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250 Parliamentarians and Eminent Citizens write to Prime Minister to release funds for MGNREGA and to respond effectively to rural distress


Nearly 90 Members of Parliament and 160 eminent citizens including former bureaucrats, leading development economists, prominent activists and leaders of farmers’ movements have written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling for an urgent response to the crisis that the
Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee is facing. On January 1 st 2019, over 99% of MGNREGA funds had been exhausted and the acute funds crunch had brought the program close to a halt.

This is when a situation of distress prevails across rural India with massive unemployment, declining farm incomes and rising inequality. A functional right to an employment guarantee at such a time would be a critical means of support for protecting lives and livelihoods of the rural population. Instead, the implementation of MGNREGA has been subject to
persistent attacks by vested interests and power elites at all levels.


On 3 rd January 2019 a meeting between a Members of Parliament and civil society was held in Delhi to discuss the potential and challenges of MGNREGA in responding to rural distress. One of the outcomes of this meeting was a unanimous endorsement of a letter to the Prime Minister highlighting the ways in which MGNREGA is being undermined through the squeezing of funds and unaddressed payment delays that have lefts lakhs of workers unpaid for months. The meeting and excerpts from
the letter were widely covered by the media..


After the meeting the letter was circulated more widely and has now garnered the support of a total of 250 parliamentarians and eminent citizens.

The letter states- “we are alarmed to note that the country’s only employment guarantee is being systematically undermined. Illegal restrictions on its budget allocation, severe payment delays and low wages are crippling the program and depriving people in distress of one of their most important legally supported structures”.

The 250 signatories urge the PM to “make the strengthening of MGNREGA an urgent priority” and “formally include it as part of the set of measures being considered to deal with the current rural and agrarian crisis”. It
offers a set of concrete recommendations such as making adequate funds available to meet actual demand for employment and opening at least one labor intensive work in every gram panchayat


While the letter was being circulated for endorsement, we learnt that Rs 7000 crores have been released to the Ministry of Rural Development. This is a welcome move however the amount is still grossly inadequate and does not even cover pending liabilities totals Rs 9000 crores according to
MoRD’s website. Even with these additional funds, 91% of the money has already been utilized and after the payment of liabilities, state governments will not be able to provide any new employment reinstating status quo. Given that the lean agricultural season has begun, demand for work will be at its peak but the government will once again fail the rural poor by denying employment to those who need it the most, when they need it most.

This letter to the PM reflects a strong consensus across party lines to ensure MGNREGA is protected and strengthened as a political commitment to improving the lives of millions of rural workers across
the country.

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Red Rosa’ Luxemburg and the making of a revolutionary icon

Revolutionary socialists Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht were executed 100 years ago in Berlin. In the ensuing century, Luxemburg has become a cult figure for the left — and for feminists, artists and pacifists.

Buchcover Red Rosa von Kate Evans (Verso Books)

On Sunday morning, some 10,000 people braved the rain and cold to march through eastern Berlin and place red carnations at the graves of Rosa Luxemburg and her comrade, Karl Liebknecht.

The march was commemorating 100 years since the brutal execution of the two revolutionary socialists on January 15, 1919.

In the ensuing century, this diminutive Polish-born Jewish intellectual with a limp has become a cult icon for the revolutionary left. Yet she has also had a broader appeal, admired by feminists, socialists and pacifists.

She has become part of Germany’s cultural memory, immortalized in art, poetry, an award-winning biopic, a musical and a graphic novel. And in her own words too: as well as being a brilliant Marxist theorist, Luxemburg was a prolific writer of letters, and her emotive, lyrical writing has seen her emerge as a literary figure in her own right.

Read more: Rosa Luxemburg: A voice from behind bars

Rosa Luxemburg Film mit Margarethe von Trotta (picture-alliance/United Archives/Impress)

Film drama Rosa Luxemburg, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, won several awards in 1986

‘Those who do not move, do not notice their chains’

Luxemburg, who as a teenager fled Russian-occupied Poland due to her socialist activities, first attained her doctorate in Zurich before arriving in Berlin in 1898. She quickly rose through the ranks of the Social Democratic Party, the biggest labor movement in Europe at the time. Yet she broke with the SPD due to its support for World War I in 1914, helped form the breakaway Spartacist League in 1916 and spent most of the war in prison.

In November 1918, a revolt by sailors and soldiers led to the overthrow of the Hohenzollern monarchy and the end of the war. In December, the Spartacist League renamed itself the German Communist Party (KPD) and Luxemburg asserted that they would not try to seize power without the support of the majority of Germans. Yet when a second revolt broke out on January 5, 1919, she and Liebknecht gave the movement their full support. The uprising quickly faltered and the SPD leadership ordered the army and right-wing paramilitaries, the Freikorps, to crush it.

On the night of January 15, Luxemburg and Liebknecht were abducted, tortured in the luxury Hotel Eden, and then driven separately to the nearby Tiergarten Park and murdered. Liebknecht was delivered to the city morgue while Luxemburg was dumped into a canal.

Her body was only recovered five months later after the winter ice had thawed. She was buried next to Liebknecht in the Friedrichsfelde Cemetery.

Linke mit Stillem Gedenken an Rosa Luxemburg und Karl Liebknecht 12.1.2014 (picture-alliance/dpa)

Luxemburg and Liebknecht are commemorated every year on the second Sunday of January

Creation of a myth

Much of Luxemburg’s subsequent fame derives from this brutal murder, argues Mark Jones, a historian and writer of Founding Weimar. Violence and the German Revolution of 1918-1919.

