Thursday, December 27, 2007
B. Raman, Outlook India
An allegation often levelled by non-governmental analysts of the Maoist (Naxalite) insurgency is that one of the causes for the spread of Maoist influence in the tribal areas of central India is the anger among the members of the depressed classes due to their perception that the law and order machinery is sought to be misused against them when they try to ventilate their grievances against those exploiting them--whether they be rich land-lords, forest contractors, money-lenders or the so-called upper caste Hindus.
According to them, it is this anger, which has over the years driven a large number of tribals into the waiting arms of the Maoists, who have been exploiting their anger for organising a Maoist revolution in the tribal areas, in the hope of thereby achieving political power through the barrel of the gun and not through the ballot box.
In this connection, there are two interesting incidents narrated by Shri K.S.Subramanian, which came to his notice, when he served as Director in the Union ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) between 1980 and 1985.
To quote him:
" A particularly violent series of incidents of agrarian violence occurred in the central Districts of Bihar in the early 1980s, resulting in the killings in police 'encounters' of a number of the rural poor innocents. The Press was full of the details. This led the government of India to set up a central team of officials, including this author (Subramanian) led by the then Member-Secretary, Planning Commission, to visit the state for a first-hand assessment. On arrival in Bihar, the team met the aggressively self-confident District Administration proud of its record of maintaining order at the cost of many innocent lives. It took the District officials a while to come to grips with the fact that the purpose of the team was not to appreciate 'their good work', but to evaluate their success in implementing the declared policies of payment of minimum wages, protection of civil rights, distribution of government waste land among the poor--all impeccably constitutional tasks. The record did not stand up to scrutiny."
"The state police reported the number of deaths in police action as 12 persons, all of them 'Naxalites'. The IB, the main reporting agency of the MHA, repeated the figure. There was a gap between the figures reported in the press and those, which the government departments came up with."
"A meeting was later called in the union home secretary's room to discuss the Bihar situation. The chief secretary of the state frankly admitted that the number of persons killed in the violent incidents was near 60 and that none of them was a 'Naxalite'. Most were members of a local peasant organisation fighting for social justice under the Constitution and other laws of the land. The minutes of this meeting were classified 'Top Secret', since the matter under discussion was 'Naxalite Activities in Bihar', a top secret matter for the IB!"
"In another series of violent incidents in the Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu during the same period, which also came up for discussion in the MHA, it was found that most of those similarly killed in police 'encounters' were innocent persons, whose crime had been to demand minimum wages, social dignity and civil rights. The police officer in charge of the district , when confronted with this information, maintained that since the 'Naxalites' did not believe in the Constitution of India, the state police were not obliged to adopt strictly constitutional methods in dealing with them.
He later walked away with a police gallantry medal."
"The MHA, which in words accepted that the social base of the Naxalite movement originated from legitimate rural poor concerns, was, however, ineffective in preventing the misuse of police powers to suppress the so-called Naxalites. It was possible for the ministry to have advised the state governments concerned to deal with the socio-economic issues underlying the movement and address the ideological issues politically. However, the immediate issue became one of law and order."
Subramanian concludes as follows:
"The recent experience of Maoist violence in Chhattisgarh highlights the information gap in the ministry. While the intelligence reports on the situation in the state focus exclusively on the law and order and security angles, the reports emanating from concerned citizens, former civil servants and journalists tell a different tale from the perspective of the victims of violence. The state's response is essentially guided by classified intelligence reports. A more realistic appraisal is possible only if the MHA creates its own sources of information rather than depending exclusively on the reports of the IB."
"Former home secretary Srinivasavaradan (in 1992) had suggested that considering the multiplicity and complexity of the social conflicts emerging in the country and given the inadequacy of the existing information base in the government, the MHA should consider setting up inter-disciplinary study-cum-action groups of scholars, civil servants and social activists to go into conflict situations and produce reports for the government. The priority given to peace and order at the cost of law and justice has led to the re-emergence of a crisis situation in the MHA." The Maoist (Naxalite) movement has two dimensions-- the socio-economic and the internal security.
Both are equally important. Subramanian's book provides a valuable insight into the socio-economic dimension and the inadequacies in addressing it. I will be commenting on the internal security dimension in the next part. To be continued
Sunday, December 23, 2007
By Sudha Ramachandran
Asia Times - Dec. 21,07
BANGALORE - Even as Indians were popping champagne corks last week over the appointment of a compatriot Vikram Pandit as chief executive of Citigroup, doubts were being expressed in the US over the wisdom of Western luxury brands being sold to Indian business houses. "I don't believe the US public is ready for ownership out of India of a luxury car make," Ken Gorin told the Wall Street Journal.
Gorin, who chairs the Jaguar Business Operations Council, which represents Jaguar car dealers in the US, was referring to the likely sale by US-based Ford Motors of its Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands to India's Tata Motors. Cash-strapped Ford - the number two US-based car maker - put the two ailing British iconic British brands on sale in July.
About half a dozen companies put in offers, reduced to three for final negotiations. Of these, two are Indian - Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M). The third is OneEquity, a US private equity firm. Gorin drew attention to "unique image issues" that would arise if the two luxury car brands were sold to either of the two Indian bidders. It "would severely throw a tremendous cast of doubt over the viability of the brand", Gorin said.
Even before the dust kicked up by Gorin's remark could settle, Tata was at the receiving end of another put-down when Orient Express Hotels, a New York-listed luxury hotels and travel group, rejected overtures for an alliance by Tata Group-controlled Indian Hotels. Orient Express chief executive Paul White wrote in a letter to Indian Hotels that any association of its brands and properties with the "predominantly domestic" Indian hotel chain would result in an erosion of the brand and business value of its "global portfolio of luxury hotels and unique travel experiences".
Indian Hotels runs the Taj chain of hotels, which includes the near US$3,000 a night Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai. In 2005, it took over management of the landmark Pierre hotel at Fifth Avenue, New York. The remarks by Gorin and White have been widely perceived in India as rooted in racism. An editorial in Economic Times, a leading business daily, slammed the comments as "close to racism, barely camouflaged in the language of branding". Shombit Sengupta, an international growth strategy consultant and founder of Shining Emotional Surplus, doesn't agree. "Luxury brand business is not hype or PR action. It is embedded in superior craftsmanship and legacy of the past that has been transcended generation after generation. That's why there is no question of racism" in the concerns raised by Gorin and White, he told Asia Times Online.
The Tata Group is one of India's largest and most respected business conglomerates. Early this year, Tata Steel bought the Anglo-Dutch steel company Corus for $11.3 billion. Tata Motors, a subsidiary of the Tata Group is the frontrunner in the race for acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover. It is India's largest automobile company, with many firsts to its credit. It developed India's first indigenously developed light commercial vehicle, the country's first sports utility vehicle and, in 1998, India's first fully indigenous passenger car.
It is preparing to unveil in early January a "people's car", which at a price of $2,500 will be the world's cheapest automobile.
Those opposing Tata Motor's likely acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover doubt its capacity to manufacture a luxury car. Could the manufacturer of a people's car be trusted with running a luxury icon? "I do not understand how a company that is going to make cars for $2,000 can sell cars for $120,000," Thomas Stallkamp, a partner with the US private equity firm Ripplewood, was quoted by The Times as saying. Ripplewood was among the companies that were eliminated early in the race for the marques.
A senior Tata Group official said that such questions are rooted in ignorance about the conglomerate's diverse interests. Tata manufactures hydraulic excavators, fertilizers, heavy vehicles and cheap cars. It also produces high-end diamond jewelry and sophisticated software, as well as running top-end hotels. "Tatas is running the Ginger chain of hotels where a room could cost around $30. But it is also running exclusive hotels; a room at Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai could cost anywhere around $2,800 per night. So yes, we can be trusted with running luxury icons," the official told Asia Times Online.
As for allegations that Tata's "cheap car image" would damage the Jaguar brand and turn away potential customers, the official pointed out that "no guest has to date refused the privilege of staying in the Taj Mahal Palace because Tata also owns budget hotels". This is not the first time that Indians daring to challenge ownership of global giants have been ridiculed.
Last year, when Lakshmi Mittal, the Indian steel magnate and the world's fifth-richest person, bid for the Europe-based Arcelor to create the world's biggest steelmaker, its chief Guy Dolle belittled Mittal by saying that Arcelor produced perfume whereas Mittal Steel merely made eau de cologne. Dolle also described Mittal's shares as "monkey money". Shareholder pressure made Arcelor subsequently bow to Mittal's takeover of the company.
Indian liquor baron Vijay Mallya's bid for the French champagne company Taittinger was turned down on the grounds that non-French ownership would hurt the brand. Mallya went on last year to acquire Taittinger's wine business. The barbs, the taunts and the disparaging remarks that Indians and Indian predators face today in Western markets is similar to the Japanese experience in the US a couple of decades ago.
When Japanese car manufacturers entered the American market, they faced much hostility, racist verbal abuse and even physical violence. But soon American car manufacturers had to come to terms with an American public that was setting aside automobile nationalism to purchase the more economical and reliable Japanese cars. But when it comes to luxury brands, Asian brands are not hot in Europe and America.
