years prior to notification can’t be used as the cut-off date since in that case, the information coming in would be outdated.

    For forestland cultivators too, the cut-off date should not be 1980 but one year prior to survey. (Since in any case the families that are to be displaced will have to be accommodated if we have to prevent further encroachment on or destruction of forest.)

    It is indeed obnoxious to say that the survey must be completed within ninety days from the date of declaration. If the consent of the Gram Sabha / Basti Sabha is properly obtained and their participation enlisted, there is no reason why a survey should be delayed. However, there shouldn’t be such a time limit since the left out people (who are always identified at a later stage) would never be covered and there can be genuine reason (such as contour survey found to be wrong later, landless labourers not available due to migration for work etc.) for which it may have to be kept open.

    (Refer 6.6): The period for raising objection or filing suggestions should be not less than 90 days since it’s found that 30-40 days are inadequate. There is neither mention of personal hearing (on receiving objections) nor about Gram Sabha/ Basti Sabha endorsement.

    A personal hearing should be given to the individual/family raising objections or suggesting changes, by the survey team as suggested above and the administrator with the Rehabilitation Planning Committee should be the appellate authority.

    (Refer 6.7): The Draft survey must be furnished to the Gram Sabha/ Basti Sabha and its consent, recommendations and suggestions for correction must be sought within a period of 30-60 days depending on the size of the Gram Sabha/ Basti Sabha.

    (The principle to be followed is: there should be no eligible person and no entitlement left of record. No haste at that stage would save future delays.)

    (Refer 6.8): Hearing & dialogue on “the Survey” - A special Gram Sabha must be called with the concerned officials of the revenue, forest departments, and projects authority etc. present. The consent too may be sought in this meeting, if they are given the authority to make most of the simple corrections.

    (Refer 6.9 & 6.10): Identifying lands, planning relocations etc. should not be left to a single official, but must be the task of R&R Planning Committee.

    (Refer 6.11): a) Government waste or other lands also should be considered only after settling of rights of all those who may be old cultivators/ residents on that land. Their claims should be considered based on the same criteria as those of the project affected for R & R Scheme, and they also should be treated as Project-affected and must be resettled.
    b) Compulsory acquisition for resettlement, bringing in secondary displacement, should be totally rejected.

    (Refer 6.12): This cannot/ shouldn’t happen without going through the same procedure as with the project affected people, with the people therein involved at every stage of the process. Otherwise, this policy would be completely unjust and would end up in clearing the project at the cost of others.

    (Refer 6.13): Comment same as 6.11 (b)

    Ensuring alternative livelihoods to the non-agriculturists should also be part of the plan and responsibility of the Administrator with the R&R Planning Committee.

    (Refer 6.14): Such a vague direction on planning process and those who would plan is unacceptable. There must be:
    a) A Resettlement & Rehabilitation Planning Committee with proper representation – as described at an earlier point
    b) The draft plan prepared must be endorsed by Gram Sabha (in the case of presence of various groups/communities in the Gram Panchayat, each of the villages/communities in a GGP should be treated as separate Sabhas and separate Sabhas should be held with a compulsory attendance of 3/4th of the villagers/community members and with a prior notice of at least 15 days as against 7 days, since this is a special case).

    In the case of urban areas, “Basti Sabha” for 1000 or less families should be recognised and its consent sought as a precondition.

    (Refer 6.18): A major purpose behind the R&R plan is to present the nature and state of impact on the property, private and common- in possession of a family or community. This can come from household survey, community level survey and impact assessments (social, economic, environmental, etc) that take into consideration long term impacts and the people to be even indirectly affected (e.g. fisheries).
     The policy must take into account existence of the informal/unorganized sector dependents, whose livelihood sources will be affected by the resettlement. Their earning, education and future possibilities should be ensured
     Appropriate lands to ensure that new residential sites are closer (within 5 Km radius to the new place) to sources of livelihood
     Land to be allotted to individuals, groups, and to the community for resettlement must be cultivable and irrigable. If it’s for agriculture or/and if displacement is for irrigation project they should be provided irrigation free for all encumbrances
     Land for residential sites must be suitable for house construction
     The distance between the residential site and livelihood/ agricultural land should not be more that three kms. for the agriculturists and the urban poor (BPL)
     Distance between the residential sites and all other public services including ration shops, health centres and schools should not be more than two kilometers.

    (Refer 6.19): The involvement of the state & central R&R planning committees in final approval of the plan is a must. It cannot be left to the state government or the central government (in the case of inter-state project) vaguely.

    (Refer 6.21): What is called to be ‘a fast track exercise’ is one, which needs to be undertaken carefully, e.g. settling land rights and updating land records must be done carefully, following laws and special provisions under this R&R policy (which provide for certain entitlements for those who posses property/ livelihood without ownership). All such tasks should be precondition and preceding land acquisition and not be carried out simultaneously with land acquisition.

    (Refer 6.21): The time schedule must be based on a well-defined temporal condition of linkage between acquisition, resettlement and impact of the project. “In no event should there be any impact of a project faced by any person/ family/ community unless all the entitlements under the policy related acts are granted and accepted by the affected”. This clear clause must be added to avoid violations.

    The allotment of agricultural land should be done at least one year prior to occurrence of impact and making any other alternative livelihood available must happen at least 6 months before the impact to ensure the same is not ridden with any problem.

    (Refer 6.19): Plan is not only to be made known locally and consent of concerned Gram Sabha/ Basti Sabha must be sought.

    (Refer 6.21): Exercise of settling land rights may be on a fast track, but should be carefully carried out. Without compensation of the same (to be certified by the Gram Sabha/ Basti Sabha) no step towards land acquisition should be undertaken.

    (Refer 6.22) ‘Ouster’? Even after the compensation award is declared that too well in advance, can there be “ouster” PAF’s? This is a term indicating the mentality of the planners! The term must be “ousted” from the policy.

    Not just ‘full payments of compensation can provide adequate resettlement’, but full rehabilitation must precede any implementation of a project (on any part of any PAF’s property).

    (Refer 6.23) Emergency provisions must be dropped. This section must be removed from the Act. In any case, the minimum period for acquisition is very minimal within the preview of the Act and that can attained without any special ‘emergency’ provision but after ensuring that PAF’s rights are not compromised with. Any ‘emergency provision’ is bound to be misused/abused.

    (Refer 6.24) Unless it is clearly stated that land acquisition for one purpose cannot be transferred for another purpose (even if it is also another project purpose) the present problem cannot be solved (legal land acquired for agricultural university should not be used for any other project like SEZ – Special Economic Zone).

    In any case section 54 under Land Acquisition Act, which allows land acquired for public purpose to be transferred to private companies, should be deleted. Consent of the oustees as well as certain conditionalities such as, the project be a mixed one with state equity share being about 50% and 80%, with beneficiaries belonging to the lower and middle class, may be put forth as prerequisites to transform any land to any owner other than the state. Eg. a public hospital project, if converted for a private school will serve the interest of different classes and will deprive the affected populace of any benefit. The complication can be avoided by deleting this section and keeping the option open, provided the project is for public purposes and not catering to commercial / private / industrial purpose alone.

    (Refer 6.24) period of ten years for returning of land be too long in the case of small projects and in the long projects, this limit may lead to a haste and the project work without rehabilitation and compensation for the environmental impacts should not happen. We propose that the period should be based on project plan and may be fixed by R&R Planning Committee, incorporating Gram sabha/ Basti sabha into the process plan.

    7. R & R Benefits for Affected Families

    (Refer 7.1): Presuming that any process of development planning or project planning would be carried out in such a way as to ensure minimum displacement, we assert that a fair and just scheme wherein R&R benefits shall be attained by all the affected (PAF’s), whose any property is directly or indirectly affected to any extent.

    (Refer 7.2) The benefit suggested here is largely agreeable, provided the house plots should be allotted in a rehabilitation village or a basti where there would be all basic civic amenities. For every 25 families displaced, a site/village/basti can and should be planned and the list of amenities can be announced as rights equal to the list of amenities in NWDTA (Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal Award) with some modification.

    (Refer 7.3): It cannot be only cash compensation, its full rehabilitation with all entitlements. Else it is unacceptable.

    (Refer 7.4): Land for land must be the basic and major priority without “if’s and but’s”. Eg. If land is not available, agricultural land cannot be taken over and farmers property should not be acquired. Any family loosing 25% or more land of his/her landholding should be entitled to land, the minimum being 2 hectares. One hectare is a non-viable unit in India and hence minimum 2 hectares.

    In case of irrigation project, following principle of justice, land allotted should be of fertile nature. If land affected is above 2 hectors, ceiling should be the maximum limit. Land should be of a quality equivalent or higher than the one affected.

    (Refer 7.5): Stamp duty as well as income tax payments should not be paid by the PAF’s. Land should be allotted at least one year before submergence or any kind of impact. This is a must and land should be adjacent to residential sites.

    (Refer 7.7): Making land cultivable should be the responsibility of the project authority or must be covered under government scheme/s.

    (Refer 7.8): Rs- 3000/ for cattle shed is too less. The amount to be related to size of land holding and the number of cattle owned by the individual.

    (Refer 7.9): Shifting of house material should be the responsibility of the government project authority

    (Refer 7.10): Rural artisans, traders and other self employed should get the minimum capital for restarting the business. This should be done, working out a full fledged scheme. The compensation as a grant for creating new business should be not less than equivalent to 2 year’s income from the occupation to be affected.

    (Refer 7.11): The planning of alternatives livelihood should be worked out considering individuals/groups and should be done by the Rehabilitation Committee for which community consent should be sought.

    (Refer 7.12.2 {a}): For rights to reservoir fishing, the fish workers need not have fishing rights prior to displacement but should be fishing in the river since atleast 5 years prior to displacement period. The fishing rights should be given to small organised groups or on a community basis or co-operative/s. Fishing rights must be granted to affected persons within the criteria.

    (Refer 7.13): Subsistence allowance has to be atleast equivalent to wages for one year. This should not be in lieu of alternative livelihood. Those who would loose land and become small and marginal farmers must be supported to have a supplementary income generated.

    (Refer 7.15): PAF’s would include all families affected due to a project and project related works (directly or indirectly as specified earlier).

    (Refer 7.16): The area within 5 km radius from the rehabilitation site (from all sides) should be declared a project resettlement zone and the PAF’s will be given priority for access to the resources. This should be a newly created area, to avoid any clash of interest with those who live around the area originally.

    (Refer 7.17): As per comment given earlier with respect to forest cultivators.

    (Even linear acquisitions can cause serious impediments and the scale too need not be small, eg. Infrastructure development in large cities such as Mumbai affect 5000 and more families).

    (Refer 7.18): All forest land cultivators from adivasi communities, residing in the area since generations must be considered as rightful/ equivalent to the landholders and should get alternative land in rehabilitation.

    (Refer 7.18 {1}): Evolving a TDP will be meaningful/good.

    (Refer 7.18 {2}): Every aspect related to Land Acquisition Act and role of Gram Sabhas etc should be followed, as stated before.

    (Refer 7.18 {5}): No cash compensation should be given in lieu of livelihood loss unless impact is very minimum and not at all severe.

    (Refer 7.18 {10}): SC/ST status must continue

    (Refer 7.19): Infrastructure -

    (Refer 7.19.1): The criteria should be same for all R & R sites and should be as close as possible to the original site and used as centres of change where there should be single clearance.

    (Refer 7.19.3): A complete list of amenities should be provided in the resettlement plan in proportion to the number of project affected.

    8. GRC and RRPC

    (Refer 8.1): A detailed comment on Rehabilitation committee (suggesting it as R&R Planning Committee, separate from National R&R Commission) is given at a prior point.

    (Refer 8.2): Grievance Redressal Cell

    GRC’s composition should be within a frame work:
    • 1/3rd of the members should be from the affected families
    • Atleast 50% of the members should be non-official (representatives from civil society including academics, social workers, activists, sociology and anthropology students and so on)
    • More than technical experts, they should be persons belonging to different social backgrounds
    • Official member in-charge should be of the rank of a secretary
    • GRC must give due respect and importance to Gram Sabha resolutions, else will be declared to be against law

    (Refer 8.2.3): GRC must seek opinion of the agriculture experts and farmers. The official must give the decision within 15 days of the complaint reaching the GRC. The redressal must happen before impacts occur.

    (Refer 8.3): Inter-state projects which are large scale (centralized) and conflict-ridden should be avoided if displacement is to be minimised.

    In the exceptional cases, inter state body (tribunal or award) with representatives of affected and benefited, of peoples organisations and of governments in the concerned states should be the main agency.

    (Refer 8.3.1 to 8.3.3): On behalf of the Central Government it can’t be Ministry of Rural Development alone. Eg. For Urban displacement/projects it has to be Minister of Urban Development, also. In general, the MoRD must form a consortium with other ministries such as Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry for Environment and Forests, Ministry of Finances, Ministry for Tribal Affairs, etc depending on the nature of the project and the social composition of the affected.

    (Draft Critique for discussions, prepared by Medha Patkar with help and inputs from Malavika Vartak, Jibin, Simpreet Singh & Vijayan MJ).


    National Alliance of People's Movements
    National office: A wing, Haji Habib Building, Naigoan Cross Road,
    Dadar (East) Mumbai- 400014
    Phone: 022-24150529 E-mail:

    Shri Raghuvansh Prasad Singh 31st October 2006
    Hon’ble Minister for Rural Development,
    Government of India, New Delhi

    Subject: Response from People’s Movements and organisations to the Draft National Rehabilitation Policy

    Dear Shri Ranguvansh Prasadji,

    Thank you for extending the date for receiving our comments on the draft National Rehabilitation Policy 2006.

    All the allies and friends in various peoples' organizations and movements strongly feel that the dissemination and consultation process and time period allotted for comments on such an important policy has been highly inadequate and hence there is an urgent need to hold a national consultation, which needs to be initiated by your ministry at the earliest, before going any further on the policy.

    It is also our view that the draft approved by the National Advisory Council (NAC) in 2005 should be the basis for any further process of consultation and not the new draft circulated by MORD, as this has heavily depended on the NDA Government’s draft, which was rejected by the civil society and affected people at large. This would also save us from repeating the long process, which major networks and hundreds of organizations in the country have already gone through. Without this, a consensus on the serious issues of conflict related to development, displacement and rehabilitation is difficult to attain.

    The scale and intensity of impact of displacement in the name of development; the unprecedented transfer of agricultural land and other resources; has reached a stage where a serious national debate has already emerged. Any process bringing out a new policy, must take into cognizance the new issues, the civil society's responses and inevitable conflicts and struggles of the people facing the inhuman impacts with no replacement of livelihoods.

    Another aspect is that the policy titled ‘National Rehabilitation Policy’ is one exclusively for ‘Project Affected’ Rural areas and says nothing about the ongoing and massive urban displacement in India. Since the policy is coming from your ministry, this is understandable; however, since this has not been titled “Rural Rehabilitation Policy”, a comprehensive approach, with all aspects of displacement and rehabilitation is required.

    Enclosed herewith are our comments and critique on the draft circulated by MORD through the Internet. We have done this inorder reiterate and bring to your kind attention the fact that the NAC 2005 draft, being much more people-friendly, should be used as the base for any future discourse on a National Policy. We request you to also disseminate the said policy draft in Hindi and atleast 5 other regional languages in the form of booklet immediately (at least one month prior to the proposed national consultations).

    We assure you all support in this process if planned to be transparent, participatory and conclusive.


    On Behalf of
    National Alliance of Peoples' Movements

    Endorsed by
    • National Fishworkers’ Forum
    • Narmada Bachao Andolan
    • Samajwadi Janparishad
    • Shoshit Jan Andolan - Maharashtra
    • Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vrithidarula Union ( AP Agricultural Worker’s Union)
    • Pennurim Iyakkam, Tamilnadu
    • Shahar Vikas Manch, Mumbai
    • National Federation of Unorganised Sector Workers
    • Sarva Seva Sangh
    • Lokshakti Abhiyaan -Orissa
    • NAPM- Uttar Pradesh
    • NAPM –Delhi
    • Jan Sangharsh Vahini,Delhi
    • Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat
    • Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sanghatan, Rajasthan
    • National Forum Of Forest People and Forest Workers
    • Jharkhand Jungle Bachao Andolan, Jharkhand
    • New Trade Union Initiative
    • National Agriculture Workers Alliance
    • Initiative, Mumbai
    • Delhi Forum

    CC to: Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development, GoI

    A Rehabilitation Policy for the development of the nation as well as the displaced Adivasi

    A Rehabilitation Policy - that will lead to the development of the nation as well as the displaced Adivasi –
    Stan Swamy

    The ‘Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy’ of Jharkhand govt is unacceptable.
    It is too little, too late. A just and meaningful policy should contain the following elements.

    1. Adivasi People should no more be displaced. 30% of them have already been displaced and 41% of their land has already been alienated from them. Only 25% of them have been resettled. The remaining 75% have been neatly forgotten. The following policy should first be applied to those already displaced (15 lakhs in Jharkhand alone). As for other communities, displacement should be avoided if at all possible, and if it cannot be, it must be as minimal as possible. Past experience shows that the govt and the project holder very easily decide on displacement without regard for the dispossession and impoverishment of the to-be-displaced. Again, much more land is forcibly acquired than what is strictly necessary for the realisation of the project.
    2. Prior informed consent of the to-be-displaced must be obtained before displacing them. The Gram Sabha should be the medium between people and the company. The prevalent practice as of now is taking the affected people for granted and officially notifying them of the fact of acquisition. This practice is unjust and unethical.

    3. Mining of whatever minerals must be done by people's cooperatives in Scheduled Areas. This is in keeping with the Supreme Court's verdict [Samata Judgment,1996] which prohibits even the govt from mining in Scheduled Areas.

      Private mining companies have no right to enter Scheduled Areas. Rather, the govt should help in the formation of People's Cooperatives, register them as legal entities, provide the technical expertise and arrange initial capital from a nationalised bank.

    4. The people are not just stake-holders but owners of whatever minerals are found in their lands. They will excavate and they will sell to the govt or the private company as an equal partner. This proposition may be difficult to digest in our capitalist society where the govt assumes to itself the right of 'eminent domain'. But the validity of this claim has been established by some Indigenous Peoples in some parts of the world.

    5. The consent of the Gram Sabha should be obtained before making the acquisition of land in the Scheduled Areas for development projects and before re-settling of rehabilitating persons affected by such projects in the Scheduled Areas. This is as per the 'The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas)Act,1996' [4.i]. The sad fact is that although this Law has been in existence for well over 8 years, the govt behaves as if no such law even exists.

    6. The land that is taken with people’s consent should not be sold or transferred to the company but only given on lease. During the duration of mining, the company should pay the land owner a monthly rent of at least Rs. 1000 per acre. After the mining is over, the company should restore the land back to the land owner in a restored condition so that agricultural cultivation can be resumed.

      With non –mining companies acquiring land on a permanent basis, land for land must be a necessary condition because land is the only sustaining source.

    7. Employment to every adult (male & female) member of the family is a must.
      Lack of education / technical skills cannot be an excuse. The employing company has the obligation to equip these young men & women by setting up technical training centres so that it will have trained men and women in its work force. Of course local residents should enjoy priority over outsiders.

    8. The value of the land that is leased or acquired should be estimated by the value of the mineral deposit in the case of mining, and by the end use of the land for other projects like dams, factories, highways etc.

    9. Togetherness of Adivasi Communities in the resettlement process is absolutely necessary because that is the only way for them to preserve their culture and social traditions.

    10. Complete rehabilitation should be completed at least two years before displacing people . This is necessary because people need time to adjust to the new set up.

    11. In this whole process, establishing correct facts such as land ownership, number of families, members in each family, the functioning of the Gram Sabha, amount & value of the mineral deposits etc. is of vital importance. This task cannot be left to the govt or the company. Rather it must be done by an independent, academic agency situated in the district or state.

    12. In those situations where mines & factories already exist, A minimum of 20% of the annual net profit made by the mining company should be set aside towards the development of the villages where the mine or industry is located. [Samata judgment, 1996, para 112-113]. The people from whose land the mineral wealth is excavated should be the first beneficiaries in the monetary value that is generated. The govt which claims royalty and the capitalist miner with his claim for profit are only the second and the third partners.

    13. A Rehabilitation Policy containing the above elements will alone be just and fair to the Adivasi People. This alone will lead to their development along with the nation’s development. Besides, such a policy should be enacted into an Act of the Parliament and the State Assembly. Then only it will have a binding power on the government and the company.

    To conclude, National Development should not take place at the expense of some communities of people, such as Adivasis, whose only source of livelihood is their land.

    And such a Policy / Act alone will be acceptable to the Adivasi Community.

    Independence Day 2008

    Adivasis are not beggars:: ridiculous proposal of R & R policy to give 1% of the annual profit

    Adivasis are not beggars
    - Context: the ridiculous proposal of R & R policy to give 1% of the annual profit of the industrialist to Adivasi land-owner -
    Stan Swamy

    There should be a limit to the greed of the industrialists. They want to take the 99% of the annual profit their companies make and throw one trivial per cent at the Adivasi in whose land all the mineral wealth is stored. It is like a rich, fat man giving a ten-paise alms to a hungry beggar. The contradiction in this is that all the mineral wealth is in the land of the Adivasi and therefore it is given by nature and he is the rightful owner of what is on, above and beneath his land. The country’s capitalist law makes the State the owner of the minerals and hence it is violative of the law of nature. The law of nature is above any state law.

    This was the way the ‘natives’ in America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand were deprived of their rights to the land and forcibly put in secluded pockets during the colonial period. If this process of dispossession continues in India, our Adivasi People will not even have secluded pockets to live in but will just be eliminated.

    Adivasi land-owner’s share in the value of the minerals: Let us take one concrete example of this industrialist loot. This is from Santal Parganas in Jharkhand. In 1988, a systematic exploration for coal was initiated in an around the villages of the Pachuara region by the Geological Survey of India. The Pachuara region has reportedly 562 million tonnes of coal reserves in an area of approximately 1300 hectares.

    Pachuara Central Coal Block in Pakur district of Santal Pargana. The Jharkhand govt has given lease license over 1300 hectares covering nine Santal Adivasi villages to a private mining company called PANEM to excavate coal

    As per the report published by PANEM Co, 562 million tons of coal is to be excavated from the 1300 ha of land slated to be taken from the people of Pachuara Central Coal Block. The monetary value of coal must be estimated as per the current market value for 562 million tons and divided by 1300 hectares, and at least 50% of it must be paid to the land owners.

    A rough calculation shows that the value of 562 mill. tons is Rs. 1,12,400 cr. divided by 1300 hectares gives Rs.86 cr per ha, and converting it to acres it works out to Rs. 34 cr per acre. It means every acre has a coal deposit to the value of about Rs. 34 cr. The owner of the land should be entitled to at least 20% of the value. That would work out to Rs. 6.8 cr., and this should be credited as shares in the company in favour of the land owner.

    Putting the above facts more graphically…
    Coal mining in Pachuara Central Coal Block in Pakur Dt of Santal Pargana.
    ( a rough estimate )
    Value of one kg coal Rs. 2 (at a minimal level)
    Value of one ton coal Rs. 2000
    Value of one million tons Rs. 200 crores
    Value of 562 mill. Tons Rs. 1,12,400 cr
    Divided by 1300 hectares of land Rs.86 cr p/hect
    Divided by 2.5 to convert hectares to acres Rs. 34 cr p/acre
    20% of value in favour of land-owner to be converted into shares Rs. 6. 8 cr

    This is not being unfair to the industrialist because from the remaining value of 80%, the industrialist may spend about 30% in putting up the infrastructure, purchase of technology, paying the managerial personnel and labour force. So he will still have 50% of the value as his profit. That should be more than enough to satisfy his thirst for wealth.

    Similar calculation can be done anywhere depending on what mineral deposits are there and the market value of such minerals. It is necessary to keep in mind that this is the only way the nation’s wealth can be equitably shared and the industrial production can lead to the development of all. Needless to say, the government of the day should have the honesty to accept this as a just policy and should have the political will to implement this.

    Besides, this is in keeping with the Preamble of the Indian Constitution where it affirms that the Indian State is committed to realising a ‘socialist society’. Again it is confirmed in the Samata Judgement of the Supreme Court of 1997 where it says ‘at least 20% of the profit of the company should be ploughed back to the community for welfare & development work’.

