The man without a face

Rumor has it that Mediène receives visitors with his back turned,
and that if you see his face, it’ll be the last one you ever see.

Most people are (understandably) impressed by the workings of the #1 secret service in the world. But the account below of the man who heads the Algerian secret service DRS is awe-inspiring as well.
The most powerful man in Algeria has no public face.
His name is
Mohamed Lamine Mediène. Everyone calls him “Toufik.” Another nickname
is the “God of Algiers,” supposedly because he’s more powerful than the

No official photograph of Mediène has ever been made public.
The pictures of him that do exist are few and blurry, and may be decades
old. Rumor has it that Mediène receives visitors with his back turned,
and that if you see his face, it’ll be the last one you ever see.

An Algerian dissident who blogs under the name Baki Hour Mansour
analyzed several photos that claimed to represent Mediène and found them
all lacking: “Finding Toufik has
become a Where’s Waldo-type game: whenever a film or an archive emerges
and an unknown face is seen among senior officials, the Algerian
blogosphere hastens to declare it a new Toufik face,” he wrote.  

Mediène actually exist? Experts say yes. 

As head of Algeria’s
multitentacled DRS, or intelligence and security department, Mediène is
in charge of le Pouvoir, a shadowy cabal of generals, politicians and spies that constitutes Algeria’s deep state.

Mediène has led the DRS since 1990, which, according to some sources,
makes him the longest-serving intelligence chief in the world. He is 73
years old, spritely in comparison with the ailing president, Abdelaziz
Bouteflika, who is 76. There are pictures of Bouteflika, but usually
only from the waist up. (He spent the summer in a Paris military
hospital, convalescing from a stroke.) 

In some ways, the secrecy
surrounding Mediène is just “built into the profession,” says Dr. Chuck
Cogan, a retired CIA official at the Belfer Center, part of Harvard’s
John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Also, Algeria is among the largest
remaining muhkabarats , or police states, in the world. Though
political repression has lightened somewhat since the 1990s, many
Algerians still view their neighbors and strangers as potential “snakes,” or spies, and there is a widespread culture of suspicion. 

Where is this man?

Mediène’s invisibility also has roots in Algeria’s battle for
independence against France, which lasted from 1954 to 1962. It was
largely a guerrilla campaign, complete with noms de guerre and moles and
infiltration techniques.

When Medèine and his peers came to rule, they
held on to the rebel mindset, says Lazare Beullac, editor in chief of
the Maghreb Confidential,
a Paris-based newsletter on the region aimed at investors, diplomats
and security officials. “Everything was very secret, and that secrecy
was imported into the FLN [the leading political party], the army and
the intelligence services.”

Vish Sakthivel, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy,
says that secrecy fortifies Algeria’s deep state and shields it from
critique. The theory is: “Stay out of the forefront of people’s minds,
and if bad things happen, then Bouteflika can take the blame.”

There is probably a lot to be blamed for. In addition to political repression and economic discontent
— some 70 percent of Algeria’s population is under the age of 30, and
many are unemployed — there is also a critique that the state isn’t
doing enough to ward off Islamists. 

The In Amenas hostage crisis of
January took the regime by surprise and showed Algerians that le Pouvoir
wasn’t as savvy as it had claimed. The regime’s reaction was swift,
blunt and brutal. At least 38 hostages and 29 Islamist militants were killed along the way. 

revolutions throughout the region in recent years, Algeria remains
stable largely because of public spending, analysts say. And the country
has some $200 billion in oil and gas reserves, which can go a long way
toward forestalling revolution.

But le Pouvoir
is so old that it is nearly decrepit, and with elections due in 2014,
there are serious questions about what will happen next in Algeria. Last
month, after returning from medical treatment in France, Bouteflika shook up the DRS, taking much of le Pouvoir away from Toufik and resettling it with the military.

Algeria watchers are not quite sure what to make of the move. 

“If you’d
told me this would happen two months ago, I’d have said it’d be
impossible — but it literally happened with the stroke of a pen,” says
Jeremy Keenan, a professor at London’s School of Oriental and African
Studies and an expert on the region. He says that it’s one of the
biggest political shake-ups in the region, but that it’s hard to tell
why it’s happening. “In my view, there’s nothing left to the DRS other
than its name,” says Keenan. “With the result that Mediène is left with
nothing.” Keenan also says he has heard from two independent and reliable sources that Mediène is in a Swiss hospital.

points up another theory as to why Toufik’s face is a state secret: He
doesn’t want the world to know how old he is. “It’s good to be old, but
it’s important to appear youthful and able,” says Sakthivel. The regime
is often accused of being a gerontocracy, and Algerians are wont to
opine what might happen when the country’s leaders finally die off. “And
they don’t want people to have those conversations,” she says.



Who should win the next Noble?

The next Nobel
Peace Prize … should go to the thinker or leader who develops a model of
constitutional theocracy giving Muslim countries a coherent way of
recognizing yet limiting the authority of religious law and making it
compatible with good governance.

The way we interpret the article, Mark Lilla (sort of) regrets the fact that communism (which had all the good theories but bad practices) has been replaced by islamism (bad theory as well as bad practice). He is also clear that the goals of American foreign policy (more democracy everywhere) and European foreign policy (neo-liberalism everywhere) are badly flawed as applied to majority of non-democratic nations.

According to Lilla, Middle East North Africa will only be liberated when a giant (muslim) thinker/leader comes forward with a set of (divinely inspired but realistically best-fit) rules that will work for the diverse societies that call themselves muslim (he admits that such a great man is not yet amongst us). Till then he advises the world to be patient (and presumably watchful). 

Not a bad advice at all (especially if it cuts down on the war-making). However it is important to admit upfront that such an attitude/policy spells doom for the non-muslim minorities (as well as many muslim ones). If Lilla advocates generous asylum considerations for such people he should say so. If anti-immigrant sentiment in the West prevents such accommodation then the West and Westerners should abandon the holy high ground and quit the holier-than-thou talk. No one is impressed by the tall hat and short cattle initiatives – it may well be that foreign aid does more harm than good – least of all the bloody monsters that are thick on the ground.

