Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The language quandary

Do you know what is the national language of our Country?

a) Hindi
b) English
c) the 22 languages included in the Constitution

When this question was posed in class by Manojna the obvious choice of the majority was hindi. Little did they realise that they were wrong. This is because there is no single national language in our Country, all the 22 languages are national languages. English, is the official language and is used in the courts and Government functioning.
During the later half of the presentation a debate had started as to the usage of English as a link language. The voices were equivocal. There was a whole section belonging to hindi speaking states going against English and another section from South India and the North East for English.
Most of what is written above is merely class gossip. But the question asked by Manojna above lead me to reading Balraj Sahni's Convocation address in JNU in 1972 about the usage of English Language. In a short critique I'd say that I haven't got to read a better piece on the subject in ages.
He writes,
I was going by bus from Rawalpindi to Kashmir with my family to enjoy the summer vacation. Half-way through we were halted because a big chunk of the road had been swept away by a landslide caused by rain the previous night. We joined the long queues of buses and cars on either side of the landside. Impatiently we waited for the road to clear. It was a difficulty job for the P.W.D. and it took some days before they could cut a passage through. During all this time the passengers and the drivers of vehicles made a difficult situation even more difficult by their impatience and constant demonstration. Even the villagers nearby got fed up with the high-handed behaviour of the city-walas.

One morning the overseer declared the road open. The green- flag was waved to the drivers. But we saw a strange sight. No driver was willing to be the first to cross. They just. stood and stared at each other from either side. No doubt the road was a make-shift one and even dangerous. A mountain on one side, and a deep gorge and the river below. Both were forbidding. The overseer had made a careful inspection and had opened the road with a full sense of responsibility. But nobody was prepared to trust his judgment, although these very people had, till yesterday, I accused him and his department of laziness and incompetence. Half an hour passed by in dumb silence. Nobody moved.

Suddenly we saw a small green sports car approaching. An Englishman was driving it; sitting all by himself. He was a bit surprised to see so many parked vehicles and the crowd there. I was rather conspicuous, wearing my smart jacket and trousers. "What's happened?" he asked me.

I told him the whole story. He laughed loudly, blew the horn and went straight ahead, crossing the dangerous portion without the least hesitation.

And now the pendulum swung the other way. Every body was so eager to cross that they got into each other's way and created a new-confusion for some time. The noise of hundreds of engines and hundreds of horns was unbearable.

That day I saw with my own eyes the difference in attitudes between a man brought up in a free country and a man brought up in an enslaved one. A free man has the power to think, decide, and act for himself. But the slave loses that power. He always borrows his thinking from others, wavers in his decisions, and more often than not only takes the trodden path.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru has admitted in his autobiography that our freedom movement, led by the Indian National Congress, was always dominated by the propertied classes-the capitalists and landlords. It was logical, therefore, that these very classes should hold the reigns of power even after independence. Today it is obvious to everyone that in the last twenty-five years the rich have been growing 'richer' and the poor have been growing poorer. Pandit Nehru wanted to change this state of affairs, but he couldn't. I don't blame him, because he had to face very heavy odds all along. Today our Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, pledges herself to take the country towards the goal of socialism. How far she will be successful, I can't say. Politics is not my line. For our present purposes it is enough if you agree with me that in today's India the propertied classes dominate the government as well as society.

Now, which language in your opinion would their successors, the present rulers of India, choose to strengthen their own domination? Rashtrabhasha Hindi? By heavens, no. My hunch is that their interests too are served by English and English alone. But since they have to keep up a show of patriotism they make a lot of noise about Rashtrabhasha Hindi so that the mind of the public remains diverted.

Men of property may believe in a thousand different gods, but they worship only one-the God of profit. From the point of view of profit the advantages of retaining English to the capitalist class in this period of rapid industrialization and technological revolution are obvious. But the social advantages are even greater. From that point of view English is a God sent gift to our ruling classes.

Why? For the simple reason that the English language is beyond the reach of the toiling millions of our country. In olden times Sanskrit and Persian were beyond the reach of the toiling masses. That is why the rulers of those times had given them the status of state language. Through Sanskrit and Persian the masses were made to feel ignorant, inferior, uncivilized, and unfit to rule themselves. Sanskrit and Persian helped to enslave their minds, and when the mind is enslaved bondage is eternal.

It suits our present ruling classes to preserve and maintain the social order that they have inherited from the British. They have a privileged position; but they cannot admit it openly. That is why a lot of hoo-haw is made about Hindi as the Rashtrabhasha. They know very well that this Sanskrit-laden, artificial language, deprived of all modern scientific and technical terms, is too weak and insipid to challenge the supremacy of English. It will always remain a show piece, and what is more, a convenient tool to keep the masses fighting among themselves. We film people get a regular flow of fan mail from young people studying in schools and colleges. I get my share of it and these letters reveal quite clearly what a storehouse of torture the English language is to the vast majority of Indian students. How abysmally low the levels of teaching and learning have reached! That is why, I am told preferential treatment is being given to boys and girls who come from public schools i.e. schools to which only the children of privileged classes can go.

