Monday, June 28, 2010

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Of, by and for the Corrupt | Hard News

Of, by and for the Corrupt | Hard News
Of, by and for the Corrupt

If the Naxalites can muster 'company strength of forces' to battle with the government, it may not be without support from those who feel angry at the inaction against massive corruption and blatant nepotism of the current system
MR Sivaraman Chennai

David Thoreau mused in his masterpiece On Civil Disobedience: "I believe that government is best which governs not at all." The article, which inspired Mahatma Gandhi to get us swaraj through civil disobedience, seems to be inspiring our government again.

Any governing authority exists on the consent of the people willing to be governed by it. From Plato to John Rawls and Amartya Sen, all have acknowledged that for everyone to enjoy liberty unhindered, everyone also has to give up some rights. Some inequality in power, positions and wealth thus becomes inevitable. According to John Rawls, for justice to mean fairness, there should be equal opportunity for everyone to attain positions and partake in wealth creation. But all of this should take place within the four corners of the law as accepted by the people.

Although India got its democratic government after great sacrifices by the forgotten millions, our government does not seem to believe that the law is meant for everyone. Cases of tax evasion launched against a giant industrial house and cases against persons responsible for the massive financial manipulation that led to the loss of hundreds of crore of foreign exchange (FE) through the ineptitude of the RBI and other banks in the 1990s (the present chairman of the Economic Advisory Council was then the RBI governor) - all initiated when Dr Manmohan Singh was the finance minister - seem to have withered away. (One senior IRS officer, who had pursued the FE manipulation case and arrested a number of persons, resigned in disgust.)

There seems to be cooperation among all politicians across the spectrum as no one of consequence has gone to jail for these violations or for corruption. Even if they are sentenced by lower courts, they are set free by the higher courts on flimsy grounds. Our courts direct the CBI to conduct enquiry against anybody except the members of the judiciary, even though there are allegations of rampant corruption within the judiciary at many places. One wonders whether there is a policy of give and take between the judicial system and political executives.

We tend to romanticise our past but never in our history has reason, justice and fairness reigned supreme. Today a substantial part of India is literate, democratic institutions are in place, and we are on an upward march towards prosperity. Yet governance seems to have been the victim.

But who are really marching up to prosperity? They are mostly the top two to three per cent led by industrial houses and their cohorts. The government does not want to compute the true GDP of India which must include its vast unaccounted income. It did revise it partially in 1998 after this writer persuaded the then finance minister. A senior officer of the finance ministry conceded in a public meeting recently in Chennai that our GDP was underestimated, but revising it would have serious consequences, including exposure of the highly skewed income distribution in India. Indeed, a nation that boasts of a huge number of billionaires also has the highest percentage of the world's poor.

A few days ago, P Chidambaram laconically stated that some intellectuals are supporting the Naxalites. Has he paused to think that the unpardonable violence of the Naxalites is but an expression of anger at the corruption and moral degradation of successive governments in India?

The media has exposed the brazen aggression of the lobbyists of the industrial houses in Delhi. The truth is there are senior bureaucrats who are either direct lobbyists or have been employed by lobbyists. The telecom scandal could not have taken place had the telecom secretary refused to abide by Union Telecom Minister A Raja's wishes. Even if the minister had insisted, the secretary could have sent his opposition in writing to the prime minister through the cabinet secretary. At least one secretary has done this in the past.

It is also unheard of that a chief minister rushes to Delhi to defend his protégé against allegations of corruption. The difference in treatment meted out to Shashi Tharoor and the Union telecom minister hides more than the compulsions of coalition politics. The civil aviation ministry too has emerged unscathed from the mess. The purchase of 100 wide-bodied jets by a PSU does have its advantages. Did the government check the price at which other airlines have bought these aircrafts before giving a sovereign guarantee for the repayments by Air India?

Governance of a country can be only as good as the strength of its prime minister. Having worked very closely with Manmohan Singh, it was heartrending to see him speechless in Parliament when a furious attack was launched against his government. Did the government encourage the leakage of the taped conversation unveiled by the media? As finance minister, Singh had not brooked any interference from anybody in matters of corruption or anti-national activity. The whole nation would have welcomed a strong and determined action by him as prime minister in support of justice, fairness and integrity.

