Thursday, December 30, 2010

Urdu is our very own

Yesterday, the Governor of Karnataka, Shri Bharadwaj, said that forgetting the heritage of Urdu amounts to forgetting history itself, considering that so much of our past is intrinsically linked to the language. Urdu was an indigenous language born around Delhi, the very heart of India, he added. The country has a “historical commitment” to the language that should be upheld. Dismissing the view that the idea of secularism as a western import, he said rulers like Akbar are classic examples of indigenous secularism. “Secularism is within us, we only need to knock on our hearts to draw it out,” he said. 
India will reject forces that stifle any religion or language

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kaash Ke Wo Binayak Sen Na Hota

Kaash Ke Wo Binayak Sen Na Hota
If only he weren’t Binayak Sen;
a poem by Rizvi Amir Abbas Syed

काश के वो सिखों का हत्यारा होता, या गुजरात के नरसंघार में शामिल होताकाश के वो प्राइवेट अस्पताल के लुटेरे डाक्टरों में से एक होताकाश के वो किसी मल्टीनेशनल कंपनी का दलाल होताकाश के वो राष्ट्रीय धरोहर को बेचने वाला बनिया होता

If only he were a murderer of Sikhs, or involved in the massacre in Gujarat
If only he were one of the malpractitioners at a private hospital
If only he were an agent of a multinational company
If only he were a merchant of national property

काश के वो हिंसा प्रेरित करने वाले सलवा-जुडूम का सदस्य होताकाश के वो भाषा, धर्म, मस्जिद, मंदिर के नाम पर रथ यात्रा निकाल पाताकाश के वो घूसखोर पुलिस का अफसर होताकाश के वो किसान की मेहनत से उपजे अनाज को सडा़ने वाला कृषि मंत्री होता

If only he were a member of violence inciting Salwa Judum
If only he could conduct a Rath Yatra on the name of language, religion, mosque, or a temple
If only he were a corrupt police officer
If only he were an agriculture minister letting the grain produced by hardworking farmers rot

काश के वो त्रिशूल बाँटने वाला धार्मिक गुरु होताकाश के वो टीवी चेन्नलों पर नफरत फैलाने वाला कठमुल्ला होताकाश के वो जंगलों को उजाड़ कर खदान बनाने वाला मंत्री होताकाश के वो पुलिस और सेना के अत्याचार पर गर्व करने वाला राष्ट्रवादी होता

If only he were a religious guru distributing Trishools to people
If only he were a hate spewing Mullah on TV channels
If only he were a minister uprooting forests to make way for mines
If only he were a nationalist who feels proud about tortures committed
by the armed forces and the police

काश के वो अहम् की खातिर इंसानियत की बलि चढा़ने वाले वक्तव्य देताकाश के उसके हृदय में करुना और दया नाम की कोई चीज़ न होतीकाश के वो अपने सारे सुख और चैन तो त्याग कर गाँव की सेवा में ना जाताकाश के वो भी हम आप जैसे सोये हुए नागरिकों में से एक होता

If only he would make a public statement on sacrificing humanity for one’s pride
If only he didn’t have any compassion or empathy in his heart
If only he didn’t leave his cozy life and went to villages for social work
If only he was a sleeping citizen like you or I

काश के वो भी अपने परिवार और व्यापार में व्यस्त और मस्त होताकाश के वो महात्मा गाँधी के आदर्शों का मजा़क़ उडा़ पताकाश के वो डाक्टरों द्वारा ली गयी शपथ का पालन नहीं करताकाश के वो भ्रष्ट अन्यायपालिका और दबंगों के आगे घुटने टेक देता
If only he was happily immersed in his family and businesses
If only he would mock Gandhi’s ideals
If only he wouldn’t follow the Hippocratic oath
If only he would surrender to corruption, injustice and bullies

काश के वो घूस लेकर आतंक को भारत में प्रवेश देने वाला सुरक्षा कर्मी होताकाश के वो देश को गरीबों और किसानो की समस्या से बहकाने वाली न्यूज़ सुनाताकाश के वो नोबेल शांति पुरूस्कार के विजेता ओबामा साहब के साथ नाचता गाताकाश के उसका दिल मानवाधिकार के लिए नहीं धड़कता

If only he was a security guard letting terror enter India for a bribeIf only he would deliver news to distract people from the issues of the poor and the farmersIf only he would sing and dance with the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mr. ओबामा, If only his heart wouldn’t beat for human rights

तो आजबिनायक देश का खलनायक नहीं कहलातान कोई कार्यवाही होती, न ही देशद्रोही का इलजा़म गढा़ जाताउम्र कै़द की जंजीरों से दूर वो भी सम्मानीय और स्वतंत्र होताकाश, काश, काश !!!

Then today Binayak wouldn’t be called a villain in this country
There wouldn’t be any prosecution, nor a charge for treason
He would be free and far from the chains of life imprisonments, and well respected
If only though, if only.

Buy a Mercedes, pay 7 per cent interest. Buy a tractor, pay 12 per cent.

When businessmen from Aurangabad in the backward Marathwada region bought 150 Mercedes Benz luxury cars worth Rs. 65 crore at one go in October, it grabbed media attention. The top public sector bank, State Bank of India, offered the buyers loans of over Rs. 40 crore. “This,” says Devidas Tulzapurkar, president of the Aurangabad district bank employees association, “at an interest rate of 7 per cent.” A top SBI official said the bank was “proud to be part of this deal,” and would “continue to scout for similar deals in the future.”