The Americans have always preferred European luxury brands and have been reluctant to embrace luxury brands from elsewhere. "Shiseido [the Japanese luxury cosmetics brand] is not Chanel No 5 for Americans or other buyers of luxury brands," says Sengupta. Even so, the trend with luxury cars appears to be different. The US luxury car market, once dominated by Cadillacs and Lincolns, seemed safe from the Japanese.
That changed in the 1990s when Honda released its Acura line, followed by Toyota with Lexus and Nissan with Infiniti. Today, US automakers have been edged out of the domestic luxury car market: three out of four Americans who buy a luxury car opt for a European or Japanese model.
And while European luxury car brands now dominate in the US, the Lexus is the highest-selling make of luxury car. Indian analysts have pointed out that the fuss over Indian ownership of Jaguar and Land Rover is absurd, especially at a time when global businesses are increasingly turning to Indian talent to run their enterprises.
Citigroup zeroed in on Indian Vivek Pandit to steer it out of the worst crisis the bank has faced in its 195-year history. Earlier, Pepsico chose the Indian-born Indra Nooyi as its chief executive. Of the 15 Fortune 100 companies that are run by foreign-born executives three are of Indian-origin - with Ramani Ayer, chief executive of Hartford Financial Services, up there alongside Pandit and Nooyi.
India's growing presence at the top rungs of corporate America notwithstanding, the country "still conjures up images of abysmal poverty in the West", pointed out a European luxury car dealer in Bangalore. "When Americans buy luxury cars they want the snob value attached to it. They will not warm to Indian-owned luxury brand as it will not give them that value." Not so, argues Harish Bijoor, chief executive of a Bangalore-based consulting firm that specializes in brand and business strategy.
"The image of India in the world market is not what it was in the past. Today, it is seen as a hot bed of commerce and indeed, a hot bed of mergers and acquisitions activity," he told Asia Times Online. Dismissing allegations that Tata's takeover of Jaguar would undermine the latter's brand value, Bijoor argued that "brand value is a function of what consumers think of the brand at large. An ownership shift seldom has a negative impact on brands, particularly when they pass on into the hands of organizations that have a pedigree in the same space."
And "Tata Motors has that pedigree, as has Mahindra & Mahindra [the other Indian bidder for Jaguar]," Bijoor said. The workers, meanwhile, have a different perspective. Tata Motor's bid for Jaguar and the Land Rover received a boost last month when Unite, Britain's largest manufacturing union, said it preferred the luxury brands being sold to Tata as it offered them the best future in the long run. And unlike their counterparts across the Atlantic, Jaguar dealers in Britain have extended their vote of confidence in Tata's ownership of of the marque. As the dispute rages, Tata is the frontrunner to secure Jaguar and Range Rover, with deal expected to be clinched within the next few days.
"It is definitely Tata. There is one final meeting and so long as there are no last-minute hitches, which are not expected, then an announcement will be made on Friday," sources in Land Rover have been quoted as saying. It looks like Europe and the US need to brace themselves - corporate India is coming, and at Jaguar and Land Rover, they will have to make way for an Indian in the driving seat. Sudha Ramachandran is an independent journalist/researcher based in Bangalore.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Driven out of West Bengal after Left Front chairman Biman Bose indirectly declared her as persona non grata -- "if Ms Taslima Nasreen's stay disturbs the atmosphere of peace in the State, she must leave," Mr Bose had said -- the dissident Bangladeshi writer has already spent three weeks in virtual house arrest in an undisclosed place in Delhi.
It's not only the Left Front Government of West Bengal that bowed before violent Islamic fundamentalists on the rampage in Kolkata, the UPA Government hasn't shown any spine to stand beside the beleaguered woman either -- both eyeing the Muslim vote-bank. A stoic Congress-led Government at the Centre has said it is ready to provide shelter to Ms Nasreen, but expects the writer to refrain from activities and expressions that may "hurt the sentiments of the people".
"Those given shelter in India have always undertaken to eschew political activities in India or any actions which may harm India's relations with friendly countries. It is also expected that the guests will refrain from activities and expressions that may hurt the sentiments of our people." This statement read in Parliament by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, in an oblique reference to Ms Nasreen, smacks of appeasement of the fundamentalist forces.
If Ms Nasreen's prospect of returning to her home country Bangladesh is remote, her chances of returning to Kolkata in the milieu of her linguistic community of Bengalis are dim. This, despite her decision to delete three 'objectionable' pages from her autobiography Dwikhandita. For the first time in the country, a famous woman writer has been disgraced due to vote-bank politics. In doing so, pseudo-secularist Union and State Governments have suavely brushed aside the Indian philosophy of "atithi dewo bhawa" (a guest is godly). This is a dishonour to the Indian culture as well.
A woman is being disrespected by two 'secular' fundamentalist Governments that have, on another front, failed to deport Bangladeshi infiltrators who pose a serious threat to national security. Come election, these political parties shamelessly compete with each other for a bigger share of the illegal immigrants' vote-bank pie.
A defenceless woman, who showed rare courage to speak out against growing Islamic fundamentalism, has come in the way of the UPA and Left Front Government's greed for votes.
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Taslima's 'house arrest' a national shame: BJP
The BJP on Friday said the "shocking news" of the house arrest of noted writer Taslima Nasreen was a matter of shame for the UPA Government, especially in a country that proudly propounds the age-old philosophy of Athithi Devo Bhava.
Party spokesman Prakash Javadekar said it was even more shocking that for the sake of their political survival and acting completely under pressure from the CPI(M), the Central Government had gone ahead and conveyed to Taslima that she cannot go back to Kolkata, a city that she loves.
"This has thrown up an extremely relevant and important question as to how a victim of persecution is being treated by a civilised State in which the victim has sought refuge. Taslima is a victim of religious persecution in Bangladesh. She is now a refugee in India," Javadekar added.
Criticising the UPA and the CPI(M) for their dismal display of conduct in Taslima episode, Javadekar maintained it clearly established their complete submission to Islamic fundamentalists. He demanded freedom of movement, safety and just treatment to Taslima, as also to allow her to follow her wishes.
On CPI(M)'s attack on the party in its mouthpiece People's Democracy, the BJP said it was a sign of the growing insecurity amongst its leadership and cadre. "They have falsely charged the BJP with going back to basics of aggressive communal polaralisation. This precisely reflects the complete insecurity and frustration of the CPI(M), in face of the growing popularity of the BJP," Javdekar claimed.
Amused at Prime Minister's admission that Left-wing extremism was growing, the BJP said it was the Congress politics, which was responsible for proliferation of Maoist activities.
The BJP demanded that instead of mere statements, the Union Government must display the resolve and follow it up with a specific action plan to conclusively combat and defeat Maoism across the country.
Meanwhile, a day after the Government told Taslima Nasreen that she could either continue to stay in the national Capital confined or leave the country, the controversial Bangladeshi writer appealed to the Government to "change its mind". Nasreen, who is living amid tight security in a safe house here, told NDTV: "I appeal to the Government to change its mind." She also asserted that she would leave India if she is stopped from returning to Kolkata, which she considers her home, adds IANS.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
It is unfortunate that the investigations into the violence of March 14, 2007 at Nandigram in West Bengal have now been brought under a cloud of controversy.
The report on the March massacre at Nandigram submitted by the CBI to the Calcutta High Court is disturbing for it has put a question mark on the fairness of the police investigation, such as it was, ordered by the Left Front Government, as also on the establishment of peace -- as claimed by the Marxist regime -- in this district.
If the facts of the CBI report are true, and there is no reason to doubt them, then it would appear that the CPI(M) is attempting a cover-up of the ghastly killing of 14 innocent people -- claimed to have been shot dead by the police but in all probability victims of Marxist cadre on the rampage -- by intimidating witnesses.
The State Government should take note of these charges and act, for such intimidation is not tolerable. If it has any respect for the rule of law, the Government must intervene immediately to put an end to the reign of fear that prevails in the villages of Nandigram.
A judicially founded inquiry cannot be affected by extraneous considerations nor must it give the appearance of being so affected. As for the events of March 14, it will be recalled that the police had claimed that these deaths occurred when they tried to enter Nandigram and were "attacked" by thousands of villagers.
The CBI investigation has so far recorded the contention of the villagers that the police resorted to firing without giving them a chance to disperse. They have also denied that they resorted to violence against the police. The CBI's initial report submitted to the court provides only a glimpse of the true story of Nandigram. Its final report -- the agency has been given two more months by the court to conclude its investigations -- would reveal the full contours of Marxist barbarity. Although the report is meant for the court, public interest demands that it should not be kept under wraps.
That the CPI(M) would try to cover up the crimes committed by its cadre on March 14 -- as also in end-October and early-November -- was only to be expected. The State police, which has been thoroughly politicised by the Left Front Government and is no more than an extension counter of the ruling party, could not have acted otherwise.
