“Police were there but just watching the burning”

….The number of accusations is rising….In 2001, there was only one such complaint, but in
2011 there were 80…..2014 looks
set to be a record…..
In May 2014, 68 lawyers were charged with
blasphemy for using the name ‘Umar’ in protest slogans against a police
official of the same name.
In the same month, prominent human
rights lawyer Rashid Rehman defending a Pakistani university professor
accused of blasphemy was shot and killed after being threatened in court by other lawyers….

……………………
It does not matter if it is India or Pakistan or Sri Lanka, or Bangladesh, or….The news of late is remarkably monotonous and grim.

We remember the case of Rodney King from our time. He was viciously beaten up by LAPD officers, and the officers were initially let go by a white jury. The acquittals are considered to have triggered the Los Angeles riots of 1992 which were responsible for 53 deaths, 2,383 injuries, more
than 7,000 fires, damage to 3,100 businesses, and nearly $1 billion in
financial losses [ref. Wiki]. During the riots, King appeared on television and offered what would later be his famous plea, “Can we all get along?”

In South Asia there is not much point in asking can we all get along. The least the powers that be can do is to protect minorities by building more secure ghettos (aka open air prisons). Electrified fence, dobermans, paramilitary, whatever it takes. But please ensure safety (and a bit of prosperity). Is that too much to ask for?
………..
Three female members of the Ahmadi community, including two
minors, were killed late Sunday and eight others were severely injured
when an angry mob attacked and burnt five houses, a storage building and
several vehicles over alleged blasphemy.
Those killed in the attack include a 55-year-old woman Bashiran, a minor girl Kainat and 7-year-old girl Hira.

The victims were rushed to the district headquarters hospital and the condition of few wounded was reported as critical.

Deputy
Superintendent of Police (DSP) of the People’s Colony Circle as saying
that the trouble started with an allegedly blasphemous post on Facebook
by an Ahmadi youth.

The son of a Imam of a local mosque along with
his friends reached the house of the youth where they entered into a
scuffle and were allegedly fired upon.

The Imam’s son and his
friend sustained gunshot wounds following which a mob gathered and began
protesting which eventually attacked and damaged homes and other
property belonging to members of the Ahmadi community.

Gujranwala
CPO Waqas Nazir, Civil Lines SP Zeeshan Siddiqi and DSP of CIA Rashid
Sindhu reached the spot and began negotiations with members of both
communities to bring the situation under control.

“Later, a crowd
of 150 people came to the police station demanding the registration of a
blasphemy case against the accused,” said another police officer who
declined to be identified. “As police were negotiating with the crowd,
another mob attacked and started burning the houses of Ahmadis.”

The youth accused of making the Facebook post had not been injured, he said.

Civil
Lines SP Zeeshan Siddiqi said the victims died of suffocation and that a
woman miscarried during the riots and was being provided medical
treatment.

Salimuddin, a spokesman for the Ahmadi community, said
it was the worst attack on the community since simultaneous attacks on
Ahmadi places of worship killed 86 Ahmadis four years ago.

“Police
were there but just watching the burning. They didn’t do anything to
stop the mob,” he said. “First they looted their homes and shops and
then they burnt the homes.”

According to police and eyewitnesses,
there were seven to eight houses of the Ahmadi community in the
vicinity. However, following the violence all Ahmadi families in the
area managed to flee.

Fearing further incidents of violence and
arson Gujranwala Electric Power Company (Gepco) suspended the supply of
electricity in the area.

Ahmadis have been arrested in Pakistan
for reading the Holy Quran, holding religious celebrations and having
Quranic verses on rings or wedding cards. Four years ago, 86 Ahmadis
were killed in two simultaneous attacks in Lahore.

Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law does not clearly define
blasphemy but says the offence is punishable by death. Anyone can file a
blasphemy case claiming their religious feelings are injured for any
reason.

The accused are often lynched, and lawyers and judges
defending or acquitting them have been attacked. Rights groups say the
laws are increasingly used to seize money or property.

Two
politicians who suggested reforming the law were killed, one by his own
bodyguard. Lawyers showered the killer with rose petals when he came to
court.

The number of accusations is rising, according to a 2012
study by the Islamabad-based think tank, the Center for Research and
Security Studies. In 2001, there was only one such complaint, but in
2011 there were 80. No more recent figures are available but 2014 looks
set to be a record.

In May 2014, 68 lawyers were charged with
blasphemy for using the name ‘Umar’ in protest slogans against a police
official of the same name.

In the same month, prominent human
rights lawyer Rashid Rehman defending a Pakistani university professor
accused of blasphemy was shot and killed after being threatened in court by other lawyers.

 
……..

Link: http://www.dawn.com/news/1122143/mob-attack-over-alleged-blasphemy-three-ahmadis-killed-in-gujranwala

…..

regards

0

The future is (of) Asia (minus MENA)

Globalization and the hunt for natural resources have made this vast continent compact enough to form competing blocks which hopefully will not fight hot wars (China just blinked on the off-shore rig off Vietnam). 

OTOH there will be plenty of hot-wars in the MENA which will make the region unbearable (for staying) and unprofitable (for trading anything except oil).

….
From the Pew charts we observe that for the most part Asians love the USA. The important exceptions are China, Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia. Indonesia manages to identify USA as the biggest ally AND as the biggest threat. For Pakistan the USA is a bigger threat than India. OTOH India is the biggest threat for Bangladesh.

……
What is interesting will be the upcoming role of Indonesia. It has just elected a populist leader who hails from the lower ranks (sounds familiar?). Given all the provocations from the Chicoms it is still fairly positive about China. As a fellow muslim medium-weight power (also Malaysia) it has a friendly outlook towards Pakistan.

….. 
The other country of interest is Bangladesh. As patriotic Bengalis are wont to say…it can be the next Switzerland. Bangladesh can play the Big Power game to its advantage (India against China and vice-versa). But that requires fairly astute political leadership and a national sense of purpose which seems to be missing right now. Bangladesh (as we see it) will be well-positioned in the Indo-China buffer zone, not as part of a pan-Arab empire (the Bangla expat communities will OTOH integrate comfortably with their cousins in the Ummah).

 
Following our imagination, the China-Pakistan-Malaysia-Indonesia combine balances nicely against Japan-India-Vietnam-Philippines. Bangladesh, Burma, Singapore, Australia and Korea occupy the co-friendship zone. It goes without saying that USA will play a key role but the countries involved may not need/want hand holding.

 
………….


Link: http://qz.com/234709/six-charts-that-show-asian-countries-love-america-and-fear-china-except-where-its-the-opposite/

…..

regards

0

The Return of the Butterfly

….her mother’s new ‘phone
wallah’, who replaced the guy who called her ‘Huzoor’ and ‘always did
jhuk ke salam’, ‘barges into her sitting room….and ‘calls Mummy “Anti”…..
It’s enough to make Mummy want to leave,
till Butterfly reminds her: ‘with your passport you have only two
choices….Afghanistan or else, Upstairs to Him’. One
of Mohsin’s many masterstrokes….

……… 
Hilarious stuff about how South Asian elites think and talk, kind of like an extended article from the Onion….

It is a shame that for a long. long time we have not had a single, decent brown humorist. It is all high drama, betrayal, politics, …and we are sick of it. Our best wishes to Moni Mohsin and we look forward to many such installments.
…..
Some of my favourite moments in The Return of the Butterfly—the
third in Pakistani journalist Moni Mohsin’s immensely popular series
chronicling the life and times of Butterfly, a malapropism-spouting
Lahori socialite—
remind me of the Four Yorkshiremen sketch in which four
men, comfortably off, try to outdo each other’s accounts of humble
beginnings. One says, “We lived in one room, all 26 of us, no furniture,
half the floor was missing.” Another responds, “Eh, you were lucky to
have a room! We used to have to live in the corridor!” 


The Pakistani
equivalents of this (admitting to humble origins, make no mistake, is
tantamount to social suicide) are seemingly fantastical descriptions of
how wonderful things were. You can’t escape it in drawing rooms: stories
of cabarets at Karachi’s grand Metropole hotel, people insisting their
grandmothers cycled to college in shorts, the ghastly socialite I once
found myself seated next to on a Karachi-Lahore connection who took one
look at the other passengers and conspiratorially told me: “In the good
old days, we used to know everyone on these flights.” 

Or, as Butterfly
says of her mother’s youth: ‘when both of them wore saris and beehives
and meat was ten rupees a ton and only the deserving had cars and even
those who took their six children to school on a bicycle had happy
smiles and only nice prayers for their car-driving betters’.



Indeed, if anecdotal evidence is to be believed, Pakistan’s finest
hour was one in which it was so utopian that pesky irritants like social
mobility simply didn’t exist. Now it’s so bad her mother’s new ‘phone
wallah’, who replaced the guy who called her ‘Huzoor’ and ‘always did
jhuk ke salam’, ‘barges into her sitting room and stands on her carpet
without even removing his shoes’ and ‘calls Mummy “Anti”, as if, God
forbid, he was related to us’. 

It’s enough to make Mummy want to leave,
till Butterfly reminds her: ‘with your passport you have only two
choices; either you can go to Afghanistan or else, Upstairs to Him’. One
of Mohsin’s many masterstrokes.



Starting in 2009 with Benazir’s assassination when Butterfly’s
husband Janoo—the very model of rectitude and foil to Butterfly’s
frivolity—heads to his ancestral lands to campaign for Benazir’s party,
lest her death be in vain, The Return of the Butterfly takes us
through the worst of times. In doing so, Mohsin provides a timely
reminder that even in countries free-falling into chaos and despair,
life, in all its sublime and ridiculous forms, still goes on. 

And so,
while Janoo starts exhibiting signs of clinical depression watching
everything he loved about Pakistan slip away, Butterfly buys Birkins,
attends and critiques lavish weddings, plans summer holidays in London
and trades ‘Ramzan’ for ‘Ramadan al Kareem’—succumbing to the
Arabisation of Pakistan (which the press describes as ‘creeping’,
whereas it’s making a mad dash at one in the manner of a bull to a
matador).



Mohsin hits the target every time. Butterfly goes to ‘the pools’ to
vote after Benazir’s death, saying ‘Thanks God we live in Gulberg and
not some slump type area where we would have to vote alongside all the
bhooka nangas’. 

She is shaken by former governor of Punjab Salman
Taseer’s murder and much of the country’s grotesque reaction: ‘Even
friends of ours whose kids are in college in the US and who serve drink
in their home and would sell their grandmothers for a green card, even
they are saying that he wasn’t a good Muslim.’ She attends candlelight
vigils but only the ones for ‘khaata peeta types’. 

In 2011, she goes the
way of her more vapid friends and ‘feels a deep connection with Imran
Khan’ because ‘Imran is also a PLU, na’ and ‘he will do sullah with the
Taliban so they will aik dum drop their weapons and become all lovey
dovey with us’. But even Butterfly can’t swallow the theory that
‘Amreekans’ shot Malala because they ‘want to give Pakistan a bad name’.



While Butterfly’s concerns are still her wardrobe, her horror of
upstarts, and the distress caused by the local supermarket running out
of avocadoes, the book is at moments just too horribly true to even
laugh along with. You can tell the country’s really gone down the tubes
when even Butterfly’s diary saddens as much as it entertains.



