Sunday, November 29, 2015

Enough of aid – let’s talk reparations

Jason Hickel

Debate around reparations is threatening because it upends the usual narrative of development. The impact of colonialism cannot be ignored

theguardian
A mosaic in Cajamarca shows an encounter in 1532 between the conquistador Pizarro and the Inca Atahuallpa. Photograph: Mireille Vautier/Alamy

Colonialism is one of those things you’re not supposed to discuss in polite company – at least not north of the Mediterranean. Most people feel uncomfortable about it, and would rather pretend it didn’t happen.

In fact, that appears to be the official position. In the mainstream narrative of international development peddled by institutions from the World Bank to the UK’s Department of International Development, the history of colonialism is routinely erased. According to the official story, developing countries are poor because of their own internal problems, while western countries are rich because they worked hard, and upheld the right values and policies. And because the west happens to be further ahead, its countries generously reach out across the chasm to give “aid” to the rest – just a little something to help them along.

If colonialism is ever acknowledged, it’s to say that it was not a crime, but rather a benefit to the colonised – a leg up the development ladder.

But the historical record tells a very different story, and that opens up difficult questions about another topic that Europeans prefer to avoid: reparations. No matter how much they try, however, this topic resurfaces over and over again. Recently, after a debate at the Oxford Union, Indian MP Shashi Tharoor’s powerful case for reparations went viral, attracting more than 3 million views on YouTube. Clearly the issue is hitting a nerve.

The reparations debate is threatening because it completely upends the usual narrative of development. It suggests that poverty in the global south is not a natural phenomenon, but has been actively created. And it casts western countries in the role not of benefactors, but of plunderers.

When it comes to the colonial legacy, some of the facts are almost too shocking to comprehend. When Europeans arrived in what is now Latin America in 1492, the region may have been inhabited by between 50 million and 100 million indigenous people. By the mid 1600s, their population was slashed to about 3.5 million. The vast majority succumbed to foreign disease and many were slaughtered, died of slavery or starved to death after being kicked off their land. It was like the holocaust seven times over.

What were the Europeans after? Silver was a big part of it. Between 1503 and 1660, 16m kilograms of silver were shipped to Europe, amounting to three times the total European reserves of the metal. By the early 1800s, a total of 100m kg of silver had been drained from the veins of Latin America and pumped into the European economy, providing much of the capital for the industrial revolution. To get a sense for the scale of this wealth, consider this thought experiment: if 100m kg of silver was invested in 1800 at 5% interest – the historical average – it would amount to £110trn ($165trn) today. An unimaginable sum.

Europeans slaked their need for labour in the colonies – in the mines and on the plantations – not only by enslaving indigenous Americans but also by shipping slaves across the Atlantic from Africa. Up to 15 million of them. In the North American colonies alone, Europeans extracted an estimated 222,505,049 hours of forced labour from African slaves between 1619 and 1865. Valued at the US minimum wage, with a modest rate of interest, that’s worth $97trn – more than the entire global GDP.

theguardian
A newspaper illustration of a slave ship transporting 510 captives from Africa to the Caribbean. The Caribbean nations are currently suing for reparations. Photograph: Alamy

Right now, 14 Caribbean nations are in the process of suing Britain for slavery reparations. They point out that when Britain abolished slavery in 1834 it compensated not the slaves but rather the owners of slaves, to the tune of £20m, the equivalent of £200bn today. Perhaps they will demand reparations equivalent to this figure, but it is conservative: it reflects only the price of the slaves, and tells us nothing of the total value they produced during their lifetimes, nor of the trauma they endured, nor of the hundreds of thousands of slaves who worked and died during the centuries before 1834.

These numbers tell only a small part of the story, but they do help us imagine the scale of the value that flowed from the Americas and Africa into European coffers after 1492.

Then there is India. When the British seized control of India, they completely reorganised the agricultural system, destroying traditional subsistence practices to make way for cash crops for export to Europe. As a result of British interventions, up to 29 million Indians died of famine during the last few decades of the 19th century in what historian Mike Davis calls the “late Victorian holocaust”. Laid head to foot, their corpses would stretch the length of England 85 times over. And this happened while India was exporting an unprecedented amount of food, up to 10m tonnes per year.

British colonisers also set out to transform India into a captive market for British goods. To do that, they had to destroy India’s impressive indigenous industries. Before the British arrived, India commanded 27% of the world economy, according to economist Angus Maddison. By the time they left, India’s share had been cut to just 3%. The same thing happened to China. After the Opium Wars, when Britain invaded China and forced open its borders to British goods on unequal terms, China’s share of the world economy dwindled from 35% to an all-time low of 7%.

Meanwhile, Europeans increased their share of global GDP from 20% to 60% during the colonial period. Europe didn’t develop the colonies. The colonies developed Europe.

And we haven’t even begun to touch the scramble for Africa. In the Congo, to cite just one brief example, as historian Adam Hochschild recounts in his haunting book King Leopold’s Ghost, Belgium’s lust for ivory and rubber killed some 10 million Congolese – roughly half the country’s population. The wealth gleaned from that plunder was siphoned back to Belgium to fund beautiful stately architecture and impressive public works, including arches and parks and railway stations – all the markers of development that adorn Brussels today, the bejewelled headquarters of the European Union.

We could go on. It is tempting to see this as just a list of crimes, but it is much more than that. These snippets hint at the contours of a world economic system that was designed over hundreds of years to enrich a small portion of humanity at the expense of the vast majority.

This history makes the narrative of international development seem a bit absurd, and even outright false. Frankie Boyle got it right: “Even our charity is essentially patronising. Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day. Give him a fishing rod and he can feed himself. Alternatively, don’t poison the fishing waters, abduct his great-grandparents into slavery, then turn up 400 years later on your gap year talking a lot of shite about fish.”

We can’t put a price on the suffering wrought by colonialism. And there is not enough money in the world to compensate for the damage it inflicted. We can, however, stop talking about charity, and instead acknowledge the debt that the west owes to the rest of the world. Even more importantly, we can work to quash the colonial instinct whenever it rears its ugly head, as it is doing right now in the form of land grabs, illicit financial extraction, and unfair trade deals.

Shashi Tharoor argued for a reparations payment of only £1 – a token acknowledgement of historical fact. That might not do much to assuage the continued suffering of those whose countries have been ravaged by the colonial encounter. But at least it would set the story straight, and put us on a path towards rebalancing the global economy.

Join our community of development professionals and humanitarians. Follow @GuardianGDP on Twitter.

Source: theguardian

Labels: ,

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Nothing new: Modi’s own favourite police officer raised fears of growing intolerance in 2002

The prime minister, then as Gujarat CM, ignored an official letter warning against boycott of Muslims following the 2002 carnage and, when questioned, pleaded amnesia about it in 2010.

Manoj Mitta  · Today · 09:00 am

scrollin

For all its rhetoric, the two-day special discussion in Parliament on “Commitment to the Constitution” has done little to dispel the concerns of civil society over growing intolerance. But it should be no surprise, for in his earlier avatar as chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi has a record of disclaiming knowledge of such a warning even from one of his own trusted police officers.

A letter from Gujarat 2002 presaged, however unwittingly, the intolerance on display in India 2015. It’s an official communication from then police commissioner of Ahmedabad, PC Pande. He was such a favourite of Modi that, although the largest number of Muslims had been killed in his jurisdiction during the carnage, Pande went on to become the state police chief.

In the letter to his superior in the home department, Ashok Narayan, on April 22, 2002, less than two months after the massacres in Ahmedabad, Pande complained about the “undesirable activities” of the Vishva Hindu Parishad and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, both of which were described by him as “organisations supporting the government”. Going by Pande’s own description in that mail, the “undesirable activities” were actually a range of serious crimes such as extortion and mobilisation of Hindus to enforce a social and economic boycott of Muslims.

The modus operandi

Betraying an inability to exercise the legal powers vested in him, Pande recorded a chilling account of the hate mongering that was going on in Ahmedabad even “when the situation", in his words, was "returning to normal”. This was how Pande, a key member of the Modi regime in Gujarat, listed out what the Hindutva outfits were engaged in:

    * In Ahmedabad city, activists of VHP and Bajrang Dal are extorting money from merchants, on the pretext of providing protection from the minority community. Out of helplessness, the merchants pay up but they are unhappy about it.

    * VHP and Bajrang Dal activists are exerting pressure on merchants to prevent employment of members of the minority community in their areas of business. The merchants are scared of revealing this truth in public or to the police.

    * There are instances in which whenever members of the minority community go for jobs in the localities of the majority community, they are intimidated and told to look for jobs in their own localities. Since this is adversely affecting their means of livelihood, members of the minority community are quite frustrated about the situation. Consequently, stray incidents of violence are taking place. VHP and Bajrang Dal activists are involved in these incidents.

    * In places where properties of the minority community are burnt and destroyed, members of the minority community, besides being intimidated, are not being being allowed to reopen their shops. One cannot rule out the possibility of such incidents being driven by interested persons to misappropriate the properties involved, with the help of VHP and Bajrang Dal.