The value of the Mercedes deal equals the annual income of tens of thousands of rural Marathwada households. And countless farmers in Maharashtra struggle to get any loans from formal sources of credit. It took roughly a decade and tens of thousands of suicides before Indian farmers got loans at 7 per cent interest — many, in theory only. Prior to 2005, those who got any bank loans at all shelled out between 9 and 12 per cent. Several were forced to take non-agricultural loans at even higher rates of interest. Buy a Mercedes, pay 7 per cent interest. Buy a tractor, pay 12 per cent. The hallowed micro-finance institutions (MFIs) do worse. There, it's smaller sums at interest rates of between 24 and 36 per cent or higher. 

Starved of credit, peasants turned to moneylenders and other informal sources. Within 10 years from 1991, the number of Indian farm households in debt almost doubled from 26 per cent to 48.6 per cent. A crazy underestimate but an official number. Many policy-driven disasters hit farmers at the same time. Exploding input costs in the name of ‘market-based prices.' Crashing prices for their commercial crops, often rigged by powerful traders and corporations. Slashing of investment in agriculture. A credit squeeze as banks moved away from farm loans to fuelling upper middle class lifestyles. Within the many factors driving over two lakh farmers to suicide in 13 years, indebtedness and the credit squeeze rank high. (And MFIs are now among the squeezers). 

Even as the media celebrate our greatest car deal ever as a sign of “rural resurgence,” the subject of many media stories, comes the latest data of the National Crime Records Bureau. These show a sharp increase in farm suicides in 2009 with at least 17,368 farmers killing themselves in the year of “rural resurgence.” That's over 7 per cent higher than in 2008 and the worst numbers since 2004. This brings the total farm suicides since 1997 to 216,500. While all suicides have multiple causes, their strong concentration within regions and among cash crop farmers is an alarming and dismal trend.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

We have arrested him because we have arrested that very sense of justice in ourselves

We do not have to agree with Binayak Sen, anymore than we have to agree with Mahaswta Devi or Arundhati Roy or Baba Amte. But these have been voices of conscience. These are people who have care and healed, given a voice to the voiceless. They represent the essential goodness of our society. They are Indians and outstanding Indians and no nation state can negate that. I admit that such people are not easy people. They irritate, they agonize over things we take for granted or ignore. They take the ethical to the very core of our lives. Let us be clear. It is not Sen’s ideology that threatens us. It is his ethics, his sense of goodness. We have arrested him because we have arrested that very sense of justice in ourselves.

Read Shiv Vishwanathan's letter to the PM 

Sustainable mining is an oxymoron

says Jerry West. "The conditions that have supported humans historically are dependent upon a loop of sustainability that provides a certain amount renewable resources through a widely bio-diverse web. When over consumption degrades those resources and bio-diversity shrinks, their provision is not sustainable and the conditions are changed, and if changed enough they cease to support certain forms of life. Currently over half of the Earth's eco-systems are degraded and species are going extinct at an alarming rate. The loss of each species changes the conditions for those that are left. The cause of this loss to a large part is the result of human over consumption. Humans are devouring their life support system, and destroying their sustainability. The only remedy is to reduce consumption and begin a process of reversing growth. Anyone who speaks of sustainability without speaking of reducing consumption and reversing growth is blowing smoke."

Read: Sustainability Means Consume Less

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park: chronology of a disaster

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s India visit early December 2010 has materialized in signing of General Framework Agreement for building the European Pressure Reactors (EPRs) for Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park (JNPP) which is being set up in Konkan region of Maharashtra, in Ratnagiri district.. However, many issues remain unresolved as admitted by India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who reportedly said “there are issues of pricing ..these are matters of negotiations” which is linked to insurance cost and which, in turn, is linked with nuclear liability concerns.

But there are many other issues which the officials don’t seem to be much concerned about. There are environmental concerns and safety risks besides displacing people and ruining their livelihood. The Madban plateau, green forests along the hill slopes, wetland habitat and thick mangroves along the creek, the Arjuna river and the creek waters rich in marine life together form an integrated and unique ecosystem supporting wide variety of flora and fauna. The NEERI-KVV study has not considered the essential part i.e. the plant animal interactions, ethnobotanical and anthropological studies” highlights an appeal for signature campaign by the Janhit Sewa Samiti. Parallel studies by the Bombay Natural History Society have shown that the project will cause substantial environmental damage. According to National Oceanography Goa, Jaitapur comes under earthquake-prone zone and hence a nuclear power plant is not advisable.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh admitted to the deficiencies in this NEERI’s EIA, when a delegation met him in May 2010 to bring to his notice the facts about Madban and ecological disastrous impact of a nuclear power plant there. But political compulsions seem to have driven Ramesh to give green signal to the project just before Sarkozy’s India visit.

The people's opposition to the project has also been ignored. A public hearing on proposed project by the NPCIL on May 16, 2010 at Madban was a mere farce. Around 1000 people attended. The mandatory requirement of providing EIA report in local language to affected villagers a month in advance was not met. Only Madban Gram Panchayat received a copy a month ago in English and just four days before the public hearing in Marathi, thus violating the Environment Protection Act 1986 and Environment Protection Rules 2006 & 2009.

This despite the fact that on January 22, 2010, 2335 farmers from four villages - Madban, Karel, Niveli and Mithgavane from Ratnagiri district of Konkan region of Maharashtra, refused to accept cheques of compensation for their 938 hectares of land forcibly acquired by the government through the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. This was for the Jaitapur Nuclear Power Park (JNPP). Only 56 landowners, most of who are settled in Mumbai-Pune for decades, accepted this compensation and got rid of their land. Last October, the state government established a committee to revise the compensation and announced a rehabilitation package that includes Rs 2 crore with a recurring amount of Rs 25 lakh for each of the four villages; permanent job for farmer’s kin or Rs 5 lakh; and an amount equivalent to 375 to 750 days of agricultural wages for lifetime to compensate for the loss of livelihood.

