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    ....Ram Pal who raises pigs, said, “We celebrated Holi and Diwali along with Christimas.....people were asking....If you’re a Christian, how can you be a Dalit?.....danger is that the re-converts will seize the church and put up a temple.....“We will not let another church come up....there is no Christian left,” said Rajeshwar Singh....
    ....
    ...
    Just say NO to any C21 sequel of Babri the horror movie. The powers that be are of the opinion that beating up on minorities will help win elections. This is from the Gujarat playbook but the success there was more out of a sense of Gujarati asmita than Hindu pride. Already there is evidence (recent by-polls in Uttarkhand, Bihar, and Karnataka) that a backlash is taking shape. Finally, people who live by the sword must be prepared to die by the sword as well...a number of ruling party leaders/workers in UP have been murdered in the past few weeks.

    As far as the Valmikis (Dalits) are concerned, the important question is how they survive in difficult conditions not their status as Hindus or Christians or Muslims. Religious status is not helpful for improving social status....otherwise there would be no need for separate Dalit Christian burial grounds and Dalit Muslim Mosques.

    Religious conversion is a dangerous game and we are ambivalent about the ways to deal with this "problem."A true liberal will be for the freedom to convert (and re-convert). Also if we were truly disadvantaged we would be happy to take money from all of them buggers and adopt a new religion every week (that will teach them).

    As an aside, we would love to hear Prof. Kancha I-laiah defending pork eating as a millenium old Dalit tradition and his plans to support the cause of the pig-farmers - the Valmiki community - by launching a national pork festival (just like the beef festivals he supports with so much enthusiasm).
    ............
    Another contentious issue is foreign money. We do not like Hindu NRIs or Christian Evangelicals or Wahabi Saudis to fund extremists in India and contribute to social disharmony. Religion is one of the most moneyed businesses in India, if people really want to fight conversion battles they can/should fight with local money.

    Finally while we are not enamored of constructing yet one more temple or mosque or church, is it OK to insist that these folks first pay up for a 1000 toilets? And while they will be responsible for maintaining the place of worship, they should also take care of maintenance of the toilets. Call it the Temple-Mosque-Church-Toilet scheme (Yojana).
    ..............

    For 10 years, 29-year-old Ram Pal was a practising Christian, but three days ago he converted and become a Hindu. The change in faith, however, has not tangibly altered his life as the struggle to make ends meet and the worry about the future of his children continue unabated.
    ....
    Despite converting to Christianity in 2001, seven Valmiki families in Asroi village were not accorded minority status. Instead, the village register – maintained by the district administration – continued to identify them as Scheduled Caste. This continued for over a decade, but Ram Pal said that over the past few years, this ambiguous identity of being neither a Christian nor a Dalit was becoming increasingly difficult.
    ....
    Ram Pal, who like others in his community raises pigs, said, “We still used our SC identity to get our children admission in schools and avail to various government schemes. We celebrated Holi and Diwali along with Christimas. But people were asking questions. If you’re a Christian, how can you be a Dalit?”
    ...
    Another such Dalit, 44-year-old Ram Chandra, said, “Our children go to school, on the basis of their SC certificates. But most drop out in their teens and look for work in Hathras and Aligarh. Now that we’re Hindu, at least no can doubt that we’re Dalits.”
    ....
    On Wednesday, a church belonging to the 7th Day Adventists that functioned from a small room in the village was “converted” into a temple through a “shuddhikaran” (purification) ceremony that saw the “ghar wapsi” (reconversion) of 72 Dalit Valmikis in the seven families by various Hindu groups, including the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and Arya Samaj, said villagers.
    ....
    Ram Pal said that the Dalit community did not want the puja to take place within the church. “But, they said it was the only way for us to become Hindus again,” he said.
    ...
    Meanwhile, Khem Chandra, the Sangh pracharak and pramukh of Dharam Jagaran Vivad in Aligarh asserted that the conversion was a “conscious choice made by the Dalit Valimiki community”. However, the news of the appropriation of the church spread tension in the area.
    ....
    Fearing an outbreak of violence, the district administration locked the room on Thursday. The Shiva poster, which was put up in the place where a framed-photograph of Jesus Christ used to hang, has been taken off  “and kept in a safe place.” The belongings of the church – a cupboard, Christmas-lights and a single copy of the Bible – has also been kept in a locker.
    ....
    The Christian community has alleged that such conversions were a part of an RSS conspiracy, aimed at reaping electoral benefit. Seeking immediate action against the perpetrators, civil rights activist John Dayal said, “It is the right of an individual to convert to any religion of his choice. But such mass conversions imply political, social and physical coercion and the threat of violence.  I condemn the coercion and conspiracy of the Sangh Parivar which is using it to polarise the religious environment in the state with an eye on the elections.”
    ....
    Father  Dominic Emmanuel, community leader and the editor of a Christian magazine in Delhi said, “With the BJP in power, these groups have become aggressive.” The village pradhan also pointed out that the BJP, for the first time, had received an overwhelming majority of the votes in the village. “Usually, the votes go for RLD. This time the elections was about Hindus and Muslims and every one voted for Modi. That has been reflected here,” said Vikas Choudhury, pradhan of Asroi.
    ....
    But, while the RSS and the VHP have been making in-roads into the village by working with the Dalit-Christian community, villagers said that it was not simply a matter of faith, but also economics. 
    ...
    “Over the years, the activities of the Church here have receded. We were promised schools, health care and better lives, but nothing came of it. We haven’t been accorded minority status and soon, we feared, our Dalit status would also be taken away from us,” said 54-year-old Guji Lal, who added that Hindu groups in the past months had been increasingly active in the village, convincing people to ‘reconvert’ to Hinduism.
    .......

    When the demolition of the Babri Masjid was threatened in 1991, Parliament en acted a law prohibiting the conversion of any place of worship of one religion into that of another, the only exception being the Babri Masjid itself. Back then, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad sought to demolish 3,000 mosques, claiming these were once temples.
    ...
    This threatened 3,000 more clashes of the Babri Masjid variety, stoking communal carnage and destroying Indian secularism. The Masjid was ultimately demolished, but the new law helped prevent the disease spreading to other places of worship.

    The problem has returned in unexpected fashion in Aligarh. It must be tackled before it can grow.

    In Aligarh, several dalits were once converted to Christianity by the Seventh Day Adventists. That organization then built a church for its new converts. However, 72 of these dalit Christians have been re-converted to Hinduism by the Dharam Jagran Vibhag (DJV), an RSS branch aiming to stop conversions of Hindus to other religions, and attempt re-conversion.

    The DJV organized a “shuddhikaran” (cleansing ceremony) to wash away the Christian “taint” in Aligarh. A Shiv poster was put up in the church, but later removed. The alarmed Seventh Day Adventists locked up the church.

    The danger is that the DJV and re-converts will seize the church and put up a temple there. “We have found a place near the chabootra (verandah). That is where we will set up the temple. I don’t have anything to say for the church. We have done the shuddhikaran in the building, whether they want to uproot the church or raze it to the ground is their headache. We will not let another church come up because there is no Christian left,” said DJV pramukh Rajeshwar Singh, who came from Uttarakhand for the re-conversion.

    Khem Chandra, a local member of the DJV, added, “We will think about the church building. It belongs to the missionaries, but the ground on which it stands belongs to Hindustan. We will not compromise on our dharti (earth). We will meet the villagers and decide about the temple (coming up).”

    Now, our Constitution and laws clearly permit the conversion and re-conversion of individuals from and to any religion. The use of financial and other inducements for conversion is illegal, but voluntary conversion is permitted freely. The Seventh Day Adventists and the DJV both have a right to convert people to their respective faiths. 
    ...
    The RSS claims that foreign Christian money is being used to “buy” converts to Christianity. This has certainly happened in some countries, leading to the derisive term “rice Christians”. But the Christians point out that overseas Hindus pour enormous sums into Indian religious organizations. Besides, Indian temples and organizations have humungous wealth. If indeed faith can be bought, Hindu organizations have a distinct financial advantage in India, and can easily outbid Christian ones.

    But this is just a distraction. Financial inducements for conversions are illegal. Only voluntary conversions are legal.

    What is clearly illegal, however, is the destruction of a place of worship, or its conversion into a place of worship for another sect or religion. The 72 dalits in Aligarh can follow any religion they want, but cannot claim ownership of the church, which belongs to the Seventh Day Adventists.
    ...
    The mere fact that the 72 dalits worshipped in that church does not make it their personal property, to be disposed of as they like. They can build a temple on any other land, close or far from the church. But they cannot claim, as DJV leader Khem Chandra has done, that the church building may belong to the Christians, but the ground underneath belongs to Hindustan.

    Hindustan does not mean the exclusive land of religious Hindus. Historically, Hindustan simply meant the land of the people of the Indus valley. The Constitution is very clear that India is a land of multiple religions where persons of all faiths are equal, and none can be discriminated against.
    ......

    Link (1): stop-new-babri-movement-against-churches

    Link (2): indianexpress.com/didnt-get-minority-status-so-embraced-hinduism

    .....

    regards

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  • 08/31/14--19:49: This is Rape Culture
  • The untold story of how a culture of shame perpetuates abuse. I know, I was a victim:

    It was with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes that I read about the horrific cases of abuse and neglect revealed in the Rotherham report this week.
    Much of the media coverage has focused on how men of mostly Asian descent preyed on vulnerable young white victims. The details of this abuse are awful. But what has largely been ignored is the report’s finding that sexual abuse has been systemically under-reported among Asian girls due to deeply entrenched cultural taboos – obscuring the reality that there is a similarly rampant problem of minority girls being abused by members of their own community.
    I have first-hand knowledge of this problem. I’m coming forward to publicly share my own story in the hope that I can encourage others to do the same and help tear down the wall of silence that perpetuates further abuse.
    I grew up in a small community of a few hundred British-Pakistanis in Skipton, less than 60 miles from Rotherham. When I was 10 a neighbour started sexually abusing me. Paralysed by shame, I said nothing. ... It was only after a decade away from Skipton that I was finally able to garner the courage to return and testify against my abuser. When I first told my mother about the abuse I’d suffered, she was absolutely devastated. The root of her anger was clear: I was heaping unbound shame on to my family by trying to bring the perpetrator to justice. In trying to stop him from exploiting more children, I was ensuring my parents and my siblings would be ostracised. She begged me not to go to the police station.
    I don't need to get into details with the audience of this weblog to know where this attitude comes from. Readers will be aware that it transcends religion and religiosity, though it is bound within the cultural matrix of which religion is part and parcel. My mother, who condemns Western immorality and libertinism, has expressed sadness that a pedophile who preyed upon girls within her social circle had to flee to Bangladesh, because of the shame it brought upon his family. That's a culture for you.

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    .....200 supporters of Qadri seized the PTV building......"They have stormed the PTV office"...news anchor said just before the screen went blank....."PTV staff performing their journalistic duties are being beaten up".......Khan, who like Qadri has since 15 August been living on the streets.....frequently alluded to a "third umpire"....send Sharif home...veiled reference to the army.....
    ....
    ....
    This is looking like the beginning of the end. How long is it before Nawaz Sharif departs for Saudi Arabia. This guy is likely to be de-throned for the third time...this has to be a record of some sorts. The closest analogy we can think of is from the fictional depictions of Latin America a few decades back when there would be a musical chair full of supreme rulers which ever way you look.

    One thing is for sure, we would not like to tangle with that youngster - the one in the fore-ground with an intense look and a thick stick - down a dark alleyway.

    Here is our revenge in a teacup proposal. After the PTI-PAT combo comes to power, can the Sharif brothers return the favor by invading the inner sanctum with their supporters? The country will by then have moved to a permanent chaotic state. The new mind-set is as follows: why bother to co-operate in the national interest, when you can be in opposition and have fun all the time.
    .......
    Anti-government protesters pushed further into sensitive areas of the Pakistani capital on Monday, briefly taking over the state broadcaster and forcing it off air.
    ......
    The police force, under orders from the beleaguered civilian government, did little to prevent thousands of supporters of former cricket star Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri from entering a compound containing many government ministries in Islamabad and the offices of the Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV).

    The all-powerful army had decreed on Sunday night that the government should not use force against protesters following clashes on Saturday in which three people died and hundreds were injured.

    The weekend violence had been triggered when Qadri and Khan ordered their followers, who had been camped on a road in a high security area of the capital where government buildings are located, to storm the prime minister's residence although ultimately they only succeeded in flooding on to the lawns of parliament.

    On Monday more than 200 supporters of Qadri seized the PTV building, reportedly seizing weapons from security guards. "They have stormed the PTV office," a news anchor said just before the screen went blank. "PTV staff performing their journalistic duties are being beaten up."

    Army troops also refused to use force and protesters were free to simply mill amid the large troop deployment in the capital. Instead army soldiers asked the crowds to leave restricted areas and not enter government ministry buildings. Eventually, protesters were also persuaded to leave PTV, which then began broadcasting again.

    All sides of the dispute are treating the military with extreme caution and respect. On Sunday it published a statement saying it was "committed to playing its part in ensuring security of the state" but wanted the situation to be "resolved politically without wasting any time and without recourse to violent means".

    Many protesters say they hope the army will step in to support their cause by either seizing power or at least ordering prime minister Nawaz Sharif to step down, just 15 months after he was elected in a huge landslide victory.

    Khan, who like Qadri has since 15 August been living on the streets in a specially modified sea container, has in his many speeches frequently alluded to a "third umpire" who will send Sharif home – a thinly veiled reference to the army.

    Although the military has directly ruled Pakistan for half of its history, and wielded enormous power behind the scenes even when civilians have nominally been in control, many analysts doubt the army wants to oust the government.

    While senior generals have repeatedly clashed with Sharif over the past year, an unconstitutional removal of the government would jeopardise billions of dollars of much needed US aid.

    It is widely suspected however that the army will attempt to use the crisis to clip the wings of Sharif, who has defied the top brass by ordering a high treason trial for former military ruler Pervez Musharraf and by pushing for better diplomatic and trade relations with India.

    But even though the military appeared to be trying to remain as an independent arbitrator between the two sides the extraordinary television pictures of troops flooding on to the streets highlighted the government's growing vulnerability.

    Many of the soldiers were members of the 111 Brigade, which has been responsible during past coups for grabbing government buildings – in particular the offices of PTV. On Monday morning large numbers of troops were seen pouring into the office block in central Islamabad.

    The mornings have generally been quiet during the two-week long crisis that has gripped Pakistan's capital with political speeches and rallies largely being held in the evening. But just before 9am the crowds began to once again try to remove sea containers placed on roads leading to the prime minister's house. Despite the use of teargas and shooting into the air above the protesters the police were unable to stop the crowds moving to various areas around Islamabad's Red Zone.

    Khan said attempts to negotiate had collapsed because the government had refused to meet his main demand that the prime minister should step down, even just temporarily whilst a commission of inquiry investigates last year's election that Khan claims was rigged to deprive him of victory. 

    While the May 2013 election was not without irregularities, no independent election monitoring group has supported Khan's claims of massive rigging that would have changed the overall result.

    On Monday Khan said he would not call off the protests. "I call upon my workers to remain peaceful," Khan said from atop a shipping container at the main rally site. "Do not carry out any acts of violence. God has given us victory."

    ......

    Link: guardian.com/pakistan-protesters-prime-minister-nawaz-sharif-islamabad

    .....

    regards

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    .....According to the PTI president Hashmi, a script for such a move was laid out well in advance......"When Imran laid out the plan, I said to Imran, 'Khan sahab what are you doing?.....He said, 'I am telling you there will be elections in September and everything has been worked out'"......
     ....
    What is being proposed is a rule by zero-corrupt technocrats acting in the best interests of the nation (without being harassed by ankle-biting, low-information voters). We wonder why such a common-sense approach has not been acted on before  in Pakistan, and elsewhere, and why there is a lack of durable, successful techno-dictatorships (Chicoms are probably the closest to this ideal).

    ....

    It is notable that Pakistan now (publicly) aspires to follow the example of Bangladesh, when right after Partition-I she imagined herself (with some justification) to be the new Medina in South Asia. 

    One more point of interest (for parochial Bongs): a look at the map above and we note the likelihood of Bangla herself experiencing a coup in 2014, along with sister nations Nepal, Burma, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was a hundred years ago when the freedom fighter from Maharashtra, Gopal Krishna Gokhale noted: "what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow." This dictum updated for the C21 may read as "what Bangla thinks today, South Asia (sans India) thinks tomorrow."We speak in jest, of course.
    .......
    Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) President Javed Hashmi's startling claims of a scripted political crisis being engineered in Pakistan has led to widespread speculation among analysts that a version of the 'Bangladesh Model' may be in the works.
    ......
    "Imran had told the PTI core committee it won't be called a martial law," Hashmi alleged at a press conference, hinting at a covert form of takeover by the military establishment, using PTI Chairman Imran Khan and Chief of the Pakistan Awami Tehreek Tahir-ul-Qadri as their instruments.