“The destruction of the female body, the intense violence against it and the absence of any traditional kind of mourning leaves this trauma which impregnates German cultural thought about Rosa Luxemburg for the next 100 years,” he said.

The murder deeply divided the political left, something that undoubtedly contributed to the end of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis. As a result, after World War II, there was speculation about whether the Third Reich and the Holocaust could have been avoided had Luxemburg survived. She became a hugely popular figure for the radical student movement of 1968 and her opposition to World War I also resonated with the peace movement of the 1980s.

Read more: Why Germany’s 1968 movement has not failedWatch video03:13

Thousands honor Luxemburg, Liebknecht in Berlin

Meanwhile, the murder of “Rosa and Karl” was one of the key foundation myths of the East German state, said Jones.

However, though East Germany celebrated her as a martyr, it did not embrace Luxemburg’s political thought, particularly her criticism of Lenin and the Russian Bolsheviks’ putschist strategy and terror. 

And as dissent in the later years of the GDR grew, some marchers in January 1988 carried her words “Freedom is always the freedom of those who think differently” aloft, a deliberate rebuke of the totalitarian regime. 

Yet Jones argues that some of the hagiography surrounding Luxemburg often omits the fact that she did end up supporting political violence in January 1919. “People forget that before she was killed, when the violence of the second uprising was ongoing, she was publishing articles and a newspaper which called on workers to join in the armed struggle and to overthrow the state,” he said, adding that she rejected the option of a negotiated surrender even though the uprising was clearly failing and many civilians were being killed.

March commemorating Luxemburg and Liebknecht in East Berlin, 1988 (picture-alliance/dpa)

After the January 1988 march, several critics of the GDR regime were arrested for showing a banner with Luxemburg’s famous quote

Artistic representations of a ‘badass revolutionary’

Nonetheless, Luxemburg’s brutal killing ended up having a great cultural impact. Soon after her murder in 1919, artist Max Beckmann produced a series of lithographs, Die Hölle (Hell), which graphically depicted her murder, while a drawing by left-wing artist George Grosz showed justice as a ghost trailing a bloodstained robe across the open coffins of the two victims. In 1929, Bertolt Brecht wrote a commemorative poem, “Epitaph,” to mark the 10th anniversary of her death.

Read more: How artists captured the splendor and misery of the Weimar Republic

Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed a monument to Liebknecht and Luxemburg, which was built in the Friedrichsfelde Cemetery in 1926. But the Nazis reviled Luxemburg, and the monument was razed to the ground in 1935.

Mies van der Rohe's Memorial to Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht (1926) (picture-alliance/akg-images)

Mies van der Rohe’s memorial to Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht in Berlin was destroyed by the Nazis

Following World War II, Luxemburg’s death continued to resonate. A 1960 painting by American artist R.B. Kitaj, The Murder of Rosa Luxemburg, the 1978 play Germania: Tod in Berlin by Heiner Müller, and works by artists and writers connected with the women’s movement, such as Americans May Stevens, Jane Cooper and Donna Blue Lachman, all grappled with her life and murder.

Rainer Werner Fassbinder was planning a film about her when he died in 1982. A few years later, Rosa Luxemburg, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, won Barbara Sukowa the best actress prize at Cannes in 1986. The film was regarded as a feminist retelling of her story as a liberated woman, though Luxemburg herself had little interest in organized feminism.

Red Rosa: A Graphic Biography of Rosa Luxemburg von Kate Evans (Verso)

Kate Evans revisits Luxemburg’s life in her graphic novel

More recently, the musical Rosa premiered at Berlin’s Grips Theater in late 2008, and in 2015 the British graphic novelist and activist Kate Evans depicted her story and political thought in her biography Red Rosa.

For Evans, it was important to go back to the political writings to counteract the “sentimentalization” of Luxemburg as a “sensitive, poetic flower.” In fact, said Evans, “she is a badass revolutionary, who is quite bristly and extremely forthright and dedicated in her views, an incredibly towering intellect.”

“Concentrating on her poetry or concentrating on her death, you are not giving true credence to her life,” she said. For Evans, it’s natural that so many people read different things into Luxemburg. “It’s the mark of someone who has left an interesting and complete body of work.”

https://www.dw.com/en/red-rosa-luxemburg-and-the-making-of-a-revolutionary-icon/a-47006610

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Why No ‘Human Rights Court’ Yet? SC Pulls Up States


By: ashok kini
“Except in few States, there is no compliance of these orders and Session Judges have not been designated as Judges of Human Rights Courts created by the Act.” The Supreme Court has pulled up states for not setting up ‘Human Rights Courts’ yet.Section 30 of the Protection of Human rights Act, 1993 mandates the states for specifying for each district a Court of Session to be a Human Rights Court to try offences arising out of violation of human rights. Later, in D.K. Basu vs. State of West Bengal (2015), the Supreme Court had directed the State Governments to take appropriate action in terms of Section 30 of the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, in regard to setting up/specifying the Human Rights Courts.

In the said case, it was observed: “There is, in our opinion, no reason why the State Governments should not seriously consider the question of specifying Human Rights Court to try offences arising out of violation of human rights. There is nothing on record to suggest that the Governments have at all made any attempt in this direction or taken steps to consult the Chief Justices of the High Courts of their respective States and examine the feasibility of specifying Human Rights Court in each district within the contemplation of 4 Section 30 of the Act.”During hearing of a case (Punjab State Human Rights Commission vs. Jatt Ram) last week, the counsel for National Human Rights Commission pointed out these aspects before the bench comprising of Justice SA Bobde and Justice Deepak Gupta.

