Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Injustice Industrial Complex, and the Human Miasma

As his 67th birthday nears, and Pennsylvania political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal faces challenging and potentially fatal health crises, his legal case is still slowly winding its way through the arduous appellate court system. — New court filings for Abu-Jamal’s appeal, Workers World, March 22.

chain stitch embroidery and graphite on khadi

Injustice is an industry in the United States of America, just like militarism and prisons. An inorganic perennial landscape irrigated by lies, silence, deception, fossil fuels, white-freedom-weapons and the victimization of black and brown people. A rhizomatous perpetual motion machine whose oozing pus fertilizes itself and keeps going.

This industry is undemocratic and bipartisan. It uses words like freedom and dreams and green to describe the journey. 

Don’t be fooled. There’s nothing free and dreamy and green about this journey. It is in fact shackled and nightmarish and grey, rooted in the oxymoronic and popular yet fantastical belief in infinite human potential on a finite planet. This potential, still needs a piece of the planet to thrive. And if we turn around to face the diabolically long and wide landscape, we might get a sense of the human miasma in this journey of injustice. We might see Mumia Abu-Jamal, somewhere in the distance, 39-40 years ago. Like a lotus blooming through the muck.

Conventional wisdom would have us believe that it is insane to resist this, the mightiest of empires, but what history really shows is that todays empire is tomorrows ashes; that nothing lasts forever, and that to not resist is to acquiesce in your own oppression. The greatest form of sanity that anyone can exercise is to resist that force that is trying to repress, oppress, and fight down the human spirit. — political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, Incarcerated at SCI Mahanoy, Pennsylvania; his twelfth book, “the sweeping historical polemic, Murder Incorporated: Empire, Genocide, and Manifest Destiny marks a historic pinnacle for Abu-Jamal as a writer and critic of the American Empire.”

We don’t need some unreal green message from the future where everyone is living off the fat of the land. Maybe we’re going about it all wrong and need to stop and look back instead of looking forward. Maybe the answer to the human miasma lies there? In a small piece of the planet-past. Maybe then it will hit us. That solutionism itself needs a piece of the earth, and the end result will be more violence, more displacement and death and devastation. Not less. 

Mumia and his story sits on one of those pieces of the planet-past. Forgotten and neglected in our liberal quest for quenching immediate injustices, and future ones. All Black Lives Matter. Not just those who the state and white supremacists kill instantly, but also those that the state kills slowly. Like Mumia. 

The state wants Mumia to die… Congestive heart failure…Covid-19 breathing difficulties…Organ failure of the skin… Unrelenting skin eruptions are causing damaged, ruptured, leathery, dry, exposed wounds. Not one spot on his body is free of dry cracked and bloody open wounds… The message from his personal physician, Dr. Ricardo Alvarez, could not be clearer, ‘Freedom is the only treatment.’Prison Radio, March 9.

What the system has done to Mumia’s life, his body, his mind, his words, to me encapsulates the dark nature of this miasmic journey: a microcosmic example of what we’re continuing to do to the earth, in a corner of which we planted a state that planted a system that planted an injustice industrial complex that planted the prison industrial complex that planted Pennsylvania prisons that planted Mumia, an innocent man inside it, “still writing by hand and on a plastic typewriter — no computers are allowed”…

…and that planted the trial judge Albert Sabo and the infamous six words that he was “going to help them fry the ‘n***r’.”

White supremacy is an ideology that gets its message across using very few words, and represents one of the darkest greys in the grey scale of the human miasma. But those six words of judge Sabo, for example, bring home the limits of the human potential. That the poison (if you’re a white supremacist) or elixir (if you’re a liberal human supremacist) is always going to be sought through violent means no matter how hard or how light your blow to the planet and the ecosphere: something always moving forward; something extractive; some more pieces of the planet; and the piece that still holds the forgotten freedom for Mumia.

Mumia’s freedom isn’t the freedom you and I are used to and that we take for granted. It’s the real thing: something that has to be unjustly snatched away from you first and then never granted if the system continues to have its way. Our freedom is part of the miasma. An illusion. It’s meaningless if we don’t use it to fight for someone else’s. 

But yes, freedom is the only treatment. Freedom for Mumia by other fellow humans. And freedom for the earth, from human superiority. 

It’s time to let go of the idea of infinite human potential and let the planet breathe. Let Mumia breathe. That’s one of the few things that we can do that’s within our modest human potential. Our mobilization for freedom of political prisoners like Mumia will actually plant something beautiful and non-violent on this planet without taking a piece of it away.

Your support, from Philadelphia to France, from points across the nation and literally around the globe, has pulled me from a prison cell and placed me in a hospital room to be treated for a condition I didn’t know I had. In the age of pandemic… as of January 2021, over 300,000 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19. Imagine that… Imagine an elder man, or a woman, or even a young person, because yes, we are also in an age of mass incarceration which day by day increases its infliction upon the elderly, struggling unsuccessfully, to breathe. To walk. To be. I thank you all for reaching out, and I urge you all, let our mission be abolition. — ‘A Letter of Thanks’ by Mumia Abu-Jamal, Prison Radio, March 19.

Resources, updates and calls to action:

Watch the March 18 forum sponsored by the Prisoners Solidarity Committee of Workers World Party titled Mumia Abu-Jamal: The Only Treatment is His Freedom!