    Certainly, the Jharkhand Govt should change its R&R policy and industrialists should accept to share their profit more justifiably with those who give their land freely and willingly. The necessary intermediary is the Gram Sabha.

    People are awakening to their rights. Resistance Movements are building up. The nation’s wealth should be evenly shared. That alone will lead to the development of the country as a whole.

    24 November 2008

    c/o Agricultural Training Centre
    Namkum P.O.
    RANCHI - 834 001

    Ph. 9939411612

    Cricket : a game by the leisurely, for the leisurely lowest exertion, highest remuneration

    Cricket : a game by the leisurely, for the leisurely lowest exertion, highest remuneration –

    Stan Swamy

    Cricket game has become a contagious fever. This fever comes especially to the youth of middle and lower-middle classes. Now that TV channels are bringing it ‘live’, which ever be the country where it is played and whatever be the odd hours when it is played, the youth are ready to keep awake just to be able to watch it. Often it looks as though these young people have nothing else to do in life. Cricket as a leisurely and long drawn out game stands in such contrast to other games such as Hockey, Football, Basket Ball, which are played with tremendous intensity and exertion so that it is all over within a maximum of two hours.
    If the Indian team is doing well and is winning, there is tremendous cheer and fire-crackers are liberally exploded; if, on the other hand, our team is doing badly and is losing, there is grim silence. When the Indian team returns home as winners, the players are cheered as ‘heroes’; if they return as losers, they are booed as ‘villains’. The State and Central Governments vie with each other in rewarding the players in cash and kind.
    Unfortunately these young people do not realize that cricket is used by the capitalist ruling class as a safety-valve to diffuse the socio-economic tensions the youth face and divert their attention from the serious problems such as unemployment.
    Let us probe a little on the history of this game and discover the contradictions thereof.

    Colonial origin: The origin of cricket as a game be traced to the British colonial period. The first rules were written in 1744 and exported to all the British colonies. It is not a surprise, therefore, cricket has become popular in the erstwhile British colonies such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, West Indies, South Africa. The illegal British occupation of Australia where the native Aborigines were massacred and marginalised, made it possible to export cricket there also.
    This was a game of the British upper class and was meant for their relaxation. It was played mostly during Sundays which was a day of rest and relaxation. The elitist character of this game is that the lower class were not supposed to play this game. It was a preserve of the white ruling class. It is significant to note that although colonialism as a political factor has come to an end, the local native population is hardly represented in the teams of Australia and South Africa. Verily smacking of racial discrimination.

    Destructive of local traditional games: Traditional games like hockey which used to be considered as India’s game and in which we were so good that India just could not be defeated at international level has been pushed to lower levels of esteem and attention. Now many other countries have overtaken India to the extent that the Indian team could not even qualify to compete in the next Olympics.
    Another heartening feature of hockey is that the tribal boys and girls have been excelling in it at local, national and international forums. It used to be a pleasant sight to see small tribal boys and girls in villages playing hockey with self-made hockey sticks made out of small tree branches in open spaces and even in the fields. But sadly, even this home-game is fast losing out to cricket.
    Another destructive aspect of cricket is that it takes such a long time to be played. It normally takes two, three, four consecutive days to conclude. Even the one-dayer takes one full day. That means the viewers have to take the day off from all other occupations inclusive of earning one’s livelihood. This way, cricket encourages laziness in the young viewers and distracts them from gainfully employing themselves in life.
    More damaging is the fact these young people are slowly drawn into outright unethical practices such as gambling and betting on which team will win. Thus there is every possibility of these young people will grow up to becoming irresponsible adults.

    Cricketers have become purchasable commodities in the market : One writer observes that today’s cricketers are “being evaluated like prize-bulls bought up by the super-rich” ! Thus we have a handful of new crorepathis and the only gain the nation can have is a few crores of rupees realized as income tax.
    One often wonders what motivation these cricket-heroes have in playing the game.
    Is it their name and fame? Is it our country’s prestige? Or, is it the Dollars?
    From the way the game is organised and the players are rewarded, it looks that Dollars is the most important and coveted factor. This is very unfair towards the rest of the country men majority of whom are struggling to make both ends meet. It is very unjust towards the Indian government which foots their extravagant air & surface travel, stay in luxury hotels and all other arrangements for the players comfort and enjoyment.

    Show-pieces for cheap advertisements of consumerist goods:
    Just like cinema-stars who allow themselves to be used for cheap money in ads for consumer items like soap / talcum powder / TVs / computers / motor-bikes / cars etc
    cricketers also have become show pieces in cheap ads. Very few of them really stand up in defence of human values and concerns such us human rights / stand against displacement / steps to reduce unemployment of the youth / dignity & respect for women, child-workers etc. In other words, cricketers by and large are not desirable models for the rest of society to follow. They are playing for their own name & fame and are keen on earning as much wealth as they can when the wind is still
    blowing in their favour.

    A capitalist game at home in the capitalist society:
    Capitalism by its very nature is promotive of leisure, comfort, luxury, inequality.. Cricket also by its very nature is a leisurely game and promotive of the values of capitalism. Mass media, both print & electronic, in capitalist society make the cricket stars objects of purchase & sale. So, as long as capitalism will prevail, cricket also will flourish.

    10 October 08

    Environmental Public Hearings are a mockery of the law in Jharkhand

    Environmental Public Hearings are a mockery of the law in Jharkhand
    - the case of public hearing at UCIL-Jaduguda on 26 May 09 –

    Stan Swamy

    Public Hearings for Environmental Clearance of various Developmental Projects was made mandatory under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification in 1997. Public Hearings allow for people’s participation in the decision making of developmental projects and is the only opportunity for people to raise their concerns about the proposed project. It is the responsibility of the State Pullution Control Board (SPCB) to call for a public hearing when a project is proposed in an area.

    The story of UCIL-Jaduguda and the struggle of the mostly Santal Adivasi People against the company is not unknown to the general public. UCIL has been operating for over four decades now. Many of the social problems like the just compensation for the land acquired, cost of medical treatment for radiation-caused illnesses among the workers and the local population, contamination of land, water and air have not been addressed at all.
    People have been demanding (a) no new uranium mine (b) bring the existing mine under the international safety guide lines (c) return of tribal land acquired earlier, but not utilized for mining (d) provide livelihood and rehabilitation to the displace people.(f) clean up of the contamination (g) an independent study about the environmental contamination and health effects among the people (h) continuous monitoring of the water bodies to ensure that the radionuclides do not seep into the aquifer, the life line of more than 100,000 people.

    The ‘Public Hearing’ on 26 May 09: This hearing was held to get the peoples’ consent for a capacity addition of 20% (from current 2020 tpd to 2500 tpd or uranium ore to be milled) and for another tailing pond to house the radioactive mill tailing. The total tailing that will be let off in the pond will be about 850,000 tons per year. About 15 acres of forest land has also been sought for these.

    As per the law, the venue of the meeting should be near the affected communities. But on 26th it was held in the UCIL colony whereas the affected people are not usually even allowed to enter. However, the affected Santal tribal people together with their organisation Jharkhandis Organisation Against Radiation (JOAR) wanted to enter the hall, they were prevented by the employees of the company who had already occupied the hall.
    The public hearing was held in the private land of UCIL, near the camp of the Central Industrial Security Forces. Early morning, hundreds of UCIL workers and other beneficiaries had occupied the chairs kept in the hall for the public hearing. The real public, who have lost their lands for the mines and whose health has been damaged due to radiation, had no place in the entire process.
    There were lots of public and there were also lots of policemen and members of different security forces. For every one person not in uniform, there was one person from the forces in uniform, some wielding batons, others with rifles and some in riot gear. Though most of the workers are exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, most of them consider themselves fortunate and lucky. That is quite expected in a country where the wage rates/returns in farming is very low and there is not any other job opportunity.

    Around 11 AM, the General Manager of UCIL read out a document listing the details of the project. The presentation by the general manger lasted for about 30 minutes. After this, the organizers announced the names of the speakers from the ‘public’. Everybody was unanimous on one issue – UCIL provides jobs, food, clothing and houses. All talks about radiation is anti-national propaganda. UCIL has to be protected at any cost. There is no need to hear any viewpoint which is against the interests of the company.

    JOAR and other organizations fighting on environmental issues related to radiation, livelihood issues related to loss of land due to mines and contamination of farmlands and water bodies decided to boycott the drama called public hearing, as there was no possibility of presenting the view of the affected people.

    “when compared with hunger, pollution is a small issue” is the slogan raised by the workers and other employees of UCIL. Is this the mental attitude to which the ruling class in India is bringing the poor and downtrodden in India? Such an attitude would in the long run prove disastrous. If allowed to continue, pollution will become a bigger killer than hunger itself.

    1 June 09

    c/o Agricultural Training Centre
    Namkum P.O.
    RANCHI - 834 010

    Ph. 09939411612 (mobile)
    0651-2260224 (land line)


    Is standing up for human rights make one a Maoist ?

    Is standing up for human rights make one a Maoist ?

    - the police do not observe their own rules in arresting a person –

    Stan Swamy

    Massive displacement of people, especially the Adivasis & Moolvasis, is taking place. It is done in violation of the Supreme Court’s directive [Samata Judgement, 1997] that the government should consult the concerned Gram Sabha before starting any project. It is natural, therefore, people have begun to resist displacement and refuse to hand over their land to industry and mining. Of late, the Jharkhand, Orissa and Chattisgarh governments have started arresting human rights activists who are providing leadership to anti-displacement and anti-communal movements.

    The list is long, but I will mention only some of the more prominent among them:

    Jitan Marandi Jharkhand author, poet, human rights activist
    Damodar Turi Jharkhand anti-displacement & human rights activist
    Munni Hansdah Jharkhand anti-displacement & human rights activist
    Ram Charan Roy Jharkhand anti-displacement & human rights activist
    Hopna Baskey Jharkhand anti-displacement & human rights activist
    Abhay Sahu Orissa anti-displacement & human rights activist
    Lenin Kumar Orissa author & anti-communal activist
    Ravi Jena Orissa publisher & anti-communal activist
    Dhananjay Lenka Orissa anti-communal activist
    Protima Das Orissa advocate & anti-displacement activist
    Pradeep Orissa anti-displacement activist
    Binayak Sen Chattisgarh medical doctor & human rights activist

    And there are many more.

    Adding insult to injury . . . the police do not observe their own rules.

    The National Police Commission (1997) affirms that Legal Protection/Safeguards for Detainees in Custody are inherent in Article 21 and 22(1) of the Constitution and therefore require to be recognised and scrupulously protected. Some such safeguards are:

    1) An arrested person being held in custody is entitled to have one friend or relative informed that he has been arrested and where he is being detained.

    2) The police officer shall inform the arrested person when he is brought to the police station of this right.

    3) An entry should be made in the Diary as to who was informed of the arrest. A police officer making an arrest should also record in the Case Diary the reasons for making the arrest.

    Apart from the above, the historic judgement of the Supreme Court in D.K.Basu v/s State of West Bengal (AIR 1997 SC 610) compels the Indian police force to follow these requirements:

    1) The police personnel carrying out the arrest and handling the interrogation of the arrestee should bear accurate, visible and clear identification and name tags with their designations.

    2) The police officer carrying out the arrest shall prepare a memo of arrest at the time of arrest and such memo shall be attested by at least one witness, who may be either a member of the family of the arrestee or a respectable person of the locality. It shall also be countersigned by the arrestee and shall contain the time and date of arrest.

    3) The person arrested must be made aware of this right to have someone informed of his arrest as soon as he is put under arrest or is detained.

    4) An entry must be made in the Diary disclosing the name of the friend / relative who has been informed of the arrest.

    5) The arrestee should, where he so requests, be also examined at the time of his arrest and major and minor injuries on his body must be recorded.

    6) The “Inspection Memo” must be signed both by the arrestee and the police officer, and its copy provided to the arrestee.

    7) The arrestee should be subjected to medical examination by a trained doctor every 48 hours during his detention in custody.

    8) The arrestee may be permitted to meet his lawyer during the interrogation.

    9) The right of every person detained / arrested to know the grounds of arrest and his right to bail should be honoured.

    10) Failure to comply with the requirements mentioned above shall apart from rendering the concerned official liable for departmental action, also render him liable to be punished for contempt of court.

    Added to these are the recommendations of the Law Commission (November 2000) that

    1) representatives of registered rights groups and NGOs should be entitled, under law, to visit police stations and examine custodial records.

    2) Arrest or search of women should only take place in the presence of women police officers and should not take place at night.

    3) Women should be detained separately from men. The effectiveness of this gender-based detention should be monitored by independent mechanisms.

    The reality is very different. . .

    There are serious flaws in the way police goes about arresting people.

    1) most often the police raids a place like a bull-dozer breaking doors and any thing that is on the way. The custom among Adivasi people is they leave footware outside and enter their house bare-footed. The place where they prepare and have their food (‘adig’) is considered a sacred place where the spirits of their dead ancestors dwell. The police have no consideration for the cultural values of people and enter the house with their dirty boots, pushing and thrashing any and every body in the house.

    2) The police do not usually produce ‘search warrant’ but jump on the person they have come to catch. Then they search the house / office turning every thing up side down. They usually bring with them some leaflets / booklets called “maoist / naxalite literature” and pretend they found it in the premises.

    3) Rarely is a respected local person present during the raid to bear witness to the search operation. Some times one or two ‘police informers’ may be brought along who will do the police bidding.

    4) It is a rare occasion a “search-inventory”is made which is signed by the arrestee and one other witness.

    5) Once they have arrested a person they want, they can do any thing to him / her. The arrestee is brought to the police station, beaten up brutally like an animal under the pretense of “extracting truth / evidence”.

    6) Can the police in all honesty say they do not use ‘third degree methods’ on the detainees?

    7) if the police wants to put the label “naxalite / extremist / maoist”, they just place a table, put some old pistols / guns on it, line up the detainees behind the table and call some press persons to take a photograph and publish in local news papers. Sadly, many of the press reporters also go along with the police version without checking / verifying the facts.

    Once this is done, the general public is made to believe that the detainees are really extremists and the police have done well in catching them.

    But who will bell the cat?

    Sadly, we cannot look up to the local government to come to the rescue of these victims of police atrocity. In fact the local govt administration is part of the game. Neither can we expect the district-level judiciary to save them because it goes by the version of the police and even refuses to grant bail.

    The electronic media and the press in general play safe and mostly project govt views. Only in exceptional and shocking cases such as Babri Masjid demolition, Gujerat genocide, Orissa Kandhamal attack on Christians we saw some sane reaction from the mass media. There are plenty of intellectuals, authors, legal experts, artists who can play a healthy role. Only they need to be helped to form distinct forums of their own so they can speak their mind when glaring human rights violations take place. Last but not the least are the masses of people who through specific People’s Movements and People’s Organisations can undertake civil disobedience movements. There is nothing like people’s power. Shri Jayprakash Narayan has shown us the way.

    We are then left with human rights and democratic rights organisations at local, national and international levels who alone will come forward to defend the human & constitutional rights of the unjustly arrested and tortured human rights activists. The challenge before us is to network these groups and organisations so they become strong pressure groups. And if they can be connected to international bodies like the United Nations Human Rights Commission it can go a long way in safeguarding human rights. There is no other way.

    20 December 08

    The only solution to NREGA- corruption in Jharkhand

    The only solution to NREGA- corruption in Jharkhand
    Remove the BDO office which is blocking development and link the village
    Gram Sabha directly to District administration

    Stan Swamy

    Prof Jean Dreze, member of the Central Employment Guarantee Council, refers to Jharkhand State as “ one of the worst performing states as far as NREGA is concerned” in the country [The Hindu, 19 July 2008]. There are two main reasons for this: (1) massive corruption built into the system; (2) people’s ignorance of their rights. The two go together.

    The NREGA, a scheme meant to provide relief to households suffering chronic unemployment, has become another site for harassment. In the country as a whole, around ten lakh rural BPL households paid bribes to avail of NREGA benefits, to the tune of Rs 7.15 crores in the course of one year! Around 47% of rural BPL households that interacted with the NREGA found officials/staff corrupt. Half the households that paid bribes did so to get registered for work under the scheme [Centre for Media Studies (CMS) & Transparency International India (TII) in India Corruption Study-2007]

    In Jharkhand the situation is still worse. The factors affecting NREGA in Jharkhand are:
    1)a repressive state machinery which looks upon any one raising any question about the implementation of NREGA with suspicion. It is so easy to dub such individuals and organisations as either being Naxalites or associated with them. Once the tag of Naxalism / Maoism is put on a person, anything can be done to him. He can be summoned to the police station and harassed, or he can be arrested for a few days without any charges, or he can be beaten up badly and released, or he can be arrested and produced before the magistrate and charged as being a Maoist or having links with militants. Unfortunately the govt and the police do not realize that this type of repression will itself provoke young men and women to join the extremist forces. Thus there will be a strengthening of militants and their organisations in Jharkhand.
    2)Helplessness of working people: 80% of Jharkhandi people live in rural areas where poverty is deepening. Studies show that 60 – 70% of rural population is below Poverty Line. In some districts of Jharkhand the literacy rate among rural women is as low as 18 % and 24%. When they cannot even read their Job Card and do not know where their names are written on the register, and saddest of all, they cannot sign their name on the muster roll but can only put their thumb impression, what accountability or transparency can be expected in the functioning of NREGA? The sad part of it is that the capitalist ruling class and the govt want to keep the majority of people in this situation of helplessness.
    3)Lack of system to redress grievances: if day-to-day checking of NREGA functioning is to be done it is best done by the local Gram Sabvha. But the govt is reluctant to give this power to the gram sabha. Instead it appoints high-level retired bureaucrats and college professors to check on the functioning of NREGA projects. By the time these big people reach a particular NREGA project, all the rats run into their holes! Recently a govt announcement in newspapers giving a Delhi-phone number for people to report about any wrongs in NREGA provokes laughter! One phone number for the whole country, and that too in Delhi. How many NREGA - workers would have access to an STD phone, and even if they phone, what reply or remedy they are likely to get?
    4)Absence of Gram Panchayats: It is a known fact that Jharkhand has not had Panchayat election for well over 25 years. Sadly even the present govt does not seem serious in holding it. The higher judiciary which ruled against some of the provisions of PESA Act does not seem to be in any way concerned about giving its final judgement on the matter. However, the State Govt can at least conduct panchayat election in the non-scheduled areas. But there is no will power to do it. Consequently thousands of crores of rupees of the central govt to be channelled through gram panchayats and gram sabhas is not being sent to Jharkhand. A very big loss to the Adivasi people of Jharkhand indeed. Another factor to take note of is the fact that in most of Scheduled Areas there is in existence the age-old traditional Munda-Manki system which is very functional. The NREGA schemes can very well be channelled through these bodies. Again, the govt seems unconcerned.
    5)Casual attitude of government towards the implementation of NREGA is most regrettable. Prof Jean Dreze, member of Central Employment Council, during his recent visit to Ranchi called the state govt’s attitude towards NREGA as “lip service”. He further stated that various social audits across the state have proved that the government officials, politicians and contractors were taking profit of the NREGA projects. In several places, the works are being carried out by contactors, which is illegal under the act.

    How else to clean the stable? . . . only possible through local People’s Organisations.
    It is my belief that only those who are presently victims of corruption will be able to correct it. And the corrective mechanisms should be on the spot and have a stable presence. Sporadic officious visits of retired high level govt appointees cannot do it. Let us name a few such people’s mechanisms:
    1)People’s Organisations: People have instruments like Gram Sabha at the village level, Panchayat at inter-village level, Parishad at block and district level. It is already laid down in The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA for short) that all projects should be placed before the gram sabha for approval, the choice of the beneficiaries, implementation of the schemes. The NREGA programme should be placed before these people’s institutions at the grassroot level and they should be asked to take charge of the entire programme. It should be a collective responsibility of the whole gram sabha / panchayat / parishad.
    2)In Scheduled Areas, the traditional Adivasi social organisation & leadership should be recognised as the implementing agency. This is a system that is based on collective leadership and consensus decision making process. Therefore it is ideally suited in identifying the real needs of the local community and implement the schemes through community-participation. Also because of the collective and community process, there is less space for corruption and more space for transparency.
    3)The Block Development Office and the BDO should be kept out of the picture completely. Historically the BDO (office and officer) have come to be known for incompetence, inefficiency and corruption. Their functioning has been like the feudal zamindar lording over people. They have been blocking rather than aiding rural development.
    4)Human & Civil Rights Organisations with clear secular credentials should be authorized as checking agencies. In the recent years these organisations have highlighted crucial areas and issues relating to the rights of the marginalised sections of society which the ruling class and the govt failed to do any thing about. There is genuine commitment and no vested interests on their part. The govt must make sure that their recommendations are taken seriously and acted upon.
    5)A few carefully selected print & electronic media can be empowered to highlight discrepancies in the functioning of NREGA. Most national newspapers have sold themselves to the corporate houses. Only a few local and regional media can be trusted with the poor people’s cause. These media persons can be asked to investigate specific problematic situations and highlight them in their write ups and presentations.

    ‘Jharkhand State seriously failing in protecting the Human Rights of its people’ - ACHR

    The Asian Centre for Human Rights, a centre dedicated to promotion and protection of human rights in Asia,
    ‘Jharkhand State seriously failing in protecting the Human Rights of its people’

    Stan Swamy

    Some extracts from its 2008 - Report

    Both the Naxalites and the security forces were responsible for serious human rights violations including extrajudicial killings and torture. The Maoists targeted political activists.

    The NHRC revealed in July 2007 that there were as many as 84,000 cases of human rights violations under consideration of the NHRC out of which 3,000 were from Jharkhand. However, Jharkhand government failed to establish a State Human Rights Commission.

    The Adivasis continued to face serious human rights abuses. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 332 cases of crimes against Scheduled Tribes were reported in Jharkhand during 2006.

    Tribals have been arrested under false charges when they tried to access minor forest produce in Jharkhand. About 12,000 cases have been filed by the state’s Forest Department against tribals as of 12 August 2007 for claiming land rights by tribals guaranteed under the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.

    Bottom of Form
    II. Human rights violations by the security forces
    a. Violations of the right to life

    The NHRC received three cases of police custody death in Jharkhand during the period of 1 April 2006 to 31 March 2007. It also reported two cases of ‘encounter deaths’ during the same period.
    b. Arbitrary arrest, illegal detention and torture

    the NHRC received two cases of illegal arrest, two cases of unlawful detention, one case of disappearance and 128 cases of other police excesses in Jharkhand during the period of 1 April to 31 March 2007. The police failed to take action in 144 cases. The police often tortured the accused persons during interrogation.

    III. Violations of International Humanitarian Law by the AOGs

    The Maoists were responsible for gross violations of international humanitarian law. According to a report prepared by the Jharkhand Police, 70 per cent of the people killed by Maoists belong to tribal and Dalit communities.
    a. Violations of the right to life

    28 civilians were killed by the Maoists during January to September 2007. Political leaders and police informers were specifically targeted.

    The Maoists continued to kill alleged police informers. The Naxalites continued to organise Jana Adalats, Peoples Court, to impose Maoist ‘justice’.
    b. Destruction of public properties

    The Naxalites continued to destroy of public property.
    IV. Judiciary and administration of justice

    The judiciary continued to limited by judicial delay in Jharkhand. Yet, there were 11 vacancies out of the sanctioned strength of 20 judges in the Jharkhand High Court as on 1 January 2008. There were 66 vacancies out of the sanctioned strength of 503 vacancies in the District and Subordinate Courts as on 30 September 2007. Besides, there were a total of 49,276 cases pending with the Jharkhand High Court and a total of 2,63,901 cases were pending with the District and Subordinate Courts as of 30 September 2007.

    There has been lack of tribal representation in the judiciary of Jharkhand. Though the tribals constitute about one third (nearly 80 lakh) of the total population of the state, as of 18 May 2007, there was not a single tribal representative as a high court judge or district judge. There were about 300 lawyers from the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, minorities and women out of the 1,836 practitioners registered with the Advocates Association of Jharkhand High Court. The state judicial service officers’ strength was about 430. Significantly, the law officers, appointed by the state government, to argue its cases in various courts, including the high court, did not have a tribal member either.