The villagers burnt the copies of this package shouting slogans ‘we don’t sell our mother’ and ‘beggars accept money (for their motherland)’. On October 29, 2010 more than 2000 farmers and fisher folk assembled despite prohibitory orders, to court arrest to protest against the proposed nuclear power project on their fertile land.

We don't sell our mother

Saturday, December 25, 2010

No space for peaceful protest in India

Describing rights activist Binayak Sen's conviction as ''outrageous'', former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar today said People's Union of Civil Liberties (PUCL) will challenge the order and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act under which he was found guilty.

"It is scandalous to say that he (Sen) was working against the interest of the country. The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act under which he has been convicted is unconstitutional," Sachar said in a statement here.

Read Tehelka article on his imprisonment

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Zero Nuclear Weapons

My take: The video below is good in that it raises concerns, but i wish there would be some focus on the biggest nuke power of them all, the United States. As long as there is an imbalance in perception, smaller powers are going to follow the same path: what works for the big is good for me kind of logic!

ICAN note on the video: Events this month have provided a stark reminder that nuclear weapons are a present-day threat, not a problem of the past. From the bombing of nuclear scientists in Iran to the direct threat of nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula, it has been a disturbing close to the decade. The growing risk of nuclear proliferation and use should lead decision-makers to an obvious conclusion: these weapons must urgently be outlawed and abolished. The approach of arms control and incremental steps is failing. We need a comprehensive disarmament treaty that establishes the same basic standard for all countries: zero nuclear weapons. This short video is a reminder of the dangerous times we live in. And it is an urgent call to action.

watch the video

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bant Singh

Bant Singh is a revolutionary singer in Punjab, India, whose two year-old daughter was raped by upper caste men. When he sought justice, they cut off his limbs. But he can still sing, and in this video letter he expresses no self-pity. Film by Sanjay Kak

watch the video

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The homogenous Indian

Why does it say, on a carton of jamun juice, "Indian berry"? As an Indian you don't need to be told what a jamun looks or tastes like; in fact, it would make more sense to describe a berry as a jamun-like fruit. But that's what happens when you live among cartons and tetrapaks and toilet paper rolls. You lose your bearings. You forget that you live in India. India needs to be explained to you. 

To be an urban Indian today is to feel a bit lost, a bit unsure about who you really are. Pinpointing your identity is quite a task. Actually, you may have to sift through multiple identities to choose the ones that best represent you. I meant that metaphorically but taken at a very literal level, just look at the hazaar pieces of laminated plastic that urban citizens accumulate. There's the driver's licence, passport, credit card, ATM card, PAN card, voter's ID and, depending on your situation, student ID or employee ID slung about the neck like a dog collar. Then there are the various club membership cards — of professional associations, film societies and weekend resorts. Bookshops, supermarkets and clothing stores give out loyalty cards to encourage regular patronage. Hell, even the sweeper and the servant maid have to flash their photo IDs at the apartment gate before the watchman lets them in.

And to think that, not long ago, the only proof of your identity was a ration card! I eat, therefore I am. Very basic.

Read: The multi-layered Indian

Friday, December 17, 2010

Conservation Natural History Museum cancels expedition to arid Chaco

Paraguay has tonight formally suspended a Natural History Museum expedition, arranged to investigate part of the nation's virgin dry forest, to allow more time for consultation with the indigenous people. The museum had been criticised in South America and Europe for its plans to send up to 60 botanists, zoologists and other scientists to an area of the dry Chaco forest, the only place in Latin America outside the Amazon where tribes uncontacted by outsiders are known to live. Fears were raised by some settled Ayoreo Indians that the scientists and their large back-up teams could stumble upon groups of indigenous peoples living in voluntary isolation, and pass on dangerous and even fatal diseases. The Paraguayan government has been deeply embarrassed that some Ayoreo leaders have claimed they knew nothing about the scientists' trip until learning about it in the press. The museum defended its trip, "expected to discover several hundred new species of plants and insects", saying that to "scientifically record the richness and diversity of the animals and plants in this remote region is extremely important for the future management of this fragile habitat".

Read more: Concern for wellbeing of uncontacted tribes stalls science trip

Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks

Earlier today, Julian Assange on being released in London, reminded the world of others besides him: "During my time in solitary confinement in the bottom of a Victorian prison I had time to reflect on the conditions of those people around the world also in solitary confinement, also on remand, in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me. Those people also need your attention and support" (reminded me of all the powerless undertrials languishing in our prisons).

Assange had talked in July to TED's Chris Anderson about how the site operates, what it has accomplished -- and what drives him. The interview includes graphic footage of a recent US airstrike in Baghdad.

TED Interview

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

An income commission for farmers to end agrarian distress?

When little children in cities have a Happy Meal burger at McDonalds and get a Batman car or Ben 10 toy free, they are getting much more for free — all gift-wrapped by wheat and potato farmers in some far-off village. They are not paying for the labour put in by the farmer, the profits forgone by him, and the higher cost of living that he did not bill on the food buyer. The only remuneration he gets is based on the minimum support price (MSP) determined by the government which cannot be raised beyond a certain level for fear of pushing up food prices. MSP for wheat is less than Rs 11 a kg. MSP also does not take into account the cost of labour (free or paid), the cost of seeds (bought or traditional), or the cost of living.

