Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sainath's articles on Migrant Workers(MW) of Berhampore

1. More migrations, new destinations.
2. Put your money down, boys
3. Home, not so sweet home

Data Extracts:
Total Migrant Workers from Berhampore district: 500,000
Migrants to Surat from Berhampore: 400,000
Estimated total migrant workers from Orissa: 600,000
New destination: Kerala
Numbers returned from Surat due recession: 50, 000
Number of months worked: 9 out of 12, 3 they live at home.
Total money sent home(estimated)500 crore/year
Private money transfer at rate Rs. 30/1000
Emergency money transfer, (next day): Rs. 40/1000

Sunday, August 16, 2009

In the name of religion: by Sandip Kumar Dasverma

In the name of religion – Lessons learned from Kandhamal, Orissa

This month on 15th August, 2009, we will commemorate the 62nd year of the carnage which engulfed the subcontinent in the name of religion. It also is the anniversary of it’s latest version in Kandhamal district of Orissa. Violence in the name of religion refuses to stop, and perpetrators seem to be organizing more and more.
The land of Orissa, known for it’s syncretism & Jagannath culture, witnessed a spate of communal violence last August, which was more than it witnessed in 1947. After 62 years the perpetrators and the victims have changed, but the motives and background remain the same.
On 23rd August, 2008, in Kandhamal district of Orissa, 200 KM (or 120 Miles) from Bhubaneswar, the state capital, Hindu mobs attacked Christians. They burned their homes, shops, churches and orphanages. More than 30,000 Christians, were forced to take shelter in refugee camps, where the living conditions were extremely poor. Or in the surrounding jungles, where they were in danger of being attacked by wild animals. About 4,500 Christian homes were burned and 180 churches destroyed. At least 60 Christians were killed, per the Orissa government report. Church leaders from Orissa report higher figures and accuse the government of intentionally undercounting, the dead.
However a quick follow up by the Government, 10,000 people were named in 827 cases registered during the August riots. Charge sheet has already been filed in 437 cases and investigation was on in other 354 cases, including the famous nun’s rape.