    V. Violations of the rights of indigenous peoples

    The National Crime Records Bureau of the government of India reported a total of 332 cases of crimes against the Scheduled Tribes in Jharkhand during 2006. These included 13 cases of murder, 21 cases of rape, 13 cases of kidnapping and abduction, 91 cases under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocity) Act of 1989, among others.

    The conditions of the tribals were deplorable due to government’s apathy in Jharkhand. The Sabar tribes, one of the oldest in the Chottanagpur Plateau, were on the verge of extinction due to government’s apathy. In Darisai village, once dominated by over 200 Sabar families, was left with a mere 11 families consisting of only 47 people as on February 2007.
    a. Land alienation and displacement

    In Jharkhand, cases of alienation of tribal land have risen despite two laws - Chotanagpur Tenancy Act and Santhal Parangan Tenancy Act to prevent sale of tribal land to non-tribals in the state. A total of 2,608 cases have been filed by tribals with the Special Area Regulation Court in 2003-2004, which increased to 2,657 cases in 2004-2005 and further to 3,230 cases in 2005-2006. As of January 2007, 3,789 cases have been filed with the Special Area Regulation Court in 2007.

    Lack of lawyers to take up land-related cases of the tribals further delayed adjudication. Around 5,500 land-related cases of tribals were pending in various district courts in Jharkhand as of March 2007. The government of Jharkhand had an annual budget of Rs 50 lakh to provide legal assistance to poor tribals to pursue their land-related cases. However, less than 10 per cent of the total allocated budget was spent over the last six years. Lawyers were unwilling to fight cases on behalf of tribals seeking government assistance. The offer of Rs 5,000 per case was cited as one of the main reasons for pendency of land-related cases in courts.

    In February 2007, the Supreme Court allowed a tribal petitioner to file a fresh petition before the Jharkhand High Court for recovery of his land from a mining company. In its order, the Supreme Court held that the Jharkhand High Court was wrong to dismiss the petition of Surendra Dehri, a tribal who alleged that over 10,000 acres of “notified tribal land” had been usurped by mining contractors in connivance with the government officials. The High Court had dismissed his petition saying that it involved only “private interest”. But a bench of Supreme Court comprising Justices B.N. Agarwal and P.P. Naolekar stated that a clear violation of constitutional guarantees given to the tribals could not be held to be related to “private interest”.

    The tribals of Jharkhand have also been protesting against the implementation of Koel Karo hydroelectric project by National Hydroelectric Corporation over the Koel and Karo rivers. The project, if implemented, would submerge as many as 256 villages involving 50,000 acres of forest area, 40,000 acres of agricultural land and 300 forest groves (considered sacred by the tribals), 175 churches and 120 Hindu temples.
    b. Repression under the forest laws

    The tribals have been intimidation and abuse including arrest for accessing minor forest produce. About 12,000 cases have been filed by the state’s Forest Department against the tribals as of 12 August 2007. Most of these cases related to the claims of land rights by the tribals guaranteed under the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act.

    On 12 August 2007, the government of Jharkhand ordered the release of all tribals who had been lodged in various jails in the state in connection with cases registered by the Forest Department and to pay compensation to all the villagers who had lost their paddy fields and vegetable farms due to forcible plantation undertaken by the state’s Forest Department.

    VI. Violence against women

    Violence against women including rape and dowry deaths continued to be reported. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 2,979 cases of crimes against women were reported in Jharkhand during 2006. These included 799 cases of rape, 410 cases of kidnapping and abduction, 281 cases of dowry death, 668 cases of cruelty by husband and relatives, 414 cases of molestation, 11 cases under Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act of 1956, among others.

    The security forces were responsible for violence against women and children. Tribal women were especially targeted for sexual violence.

    VII. Violations of the rights of the child

    According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a total of 112 cases of crimes against the children were reported in Jharkhand during 2006. These included 9 cases of murder, 28 cases of rape, 11 cases of kidnapping and abduction, among others.

    The provisions of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children), 2000 continued to be violated. Children were often tortured in homes/orphanages.

    The security forces continued to occupy schools for military purposes, thereby making the schools targets of the Naxalites. As of mid-April 2007, 25 schools were converted into police camps. Many schools remained closed over the last five years. Estimates put the number of affected students at 12,000. A few schools such as Chatrapur Middle school of Daltanganj had been closed since 1990. Many schools have not been totally closed but the security personnel live in the school buildings. Often, children were forced to learn their lessons in the open sky, apart from living under the fear of the attacks by Maoists.

    VIII. Violations of the prisoners’ rights

    the NHRC received 59 cases of death in judicial custody in Jharkhand during the period of 1 April to 31 March 2007.

    [source: ACHR’s quarterly newsletter, Naxal Conflict Monitor series of 2007.]

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    Nepal In transition
    15 November 2006

    by J. Sri Raman

    "Maoists would get very few votes if elections are held in the
    present context." This is not a line from any media prognosis of the
    outcome of a poll in Nepal, limping back to peace. Nor is it a quote
    from any politician in the Himalayan state, whose people have high
    stakes in the success of the promised first post-monarchy election to
    decide Nepal's future.

    Surprising as it may seem, that public pronouncement on the poll
    prospects of a particular political party of the country came from
    the official representative a foreign power. US Ambassador to Nepal
    James Francis Moriarty made the statement a couple of weeks ago, but
    it is all the more relevant to recall it now as his host-country
    prepares to make history.

    Moriarty himself, of course, made history of a dubious kind with
    the statement that no one would normally expect of a diplomat. Have
    we heard any foreign representative in Washington publicly predicting
    the fortunes of the rival parties in the US Congressional polls? The
    statement, made in a meeting with journalists and intellectuals in
    New Delhi, would have once been considered an indecorous show of
    interest or involvement in the internal affairs of the concerned
    country for even a super-power's envoy to evince.

    Many in Nepal saw the statement as a stern warning against moves
    aimed at getting the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or the CPNM,
    into the country's interim government now under the Seven-Party
    Alliance (SPA), headed by the Nepali Congress of Prime Minister
    Girija Prasad Koirala. It was SPA-CPNM unity that made possible the
    popular overthrow of King Gyanendra and his hated monarchy last
    April. The reinforcement of the unity through power-sharing was
    expected to lead to stable democracy and national reconciliation in a
    land where civil war had raged for a decade, taking a dreadful toll
    in human lives and suffering.

    It was not only surprising but also significant that only the
    Maoist leadership has taken exception to the statement, with the
    Koirala government preferring to keep its own counsel in the matter.
    Similarly significant was the fact that only the CPNM - and the
    Indian Left - objected to Moriarty's declaration at a public forum in
    Kathmandu in July that induction of the Maoists into an interim
    government - without the rebels first giving up their arms and also,
    less precisely, "renouncing the politics of violence and terror" -
    would have serious consequences, including a cutoff in US assistance
    to Nepal.

    The official US backing for the breakthrough now made in Nepal
    must be seen against this background of attempted blackmail. Moriarty
    has left little doubt about the frightening fragility of his
    far-from-unconditional support for the process initiated by an
    SPA-Maoist agreement on November 8. The agreement has sorted out the
    problem of managing and monitoring the arms of the Maoists and the
    erstwhile Royal Nepal Army under United Nations supervision. It has
    worked out a calendar for creation of a new republic of Nepal,
    envisaging the broader interim government by December 1 and the
    adoption of a new constitution by mid-2007.

    Even while the agreement was on the anvil, Moriarty gave more
    than a hint of his response to it by saying that the US attitude to
    the Maoists in peacefully shared power will be similar to its
    approach to the Hamas in post-election Palestine. The announcement of
    the agreement did not receive his unreserved greeting. While
    welcoming the pact, the US embassy stated: "The agreement must
    diminish the fear of violence, intimidation, and extortion that the
    people of Nepal have endured over the past 11 years. In this regard,
    effective monitoring that includes penalties for violators will prove

    None too veiled is the threat against the Maoists, from whom
    alone Moriarty expects such violations, despite the deadlier record
    of the Royal Nepal Army against human rights. An embassy spokesperson
    reiterated the point of the statement, aimed at keeping the power dry
    against Maoists in power and during the proposed polls, by telling
    the Kathmandu Post on Monday that the Maoists would stay on the US
    list of terrorist organizations "even if they join the government."

    Nepal's Maoists entered this long list nearly five years ago.
    Former US secretary of state Colin Powell visited Nepal in January
    2002, and told his hosts: "You have a Maoist insurgency that's trying
    to overthrow the government, and this really is the kind of thing
    that we are fighting against throughout the world." US arms sales to
    famished Nepal and consultations between US military officers and
    their Nepali counterparts followed.

    Moriarty elaborated on the theme in August 2005. Adopting a tone
    of endearing interference, he told an elite audience in Kathmandu:
    "Today, in the spirit of the long friendship Nepal and the United
    States have enjoyed, I want to talk about two concepts that I think
    are absolutely vital for Nepal at this point in its history:
    democracy and reconciliation. Before I do so, however, I would like
    to explain why my country, the United States, has the temerity to
    speak out on issues such as this."

    The explanation for the "temerity" was terse and to the point:
    "In his second inaugural address, President George W. Bush declared
    that the United States 'will persistently clarify the choice before
    every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression,
    which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right.'" The
    "moral" role of the Bush administration in the making and unmaking of
    regimes is what Moriarty is upholding in his crusade against the
    Maoists in the mountain state. Neither Bush nor Moriarty is likely to
    reconsider the role merely because of US Congressional poll results.

    The explanation is not going to put at ease the people of Nepal,
    as they await the further unfolding of the peace-and-democracy

    Online course on "Workers' rights in a Global Economy"

    March 2016: Online course on "Workers' rights in a Global Economy" by the Global Labour University

    Starting on 3 March 2016, The Global Labour University offers a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on “Workers’ Rights in a Global Economy”.
    You can watch the course trailer on

    This online course connects union members and labour activists from around the world on the interactive platform iversity to learn and to exchange about the challenges and strategies for implementing workers´ rights worldwide, in particular in the context of global supply chains.

    The course is jointly taught by academics, ILO and trade union experts. It runs over 8 weeks (3 March – 27 April + exam period) and is based on video lectures, readings, and interactive quizzes and discussions. The course is free in the audit track and costs 49 Euro in the certificate track which is awarded by a certificate recognized by the Global Labour University and Penn State University.

    For more information and enrolment please go to

    Police purging hijras out of Bengaluru

    Police purging hijras out of Bengaluru

    Police subject hijras and human rights defenders to illegal detention and arrests, custodial torture and sexual assault

    As India progresses, reaching out to the moon, Bengaluru has become a dangerous city for its citizens. especially the most vulnerable, and any one who dares to support them. In the last few weeks, there seems to be a drive against hijras in particular and any person without a secure place of work or livelihood security. These vulnerable people are being arrested, beaten and harassed by the police. In an age where street dogs and cattle are being enumerated, government employees are getting massive pay hikes, the transgenders are seen as totally unworthy of any attention. There is neither any data of how many people we are talking about and a total blank on how they can meet their basic needs to survive with dignity. Housing, health support and ration cards are a distant dream for them. The only recognition that these sections of society get is when they are targeted by the police in drives like these. In our beautiful city that needs to be sold to investors and welcome tourists there is no place for many of us. It is only a matter of time when we are targeted.

    Arrest and Abuse of 5 Hijras: At 11am on 20th October, police catch 5 hijras near a traffic signal in the Girinagar police station limits and take them to the police station. In the station, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), H. T. Ramesh beats one of them with a lathi, breaks her bangles and makes her bleed. Police force another hijra to clean the floor of the police station. Police later charge them with false charges under section 341 (wrongful restraint) and 384 (extortion) of the IPC (Indian Penal Code). They were produced before the magistrate at 7:30 pm and were sent into judicial custody. All through this the hijras were handled by policemen and no medical treatment is given to the injured hijra in police or judicial custody. These 5 people were released on bail on 22nd October, 2008.

    Arrest and Torture of Sangama Crisis Team Members: On receiving a phone call from the 5 hijras in the police detention, 5 activists of the Crisis Team (Madesh, Dilfaraz, Savitha, Sahana and Kokila) of Sangama, a sexual minority human rights and health organization visit Girinagar police station and enquire about the detention of 5 hijras. On request from the police the crisis team members go to the Banashankari police station and meet the ACP and the Police Inspector (PI) Shivashankara Murthi to resolve the problem. The ACP and PI were abusive and behave in a derogatory manner without any provocation. Their verbal abuses include “Are you a man or woman?” “Take out all your clothes, let me check what you have there?” “Check if he is wearing an underwear?” “Strip them” “How dare you come to my area to support hijras” “Do you make blue films?” “Are you beggars?” “Ganchalli thorisidhare nimmannoo olagade haakthivi”. The ACP slaps Dilfaraz four times and asks police to arrest the activists and book them under ganja-apheem case. The PI slaps Madesh two times. PI keeps a big wooden block on Madesh’s head, the ACP said ‘Oh you have taken centre crop, I will beat you here and your head will break in the centre’

    On receiving a phone call from the crisis team members Chandini and Rosy (activists from Sangama) reach the Banashankari Police Station at around 3pm. At this point the Banashankari police brutally attack Madesh and Dilfaraz with hands and lathis, kick them and drag them into a police van and move them to Girinagar police station by force. When police men come near Savitha, Sahana and Kokila to hit them, the activists warn the police of the serious consequences of policemen touching women. The police back off. In Girinagar police station, policemen sexually abuse Madesh and Dilfaraz in the name of finding if they were male or female. Later Girinagar police detain Savitha, Sahana and Kokila along with Madesh and Dilfaraz. All of them were booked under Section 143 (unlawful assembly), 145 (joining unlawful assembly ordered to be dispersed) and 353 (obstructing government officials in performing their duty) of the IPC. They were produced before the magistrate at 8.45 PM and were sent into judicial custody. These 5 crisis team members were released on bail on 22nd October, 2008.

    Human Rights Activists gather at the Banashankari Police Station: On hearing this around 150 human rights activists and lawyers from various organizations working on issues of women, dalits, workers, communalism, environment, health, sexual minorities, sexworkers and so on gathered outside the Banashankari police station. Activists tried to negotiate with the ACP and PI unsuccessfully twice to get Madesh and Dilfaraz back. At around 7pm activists started a peaceful protest in front of the police station and start shouting slogans against police atrocities.

    Illegal detention and Custodial Torture of 6 activists: At 7:30pm, on the ACP’s request a delegation of 6 six activists start a dialogue with the police officials inside the station. The delegation includes Manohar (Karnataka Sexworkers Union, founder of Sangama), Yashoda (Karnataka Dalit Mahila Vedike), Sumathi (Sufi singer, member of LesBiT), Jayaram (Garment and Textile Workers Union), Chandini (Sangama), Sowmya (Samara). The ACP and PI said ‘It was wrong to hit people in our custody. We know that. We are asked by the senior officials to beat them up. Leave your people and go home. We will not release them even if you go to the Chief Minister. We have orders from the senior officials to round up all hijras on the streets of Bengaluru and book them under extortion cases. We are only following the instructions of our seniors. You go out and do a protest in front of Police Commissioner’s Office’. When questioned about the unlawful actions of the police the ACP shouted ‘arrest these people and beat them up’. The ACP, PI and a few other policemen brutally hit the delegation members with hands and lathis on their neck, legs and back and pushed them into the lockup. At around 8:30pm ACP, PI and 2 other policemen get the six delegates out of the lockup and hit them brutally and sexually assault 4 women and hijras. These activists have to fight a lot even to access drinking water and toilet facilities. At around 11pm police leave these delegates without any charges.

    Lathi charge on peaceful protesters and arrest of 31 activists: At around 7:45 pm, after illegally detaining 6 delegates, police came out and started beating up people holding cameras and chased them away to prevent recording of any proof of police excesses. Police declared that they were arresting the activists and asked them to get into the police vehicles. When activists demanded the release of the 6 delegates in the lockup, policemen brutally and mercilessly attacked activists (women, men and transgenders). Policemen pushed 31 activists (including 1 hijra, 3 female-to-male transsexuals, 9 women and 18 men) into a small van. They were made to suffer for 7 hours inside a small van and were not even given food to eat. They were under extreme stress, almost dehydrated and suffocated by this ordeal, finally they were provided a can of water by midnight. All of them were booked under Section 143 (unlawful assembly), 145 (joining an unlawful assembly ordered to dispersed) and 353 (obstructing government officials in performing their duty) and were taken to the residence of the magistrate. Senior advocate BT Venkatesh and a number of human rights lawyers were waiting near the residence when the activists were brought. The police went into the residence of the magistrate and came back and without producing the activities they tried to take back the accused in the van. BT Venkatesh and other advocates immediately stopped the police van and protested this and demanded that accused be immediately produced before the magistrate. Police’s ploy was to avoid magistrate recording the assault and violence committed by police on the activists. At 1:30am after all the protests the police were forced to produce the accused before the magistrate. The magistrate informed BT Venkatesh and other lawyers that the police informed him that they were no advocates present and that there were large contingent of protesters. After recording the details of the assaults suffered by the accused the magistrate directed the police to take them to Bowring hospital for medical examinations as most of them sustained major injuries due to police violence. These 31 activists were released on bail on 22nd evening. Police starved these people and denied them medicines when they were in 20-hour long police custody .

    Campaign for Sexual Minorities Rights launched: The Girinagar and Banashankari police actions show their complete disregard to the laws of the land. Brutal police attacks on human rights defenders and peaceful protestors is a clear violation of fundamental rights guaranteed by our constitution. These actions threaten our democracy itself. In this context we came together to launch the ‘campaign for sexual minorities rights’ to defend fundamental rights of sexual minorities. The campaign will dialogue with social movements and expand public discourse for equal rights and non-discrimination. We appeal to all democratic forces to join us in this struggle to reform the colonial police attitudes towards hijra community and to sensitize society on hijra issues.

    Our Demands:

    1. Dismiss the guilty police including H. T. Ramesh (ACP) and M. Shivashankara Murthi (PI); and prosecute them for the crimes (assault, abuse, sexual assault and illegal detention) committed against human rights defenders
    2. Take immediate steps to stop the brutal police violence (physical and sexual) against hijras and sexworkers in Bengaluru and punish the perpetrators of violence
    3. Protect the rights of hijra community for their traditional livelihood options including sexwork and blessings, or provide them with a reasonable option.
    4. Initiate immediate measures to fulfil the obligations of the government so that hijras and other transsexuals have access to education, employment, health, housing, sex-change procedures, savings and credit facilities etc.

    Quote in police custody: ACP HT Ramesh keeps a big wooden block on Madesh’s head and says:
    ‘Oh you have taken centre crop, I will beat you here and your head will break in the centre’

    Campaign for Sexual Minorities Rights
    No. 9 ABABIL, Patel Cheluvappa Street, J C Nagar (MR Palya), Bengaluru - 6, India, Phone: 23438840/43, Mobile: 9845165143, Email:

    (Constituents: Alternative Law Forum, Aneka, Environment Support Group, Garment and Textile Workers Union, Hengasara Hakkina Sangha, Jyothi Mahila Sangha, Karnataka Dalit Mahila Vedike, Karnataka Komusouhardha Vedike, Karnataka Sexual Minorities Forum, Karnataka Sexworkers Union, LesBiT, Lawyers Collective, Openspace, Pedestrian Pictures, People’s Democratic Forum, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Sadhane, Samanatha Mahila Vedike, Sadhana Mahila Gumpu, Samara, Samvada, Sanchaya Nele, Sangama, Suraksha, Vijaya Mahila Sangha, Vimochana and many other individuals and organizations)

    Living Conditions of Hijras: Hijras are one of the most stigmatized and marginalized sections of our society. Most of them discontinue their education due to physical and sexual harassment in schools. Most of them migrate to big cities and join hijra communities after their families and neighbors reject them. They are denied inheritance. As they cannot afford expensive sex-change procedures they go for nirvan (surgical removal of penis and testicles) and live as women. Lack of education coupled with severe sexual harassment in workplaces denies them most employment opportunities that are available to others. Most of them survive by the traditional occupations of sexwork and blessings. As they need to be on the streets for these occupations they become easy prey for the police and goondas.

    They are ridiculed in public spaces – bus/train, public toilets, cinema halls, public parks, markets, places of worship and hospitals. They are forced to live in the slums in the city outskirts. Most of them are denied voting rights, ration cards, bank accounts, insurance, driving license and old age pension. They have to pay more than others for house rent and auto rickshaw travel. They are not treated like citizens, and not even like human beings. No wonder that most of them carry low self-esteem and depend heavily on alcohol. Who is responsible for this? Their transgender desire or our social intolerance?

    Arrests of Queer Activists in Bangalore


    This is a short and hurried email, to let everyone know, that some of us in
    Bombay and Delhi have recieved phone calls from activists in Bangalore about
    arrests of some hijras, kothis, Sangama activists including Manohar, Sumathi
    and others.

    From what I have gathered from a few conversations, first around five hijras
    were arrested under charges of extortion sometime in the morning.
    Thereafter, five other hijras and kothis from Sangama who went to inquire
    about these arrests at the police station were also arrested under charges
    of 'rioting', 'unlawful assembly' and 'assaulting a police officer'. All of
    these ten people have been produced in magistrate courts.

    Thereafter, Manohar, Sumathi and some other Sangama activists who went to
    protest at the police station were also arrested and held up in the police
    station. It is unclear whether the police booked them under any criminal
    provision, or just held them in custody. I have also been told that all the
    people arrested have faced police violence. Apart from this around 30 other
    people who were protesting outside the police station have been kept in
    police custody and have still not been released.

    The latest news is that Manohar, Sumathi and a few others have been
    released. They have undergone medical examination. I have preliminary
    information that they have faced physical violence. Ofcourse, this being
    Bangalore, legal help with Venkatesh and ALF is available. Lots of
    people/activists/community members are at the police station. Apparently a
    lot of media activity is also happening, although I cant find anything on
    the news.

    We will have more information, hopefully, directly from people in Bangalore
    tomorrow morning.


    Real Facts Behind KArnatakas Global Investor Meet (GIM)

    The Chief Minister of Karnataka has announced that the 2 day Global Investors Meet in Bangalore will bring 3 lakh crores of investment as well as around 3 lakh new jobs. The promise of 3 lakh jobs to be created by the GIM and the prosperity it will bring to Karnataka does not appear to be true. Read below to find out the real costs and real facts of the GIM.

    False Promise of Investment and Job Creation

    As per government data(from Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, ) the total FDI approved in Karnataka between 2000- 2010 is around 30,000 crores and the actual amount invested less than that. So how will 3 lakh crores be realised in 2 days, if the last 10 years brought in only 30,000 crores?

    Further , the 3 lakh crores were supposed to bring in 3 lakh jobs. Now if the actual amount will be much lesser, how many jobs actually get created?

    Also, here 1 job is being created for an investment of 1 crore (3 lakh crores = 3 lakh jobs)
    However, for the same 1 crore which is invested in the small and Medium Industries , 20 jobs can be created.

    Examples of Existing Investments and jobs created in Karnataka
    The Government has approved MS Zuari fertilisers and chemicals ltd. to establish a urea plant in Mastihole Village, Hukkeri Taluk, Belgaum with an investment of 4565 crores. It is supposed to create1560 jobs. It means an investment of 3 crores for one job! Similarly, the Government has approved a proposal to M/S India Cements limited to establish a 2 MTPA Cement plant and 60 MW coal Based thermal Power plant at Ganapur, Burugupalli of Chincholi Taluk, Gulbarga District with an investment of 850 crores. The promise of job creation is only 175. It means that 5 crores are invested to create one job. (Sources : Government Orders - CI 27 SPI 2010, CI 32 SPI 2010)
    Jobs Lost Due to the GIM

    The government has already acquired 50000 acres and is in the process of acquiring another 100000 acres. Hence a total of 1,50,000 acres are being acquired. Even by conservative estimates, farming on 1 acre of land can support at least 5 people. Hence the 1,50,000 acres of land being acquired will support atleast 7,50,000 people! Now once this land is acquired, all these jobs are lost. Even assuming that the GIM really creates 3 lakh jobs and that all these jobs(including managers, technical experts etc) are distributed amongst those who lost jobs, it still leaves 4.5 lakh people jobless as a result of the land acquisition for the GIM.