Read More from Shreelatha Menon

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kai Frieze on the way journalism's changed to media

How do you go from the indignant maven of We the People to “Okie. Gnite tweeple”? Why does Rajdeep Sardesai describe his own monogrammed opinions on CNN IBN as “our editor’s take”? Why does he shout so much? Why is plagiarism not a firing offence for newspaper film reviewers? Is the copy desk just the workstation where you concoct the ‘Letter for the Editor’? What is wrong with Arnab Goswami? Why is every story an ‘exclusive’, even if it’s not? Are TV anchors journalists, or entertainers? And aren’t newspapers supposed to have front-page news instead of one big ad—sorry, edvertorial?

Read: The Media is the Message

College lecturer loses job for essay topic

Noor Mohammed Bhat, a college lecturer in Srinagar, who decided to get creative with the English examination paper, has been sacked by his college. Amongst his essay topics: “Are the stone pelters real heroes? Discuss.” According to the Associated Press, Bhat has been charged with promoting secession. Kashmir Dispatch reports say he’s been charged under section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Read on

Monday, November 29, 2010

Who will watch the watchdogs?

The journalist has secured a place in the pantheon of power wielders; to make merry with the likes of the Ambanis and Tatas, to connive with the fore-ranking members of the political classes, important ministers and the like. This extraordinary sense of power emanates initially with owning a press identity card, then a PIB accreditation card, cleared by none other than the vigilant Home Ministry. Next, you walk the corridors of Parliament with a permanent card of Parliament, as well a car with a sticker certifying you a ‘privileged’ citizen. The path of a journalist is strewn with privileges and the temptation to fall prey to them has proven to be irresistible. Armed with all the accessories of privilege, journalists started cozying up to the blue blooded, corporate tycoons, and ruling party bosses. One of the anecdotes doing the rounds among journalists at the moment goes like this: A certain politician-unfriendly journalist asks P Chidambaram whether the Congress is embarrassed by the Supreme Court’s observation about the Prime Minister’s inaction on the A Raja corruption issue. Chidambaram quips back: Are you in the media embarrassed about the tapes?

Not embarrassed, just angry at being caught out.

The Media Barons and the Radia Tapes by Monobina Gupta

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Perhaps they can file a charge posthumously against Jawaharlal Nehru too"

"Perhaps they can file a charge posthumously against Jawaharlal Nehru too", says Arundhati Roy in response to the court order directing the Delhi Police to file an FIR against her for waging war against the state. A Delhi court on Saturday ordered the police to register an FIR against Roy, Hurriyat leader Syed Shah Geelani, revolutionary poet Varavara Rao, Delhi University professor S.A.R. Geelani, who was acquitted in the Parliament attack case, Kashmir University law professor Sheikh Shaukat Hussain, Sujato Bhadra and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, for allegedly making anti-India statements on October 21 at a convention on Kashmir “Azadi: The Only Way”. 

“In his broadcast to the nation over All India Radio on 2nd November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “We are anxious not to finalise anything in a moment of crisis and without the fullest opportunity to be given to the people of Kashmir to have their say. It is for them ultimately to decide ---- And let me make it clear that it has been our policy that where there is a dispute about the accession of a state to either Dominion, the accession must be made by the people of that state. It is in accordance with this policy that we have added a proviso to the Instrument of Accession of Kashmir.”

"In another broadcast to the nation on 3rd November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir but to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.” 

"Pristine ideological battles are really more frightening."

"I thought, thank God the BJP is corrupt, thank God someone’s taken money, imagine if they had been incorruptible, only ideological, it would have been so much more frightening. To me, pristine ideological battles are really more frightening."

Arundhati Roy in conversation with Amit Sengupta
Read on Tehelka

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

So, how much is Rs 1.76 lakh crore?

2G Spectrum Scam
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) states that the Government of India gave away $40 billion (1.76 lakh crore or Rs 17,60,00,00,00,000) when it allocated rights to the 2G spectrum (that's second generation wireless bandwidth) to new bidders at giveaway prices. 

Whew! That's a lot of zeroes! But what does this mean in real terms? When you hear people say that we can't afford to pay state-mandated minimum wages to workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), don't believe it.  The Union budget for 2010-11 allocates Rs 40,100 crore for the MGNREGA. With the money recovered from the 2G giveaway, we could fund rural employment for more than four years.(If we got back the overseas black money, we could fund rural jobs for 50 years!) If we kick in the money already budgeted for the program, we could vastly expand the wages and the reach of the program. And remember, all that extra money in the hands of rural farm labourers would fuel a boom in our rural economy, whereas extra money in the hands of billionaires too often ends up fleeing the country!

Just so we are clear: the airwaves, like the air, rivers, and most natural resources, are owned by the people of India--and it's the Government of India's job to make sure these resources are managed in the interest of the people.  So selling the airwaves at ridiculously low prices is a violation of the public trust.  It's like selling a public park to a developer for a pittance: most of us lose; only the developer gets rich.

Source: Green Light Dhaba; read detailed piece

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Kalahari Bushman appeals to African Commission

Survival is calling for a boycott of Botswana tourism and Botswana diamonds, until the persecution of the Bushmen stops and they are treated fairly. The government has banned the Bushmen from accessing water inside the reserve, and from hunting. At the same time, it has allowed Wilderness Safaris to erect a luxury tourist lodge with swimming pool on Bushman land, and is due to give the go ahead for a diamond mine, which will require vast amounts of water to operate. 

