Arms of America: From Yemen to Florida

See also at CounterPunch

by Priti Gulati Cox and Stan Cox

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMutant Freedom, chainstitch embroidery on khadi, 48 x 28 inches, 2008

The United States government views human rights not as the foundation of human dignity but as an impediment to corporate profits.
— Haley Pedersen & Jodie Evans, AlterNet, January 11, 2018.

In the United States of America it’s all about the quantity, not the quality, of so-called freedom. That may be because only a few powerful lobbyists and the media control freedom’s meaning and its distribution.

This low-quality, surplus, unhinged freedom in the hands of a few comes with a price and color-coded tag attached to it, and too few of us can actually afford it. In this country, freedom serves the arms that link violence and capitalism, not the arms that link us together in solidarity for social, political, racial, economic and ecological justice.

Today, whether in the name of the War on Terror, or hiding behind an outdated 18th-century amendment, the white arms gesticulating this freedom are those of war profiteers and exploiters, or members of a desensitized citizenry. Either way, they are self destructing, and in the process are taking us and the planet down with them.

What does it mean to be free in the Land of the Free?

Here’s a sample of what freedom means in the heart of America: Salina, Kansas, not very far from the Wichita offices of Koch Industries. Our local school was planning to participate in the nationwide March 14 walkout, but a student who had been organizing the event told friends that maybe they should call it off. She was afraid that somebody might seize the moment to shoot up the gathering, and she felt responsible for her fellow classmates.

And what does it mean to be brave in the Home of the Brave?

She and the other students did the walkout despite the possibility of being shot up by one of their own in the Land of the Free.

Resistance to violence in this country started well before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Our countless victims of poverty, racism, Islamophobia, police brutality, anti-immigration, anti-women, xenophobia, and homophobia will tell you that. And it was just a matter of time before anti-everyone-ism would creep in, thanks to the white superiority complex that has gripped the nation and given us laws with names like “Stand Your Ground” and euphemisms like “collateral damage” in order to maintain the status quo.

Now that anti-everyone-ism is in the mix while violence is exercised legally, it has caught the media’s eye and rendered our politicians and our “freedom lovers” a little more fidgety and defensive. But nothing more. It seems we are incapable of seeing the disease of macho white injustice, be it social, political, racial, economic or ecological, and are still pruning away at symptoms like gun violence and “mental health.”

Our very own first-term member of Congress from Kansas’ First District, Roger Marshall, who boasts that his track record includes delivering “more than 5000 babies, giving him a deep appreciation for the sanctity of life” and sucks up to Donald Trump like it’s going out of style, said this after the Stoneman Douglas shooting:

“After reflecting on the tragedy last week, I can’t help but think what if? What if teachers, coaches, or authorized personnel had the opportunity to carry their concealed weapon on school grounds, how would that have changed the outcome in Parkland, Florida? I stand with the president on this….”
Salina Post, February 24, 2018.

This brings us to our understanding of violence in the context of capitalism. Violence, as we know, has always existed. But American “freedom” as we experience it today finds us either behind the gun or in front of it depending on our relationship with the violence of capitalism.

This country was built on a culture of violence. It started with the near-complete annihilation of the original inhabitants of this land and proceeded right up to the present when the war has come home with lethally militarized American policing of neighborhoods.

And now in his most recent tantrum, our poltroon of a president has ordered uniformed gunmen to occupy our border with Mexico, militarizing yet another humanitarian disaster.

Violence isn’t just immediate and physical. It’s cultural and systemic. It’s perennial. Gun violence is just a symptom of a deeper disease: profit-driven injustice and militarized aggression around the world — Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Palestine, Mexico, and beyond. That violence is synchronized with the perennial violence in our communities, our streets, our workplace, our schoolrooms. If we fail to see the deeper disease and push only on surface issues like gun-law reform, we will not end the violence. Reform too, has to be tackled systemically.

Since the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy, more Americans have been killed by firearms in their home country than have been killed in foreign wars. There’s only one entity benefitting from the gun violence at home and the military violence abroad: the weapons manufacturers. And they have our policymakers in their pockets and holsters.

Part of the problem perhaps lies in how we view our heroes of nonviolence. Far too seldom do we discuss the force with which Martin Luther King, the last couple of years before he himself was gunned down, condemned the violence done by American arms in Vietnam and by American capitalism everywhere.

Meanwhile, we, like a growing number of people, believe that Priti’s native country’s own symbol of nonviolence, Mohandas K. Gandhi, failed to live up to his reputation when he endorsed one of the world’s most lethal forms of social exclusion — the caste system.

While the concept of untouchability — what Gandhi fought against in India — is a symptom of the disease of caste, it is not the disease itself. To fight the disease one would have to go against the grain of sacred Hindu texts that gave hierarchical segregation their blessing and were codified as law in the Manusmriti. In continuing to adhere to a caste system that does violence to millions of its people, India has remained stuck in a 2nd-century time warp—much as America is stuck in its 18th-century, 2nd-amendment time warp.

India got its independence from British rule in 1947, but the country is still waiting to get its independence from the rule of the privileged caste Hindus and their goons. Nearly a quarter of the country’s population today is at the receiving end of varying degrees of caste-related atrocities that are committed on a daily basis. Likewise, people in this country remain at the receiving end of white atrocities, also committed on a daily basis.

It’s important to bring the little-known landscape of caste violence in India to international scrutiny, because Gandhi remains a symbol of nonviolence, a fog through which the world sees India.

That’s why the world in fact doesn’t see India. The India where, for example, on February 23, Madhu, a 27-year-old Adivasi (indigenous person) from Attapadi in Kerala was beaten to death by a settler mob for allegedly stealing a little rice and chili powder.

The world doesn’t see the India that was the largest arms importer in the world from 2013 to 2017, with Russia being its largest supplier, followed by the United States.

But America also doesn’t see America

In a recent article, William D, Hurtung elaborates in detail on the fact that for 25 out of the last 26 years the United States has been “the leading arms dealer on the planet,” and how “selling weapons to dictatorships and regressive regimes often fuels instability, war, and terrorism.” In those same years that India was the largest arms importer, Saudi Arabia was the world’s second largest importer with 61 per cent of its region’s arms coming from the United States. Those same U.S. arms supported the Saudi-led coalition campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen that has now entered its fourth year of indiscriminate killings and has created the worst humanitarian disaster in the word today, complete with a cholera epidemic.

Saudi Arabia has been a very great friend and a big purchaser of equipment and lots of other things…. Some of the things that have been approved and are currently under construction and will be delivered to Saudi Arabia very soon, and that’s for their protection. But if you look, in terms of dollars, $3 billion, $533 million, $525 million….And that have been ordered and will shortly be started in construction and delivered: the THAAD system $13 billion; the C-130 airplanes, the Hercules, great plane $3.8 billion.
— Donald Trump, The Real News, March 20, 2018.

And America doesn’t see Florida.

The same Florida that sparked nationwide protests demanding stronger gun control after the Stoneman Douglas shooting is the same Florida where the unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin was killed in cold blood by neighborhood vigilante George Zimmerman. The same Florida where in 2013, white justice was served and Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Martin.

Flash back to June 26, 1975, when two FBI agents, Jack Coler and Ron William, entered the Jumping Bull Ranch on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota seeking to arrest Jimmy Eagle, an Indigenous man, for allegedly stealing of a pair of cowboy boots. Members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and many non-AIM people were present there. For unknown reasons a shoot-out broke out in which both agents were killed. Today in that same State of Florida, another Indigenous man, Leonard Peltier, is spending his 43rd year in prison for the shooting of Coler and William, a crime he didn’t commit.

The FBI files are full of information that proves my innocence, yet many of those files are still being withheld from my legal team. During my appeal before the 8th Circuit, the former Prosecuting Attorney Lynn Crooks said to Judge Heaney, ‘Your honor, we do not know who killed our agents. Further, we don’t know what participation, if any, Mr. Peltier had in it’. That statement alone exonerates me and I should have been released, but here I sit, 43 years later still struggling for my Freedom!
— Leonard Peltier, #89637-132, USP Coleman I, P.O. Box 1033, Coleman, Fl 33521.

For us to understand the real meaning of freedom in this country, we have to let Peltier’s struggle for freedom guide us. That would be a start on the enormous reparations this country has to pay to all victims of America’s arms, from Yemen to Florida to Pine Ridge.

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“All I Wish is for Palestine to be Free” — Freedom Fighter Ahed Tamimi

See also at AlterNet

AHED (2)

The Palestinian cause is not just for Palestinians, not even just for Arabs. The Palestinian cause is a humanitarian cause. What makes me happy is to see the humanitarians of the world stand with us in solidarity to free our land.
— Ahed Tamimi, Empire Files: Abby Martin Meets Ahed Tamimi—Message From A Freedom Fighter.

In 1976, the Palestinian villages of Nabi Saleh and Deir Nidham were encroached upon by Israeli settlers, and their ever-expanding colony of Halamish was born. In December 2009, little Nabi Saleh began holding peaceful demonstrations every Friday in opposition to settlement growth and the usurpation of the land’s fresh water springs.

Eight years later, on Friday December 15, 2017, the residents of Nabi Saleh were protesting US president Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. During the protest, Israeli occupation forces shot 15-year-old Mohammad Tamimi in the face with a rubber bullet, seriously wounding him. Shortly afterward, Mohammad’s 16-year-old cousin Ahed Tamimi responded by accosting two Israeli soldiers right in front of her home. She reviled, slapped, and kicked them in a remarkable act of defiance. By Monday, a video of the confrontation taken by her motherhad gone viral worldwide.

(Ahed has been resisting Israeli occupation since she was nine years old. And she’s not the only one in her family to do so. Her parents have been resisting the occupation for many years and several members of her extended family have been killed by Israeli troops. Most recently another of her cousins, Musab Firas al-Tamimi of Dier Nidham, was the first teen to be shot and killed by occupation forces earlier this year.)

In the early hours of December 19, Israeli forces raided Ahed’s home and arrested her. According to her father Bassem Tamimi, it took “at least 30 soldiers” to carry out the raid. When that afternoon Ahed’s mother Nariman went to the police station where her daughter was being held, in order to be present for her interrogation, she herself was arrested.

On January 31, 2018 Ahed turned 17 in prison.

Ahed’s trial began on February 13, behind closed doors. She has been slapped with twelve charges, including stone-throwing, a charge levied against the vast majority of detained Palestinian children and punishable under military law by up to 20 years in prison. Stone-throwing and even participating in demonstrations are “security offenses” under the Israeli military court system.

When I first started work on this embroidered poster of Ahed Tamimi, I wanted it to be a testimony to her predicament. But as I read further about the treatment of Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli occupation forces and learned, for instance, that since the 2000 Al-Aqsa Intifada, more than 12,000 children have been detained by the Israeli military, I was reminded that beyond Ahed’s story are countless incidents that have yet to attract much media attention. For example, following Trump’s call to move the embassy to Jerusalem, the Israeli occupation forces detained not one but about 450 children.

