Manmohan Singh breaks new path in Indo-Pak relations

Manmohan Singh breaks new path in Indo-Pak relations
Dr Sandeep Pandey

[To listen to the audio podcast of this article, click here]

The worst fears of some of us have now been confirmed. Pakistani society, politicians and media has always been talking about the involvement of Indian intelligence agency RAW in fomenting trouble inside Pakistan . First it was in Sindh, particularly in Karachi . Now people say there is no doubt about Indian involvement in Balochistan and some say that RAW is also supporting Baitullah Mehsud in NWFP. Questions are being raised on unusually high number of Consulate offices opened by India in Afghanistan . The involvement of CIA and Mossad is also not ruled out. There is a speculation that Baitullah Mehsud could not have survived for so long since the US drone attacks began if it was not for the support of one or more of foreign intelligence agencies and/or military help.

Asif Ali Zardari has now openly admitted that the Talibans are creation of Pakistan . The terror that Pakistan exported has now come back to it. Until it was limited to NWFP it was not seen as a major problem. But now that it has the potential of taking over Islamabad , Rawalpindi and Lahore even the military and intelligence which were not too keen on taking on the home grown terrorists have been forced, partly because of US pressure but primarily due to threat it poses to them, reluctantly but decisively to come around to confront them. When Zardari makes a bold statement he obviously has the approval of military and intelligence.

The terrorist groups in Af-Pak region whether al-Qaeda, Taliban or Lashkar-e-Toiba were propped up by the US and Pakistani governments. They received arms & ammunition, money and training from military professionals. The association of terrorist groups with Pakistani government during the military regime was so close that some former military officials are part of terrorist set ups and terrorists have infiltrated the Pakistani establishment. One reason why the governments, whether Punjab or Federal, in Pakistan is reluctant to take action against Hafiz Saeed, the LeT founder, is that he can become a cause of much embarrassment for the establishment there if he decides to open his mouth.

But the question is after the present Pakistani establishment has made up its mind to confront the terrorist groups and US has relentlessly pursued the terrorists even going to the extent of launching attacks inside the sovereign territory of Pakistan, how are the terrorists holding fort? One would assume that the lot which was trained to fight the Russians would be old enough to be combatants now. So, even if there is supply of money from Saudi Arabia or somewhere or plenty of drug trafficking money is available, and there are youth from central Asia, southern Punjab (Pakistani) and from all around the world ready to be trained as jehadis who is providing them the training in use of modern methods of warfare? Is CIA playing a double game? Peace in the area would make the justification of US military presence in the region untenable. And it is no secret that US wants to be involved not only in the Af-Pak region but also in Kashmir . We’re not talking about George Bush. We’re talking about Barack Obama. Even before Obama’a victory results became public he had already announced his intention of appointing a Kashmir aide. Why on earth is an uninitiated US President interested more in Kashmir than his own country?

But what would be disturbing for most educated self-righteous middle class Indians, who have always seen India as a peaceful country and Pakistan as source of all trouble, is the revelation that India could have a role in instigating violence inside Pakistan . The joint bilateral statement issued from Sharm-el-Sheikh has reference to Pakistan having information on threats to Balochistan. Pakistan sees it as diplomatic victory. The response in India is that of shock, especially from the hawks. But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has displayed rare courage and insight in saying that he is willing to discuss any issue with Pakistan . He has also encouraged Pakistan to take action against perpetrators of November 26, 2008, incident in Mumbai without linking it to resumption of composite dialogue. As a leader of the senior (in terms of experience with democracy) and bigger nation only he could have been expected to be magnanimous. And he has lived up to his role. He has breached the parochial approach which constrains progress on India-Pakistan official relations.

Manmohan Singh has merely acknowledged something which is common knowledge in Pakistan . But Pakistan will have to provide concrete proof of RAW’s involvement in Balochistan or elsewhere in Pakistan just like India has done in the case of Mumbai incident. But this is only a trivial matter. It is an open secret that ISI and RAW have been working at cross purposes.

What Manmohan Singh has achieved as a statesman is that he has set out to define a new paradigm in which India-Pakistan relations will be discussed. For the first time in the history of the two nations he has laid the grounds for India and Pakistan to work together to solve the common problems, including that of terrorism. The US has already given an indication of this by asking India to provide help to Pakistan . And why not? If India can develop close ties with Afghanistan and provide financial help to it and Pakistan can derive help from the US , India and Pakistan , if they can shed their historical baggage, can cooperate as friendly neighbours. Pakistan , where receiving US aid is a government policy now, can enjoy a more democratic relationship with India . Can we conceive of RAW and ISI working together, like both of them have a working relationship with CIA, to root out terrorism from the region? Pakistan , being the smaller and more insecure of the two nations, would warn up to India only if it feels comfortable. The long adversarial relationship between the two has dried up all the trust. Manmohan Singh has certainly made Yousuf Raza Gilani and Pakistan feel that they can do business with India .

Note: The author is back from a week long trip to Pakistan in July, 2009.

[Dr Sandeep Pandey is a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (2002) for emergent leadership, member of National Presidium, People's Politics Front (PPF), heads the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and did his PhD from University of California, Berkeley in control theory which is applicable in missile technology. He taught at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur before devoting his life to strengthening people's movements in early 1990s. He can be contacted at: ashaashram@yahoo.com. Website: www.citizen-news.org]

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HINDI - version of this article at Hindi CNS

Men against violence-2: Socio-economic inequality leads to gender-based violence

Men against violence-2
Socio-economic inequality leads to gender-based violence

Nasiruddin Haider Khan

[Re
ad the first part article of this series here: Men against violence-1: Learn masculinity from Mahatma Gandhi?]

DHAKA: If violence is not natural, and not ingrained in our genetic makeup then the question is, what the root of violence is (violence, which is gender based). Gary Barker has done lot of research in this area and he has an answer. He is associated with International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) as Director, Gender, Violence and Rights. He strongly advocates for the engagement of men in ending gender-based violence (GBV).


During sidelines of the consultation in Bangladesh, he answered volley of questions on this topic. He counted several social, cultural, economical, and political reasons for violence. He termed them structural influences of violence.


"Patriarchal legal structure has positioned women in lower social status," he starts with this opening line. "They (women) do not have property rights. They have lower income. Inequality in property and income give power to men. That power leads to subjugation and violence," Barker said. Interestingly, Barker points out, "income inequality not only persists within a household but there is class difference at social level too. Class and economic inequality put the same men in a violent situation outside home too. And Men have to understand this to prevent violence."