A Bushman from a settlement deep in Botswana’s Central Kalahari Game Reserve has travelled to the Gambia to ask the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights for help. Speaking at the African Commission’s international conference earlier this month, Smith Moeti described the Bushmen’s struggle to access water and escape persecution from the Botswana government. ‘The government refuses to provide us with food rations but will not issue us with hunting licences… If we want to eat meat we must hunt without a licence… When we are caught, we are often beaten up by the wildlife scouts. We have been in the Central Kalahari for thousands of years. We do not use guns. As long as we have enough water and food we need very little from the government.’

Mukesh Ambani's 27-Story Home

There are nine elevators, a spa, a 50-seat theater and a grand ballroom. Hundreds of servants and staff are expected to work inside. And now, finally, after several years of planning and construction, the residents are about to move in.

All five of them. 

Mumbai, once known as Bombay, is India’s most cosmopolitan city, with a metropolitan area of roughly 20 million people. Migrants have poured into the city during the past decade, drawn by Mumbai’s reputation as India’s “city of dreams,” where anyone can become rich. But it is also a city infamous for its poor: a recent study found that roughly 62 percent of the population lived in slums, including one of Asia’s biggest, Dharavi, which houses more than one million people.

Real estate prices are among the highest in the world, pushing many working-class residents into slums, even as developers have brazenly cleared land for a new generation of high-rise apartment towers for the affluent. High-rises are considered necessary, given the city’s limited land, yet the rising towers have further insulated the rich from the teeming metropolis below. With his helipads, which still await operating approval, Mr. Ambani could conceivably live in Mumbai without ever touching the ground.

“This is a gated community in the sky,” said Gyan Prakash, author of the new book “Mumbai Fables.” “It is in a way reflective of how the rich are turning their faces away from the city.”

Read more: Soaring Above India’s Poverty

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

LC Jain

Namaste and Alvida, Lakshmiji. Will miss your gentle wit and thoughtful words. 
Gandhian LC Jain has passed away

Also read: "The loss of idealism is unacceptable."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Message from His Holiness the Dalai Lama on the Release of Aung San Suu Kyi

I welcome the release of fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and extend my appreciation to the military regime in Burma. I extend my full support and solidarity to the movement for democracy in Burma and take this opportunity to appeal to freedom-loving people all over the world to support such non-violent movements.

I pray and hope that the government of the People's Republic of China will release fellow Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo and other prisoners of conscience who have been imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression.

The Dalai Lama
November 14th, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi: A life indoors

"In the end they can't stop the people; they can't stop freedom. We shall have our time."

Every morning Aung San Suu Kyi wakes at 4 a.m. knowing there is nowhere she can go, that there is no prospect she will be allowed outside. Inside the mildewing two-storey villa the Burmese junta has made her prison, she meditates, sometimes for hours, before turning her attention to one of five radios tuned to stations around the world. These distant voices, broadcasts from the BBC, Voice of America, the rebel news service Democratic Voice of Burma, and others, are her only constant link with the outside world. She has no phone, no TV and no internet. Her mail is heavily censored. Often it is not delivered. The 65-year-old Buddhist lives with two long-serving maids, mother and daughter Khin Khin Win and Win Ma Ma, who have been sentenced with their employer for this final stretch of house detention.

After 15 years, the Myanmarese opposition leader is expected to be released from house arrest in less than 48 hours.

Read the Hindu op-ed

Using SUVs in India is criminal!

The nation’s environment conscience keeper and Union Minister Jairam Ramesh is angry every time he sees a Merc, an Audi and SUVs on Indian roads. To own too many big cars is criminal according to him, as they not only add heavily to greenhouse gas emissions but also probably eat into a subsidy on diesel, in place to benefit farmers. “It’s criminal in India with the type of society we are in. The luxurious growth of large-sized vehicles and SUVs in our country is really a cause for great concern,” he said at a workshop on low-carbon transport here. The owners of these vehicles in India include politicians, businessmen, sports and film personalities.

The diesel-guzzling SUVs are put on roads taking advantage of a government subsidy on diesel to benefit farming and heavy duty transport sectors. The subsidy, though reduced by two rupees when petrol prices were deregulated last June, is still incentive enough for the affluent to go for SUVs.

Read Deccan Herald piece

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Partial Ban on Balochistan paper

"Last week, one heard about the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority’s (PTA) decision to impose a partial ban on The Baloch Hal, the first and only online newspaper that tells the story of Balochistan to the rest of Pakistan and the world-at-large. The reason for the ban, according to the PTA, was that The Baloch Hal published ‘anti-Pakistan material’. As expected, this vague claim remains unsubstantiated. The government of Pakistan needs to remember that freedom of expression and association is a basic right guaranteed under the Constitution of 1973 – a constitution that, as a democratic set-up, as opposed to a military dictatorship, it has pledged to uphold."

Read post by Urooj Zia on the Himal Southasian blog

Monday, November 8, 2010

NBA: Twenty-five Years: what next?

By ignoring a sustained non-violent movement, what message is the Indian state giving to other peoples' movements?

Important as it is to recognise the influence exerted by the NBA, there are fundamental questions to be asked of the movement. Ideologically, the NBA has been almost adamantly Gandhian. At a time when India's political sphere is punctured by debates triggered by the Maoist movement and their insistence on armed struggle (among other methods) as the path to achieve social and political change, how relevant is a movement that refuses to move away from the Gandhian path of ahimsa or non-violence? It is easy to notice that the State's (the government, the judiciary and the police force) preoccupation with the Maoist movement far outweighs its response to an NBA hunger-fast.