It doesn’t matter how, when, or at what age a Palestinian might resist illegal Israeli military occupation. Any resistance is a crime in the eyes of the occupier’s law—in a nation whose own citizens’ first and last toy is fated to be a gun.

To such jaded eyes, a Palestinian resister, whether it be 13-year-old Abdel Raouf al-Bilawi from Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethehem, who was sentenced on January 22 to four months in prison for throwing stones or 24-year-old journalist and photographer Bushra al-Taweel who was arrested at her home in Um al-Sharyet, Ramallah on the night of November 1, 2017, Palestinians of every shape, size, age or gender are being gradually cleansed from their land.

A shocking tactic in the ethnic cleansing being carried out by the Israeli military is that they target their “enemy” when they’re young. Bushra al-Taweel, for example, was first arrested on July 6, 2011 when she was just 18 years old. Get them young and then break them. That’s the strategy.

This trend—the arrest of Palestinian children by occupation forces—is a rising one. Over the years, the Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association Addameer has witnessed “a decrease in the overall prison population, but … a vast increase in the number of children being held,” and has found that around “700 Palestinian children under the age of 18 from the occupied West Bank are prosecuted every year through Israeli military courts after being arrested, interrogated and detained by the Israeli army.”

They [the Israeli soldiers] laughed and laughed at me. I told them: ‘You are laughing at us now, but you don’t know that Palestine will be free and we will laugh at you when you leave.’
— Ahed Tamimi.

Pity the occupier of Palestinians that’s viewing its “enemy” through the barrel of a gun—a barrel-visioned fighting force that never really grew up or maybe was never even really a child. Is it any wonder that such a force is incapable of distinguishing between a child and an adult? Not that it matters, because whether an adult or a child, each and every occupied Palestinian feels the hot wrath of occupation.

Denial of resources like water to Palestinians does not discriminate between the old and the young. It parches them equally. The wall that separates a farmer from his fields does not magically open up when a child approaches it. It sends a message equally. The tear gas that is fired by Israeli forces into Palestinian homes (before they are eventually bulldozed) tortures all who are inside. Even so, attacking and imprisoning children is unconscionable by any International law standards.

We often play, but we get shocked when soldiers enter places of play therefore they destroy all of our happiness. Children often go to school and encounter locked barricades, so they are forced to return to their homes…. We often come back from parties and find locked barricades so that destroys all the joy and happiness we had.
— Ahed Tamimi.

The systematic collective punishment imposed on Palestinians includes arrests, interrogations, house arrest, and zero protection in their formative years. It thereby alienates them from their families and familiar surroundings and disrupts their studies. There are sexual threats aimed at coercing false confessions; deceptive techniques aimed at recruiting informants; psychological and physical torture; slapping, beating, kicking, and denial of food and water for long periods; and, of course, false accusations of terrorism.

While the focus on Ahed Tamimi is important and her commitment is something that we should all admire, it is essential that there is focus on the situation for all children in the occupied Palestinian territory. Ahed Tamimi’s case, and her treatment, is not exceptional; it is, unfortunately, the norm.
— Addameer, Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, Palestinian child prisoner population doubles over last three years, January 18, 2018.

As of 2017, there are 350 children being held in Israel’s prisons. Each of them, as well as each of those who preceded them, is a freedom fighter like Ahed. They all deserve their own embroidered posters and media attention.

I leave you with some more of Ahed’s heartbreaking words, arising from a place where the most natural children’s activities—playing, studying—are barricaded, walled and settled. She describes the discovery of lost childhood pleasures under almost unimaginable circumstances.

These are the bullets which the soldiers shoot at us [the necklace Ahed is wearing in the embroidered poster.] We collect them after they leave the village. [Touching her necklace Ahed says] These came from my uncle who was martyred. My cousin gave them to me. We make beautiful things out of them, like jewelry. We create life from death. They come to kill us with it but we convert it into things which we enjoy and benefit from.

AHED_2 (1)

 

The Assassination of Dissent, at Point-Blank Range

See also at Alternet

If I were to describe Islam in three words, there is nothing there besides sex, crime and murder. So the question for you is not whether Rohingya will stay here or the Musulman will leave here…. Now, what’s the question is that everyone is being brought here (The banner in the back reads: Drive Out Rohingya Save India Protest.… Thank Modiji for saving Gujarat in 2002, otherwise we would have been surrounded from all sides. So, the question is only this, that you will have to repeat Gujarat 2002, there is only one solution, there is no other solution…. Are you ready for that thing?…. Look, our ancestors fought for us…. to keep us Hindu…. Can we say the same about us? That we can to do the same for the coming generation, or not?

—A man addressing a crowd at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on October 7, 2017.

Some people in India are paying a heavy price for exercising their democratic right to freedom of expression. Others, like the scoundrel quoted above, are getting away with inciting violence against Muslims in public spaces. The day after the bigot’s tirade, the Indian government, exploiting the Rohingyas’ high profile in the global news, sent out a notice to all state governments asking them to block any undocumented immigrants from entering and to deport those already in the country. That included ethnic Rohingya refugees, of whom there are around 40,000 now in India.

Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness; it invents nations where they do not exist.

— Ernest Gellner, Thought and Change, 1964.

The link that connects seven of India’s bravest dissenters — Ram Chander Chhatrapati, Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M. M. Kalburgi, Gauri Lankesh, Shantanu Bhowmick and Kancha Ilaiah, is the coward state, with its strongarms hanging limp at its sides, watching the country’s extremists play out their dream (nightmare for Dalits, Adivasis, along with countless women, Muslims, other religious minorities, journalists, rationalists, and others) of mutating India into a Hindu nation-state by hook or by crook.

Emboldened by the Indian state’s passivity, other peripheral fanatic factions—including godmen, warring political parties, and privileged upper-caste communities—are cranking out bling, multiplying the numbers of their blind followers, and killing innocents with impunity.

The first five of the heroic dissenters named above were assassinated at point-blank range by motorcycle-borne stooges of the country’s political elite; the sixth, journalist Shantanu Bhowmick, was beaten and stabbed to death. There are new developments ensuing daily with regard to writer Kancha Ilaiah’s predicament; you will read about them in the course of this article.

Killed on November 21, 2002

Ram Chander Chhatrapati

Sach aur jhooth ke beech koi teesri cheez nahi hoti (There is only truth and lies, there’s nothing in between.)

— Ram Chander Chhatrapati, editor of Poora Sach (The Complete Truth), Sirsa, Haryana.

On August 25, 2017, the self-proclaimed “Guru of Bling,” Dera Sacha Sauda chief “Maharaj” Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was sentenced, 15 years after the fact, to 20 years imprisonment on charges of raping two of his sadhvis (female disciples). We all heard about that. But something else also happened fifteen years ago that involved the “Guru” and his sect, and most of us know bling little about it.

At the end of May, 2002, only about three months after the founding of Chhatrapati’s evening daily Poora Sach, the publication revealed details of an anonymous letter from a sadhvi alleging that she, along with others, was being sexually harassed and raped by Ram Rahim. The rest is history — some known, some not so known. Along with Chhatrapati, the Dera manager Ranjit Singh was also murdered in 2002. Ram Rahim is accused of both murders, “as these were carried out allegedly at his behest.”

Killed on August 20, 2013

2Narendra Dabholkar

In Maharashtra, each year around one crore [10 million] families bring the idol of Ganesha at home to celebrate Ganesha Chaturthi. Each idol weighs around two kilograms. Most of these idols are made up of plaster of Paris and painted with chemical colors. This means each year around two crore kilograms of these harmful chemicals are released into waterbodies, causing blockage and poisoning. To prevent this dire environmental situation, we launched a movement and appealed to the people to donate their idols to the committee, instead of immersing them in the river. The movement received a tremendous response. We collect thirty to forty thousand Ganesha idols from different parts of Maharashtra. But since the last two years the Hindu Janjagaran Samiti has begun to oppose this movement vehemently. Their position is, let there be water pollution, but the idols must be immersed into the flowing river as sanctioned by the scriptures.

— Narendra Dabholkar rationalist and author, Satara, Maharashtra.

Narendra Dabholkar was one of India’s eminent rationalists. Described by some Hindu fanatics as a dharma drohi (an enemy of religion), Dabholkar committed his life to the eradication of andh vishvaas (blind faith) and the uprooting of exploitative superstition. In 1989 he founded the Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti (Committee for the Eradication of Blind Faith in Maharashtra [MANS]) and authored twelve books aimed at fostering scientific thinking among the Indian people, including one titled Vivekachi Pataka Gheu Khandyavari (Let Us Shoulder the Flag of Rationalism.) He was a victim of threats and assaults by Hindu extremists throughout those years.

Killed on February 20, 2015

3Govind Pansare

Dabholkar’s assassination is an indicator that there’re fundamentalists and fascists among us who want to quell all rational voices with violence…. It is the Sangh [RSS] that decides who should speak, what and when. The Sangh is the boss, the rest, subsidiaries. The Sangh determines the policy, others merely implement it, and so goes its style of functioning…. There is a reason why the caste of Mahatma Gandhi’s murderers should be made public. Of course, they were all Brahmins…. [Gandhi] was against inequality…. He was murdered for it.

— Govind Pansare, lawyer, trade unionist, author of Shivaji Kaun Hota (Who Was Shivaji), and member of the Communist Party of India, Bombay.

Pansare was front and center in hammering away on the role played by Hindutva ideologues in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. On the evening of August 20, 2013, as Narendra Dabholkar’s body lay at rest in his home in Satara, Govind Pansare was there. Standing beside his comrade’s body, he said many things, including the first part of the statement above. A year and a half later, Pansare’s words of reason were silenced by the same forces of unreason.

Killed on August 30, 2015

4M. M. Kalburgi

Of late artificial changes are being introduced instead of genuine ones in society thanks to religious and political leaders. The researcher needs to unravel actual history in order to stop the exploitation caused by such false history. Research is not a purely historical exploration but a struggle with those who invoke false history to profit from the present.

— M. M. Kalburgi, former vice-chancellor of Kannada University, Research Scholar of Old Kannada, Dharwad, Karnataka.

M. M. Kalburgi, was a prolific writer, and most importantly, he was a tireless truth seeker.

In the same year in which Dabholkar founded MANS, the politically and financially powerful Lingayat community of Karnataka cracked down hard on certain views expressed by Kalburgi. One of those views involved the arcane issue of the birth of the saint-poet Channabasavanna. Having hurt the Lingayat’s fragile orthodox feelings, Kalburgi was forced to recant in April, 1989. Afterward, Kalburgi explained, “I did it to save the lives of my family. But I also committed intellectual suicide on that day.”

Kalburgi went on to declare that Lingayatism was never part of Hinduism. Attacking Hinduism’s caste system was a regular feature in his writings. India’s current government in power, the Bharatiya Janata Party (the political wing of the RSS) was voted to power for the first time in Karnataka in the 2004 polls, with B.S. Yeddyurappa, a Lingayat, as the party’s chief minister. Both Hindu extremists and the mainstream orthodox Lingayats hated Kalburgi’s guts.