Without a word of explanation for his own inaction, Pande concluded his letter saying that there was “an urgent need on the part of the state government” to clamp down on the VHP and Bajrang Dal for “widening the chasm between the two communities” and to avert the danger of alienated Muslim youths “taking to violence”. But there was no follow-up whatsoever from the state government, despite Pande’s buck-passing and the gravity of the details flagged by him.

How the letter came to light

The letter would have probably never come to light had copies of it not been marked by Pande to the then state police chief, K Chakravarthi, and the then state intelligence chief, RB Sreekumar. Sreekumar produced the document before the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team in 2009 while testifying on riot victim Zakia Jafri’s complaint accusing Modi and others of complicity in the 2002 mass violence. This was followed by the testimonies of Narayan and Pande confirming that they had received Pande’s letter.

Chakravarthi told the SIT that he had advised Pande on the phone to take action if there was any specific complaint against the VHP or Bajrang Dal members. Pande however told him, according to Chakravarthi’s testimony:

    “the affected parties were not willing to come forward with a written complaint and as such the matter needs to be brought to the notice of the government to control such nefarious activities”.

Chakravarthi testified that he had then called up Narayan to “apprise” him of Pande’s views.

Narayan, on his part, testified that he had spoken about Pande’s letter with not just Chakravarthi but also Modi. The conversation he claimed to have had with Modi has a contemporary resonance. For when Narayan urged him to “use his good offices” with Sangh Parivar activists to “restrain” them, Modi was apparently reluctant to intervene. Narayan said that “the CM was noncommittal” even as he held forth “in a general manner that the state government was committed to the safety and security of all the citizens living in Gujarat”.

Convenient amnesia

So did Modi himself admit that he was “noncommittal” about Pande’s allegations against his saffron supporters? After being shown Pande’s letter, Modi was asked during his testimony in 2010 as to what action he had taken on it. Modi ducked the SIT’s question, saying:

    “In this connection, it is stated that I do not remember now, whether this issue was brought to my notice or not”.

The amnesia pleaded by Modi seemed to have, however, forced the SIT to cover up Pande’s letter. As with so many other inconvenient facts, the SIT report made no reference to the letter. Any reference to this tell-tale issue, especially the disparity in the testimonies of Narayan and Modi, would have come in the way of the SIT's blanket exoneration. For it could not have touched upon the police commissioner’s missive without running the risk of admitting Modi’s negligence, if not collusion.

After the SIT clean chit had paved the way for his ascent to the office of the Prime Minister, Modi seemed to have come full circle earlier this month when VHP supremo Ashok Singhal passed away. Making no bones about his affinity for this staunch votary of Hindu Rashtra, Modi tweeted that the deceased leader was “an inspiration for generations” and that he was “always fortunate to receive Ashok ji’s blessings & guidance”.

Little wonder then that in the course of the SIT investigation, Modi disclaimed any knowledge about the hate campaign run by the VHP and its youth wing even when one of his trusted police officers had warned in writing about it.

Manoj Mitta authored The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra. As a fellow with National Endowment for Democracy, Washington DC, he is currently working on a book on impunity for caste violence.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in

Source: scrollin

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, November 27, 2015

Why Nehruvian secularism is still alive and kicking, despite BJP's body blows

Nehru birth anniversary

Thanks to the first prime minister, secularism remains a value that any party contending for power must claim to espouse.

Shoaib Daniyal  · Nov 14, 2014 · 02:30 am

scrollin

In the first two decades after India gained independence, Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru dominated the affairs of the new state. The so-called Nehruvian Consensus that emerged operated around three major issues: parliamentary democracy, state-led economic development and secularism.

As of today, the debates around the first and the second issues have been settled quite comprehensively. Parliamentary democracy has succeeded in India better than most would have predicted and conversely, state-led economic development has been junked almost entirely. The fate of the third issue – secularism – is more contentious, with powerful political groups arranged against it, even as it somehow manages to maintain itself in the political discourse.

Given the near monopoly of the Nehruvian Consensus during its time, it is often forgotten just how precariously placed Nehruvian secularism was when it started out in 1947. There was, of course, the bedlam of Partition and the passions it gave rise to, making secularism look fantastic – even woolly-headed – at the time. Moreover, the Congress of 1947 was a largely right-wing party. Time and again, whenever the party’s left and right factions clashed, the right won.

Socialists were sidelined

In 1949, sidelined completely within the party, the socialists led by Jayprakash Narayan had to leave the Congress. The next year, Vallabhbhai Patel’s candidate PD Tandon became president, alarming Nehru to the extent that he refused to participate in Tandon’s Working Committee. Moreover, even within the Congress’ right wing, the Hindu conservatives led by Patel had outflanked the secular right led by C Rajagopalachari.

Rajagopalachari and Nehru concurred on the issue of secularism and this was one of the reasons why Nehru supported Rajagopalachari’s candidature for India’s first president. However, in the end, Patel managed to get his candidate Rajendra Prasad elected instead. True to form, one of Prasad’s first major acts as president was to inaugurate the Somnath temple – hardly the best start for a state that was struggling to define itself as secular.

Nehru, however, used his immense personal popularity to overrule the party machine and push his agenda. When violence broke out in Bengal in 1949, members of the Hindu right, led by Patel and SP Mukherjee wanted a forced communal exchange of populations to “settle” the issue, thus taking the unprecedented step of denying natural citizenship to people on the basis of religion. Thankfully, Nehru ensured that modern, liberal notions of citizenship prevailed in India. In April 1950, Nehru signed the “Delhi Pact” with Pakistan’s prime minster, guaranteeing that religion would not bar a person from citizenship.

Women's rights

Later on, Nehru would take on the Hindu right, within and outside of his party, on the Hindu Code Bills, a series of measures modernising Hindu Law, targeted mainly at guaranteeing women’s rights. So bitter was the opposition from the conservatives that President Prasad refused to support his own cabinet on the matter, causing a minor constitutional crisis. Again, Nehru used his popularity to get the bills through, at one stroke modernising the personal laws of 80% of the population – easily his most monumental achievement.

Of course, the Nehruvian Consensus on secularism has been on the retreat for more than four decades now. It first frayed at the edges in the states, where laws restricting religious freedom were passed in the shape of anti-conversion laws. Theological considerations also snuck into criminal legislation as cow slaughter was banned across large parts of the country. Matters reached a head when the Hindutva demand to build a Ram temple in place of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya became the central political issue of the day in the late 1980s and ’90s. Of course, today the Bharatiya Janata Party, the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamseval Sangh, is the largest political formation in the country. While the later Congress has let Nehruvian secularism atrophy due to neglect and political expediency, the BJP places itself in direct ideological opposition to it.

Nevertheless, much attenuated as it is, Nehruvian secularism is still a factor in the way our politics is played out. For one, secularism is still a legitimate rhetorical peg in public debate and discussion. Both the BJP and Congress might default on it in practice, but it is still held up as an ideal. Even in the Ram mandir salad days of the early ’90s, the BJP never thought of replacing secularism in its rhetoric – it just claimed that its secularism was better and that of the Congress’ “pseudo” or fake.

Rhetoric shapes actions

This might seem like a minor quibble but in a democracy public rhetoric has a major part to play in shaping the actions of the state. As long as secularism is an ideal that the republic aspires to, it can act as a check against the actions of politicians who might not agree with the concept per se.

Therefore, the secular bedrock that Nehru laid down in the 1950s and ’60s means that it is unthinkable for, say, the Hindu Code Bills to be turned back now or for anyone to propose that Indian citizenship be now based on religion. Modi has himself toned down his communal rhetoric from his days as chief minister, the Nehruvian influence at the Centre still being far stronger than in the states. Overall, the BJP seems to have followed a similar trend after capturing the Centre: 25 years ago, it was sure that the construction of a “Virat Ram Mandir” was its goal. But now that the goal is within its grasp, it does not seem so keen on actually going through with it.

Of course, there is nothing permanent in such an arrangement. Socialism was also, till less than three decades back, a universal rhetorical tool employed by almost the entire polity but it has vanished quite comprehensively from the landscape. Nevertheless, for today, on Nehru’s 125th birth anniversary, while his legacy of secularism might be much weakened, it is still a significant factor in India’s political discourse – and, hopefully, will be for some time.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.inIn the first two decades after India gained independence, Prime Minster Jawaharlal Nehru dominated the affairs of the new state. The so-called Nehruvian Consensus that emerged operated around three major issues: parliamentary democracy, state-led economic development and secularism.

As of today, the debates around the first and the second issues have been settled quite comprehensively. Parliamentary democracy has succeeded in India better than most would have predicted and conversely, state-led economic development has been junked almost entirely. The fate of the third issue – secularism – is more contentious, with powerful political groups arranged against it, even as it somehow manages to maintain itself in the political discourse.