The complete speech may be read at Siddharth Varadarajan's Blog.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Darfur - Need Some Info

I am pretty keen on going and spending some time in Darfur. I dont think its proper to hear about Genocide in the paper and show that you care. I would like to see Genocide.

Could anyone help me with it?


Friday, April 20, 2007

Hitler's Birthday

Hitler's Birthday today.

While some people may find it ironical that this picture is appearing on this blog (for human rights). I must clarify that I do not support Hitler, I just admire him as a leader. I admire him for having the courage to lead a nation. But not because of all the atrocities that he has committed.

Before my emancipation, I had written something about Hitler that I stumbled upon the other day. The post may be viewed here.


The holocaust archives are to be opened this year. Most likely the true picture of the holocaust would be made public to the world.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

On reservations Again

Readers must see Law and Other Things to know about the recent debate about reservations in the Country. I can’t help but say that it is very comprehensive and the authors make it a point to inform their readers in great detail.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

How the Other India Lives

To be indifferent, is a sin.

Outlook India has published a Special Issue titled "How the Other India Lives". It is a series of articles that epitomise the State of the Indian nation. The quote above was said by Elie Wiesel in the context of HR vioaltions in the world (particularly the holocaust), but nevertheless holds true here. The Issue is worked up so beautifully that if after reading this we Indians behave indifferent, it is a sin in itself.

Ashok Lahiri in "Deliverance from Deprivation" writes,
It is wrong to say there has been growth without jobs; it's been without enough jobs, which is different from jobless growth. I have not seen any numbers that show jobs haven't grown. But the labour force, particularly with increasing participation, has grown even faster. So, the unemployment rate has increased. Secondly, the NREGs (National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) is like life insurance. Life insurance benefits a family only if the insured dies. But that may not be the outcome that the family wants. So in the ultimate analysis, we should not derive satisfaction when more people take up jobs under the NREGs. It is an interim solution until more productive and gainful employment is generated in the economy. It's very important that NREGs is mixed with creation of durable assets.

Kaushik Basu in "Let the Cream Percolate" writes,
It has to be pointed out that the connection between growth and poverty is an intricate and widely misunderstood one. Growth is essential to eradicate poverty. But growth is not sufficient. We need deliberate, complementary policies to distribute the spoils of growth wider.

Ashutosh Varshney in "A pair of Bi- focals" writes,
Markets must flourish. But the masses cannot be left behind.

A booming middle class and corporate affluence alone cannot possibly run a democratic polity, when the countryside, home to over two-thirds of the country, is lagging far behind the dazzling growth of urban incomes, when the rising income disparities are obvious to the l
ow-income households because of television. More...
Lola Nayar in "The Three Curses" (One of the best articles in the Issue) writes,

Education, Healthcare, Infrastructure.. barring stray NGO efforts, the poor in India seem condemned to Human existence.

When it comes to the public health sector, the picture is as dismal as in education. Despite increasing budgetary allocations to health, states are unable to utilise funds. In 2005-06, 18 states were able to use just 50 per cent of the funds meant for improving healthcare delivery systems.
Government studies themselves point out that the bulk of the money used is spent on infrastructure development, not on improving services. This perhaps accounts for the poor outcome of the countrywide immunisation programme.

Across the country, individuals have found voices, and are using the right to information to seek efficient delivery of basic amenities and services. more...

The above are extracts from the articles in the Issue. Readers may read the issue or go through the links to know more.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Vikalp Screenings : 'My Country My Country'

Dear All,

Greetings from Vikalp@Prithvi !

Vikalp@Prithvi is a monthly series of documentaries and shorts brought to you by Vikalp:Films For Freedom in Collaboration with Prithvi Theatre.

On Monday 28th May, 2007 at 7 p.m., we show Oscar Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature 'My Country My Country' filmed by Laura Poitras.

All are invited! Please post widely and forward to friends and colleagues!



For Screening Information Contact:

Anand Patwardhan 9819882244 Lynne Henry 9820896425


VIKALP: Films for Freedom

In collaboration with Prithvi Theatre



A Film by Laura Poitras

(Nominee, Oscar Awards)

(Nominee, Independent Spirit Award)


Monday, 28 th May, 7 pm

At Prithvi House,

Opp Prithvi Theatre, Janki Kutir, Juhu Church Road, Mumbai 400049.

More information is available through /





Laura Poitras/USA/2006/90 mins

In Arabic, English, and Kurdish with English subtitles

Working alone in Iraq over eight months, director/cinematographer Laura Poitras creates an extraordinarily intimate portrait of Iraqis living under U.S. occupation. Her principal focus is Dr. Riyadh, an Iraqi medical doctor, father of six and Sunni political candidate. An outspoken critic of the occupation, he is equally passionate about the need to establish

democracy in Iraq, arguing that Sunni participation in the January 2005 elections is essential. Yet all around him, Dr. Riyadh sees only chaos, as his waiting room fills each day with patients suffering the physical and mental effects of ever-increasing violence. Dramatically interwoven into the personal journey of Dr. Riyadh is the landscape of the US military occupation, with Australian private security contractors, American journalists and the UN officials who orchestrate the elections. Unfolding like a narrative drama, MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY follows the agonizing predicament and gradual descent of one man caught in the tragic contradictions of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and its project to spread democracy in the Middle East.