Globalization and economic liberalization, Gary says, is one of the emerging causes of violence. According to him, traditional form of production, profession and mechanism have been swept away by the new globalized economy. Situation is the same from farming to small-scale household industries.


Above all, he says, our socialization put onus of earning on men. This has been linked to masculinity. In this grim economical situation when men do not have enough income or he became unemployed then he feels he is a failure. As a result, he indulges in drinking, drugs, purchase sex, use violence against his better half and children, becomes carrier of HIV infection and sometime commits suicide. Gary's explanation reveals the complexities of violence.


What about media’s role? Yes, Gary say it also perpetuate patriarchal norms and promotes or justifies gender-based violence. He explains, today you will find a CD or DVD in ten Rupees. Cable TV and Internet is also easily accessible. Through different medium, men are getting access to images, which is violent and gendered. These mediums basically promote indiscriminate sex, commoditization of women body and project women as a toy. All these create web of violence around women's life.


Gary also sees emergence of nationalism as an important cause of GBV. According to him, nationalist brands anything coming from outside the country as anti-national. He said, "attack of a Hindutva organization on girls in Mangalore in India is an example of this nationalistic ideology. Attacks of Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan on women are the same mentality. They want to keep women in subjugated position." In his opinion, "this is the result of sexist interpretations of Islam and Hinduism."


According to him, militarization and wars are also major cause of violence inside a home. "State like Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal has been always in a warlike like situation. Hundreds of armed personnel have been always put on high alert. And what for- to kill! Unless you stop glorifying war, they will not be on alert or ready to kill. Global war on terror did the same thing. They glorified the military might of America."


But what is the impact of war on women? Gary thinks a bit and informs, "study done in the West on the wives of military or police personnel who went for war or on peace- keeping missions, clearly showed the increased incident of violence against them at home."


He puts a simple question, "how is it possible on one hand you glorify killing and sent them for the same and also expect them to be on peace mission inside their homes. You want them to be violent outside the home and non-violent within the home!"


Thus, If we want to counter and prevent gender-based violence, we have to think about the reasons for violence in the society with all its complexities.


Caution for Media

Gary believes that expansion of media is the reflection of strong democratic society. But as far as gender based violence is concerned, he has a different opinion. He thinks media did a lot to cover incidents of violence. But, yes, but ... he says, media sees the issues of violence in a man and a woman as a binary structure. Media should give up this binary and antagonistic type stories. His suggestion is very sharp and crisp: show the complexities of violence.

(A slightly different version of this series had been published in Hindi daily Hindustan)

[Read the first part article of this series here: Men against violence-1: Learn masculinity from Mahatma Gandhi?]

Nasiruddin Haider Khan

[The author is a senior Hindi journalist based in Lucknow and a noted researcher on gender issues. His website is Gender Jihad (www.genderjihad.in) and he can be reached at nasiruddinhk@gmail.com
]

Hearing of writ petition against diluting RTI Act: Court directs State govt to reply in 2 weeks

Hearing of writ petition against diluting RTI Act:
Court directs State govt to reply in 2 weeks
[To read this in Hindi language, see below or click here]

Today the honorable Court directed the UP State government to reply within two weeks on why five subjects have been removed from the purview of the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.


The court was hearing to a writ petition filed on behalf of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) by Magsaysay Awardee (2002) Dr Sandeep Pandey and noted RTI crusader Naveen Tiwari.

“We beg to differ with the decision of the State Government to still keep out five subjects from the purview of the RTI Act. The RTI Act, passed by the Parliament of this country in 2005, empowers the citizen of this country information on all matters except those covered under Section 8 of the Act” said Dr Sandeep Pandey, national Convener of National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM).

“It is against the letter and spirit of the RTI Act to exclude information related to appointment of Governor, High Court Judges, Ministers, code of conduct for Ministers and letters written by Governor to the President from its purview. Section 24(4) of the Act doesn't apply as these matters are not related to intelligence or security organizations of the State” said Naveen Tiwari, who is a noted RTI activist advocating for transparency and accountability in governance.

The state government had issued the notification on 7 June 2009 stating that five subjects (appointment of Governor, High Court Judges, Ministers, code of conduct for Ministers and letters written by Governor to the President) will not come under the purview of the RTI Act, 2005. In an earlier order of Civil Aviation department on 25 March 2008, two units of Civil aviation department were also removed from the purview of RTI Act, 2005.

Both these notifications are prima facie illegal because Section 24 (4) of RTI Act, 2005, doesn’t apply to them. This section 24 (4) only applies to organizations and in both these notifications, the exempted entities are not organizations, said SN Shukla, retd IAS officer.

NAPM requests the UP State Government to retract any attempt to tamper with the RTI Act and restore the original scope of the Act.

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Civil society raises alarm on 'politicisation of bureaucracy'

Civil society raises alarm on 'politicisation of bureaucracy'
Alka Pande


In the recently concluded general elections for the 15th Parliament in India, there was a growing movement in the citizens to become proactive towards cleansing of politics in the country. The social activists not only launched campaigns to educate people about their right to vote in a democracy, they made the public aware about the background of the candidates. Besides, the activists motivated the public to use their franchise judiciously.

The elections are over now and the government too is in place – however discussions are carrying on, on politics, criminalisation of politics, nexus of mafia and politicians, democracy and governance.

Criticism of politicians and political parties having a nexus with criminals is common in India, but today it was another issue that took centrestage in a discussion amongst a group of intellectuals - the issue of politicisation of bureaucracy in India, in general and in the state of Uttar Pradesh, in particular.

"From time immemorial fingers are being raised on politicians, now the time has come that the civil societies start speaking about bureaucracy as well", the point was raised by political thinker and social activist Dr Ramesh Dixit, who is also a senior professor in the department of Political Science, Lucknow University. He cited a few examples of bureaucrats in Uttar Pradesh to stress on his point as to how transparency reaches a full stop at the level of bureaucracy. "At the Chief Minister’s office in Uttar Pradesh, which is also known as pancham tal (fifth floor) democracy gets killed a slow death", Dixit emphasised.

"It is because they are not answerable to anyone. If one bureaucrat does something wrong he is transferred to some other post – the other one takes over – he does more or less the same and the corruption goes on and grows on. But the politicians – even if they are corrupt, at least they are answerable to their people as they have to go to the public asking for votes, every five years and sometimes earlier", he said. His view was that instead of criticising the politicians alone, the civil societies should also work in coordination with them to confront the bureaucracy and thereby help improve governance.