    ...
    The 'Bangladesh Model', a soft coup, is based on the idea that the political system must be cleansed of corrupt elements for the welfare of the public, which perhaps has been left incapacitated to elect honest leaders.

    ...
    The model works on the premise that the military and judiciary must intervene to help differentiate the 'right' from the 'wrong' before it is too late. The model stipulates that the democracy that follows such a 'cleansing' is therefore a truer form since the people have been rightly 'guided' and are now able to make informed decisions.

    ...
    Technocrats, current and former officials aligned with the military and judiciary play a vital role in the implementation of the 'Bangladesh Model' of which the strings are pulled from the background and through an interim government that remains in power for a lengthy period as happened in Bangladesh in 2007.

    ....
    "If Nawaz Sharif survives, for the rest of his term, he will be a ceremonial prime minister—the world will not take him seriously," said Ayesha Siddiqa, an Islamabad-based analyst told the Wall Street Journal on Saturday."A soft coup has already taken place. The question is whether it will harden."

    Reacting to the drama in Islamabad, the International Crisis Group (ICG) had also warned last week that the possibilities of a coup were very high and that such a development "would imperil any progress that has been made in addressing grievous economic, development and security challenges."

    ...
    "The protests rocking Islamabad threaten to upend the constitutional order, set back rule of law and open the possibility of a soft coup, with the military ruling through the backdoor," the ICG said in its statement.

    ...
    According to the PTI president Hashmi, a script for such a move was laid out well in advance.
    "When Imran laid out the plan, I said to Imran, 'Khan sahab what are you doing?'"
    "He said, 'I am telling you there will be elections in September and everything has been worked out.'"

    ..
    In January this year, the Washington Post cited Pakistan as 'high risk' on a list of countries likely to face coup attempts.


    ......

    Link: dawn.com/javed-hashmis-allegations-what-is-the-bangladesh-model

    ....

    regards

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    When real revolutions happen in significant countries - as in Iran in 1978 or Egypt in 2011 - millions of people pour out on the streets throughout the country and bring everything to a standstill. In the current "revolution" underway in Pakistan, activity is limited largely to a couple of square kilometers in Islamabad and a few specific locations in other cities. The number of people involved at any one location has never exceeded about 40,000 (combined), and currently is far, far lower. And even among these, many come in just for the music concerts. The revolutionary leaders sit in their airconditioned, bullet-proof containers, delivering periodic sermons consisting of vague generalities spiced up with colorful or apocalyptic language. The followers, ragged after weeks of revolutionizing, are roused to dramatic but ultimately ineffectual frenzies. Tear gas fills the air; rubber bullets fly; people get beaten and beat up policemen. TV anchors and analysts cheer or excoriate this or that side. In the rest of the country, life continues as normal, albeit with an undercurrent of tension.

    What this shows above all is that the parties leading the revolution do not, in fact, have the mass support they had claimed. In the case of PTI, it may have convinced tens of millions to vote for it, but of these only a very small fraction feel strongly enough to heed its revolutionary call. That's not how real grass-roots revolutions work. It is the classic sign of an "astro-turf revolution".

    There is no doubt that Imran Khan has the personal support of millions of Pakistanis, but it is now clear that these come mainly from a few highly influential but numerically small segments of society: The educated urban middle and upper-middle class, expatriate Pakistani professionals, and perhaps some segments of the armed forces. The first two - especially their youthful cohorts - are very vocal and able to generate large amounts of cash, but numerically they are no match for the silent, mostly lower and lower-middle class, often rural followers of other major parties such as the PML-N or the PPP. Nor are they as committed to their leader in deed (as opposed to invective) as MQM followers are to theirs.

    It is true that almost all successful revolutions are driven by the social segments where Imran Khan has his greatest following, but there are two important differences. First, in most of those cases, these segments form a larger proportion of the country than in Pakistan. In countries like Iran and Egypt, the populations as a whole are much more educated and, in Egypt's case, much more urban. Second, the remaining segments of society in these countries are not as much in thrall to reactionary forces as in Pakistan, where vast majorities of them vote based on feudal allegiance, religious affiliation, kinship ties, and personal loyalty to politicians. These large population groups are thus largely immune to the rationally-grounded message presented by leaders such as Imran Khan (in his case, very imperfectly). Revolution will occur in Pakistan only when a leader connects with almost the entire population at such a visceral level that people willingly give up their allegiances of generations upon generations to follow the new leader. In a religious, conservative society like Pakistan, the only basis for such a movement is religion, which is also the most dangerous - especially given the religious strains lately ascendant in Pakistan. It is worth remembering that even in Iran and Egypt, the revolutions brought forth rulers who were religious fundamentalists, not liberal democrats. And in Egypt this led directly to the failure of the revolution.

     Thus, it would perhaps be just as well if the Great Pakistani Revolution is postponed until a time when religious fervor has been diluted by modernity, or until people are so fed up that they are willing to look at radical new alternatives rather than seeing solutions from the distant past. Meanwhile, we still have "democracy" - or at least something that looks like it - if we can keep it.

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    We fear this will become a frequent event. First there was James Foley, now it is Steven Sotloff. Next on the death row, a Briton's life hangs in the balance.
    ......

    .....
    Setting aside the personal tragedies as well as the justified fear about wide-spread Islamophobia it seems the need of the hour is to understand and neutralize the jihadist ideology which is entrapping thousands of youngsters from the West (and elsewhere).
    ......

     ....
    It is our opinion that the governments and the civil society have not really made an effort to understand why these people are so angry and how they are so easily brainwashed. A vaccine is needed...and fast.

    ....
    The only way out (it seems to us) is to somehow make it clear the innate superiority of Western ideas, which has allowed the "Christian" West to dominate over the rest. It is critical that the young angry men be counseled properly (by Western trained imams if required) before the polarization levels become too stark. Our understanding of history is that there was no golden age in the past, human beings never had it so good like the present.
    ......................

    Here’s a summary of the latest developments:
    • Islamic militants released a video purporting to show the beheading of a second captive American journalist, Steven Sotloff, which ended with a chilling warning that a British hostage would be the next to die. In the video, entitled A Second Message to America, a masked man is shown carrying out the decapitation of Sotloff, whose life had earlier been threatened in a film that showed the murder of another American journalist, James Foley.
    • David Cameron condemned the apparent murder as a “despicable act” as he prepared to chair a meeting of the government’s emergency committee. The video of Sotloff’s killing ended with footage of the British hostage in the same style of orange jumpsuit that both Foley and Sotloff were wearing, suggesting he was their next intended victim. His family has asked the media not to identify him.
    • Barack Obama has ordered 350 more troops into Iraq, hours after the release of the latest beheading video. The new deployment was intended not for “a combat role”, the White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement, but to augment security at the Baghdad embassy and associated “support facilities”.
    • An investigation is under way to establish whether the man dubbed Jihadi John is behind the second murder after a British-accented man was shown in the video depicting the killing Sotloff. Security sources said that although there were similarities between the voice on the film that emerged on Tuesday and that depicting the murder of James Foley a fortnight ago, the figure is largely hidden in black clothing.
    • Journalists have paid tribute to Sotloff who reported on some of the most unstable and dangerous locations in the world.“Steven embodies what it takes to report from combat zones,” said Bill Roggio, managing editor of the Long War Journal.
    • Sotloff’s murder and the threat to another hostage dominates the British press. The Daily Mail argues the government is failing to do enough to make Britain feel safe. 
    ......

    Link: http://www.theguardian.com/world/middle-east-live/live/2014/sep/03/isis-threantens-to-kill-british-hostage-next-live-updates

    ....

    regards

    0 0

    ....“Everything around the Prophet’s mosque has already been destroyed..... It is surrounded by bulldozers.....Once they’ve removed everything they can move towards the mosque..... The imam is likely to say there is a need to expand the mosque and do it that way, while the world’s eyes are on Iraq and Syria..... The Prophet Mohamed’s grave is venerated by the mainstream Sunni, who would never do it. It is just as important for the Shia too, who venerate the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima.....
    ...

    This may create a major crisis on top of everything else that is going on in the middle-east.
    ....

    The controversial proposals are part of a consultation document by a leading Saudi academic which has been circulated among the supervisors of al-Masjid al-Nabawi mosque in Medina, where the remains of the Prophet are housed under the Green Dome, visited by millions of pilgrims and venerated as Islam’s second-holiest site. The formal custodian of the mosque is Saudi Arabia’s ageing monarch King Abdullah.


    The plans, brought to light by another Saudi academic who has exposed and criticised the destruction of holy places and artefacts in Mecca – the holiest site in the Muslim world – call for the destruction of chambers around the Prophet’s grave which are particularly venerated by Shia Muslims.


    The 61-page document also calls for the removal of Mohamed’s remains to the nearby al-Baqi cemetery, where they would be interred anonymously. There is no suggestion that any decision has been taken to act upon the plans. The Saudi government has in the past insisted that it treats any changes to Islam’s holiest sites with “the utmost seriousness”.

    But such is the importance of the mosque to both Sunni and Shia Muslims that Dr Irfan al-Alawi warned that any attempt to carry out the work could spark unrest. It also runs the risk of inflaming sectarian tensions between the two branches of Islam, already running perilously high due to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

    Hardline Saudi clerics have long preached that the country’s strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam – an offshoot of the Sunni tradition – prohibits the worship of any object or “saint”, a practice considered “shirq” or idolatrous.

    Dr Alawi, director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, told The Independent: “People visit the chambers, which are the rooms where the Prophet’s family lived, and turn towards the burial chamber to pray.

    “Now they want to prevent pilgrims from attending and venerating the tomb because they believe this is shirq, or idolatry. But the only way they can stop people visiting the Prophet is to get him out and into the cemetery.”

    For centuries Muslim pilgrims have made their way to Mecca in order to visit the Kaaba – a black granite cubed building said to be built by Abraham, around which al-Masjid al-Haram, or the Grand Mosque, is built, and towards which every Muslim faces when they pray.

    This pilgrimage, or hajj, is a religious duty that has to be carried out at least once in a lifetime.
    Many go on to make their way to the nearby city of Medina to pay their respects at the Prophet’s tomb.


    Al-Nabawi mosque around the tomb has been expanded by generations of Arabian rulers, particularly the Ottomans. It includes hand-painted calligraphy documenting details of the Prophet’s life and his family. Dr Alawi said the plans also call for these to be destroyed as well as the Green Dome which covers the Prophet’s tomb.

    The Prophet is venerated by both branches of Islam, Sunni and Shia. The strict Wahhabi sect is a branch of the Sunni faith, however, and removing the Prophet could further inflame tensions between the two groups .

    The current  crisis in Iraq has been blamed on the Shia former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarianism, which alienated the Sunni, leading to the uprising. Isis, also known as Islamic State, which holds swathes of Iraq and Syria, and which murdered the American journalist James Foley, is a Sunni organisation.

    Mainstream Sunni Muslims would be just as aghast at any desecration of the tomb as the Shia, Dr Alawi said. The Independent has previously revealed how the multibillion-pound expansion of the Grand Mosque has, according to the Washington-based Gulf Institute, led to the destruction of up to 95 per cent of Mecca’s millennium-old buildings. They have been replaced with luxury  hotels, apartments and  shopping malls.

    King Abdullah has appointed the prominent Wahhabi cleric and imam of the Grand Mosque, Abdul Rahman al-Sudais, to oversee the expansion project – necessary to cope with the huge number of pilgrims who now visit each year.

    Dr Alawi says the consultation document for the al-Nabawi mosque in Medina, by the leading Saudi academic Dr Ali bin Abdulaziz al-Shabal of Imam Muhammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, has been circulated to the Committee of the Presidency of the Two Mosques.

    Several pages of the consultation document have just been published in the presidency’s journal. They call for the destruction of the rooms surrounding the tomb – used by the Prophet’s wives and daughters, and venerated by the Shia because of their association with his youngest daughter, Fatima.

    The document also calls for the Green Dome, which covers the tomb and these living quarters, to be removed, and the ultimate removal of the Prophet’s body to a nearby cemetery.

    The al-Baqi cemetery already contains the bodies of many of the Prophet’s family, including his father who was removed there in the 1970s, Dr Alawi said. In 1924 all the grave markers were removed, so pilgrims would not know who was buried there, and so be unable to pray to them.

    “The Prophet would be anonymous,” Dr  Alawi added. “Everything around the Prophet’s mosque has already been destroyed. It is surrounded by bulldozers. Once they’ve removed everything they can move towards the mosque. The imam is likely to say there is a need to expand the mosque and do it that way, while the world’s eyes are on Iraq and Syria. The Prophet Mohamed’s grave is venerated by the mainstream Sunni, who would never do it. It is just as important for the Shia too, who venerate the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima.

    “I’m sure there will be shock across the Muslim world at these revelations. It will cause outrage.”

    The Independent was unable to contact the Saudi Arabian embassy, but it said in a statement last year: “The development of the Holy Mosque of Makkah al-Mukarramah [Mecca] is an extremely important subject and one which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in its capacity as custodian of the two holy mosques, takes with the utmost seriousness. This role is at the heart of the principles upon which Saudi Arabia is founded.”

    ....

    Link: independent.co.uk/saudis-risk-new-muslim-division-with-proposal-to-move-mohameds-tomb

    ....

    regards

    0 0
  • 09/03/14--10:08: Gandhi mukt (free) Congress
  • ....Of course there will be chaos.....Blood will be shed....real change, does not come easily and those in power never give it up easy.....And the Gandhis, you must remember, have enormous power, influence, resources at their command..... Modi has only 31% of the 66% who came out to vote.....This means barely a fifth of the nation behind him....So the battle will not be easy.....
    ...
    The Grand Old Party of India needs a thorough house-cleaning before the youth agree to vote for it (the vote for BJP was actually a vote for Modi as the "decider"). And the best way for this to happen is that the Gandhis decide to (voluntary) step down and arrange for a democratic vote for creation of a "privy council" which will rule with the express consent of the party workers.

    Such a Gandhi-free Congress will be powered by the Muslim-Dalit vote while the BJP under Modi will be the natural choice of Forward Caste (FC) - Other Backward Caste (OBC) - Scheduled Tribe (ST) combine. Ultimately, driven by pure electoral logic, India will be ruled by OBCs, as has been the case for most of its history (however this does not mean that OBCs will be dominant everywhere).

    It is difficult for us to vote for either party in present form, we would like to support (ideally) a center-left, secular organization. If the Aam Admi Party becomes a nationwide political force, a bit like an United Party of NGOs, then this would be close to such an ideal. But at the very least we would welcome a Gandhi-free Congress, which in our opinion will be able to take up its proper role as a natural ruling party (in some areas) and a loyal opposition (in other areas).

    In the long run there are only two acceptable paths of change from the present, unsatisfactory, First Past The Post (FPTP) model: India may decide to switch to a two-party + presidential system (PS) following the United States. Alternatively, India can opt for a proportional representation (PR, with 5% threshold vote) as in Germany. We prefer the PR over the PS model, however both models will require (and enforce) umbrella alliances, similar to the NDA and UPA set-ups that we have now.
    ..........
    Manmohan Singh lost because of the Gandhis. Narendra Modi won because of the Gandhis. Can we finally get a politics without the Gandhis please?
    ...

    One of the first things everyone agrees upon in private and denies in public is that the Congress party has reached such a sorry state because of the Gandhis who currently run it. Even Congressmen now admit to it. But as they fear the wrath of the dynasty, they avoid saying it in the open. It remains but an unspoken verity.
    ...
    Very early in her life, Indira Gandhi learnt how to grab power and consolidate it. She did it with amazing dexterity and ease to begin with but then, as the years went by, her insecurities made her more and more ruthless. The Emergency brought it all out finally. In her son Sanjay she got the perfect fall guy though. He was seen as the architect of her fall. But anyone who knew her will tell you that the Emergency was a natural outcome of her own true instincts.
    ...
    Her son Rajiv and his wife were both schooled in politics under her tutelage. So it’s not exactly surprising that they share the same insecurities. Rajiv concealed it with his charm and wit but it 
    sometimes came out in the open.
    ...
    From the way he berated an incumbent chief minister who had come all the way to the airport receive him, then just a party general secretary, to being churlish when crossed by Prabhakaran, Rajiv was exactly the kind of prime minister India so wanted and yet was so disappointed with. You have to read Natwar Singh’s autobiography to figure how Rajiv single handed got India into such an awful mess in Sri Lanka, and Natwar (you must remember) was as ardent a Rajiv fan as you will get. Till ofcourse Sonia managed to rile him.
    ....
    Natwar’s book tells you as much about the Camelot years as it does about Sonia and the fall of the Congress. It is the first stone. More will be cast I am sure. By others.
    ...
    Till now all the fault lines in the party were blamed on others. Manmohan Singh got the brunt of it. He was for Sonia what Sanjay was to Indira. The perfect fall guy, the man everyone came to hate. It was a deliberate strategy to show him up as a wimp who ran away from the battlefield. As the man who let the party down. 