A couple of points that are not addressed in the article:
(1) This strategy of (not so) benign neglect on behalf of the West ignores the ongoing and pernicious influence of (to a smaller extent) Iran and (the primary villain) Saudi Arabia. The question is how to stop the petro-dollars from causing so much strife, especially since the West relies on the Saudis to sell oil and buy armaments.  
Here we should recognize that Carlotta Gall was wrong, the right country to fight is neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan but S.A. (the real/spiritual home of the 9/11 perps).

(2) What happens to muslims in non-muslim countries who get radicalized by all the killings and sufferings of innocent muslims (that we are supposed to silently tolerate from a distance)? If the war comes to the West (and non-West countries as well) how do we handle that?  


But in the mind of America’s political and journalistic classes, only two political categories exist today: democracy and le déluge.
If you assume that democracy is the only legitimate form of government,
that is a perfectly serviceable distinction.
“What should not be,
cannot be,” wrote the German poet. Unable or just unwilling to
distinguish the varieties of non-democracy that exist today, we instead
speak of their “human rights records,” which tell us much less than we
think they do. 

We turn to organizations such as Freedom House, a think
tank that promotes democracy and publicizes human rights abuses around
the world. It produces an influential annual report, Freedom in the World,
which claims to quantify levels of freedom in every country on Earth.

It gives them marks on different factors (rights to political
participation, civil liberties, the press, etc.) and then combines those
figures into a composite index number that indicates whether that
country is “free,” “partly free,” or “not free.” 
The document reads like
a stock report: “this marks the seventh consecutive year in which
countries with declines outnumbered those with improvements.” In 2013,
readers were confidently told that, based on the numbers, the “most
noteworthy gains” in freedom in 2012 had been in Egypt, Libya, Burma,
and Côte d’Ivoire.
One hardly knows where to begin. 
the big surprise in world politics since the cold war’s end is not the
advance of liberal democracy but the reappearance of classic forms of
non-democratic political rule in modern guises. ….
The break-up of the
Soviet empire and the “shock therapy” that followed it produced new
oligarchies and kleptocracies that have at their disposal innovative
tools of finance and communication; the advance of political Islam has
placed millions of Muslims, who make up a quarter of the world’s
population, under more restrictive theocratic rule;
tribes, clans, and
sectarian groups have become the most important actors in the
post-colonial states of Africa and the Middle East; China has brought
back despotic mercantilism. 
Each of these political formations has a
distinctive nature that needs to be understood in its own terms, not as a
lesser or greater form of democracy in potentia. The world of nations remains what it has always been: an aviary. 
ornithology is complicated and democracy-promotion seems so much
simpler. After all, don’t all peoples want to be well governed and
consulted in matters affecting them? Don’t they want to be secure and
treated justly? Don’t they want to escape the humiliations of poverty?
Well, liberal democracy is the best way of achieving these things.  
is the American view—and, true enough, it is
shared by many people living in non-democratic countries. But that does
not mean they understand the implications of democratization
and would
accept the social and cultural individualism it would inevitably bring
with it.  
No peoples are as libertarian as Americans have become today;
they prize goods that individualism destroys, like deference to
tradition, a commitment to place, respect for elders, obligations to
family and clan, a devotion to piety and virtue.
If they and we think
that they can have it all, then they and we are very much mistaken.
These are the rocks on which the hopes for Arab democracy keep

The truth is that billions of people will not be living in
liberal democracies in our lifetimes or those of our children or
grandchildren—if ever. This is due not only to
culture and mores: to these must be added ethnic divisions, religious
sectarianism, illiteracy, economic injustice, senseless national borders
imposed by colonial powers … the list is long.

Without the rule of
law and a respected constitution, without professional bureaucracies
that treat citizens impartially, without the subordination of the
military to civilian rule, without regulatory bodies to keep economic
transactions transparent, without social norms that encourage civic
engagement and law-abidingness—without all of
this, modern liberal democracy is impossible.

So the only sensible
question to ask when thinking about today’s non-democracies is: what’s
Plan B?

Nothing reflects the bankruptcy of today’s
political thinking more than our unwillingness to pose this question,
which smacks of racism to the left and defeatism to the right (and both
to liberal hawks).
But if the only choices we can imagine are democracy
or le déluge, we exclude the possibility of improving
non-democratic regimes without either trying forcibly to transform them
(American-style) or hoping vainly (European-style) that human rights
treaties, humanitarian interventions, legal sanctions, NGO projects, and
bloggers with iPhones will make a lasting difference. These are the
utterly characteristic delusions of our two continents.
The next Nobel
Peace Prize should not go to a human rights activist or an NGO founder.
It should go to the thinker or leader who develops a model of
constitutional theocracy giving Muslim countries a coherent way of
recognizing yet limiting the authority of religious law and making it
compatible with good governance. This would be a historic, though not
necessarily democratic, achievement.
No such prize will
be given, of course, and not only because such thinkers and leaders are
lacking. To recognize such an achievement would require abandoning the
dogma that individual freedom is the only or even the highest political
good in every historical circumstance, and accepting that trade-offs are
inevitable. It would mean accepting that, if there is a road from
serfdom to democracy, it will, in long stretches, be paved with
non-democracy—as it was in the West. 
I am
beginning to feel some sympathy for those American officials who led the
occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq ten years ago and immediately began
destroying existing political parties, standing armies, and traditional
institutions of political consultation and authority. The deepest reason
for this colossal blunder was not American hubris or naïveté, though
there was plenty of that. It was that they had no way of thinking about
alternatives to immediate—and in the end, sham—democratization.
Where should they have turned? Whose books should they have read? What
model should they have relied on? All they knew was the prime directive:
draft new constitutions, establish parliaments and presidential
offices, then call elections. And after that, it was the deluge indeed.