The speakers concluded that since information and awareness are the strongest tools to strengthen democracy, agencies and organisations are making efforts to gather statistics about area, political candidate, candidates’ profiles etc during the elections so that the voter knows whom he is going to vote for. They felt that in the same way Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005, has empowered the public, same way information relating to politicians too will help the public become powerful and then take active part in democracy and governance.

A prefix is dangerous for democracy
It was the neighbouring state Pakistan which started the trend of democracy with a prefix, in 1995 when it introduced Basic Democracy during its military rule. The trend was followed by Nepal, which introduced Panchayat democracy, Indonesia, which gave a term Guided Democracy and Philippines, where a new kind of democracy emerged – New Democracy. India too was not far behind where Jai Prakash Narain launched a movement for Party-free Democracy. "Every time a prefix is attached to democracy, the word loses its very essence and gives a new meaning and new dimension to the word", said Dr Ramesh Dixit. His views were - "If a common man can express his feelings without any fear and cast his vote without any scare – the situation can be termed as democracy and governance."

Alka Pande
(The author is a senior journalist)

'Hunger and Poverty home to India'

'Hunger and Poverty home to India'
Anjali Singh

LUCKNOW: Though this is her fifth visit to the Lucknow, state capital of Uttar Pradesh, Kristin Kjaeret, Director FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) Norway, an international human rights organisation campaigning for right to feed oneself, maintains that things have not changed even now.

In a candid interview to Citizen News Service (CNS), she rues the lack of strong political will in India to help people get their rights to live a life of dignity sans discrimination, poverty and starvation.

You have submitted a report on the Right to Adequate food to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), in your estimation how is food security going to be in India?
India has had to face a lot of criticism recently from the international communities for not being able to provide people their fundamental right to food. Predictably these communities are now also asking for awareness raising campaigns to highlight not only the right of a person to feed themselves but also the schemes which the Indian government has put in place to allow people to do that. The right to food security for all must be publicised well only then the situation will improve in the India.

What according to you causes the problems of food shortfalls. Is it due to crop failure or of inefficient public distribution system?
Well a case that came to the Supreme Court in 2005 and urged the court to order a food census is a fitting example of what causes food shortfalls in India. When carried out, the census revealed that over 60 million tons of grain was stored in the government godowns but due to lack of efficient distribution systems and effective implementation of government lead schemes the grain did not reach the people causing thousands to starve. So I believe that if the distribution system in the country is freed of discrimination and corruption India can provide people food security very well.

Would you say its the rural economy as a whole which needs to be given attention?

Frankly I have not studied in depth the rural set up of India so to comment on setting up an alternative rural economy would not be right. But I feel everyone is trying to function in the existing system to the best of their ability so setting up a shadow economical system for rural area would not be a good idea. There are already many schemes put in place for the rural sector, if awareness of these schemes can be improved things will change for the better.

You have said that corruption, discrimination and poor implementation of the schemes to provide people their right to food are the reasons behind the violations of human rights in India. How can this be prevented?
Its a challenge, and we are in touch with some Indian parliamentarians who are working on the issues and doing a good job to improve the distribution system. Secondly we are also encouraging them to enact food laws and suggest its implementation with the help other members in your parliament. But as I said a strong political will is necessary for these changes to work.

What are the three important actions the Indian government needs to take to fulfill its commitments to CESCR?
There has to be a strong political will to ensure there are no violations of people's rights and the government should stress upon legislation against the violations and complaint must be redressed immediately. But most importantly the effective and early implementation of the schemes for food security must be focused upon.

If India fails to fulfill its commitments as a signatory, is it liable for legal action?
Let me put it this way, soon hopefully the UN will be formally adopting a policy of Optional Protocol of CESCR. Through this the ratification of states will be given a legal nature which will enable people to be brought directly to the UN committee and make a statement if their case come up for hearing. The committee has already made it clear that all the programmes for human rights being introduced by Indian government must be implemented and if it is not and the cases it hears proves as much, it will want to know why. FIAN committees in different states in India will be mediated for the people.

There is the issue of genetically modified foods and corporatisation of agriculture which has been strongly opposed by civil society groups. What is FIAN doing to prevent this trend?
GMOs is a widely debated issue worldwide and there are many organisations in USA already opposing it, so FIAN does not feel the need to take up the case of an issue that is already being fitfully addressed. But we are not in favour of GMOs, and we can intervene only if cases of violations of food security arise due to GMOs. Individual cases if complaints are made and if brought to us will be taken up. But we don't lead campaigns against GMOs as a policy.

You met the govt officials of the handicap department in UP to urge them to create jobs for for the physically and visually challenged, what was the response of the officials?
Well (smiles) they have promised to create 1500 jobs this year for the handicapped as as per a law passed in 1995, 3% government jobs had to be reserved for the handicapped. But that has not been implemented yet. The two training centres set up in UP to train people to be fit for the jobs provided to them by the government are now full as, since two years the students have not moved out due to lack of employment generation. But as per our discussions with the officials at the handicap welfare department they have initiated the process of creating jobs for the physically and visually handicapped. So lets hope for the best.

[Photo Caption: Kristin Kjaeret, Director FIAN, Norway]
Anjali Singh
(The author is a Special Correspondent to Citizen News Service (CNS) and also the Director of Saaksham Foundation. Email: anjali@citizen-news.org)

Spread love, not infection...

Spread love, not infection...
Alka Pande

"Say Yes to Condom – No to HIV"
"A Rupee saves a life"
"Stay Negative Love Condom"
"Love yourself, Love your partner, Love Condom"

With these catchy slogans, a health organisation distributed condoms to people in New Delhi, much to the irritation of political outfits like Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena, who along with their political activities in India, also play the role of moral police in the country.

Recently, its activists damaged a condom vending machine and forced the State AIDS Control Society to remove the machine placed in a park, in one of the northern states of the country.

However, this did not deter those who are dedicated to educate the public of the ways to safeguard themselves from this deadly virus.

The message that was disseminated with the condoms was - "Say yes to condom, no to HIV’", "Stay Negative – Love Condom" and so on. More so, an attention-grabbing image of a semi-nude male with the words "Stay Negative" tattooed on his upper back is already there on the streets of the capital catching attention of the passersby.

