Saturday, May 31, 2008

Is Binayak Sen a traitor?

After reading a lot of sympathetic articles about Dr. Binayak Sen in various media forms, one question always remained on top of my mind since no article I read mentioned it in detail. What are the charges against Dr. Sen?
Rediff: Why Dr Binayak Sen must be released
Times Of India: TODAY'S ARTICLE: Respect Civil Rights
The detention of Binayak Sen, a respected doctor and civil rights activist, by the Chhattisgarh government is a blot on our democracy.{How it is a blot is never explained?} The Chhattisgarh police arrested him a year ago under the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 on charges of aiding Maoists.

The police have charged Sen, winner of the 2008 Jonathan Mann award for global health and human rights instituted by the Global Health Council, of acting as a courier for Maoists{There are other serious charges too but the lazy jholawalla never bothers to read them}. His appeal for bail has been turned down despite appeals from many public intellectuals across the world, including 22 Nobel laureates{Have they all protested against Gitmo?}. Clearly, the court and police are unwilling to consider his exemplary record as a health and civil rights activist in one of the most underdeveloped regions of the country.{Can an exemplary record of a person save himself from punishment in the court of law? First time I'm hearing this kind of plea-bargain}

The Chhattisgarh government's stance on the issue compromises its responsibility to the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Every citizen has a right to speech and association and the government ought to protect these rights.{Is it applicable, when the speech and association both are illegal} Even if one assumes that Sen is sympathetic to Maoist ideology, as alleged by the police, he has a right to uphold his views unless proven to have violated the law in the process{why is the police holding him in jail, for mauj-masti}. He also has a right to a speedy and fair trial. {no special favors for anybody, everybody should be treated the same}Sen is held guilty by association {try 'association' with Islamic jihadis and see the results for yourself} and the government is unwilling to recognise its mistake despite pleas from all around.{plea's by breast-beatings and loud wailings does not count as evidence and facts}

The Chhattisgarh government has a hard task at hand, no doubt. Maoists are a powerful threat and have stretched the resources of the government. Unfortunately, the government's policies to counter them are bad in law and practice. Security measures like Salwa Judum and harassment of political and civil rights activists have only eroded the credibility of the government. A strong civil society that vouchsafes political and economic rights is necessary to expose extremist ideologies like Maoism.

As India sets out to expand its influence in global affairs, its record on civil rights will increasingly be under scrutiny. No government can claim special powers and suspend civil rights like freedom of speech and association. Extremist political groups like Maoists don't thrive because of a liberal legal framework, but they certainly would benefit from its absence.

Sen's trial has now started after a year spent in prison. Scores of similar undertrials languishing in Indian jails fare worse. It just doesn't do any good to India's brand image as a country that protects civil rights. Democracy enhances India's soft power potential on the world stage. However, disregard for democratic rights will take the sheen off India's patchy but promising record as a liberal democracy.

If you read the charges (incl sedition and treason) against Dr. Sen, they are very serious and the law should take its own course but no, strangely the jholawallas want special treatment for Dr. Sen since he is a winner of some humpty-dumpty award and since a few nobel laureates spoke for him, Dr Sen should be freed. What kind of cuckooland they are living in? The insistence of special treatment for Dr Sen, based on wailings and breast-beatings, casts doubts on their claims. Law of the land must be respected and should be equal for everyone, no exceptions. Let the law take it own course. With every passing day, I'm arriving at "When the Indian English Language Media" is your enemy, you are on the right side.

Update: 'Dont lecture us on Binayak Sen': Govt of India
The Indian government has reacted strongly to international appeals for the release of Dr Binayak Sen who is in a Chhattisgarh jail for the past one year, for his alleged links with Naxals.
Senior government sources have told Times Now Binayak Sen is not absolved of his involvement with Naxals. The Court has taken a decision on Sen's bail and now the State Government is the final authority. However, the Government feels that the issue around Dr Binayak Sen is a well orchestrated campaign and just because he is selected for a western award, doesn’t make him less guilty in their view. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said that the State Government is right in opposing Dr Sen's appeal.