Dr.Riyadh at the Abu Ghraib Prison

"Oh My Country"

Original Music Score by Kadhum Al Sahir

"Oh my country, may you have a happy morning.

Reunite everyone; heal your wounds.

I yearn to see you smile some day,

When will sadness set you free?..."

About the Filmmaker

LAURA POITRAS (Director / Producer / Camera / Editor) received a Peabody Award for her last documentary, FLAG WARS (2003). FLAG WARS received numerous other awards, including Best Documentary at the 2003 SXSW Film Festival, Best Documentary, Seattle Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, and the Filmmaker Award at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. FLAG WARS had its U.S. television premiere on PBS's P.O.V. documentary series and was nominated for both a 2004 Independent Spirit Award and a 2004 Emmy Award. Laura's past work include OH SAY CAN YOU SEE...? (2003), and EXACT FANTASY (1995). She studied filmmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute and the New School. Before making films, she worked as a chef. She currently resides in New York City


Inspiration Award, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

Best Long Documentary, Flahertiana Film Festival, Russia

Human Rights Award, Durban International Film Festival

Henry Hampton Award, Council on Foundations Film & Video Festival

More information on the film available on /


About Vikalp:Films For Freedom

The History: In recent years we have seen riotous mobs burn books, destroy paintings, attack artists, tear down cinemas, rip apart ancient manuscripts and make a mockery of all our constitutional safeguards. The state itself has institutionalized censorship through its Central Board of Film Certification and its counterpart in the world of theatre. Documentary filmmakers have specially borne the brunt of censorship. As the Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) 2004 approached, the then government knew that many films on the Gujarat carnage exposing the ruling party's complicity could embarrass it on an international stage. Overnight a new clause was introduced stating that while foreign films remained exempt, all Indian films would require a censor certificate. Even as over 275 filmmakers united and threatened to boycott MIFF, official censorship was withdrawn, but a dubious backdoor selection procedure excluded some of the best new Indian films dealing with subjects like communalism, caste, gender, sexuality and the environment.

The best way to fight back was to screen the 'rejected' films. So VIKALP: Films for Freedom was born. Many filmmakers whose films were selected for MIFF withdrew their work to screen them at VIKALP. Girish Karnad stepped down from the MIFF jury. Filmmakers pooled in their resources and found a perfect venue right across from MIFF at Bhupesh Gupta Bhawan, whose solidarity was unconditional and whose hall came free. Acoustic problems were overcome by curtains and mattresses. Volunteers poured in and the buzz was electric. Despite word of mouth publicity we had packed houses every day. VIKALP opened with an excerpt from Sadaat Hasan Manto's ' Safed Jhoot', an indictment of censorship and hypocrisy, performed by Jamil Khan, directed by Naseeruddin Shah. From this high, we never came down. For 6 days rapt audiences saw and debated over 50 films and participated in panel discussions on censorship. Across the street every official MIFF bulletin and meeting denounced VIKALP and swore innocence to the charge of censorship. But we were getting across. From juries to filmmakers and audience members, the ranks of the disbelievers kept growing - as they must. For an assault on freedom of expression does not affect filmmakers alone. It is an assault on democracy itself.

The Present: Following this breakthrough we continue to do monthly screenings at Bhupesh Gupta Bhawan. This success has led to collaborations with other venues like Aavishkar in Mahim and Readers Shop in Santa Cruz for monthly screenings. Film-makers in Delhi and Bangalore organize regular screenings in their respective cities. Selections of 'Vikalp' films have traveled to other parts of the country and occasionally to other parts of the world. Now we begin a new collaboration from March 2007 to do screenings at Prithvi, Juhu, on the last Monday of each month at 7 PM.

Bhupesh Gupta Bhavan, Diagonally Opp Ravindra Natya Mandir, 85 Sayani Road, Prabhadevi. Mumbai 400025.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

On Reservations

People do not celebrate or enjoy backwardness. They suffer it and face discrimination, insult and humiliation because of it. Mocking at their aspirations to overcome backwardness betrays casteist prejudice.