He also told the court that except in few States, there is no compliance of these orders and Session Judges have not been designated as Judges of Human Rights Courts created by the Act. “It is also clear that the setting up of these designated Courts, does not involve any additional infrastructure or additional recruitment of Judges or the staff. We see no reason why afore-mentioned judgment of this Court has not been complied with”, the bench said. The bench then proceeded to issue notice to the Chief Secretaries of all the States, and directed them to show cause why such courts have not been set up yet. The matter would now be taken up after eight weeks.

https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/why-no-human-rights-court-yet-sc-asks-states

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Stupid to underestimate the climate in which we live: Arundhati Roy at KLF

She was speaking at a session at the fourth edition of the Kerala Literature Festival that concluded here on Sunday.

By Express News Service

KOZHIKODE: The dangerous atmosphere prevailing in the country will not pass even if the current BJP-led regime is no longer in power after the upcoming elections, as all the institutions in the nation have been compromised, said eminent writer Arundhati Roy. She was speaking at a session at the fourth edition of the Kerala Literature Festival that concluded here on Sunday.

The author of The God of Small Things and Ministry of Utmost Happiness, spoke in length about the current political scenario in the country while in a conversation with journalist Anjana Sankar. “We live in times where any group of people who have a political clout, have the right to burn down halls, kill people and frighten them. We do not know what we are fighting or whom we are fighting against,” she said.

Talking about her second novel Ministry of Utmost Happiness that delves into the issues in Kashmir, Roy said she did not write any non-fiction on the subject as the only way she could really tell what she wanted was through fiction. Drawing a difference between how journalists and fiction writers covered issues in the Valley, the Man Booker Prize Winner said, “ I did not go to Kashmir as part of any assignment or work. I went there purely out of curiosity, knowing that I am a part of this world.” 

When asked about striking a balance between fiction and truth while writing, Roy replied that it was a mistake to consider the two as polar opposites as fiction was a writers’ deepening of their understanding. She added that she preferred not to be called ‘brave’ or a ‘voice to the voiceless’. 

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“There is no such thing as the voiceless, there is only the deliberately oppressed. Also, when people say I’m brave I tell them I’m not so. I think its very stupid to underestimate the climate in which we live,” said Roy. 

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Mumbai 1992-93 Riots- The Last Man Standing

1992-93 riots

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Farooq Mapkar is the only victim of Hari Masjid firing who is fighting to put a cop on trial for shooting namazis

Jyoti Punwani
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When Congress leader Sajjan Kumar was convicted last month for his role in the 1984 pogrom against Sikhs, a bank peon in Mumbai felt a sense of vindication. Farooq Mapkar’s struggle of 26 years to bring a Mumbai policeman to trial suddenly didn’t seem so long.

Mapkar, 53, has become the face of the victims of the 1992-93 Bombay riots — the only man still fighting to right the wrong done to him on January10,1993.

Riots were raging across the city that Sunday, but Mapkar, like his neighbours in the small self-contained settlement behind Wadala’s Hari Masjid, didn’t think twice before going to the masjid for the one o’clock namaz. Even before the namaz began, six people had been shot dead, four of them inside the masjid. Mapkar, who was 27 then, was shot in the shoulder as he bent down to pray.

The Srikrishna Commission, which inquired into the causes of the 1992-93 riots, heard that sub-inspector Nikhil Kapse opened fire to control a crowd of Muslims attacking Hindu properties outside Hari Masjid. But the police could not provide any evidence of such rioting to the commission or the court. All 54 Muslims arrested from the spot on the charge of rioting, including Mapkar, were acquitted.

The Hari Masjid firing was one of the only two riot incidents where an officer of another force, the SRP, chided the Mumbai police for their excessive acts against unarmed Muslims. It’s also the only case where a victim has not given up the fight for justice.

Nothing has deterred Mapkar — neither the assault on him by Shiv Sainiks at KEM Hospital, where he was treated a gunshot wound, nor the separation of his rioting case from the other accused because the magistrate didn’t like his lawyer’s line of questioning.

In 1998, shortly after the commission’s report indicted Kapse for “unjustified firing and brutal and inhuman conduct”, the sub-inspector’s victims told this reporter they would do whatever it took to get him to trial. Some had lost breadwinners in the firing, others had suffered injuries which rendered them invalid for years.

Today, they look at Mapkar with awe and gratitude as he fights alone. Mapkar doesn’t blame them. “Their first concern was to clear their names from that rioting case,” he said. “After the commission concluded that the case was false, the Congress government should have withdrawn it.” Instead, the acquittal took13 years. “People get tired. They have to earn a living too. Then, there’s a fear of the police,” Mapkar said.

That’s something this bank peon has never felt. Immediately after he was released from custody, he filed an affidavit before the Indian People’s Human Rights Tribunal inquiring into the riots. The tribunal was headed by Justices SM Daud and H Suresh. In front of the Srikrishna Commission, he described how Kapse fired his weapon point-blank at an injured namazi. Mapkar didn’t hesitate when the magistrate hearing his rioting case challenged him to cross-examine two policemen in the absence of his lawyer.

Finally, tired of waiting for the government to act, he filed a private complaint against Kapse. Immediately, the police slapped a new case against Mapkar. (He was acquitted in 2009.) His complaint resulted in the Bombay High Court ordering a CBI inquiry into the Hari Masjid firing, which it said “affects the very soul of India”. After17 years, the victims got a chance to tell an official investigation agency how Kapse shot at unarmed namazis.