“I am Losing Faith,” says Kancha Ilaiah. On September 25, 2017, two days after a mob attacked the car he was driving in, intending to harm him, he announced that he was going into self-imposed house arrest. He also said that “In my two petitions at Osmania [University] I requested for strong police protection at my house. That is also not provided.”

Killed on September 5, 2017

5Gauri Lankesh

Whether it is attacks on pubs…. in the name of culture and protection of women, or whether it’s attacks on Dalits…. in the name of cow protection, or attacks on liberals and leftists in the name of Hindutva…. when Kalburgi was killed, one Bajrang Dal [youth wing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), affiliated with the RSS] guy called Bhuvith Shetty, he sent a tweet saying that anyone who criticizes Hinduism will die a dog’s death…. Last week, after the court convicted fraud guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim for rape, his photos with several BJP leaders went viral on social media. Photos and videos of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several Haryana BJP ministers were circulating. It irked the BJP and the Sangh. To counter this, they circulated a photo of Kerala chief minister and CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan sitting with Ram Rahim. It was a photoshopped image…. What is most shocking and sad is that people accepted it [fake news] as truth without thinking with their eyes and ears closed and brains shut off.

— Gauri Lankesh, journalist, Bangalore, Karnataka.

“Are Rohingya ‘terrorists’ killing Hindus and burning their homes & temples? Read verified, not fake news.”

That was the last tweet that Gauri Lankesh posted. Lankesh was the editor of the weekly Kannada tabloid Gauri Lankesh Patrika, described by some as an “anti-establishment” publication. She took on everything and everyone that indulged in right-wing divisive politics: the BJP, Hindutva ideologues, dominant-caste Indians, mob violence, hate crimes, lynchings. And she stood for all of their victims: Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, and other religious minorities.

The assassins of Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi, and Lankesh are yet to be brought to book. The Bombay High Court said recently that “People with liberal values and principles are being targeted. It’s like if there is any opposition to me, I shall have that eliminated. This is a dangerous trend which is giving a bad name to our country.”

A month later, emerging from his “house arrest” on October 5 (his birthday), Kancha Ilaiah stated that the central government should be held responsible if he is murdered.

Killed on September 20, 2017

6Shantanu Bhowmick

Bhowmick was beaten and stabbed to death in Mandai, on the outskirts of Agartala, the state capital [of Tripura], where the local TV station Dinraat (“Day and Night”) had sent him to cover the clashes between police and members of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), a local tribal-based party that issued a call yesterday for acts of violence against a rival faction…. Bhowmick was the second journalist to be murdered in the past two weeks in India, following Gauri Lankesh, a well-known woman journalist gunned down in the southern city of Bangalore on 5 September.

— Reporters Without Borders.

Attacks on media freedom are becoming increasingly commonplace around the world “especially in democracies,” claims Reporters Without Borders (RSF). Out of 180 countries, India is ranked number 136 in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

Fatwa issued on September 18, 2017

7Kancha Ilaiah & his controversial book Samajika Smugglurlu Komatollu (Vysyas Are Social Smugglers)

Indian exploitation has a massive component of the use of caste ‘social borders’ to control the accumulated wealth within that border of heavily exploited wealth. It was used by the traders for their good life and gave enough to the temples for better survival of priests. The remaining surplus was hidden under ground, over ground and also in the temples. This process did not allow the cash economy to come back in the form of investment either for agrarian development or for promotion of mercantile capital. This whole process is nothing but social smuggling. The wealth did not go outside India but did get arrested and used only within the caste borders.This process is continuing even now in different modes. In all grain markets, the Shahukars [moneylenders] are the main buyers of the produce who get it for very low cost from the farmers and sell the same goods for huge prices.

—Kancha Ilaiah, Director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, author of Why I Am Not A Hindu, Hyderabad.

History repeats itself constantly in uppercaste-noxious India. Like Kalburgi, Kancha Ilaiah is today a victim of the pathetic boo-hooing of the privileged. His writings have been condemned on TV; death threats have been issued against him; someone threatened to cut off his tongue; his effigies have been burnt along with his booklet; on September 23 he and his traveling companions narrowly dodged a “murderous attack at Parakal, Bhupalpally district…. by the Arya-Vysya forces at 4.45 pm,” and more recently, the Hyderabad police registered a case against him.

Kancha Ilaiah’s controversial book, Samajika Smugglurlu Komatollu (Vysyas Are Social Smugglers) has thoroughly upset the emotionally delicate Arya-Vysya (trader/bania) community of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, who find the title and contents of the book derogatory and demeaning. The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) MP T.G. Venkatesh even issued a Hindu version of a fatwa against him, calling for a public hanging. The MP later took it back, saying that “he did not mean ‘fatwa’ as he was carried away emotionally. However, he warned that things will go out of control if the book was not banned.”

Well, I have news for you, MP Venkatesh. Things are already “out of control” in JatiIndia. Every reasonable voice, scientific analysis, environmental action, historical research, or challenge to hard-wired upper-caste privilege is at risk of being silenced by a coward state that is okay with the torrent of violence and threats that is ripping the threads of justice apart, one dissenter at a time.

Today, October 14, there was a small victory for the Indian Democracy, and Kancha Ilaiah. Samajika Smugglurlu Komatollu will not be banned. The Supreme Court of India dismissed a “public interest” litigation filed before it by an Arya-Vysya advocate seeking to ban Ilaiah’s book. Said Ilaiah, “This has reaffirmed my faith in the Indian Judiciary, Constitution and Democracy. I thank all the social forces, political parties, organizations, media that stood by me and also for the right to freedom of expression.”

8

Now, Kancha Ilaiah’s predicament is back in the hands of Indian democracy, which needs to get him out of the gun sights of the Arya-Vysya troublemakers and punish severely anyone who threatens him.

Note: India’s dissenters featured here are #s 12 through 18 in my continuing series JatiIndia Flags of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future. 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 India’s and occupied Kashmir’s oppressed people and those who fight and die for them. The bottom green bar embodies India’s ecological foundations, which are endangered by the ideology of neoliberalism and defended by our Adivasis and other oppressed people, including Kashmiris. The circular image in the center signifies a target viewed through a weapon’s saffron (Hindu nationalist) crosshairs.

India Celebrates Democracy, Kashmir Cries Hypocrisy

See also at Countercurrents

India wants to reap the benefits of Islamophobia from which the world is suffering…. the Indian government has to reconcile its own people to body bags coming from Kashmir…. If the Indian people were told the truth that Kashmiris don’t want to be with India, and the struggle here is sustained by them primarily…. the public opinion in India too would change. To not allow the public opinion to change, these lies about Pakistan-sponsored proxy war are told. For us, the Indian media is clearly a part of India’s military industry in Kashmir.
— Khurram Parvez, Scroll.in, July, 2016.

India, you will be celebrating your 70th year of Independence from British rule on August 15. All over the country all of you will be remembering the fallen, hoisting flags, and singing songs of freedom. Meanwhile in Indian-administered Kashmir — the largest militarized zone in the world — the Indian state and its military and paramilitary forces will continue to carry on with their sustained human rights abuses aimed at the regions indigenous population.

Many around the world often pose this question: Why is Indian civil society silent about its country’s brutalization of Kashmir civil society? It’s a very good question. Every freedom-loving Indian needs to ask it.

Perhaps nothing would convey patriotism better than chanting slogans that condemn your own country’s occupation of another. Why not? Instead of singing songs only about your own “freedom,” why not sing one acknowledging an occupied people’s desire to be free? Especially when it’s you they want to be free of.

Here’s one y’all might want to sing in solidarity with your Kashmiri brothers and sisters on Tuesday. It’s a take on the Hindi patriotic song Aye Mere Watan Ke Logo (O people of my country) that remembers Indian soldiers who died in the Sino-Indian War of 1962.

tiranga (Indian flag)
Firdaws (Paradise)
azad (free)
Azadi (freedom)
Holi (festival of colors)
Arnab Goswami (television news anchor)
lathis (truncheons)
Dardpora (‘Abode of Pain,’ is a hamlet situated in the northern edge of Indian-administered Kashmir, and is home to hundreds of widows, and ’half widows’ [women whose husbands have disappeared]).

The 2009 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records declared Kashmir as the world’s “largest and most militarized territorial dispute.”

O Proud Patriots of India

O proud patriots of India, shout your slogans
This auspicious day belongs to a few of you,
Go hoist your beloved tiranga
But don’t forget, that in occupied Firdaws,
Tens of thousands have lost their lives
Give a thought to them
And remember that until Kashmir is Azad,
Thousands more won’t be returning home

O proud patriots of India, fill your eyes with tears
Remember the humanity of those whose only desire is to be free
Of you

You got your freedom, but deny Kashmiris theirs
They too will fight until their last breath
Their bodies coming out on the streets and no fear of death
Their eyes pierced with little lead pellets,
They stare at your hollow freedom with dissenting eyes
Remember that Kashmir’s struggle for Azadi will not cave, just like India’s never did

When your country celebrates so-called freedom,
Your troops are playing Holi (with their blood)
While you sit safely in your homes watching Arnab Goswami,
Kashmiris brave your guns, night raids and lathis
Young men, women and children come at your military,
With stones in their hands and freedom in their eyes
Remember that Kashmir’s struggle for Azadi will not cave, just like India’s never did

Unknown, unmarked mass graves, clandestine graveyards
Extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances
Dardpora’s widows and half-widows, All victims of state terrorism
The blood shed in Jammu and Kashmir, that blood is indigenous
Remember that Kashmir’s struggle for Azadi will not cave, just like India’s never did

Their bodies are drenched in blood, yet they brave your military
Countless cases of torture and sexual violence by the world’s largest democracy
Kashmir weeps at your hypocrisy
And in their continuing struggle, they tell one another, “We will live another day”
“Be strong, my beloved fellow Kashmiris”
“We’re going to get Azadi

A pair of “security” boots for every sixteen Kashmiris?
O how pathetic your Independence, India
Your occupation even made the Guinness Book of World Records,
How wonderful
Remember that Kashmir’s struggle for Azadi will not cave, just like India’s never did
Remember that Kashmir’s struggle for Azadi will not cave, just like India’s never did Azadi, Go India, go back
Azadi, Azadi, Azadi

Agar Firdaws ba roy-i zamin ast, hamin ast-u hamin ast-u hamin ast (If there is Paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.)
— Mughal Emperor Jahangir ([reign] 1605 – 1627) once said this about Kashmir.

img-813040810-0001 (1)The sang-bazan (stone pelters) of Kashmir, #11 in the series JatiIndia: Flags of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future.

According to Noam Chomsky, “Technology is basically neutral. It’s kind of like a hammer. The hammer doesn’t care whether you use it to build a house, or whether a torturer uses it to crush somebody’s skull.” One can probably say the same thing about Indian Democracy. That it’s fairly neutral. It’s kind of like the country’s flag. The tiranga doesn’t care whether you use it as a medium to communicate the truth about a state’s atrocities, or whether a Bollywood actress makes history by being the first woman ever to hoist it.