(Faiza S Khan is a critic and editor based in New Delhi)
…..

Link: http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/books/the-truth-behind-the-laughter

…..

regards

0

The Dargah of Anuradhapura (no more)

….dargah built to honour Sikkandar Waliullah, a Muslim
saint….dargah had found mention in literature for at least 400 years…
green blankets of cloth covered Waliullah’s tomb; these are yanked off
and burned….a couple of Qurans….one of them was thrown down a well….other was added to the
bonfire…. 

In India (primarily Uttar Pradesh) riots are so frequent now that it is difficult to keep count. Earlier there was Muzaffarnagar, now Saharanpur is burning. It is not just Hindus against Muslims, it is Muslims vs. everyone else. As usual you have to read between the lines since Indian press reports are deliberately kept ambiguous.
….

Three persons were killed and 26 injured in communal clashes in
Saharanpur
on Saturday, prompting the district administration to impose
curfew and issue shoot-at-sight orders. The Army has been put on alert.
….Members of one community began construction at a vacant plot near
Gurdwara Road
in the Qutubsher police station area allegedly without the
permission of the Saharanpur Development Authority.
…Members of the other community objected to this, saying the land, near a graveyard, belonged to them.
…………………

The violence is said to be a fallout of a dispute between two communities over ownership of a vacant plot.

According to Daljeet Singh Kochar, an advocate in the Saharanpur civil
court, one Moharram Ali Pappu filed a petition in the court 10 years
ago, stating that a mosque had been built on the land and it must not be
used by the gurdwara.
But, Mr. Kochar said, the Additional District
Judge passed an order in May 2013 stating the land belonged to the
gurdwara.


Kulveer Singh, a member of the Gurdwara Prabandhak Samiti, said “the
land where the samiti was constructing an extension to the gurdwara
premises was the place from where the violence started around 4 a.m. on
Saturday.”
He alleged that a mob of more than 700 people approached the gurdwara and started throwing stones.

…..

WHEN I MOVED TO SRI LANKA
in the summer of 2011, I thought I wanted to write a book about the
island’s past troubles. The civil war had ended two years earlier,
suddenly presenting a chance to gather the sorts of personal stories
that could neither be collected nor told easily over the previous three
decades, when the conflict was still ablaze. But during my time there,
Sri Lanka’s stock of strife replenished itself, and fear and violence
rode forth from unexpected quarters. The furious swell of Sinhalese
nationalism that had closed out the war with such brutality was now
starting to poison other relationships in Sri Lanka.

One evening in Colombo, my friend Sanjaya dropped by, intending to
collect me on our way to someplace else. I offered him a drink—beer, I
seem to remember now, but given how the next two hours slipped clean out
of our hands, more likely it was arrack. Arrack did that to you: it
greased the passage of time. We sat around my dining table, Sanjaya
telling stories and I listening. He told yarns tall and magnificent,
embellishing on the run and possessing such a fondness for the absurd
that he giggled as if he were hearing the tale and not narrating it.
When he laughed, his eyes narrowed into letterbox slits, he quivered
noiselessly, and his shoulders heaved. His mirth was tectonic.
“You heard they pulled a Muslim shrine down?” Sanjaya asked.
It had happened in the previous week in Anuradhapura, the ancient
capital of Sri Lanka, and the most holy of towns for the island’s
Buddhists. A group of Buddhist protesters—a busload, or two busloads,
according to conflicting media reports—had arrived with crowbars and
hammers and taken apart a small, old dargah. In this enterprise, they
had not been stopped by the police or local administrators. Anuradhapura
now bristled with communal tension.
“We should go there,” I said.
“We should,” Sanjaya said thoughtfully. “I know a guy who caught the whole thing on video.”
During the final years of the civil war, Sri Lankan Buddhism had
developed a muscular right wing. First, in 2004, there was the launch of
the Jathika Hela Urumaya, a political party led by Buddhist monks, some
of whom admitted quite freely to being racists and bayed for a
destructive, damn-the-consequences annihilation of the guerrillas of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Nine of its monks entered parliament,
and the party became a member—and an ideological heavyweight—in the
coalition that ruled Sri Lanka. After some years, even the JHU was
deemed by some to be too timid. In 2011 and 2012, two other sets of
monks splintered from the JHU and started the Sinhala Ravaya (the
Sinhalese Roar) and the Bodu Bala Sena (the Army of Buddhist Power),
hijacking for themselves the shrill energy of Sinhalese Buddhist
nationalism. On the flag of the Sinhala Ravaya, a lion bounds forward,
holding a sword thrust forward in attack. The Sinhalese roar is
practically audible.
During those two years, the Buddhist right developed a taste for
straight thuggery. The Tamils, cautious and defeated, living under a
crushing military presence in the country’s north and east, posed no
present threat to Sinhalese Buddhism. So, instead, the Bodu Bala Sena
and the Sinhala Ravaya—as well as the JHU, their milquetoast
cousin—retrained their energies upon Sri Lanka’s Muslims, who form
roughly 10 percent of the population. Unlike with the Tamils, no long
skein of ancient hatreds between Buddhists and Muslims could be
unspooled out of the island’s ancient Buddhist histories; no rankling
grouses could be invoked as justifications for this new animus. But this
did not matter. The Muslims were demonised, accused of eroding the
country’s Buddhist heritage. In the absence of ancient hatreds,
chauvinism can easily rustle up modern ones.
Through the months after I came to Sri Lanka, and in the years after I
left, the country’s newspapers filled with reports of violence, and
with pronouncements from Buddhist leaders on how they expected Muslims
to behave. The JHU demanded the closure of Muslim-owned butcheries that
sold beef, and forced the government to ban the certification of halal
meat across the country. The Bodu Bala Sena attacked a popular
Muslim-owned apparel store in Colombo, an incident that rose to
prominence because of the size and popularity of this particular
emporium. Other anonymous groups painted pigs on the walls of mosques.
Some protesters stormed into the Sri Lanka Law College in Colombo,
claiming that its examination results were doctored to favour Muslims.
Calls went around for particular mosques and Muslim shrines around the
island to be razed, ostensibly for being situated too close to Buddhist
temples. Even proximity was unacceptable now. In the town of Dambulla,
the chief priest of a local Buddhist temple led a protest to “relocate” a
mosque. In the process, he warned, “Today we came with the Buddhist
flag in hand. But the next time, it would be different.” No one stood up
to these threats; Sri Lanka absorbed them passively and sailed on. It
was a frightening, sickening time, plump with hatred and hostility.

THE ANURADHAPURA DEMOLITION happened early in
September 2011. We went there in the very last days of the month,
Sanjaya and I and another friend named Dinidu. From Colombo, we caught a
night train to Anuradhapura, practically sticking our heads out of the
open window for all five or six hours because our compartment was so
stifling and airless. The train arrived at 3.30 am, and we were the only
people to alight at Anuradhapura’s small, low station.

“During the war, whenever they wanted to make a film in which the
Jaffna station appeared, they would use the Anuradhapura station
instead,” Sanjaya said. He stood for a few minutes and looked up at the
building’s facade, pearl white by moonlight.
In the morning, we visited Sanjaya’s contact Rizvi, himself a local
journalist. He was a middle-aged man with brawny forearms and white
stubble. Either he had known that we would be videotaping him or he was a
punctilious dresser even at home, because he wore a white shirt with
knife-sharp creases and a neat blue-and-white checked sarong. His first
language was Tamil, but he spoke to Sanjaya and Dinidu in fluent
Sinhalese. Whenever Rizvi said something significant, one of them would
aim a translation in my direction. I sat off to the side, on a divan
next to a window, scribbling.
It appeared that Rizvi was immensely fond of recounting the turns of
bureaucratic wheels: petitions filed, orders issued and appeals
counter-filed, deeds issued, public meetings held and reports written.
From any mess of administrative detail, he was certain, a clear and
potent truth would emerge. For Rizvi, everything had a procedural
history, and for this reason he started the story of the dargah
demolition by describing how he moved house in 1974.
Rizvi and his family used to live in a jumble of Muslim residences in
the Sacred City, a zone wrapped around a giant Bodhi that was grown,
according to legend, from a cutting of the original tree under which the
Buddha attained enlightenment. Some families had been living in the
area for more than a century. “We moved out because the drainage in that
place was so awful. But, technically, we still owned our house there.”
In May 2009, a minister in President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government
ordered all the houses to be knocked down, without compensation. Two
weeks later the civil war ended, but Rizvi’s family felt no joy because
they were so distressed about the demolition of their home.
The dargah had been in the very heart of this neighbourhood, and once
the houses were stripped away, it shone through prominently. It had
been built to honour Sikkandar Waliullah, a Muslim saint and healer who
had been buried in Anuradhapura. No one had precisely established the
antiquity of Waliullah’s life, although Rizvi claimed that the dargah
had found mention in literature for at least 400 years. “Every year,
there was a festival here, an urs, when holy men used to come
to the dargah and hit themselves with hammers or stab themselves with
knives, to prove the power of the shrine,” Rizvi said. “This at least, I
know, had been happening for more than 50 or 60 years, because my uncle
remembered seeing it when he was a boy.”
The very existence of the dargah now rankled the Buddhist right, as a
plainly Islamic commemoration on Buddhist turf. The night before the
Poya—or full-moon—holiday in June 2011, seven men on motorcycles drove
up to the shrine. A Sinhalese man living in the vicinity realised they
were armed with tools and crowbars, and he alerted the dargah’s
caretaker. On that occasion, some tiles on the dargah were damaged, but
the job couldn’t be completed. A band of Muslims confronted the seven
men, the police turned up, and the wrecking crew was hustled out of the
site. In response to the incident, a new, permanent police post was
installed near the dargah, for additional security. “You can see it in
the video of the dargah’s final destruction,” Rizvi said. “You can also
see that the policemen are doing nothing.”

ANURADHAPURA WAS HUSHED and wary after this
episode, bracing itself for more trouble. Around this time, hysterical
pamphlets started to circulate within the town. Rizvi had saved three of
them for us. Two were anonymous, but the third was signed by
Amithadamma Thero, a Buddhist monk who was something of a firebrand
among the local clergy. “I was surprised to see that monks were
involved,” Rizvi said. “I would never have thought it possible.” The
leaflets—all in Sinhalese—sealed the dargah’s fate.

The first pamphlet called the Sinhalese “the fastest vanishing race
on the face of this earth,” and it worried that the country’s biggest
threats came from its Muslims, who were “breeding like pigs.” There were
further descriptions of Muslims, consisting of astonishing filth, and
then:

We need a pureblood king who can proudly
say to the world that Sri Lanka is a Sinhala Buddhist nation. He should
be brave enough to say: “The other races that live here have to live by
those rules, or they can leave.” We don’t need multicultural,
multi-religious ideas. There has to be one Sinhala Buddhist country in
the world. This is that country …
Do not sell your land and businesses to
the Muslims. They are able to buy things for higher prices because of
the money they get from their mosque and the Middle East for the
breeding of their kind. You and I will die soon, but it is our duty to
save this sacred land for the future generations …

The closing sentence was an instruction: to circulate the leaflet among Sinhala Buddhists only.
In the second pamphlet, the authors attacked the district
administration for allowing the Sacred City to be defiled by the dargah
and other non-Buddhist enterprises. To prevent a religious war, it said,
the dargah needed to be removed. “Don’t you cow-killing, beef-eating,
Tamil-speaking people already have a mosque in Anuradhapura behind the
post office? Don’t make a joke out of our Buddhist heritage.”
The final leaflet, signed by Amithadamma Thero, was dated 2 September
2011. Calling the dargah a “mosque,” Amithadamma raged that its very
presence in the Sacred City polluted Anuradhapura.