The CBI, however, chose to disbelieve them, saying they could not be “impartial” as they had been arrested and charged by Kapse. It filed a closure report in the case.

Lives in contrast

While Mapkar has faced odds at every step, Kapse has led a charmed life. The state government even went to the Supreme Court to seek a stay on the high court-ordered CBI probe. Mapkar can’t get over the sight of Kapse holding documents needed by the government counsel in the Supreme Court. “This was a man the CBI had charged with murder! He was not part of the government. The Congress promised in its manifesto to implement the Srikrishna Commission’s report; instead, it helped the policemen indicted by the judge,” Mapkar said. “These days we hear a lot about the lack of Muslim MLAs. But what use are they if they don’t help their community?”

Mapkar feels let down by his community. “Had Muslims showed the same involvement after the commission’s report came out as they did in its proceedings, Kapse would have faced trial by now,” he said. “But they prefer to felicitate Congress-NCP leaders. Sajjan Kumar was convicted after so many years because the complainant had her community’s backing all through. Muslims fight alone.”

The driving force

So what makes Mapkar persist even after two magistrates arbitrarily dismissed his appeal against the CBI’s closure report? The support of his employers, including a permanent job, has helped: he was introduced at one AGM as a role model. But what really drives him is the anger at the injustice meted out to him.

Mapkar’s father, a port trust employee, taught him never to break any laws, a rule Mapkar followed scrupulously. Yet, he was shot at, arrested, assaulted and charged with attempt to murder. Only because he was Muslim, he says.

“People tell me to give up. But can policemen get away with anything? I was there when 12 Muslims were shot dead at the anti-Salman Rushdie morcha in 1989. The same officer, as the Thane police commissioner, didn’t even order a lathi charge when Shiv Sainiks vandalised Singhania Hospital,” he said. “We were just praying in Hari Masjid, yet we were shot at. How can I not fight for justice? Whether I win or lose, it will be said that at least I fought. They call Muslims rioters, terrorists. By fighting in courts, I’m proving them wrong.”

His long and lonely struggle could have turned Mapkar into a fanatic. Instead, he participates in every programme organised by secular groups. “The small team of activists and lawyers that has stood by me has more Hindus than Muslims,” he said. Those who have fought for him without any fee include senior lawyers Vijay Pradhan, Yusuf Muchhala, Yug Chaudhry, Vijay Hiremath and Shakil Ahmed.

“Muslims are scared to get involved. But they are foolish if they think the fire that burnt their neighbour’s house will leave them untouched. The more we fight the police, the less are the chances of innocents dying at their hands,” Mapkar said.

A 26-YEAR FIGHT FOR JUSTICE: Farooq Mapkar was shot in the shoulder as he prepared to pray at Hari Masjid, Wadala, on January 10, 1993

courtesy- Mumbai Mirror

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Dearest Arundhati Roy: Shahidul Alam reflects on his time in prison

The Bangladeshi photographer was charged with criticising his country on Facebook and spent more than 100 days behind bars. Now freed, he replies to the Indian novelist who wrote to him in jail

Shahidul Alam

Bangladeshi photographer and activist Shahidul Alam reacts following is release from Dhaka Central Jail, Keraniganj, on November 20 2018.
 Bangladeshi photographer and activist Shahidul Alam after his release from Dhaka Central Jail, Keraniganj, on November 20 2018. Photograph: Suman Paul/AFP/Getty Images

Dearest Arundhati,

It was a letter I read and reread long before it appeared before my eyes. It was through layers of metal bars that I strained to listen to my wife Rahnuma’s words. The noise made by us as screaming prisoners, straining to hear and be heard, was akin to a crowded stadium or a fire siren. As she repeated her words over and over again, I faintly heard: Arundhati. Letter. I had been incarcerated for just over 100 days. A hundred days since I’d slept on my own bed, fed my fish, cycled down the streets of Dhaka. A hundred days since I’d pressed my shutter as I searched for that elusive light.

Those words were the nourishment I needed. Did you write it by hand? What was the paper like? You probably used a keyboard – so what font had you used? What point size? And the words … I relished the imagined words. I missed words as I missed my bed, my fish and Rahnuma’s touch. When they asked me what I needed in jail, books were on top of my list. The first lot came in: Mujib’s prison diaries, Schendel’s History of Bangladesh, and the book you’d given me when we last met, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. I’d been meaning to read it ever since we said goodbye in Delhi, but our lives had been taken over by the immediacy of our struggles. Now, I had the time.Advertisement

I imagined other letters. The one Shiv Viswanathan had written when Binayak Sen had been sentenced for sedition, or the one Raghu Rai wrote asking that I be freed. But this one was not to a prime minister. It had been written for me. To me. There are no pigeons in Keraniganj, and sparrows are perhaps too small to carry letters. As I fed them from my window, I could imagine one carrying across a tiny wad of paper, carefully tied to its feet. Paper I would unfold gently, smoothing the creases. It would have been a letter I had read before it was written.

I could read your letter, not because I remember you sitting across your wooden table in your open kitchen. Not because I remember you rubbing noses with Maati Ke Laal as she interrupted our chat, insisting on not being ignored. Not because of Sanjay’s book on Kashmir, which we had opened together. My reading relied on our shared legacies, on our collective griefs, on the struggles we both face as autocrats rule our lands. You have Kashmir and we have the Chittagong Hill Tracts. You have “encounters” and we have “crossfire”. “Goom” (enforced disappearances), we both share. We both live in what are called democracies, though we know we lack voice.

