Sunday, 30 September, 2007

Myth, History And Politics

Ever since Ayodhya became a disputed territory, Rama has been at the centre stage of the political mobilisation by Hindu communal forces. The incidents associated with the Rama Katha were invoked one after the other to appeal to the religious sentiments of Hindus. It began with a claim to the birthplace of Rama at Ayodhya, around which Hindu religious sentiments were so aroused as to lead to the destruction of the Babri Masjid. In the movement culminating in this vandalism, several symbols linked with Rama such as Rama Jyoti, Rama Paduka and Rama Shila were floated.

Yet, over the years, the political appeal of Rama has waned despite his strong presence in the religious life of believers. The temple issue was indeed kept alive through occasional religious assemblies and demonstrations. Nevertheless, Rama ceased to be of much emotional value that would provide political advantage to Hindu communal forces. In the elections of 2004, the Ram temple did not figure as an issue at all. This can be taken as an indication that believers were inclined to abandon the Sangh Parivar’s aggressive Rama and return to worshipping his benign image, looking upon Rama Katha, as they had for centuries, as an “allegory of the life of the spirit as it journeyed through the world”.

Rama was almost lost to the political Hindu and was being resurrected to his rightful place in the religious life of believers. It is in this context that the Ram Sethu project has come in handy for the Sangh Parivar, to revive the appeal of Rama in order to breathe some life into its sagging fortunes. Once again the Parivar is bracing up to claim Rama for the communal cause. In the process it is attempting to turn myth into history, blurring the distinction between the two, in order to gain legitimacy for its political project.

The question of whether the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should have filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court denying the historical existence of Rama has led to differences of opinion. The government has hastened to disclaim the affidavit and withdraw it, obviously fearing a Hindu backlash. Unlike the Ayodhya issue, even the secular voice has been rather muted. However, implicit in the affidavit is an important question regarding our approach to the past: Is there a distinction between myth and history?

Mythic Character

The ASI, it appeared, was conscious of this distinction in projecting the mythological character of Rama. The distinction does not imply a counterposition of myth and history as false and true. Myth is a way in which the human mind comes to grips with reality, and therefore, it can be said that it refers to reality. Yet, myth in itself is not reality. What the ASI has tried to state is that Rama was not a historical figure but a mythic character.

Similarly, the Ramayana being a literary piece, which was not originally a religious text but only sacralised later, contains many events and incidents that are products of imagination. It would therefore be futile to try to correlate them with historical fact and establish their authenticity. Such a view is not in any way a denigration of Rama or a critical reflection on the Ramayana. The Ramayana’s literary quality, whether in the original Sanskrit or in regional languages, is well known. So are the ethical and moral values it foregrounds, which exercise considerable influence over the life of believers.

However, devotion to Rama and the influence of the epic have nothing to do with the historical veracity of Rama Katha. Devotees consider Rama an incarnation and do not test his deeds by the yardstick of historical truth. They are moved by their devotion and hardly approach the epic from a rational viewpoint or try to locate it historically. Whether the Ramayana is historically true or not is not a factor in their devotion. The Sangh Parivar has been trying for long to impute to incidents in the epic a historical quality to legitimise popular belief, under a false notion that belief would be reinforced by historical truth.

The panic reaction of the government in withdrawing the affidavit in effect endorses the Sangh Parivar’s attempt to equate myth with history. Like the Sangh Parivar, the government seems to subscribe to the view that ascribing mythic character to Rama and the Ramayana is to undermine their importance and to injure the sentiments of believers. It overlooks the fact that believers consider Rama an incarnation. Traditional religious sources represent him so. The Matsya Purana, for instance, gives the following account: “There is also the account of the pastimes of Lord Rama, spoken by Valmiki – an account originally related by Brahma in one billion verses. That Ramayana was later summarised by Narada and related by Valmiki, who then presented it to mankind.” What accounts for the devotion to Rama and the veneration of the Ramayana are not their historical veracity but their divinity.

Many Ramayanas

In an attempt to attribute historical authenticity to the epic and its protagonist, the Sangh Parivar has been striving to privilege one single version of the Ramayana. But the Ramayana has several versions. It is difficult to ascertain the exact number as all of them are not written but are orally transmitted, both in India as well as in other Asian countries. A.K. Ramanujan has argued that these different “tellings” – a term he prefers to versions or variants as these imply an invariant or original text – differ from one another. They are not mere divergences from Valmiki’s rendering but entirely different tellings.

Highlighting the multivocal existence of Rama Katha, Paula Richman has drawn attention to the many Ramayanas, of which Valmiki’s composition is one, Tulsi’s another, Kamban’s another, the Buddhist Jataka yet another and the Jaina tradition yet another. Along with them, there are also innumerable folk narratives, extant not only in India but also in almost all the countries of Asia. They were not Valmiki’s Ramayana adapted to local conditions but substantially different from one another, both in form and content. In the Buddhist version, Rama and Sita are originally brother and sister, a fact that once aroused the ire of the Sangh Parivar.

Women’s folksongs from Andhra Pradesh challenge the accepted values of a male-dominated society by questioning the integrity of Rama and foregrounding the theme of the suffering that husbandly neglect causes a wife. Thus, the Rama Katha prevalent in different communities is vastly different and defies any attempt to identify a universally applicable text. All of them draw upon locally specific cultural traits, which impart to them a distinct character. Recent studies on different Rama Katha traditions demonstrate the different tellings of Rama’s story that vary with regional literary tradition, social location, gender, religious affiliation, colonial context, intended audience, and so on.

K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar’s edited work highlights the Asian variations of the Ramayana, and the essays in the volume edited by Avadesh Kumar Singh focus on the way the epic has found expression in regional languages. The many Ramayanas connote that the events and incidents in the different versions of the epic are not historical facts but mythical representations or literary imaginations. The debate on whether the Ramayana is a true story or whether Rama is a historical figure is, therefore, off the mark.

The issue of Ram Sethu requires to be situated in the general context of the mythological character of the Ramayana. The Sethu Bandhan encapsulates within it several qualities of Rama and the character of the epic. Sethu Bandhan was a humanly impossible task that was made possible only by the divine powers of Rama. The description of Sethu Bandhan in one version of the Ramayana is as follows: “During the first day of construction, monkeys laid a hundred and twenty miles of rocks, which floated upon the ocean. They worked very swiftly, and were happy to see the bridge take shape. The second day, they set down a hundred and sixty miles of rocks; the third day, a hundred and sixty-eight miles; and the fourth day, their strength increasing, they completed a hundred and seventy-six miles. On the fifth and final day, the monkeys constructed a hundred and eighty-four miles of bridge, up to Mount Suvala on the northern shore of Lanka. Thus when the bridge was finished, it was eighty miles wide and eight hundred miles long.”

Obviously, a vanar sena would not have achieved this feat. The question, however, is not its possibility or impossibility but how it enriches the mythical and divine quality of Rama. Obviously Sethu Bandhan is a myth.

But then, when myths become part of the belief system, they can be put to use for different purposes. Nobody in India has understood this better than the Sangh Parivar as is evident from the manner in which they have manipulated the myth and history of Ayodhya. Ram Sethu is an opportunity they are unlikely to let go of easily.

The distinction between history and myth is well recognised. Myths are in a way the opposite of historical facts, in the sense that, unlike historical facts, what constitutes a myth is not verifiable. Despite this, myths and history cannot be counterpoised as true and false.

In fact, myths also represent reality but represent it symbolically and metaphorically. Yet, myth masks reality. Therefore, myths are illusory representations of man and his world. Given their illusory nature, myths may not help to unravel the historicity of an event. Most myths are in a way timeless. Nevertheless, myths being a reflection of reality constitute a source of historical reconstruction and a means to understanding reality. Given this overlap, myths are used for a variety of purposes. They often serve as an agency of legitimisation, as in the case of Parasurama reclaiming land from the sea. They may also be employed for explaining a natural phenomenon, as in the case of Helios’ chariot in Greek mythology.

The use of myths has been integral to the politics of the Sangh Parivar. Beginning with the movement for the construction of the temple at Ayodhya, the Sangh Parivar has been engaged in providing authenticity to various myths surrounding the life of Rama. The central issue of the Ayodhya movement was the identification of the exact birthplace of Rama, which was difficult to ascertain owing to the lack of evidence. Local tradition identifies Ayodhya through a popular myth, which runs as follows: “After Treta Yuga when Ram was supposed to have been born Ayodhya could not be located. While Vikramaditya was looking for Ayodhya, a saint told him to leave a calf loose and the place at which the calf secreted milk would be the place where Ayodhya was located. Vikramaditya did as he was told, and where the calf secreted milk he located Ayodhya.” This mythical story became the basis for the identification of Ayodhya as well as the birthplace of Rama.

In the accounts given by leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the place of birth becomes an indisputable fact of history. Following this identification, the VHP accorded historical status to a series of myths. These include the existence of the Ram temple at the site of the Babri Masjid and the attempts by Hindus to reclaim the temple through 77 battles against the Muslims in which 300,000 sacrificed their lives. These myths have now become authentic histories; not only are they paraded as historical facts, they have found place in textbooks as authentic history. Over a period of time, many of these facts could become part of popular history also.

The politics of the Sangh Parivar is essentially irrational. The attempt to turn myth into history and to use it for political advantage is rooted in irrationality. Now that Ayodhya is no more a potent force, Ram Sethu has emerged as a possible alternative. The Sangh Parivar is gearing up to exploit it. Would the ruling establishment take a rational and scientific stand and not succumb to the fear of the irrational?

By K.N.Panikkar
(K.N. Panikkar, a former professor of history at Jawaharlal Nehru University and a former vice-chancellor of Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, is currently the chairman of the Kerala Council for Historical Research.)
Copyright © 2007, Frontline

Burmese Troops Gun Down Protestors

Over the past two days, the Burmese military regime has brutally suppressed large anti-junta protests in the major cities of Rangoon and Mandalay, breaking up crowds with tear gas, batons, rubber bullets and live rounds. The state media reported that nine people died in clashes on Thursday, but reports from activists, diplomats and a handful of foreign journalists suggest the figure could be considerably higher.

The crackdown began on Wednesday night and early Thursday morning when troops raided monasteries, including the Shwedagon Pagoda and Sule Pagoda in Rangoon, arresting hundreds of Buddhist monks. Five key monasteries, which have been centres of opposition, were declared no-go areas and sealed off to prevent protestors from gathering.

In one incident, soldiers forced their way into the Ngwe Kyar monastery in South Okkalapa, a suburb of Rangoon, Wednesday night and arrested about 100 monks. Thousands of people gathered in nearby streets and began pelting the troops with stones. Eight people, including a high school student, died when soldiers opened fire with automatic weapons.