The above are the ending lines of Praful Bidwai's article in the Frontline titled "tilting the balance". In the article he makes a remark to the extent that the Supreme Court's decision in Ashok Kumar Thakur is another of those instances where the judiciary seeks to undo the measures for equality proposed by the Government. Considering the amount of heat that the issue of reservations has created, it was expected for the Court to take a stand on this issue.In Ashok Kumar Thakur, the Supreme Court stayed the government order calling for an increase in the quotas for Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in educational institutions. The Courts decision is based upon Indian precedents like Vasanth Kumar v. State of Karnataka, Indira Sawhney and the US decisions of Grutter v. Bollinger and California v. Allan Bakke. In both these US decisions the Court said that that affirmative action, in particular in the admission process in universities, must be "narrowly tailored" to promote diversity, but not in such ways as would discriminate against those excluded from affirmative action because they do not belong to ethnic or racial minorities.
The attitude of the Court in the decision is something to ponder about. I am remimded of Clarence Darrow saying in henry Sweet, that the law makes everyone an equal, but the society does otherwise. Inarguably, in Ashok Thakur, the Court has done otherwise. The fact that even after 60 years of independence we have not been able to achieve our goal of a classless society shows how mindless we Indians have been. When referring to the Mandal Commission in this case, the Court refuse to recognise the findings of the Commission statting that it was based on the 1931 census which is too old to consider. The formulation of an objective criteriion for determing caste backwardness and an OBC was stressed upon.
Other than concurring with Indira Sawhney, the Court has stressed upon Vasanth Kumar, where there was a clash in the status of lingayats and vookaligas. OP Chinappa Reddy in the judgment stated that the issue was nothing but a quarrel between the castes to get the benefit of reservation. He also stated that nowhere else in the world is there competition to assert backwardness and to claim 'we are more backward than you'. Reservation then according to the Court in the case, had become a war among different backward classes.
There then also is an issue of separation of powers. The Government order no doubt is a part of the directive principles of a social order under Article 39 and the goal of a casteless society. Can then such order be challenged on the mere denial of a possiblity of opportunity in an educational instutution? In fact, the truth is, the Supreme Court in our Country has off late tried to involve itself in many executive decisions. Be it the delhi ceiling case or on reservations. A problem occurs when it tries to solve a socio-political debate in a legal manner. Annoucing a stay on the order has now resulted in many institutions with holding their seats till the decision is final. The IIM's are growing impatient. Arjun Singh is in the crow's nest and the Congress has no clue of what to do. A court's decision is suppose to solve an issue, not create so many complications.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Communal CD

The Bhartiya Janata Party released Bharat ki pukar, "call of India" as a part of its election campaign in the State of Uttar Pradesh in India. The biggest opposition party in the country came up with a CD that talks about Hindu religion in the country and how its sanctity is being destroyed by the Congress. This is happening in a state which has a history of communal violence and a population of 80 million Hindus.
Action is being taken by the Election Commission and the police. FIRs have been lodged against Rajnath Singh and Lalji Tandon. Arun Jaitley on the other hand, has launched a vehement attack as to how the congress is playing a dirty hand in this issue. All things said and done, in a country with 800 million hindus, 65% of whom are illiterate, this is nothing new from a party that has its foundation in hindu religion.
For those who thought that Final Solution was ridiculous, this could get worse.

Voiceover: Today Mother India is screaming aloud, "Oh my sons, save me from being broken into pieces again. I no longer have the strength to be enslaved another time. By using terrorists, spreading fear and dividing us, Pakistan wants to break India into pieces. Hyenas hungry for political power are egging them on. They have forgotten what the consequences of this will be. Now, ordinary people of India have to think, do they want slavery again or Ram Rajya in their independent India."

(Cut to image of Ram)

[Song — Ai Bharat ma tere charano mein... ]


Scene 2: `Duty of Muslim women to increase population'

Masterji stops a woman on the road.

Masterji: My child.

Woman: Yes.

Masterji: Elections are coming. Think carefully before you vote. And put your stamp only on the lotus symbol. Because if peace can come to this country, then it can come only under the BJP's rule. Congress and Samajwadi are the government of mullahs and maulvis.

Woman: Forgive me for saying so, but I am also a Muslim and Mullahs and Maulvis consider women their personal property.

[Cut to group women in black chador]

Woman 1: The duty of a woman is to produce children and increase the population.

Woman 2: What this sister says is right. Our leaders have issued an order. That those who produce more than 10 children will get economic assistance.

[Cut back to woman and Masterji]

Woman: This religion considers us as objects to be used.

Masterji: Well said, my child. If all the women become educated and wise like you, then this country's fate will improve.

[Cut to real news clip of speech by saffron-clad woman. "Hindus will produce two children and Muslims will marry five times and produce 35 pups and make this country into an Islamic state."]


Scene 3: "You will all have to grow beards"

Masterji [to group of shopkeepers]: Don't let this opportunity pass by. This time if you don't vote for the BJP, disaster will strike this country. The country will be destroyed. The BJP is a party that thinks about the country. It thinks about the Hindu religion. There is no other party like it. The other parties, they are all agents of the Muslims. What else have they done other than this? Prices have gone up. I tell you, we must vote only for the BJP.

Shopkeeper: Masterji, it's time for me to run my shop. Here Hindus and Muslims both come. What is it to me whose government is formed? You have unfurled the BJP's flag first thing in the morning. If you'd like a cup of tea, you are welcome. Otherwise, please excuse me.