Mt. Aga Khan – highest peak of the Pamirs

In Buddhist/Hindu doctrine/mythology the gods reside on mountain tops. Hence
it was a tradition amongst Himalayan climbers not to step on the last
peak-inch. Apparently in the Pamir plateau-land of Tajikistan it is Aga
Khan (for background see wiki reference below) who inspires a similar devotion amongst the people.

Geographically, Khorog (capital of Pamir/Gorno Badakshan) borders north-eastern Afghanistan and is not so much distant from Gilgit and Kargil. Is it just a coincidence that the mountain people are in general, followers of a less-followed (religious) path than the plains-people? At any rate, when the going gets tough (and it is already extremely tough), the thugs from the plains will find the terrain to be very rough indeed. Let God (and Aga Khan) give strength to the dissenters to fight for justice (and truth).

The Pamirs are home to the
Pamiri people, who speak a different language from other Tajiks, and
follow the Ismaili branch of Shiite Islam (most Tajiks are Sunni). 

of Tajikistan’s roughly 135,000 Pamiris have come to see themselves as
victims of a chauvinistic dictatorship that wants to suppress their
culture. Pamiris are among the strongest opponents of President Emomali
Rahmon, whose 22-year rule over Tajikistan has become more and more
kleptocratic and nepotistic.

the summer of 2012, after a local security official was killed near
Khorog, which is by the Afghan border, the government undertook a
military operation there. Ostensibly aimed at capturing several
commanders it blamed for the official’s death, the operation’s scale and
intensity made it seem more like an attempt to finally get the Pamirs
under control. Snipers stationed on the two steep ridges that encase the
town fired indiscriminately at residents, backed up by mortars and
anything, though, the operation cemented the commanders’ position as
defenders of the Pamiris. When I visited Khorog last summer, I found a
town united in its opposition to the government. One resident who had
previously opposed the commanders told me that when the fighting started
in 2012, “I didn’t think twice about which side I was on; these were
invaders.” Unexpectedly strong resistance from the Pamiris forced the
military to retreat.
conflict then mostly lay dormant, at least until May of this year, when
protests broke out in Khorog after police officers shot at a car of
suspected drug dealers in the city center. Residents took to the streets
for several hours and set fire to some government buildings.
government blamed outside forces for the instability. A top
presidential adviser, Sherali Khairulloyev, said that the protests had
been orchestrated by foreigners — whom, bizarrely, he claimed to have
spoken to by phone in Dushanbe and yet would not identify. A member of
Parliament suggested that NATO and Saudi Arabia were fomenting rebellion
in the Pamirs. The head of the G.K.N.B., the state security agency,
accused the foreign security services of unnamed “big countries” of
working with local criminal groups to destabilize Tajikistan. When the
British ambassador traveled to Khorog earlier this month, he was
prevented from meeting with local activists.

was in this atmosphere that on June 15 Mr. Sodiqov went to Khorog for
field work for a project, run by the University of Exeter, on conflict
management in Central Asia. The next day he was interviewing a local
opposition politician, Alim Sherzamonov, in the city’s central park when
plainclothes officers interrupted the meeting and took him away.
Sodiqov is now believed to be in the custody of the G.K.N.B. He has not
been seen since his arrest, except in an interview broadcast on local
television that was heavily edited in an apparent attempt to discredit
both Mr. Sherzamonov and the Aga Khan, the Ismaili spiritual leader,
whom the government fears as an alternate source of authority among the
Pamiris. As of June 25, close to 1,900 Central Asia scholars had signed
an open letter
expressing concerns over Mr. Sodiqov’s safety. He is 31 years old and
married with a young daughter. If convicted of treason and espionage, he
faces 20 years in prison.
all that because, as the political scientist Parviz Mullojonov wrote
last week in the Tajik newspaper Asia Plus, Mr. Sodiqov became a victim
of the government’s “search for external enemies” to explain its
internal problems.
of Tajikistan’s suspected enemies, incidentally, are among its most
important partners. The United States and Russia, for example, have
provided substantial aid to the government, believing that Tajikistan is
a linchpin of stability in Central Asia and that maintaining order in
the region outweighs concerns about Mr. Rahmon’s arbitrary and
occasionally violent governance.
United States has given Tajikistan $278 million in military assistance
since 2001, and has helped train and equip the G.K.N.B. for
counterterrorism and counternarcotics operations. As Western troops
prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan, Russia has promised substantial
support to the Rahmon government. This is part of a deal that extends by
three decades Moscow’s lease on a Soviet-era military base in
Tajikistan, but it is also a measure of the Russian government’s fears
that radical Islamism could bleed north from Afghanistan.
yet, with Mr. Sodiqov’s arrest, the Tajikistan government is once again
blaming outside forces for destabilizing the Pamirs, all the while
intimidating independent researchers from seeing for themselves what
actually is happening there. That only portends an escalation of the
conflict, and Tajikistan, rather than be a bulwark against instability
in Central Asia, may well become part of the problem.


Aga Khan is a name used by the Imam of the Nizari Ismailis
since 1818. The current user of the name is Shah Karim who claims to be
the 49th Imam (1957–present), Prince Shah Karim Al Husseini Aga Khan IV (b. 1936).

According to Farhad Daftary, Aga Khan is an honorific title bestowed on Hasan Ali Shah (1800–1881), the 46th Imam of Nizari Ismailis (1817–1881), by Persian king Fath-Ali Shah Qajar. During the latter stages of the First Anglo-Afghan War (in 1841 and 1842), Hasan Ali Shah and his cavalry officers provided assistance to General Nott in Kandahar Province and also to General England in his advance from Sindh to join Nott. 

He was awarded the status of “Prince” by the British government’s
representatives in India and became the only religious or community
leader in British India granted a personal gun salute.