Given the near monopoly of the Nehruvian Consensus during its time, it is often forgotten just how precariously placed Nehruvian secularism was when it started out in 1947. There was, of course, the bedlam of Partition and the passions it gave rise to, making secularism look fantastic – even woolly-headed – at the time. Moreover, the Congress of 1947 was a largely right-wing party. Time and again, whenever the party’s left and right factions clashed, the right won.

Socialists were sidelined

In 1949, sidelined completely within the party, the socialists led by Jayprakash Narayan had to leave the Congress. The next year, Vallabhbhai Patel’s candidate PD Tandon became president, alarming Nehru to the extent that he refused to participate in Tandon’s Working Committee. Moreover, even within the Congress’ right wing, the Hindu conservatives led by Patel had outflanked the secular right led by C Rajagopalachari.

Rajagopalachari and Nehru concurred on the issue of secularism and this was one of the reasons why Nehru supported Rajagopalachari’s candidature for India’s first president. However, in the end, Patel managed to get his candidate Rajendra Prasad elected instead. True to form, one of Prasad’s first major acts as president was to inaugurate the Somnath temple – hardly the best start for a state that was struggling to define itself as secular.

Nehru, however, used his immense personal popularity to overrule the party machine and push his agenda. When violence broke out in Bengal in 1949, members of the Hindu right, led by Patel and SP Mukherjee wanted a forced communal exchange of populations to “settle” the issue, thus taking the unprecedented step of denying natural citizenship to people on the basis of religion. Thankfully, Nehru ensured that modern, liberal notions of citizenship prevailed in India. In April 1950, Nehru signed the “Delhi Pact” with Pakistan’s prime minster, guaranteeing that religion would not bar a person from citizenship.

Women's rights

Later on, Nehru would take on the Hindu right, within and outside of his party, on the Hindu Code Bills, a series of measures modernising Hindu Law, targeted mainly at guaranteeing women’s rights. So bitter was the opposition from the conservatives that President Prasad refused to support his own cabinet on the matter, causing a minor constitutional crisis. Again, Nehru used his popularity to get the bills through, at one stroke modernising the personal laws of 80% of the population – easily his most monumental achievement.

Of course, the Nehruvian Consensus on secularism has been on the retreat for more than four decades now. It first frayed at the edges in the states, where laws restricting religious freedom were passed in the shape of anti-conversion laws. Theological considerations also snuck into criminal legislation as cow slaughter was banned across large parts of the country. Matters reached a head when the Hindutva demand to build a Ram temple in place of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya became the central political issue of the day in the late 1980s and ’90s. Of course, today the Bharatiya Janata Party, the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamseval Sangh, is the largest political formation in the country. While the later Congress has let Nehruvian secularism atrophy due to neglect and political expediency, the BJP places itself in direct ideological opposition to it.

Nevertheless, much attenuated as it is, Nehruvian secularism is still a factor in the way our politics is played out. For one, secularism is still a legitimate rhetorical peg in public debate and discussion. Both the BJP and Congress might default on it in practice, but it is still held up as an ideal. Even in the Ram mandir salad days of the early ’90s, the BJP never thought of replacing secularism in its rhetoric – it just claimed that its secularism was better and that of the Congress’ “pseudo” or fake.

Rhetoric shapes actions

This might seem like a minor quibble but in a democracy public rhetoric has a major part to play in shaping the actions of the state. As long as secularism is an ideal that the republic aspires to, it can act as a check against the actions of politicians who might not agree with the concept per se.

Therefore, the secular bedrock that Nehru laid down in the 1950s and ’60s means that it is unthinkable for, say, the Hindu Code Bills to be turned back now or for anyone to propose that Indian citizenship be now based on religion. Modi has himself toned down his communal rhetoric from his days as chief minister, the Nehruvian influence at the Centre still being far stronger than in the states. Overall, the BJP seems to have followed a similar trend after capturing the Centre: 25 years ago, it was sure that the construction of a “Virat Ram Mandir” was its goal. But now that the goal is within its grasp, it does not seem so keen on actually going through with it.

Of course, there is nothing permanent in such an arrangement. Socialism was also, till less than three decades back, a universal rhetorical tool employed by almost the entire polity but it has vanished quite comprehensively from the landscape. Nevertheless, for today, on Nehru’s 125th birth anniversary, while his legacy of secularism might be much weakened, it is still a significant factor in India’s political discourse – and, hopefully, will be for some time.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in

Source: scrollin

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Constitution is above all things, says BJD MP

National            NEW DELHI, November 27, 2015

Updated: November 27, 2015 03:02 IST

Nistula Hebbar

thehindu
Tathagat Satpathy's speech was much appreciated by the members.

On a day when a discussion on India’s Constitution and a tribute to its framer B.R. Ambedkar in the Lok Sabha became a tug of war between the treasury benches and the Congress, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief whip Tathagat Satpathy stood out as the one speaker who stressed the point that the Constitution was above all things, a gift that the people of India gave themselves.

“The 16 bloodless elections that we have seen since Independence have proven that the people of our country are saner and wiser than us who claim to represent them,” he said.

Taking on the NDA government, Mr. Satpathy said, “The Home Minister in his speech gave the impression that his government is the one that put a broom in our hands. I come from Odisha, where to entice Lord Jagannath out of his temple, the mightiest King Gajapathi of Odisha has to sweep the courtyard of the Jagannath Temple. It is an old tradition, that emphasises not just cleanliness, but that the ruler must, most of all, be humble to bend before the people. This was not Hinduism but a universal value.”

He took on Mr. Singh on his assertion that secularism was the most misinterpreted word in India. “The word secularism is very well defined in the dictionary. We are a pluralistic country, if that word suits some people, they may use it. Above all, let us not have a myopic view of the word so that when it is translated into Hindi, its meaning becomes perverted, that is not my problem, since I’m not a Hindi speaker,” he said in direct reference to Mr. Singh seeking a different interpretation of secularism.

In an oblique reference to a kind of Hindi-dominated majoritarianism being alleged to be practised by the BJP, Mr. Satpathy said that just because a sizeable number of people think a certain way, it could not be imposed on everyone. “As the DMK used to say on the language debate, if Hindi is to be the national language of India just because a majority speaks it, then the crow should be our national bird, since it is most populous,” he said amid table thumping by members.

Referring to the 1861 Police Act that still was in force, Mr. Satpathy said that it encapsulated the journey that the rulers of the country were yet to take. “We have been a sovereign country for the last 60 years but never has this House decided to discuss this Act, that was devised by a colonial power to ensure strict control over its subjects. Let us give more freedom to our people, we must learn to trust our people,” he said.

‘Still a long way to go’

“Let us all admit that we are very long way from giving justice to every Indian, it is not yet time for us to be smug, and claim that we are a world power, we are nowhere near that. We are a great country but until we are able to reach individuals we won’t be a world power,” he said.

Source: thehindu

Labels: ,

The War Within: A Hindu Rashtra vs Constitutional India

This Constitution Day provides us with the perfect opportunity to reflect on who we are, and what kind of society we want to be.

Pushparaj Deshpande  · Today · 10:30 am

scrollin

Former President Shankar Dayal Sharma once tellingly remarked that it is the “ideals, goals and values of the freedom struggle (that) form the real essence, the life breath of our Constitution”. In crafting the idea of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, BR Ambedkar, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, among numerous other stalwarts of the Constituent Assembly, ensured that the Constitution guarantees, among other things, freedoms of speech, expression, religion, and, most of all, the right to live with human dignity.

Our founding fathers and mothers firmly believed that governments – and hence people – cannot differentiate between communities on grounds of their religion, caste, gender or birth. They posited that a government must respect, protect and further the collective aspirations of each of these, while preserving India’s pluralism. In fact, this has been so deeply ingrained in our collective consciousness that we implicitly trust our government to defend the idea of India, and to uphold equality, justice and freedom.

So when a government does otherwise, it’s deeply troubling. In the past few months, India has witnessed an alarming rise in attacks against minorities, over 600 cases of violence (406 targeting Muslims, the rest against Christians) have occurred between May 2014 and May 2015. In the last five months, countless such instances have been recorded with lynchings in Dadri, Udhampur, and Uchekon Moiba Thongkhong being just the most prominent. We have seen people being murdered for nothing more than “offensive” comments on social media, and for transporting beef. Similarly, atrocities against Dalits have registered a 19% increase (47,064 cases in 2014, a majority after May). Again, 2015 has seen horrific caste atrocities in Faridabad, in Ahmednagar and in various places across India.

The section of civil society and the political opposition that have raised their voices against intolerance have argued that a) the National Democratic Alliance government has been a mute witness to these atrocities, and  b) that in doing so, it has betrayed our trust. There is a strong sense that the Sangh parivar has engineered – directly or indirectly – these crimes. Whether this is true or not, what’s pertinent is that people believe there is a tacit acceptance, even endorsement, of these crimes by our government. Any conscientious citizen would rightly ask: Is the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is sworn to uphold the Constitution, sympathetic to these schemes to tear apart the fabric of this nation? If it isn’t, why does it not take firm action against the Sangh which clearly operates on a set of primordial laws that are antithetical to constitutional principles, but also threaten the multi-cultural integrity of India?