In Tamil Nadu (TN), the government has over 10,000 liquor shops - more than the number of bank branches - exhibiting its way of promoting inclusive growth, an innovative step of the AIADMK government that insiders say was not reversed by the succeeding DMK government for its monetary potential for everyone. People are being enticed into the liquor shops as most do not have to work hard, what with the one-rupee-a-kilo rice, subsidised provisions, and free TV, dhotis, saris, gas and medical aid. Of course, the common perception is that these are available only to party supporters. Now, with the offer of free concrete houses at a cost of Rs 16,000 crore, the ruling DMK has driven the last nail in the coffin of the AIADMK.

The Planning Commission has ignored the permanent damage such misallocation of resources is causing to the socio-economic fabric of the state. Contractors depend on workers from other states, while the availability of carpenters, masons, painters and other skilled workers belonging to TN has gone down. The Chennai commissioner of police said in a public meeting that there were hardly any workers from TN in the 6,000-strong labour force at the new secretariat building. While it is a tribute to the ruling party's tolerance of 'outsider' workers, the fact is the Tamil population is becoming somnolent.

One highly respected family of TN wanted to set up a college for rural women but could not do so on account of the premium that had to be paid. (Mercifully, a powerful person intervened for the grant of permission.) The same state is reported to have 456 engineering colleges with huge tracts of land under their control, but the income tax department does not seem to be probing how the owners of these colleges acquired the land and resources to construct the campuses.

Officers in TN have no hesitation in saying that the system of freebies will take the state down. Officers here acquiesce or get dumped in a corner, and their requests for central deputation are simply ignored. The prime minister had announced reforms in the posting and promotion of IAS and IPS officers, but they never took off. Officers with central government too cannot express their opinions freely.
If the Naxalites can muster 'company strength' to battle with the government, it may not be wholly without support from those who feel angry at the inaction against massive corruption and blatant nepotism. Some years ago one secretary-level officer said India was becoming a banana republic and took premature retirement.

It is high time the government woke up and stopped pushing things under the carpet of coalition politics. The present Prevention of Corruption Act lacks teeth. A joint director of the CBI lamented at a recent seminar that cases that are registered do not come up for hearing for years.

The law should make it mandatory to suspend a bureaucrat or judge, howsoever highly placed they may be, when an enquiry is initiated into allegations of moral turpitude, including corruption. Ministers facing such charges should be removed from office immediately. All assets of the accused should be frozen, except a monthly allowance based on an average expenditure of 12 months, till the assets are cleared to be self-earned or legally inherited.

Governance of a billion people, most of them poor, has to done with integrity and justice. This is the only lasting cure for Naxalism.
The writer is a former secretary, government of India and executive director, IMF

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mallika Sarabhai fights election as independent from Ahmedabad

Mallika Sarabhai fights election as independent from Ahmedabad

Monday, June 21, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist - Budget Deficits - Spend Now, Save Later - NYTimes : Paul Crugman

Op-Ed Columnist - Budget Deficits - Spend Now, Save Later -

M.J. Akbar - Author and Veteran Journalist: 'Justice' for Bhopal is just political farce

M.J. Akbar - Author and Veteran Journalist: 'Justice' for Bhopal is just political farce

Operation Green Hunt - Victims: by Gladson Dungdung

On June 13, 2010, we 12 Human Rights Activists of Jharkhand started our journey before the dawn. We had heard a horrible story about an Adivasi woman who was killed in crossfire between the security forces and the Maoists. Her name was Jasinta. She was mere 25 years old married woman enjoying her life with her family in a village. Of course, she was a mother of three kids whose lives are at stake now. Therefore, we wanted to know the truth. We wanted to know whether she was a Maoist. The most important thing we wanted to know is, in what circumstances her right to life was taken away by the mighty gun and her three kids’ lives were put in the dark before the dawn. We wanted to know about the state’s response to the heinous crime against humanity. And of course, we wanted to know whether these three kids are innocent like the kids of our security forces?

Our fact-finding mission started moving on wheels. In the blazing sun of mid summer, we traveled across Chidambaram’s red corridor. Perhaps, the Adivasis of these areas would not have heard the buzzword ‘red corridor’. They would love to call these areas as “Adivasi corridor” instead of the red corridor. However, we did not see any Maoist in the forest. But of course, we saw the half-burnt forest, trees and greenery. Thousands acres of forest were burnt by the security forces while carrying out operations for hunting the Maoists. Perhaps, they could not hunt the Maoists but they hunted beautiful plants, herbs, wild animals, birds and innocent insects. They burnt the houses of wild animals, birds and million insects. Indeed, the Adivasis would have been booked under the forest conservation Act 1980 and the wild life protection Act 1972 if they had burnt the forest.