When Hassan Ali Shah, the first Aga Khan, came to Sindh from
Afghanistan, he and his army were welcomed by Mir Nasir Khan of
Baluchistan. In 1861, the Aga Khan won a court victory in the High Court of Bombay in what popularly became known as the Aga Khan Case, securing his recognition by the British government as the head of the Khoja community. In 1887, the Secretary of State for India acting through the Viceroy of India, formally recognized the title Aga Khan.

[ref. Wiki]





Revenge!! Justice!!!

Dov Charney, CEO of American Apparel was finally kicked out of the company he founded, apparently because of sexual harrasment lawsuits, but also because the company was losing money- bigtime.

One thing the New York Times and the liberals forgot. The sex maniac exploited an young Bangladeshi girl supposedly to draw attention to the fact that AA was paying americans to make clothes, not some sweatshop in Bangladesh. This was seen by many as an insult to islamic traditions (see Rezwana Manjur opinion below). Finally it did not take into account the fact that such sweat-shop work has created some real opportunities for Bangali women to the point where the social indicators in BD lag only behind Sri Lanka in the sub-continent.

Conservative Bangalis who were outraged at American Apparel must be saying their thanks in their daily prayers. Good riddance to sex maniacs who take advantage of the power they hold to take advantage of young powerless people.

Only one small point remains. The people who felt insulted by Dov Charney must also remember the dead young women (and men) who were victims of deliberate negligence of garment manufacturers in Bangladesh. Dov Charney is indeed a criminal, but those people are monsters. Justice must be served, even if cold.

Last week, after a decade of sexual harassment allegations
against American Apparel founder and CEO Dov Charney—and countless
brazen media appearances where he copped to soliciting sexual favors
from employees and embraced his “dirty guy” persona
—Charney was finally
axed by his company’s board. What took so long? Today, the New York Times parses the factors behind the board’s decision. It was a little bit about harassment. But it was mostly about money.

On the surface, the board’s decision was directly sparked by a sexual
harassment finding against Charney. American Apparel forces its
employees to bring claims against the company in private arbitration,
not in the courts.

That means that the results of any sexual harassment
allegations were kept secret and, in many cases, ended in settlement
agreements even before the arbitrator could determine whether Charney
was at fault. (In one case, Charney’s lawyers offered a former employee
who claims she was sexually harassed by Charney $1.3 million to agree to
allow him to publicly announce that he was found innocent of her
charges; the arrangement hit the press after the employee backed out of
the deal). 

The process left the company’s board with “very little in the
way of established legal fact,” the Times reports. But this
year, one of these arbitrated disputes finally resulted in a firm ruling
against Charney: An arbitrator found Charney responsible for
“defamation for failing to stop the publication of naked photographs of a
former employee.”
She was awarded about $700,000, and the board finally
had the ammunition to fire its CEO.

But in the background, it was flagging profits that forced the board
to act. In 2007, shares of American Apparel were worth $15; last year,
they plummeted to a low of 47 cents a share. The company lost $106
million in 2013, and as it scrambled to secure more capital, interest
rates on its loans spiked to 20 percent…..

In years past, even if the board had good reason to fire Charney
based on his behavior alone, “it did not have the appetite to remove the
company’s driving creative force,” the Times reports…..Charney’s
practices only caught up to him when they stopped being bankable—just
like other moneymakers with harassing reputations. Given the history,
it seems doubtful that the board was really moved by the sexual
harassment allegations. Sex sells until it’s bad for business.

American Apparel has made headlines again with another controversial ad.

The brand, which famously featured 62-year-old Jacky O’Shaughnessy as its lingerie model, revealed its latest campaign with a bare-chested Bangladeshi model.

Posted on its retailer’s website, it identifies the model as Maks who is a Bangladesh-born merchandiser and has been with the brand since 2010.

The description under the ad then reads: “She doesn’t feel the
need to identify herself as an American or a Bengali and is not content
to fit her life into anyone else’s conventional narrative.”

This I personally find ironic because labelled across her chest, by American Apparel, are the words: “Made in Bangladesh.”

I’m forced to question: If Maks did not wish to be identified as of a
particular nationality, why pose for a picture that boldly proclaims:
“Made in Bangladesh”?

Having my own roots tied to Bangladesh, I can attest that in the
largely Muslim nation, an ad such as this would be highly inappropriate
and unfathomable.

American Apparel told Marketing it was not commenting on the commercial.

Check the image out here:

Here’s the full text that came along with the image:

She is a merchandiser who has been with American Apparel since
2010. Born in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, Maks vividly remembers
attending mosque as a child alongside her conservative Muslim parents.
At age four, her family made a life-changing move to Marina Del Rey,
California. Although she suddenly found herself a world away from Dhaka,
she continued following her parent’s religious traditions and sustained
her Islamic faith throughout her childhood. Upon entering high school,
Maks began to feel the need to forge her own identity and ultimately
distanced herself from Islamic traditions. A woman continuously in
search of new creative outlets, Maks unreservedly embraced this photo

She has found some elements of southern California culture to be
immediately appealing, but is striving to explore what lies beyond the
city’s superficial pleasures. She doesn’t feel the need to identify
herself as an American or a Bengali and is not content to fit her life
into anyone else’s conventional narrative. That’s what makes her
essential to the mosaic that is Los Angeles, and unequivocally, a
distinct figure in the ever-expanding American Apparel family. Maks was
photographed in the High Waist Jeans, a garment manufactured by 23
skilled American workers in downtown Los Angeles, all of whom are paid a
fair wage and have access to basic benefits such as healthcare.

In my opinion, the ad is also borderline disrespectful to the
conservative religion of Islam where women are encouraged to stay
covered. Under her topless figure, the ad describes Maks as “vividly
remembering attending mosque as a child alongside her conservative
Muslim parents”. In fact, it was her parents’ traditional ways that
helped “sustain her Islamic faith throughout her childhood”.
I am not sure how going into such depth about her Islamic upbringing
is necessary to pointing out that one can build his or her own identity.
Was this simply a sly move for the retailer to take a jab at the
conservativeness of Islam? I wonder.