Please click on # links to view the series so far: jatiindia #s 10, 9, 8; jatiindia #7; jatiindia #s 6, 5; jatiindia #s 4, 3, 2; jatiindia #1

Zionutva: A Hate Story

See also at Countercurrents

Sandwiched between the months of June — which saw the 50th anniversary of Israel’s Palestine occupation — and August — the 70th anniversary of India’s Independence from British rule and India’s subsequent occupation of Kashmir — this July can perhaps be remembered as a month when two nationalist ideologies — Zionism and Hindutva — that have thrived on these two events came together, embraced, and merged into an occupying force that we might call, say, Zionutva.

July 4, 2017: a historic day, at least as far as occupiers’ histories go. The Ben Gurion International Airport air is suddenly enveloped in a megalomaniacal glow. Two exclusionary forces are about to come face-to-face and morph into one, as India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, disembarking from Air India One, becomes the first Indian prime minister to visit the “Holy Land” (minus Palestine.)

Modi plants a first hug on his counterpart Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu, and the two-day occupier-fest is off to an auspicious start. Theirs is a shared history of atrocities that the Indian state and the state of Israel have committed on the lives, land, water and infrastructure of occupied Kashmiris and Palestinians, respectively. One more hug reinforces this injustice.

After the first hug, while they use all twenty fingers to shake hands, they look into each other’s eyes and say ugly somethings. At one point, Modi says, “What a great….” and then hesitates for a moment before finishing with “….honor.” Does he hesitate because what he really wanted to say was, “what a great day, meeting a fellow unpunished collective punisher!”?

The plot of this hate story revolves around portions of the speeches of the mis-leaders of India and Israel — Modi & Bibi — made on this historic occasion. Excerpts of those speeches follow, and below each hypocritical utterance, I have included real-world quotes with links to stories of the occupied.

Modi Bibi (2)

Perpetual Occupiers of the Perpetually Occupied

Bibi:

Aapka swagat hai mere dost [Welcome, my friend]…. we’ve been waiting for you a long time…. almost seventy years, in fact.

Kashmir…. a country occupied mainly by India and partially by Pakistan since 1947…. where struggles have continued for a long, long time, with the Kashmiri people fighting for the right to self determination that they were promised long years ago — almost seventy years ago now by the then Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. A promise that has never been fulfilled, and in the mean time the face of Kashmir has changed…. the occupation by the Indian army has continued…. with horrific stories of the regular rape of women young and old; of young men being tortured; of disappeared bodies and disappeared people…. And, it’s virtually ignored by the world. I think one has to say that very bluntly…. Countries which are generally speaking in the good books of what is euphemistically called the International community — which is actually the United States of America and its International cronies — These countries and their atrocities are ignored.

— Tariq Ali in conversation with Journalist and Novelist Mirza Waheed, Global Empire – Kashmir: Blinding the People, 2016.

We receive you with open arms.

Defense, however, remained a key factor in the India-Israeli relationship. Israeli companies, led by government-owned aerospace giant Israel Aircraft Industries, have signed arms deals with India, totaling over $2.6 billion earlier this year.

— “India, Israel expand cooperation from defense to science, agriculture and technology,” CNBC, July 6, 2017.

We love India. We admire your culture, we admire your history….

“Barah sau saal ki gulami ki maansikta humein pareshan kar rahi hai [The slave mentality of 1,200 years is troubling us.]

(Narendra Modi said these words in his address to a joint session of Parliament on June 9, 2014, two weeks after he was sworn in as the prime minister of India. Here, instead of making the customary reference to India’s “years of slavery” under 200 years of British rule, Modi distorts history by taking it back by another thousand years when the country came under Muslim rule.)

…. your democracy, your commitment to progress. We view you as kindred spirits in our common quest….

Abbas is the darling of the so called International community. He is the Palestinian quisling…. who works closely with the Israeli occupation in the West Bank…. it’s almost as if they’re putting this in the face of people in Gaza and saying that, you will suffer…. you will be subjected to these inhuman conditions unless you collaborate with your occupiers the way Mahmoud Abbas does in the West Bank…. The idea is to prop up Abbas and to have a Western approved, Israeli backed Palestinian leadership in the form of Abbas. That’s what this is about.

— The Electronic Intifada, “Break the silence on Gaza with people power,” July 15, 2017.

State racism — the primacy of Hindu majoritarian will in state decisions — orders India’s rule in Kashmir. [It] merges neoliberal democracy with authoritarian practices. The government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian armed forces neutralize the Independent functioning of the judiciary, educational institutions, and the media in the name of national security, continuing what is in effect military governance.

— Angana P. Chatterji, The Militarized Zone, Kashmir The Case for Freedom, 2011.

…. to provide a better future for our peoples and for our world. [On a visit to the Mediterranean seashore, Modi and Bibi rolled up their trousers and waded barefoot in the waters of the Mediterranean while sipping “purified” sea water freshly harvested from a desalination plant on wheels — the so-called GalMobile — and toasting “to life…. this is really life.”]

Gaza is perhaps in its worst situation, yet…. You are talking about two hours of electricity a day…. What does that mean? You know, try to imaging life without clean water, because the water in Gaza is polluted…. There is no waste treatment in Gaza and raw sewage is being dumped into the Mediterranean…. This is on top of the devastation of the siege [2007.]

— The Electronic Intifada, Break the silence

Prime Minister, when I first met you at the United Nation three years ago, we agreed to break down the remaining walls….

We know that from the [International Court of Justice] to the Red Cross, it [the wall] has been described as illegal. We know of its disastrous impact on Palestinian farmers, villages, cities, families, schoolchildren, students and many others. We know that from Jenin to Bethlehem, through the concrete-split streets of East Jerusalem, the wall has become another element of Israel’s colonization of Palestine, one more link in the apartheid chain. The propaganda myths about security are intended to hide this reality but, like the wall itself, they are arguments full of holes.

— The Electronic Intifada, “Did Israeli apartheid wall really stop suicide bombings?,” January 10, 2014.

…. between India and Israel…. I believe in the success of our partnership because of the great sympathy between our peoples. The natural camaraderie between Indians and Israelis…. prime minister Modi, you’re a great leader of India….Your visit to Israel is a testament to that. Our two peoples have deeply held values….

When I was growing up in the late 80s and early 90s, there was a full scale armed uprising against Indian troops…. Kashmir is also the most militarized region in the world…. Some estimates put that we have a soldier [indian regular army, para-military and police] to every 16 or 17 civilians.

— Journalist and Novelist Mirza Waheed in conversation with Tariq Ali, Global Empire – Kashmir: Blinding the People, 2016.

Eman, 9, was killed in an airstrike alongside her two brothers Ibrahim, aged 13, and Essam, aged 4. They were killed when Israeli aircraft bombarded an apartment building in Gaza City’s central Rimal neighborhood. The Ammar family were hosting friends from the Jumaa family. In the same attack, and her 2 sons, were also killed. In total, 11 people died in this one attack.

— People Beyond Numbers, Remembering the Victims of Israeli Operation ‘Protective Edge’ on Gaza (which began on July 7, 2014.)

…. rooted in ancient cultures, yet we both seek to realize the promise of a better future…. I know that we can do even more, even better.

When people lose their fear of death, normally in history, they can more or less achieve anything, sooner or later.

— Tariq Ali, Blinding the People

You know, you’ve only been here a few hours…. you paid your respect to the tomb of the founder of our national movement [Zionism], Theodor Herzl.

In Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country…. The four great powers are committed to Zionism and Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long tradition, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.

— Lord Arthur Balfour, author of the 1917 Balfour Declaration that promised to support “The establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” Excerpted from the updated edition of Fateful Triangle by Noam Chomsky.

And, you’ve seen some of Israel’s cutting edge technology. We went to a greenhouse on a warm day, believe me it was a warm reception….

Omar Talib, a farmer who is seeing his source of livelihood threatened by the power crisis, told Al-Monitor, “I have been working in agriculture for more than 20 years. This is how I make ends meet. The power crisis has become a nightmare for farmers. We cannot operate our irrigation systems without electricity.”

— Al-Monitor, “Gaza’s power crisis cripples farmers,” June 28, 2017.

I have to confess to you that I’ve been inspired by prime minister Modi’s enthusiasm for yoga [Modi smiles]. To begin, he said to me you can start at a low level…. so, I’m starting at a low level [“Heh heh heh heh heh,” snickers Modi.] Here’s what we’re gonna do. When I do relaxing Talasana pose [“Heh heh heh” — a little softer snicker] and, in the morning I’ll turn my head to the right [“Heh heh” — even softer], India is the first democracy that I’ll see [“Heh ha ha ha ha ha” — now, full-blown laughter]. And when prime minister Modi does a relaxing pose of a Vasistha Asana [“Ah heh heh heh”], and he turns his head to the left, Israel is the first democracy that you can see…. India and Israel are two sister democracies.

Right now, as we speak, people have been coming on the streets since the 9th of July…. knowing they’re going to be shot at. That the para-military will shoot to kill. And yet, thousands have come on to the streets in defiance…. This is a very, very political statement, that we will not agree to this…. This is an indigenous mass uprising. Pakistan is not behind [it.] Yes, parts of the Pakistani security establishment have nursed…. terror groups, and there has been a blowback…. And some of these groups, their main currency is the jihad in Kashmir. But that does not take away anything from the fact that these are Kashmiri boys and girls and young men and women and old people [who are being targeted]…. they [Indian troops] raid villages at night just to harass people…. windows are broken… young men taken away, beaten up, tortured.…

— Mirza Waheed, Blinding the People

We have accomplished great things…. I have to say that we also face common challenges, and the first of it is to defeat the forces of terror that rampage through the world [Modi nods] and threaten both our counties. So, we must stand together in this battle…. prime minister we share a bond of democracy and creativity, a deep respect for the past, a boundless optimism for the future….

We live at a moment of great despair and also simultaneously great hope…. Right now from the darkened homes of Gaza…. the greatest hope of people there is the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement…. It’s much less than is needed but it’s growing and it’s something that gives people hope and is immune to the kind of Institutional complicity that has brought us to this point.… It’s up to us to challenge the Institutional complicity and silence.

— The Electronic Intifada, Break the silence

@netanyahu: There’s nothing like going to the beach with friends! @narendramodi 5:00 AM – Jul 6, 2017

Modi:

My visit celebrates the strength of centuries-old links between our societies….

If the Zionists’ dreams are realized — if Palestine becomes a Jewish State and it will gladden us almost as much as our Jewish friends — they, like the Mohammedans [Look at the Mohammedans. Mecca to them is a sterner reality than Delhi or Agra] would naturally set the interests of their Holyland above those of their Motherland in America and Europe and in case of war between their adopted country and the Jewish State, would naturally sympathise with the latter…. So with the Hindus, they being the people, whose past, present and future are most closely bound with the soil of Hindustan as Pitribhu (ancestral land), as Punyabhu (the land of his religion), they constitute the foundation, the bedrock, the reserved forces of the Indian state. Therefore even from the point of Indian nationality, must ye, O Hindus, consolidate and strengthen Hindu nationality.