After 7 hours long journey, finally we reached to a village called Ladi, which is situated in a dense forest of Barwadih block of Lateher district in Jharkhand. The Kherwar Adivasis write their surname as “Singh” are in the majority in the village. There are 56 Kherwars families, 2 Oraons, 11 Porenya, 10 Korba, 1 Lohra and 1 Saw family reside in the villages. At the entrance of the village, the Kherwar Adivasis were cutting stones, which is their traditional occupation. They told us that each Kherwar family earns Rs. 80 per day by cutting stones. They sell the final product to small traders. The economy of the village is based on agriculture, forest produces
and daily wage. Though the villagers were busy in their routine work but there was complete silence in the village. It seems like an empty village. No one would smile. They are living with fear, agony, anguish, uncertainty and anger.

After the introduction ritual was over, we were told to visit to the house of 28-year-old Jairam Singh, whose wife Jasinta was shot dead by the security forces on 27 April 2010. We entered into a beautiful mud house. The environment of the house was still full of shock, agony and anger. The family members were silent. The shock, agony and anger were visible on their faces. We were asked to sit on their traditional beds, which is made of wood and rope. After a few minutes Jairam Singh appeared in front of us with his two kids – Amrita and Suchit. He was not able to come back to normal life.
He could not speak. He was still in the state of shock and agony. Whenever we asked about the incident, he just started weeping. He is a temporary forest guard therefore when the incident took place; he was in duty at a place called Garu, which is 20 KM far from his village.

Jairam told us that he has three kids therefore he demands for Rs.5 lakh as compensation, government job and education support to his children. He just says, “I want justice”. We saw Jairam’s two kids with hopeless face, feared and shocked. We wanted to see one more kid, who was merely 1 year old. Her name is Vibha Kumari, a sweet baby playing in her grandmother Bajwa Devi’s lap that time. We wanted to take some snap shots of these three kids with their father. But after seeing us Vibha started crying. She didn’t want to appear before us. She was crying continually even in her father’s lap. Perhaps, she assumes that we were there to snatch her from the family similar to what the security forces did with her mother. She was only crying, crying and crying. I was just shocked to see her endless cry for her mother.

Jairam’s younger brother 18 year old Bishram Singh, who was present at Home when the incident took place on April 27, 2010 told us what had happened that night in the red mud house. According to him the incident took place at 7:30 PM when all the family members were preparing for going to bed after having dinner together. Suddenly, they heard the sound of firing, coming from the outside of their home. Some one shouted, “Come out of the house otherwise we’ll set fire on the house”. After hearing terrified voice, they came out of the house except a cattle caretaker (Puran Singh) who was sleeping in the room.

The Security Forces tied the hands of Bishram Singh and abused others. There were about 12 security forces well dressed and guns in hands. They asked, “Is anyone inside”? They told to the security forces that their cattle caretaker is sleeping inside. The Jawans asked to bring him out of the house. Jasinta entered into the house for waking up cattle caretaker and bringing him out of the house. The security forces also entered into the house and started firing. One bullet hit Jasinta’s chest when she was coming out of the house with Puran Singh (cattle caretaker) and another bullet hit Puran Singh’s left hand. Jasinta fell down and died in the spot.

The security forces told Bishram Singh that he should tell the police officers, the media and the people that his elder brother’s wife was killed in crossfire and also told not to go for protest against the police. They threatened him for dire consequences if he goes against the will of the security forces. After the postmortem was conducted on April 28, Bishram was asked to put his signature on a blank paper. After the final rites, the villagers started protest against the cold blood murder and they had even gone to file a FIR against murderers of Jasinta but the FIR was not register in Barwadih police station. The case was merely recorded in a daily dairy.
However, the police file a FIR, which blames the Maoists for murder of Jasinta.

After series of protest, the government announced Rs.3 lakh as compensation and a government job to the family of the deceased. Unfortunately, nothing has been done yet. The Family members were not given postmortem report, death certificate and copy of the FIR. On May 14, the police deployed a Journalist Sanjay Kumar of Hindustan (Hindi daily) as a mediator who brought Jairam Singh to Barwadih police station, where the officer in charge Birendra Ram asked Jairam Singh to put his signature on a blank paper and accept a cheque of Rs.90,000. But when Jairam Singh denied for putting his signature on a blank paper, the officer in charge sent him back with empty hand. Ironically, the security forces shot dead Jairam Singh’s wife,threatening to the family members for dire consequences and they are also attempting to swallow the compensation package. Despite the family members and villagers made many attempts by from pillar to post but no action was taken against the security forces and local police.