    In its defense the government has stated that mostly non-agricultural land has been required. However seeing the gazette notifications for the land acquisition, we see that the government is lying. For instance, one of the Government Orders ( CI66SPQ2010, Bangalore , dated - 17 Feb 2010) says that 1,542 of land has been acquired in Bailahongala, Belgaum. Out of 1,542 acres acquired just 25 acres of land is barren, the remaining 1517 acres or 99.8% land acquired is agricultural land.

    What Else are the People of Karnataka Losing?

    There is a net loss of employment due to GIM. In addition, we will also lose valuable capital, water and electricity. The 3 lakh crore investment will not come directly from private firms. A large part of that will be from bank loans. Money in the banks consists of the savings of people of the state or is tax money which is with state owned banks. So in effect it our own money being diverted to them and coming back in the form of FDI.

    All these industries will require water and electricity. No new water can be created. So even though there is an existing water crisis, Billions of Litres will be divested to these new industries. We also already have an electricity crisis with many rural areas having 16 hour power cuts. Where will we get more power to supply to these industries. It is also a matter of shame that many of these destructive industries are provided massive subsidies of water and electricity, while the farmers in the state are committing suicide.

    Karnataka for Auction?

    Hence, by organizing the GIM the state government has sold Karnataka, piece by piece. People voted for a government to rule the state, and not sell the state and its resources.The entry of Special Economic Zones will be a major blow to the lands, environment and labour relations of the people of Karnataka. Already Orissa stand as a glaring example for us to understand what is going to happen in the investment friendly states like Karnataka. POSCO and Tatas have been targeted by the activists for their role in police firing and lathi charge on innocent people in Orissa. Over 100 people resisting POSCO in Orissa were injured recently and even their medical care is being denied. Over a dozen people were killed by police firing in Kalinganagar earlier and recently the police killed one more adivasi. We strongly object the entry of such a model of development which sheds human blood instead of human welfare.

    If the state of Karnataka Is going ahead with the this kind of a development paradigm at the cost of the life and livelihood of the Dalits , Adivasis and the Farmers , the Global investors meet raises a set of questions like what will be social, environmental, economic and political costs involved in this entire process? Why is this whole process being rushed through without public consultations and political consultations ?

    In order to achieve overall inclusive development, we need to look at it from the perspective of increasing the purchasing power of the people of the state. However, these foreign direct investments will actually decrease the purchasing power of the people. Keeping this in mind, people from across the country need to oppose this form of investor led development. We demand that the state works towards a development approach which is based on strengthening local economic systems. The GIM however does not do anything to strengthen the local economic system or the people and hence the government should immediately stop this mode of development. It is the responsibility of all of us, the people of Karnataka to force the government to abandon this destructive mode of development. We appeal to all citizens of Karnataka to join this resistance for a people friendly and environment friendly development policy. Ultimately, it is matter of our jobs, our money, our natural resources and our lives.

    Rohit Vemula Suicide: Fact Finding Team Report

    Prima Facie report of the Fact Finding Team of The Independent People's Tribunal on Human Rights and the Environment, 26 January 2016

    Press release
    The Joint Action Committee for Social Justice had requested the Indian Peoples Tribunal to send a fact finding team to investigate into the death of Rohith Vemula on 17th January 2016 on the Campus of the University of Hyderabad.

    A team of Justice (Retd) Justice Suresh H, Sujata Surepalli Editor Desi Disa, US Rao- Chairman CBC Federation, Meena Menon – Writer-Researcher and Senior Advocate Gayatri Singh visited the University of Hyderabad on 25th and 26th of January 2015 and met with students, faculty, friends and family of Rohith Vemula and some of the administration authorities who were available.

    The observations of the Fact Finding Team are as below:

    1. The death of Rohit Vemula was caused by the acts of omission and commission of the authorities.
    2. On 18th December 2015, Rohit along with other members of ASA met the VC and requested to revoke the Order of Suspension and raised the humiliating issue of social boycott. He was pained to know that the VC was adamant and refused to resolve the issue on the spot. Rohit wrote the letter dated 18th December 2015 which indicates his assessment that the students would not get any justice from the Vice Chancellor.
    3. The Office of the Vice Chancellor suppressed the letter dated 18th December 2015, refusing to invoke even basic protocols in such situations. This is not only dereliction of duty cast on University Authorities but it also constitutes grave contempt of the Orders of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh & Telangana, particularly in the conduct of the composition of the Committees, procedure mandated for incidents that may lead to expulsion, and appellate provisions thereto.
    4. That the Office of the Vice Chancellor allowed the incident of 3 / 4 August 2015 to spiral out of control is shocking. It is evident from the documents on record that Vice Chancellor allowed his office to be pressurized by the Minster of Human Resource and Development to advance their own political agenda.
    5. Recommendations of the Proctoral Committee are shocking to say the least. The prohibition by the Committee against students associating in groups transgresses on fundamental protection of association provided within the Constitution. That the Committee could prescribe such a punishment reflects their lack of understanding of the Constitution, and is a matter of concern.
    6. That the extended members of the Proctoral Committee were not allowed to deliberate and influence the outcome of the Extended Proctoral Committee exposes the sham it was.
    7. The call of the Proctoral Committee to ban all associations on the basis of ideology, Caste, Religion reflects a deep rooted prejudice against politically active students and their associations and goes to root of the matter that ails this university. That the administration can echo a position that is contrary to the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution is a matter of deep concern.
    8. That the Executive Sub Committee constituted by the Vice Chancellor did not take umbrage to the aforesaid observations of the Proctoral Committee casts doubt over the competency of a primafacie extremely prejudiced Executive Sub Committee.
    9. The dereliction of duty exhibited by the Office of the Vice Chancellor, to even engage with protesting students, is a clear abdication of his foremost duty to act in the best interest of students.
    10. That the University of Hyderabad , failed to take cognisance of recurring suicides by students from rural and marginalised communities is horrifying. That comprehensive investigations were taken up only in some cases is disturbing. That the recommendations of these investigations were ignored, strengthens our resolve that the disregard for students from rural and marginalised communities seems to be a concern that will require systemic correction.
    11. That Rohit Vemula was folded into the alleged incident of 3rd August 2015, when he was not even present at the said incident or referred too reflects a pre-set agenda to target him. This is further borne out by the sequence of events which shows the taking cognisance on a complaint by a rank outsider, manipulation of facts, tampering with evidence. That these events followed the intervention of Bandaru Dattaray and the Minister of HRD strengthen our view that the University was not concerned about an impartial investigation but was only keen to bend over backwards to please the Minster of HRD.
    12. That students from Rural and Marginalised Communities are denied timely payment of their Fellowships, runs contrary to the purpose and objective of the fellowships. That there is no effective administrative oversight to ensure timely payments to students from rural and marginalised communities, has allowed systemic bias to be perpetuated without any redress. It is obvious that this system enjoys tacit approval of the administration and even some of the faculty members.
    13. The continuing and growing incidence of tragic suicides of students belonging to marginalised sections of society makes it imperative that a “Rohith Law’ be enacted, which is the demand of both students of the Joint Action Committee and Rohith’s family. This should ensure punitive action against university administrations guilty of encouragement, abetting or even inaction in the case of the persistence of exclusionary practices in Universities.

    From: "Vivek Sundara."
    Date: 28-Jan-2016 11:10 am

    SEZ voting results: State put on notice

    PEN (RAIGAD Dist): Farmers' leaders and representatives in Pen taluka have lashed out at the state for continuing to remain a "mute spectator" des
    pite an overwhelming opposition to SEZs. According to them, the dissatisfaction of the landowners had come out in the open during a referendum held last month.

    At a press conference held on Monday, president of Peasants and Workers Party N D Patil showed copies of the referendum forms collected from the land-holders who had voted in Pen to prove that over 95% of the farmers were against SEZ.

    "Why is the government not declaring the referendum results? They should now withdraw the notifications served to farmers under the Land Acquisition Act," said the 82-year-old PWP leader, who has been campaigning against SEZ since 2006.

    Of the total 6,199 voting forms received by the Raigad collector during the referendum, 5,866 voted against SEZ. Each form contained multiple land-survey numbers and plots belonging to several members of a family or land account holders).

    So of the 23,959 individuals who were eligible to vote during the September 21 referendum, a whopping 19,868 farmers had participated in the voting process. The representatives also stated that if the state does not act on the referendum result by October 21, then they will once again start a non-violent agitation against SEZ.

    The leaders also rapped CM Vilasrao Deshmukh for "mischievously" trying to declare Pen as a ‘green zone' if it is opposed to SEZ.

    Shashi Tharoor and Coke in Plachimada

    The decision of Shashi Tharoor to contest in the election 2009 has brought out this interesting exchange of emails.

    01 An Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor

    14 February 2009

    An Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor,

    You are aware that Coca Cola plant at Plachimada, Palakkad in your native State of Kerala has been shut down since 2004 as they failed to get the requisite licenses from the Kerala Pollution Control Board and the Perumatty Panchayat. The primary reasons for this are:

    Coca Cola polluted the ground water with deadly toxic and carcinogenic cadmium and lead which Coca Cola does not list under ‘raw materials’ and refuse to provide an explanation for their presence
    Coca Cola distributed and spread around these deadly toxic and carcinogenic cadmium and lead through their waste sludge and slurry under the guise that these are good soil nutrients
    Coca Cola did not supply piped water to the affected families as ordered by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Waste
    Coca Cola, as the single most largest extractor of ground water extracting at the highest rate, largest transporter of water to the outside through softdrinks, a non-essential luxury good, contributed the largest to the depletion of ground water

    The anti Coca Cola struggle launched in 2002 in Plachimada by primarily the Adivasis and Dalits, is the longest popular struggle in the history of Kerala supported by the widest sections of the people of Kerala and of all political hues.

    You may be aware that protests have been going on elsewhere in the country against many other Coca Cola plants as in Mehdi Ganj and Kala Dera for similar destruction of environment, water and livelihoods. You may also be aware about the allegations against Coca Cola for getting its own workers assassinated in Columbia through the drug mafia which was to be enquired into by ILO. Coca Cola products were also indicted by Centre for Science & Environment, New Delhi, for producing and selling bottled water and softdrinks with pesticide and other contaminants. Latest in the series is the $7.59 million penalty that Coca Cola agreed to pay in February 2009 to the City of American Canyon in Napa County, USA, for violations in wastewater treatment permit since 2005 till May 2008 that resulted in high concentrations of contaminants that interfered with the City's wastewater treatment process and posed an environmental hazard.

    A former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, author, writer-columnist and an advisor to several institutions and reportedly nurturing political ambition, it is with shock and dismay that we, in your native Kerala, have to see you as a Member of the Advisory Board of Coca-Cola India Foundation [1]. We condemn your insensitivity and unconcern to align with the criminal Coca-Cola against the people of Kerala.

    Velur Swaminathan, Secetary, Plachimada Adivasi Samrakshana Sangham


    R. Ajayan, Convenor, Plachimada Samara Aikyadhardya Samithy

    R Ajayan

    Plachimada Solidarity Committee
    Ph:- Res 0471-2730464
    Mob- 09847142513
    Res Add - Neerajam,

    Kerala, India


    In a press release from New Delhi dated December 3, 2007: […..] setting up of Coca-Cola India Foundation […]This Foundation with an initial corpus of USD 10 million would focus on a range of activities including water, the environment, healthy living and social advancement.” Mr. Muhtar Kent, President and COO, The Coca-Cola Company […] The advisory board members of the Foundation include Mr. Justice J. S. Verma, Former Chief Justice of India and Chairman National Human Rights Commission, Dr. Mithu Alur, Founder/Chairperson, Spastics’ Society of India and The National Resource Centre for Inclusion, Mr. Javed Akhtar, Poet, lyricist, script writer and social activist, Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Author and international civil servant, Mr. Bunker Roy of Barefoot College, Dr. Naresh Trehan, cardiologist and opinion leader, Mr. Roshan Seth, Actor, socialite and theater personality, Dr. (Mrs.) Shyama Chona, Principal, Delhi Public School. Mr. Yogesh Chandra is the CEO of the Foundation.

    02 An Open Response to "an Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor"

    Shashi Tharoor
    An Open Response to "an Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor"
    26 February 2009

    Dear Mr Swaminathan and Mr Ajayan,

    Thank you for sending me your letter on February 24. I note, however, that for several days prior to your sending it to me, you had already released it to the media and in various Internet forums. It would appear that your communication was therefore not designed to elicit a genuine answer from me, but rather to score political points. Nonetheless I am doing you the courtesy of taking your public charges in good faith and responding to them point by point.

    You express your "shock and dismay" at my membership of the Advisory Board of Yatn, the Coca-Cola India Foundation and go on to "condemn [my] insensitivity and unconcern to align with the criminal Coca-Cola against the people of Plachimada." First of all, I should point out the difference between the Foundation and the company. I serve, alongside several renowned social activists and human rights leaders, under the chairmanship of the former Supreme Court Chief Justice and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Justice J.S. Verma, on the advisory board of a purely philanthropic organization. The Foundation is financed by the Coca-Cola Company as part of its corporate social responsibility, which is a practice that I have encouraged around the world since my United Nations days, when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the "Global Compact" to encourage corporations around the world to adhere to certain globally-accepted principles and practices. Far from "aligning against the people", the purpose of encouraging such a Foundation is precisely to ensure that the company looks beyond its commercial bottom-line and serves the people of our country.

    I have been, and remain, strongly committed to the belief that in our liberalizing economy, private sector companies should not only maintain the highest employment and labour standards, but also take pro-active steps to benefit the communities in which they operate. My membership of the Foundation's Advisory Board aims at promoting such benefits through a number of concrete projects, particularly in the area of safe drinking water, which is in such short supply in our country.

    You level a number of charges against the Coca-Cola company's operations at the Plachimada plant, notably relating to ground-water exploitation and pollution of groundwater through toxic waste from its plant. As I stressed, I do not represent the company in any way, but I am fully aware that such charges led to the plant ceasing operations in 2004. Needless to say, far from being "unconcerned", I enquired into the matter to satisfy myself that these allegations had been thoroughly examined by the competent authorities. I note that a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court ruled, in a judgement dated 7 August 2005, that the company was not guilty of unfairly exploiting the groundwater, and that indeed the groundwater in Plachimada continued to dry up after the company ceased operations, leading the Court to conclude that other factors, including a shortage of rainfall, were to blame. The Court based its conclusions on a number of detailed independent expert studies, including one that the Court itself had commissioned from the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM), Kozhikode, which is a part of the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and the Environment. I do not understand on what basis you are questioning the Kerala High Court's conclusions.

    On the question of ground-water toxins and toxic sludge, I have seen reports from reputed governmental bodies, including the Kerala State Pollution Control Board and the Central Ground Water Board, New Delhi, refuting your charges. Once again, I am unable to understand the scientific basis for your continued charges against the company, and can only conclude that they are politically-motivated.

    Finally, with regard to the discontinuation of the supply of drinking water by the company, I note that this supply in fact continued till December 2007, almost four years after the plant's forced closure, but that it was not practical for the company to continue beyond that date in view of its lack of operations in the area. The Court order required it to supply drinking water to the community only so long as it continued operations there. Nonetheless, the Yatn Foundation intends to give thought to developing a philanthropic project in Kerala in the area of drinking water, an issue to which I have personally attached the highest importance in my interventions on the Advisory Board.

    Let me add, in conclusion, and with a heavy heart, how much I deplore both the content and tone of your letter. Since leaving the United Nations, I have been doing my best to promote investment into Kerala, which alone can generate the employment that is so desperately needed by our people. As a Keralite, I am ashamed that our people have to find work elsewhere in India and in the Gulf because the over-politicized atmosphere in Kerala discourages companies from investing in our state. The only result of your agitation over the Plachimada plant has been to close down an investment worth over Rs 80 crores in our state, which provided direct employment to 400 people and indirect employment to more than 5000 persons, including transporters, construction workers, and distributors. While all these people are now out of a job, no one has benefited from your continued protests. Instead, the image of Kerala as a place in which it is unwise for businesses to invest has been reinforced.

    It is tragic that actions such as yours ensure that politics overrides the genuine needs of the people. If you are truly concerned about the well-being of the people of Plachimada, I would urge you instead to attempt to do what you can to persuade businesses like Coca-Cola to invest in Kerala and provide employment and drinking water to the people of our state. I would be pleased to join you in such an endeavour.

    And instead of being dismayed by my service in such a Foundation, I urge you to applaud whatever help the other Advisory Board members and I can provide to steer the Foundation's resources towards helping people on issues like safe drinking water, energy resources, waste management, and the development of backward areas.

    Yours sincerely,
    Shashi Tharoor

    03 An Open Reply to Shashi Tharoor

    04 March 2009,

    An Open Reply to Shashi Tharoor

    Dear Sashi Thaoor

    Our ‘open letter[1]’ of 14 February mailed to you on 24 February was neither to elicit an answer from you nor to score political points but to “condemn your insensitivity and unconcern to align with the criminal Coca-Cola against the people of Kerala” as clearly stated by us in that letter.

    Thanks for your reply of 26 February which we found in[2] that indeed speaks volumes about whether you speak for Coca-Cola or not, though you ‘do not represent the company in any way’ but serve the Coca-Cola India Foundation. Unlike others in the Advisory Board of the Coca-Cola India Foundation, you hope to represent the people from the state of Kerala to the Lok Sabha in the coming elections[3] and therefore accountable to ‘the people’. This makes all the difference from the rest of the members of the Advisory Board. The people of Plachimada too hail from your native district. Your reply out-rightly rubbishing the concerns of the people of Plachimada – primarily the Adivasis and Dalits – using selective and irrelevant arguments with imputed and contrived motives is indeed instructive enough.

    The issues we raised are simple – the criminal liability of Coca-Cola in Plachimada. Here are some facts:

    Did the Divisional Bench of Kerala High Court pronounce that ‘the company was not guilty’? This is gross misrepresentation of the facts. What was the case all about? The operative part of the judgement of 4 April 2005 (not 7 August 2005 as you state) itself is self-evident of what the case was all about. This is in three parts.
    (a) ‘the Panchayat was not justified in resorting to steps whereby renewal of licence for the Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited was rejected well before a scientific assessment was made. The Panchayat had also no legal authority to cancel the licence for functioning the unit in the

    Panchayat area for any of the reasons pointed out, at different occasions. The Panchayat is therefore directed to consider the application for renewal of the licence granted to the Company, for the coming year, or any block years, if such application is filed within two weeks from today. The Company will have the obligation to appraise the Panchayat that they possess licences issued under the Factories Act and clearance received from the Pollution Control Board. Within one week of such presentation, if the above two conditions are satisfied, the Licensing Authority of the Panchayat is directed to grant the licence …’

    (b) ‘For the year 2005-06, taking notice of the average rainfall, that had been there in the locality, the Company will be entitled to draw groundwater, not exceeding 5 lakh of litres per day, without any right for accumulation in case of non-user per day.’

    (c) ‘[…] There were no representations from any others, who posed to represent the general public Nevertheless, we feel that taking notice of the commitment to which reference and claim is made by the company, we have to direct that the company should actively involve in the community development programs for the people residing in the locality, especially in the matter of health and drinking water supply, at the supervision of the Panchayat. […] Since the early settlers and general public are apprehensive about the shortage of drinking water, this becomes an essential duty of the company. The factory is drawing water resources from the Plachimada watershed, and also perhaps from other regions of Chittur Taluk through suction. Therefore, a reasonable amount of the water so drawn are to be utilised for benefit of general public, and as directed by the Panchayat from time to time. This work of water supply is to be undertaken, and commenced before 30th of June 2005. The restriction imposed for its own consumption will not be applicable when water is drawn for this additional requirement.

    On Pollution:

    Proven pollution by Coca-Cola and the consequent refusal of KPCB to issue license to operate is the cause of the closure of its plant at Plachimada.

    The Judgement of the High Court of Kerala lifting the ban imposed on the Company in the matter of production was on 07.04.2005. With effect from 09.03.2004 to 07.04.2005 the Company was not under operation, and it resumed production on 8.8.2005 based on the issues ‘Consent to Operate’ Order no. W/09/137/2000 of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KPCB) with validity upto 31.12.2004. Coca-Cola submitted an application to KPCB on 20.09.2004 for renewing the ‘Consent to Operate’ with effect from 01.01.2005. This application was rejected by the KPCB vide its order 19.08.2005[4]

    who stated unambiguously that “Since the functioning of the Company in the present manner causes severe environmental problems, including poisoning/contamination of well water, the undersigned, by invoking the powers conferred under Section 25(4), 27(2) and 33 A of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 refuses to issue the consent to operate and, by rejecting the defective application submitted by the Company to stop production of all kinds of products with immediate effect.” Amongst the reasons stated are:

    “Cadmium was found in concentration in the range 200 to 300 milligrams per kilogram in the sludge from your effluent treatment plant...much above the tolerance/ permissible limit for hazardous wastes which categorically establishes that cadmium bearing raw material/materials are used in the production process or effluent treatment. Shri.S.K.K Warrier, Area Human Resources Manager of the Company has unequivocally stated for the Company…to the Members of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee that …ground water is not at all contaminated and that it conforms to the standard of drinking water laid down by Bureau of Indian Standards; therefore the source of cadmium is some other raw material used by you; but your application does not contain the particulars of the source of cadmium and is therefore incomplete.”
    “[…] the Board had examined the sludge generated by the Company and it was found that it was containing the heavy metal cadmium at concentration of 200 to 300 mg per kg of sludge, which is 400 to 600% above the tolerance/permissible limit. The sludge of the Company is still in existence and the same contains the above mentioned concentration of cadmium….the Company at no juncture informed the Board about the use of cadmium or its compounds in any nature/form during the course of production of its different products.”
    “[…] that the Board had conducted necessary studies in the areas in the vicinity of the Company and found the water of the well of Shri. Manikkam Chettiar and the water of the Common well of the Panchayat were contaminated by the seepage or spread of cadmium from the Company. In the meanwhile the Monitoring Committee…appointed by the Hon’ble Apex Court of India …noticed that due to the operation of the Company severe pollution was caused to the drinking water source...Hence specific instructions were issued to the local people not to consume the well water. Necessary instructions were issued to the Board to issue proper direction to the Company to provide drinking water facility to the local people who are affected due to the operation of the Company and further to direct the Company not to discharge effluent of any nature, unless the effluent is subjected to further treatment by using the advanced technology popularly known as Reverse Osmosis System. On the basis of the above directions issued by the SCMC, the Board”…ordered…”the Company to provide water supply to the people and to install Reverse Osmosis System or any alternate water purification system…the Company did not respond…the Board” directed “the Company to implement the directions of the SCMC. Though the Company had submitted its letter dated 22.04.2005 stating that it would provide water supply to the local community, no effective action was taken by the Company and no consent of the Board was sought so far to establish the reverse osmosis system or any other effective system for the better treatment and purification of the effluent treatment plant.
    “[…] the Board” pointed “out the deficiencies detected in the Company’s application dated 20.09.2004 for renewing the Consent to Operate and further” directed “the Company to disclose the source of cadmium detected in the sludge as well as in the water of nearly wells. The Company responded to the letter dated 07.05.2005 of the Board by the reply letter dated 19.05.2005 justifying the application for renewal of consent as if the same were free from defects and claiming that the Company was enjoying deemed consent….The opportunity provided by the Board to the Company to rectify the defects in the application was unavailed by the Company.”

    On Depletion

    The High Court through its Divisional Bench Judgement of 4 April 2005 actually imposed restriction on Coca-Cola to consume only up to 500,000 litres per day when the rainfall is normal, and lesser otherwise, with a total ban if the rainfall was 30 percent of the average rainfall. This was based on the findings and recommendations of High Court appointed Investigation Team constituted vide Order WA/2125/2003 of 19.12.2003. The production permit issued by KPCB to Coca-Cola for its Plachimada plant was for the production on 561,000 liters of soft drinks per day which is estimated to require 21 lakh liters per day. Coca-Cola was restricted to extract just 25% by the High Court ruling, and that too if the rainfall is average or more.