Who is responsible for this?
Corrupt politicians and certain
robe-wearers who bow their heads and tangle a yellow robe about them but
don’t even follow the Five Precepts. Shame on the Sinhala Buddhist
policemen who protect this mosque …
Shame on the IGP [Inspector General of
Police] who is using the police to protect this mosque. May Mahinda and
Gotabhaya who are good followers of Buddhism become aware of this soon!
Pious monks and followers:
To save the Anuradhapura Sacred City from this Muslim invasion, come to the Dakkhunu Dagoba on the 10th of September at 1 p.m.

There was no mistaking that final line. It was a loud, clear call to action.

JUST AFTER NOON, Rizvi interrupted his slaloming
narrative to go collect his daughter from school. While Sanjaya and
Dinidu sat on in the living room, paging through a trove of documents, I
wandered outside. On the verandah, I ran into Mohammad, Rizvi’s son, a
teenager studying for his A Levels. Who were we? he inquired, out of
curiosity. I told him, and then, just to make conversation, asked who
their neighbours were. He pointed out house after house; at the end he
indicated a bungalow two doors away, where a Tiger suicide bomber had
killed Janaka Perera.

Perera, a distinguished army general, had campaigned for the post of
chief minister of the North Central Province in 2008. He had lost, but
he was still an opposition leader, and he had opened a party office on
this street.A crowd had collected at the formal inauguration of the
office, and Rizvi’s brother, as well as his sister and her husband, had
all popped over. They were standing outdoors, on a covered verandah very
similar to where Mohammad and I now stood and talked. A man staggered
into the throng, gibbering and gesticulating, pretending to be mad. Then
he blew himself up. “His head had split into two,” Mohammad said, “and
they found parts of his limbs on trees outside the house.”
Rizvi’s sister and her husband died on the spot. His brother was
taken to the hospital. A shard of homemade shrapnel—the bolts, nails and
broken razor blades that had been sewn into the suicide bomber’s
vest—had embedded itself in his heart. But even this he might have
survived, Mohammad said, had these fragment not been coated
painstakingly with cyanide. “He was also a journalist, like my father,
and he dropped his video camera right there. A metal piece went into
that too.”
I realised I had seen this camera, a Panasonic that Rizvi still used.
It had been sitting on a cluttered dining table all morning, charging.
When I went back inside the house, I looked more closely at it, and I
could see the path ploughed by the shrapnel, a deep furrow running just
above the tape deck.
When Rizvi returned, I asked him about the bombing that had killed
three members of his family in one fell morning. He gave me a thin
smile.
“Not just them,” he said. Then he counted away, on his fingers, the
number of people his family had lost to the Tigers. His sister’s
father-in-law had died in a Tiger massacre of Sinhalese civilians in
1985, near the great Bodhi tree; 146 people died in three separate
attacks in Anuradhapura that day. This man’s son—the brother-in-law of
Rizvi’s sister—had been a civil servant in Muttur, in the east, when he
was shot dead by the Tigers. Then there were Rizvi’s brother and sister
and her husband; Rizvi had run out of fingers on that hand. “Now I am
the only one left,” he said. I felt like I had picked at a loose floor
tile and found a stash of corpses buried beneath.

IN RESPONSE TO AMITHADAMMA’S LEAFLET, a couple of
hundred people, under the bounding lion banner of the Sinhala Ravaya,
assembled near the dargah. A large bus turned up as well, bearing men
with tools and a few dozen monks. “Some friends had called me, saying
that there was some trouble, so I had gone there with my camera,” Rizvi
said. A squad of 50 policemen had cordoned off the dargah, but Rizvi
discovered that this was to prevent the public from getting closer,
rather than to protect the shrine. He tried to get nearer, but one of
the policemen prevented him. “He told me: ‘Don’t go. These people aren’t
here to speak or to listen to reason. They’re behaving badly.’” Rizvi
stood with a tight, fearful knot of Muslims on the shoulder of the road,
a hundred metres or so from the dargah.

At 3.45 pm, a local bureaucrat named GA Kithsiri—an assistant
government agent, equivalent to a deputy district collector—entered the
scene. “He came past us, and he said to me: ‘This is foolish. This is
foolish.’ I told him: ‘That’s right. Please go and end this.’” Kithsiri
strode away, towards the dargah. Rizvi watched the remainder of the
afternoon play out at a distance. The wind snatched away so many of the
voices that the events seemed to be part of a tragic silent film.
The monks had been squabbling with the policemen when Kithsiri
arrived. He engaged animatedly with them; Rizvi could see hands being
flung about, and shreds of shouting blew occasionally towards him. Then
Kithsiri pulled out a cell phone and dialled a number. In the video,
Kithsiri moves away from the dargah and paces back and forth, plunged
into conversation. There is no way to tell who was on the other end of
the line. Later, Rizvi heard that Kithsiri had first tried to calm the
mob, telling them that he already had orders from the ministry of
defence, run by Gotabhaya Rajapaksa—the president’s brother and the
country’s most frightening man—to demolish the dargah in the next three
days, assuring them that he would attend to it. When the men insisted on
finishing the job themselves, and right away at that, Kithsiri called
his superiors and asked them what to do.
In any event, in the video, he appears to have received some set of
definitive instructions. He hangs up and walks—reluctantly, to my eyes,
as if his feet weighed many tons—back to the dargah, to speak to one of
the policemen. Some new commands are snapped out. Then the police cordon
ebbs, and the destruction commences.

WE CLIMBED INTO RIZVI’S VAN, and he drove us
through the Sacred City towards the location of the dargah. The Buddha
loomed over us, in the form of the head and shoulders of a gigantic
white statue visible above the line of scrub and low trees on the side
of the road. Rizvi pointed out where his family’s houses had stood
before they were rubbed out in 2009. The access path to the dargah, from
the main road, was blocked by an army barricade; we were allowed no
closer. Rizvi didn’t stop, for fear that soldiers would come over and
question us; instead, he crept on slowly but steadily. From the van, we
could make out only the low wall of the dargah’s compound and some
Buddhist bunting that had been looped around the trunks of trees. There
was, of course, no dargah to see.

In Rizvi’s video, the dismantling of the dargah is clinical and
coordinated, and it holds a perverse allure that makes it difficult to
look away. The monks are attired in their orange habits, but the other
men wear white work gloves and carry just the right tools for the job.
They have come fully prepared, and also fully confident that they will
not be stopped.
First the men hang Sinhala Ravaya flags from the branches of nearby
trees; it is important to advertise the organisation under the auspices
of which these activities are being carried out. They peel away the
sheets of tin that form part of the shrine’s modest roof, chucking them
over the waist-high compound wall with a clatter. Large, Islam-green
blankets of cloth covered Waliullah’s tomb; these are yanked off and
burned. Somebody found a couple of Qurans within the shrine, Rizvi told
us; one of them was thrown down a well, and the other was shredded and
added to the bonfire. We can’t see this in the video, but the earth
around the fire is littered with white rectangles that might be pages
ripped out of books. A monk stands over the fire, superintending it with
such care that he resembles an attentive chef stirring and peering into
his pot. Another man, with a long metal bar, is trying to take down, or
at least damage, the compound wall, and his pounding upon the brick
sounds tinny and melancholic.
At some late point during the hour-long demolition, Rizvi managed to
creep closer to the site and continue filming it in brief bursts. By
this time, the dargah has been pulverised into a mess of masonry. The
fires have reduced and expired, and helices of smoke seep out of the
embers. Much of the mob vanished after the shrine was pulled down,
although on the soundtrack we can still hear the occasional jab at the
still-standing compound wall, or the thunder of the tin sheets. The
drama of the afternoon has leaked out, but a dazed air hangs over the
small set of muttering onlookers; they are like the audience at a
mystifying play, still trying to make sense of the plot, hanging around
the theatre in the hope that an epilogue will provide some explanation.
But, by 5 pm, it is all clearly over. In one of the last frames of the
video, Rizvi pans away from the rubble and captures the police post that
had been set up for supplemental security, a dark-blue booth with the
words “Solex Water Pumps” painted on it. A solitary policeman stands
nearby. He dusts his hands off by slapping them against each other,
looks towards Rizvi’s camera and then looks away again. He is relaxed
and calm. No strife seems to have stained his world at all.

This essay is adapted from Samanth Subramanian’s This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lankan War, published this month by Penguin India.
– See more at: http://www.caravanmagazine.in/print/4564#sthash.OiRE7dBF.dpuf

It looks like the UP state govt is not inclined AND is unable to protect ordinary citizens from violence. In the next election it is likely that the Samajwadi Party led by Akhilesh Yadav will be wiped out and it will be a fight between the Bahujan Samaj Party (dalits led by Mayawati) and the BJP (forward + middle caste). That will be poetic justice. But as usual for the victims of today, it will be too late.
…..

Justice will not be available to the muslims of Sri Lanka as well, anytime soon. A high HDI country (relatively speaking) well advanced in the quest of racial purity and single community (that magic word again) domination. Shameful, but with precedents all over South Asia (we include Burma and Afghanistan in this). And when a separate country is not possible the Sikhs and Jains are creating purity enclaves as well. Cant really blame them.
……

One evening in Colombo, my friend
Sanjaya dropped by, intending to collect me on our way to someplace else. I
offered him a drink—beer, I seem to remember now, but given how the next two
hours slipped clean out of our hands, more likely it was arrack. Arrack did
that to you: it greased the passage of time. We sat around my dining table,
Sanjaya telling stories and I listening.

“You heard they pulled a Muslim
shrine down?” Sanjaya asked.

It had happened in the previous week
in Anuradhapura, the ancient capital of Sri Lanka, and the most holy of towns
for the island’s Buddhists.
A group of Buddhist protesters—a busload, or two
busloads, according to conflicting media reports—had arrived with crowbars and
hammers and taken apart a small, old dargah. In this enterprise, they had not
been stopped by the police or local administrators. Anuradhapura now bristled
with communal tension.

“We should go there,” I said.
“We should,” Sanjaya said
thoughtfully. “I know a guy who caught the whole thing on video.”

During the final years of the civil
war, Sri Lankan Buddhism had developed a muscular right wing. First, in 2004,
there was the launch of the Jathika Hela Urumaya, a political party led by
Buddhist monks, some of whom admitted quite freely to being racists and bayed
for a destructive, damn-the-consequences annihilation of the guerrillas of the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Nine of its monks entered parliament, and the
party became a member—and an ideological heavyweight—in the coalition that
ruled Sri Lanka. 