In black and white

In probing this question, we must look to the Sangh’s chief ideologue MS Golwalkar, whom Prime Minister Narendra Modi idolises so much that he even penned his biography in 2010 (Shree Guru ji: Ek Swayamsevak). In three separate books, which the Sangh and the BJP treat as gospels, Golwalkar tears into the idea of India. Denigrating our Constitution (in Bunch of Thoughts), he asks:

    “Is there a single word…in its guiding principles as to what our national mission is and what our keynote in life is?”

He then goes on  to contend (in We: Our Nationhood Defined):

    “The idea was spread [by the Congress Party] that for the first time the people were going to live a ‘national life’. The nation…naturally was composed of all those who happened to reside therein and that all these people were to unite on a common ‘national’ platform…we began to class ourselves with our old invaders and foes [read Muslims, Christians & all minorities] under the outlandish name – Indian…The result of this poison is too well known. We have allowed ourselves to be duped into believing our foes to be our friends and…are undermining true nationality”.

Finally, Golwalkar posits (in Why Hindu Rashtra?):

    “Unfortunately…our Constitution has…given equal rights to everybody, just as a person without understanding may give equal rights to his children and to the thieves in his house and distribute the property among all”.

Shockingly, he then preaches to his followers, in typical fascist style, that non Hindus in India can “claim nothing, deserve no privileges, far less any preferential treatment- not even citizen’s rights”.

Consequently, two articles in RSS’ Organiser (on 30th November, 1949 and 25th January 1950) demanded that instead of the Constitution, the Manumsriti be enacted as the law of the land. This is the same document that Ambedkar publicly burnt, because it prescribes that:

1. Women are an embodiment of the worst desires, hatred, deceit, jealousy and bad character. Women should never be given freedom (IX-17 and V-47 & 147).

2. The Lord has prescribed only one occupation for the Shudra, to serve meekly the other three castes (I, 91).

3. Killing a woman, a Shudra or an atheist is not sinful (IX-17 and V-47 & 147).

4. If the Shudra intentionally listens for committing to memory the Veda then his ears should be filled with molten lead and lac (III-4).

Similarly, VD Savarkar (another Sangh ideologue) rejected India’s national flag which the Constituent Assembly approved on July 29, 1947 arguing:

    “It can never be recognised as the national flag... the authoritative flag of Hindusthan…can be no other than the bhagava (saffron flag)…and we (Sangh) “can loyally salute no other flag”. Sardar Patel, repulsed by the Sangh’s anti-national character banned it arguing: “the RSS… (is) indulging in…subversive activities (and it’s)… activities…constitute a clear threat to the existence of Government and the State…”

In the past, India has been blessed with leaders of outstanding moral fibre who have steadfastly safeguarded and strengthened the idea of India. However, is that idea for which Gandhi died really inviolate under our current political leadership? Is the promise of this country accorded to all people, regardless of their religion, caste, gender, birth or ideological inclination? And if it isn’t, isn’t our collective consciousness deeply troubled by the selectivity?

This Constitution Day therefore provides us with the perfect opportunity to reflect on who we are, and what kind of society we want to be. As Ambedkar once said:

    “If we wish to preserve the Constitution in which we have sought to enshrine the principle of Government of the people, for the people and by the people, let us resolve not to be tardy in the recognition of the evils that lie across our path…nor to be weak in our initiative to remove them. That is the only way to serve the country”.

Pushparaj Deshpande is currently an analyst with the Congress Party. He has worked on legislation and policy with PRS Legislative Research, Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies (a Congress think tank), Rajya Sabha TV, Cicero Associates and various Members of Parliament.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in

Source: scrollin

Blogger Comment: Good Read Article

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Caste pride, purity of women and honour killings

CHENNAI, November 25, 2015 | Updated: November 25, 2015 09:57 IST

B. Kolappan

thehindu

 Tamil Nadu is notorious for many deaths going unreported as passed off as suicides

While up north, khap panchayats (kangaroo courts) held by dominant communities brazenly rule against inter-caste love marriages, in Tamil Nadu many cases of honour killings go unreported as the deaths are often passed off as suicides. The recent death of a 17-year-old caste Hindu girl, whose parents opposed her love affair with a Scheduled Caste youth in Ramanathapuram district indicates the serious proportions assumed by this under-reported social reality.

In many parts of Tamil Nadu, inter-caste marriages, especially those involving a Dalit bride or groom, invariably spark trouble with members of the dominant Hindu community vetoing it. Activists blame political parties that seek to mobilise votes on the plank of casteism for perpetuating this social ill.

“The death of the Dalit youth Ilavarasan of Dharmapuri district, who married Divya, a Vanniyar girl, has emboldened castiest elements. Caste outfits masquerading as political parties are ready to go to any extent to break inter-caste marriages as they fear it will spell a death knell for casteism,” charges P. Sampath, president of the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF.)

Mr. Sampath claimed that in the last three years the State had witnessed 98 honour killings, but most of these cases were “covered up” as suicides.

“Even if inter-caste marriages had the blessings of parents of the bride and groom, humiliations, social boycott and ostracisation force them either to break the marriage or encourage them to eliminate the newly married in the name of honour killing,” he contends.

Feudal concept

Caste pride and treating women as men's possession are the prime factors behind honour killings, say some activists. Often, these killings are committed because women are considered as preserver of the purity of progeny, a feudal concept. A ‘polluted’ progeny is unthinkable.

“Intermediate communities cannot stomach the idea of transferring their genes to other communities through their women. That is why they resort to violence when their women fall in love with Dalit men, but would not mind their men marrying a Dalit woman,” says Tamil writer Imayam.

Mr. Imayam’s acclaimed novella Pethavan captured how a father facing the threat of social boycott commits suicide after allowing his daughter to elope with her Dalit boy friend.

While Imayam feels that the Tamil society with very little tolerance was unlikely to change for better, Mr. Sampath was confident that enacting a separate law to deal with honour killing would end the social evil. “Existing laws including the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, have miserably failed in checkmating honour killings,” he points out.

Source: thehindu

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Aamir Khan isn’t alone: I too am a little afraid of living in India

The actor was right. There is a sense of despondency in the country and Narendra Modi has done nothing to dispel it.

Rahul Pandita  · Today · 07:13 pm

scrollin

We know that militant Islam does not get criticised in India as much as militant Hindutva. We know it is outright silly to compare the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh with the Islamic State. We know a certain section of the intelligentsia will always display cantankerousness towards Narendra Modi. We know Mani Shankar Aiyar should have long retired from public life. We must also know that we cannot offer to send Aamir Khan to Pakistan for speaking his mind.

I have been in the United States for the last few months and I too have felt alarmed at the developments in India that Aamir Khan spoke about. I am told on social media that one can feel safe in India today only if one were an upper-caste Hindu male. I am all of this and yet, truth be told, I am a little scared of returning.

I am currently at Yale – an oasis of opportunity and exclusivity in the middle of a city where 30% of the adults cannot read and where many live in poverty and squalor. The crime rate is high, and every other day the university police chief writes to us about an assault or robbery that has occurred on a street that we may have walked minutes before the crime. But the city works; the system seems to be working. It feels like we have someone watching over us. We just have to press a red button on the street and someone wearing state insignia will turn up in a minute.

At Yale, I live close to a frat house where an apparent act of racism recently triggered massive protests across the university. But it never felt as if the issue was not being addressed at the highest level. The dean of Yale College spent hours amidst a belligerent crowd of black students and patiently heard their grievances. Every institute within Yale organised its own meetings to enable students to speak freely about their experiences. No-one said the protesters should be sent to Africa.

Sense of despondency

That does not mean racism has been dealt with in America, or that tomorrow a black man will not be needlessly pinned down by a white cop on a New York street. But it is okay to speak out, it is okay to write a pamphlet. Nobody who has a selfie with President Barack Obama as his DP will abuse you on Twitter, or throw ink at you, or come to your office and beat you up. In a way, governance here is akin to psychotherapy – the therapy may or may not work, but the patient should feel that he is in the care of a therapist. That the therapist is telling him, “I hear you.” It is the patient on the couch, not the therapist. But in India it feels as if the state is on the couch with its back turned towards its people.

What did Aamir Khan say that caused such outrage and prompted a reaction from the government? He said that for Indians to feel secure there must be a sense of justice; that when there is insecurity, people look to the head of the state to make reassuring statements. He said there was a sense of despondency, an atmosphere where people felt depressed or low.

One doesn’t have to be from the minority community to feel what he said. Where is a sense of justice in India today, in Dadri or beyond? On which topic – minority protection or otherwise – did we hear a word of reassurance from Modi? Did he tell his chief minister in Haryana to stop talking about cows and instead focus on removing pigs wallowing in muck outside the Cyber City in Gurgaon? Did his party offer a word of solace to the family of the poor Kashmiri trucker killed by goons on the Jammu national highway? Did he speak to his government in Rajasthan and ask why it felt the need to remove a Safdar Hashmi poem from a textbook?