— V. D. Savarkar, author of HINDUTVA, What Is a Hindu,1923.

Friends, the people of Israel have built a nation on democratic principles….

While the Zionist project fulfilled its dream of creating “a Jewish homeland” in Palestine in 1948, the process of ethnic cleansing and displacement of Palestinians never stopped. During the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, known as the Naksa, meaning “setback”, Israel occupied the remaining Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and continues to occupy them until today. While under the UN partition plan Israel was allocated 55 percent, today it controls more than 85 percent of historic Palestine.

—Al Jazeera, “The Naqba did not start or end in 1948,” May 23, 2017.

Your heroes are an inspiration for the younger generations….

Apparently, half a dozen of fantasy terror camps have popped up throughout Israel and the West Bank, offering tourists from across the globe a chance to pretend-kill terrorists, who look suspiciously like Palestinian Arabs, only for $115 per person.

— Carbonated.TV, “Anti-Terrorism Fantasy Camps Become Tourist Attraction In Israel,” July 2017.

I thank prime minister Netanyahu and Mrs Sara Netanyahu for opening their home to me today. The fullness of their warmth and affection has evoked a feeling of home away from home.

I Protest, Against The Things You Done!
I Protest, Fo’ A Mother Who Lost Her Son!
I Protest, I Will Throw Stones An’ Neva Run!
I Protest, Until My Freedom Has Come!
I Protest, Fo’ My Brother Who’s Dead!
I Protest, Against The Bullet In His Head!
I Protest, I Will Throw Stones An’ Neva Run!
I Protest, Until My Freedom Has Come!

— The chorus of the song ‘I Protest’ by Kashmiri rapper MC Kash.

It reminds me of our own ethos of hospitality and welcome.

India asks us, ‘Why do you throw stones?’ No one asks, Who burned your house down?’

— Kashmiri youth, tortured in detention, January 2011.

Yad Vashem is a reminder of the unspeakable evil inflicted generations ago. It is also a tribute to your unbreakable spirit to rise above the depths of drudgery, overcome hatred and forge ahead to build a vibrant democratic nation.

Israel…. has killed dozens of people in Gaza since the [2014] ceasefire. A majority of them have been unarmed Palestinians demonstrating near the boundary fence against the siege…. to show their humanity…. teenagers usually are shot dead in cold blood by Israeli soldiers…. sitting in watchtowers…. or, they have been fishermen at sea…. trying to feed their families, shot at by the Israeli navy. But somehow there’s no outcry about Israel’s relentless violations of the ceasefire.

— The Electronic Intifada, Break the silence

Yad Vashem tells us that those who believe in humanity and civilized values….

The health system in Gaza which has been inadequate for decades…. has been in a deepening crisis for months…. In May, the Red Cross warned that the health system in Gaza was on the brink of systemic collapse…. Tara Ismail Bakhit…. a toddler, was the sixteenth person to die in recent weeks, because the Palestinian Authority had refused to approve a medical referral…. The Palestinian Authority and Israel are using sick children as a weapon against Hamas. Let’s remember, of course, if Abbas refuses to approve these treatments, Israel as the occupier is required under the Geneva Convention…. to provide medical care and life saving services to the people in Gaza.

— The Electronic Intifada, Break the silence

….must come together and defeat it at all costs. As such we must resolutely oppose the evils of terrorism, radicalism and violence that plague our times.

In sections of the Indian press, every night they will broadcast these…. experts in demonizing the Kashmiri Muslim as a jihadist, as an Islamist…. more so since the election of Mr. Modi…. There has been violence against Indian muslims…. It is not a creation of the Modi government, but it has increased to very dangerous levels where people are literally lynched in broad daylight on mere suspicion of having eaten…. beef…. Kashmiris right now see the response of the Indian state. They can’t separate it from the dispensation in Delhi. They see it as a Hindutva government. As a Hindu nationalist government punishing Kashmiri muslims for rising up against it.

—Mirza Waheed, Blinding the People

I for I, I with I. Here, I’m not using the popular word eye for an eye, I mean India’s I, Israel’s I….

I do not remember reading or seeing an instance where a…. a modern nation-state has willfully, systematically shot at people to blind them. More that 500 people have these little lead pellets in their eyes…. that is not an accident. That is not a crowd control tactic gone wrong.

—Mirza Waheed, Blinding the People

We also want to put in place a robust security partnership to respond to shared threats to our peace, stability and prosperity.

…. All indications are that in Kashmiri civil society dissent will not abate: it is not externally motivated but historically compelled. Repressive regimes tend to overlook that freedom struggles are not about the moralities of violence verses non-violence, but reflect a desire to be free. The oppressors forget that the greater the oppression, the more fervent the resistance. Violence is apt to reproduce itself in cycles.

— Angana P. Chatterji, The Militarized Zone, Kashmir The Case for Freedom, 2011.

I am very, very thankful to Bibi because vehicle which I saw today, particularly the natural calamities, when people are suffering from the drinking water this is the very unique type of vehicle which can provide drinking water and how to do the process….

Here’s the critical point. This is not a natural disaster [Gaza’s power crisis]. This is a policy choice by Israel to do this to two million people…. the so-called International community are supporting…. there is nothing about this in the New York Times…. on CNN…. on Democracy Now, for heaven’s sake. There is total silence….

— The Electronic Intifada, Break the silence

@narendramodi Thank you my friend, PM @netanyahu for the signed photo, your kind words, amazing hospitality & passion towards #IndiaIsraelFriendship. 9:03 AM – Jul 6, 2017

In the bitter chill of winter shivers his naked body
Whose skill wraps the rich in royal shawls.

— Muslim poet and philosopher of Kashmiri origin, Iqbal, 1921.

The Salina Resistance

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Donald: Hey, Roger! You agree with me, don’t you, that the climate thing is a Chinese hoax and that Obama and Iran founded ISIS? Roger: Sir, let me just say that it’s been proven: I agree with you 97% of the time!

PersistThe Salina Resistance is part of the Indivisible Movement, and we resist the Republican assault on civil rights, on economic rights, on the Earth, and on decent, respectful relations with human beings around the world @salinaresist.

IMG_3198A bland ribbon-cutting ceremony turned very quickly into an impromptu town hall, minus signs, I might add, as seen in this picture where a cop asks one of our fellow resisters to put it down. Friday, Feb. 24, 200 E. Iron Ave., Salina, KS.

ScanI tried multiple times to ask Marshall a question regarding immigrant rights, but he continued to evade my immigrant’s eyes, so I sent this letter to the Salina Journal.

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photo credit: Big Bluestem Rapid Responders, McDowell Creek, KS.

“Protesters gather in front of Rep. Marshall’s Salina office,” Salina Post, March 23, 2017. 

“The gathering was put on by the Indivisible Movement, according to Christopher Renner, a demonstrator from Manhattan. About 35 people from Salina and neighboring communities came to Marshall’s office, located at 200 E Iron, to express their concern with Marshall’s support of President Trump’s bill…..Participants urged Marshall to “vote no.”

IMG_3218Our group’s first meeting, April 8, 2017.

IMG_3227First District Congressman Marshall’s HQ, Salina, Kansas, April 10, 2017. @RepMarshall says Salina, the “capital” of his district, isn’t on his recess “listening tour.” So, we decided to have our own town hall and invite him.

IMG_3228“Town hall REJECTION,” Salina Journal, April 11, 2017. @RepMarshall will visit 9 towns that add up to half our population but not us?

“Without a doubt, he [Roger Marshall] will be back in Salina to do ‘another’ listening tour stop, but his dance card is already full on this tour.” — Press secretary for Marshall, Eric Pahls.

“We have an administration, and apparently a Congress, that seems hell-bent on turning back important regulations about the air we breathe and the water we drink, and that’s another part of the urgency [for a town hall meeting in Salina.]” — David Norlin, The Salina Resistance.

IMG_3234“Congressman Marshall met with anger, tears, at Junction City town hall,” The Daily Union, April 14, 2017.

“The Congressman was also confronted with comments he made in a March 3 article in STAT — a Boston Globe Media publication — in which Marshall said ‘just like Jesus said, the poor will always be with us. There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.'”

“Klugasherz, who returned to the mic as a constituent, recited the quote verbatim, then was brought to tears as she looked Marshall in the eye.”

“‘I grew up in a family that was extremely poor. My family benefitted from SNAP and EBT benefits,’ she said. ‘I probably would not be standing in front of you today had I not had those … The problem is that people in poverty, much like you all know, are not there by choice. And the rhetoric that we use to describe these people in poverty — that they’re feckless, that they’re broken, that they want to be there — is nothing but damning to the help we are trying to provide these people … what will you change to ensure that that rhetoric is no longer used?'”

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PRESS RELEASE

Salina, April 27, 2017 – Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Great Bend, announced Thursday he will hold a town hall meeting at The Salina Chamber of Commerce on May 9, despite failing to commit to a Salina event during his recent listening tour.

The announcement came the same day The Salina Journal reported that Salina Resistance, a group affiliated with the Indivisible network, invited Marshall and Kansas senators to a citizen-led town hall scheduled for June 1.

Salina Resistance set the People’s Town Hall to converse with representatives in Washington about matters of concern including health care, the environment, and the national budget.

On the campaign trail, Marshall said, “You can’t successfully deliver more than 5,000 babies and not listen to people.” Salina Indivisible group notes that 88,000 Kansans voted against Marshall in November who are not being addressed or consulted by the congressman.

The group is disappointed that Marshall has opted instead for a meeting under his design and control, one held at 7:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, making it difficult for working people and parents with school-age children to attend.

The Salina Resistance’s June 1 event will proceed as planned as an authentic forum for discussing the issues, Marshall or no Marshall.

“We’re happy we could nudge him into starting to make good on his campaign promises. It’s just sad that he only did so out of fear of embarrassing news coverage. But that’s what Indivisible understands: politicians care more about bad press than about representing the people,” group member James Talley said.

The Salina Resistance’s People’s Town Hall is scheduled for 7 p.m. June 1 at the Salina Ambassador Hotel, 1616 W. Crawford St., Salina.

Meanwhile, since Marshall doesn’t support the federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions….

20170430_100129….some of us from The Salina Resistance board the bus for the April 29, People’s Climate March in DC to resist Marshall’s climate agenda.

“The simple fact is nobody cares more about the land and the environment then the Kansas farmer. Instead of allowing bureaucrats to dictate policy, Congress needs to protect farmers, fishermen, hunters and those generating energy from an unruly Environmental Protection Agency.”— Roger Marshall.