After some years, even the JHU was deemed by some to be too
timid. In 2011 and 2012, two other sets of monks splintered from the JHU and
started the Sinhala Ravaya (the Sinhalese Roar) and the Bodu Bala Sena (the
Army of Buddhist Power), hijacking for themselves the shrill energy of
Sinhalese Buddhist nationalism. On the flag of the Sinhala Ravaya, a lion
bounds forward, holding a sword thrust forward in attack. The Sinhalese roar is
practically audible.


During those two years, the Buddhist
right developed a taste for straight thuggery. The Tamils, cautious and defeated,
living under a crushing military presence in the country’s north and east,
posed no present threat to Sinhalese Buddhism. So, instead, the Bodu Bala Sena
and the Sinhala Ravaya—as well as the JHU, their milquetoast cousin—retrained
their energies upon Sri Lanka’s Muslims, who form roughly 10 percent of the
population. 

Unlike with the Tamils, no long skein of ancient hatreds between
Buddhists and Muslims could be unspooled out of the island’s ancient Buddhist
histories; no rankling grouses could be invoked as justifications for this new
animus. But this did not matter. The Muslims were demonised, accused of eroding
the country’s Buddhist heritage. In the absence of ancient hatreds, chauvinism
can easily rustle up modern ones.


Through the months after I came to
Sri Lanka, and in the years after I left, the country’s newspapers filled with
reports of violence, and with pronouncements from Buddhist leaders on how they
expected Muslims to behave. The JHU demanded the closure of Muslim-owned
butcheries that sold beef, and forced the government to ban the certification
of halal meat across the country. 

The Bodu Bala Sena attacked a popular
Muslim-owned apparel store in Colombo, an incident that rose to prominence
because of the size and popularity of this particular emporium. Other anonymous
groups painted pigs on the walls of mosques. Some protesters stormed into the
Sri Lanka Law College in Colombo, claiming that its examination results were
doctored to favour Muslims. Calls went around for particular mosques and Muslim
shrines around the island to be razed, ostensibly for being situated too close
to Buddhist temples. 

Even proximity was unacceptable now. In the town of
Dambulla, the chief priest of a local Buddhist temple led a protest to
“relocate” a mosque. In the process, he warned, “Today we came with the
Buddhist flag in hand. But the next time, it would be different.” No one stood
up to these threats; Sri Lanka absorbed them passively and sailed on. It was a
frightening, sickening time, plump with hatred and hostility.


In the morning, we visited Sanjaya’s
contact Rizvi, himself a local journalist. He was a middle-aged man with brawny
forearms and white stubble. Either he had known that we would be videotaping
him or he was a punctilious dresser even at home, because he wore a white shirt
with knife-sharp creases and a neat blue-and-white checked sarong. His first
language was Tamil, but he spoke to Sanjaya and Dinidu in fluent Sinhalese.
Whenever Rizvi said something significant, one of them would aim a translation
in my direction. I sat off to the side, on a divan next to a window,
scribbling.

It appeared that Rizvi was immensely
fond of recounting the turns of bureaucratic wheels: petitions filed, orders
issued and appeals counter-filed, deeds issued, public meetings held and
reports written. From any mess of administrative detail, he was certain, a
clear and potent truth would emerge. For Rizvi, everything had a procedural
history, and for this reason he started the story of the dargah demolition by
describing how he moved house in 1974.

Rizvi and his family used to live in
a jumble of Muslim residences in the Sacred City, a zone wrapped around a giant
Bodhi that was grown, according to legend, from a cutting of the original tree
under which the Buddha attained enlightenment. Some families had been living in
the area for more than a century. “We moved out because the drainage in that
place was so awful. But, technically, we still owned our house there.”

In May 2009, a minister in President
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s government ordered all the houses to be knocked down,
without compensation. Two weeks later the civil war ended, but Rizvi’s family
felt no joy because they were so distressed about the demolition of their home.

The dargah had been in the very
heart of this neighbourhood, and once the houses were stripped away, it shone
through prominently. It had been built to honour Sikkandar Waliullah, a Muslim
saint and healer who had been buried in Anuradhapura. No one had precisely
established the antiquity of Waliullah’s life, although Rizvi claimed that the
dargah had found mention in literature for at least 400 years. 

“Every year,
there was a festival here, an urs, when holy men used to come to the
dargah and hit themselves with hammers or stab themselves with knives, to prove
the power of the shrine,” Rizvi said. “This at least, I know, had been
happening for more than 50 or 60 years, because my uncle remembered seeing it
when he was a boy.”


The very existence of the dargah now
rankled the Buddhist right, as a plainly Islamic commemoration on Buddhist
turf. The night before the Poya—or full-moon—holiday in June 2011, seven men on
motorcycles drove up to the shrine. A Sinhalese man living in the vicinity
realised they were armed with tools and crowbars, and he alerted the dargah’s
caretaker. 

On that occasion, some tiles on the dargah were damaged, but the job
couldn’t be completed. A band of Muslims confronted the seven men, the police
turned up, and the wrecking crew was hustled out of the site. In response to
the incident, a new, permanent police post was installed near the dargah, for
additional security. “You can see it in the video of the dargah’s final
destruction,” Rizvi said. “You can also see that the policemen are doing
nothing.”


Around this time, hysterical pamphlets started to circulate within the
town. Rizvi had saved three of them for us. Two were anonymous, but the third
was signed by Amithadamma Thero, a Buddhist monk who was something of a
firebrand among the local clergy. “I was surprised to see that monks were
involved,” Rizvi said. “I would never have thought it possible.” The
leaflets—all in Sinhalese—sealed the dargah’s fate.

The first pamphlet called the
Sinhalese “the fastest vanishing race on the face of this earth,” and it worried
that the country’s biggest threats came from its Muslims, who were “breeding
like pigs.” There were further descriptions of Muslims, consisting of
astonishing filth, and then:

We
need a pureblood king who can proudly say to the world that Sri Lanka is a
Sinhala Buddhist nation. He should be brave enough to say: “The other races
that live here have to live by those rules, or they can leave.”
We don’t need
multicultural, multi-religious ideas. There has to be one Sinhala Buddhist
country in the world. This is that country …
Do
not sell your land and businesses to the Muslims. They are able to buy things
for higher prices because of the money they get from their mosque and the
Middle East for the breeding of their kind. You and I will die soon, but it is
our duty to save this sacred land for the future generations …

The closing sentence was an
instruction: to circulate the leaflet among Sinhala Buddhists only.
In the second pamphlet, the authors
attacked the district administration for allowing the Sacred City to be defiled
by the dargah and other non-Buddhist enterprises. To prevent a religious war,
it said, the dargah needed to be removed. “Don’t you cow-killing, beef-eating,
Tamil-speaking people already have a mosque in Anuradhapura behind the post office?
Don’t make a joke out of our Buddhist heritage.”

The final leaflet, signed by
Amithadamma Thero, was dated 2 September 2011. Calling the dargah a “mosque,”
Amithadamma raged that its very presence in the Sacred City polluted
Anuradhapura.

Who
is responsible for this?
Corrupt
politicians and certain robe-wearers who bow their heads and tangle a yellow
robe about them but don’t even follow the Five Precepts. Shame on the Sinhala
Buddhist policemen who protect this mosque …
Shame
on the IGP [Inspector General of Police] who is using the police to protect
this mosque. May Mahinda and Gotabhaya who are good followers of Buddhism
become aware of this soon!
Pious
monks and followers:
To
save the Anuradhapura Sacred City from this Muslim invasion, come to the
Dakkhunu Dagoba on the 10th of September at 1 p.m.

There was no mistaking that final
line. It was a loud, clear call to action.

IN RESPONSE TO AMITHADAMMA’S LEAFLET, a couple of hundred people, under the bounding lion banner
of the Sinhala Ravaya, assembled near the dargah. A large bus turned up as
well, bearing men with tools and a few dozen monks. “Some friends had called
me, saying that there was some trouble, so I had gone there with my camera,” Rizvi
said. A squad of 50 policemen had cordoned off the dargah, but Rizvi discovered
that this was to prevent the public from getting closer, rather than to protect
the shrine. He tried to get nearer, but one of the policemen prevented him. “He
told me: ‘Don’t go. These people aren’t here to speak or to listen to reason.
They’re behaving badly.’” Rizvi stood with a tight, fearful knot of Muslims on
the shoulder of the road, a hundred metres or so from the dargah.

At 3.45 pm, a local bureaucrat named
GA Kithsiri—an assistant government agent, equivalent to a deputy district
collector—entered the scene. “He came past us, and he said to me: ‘This is
foolish. This is foolish.’ I told him: ‘That’s right. Please go and end this.’”
Kithsiri strode away, towards the dargah. Rizvi watched the remainder of the
afternoon play out at a distance. The wind snatched away so many of the voices
that the events seemed to be part of a tragic silent film.

The monks had been squabbling with
the policemen when Kithsiri arrived. He engaged animatedly with them; Rizvi
could see hands being flung about, and shreds of shouting blew occasionally
towards him. Then Kithsiri pulled out a cell phone and dialled a number. In the
video, Kithsiri moves away from the dargah and paces back and forth, plunged
into conversation. There is no way to tell who was on the other end of the
line. 

Later, Rizvi heard that Kithsiri had first tried to calm the mob, telling
them that he already had orders from the ministry of defence, run by Gotabhaya
Rajapaksa—the president’s brother and the country’s most frightening man—to
demolish the dargah in the next three days, assuring them that he would attend
to it. When the men insisted on finishing the job themselves, and right away at
that, Kithsiri called his superiors and asked them what to do.


In any event, in the video, he
appears to have received some set of definitive instructions. He hangs up and
walks—reluctantly, to my eyes, as if his feet weighed many tons—back to the
dargah, to speak to one of the policemen. Some new commands are snapped out.
Then the police cordon ebbs, and the destruction commences.

WE CLIMBED INTO RIZVI’S VAN, and he drove us through the Sacred City towards the
location of the dargah. The Buddha loomed over us, in the form of the head and
shoulders of a gigantic white statue visible above the line of scrub and low
trees on the side of the road. Rizvi pointed out where his family’s houses had
stood before they were rubbed out in 2009. 

The access path to the dargah, from
the main road, was blocked by an army barricade; we were allowed no closer.
Rizvi didn’t stop, for fear that soldiers would come over and question us;
instead, he crept on slowly but steadily. From the van, we could make out only
the low wall of the dargah’s compound and some Buddhist bunting that had been
looped around the trunks of trees. There was, of course, no dargah to see.


In Rizvi’s video, the dismantling of
the dargah is clinical and coordinated, and it holds a perverse allure that
makes it difficult to look away. The monks are attired in their orange habits,
but the other men wear white work gloves and carry just the right tools for the
job. They have come fully prepared, and also fully confident that they will not
be stopped.

First the men hang Sinhala Ravaya
flags from the branches of nearby trees; it is important to advertise the
organisation under the auspices of which these activities are being carried
out. They peel away the sheets of tin that form part of the shrine’s modest
roof, chucking them over the waist-high compound wall with a clatter.  

Large,
Islam-green blankets of cloth covered Waliullah’s tomb; these are yanked off
and burned. Somebody found a couple of Qurans within the shrine, Rizvi told us;
one of them was thrown down a well, and the other was shredded and added to the
bonfire. 