The threat of bail being withdrawn is the threat they hope will silence my tongue, my pen and my camera

Your book weaves complex characters, the absurdities and the beauty that is India. It finds the calm within the chaos. A moment of kindness, within the grotesque injustice. I look around me and see hijras in the high-security cells in the Surjomukhi building. Occasionally they walk out, their bright saris glowing amid the drab clothes of other prisoners. They remind me of your Anjum. Of your Saddam, as I see Koutuk da feeding the cats, making his way to those pretentiously named jail buildings, Jamuna, Meghna, Korotowa and Padma, seeking out the one that might have missed its meal. As I speak to prisoners falsely charged, and left to rot in a legal system that lets people be forgotten, and the Sharbaharaman Tipu Biswas, his eyes glowing with passion, insisting on justice even in jail, I am reminded of your Musa, defiant against the odds.

It was here in Keraniganj that I met Badal Farazi, wrongfully charged by Indian courts, and eventually sent to Bangladesh. Ten years in jail for a crime the courts knew he could not have committed. My government too scared to speak against this Indian injustice. Too scared to upset the big brother. Keraniganj was where terrorist Tofael Ahmed Joseph had been. Released through a presidential pardon, whisked away in the middle of the night and sent overseas. In my case, it had taken six attempts before bail had finally been granted. They had tried to block my bail just as they had tried to stop me from sleeping on a bed or getting access to a doctor. Even after bail was granted, they had tried to prevent my release. But we triumphed in the end, and we held hands and sang songs as I left the jail gate. The case still hangs over my head and the threat of bail being withdrawn is the threat they hope will silence my tongue, my pen and my camera. But the ink in our pens still runs. The keyboards still clatter.

Yesterday we were in Dhakeswari Mandir. It was Taposh and Haimanti’s daughter Riddhi’s mukhe bhat, her first solid food. As they lit candles and circled the tulshi plant, I wondered if they would dig up the temple because they had heard of a mosque underneath. One more mosque to add to the 500 our prime minister has promised, using Saudi money.

They swore in the new cabinet yesterday. “I will faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter according to law; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Bangladeshs; and that I will not allow my personal interest to influence the discharge of my duties as a member of parliament.” Given that their very means of being there was based on an election where every rule had been flouted, the constitution abused to protect their personal interests, this oath was particularly perverse. They will sit in their duty-free cars, flags waving. They, the biggest lawbreakers in the land, will sit on boards of banks and schools. They will pass new laws. They took their oath as a mother of four was writhing in hospital, gang-raped by party faithful for having the audacity to vote the “wrong” way.

But yes, Arundhati, the tide will turn, and the nameless, faceless people will rise. They will rise against the entire state machinery. They will rise as they did in 1971. They, who never clamoured for Muktijoddha (freedom fighters) honours, who never claimed benefits for their children, who never wore Mujib coats in public. They, their children and their children’s children, will rise to bring back the core principles they had fought for. We will have secularism. We will have democracy. We will have social equality. We will win back this land.

I’ll see you in Dhaka. A humungous hug awaits.

Love,

Shahidul

courtesy- Guardian

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The amazing story of this 38-year-old Indian author who suffers from VHL, a rare disease

Payel Bhattacharya suffers from von Hippel-Lindau or VHL. She tells us about the various difficulties she has faced in her life due to VHL and how she wants to make people aware of this rare condition.

VHL,von Hippel-Lindau,Rare disease

Writer Payel tells us about the various difficulties she has faced in her life due to VHL, being asked to vacate her home on her birthday and how she wants to make people aware of this rare condition.

Delhi based Payel Bhattacharya suffers from von Hippel-Lindau or VHL, which is characterised by tumors forming in organs of the body, including in the brain, spine, ears, eyes, lungs, liver, pancreas and kidneys. As result of the disease, she has undergone around 14 surgeries and radiation therapies. She also has trigeminal neuralgia, known as the ‘suicide disease,’ a condition which actor Salman Khan also suffers from.

Money is always a problem for her due to the extremely high cost of treatments, especially after her father passed away all of a sudden 10 years ago, which was another big blow to her.

Payel was also diagnosed with a rare form of multiple brain tumour in 2013, when doctors gave her seven years to live (a time period which is almost over). One way in which Payel deals with her condition is by reading and writing- she has authored five books till now, including her autobiography.

Payel tells us about the various difficulties she has faced in her life due to VHL, being asked to vacate her home on her birthday and how she wants to make people aware of this rare condition.

Since when do you have VHL?

I was born with von Hippel-Lindau or VHL which is a genetic defect that causes capillary growth to go out of control. While the tiniest blood vessels or capillaries usually branch out gracefully like trees, in VHL patients a little knot of extra capillaries forms a growth or tumor and in certain cases it turns cancerous.

After a lot of misdiagnosis and diagnostic dilemma I was diagnosed with the disease during my liver transplant. My liver was riddled with hemorrhaging tumors which individually couldn’t be removed. Thus, I survived a very expensive (Rs 30 lakh) liver transplant which went on for about 18 hours with a team of thirty doctors. My father died just after my liver transplant.

Payel undergoing one of the medical procedures.

What sort of difficulties do you face when you lost your father?

He didn’t leave us any money, or a house and we became homeless and penniless. We had no idea how to arrange our food the next day. A liver transplant patient requires immunosuppressant medicines which are lifesaving medicines so that the new transplanted liver is not rejected like bacteria or viruses. These medicines are expensive, and we had no idea how to manage my expensive treatment.