If it had conducted a fair inquiry into the events leading up to March 14, then the Government would have been severely embarrassed and the CPI(M) exposed. Hence, a web of lies and deceit was spun to foist the impression that casualties were not as high as was claimed by the victims and the media. Those lies now lie in tatters: The CBI inquiry shows many more people were wounded than was admitted by the Government. For all we know, more than 14 people died that day.
Siddhartha Gautam / CNN-IBN
New Delhi: From the dingy alleys of national capital to the bylanes of Kolkata’s red-light district, underage prostitution and child trafficking rackets are thriving and pimps are making a quick buck at the expense of minor girls.
While Delhi is fast gaining the dubious distinction as a hub of underage prostitution racket, the trail begins in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Nepal.
Minor girls are being pimped as "virgins" for huge prices to customers from across India and while the experts say the alarming trend is common to most metro cities, Delhi's reputation seems to have taken the severest beating.
A CNN-IBN Special Investigation Team went undercover, posing as customers, traveled with pimps from Delhi to Kolkata and caught child traffickers putting young minor girls on sale without a care for the law.
The journey began in Delhi.
Delhi: Not a virgin territory
The first girl on offer was Payal (name changed), a underage girl being touted by a pimp called Mukesh at a shop in south Delhi. Mukesh regularly “supplies” underage, virgin girls to customers in Delhi.
Their “going rates” are on his fingertips. Given below is an excerpt from a conversation CNN-IBN had with Mukesh.
Mukesh: Uska bahut mota paisa lagega. (Payal will be very expensive)
CNN-IBN: Kitna lagega? (How much?)
Mukesh: Kam se kam 80-90 hazar rupay lagega. (At least Rs 80,000 to Rs 90,000.)
A week later, Rahul, Mukesh's right hand man got Payal to meet the SIT team again and repeatedly assured that she was a minor.
Rahul: (I assure you she is young, but you should be the only one having intercourse with her, otherwise there’ll be trouble and I will be in trouble.)
CNN-IBN: Khoon nikelaga? (Will she bleed?)
Rahul: Haan. Nahi niklega toh paisey ley jao. Rs 1000 de dena. (Yes. She will. If she does not, you’ll get your money back. Just pay us Rs 1,000 in that case.)
Kolkata: A naked truth emerges
To see how deep the rot ran, the SIT asked Mukesh and Rahul to introduce them to more underage girls in a group.
An excerpt from the conversation:
CNN-IBN: Mujhe 5 ya 6 ek saath dikhao! Ek jagah par dekh saku jahan main. (Show me five or six girls together)
CNN-IBN (Reporter 2 to pimps): Choose karne ke liye bol raha hai bhai. (He wants to choose).
Mukesh: Dekho ye alag-alag hoti hai kahi-kahi jagah par, aur hame dhund ke lana parte hai. (They meet different clients at different places, we need to look for them)
The SIT insisted it needed to see more girls and wanted their pictures as well. Rahul then asked the team to travel with him to Kolkata.
At the New Delhi Railway station, Rahul introduced the undercover team to one Priyanca and a child he claimed was his son.
Rahul even allowed the team to shoot him on a handycam and just before reaching Kolkata, demanded an advance.
Rahul: Main bolta hu Rs 5,000 abhi de ke rakh. Baad ka jo kharcha hoga dekh lenge. (Give me Rs 5,000 right away. We’ll deal with the other expenses later.)
CNN-IBN: Zyada se zyada Rs 3,000 hai. Samjha kar. (I have just Rs 3,000 right now)
Near Kolkata's Sealdah Railway Station, Priyanca said she could help the team film some underage girls.
“Mera baat suno. Dono kaam ek sath karna hai, thik hai? Tum log jaoge, dekhoge, mai razi kar saku usko, thik hai na? Jo paisa bol rahe ho dedunga tumhare samne, lenge toh thik hai aur nahi to mera koi galti nahi hai. Mere baas mai jitna hoga mai karungi aap log ke liye. (Listen to me, both of you work together okay? Whatever money you are speaking of, just offer that. You can film them. I’ll try my best to help you both.)” she said.
Rahul took the team to Sonagachi, India's biggest red-light area, home to over 10,000 sex workers. The group entered a house and were greeted by a man who said he was the owner. The team switched on the handycam and a brutal parade began.
The girls were made to introduce themselves, forced smiles in place. Some of them looked about 16 but many were not even 12 years old.
Most of the underage girls the team met in Kolkata were trafficked from Bihar, Jharkhand and Nepal and were then put on trains to Delhi and forced into flesh trade.
During the investigation, the SIT found there was a huge demand for underage girls in metros like Delhi. According to figures released by Government of India, 53 per cent of India's children are sexually abused at least once. A UN report too claims it's child prostitution is $32-bn industry.
CEO of NGO Naz Foundation, Anjali Gopalan explains the disturbing trend. “Minor girls are being increasingly pushed into the flesh market because many men think they will be safe from being infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases,” she says.
That’s not all. With girl children fetching up to Rs 1 lakh, traffickers like Rahul and Mukesh admitted family members were often prepared to push their girls into the flesh trade.
Clearly, it’s the money that drives the perverse virgin prostitute racket, pushing thousands of minor girls into sexual slavery.
(With Ritwik Deo and Manmohan Gupta) url: http://www.ibnlive.com/news/nations-shame-pimps-on-prowl-minors-on-sale/54532-3-p1.html
Thursday, December 6, 2007
By AYAAN HIRSI ALI
December 7, 2007
The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with 100 stripes: Let no compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. (Koran 24:2)
IN the last few weeks, in three widely publicized episodes, we have seen Islamic justice enacted in ways that should make Muslim moderates rise up in horror.
A 20-year-old woman from Qatif, Saudi Arabia, reported that she had been abducted by several men and repeatedly raped. But judges found the victim herself to be guilty. Her crime is called “mingling”: when she was abducted, she was in a car with a man not related to her by blood or marriage, and in Saudi Arabia, that is illegal.
Last month, she was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes with a bamboo cane.
Two hundred lashes are enough to kill a strong man. Women usually receive no more than 30 lashes at a time, which means that for seven weeks the “girl from Qatif,” as she’s usually described in news articles, will dread her next session with Islamic justice. When she is released, her life will certainly never return to normal: already there have been reports that her brother has tried to kill her because her “crime” has tarnished her family’s honor.
We also saw Islamic justice in action in Sudan, when a 54-year-old British teacher named Gillian Gibbons was sentenced to 15 days in jail before the government pardoned her this week; she could have faced 40 lashes.
When she began a reading project with her class involving a teddy bear, Ms. Gibbons suggested the children choose a name for it. They chose Muhammad; she let them do it. This was deemed to be blasphemy.
In August she was assaulted by Muslim militants in Hyderabad, and in recent weeks she has had to leave Calcutta and then Rajasthan. Taslima Nasreen’s visa expires next year, and she fears she will not be allowed to live in India again.
It is often said that Islam has been “hijacked” by a small extremist group of radical fundamentalists.
The vast majority of Muslims are said to be moderates.
But where are the moderates? Where are the Muslim voices raised over the terrible injustice of incidents like these?
How many Muslims are willing to stand up and say, in the case of the girl from Qatif, that this manner of justice is appalling, brutal and bigoted — and that no matter who said it was the right thing to do, and how long ago it was said, this should no longer be done?
Usually, Muslim groups like the Organization of the Islamic Conference are quick to defend any affront to the image of Islam. The organization, which represents 57 Muslim states, sent four ambassadors to the leader of my political party in the Netherlands asking him to expel me from Parliament after I gave a newspaper interview in 2003 noting that by Western standards some of the Prophet Muhammad’s behavior would be unconscionable. A few years later, Muslim ambassadors to Denmark protested the cartoons of Muhammad and demanded that their perpetrators be prosecuted.
But while the incidents in Saudi Arabia, Sudan and India have done more to damage the image of Islamic justice than a dozen cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, the organizations that lined up to protest the hideous Danish offense to Islam are quiet now.
I wish there were more Islamic moderates. For example, I would welcome some guidance from that famous Muslim theologian of moderation, Tariq Ramadan.
But when there is true suffering, real cruelty in the name of Islam, we hear, first, denial from all these organizations that are so concerned about Islam’s image. We hear that violence is not in the Koran, that Islam means peace, that this is a hijacking by extremists and a smear campaign and so on. But the evidence mounts up.
Islamic justice is a proud institution, one to which more than a billion people subscribe, at least in theory, and in the heart of the Islamic world it is the law of the land. But take a look at the verse above: more compelling even than the order to flog adulterers is the command that the believer show no compassion. It is this order to choose Allah above his sense of conscience and compassion that imprisons the Muslim in a mindset that is archaic and extreme.
If moderate Muslims believe there should be no compassion shown to the girl from Qatif, then what exactly makes them so moderate?
When a “moderate” Muslim’s sense of compassion and conscience collides with matters prescribed by Allah, he should choose compassion. Unless that happens much more widely, a moderate Islam will remain wishful thinking.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former member of the Dutch Parliament and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of “Infidel.” http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/07/opinion/07ali.html
Related stories below:
Her interview on Swedish TV
Problem with Censorship
Call for Reform
Sunday, December 2, 2007
No renegotiation of Gorshkov's price: Navy Chief
Navy Chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta on Monday ruled out renegotiation with Russia for the price of the aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and said delays would make India think about its defence relations with its longstanding partner. He, however, rejected opting out of the $1.5 billion deal signed in 2004.