We can’t see this in the video, but the earth around the fire is
littered with white rectangles that might be pages ripped out of books. A monk
stands over the fire, superintending it with such care that he resembles an attentive
chef stirring and peering into his pot. Another man, with a long metal bar, is
trying to take down, or at least damage, the compound wall, and his pounding
upon the brick sounds tinny and melancholic.


At some late point during the
hour-long demolition, Rizvi managed to creep closer to the site and continue
filming it in brief bursts. By this time, the dargah has been pulverised into a
mess of masonry. The fires have reduced and expired, and helices of smoke seep
out of the embers. Much of the mob vanished after the shrine was pulled down,
although on the soundtrack we can still hear the occasional jab at the
still-standing compound wall, or the thunder of the tin sheets. The drama of
the afternoon has leaked out, but a dazed air hangs over the small set of
muttering onlookers; they are like the audience at a mystifying play, still
trying to make sense of the plot, hanging around the theatre in the hope that
an epilogue will provide some explanation. But, by 5 pm, it is all clearly
over. 

In one of the last frames of the video, Rizvi pans away from the rubble
and captures the police post that had been set up for supplemental security, a
dark-blue booth with the words “Solex Water Pumps” painted on it. A solitary
policeman stands nearby. He dusts his hands off by slapping them against each
other, looks towards Rizvi’s camera and then looks away again. He is relaxed
and calm. No strife seems to have stained his world at all.

This essay is adapted from Samanth
Subramanian’s
This Divided Island: Stories from
the Sri Lankan War, published this month by Penguin India.

…..

Link: http://www.caravanmagazine.in/

….

regards

0

Neel Mukherjee for Man Booker

….Supratik attacks his mother
about food. “Don’t you agree we eat too much?”….”Everyone
eats like this.”….He attacks again: “not the servants, not the poor”……..the head servant, Madan, who is part of the
family, but remains separated from them…..”Boro-babu, the world
does not change, you destroy yourself trying to change it…Why cause
people who love you to go through such misery because of it?”…….
Communist Supratik feels “a surge of cold fury that he is being given a lesson in
political morality by the family’s cook”….

 ……………………………
We know that the Bong bhadaralok class (genteel folks) are a mighty sentimental lot. Many of them were up-rooted from erstwhile East Bengal in 1947. Then in the 1960s-1970s Bengal experienced extreme violence first from the left and then on the left (the most intriguing part of that story was left-on-left violence). Finally a bunch of super-castes migrated to the West with its attendant identity loss problems etc.

The literary output seems focused on these extreme events and that is only to be expected. However after what seems to be a million stories and plays and movies, we find the scope to be limiting (and exhausting). Is it too much to ask the writer class to pick up a wider lens?

There is a good story (we presume) to be written about the ups and downs of an unprecedented three decades of a popular vote backed communist rule which began with police torturing communists (1975-1977) and ended with communists (and police) torturing common people (2006-2011). The middle class essentially had to move out of Bengal to cities of opportunity to the north, west and south (Gurgaon, Pune, Bangalore).

How about the daring idea to divorce Kolkata (where only 20% people live) from the dialog?
You have the timeless culture of the Sunderbans, where Hindus and Muslims both pray to snake and tiger gods and where unique forms of agriculture and pisci-culture are in place and which has also experienced thunder-bolts via Force-10 cyclones? Then there is the Himalayan belt where the world-famous Darjeeling tea gardens have been devastated by mismanagement and where Hindus (Gorkhas/Nepalis, Bengalis, Tribals like Koch, Rajbonshi) are murdering other Hindus as part of a campaign for (or against) partition?
Speaking of larger than life personalities, why not put to pen the astonishing rise and fall of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy? He was born in (present day) West Bengal, he was the Premier of Bengal when the massive riots happened post Direct Action Day (1946), he became the (5th) Prime Minister of (unified) Pakistan (1956), forced to resign by Iskandar Mirza (1957), exiled by Ayub Khan and finally died in exile in Beirut (1963), never to see his homeland again. From the stand-point of Bengali Hindus HSS was a veritable monster (like one Great Leader today) who was fiddling while Kolkata was burning. By the same token he was a hero second to none for Bengali Muslims. But then to his credit (and to the confusion of extremists on both sides) he proposed (along with Hindu leader Sarat Bose) an United Bengal as one nation!! After all the madness, Bengali leaders still hoped to hold hands, the idea itself is madness, or was it??

Re: HSS there is a popular anecdote which concerns Gandhi. Legend has it that the mob had managed to corner HSS in Gandhi’s presence. The mob asked Gandhi to step aside so that they can finish him off. Gandhi kept his calm and told them that they would have to kill him first. The mob went away but the grievances were building up.

Ranting aside, we wish Neel Mukherjee all the best in his quest for Booker for “The Lives of Others”. The book (in our opinion) is very different in flavor to Jhumpa Lahiri’s 2013 “The Lowland” which covers the same ground (and lost the race for Booker). Strongly recommended.
……………………..
It begins in 1966 with a profoundly shocking sequence, emblematic of
the novel’s purpose, in which a starving Bengali peasant slaughters his
wife and children before killing himself by drinking corrosive
insecticide. We are then whisked off into a seemingly unrelated double
narrative.

In one strand of this we meet three generations of the
upper-middle-class Ghosh family, who made their fortune in paper
production and are steadily losing it through the effects of Partition,
mismanagement, union trouble and domestic discord. In the other we
follow the story of one of the family’s eldest grandsons, who has
dropped out of his life of privilege to train and work as an activist
and guerilla fighter for the outlawed communist Naxalites.

The
Ghoshes are a big family. (Mukherjee provides both a family tree and a
guide to the Bengali relational terms). Though their empire spreads
across the continent, they all live in the one, old Kolkata house, the
patriarch and his wife on the top floor and the spoilt youngest’s
outcast widow and children on the gloomy bottom one.

Many (guilty)
readers, and not a few Indian novelists, would have contented
themselves with focusing on this household. It provides a tidy microcosm
of Hindu society, rigidly hierarchical, borne up by cheap labour, yet
shot through with destabilising insecurities and alliances.

As in
an equivalent dynasty imagined by Galsworthy or Mann, the company
founder supposes his commercial achievements can only be undone by his
modernising sons, while the sons despair of the father’s lack of
foresight. His wife retains a blind fondness for the family’s oldest
retainer, in effect a slave procured as a child to raise her children
and cook the delicious dishes of his impoverished background, a
situation that will bring about a tragedy of injustice and misplaced
loyalty worthy of Conrad at his darkest.

The house is riven with
conflicts born of marriage. One son has married the perfect,
peacekeeping wife, one, harbouring profound sexual shame (arising from
incestuous coprophilia, since you ask) has married a vulgarian. The
latter delights in a state of constant warfare with the family’s
unmarried daughter. This character, the most richly portrayed in
Mukherjee’s family album, rendered unmarriageable by too much education
and unfortunate looks, consoles herself with inventive spite while her
mother looks on, aware of the part she has played in creating such a
monster but powerless to intervene.

Another character who could
arguably have taken a whole novel to himself is Sona. Shy and wordless
to the point of autism, raised on scraps by his outcast mother, in the
household’s cruel scheme he is in effect an Untouchable. And yet, as the
great Ghosh boat moves inexorably towards the rocks of its social and
economic ruin, he proves to be its quietly triumphant survivor, saved by
a genius for pure mathematics.

The Ghosh household serves a
Sethian narrative feast with dishes to spare, and yet it is arguably the
novel’s much harsher second strand which matters most to Mukherjee.
Pursuing the rebel son, Supratik, on a career from 1960s Maoist idealism
through brutal murders in the jungle, to scenes of police torture that
had this reader sitting protectively on his hands, it is a graphic
reminder that the bourgeois Indian culture Western readers so readily
idealise is sustained at terrible human cost.

………

Supratik is possessed by a single-minded moral horror at the lives of
the starving and helpless. Early in the book he attacks his mother
about food. “Don’t you agree we eat too much?” She is baffled. “Everyone
eats like this.” He attacks again: not the servants. Not the poor. The
novel gives us not only Supratik’s revulsion but his mother’s sense of
what has always been as it is. His departure will cause her to break
down completely.



Maybe the most
sympathetic character is the head servant, Madan, who is part of the
family, loves and cares for them, but remains separated from them.
Towards the end of the book he has a significant conversation with
Supratik. He tells Supratik how his mother took to her bed when he left,
“shrivelling up like leather in the sun”. “Boro-babu, the world
does not change, you destroy yourself trying to change it, but it
remains as it is. The world is very big and we are very small. Why cause
people who love you to go through such misery because of it?”

Communist
Supratik feels “a surge of cold fury that he is being given a lesson in
political morality by the family’s cook” – seeing Madan from his
family’s viewpoint, “their” cook. And he lashes back at Madan, reminding
him how Madan himself begged the family to “let loose the police” on
Madan’s son, the leader of the striking workers.

…..
The novel’s second glimmer of light relates to Supratik, the
Naxalite. At the very end of the book we find out that while living in
Medinipur he had invented a means of derailing trains: this technique
has been passed on to present-day Maoists in central and eastern India
who are now using it to devastating effect. 

‘Someone
had come from Chhatitisgarh to show them the ropes, and he had
mentioned that according to local Maoist lore it was a Bengali
invention, the work of a man known as Pratik-da in the late Sixties in
some district bordering West Bengal and Bihar. Or was it West Bengal and
Orissa?’



This then is the legacy that Neel ascribes to Supratik: a method of derailing trains and killing unwary passengers: ‘his gift to his future comrades survived and for those who cared to or were old enough to remember, he lived on in his bequest.’


In other words, what Neel chooses to celebrate about Supratik’s life
is not the transmission of a spirit of resistance – something that is
more than ever necessary at a time when the environment and the poor are
being subjected to devastating violence in the name of ‘growth’ – but
rather a particular means of resisting: in this instance a technique of
mass murder. 

This is troubling, for it was precisely the means adopted
by the student-Naxals of the 1970s that doomed their movement. Violence
and bloodletting became so essential to their methods as to suggest that
the movement was not, in its essence, a social program at all but
rather a cult of ritualistic killing, like thuggee. 

This is why the
movement aroused widespread revulsion, even among those who sympathized
with its professed social aims. Its trajectory was a perfect
illustration of that deadly elision that often occurs when violence is
embraced as a means to an end: ultimately the one displaces the other
and the means becomes the end.

…..

…..

regards

0

Tariq Ali condemns socialism

…..A unanimous Senate vote is rare, so what explains being more loyal to
Israel…. An important factor is undoubtedly money..
…Few British citizens are aware of the role their own country played
in creating this mess…..It was not by accident, but by design that the British decided to
create a new state….. 

 ….. 
Well in all fairness, Ali Sahab condemns not so much socialism but “techno-fascist” socialists like Bernie Sanders of Vermont who are “progressive on everything except Israel.” 

It is clear that TA shares the same world-view as Imran Khan (note: TA is a devoted fan of IK), whereby the only reason that the Arab/Muslim empire of old has not recovered is due to malicious designs by a scheming West which dances to the tune of evil Zionists. Jews are so powerful that they are even able to manipulate Western elections in favor of Zionist politicans. 