It was AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) which distributed the AHF-LOVE-Condoms. The AHF works with communities for HIV and sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing programme and is now focusing on urban population by trying to motivate it to visit the site www.freehivtest.net and find out where to get the blood test done quickly, conveniently and free of cost.

Senior Global Policy Director of AHF (USA), Ms Terri Ford, who is presently on a mission to India, is advocating this worldwide free distribution of AHF-LOVE brand condoms. "It is a new beginning to restore the condom's critical place at the front-line of effective Global AIDS Prevention and Control. If a rupee can save a life, there is no reason why free condoms should not be distributed", She argues.

Why are Condoms So Important for Global HIV and STD Control?

If global AIDS control has defined an absolute reduction in the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world, condoms can be give a large share of credit for successfully achieving that goal.

Treatment has played a crucial role in bringing hope to millions and in motivating masses of people to get tested. The huge success of the last World AIDS Day – One Million Test Campaign – during which men, women and children lined up across the globe to be tested – demonstrates that people want to know their status.

The simple formula for global AIDS control involves -

* Identifying those who are still undiagnosed and linking them to treatment, which will render them less infectious.

* Promoting use of condom - the known and tested method for preventing the sexual transmission of HIV.

* Ensuring that the Positives protect their partners by using condom.

* Breaking the chain of infection by getting more and more people tested to know their HIV status.

The AHF has tied up with HLL Lifecare Limited for this LOVE- Condom campaign. "A key component of the campaign is the website www.getfreecondoms.org , which contains crucial information about HIV transmission, prevention and treatment, including facts about condom use. The site also incorporates an extensive 'myth v/s reality' section that frankly addresses false beliefs about HIV infection, which often prevent some individuals to go for testing,’’ the medical expert Dr Nochiketa Mohanty says.

This campaign is aimed to bring public-private partnership to facilitate access to free condoms and is expected to complement the ongoing social marketing and free distribution of condoms promoted by Government of India.

The HLL representative claims that the goal of LOVE Condom Campaign is to scale-up global support for condom usage by distributing ten million high-quality World Health Organisation (WHO) approved condoms free of charge to any individual, non-governmental or government agency, which makes a commitment to support the campaign's aim of achieving hundred per cent access to free condoms worldwide.

To achieve 'Global AIDS Control' an aggressive inclusion of condoms as a safety measure is essential. The experts claim that the ABC model focusing on Abstinence-Be faithful-Condoms, which proved to be a success in countries such as Uganda, loses its strength without including C (Call for) condoms. The time has come to bring Condoms from the back to the forefront and evolve a new model of ABC (Abstinence-Be faithful-Call for) Condoms.

Alka Pande
(The author is a senior Journalist)

Mayawati’s Idolization and quest for Dalit Emancipation

Mayawati’s Idolization and quest for Dalit Emancipation
SR Darapuri

During the Assembly elections 2007, the people of Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) India and especially the Dalits voted Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to absolute majority. They expected that this time with a stable government she will be able to take U.P. out of the quagmire of underdevelopment and backwardness. They also hoped that now she will work out a development agenda for the State as well as for the Dalits and implement it faithfully. During her previous three stints as Chief Minister she took the plea that due to her dependence on other parties for support she could not act independently. As such she needed a government with majority to give her a free hand in running her government. But even this time Mayawati did not come up to the people’s expectations. Neither she neither worked out development agenda nor stopped wasting public money on installing statues, creating memorials and making parks.

If judged from the point of view of development, at present U.P. is the one of the most backward states of India. As per 2001 Census Repot it has the largest population (16.16 crores) which stands as 16.16 % of total population of India. According to development parameters the total literacy rate of U.P. is 56.30 % (Male 68.8 and Female 42.2 %) whereas at the national level it is 68.84 % (Male 75.26 and 53.67 %). The sex ratio of U.P. stands at 898 whereas the national ratio is 933. According to available statistics the per capita income in U.P. during 2005-06 was Rs. 13,316 which is the lowest in the country excepting Bihar (Rs. 7875) whereas at the national level it is Rs. 25,716. During this period the per capita power production and consumption in U.P. was 113 and 167 K.W.Hour as compared with 563 and 372 K.W.Hour at the national level.

From the Public Health angle the birth rate, death rate and child mortality rate for U.P. were 30.4, 8.7 and 73 respectively whereas the national rates were 23.8, 7.6 and 58 respectively. As per the findings of NFHS-III, 2005-06 the infant mortality (number of infant deaths per thousand live births in the last five years) rate at national level is 57 whereas for U.P. it is 73. In India, 46 per scent children under three yeas of age are underweight whereas in U.P. it is 47 percent. Almost 38 % children (under three years age) are stunted (too short for their age). In U.P. their percentage is 46. Almost 79 % of children (6-35 months) and 56 % of women in India are anemic. In U.P. the figures are 85 and 51 percent respectively. From the employment angle during 2001 in U.P. only 23.78 % of total workers were Main Workers and 66 % were engaged as Agriculture Labourers. At present 32 % of U.P. population is living below poverty line against the national average of 27.5 percent.

From the above details it is clear that from the development point of view U.P. is one of the most backward states of India. In such a situation, not only Mayawati but every government is expected to utilize all the resources of the State for the development of the people. But it has not happened for last many years. According to Sudha Pai “There is evidence that the conditions of the poorer sections in U.P. which include the major chunk of the Dalits have become worse during the 1990s. The National Human Development Report (NHDR) has pointed out the poor conditions of life in comparison with many other states. The State’s position in terms of Human Development Index was 29th in 1981 and has fallen to 31 out of 32 states (NHDR 2001:140-41). Similarly the Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure registered a fall in the State between 1993-94 and 1999-2000; that this is due to a drastic reduction in the consumption expenditure on food between two periods clearly suggest deterioration in the standard of living. This down slide took place when the B.S.P. supported by B.J.P. was in power in U.P. for the most part (National Herald, Lucknow May 1, 2002). Despite the fact that the BSP. had formed a government twice during the 1990s and was again in power with the support of the Bhartiya Janta Party, the conditions of Dalits have not improved according to the draft proposals of the Tenth Five Year Plan (Jha, 28 December, The Times of India, New Delhi-2002). The BSP did not put forward any policies for improving the socioeconomic conditions of the subaltern sections of the Dalits. The emphasis has been on political empowerment only.”