And if you can actually grab your eyeballs away from her naked chest,
you will see Maks wearing a pair of high-waisted jeans, which according
to the garment manufacturer were made by “23 skilled American workers
in downtown Los Angeles, all of whom are paid a fair wage and have
access to basic benefits such as healthcare”.

Even if this was actually an attempt to raise awareness on the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse and make a balanced stand for the issue, I
feel that an ad with a bare-chested Bangladeshi youth does absolutely
nothing for the three million women in the Bangladesh garments industry
slaving away.


Link (1):

Link (2):




Modern day slaves in a pre-modern country

It seems that law and order has completely disappeared from Iraq. Why keep hundreds of Indians as captives- they are neither Shias nor Sunnis? 

The obvious answer is that armed gangs have taken over as any semblance of state control has vanished. Indians will be handed over (hopefully) in return for handsome ransoms. Those trying to escape will be shot. In the meantime, hundreds of families (mostly from Punjab) will be going through hell.
reports are emerging of Indians in Iraq being held at their workplace
against their will. The latest instance coming to light is in Karbala
where, according to UK-based NGO Justice Upheld, 231 young Indian men
are being held captive at their workplaces by Iraqi nationals whose
identity is not yet clear.

 …Manpreet Singh, a youth stuck in
Karbala, said, “We are given dates and some rice to eat once or
twice a day but not allowed to step out of the company premises. A few
days ago an armed man came at night and asked us to hand over our
passports to him but we refused.”

“We don’t know the men who
have taken control of the company. The original management has
disappeared,” Manpreet added. His co-worker Sunil, who is from
Hoshiarpur, said, “I don’t think they are terrorists but they are
keeping an eye on us.”

Vicky, who belongs to Jalandhar, said,
“We see armed security personnel moving around in vehicles but don’t
know who they are. We have told our captors that don’t pay us, we will
ask our families in India to arrange for our tickets but they are not
willing to let us go.”

Jas Uppal of Justice Upheld told TOI
that the construction workers have not been paid for the past two
months. While the workers have refused to work and demanded that they be
allowed to go home, guards have so far not allowed them step out of the
factory compound.

week, Amnesty International reported that hundreds of Indian
construction workers working in Najaf had been held virtually captive by
their employers. Amnesty said they had spoken to some of the men who
said they had not been paid by their employers, and that they were
worried about their fate given the growing conflict.

Najaf and
Karbala are not in the conflict zone, and largely Shia-dominated, but
instability and violence has been rising in Iraq everyday. According to
some of the men spoken to by Amnesty, they have got in touch with the
Indian embassy in Baghdad.

the Karbala workers, Uppal said, “The management of the company has
fled and now the factory has been overtaken by some unknown armed
gunmen.” Uppal added that she had more details about the employer but
did not want to go public at present for the safety of the workers.

Activists of Indian origin working in England have informed Punjabi
groups in Kuwait and Iraq that around 10 teams of the Red Cross and
other relief organizations will be reaching the areas where Punjabis are
stuck in a day or two.

of Punjabis have fallen sick and need immediate medical aid. The teams
will also make efforts for the release of Punjabi youth by negotiating
with their employers,” said Ram Singh Sahota, president of Punjab
Welfare Society in Kuwait.

Uppal claimed that she has “reported
the Karbala case to India’s ministry of external affairs office and
international human rights organizations with the request for urgent
intervention and help.” She added, “It has been acknowledged but 18 days
on, they are yet to contact these men or the captors.”






‘My mother was wronged, gravely wronged’

“…if we agree (to accept the judgment), we’ll be forever branded as the
people who got the government, or the courts, to interfere in the
Shariat. There’s no point in living with such a taint on you.”

….senior Congress leader AK Antony …”People have lost faith in the secular credentials of the party. They
have a feeling that the Congress bats for a few communities, especially

St Antony is known to be a loyal party man but at some point even a worm will turn- hence the outburst. Our guess is that Congress is trying to desperately hold on to its last bastions – of which Kerala is one – by going all out to woo conservative Muslims. This will of course drive the Hindus into the welcoming arms of the Sangh Parivar. The Christians do not matter right now (they are used to voting against the anti-God communists) but they may well elect NOT to vote against the BJP.

If Congress is planning for a come-back as a truly secular party which speaks for all Indians, it should learn from the momentous days in the 1980s, when it tried to play communal games that blew up in its face. This is a dangerous game that at best goes nowhere and at worst leads to even more divisions in society. Most importantly other groups can play this game much better than the Congress can. Why vote for soft-Hindutva, when the real item is on the menu?

This is what happened in 1985. Congress cancelled a Supreme Court order for paying alimony to a indigent widow from Indore as a sop to conservative Muslims (see below). Then in 1986 it allowed for unlocking of Ram Mandir gate (locked since 1949) as a sop to conservative Hindus.

This directly led to the Babri Masjid destruction which was also facilitated by the Congress because it thought that the BJP will be wiped out as a result. Instead it was the Congress which got wiped out in 2014, when the country finally had enough of dynasty rule. Even the co-ordinated secular campaign could not prevent a BJP majority.
defence minister and senior Congress leader AK Antony on Friday raised
questions over the party’s commitment to secularism in the state.
“People have lost faith in the secular credentials of the party. They
have a feeling that the Congress bats for a few communities, especially
minorities,” he said.

Antony, who has taken a strong stand
against minority appeasement earlier too, went on to criticize the way
the state leadership and the state government are appeasing particular

“The people are really worried whether Congress
can ensure social justice. The people are concerned whether the Congress
is ensuring social equality in society. There appears to be doubts in
the minds of some people that while professing and practicing
secularism, the party has some slants that all sections of people do not
receive equal justice. This has to be removed,” he said.