The tough posturing by the Naval Chief came in the wake of Russia recently asking for $2.7 billion for the carrier renamed INS Vikramaditya, instead of the contracted price of $1.5 billion. The ship, now undergoing major refurbishment in Russia according to the Indian specifications, was supposed to be delivered to the Navy in 2008 and now it seemed the deadline could be extended by another two years.
Taken aback by the Russian proposal, the Ministry of Defence took the matter seriously and decided to take up the issue at high level and a Russian delegation was expected to land here later this week. Officials clarified that there was no provision for increasing the price of the deal in the original agreement.
The strategic and defence ties between the two countries, having stood the test of time, were now getting into rough weather with Russia adopting a rather business-like approach and no longer offering "friendly prices" to India.
This was true for defence as the three services had more than 70 per cent inventory of Russian origin. Coupled with this factor, the recent "cold reception" to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Moscow was a pointer towards the relationship getting stretched.
Addressing a news conference here on the eve of the Navy Day, Mehta spoke at length about the Gorshkov deal and expressed concern over dilly-dallying by Russia. He went on to say such a delay would make India ponder over "where our defence relations are going to" and made it clear that there could be no renegotiation on the price of the carrier.
"We have paid more than $400 million for the carrier and we own it now," the Naval Chief said. "I have told the Government that the Navy's line is that we should not talk on renegotiating the price for the carrier," he said but ruled out any possibility of opting out of the deal.
As per the inter-Governmental contract, Russia was to deliver the carrier by August 2008. But now, Moscow wants revision of the price to a whopping $2.7 billion, citing major cable laying work of 2,400 km on the carrier.
"When we signed the deal, it was fixed-price contract, taking into account all eventualities of retrofitting. The retrofitting process will take at least two years. We have to see where our relations are going to with Moscow," said Mehta, who is also Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee.
"We should not pay anything more than what we have committed in the original contract," the Navy Chief said. Holding Russia responsible for delay in the delivery of the carrier, he blamed the Russian decision to divert a large number of qualified manpower to building its own new generation nuclear submarines.
"It was Gorshkov project which helped Russian shipyards provide jobs when their economy was down. With our money, there has been lot of prosperity in the (Russian) region," the Navy chief said.
"But now, sudden oil boom has brought about a lot of prosperity, enabling the Russians to launch new warships and submarines, diverting the workforce," he added. Mehta, however, reassured the nation that notwithstanding the delay, the Navy would have two carrier-borne groups operational in Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea by 2015.
Elaborating upon the modernisation and acquisition plans of the force, he said the Navy had floated international tenders for purchase of eight long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The planes were likely to join service within four years after identification of the vendor, Mehta said.
He said the Navy was also on course to float another Request for Proposals (RFP) for acquiring a Medium Range Maritime reconnaissance aircraft. About the Navy proposal to acquire Rotary-based Unmanned Aerial Vehicle NR-UAV, Mehta said this could be an indigenous project with the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) building the helicopter and buying sensors and other equipment from abroad.
He also said the Navy was finalising the RFP to buy medium range anti-submarine helicopters to replace the ageing Sea-King helicopters.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Review: The End of Racism
by W. B. Allen
The question posed in this review comes not from one of those hardy skeptics who aim to
deny to God his glory. It more resembles the post-World War II inquiry, "Who Lost China?" For D'Souza's massive compendium on the contemporary discourse regarding relations between black people and white people in the United States seems to justify the conclusion that somewhere along the line he strayed dramatically from the only legitimate reason for revisiting that discourse.
That legitimate reason remains as it has been to assay prospects of community within the polity shaped by the Declaration of Independence. D'Souza has pursued a different task, though certainly equipped to take up the important work. It is important to ask, therefore, and for reasons I will subsequently elaborate, what influences led him astray.
Why in so long a book did he not once speak compellingly of "American community?"
American blacks, says D'Souza, will become the "truest and noblest exemplars of
Western civilization," once liberated from dependence. Those are his final words, which echo all
too strongly his first words, and all those in-between, which do not merely describe but ratify the existence of separate worlds, black and white.
While he briefly acknowledges in his final chapter (if only tacitly) that there is no "black culture" apart from the American culture of the West, D'Souza accepts wholly and uncritically the claim of a distinct black culture in the United States, up to and including the elevation of a mere argot, "black english," into a distinctive language which purportedly prevails among American blacks.
While D'Souza rightly longs for an end to the formal recognition of race in the United
States, therefore, he makes clear that his wish is rather contingent (on black performance) than
something which has already taken noetic existence within his own soul.
He does not espouse color-blindness (as casual critics mistakenly argue), although he recognizes such a regime as superior to the perverse form of color consciousness that now prevails. Indeed, he fully expects consciousness of color to survive into the indefinite future. What he longs for is only the end of regime-plaguing obsessions with color consciousness as a taboo. Thus, his proposal for repeal of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (in preference to enforcing it consistent with its original, color-blind principles) aims to liberate public life from what he regards as the inevitable coin of our private lives.
This proposal is not unique or radical. Richard Epstein and I have both made the same proposal in earlier writings, but with exceptions (and differences between the two of us) which D'Souza does not seem to understand.
The great difference is the impossibility of isolating private decisions completely from public authority. Thus, it is necessary to say, as a matter of policy, whether marriage licenses will be granted to all comers, without regard to race, despite the fact that the choice of a marriage partner is, and ought to be, a discriminating choice. So, too, is it the case that a contract for the sale of a home or performance of a job is sufficiently considered private, until, that is, it must be enforced by a court of law, upon which event certain kinds of contracts will well conflict with a public policy of non-discrimination.
Such considerations make clear that it is necessary to break cleanly with our tendencies
toward group-regardingness, if we genuinely aim to resurrect the language of the Declaration of
Independence as fundamental for American prosperity. Deferential nods to African-
Americanism, ill-articulated ideas of black culture, and credulous acceptance of "black English"
serve no constructive purpose in this regard. By considering some particular characteristics of
The End of Racism I shall make this truth painfully clear.
Clearly, the first proposition that we must investigate is D'Souza's claim that contemporary liberalism is the source of our current obsession with racism.
Though it is sometimes unclear in the text, D'Souza seems to blame liberalism both for the systematic racism introduced by racial preferences (affirmative action) and for the obsessive recurrences to racism by blacks and whites in explanation and exculpation of the failures of some American blacks. In short, he presents the current state of the "dialog" as a debate about the effects of racism in determining the fates and life-chances of blacks both historically and contemporarily.
His position in this debate, paradoxically, is that liberals, as the authors of the regime of race preferences, are to that extent responsible for the racism intrinsic to that regime, while the fates and life-chances of blacks do not necessarily result from racism. Indeed, the real burden of this book is to demonstrate that it is "black culture" or "black civilizational" level which most meaningfully determines the fates and lifechances of American blacks.
Thus, he defends the society against the charge of racism, insofar as it affects the lives of blacks, but condemns the society of racism, insofar as it sustains policies of racial preferences. This difference derives only partially from the consideration that the racism is targeted against whites (who are in principle all non-black persons, including Asian Indians, such
as D'Souza), and therefore makes the argument symmetrical and non-paradoxical.
It derives mainly from the consideration that the ascriptive effect of a regime of racial preferences makes the reflex of race consciousness intrinsic to our social existence and therefore forces American whites to look upon American blacks as distinctive and inferior (needing help).
D'Souza has not spelled out the implications of this analysis in these terms, for that would
be inconsistent with the oppositions with which he works. In the actual debate, the term employed by combatants would be "white racism." The charge of "white racism" would refer not to the effect of policies designed to combat "white racism" but to the imputed existence, individually and institutionally, of a continuing practice of racial oppression descending from the era of slavery into the present.
Though acknowledging the existence of "white racism," D'Souza seeks to
demonstrate that it has been de-fanged through the changes wrought by the civil rights revolution. The elimination of "white racism" was accomplished by liberalism, which, however, put in place a structure of racial preferences that constitute a new racism, not against but nominally in favor of blacks. The new structure is also a form of racism, in the double sense of depending on allegations of continuing "white racism" for its justification and also affecting the fates and lifechances of American blacks and American whites (males, anyway) on the basis of invidious racial distinctions.
Now, since the new racism is no less the work of whites than the old racism, and
since its effects are not less pernicious than those of the former, it confuses the analysis to
attempt to distinguish "white racism" and "liberal racism" very energetically. Nevertheless,
D'Souza's entire project depends on that distinction, and one may judge him successful insofar as he succeeds at that and a failure otherwise.
To understand The End of Racism it helps to take a look at it as a whole. While seeking
mainly to re-tell the story of blacks in America, it does so with the clear purpose of seeking to
inform the current debate regarding the status of blacks in America, what D'Souza calls "the black problem." In that sense it is a throwback, to an era in which Americans had persuaded
themselves that the problem of vexed social relations in the country somehow inhered specifically in American blacks rather than in the country as a whole (a view radically inconsistent with the views of those American founders who anticipated the travail, as I and others have often written).