    Short of calling him corrupt, a charge that few would buy into, every other insult was directed at him through a pliant party apparatus and a submissive media looking for someone to target in a season of endless scams where billions were purloined. It was legerdemain of the highest order and poor ....
    .....
    Manmohan never looked as if he could preside over such an enormous heist.
    ....
    Since the media was too scared to take on the Gandhis, they chose the safer option. They targeted Manmohan and, like a fool, he allowed himself to be led to slaughter. From there began the rise of Narendra Modi, the man the nation chose to throw the Gandhis out. 

    Modi was charismatic. He was seen as powerful, decisive. So the electorate decided he could do the job the media and the Congress party had failed to. From that choice came Modi’s real power. Not from the BJP or the RSS. Not from Hindutva. Modi was the man, India decided, who could rescue our politics from the grip of the Gandhis. He had an equal reputation for ruthlessness. It was steel for steel. Modi versus the Gandhis.
    ....
    The BJP and Congress were only observers.
    ....
    Now that the battle’s over, and a hundred days too, the nation waits with bated breath to see how Modi will take on the Gandhis. Neither side is showing its hand. Both are playing blind. Manmohan has retreated into oblivion. The Congress is rudderless. The Gandhis only take credit for victory. Not responsibility for defeat, whatever the clichés they may resort to.

    But this time there’s opportunity. A real opportunity for change. Narendra Modi may be the pretext. But the opportunity lies in taking the party that once fought for India’s freedom and give it a spine to fight for its own freedom. Freedom from the Gandhis.

    Of course there will be chaos. Blood will be shed. Change, real change, does not come easily and those in power never give it up easiy. And the Gandhis, you must remember, have enormous power, influence, resources at their command. Modi has only 31% of the vote. That is, 31% of the 66% who came out to vote. This means barely a fifth of the nation behind him. So the battle will not be easy. He’s smart enough to know that.

    That’s why he is so cautious. He’s taking one step at a time. And he has left the Gandhis alone for now. But he knows that sooner or later he has to deal with them if he wants to consolidate his power. They can’t be ignored. Or maybe he’s hoping that they will follow a scorched earth policy and destroy the Congress before riding into the sunset. That could also suit him.

    But that will mean the end of a great party and the death of a real Opposition. It will be a tragedy for Indian politics and hurt Modi as well. For who will then deal with the lunatic fringe in his own party? India needs the Congress. But it needs it without the Gandhis. Can that happen?

    .....

    Link: timesofindia.indiatimes.com/extraordinaryissue/a-congress-without-the-gandhis

    .....

    regards

    0 0

    Dhupguri in Jalpaiguri district of (North) West Bengal is a beautiful place in a narrow tract of land sandwiched between Bhutan and Bangladesh. It is not far from the serene Jaldhaka river as it flows down from the Himalayas into the Dooars (plains). But all the serenity and natural beauty cannot hide the ugliness of mankind.

     
    ...
    Backstory: The victim and her family are tribal people who have been reliable voters for the Communists (CPI-M), currently in opposition. The power-brokers are aligned with the ruling Trinamool Congress led by a woman: Mamata Banerjee. The thugs apparently want to grab the land of the tribals, hence the kangaroo court. The man was asked to lick his own spit off the ground. His teenage daughter desperately tried to save him from being humiliated (and beaten up). In retaliation, she was raped and murdered in broad daylight.

    ....
    Political parties in India of all colors (affiliations) are always ready to shed copious crocodile tears on behalf of the poor. They each claim that they represent the sarbo-hara (the people who have nothing). In reality it is the poor who have to use all the tools that democracy gives them in order to claim for and fight for their rights. This can be the right of education for poor children in posh city schools (the law mandates up to 25%), the right to have a bank account (under the Jan Dhan Yojana instituted by the Govt)....and even the right to have a life with dignity.

    India (and Indians) will have to learn how to ensure a life with dignity for all brothers and sisters. Part of that surely is the right to protest when the heavy boot of the local thug lands on your shoulder. Specifically, a daughter must be able to protect her father from public humiliation without getting killed.

    The only reason the tribals of Dhupguri (not far from Naxal-bari) do not form a gang of their own and burn down the homes of the well-off (with the people inside) is that they are basically kind people. Even when buried under poverty and stress, they will not behead you and upload the video on the net. The elites should be grateful for this but not take things for granted. Else, the day of reckoning will surely come and the price in blood will be paid with full interest.
    .............
    (September 03- Wednesday)
    The naked body of a girl, who tried to save her father from being beaten up at a village kangaroo court for failing to pay for a rented tractor, was found near the railway tracks at Dhupguri in Jalpaiguri district, police said today.
    ...

    The 'Salishi Sabha' (self-appointed village court) was convened at Dhupguri on Monday night and the girl's body was found yesterday, Jalpaiguri Additional Superintendent of Police James Kujur said.
    After identifying the body, the victim's father lodged an FIR against 13 persons at the Dhupguri Police Station for "rape, murder and kidnapping" of his daughter.

    ...

    Trouble began at the 'Sabha' when the farmer's request for some more time to make the payment was turned down, the police said adding local Trinamool Congress councillor Namita Roy and her husband were present at the meeting.
    The girl rushed out of her house pleading with the villagers not to beat her father, but a person known to her took her away from the meeting and she went missing since then, the police said.

    The councillor was not available for comment.

    ...

    District TMC president Sourav Chakrabarty, however, said the police were investigating the incident and there was no need to give "political color" to it.
    ...

    Jalpaiguri Superintendent of Police Kunal Agarwal and the ASP rushed to the spot last night. Kujur said the Government Railway Police would probe the matter as the girl's body was found near the rail tracks.
    ...

    Two persons were initially detained in this connection, but were released later. A juvenile, aged about 14-15 years, was apprehended today in connection with the incident, Superintendent Railway Police (Siliguri) Debashis Sarkar said.
    ...

    Meanwhile, West Bengal Governor K N Tripathi assured a Left Front Parliamentary team during the day that he would seek a report from the state government on the incident."We have expressed our concern about the incident and the Governor has said he will seek a report from the state administration on the incident," CPI(M) MLA Anisur Rehman said. 
    .....
    The Left Parliamentary team, which for the first time met Tripathi after he assumed office, also expressed deep anguish over the "lawless" situation in the state. A delegation of the LF women's wing also met Tripathi and complained about rising incidents of rape and molestation in the state. SFI and DYFI, the student and youth wings of the CPI(M), observed a students strike and 'Black Day' in Dhupguri block today demanding punishment of the culprits and also put up road blockades on NH 31.
    ...

    BJP activists had staged a demonstration in front of the Dhupguri Police Station yesterday, the police said.

    .......

    Link: http://www.outlookindia.com/news/printitem.aspx?858186

    ....

    regards

    0 0
  • 09/04/14--01:34: No Mask, "Pure RSS"
  • .....receive calls from Modi when chief minister, but only once to complain....My paper had done a story...in many parts of Gujarat Muslims denied benefits......Modi said story was wrong.... "You criticize me over Hindutva, that is fair...But I object if you say I am denying poor Muslims a hundred rupees a day".......Subsequent checks showed....incorrect facts....we readily made amends......
    ....
    We admire Shekhar Gupta as a honest-to-God journalist (one of the few ones we have) who bows before no God. Another brave-heart is P Sainath of the Hindu.

    What we see is the Modi doctrine taking shape in which the Hindutva forces carry a big stick and talk softly. For many reasons this may be enough for a significant number of minorities to start voting for the BJP.

    After all there is no particular reason why a Christian, forward-caste (FC) would vote for a Congress party that will primarily depend on the Muslim and Other Backward Caste (OBC) vote to win. Indeed the #1 Sikh party and the #2 Dalit-Buddhist party is aligned with the so-called Manu-vadi alliance.

    The Deputy Chief Minister of the BJP led ruling coalition in Goa, Francis D'Souza, a Catholic, has recently created waves by stating the following: "India is a Hindu country. It is Hindustan. All Indians in Hindustan are Hindus, including I - I am a Christian Hindu"

    Normally it is understood that such a polarization strategy will primarily target muslims (and all other minorities are fine with that approach). But muslims can read the writing on the wall as well as anybody. From the polls (India Today) and field reports (The Hindu in Kerala and West Bengal), the arrow clearly points to this direction.

    The goal is to divide muslims into two categories: (1) Hindustan first-ers and (2) Ummah first-ers. If this plays well politically, it will be recognized as the RSS version of the two-nation theory where a muslim is subjected to a loyalty test but not Hindus.
    ...........
    Answer this one honestly. In all your life, have you seen anybody else, or specifically, any public figure who resembles his own mask as much as Narendra Modi does? 
    ...

    You could possibly argue that computers have rendered mask-making more accurate. Yet, we have never seen a real face and mask so like each other as with Modi. Sometimes you'd even wonder which one is more real. But why are we making such a big deal of it?

    The mask has been an essential metaphor in BJP politics ever since rebellious but erudite K.N. Govindacharya mocked Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a mere mukhauta (Hindi for mask) of the BJP while the real face was entirely different. It was a diabolically clever description. 
    ...
    What Govindacharya meant was, RSS (and the Hindu Right it represented) was the real face of the BJP. The liberal, secular, inclusive and middle-of-the-road Vajpayee was just a mask to conceal it. Vajpayee was furious, but admitted in a conversation with me a couple of months after losing power in 2004 that this was indeed the reality. That what he represented was not the real BJP and that Govindacharya was right.

    Just about three months since his ascent to power, you know that there is no such confusion in Modi's case. The mask and the real face are exactly the same, physically as well as metaphorically. To that extent, Modi is genuinely a leader of the nationalist Hindu Right and his government India's first genuinely right-of-centre one, socially and politically for sure, and we wait to see if it turns out decisively that way economically as well. 
    ....
    Every major action and utterance of his, from discontinuing the routine of 7 RCR iftars to his Independence Day speech and now cancellation of foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan, underlines the same point. Americans would put it as, the man you see is the man you get. In India, in BJP's current context, it is, the man you see on the mask is the man you get as your leader.

    This is a completely new phenomenon in Indian politics where hypocrisy-signal left, turn right has been the norm. Barring some phases of hard socialism, as under Indira Gandhi post-1969, all our leaders have been a bit of this and a bit of that, pretending to be of the left, but never quite true to it. That's why India has always had a mixed everything, from economy to social and foreign policies. 
    ...
    Even economic reformers like P.V. Narasimha Rao and Vajpayee have had to hide their actions behind socialist camouflage, and L.K. Advani famously paid homage to Mohammed Ali Jinnah at his mausoleum. In short, the mask has been an essential equipment in the trick-box of India's political class. This is where Modi, and his BJP, I dare say, are different, and this will be the hallmark of his tenure in power.

    Unlike other ideological leaders who, once they rise to the top, make course corrections, usually moving to the centre, Modi has given every indication that he will, as prime minister, be no different from the way he was as chief minister of Gujarat. This reflects in the generally underwhelming talent base of his Cabinet, reliance on trusted civil servants, shutting out of the media and centralisation of power. He will sound inclusive-as he has done in Gujarat consistently since his second victory in December 2007-but will not reach out to any particular community, whatever its sense of insecurity or hurt. 

    And on issues of national security, his actions as prime minister will be consistent with his fundamental views and instincts. That's why he would take no time cancelling talks because Pakistan's high commissioner meets Hurriyat leaders while every other prime minister, including Vajpayee, had ignored this as a mere side-show or tamasha. 
    ....
    Read the text of his Independence Day speech carefully. It is inclusive, conciliatory, forward-looking and modern. But it is also pure RSS. Modi spoke as an RSS pracharak would have, stressing family values, morality, cleanliness, discipline and patriotism. But his tone was far from threatening or overbearing, the choice of words careful, but with no attempt to specially reach out to any particular section, minorities, Dalits, OBCs, tribals. 
    ....
    In the RSS worldview, all Indians are the same, in fact in the purest ideological interpretation, as recently underlined by Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat, they are all integral to a common identity of Hindutva, although Modi has never gone that far since he rose to public office for the first time in 2001.

    And chances are, he won't. Because, like every other follower of a sharp ideology, he has indeed made a course correction, but he did so much before he rose to prime ministership. He did so post-2007. His discourse became so benignly inclusive that in the 2014 campaign you couldn't find one line you could object to on grounds of communal insinuation or even lack of civility. But there was never a special approach to Muslims, and that is how he is going to be as prime minister. His Independence Day speech highlighted the same Modi.

    What are the other clues from his past and recent conduct that give you an insight into his mind? He ruled his state for 13 years without a Muslim legislator in his party. Yet he did not allow VHP and RSS a free run in the one state they would have hoped to be able to call their own. You ask Pravin Togadia who is the one fellow Indian whose guts he hates, and if he is honest, the answer will be Modi. Alright, no VHP people were put away in encounters, but some had cases of sedition filed against them. How he subdued these groups was in contrast, for example, with the pampering they enjoyed in neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. 

    As time passes, expect more of the same from him in Delhi as well. He may not have responded or contradicted publicly to some of the recent utterances from RSS, etc, but you have seen the static levels go down. Of course, disciplining the sarsanghchalak is a different challenge altogether. Modi's method, therefore, is likely to be more in the nature of very soft Hindutva, and very pronounced nationalism. 
    ....
    You will be surprised if he allows his Government to be distracted by the Ram temple, a common personal law or the repeal of Article 370. Modi believes in employing his political capital to further his ideology, but he will do this very, very cautiously. As the India Today Group-Hansa Research Mood of the Nation opinion poll shows, this seems to be already working: a surprisingly large number of Muslims now say they will vote for Modi.

    These are early days yet, but could it be that Modi is now refining an innovative ideology of the Right? Very nationalist, very moralistic, self-righteous, uncompromising, yet non-threatening to minorities. He and his Government show many other traits of the instinctive Right: their penchant for giganticism, for example. Sardar Patel's statue has to be two and a half times the Statue of Liberty, and a country where top speeds of passenger trains have remained the same in decades has to suddenly leapfrog to bullet trains. More such traits will surface as the months pass. India's first genuinely right-wing government will unfold into a fascinating political story.

    Postscript: I did receive a few calls from Modi when he was chief minister, but only once to complain. My paper then had done a story saying that in many parts of Gujarat poor Muslims were being denied NREGA benefits. Modi said the story was factually wrong. "You criticise or question me over Hindutva, that is fair and it is your right, because I believe in Hindutva," he said. "But I strongly object if you say that I am denying my poor Muslims a hundred rupees a day." I said I would have the reporter recheck his facts. "What you people in Delhi will not understand is, in my Gujarat, my Muslims are not so poor that they will work for NREGA. They are mostly doing very well and will not waste their time in unproductive work," he said. Subsequent checks indeed showed the story to be based on incorrect facts and surmises, and we readily made amends.

    In retrospect now, does this tell us something about Modi's mind as it has evolved through his long tenure as chief minister? That he will not specially reach out to the minorities, but would so strongly resent it if accused of being unfair to them as a ruler. We may, in fact, be dealing with a leader who does believe in rajdharma, but would define it for himself in his very own way.
    ......

    Link: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/shekhar-gupta-narendra-modi-unapologetic-about-being-of-the-social-and-political-right

    .....

    regards

    0 0
  • 09/04/14--06:20: The Balmikis of Pakistan
  • ....In Balochistan....an idol revered by Hindus and Muslims....Umerkot, birthplace of Akbar....“confluence” of Hindu god Shiva and an important part of Mughal history......a stone shiv-ling, believed to be present during a visit by Humayun, father of Akbar......shrine attracts many Muslims for “curative purposes or to ask for a child”....
    ....
    Reema Abbasi was born in Pakistan, went to school in England, college in Karachi, is a "spiritual Muslim" and "who has aspects of most religions in her home, such as an idol of Sai Baba, the cross and quranic verses" and who has now compiled a book on Hindu temples in Pakistan.