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Our interactive Peace Spiral was part of PCM’s Circles of Resistance art project, where folks reached out to a friend or a fellow marcher, and shared their, or their community’s stories, struggles, solutions and visions for a better tomorrow. These nested spirals called for pairs of people to approach from opposite sides, meet in the center, share their stories and walk past each other following each other’s steps back to the exit. 

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“Major flooding across southeastern Missouri led to three deaths, more than 100 evacuations and 135 rescues across the state over the weekend.” The Weather Channel, May 2, 2017. These pictures were taken on Sunday, April 30, from the bus window on our way back from the historic DC march, emphasizing that our fight for climate justice has only just begun.

RogAndDon@RepMarshall insults voters @ Salina t-hall. Says we wrongly think we’re mad @ him. We’re really just mad at Brownback. Also sore losers.

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FullSizeRender 2“Marshall fends off health care questions,” Salina Journal, May 9, 2017. Watch vimeo of town hall here.

“Marshall Meets Large Salina Crowd.” KSAL.com, May 9, 2017.

18301549_1006552249480504_3825464313072715940_n“A few of us went to protest Kansas’ first district congressman Dr. Roger Marshall as he arrived to read to Head Start kids at Heartland school in Salina, Kansas.” Ron Fent, The Salina Resistance.

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18402934_1006552252813837_5099414987853267606_n“Land Institute founder and President Emeritus Dr. Wes Jackson told him to distance himself from President Trump while he had a chance.” Watch vimeo of protest here.

PRESS RELEASE

People’s Town Hall comes June 1, 7:00 pm to Ambassador Hotel, Salina, KS

Congress members invited, not yet accepted

The Salina Resistance, a local grassroots organization affiliated with the national #Indivisible movement, has renewed its invitation to the Kansas Congressional delegation, including Representative Roger Marshall, Senator Jerry Moran, and Senator Pat Roberts, to attend a People’s Town Hall. The event will be held Thursday, June 1, 7:00 p.m., during a Congressional District Work Period, at the Ambassador Hotel, 1616 W Crawford, Salina. The group is inviting constituents, wherever they live in Kansas, to come and let their members of Congress know their wishes and demands.

Thus far, the Congressmen have refused to attend or answer, at a time when critical issues are being decided far from the people they represent. Three chairs will nonetheless be reserved for the members, and a record of their constituents’ wishes will be made available to them.

An open microphone will insure opportunities for anyone to speak, each with a 4-minute time limit. Some constituents already plan more creative statements of their concern, including music, poetry, art graphics, and others.

Anticipated topics include among others health care; education; military buildup and costs; agriculture; climate; women’s rights; non-discrimination; economic justice; racial, ethnic, religious diversity; and immigration. Estimated time frame is 7:00-9:00 p.m. Those interested can check in at facebook.com/salinaresistance.

March 8, 2017, Yet Another Day Without a Dalit or Adivasi Woman

See also at CounterPunch

We must create a society in which women – including Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, [Dalit and Adivasi women], disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women – are free and able to care for and nurture their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments free from structural impediments.

–Statement from Women’s March’s Unity Principles, with my addition in square brackets.

 

we are one red (1)In today’s India, there are women who win some and lose some while others lose some and then lose some more.

Babasaheb Ambedkar once said, “Caste is not just a division of labor, it is a division of laborers.” On March 8th, 2017, International Women’s Day and A Day Without a Woman when we wear red in solidarity, let us also raise our voices in support of the daily struggles of our Dalit and Adivasi sisters, who are victims of the Hindu caste system. The fates of all Indian women are intertwined, so let us remind ourselves that casteism—a form of racism because it discriminates on the grounds of a person’s birth and descent—still determines a woman’s place in society. India is not just a land of gender inequality; it is a land that sanctions the division of women. Until and unless we purge caste from our hearts, our struggle can never be one.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Out of the Shadow of Caste and Into Our Consciousness

Nobody is me. There are many like me. My life has no worth in my country’s or the world’s popular consciousness and my violators roam freely. I am a Dalit, an Adivasi, and no upper-caste hands hold signs with our names.

I live and die and am reborn in their shadow. This soil was once my fertile soil and I walked upon it. Now their collective usurpation has replaced it with climate change and concrete. And I lie upon it, my feet pointing up at their mind’s gods, waiting to be recognized as a victim of their discrimination. My hands’ actions contradict my dignity and humanity. These are not my arms, but some upper-caste’s other two arms. A mechanical bonus pair, like the Hindu goddesses. A surplus, to be manipulated any which way. My fate is as old as the Hindu scriptures that gave me these wretched arms, and their usurpers have evolved. My once-sympathetic shudra comrades, born of purusha’s feet are now the post-1990s neo-brahmins that stomp on my assertive words of equality with neo-violence.

I show up sometimes as the spirit of unity and solidarity in Declaration of Empathy petitions, but I am still the more than 300,000 defeated hearts of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which failed to recognize me as a victim of descent-based discrimination. Maybe my place is at the back of those ‘I Am’ signs, scribbled in invisible ink: Nobody is Me. There Are Many Like Me.

Fifteen Years After the 2002 Gujarat Pogrom, the Fight for Accountability and Justice Continues

See also at Countercurrents

gujarat-3JatiIndia: Flags of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future. Gujarat in the crosshairs of right-wing Hindu nationalism.

Salim Khan, a Muslim driver was burnt alive after a message was passed on the police wireless that a Muslim driver was coming that way. On the night of February 28, when people were attacked in Vatwa, all they could see was heads and more heads. Swords were being waved in the air, shots were fired by privately owned guns. “Tab hame malum pada ki hamara Allah ke seva koi nahin” [“Then we realized that none but Allah is on our side”], one witness said. The crowd had only one intention: Musalmanon ko khatam karo! [Finish off the Muslims!] And throughout, innocent people were killed — From an inquiry into the carnage in Gujarat by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) fighting for justice for the victims of the violence in Gujarat.

If someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is. If I’m a chief minister or not, I’m a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad — Narendra Modi, then Gujarat Chief Minister, in response to a Reuters interview eleven years after the carnage, when asked whether he regretted the violence.

It’s 15 years now and justice to some extent has been done compared to other communal and targeted pogroms. Some of the powerful perpetrators have been punished and the struggle to establish command responsibility continues — Teesta Setalvad, human rights activist, secretary of CJP and author of “Foot Soldier of the Constitution – A Memoir,” in response to my question regarding justice for the victims of the carnage in Gujarat and their surviving families and friends.

February 27-28, 2017 marked the fifteenth anniversary of the 2002 Gujarat genocidal pogrom in which, according to CJP’s tally, as many as 1926 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. They were among commuters on the Sabarmati Express returning from the Ram temple site in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. That site had been controversial ever since December 6, 1992, when the Babri Masjid, a 16th century mosque, was demolished by a mob of Hindus to make way for the temple.

Since then, that site has become a focal point for the riling-up of right-wing Hindu nationalism. And the pogrom that followed the 2002 train attack was a release of pent-up hate that was looking for an excuse to explode.

The bid for power by the right-wing had begun long before, in the 1920s. The BJP (the current ruling party) is an affiliate of a cultural guild known as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which was established in 1925. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal (the youth wing of the VHP) are also affiliated with the RSS and along with the BJP itself were responsible for unleashing the carnage in Gujarat in 2002. The VHP have been trailblazers in the campaign to construct a temple dedicated to Rama on the site of the demolished Babri mosque. And a construction of a “grand” temple remains very much part of the BJP agenda today.

Gujarat, the state that birthed and raised the guru of non-violence, M. K. Gandhi—who himself was assassinated by a Hindu extremist—is not new to communal violence. The state’s history is steeped in it. For example, an incident during a 1969 pogrom “brings out the depth of animosity against the Muslims,” according to CJP: “A young Muslim, enraged by the destruction of his property said he would take revenge. Upon this the crowd seized him, showered blows on him, and tried to force him to shout Jai Jagannath (a Hindu slogan). Staying firm, the youth refused even if that meant death. To this, someone in the crowd responded that he might indeed be done away with. Wood from broken shops was collected, a pyre prepared in the middle of the road, petrol sprinkled on the pyre as well as on the youth, and he was set alight with ruthless efficiency. What is remarkable is that there was no resistance from any Hindu. The wails of the Muslim inhabitants of the area were drowned in the celebration of the incident by the Hindus.”

Between 1961 and 1971, 799 incidents of communal violence were recorded in Gujarat, with 1969 shouldering the biggest toll of riots. And since then, communal violence has erupted in the state many times. In just the years 1987 to 1991, 106 incidents were recorded. For most of that time Modi was serving as the general secretary of the BJP, and it was around then that the Ram Janmabhoomi (Rama’s birthplace) campaign took center stage in Gujarat, aiming to to construct the Mandir (temple) at the site. It is believed that the largest contingent of men, women, and youth responsible for the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya had come from Gujarat.

The ideology of Hindutva (Hinduness) is at the core of the RSS and its actions. And thanks to RSS and the other fanatical organizations that surround it, this ideology has penetrated every sphere of society—women, education, slums, youth, tribals, farmers, publishing, and more.

Narendra Modi, himself an RSS pracharak (volunteer) was the Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 to 2014. The BlP first came to power in Gujarat in the mid-nineties, amid a campaign of hate against the state’s minority communities. Literature included fliers proclaiming, “India is a country of Hindus…. Our religion of Rama and Krishna is pious”; anti-Christian propaganda; penetration into tribal areas; and training camps espousing hatred, distribution of Trishuls, swords and other weapons at religious functions.

According to CJP, “Sustained and systematic efforts were made by organizations like the BJP and its Sangh Parivar [RSS family of organizations] affiliates to communalize Gujarati society, through large-scale distribution of hate literature and other means. Hinduism was given more and more aggressive interpretations with a conscious design to promote a feeling among Hindus that they, the majority community, were being treated unjustly through appeasement of Muslims by various vested interests. The view that Muslims were fundamentalist, anti-national, and pro-Pakistan was systematically promoted. In some cases, Hindus were even exhorted to take up arms to defend their interests.”

gujarat-1JatiIndia: Flags of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future. Hundreds of Mosques and Dargahs were destroyed in the riots. 

The Hindutva campaign reached its zenith with the 2002 pogrom. Between February 28 and March 2, 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. In tearful testimonies to the eight-member Concerned Citizen’s Tribunal, riot survivors recounted incidents such as these:

Nahi, aaj to upar se order aaya ke aaj tumhari jaan bachane ki nahi hai [No, today we have orders from above that you are not to be saved], one witness testified that a policeman, KK Mysorewala, clearly told her.

Many witnesses testified that when out of distress they screamed, Allah! Allah! they were taunted by the attackers, who said, “No, say Jai Sri Ram!”

The mob had started breaking windows. They threw burning tires inside and the women inside would catch them and throw them out. In fact the witness’ hands were singed.

They caught hold of innocent children and sliced them up. They were pulled out of their mothers arms.

Most of the dead bodies were charred or mutilated beyond recognition and an overwhelming majority of the survivors did not manage to have access to the bodies of their relatives in order to perform the last rites in a dignified manner.