It is well known that Mayawati did not take up any development agenda during all her tenures of Chief Minister ship. During the elections BSP never came out with an election manifesto. This was done purposely. Because declaration of an agenda being about the responsibility of implementing it and failure to do so invites public wrath. Mr. Kanshi Ram, the mentor of Mayawati, attracted Dalits by promising to fulfill the incomplete mission of Dr. Ambedkar but cleverly he never defined it in writing. “First capture political power and then any work” was the promise given by BSP. In the beginning, Dalits were instigated against higher castes by raising emotional and non-material issues but later on all sorts of unprincipled and opportunistic alliances were made to get political power. All the principles of Ambedkarism were thrown to winds and dalits were exploited emotionally in the name of caste. Personal ambitions were pursued in place of Dalit issues. This unprincipled, non developmental and corrupt politics has resulted in poverty, unemployment and backwardness of the people of U.P. and the Dalits at large.

Now it will be pertinent to see on what items the budget money was spent during this period. It has been found that major part of budget was spent on non-development projects. It is noticeable that 90 % of Cultural Department and about 40 % of Public Works Department budget was spent on parks, memorials and statues. What ever money was spent on welfare programmes, a major apart of it was eaten away by corruption. As such the poor were deprived of any benefit there of. The main cause of it has been the personal greed and corruption of Mayawati which may land her in jail in the near future. She has spent a major portion of state budget on installing statues, making parks and creating memorials. Along with the statues of Dr. Ambedkar and some other Dalit icons she has installed her own statues along with her mentor Kanshi Ram. She seems to have taken inspiration from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Ill. She has made history by installing her own statues as a living person. According to available information she has spent more than 3,000 crores of Rupees on statutes and parks. These statues and memorials are so grand and costly which can put any king or queen to shame. According to one German scholar Maren Schempp, “Mayawati is building her own Rome.” Another scholar has labeled it as a criminal waste of public money.

Now Mayawati is ruling the State for the fourth time and she proclaims to be the savior of Dalits. In the face of this claim it will be proper to see what she has done to for the upliftment of Dalits of U.P. According to 2001 Census Report the population of Dalits in U.P. is 3.51 crores which is 21.2 % of State population and is the largest in whole of India. Ordinarily it is expected that in a state where a Dalit Chief Minister has occupied the chair for the fourth time, the Dalits of that state might have benefited much from her rule. But the ground reality is totally to the contrary. At present U.P. dalits are the most backward in whole of India leaving aside the Dalits of Orissa and Bihar. According to 2001 Census Report the Male- Female sex ratio of U.P. dalits is 900 whereas the national average of Dalits is 936. Similarly the literacy rate of U.P. Dalits is 46.3 % (Male 60.3 and Female 30.5 Percent) against the national average of 54.7 percent (Male 66.6 and Female 41.9 %). According to above Census report out of 1.33 crore children between the age of group 5-14 yeas only 58.3 lacs ( 56.4 % ) were going to school.

According to above census Report among total workers U.P. has got 42.5 % dalits working as Agriculture Labourers against the national average of 45.6 %. The percentage of U.P. dalits below poverty line is about 50 %. In U.P. Work Participation Rate of Dalits is 34.7 % which is lower than the national average. Being a dominantly agriculture based society land is an important source of production. In U.P. the number and size of land holdings with dalits is very small but land reforms have not been given proper priority in the State. What ever land was given to the landless, most of it is under illegal possession of higher castes and Mayawati cannot afford to annoy them as they form an important part of her Sarvjan (all included) followers.

On account of feudal social set up caste discrimination and practice of untouchability are the main factors behind atrocities against Dalits in U.P. Their number is highest in whole of India. A decrease in atrocities and prompt action against the offenders is the general expectation from Mayawati but the reality is totally otherwise. During 2001 Mayawati in order to keep her crime figures low issued a written order suspending the use of Scheduled Cases and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities ) Act but was forced to withdraw the same in 2003. This had a very adverse effect on dalits. The atrocities continued to be perpetrated but their cases were not being registered by police. Besides this, the practice of untouchability is quite prevalent in midday meals in Primary Schools, Anganwari Centres and government hospitals but very little action is taken at government level. Thus Dalits continue to suffer under Mayawati’s rule. They have not experienced any empowerment material or otherwise.

“The statues serve as a source of inspiration for dalits” is the argument put forward by Mayawati for justifying her idolization. But this argument is quite contrary to the philosophy of Dalit icons. Let us see what Dr. Ambedkar said in a letter published in Bombay Chronicle in 1916. Following the death, in 1915, of Pherozeshah Merwnjee Mehta, one of the founders of Indian National Congress, and of Gopal Krishana Gokhle, another Congress leader and founder of Servants of India society, Ambedkar notes: “The memorial for Gokhle is to take the form of establishing branches of Servants of India Society at various places, while that of Sir P.M. Mehta is to stand in the form of a statue before the Bombay Municipal Office.” While appreciating the memorial for Gokhle, Ambedkar records his dismay over a statue for Mehta being “very trivial and unbecoming.” He is “at pains to understand why this memorial cannot be in a form that will be “of permanent use to posterity.”. He suggests that the memorial should be a public library named after Mehta. Drawing from his experience at “one of the biggest universities in the U.S., Ambedkar laments how we have not yet “realized the value of the library as an institution in the growth and advancement of society.”

Later, Dr. Ambedkar acted on these principles when he had the opportunity. He was driven by the belief that education was the greatest weapon for advancement. He founded “People’s Education Society” in 1944; three branches of Siddharth College beginning 1946; and Milind Mahavidhyalya in 1950. With a view to benefit the maximum number of students he established colleges in Bombay and Marathwar which is the most backward area in Maharashtra.

It is true that statues serve as source of inspiration but this role is very limited. The lasting inspiration comes by following their ideals and propagating their philosophy. But Mayawati has done hardly any thing in this direction. If the money spent on statues had been spent in establishing educational institutions in the name of dalit icons, it would have brought a qualitative change in the society.

From the brief above discussion it transpires that the emancipation of dalits can be achieved not by installation of statues but by working out a Dalit development agenda and implementing it honestly. In stead of spending crores on the statues, establishing educational institutions, hospital, libraries and useful institutions in the name of Dalit icons will be a true honour and memorial to them.

SR Darapuri, is a retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer (former Inspector General (IG) of Police), Vice-President of People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), UP, and also represents the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and Lok Rajniti Manch (People's Politics Front). Email: srdarapuri@yahoo.co.in

Men against violence-1: Learn masculinity from Mahatma Gandhi?