    ....
    More than the temples, what is of interest is the life and precarious times of the Balmiki community (Dalits) who themselves seem to be highly spiritual (as in they appreciate all religions).
    .....
    Reema Abbasi, the book’s author, traveled the country to write this narrative of about 40 old religious sites, including Hindu temples in the jagged terrain of the western state of Balochistan. She also visited the Thar desert and the Indus River valley in the state of Sindh, as well as Karachi, Lahore, Punjab and dangerous stretches of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, along the border with Afghanistan.
    ...............
    Born a Pakistani in the Netherlands, she went to school in England, college in Karachi, and then worked as a journalist. A self-described “spiritual Muslim,” she has aspects of most religions in her home, such as an idol of Sai Baba, the cross and quranic verses.
    ....
    “In the last 10 years, I have been focusing on socio-political [reporting] and then the whole hardliner issues here, and sectarianism. Not in the cities, but in upper north where there are pockets of extremists and terrorists. Given that climate, the kind of issues that were arising at the time and what I was writing about – I think that was the part towards this [book].
    ....
    “[The shrines] were spellbinding. For me some of the structures were imbued with so much energy. … These places continue to bring so much together and serve multiple functions in their own capacity — their shelters, their inscriptions, their half-way houses for travelers, they provide relief to homeless. So in their very being they are doing so much. I think that’s the beauty of all ancient faith. Mosques do that, churches do that. 

    That’s where all ancient faiths merge. It is very important to celebrate that kind of unity in diversity, rather than deny it,” Abbasi told India Insight in a telephone interview from Karachi.

    “This book concentrates on Pakistan’s fraying social order and the sad prospect of it bringing about its own destruction by documenting Hindu places of worship, major festivals, prominent orders of priesthood…,” she writes in the book’s introduction, which is dotted with Urdu poetry on faith and identity.

    Pakistan’s Hindus, Christians, Ahmadis and Shi’ite Muslims make up about less than 5 percent of the nation’s 180 million people. In a recent report, the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom said the government failed to adequately protect minorities.
    ...
    Parts of the book mirror this anxiety, like a visit to the Balmiki Temple located in a nondescript street in Lahore, the capital of Punjab.
    ....
    Hindus, Christians and Sikhs congregate at the shrine of Balmiki, deity of the untouchable caste. The devotees come together in the belief that renders their respective religions “irrelevant to humanity”. Muslims also join them on important festivals. A cross is also seen inside the temple.
    ...
    The utopia turns out to be a facade when Abbasi writes that the Hindu residents are expected to adopt Muslim names or Christianity to “avoid upheaval”. Followers of Balmiki, the author adds, consume chicken and fish to avoid being “conspicuous”.
    ....
    In her travels, Abbasi stopped at shrines that faced backlash from Muslims because of the destruction of the Babri Masjid in India by a Hindu group.
    ....
    She contrasts stories of desecration of temples, whether due to a backlash or land disputes or commercial gain, with visits to shrines that represent a fusion of faiths, untouched by social disturbances.
    ....
    One of the reasons why minorities are worried is because of Pakistani blasphemy laws. The Ahmadis, for example, are not recognized as Muslims in Pakistan. The Supreme Court has ordered the government to look after the minorities, and its human rights panel says conditions are worsening.
    ....
    In far-flung Balochistan rests an idol that is revered by Hindus and Muslims. Umerkot, the birthplace of Emperor Akbar, becomes the symbol of a “confluence” of Hindu god Shiva and an important part of Mughal history. In the central chamber of a colorful temple is pictured a stone shiv-ling, believed to be present during a visit by Humayun, father of Akbar. The shrine attracts many Muslims for “curative purposes or to ask for a child”.

    And close to Umerkot is the only Ram temple in Pakistan, situated in a Hindu-majority town. In a Sunni Muslim town, more than 200 km from Karachi, Dalit Hindus and Muslims worship a Hindu saint who embraced Islam to embody Hindu-Muslim brotherhood.
    ...
    Such instances of the fluidity and opaqueness of faith abound in this book. Particularly striking is the image of Muslim men in skull caps worshipping Kali inside the Kalka cave in Sindh, which attracts Hindus, Muslims and Christians from all over the subcontinent.

    .....

    Link: http://blogs.reuters.com/india/2014/09/01/reema-abbasi-and-a-glimpse-of-pakistans-hindu-past

    .....

    regards

    0 0

    ....You might expect that supporters of the coup would be less negative given Washington’s friendliness toward the Egyptian military and hostility toward Muslim Brotherhood....But in fact “no matter which side of the domestic dispute an individual was on, he or she was likely to be opposed to the United States”..... Despite U.S. attempts to stay neutral in the conflict, both military and Muslim Brotherhood supporters believed the U.S. was working on behalf of the other side.....
    ....
    How do modern Arabs (approx 4mil on Twitter out of a total population of 400 million) feel about America (and Americans)? A careful analysis of tweets tells us a lot- they really hate Iran (much more than Israel AND America) and much more.

    This leads us to a question that has always been a point of confusion for us: who are the Arabs and what are the major Arab communities? Just like India can be (imperfectly) divided by linguistic communities (and except for the South these communities are all loosely tied together through an ancestral Sanskrit bridge), we may get a better understanding of Arabic communities by observing the distribution of Arabic dialects [ref. Wiki-map below]. 
    ....
    .....
    Is anti-Americanism motivated by specific U.S. policies or a more generalized antipathy to American culture? Do people who hate U.S. foreign policy also hate Americans? 
    ...
    These are among the questions addressed in an innovative new study of anti-American attitudes among Arab Twitter users, which was presented at the American Political Science Association annual meeting here in D.C. last week. 
    ....
    The short version of the working paper’s conclusion is that Arabic Twitter is generally anti-American (though to a lesser extent than it is anti-Iranian) but that these attitudes are motivated more by specific events than general hostility to American culture. Unfortunately, these attitudes seem to be present on multiple sides of the region’s political divides.


    The authors, political scientists Amaney Jamal and Robert Keohane of Princeton and David Romney and Dustin Tingley of Harvard, worked with the analytics company Crimson Hexagon to analyze the sentiment of Arabic Twitter in 2012 and 2013. 
    ....
    Twitter users aren’t a perfect proxy for public opinion—the population is likely weighted toward younger, more educated people, and wealthier countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are overrepresented. The data, though, can give a snapshot of what 3.7 million (the number of active users in Arab countries) people are thinking and provide valuable information from a number of countries that have restricted traditional public opinion polling in the past.


    Overall, the authors found that “the conversation on Twitter, in Arabic, about the U.S. is especially negative towards U.S. policy; the conversation about U.S. society is also mostly negative but much smaller.” But that’s less interesting than how Arabic Twitter responded to specific events.


    The first test case is the 2013 overthrow of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Seventy-four percent of the tweets referencing the United States around the time of Morsi’s fall were negative, and only 3 percent were positive. (The rest were neutral tweets noting some piece of news.) 
    ...
    You might expect that supporters of the coup would be less negative given Washington’s traditional friendliness toward the Egyptian military and hostility toward Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. But in fact, the authors write, “no matter which side of the domestic dispute an individual was on, he or she was likely to be opposed to the United States.” This fits with what was observed in reporting from the time: Despite U.S. attempts to stay (or at least appear) neutral in the conflict, both military and Muslim Brotherhood supporters believed the U.S. was working on behalf of the other side.


    Next, they analyzed tweets about the conflict in Syria, particularly following the chemical weapons attack in August 2013, when it appeared likely the U.S. would launch a military intervention against Bashar al-Assad’s government.


    Again, there was little support for the United States—just about 2 percent of tweets, all of them from opponents of Assad. But while regime supporters were more anti-American, “even for the anti-regime Tweeters there were 250 percent more anti-U.S. tweets than pro-U.S. tweets before the chemical weapons incident, and about 1,000 percent more after the event.”


    While on opposite sides of the Middle East’s bloodiest conflict in decades, these Twitter users were fairly united in antipathy to the U.S.


    But attitudes toward the U.S. are a bit more nuanced than you might think. Looking at the online response to the anti-Muhammad Innocence of Muslims video, which prompted large and often violent demonstrations throughout the Muslim world in the fall of 2012, the authors found that the majority of Arabic tweets either urged followers to ignore the film or pushed for individual action against it. Relatively few, however, could be construed as “clear condemnation of American society in general.”


    The authors write: “We did not find tweets with statements such as ‘This means that all Americans hate us’ or ‘All of American society and people should be condemned.’ ”


    They also looked at instances where Americans were the victims. Following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, the largest number of non-neutral tweets (20 percent) expressed the opinion that the attack wasn’t a significant news event, followed by those expressing fears of a backlash against Muslims in the U.S. Eight percent supported conspiracy theories blaming the U.S. government for the attack.


    Again, there’s evidence of anti-Americanism—only 5 percent of tweets expressed sympathy for the victims—but in this case the authors didn’t observe tweets celebrating the attack on U.S. society.


    In the case of a non-political event, 2012’s Hurricane Sandy, there were again a large number of users saying the storm wasn’t important. Ten percent said the U.S. had it coming. But virtually the same number of tweets rejected that view, and “25 percent of tweeters (almost 80,000) commented favorably on the U.S. government’s handling of the disaster, often as a contrast to the incompetence of Arab governments.” Overall, about a “third expressed views that can be interpreted as generally favorable toward American society.”


    If all this makes it seem as if Arab tweeters are knee-jerk anti-Americans, you should see how they feel about Iranians. While trailing the United States in total references, Iran got more mentions on Arab Twitter than any other non-Arab country, ahead of Israel, Turkey, and India. 
    ...
    The authors found political sentiment toward Iran to be “overwhelmingly negative,” with so few positive tweets that the proportion was impossible to estimate. While attitudes toward America itself, rather than American policy, often seem more ambivalent than negative, views of Iran are starker. “In both the polling data and even more in our Twitter data, one observes admiration for American popular culture, helping to create such ambivalence. There is no such Arab admiration for Iranian popular culture, and no discernible ambivalence,” they write.


    In terms of efforts to improve America’s image in the Arab world, the paper contains both good and bad news. Arab Twitter users’ antipathy toward America itself, or Americans, doesn’t appear to be exceptionally hostile. But suspicion and opposition to U.S. foreign policy appear to be so deep and so widely shared, even by those on opposite sides of other contentious issues, that it’s hard to imagine how the U.S. could begin to rebuild trust.


    There may be a lesson here for the Obama administration’s foreign policy. For understandable and sometimes admirable reasons, the administration has often tried to avoid being identified with one side or another in domestic disputes in the Arab world. The U.S. admonished the Egyptian military’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, but eventually normalized relations. It provided aid to some of the rebels fighting Assad, but not enough to really turn the tide of the civil war.


    ...
    Obama’s intention here may have been to combat the perception that the U.S. meddles in the internal affairs of smaller states. But in some cases, by refusing to take a side, the American government may have deepened the suspicion that nobody should trust the United States.

    ....

    Link: slate.com/whatever_america_does_arabic_twitter_will_hate_it.html

    .....

    regards

    0 0
  • 09/04/14--12:14: "Then be ready for the fire"
  • Ahmed Shahzad will not be the first person to worry that people who are outside the favored group will not be allowed into the Club in the Clouds. He is also correct that Islam frowns on apostasy, if your dad is a muslim you are automatically considered to be one. If you leave then it is hell fire for you.

    ...
    There is a time and place for spouting religious doctrine, but the playing grounds should not become praying grounds. Moreover, TM Dilshan is too good a cricket player to be flustered by any of that nonsense (and the match was over anyway so there was no good reason to launch into Theology 101).

    Shahzad would have been better off focusing on his game instead of focusing on a lost soul. May better sense prevail next time around (World Cup Cricket is only 150 days away).
    ...........
    Pakistan today said it has set up a committee to look into a religious spat between their opener Ahmed Shahzad and Sri Lankan counterpart Tillakaratne Dilshan last month.
    Television footage showed Shahzad passing a religious remark at Dilshan after the third and final one-day international in Dambulla last week.

    After Sri Lanka notched a seven-wicket win to take the series 2-1 and the players were walking off the field, Shahzad can be heard on camera saying to Dilshan: "If you are a non-Muslim and you turn Muslim, no matter whatever you do in your life, straight to heaven."
    .........

    Dilshan replied he doesn't want to go there, to which Shahzad replied: "Then be ready for the fire."

    The remarks stemmed from reports that 37-year-old Dilshan was born to a Muslim father and a Buddhist mother and was originally named Tuwan Mohamed Dilshan.

    But once his parents separated he changed his religion and name to Tillakaratne Mudiyanselage Dilshan as a Buddhist.

    The footage went viral on the Internet, prompting the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to summon Shahzad on Wednesday.

    A PCB spokesman said the matter will be investigated by an internal committee headed by director of international cricket Zakir Khan. "We have formed an internal committee under Zakir and have also written to Sri Lanka Cricket whether they have any complaint," said spokesman Agha Akbar.

    Pakistan team manager Moin Khan said no official complaint was lodged after the match. "It happened on the last day of the tour but there as no official complaint by match officials or Sri Lankan players so I think it must be a general thing," said Moin.


    ........

    Link: http://www.outlookindia.com/news/printitem.aspx?858420

    ......

    regards

    0 0
  • 09/08/14--14:32: Abolishing elite-selves
  • “When the activists first asked us to fill applications we thought they were mocking us....When they still didn’t leave, we ignored them....But they didn’t give up and today we are so glad”....says Malik, a vegetable vendor.....“We couldn’t imagine stepping inside the school.....my daughter goes there every day to study and spe­aks such good English, like they do on TV”
    ....
    ...
    The title is drawn out of a famous quote from a wise man (which finally came true after 50 years, less 11 days):
    .......
    .....a description of Jawaharlal Nehru by the Australian diplomat Walter Crocker.....After Nehru died on May 27, 1964, the Western press pondered whether India would fall apart without its first prime minister.....
    ......election results on May 16 (2014)...Modi doffed his cap to the governments that came before him..."Today, I stand before you as the son of a poor man. This is the strength of democracy" .... 
    ....As Crocker put it in his biography of Nehru, "In propagating ideas of equality, Nehru and the upper class Indian nationalists of English education abolished themselves....Nehru destroyed the Nehrus"..... 
    ....
    Then there is the NGO driven non-violent social justice movement (much better than the Maoist driven violent one) which ensured passage of the Right to Education (RTE) act that dictates that 25% of the elite school seats must go to the slum-kids in the vicinity. Ashok points out (and we agree) that credit must also be given to the UPA-II regime for this achievement, however it must be emphasized that without the enthusiasm of the NGOs such a law would never get implemented in reality.

    As per the law, not only will the tuition for Economically Weak (EWS) students be free - presumably all this will be cross-subsidized by upper middle class parents - the students have a right to free books and uniforms as well. Naturally, the resistance is huge, the elite class will not easily abolish themselves. But make no mistake, this is the face of soft revolution.

    There is a lot to be said both for and against reservations. But there is no doubt that the Indian policy of running the largest affirmative action program in the world is designed to do two things: it gives people at the bottom of the ladder hope (one day, their children can be Prime Minister just like the chai-wallah's son). Secondly,  it reduces the resentment just a little bit and thereby increases the stake of the poor in the democratic order.

    "My daughter speaks such good English, like they do on TV" is a phrase that will melt the heart of the harshest cynic. We hope.
    ......

    In 2006, the school wouldn’t let them stand at their gate, watchmen would shoo them away. When, after several protest dem­onstrations, they were finally let in, they were curtly told seats for weaker sections had already been filled. Not a single child from their slum, the only one in the vicinity, had however been admitted.
    ...
    The next academic year, hundreds of them gathered outside the school on the first day the forms were distributed. “Ryan International was so fed up that they asked us to write our children’s name on slips, place them for the draw and pick them ourselves. This time all the seats meant for weaker sections went to children from our slum,” recalls Sunita, laughing. Her husband is an auto-rickshaw driver and her son now studies in Class III at the school in the Vasant Kunj locality of southwest Delhi.
    ...
    “When the activists first asked us to fill applications in these schools, we thought they were mocking us and we abused them roundly, asking them to get lost. When they still didn’t leave, we ignored them. But they didn’t give up and today we are so glad they didn’t,” says Malik, a vegetable vendor.
    ...
    “We couldn’t imagine stepping inside the school,” he goes on to say. “But now my daughter goes there every day to study and spe­aks such good English, like they do on TV.” His eight-year-old daughter studies in Class II at the Vasant Valley school, in the same area.
    ...
    Over 200 children from Rangpuri Pahari, the area Malik and others live in, now go to the several private schools in and around here, among them Ryan International, Bloom Public School, Vasant Valley and Delhi Public School. The parents in the slum have come together to form the Sajag Society, an association of EWS parents, to discuss their problems, help each other and encourage more children from the slum to exercise their right to education. Delhi today records the highest number of EWS admissions in private schools across the country.
    ...
    Yet it isn’t easy for the parents. They still have to pay through their nose. “We don’t have to pay tuition fee, but we still spend about Rs 8,000 a year. Books cost up to Rs 5,000 a year. The uniform does last for over a year because the material is good, but they cost around Rs 1,500 for each set. Shoes again cost around Rs 800,” lists out Renu, who works as a domestic help.
    ....
    Even as the government has ordered schools to provide free (no fees) education, including free books and uniforms, few schools pay heed to the provision. And the centralised system, which ensures admissions based on a lottery, doesn’t allow parents to select a school based on affordability. Vasant Valley, parents say, is the only school in the area which has provided free uniform for the first time this academic year. dps, on the other hand, distributes books of senior students to the poorer students, instead of giving them free books as per the law.
    ...........