The fact is that many in India do feel a sense of despondency today and it runs beyond the minority community. One doesn’t have to be a Muslim to see how Modi’s silence has emboldened hoodlums who see it as his tacit approval and, as a result, are leaving their internet troll avatars behind to come out on the streets.


Fear in the minority community

And then beyond this, there is something that only a minority can feel. No matter how empathetic members of a majority community are, they cannot fear certain patterns that members of a minority community do. A friend in the US tells me the story of her grandmother who lives in Mumbai and had to seek refuge in a neighbour’s house during the 1992 riots. After Dadri, she says, she has been checking several times whether the door that she used to slip into her neighbour’s house over two decades ago is opening properly. She has not returned any award or asked her son about resettling anywhere else. But she is scared. And that fear, whether it is justified or not, is genuine.

The bhakts are already blackening Aamir Khan’s face on film posters. Somebody will invariably ask him why he didn’t feel the same after the Babri Masjid demolition. Maybe he did, but we didn’t ask him. Maybe he did not then, but feels it now. Maybe he thought things will get better, that acche din will come. Maybe he saw the beaming face of the woman standing next to Maya Kodnani in a selfie that has recently surfaced on the Facebook and that scared him.

It is not that people have not been killed before for transporting cows. Or that Dalit kids were not brutalised during Manmohan Singh’s time in power. But like Narendra Modi, he never looked us in the eye and said: “May the force be with you.” Maybe we got it wrong. Maybe Modi meant: may the hoax be with you.

Rahul Pandita is a 2015 Yale World Fellow and the author, most recently, of Our Moon has Blood Clots: A Memoir of a Lost Home in Kashmir. He tweets at @rahulpandita.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in

Labels: , ,

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A tale of two speeches: Rajiv Gandhi – November 19, 1984 and Narendra Modi – February 28, 2002

Both failed to denounce large-scale killing of minorities, let alone promising tough action against culprits regardless of the provocation.

Manoj Mitta  · Today · 09:15 am

scrollin

A tale of two speeches: Rajiv Gandhi – November 19, 1984 and Narendra Modi – February 28, 2002
This is a tale of two speeches. One was delivered by Rajiv Gandhi, barely a fortnight after the pogrom targeting Sikhs had subsided. The other was recorded by Narendra Modi, on the first day of the post-Godhra carnage targeting Muslims. The first speech, a video of which has recently been discovered after a lapse of 31 years, justified the massacres in Delhi, while the second discriminated between the killings in Gujarat on the basis of religion.

Rajiv Gandhi's speech was at the first rally addressed by him as Prime Minister: it was at Boat Club near India Gate on November 19, 1984, the birth anniversary of Indira Gandhi, whose assassination avenging Operation Bluestar had triggered the mass violence.

Narendra Modi’s speech was a “peace appeal” officially admitted to have been recorded in Ahmedabad for Doordarshan around 6 pm on February 28, 2002, which was a day after 59 people, mostly kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya, had been burnt alive in a train following a clash with Muslims at the Godhra station.





In an old government compilation of Rajiv’s speeches, his infamous Hindi metaphor on the reverberations caused by Indira Gandhi’s assassination is translated as follows:

    “But, when a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little.”


Though he was speaking in a city where thousands of Sikhs had just been orphaned, widowed, raped, grievously injured or rendered homeless, Rajiv Gandhi did not spare a thought for their plight anywhere in his speech. Instead, he was focused on empathising with the “krodh” (intense anger) of the mobs that had perpetrated the violence. Far from condemning the crimes committed by them, Rajiv Gandhi commended the mobs for ending the violence and thereby showing to the world that “India has become a genuine democracy”.



Much in keeping with the precedent set by Rajiv Gandhi, Narendra Modi’s speech too faulted only the original sin, which in his case was the Godhra violence. While condemning the Godhra incident, he said he would ensure that its culprits got “full punishment for their sins” and set such an example that “nobody, not even in his dreams, thinks of committing a heinous crime like this.” There was no such denunciation of the post-Godhra violence or threat to its culprits.

This was despite the fact that the speech was recorded at Circuit House Annexe, barely three kilometres from Gulberg Society, where the first massacre of Muslims had taken place more than two hours earlier. And an even bigger massacre was by then drawing to a close at Naroda Patiya, again in Ahmedabad. Yet, Modi did not deem it fit to acknowledge either of these post-Godhra massacres, although the death toll in each of them was greater than that of Godhra. Instead, he hinted at certain “disturbing” incidents and urged people not “to take the law into (their) own hands”. Repeatedly expressing empathy for their “sentiments”, he appealed to them to maintain “peace and self-restraint.” In contrast to his response to the Godhra case, Modi refrained from expressing any condolences for the many killed in the post-Godhra violence, let alone promising justice for them. The import of his differential treatment of victims depending on their religion could not have been lost on the public at that sensitive moment.

Similar motives

Since there was nothing overtly offensive about them, it may be debatable whether those speeches by Rajiv Gandhi and Narendra Modi, however discriminatory, fit the criminal law definition of hate speech. They stayed under the radar as the errors were more of omission than of commission. From what was glossed over by them, the speeches in different ways betrayed the motives of the authorities on whose watch the two most egregious instances of mass violence had taken place. Diverting attention from allegations of political instigation or administrative complicity, they attributed the attacks on minorities entirely to public anger.

Despite his secular pretensions, Rajiv Gandhi’s failure in his November 19 speech to decry the violence committed in his mother’s name set the tone for an unabashedly majoritarian campaign run by the Congress party in the 1984 Lok Sabha election, which it went on to win with the largest ever margin. Besides, the disdain displayed at the highest level for the concerns of the affected community served as a signal for the police to carry on with their subversion of the rule of law, blocking all efforts to bring culprits to justice. The Justice Ranganath Misra Commission absolved Rajiv Gandhi of all responsibility for the 1984 carnage without even going through the motions of questioning him.

As Modi’s speech of February 28 was recorded at the height of the post-Godhra killings, the only way he could justify his failure to make any mention of the Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya massacres was to claim ignorance about them. Asked when exactly he had been informed about the mob attack on Gulberg Society and what action he had taken in the matter, Modi told the Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team in 2010 that he had, “to the best of [his] knowledge”, heard about the Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya massacres only "in the night" at a meeting which was found to have been held at 8.30 pm.

Glaring contradiction

While exonerating Modi of all charges, the SIT made no reference to his claim that he had been unaware of the Gulberg Society massacre, for instance, for almost five hours. The suppression of this glaring contradiction allowed the SIT to pat Modi for holding a series of meetings with the police and home department apparently to track the violence as it unfolded. A day after his Doordarshan address, Modi came up with a Newtonian variant of Rajiv Gandhi’s big tree metaphor. In an interview to a private TV channel, he alleged that the Gulberg Society massacre was a “reaction” to the firing at the mob by one of its fatal casualties, former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri. Rejecting Modi's victim-blaming, the SIT "clarified" that if at all Jafri had opened fire, it could only have been “an immediate provocation to the mob, which had assembled there to take revenge of Godhra incident from the Muslims”.

The video of Rajiv Gandhi’s speech is a chilling example of the dog whistle politics employed in the wake of the 1984 carnage. It is also a reminder that such coded language was used by Modi in the thick of the 2002 carnage. Since this and other such crucial pieces of evidence have fallen through the cracks in the SIT report, the video has far more than just archival value. The ideological posturing exposed by it is more relevant than ever before.

Manoj Mitta co-authored When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath and authored The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in

Source: scrollin

Labels: , ,

Friday, November 20, 2015

Manual scavenging is illegal, so why do states continue to support the practice?

Maharashtra has more than 63,000 households dependent on manual scavenging, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura.

Radha Patankar, IndiaSpend.com  · Today · 08:30 pm

scrollin

Hot water, sanitary pads and bottles are flung at them when they work in filthy, obscure Mumbai gullies (lanes), but although manual scavenging is illegal, Maharashtra employs 35% of 1,80,657 Indian families whose livelihood depends on unblocking excreta-packed sewers in those dank lanes.

“Aamhi lokancha jeev wachavto ashi kama karun pan aamcha jeev wachwayla konich nahi (We save lives by doing our job but there is nobody to save us),” a worker said, requesting anonymity for fear of official retribution.

India does not officially recognise the employment of manual scavengers, almost all of whom are Dalits. They are officially hired as “cleaners” in Maharashtra. The state does, however, acknowledge that thousands make their living doing manual scavenging.

Maharashtra has more than 63,000 households dependent on manual scavenging, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and Karnataka, according to a question answered by Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Vijay Sampla, in the Lok Sabha.

scrollin
Source: Lok Sabha

The 'sweepers'

Since they do not have a proper system of disposing of excreta, the Indian Railways are the largest employer of manual scavengers, with an unknown number on their rolls.

Most of the “sweepers”, as they are called – thus making them hard to identify as scavengers – with the railways are employed through contractors, and they earn around Rs 200 per day. Although the workers get gloves, hygiene awareness is so low that they hardly use them. If they do use protective equipment, a new draft law says such workers can then no longer be classified as manual scavengers.