Over the last few decades, Hindus and Muslims have been kicked out of their native lands in South Asia. The Muslim population has recovered in India (but is under threat), while Hindus are now extinct in Pakistan and under threat in Bangladesh. Now it is the turn of the Christians and Muslim sects in the MENA to be wiped out. Muslims are also being cleansed from Burma and are under threat in Sri Lanka. All of this is part of a grand Western-Zionist plot to destabilize Arabs/Muslims? Really???
…..
The US Senate votes unanimously to defend Israel including Senator
Bernie Sanders of Vermont. I don’t think he did it for the money. He
is a paid-up member of POEEI (‘Progressive on Everything Except
Israel’ and pronounced pooee) the liberal segment of US society, which
is not progressive on many things, including Israel.



Take, as one example, the case of  ‘Colonel’ Sanders. I thought my
late friend Alexander Cockburn was sometimes too harsh on Sanders, but I
was wrong. Sanders has been arselickin bad for a long time now as
Thomas Naylor informed us while exploding the myths surrounding the
Senator in a CounterPunch piece in September 2011:



“Although Sanders may have once been a socialist back in the 80s when
he was Mayor of Burlington, today, a socialist he is not.  Rather
he behaves more like a technofascist disguised as a liberal, who
backs all of President Obama’s nasty little wars in Afghanistan,
Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen..  Since he always
“supports the troops,” Sanders never opposes any defense spending
bill.  He stands behind all military contractors who bring
much-needed jobs to Vermont.

Senator Sanders rarely misses a photo opportunity with Vermont
National Guard troops when they are being deployed to Afghanistan
or Iraq.  He’s always at the Burlington International Airport when
they return.  If Sanders truly supported the Vermont troops, he
would vote to end all of the wars posthaste.”


A unanimous Senate vote is rare, so what explains being more loyal to
Israel than quite a few critical Jewish Israelis in that country
itself? An important factor is undoubtedly money. In 2006 when the London Review of Books published an article (commissioned and rejected by the Atlantic Monthly)
by Professors Walt and Mearsheimer on the Israel Lobby, there was the
usual brouhaha from the usual suspects. Not the late Tony Judt, who
publicly defended publication of the text and was himself subjected to
violent threats and hate mail by we know who.


….
The New York Review of Books, perhaps shamed by its own
gutlessness on this issue among others, commissioned a text by Michael
Massing which pointed out some mistakes in the  Mearsheimer/Walt
essay but went on to provide some interesting figures himself. His article deserves to be read on its own but the following extract helps to explain the unanimous votes for Israeli actions:



“AIPAC’s defenders like to argue that its success is explained by its
ability to exploit the organizing opportunities available in
democratic America. To some extent, this is true. AIPAC has a
formidable network of supporters throughout the US. Its 100,000
members—up 60 percent from five years ago—are guided by AIPAC’s nine
regional offices, its ten satellite offices, and its
one-hundred-person-plus Washington staff, a highly professional
group that includes lobbyists, researchers, analysts, organizers,
and publicists, backed by an enormous $47 million annual budget….


Such an account, however, overlooks a key element in AIPAC’s
success: money. AIPAC itself is not a political action committee.
Rather, by assessing voting records and public statements, it
provides information to such committees, which donate money to
candidates; AIPAC helps them to decide who Israel’s friends are
according to AIPAC’s criteria. The Center for Responsive Politics, a
nonpartisan group that analyzes political contributions, lists a
total of thirty-six pro-Israel PACs, which together contributed
$3.14 million to candidates in the 2004 election cycle. Pro-Israel
donors give many millions more. Over the last five years, for
instance, Robert Asher, together with his various relatives (a common
device used to maximize contributions), has donated $148,000, mostly
in sums of $1,000 or $2,000 to individual candidates.

A former AIPAC staff member described for me how the system works. A
candidate will contact AIPAC and express strong sympathies with
Israel. AIPAC will point out that it doesn’t endorse candidates but
will offer to introduce him to people who do. Someone affiliated
with AIPAC will be assigned to the candidate to act as a contact
person. Checks for $500 or $1,000 from pro-Israel donors will be
bundled together and provided to the candidate with a clear
indication of the donors’ political views. (All of this is perfectly
legal.) In addition, meetings to raise funds will be organized in
various cities.

Often, the candidates are from states with
negligible Jewish populations.

One congressional staff member told me of the case of a Democratic
candidate from a mountain state who, eager to tap into pro-Israel
money, got in touch with AIPAC, which assigned him to a Manhattan
software executive eager to move up in AIPAC’s organization. The
executive held a fund-raising reception in his apartment on the
Upper West Side, and the candidate left with $15,000. In his state’s
small market for press and televised ads, that sum proved an
important factor in a race he narrowly won. The congressman thus
became one of hundreds of members who could be relied upon to vote
AIPAC’s way. (The staffer told me the name of the congressman but
asked that I withhold it in order to spare him embarrassment.)”


All this is made possible by official US policies since 1967. Were
the US ever to shift on this issue unanimous votes would become
impossible. But not even the United States has so far banned public
demonstrations opposing Israeli brutality and its consistent
deployment of state terror.



On a weekend (18-19 July 2014) where demonstrations took place in
many different parts of the world, the French government banned a
march in Paris organised by many groups including France’s
non-Zionist Jewish organisations and individuals. The ban was defied.
Several thousand people were drenched in tear gas by the hated CRS.
The French Prime Minister Manual Valls, a desperate opportunist and
neo-con, the scourge of the Roma in France, competing with Le Pen for
the right wing vote and unsurprisingly an adornment of the French
Socialist Party who models himself on a shameless war-criminal and
shyster (Tony Blair) explained the ban in terms of  ‘not encouraging
anti-semitism’, etc. 

……
The grip of the Israel Lobby in France is
complete. It dominates French culture and the media and critical
voices on Israel (Jewish and non-Jewish) are effectively banned.



The Israeli poet and critic, Yitzhak Laor (whose work depicting the
colonial brutality of Israeli soldiers has sometimes been banned in
his own country) describes the new rise of Euro-Zionism in sharp
terms. The  ‘philosemitic offensive’ is ahistorical:



It would be facile to see this memorializing culture as a belated
crisis of international conscience, or a sense of historical justice
that took time to materialize . . . The majority of United Nations
General Assembly members have emerged from a colonial past: they are
the descendants of those who suffered genocides in Africa, Asia or
Latin America. There should be no reason for the commemoration of
the genocide of the Jews to block out the memory of these millions
of Africans or Native Americans killed by the civilized Western
invaders of their continents.


Laor’s explanation is that with the old Cold War friend-enemy
dichotomy swept aside a new global enemy had to be cultivated in
Europe:



In the new moral universe of the ‘end of history’, there was one
abomination—the Jewish genocide—that all could unite to condemn;
equally important, it was now firmly in the past. Its commemoration
would serve both to sacralise the new Europe’s liberal-humanist
tolerance of ‘the other (who is like us)’ and to redefine ‘the
other (who is different from us)’ in terms of Muslim
fundamentalism. 


Laor skilfully deconstructs the Glucksmanns, Henri-Levys and
Finkelkrauts  who dominate the print media and the videosphere in
France today. Having abandoned their youthful Marxist beliefs in the
late Seventies, they made their peace with the system. The emergence
of an ultra-Zionist current in France, however, predates the ‘New
(sic) Philosophers’.  As Professor Gaby Piterburg, reviewing Laor’s
essays in the New Left Review, explained:



As in the US, the 1967 war was a turning point in French Jewish
consciousness. A young Communist, Pierre Goldman, described the ‘joyous
fury’ of a pro-Israel demonstration on the boulevard Saint-Michel,
where he encountered other comrades, ‘Marxist-Leninists and
supposed anti-Zionists, rejoicing in the warrior skills of Dayan’s
troops’. But the political reaction of the Elysée to the 1967 war
was the opposite to that of the White House.

Alarmed that Israel
was upsetting the balance of power in the Middle East, de Gaulle
condemned the aggression, describing the Jews as ‘an elite people,
sure of itself and domineering’. French Jewish organizations that
had taken a pro-Israel foreign policy for granted began to organize
on a political basis for the first time, as Pompidou and Giscard
continued de Gaulle’s arms embargo into the 70s.

In 1976 the Jewish
Action Committee (CJA) organized a ‘day for Israel’ which mobilized
100,000 people. In 1977 the formerly quietist CRIF, representative
council of some sixty Jewish bodies, produced a new charter
denouncing France’s ‘abandonment of Israel’, published by Le Monde as
a document of record.

In the 1981 presidential election the CJA
founder, Henri Hajdenberg, led a high-profile campaign for a Jewish
vote against Giscard; Mitterrand won by a margin of 3 per cent.
The boycott was lifted, and Mitterrand became the first French
president to visit Israel. Warm relations were sealed between
the CRIF and the Socialist Party elite, and a tactful veil of
silence drawn over Mitterrand’s war-time role as a Vichy official.


[A small footnote: Whenever Professor Piterburg (a former officer in
the IDF) is attacked by Zionists at public lectures for being a
‘self-hating Jew’, he responds thus: “I don’t hate myself, but I hate
you.” ]



So much for official France. The country itself is different. Opinion
polls reveal that at least 60 percent of French people are opposed to
what Israel is doing to Gaza. Are they all anti-semites?
They
couldn’t be influenced by the media, could they? Because it’s totally
pro-Israel. Could it be the case that the French population is
ignoring Hollande, Valls and the mercenary ideologues who support
them?



What about Britain? Here the  Extreme Centre that rules the country
as well as the  official ‘Opposition’ dutifully supported their
masters in Washington. The coverage of the recent events in Gaza on
state television (BBC) was so appallingly one-sided
that there were
demonstrations outside the BBC’s offices in London and Salford. My
own tiny experience with the BBC reveals the fear and timidity at
work inside. As I blogged on the London Review of Books, this is what happened:



On Wednesday 16 July I received four calls from the BBC’s Good Morning Wales.
First morning call: was I available to be interviewed about Gaza tomorrow morning? I said yes.
First afternoon call: could I tell them what I would say? I said (a)
Israel was a rogue state, pampered and cosseted by the US and its
vassals. (b) Targeting and killing Palestinian children (especially
boys) and blaming the victims was an old Israeli custom. (c) The BBC
coverage of Palestine was appalling and if they didn’t cut me off I
would explain how and why.

Second afternoon call: was I prepared to debate a pro-Israeli? I said yes.
Afternoon message left on my phone: terribly sorry. There’s been a
motorway crash in Wales, so we’ve decided to drop your item.


Few British citizens are aware of the role their own country played
in creating this mess. It was a long time ago when Britain was an
Empire and not a vassal, but the echoes of history never fade away.
It was not by accident, but by design that the British decided to
create a new state and it wasn’t Balfour alone. 