Prison Radio

International Concerned Friends and Family of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Campaign to bring Mumia home

The fact that this case is old, 39 years old, and that an innocent man with severe health concerns, is languishing in prison makes it even more critical that you do everything in your power to make sure that justice is not delayed. — What Krasner Needs to Do!, March 18

Write to Mumia: Smart Communications/PADOC, Mumia Abu-Jamal AM 8335, SCI Mahanoy, PO Box 33028, St Petersburg, FL 33733.

“Yes I believe that prisoners deserve a voice!” Please consider making a donation to Prison Radio.

Free Sanaa Seif !

It is outrageous from the beginning that she was arrested and prosecuted instead of investigating the physical assault against her… The sentence shows the status of the Egyptian judiciary today, which is largely in the service of the political interests of the government, rather than assisting in delivering justice.” — Amr Magdi, Egypt researcher at Human Rights Watch, Middle East Eye, March 17.  

An Egyptian court has convicted the 26-year-old film editor, writer and activist Sanaa Seif on charges of spreading false news, misusing social media and insulting a police officer on duty, sentencing her to 18 months in prison. Sanaa’s sister, Mona Seif, confirmed the March 17 conviction in a tweet stating that her sister has been charged with “spreading false news related to the Covid 19 pandemic,” and “using a Facebook account to terrorize people.” This is nothing less than a travesty of justice. 

Sanaa’s brother, revolutionary activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah has been held in administrative detention at Cairo’s Tara prison since September 2019. In March of the same year, he had finished serving a five year prison sentence for something he never did: organize a protest.

On June 21, 2020, Sanaa was sleeping on the pavement outside Tara prison along with her mother and sister, peacefully demonstrating their right to receive a letter from Alaa that the prison authorities were holding from them. The following morning “a group of female beltagiya (thugs) attacked” them, beating them severely and stealing most of their belongings.

On June 23 when she went to the Public Prosecutor’s Office to file a report of the incident, some plainclothes policemen grabbed and shoved her into a white minivan, abducting her. According to the site freedmfor.network, Sanaa was taken to “Egypt’s Supreme State Security Prosecution, which is notorious for detaining political opponents and critics in prolonged pre-trial detention over unfounded ‘terrorism’ charges.”

Since President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi came to power following the 2013 coup, Sanaa had been detained twice before. She is one of many thousands who have been unjustly imprisoned by the Sisi regime. 

It’s really sad that the price we had to pay for a letter from our brother who shouldn’t even be in prison, was Sanaa being beaten and arrested. So the price we had to pay for that letter was another one of our family in prison… What Sanaa would want is that we don’t loose sight of the bigger picture. To talk about all political prisoners and what the state is doing to deny them their rights and put their lives in danger. — Mona Seif, Free Sanaa, August 3, 2020.

Free Sanaa! Free Alaa!

JatiIndia Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future: Thangjam Manorama

On this International Women’s Day let’s take a moment to remember one of JatiIndia’s victims, 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama from Manipur, India who was hauled out of her home at night, brutally tortured, raped and then shot dead by Indian paramilitary forces — the 17th Assam Rifles — on July 11, 2004. There were bullet wounds found in her vagina and thighs. According to The Polis Project, “Manorama’s murder was the turning point in the fight against extrajudicial encounters in Manipur, where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) has been in effect since 1980… Since AFSPA was introduced in Naga Hills and later in Manipur and then in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990, there have been a large number of civilian deaths and human rights violations including enforced disappearances, torture in custody and extrajudicial executions.”

Part of a continuing series, each of these flags of JatiIndia (my name for this country of jatis/castes) features a face of resistance to upper-caste violence and injustice. The color orange symbolizes Hindutva politics; blue—a color historically adopted by the Dalit movement—here represents the country’s Dalits, Adivasis, Kashmiris, people of the Northeast like Thangham, and other minorities; and the bottom green bar embodies the regions ecological foundations endangered by the ideology of extractive capitalism. The circular image, replacing the Dharma Chakra (Wheel of Law), signifies the view through the crosshairs of a saffron (Hindu nationalist) gunsight.

JatiIndia Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future: The Farmer We See and the Farmer We Don’t

The new farm laws will make it more difficult for farmers to earn an income, said R.S. Amaresh, a 65-year-old farmer from Renukapura village in Challakere taluk of Chitradurga district. ‘It is very difficult to survive as a farmer. There is no value for our crop. We have given up hope on agriculture. If it continues like this, a day will come when there will be no farmer.’ —  A day will come when there will be no farmer, People’s Archive of Rural India [PARI], January 27.

Whether you’re a Kashmiri or a kisan (farmer) in India growing sugarcane, wheat, rice, bajra (pearl millet), urad (black gram), toor (pigeon pea), rice, ragi (finger millet), jowar (sorghum), maize, mustard, banana, vegetables… in the fantastical eyes of the current BJP government or the private market, or Ambani or Adani or any extractive and exploitative corporation, your life and livelihood are a disposable commodity. Maximum-for-us-few and nothing for you is the maxim of the day, and those with all of their stinking power and money will deploy every violent tactic in their playbook to keep it that way. 

Security forces, road blockades, barbed wires, tear gas, water cannons, police lathis (batons), 10-feet trenches, water and electricity cut offs, that were in PARI’s words, “making it almost impossible for journalists to reach the protesting farmers, punishing a group that has already seen perhaps 200 of its own die, many from hypothermia, in the past two months,” paramilitary forces in full riot-gear with AK-47s, restrictive internet services, surveillance drones, and of course their predictably favorite one: labeling kisans who grow our food as anti-nationals — This is the violence you and me are witness to in the immediate scheme of things. But just like in every other sector, this latest assault by the Indian government and the establishment on the country’s poorest is not new. India’s agrarian crisis was set in motion a few decades ago. These new laws are just the latest pattern in a long chain of atrocious patterns.