My father was like a tree in whose shade I grew, and he cared for me so much that it always seemed that if anything goes wrong, if we encounter a storm, he will somehow manage the situation and protect me. His loss was such a great shock that I couldn’t cry. I couldn’t believe that he wasn’t with me any longer. I would think without him would I ever exist? But I did because I never lost hope.

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Is it difficult to explain your condition to people?

We are judged mostly by how we look. I didn’t look afflicted. Therefore, when I approached people for help they gave absurd suggestions like getting free food from religious places and living in dharmshalas. Perhaps if I had a missing leg or an arm they would have readily helped or perhaps if they saw me in bed writhing in frustration and pain.

Being on immunosuppressants with my immune system suppressed I cannot go to any place or eat anything because I am susceptible to several diseases. I contracted MDR-TB under my immunocompromised condition. I am a survivor of kidney cancer which is a manifestation of VHL. Explaining somebody about VHL takes an immensely long time, sometimes even a month and even then, people don’t understand the nature of the disease completely.

When I ask some people for help, they remain mute, as if I don’t exist but sometimes there are some kind souls who help without asking. But I should add that I don’t despair. Maybe that’s why somebody sometimes helps, and I survive. I can’t even say how many people have come in my life when I desperately needed help and then poof! They vanished! This process continues in my life, but I always hope people would someday really understand me.

Payel’s autobiography is titled, The Warrior Dies Dancing- That’s Who I am.

You’ve had problems with landlords too?

Yes. Sometimes they drove us out because of my MDR-TB and sometimes it was because they were running at a loss. They didn’t care for my condition, the adverse effects of shifting flats, and the extra money involved. We are living in Delhi for about a decade and have been leading a nomadic life being hounded by landlords to the effect that we had to change houses seven times.

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One landlord, when I was puzzled with a tricky brain tumour and my kidney cancer and was running to various doctors presented me with a court notice to vacate the flat immediately. It was on my birthday. I didn’t give in. I survived my kidney cancer and the brain tumour got radiation, but it claimed most of the vision of my right eye. Ultimately the judge gave me just five months’ time to vacate. No time is enough for the body to heal after a major surgery and each time the body behaves differently.

READ: Sanjay Khan on playing Tipu Sultan, undergoing 73 surgeries and his autobiography

How do you deal with having this condition and the other obstacle you face in life?

I am a bibliophile. I find joy in reading and I am an avid reader. Even though I have a rare form of multiple brain tumour called leptomeningeal hemangioblastomas, which is a manifestation of the VHL syndrome and that a brain tumour has claimed most of my vision of the right eye I like reading and writing.

With my brain tumours I experience a bit of confusion and short-term memory loss, therefore I took it as a challenge to write detective-fiction. I have written the Mum and Princess Series. The first book- Mum And Princess Go Spying is published by Half-Baked Beans in Kindle format. The second is Sweeter Than Revenge, a locked room mystery, published in ‘kindle direct publishing’ or KDP. I completed writing the third in the series which is called Mum and Princess In Mystic Land.

I have also written a fictional account of my life story, The Warrior Dies Dancing, That’s Who I Am, which is published in the Indian Literature journal of Sahitya Akademi in the September- October issue of 2018. In November 2018 I have published my autobiography of the same name with KDP. I want people to read and know about my struggles, create awareness about VHL, the unpleasant experience of having the disease and I also want people to know how I have faced the cruel situations in my life. The Mum and Princess series which I write are drawn from first hand experiences of my life.

source- HT

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Dear Mr. Modi, you owe an explanation to the people on Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project!

As the Indian government has announced expediting of the techno-commercial agreement with France for the world’s largest nuclear power park proposed in Maharashtra’s Jaitapur, Dr. EAS Sarma, India’s former Union Secretary  in the Minister of Power, and an eminent voice in the civil society, has written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who also heads the country’s Department of Atomic Energy.

E A S Sarma
14-40-4/1 Gokhale Road
Maharanipeta
Visakhapatnam 530002

To

Shri Narendra D Modi
Prime Minister

Dear Shri Modi,

Subject:- Doubts about the safety of nuclear reactors to be supplied by EDF/Areva of France for Jaitapur nuclear power plant in Maharashtra- Appeal for caution

I am writing this letter to you as, under the Business Rules, the Dept of Atomic Energy (DAE) falls within the purview of the Prime Minister. Serious doubts have been expressed about the safety of the nuclear reactors being supplied else where by the French conglomerate EDF/Areava, the same group that will provide us reactors for the Jaitapur nuclear power project in Maharashtra.

I have enclosed here a news report dated 11-1-2019 in a Scottish News paper, The Ferret, with the headline, “More cracks found in Hunterston nuclear power reactors……… Pressure is mounting to keep two nuclear power reactors at Hunterston in North Ayrshire closed by the company that runs them, EDF Energy, said it had found more cracks and was again postponing plans to restart”

The nuclear reactors for Jaitapur in Maharashtra will be supplied by the same French group of companies, EDF/Areva, under an agreement you had signed with your French counterpart in January 2016.

The flaws in the design and the manufacture of the nuclear power reactors at Hunterston in North Ayrshire have come to public knowledge because the nuclear regulatory authorities in UK, France and other countries are not only professional but also independent of the nuclear establishment whose reactors they are required to inspect and regulate.

In the case of India, unfortunately, our own nuclear regulator, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), however professional it may be, is subordinate to DAE whose reactors it is supposed to regulate. It is potentially unsafe for India to import the French nuclear reactors, not only in view of the serious safety concerns observed in the case of the nuclear power projects that EDF/Areva are setting up in Finland, UK, USA and other countries but also in view of the absence of an independent regulatory authority in India that could point out the potential dangers, as its counterparts in the other countries do.