Masterji: Tea? You think I am desperate for your tea? It's because I'm concerned about this country and our religion that I'm asking you to vote for the BJP. If you don't vote BJP, you will regret it. This country will be enslaved. First it was enslaved by the British, now it will be enslaved by the Muslims. Even earlier it was enslaved by the Muslims. That Aurangzeb earlier cut your choti [tuft of hair] and took off your sacred thread. And now these tikas on your forehead will have to go and in their place you will have to grow beards. That day you will repent, Panditji. And you will be destroyed and so will this country.

Shopkeeper: He is really irritating!

Friend: Panditji, you are calling the Masterji mad but everything he said is right. If today we don't take care, these tilaks will go and we will all be sporting beards and caps.

Scene 4: `You will end up in burqas'

Masterji [to group of women complaining about the price rise]: Listen, elections are coming and only by your votes can this country and the Hindu religion be saved. Otherwise we are standing in the jaws of slavery again. This time we have to make the BJP victorious and vote on the Lotus symbol.

Woman 1: Well you men know best, we will vote where you say.

Woman 2: People keep coming to ask for our votes.

Woman 3: No one is bothered about prices.

Masterji: That is why I am saying: if the BJP is in power, everything will be all right.

Woman 1: Masterji, why are you chewing your brains? People will vote for whoever they want.

Masterji: It is your brain that has been ruined! You will end up covered in burqas and eating paan!

Scene 5: Muslims abduct Hindu girl

[A social worker comes to a village looking for Chameli chachi. Chachi is lying huddled in bed.]

Social worker: Chachi, what happened?...

Chameli: A Muslim boy pretended to be a Hindu and lured my young daughter away. Fearing badnami, my husband committed suicide. If I say I am going to the police, then those people threaten me [cut to visual of a Muslim man wearing a turban and looking threateningly] that if you report us, we will kill your child. Now you tell me what should I do?

Social Worker: Don't worry, now that I am here, we will take care of you, we will solve everything.

Chameli: Please bring my daughter back. Who knows what kinds of terrible things are happening to her.

[Cut to scene of Chameli's daughter praying in front of a portrait of Krishna.]

Daughter: Om Jai Jagadish Hare!...

[A man walks up and throws the Krishna portrait on the floor.]

Man: If you perform puja in this house again, I will really fix you. Remember that.

Girl: What is this you have done, Ram? You have thrown Bhagwanji's picture! What is this you have done, Ram?

Man: Ram? Ha ha ha! My name is not Ram, it is Shehzad Ali. And I am not a Hindu but a true Muslim! Ha Ha ha ha!

Girl: What is this you are saying? You are lying.

Man: Listen carefully to what I say because from today, I am no longer Ram and you are no longer Geeta. From today your name is Fatima Begum. And tomorrow, you will be married to this boy, Yaamin, according to our rituals. [Cut to picture of an older man laughing in an evil manner.] And then you will have to live with him.

Girl: [Crying] You are lying. This can't be.

Man [slaps girl]: And don't ever utter a name that is against our Islam. What is there in these pictures? [Camera pans to portrait of Krishna on floor.]

Where is God? This is all lies. If you want to pray, pray to that Khuda who has made the whole universe.

Girl: [Breaks down, falls at his feet, and says with folded hands] Let me go back to my home.

Man: Home? Ha ha ha! Which home? This is your home and you will have to live here. And stop this puja-wuja and start namaz. Because by tomorrow, you will have become a true Muslim. Yaamin! Come here. Take this girl away. Tomorrow you will be married to her.

Yaamin: [Grabs girl's hand] Come on, begum. I will make you happy.

[Yaamin drags girl away, minus her dupatta.]

Man: Ha ha ha! When Hindu girls get ensnared by us, they scream and shout but sadly there is no one to listen to them and we have great fun. Ha ha ha ha ha!

Written text on screen: Love in Jihad, injury to Hindu religion, and forced conversion. This is the protection provided by the SP government.

[Social worker goes on a political mission, meets Samajwadi and Congress leaders, and finally decides that the BJP is the party to support.]


Wonder what the Sangh Parivar has to say about this.

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Monday, April 9, 2007


I was on a trip to Mysore for the past four days. While I was in the Bus stand, an interesting incident happened that kept me pondering. It is in the context of a person's right to know and not be cheated.

I enter a cold drink shop and ask for a 'minute maid' orange juice.

Shopkeeper - Here it is. That'll be 29 rupees.

Self - But it says 25 rupees on the cover. Why should I pay more?

Shopkeeper - the extra 4 rupees is a cooling/ chilling charge.

Self - But it says 25 is the MRP on the bottle and you cannot charge more that that.

Shopkeeper - Take it or leave.

Self - In fact, don't you worry, i'll do both.