Expectedly, the State's response to the Maoist movement is a visibly violent one; but what of its continued apathy to the questions raised by the NBA through its non-violent methods? Does it indicate a failure of non-violence as a strategy to demand justice? "This is a question that should trigger serious introspection from the Indian State. By ignoring the demands for justice from the Narmada valley, what is the message they are putting out for other movements?” asks Swami Agnivesh.

Read the full piece in Tehelka
Middle-class Indians might hate Arundhati Roy, but shutting her out would leave us a poorer society. Shoma Chaudhury explains why

From the moment The God of Small Things was published, Roy was deemed the chosen one. As the successes of the book piled up — the huge advances, the translations in 40 languages, and finally the Booker (the first time any resident Indian had won it) — it was a done deal: Arundhati Roy was India’s triumphant entry on the global stage. She was the princess at the ball. If she had stuck to script, Roy would have remained the celebrated first of a series of triumphant notes: Aishwarya Rai winning Miss World, Tatas taking over Jaguar, Indian billionaires making the top of Fortune 500 lists, an awesome 8 percent growth and a burgeoning consumer class. The India Shining story was all stitched up. Everyone was raising a toast. No one could have anticipated that the princess would strike the gong even before the midnight hour. Willfully bust the party. Pick open the seams of the gown. Show the chariot for a pumpkin. Smash the glass slipper. But that is what she did. In May 1998, barely a few months into her Booker win, India tested the nuclear bomb. In August, Roy wrote The End of Imagination, an angry impassioned critique of the bomb, her first piece of writing after the novel.

walk free?

Zainab poses discomforting thoughts on the notions of 'our' space

So what happens when a space is cleaned of its numerous claimants,
And clear owners of property are established?
Are the contests completely removed?
Does the space become irreversible?
Does clear, titled ownership reign supreme?
Bombay – 400 001.
Read more: Claims and Space – Thoughts from the Feet

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Learn to like weeds

Naturalist Richard Mabey believes that weeds are misunderstood. "Weeds present us with an opportunity to look at boundaries in nature – the boundaries between the wild and the cultivated. It is an anthropological distinction which we all operate around. An enormous number of weeds have led to valuable medicines. The nightshade family and the thorn apple crop up in plenty of people's gardens, but they would be regarded as extremely objectionable invaders despite their value in modern medicine.

But the real usefulness of weeds is the attempt to vegetate disrupted earth – that is, in a sense, their ecological role. If there weren't such plants on the planet there would be nothing to start the succession of spoilt ground back to more complex vegetation. We spend an enormous quantity of our agricultural and gardening budgets on weed control, and the chemicals used do unquantified damage to all kinds of other creatures, possibly even ourselves, and the plants we're doing this to are obviously blameless. Like any other species, we need to control our environment to make it tolerable for us to live in. But it would be easier, cheaper and more environmentally sound if we accepted our responsibility in the generation of weeds – and we might find it much more easy to live with them if we did."

Read more : Give weeds a chance

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Dissolve the People

Does it look like there is a whole lot of goodwill towards the Government of India in Kashmir, which Roy has to work hard towards alienating? All over the North-East and Kashmir, reeling under the military jackboot of the draconian AFSPA, the Government of India is nothing but an occupying army, a spontaneous disaffection generator.

where there is violence, there is always and inevitably suffering

Dalai Lama: Theoretically, one could imagine a situation where armed intervention at an early stage might prevent large-scale conflict. The problem is that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to predict the outcome of violence. That it will be just is not guaranteed at the outset – it will only become clear in hindsight. The only certainty is that where there is violence, there is always and inevitably suffering.

Japanese citizens question a possible nuclear deal with India

Manmohan Singh is in Tokyo, trying to conclude yet another nuclear deal with yet another country. As the deal is under a cloud, many Japanese citizens have written an open letter to him:

"It is true, as India has repeatedly pointed out, that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is an unequal treaty. However, looking at India now, one cannot help thinking that India believes power and prestige derive from the possession of nuclear weapons. India might have adopted a nuclear no-first-use strategy, but seen from the perspective of the experience of the Hibakusha, the possession of nuclear weapons is by no means a source of power and prestige. Rather, it is the epitome of immorality."

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A spring view

Though a country be sundered, hills and rivers endure;
And spring comes green again to trees and grasses
Where petals have been shed like tears
And lonely birds have sung their grief.
After the war-fires of three months,
One message from home is worth a ton of gold.

I stroke my white hair. It has grown too thin
To hold the hairpins any more.

-Tu Fu (c.750). (trans. Witter Bynner)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Campaigners welcome MoEf's halt to expansion of Vedanta plant

India's environment ministry has ordered Vedanta Resources to halt a sixfold expansion of an aluminium refinery in Orissa, eastern India, to "maintain the status quo" and undertake "no further construction activity". It is another blow for the company, which in August was denied permission to mine bauxite on local tribal land. "Vedanta is learning the hard way that it cannot ride roughshod over tribal peoples forever," said Stephen Corry, director of Survival International, a leading member of the international campaign against Vedanta's plans in Orissa. "Other companies should learn from Vedanta's mistakes: before investing time and money in a project, a company must gain the consent of local tribal communities."