In September, the Delhi high court ordered a survey in the capital to determine the extent of manual scavenging. The Ministry of Railways told the court that manual scavenging cannot be completely eradicated until stations get washable aprons and sealed toilet systems.

“While the (railway) ministry denies employing manual scavengers officially, the affidavits it has submitted in the court in the past nine years suggest that barring a few trains, the railways does not employ any technology to keep its 80,000 toilets and 1.15 lakh kilometres of tracks clean,” according to Down To Earth magazine.

scrollin

Sunil Yadav, from Manual Scavenger to M.Phil: Yadav, 36, a neo-Buddhist, inherited his father’s occupation and was a manual scavenger with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). Yadav later completed his Masters in social work, and is currently pursuing an M Phil at Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). But his is a rare success story among 30,000 conservancy workers employed by the BMC. Most are Dalits and work in these outlawed jobs because they have no choice.

Source: British Broadcasting Corporation

On the margins

Progress for a people who come from the lowest castes and whose jobs do not officially exist is slow, and protest is almost impossible.

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation “conservancy workers” – an euphemism for manual scavengers who clean lanes –said that they started getting gloves recently. The BMC has also started giving them medical insurance up to Rs 5 lakh. Since the premium is deducted from their salary, more than half have not signed up.

“There are four to five deaths every month,” a worker said. “Most of us suffer from tuberculosis. BMC owns a hospital but all we get is Rs 10 case-paper free." That means the workers don’t have to pay consultation fees, but they must pay for their own medicines and wait six months for sonography tests, four months for x-rays.

Almost all of Mumbai’s conservancy workers in BMC are Buddhists or neo-Buddhists, converts from Hinduism’s lowest castes. Kept to the margins, it is hard for them to break the status quo.

One contractor said that machines now cleaned sewers and workers did not descend manholes. However, workers said contractors sent people down manholes almost every night. Workers take turns entering manholes, lathering bare bodies with coconut oil to keep away the odours of the sewer.

Why do they continue doing what they do?

Housing and jobs

In Mumbai, one of the main reasons why manual scavengers continue doing their jobs is that they do not have the education to do much else. Working as a scavenger means that they get housing from the BMC and their jobs can be transferred to family members.

Although their “official” income varies from Rs 7,000 to Rs 25,000, what they actually get in hand is Rs 5,000 to Rs 15,000, after deductions for education and marriage loans – some taken from landlords – and insurance premia.

A new law, The Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and Rehabilitation Act, 2013, talks about rehabilitating conservancy workers by giving them one-time cash assistance of Rs 40,000. After talking to BMC workers, it was clear they had not heard of this.

scrollin
 Source: Lok Sabha; Note: Data for FY 2016 up to June 30, 2015.

The Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers was introduced by the Ministry of  Social Justice and Empowerment in 2007, and implementation supposedly began in November 2013. Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal have received cash assistance to rehabilitate scavengers identified by the government.

Maharashtra has given no cash to manual scavengers it has identified.

This article was originally published on IndiaSpend, a data-driven and public-interest journalism non-profit.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in

Source: scrollin

Labels:

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

This is why they hate us: The real American history neither Ted Cruz nor the New York Times will tell you

Wednesday, Nov 18, 2015 06:00 AM EST

We talk democracy, then overthrow elected governments and prop up awful regimes. Let's discuss the actual history

Ben Norton

salon
 Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush (Credit: AP/Reuters/Jason Reed/Photo montage by Salon)
The soi-disant Land of the Free and Home of the Brave has a long and iniquitous history of overthrowing democratically elected leftist governments and propping up right-wing dictators in their place.

U.S. politicians rarely acknowledge this odious past — let alone acknowledge that such policies continue well into the present day.

In the second Democratic presidential debate, however, candidate Bernie Sanders condemned a long-standing government policy his peers rarely admit exists.

“I think we have a disagreement,” Sanders said of fellow presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “And the disagreement is that not only did I vote against the war in Iraq. If you look at history, you will find that regime change — whether it was in the early ’50s in Iran, whether it was toppling Salvador Allende in Chile, or whether it was overthrowing the government of Guatemala way back when — these invasions, these toppling of governments, regime changes have unintended consequences. I would say that on this issue I’m a little bit more conservative than the secretary.”

“I am not a great fan of regime changes,” Sanders added.

“Regime change” is not a phrase you hear discussed honestly much in Washington, yet it is a common practice in and defining feature of U.S. foreign policy for well over a century. For many decades, leaders from both sides of the aisle, Republicans and Democrats, have pursued a bipartisan strategy of violently overthrowing democratically elected foreign governments that do not kowtow to U.S. orders.

In the debate, Sanders addressed three examples of U.S. regime change. There are scores of examples of American regime change, yet these are perhaps the most infamous instances.

Iran, 1953

salon
 A tank in the streets of Tehran during the 1953 CIA-backed coup
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Public domain)


Iran was once a secular democracy. You would not know this from contemporary discussions of the much demonized country in U.S. politics and media.

What happen to Iran’s democracy? The U.S. overthrew it in 1953, with the help of the U.K. Why? For oil.

Mohammad Mosaddegh may be the most popular leader in Iran’s long history. He was also Iran’s only democratically elected head of state.

In 1951, Mosaddegh was elected prime minister of Iran. He was not a socialist, and certainly not a communist — on the contrary, he repressed Iranian communists — but he pursued many progressive, social democratic policies. Mosaddegh pushed for land reform, established rent control, and created a social security system, while working to separate powers in the democratic government.

In the Cold War, however, a leader who deviated in any way from free-market orthodoxy and the Washington Consensus was deemed a threat. When Mossaddegh nationalized Iran’s large oil reserves, he crossed a line that Western capitalist nations would not tolerate.

The New York Times ran an article in 1951 titled “British Warn Iran of Serious Result if She Seizes Oil.” The piece, which is full of orientalist language, refers to Iranian oil as “British oil properties,” failing to acknowledge that Britain, which had previously occupied Iran, had seized that oil and claimed it as its own, administering it under the auspices of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which later became the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and eventually British Petroleum and modern BP.

The Times article noted that the U.S. “shares with Britain the gravest concern about the possibility that Iranian oil, the biggest supply now available in the Near East, might be lost to the Western powers.” The British government is quoted making a thinly veiled threat.

This threat came into fruition in August 1953. In Operation Ajax, the CIA, working with its British equivalent MI6, carried out a coup, overthrowing the elected government of Iran and reinstalling the monarchy. The shah would remain a faithful Western ally until 1979, when the monarchy was abolished in the Iranian Revolution.

Guatemala, 1954

salon
 A CIA cable documenting Guatemalan dictator Castillo Armas’ plan to overthrow the elected government (Credit: CIA FOIA)

Less than a year after overthrowing Iran’s first democratically elected prime minister, the U.S. pursued a similar regime change policy in Guatemala, toppling the elected leader Jacobo Árbenz.

In 1944, Guatemalans waged a revolution, toppling the U.S.-backed right-wing dictator Jorge Ubico, who had ruled the country with an iron fist since 1931. Ubico, who fancied himself the 20th-century Napoleon, gave rich landowners and the U.S. corporation the United Fruit Company (which would later become Chiquita) free reign over Guatemala’s natural resources, and used the military to violently crush labor organizers.

Juan José Arévalo was elected into office in 1944. A liberal, he pursued very moderate policies, but the U.S. wanted a right-wing puppet regime that would allow U.S. corporations the same privileges granted to them by Ubico. In 1949, the U.S. backed an attempted coup, yet it failed.

In 1951, Árbenz was elected into office. Slightly to the left of Arévalo, Árbenz was still decidedly moderate. The U.S. claimed Árbenz was close to Guatemala’s communists, and warned he could ally with the Soviet Union. In reality, the opposite was true; Árbenz actually persecuted Guatemalan communists. At most, Árbenz was a social democrat, not even a socialist.

Yet Árbenz, like Mosaddegh, firmly believed that Guatemalans themselves, and not multinational corporations, should benefit from their country’s resources. He pursued land reform policies that would break up the control rich families and the United Fruit Company exercised over the country — and, for that reason, he was overthrown.

President Truman originally authorized a first coup attempt, Operation PBFORTUNE, in 1952. Yet details about the operation were leaked to the public, and the plan was abandoned. In 1954, in Operation PBSUCCESS, the CIA and U.S. State Department, under the Dulles Brothers, bombed Guatemala City and carried out a coup that violently toppled Guatemala’s democratic government.

The U.S. put into power right-wing tyrant Carlos Castillo Armas. For the next more than 50 years, until the end of the Guatemalan Civil War in 1996, Guatemala was ruled by a serious of authoritarian right-wing leaders who brutally repressed left-wing dissidents and carried out a campaign of genocide against the indigenous people of the country.

Chile, 1973

salon
Pinochet’s soldiers burning left-wing books after the 1973 U.S.-backed coup in Chile (Credit: CIA FOIA/Weekly Review)

September 11 has permanently seared itself into the memory of Americans. The date has also been indelibly imprinted in the public consciousness of Chileans, because it was on this same day in 1973 that the U.S. backed a coup that violently overthrew Chile’s democracy.