    Link (1): business-standard.com/rahul-jacob-nehru-then-modi-now

    Link (2): outlookindia.com/printarticle.aspx?291803

    ....

    regards

    0 0
  • 09/08/14--16:29: Open doors (after 817 years)
  • Nalanda University was born in the 5th century CE and was consumed by flames in the 12th. Eight hundred years later the doors are open once again (classes begin Sep 14). We are hopeful that the distinguished faculty led governing board and the international funding from China, Singapore and Japan will make for a good start. Hopefully this will also put Bihar on the map......as the poorest in Bihar prosper, so will the rest of India.

    ....
    [ref. Wiki] The Governing Board of Nalanda University: Amartya Sen (Harvard), Sugata Bose (Harvard), Wang Bangwei (Peking University), Wang Gungwu  (National University of Singapore), Susumu Nakanishi (Kyoto City University of Arts), Meghnad Desai (London School of Economics), Prapod Assavavirulhakarn (Chulalongkorn University, Thailand), George Yeo (Former Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore), Tansen Sen (Baruch College, CUNY), Nand Kishore Singh (Member of Parliament – Rajya Sabha), Chandan Hareram Kharwar (Pune University). 
    ...........
    .......
    So what of the future? We remain sceptics as there is no visionary leader willing to lead the fight.  They should have paid top dollar and got a high priced CEO to be present on-site (in remote, law-less Bihar) and lead the effort from the front. Prof Sen (junior) seems to be just the right man (age, qualifications, plus the gift of a syncretic name like Tansen Sen) for the job.
    ...............

    ....
    As rumors have it, things are being remote-controlled by warm bodies residing in Delhi, which does not exactly inspire confidence. We hope that for once Indians can rise above pettiness.

    Also for people who are sitting on their hands, check out this profile of Chandan Hareram Kharwar: is this a hoax or what? Curious minds want to know (siliconindia.com/profiles/chandan-Hareram-Kharwar)
    ......

    [ref. Wiki] Nālandā was an ancient higher-learning institution in Bihar, India. The site is located about 88 kilometres southeast of Patna, and was a religious centre of learning from the fifth century CE to 1197 CE. 
    ....
    Nalanda flourished between the reign of Śakrāditya (whose identity is uncertain, who might have been either Kumaragupta I or Kumaragupta II) and 1197 CE, supported by patronage from the Gupta Empire as well as emperors like Harsha and later rulers from the Pala Empire.
    ...
    The complex was built with red bricks and its ruins occupy an area of 14 hectares (488 by 244 metres). At its peak, the university attracted scholars and students from as far away as Tibet, China, Greece, and Greater Iran. 
    ...
    Nalanda was ransacked and destroyed by an army of the Muslim Mamluk Dynasty under Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193 CE. 
     .....
    The Nalanda University in nearby Rajgir is an effort to revive and re-establish this ancient institution of learning.
    ...

    Nalanda University was one of the world's first residential university as it had dormitories for students. It is also one of the most famous universities. In its heyday, it accommodated over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers The university was considered an architectural masterpiece, and was marked by a lofty wall and one gate. 
    ///
    Nalanda had eight separate compounds and ten temples, along with many other meditation halls and classrooms. On the grounds were lakes and parks. The library was located in a nine storied building where meticulous copies of texts were produced.
    ...

    The Tang Dynasty Chinese pilgrim and scholar Xuanzang studied, taught and spent nearly 15 years at Nalanda University. He has left detailed accounts of the university in the 7th century. Yijing has also left information about the other kingdoms lying on the route between China and the Nālandā university. He was responsible for the translation of a large number of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Chinese.
    ///

    According to records of history, Nalanda University was destroyed three times by invaders, but only rebuilt twice 

    Library of Nalanda University which is reported to have burned for three months after the invaders set fire to it, ransacked and destroyed the monasteries, and drove the monks from the site.

    Japan and Singapore are financing the construction work, with contributions totalling around US$100 million. Gopa Sabharwal has been appointed the first Vice-Chancellor of this university in February 2011.
    ...

    It has been estimated that US$500m will be required to build the new facility, with a further US$500m needed to sufficiently improve the surrounding infrastructure. The group is looking for donations from governments, private individuals and religious groups.
    ...

    The State Government of Bihar handed over 443 acres of sprawling land acquired from local people, to the University, where construction work has begun. It is a dream project of the former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam.
    ..

    For best architectural design, a global competition was held for construction of an international state-of-the-art institution.Vastu Shilpa Consultants have been selected as the winner of the design competition with dbHMS providing the triple net-zero energy, water and waste strategic plan  

    Classes for the School of Ecology and Environmental Studies and the School of Historical Studies. Right now there are 15 students and 11 faculty members at the campus. Sabharwal said there were two reasons for starting on a small note as she wanted the students and teachers to settle down, and that Union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj would be visiting on September 14.
    ...

    More than a thousand students from various countries across the globe had applied for the seven schools on different subjects that will function at the university, of which only 15, including one each from Japan and Bhutan, were selected.
    ....

    The NU came into existence by the Nalanda University Act passed by Parliament. Economist Amartya Sen is the Chairman of the Governing Body of the university, while renowned teachers from various countries are its members

    .....

    Link:

    .....

    regards

    0 0

    ..In Bollywood’s rain songs....the heroine discovering herself.....The rain is a crossroads in a woman’s life where she throws caution to the monsoon winds and locks hands with a man she chooses....she defies elders...for her bit of bliss...Against this backdrop, the current drought of Bollywood’s wet saris is a matter of concern. ...
    ...
    Srijana Mitra Das clearly has impeccable credentials, a PhD in Social Anthropology from Cambridge. And what do you know...the (in)famous rain songs in Bollywood....the heroines and their wet sarees.....a tradition of spotlighting male lust going all the way back to Kalidasa in the 5th century.....now we have a feminist (third wave?) deconstruction...all these are but symbols of "pure romance" and women's liberation....
    .......

    .....
    We are a fan of old Bollywood songs (the play-acting not so much) but the ones that Srijana talks of are indeed screen classics: Raj Kapoor and Nargis in Shree 420 (Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua) and Amitabh Bachhan and Smita Patil in Namak Halal (Aaj Rapat Jaye). And while we are not too familiar with Nargis as a free-thinker, Smita was a top-drawer feminist and her acting reflected this in full glory. Her millions of devotees were heart-broken when she died so young (see below for details).
    .......
    ......
    All this really proves is how far the world has moved ahead in depicting "industrial-quality sexiness" (her words). No wonder, feminists like Srijana have succumbed to the pull of nostalgia and finding love in all the wrong movies.....even Sharmila Thakur and Rajesh Khanna in Aradhana (Roop Tera Mastana).
    ...
    .......
    As the monsoon caresses India with seasonal darkness, it’s remarkable how faint the rain song is in Bollywood today — a marked difference from earlier times when the rain song was the apogee of filmi romance, capturing love stories of heroes with heroines and heroines with themselves. Ironically, Bollywood’s rain songs and wet saris were considered fundamentals of voyeuristic thrills. But Bollywood’s singing in the shower mirrored more than this — just like the drying-up of wet saris now reflects romance growing parched.
    ....
    But first, Bollywood began with salutations to the skies. When plots revolved around rural protagonists, cinema acknowledged the monsoon’s urgency to farmers, sunburnt by callous states looking everywhere but at canals under their feet. Hence, Guide’s villagers beseeched, ‘Allah, megh de, paani de’, Lagaan’s hamlet danced as badras rumbled with promise.
    ...
    These songs marked a despondent dependency but as films portrayed more urban legends, monsoon showers became a link between once-agrarian characters in cities of anonymous footpaths.
    ...
    From there, Bollywood focussed fully on the rain’s sensuality capturing Indian romance. From the shy umbrella-twisting of Shree 420’s ‘Pyaar hua’ to Three Idiots’ exuberant ‘Zoobie, zoobie’, rain became the ultimate filmi metaphor for an Indian couple’s love.
    ....
    This slowly evolved from nervous fears to a full-on French kiss. In newly independent India, choosing your own partner — and your own fate — was an act of daring, sighs of apprehension shaking Nargis’s trembling, ‘Kehta hai dil, rasta mushkil, maloom nahin hai kahaan manzil’. 
    ....
    Fears frequently came true. A couple stepping outside social sanctions, crossing class and caste barriers, was severely punished, censors rather liking the rain as a metaphor for trespass. Hence, Aradhana’s ‘Roop tera mastana’ climaxed in a rainy night, a young couple making love, the hero later killed, the heroine doing penance as an unwed mother.
    ...
    It took the swinging ’70s with Amitabh Bachchan and Smita Patil — angry young actors, defiantly declaring while drenched, ‘Aaj rapat jayein, toh humein na uthaiyyo!’ — to signal change. Alongside, in a subtle replay of Raj Kapoor-Nargis, Bachchan and Moushumi Chatterjee walked through a rain-soaked Bombay, humming ‘Rimjhim gire saawan’, the couple’s umbrella missing, the unbothered pair holding hands as the Arabian Sea rose to soak them.
    ....
    This was a new India, more courageous, more confident of itself, its ability to choose — its right to love. This defiance breezes through the 1990s too. In Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Shah Rukh Khan and his see-through shirt share a hot moment with Kajol — while she’s engaged to another man. The hero filching another’s girl was a favourite SRK theme, the rain presenting that crucial moment where a couple decides there’s no one else they’d rather get soaked with.
    ....
    This was an important juncture for heroines. Traditionally, the soaked heroine was erotica for male eyes, conventions stylishly framed by 5th century Sanskrit superstar Kalidasa. In Kumarsam-bhava, Daniell Ingalls translates, Kalidasa describes rain gently drenching his heroine, ‘‘With momentary pause, the first drops rest, upon the highland of her breast, across the ladder of her waist, then slowly, at her navel, come to rest.” It’s clear where Yash Chopra got it from, placing chiffon-clad heroines under swollen clouds, conveying what Roland Barthes dryly terms ‘obvious symbolism’.
    ....
    But Bollywood’s rain songs also offered Barthes’s ‘third meaning’, a counter-narrative that escapes language, producing the ‘filmic’ — so much more than the film. In Bollywood’s rain songs, the third meaning is the heroine discovering herself. The rain is a crossroads in a woman’s life where she throws caution to the monsoon winds and locks hands with a man she chooses. In this, she defies elders — not necessarily betters — for her bit of bliss. She doesn’t know if this will even last post-rain. But she chooses the right to savour the second — and enjoy herself.
    ....
    And there is much to enjoy. With every drop naughtily running into places no one but lovers know, the rain makes a woman come alive to herself, her physical body, her soul that a cool breeze infuses with new life. In a violently misogynistic land, this rain-fuelled renewal is a marvellous thing, powerfully subversive in Bollywood, Mr India’s ‘Kaate nahin kat te’ famous for an absent Mr India, Sridevi writhing in the rain all on her own.
    ....
    Against this backdrop, the current drought of Bollywood’s wet saris is a matter of concern. It signifies romance growing more plastic, increasingly complex — instead of a drenched couple intertwined on a lonely lamp-lit street, ardour now involves motorbikes, brassy bras, designer heels. But it also expresses marked trepidation around tenderness.
    ...
    While industrial-quality sexiness is expressed via assembly-line ‘items’, pure romance — which involves both confrontation and bliss — is nervously sidestepped. The fear is understandable with even elected representatives talking like khap captains about women’s deportment and dress today. Hence, Bollywood heroines look oddly acquiescent now, acceptably saucy, yet lacking the self-belief to lie back soaked in the rain, a la Sridevi who cooed, ‘I love yoooou’ — to herself.
    ....
    Yet, after every oppressive spell comes renewal, when creative winds blow away the dust of dry, prohibiting minds. As civil society sticks out its tongue at hypocritical diktats, Bollywood’s lovers will soon defy more than their diet plans, leading ladies again learning to love themselves the most.
    Until then, preserve those wet saris — they have stories in their folds.
    .....

    Smita Patil (17 October 1955 - 13 December 1986) was an Indian actress of film, television and theatre. Regarded among the finest stage and film actresses of her times, Patil appeared in over 80 Hindi and Marathi films in a career that spanned just over a decade. During her career, she received two National Film Awards and a Filmfare Award. She was the recipient of the Padma Shri, India's fourth-highest civilian honour in 1985.
    ....
    Patil graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India in Pune and made her film debut with Shyam Benegal's Charandas Chor (1975). She became one of the leading actresses of parallel cinema, a New Wave movement in India cinema, though she also appeared in several mainstream movies throughout her career. Her performances were often acclaimed, and her most notable roles include Manthan (1977), Bhumika (1977), Aakrosh (1980), Chakra (1981), Chidambaram (1985) and Mirch Masala (1985).
    ....
    Apart from acting, Patil was an active feminist (in a distinctly Indian context) and a member of the Women's Centre in Mumbai. She was deeply committed to the advancement of women's issues, and gave her endorsement to films which sought to explore the role of women in traditional Indian society, their sexuality, and the changes facing the middle-class woman in an urban milieu.
    ....
    Patil was married to actor Raj Babbar. She died on 13 December 1986 at the age of 31 due to childbirth complications. Over ten of her films were released after her death. Her son Prateik Babbar is a film actor who made his debut in 2008.

    ....

    Link: blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/unravelling-bollywoods-wet-sari

    ....

    regards

    0 0
  • 09/13/14--18:49: David Cawthorne Haines
  • ....The killer says: “This British man has to pay the price to arm the Peshmerga against the Islamic State.....he has spent a decade of his life serving under the Royal Air Force.....“Your evil alliance with America continues to strike the Muslims of Iraq .....playing the role of the obedient lapdog will only drag you into another bloody and unwinnable war”....At the end of the latest video, another hostage – apparently British – is paraded......
     ....
    The Maida Vale killer strikes again. David Haines has been reportedly beheaded. DCH was a British (Scottish) aid worker who was (we presume) trying to help out the miserable people of Syria, his family must be wondering why they agreed to this labor of love in the first place.
    ......
    ......
    A number of critical questions will be asked (and re-asked): What was David Haines...who has a military background...really doing in Syria? Should Britain and the USA consider paying ransom to terrorists? What will happen to the Brits and Americans still being held hostage (yes, we know)?


    Leaving aside emotions for the moment, we were a bit curious about the New York Times reporter who presently heads the Caliphate bureau.  Our first thought was that Rukmini Callimachi is an American offspring of a Brown (girl) and White (boy). Not even close. She is from Romania (see below) and has a fantastic back-story, grandparents who were in love with India (hence the first name), parents who left Communist Romania for Switzerland, ancestral family tied to the Greek super-castes of the Ottoman Empire - the Hellenic Phanariots. Rukmini has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for journalism and is also known as a poet.

    Syria and Iraq were of course part of the same Ottoman empire and it can be argued that the original Caliphate was more tolerant of minorities such as Callimachis than the new one is of Yazidis. However even a brief look at the rise and fall of  the Phanariots will reveal the hollowness of such arguments. It was only a handful of Greek Orthodox families (Wiki lists about 50 names including Ypsilanti) that rose to prominence and even then they were frequently executed on account of "treachery." Here is how the first Phanariot millionaire Michael Kantakouzenoslived (and died) in the 16th century.

    ......
    Michael preferred to live at Anchialos, a city almost exclusively inhabited by Greeks, where he had built a magnificent palace that cost 20,000 ducats and was said to rival the Sultan's own. Nevertheless, his extravagance aroused the envy and enmity not only of his fellow Greeks, but of the Turks as well, and when the influence of his patron, Sokollu Mehmed, began to decline, his enemies struck: in July 1576 he was arrested and his property confiscated, but he managed to save his life and secure his release through the intervention of Sokollu Mehmed. Kantakouzenos was able to re-acquire his fortune, but he was again accused of plotting against the Sultan, and on 3 March 1578, he was hanged from the gateway of his palace in Anchialos.
    .......