I then go to the Station master and complain. He goes to them and threatens to withdraw their license. The same shop keeper later gives me my drink for 25 rupees.
I wonder how many other people would have had to pay extra for such injustice. Could they be gullible enough to fall for such acts and tolerate such nonsense? In fact, I noticed that most of them dont have the urge to stand up for their rights and beliefs. For them 4 rupees means nothing. In a concluding observation, it is difficult to stand up for rights in this country when a majority does not want to stand for their protection.



"The beauty of this country is that the system is against the poor".

-Abhir Dutt

It was really amusing to hear this from a classmate of mine during a presentation.


Tuesday, April 3, 2007

SC on reservations

The Supreme Court recently stayed the Government law on reservations for OBC's in India.

The case judgment is available here.

Here's what people are saying about it;

Bong Buzz writes ; The Supreme Court has temporarily stayed the government order of reserving seats for OBCs in higher education. However, there is nothing much to rejoice. For this is only an interim order. The court stayed the order only on the ground that there is not enough data on OBC demographics, that no data on this has been collected in the last 76 years. Now if the govt. readies a hurried report on OBCs the court will no more be able to say government has no data. Moreover the court has clarified that the benefits enjoyed by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes can’t be withheld. So much for the Supreme Court! So much for India! Living in India, how can we expect justice? This is the land where caste-based reservation will continue and Lalu Prasads and all will continue to rip political benefits out of that. There is only one way out - leave the country!


2paisaworth writes; If the SC's objection is that the census data on which the percentage of OBCs in the population is based on is outdated, then the OBC quota in Government jobs in the 1990s in the wake of the Mandal report also ought to have been quashed with the same argument. Karat is right because the SC's stay is over an non-issue. By questioning merely the veracity of the data, rather than the basis for reservation itself, the SC has implicitly acquiesced to the Centre's twisted logic for the implementation of quotas.

There's a strange incongruity in the rationale for celebrations in the anti-quota camp today and the SC judgment. Somehow people don't seem to get it. I've heard "anti-quota spokesmen" (where did that epithet come from?) from across the social spectrum laud the SC for recognizing that "caste-based reservations only serve to divide the country". The SC has done nothing of the sort. How long will it take for a Government hell-bent on the idea of Quota to come up with more accurate figures?

The debate ought to be on the very raison d'être of reservations, not mere technicalities like this one.


2kbloggers also has an interesting post on it.

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HRW Letter to SAARC Leaders In Anticipation of Summit In New Delhi

March 29, 2007

Dear SAARC Government Leaders:

As the leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) meet in New Delhi on April 3 and 4, 2007, the discussions will inevitably focus upon economics and regional security. At SAARC meetings, human rights problems in each member country have usually been treated as an internal matter. However, it takes only a quick survey of the region to see that there are many human rights issues that would benefit from mutual engagement and agreement.

Apart from other serious human rights problems, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka are also dealing with situations related to armed conflicts and insurgencies. Nepal, with its numerous human rights problems, has only just emerged from a violent conflict that claimed over 13,000 lives, and violence continues in the south. Bangladesh has witnessed increased militancy and the caretaker government has detained tens of thousands, often ignoring basic due process, in its efforts to combat corruption and crime. Bhutan continues to discriminate against citizens of Nepali origin. In the Maldives, there are serious curbs on political freedom.

(the weilikanda massacre in srilanka)
In Sri Lanka, the human rights situation has deteriorated drastically since major hostilities between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) resumed in early 2006. The LTTE has been responsible for numerous political killings and indiscriminate bomb attacks, and continues to use child soldiers and forcibly recruit adults for its forces. It has prevented civilians from fleeing areas of combat in the north and east. Government security forces have increasingly violated the laws of war by engaging in indiscriminate attacks in which civilians were killed and have also been implicated in extrajudicial executions. “Disappearances” attributable to state security forces or allied armed groups have risen sharply; hundreds of alleged “disappearances” have been reported on the Jaffna peninsula over the past 15 months. More than 15,000 refugees have fled to neighboring India and over 200,000 were internally displaced by the fighting in the north and east. The government has forced displaced civilians to return to their homes in the east despite their concerns about security and access to humanitarian aid. The Karuna group, with the open support of state forces, continues to abduct and forcibly recruit boys and young men for its forces and political work. Civil society has increasingly come under attack and national institutions involved in human rights protections have been undermined.

the situation at nandigram (Nandigram)

In India, impunity laws that protect members of the security forces from prosecution continue to fuel human rights abuses in the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir and in the northeast. Security forces have been responsible for widespread abuses including torture and arbitrary detentions. Recently, in Jammu and Kashmir, police investigations revealed that some policemen, usually in joint operations with the army, were killing civilians in faked encounters, and then claiming that they were Pakistani militants. New Delhi has failed to act on the recommendations of a government-appointed committee that said the Armed Forces Special Powers Act should be repealed. Despite encouraging disaffected groups to choose dialogue and peaceful protest in the northeast or in areas where Maoist groups have begun an armed campaign, the Indian government has failed to acknowledge or address such methods; for instance, it has failed to investigate the reasonable demands of Irom Sharmila, who has been on a seven-year hunger strike to demand an end to human rights abuses by troops in Manipur. The government’s failure to implement its laws that protect vulnerable communities received international attention in Maharashtra state recently, where four members of a Dalit family were brutally murdered, but no arrests were made until there were violent protests. Hindu extremist groups continue to threaten religious minorities, tribal groups and Dalits. Indian police have used excessive force against villagers and farmers opposing development projects. Laws to protect women and children have not been effectively implemented. India has failed to adequately acknowledge and protect refugees from Burma and Bhutan, and has provided military assistance to the Burmese army, which has frequently attacked civilians and committed other atrocities in its war against ethnic insurgents.