In 1970, Marxist leader Salvador Allende was democratically elected president of Chile. Immediately after he was elected, the U.S. government poured resources into right-wing opposition groups and gave millions of dollars to Chile’s conservative media outlets.

The CIA deputy director of plans wrote in a 1970 memo, “It is firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup… It is imperative that these actions be implemented clandestinely and securely so that the USG [U.S. government] and American hand be well hidden.” President Nixon subsequently ordered the CIA to “make the economy scream” in Chile, to “prevent Allende from coming to power or to unseat him.”

Allende’s democratic government was violently overthrown in Operation Ajax, on September 11, 1973. He died in the coup, just after making an emotional speech, in which he declared he would give his life to defend Chilean democracy and sovereignty.

Far-right dictator Augusto Pinochet, who combined fascistic police state repression with hyper-capitalist free-market economic policies, was put into power. Under Pinochet’s far-right dictatorship, tens of thousands of Chilean leftists, labor organizers, and journalists were killed, disappeared, and tortured. Hundreds of thousands more people were forced into exile.

One of the most prevailing myths of the Cold War is that socialism was an unpopular system imposed on populations with brute force. Chile serves as a prime historical example of how the exact opposite was true. The masses of impoverished and oppressed people elected many socialist governments, yet these governments were often violently overthrown by the U.S. and other Western allies.

The overthrow of Allende was a turning point for many socialists in the Global South. Before he was overthrown, some leftists thought popular Marxist movements could gain state power through democratic elections, as was the case in Chile. Yet when they saw how the U.S. violently toppled Allende’s elected government, they became suspicious of the prospects of electoral politics and turned to guerrilla warfare and other tactics.

Modern example: Egypt, 2013

salon
Protesters in the August 2013 Raba’a massacre, carried out by Sisi’s U.S.-backed coup government (Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Flickr/Mosa’ab Elshamy)

These are just a small sample of the great many regime changes the U.S. government has been involved in. More recent examples, which were supported by Hillary Clinton, as Sanders implied, include the U.S. government’s overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Qadhafi in Libya. In these cases, the U.S. was overthrowing dictators, not democratically elected leaders — but, as Sanders pointed out, the results of these regime changes have been nothing short of catastrophic.

The U.S. is also still engaging in regime change when it comes to democratically elected governments.

In the January 2011 revolution, Egyptians toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak, a close U.S. ally who ruled Egypt with an iron fist for almost 30 years.

In July 2013, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, was overthrown in a military coup. We now know that the U.S. supported and bankrolled the opposition forces that overthrew the democratically elected president.

Today, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a brutal despot who is widely recognized as even worse than Mubarak, reigns over Egypt. In August 2013, Sisi oversaw a slaughter of more than 800 peaceful Egyptian activists at Raba’a Square. His regime continues to shoot peaceful protesters in the street. An estimated 40,000 political prisoners languish in Sisi’s jails, including journalists.

In spite of his obscene human rights abuses, Sisi remains a close ally of the U.S. and Israel — much, much closer than was the democratically elected President Morsi.

In the second Democratic presidential debate, when Sanders called Clinton out on her hawkish, pro-regime change policies, she tried to blame the disasters in the aftermath in countries like Iraq and Libya on the “complexity” of the Middle East. As an example of this putative complexity, Clinton cited Egypt. “We saw a dictator overthrown, we saw Muslim Brotherhood president installed, and then we saw him ousted and the army back,” she said.

Clinton failed to mention two crucial factors: One, that the U.S. backed Mubarak until the last moment; and two, that the U.S. also supported the coup that overthrew Egypt’s first and only democratically elected head of state.

Other examples

salon

The political cartoon “Ten Thousand Miles from Tip to Tip,” published in the Philadelphia Press in 1898 (Credit: Public domain)

There are scores of other examples of U.S.-led regime change.

    In 1964 the U.S. backed a coup in Brazil, toppling left-wing President João Goulart.
    In 1976, the U.S. supported a military coup in Argentina that replaced President Isabel Perón with General Jorge Rafael Videla.
    In 2002, the U.S. backed a coup that overthrew democratically elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Chávez was so popular, however, that Venezuelans filled the street and demanded him back.
    In 2004, the U.S. overthrew Haiti’s first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
    In 2009, U.S.-trained far-right forces overthrew the democratically elected government of Honduras, with tacit support from Washington.

The list goes on.

Latin America, given its proximity to the U.S. and the strength of left-wing movements in the region, tends to endure the largest number of U.S. regime changes, yet the Middle East and many parts of Africa have seen their democratic governments overthrown as well.

From 1898 to 1994, Harvard University historian John Coatsworth documented at least 41 U.S. interventions in Latin America — an an average of one every 28 months for an entire century.

Numerous Latin American military dictators were trained at the School of the Americas, a U.S. Department of Defense Institute in Fort Benning, Georgia. The School of the Americas Watch, an activist organization that pushes for the closing of the SOA, has documented many of these regime changes, which have been carried out by both Republicans and Democrats.

Diplomatic cables released by whistleblowing journalism outlet WikiLeaks show the U.S. still maintains a systematic campaign of trying to overthrow Latin America’s left-wing governments.

By not just acknowledging the bloody and ignominious history of U.S. regime change, but also condemning it, Sen. Sanders was intrepidly trekking into controversial political territory into which few of his peers would dare to tread. Others would do well to learn from Bernie’s example.

Ben Norton is a politics staff writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

Source: Salon

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Indian Feminist Drama ’Parched’ Wins Stockholm’s Inaugural Impact Award


November 17, 2015 | 10:19AM PT

Jon Asp

Leena Yadav’s “Parched” has won the inaugural impact award at Stockholm Film Festival on Tuesday.

The India-set feminist drama nabbed a cash grant of 1 million Skr ($120K) to help finance her upcoming projects.

The prize was announced by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who presided the Impact jury which comprised Swedish theatre director Linus Tunstrom and Iranian film director Ida Panahandeh (”Nahid”). During the presser, Weiwei also unveiled a sculpture that he created for the winner.

”Through superb acting, giving unique insight into the minds and hearts of women in rural India, told with colorful, sensual cinematography, this film is a paradoxical celebration of life, in spite of tough circumstances, creating both anger and joy, giving fuel for debate as well as hope for change when addressing a burning question that affects, not half, but the whole of our society,” stated the jury.

Unfolding in a rural village in Northwest India, “Parched” turns on Rani, a woman who is about to marry her 17-year-old son with a girl two years younger. The wedding doesn’t go as planned and when Rani’s prostitute friend comes to the village, everything falls apart.

Co-produced between India, the U.S. and The U.K., “Parched” deals with domestic violence and inequality within the Indian society. The movie world premiered at Toronto to warm reviews and marks Yadav’s third directorial outing.

Stockholm has collaborated with Weiwei, who is also a docu filmmaker, for the last two years. In 2013, he was tapped to serve on the jury but was forbidden by the Chinese government to leave the country. So the festival dedicated him a “Chair for Nonattendance.” Last year Weiwei designed for the festival two ice sculptures inspired by the lions guarding the Forbidden City in Beijing.

“Stockholm has always been in the frontline in choosing interesting films, aesthetically and socially, which is very important today,” said Weiwei.

Dedicated to “headstrong visionaries who reflect our contemporary world,”the Stockholm Impact section included six other films, notably Lisa Aschan’s “White People,” a sci-fi inspired drama thriller about power and hierarchies, Mexican Matias Meyer’s loosely set J.L.G. Lé Clézio adaptation “Yo,” Erik Matti’s ”Honor Thy Father” from the Philippines, Yuval Delshad’s “Baba Joon” from Israel; and Sterlin Harjo’s “Mekko” from the U.S.

The prize is made possible with the contribution of City of Stockholm.

Filed Under: Stockholm Daily Four   

Source: varietycom

Labels: , , , , ,

The majoritarian victims: The history of lynching black Americans as a parable of our times

One was mistaken in mourning Akhlaq or Noman or Zahid Ahmad Bhatt, the 'beef criminals'. What one should mourn is the perversion of the souls of the witnesses of lynching.

Aparna Vaidik  · Today · 05:30 pm

scroll.in

In 1899, a young black sharecropper, on a farm outside Atlanta in the United States of America, got into a dispute with his landlord and ended up killing him in self-defence. A rumour circulated that he had raped the landlord’s wife.  A white mob of nearly 4,000 people collected to watch the anticipated lynching of the black sharecropper. WEB Du Bois (1868-1963), an African-American with a PhD from Harvard, who taught sociology at Atlanta University at the time, heard about the prospective lynching, prepared a letter of protest and rushed to deliver it to the local newspaper. But he was already too late. The white mob jeered and clapped as the black man cowering in fear was caught, stripped, tortured and, in the end, hung and burnt alive. On his way to the newspaper office, Du Bois learned about the lynching and that the victim’s knuckles were being exhibited as a souvenir at a nearby grocery store. This lynching changed the course of Du Bois’ life and he went on to become a leading African-American civil rights activist. He is known for an evocative collection of essays, The Souls of Black Folks (1903). Described as "fireworks going off in a cemetery", the book eventually became the Bible of the civil rights movement.