Saturday’s fatwa, signed by Darul-Uloom’s grand mufti Habibur Rehman, asserts that "Islam rejects all kinds of unjust violence,{what is just violence?} breach of peace, bloodshed, murder and plunder and does not allow it in any form".
Notwithstanding the caveats like "unjust" and "innocent", which may make it appear falling short of an unequivocal condemnation of terrorism, the fatwa is viewed by many as a significant step forward towards rallying the public opinion against terrorism.
The exclusively-male turnout that read an "oath of allegiance" to the fatwa cheered most lustily as speakers attacked the US.
However, it was when the deputy rector of Deoband, Usman, came down heavily on "the dual policy of America" that the massive crowds cheered the most. "Whenever Christian and American interests are hurt in any part of the world, they take prompt action to set things right even at the cost of human lives. They maintain silence though when Muslims are the victims," he said, further criticizing the US for its support to Israel.

Dalit Atrocity, Times Of India Style

The headlines, Dalit man lynched in Bihar
The article,
SAMASTIPUR (BIHAR): A dalit was allegedly beaten to death by his neighbours
after he demanded the money he owed to them in Samastipur district, police said
on Friday. Superintendent of Police Surendra Lal Das said that Lakendra Paswan (35) was tied with a bamboo tree and lynched for daring to ask for payment from one Heeralal Paswan, under whom he was working. The accused, however, alleged that Lakendra was drunk when he entered the house of Amarnath Paswan, Heeralal's relative, and misbehaved with his wife, following which they beat him to death on Thursday. A high level team of the state Human Rights Commission will make an in depth inquiry into the killing of the dalit, official sources said. Amarnath Paswan has been taken into custody and efforts were on to arrest the other accused persons.

Two Dalits are fighting each other but on reading the headline, I get different impression. Disingenuous turd, Arindam Sengupta(TOI Editor), christian missionaries owe you gratitude or maybe they have already thanked you via a 'bhoora lifafa' (brown envelope stuffed with dollars).

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Book Review: Captives: Britain, Empire and the World 1600-1850

Captives: Britain, Empire and the World 1600-1850
by Linda Colley
438pp, Cape, £20

However embarrassed we may be by our former Raj heroes - those Havelocks and Napiers swaggering imperiously on their plinths in Trafalgar Square or staring portentously, ossified and khaki-clad, all the way up Whitehall - we still tend to think of them as rather manly men: the sort of outdoor types who would not flinch from a 500-mile route march in the midsummer tropical heat, and who would know what to do with a Gatling gun when faced with hordes of marauding Others. Yet according to Linda Colley's brilliant, subtle and important new book, Captives, there was a time when Indians looked on their would-be British rulers in a very different and much less flattering manner; when they thought of the British military as effeminate, indeed as little better than eunuchs.

Colley's thesis is that the unprecedented military success and world political and economic domination achieved by the Victorian British has blinded us to the smallness and vulnerability of Britain in the preceding two and a half centuries: after all, she points out, as late as 1715 the British army was no larger than that commanded by the king of Sardinia, while at the same period there were at least 20,000 British civilians enslaved in the Barbary sultanates of north Africa.

It is significant that this surprises us as much as it does: it is as if the Victorians colonised not just one quarter of the globe, but also, more permanently, our imaginations, to the exclusion of all other images of the British encounter and collision with the wider world, from the Elizabethan period onwards. Colley shows the extent to which tales of British weakness and defeat at the hands of sophisticated Muslim states in north Africa, the Middle East and India have been consciously edited out of the historical record.

So, for example, we remember our various military triumphs in and around Bombay but have performed a collective act of amnesia about another far more important colony gained at the same time (1661) - Tangier, part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza, with its bowling greens, pubs and Anglican churches. It was once the pride of Britain's intended Mediterranean empire, but was humiliatingly lost to the Moroccans in 1684, despite unprecedented investment by the crown in its defences.

Hence also our failure to remember many other British military defeats and losses such as the catastrophic defeat of the armies of the East India Company by Tipu Sultan at Pollilur in 1780, only a few months before the equally disastrous surrender of Yorktown and the loss of America.

Pollilur led to the slaughter of an entire army and the capture of one in five of all the British soldiers in India. No fewer than 7,000 British men, along with an unknown number of women, were held captive by Tipu in his sophisticated fortress of Seringapatam. Of these more than 300 were circumcised and given Muslim names and clothes. Even more humiliatingly, several British regimental drummer boys were made to wear ghagra cholis and entertain the Mysore court as nautch girls.