Pointing out that minority and majority communalism were equally
dangerous, Antony linked the rise of fundamentalist forces to the
Congress’s inability to do enough for the secular cause.


A quarter of a century after the historic Supreme Court judgment on the
maintenance lawsuit of Shah Bano and the ensuing storm which made the
then Congress government rework the law, her youngest son Jameel Ahmed
Khan recalls the deep financial distress and mortifying shame his mother

“My mother was wronged, gravely wronged,” said Jameel, 60, as
wrinkles on his face rearranged themselves in remembrance of
circumstances triggered by her fight for maintenance.

“My mother was a simple, purdah-observing woman. Being divorced at
such a late age (60, by most accounts), the publicity, paper-baazi… she
was very ashamed of all this. She didn’t say much but kept stewing over

This bottling up of emotions took its toll. “She developed high blood
pressure and frequently fell ill,” said Jameel, a ‘property broker’
(local euphemism for somebody without a steady job), who lives in a
modest house in Indore. Shah Bano died of brain haemorrhage in 1992.

Mohammed Ahmed Khan, an affluent and well-known advocate, took a
younger woman as second wife 14 years after he had married Shah Bano.
After years of living with both wives, he threw Shah Bano and her five
children out. When he stopped giving her Rs. 200 per month he had apparently promised, she fought and won a seven-year legal battle for maintenance.

Prominent Muslim organisations opposed the Supreme Court verdict,
which they felt, encroached on Muslim personal laws. The Congress
government, which had the biggest majority in India’s Parliamentary
history, reworked the law — by enacting the Muslim Women (Protection of
Rights on Divorce) Act, 1986 — barring Muslim women from getting
maintenance after divorce under civil laws.

A provision of the Act limited the husband’s liability to pay
maintenance to his divorced wife only for the period of iddat (roughly
three months immediately after the divorce).

“Izzat ki ladai thi (It was a fight for self-respect). It was a fight
against our izzat being maligned in the locality and a family matter,”
Jameel said.

Although Jameel, a god-fearing Muslim, was careful not to criticise
his father, he conceded that Mohammed Khan increasingly favoured his
younger wife’s children after the two households became separate.

“It came to a pass where he’d only come on Eid, and even then my
chhoti vaalida (stepmother) would send for him even before we could
serve sevaiyan,” he said.

In fact, it was a festive day attempt at rapprochement that finally
tore things asunder. “Around two years after my mother had moved out, my
brothers and I went to meet my father on Eid and asked him to forgive
and forget. But he slapped me and threw us all out,” said Jameel.

When the Supreme Court in 1985 upheld Shah Bano’s maintenance claim, a political blizzard broke out.

“Former diplomat and prominent Muslim leader Syed Shahabuddin visited
our house as did ulema (clergymen) from Indore and other cities, who
told us that the verdict was against the Shariat,” said Jameel. “We
didn’t know much about it (Shariat provisions for maintenance etc) then…
our mother was illiterate. Clergymen from India and abroad contacted us
and told us that there had been a mistake and explained how things
should be according to the Shariat.”

He added, “Several people including (names a well-known cleric from
Gujarat) had offered money and even a job abroad (for refusing
maintenance). But I was clear that if we refused, it would not be for
material gain but Fi Sabeelillah (for Allah’s cause).” 

Once the matter
became public, journalists from India and abroad started landing up.
“The pressure became such that I felt winning the case wasn’t so good.
It would’ve been better if we lost,” said Jameel. “Massive processions
against the judgment were staged across the country. In Mumbai, traffic
was held up for hours. Even in Indore there was a lakh-strong rally
which passed in front of our house. Even if every rallyist threw a
pebble each, our kuchha house would have crumbled. This creates terror.”

Simultaneously, the family started getting invitations from liberals
in the community. “We accepted these thinking ‘let’s see what they have
to say’,” he said. A group from Ahmedabad organised a felicitation for
Shah Bano.

In the meantime, the family received a message from then Prime
Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He wanted to meet them. Shah Bano and Jameel
travelled to Delhi and met him.

“He said the situation was very critical, serious. ‘We have to find a
way,’ he said,” recalled Jameel. “I told him (I’d since read up on
Shariat directives about marriage and maintenance) there was no
provision for maintenance, except for money to be paid during iddat and
mehr (money to be paid at the time of divorce). I told him the law
should be amended. He, in turn, asked us to announce that we were
refusing the maintenance.”

Jameel was candid about vote-bank politics. “Muslims across the
country were ranged against the verdict. The elections were approaching.
Political parties think about their interests. It was felt that if
Muslims voted en bloc against the Congress on the issue, the party would
lose power.”

After returning to Indore, Shah Bano held a press conference to
announce that she was forsaking the maintenance because it was against
the Shariat. “I thought if we didn’t backtrack now, azaab (grief) would
be on us. Since it was a matter of religion, I didn’t want us to become a
precedent,” he said.

“I thought, ‘My mother will live for another two, five, 10 years. But
if we agree (to accept the judgment), we’ll be forever branded as the
people who got the government, or the courts, to interfere in the
Shariat. There’s no point in living with such a taint on you.”

Almost immediately, the whole situation changed. “My mother was feted
at public functions (by orthodox Muslims) and showered with titles like
‘Deeni Bahan’ (Righteous Sister) and ‘Islami Behen’ (Islamic Sister),”
Jameel said.

“Although a section of the media continued to report that our
decision was the result of pressure by the clergy, we chose not to
respond. We also decided to withdraw a case for recovery of mehr, which
was 3,000 kaldars (silver coins), but my father only paid Rs. 3,000,” he added.

Asked if he had taken issue with clergymen who approached him after
the verdict for ignoring Shah Bano’s plight earlier, he said, “The first
question I asked them was, ‘Where were you all these years?'”