Between 5 and 6 p.m., when the mob was at the height of its frenzy, many of our women were first raped and then doused in kerosene and petrol and burnt. I saw them doing this.

Ehsan Jafri, [a parliamentarian] who was clearly a specific target, allowed himself to be dragged out of his own house…for 45 minutes, he was brutally dismembered and then finally decapitated. He was stripped, paraded naked, and asked to say, Vande Mataram! and Jai Shri Ram! He refused. His fingers were chopped off and he was paraded around in the locality, badly injured.

So, where does justice and accountability stand today, exactly fifteen years later?

gujarat-2JatiIndia: Flags of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future. Artwork includes surviving victims of the carnage at various refugee camps.

Teesta Setalvad forwarded me a conviction sheet put together for the anniversary by CJP, titled Accounting for the Dead – A Battle Half Won. Here’s part of what it said:

CJP’s Major exercise to Commemorate the 15th anniversary of the Gujarat genocide has been to Account for the Dead and Missing to end for once and for all the Falsification of Figures by the State. Once Compiled we shall seek through Opposition Members of Parliament that the Figures on the Record of Parliament are also Corrected. Our Tally shows that as many as 1926 Lives were Lost in the Reprisal Violence that broke out after the Godhra Tragedy from February 28, 2002 onwards.

There is a calculated design to deny every aspect of the Violence, the Facts behind the Crimes, the Conspiracy, Planning etc.

The Zakia Jafri [wife of slain parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri] Case that seeks, for the first time in criminal jurisprudence to establish criminal and administrative culpability for the mass crimes that broke up in Gujarat is still pending having charted an arduous course from the Police, to the Gujarat High Court, down to the Magistrate’s Court and now is being heard in the Gujarat High Court. The perverse attack of State Agencies on CJP and it’s office bearers Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand have been [in] direct proportion to the furtherance of this judicial exercise: an attempt to establish for the first time in Indian History a Chain of Command Responsibility for the Mass Crimes that broke out in the state from February 28, 2002 and were not contained until May 5-6, 2002 when KPS Gill was sent by then prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to oversee the law and order situation.

The Gulberg Massacre Verdict dated June 17, 2016 delivered by Judge PB Desai however discards that the Gulberg Massacre was part of any conspiracy. As stated by Tanvirbhai Jafri it was as if 12-15,000 strong mob had gathered “to have chai and smaosa” that day!

They [the victims and witnesses] are threatened and induced to retract testimonies by perpetrators and the henchmen of the state machinery that has been thrice elected to power with perpetrators now also holding sway in Delhi.

The Perpetrators in the face of those in Power or those part of allied/sister organisations of the Hindutva Right who enjoy Political Patronage have even used, and continue to use the Criminal Underworld to issue threats and offer inducements.

An estimated 400 girls and women were subject to brute gender violence; even the state of Gujarat has been forced to admit to 176 women being brutally assaulted. No reparation has been offered to women and girls or their families. Over 428 persons are officially admitted as missing since the 2002 carnage, the remains of 226 not yet traced and thus denied a dignified burial and last rites. At least 270 places of cultural and religious importance for the Muslim minority were destroyed: barely 40 have been since rebuilt, not by a repentant state, but by the community itself.

Police witnesses have stated in their testimonies that the mob was huge enough, nearing 4,500-5,000. Injured and traumatised eye-witnesses have said that it was closer 15,000 strong. That the mob was also shouting slogans like ‘Miyaon ne kapo, maro,” [Cut and kill the Muslims] is also part of the record.

The panchnamas of the site reveal how the embers were allowed to burn, undoused at Gulberg society for three days after the attack, ensuring that any forensic evidence behind the killings is properly destroyed. When survivors buried the charred remains of their loved ones at the Kalandari Masjid Kabrastan on March 3, 2002, these bodies had been reduced to ashes.

Citizens for Justice and Peace’s single most significant achievement has been the convictions, at the first stage of as many as 157 perpetrators (of which 142 were to Life Imprisonment) in over a dozen major criminal trials related to the Gujarat Genocidal pogrom of 2002. In appeal at the High Court, 19 of these have been since acquitted. CJP plans to challenge these further in the Supreme Court.

There has been no expression of Remorse for the Perpetrated Violence of 2002 either by the State Government or the Party it represents, Nationally.

In the last 10 months, the Gujarat police and administration has made several attempts to threaten, humiliate, and implicate Teesta Setalvad in a number of cooked up cases and even held out threats of impending arrest. The attempt is to divert the CJP secretary’s attention from her legal aid work to enforced self-defence. A price that human rights defenders must be prepared to pay.

Many thanks to Teesta Setalvad and CJP for their unwavering struggle for justice and reparations for the victims and the survivors of the cowardly attack on the Muslim communities of Gujarat in 2002. Please visit CJP, Sabrang and Khoj to learn more about Teesta and Javed’s work.

The Indomitable Teesta Under Attack….Again

See also at Countercurrents

# 7 in the series JatiIndia: A Flag of Atrocities Caste, Present and Future

teesta-1In this JatiIndia flag, caste is represented by the victims of Modi and his Hindu nationalists in Gujarat, the present by the face of the indomitable Teesta, and the future by the nation’s Constitution, which will remain with us, intact, thanks to the efforts of Teesta and many others like her.

For more than a quarter century, journalist/activist Teesta Setalvad has worked tirelessly to ensure that India’s Constitution serves the people. Her most well-known work involved exposing, through her group Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), the atrocities committed by Hindu extremists in Gujarat in 2002. As part of its work seeking justice for the victims of that pogrom, CJP has continued its efforts to have criminal charges filed against Prime Minister Modi for his role in encouraging the atrocities in his then-role as Gujarat Chief Minister.

Now Teesta and her husband/coworker Javed Anand are being brought up on charges themselves for allegedly violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The charges, forcefully denied by Teesta and Javed, were clearly meant as retaliation for their pursuit of justice for Gujarat, among other grassroots issues.

The usual actions taken against those accused of FCRA violations are not criminal charges but revocation of licenses to receive foreign funds and, potentially, fines. Indeed, two of Teesta’s organizations were among 20,000 NGOs, largely human-rights groups, who had their licenses revoked in 2015-16. Another prominent Modi critic who lost her license, Shabnam Hashmi, told The Telegraph, “This government’s actions are second only to Emergency-era intolerance. We have no other option but to fight it out.”

That sweeping persecution of rights groups has now been followed by this month’s harsher prosecution targeting Teesta and Javed. Modi’s men cannot be allowed to get away with burying the past, with punishing those who have exposed his crimes. Proud patriots, go out there on the streets—not just on Republic Day but every day—and wave those flags. No, not one symbolic flag, but many, each with a different face of exclusion at the heart of it, where the Ashoka Chakra used to be.

Let’s see a citizen-sea waving faces of citizen-exclusion. Faces of those who have paid and are continuing to pay the ultimate price for confronting power with truth at various times in the country’s history. Faces resisting religious and economic fundamentalism and asserting their human right to dignity, inclusion, equality and justice—the stuff we twice-borns take so much for granted.

In the country I call JatiIndia, numerous atrocities are committed daily. The time has come to replace monocrop patriotism with a more diverse one because there is no one symbolic flag in which to pack these atrocities in. Don’t buy into the maya that the state cares about each and every one of you equally. It doesn’t. The state is not there for you. Rather, it’s out to get you. Especially if your fight is a fight for justice and equality.

Please read about JatiIndia #s 6 through 1 here, here and here, and see corresponding images below:

image2a pellet-gun victim, Kashmir

image1Tabasum and Galib Guru

Lingaram KodopiLingaram Kodopi

Shaista Hameed and Danish FarooqShaista Hameed and Danish Farooq

Vinay Sirohi with his wifeVinay Sirohi with his wife

RohithRohith Vemula

11/8: America’s Got President & India’s Got No Cash

See also at CounterPunch

img_3147Misfortune Stuffed Chapatis (recipe follows at end)

It was about 8:00 on the morning of November 9 in Mumbai, India. I sat down with the internet to talk with my husband Stan in Kansas, where it was 7:30 pm November 8. Like many other now-shell-shocked Americans, he was watching what we thought would be the finally-final episode of America’s Got President. The look on his face said that even at that early hour, things were whirling into new territory.

Indeed, I found myself time-traveling—in a very “Hindoo” sort of way—when at that moment, my sister brought my attention to a headline on the front page of that morning’s Times of India. It read, “Wonder Fish Chanakya in Chennai Predicts Donald Trump Victory.” The article explained what had happened the previous day: “A fish in Chennai has thrown its weight behind Donald Trump. The event was organized by [a] Chennai-based NGO… Two boats bearing pictures of Trump and Hillary and carrying fish feed were released into the tank. Incredibly, the fish picked Trump’s boat on seven occasions… founder-secretary A J Hariharan said they wanted to capitalize on the curiosity surrounding the presidential race to raise awareness of malaria.”

And, wonder of wonders, much to liberal-horror, the soothsaying of “Wonder Fish,” just like that of Michael Moore, was coming true even as Stan and I were talking. (Unlike Chanakya’s fishy wonderings, Moore’s prediction of a Trump victory was based on well-founded calculations; on the other hand, Moore raised no awareness of malaria.)

However, people living in the Indian countryside were not waking up that morning with “Wonder Fish Chanakya” on their minds. Far from it.

Notebandi

The previous evening, coincidentally just before polls opened on the U.S. East Coast, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi had declared that two denominations of the country’s currency, the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, would no longer be legal tender. (The notes, worth approximately $7.50 and $15.00 at current exchanges rates, accounted for 86 percent of the total cash value in circulation at the time.) Indians had until December 30 to exchange or deposit their notes, but there was far from enough new currency in the banks or ATMs to meet demand.

According to a January Hindustan Times article, “Though cash situation is better, queues can still be seen outside several ATM kiosks, primarily due to withdrawal restrictions — Rs 4,500 per day and Rs 24,000 a week.”

This out-of-the-blue “demonetization”—known in Hindi as notebandi (bandi means shutdown)—was ostensibly a strategy to target corruption, black money and terrorism, but it was actually a reckless plunge toward Modi’s wildly unrealistic vision of a “cashless” Indian economy.

The idea of a cashless economy is going to be a hard sell in a country where for most people, there’s already precious little cash to be had, where only around 30% of the population have access to financial institutions, where majority depend on hard-cash transactions for their hand-to-mouth existence, where more than 300,000 farmers have committed debt-induced suicide, and where the richest 1% own 58% of the country’s wealth.

Under a new program introduced by the Indian government, by early 2015, 125 million new bank accounts had been opened (95% of which were opened with public banks.) Three months later around 72% of the accounts showed zero balance.