At the end of 10 years' captivity, one of these prisoners, James Scurry, found that he had forgotten how to sit in a chair or use a knife and fork; his English was "broken and confused, having lost all its vernacular idiom", his skin had darkened to the "swarthy complexion of Negroes" and he found he actively disliked wearing European clothes. This was the ultimate colonial nightmare, and in its most unpalatable form: the captive preferring the ways of his captors, the coloniser colonised.

The image of the British defeat at Pollilur, painted on the walls of Tipu's summer palace at Seringapatam, is brilliantly interpreted by Colley as showing how Mysore's victors viewed the surrounded and defeated British at the moment the British defeat became certain: "The white soldiers all appear in uniform jackets of red, a colour associated in India with eunuchs and women," writes Colley. Moreover the British are "conspicuously and invariably clean shaven. Neatly side-burned, with doe-like eyes, raised eyebrows and pretty pink lips, they have been painted to look like girls, or at least creatures that are not fully male."

Colley is certainly on to something here: a few years later, another British soldier of the time, General Charles "Hindoo" Stuart, campaigned for British troops to be encouraged to grow extensive facial hair as otherwise their masculinity would not be taken seriously by their Indian enemies, noting that until he himself grew a beard, "mendicants supplicated me, for charity, by the appellation of Beeby Saheb [Great Lady], mistaking my sex from the smoothness of my face."

Captives is at once a human tale of the forgotten and marginal individuals - "common seamen and private soldiers, itinerants and exiles, convicts and assorted womenfolk" - involved in a succession of little-known British defeats and captivities, and a wider meditation on the character and diversity of Britain's incipient empire. Using the rich and revealing source of captivity narratives as a way of unlocking some of the central truths about British weakness, smallness and vulnerability, she shows how the British rise to world domination was neither smooth nor inevitable.

She also dramatically highlights the human cost of that expansion. The lives of ordinary British men and women were completely disrupted in the process of imperial adventures overseas: men like John Rutherford, captured in North America, who for a while became a Chippewa warrior; or Sarah Shade, an East India Company camp follower, who became one of Tipu's captives at Seringapatam.

Colley is especially good on those who after capture fell hopelessly under the spell of India or Islamic north Africa, and entered what in those days must have seemed like a parallel universe, responding to their travels and captivities with a profound alteration of the self, slowly shedding their Britishness and Christianity like an unwanted skin, and adopting Islamic dress, studying Islamic teachings and taking on the ways of the Moroccan or Mughal governing classes they would in time come to replace. In particular, she shows how many British captives converted to Islam in India and north Africa: both the Moroccans and the Mughals were able to field entire regiments of European renegade converts to Islam.

It is at this point perhaps that Colley's methodology limits her vision. By concentrating principally on captivity narratives (a genre much studied in American universities but relatively neglected in Europe) she misses the possibly more interesting point that until the mid-19th century many Europeans chose of their own free will to convert to Islam and take on eastern ways, without necessarily becoming captives first.

This had always been the case: as early as the mid-17th century, the English ambassador to the Ottoman Porte, Sir Thomas Shirley, complained about the large number of "roagues, & the skumme of people whyche are fledde to the Turke for succour & releyffe". The fact was, as Shirley pointed out in one of his dispatches, that the more time Englishmen spent in the east, the closer they moved to adopting the manners of the Muslims: "conuersation with infidelles doeth mutch corrupte," he wrote. "Many wylde youthes... in euerye 3 yeere that they staye in Turkye they loose one article of theyre faythe."

Islam overcame the English as much by its sophistication and power of attraction as by its power to seize and enslave. In 1606 even the English consul in Egypt, Benjamin Bishop, converted and promptly disappeared from public records. The same was true in Mughal India: within a few years of the East India Company establishing itself in Agra, the company's most senior official in India had to break the news of "ye damned apostacy of one of your servants, Josua Blackwelle", who had "privately conveighed himselfe to the Governor of ye citty, who, being prepaired, with the Qazi and others attended his comeing; before whome hee most wickedly and desperately renounced his Christian faith... and is irrecoverably lost".