The Cattle caretaker Puran Singh, who is under treatment in Latehar Sadar hospital, also tells the complete story of what had happened in the house of Jairam Singh on April 27, which has no contradiction with the words of Bishram Singh. But the Barwadih police are putting hard efforts to convert the cold blood murder as a result of crossfire between the Security Forces and the Maoist. According to the Police version, the bullet of the Maoists killed Jasinta. While observation, we found the marks of two bullets on the wall, which had been fired from the entrance of the house reveals the truth.
In the case of crossfire there would have been some sign of firing on police from inside of the house. The best evidence is, after firing on Jasinta, the security forces went inside the house and conducted search operation but they did not find any Maoist. The house has only one entrance therefore there is absolutely no change of the Maoists fleeing away, which clearly means there was no change of crossfire but it is a clear case of cold blood murder committed by the security forces.

After brutal murder of Jasinta by the security forces, her husband Jairam Singh has been playing a role of mother too. He looks after his three kids - Amrita Kumari, Suchit Kumar and Vibha Kumari. Now his youngest baby Vibha Kumari is surviving on cattle milk. Whenever the security forces faced bullet there is a tendency of the national media debate. The biggest question here is why there is no such national debate for Vibha, Suchit and Amrita? Why those beautiful shining faces do not debate in television channels when innocent children are made orphans by the bullet of the security forces? Why the Media is not sensitive to the issues of the Adivasis like Jasinta’s kids? Are these three kids not innocent? Are they a security threat to the nation? Why don’t we believe on the words of innocent villagers who have been facing the bullets of the security forces continually? Why there is a tendency of believing only on the holy words of the security forces and local police whose bullets take away the right to life of these innocent villagers.

I can understand the pain, suffering and agony of losing the parents. But here the story is extremely different. When my parents were brutally murdered, I was young enough to understand and bear the pain, suffering and anger of such a heinous crime. But these children don’t especially baby Vibha doesn’t. She doesn’t know where her mother has gone. She only cries in search of her mother’s lap. She cries in search of mother for breast-feeding. And of course, she cries in search of her mother’s love and compassion. Is she not innocent like the kids of our brave security forces?
Who will wipe out tears from her eyes? How will she react when she would come to know that the security forces gunned down her mother? Can we blame her if she walks on the path of revenge against the security forces? Will the security forces again gun down her because she would become the biggest national security threat and we’ll let our licensed gunmen to enjoy impunity as they have been doing in a democratic country? Will this nation ever be sensitive to those thousands of Adivasis children like Vibha, Suchit and Amrita or we have to witness many more children crying for breastfeeding, love and compassion of their parents. Where does buck stop for violation of the rights of innocent Adivasi?
*Gladson Dungdung is a Human Rights Activist and Writer from Jharkhand. He can be reached at *
*Source: Countercurrents, Sanhati, Openspace, Jharkhandmirror.*

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rebuilding Secularism - Gandhi style
Rebuilding Secularism - Gandhi Style:

Monday, June 14, 2010

British Aid to India & Corruption in Sarva Sikhya Abhijan
British Aid to India & Corruption in Sarva Sikhya Abhijan
Scam-dog millionaires

Crooks pocket Indian aid as we face £66bn cuts

MISSING OUT: Cash isn't going to children
By Gethin Chamberlain in Delhi & Guy Basnett, 13/06/2010

MILLIONS of pounds of taxpayers' money sent to India to educate poor children is falling into the pockets of crooked officials in the country.

A News of the World investigation has uncovered corruption on an incredible scale after our Government poured in £340MILLION aid.

It went to a multi-billion schools project blasted by Indian inspectors as fraudulent and riddled with malpractice.

One audit of money earmarked for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan project found that £70 MILLION had vanished.

Cash has been snaffled by officials running the massive scheme covering schools for India's 350 million children under 14, according to a report by India's Human Resource Development Ministry.


One report by India's Auditor General said almost £14million had been spent on items that had nothing to do with schools.

Cash meant for kids' education has been blown on luxuries. We discovered that officials throughout the country had used it to buy NEW CARS and in one instance aid cash was spent on FOUR LUXURY BEDS costing a total of £17,754 as well as a £3,803 computer.

AIR CONDITIONERS, FAXES, PHOTOCOPIERS and 7,531 COLOUR TELEVISIONS - the last thing children with no basic sanitation need - have mysteriously been bought for classrooms and offices despite some having NO ELECTRICITY.

Tens of thousands of pounds were allocated to 2,369 schools that didn't even exist and inspectors found that three vast payments earmarked for the flagship project and amounting to £168,000, were unexplained.