Link (1):





Our modern age (brainless) doctors

When you go in for an operation in India, make sure that you leave the hospital with your wallet, specs, notebooks…and your complete set of body parts. If you do not, then it may be possible to find your (empty) wallet, but your body parts will be lost forever.

The whole society is being poisoned by profit motive so it is bad form to only point at doctors, there are now greedy teachers, corrupt police and all that. Still this is shocking news.

The hospital is trying to close legal options by paying compensation. USA style tort system will probably not work in India, earlier when a ghastly fire led to 90 patients dying in a (different) Kolkata hospital forcing a shutdown, it was the common man in the form of hospital workers who suffered.
The bone flap of a 23-year-old that was being preserved in the operating theatre of Ruby General Hospital has gone missing.
The youth underwent brain surgery in the hospital in January last year.
The flap was opened during the surgery and was to be put back later on.
Neurosurgeons, however, said that missing bone flaps would not have any
bearing on the patient’s recovery and that artificial options would be
used instead

Arnab Dutta, 23, had jumped from the terrace of
his Lake Gardens apartment in January last year in a bid to commit
suicide after his father passed away. The computer engineering student
was rushed to Ruby General Hospital with a severe head injury, and where
he was operated on for brain haemorrhage.

During discharge,
the hospital told Arnab’s family that the bone flap was being preserved
to be replaced later, and that they should come back later. Arnab’s
family did not come back for months. In May this year, they asked the
hospital for the bone flap. The hunt for the piece of skull started, but
it was nowhere to be found, said a hospital source.

“Bone flaps are replaced once the brain
swelling comes down. But in many cases patients do not come back for
cranio-plasty, which is done mainly for cosmetic purposes. Otherwise,
once the overlying skin and hair covers that place, people can lead a
normal life with no effect on recovery,” said Anirban Deep Banerjee,
consultant neurosurgeon with Apollo Hospitals, Kolkata.

Ruby hospital authorities have assured the family of compensation. “We
will compensate the family,” said a hospital official.






What is your name?

An interview that is literally worth
life or death.
With Hindus in Bangladesh the ID
interview was fairly trivial. Just remove the underclothes, inspect the male
organ and (if you wish) cut it off. In the killing fields of Mosul things are a
bit more tricky. If you can hold your nerve you may be able to escape. OTOH a
lifetime of habits is difficult to change.And the killers are merciless…
As the militant group
the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has seized vast territories in
western and northern Iraq, there have been frequent accounts of fighters’
capturing groups of people and releasing the Sunnis while the Shias are singled
out for execution.
ISIS believes that the Shias are
apostates and must die in order to forge a pure form of Islam. The two main
branches of Islam diverge in their beliefs over who is the true inheritor of
the mantle of the Prophet Muhammad. The Shias believe that Islam was
transmitted through the household of the Prophet Muhammad. Sunnis believe that
it comes down through followers of the Prophet Muhammad who, they say, are his
chosen people.

What is your name? A quick look at an Iraqi’s national identity
card or passport can be a signal. Shias believe that the leadership of Islam
was passed down through the Prophet Muhammad’s son-in-law Ali and his sons
Hussain (or Hussein), Hassan and Abbas, among others. While some Sunnis and
members of other Islamic groups may also have those names, ISIS would most
likely associate them with the Shias.
Where do you live?  In every city and province, even
majority Sunni ones, there are enclaves that are known to be Shia. People who
said they came from one of those neighborhoods would most likely be killed.
How do you pray? Shias and Sunnis offer prayers in slightly
different ways, with Sunnis generally folding their hands or crossing their
arms in front of their stomachs and Shias leaving them extended, palms resting
on their thighs.
In a chilling video
that appeared to have been made more than a year ago in the Anbar Province of
Iraq, ISIS fighters stopped three truck drivers in the desert and asked them
whether they were Sunnis or Shias. All three claimed to be Sunni. Then the
questions got harder. They were asked how they performed each of the prayers:
morning, midday and evening. The truck drivers disagreed on their methods, and
all were shot.
What kind of music do
you listen to?
Recordings of
religious songs could also be a tipoff. Similarly, even the ringtone on a
person’s telephone could be a clue because it might be from a Sunni or Shia
religious song.

There are other clues,
but none are completely reliable. For instance, a number of Shias wear large
rings, often with semiprecious stones. But so do some Sunnis, and others. Generally,
Iraqi Shias and Sunnis are often indistinguishable in appearance. That is even
more evident in many families and tribes in which there has been intermarriage
for generations.
Given that the rigid
views of ISIS are fairly well known, it is perhaps natural to wonder why
hostages do not simply lie about their origins. It seems that many do, yet in
very tense, perilous encounters, people can easily get tripped up. Sometimes
another person in a group might inadvertently give someone away. Others refuse
to lie about their faith. 

“Tomorrow they can be in India”

“They aren’t Muslims. Jihad means to defend. Jihad doesn’t mean to
kill,” …as he
showed graphic footage on his cellphone of be-headings and bombs
exploding in Iraq.
…”We could travel to Iraq to form a human chain to save people from
being tortured. We could fetch water and donate blood and do anything to
save our shrines”…

We agree with Prof Minai that states like Pakistan can be in mortal danger because of the example of what is going on in Iraq. However we would like to go one step further and point out that even India is not safe.

The basic problem is that there are huge Shia populations in South Asia, especially in urban India. In places like Lucknow they are as much as 40% of the muslim count. If the battle of Iraq reaches the existential crisis state (and it very already looks like one from a distance) then we can expect severe social upheavals, complete with bombing of Shia and Sunni mosques and Baghdad like Shia-on-Sunni-on-Shia attacks.

In the proper Middle East the Shia/Sunni populations are largely segregated except for parts of western (and eastern) Iran and eastern Saudia. Syria and Iraq may now elect for partition (there is not much of a choice).  

Only in India and in Pakistan there is a mixed muslim population and this may become as much of a problem as the original Hindu-Muslim problem.