Nor was it just Islam that lured the British out of their sola topees: "Hindoo" Stuart (he of the smooth cheeks) firmly believed he had become a Hindu (though it is technically impossible to convert to Hinduism) and took to travelling around the country with a team of Brahmins who used to attend his idols and dress his food, to the astonishment of at least one memsahib recently arrived from England: "There was here an Englishman, born and educated in a Christian land," wrote Elizabeth Fenton in her journal, "who has become the wretched and degraded partaker of this heathen worship, a General S- who has for some years adopted the habits and religion, if religion it be named, of these people; and he is generally believed to be in a sane mind."

Despite the occasional errors and inaccuracies, especially in the Indian section (there was, for example, no such person as the Begum Sumru Sardhana - Sardhana was the begum's capital, not her name), Captives is a major work: a complete reappraisal of a period, strikingly original in both theme and form, mixing narrative and fine descriptive prose with analysis in an entirely fresh and gripping way. It is at once clever and perceptive, making you look afresh at themes and subjects you took completely for granted. It will undoubtedly confirm Colley's reputation not only as one of the most exciting and original historians of her generation, but also one of the most interesting writers of non-fiction around.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Christian Presentation Sisters gathering in India

18 Presentation Sisters from around Australia are en-route to India for an International Presentation Association (IPA) meeting with the theme Cry of the Earth, the Cry of the Poor.

The Australian Sisters will present reflections and questions on their actions for justice and lead the group in prayer using Australian themes, songs and prayers.

Two Australians feature in the IPA leadership group - Sr Bernadette Keating PBVM as President of the Australian Society and Sr Marlette Black PBVM (pictured), as the IPA Networker.

Guest speakers will include Medha Patker, an activist for the poorest of the poor{LMAO, we have resurrection here of Witch Teresa} and Devinder Sharma, an award-winning journalist, writer and thinker whose books and articles offer a uniquely Indian perspective on global trade issues.

A group of disabled children will be guests at the meeting and will share their music and dance along with the celebration of Eucharist according to the Indian Rite.

The Association meets every four years and networks the various congregations of Presentation women around the world to foster unity and to enable collaboration for the sake of mission

The meeting will be held in Bangalore, India, from November 14-21, culminating on the feast of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple.

Indian bishop calls anti-Christian extremists 'fascists'

An outraged Indian Bishop has spoken out against fanatics who attack Christians comparing them to fascists.

Bishop Lawrence Mukkuzhy of the Belthangady diocese in west India spoke out incensed with the recent violence and intimidation at the hands of extremists.

In an interview with the charity Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Mukkuzhy said one party in particular, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is supported by Hindu fanatics and are “very radical.”

“They think that we Christians are a threat to them, they think we are committed to conversion, they see India as a Hindu country and believe we will destroy the traditions of India,” Bishop Mukkuzhy said. {Haven't xtianism already done that to South America, Africa, Australia?}

The Bishop referred to a recent attack which saw 57 villages ransacked and attacked by Hindu fanatics. In the attack, 500 houses were demolished, several churches and schools were set on fire.

Spanish cardinal's niece in nude hypocrisy protest

MADRID (AFP) - The niece of the conservative head of Spain's Catholic Church has bared her breasts in a bestselling Spanish soft porn magazine in protest at the "hypocrisy" of her uncle.

Magdalena Rouco Hernandez appears topless on the cover of Interviu as well as in eight full-sized photos inside, including one were she is wearing nothing but a necklace of green beads and a red flower.

"I wanted to lay bare the hypocrisy of my uncle," the 27-year-old mother of two told the magazine. "Through my uncle I discovered the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church which preaches one thing and does the opposite."{hallelujah}

Hernandez added:"My uncle does not stop repeating that the family is sacred, that you must respect it and fight for it, but then he scorns and abandons his own."

By way of example, she said her uncle, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, 71, turned down her request for financial help when her husband lost his job and did not call her family in the wake of her mother's death.

She also accused the cardinal of lying about having a meeting with the late Pope John Paul II to justify not attending her father's funeral seven years ago.

Rouco Varela, who is close to Pope Benedict XVI, has been an outspoken critic of the progressive social reforms introduced by Spain's socialist government such as the legalization of gay marriage and the relaxation of divorce laws.

He was re-elected head of the Spanish Episcopal Conference in March.