Up to 70,000 people defied a military ban and marched in Rangoon on Thursday. Protests reportedly took place in Mandalay and other centres, including Sittwe, Pakokku and Moulmein. In central Rangoon, near the Sule Pagoda, some 20 truckloads of troops and police set up roadblocks. As protestors threw stones and bottles, the security forces responded with shots and tear gas. Eyewitnesses said the military gave people 10 minutes to disperse and started firing.

Among the dead was a Japanese journalist, Kenji Nagai, 50, who was photographing the clashes. The state media claimed that a stray bullet had killed him, but amateur video shown on Japan’s Fuji television showed him being deliberately shot.

Reports of protests yesterday were scanty. The country’s main Internet connection had been cut, blocking the stream of photographs, video and reports that were reaching the outside world in previous days. The mobile phone network was also not functioning. While officials reported damage to an undersea cable, there is little doubt that the generals have ordered the censorship.
A correspondent for the London-based Times described smaller protests near the Sule Pagoda and clashes of young demonstrators with heavily-armed security forces. “It was a loose, ragged, frustrating day in Rangoon, a day of baton charges, beatings and many rumours of much worse. I saw soldiers levelling guns, firing volleys of hard rubber pellets, as well as chases and arrests,” he wrote.

Agence France Presse reported that up to 10,000 people were involved in protests yesterday in central Rangoon and repeatedly confronted troops and police. A separate group of around 500 marched through the streets and were applauded by onlookers. In Mandalay, thousands of young people on motorbikes rode down a major thoroughfare toward a blockade set up by security forces, but were driven back.

The police round up of opposition leaders, including members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi, is continuing. An NLD official told the media that two prominent leaders, Hla Pe and Myint Thei, were arrested in raids on their homes. Members of the 88 Generation Students Group, an organisation formed last year by veterans of the 1988 protests against the junta, have been detained.
International hypocrisy

Students, young monks and ordinary people are displaying great courage in confronting the junta and its troops, and demanding basic democratic rights and better living standards. However, the limited character of the opposition’s political perspective is underscored by its appeals to the UN and major powers to intervene.

The condemnations of the junta by US President George Bush, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other leaders reek of hypocrisy. The Bush administration and its allies are no more concerned about democratic rights in Burma than in Iraq, where the US military is every bit as ruthless as its Burmese counterparts in suppressing popular opposition to its continued occupation.

Washington’s objection to the Burmese junta is not its suppression of democratic rights, but its close alignment with China. Over the past week, the American media in particular has tried to pin the blame for the junta’s violence on the failure of Beijing to take sufficiently strong action. A Washington Post editorial on Thursday, for instance, was entitled “Save Burma: Will China and Russia give green light to a slaughter of monks?” It criticised the two powers for blocking a UN resolution condemning the violence in Burma.

No doubt, China and Russia are cynically supporting repressive regimes to advance their economic and strategic interests. But they are not alone. In the case of Burma, India quietly dropped its criticism of the junta and is seeking to extend its economic and diplomatic influence in the country. Burma’s largest trading partner is not China, but neighbouring Thailand, which is ruled by a military dictatorship with tacit US support. The Bush administration’s campaign on Burma is not motivated by concerns for ordinary Burmese, but is aimed at establishing a pro-US regime in Rangoon as part of its strategic encirclement of China.

Moreover, one can safely predict that the present media adulation for the protestors would rapidly change if the demonstrations and marches began to take a more radical direction. Unlike the protests of 1988, which involved significant sections of workers, the recent demonstrations have been, to date, largely dominated by monks and students. The entry of substantial sections of working people into political action would not only shake the junta, but would reverberate through the region and internationally.

Far from being endowed with great strength, the Burmese junta is acting from a position of weakness. Despised by the majority of the population, the generals are confronting a profound economic crisis. Despite the development of offshore gas fields, the economy is plagued by inflation, which is running at an estimated annual rate of 20 percent, and chronic shortages of investment and foreign exchange. Economic analysts generally treat the official claims of high growth rates with scepticism. In 2003, the regime declared a growth figure of 5.1 percent, even as it confronted a private banking crisis and banned the export of six major crops.
The gulf between the pampered lifestyle of the generals and the poverty confronting the majority of the population is staggering. More than 90 percent of the population live on less than 300,000 kyat (about $US300) a year. An estimated 43 percent of children under the age of five are malnourished. On average, nearly 70 percent of household income is spent of food—that is, surviving from one day to the next. Spending on health care and education amounts to just 1.4 percent of GDP—less than half that of Indonesia, the region’s next lowest spender.

The latest protests were triggered last month by the junta’s decision to slash price subsidies on petrol, diesel and gas, increasing transport costs and sending the price of basic items skyrocketting. Opposition leaders, however, have not sought to mobilise the social discontent of ordinary working people to bring down the junta, but rather deliberately limited the protest demands.

A statement released by the 88 Generation Students and the All Burma Monks Alliance last week listed just three demands: the release of political prisoners, economic well-being and national reconciliation. Like Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD, these groups are seeking to use the protests and international diplomacy to pressure the regime into dialogue and a compromise power-sharing arrangement. The NLD’s basic program, which consists of implementing IMF-dictated reforms to open Burma up to foreign investors, would be just as catastrophic for ordinary working people as the junta’s economic policies.

The conclusion that some of the veterans of the 1988 protests appear to have drawn is that their previous demands were too radical. In fact, the opposite is the case. In 1988, the junta was reeling under the impact of strikes in the oil industry, transport, postal services, telecommunications and factories, as well as widespread protests. It managed to cling to power by striking a deal with the NLD to end the protests in return for elections in 1990. Having stabilised their rule, the generals simply ignored the outcome of the poll, suppressed the opposition and continued in power.

Thursday, 27 September, 2007

Burmese Military Cracks Down On Escalating Protests

The military in Burma (Myanmar) unleashed its troops yesterday on unarmed demonstrators in a bid to stamp out mounting protests against the junta’s stifling rule, and price rises that have made life for broad layers of working people unbearable.
A series of clashes took place in the former capital Rangoon (Yangon) as protestors, including many Buddhist monks, took to the streets in defiance of the military. On Tuesday, the junta imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in Rangoon and Mandalay, the country’s second largest city, and banned assemblies of more than five people. Heavily-armed troops were stationed in key positions, including outside major monasteries that have become centres of protest.
The state media yesterday reported that at least one protestor was killed in clashes in Rangoon between demonstrators and security forces. An unnamed official told the AFP that three people were dead—one was killed after trying to seize a soldier’s rifle and two others were beaten to death. Other reports from individuals and opposition groups indicate that the toll could be higher. Another 300 people were reportedly arrested.
The clashes began outside the Shwedagon Pagoda but failed to deter an estimated 10,000 young monks and students from marching toward the Sule Pagoda in downtown Rangoon. Hundreds of troops fired warning shots and tear gas then broke up the protest using batons. Several hundred monks also tried to reach the house of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, followed by trucks carrying troops. In Mandalay, an estimated 10,000 people took part in protests.
The protests have been building since the junta’s decision on August 15 to suddenly double the price of diesel and raise the price of natural gas by 500 percent. Within days, as transport prices jumped, the cost of essential items rose by between 10 and 50 percent. Eggs, cooking oil and poultry increased by an average of 35 percent. The regime, which has a monopoly on fuel sales, had previously subsidised prices.
Initially the marches, which were organised by students and began on August 19, were quite small. The protests, however, have continued to swell despite arrests and police violence. Over the weekend, tens of thousands took part in demonstrations in Rangoon. On Monday, protests took place in at least 25 cities including Mandalay, Stitwe and Pakokku. The march in Rangoon was estimated at between 50,000 and 100,000 people.
The demonstrations are by far the largest since 1988 when huge protests involving students, workers, monks, and the urban and rural poor challenged the military dictatorship, demanding democratic rights and improved living standards. The army responded by gunning down hundreds of protesters, jailing opposition leaders and suppressing any form of political opposition. An estimated 3,000 people were killed by the military and many more were detained and tortured.
Speaking over state radio on Monday night, the junta’s religious affairs minister, Brigadier General Thura Myint Maung, denounced the “destructive elements” behind the protests and warned “actions will be taken against the monks according to the law”. On Tuesday, police arrested U Win Naing, a senior leader of Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy (NLD) and Zaganar, a popular comedian who is known for satirising the regime. Zaganar had appealed for people to join the protests. Yesterday the crackdown intensified.
The international media has highlighted the role of Buddhist monks in the current protests. Their prominence, however, is a function of the timidity and conservatism of Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders, who appear to have been caught off guard by the demonstrations. Far from seeking to challenge the junta, the NLD is seeking to limit the protests and exploit them as a bargaining chip to establish negotiations with the generals.
The British-based Times noted yesterday: “Opposition leaders in Rangoon are struggling to contain the energy of the demonstrations to prevent anything that could be used as a pretext for a crackdown by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as the junta calls itself. They fear a split between radicals, who want to bring down the regime, and moderates, who believe that the most important thing is to avoid frightening off ordinary Burmese and bring them out in an overwhelming display of moral authority.”
NLD leader Sann Aung told the Times: “There should be no agitation to topple the military regime. It will make people much more wary of a military response and people will become reluctant to join the movement.” The newspaper also pointed to the limited character of the demands made by senior monks: an apology for abuse by the regime, a reduction in fuel prices, the release of political prisoners and political dialogue with the junta.
These appeals for restraint are, however, opening the door for further military repression. By confining the anger of ordinary working people, the opposition leaders will only embolden the generals to go on the offensive against the protests. That is the central political lesson of the events of 1988, when Suu Kyi and the NLD struck a deal with the junta to hold elections and shut down the protest movement. The junta seized the deal with both hands, stabilised their rule and then ignored the outcome of the 1990 poll, in which the NLD won an overwhelming majority.
For nearly two decades, the NLD’s perspective has been confined to using the pressure of sanctions imposed by the major powers to reach a compromise with the junta. As for its professions of concern for the Burmese population, the NLD supports the IMF and World Bank’s free market policies of opening up the country to foreign investors. The social consequences are evident in the junta’s slashing of fuel subsidies last month, entirely in line with this agenda.
Even before the latest price rises, inflation was running at more than 30 percent and 90 percent of the population lived below the poverty line of $US1 a day. The 450,000-strong army accounts for 40 percent of the annual national budget. An unemployed economics graduate told the Sydney Morning Herald: “Many people can no longer afford to send their children to school. They’re down to one meal a day, it’s that bad. As a result many are malnourished and they’re falling ill. But then they can’t even find the money for medical bills. Sure, we had difficulties before, but the price rises broke the camel’s back. Living standards have gone down and down. The middle classes have become poor, and the poor have become destitute.”
International rivalries
The military crackdown has produced an outpouring of hypocrisy from world leaders, led by President Bush, and in the international media. Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, Bush condemned the Burmese junta and announced the imposition of new sanctions against individual leaders. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown denounced the regime as “illegitimate and repressive” while French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged the EU to impose tougher penalties against the junta. An emergency meeting of the UN Security Council was convened behind closed doors yesterday to consider the situation.
None of this has anything to do with concern for the Burmese people and their rights. Elsewhere in South Asia, the Bush administration maintains the closest of relations with the Pakistani military dictator General Pervez Musharraf and keeps a diplomatic silence on India’s police-state measures in Kashmir, the repressive activities of the military-backed regime in Bangladesh and the autocratic methods of the Sri Lankan government as it wages a vicious communal civil war.
Washington’s objection to the Burmese junta is not its repressive methods, but its close alignment with China. Burma is strategically situated between China and India, next to South East Asia and close to key shipping lanes, in particular the Malacca Straits. The country also has significant natural resources, including an estimated 3 trillion cubic metres of natural gas and 3 billion barrels of crude oil.
For Beijing, Burma is an important strategic and economic partner. China provides weapons and diplomatic support to the military and is involved in developing the country’s infrastructure. In return, Beijing is seeking rights over the country’s oil and gas as well as strategic access to Burmese ports and military bases. During the first seven months of this year, China-Burmese trade reached $US1.1 billion, up 39.4 percent compared to the same period last year.
At the same time, there is growing rivalry for influence in Burma between China and India. High-level visits by Indian officials have been on the rise, two-way trade is increasing and India has provided loans and aid to the junta in a bid to win favour. In 2004, junta leader Than Shwe was given the red carpet treatment when he became the first Burmese head of state to visit India in 24 years. This year Indian oil company ONGC made a bid to buy Burmese gas, but lost out last month to Petro-China. Thailand is also investing in a huge $6 billion hydroelectricity project.
The steady stream of articles, particularly in the US, insinuating that China is to blame for the Burmese junta and demanding action from Beijing, is not matched by similar comments about India, an increasingly close US ally, or Thailand, another military dictatorship, which enjoys tacit US backing. The Bush administration’s calls for “democracy” in Burma are a pretext to press for the installation of a pro-US regime.
The US administration is no more concerned about democratic rights and the plight of the population in Burma, than it is in Iraq. As far as Washington is concerned, the ousting of the Burmese junta is an element of a broader US strategy of encircling China, which is emerging as a key strategic and economic competitor, as well as gaining access for American corporations to Burma’s natural resources and cheap labour.