    Further, the reported continued drying up of ground water in Plachimada despite (a) the Coca-Cola plant closure since 2004, (b) claims of recharge of ground water by Coca-Cola including rainwater harvesting and (c) rains in subsequent years whatever they may be, can then only point out to one thing - the poor recharge capacity of the aquifer which has been drained out of its accumulated water over centuries.

    Who Benefits?

    There is an estimated 3,870 in 8448 households[5] who are the most affected in just 2 wards in an area of 60.79 sq kms who form the main backbone of Pladhimada struggle according to a study by the reputed Centre for development Studies of Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. This study reports for instance, 94 % experienced water shortage for drinking and other household uses, 51 percent report reduction in quality of available water, “almost all the households there have reported that the water in their dug wells got polluted ever since the year 2000” and “of the 33 drinking water dug-wells, water in 31 wells have become non-potable since the year 2000” (pg.51). The worst affected are the agricultural labour households and farming households (pg. 67). 79.4 % of the agricultural households reduced water consumption and 10.5 percent migrated to other places for work. In the case of farming households 72.1 percent reduced water consumption, 25.7 percent deepened wells, 10.6 percent dug new bore wells and 22 percent resorted to organized action for water supply amongst others. The coping and mitigation and livelihood strategies adopted by the people include labour migration, increased loans, changes in crops, augmenting water through government initiatives such as supply of potable water in tanker lorries, assistance under drought relief, temporary ban on water extraction by Coca Cola, inter governmental discussion between the Kerala and Tamilnadu government on Parambikulam-Aliyar Project, Nellimedu Drinkuing Water Scheme, and selection of Plachimada under jalanidhi programme for supply of safe drinking water.

    Your claims of the loss of ‘direct employment to 400 people and indirect employment to more than 5000 persons’ due to the closure of Plachimada plant,’ that ‘no one has benefited from’ our ‘continued protests,’ that ‘politics overrides the genuine needs of the people’ and Kerala has been deprived by the closure of Coca-Cola plant should be seen in the above light. A costing of the negative fall outs directly attributable to the Coca-Cola plant, some of which are listed out briefly, will also bring to light whether Kerala had a net gain or loss from the Plachimada plant with reference to ‘development and growth’.

    Further, the Kerala State government is considering the appointment of an expert committee to assess the environment damage caused by Coca Cola Plachimada plant as recommended by the Kerala Ground Water Authority for purpose of computing compensation liability of Coca-Cola[6]

    Will you now be able to apply your mind whether we were “questioning the Kerala High Court's conclusions”, what “the scientific basis for” our “continued charges against the company” and your studied conclusion “that they are politically-motivated”and whether the struggle of the people are for ‘the well-being of the people of Plachimada’ ? And you “with a heavy heart”..“deplore both the content and tone” of our letter?

    Let our people decide what is good for them.

    Velur Swaminathan, Secetary, Plachimada Adivasi Samrakshana Sangham


    R. Ajayan, Convenor, Plachimada Samara Aikyadhardya Samithy

    Mailed to Shashi Tharoor at

    Annexure I

    14 February 2009

    An Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor,

    You are aware that Coca Cola plant at Plachimada, Palakkad in your native State of Kerala has been shut down since 2004 as they failed to get the requisite licenses from the Kerala Pollution Control Board and the Perumatty Panchayat. The primary reasons for this are:

    Coca Cola polluted the ground water with deadly toxic and carcinogenic cadmium and lead which Coca Cola does not list under ‘raw materials’ and refuse to provide an explanation for their presence
    Coca Cola distributed and spread around these deadly toxic and carcinogenic cadmium and lead through their waste sludge and slurry under the guise that these are good soil nutrients
    Coca Cola did not supply piped water to the affected families as ordered by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Waste
    Coca Cola, as the single most largest extractor of ground water extracting at the highest rate, largest transporter of water to the outside through softdrinks, a non-essential luxury good, contributed the largest to the depletion of ground water

    The anti Coca Cola struggle launched in 2002 in Plachimada by primarily the Adivasis and Dalits, is the longest popular struggle in the history of Kerala supported by the widest sections of the people of Kerala and of all political hues.

    You may be aware that protests have been going on elsewhere in the country against many other Coca Cola plants as in Mehdi Ganj and Kala Dera for similar destruction of environment, water and livelihoods. You may also be aware about the allegations against Coca Cola for getting its own workers assassinated in Columbia through the drug mafia which was to be enquired into by ILO. Coca Cola products were also indicted by Centre for Science & Environment, New Delhi, for producing and selling bottled water and softdrinks with pesticide and other contaminants. Latest in the series is the $7.59 million penalty that Coca Cola agreed to pay in February 2009 to the City of American Canyon in Napa County, USA, for violations in wastewater treatment permit since 2005 till May 2008 that resulted in high concentrations of contaminants that interfered with the City's wastewater treatment process and posed an environmental hazard.

    A former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, author, writer-columnist and an advisor to several institutions and reportedly nurturing political ambition, it is with shock and dismay that we, in your native Kerala, have to see you as a Member of the Advisory Board of Coca-Cola India Foundation [1]. We condemn your insensitivity and unconcern to align with the criminal Coca-Cola against the people of Kerala.

    Velur Swaminathan, Secetary, Plachimada Adivasi Samrakshana Sangham


    R. Ajayan, Convenor, Plachimada Samara Aikyadhardya Samithy

    R Ajayan

    Plachimada Solidarity Committee
    Ph:- Res 0471-2730464
    Mob- 09847142513
    Res Add - Neerajam,

    Kerala, India


    In a press release from New Delhi dated December 3, 2007: […..] setting up of Coca-Cola India Foundation […]This Foundation with an initial corpus of USD 10 million would focus on a range of activities including water, the environment, healthy living and social advancement.” Mr. Muhtar Kent, President and COO, The Coca-Cola Company […] The advisory board members of the Foundation include Mr. Justice J. S. Verma, Former Chief Justice of India and Chairman National Human Rights Commission, Dr. Mithu Alur, Founder/Chairperson, Spastics’ Society of India and The National Resource Centre for Inclusion, Mr. Javed Akhtar, Poet, lyricist, script writer and social activist, Mr. Shashi Tharoor, Author and international civil servant, Mr. Bunker Roy of Barefoot College, Dr. Naresh Trehan, cardiologist and opinion leader, Mr. Roshan Seth, Actor, socialite and theater personality, Dr. (Mrs.) Shyama Chona, Principal, Delhi Public School. Mr. Yogesh Chandra is the CEO of the Foundation.

    Annexure II

    Shashi Tharoor
    An Open Response to "an Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor"
    26 February 2009

    Dear Mr Swaminathan and Mr Ajayan,

    Thank you for sending me your letter on February 24. I note, however, that for several days prior to your sending it to me, you had already released it to the media and in various Internet forums. It would appear that your communication was therefore not designed to elicit a genuine answer from me, but rather to score political points. Nonetheless I am doing you the courtesy of taking your public charges in good faith and responding to them point by point.

    You express your "shock and dismay" at my membership of the Advisory Board of Yatn, the Coca-Cola India Foundation and go on to "condemn [my] insensitivity and unconcern to align with the criminal Coca-Cola against the people of Plachimada." First of all, I should point out the difference between the Foundation and the company. I serve, alongside several renowned social activists and human rights leaders, under the chairmanship of the former Supreme Court Chief Justice and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Justice J.S. Verma, on the advisory board of a purely philanthropic organization. The Foundation is financed by the Coca-Cola Company as part of its corporate social responsibility, which is a practice that I have encouraged around the world since my United Nations days, when UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched the "Global Compact" to encourage corporations around the world to adhere to certain globally-accepted principles and practices. Far from "aligning against the people", the purpose of encouraging such a Foundation is precisely to ensure that the company looks beyond its commercial bottom-line and serves the people of our country.

    I have been, and remain, strongly committed to the belief that in our liberalizing economy, private sector companies should not only maintain the highest employment and labour standards, but also take pro-active steps to benefit the communities in which they operate. My membership of the Foundation's Advisory Board aims at promoting such benefits through a number of concrete projects, particularly in the area of safe drinking water, which is in such short supply in our country.

    You level a number of charges against the Coca-Cola company's operations at the Plachimada plant, notably relating to ground-water exploitation and pollution of groundwater through toxic waste from its plant. As I stressed, I do not represent the company in any way, but I am fully aware that such charges led to the plant ceasing operations in 2004. Needless to say, far from being "unconcerned", I enquired into the matter to satisfy myself that these allegations had been thoroughly examined by the competent authorities. I note that a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court ruled, in a judgement dated 7 August 2005, that the company was not guilty of unfairly exploiting the groundwater, and that indeed the groundwater in Plachimada continued to dry up after the company ceased operations, leading the Court to conclude that other factors, including a shortage of rainfall, were to blame. The Court based its conclusions on a number of detailed independent expert studies, including one that the Court itself had commissioned from the Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM), Kozhikode, which is a part of the Kerala State Council for Science, Technology and the Environment. I do not understand on what basis you are questioning the Kerala High Court's conclusions.

    On the question of ground-water toxins and toxic sludge, I have seen reports from reputed governmental bodies, including the Kerala State Pollution Control Board and the Central Ground Water Board, New Delhi, refuting your charges. Once again, I am unable to understand the scientific basis for your continued charges against the company, and can only conclude that they are politically-motivated.

    Finally, with regard to the discontinuation of the supply of drinking water by the company, I note that this supply in fact continued till December 2007, almost four years after the plant's forced closure, but that it was not practical for the company to continue beyond that date in view of its lack of operations in the area. The Court order required it to supply drinking water to the community only so long as it continued operations there. Nonetheless, the Yatn Foundation intends to give thought to developing a philanthropic project in Kerala in the area of drinking water, an issue to which I have personally attached the highest importance in my interventions on the Advisory Board.

    Let me add, in conclusion, and with a heavy heart, how much I deplore both the content and tone of your letter. Since leaving the United Nations, I have been doing my best to promote investment into Kerala, which alone can generate the employment that is so desperately needed by our people. As a Keralite, I am ashamed that our people have to find work elsewhere in India and in the Gulf because the over-politicized atmosphere in Kerala discourages companies from investing in our state. The only result of your agitation over the Plachimada plant has been to close down an investment worth over Rs 80 crores in our state, which provided direct employment to 400 people and indirect employment to more than 5000 persons, including transporters, construction workers, and distributors. While all these people are now out of a job, no one has benefited from your continued protests. Instead, the image of Kerala as a place in which it is unwise for businesses to invest has been reinforced.

    It is tragic that actions such as yours ensure that politics overrides the genuine needs of the people. If you are truly concerned about the well-being of the people of Plachimada, I would urge you instead to attempt to do what you can to persuade businesses like Coca-Cola to invest in Kerala and provide employment and drinking water to the people of our state. I would be pleased to join you in such an endeavour.

    And instead of being dismayed by my service in such a Foundation, I urge you to applaud whatever help the other Advisory Board members and I can provide to steer the Foundation's resources towards helping people on issues like safe drinking water, energy resources, waste management, and the development of backward areas.

    Yours sincerely,
    Shashi Tharoor

    Annexure III

    Phone General: 0471-2312910, 2318153, 2318154, 2318155 Chairman: 2318150, Member Secretary: 2318151

    e-mail:; FAX: 2318152 Web:


    Pattom P.O, Thiruvananthapuram –695004

    PCB/PLKD/CE/32/99 Date: 19.08.2005


    The Kerala State Pollution Control Board issues ‘Consent to Operate Order no. W/09/137/2000 with validity upto 31.12.2004 to M/s Hindustan Coca Cola beverages Pvt. Ltd, Moolathara Village, Kannimari P.O, Chittur taluk, Palakkad district represented by its Occupier viz. Vineeth Kumar Gupta.

    When the Occupier of M/s Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd hereinafter referred to as the ‘Company’, proceeded with the production, the local administrative authority viz. Perumatty Grama Panchayat refused license to operate the Company. The Order of the Panchayat restraining the Company from operating was challenged before the Honourable Government of Kerala and the Government have interfered with the Order of the Panchayat on necessary conditions. The decision of the Government to permit the Company to operate on conditions has been challenged before the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala and the Hon’ble High Court has interfered with the Order of the Government as per the Order dated 09.03.2004 and resultantly the Company had stopped production. The Judgement of the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala lifting the ban imposed on the Company in the matter of production was on 07.04.2005. With effect from 09.03.2004 to 07.04.2005 the Company was not under operation, and it resumed production on 8-8-2005.

    The ‘Consent to operate’ order issued to the Company under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was valid upto 31.12.2004. When the Company was not under operation in pursuance to the order of the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala, the Company had submitted application dated 20.09.2004 for renewing the Consent to Operate with effect from 01.01.2005. The above application for renewal of consent had the following defects:

    The changes in raw materials, production process, products, waste generation and waste quality were not stated in item no.6 of the application.
    Cadmium was found in concentration in the range 200 to 300 milligrams per kilogram in the sludge from your effluent treatment plant. The observed concentration is much above the tolerance/ permissible limit for hazardous wastes which categorically establishes that cadmium bearing raw material/materials are used in the production process or effluent treatment. Shri.S.K.K Warrier, Area Human Resources Manager of the Company has unequivocally stated for the Company in letter no. HCCBPL/PCB-22 dated 20.11.2004 addressed to the Members of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee that your source water viz. ground water is not at all contaminated and that it conforms to the standard of drinking water laid down by Bureau of Indian Standards; therefore the source of cadmium is some other raw material used by you; but your application does not contain the particulars of the source of cadmium and is therefore incomplete.

    Since the application submitted by the Company was defective and further on the reason that the Company was not functioning with effect from 09.03.2004, the Board has not entertained the consent renewal application dated 20.09.2004 of the Company. As per the provisions of law and procedures being adopted by the Board, the consent renewal application would be considered on the basis of performance of the Company in the matter of pollution control measures. Since the Company was under the order of closure with effect from 09.03.2004, the nature of production envisaged and its resultant impact on environment could not be assessed by the Board within the period of 4 months of submitting the application dated 20.09.2004 for renewing the Consent to Operate. Since the application was found incomplete and defective, the Company was not entitled to claim the advantages envisaged under section 25(7) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.

    The Company had continued its production by virtue of the Consent to Operate granted by the Board with effect from 02.04.2002 to 09.03.2004. As per the provisions of law, it is mandatory on the part of the Occupier to inform the Board about the materials/components used for producing different products. It is the statutory obligation on the part of the Board to see that no adverse impact is caused at any stage to the environment, human beings as well as other being, from the discharge of effluents of all kinds/forms/nature.

    In the meanwhile the Board had examined the sludge generated by the Company and it was found that it was containing the heavy metal cadmium at concentration of 200 to 300 mg per kg of sludge, which is 400 to 600% above the tolerance/permissible limit. The sludge of the Company is still in existence and the same contains the above mentioned concentration of cadmium. The Occupier of the Company at no juncture informed the Board about the use of cadmium or its compounds in any nature/form during the course of production of its different products.

    It was in the above circumstances that the Board had conducted necessary studies in the areas in the vicinity of the Company and found the water of the well of Shri. Manikkam Chettiar and the water of the Common well of the Panchayat were contaminated by the seepage or spread of cadmium from the Company. In the meanwhile the Monitoring Committee (popularly known as the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee or SCMC) appointed by the Hon’ble Apex Court of India as per the Order dated 14.10.2003 in W.P.(C) 657/95 had held an inspection of the Company and its surrounding areas and noticed that due to the operation of the Company severe pollution was caused to the drinking water source of a large number of the Company severe pollution was caused to the drinking water. Hence specific instructions were issued to the local people not to consume the well water. Necessary instructions were issued to the Board to issue proper direction to the Company to provide drinking water facility to the local people who are affected due to the operation of the Company and further to direct the Company not to discharge effluent of any nature, unless the effluent is subjected to further treatment by using the advanced technology popularly known as Reverse Osmosis System. On the basis of the above directions issued by the SCMC, the Board had issued the letter bearing PCB/HO/HW/PLKD/542/04 dated 18.12.2004 to the Company to provide water supply to the people and to install Reverse Osmosis System or any alternate water purification system. When the Company did not respond to the above letter dated 18.12.2004 of the Board another direction dated 08.02.2005 bearing no. PCB/HO/HW/PLKD/542/04 was issued directing the Company to implement the directions of the SCMC. Though the Company had submitted its letter dated 22.04.2005 stating that it would provide water supply to the local community, no effective action was taken by the Company and no consent of the Board was sought so far to establish the reverse osmosis system or any other effective system for the better treatment and purification of the effluent treatment plant.

    It was in the above circumstances that the Board has issued the letter dated 07.05.2005 bearing the no. PCB/PLKD/CE/32/99 pointing out the deficiencies detected in the Company’s application dated 20.09.2004 for renewing the Consent to Operate and further directing the Company to disclose the source of cadmium detected in the sludge as well as in the water of nearly wells. The Company responded to the letter dated 07.05.2005 of the Board by the reply letter dated 19.05.2005 of the Board justifying the application for renewal of consent as if the same were free from defects and claiming that the Company was enjoying deemed consent as provided for in Section 25(7) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act. The opportunity provided by the Board to the Company to rectify the defects in the application was unavailed by the Company. It was in the above circumstances that the Board had issued Show Cause Notice dated 01.07.2005 directing the Company to offer its explanation as to why the renewal of Consent to Operate applied for under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act should not be refused. The Show Cause Notice of the Board dated 01.07.2005 was responded by the Company by offering its reply/explanation dated 12.07.2005. In the above explanation, the Company had requested the Board to provide an opportunity of being heard by the Chairman of the Board and sought the permission to peruse the documents maintained by the Board in the matter of the Company.

    In response to the request made by the Company in its explanation dated 12.07.2005, the undersigned heard the representatives of the Company on 28.07.2005. After the hearing, the Company had requested the undersigned to provide time upto 16.08.2005 to submit the written arguments against the dinging of the Board in the Show Cause notice dated 01.07.2005. Later the company has offered its written arguments vide letter dated 13.08.2005 raising the following contentions.

    The Captioned Notice is the 2nd communication by the Department on the same subject and hence invalid.
    The Captioned Notice is hit by statutory limitation.
    The Captioned Notice ultra vires the functions of the Board.
    Issuance of Captioned Notice stands adjudicated; further adjudication will amount to judicial indiscipline.
    Prejudice against the Company.

    The undersigned has considered the contentions of the Company as detailed in the explanation dated 28.07.2005, and the written argument dated 13.08.2005 in detail and conducted a scientific and technical study on the issues and on perusal of the entire data it is decided to inform the company as follows:

    Though the Company admits the presence of cadmium in its sludge, no explanation is offered to the Board about the source of the cadmium. The proceeding of the Company forwarded to the SCMC, accompanied by report of an approved laboratory, categorically establishes that the ground water does not contain cadmium beyond the permissible limit. But in the sludge, more than 400 to 600% cadmium beyond the permissible limit is detected. The Company has not divulged the source of cadmium so far, inspite of the very specific direction issued by the Board.
    It was detected by the board that due to the existence of cadmium in the effluent as well as in the sludge, the ground water in the vicinity was found contaminated. Though specific direction was issued to the company to provide drinking water facility to the people of the affected area and to provide Reverse Osmosis System or any other more efficient system for better treatment of effluent, the Company had failed to provide such facilities before commencing the production. Though the modern technology of Reverse Osmosis System was found adopted in the treatment of raw water to produce the water for use in the production purpose of various products of the Company, such system was not installed for the treatment of effluent at the effluent treatment plant (ETP). In the explanation offered by the Company, it was stated that the Company is having an ETP of capacity 8,00,000 litre/day. As per the records of the Board, the Company produces 8,00,000 litre of effluent per day, in its permitted capacity of production. Thus it is clear that the Company is having the facility to store the effluent only for one day of production. Therefore the Company shall be forced to discharge the effluent, on continued production, and if thus discharge is effected, the discharge shall definitely pollute the ground water. Therefore the continuation of production without establishing either reverse osmosis system or any other modern technology to further treat the effluent shall definitely lead to pollution problem. On enquiry it has been noticed by the Board that a similar plant of the Company owned in Tamil Nadu is having an ETP facility for 12,00,000 litre of effluent in which the Company has provided Reverse Osmosis System. But no such facility has been provided by the Company in Moolathara village, though the poisoning due to cadmium is detected in well water as well as in the sludge.
    The Board on 07.05.2005 issued a letter to the Company to rectify the defects noticed in the application for renewal of consent as well as in the operation of the plant for which the company has submitted its explanation on 19.05.2005 was found unsatisfactory, the Board has issued the Show Cause Notice dated 01.07.2005. Therefore the letter dated 07.05.2005 calling upon the Company to rectify the anomalies/defects in that application as well as in the plant, and the Show Cause Notice dated 01.07.2005 to offer its explanation as to why the Consent to Operate should not be refused, are strictly in accordance with the provisions of law and free from any procedural/legal infirmities. Therefore the defense of the Company made in its argument that the ‘captioned notice’ (Show Cause Notice dated 1-7-2005) is the second communication by the Board on the same subject and hence invalid, is not a sustainable contention in law.
    The company was not entitled to get the advantage of section 25(7) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974, since the application submitted by the Comp-any for renewal of consent was defective and the defects have been duly pointed out to the Company, at least 3 months before commencing the production after the closure of the Company on 09.03.2004, the production was commenced only on 08.08.2005. But the Company did not care to rectify the defects in the application though the deficiencies in the application were specifically brought to the notice of the Company by the letter dated 07.05.2005 of the Board. The Company can claim the advantage of Section 25(7) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 only if the production in the plant was either commenced or ongoing prior to the receipt of the letter dated 07.05.2005 of the Board.
    The judgement of the Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka in Vijayanagar Education Trust (Regd.), Bangalore Vs Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, Bangalore in no way render assistance to the case of the Company since the judgement of the Karnataka High Court dated 04.01.2002 in W.P No. 23341 of 2001 was in entirely different situation and in the above judgement the finding of the Hon’ble High Court was that the possibility of pollutants entering the reservoir directly does not arise at all because the reservoir was situated 6 km away from the spot where the institution was to be established and specific direction was issued to the SPCB to insist on conditions for preventing the chance, if any, for causing pollution at a distance of 6 km of the reservoir. In the instant case, the poisoning caused from the hazardous waste containing cadmium to the well water of the nearby residents and the cadmium detected in the sludge generated by the Company establishes the direct nexuses between the Company and its poisoning capacity. Therefore the judgement of the Karnataka High Court shall not render any assistance to the Company in its case on hand.
    Another judgement highlighted by the Company in support of its claim under Section 25(7) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, was Live Oak Resort (P) Ltd and another Vs Panchami Hill Station Municipal Council and another, of the Hon’ble Apex Court of India. The facts of the said case are entirely different from the case of the Company. The above decision was rendered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court when the Municipal Council had failed to communicate its decision on the application for permission for construction of a building. The facts and circumstances of the said case are entirely different from the facts of the Company at hand and the judgement delivered did not have any reference or relevance on environmental issues, where a Company directly causes pollution to the environment. Thus there was absolutely no statutory limitation on the captioned notice of the Board and the Company is not entitled to the advantage of deemed consent when it causes direct pollution to the ground water by adding poisoning substances.
    The argument of the Company that the captioned notice ultra vires the function of the Board is totally incorrect and misconceived. The Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act contains different chapters on functions, powers etc. That such powers as on issue of consent, making complaint for imposition of penalty etc and such procedural matters as issuing of Show Cause Notice are not mentioned under the chapter on functions does not make those powers and procedures non-existent.
    No Company/institution/individual gets the privilege to contaminate the water bodies, air and environment by interpreting or misinterpreting the provisions of law, including section 25(7) of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act.
    Regarding the proceedings taken place before the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala, the Board has got necessary information from the Standing Counsel. The contention raised by the Company that the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala had considered the validity and sanctity of the letter dated 07.05.2005 of the Board and the reply submitted by the Company dated 19.05.2005 etc are incorrect. The issue/dispute considered by the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala in the case of the Company were not produced before the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala along with an affidavit or statement either by the Board or by the Company, the Hon’ble high Court has not provided any consideration to the letter of the Board and the reply submitted by the Company.
    The undersigned has perused the entire records pertaining to the action taken by the Member Secretary of the Board, in the issues involved with the Company. But no materials to substantiate the prejudice as alleged by the Company has been found. The undersigned is of the considered opinion that the Member Secretary has rightly discharged his duties and obligations as stipulated under law. During the course of hearing held on 28.07.2005 as well as in the reply statement and the argument note submitted by the Company, no material has been produced to substantiate the alleged prejudice of the Member Secretary of the Board.
    In the above circumstances the undersigned is of the considered opinion that the operation of the Company causes severe pollution problems to the sub-surface and ground water, which is a common property of every citizen as well as the State. No person/institution/establishment/company has got the right to pollute the drinking water, as categorically declared by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India as well as the Hon’ble High Court of Kerala. Since the functioning of the Company in the present manner causes severe environmental problems, including poisoning/contamination of well water, the undersigned, by invoking the powers conferred under Section 25(4), 27(2) and 33 A of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 refuses to issue the consent to operate and, by rejecting the defective application submitted by the Company to stop production of all kinds of products with immediate effect. This is without prejudice to the liability of the Company to supply drinking water to the affected population of the area, as ordered by the Board.