In Pakistan there have widespread reports of arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances. Alleged terrorism suspects are often detained without charge or tried without proper judicial process. Human Rights Watch has documented scores of arbitrary detentions, instances of torture, and “disappearances” by the security forces in Pakistan’s major cities. The government has failed to provide the civilian population in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas adequate protection from Taliban attacks after agreements ending military operations there effectively ceded power to local tribal leaders closely allied with the Taliban. Civilians have also died in counter-terrorism operations due to the security forces’ use of excessive force. While the authorities routinely misuse counter-terrorism laws to perpetuate vendettas and as an instrument of political coercion, sectarian militants continue to target the Shia Muslim minority in Pakistan and are responsible for attacks upon civilians in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. Women and girls in Pakistan confront astounding levels of violence, with hundreds of women and girls murdered each year in the name of family “honor.” Journalists and human rights defenders face frequent threats and attacks from state agents and extremists. Pakistan’s judiciary remains subservient to the military. When it does attempt to act independently, the government has intervened, as it has done recently with the arbitrary removal of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

In Afghanistan, more than 1,000 civilians were killed as a result of violence related to the insurgency in 2006; 15,000 families were displaced and over 200,000 children were unable to attend school. The violence prevented reconstruction and access to clean water, education, and health care. The Taliban and other anti-government forces continue to attack aid workers, government officials, teachers, students, and schools. Regional warlords implicated in war crimes, some allied with the government, continue to perpetrate serious human rights abuses throughout Afghanistan. Afghan women and girls continue to suffer from entrenched discrimination throughout the country. They have among the highest rates of illiteracy, maternal mortality, and forced marriage in the world. There are few remedies available for gender-based violence and many women and girls confront severe restrictions on their freedom of movement. Afghanistan is again on the precipice of becoming a haven for human rights abusers, criminals, and militant extremists, many of whom in the past have severely abused Afghans, particularly women and girls.

In Bangladesh security forces have long been implicated in torture and extrajudicial killings. These have continued since a state of emergency was declared on January 11, 2007. The killings have been attributed to members of the army, the police, and the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), an elite anti-crime and anti-terrorism force. Killings in custody have been a persistent problem in Bangladesh. To date, no military personnel are known to have been held criminally responsible for any of the deaths. There have been widespread abuses reported against Hindus and Ahmadiyya Muslims. Women continue to suffer domestic violence including acid attacks, largely with no response from the state. Most recently, under the state of emergency, the military has arrested thousands of people on allegations of corruption and other crimes, but many have been denied their due process rights. Some have been tortured. There have also been attempts by the authorities to control the media, with editors being privately summoned to impose self censorship.

Bhutan has continued its discriminatory practices to enforce a distinct national identity, in line with Bhutan’s “one nation, one people” policy. These policies are perceived as a direct attack on the cultural identity of the ethnic Nepalese living in southern Bhutan. The government forcibly evicted tens of thousands of ethnic Nepalese in 1990 and 105,000 still remain in seven refugee camps in Nepal. Nearly 50,000 Bhutanese refugees live outside the camps in India and Nepal. Bhutanese Nepali speakers who managed to avoid expulsion and still live in Bhutan remain very insecure. Some have been denied citizenship cards following the latest census in 2005 and so they are now effectively stateless in their own country.

In the Maldives, citizens continue to face restrictions on political freedom. Security forces have been implicated in torture and arbitrary detention, among other abuses. There are severe limitations upon the rights to freedom of the press, assembly, association, and religion. Unequal treatment of women continues, as do restrictions on workers’ rights.

In Nepal, the November 21, 2006 agreement between Nepal’s coalition government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) ended ten years of fighting that killed an estimated 13,000 people. The deal included compliance with an armed management pact, under which each side would put away most of its weapons and restrict most troops to a few barracks, under the supervision of monitors from the United Nations. Both parties agreed to end all forms of feudalism and promote greater inclusion of marginalized groups. However, ethnic, linguistic and regional tensions continue, with increasing violence in the south where ethnic minorities are demanding equal representation in determining Nepal’s future. Women are yet to be an equal part of the peace process. Impunity remains a problem, with little urgency in investigating and prosecuting those responsible for atrocities during the conflict. The army was responsible for enforced disappearances, torture and mistreatment of detainees, while the Maoists recruited children into armed conflict and punished civilians that they deemed as insufficiently committed to their cause with executions, mock executions, cutting body parts, and severe beatings. Meanwhile, trafficking of Nepali women and children into India as domestic labor or sex workers continues, particularly because thousands remain internally displaced due to the conflict.