By Sujeewa Amaranath

IFJ Protests as Journalists are Counted among Victims of Burma Violence

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called on the Burmese authorities to end the violent attacks on demonstrators and journalists covering the events there following the killing of one Japanese photographer and reports of another media death and intimidation of local and foreign media.

The IFJ condemnation follows the confirmation that Kenji Nagai was one of 8 people killed during demonstrations in the capital Rangoon. The IFJ is concerned for the safety of another journalist, a German photographer who is reportedly also a victim of a shooting by security forces.

“Once again we see that it is journalists who are in the front line facing violence from unrestrained security forces dealing with peaceful protest,” said AW. It is essential that the Burmese authorities lower the temperature and allow journalists and peaceful demonstrators to exercise their right to work safely and protest peacefully.

Japanese agency APF News has confirmed the death of Kenji Nagai, who was working for the agency. The Bangkok Post reported that a German photographer covering the demonstration was also killed by security forces.

According to the BBC, a hotel in which foreign journalists have been staying in Rangoon has been surrounded and ransacked.

The IFJ is also concerned by reports that the Burmese military junta ordered Rangoon-based journals and newspapers to publish a declaration denouncing the protests. According to the Burma Media Association, the Burmese junta's director of the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, Major Tint Swe, instructed all Burmese print media at a meeting last Sunday to publish a declaration stating they were not interested in the ongoing protest.

Authorities have issued a night-time curfew and a ban on public gatherings of more than five people, measures which will be enforced for 60 days. The protest against the military junta is the biggest since the nation-wide pro-democracy uprising of 1988 led by students, which ended in bloodshed as the military killed many of the protesters.

Tuesday, 25 September, 2007

Develop, Displace, Forget The Poor

"What else did you expect me to do?" was her reply when I asked her why she had pulled her son out of school to turn him into a child labourer. She is one of four lakh parents to have done so in Assam alone, all of them displaced in the name of national development and left to fend for themselves. Assam claims to have displaced 4,51,252 people from 3,91,773 acres between 1947 and 2000. The real figures stand at 19,09,368 people from 14,01,186 acres. West Bengal has done the same to 7 million people from 4.7 million acres in the same period. Similar numbers are found in other states .

Leave alone rehabilitation, most of them are not even seen as displaced. Assam has rehabilitated those displaced by just about 10 projects out of 3,000 and West Bengal has partially resettled around 10 percent of them. Fifty-six percent of the displaced in Assam and 49 percent in Bengal have turned their children into child labourers. When that is not possible, women sell their bodies to keep the hearth fires burning. Crime is another option.

Studies indicate that India has deprived some 60 million people of their livelihood in the name of national development. Fewer than 20 percent have been rehabilitated. Since colonial land laws continue and recognise only individual ownership, Assam has not counted the 1 million acres of common land from which it displaced 14.5 lakh tribals, Dalits and others. It has been their sustenance for centuries but the colonial laws declare it State property. The official claim that compensation is rehabilitation is untenable. But the ruling class does not have to worry about them because they are powerless. Tribals are more than 20 million of these 60 million, Dalits are 12 millions and other rural poor are some 10 million. They can be displaced and forgotten.

That is the future trend too. Nandigram and Singur hog headlines but not Navi Mumbai, other SEZs and the 2.26 lakh acres that West Bengal has committed to industries with private profit as the only criterion. One hundred and sixty eight massive dams are being planned in the Northeast. Former PM Vajpayee declared in May 2002 the dams will turn the Northeast into the powerhouse of India. Many more lakhs of people who will be impoverished by them were ignored.

Greater poverty is intrinsic to this Shining India approach. Crime for survival, prostitution and child labour are its result. Is this the only alternative or is development with a human face possible?

Fernandes is director, North Eastern Social Research Centre

Land after thirty years of 'entitlement'

Story of Land Reclamation of Dalits in village Rupchandrapur

Mutuna's face was expressionless even after the greatest event of her life when she entered her field of one acre for the first time after 1976 when her husband Furtidin was given land entitlement by the then prime minister Indira Gandhi. She never knew about the place as since then they tried to occupy their land but the powerful neighbors wont allow them to map. In fact, Mutuna's issue reflect the dilemma of India's farmers movement which not only remained caged in tainted caste structure of the powerful upper castes but highly violent also. On August 11 th August, 2007 when I witnessed the whole thing, many memories of the past reminded me how the land issue would always remain violent and volatile as it affect the local power equations, unite the oppressed and give them dignity and self respect. It also shows how the powerful communities try to circumvent and subvert the due process of law by delaying and disturbing the entire process.

Ramchandra, eldest son of Furtidin informed me how the local powerful people are still creating hurdle. On the first ay when the land was being measured, I personally asked the women to take control over the land immediately as they would be trapped in saying 'come tomorrow'. Do not wait for another day, I said to them. But the question was that the local Yadava (a powerful farming community of northern India) family which has illegally grabbed that land had maze crop over the land. Now, there was tension in the area as the Dalit families wanted to occupy the land immediately while the Yadava was taking shelter under the maze crop. Immediately, all decided that Yadava must get away with this. The Dalit women asked Yadava family to collect his maze crop or face its destruction. It was an amazing site to see when a powerful exploitative family cutting their crop and behind them were Dalit women leveling the land and making the boundary wall of their portion. It was a great show of how things change if the administration is with you. When the Lekhpals and others in the village were mapping the land, there was deliberate taunting by the upper caste Hindus and the powerful people. Virtually abusing to provoke the Dalits, they would claim that the Dalits are lazy, as they never aspired to get land. ' We have tilled this land, made this concrete to a workable land, said a local Thakur. But when the land at the Yadava family's backyard was being measured, the issues, which often comes was that right now there was a maze crop and it would not be good to destroy the crop. This time, the Dalits knew it very well that such pretensions of the powerful people in the village in front of the officials results in further complicating the issue.

Ramchandra, migrated to bigger town as a labour has now decided to remain the village and cultivate his land. " I am very happy to look after my land as my two other brothers would remain in cities to earn for themselves but I will help my family and my mother.'

This story is being written over a period of one month. The gap was deliberate. Having worked in deeply crisis driven condition, I know how the official switch their loyalty and the poor has to run from pillar to post for every small thing. Once the initial work was done and the official gone, we all know, power elite will start creating the same hurdle. After all, how many times, we will come and monitor the situation. But this time around, the villagers were determined come what may and their strength were doubled by some of the outstanding workers of Bharatiya Jan Seva Ashram, Badlapur. Ms Renu, the fire brand women leader of the Ashram actually faced some of the toughest questions of her life right from the officials to rural power folks but she remained un-relented. In those trying time, her determination yielded result and now people's control over their land is complete, of course, there are certain problematic areas for which the community, the individuals have decided to go to the court.

Rupchandrapur village, which falls under Badlapur block of district Jaunpur in Eastern Uttar-Pradesh witnessed this historic land acquisition. This village is dominated by the Thakurs, the upper caste Hindus claiming to hail from Kshatriya i.e. warrior clan. It also reflect how 'efficient' our administrative system is which despite legal validity and by its own standard, it does not follow rules of the law. In 1976, the then prime minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi went for a massive sterilization programme and one of her issues was to give land entitlement to not only Dalits and Muslims but also to those who opt for the sterilization process thus adopting government's family planning programme.

74 people were given land entitlement in 1976 and the land was to be distributed through the village communal land, which is called Gram Panchayat land. These days normally land is illegally occupied by the powerful communities in the villages. Soon, the government fell in 1979 owing to massive protest against Indira Gandhi and the issue of entitlements of the poor Dalits remained unresolved. The new power equations were used by the powerful communities in their favour by forcing the officials not to visit again and provoked them to cancel the measurement under some pretext or other. Every time, an effort was made and equally resisted by the power elite of the village. Every time the Dalits asked for their land, there was complete lack of sensitivity on part of the officials who would give plenty of arguments regarding the status of their land. Government came and go and the situation at the ground remained unaltered.

One of the important factors of Dalit empowerment in India is democracy. Democracy is essentially a number game and the Dalits and other marginalized communities have understood that their number make majority and hence all of them have become politically very mobile and articulate at least in Uttar-Pradesh. In May 2007 the state saw a shift in power and a Dalit woman Maywati became the chief Minister of the state for the record fourth time.