For long the word "lynch" was used as part of the system of frontier justice in America where absence of legally-sanctioned trials and punishments justified its use. The verb "lynch" could include whipping and capital punishment. However, it was only after the American Civil War (1861-65) and following the emancipation of slaves (1863) that it came to be firmly associated with "to put to death" and became synonymous with acts of retribution reserved for the free African-Americans. Post-emancipation era saw the rise in racial discrimination and segregation – prejudiced treatment of the Blacks based on race and restrictions on their use of institutions (schools, churches and hospitals) and facilities (parks, playgrounds, toilets, and restaurants).

This period also saw the birth and expansion of the Ku Klux Klan – a white supremacist organisation. With the Klan, lynching became a "routine response" to any form of Black self-assertion, be it to acquire education, social and political equality or cultural inclusion. Stories and episodes of lynching instilled such terror in the heart and minds of the blacks that it ensured their acquiescence to white domination. This period, known in USA’s history as Jim Crow – which was originally a song-and-dance caricature to mock black people but by the end of the 19th century came to refer to legal institutionalisation of racism – left a dark legacy of 3,811 black people lynched to death.

Historical victims

How did the majority of white people respond to these lynchings? The reactions ranged from absolute cold revulsion, hostile defensiveness to collective amnesia. One would imagine that it was the mob murder that inspired horror. But it didn’t. What struck terror in white hearts was the supposed crime of the black man – the rape of white woman. At the core of lynching was the white fear of lustful black men as rapists of white women. The "defenceless white woman" was the centrepiece of pro-lynching propaganda. No amount of consensual sex between the two races could remove the paranoia of the majority community. Seen from the perspective of the white people, the victim was not the lynched black man but the white supremacist whose woman had been supposedly violated. The black man was assumed to be guilty in every story. Lynching thus entrenched the white supremacist’s sense of being historical victims and in turn criminalised the black men.

Lynching was not just any other murder. Lynching, where a mob captured, dragged and maimed another human was very much like gang rape in its symbolism. In many cases, the genitalia of the black men were mutilated. Gang rape and lynching both are about the male power and privilege over the victim’s body. Lynching, a majoritarian act carried out against the defenceless minority, instead of being seen as such, was presented as an act of self-reclamation guaranteeing the power and privilege of the white male. It restored the white honour by righting a perceived wrong – the black aggressor had been punished and the patriarchal duty was fulfilled. It was thus a public demonstration of the supposed moral superiority of the white community.

Conspiracy of silence

In Jim Crow, the acts of witnessing the lynching as bystanders or through the medium of newspapers (or pamphlets, ballads, popular stories, photographs and cinema) lent the white people a sense of security. In this way lynching bound the white community together beyond class, generational and geographical differences. This also helped generate a national tolerance for supremacist violence as something that was a normal aspect of peoples’ lives. Torture and mutilation of the blacks was passed off as a legitimate customary practice. What one saw was the growing perversion of the white community which abetted, sanctified and at times celebrated the lynchings primarily through its deafening silence. A case in point is Mark Twain, a contemporary of Du Bois, whom we know as the writer of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Twain wrote a blistering essay in 1901, "The United states of Lyncherdom" as a reaction to a newspaper account of a lynching. However, he never published the essay. Twain preferred to remain silent because he believed that he would not have even "half a friend" left once it was published. The Jim Crow era is past in the USA, however, many of the attitudes that perpetuated it remain – and so does the conspiracy of silence.

Might we read the repugnant history of lynching of black people as a parable of our times? The majoritarian community in India deploys lynching time and again as a weapon against the Dalits and minorities in the name of restoring its honour. Lynching has almost acquired the form of a legitimate customary practice with the "beef" vigilante groups roaming through city streets. The nation is gradually becoming indifferent to, or tolerant of, the violence because of its excess and because it is perpetrated in the name of righting an imagined historical wrong. One was mistaken in mourning Akhlaq or Noman or Zahid Ahmad Bhatt, the "beef criminals". Nor should we mourn the two Dalit children who were killed in Faridabad or several others before them.

What one should mourn is the perversion of the souls of the "witnesses" of lynching. The cousins, family friends, and fellow Indians who treat these killings as retribution – payback time for communities who, according to them, had enjoyed free rein under earlier political regimes. People who capitalise on these killings to strengthen and bind the majoritarian community across class, generational and regional divisions. Those who righteously ask why a death of a Hindu did not create such a furore. Those who decry the selective outrage of litterateurs and public intellectuals. Above all, the Indians who abet and sanctify these lynching with their silence.

Du Bois rightly wrote in his autobiography, A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century (1961): “One could not be a calm, cool, and detached scientist, while Negroes were lynched, murdered, and starved.” Lynching did not leave any possibility of a neutral stance – or for silence.

Aparna Vaidik is Associate Professor of History, Ashoka University

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in

Source: scrollin

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Patriot or nationalist? Why I will never be the latter

It is easy for me to be labelled as a patriot. Do I love my country? Perhaps. Do I feel strongly about the achievements of my nation and fellow countrypersons?

Written by Sandeep Dikshit | Updated: November 11, 2015 8:12 am

indianexpress

Are “patriot” and “nationalist” synonyms? No. They connote different characteristics. A patriot, deshbhakt or watanparast is someone who loves her country, vigorously supports it and its way of life, loves and fights for it. A nationalist or rashtravaadi is someone with loyalty and devotion above all to a nation. Her sense of national consciousness exalts one nation over all others and places primary emphasis on its culture and interests — the “national way of life” — as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.

It is easy for me to be labelled as a patriot. Do I love my country? Perhaps. Do I feel strongly about the achievements of my nation and fellow countrypersons?

Yes, I do. Would I, if needed, pick up arms to defend my country? Yes. How would I describe a patriot? Simply as someone who will not compromise the national, security and economic interests of her country, and will contribute to its good, and to the good of others. I do not accept the notion that there are competing levels of patriotism. All decent and caring human beings defend and protect the honour and dignity of their people in their own way.

Nationalism, however, has connotations I find problematic. Do I have a particular consciousness as an Indian? Do I have a particular culture that defines me as an Indian? Yes, there is something distinctive about being Indian — family values, customs and mores, responsibilities, ownership over and liking of our music, architecture, dance, paintings and cultural expressions, peculiar phrases and expressions drawn from languages and religions of the region. But does that make me a nationalist?

I consider myself patriotic — not the flag-waving kind but certainly the flag-respecting kind. But in what way am I an Indian? In its simplest, most powerful form, as a citizen who believes in the one book that recognises me for what I am or will be and that defines my spaces, freedoms, just beliefs and rights — the Constitution. I have many fellow travellers, with varying degrees of belief in this book. But there is a finality that one will have to adhere to its basic principles, rights and duties.

However, I find myself at odds with many definitions of a nationalist. When the issues of other books, norms and cultural patterns are brought in, when religion takes a fuller role, I turn away. People who theorise on such forms of nationalism and exclusive identities are from different regions, religions and speak different languages. I have a serious problem with the notion that Hindutva is the defining and legitimising feature of being Indian.

I accept with glee and joy and preserve with passion what is mine — my Hindi, my mythology, my favourite characters, my nation and its plurality, my music and my dances, my colours and my clothes, my prejudices and my dislikes, and my opportunities to grow and mature. I will live the way I am, take joy and happiness in all the other wonderful ways in which people live, celebrate and express — but reject and oppose any imposition or condescension towards myself or others.

As a patriot, defending the security and integrity of my country and the life and property of all human beings, within and without its borders, is as critical as opposing calls and demands for recognition of different nationalisms. A religion’s beliefs, codified or not, need to be respected and given space. But when they are used to subvert the universality of human values of life, liberty and equality, for separating humanity, for codifying ways of life in

singularities rather than celebrating diversity and pluralism, then, to me, it is a war against humanity.

I reject vehemently these definitions as they impinge on me, subjugate me, blackmail me. I reject all totalitarian definitions. I will join in paying salutations to “Bharat Mata” — but as a symbol of the country, not as the divine mother.

Just as many Muslims say that loyalty to the country of birth is sanctioned in the Quran, I shall join in any celebration of the religion. But I reject religiosity as the main basis for caring for my country and its diverse people.

I reject being a nationalist. Nationalism is slyly inserted under many names and with many legitimacies — by invoking god, quoting scriptures, those shibboleths of mortal words, sometimes intelligent, often banal, usually understood and quoted with convenience and kept away from questioning in the name of faith. Equally, I reject the opposing of one form of nationalism with another. Both this definition and its opposition are carried on the wings of inscrutable divinity and religious sanction.

I am a patriot, I am not a jingoist nationalist, and shall never be one.

The writer, a member of the Congress party, is a former Lok Sabha MP

Source: indianexpress

Labels: ,