Immediately, after the ghastly nuclear accident at Fukushima in Japan in 2011, in the heat of the moment, to convince the public, DAE brought in a Nuclear Regulatory Authority Bill in 2012, which was scrutinised by the concerned Parliamentary Standing Committee that made far reaching suggestions to improve upon it in line with the norms laid down by the International Atomic Energy Regulatory Agency (IAEA) and Comptroller & Auditor General of India. The UPA government failed to move forward for the next two years and so has the NDA government for the next five years. Apparently, the successive governments the people elect are insensitive to the welfare of the public and the potential harm that nuclear power projects can cause.

I enclose here a comprehensive article written by me, evaluating the independence of the regulators in USA, France, UK, Finland etc vis a vis AERB. The article is self-explanatory.

EDF/Areva’s nuclear reactors are potentially unsafe with AERB feeling helpless to point out the safety concerns. Also, reactor imports from France will be through highly non-transparent procedures, giving scope for public criticism and leading to high cost.

I refer to an article (“Jaitapur: A risky and expensive project“) authored by Suvrat Raju & M.V. Ramana which states as follows.

“In addition to the high costs, safety problems with the reactor design and construction have emerged in several EPRs. The most serious of these pertained to the pressure vessel, which is the key barrier that prevents the spread of radioactive materials from the reactor. In April 2015, the French nuclear safety regulator, Autorité Sûreté Nucléaire, announced that some sections of the pressure vessel that the French Creusot Forge had supplied to the Flamanville and Taishan reactors had too much carbon in the steel. The Flamanville project was also found to have substandard welding in the reactor’s pipes. The EPR at Olkiluoto in Finland encountered problems with vibrations in the pipe that connects the primary coolant system with the pressuriser, which maintains the pressure of the water circulating in the reactor”

As the Minister in charge of DAE and its activities, I believe that you should ask DAE to examine what others and I have stated above, including the concerns expressed by the nuclear regulatory authorities elsewhere and proceed as follows.

  1. Ask DAE to put on hold any further work on Jaitapurartile
  2. pending a detailed examination of the safety features of EDF/Areava’s nuclear reactors, in consultation with AERB and the regulators in France/ UK/ Finland/ USA
  3. Take urgent steps to bring in Nuclear Regulatory Authority Act as modified by the Parliamentary Standing Committee
  4. Till such time that an independent regulatory authority is set up, put on hold all nuclear power projects and expansion projects
  5. Ensure that the procurement procedures for importing nuclear reactors from France and other countries remain in conformity with the prescribed financial rules. (China has adopted a competitive bidding route, whereas India’s reactor import procedure is opaque)

I feel that there is a great deal of public interest involved in this and the government owes an explanation to the public at large.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,
12-1-2019
E A S Sarma
Former Secretary to GOI
Visakhapatnam

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Indian Army Chief Asserts Homosexuality Is Not Allowed In The Forces & We Can’t Understand Why

Robin Wood

Even though 2018 was marked as the year of love when the Supreme Court decriminalised homosexuality and made it possible for everyone to chose and live by the sexual orientation of their choice, we still have archaic waves of despair following us.

General Bipin Rawat, the Chief of Army Staff suggested that that the Supreme Court’s decision on gay sex marriage will not be implemented in the Army and any such actions pertaining to that are forbidden. 

However, at the same time, he also emphasised on the fact that the Army is not above the law. But because any Supreme Court verdict can be challenged, the law is definitely not being implemented in the forces for now, according to General Rawat.

The Army Chief General Bipin Rawan Said Homosexuality Is Not Tolerated In The Indian Army

(c)Pintrest

“We are not above the country’s law but when you join the Indian Army, some of the rights and privileges you enjoy are not what we have. Some things are different for us, but we are certainly not above the Supreme Court,” he said.

“We will have to see how we take a call, let us also see how it comes into the society, whether it’s accepted or not… I can’t say what will happen 20 years down the line.”

We agree that the Army follows a certain decree of taking away certain fundamental rights from its personnel due to security reasons like the right to freedom of expression etc., which can fit in because it can create belligerent situations if the right is practised within the forces, but taking away the right to decide one’s sexual orientation is a daunting proposition and is legally incorrect to oppose, anywhere.

The Army Chief General Bipin Rawan Said Homosexuality Is Not Tolerated In The Indian Army

(c)Twitter

The fact that women were allowed in combat in 2017 after a long haul indicates the barriers the Army has against giving equal opportunities to all the sexes. Women can now enter the Army and train to combat on the field. But this wasn’t allowed before 2017 because of safety issues that posed as a threat for women who wanted to join the Armed Forces. Now, we are witnessing another restriction in the forces that is definitely denting the very fabric of individuality and the right to liberty, in general.

“Aap logon me chalega to chalne do. Humare yahan nahi chalega (We will not allow this to happen in the Army) In the army LGBT issues… are not unacceptable. We will still be dealing with them under various sections of the Army Act,” said General Rawat, addressing his annual press conference.

The callous references made towards the LGBT movement by the General, which won a fair space in the country last year is edging on the narrow-minded thought process of a few people who do not understand it. Which is fair I agree, but to take the basic right away from men and women alike, who give up their lives for the country is absolutely unfair and this is something which General Rawat may never understand.