On September 27, 2020, the central government of India passed three ag laws without any consultation with the kisans themselves. These laws would give superpowers to corporations and, kisans rightly see these laws as sabotaging an already wobbly support structure that includes the minimum support price (MSP) and the agricultural produce marketing committees (APMCs) — the system of mandis — that assures farmers procurement of their food grains; while at the same time paralyzing “the right to legal recourse of all citizens, undermining Article 32 of the Constitution of India.” 

Two months later farmers began gathering on the borders of Delhi and other parts of the country, in the streets and maidans (public spaces) to protest these new laws and make other demands including stability from fluctuating crop prices, “a dignified pension for elderly [women] farmers and farm workers… free treatment at good government hospitals… recognition of women’s labour in agriculture by giving them the status of farmers… strengthening the PDS (public distribution system) for rations,” (according to PARI), reforming APMC instead of  gutting it, long overdue land titles for Adivasi (indigenous) farmers, debt waiver, adequate storage facilities of their winter crops, freedom from agents who buy at a lower rate than the MSP because you’re at their mercy and so on and so on.

Like Ojha, many farmers in Bihar have been struggling to get better prices for their crops, especially after the state repealed the Bihar Agriculture Produce Market Act, 1960, in 2006. With that, the agricultural produce market committee (APMC) mandi system was abolished in the state. This points to what farmers in the rest of India might face with three new farm laws that were passed in September 2020. — My Troubles Begin After I Get a Good Harvest, PARI, February 20.

Part of a continuing series, each of these flags of JatiIndia (my name for this country of jatis/castes) features a face of resistance to upper-caste violence and injustice. The color orange symbolizes Hindutva politics; blue—a color historically adopted by the Dalit movement—here represents the country’s Dalits, Kashmiris, Adivasis and other minorities; and the bottom green bar embodies the regions ecological foundations endangered by the ideology of extractive capitalism. The circular image, replacing the Dharma Chakra (Wheel of Law), signifies the view through the crosshairs of a saffron (Hindu nationalist) gunsight. 

The blue strip is done in chain-stitch embroidery, illustrating the long chain of atrocities that have been carried out by JatiIndia over the years on its own people, and the people of occupied Kashmir. Each blue chain-stitch, of which there are more than twenty thousand, represents a face of resistance.

The JatiIndia flags featured here are portraits of a man farmer and a woman farmer surrounded by their crops and maati (soil) and water. That’s the front of the embroidery, representing a romanticized version of India, easy on the eye, where the ecosystem might seem a little disturbed but not threatened to the point of annihilation. And that’s why I’ve also included the back of the embroidery which I hope might communicate that which we don’t see and that which has been happening for decades in rural India — the systemic and institutional structure of violent government policies that have left us processing statements like that of R.S. Amaresh: “If it continues like this, a day will come when there will be no farmer.”  

This matrix stitches together a simultaneous kaleidoscopic pattern — one carefully crafted and intentional and the other its opposite. It’s of course impossible for us to see both, the easy front and the hard back at the same time. And we never will. Not unless we are willing to give up our lifestyles that rest on the backs of farmers like Amaresh and Ojha. They are what we eat. 

Why did [migrants] leave their villages in the first place to come [to the city]? And that was something called the agrarian crisis, which the media chooses to underplay, ignore, until it cannot…[and] what is rural distress? Rural distress is not just about agriculture… The handlooms plus handicrafts sector is the biggest employer in your country [after agriculture]… You know, if you look at the farm suicides, youll find, in many parts of this country, farmer suicides were preceded by weaver suicides… Why? When the farmers went bankrupt, the weavers lost their [first] market… These are allied professions… Your carpenters, weavers, potters, honey-hunters, fisherman – all those people are in your agrarian economy… So, if the economy of agriculture tanks, they are finished… When the lockdown came, people were making their way back to the villages, looking for those livelihoods which India had spent the last 25 years killing… What did COVID-19 do for you? It did a complete and thorough 100% autopsy on the society you are, on neoliberalism, on capitalist development under neoliberal capitalism; every nerve, sinew, bone, artery, vein is on display where its very ugly, including the maggots… Thats why Ive said often, the UPA [past government] was the gang that couldnt shoot straight. The NDA[current administration] is the gang that cant stop shooting. Every direction, everywhere, anything it can hit. — Farm Bills Will Create a Vacuum That May Result in Utter Chaos: P. Sainath, The Wire, September 23, 2020.

JatiIndia Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future: Munawar Faruqui

The intruder [Gaur] was referring not to a joke Faruqui had just made, but one that hed uploaded on YouTube in April 2020. It referenced Rama, a widely worshipped Hindu deity, and his wife Sita. O Lord, my beloved, has come home,” Faruqui starts, dropping lyrics from an enormously popular Bollywood song in which a woman celebrates the return of her lover. Then comes the punchline: Ramji dont give a f-ck about your beloved.” The audience erupts. He says, I myself havent returned home for fourteen years.” — How An Indian Stand Up Comic Found Himself Arrested for a Joke He Didn’t Tell, TIME, February 10.

It seems for India’s ruling BJP government and its tentacles, like Eklavya Singh Gaur–the son of BJP legislator Malini Gaur–Rama and Sita, holy cows, and all things Hindu,are just a convenient catalyst to carry out atrocities against Faruqui and other Indian Muslims, smothering their voices and making their lives a living hell.