And £150,000 was paid into a mystery bank account with no reason given. India's individual 28 states - given millions to educate their children - are also believed to be hanging on to cash to divert it elsewhere.

In the Bihar state, a report by the Institute of Public Auditors of India found that children were being taught in open fields, because money had not been passed on for classroom repairs.

In Muzzaffarpur they found that only £400,000 out of an allocated £1.1million had gone to schools. One woman involved in the widespread fraud has been accused of siphoning off up to £6MILLION from the funds, even using £44,000 of it to make a MOVIE directed by her son.

Auditors checking individual state accounts found sums up to £4.8MILLION missing from the books.

Despite all this, the British Department for International Development (DfID) had planned to donate millions more to the project in the next three years.

But with Chancellor George Osborne preparing to axe up to £60billion of public spending at home - on top of £6billion of cuts already announced - taxpayers might wonder why we continue to give money to a country steeped in such corruption.

India is the single largest recipient of UK overseas aid, receiving £1BILLION between 2003 and 2008. Two years ago Gordon Brown cemented that position when he agreed to give the former colony another £825MILLION by 2011. But the Indian economy is already ranked 11th in the world rich list and is predicted to OVERTAKE the British economy as the world's fifth largest by 2015.

Yet still the DfID has poured in general aid - such as £13million to help the government of Bihar state deliver public services and £18million to support local businesses while back home our own small businesses struggle to survive.


Our coalition government has committed to ring-fence the DfID aid budget.

But Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to bring "greater transparency and accountability" adding: "Too much aid is lost to corruption."

Last night Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, was stunned by our findings.

He said: "These are shocking allegations. I have launched an immediate inquiry to ensure British aid money has not been misused. The new British Government will have a zero tolerance policy to corruption."

The cash must go to the poor

By Andrew Mitchell, International Development Secretary

THESE are shocking allegations and I have launched an immediate inquiry to ensure British aid money has not been misused.

When I took up this job a month ago I made a pledge to taxpayers that they must know that for every pound of their money, we will get 100 pence of value.

Now I'm reviewing every single one of the Department for International Development's country programmes to ensure we are giving aid to where it's most needed - to help the world's poorest people.

But I want to go much further. This is why last week I announced a new independent aid watchdog - to scrutinise aid on the taxpayers' behalf. In future we will also publish all details of the department's spending on our website.

Tea Party Flacks Are Drill, Baby, Drill Messengers Too,_baby,_drill_messengers_too?page=1

Tea Party Flacks Are Drill, Baby, Drill Messengers Too

Conservative Tycoon Koch admits financing role in Tea party movement: Washington Independent
Conservative Tycoon Koch admits financing role in Tea party movement:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Knocks On The Door: It’s The Newspaper Boy - Arundhati Roy
Knocks On The Door: It’s The Newspaper Boy
The peril of having your words rendered suspect and aired nationally

While the Indian government considers deploying the army and air force to quell the rebellion in the countryside, strange things are happening in the cities. On June 2, the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights held a public meeting in Mumbai. The main speakers were Gautam Navlakha, editorial consultant of the Economic and Political Weekly, and myself. The press was there in strength. The meeting lasted for more than three hours. It was widely covered by the print media and TV. On June 3, several newspapers, TV channels and online news portals like covered the event quite accurately. The Times of India (Mumbai edition) had an article headlined ‘We need an idea that is neither Left nor Right’, and the Hindu’s article was headlined ‘Can we leave the bauxite in the mountain?’ The recording of the meeting is up on YouTube.

The day after the meeting, PTI put out a brazenly concocted account of what I had said. The PTI report was first posted by the Indian Express online on June 3 at 1.35 pm. The headline said: ‘Arundhati backs Maoists, dares authorities to arrest her’. Here are some excerpts:

“Author Arundhati Roy has justified the armed resistance by Maoists and dared the authorities to arrest her for supporting their cause. ‘The Naxal movement could be nothing but an armed struggle. I am not supporting violence. But I am also completely against contemptuous atrocities-based political analysis. It ought to be an armed movement. Gandhian way of opposition needs an audience, which is absent here. People have debated long before choosing this form of struggle,’ said Roy, who had saluted the ‘people of Dantewada’ after 76 CRPF and police personnel were mowed down by Maoists in the deadliest attack targeting security forces. ‘I am on this side of line. I do not care...pick me up put me in jail,’ she asserted.”