Already versions of the two nation theory (our heroes are their villains and vice versa) have been tested and validated across the sub-continent, soon there may be more divisions leading to more pain for the common people (while the elites stay secure behind iron gates and armed watchmen).
Thousands of Muslims in India have signed up to defend Iraq’s holy
shrines and, if need be, fight Sunni Islamist militants in the country
where the civilian death toll from the Sunni insurgents’ advance is
estimated at least 1,300.

Denouncing the militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant
(ISIL) as terrorists, these Indian Muslims have filled out forms,
complete with passport-size photographs and photocopied identification
documents, to travel to Iraq.

Leaders of Anjuman E. Haideri, the religious organisation
spearheading the effort, said they might march to the Iraqi embassy in
New Delhi on Friday to deliver the forms.

A Shia cleric is leading the effort and the volunteers want to
protect shrines venerated by the sect in Iraq, but the group’s leaders
say their cause is not sectarian.

Already at the group’s headquarters located off Karbala Road in a
leafy New Delhi neighbourhood, picket signs of “It’s not Shias vs Sunnis
(it’s) Iraqis vs Terrorists” have been prepared.

“They aren’t Muslims. Jihad means to defend. Jihad doesn’t mean to
kill,” said Syed Bilal Hussain Abidi, a senior member of the group as he
showed graphic footage on his cellphone of beheadings and bombs
exploding in Iraq.

“We could travel to Iraq to form a human chain to save people from
being tortured. We could fetch water and donate blood and do anything to
save our shrines,” he said, surrounded by brightly colored files
stacked with volunteers’ forms.

Even though Muslims are a minority accounting for only 15 percent of
Indians, they still number about 175 million, making them the
third-largest Muslim population in the world.

Whether the volunteers will be granted visas and allowed to travel to
Iraq is not clear. Officials at the Iraqi embassy were not immediately
available to comment.

India’s foreign ministry has said it will not allow Indians to go to
Iraq because of the security situation in a country where 40 Indian
hostages are being held in an undisclosed location and 46 Indian nurses
are stranded in Tikrit hospitals.

But Syed Bahadur Abbas Naqvi, the group’s general secretary, said
that since the Indian government does not plan to send forces to Iraq,
the supporters have little choice but to head over there themselves.

So far, the volunteers, who range from engineers to students and
police officers, have signed a form that says: “I firmly believe that
terrorism of all kinds including the one which is being inflicted by
known terror groups in Iraq is not only a serious threat to innocent
Iraqis (irrespective of their religious beliefs) but is also a threat to
the entire humanity.”

The group said it has 100,000 signatories from across India and has
held several demonstrations “against terrorism” in Delhi and other

The group wants to defend shrines spread across Iraq in the cities of
Karbala, Najaf, Samarra and Kirkuk, but also stem the rise of crude oil
prices that have shot up as a result of the crisis and could hit
importer India hard.

“If they need help, we’re ready from Hindustan,” said Dilawar Abbas, a
group member, using another name for India. If the ISIL is in Iraq
right now, “tomorrow they can be in India.”






Tiger watch

“Suddenly, my sister cried out: ‘Dada, bagh (tiger)’. I was stunned, and
my body froze. All I saw a flash of yellow. It took me a moment to
register the gruesome sight before me. My father was completely buried
under the beast.

When you enter the world of the Tiger you are always under 24/7 surveillance. The unseen eye watches you and destroys you. There will be no escape and no mercy.

Even now, people in the Sunderbans area (which is divided between India and Bangladesh) worship the tiger and the snake. These are the real gods with the power of life and death in their hands (paws). This is true even for people who follow Islam (which is a majority). For these folks, life in the present is no doubt of greater value than life in the next.

danger of venturing into the prohibited areas of Sunderbans was revealed
again on Thursday morning when a tiger jumped from the bank of a creek
and leapt back with a man in its jaws. This is the fourth time that a
human was killed by a tiger in the Sunderbans this year.

victim, 62-year-old Sushil Majhi, lived in Lahiripur near Datta river,
less than kilometre from a creek that runs deep into the forest. Along
with his son Jyotish, 40, and adopted daughter Molina, Majhi would often
row up the creek to catch crabs.

On Thursday, at the crack of dawn, the three set out on a boat to the forests of Kholakhali, an area where fishing is banned.

Jyotish sat in front of the boat, Sushil in the middle and Molina at
the tai. That is how they balanced the vessel while pulling in the net.

“Shortly after we reached the spot, around 7am, we got a whiff of a
strange odour. We immediately decided to turn back to a safer zone,”
Jyotish told TOI. They were paddling towards a less dense area when a
tiger that had been stalking them struck like lightning.

“Suddenly, my sister cried out: ‘Dada, bagh (tiger)’. I was stunned, and
my body froze. All I saw a flash of yellow. It took me a moment to
register the gruesome sight before me. My father was completely buried
under the beast. I could only see his legs thrashing about. I shook off
my numbness and grabbed a stick. Molina, too, took out a long cutter we
use to clear foliage in the jungle. Together, we poked and battered the
tiger, but it refused to give up,” he said.

being attacked, the tiger concentrated on its kill and once it got a
good grip, it held Majhi by his neck and jerked the body in a way that
it landed on its back, said Jyotish. “It jumped off and landed on the
bank in one giant leap. We saw it disappear into the jungle with my
father still in its jaws,” he added, shaking from the ordeal.

Jyotish and Molina raised the alarm and some fishermen paddled furiously in their direction.

“But they didn’t dare chase the tiger into the deep woods. Molina was
so traumatized that she lost consciousness. I didn’t take any further
risk and returned with her as quickly as possible,” said Jyotish.

Majhi’s body is unlikely to be recovered, as countless other human victims before him.

Sunderbans Tiger Reserve field director Soumitra Dasgupta said there
were reports of a tiger attacking a fisherman on Thursday morning.

“Fishing is banned in the forests where the incident took place,” he said.