On New Year’s Day this year, 29-year-old Faruqui was set to perform in a café in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, when he was approached by Gaur, who accused him of hurting the fragile sentiments of Hindus like him. By the end of the evening, after a lot of back and forth among Faruqui, his audience supporters and Gaur, he was arrested by the police along with the show’s producer Edwin Anthony, its host Nalin Yadav, its opening performer Prakhar Vyas and his 17-year-old brother. A few days later, the police also arrested a friend of Faruqui, Sadaqat Khan. 

Since Vyas’s brother was a minor, he got bail before anyone else. Faruqui was released on bail on February 6, and a few days after that Anthony and Vyas were also granted bail. Yadav and Khan are still in jail.

Part of a continuing series, these JatiIndia Flags feature a face of resistance to upper-caste violence and injustice at the center of a modified flag of India. The color orange symbolizes Hindutva politics; blue—a color historically adopted by the Dalit movement—here represents the country’s Dalits, Kashmiris, Adivasis and other minorities; the bottom green bar embodies the regions ecological foundations endangered by the ideology of extractive capitalism; the circular image, replacing the Dharma Chakra (Wheel of Law) signifies the view through the crosshairs of a saffron (Hindu nationalist) gunsight. 

The blue strip is done in chain-stitch embroidery, illustrating the long chain of atrocities that have been carried out by JatiIndia over the years on its own people, and the people of occupied Kashmir. Each blue chain-stitch, of which there are more than twenty thousand, represents a face of resistance. 

My name is Munawar Iqbal Faruqui. I was born and brought up in Gujarat. I survived Gujarat. I had delivered this joke, and folks got upset… so I wrote a sequence joke. That I think I survived because I believe the government is not good in completing their target. Ten months back they said, well beat you up. Im still alive. — Full Video Before Comedian Munawar Faruqui’s Arrest, Indore, The Newsters, January 2.

This JatiIndia flag features a portrait of Faruqui and all that he stands for and for which he is a target: he was born a Muslim, he grew up poor, he’s young and good looking, funny and intelligent, and he jokes about surviving the 2002 Gujarat pogrom.

Between February 28 and March 2, 2002, sixteen of Gujarat’s twenty-four districts were engulfed in unspeakable mob violence unleashed upon Muslims—children, babies, women, men, and elderly alike. Mobs of five to ten thousand people armed with swords, trishuls, lathis, agricultural implements, stones, acid bulbs, bottles, petrol bombs, and burning cloth balls were let loose on helpless residents. According to The Citizens for Justice and Peace’s tally, as many as 1,926 people lost their lives in violence that erupted after the Godhra train tragedy in which 59 people—mostly kar sevaks (right-wing nationalist volunteers)—were burnt alive.

Faruqui is free. For now. 

The series so far: portrait of Masrat Zahra, January 9; portrait of Manisha Valmiki, December 24, 2020; portrait of Anand Teltumbde, December 13, 2020; portraits of Ram Chander Chhatrapati, Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M. M. Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh, Shantanu Bhowmick and Kancha Ilaiah, October 16, 2017; portrait of the sang-bazan (stone pelters), Kashmir, August 15, 2017; portrait of the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom, March 1, 2017; portrait of Teesta Setalvad, February 10, 2017; portraits of Afzal Guru’s wife and son, and a pellet-gun victim, Kashmir, December 23, 2016; portraits of Vinay Sirohi with his wife, Shaista Hameed and Danish Farooq, and Lingaram Kodopi,  March 29, 2016; portrait of Rohith Vemula, March 29, 2016.

Freedomwashing

We make equipment, we give it to our so-called allies [in the Middle East], who we dont even know who the hell they are… 2,300 Humvees sent over. A couple of shots are fired and these guys run like a bunch of thieves, which they are. Our allies. Our allies. And ISIS picks up the weapons, the Humvees, the this. Its just incredible.” — Donald Trump, Des Moines Register, November 13, 2015.

Around the time when then-Republican candidate Donald Trump was talking about Humvees and thieving allies, women in Saudi Arabia were doing two things for the first time: voting and standing in elections. Loujain al-Hathloul was one of them. But her name was never added to the historic ballot. Fate had something else in store for this 31-year-old Saudi Arabian human-rights activist. 

Loujain realized that she was imprisoned with women who were sent to this ‘care home’ for simply ‘disobeying’ their male guardians. The Saudi government sees these women as delinquents. Our sister realized that freedom for these women wouldn’t come from just being able to drive, but to be free from male guardianship. — Lina and Alia al-Hathloul, sisters of Loujain al-Hathloul, Marie Claire, January 11.

Loujain first attempted to drive a car in Saudi Arabia in November 2014 when she drove from the United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia in defiance of the ban on women driving. She was arrested on December 1 by Saudi authorities and incarcerated for 73 days at the Dar al Reaya (care home). A time when, as her sisters Lina and Alia recall, Loujain “increased her activism.” Then in 2016, she, along with other activists organized a campaign calling for an end to the kingdom’s male guardianship system. 

Loujain was arrested on May 15, 2018 for her women’s rights advocacy, including Saudi women’s right to drive. According to Middle East Eye, she was rounded up along with “at least a dozen other women activists, just weeks before the decades-long ban on female drivers was lifted.” They were charged with allegations of communicating “with people and entities hostile to the king,” cooperating with “journalists and media institutions hostile to the king,” providing “financial support to foreign adversaries” and recruiting “persons for information detrimental to the security of the kingdom.” In other words, Loujain and her activist friends were charged with threatening the freedom of the kingdom. Freedom to suffocate their women subjects. Their rights. Their dignity. 