    Ultimately, the Phanariots led the Greek mutiny in 1812 and were banished from the Ottoman court because their loyalty was suspect. This is a bit similar to how Sikh regiments have been downgraded following the Khalistan movement.

    David Haines was not a millionaire, he was a mere aid worker. His error was to live amongst people (and help them) who did not much care if he lived or died, because they deemed him to be barely human. This is an age-old problem (see: two nation theory) and it is a terrifying one. 

    .......................
    The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria released a video on Saturday that showed the beheading of a British citizen, David Cawthorne Haines, an aid worker.

    Mr. Haines is seen kneeling on a bare hill in a landscape that appears identical to the one where two American journalists — James Foley and Steven J. Sotloff — were killed by the group in back-to-back-executions in the past month, according to the footage and a transcript released by SITE Intelligence, which tracks the terrorist group.



    In the moments before his death, Mr. Haines, 44, as the two other journalists did before him, reads a script in which he blames his country’s leaders for his killing. Addressing Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, he says: “I would like to declare that I hold you, David Cameron, entirely responsible for my execution. You entered voluntarily into a coalition with the United States against the Islamic State.” He added: “Unfortunately, it is we the British public that in the end will pay the price for our Parliament’s selfish decisions.”

    The killing of Mr. Haines, a father of two from Perth, Scotland, was a clear message to Britain, a key ally of the United States as it tries to build an international coalition to target the militant group, which has made major advances across Syria and northern Iraq in recent months.

    It also put pressure on the government of Mr. Cameron, a member of a core coalition of nations announced as NATO leaders met in Wales this month and sought to devise a strategy to address the growing threat from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, including plans to strengthen allies on the ground in Iraq and Syria and conduct airstrikes against the militants.

    President Obama on Wednesday announced a major expansion of the military campaign against ISIS, including airstrikes against the group in Syria. The beheadings of Mr. James Foley, on Aug. 19, and Mr. Sotloff, on Sept. 2, followed the start of a campaign of airstrikes against ISIS positions in Iraq.

    The group is currently holding two more British nationals, as well as two other American aid workers. 

    Their families have asked the news media not to to disclose their names, after ISIS warned that the hostages would be killed if relatives made their identities public.

    Britain and the United States are among the only nations in the world that have held to a hard-line, no-concessions policy when dealing with kidnappings by terror groups. Until earlier this year, ISIS was holding close to two dozen foreigners in the same jail where Mr. Haines was imprisoned on the outskirts of the Syrian town of Raqqa.

    Mr. Haines, who has a military background, was kidnapped 19 months ago in northern Syria and was held alongside an Italian co-worker, Federico Motka. Both men worked for ACTED, a French aid group, and had traveled to Syria to try to help during the country’s civil war. Their fates diverged based on their country’s individual policies: Mr. Motka was released in May, one of 15 Europeans who were liberated from the same ISIS-run jail for a ransom, according to a person who was held alongside them and who could not be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

    Earlier this month, Mr. Cameron ruled out paying a ransom for Mr. Haines. “It’s a desperately difficult situation,” he told Sky News. “We don’t pay ransoms to terrorists when they kidnap our citizens,” he said, adding: “From the intelligence and other information I have seen, there is no doubt this money helps to fuel the crisis that we see in Iraq and Syria.”
    ......
    Rukmini Callimachi was among the Finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting "for her in-depth investigation of the exploitation of impoverished children in West and Central Africa."Working at first as a freelancer, she made her mark in international journalism writing articles for "Time" Magazine, "Daily Herald” Chicago and now for Associated Press.

    Rukmini left Romania during the communist regime with her mother, father and grandmother, for Switzerland and then the United States where she got a degree in English. Her first name shows her grandparents' love of Indian culture, while her family name goes back centuries deep into the Romanian history. She is a direct descendant of one of the oldest Romanian families (Moldavian Phanariotes).


    .....
    [ref. wiki] Phanariots were members of those prominent Greek families residing in Phanar the chief Greek quarter of Constantinople, where the Ecumenical Patriarchate is situated, who came to traditionally occupy four positions of major importance in the Ottoman Empire: Grand Dragoman, Grand Dragoman of the Fleet, Hospodar of Moldavia, and Hospodar of Wallachia.


    Phanariotes emerged as a class of moneyed Greek merchants (they commonly claimed noble Byzantine descent) in the latter half of the 16th century, and went on to exercise great influence in the administration in the Ottoman Empire's Balkan domains in the 18th century. They tended to build their houses in the Phanar quarter in order to be close to the court of the Patriarch, who under the Ottoman millet system was recognized as both the spiritual and secular head (millet-bashi) of all the Orthodox subjects of the Empire (except those Orthodox under the spiritual care of the Patriarchs of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Ohrid and Peć), thus they came to dominate the administration of the Patriarchate frequently intervening in the selection of hierarchs, including the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
    ..............

    Link (1): nytimes.com/islamic-state-says-it-has-executed-david-cawthorne-haines

    Link (2): roxanapascariu.blogspot.in/2009/04/rukmini-callimachi

    Link (3): theguardian.com/isis-video-david-haines-beheading

    ..........

    regards

    0 0
  • 09/13/14--23:35: Education is our birth-right
  • ....Rekha, student of Class X, resisted marriage when 10 years old......Since the time many girls came forward to oppose the practice.....a Class V textbook of the State Board has a chapter on child marriage where her and another girl's names feature........“Such stories encourage adolescents to protest against child marriage” .....Asadur Rahaman, UNICEF in West Bengal....
    ...
    India is a land of the disadvantaged with a few creamy layers enjoying the fruits of a globalized economy. There are many ways to alter the status quo: Arundhati Roy favors armed revolution (because non-violence as preached by Gandhi - a humbug in her words - is a non-starter). This may still happen if Indians at the bottom of the ladder are left to rot with no helping hand from the fortunate class.
    ......
    ...
    The first step towards emancipation begins with the freedom to vote and to speak (and India is an imperfect example of these principles as applied to the real world). Gradually there would be an increase in awareness of rights (and responsibilities) as citizens, of which the right to education must rank first along with roti, kapda and makaan. A few, new Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkars will need to come forward to arise and awake their communities (because other communities/castes will not care if they are left behind).

    We sincerely hope that Rekha and her fellow sisters will take the non-violent revolution forward. We need many more voices in support of education (and against child marriage). Parents must be convinced to raise daughters as equal to sons. We want all the fundamentalists (of all colors and stripes) to back off. As women progress, we are sure that they will lead the country forward to a better place.
    ......
    What is common among Malala Yousafzai, Anne Frank, Hellen Keller and 16-year-old Rekha Kalindi from Purulia in West Bengal?

    The braveheart from the State will feature along with Malala and Anne Frank in the book Children who changed the world to be released in November in Amsterdam marking the 25th anniversary of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

    Rekha, now a student of Class X, resisted marriage when she was about 10 years old. Her resistance led to other girls in the area following in her footsteps. She, along with two other girls from the district, was conferred the National Bravery Award by then President Pratibha Devisingh Patil in 2010.

    The book is written by Dutch Newspaper NRC Handelsblad’s correspondents who live and work in the countries of the children featured in the book. It profiles 20 children and the chapter on Rekha is written by journalist Aletta Andre.

    “Rekha's story fits very well in this theme (the book’s theme), as she resisted a very common but not so great practice in her area, when she was about 10 years old and has with her act inspired other girls to do the same. It shows that very young children, even very young girls in a patriarchal society, have the power to make a difference,” she said in an email response.



    Speaking to The Hindu, Rekha said she was very happy that the story about her is being published in other countries. Since the time she and other girls from Purulia had resisted child marriage, many girls came forward to oppose the practice, she said, adding that poverty and lack of education are still resulting in such marriages.



    She also pointed out that a Class V textbook of the State Board has a chapter on child marriage where her and another girl's names feature.

    “Such stories (like Rekha's) encourage adolescents to protest and raise their voice against child marriage,” Asadur Rahaman, chief of field office UNICEF in West Bengal, said. Pointing out that child marriage and trafficking of girls continue to be a concern in States like West Bengal, Mr. Rahaman said that a scheme like Kanyasree providing scholarship to school-going girls is a significant initiative.
    .......

    Link: thehindu.com/kolkata/bengal-girl-joins-malala-in-dutch-book

    ....
    regards

    0 0
  • 09/14/14--06:31: The "rockstar" Gandhi
  • ......Shiva, dressed in a burgundy sari and a shawl the color of rust....“We would have no hunger in the world if the seed was in the hands of the farmers....They want to take that away”.....Shiva argues that the prevailing model of industrial agriculture....places an unacceptable burden on the Earth’s resources....Shiva has contempt for farmers who plant monocultures....“They are ruining the planet.....They are destroying this beautiful world”....
    ....
    The list of power ladies from India who carry high name recognition in the West (and the rest) reads as follows: (1) Arundhati Roy, (2) Vandana Shiva, (3) Sonia Gandhi, and (4) Mother Teresa. For people keeping score we have (3) christians and (1) brahmin, also (2) are naturalized citizens. 

    How about the others? Indira Gandhi is probably fading from memory, even as Mayawati rises as a Dalit icon (she will need to capture the Red Fort for true greatness). We are guessing that not too many westerners know about Indra Nooyi and other corporate bosses.

    Indian music and dance do not have (yet) a female Ravi Shankar, even though his first wife Annapurna Devi (born Roshanara Khan, daughter of Alauddin Khan) was more talented and stopped performing because of the unhappiness expressed by her husband. The Shankar progeny Geetali Norah Jones Shankar and Anoushka Shankar would (at most) be recognized as Americans with Indian influences.

    Bollywood is a non-starter as well, westerners would barely know a Freida Pinto from a Priyanka Chopra. There was a time when we thought that Kareena Kapoor and/or Aishwariya Rai will break through into Hollywood but what is really needed is a James Bond lady, and there are none that fit the bill right now.

    In sports there is (sad to say) no female Sachin Tendulkar (not even a PT Usha) equivalent. Indians barely rate on the sports scene anyway so this is not much of a surprise.

    So....what then about Vandana Shiva? VS is a Gandhian (self-declared) in her relentless opposition to modernity. She is a nuclear physicist (self-declared) who hates fertilizers (and Monsanto). Gandhi Mark-I was nominated multiple times for Nobel Peace prize, we hope that Gandhi Mark-II will get her reward at an early date (she is certainly as deserving, if no more, than Obama and the European Union).

    Why do people, especially left-liberals in the West (who have benefited the most from the bounties of modernity) love her so much for her love of traditional ways?
    .....

    Like Gandhi, whom she reveres, Shiva questions many of the goals of contemporary civilization. Last year, Prince Charles, who keeps a bust of Shiva on display at Highgrove, his family house, visited her at the Navdanya farm, in Dehradun, about a hundred and fifty miles north of New Delhi.  

    Charles, perhaps the world’s best-known critic of modern life, has for years denounced transgenic crops. “This kind of genetic modification takes mankind into realms that belong to God and God alone,” he wrote in the nineteen-nineties, when Monsanto tried to sell its genetically engineered seeds in Europe........Shiva, too, invokes religion in her assault on agricultural biotechnology. “G.M.O. stands for ‘God, Move Over,’ we are the creators now,” she said in a speech earlier this year.
    ...

    As we see it, Westerners are genuinely alarmed about the degradation of the environment (and inflation of food prices) if/when billions of third world peasants demand a "western" lifestyle (quadruple delight of chicken, beef, pork, and fish).They would not mind if a few Indian agents can persuade Indians that blind following of the West is immoral. If you are a super-caste woman preaching the virtues of Indian (vegetarian, organic) civilization then more power to you.
    .....

    PRESIDENT George W Bush angered Indians in May 2008 when he said that India, where the "middle class is larger than our entire population” the demand for better food had caused “[world] price to go up."

    ...
    Almost the same day in May, EU Commissioner for agriculture Mariann Fischer Boel told the European Policy Centre: “Those who see biofuels as the driving force behind recent food price increases have overlooked not just one elephant standing right in front of them, but two. The first elephant is the huge increase in demand from emerging countries like China and India. These countries are eating more meat... So a dietary shift towards meat in countries with populations of over 1 billion people each has an enormous impact on commodity markets,” noted the Danish commissioner.
    .......

    Under any other circumstance a person like Vandana Shiva would be denounced as Hindu supremacist and a Luddite (the original Gandhi was very much denounced as such). But these are tough times and the rule-book has changed. Today if you preach against consumerism by lesser, third-world, people, you are sure to be loved as a rockstar...a beautiful moon without a single blemish.

    ...................
    Early this spring, the Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva led an unusual pilgrimage across southern Europe. Beginning in Greece, with the international Pan-Hellenic Exchange of Local Seed Varieties Festival, which celebrated the virtues of traditional agriculture, Shiva and an entourage of followers crossed the Adriatic and travelled by bus up the boot of Italy, to Florence, where she spoke at the Seed, Food and Earth Democracy Festival. 

    At each stop, Shiva delivered a message that she has honed for nearly three decades: by engineering, patenting, and transforming seeds into costly packets of intellectual property, multinational corporations such as Monsanto, with considerable assistance from the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the United States government, and even philanthropies like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, are attempting to impose “food totalitarianism” on the world. 
    ...
    She describes the fight against agricultural biotechnology as a global war against a few giant seed companies on behalf of the billions of farmers who depend on what they themselves grow to survive. Shiva contends that nothing less than the future of humanity rides on the outcome.

    ...
    “There are two trends,” she told the crowd that had gathered in Piazza Santissima Annunziata, in Florence, for the seed fair. “One: a trend of diversity, democracy, freedom, joy, culture—people celebrating their lives.” She paused to let silence fill the square. “And the other: monocultures, deadness. Everyone depressed. Everyone on Prozac. More and more young people unemployed. We don’t want that world of death.” 

    The audience, a mixture of people attending the festival and tourists on their way to the Duomo, stood transfixed. Shiva, dressed in a burgundy sari and a shawl the color of rust, was a formidable sight. “We would have no hunger in the world if the seed was in the hands of the farmers and gardeners and the land was in the hands of the farmers,” she said. “They want to take that away.”

    ...
    Shiva, along with a growing army of supporters, argues that the prevailing model of industrial agriculture, heavily reliant on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fossil fuels, and a seemingly limitless supply of cheap water, places an unacceptable burden on the Earth’s resources. She promotes, as most knowledgeable farmers do, more diversity in crops, greater care for the soil, and more support for people who work the land every day. Shiva has particular contempt for farmers who plant monocultures—vast fields of a single crop. “They are ruining the planet,” she told me. “They are destroying this beautiful world.”

    ...
    The global food supply is indeed in danger. Feeding the expanding population without further harming the Earth presents one of the greatest challenges of our time, perhaps of all time. By the end of the century, the world may well have to accommodate ten billion inhabitants—roughly the equivalent of adding two new Indias.  
    ....
    Sustaining that many people will require farmers to grow more food in the next seventy-five years than has been produced in all of human history. For most of the past ten thousand years, feeding more people simply meant farming more land. That option no longer exists; nearly every arable patch of ground has been cultivated, and irrigation for agriculture already consumes seventy per cent of the Earth’s freshwater.
    ...
    The nutritional demands of the developing world’s rapidly growing middle class—more protein from pork, beef, chicken, and eggs—will add to the pressure; so will the ecological impact of climate change, particularly in India and other countries where farmers depend on monsoons. Many scientists are convinced that we can hope to meet those demands only with help from the advanced tools of plant genetics. Shiva disagrees; she looks upon any seed bred in a laboratory as an abomination.
    ...
    The fight has not been easy. Few technologies, not the car, the phone, or even the computer, have been adopted as rapidly and as widely as the products of agricultural biotechnology. Between 1996, when genetically engineered crops were first planted, and last year, the area they cover has increased a hundredfold—from 1.7 million hectares to a hundred and seventy million. Nearly half of the world’s soybeans and a third of its corn are products of biotechnology. Cotton that has been engineered to repel the devastating bollworm dominates the Indian market, as it does almost everywhere it has been introduced.
    ....
    Those statistics have not deterred Shiva. At the age of sixty-one, she is constantly in motion: this year, she has travelled not only across Europe but throughout South Asia, Africa, and Canada, and twice to the United States. In the past quarter century, she has turned out nearly a book a year, including “The Violence of the Green Revolution,” “Monocultures of the Mind,” “Stolen Harvest,” and “Water Wars.” In each, she has argued that modern agricultural practices have done little but plunder the Earth.