By such lights the "problem" is more a problem of black performance than a problem of social
organization, and such a view has always led ineluctably to the question, "What are we to do about the blacks?" By recreating that frame of reference D'Souza recreates the illusion that adroit policy maneuvers can establish peace where turmoil prevails. In that sense the theme proposed is not the end of racism but the end of the saliency of "black issues" in the United States.
The goal is not unworthy, even if different than advertised. Moreover, the tacit goal is
worthier than the putative goal, inasmuch as it frames a question much more directly susceptible to fruitful inquiry. The fact is, racism is far less the complex and sophisticated philosophical story of Boasian or cultural relativism that D'Souza tells than it is the persistent reflex of group remedies which long antedate the philosophical change. The idea that government requires a policy to deal with the group is the very soul of racism and its attendant dysfunctions in the United States.
For some reason, however, D'Souza missed this story, which has been clearly told the past twenty years, and enlisted himself in the "blacks are a special case tradition," which has rendered the problem so intractable. Why D'Souza made this error remains inexplicable after a careful reading of his book. His long and too frequently repetitious account of the history (often erroneous) from the discovery of the new world to the present day fails to inform the reader why he made the choices he did.
Partially, the problem is a lack of understanding of the terms and events involved. For example,
while rightly reviewing the tendentiousness of liberal attacks on the notion of discovery in the new world, and the emergence of a theory of the rights of native peoples, he nonetheless fails to
comprehend the legal and ethical bearing of the North Americans’ insistence on discovery, which was bottomed not on a notion of Western superiority but on a claim of political independence from the metropolis. Moreover, even Victoria's ethical defense of the natives significantly relied on the principle of discovery! Discovery was the antithesis of conquest, which entailed complete
subordination to the metropolis. Thus, the theory said nothing about the character or nature of the natives.
Let this example of an historical misreading suffice for all such throughout the book.
They are not material to the enterprise, for the history contributes little to the reading of current practices of “liberal antiracism” which are the principal target of D'Souza's analysis. Indeed, this long book is really two books promiscuously mixed. The one book had been better not written -- the history -- while the other addresses a question that no one ought to ignore, namely, the contemporary obsession with race.
The obsession with race remains inexplicable apart from the existence of public policies
and practices that codify race as the principal determinant of life chances for blacks. This is clear of whites -- and not only liberal antiracists. More significantly, it is also true of American blacks in a way that offers a more powerful explanation than the "civilizational deficiencies" on which
D'Souza prefers to rely in the in the second case. He would have seen this had he inquired more
closely and with less resort to stereotypes as to why ordinary American blacks today are obsessed with race and whether they are obsessed in the same way their predecessors were or might have been.
W. E. B. DuBois to the contrary notwithstanding, blacks of an earlier generation placed
their concern with race in the context of a hoped for assimilation to American political and social
principles as enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. That is, equality for them meant
being at one with America. This remained true into the 1950s, when even Langston Hughes, as
Paul Laurence Dunbar before him, still celebrated Harriet Beecher Stowe and Uncle Tom as an
ethical model (another historical event which D'Souza misunderstands and relates erroneously).
A political sea change occurred since then and ultimately affected Martin Luther King as
well, wedding black hopes to a leftist politics which spurned America as it was founded. In effect, in our era American blacks in large measure reversed Frederick Douglass' journey from his 1748
"What Country have I?" query to his 1854 embrace of "our fathers." This reversal, as it happens, took place not only for American blacks (Remember Ronald Reagan's blasts against the "blame America" crowd?) but also for the inner core of leftist politics, with which black leadership had cast its lot since the election of Roosevelt and which finally captured ordinary black citizens after the election of John F. Kennedy. The story of the deracination of American blacks in our time, while supported by cultural relativism, has far more to do with a widespread and dramatic political decline in the United States.
Oddly enough, politics has little to do with D'Souza's account despite his obvious political
filiation with conservatives. That is what gives rise to the question, "who created this version of
Dinesh D'Souza?" which ignores the fact that what he regards as "black culture" has been shaped in decisive ways by white leftist culture. Indeed, remove the so-called "African American" peculiarity, remove the leftist politics -- which is white culture, insofar as race is at all relevant -- and what remains, but lower class shifting within a broader mixed-race society, differing but little from peasant orders in more structured European societies?
Because he abstracts from politics and too little understands the foundations of lower
class Southern mores, D'Souza over-generalizes race. He does so despite having canvassed an
enormous range of writings on his subject. The point of this observation is not to minimize the
gravity of social deterioration in numerous American black communities throughout the United
States. It is, however, to deny the relevance of the analysis of race in addressing those problems. When I say this, I am not liberal. When I say this, I am not conservative, although I am otherwise conservative. How can this be? Conservatism and liberalism (as used today) are perspectives that address our hopes for man more than our understanding of nature. Though liberal insouciance has fostered an intensive contemporary racism, neither liberalism nor conservatism founds it hopes for man on a theory of race.
D'Souza successfully identifies cultural relativism as a special partner of liberalism (though
more than one version of conservatism in the world embraces the same philosophical orientation) and demonstrates that cultural relativism provides protective cover for black racism (as it also does for contemporary Asian nations in their resistance to human rights claims). But that argument misses the point. The racism spawned by liberalism is really the old-fashioned variety, namely, the adoption of a corporate relationship toward a group. This reality weighs far more heavily than the notion of racism as a "mode of thought." For, in the end, it is the existing policy that provides the nexus of racism and someone is in charge of that policy. The most significant racist is the person or body of persons in charge of the policies that entail racism as a social problem and not merely a characteristic of certain individuals.
This argument does not deny the existence of black racism. Nor does it accept the
power-racism absurdity by which some apologist for social monsters exculpate black racists.
goes rather to the question D'Souza raises at the outset of his book, namely, What is the crisis of
racism today? He answers: "black rage," "white back-lash," and "liberal despair." Notice, then,
how his account serves to exculpate the architects and guardians of the policies that are most
For him racism consists of the effects of affirmative action more than it inheres in
affirmative action itself. This is tantamount to saying that white feelings of superiority and black feelings of inferiority spawned by Jim Crow were racist, while neglecting to characterize the
policy. This is consistent with regarding racism as a "mode of thought" rather than as an illicit
action of the state. This turn of thought is important because it infuses the most substantial project of the book, the demonstration of black racism and its concomitant refusal to recognize deficiencies in black people. And that is precisely where D'Souza leaves the realm of salutary cautions and tries his hand at a social analysis which he completely mishandles. A few examples ought to suffice.
He takes on the IQ controversy only, in the end, to make a case of no relevance to his argument
(in addition to contradicting himself). The prescription of governmental indifference to race does not flow from a supposed demonstration of racially differentiated intellectual capacities.
Moreover, his own reliance on the "one drop of black blood" theory makes recourse to an
argument about pure genetic heritage largely irrelevant.
Finally, as a scientific matter, it makes infinitely more sense to investigate what distinguishes folk who score 85 on the test than to investigate how any of an infinite number of possible groupings score. There is no doubt that Einstein, by some characteristic, belongs to a group the overwhelming number of whom scores in the imbecile range. The knowledge of that fact is of no value whatever, while the knowledge of what all the imbeciles share besides their score could be most helpful and would, by definition, be transracial.
Another case: "Desegregation permits racial separation as long as it is not compelled by
government. Integration, by contrast, is a state-mandated result... The Civil Rights Act of 1964
clearly endorsed desegregation rather than integration..." Besides abstracting from the practical
history of "separate but equal," and therefore erring in fact though not in principle, this shows a
fundamental misunderstanding of the aims and assumed conditions of the civil rights movement.
Reality in the South was that de-segregation meant integration, given the geographic, legal, and
economic realities. Hence it was wise for legislators to discuss the matter in such terms.
Moreover, the real question, from the perspective of the organization of society, was not
desegregation versus integration, but rather integration -- mere integration -- versus mutual
dependence. Mutual dependence is more than integration (which can breed familiarity in
company with contempt). White integrationist never attempted mutual dependence, which helps to reveal why affirmative action grew to fill the vacuum.
One further example of poor analysis and poor judgment derives from the use of Dr. Dale
Lick, former President of Florida State University, as an example of the hyperbolic use of cries of racism to deny obvious truths. According to D'Souza, for saying what was obvious, namely, "As blacks begin to get into sports, their natural abilities come through," Lick "was promptly accused of racism" and forced to withdraw as a presidential candidate at Michigan State University.
This is an error both of fact and of reasoning. Lick was forced "to apologize" years earlier, when he took the position at Florida State, for he made the remark at his antepenultimate post in Maine. Further, his apology, along with a promise to institute a regime of multicultural sensitivity, secured for him the position at Florida State.