According to Lina and Alia, during the first 50 days of her pre-trial detention, Loujain was tortured. Besides keeping her in solitary confinement for a major part of that time, the Saudi authorities threatened, in their words ‘to rape our sister, to chop her body into pieces, and to throw her in the sewage system. They flogged her, waterboarded her, electrocuted her, and sexually assaulted her.”

Loujain’s father Hathloul al-Hathloul tweeted about the torture and sexual harassment, after which his account was suspended by Twitter. This is video of Loujain driving in October 2103, filmed by her father.

The United States government knows all about torture techniques like waterboarding and solitary confinement. That’s American freedom. That’s kingdom freedom.

It is utterly grotesque that at the same time Saudi authorities will host a motor sport event – including women drivers – while the heroes that won their right to drive languish in jail.  — Loujain’s supporters calling for the boycott of the Dakar Rally, The Guardian, January 5.

An annual motorsport event called the Dakar Rally dates back to 1979. The Paris-Dakar Rally moved to South America in 2008 due to terror threats in Mauritania, where it was supposed to be held. According to The Guardian article,  Saudi Arabia became the host in 2020 “as part of the kingdom’s multi-pronged strategy to open up to the world and wean off dependence on oil revenues by 2030.” The off-road race was flagged off on January 3. 

Our cars here in the U.S. are playing an important part in getting us through this pandemic. If it wasn’t for them, those of us who take social distancing seriously wouldn’t be able to drive up to our grocery store pickup lanes, for instance. Or sit in them and honk away every time we agreed with something Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had to say in their outdoor pre-victory speeches.

Can you imagine the United States without cars? Impossible. The American landscape wouldn’t be the same without parking lots. And feedlots, for that matter. Cars with “Eat Beef” bumper stickers. That’s America. That’s American freedom. Cars and highways and miles and miles of fenced-in cattle. That’s White-American freedom. Fuck yeah!

But is that really freedom? Nothing exemplifies the emptiness of American freedom more than those empty cars that we see parked outside convenience stores with the engines running, the driver taking his/her time shopping inside.

On December 28, 2020, when reports were coming out in the U.S. about the month being the deadliest in the COVID-19 pandemic with more than 65,000 confirmed deaths, Loujain was sentenced to five years and eight months by the kingdom’s Specialised Criminal Court (terrorism court). However, two years and ten months of the sentence was suspended, and she would be credited with the 32 months that she had already spent in pre-trial detention. Loujain would now only have two months of her sentence left to serve. According to The Guardian January 11 article, this move was made by the Saudis to hopefully “diffuse a potentially damaging early confrontation with the Biden administration.” 

In May 2017, a year before Loujain’s arrest, Trump set his term in motion by making Riyadh his first foreign visit and signing the biggest arms deal with the kingdom in US history. That was then. According to a recent BBC article, “concerns over Saudi Arabia’s human rights policy, including the detention of dissidents,” is one of the things the Biden administration’s new Congress wants to have a say in. This is now. Will Biden and Harris spend their energy and rhetoric uniting with progressives in their party or with the Republicans? Like they’ve done in the past? We’ll see.

No-one should be fooled by the Saudi regime’s attempts to sportswashing… Racers might not know it, but their participation there is to hide and whitewash the host’s crimes. — Lina al-Hathloul, The Guardian, January 5.

It doesn’t matter that Loujain might just have two months of her sentence left to serve. Her supporters and those of us who don’t take our freedom to drive for granted see her sentencing as an unconscionable act. And we see the Land of the Free’s pride in its freedom as a whitewash hiding imperial crimes that it has carried out in the Middle East. Like a sport. With their Humvees and $110 billion arms deals. Shameful. Let’s just call American foreign policy for what it is: Freedomwashing.

The Biden administration needs to be as vigilant in holding the kingdom’s atrocities accountable as it is about Trump and his assault on American democracy. Why wait, Biden? Unite with your own party. Now! Why wait for another two months? Free Loujain al-Hathloul Now!

JatiIndia Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future: Masrat Zahra

“Rescue us from the sub-jail – what you call the media ‘facilitation’ centre,” reads a sign held up by a pair of, what you, JatiIndia — my name for this country of jatis/castes — call “anti-national” hands. Who qualifies as a so-called anti-national? Anyone who resists and exposes JatiIndian supremacy within the boundaries of the country, and in occupied Kashmir.

“Fake News!” shout the Narendra Modi government and its minions when Kashmiri photojournalist Masrat Zahra and other reporters like her go about doing their job, documenting the violence of occupation and usurpation. And what qualifies as “fake news?” Any words and imagery that challenge and oppose supremacy and occupation.

If JatiIndia’s right-wing BJP government is going to prefix words like “news” and “national’ with words like “fake” and “anti,” then let’s demand that they also apply them to those that utter them:  the government and anyone who is a perpetrator of violence and hate talk — ek sachh ka virodhi aur nakli deshbhakt (an anti-truth-cum-fake-patriot); and to the passive bystanders who just turn their heads away and stay silent.