Men against violence-1
Learn masculinity from Mahatma Gandhi?

Nasiruddin Haider Khan

DHAKA: "Women have raised their voices against gender-based violence. They have fought for policies and laws. But now it is high time that women's movement should engage men. There are enormous challenges to counter violence against women. Without involving men, it is not possible to prevent gender based violence."

This is James Lang. A strong advocate of engaging men for prevention of domestic violence. He is leading “Partners for Prevention,” a joint programme on working with boys and men to prevent gender based violence initiated by four United Nations organizations namely the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and United Nations Volunteers (UNV).

Recently during a South Asian regional consultation in Dhaka, Bangladesh, I got the opportunity to throw few questions to him. I was one of the participants of this consultation on Engaging men and boys for gender equality and violence prevention.

"Gender relations involve both men and women. Generally this relationship is unequal. Structural dynamics are also against women. This inequality leads to gender based violence", he summarizes the issue in these words.

On the other hand, Satish Singh of Men's Action for Stopping Violence Against Women (MASVAW), a network working with men in Uttar Pradesh, India puts it like this; "if men are part of the problem then they have to be part of the solution too. They are the ones who determine masculine social values and laws. "

However both James and Satish quickly add, violence is not natural to boys and men. They learn this behavior during their lifetime. It is part of their socialization processes. Therefore, according to James, "a non-violent masculinity image can be promoted as an alternative to the macho man image. So, it is very necessary to work with men for an alternative idea of masculinity." Satish elaborates, "if all the men of world are not perpetrator of violence, then rest of the men also can become non-violent."

"This is necessary for peaceful, harmonious and caring relationship. There is an urgent need to see men not only as a perpetrator but also as a human being", James points out. Whereas Satish opines, "violence also affects men. Therefore they have to learn how to respect human rights of others."

This movement for engaging men for gender equality and violence prevention has lot of expectation from South Asia. As James points out, "in this region you will find several examples of alternate masculinity that are non-violent. They are the people who pour love and affection. They are sensitive to the women and children.... and who will be the best example other than Mahatma Gandhi?"

"Was Gandhi not a man", asks James. He elaborates on his idea, "all religions advocate for peace and caring relationships. Why not people see the Buddhist monk of Bhutan? There are people like political leaders, film stars, sports persons, who are men of caring and non-violence. They talk about love, affection and peace. Why not we look at masculinity from this angle? They are indeed a positive example of masculinity."

Because, according to James, "whether it is Hollywood or Bollywood, their films depict a male hero with muscle power and gun fights with another male to get the girl. These male hero with chiseled body and armed with weapons create the image of "real man". This image gets ingrained in the boys. They imitate and try to replicate this image in real life."

"But can anybody get the love of a girl by violent means?" James threw the question.

No.. not at all... What he gives and gets is violence and only violence.

South Asian countries will work together

South Asian countries will work together to engage men for gender equality and violence prevention. Their special focus will be on boys. Not only that, effort will be made to put forward the concept of alternative masculinity. These have been decided in a consultation in Dhaka, Bangladesh last month. This consultation is organised under the banner of "Partners for Rrevention", which is an umbrella programme jointly initiated by UNFPA, UNDP, UNIFEM, UNV. Among the participants were representatives of different networks, civil society organizations, teachers, journalists of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and UN organizations.

(A slightly different version of this series had been published in Hindi daily Hindustan)

Nasiruddin Haider Khan
[The author is a senior Hindi journalist based in Lucknow and a noted researcher on gender issues. His website is Gender Jihad (www.genderjihad.in) and he can be reached at nasiruddinhk@gmail.com
]

North Indian village boy shared J8 summit experience

North Indian village boy shared J8 summit experience
Alka Pande

- Education till class twelfth should be compulsory for each child in India.

- Each village in the country should have not only primary schools but also higher secondary schools.

- Teachers should teach with affection and support so that students do not feel scared of them in putting up their queries.

These are the suggestion which fourteen year old Narendra Kumar put forward in the J8 Summit in recently concluded in Rome. As the acronym suggests, J8 is the junior version of G8, in which children prepare a proposal of what they expect from their respective governments. Narendra was one of the three young boys who had been chosen to represent India at the J8 summit in Rome. The other two boys were from Tamil Nadu (south) and Orissa (north east). After coming back from the summit, Narendra shared his once in a life-time experience with the media persons and elaborated upon some of his suggestions at the summit.

A student of class eleventh, Narendra belongs to a remote village in the most populous north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The village Grampure Gosai, located in Rae Bareli – the parliamentary constituency of UPA (United Progressive Alliance) Chairperson and All India Congress Committee president Sonia Gandhi – has no electricity. Narendra and boys and girls like him have always studied in the dim light of kerosene lamps.

The selection of Narendra for this prestigious event dates back to November 2008 when UNICEF held a Children’s Assembly in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The village children held a mock assembly in the real hall of Uttar Pradesh legislative assembly, in which Narendra was unanimously chosen to act like Speaker. His talent was spotted by a state-based voluntary organisation Lokmitra – working for right of all children to free education with quality and equality.

Both, UNICEF and Lokmitra polished the inherent talent of Narendra to take it to a level enabling him to represent this most backward northern state of India. Since Narendra could neither understand nor speak fluent English, a Lokmitra representative accompanied him to Rome and assisted him as an interpreter.

What makes Narendra’s achievement worth mentioning is his humble background. His father is a labourer in the village earning measly daily wages. The village has no electricity and no other facility like clean drinking water or medical and health services.

Coming from a family of 12 members, Narendra has four brothers and five sisters, of which six siblings are older to him. Incidentally, Narendra is the first one in his family to have reached and cleared class eleventh and most probably he is the first one in the village to have visited another country. A follower of Sonia Gandhi, Narendra wants to become a teacher because he feels that education is an essential tool for empowerment.

Alka Pande
(The author is a senior Journalist)

Of tribes and times

Of tribes and times
Bindu Gurtoo, CNS

Sikkim, that tiny outcrop in the eastern Himalayas, is a little jewel that makes an interesting contribution to the bewildering cultural and ethnic diversity of India. On the face of it, Sikkim has always seemed an idyllic, lost- in- the clouds abode of beatific Buddhist monks and smiling inscrutable mongoloid people. Despite the impression of an ethereal placidity, Sikkim’s history, especially in the last six centuries has been quite eventful. Migrations from Tibet, wars with Bhutan in the east and with Nepal in the west, the Gorkha incursions, parley with the British… Sikkim’s past is as checkered as that of any other region in the subcontinent (barring of course, the North West!).