    For and on behalf of the



    Mr.Vineeth Kumar Kapila
    (Occupier, Hindustan Coca-Coal Beverages Private Limited, Palakkad),

    Enkay Towers, Udyog Vihar,

    Phase V, Gurgaon

    Haryana – 122 106.

    Plant Manager,

    Hindustan Coca-Coal Beverages Private Limited,

    Kannimari P.O,

    Palakkad – 678 534

    Copy to :

    Adv. Babu Joseph Kuruvathazha, Standing Counsel
    Environmental Engineer, District Office, (Palakkad)
    The Secretary, Perumatty Grama Panchayat, Vandithavalam P.O, Palakkad

    [1] ‘An Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor’ See Annexure I

    [2] An Open Response to "an Open Letter to Shashi Tharoor". [Accessed on 3 March 2009] See Annexure II.

    [3] Tharoor set to don Cong cap [Accessed on 3 March 2009]

    [4] KPCB Order No PCB/PLKD/CE/32/99 of 19.08.2005 is provided in Annexure III

    [5] Nair, K.N, Antoniyto Paul and Vineetha Menon. Water Inscurity, Insttutions and Livelihood Dynamics. A Study in Plachimada, India, Centre for Development Studies, Dasnish Books, 2008.

    [6] Expert panel to assess eco damage, The Hindu, 28 October 2008. [Accessed on 3 march 2009]

    Plachimada Solidarity Committee
    Ph:- Res 0471-2730464
    Mob- 09847142513
    Res Add - Neerajam,
    Kerala, India

    04 An open rejoinder by S.Faizi (Environmental Expert Member: Kerala Groundwater Authority; Chairman: Indian Biodiversity Forum)

    From:* S Faizi []
    *Sent:* Thursday, March 05, 2009 10:13 AM
    *To:* ''
    *Subject:* Coca Cola/Plachimada: An open rejoinder to Mr Shashi Tharoor

    R2 Saundarya Apartments
    (Environmental Expert Member:
    Kerala Groundwater Authority;
    Chairman: Indian Biodiversity Forum)

    Mr.Shashi Tharoor

    Afras Ventures
    230 Park Avenue, Suite 2525
    New York, NY 10169

    Dear Mr Tharoor,

    I have read with interest your response to the Plachimada Struggle
    Solidarity Committee’s criticism of your being in a PR project of the Coca
    Cola company in India, in Hindu and the full text on a web site that carries
    your PR material. I do not have a grain of opposition to your being in the
    cola PR outfit, for it is natural for people like to you to be in places
    like that. However, I am writing this public response to you in order to
    address the misinformation contained in your letter, outdoing even the PR
    staff of the company, and the unwarranted sweeping remarks you have made on
    Kerala development.

    The High Court Division Bench verdict in favour of the company that you have
    referred to was made subsequent to a single bench verdict against the
    company. And the Division Bench verdict is being challenged in the Supreme
    Court by the Perumatti Panchayat and by the people’s groups agitating
    against the company. The CWRDM-lead report was flawed in many respects, as
    is being argued in the SC, which is also an issue of concern for CWRDM
    scientists as the institution has suffered an erosion of credibility. The
    very assumption of the report, in estimating the total groundwater
    availability in Chitoor block, that 20 per cent of the rainfall can be
    recharged is flawed as the Central Groundwater Board’s (CGWB) assessment in
    2003 had put the recharge in areas such as Chitoor at 5-8 per cent. While
    the committee report put the annual recharge in the block at 74.1 million
    cubic meters (mcm), based on the CGWB’s scientific estimation of recharge
    rate it is only between 16.6 to 33.2 mcms. The report also suppresses the
    domestic and agricultural water needs. The central question in the High
    Court case was not as much about pollution and depletion of water resources,
    land pollution by heavy metals, or the right to life provision of the
    Constitution, as about the power of the local panchayat to ask for the
    closure of the factory. The Groundwater Dept, in a report on the groundwater
    of Palakkad dist prepared in 2006, presented an alarming picture of the
    state of groundwater in Chitoor block.

    The legal status of groundwater has rightly become that of a public resource
    with the enactment of the Kerala Groundwater Act which came into force in
    2003. However, this law (as well as several other points from the
    environmental jurisprudence) was not considered in the High Court case.
    Groundwater was considered as a private resource, while the said law asserts
    it as a public resource over which the appropriate agencies of the State
    have control in public interest. And this change in the legal status of
    groundwater is also going to be examined by the apex court.

    You attempt to deny the toxic sludge. However, the Supreme Court Monitoring
    Committee (SCMC), in its report following its site visit in August 2004, had
    determined the presence of heavy metals (cadmium and lead) in the sludge,
    and this was distributed by the cunning company to the unsuspecting farmers
    as ‘fertiliser’. And the State Pollution Control Board had directed the
    company to cease operations. The pollution of the well waters around the
    factory was reported by independent labs and the SPCB also confirmed it by
    asking the people not to use the water of the panchayat well it had tested.

    I visited the area two weeks ago as a member of the expert committee
    attached to the State SC/ST Commission and found the situation of the local
    people, ST/SC in particular, extremely worrying- there is hardly any water
    in the wells and where it is present it is not usable. Pollution of drinking
    water is a crime under the SC/ST (Atrocities) Act. On 14-9-2004 the company
    agreed to provide piped water to the residents of the area and the KPCB
    had constituted a committee to oversee this activitiy. This was upon the
    instruction of the SCMC, obviously as a compensation for the water crisis
    caused by the company and it was not contingent upon the functioning of the
    factory. The company reneged on this agreement too.

    Polluter Pays Principle has become an integral part of our jurisprudence.
    The Rio Declaration (principle 16) upholds this as well as the liability and
    redress provision of the Biodiversity Convention (I had been a negotiator in
    the formulation of both), among other multilateral soft laws and treaties.
    And this is squarely applicable in the case of Coca Cola at Plachimada. This
    was why the Kerala Goundwater Authority, after study by a subcommittee,
    recommended to the govt at its 13th meeting in Oct 2008 that compensation
    should be obtained from the company, on behalf of the people, for the
    pollution and groundwater depletion it has caused. It also recommended to
    make a comprehensive, multidisciplinary assessment of the damage caused by
    the company to the environment, human health and agriculture. Bringing an
    offender to justice is in the best common interest of business lest the law
    abiding competitors are left at a disadvantage.

    Your reference to the Global Compact was interesting. But you have carefully
    withheld the information from your readers that this was a project that was
    fiercely opposed by the civil society organizations. It was not a legitimate
    UN activity, negotiated and agreed by a policy setting body such as the GA.
    It was part of a series of initiatives to diminish the importance of the
    need for corporate bodies complying with the domestic laws of the countries,
    by introducing and promoting a voluntary code of conduct. It was also part
    of the move to whittle away the powers of multilateral bodies such as
    UNCTAD, supported by the developing countries. As a corporate boss you will
    be proud to have promoted the Global Compact, but its real twin role as a
    greenwash and as a means to belittle the importance of legal compliance is
    obvious to the public. Corporate responsibility is a crooked term, what the
    citizens expect from the corporates is corporate accountability to the laws
    of the country. If Coca Cola, for example, is willing to comply with the
    laws of the country, pay for the public resources it has used at the market
    rate and pay compensation for the damages it has caused that will more than
    suffice, we don’t need the Cola to take any responsibility for our

    As for your remarks on Kerala’s development scene, it was certainly uncalled
    for. Kerala is one of the most globalised societies in the world, and we
    were at the centre of open global trade until 500 years ago when the
    Europeans came as savage invaders displacing the Arab traders. Your
    accusations of Kerala as ‘over-politicised’ and this as a reason for an
    imaginary discouragement of investment in the state are amusing right wing
    cliché that fit very well with the intellectual immaturity that
    characterizes your writings. It is an insult to India’s unity that you are
    ashamed that Keralites work in other parts of the India. It is diametrically
    opposed to the spirit of Kerala’s globalism that you are ashamed of our
    people working in the Gulf and other countries. But you are saying this
    sitting in an American city and heading a business firm in Gulf. And you
    claim to be a Keralite when your web site proudly announces your fluency in
    English and French but does not even mention Malayalam though our language
    and its literature has a longer history than English. But such
    contradictions are typical of an intellectual simpleton’s writings. The
    Kerala model of development is an unavoidable term in the international
    development discourse, not the least the UN’s, but you are blissfully
    uninformed even about this. In child mortality, for example, we fare better
    than the US city you live in. Empowerment thru political conscientisation is
    at the core of the relatively high development indices we have achieved.
    Your understanding of India, as seen in your writings, is no deeper than a
    western tourist’s.

    Let me refer to just a couple of such writings. In one of your articles you
    have chauvinistically chided Indian women for giving up sari for western
    dress. Even such chauvinistic opinions I have no problem in tolerating but
    the fun is when you see the photo of the author of the silly article dressed
    in western suit and neck tie totally alien to traditional male attire! And
    in a subsequent article you narrated an anecdote where your Danish boss in
    the UN abused the Indian kurta you wore as a surgeon’s coat and that made
    you resolve not to wear the traditional Indian dress any more. As a
    committed supporter of the UN cause and as a some times participant in UN
    events, I take offence in the incident you narrated and your acceptance of
    the same. As a multilateral body the UN respects the multiple cultures, and
    if someone derogatively talked about a country’s traditional dress he should
    not have been on the UN staff any longer, if someone had set a norm like
    that it should have been brought to the attention of the concerned decision
    making body. UN events indeed are also the occasion you find the most
    fabulous traditional dress of women and men from west African nations, the
    various Arab traditional dresses fromMorocco to Yemen, the elegant sheravni,
    sari and churidar from south Asia, and so on. I myself presided over a youth
    conference organized by Unesco/UNEP in Moscow in 1987 (part of Tbilisi+10)
    wearing a white cotton kurta/pyjama, and nobody cared about what I wore (I
    wouldn’t have allowed it either). And your sectarian mindset blamed the
    Punjabis for giving masculine names for their daughters, forgetting that
    what you have done with your own name isn’t anything different. Sasi is how
    the masculine name is spelt in Kerala while Shashi, the way you spell it, is
    a feminine name in north India!

    Your reply talks of the anti-Cola activists scoring some political point. No
    one can read any party politics in their letter, the Plachimada anti-Cola
    struggle is beyond divisions along party politics. The ruling LDF supports
    the Plachimada cause as much as the opposition UDF. And in the struggle
    itself you find people of all political affiliations and creeds. We are all
    one on the issue of justice, but you cannot perhaps understand that. But if
    you are talking about politics with your ambition to get a seat in the
    forthcoming Parliament election in view, I wish the Congress party gives you
    a ticket, for it deserves you. That will be a good self punishment for the
    Congress party for having allowed you once to embarrass the country with
    your UN election.

    Best regards


    Somali Pirates or Coastguard? You decide

    You Are Being Lied to About Pirates

    By Johann Hari

    April 12, 2009 "Huffington Post" --- Who imagined that in 2009, the world's governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy - backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the US to China - is sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth. But behind the arrr-me-hearties oddness of this tale, there is an untold scandal. The people our governments are labeling as "one of the great menace of our times" have an extraordinary story to tell -- and some justice on their side.

    Pirates have never been quite who we think they are. In the "golden age of piracy" - from 1650 to 1730 - the idea of the pirate as the senseless, savage thief that lingers today was created by the British government in a great propaganda-heave. Many ordinary people believed it was false: pirates were often rescued from the gallows by supportive crowds. Why? What did they see that we can't? In his book Villains of All nations, the historian Marcus Rediker pores through the evidence to find out. If you became a merchant or navy sailor then - plucked from the docks of London's East End, young and hungry - you ended up in a floating wooden Hell. You worked all hours on a cramped, half-starved ship, and if you slacked off for a second, the all-powerful captain would whip you with the Cat O' Nine Tails. If you slacked consistently, you could be thrown overboard. And at the end of months or years of this, you were often cheated of your wages.

    Pirates were the first people to rebel against this world. They mutinied against their tyrannical captains - and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively. They shared their bounty out in what Rediker calls "one of the most egalitarian plans for the disposition of resources to be found anywhere in the eighteenth century." They even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals. The pirates showed "quite clearly - and subversively - that ships did not have to be run in the brutal and oppressive ways of the merchant service and the Royal navy." This is why they were popular, despite being unproductive thieves.

    The words of one pirate from that lost age - a young British man called William Scott - should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: "What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirating to live." In 1991, the government of Somalia - in the Horn of Africa - collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since - and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

    Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."

    At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation - and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia's unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."

    This is the context in which the men we are calling "pirates" have emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a 'tax' on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia - and it's not hard to see why. In a surreal telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was "to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters... We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas." William Scott would understand those words.

    No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters - especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But the "pirates" have the overwhelming support of the local population for a reason. The independent Somalian news-site WardherNews conducted the best research we have into what ordinary Somalis are thinking - and it found 70 percent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence of the country's territorial waters." During the revolutionary war in America, George Washington and America's founding fathers paid pirates to protect America's territorial waters, because they had no navy or coastguard of their own. Most Americans supported them. Is this so different?

    Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our nuclear waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We didn't act on those crimes - but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world's oil supply, we begin to shriek about "evil." If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to stop its root cause - our crimes - before we send in the gun-boats to root out Somalia's criminals.

    The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail in today - but who is the robber?

    POSTSCRIPT: Some commenters seem bemused by the fact that both toxic dumping and the theft of fish are happening in the same place - wouldn't this make the fish contaminated? In fact, Somalia's coastline is vast, stretching to 3300km. Imagine how easy it would be - without any coastguard or army - to steal fish from Florida and dump nuclear waste on California, and you get the idea. These events are happening in different places - but with the same horrible effect: death for the locals, and stirred-up piracy. There's no contradiction.

    Johann Hari is a writer for the Independent newspaper

    Terrorism, rule of law, and human rights (K.G. Balakrishnan, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India)

    Terrorism, rule of law, and human rights

    K.G. Balakrishnan

    Adherence to the constitutional principle of ‘substantive due process’ must be an essential part of our collective response to terrorism. Any dilution of the right to a fair trial for all individuals, however heinous their crimes may be, will be a moral loss against those who preach hatred and violence.

    From our recent experience, we have learnt that terrorist attacks against innocent and unsuspecting civilians threaten the preservation of the rule of law as well as human rights; and terrorism can broadly be identified with the use of violent methods in place of the ordinary tools of civic engagement and political participation. It has become an increasingly recurrent strategy for insurgent movements as well as identity-based groups to make their voice heard through armed attacks and bomb blasts in place of public dialogue. Independent India is no stranger to the problem of tackling armed terrorists and has faced long-running insurgencies as well as sporadic attacks in many parts of the country.

    However, in the age of easy international travel and advanced communications, terrorist networks have also assumed cross-border dimensions. In many instances, attacks are planned by individuals located in different countries who use modern technology to collaborate for the transfer of funds and procurement of advanced weapons. This clearly means that terrorism is an international problem and requires effective multilateral engagement between various nations.
    A challenge

    For the international legal community, this poses a doctrinal as well as practical challenge. I say this because from the prism of international legal norms, prescriptions against violent attacks have traditionally evolved under two categories — firstly, those related to armed conflict between nations, and secondly, those pertaining to internal disturbances within a nation. While the conduct and consequences of armed conflicts between nations — such as wars and border skirmishes — are regulated by international criminal law and humanitarian law, the occurrence of internal disturbances within a nation are largely considered to be the subject-matter of that particular nation’s domestic criminal justice system and constitutional principles.

    It is often perceived that these doctrinal demarcations actually inhibit international cooperation for cracking down on terrorist cells with cross-border networks. In the absence of bilateral treaties for extradition or assistance in investigation, there is no clear legal basis for international cooperation in investigating terrorist attacks — which are usually classified as internal disturbances in the nation where they took place. Since there are no clear and consistent norms to guide collaboration between nations in acting against terrorists, countries like the United States have invented their own doctrines such as ‘pre-emptive action’ to justify counter-terrorism operations in foreign nations.

    However, the pursuit of terrorists alone cannot be a justification for arbitrarily breaching another nation’s sovereignty. In this scenario, one strategy that has been suggested is that of recognising terrorist attacks as coming within a new ‘hybrid’ category of armed conflict, wherein obligations can be placed on different countries to collaborate in the investigation and prosecution of terrorist attacks that have taken place in a particular country. This calls for a blurring of the distinction between the international and domestic nature of armed conflict when it comes to terrorist strikes.

    Another suggestion that has been made in this regard is that of treating terrorist attacks as offences recognised under International Criminal Law, such as ‘crimes against humanity,’ which can then be tried before a supranational tribunal such as the International Criminal Court (ICC). However, the obvious practical problem with this suggestion is that prosecutions before this Court need to be initiated by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the latter body may be reluctant to do so in instances of one-off terrorist attacks as opposed to continuing conflicts.
    Practical constraint

    Yet another practical constraint that has been brought to the fore with the Mumbai attacks has been the question of holding governments responsible for the actions of non-state actors. While one can say that there is a moral duty on all governments to prevent and restrain the activities of militant groups on their soil, this is easier said than done. For example, several terrorist groups are able to organise financial support and procure weapons even in western nations where the policing and criminal justice systems are perceived to be relatively stronger than in the subcontinent.

    Coming to the domestic setting, I must state that the symbolic impact of terrorist attacks on the minds of ordinary citizens has also been considerably amplified by the role of pervasive media coverage. In India, the proliferation of 24-hour television news channels and the digital medium has ensured that quite often some disturbing images and statements reach a very wide audience. One of the ill-effects of unrestrained coverage is that of provoking anger among the masses. While it is fair for the media to prompt public criticism of inadequacies in the security and law-enforcement apparatus, there is also a possibility of such resentment turning into an irrational desire for retribution.

    Furthermore, the trauma resulting from the terrorist attacks may be used as a justification for undue curtailment of individual rights and liberties. Instead of offering a considered response to the growth of terrorism, a country may resort to questionable methods such as permitting indefinite detention of terror suspects, the use of coercive interrogation techniques, and the denial of the right to fair trial. Outside the criminal justice system, the fear generated by terrorist attacks may also be linked to increasing governmental surveillance over citizens and unfair restrictions on immigration.
    ‘Slippery slope’

    In recent years, the most prominent example of this ‘slippery slope’ for the curtailment of individual rights is the treatment of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay who were arrested by U.S. authorities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. It is alleged that they have detained hundreds of suspects for long periods, often without the filing of charges or access to independent judicial remedies.

    For its part the U.S. administration has defended these practices by asserting that the detainees at Guantanamo Bay have safeguards such as appeals before military commissions, administrative review boards and combatant status review tribunals. A follow up to this in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (126 S. Ct. 2749 (2006) led to the ruling that the terror suspects could not be denied the right of habeas corpus and should be granted access to civilian courts. The rationale for this was that the various military tribunals did not possess the requisite degree of independence to try suspects who had been apprehended and detained by the military authorities themselves.

    Even in the United Kingdom, the House of Lords in the Belmarsh decision (A v. Secretary of State for the Home Department, [2004] UKHL 56) ruled against a provision in the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, 2001, which allowed the indefinite detention of foreign terror suspects. This ruling prompted the enactment of the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2005, which was fiercely debated. The British Parliament accepted a 42-day period as the maximum permissible for detention without charges, subject to judicial checks. Evidently, the judiciary in these two countries has played a moderating role in checking the excesses that have crept into the response against terrorism.

    In some circles, it is argued that the judiciary places unnecessary curbs on the power of the investigating agencies to tackle terrorism. In India, those who subscribe to this view also demand changes in our criminal and evidence law — such as provisions for longer periods of preventive detention and confessions made before police officials to be made admissible in court. While the ultimate choice in this regard lies with the legislature, we must be careful not to trample upon constitutional principles such as ‘substantive due process.’ This guarantee was read into the conception of ‘personal liberty’ under Article 21 of the Constitution of India by our Supreme Court. (This idea of ‘substantive due process’ was incorporated through the decision in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, AIR 1978 SC 597.) The necessary implication of this is that all governmental action, even in exceptional times, must meet the standards of reasonableness, non-arbitrariness, and non-discrimination.

    This implies that we must be wary of the use of torture and other forms of coercive interrogation techniques by law enforcement agencies. Coercive interrogation techniques mostly induce false confessions and do not help in preventing terrorist attacks. Furthermore, the tolerance of the same can breed a sense of complacency if they are viewed as an easy way out by investigative agencies.
    Need for professionalism

    The apprehension and interrogation of terror suspects must also be done in a thoroughly professional manner, with the provision of adequate judicial scrutiny as mandated in the Code of Criminal Procedure. This is required because in recent counter-terrorist operations, there have been several reports of arbitrary arrests of individuals belonging to certain communities and the concoction of evidence — such as the production of similarly worded confession statements by detained suspects in different places. The proposal for the admissibility of confessional statements made before the police is also problematic since there are fears that such a change will incentivise torture and coercive interrogation by investigative agencies in order to seek convictions rather than engaging in thorough investigation.

    The role of the judiciary in this regard should not be misunderstood. Adherence to the constitutional principle of ‘substantive due process’ is an essential part of our collective response to terrorism. As part of the legal community, we must uphold the right to fair trial for all individuals, irrespective of how heinous their crimes may be. If we accept a dilution of this right, it will count as a moral loss against those who preach hatred and violence. We must not confuse between what distinguishes the deliberations of a mature democratic society from the misguided actions of a few.

    (This is based on Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan’s presidential address at the inaugural session of the international conference of jurists on “Terrorism, Rule of Law & Human Rights” in New Delhi on December 13, 2008.)

    The truth on Kashmiri Pundits, Finally? Omar Abdullah blames Muslims for Pandits' exodus

    Omar Abdullah blames Muslims for Pandits' exodus
    May 15, 2008 -

    National Conference President Omar Abdullah has accused Muslims of being mute spectators at the time of exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the Valley in the 1990s.

    "It's so easy to say that we will lay down our lives to bring Kashmiri Pandits back to the Valley and I appreciate the sentiment as I am sure the Kashmiri Pandits reading it will. Pity that sentiment was missing when our mosques were being used to drive these people out," Omar said in his blog on the official website of his party.

    "None of us was willing to stand up and be counted when it mattered. None of us grabbed the mikes (microphones) in the mosques and said 'this is wrong and the Kashmiri Pandits had every right to continue living in the valley'," he said.

    "Our educated, well-to-do relatives and neighbours were spewing venom 24-hours a day and we were mute spectators either mute in agreement or mute in abject fear but mute nonetheless.

    "And talking about mosques -- what a great symbol of mass uprising they proved to be. While I can't claim to have lived through it I have enough friends who did and they tell me about the early 90's where attendance was taken in mosques to force people to pray," Omar wrote.

    Questioning the spontaneity of processions taken out in 1990, Omar said people were forced out of their homes to participate in "mass uprisings" against "Indian occupation" and the same enforcement committees went from door to door.

    However, Omar said "While I don't deny that people rose in anger in the early 1990s, there are two sides to every story and we need to look at both or we risk losing our objectivity.