What’s the godawful vision of these anti-truth-cum-fake-patriots? It includes rendering invisible the humanity and dignity of Kashmiris that predates the August 2019 revocation of Article 370, the loss of statehood and the division of their land into Bantustans. What followed in the sixteen months since and continues today resembles the Israeli laboratory of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which include the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. JatiIndia has now officially set in motion its profiteering agenda that by design attempts to “alter the demographic composition” of the region, “marginalize them in their own land, erode structures of self-government, disempower them politically and muzzle all voices of protest.”

Since August 2019, journalists like Zahra have been systematically targeted with, among other things, a months-long internet shutdown, mobile internet restricted to 2G speed, a government-sponsored media centre, “Cyber Police,” arrests, harassment, summons, intimidation, thrashings, draconian laws, and policies like the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the “Media Policy-2020.” According to National Conference and Peoples Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar,  “This policy obliquely stifles media’s right to ask tough questions and highlight lacunae in the administration. It seems to be a remnant of colonial-era censorships and will choke the already constrained space for free working of the press.”

I have been to jail many times because of reporting. I was summoned by the Cyber Police in March because of my tweet. I gave them in writing that I wont make any mistakes from now on. Then there was an issue with Masrat Zahra, Peerzada Aashiq, and Gowher Geelani. They summoned many journalists after them. We are insecure in the field. — Peerzada Waseem, Kashmir News Observer, The Kashmir Walla, December 26.

26-year-old Zahra was charged in April with posting, yes, “anti-national” content on social media. She wasn’t arrested, but as she says, it feels like a “sword hanging on my head” and that the charge “was filed ‘to send a message’ that even a young female journalist would not be spared.”

Part of a continuing series, these JatiIndia Flags feature a face of resistance to upper-caste violence and injustice at the center of a modified flag of India. The color orange symbolizes Hindutva politics; blue—a color historically adopted by the Dalit movement—here represents the country’s Dalits, Kashmiris, Adivasis and other minorities; the bottom green bar embodies the regions ecological foundations endangered by the ideology of extractive capitalism; the circular image, replacing the Dharma Chakra (Wheel of Law) signifies the view through the crosshairs of a saffron (Hindu nationalist) gunsight. 

The blue strip is done in chain-stitch embroidery, illustrating the long chain of atrocities that have been carried out by JatiIndia over the years on its own people, and the people of occupied Kashmir. Each blue chain-stitch, of which there are more than twenty thousand, represents a face of resistance. 

This week’s flag features a portrait of Zahra and all that she stands for and for which she is a target: she’s a Kashmiri, a woman, a reporter, and she resists occupation.

The series so far:

JatiIndia, December 24, 2020, Manisha Valmiki, chain-stitch embroidery
JatiIndia, December 13, 2020, Anand Teltumbde, chain-stitch embroidery
JatiIndia, October 16, 2017, Gauri Lankesh, watercolor
JatiIndia, August 15, 2017, The sang-bazan (stone pelters), Occupied Kashmir, pen & ink
JatiIndia, the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom, March 1, 2017, watercolor
JatiIndia, February 10, 2017, Teesta Setalvad, pen & ink
JatiIndia, December 23, 2016, pellet-gun victim, Occupied Kashmir, pen & ink
JatiIndia, March 29, 2016, Shaista Hameed and Danish Farooq, Occupied Kashmir, acrylic on paper
JatiIndia, March 29, 2016, Rohith Vemula, acrylic on paper

Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Goodbye Trump, Hello Status Quo

Politically, there is a clear difference between Biden and Trump, but for the Palestinians, they both favor Israel over us — Palestinian taxi driver Ahmed Zayed, former member of Fatah, The Christian Science Monitor, December 2

Two days after that article was published in the Christian Science Monitor, Israeli Occupation Forces killed a teenage Palestinian boy named Ali Ayman Saleh Abu Alia in al-Mughayyir village in the occupied West Bank. According to Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), Ali was shot and killed while witnessing clashes between the occupation forces and Palestinian youth protesters of his village.

As much as Israel likes to present itself, or market itself as this little Sparta that can look after itself, of course it can’t. And as much as Israel makes of its own weapons technology and arms industry, the weapons that really allow Israel to project power and to project terror across the region are all American weapons… Israel is totally dependent on the United States. — Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, November 18.

Ali was roughly 50 meters away from the occupation forces when he was struck in the abdomen “by a .22 caliber bullet fired from a ‘Ruger’ rifle — a gun produced by the Connecticut-based Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc.” DCIP also confirmed that Ali was the fifth minor to be killed with live ammunition this year alone. It also happened to be his birthday, December 4th, and he was looking forward to his party.

Ali got excited and asked his mother to prepare the cake for the evening. But it’s his fate to eat the cake somewhere else [in heaven]… This is not new … We are continuously targeted – our sheep, our houses and our kids – if not by the Israeli army, it’s by the settlers — Ayman, father of Ali Alia, Al Jazeera, December 6.

On December 6, 2017, exactly three years and two days before the state of Israel decided to violently snatch Ali’s life away from him with systemic unaccountability that it continues to enjoy, Donald Trump made known to the world that he would be moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Following Trump’s announcement, Palestinian protesters by the thousands took to the streets of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), which include the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israeli forces responded with an excessive use of force that included live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas canisters and concussion grenades across the OPT. And by December 18th Israeli forces had killed 8 Palestinians, injured 2,900 others, including 345 children.

One of the protesters killed during those clashes in response to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was 29-year-old Bassel Mustafa Muhammad Ibrahim from the town of Anata, northeast of Jerusalem. Like Ali, Bassel who was the father of a 4-year-old boy, wasn’t participating but was witnessing clashes between a group of stone throwers and Israeli soldiers, when he was shot in the chest with a live round from a distance of 200 meters.