In the Michigan State University search, when the issue re-surfaced, Lick offered an
explanation of little credit to a gentleman. Moreover, the original statement had been made in
answer to a student's question about the absence of blacks in sports like golf and hockey
(respecting which his response was entirely irrelevant). In his answer he showed no awareness
whatever of the likely effect of his remarks, even against the then contemporary back-drop of the Al Campanis and Jimmy The Greek Snyder affairs (respecting each of whom I provided a
specific defense in my role as a member of the U. S. Commission on Civil Rights). At MSU Lick
was forced out of the search largely upon my decision to resign if he were appointed, and I did so for the sufficient reason that he brought with him baggage -- and made professions -- that would have made him the worst kind of multiculturalist and politically correct administrator.
D'Souza's inability to understand this story highlights the problem of his book. He
assumed that an administrator who is an American black acted on the basis of what D'Souza
imagined to be black culture in a situation that eventuated in denying advancement to a white
male. In reference to racism and politics, however, the story is exactly the reverse of his
imagination. One may think he was deceived by careless press reports. The thoroughness of his
research otherwise, however, weakens that excuse and reveals the error as entirely his own,
whether of disposition or procedure. Besides, he has personal knowledge of me and surely was not innocent of my extensive writings on the subject he researched -- writings which vary sharply from his own work.
The error seems to me rather to proceed from casual and easy assumptions about motives on the basis of race -- without sense of a need for investigation -- and founded on his radically defective notion of black culture.
Let us close, then, by saying flatly that there is no such black culture as he imagines (and
he is not alone in this). Indeed, apart from transient (a temporal reference) immigrant cultures and numerically insignificant Indian cultures, there is but one culture in America, and whites no less than blacks are embraced by it.
To answer our leading question, then, it would appear that prevailing views on race --including those generally referred to as "white racism" -- created Dinesh D'Souza.
Book Review: Dinesh D'Souza, The End of Racism: Principles for a Multiracial Society (New York: TheFree Press, 1995), 700 pp., notes, index.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
November 20, 2007
With the year-end approaching, a flashback is usually in order. But recent events have made completely clear to me where we stand and where we are headed.
This year, the world's who's who landed up. Our leaders basked in the floodlight of economic prowess. Last month, the Prime Minister spoke at a meet of the global consultancy company, McKinsey, and applauded the organisation for helping India prepare reports on governance.
In the same week, he addressed the Fortune Global Forum - a collection of the world's power elite. The finance minister spoke to the Indian business glitterati in Mumbai, where he not only profusely thanked industry for taking the effort to turn around India but also said - to huge applause - that industry's progress was in spite of the government. In other words, growth was a private sector gift to us all. Then the Sensex touched dizzying heights, and we discovered the world's richest man was our very own Mukesh Ambani.
This same fortnight, some 25,000 landless farmers and tribals marched into Delhi. They had walked - many barefoot - for about a month, covering some 350 km, to say they were tired of being pushed around. They wanted their right to land; their right to survive. The only minister who met them was in charge of rural development - the subject of the so-called 'other India'. They did not get an audience with the Prime Minister. The government tele-responded to their demands - a council on land reforms headed by the Prime Minister and a government committee to advise on what needed to be done. They returned home, I imagine, as desperate as when they came.
I find it strange that it took a multinational clothing giant to bring these two worlds together. A British newspaper reported that Indian children, many of whom were bonded labourers, were stitching clothes Gap Inc sold in stores across the world. The response was swift. Gap recalled the 'slave' labour blouses. The company said child labour was abhorrent and their sub-contractor was to blame.
Incredible India's response was incredibly equal to the challenge. Our commerce minister dismissed the incident as an effort to besmirch Indian industry and to put up non-trade barriers on exports.
This is true in many cases; high quality standards are trade policy tools for the rich. But how can we deny the images we saw of children, working not in some far-off place but in the very heart of incredible India - posh south Delhi? Children were found working in the most horrible of conditions, working for hours without a break, being fed by the contractor, and sleeping on the floors where they worked through the day.
It is too simple to say this is India's reality. It would be stupid to deny these children have no alternative but to work and that even after they are "freed", they will go back to something as bad or worse.
And it is definitely a travesty not to admit this is the way the globalised economy runs. The market today works on volumes and volumes require cheap labour and cheap raw material. It is equally true that the rich world's economy which, on the one hand, is thriving on the profits of cheap goods, is also groaning under fears of unemployment. Paranoia over the progress of China, India and all the other have-not economies is also screaming for attention.
But the one insistent truth this fortnight has revealed is that this India is now getting divided not just by class but also by politics. To me, in this final ascendance of middle-class India, we are seeing a country separated in its dreams, by its icons, in the media and by its politicians.
Postscript: Tucked away on page 16 of a daily newspaper in Delhi was a tiny news item. Some 40,000 farmers had stormed into the local administration headquarters in a sleepy Orissa town. They were protesting against the government's move to take away water from their reservoir and to allocate it to mining, aluminium and steel industries. They wanted this stopped. They said they would kill or be killed.
It is people versus government and industry. Can we call this credible India's incredible Indianness?
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Tuesday, 06 November 2007
Chennnai, Oct. 31: A group of Catholic priests wedded to the liberation theology are meeting next week to discuss ways to overcome casteism which they say has taken deep root in the Catholic church in Tamil Nadu.
Mylapore Bishop Chinnappa and Salesian of Don Bosco Provincial Stanislaus Swamikannu are among the priests who will participate in the two day conference to be held in Madurai on November 5 and 6 to discuss the issue. "Dioceses, parish councils and educational institutions are riddled with casteism and Christian dalits are discriminated against," says Father X.T. Selvaraj, one of the organisers of the conference.
Asked whether the church supported their effort, Fr Selvaraj said, "The progressive forces in all dioceses are concerned about the trend that goes against the very essence of Christianity." Fr J.R. Vencie said dalits were segregated in all the church activities and there were separate burial grounds for them.
"Christians continue to maintain their caste identities and there are no inter-caste marriages. Even in ordinary conversations dalits are denigrated," he said reading out from the pamphlet prepared for the conference.
According to church sources, caste confrontations are not confined between the dalits and other intermediate communities. Every district diocese has its own peculiar problem, they say.
In Kanyakumari district it is the Nadars versus the fishermen community , while in Trichy the Vellalas and Udayars function as a group against the Vanniyars. In fact Vanniyars have formed a separate diocese in this district. Sivangai district diocese is witnessing a war between Udayars and non-Udayars.
In Thanjavur Vellalas and Udayars are against each other, according to them. Asked whether it would be possible to change entrenched attitudes of the people, especially when every community continued to maintain its identity, Fr Selvaraj said "We are making a humble beginning."
He said dalits who had converted to Christianity to gain social acceptance now felt they had been betrayed.
"We have to remove this feeling. Christianity does not discriminate aginst anyone in the name of caste," he said.
To a question on why the Christians should demand reservation if they had no faith in casteism, Fr Selvaraj explained there was nothing wrong in making use of benefits of reservation for social upliftment.
The conference will discuss all aspects of casteism and pass resolutions urging all the Christians to give up their caste identities.
Source: Deccan Chronicle, Chennai edition, Oct 31, 2007
By Mark Kobayashi
Indian firms have been quick to cash in on their skilled workforce
As US and European companies look to cut costs by moving many of their operations abroad, India has stepped in to become a world leader in IT outsourcing.
However, success has attracted imitators and India is facing a fight to keep its position at the top.
India now leads the world in offshore outsourcing - the remote servicing of information technology (IT) or other business processes by staff based in India.
The value of outsourcing to India in 2007 is estimated at $47.8bn (£24bn), ten times what it was worth back in 1998.
Outsourcing: Moving company functions from internal departments to external firms
Offshoring: Relocating corporate activities overseas.
Nearshoring: Relocating offshore activities nearer the client's home country
BPO: Business processing outsourcing - moving white collar tasks like accounting or invoicing. to an external firm
Captive firms: Companies owned by foreign multinationals who perform outsourcing services for the parent firm
UK call centres/US contact centers: Offices where workers provide telephone customer services like sales
Expansion is happening fast, and the IT outsourcing industry is predicted to continue growing at about 28% a year.
The sector has become a very important part of the overall economy of India, creating growth and new wealth in a country that has only enjoyed economic liberalisation since the early 1990s.
IT and business process outsourcing (BPO) services now account for 5.4% of India's gross domestic product (GDP), and have had a huge impact on cities such as Bangalore, the centre of the industry.
But India's success in hi-tech services has not gone unnoticed.
From Mexico to Vietnam, local governments are busy creating investor-friendly tax policies, such as special 'export-zone' offices on the model of India, where offshore work is free of domestic taxes.
Russia has a good talent pool and competitive costs, but lack of government support and infrastructure are still severe holdbacks
Thiago Turchetti Maia, Vetta Technologies
They are also encouraging the creation of new trade bodies to represent and promote their industry in the same way that India's National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) has been doing since the 1980s.
One of main threats to India has been the expansion of the European Union (EU).
Malta is one of the new EU centres for IT outsourcing
In 2004, the EU expanded east to accept ten new member states, and then went on to welcome Romania and Bulgaria into the union earlier this year.
These twelve nations in Eastern Europe can now offer lower costs, combined with the protection of the EU legal safety net.