See BBC story on this

Thursday, October 21, 2010

As women you’re not supposed to possess desire, let alone ‘alternative’ desire

Next month, Sumati Kaul will take part in her third annual ‘Gay Pride march’ in India. And for the first time since she began telling some friends and associates that she is a lesbian, she is planning to do so without a mask. As recently as July, when smaller marches were held in several cities, she kept on her mask and avoided the cameras. “I didn’t want my family to see me on television,” said the 31-year-old software company manager. But then the social pressures faced by many women — to marry, to be a dutiful wife, to bear children and carry on the family line — hit her with special force, given her sexual orientation, and forced her hand. Coming out to her family was, in one sense, a relief, and she earns enough from her job to continue living independently in Delhi without help from her relatives.  “My family won’t talk to me, and my uncles will either force me into a marriage or kill me,” she said, in a matter-of-fact tone. She sees no possibility of reconciliation. “To my uncles and my father, ‘lesbian’ is a dirty word,” she said. “Unless I get married, there’s no way back for me.” As she spoke, her partner listened, nodding. She, too, will be in the gay pride march next month, but she will keep her mask on. Her family lives nearby in Delhi and is even more conservative than Sumati’s.

When lesbians think their safety depends on invisibility. By Nilanjana S Roy

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lovely’s Lane

Alok Rai updates us on Delhi's continuing absurdities post-CWG

It was bound to come sooner or later. The wonder – the absolute, outrageous, impudent surprise of it all is that it has come so soon. The Games have barely limped to their pathetic conclusion – and those of us who are waiting for the post-Games reckoning are waiting but impatiently, inadequately consoled by the sound of the sharpening of the knives, the braiding of the hangman’s rope – or, most likely, the Japanese water torture of the promised Shunglu probe. And in the midst of this unfolding fiasco, this still-running disaster, the lovely Mr Arvinder Singh Lovely, Delhi’s Transport Minister, has made the suggestion that the insult of the Games lane, the closing off to the public of a significant part of the road which has been made with public money, be made permanent. This – as we were told in full-page ads paid for by us – was done with threats of  a hefty fine or, worse, far worse, being exposed to the courtesies of a Delhi cop. The ineffable experience of crawling along patiently (but proudly, always proudly!) while sundry others flashing CWG insignia whizzed past in the CWG lane – an experience that so many of us chose to miss, could now become a permanent feature of the metro experience. I can’t wait!

Read the full piece on kafila

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Soon, most of Goa’s earth will be deposited in China"

"The environment devastation caused by mining in Goa and the unbridled acceleration of ore extraction propelled by the China demand in the last five years cannot escape anyone". Former director of Panos Institute’s Asia Regional Programmes, London-based Carmen Miranda’s crusading environmental activism has seen her in the forefront of global campaigns in eco hotspots from Bangladesh to Nepal, Indonesia, Pakistan and India, among others.

"If we are not careful, in the near future, people will have to go to China to visit Goa, as most of our land will be deposited there, leaving just a hole in the ground in Goa. What angers me is the attitude of the Goa government and mining lobby, who think that they have a God-given right to destroy everyone else’s way of life and resources in Goa for the benefit of China and a handful of extremely rich mining barons".

See interview with Devika Sequeira, Deccan Herald

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Woh intizaar tha jis ka, yeh woh sahar to nahin

As Faiz put it so eloquently - this surely is not the dawn we were waiting for

Asaduddin Owaisi says the “prevailing peace is not to be confused with the sense of unease” that exists in the community. “How can we move on,” he asks, “Muslims have been reduced to second-class citizens”.

Read full article in Outlook

Environment Minister questions government's development policy in northeast India

In note to PM, Jairam takes on govt, puts question mark on N-E projects
Ravish Tiwari, Financial Express

New Delhi: In unprecedented distancing from the government by a key
minister and questioning its development works in the strategic
North-East and Bhutan, environment minister Jairam Ramesh has taken up
with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demands for a review of all hydel
projects in the region and a “moratorium on any further clearances for
hydel projects in Arunachal Pradesh” since “these are bound to be the
subject of agitation” in Assam.

In a letter to the PM on September 16 after attending a meeting in
Guwahati of “civil society organisations” opposed to big dams, Ramesh
has highlighted the views of ‘some NGOs’ that “we should not make
Arunachal Pradesh a pawn in the race between India and China”.

This, Ramesh states, was the response to his explanation on the
‘strategic significance’ of projects in Arunachal Pradesh. But in his
letter, he only names one NGO called Adi Students Union which made a
representation to him on this issue.

At least ten times in the three-page letter to the PM, he refers to
‘sentiments’, ‘dominant view’, ‘great concern’, ‘concerns of the
people’, ‘opposition building up’.

The letter ends with the warning that the “feeling in vocal sections
of Assam’s society particularly appears to be that ‘mainland India’ is
exploiting the North-East hydel resources for its benefits”.

What’s worrying for the government is that Ramesh has already made
some assurances that could impact the pace of progress. “What I could
assure the audience, of course, is that for projects not yet started,
we will carry out cumulative environmental impact assessment studies
as well as comprehensive biodiversity studies.”

This flies in the face of his own commitment to fast-track projects on
the Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh. It is recorded in the minutes of
a recent meeting of the task force on hydro power development: “MoS
for environment and forests emphasised the need for time-bound
development of hydro potential in Siang river and he offered, on his
part, to consider forest and environment clearance on a fast track
basis for hydro electric projects in Siang river.”

Ramesh has taken up with the PM concerns over mega projects in Bhutan
like the Kurichu dam and Mangdechhu hydel project. These are bound to
have diplomatic ramifications as these projects are being built with
Indian help, and power produced from them would be purchased by India.
There are strong strategic underpinnings to these projects as they
symbolise the cooperation hastened by Bhutan’s unflinching support to
not let its territory be used by N-E insurgent groups. Confirming that
he had written to the PM after his trip to the N-E, Ramesh refused to
go into details. He, however, said the PM is slated to take an
inter-ministerial meeting on the subject on October 13.