Let me begin with the end of the report. The suggestion that I saluted the “people of Dantewada” after the Maoists killed 76 CRPF and police personnel is a piece of criminal defamation. I have made it quite clear in an interview on CNN-IBN that I viewed the death of the CRPF men as tragic, and that I thought they were pawns in a war of the rich against the poor. What I said at the meeting in Mumbai was that I was contemptuous of the hollow condemnation industry the media has created and that as the war went on and the violence spiralled, it was becoming impossible to extract any kind of morality from the atrocities committed by both sides, so an atrocity-based analysis was a meaningless exercise. I said that I was not there to defend the killing of ordinary people by anybody, neither the Maoists nor the government, and that it was important to ask what the CRPF was doing with 27 AK-47s, 38 INSAS, 7 SLRs, 6 light machine guns, one stengun and a two-inch mortar in tribal villages. If they were there to wage war, then being railroaded into condemning the killing of the CRPF men by the Maoists meant being railroaded into coming down on the side of the government in a war that many of us disagreed with.

The maoists are the most militant end of a bandwidth of movements against corporate land grab. But the government has expanded it to include anyone who disagrees with it.

The rest of the PTI report was a malicious, moronic mish-mash of what transpired at the meeting. My views on the Maoists are clear. I have written at length about them. At the meeting, I said that the people’s resistance against the corporate land grab consisted of a bandwidth of movements with different ideologies, of which the Maoists were the most militant end. I said the government was labelling every resistance movement, every activist, ‘Maoist’ in order to justify dealing with them in repressive, military fashion. I said the government had expanded the meaning of the word ‘Maoist’ to include everybody who disagreed with it, anybody who dared to talk about justice. I drew attention to the people of Kalinganagar and Jagatsinghpur who were waging peaceful protests but were living under siege, surrounded by hundreds of armed police, were being lathicharged and fired at. I said that local people thought long and hard before deciding what strategy of resistance to adopt. I spoke of how people who lived deep inside forest villages could not resort to Gandhian forms of protest because peaceful satyagraha was a form of political theatre that in order to be effective, needed a sympathetic audience, which they did not have. I asked how people who were already starving could go on hunger strikes. I certainly never said anything like “it ought to be an armed movement”. (I’m not sure what on earth that means.)
I went on to say that all the various resistance movements today, regardless of their differences, understood they were fighting a common enemy, so they were all on one side of the line, and that I stood with them. But from this side of the line, instead of only asking the government questions, we should ask ourselves some questions. Here are my exact words:

“I think it is much more interesting to interrogate the resistance to which we belong, I am on this side of the line. I am very clear about that. I don’t care, pick me up, put me in jail. I am on this side of the line. But on this side of the line, we must turn around and ask our comrades questions.”

I then said that while Gandhian methods of resistance were not proving effective, Gandhian movements like the Narmada Bachao Andolan had a radical and revolutionary vision of “development” and while the Maoists’ methods of resistance were effective, I wondered whether they had thought through the kind of “development” they wanted. Apart from the fact that they were against the government selling out to private corporations, was their mining policy very different from state policy? Would they leave the bauxite in the mountain—which is what the people who make up their cadre want—or would they mine it when they came to power? I read out Pablo Neruda’s Standard Oil Company that tells us what an old battle this one is.

The PTI reporter who had made it a point to take permission from the organisers to record cannot claim his or her version to be a matter of ‘interpretation’. It is blatant falsification. Surprisingly, the one-day-old report was published by several newspapers and broadcast by TV channels on June 4, many of whose own reporters had covered the event accurately the previous day and obviously knew the report to be false. The Economic Times said: “Publicity-seeking Arundhati Roy wants to be Aung San Suu Kyi”. I’m curious—why would newspapers and TV channels want to publish the same news twice, once truthfully and then falsely?

That same evening, at about seven, two men on a motorcycle drove up to my home in Delhi and began hurling stones at the window. One stone nearly hit a small child playing on the street. Angry people gathered and the men fled. Within minutes, a Tata Indica arrived with a man who claimed to be a reporter from Zee TV, asking if this was “Arundhati Roy’s house” and whether there had been trouble. Clearly, this was a set-up, a staged display of ‘popular anger’ to be fed to our barracuda-like TV channels. Fortunately for me, that evening their script went wrong. But there was more to come. On June 5, the Dainik Bhaskar in Raipur carried a news item “Himmat ho to AC kamra chhod kar jungle aaye Arundhati (if she has the guts, Arundhati should leave her air-conditioned room and come to the jungle)” in which Vishwa Ranjan, the director general of police of Chhattisgarh, challenged me to face the police by joining the Maoists in the forest. Imagine that—the police DGP and me, Man to Man. Not to be outdone, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader from Chhattisgarh, Ms Poonam Chaturvedi, announced to the press that I should be shot down at a public crossroad, and that other traitors like me should be given the death sentence. (Perhaps someone should tell her that this sort of direct incitement to violence is an offence under the Indian Penal Code.) Mahendra Karma, chief of the murderous ‘people’s’ militia, the Salwa Judum, which is guilty of innumerable acts of rape and murder, asked for legal action to be taken against me. On Tuesday, June 8, Hindi daily Nayi Duniya reported that complaints have been filed against me in two separate police stations in Chhattisgarh, Bhata Pada and Teli Bandha, by private individuals objecting to my “open support for the Maoists”.