Though the 1st conviction of one person came on July 2nd, 2009 and 2nd of five persons on July 29, 2009, before the anniversary, the first case of 16 acquittals has started. As is common in such cases, the refrain of the court is “for lack of evidence”. That will be my point of discussion today. We know from common knowledge and past experience, these are samples of law not taking it’s own course but travesty of justice due various reasons, from poor investigation due influence, to witness turning hostile due fear and to witness buying.
In Kandhamal incidents the perpetrators were from a very small but influential group, the Sangh Parivar of Hindu community. And victims the hapless converted Scheduled caste Christians. It was alleged that members of the Christian community had killed Mahant Laxmanand Saraswati of Viswa Hindu Parishad (the pseudo religious wing of BJP). Though Maoists had claimed it to be their action.
Late Laxmananda himself was no saint either, well known for his fundamentalist Hindu philosophy and activities and for actively propagating hate against Christians. For example Late Mahant was also prime perpetrator of another riot against Christian community in the December 2007, in the same area. He lead violence against the local Christians from the front then.
No murder should be condoned. And so should not be the murder of Late Laxmanand. Similarly life and property should be protected by the Government of the day. Thus administration in the state failed, both to prevent Laxmanand murder and riots that followed, as it was manipulated from within, a la Gujarat by BJP. The BJP, then a partner of the State Government, (which was a BJD / BJP coalition), strategized to succeed in upcoming 2009 elections by spreading hate against Christians. The Kandhamal actions of the Hindu Hate brigade was completely criminal. That it back fired and did not win them the election is another story. It was a tactical failure of the Sangh Parivar. It was also a cultural misreading of the Orissan mind and syncretic culture by the BJP, mastermind and stretegists.
Just as in 1947-48 , in India, when Muslims lost their lives at the hands of Hindus because of their religion and reaction to Hindus killed by Muslims for the same reason in Pakistan, here too some communal elements targeted the Christian community, in retaliation. Such shameful behavior, which in 1947 created wounds so deep that they have yet to heal, are still common in India. This continues, despite recent civil society initiatives, to befriend Pakistan in India and vice-versa. The 11/26 Mumbai massacre was a desperate act by those who did not want peace in the subcontinent. This becomes clear when one remembers that the foreign minister of Pakistan was on that day in New Delhi to sign a SAARC accord between India and Pakistan for an easier VISA regime, This would have made travel in subcontinent easier across international borders, such that, many families separated by the partition, could easily visit relatives across the national divide after 6 decades. The opponents of the thaw, to be more blunt, the hawks, were successful to thwart the progress and forced deferring of the easy visa regime.
A number of commentators blame the current levels of intolerance (between Muslims and Christians or Hindus) on the Hinduization policies which worked in Gujrat for Narendra Modi. No doubt Narendra Modi created bigger night mares of 2002. But the sentiments of the Kandhamal riots do not simply have their roots in questionable actions by Modi. Even though Hindu - Muslim-and the recent Hindu - Christian riots invariably involve the issue of conversion (clever attempt by the Indian religious right, namely Sangh Parivar and their allies like Shiv Sena), the central reason for the carnage which ensues again and again, is not the conversion law or other irritants but a general belief that the state is soft on violence in the name of religion. The perpetrators believe they can get away with murder.
This is because very few people, if any, were charged in either India or Pakistan for the 1947-48 massacres. And even miniscule fewer punished. Nor have the perpetrators of all riots since then brought to justice. Most instigators of such violence also roam free and benefit politically. The general tone after attacks and riots are for forgiving and forgetting. Similar are the pressure on Christians of Kandhmal, which has been of ‘forgiving and forgetting’.
When the last major attack on Christians took place in August 2008 to December 2008 in Kandhamal district of Orissa, the tone of all the following interfaith meetings were very conciliatory and to an extent encouraging. However, at every meeting we heard “next time, we will not do this”. Kindly remember that thousands of houses, churches and orphanages had been torched by mobs in Kandhamal. After learning that I always wondered, what would these people do the next time there was such an allegation or tension like the last one come up or instigated? Will next time Parvin Tagoda be allowed to recreate a mini-Toyota jatra( of L. K. Advani) to inflame public passion and conflagrate hundreds of villages, when he gets another dead body like that of Mahant Laxmanananda Saraswati? If they will not torch their houses, will they just shoot them? Also, why is there always a mention of a ‘next time’? Why should there ever be a ‘next time’?
Giving compensation to the victims will never solve the problem since there is always the threat of a ‘next time’. The worst was that it was based on an allegation and not substantiated facts. The sense of loss, the fear of another attack and the trust lost can perhaps never be reclaimed. As long as the perpetrators are not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and serious measures taken by the government to ensure a rapid and decisive response to such events, these incidents will continue to happen. Suspending a police officer here and a civil officer there, is only a piecemeal initiative. Prosecution for inciting and perpetrating violence, murder, civil unrest and terrorism are measures which will exhibit the seriousness of the government in tackling this menace.
The total wipe out of BJP in Orissa, due tactical mistakes is no doubt a respite for the people but in my opinion the Phoenix will again arise, when they have a cadre based party. One should not forget rise of BJP from 2 seats in parliament in 1984 to forming Govt in 1999.
In addition to the allegation of some inhuman or unpopular acts against the targeted comunity, the other thing common to these attacks is that they have been very well planned. No unruly mob consists of 10 thousand to 20,000 people armed with everything from sticks to modern weapons as in Kandhamal for days. No unruly mob goes and buys sulphuric acid in the nearest big city and then plans an attack such as the one that took place in many places. No unruly mob can successfully torch dozens of houses and then escape so easily as in various places in Kandhamal.
It is clear that last year’s attacks have been clearly planned, by extremists whose reading of Hindu religion is markedly different from that of the average Hindu. The failure of the local administration, which failed to prevent the loss of life and property, is inexcusable.
Whatever the specific motives behind a particular attack, it is clear that intolerance still thrives in India, be it against another religion or another language group(read Hindi speaking Bihari) as in Mumbai. And there are no penalty for rioting and riot instigators like Raj Thakaray and his uncle. So an attitude of impunity from law develops. This attitude is the larger problem, and partly explains why adherents of a faith(Hinduism) that espouses tolerance (all religions are path to the same God – Ramkrishna Paramhansa) would torch the homes of those outside their religion or even their own(Mumbai) when inciting people is necessary for political gain.
Sixty-two years ago Pakistan was created because M. A. Jinnah, convinced the Muslims of the subcontinent that India’s majority Hindu community would not allow them to live in peace with full honor and dignity.
Sixty-two years later, it is the Hindu community of India (read ilk of BHP) that is proving that, it is guilty as charged. Hindus do not allow adherents of other religions to live peacefully and with dignity, in their midst. The solace is the majority of the Hindu community has shown in the recent elections, that they don’t contribute to this intolerant version of Hinduism. But in my opinion, as long as the law does not take it’s own course, as long as crime is not punished, as long as punishment of those guilty of hate crimes, is undermined/ sabotaged by the politicos and police, it will not put communal genie back in the bottle. Pravin Tagodia’s will continue to incite it, without penalty.
The fast court, the speedy justice within a year seemed to proceed in the right direction for Kandhamal. But the acquittal of 16 people, involved in rioting is significant and scary, because it brings to mind manipulation and subvertion from within.
The culture of impunity from consequences of crime must end here and now, if recurrence of riots in future is to be prevented. Let the civil society of Orissa take a vow to fight this culture of impunity and banish it for ever.
If not: the goons and riffraff will continue to be encouraged by the vested interests “in the name of the religion”, and will continue to have immunity from law.