In his letter, Ramesh has pointed to concerns over projects mostly
being built on tributaries of the Brahmaputra which even China is
looking to harness on its side. He is careful enough to front these as
views distilled from a “public consultation” organised at the “request
of a large number of civil society organizations in Assam” on
September 10 where he claims “over a thousand people participated in
an interaction which extended over six hours”. At the same time, he
ends up lending weight to some of these concerns while pointing out
that elections in Assam are due in next six months. “Even leaving
aside polls, these issues are important in themselves and merit our
serious consideration. I believe that some of the concerns that were
expressed cannot be dismissed lightly.” The key concerns and
“sentiments” to which Ramesh has sought to draw the PM’s attention

* There should be a “moratorium on any further clearances for hydel
projects in Arunachal Pradesh” until downstream impact assessment
studies, cumulative environment impact assessment studies and
biodiversity impact studies are completed.

* The 135 dams of different capacities being planned in Arunachal
Pradesh “are being given green signal” without carrying out these

* These MoUs signed “with the knowledge of the Central government”
have not taken on board the concerns of the people of Assam. “The
Government of Assam should be a party to these MoUs, especially where
downstream impacts are significant”. Incidentally, most of these MoUs
were signed during the first UPA government.

* There is “great concern” on the downstream impact in certain
districts of Assam from “existing hydel projects of NEEPCO like
Ranganadi and Kopili”. Incidentally, these projects have been declared
fully operational more than five years ago. “There is also concern on
the Kurichu hydel project executed by India in Bhutan and its
downstream impacts in districts like Barpeta, Baska, Nalbari and

* “There is opposition building up in Assam to the 2000-mw Lower
Subansiri hydel project being implemented by NHPC in Arunachal
Pradesh... the demand being made, on the basis of an expert committee
report prepared by a team from IIT Guwahati, Guwahati University and
Dibrugarh University is for the project to be scrapped”. Ramesh,
however, has also clarified in his letter that he told the audience he
was “in no position to make any commitment on the existing Lower

* Award of projects in Arunachal Pradesh to different companies in the
same river basin is making the “task of environment impact assessment
very difficult”. The examples given are of three different companies
involved in projects on Subansiri and also on Siang.

* The 1750-mw Lower Demwe hydel project on the Lohit river “should not
be given forest clearance, although environmental clearance has
already been given for the project” because of the downstream impact
of this project on Assam.

* The 1500-mw Tipaimukh hydro-electric project in Manipur “should not
be proceeded till a comprehensive downstream impact assessment study
has been undertaken”.

* Impact of hydel projects in Bhutan need to be “studied better”. The
entire approach to dams in the N-E “needs to be looked afresh”.

article link

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Kisan Swaraj Yatra is a nation-wide mobilization drawing fresh attention to the continuing agricultural crisis in India, and calling for a comprehensive new path for Indian agriculture – that will provide livelihood and food security for small farmers, keep our soils alive, and our food and water poison-free. The bus-Yatra will start at the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram on Oct 2nd, and pass through 20 states to reach Rajghat, New Delhi on Dec 11th.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

'Nepal believes in disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction'

'Nepal believes in disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction'
Friday, 08 October 2010 10:22

Gyan Chandra Acharya, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Nepal to the United Nations, said that Nepal believes in general and complete disarmament of all weapons of mass destruction including biological, chemical, nuclear, radiological weapons in a time-bound manner.

He delivered this statement in the First Committee meeting of the UN General Assembly held in New York on Thursday.

"As a party to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and Chemical Weapon Convention, Nepal strongly supports the elimination of nuclear weapons to attain nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation once and for all," said Acharya.

Ambassador Acharya also stressed that Nepal fully supports the effective implementation of the Program of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons.

Nepal supports the adoption of a legally binding instrument to regulate international arms transfer for transparency and accountability, he said. He also stated that Nepal stands for prevention of arms race in the outer space and encourages an early conclusion of a Fissile Materials Cut-Off Treaty.

While highlighting Nepal as a host country to the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific, Ambassador Acharya informed the Committee that Nepal would be tabling a resolution on United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Asia and the Pacific at the current Session of the Committee.

Ambassador Acharya observed that despite over a billion people living in poverty and hunger, our precious yet scarce resources are consistently being diverted towards the procurement, research and development of ever sophisticated weapon systems which, runs contrary to our moral standing. 


On Liu Xiaobo Being Awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize

Press Statement of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Liu Xiaobo Being Awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize

I would like to offer my heart-felt congratulations to Mr. Liu Xiaobo for being awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Awarding the Peace Prize to him is the international community’s recognition of the increasing voices among the Chinese people in pushing China towards political, legal and constitutional reforms.

I have been personally moved as well as encouraged by the efforts of hundreds of Chinese intellectuals and concerned citizens, including Mr. Liu Xiaobo in signing the Charter 08, which calls for democracy and freedom in China. I expressed my admiration in a public statement on 12 December 2008, two days after it was released and while I was on a visit to Poland. I believe in the years ahead, future generations of Chinese will be able to enjoy the fruits of the efforts that the current Chinese citizens are making towards responsible governance.

I believe that Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s recent comments on freedom of speech being indispensable for any country and people’s wish for democracy and freedom being irresistible are a reflection of the growing yearning for a more open China. Such reforms can only lead to a harmonious, stable and prosperous China, which can contribute greatly to a more peaceful world.

I would like to take this opportunity to renew my call to the government of China to release Mr. Liu Xiaobo and other prisoners of conscience who have been imprisoned for exercising their freedom of expression.

October 8, 2010