    Nowhere is Shiva embraced more fully than in the West, where, as Bill Moyers recently noted, she has become a “rock star in the worldwide battle against genetically modified seeds.” She has been called the Gandhi of grain and compared to Mother Teresa. If she personally accepted all the awards, degrees, and honors offered to her, she would have time for little else. 
    ...
    In 1993, Shiva received the Right Livelihood Award, often called the alternative Nobel Prize, for her activism on behalf of ecology and women. Time, the Guardian, Forbes, and Asia Week have all placed her on lists of the world’s most important activists. Shiva, who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Western Ontario, has received honorary doctorates from universities in Paris, Oslo, and Toronto, among others. 
    ...
    In 2010, she was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize for her commitment to social justice and her tireless efforts on behalf of the poor. Earlier this year, Beloit College, in Wisconsin, honored Shiva with its Weissberg Chair in International Studies, calling her “a one-woman movement for peace, sustainability, and social justice.”
    ...
    “For me, the idea of owning intellectual-property rights for seeds is a bad, pathetic attempt at seed dictatorship,” Shiva told the audience in Florence. “Our commitment is to make sure that dictatorship never flourishes.” 
    ...
    While she spoke, I stood among the volunteers who were selling heirloom vegetable seeds and handing out information about organic farming. Most were Italian college students in for the day from Bologna or Rome, and few could take their eyes off her. I asked a twenty-year-old student named Victoria if she had been aware of Shiva’s work. “For years,” she said. Then, acknowledging Shiva’s undeniable charisma, she added, “I was just in a room with her. I have followed her all my life, but you can’t be prepared for her physical presence.” She hesitated and glanced at the platform where Shiva was speaking. “Isn’t she just magic?”

    At least sixty million Indians have starved to death in the past four centuries. In 1943 alone, during the final years of the British Raj, more than two million people died in the Bengal Famine. “By the time we became free of colonial rule, the country was sucked dry,” Suman Sahai told me recently. Sahai, a geneticist and a prominent environmental activist, is the founder of the Delhi-based Gene Campaign, a farmers’-rights organization. “The British destroyed the agricultural system and made no investments. They wanted food to feed their Army and food to sell overseas. They cared about nothing else.” 
    ...
    Independence, in 1947, brought euphoria but also desperation. Tons of grain were imported each year from the United States; without it, famine would have been inevitable.
    ...
    To become independent in more than name, India also needed to become self-reliant. The Green Revolution—a series of agricultural innovations producing improved varieties of wheat that could respond better to irrigation and benefit from fertilizer—provided that opportunity. In 1966, India imported eleven million tons of grain. Today, it produces more than two hundred million tons, much of it for export. Between 1950 and the end of the twentieth century, the world’s grain production rose from seven hundred million tons to 1.9 billion, all on nearly the same amount of land.
    ....
    “Without the nitrogen fertilizer to grow crops used to feed our recent ancestors so they could reproduce, many of us probably wouldn’t be here today,” Raoul Adamchack told me. “It would have been a different planet, smaller, poorer, and far more agrarian.” Adamchack runs an organic farm in Northern California, and has served as the president of California Certified Organic Farmers. His wife, Pamela Ronald, is a professor of plant genetics at the University of California at Davis, and their book “Tomorrow’s Table” was among the first to demonstrate the ways in which advanced technologies can combine with traditional farming to help feed the world.
    ....
    There is another perspective on the Green Revolution. Shiva believes that it destroyed India’s traditional way of life. “Until the 1960s, India was successfully pursuing an agricultural development policy based on strengthening the ecological base of agriculture and the self-reliance of peasants,” she writes in “The Violence of the Green Revolution.” 
    ..
    She told me that, by shifting the focus of farming from variety to productivity, the Green Revolution actually was responsible for killing Indian farmers. Few people accept that analysis, though, and more than one study has concluded that if India had stuck to its traditional farming methods millions would have starved.
    ...
    The Green Revolution relied heavily on fertilizers and pesticides, but in the nineteen-sixties little thought was given to the environmental consequences. Runoff polluted many rivers and lakes, and some of India’s best farmland was destroyed. “At first, the Green Revolution was wonderful,” Sahai told me. “But, without a lot of water, it could not be sustained, and it should have ended long before it did.”
    ...
    To feed ten billion people, most of whom will live in the developing world, we will need what the Indian agricultural pioneer M. S. Swaminathan has called “an evergreen revolution,” one that combines the most advanced science with a clear focus on sustaining the environment. Until recently, these have seemed like separate goals.  
    ...
    For thousands of years, people have crossed sexually compatible plants and then chosen among their offspring for what seemed like desirable characteristics (sturdy roots, for example, or resistance to disease).
    ....
    Genetic engineering takes the process one step further. By inserting genes from one species into another, plant breeders today can select traits with even greater specificity. Bt cotton, for instance, contains genes from a bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis, that is found naturally in the soil. The bacterium produces a toxin that targets cotton bollworm, a pest that infests millions of acres each year. Twenty-five per cent of the world’s insecticides have typically been used on cotton, and many of them are carcinogenic. By engineering part of the bacterium’s DNA into a cotton seed, scientists made it possible for the cotton boll to produce its own insecticide. Soon after the pest bites the plant, it dies.
    ...
    Shiva and other opponents of agricultural biotechnology argue that the higher cost of patented seeds, produced by giant corporations, prevents poor farmers from sowing them in their fields. And they worry that pollen from genetically engineered crops will drift into the wild, altering plant ecosystems forever. Many people, however, raise an even more fundamental objection: crossing varieties and growing them in fields is one thing, but using a gene gun to fire a bacterium into seeds seems like a violation of the rules of life.

    Vandana Shiva was born in Dehradun, in the foothills of the Himalayas. A Brahmin, she was raised in prosperity. Her father was a forestry official for the Indian government; her mother worked as a school inspector in Lahore, and, after Partition, when the city became part of Pakistan, she returned to India. In the nineteen-seventies, Shiva joined a women’s movement that was determined to prevent outside logging companies from cutting down forests in the highlands of northern India. Their tactic was simple and, ultimately, successful: they would form a circle and hug the trees. Shiva was, literally, one of the early tree huggers.
    ....
    The first time we spoke, in New York, she explained why she became an environmental activist. “I was busy with quantum theory for my doctoral work, so I had no idea what was going on with the Green Revolution,” she said. Shiva had studied physics as an undergraduate. We were sitting in a small café near the United Nations, where she was about to attend an agricultural forum. She had just stepped off the plane from New Delhi, but she gathered energy as she told her story. “In the late eighties, I went to a conference on biotechnology, on the future of food,” she said. “There were no genetically modified organisms then. These people were talking about having to do genetic engineering in order to take patents.
    ...
    “They said the most amazing things,” she went on. “They said Europe and the U.S. are too small a market. We have to have a global market, and that is why we need an intellectual-property-rights law.” That meeting set her on a new trajectory. “I realized they want to patent life, and life is not an invention,” she said. “They want to release G.M.O.s without testing, and they want to impose this order worldwide. I decided on the flight back I didn’t want that world.” She returned to India and started Navdanya, which in Hindi means “nine seeds.” According to its mandate, the organization was created to “protect the diversity and integrity of living resources, especially native seed, and to promote organic farming and fair trade.” Under Shiva’s leadership, Navdanya rapidly evolved into a national movement.
    ....
    In contrast to most agricultural ecologists, Shiva remains committed to the idea that organic farming can feed the world. Owing almost wholly to the efforts of Shiva and other activists, India has not approved a single genetically modified food crop for human consumption. 
    ..
    Only four African nations—South Africa, Burkina Faso, Egypt, and Sudan—permit the commercial use of products that contain G.M.O.s. Europe remains the epicenter of anti-G.M.O. advocacy, but recent polls show that the vast majority of Americans, ever more focused on the connection between food, farming, and their health, favor mandatory labeling for products that are made with genetically modified ingredients. Most say they would use such labels to avoid eating those foods. 
    ...
    For her part, Shiva insists that the only acceptable path is to return to the principles and practices of an earlier era. “Fertilizer should never have been allowed in agriculture,” she said in a 2011 speech. “I think it’s time to ban it. It’s a weapon of mass destruction. Its use is like war, because it came from war.”
    ...
    Like Gandhi, whom she reveres, Shiva questions many of the goals of contemporary civilization. Last year, Prince Charles, who keeps a bust of Shiva on display at Highgrove, his family house, visited her at the Navdanya farm, in Dehradun, about a hundred and fifty miles north of New Delhi. Charles, perhaps the world’s best-known critic of modern life, has for years denounced transgenic crops. “This kind of genetic modification takes mankind into realms that belong to God and God alone,” he wrote in the nineteen-nineties, when Monsanto tried to sell its genetically engineered seeds in Europe. 
    ...
    Shiva, too, invokes religion in her assault on agricultural biotechnology. “G.M.O. stands for ‘God, Move Over,’ we are the creators now,” she said in a speech earlier this year. Navdanya does not report its contributions publicly, but, according to a recent Indian government report, foreign N.G.O.s have contributed significantly in the past decade to help the campaign against adoption of G.M.O.s in India. In June, the government banned most such contributions. Shiva, who was named in the report, called it “an attack on civil society,” and biased in favor of foreign corporations.
    ...
    Shiva maintains a savvy presence in social media, and her tweets, intense and dramatic, circulate rapidly among tens of thousands of followers across the globe. They also allow her to police the movement and ostracize defectors. 
    ....
    The British environmentalist Mark Lynas, for example, stood strongly against the use of biotechnology in agriculture for more than a decade. But last year, after careful study of the scientific data on which his assumptions were based, he reversed his position. In a speech to the annual Oxford Farming Conference, he described as “green urban myths” his former view that genetically modified crops increase reliance on chemicals, pose dangers to the environment, and threaten human health. “For the record, here and up front, I apologize for having spent several years ripping up G.M. crops,” he said. “I am also sorry that I . . . assisted in demonizing an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.” Lynas now regards the assumption that the world could be fed solely with organic food as “simplistic nonsense.”

    ....
    With that speech, and the publicity that accompanied it, Lynas became the Benedict Arnold of the anti-G.M.O. movement. “If you want to get your name splattered all over the Web, there’s nothing like recanting your once strongly held beliefs,” Jason Mark, the editor of Earth Island Journal, wrote.

    Perhaps nobody was more incensed by Lynas’s conversion than Shiva, who expressed her anger on Twitter: “#MarkLynas saying farmers shd be free to grow #GMOs which can contaminate #organic farms is like saying #rapists shd have freedom to rape.” The message caused immediate outrage. “Shame on you for comparing GMOs to rape,” Karl Haro von Mogel, who runs Biology Fortified, a Web site devoted to plant genetics, responded, also in a tweet. “That is a despicable argument that devalues women, men, and children.” Shiva tweeted back at once. “We need to move from a patriarchal, anthropocentric worldview to one based on #EarthDemocracy,” she wrote.
    ....
    Shiva has a flair for incendiary analogies. Recently, she compared what she calls “seed slavery,” inflicted upon the world by the forces of globalization, to human slavery. “When starting to fight for seed freedom, it’s because I saw a parallel,” she said at a food conference in the Netherlands. “That time, it was blacks who were captured in Africa and taken to work on the cotton and sugarcane fields of America. Today, it is all of life being enslaved. All of life. All species.”
    ....
    Shiva cannot tolerate any group that endorses the use of genetic engineering in agriculture, no matter what else the organization does, or how qualified its support. When I mentioned that Monsanto, in addition to making genetically engineered seeds, has also become one of the world’s largest producers of conventionally bred seeds, she laughed. “That’s just public relations,” she said.  
    ....
    She has a similarly low regard for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has taken strong positions in support of biotechnology. Not long ago, Shiva wrote that the billions of dollars the foundation has invested in agricultural research and assistance poses “the greatest threat to farmers in the developing world.” She dismisses the American scientific organizations responsible for regulating genetically modified products, including the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the United States Department of Agriculture, as little more than tools of the international seed conglomerates.
    ....
    At times, Shiva’s absolutism about G.M.O.s can lead her in strange directions. In 1999, ten thousand people were killed and millions were left homeless when a cyclone hit India’s eastern coastal state of Orissa. When the U.S. government dispatched grain and soy to help feed the desperate victims, Shiva held a news conference in New Delhi and said that the donation was proof that “the United States has been using the Orissa victims as guinea pigs” for genetically engineered products. She also wrote to the international relief agency Oxfam to say that she hoped it wasn’t planning to send genetically modified foods to feed the starving survivors. When neither the U.S. nor Oxfam altered its plans, she condemned the Indian government for accepting the provisions.

    On March 29th, in Winnipeg, Shiva began a speech to a local food-rights group by revealing alarming new information about the impact of agricultural biotechnology on human health. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that in two years the figure of autism has jumped from one in eighty-eight to one in sixty-eight,” she said, referring to an article in USA Today. “Then they go on to say obviously this is a trend showing that something’s wrong, and that whether something in the environment could be causing the uptick remains the million-dollar question.
    ....
    “That question’s been answered,” Shiva continued. She mentioned glyphosate, the Monsanto herbicide that is commonly used with modified crops. “If you look at the graph of the growth of G.M.O.s, the growth of application of glyphosate and autism, it’s literally a one-to-one correspondence. And you could make that graph for kidney failure, you could make that graph for diabetes, you could make that graph even for Alzheimer’s.”
    .....
    Hundreds of millions of people, in twenty-eight countries, eat transgenic products every day, and if any of Shiva’s assertions were true the implications would be catastrophic. But no relationship between glyphosate and the diseases that Shiva mentioned has been discovered. Her claims were based on a single research paper, released last year, in a journal called Entropy, which charges scientists to publish their findings. The paper contains no new research. Shiva had committed a common, but dangerous, fallacy: confusing a correlation with causation. (It turns out, for example, that the growth in sales of organic produce in the past decade matches the rise of autism, almost exactly. For that matter, so does the rise in sales of high-definition televisions, as well as the number of Americans who commute to work every day by bicycle.)
    .....
    Shiva refers to her scientific credentials in almost every appearance, yet she often dispenses with the conventions of scientific inquiry. She is usually described in interviews and on television as a nuclear physicist, a quantum physicist, or a world-renowned physicist. Most of her book jackets include the following biographical note: “Before becoming an activist, Vandana Shiva was one of India’s leading physicists.” When I asked if she had ever worked as a physicist, she suggested that I search for the answer on Google. I found nothing, and she doesn’t list any such position in her biography.
    ....
    Shiva argues that because many varieties of corn, soybeans, and canola have been engineered to resist glyphosate, there has been an increase in the use of herbicides. That is certainly true, and in high enough amounts glyphosate, like other herbicides, is toxic. Moreover, whenever farmers rely too heavily on one chemical, whether it occurs naturally or is made in a factory, weeds develop resistance. In some regions, that has already happened with glyphosate—and the results can be disastrous. 
    ....
    But farmers face the problem whether or not they plant genetically modified crops. Scores of weed species have become resistant to the herbicide atrazine, for example, even though no crops have been modified to tolerate it. In fact, glyphosate has become the most popular herbicide in the world, largely because it’s not nearly so toxic as those which it generally replaces. The E.P.A. has labelled water unsafe to drink if it contains three parts per billion of atrazine; the comparable limit for glyphosate is seven hundred parts per billion. By this measure, glyphosate is two hundred and thirty times less toxic than atrazine.

    For years, people have been afraid that eating genetically modified foods would make them sick, and Shiva’s speeches are filled with terrifying anecdotes that play to that fear. But since 1996, when the crops were first planted, humans have consumed trillions of servings of foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients, and have draped themselves in thousands of tons of clothing made from genetically engineered cotton, yet there has not been a single documented case of any person becoming ill as a result. 
    ....
    That is one reason that the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the World Health Organization, the U.K.’s Royal Society, the French Academy of Sciences, the European Commission, and dozens of other scientific organizations have all concluded that foods derived from genetically modified crops are as safe to eat as any other food.
    ....
    “It is absolutely remarkable to me how Vandana Shiva is able to get away with saying whatever people want to hear,” Gordon Conway told me recently. Conway is the former president of the Rockefeller Foundation and a professor at London’s Imperial College. His book “One Billion Hungry: Can We Feed the World?” has become an essential text for those who study poverty, agriculture, and development.
    ....
    “Shiva is lionized, particularly in the West, because she presents the romantic view of the farm,” Conway said. “Truth be damned. People in the rich world love to dabble in a past they were lucky enough to avoid—you know, a couple of chickens running around with the children in the back yard. But farming is bloody tough, as anyone who does it knows. It is like those people who romanticize villages in the developing world. Nobody who ever lived in one would do that.”