The Army Chief General Bipin Rawan Said Homosexuality Is Not Tolerated In The Indian Army

(c)Twitter

According to him, the Army is ‘very conservative’ and anything that probes the very archaic fabric of the forces will be disqualified. He also backed his claim by saying ‘we are neither modem or westernised’ which is an absolutely fair statement to make amidst the very opaque fragment of patriotism we serve our country with, but in all fairness, being a particular way and choosing your sexual orientation really has nothing to do with being modern or being westernised. It’s something one’s born with.

We’re hopelessly disappointed by statements made by General Bipin Rawat on the LGBT movement and its application in the Indian Army, especially after a gruelling time the entire movement went through for many years in the country. 

The Army Chief General Bipin Rawan Said Homosexuality Is Not Tolerated In The Indian Army

(c)Pintrest

It took a five-bench constitution bench of the SC to finally rule out section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which banned ‘consensual unnatural sex’. But unfortunately, we’re still fighting the cause fundamentally, within the most pristine forces of our country and we hope this too changes someday.

https://www.mensxp.com/social-hits/news/49391-indian-army-chief-asserts-homosexuality-is-not-allowed-in-the-forces-we-can-t-understand-why.html

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Jailed Dear Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Convicted In Murder Of Journalist

Journalist Murder Case: Gurmeet Ram Rahim, chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, is currently serving a 20-year prison term for raping two of his followers

Gurmeet Ram Rahim has been convicted in Ram Chander Chhatrapati journalist murder case.
NEW DELHI: 

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief is in jail for raping two of his followers
  2. Had been named as main conspirator in 2002 murder of journalist
  3. Journalist published account of Ram Rahim sexually exploiting women

Jailed self-styled godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim and three others have been convicted in the murder of a journalist by a special court in Haryana.

Ram Rahim, chief of the Dera Sacha Sauda sect, was found guilty in the 2002 murder of journalist  Ram Chander Chhatrapati.

“All the four accused have been convicted,” HPS Verma, lawyer for the Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI, told news agency PTI after judge Jagdeep Singh gave the verdict in Panchkula.

He will be sentenced on January 17.

Ram Rahim, 51, appeared before the court through video conferencing from Rohtak’s Sunaria jail.

ram chander chhatrapati potrait afp

Journalist Ramchandra Chhatrapati was murdered in 2002.

He is currently serving a 20-year prison term for raping two of his followers. His conviction in August 2017 had triggered riots in Panchkula, as his followers went berserk, that left 30 dead and property worth crores vandalised.

Ram Chander Chhatrapati was shot in October 2002 outside his house after his newspaper ”Poora Sach” published an anonymous letter narrating how women were being sexually exploited by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh at the Dera headquarters in Sirsa.

The case was registered in 2003 and handed over to the CBI in 2006.

Ram Rahim was named the main conspirator in the case.

The three others convicted are Kuldeep Singh, Nirmal Singh and Krishan Lal, all close aides of Ram Rahim.

  • The driver who turned key witness

Khatta Singh was present in the court when special CBI delivered the judgment holding the Dera head and his three followers guilty of murder and criminal conspiracy. Khatta Singh’s statement proved crucial in nailing Gurmeet Ram Rahim.

Khatta Singh was a much relieved man on Friday. The former driver of rape convict Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, was a prime CBI witness in the murder case of journalist Ram Chander Chhatarpati. Gurmeet Ram Rahim, the Dera Sacha Sauda, was on Friday found guilty of murder and criminal conspiracy in the case.

 “I am satisfied with the court’s decision. All credit goes to the journalist’s son, Anshul Chhatarpati, and the probe officer, SP Satish Dagar, who did not succumb to any pressure while pursuing the case against Gurmeet Ram Rahim. I cannot explain how much my family and I have suffered over the years after I quit the Dera in 2007 and agreed to record my statement against the accused persons,” said Khatta Singh, 61.

Khatta Singh was present in the court when special CBI delivered the judgment holding the Dera head and his three followers guilty of murder and criminal conspiracy. Khatta Singh’s statement proved crucial in nailing Gurmeet Ram Rahim.

Khatta Singh’s testimony that Dera manager Krishan Lal had handed over his walkie-talkie set and his licensed pistol to the two other accused, Kuldeep Singh and Nirmal Singh, in his (Khatta Singh’s) presence proved vital in proving the guilt of the four accused,” CBI counsel HPS Verma said.

Recalling the sequence of events Khatta Singh said, “On October 23, 2002, Gurmeet Ram Rahim returned after attending a gathering of his followers in Jalandhar when then Dera manager, Krishan Lal, showed him the newspaper ‘Poora Sach’. The paper, owned by Ram Chander Chhatarpati, carried a report accusing Gurmeet Ram Rahim of sexually exploiting women at the Dera. Kuldeep Singh and Nirmal Singh were also with Krishan Lal. Gurmreet Ram Rahim lost his cool and ordered to ‘silence the voice of the man’ behind the newspaper. Next day, on October 24, 2002, I received a call from my house that the journalist had been shot at”.

Khatta Singh says he “received numerous blood-stained threat letters” from Dera followers during the course of the trial. He was provided security cover by the Punjab Police. Incidentally, Khatta Singh had in 2012 changed the statement he gave against the Dera chief in 2007. He later wanted to record a fresh statement but a CBI court in Panchkula declined his request. In 2017, he moved Punjab and Haryana high court through advocate Navkiran Singh. The high court allowed him to record his fresh statement in the trial court. Later, the defense counsel of the accused challenged the high court decision in apex court, which rejected the plea of defense.

Courtesy: NDTV and The Indian Express

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