A change in the government in Lucknow has a lot of meaning for Dalits, particularly those women and wage workers who have been denied dignity and human rights. With a Dalit woman at the thrown of Uttar-Pradesh, a new wave of energy entered into the communities. Bhartiya Jan Seva Ashram, Badlapur realized this important change and went for an all out offensive on the issue of possession being given to those who were allotted land. It approached the district authorities and asked them to take action to provide land allotment soon. In fact, this is one of the strategies used by the International land Coalition's partners here and essentially part of SDF/UPLA's land literacy programme to do village mapping, find vacant land and count the rural landless of that area and do issue based advocacy. We have found from our own experiences that issue based advocacy is far better than a generalized form of advocacy which has all ingredients of 'political manipulations and heavy dose of ideologies' and very less for the individuals who suffer from incapacities and victim hood.

We have suggested on many occasions that the organizations must have primary data of the targeted village such as the total number of people, land status, status of landless and homeless people with particularly reference of the communities such as Dalits and tribals. The Community Empowerment Facility ( CEF) programme of BJSA came handy for the same and a team of organization visited the village several time to assess the ground situation and the status of land both in term of illegal gratification as well as community wise landlessness. Once they finished their paper work, it was difficult for the authorities to deny them right as the land was already allotted to 74 Dalit families nearly 31 years back. Government machinery often makes use of the ignorance of the village people. By ignorance they mean that villagers are not 'techno savvy and do not have relevant documents. Officials are very particular about data and documents which the poor villagers do not have.

I was fortunate enough to witness this historical event when people really got land in their hand. A team of 10 land revenue officials ( Lekhpals), Revenue officer, Sub Disctrict Magistrate ( SDM) went to the village and promised the people that the land would be handed over to them. The local power community was also equally vehement in opposing but differences started coming to the fore. The head of the village Mr Shiv Naraian Singh came out openly with the Dalits and said that he would do everything to get these people land. Shiv Narian was elected Sarpanch with a large number of Dalit votes. The opposition was powerful. They questioned the motives of people getting land. A local politician who could not win a single election actually tried every attempt to thwart the land redistribution effort. Upper castes always wanted to get the Patta cancelled. There were several efforts made to redistribute the land but every time the powerful people in the village created some short of issues which ultimately restricted the authorities to go further on this issue.

Ram Bali is father of 9 children. I acre was allotted to him in 1976. Every time they went to the officers, nothing happened. There were efforts made in the past thrice to measure the land but was met with stiff resistance. The upper castes and particularly one powerful family which had controlled the entire area actually planted trees in the hope that after such a thing happen they would have unquestioned control over the land. When the pressure from the Dalits became tremendous the upper castes resorted to blackmailing. This land is now gone to the forest department. We have planted trees and we will not allow you to uproot these trees. So one can understand the kind of pulls and pressures happens in the village when the land is actually handed over the rural poor. Rambali is a happy man that finally he has got justice and that his family would be able to eat his two-time meal. We are ready to work harder to make the land workable.

Mutuna, wife of late Furtidin whose one acre land was actually being tilled by a Yadava family was satisfied that finally she has got her land. She has three sons and now she hope that the land would be sufficient enough to keep the family going.

Temmal got allotment for one acre. Every time efforts were made to give control of land to them these people try to create obstacles. They would abuse us and would not allow us to have safe passage. They have control over the work. We do not even get work under the NREGA programme.

Village Sarpanch Shiv Narian Singh, though is a upper caste Thakur yet seems to reconcile with working for the rights of the Dalits. He says', The allotment were made in 1976 but the government officials are very careless. A total 51 bighas of land was allotted that time but the powerful people of the village are still trying to occupy that land. We want to give the small ponds and other such land to landless people but problems are being created.

The village Lekhpal who actually is the villain in most of the cases says that so far 48 people have been given possession. The lekhpal also speaks like the upper castes that the Dalits normally do not take of possession saying that the land is a barren and useless land. But he threatens that if the Dalits do not take the possession of land this time, he would be forced to dismiss their entitlement.

Dulari Devi has 5 children. She ahs been waiting for this day to come as the upper caste Hindus do not allow her to reach her land. Land is bad in shape. Lot of weed has surrounded it and it would need tremendous will power to make the land working. But the positive side is that the Dalits are now doing work in their land, weeding out the trees and the grass, leveling the land. It will take time but definitely with the enthusiasm, it will not take much effort.

Ram Charan is very happy to get the land after 30 years. He plan to sow Arahar, Tori, and other vegetables.

Sangeeta says that she is a 'Dalit' and landless. She has six other male members as partner in her father in laws land. It is just one 10 th of a bighead very miniscule piece of land. She is not very happy with that. The food situation at her house is understandably very bad.

Munni Lal has two sons and one daughter. Nearly 30 years later he is now taking control of a very bad land which has thorny bushes and lengthy weed. He knows it well that to refuse taking control of an otherwise waste land would mean giving the upper castes a chance to condemn them as if they do not want it. He says, " My allotment letter gives me one acre of land which is to be distributed among the two brothers but we only got 50 decimal. It will take nearly take a month to level the land and make it workable'.

Chandrabhan, a Dalit youth working with Bhartiya Jan Seva Ashram is another happy person today. Born in a landless family, he and his brothers were not even allowed to pass through the area. While he got one acre of land yet again the power people have made mess of the land laws. He has got one fourth of his allotted land as the person who had illegally grabbed the land has manipulated things with revenue officials and done lot of changes in the land map. ' We will fight against this and go to the court to rectify it. They do not have anything to save their face after full support from BJSA and the administration and still they wanted to delay the process after many ifs and buts'. Chandrabhan has a sense of relief, as he is leveling his land and cutting the unwanted bush and weeding them out.

A Dalit woman Sukraji bi is very happy. I feel powerful today she says. ' We will work harder now and definitely grow on our land rather than working at some body else's land. When I ask her about the caste equations and untouchability in the village she says ' the upper castes now know that they can not get in untouchability directly as they would penalized but they do. When they want our votes in elections, they would come here, sit on our charpoys ( cots) and eat with us but once that is over, they refuse to sit with us and do not allow us the same at their place. She is happy that the women will change as a woman and that too from her own community is now heading the State'. How does she feel seeing a Dalit woman with her head high rules the state, I ask. " yes, we are proud that Bahinji ( elder sister, referred to chief minister Mayawati) is a very strong woman. Her elevation to power will definitely help Dalits and women to get their honour and pride.'

While there is absolute truth in Sukraji's statement as here too in Rupchandrapur, it is women like Renu who made it possible that the land is transferred to the Dalits. She along with other women activists ensures that the officials do not play foul under some pretext or others which she had been facing. Some time, the illegal land grabber who was a local leader said that the land is now under forest department as he has planted Babul trees while on other occasion he made other pretensions. Some time it was provocations and abuses while other time threatening them with dire consequences. All this failed under the determined women's group of Bharatiya Jan Seva Ashram. They now plan to speak to district authorities to grant some funds under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to the Dalits of Rupchandrapur to level their land and make it cultivable.
The change in power equations have shown their first result though in a small way in Rupchandrapur where the 74 Dalits are now enjoying their land, though with much difficulty of crude exploitative social system which remain shameless even in these times of democracy yet it shows that officials if work persistently and honestly can really do the needful for the power. It is hard to believe that they would change over night but strong signals from the power structure can change their attitude towards rural poor. Another important point for the rural poor is to grab the opportunity of whatever comes in their hand and continue their fight for the rest as snatching land from the hands of then power elite is very difficult as they have not only administration and political leadership with them but also make use of laws. It is advisable to continue our fight and make use of whatever comes in our hand to make our way to the land we have waited for so long. Land is not only matter of laws but a matter of attitude of the law makers and law implementing agencies and sooner they learn it the better it would be for the people. Rupchandrapur is a great lesson for us in this regard.

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Monday, 24 September, 2007

IFJ Warns over US Detention of Al-Jazeera Cameraman

IFJ Warns over US Detention of Al-Jazeera Cameraman, Calls for International Campaign for His Release

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today issued a new call for the immediate release of Al-Jazeera cameraman, Sami al-Haj, the only journalist being held by the United Sates in Guantanamo Bay, after his lawyers described him in “a serious physical and mental decline,” following a 250-day hunger strike.

Sudan-born Sami Muhyideen al-Haj has been held at Guantanamo since he was picked up at the Pakistan/Afghanistan border in December 2001. He has been tortured and accused of terrorism offences, although he has never been charged or brought to trial.

“Our colleague’s health is rapidly deteriorating and his relatives now fear for his life. The time has come for journalists all over the world to take up his case and join the campaign to get him freed” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha.

Al-Haj began his hunger strike on 7 January 2007, the fifth anniversary of his incarceration without trial. His lawyer, Stafford Smith, who last visited his client in July, said al-Haj, has lost 18kg (40lb), is losing his memory and is “fixated on his death.”

Al-Haj has been accused without proof of having interviewed Osama bin Laden and to have been involved in arms trafficking for Islamic terrorists.

The US alleges that he worked as a financial courier for Chechen rebels, and that he assisted al-Qaeda and extremist figures He has been held on the basis of secret evidence; he has not been convicted or even charged with a crime. And until last year the military would not even acknowledge he was in custody.

Boumelha made a special call to British journalists asking them to highlight al-Haj’s plight in the same way they supported BBC correspondent Alan Johnston during his captivity in Gaza adding, “Al-Haj had no history in terrorism and the US authorities have not been able to produce any credible evidence. They should either put him on trial or release him.”

Myanmar monks stage biggest anti-junta march

YANGON (Reuters) - At least 5,000 monks and nuns, applauded by thousands of onlookers, marched in Yangon on Sunday, the largest demonstration yet in Myanmar in a rare wave of protests against the ruling generals.
A day after a dramatic appearance of support for the marchers by detained democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, monks prayed at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, devoutly Buddhist Myanmar's holiest shrine, then marched through the city.

About 100 nuns joined one band of more than 2,000 monks, then marched to the centre of the former capital.

It was one of five protest marches by monks in the city and there were at least two in Mandalay, a major centre of the monkhood, ahead of a quarterly summit of the generals who have ruled the former Burma for 45 years.

There were no signs of trouble at Sunday's protests.

Plainclothes police kept watch, but there were no uniformed officers or soldiers in sight and people on the streets applauded as the marchers passed.

Protest marches by monks have become more regular, a sign that what began as civilian anger at last month's shock fuel price rises is becoming a more deep-rooted religious movement against the generals.

In New York, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed sympathy for the protesters and denounced the military.

"The Burmese people deserve better. They deserve (the) right to be able to live in freedom, just as everyone does," she said.

"The brutality of this regime is well known and so we'll be speaking about that and I think the President (George W. Bush) will be speaking about it as well," she told reporters.
The mood was cheerful in Yangon, with many people seeing the emergence of Suu Kyi from her lakeside villa as a sign the military, which has put down a 1988 uprising ruthlessly, was being flexible.