Is this what Military Intelligence calls psyops (psychological operations)? Or is it the urban avatar of Operation Green Hunt? In which a government news agency helps the home ministry to build up a file on those it wants to put away, inventing evidence when it can’t find any? Or is PTI trying to deliver the more well-known among us to the lynch mob so that the government does not have to risk its international reputation by arresting or eliminating us? Or is it just a way of forcing a crude polarisation, a ridiculous dumbing down of the debate—if you’re not with “us”, you are a Maoist? Not just a Maoist, but a stupid, arrogant, loud-mouthed Maoist. Whatever it is, it’s dangerous, and shameless, but it isn’t new. Ask any Kashmiri, or any young Muslim being held as a “terrorist” without any evidence except baseless media reports. Ask Mohammed Afzal, sentenced to death to “satisfy the collective conscience of society”.

Now that Operation Green Hunt has begun to knock on the doors of people like myself, imagine what’s happening to activists and political workers who are not well known. To the hundreds who are being jailed, tortured and eliminated. June 26 is the 35th anniversary of the Emergency. Perhaps the Indian people should declare (because the government certainly won’t) that this country is in a state of Emergency. (On second thoughts, did it ever go away?) This time censorship is not the only problem. The manufacture of news is an even more serious one.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Israel Without Clichés - Tony Judt - New York Times

Israel Without Clichés - Tony Judt - New York Times
Israel Without Clichés
By Tony Judt
Published: June 9, 2010

THE Israeli raid on the Free Gaza flotilla has generated an outpouring of clichés from the usual suspects. It is almost impossible to discuss the Middle East without resorting to tired accusations and ritual defenses: perhaps a little house cleaning is in order.

No. 1: Israel is being/should be delegitimized

Israel is a state like any other, long-established and internationally recognized. The bad behavior of its governments does not “delegitimize” it, any more than the bad behavior of the rulers of North Korea, Sudan — or, indeed, the United States — “delegitimizes” them. When Israel breaks international law, it should be pressed to desist; but it is precisely because it is a state under international law that we have that leverage.

Some critics of Israel are motivated by a wish that it did not exist — that it would just somehow go away. But this is the politics of the ostrich: Flemish nationalists feel the same way about Belgium, Basque separatists about Spain. Israel is not going away, nor should it. As for the official Israeli public relations campaign to discredit any criticism as an exercise in “de-legitimization,” it is uniquely self-defeating. Every time Jerusalem responds this way, it highlights its own isolation.

No. 2: Israel is/is not a democracy

Perhaps the most common defense of Israel outside the country is that it is “the only democracy in the Middle East.” This is largely true: the country has an independent judiciary and free elections, though it also discriminates against non-Jews in ways that distinguish it from most other democracies today. The expression of strong dissent from official policy is increasingly discouraged.

But the point is irrelevant. “Democracy” is no guarantee of good behavior: most countries today are formally democratic — remember Eastern Europe’s “popular democracies.” Israel belies the comfortable American cliché that “democracies don’t make war.” It is a democracy dominated and often governed by former professional soldiers: this alone distinguishes it from other advanced countries. And we should not forget that Gaza is another “democracy” in the Middle East: it was precisely because Hamas won free elections there in 2005 that both the Palestinian Authority and Israel reacted with such vehemence.

No. 3: Israel is/is not to blame

Israel is not responsible for the fact that many of its near neighbors long denied its right to exist. The sense of siege should not be underestimated when we try to understand the delusional quality of many Israeli pronouncements.

Unsurprisingly, the state has acquired pathological habits. Of these, the most damaging is its habitual resort to force. Because this worked for so long — the easy victories of the country’s early years are ingrained in folk memory — Israel finds it difficult to conceive of other ways to respond. And the failure of the negotiations of 2000 at Camp David reinforced the belief that “there is no one to talk to.”