Bassel Ibrahim was killed on December 15, 2017, and Ali Alia on December 4, 2020. Just between December 15, 2017 and December 2020, more than 480 Palestinians, including 96 children were killed by Israel in cold blood, with 17-year-old Mahmoud Omar Sadeq Kamil being the latest victim. Mahmoud’s father tells us that instead of “delivering various fatal shots” the soldiers could have just injured him. Not only that, but “by holding the corpse of his deceased son, and refusing to release it for proper burial, in addition to threatening home demolition Israel is violating numerous human rights agreements, and is attempting to harm and inflict more suffering on the entire family.”

In the April 24, 2018 teleSUR ‘The World Today with Tariq Ali’ episode Ali poses a question to his guest Amira Hass:

The situation in Palestine I feel is that there is no solution now being offered by most of the established states in the Arab world who are in a complete disaster story themselves… the idea of, which was the hope of many, we have to admit, of an independent Palestinian state is gone. If it exists, the South Africans who go there tell us it will be worse than the Bantustans… The campaigns which are nonviolent like the BDS are attacked as being anti-semitic. So when you look at all this what is the overall likely future?

To which Hass responded:

[The term] solution brings to mind something which is final… One of the reasons that I don’t like to discuss the one state solution… is because then it obliges us to discuss the rights of Jews in this state… If a one state is some kind of a metaphysical and emotional undoing of history then it’s not what you’re [Tariq Ali] talking about. So I prefer not to talk about solutions right now. I want to talk about phases… This is the reality today of Bantustans, and the Israeli side wants to deepen it.

Solutionism when applied to various crises around the globe, such as the occupation of Palestine by Israel, is a distraction from the systemic nature of the problem where there is no one magic solution that will simply make everything all right. Especially not when, as Ahmed Zayed suggested, the United States’ favoritism toward Israel is a deep-rooted bipartisan one.

Those of us who have been following the 53-year-old military occupation of Palestine, and the 12-year-old siege of Gaza, know fully well that what Trump overtly voiced via the so-called “deal of the century,” U.S. administrations-past have tried to pull off covertly: a Trump “peace plan” would effectively create a truncated Palestinian Bantustan in which sizable portions of their land would be furnished to the occupiers.

[Israel is] the best $3 billion investment we make. Were there not an Israel the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interest in the region — Joe Biden, in the Senate in 1986, Electronic Intifada, November 8.

Biden has already said that he will not move the US embassy back to Tel Avi. Come January 21,  is the status quo regarding the half century long U.S.-Israel romance still in order? Another phase? Let’s not forget that it was the Obama/Biden administration that handed Israel the $38 billion ten-year (2019 through 2028) military aid package on a silver platter. There is no reason to believe that Biden wouldn’t build on his 1986 and Obama/Biden administration rhetoric. 

The term “occupation” is strikingly missing from Trump’s 2020 plan. The only mention of the word is as a synonym for job or profession. — Al Jazeera, The Failed Deal of the century

The Democratic Party will not mention the word “occupation” in its 2020 platform when describing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories – a key demand of progressive activists.Middle East Eye, July 27.

Interestingly, four years of the Trump administration have held a mirror up to the soul of U.S. domestic and foreign policies. Policies that created the Black Lives Matter movement at home in response to institutional police and white-power brutality; and policies toward Palestine that prompted the BDS movement in response to the belligerent Israeli occupation. 

For the Zionists when it comes to Palestine, as Tariq Ali suggested, BDS = anti-Semitism; and, for the white supremacists when it comes to Black and Brown lives, BLM= All Lives Matter. Two hollow, pathetic, irrational defenses against which there may be no defense. 

So what is the “overall likely future” for Palestinians like Ali Alia and Bassel Ibrahim, and Americans like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd for that matter? That is at a minimum a $38 billion question.

Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 4 of Uncountable

Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 3 of Uncountable

Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 2 of Uncountable

Patterns of Occupied Palestine: Part 1 of Uncountable

JatiIndia Flag of the Week

Atrocities Caste, Present and Future

Sandip, Ramu, Lavkush and Ravi. Those are the names of the upper-caste Thakurs who tortured and gang-raped a 19-year-old girl in Hathras, Utter Pradesh, JatiIndia, on September 14. 

Folding his palms, [Manisha’s father] pleaded, ‘Our daughters are no longer safe. We are helpless, I request the nation to stand with us, help us get justice for our daughter. Please.’ — newslaundry.com,  September 29.

No. The nation is not ashamed of its two categories of daughters and their respective rights: The Savarna (upper-caste Hindu) daughter has way more rights than her Dalit or any other minority sister will ever have.

But these daughters do have one thing in common. In JatiIndia, for the most part “naming a rape victim even when she wants to be identified is still taboo… notwithstanding Section 228A, which clearly lists the circumstances under which one can legally name and publish the identities of these girls and women.” 

In JatiIndia, their chastity is their rightiousness, and if that has been sullied no matter the circumstances like violent gang-rape, the blame and shame is dumped on her and not the criminal (s) involved. 

#SayHerName. No, not one of those symbolic epithets like Nirbhaya (fearless). Manisha Valmiki. The one she was born with. The one JatiIndia is ashamed to utter. 