It was the first time she had been seen in public since her latest detention began in May 2003. For many onlookers, already stunned by police allowing marching monks through the barricades sealing off her street, it was overwhelming.

Wearing an orange blouse and a traditional wraparound skirt, she emerged from a small door in the iron gate to the house, her hands held palm to palm in a gesture of Buddhist supplication.
"Some of us could not control our tears," one witness told Reuters after 1,000 monks held a 15-minute prayer vigil at the house to which Suu Kyi is confined with no telephone and needing official permission, granted rarely, to receive visitors.

However, on Sunday, the barbed-wire barricade at the entrance to her street was reinforced by four fire engines, several police vans and dozens of police carrying riot shields who refused to allow a group of 200 marching monks through.

News of Suu Kyi's appearance incident spread rapidly on a day when the monks marched despite Yangon being lashed by 11.54 inches (29.31 cm) of rain, the highest recorded in 39 years.

"The monks showed their courage, strong determination and discipline while the regime showed flexibility," a retired government official said. "I think this incident has shown us that we can sort out any problem among us amicably."

The generals are due to hold a quarterly summit in their new capital of Naypyidaw, carved out of the jungle, perhaps as early as Monday. Dealing with the protests is sure to top the agenda.
The protests, which began on August 19 after huge fuel price increases prompted a midnight round up of the democracy activists who organised them and now face up to 20 years in jail, appear far from over.

On Sunday, a group of monks, one of them wielding a bullhorn, chanted a new slogan: "Our uprising must succeed".

A group calling itself the All Burma Monks Alliance urged ordinary people for the first time "to struggle peacefully against the evil military dictatorship" until its downfall.

By Aung Hla Tun

Sunday, 23 September, 2007

Seeds Of Distress: Story Of Cotton Seed Growers In AP

Distress in Cotton cultivation is extended its boundaries and reached to Cotton seed production. The area under Cotton seed production is on a shrinking trend. This can be attributed to the exploitive nature of companies. Farmer both as a consumer and producer of seed is exploited by the seed companies. Farmer as a consumer of seed has to pay more price and inturn he is getting less price for his seeds. To get maximum yields companies promoting input intensive methods in seed production. These methods increases cost of cultivation and made seed production labor intensive activity. After a tedious work cotton growers getting very little profits which lead the farmers into distress.
Hybrid cottonseed production is concentrated in Andhra Pradesh which alone account for 62% of the total seed production in India. Within AP, nearly 90% of seed production is concentrated in Mahaboobnagar and Kurnool districts. Area under cotton seed production in these two districts is around 14,000 acres. Though seed production is carried out in most of the mandals in these districts there is high concentration of seed production in Gadwal, Dharur, Maldakal, Gattu, Iza, Atmakur, Jadcharla in Mahaboobnagar and Allagadda, Nandhyala, Sanjamala, Koillkuntla, banaganapalli, Uyyalawada, Emmiganur, Mantralayam, Kodumur mandals in Kurnool districts.
The other districts where cottonseed production is carried out are Randareddy in Telangana and West Godavary, Krishna, and Vijayanagaram in Coastal Andhra region and Kadapa in Rayalaseema. The basic reason for concentration of seed production in this region is availability of cheap labour and also suitability of climatic conditions.
Monsanto, JK seeds, Rasi seeds, Krishidhan, Ankur, Nandi, Nuzuveedu seeds etc are the major players in Cotton seed production. According to one seed organiser (middleman between Seed Company and farmer) there are around 10 companies involved in Cotton seed production. Companies develop their seed programmes prior to the season based on their market analysis. These seed companies work with seed organizers for implementing their seed programme. There is no direct link between seed companies and farmers, but the companies will make an agreement with farmer for supply of the predetermined quantity of seed. This agreement is made between company, seed organiser and seed grower.
Seed production activities broadly can be divided into three stages. Farmer's responsibility is to submit the seeds which are passed all the GOT tests. The first stage includes production at farmer's field, second stage includes the processing at ginning mills and the third stage includes seed treatment with chemicals and packing. Farmer is involved up-to the second stage and third stage will be done by the companies themselves. All the costs involved up-to second stage will be bared by the farmers.
In many places seed production activities begin in the month of April and ends in December. These activities will be beginning with making a contract with the seed organizer for producing certain quantity of seed of a particular company. Farmers are generally not aware of the variety of seed which he is going to produce and even he is not aware whether it is a breeder seed or foundation seed or it is Bt or Non-Bt seed. This contact is made between the farmer, seed organizer and the company. Usually after signing the contract seed organizer will supply the money to the farmer as advance (credit @2% interest) for inputs. This advance will vary from Rs.20, 000/- to Rs.40, 000/- depend on the trust between farmer and seed organizer. There are no formal bond papers etc for this credit. This system is entirely depending on faith.
Seeds will be supplied by the seed organizer on cost basis to the farmer. Cost of a packet of foundation seed of 450grs packet is around Rs.2000/-. Seed rate is 900grs (two packets). Male lines and female lines were sown separately. In case of Bt certain companies are keeping male lines as Bt and female lines as Non-Bt and others are using vice versa.
In the entire seed production "seed organiser" plays a vital role. The basic qualification to become a seed organiser is to supply the required credit to the farmers. This amount ranges from Rs.20, 000/- to Rs 40, 000/- . Some times, small companies will supply the money to seed organizers. The interest rates are fixed and from the company to seed organiser and it is 1% and from seed organiser to seed grower it is 2%.
The entire credit system runs on the basis of trust. There are no bond papers between any one of them. The amount of credit is depends on the trust between the seed organiser and seed grower. Each seed grower has dealings with 4-5 companies. There are around 200-250 seed organizers in both these districts. Most of the time seed organisers are not disclosing any details of the seed to the growers.
In addition to the credit supply, seed organisers also give extension support to the growers. Under each organizer there are 3-4 people for monitoring the fields. Companies pay the organisers for monitoring; this payment varies from company to company and ranges from Rs.1/- to Rs. 5/- per packet of seed produced. This means on average he will get around Rs.400/- to Rs.2000/- per acre (by assuming average yield is 400packets/acre). In addition to the supervision costs he will also get Rs.20/packet as commission.
Extension support provided by the seed organizer is basically about spraying of pesticides and fertilizers. They always suggest farmer to use more and more fertilizers and pesticides. Interestingly most of the seed organizers also have fertilizer and pesticide shops. This extension support increases the cost of cultivation and ultimately pushes the farmer into distress.
In addition to the seed organisers extension support, some companies also organizing trainings for farmers to get maximum yields and in all these trainings they advocate dumping of fertilizers and pesticides. One example for this is Monsanto's -Target 400. Farmers who followed these practices and using more and more inputs to get higher yields, ends at higher cost of cultivation and distress among the seed growers.
The entire seed production activities are labor and input intensive. It needs around 620 labor days spread across 120 days of seed production. Out of this 620 labor days 300 are for crossing. Labor costs accounts for Rs.50, 000/- per acre. To achieve higher yields farmers usually apply more fertilizers than commercial Cotton cultivation. Around 15- 20 bags of fertilizers, which includes Urea, DAP, Potash and other fertilizers are also applied. Proportion of DAP and Potash is more when compared to Urea. These costs accounts for Rs.7, 000/- per acre. Farmers use more pesticides to avoid any damage to the bolls and seeds. They use all kinds of pesticides and all most all stages of crop growth. The cost of pesticides accounts for Rs.10, 000/-. The total cost of seed production varies between Rs.80, 000/- to Rs.85, 000/-.
Scarcity of labor, increased labor costs and child labor are the major concerns in cotton seed production. Migrations of labor to work at constructions of irrigation projects and to urban areas are the major factor for scarcity of labor. Due to NREGP and the intense agriculture activities, as a result of timely rains are responsible for increased labor costs. According to U.Venkatesh of Bingidoddi "farmers don't have any other option but to withdraw from seed production as the cost of seed production increased tremendously due to labor costs".
Engaging child labor is still continuing even though companies are giving incentives for the farmers who avoid child labor in their fields. Companies paying only Rs.15/- per packet in the name of incentive, which is insufficient to meet the additional costs bared by the farmer for hiring adult labor. This incentive accounts for Rs.6000/ - (if the farmer gets a yield of 400 packets) but the additional cost incurred by the farmer for hiring adult labor for crossing is around Rs.21, 000/-. According to U.Venkatesh of Bingidoddi "companies are forcing farmer to use adult labor by sending NGO people and police, but they are not paying the required amounts for hiring adult labor, this effort is pushing the farmers into more troubles rather than resolving the issue".
After harvesting, farmers dry the fiber for one week to ten days. Farmers are allotted specific dates by the organizer to take their produce to the ginning mills. Few companies have their own ginning mills but most of the companies depend on the private ginning mills. In ginning mills processing is done by ginning, delinting, cleaning, GOT and treatment. The entire cost incurred at this stage will bared by the farmer. Farmer presence is must for the entire process. Farmer has to pay Rs750/- per quintal as the service charge to ginning mill, Rs 400/- as wages. The total costs accounts for Rs. 1150/- per quintal. If farmer has a yield of 8quintols he has to pay Rs.9, 200/- .Companies will pay the amount to the farmer only after passing all the tests and it will take two to three months time. Up-to this time farmer has to pay the interest to the seed organizer. The interest amount may reach a minimum of Rs.4, 000/- per acre.
Farmers who are producing cotton seeds are spending around Rs. 85,000/- per acre and in turn they are getting Rs.96, 000/- (if they get 400 packets per acre) which mans a net income of Rs.11, 000/-. If we look at the total economics of seed production it is clearly visible that companies exploiting the farmer at all the stages. Companies supply the foundation seed not only at a higher rate but also at low quantity packets. Farmer has to supply 750gr packets at a cost of Rs.240/- but the companies will sold the seeds at Rs. 800/- per packet of 450grs. According to U.Venkatesh of Bingidoddi "there is not much change in the price paid by the companies to the farmers in last ten years, but the selling price of companies was hiked many times".
The economics of Bt Cotton seed production is also the same as Non Bt cotton seed production even though companies promoting Bt Cotton is more profitable. According to the seed growers even though Boll worm incidence was reduced, other minor pests particularly sucking pests incidence was increased and the costs was increased at the same proportion.
The more dangerous trend in Cotton seed production is the encroachment of Bt seed production, which leads to termination of the farmer's rights on seed. One can visualize easily that with in a very short span of time extinction of all other varieties and hybrids. In the entire Cotton seed production belt of Andhra Pradesh, not even a single acre is under hybrids or verities other than Bt Cotton. This has serious implications on erosion of varieties, farmer's knowledge on breeding methods and economics. Loss of rights on seed means loss of Rs.11, 00 crores (share of cotton seed industry in India).
In these two districts we met many farmers and all of them explained their problems in detail. All of them expressed their desire to withdraw from the seed production. Some farmers are not able to with draw from seed production due to their debt trap. It is very clear from the study that there is an urgent need for shift to farmer centric seed production from company centric seed production.