This legal back-up is particularly important for companies in relation to issues such as the protection of customer data as it travels across borders.
Strength in numbers
Of course none of these countries can match the sheer scale of India, which has more than a billion people - with more than two million graduating from university each year.
But countries such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic are becoming very attractive low-cost European choices for executives who want to hire skilled people without the travel headache of regularly visiting Asia.
In the long run, it may also mean that a passage to India is no longer the automatic choice
Among the other nations eyeing outsourcing riches, only China, with a population above 1 billion and a similar number of graduates entering industry each year, can come close to matching India.
China and India are both highly dynamic, large developing economies, and along with Russia and Brazil, some observers expect them to dominate the world economy by the middle of this century.
And all of these nations are looking at their potential to match India's strength in global services.
Remi Vespa, vice president of market development at Venus Software Corporation in China, is bullish about China's future as an outsourcing destination.
Shopping mallls have proliferated in Bangalore, India's IT capital"The major strength of China in this race to leadership is that the focus of China is not on becoming the world leader, but in creating the conditions that make the country the privileged destination for IT outsourcing," he explains.
Thiago Turchetti Maia, chief executive of Vetta Technologies in Brazil also sees China catching up thanks to its "enormous potential for talent together with competitive rates".
However, he points out that structural problems in some of these nations could lead to patchy development.
"Russia and Brazil are still to catch up," Mr Turchetti Maia explains.
"Russia has a good talent pool and competitive costs, but lack of government support and infrastructure are still severe holdbacks."
At the same time, Africa is also trying to take a piece of the outsourcing action.
This should come as no surprise because many African nations have the infrastructure, the talent pool, and the entrepreneurs ready to seek out new opportunities.
South Africa - with English widely spoken - now has hundreds of contact centres serving clients in Europe and the US.
China has rapidly emerged as an industrial powerhouse
Ghana is growing in stature as Nigerian entrepreneurs fund start-ups there to avoid the scam email stigma that is proving difficult to shake back home.
Uganda is about to unveil an entirely new town built around a technology park and designed to stimulate the local outsourcing industry.
Egypt will go on a charm offensive, spending on a new marketing and PR programme to ensure that the decision-makers of Europe know that it has more to offer than just the pyramids.
Passage to India
In some ways India is becoming a victim of its own success.
Indian computer firms like Infosys are finding it harder to retain staff
Staff attrition is high, and it is quite normal for a company to have to replace its entire workforce each year in a contact, or call, centre.
And though there are a huge number of graduates coming through to the industry, not all have the skills needed for intensive IT work..
Companies are finding it harder and harder to recruit the cream from the best universities, leading to inflated salary demands and more job-hopping.
There have been security scares with customers' personal financial details apparently being sold by unscrupulous employees, and in the UK for example, there is a growing consumer dissatisfaction with telephone calls being answered offshore.
All of these issues coupled with the emergence of hungry and determined rivals now means that India has to work harder to sell itself.
In the long run, it may also mean that a passage to India is no longer the automatic choice for the many executives interested in outsourcing.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
By B.Raman - 10.Nov.2007
The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the militant wing of the anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), is emerging as the new Trojan Horse of Al Qaeda to carry out operations on behalf of Al Qaeda in areas where Al Qaeda faces difficulty in operating directly or in those cases where it does not want to operate directly.
2. In the past, this role was being performed by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). Both the LET and the LEJ are members of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People. Both are strongly Wahabi organisations, but whereas the LEJ is strongly anti-US, anti-Israel, anti-India, anti-Iran and anti-Shia, the LET is only anti-US, anti-Israel and anti-India, but not anti-Iran or anti-Shia.
3. There is no confirmed instance of the LET indulging in planned anti-Shia violence in Pakistan or Afghanistan, but the LEJ has been responsible for most of the targeted attacks on Shias and their places of worship in Pakistan and on the Hazaras---who are Shias---in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
4.The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), which are also members of the IIF, strongly share the anti-Shia feelings of the LEJ, but they do not indulge in targeted attacks on Shias and their places of worship. Many of the leaders of these organisations, including Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the JEM, started their jihadi career in the SSP, but later drifted away from it since they felt uncomfortable with its targeted attacks on Shias and their places of worship. Despite being separate now, they do co-operate with the LEJ in its operations directed against US interests and the Pakistani armed forces. The LET prefers to operate independently without getting involved with the SSP or the LEJ. The LET avoids attacks on Pakistani security forces.
5. The strong action taken by the international community against known and suspected Arab members of Al Qaeda created difficulties for them in travelling freely and in carrying out operations in non-Muslim countries. Consequently, it startred depending increasingly on the Pakistani members of the LET for its operations. Post-9/11, the LET emerged as the clone of Al Qaeda. It opened its sleeper cells in countries such as Australia, Singapore, the UK, France and the US to help Al Qaeda in its operations by collecting information, motivating the members of the Pakistani diaspora and other means.
6. In 2002-03, Western intelligence agencies did not pay much attention to LET activities in the Pakistani diaspora. They tended to disregard Indian evidence about the new role of the LET as the operational facilitator of Al Qaeda since they suspected that Indian officials and non-governmental analysts tended to over-project the LET's role in the West because of its activities in Indian territory. However, the discovery of LET sleeper cells in the Western countries post-2002 changed this attitude and Indian evidence on the LET was treated with greater seriousness. Next to the Arab members of Al Qaeda, suspected Pakistani members of the LET were placed under close surveillance in many countries. This created difficulties in the movement and activities of the LET. The LET is no longer able to operate outside the Indian sub-continnt as freely as it used to do in the past.
7. Moreover, the LET is feeling uncomfortable over the anti-Shia violence unleashed by Al Qaeda and its surrogates in Iraq. While continuing to be a member of the IIF, it is trying to avoid being associated with Al Qaeda's anti-Shia and anti-Saudi policies. Saudi charity organisations have been one of the main funders of the LET, which has an active branch in Saudi Arabia to recruit members from the Indian Muslim diaspora in the Gulf countries.
8.In view of these developments, Al Qaeda has started increasingly using the the SSP and the LEJ for its operations in Pakistan itself as well as in the non-Muslim countries. The LEJ was actively involved in supporting the students of the two madrasas of the Lal Masjid of Islamabad before they were raided by Pakistani military commandoes in July,2007. Many of the women, who were targeted by the girl students for allegedly running a call girl racket, were reportedly Shias. It has been actively backing the tribals, who have taken to arms against the Pakistani security forces in North and South Waziristan and in the Swat Valley in the Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) of the North-West Frontier Province.
Under the influence of the LEJ, the tribals have been beheading or otherwise killing only the Shias among the security forces personnel captured by them. Well-informed Police sources say that all the para-military personnel beheaded so far by the tribals were Shias. According to them, there has not been a single instance of the beheading of a Sunni member of the security forces though many Sunnis have been killed in explosions.
9. The JEM is also actively involved in supporting the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in its fight against the security forces in the Swat Valley.There have been targeted attacks on members of the local Shia community. The anti-Shia dimension of the current violence in the tribal areas has also been corroborated by the well-informed "Daily Times" of Lahore in an editorial titled "Two Oppressions" carried by it on November 10,2007.
The editorial says: ' The latest news from Waziristan is that a well-known Shia personality has been gunned down. This is a part of the sectarian violence that Al Qaeda commits in the territories it captures. Earlier, Shias among the captured Pakistani troops were casually beheaded while the Sunnis were returned. In the Shia-majority Parachinar in the Kurram Agency, suicide-bombers have been killing indiscriminately."
10. Thus, a new anti-Shia front has emerged inside the IIF consisting of Al Qaeda, the LEJ, the TNSM and the JEM. Al Qaeda's use of the LEJ is not confined to Pakistani territory. The Police sources mentioned above say that in view of the difficulties now faced by suspected LET members in Western countries and in South-east Asia, Al Qaeda is encouraging the SSP and the LEJ to gradually take over the role of the LET as the motivators and mobilisers of members of the overseas Pakistani diaspora for assisting Al Qaeda in its operations. They claim that some sleeper cells of the SSP and the LEJ have already come up in the US, the UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Singapore and Australia. Since the foreign intelligence agencies do not have much information about the SSP and the LEJ, they are able to operate without creating suspicions about them.
11. The SSP and the LEJ have not come to notice till now for any activities in the Indian territory---either in Jammu & Kashmir or outside. In view of the recurring explosions targeting Muslims and Muslim places of worship in Delhi, Malegaon, Hyderabad and Ajmer since last year, one has to look into the possibility of the involvement of the SSP and the LEJ in terrorism in Indian territory. None of the Muslim places of worship targeted in India so far belonged to the Shias, but one must note that in Pakistan, the LEJ targets not only Shias and their places of worship, but also the Barelvi Sunnis and their places of worship.