No, not because it’s ashamed of what the country’s men, including Thakurs, are capable of doing to poverty-stricken, Dalit girls and women, but because their names are a mirror to the soul of this land of, among other beautiful sights, bajra (pearl millet) which was “in full bloom, with the crop as tall as six feet” and where Manisha “was found naked, bleeding and barely alive in a small village…” 

This village still practices untouchability, and is in a state that in 2019 had the highest number of reported cases of rape outside of Rajasthan, according to the National Crime Records Bureau. 

JatiIndia’s Savarnas relish what they call an “ethnic” meal like bajra rotis (Indian bread) with baingan (eggplant) every now and then. For me anyway, bajra rotis have created a new discomforting memory in my brain. I don’t think I can eat another one without thinking of Manisha’s face in the crosshairs of JatiIndia’s Hindu soul. 

This soul of JatiIndia continues to shimmer with the un-uttered names of the more than ten Dalit girls and women who are raped every day. It’s a soul of mirrors from where there is no escape.

JatiIndia: Atrocities Caste, Present and Future

The jingoist nation and nationalism have got weaponized by the political class to destroy dissent and polarize people. The mass frenzy has accomplished complete derationalization and inversion of meanings where destroyers of the nation become deshbhakts (patriots) and selfless servers of people become deshdrohis (traitors). As I see my India being ruined, it is with a feeble hope that I write to you at such a grim moment. Well, I’m off to National Investigative Agency custody and do not know when I shall be able to talk to you again. However, I earnestly hope that you will speak out before your turn comes. — Excerpted from ‘Anand Teltumbde’s Letter to the People of India Before His Imminent Arrest,’ Countercurrents, April 13

The Dalit scholar, writer, and activist Anand Teltumbde wrote an open letter to the people of India the day before he was arrested by the state under fabricated charges of inciting violence between Dalits (formerly known as untouchables) and the Maratha community of Maharashtra in western India in 2018, as well as attempting to assassinate Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

In 1818, members of the Mahar (Dalit) community of Maharashtra had fought in the victorious battle of Bhima Koregaon on the side of the British against the upper-caste Peshwas, bringing an end to their rule. Thirty-three years later, a victory pillar (Vijay Sthamb) was constructed in Bhima Koregaon at the battle site. It included the names of the fallen Mahar soldiers. The first commemoration event was held on January 1, 1928 and was led by India’s father of the Constitution, the Dalit-rights leader B.R. Ambedkar. Every year since, “Ambedkarite Dalits” from all across the state have gathered there to celebrate Mahar “valor and pride.”

On January 1st, 2018, thousands of Dalits had gathered at the Vijay Sthamb to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon when violence broke out. The celebrants were attacked by Hindutva (Hindu nationalists) activists waving saffron flags, torching vehicles and pelting stones, killing one person and injuring many others.

Protests were organized throughout Maharashtra in response to the attack. Apart from 70-year-old Anand Teltumbde, fifteen other prominent Dalit rights activists and public intellectuals associated with the gathering were arrested and their homes raided across the country. They were arrested under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a draconian law designed to target Indian citizens who are critical of government policies, thereby nullifying the Constitution’s guarantee of democratic rights and civil liberties.

The acclaimed historian of the Ambedkarite movement Eleanor Zelliot noted that the monument began to be used as a gathering place for Mahar meetings in the 1920s and 1930s, ‘with the memorial to Mahar soldiers who have fought a victorious battle serving as inspiration for a more modern struggle.’  — Dwaipayan Sen, The Wire, May 16.

Social constructs like racism and inequity in the U.S. are fruit of the tree of systemic white supremacy and injustice. In India, or JatiIndia—my name for this nation of jatis/castes—the social hierarchical structure of jatiism/casteism stems from the country’s tree of systemic upper-caste supremacy and injustice. Dalits and Black and Brown people have been resisting this injustice in their respective countries for centuries. 

Protesters and counter-protesters alike tend to gather around flags as they do around monuments when they want to score gestural points for their side. They alternately shape and resist modern-day supremacy in so-called democracies like the U.S. and India. For both the resisters of injustice and its perpetrators, they can act as a medium, a link in the long chain that connects an unjust past to an unjust present, and in all probability, a capitalist, extractive, unjust future.

According to the state and the perpetrators of violence, the distinction of who is a deshbhakt and who is a deshdrohi depends on the hand that’s waving the flag, or the feet that gather around historic monuments like the Vijay Sthamb, or the voices that project their position and their intent toward a certain segment of society.

This flag with Anand Teltumbde’s face at the center is number nineteen in my JatiIndia series. If you’d like to see and read about numbers one through eighteen, you can view them here

JatiIndia: Flags of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future is a continuing series that features a face of resistance to systemic injustice in the center of a modified Indian flag. The color orange in the flag symbolizes long-existing casteism, now made more open and feverish by resurgent Hindutva politics; blue—a color historically adopted by the Dalit movement—here honors all of JatiIndia’s and occupied Kashmir’s resisters of supremacy and injustice; the bottom green bar embodies JatiIndia’s ecological foundations, which are endangered by the ideology of extractive capitalism and defended by the country’s Adivasi (indigenous) communities and others, including Kashmiris resisting occupation. The circular image in the center, replacing the Dharma Chakra (Wheel of Law) signifies the view through the crosshairs of a saffron (Hindu nationalist) gunsight. 

The blue strip in the middle of the flag featured here is done in chain-stitch embroidery, illustrating the long chain of atrocities that have been carried out by JatiIndia over the years on Dalits, Kashmiris, Adivasis and other minorities. Each blue stitch, of which there are more than twenty thousand in the blue strip, represents a face of resistance to systemic state violence.