By K. Jayaram
(K.Jayaram, is an agriculture economist working with Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad based NGO, working for sustainable agriculture. The author can be contacted at

Leftists Should Take Care Of Peace And True Democracy

After a decade long bloodbath Nepali people had started hoping, a genuine hope for peace and for meaningful democracy. It was not only good news for Nepalese but also for the peace loving people of neighbouring country. As we al know that Nepali King Gyanendra was forced to surrender his powers in April 2006 after the Maoists and other Communist and democratic forces joined forces with a coalition of seven political parties in a sustained campaign of street protests against his direct rule. Afterwards an interim government was formed accommodating the Maoist in the cabinet, fixed a roadmap to general election and constitutional reform to abolish monarchy had been adopted unanimously. Suddenly, on 18th September the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) quitted the interim government demanding the immediate abolition of the monarchy ahead of constituent assembly elections due to be held in November. International Herald Tribune reported on 20th September that Nepal's former communist rebels refused to rejoin the coalition government despite efforts by the ruling parties, which is going to deepening the Himalayan nation's political crisis.
Prime Minister Girjia Prasad Koirala called an emergency meeting of leaders of the ruling alliance and the former rebels, who just walked out of the government on 18th September after it failed to meet several of their demands, in an attempt to overcome the crisis.
Despite the demand from the Nepalese Prime Minister that his initiative to overcome the crisis was sincere enough, but still there is a doubt. As Mr. Koirala had taken a firm line in refusing to bow to the Maoists' demand that King Gyanendra be stripped of his title and the monarchy abolished. That’s why one of the Maoists in the interim cabinet, Krishna Bahadur Mahara, blamed Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala for the breakdown in talks. Also Iswor Pokhrel, of the United Marxist Leninist Communist Party of Nepal, another major partner in the coalition said the prime minister asked Prachanda, the head of the CPN (Maoist), to reverse the decision to withdraw from the government. Prachanda said he would discuss the matter with his party colleagues and reply later. However, according to reports of many Nepalese news media, primarily the negotiation process has not yet been succeeded.
Previous political history of Nepal clearly indicates that this failure of the political process will again invite conflicting consequences in Nepal. Although the former Maoist minister Mr Mahara ruled out any return to armed conflict and said that they will focus on peaceful protests to meet their demands. Nevertheless, the Maoists warned they would begin street protests, organize a general strike and boycott an upcoming election for a Constituent Assembly that will decide the country's future political system and rewrite its Constitution. Therefore, it is quite normal that the ordinary people of Nepal are seriously worried after the Maoist withdrawal from the cabinet as because the previous nightmare is still alive in their mind. Leading Nepalese newspaper Katmandu Post signaled on 20th September that there is a high probability of Army deployment countrywide if the Maoist does not change their mind.
Therefore, the present political scenario clearly indicates further havoc in this impoverished country. That will definitely devastate the national economy, foreign trade, especially tourism industry of Nepal. Moreover, it will also negatively influence the business with its neighboring countries. If the peace initiative fails, innocent people of Nepal will pay the ultimate cost for democracy. Because gun is always not the answer. Necessarily, this will not strengthen the support base for the CPN (Maoist). The current action taken by CPN (Maoist) has been criticized by some Nepalese analyst as ‘anxiety disorder’. According to them ‘they have lost the self-confidence to face the general public, mainly due to their past activities’.
For this reason it is the high time for the Nepali Maoists to win over the peoples mind and prove themselves as true peace lover and to achieve their ultimate goal in a democratic manner.Because the there are conspiracies from imperialist forces to portray the leftists of Nepal as undemocratic.

By Hasan Tarique Chowdhury
[Hasan Tarique Chowdhury: Secretary, Bangladesh Peace Council. Email:]

जेल जाने के डर से चुप नहीं रहा जा सकता

इलीना सेन की पहचान डॉ विनायक सेन की पत्नी के बजाय एक सक्रिय मानवाधिकार और सामाजिक कार्यकर्ता के रूप में अधिक है. चार माह पहले जब डॉ विनायक सेन को छत्तीसगढ़ सरकार ने गिरफ्तार किया था तो आशंका जतायी जा रही थी कि इलीना सेन को भी गिरफ्तार किया जा सकता है. डॉ विनायक सेन के आरोपपत्र की जो भाषा थी, उससे साफ पता चलता है कि सरकार और प्रशासन बेहद विनम्र इस महिला के बारे में क्या धारणा रखती है. शनिवार को इलीना सेन पटना में थीं. उनसे प्रभात खबर के लिए की गयी बातचीत के कुछ हिस्से यहां प्रस्तुत कर रहा हूं.

पीयूसीएल के राष्ट्रीय उपाध्यक्ष विनायक सेन कोई अनजाना नाम नहीं रह गया है. उन्हें गत मई में नक्सलियों का समर्थक होने के आरोप में गिरफ्तार कर लिया गया. इलीना सेन बताती हैं कि असल में डॉ सेन छत्तीसगढ़ में मानवाधिकारों पर हमलों, कारपोरेट लूट, सरकारी दमन के खिलाफ लगातार बोलते रहे. सलवा जुडूम के बारे में सबसे पहले डॉ सेन की ही पहल पर जांच की गयी और लोगों को पता चला कि आदिवासियों पर किस तरह आतंक थोप दिया गया है. इन सब कारणों से डॉ सेन सरकार के निशाने पर थे.

सेन ने डॉ सेन पर लगाये गये आरोपों को असंबद्ध और बकवास बताया. उन्होंने बताया कि पुलिस ने एक सबूत यह दिया कि राजनांदगांव में मुठभेड़ के बाद भागे नक्सलियों से छूटे दस्तावेजों में डॉ सेन का नाम था. मगर जो दस्तावेज प्रस्तुत किया गया, वह धुंधला (दिखने में अस्पष्ट) था. जब पुलिस से कहा गया कि वह मूल प्रति दिखाये तो उसने बताया कि मूल प्रति (जो मिली वह) तो है ही नहीं. इसी तरह एक और आरोप डॉ सेन के ऊपर लगाया गया कि वे माओवादी नेता नारायण सान्याल से जेल में मिलते थे और उनकी चिटि्ठयां भाकपा (माओवादी) तक पहुंचाते थे, जिसके कारण माओवादी अपनी गतिविधियां जारी रखे हुए थे. इलीना सेन ने प्रतिप्रश्न किया कि जेल सुपरिटेंडेंट की अनुमति से जेलर के सामने वे मुलाकातें हुईं, ऐसे में क्या यह संभव था?

इलीना सेन ने कहा कि जब माओवादियों की तरफ से आम नागरिकों के प्रति हिंसा होती है तो हम उसे भी कंडेम करते हैं. छत्तीसगढ़ में गृहयुद्ध चल रहा है और ऐसे में पुलिसिया कार्रवाई करके कुछ भी हासिल नहीं किया जा सकता. छत्तीसगढ़ की जनता भूखी है, उसे कोई बुनियादी सुविधा मुहैया नहीं है, न स्वास्थ्य, न शिक्षा. ऐसे में वह क्या करे अगर वह दखल न दे? राज्य के अनेक इलाकों में लोग बहुत न्यूनतम स्तर का जीवन जीते हैं. यही वे इलाके हैं, जहां माओवादियों की पकड़ लगातार मजबूत हुई है. आज़ादी के बाद से 60 साल बीत गये. लोग कब तक धीरज धरे रहेंगे? वे कुछ न कुछ तो करेंगे ही.

इलीना सेन ने महिलाओं के शोषण को उजागर करने में काफी काम किया है. उनका कहना है कि राज्य में महिलाओं की स्थिति बेहद खराब है. सलवा जुडूम और दूसरी कार्रवाइयों में उन पर अत्याचार और बढ़ा है. स्वास्थ्य की स्थिति तो बहुत खराब है. उनमें भारी कुपोषण है. जो आजीविका के साधन थे इलाके के लोगों के, वे चौपट हो गये हैं. सैन्य बल महिलाओं का काफी शोषण करते हैं. 100 से ज्यादा मामले सिर्फ हमने दर्ज किये हैं- और न दर्ज हो पानेवाले मामलों की संख्या इससे कहीं ज्यादा होगी. सरकार महिलाओं के लिए कुछ नहीं करती. बस चटनी-आचार बनाने के प्रशिक्षण दिये जाते हैं, पर वह कोई समाधान नहीं है.

इलीना सेन बताती हैं कि सलवा जुडूम के दौरान उजाड़े गये लोगों को जिन सरकारी राहंत कैंपों में रखा गया था, उन कैंपों को स्थायी राजस्व ग्राम में बदले जाने की बात आयी है. और इन राहत कैंपों में रहनेवाले जिन गांवों को छोड़ कर आये हैं वे उजाड़ दिये गये गांव एमएनसीज को दे दिये जायेंगे. असल में सलवा जुडूम अभियान ही इसीलिए चलाया गया था कि जमीनें खाली हों तो उन्हें बहुराष्ट्रीय कंपनियों को दिया जाये. लोहंडीगुडा में आदिवासी ग्राम सभा ने जमीन बेचने की अनुमति नहीं दी तो फर्ज़ी ग्रामसभा बना कर उससे अनुमति दिला दी गयी. अब कहा जा रहा है कि एक बार ग्रामसभा ने अनुमति दे दी तो दोबारा उस पर विचार नहीं किया जा सकता. स्थानीय लोग इसका विरोध कर रहे हैं तो उन्हें माओवादी बताया जा रहा है, जबकि वे सीपीआइ से जुडे़ हुए हैं.

इलीना सेन बताती हैं कि राज्य में बौद्धिक माहौल में गिरावट आयी है. कोई भी सरकार के और इन कार्रवाइयों के विरोध में बोलना नहीं चाहता. उनलोगों को लगता है कि ग्लोबलाइजेशन से उन्हें फायदा है.इलीना सेन के अनुसार डॉ सेन इतने सिंपल हैं कि उनके बारे में यह सोचा भी नहीं जा सकता कि वे हिंसक कार्रवाइयों को सपोर्ट कर सकते हैं.

इलीना सेन थोड़ा हंसती हैं-डॉ सेन की चार्ज शीट की जो भाषा है उस पर. उसमें कहा गया है कि डॉ सेन का काम डॉक्टरी रूप से शून्य है. इलीना बताती हैं कि जब छत्तीसगढ़ बना था तो पहली सरकार ने राज्य में स्वास्थ्य सेवाओं में सुधार के लिए जो सलाहकार समिति बनायी थी, उसमें डॉ सेन एक प्रमुख सलाहकार थे (इलीना सेन भी उस समिति की सदस्य थीं). अब यह भाजपा सरकार आयी है तो इसे पता ही नहीं कि उनका डॉक्टरी योगदान क्या है.