The Alternate
Information Center in Beit Sahour, a joint Palestinian-Israeli
organization promoting justice, equality and peace  for Palestinians
and Israelis recently put up a post. It was a quote  from The Bannerman Report
written in 1907 by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Sir Henry
Campbell-Bannerman, and, as it was strategically important it was
suppressed and was never released to the public until many years
later:




“There are people (the Arabs, Editor’s Note) who control spacious
territories  teeming with manifest and hidden resources. They dominate
the intersections of  world routes. Their lands were the cradles of
human civilizations and religions.  These people have one faith, one
language, one history and the same aspirations.  No natural
barriers can isolate these people from one another …

…..if, per chance,
 this nation were to be unified into one state, it would then take
the fate of  the world into its hands and would separate Europe from
the rest of the world.  Taking these considerations seriously, a
foreign body should be planted in the heart of this nation to
prevent the convergence of its wings in such a way that  it could
exhaust its powers in never-ending wars. It could also serve as a
springboard for the West to gain its coveted objects.”


[Dan Bar-On & Sami Adwan, THE  PRIME SHARED HISTORY PROJECT, in
Educating Toward a Culture of Peace, pages  309–323, Information Age
Publishing, 2006]

…..

Link: http://www.outlookindia.com/printarticle.aspx?291478

…..

regards

0

“Discount Maids” on display

…”maid agencies”, display women at work….domestic workers
push each other around in wheelchairs, as though they’re taking care of the
elderly…..In another gallery, a woman cradles a baby doll and pretends to change
its diapers..
…Istiana,
an Indonesian domestic worker in
Singapore…..”Those signs that say ‘cheap price’ and ‘discount maid’. But
these are people”…. 

………………… 
It is quite a common practice in barbarian lands however you have to appreciate the grace and elan with which such activities are packaged in the free world. Complete with banners and posters..it is a worship of freedom, really. You are eligible to get a discount on human beings…because their humanity is not fully assured.

….
Also for those who would blame it on market forces gone wild, remember this. In Singapore you are not even allowed to spit on your own hands without prior govt permission (application in triplicate to the Ministry of Good Behavior). 

……………

Go to the Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, a
1970s mall in central Singapore, and you will find five levels of brightly lit
rooms and galleries called “Homekeeper” and “Budget Maid”.
Inside these rooms, dozens of women sit in a listless, artificial silence. They
nod respectfully as you enter, and some watch closely as you speak to staff.
You might take one home with you – for two years, or longer.


The women, domestic workers, come from
Indonesia, the Philippines, and Myanmar. They sit beneath garish signs and
posters, testifying to their friendliness and industriousness, or advertising
“super promo” rates and “special discounts”.


Some “maid agencies”, as they’re
known locally, display women at work. Along one aisle, domestic workers
push each other around in wheelchairs, as though they’re taking care of the
elderly. In another gallery, a woman cradles a baby doll and pretends to change
its diapers. Others stand in mock living rooms ironing the same shirt, or
making the same bed – scenes enacted elsewhere in Singapore at malls like
Katong Shopping Centre on Mountbatten Road.


Jolovan Wham, executive director of the
Humanitarian Organisation of Migration Economics (HOME), a migrant workers
advocacy group based in Singapore, said that some agencies market their
domestic workers like “commodities”. He adds that racial stereotypes
are sometimes used in transactions with patrons. “Some of the stereotypes
include Filipinos as ‘smarter’, Indonesians as ‘less bright’ and Burmese as
‘sweet-natured and compliant’.”


There have also been complaints of women
being underfed at certain employment agencies, according to
Ummai Ummairoh, president of the Indonesian Family Network
(IFN). “We always receive calls about agencies not giving enough food. In
one case, an agency was spending $20 to feed 40 people.”

Ummairoh, who also worked as a maid, added
that the shopping centres made women look like “dolls at a
supermarket”.


For Anandha Nurul, a domestic worker who
spent seven years in Singapore, her time at the shopping malls was marked by
boredom and long hours. “They did not treat me very nicely,” she
said, recalling that she was fed instant noodles for the three days she was at
her agency. “We didn’t even boil the noodles properly. We just used warm
water.”


But standards vary considerably within the
industry, and other agencies claim to afford female domestic workers more
dignified conditions. “We should be fair and treat these workers as human
beings,” said Dawn Sng of PrimeChoice Maid Agency, who claims that her agency
provides domestic workers with in-house training, free meals, and counselling.
“We should not put them into a lower category of people.”


Bukit Timah and other shopping centres like
it are the culmination of networks and organisations extending from Singapore
to various parts of Southeast Asia: from brokers who recruit women from poor
countries, to training centres that prepare women for life abroad, to
“runners” who ferry domestic workers from airports to shopping
centres, and finally to the employment agencies themselves, of which there are
hundreds in Singapore, competing in what is effectively a multimillion dollar
industry. Wham says that there are currently 215,000 domestic workers in
Singapore.

For most women, according to Wham, the
shopping centres are fleeting experiences that last no longer than a
week. Before coming to Singapore, most domestic workers have already found
their employers after a phone or webcam interview from their home countries. The
malls are essentially transition points, and the women are soon sent to their
employers after completing a “settling-in programme” and a mandatory
heath check.

..
But some maids return to the malls and can
end up staying there for as long as a month. In the language of employment
agencies, these women are “transfer maids”, and have either been
released by their original employers, or have requested to leave after
experiencing problems at work.


Shelley Thio, executive member of Transient
Workers Count Too (TWC2), attributes most problems to “working
conditions”, and cites verbal abuse, non-payment of wages, and excessive
work hours as among the most common reasons domestic workers request formal
transfers.


Thio also raised concerns over Singapore’s
“live-in” requirement, by which a full-time domestic worker is
legally obliged to live in the home of her employer.


“We
have continually advocated that the live-in requirement is unsatisfactory
because it easily leads to abuse,” Thio said, adding that some women
become vulnerable because of the removal of mobile phones, which isolates them
from friends and organisations such as HOME and TWC2.


The live-in requirement can leave women
vulnerable to sexual abuse. Earlier this year, a Cambodian domestic worker was
sexually harassed by her employer’s father, with whom she was made to share a
room. Although the woman had complained about this arrangement, both to her
employers and employment agency, nothing was done to change her situation prior
to the abuse.

….
Problems in Singapore are sometimes
compounded by unscrupulous practises and weak oversight in the female workers’
underdeveloped home countries. In Indonesian training centres, for instance,
women commonly complain that dormitories are overcrowded and that they are not
given enough food, according to Wahyu Susilo of the advocacy group Migrant
Care.


“We are always finding migrant workers
in cramped rooms and living with poor sanitary conditions. In one case we found
200 migrant workers sharing two or three toilets.”


He adds that monitoring by the Indonesian
government is generally weak, which has led to exploitative conditions at a
number of centres, including unreasonable fees and deceptive recruitment
practises.


In some cases, monitoring of training centres
in originating countries is limited due to corruption. According to the
managing director of one centre in Indonesia, who spoke to Al Jazeera on the
condition of anonymity, local police accept bribes from the training centres
they are tasked with inspecting. 


Most domestic workers who come to Singapore
have large debts in the form of placement fees paid to agencies as monthly
salary deductions.

..
Thio at TWC2 said that she has come
across instances where domestic workers end up owing $4,500 to their agencies,
adding that the average debts women accumulate are between $2,500 and $3,000.

“High placement fees are charged to the
worker because the agencies can get away with it,” according to Wham, who
said that some agencies disguise these fees as “loans”.


“The worker pays these fees because she
feels that she doesn’t have a choice. And our laws do not make it mandatory for
employers to bear the bulk of the fees.”


Some domestic maids also work in Singapore
illegally. A number of women are employed even though they are underage,
according to Thio, and some will be brought into the country under conditions
indicative of trafficking.


But at shopping centres, where clients stroll
past “Homekeeper” and “Budget Maid”, and where domestic
workers continue their unending simulation of household work, little of this is
expressed or known.

“I
watched all those things”, recounts Istiana, an Indonesian domestic worker
who has recently come to work in Singapore. “Those signs that say ‘cheap
price’ and ‘discount maid’. But these are people,” she added. 

…..

Link: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/06/buy-discount-maid-at-singapore-malls-201462495012940207.html

…..

regards

0

Thyaga-Raja is our Raja

“Under present laws, copyright protection lasts
for a period of 60 years after the death of the artiste….there are no descendants of Thyagaraja who can
claim copyright” ….“what is happening is that music companies claiming
copyright over the compositions are foo­ling the public”….”What
they are doing is known as ‘copyfraud’”…..

………………
Most of the North-South barriers have diluted over the past six decades. Food is the first thing to have been universalized, driven by truck drivers who primarily hail from the North (dhaba culture). Side by side, here in Mumbai you have the Udupi (idli-vada breakfast) culture and the Gujarati-Rajasthani thali culture. There are now many N-S marriages in our circle and we have even Bollywood spoofs about marriages (mostly super-caste though).


The most durable division seems to us is in classical music- Carnatic vs. North Indian. There are too many super-stars and their followers who believe in rigidity and purity (nothing wrong with passion though).

It is past time to create a Classical Music Hall of Fame and for the fans on both sides of the Vindhyas to acknowledge the masters (we use Vindhya figuratively, however as Prashanth Kamath reminds us, Northern Karnataka is a hub for Hindustani music and the home of another super-man Bhimsen Joshi, thanks Prashanth). And when they do that we expect Thyaga-Raja to be the first among equals (our opinion).

….
As far as the  music companies are concerned they cant be faulted for engaging in standard corporate thuggery, after all everybody else does it. Youtube merely wants to steer clear of any legal battles. It is the society of fans (and  there are millions of them) who need to engage and tell the corporates to back-off. It will be also a good idea to petition to our pitiful politicians to stop the squabbling and start something meaningful to emphasize public ownership of works of (classical) art.
….
Early mornings in Chennai or Hyderabad, along with the azaan call and
ringing of temple bells, amidst the aroma of steaming idlis and filter
coffee, the strains of a Thyagaraja kirtanai too will waft in the air.
But who owns Thyagaraja’s music? Big music labels claim it’s theirs and
music channels on YouTube that upload videos of Carnatic music concerts
face their wrath and an unequal battle.


 ….
Parivadini, a music channel that uplo­ads performances of Carnatic
classical music, including renditions of compositions of the legendary
Thyagaraja (1767-1847)—composer of over 24,000 songs of which about 700
are extant—is the most recent victim. It had, after taking permission of
the organisers and per­f­ormers, uploaded live webcasts of concerts of
Carnatic music where Thya­garaja’s com­positions were being sung. 

Last
month, Parivadini got a notice of copyright infr­ingement from YouTube
for a recording it uploaded, as a music label claimed the Thyagaraja
composition (and not that particular recording—they claim, ludicrously,
ownership to the original composition itself) as their property. When
contacted, YouTube responded that when Parivadini submitted a counter
not­ification, the matter was probed and the video reinstated. 

“But it
is not just a one-off incident,” says Lalitharam Ram­achandran,
co-founder, Parivadini. “It’s a constant fight between YouTube music
channels like ours and music com­panies. And this case-to-case-based
sol­u­tion by YouTube is not a permanent one. For the channels it
becomes a nuisance.” ….

….
Adds Carnatic vocalist Sangeetha Siva­k­umar, “It
is sad that music labels make such claims. It shows their insensitivity
and lack of understanding of our art form.”