But there is. As American officials privately acknowledge, sooner or later Israel (or someone) will have to talk to Hamas. From French Algeria through South Africa to the Provisional I.R.A., the story repeats itself: the dominant power denies the legitimacy of the “terrorists,” thereby strengthening their hand; then it secretly negotiates with them; finally, it concedes power, independence or a place at the table. Israel will negotiate with Hamas: the only question is why not now.

No. 4: The Palestinians are/are not to blame

Abba Eban, the former Israeli foreign minister, claimed that Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. He was not wholly wrong. The “negationist” stance of Palestinian resistance movements from 1948 through the early 1980s did them little good. And Hamas, firmly in that tradition though far more genuinely popular than its predecessors, will have to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.

But since 1967 it has been Israel that has missed most opportunities: a 40-year occupation (against the advice of its own elder statesmen); three catastrophic invasions of Lebanon; an invasion and blockade of Gaza in the teeth of world opinion; and now a botched attack on civilians in international waters. Palestinians would be hard put to match such cumulative blunders.

Terrorism is the weapon of the weak — bombing civilian targets was not invented by Arabs (nor by the Jews who engaged in it before 1948). Morally indefensible, it has characterized resistance movements of all colors for at least a century. Israelis are right to insist that any talks or settlements will depend upon Hamas’s foreswearing it.

But Palestinians face the same conundrum as every other oppressed people: all they have with which to oppose an established state with a monopoly of power is rejection and protest. If they pre-concede every Israeli demand — abjurance of violence, acceptance of Israel, acknowledgment of all their losses — what do they bring to the negotiating table? Israel has the initiative: it should exercise it.

No. 5: The Israel lobby is/is not to blame

There is an Israel lobby in Washington and it does a very good job — that’s what lobbies are for. Those who claim that the Israel lobby is unfairly painted as “too influential” (with the subtext of excessive Jewish influence behind the scenes) have a point: the gun lobby, the oil lobby and the banking lobby have all done far more damage to the health of this country.

But the Israel lobby is disproportionately influential. Why else do an overwhelming majority of congressmen roll over for every pro-Israel motion? No more than a handful show consistent interest in the subject. It is one thing to denounce the excessive leverage of a lobby, quite another to accuse Jews of “running the country.” We must not censor ourselves lest people conflate the two. In Arthur Koestler’s words, “This fear of finding oneself in bad company is not an expression of political purity; it is an expression of a lack of self-confidence.”

No. 6: Criticism of Israel is/is not linked to anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism is hatred of Jews, and Israel is a Jewish state, so of course some criticism of it is malevolently motivated. There have been occasions in the recent past (notably in the Soviet Union and its satellites) when “anti-Zionism” was a convenient surrogate for official anti-Semitism. Understandably, many Jews and Israelis have not forgotten this.

But criticism of Israel, increasingly from non-Israeli Jews, is not predominantly motivated by anti-Semitism. The same is true of contemporary anti-Zionism: Zionism itself has moved a long way from the ideology of its “founding fathers” — today it presses territorial claims, religious exclusivity and political extremism. One can acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and still be an anti-Zionist (or “post-Zionist”). Indeed, given the emphasis in Zionism on the need for the Jews to establish a “normal state” for themselves, today’s insistence on Israel’s right to act in “abnormal” ways because it is a Jewish state suggests that Zionism has failed.

We should beware the excessive invocation of “anti-Semitism.” A younger generation in the United States, not to mention worldwide, is growing skeptical. “If criticism of the Israeli blockade of Gaza is potentially ‘anti-Semitic,’ why take seriously other instances of the prejudice?” they ask, and “What if the Holocaust has become just another excuse for Israeli bad behavior?” The risks that Jews run by encouraging this conflation should not be dismissed.

Along with the oil sheikdoms, Israel is now America’s greatest strategic liability in the Middle East and Central Asia. Thanks to Israel, we are in serious danger of “losing” Turkey: a Muslim democracy, offended at its treatment by the European Union, that is the pivotal actor in Near-Eastern and Central Asian affairs. Without Turkey, the United States will achieve few of its regional objectives — whether in Iran, Afghanistan or the Arab world. The time has come to cut through the clichés surrounding it, treat Israel like a “normal” state and sever the umbilical cord.

Tony Judt is the director of the Remarque Institute at New York University and the author, most recently, of “Ill Fares the Land.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: June 10, 2010

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Israel has a written constitution.

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Arise Awake Stop not till the goal is reached. - Swami Vivekananda Swami ji is my inspiration, not as a monk but as a social reformer and for his universal-ism.