    "Shop signs were painted green and white in Islamic colours and people were forced to set their watches to Pakistan Standard Time. As if these two things would make the dream of independence any easier to achieve -- amazing how quickly people rediscovered the old colours when they could make a choice again," he said.

    Coming to events of the past 17 years, Omar said "The Indian security forces are guilty of some of the most horrible excesses is a given and I don't dispute that. I don't condone what was done and am a firm believer that the truth must emerge and the guilty must be punished. This must be done in a transparent manner.

    "I don't recall crackdowns and searches before 1990, as I don't recall arrogant convoy commanders on our roads before that either. I recall wives of Indian Army officers teaching me in school," he wrote.

    Azadi: It's the only thing the Kashmiri wants. Denial is delusion by Arundhati Roy

    Azadi: It's the only thing the Kashmiri wants. Denial is delusion by Arundhati Roy
    For the past sixty days or so, since about the end of June, the people of Kashmir have been free. Free in the most profound sense. They have shrugged off the terror of living their lives in the gun-sights of half-a-million heavily-armed soldiers in the most densely militarised zone in the world.

    After 18 years of administering a military occupation, the Indian government's worst nightmare has come true. Having declared that the militant movement has been crushed, it is now faced with a non-violent mass protest, but not the kind it knows how to manage. This one is nourished by people's memory of years of repression in which tens of thousands have been killed, thousands have been 'disappeared', hundreds of thousands tortured, injured, raped and humiliated. That kind of rage, once it finds utterance, cannot easily be tamed, re-bottled and sent back to where it came from.

    For all these years, the Indian State, known amongst the knowing as the Deep State, has done everything it can to subvert, suppress, represent, misrepresent, discredit, interpret, intimidate, purchase—and simply snuff out the voice of the Kashmiri people. It has used money (lots of it), violence (lots of it), disinformation, propaganda, torture, elaborate networks of collaborators and informers, terror, imprisonment, blackmail and rigged elections to subdue what democrats would call "the will of the people". But now the Deep State, as Deep States eventually tend to, has tripped on its own hubris and bought into its own publicity. It made the mistake of believing that domination was victory, that the 'normalcy' it had enforced through the barrel of a gun was indeed normal, and that the people's sullen silence was acquiescence.

    The well-endowed peace industry, speaking on people's behalf, informed us that "Kashmiris are tired of violence and want peace". What kind of peace they were willing to settle for was never clarified. Bollywood's cache of Kashmir/Muslim-terrorist films has brainwashed most Indians into believing that all of Kashmir's sorrows could be laid at the door of evil, people-hating terrorists.

    To anybody who cared to ask, or, more importantly, to listen, it was always clear that even in their darkest moments, people in Kashmir had kept the fires burning and that it was not peace they yearned for, but freedom too. Over the last two months, the carefully confected picture of an innocent people trapped between 'two guns', both equally hated, has, pardon the pun, been shot to hell.

    A sudden twist of fate, an ill-conceived move over the transfer of 100 acres of state forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board (which manages the annual Hindu pilgrimage to a cave deep in the Kashmir Himalayas) suddenly became the equivalent of tossing a lit match into a barrel of petrol. Until 1989, the Amarnath pilgrimage used to attract about 20,000 people who travelled to the Amarnath cave over a period of about two weeks. In 1990, when the overtly Islamic militant uprising in the Valley coincided with the spread of virulent Hindutva in the Indian plains, the number of pilgrims began to increase exponentially. By 2008, more than 5,00,000 pilgrims visited the Amarnath cave in large groups, their passage often sponsored by Indian business houses. To many people in the Valley, this dramatic increase in numbers was seen as an aggressive political statement by an increasingly Hindu-fundamentalist Indian State. Rightly or wrongly, the land transfer was viewed as the thin edge of the wedge. It triggered an apprehension that it was the beginning of an elaborate plan to build Israeli-style settlements, and change the demography of the Valley.

    Days of massive protest forced the Valley to shut down completely. Within hours, the protests spread from the cities to villages. Young stone-pelters took to the streets and faced armed police who fired straight at them, killing several. For people as well as the government, it resurrected memories of the uprising in the early '90s. Throughout the weeks of protest, hartal and police firing, while the Hindutva publicity machine charged Kashmiris with committing every kind of communal excess, the 5,00,000 Amarnath pilgrims completed their pilgrimage, not just unhurt, but touched by the hospitality they had been shown by local people.

    Eventually, taken completely by surprise at the ferocity of the response, the government revoked the land transfer.
    But by then the land transfer had become what senior separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani called a "non-issue".

    Massive protests against the revocation erupted in Jammu. There, too, the issue snowballed into something much bigger. Hindus began to raise issues of neglect and discrimination by the Indian State. (For some odd reason they blamed Kashmiris for that neglect.) The protests led to the blockading of the Jammu-Srinagar highway, the only functional road link between Kashmir and India. The army was called out to clear the highway and allow safe passage of trucks between Jammu and Srinagar. But incidents of violence against Kashmiri truckers were being reported from as far away as Punjab where there was no protection at all. As a result, Kashmiri truckers, fearing for their lives, refused to drive on the highway. Truckloads of perishable fresh fruit and Valley produce began to rot. It became very obvious that the blockade had caused the situation to spin out of control. The government announced that the blockade had been cleared and that trucks were going through. Embedded sections of the Indian media, quoting the inevitable 'Intelligence' sources, began to refer to it as a 'perceived' blockade, and even to suggest that there had never been one.

    But it was too late for those games, the damage had been done. It had been demonstrated in no uncertain terms to people in Kashmir that they lived on sufferance, and that if they didn't behave themselves they could be put under siege, starved, deprived of essential commodities and medical supplies. The real blockade became a psychological one. The last fragile link between India and Kashmir was all but snapped.

    To expect matters to end there was of course absurd. Hadn't anybody noticed that in Kashmir even minor protests about civic issues like water and electricity inevitably turned into demands for azadi? To threaten them with mass starvation amounted to committing political suicide.

    Not surprisingly, the voice that the Government of India has tried so hard to silence in Kashmir has massed into a deafening roar. Hundreds of thousands of unarmed people have come out to reclaim their cities, their streets and mohallas. They have simply overwhelmed the heavily armed security forces by their sheer numbers, and with a remarkable display of raw courage.

    Raised in a playground of army camps, checkposts and bunkers, with screams from torture chambers for a soundtrack, the young generation has suddenly discovered the power of mass protest, and above all, the dignity of being able to straighten their shoulders and speak for themselves, represent themselves. For them it is nothing short of an epiphany. They're in full flow, not even the fear of death seems to hold them back.

    And once that fear has gone, of what use is the largest or second-largest army in the world? What threat does it hold? Who should know that better than the people of India who won their independence in the way that they did?

    The circumstances in Kashmir being what they are, it is hard for the spin doctors to fall back on the same old same old; to claim that it's all the doing of Pakistan's ISI, or that people are being coerced by militants. Since the '30s onwards, the question of who can claim the right to represent that elusive thing known as "Kashmiri sentiment" has been bitterly contested.

    Was it Sheikh Abdullah? The Muslim Conference? Who is it today? The mainstream political parties? The Hurriyat? The militants? This time around, the people are in charge. There have been mass rallies in the past, but none in recent memory that have been so sustained and widespread. The mainstream political parties of Kashmir—the National Conference, the People's Democratic Party—feted by the Deep State and the Indian media despite the pathetic voter turnout in election after election appear dutifully for debates in New Delhi's TV studios, but can't muster the courage to appear on the streets of Kashmir. The armed militants who, through the worst years of repression, were seen as the only ones carrying the torch of azadi forward, if they are around at all, seem to be content to take a backseat and let people do the fighting for a change.

    The separatist leaders who do appear and speak at the rallies are not leaders so much as followers, being guided by the phenomenal spontaneous energy of a caged, enraged people that has exploded on Kashmir's streets. The leaders, such as they are, have been presented with a full-blown revolution. The only condition seems to be that they have to do as the people say. If they say things that people do not wish to hear, they are gently persuaded to come out, publicly apologise and correct their course. This applies to all of them, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani who at a public rally recently proclaimed himself the movement's only leader. It was a monumental political blunder that very nearly shattered the fragile new alliance between the various factions of the struggle. Within hours he retracted his statement. Like it or not, this is democracy. No democrat can pretend otherwise.

    Day after day, hundreds of thousands of people swarm around places that hold terrible memories for them. They demolish bunkers, break through cordons of concertina wire and stare straight down the barrels of soldiers' machine-guns, saying what very few in India want to hear. Hum kya chahte? Azadi! We Want Freedom. And, it has to be said, in equal numbers and with equal intensity: Jeevey Jeevey Pakistan. Long live Pakistan.

    That sound reverberates through the Valley like the drumbeat of steady rain on a tin roof, like the roll of thunder before an electric storm. It's the plebiscite that was never held, the referendum that has been indefinitely postponed.

    On August 15, India's Independence Day, the city of Srinagar shut down completely. The Bakshi stadium where Governor N.N. Vohra hoisted the flag was empty except for a few officials. Hours later, Lal Chowk, the nerve centre of the city (where in 1992, Murli Manohar Joshi, BJP leader and mentor of the controversial "Hinduisation" of children's history textbooks, started a tradition of flag-hoisting by the Border Security Force), was taken over by thousands of people who hoisted the Pakistani flag and wished each other "Happy belated Independence Day" (Pakistan celebrates Independence on August 14) and "Happy Slavery Day".

    Humour, obviously, has survived India's many torture centres and Abu Ghraibs in Kashmir.

    On August 16, more than 3,00,000 people marched to Pampore, to the village of Hurriyat leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz, who was shot down in cold blood five days earlier. He was part of a massive march to the Line of Control demanding that since the Jammu road had been blocked, it was only logical that the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad highway be opened for goods and people, the way it used to be before Kashmir was partitioned.

    On August 18, an equal number gathered in Srinagar in the huge TRC grounds (Tourist Reception Centre, not the Truth and Reconciliation Committee) close to the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) to submit a memorandum asking for three things—the end to Indian rule, the deployment of a UN Peacekeeping Force and an investigation into two decades of war crimes committed with almost complete impunity by the Indian army and police.

    The day before the rally the Deep State was at hard work. A senior journalist friend called to say that late in the afternoon the home secretary called a high-level meeting in New Delhi. Also present were the defence secretary and the intelligence chiefs. The purpose of the meeting, he said, was to brief the editors of TV news channels that the government had reason to believe that the insurrection was being managed by a small splinter cell of the ISI and to request the channels to keep this piece of exclusive, highly secret intelligence in mind while covering (or preferably not covering?) the news from Kashmir. Unfortunately for the Deep State, things have gone so far that TV channels, were they to obey those instructions, would run the risk of looking ridiculous. Thankfully, it looks as though this revolution will, after all, be televised.

    On the night of August 17, the police sealed the city. Streets were barricaded, thousands of armed police manned the barriers. The roads leading into Srinagar were blocked. For the first time in eighteen years, the police had to plead with Hurriyat leaders to address the rally at the TRC grounds instead of marching right up to the UNMOGIP office which is on Gupkar Road, Srinagar's Green Zone where, for years, the Indian Establishment has barricaded itself in style and splendour.

    On the morning of the 18th, people began pouring into Srinagar from villages and towns across the Valley. In trucks, tempos, jeeps, buses and on foot. Once again, barriers were broken and people reclaimed their city. The police were faced with a choice of either stepping aside or executing a massacre. They stepped aside. Not a single bullet was fired.

    The city floated on a sea of smiles. There was ecstasy in the air. Everyone had a banner; houseboat owners, traders, students, lawyers, doctors. One said, "We are all prisoners, set us free." Another said, "Democracy without freedom is Demon-crazy". Demon Crazy. That was a good one. Perhaps he was referring to the twisted logic of a country that needed to commit communal carnage in order to bolster its secular credentials. Or the insanity that permits the world's largest democracy to administer the world's largest military occupation and continue to call itself a democracy.

    There was a green flag on every lamp post, every roof, every bus stop and on the top of chinar trees. A big one fluttered outside the All India Radio building. Road signs to Hazratbal, Batmaloo, Sopore were painted over. Rawalpindi they said. Or simply Pakistan. It would be a mistake to assume that the public expression of affection for Pakistan automatically translates into a desire to accede to Pakistan.

    Some of it has to do with gratitude for the support—cynical or otherwise—for what Kashmiris see as a freedom struggle and the Indian State sees as a terrorist campaign. It also has to do with mischief. With saying and doing what galls India, the enemy, most of all. (It's easy to scoff at the idea of a 'freedom struggle' that wishes to distance itself from a country that is supposed to be a democracy and align itself with another that has, for the most part, been ruled by military dictators. A country whose army has committed genocide in what is now Bangladesh. A country that is even now being torn apart by its own ethnic war.

    These are important questions, but right now perhaps it's more useful to wonder what this so-called democracy did in Kashmir to make people hate it so.)

    Everywhere there were Pakistani flags, everywhere the cry, Pakistan se rishta kya? La ilaha illa llah. What is our bond with Pakistan? There is no god but Allah. Azadi ka matlab kya? La ilaha illallah. What does Freedom mean? There is no god but Allah.

    For somebody like myself, who is not Muslim, that interpretation of freedom is hard—if not impossible—to understand. I asked a young woman whether freedom for Kashmir would not mean less freedom for her, as a woman. She shrugged and said, "What kind of freedom do we have now? The freedom to be raped by Indian soldiers?" Her reply silenced me.

    Standing in the grounds of the TRC, surrounded by a sea of green flags, it was impossible to doubt or ignore the deeply Islamic nature of the uprising taking place around me. It was equally impossible to label it a vicious, terrorist jehad. For Kashmiris, it was a catharsis. A historical moment in a long and complicated struggle for freedom with all the imperfections, cruelties and confusions that freedom struggles have. This one cannot by any means call itself pristine, and will always be stigmatised by, and will some day, I hope, have to account for—among other things—the brutal killings of Kashmiri Pandits in the early years of the uprising, culminating in the exodus of almost the entire community from the Kashmir Valley.

    As the crowd continued to swell, I listened carefully to the slogans, because rhetoric often clarifies things and holds the key to all kinds of understanding. I'd heard many of them before, a few years ago, at a militant's funeral. A new one, obviously coined after the blockade, was Kashmir ki mandi! Rawalpindi! (It doesn't lend itself to translation, but it means—Kashmir's marketplace? Rawalpindi!) Another was Khooni lakir tod do, aar paar jod do (Break down the blood-soaked Line of Control, let Kashmir be united again). There were plenty of insults and humiliation for India: Ay jabiron ay zalimon, Kashmir hamara chhod do (Oh oppressors, Oh wicked ones, Get out of our Kashmir). Jis Kashmir ko khoon se seencha, woh Kashmir hamara hai (The Kashmir we have irrigated with our blood, that Kashmir is ours!).

    The slogan that cut through me like a knife and clean broke my heart was this one: Nanga bhookha Hindustan, jaan se pyaara Pakistan (Naked, starving India, More precious than life itself—Pakistan). Why was it so galling, so painful to listen to this? I tried to work it out and settled on three reasons. First, because we all know that the first part of the slogan is the embarrassing and unadorned truth about India, the emerging superpower. Second, because all Indians who are not nanga or bhookha are—and have been—complicit in complex and historical ways with the cruel cultural and economic systems that make Indian society so cruel, so vulgarly unequal.

    And third, because it was painful to listen to people who have suffered so much themselves mock others who suffer in different ways, but no less intensely, under the same oppressor. In that slogan I saw the seeds of how easily victims can become perpetrators.

    It took hours for Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani to wade through the thronging crowds and make it onto the podium. When they arrived, they were born aloft on the shoulders of young men, over the surging crowd to the podium. The roar of greeting was deafening. Mirwaiz Umer spoke first. He repeated the demand that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Disturbed Areas Act and Public Safety Act—under which thousands have been killed, jailed and tortured—be withdrawn.

    He called for the release of political prisoners, for the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road to be opened for the free movement of goods and people, and for the demilitarisation of the Kashmir Valley.
    Syed Ali Shah Geelani began his address with a recitation from the Quran. He then said what he has said before, on hundreds of occasions. The only way for the struggle to succeed, he said, was to turn to the Quran for guidance. He said Islam would guide the struggle and that it was a complete social and moral code that would govern the people of a free Kashmir. He said Pakistan had been created as the home of Islam, and that that goal should never be subverted. He said just as Pakistan belonged to Kashmir, Kashmir belonged to Pakistan. He said minority communities would have full rights and their places of worship would be safe. Each point he made was applauded.

    Oddly enough, the apparent doctrinal clarity of what he said made everything a little unclear. I wondered how the somewhat disparate views of the various factions in the freedom struggle would resolve themselves—the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front's vision of an independent state, Geelani's desire to merge with Pakistan and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq balanced precariously between them.

    An old man with a red eye standing next to me said, "Kashmir was one country. Half was taken by India, the other half by Pakistan. Both by force. We want freedom." I wondered if, in the new dispensation, the old man would get a hearing. I wondered what he would think of the trucks that roared down the highways in the plains of India, owned and driven by men who knew nothing of history, or of Kashmir, but still had slogans on their tailgates that said, "Doodh maango to kheer denge, Kashmir maango to cheer denge (Ask for milk, you'll get cream; Ask for Kashmir, we'll tear you open)."

    Briefly, I had another thought. I imagined myself standing in the heart of an RSS or VHP rally being addressed by L.K. Advani. Replace the word Islam with the word Hindutva, replace the word Pakistan with Hindustan, replace the sea of green flags with saffron ones, and we would have the BJP's nightmare vision of an ideal India.

    Is that what we should accept as our future? Monolithic religious states handing down a complete social and moral code, "a complete way of life"? Millions of us in India reject the Hindutva project. Our rejection springs from love, from passion, from a kind of idealism, from having enormous emotional stakes in the society in which we live. What our neighbours do, how they choose to handle their affairs does not affect our argument, it only strengthens it.

    Arguments that spring from love are also fraught with danger. It is for the people of Kashmir to agree or disagree with the Islamic project (which is as contested, in equally complex ways, all over the world by Muslims as Hindutva is contested by Hindus).

    Perhaps now that the threat of violence has receded and there is some space in which to debate views and air ideas, it is time for those who are part of the struggle to outline a vision for what kind of society they are fighting for. Perhaps it is time to offer people something more than martyrs, slogans and vague generalisations. Those who wish to turn to the Quran for guidance will no doubt find guidance there. But what of those who do not wish to do that, or for whom the Quran does not make place? Do the Hindus of Jammu and other minorities also have the right to self-determination? Will the hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits living in exile, many of them in terrible poverty, have the right to return? Will they be paid reparations for the terrible losses they have suffered? Or will a free Kashmir do to its minorities what India has done to Kashmiris for 61 years? What will happen to homosexuals and adulterers and blasphemers? What of thieves and lafangas and writers who do not agree with the "complete social and moral code"? Will we be put to death as we are in Saudi Arabia? Will the cycle of death, repression and bloodshed continue? History offers many models for Kashmir's thinkers and intellectuals and politicians to study. What will the Kashmir of their dreams look like? Algeria? Iran? South Africa? Switzerland? Pakistan?

    At a crucial time like this, few things are more important than dreams. A lazy utopia and a flawed sense of justice will have consequences that do not bear thinking about. This is not the time for intellectual sloth or a reluctance to assess a situation clearly and honestly. It could be argued that the prevarication of Maharaja Hari Singh in 1947 has been Kashmir's great modern tragedy, one that eventually led to unthinkable bloodshed and the prolonged bondage of people who were very nearly free.

    Already the spectre of partition has reared its head. Hindutva networks are alive with rumours about Hindus in the Valley being attacked and forced to flee. In response, phone calls from Jammu reported that an armed Hindu militia was threatening a massacre and that Muslims from the two Hindu majority districts were preparing to flee. (Memories of the bloodbath that ensued and claimed the lives of more than a million people when India and Pakistan were partitioned have come flooding back. That nightmare will haunt all of us forever.)
    There is absolutely no reason to believe that history will repeat itself. Not unless it is made to. Not unless people actively work to create such a cataclysm.

    However, none of these fears of what the future holds can justify the continued military occupation of a nation and a people. No more than the old colonial argument about how the natives were not ready for freedom justified the colonial project.

    Of course there are many ways for the Indian State to continue to hold on to Kashmir. It could do what it does best. Wait. And hope the people's energy will dissipate in the absence of a concrete plan. It could try and fracture the fragile coalition that is emerging. It could extinguish this non-violent uprising and reinvite armed militancy. It could increase the number of troops from half-a-million to a whole million. A few strategic massacres, a couple of targeted assassinations, some disappearances and a massive round of arrests should do the trick for a few more years.

    The unimaginable sums of public money that are needed to keep the military occupation of Kashmir going is money that ought by right to be spent on schools and hospitals and food for an impoverished, malnourished population in India. What kind of government can possibly believe that it has the right to spend it on more weapons, more concertina wire and more prisons in Kashmir?

    The Indian military occupation of Kashmir makes monsters of us all.It allows Hindu chauvinists to target and victimise Muslims in India by holding them hostage to the freedom struggle being waged by Muslims in Kashmir. It's all being stirred into a poisonous brew and administered intravenously, straight into our bloodstream.
    At the heart of it all is a moral question. Does any government have the right to take away people's liberty with military force?

    India needs azadi from Kashmir just as much—if not more—than Kashmir needs azadi from India.

    This article also appeared as
    Land And Freedom
    on 22 August, 2008
    in The Guardian

    Keep It Together

    Neither liberalism nor democracy admits ruling people against their will. Democracy is not about ruling people, it is about a periodic selection of a group, by the people, for exercising power on their behalf for a defined time-frame.

    I think it is unfair to describe Kashmir's relationship with the rest of India in terms of colonialism of a hue different from the classic one or to compare it with Junagadh, the tiny Muslim state in Gujarat, that had acceded to Pakistan but later integrated with India.

    As far as Kashmir is concerned, the Maharaja had signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan on August 15, 1947, that the "existing arrangements should continue pending settlement of details and execution of a fresh agreement". The Maharaja had approached India also but received no positive response.

    The Indian attitude can be judged from what V P Menon has written in the 'Integration of States': "We wanted time to examine its implications. We left the state alone. I for one had simply no time to think of Kashmir".

    But despite the agreement Pakistan imposed economic blockade on Kashmir to bring pressure on the Maharaja to accede to Pakistan. In October it organised an invasion of Kashmir by army regulars in the guise of tribals.

    The invaders entered Muzaffarabad on October 22, 1947 and indulging in a spree of loot and arson reached Baramulla on October 27. They created such mayhem that out of the 14,000 people of this predominantly Muslim town, only 3,000 survived.

    This situation forced the Maharaja to dispatch his envoy to Delhi requesting aid on October 24, but India made it clear that Indian troops could be sent only to an area that was part of India, and Kashmir could do so by signing the instrument of accession.

    The Indian troops landed in Srinagar on October 27 only after the Maharaja had duly signed the accession instrument. Sheikh Abdullah, who was present in Delhi, also endorsed the request for Indian assistance with accession.

    The important question is who resisted the invaders for five days till Indian help arrived. This question has been best answered by T N Dhar, a long-time critic of Sheikh Abdullah. He has written: "The National Conference leaders considered it a breach of trust and a challenge to the self-respect of Kashmiris and since the organisation was deeply entrenched at the grass-root level... the entire population was electrified with repulsion for Pakistan". Not just National Conference volunteers, the entire population stood up against the Pakistani invaders and supported Kashmir's accession to India.

    On the other hand in Junagadh, before independence, the nawab repeatedly expressed solidarity with the surrounding Kathiawar states and on April 22, 1947, the official Gazette of Junagadh reproduced a speech of the Junagadh prime minister categorically repudiating allegations that Junagadh was thinking of joining Pakistan. The constitutional adviser of the nawab informed Mountbatten that he had advised the ruler to accede to India.

    However, on August 15, 1947, Junagadh, a state that had no common boundary with Pakistan, announced accession to Pakistan under the advice of the new prime minister who was a member of the Muslim League. After receiving this information the government of India sent a note to Pakistan on August 21, explaining that India found it necessary to consult the views of Junagadh's population and asking for an indication of Pakistan's policy in this matter.