The ethnic cocktail of Sikkim is a mix of the Lepchas, the Bhutias, the Limboos, the Tamangs, the Nepalese and a host of plains people. The original dwellers of Sikkim are supposed to be the Lepchas who ventured into Sikkim from either Assam or Burma or from Tibet in some distant past. Lepchas practice the Bon faith, an animistic shamanistic religion. It probably flowered in Central Asia at the dawn of human civilization and flourished in the subcontinent from eastern Afghanistan to Sikkim and beyond. Bon faith as practiced in Tibet influenced Buddhism and was transformed by it in return. The only Bon monastery I have seen in Sikkim is the one in Kewzing. There is one near Solan in Himachal Pradesh too, but that is of recent origin.

According to the Lephcas or the Rong as they call themselves, they are the children of Kanchendzonga, the third highest peak of the world. The Lepchas call it king-tzum-song –bu meaning, the highest over the head. The bon faith is a primordial religion, a throwback to a time when man had a reverential attitude to nature and had not yet learnt to dam the rivers and blast the hills. Perhaps, we could take lessons in co-existence with nature from the mountain worshipping and river loving Lepchas.

Intriguingly, the hunting Lepchas are bigger built and show fewer mongoloid features as compared to the farming ones. The Lepchas I am told, are happy amiable people. Why not, after all, their God is called RUM! There is a well guarded Lepcha village near Rang Rang. Here, the Teesta winds down from the chilly environs of Chungthang towards the pleasantly lush cardamom hills of Mangan. Approachable by a foot bridge, the Lepcha village is spread over the mountainside and is off limits to all but the Lepcha residents. I should know. My son tried. Driven by the insatiable curiosity of a ten year old for all things forbidden, he had skittered down the hill, crossed the foot bridge and was turned back firmly by the police guarding the entrance of the village.


It was at Rang Rang, more than five centuries ago, that the Lepchas and the Bhutias signed a brotherhood pact that was sealed in blood. It allowed the Buddhist Bhutias of Tibet to settle down in “Denzong”, as they called Sikkim. The Bhutias honored the pact by proliferating and gaining a demographic upper hand. The Buddhist sects that came with the Bhutias set up colourfully frescoed gomphas and monasteries all over the region: From the remote Lachen in the north to Tashi Ding and Pemayangtse in the west to Rumtek in the east and Ralang in the south. Finally, by establishing the Chogyal dynasty, the Bhutias fulfilled the prophesy of guru Padmasamabhava, the eighth century founder of Tantric Mahayana in Tibet, of a Buddhist kingdom in Sikkim.


Sikkim has provided a safe haven for Tibetans since centuries. Hence, it was only natural that following the Chinese annexation, a sizeable chunk of the Tibetan exodus into India should have parked itself in Sikkim. Racial, cultural and religious continuity helped assimilation. Yet, not without a measure of censure though. An old monk at Lachen Gompha, himself a true blue Bhutia, lamented the growing trend of Bhutia-Tibetan marriages. It was ironic, considering that the Bhutias themselves, just a few centuries ago, were Tibetan migrants.


The other, much de-glamorized segments of Sikkim’s population are the Limboos and the Tamangs. Originally from Nepal, they did not receive tribal status during colonial rule and were relegated to the being mere commoners. History however, has a way of twisting the destinies of ethnic groups. The growing demand for cheap labour brought in the hard working Nepalese into the under populated Sikkim. The Nepalese were sturdy, and willing to work far more for far less than either the Bhutias or the Lepchas.on an evening, when you walk down the M.G Road in Gangtok that has been prettified with petunias and orchids, your ears will be filled with Nepali and your eyes will scan in vain for a glimpse of the bakhu clad Bhutias. The multi- ethnic crowd that throngs the Gangtok bazaar in fake jimmy choos walks to the beat of Bollywood.
Today, the immigrant Bhutias like the indigenous Lepchas before them, have become a minority in Sikkim. The protected Lepcha village across the Teesta at Rang Rang and the Bhutia heritage village up north in Lachen, preserve slivers of tribal history that is being washed away in the swirl of modern demography.

Bindu Gurtoo, CNS

(The author is a member of Citizen News Service (CNS) Writers' Bureau. Email: bindugurtoo@gmail.com, website: www.citizen-news.org)

Rohini Episode-Lessons For The Police and Society

Rohini Episode-Lessons For The Police and Society

Rohini Singh is still waiting for justice to be done after being brutally physically abused by the police constable Subhas Mishra, who entered and ransacked her home and also misbehaved with her two minor daughters, all because she was asking for protection against the harassment and domestic violence she was being subjected to by her husband.

"Even after the Director General of Police (DGP) saheb has intervened I am still being threatened and pressurised to take back my case against the constable. My husband who is in jail has sent a message through my son who went to meet there that they are asking him to sign a affidavit in jail saying that the injury on my leg is an old wound inflicted by him and not Constable Subash Mishra. I fear for the life and protection of both my children and myself and don't know who to approach for support now. There has been a First Information Report (FIR) lodged in my name against the offenders but till date I have not been given the copy of the FIR despite my asking for it several times. It is my right to know what sections have been put and what statement has been recorded in my name. I am also in need of financial relief to support my children and I request the government to help me get it through the courts, " says Rohini breaking down.


But she was not alone who spoke to the media fraternity press at Panel Discussion on "The Rohini Episode-Lessons for Police and Society" organised by UNICEF and Media Nest in collaboration with Saaksham Foundation, a organisation working to address violations of Child, women and Human Rights. The discussion was organised at the UP Press Club.

Dr Richa Rastogi, also spoke about the police harassment she was being subjected to owing to dowry harassment by her husband who along with the police has been tormenting her since 2007. "Every time I went to the police they refused to help me I even approached the women's commission but nothing was done."

"Repeated attempt were made on my life by feeding me poison in my food and pushing me in front of the truck yet when I went to the police for help they harassed me instead. When I got married my parents spend over 25 lakhs on my wedding but even that is not enough, they are still demanding money and my life is in danger. But wherever I have approached for help even the DGP office I have received no support as my husband's uncle who is under secretary in the UP government calls up the 'thanas' and officials I approach and pulls rank."