Human rights abuses such as those listed above are often the cause and fuel of conflict. A failure by the state to provide and protect economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights, including ensuring the rights of marginalized groups such as ethnic and religious minorities, can lead to discontent that eventually turns violent.

Militants and armed groups, such as Kashmiri, Maoist and northeastern militants in India, the LTTE in Sri Lanka, and Islamist groups in Pakistan and Bangladesh, often commit human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including indiscriminate bomb attacks, extortion, killings and abductions. Security forces deployed by the state for counter insurgency operations, unless properly checked, have in turn become responsible for abuses including torture, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances.

Regional security and economic progress cannot be achieved unless every citizen is provided with a secure environment to enjoy their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. This is especially true for groups historically discriminated against, like women and children. Half of the world’s poor live in this region. Policies and laws to help them will be useless unless effectively implemented.

SAARC represents a sixth of the world’s population and plays a significant role in global affairs. It is crucial that SAARC adopt measures that provide good governance standards for the region, including respect for fundamental human rights. If it does so, it could become a beacon for the rest of the world. Unfortunately, to date SAARC has not taken human rights seriously. Instead it has been largely a talk shop and a photo opportunity for its members’ leaders.

Human Rights Watch encourages SAARC members to:

  • Ensure the protection of vulnerable communities including religious and ethnic minorities, Dalits and tribal groups. Governments should repeal all laws that lead to discrimination against minorities such as citizens of Nepali origin in Bhutan, Tamils in Sri Lanka or the Ahmaddiyas and Hindus of Bangladesh. Instead, laws designed to protect these groups should be properly implemented, such as in the case of Muslims, Christians, tribal groups and Dalits in India.
  • End specific legal, cultural, or religious practices by which women are systematically discriminated against, excluded from political participation and public life, segregated in their daily lives, raped in armed conflict, beaten in their homes, denied equal divorce or inheritance rights, killed for having sex, forced to marry, assaulted for not conforming to gender norms, and sold into forced labor. Arguments that sustain and excuse these human rights abuses - those of cultural norms, “appropriate” rights for women, or western imperialism - barely disguise their true meaning: that women’s lives matter less than men’s.
  • Implement laws to end human rights abuses against children including the use of children as soldiers; the worst forms of child labor; torture of children by police; police violence against street children; conditions in correctional institutions and orphanages; corporal punishment in schools; mistreatment of refugee and migrant children; trafficking of children for labor and prostitution; discrimination in education because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or HIV/AIDS; and physical and sexual violence against girls and boys.
  • Build strong international human rights norms and institutions to create a successful, rights-respecting counter-terrorism policy. Protection of human rights should be treated as an essential tool in the fight against terrorism, not as an obstacle.
  • End state participation in enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, and extrajudicial executions, which are often masked as armed encounters.
  • Prosecute and punish those responsible for human rights abuses, including persons implicated as a matter of command responsibility when superiors knew or should have known of ongoing crimes but failed to take action. These include high-ranking and powerful individuals, including those holding government positions.
  • Stop supplying weapons to governments likely to use them to commit violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. India supplies weapons to Burma, and Pakistan has provided weapons to Sri Lanka. SAARC member states , have also provided weapons to abusive opposition groups.
  • Tie military aid to fellow SAARC members and other countries to strict human rights compliance.
  • Prohibit the use, production, and trade of antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.
  • Adopt multilateral labor agreements to protect workers from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and India who migrate to the Middle East and Asia. These workers, especially those in construction and domestic service, regularly suffer unpaid wages, confiscation of their passports, hazardous working conditions, and sometimes physical abuse. High recruitment fees and deception during recruitment have led many workers to be trapped in situations amounting to debt bondage and human trafficking. Labor-sending governments should regulate and monitor labor recruitment agencies by placing caps on recruitment fees, providing clear information in enforceable employment contracts, and strengthening support services in embassies abroad for abused workers.
  • Provide proper protection and access to humanitarian assistance for refugees and internally displaced persons. No one should be returned to a place where their life or freedom would be threatened. The groups at risk today in the SAARC region include Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Rohingyas in Bangladesh, Burmese and Sri Lankan refugees in India, and Tibetan and Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. The internally displaced include tens of thousands who fled from armed conflicts in Nepal, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan as well as those displaced due to natural disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Kashmir earthquake.

We look forward to discussing these issues with each of you in both a bilateral and multilateral context.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,

Brad Adams

Executive Director

Asia division

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Sunday, April 1, 2007


There are means that cannot be excused. And I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice. I don’t want just any greatness for it, particularly a greatness born of blood and falsehood. I want to keep it alive by keeping justice alive.
Albert Camu, from Resistance, Rebellion and Death on the French conduct in Algeria.