    Further, on September 12, a telegram was sent to Pakistan stating that India would abide by the verdict of the people of Junagadh. The only reply that India received the next day was that Pakistan had accepted the accession of Junagadh.

    It is true that India had stationed troops outside Junagadh, but it did not intervene militarily. It is important to remember that there were autonomous states inside Junagadh, which had already announced their accession to India and asked for Indian protection.

    It was not the military action by India but a popular uprising against the nawab that forced him to flee to Pakistan by the end of October. Later, the prime minister of Junagadh wrote to Jinnah explaining the difficulties of Junagadh and through another communique requested the government of India to take over the administration, which was done on November 9, 1947.

    Pakistan wanted to have Kashmir because it had a Muslim majority and Hyderabad, Junagadh and Manadar because the rulers in these states were Muslims. But the people of these states were against acceding to Pakistan and hence they became part of India.

    The boundaries of a country are not drawn everyday to pacify one agitating group here or there. Pakistan could survive as a nation and as an idea even after losing Bangladesh because it was created on the basis of a divisive ideology. On the other hand, India can survive as a nation but not as an idea if it allows another partition on the basis of religion. India is more than a country; it is an idea that must be defended and protected at all costs.

    (The writer is a former Union minister)

    Tibet: History and truth

    History and truth
    We Tibetans have no political strings to pull, no money power or crude oil: but we are willing to sacrifice everything for a free Tibet.

    Before it happened our local Superintendent of Police called me to his office twice and tried to advise me to keep silent. But when everything failed he slapped an official detention order on me saying I couldn't leave Dharamsala for 14 days. Hu Jintao, President of the People's Republic of China, was visiting India and the host government had to keep me away from their diplomatic display of friendship and desire for business contracts - fearing I might repeat my protest stunts by inviting myself to their banquet table shouting "FREE TIBET".

    The order states that I was detained due to my protests in 2002 and 2005 ─ when Chinese Prime Ministers Zhu Rongji and Wen Jiabao visited India - and also on "substantial evidence" of plans to protest this time and add Hu Jintao to the list. For the 10 April 2005 caper, I hid myself on the balcony of the bell tower atop India's premier science institution for 24 hours. I had climbed the building the night before China's Prime Minister was to address a conference in the Indian Institute of Science. So, as Wen Jiabao started his speech on the ground floor, I emerged onto the tower's balcony brandishing the Tibetan national flag shouting "FREE TIBET". By then unfurling a huge red banner reading "FREE TIBET" and flinging leaflets in the air, the massive media coverage meant to focus on the Chinese premier was instantly redirected to Tibet.

    India was therefore worried that the nation's security might be breached for the third time. So 15 policemen in plainclothes with four cars and two motorbikes were deployed to observe my activities. The police joined me everywhere - in the toilet, at meetings, to restaurants, and even watched me buy the morning's newspapers. At our police headquarters I had my mug shot taken twice to be circulated, along with the detention notice, to all police stations in Himachal Pradesh state, not to mention Agra, Delhi and Mumbai - the cities Hu was to visit. By then I was finding everything amusing since I live frugally and save rupees by always walking up and down the hill roads in this district of the lower Himalayas. And suddenly there are all these cops following me. My Tibetan friends started calling them my "bodyguard".

    By then the news of my detention was spreading like wildfire across all the media. Letters of support were pouring in from all corners of the world. Young Tibetans were inspired and fired by the detention notice and so my friends were saying, "Let's all go to Delhi if Tsundue can't". Then six major Tibetan NGOs banded together and orchestrated the "Chalo Delhi" ["Let's go to Delhi"] Tibetan People's Movement to mobilize a huge gathering of Tibetans in Delhi to sit there in protest. Then, when this was posted on the internet, Tibetans and Tibet supporters the world over sent donations to ensure the success of this spontaneous movement.

    This in turn inspired me. Creating a Tibetan Movement from within the Tibetan community has been an important focus. And when I saw the flowering of this momentum being created before my eyes I saw no reason to escape Dharamsala and go anywhere. So on the day when our people were being bussed down to Delhi, I met the chief of police again and requested smooth and safe passage for those demonstrators and a guarantee of police protection for our people who would sit in protest in Delhi.

    Then I decided to stay. But I made it very clear to the police that the moment our peaceful public protest was disrupted by them we would have to play the old cat-and-mouse game. The evening when almost a thousand emotionally-charged Tibetans gathered at McLeod Ganj square to board the buses for Delhi, I looked at the police surrounding us. No lathis. No side arms. The police hierarchy had kept their promise. But that night they stepped-up their vigilance on me to around 20 policemen and a fleet of cars and motorbikes choking the tiny, congested square.

    The protest went smoothly with police protection; the police again kept their promise and even escorted the protestors to Delhi's protest site. India supported us when we lost Tibet to the Chinese invasion. After 47 years in exile, we are once again fighting China . India's newfound support has resuscitated our dreams of a free Tibet. On the other hand, India's policy that Tibet is a part of China - the policy inherited from the British Raj - has placed India herself in a dilemma today.

    We Tibetans have no political strings to pull, no money, no power, we have no crude oil to offer in exchange for help; what we have is only history and truth. Our struggle is based on truth, and Nonviolence is our principle of life. For the truth we fight for we are willing to sacrifice everything - even our precious human lives.

    love and freedom

    tenzin tsundue

    Friends of Tibet, PO Box: 16674, Bombay 400050, India.
    Friends of Tibet is a global movement to keep alive the issue of Tibet through direct action. Our activities are aimed at ending China's occupation of Tibet and the suffering of the Tibetan people. Friends of Tibet supports the continued struggle of the Tibetan people for independence. To know more, visit:



    by Karan Thapar (Hindustan Times August 30, 2008)

    Does the VHP have the right to speak for you or I? Do they reflect
    our views? Do we endorse their behaviour? They call themselves the
    Vishwa Hindu Parishad, but who says they represent all of us? This
    Sunday morning, I want to draw a clear line of distinction between
    them and everyone else. My hunch is many of you will agree.

    Let me start with the question of conversion — an issue that greatly
    exercises the VHP. I imagine there are hundreds of millions of Hindus
    who are peaceful, tolerant, devoted to their faith, but above all,
    happy to live alongside Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains
    and Jews. If any one of us were to change our faith how does it
    affect the next man or woman? And even if that happens with
    inducements, it can only prove that the forsaken faith had a tenuous
    and shallow hold. So why do the VHP and its unruly storm troopers,
    the Bajrang Dal, froth at the mouth if you, I or our neighbours
    convert? What is it to do with them?

    Let me put it bluntly, even crudely. If I want to sell my soul — and
    trade in my present gods for a new lot — why shouldn’t I? Even if the
    act diminishes me in your eyes, it’s my right to do so. So if
    thousands or even millions of Dalits, who have been despised and
    ostracised for generations, choose to become Christian, Buddhist or
    Muslim, either to escape the discrimination of their Hindu faith or
    because some other has lured them with food and cash, it’s their right.

    Arguably you may believe you should ask them to reconsider, although
    I would call that interference, but you certainly have no duty or
    right to stop them. In fact, I doubt if you are morally correct in
    even seeking to place obstacles in their way. The so-called Freedom
    of Religion Acts, which aim to do just that, are, in fact, tantamount
    to obstruction of conversion laws and therefore, at the very least,

    However, what’s even worse is how the VHP responds to this matter.
    Periodically they resort to violence including outright murder. What
    happened to Graham Staines in Orissa was not unique. Last week it
    happened again. Apart from the utter and contemptible criminality of
    such behaviour, is this how we Hindus wish to behave? Is this how we
    want our faith defended? Is this how we want to be seen? I have no
    doubt the answer is no. An unequivocal, unchanging and ever-lasting NO!

    The only problem is it can’t be heard. And it needs to be. I
    therefore believe the time has come for the silent majority of Hindus
    — both those who ardently practice their faith as well as those who
    were born into it but may not be overtly religious or devout — to
    speak out. We cannot accept the desecration of churches, the burning
    to death of innocent caretakers of orphanages, the storming of
    Christian and Muslim hamlets even if these acts are allegedly done in
    defence of our faith. Indeed, they do not defend but shame Hinduism.
    That’s my central point.

    I’m sorry but when I read that the VHP has ransacked and killed I’m
    not just embarrassed, I feel ashamed. Never of being hindu but of
    what some Hindus do in our shared faith’s name.

    This is why its incumbent on Naveen Patnaik, Orissa’s Chief Minister,
    to take tough, unremitting action against the VHP and its junior
    wing, the Bajrang Dal. This is a test not just of his governance, but
    of his character. And I know and accept this could affect his
    political survival. But when it’s a struggle between your commitment
    to your principles and your political convenience is there room for
    choice? For ordinary politicians, possibly, but for the Naveen I
    know, very definitely not.

    So let me end by saying: I’m waiting, Naveen. In fact, I want to
    say I’m not alone. There are hundreds of millions of Hindus, like you
    and me, waiting silently — but increasingly impatiently. Please act
    for all of us.

    o o o

    hardnews - September 2008


    So, what was her crime? Rajani Majhi cared for children in an
    orphanage in the interiors of backward Orissa, where every big Indian
    and MNC wants to dig for the treasures buried deep beneath the tribal
    forests, home to several of India's indigenous tribes for thousands
    of years. Was it a crime to protect the children when the mob,
    inspired by the VHP bandh, attacked the orphanage and set it on fire?
    Did Rajani murder Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati, the undisputed guru
    of the VHP? Was she a Maoist? Was she a Christian fanatic? Did she
    participate in hate campaigns? Was she a proselytising zealot?

    Now, reports are coming from this hazy twilight zone of burnt houses
    and churches, of terror unleashed and exile and condemnation in their
    own imagined homeland, that Rajani Majhi was a Hindu.

    So, why did they murder her? Was it revenge? Was it divine
    retribution, sanctioned by the gods?

    It was for the law enforcement agencies to find and punish the
    killers of the swami. Is the VHP/Bajrang Dal/RSS a constitutional
    authority to punish, with quick and bloody retribution? If the
    Maoists were behind the killing, let the Indian State tackle it. Why
    let loose criminals on the innocent, make a public spectacle of
    xenophobic enactments?

    Go back to Gujarat 2002. Did the people of Naroda Patiya, Juhapura
    and Gulberga attack coach S-6 at Godhra? Did Ehsan Jaffrey burn the
    coach? Why were innocent people hacked and burned; and hapless women
    raped? The persecution continues to this day, after what was clearly
    a State-sponsored massacre like the November 1984 organised massacre
    of Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere.

    This is because this hate machine has neither rationality nor
    humanity nor religion. It neither believes in the Constitution nor
    democracy nor civilised codes of conduct. It has no social or
    political agenda except to indulge and wallow in organised hate
    campaigns against Muslims and Christians. In that sense, they are
    outside the pale of the Indian justice system, outside all
    accountability. Blinded by vicious madness, these little men are
    caricatures of Hindutva's perverse distortion of both Hinduism and
    humanism. Like the fundamentalist Islamic jihadis who kill
    innocents, these Hindutva jihadis share the same barbarian instinct,
    and their place is either the mental asylum, or the prison.

    Why should the VHP and Bajrang Dal be let off if the Simi can be
    termed terrorist and banned? And, how is the BJP a mainstream party
    when it patronises and pampers this hydra-headed monster? In fact,
    all the members of the sangh parivar are intrinsically linked - the
    RSS-VHP-Bajrang Dal-BJP, a diabolical symphony of several fronts,
    using mainstream and underground spaces, terrorism and communal
    violence to further its ends. Trace most of the ‘landmark communal
    riots' in India, and enquiry commission reports, and you will find
    their sinister shadow.

    Remember Geetabehn? Rajani Majhi brings the old narrative back,
    however stunningly tragic and barbaric it all seems. And there is a
    lesson and message in it.

    Wrote Siddharth Varadarajan in The Times of India on April 18, 2002
    (The Mask is Off - A Tale of Two Hindus, edit page): "Two weeks ago,
    the resident editor of The Times of India in Ahmedabad sent our
    office in Delhi a photograph so shocking it made my stomach churn.
    Shocking not just for what it depicted but because, to paraphrase
    Roland Barthes, "one was looking at it from inside our freedom." This
    was my India. This is my India....

    "On a hot and dusty patch of asphalt lies the naked body of a woman,
    Geetaben, her clothes stripped off and thrown carelessly near her.
    One piece of her underclothing lies a foot away from her body, the
    other is clutched desperately in her left hand. Her left arm is
    bloodied, as is her torso, which appears to have deep gashes. Her
    left thigh is covered in blood and she is wearing a small anklet. Her
    plastic chappals sit sadly alongside her lifeless body and in the
    middle of the photo frame is a gnarled, red, hate-filled remnant of a
    brick, perhaps the one her assailants used to deliver
    their final blow...

    "Geetaben was killed in Ahmedabad on March 25, in broad daylight,
    near a bus stop close to her home. She was a Hindu who in the eyes of
    the Hindu separatists currently ruling Gujarat had committed the
    cardinal sin of falling in love with a Muslim man..."

    The question returns: Why was Rajani burnt alive, like Graham Staines
    and his two little sons? And let us not forget his wife, Gladys, who
    chose forgiveness for the killers, continuing to work in the leprosy
    camp in the forsaken interiors of Orissa.

    o o o

    WSF Process – Calendar of Mobilisations towards 2008 and 2009

    WSF Process – Calendar of Mobilisations towards 2008 and 2009


    National events and dates



    17-20 - II National Conference of Public Policies for Women, Brasilia, DF
    21-22 - March of Margaridas, Brasilia, DF


    August 31 to September 1st - State meeting of the National Union for Popular Housing, Sindicato dos Bancarios, Belem, PA
    First week - State-level campaigns to legalise abortion (Articulação de Mulheres Brasileiras)
    01-07 - Brazilian Social Week and Vale do Rio Doce Plebiscite - CNBB
    7 - Cry of Excluded
    13-16 - World Education Forum, Alto Tiete, SP
    18-21 - II National Encounter of Forest Peoples, (Coiab, CNS, GTA), Brasilia, DF
    20-23 - Regional Seminar of Communities of African roots' religions, Belem, PA
    20-22 - III State Conference for the Right to the City, Belem, PA
    21 - National Day of Struggles of Handicapped People
    24-28 - National Encounter of Human Rights, Brasilia, DF
    25-28 - Pan Amazonian Fair of Solidarity Economy, Rio Branco, AC
    28 - Struggle Day of struggle to legalise abortion, Brazil and Latin America
    27-28 - Seminar to internalise WSF in the city, Belem, PA
    Last week - Pan Amazonian Book Fair, Belem, PA


    4-7 - National Fair on Family Agriculture and Agrarian Reform, Brasilia, DF
    22-24 - II National Popular Assembly, Brasilia, DF
    6-11 - National Encounter of Training on Violence against Women and National Politics Committee Meeting of AMB, Belem, PA
    13 - Cirio de Nazare, (flyer distribution to mobilise for January 26, 2008), Belem, PA
    15-30 - Democratisation of Communication Week, Intervozes
    29-nov 1st - WSF International Council plenary, working groups and commissions meeting, Belem, PA


    1-4 - Mercosur Youth Social Forum, Florianopolis, SC
    4-7 - ENONG – National Encounter of AIDS NGOs, Goiania, GO
    14-17 - National Fair of Solidarity Economy, Belo Horizonte, MG
    14-18 - XXVIII National Conference on Health
    20 - Black Conscience Day
    25-29 - III National Conference of Cities, Brasilia


    3-6 - VII National Conference of Children and Adolescent rights, Brasilia, DF
    5-8 - V FAOR Conference, Palmas, TO
    14-17 - National Conference of Social Assistance, Brasilia, DF
    To be set - State Fair of Solidarity Economy, Belem, PA

    Internation events and dates


    23-26 - Quebec Social Forum, Montreal, Canada
    30-sept 2nd - Social Movements Forum - Sungkyunkwan University, Seoul, South Korea


    10 - International Journey against WTO, Transnationals and Agribusiness
    28 - Struggle of struggle to legalise abortion, Brazil and Latin America


    "Blue October" - Month of Global Action against water privatisation / Launching of the Global Campaign "Zero Evictions"
    7 - Action Day for Migrants Rights and for the Free Movement of People
    7-12 - Americas Social Forum, Guatemala City, Guatemala
    8 - Educational Seminar to remind Ernesto Che Guevara death (OCLAE), Bolivia
    12 - Day of Indigenous, Black and Popular Resistance, Central America and Mexico
    12 - International Journey "Freedom for the five Arrested Cuban Heroes in United States"
    12 - Continental Cry of Excluded, Latin America
    14-21 - Global Week of Action against Debt and Multilateral Financial Institutions
    17 - International Day for Poverty Eradication
    19-21 - Actions against the IMF and World Bank annual encounters
    20 - Youth World Day
    26-28 - V Continental Encounter of Solidarity with Cuba, Quito, Ecuador
    29-nov 1st - WSF International Council plenary, working groups and commissions meeting, Belem, Brazil


    To be set - Human Rights Week
    To be set - MOICAN Peasant Encounter - Movimiento Indígena y Campesino Mesoamericano (Central American Indigenous and Peasant Movement), Nicaragua
    8-10 - Iberoamerican Alternative Summit, Santiago, Chile
    25 - International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
    29 - Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People


    1 - World Day of Struggle against Aids/HIV
    3-6 - VII National Conference of Children and Adolescent Rights
    5-8 - V FAOR Conference, Palmas, TO, Brazil
    3-14 - United Nations Climate Change Conference, Bali, Indonesia
    8 - International Day of Action on Weather Changes
    10 - March of Human Rights Week closure
    To be set - Central America Encounter of Women from Honduras
    To be set - VII Central American Forum of Panama Peoples
    To be set - Central America School on Economics and Politics of Women
    To be set - IV Central American Encounter of Latin America Network against Dams and in defence of Rivers and of Water, El Salvador
    To be set - Mercosur Social Summit, Montevideo, Uruguay

    *Send up-to-date events for this calendar to the email

    Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) Statement on Unethical Media Reporting

    *Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression** (WSS)* is deeply concerned and disturbed by the news report *Raped repeatedly, Naxal leaderquits Red ranks* that appeared on page 1 of the Times of India, dated August 24, 2010.

    *We unequivocally condemn any such violence and sexual assault inflicted onwomen, irrespective of the perpetrator(s), whether state or non state, inany situation, anywhere in the country.** If the story reported by theleading daily Times of India is correct, it is very serious and condemnableand the woman is not safe; the law should take its course and action shouldbe taken against the accused. And if the story has been planted or used bythe state and establishment as some seem to believe, we still fear for hersafety from the police and security forces now that she has surrendered. Itneeds to be ensured that she will not be put under any pressure and that shewill get access to lawyers and family.*

    However, we question the responsibility of the media and its credibility.Such reporting has serious implications and we as feminists and women’sgroups wish to draw the attention of TOI and its readership to the followingpoints in the interest of the privacy, security and safety of women:

    Firstly, the woman’s name and position have been revealed in the report,which is against the norms of reporting of rape. The picture in thenewspaper is very clear and does little to hide her identity. TOI’s concernfor the woman in this respect is lacking.

    Secondly, the report appears to be interested more in highlighting suchcases in a loose and highly sensational way rather than sticking to factswith rigor. The report has conflated the very serious issue of rape andsexual violence with issues of sexual choices. In fact, the report usesstatements like `she is caught in an ideology that she cannot understand’but makes no attempt to engage with her at an intellectual level, eventhough she is reportedly an experienced person and not merely a woman amongmen.

    Thirdly, the story has not been substantiated as per journalisticobligations. Why has the reporter not made any effort to get any version ofother sources- of perhaps differing hues?

    Fourthly, TOI needs to be more impartial in its reporting of cases of rape,irrespective of who the rapist is. We find that sexual violence by thearmy, police and paramilitary forces, in the ongoing military operations, isroutinely ignored by the TOI as well as other media sources. This continuesto place innumerable women across the country in extremely vulnerablesituations; rapes and sexual assault of women by police and paramilitary inOrissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, with the inordinate and suffocatingpresence of the police and paramilitary, has risen so high that fear andintimidation of women is high too. It has become impossible for anassaulted woman to even lodge an FIR. Many such survivors of rape in theseregions have been harassed and forced to withdraw their complaints.

    Finally, the Home Minister has chosen to comment on the TOI story and claimthere are more such cases - whereas he has been studiously silent on themany well documented instances where adivasi and poor women have tried topursue cases of rape against police, paramilitary and SPOs. A recent exampleis that of an eighteen-year old girl in Gajapati district of Orissa,allegedly Maoist, who was picked up from her village in February along withanother person, during combing operations by security forces, gang-raped andis now languishing in jail. No charge sheet has as yet been filed even after6 months. We urge TOI to bring such stories to its readership across thecountry so that these women also get some justice. We urge the entire mediaand the government to break its silence on the miscarriage of justice in theKhairlanji case.

    *As a national forum against sexual violence and state repression, weassert that violence against women cannot and should not be used as weaponsof war, by the warring sides to score points against each other. We areequal citizens of India- our sexuality cannot be used against us. The stateshould allow free movement in these areas so that it is possible to conductimpartial investigations of reports of sexual violence against women. *

    * *

    *Committed to the struggle against sexual violence and state repression,*

    Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression

    WSS is a network of women's rights, dalit rights, human rights and civilliberties organizations across India. It is a non-funded grassroots effortby women to stem the violence being perpetrated upon our bodies and on oursocieties by the State’s forces, by non-state actors and by the inability ofour government to resolve conflict in a meaningful, sustainable andeffective manner.

    As represented by: AIPWA, AISA (Delhi), APDR (West Bengal), Action India,All Tripura Indigenous and Minority Association, Alternate Law Forum, Ananya(Karnataka), Anhad (Delhi), Baiga Mahapanchayat (Chhattisgarh), Bhopal GasPeedit Mahila Udyog Sangathan, CAVOW (India), CPDR (Maharashtra), Campaignfor Justice and Peace (Karnataka), Chhattisgarh Mahila Adhikar Manch,Chhattisgarh Mahila Mukti Morcha, Dalit Adivasi Manch (Chhattisgarh), DalitStree Shakti (Andhra Pradesh), HumAnE (Orissa), HRLN (Jammu & Kashmir), HRLN(Madhya Pradesh), Hengasara Hakkina Sangha (Karnataka), Human Rights Alert(Manipur), IRMA (Manipur), IWID, Jagori (Delhi), Jagrit Adivasi DalitSangathan (Madhya Pradesh), Jan Jagruti Manch (Chhattisgarh), LalgarhMorcha, Lokayata (Maharashtra), MARA (Karnataka), Madhya Pradesh MahilaManch, NAPM (Karnataka), NBA (Madhya Pradesh), Namma Manasa (Karnataka),Nari Mukti Sanstha (Delhi), Navsarjan Sanstha (Gujarat), Naya ChhattisgarhMahila Sangh, Nirantar (Delhi), PSSK (Chhattisgarh), Patel Pat Chaunki(Chhattisgarh), Pratidhwani (Delhi), PUCL (india), Rachna Manch, RohidasMahila Kalyan Samiti (Chhattisgarh), Saheli (Delhi), Sahmet (MadhyaPradesh), Samajwadi Jan Parishad (Madhya Pradesh), Samata Vedike(Karnataka), Samanatha Mahila Vedike (Karnataka), Sangini (Madhya Pradesh),Vanangana (Uttar Pradesh), Vidyarthi Yuvjan Sabha, Women’s Right ResourceCenter (Madhya Pradesh), Yuva Samvaad (Madhya Pradesh), Stree AdhikarSanghatan (Uttar Pradesh), Stree Jagruti Samiti, Trade Union SolidarityCommittee (Maharashtra), WinG, Women Against Militarization and StateViolence (The Other Media), Women's Commission(Jammu & Kashmir), Women’sRight Resource Center, Women’s Education Forum (Chhattisgarh), and manyindividuals.

    Contact email id:

    Adv Kamayani Bali Mahabal

    I carry a torch in one hand
    And a bucket of water in the other:
    With these things I am going to set fire to Heaven
    And put out the flames of Hell
    So that voyagers to God can rip the veils
    And see the real goal........................................By Rabia (Rabi'a Al-'Adawiyya)