Professor (Dr) Roop Rekha Verma, former Vice Chancellor of Lucknow University and a noted social activist who has been spearheading Rohini's case through 'Saajhi Duniya' an organisation addressing women's rights, said,"Rohini's is not the first case in which we are seeing such indifference of the police. In every case that we take up it's the same story. It is a shame that living in a democracy we still have to face such atrocities and human rights violations at the hands of the law enforcers. But if we want to approach the judiciary its the same story, long drawn dates and cumbersome paperwork makes it almost impossible to get justice immediately for the victims."

She also questioned the attitude of the police while filing an FIR in such cases,"It's our right to get a copy of the FIR we file but in Rohini's case we have still not received the copy of the second FIR. We don't even know what has been stated in the FIR and what sections have been put. On the other hand we had also asked the police to investigate who filed the first FIR in which the accused were shown as unknown persons, as Rohini has never said the offenders were unknown. In fact her signatures were forged on the FIR which is a crime itself. But the police has still not furnished that information to us."

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and President, People's Union for Human Rights (PUHR), said, "This is a systematic problem. Corruption is rife in the police department and the fact that they can be pressurised to work under influence is common. The male dominated patriarchal society we live in also sets the stage for the weak, dalits and minorities rights to be violated. Its a colonial mindset the British have left behind and cannot be rectified. But what can be changed is the attitude of the police, the 'policia bhasha' that they use with expletives can be discouraged and their attitude made more humane. Every victim that goes to a thana today is subjected to abusive language and brutal torture, this should be condoned at all. We don't need a executive council or any legal initiative to change this. The top level cops should bring about this change and if they don't they should not be excused for it. The world is changing today when human rights is a huge issue internationally but in UP we refuse to address it."

G ShreeDevi, Secretary UP State Legal Services Authority (UPSLSA), who was also among the panelist, made people aware on what their legal rights are in case of such violations. She also offered to take up the case of Rohini Singh and help her get the financial aid for judicial intervention. "The problem is that people are not aware of their legal rights. In Rohini's case she should have filed her case under Domestic Violence act. This would have helped her get judicial custody of her children and also the financial relief she wants. The UP State Legal Services Authority wants NGOs to collaborate with us so that we can inform people about the provisions we have made to help them get justice in such issues."

Anjali Singh, Director Saaksham Foundation, said, "In every case of child rights, women rights and human rights the first violations occur at the police level who refuse to go by the system put in place to help these victims. Thus there is a urgent need to develop a pressure group to stand by these victims to help them get justice immediately and bring the offenders even if they are in the police to book. Its a shame that in a survey done by National Human Rights Commission in 2008 out of 94,559 cases of human rights violations from all over India, UP Police was heading the list of offenders with 55216 cases filed against them. It is shameful."

Augustine Veliath, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Lucknow, said,"From our end UNICEF is ready to develop NGO networking list which can be provided to UPSLSA to help educate as many people as possible about their legal rights to protect them selves against human rights violations."

The vote of thanks was given by Subir Roy, Senior Photo Journalist and member Media Nest, he said,"Media Nest's aim is to help people address such issues so that they can seek justice in the cases which are not being addressed fitfully. That's why we have set up this forum and raise such issues every fortnight through Media for Children's Hour."

Ban Racism and not the Burqa

Ban Racism and not the Burqa
Bindu Gurtoo

So the French president has gone and done it. In the first presidential address in the French Parliament since 1848, the esteemed President talked about… the Burqa! By declaring, quite theatrically in the parliament that there was no place for the burqa in France, Mr. Sarkozy has undone the goodwill that President Obama so painstakingly earned for the West in Cairo last month. Not only that, by making a fatwa like declaration, he has given the Islamic hardliners another opportunity to raise the bogey of western cultural imperialism. Well, what else can one expect from a man who seems to have little clue on how to deal with global recession, or to tackle the rising unemployment in his country or even to get his countrymen and women to put in an honest day’s labour without going on a strike. Bombastic statements such as these confirm the long held belief of the coloured world that liberty is the white man’s concubine who uses her exclusively for his pleasure.

Pray, Mr. Sarkozy, how is burqa a garment of exclusion while the catholic nun’s habit is not? Granted that the burqa condemns the wearer to a claustrophobic formlessness, but, what about the two piece bikini designed by a man for the voyeuristic pleasure of the male gaze? How can a culture which connives in forcing teenagers to attain impossible thinness and applauds bizarre garments as high fashion, or sit in judgment over others’ attires? Come on Mr Sarkozy, tell us, as instruments of debasement and oppression, how are decadence, racism, substance abuse, bulimia, porn and pedophilia any less than the burqa? If, by banning the burqa you are trying to rescue Muslim damsels in distress, then may we suggest a more worthy alternative? How about giving the Muslims in your country genuine equal opportunities that are not sabotaged by racial snobbery?


While you rush to ban the burqa the way you banned the turban, why not ban a few other things such as tobacco, liquor and skinny fashion which have debased and destroyed a great many of your people? But we know you are not going to do that, Mr. Sarkozy for these are valued as expressions of the haute French culture. And one does not desecrate one’s culture by rudely
hiving off bits, does one? We suspect Mr. Sarkozy that you have learnt your lessons in governance from the redoubtable Robespierre whose guillotine had once worked overtime in the name of democracy.

Perhaps Mr. Sarkozy, it is time you stepped out of the Muslim woman’s wardrobe and directed your attention to some real issues such as climate change, recession and the future of the European Union. Or do we conclude that it is because you are incapable of pondering over these problems that you take refuge in her cupboard? Do come away from her closet, President
and let the Muslim woman decide for herself what she would like to wear. Ah! You are only trying to lend a helping hand, aren’t you? Please desist! For history shows us that the helping hand often ends up slapping the helper. As the president of the nation that pioneered popular uprising, you ought to know that revolutions have to germinate in native soil and can never be successfully grafted. Instead, place your trust in the Muslims to decide on the destiny of their cultures for themselves.

Perhaps, Mr. Sarkozy, the time has come for France to follow the example from across the Atlantic of her once good friend and partner- in- revolutions and elect colored leaders? Though it may seem a daunting task for a man of your intellect, but think Mr. Sarkozy, think!


Bindu Gurtoo, CNS

(The author is a member of Citizen News Service (CNS) Writers' Bureau. Email: bindugurtoo@gmail.com, website: www.citizen-news.org)

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