As one slum dweller named Priya once told me, “What else is there for us to do? We have to simply survive till the next day. That’s all.” It is folks like Priya, who were already being crushed under the weight of subsidized state negligence via badly targeted economic policies, who have been hit the hardest. This move will simply add another layer of hardship in the lives of India’s hungry children, women, men, farmers, landless laborers, daily-wage earners. For anyone living in india’s villages, the state handing them a digital Hindu-god-like transaction gizmo is like rubbing salt in their layered wounds.

As I sit here writing this piece, Stan brings my attention to an article by Steve Coll in The New Yorker, who is also drawing parallels between what happened in India and the United States on November 8.

Coll says that he recently traveled through three cities in India, and he is right in pointing out that the general feeling among Indian urbanites is that even though the introduction of notebandi might have forced them to stand in endless lines at ATMs, they still believe in the “goodness” of the program. They—especially the poor living in Indian cities—think the government was right to go after India’s rich, no-gooders who have all that “black money” supposedly stashed away under mattresses.

But they are wrong. Because just 5 percent of domestic black money is held in cash and the rest in other asset classes like real estate, stocks, bullion, foreign exchange etc. Modi’s action does not hold the other 95% accountable.

Here are a few everyday occurrences happening in the Indian countryside post-demonetization, all of which are taken from the incomparable Peoples Archive of Rural India (PARI):

“In Chikalthana village… Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a cashless economy seems to have been realised. Nobody has any cash. Not the banks, nor the ATMs and certainly not the people queuing up in and around them in despair.”—P. Sainath.

“‘Demonetisation has wrecked the farmers,’ said Ramkrishna Umathe… ‘For about a week, sellers and buyers (of mainly soybean and cotton) have virtually deserted our market.’”—Jaideep Hardikar.

“After Narayanappa’s family returned to Bucharla in the first week of November, finding no work on the farms, they have had to stretch their savings to meet all expenses… the cash shortage in … Canara Bank that has shaken many families in the village is not the main concern… ‘We don’t have much money with us. All we want is some work,’ says Narayanappa.”— Rahul M.

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When I was in Mumbai in November, I spoke to a few people about notebandi. One of them was an autorickshaw driver named Dinesh Gupta, who is married with two children. He said, “Bahut acha kiya. Aage jaake, humare bachon ke liye achha hoga. ([Modi] did very well. [This program] will benefit our kids in the future.” I asked him about his family. He laughs and says, “You know, six of us, including my parents live in a one-room home in a chawl (slum). We just put a curtain in the middle of the room. On one side of the curtain I sleep with my wife and kids, and my parents sleep on the other side.”

I asked Gupta if he had a bank account. “Only in name. I took out a 1.8-lakh ($2643) loan from the State Bank of India to pay for the auto. And it is only because I needed the loan that I even have a bank account. But there is no balance in my account. Where is the money to put in it? Whatever I earn gets used up just to survive.” He makes roughly 20,000 to 25,000 rupees ($294 to 367) a month and is the sole earner in the family.

But this sense of optimism, despite graded hardships, among both upper-and lower-caste Indians is palpable only in the cities, where around 30% of the population lives. Please read the report by PARI to get an idea of the terrible impact notebandi has had in the rural areas where most Indians live.

Votebandi

At the moment Modi was declaring notebandi, liberals back in America were sure they could discern the bright light of a Clinton victory at the end of that dark talent-tunnel of America’s Got President. But it wasn’t meant to be. Liberal America’s worst nightmare was about to come true.

Now, reeling from our own November 8 votebandi, the prevailing reaction has been, understandably, to organize, protest and communicate our revulsion to Trump and all that he stands for—which, of course, is mostly himself. But we can’t let the focus of our vision and action narrow to this one man.

Don’t get me wrong. Of course I believe that we really need to fight back against this darkness. But, by concentrating only on our various Trump phobias, we let the broader slide toward catastrophe continue.

As we all know, with a Trump presidency, it is almost impossible to predict anything. And it is this unpredictability that people were/are afraid of. I agree. But, what if Clinton had won? Would you agree, given her track record, that her highly predictable itch to get this country entangled into another war was very real? Would we have been equally afraid of that?

John Pilger pointed out recently in an article titled ‘The Issue is Not Trump, It is Us,’ that “Much of America’s aggression towards the rest of humanity has come from so-called liberal Democratic administrations — such as Obama’s.” Wouldn’t a Hillary presidency have promised to be an extension of Obama’s programs—including his extremely dangerous baby, the policy of assassination-by-drones program—which inspire the loved ones of the innocent victims of our drone strikes to take revenge?

The question is not how doomed we are now, here in the darkness of the new presidency. We always were, and will continue to be, doomed, until we stop using Trump for escapist entertainment—when we get over joking about the size of his crowds or his hands and seriously take matters into our own citizen-hands. After all, we are the majority in this country.

Obsession with Trump conveniently distracts us from holding ourselves and our own inactions accountable. The time for the left to join forces and build a strong opposition against the Democratic-Republican business-as-usual machine, and the whole fucked-up system in general, was yesterday, but it’s also now.

We have to acknowledge that the domestic and foreign policy decisions taken by our past administrations—Democratic and Republican, alike—contributed to molding the hate-driven, racist version of “change” that we all have to now confront.

Let us not lose sight of the fact that the Democrats lost because of the Democrats, and our own insular focus on the ideology of “lesser evil” voting. By the way, that lesser evil ideology works both ways. A woman I know, who’s in her late 80s, said that she voted for the “lesser evil” because of Supreme Court nominations. She voted for Trump.

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When Notebandi Meets Votebandi

Coll was right in pointing out that it’s populism propping up Modi and Trump. However, it is important also to point out that their respective opposition parties—the Congress and the Democrats—were also a bunch of elites, but a different, more “liberal” kind of elite. Commonly, their elitism has always embraced supporting corporate power. And, now, as I pointed out last April, the lid’s off the petri dish and the chickens have come home to roost.

The two country’s traditional, religious (and by that I mean the white Christians in the United States and lower-caste Hindus in India), working class people, who have been drastically affected by economic trends created by elite politicians—past and present—are targeting their angst by simple projecting their leaders’ bigoted, nationalist rantings on sections of society more vulnerable than they are, with the elite in both countries too busy making money to notice.

I don’t see red (conservatism) and blue (liberalism) when I see the United States’ flag, but purple. We are living in a era of what I call conlibservatism. Where, a con-game is being played in the name of liberalism, and where only the elite are being served economically. As Paul Street correctly pointed out in a recent article, “Trump really didn’t win over working class America. Clinton lost it.” In their rhetoric, Democrats were all about the people, but in their workings, writes Street, they were all about “an ever-increasing upward distribution of income, wealth, and power into fewer hands.”

And when conlibsevatism is shaken with white religion, xenophobia, islamophobia, homophobia, narcissism, nativism, misogyny, economic exclusion, saffron ideology (orange being the color of Hindutva, or Hinduness) that makes for a deadly cocktail. “Make India Hindu Again” and “Make America White Again” are the banners now flying over our government institutions. But this is not the beginning of the history of the two countries’ capitalism-driven exclusionary agenda. It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that if there is to be any chance of a meaningful recovery, it is incumbent upon us to reach back into the closets of our governments’ policies past, and acknowledge the domino effect that’s handed us Modi and Trump.

The January 21 Women’s March united people fighting on all of the political fronts that were under attack before November 8 but have since become even more urgent. The high-profile rebellion aims to persevere and grow, and will be augmented by less visible but essential actions like reaching out to the victims of a Trump administration within our own communities—the immigrant population, women, the Muslim community, those devastated by fossil-fueled floods and storms, and others. But whatever actions we take as a concerned citizenry must take into account our past inactions. Then the rest of the world will take us seriously.

There is a polite saying people use in India when asking you to accommodate an inconvenience: “Could you kindly adjust?” Those words have doubtless been heard millions of times in India’s banks and shops in the weeks since notebandi. But the crises that arose in India and America on November 8 are far more than inconveniences, and, no, please, let us not adjust to them. Let’s rebel.

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watch video showing Trump mouthing Modi’s tagline — Abki Baar Trump Sarkar (Trump Government This Time)

Recipe:

One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy, and Misfortune Stuffed Chapatis
(includes dal and stuffed chapatis)

One Pound Capitalism, a Pinch of Democracy is a series that brings to our dinner tables some meals that expose the extreme consequences of neoliberal policies that are wrecking the planet, and the daily lives of many around the world. The type and quantity of each ingredient used and the presentation of a meal is determined by choosing key statistics and points that are embedded in the issue being conveyed and converting that to a measurement or meal design. Indeed, there may be a dish or two that are just outright inedible, or taste somewhat strange, with an ingredient or two out of whack. But that’s intentional.

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I happened to be in Ponce, Puerto Rico while I was working on this piece. As usually happens when I’m traveling, I find it hard to find the material, ingredients, etc I need to work on my projects, and I usually end up “kindly” adjusting to whatever is available! Which worked out quite well for this piece. Stan and I were staying in at a B&B in Ponce, and I didn’t have access to a rolling pin, so I ended up using the next best gadget I could lay my hands on in the kitchen which turned out to be a basting-brush, so I used it to roll the chapatis. And as it so happened, the white flour (chapatis are made using chapati flour), and the purple and garish saffron colored serving dishes that the B&B provided were sheer serendipity since they fit well with the flag theme of the piece.

Serves 1

For the misfortune notes
pencil
ruler
red, blue, orange, green and black fine ink pens
one 3 1/2 x 2 5/8 inch paper for making the BJP flag, and one 3 6/8 x 2 1/2 inch paper for making the confederate flag.

Make outline drawings of the two flags and ink in the colors. Add your own misfortunes. Keep aside.

For the dal
1/4 cup of a mixture of four dals — toor, moong, channa and masoor
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp haldi (turmeric powder)
salt to taste
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/8 tsp each of rai (black mustard seeds) and zeera (cumin seeds)
2 tbsp chopped onions
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp chopped tomato
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
2 tbsp chopped dhania (cilantro)

Combine the dals in a saucepan and clean in running water till water runs clear. Add the water, salt and turmeric powder and bring to a boil on high flame. Turn flame down to medium-low, cover and cook for about 45 minutes, or till done. Heat oil in a skillet and add the mustard and cumin seeds. When the mustard seeds start popping, add the onion and garlic. Saute till onions turn golden brown. Add the chopped tomato and chill powder. Saute for a minute, then mix in the cooked dhal to the tempering. Add dhania and turn flame off.

For the stuffed chapatis
1 cup white flour
a dash of salt
enough water to make smooth dough
a small bowl with water

Sift the flour and salt. Add water a little at a time to the flour until a smooth dough forms. Divide in half and shape into balls. Take one ball and roll flat with a rolling pin into about an 8-inch round. Heat a skillet and cook for about thirty seconds on each side. Remove from skillet, and dipping your index finger into the bowl with water, quickly wet along one half of the rim of the chapati. Place one of the misfortune flags close to the middle of circle, and fold into a semicircle, pressing till the edge is sealed. Return the chapati to the skillet and using a little oil on both sides, finish cooking till brown and done. Repeat for he other chapati. Serve with dal.

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