पूरे छत्तीसगढ़ की स्थिति पर इलीना सेन ने कहा कि सरकार सैन्यीकरण को बढ़ा रही है. युवाओं के लिए सारे अवसर बंद हैं. केवल सेना में नौजवानों की भरती हो रही है. बड़ा बजट है नक्सलियों को खत्म करने का. नक्सली समस्या है तो कइयों को फायदा है इससे. स्थास्थ्य बजट से अधिक का बजट है नक्सली उन्मूलन का.

कहा जाता है कि वहां सीआरपीएफ लोगों की सुरक्षा के लिए हैं. जो उनकी चौकियां हैं उनमें बाहर एसपीओ रहते हैं और उनके सुरक्षा घेरे में सीआरपीएफ. एसपीओ तो स्थानीय लोग ही बनते हैं. आप देखिए कि कौन किसकी सुरक्षा कर रहा है.मानवाधिकार कार्यकर्ताओं पर बढ़ती दमनात्मक कार्रवाइयों से चिंतित इलीना सेन कहती हैं कि जेल जाने का शौक किसी को नहीं होता. अगर कोई गलत काम होता है तो उस पर जेल जाने के डर से चुप भी नहीं रहा जा सकता. पीयूसीएल के पास जो भी रास्ते हो सकते हैं, उन्हें वह अपना रहा है अपना विरोध दर्ज कराने के लिए.

Response From An Ordinary Indian Citizen To Mr. Vishwaranjan

After his detailed seven part interview with Daily Chhattisgarh, I was glad to see Chhattisgarh DGP, Mr. Vishwaranjan's article that appeared in this newspaper on 15th September. I am highly impressed by his deep knowledge of naxalism, police and the history of this country in general as is evident from that interview. Although I don't agree with him on most of the points of the latter article "ardh satya, tadarth chintan and rumaniyat se pare naxalwaad ka satya", it is rare in this country that one sees a top ranking government official responding to public questions and criticisms. I have heard from a lot of people that Mr. Vishwaranjan is one of the most brilliant police officers in the country and the fact that the DGP took time to present his views publicly, proves that assertion once again. A person is judged by not what he/she believes in, but how he/she reacts to the people with oppossing views.
I have pointed out that I don't agree with him. Let me specify why and how. Firstly, I am surprised to see Mr. Visharanjan say that, 'ordinary indians is used to static thinking and can be easily misled '. I am responding as a very ordinary Indian citizen. The entire Chhattisgarh police's salary, as well as the money for campaigns like Salwa Judum, comes from the taxes paid by this 'ordinary Indian citizen'. Hence to term them as static and nonserious is not only an affront to democracy; it is actually questioning one's own infallibility. As an ordinary Indian, I would not mind my taxes to fund any genuine anti-insurgent operations, I would encourage higher salaries and better facilities for the police who are working for my safety, and would be glad if more money is pumped into improving infrastructure, health and education of all Indians, especially in naxal affected areas. But this is not what I see from the ground. What I do mind is if my money is being used to fund arson, rapes and murders of innocent villagers in the name of Salwa Judum. There has been several serious allegations against this movement, which I found convincing enough to distress me a lot. If even 1 percent of those are true, then my culpability in the crime increases if I don't speak up against the wrongs. Forget about Salwa Judum for a moment, there are rape allegations against one of the top district police officers of Chhattisgarh, and I as an ordinary citizen, haven't seen any action taken against that particular 'alleged rapist police officer'. Assuming that most of the policemen/women in Chhattisgarh are honest, upright and hardworking, what can be more demoralizing for them than such serious charges not being acted upon against one of their senior officers? How can morale be kept up in any department if an "alleged rapist" is promoted and preserved?
I have also seen the video of Chhattisgarh police hitting old men and women using their shoes in Ambikapur a couple of months back. Being a student of psychology, I know about the famous Milgram's obedience experiment conducted during 1961-1964. The results of the experiment was that "Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority". In other words, given an explicit order from an authority, normal people will rather follow the order, than ponder about the moral and legal obligations of it. That explains much of the behaviour of the police in Ambikapur. Most of the times whenever such injustice happens, it happens because "orders came from the top". So, if people at the top are not being acted against, then nothing can be more damaging in sinking the morale of an ordinary policeman/woman. This disgruntlement can then be used by forces like naxalites to further their agenda. Like NGOs, the police become equally vulnerable to infiltration by the naxalites. How equipped is our police in handling such scenarios?
It is also puzzling to see Mr. Vishwaranjan define strategic hamletting as segregating the part of the population that supports the army, and use them to enclose the rebels from all four sides to cut their supply lines. He is wrong!!! Being an ordinary citizen, who unlike his claim does not look for easy ways out, and who is also not scared of technical terms, let me clarify the true meaning of this term. Internationally, strategic hamlets as a military strategy have only one meaning, as defined and implemented by british military strategist RKG Thompson in Malaya. In the years during 1948 to 1960, he "took villages and fortified them, and then controlled the flow of rice and food and ammunition and so on and so forth". Since then this tactic has been used across the world, most notably by the US during the Vietnam War. Initially, like in Malaya, the villages were fortified with barbed wire fences erected around them and heavy security were deployed around these fortified villages. When this was not found to be working because of the sheer volume of the villages, the people were forcefully shifted to many designated camps in Vietnam-Cambodia border. The basic aim of strategic hamletting was/is "isolating the rural population from the (Viet Cong) communist guerrillas". These camps were notorious for keeping their inmates in forced detention inside and that was the reason the whole program failed miserably and the eventual defeat of the US in that war. How different is Salwa Judum? Why is it that all public amenities in the other side of the Indravati river has been suspended since the start of Salwa Judum? I have seen sworn affidavits from the people living there. Why is it that the people living in villages are not allowed to come to the haats? Why do they need to go to as far as Narayanpur to get a packet of salt?
I am not sure if somewhere in some police or home ministry office, someone actually sat down and said, "Aha!! Look, this thing called Strategic Hamlets is a nice little thing that the americans had tried in Vietnam against the communist guerillas. Let's do the same thing here in Dantewada". Such a meeting might not have ever happenned. What I do know is that there is a remarkable similarity between the acts and execution of Salwa Judum with what we read/hear about Strategic Hamlet program. People are forced to shift in designated camps. The camps are fortified. Those who don't come to camps are attacked. The people who choose to live in villages have their houses burnt down, their crops destroyed, hitting them economically. All connections between those living in the villages and the outer world are systematically broken down. All allegations are summarily dismissed as naxal propaganda.
(For more details please read JFK's biography 'To Move a Nation: The Politics of Foreign Policy in the Administration of John F. Kennedy' by Kennedy's pointsman in Vietnam and one time advocate of strategic hamlet program Roger Hilsman. The pentagon papers describe what went wrong in Vietnam in quiet detail. Also see "The Vietnamese 'Strategic Hamlets': A preliminary report" by Donnell and Gerald and 'The Journal of Strategic Studies 1947-1972' by Sylvia Potter)
The DGP also points out that there is little similarity between Darfur crisis and Salwa Judum. David Loyn of BBC, who visited both Dantewada and Darfur was the first person to point out the similarities between the two. It might be too simplistic to claim that Darfur crisis is nothing but sectoral violence between two ethnic groups of Arab and Black muslims, as does the Sudanese government. I am sad to see our DGP's summary dismissal of this most reprehensible genocide in Darfur. Like Dantewada, the roots of the problem lie in the years of neglect that the Darfur province faced in the hands of Sudanese government. Darfur had a massive famine in 1983-84 killing thousands of people, and that laid the seeds of rebellion. (Bastar also had a famine in 1966-67 during which popular Raja Pravir Chandra Bhanj Deo was killed in a police firing). Water, a precious resource in Sahara lies in the root of the conflict. After two rebel groups started an armed uprising in 2003, the Janjaweed, that is a ragtag bunch of private goons with sophisticated arms, attacked the entire population. Janjaweed would burn the entire villages. They would rape the women, and kill at random. The rebels of Darfur also suppressed the people, but their attrocities appear tame when compared to that done by Janjaweed. Janjaweed would, after burning the villages and doing their loot, take possession of the limited number of water points. On monday, 17th September, UN Secretary general said that "this region's future also depends on supplies of water". The kind of stories that came from Darfur is not very dissimilar to what the people of Dantewada are saying in sworn affidavits. Why did the Darfur crisis aggravate so much that around 200000 people killed and 2.5 million people are living in refugee camps of Chad. Of course, the scale of casualties in Dantewada in last two and a half years is nowhere close to what's happenned in Darfur. But the politics and philosophy behind the crisis is the same.
The philosophy is that of "arming local resistance groups". In May 2005, the top Janjaweed leader, Musa Hilal, admitted that his militia was funded and supported by the Sudanese national government. He said that in many regions, it was the government that backed and directed the militia activities. This has been proven as fact in numerous international fact finding missions. It is this philosophy of forming, arming and supporting private armies to do the state's bidding, is what sets the parallels between Salwa Judum and the events across the globe. Another place where such things were successfully tried is in Peru in the 90s, where its ex-president, Alberto Fujimori armed private gangs to suppress a maoist kind of uprising in that country. Last month Fujimori was proclaimed a human rights offender in his country, and is now an absconder from Peru. Why would the state ever arm and support private militia? Is the police not smart, capable and equipped enough to fight insurgency? In almost all cases, these untrained and unaccountable private militias are recruited to do the dirty job. The jobs that the state armed forces cannot do because of international obligations and the limits imposed by the constitution of India. Who are these private armies accountable to?
Let me remind the DGP that such tactics, although might seem to give results in short term, they have always had disastrous consequences in the end. The private militia always had proven to be a larger headache than the original rebellion. Like, in Sierra Leone, the private militia turned into a private army doing the bidding for diamond giant Debeers. They solved by force the conflicts that the international diamond company had with the local population. What is the future of Salwa Judum? What will the SPO do after, let's suppose, the naxalites are driven out of Bastar. Will they be regularised in the police force? Or will they end up doing the bidding for Tata and Essar, two organisations that have already turned notorious in Bastar for cheating the public.
Six years ago, George W Bush asked the world to choose between liberty, freedom and democracy on one side and mass murder, slaughter of innocents and terrorism on the other. But using his excuse of protecting liberty, promoting freedom and preserving democracy, Mr. Bush soon turned his attention towards the oil-rich Iraq even before the attack on Al-Qaeda could reach a logical conclusion. Some American companies considered close to the republicans, like Haliburton (the oil company), Blackwater (the private security group) , Dyncorp and CACI, to name a few, benefited immensely from this war. But Al Qaeda has gotten stronger, America is more hated now, and more than 1 million Iraqis lost their lives in the ensuing years.
Whatever genuine might be his intentions, we don't want to be led down that path ever again. Mr. Vishwaranjan asked us to take our pick between ''constitution and democracy' vs 'people who want to destroy it using violence'. There is going on a very prominent civil war in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh in the name of Naxalism and Salwa Judum. All of us have a right to know who the real beneficiaries are in this civil war. The stories of Essar and Tata steel plants, essar funds for Salwa Judum camps, their mining leases, the MOUs being kept under wraps, the forced, undemocratic and unconstitutional acquisition of land for these plants, the arrests, the murders, the rapes, and the brazenness of the whole affair might give us some clues.
Being an unabashed constitutionalist and democrat myself like our DGP, I wish chhattisgarh police all the success in their war against the naxalites. I would also offer all my technical expertise in helping the police in their fight. But, just like you cannot have sex to preserve virginity, you cannot destroy or mess with the constitution to preserve it. If there are serious questions regarding police's conduct, it is the moral responsibility of the DGP to own them, and to find out ways to correct the institutional maladies. I know that if there is anyone who is courageous enough to admit mistakes and punish the wrongdoers, it is the current DGP of Chhattisgarh, Mr. Vishwaranjan. Doing so will be the biggest morale booster for Chhattisgarh police.