The Barelvis are a more tolerant Sunni sect and have rejected Wahabism so far.Despite the progress made by Wahabism and Deobandi sects, the Barelvis are still in a majority in the Indian sub-continent. Hence, the LEJ's attacks on the Barelvis, many of whom are descendents of converts from Hinduism. The Wahabis/Deobandis are mainly descendents of Muslim migrants into the sub-continent from West and Central Asia.Indian investigators should not keep their focus exclusively on the LET and the HUJI. They should keep their mind open and look into the possibility of the involvement of other jihadi terrorist organisations too. (.This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of July 1,2002, titled SIPAH-E-SAHABA PAKISTAN, LASHKAR-E-JHANGVI, BIN LADEN & RAMZI YOUSEF at : http://www.saag.org/papers5/paper484.html
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )
November 11, 2007 -CNN:IBN
New Delhi/Kolkata: The CPI-M government in West Bengal is fighting with its back to the wall after its three junior allies and prominent intellectuals in the state blamed it for the violence in Nandigram.
The CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP held an emergency meeting on Sunday and blamed the CPM for the situation in Nandigram, where at least 34 people have died since January in violence during agitations against proposed land acquisition for a Special Economic Zone (SEZ).
State PWD minister and senior RSP leader Kshiti Goswami said he had stopped attending office and would request his party to resign from the ministry to protest against the CPI-M's handling of the situation in Nandigram. "The CPI-M wants bloodshed just to recapture territory," Goswami alleged. “It’s the sole responsibility of the state government to protect people in Nandigram. I don't know if they are CPI-M or Trinamool activists. To me, they all are human beings.”
"I don't want to attend the office. I have communicated my decision to the party secretary and they would discuss in the party and take a decision. I have also decided not to use my official car," said Goswami.
The CPI-M’s Politburo met in Delhi but a senior party leader denied there was rift in the party. “Where are the cracks you are talking about? There is no divide (in the ruling Front),” Politburo member Sitaram Yechury said.
The party again criticised Bengal Governor Gopal Gandhi for “overstepping” his brief while commenting on Nandigram but said it would no seek his recall.
In Kolkata, the intelligentsia rallied behind a fasting Narmada Bachao Andolan leader Medha Patkar and other human rights activists as they boycotted a state-organised film festival and staged a blockade at Esplanade Sunday.
Several intellectuals were injured when police resorted to a baton-charge to prevent them from reaching Nandan, the venue of the Kolkata Film Festival. Filmmakers Aparna Sen and Rituparno Ghosh were prevented from taking out a protest rally, while another 30 intellectuals were arrested.
“People were peacefully protesting when they were fired at by the CPM cadres. An11-year-old boy was shot in his head. He’s okay now but he can't go home since his home in ashes,” said Aparna Sen.
Actress Moushumi Chatterjee said she would campaign for Nandigram victims in Mumbai and expose the CPI-M. Refusing to accept a Lifetime Award offered to her by a prominent Kolkata publication group, Chatterjee told IANS from Mumbai: "This is not the time to accept Lifetime Award from anybody. I think the CPI-M should instead start a 'life taking' award there."
Meanwhile, Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee made another attempt to reach on Nandigram. CPI-M men allegedly stopped her vehicle at Radhamonibazar after which she then rode the pillion of a motorcycle to reach the Tamluk hospital, where several people injured in Saturday's firing have been admitted. (With inputs from IANS) Source: http://www.ibnlive.com/news/allies-intellectuals-blame-cpm-for-nandigram/52093-3.html?xml
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Biggies quit, Buddha in tizzy @http://www.dailypioneer.com/indexn12.asp?main_variable=front%5Fpage&file_name=story3%2Etxt&counter_img=3
Thursday, November 8, 2007
November 5, 2007
CBNNews.com - Organizers for the 2008 Olympics in China have released their list of items banned from the Olympic village where the athletes will stay.
Among the "prohibited objects" -- Bibles.
The Catholic News Agency reports that the committee behind the Beijing games cited "security reasons" for the ban.
CHINA CONNECTION:China's Bible Debate Heats Up. Athletes are also prohibited from bearing any kind of religious symbol at Olympic facilities.
The ban seems to undermine comments released by the country's top religious affairs official. Last month, Ye Xiaowen acknowledged that he expected large numbers of religious faithful among the athletes, coaches and tourists to be swarming into the officially atheist nation during the Olympics.
Xiaowen, director-general of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, said on Oct. 17 that China plans to offer religious services for foreigners. He recognized that religion will play a positive role "in promoting economic and social development" in the future, Reuters reported.
"We are learning from practices in past Games to make sure that their demands for religious worship are met," Ye said on the sidelines of the ruling Communist Party's 17th Congress.
"Here I can promise that religious services we offer will not be lower than the level of any previous Games," Ye said. He did not say if proselytizing would be allowed.
The number of Chinese believers in Buddhism, Taosim and Christianity have been on the rise in recent years, Ye added.
Striking a Balance or Banning Religion?
But striking the balance between providing religious services for the faithful and banning personal religious materials outright may prove more difficult than safeguarding against possible security threats.
The Olympic charter says "no kind of political propaganda, religious or racial hatred is allowed in the Olympic areas."
The Spanish daily La Razon called the standard one of many "signs of censure and intolerance" towards religious objects, particularly those used by Christians in China.
There are some 10 million Catholics in China, divided between an "underground" church loyal to the Vatican and the state-approved church that respects the Pope as a spiritual figurehead but rejects effective papal control.
Currently in China, five bishops and 15 priests are in prison for opposing the state-approved church.
Other items banned from the Olympic village include video cameras and cups.
Sources: Catholic News Agency, Reuters
WASHINGTON (Nov. 7) - Millions of Chinese-made toys for children have been pulled from shelves in North America and Australia after scientists found they contain a chemical that converts into a powerful date rape drug when ingested. Two children in the U.S. and three in Australia were hospitalized after swallowing the beads. With only seven weeks until Christmas, the recall is yet another blow to toy industry - already bruised by a slew of recalls this past summer.
In the United States, the toy goes by the name Aqua Dots, a highly popular holiday toy distributed by Toronto-based Spin Master Toys. They are called Bindeez in Australia, where they were named toy of the year at an industry function earlier this year. It could not immediately be learned whether Aqua Dots beads are made in the same factories as the Bindeez product. Both are sold by Australia-based Moose Enterprises. The toy beads are sold in general merchandise stores and over the Internet for use in arts and crafts projects. They can be arranged into designs and fused together when sprayed with water. Scientists say a chemical coating on the beads, when ingested, metabolizes into the so-called date rape drug gamma hydroxy butyrate.
When eaten, the compound - made from common and easily available ingredients - can induce unconsciousness, seizures, drowsiness, coma and death. Naren Gunja from Australia's Poisons Information Center said the drug's effect on children was "quite serious ... and potentially life-threatening." The recall was announced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission on Wednesday several hours after published reports about the recall in Australia.
The two U.S. children who swallowed Aqua Dot beads went into nonresponsive comas, commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said Wednesday afternoon.
In Australia, the toys were ordered off store shelves on Tuesday when officials learned that a 2-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl were hospitalized after swallowing the beads. A 19-month-old toddler also was being treated.The news jolted the toy industry because Aqua Dots has been one of the few bright stars of the toy selling season, which, along with overall retailing, has gotten off to a sluggish start.
The item, which had been heavily advertised, had appeared on many toy experts' list of must-have holiday toys, and toy sellers are now in the midst of canceling advertising and scrambling to figure out how to replace it.Chris Byrne, a New York-based toy consultant, noted that the incidents could have been isolated, and Spin Master may be erring on the side of caution."This is something that they could not have foreseen.
This is an extremely hot toy. ... It's a little scary," Byrne said.In a statement, Toys "R" Us Inc., said that it issued on Tuesday a "stop sale" on the entire Spin Master Aqua Dots product line in its North American stores and on its Web site after it learned of the news. "We understand that Spin Master and U.S. regulatory authorities are investigating this product and we have asked Spin Master to fully explain what it believes happened," said the toy seller in a statement.
Meanwhile, a separate recall was announced for 405,000 children's products made in China, most of them toy cars, because of dangerous levels of lead.The recall includes about 380,000 Pull-Back Action Toy Cars imported by Dollar General Merchandising Inc. of Goodlettsville, Tenn., and 7,500 Dragster and Funny Car toys imported by International Sourcing Ltd. of Springfield, Mo.Four of the recalled products were imported by Schylling Associates Inc. of Rowley, Mass., including the items Duck Family Collectable Wind-Up Toy, Dizzy Ducks Music Box, "Robot 2000" collectable tin robot and Winnie-the-Pooh Spinning Top.
The company recalled another 66,000 spinning tops Aug. 22.Representatives from Schylling Associates Inc. were not immediately available for comment.Wednesday's recalls include about 7,200 "Big Red" Wagons imported by Northern Tool & Equipment Co. of Burnsville, Minn. Totaling about 405,700, the recalled children's products all had excessive levels of lead in their surface paint.Although no illnesses connected to the toy car recall have been reported, lead is toxic if ingested by young children. Children's products found to have more than 0.06 percent lead accessible to users are subject to a recall.
Boycott of Red Chinese Imports @ http://www.neusysinc.com/columnarchive/colm0061.html
Chinese facts @ http://www.himalmag.com/2002/september/facing_chinese_facts.htm