Significance of August 15 by Sandip K. Dasverma

Significance of August 15 :
India became Independent on, Aug 15, 1947, starting an avalanche of colonial independences in Asia and Africa, which ended colonialism. This day we are celebrating Indian independence.
15th of August, is also a national holiday in many countries around the world, but all of them celebrate some thing different except Republic of Korea, which gained independence on 15th Aug 1948.
Major events that this day is also commemorated for, are:

1. Italy commemorates August 15, as one of the most important Catholic holidays, because Catholics believe it's the day Virgin Mary was transported directly to Heaven to be with her son, Jesus.
2. Napoleon Bonaparte was born on 15 August 1769, and France celebrates the day as national holiday, still in his honor.
3. Fifty four years ago, on August 15, 1945 several Asian countries won their freedom when Japan surrendered on this day, which ended the World War II. Although the formal surrender came later on September 2, 1945, Asian freedom fighters in Korea, Indo-China and Indonesia were freed and won their independence on August 15, 1945 from the clutches of the Japanese Imperialism.

The Indian Independence Day, Aug 15, 1947 had a lot of meaning for us when we were children and a lot of significance was attached to it. It had something to do with our Country being pulled off the cage. From what I see, the youth these days are not sentimental or reverential about it, perhaps because they have not seen or known about the struggles to free our Country from the foreign yoke.
India’s 1st Prime Minister, Nehru’s speech on 15th August 1947, is a classic and I will briefly quote from the same:
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance .... We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again."

It indeed ended a period which culminated from sacrifices of many. Gandhians were of course well recognized, but there were many others too, who both preceded and succeeded Mahatma Gandhi & his followers. From Dada Bhai Naroji to the anarchists of Bengal. From Madam Cama to Surya Sen of Chitagong Armory raid fame. From Lala Lajpat Rai to Bal Gangadhar Tilak. From Khudiram Bose to veer Savarkar to Rash Behari Bose and INA heros. The Gaddar Party to the Hindustan Republican Party, The Anushilan Party & Jugantar group to Chadrasekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh. Ramprasad Bismil and Ashfaqulla Khan and Laxman Nayak,just to name only a few.

I always revere highly Ashfaqulla because of his secular spirit, which permeated the patriots of his age and time. His repartee when a police interrogator told him not to insist on independence of India because British rule will be replaced by Hindu rule, is legendary. He said and I quote: "Khan Sahib, I am quite sure that Hindu India will be much better than British India, because it will be ruled by an Indian.” For his arrogance and straight talk, he was sent to gallows. The burning question is whether we are living up to these hopes, ideals and dreams, which lead to supreme sacrifices.

The list of patriots goes on and on and on. They included nationalists and patriots from all regions, religions, language groups, casts and all strata of the society.
The theme song of movie Sahid Bhagat Singh, a poem written by famous revolutionary poet Ramprasad Bismil, depicts their spirit and what they promised to their mother land:
“Aye watan aye watan
Hum ko teri kasam
Teri raahon mein jaan tak luta jayenge
Phool kya cheez hai tere kadmon mein hum
Bhent apne saron ki chadha jayenge.

Koi Punjab se koi Maharashtra se
Koi UP se to koi Bengal se
Teri pooja ki thaali mein laaye hai hum
Phool har rang ke aaj har daal se – ---

What happened to that spirit? What happened to that dedication among the youth? The pre-birth resolve and the post birth euphoria of the young Indian nation? Today India is 62 years old as a nation. It’s energy is sapped by a bunch of greedy Swiss bank a/c holder billionaires, and corrupt politicians. But India is young compared to our adopted nation, The USA, which is 233 years old. Yet due to constant renewal, it is vibrant and innovative. Recently it elected it’s first black president. India on the other hand is still in the quagmire of riots and inequality, injustice and lack of opportunity.
Yes, out of 1200 million, 600 million Indians are on the go, but, yes there is a big but. They are leaving behind the other 600 million, who I call Bharat, as is. As the otherwise successful, Bajpayee Government learnt to it’s dismay in 2004, this can’t happen and will not happen. Because that is not in sync with our national ethos. India has to carry Bharat, as it advances to the 21st century. As Universities proliferate, primary and secondary education has to be taken care of, for them to succeed. India can’t be half world class and half middle age. The economic progress has to be inclusive and based on social justice, because the ones we live behind are our brothers and sisters.
We in the Diaspora have a big responsibility, to help make it happen. Every thing starts small and our local IATC(India Association of Tricities, USA) is now in young capable hands. I request them to start to think and act in this direction. We can associate with organizations like: Asha for Education or Pratham. Let us move forward and use all that we have learnt in our adopted country to our birth country, to bring progress and harmony.
(A speech delivered at IATC celebration of Indian Independence Day, Richland, WA, USA on August 15, 2009 )
1. Asfaqulla Khan:
2. Ramprasad Bismil
3. Chandrasekhar Azad
4. Saheed Bhagat Singh
5. Rashbehari Bose
6. Laxman Nayak