By Anoop Saha

The High Court of Rajasthan steps in to expose Urmul Trust's ill deeds

It is an open fact that there is very little control over the NGOs by the State and that most of the NGOs have become a law unto themselves and that mere lip service is being offered to agendas relating to real community development in whose name millions of rupees is being pumped in every year. There is every need for NGOs to become accountable towards the communities whom they claim to represent. The need of the hour is for the Govt. to introduce laws/system mechanisms that is utmost necessary for regulating these so called ‘civil societies’.

Keeping in mind the need for the much needed social reforms within the NGOs of Rajasthan, a D.B. Civil Writ has been filed in the High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan at Jodhpur pointing out the serious irregularities being committed by Urmul Rural Health Research and Development Trust, Bikaner (Urmul Trust) under the stewardship of Sh. Arvind Ojha as the Secretary.

The Public Interest Litigation attempts to expose the inside story of how Mr. Ojha, holding the post of an ordinary cooperative inspector at Urmul Dairy, Bikaner and using all his influence with powerful Govt. bureaucrats including the IAS/RAS lobbies, gets himself deputed (and that too, the deputation lasting for over two decades!) to a private NGO, Urmul Trust, rises up above all laws, takes all national and international funding agencies for a ride and earns a name for himself as an "honest, committed, transparent, democratic and selfless social worker" and the "champion of the downtrodden".

In this connection, the honorable judges of the Hon. High Court, Hon. Justice Mr. P.B. Majumdar and Hon. Justice Mr. Dev Narayan Thanvi have found prima facie evidence against the gross misdeeds committed by Mr. Arvind Ojha and has passed orders on the 14th of September 2007 for issuing notices to the non-petitioners including the (1) Chief Secretary, Rajasthan, (2) Dist. Collector, Bikaner, (3) CMH&O, Bikaner, (4) Director General of Police, Jaipur, (5) Director, C.B.I., New Delhi, (6) Inspector General of Stamps, Ajmer, Rajasthan, (7) Principal, Medical College, Bikaner, (8) Managing Director, Urmul Dairy, Bikaner, (9) Sh. Ashok Shekhar, I.A.S., (10) Asst. Commissioner, Devasthan, Bikaner, (11) Commissioner, Devasthan Dept. Udaipur, (12) Superintendent of Police, Bikaner, (13) Registrar, Cooperative Society, Jaipur, (14) Ms. Karin Potma, Financial Officer, Oxfam Novib, The Netherlands, (15) Director, FCRA Division, Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi, (16) Managing Director, RCDF, Jaipur, (17) M/s Daiya & Tiwari Associates, Chartered Accountants for Urmul Trust, (18) Secretary, Colonization Dept., Jaipur, (19) Commissioner, Colonization Dept., Bikaner, (20) Registrar, Societies Registration, Cooperative Dept, Bikaner etc. for filing their replies against the charges made in the Civil Writ by the 30th of October 2007.

This news was prominently covered by all the leading dailies as well as eminent TV news channels on the 15th and the 16th of September 2007.

P.S : Kindly note that this info. is being shared with you as we feel together, we can prevent the rot which is at present giving the civil societies a bad name. It is high time that the goodwill of the NGOs is restored back. This forum is not anti-NGOs. We are anti-dishonest, corrupt NGOs with hidden agendas. There can be no argument about the necessity for NGOs in the country’s present context….but…ONLY honest NGOs please…

For Social Workers Forum, Rajasthan
Advocate Mukesh Sharma & Anil Purohit, Writ Petitioners


We, the undersigned civil society groups, people's movements, humanrights organisations and concerned individuals condemn the killings ofinnocent people and destruction of public property by Hindutva-inspiredcommunal forces recently. A mob, now identified as members of SanghParivar organizations, attacked a Tamil Nadu public transport bus inBangalore recently and burned down the vehicle that was carrying 26passengers. Two passengers were killed and their bodies were charredbeyond recognition. This attack was a part of conscious and systematicefforts of the religious fundamentalist forces to undermine the realissues concerning Sethusamudram Project and to make political capital byflaring up the emotions of the people and dividing them on religious andprovincial lines.The Sethusamudram Project was introduced by the BJP while they were inpower at the centre without considering the ecological and human problems.The Sethusamudram Project will endanger a rich biosphere reserve with400 endangered species, including sea turtles, dolphins, dugongs andwhales. The project will destroy the livelihood of 15 Lakh people whodepend on fishing and allied areas in the waters where the canal will bedug. Several fisher people's organisations and human rights groups hadprotested against the project for a long time without getting anyrecognition from the mainstream political parties. Today the effort bythe communal-fundamentalist forces is to divert the real issuesconcerning the project and generate political gain in view of theforthcoming elections.We feel that there is an immediate need to stop any further violence &communalisation of this issue. Hence we call upon all secular forces andsocial movements to take a strong stand to condemn these efforts ofcommunal forces and recognise the real struggles of fisher people. Wecall upon the civil society to support the fisher people's struggles toprotect the coast from all destructive developmental projects includingSethusamudram project

The Undersigned
1.Just. H. Suresh, Formal Judge, High court Mumbai 2.Praful Bidwai, Journalist & Writer 3.Arundhati Roy, Activist, Writer 4.Vinod Raina, BGVS, New Delhi 5.Gabriele Dietrich, NAPM 6.Prasad Chacko, Action Aid 7.Shripad Dharamadhikary, Mandhan 8.Bruce Rich, Environmental Defense 9.Dunu Roy , Hazards Centre 10.Kamala Bhasin, SANGAT, New Delhi 11.T.Peter, President KSMTF & Secretary, NFF 12.Gilbert, Tamil Nadu - Pondicherry Fisher people's Forum 13.Anton Gomus, National Union of Fisherpeople 14.Madhumitha Dutta, Corporate Accountability Desk 15.Nityanand Jayaraman, Corporate Accountability desk 16.R. Mangaiyarselvam, Founder, Meenavar Viduthalai Vengaigal(Fisherpeople Liberation Tigers)17.V. Gowrilingam, President, Kancheepuram District Fisher peopleFederation, 18.Dr. M. E. Raja, Ph D, General Secretary, National Union of Fishermen, 19. J. Kosumani, President, Tamilnadu Fisherpeople Progressive Assoociation, 20. K. Bharathi, President, South Indian Fishermen's Welfare Association, 21. B. Maran, President, Tamilnadu Fisher People Movement. 22. Anivar Aravind, moving Republic, Kerala 23. Wilfred D'Costa, INSAF 24. Benny Kuruvia, FOCUS on Global South Mumbai 25. Mohaji BHAP, Chandigad 26. Jacob Nellithanam, Richaria Campaign 27. Mahendra Kumar Rauson, NCDHR, Bihar 28. K.P. Sasi, Visual Search 29. Jai Prakash, PEACE 30. Himanshu Upadhyaya, Intercultural Resources 31. P.T. George, Intercultural Resources 32. Abhishek Srivastava, Freelance Journalist 33. Navin Kumar, Star News 34. Lalit Batra, researcher 35. Hitendra, Human Rights Law Network 36. Amarjit Singh, 37. S. Majumdar, HRLN 38. Nandini Oza , Manthan, Badwani 39. Praveen, Delhi University 40. Anja K , Researcher 41. Geetanjali, NBA 42. Supriya , DU 43. Ankitha, DU student 44. Amit , JNU student 45. Harsh Dobhal , Combat law 46. Renu Khanna , PUCL, Baroda 47. Debaranjan, PSSP, Kashipur 48. J.John, Centre for Education & Communication, New Delhi 49. Badar, PEACE, Delhi 50. Surekha, HRLN 51. Andrea Wright, TISS.MADS 52. Lalhlieupuii , JNU student 53. Lalrindiki , Student, Mizoram 54. Nima Lamu Yolmo, JNU student, Darjeling 55. Preeti, Activist 56. Rajesh rangarajan, Activist 57. Vidya Rangan, Activist 58. Sunayana JNU student 59. Simpreet Singh, NAPM 60. Sheena kanwar, Activist 61. Swastika Sanghmithra, Activist62.Subir Dey , JNU Student63.Kasturi Sharma, JNU Student64.Shrikanth , HRLN65.S. Hussaini, IT consultant66.Sanja Sharma, HRLN67.Sarojini, Samad68.Ritwik69.Anshu Malviya, poet, Activist, UP70.Grace Pelly, HRLN71.HR Hiramat, NCPNR, Karnataka72.Smriti, HRLN73.E.P Menon, IDF , Bangalore74.Pradeep Kumar, SVP, UP75.Jharna Jhavera, Janmadhyam76.Aruna roy77.Mihir Engineer , BOSS institute Kolkotta,78.Sulak Sivaraksa, SEM, Tailand79.Irfan Ahmed, Lokmach, Insaf80.Kousal K, Activist Bihar,81.Binod Tyagi, Lok Manch, Bihar82.Rakesh, PEACE83.Jitendra C, PEACE84.Anant Deo N, INSAF Bihar85.Ganesh Prasad, INSAF, UP86.Ranjeet Kumar Singh, PUCE, INSAF, UP87.Chittaranjan Singh, PUCL, INSAF, UP88.Raghavendra kumar Advocate MP89.Jithendra Kumar, Journalist90.Umpiliha DSW91.Mohan Rao, JNU92.Beena, SAMA93.Sarojini, SAMA94.Riwik, SAMA95.Pakhi, SAMA96.Jacqulin J, NAPM97.Deepa Naveen, Activist98.Swathi Mukharji, JMIICR99.Mallika Virdi MAATI, Utharghand100.Jasamia Sarma, Student