    I arrived in Maharashtra in late spring, after most of the season’s cotton had been picked. I drove east from Aurangabad on rutted roadways, where the contradictions of modern India are always on display: bright-green pyramids of sweet limes, along with wooden trinkets, jewelry salesmen, cell-phone stands, and elaborately decorated water-delivery trucks. Behind the stands were giant, newly constructed houses, all safely tucked away in gated communities. Regional power companies in that part of the country pay two rupees (about three cents) a kilogram for discarded cotton stalks, and, as I drove past, the fields were full of women pulling them out of the ground.
    .....
    Although India bans genetically modified food crops, Bt cotton, modified to resist the bollworm, is planted widely. Since the nineteen-nineties, Shiva has focussed the world’s attention on Maharashtra by referring to the region as India’s “suicide belt,” and saying that Monsanto’s introduction of genetically modified cotton there has caused a “genocide.” 
    ....
    There is no place where the battle over the value, safety, ecological impact, and economic implications of genetically engineered products has been fought more fiercely. Shiva says that two hundred and eighty-four thousand Indian farmers have killed themselves because they cannot afford to plant Bt cotton. Earlier this year, she said, “Farmers are dying because Monsanto is making profits—by owning life that it never created but it pretends to create. That is why we need to reclaim the seed. That is why we need to get rid of the G.M.O.s. That is why we need to stop the patenting of life.”
    ....
    Shiva contends that modified seeds were created almost exclusively to serve large industrial farms, and there is some truth to that. But Bt cotton has been planted by millions of people in the developing world, many of whom maintain lots not much larger than the back yard of a house in the American suburbs. 
    ...
    In India, more than seven million farmers, occupying twenty-six million acres, have adopted the technology. That’s nearly ninety per cent of all Indian cotton fields. At first, the new seeds were extremely expensive. Counterfeiters flooded the market with fakes and sold them, as well as fake glyphosate, at reduced prices. The crops failed, and many people suffered. Shiva said last year that Bt-cotton-seed costs had risen by eight thousand per cent in India since 2002.
    .....
    In fact, the prices of modified seeds, which are regulated by the government, have fallen steadily. While they remain higher than those of conventional seeds, in most cases the modified seeds provide greater benefits. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, Bt farmers spend at least fifteen per cent more on crops, but their pesticide costs are fifty per cent lower. Since the seed was introduced, yields have increased by more than a hundred and fifty per cent. Only China grows and sells more cotton.
    ....
    Shiva also says that Monsanto’s patents prevent poor people from saving seeds. That is not the case in India. The Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001 guarantees every person the right to “save, use, sow, resow, exchange, share, or sell” his seeds. Most farmers, though, even those with tiny fields, choose to buy newly bred seeds each year, whether genetically engineered or not, because they insure better yields and bigger profits.
    ....
    I visited about a dozen farmers in Dhoksal, a village with a Hindu temple, a few seed shops, and little else. Dhoksal is about three hundred miles northeast of Mumbai, but it seems to belong to another century. It’s dusty and tired, and by noon the temperature had passed a hundred degrees. The majority of local farmers travel to the market by bullock cart. Some walk, and a few drive. A week earlier, a local agricultural inspector told me, he had seen a cotton farmer on an elephant and waved to him. The man did not respond, however, because he was too busy talking on his cell phone.
    .......
    In the West, the debate over the value of Bt cotton focusses on two closely related issues: the financial implications of planting the seeds, and whether the costs have driven farmers to suicide. The first thing that the cotton farmers I visited wanted to discuss, though, was their improved health and that of their families. Before Bt genes were inserted into cotton, they would typically spray their crops with powerful chemicals dozens of times each season. Now they spray once a month. Bt is not toxic to humans or to other mammals. Organic farmers, who have strict rules against using synthetic fertilizers or chemicals, have used a spray version of the toxin on their crops for years.
    ....
    Everyone had a story to tell about insecticide poisoning. “Before Bt cotton came in, we used the other seeds,” Rameshwar Mamdev told me when I stopped by his six-acre farm, not far from the main dirt road that leads to the village. He plants corn in addition to cotton. “My wife would spray,” he said. “She would get sick. We would all get sick.” 
    ....
    According to a recent study by the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology, there has been a sevenfold reduction in the use of pesticide since the introduction of Bt cotton; the number of cases of pesticide poisoning has fallen by nearly ninety per cent. Similar reductions have occurred in China. The growers, particularly women, by reducing their exposure to insecticide, not only have lowered their risk of serious illness but also are able to spend more time with their children.
    ....
    “Why do rich people tell us to plant crops that will ruin our farms?” Narhari Pawar asked. Pawar is forty-seven, with skin the color of burnt molasses and the texture of a well-worn saddle. “Bt cotton is the only positive part of farming,” he said. “It has changed our lives. Without it, we would have no crops. Nothing.”
    ....
    Genetically engineered plants are not without risk. One concern is that their pollen will drift into the surrounding environment. Pollen does spread, but that doesn’t happen so easily; producing new seeds requires a sexually compatible plant. Farmers can reduce the risk of contamination by staggering planting schedules, which insures that different kinds of plants pollinate at different times.
    ....
    There is a bigger problem: pests can develop resistance to the toxins in engineered crops. The bollworm isn’t Bt cotton’s only enemy; the plant has many other pests as well. In the U.S., Bt-cotton farmers are required to use a “refuge” strategy: they surround their Bt crops with a moat of plants that do not make Bt toxins. This forces pests that develop resistance to Bt cotton to mate with pests that have not. In most cases, they will produce offspring that are still susceptible. 
    ....
    Natural selection breeds resistance; such tactics only delay the process. But this is true everywhere in nature, not just on farms. Treatments for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and H.I.V. rely on a cocktail of drugs because the infection would quickly grow resistant to a single medication. Nevertheless, none of the farmers I spoke with in Dhoksal planted a refuge. When I asked why, they had no idea what I was talking about.

    Responsible newspapers and reputable writers, often echoing Shiva’s rhetoric, have written about the “suicide-seed” connection as if it were an established fact. In 2011, an American filmmaker, Micha Peled, released “Bitter Seeds,” which argues that Monsanto and its seeds have been responsible for the suicides of thousands of farmers. The film received warm recommendations from food activists in the U.S. “Films like this can change the world,” the celebrity chef Alice Waters said when she saw it. ....
    As the journalist Keith Kloor pointed out earlier this year, in the journal Issues in Science and Technology, the farmer-suicide story even found its way into the scientific community. Last October, at a public discussion devoted to food security, the Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich stated that Monsanto had “killed most of those farmers in India.” Ehrlich also famously predicted, in the nineteen-sixties, that famine would strike India and that, within a decade, “hundreds of millions of people will starve to death.” Not only was he wrong but, between 1965 and 1972, India’s wheat production doubled.
    ....
    The World Health Organization has estimated that a hundred and seventy thousand Indians commit suicide each year—nearly five hundred a day. Although many Indian farmers kill themselves, their suicide rate has not risen in a decade, according to a study by Ian Plewis, of the University of Manchester. In fact, the suicide rate among Indian farmers is lower than for other Indians and is comparable to that among French farmers. Plewis found that “the pattern of changes in suicide rates over the last fifteen years is consistent with a beneficial effect of Bt cotton for India as a whole, albeit perhaps not in every cotton-growing state.”
    ....
    Most farmers I met in Maharashtra seemed to know at least one person who had killed himself, however, and they all agreed on the reasons: there is almost no affordable credit, no social security, and no meaningful crop-insurance program. The only commercial farmers in the United States without crop insurance are those who have a philosophical objection to government support. In India, if you fail you are on your own. Farmers all need credit, but banks will rarely lend to them. “We want to send our children to school,” Pawar told me. “We want to live better. We want to buy equipment. But when the crop fails we cannot pay.” 
    ....
    In most cases, there is no choice but to turn to money lenders, and, in villages like Dhoksal, they are often the same people who sell seeds. The annual interest rate on loans can rise to forty per cent, which few farmers anywhere could hope to pay.
    ....
    “I am at serious odds with my colleagues who argue that these suicides are about Bt cotton,” Suman Sahai told me when I spoke to her in Delhi. Sahai is not ideologically opposed to the use of genetically engineered crops, but she believes that the Indian government regulates them poorly. Nonetheless, she says that the Bt-suicide talk is exaggerated. “If you revoked the permit to plant Bt cotton tomorrow, would that stop suicides on farms?” she said. “It wouldn’t make much difference. Studies have shown that unbearable credit and a lack of financial support for agriculture is the killer. It’s hardly a secret.”

    It would be presumptuous to generalize about the complex financial realities of India’s two hundred and sixty million farmers after having met a dozen of them. But I neither saw nor heard anything that supported Vandana Shiva’s theory that Bt cotton has caused an “epidemic” of suicides. 
    ....
    “When you call somebody a fraud, that suggests the person knows she is lying,” Mark Lynas told me on the phone recently. “I don’t think Vandana Shiva necessarily knows that. But she is blinded by her ideology and her political beliefs. That is why she is so effective and so dangerous.” Lynas currently advises the Bangladeshi government on trials it is conducting of Bt brinjal (eggplant), a crop that, despite several peer-reviewed approvals, was rejected by the environmental minister in India. 
    ...
    Brinjal is the first G.M. food crop in South Asia. Shiva wrote recently that the Bangladeshi project not only will fail but will kill the farmers who participate. “She is very canny about how she uses her power,” Lynas said. “But on a fundamental level she is a demagogue who opposes the universal values of the Enlightenment.”


    The all-encompassing obsession with Monsanto has made rational discussion of the risks and benefits of genetically modified products difficult. Many academic scientists who don’t work for Monsanto or any other large corporation are struggling to develop crops that have added nutrients and others that will tolerate drought, floods, or salty soil—all traits needed desperately by the world’s poorest farmers. 
    ...
    Golden Rice—enriched with vitamin A—is the best-known example. More than a hundred and ninety million children under the age of five suffer from vitamin-A deficiency. Every year, as many as half a million will go blind. Rice plants produce beta carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, in the leaves but not in the grain. To make Golden Rice, scientists insert genes in the edible part of the plant, too.
    ...
    Golden Rice would never offer more than a partial solution to micronutrient deficiency, and the intellectual-property rights have long been controlled by the nonprofit International Rice Research Institute, which makes the rights available to researchers at no cost. Still, after more than a decade of opposition, the rice is prohibited everywhere. Two economists, one from Berkeley and the other from Munich, recently examined the impact of that ban. In their study “The Economic Power of the Golden Rice Opposition,” they calculated that the absence of Golden Rice in the past decade has caused the loss of at least 1,424,680 life years in India alone. (Earlier this year, vandals destroyed some of the world’s first test plots, in the Philippines.)
    ....
    The need for more resilient crops has never been so great. “In Africa, the pests and diseases of agriculture are as devastating as human diseases,” Gordon Conway, who is on the board of the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, told me. He added that the impact of diseases like the fungus black sigatoka, the parasitic weed striga, and the newly identified syndrome maize lethal necrosis—all of which attack Africa’s most important crops—are “in many instances every bit as deadly as H.I.V. and TB.” For years, in Tanzania, a disease called brown-streak virus has attacked cassava, a critical source of carbohydrates in the region. Researchers have developed a virus-resistant version of the starchy root vegetable, which is now being tested in field trials. But, again, the opposition, led in part by Shiva, who visited this summer, has been strong.
    ....
    Maize is the most commonly grown staple crop in Africa, but it is highly susceptible to drought. Researchers are working on a strain that resists both striga and the African endemic maize-streak virus; there have also been promising advances with insect-resistant cowpea and nutritionally enriched sorghum. Other scientists are working on plants that greatly reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizers, and several that produce healthful omega-3 fatty acids. None of the products have so far managed to overcome regulatory opposition.
    ....
    While I was in India, I visited Deepak Pental, the former vice-chancellor of the University of Delhi. Pental, an elegant, soft-spoken man, is a professor of genetics and also one of the country’s most distinguished scientists. “We made a mistake in hyper-propagandizing G.M. products, saying it was a technology that would sort out every problem,” he began. “The hype has hurt us.” Pental, who received his doctorate from Rutgers, has devoted much of his career to research on Brassica juncea, mustard seed. Mustard and canola, Brassica napus, share a common parent.

    Mustard is grown on six million hectares in India. There are parts of the country where farmers raise few other crops. “We have developed a line of mustard oil with a composition that is even better than olive oil,” he said. “It has a lot of omega-3 in it, and that is essential for a vegetarian food”—not a minor consideration in a country with half a billion people who eat no meat. 
    ...
    The pungency that most people associate with mustard has been bred out of the oil, which is also low in saturated fats. “It is a beautiful, robust system,” he said, adding that there have been several successful trials of the mustard seed. “All our work was funded by the public. Nobody will see any profits; that was never our intention. It is a safe, nutritious, and important crop.” It also grows well in dry soil. Yet it was made in a laboratory, and, two decades later, the seed remains on the shelf.
    ....
    Nearly twenty per cent of the world’s population lives in India. But the country has only five per cent of the planet’s potable water. “Every time we export one kilogram of basmati rice, we export five thousand kilograms of water,” Pental said. “This is a suicidal path. We have no nutritional priorities. We are exporting millions of tons of soy meal to Asia. The Japanese feed it to cows. The nutritive value of what a cow is eating in Japan is more than what a human being eats in India. This has to stop.”
    ...
    Pental struggled to keep the disappointment out of his voice. “White rice is the most ridiculous food that human beings can cultivate,” he said. “It is just a bunch of starch, and we are filling our bellies with it.” He shrugged. “But it’s natural,” he said, placing ironic emphasis on the final word. “So it passes the Luddite test.”
    .....

    Link (1): www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/08/25/seeds-of-doubt

    Link (2): http://www.asianconversations.com/IndiaNonVeg.php
    ....

    regards

    0 0
  • 09/15/14--03:55: TCS bats for (Saudi) women
  • Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) is surely making waves with their women-focused initiatives. In India it is the 200 Crore (3.27176 million dollars) Toilets for School Girls initiative announced in August (since then Bharti Airtel has also pledged 200C, thanks are due to all).

    In Saudi Arabia the plan is to help women (who are presently unable to step out of the house without a male relative) to be trained in "communications, presentation skills, corporate etiquette, global culture and MS Excel skills"and encourage them to join the brave new world of back-office workers who may not be male, and who are not relatives (but presumably still virtual-kosher).
    .....
    Indian IT bellwether TCS Sunday opened the first all-women back office centre in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in partnership with GE and Saudi Aramco.The 3,200-square metre business process centre will offer jobs for 3,000 Saudi women for customers like oil major Saudi Aramco and the US-based General Electric (GE) in the desert kingdom over the next three years.  
    ...
    "The back office, which is supported by the Saudi government's human resources development fund programme, strengthens job creation and economic diversification," the global software major said in a statement here. The centre will provide specialised finance and accounting, human resources, materials supply and office services to improve operational efficiency.
     ....
    "Skills, talent and technology converge at the centre, marking a new era for the IT and business process services industry in the kingdom," Tata Consulting Services (TCS) CEO and managing director N. Chandrasekaran said on the occasion.
    ...
    Saudi Minister of Commerce and Industry Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al Rabiah, Saudi Arabian general investment authority deputy governor Prince Saud bin Khalid, Saudi Aramco chief executive Khalid Al Falih and GE vice-chairman John Rice were present at the centre's inaugural event.
    ...
    "The centre brings significant value to our economy and helps address the challenge of creating jobs for talented and skilled Saudi female graduates, establishes a diverse workforce and boosts our competitiveness," Al Falih said.
    ...
    With TCS's domain expertise in providing shared services the world over, including its customers in the kingdom, the centre will focus on its core competencies."We thank our partners Saudi Aramco and GE and look forward to their support to scale up operations at the centre," Chandrasekaran noted. 

    Both partners have hired 100 women each and transferred their back office services to the centre."The centre is a proof of our commitment to support the kingdom in human capital development and job creation for its women," Rice said.

    In the first phase, about 300 women employees were given intensive training in various disciplines. Of them, 90 percent are fresh graduates and the remaining have two-to-four years of experience in back office operations.They were chosen from King Saud University, Princess Noura University and Imam University from 1,200 candidates interviewed for the jobs.

    "The recruits were trained in communications, presentation skills, corporate etiquette, global culture and MS Excel skills to ensure highest levels of service efficiency," the statement added.
    ....

    Link: https://in.finance.yahoo.com/news/tcs-opens-women-back-office-141218895.html

    .....

    regards

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