….
Musicians say the algorithm which YouTube uses to identify potential
infri­ngements needs to modified to make it sensitive to the demands and
intricacies of classical music. There should not be blanket application
of technology to all forms of music without understanding the nuances.
The continuing potency of ‘copyright claims’ vis-a-vis YouTube poses
problems, threatening the very survival of music channels. 

If they
rec­eive three copyright (CR) strikes, or three legal notices claiming
copyright vio­lations, the channel itself gets terminated. Even a single
CR strike leads to loss of access to several YouTube features. Of
course, when a channel faces a partial crackdown or a total blackout, it
is denied a fair opportunity to make money too. If copyright violation
claims go undisputed, the money goes to the labels. S.A. Karthik, a
Bangalore-based lawyer and a musician, finds it hard to believe that
anybody can claim copyright over the compositions of Thyagaraja, because
they are clearly in public domain.



Clearly, there is a need to distinguish between ground-level
copyright over com­positions and copyright over sound recordings
performed by artistes. Anybody who deals in a sound recording, the
rights to which have been acquired by a recording label, without the
latter’s permission, infringes the label’s copyright. 

But anybody who
wishes to perform the same composition as that of the recording can do
so without permission from the music label, as long as it is in public
domain. This is because there can be no copyright over such songs.
“Under present laws, copyright protection on a particular artwork lasts
for a period of 60 years after the death of the artiste. But in this
particular case, since there are no descendants of Thyagaraja who can
claim copyright, and he has been long dead, there can be absolutely no
claim of copyright on his songs,” says Shamnad Basheer, formerly with
Intellectual Pro­perty Law at the National University of Juridical
Sciences. 

“But what is happening is that music companies claiming
copyright over the compositions are foo­ling the public,” he says. What
they are doing is known as ‘copyfraud’, where they lead the public into
believing that they are the true copyright holders of var­ious artworks,
and thus extract royalty from unsuspecting small channels.



….
This is not unique to classical music. A lot of collecting societies
(those who man­age the rights to music on behalf of labels) have been
doing this—they extract money from restaurants, clubs and so on,
claiming copyright over the music being played. 

…..
Copyright lawyers say
the reason why it still continues is because big labels still haven’t
been confronted by an opponent strong enough for a bare-knuckle showdown
in court. “These are big com­panies with resources, unlike small music
channels like us, who often do not engage in fightback,” says
Lalitharam.



….
The need perhaps is for small cha­nnels to come together and fight as
a group. At stake is the survival of a relatively niche space like
Carnatic music on YouTube.

…..
[ref. Wiki] Kakarla Tyagabrahmam (May 4, 1767 – January 6, 1847), colloquially known as Tyāgarāju or Tyāgayya in Telugu, Tyāgarājar in Tamil, was one of the greatest composers of Carnatic music or Indian classical music. 

He was a prolific composer and highly influential in the development of the classical music tradition. Tyagaraja composed thousands of devotional compositions, most in praise of Lord Rama, many of which remain popular today. Of special mention are five of his compositions called the Pancharatna Kirtis (English: “five gems”), which are often sung in programs in his honor.

Tyāgarāja began his musical training under Sonti Venkata Ramanayya,
a music scholar, at an early age. He regarded music as a way to
experience God’s love. His objective while practicing music was purely
devotional, as opposed to focusing on the technicalities of classical
music.  

….
He also showed a flair for composing music and, in his teens,
composed his first song, “Namo Namo Raghavayya”, in the Desika Todi ragam and inscribed it on the walls of the house.



After some years, Ramanayya invited Tyagaraja to perform at his house in Thanjavur. On that occasion, Tyagaraja sang Endaro Mahaanubhavulu, the fifth of the Pancharatna Kritis.
Pleased with Tyagaraja’s composition, Ramanayya informed the king of
Thanjavur of Tyagaraja’s genius. 

….
The king sent an invitation, along with
many rich gifts, inviting Tyagaraja to attend the royal court.
Tyagaraja, however, was not inclined towards a career at the court, and
rejected the invitation outright, composing another kriti, Nidhi Chala Sukhama (English: “Does wealth bring happiness?”) on this occasion.


….

Angered at Tyagaraja’s rejection of the royal offer, his brother threw the statues of Rama Tyagaraja used in his prayers into the nearby Kaveri river. Tyagaraja, unable to bear the separation with his Lord, went on pilgrimages to all the major temples in South India and composed many songs in praise of the deities of those temples.
….
It is said that a
major portion of his incomparable musical work was lost to the world
due to natural and man-made calamities. Usually Tyagaraja used to sing
his compositions sitting before deity manifestations of Lord Rama, and
his disciples noted down the details of his compositions on palm leaves.
After his death, these were in the hands of his disciples, then
families descending from the disciples. There was not a definitive
edition of Tyagaraja’s songs.



The songs he composed were widespread in their popularity. Musical experts such as Kancheepuram Nayana Pillai, Simizhi Sundaram Iyer
and Veenai Dhanammal saw the infinite possibilities for imaginative
music inherent in his compositions and they systematically notated the
songs available to them. Subsequently, indefatigable researchers like K.
V. Srinivasa Iyengar and Rangaramanuja Iyengar made an enormous effort
to contact various teachers and families who possessed the palm leaves.
K. V. Srinivasa Iyengar brought out Adi Sangita Ratnavali and Adi Tyagaraja Hridhayam (in three volumes). Rangaramanuja Iyengar published Kriti Mani Malai in two volumes.





Out of 24,000 songs said to have been composed by him, about 700 songs remain now. In addition to nearly 700 compositions (kritis), Tyagaraja composed two musical plays in Telugu, the Prahalada Bhakti Vijayam and the Nauka Charitam. Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam is in five acts with 45 kritis set in 28 ragas and 138 verses, in different metres in Telugu. Nauka Charitam is a shorter play in one act with 21 kritis set in 13 ragas
and 43 verses. The latter is the most popular of Tyagaraja’s operas,
and is a creation of the composer’s own imagination and has no basis in
the Bhagavata Purana.

Tyagaraja Aradhana, the commemorative music festival is held every year at Thiruvaiyaru
in the months of January to February in Tyagaraja’s honour. This is a
week-long festival of music where various Carnatic musicians from all
over the world converge at his resting place.
On the Pushya Bahula
Panchami
thousands of people and hundreds of Carnatic musicians sing the five
Pancharatna Kritis in unison, with the accompaniment of a large bank of
accompanists on veenas, violins, flutes, nadasvarams, mridangams and ghatams.

A crater on the planet Mercury is named Tyagaraja.

…..


Link: http://www.outlookindia.com/printarticle.aspx?291416

…..

regards

0

Their Bahu our Beti (we all love her)

…..Sania blamed patriarchy for BJP leader’s sexist remark, saying “we live
in an extremely male chauvinist society (and) unfortunately have to deal
with this as women”…..I have an Indian
passport and am (still) playing for India”…..”I do not know
whether it happens in any other country where you have to keep proving
that you are from that country. Is it because I am married to someone
from another country? Is it because I am a woman?”….

….
There are many different layers of stupidity. You question some-one’s nationality and patriotism, a person who has made India proud on the global stage. You harm relations between neighbors, working against the goals supposedly set by your own Leader. You insult women in general by implying that a bahu (daughter-in-law) will have to change her identity upon marriage.

…….
But let us say all is fair in war (politics). You are advertising the fact that Telengana is a muslim-heavy state (historically the kingdom of Nizam) where you plan to capture votes by pitting the sons-of-soil (that magical word) against the invaders. The reason why Sania Mirza is an outsider is not because she was born in Bombay, but because her ancestors (men) came from Middle-East and Central Asia.


The effect of this (and the forcing chapati down the throat business) is that muslims will never consider voting for the BJP (reason #101). There will be no reconciliation between a party/organization that dreams of being the natural ruling party of India and the largest minority. That makes (politically) very little sense to us.

……
Now consider the fact that Sania Mirza has faced adversity off the court before as well…from muslims!!! Conservatives complained that she wears shorts (which infringes on modesty) and issued fatwas against women playing tennis (or presumably any sport). Sania of course faced down her opponents with grace and determination (just as she is doing now). BJP should be supporting Sania and (Muslim women in general) who would like to throw away the chains. These women can help provide backing for an Uniform Civil Code which is an important political plank for the BJP.

BJP rose to power on the back of Mandir politics. The slogan was “Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain” (say proudly that you are a Hindu). It is time to update the slogan as “Garv se kaho hum Bharat-vasi hain” (say with pride that we are Indians). It is the wise thing to do, it is also the right thing to do.
……………….
Indian tennis star Sania Mirza, a Muslim wed to a Pakistani
cricketer, broke down in tears Friday after being described by a Hindu
nationalist politician as “Pakistan’s daughter-in-law” and unfit to be
an Indian representative.

………..
Mirza, 27, who is married to Pakistani
cricketer Shoaib Malik, wiped away tears as she told India’s NDTV
network she was tired of continually being forced to defend her
“Indianness”.

“I am a very patriotic person that is why I am so
emotional right now,” Mirza, who wed Malik in 2010, said in the
interview aired on television.

In comments reported earlier this
week by local media, K. Laxman, a regional legislator belonging to the
national ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), questioned the credentials
of Mirza to be “brand ambassador” for the country’s newest state
Telengana in southern India.

Laxman was quoted as saying Mirza’s marriage to Malik made her a
“daughter-in-law” of Pakistan, India’s Muslim neighbor and
nuclear-armed rival with which the mainly Hindu but officially secular
country has fought three wars.

Telangana, carved this year out of
the state of Andhra Pradesh “is proud of Sania,” said in appointing her
brand ambassador for the region.

Mirza grew up in the city of Hyderabad in what is now Telangana.

“Fans
across the country don’t think her Indianness has gotten mysteriously
diluted,” because of her wedding to Malik, the Times of India said in an
opinion-page piece.

Mirza, who has played for India at all
major-level sporting events, has been defended by leaders across the
political spectrum, including BJP members who said its party member’s
comment did not reflect its official stance.

Mirza earlier this
month achieved a career-best rank of number five in the world when the
new World Tennis Association doubles chart was released.

“After
winning medals for India after I got married, (I) don’t know why I have
to keep justifying that I am Indian,” Mirza told NDTV.

The latest
incident is seen as potentially further fanning concern among Muslims
and other religious minorities over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu
nationalist BJP government.

The controversy has erupted just days
after some MPs from the Hindu right-wing Shiv Sena tried to forcibly
feed a chapati – an Indian flatbread – to a Muslim restaurant manager
fasting for Ramadan because they were unhappy about food at a government
canteen.

The lawmakers belonging to Shiv Sena, a BJP ally, said
they had not known the canteen supervisor was Muslim and they were
complaining because the bread was so hard it “didn’t even break”.

……

Link: http://www.dawn.com/news/1121562/sania-cries-over-pakistans-daughter-in-law-taunt/

…..

regards

0

Irony of ironies

So it seems that Indians (or Pakistanis or Dravidians of the Indus) got to Australia before the current crop of Brit-Australians (whose descendant now go and attack Indian students for being “foreign”). Reality is so much stranger than fiction.

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/news/2013/01/aboriginal-genes-suggest-indian-migration/
0